updated 4/10/2007 12:23:39 PM ET 2007-04-10T16:23:39

Guest: John Ridley, Michael Smerconish, John Fund, Nicholas Wapshott, Jack Jacobs, Tom O‘Neil, Willie Geist, Jill Dobson

DAN ABRAMS, GUEST HOST:  The lead actually is that it‘s Joe Scarborough‘s birthday.  He‘s off tonight.  Happy birthday, Joe.

But tonight, the battle over Imus.  The legendary radio show host has gotten himself into a heap of trouble after referring to the Rutgers women‘s basketball team last week as, quote, “nappy-headed ho‘s.”  Only hours ago, MSNBC announced we would suspend his simulcast for two weeks beginning on April the 16th.

Quote, “This comes after careful consideration in the days since his racist, abhorrent comments were made.  In addition, Imus‘s dedication—in his words—to change the discourse on his program moving forward has confirmed for us that this action is appropriate.  Our future relationship with Imus is contingent upon his ability to live up to his word.”  This after many called for him to resign or get fired.

This morning on his radio show, which is simulcast on MSNBC, he apologized and tried to explain what happened.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DON IMUS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  I‘m sorry I did that.  I‘m embarrassed that I did it.  I did a bad thing.  But I‘m a good person.

This program has been for 30 or 35 years a program that makes fun of everybody.  It makes fun of me and it makes fun of everybody on the planet.  And sometimes it makes fun of me to a vicious standpoint.  Does that mean I get to say something about the Rutgers women?  Of course not.  But that‘s the context in which we operate here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Then hours later, he appeared on the Reverend Al Sharpton‘s radio program.  The Reverend repeatedly told Imus he wanted him off the air.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AL SHARPTON, “THE AL SHARPTON SHOW”:  I‘m not going to call you a name.  I‘m not going to call you a bigot.  I‘m going to say what you said was racist.  I‘m going to say what you said was abominable.  I‘m going to say you should be fired for saying it.

IMUS:  That‘s fine.

SHARPTON:  You could be fired and the nicest guy in the world, but you ought to be fired.

IMUS:  That‘s fine.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  MSNBC had already condemned the comments as offensive.  Now today‘s suspension comes as the radio station that actually produces Imus‘s show, WFAN, owned by CBS, also suspended Imus for two weeks.

Before we debate whether the suspension is an appropriate punishment, let me say this.  People have every right to be angry, insulted and hurt by Imus‘s comments.  And Imus himself has said they have every right to call for his resignation.  Those opinions are heartfelt, and I can tell you they have been heard loud and clear by MSNBC and NBC News.

The one set of instigators who should be ignored are our friends over at Fox News, who have made this part of an ongoing political campaign against MSNBC over everything and anything they can find.  Now, I understand why they‘re doing it.  It‘s a good strategy to attack a network that‘s suddenly offering up a challenge to them on a number of fronts.  But one would hope another network would attack with clean hands.  We all know that‘s not the case over at Fox, not even on this sort of issue.  Last year, one of its hosts clearly encouraged more white people to have more babies after reporting about the increase in minority children in this country.  But that‘s a side issue we‘ll discuss later.

No matter what they do, Imus‘s comments were deplorable.  He has said that, and so have we.  So let‘s focus on the news of the day and ask this:

Does the punishment of two weeks suspension fit the crime?  Here‘s John Ridley, a frequent commentator on National Public Radio.  He‘s also a screenwriter. Michael Smerconish, a radio talk show host and author of the book “Muzzled,” and MSNBC media analyst Steve Adubato.  He is a professor at Rutgers, and he‘s been there for 20 years.  Thanks to all of you for coming on.  We appreciate it.

All right, John Ridley, does the punishment fit the crime?

JOHN RIDLEY, COMMENTATOR AND SCREENWRITER:  You know, look, I think, to me, this entire thing is a circus of inconsequence.  You have a crotchety old guy who‘s been saying these kinds of things for years.  And for some reason, “nappy-headed ho‘s” has set people off.  And by the way, I want to say I‘m very offended by that, as well, but then you have Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, who‘ve demonstrated they know their way around slurs in the past, excoriating this guy.  As far as I can tell, he gets a two-week paid vacation.  Meanwhile, you can flip over to MTV or BET and see rap music videos made by black people objectifying black women as video ho‘s.  So nothing‘s changed.  Nothing‘s done.  And you just wonder how much shame is actually left in the culture anymore.

ABRAMS:  Michael Smerconish, what do you make of it?

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  My breath is taken away. 

Mr. Ridley speaks for me.  I think that sums it up beautifully.  I mean, I think the public flogging that‘s now taking place for Imus is probably a sufficient punishment.  He said something bone-headed.  I don‘t believe he said it with malice.  In other words, I think that if you evaluate the context and if you understand his show and you listen to the intonation of his voice, it was a cheap laugh.  I don‘t interpret it as a racist statement, per se.

ABRAMS:  Well, you can understand, Michael, right, why people are offended.  Words matter.  You know that.  You‘ve got a radio show.

SMERCONISH:  No doubt.

ABRAMS:  I know that.  I had a talk show, and as I‘m sitting here talking about this, every day when I go on television, I think about what I say.  Don Imus has been doing this a lot longer than I have, so I‘m sure he knows where that line is and he clearly recognizes that he crossed it.

SMERCONISH:  Dan, I agree with what you‘ve said.  However, we‘ve also got a society on our hands that we have people walking around anxious to be offended.  I have to tell you, it‘s hard for me to take Al Sharpton seriously watching him as the arbiter of good taste, remembering the role that he played with Tawana Brawley.  So you know, there‘s a lot of hypocrisy all around when you evaluate this.

