updated 4/11/2007 11:28:25 AM ET 2007-04-11T15:28:25

Guests: John Ridley, Bill Maher, Al Sharpton, Steve Adubato, Pat Buchanan, Joe Klein, Michelle Kosinski, Debra Opri, Courtney Hazlett, David Caplan

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  Tonight, Bill Maher is here to talk about Imus and tell us what he thinks about those who are calling to have the talk show giant fired.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL MAHER, “REAL TIME”:  Of course he should not be fired.  People should not even be asked in this country to just disappear.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  That‘s coming up, but first, the Imus controversy continues to grow.  Tonight, despite Don Imus‘s continued pleas for forgiveness and a two-week suspension by CBS radio and MSNBC, the drumbeat against the I-man is getting louder.  Tonight, Procter & Gamble, the nation‘s biggest marketer, says it‘s going pull all of its ads from MSNBC daytime programming in protest of Don Imus‘s remarks.  Now, Staples has already pulled all ads from the Imus show.

And earlier, on the “Today” show, Matt Lauer locked horns with the talk show host.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATT LAUER, “TODAY”:  Here‘s the problem, it seems, Don.  It‘s a little bit of here we go again.  This isn‘t the first time you‘ve crossed the line.  This isn‘t the first time that racially insensitive comments have been made by you or members of your staff.  There was an incident with Gwen Ifill, a highly-regarded African-American journalist, who was referred to as a cleaning lady.  We heard about the...

(CROSSTALK)

DON IMUS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  You‘re not going to do that to me!

LAUER:  There have been...

IMUS:  You are not going to cite that remark and not give me an opportunity to respond to that.

LAUER:  Well, I will give you an opportunity in a second, but there have been other apologies in the past and there have been pledges taken by you in the past to curb your behavior.  And yet here we are, different year, same problem.

IMUS:  OK.  Try to hang the Gwen Ifill on me, which I discussed with Reverend Sharpton yesterday.  That happened back during the Reagan administration, and it was a—this is a comedy show.  I‘m not a news man.  This is not “Meet the Press.”  We don‘t—anything we say—not an excuse, but context is important.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Context is important, and later in the day, the women who claim to be shocked and stunned at the 65-year-old talk show host‘s words agreed to meet Mr. Imus, who was busy trying to save his reputation throughout the day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

IMUS:  It wasn‘t a malicious rant.  I wasn‘t angry.  I wasn‘t drunk.  I wasn‘t stating some sort of philosophy.  as I said yesterday morning, I‘m not a racist.  I‘m—and I‘ve demonstrated that in my deeds and my work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  In a minute, we‘re going to be hearing from the man who‘s leading the Imus boycott, the Reverend Al Sharpton.  But first, let‘s bring in our all-star panel, screenwriter and commentator John Ridley, “Congressional Quarterly” columnist Craig Crawford and MSNBC political analyst and MSNBC media analyst Steve Adubato.

Steve, let‘s start with you.  The news of the night (ph) -- and you‘re a media analysts.  Help us out here.  What impact do you believe Procter & Gamble, who is the largest marketer in America—what do you think the impact is going to be of them yanking their ads from MSNBC, what impact on Don Imus, what impact on the decision on whether he stays or goes?

STEVE ADUBATO, MSNBC MEDIA ANALYST:  It‘s huge, Joe, because in my ways, when you hear people talk about Imus, they say, Look at the ratings.  The ratings are up.  But if the numbers are there in terms of viewers but those viewers don‘t correspond to sponsors—that‘s the money to the network.  That‘s the money for the corporations, and that‘s what, in many ways, gives Imus the power that he has.

In many ways, Joe, I hold myself accountable as a media analyst and anyone else who has not said something about Don Imus a lot sooner, frankly.  The bottom line is this.  He did say something very negative about Gwen Ifill.  He did call her a cleaning lady.  He got upset that Matt brought it up, but he doesn‘t deny that he did it.

My point is, we have not been vigilant enough to being (ph) negative and blasting Imus when he‘s done it, and every time, he thinks he can get away with it.  Now he‘s shocked and very thin-skinned when it‘s brought up.

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, you know, Craig Crawford, as you just saw, Don Imus was on with Matt Lauer earlier this morning.  That interview‘s got heated.  Other people seem to be piling on.  You know, Imus has been pounding away at a lot of media types for a long time.  Is this payback time for some of his past targets, or is it just time for Don Imus to go?

CRAIG CRAWFORD, “CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY,” MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: 

Oh, there could be an element of that, I‘m sure.  You know, the problem here is it‘s OK to beat up on—you know, to bash the powerful people who can defend themselves and others, professionals in journalism.  I mean, I‘ve been on the show nearly 70 times in the last three years.  He‘s called me half a sissy, a communist, a pink liberal, even white trash.  I didn‘t take offense, and you know, dished it right back.  But this is different.  These are college students...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hold on a second.  Hold on.  Craig, Don Imus—and this is the thing—there are a lot of things about this that bother me.  One of the main things is the fact that Don Imus has attacked Irishmen.  He‘s attacked Catholics.  You look at the skits that they do, hugely offensive to a lot of Catholics.  He‘s attacked Jews.  I mean, this is what they do!  They skate on thin ice every day!

CRAWFORD:  Well, I—I just...

