updated 3/14/2008 1:10:35 PM ET 2008-03-14T17:10:35

Guests: A.B. Stoddard, Mark Lamont Hill, Joe Piscopo, Roy Sekoff, Lawrence O‘Donnell, Freddy “Logan” Sagastume, Robert “Mysterious” Cummings, Jo Piazza

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Tonight: Hillary Clinton tries to clean up the race mess left by supporter Geraldine Ferraro.  Clinton apologizes more forcefully than before.  So, is still an issue?

And: A new mess, this time for Senator Obama.  An inflammatory videotape emerges, his former pastor and member of one of his religious committees suggesting among other things that the U.S. deserved 9/11.

And: We‘re learning more about Ashley Dupre also known as Kristen, the 22-year-old prostitute who‘s tryst brought the New York governor.

But first up: We are On Their Trail, assessing the campaigns‘ biggest misstatements, cheap shots, and blunders.

Here now to separate facts from fiction, cheap shot from fair game:

Political analyst Lawrence O‘Donnell; A.B. Stoddard, associate editor for “The Hill”; and Temple University professor, Mark Lamont Hill.  Thanks to all of you.

First up: The fallout continuing tonight over those controversial comments made by Clinton supporter, former V.P. candidate, Geraldine Ferraro.  The Clinton campaign is trying to stem the damage after Ferraro told a California newspaper, quote, “If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position.  He happens to be very lucky to be who is.  And the country is caught up in the concept.”

Ferraro is still refusing to apologize and she‘d accusing the Obama camp of playing the race card.  Yesterday, Ferraro resigned from the campaign and Senator Clinton came out to once again distance herself from the remarks.  And today, Obama weighed in as well.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I rejected what she said and I certainly do repudiate it and regret deeply that, you know, it was said.  Obviously, she doesn‘t speak for the campaign.  She doesn‘t speak for any of my positions.  And she has resigned from being a member of my very large finance committee.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  It‘s not entirely unexpected.  You know, as I said before, race and gender issues are very powerful in our society.  It would be naive for me to think that we could just brush them aside.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  All right.  Look, I‘ve scored this a blunder for Clinton the past two nights.  First, for not distancing herself quickly enough, and then, for allowing Ferraro and defend the comments.

But now, Ferraro has resigned her post in the campaign.  Clinton has

come out and apologized for the comments.  She has rejected them in

numerous occasions

What else can she do?  She didn‘t say it.  I have to say she was over and she‘s ultimately become a non-issue.  Lawrence, you disagree?

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, they knew exactly what they were doing, Dan.  You got to talk about it for two or three days because the Clinton campaign allowed you to.  They could have easily said to Gerry Ferraro, please stop talking about this.  Please do not go on network news shows and dig a deeper hole.

This actually worked, I think, very effectively for the Clinton campaign to label Obama the affirmative action candidate.  It‘s a very strong concept especially in certain precincts in Philadelphia.  It‘s a northeastern urban resentment that exists in, you know, in that vote that‘s there where people have the feeling that, you know, the Italian and the Irish and ethnic in these cities believe that they lost jobs to black people (INAUDIBLE) and Gerry Ferraro was giving them that echo.

ABRAMS:  But Professor Hill, I can‘t see how it helps the Clinton campaign.  Now that she‘s had to come out with this kind of mea culpa, she‘s had to have Geraldine Ferraro step down.  I mean, if this was a sort of intentional campaign, saying let‘s send out Ferraro, get her into trouble, and then, at least we didn‘t say it, you would think that they would make Ferraro pull back on it as well.

MARC LAMONT HILL, TEMPLE UNIVERSITY:  No, I think, this is exactly what they want to happen.  You see, the Clintons have been throwing racial rocks and hiding their hands throughout this entire campaign by having Ferraro make that comment, I‘m saying they‘d actually plan for her to do it but having—she‘s made the comment now.

And so what happens is she makes the comment, and then she mobilizes a whole group of voters who don‘t want to see a black win.  What Barack does is he has to distance himself from this comment, he‘s not even allowed to identify the comment from what it is which is racist because if he identifies something as racist, he becomes a racialised candidate.

