updated 4/13/2007 11:31:08 AM ET 2007-04-13T15:31:08

Guests: Jason Whitlock, Mort Zuckerman, Michael Meyers, Mort Zuckerman, Phil Musser, Wendy Murphy, Joe Watkins

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST:  Don Imus left MSNBC headquarters for the last time this morning, after the network cut its ties with him last night. 

NBC News president Steve Capus announced his decision and explained that the factor that weighed most heavily was an internal factor, outrage from NBC News employees. 

NBC News vice president Phil Griffin informed Don Imus of the decision, and he said that Imus expected it and understood why that decision was made.  For his part, Imus says he will still meet with the Rutgers women‘s basketball team. 

Well, the next media company with a tough decision to make is CBS, which puts on Imus‘ nationally syndicated radio show every day.  The Reverend Al Sharpton met with CBS chief Les Moonves today, but the company is still decided Imus‘ radio fate. 

In an interview published today, Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone indicated he expected CBS—quote—“to do the right thing.”

There‘s other news in the world today.  And we will get to that in just a minute. 

But, first, we begin with the firing of Don Imus by this network. 

And joining us now to discuss it is a man who runs large media companies himself, the editor in chief and “U.S. News & World Report” and chairman and publisher of “The New York Daily News,” Mort Zuckerman.

Mort, thanks for coming on. 

MORT ZUCKERMAN, CHAIRMAN & PUBLISHER, “THE NEW YORK DAILY NEWS”:  My pleasure.

CARLSON:  Sharpton, when he left his meeting with CBS chairman Les Moonves today that he told Moonves CBS—quote—“can‘t be trusted” until it fires Imus.

Do you think they are going to fire Imus? 

ZUCKERMAN:  I think, in the end, they will have to.  I think they‘re sort of playing for time right now to see if it calms down a bit, because, obviously, on one level, he‘s a valuable franchise, and they think about those things, as you may know, in networks.  But I don‘t he‘s going to have a choice. 

CARLSON:  How valuable is he? 

ZUCKERMAN:  I don‘t think anybody knows the exact answer, but he‘s worth several million dollars a year to them every year.  That‘s called valuable. 

CARLSON:  Where does that—is that just all advertising money, or...

ZUCKERMAN:  Well, it‘s the net advertising revenue, minus the expenses of the show and whatever Don...

CARLSON:  Right. 

ZUCKERMAN:  ... Don Imus gets.  But that‘s a very difficult slot to fill and make it work economically.  And he has made it work economically for a long time and provided a platform, for example, which is the reason why MSNBC paid so much money to CBS for.  He‘s provided a platform other NBC talent and MSNBC talent.  So, it sort of has a compounding effect, but tangible and intangible...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  Let‘s say he stays on the air at CBS.

ZUCKERMAN:  Yes. 

CARLSON:  The famous people who make up the retinue, who essentially provide the backbone of the show...

ZUCKERMAN:  Right. 

CARLSON:  ... can they still go on? 

ZUCKERMAN:  Well, I think it‘s going to be a lot tougher. 

I think this has become one of those symbolic issues, in addition to being a real issue.  I do not excuse what Don Imus said.  If he hasn‘t developed the ability to edit that kind of an issue and that kind of commentary, I don‘t think he‘s going to be able to use public platforms any longer. 

I mean, this is the single most—it is not a sexist issue, although it is also a sexist issue.  It‘s a racist issue.  The fact that black comedians or black hip-hop artists use this kind of language is irrelevant, because they‘re just being sexist.  But this is interpreted as a racist issue. 

And this is the hot-button issue in this country for about 200 years.  If you‘re on a public platform today, you have got to know to deal with that.  And he lost whatever editing capacity he had to—not to make that comment.  And, frankly,, I don‘t think it‘s acceptable.  And I don‘t think NBC found it acceptable.  And I don‘t think CBS is going to find it acceptable. 

CARLSON:  No.  And I think ordinary people listening, including me, found it unacceptable.

ZUCKERMAN:  Right. 

CARLSON:  And one of the sad—and this is not a defense of Don Imus at all, who I thought was a bully.  But one of the sad results of this is, it empowers Jesse Jackson. 

Now, Jesse Jackson swoops in the wake of incidents like this and comes and lectures various companies and demands certain things.  Jesse Jackson, I just—everyone is familiar, I think, with his comments in 1984.  Let me just read them, just in case you forgot. 

This is Jesse Jackson in “The Washington Post” January 1984: “That‘s all Hymie wants to talk about, is Israel.  Every time you go to Hymietown, that‘s all they want to talk about.”

Now, that is anti-Semitic slur.  I‘m wondering where Jesse Jackson‘s moral authority comes from?  And does anybody ever say that to him, like, hey, Jesse Jackson, you don‘t get to lecture me on anything; you called New York Hymietown?

ZUCKERMAN:  Well, yes and no.

The fact is that, for various reasons, the leadership of the black community has had a much tougher time emerging and having an effect on the broader community.  He‘s one of those people who did.  It‘s not a perfect record.  It‘s a flawed record.

But I do not think that that is comparable, because, in fact, it is the black community that has had the much tougher time for about over two centuries in this country.  And it is still the most critical social issue that we have had to deal with over the history of this country.  And the people who are in power and who have public platforms just have got to be sensitive to that issue in a different way, frankly, than the black community has to be sensitive to the non-black community. 

CARLSON:  I agree with the first part.  It‘s just a shame Jesse Jackson is such a flawed figure and, I would argue, every bit the bigot that Don Imus is.  And it‘s just a shame that he‘s a spokesman for—for anything.

But thank you very much, Mort Zuckerman.  See you in a minute.

Well, we spoke yesterday to Michael Meyers, the co-founder and president and executive director of the New York Civil Rights Coalition and an assistant national director of the NAACP. 

Mr. Meyers wrote a compelling column yesterday entitled “On Radio, Let Idiocy Be Heard,” which essentially asserted Don Imus‘ free speech rights. 

