updated 1/24/2008 12:20:08 PM ET 2008-01-24T17:20:08

Guests: Catherine Crier, Peter Beinart, Courtney Hazlett, Dana Spitz; Julie Allison

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  When lawyers attack: Clinton and Obama using some lawyerly tricks to score points and twist words.  But as Obama returns fire is he now fighting in Hillary‘s political courtroom?

And: A new study is keeping score of the biggest false statements by the Bush White House in the run up to the Iraq war - 935 falsities.  But if President Bush is the decider, who was the biggest deceiver?

Plus: Scores of fans pay tribute to Heath Ledger.  We have breaking details about the investigation as this as some on the fringe right try to link his death to his role as a gay cowboy in “Brokeback Mountain.”  Unbelievable.

But first: Clinton to Obama—round - I don‘t know, 23 or so.  Clinton is continuing to pummel Obama today.  Scurrying and (INAUDIBLE) taking out of context comments that Obama made about the Republican ideas.  The latest attack coming in a new radio ad running in South Carolina.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER:  Listen to Barack Obama last week talking about Republicans.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Republicans were the party of ideas for a pretty long chunk of time there over the last 10 to 15 years.

ANNOUNCER:  Really?  Aren‘t those the ideas that got us into the economic mess we‘re in today?  Ideas like special tax rates for Wall Street, running up a $9 trillion debt, refusing to raise the minimum wage or deal with the housing crisis.  Are those the ideas Barack Obama is talking about?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  That ad cuts out that Obama said Republicans were the party of ideas quote, “In it they were challenging conventional wisdom.”  It was political analysis were clear to (stain) for those Republican ideals but this is politics, not a court of law.

Today: Obama‘s camp is taking a much more aggressive position returning fire on Clinton‘s vote for Republican issues like NASA (ph) and war on Iraq and of course, that means taking on both Clintons.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  Folks will twist your words around, try to pretend you said something you didn‘t say, trying to pretend you didn‘t say stuff you did.  We‘ve got to have straight talking folks who will tell you the truth and be honest with you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Now: Both Obama and Clinton are taking certain facts and trying to make them look as bad as possible for their opponents.  Some call it politics, I call it lawyering.

And when it comes to their other shared profession, the law, both now are trying to use it against each other.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  While I was working on those streets, watching those folks see their jobs shift overseas you were a corporate lawyer sitting on the board of Wal-mart.  I was fighting these fights.  I was fighting these fights.  So, but I want to be clear.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I was fighting against those ideas when you were practicing the law and representing your contributor, Resco, his slum landlord business in inner city Chicago.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  As a lawyer, I‘ve got two big questions.  First: Why would Clinton want to bring up legal backgrounds and therefore, lead many to ask about what was going on when she was a corporate lawyer in Arkansas at the Rose law firm?  And second: Isn‘t Obama giving Clinton the home field advantage by getting into the mud.  She was long known as a hard nose confrontational lawyer while Obama recalled doing quote, “More cerebral writing, less trial work” during his days at a Chicago law firm.  Joining me now, Catherine Crier, the former judge and author.  MSNBC correspondent, David Shuster who covered the Whitewater scandal in Little Rock and MSNBC political analyst, Pat Buchanan.

All right.  Let me start with you Catherine on this question of Obama now using attacks.  I mean, this is not just responding to attacks, he‘s now also attacking Clinton.  Dangerous business for Obama?

CATHERINE CRIER, FORMER JUDGE:  I think it is dangerous business.  I don‘t think the American people care to hear it.  They certainly don‘t like trial lawyers for making the legal analogy.  And people are wanting to hear more about their substantive position.  You even heard booing during the debate a couple of days ago when they began all of that mud wrestling and who won out at the end?  John Edwards.  So, I think it‘s a big mistake for both of them.  And particularly, Obama‘s puts himself on a pedestal, every time he plays that game, he‘s losing the seamless arm (ph) that‘s helping him out.

ABRAMS:  You know, David, the Clintons say that the most investigated - over-investigated couple in American history and a lot of it relates to Whitewater.  But it‘s still not something I would think that Hillary Clinton would want to talk about.  I would think her legal past, her legal background is something she‘d like to keep there, in the past.

DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Yes, Dan, you‘re absolutely right.  I mean, it is an established fact that when Hillary Clinton was at the Rose law firm, she produced a legal document that was used by her Whitewater partner Jim McDougal to carry off part of the fraud.  Hillary Clinton denied to the grand jury that she knew that he was going to use the document this way and prosecutors either believed Hillary Clinton or didn‘t believe her and feel like, well we just can‘t bring a case.  But you don‘t want to go down that road if you‘re the Clintons because there‘s all kinds of issues and standing questions from people who want to dig back 10 years and look at what was going on in this Whitewater investigation.  What did prosecutors produce?  It‘s not the direction I think the Clintons would want to go -

ABRAMS:  Yes, I mean, look, Hillary‘s legal career, the basics, the law school that she works in the children‘s defense funds, ‘73 and ‘74, past judiciary committee impeachment inquiry, University of Arkansas law faculty.  But primarily, her legal background, 1976 to 1992 was working at this Rose law firm.  On the other hand with regard to Obama, you got him graduated from Harvard law school in ‘91, he worked at an Illinois project vote in ‘92, then he work for a law firm that primarily I think that dealt with civil rights issues from ‘93 to ‘96 and then, became a lecturer at the University of Chicago law school.   So, Pat Buchanan, I mean, I would think that when they start pointing fingers at each other is you were a sleazy lawyer and the other one is saying, no, you were sleazy lawyer.  That‘s not a conversation again that I would think Hillary would want to have.

