updated 4/6/2007 11:25:44 AM ET 2007-04-06T15:25:44

Guests: Richard Wolffe, Bob Kohn, Joan Walsh, Bill Donohue, Jasmine Trias, Tom O‘Neil, Ted Casablanca, Jill Dobson, Ashlan Gorse

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  Tonight, “Idol” producers prepare for the worst, saying it doesn‘t matter if Sanjaya is America‘s next “Idol.”  Fox‘s frantic spin coming up.

But first: You know, the Republican Party has a long history of winning votes by attacking Hollywood celebrities, whether going after Whoopi Goldberg‘s infamous Manhattan speech during John Kerry‘s ill-fated 2004 campaign or Barbra Streisand‘s ramblings or Michael Moore‘s conspiracy theories.  It seems that beating up celebrities wins votes big-time for conservative candidates.  Maybe that‘s why the national Republican Party has made Rosie O‘Donnell their latest target, frantically trying to turn the blustery Barbara Walters hire into a political weapon—that‘s right, a political weapon.

In a statement released from their Washington headquarters yesterday, the national Republican committee tied the inane ramblings of Rosie to Democratic leaders.  One example given was the Democrats‘ insistence on the phrase “war on terror” not being used in legislation, an argument Rosie O‘Donnell made on “The View” last week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  But even, you know, war on terror—I think personally that is propaganda.

ROSIE O‘DONNELL, “THE VIEW”:  Exactly! (INAUDIBLE) Thank you!

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I don‘t like the wording of it like that...

(CROSSTALK)

O‘DONNELL:  It makes people into evil and good.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  From “The View‘s” words to the Republicans‘ press release.  In yesterday‘s press release, the RNC pointed out that the Democrats sent out a demo echoing Ms. O‘Donnell‘s sentiments and forbidding the use of the words “war on terror” in their legislation.  A coincidence?  Well, Republican leaders think not.

So will Republicans rev up their conservative base by ripping Rosie?  Of course they will.  The bigger question is, will they succeed into turning her into the latest Hollywood pinata that gets beaten around in return for big political gains?

To answer that and other political questions tonight, let‘s turn to Richard Wolffe—he‘s “Newsweek‘s” senior White House correspondent.  We have Bob Kohn, author of the book “Journalistic Fraud,” and Steve Adubato - - he‘s MSNBC media analyst.

Richard, before we get to the specifics, let‘s talk about how this tactic of attacking Hollywood celebrities in the past has paid big dividends for the Republican Party.

RICHARD WOLFFE, “”NEWSWEEK”:  Well, it has.  But you know, Rosie O‘Donnell is not Barbra Streisand, and that‘s not just because they sing differently.  You know, the world that has changed since those culture wars.  We‘re talking about a real war, a war that has not gone well.  And in this case, “the war on terror” as a phrase, by most people‘s reckoning, has outlived its usefulness when it comes to Iraq.  There may be a terrorist element in Iraq, but we‘re really talking about sectarian violence.  So the calculations have changed here.  This isn‘t 2004.  It‘s not 1994.

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, Bill O‘Reilly has been also blasting away at Rosie every night on the show, and he‘s racking up amazing ratings.  Look at O‘Reilly‘s take on Rosie tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL O‘REILLY, “THE O‘REILLY FACTOR”:  Miss O‘Donnell and her radical pals are basically telling the world the USA is a criminal nation and that no matter what provocations are lodged by Iran and others, it will always be America‘s fault.  This is grossly irresponsible and flat-out dangerous.  But believe me when I tell you that millions of people all over the world are buying this garbage.

Miss O‘Donnell isn‘t smart enough to realize that while she is demeaning her own country, the one she‘s hurting most is herself and the company that pays her, ABC.  Americans always turn away from haters.  Always.  And that‘s what Miss O‘Donnell has become.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  So Richard, you‘ve got the Republican National Committee putting out these talking points.  You‘ve got Bill O‘Reilly going on every night, attacking Rosie O‘Donnell.  Would Democrats say this is proof that the dreaded vast right-wing conspiracy now has Rosie O‘Donnell in their sights and are going to keep pounding away to gain political and ratings points?

WOLFFE:  Well, it‘s funny hearing Bill O‘Reilly talk about the haters not being popular.

(LAUGHTER)

WOLFFE:  But put that by the side for one minute.  Look, the RNC and the conservative echo chamber were very, very effective around 2004.  That machine basically fell apart through the 2006 cycle.  I don‘t see, whether it‘s Rosie O‘Donnell or anyone else, that they can really gain traction.  I remind you, Joe, we spoke before the 2000 (SIC) election about the flubbed joke that John Kerry made.  They were trying the old playbook.  It didn‘t work then, and I just don‘t see this one working now.  Why?  Because the war is going so badly.

STEVE ADUBATO, MSNBC MEDIA ANALYST:  Joe?

SCARBOROUGH:  Steve Adubato, you‘re a media analyst.  Let‘s look and see how the GOP‘s attack on Hollywood stars is a political ploy that‘s worked in their playbook in the past.  They‘ve gone after Barbra Streisand, they‘ve gone after Whoopi Goldberg, gone after Michael Moore, and it seemed to work very effectively in 2004.  Do you agree with Richard Wolffe that that was then, this is now, attacks on Rosie just won‘t work?