He joins us now again in the wake of Don Imus‘ firing. 

Mr. Meyers, thanks for coming on. 

MICHAEL MEYERS, PRESIDENT AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NEW YORK CIVIL

RIGHTS COALITION:  Thanks for inviting me. 

CARLSON:  Now that Don Imus has been canned, have your views changed? 

MEYERS:  I think this whole stir is, to use a rap word, ludicrous. 

It is beyond now an apology.  How many times must Don Imus apologize for stupidity?  He apologized.  It was a stupid, senseless, inane remark. 

But now the thing is taking on the elements of the heckler‘s veto in the context of radio.  You know, it used to be this whole controversy about how newspapers couldn‘t publish a cartoon, a Danish cartoon, about the Prophet Mohammed.  And people threatened boycotts and—and to come down to your station and picket.  And people feared violence. 

This has gotten to that level now of the heckler‘s veto.  And I think that the whole notion that—that it doesn‘t matter, Mort?  My good friend Mort Zuckerman, it doesn‘t matter that blacks refer to women, because they‘re just being sexist, as opposed to being racist?  It does matter. 

But the point is on—this is chickens coming home to roost.  This is going to be the other way around now.  Don Imus—Don Imus—if they get Don Imus—and it looks like they‘re going to get him—it‘s going to come after the minority voices next, because they use to the B-word and hos and all the—and worse than what Don Imus said all the time.  And they set the—the voices of racism, black racism, like Louis Farrakhan, all the time. 

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  But wait.  Wait.  Wait a second.  I mean, isn‘t—I think I understand your argument, the kind of first-they-came-for-Don-Imus argument.

On the other hand, Don Imus wasn‘t making an argument.  I mean, if Imus was getting up and saying, here‘s my world view; you may find it repugnant, and he was shouted off the stage and fired, I would—I would be first in line to defend Don Imus.

But he was just offhandedly trashing people he had never even met, and not making any kind of coherent argument at all.  He was just being a pig. 

MEYERS:  I don‘t make any—make any excuses for that.  It was stupid, as I said.  And he wasn‘t making an argument.  It was—it was a bad joke, for which he apologized.  He apologized to the Rutgers women.

But the apology for the Rutgers—Rutgers women—to the Rutgers women—has now not been accepted by Al Sharpton.  It‘s not been accepted by Bruce Gordon, formerly of the NAACP.  It hasn‘t been accepted by the racial grievance.  They have a larger agenda. 

And their larger agenda is the issue of race and the discussion of race.  And they want talk show hosts to discuss race on their terms, not anybody else‘s.  That‘s censorship. 

And I‘m on MSNBC.  And I want to be polite.  But let me tell you, I think what the—not only are the advertisers speaking, but I think the executives at MSNBC have engaged in a wanton surrender of the principles of free speech.  This is an act of economic cowardice on their part.  And I‘m shocked that Imus‘ fans and his audience have not—have not spoken up. 

CARLSON:  OK.  OK.

MEYERS:  Why haven‘t they spoken back?

CARLSON:  Well, I‘m—you know, that‘s absolutely right. 

I will just say that I believe the fact is that MSNBC did not cave to economic pressure, but truly to complaints that were lodged internally.  I mean, people who work here were—were angry about the Don Imus flap.  And I think that was the decisive factor.

(CROSSTALK)

MEYERS:  The decision was—the decision was made—whether it‘s based on the decision of the advertisers who are speaking by withdrawing their dollars...

CARLSON:  Yes. 

MEYERS:  ... or a decision of executives listening, in a paternalistic way, to their employees about race and sex, I think it‘s the same thing.  It‘s an act of cowardice. 

CARLSON:  OK. 

Michael Meyers, thanks a lot for joining us.  I appreciate it.

MEYERS:  Thank you. 

CARLSON:  Well, how is John McCain‘s support of the Iraq war playing with the American electorate?  A new poll shows the Arizona senator now running behind a man who‘s not even in the race.  We have got details on that. 

Plus:  Passions run high on both sides of the Don Imus controversy.  Did Imus take the heat for people really responsible for his reprehensible language?  Up next, we will talk with a man who says, yes, indeed. 

This is MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Don Imus is off the air here at MSNBC in the wake of his attacks on Rutgers women‘s basketball players.  Feel better now?  Or was the anger and the outrage misdirected?  We will talk to a man who says, yes, it was.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  In the course of expressing his contrition on “The Today Show,” Don Imus asserted that his offensive language was, in fact, the product of African-American culture, not the creation of white America. 

Few were impressed by that claim, but out next guest believes Imus was making an important point. 

Joining me now is the columnist for “The Kansas City Star” Jason Whitlock. 

Mr. Whitlock, thanks for coming on. 

JASON WHITLOCK, COLUMNIST, “THE KANSAS CITY STAR”:  Thanks for having me.

CARLSON:  You have got a pretty tough column on this whole affair.

Let me just read you one paragraph from it—quote—“Thank you, Don Imus.  You extended Black History Month to April, and we can once again wallow in victimhood, protest like it‘s 1965 and delude ourselves into believing that fixing your hatred is more necessary than eradicating our own self-hatred.  The bigots win again.”

What do you mean the bigots win again? 

WHITLOCK:  I mean that people that don‘t want to see black people advance have won. 

And it‘s because we keep deluding ourselves and getting caught up in distractions that have nothing at all to do with what is really setting back, holding black people back.  And it‘s our own self-hatred. 

Don Imus is irrelevant to what‘s going on with black people.  Don Imus is no threat to us.  Don Imus will not shoot one of us in the street.  He will not impregnate our daughter or our sister and abandon that kid and that woman. 

Don Imus is a bad shock jock who cracked a bad joke, apologized, offered a sincere apology.  And two ministers who have needed forgive in their own life don‘t have the moral integrity to give this man the forgiveness that he has asked for in a sincere fashion. 

