updated 4/16/2007 12:48:10 PM ET 2007-04-16T16:48:10

Guests: Ed Silverman, Harry Shearer

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST:  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

Five million e-mails.  Five million e-mails.  The White House says it can‘t rule out that as many as 5 million e-mails, many relevant to the fired U.S. attorneys scandal, are lost.  But the Republican National Committee insists it disabled Karl Rove‘s ability to delete his e-mails in 2005.

You know, give me a good hammer, and I can delete any e-mail.

What to do, what to do?  The Senate says subpoena.  The House says subpoena.  The deputy press secretary says wish real hard.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY:  “Missing” is a word that—maybe misplaced or not necessarily lost forever.  I think, you know, there are backup tapes, there are different ways in order to go back and find e-mails.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Ever the pragmatists, we will try to help the White House out.  It‘s the COUNTDOWN IT Help Desk to the rescue.

A different kind of e-mail problem, Don Imus fans sending hate mail to the Rutgers basketball players.  Imus‘s wife pleads for them to stop.  And the Rutgers team speaks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VIVIAN STRINGER, RUTGERS WOMEN‘S BASKETBALL COACH:  We, the Rutgers University (INAUDIBLE) basketball team, accept Mr. Imus‘s apology.  And we are in the process of forgiving him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And a plea about not confusing the First Amendment or the right to free speech with the right to say any damn fool thing you want on radio or TV.  Our special guest, Harry Scherer (ph).

Sanjaya Malakar again, this time supported by past “American Idol” losers, who want to vote to see the show crash and burn.

Speaking of, tonight we defend Michelle Malkin.  No, I‘m not kidding.

And on the weekend, we celebrate 60 years since Jackie Robinson broke baseball‘s color line and changed America.  The untold story of how it nearly didn‘t happen.  The day the white baseball players almost walked out.

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening from New York.

Some of the president‘s e-mails are missing, like 5 million of them.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, imagine deleting every e-mail you had written, possibly as soon as you had written it, over the course of more than four years in your job as, say, the top political adviser to the president of the United States.  If your name was Karl Rove, chances are you would not have to imagine all that hard.

It turns out that the man called Turd Blossom by the president has not only been using a Republican Party e-mail account for apparently governmental business, the party had to take away his access to delete files in 2005, raising the possibility, reports “The Washington Post,” that Rove himself, quote, “personally deleted more than four years‘ worth of his own e-mails, all of them now missing.”

Some of those messages, of course, relate to the firing of those eight federal prosecutors at the Justice Department.  As for the latest e-mails we do have on that, thousands of new pages released today in another document dump.  Quite a lot appears to be missing from them as well, portions redacted, redacted so much as to be virtually useless, including, it seems, most e-mail addresses.  Hint to the administration, that secret is already out.

As well as most of this memo from the attorney general‘s former chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, to the president‘s former White House counsel, Harriet Miers.  Or this page that seems to have been painted in its entirely with White-out (ph).  I made a family of snowmen today.

Here‘s an e-mail Mr. Gonzales might wish had been redacted by the time he testifies before the Senate this coming Tuesday.  Former Justice Department official Monica Goodling, writing in a memo to Sampson and another colleague, quote, “This is the chart that the AG  requested.”  That‘s a disclosure that could potentially raise problems for the AG, Mr.  Gonzales, regarding what he didn‘t know and when he didn‘t know it, the possibility of a chart that ranks U.S. attorneys based on their political compliancy.

Last but not least, there is the administration‘s attempt to spin, if not suppress, the true reason for the dismissal of those eight attorneys.  On the eve of testimony from six of them on Capitol Hill, a Justice Department spokeswoman wrote to Bush counselor Dan Bartlett and Cheney aide Cathy (ph) Martin.  Quoting, “Right now the coverage will be dominated by how qualified these folks were and their theories for their dismissals.  We are trying to muddy the coverage up a bit by trying to put the focus on the process in which they were told.”

Keep in mind, these are only the e-mails the administration wanted us to see, and only portions of them at that.

As for those potentially millions more that the administration has lost if not routinely destroyed, the Democrats on Capitol Hill now trying to subpoena or access to the RNC‘s e-mail servers directly, White House counsel Fred Fielding trying to block them in turn, his claim, executive privilege, even though White House officials say they were using the addresses for political exchanges, not official government business, at the White House today, spokeswoman Dana Perino saying that her sources tell her nobody did anything wrong.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PERINO:  I feel pretty confident in the source that I talked to, that we are able to say that there is no basis to say that anyone was improperly or intentionally misusing one of the accounts that they were provided to (INAUDIBLE) to avoid violating the Hatch Act.  There‘s just no—there‘s no indication of that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Time now to call in our own Howard Fineman, chief political correspondent and indicator of “Newsweek” magazine.