ADUBATO:  I agree to a degree with Richard.  Here‘s the difference with Rosie.  She‘s on every single day on a major network.  None of the other people you talk about—Barbra Streisand could say the most outrageous, off-the-wall thing at a concert, it gets reported in “The New York Times” or some other places.  It‘s different now.  And not only is Rosie on every day, but YouTube, us, everywhere—you can catch this stuff all over the place.  Rosie has a greater opportunity to have a bigger influence on this race because she is so omnipresent.

Now, here‘s the challenge for the Democrats, Joe.  They have to—if the Republicans are trying to say, Look, Rosie O‘Donnell, she represents the Democrats, vote against the Democrats because if—you don‘t want Rosie being—hanging around the White House.  The Democrats have to say, You know, when Rosie O‘Donnell talked about building number 7, World Trade Center building number 7, Joe, she was off the wall.  She‘s irresponsible.  We disavow those statements.  They have to do it consistently or the Republicans may get some traction here because the Democrats seem too weak.

And by the way, Republicans are afraid and don‘t want to take on Barack Obama.  They don‘t want to talk about Hillary Clinton.  And you know they don‘t want to talk about Elizabeth and John Edwards.  So who‘s the convenient target?  Rosie O‘Donnell.

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, Bob Kohn, I want you to listen to a few of Rosie O‘Donnell‘s mad ramblings since she‘s gotten on ABC and Barbara Walters‘s “The View.”   Let‘s roll the tape.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  I believe that it defies physics for the World Trade Center tower 7, building 7, which collapsed in on itself—it is impossible for a building to fall the way it fell without explosives being involved.

They‘ve been treating them like animals, Elisabeth, not like human beings.  They have hoods over their head.  They are tortured on a daily basis.

It‘s impossible for some people to believe that the Iranians in any way could ever do anything ethical in any capacity.  They have somehow been dehumanized to the point where they‘re not people who—they‘re just the enemy.  They‘re terrorists.

Don‘t fear the terrorists.  They‘re mothers and fathers.

Someone, I believe, should call for the impeachment of George Bush.  You want to know why we go into Iran?  For the money!  That‘s why we would do it!

(APPLAUSE)

O‘DONNELL:  ... able to get the presidential seal on paper towels, but we still haven‘t cleaned up New Orleans.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, Bob Kohn, tell me what Democrats out there really believe that 9/11 was an inside job or that terrorists should be respected as moms and dads, like Rosie O‘Donnell?  I don‘t think you can really make that nexus, can you?

BOB KOHN, AUTHOR, “JOURNALISTIC FRAUD”:  Well, there are a lot of extreme liberal blogs out there that are making that connection.  Unfortunately, it‘s there.  And I think what the Republicans are doing this time is not as much attacking a celebrity or tying the Democrats to a celebrity as much as they‘re tying someone who‘s making these extreme statements to the Democratic Party.

It‘s not unusual for a party to do this.  I‘m holding in my hand a print-out from three weeks ago of the Democratic Party—the Democratic National Committee‘s own Web site, and here it‘s Howard Dean blasts Ann Coulter and calls upon GOP presidential candidates to denounce it.  In other words, the...

ADUBATO:  That‘s not unreasonable.

KOHN:  Three weeks ago, the Democrats tried to tie extreme statements made by Ann Coulter to the Republicans.  It‘s done by either party all the time, so I don‘t think this is unusual.  I‘m really not sure what we‘re here talking about this today.  But I think the real tie to be made here is what people have been doing, especially O‘Reilly, and that‘s tying the Disney company, which is employing Rosie O‘Donnell.  Rosie O‘Donnell is no Tinkerbell.  She may be a little goofy, but she‘s no Tinkerbell.  She‘s no Snow White.  And this can hurt the long-term...

SCARBOROUGH:  But Bob, we‘re here...

KOHN:  ...  (INAUDIBLE) of the Disney Corporation.

SCARBOROUGH:  ... talking about it tonight because this actually works.  I‘m John Edwards actually raised a lot of money sending out that letter talking about—not the Howard Dean letter, but sent out his own fund-raising letter, and it brought in big bucks for his campaign.  There‘s no doubt, though...

KOHN:  That‘s true.

SCARBOROUGH:  ... Republicans will raise a lot of money...

KOHN:  And I do agree...

SCARBOROUGH:  ... from their base...

KOHN:  I do agree...

SCARBOROUGH:  ... by doing the same thing.

KOHN:  I agree with that, and I agree exactly with what Steve said.  It is a good tactic to use.  It‘s going to help them.  It‘s certainly better than attacking Obama directly or attacking Hillary Clinton.  To attack and use Rosie O‘Donnell is going to help the Republicans.  But it‘s not unusual.  The Republicans aren‘t being bad guys here.  The Democrats have done the same thing.  That‘s politics, and they‘re going to use it to their advantage.

ADUBATO:  Joe, I want to clarify.  I did not say it was a good idea, I said I understand why they‘re doing it because they don‘t have the courage and they don‘t have the goods to go after Barack Obama because he‘s so clean and fresh right now and we in the media have fallen in love with him until we decide...

(CROSSTALK)

KOHN:  He‘s clean and fresh but maybe not articulate, right?

ADUBATO:  Oh, I think—well, he‘s extremely...

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

ADUBATO:  And we‘re all comfortable saying that, Bob.  And the other thing is, here‘s the thing.  Bob, I want to make it clear.  It‘s the Democrats who have the toughest time here.  I think the Republicans are grasping at straws.  Everyone knows that.  It‘s why they‘re not attacking the Democratic candidates...