Every time the conversation about racist pushes the forefront of the public imagination, Barack Obama loses.  So, Hillary is going to gain votes because there are people who don‘t want to talk about race at all.

ABRAMS:  I‘ve got to tell you, A.B., I mean, I talked to Geraldine Ferraro yesterday, about this in-depth, all right?  Whether you think it‘s racist or whether you think it‘s stupid or whether you agree with it, regardless, all right?  The point is, I believe that she believes what she said, all right?

And the notion that the Clinton campaign is behind, effectively, sort of sending out this Kamikaze pilot out there in the form of Geraldine Ferraro to go out and set off this explosion and then, allow her to not apologize while Clinton has to apologize, to me, just doesn‘t seem like a very productive strategy or believable that that‘s what happens.

A.B. STODDARD, THE HILL:  I don‘t think Clinton sent her out.  I think, once it happens, you saw the Clinton policy stay the same as it‘s been throughout the campaign.  I agree with the gentleman, the Clintons take a pause when something like this happens.  They don‘t go out to the firing squad.

ABRAMS:  But what is she‘s supposed to do?  I mean, she comes out and she says she rejects it.  It‘s the same thing that happened in that debate when Obama was asked about Farrakhan.  The difference in denouncing and rejecting - I mean, there‘s no difference.

The bottom line is, you‘re rejecting it, you‘re saying, I didn‘t say it, I don‘t support it.  What does she have to do to make this go away?

STODDARD:  I‘m not saying she hasn‘t done enough and I‘m not saying that she planted it.  Dan, I‘m saying that the desired effect or the damage, both of them, you know, damage of sort has been done.  The fact is, Geraldine Ferraro‘s is being heralded tonight as a gutsy woman who told the truth and that speaks to Hillary Clinton‘s block of women voters that she needs to hold on to.

When she goes to the superdelegates without enough votes, her narrative is I have the unshakable coalition that you need.  That narrative speaks to those voters.

ABRAMS:  Look, professor, you want to make one more—yes, go ahead.

O‘DONNELL:  Gerry Ferraro was speaking very directly to white ethnic male voters in Pennsylvania.

HILL:  That‘s exactly right.

ABRAMS:  No one believes that it‘s actually possible that Geraldine

Ferraro believes what she said -

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Wait.  Let me finish.  And that it wasn‘t supported by the Clinton campaign.  And Lawrence, let me let you can get a shot and then, we‘ll play.

O‘DONNELL:  I think Gerry believes every word of it.  She‘s about 20 years out of tone politically.  The Clinton campaign benefited from it and let it run as long as it possibly could.

ABRAMS:  I see Professor Hill nodding.

STODDARD:  Yes.  I‘m a third.

ABRAMS:  All right.  You guys all agree on this one.  I don‘t see this as being a good thing for the Clinton campaign.  But - all right.  No one gets a strike on this one for tonight.  Again, two nights in a row, they‘ve been getting blunders on this one.

Up next: Newly uncovered videos of Obama‘s former pastor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, now retired from a Chicago church but apparently still a member of the Obama campaign‘s African-American religious leadership committee.  Late last year and in years before that, Wright made some comments that the Obama campaign probably doesn‘t want to hear.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REV. JEREMIAH WRIGHT, CHURCH PASTOR:  It just came to me within the past few weeks y‘all, why so many folks are hating our own Barack Obama.  He doesn‘t fit the model.  He ain‘t white.  He ain‘t rich.  And he ain‘t privileged.

Hillary fits the mold.  Your opinions fit the mold.  The government gives them the drugs then build a prison (INAUDIBLE) and wants us to think God bless America.  No, no, no.  Not God bless America.  God damn America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Tonight, the Obama campaign spokesperson said, quote, “Senator Obama has said before that he profoundly disagrees with some of the statements and positions of Reverend Wright, who has preached his last sermon as pastor at the church.  Senator Obama deplores divisive comments whether they come from his supporters, the supporter‘s of his opponent, talk radio, or anyone else.”

