updated 5/22/2007 11:18:37 AM ET 2007-05-22T15:18:37

Guests: Joan Walsh, Paul Waldman, John Fund, Robin Leach, Kim Serafin

DAN ABRAMS, GUEST HOST:  Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  I‘m Dan Abrams, filling in for Joe all week.  Tonight we begin with today‘s winners and losers.  Our first winner, former president Jimmy Carter, a winner tonight for finally making himself relevant again.  It took calling the Bush administration, quote, “the worst in history” to get people to listen.  But he won.  We‘ll talk about that in a minute.

Today‘s first loser, Sly Stallone, caught importing illegal muscle-building hormones on a trip to Australia, sentenced today to pay more than $10,000 in fines and court costs.  It‘s kind of like finding out there‘s no Santa Claus.  I‘ve been drinking those Rocky raw egg cocktails since I was a kid.  Couldn‘t figure out why it wasn‘t working.

Winner, “Shrek 3,” the movie raking in a monstrous $122 million this weekend, the largest opening ever for an animated film, of course, leading non-animated actors around the country to ask themselves, What do I do now?

Our next loser, media titan Rupert Murdoch and his News Corp.  suffering a potential setback in the effort to buy “The Wall Street Journal.”  This weekend, Murdoch‘s own paper, “The New York Post,” revealed allegations that News Corp. went easy on the Chinese government to curry favor for Murdoch businesses in China.  “The Wall Street Journal‘s” owners are already rattled about the idea of Murdoch owning their storied paper.  True or not, the allegations don‘t help.

Winner, illegal immigrants in Texas, after a federal judge said no to a Texas city‘s plan to prevent them from renting apartments.  Residents of Farmers Branch, Texas, voted to fine landlords who rent to illegal immigrants.  A judge said that plan was illegal.

And our final loser, Jimmy Carter (INAUDIBLE) a winner for making himself relevant by going after the Bush administration.  They then called him, quote, “sad and irrelevant.”  But today it seems he discovered people were listening to him, and he started sounding a lot like Jimmy Carter again.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  My remarks were maybe careless or misinterpreted, but I wasn‘t comparing the overall administration, and I was certainly not talking personally about any president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Really?  Just as interestingly, was he right?  And did he break an unwritten code of honor among those few who served as the leader of the free world?

Joining me now, Joan Walsh, editor-in-chief of Salon.com, and MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan.  Thanks to both of you.  Appreciate it.

All right, Joan, first of all, was he right?

JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM:  Yes, I think he is right, quite honestly.  You know, Dan, you and Pat and I could have a cocktail, we could argue this all night.  There‘s no objective right answer.  I went on Google, you know, the Goggle that the president uses.  I typed in “worst president in history.”  What pops up?  Sean Wilentz‘s piece in “Rolling Stone” argued that, yes, Bush is the worst...

ABRAMS:  All right, Pat, what do you make of that?

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, I don‘t usually go to “Rolling Stone” to find out who I think I‘m going to judge as the...

(LAUGHTER)

BUCHANAN:  Yes, I think the president made a blunder in what he said.  It was too personal.  It was too crude.  It was beneath the dignity of a former not only leader of the free world but really head of state.  And he does belong to an exclusive club.  And when Jimmy Carter has spoken in the past, whether you agree or disagree, Dan, if it‘s on Venezuela or Palestine or something like that, he‘s tried to deal with big issues at a high level.  This is something of a—you know, of a partisan county chairman, and he withdrew it.  And When you withdraw a statement you‘ve made 24 hours later, you‘ve made a gaffe.

ABRAMS:  Well, I mean, look—I mean, he is—let‘s be clear.  Let‘s listen again to what he said.  We can listen to these comments in an audio interview.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

CARTER:  I think as far as the adverse impact on our nation around the world, this administration has been the worst in history.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  OK.

(LAUGHTER)

ABRAMS:  How are we taking that one out of context?

BUCHANAN:  Put it in context!

ABRAMS:  I‘m not really sure how to put that one in context, Pat.

(LAUGHTER)

BUCHANAN:  Well, you‘re right.  I mean, look, he backed off from it, but he said it‘s the worst administration in history in terms of the damage done.  And look, there‘s no doubt—let‘s talk about it seriously.  If this war in Afghanistan, this war in Iraq go badly, and Colin Powell said we‘re losing Iraq, if we lose, this could be the greatest strategic disaster in American history.  But if I were Jimmy Carter—I mean, you know, you don‘t—you don‘t—you know, he‘s the fellow that‘s living in a glass house when it comes to the worst administration in history.

ABRAMS:  Well, I mean, but he comes—he comes back and he says, Oh, you know, effectively, I didn‘t mean to be causing this sort of controversy.  But this is a guy who‘s been outspoken on issues for a long time.  In 2001, he calls President Clinton‘s pardon of Marc Rich disgraceful.  He condemns Bush for waging a war based on lies and misinterpretations in 2004.  February 2006, he indirectly criticizes Bush at the funeral of Coretta Scott King when he alluded to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina Kong.  You know, then he gets involved in the Palestinian and the Israeli conflicts.  I mean, this is a guy who‘s been making controversial comments for years.