I‘m repulsed by this whole thing.  I‘m not a Don Imus fan.  Don Imus has attacked me on his show.  I‘m not a guy that—that has any love for Don Imus.  But this is wrong.  This whole thing has been handled horribly.  For black people and for all of America, it has turned into a terribly divisive issue, when it didn‘t have to be. 

CARLSON:  Well, I—that‘s—that‘s a very brave point of you to make, particularly right now, when almost nobody is saying that out loud. 

Back to something you said a second ago, the two ministers you referred to who desperately need forgiveness in their own lives.  I assume you‘re talking about the Reverends Sharpton and Jackson. 

Why are they—what is their role exactly in this?  That has always kind of confused me.  I—I like Al Sharpton personally.  But where do he and Jesse Jackson come on this?  Are they connected to this story, really? 

WHITLOCK:  They have—yes, they have driven the story. 

CARLSON:  I know, but...

WHITLOCK:  Don Imus tried to apologize.  Jesse Jackson, Sharpton got involved.  Don Imus went on Sharpton‘s show, which, in retrospect, terrible mistake.  He played right into Sharpton‘s wheelhouse. 

But these guys have driven the issue.  And—and I would say to CBS, don‘t negotiate with terrorists, because that‘s what Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are.  They go around the country lighting fires and dividing people, and then start picking everyone‘s pocket. 

You never see them go back and apologize for the messes they make.  Jesse Jackson today, right now, should be down at Duke, apologizing to those soccer (sic) players, rather than trying to turn these basketball players at Rutgers into the ultimate victims. 

He owes the people down at Duke an apology for going and stirring in that mess, and dividing people and dividing this nation.  They‘re terrorists.  They go around this country starting fires.  And they need to be stopped. 

CARLSON:  Well, why—by the way, Jesse Jackson pledged about a year ago that he was going to pay the college tuition of the accuser...

WHITLOCK:  Yes. 

CARLSON:  ... Crystal Gail Mangum, in that case.  I wonder if he still is.

Finally, though, I wonder, if Jackson is so bad, then why does he have so much power?  And why do people listen to him?  And why do they do his bidding?  I‘m not sure I understand that. 

WHITLOCK:  Now, this one here, I will put on the media.

I believe that most, or a significant segment, of black America is tired of Jesse Jackson.  We look at his track record of his accomplishments, and there‘s nothing there.  There‘s nothing there.  Other than Jesse and Al lining their pockets, they have done nothing. 

If you compare Jesse and Al to Martin and Malcolm, and what those guys accomplished, it‘s an embarrassment.  I don‘t understand how these black leader, how our black leaders, get these lifetime appointments, like they‘re Supreme Court justices. 

We need to vote them out and bring in new leadership.  It‘s not 1965.  The problems aren‘t the same as they were in 1965.  It‘s 2007.  Black people have a new set of problems.  And we need some new leadership and people with new solutions.  These guys are trying to drag us back into the 1940s and ‘50s. 

CARLSON:  Well, I nominate you, Jason Whitlock, actually. 

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON:  And I appreciate your coming on.  Thank you very much.

WHITLOCK:  Thank you. 

CARLSON:  Well, John McCain is learning that, when you support the current U.S. strategy in Iraq, you have got to take the bad with the bad.  A terrifying attack on the Iraqi parliament corresponds with a new low for the Arizona senator in presidential polling.  Are they connected? 

Plus:  Hillary Clinton opposes the war now, but her previous stance appears to have hurt her standing among anti-war voters.  Should Hillary‘s poor performance in the latest straw poll worry her campaign?  And does it? 

We have got details.  This is MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  It was a very bad day in Iraq and for the war‘s most visible proponent here at home.  This morning, a suicide bomber penetrated the green zone in Baghdad and detonated explosives inside a cafe at the Iraqi parliament.  The bomb killed at least eight Iraqis and wounded dozens more.  The startling attack corresponded with a remarkably weak showing by Senator John McCain in the latest “LA Times”/Bloomberg presidential poll.  That poll has Mr. McCain running three points behind Fred Thompson, the actor and former senator.  Thompson‘s not even in the race. 

To discuss the war and its political implications, we‘re joined by editor in chief of “U.S. News & World Report,” and the publisher of the “New York Daily News,” Mort Zuckerman, and Republican strategist, a consultant now to the presidential campaign of former Governor Mitt Romney, Phil Musser.  Welcome to you both. 

I must say, Mort, everything about this bombing this morning in the green zone is depressing, that it happened in the most heavily fortified area in the region.  And then we learn from the “Time Magazine” correspondent there that the metal detector was not operating when the suicide bomber snuck in.  I mean, you really get the feeling that the Iraqi government can‘t run its own affairs. 

MORT ZUCKERMAN, “US NEWS & WORLD REPORT”:  You know, there are two parts to it.  One is you have a level of tribalism and incompetence on both sides that just really staggers you.  I mean, this Shiite government, which has been kept out of power for hundreds years, is now in power because we, the United States, decided that Democracy was the appropriate form of government.

They have 60-odd percent of the population and grievances that go back to way before any of us were born or any of our grandparents were born.  And they‘re still working out those grievances, and they‘re supported by Iran, which wants to have a Shiite neighbor next door to them. 

And the government is just totally incompetent.  The other part of it, that I have to say just astonishes me, is have an unending supply of people who are willing to die.  Where do they get all these suicide bombers day after day after day?  I mean, it‘s just the most bizarre culture.  I don‘t think we have any idea how to cope with that. 

CARLSON:  No, I don‘t think we do.  The most impassioned NRA member or MoveOn.org member is not going to die for his belief.  A passionate Episcopalian is not going to blow himself up.  No, I know.  It‘s bizarre. 

PHIL MUSSER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Tucker, you know, the bottom line is al-Qaeda is claiming responsibility for this at the end of the day.  At that brings us back to the central issue here, that these are the same people that attacked us in New York, that are doing this today.  It underscores the importance of the struggle we‘re in. 