(CROSSTALK)

ADUBATO:  ... but if the Democrats blow it...

KOHN:  I don‘t get that logic.

ADUBATO:  ... by not—if the Democrats don‘t handle this thing well and say, Rosie‘s off the wall on these things and we totally disavow what she‘s saying, then they have a problem.

KOHN:  Yes.  I agree with that completely.  Democrats should disavow what she‘s saying.  And I think the Disney company should, you know, either put somebody else on to respond to her or get rid of her.  I mean, that‘s...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Richard Wolffe, it seems the Republican candidates have enough problems of their own right now.  We could go into all the problems they have.

WOLFFE:  Right.

SCARBOROUGH:  But is it going to really help a Republican presidential hopeful, let‘s say a Rudy Giuliani or a Mitt Romney gain some badly needed cred with conservatives to spend the next few months kicking Rosie O‘Donnell around?  Will that work with the base?

WOLFFE:  Well, I think Rosie O‘Donnell is a pretty formidable person to take on, actually.  And she does have this platform and a big fan base.  It‘s not like Barbra Streisand.  By the way, I‘m still entertained by the Ann Coulter comparison.  I don‘t know who‘d be more insulted by that one...

(LAUGHTER)

WOLFFE:  ... Ann or Rosie.  And there is a difference here.  Ann Coulter spoke at a political conference with conservatives.  It was the CPAC conference.

ADUBATO:  That‘s right.

WOLFFE:  Rosie O‘Donnell was speaking on “The View,” for heaven‘s sake.  Why should Democrats disavow something that was on daytime TV?  I mean, you know...

KOHN:  No, they should.  They absolutely should.

WOLFFE:  There is Ann Coulter speaking to a political grouping...

KOHN:  It‘s not a soap opera!

WOLFFE:  ... is a very different perspective.  So...

KOHN:  No, Richard, I disagree.  I disagree.  Once it‘s out in the public domain, once it‘s—people are blogging about it, once we‘re talking about it, Richard, it seems to me that any Democrat who gets confronted on the campaign trail, John Edwards or anyone else—Listen, Rosie O‘Donnell said that building number seven, she doesn‘t believe that it‘s realistic that it could have just collapsed, she believes that somehow there‘s a question as to whether the U.S. was involved—when John Edwards or Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama gets asked that question...

KOHN:  Exactly.

ADUBATO:  ... and they say anything other than, That‘s outrageous and off the wall...

WOLFFE:  Listen, I...

ADUBATO:  ... they have a headline...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, Richard—and again, a lot of people right now may be scratching their heads, but Richard, remember back in 2004, what got John Kerry in trouble with what Whoopi Goldberg said was the fact that he didn‘t come out...

WOLFFE:  At his fund-raising event!

SCARBOROUGH:  ... and disavow it.

WOLFFE:  It was his fund-raising event.  He had much more responsibility to disavow things.  Look, you want Democratic candidates to disavow everything on every blog?

(CROSSTALK)

WOLFFE:  Wait a second.  If a reporter asks the question—I defend the right for reporters to ask the question and expect presidential candidates to answer, and that‘s a very different situation.

KOHN:  Look, the reporters out following the campaigns are not going to be asking the Democrats those questions about should they disavow Rosie O‘Donnell.  They‘ll go ahead and ask Rudy Giuliani whether they‘ll disavow Ann Coulter, but you‘re not going to find that in the Washington press corps.  No way!

(CROSSTALK)

WOLFFE:  How biased are you?

(CROSSTALK)

ADUBATO:  You‘re saying that—you‘re saying that people—that David Gregory and other terrific...

KOHN:  Yes, that is what I want to see.

(CROSSTALK)

KOHN:  Yes, I want to see the liberal press...

ADUBATO:  Listen...

KOHN:  ... ask the tough questions...

ADUBATO:  Bob...

KOHN:  ... the same kinds of questions to Barack Obama.

ADUBATO:  You can call them the liberal press, but you know that Tony Snow disavowed what he said when...

(CROSSTALK)

KOHN:  What are we talking about Tony Snow?

ADUBATO:  I‘ll make it clear.

KOHN:   I want to see on the campaign...

(CROSSTALK)

KOHN:  It has nothing to do with Tony Snow!

ADUBATO:  Bob, Tony Snow—Tony Snow has got more credentials...

KOHN:  I‘m not...

ADUBATO:  ... in the Republican Party than you‘ll ever have...

KOHN:  We‘re not talking about that!

ADUBATO:  ... and he said he was—he said he was...

KOHN:  We‘re talking about—we‘re talking about...

ADUBATO:  ... sorry he called David Gregory a liberal.

KOHN:  ... anybody out there on...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Guys, one at a time!

(CROSSTALK)

ADUBATO:  ... make it clear.  The reason I said it, when I mentioned David Gregory, not because he works for this network but it was because he was accused by some, including Bob, by being a shill for the Democrats.  And Tony Snow, when he was there as the White House press secretary, said, I apologize for even implying that because...

KOHN:  Yes, because...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Bob Kohn, I‘ll let you finish it.  Go.

KOHN:  Well, I think that the—if you‘re denying that the press corps in Washington has a liberal bias, then we can start all over again here.  I mean, there‘s—I just—I can‘t believe...

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, let‘s save that debate for another night, Bob.

ADUBATO:  I just said he was going to get asked all the—they‘re going to get asked tough questions, Joe, on both what Rudy Giuliani...

