updated 5/23/2007 9:59:31 AM ET 2007-05-23T13:59:31

Guests: Carmen Rasmusen, David Caplan, Mark Geragos, Susan Filan, Clint Van Zandt, David Caplan, Courtney Hazlett

DAN ABRAMS, GUEST HOST:  Just moments ago, the final “American Idol” competition wrapped up, and we are ready to tell you the ultimate winner and loser in a minute.

But first, the day‘s other winners and losers.  First loser, Democratic candidate John Edwards, after he learned today he charged $55,000 to speak at a publicly funded California university last year.  His topic?  Poverty.

Winner, embattled attorney general Alberto Gonzales.  The Senate postponed a no confidence vote at least a week.  Now it may never happen.  His problems still mounting, new questions still emerging, President Bush still defending him.  Don‘t be surprised if today‘s winner becomes tomorrow‘s loser.

Loser, young American Muslims.  A new poll indicates that more 25 percent of American Muslims under 30 believe suicide bombings could be justified to defend Islam.

On a lighter note, winner, Paris Hilton, apparently finding God before she begins serving time.  At least she wins for recognizing the value of getting photographed with a Bible weeks before heading into the clink.

OK, and now our winner and loser for the final “American Idol” performances that just concluded moments ago.  I have watched with some of my closest “Idol” advisers, and I am ready to say that the loser, in a very, very close decision, will be Blake Lewis, which means that Jordin Sparks will be the winner!

Before I get to our Doctor Seuss version of how we got here, joining me now to take a look at what has just happened, former “American Idol” contestant Carmen Rasmusen.  Her new single is “Nothing Like the Summer.”  And celebrity journalist and “Idol” fan David Caplan.  Thanks to both of you.  Appreciate it.

All right, Carmen, you‘ve watched it.

CARMEN RASMUSEN, FORMER “IDOL” CONTESTANT:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  We‘ve been waiting for this moment!  It‘s here.

RASMUSEN:  I know.

ABRAMS:  We saw the final performances.  What happens now?

RASMUSEN:  Yes, we did.  Well, now people vote.  And if you ask me, I have to disagree with you.  I think that more votes are going to go to Blake.  I think that he is actually going to be the winner.  I think that more young girls are going to vote for him.  I think that Jordin outsang him tonight, and if it was just based on talent, she should win the show.  She should take the “American Idol” crown.  But as we‘ve seen, it‘s based on talent.  It‘s marketability.  It‘s entertainment.  It‘s who‘s the most different, who‘s unique.  And I think it‘s going to go to Blake.

ABRAMS:  So are you saying...

RASMUSEN:  I really do.

ABRAMS:  ... that after I just watched “American Idol” in its entirety for the first time in my life that I am getting it wrong, that I just...

RASMUSEN:  You know what?

ABRAMS:  ... I just made a prediction...

RASMUSEN:  Maybe you should watch more “Idol.”

ABRAMS:  Oh!

(LAUGHTER)

ABRAMS:  David Caplan, your prediction after watching, moments ago, the final competition?

DAVID CAPLAN, CELEBRITY JOURNALIST:  I have to disagree with Carmen.  I think we‘re going to see the lady win, actually, tomorrow.  I think she did great tonight.

RASMUSEN:  Oh!

CAPLAN:  Because, you know, listen, I watched...

RASMUSEN:  She did do great.

CAPLAN:  She did great.  And you know, even Randy said she did a flawless job.  And you know, I think, you know, Ryan even said tonight there‘s going to be a battle.  So (INAUDIBLE) acknowledging that there‘s definitely a close battle. She was great.  I really liked her.

ABRAMS:  I‘ll tell you how close this was, is—you know, I don‘t have enough confidence in my own position on “American Idol” because I don‘t watch enough, but my long-time producer and friend, Megan Schaeffer (ph), who‘s become obsessed with the show, called me initially saying that she thought it was going to be Blake, and then shifted by the end of the show and changed her mind, saying that she just...

RASMUSEN:  Wow!

ABRAMS:  ... thought that—I‘m telling you!  That‘s how close it is.

CAPLAN:  This was a really close battle, but I really Jordin is it.  I have to be really vocal here about that, very pro-Jordin.

ABRAMS:  All right.  So how—all right, let me just do this.  Maybe, like me, you haven‘t been following “Idol” all season or even at all, and you‘ve been asking yourself, What‘s going on?  How can I join in the water cooler conversation in a meaningful way?  Well, here‘s a quick Dr. Seuss-like recap of the year that was.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(voice-over):  It started with thousands, many dressed to the nines.  For hours they waited in never-ending lines, begging and pleading for a chance at fleeting fame.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I‘ll do whatever it takes.  Please!  Give me something else!  Please!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Give me a chance.

ABRAMS:  An opportunity to be told in front of millions you‘re lame.

SIMON COWELL, “AMERICAN IDOL”:  You were absolutely useless during that audition.

Not a note is in tune.

ABRAMS:  Many tried and tried but failed to get through.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Boy (ph), you start to blow and I think you‘re headed for a breakdown!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Need experience.

ABRAMS:  One captured the nation, obsessed with his do.