I think, first of all, we have to figure out how the heck some guy got in there and did that in the first place.  But, secondarily, I think it speaks to the larger issues that we‘re here to talk about, which is the importance of sticking with our partners to make sure that we stamp out the stain of terrorism in the Middle East once and for all.  The fight is with al-Qaeda and al-Qaeda is in Iraq. 

CARLSON:  I‘m not sure who our partners are.  Let‘s take a look at the implications of what you just said.  I agree with some of what you just said.  I‘m not attacking you, but this is the latest “L.A. Times”/Bloomberg poll, GOP primary poll: Rudy Giuliani, 29 percent; Fred Thompson, again, not in the race, 15 percent; John McCain, the man most closely identified with the position you just articulated, 12 percent.  You can‘t tell me McCain is not suffering from being connected in the public mind with the stay the course strategy in Iraq. 

MUSSER:  Well, I think there are two things that that poll reflects.  One is there‘s been a large honeymoon period for Fred Thompson in the national media over the last couple of weeks.  And secondarily, John McCain has suffered over the last couple of weeks in the earned media for a variety of different reasons.  But the bottom line is he‘s taken a very courageous political stand.  He‘s willing to bet his political career on the outcome of an effort to bring stability to Iraq, and there‘s no question he‘s paying short-term political consequence. 

Ultimately, time will only tell whether or not his decisions and his, you know, public positions, with respect to this, will pay out and pay dividends over the long run.  But you have to give him credit for being principled and for standing on what he believes is the right course for our country. 

CARLSON:  I absolutely give him credit for that, particularly because he‘s taken it in the teeth over it.  I will say, on the Democrat side, Mort, there‘s only one Democrat, unless I‘m missing something, who agrees with the core of McCain‘s argument, which is failure is a disaster for the United States, and that‘s Joe Biden. 

ZUCKERMAN:  Joe Lieberman, you mean. 

CARLSON:  I‘m sorry, Joe Lieberman, who‘s not running for president.  But, I mean, on the presidential roster, there‘s one Joe Biden.  He wrote this op ed today attacking McCain‘s plan for going forward.  But they agree on the idea that leaving and losing is bad.  Why aren‘t other Democrats coming to that same obvious conclusion? 

ZUCKERMAN:  You know, I, on background, talked to a Democratic Congress-person and asked that same question, how could you not recognize what the dangers are for this country if our whole situation in Iraq collapses and we lose?  It will undermine all of the moderates who are our allies.  It will give wind to all of the terrorists and all of the extremists, including Iran, who are our opponents.  It will upset the whole apple cart within Iraq, which will jeopardize that country‘s oil production and affect the markets. 

I mean, we have huge, huge stakes, national security stakes.  And he said, listen, I‘m a Congressman.  My job is to get reelected.  I‘m not a statesman.  I have to say, I do not think what the Democrats are doing is in the national security interest of the United States.  If going into Iraq was a war of choice, staying there is a war of necessity.  The consequences of us leaving, I think, are disastrous and I‘m amazed that there aren‘t more Democrats—

CARLSON:  I agree with actually the cadet at VMI who said to the “Washington Post” yesterday invading Iraq was irresponsible, true.  Leaving would be irresponsible at this point. 

Dick Cheney takes one on the chin from one of the Senate‘s most powerful figures on military affairs.  Carl Levin slams the vice president in writing in the newspaper for lying.  Strong language, we‘ll tell you what he said. 

And the anti-war left stands up and is counted.  Which Democrat presidential candidate scored biggest with MoveOn.org?  And who finished behind Dennis Kucinich?  Revealing results next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MARKET REPORT)

CARLSON:  The news for John McCain is mainly bad.  One of his colleagues, struggling in most presidential polls, got some pretty good news today.  People who know former Massachusetts Mitt Romney—they know who he is.  And you can‘t win if people don‘t know who you are.  His recognizability has gone from a paltry 42 percent in January to more than 75 percent today.  Add to that 49 percent of poll respondents who say he‘s likable, another 39 percent who believe he‘s a true conservative on family values.  Throw in a lot of money, and you have a viable presidential campaign.

Here to discuss it, editor in chief of “U.S. News & World Report,” chairman of the “New York Daily News,” Mort Zuckerman, and Republican strategist and Romney campaign consultant, Phil Musser. 

Phil, these numbers aren‘t bad. 

MUSSER:  They‘re great.

CARLSON:  They‘re great.  People are beginning to understand who Mitt Romney is, or at least know his name.  But he also has spent, as far as I know, more, by a factor of several, on television spots than anyone else running for president on the Republican side, and he‘s still pretty low in the polls. 

MUSSER:  Well, look, the bottom line is the more that people get to know Governor Romney, the more they like Governor Romney.  The reason that he raised—you raising 23 million dollars in the first quarter is an amazing feat.  It requires a lot of human interaction, a lot of salesmanship around a message that sells.  And the bottom line is that the reason that Governor Romney was able to do that is because he‘s articulating a clear vision as an electable conservative who can fix problems. 

He spent his career as a businessman at the Olympics, in the government, offering innovative solutions and ideas, fixing tough problems.  And I think there‘s a real crying out in the Republican party for a competent leader who can help manage tough problems and bring results.  I think that‘s why Governor Romney has had such a strong start. 

CARLSON:  Are you sold, Mort?

ZUCKERMAN:  Well, in part, OK.  He was one of the leading figures in a company called Bain & Company, which is a big private equity firm that started way before most of the current ones did, and he did a wonderful job there, and had a lot of very, very wealthy friends who helped him raise a lot of money.  That was a big part of what he did.  He was a competent leader of the Olympics, in fact saved that situation in Utah.  And he was a good governor in Massachusetts. 

The problem I have with him, amongst other things, is that his views as governor of Massachusetts have somehow or another, shall we say, evolved, some would say flip-flopped, on a lot of key issues, in order to make himself more palatable to the conservative wing of the Republican party.  And at the Gridiron Club he was being ripped constantly for this flip flopping.  And he has got to get over that issue, and I‘m not sure how easy that‘s going to be. 