(CROSSTALK)

ADUBATO:  ... what Rosie said...

KOHN:  Well, we‘ll see.

ADUBATO:  ... what Ann Coulter says and...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, guys...

KOHN:  Let them ask Hillary Clinton whether they disavow Rosie O‘Donnell‘s statement!  Let‘s hear it this week.  Let‘s hear one reporter ask her that question!  One!

SCARBOROUGH:  Very good.  Bob Kohn, Steve Adubato, take it out in the street.  Richard Wolffe, the always down-the-middle White House correspondent for “Newsweek,” thank you so much for being here tonight.

And coming up next: “Idol” producers start spinning wildly, suggesting that they may be preparing for the worst-case scenario, Sanjaya as the next “American Idol.”  By the way, I bought a suit like that last night.  The shaggy star took one more step toward that unlikely goal last night.  The question is, will Fox be able to stop him before he stops “Idol”?

And later: Can stars like Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan really get better by checking into luxury rehab centers?  The truth behind Hollyweird‘s troubling trend coming up.

But first, “South Park,” James Cameron and chocolate Jesus try to shake the faithful.  Is it a war on religion or just good business?  We‘re going to be talking to the man who was sliced and diced by a cartoon Jesus last night on “South Park” right after the break..

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL MAHER, “REAL TIME”:  We are a nation that is unenlightened because of religion.  I do believe that.  I think that religion stops people from thinking.  I think it justifies crazies.  I think flying planes into a building was a faith-based initiative.  I think religion is a neurological disorder.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  A neurological disorder—that‘s how Bill Maher views religion, but he‘s not alone.  There‘s a growing cottage industry out there, with authors and filmmakers attacking the most fundamental tenets of Christian beliefs.  Books like “The God Delusion” and “American Fascists” are skyrocketing to the top of “The New York Times” best-sellers list, and “Newsweek” magazine‘s running a story this week asking, “Is God real?”  So is it open season on Christianity?

It‘s a debate on everybody‘s mind, as I found out on Bill Maher‘s show a few weeks back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  You believe what you want to believe.  That‘s fine with me.   Let me believe what I want to believe.  I‘m not going to call you a fascist because you don‘t believe that Jesus Christ ascended into heaven after three days.  Don‘t call me a fascist because I do.

MAHER:  I‘m not calling anybody a fascist!

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  I‘m talking about these books and “The God Delusion.” 

I‘m not calling you delusional.

MAHER:  OK.

SCARBOROUGH:  You believe what you believe because you believe what you believe.

MAHER:  OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  And tonight, I talked to Bill Donohue.  He‘s, of course, the president of the Catholic League.  And Joan Walsh.  She‘s the editor-in-chief of Salon.com.  And I asked Bill, who had this very strange starring role on “South Park” last night, why Christians seem to be under attack so much lately.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BILL DONOHUE, PRES., CATHOLIC LEAGUE:  Yes, there‘s a couple of lunatics on the Christian right, but there are very few of them.  The people that most of these books are talking about are people who are saying, Listen, I‘m proud to be a traditional Catholic, evangelical Protestant and an orthodox Jew, because they‘re our friends in the culture war, and we‘re just simply saying we believe in traditional morality.  That doesn‘t mean that we should be demonized!  We have a right to be out there.  And I‘m very much bothered when people are trying to put a chilling effect on the right of committed Christians and orthodox Jews to express themselves about matters publicly.

JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM:  Bill, you‘re trying to pull a chilling effect on the rest of us.  You shut down that chocolate Jesus exhibit last week.  Who cares about chocolate Jesus?  Don‘t even go see him.

DONOHUE:  Joan...

WALSH:  It wasn‘t even in a public place.  It was in a private hotel.

DONOHUE:  Joan...

WALSH:  You‘re the ones—and you called more attention to chocolate Jesus than chocolate Jesus would have gotten had the exhibit simply gone on.  You‘re the one...

DONOHUE:  Joan!  Joan!  Joan!  Joan!

WALSH:  ... who‘s trying to shut people down.

DONOHUE:  Why don‘t you—why don‘t you...

WALSH:  Yes, Bill?

DONOHUE:  ... tell the truth about this!  It was on street level.  It was made of chocolate, with his genitals exposed, asking people to come in and eat him during Holy Week.  Now, if you can‘t figure that out, why that might be offensive, then you are really in the minority!

WALSH:  I can figure it out, but I just wouldn‘t go by it if it was offensive.  You know, I just don‘t think that it‘s the kind of big deal.  I didn‘t see it as sacrilegious myself.  You may have.  You don‘t go.  I could go, if I want to.  But now it‘s not going to be there.  You‘re the one who‘s trying to drive people out of the public square...

DONOHUE:  You know as well as I do...

WALSH:  ... and I just don‘t—I don‘t appreciate that.

DONOHUE:  You know as well as I do that GLAAD defends gay rights, ADL defends Jewish rights, NAACP defends African-American rights.  And when they find depictions that they think are cruel or it‘s a lousy caricature or offensive, they call attention to it.  Nobody ever says to them, Why are you calling attention to it?  In fact, we cheer.  So I think there‘s a duplicity involved here.

WALSH:  Sometimes they do.  The ADL gets criticized all the time for overreacting and sometimes shutting down other people‘s right to speech.  Bill, I‘m not—I‘m not trying to curtail your right to speech.  I think it backfires on you a lot.  And as a Catholic, you don‘t speak for me.