BUCHANAN:  Well, you‘re right.  But look, I think he demeans himself as president of the United States when you do that.  Most presidents—they are members of a club.  There‘s a certain dignity to it.  You may have to speak out if it‘s about a war or something like that.  But to get into hitting him on Katrina, for heaven‘s sakes, that‘s partisanship.  We all know it.  Bush was asleep at the switch.  But a former president doesn‘t do that.

ABRAMS:  All right.  But you know what, Pat?  You know who kind of did it?  I mean, poor President Gerald Ford criticized the Bush administration, but he did it in an interview that was embargoed until after his death.  Here‘s what he said.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

GERALD FORD, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I would never (INAUDIBLE) how they could justify what they were going to do.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  All right.  So there‘s Ford.  I mean, he‘s not even coming out as harshly as Carter, but he‘s unwilling to even say it until after his death.

BUCHANAN:  Well, yes.  I don‘t think—I feel sorry for Gerry Ford on that because he has a good reputation.  And again, I don‘t think he should have done that with that interview and then have it come out at a funeral where President Bush is himself delivering the eulogy I think came off rather badly.  And I think Ford‘s people will tell you that.  And Carter‘s people probably got to him on this, Dan.

ABRAMS:  Look, I‘m waiting to get Joan back.  We had a little technical problem.

BUCHANAN:  OK.

ABRAMS:  But...

BUCHANAN:  Don‘t worry about it, Joan.

ABRAMS:  All right.

(LAUGHTER)

ABRAMS:  Yes, one of Pat‘s friends cut the line there, so we‘re waiting...

BUCHANAN:  Gordon Liddy‘s giving...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Exactly!

(LAUGHTER)

ABRAMS:  Exactly.  We‘re waiting to get her back, but I think we got her on the phone.  But you know—but Pat, what is really the problem?  I mean, so what?  So Jimmy Carter makes comments that says, Oh, you know, it‘s the worst presidency when it comes to foreign affairs.  He makes comments in 2004.  I mean, does it really—is it really such a horrible thing for a former president who would say, Somebody‘s got to speak up, it might as well be me?

BUCHANAN:  Oh, come on now.  I mean, if you‘re talking about criticism of present performance, we all do that, Dan.  You and I do it.  Columnists do it.  Commentators do it.  Harry Reid does it and everything.  But former presidents or former chiefs of state—Richard Nixon, whatever you say about him, he didn‘t do those things.  I‘m sure he had a harsh view of Clinton.  Ronald Reagan—you know, I know was not exactly enamored of some of the things his successor did.  You don‘t do that.  When you‘re a former president, you rise to a tremendous level.

Carter was in great shape.  You send him to Sadat‘s funeral.  And it‘s a very high level, and they‘re above politics and we should treat them with a certain regard and respect.  And it‘s a two-way street.  And I think he‘s come down from that, and he‘s hurt himself.  This doesn‘t hurt President Bush, it hurts Jimmy Carter.

ABRAMS:  Pat, let me ask you—I‘m going to go back to Joan, who‘s on the phone now.  But Pat, why, when you ask historians, right, about who‘s going to be the worst president, you know, ever, or this person‘s going to be viewed in—they‘ll never answer the question.  They‘ll always hedge, even for presidents who‘ve already finish their office.  You ask them about Bill Clinton historically, they always want to—you know, a lot of them want to hedge, and they don‘t want to be seen taking a position one way or another.  Have we gotten to a point where we simply can‘t have honest discussions anymore...

BUCHANAN:  Well, we...

ABRAMS:  ... about whether someone was any good or not?

BUCHANAN:  Well, we can.  Look, I mean, we have these debates.  Arthur Schlesinger used to list those guys.  There are so-called seven—or three greats and four or five near-greats.  There‘s disagreement on that.  I mean, Harry Truman was considered a complete disaster...

ABRAMS:  But Harry Truman—we‘re going back.  I mean, we‘re—we‘re...

BUCHANAN:  OK.  They don‘t do it—you don‘t do it—basically, you‘re right.  It is maybe an unwritten rule.  But with presidents who are still alive, they hold off doing it—presidents hold off doing it to each other, and I think they should.  And they should leave it up to historians and folks like you and me, who can do it the day after the guy leaves office.

(LAUGHTER)

ABRAMS:  All right, Joan...

BUCHANAN:  Or before.

ABRAMS:  Joan joins us back on the phone.  Sorry about that problem, Joan.  All right.  So you were talking really about the fundamental question here, which is, you know, whether it‘s fair to make the comment already that this president could end up being the worst or at least one of the worst in history.

WALSH:  Yes, and I think it is fair.  I hope losing power wasn‘t a sign that I was being judged for that remark, Dan.

(LAUGHTER)

WALSH:  But you know, basically, I agree with you.  I think that there‘s all too—there‘s all too much prissiness and piousness about this, and that‘s why I thought Sean Wilentz got a lot of attention for his piece because he was brave enough to say, Absolutely, worst president ever.

And I think it‘s unfortunate.  You know, Jimmy Carter stepped out.  He was only talking about what he‘s done to our stature in the world, not generally the worst president.  He was comparing him clearly to, you know, presidents in recent history.  And it was kind of unfortunate that he backtracked.  That, to me, is what made him a loser, not saying it in the first place.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  I agree.  I mean, his backing off of it—it just—it‘s just—it‘s just so Carteresque, isn‘t it?