But he‘s a very attractive guy.  And he‘s a very competent guy.  He‘s likable, as they say.  We‘ll see whether or not there‘s a chance for him to move forward in the polls.  He‘s going to need some kind of victory, politically, in the first three or four primaries in order to really gain traction. 

CARLSON:  Someone who‘s with out question competent, certainly experienced, but not maybe as likable would be Vice President Dick Cheney.  Carl Levin, senator from Michigan, has a very, very tough op ed in today‘s “L.A. Times,” where he takes Cheney to task for going on the Rush Limbaugh Show recently, and trying to draw the connection between 9/11 and the government of Iraq under Saddam Hussein.  Now, you know, I‘m hardly liberal.  I‘m offended by attempts to B.S. me.  I don‘t care who they come from.  And that‘s B.S. 

Why do they keep saying that? 

MUSSER:  I‘m not here to defend the White House—

CARLSON:  I‘m not asking you to defend him.  But why—OK, pre-war intelligence, let‘s leave that debate behind.  This is 2007.  Nobody buys that.  Why is Cheney, who‘s a very smart guy, running around, trying to still convince us that Mohammed Atta was sent on orders of Saddam? 

MUSSER:  Well, look, I mean, you know, look at today.  Al-Qaeda just claimed responsibility for this bombing in Iraq.  I mean, al Qaeda is clearly showing up in a lot of places in the world.  And I think that—I don‘t know what this op ed gets us.  I mean this is an old story. 

CARLSON:  But Cheney made it a fresh story by saying it just the other day, last week. 

MUSSER:  And I‘m not sure that Cheney is the spokesman that should be out there all the time for the administration on this particular issue, because it‘s been over and over and over again.  I think that‘s a part of why folks are looking forward, in terms of trying to think of what‘s next, and really the president and the vice president, you know, figuring out what we‘re going to do to deal with this issue next week and next month, and next year; not going back to what happened, you know, three or four years ago. 

CARLSON:  My god, they just make it too easy for their enemies. 

ZUCKERMAN:  It wasn‘t Carl Levin who brought this up again.  It was Cheney who brought it up.  I don‘t know why in the world he‘s doing that, when, as you say, that argument has been discredited.  Maybe there‘s some piece of intelligence that none of us know about it, but whatever has come out has not proved credible to back it up, even though al-Qaeda has emerged in Iraq.  That‘s a whole new issue.  Al Qaeda has emerged in many different places.

But whether or not that was the trigger that prompted us to go into Iraq, that‘s a much more dubious proposition way back all those years, and to sort of try to justify it post haste, or post facto; I just find it astonishing. 

CARLSON:  It‘s actually insulting, I must say.  MoveOn.org did a straw poll last night of its members.  They had an online meeting, where all the major Democratic presidential candidates got on and made their pitches.  Here are the results.  Put them up on the screen.  These are actually pretty interesting.  Barack Obama won with about 28 percent.  John Edwards in second place with about 25 percent.  Dennis Kucinich in third with 17 percent.  Bill Richardson in fourth place with 12.  Hillary Clinton with 10.7 percent. 

In other words, Hillary Clinton loses to Dennis Kucinich.  Now you can laugh at MoveOn.org, and I have, but it‘s actually a pretty potent political force, quite potent. 

ZUCKERMAN:  I don‘t disagree with that, but it‘s a potent political force that mobilizes a certain segment of the Democratic party, which is absolutely, totally ideologically hostile to Iraq.  And Hillary Clinton was not totally in that corner.  And that is - it‘s a single issue, a unitary issue of the organization or the members who will respond on MoveOn.org.  So I‘m not sure how representative. 

It is very helpful that Barack Obama, a sense, has captured this very, very active group, in the same way George McGovern captured them in 1972.  He may be able to carry that all the way into an electoral—I mean, at least a nomination for the party. 

CARLSON:  Interestingly, he‘s done it without extremist rhetoric.  I mean, Barack Obama, unlike a couple of other people running for president on the Democratic side, hasn‘t come out and called for nationalizing the railroads.  You know, he hasn‘t really gone hard left, at least in public, and yet he‘s still leading.  Hillary Clinton, just pounded.  Does she have to move left on the war? 

MUSSER:  I think Mort kind of hit it on the head there.  I mean, it‘s another indicator that Barack Obama is for real, and that his campaign has got a lot of credibility, especially with the net roots.  If you look at the number of people who have given him money to him online and the scope and depth of the organization he‘s been able to put together, it‘s pretty darn impressive.  MoveOn.org, I mean, I think that‘s kind of like “American Idol” for liberals, to be honest with you.  And just because Sanjaya made it through the cut last night on “American Idol” doesn‘t mean he‘s going to ultimately, you know, win a Grammy.

CARLSON:  First of all, Phil, you‘re giving away the end of our show, which I resent.  We have got a whole Sanjaya kicker to this program.  We just lost a third of our audience.  Now they know they can go home.  The “Washington Post” reported yesterday that the White House is looking around for a war czar, someone to oversee, in a macro way, the war in Iraq and the conflict in Afghanistan.  The White House says it‘s not really a czar, but they concede that they are looking for someone to oversee it.

Here‘s what Jack Jacobs, MSNBC political analyst, former Army colonel, recipient of the medal of honor—here‘s what he said, quote, “We don‘t need it.  I can‘t think of anything we need less, except maybe a plague of locusts.  It‘s the dumbest idea I‘ve heard in a long time.  I don‘t know what they‘re smoking up there in the White House, but it can‘t be legal.  Anyone who is worth having is going to be too smart to take that job. 

Anyone who takes that job is not worth having.”

Wow.  This is not a partisan character.  I mean, that‘s a pretty—I think I kind of agree. 