I‘m ruling this a blunder for the Obama campaign.  If Ferraro had to go, this seems just as bad.  You can‘t just say, he was just my pastor, if he‘s still associated with the campaign.  Professor?

HILL:  Well, I say this is a blunder.  It‘s sort of out of Barack‘s hands.  There wasn‘t much he could do.  That thing that plays to his advantage though is that he‘s always keep safe distance from Jeremiah Wright since the beginning of his campaign.

ABRAMS:  But he‘s part of the campaign.  It‘s the same argument. 

People said, she‘s on the finance committee.  They got to get rid of her.  If he‘s in any way associated with the campaign, this guy who‘s basically saying that the U.S. got what it had coming to it on 9/11.

HILL:  Yes, but the difference is, you can look at Hillary Clinton‘s campaign and see, in many ways, her actions parallel Ferraro‘s comments.  Here, if you look at Barack Obama‘s politics, he in many ways contradicts the very things that Jeremiah Wright said.

ABRAMS:  Of course he does.

HILL:  He always keep his distance from him.  And so, Jeremiah Wright didn‘t stand behind him when he made his presidential announcement.  He‘s openly said he doesn‘t share his comments on Farrakhan, his stance on Israel.  He‘s kept a safe distance and I think that will help him.

ABRAMS:  Look, Lawrence, I‘m not suggesting that somehow any of these views represent the views of Barack Obama.  But I‘m saying that if you‘re going to play gotcha, and you‘re going to say, you know what?  Geraldine Ferraro made those comments, she‘s got to go.  She has to leave.

Then, this pastor comes out.  He‘s still on this, and has an honorary role on a committee for Barack Obama, doesn‘t Barack Obama have to come out and say, you know, he‘s not part of our campaign at all?

O‘DONNELL:  Well, he is an increasing political liability for the general population, but you know, Ron Paul, a libertarian Republican candidate for president, in the debates would say that the United States did things that provoked some of the movement toward what became 9/11.  And he would get booed, of course in the Republican debates for saying that.

ABRAMS:  Yes, and they would all disassociate themselves from it.

O‘DONNELL:  Yes, but he‘s a Republican and he‘s a presidential candidate, by the way.

ABRAMS:  Wait, but he‘s not a leader.  But that‘s the difference, A.B., he‘s not a leading candidate.  And when you‘re a leading candidate, this is why I gave Clinton blunders both nights on something she didn‘t say.  Because Ferraro‘s associated with her campaign and you got to distance yourself quickly from comments like that.  Obama is saying I don‘t agree with some of his statements.  It seems to me, he‘s got to go further than that.

STODDARD:  Dan, I‘m voting with you.  The Barack Obama campaign rule was, if you offend somebody, you go.  He has to live and die by those rules.  He cannot have the Reverend Jeremiah Wright in a leadership role in any way in any committee in his campaign.

And unfortunately, that rule that he made for himself doesn‘t allow him much flexibility.  Hillary Clinton didn‘t make that rule for herself.  Barack Obama did.

HILL:  I think the tricky part is though, that Barack has been ringing the judgment bell against Hillary for the last six months saying, she‘d showed bad judgment, she‘d showed bad judgment.

If Barack Obama has stood that close to someone like Jeremiah Wright, who‘s been his pastor, who married him and his wife, you know, and now, of a sudden, they say he‘s made a bad decision, he‘s said all these bad things.  It may open a can of worms regarding Barack‘s judgment in friends and confidants.

ABRAMS:  This goes against Obama.  We‘re giving him our first strike of the night.  So, everyone is staying with us.  We had one more we were going to do.  We‘re going to put that one after the break.

Coming up more On Their Trail: Florida and Michigan are putting together proposals about holding another primary.  Clinton is now saying Michigan was a fair election even though Obama wasn‘t on the ballot.