BUCHANAN:  Yes, but lookit.  Lookit.  Jimmy Carter didn‘t even win a second term.  He was regarded as a complete failure.  Many felt who have said, critical of him, he was the worst president we ever had.  Whatever you say about Bush, he got eight years in there.  If somehow Iraq turns out well and it really comes out all right...

ABRAMS:  All right, Pat, you‘re...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Pat, I‘ve made—I‘ve just made you an adviser to George Bush, and you‘re in there and you know you‘ve got a year-and-a-half left.  Do you say to him, We are—we have got to be willing to stake our entire presidency on Iraq turning around before we leave?

BUCHANAN:  I think what the president—I‘d say, Mr. President, if you believe in your heart that we can‘t get out of there, it will be the worst strategic disaster if we take a walk, you‘ve got to go all the way down with your beliefs, sir, and you got to walk out of here and save that country.  And that is your...

ABRAMS:  That‘s a cop-out answer, Pat.

BUCHANAN:  No, it‘s not!

ABRAMS:  I‘m asking you a political question.  The political question is whether you‘d be willing to say to him, We‘ve got to stake our entire history on this war turning around.

BUCHANAN:  I would tell him, Mr. President, don‘t worry about your legacy, it‘ll take care of itself.  Do what you believe in your heart is right for your country, and I will back you up.  That‘s what I would say to him.

ABRAMS:  Joan, do you think that a lot of people...

WALSH:  Pat, he needs better advice.

ABRAMS:  What?

WALSH:  He needs better advice than that.

ABRAMS:  Go ahead.  You—go ahead.

WALSH:  You can do better.

ABRAMS:  Go ahead, Joan.

WALSH:  I think Pat can do better than that.  I think the president needs better advice than that.  I think if the president really wanted to stake his legacy on this and really believes it‘s the right thing, he needs to bring back the draft.  He needs to, you know, put every person available into that country.  We all know the military‘s broken and it would break it further.  But if he really believes and if the people around him really believe this is the thing to do and the future of the country hangs on it, not just his legacy, bring back the draft, increase...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Joan, wait.  Joan, I don‘t want to get into a debate about the draft, but Joan, if you‘re advising Jimmy Carter, do you say to him, Look, if you want to make controversial comments, go out and do it.  That‘s great.  We‘re happy to hear you.  But if you‘re going to make them and people are going to finally respond to them, don‘t back off what you said!

WALSH:  Absolutely.  What he said about, Maybe I was careless, that‘s heartbreaking.  I mean, you know, he‘s getting to be an elderly man.  He‘s out in New Orleans trying to help people with Habitat for Humanity.  It‘s a terrible thing to say, Maybe I was careless.  That does make—that undermines the whole of his credibility.

BUCHANAN:  No.

WALSH:  I‘m prepared to argue he was right...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  He believes it.  He just doesn‘t want to get into this whole partisan debate, and yet the problem is...

BUCHANAN:  Why doesn‘t he, Dan?

ABRAMS:  I don‘t know.

BUCHANAN:  He is right—because he‘s right not to.  He knows he has a certain level as a former president and he ought to use it on big things.  You don‘t say, Oh, he‘s the worst president in history.  If you want to...

WALSH:  There‘s no bigger thing.  There‘s no bigger thing...

BUCHANAN:  Oh, for heaven‘s sakes!

WALSH:  ... than our standing in the world community, Pat.

BUCHANAN:  It is just an insulting comment, and he knows it, and that‘s why he apologized.  And if I were his adviser...

ABRAMS:  But he‘s not apologizing.

BUCHANAN:  If I were his adviser, I would stick closer to him, say, Mr. President, we don‘t want to do those again.  But now, you wouldn‘t have to say it.  He knows it.

ABRAMS:  You‘d have to stick closer to him.

BUCHANAN:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  And get up there...

(LAUGHTER)

ABRAMS:  Anyway...

BUCHANAN:  Get the hammer—get the hammer and nails, and stay right with him.

ABRAMS:  Sounds like the two of you guys are going to be living together.

(LAUGHTER)

ABRAMS:  All right.  Joan Walsh, Pat Buchanan, thanks a lot. 

Appreciate it.

BUCHANAN:  OK.

ABRAMS:  Still head: The Pentagon goes to battle over NBC over an investigation into body armor.  Tonight, NBC‘s Lisa Myers offers up the side-by-side evidence that shows that U.S. troops may not being provided with the best protection there is.  The results of the months-long investigation coming up.

And later: Rosie‘s going after her “View” co-host, she says, for failing to consider both sides of the argument and watching quote, “crappy” cable shows.  Crappy cable shows?  Could she mean—nah!

Then: Does Rush Limbaugh get away with shtick that might lead a less powerful talk show host to get canned?  When Imus and others are being fired or suspended for their remarks, is Rush benefiting from a double standard?

And later, we‘ll spin the Scarborough wheel of the seven sins and see where it lands.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  You would think our fighting U.S. men and women would be issued the best body armor available, right?  But tonight, an exclusive NBC News investigation raises questions about the Army‘s claim that our troops have the best body armor in the world.  Independent ballistics testing commissioned by NBC News places the Army‘s body armor side by side for the first time with a body armor called Dragon Skin, which the Army has banned and says just doesn‘t work.  The results are alarming.