SANJAYA MALAKAR, “IDOL“ CONTESTANT:  My name is Sanjaya.  I‘m 17.

ABRAMS:  It was on to Hollywood for the cream of the crop, as “Idol‘s” detractors aimed to make the season a flop.  With eliminations came scandal and more than one naughty (INAUDIBLE)  The judges played their part with familiar old shtick.

RYAN SEACREST, “AMERICAN IDOL”:  Simon, any advice on the high heels?

COWELL:  You should know, Ryan~!

SEACREST:  Stay out of my closet!

COWELL:  Come out!

ABRAMS:  Not Paula‘s odd behavior, nor Simon‘s dismissive eyes...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Virginia Tech.  I have a lot of friends over there, and I just—be strong.

COWELL:  Yes.  Well said.  Absolutely.

ABRAMS:  ... could stop the “Idol” train and his meteoric rise.  He drove children to tears and judges to drink.

COWELL:  I‘m going to try a different tactic this week.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes?  What are you going to say?

COWELL:  Incredible.

ABRAMS:  But his 15 minutes were over before (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Sanjaya, you are going home tonight.

ABRAMS:  The stars came out as “Idol” gave back.  From Elvis to Ellen and even (INAUDIBLE) thousands became 10, then 10 became 4 as another “Idol” hopeful was shown to the door.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That means we lose Letitia (ph) tonight!

ABRAMS:  With only three left, we sat back in our rockers to witness this season‘s biggest “Idol” shocker.

COWELL:  America has decided that this is the end of the road for you tonight on “American Idol.”

ABRAMS:  Now it‘s down to the end, two left for the title, hoping to be crowned the “American Idol.”

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  All right, Carmen, so I got to ask you, it seems that when a lot of these people lose, they smile.

RASMUSEN:  Yes.  Yes.

ABRAMS:  Are you—are you told, Hey, when you lose, smile?

RASMUSEN:  No, but I guess they‘re trying so hard not to cry that it‘s just the first thing that comes to them, instead of being, like, David, I hate “American Idol” and breaking down and bawling, you know, which a lot of people did in the dress rehearsals, just joking around.  You smile, you know?  It was an awesome opportunity.  You have to thank everyone for—you know, all the producers and the judges for, you know, being on the show and having the great exposure.  And so it‘s an awesome experience, but I think it‘s a little overwhelming.  They don‘t really realize what‘s happened until they‘re off the show and they don‘t come back the next week.  It‘s really surreal.

ABRAMS:  David, they had people actually write songs for this last episode.  And you know, again, the “Idol” watchers are saying that it may not have been fair because Jordin got a better song than did Blake.

CAPLAN:  Yes, I mean, there‘s controversy around the song-writing contest because they‘re actually keeping it secret, first of all, who wrote the songs because they don‘t even want to give any indication of the type of person or the background so we‘ll have an idea of what type of song it‘d be or maybe whether it‘s better suited for a guy or a girl.  So a lot of people—you know, there‘s word out there that actually it‘s written by a guy, so people think that Blake is going to have an easier time with it.  But I don‘t think that‘s really going to make a difference.  I think, you know, Jordin can own that song, regardless.

ABRAMS:  All right.  So this just happened, again, moments ago.  Last week, they both went at it, and here‘s part of Blake‘s performance from last week.

(VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  All right, let‘s listen to a little bit of Jordin now from last week.

(VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  All right, so you got Blake, who does a lot of the—you know, that seems to be his—sort of his thing, right?  And she‘s—and she‘s sort of the better singer, right?  I mean, Carmen, is that idea here?

RASMUSEN:  Yes.  Yes.  Right there, you showed both of their strengths.  Blake‘s strength is entertaining.  He really plays to the audience well.  And Jordin‘s strength is obviously her vocal ability.  She sings the songs so well, has such emotion when she sings the songs.  So I think people are going to be really torn, you know, whether to vote for someone who‘s an awesome singer or vote for someone who‘s a great entertainer, who‘ll they want to go see in concert.

And as David said, I think if it‘s based on talent alone, Jordin should win.  But I think it‘s going to be more on marketability and entertainment, and I think that a lot of young girls are in love with Blake and they‘re going to vote for him.

ABRAMS:  All right, David, I‘m going to ask you a question which will be considered sacrilege in certain communities, all right?  And I preface it with that, OK?  Does it matter who wins?  And I don‘t mean it in a sort of moral sense, I mean it in a financial sense.  In terms of making the big bucks, does it matter between them who wins?

CAPLAN:  No, it doesn‘t.  Absolutely not.

ABRAMS:  Why not?

CAPLAN:  It really doesn‘t because we‘ve seen before in the past that even if—not always the finalists of the show, you know, the winner of the actual show, is necessarily the most popular or ends up reaping the most money for, you know, a record label.

ABRAMS:  So does that mean that this thing can kind of be rigged?

CAPLAN:  No, it doesn‘t have to be rigged.  But I mean, someone who‘s a semifinalist who didn‘t win the big, big prize of the show can go on and record an album.  We‘ve seen that before.  They have a huge fan base, sell albums, outside even an “American Idol” sort of back (ph) label.