ABRAMS:  All right, before I go to Steve Adubato, let me play a little bit from Reverend Sharpton‘s program today, where he was interviewing Don Imus.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  “Ebony” magazine has been writing and covering sickle cell anemia for decades now, back when you were still doing radio spots for used cars.

IMUS:  Good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I cannot...

(CROSSTALK)

IMUS:  Don‘t come on this radio program and insult me because I‘m not insulting...

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I cannot let you question...

(CROSSTALK)

IMUS:  I‘m not going to sit here and let you insult me!

(CROSSTALK)

IMUS:  Sir?  Sir?  I‘m not going to...

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  ... sickle cell.

IMUS:  You can keep talking all you want.  You are not going to insult me!  Don‘t insult me!  I have not insulted you.

(CROSSTALK)

IMUS:  Don‘t talk about me doing used car commercials.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  ... and why we and why black journalists...

IMUS:  Let me tell you what...

(CROSSTALK)

IMUS:  I‘ll bet you I‘ve...

(CROSSTALK)

IMUS:  I‘ve slept in a house with more black children who were not related to me than you have.

(CROSSTALK)

IMUS:  Do not get in my face about this!

SHARPTON:  Well, what is that supposed to mean?

(CROSSTALK)

IMUS:  Why don‘t you show up here in person?  Don‘t get in my face about this!

SHARPTON:  Hold it a minute.  Hold it a minute.  Just a minute.  I‘m going to...

(CROSSTALK)

SHARPTON:  Just a minute, brother.  I‘m going to take a break.

IMUS:  Don‘t—I mean, I don‘t—I‘m not—I don‘t have to put up with a man getting in my face like this!  I didn‘t call him any names!  I didn‘t mean (INAUDIBLE)

SHARPTON:  (INAUDIBLE)

IMUS:  Well, so am I.

SHARPTON:  That‘s right.  You‘re on the right show.

IMUS:  Well, I didn‘t come here to get slapped around.  I‘m not going to get slapped around!

SHARPTON:  No, we never slap anybody around.

IMUS:  No, I know that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  All right.  Steve Adubato, look, everyone is talking about the need to take action.  You know, MSNBC—I‘m the general manager here - - have taken action here.  He‘s been suspended for two weeks.  But does he get any credit for the public flogging?  I mean, he goes on Al Sharpton‘s show, he takes it from all sides, et cetera.  I‘m not saying that‘s the end of the inquiry, but does he deserve any public credit for that?

STEVE ADUBATO, MSNBC MEDIA ANALYST:  For going on Sharpton‘s show?  No.  And I‘ll tell you why, Dan.  I understand—and by the way, Michael Richards, when he did that racist rant out in California, the first thing he did was call Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.  And I don‘t get it.  The only conversation that should be taking place now with Don Imus is with the 12 young women, 8 of whom who are African-American—we‘re talking about 18, 19, 20-year-old African-American women on the Rutgers University basketball team who he offended.  I do not understand the references to Sharpton.  Sharpton has his own terrible track record dealing with...

ABRAMS:  Well, wait.  But Steve...

ADUBATO:  ... the Tawana Brawley case...

ABRAMS:  ... what does he do with—let me ask you this.

ADUBATO:  Sure.

ABRAMS:  What does Imus do?  He‘s reached out to the team, right? 

They haven‘t agreed to meet with him yet.

ADUBATO:  Hopefully, they will.

ABRAMS:  All right.  I understand that.  But today, today everything is building and building and building and building and building.  And he comes to you and he says, Steve, what do I do?  Are you going to say to him, Just sit on the sidelines?  Don‘t go talk to Al Sharpton, don‘t go talk to the Reverend Jesse Jackson?

ADUBATO:  A couple things, Dan.  First of all, two weeks is a start.  A lot of networks would have done nothing.  So in my mind, MSNBC, NBC get credit for that.  Here‘s the thing with Imus.  The longer he talks, Dan, the bigger problem he has.  I read his transcript, and I‘ve got it—of his program.  And here‘s what he was saying.  He talks about the black friends he has.  Don‘t ever use the “black friends” argument.  Second, he talks about the number of kids in the hospital, in the Imus cancer hospital, 10 percent of them are African-American.  Don‘t do that.  Don‘t deflect attention away from what you‘ve done, Don Imus.

And I‘ll tell you what else, Dan.  When pressed by Sharpton, he actually said—and you got to read the transcript.  He said, quote, “I can‘t get anywhere with you people.”  I‘m telling you right now, Dan...

ABRAMS:  All right, wait...

ADUBATO:  ... that‘s not how you get out of a situation like this.

ABRAMS:  I watched the show.  And look, I‘m not going to sit here and defend Don Imus because the position that I‘ve taken, this network has taken is the comments were unacceptable.

ADUBATO:  Right.

ABRAMS:  That particular piece of sound, he was referring to the people attacking him on that show at that particular moment.

ADUBATO:  If that‘s...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  If you listen to the show, I don‘t think—John Ridley, do you disagree with me?

RIDLEY:  I do.  I disagree on a lot of fronts.  I agree—you know, look, you can‘t say, I help little black babies, therefore I‘m a good person, or I‘m allowed to say these kinds of things.  I—what did he say just on that clip you played, I‘ve slept in a house with more strange black kids than you ever have?

ABRAMS:  What is that?