SCARBOROUGH:  The question is this, though, Craig.  Why is it that he says “nappy-headed ho‘s,” and suddenly a volcano erupts in mid-town Manhattan?

CRAWFORD:  Well, I think, you know, first of all, it‘s the racial issue.  I mean, race is simply a more sensitive issue to get into in that regard.  But I‘ve just got to get back to your premise.  I really—I quibble with the notion that he attacks those people.  These are comedy skits the do.

My argument—I realize there‘s going to be a lot of disagreement with this, but when you elevate these things, when you make jokes about some of these slurs that he does in these comedy skits, I think it actually diffuses the charge in those words.  I mean, I don‘t think it helps society to stifle objectionable language like that because you‘re not getting at the sentiment behind them.  And I think there‘s a chance Don Imus will carry this forward.  The man‘s got a big heart.  In fact, I would say his heart is as big as his mouth.

ADUBATO:  That‘s irrelevant.

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, you know, the thing is—and I—you may have misinterpreted what I was saying before.  I mean, he‘s offended everybody.  He‘s offended me...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  ... and people that you love.  My wife hates him.  But at the same time, my God, you know, it‘s like I tell my wife, If you don‘t want to be offended, then don‘t walk in this room and watch Don Imus.  That‘s why he‘s got ratings for 30 years.

John Ridley, I want you to listen to what Imus said about these women being, quote, “disrespected” by black artists when he was trying to defend himself.  Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

IMUS:  I‘m not stupid.  I may be a white man, but I know that these young women and young black women all through that society are demeaned and disparaged and disrespected by their own black men and that they are called that name, and I know that—and that doesn‘t give me, obviously, any right to say...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, it doesn‘t, but he said it anyway.  John, you know, we‘ve talked before when we were on Bill Maher‘s show.  I think you‘ve written one of the most important articles on race in the United States in a very long time.  Let me tell you what I‘m hearing from white people today.  They‘re saying—they‘re saying, Why is it that a white man can‘t make the obvious point that Don Imus is making, that these women are demeaned and degraded every day by the music that‘s played at their parties, that‘s played at fraternities and probably—probably! -- played on their very own i-Pods, and yet some old 65-year-old man in Secaucus, New Jersey, says, “nappy-headed ho‘s,” and suddenly, everybody‘s shocked and stunned.

JOHN RIDLEY, SCREENWRITER AND COMMENTATOR:  Well, I think that‘s a very good point, ipso facto.  The problem is, if you look at the transcript of what he said, show me where he‘s trying to get to what is conveyed in rap music or gangsta rap, which, by the way, I agree with.  I would love to see some kind of a boycott of rap music over the next two weeks where black people objectify black women.

But this—none of that—none of that satire, none of that thought was involved in what he originally said.  And by the way, a couple things, Joe.  He may have made fun of you.  You‘ve got a TV show...

ADUBATO:  That‘s right.

RIDLEY:  ... where you can stand up for yourself.  He was making fun of—some of these girls, they‘re 17 years old.  Where is their forum?  They don‘t have spin doctors who can go up and do damage control for them.  They didn‘t walk onto the show, where they could defend themselves.  All they did was play basketball, and they‘re referred to as “nappy-headed ho‘s.”

And by the way...

(CROSSTALK)

RIDLEY:  Let me say one thing real quickly.

SCARBOROUGH:  Sure.

RIDLEY:  I think yesterday, it was racial issue.  When it was personified by these young girls, for me it became a parental issue.  And there are a lot of people who are saying—you know, your John McCain and your Oliphants are saying, Look, he apologized.  He‘s going away for two weeks.  No big deal.  If your neighbor said the same thing about your kids, would you go back to their house after two weeks?  I don‘t think so.

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes.  And I‘m glad you kept talking, John, because you just made the very point that I was going make.  For me, I mean, I can‘t understand what it‘s like being an African-American in the United States in 2007, but I can understand what it would be like to have somebody say that about my daughter.  And if somebody said that about my daughter, I would take serious offense not only with them, but also with somebody that decided to go back on their show.  And you‘re talking about John McCain.  And I think that‘s Don Imus‘s biggest hurdle, not just a racial issue but also the issue of—the issue of what he said about these young women.

So John, what do you think Don Imus should do?  Should he continue these apologies, or should he just sit back and wait and see whether he gets fired or not?  And do you think he should be fired?

RIDLEY:  I personally don‘t think he should be fired only because I‘m enjoying watching him sort of wither and die.  Watching the sponsors move away—you know, it was said earlier that, you know, this is what it‘s about.  It‘s about the money.  And early on, NBC, MSNBC and CBS were forgiving.  When the money goes away, we‘ll see how forgiving people are.  I don‘t think the apology makes a difference.  He doesn‘t owe me an apology.  I don‘t care what he says.  He owes these young ladies an apologies, and their families.  If they choose to accept it or not, that‘s their thing.

I think in the culture, it‘s sort of fun—and I don‘t mean this in a good way, but we as a people have become so used to celebrities walking around and doing their mea culpa dances.  But Isaiah Washington still has his job.  Mel Gibson is still making movies.  Ann Coulter is on the cover of “Time” magazine.  It doesn‘t really matter anymore, and I think that‘s the issue, that people can say these things, go into rehab or go away for two weeks and go back to their shops and make their money.