Good evening, Howard.

HOWARD FINEMAN, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, “NEWSWEEK” MAGAZINE: 

Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:   Mr. Rove is, by all accounts, a very smart man, Bush‘s brain and all that, pays extraordinary close attention to details.  Could there be any way he did not know the policy about e-mails and presidential records?

FINEMAN:  I think it‘s unlikely.  And one thing that‘s not mentioned a lot here, Keith, is that after Watergate, Congress passed and the then-president signed a Presidential Records Act, preservation act, which requires that the administration keep records of all of its doings.  That was before the days of e-mail, but these are included, I think.

And I think it must have dawned on some people in the administration that these RNC accounts, on which I think it‘s pretty clear that official business was being conducted, needed to be preserved for that legal reason, among others.

OLBERMANN:  When it comes to Mr. Fielding‘s claim that it is his intention to collect e-mails and documents from that RNC server and the other outside accounts that were used by White House officials, could that not be twisted in another direction and seen as either one of the most questionable claims or uses of executive privilege claim that has ever been made, or conversely, is it an admission that those outside accounts were being used for official White House business?

FINEMAN:  Well, I think it‘s both.  I think it‘s both, Keith.  I mean, I talked to a White House official tonight, by e-mail, of course, so that will be reserved in the—preserved in the archives, who said, you know, nobody‘s going to find anything nefarious here.

But, you know, often the scandal is not in the—is in the big picture that we don‘t see all the time, and the big picture here is that everything in this White House, from the very beginning, has been intensely and completely political.  And that goes for decisions on everything from wars, to hirings, to public policy, to who serves as U.S. attorneys, and so forth.  The most thoroughly political administration in history, I think some might argue.

So any e-mail they write on any server, on any account, is going to bear on policy and politics at the same time.  And this is just the sort of legal record-keeping expression of what this administration is all about.  And that‘s what Fielding was proving that by his statement.

OLBERMANN:  And Howard, again, we can‘t be sure, because you can‘t prove a negative here, but nothing in those e-mails that were released today in the fired U.S. attorneys scandal would seem to relate to national security.  Do we have any idea what‘s determining the policy about redaction?  Certainly you can‘t redact things just because you don‘t want investigators to see them.  I mean, and some of the stuff in there was (INAUDIBLE) those—that all, you know, blacked-out page, and the all-whited-out page, reached the heights of absurdity.

FINEMAN:  Well, certainly an all-blacked-out or all-whited-out page is going to, if anything, be an encouragement to Pat Leahy and Henry Waxman.  But I think the administration is going to cling to the executive privilege claim, even when there have been, over the years, dozens of White House officials who have testified before Congress on things that aren‘t related directly to deep national security concerns.

I don‘t think the administration has much of a leg to stand on here, because we‘re talking about possible malfeasance in office, et cetera.  It could end up in court, could go back to the same Supreme Court that we all know and love.

OLBERMANN:  Is there anything that will ever touch Karl Rove?  Is he going to get through this one as well?

FINEMAN:  You know, I‘m just betting here, this is not a legal analysis, I‘m betting he‘s going to be standing there saluting the president on January 20, 2009, in the same position that he‘s in right now.

OLBERMANN:  OK.  After that conclusion of his year-and-a-half-long worldwide tour.

Howard Fineman of “Newsweek” magazine.  Great thanks, Howard.  Have a great weekend.

FINEMAN:  Thank you, Keith.

COUNTDOWN is here, for a change, to help the White House.  We‘ll ask real experts about what can be done to get those missing e-mails back and in the hands of Congress.

And Don Imus is out of a job, but it is apology accepted at Rutgers.

Harry Scherer joins me to discuss the lessons from this week, one of which, he says, is not to try to learn lessons from this week.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  You might call it “COUNTDOWN on Your Side.”  First, we blew the lid off the claim that President Bush nearly blew himself up with a hybrid car.  And now, in our fourth story tonight, we‘re here to help the White House yet again.

Lost e-mails, not a problem.  Look harder.  There‘s just no need for the White House to nearly blow itself up politically over potentially millions of e-mails sent on the accounts of the Republican Party, e-mails that might not be lost after all.

Joining me now, the managing director of Straw Streeberg (ph), which specializes in commuter forensics, Ken Mendelson.

Thank you for your time tonight, Mr. Mendelson.

MENDELSON:  Oh, it‘s good to be here.