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, I think Hillary, what reacted spontaneously and emotionally.  And quite frankly, I tend to agree with Catherine on this because we all know Hillary‘s problems from the law firm and the investments and the Whitewater and all of that.  But she is dragging Obama who is on this high pedestal, who‘s running this aloof campaign of bringing us together and crossing party lines, bringing him down and putting him in bed with a slum lord in South Chicago.  So, the damage was done I think to Obama.  There‘s not a great deal more damage you can do to Hillary and Bill.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Let me ask Catherine about Stylistic.  All right?  Because in the debate, we see Hillary Clinton going after Obama.  And at one point, I‘m going to play sound number seven—at one point you see Obama raising this, and every time Hillary gets angry, she goes after him.  When Obama gets upset, sometimes he does this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON:  The facts are that he has said in the last week that he really liked the ideas of the Republicans over the last 10 to 15 years.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  All right, we know that he didn‘t actually say that, all right?  And Barack Obama, you know, I wonder, is he a fighter?  I mean -

CRIER:  I think so.  There were moments just like you and I doing like this.  There were moments when she kept interrupting and finally he turned around and face her one on one.  And I think what he‘s doing and those of us in televisions, sort of queuing the moderator over there.  I‘m, going to interrupt, I‘m coming in.  Don‘t go to Edwards on me.  Don‘t leave me on this.  And it was sort of polite way but he makes that up pretty good.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Let me do this.  Let me bring Bill Clinton just made a statement in the last couple of hours, that‘s leading a lot of people to talk.  And here is Bill Clinton claiming that Barack Obama did a hit job on him.  It basically says—go ahead.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, FMR UNITED STATES PRESIDENT:  When he put out a hit job on me, at the same time he called her the senator from Punjab.  I never said a word.  I don‘t care about it today.  I‘m not upset about it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  You know, Pat, this really is where lawyering meets politics.  You vastly overstate what the other side is accusing you of, right?

BUCHANAN:  Well, it is.  There‘s no doubt about it.  But, I mean, this is very, very effective by Clinton and I do think this.  I saw his statement where he really went after the press on this and he said Obama‘s feeding you this guys this stuff and you come and ask me.  And people don‘t ask me.  And this is what you want to get into the paper.  I think he‘s talking about the race issue.  I can understand Clinton‘s frustration.  Frankly, look, he‘s fighting for his wife, he‘s fighting to restore the Clinton name and he‘s fighting for the White House.  And it is a rough, tough fight and there are exaggeration and yes, distortions.

ABRAMS:  But David, what he does is he does the classic blame the press which is we want to talk about the issues, the press doesn‘t want to talk about the issues, attack on the press.

SHUSTER: Yes, I mean, he‘s working a rift essentially, he‘s trying to sort of looking ahead to the next fight.  But back to Pat‘s original point which I agree with it completely.  Barack Obama has his reputation of being above it all and to the extent that he is seen as attacking Hillary Clinton and even doing so personally, because he doesn‘t like her.  If that is seen as a political attack, he is viewed as a politician and it diminishes him and it does bring him down to Hillary Clinton.  The thing Obama has over Hillary right now is he‘s seen above politics and the more that he is viewed as a politician, the more that people see Bill Clinton as telling the truth  when they say, Obama is involved in a hack job on him, then, it brings Obama down.

ABRAMS:  Here‘s a little more of Bill Clinton in the comments that he just made.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

B. CLINTON:  People don‘t care about this.  They never asked about this.  And you are determined to take this election away from them.  That‘s not right.  That is not right.  This election now belong to those people around here asking questions about their right (ph).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  And you know, I mean, there‘s something so, I mean, disingenuous about that.

CRIER:  Well, this is disingenuous because they are playing politics.  They know the game backwards and forwards.  And when they want to utilize the press, when they want to throw these jabs out there.

ABRAMS:  And I (INAUDIBLE) the media a lot on this show but the way that we cover this so -

CRIER:  I‘m one of this boring pack that can watch paint dry out.  I want the issues.  I want the substance.  It‘s very frustrating but at the same time, every time they cry poor me, we need to look back and figure out how that sort of take place (ph).

ABRAMS:  Go ahead, Pat.

BUCHANAN:  Let me defend Bill Clinton.