RIDLEY:  I don‘t—to me—here‘s the thing.  The problem is, is that throughout the mainstream media, I think that you have so many white people who are speaking to the populace, that they don‘t understand when they say things that are wholly inappropriate.  The idea that somehow, being in a house full of black kids means that, well, What I said before, “nappy-headed ho‘s,” isn‘t offensive.  It‘s clearly offensive.  When he said Barack Obama is that young colored fellow, you can‘t tell me that this individual didn‘t know that what he was saying was...

(CROSSTALK)

ADUBATO:  Some of us understand—I respect what you‘re saying, but I disagree.  Some folks, white, black or otherwise, understand when they step over the line.  It‘s not about white or black.  It‘s about Don Imus.

RIDLEY:  What I‘m saying is I think if you had more people in mainstream media who were other, whether it‘s MSNBC or whether it‘s the masthead of “The New York Times,” wherever, whether it‘s Fox News, and you got guys like—you were very kind not to say his name, but John Gibson is a racist over there.  What are the countervailing influences?  They don‘t exist.  So someone can say these things and say, Well, I didn‘t know.  Where are the people who do know?  That‘s all I‘m asking.

ABRAMS:  All right, Mike...

(CROSSTALK)

SMERCONISH:  Can I just get in on this?  Because the question relative to the apology—I refuse to defend his underlying conduct, but I think I slightly take issue with what I heard from Steve Adubato.  I did watch the entire Webcam of that interview with Al Sharpton.  And I will give Imus credit for one thing.  It was not one of these phony apologies that has now become all too common, where he offers the line, To the extent I‘ve offended anyone.  I mean, he flat out said, I‘ve offended people.  I did a bad thing.  I was wrong.  And I have no excuse.  And then he did seem to speak extemporaneously both on his own show and with Sharpton and talk more about the context of his radio show.  So I‘ll give him credit for a legitimate apology.  At least, I‘m willing to accept it at face value.

ADUBATO:  Michael, I will, too.  And I‘ll back off only on this.  It was not contrived.  Sharpton clearly was not going in the tank for Imus.  He challenged him.  The “you people” comment that I read, Dan, I have to tell you, maybe seeing it in context was different, but it really turned me off.

And the last thing is this.  Until Don Imus is face to face with those 12 young women at Rutgers and their great coach, Vivian Stringer, I have to tell you, until he looks at them—and he says, I don‘t have to take this from anyone.  Well, Let me tell you something, Dan.  He does have to take it for as long as those folks who are out there are bothered by it, black, white and otherwise.  And he doesn‘t get to say when it‘s over.  And I‘m glad that MSNBC has done this.  It‘s a beginning.  They looked at it.  They called it deplorable.  A lot of networks would not have done it.  It‘s a great start.

ABRAMS:  Michael, real quick.  Do you think the punishment fit the crime?

SMERCONISH:  Two weeks I think is appropriate.  I think he‘s been humiliated publicly, and at a certain point soon, folks ought to back off and let him resume his career.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Michael Smerconish, John Ridley and Steve Adubato, I‘m going to ask you to stick around.

Up next: Somehow, the folks at Fox are making the network‘s response to the Imus controversy about politics.  Well, of course they are!  They see everything through political glasses—of a particular color.

Plus: Now some of the British sailors held hostage in Iran will be allowed to profit off their stories.  Others will not.  They were already coming under fire for their behavior while in captivity.  Now they will profit from it?  Could that impact morale of our troops?

And later: Where would you send your kids for some fun in the sun for the summer?  Wait!  What if you wanted your kid to become the next Sanjaya?  Yes, your dreams of a little “Idol” child could come true for a price.  There‘s now an “American Idol” summer camp, and yes, we‘ll take a look at what sounds like an absurd way to spend a summer, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL O‘REILLY, “THE O‘REILLY FACTOR”:  Hate sells.  Hate sells.  And that—MSNBC is trafficking in hate, and we all know it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Oh!  Bill O‘Reilly tonight, as every night, with a spin this time on the Imus controversy.  It‘s the so-called “fair and balanced” network‘s modus operandi.  Fox News management and anchors figure out some liberal conspiracy involving MSNBC.  Today, it‘s about the reaction to Don Imus‘s reprehensible comments.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  If this had happened on a more conservative radio show or a commentator like Sean Hannity or Bill O‘Reilly had something like this, the media, everyone would be skewering...

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  There would be no forgiveness!  You know, they would be bad.  But because he leans left and is not going in that category, they were predicting that there will be more forgiveness for him much more readily.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I‘m sure you‘re—I would venture that you‘re right about that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Oh, come on!  As if he hasn‘t been skewered!  I don‘t get it!

Here now to talk about this, Paul Waldman, senior fellow from Media Matters, and John Fund, writer for Opinionjournal.com.  And back with us is John Ridley, a screenwriter and regular contributor to National Public Radio.

John Fund, so this is all part of the MSNBC liberal conspiracy, right?

JOHN FUND, OPINIONJOURNAL.COM:  That‘s a simplistic view.  I‘m not here to be some part of a food fight between MSNBC and Fox.  I will say, the more interesting cultural phenomenon here is the extent to which Don Imus is going to get away with a two-week suspension largely because he has a lot of insider friends in the media.  I mean, you had Howard Fineman today on Don Imus‘s show say, We‘re all part of the same gang.  We had Tom Oliphant of “The Boston Globe” saying, Solidarity, pal, forever.

I mean, the bottom line is Don Imus sells a lot of books for a lot of his guests, and they give him a pass because they know him, therefore, they give him the benefit of the doubt when it comes to whether or not he‘s a good person.

ABRAMS:  So you don‘t consider it a severe penalty to get a two-week suspension from both CBS radio and MSNBC.

FUND:  Well, it happened almost a week after the incident occurred.