OLBERMANN:  Senator Leahy, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, scoffed loudly at the notion that the e-mails are really lost in the permanent sense of the word.  He has said things like, “I‘ve got a teenage kid in my neighborhood that can go get them for them.”  Even if that is an exaggeration, was the senator right yesterday when he said that a deleted e-mail may actually be far from deleted?

MENDELSON:  Oh, absolutely, absolutely.  People have the misconception that e-mail is like a letter.  When you send a letter, after it goes in the mailbox, it reaches the other person, and that other person has it, and it‘s a one-to-one communication.  E-mail is more like a bullhorn in a crowded square.  All you have to do, basically, is find all the people who were there to hear it and ask the right questions.

OLBERMANN:  What about a system, as the RNC has said it had before 2005, in which deleted e-mails were actually purged from servers?  What does that mean in layman‘s terms, and is that the end of it?

MENDELSON:  Well, it isn‘t the end of it, because they may not be on the servers themselves, but there could be several other places where those e-mails could be.  There could be backup tapes that were created for either disaster recovery or business continuity purposes.  The e-mails could be on the individual workstations, in files that are maintained by the people who were using those e-mail accounts.

OLBERMANN:  If the amount of information is massive—I mean, we‘re talking—the White House said today potentially—they couldn‘t, couldn‘t rule out that it might be 5 million e-mails over a four-year period—does that make it harder to get the older messages, the ones that could have actually been written over on the hard drives?

MENDELSON:  Well, intuitively, you would think that the older it is, the harder it is to get it back.  That may or may not be the case, depending upon where the e-mails are on the particular computer.  In the case of servers, yes, that is probably true, where the older the information, if it had been deleted, you probably won‘t get it back.  But on computer workstations, the data is there until it‘s overwritten by new data.

So given the size of modern computer hard drives, e-mails from, you know, two, three years ago could still exist on the computer, if you know how to find them.

OLBERMANN:  The senator, Senator Leahy, also said, with regard to this

the lost quality of the e-mails, that‘s like saying the dog ate my homework.  Is there no small amount of irony in this fiasco about e-mail, in the sense that using additional accounts doesn‘t hide communication, it actually multiplies the number of places you can eventually find the communication?

MENDELSON:  Well, certainly.  If you have multiple e-mail accounts, you‘re going to have multiple places where that e-mail is going to reside.  Remember, when you send an e-mail, you keep it, and the person who you sent it to has it as well.  And then they may forward it and so on and so on.  So the more e-mail accounts you have, in all likelihood, the more places there will be to look for them.

OLBERMANN:  So what ultimately are the circumstances under which

anybody could lose permanently 5 million e-mails in four years?  How is it

how would it be possible?

MENDELSON:  To lose 5 million?  That‘s a great question.  And whether you can you could actually lose 5 million e-mails altogether is—that‘s one for the books.  I‘m not really sure.  I can say that if there are 5 million e-mails that were sent and received, there‘s a very strong likelihood that some substantial portion of them can be located.

OLBERMANN:  Do you have any idea, from your experience in dealing with people who don‘t understand the permanent nature of computers and e-mail in particular, what percentage of the population doesn‘t realize that an e-mail, you know, a bad haircut is temporary, a photograph is forever, an e-mail is even longer than that, right?

MENDELSON:  Oh, I would say the vast, vast majority of people don‘t understand that.  And they may believe they‘ve deleted the e-mail, they may believe that it‘s gone forever, but I think they‘re simply misinformed.

OLBERMANN:  And, of course, also it can become public at any time, as others of us have found out.

Ken Mendelson, computer forensics expert with Straw Streeberg, great thanks for your time.  Have a good weekend.

MENDELSON:  It‘s good to be with you.  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  The Rutgers women‘s basketball team has accepted the apology of Don Imus.  So what happens now on radio and TV?  Harry Scherer joins us.

And who needs Milan or Paris, when you can just go down to the local hardware store to play dress-up on the catwalk?  On the catwalk.

That and more, ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It‘s the centennial of Harold Stassen.  The three-term governor of Minnesota was born on April 13, 1907.  But it was the elections he didn‘t win for which he‘s best remembered.  He first sought the Republican presidential nomination in 1948 and scored some surprise victories in the primaries.  By the time he ran again in 1952, his support had pretty much petered out, but not Stassen.  He declared his candidacy again in 1964, 1968, 1976, 1980, and 1984, 1988, and 1992, even though by then he was 85 years old and had not gotten even a courtesy vote at the convention in 24 years.

On that note, let‘s play Oddball.