Here‘s NBC‘s senior investigative correspondent Lisa Myers with the exclusive report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LISA MYERS, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Dan, experts who witnessed the independent test commissioned by NBC News say Dragon Skin significantly outperformed the Army‘s body armor in these limited (ph) tests, stopping more of the world‘s most lethal bullets, with less trauma to a soldier‘s body.

(voice-over):  At a renowned ballistics lab in Germany, engineers carefully calibrated their equipment for a side-by-side test, the Army‘s body armor, Interceptor, against Dragon Skin, a flexible system of interconnected ceramic discs.  Retired four-star Army general Wayne Downing, an NBC News analyst, observed the tests.  Phil Coyle, the former chief weapons tester for the Pentagon, helped NBC make sure the limited testing met Army ballistic standards.

NBC will not reveal the specific caliber of ammunition used because that might help the enemy.  First, Interceptor, the Army‘s body armor, was tested against what the Army told us is the most lethal armor-piercing round in Iraq today.  Interceptor did well, stopping three rounds, more than Army standards require.  But on the fourth round, a complete penetration.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That would probably kill that soldier.

MYERS:  Next, Dragon Skin.  The Army says in its testing, Dragon Skin was repeatedly penetrated when hit with one or two rounds of this type of ammunition, even at room temperature.  But in Germany, Dragon Skin repelled one round, and another, a total of six in all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Six armor-piercing rounds, no catastrophic failures with the system.  It‘s pretty impressive.

MYERS:  Then testers put two fresh vests against an even more lethal threat, an armor-piercing incendiary round.  The Army‘s Interceptor repelled four shots in a row.  It also stopped a fifth shot, but in all likelihood, a soldier wearing it would have been gravely injured because the bullet‘s impact left a very deep indentation in the clay used to simulate the human body.  A sixth shot sailed right through the armor.

Then it was Dragon Skin‘s turn.  Again, Dragon Skin went six for six, stopping every round.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  If my son was in the military, is going to be wearing a vest, I would hope it would be this one.

MYERS:  Coyle says Dragon Skin met and exceeded Army ballistic standards in these limited tests.

PHILIP COYLE, FORMER DEFENSE DEPARTMENT TESTING OFFICIAL:  Dragon Skin appears to be more effective not only against the Army‘s own standards, but against threats that are out there in Iraq and Afghanistan.

MYERS:  To see how much more Dragon Skin could take, engineers loaded three rounds of a bullet so powerful, the Army doesn‘t even require body armor to defend against it.  Dragon Skin repelled all three rounds fired.  But remember, these tests did not expose Dragon Skin to extreme temperatures like those in Iraq and Afghanistan, under which the Army says Dragon Skin failed badly.  The Army says that‘s key.  Still, the tests in Germany do raise questions about the Army‘s claim that Dragon Skin can barely stop a bullet at room temperature.

(on camera):  General, in your view, was this a fair side-by-side test?

GEN. WAYNE DOWNING, U.S. Army (RET.), NBC NEWS MILITARY ANALYST:  Oh, it was totally fair.  The Interceptor body army did quite well, it‘s just that Dragon Skin did better.  What I take away from this test is it deserves a full, unbiased test by a neutral party because I thought it was pretty doggone good.

MYERS:  We shared our findings with the Army last week.  The Army says it remains confident in its own tests, which found that Dragon Skin failed miserably.  At a briefing today, Dan, the Army made public those tests and argued that Interceptor is, indeed, the best armor available.

GEN. MARK BROWN, U.S. Army:  We value our soldiers very highly, and we do everything we can do to ensure that they have the finest in force protect as they go into the battle.

MYERS:  However, a number of Democratic senators have called for a full-scale, independent, side-by-side test to see which body armor really is best—Dan.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  Lisa Myers, thanks for that report.

Still ahead: Is Rush Limbaugh getting a free pass, conducting what some are calling the radio equivalent of a blackface minstrel show?  And next in “Must See S.C.,” Decision 2008, the movie is being cast.  Who‘s playing who?  It is hilarious!  Coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Time for tonight‘s “Must See S.C.,” video you have to see.  First up: Yet another member of the Alberto Gonzales Justice Department resigned, citing personal reasons.  But Jon Stewart thinks there could be another explanation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JON STEWART, “THE DAILY SHOW”:  Yes, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales‘s deputy has stepped down.  His name is Paul McNulty, and he says it has nothing to do with the U.S. attorney scandal.  His decision was prompted solely by, quote, “the financial realities of college-age children.”  Of course!  What parent today, looking at the cost of tuition, wouldn‘t abruptly quit his job without another one lined up?  It‘s just fiscal job common sense.  I got kids going to college, I got to stop working!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  And the next presidential election‘s over a year away, but Conan O‘Brien offers a sneak peek at what could be the movie‘s all-star cast.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONAN O‘BRIEN, HOST, “LATE NIGHT WITH CONAN O‘BRIEN:  Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney will be played by any TV weatherman.  Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich will be played by Dame Judi Dench.  Now, this is—debate moderator Brit Hume will be played by “The Simpsons” Principal Skinner.  New York mayor and possible candidate Michael Bloomberg will be played by a Galapagos land tortoise.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Coming up: Rosie O‘Donnell says she never said U.S. troops are terrorists, her words were taken out of context by crappy cable shows.  One of her co-hosts doesn‘t seem agree.  We‘ll show you the tape.  That‘s ahead on “Beat the Press.”  And next, Rush Limbaugh under fire for his so-called parody of Barack Obama.  Is his “Magic Negro” song any better than what‘s gotten other radio hosts suspended or fired?  We‘ll break out the wheel of (INAUDIBLE) to find out.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, Rosie O‘Donnell accuses cable news shows of twisting her words around.  She says she didn‘t say U.S. troops are terrorists.  Oh, really?  We‘ll go back to the tape to find out.  That story‘s coming up, as we bring back “Beat the Press.”