ABRAMS:  One of the more, I don‘t know, sort of bizarre, some might call it amusing moments, occurred when Paula Abdul at the beginning of the show had to explain that she had broken her nose, and I think she said by taking a nasty fall, she told “Extra,” trying not to hurt her dog.  She tore cartilage.  She bruised her arm, her chest, her waist, all the way down her hip.

Now, I have heard of this happening all from my little chubby Tulip (ph) -- I‘m sorry, I didn‘t want to leave that part out.  But you know, and I‘ve heard of people seriously getting hurt trying to avoid stepping on their dogs, et cetera.  But you know, it does seem that she is so bizarre, and there she is, sitting there in the finale, just having broken her nose, right?

CAPLAN:  It‘s a little suspect here, you know, that this happens, of course, at the season finale.

ABRAMS:  You don‘t by it?

CAPLAN:  I don‘t know.  I don‘t buy it.  I mean, I think maybe it was an accident, but I think the second that “American Idol” producers got wind of it—it‘s a great way to really get more viewers for the show.  Today, when news broke about her alleged fall—which, listen, a lot of people had raised eyebrows over this because Paula has a past of being inebriated, so (INAUDIBLE) she doing.  But I think when the story broke today, word spread that, Oh, yes, tomorrow, Wednesday night, is the season finale.  You get so much more interest in the show.  I‘m sure they were very happy with all the publicity that followed from her fall.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Just remember that I predicted that it would be Jordin.  My prediction absolutely meaningless, but I say it nonetheless.

(LAUGHTER)

ABRAMS:  Carmen and David, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it.  Yours matter a lot more than mine on this one.

Up next: It takes identity thieves just a matter of seconds to steal personal information.  Now the same team that has been going after sexual predators goes undercover to expose these elusive con artists.  We‘ll break out the wheel of sin and see what makes these criminals tick.

And later: A young wife goes missing under very mysterious circumstances, her husband thrust in the spotlight amid a media circus.  You can‘t help think of the last time a missing wife got so much attention.  So are there really similarities between the Laci Peterson case and the search for Lisa Stebic?

And later: Rush Limbaugh fights back, going after our coverage of his controversial song parody on Barack Obama and taking a few potshots at yours truly.  But did he get the facts right?  We‘ll show you the tape in “Beat the Press.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  As the saying goes, to get on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, you need to commit one of the seven deadly sins.  So which one makes the cut tonight?  Tonight‘s subject, greed, courtesy of thieves trying to get rich fast by stealing your hard-earned money.  It‘s one of the fastest crime news America, almost 10 million victims last year alone.  In “DATELINE” latest investigation, they team up with an Internet security expert, set up fake identities, then wait to see how fast the thieves bite.  As you‘re about to see, it only takes a matter of seconds.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRIS HANSEN, “DATELINE” (voice-over):  To catch an identity thief, we‘ll need some bait.  So we get a major credit card issuer to cooperate.  We make up some names, and they give us real cards under those fake names.  The next step, asking Dan Clements to back into the Internet underground, pretending to be a thief who stole our credit cards and is about to put them into the thieves‘ market.

DAN CLEMENTS, CARD COPS:  I‘m going to put it in here to 300 or 400 hackers in real time...

HANSEN:  Dan Clements and I are watching at the Card Cops office in California.

(on camera):  You ready?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Ready.

HANSEN (voice-over):  Halfway across the country, a fraud investigator for the credit card company is standing by.  Her computer will tell her every time our bait cards are used to make a fraudulent purchase.  We even have a stopwatch to measure the time second by second.  Clements tell us this is something that‘s never been done before.

CLEMENTS:  It‘s kind of like throwing tuna to the sharks.  We‘ll see what happens.

(LAUGHTER)

HANSEN (on camera):  All right, let‘s do it.

(voice-over):  We test the waters, as Clements, pretending to be a thief, offers to sell some of our bait cards.

(on camera):  I‘m going to hit the stopwatch, and we‘re going to see how long it takes before somebody hits on it.

(voice-over):  The response is almost instantaneous.

CLEMENTS:  We got somebody saying, Hey, bro.

HANSEN (on camera):  Twelve seconds.

(voice-over):  At first, the thieves appear to be feeling us out to see if we‘re for real.

CLEMENTS:  Oh, we have another one.  Nitro81 just said, Howdy.

HANSEN (on camera):  Twenty-six seconds.

(voice-over):  But it doesn‘t take long for the thieves to take the bait and start making purchases with our cards.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  They‘re hitting it.

HANSEN:  At the credit card monitoring center, the fraudulent charges are beginning to roll in.  At first, they‘re small charges to make sure the card works.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  They checked it for a dollar.

HANSEN (on camera):  For a dollar?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes.

HANSEN:  So they‘re just probing to see if it‘ll work.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Right.

HANSEN (voice-over):  They even make a small donation to the Red Cross to test the card.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Eleven dollars, American Red Cross donation site.

HANSEN:  Once they‘re sure the card works, the thieves start making bigger purchases by the minute.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  There‘s been one authorization for $306.28.

HANSEN (on camera):  Wow.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  They‘ve also hit it for $99.95.

HANSEN:  So it‘s a thousand-dollar credit line, and they‘ve already eaten half of it up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes.