We begin in the fashion capital of the world, Denver, with a very special show sponsored by the fine folks at Ace Hardware.  Oh, what a fabulous painter‘s tarp she‘s wearing.  It‘s part of a weekly contest called the Fashion Project.  Designers given $150 vouchers to the hardware store.  They had to put together outfits with the items they purchased, and then resell them for $30,000 apiece.

This gorgeous gown is perfect for a night at the opera, then it later can be used to keep moisture from seeping under your roofing shingles.  The headline from the night, sandpaper underwear.  It is as bad as it sounds.

To Prague, where, after years of research, scientists have finally made the necessary breakthroughs that will allow companies to sell beer in vending machines.  Science!  Using new computer software, the machines will be able to read the date of birth on ID cards and passports, which will be required for purchase.  This assures that youngsters will not be able to access the wonderful beery goodness inside the machine, unless, of course, they use somebody else‘s ID card.

Finally to the Internets, where we are reminded once again, no one can predict what will become the next Web video sensation.  To illustrate this point, I can report that nearly 600,000 people have watched this.

This goes on for another three minutes, and, yes, we watched it till the end.  We had to see if something was going to happen.  Nothing happens.  Three minutes of our lives we‘ll never get back.  Now we‘ve wasted 45 seconds of yours.  Suckers!

The Rutgers basketball players have accepted the apology of Don Imus, yet others are still apologizing for Imus, on the premise of freedom of speech.  That misunderstanding and other ramifications analyzed for us by our special guest, Harry Scherer.

And 60 years ago this weekend, the modern color barrier in baseball was broken.  I‘ll be joined by an eyewitness, and you will hear how the white players nearly went on strike.

Now, though, time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.

Number three, Harlan Ullman at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.  A woman charged with running an upscale escort service in Washington said she would begin identifying her most well-known clients.  Mr. Ullman, who responded with a no comment, is first.  What is he well known first—for, rather?  He is the principal architect of the strategy for the invasion of Iraq, called shock and awe.

Number two, the Beijing Olympic Committee, still hard at work correcting the hilariously too-literal Chinese-to-English translations on public signs and menus and such in preparation for the Olympics there next summer.  It says it‘s now fixed 6,500 traffic signs and is moving on to the restaurant menus, where the English translations now offer such delights as Fried Crap, Cow Bowel in Sauce, Acid Food, and, of course, Corrugated Iron Beef.

And number one, Elliott Ness, the untouchable guy.  There‘s a plaque at police headquarters in Cleveland honoring his time there as Cleveland‘s director of public safety.  Well, there was a plaque.  Somebody stole it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  For the first time in 30 years, Don Imus can sleep in on Fridays.  How well he slept, known but to him.

In our third story tonight, Imus met with the Rutgers basketball team last night, just hours after CBS fired him.  Over the past week, the outrage after he called the team “nappy-headed hos” thrust two of the world‘s biggest media companies, CBS‘s parent, Viacom, and our parent, NBC Universal, into the center of a national debate over the language racism and sexism, the politics of power and the airwaves.

We‘ll enter that debate in just a moment, accompanied by the great Harry Shearer.

First, Michelle Fransen reports on today‘s reaction to Imus‘s removal from those airwaves. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MICHELLE FRANSEN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  After listening to Don Imus and getting a chance to express their pain at a private meeting, the Rutgers women‘s basketball team and coach say they accept Imus‘s apology for making racially-charged comments. 

C. VIVIAN STRINGER, RUTGERS BASKETBALL COACH:  We are in the process of for giving him.  We still find his statements to be unacceptable, and this is an experience that we will never forget. 

FRANSEN:  A painful experience broadcast on Imus radio and simulcast on MSNBC just over a week ago.  In that time, the team received some hate mail. 

VIVIAN:  Hate mail needs to stop.  And for anyone who receives or takes part in that, they need to stop. 

FRANSEN:  The week began with Imus appearing on the Al Sharpton show to apologize, but it only galvanized his critics to push for his dismissal and pressure advertisers to pull sponsorship.  By mid week, MSNBC canceled his simulcast, a day later CBS radio pulled the plug on his show. 

Today the National Congress of Black Women called for tougher federal regulations to protect the public airwaves. 

DR. E. FAYE WILLIAMS, NATIONAL CONGRESS OF BLACK WOMEN:  This demeaning, vitriolic, mean-spirited work on the part of many who use our airwaves cannot stand. 

FRANSEN:  It is a call to action for the nation‘s broadcasters and a national debate sparked by one man and a team of talented young women. 