ABRAMS:  Go ahead Pat, real quick.

BUCHANAN:  Look, candidates are out there in your face.  There are times that candidates like Clinton get exasperated in the media.  They carry messages from one camp to another.  And we‘re big enough and we‘re involved enough and we‘re down on the field.  We ought to be able to take our hits too.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  All right.  David Shuster, Catherine Crier, Pat Buchanan, thanks a lot.  I got to wrap it up, sorry.

Coming up next: A new study out today finds the Bush administration made 935 false statements in the run up to the war with Iraq.  Who gets the ugly award for the most falsehoods?  We will count down the top three with the prominent journalist who also got duked.

And: Breaking details in actor Heath Ledgers death.  We know actress, Mary-Kate Olsen was called before 911.  And the New York City medical examiners finished the autopsy.  This as someone the fringe Right come out attacking the “Brokeback Mountain” actor linking his death to his role as a gay cowboy.  They just don‘t know when to shut up.  I will remind them.  And we read your e-mails.  Abrams@msnbc.com.  Tell us where we‘re right or wrong.  Be sure to include your name and where you‘re writing from.  We‘re back in.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Did you know that according to a new study out today, the Bush administration made 935 false statements in the war leading up to Iraq.  Coming up: We‘ll counting down the worst three and reveal who was the biggest not decider, but quote, “deceiver.”  Coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We have all heard about the lies, the cherry picking, the hike (ph) intelligence and the run up to the war with Iraq.  But now a new study who is holding the Bush administration speaks to the fire.  The Center for Public Integrity, a non-profit, nonpartisan investigative journalism group has compiled a list of the instances the Bush administration made false statements leading up to the war.  The magic number, 935.  We‘ll count down what we think are the top three worst of the whopping 935.

But first: He calls himself the decider, but now President Bush is at the top of the list of the worst deceivers.  The president leads the pack with 259 false statements according to the new study.  Not far behind, former Secretary of State, Colin Powell with a jaw-dropping 254 and tied for third, former secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld and former press secretary, Ari Fleischer misleading the public a grand total of 109 times.  So, what were the worst and most notorious of the false statements let loose on the public?  Joining us now, someone who supported the war, I‘m sure in part because of this statement.  Peter Beinart, editor-at-large for “The New Republic.”  All right.  Peter, thanks for coming on.  But let me - is it fair to say that in part, you and the magazine supported the war based on some of the statements coming from the administration?

PETER BEINART, THE NEW REPUBLIC:  Sure.  Yes, not only based on those statements.  There were other people outside the administration who made similar kind of claims about the factual basis but obviously, the Bush administration made the most of them.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Coming in at number three, Vice President Dick Cheney‘s notorious interview on MEET THE PRESS from September 28, 2002 where he was ratcheting up the rhetoric against Saddam.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VICE PRES. DICK CHENEY, UNITED STATES:  He now is trying through a list of procurement network to acquire the equipment he needs to be able to enrich uranium.

TIM RUSSERT, HOST:  Aluminum tubes.

CHENEY:  Specifically aluminum tubes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  The study indicates that the administration knew then an entirely different story.  In fact, they say, in the same month of September 2002, the Energy Department and State Department‘s Bureau of Intelligence and Research stated their belief that Iraq intended to use those so-called tubes in a conventional rocket program.  Peter, this is something that has become somewhat common knowledge, right?  Was the fact, that there was a misstatement about what the tubes were for but their in that interview, on MEET THE PRESS, it seems Cheney‘s being broader.

BEINART:  Yes, I mean, it does seem there have been some people in the CIA who had at certain point thought those tubes would be used for nuclear centrifuge but quickly became clear amongst people who are looking at objectively that the real experts in the Energy Department believe that they were being used for a conventional rocket.  And Cheney didn‘t even say, well, there‘s a disagreement about this.  He flat out went and said that we know these things are being used when the weight of the evidence was probably in the other direction.

ABRAMS:  All right. Number two.  Our number two-from the biggest deception from this new study, former secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld seizing a previous opportunity at a July 2002 press conference to drop hints of the al Qaeda-Iraq link.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER:  Let‘s very clear what global terrorist networks do you believe Iraq has relations with.  Is al Qaeda one of those terrorist networks?

DONALD RUMSFELD, FMR. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE:  Sure.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER:  Could you elaborate on that, sir.  Because I think the evidence we talked about is a bit murky.

RUMSFELD:  Well, life is murky.  I mean, we‘re not on the ground down there.  But are there other al Qaeda in Iraq?  Yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  OK.  Well, seems no.  This again for the study.  An assessment issue that same month by the Defense Intelligence Agency and confirmed weeks later by CIA Director Tenet found an absence of compelling evidence demonstrating direct cooperation between the government of Iraq and Al Qaeda.  You know, Peter, even those of us who supported the war, I think who were sober about this, never believed this Iraq-al Qaeda link.