HANSEN (voice-over):  Remember, we‘re watching Internet thieves at work in real time.  Imagine it‘s your card they‘re using, buying from all kinds of stores.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Another one just came in for $79.80 at Evertech Solutions.  So there‘s two from there.

CLEMENTS:  And how much time has gone by, Chris?

HANSEN (on camera):  Less than 10 minutes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Another charge just came in for $237.50 from Myfamily/Ancestries in Utah.

HANSEN:  Just under 11 minutes.

CLEMENTS:  Yes, they use the ancestry sites a lot of times to drill down for more personal information on consumers.

HANSEN:  Yes, mother‘s maiden name.

CLEMENTS:  Mother‘s maiden name.  To facility their crimes even further.

HANSEN:  So to continue the fraud.

CLEMENTS:  Absolutely.  Yes.

HANSEN:  Fascinating.

CLEMENTS:  It‘s a business.

HANSEN (voice-over):  The illegal charges could go on forever, but our card has a thousand-dollar limit.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  OK, they just got declined for over limit.

HANSEN (on camera):  Declined for over the limit.  And that‘s less than 13 minutes.

(voice-over):  But if you thought that was fast, you haven‘t seen anything yet.

CLEMENTS:  Oscar just went in right now.

HANSEN:  Another of our bait cards carried the fake name Oscar Ernesto, with an address in Washington, D.C., but in no time at all, it‘s used a continent away.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  OK, we have a hit on Ernesto for $723.74.

CLEMENTS:  Wow.

HANSEN (on camera):  One minute, three seconds.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  In Chile.

HANSEN:  In Chile?

CLEMENTS:  Wow.

HANSEN:  Do we know what they bought?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It says pet shop, food and supplies.

CLEMENTS:  That‘s a lot of pet food.

HANSEN:  It‘s a well-fed dog in Chile.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  They‘ve also hit it two more times.

HANSEN:  It‘s a minute, 40 seconds.  And what‘s the total up to now?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Almost $800.

HANSEN:  So the card is almost maxed out, and we‘re barely two minutes into it.

(voice-over):  And as we follow our bait cards, Chile‘s not the half of it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Islamabad.

HANSEN (on camera):  Islamabad?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  For $151.

HANSEN:  In Pakistan?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes.  So we‘ve seen France, Pakistan, China.

HANSEN (voice-over):  Our cards are being used to make illegal purchases all over the world within minutes of being stolen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Here‘s one we haven‘t seen.  Singapore.

HANSEN (on camera):  Singapore?  That‘s a first.

(voice-over):  This part of our investigation lasts less than two days, but the illegal charges are astonishing: flowers in Latin America, cell phones in Canada, airline tickets in Asia.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Sixteen different countries over the two days.

HANSEN (on camera):  So over the two days we did this, we had purchases in 16 different countries?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Every continent except for Antarctica, basically.

HANSEN:  The level of activity is stunning.  I mean, I can‘t get over it.

CLEMENTS:  Identity theft, hitting Americans from foreign soil, is big business.

HANSEN (voice-over):  Just how big?   Experts estimate that identity theft costs Americans nearly $5 billion dollars a year.  And in most cases, the thieves get away with it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  Must be a nice relief for Chris Hansen to get to do an undercover investigation and not have to confront disgusting sexual predators eating cookies.

Tonight at 10:00 PM Eastern, you can catch the two-hour “To Catch an ID Thief” special right here on MSNBC in the “Doc Block.”

Coming up: The husband of a missing mother files for custody of their two children well before she‘s found.  She‘s only been missing three weeks.  Is that one of the reasons he‘s a possible suspect?  The search for Lisa Stebic sure seems to bear some eerie similarities to the Laci Peterson case.  That‘s coming up.

And Jay Leno puts President Bush to the test in “Celebrity Jeopardy” -

sort of.  “Must See S.C.” is up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  It‘s time for tonight‘s “Must See S.C.,” video you have to see.  First up, as a presidential candidate, John McCain is facing some pretty tough questions from the media.  But now it looks like he‘s taking a different approach to interviewing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Now, are there problems with sectarian violence?  Of course there is.

Are al Qaeda being shoved out of Baghdad into areas outside of Baghdad?  Yes.

Do we have to explain some more?  Yes.

Does the Maliki government have to act more effectively, more inclusively?  Absolutely, they do.

(INAUDIBLE) we can operate independently on their own.  We have a ways to go.  Is it a tough issue in America?  Yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  And President Bush, or at least a guy who looks a lot like him, joins Jay Leno in a recent “Celebrity Jeopardy” and proudly represents his Ivy League education.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY LENO, HOST, “TONIGHT SHOW”:  The answer is “belts and shoelaces.”

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  President Bush?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What are two things I can‘t fasten by myself?

LENO:  That is correct!  That is correct!  Mr. President, pick a category.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Potpourri for 100.

LENO:  The answer is “collagen.”

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  President Bush?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What I spent four years doing at Yale.  I was collegin‘.

LENO:  That is correct, Mr. President!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Love Paris Hilton there.  Coming up: Rush Limbaugh reacts to our story about his so-called parody of Barack Obama and Al Sharpton.  And I don‘t know how else to say it, but he didn‘t get what I said right.  That‘s ahead in “Beat the Press.”