ZUCKERMAN:  Jack Jacobs is a wonderful guy, by the way.  Do you know in Forest Gump who won—in that movie he won the medal of honor?  The citation was actually the citation of Jack Jacobs.  He ran into a field of fire to save his buddies.  But, you know, the real problem is this just another manifestation of the absolutely—the worst thing you can say about the war in Iraq, about this administration is: even if the policy had a chance to work, the way they executed it is terrible. 

To find out now, at this stage of the game, that they have had a mismanagement of all of the elements that they need to make their war effort effective and successful is absolutely astonishing.  But it just reflects the fact that they had weakness at the National Security Council, weakness in terms of the way the State Department and the Defense Department and all the other government agencies work together.  And it is still a problem for the Republicans. 

CARLSON:  It‘s so depressing.  Ten seconds, are you shocked by how incompetent they turned out to be? 

MUSSER:  Look, let me play devil‘s advocate here.  I mean, I think that there are a couple of ways to look at this.  But look, Bob Gates is over at the Pentagon shaking it up.  OK?  The idea is that they‘re trying to figure out ways to do things better.  I think it‘s a good thing.  Clearly, if—we don‘t know all the details of what‘s been talked about behind closed doors at the White House.  And so this is a lot of subjective speculation in the press.  But the fact is that they‘re trying to get ways to do the job better, be more effective, streamline, and fight a new kind of war.  You know, that‘s something that maybe you can say OK, well looking ahead, that‘s a good thing. 

CARLSON:  Yes, but if I‘m reading about it in the “Washington Post,” that means they‘re flailing around like amateurs and that at this late date seems terrifying to me. 

Thank you both very much, I appreciate it. 

MUSSER:  Thanks, Tucker.

CARLSON:  The Duke lacrosse case is all over.  Turns out not only are the three players accused of rape not guilty of rape, they‘re not even accused anymore.  In fact, they‘re officially innocent.  Should they expect an apology from the many who convicted them the day the story broke?  Stay tuned to see and hear whether they get that apology. 

And Sanjaya and Rasputin have a lot in common, they‘re both known universally by a single name and it‘s very difficult to get either one of them to go away.  MSNBC chief Sanjaya correspondent Willie Geist joins us from Los Angeles for a recap, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  North Carolina attorney general dropped all charges against the three Duke lacrosse players and declares them innocent.  Now their lawyers are considering a civil suit against the district attorney but what about the accuser?  We‘ll tell you, we‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  A little more than a year since three Duke lacrosse players were arrested and accused of raping an exotic dancer at an off-campus team party.  All charges were dropped yesterday and the former defendants were declared officially innocent. 

None of this came as any surprise to those of us who followed that case closely.  The charges were obviously ridiculous.  That was clear almost at the beginning.  But it was a relief nevertheless but that doesn‘t mean the story is over. 

What about the many people, the academics, the columnists, the feminists, the professional activist types, and there were a lot of them, who were so quick to pronounce the Duke players guilty from day one and savage their reputations.  Have these characters apologized yet? 

With that question in mind, I spoke with former prosecutor Wendy Murphy about the case yesterday.  I started by playing back some of our most memorable exchanges. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CARLSON:  I don‘t think it‘s all your fault.  I do think it‘s partly your fault.  It‘s the athletic director of Syracuse‘s fault but don‘t you regret now watching these clearly innocent guys punished for something they didn‘t do because people like you whipped America into a frenzy? 

WENDY MURPHY, FORMER PROSECUTOR:  You‘ll forgive me if I reject your premise. 

CARLSON:  Go ahead. 

MURPHY:  And look it—of course they‘re not clearly innocent, OK?

Forget that. 

CARLSON:  I want you to look into the screen and I want you to tell me and our viewers that doubts are not beginning to mount in your mind about the prosecution in this case.  Are they? 

MURPHY:  No, no doubts.  No doubts in my mind about what the prosecution is doing. 

CARLSON:  OK.  Maybe we are well onto a future show.  Wendy Murphy, I‘m just preparing you for your long groveling tearful apology to Reade Seligmann.  And I know it‘s coming.  I just want to—I‘m just kind of preparing the nest for you.  Wendy Murphy ... 

MURPHY:  I don‘t need the help, thanks. 

CARLSON:  I appreciate you coming on ...

MURPHY:  Say this with me, D.N.A. 

CARLSON:  ...and I‘ll appreciate even more your groveling apology to the players you‘ve so falsely accused when the time comes. 

MURPHY:  Don‘t hold your breath. 

CARLSON:  Just within the hour, the attorney general of North Carolina proclaimed that the state after an extensive investigation believes these three men are “innocent.”  Your apology? 

MURPHY:  No.  But I‘ll tell you what I will support you on, and this may surprise you, Tucker, there is going to be from me, starting now and until it happens, a call for her to be prosecuted for perjury.  But, I‘m not going to push for that until I see the entire file.  We still need a full disclosure of the entire file and I want you to join me in a call for the full disclosure of everything in this case because now with no criminal charges pending, there‘s no reason the public can‘t have access to everything, including the 1,200-plus documents that the defense has refused to share. 

CARLSON:  Well, of course I‘ve said that since day one.  But you‘re getting off a little bit easy, it seems to me.

MURPHY:  No, let me tell you why, let me tell you why.

CARLSON:  Because one of the reasons these people were prosecuted in the first place on the basis of no evidence because people like you, feminist ideologues, called for them to be punished from day one. 

MURPHY:  There are only two explanations for why charges were brought, OK.  Either she lied very credibly or—and by the way, that means that a lot of cops, forensic experts and lawyers were stupid as the day is long. 

And I don‘t agree that that‘s probably true.  Or—so she either committed

perjury quite well, or she took a payoff.  I‘m willing to wait to see

whether she buys herself a new mansion six months from now before I make

that decision.  But I want the whole file out, I want you to agree with me

CARLSON:  Wendy, hold up—OK.  I‘m always in favor of more rather than less information.  But why is it that me, a talk show host, looking at the publicly available information—I‘m not an attorney—was able to determine a year ago that it was clear there was no evidence that these guys did what they were accused of doing.  In fact, there was a large and growing amount of evidence that they didn‘t. 