BEINART:  That‘s right.  I mean the strongest argument for the war, in retrospect, it was not a strong argument at all but at that time was that Saddam was developing a nuclear weapons program because he had historically.  The 9/11 Commission report said that while al Qaeda may have met with some of Saddam‘s officials at various point and that would people from lots of Middle East, they never did anything together.

ABRAMS:  Never, ever, ever.  This is nonsense and they‘re wrong.  Cheney in particular is terrible in this.

All right, coming in at the number one whopper.  President Bush, who dropped the 16 word doozy about yellow cake just two months before the invasion.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRES. GEORGE BUSH, UNITED STATES:  The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  All right.  Now, Peter, this one is the biggest doozy of all because the administration even had to backtrack on this one, right?  The only time probably where they officially backtracked.

BEINART:  That‘s right because their own CIA said that they had tried to get this removed from earlier speeches and yet somehow, it managed to make its way into the State of the Union Address.

ABRAMS:  Real quick, this is important study, are you surprised by the number of false statements?

BEINART:  No, I‘m not.  You know, there‘ve been past studies before and the truth is there was an enormous kind of rhetorical effort to turn of what was the very murky intelligence picture into a clear cut case such of Iraq being an imminent threat.

ABRAMS:  Peter Beinart is going to stick around.

Coming up: The autopsy of actor Heath Ledger‘s body which is finished today.  We‘ve got new details.  And we are learning tonight that actress, Mary-Kate Olsen was actually called before 911.

Plus: The fringe Right now trying to trying to link his death to his role in the movie, “Brokeback Mountain” where he played a gay cowboy.  A FOX News anchor even joins this tiny but frightening chorus (ph) of zealots mocking Ledger‘s death.  Beat the Press is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  It‘s time for tonight‘s Beat the Press.

First up: For anyone who wondered that FOX News really uses TNA (ph) to keep viewers, it‘s official.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Would you look at that.  Hello, cheerleaders.  Say hello.  They don‘t speak.  They just shake pom-poms.  They‘re from the Dallas Cowboys.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Remember, the Dallas Cowboys are not even in the Super Bowl.  But why should that matter?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  That‘s it for Studio B, I‘ll be back later with the FOX report.  Don‘t forget we‘re looking for you to report.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Me?

Next up: Maybe we should not be surprised that FOX‘s John Gibson mocked the death of actor Heath Ledger on his radio show yesterday.  He made references to the Ledger starring in the movie about two gay men - “Brokeback Mountain.”  I‘ll go after him and the rest of the fringe Right who tried to link Ledger‘s death to that movie later in the show.  But Gibson also showed his true colors, playing funeral music and this assortment of offensive comments.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN GIBSON, RADIO HOST (voice over):  And maybe he was a weirdo.  I‘m thinking about it right now.  OK, anyway, Heath Ledger died.  And I‘m sure people grief at.  Are you “Brokeback Mountain” fans that want to give Christine a call, she‘ll be happy to talk to you. (INAUDIBLE)

Maybe he had a serious position in the market.

Possibly today, he looked at the window and said oh, my God.  Apparently, Heath Ledger was suicidal and his friends saw it coming.  I think he watched the Clinton-Obama debate last night.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  I‘m going to have some words for him on some of the other things he said later on the show which I think link the movie - anyway.

Finally: We know some of the media tried to sensationalize story.  But this report from ABC News reporter Samuel Miller (ph) seems little much.  You saw (ph) on to their Web site about quote, “Testy exchange between Senator Barack Obama and a “New York Times” reporter.  And news description like - “Obama shot back and Obama fired back angrily.  Sounds fiery.  The tape sure makes it seem like a big exaggeration.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  Don‘t you think that‘s important?

REPORTER:  Sir.  Sir.  Sir.

OBAMA:  I will ask you a question, off the record.  Do you want to talk off the record?

(INAUDIBLE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  That‘s testy?  Fired back?  Shot back?

Up next: New details about how “Brokeback Mountain” star, Heath Ledger died.  The autopsy‘s been concluded and we have just learned that the first call actually went to actress Mary Kate Olsen, even before 911.  And it‘s hard to believe that some on the fringe Right are already suggesting the actor‘s death some kind of payback for playing the role of a gay cowboy.  We will not let that sort of slander go unnoticed.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

ABRAMS:  We have new details in the death of “Brokeback Mountain” star, Heath Ledger.  The autopsy is finished.  We are learning also that actress Mary-Kate Olsen was actually the first person called, even before 911.  Here now with all the details, WNBC investigative reporter Jonathan Dienst.

Jonathan thanks for joining us.  Let‘s start with Mary-Kate Olsen.  There were false rumors last night that he was at her apartment.  But now, we‘re learning there‘s a connection to the case. 