SCARBOROUGH:  And that‘s what Al Sharpton seems to be saying over and over again.  This time, he wants somebody held accountable.  And earlier,  I talked to the Reverend Al Sharpton.  I asked him if he would call for black comedians to stop using the N-word and other degrading language we‘ve been talking about.  This is what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REV. AL SHARPTON, NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK:  I would call on any network to stop any use of the language that denigrates a people, including the N-word, and have done it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You might have won this time (DELETED)!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Ed Bradley looked at Michael Jackson like he wanted to say (DELETED), you crazy?

SCARBOROUGH:  Would you hold Don Imus to a higher standard than say, a Dave Chappelle or a Chris Rock?

SHARPTON:  First of all, I think Don Imus is not to be held on any different standard, but he shouldn‘t be held to any less standards.  And if Dave Chappelle or Chris Rock was the anchors of a morning show that had senators and news anchors and all kinds of people sitting up there talking about news and information and got up and said that about any ethnic group or about women, they would be fired.

SCARBOROUGH:  There are a lot of people out there that are saying—and I know you‘ve heard it a lot already—Who‘s Al Sharpton to come out here and preach to us about race relations?  And they always bring up these quotes.  You‘ve referred to members of the Jewish faith as, quote, “diamond merchants”...

SHARPTON:  That‘s not true.  I would challenge them to show me where I did that.  I think that is some misquote that was circulated.  I have said things that I may have said later, I wish I had said that differently, I wish I had not said it.  But I have certainly not sat on a publicly regulated radio show that I‘m the host of—and I am on a syndicated show now—or in any other forum that I‘m accountable to and just made a vicious, malicious, racist and anti-woman remark.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

IMUS:  I invited Reverend Sharpton to appear on my program, and he didn‘t have the courage that I had.

SCARBOROUGH:  Why didn‘t you go on Imus‘s show?

SHARPTON:  He invited me on his show.  I said, It would be hypocritical for me to appear on your show when I‘m asking others not to appear.  You want to have that kind of public discussion, you can come on my show.  He accepted my challenge.  This morning, all of a sudden, he said I didn‘t have the courage to come on his show.  I don‘t think it takes any courage to go on his show.  I think that it would be slightly hypocritical for me to say to people like you presidential candidates shouldn‘t go on his show, but I just went on.

SCARBOROUGH:  Reverend Al Sharpton, thank you so much for being with us tonight.

SHARPTON:  Thank you, Joe.

SCARBOROUGH:  We really appreciate it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCARBOROUGH:  So Craig, I guess the question a lot of people are asking is, Should the Reverend Al Sharpton be the moral arbiter of Don Imus‘s career, whether he was right or wrong?  What do you say to that?

CRAWFORD:  I‘ll tell you who should be the arbiter are these—these basketball players.  I listened—watched the entire press conference today.  I was stunned by the maturity, the calm, the reason, despite the—you know, the hurt and anger they feel, their willingness to listen to this man, try to understand where he was coming from.  I actually believe, knowing Imus as I do, I think when he gets to know them and they get to know him, they might get to a positive place that is constructive.

ADUBATO:  Joe?

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  I wish we had a lot more time.  We don‘t, unfortunately.  John Ridley, Craig Crawford, Steve Adubato, thank you so much.

When we come back, we‘re going show you who‘s coming to Don Imus‘s defense.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MAHER:  It‘s a terrible thing to say, but still, to see this swaggering mustang broken like that—to me, it was just very sad.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCARBOROUGH:  Controversial HBO comedian Bill Maher joins us next.

Plus: Is Imus radioactive, especially for presidential candidates?  Would an appearance on one of the most powerful shows in the media world now backfire on Don‘s guests?

And later: We know who the daddy is.  Now the question is, Who gets the money?  We‘re going hear from the daddy‘s lawyer, Deb Opri, next.  Actually, in a little bit.  We got Bill Maher next in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  One of the most powerful men in media, Don Imus, fighting for his job tonight, with three big advertisers announcing today they‘re pulling ads from his show.  With us tonight, a man who‘s no stranger to on-air controversy.  He‘s comedian Bill Maher, host of HBO‘s show “Real Time.”

Bill, Imus went on the “Today” show this morning, and he locked horns with Matt Lauer.  Let‘s take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LAUER:  I‘m responsible for what happens on our program.

IMUS:  So am I.

LAUER:  All right.  So you have to be responsible for...

IMUS:  I am responsible!

LAUER:  ... for what the content is.

IMUS:  Absolutely.  But it was comedy.  It wasn‘t a malicious rant.  I wasn‘t angry.  I wasn‘t drunk.  I wasn‘t stating some sort of philosophy.  As I said yesterday morning, I‘m not a racist.  I‘m—and I‘ve demonstrated that in my deeds and my work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Talk about the Imus controversy.  You‘ve been through one or two of these before in your life.  Should he be fired?

MAHER:  No.  I was on with him this morning.  And you know, I‘ve known Don Imus an awfully long time.  It was sad to hear him so broken.  This guy was always about the swagger.  Yes, sometimes he goes over the line.  Hey, he‘s a morning disc jockey.  He does 20 hours a week of live broadcasting, trying to be funny.