And yet it was always feminist ideologues like you, who, acting upon stereotypes rather than evidence—

MURPHY:  No. 

CARLSON:  Yes!  In fact, let me read this back to you.  This is what you said. 

MURPHY:  No, Tucker, look—if you think that it‘s responsible journalism for you to say you based your opinion on that which was in the public record, you know, watch me roll my eyes at the idea that that‘s the truth. 

CARLSON:  I was right and you were wrong. 

MURPHY:  But the whole truth—no, the whole truth was not publicly revealed when you were forming your opinion.  And it has not yet been publicly revealed. 

CARLSON:  I know it‘s hard for you to apologize, Wendy, but I want to read back to you something that you said.  Face your own words, Wendy.  Here‘s the truth, Wendy, here‘s what you said.  Hold on.  On my show, you listen, hold on.  Hold on, slow down, Wendy, stop. 

“They‘re thinking,” you said,” of these three boys.  I‘m entitled to do this.  I‘m a member of a wealthy white boy‘s school in a community that allows me to do what I want and when I want.  They have gotten away with a lot for a very long time.  Why not go home and celebrate.  You don‘t think you‘re going to be in trouble if she goes to police who is going to believe her?  She‘s a black stripper.” 

In other words, they‘re white and wealthy, she‘s black and poor, they must be guilty, she must be telling the truth.  Those are stereotypes. 

MURPHY:  Let me tell you something, if you think people are not divided in this case along class lines you‘re wrong.  I get e-mails from people who say this.  Wendy, why are you on the side of the poor black stripper?  Your children are not poor or black, and they won‘t be strippers.  Why aren‘t you on the side of the wealthy white boys. 

CARLSON:  You weren‘t on the side of justice, Wendy.  You were on the side of mob justice.  This was a witch hunt.  No, we‘re not, Wendy.  You need to grovel before these guys. 

MURPHY:  We are on the same side.  You and I together want a full disclosure of all the records, including all the statements. 

CARLSON:  Whatever, of course, but that‘s a red herring designed to draw attention away—

MURPHY:  Then you don‘t know the truth, as we sit here tonight.  You don‘t know the truth, Tucker.  You haven‘t even seen the whole file.  You don‘t know the truth—To this day. 

CARLSON:  I wish I could swear on TV because I would call this B.S.  what it is.  The fact is the state of North Carolina investigated this extensively for the past couple months.  Not some corrupt little D.A., Mike Nifong but the state AG investigated it. 

MURPHY:  And his cop experts and forensic experts. 

CARLSON:  We‘re going to break in to our conversation with Wendy Murphy to report the breaking news you see bannered at the bottom of your screen. 

The Associated Press is reporting at this hour that CBS has fired Don Imus from his nationally syndicated radio show.  That news, in fact, has been confirmed.  It is true.  CBS has fired Don Imus.  This comes less than 24 hours after his relationship was severed by NBC News, simulcast here on MSNBC.  Don Imus has been on the air in about one form or another for about 30 years.  Is for the first time in a long time officially without a home. 

He will no longer be on the radio starting now.  So I believe if you‘re tuning in for Don Imus tomorrow morning, you will not hear him.  This comes just hours after a meeting between apparently the Reverend Al Sharpton and Les Moonves, the head of CBS.  Sharpton said to the press as he exited that meeting, “I will not trust CBS again.  They will not be worth trusting unless they fire Don Imus.”

Even in the hours after the - about 20 hours since Don Imus was fired from NBC, there have been protests continuing around the country, including outside CBS headquarters in New York by civil rights protesters, self-described, people who say that CBS has a moral obligation to fire Don Imus.  And so it has happened.  He is out of a job.  We want to go now to Joe Watkins.  The Reverend Joe Watkins in Philadelphia who joins us. 

Joe are you there?

JOE WATKINS, REVEREND:  I‘m here, Tucker.

CARLSON:  What do you make of this? 

WATKINS:  Well, I think that Jeff Zucker did just the right thing.  I‘m so proud of what they did.  I think it‘s a timely decision.  They realize that the family was hurt.  There were African-Americans who work for NBC and MSNBC who were terribly offended, as well as the young ladies.  They made the right move. 

CARLSON:  So was it inevitable that CBS would fire him?  Again, it‘s been confirmed that CBS has fired Don Imus.  He‘s no longer on the radio.  He‘s officially without a broadcast job.  Was that the right thing? 

WATKINS:  I think it‘s the right thing to do.  They followed the lead of NBC and MSNBC.  And I‘m very, very proud of them. 

CARLSON:  If you step back a couple of feet, and it‘s hard if you‘re sitting here talking about stuff as it happens, but let‘s just step back a second.  A week ago, two weeks ago, this was not just something that anybody imagined.  Don Imus is a fixture, for good or bad, in American life, particularly in American political life.  Particularly among those who cover politics in the media.  Don Imus is a big deal.  And now he‘s unemployed and humiliated.  This is amazing.  Do you see this that way? 

WATKINS:  It‘s unfortunate that this happened to Don Imus.  I don‘t think it was about Don Imus personally.  I think most of the people calling for his firing didn‘t have any personal animosity towards Don Imus.  Certainly the people at MSNBC and NBC didn‘t have any personal animosity towards Don Imus.  But it was what he said, and the fact that it was the third time.  And it was the people that he hurt.  This wasn‘t just a general statement about people.  This was specifically based to 10 young women who just played in the national championship in basketball against Tennessee.  And lost.  But played valiantly.  And these are articulate women who certainly were so eloquent and graceful under fire when they spoke this past Tuesday. 

CARLSON:  It‘s interesting to me how few people came to Don Imus‘ defense.  Here you had a guy who‘s been in this job for 30 years, he knows everybody.  There really is nobody in public life that Don Imus doesn‘t know personally, and yet almost nobody came toward to vouch for him.  There were a few exceptions but most didn‘t.  I know that is something that bothered him, that he complained about this morning on his radio show, former radio show.  Why do you think that was? 