But, first, you‘ve heard that to get on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY you need to commit of the seven deadly sins.  Well, tonight, we‘re spinning the wheel of sin to find out which one makes the big show.  Tonight‘s subject:  wrath.

Courtesy of the world of talk radio and a current controversial song from Rush Limbaugh‘s show that‘s got some saying he‘s gone to far.  NBC‘s Michael Okwu has more on Rush‘s racially charged parody of Barack Obama. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MICHAEL OKWU, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  It was the line...

DON IMUS, RADIO HOST:  Those are some nappy-headed hos.

OKWU:  ... that got us all asking:  When is the line crossed?  But weeks before the Imus controversy, Rush Limbaugh started airing this ditty about Senator Barack Obama. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing):  Barack the magic Negro, lives in D.C....

OKWU:  Which leads some to wonder, has Limbaugh been getting a free pass?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing):  ... because he‘s not authentic like me...

OKWU:  The voice, a white political satirist imitating Al Sharpton. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing):  ... some say Barack‘s articulate and bright and new and clean...

PAUL WALDMAN, MEDIA MATTERS FOR AMERICA:  This is basically the radio equivalent of a black-faced minstrel show, you know, going back to Amos and Andy and all of those kind of racist shows of the past. 

OKWU:  For his part, Obama says he doesn‘t listen to Limbaugh, but says being targeted is part of being a politician.

MICHAEL HARRISON, PUBLISHER, “TALKERS MAGAZINE”:  It‘s insulting, it‘s in bad taste, but it‘s legitimate political satire. 

OKWU:  Limbaugh declined an interview, but in his broadcast suggests the song is simply a parody based on a newspaper column about Obama written by journalist David Ehrenstein.

DAVID EHRENSTEIN, WRITER:  ... the magic Negro was chiefly as a term used in talking about films, in which you would have black characters who would suddenly come out of nowhere and come to the rescue of white characters. 

WILL SMITH, ACTOR:  You‘ve lost your swing.  We‘ve got to go find it. 

EHRENSTEIN:  I was just simply trying to get a conversation going. 

How it‘s gone is another question.

OKWU:  Paul Waldman says Limbaugh has no excuse. 

WALDMAN:  He‘s trying to get himself off the hook by saying, “Oh, it‘s somebody else who did it.  It‘s not really me.”

OKWU:  Media watchdogs say there‘s no hue and cry to stop Limbaugh, because he speaks to a niche audience who either expects this or is willing to let him slide.  And his target in this case is a public figure, a presidential candidate, not a college women‘s basketball team. 

Funny or bad taste? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing):  ... don‘t vote the magic Negro in...

OKWU:  Legitimate political satire or something darker? 

Michael Okwu, NBC News, Los Angeles. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  Here now is Paul Waldman.  You saw him in that piece, senior fellow at the liberal media watchdog Media Matters.  You just saw him in that story.  And John Fund from the “Wall Street Journal.”

Thanks very much, gentlemen, for coming on the show. 

All right, Mr. Waldman, you know, you‘re saying that Rush is getting effectively a free pass here.  But, you know, a lot of people are going to say, look, you know, we‘re all sort of going to this point where no one on the radio is going to be able to say just about anything.  What‘s your response? 

PAUL WALDMAN, MEDIA MATTERS FOR AMERICA:  Well, you know, if this had been the first time that Rush Limbaugh did something like this, that would be one thing.  But he has a long, long history, going back to his entire time in radio, of making these kinds of racist jokes. 

I mean, he said that the NAACP should get a liquor store and practice robberies.  Just a couple weeks ago, he did another one of these song parodies, with this guy imitating Al Sharpton, singing, “R-e-s-p-e-c-k.”  And, you know, there are so many other examples.  This isn‘t the first time.  It‘s not the fifth time.  It‘s not even the tenth time.

And so, you know, I think, for the long time, this sort of stuff that Limbaugh does has just flown under the radar.  But now people are finally beginning to take notice, and, you know, he has to be responsible for what he says. 

ABRAMS:  Let‘s listen to a little bit more of the song that Rush played on his radio show. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing):  Barack, the magic Negro, lives in D.C. 

The “L.A. Times,” they call him that, because he‘s not authentic like me. 

You had the guy from the L.A. paper said he make guilty whites feel good. 

They‘ll vote for him and not for me, because he‘s not from “da hood.” 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  You know, John, I remember during the O.J. Simpson case that there was a radio talk show host who got in enormous trouble for doing what was a parody effectively of Judge Ito in a Japanese-sounding voice.  And the person was blasted for it.  Different from what we‘re hearing Rush Limbaugh doing here? 