Michelle Fransen, NBC News, New Brunswick, New Jersey.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  And, as promised, let‘s turn to Harry Shearer, perhaps uniquely qualified to comment on the issues at play here, as a long-time host of the radio program “Le Show,” as well as an actor who portrays a TV, a black man, a closeted gay man and a conservative Christian reverend all on the Simpsons, and all at the same time.  And thanks to all of you, Harry, for your time. 

HARRY SHEARER, “LE SHOW”:  We all thank you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  You told one of our producers that we‘re now in the horrible stage called what have we learned.  Why is that a horrible stage and, by the way, what have we learned? 

SHEARER:  Well, it‘s a horrible stage because normally we don‘t learn anything.  You know, the North Carolina state legislature this week is apologizing for slavery 140 years down the line.  So it usually takes more than one shock jock‘s week in the media sunshine for us to learn anything.  But if we have learned anything, it‘s that if you‘re using the weapons of satire and ridicule, you‘re supposed to use them get against the mighty and the powerful. 

And when you turn them against the wrong target, bad things happen.  And we‘ve also learned that funny trumps everything, and everything else trumps not funny. 

OLBERMANN:  Tom Delay and Mike Huckabee have now both said that—

SHEARER:  Speaking of funny—

OLBERMANN:  Yes, two of the big laugh getters of our generation. 

Since Imus has been thrown out, Rosie O‘Donnell should be thrown out too.  Delay mentioned the bad imitation, the racist, if you will, imitation of Chinese speech that she did on the air.  Two questions on this, A, do they have a point, and, B, if not, why not? 

SHEARER:  Well, first of all, I think Rosie was really doing an imitation of Jerry Lewis imitating a Chinese person, so she gets some cover from that.  Look, I think it‘s one of the great political victories of the year that Tom Delay is spending his mornings watching “The View.”  So count that as a plus.  What‘s your next question? 

OLBERMANN:  My next one here is—Delay specifically said, if the left takes Imus, we‘ll take Rosie.  Can that be interpreted basically as the defending racist remarks has become a Republican cause? 

SHEARER:  And that‘s news?  No, look, I think if they take Rosie off -

look, first of all, there‘s a big difference between spouting opinions, whether they‘re well-informed or ignorant, and using racist and sexist language.  And if we don‘t recognize the distinction between those two, we‘re in worse shape than I think. 

If you take off everybody from cable television, especially, who is spouting a goofy opinion, first of all, most of them will go back to their day jobs in Congress, and vote some sort of nasty law against the people who own television companies, and, B, you know, we‘ll be left with Jim Lehrer, and nobody wants that. 

My question about the TV universe is, you know, have we come to a point where we‘ve got room on television for the Imuses and the Rosies but not for the lost another loan to Ditech guy?  Where is he in all this? 

OLBERMANN:  He bailed out because he thought his reputation was being damaged by Imus. 

SHEARER:  Sullied by association. 

OLBERMANN:  Right, by the people who sold Head On with that screaming commercial, Head On, Head On, Head On.  That was the sign when I knew that was all over.  But a broader issue on this, 5,000 times this week, and I‘m only barely exaggerating, I heard that what Don Imus said, that what others have said, is protected by the first amendment.  It‘s free speech.  Do you want to explain the difference between the first amendment and shooting off one‘s big bazoo on TV and radio or should I explain the difference? 

SHEARER:  Well, I would suggest that it‘s basically the same distinction as the distinction between legitimate second amendment rights and carrying an AK-47 into a classroom.  One is protected and the other isn‘t.  We all have a right to stand on the street corner and say that Bush is a criminal and that Hillary is a bitch, but if we have a constitutional right to have a show on MSNBC and CBS Radio, I‘m going to see Les Moonves and Jeff Zucker in court, because where is my show? 

OLBERMANN: This may be it.  I hate to tell you that.  Assuming that the alleged national debate lasts beyond this weekend, there are several ways it could go—yes, it would be a long one if it gets to Monday.  You could go with racist speech on the air, anti-female sentiment in black culture, racism across the board, root causes of it.  Which discussion will we have, which discussion should we have? 

SHEARER:  Well, I‘m still trying to figure out whether we‘ve stopped having the national discussion about race that we started having after Katrina or if this is a different national discussion about race we‘re supposed to be having than the one we had after O.J.  Frankly, if I‘m a betting man, I‘m betting that the discussion we have next week is over whether Dannielynn gets the money. 

OLBERMANN:  Or perhaps what replaces Imus on MSNBC and CBS Radio. 

SHEARER:  Hey, they said news coverage.  That would be interesting. 