SCARBOROUGH:  There is a growing market for people who are very put off by conservative evangelicals, conservative Catholics, conservative Jews.  Why do you think there is a such a growing audience for that?

DONOHUE:  Well, first of all, part of it‘s based on cowardice.  For example, you would never see an artist make a depiction of Mohammed and ask people to eat him with his genitals exposed during Ramadan.  I think we know why, don‘t we?

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, Bill, you were talking about Muslims, though, being upset when there were depictions of Mohammed.  Of course, you had two creators of “South Park” who tried to depict a picture of Mohammed, and of course, Comedy Central and Viacom would not allow them to do that.  But last night, “South Park” took direct aim at Easter and direct aim at you.  Let‘s take a look at how you were portrayed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No longer will Easter be about bunnies and colored eggs!  Kill the rabbit! Sorry, little bunny.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Snowball!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Jesus?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Stop!  That rabbit is of holy descent!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Why won‘t you go away!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  One man cannot be the voice of the church!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Enough of this blasphemy!  I am the pope now! 

That means I am the voice of God!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Not anymore.  I‘m removing you from your position.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DONOHUE:  ... they did with me.  I mean, somebody called me up from some other show, wanted to know if I wanted to sue Comedy Central.  I mean, I don‘t know—people maybe not—maybe I—maybe I do come across too tough on TV.  But you know, I thought it was hilarious, and our staff thought it was hilarious.  And I—and I said, Listen, I have no defense except, you know, I‘m going to go with it.  As I said (INAUDIBLE) I said, I got a call that somebody says trying to take some liberties with the Easter bunny, and I‘m going to go after them.

SCARBOROUGH:  Why does it seem that most of these attacks come during Easter season, come during Lent, come during the holiest time for Christians?

WALSH:  I think that people who are trying to tweak Christians think it‘s a good time to do so, and many fall for the bait.  But I also—you know, there‘s an element of searching in all of this that I think is good for the church and that I think—I think people—you know, the Baby Boomers are getting older.  People who walked away from the church are coming back.  I see the state of publishing about Jesus, some of it negative, as part of a real—a real awakening of desire to learn and talk and explore.  And I don‘t see the threat that you guys see.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, of course—and I agree with Joan Walsh on so many things, but when you have people out there calling Christians fascists and saying that they want apocalyptic violence, then I do have issues with that.  But listen, there‘s some really thoughtful—there are some really thoughtful debates on this issue if you go to Salon.com and go to a section that says “Atoms and Eden.”  And also, you can go to the Catholic League‘s Web site at Catholicleague.com to get more on this discussion.  And we‘re going to have more links up on Joe.msnbc.com.  So you can go to our Web site and get direct links for more on this topic throughout Easter weekend.

But coming up next here in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, Jack Bauer‘s latest mission to save the world in “Must See S.C.”  And later: “Idol‘s” producers say it doesn‘t really matter who wins.  Really?  Then why is anyone watching?  Is this Fox‘s latest attempt to discredit Sanjaya and his fans?  Tell you what, they‘re getting nervous, friends.  And that‘s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, untie the horses, it‘s time for tonight‘s “Must See S.C.,” some video you and your immediate family must see.  First up: Jack Bauer may have met his match.  You won‘t believe “24‘s” latest villain.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The clock is ticking down for the biggest television event of the year. 

KIEFER SUTHERLAND, ACTOR:  Mr. President, I understand what is expected of me. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Jack Bauer faces his most dangerous enemy yet. 

SANJAYA MALAKAR, “AMERICAN IDOL”:  Ain‘t no mountain high enough...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Jack Bauer kills Sanjaya, this Monday night.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  And, finally, when in Rome, dress like the Romans.  Conan shows us that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi isn‘t the only politician who tries to fit in desperately overseas. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONAN O‘BRIEN, HOST, “LATE NIGHT”:  So conform with local customs for females, Pelosi has covered her head with a scarf.  Here‘s a picture of her.  It‘s quite common for U.S. political figures to alter their appearances for their foreign hosts.  For instance, here‘s a photo of Al Gore during a recent trip to Japan.  I thought you should see that.  Here‘s a photo of Bill Clinton during a diplomatic visit to Afghanistan, which is an important place.  And here‘s President George W. Bush during his visit to Russia.  I thought...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  And coming up next, “Idol” producers say it doesn‘t really make a difference who wins the competition, but are they trashing their own share to prepare us for a Sanjaya victory in the worst case scenario?  Oh, my god.

And later, it‘s “Hollyweird‘s” hottest destination:  rehab.  But do these posh detox centers really help stars get better or just feed their booze-filled egos?  We‘ll explain that troubling trend, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Another elimination night on “American Idol,” and yet again Sanjaya safe at home.  So can this kid who can‘t sing really win?  And does it even matter?  Well, not to the show‘s executive producer, who says this today, quote, “What do you meaning by winning?  Taylor won the competition, but he isn‘t the one selling albums at the moment.  So what is a win at the end of the day?” 

Well, I would say a win is a win, but, wait a minute, does it really not matter who wins “American Idol”?  I thought it was a talent competition.  I thought that‘s why we were watching.  Well, I guess not, if this guy has a chance now to win.  

So how far can Sanjaya go?  And does it really matter if he wins?  FOX says it doesn‘t.  So if it doesn‘t, what exactly is America voting for?