JOHN FUND, “WALL STREET JOURNAL”:  Well, people are blasting Rush, but apparently it‘s not getting the kind of wide outrage that Don Imus got.  I mean, that parody has been running for almost two months now.  Even Al Sharpton hasn‘t gotten on his soapbox to complain, and Al Sharpton certainly knows about demagoguery.  And Barack Obama says, look, it‘s dumb, but, you know, this is the way things go.  And so he has taken great umbrage.

The point is, there‘s a difference between Imus and legitimate political satire.  Imus used insulting, derogatory language against defenseless women who should be role models of the community rather than insulted.  Rush is going after presidential candidates.  That‘s what all of us do for a living. 

ABRAMS:  I don‘t know.  I mean, it seems to me that there‘s an argument to be made that there‘s a distinction without a difference, that the question is, is it racist or is it not, right? 

FUND:  Well, Dan, there‘s a very good way of handling this, which is, where is the outrage?  Rush has been doing this for two months.  Where are the demonstrators?  Where‘s Al Sharpton?  He‘s not...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  But, John, you‘d be the same person who would be saying, “We can‘t let Al Sharpton determine what we do.”  And now you‘re saying, “We have to let Al Sharpton determine what we do.” 

FUND:  No, no, Barack Obama hasn‘t complained.  Now, look, as for Media Matters, they‘ve done very interesting work.  They‘ve often busted people‘s chops for hypocrisy.  They‘re the ones who helped bring down Don Imus.  Now they‘re leading this charge.

I‘m simply saying, with Don Imus, it resonated.  It caught hold of the public‘s outrage factor.  This they‘re also leading the charge on.  It‘s not catching.  It‘s going nowhere. 

WALDMAN:  Yes, but the thing is, it doesn‘t matter that this is a public figure.  I mean, the message is the same.  And the thing about Limbaugh is...

FUND:  Why isn‘t there any outrage over this, Paul?

WALDMAN:  The thing about Limbaugh is that, when it comes to black politicians, he always focuses on their race.  You know, when he talks about Rudy Giuliani, he doesn‘t play a clip of “That‘s Amore.”  But when he talks about black politicians, he always using their race to denigrate them.  When Carol Moseley Braun got elected to the Senate, he used to play “Movin‘ on Up” from “The Jeffersons.”  That‘s what it always comes down to, whenever it‘s a black public figure for him.

FUND:  Paul, Rudy Giuliani has done “Godfather” impressions.  Rush Limbaugh has done Italian commentary about Rudy Giuliani. 

WALDMAN:  Yes, but what does that mean, then, that anybody—that Rush Limbaugh can use any kind of racist attack that he wants to, as long as Barack Obama is not willing to pick a fight with him?  I mean, it sends the same kind of message to people that, no matter how...

(CROSSTALK) 

FUND:  Paul, answer the question.  Where is the outrage?

WALDMAN:  It doesn‘t matter if you‘re an athlete or you‘re a politician.  When you‘re an African-American, that‘s how he‘s going to go after you.

ABRAMS:  Hang on.  Hang on.  Let me—to be fair here to Rush Limbaugh, let‘s give him a chance, in his own words, to respond.  He blasted NBC on his show today, calling this a non-story.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO HOST:  They had to try to get this wrong.  There‘s no other way this could happen.  And they don‘t even understand the point of the parody, “Barack the Magic Negro.”  It‘s a piece on Al Sharpton.  It‘s not even a hit piece on Obama.  And everything in it was originated by liberals.  You know all this.  Here I am, I‘m doing a threquel now.  This is about a fourteen-quel.  Trying to explain this, and they just don‘t want to get it right.  It‘s just a smear.  I mean, this happens every day to me. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Paul, what do you make of that? 

WALDMAN:  Well, you know, he‘s acting more defensive than he usually does, which I think is in and of itself kind of interesting, that he does keep coming back to this and trying to explain.  He‘s not apologizing.  Rush Limbaugh never apologizes. 

But, you know, as I said, this is not the first time, not the fifth time, not the tenth time.  He does this kind of stuff all the time.  And whenever there‘s a black public figure, race is the focus.  And that‘s what he‘s going to use to denigrate them.  So, you know, these kind of protestations that, “Oh, somebody else said it.  It‘s just humor,” you know, those excuses just don‘t wash.

ABRAMS:  And, John, I mean, look, it does seem that the days of just saying, “Oh, it‘s just humor, it‘s just parody,” I mean, look, he‘s saying, “Oh, this is a parody of Al Sharpton, not of Barack Obama.”

FUND:  Which is why I mentioned Al Sharpton.  Al Sharpton is not complaining. 

ABRAMS:  That‘s fine.  But, again, does it really matter whether it‘s

a parody of Al Sharpton or Barack Obama?  And are we going to decide, how

do we respond, based on how the, quote, unquote, “victims” respond, meaning

so if the Rutgers basketball team said “We forgive Don Imus,” that‘s it, the story‘s over.  Is that the way that we should go about as a society deciding these things? 

FUND:  Well, we can certainly go too far in the politically correct form of things and shut down a lot of interesting and lively free speech.  Now, Paul, I know that Media Matters is upset about this.  Tell me, where else is the outrage?  Give me the names.

ABRAMS:  Let me ask...

FUND:  Where are the prominent figures who are watching this...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Paul, do you want Rush Limbaugh to be pulled off the air? 

WALDMAN:  No, but I think that this kind of conversation that we‘re having now today is a really good start. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  But after this conversation, are we good?  Can we just say, “All right, let‘s move on”?