Comedians go where they think, where they sense, where they feel there‘s a joke.  Sometimes it doesn‘t work.  Twenty hours a week, year after year, you try and never say one thing that‘s inappropriate.  You know, was his comment excusable?  No.  It‘s a terrible thing to say.  But still, to see this swaggering mustang broken like that, to me, it was just very sad.

And of course he should not be fired.  People should not even be asked in this country to just disappear, go away, because you made somebody uncomfortable for one second.  Then turn the dial.  Don‘t listen to him anymore.  I told him this morning, I said, Your punishment is you‘re going lose some black listeners.  And that should be your punishment.  But that‘s it.  You know, he‘s apologized over and over.  If you apologized over and over and then it‘s not accepted, then it‘s on the people who won‘t accept the apology, I think.

SCARBOROUGH:  Wait a minute.  But why do people do that?  Why do they apologize over and over and over again?  And in Don Imus‘s case, like you said, this is a guy that always played by his own rules.  And watching him on Al Sharpton‘s show yesterday, he really did—I mean, he looked like NBC‘s version of Trent Lott.

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER:  I know.  It disturbs me.  And look, I think if people would stop just trying to make him apologize and get on to—there are bigger issues.  If Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, who I am friends with both of them, like them both very much, think they‘ve both done some great things.  But to make this go on day after day, week after week—if this is the biggest problem they have, then the Civil Rights movement is in a lot better shape than I thought it was because I think there are real issues they should be dealing with.

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, let‘s talk about comedy because race plays such a huge role, and it‘s all about comedians being politically incorrect, not playing by the codes of everybody else.  And when you had Chris Rock on your show, I remember you politely asking him about using the N-word.  And he said, No, Bill, I don‘t use the N-word, I say—and then he actually said the word itself and then went on to rattle it off three, four, five more times.

CHRIS ROCK, COMEDIAN:  The thing about Michael Richards yelling (DELETED) is like because he‘s such a cultural icon, so it‘s kind of like Fonzie screaming (DELETED), you know?  Up your nose with a rubber hose (DELETED).

SCARBOROUGH:  People say things, it shocks viewers, and they laugh. 

That‘s just part of the shtick, isn‘t it.

MAHER:  Well, you‘re talking about a double standard, and there should be a double standard.  You know, black people, if they want to say that word, they have every right to.  White people shouldn‘t be able to say that word.  I get that much.

SCARBOROUGH:  What is it about our culture that allows one phrase said one time by somebody who‘s done many good things in his life—why do you think people love going after people like Don Imus so much?

MAHER:  I call it fake outrage, you know?  People just like to get all upset about something, and it‘s not just—it happens on the right all the time, as well as the left.  The left, of course, is more politically correct.  But people really want to, apparently, in this country, distract themselves from the real issues.

There‘s a lot going on in this country right now.  There was a really frightening report about global warming last week.  The Iraq war perhaps should be front page news, or lead news on the news.  I saw last night NBC led with Don Imus.  So did CBS.  That is just a horrible abdication of the responsibility of the Fourth Estate.  They should be ashamed of themselves.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, thanks so much, Bill Maher.  And just one correction, one clarification.  “NBC Nightly News” did not lead with the Don Imus story last night.  They led with Iraq.  “The CBS Evening News,” on the other hand, did lead with the Imus controversy.

Now, still to come here in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, Hillary Clinton takes a few pointers from Sanjaya.  Will her “American Idol” makeover help her get more votes?  “Must See S.C.” coming up next.

Plus: Larry Birkhead‘s a daddy, but are his legal battles over?  We‘re going to be asking his attorney what stands in the way of Birkhead getting full custody of the baby and all about that money.

Plus, we‘ve got more on Don Imus and whether he‘s going be too hot for presidential candidates when we return.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, it‘s time for tonight‘s “Must See S.C.,” some video you got to see.  First up: Conan shows us why the (INAUDIBLE) presidential candidates could learn something from “American Idol.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONAN O‘BRIEN, HOST, “LATE NIGHT WITH CONAN O‘BRIEN:  ABC News says that more people know Sanjaya and the names of the other finalists on “American Idol” than know the names of the candidates running for president.  Yes.  As a result, some candidates have altered their approach.  Take a look at this recent photo of Hillary Clinton.  You should see it. 

It‘s...

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  And finally, Don Imus isn‘t the only person getting in trouble for his Final Four comments.  Here‘s Stephen Colbert.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHEN COLBERT, “THE COLBERT REPORT”:  It‘s got Final Four, and instead of an “O” in “Four,” it‘s got a guitar!  I‘m sorry, that‘s a crazy, crazy goulash of letters and pictures.  It looks like some—some Hungarian designed it.  And let me tell you something, those paprika-snorting goulies (ph) know nothing about the English language, or for that matter, about playing the guitar.  The best guitar player they ever produced was Bela Bartok, and that (DELETED) played the piano.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  And coming up next: Imus‘s show has been the place where America‘s power brokers have appeared for breakfast for years.  But is it too hot to handle now?  Are they going to stay away?  And should they?

And later: DNA tests reveal who‘s the daddy, but is Howard K. Stern going anywhere when millions of dollars are at stake?  We‘re going to be talking to an attorney with insider information on the custody battle—she‘s the daddy‘s lawyer—when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  If this man looks like he just won the lottery, well, I think he did.  A court declares Larry Birkhead the father of Anna Nicole‘s baby.  Now what?  We‘re going to be asking an attorney for Larry Birkhead.  That story and a lot more just minutes away.