ABRAMS:  Well, regardless—look, but the point is...

(CROSSTALK)

FUND:  Given the horrific comment, I think it‘s appropriate.  But I will tell you, there are many people—Al Campanis and I think Jimmy the Greek—who will be—come to mind, who have said things that were less horrific and they were fired.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  All right, Paul Waldman...

FUND:  You remember them.

ABRAMS:  Paul Waldman, what do you make of it?  I mean, this to me—again, Fox making this about part of the MSNBC liberal conspiracy—I love it!  Every time I hear these guys creating these sort of fantasized conspiracies that we‘re all sitting around figuring out how to get the conservatives and let the liberals off the hook—this wasn‘t exactly a liberal comment made by Don Imus.

PAUL WALDMAN, MEDIA MATTERS:  No.  And you know, the assertion that if a conservative did this, it would be such a big deal—we know that that‘s not true because it‘s happened before.  John Gibson on Fox News implored white people to make more babies to prevent this country from becoming majority Latino.  Glenn Beck, who‘s on a CNN-affiliated network—he called Katrina victims scumbags.  Rush Limbaugh has made racist comments any number of times.  And they all still have their jobs...

FUND:  What were they?  Mr. Waldman, what were they?

WALDMAN:  Oh, there‘s a whole series of them...

(CROSSTALK)

RIDLEY:  Excuse me.  I can give you one very quickly from Rush Limbaugh calling Barack Obama a “halfrican.”  If that‘s not offensive...

FUND:  If you want to compare it to what Imus said, you can.  I don‘t think you can.

ABRAMS:  But see, here‘s the problem, John...

RIDLEY:  Well, fortunately, I can compare that, and I just did.  I find that incredibly offensive and I find it...

(CROSSTALK)

FUND:  ... and readers to judge the two statements.

ABRAMS:  And that‘s fine.  And look—and again, it  was made clear

in the last segment that I didn‘t even want to get into the Fox business

until we took a break, we discussed did the punishment fit the crime.  It

was all about the fact that there‘s no question here that these comments

were horrible.  But what I‘m talking about now—this is a new discussion

is the way that Fox News tries to take everything and make—to suggest

for the people on Fox News to suggest that somehow if this were a more conservative network or if he were conservative that he would be treated differently and more harshly—it‘s just—it‘s just plan, old fantasy, John!

RIDLEY:  Well, look, if I could jump in here—I don‘t think that this is a left-right issue.  I mean, honestly, I see this is as sort of a big business issue.  Everybody wants to be paid attention to.  There are a lot of channels out there.  There are a lot of dials.  And the reason that people like Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck or whomever get attention is because they say these outrageous things.

A two-week suspension, whether people think it‘s enough or not enough, when this guy comes back, it‘s going to be a big deal and people are going to tune in.  And as was mentioned before, he‘s going to sell a lot of books and people are still going to come by.

And by the way, it doesn‘t matter whether it‘s Don Imus, doesn‘t matter whether it‘s Jesse Jackson who said things.  It doesn‘t matter who it is.  Some people get their—get themselves canned, but most individuals, at this point—look at Rosie O‘Donnell.  People thought she‘d be a disaster.  The ratings on “The View” are up because of the things that she says.

ABRAMS:  But Paul, your group is going to continue to watch everything that‘s said, right?

WALDMAN:  Absolutely.  And you know, you‘re absolutely right about Fox, Dan.  I mean, part of their whole kind of rhetoric, their whole ideology is that they‘re oppressed.  And you hear that not just on Fox but on other conservative media, like on talk radio, that there‘s this big liberal conspiracy out there and they‘re oppressed.  You know, Glenn Beck said the other day that he can‘t catch a break because he‘s a white guy, despite the fact that he has his own television show.

FUND:  Dan, obviously, every...

(CROSSTALK)

WALDMAN:  ... how they talk about it all the time, that there‘s this...

FUND:  Dan...

WALDMAN:  They‘re the ones...

ABRAMS:  Hang on.

WALDMAN:  ... they‘re the underdogs...

(CROSSTALK)

FUND:  Everyone is overreacting here.  I think it would be much better if we had a standard that this kind of language is inappropriate, no matter who.  You know, Al Sharpton was on CNN today, and he properly pointed out that in the past, he has criticized gangsta rap people who have, I think, said horrible things about women, used the same language that Don Imus said.  But he has never called for them to be fired from their record labels.  He has never called for them to be suspended.  He‘s only criticized them.  I think we need to have the same standard, no matter who does it and no matter when it‘s done and no matter where it‘s done, whether it‘s black, right, left, up, down or, you know, nowhere.

ABRAMS:  Look, I don‘t think you‘re going to get many people who are going to disagree with you...

FUND:  Well, guess what?  Those record labels still employ those artists who use the gangsta rap horrible language!  They‘re still working!

ABRAMS:  I understand.  But I‘m saying the same people who are saying, We‘re going to criticize this person and that person, are not going to dispute what you‘re saying.  That‘s all I‘m saying.

FUND:  Well, enough people like Al Sharpton should have brought it out.  If they want Don Imus fired—he still wants Don Imus fired.  He should have those gangsta rap artists also fired.

RIDLEY:  Look, I said that at the top of the hour, and I could not agree with you more.  But the reality is...

FUND:  I just wish you had more standing on television than Al Sharpton!  He‘s on all the time.

RIDLEY:  Well, listen, if somebody would put on—if someone—if someone would send Don Imus to me—I don‘t why people send him to Al Sharpton.  No one elected Al Sharpton...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  I agree, Ridley!  That‘s the reason you were on the show tonight!