Here now to talk about it, we‘ve got former “American Idol” contestant Jasmine Trias.  She‘s joining us from Hawaii, and she just finished performing at the Flamingo‘s Hotel in Las Vegas, the first “American Idol” to have a show on the strip.  And we also have “Star” magazine‘s editor-at-large Jill Dobson.  And we have Tom O‘Neil, a columnist for the “L.A.  Times‘” entertainment site, TheEnvelope.com.

Tom O‘Neil, if you listen to what FOX is saying today, it sounds as if they may be preparing for the worst.  They‘re now telling us it doesn‘t really matter if Sanjaya wins or not.  What‘s going on here?

TOM O‘NEIL, THEENVELOPE.COM:  Isn‘t that curious?  That‘s kind of like the same message they‘re getting from viewers about the show.  The show doesn‘t really matter, so we‘re about to make fun of it here.

They‘re trying to get in on the joke, is what‘s going on.  But, you

know, Sanjaya can actually win.  He wasn‘t even in the bottom three last

night.  There are only eight contestants left

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, I mean, look—we‘ve got that.  I want everybody to take a look.  Not only was Sanjaya safe last night, like you said, he wasn‘t in the bottom three.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RYAN SEACREST, HOST, “AMERICAN IDOL”:  And this group, you know you are not the top three, but you‘re also not the bottom three.  You are safe from elimination.

(APPLAUSE)

You are here for another week.  Congratulations.   Take a seat.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  And I guarantee you, Jill Dobson, most of those screams and squeals were for Sanjaya.  Do you think it‘s possible that this kid could actually sneak up on everybody and win and end up making FOX look very foolish? 

JILL DOBSON, “STAR” MAGAZINE:  You know, I‘d be surprised if he won the whole thing, but I‘m not surprised that he wasn‘t in the bottom three.  This is actually probably the third week in a row, several weeks in a row now, he hasn‘t been in the bottom three, so he‘s doing really well.  He‘s getting all these votes.

I would really be surprised to see him win it all, but you asked earlier, is this a talent competition?  I think the answer is no.  This is a ratings  competition, and FOX is winning the ratings, so they‘re happy.

SCARBOROUGH:  So you think FOX is happy.  You don‘t think they‘re nervous that this kid is going to win and undermine their brand? 

DOBSON:  You know, I think they would like to see someone who‘s going to sell a lot of records.  And ideally, that‘s a person who‘s a really strong singer.  But Sanjaya has got such a big following, you know, we all know that William Hung sold a lot of records, so I think that they‘ll be happy to have someone in there that gets a lot of attention, gets people to go on their concert tour, and to buy some of their records, as well.

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, you know, and, of course, “Idol” producers know this kid is getting so much publicity.  We talked about nightly news, we talked about “The Washington Post,” “The New York Times.”  And while the FOX producers and the network execs and the advertisers may be reveling in Sanjaya‘s publicity, the judges aren‘t as impressed.  Let‘s take a look. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RANDY JACKSON, JUDGE, “AMERICAN IDOL”:  When I first saw him, there was something special about him, but he hasn‘t returned to form since then.

PAULA ABDUL, JUDGE, “AMERICAN IDOL”:  I just want you to kind of raise your game.

SIMON COWELL, JUDGE, “AMERICAN IDOL”:  It wasn‘t a very good vocal, but maybe it‘s your hair that‘s keeping you in.

JACKSON:  Thank god for the background singers, because that song was almost unlistenable for me, man.  It was really, really weak. 

COWELL:  I think the little girl‘s face says it all. 

ABDUL:  I‘m speechless.  I am. 

COWELL:  Let‘s try a different tactic this week.  Incredible!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Jasmine, you were a former “American Idol” contestant.  You caught a lot of heat from the judges.  Tell us, what does a young performer go through when they‘re taking that sort of abuse in front of millions and millions of people? 

JASMINE TRIAS, FORMER “IDOL” CONTESTANT:  You know, it‘s definitely really difficult to go under that much pressure at such a young age.  Because when I was on the show, I was 16 and, you know, there was a lot of controversy when I was on the show about how Hawaii was all, you know, coming together to vote for me.  And, you know, same thing with Sanjaya.  A lot of people feel that he shouldn‘t be on the show.

I kind of feel bad for him, because, you know, he‘s going out there, performing his best every week, and he‘s trying so hard, and he‘s still getting a lot of, you know, bad press.  But at the same time, if you look at it, people are voting for him.  And the people who are not voting for him are usually the ones that are complaining that he‘s still on the show.  So, you know, if you think about it, you really have to—if you‘re not satisfied with the results, then, you know, get into the show, get into the game. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, you know, Jasmine, you‘re a perfect example of somebody that didn‘t win the contest, somebody like Sanjaya that caught a lot of heat while you were performing when you were younger, and yet look where you are now.  Your career seems to be flourishing.  So maybe the FOX producer is right:  It may not matter who wins the “American Idol” contest.  It‘s who wins after they get off the show, like you, right? 

TRIAS:  Exactly.  Exactly.  I‘m a true believer in that, because the show is a door opener.  It‘s just the beginning of your career, if you choose to, because sometimes when people get voted off “American Idol,” they think it‘s the end of their career when it really isn‘t. 

It really is your big break.  It‘s your turn to work hard at your career and work hard at something that you really love to do and hopefully to maintain the success that “American Idol” has given you.  And that‘s what it‘s all about.  It‘s just a door opener. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, Jill, so talk about what happens next.  When they break it down next week and Sanjaya is still left standing, at that point do people like Howard Stern and “Vote for the Worst” and everybody else start picking up all this momentum, and suddenly America is voting for the guy who they know who‘s the worse, but is going to provide the most entertaining result? 