JONATHAN DIENST, WNBC INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER:  That‘s right, it‘s his apartment.  He‘s been renting it for the last three or four months and apparently the masseuse who arrived to give him a massage around 2:45 p.m., made two calls to Mary-Kate Olsen before calling 911.  Police officials say the masseuse say him appearing to be passed out, unconscious, so she called Mary-Kate Olsen to say what should I do and Mary-Kate Olsen dispatched three of her private security guards, here in New York, to the apartment.  A short time later, the masseuse called back saying, this is looking really bad, I need to call 911.  She went ahead and did that and EMS officials arrived first, then the three private security guards.  The 911 operator apparently tried to walk this massage therapist through CPR and apparently that was unsuccessful. 

ABRAMS:  All right, the autopsy was concluded today, but we don‘t know anything else about what the results are? 

DIENST:  No, the results are inconclusive.  No exact cause of death know just yet.  So, now, they need to do blood and tissue, toxicology tests.  They say that will take about seven to 10 days. 

ABRAMS:  All right Jonathan Dienst, thanks very much for that report.  Appreciate it.

DIENST:  Sure.

ABRAMS:  All right, so here‘s what we know.  All right?  Ledger‘s found unconscious, naked, lying face down in his bed Tuesday afternoon by his housekeeper and masseuse.  Mary-Kate Olsen was the first person called.  An autopsy was performed, the results inconclusive.  Prescription and non-prescription sleeping pills, anti-anxiety pills, antihistamines found in his apartment.  No illegal drugs found, that we know of.  A rolled up $20 bill found near Ledger‘s body, the bill was taken to a lab for testing, came back negative. 

What we don‘t know is if Ledger overdosed.  Police say the death was a possible drug overdose, they say there‘s no indication of suicide.  We don‘t know if his death was accidental, if there were illegal drugs or alcohol in his system or we don‘t know if he was sick with pneumonia or another illness at the time of his death, as one outlet reported. 

And I don‘t know exactly why Mary-Kate Olsen would have been the first person called by the masseuse. 

Here now Courtney Hazlett, pop culture and entertainment columnist for msnbc.com, forensic pathologist, Dr. Dana Spitz, and Julie Allison, editor at large for “Star” magazine.

All right, Dr. Spitz, let‘s start with you on this business about the autopsy.  Explain to us, they say it‘s inconclusive.  Was it possible it would have been conclusive today? 

DR DANIEL SPITZ, FORENSIC PATHOLOGIST:  Well, it could be conclusive id during the autopsy they found an obvious cause of death.  What this means is that the autopsy was conducted, they found no significant injuries, they found no significant natural disease and so therefore, the testing now relies on toxicology samples, which will be sent to a toxicology lab.  It‘ll also depend upon tissue testing to look for natural disease, which may be present upon microscopic examination of the tissue.  Really what‘s going to happened here... 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Let just—let me read for you some of the drugs that the “New York Post” is reporting were found at the scene:  Ambien, Xanax, Valium, anti-anxiety, a bottle of Donormyl an antihistamine, and a packed of Zopiclone used for insomnia.  Any of this tell us anything? 

SPITZ:  Well, those drugs, unfortunately when taken in combination would be very dangerous.  They all act on the body in a similar way, they cause sedation, respiratory depression, ultimately would cause a coma and then death if taken in excessive amounts. 

ABRAMS:  All right, let‘s talk about this Mary-Kate Olsen, the first person who‘s called by the masseuse.  Any indication as to why she‘d be the first person called? 

COURTNEY HAZLETT, MSNBC.COM:  Apparently, when the masseuse called Heath Ledger‘s room, sometime around 3:00, according to the police report the “New York Times” is quoting, the masseuse saw his cell phone sitting there and knew that Mary-Kate Olsen was a friend of his, went through the speed dial, saw her name and figured to call her for help because she knew him.  Why on earth the masseuse‘s first instinct was not to call 911 when she found her client unresponsive is beyond me.  But, that‘s how Mary-Kate Olsen got wrapped up into this.

ABRAMS:  Julia, do we know what their relationship was at the time? 

JULIA ALLISON, STAR MAGAZINE:  No, we don‘t.  But I think it‘s understandable in this particular case.  She called 911 very shortly thereafter.  But think about it, you‘re a major celebrity.  You don‘t know what it is that happened, it could have been drug related.  You might want to keep it under wraps.  As it was, our sources are telling us that he was extremely withdrawn in filming “The Dark Knight,” the Batman sequel.  And you don‘t know, he could have been going through depression or any sort of thing.

ABRAMS:  What were you saying Courtney? 

HAZLETT:  I have to disagree, somewhat.  The masseuse, according to what the “New York Times” was saying, they heard from the police, said that the masseuse entered the room at 3:00, 911 wasn‘t called until 3:26, that‘s 26 minutes later when she found him unresponsive.  Mary-Kate was called twice during that time period and her private security and 911 arrived essentially at the exact same time, so I have a hard time justifying this right now. 