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  John Fund, Paul Waldman and John Ridley, thanks a lot.

Coming up: Who needs political commercial when you can advertise on “Law & Order.”  Tonight‘s “Must See S.C.,” ripped from the headlines.  Plus, “American Idol” concocts yet another way to suck money out of sometimes very little talent.  This time it‘s for the kiddies, a real life summer camp that could help your child get humiliated on national television, as well.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Time for tonight‘s “Must See S.C., video you have to see.  First up: As the presidential campaign heats up, the candidates are using every trick in the book to get recognized.  But as Jay Leno shows us, no one‘s got a bigger advantage than “Law & Order‘s” Fred Thompson.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY LENO, HOST, “TONIGHT SHOW”:  You know who else is thinking of running for president?  Fred Thompson from “Law & Order.”   You know the guy on “Law & Order”?  He‘s going to run for president.  You know, I‘ve been watching “Law & Order.”  (INAUDIBLE) there have been little signs, you know, little signs like (INAUDIBLE) well, here, show the clip from last week.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Nobody wants to see that SOB walk out of court again.

Don‘t be surprised when Judge Emmerton (ph) sets aside the verdict, which means the contents of the book are also (INAUDIBLE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  And finally, do you ever wonder what your favorite stars think about random issues of everyday life?  Conan O‘Brien reveals their deepest secrets in his latest celebrity survey.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONAN O‘BRIEN, HOST, “LATE NIGHT WITH CONAN O‘BRIEN:  My favorite kind of cheese is—Simon Cowell wrote brie, John Mayer wrote gouda.  President Bush wrote Chuck E.

(LAUGHTER)

O‘BRIEN:  When I was a kid, I wanted to grow up to be just like—Tom Brokaw wrote, My father.  Kate Winslet wrote, My mother.  Donald Trump wrote, This loud, obnoxious, egomaniacal guy in my neighborhood who wore squirrels on his head.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Up next: Some of those British sailors held hostage in Iran now will be allowed to sell their story, to sell a story that has already led to a lot of outrage about how they dealt with just about everything.  And what does this kind of paid interview say to other coalition troops? 

That‘s up next.

And later: Who would think to describe “American Idol” as non-competitive?  No one, unless you‘re trying to lure parents desperate to believe an “American Idol” summer camp is normal.  You don‘t want them thinking Simon Cowell will be the counselor.  We will actually take a look at the camp, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

ABRAMS:  I‘m Dan Abrams, in for Joe tonight. 

Outrage across the pond as some of the British sailors held hostage by Iran will now apparently cash in on their captivity.  The freed sailors were welcomed home at a press conference last week and then released, I guess to the highest bidder, with the lone female hostage reportedly pulling in six figures for her story. 

Not surprisingly, the military decision to let the sailors profit off their imprisonment not taken well by many, forcing the British government to reverse course today, and announce that, going forward, military members are now banned from selling their stories, but that doesn‘t apply to the sailors who have already made off with big-time pay-outs, including that female hostage who told her story to ITV. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NEIL CONNERY, ITV NEWS (voice-over):  She became the human face of the Iran hostage crisis.  Now, in her first television interview, Faye Turney talks about the ordeal she had to endure and the interrogation she underwent. 

FAYE TURNEY, FORMER IRANIAN CAPTIVE:  And then you‘ve got the guys who were like, “Do you want to see your daughter again?”  And that‘s the way they—they kind of used that against me.  And that was horrible. 

CONNERY (on screen):  They actually said that to you, “Do you want to see your daughter again”? 

TURNEY:  “Do you want to see your daughter again?  (INAUDIBLE) Start cooperating with us.”  And that was a point where I shut off (INAUDIBLE)

I‘m not playing the games.  I‘m not playing that.  And that was when I was

so I just—everything they asked me, I was kind of, “I don‘t know.” 

CONNERY (on screen):  It made you angry? 

TURNEY:  Yes. 

CONNERY:  She said she was being measured for her coffin by her Iranian captors.  And she talks about the letters she says the Iranians forced her to write denouncing British and American foreign policy. 

TURNEY:  And when they wanted me to write what was written about the British and American troops, I felt like a traitor to my country. 

CONNERY (on screen):  But you did write it? 

TURNEY:  I had no choice.  If I didn‘t comply, I was looking at being charged for being a spy. 

CONNERY:  She also responds to criticism at her decision to sell her story to the media. 

TURNEY:  When it comes to money, the ship HMS Cornwall is getting a percentage of that money to go towards helping the personnel on that ship and their families. 

CONNERY:  The Ministry of Defense has defended its decision to allow the group to profit from their experience. 

VICE-ADMIRAL ADRIAN JOHNS, SECOND SEA LORD:  This is a decision taken by the Royal Navy to allow individual sailors and marines to tell their story in their words.  This has not been influenced by the government in any sense whatsoever. 

CONNERY:  But many questions remain about the wisdom of that decision, in the light of the backlash it‘s generated. 

Neil Connery, ITV News.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  Yes, and I know someone who‘s going to have a strong opinion about that one, retired Army Colonel Jack Jacobs.  He‘s an MSNBC military analyst.  And Nicholas Wapshott, national and foreign editor for the “New York Sun.”

Thanks to both of you for coming on.

All right, Colonel, last week you were upset just based on the behavior of these sailors.  Now we learn that they‘re actually going to profit off this.  Your reaction?

COL. JACK JACOBS, MSNBC MILITARY ANALYST:  Well, it just gets—you can‘t make it up.  It just gets worse and worse.  You know, we have a requirement in the United States that people can write about their experiences, but it all has to be cleared through the Department of Defense.  The Department of Defense has to approve it, so that they make sure that nothing untoward is divulged. 