Plus: Some Obama‘s supporters are now going after “Saturday Night Live”, saying it‘s helping Clinton‘s campaign.  “The New York Times” and “L.A Times” are both writing about it today.  This show is just pro-comedy, it‘s not pro-Clinton.  Former “SNL” cast member, Joe Piscopo joins us.

Your emails are coming up later in the P.O.-ed box.  Send them in to Abrams@msnbc.com.  Tell us what I‘m doing wrong or right.  But be sure to include your name and where you‘re writing from.

Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up more On Their Trail: Latest misstatements, cheap shots and blunders.

Hillary Clinton is apparently backtracking today on whether Michigan‘s primary results should count.

Coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We‘re back On Their Trail tonight, assessing the campaigns‘ biggest misstatements, cheap shots and blunders.

So far tonight, we got one strike against Obama, none against Clinton so far.  So, we are moving on now to—let‘s move on this one.  Strategist Mark Penn is opining on a conference call today about Senator Obama‘s electability.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK PENN, CLINTON CHIEF STRATEGIST:  I think that if he can‘t win Pennsylvania, it raises serious questions about whether he can win a general election, and I think that is, you know, that is a big question.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  I‘m giving this a Clinton cheap shot.  How do they get to define which states determine who‘s more electable?  The last time I checked, Clinton‘s losing in every measurable category: Pledged delegates, popular vote, total states won.

I think it‘s disingenuous for the Clinton campaign to say a state that they may win and just that state should become the new goalpost.  Lawrence, you disagree?

O‘DONNELL:  Well, I think, it‘s a perfectly reasonable question.  Pennsylvania is a crucial state for the Democrats to win, as is Ohio, as is Missouri which Obama did win.  And so, it‘s a fair question.  Obama has a solid answer to it which is I‘ve won more state, one more delegates.

ABRAMS:  But, Lawrence, isn‘t the answer easier which is: Are you actually suggesting that if Obama can‘t win in the primary in Pennsylvania, that means he can‘t beat John McCain in Pennsylvania?

O‘DONNELL:  It‘s a fair thing to suggest.  But I believe Obama could lose the Pennsylvania primary and he could win it in the general election.  It‘s a fair debate to have.

ABRAMS:  Yes, of course.  Come on.

HILL:  It‘s not fair, it‘s absurd.  I mean, (inaudible) Clintons are being disingenuous is almost actually right.  I mean, that‘s what their whole campaign is about.  Whenever they‘re about to win a state, they suggest that that state is a watershed moment in the election.  When they about to lose it, they say it doesn‘t matter.

ABRAMS:  You know, I‘m actually OK with some of that, A.B., I mean, what I think that what Professor Hill was talking about there is politics.  I mean, some of it is just plain old politics.

But simply, now, making the goalpost, well, you know, if you can‘t win Pennsylvania, how are you going to win the general election?

STODDARD:  Well, this rhetoric as that they view (ph) is about a lot of the states as if, you know, Barack Obama has not going to be able to carry, you know, New York or something because she won it this time, but I understand Pennsylvania is a little different.  It‘s much (INAUDIBLE) much more important but the thing is let‘s talk about Mark Penn‘s comments.

What the superdelegates are pondering right now is whether or not Hillary Clinton, who‘s behind in total states won and delegates and everything else, is making a strong enough argument that she‘s more electable, that her national security credentials trump those of Barack Obama and whether or not they should choose her over him.

ABRAMS:  That‘s fine.

STODDARD:  The worry is when Mark Penn goes around and breaks the line and no one is going over and says things like our opponent cannot win a general election.  This is a new way of playing the game.

ABRAMS:  Look, if they want to say that their opponent can‘t win the general election, I‘ll listen to it.  I‘m not going let them say that a particular state is the make or break issue in whether they‘re going the general election. (INAUDIBLE) particular the state that wasn‘t (INAUDIBLE).

O‘DONNELL:  He didn‘t say Obama couldn‘t win.  He said there‘s a question.

ABRAMS:  Oh, come on.  All right.  This one goes against Clinton, giving us a win strike against Clinton and one against Obama.

