Video: Sparking right-wing hate

By Keith Olbermann Anchor, 'Countdown'
msnbc.com
updated 11/15/2006 12:29:08 PM ET 2006-11-15T17:29:08

Over the weekend, authorities arrested 39-year-old Chad Castagana on suspicion of sending threatening letters to media outlets and the homes of several public figures including "Countdown" host Keith Olbermann.

On Tuesday, Olbermann spoke to "Radar" senior writer John Cook who has been covering the story.  Cook said Castagana appeared to be admirers of conservative pundits Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin and Laura Ingraham.

"Ann Coulter and Malkin...sort of present a kind of rhetorical world view where they have their troops out there," Cook said, "and I think he thought of himself as one of their troops and wanted to live up to their standards."

You can read the full transcript of Olbermann's conversation with Cook below.

OLBERMANN:  Federal authorities still expect the preliminary hearing for Chad Conrad Castagana to continue day after tomorrow.  He was arrested over the weekend, accused of mailing at least 13 threatening letters, maybe 17, filled with white powder to the likes of Senator Chuck Schumer, Speaker presumptive Nancy Pelosi, Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone, David Letterman, Jon Stewart and me. 

Our third story in the COUNTDOWN, more details tonight, some from an FBI affidavit obtained by “Radar Online” magazine about the suspect.  According to that affidavit, on the same day Castagana was picking up the envelopes and stamps at the post office for some of his terroristic threats, he purchased a

$15 money order and had it made out to Friends of Katherine Harris.  The money order, in fact, may have provided some of the trail that agents needed to trace the threatening letters back to Castagana.  The affidavit also describes him as a 39-year-old white man who lives with his parents in Woodland Hills in Southern California.  It includes details of some of the notes Castagana sent with the white powder.  One message, intended for Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart, but sent to the wrong Jon Stewart read, quote, “Do you know Alan Berg?  You should.  Death to demagogues.” 

That reference is unmistakable, as the FBI affidavit notes.  Alan Berg was the talk radio host murdered by white supremacists in 1984. 

There are also references to poison and demagogues.  Quote, “all of you are poisoning the well.”  One to David Letterman that read, quote, “Your kind are the real poison.”  The messages intended to Viacom Chair Redstone and Congresswoman Pelosi cannot be repeated on this broadcast.

Castagana has also been identified as a gushing online admirer of Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin and Laura Ingraham.  And the Web site RawStory reports that many bloggers believe he is also a contributor, under a different name, to the conservative Web site FreeRepublic.  In fact, the name used is supposed to be Marc Costanzo.

Joining me now, John Cook, senior writer for “Radar Online” who has been covering all this since the news of the arrest broke on Sunday.  Thanks for your time tonight, John. 

JOHN COOK, “RADAR ONLINE”:  Good to be here, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  The details of the letters I think we pretty much got. 

Explain, if you can, what the link is to the right-wing blogs and what the relevance of that link is. 

COOK:  Well, we should point out the evidence is not conclusive, but—it’s circumstantial, but it’s good evidence.  It appears that Mr. Castagana was a poster to the FreeRepublic, which, as you know, is an online library of some of the most thoughtful right-wing thinkers out there.  And his—the Marc Costanzo alias that he used, his profile said, “Ann Coulter is a goddess and I idolize Malkin and Ingraham.”  And there are a lot of posts that suggest that he’s a big fan of Malkin and Coulter.

OLBERMANN:  For the record, as I understand it, the connection is that the fellow identifying himself as Costanzo posted something about science fiction, which he said was a rewrite of something he’d previously posted on a sci-fi site, which was written by and identified by Castagana.  But the Ann Coulter-Laura Ingraham-Michelle Malkin connection is—how is that best described?  Is that hero worship?  Or crushes of some kind, or do we know what that is?

COOK:  Well, I mean, if he is idolizing them, that sounds like hero worship to me.  I mean, I think, you know, these, Ann Coulter and Malkin, you know, they sort of present a kind of rhetorical world view where they have their troops out there, and I think he thought of himself as one of their troops and wanted to live up to their standards. 

And I mean, I don’t think we can always hold these people responsible for the actions of the least hinged of their followers, but I think it is clear that he was an acolyte of the Coulters and the Malkins, and I think that they clearly enjoy having acolytes, and they clearly sort of issue calls to action --  not necessarily to send threatening powder-filled envelopes to you in so many words, but they certainly exhort their followers to let themselves be known. 

OLBERMANN:  But to that point, I mean, the part—it was one thing—an acolyte is one thing; an emulation is something else.  There were students at the University of California at Santa Cruz who protested military recruiters on their campus.  Malkin posted their addresses and their personal information on her blog, and then when people harassed the students at their homes, Malkin did the King Henry thing about Thomas Becket, “who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?”  I never told anybody to do anything.  And then this is the problem, right?  You can come out, you can directly encourage people to act violently.  Ann Coulter has done that.  Or you can do it in this sort of thinly disguised way, the way Malkin has. 

COOK:  Right.  But I think what Malkin wants to do is not to tell people to act violently so much as—I do think she wants to sort of introduce a kind of thuggish sort of intimidating tone into the political debate, this kind of let’s not let them boss us around anymore.  I think that’s sort of—she has got a very combative kind of truculent rhetorical pose. 

And, you know, I mean, Ann Coulter has said some, you know, absolutely ludicrous things about—she once said that, you know, “we need to execute people like John Walker in order to physically intimidate liberals, making them realize that they can be killed, too.”

When she says that, I don’t think she honestly believes—I don’t think she actually wants people who hear those words to go and physically intimidate liberals.  I think she says it because she knows that if she says outrageous things, her speaking—speaker’s bureau’s fees go up or the next book contract goes up.  She is a professional agitator. 

OLBERMANN:  Until it, you know, bursts into gunfire.  Nobody wants to see that in any direction.  It’s madness.

But ultimately, about this thing and the things like it, is it not self- defeating for people who think they’re acting even in their own warped view of patriotism?  I mean, you might scare the victims, although there is no evidence of that in any of these cases.  You can annoy, maybe inconvenience their co- workers and the people who handle their mail, but the only thing that’s for certain in this is, if you do something like this—and I was talking to these great FBI counter-terror guys yesterday about all this—you waste hundreds of hours of their time that they could be spending on other counter-terrorism cases. 

COOK:  Absolutely.  The lead FBI agent, special agent on this case is a member of the joint terrorism task force.  And you know, reading the affidavit in support of the search warrant for Mr. Castagana’s house, there is like a Keystone Kops, where these people are literally following him around Woodland Hills, California, watching him with letters in hand go from mailbox to mailbox, looking for one where the pick-up date hasn’t passed.  And there are a lot better things than that they could be doing with their time.

OLBERMANN:  John Cook, senior writer with “Radar Online.”  We appreciate your time and your work on this story, sir.

COOK:  Thanks a lot.


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