WALDMAN:  Everyone has to take a look at whether they want to be associated with this kind of stuff.  You know, Dick Cheney, the vice president of the United States, goes on Rush Limbaugh‘s show all the time.  I think we have to ask if that‘s an appropriate thing for the second-most-powerful man in the United States to do.  The stations that carry him, is this the kind of stuff that they want to be putting out everyday?  We need to start thinking about this more.

FUND:  Paul, where are the prominent people, besides yourself, complaining about this?

WALDMAN:  But why does that matter?

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Look, I have this thing in the “Houston Chronicle.”

FUND:  Where are they?

ABRAMS:  Look, I‘ll give you one right now.  I‘ve got the “Houston Chronicle” right here.  Who cares?  I mean, so the country—the “Houston Chronicle” said the piece of crude, over the top. 

FUND:  That‘s a columnist.

ABRAMS:  You said, “Where‘s the outrage?”

FUND:  Where are the prominent people who are complaining about this?

ABRAMS:  All right, whatever.  I‘m just saying.  Like, you know, that‘s the “Houston Chronicle.”  OK, big deal.

FUND:  No, it‘s one writer at the “Houston Chronicle.”

ABRAMS:  I understand.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  All right, so there‘s not a big outrage.  That doesn‘t make...

FUND:  So why are we here talking about this? 

ABRAMS:  Because maybe there should be.  I don‘t know!

WALDMAN:  John, does that mean, if Al Sharpton was angrier, then you would say that, yes, this is a big deal and we should make a bigger deal out of it? 

ABRAMS:  I‘m not going to let...

WALDMAN:  Is that what you‘d be saying?

FUND:  Dan, there‘s no story here.  Al Sharpton is not complaining. 

Barack Obama is not complaining.  A writer at the “Houston Chronicle” is. 

Give me a break.

ABRAMS:  Paul Waldman, John—no, we can‘t talk about it anymore. 

Story‘s over.

John Fund and Paul Waldman, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it. 

Coming up, Rosie O‘Donnell is now taking on, quote, “crappy” cable news and her co-host, and she says her words have been twisted.  Oh, really?  We‘ve got the tape. 

And later, reunited, and it feels so wrong.  Long Island Lolita Amy Fisher and Joey Buttafuoco back together, sort of.  Remember, she‘s the one who ended up shooting his wife?  It‘s ahead in “Hollyweird.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Time to resurrect an oldie but goodie here on MSNBC.  We used to do a segment on Tucker‘s show called “Beat the Press.”  I‘ve always enjoyed it.  So for the next week, we‘re bringing it back. 

We begin tonight with a selection from “The View” and Rosie O‘Donnell trashing cable news, saying she never really said anything about U.S.  troops being terrorists.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROSIE O‘DONNELL, HOST, “THE VIEW”:  Did you watch what they said about me?  Did you watch them this weekend?

(CROSSTALK)

O‘DONNELL:  They said, “Rosie O‘Donnell thinks our troops are terrorists.”  What do you think about that? 

(CROSSTALK)

ELISABETH HASSELBECK, “VIEW” CO-HOST:  You know why?  Because you asked the question, “Who were the terrorists, if 650,000 Iraqis are dead, after we came in there and invaded a sovereign nation?”  Maybe they drew the link there. 

O‘DONNELL:  They drew the link or they misrepresented what I said in order to twist it to make it seem what they...

I didn‘t say it.  Do you know who said it?  Those crappy cable shows said it. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Oh, oh, really, Rosie, it‘s the crappy cable shows twisting your words?  It‘s not what you said?  Let‘s go to the tape. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROSIE O‘DONNELL, HOST, “THE VIEW”:  655,000 Iraqi civilians are dead. 

Who are the terrorists?

ELISABETH HASSELBECK, “VIEW” CO-HOST:  Who are the terrorists?

O‘DONNELL:  655 Iraqis—I‘m saying you have to look—we invaded...

HASSELBECK:  Wait, who are you calling terrorists? 

O‘DONNELL:  I‘m saying that, if you were in Iraq, and another country, the United States, the richest in the world, invaded your country and killed 655,000 of your citizens, what would you call us?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  I‘ll let the audience decide who the crappy one is on that one. 

Next up, Larry King dancing with a star. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Oh, uncomfortable.  Larry, it was hard enough to watch Tucker on “Dancing with the Stars.”  This is rough.  We love you.  Please stay in the chair.  We promise we‘ll listen to hours of exclusive interviews about Sid Caesar and Don Rickles.  I promise. 

And, finally, those crazy goofballs over at “Good Morning America” were just getting wacky in an effort to raise money for charity. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We‘re going to make a donation. 

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  There you go.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Oh, those nut balls.  We‘re above that here.  Our executives

and I say this as our general manager of the network—have more respect for the position. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Hey, guys, we‘re raising money for charity. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Right, yes, I‘m on the air.

ABRAMS:  Hey, Bill.  What‘s going on?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You got a $20 in there? 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  It‘s been a good day.  You want to...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m going to pass, but take it easy.  Good luck with that. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  I had them all ready to go. 

Up next, is this guy getting custody of his kids?  Did the Hoff really get the go-ahead, even after the famous burger incident caught on tape?  The hearing was today.  Robin Leach joins us next for “Hollyweird.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Tell your trainer to give you what Rocky is taking.  It‘s time for “Hollyweird.”