ABRAMS:  We‘re looking at the timeline now:  1:00 p.m. the housekeeper finds Ledger in his bed, she says, snoring.  So, that would mean that he was alive.  At 2:45, the masseuse arrives, 3:00 p.m. calls Ledger on the cell phone, the masseuse enters Ledger‘s room, tries to wake him up and this is where the masseuse, apparently calls Mary-Kate Olsen, twice, at 3:26 911 is called and 3:33 emergency medical workers arrive at the scene.  Anything about, Dr. Spitz, about the timeline, tell us anything? 

SPITZ:  Well, unfortunately if he was still alive at the time the masseuse came into the room and that 911 call wasn‘t made, you hate to think that something couldn‘t have been done.  Now, there are some things that would be determined when the medical examiner gets on scene to help determine when the time of death occurred.  So, if that is determined, then you can probably backtrack to say well, he was probably dead at that time and it wouldn‘t have made much difference. 

ABRAMS:  All right, here‘s an interview that Heath Ledger in November talking about portraying Bob Dylan, but also in his latest role of playing the Joker in a Batman remake. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HEATH LEDGER, ACTOR:  I mean, I was kind of relieved of the duty of physically portraying Bob Dylan.  You know, I didn‘t really have to.  So, yeah, I tell you, I guess the Joker—the Joker was actually—that was the most fun I‘ve ever had, probably ever will have playing a character.  It was—I‘m not sure whether it was hard stamina-wise, because it was just high levels of energy need and required every day.  But it was incredibly enjoyable. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Julia, nothing I have heard had indicated that any friends, family, et cetera, have said that he was depressed or that there‘s any indication that he would have taken his own life. 

ALLISON:  That‘s exactly right.  What we do know is this, he was filming Saturday and he was extremely tired.  He was having a lot of trouble sleeping, a ton of insomnia that he‘d been having ever since he was filming the Batman sequel.  He told the “New York Times” he had literally not slept more than two hours every single night.  So, there‘s an indication as to why he would take these kinds of pill.  Now, he did split from his fiance, Michelle Williams, in September of 2007.  But, all accounts indicate that even if he might have been, you know, remotely depressed about that, it wasn‘t enough to take his own life.  He was planning on filming a new movie coming out. 

ABRAMS:  And Courtney, you think that something about playing the Joker may have been relevant, here.  Let me play a little piece of sound.  Again, this is him talking about playing the Joker in “The Dark Night.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEDGER, AS JOKER:  Good evening, commissioner.  It‘s all part of the plan. 

Why so serious. 

A little frightening, I like that. 

Hit me!

Let‘s put a smile on that face. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Great actor.  But, what do you think—I mean, what relevance might that have had? 

HAZLETT:  The relevance is this has—I was speaking with somebody who‘s worked with Heath on several different films and he said that, it‘s not surprising to him to see that he would take something so to heart.  And when you put that against the backdrop that he has said before that this was a really demanding role, it was exhausting for him to play this type of, just extreme “psychopath” I think was the words that he used.  He said, you know, I could see how he could go to a dark place.  Now, that said, what you said, what Julia Allison said, I agree with, nobody is describing him as extremely or excessively depressed. 

ABRAMS:  It could explain why he‘s taking certain anti...

HAZLETT:  Precisely, it could explain why he was having the struggles he was having, right now.  And also, just this is an element of his personality.  He‘s very introspective and has a darker side to him. 

ABRAMS:  But Dr. Spitz, let‘s be clear.  It is certainly possible, I‘m not going to say likely, because I have no idea, but it is certainly possible that this was just purely accidental. 

SPTIZ:  Yes, I think it is.  Based on the history that, you know, he was taking medications, they weren‘t working and unfortunately people think if one doesn‘t work, I‘ll take two, three or even four, or I‘ll start mixing drugs and that‘s when your get into trouble. 

ABRAMS:  Julie Allison and Dr. Daniel Spitz, thanks very much, appreciate it. 

ALLISON:  Thank you. 

ABRAMS:  Courtney‘s going to stick around.  Up next, some of the fringe right already suggesting that the “Brokeback Mountain” star died maybe because he played the role of a gay cowboy.  We are not going to let them get away with it. 

And later, still a suspect in his wife‘s disappearance, Drew Peterson is not out looking for her.  He‘s looking for love, for the second night in a row, he‘s one of tonight‘s “Big Winners or Losers.”

But first, our new segment, “Reality Bites,” a sometimes painful dose of reality caught on tape.  When a high school senior from Fairfax, Virginia, woke up to a snowy morning, he thought he was going to get a day off.  Officials didn‘t cancel classes, he left a message on the home answering machine of his school district administrator asking why not.  This is the frosty message he got back from the school official‘s wife. 

(BEGIN AUDIOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  This message is for Dave Kori.  How dare you call us at home.  If you‘ve got a problem with going to school you do not call somebody‘s house and complain about it.  My husband was up at 4:00 this morning trying to decide the best thing to do to send you to school on a day when the weatherman is calling for one thing and another thing happens.  You don‘t begin to know what you are talking about.  And don‘t you ever call her again. 