And a young mother goes missing.  Now her husband is trying to get sole custody of their kids, this after she‘s been missing for three weeks.  So why is this case drawing comparisons to Laci Peterson?  That‘s up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, a missing wife, a husband who may or may not be a suspect, the search for Lisa Stebic may sound a little like the Laci Peterson case.  That‘s next.

First, the latest headlines from MSNBC world headquarters.

(NEWSBREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, two words you may not want to hear in the same sentence:  Rosie and sex.  Another grossly uncomfortable moment on “The View.”  Rosie revealing what kinds of sounds she may make during sex in tonight‘s “Beat the Press,” coming up next.  Or you may want to just change the channel. 

But, first, a young mother of two supposedly goes for a jog on April 30th in an upscale Chicago suburb then is never heard from again.  Today, her husband lost his bid to win sole custody of the couple‘s two children.  But why was he rushing to get to court to get custody while police are still searching for his wife?

Lisa Stebic and her husband are apparently in the middle of one of these War of the Roses-type divorces, still living under the same roof at the time of her disappearance.  We also—you can‘t help by think of the last time a missing wife got so much attention. 

In 2002, Laci Peterson went missing from her California home.  The case quickly led to her husband, Scott Peterson.  He was later found guilty of his wife and unborn son‘s murder.  The question, is it fair to compare the two cases?

Here now, famed attorney Mark Geragos, whose list of high-profile clients includes Scott Peterson.  Mark, good to see you again.

MARK GERAGOS, ATTORNEY:  Good to see you, Dan.

ABRAMS:  MSNBC legal analyst Susan Filan.  And Clint van Zandt, former FBI profiler and MSNBC analyst.

All right, Clint, you wrote a really interesting memo to us about this case.  Lay out why you think the police may be looking at the husband in connection with her disappearance. 

CLINT VAN ZANDT, FORMER FBI PROFILER:  Yes, and as you know in my memo, he is one of the people they have to look at.  There‘s always going to be a parallel investigation.  You always look at the spouse‘s significant other until you can rule them in or rule them out, and at the same time you look at everybody else who might have done it.  But let‘s look at the husband right now. 

You know, number one, he is the husband.  That‘s the first place you go.  Statistically, you know, with murders, with missing people, many times it‘s the wife, it‘s the significant other.  He was the last person to see her when she went missing.  We have an 18-hour gap from the time he saw her until the time he happened to call a neighbor the next morning and say, “Have you seen my wife?”  And it was the neighbor who called the police, not even the husband. 

They had ongoing financial problems, and, Dan, this guy is quick to file a proceeding trying to get custody of the kids.  You know, I would think there would be other things in his mind right now, like trying to find the mother of his children.  Whether they love, honor and obey each other or not, she‘s still the mother of those children, and that‘s where his attention ought to be. 

ABRAMS:  Now, Mark, I know you were very critical of the media coverage in the Peterson case.  Do you think it‘s fair to start asking these sorts of questions now? 

GERAGOS:  No, I don‘t think it‘s fair.  Does that surprise you?  The problem with asking those kinds of questions and getting into it is that you—I think that there‘s kind of a symbiotic relationship between the media and the police. 

And if there is a lot of pressure to kind of point your attention or direct your attention to one particular person because it‘s the spouse, then I think that, at a certain point, the police tend to go and vary their attention and direct their attention directly at the person and a lot of times overlook the other leads that are legitimate. 

ABRAMS:  But, Mark, what you jus heard Clint talk about is, he started with he‘s the spouse, and then he went into a whole list of other things that have happened that sure start to make it sound kind of fishy. 

GERAGOS:  Well, except, Dan, if you‘re going to spend all your time debunking that, as opposed to looking and seeing whether or not there is real evidence, as opposed to—you know, what it does is, when you start with the spouse, you look at motive first.  And you‘re looking at motive first and working backwards.  As opposed to where you‘re finding a suspect and then trying to build the case around them. 

You should be looking at the evidence and seeing where the evidence takes you.  The idea that somehow we should be looking for his wife when they‘re amidst, by all accounts, an acrimonious divorce and, as you characterized it, a War of the Roses, I don‘t think it‘s surprising or unusual in the least that this person is worried about custody of the kids.  Who knows if the maternal grandparents are in there and looking to get custody or something else?  I don‘t know what it is.  I don‘t think anybody else knows what the motivations are. 

But the fact remains, if you focus too much on the husband, you may end up missing who really did this or missing where the evidence draws you. 

ABRAMS:  All right, Susan Filan, in Clint‘s memo, he says that, all right, how else could someone be responsible?  She may have run away.  Could have been a random kidnapping.  She may have been the victim of a stalker, random act of violence.  She may have had an accident and she was yet to be found.  These are the exact same possibilities that we heard in the Peterson case.

SUSAN FILAN, FORMER CONNECTICUT PROSECUTOR:  He also said in his memo she could have been abducted by aliens, as well.  And he‘s right on track with that.  I mean, this is just nonsense. 