First up, at a hearing today, did the burger-binging “Baywatch” star really get custody of his kids, even though his daughter recorded that infamous video?  Here now, “InTouch Weekly‘s” senior editor, Kim Serafin, and Robin Leach, TV host and celebrity editor for LasVegasMagazine.com.

All right, Kim, I‘m going to put up the video here.  Did the Hoff really get custody of his kids? 

KIM SERAFIN, “INTOUCH WEEKLY”:  Well, there are different reports.  Now, TMZ is reporting he got full custody for the next two weeks until the next hearing.  Bach‘s  attorney is saying—and there are some other reports—that he only had his custody rights restored, not saying that she was stripped of her custody rights.  This is a secret, closed-door hearing, so that‘s why there‘s lots of different information trickling in.  But apparently there was some sort of a psychological evaluation of the family, and maybe living with Pamela Bach, what is being reported, is worse than living with David Hasselhoff. 

ABRAMS:  Robin, why are both sides coming out and telling different stories?  I mean, aren‘t we going to figure out in like two weeks from now where the kids are living? 

ROBIN LEACH, LASVEGASMAGAZINE.COM:  Well, I think the kids will be living with David.  One of the reasons that this thing has dragged on so long—I think seven years this couple has been fighting—is that Pamela Bach keeps on hiring new lawyers to give David more grief.  If she‘d given me that grief, I think I would have turned to alcohol and had the problems that he had.

I mean, David is a nice guy.  The infamous burger video was filmed right here in Las Vegas, while he was starring in “The Producers” at the Paris resort.  And he asked his daughter to take it, so that he knew how low he‘d sunk.  And he is very close with his two daughters.  They‘re inseparable when they‘re here together.  That does not sit well with Pamela Bach, and she‘s now used that, in a disgusting, despicable way, to force yet another wedge against him in this never-ending, always escalating divorce battle. 

So I‘m glad that he won today.  He should have won.  It should never have been taken away from him in the first place.  And I think you‘ll see that, in two weeks‘ time, he‘ll get full custody, even if his parental rights were only restored today. 

ABRAMS:  I‘ve got to move on.  I have to say, although the voice of Robin Leach is intoxicating—and it is—it is—I have to move on. 

Sylvester Stallone has remained in shockingly good shape over the years, as I said before.  I always thought it was those raw egg drinks.  The 61-year-old was found guilty today of importing an illegal hormone into Australia. 

Robin, apparently it was for his own personal use.  Is this the same stuff you‘re on? 

LEACH:  No, I‘ve never touched anything like that. 

ABRAMS:  Come on.  Now, Robin, I don‘t believe that body is natural. 

I will not believe it!

LEACH:  No, it‘s not natural, but mine is, and that‘s why I don‘t take anything.

ABRAMS:  I‘m kidding, I‘m kidding.

LEACH:  But this was another case of celebrity justice, where he got a slap on the wrist, he got off light and lucky.  I mean, he should never have taken this stuff into Australia in the first place.  Frankly, I don‘t think he should even be taking it in the first place.  But there we go, a $10,000 grand fine for this is ludicrous.

ABRAMS:  What‘s going on with Amy Fisher and Joey Buttafuoco?  Last week, the former mechanic was seen kissing Amy in a made-for-tabloid moment.  Remember, at age 17, she shot Mrs. Buttafuoco in the face.  Joey and Amy have hated each other and not spoken, then hated again, and now they‘ve been seen smooching.  But, alas, true love is fleeting.  Over the weekend, Joey apparently seen with his wife in Palm Springs, Kim?

SERAFIN:  Yes, apparently, he was cheating on Amy with his wife.  Now, this story just gets stranger by the minute.  You know, one report says that Joey and Amy are pitching a reality show together, but, you know, Joey‘s wife, who apparently also has pitched a reality show about her car repo business, says, no, no, no, no, Joey was just kissing Amy so they could make up, so he could apologize for being mean to her. 

Now, I‘m from Long Island, too.  That is not how you make up with people.  You don‘t make out with someone to make up with people.  That‘s not a Long Island custom or anything. 

ABRAMS:  All right.

SERAFIN:  So, yes, this story is going to drag on and on.  We haven‘t heard the last, unfortunately, of Joey and Amy and that saga.

ABRAMS:  According to TMZ.com, a sports memorabilia guy in California is looking to make some cash by selling the suit O.J. apparently wore when he pleaded not guilty in his murder trial.  Let me just say I was there.  If it‘s true, despicable.  O.J. owes a lot of money, ladies and gentlemen. 

So if they sell it, hopefully it goes to the right place. 

One more quickie.  British tabloids, Sir Paul McCartney and Heather Mills have buried the hatchet, they say, an extremely expensive hatchet.  Robin, real quick, what do you make of it?

LEACH:  $200 million is the alleged settlement, but that‘s a mere drop in the bucket for Sir Paul McCartney.  He‘s getting off with less than 30 percent of his fortune.  So I would think he‘s smiling, she‘s smiling, because she got $100 million more than she expected to get.  And everything is fine in the world now. 

ABRAMS:  The great Robin Leach and Kim Serafin, thanks a lot.  That‘s all the time we have for tonight.  Make sure you tune into the “Doc Block,” up next.  See you here tomorrow.

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

END   

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

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