But first, is Imus a shock jock or journalist legitimized by his daily guest panels which include prominent politicians and journalists?  And should those guests continue to appear on the show?  And will it hurt presidential candidates if they do?

You know, this isn‘t the first time Don Imus has crossed the line or made offensive remarks.  And in light of his latest comments, presidential contenders are already weighing in.  Among then, Senator Barack Obama, he issued a statement condemning Imus‘ comments, but when we called his campaign today, they said they hadn‘t made a decision about whether he would appear on the Imus show in the future. 

Senator John McCain, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Governor Mike Huckabee, however, say they will appear in the future if asked.  So is Imus officially radioactive or not?  And if politicians and journalists do accept invitations and air time, do they have a responsibility to address those remarks?

Let‘s bring in Joe Klein, “Time” magazine columnist, Steve Adubato, MSNBC media analyst, and Pat Buchanan, two-time presidential contender, former White House communications director, and MSNBC political analyst. 

Joe Klein, let me begin with you.  You‘ve done Imus before.  After these comments about the Rutgers basketball team, will you go on that show again if asked? 

JOE KLEIN, “TIME” MAGAZINE:  Well, it‘s kind of moot, since I don‘t think he‘s—he doesn‘t think I‘m as funny as Howard Fineman. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, God, who is? 

KLEIN:  Right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  No, look, you know, I think that he really crossed the line, and I think Gwen Ifill had it just right today in “The New York Times,” when she said that, you know, this is a group of kids really. 

You know, we tend to see these college athletes as fully formed grown-ups who are fair game, but they‘re not.  They‘re just a bunch of kids.  And, you know, he had a negative impact on their wonderful ride. 

You know, on the other hand, there is this—people get very uncomfortable with this line between comedy and journalism or comedy and reality.  A lot of people were uncomfortable with my book, “Primary Colors,” 10 years ago, and I think, you know, those people, for the most part, should get over it. 

And then, on the third hand, I would say that any story that gives Al Sharpton significant air time probably has gone on too long. 

STEVE ADUBATO, MEDIA ANALYST:  It‘s a good point.

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, Joe Klein, you‘ve hung out around the natural for way too long, Bill Clinton.  You had a great answer.  You just didn‘t answer my question. 

ADUBATO:  Can I take a shot, Joe?

SCARBOROUGH:  If Don Imus‘ people called you tomorrow and said, “Joe Klein, we want you on the air,” would you go on?

KLEIN:  Yes, and I would talk about this.  And I would talk about, why do you cross the line?

SCARBOROUGH:  OK.  Very good.  Pat Buchanan, you are one of his favorites.  Would you go on Don Imus‘ show again tomorrow? 

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Sure, why not?

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, because Al Sharpton says it‘s a bad thing.  You know, you usually follow Sharpton, right?

(LAUGHTER)

BUCHANAN:  Let me say this.  Don Imus is a friend of mine.  He‘s a good guy.  He‘s got a good heart.  He‘s done a lot of wonderful things.  He‘s got a very funny show, and he‘s got a good show when he‘s serious.  He‘s an excellent questioner, and he‘s made a bad mistake and apologized for it.  Why would I not go on my friend‘s show simply because he made a mistake and apologized for it?

Joe, let me say this.  Look, I see more malice and vindictiveness today directed at Imus than was ever in his heart when he made that stupid comment.  And we do not want—I think one thing I agree with Bill Maher.  You don‘t want Al Sharpton dictating who can and cannot be on the air, whose programs can and cannot be heard.

I think Bernie is funny.  Does he go over the top at times with the cardinal and, you know, Mayor Nagin, or does the fellow that do Falwell, does he go over the top?  Yes, but I‘ve talked to friends of mine I grew up just a Sunday ago, and they were laughing.  It was funny.  They said, “Can you believe he said this?”  He‘s got a funny part to his show, which sometimes goes over the top, and he‘s got a serious show, and it‘s a good show, and it ought to stay. 

ADUBATO:  You‘re being too easy on him, Pat.

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, Steve Adubato, though, Al Sharpton is a very, very powerful voice in the African-American community.  He still is, regardless of what anybody thinks of him.  And I talked to Al Sharpton earlier, and I asked him whether he thought politicians who are running for president should appear on Imus‘ show.  Listen to what he said. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

THE REVEREND AL SHARPTON, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST:  I think that, for them to appear now, is for them to act like that all is well.  John McCain has already jumped out there, even before he knew if the girls would even meet with Imus, and said, “I‘m going back on the show.”  What kind of leadership and example is that showing young Americans?

SCARBOROUGH:  So if John Edwards or Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton decided to go on Imus‘ show, moving forward, would that be a disqualifier for you?

SHARPTON:  Oh, it would be a serious impediment for me to support them.  And I think I would have the same standard to them that I just said about John McCain. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, Steve Adubato, as a Republican, as a Republican, if I were running for president of the United States, and I had James Dobson telling me not to go on a TV show, I would think long and hard about whether I would go on that TV show or not.  Al Sharpton has a similar power on the Democratic side, a very powerful base that is so important in winning the Democratic nomination.  Would you, if you were a Democratic candidate, risk offending Al Sharpton and a lot of African-Americans by going on Imus‘ show?