And for Mark Geragos to say that law enforcement‘s investigation is directed by the media is preposterous.  There has never been a case, when I was a prosecutor, that we investigated because the press told us to or led us in that direction.  That‘s naive. 

GERAGOS:  Oh, give me a break.  Look at the Duke lacrosse case.  Look at the Duke lacrosse case.  That was completely dictated by the media.  Those guys, the media and the prosecutor in that case—the media stomped all over the prosecutor in that case, and he filed that because of the media...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Wait, wait, wait, Mark, the media was one of the reasons that the Duke lacrosse finally came out right. 

(CROSSTALK)

GERAGOS:  The media, after those kids were put through the ringer, the media turned around...

ABRAMS:  Not on this show.  Not with me.  Not with me.

FILAN:  The media was the hero.  The media was the hero.

GERAGOS:  Dan, it was one of the reasons you aren‘t on the air anymore.

(CROSSTALK)

FILAN:  The media was the hero in the Duke lacrosse case.  So let‘s not talk Duke.  Let‘s talk Lisa Stebic.  Let‘s talk about...

(CROSSTALK)

GERAGOS:  You said there‘s never been another case, and I‘m giving you an example of another case.  That‘s an example.

FILAN:  I am telling you that, in this case, it is not realistic to think that, because the media is reporting that the husband is most likely the most viable suspect, that‘s what‘s going to drive law enforcement‘s investigation.  I think that‘s just preposterous. 

(CROSSTALK)

GERAGOS:  And I‘ll tell you there‘s no Easter Bunny. 

ABRAMS:  Clint, it is very insulting, is it not, to law enforcement to suggest that, oh, they don‘t know what they‘re doing, but when the media starts telling them, “Hey, look at the facts in this case, look at the fact that they were having this acrimonious relationship.  Look what her friends are saying about the relationship,” and they say, “Oh, my goodness, the media is right.  Maybe we should be looking at the possibility of the husband here.” 

VAN ZANDT:  They never would have had the idea if some reporter hadn‘t rolled it out.  That‘s what Mark is saying.  And the reality is, having been an FBI agent for 25 years, you really don‘t care what media says.  The media can speculate, but law enforcement‘s job is to investigate. 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Mark, let Clint finish.

(CROSSTALK)

VAN ZANDT:  ... but just don‘t get in the way of the investigation.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Go ahead, Mark. 

GERAGOS:  It‘s just absurd.  Cliff, I have the utmost respect for...

ABRAMS:  Clint.

GERAGOS:  ... the idea that somehow they don‘t—well, I‘ll work on the name, just like you need to work on this idea that the media doesn‘t influence law enforcement. 

(CROSSTALK)

VAN ZANDT:  The media doesn‘t dictate this investigation, Mark.  You know better than that.

GERAGOS:  The media has an undue influence on law enforcement.  You know it as well as I do. 

VAN ZANDT:  That‘s a nice way to defend his guy were he to be your client.  But otherwise...

(CROSSTALK)

VAN ZANDT:  ... and investigate, and that‘s just what they‘re doing, Mark.  They‘re investigating...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Hang on.  Susan Filan...

(CROSSTALK)

VAN ZANDT:  ... how are you going to start an investigation?

ABRAMS:  Susan?

FILAN:  Can we not make the media the focus of his debate?  The media is not the bogeyman here.  We have a missing woman...

GERAGOS:  Why?

FILAN:  ... who significantly said, to family and friends, “If I ever disappear, look at my husband.”  She talked about being a victim of domestic violence. 

ABRAMS:  Like O.J. did.  Like Nicole Brown.

FILAN:  I wish we could talk about these people while they‘re still alive.  God help us, we only talk about them when their spouses have gone one step too far.  I understand he hasn‘t been charged yet.  I understand he‘s innocent until proven guilty, but I‘m looking hard at his man.  She went missing.  Her credit cards haven‘t been used.  Her cell phone hasn‘t been used.  She wouldn‘t have left her children.  And for him to go now and try to get sole custody to me is a really cheap trick, as if to say, “Look, I know she‘s alive.  Therefore, I didn‘t kill her, because I‘m afraid she‘s going to come back and try to get”...

(CROSSTALK)

GERAGOS:  It‘s hard to believe that you would sit here with this gang bang on this guy, based on he didn‘t act right.  It‘s all “he didn‘t act right” evidence.  And you say you‘ve got a presumption of innocence?  Where is the presumption of innocence? 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Clint van Zandt, what evidence are they going to need to find?  I mean, look, it all looks bad.  It feels bad.

VAN ZANDT:  Sure.

ABRAMS:  That‘s not enough. 

VAN ZANDT:  No, not at all.

ABRAMS:  What evidence are they going to need to find that, as far as you know that they‘re looking at, that would lead them to charge? 

VAN ZANDT:  All right.  First of all, justice is supposed to be blind but not stupid.  You know, you have to look at what‘s going on in this case.  All of the things that you said originally, Dan, and now there are reports that blood was found in his truck.  Whether it‘s deer blood or rabbit blood, as he suggests, or whether it‘s his wife‘s blood that was a basis of a search warrant to go into that house, that‘s some place to start with.