OLBERMANN:  Don‘t get me in trouble, Harry.  Harry Shearer, the host of radio‘s “Le Show,” and, of course, from the Simpsons, which I can now reveal I‘m scheduled to make a cameo guest appearance on next season, thanks very much. 

SHEARER:  Excellent. 

OLBERMANN:  My pleasure sir, all the best. 

SHEARER:  Mine too.  Thank you. 

OLBERMANN:  And a quick freakish issue footnote to the Imus story, the New Jersey Governor John Corzine was heading for last night‘s meeting between Mr. Imus and the Rutgers team, which was held at the New Jersey governor‘s mansion, when his motorcade was involved in a multi-vehicle accident, struck by a car that was swerving to avoid a pick-up truck. 

Governor Corzine was severely injured, flown to the hospital by helicopter, in critical but stable condition at last report.  He suffered a broken leg, broken sternum, broken vertebra and 12 broken ribs.  Doctors say a full recovery could take months.  Corzine tonight still on a respirator and heavily sedated, but conscience and responsive. 

A spokesman saying today that the governor apparently was not wearing his seat belt at the time of that accident. 

Remember the dolphins displaced from an aquarium by Hurricane Katrina? 

Remarkable developments as their story continues. 

And remember that “American Idol” show?  A report that it is now being sabotaged by its alumni.  Details ahead here on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  A correction to our Oddball segment tonight, our viewers advise us that the beer vending machines shown from the Czech Republic are hardly the first in the world history.  They are, however, claiming to be the first capable of asking for proof.  Setting the record straight. 

Turning now to dolphins trained to kill; the plot of the 1973 film “Day of the Dolphins,” and a nagging rumor the U.S. Navy has been trying to dispel for decades.  But the Navy says relax your blow hole fella, although dolphins are trained to search for underwater mines, they‘re never armed, nor taught to kill humans.  So dolphins are not fighters, they‘re lovers. 

Our number two story in the COUNTDOWN, take ten nubile young dolphins, send them to the Bahamas for spring break and use your mammalian imagination.  Our correspondent Kerry Sanders has the story that we want to warn you contains graphic images that may offend you if you‘re a dolphin.  Otherwise, call the kids in. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KERRY SANDERS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Thirty one-year-old Kelly gave birth first, a breech birth, which in the dolphin world means it came out headfirst.  Then 22-year-old Michelle went into labor, another healthy baby dolphin.  Yes, friends and family celebrated. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  They‘re so cute and teeny.  And they‘re shiny. 

SANDERS:  And star attractions, among a pod of dolphins who have had their fair share of attention.  Their amazing journey began in Mississippi.  Hurricane Katrina destroyed their aquarium.  Still, the captive dolphins escaped through the mangled metal during the storm surge and swam into the wild. 

Days later, some passing boaters reported various dolphins doing tricks, begging for food.  Rescue teams eventually found the wayward pod. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We‘ll hang out down here with the animals. 

SANDERS:  Fed them, brought them ashore, put them in tanks at a nearby Navy base and finally flew them to the Bahamas.  It was only a matter of time before the boy dolphins here saw the girl dolphins and, well, you know.  Blood tests, heart monitoring, ultrasound, those sonograms proof positive two dolphins were pregnant.  And 12 months later, the deliveries. 

Terry Corbet has been with the dolphins since the hurricane and was as nervous as any expectant mother. 

TERRY CORBET, DOLPHIN EXPERT:  It‘s the anticipation of it, the worry, the waiting, and then to see healthy babies swimming around, it‘s obviously a big relief. 

SANDERS (on camera):  All right, what did she say about the newborns? 

CORBET:  (INAUDIBLE)

SANDERS (voice-over):  Still, the mystery remains.

(on camera):  It‘s a question they‘ve been asking on this island about something completely different, but I think the question applies, who is the baby‘s daddy? 

CORBET:  Well, I‘m going to give you the same answer they had, we don‘t know. 

SANDERS (voice-over):  There are nine male dolphins, nine possible fathers and one back room bet on paternity. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Looking at the younger babies, some of them look a much Wheatie right now, so he could be one of the big men on campus, basically. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Zsa Zsa Gabor‘s husband is not claiming paternity.  From the subject of porpous paternity in Bahamas, we segue directly into, as Kerry Sanders implied there, the same darn thing only with humans topping our nightly round up of celebrity and entertainment news, a little thing we like to call Keeping Tabs.  And a stunning development today outside the Bahamas court house, absolutely stunning.  No, not the final decision in the custody battle for the baby of Anna Nicole Smith. 