My husband has been up at the office since 6:30 this morning, so don‘t you even suggest that he purposely didn‘t answer his phone.  He is out almost every single night of the week at meetings for snotty-nosed little brats.  And he may not have called you, but it is not because he‘s home because it snowed.  Get over it, kid.  And go to school.  Get an education.  That‘s what you‘re there for.

(END AUDIOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Just one day after the death of actor Heath Ledger, already some on the far right are trying to link his death with the fact that he played a gay cowboy in the movie “Brokeback Mountain.”

One radical Christian group, which I‘m not even going to name, tonight, so I don‘t give them anymore publicity, has even gone as far as announcing they‘re going to picket Ledgers funeral, releasing a flier that reads:  “Heath Ledger thought it was great fun defying God Almighty and His plain word...  God hates the sordid, tacky bucket of slime seasoned with vomit know as ‘Brokeback Mountain‘ and He hates all persons having anything whatsoever to do with it.”

Then there‘s this question posed on a yahoo.com discussion board:  “Do you Heath Ledger died because God was mad that he played a ‘blank‘ in that movie ‘Brokeback Mountain.‘ You never know, he works in mysterious ways.”

Still with us is msnbc.com‘s Courtney Hazlett, Peter Beinart, editor-at-large of “The New Republic.”

Peter, I got to tell you, I wasn‘t surprised when I heard about this stuff.  When I heard that Heath Ledger died, I said I will bet there are going to be some of these nuts on the fringe right who are going to somehow linking his death to “Brokeback Mountain.”

PETER BEINART, THE NEW REPUBLIC:  And sadly, you are right.  I mean, unfortunately, even though we‘ve made some progress in society in terms of overcoming anti-gay bigotry, there‘s still people out there who are lunatic enough to believe that God would strike you down, not just because you were gay, but in this case because you played someone in the movies who was gay.  It‘s both sick and hysterical, actually. 

ABRAMS:  Here‘s—I was surprised, to tell you, look, John Gibson does and says a lot of things I don‘t agree with over on Fox, but I was surprised that he, on his radio show, was mocking, Heath Ledger.  And I think, in part, it‘s pretty clear, because of what this movie was about.  Listen. 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, since we‘re going to be working together, I reckon it‘s time we start drinking together. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (INAUDIBLE)You don‘t know nothing about it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You boys sure found a way to make the time pass up here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We fishing buddies. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I wish I knew how to quit you.

JOHN GIBSON, FOX:  Well, he found out how to quit you.  Heath Ledger died and I‘m sure people will be upset.  All you “Brokeback Mountain” fans who want to give Christine a call, she‘ll be happy talk to you. 

LEDGER:  We‘re dead. 

GIBSON:  “We‘re dead.”

(END AUDIO CLIP)

ABRAMS: These are actual clips from the movie.  I mean, Peter, is it pretty clear to you that Gibson is mocking it because of what the movie is about? 

BEINART:  Oh, yeah.  Look, first of all, Gibson shouldn‘t do humor in any case.  He‘s terrible at it.  And he certainly shouldn‘t try to do humor about someone‘s death, when even a good comedian would look like a jerk and he looks like a jerk and someone who‘s not funny. 

ABRAMS:  But, put aside the not funny, A, it‘s so distasteful.  And B, the notion that this is being link by anyone.  Courtney, at the time the movie came out, there was a hub bub about it, right? 

HAZLETT:  Of course, I mean, it was groundbreaking subject matter.  This wasn‘t the type of thing that had been treated in any way, really, in film.  And there were a variety of protests, but they were more sort of groundswell uprisings, they weren‘t huge collective movements.  At the end of the day, this film made $178 million worldwide.  It spent over 19 weeks at the box office.  I don‘t think you get that out of curiosity, I think you get that out respect for good acting, good directing and a great film. 

ABRAMS:  Here‘s some of what the messages on Yahoo!, all right?  “He probably felt so guilty for playing that role that he killed himself!”

“I can think of many reasons why we should not mourn the loss of Hollywood decadents.  What did he contribute to society...‘Brokeback Mountain?‘” That‘s from a different blog.

“That is what he gets for participating in poisoning the minds of people with gayness.”

This is insanity.  I have to tell you.  I mean, yes, I thought it was going to happen to some degree, but the notion that there are going to be some people there picketing at his funeral.  I mean, this is even far—this is disgusting beyond what I even expected.  And I think and I feared, and Peter, look, you know, you get accused and attacked by the far right all the time.  I think it‘s going to continue to some degree. 

BEINART:  Well, and I think that what John Gibson did, and this is something you see that Rush Limbaugh does a lot, too, which is a kind of a wink and nod thing.  I mean, he doesn‘t come out and say it in exactly the terms that these crazy‘s on the Web does, but he‘s clearly saying that he thinks it‘s fine not to respect this guy in the way that we would a normally respect any human being who had died. 

ABRAMS:  Yeah, well look, we‘re keeping on eye on you guys out there.  If you start mocking him, you know, I‘m not going to give publicity to fringe groups, that‘s why we didn‘t say the name of that one group that‘s going to be picketing, but when Gibson or someone else does it like this, we‘re going to call you out on it. 