In this case, it appears as if, not only are these people going to get away with having performed in a really, probably the most disreputable manner you can possibly think of, but they‘re also going to get to profit by it, too, without any supervision. 

ABRAMS:  Colonel, the way I saw you describe it before, is you said before their cowardice was free.  Now it‘s not. 

JACOBS:  That‘s correct.  I mean, it‘s one thing to do the wrong thing operationally, which they did.  It‘s something else, again, to besmirch your uniform, as they did.  But the icing on the cake is making money off of this.  It seems to me that the Ministry of Defense has absolutely no idea what it was doing from start to finish in this entire sorry episode. 

ABRAMS:  Nicholas, we now get this new video released by the Iranians.  And, look, you know, we‘ve got to look at any of this video that comes from the Iranians with a grain of salt.  Who knows what they were told to do?  Who knows what they were, you know, forced to do?  But, you know, when you show pictures of them playing ping-pong and hanging around and playing chess, it seems like it‘s even worse for this group of sailors. 

NICHOLAS WAPSHOTT, “NEW YORK SUN”:  Absolutely.  It‘s a disgrace all around.  And you can only assume that the Ministry of Defense really should be hanging their head in shame.  They allowed the circumstances to take place.  They didn‘t train these people properly. 

Then, the sailors themselves behaved in such a way—I mean, if you can imagine the great generation of World War II and the way that they put up with being incarcerated by the Japanese or by the Germans, and the way they attempted to escape at every twist and turn, and these people made light of it.  They‘re playing ping-pong, for goodness sake, and then they‘re waving in their slick suits. 

The whole thing was sickening.  And it was sickening for a great number of the British public, as you can imagine, because we were very anxious about what was going to happen to these people.  And then, lo and behold, they‘re misbehaving. 

ABRAMS:  Before I ask you a little bit more about the British reaction, Colonel, you know, what are Americans who are captured supposed to do in a situation where they‘re in captivity for a couple of weeks, and they‘re afforded the opportunity for leisure time, et cetera? 

JACOBS:  Well, we‘ve had people who have been captured for six years.  There are friends of mine who were in solitary confinement for years, who got tortured every day during the duration of their captivity. 

ABRAMS:  But let‘s say that didn‘t happen, Colonel.  I‘m saying, what if they‘re not in that situation?  What if they‘re afforded the opportunity to do what these people are doing? 

JACOBS:  The code of conduct, the U.S. military, which, by the way, soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are required to be trained annually in this, certify that they‘ve been trained, before they‘re processed for overseas movement, they get trained yet again and recertified, says that if they are captured, they may not take any favors of any kind from their captors.  They may give only name, rank, service number, date of birth. 

But before that, they may not even surrender.  And if you‘re a commander, you may not permit your soldiers to surrender while they can still fight. 

ABRAMS:  Nicholas, they‘ve got, I assume the no ping-pong rule in, you know, the British code of conduct, as well. 

WAPSHOTT:  Yes, they do, and that‘s why I‘m really shocked by the way that it‘s happened.  I mean, I just can‘t believe.  These cameras were going.  What else could they be used for, except for propaganda against the British and against the American allies?  And it‘s disgraceful behavior.  They should spend time watching old movies, like “The Great Escape,” if they want to see how truly things...

(CROSSTALK)  

ABRAMS:  And if they wanted to do it in a way, they could have donated the money to, you know, groups, for example, that represent Iranians who have been harmed or tortured by the government.  Look, there are a lot of ways that they could have done things to make it relevant.  Anyway, Colonel Jacobs and Nicholas Wapshott, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it.

WAPSHOTT:  Good to be with you.  A pleasure.

ABRAMS:  Now to a story that may frighten any cruisegoers.  It‘s like a scene from a Hollywood movie.  More than 1,500 people had to scramble for safety when a luxury cruise ship hit a reef off the coast of Greece and began to sink.  NBC‘s Ned Colt gives us a dramatic first-hand look. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NED COLT, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Pandemonium in the Aegean, with more than 1,000 passengers on the Greek liner racing to get into lifeboats.  This video, shot by one of the panicked passengers, as her lifeboat was dropping over the side.  Many of those onboard, American tourists on Easter break, when a reef just a few hundred yards off the rugged coast, ripped open the Sea Diamond. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  All of our glasses were sliding everywhere.  And our warning that the ship was sinking was some of the staff running down the corridor, screaming out, “Life jackets,” and banging on doors. 

COLT:  Within minutes, the ship was listing precariously.  Tom Gatch was down below in his cabin.

TOM GATCH, PASSENGER:  The water was coming down the hallway, and I thought I‘d have to go back inside to get my life jacket.  But I had to open the door.  And I didn‘t have time, because now the water was up over my ankles. 

COLT:  The unthinkable was happening on this supposedly unsinkable ship. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  And then they were like, “Women and children on the lifeboats.”  And they actually do that. 

COLT:  Some of the lifeboats went over the side with just a handful of passengers. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  There‘s not really any words to explain how you feel when you see the last lifeboat going down and you‘re not on it. 

COLT:  And it was a mad scramble for life jackets, too. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Some people were really losing it on the boat, I mean, you know, they‘re fighting over life jackets and, you know, screaming and shouting. 

COLT:  But help was on the way.  With passengers gathering on the stern, the Greek Navy and a flotilla of private yachts appeared, offloading the passengers and crew in just three hours.  Many then huddled on the coast, stunned at the scene playing out below them.  They didn‘t know at the time that two passengers, a French father and his 16-year-old daughter, may have still been aboard, possibly trapped and drowned in their cabin below decks. 