Now: The question of what to do with Michigan and Florida.  Right now, those Democratic primary results still don‘t count because the states moved up their primaries.  The Democrats still have no deal to figure out how to deal with it.  Neither Clinton nor Obama campaigned in the states.  But today, Clinton didn‘t budge when asked how the results in Michigan where she won can be considered fair if her chief rival Obama wasn‘t even on the ballot?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON:  That was his choice, remember.  There was no rule or requirement that he take his name off the ballot.  And his supporters ran a very aggressive campaign to try to get people to vote uncommitted.

So, it wasn‘t that he didn‘t participate at all, in fact, there was a real effort to get people to vote uncommitted and I still won 55 percent of the vote.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  She beat the uncommitted candidate.  I‘m scoring this a big misstatement for Clinton.  She‘s trying to change—I mean, here‘s what she said about Michigan last fall.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON:  It‘s clear.  This election they‘re having is not going to count for anything.  I personally did not think it made any difference whether or not my name was on the ballot.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  I think, A.B., this one is ridiculous, right?

STODDARD:  I think I learned in sixth grade that you can‘t say it was a fair election and count up all the votes that you got if the other person‘s name was uncommitted.  I mean, I don‘t care about his Secret Service name.  It‘s not working.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  I mean, no one is going to disagree.  You don‘t even disagree, Lawrence, right?

O‘DONNELL:  No.  I think that it actually was a pathetic outcome that

she beat uncommitted by -

ABRAMS:  Yes.  All right.  So, this one goes against Clinton, giving us two strikes against Clinton one strike against Obama going into the final round.

Some surprising numbers out of latest NBC News/”Wall Street Journal” poll concerning former President Bill Clinton‘s legacy: 45 percent of respondents now view Bill Clinton in a negative light compared to 42 percent who view him in a positive light, a big swing from a year ago when Clinton‘s positive rating was 48 compared to 35 percent negative.

Now, while it‘s not directly related to Obama/Clinton, I‘m ruling this one a Clinton blunder.  It shows that his aggressive campaigning against Obama has taken its toll.  Lawrence, fair?

O‘DONNELL:  Yes.  You know, Clinton‘s popularity is stronger the more he is a memory.  When he‘s a current reality, there‘s a lot to be critical about.

ABRAMS:  Professor?

HILL:  Yes, the other issue is ironically, what Jeremiah Wright said is that black people finally woken up and stopped drinking the Clinton “cool aid” and they realized that the Clintons are not the saviors of black folks.  Part of that poll reflects the fact that black people have become severely disillusioned with the Clinton‘s tactics.

ABRAMS:  Yes, I mean, look, there‘s no question.  See the results in Mississippi, the percentage of African-American voters who are going for Obama seems to be heading up.

All right.  I‘m giving this strike to Clinton two, even if it‘s about her husband, bringing to tonight‘s total to three strikes for Clinton, one for Obama.

A.B. Stoddard, Marc Lamont Hill, Lawrence O‘Donnell, thanks a lot. 

Appreciate it.

Coming up: The heat the on.  The heat is on “Saturday Night Live” tonight, new accusations that they‘re doing skits to hurt Obama.  So, that would mean it can possibly be that they‘re just trying to be funny.  Isn‘t it possible some Obama supporters are just being a little too sensitive?  Former “SNL” cast member Joe Piscopo will be joining us.

And: What does it take to create a huge brawl on the business network, CNBC?  How about accusations of underestimating wealth and jokes about frequenting prostitutes?  It got ugly.

Don‘t forget our new show verdict starts Monday at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. 

No new name, similar show, just better.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  It‘s time for tonight‘s Beat the Press: Our daily look back at the absurd, and sometimes amusing perils of live TV.