ADUBATO:  Real quick, Joe.  Sharpton confuses the issue, because his history with Tawana Brawley and the fact that he never apologized for his disgraceful acts back...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, let me clear it up for you.  African-Americans still follow this man. 

ADUBATO:  Some do, some don‘t.

SCARBOROUGH:  He has a powerful sway in the African-American community.  So if you‘re a Democratic candidate, do you listen to what he says? 

ADUBATO:  I‘m going to take him out of it, and I‘ll say this.  A Democratic candidate, Joe, in my opinion, who appears on that program has an immediate responsibility to take Imus on, to challenge him immediately.  And I think you‘re going to have a very tough time if you‘re a candidate. 

BUCHANAN:  No...

ADUBATO:  Hold on, Pat.  You‘re going to have a very tough time making your case until you take on Imus, time and time again, for months. 

BUCHANAN:  Steve, we‘ve done it all week long. 

ADUBATO:  It‘s not enough, Pat. 

BUCHANAN:  Not enough?  Come on.  Morning, noon and night, the network news and newspapers.  He‘s apologized 55 times.  For heaven‘s sakes, get it behind us!  I mean, what is the matter with people that they keep having...

ADUBATO:  Pat, it‘s not isolated. 

SCARBOROUGH:  ... lynch mob...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Let me bring in Joe Klein here.  Joe, you‘ve heard both sides of this.  What do you think, for somebody like—let‘s say John Edwards, who could use the publicity that Don Imus can bring him, should he...

(CROSSTALK)

KLEIN:  Ain‘t no way John Edwards is going on Don Imus.  I mean, it just—he‘s not going do it.  But it‘s not because of Al Sharpton.  You know, if Al Sharpton was so powerful, you know, with the black community, why did he do so badly in the South Carolina primaries in 2004? 

ADUBATO:  That‘s not the issue.

KLEIN:  The guy has absolutely no credibility.  He‘s a classic racial hustler.  And it wasn‘t just Tawana Brawley.  It was all the times that the guy exploited race in New York for his own aggrandizement.

ADUBATO:  Joe, he‘s confusing the issue—Joe Klein and Joe Scarborough, I have to say this, and I don‘t want to make this about Sharpton.  It is about those 10 women at Rutgers. 

KLEIN:  Absolutely.

ADUBATO:  Here‘s the dilemma for him.  If Imus cannot go in that private meeting and convince those 10 women—remember, five of them were freshman.  They were 17 years old last year.  If he can‘t convince them that he‘s sincere and he better stop in his apologies, Joe Scarborough, talking about his camp and how many kids are black and black kids...

(CROSSTALK) 

KLEIN:  I think that the bottom line here is, given the courage of most people running for president, and the daring, you‘re not going to find very many people willing to go on this program. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Pat Buchanan, I‘ll ask you the same question.  What do you think about a Democrat going on Don Imus‘ show?  Do you think that will hurt them?

BUCHANAN:  I think, if you‘ve been on Imus‘ show, if you‘ve done it, like John McCain did, I think, as a friend, you have an obligation to stand by the guy.  Now, if you‘ve known—I really do.  But I think if you‘ve never been on it, and in this particular mode right here in the next two weeks, it‘s probably not smart to get yourself in the middle of that. 

ADUBATO:  He won‘t be on the air for two weeks. 

BUCHANAN:  But let me say this to Steve.  Look, Steve, weigh the good this guy has done with this program with the foolish thing he did. 

ADUBATO:  Things, plural.

BUCHANAN:  You don‘t hang a guy—you don‘t hang a guy for an offense that is not a capital offense, excuse me. 

ADUBATO:  I want to be clear here, Pat.  I am saying that any candidate—and, by the way, for two weeks, starting Monday, you know he won‘t be on the air, so we‘ll talk about after that.  I want to be clear: 

Any candidate, Democrat or Republican, but especially Democrats who go on there, the media will be all over them.  They‘re going to have to blast Imus.  They‘re not going to be able to get their message out.  And I‘ll say this about Imus. 

BUCHANAN:  So what you‘re saying is, pander to the media?

ADUBATO:  One second, Pat.  One second.  He has done a lot of good things, but please don‘t use the defense, “I have friends that are black.  I help black kids.  I‘m not like other white guys.”  It is weak.  It‘s disgraceful.  When you apologize, no caveats, Pat, as a communication director in the Nixon administration, you know better than anyone.  It‘s a weak apology. 

BUCHANAN:  Oh, come on.  Steve, cut it out.  He‘s apologized 50 times, for heaven‘s sakes.

(CROSSTALK) 

ADUBATO:  He hasn‘t done it without any qualifications.

SCARBOROUGH:  Joe Klein, if you can, try to put some perspective, because, you know, we have racial issues like this crop up for one reason or another.  In 1992, you had the Sister Souljah moment with Bill Clinton.  How does this play out in presidential politics, this continued issue of race?  Because talking to white people today, I can tell you so many of them just roll their eyes and say, “My God, this is so overblown.” 

KLEIN:  It is overblown, but it‘s become kind of a national ritual. 