Over the weekend, Greek police arrested the captain on charges of negligence, hours before his ship, with some of the lights still flickering, slipped beneath the surface. 

Ned Colt, NBC News, London. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  Up next, does your kid dream of being the next “American Idol”?  Well, the show‘s creators have come up with a way to exploit those dreams.  Summer camp, in what they say is a noncompetitive environment.  I guess that means the counselors are more Paula than Simon. 

And later, Oprah and Angelina.  They‘re both big-hearted, so why are they reportedly feuding over who‘s doing who‘s charity work?  That‘s coming up in “Hollyweird.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We‘re back.

Just when you thought “American Idol” couldn‘t exploit the young and sometimes talentless anymore?  Well, here comes “American Idol” summer camp.  That‘s right.  For around $3,000, your kid gets 10 days of intensive “Idol” training at a beautiful Massachusetts location. 

The good news?  Your child doesn‘t even have to have any talent.  It‘s a noncompetitive camp.  According to the camp Web site, applicants are judged on their past inspirations, future goals, and a general passion for the arts.  Nowhere does it mention talent, which means it is often consistent with the show itself. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SIMON COWELL, JUDGE, “AMERICAN IDOL”:   Thank you.  Forgettable.

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

ABRAMS:  I really don‘t watch enough “Idol.”  I‘ll be totally honest with you.  I don‘t watch enough “Idol.”  To talk about Camp Idol, Tom O‘Neil, a columnist for the “L.A. Times” entertainment site, TheEnvelope.com.  And MSNBC‘s pop culture analyst, Willie Geist, who‘s had traumatic summer camp experiences. 

All right, thanks to both of you for coming on.  Tom, is this for real? 

TOM O‘NEIL, THEENVELOPE.COM:  Yes, it really is, and 700 kids are going to be lucky enough to pay $2,900 to go into the woods with “American Idol.”  The worst nightmare of every American parent.  If you think “Idol” has got control of your kids now, now they want to haul them off to the woods and stick you with this bill. 

ABRAMS:  Does this, in theory, help them get on the show?  I mean, is this supposed to be like this secret pipeline to looking like the guy dressed in the banana? 

O‘NEIL:  Theoretically, they‘re saying, oh, no, no, no, we won‘t give preference to the camp participants, but you know they will.  But this is a new franchise that they‘re trying to extend from the show.  The problem is, to be on the show before didn‘t cost any money.  Now you have to pay this three grand, which, by the way, compare this to the $125 you pay to be in Ruben Studdard‘s summer camp in Alabama for six days. 

ABRAMS:  Well, Willie, I parade my ignorance.  I did not know that Ruben Studdard had a camp.  I mean, right there. 

WILLIE GEIST, PRODUCER:  I must confess, I didn‘t know, either.  I didn‘t know, either.

GEIST:  Dan, this is a fantasy camp, right?  Fantasy camps are inherently pathetic.  Have you ever seen a Mets baseball camp, where you have these middle-aged fat guys running around, playing with old timers?  You‘re trying to live up to something you‘re not.  It‘s sad.

And I think Tom hit the nail right on the head.  They talk about having these guest counselors who were contestants.  Can you imagine driving up to a summer camp and leaving your child in the woods with Clay Aiken or William Hung?  I wouldn‘t do it.  It‘s got to be against the law or something.

ABRAMS:  But there‘s a difference.  I mean, if I want to be one of these guys going to live out my fantasy as a New York Met, I think that I‘m entitled to do that, and I will suffer the ridicule myself.  But there‘s something different.  I mean, is there inherently wrong about having your child have to say, “Hey, John, what are you up to this summer?”  “Oh, I‘m heading to ‘American Idol‘ summer camp.” 

GEIST:  And, also, the other problem is the kids don‘t know the difference.  Right?  The men at Mets camp know they‘re not going to grow up and play on the Mets.  These kids think they‘re going to grow up and be Kelly Clarkson or whoever else, Sanjaya or these other people, and the fact is, they‘re not.  It‘s false hope. 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  But, Tom, it is, all—not all, most mocking aside—it is supposed to be a camp where you develop your skills, right? 

O‘NEIL:  Right, supposedly teach you these things.  Willie just said they have former contestants there to coach you, theoretically so that you can be the next “American Idol.”  But, obviously, they‘re going to get a little leg up in this case here. 

But by the way, for your $2,900, you don‘t get Simon or Paula or Randy, which is probably a good thing.  Because can you imagine?  You wouldn‘t have to tell scary stories around the fire if you had Simon Cowell there. 

ABRAMS:  I can‘t imagine the food is all that good.  But anyway...

GEIST:  No. 

ABRAMS:  All right, Tom...

GEIST:  The upside is, as summer camps go, though, they could be worse, right?  You could be in the woods identifying leaves.  It could be worse. 

ABRAMS:  I‘m not certain.  I‘m not convinced of that.  All right, Tom O‘Neil, thanks a lot.  Willie Geist, going to stick around.

Up next, Oprah versus Angelina.  “Hollyweird” is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Roll out the red carpet, it‘s time for “Hollyweird.”

First up, Heather Mills.  Britain‘s “Daily Mirror” reports that, believe it or not, the soon-to-be-ex-Ms. Paul McCartney has a number of TV offers primarily as a result of her appearances on “Dancing with the Stars,” including, says the U.K. “Mirror,” of the possibility of substituting for Larry King.  Huh? 

Here now, “Star” magazine‘s editor-at-large Jill Dobson and live from the heart of “Hollyweird” is our own Willie Geist.