DOBSON:  Right.  I think this is a situation where a lot of people win.  The people who aren‘t going to win are people like Melinda and Lakisha, who are losing out on votes because people are voting for Sanjaya instead, and here are these incredible singers who are potentially missing the chance to win the title here. 

But as Nigel Lythgoe, the executive producer of the program, said, it‘s not necessarily who wins.  So even if Sanjaya gets all these votes and half of them are people who love him and half of them are people who hate him and he wins, you know, oh, well.  All of these people have gotten the fame that they need to sell albums later in their career, so they‘ve gotten a huge stepping stone, as Jasmine said.  The door is open for all these people, so they‘ll be OK.

SCARBOROUGH:  ALL right.  Jill Dobson, Jasmine, thanks so much.  Tom O‘Neil, stick around, because when we come back, Hollywood‘s walk of shame.  Why are so many young stars making a detour to detox?  And does a stint in rehab rejuvenate their careers while doing absolutely nothing for their addictions?

And later in “Hollyweird,” why Heather Mills prefers to be a private dancer, the cover-up exposed in “Hollyweird.” 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Now, when I say rehab, what do you think of?  Well, if your answer is five-star meals, massages, and resort-style accommodations, you must be a celebrity in detox.  In fact, pop tart Britney Spears may have even met her new boyfriend in rehab.  Isn‘t there some rule against that?

So did rehab really work for her and Lindsay Lohan or are detox retreats for the rich and famous really just glorified country clubs?  Here‘s NBC‘s John Larson with a look inside. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN LARSON, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  When former Miss USA Tara Conner checked out of a treatment center in Pennsylvania clean and sober, she said it had been fun.  When Britney Spears entered Promises treatment center in Malibu, many thought about time.  When Lindsay Lohan sought help at Wonderland in Hollywood, the press almost hurt themselves.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Lindsay checked in here at Wonderland center around 2:30 yesterday, wearing black tights, a leather jacket, and holding a Jamba Juice in her hand. 

LARSON:  What‘s inside?  Many look like five-star resorts, swimming pools, private tennis lessons, organic, world-class meals.  But some say for superrich addicts, it‘s necessary. 

HOWARD SAMUELS, WONDERLAND CENTER:  It‘s a way to seduce people to come into treatment, because coming in is going to be the hardest thing anyone has ever done in their life, when they‘re addicted to drugs or alcohol. 

LARSON:  Still, seeking soft accommodations at $30,000 to $50,000 a month, when you‘re trying to accomplish something very hard, makes some in the field skeptical. 

JOSEPH CALIFANO, NATIONAL CENTER ON ADDICTION AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE:  If you‘re a Hollywood star, you‘re living in the same luxurious way you did in your Beverly Hills mansion, when you go into the treatment center.  That‘s not a recipe for success. 

LARSON:  Nonetheless, the list of Hollywood celebrities going in and coming out reportedly sober grows, proof, some say, to the serious healing going on inside.

PATRICK WESTON, PROMISES TREATMENT FACILITY:  It‘s not just, I want to say, a massage, acupuncture, go to the gym and manicures.  That‘s not at all our treatment.  That wouldn‘t provide a good outcome. 

LARSON:  Glamorous?  Only to those who know nothing about the hell of addiction.  Stars are pampered, but only to a point.  Just ask the chef. 

CHRIS WILSON, EXECUTIVE CHEF, WONDERLAND:  Somebody will come up and say like, “Well, I don‘t do dairy, or I only eat kosher.  So what are you using?”  And then I ask them, “So what you got you here?”  They‘ll say, “Oh, crystal meth.”  I go, is that crystal meth kosher?  Was that morphine organic?  And they shut up right away. 

LARSON:  John Larson, NBC News, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, being a celebrity isn‘t all about fame and money.  Rehab seems to be a right of passage for starlets these days.  And still with us to talk about, Tom O‘Neil.

Hey, Tom, are these things country clubs or are they really tough rehab centers? 

O‘NEIL:  I think they‘re a little bit of both, Joe.  You have the opposite flipside of this celebrity treatment, which needs to be brought up here, too, a place like Betty Ford Clinic, where Eric Clapton went and Keith Urban went.  And that‘s a boot camp for celebrities.  They go in there, no cell phones.  You have to bunk with other people.  You have to eat cafeteria-style.  You scrub toilets.  You scrub floors.

And the philosophy there is, if you‘re going to get sober, it‘s all about getting humble.  And the head of the Betty Ford clinic says, look, we need to have these celebrities, these pampered people, sit right next to a guy from skid row and say, “I‘m as bad a drunk as he is.”  That‘s not going to happen at Promises.

SCARBOROUGH:  No, that doesn‘t happen at Promises and those type of resorts.  And so when you have these celebs that go to promises, Tom, from what you‘ve seen up close out there, are these people seemingly more interested in rehabilitating their reputation than their bodies? 

O‘NEIL:  In many cases, yes.  They seem to flee into these—of course, they look like resorts—to get away from the paparazzi and the problems they‘ve left behind.  And in some cases, when they get these really—when judges say, OK, you have to serve any jail time, you could just go to rehab, that‘s where I think we get a little upset, when we see the Courtney Loves, and we see, what, Nick Nolte, Rush Limbaugh, Kelsey Grammer, all avoid jail time, which, remember, Robert Downey, Jr., had to do in order to go in there. 