But, first of all, we don‘t know if a crime was committed.  We only know that a woman is missing right now.  So, first of all, we‘ve got to show a crime was committed, and then show the husband had anything whatsoever to do with it.  But you‘re not going to do that...

GERAGOS:  We don‘t know that a crime was committed, but it doesn‘t stop us from speculating that he‘s guilty?

(CROSSTALK)

GERAGOS:  It doesn‘t stop us from speculating or anything else.  It doesn‘t stop us from completely convicting this guy...

(CROSSTALK)

FILAN:  From an investigative point of view, you have to find out, where is this woman?  And at this point, with the length of time, not contacting her children, cell phone not being used, credit cards not being used, you have to start thinking foul play.  And when you have to start thinking foul play, you have to start looking at this man as a suspect. 

Now, listen to what he says about the blood in his van.  “Well, I‘m a hunter.”  They say, “Well, what were you hunting?”  He says, “Deer.”  Well, deer hunting season ended in January.  Well, actually I was hunting rabbit.

ABRAMS:  Sounds like Scott Peterson‘s defense.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  I know, he didn‘t remember what he was...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  But regardless, Mark...

GERAGOS:  Don‘t bother with the facts.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  So, hey...

(CROSSTALK)

GERAGOS:  Yes, Dan?

ABRAMS:  It‘s good to see you.

GERAGOS:  It‘s good to be back with you, Dan.

(CROSSTALK)

GERAGOS:  Character assassination, you have not lost the...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Yes, yes, yes, and you blindly defending anyone who may be...

GERAGOS:  I am blindly defending the right to a presumption of innocence, Dan.

ABRAMS:  When you went on Larry King, and you went after Peterson, and then he hired you, and you got stuck with your old words, you‘re not going to do that again. 

GERAGOS:  I know, Dan, for character assassination is your emblem, so I understand that.

ABRAMS:  I love you.

GERAGOS:  I love Dan.

ABRAMS:  Good to see you, Mark.  Susan Filan and Clint van Zandt.

Coming up, something kind of stinks at “Nightline.”  The show, one of the most respected names in journalism, is now running stories about diaper-free potty training.  “Beat the Press” is next. 

And later in “Hollyweird,” you heard about people finding religion behind bars.  Paris Hilton is trying to find God before she goes to the slammer.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  It‘s back.  Time for tonight‘s “Beat the Press.” 

We begin tonight with a clip from “Nightline‘s” “Sign of the Times” segment.  The Emmy award-winning program that was borne out of the Iran hostage crisis and turned Ted Koppel into a journalism icon now brings you this. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JESSICA YELLIN, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  It‘s the latest trend in child-rearing, raising your baby diaper-free.  Instead of putting diapers on their children, these mothers naturally sense when their little ones have to go, and they react accordingly.  Or they try to.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  See, we don‘t catch them all.

YELLIN:  These women are part of an infant potty-training support group in New Paltz, New York.  The best part?  They say they get in tune with their kids, which matters to these parents a lot more than what the neighbors will say. 

Jessica Yellin for “Nightline” in New Paltz, New York.

(END VIDEO CLIP)  

ABRAMS:  Did you see Terry‘s face there?  I‘ve loved Terry since our days at Court TV together.  I like him even more now.

Next up, a selection from the show that just keeps on giving, “The View.”  Before we show you this, a warning:  What you‘re about to see may disturb or even shock you.  You may want to have your children leave the room. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Do you talk during sex a lot?  I mean, come on.

ELISABETH HASSELBECK, “VIEW” CO-HOST:  No, I‘m not that gabby.

(CROSSTALK)

ROSIE O‘DONNELL, HOST, “THE VIEW”:  Well, yes, I talk, but not about politics. 

(CROSSTALK)

O‘DONNELL:  That‘s right.  Right at the very end, it‘s like, “Oh, honey, honey, honey, impeach!”  You know, that‘s how it happens for me.

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

ABRAMS:  And finally, Rush Limbaugh slammed me on his radio show today after a segment we did last night on whether Rush was getting a free pass for his racially charged “Magic Negro” parody about Barack Obama, in what is supposed to be the fake voice of Al Sharpton.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO HOST:  They don‘t listen to this program.  Dan Abrams didn‘t listen to this program about—he doesn‘t know what happened here.  They didn‘t even understand that the parody is about Al Sharpton.  They didn‘t even understand it‘s a riff on Sharpton.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  All right, Rush, you want to criticize?  Go for it.  Let‘s get the facts straight.  You say I didn‘t understand what you were claiming.  Let‘s go to the tape.  This is what I said last night. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  He‘s saying, this is a parody of Al Sharpton, not of Barack Obama. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  I think I got it. 

Still to come, is Oprah about to be dragged through the mud by her own father?  Coming up in “Hollyweird,” it‘s family turning on family.  We‘ve also got some other good legal stories from Hollywood, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  It‘s time for “Hollyweird.”

First up, is Mel Gibson the victim in his infamous drunk driving arrest?  A California assemblywoman says Gibson was unfairly harmed because TMZ, a Web site, may have bribed someone, she says, to get the critical pages of Gibson‘s arrest report detailing his anti-Semitic tirade.  Will this change anything? 