Instead, Larry Birkhead, now the DNA certified dad, will meet tomorrow with Anna Nicole Smith‘s mother Virgie Arthur, who‘s lawyer says there will be no lawyers, no media, just the two of them to talk about what‘s best for little Dannielynn, no matter who ends up getting custody, even if they share custody.  Larry and Virgie totally focused on what‘s best for Dannielynn. 

April Fools‘ Day was the other day, right?  And as long as there is an Anna Nicole story, what would Friday the 13th tabloid round ups be without the latest “American Idol” scandal?  Paris Bennett (ph), bounced from season 5 of the show, but you never really leave Idol, try as you might.  Princess Pea is promoting her first album, but the TMZ website says she‘s out to screw the show. 

She told a Minneapolis radio interviewer that she has been visiting VoteForTheWorst.com to vote for the worst contestant she can think of on the program currently.  Like she means Sanjaya Malakar?  As a matter of fact, she says a few former Idol contestants are voting for Sanjaya.  “We want to see him win,” she says, “because the show is losing its taste and talent.  It‘s a joke.” 

Kind of makes you wonder why so many former contestants dislike the show that gave them so much fame and—fame. 

As of Sunday, six decades will have passed sinks Jackie Robinson reintegrated baseball.  I‘ll be joined by a reporter who was at the game.  And we‘ll recount how, at the last minute, it nearly did not happen.  That‘s next, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s latest list of nominees for Worst Person in the World. 

The bronze to the National Collegiate Athletic Association, Boise State football player Ian Johnson charmed a nation.  He scored the winning conversion in the Fiesta Bowl on New Year‘s day, and on national TV promptly proposed to his cheerleader girlfriend.  But because Johnson is a student athlete and the NCAA is ultra vigilant about them receiving gifts or elicit payments, guests to their July wedding are not permitted to spend more on the Johnson‘s gift than they would the gift they bought for any other newly weds. 

And the Boise educators and coaches and staffers may give the couple gifts, but only if they also bring a gift to all other Boise state players who invite them to their weddings.  So save those receipts. 

The silver to the Malike Shabaz (ph), the general counsel of the New Black Panther Party.  On Fox noise he called Michelle Malkin a, quote, political prostitute.  No, sorry, that too is beyond the pale.  Can everybody just back slowly away from the entire ho, hooker, call girl, prostitute stuff?  There‘s a thousand ways to criticize Michelle Malkin without descending to calling her that. 

But our winner, private investigator and frequent TV guest Bo Dietl, also on Fox noise, apparently defending his pal Don Imus and offended by Senator Barack Obama‘s insistence that Imus should be fired.  Dietl said, quote, “Obama Hussein, Barack Obama, what‘s that guy‘s name?  The three names, the full name, Hussein.  Hussein is his middle name.” 

Dietl was so out of line that fellow guest Dick Morris criticized him for it, called him racist.  You‘ve been called out on political ethics by Dick Morris.  Bo Dietl, today‘s Worst Person in the World. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  This Sunday it will have been 60 years since Jackie Robinson played his first Major League Baseball game, since he broke the so-called color line that had been drawn in the big leagues in 1884.  And lord knows what kind of country this might have become had Jackie Robinson, with the weight of his race on one shoulder and the future, perhaps, of our society on the other, had batted 197 that season, instead of 297. 

Our number one story in the COUNTDOWN, in a moment we‘ll try to relive the moment and gauge the aftermath with a man who covered Robinson‘s first game for the Brooklyn Dodgers against the Boston Braves. 

But first, the seldom told story of how it nearly never happened, how white National League players in 1947 contemplated going out on strike rather than sharing a field with a black man.  At the Robinson half century mark in 1997, I was part of an ESPN special, in which 93 of the then 107 living veterans of that fateful National League season were interviewed.  And what emerged were the shadows of a team by team vote, threatening to strike if Robinson were actually permitted to play for the Dodgers on April 15, 1947.

“I think every team in the league voted,” said Pirates outfielder Algean Fredo (ph), who later that year would became Robinson‘s teammate in Brooklyn.  “I think we voted 25-0 or 24-1 to strike,” said Cubs pitcher Hank Wise.  Chicago Catcher Dewey Williams claimed team captain Phil Cabaretta (ph) had a telegram saying the other seven teams were ready to strike.  The Cubs, in their clubhouse in Pittsburgh, were awaiting a phone call from Dixie Walker, a Robinson teammate with the Dodgers, saying that Robinson had been allowed to play. 