It‘s a sacrifice spectacle that we go through. 

Look, Imus is obnoxious.  You know, Pat, I‘m glad he‘s your friend, but his sense of humor, especially when it comes to racial issues—to call Gwen Ifill a cleaning lady?  For God‘s sakes, he‘s obnoxious. 

But Bill Maher had the ultimate point on this.  Everybody has nuclear capability with Imus.  You can just shut him off.  You don‘t have to listen to him.  I don‘t listen to him.  And, you know, his advertisers are ultimately going make the decision about whether they want that kind of humor, you know, associated with their brand names. 

SCARBOROUGH:  We shall see.  Joe Klein, Steve Adubato, Pat Buchanan, thank you so much. 

By the way, Steve, Buchanan may be a former communication director, but he‘s also a mean Irishman.  You know, I‘d be very careful.  He made...

ADUBATO:  You think he‘s mad at me, Joe? 

SCARBOROUGH:  I think he may punch you in the face the next time he sees you.  He‘s an old street fighter from the toughest parts of Chevy Chase, Maryland. 

Coming up next, something that Pat Buchanan has been very interested in.  Who‘s the daddy?  Well, Larry Birkhead.  He gets the baby.  But when will he get the millions?  We‘re going to have the latest live from the Bahamas with his attorney.

And the cast and the crew of “Entourage” getting a very unwelcome reception in one area of “Hollyweird.”  You‘ll see why.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  He‘s the daddy.  Well, the DNA results are in, and the father of Anna Nicole Smith‘s daughter, Dannielynn, is Larry Birkhead.  This incredibly unsurprising news was announced today by the daddy himself outside a Bahamas courthouse. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LARRY BIRKHEAD, FATHER OF DANNIELYNN SMITH:  I hate to be the one that told you this, but I told you so. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Good lord.  So what happens next?  What about the man whose name is on the birth certificate, Howard K. Stern?  And will Anna Nicole‘s mother still get custody of the baby? 

Let‘s go live to the Bahamas and NBC‘s Michelle Kosinski.  Michelle, what comes next? 

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS:  Hi there, Joe.  It‘s really different for each of these people.  You mentioned Howard K. Stern.  No vindication for him.  For him, this was a disappointment, and, in fact, he said so. 

Although the whole thing ended up with sort of awkward handshake hug between Howard K. Stern and Larry Birkhead that was, in fact, initiated by someone in the crowd.  I don‘t know if it was a member of the press or one of the many members of the public that were out there.  I mean, tourists flocked down there.  There were about 100 people in that crowd.  And they said, “How about a hand shake or something?”  And so that‘s how they sort of had that little moment of civility at the very end. 

But Howard K. Stern, even though he said his once rival Larry Birkhead can now come over any time and spend time getting to know his child, he has vowed to fight some media outlets.  He didn‘t mention which ones.  I mean, there‘s been speculation, and some of the people have mentioned what he‘s been up to.  He‘s hired a prominent attorney, and he plans to go after some outlets that he says have portrayed him unfairly and even maliciously in the press.

Of course, for Larry Birkhead now is the matter of custody.  He needs to go through this process, still within the Bahamian court system, whereby it really needs to find him to be a fit father.  That‘s going to take possibly up to a month, but it‘s also possible that this process has already been in the works and might be a much shorter time than that.

Virgie Arthur, you also mentioned, Anna Nicole Smith‘s mom, she‘s already filed this petition for custody, but that was back when Howard K.  Stern was in control of the baby.  So it‘s really unclear if she‘s going to keep pushing for that. 

She did offer some clarity this afternoon.  She said that really she just wants to be the baby‘s grandmother.  So it looks like it‘s going to be more an issue of her having access, and she wants to make sure that she will play a role in this child‘s life—Joe? 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, NBC‘s Michelle Kosinski.  It‘s been a long day for you.  Thanks so much.  Greatly appreciate it. 

Hey, let‘s bring in celebrity attorney Debra Opri, who‘s acting as Larry Birkhead‘s attorney.  Deb, you‘ve been part of this case from the beginning.  What‘s your client thinking tonight? 

DEBRA OPRI, DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Well, all I can tell you is, from the moment Larry walked into my office needing help to get his daughter to today, I‘m bursting with pride.  I feel like a parent almost over a case and a cause and a client. 

My client is feeling relieved.  I am sure, I am absolutely sure that the legalities, the fights, the attorneys, the courtrooms are almost over for him.  And I think everything will slowly end very gracefully.

SCARBOROUGH:  But you think they‘re almost over for him.  Does that mean that he‘s actually going to get custody of the child and any money that goes with that?

OPRI:  Well, if what I heard in those courtrooms in Florida, the Bahamas and Los Angeles mean anything, there can only be one father.  There is no fight because Anna is gone, so there‘s only one parent.  And I‘m sure that everyone understands that Larry is the father.  He will be a good parent.  And like all parents, Joe, we all learn as we go along.  We learn every day, every day.

SCARBOROUGH:  No doubt about it.  What about Howard K. Stern?  Have we seen the last of this character?

OPRI:  Howard K. Stern really never wanted the press.  He never wanted the public attention.  He‘s angry, he‘s bitter, but, you know, people create their own problems sometimes, and his problems have befallen him because of the way he conducted himself.  We didn‘t have to spend six months in various courtrooms but for Howard K. Stern and Anna Nicole Smith. 