Let‘s check in with our guests.  Here now, celebrity journalist David Caplan, “OK” magazine senior reporter Courtney Hazlett.

Courtney, what is this assemblywoman doing getting involved, defending, effectively, Mel Gibson, after what we know was an awful tirade? 

COURTNEY HAZLETT, “OK” MAGAZINE:  This is a really dubious position for her to be taking, to tell you the truth.  What she‘s saying here—well, first of all, she‘s trying to get this bill passed that would prohibit the exchange of money or any sort of compensation when it involves some sort of criminal investigation.  She‘s saying that TMZ paid someone or exchanged some sort of compensation for having the police report where Mel Gibson is quoted with all those racist remarks passed along to them.  Because, if you recall, the very first police report was that the arrest went off without any sort of incident. 

ABRAMS:  Right, right.  So you mean she‘s upset that the truth came out? 

HAZLETT:  She‘s very upset that the truth came out, that‘s right.  TMZ is saying, “Hey, we didn‘t pay them for this.  We didn‘t exchange any sort of deal.  You‘re completely off your rocker.  Yes, it‘s a good bill to pass, but don‘t cite the Mel Gibson case as your grounds for doing it.” 

ABRAMS:  All right, now to O.J.‘s latest “suit,” quote, unquote.  The controversy over the suit he supposedly wore when he heard he was pronounced not guilty.  I was in the courtroom.  TMZ is reporting that the L.A. judge has told the Goldman family they will not be able to collect the money from the sale of the suit because there‘s no proof it‘s the real O.J.  not guilty suit. 

But, David, someone is still going to bid for this?

DAVID CAPLAN, “STAR” MAGAZINE:  Yes, I mean, even though it‘s murky if O.J. really wore the suit, people are still very interested in buying it.  And this may not be over yet.  In fact, there was a report saying that O.J.  cut himself shaving the day he wore that suit and that, if they do DNA testing, they can prove whether or not it‘s his suit.  So they may be a very rich person.

ABRAMS:  But, generally, I don‘t believe any of the—oh, there may be evidence, this and that on the suit.  So, apart from that, what, is someone going to walk around and go, “Hey, you like my threads?  Guess what?  This is the suit that O.J. wore”?

I don‘t know.  Next up, Paris Hilton looks like she found God just in time for her stint in the slammer.  Courtney, there‘s a picture of Paris holding a Bible and another spiritual book only weeks before she heads to the slammer.  There it is.

HAZLETT:  That is right, a little too little, too late...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Look at her turning it.  Look at her turning it.  Look at her turning the titles to the camera.

HAZLETT:  Exactly.  The book is in like a perfect pose...

(CROSSTALK)

HAZLETT:  It‘s absolutely ridiculous.  Nobody is buying this.  People want Paris to go to prison and learn a lesson.  They don‘t want her doing this sort of stunt leading up to it.  She‘d really be best off if she just stayed in her house, showed up for prison when she‘s supposed to, and be very quiet about it. 

ABRAMS:  Yes, I‘m sure she sort of took that out of the drawer of the hotel, you know, on her way out the door. 

Attention filmmakers looking for funding.  You may be able to head to Venezuela and talk to Hugo Chavez.  This is a report, I don‘t know.  Actor Danny Glover receiving $18 million from the Venezuelan government to create a film about a slave uprising in Haiti.  David, do you believe this? 

CAPLAN:  Yes, I mean, it‘s true.  He can offer him the money.  I don‘t think we‘ll ever see the project that will come to fruition, honestly.  You know, I think Danny Glover would get too much backlash here in the U.S., but that‘s what Chavez is offering, $18 million to tell this story, because he thinks it will clear up peoples‘ notions of how good imperialism and colonialism really are.  He wants Danny Glover to show the real story. 

ABRAMS:  There they are together.  I don‘t know, maybe...

CAPLAN:  Match made in Heaven.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Don‘t look for this one on Oprah‘s book club.  Her dad is apparently writing a tell-all book about her.  She apparently didn‘t know about it.  As you can imagine, she is not happy about it.  So, Courtney, is this a father-daughter who don‘t have a great relationship? 

HAZLETT:  Well, let‘s put it this way.  I don‘t think we‘re going to find Oprah‘s dad on her list of favorite things next year.  She‘s not only upset that the book is being written, but she‘s upset she had to find out about it via “The Daily News.”  She actually read a report that her father, Vernon, is writing this book.  She‘s not happy.  But she said, “You know what?  He‘s going to do what he‘s going to do.  I‘ve clearly done all right so far.  So, Dad, if you‘re going to write your book, write it.  But let the record reflect I do not approve.” 

ABRAMS:  Yes, all right.  All right, Courtney and David, thanks a lot. 

Appreciate it. 

All right, we‘ve got coming up on the program, on MSNBC, in the “Doc Block” here, we have got the I.D. theft that we did earlier in the program, “To Catch an Identity Theft.”  Chris Hansen takes on the crime.  Remember, it‘s the sexual predators.  He‘s also doing I.D. theft and crooks who are almost impossible to find.  It‘s really a fascinating hour, two hours.  So make sure you stick around, and check it out, and let‘s listen to a little clip. 

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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