WATKINS:  I think it was indefensible.  It was really, really hard to defend against.  Had he come out with an apology a lot earlier, maybe last Thursday or last Friday and said, looked into the camera and said you know what I said something that was absolutely unacceptable and awful, I hurt people by what I said.  And I probably hurt more than the 10 young ladies that I directed it at, I apologize and I‘m going to take myself off the air for a couple of weeks.  We are going to revisit this and I am going to have some people of color come around to talk to me about this.  And we are going to try to make this right.  I know that I can‘t make it right, but I am going to try to make it right.  Had he done that perhaps before the weekend—and reverend Buster Soaries, who was on air this morning on MSNBC said precisely that.  Had he done that earlier, there might have been a chance that the calling for his firing might not have happened. 

CARLSON:  I wonder.  We never know.  It‘s totally hypothetical.  My impression was, that his, I don‘t know if you heard his interview Al Sharpton that went on for two hours on Sharpton‘s radio show.  But Imus really pulled out all the stops and really abased himself, really sniffed the throne of Al Sharpton, and it did absolutely nothing to make Sharpton want to forgive him or to stop his attacks.  Maybe apologizing in the first place was as a practical matter, a mistake. 

WATKINS:  Well, it‘s all a matter of how you apologize.  And certainly apologizing quickly is a lot more helpful then a waiting for a number of days and after you‘re under severe fire to apologize and then go on a show like Al Sharpton‘s. 

CARLSON:  Everyone has been drawing, you know, the larger message from this.  And I‘m not sure for my own part what that larger message is.  But one of the things you hear people bat around is that this will—this will provoke a return to civility in American life.  And people will just be nicer to one another on the airwaves.  I want to think that‘s true.  Do you think it is? 

WATKINS:  Well, I don‘t know that people will be nicer to each other.  Certainly people in politics will continue to disagree and disagree publicly.  But I think what it will do is create an atmosphere where people don‘t disparage other people, other races, other genders, on the air.  And that‘s something that I think has gotten to the point it‘s just not tolerated.  It ought not be and won‘t be tolerated on some networks anymore. 

CARLSON:  You‘ve been in and around broadcasting for awhile.  Do you think Don Imus has a future in some other outlet?  Do you imagine him getting picked up by satellite radio, for instance? 

WATKINS:  Very possibly.  He certainly has a large following.  He‘s been very popular for years, and he‘s a talented man.  It‘s just a shame that his career, at least with these networks has to end this way.  But clearly there‘s probably an opportunity to continue to broadcast somewhere.  I think he‘s genuinely sorry. 

CARLSON:  You don‘t think his name is so irreparably tainted by this he‘ll be out of work? 

WATKINS:  No, I don‘t think so.  Plus, he‘s been very successful, he‘s made a lot of money.  So I don‘t think anybody should feel sorry for him from that standpoint so Don Imus is not going to starve.  But clearly what has happened is a watershed moment in American history. 

CARLSON:  Gosh.  It‘s certainly in American broadcasting history.  What about the role of the Reverend‘s Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton?  They said at the beginning the firing from CBS came just about an hour after Sharpton left the CBS building after talks with the head of CBS, Les Moonves.  Do you think that their involvement, Sharpton and Jackson, had a direct effect on what happened to Imus? 

WATKINS:  Certainly they‘re very, very effective spokespersons in matters like these.  And everybody knows they have the ability to certainly have an impact on the financial ability of shows to be advertised.  They have launched boycotts in the past and were very successful at doing it.

But I should add this, they were not the only leaders involved.  There were other leaders involved.  I mentioned earlier Reverend Shores he‘s the pastor to Vivian Stringer, the coach of the Rutgers team and also the pastor to a number of the players.  He said this wasn‘t about a global conspiracy or global insult.  This was really about the fact that these 10 young women were hurt and the coach was hurt, and he was responding because people that he knows and loves personally were hurt. 

CARLSON:  Right.  And he‘s a well known minister.  I‘m not an expert at these thing, but I know who he is.  I wonder why is it, a question that always strikes me in situations like this, why is it Jesse Jackson almost by unspoken agreement, the spokesman for the aggrieved party in a controversy like this?  Why isn‘t somebody else?  Why not you?  It‘s a serious question, though. 

WATKINS:  It‘s a very, very good serious question, but Tucker, Jesse Jackson, I know he has detractors, as well as admirers.  I have enormous respect for him.  I don‘t often agree with him on every issue.  But sometimes he gets it right.  He‘s been on a lot of different sides on a lot of issues, and he certainly is well known.  He‘s been out there since the 1960‘s.  He‘s a national leader, a national spokesman for all kinds of causes.  So I think people take him at his word, certainly when it comes to speaking on behalf of people who have been wronged and when it comes to matters of race and gender, he has a lot of credibility.  People listen to him. 

CARLSON:  CBS, deeply upset and repulsed by Imus‘ remarks, they are saying through a spokesman.  Give us a sense, if you are someone who wants to change the behavior of, say, CBS.  You‘re the Reverend Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton, you‘re meeting with the head of CBS.  What do you say to get their attention?  Whatever they said clearly worked.  What do you say? 

WATKINS:  I think Reverend Jackson and Reverend Sharpton are very, very smart.  They realize that CBS is a large and successful corporation that looks at the bottom line.  It looks as who the listeners are and customers are, and also looks at the bottom line.  And they talked to probably those two things to their customer base and to the bottom line, saying that they would talk indeed with advertisers and they would also talk to a lot of their viewers.  And that got their attention quickly. 

CARLSON:  Yes.  That will do it.  Reverend Joe Watkins, thanks lot, Joe. 

WATKINS:  Thanks Tucker.

CARLSON:  That does it for us.  That does it for Don Imus, too.  He‘s been fired from CBS.  Stay tuned for much more on this story on “Hardball” with David Gregory.

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 NBC.  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 NBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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