That was supposed to be the cue for the walk out.  Williams said the call never came.  That it didn‘t happen supposedly owed to threats from Baseball commissioner Happy Chandler, National League President Ford Frick, Dodgers President Branch Rickey, and St. Louis Cardinals future hall of famer Stan Musial, who reportedly told his teammates that integration was going to happen, and he was going to keep playing whether they liked it or not, and whether they did or not. 

As Maurice Metterlink (ph) pointed out, at every cross roads on the path that leads to the future, tradition has placed 10,000 men to guard the past.  That day Musial and Rickey and Chandler and a few others helped Jackie Robinson past those 10,000 guardians of yesterday. 

And Ed Silverman was there, then a young sports writer for the publication “Sports Weekly,” later news director of WABC in New York and network correspondent for ABC News, and a friend of Jackie Robinson.  Great thanks for your time tonight, sir. 

ED SILVERMAN, COVERED JACKIE ROBINSON‘S DEBUT:  Nice to see you. 

OLBERMANN:  As we approach 60 years, what stands out most vividly, most importantly from that day? 

SILVERMAN:  Well, I think you have to put the day in perspective, because there were rumors that were circulating, stories being printed that there might be riots, disturbance at the ballpark.  And you have to remember, Brooklyn was a different borough in those days.  It was predominantly white.  So there were very few white faces seen at Ebbets Field. 

I thought that there would be huge crowds, turn-away crowds.  So I left very early.  When I got there, I was surprised to find that even just before game time there were 6,000 empty seats.  I could not believe it.  The only thing that was really different was that there were more black faces than there were white faces. 

But, the day was much the same -- (INAUDIBLE)  It was a fairly festive occasion.  A lot of polite applause and certainly no signs of any disruption or violence. 

OLBERMANN:  You mentioned the rumors of riots or reactions.  At the time, how well known were those stories about boycotts or walk outs or strike threats?  Were they covered up, do you think? 

SILVERMAN:  Yes, you have to remember that the writers with the Brooklyn Dodgers were paid by the Brooklyn Dodgers, that is their travel expenses were covered.  They were actually part of the team.  They never wrote personal things about the players.  They covered the games, period.  They were, you might say, (INAUDIBLE)  They were friends of the team. 

OLBERMANN:  I have often thought of what would have happened if Jackie Robinson had failed, if he hadn‘t played well, if there had been a major racial incident, if he had fought back.  I mean, how long would it have been before there would have been another chance for a black man? 

SILVERMAN:  Oh, I think it would have taken at least another five years.  I think that even that is called one of the finest days in baseball, I think it is also one of its most disgraceful days, if I may.  It was Jackie Robinson, years before Rosa Parks, when he was in the military, defied to ride in the back of the bus. 

He refused to go to the back of the bus.  He was court marshalled and vindicated.  But he was the guy with principles and guts.  When he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers, he was told, look, you have to play the white man‘s game.  If you want to play baseball, you must endure racial epithets without striking back, vile epithets, death threats.  You can‘t seek any adulation or publicity.  You have to be a good little black boy, if you will. 

When you travel with the team, when we go south, you must not live in the same hotel.  You can‘t eat in the same restaurants.  It was absolutely degrading.  It worked on his gut all season.  And forget the south, when they went to Philadelphia, Philadelphia mind you, at the Ben Franklin Hotel, the road secretary was said if Jackie Robinson stays in this hotel, the whole team must go.  So instead of standing up for Robinson, they said Jackie, we are making accommodations for you at another hotel. 

I mean, that was disgraceful. 

OLBERMANN:  You knew him.  You didn‘t just covered him.  Would he be encouraged by race relations in sports today or by race relations in this country today? 

SILVERMAN:  I think we have come a long way, but we still have not overcome a lot of the basic prejudice.  There is this movement that has been going on for the past couple of days about everybody wearing number 42.  And I think that guys like Willie Randolph and Ken Griffey Jr. and people like them are very sincere.  But I also think that there is a lot of me too-ism, and political correctness. 

Maybe I‘m an old cynic, but it seems to me that 10 or 15 years ago, when there were many more black ball players, if you mentioned Jackie Robinson to a lot of the high ranking ball players who were making big money, they said “Jackie who?”  What does Jackie Robinson mean?  It wasn‘t relevant. 

I think that baseball, organized baseball, instead of the 42, should be issuing an apology for the 50 years of de facto segregation.

OLBERMANN:  A great point.  Ed Silverman, formerly of ABC, who was there covering Jackie Robinson‘s first game in the majors 60 years go Sunday.  Great pleasure to talk with you. 

SILVERMAN:  Thank you very much.

OLBERMANN:  That is COUNTDOWN for this the 1,461st day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq.  From New York, I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.

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

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