Jill, filling in for Larry King, huh? 

JILL DOBSON, “STAR” MAGAZINE:  I don‘t know.  I don‘t know.  Maybe she‘ll be filling in for Joe Scarborough next.  What do you think?  Are you going to give up the chair for her? 

ABRAMS:  I‘m going to make a pronouncement right now as a general manager.  Heather Mills will not be filling in for Joe Scarborough.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Willie, I‘m making that quite clear.  It‘s going to be hitting the wires pretty soon.  I know, big news. 

DOBSON:  Well, now this London paper is reporting that she will be filling in over at CNN.  And I don‘t know if I‘m going to buy it.  Their source said, well, they‘re very keen on hiring her as a presenter, and I thought, “Well, that just doesn‘t sound like an American.  It sounds like a British person made up a quote,” but we‘ll have to see.

ABRAMS:  Well, you know, Tucker Carlson, your buddy, Willie Geist, was on “Dancing with the Stars,” and it certainly was a career-maker for him. 

GEIST:  Well, it should be pointed out that Tucker, who has two legs, is an inferior dancer to Heather, who has one leg.  That‘s just—start there.  But I don‘t really make the connection between being a good dancer and being able to host a talk show.  There‘s sort of a disconnect there, isn‘t there?

ABRAMS:  “Star” magazine reports Oprah is upset with Angelina.  Jill, what‘s going on here?  Tell me, please.  What‘s going on?

DOBSON:  Well, we‘re reporting that Oprah asked Angelina to help her out and publicize her school for girls in Africa and that Angelina declined.  And, of course, the back story is, Oprah very publicly sided with Jennifer Aniston and the big split with Brad Pitt and when Brad became Brangelina.  Oprah was very—standing by her friend Jennifer Aniston the whole time.  So now Angelina‘s feelings are hurt, so she‘s not going to help Oprah‘s school.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  So she‘s really going—trying to get her back through charitable work? 

DOBSON:  Well, she‘s saying, you know, I‘m going to do my own charity.  I‘m going to adopt some kids and take them home with me, and you can have your school for girls, but don‘t attach my name to it. 

ABRAMS:  And, Willie, why does she have to feel obligated to work on someone else‘s charity?

GEIST:  Well, she doesn‘t have to feel obligated at all.  But Jill nailed it on the head.  We‘re feeling the shock waves from the Aniston-Jolie earthquake.  It‘s like World War I.  Everyone took a side, and the repercussions went on for generations.  It was that big.

ABRAMS:  Despite massive publicity, the double-feature “Grindhouse,” which is an ode to bloody exploitation flicks, completely under-delivered at the box office.  The comedy “Blades of Glory” and Will Farrell once again proved he is box office gold.  Big surprise that “Grindhouse” did so badly? 

DOBSON:  Not a surprise to me, because when I saw the ads for “Grindhouse,” I said, “That is not a movie I‘ll be going to.”  And when I saw the ads for “Blades of Glory,” I was like, “I‘m heading in there.”

ABRAMS:  It‘s more like a cool movie that like everyone says, “Oh, what a great idea,” but do I really want to spend three hours watching people get their arms cut off and—right?

DOBSON:  Right, and watching a woman who has a machine gun for a leg kill people, especially over the holiday weekend.  It was Easter, family time.  So everyone was either going to “Blades of Glory” or “Meet the Robinsons.” 

ABRAMS:  There are other people, like Willie Geist, who I‘m assuming enjoy this kind of thing and sort of heard about it and said, “Oh, my goodness, they‘re finally doing an ode to these kinds of old films.” 

GEIST:  No, I canceled my Easter egg hunt because I wanted to go see a Tarantino flick about a chick shooting people with her machine gun leg.  By the way, I saw “Blades of Glory” twice.  It‘s been out for one week.  I‘ve seen it twice.  It‘s that good.

ABRAMS:  Really?

GEIST:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  I haven‘t seen it, but I want to.

GEIST:  No, it‘s good.  Will Farrell is back.  You were worried for a minute with some of these flicks he did the last couple years.  He‘s back, he‘s all good, no worries.

ABRAMS:  Candy Spelling, mother to Tori Spelling and the wife of the late Aaron Spelling, sent a letter to TMZ.com, reaching out to Larry Birkhead of the Anna Nicole mess, offering advice on everything from dealing with autograph-seekers to hairstyles.  Really? 

DOBSON:  That‘s what TMZ.com is reporting.  They‘re saying it‘s a real letter.  It certainly sounds like a joke to me.  Candy Spelling, first of all, isn‘t that famous.  And she says, “Oh, people will be reporting what you buy at the grocery store.”  And, you know, “Star” magazine doesn‘t have too many features on Candy Spelling‘s grocery list, I can tell you that much. 

ABRAMS:  Well, you know what the funny thing is?  That‘s the same sort of advice Willie Geist gave to me when I started my show.  He started telling me what it was going to be like.

GEIST:  And you‘ve handled celebrity well.  Isn‘t it just like I told you?  You‘ve handled it really well, I think.

By the way, I‘ve never heard of Candy Spelling.  So like Jill said, the fact she‘s giving autograph advice...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Neither had I.  Jill Dobson and Willie Geist, thanks a lot. 

That‘s it for tonight.  Joe will be back here for tomorrow for more

SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

Up next, a big MSNBC premiere of “Unfinished Business.”  It‘s a story of four co-workers found dead, the investigator who took nearly a decade to unravel the story.  Here it is.

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

END   

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2007 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2007 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

transcript

Watch Scarborough Country each weeknight at 9 p.m. ET

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,