Courtney Hazlett, Peter Beinart, thanks a lot.

HAZLETT:  Thanks.

ABRAMS:  Up next, will tonight‘s Winner or loser be Drew Peterson?  He‘s still a suspect in his wife‘s disappearance.  He was apparently looking to win a date on a radio show. 

Mike Huckabee, still a candidate for president, looking to win the nomination with almost no cash. 

Or actor Jerry O‘Connell still on camera, despite the writer‘s strike, looking to get a laugh by mocking the Tom Cruise video.

Plus, we‘ll read some of your e-mails.  Keep them coming abrams@msnbc.com, “Winners and Losers” is next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  It‘s time for tonight‘s “Winners and Losers” for this 23rd day of January, 2008.  Our bronze loser for the second day in a row, suspect Drew Peterson.  The self-described ladies man and suspect in his wife‘s disappearance agreed earlier today to participate in a Chicago radio station‘s contest called, “Win a Date with Drew.” But alas desperate women of Chicago, outraged listeners have stolen your opportunity for love, and if history is any guide, possibly a reduced lifespan.  They convinced the station to pull the stunt. 

Our silver loser, Mike Huckabee, who‘s campaign is having such financial woes, he‘s considering pulling out of the Florida primary, next week.  They also announced the campaign would no longer be scheduling media plane or busses and when you take away press freebies, you take away press coverage. 

But, the big loser for the day, Attorney General Michael Mukasey.  I‘ve had a lot of praise for the new attorney general as of late, since taking over the mess that Alberto Gonzales left behind, but apparently, he remains perplexed by the simple question:  is waterboarding torture?  So, when will he finally be able to provide the answer to this straightforward question?  He told the “Wall Street Journal,” “I haven‘t yet figured out precisely when and precisely how.  I understand that the time is coming.”

Attorney General, however you frame it, the answer is still going to be torture. 

Our big winner of the day?  Actor Jerry O‘Connell who had a little fun mocking the Tom Cruise video leaked out last week where Cruise is talking intensely about Scientology. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JERRY O‘CONNELL, ACTOR:  It‘s a privilege to be an actor, because you know that you really are no help to anyone. 

(LAUGHTER)

For me, it‘s all about KFC, it‘s just good chicken. 

As an actor, I mean, you drive past an accident and you see it, don‘t do anything because you don‘t want to be involved, insurance and any sort of litigation. 

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  It‘s time for our new e-mail segment, your chance to tell me what you love or hate about the show.  Last night, we fact checked the major accusations Clinton and Obama made against each other in Monday‘s debate and as always, I would say some of you looked at it through your own prism. 

Lori from Saint Paul, Minnesota writes, “While I give Dan much credit for doing this segment, he did score three of the five debate points incorrectly.  The one I disagree with most is the point he scored for Hillary over Iraq war votes.  Also, the Rezko comment by Hillary was a very cheap shot.  I think you‘ll get better at doing this accurately with practice.”

You mean the more I attack Hillary the more accurate I become? 

And on the other side, Milda Walters, “I totally disagree with your conclusion regarding Obama‘s statements regarding Reagan and with you blaming the Clintons for distortion.  Obama has shown a pattern of denigrating and belittling the last Democrat administration and he gets away with it.  Perhaps you might take a closer look at exactly what was said.”

Again, I should take a closer look so that I can see that Obama needs to be bashed more?  I‘m not going to let partisans impact me, here. 

And Jean Firriolo in Orlando, Florida writes:  “I think you were unfair to leave out the rest of Obama‘s comments with regard to the Republicans and their ideas.  He went on to say that Bush and Clinton did not have any good ideas during the last 15 years.”

Except, Jean, that‘s not what he said.  And that‘s why we do the segment. 

Becca in Germantown, Maryland writes:  “Last night‘s ‘On Their Trail‘ was great.  I just wonder how long it is going to take the other news networks to come up with another one of your great segments?”

But Becca, they couldn‘t do it as well. 

And M. Kalapen says:  “Congratulations on ‘Fact Check‘.  If all TV stations do this, the candidates will be careful of what they say for pure political purposes.

Finally, Vicki B. from Hoover, Alabama says:  “My husband and I have an ongoing struggle with your hotness.  Most of the time I say you‘re not that hot, but today I think you are.  Hey, it‘s a woman‘s right to change her mind.”

Vicki, thanks, I guess.  Maybe I had a lucky night last night.  I don‘t know. 

But here‘s what I want to know.  If you‘re struggling with your husband on this, does that mean that at least he generally thinks I‘m at least kind of hot? 

We want your ideas for what our new e-mail segment should be called.  Send it to abrams@msnbc.com.  We‘re looking for names, you get free MSNBC swag, my on-air appreciation.  We‘re going to announce the winner soon. 

That‘s all the time we have for tonight.  Up next: “Sex Bunker.” See you later.

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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