My favorite is Boy George.  Remember, he was caught with 13 bags of cocaine, Joe.  Do you know where you and I would be if we ended up with 13 bags of cocaine?  Up the river in Sing Sing.  He ended up in rehab.

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, exactly, he goes to rehab.  Unbelievable, Tom O‘Neil.  There are two standards.  It‘s very sad. 

Thanks so much for being with us.  And that‘s probably why these celebrities stay in so much trouble for so long.  Again, great insights from Tom O‘Neil, as always.

Coming up next, we know they weren‘t perfect homemakers, but why are Britney and K-Fed slashing the price of their Malibu mansion?  The answer straight ahead in “Hollyweird.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, make sure I have the stretch for the after party, it‘s time for “Hollyweird.” 

First up tonight, Britney Spears and K-Fed, TMZ is reporting that they‘re so desperate to get rid of their financial ties together that they‘ve cut more than $1 million off the asking price of their Malibu mansion. 

Here to talk about it tonight, E! online columnist Ted Casablanca and editor-at-large for “Life and Style Weekly,” Ashlan Gorse.

Ted, what‘s going on here with Britney and K-Fed?  It looks like they‘re about to lose a lot of money on their Malibu mansion.

TED CASABLANCA, E! ONLINE:  Yes, this is going to be the first and last time you‘re going to see a blue light special in Malibu real estate.  It‘s really so Britney, I just love it.  But I also think it‘s a sign that she‘s really serious about getting sober and moving on with her life.  She wants to get rid of the bad karma she‘s had with K-Fed and she wants to clean house.

SCARBOROUGH:  And so, Ashlan, she wants to clean house, even if it cleans her out financially.  Are these not talking? 

(CROSSTALK)

CASABLANCA:  She‘s not hurting, Joe, by the way.

ASHLAN GORSE, “LIFE AND STYLE WEEKLY”:  No, they‘re not hurting, but they‘re still—you know, the divorce is actually final.  We heard that K-Fed is actually going to be getting a reported $1 million in the settlement and then extra $25,000 grand a month in child support.  But this house, we‘ve heard that it‘s around $12 million.  So cutting off a million?  It‘s still $11 million, but they do want to get rid of the house together and go their separate ways.

SCARBOROUGH:  And speaking of going their separate ways, Paul McCartney‘s dancing diva—or I guess I should say ex-dancing diva/gold digger—Heather Mills is hiding from her friends on the “Dancing with the Stars” set. 

CASABLANCA:  Joe, you‘re so brutal.

SCARBOROUGH:  Ted, what‘s the story here? 

CASABLANCA:  I love this.  She‘s reportedly had a curtain erected around her trailer, and all of the time that she‘s backstage—and I just love this.  It reminds me of so many stars who walk into a restaurant with these huge-ass sunglasses.  And it screams, “Look at me more, please, not look at me less.”

(CROSSTALK)  

SCARBOROUGH:  Wasn‘t this whole “Dancing with the Stars” thing supposed to soften her image? 

GORSE:  Right, and that‘s the thing to remember, that the U.S. people are actually the only ones that are actually cheering for Heather, that are actually being fans of hers.  Nobody in Britain wants anything to do with her.  So it‘s kind of shocking, that she‘s actually telling the fans, you know, go away, don‘t look at me.  I don‘t know.  I think it‘s just kind of a snub to everybody here in the U.S.

CASABLANCA:  Oh, I think the U.S. fans are definitely starting to ebb, as well.  I think people are finding her chilly, and I think we‘re sort of seeing why Sir Paul and Heather didn‘t work out. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, perhaps.  And you know what?  “Life and Style” is reporting that another couple may not be working out, yet another rumor about Tom Cruise, that Tom has scared Katie Holmes off.  What‘s he done now, Ashlan? 

GORSE:  You know, this is just a tumultuous relationship.  We‘re always hearing that Katie just can‘t get away from Tom.  She‘s kind of realizing now, she‘s had the baby, Suri is getting older, and she really wants to be her own woman.  And now Tom and Katie had a fight because Tom told Katie that she wasn‘t looking cheerful in public, and that really set her off.  She drove around, ended up on a park bench, but finally ended up going back to the house, because she really wanted to see the baby.

SCARBOROUGH:  You know what, though?  I mean, Ted, what I‘m thinking is, if she‘s not happy right now, she just had a baby, maybe if she took some psychiatric drugs to help her with the whole postpartum thing, maybe that would help her out, and, you know, Tom would be happy, she would be happy, everything would be fine?

CASABLANCA:  Well, she certainly is getting—you know, she‘s being well-compensated enough.  You‘d think she could cheer up with all the shopping she‘s getting to do.  But, Joe, I‘ve just got to say, I want to tell her to run.  Just, honey, run.  That‘s all I want to tell her to do.  And I think half the world is wishing that she would. 

GORSE:  And run far away. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And I would guess that she probably understands what a lot of women who have children go through and perhaps they need some help like Brooke Shields needed some help. 

Anyway, Ashlan Gorse, thank you so much.  Ted Casablanca, thank you. 

As always, greatly appreciate it.

And, friends, that‘s all the time we have for tonight in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  We really appreciate you being here.  Hope you have a good Friday tomorrow.  Hope you have a great weekend, great Easter weekend.  But right now, don‘t know anywhere.  Up next, it‘s “To Catch a Predator.”  Have a good night.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END   

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