I think it‘s wrong to call someone a murderer.  I think he loved her.  He was with Anna Nicole for 12 years.  He knew the inside and outside of her life and her business.  So I think he has a right to be angry, but we all deal with our anger in different ways, and I think Howard K. Stern will begin today to heal and to deal with his anger. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Does your client believe that Howard K. Stern may have been responsible for the death of the woman he loved and also her son? 

OPRI:  Well, I‘m not going say that‘s a foolish question, and I‘m not even going to say I‘m going to speak for Larry.  Larry has always spoken for Larry, and I don‘t think it‘s an issue now that any of us should be addressing. 

What we should all be doing tonight is celebrating a father being united with his daughter legally and for the rest of his life.  It‘s a great journey Larry has ahead of him, and I‘m proud that I was able to get him to where he is today. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And what a long, strange trip it has been for you, Debra Opri.  Thank you so much for being here tonight and congratulations.

OPRI:  Thanks, until the next case.

SCARBOROUGH:  “Hollyweird” is next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, (INAUDIBLE) your seaweed wrap for tomorrow, because right now it‘s time for “Hollyweird.”

First up, my good buddy, Justin Timberlake, the guy who claims to bring sexy back has a supersized ego.  He told “British GQ” his McDonald‘s commercial has made the company.  Here now to talk about it, “OK” magazine senior reporter Courtney Hazlett and “Star” magazine‘s deputy New York bureau chief David Caplan.

Courtney, we start with you.  You know what I think about this guy, Justin Timberlake.  Responsible for McDonald‘s success in Britain?  What are they doing now, selling weenies? 

COURTNEY HAZLETT, “OK” MAGAZINE:  Well, he‘s claiming that, ever since he did promotional work for McDonald‘s that he helped changed their image.  Now, maybe sales went up, but I would like to know exactly how he helped change their image, because everybody I know still goes to their private place to eat McDonald‘s.  I‘m not really sure what image work he‘s done. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, what‘s going on here, David Caplan?  This guy‘s ego—I mean, look at him. 

DAVID CAPLAN, “STAR” MAGAZINE:  Justin Timberlake is a little bit cocky.

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, hold on a second.  This guy has brought sexy back, and now he‘s brought Big Macs back?

CAPLAN:  Justin has gotten very cocky.  In this interview, he said that, when he walked into McDonald‘s offices, their market share went up 25 percent.  Then later on in the interview he says he regrets doing the McDonald‘s deal.  Not a very good thing to say.

SCARBOROUGH:  Not a very good thing at all, and I mean, you know, I suppose maybe there‘s been a decline in mad cow sightings or something.  I don‘t know.  You know, let‘s put this guy away.  I‘ve had enough of him.

Let‘s call Ari right now.  TMZ is reporting that residents of the Hollywood condo complex are upset with the cast of “Entourage.”  David, what can you tell us?

CAPLAN:  Well, the boys of “Entourage” are back.  The season kicked off this past Sunday on HBO, and they have taken over this condo complex.  And the residents of the complex were told the guys were going to be there only for a week filming, the crew, but they‘re staying longer than a week.  They‘re smoking in the pool.  They‘re hanging out in the gym.  They‘re basically making a mess of the place.  And the residents aren‘t happy.  But what do you expect?  This is “Entourage.”  The lifestyle that we see in the show we‘re seeing in real life.

SCARBOROUGH:  Exactly.  And what‘s wrong with that, Courtney?  If these guys want to come hang at my house, they‘re free to.  Who wouldn‘t want these guys around, right?

HAZLETT:  I‘m sure they‘ll appreciate the invite, Joe.

SCARBOROUGH:  Of course they would, Courtney.  Don‘t be sarcastic with me, woman!  Go ahead.

HAZLETT:  So often art imitates life in these situations.  These guys, they really made their personas off of being kind of self-absorbed moochers who like to hang around then lay in the pool.  So what‘s to say they‘re not going to keep it up? 

SCARBOROUGH:  Speaking of self-observed moochers, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger—I kid, I kid because I love—he‘s going to appear on the popular MTV show “Pimp My Ride.”  What can you tell us, David?

CAPLAN:  I love this.  How many times do we get to say Arnold is a pimp?  He is working on a show called “Pimp My Ride.”  He‘s hooking up with a rapper to give a 1965 Chevy Impala an ecological makeover on the show.  It‘s going to air on Earth Day on April 22nd, so this is Arnold‘s big MTV reality TV series debut.

SCARBOROUGH:  I think I just threw up a little bit in my mouth.  Come on, a Chevy Earth Day?  What‘s going on here, Courtney? 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Let‘s rip out the catalytic converter and put regular in. 

HAZLETT:  I mean, they must have run out of people who want to be on the show.  I mean, to be going to a politician?  To me, it seems to sort of be a cry for help.

SCARBOROUGH:  It is a cry for help.  I‘m about to go off the air now and weep a little bit myself.

Courtney Hazlett, thank you so much for being with us.  Pittsburgh‘s favorite, David Caplan, as always, you‘re great.  Thanks. 

That‘s all the time for tonight.  We‘ll see you here tomorrow night in

SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. 

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

END   

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