First up:  You want to get guests riled up over on CNBC?  We‘ll have one person overestimate how rich someone is, throwing a joke about the other guy soliciting prostitutes, in connection with the Spitzer case and you have the makings of a business news brawl.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He‘s worth a lot of money.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Thank you.  Let me finish, please.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Oh, my gosh.  You‘re actually upset some else is interrupting you?  Oh my goodness.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Dennis, Dennis, you‘re not client number 1, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You know, that‘s an offensive comment, Charlie.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s nothing to joke about.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m not joking about it.  I‘m not apologizing to

you

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Show some class.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  I just love what it takes to get the business guys really riled up.

Next up: After my friend, Campbell Brown asked why Wall Street seems so about the Governor Spitzer‘s downfall, CNN unveiled their newest way of treating their viewers like idiots.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Well, there‘s no word for it in English, but there is in German.  And it‘s all over the newspapers.  Schadenfreude, so, what does it mean?  Let‘s put it through the decomplicator.  Schadenfreude, it means taking pleasure in someone else‘s misfortune.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  The decomplicator.

Next: In CBS evening news, they had a cartoon that kind of (ph) school house rock to explain superdelegate, has the network insulted its viewers so much.  The other way to do it is to avoid using a word like that on TV:

The decomplicator.

Finally: Last night, CNN‘s Anderson Cooper interviewed Jason Itzler, the self-proclaimed “King of all Pimps.”  He ran a high-priced escort service he started in late 2003.  And Cooper recalled the business.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT:  And you ran a very high-priced, I think it was called New York Confidential.  It had ads in magazines in New York.  I remember the ads growing up in New York.  Everyone seemed to know about it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  It may be true that everyone seemed to know about it but Cooper remembered the ads from growing up?  I think the company started in 2003.  I‘m just saying.

We need your help Beating the Press.  If you see anything, right, wrong, amusing or absurd, go to our Web site at: Abrams.msnbc.com.  Leave us a tip in the box.  Please include the show and the time you saw the item.

Up next: A Barack Obama supporters turning up the heat on “Saturday Night Live,” accusing them of favoring Hillary Clinton.  Please, I know people get sensitive about this campaign.  But now, they‘re going after the comedy show.

Former “SNL” cast member Joe Piscopo is with us.

And later: New details about the woman who allegedly led to Governor Eliot Spitzer‘s downfall.  She came to New York to pursue a singing career.  And this is one of her songs.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Up next, some Obama supporters turning up the heat, accusing Saturday Night Live of a pro-Clinton bias.  Both the “New York Times” and “L.A. Times” publishing stories about it today.  Isn‘t it possible, it‘s not bias, but that those supporters just aren‘t that funny?  Former “SNL” cast member, Joe Piscopo, will be joining us to tell us what he thinks.  But first, the latest news. 

(NEWS BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, new details about Kristen, the woman who New York Governor Eliot Spitzer allegedly paid more than $4,000 for sex.  Her name is Ashley Dupre, lives in a brand new high-rise apartment building where rent begins at $3,500 a month for a one-bedroom apartment and got a song that has suddenly become a hit as well.

A pair of live trucks from local TV stations caught on tape drag racing.  That‘s coming up in tonight‘s “Reality Bites.” 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRED ARMISEN, ACTOR (as Barack Obama):  Hillary, I‘m sorry to call this late again, but I need your help. 

AMY POEHLER, ACTRESS (as Hillary Clinton):  Mr. President, what can I do? 

ARMISEN:  The CIA just confirmed that Ron has completed a nuclear device. 

POEHLER:  When did this start?

ARMISEN:  Apparently, the day I was sworn in.  Those (EXPLETIVE DELETED).  I trusted them.  I gave them my complete, total trust.  And they (EXPLETIVE DELETED) lied to me.

POEHLER:  Mr. President. 

ARMISEN:  Oh my god!  I am so (EXPLETIVE DELETED)!  What do I do, Hillary?  What do I do?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Many Obama supporters have got a new target -  not Geraldine Ferraro, but “Saturday Night Live.”  In articles in both the “New York Times” and “L.A. Times” today, the supporters claim that the skits have been anti-Obama. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Senator Clinton, Nigeria‘s foreign affairs minister, can you name him? 

POEHLER:  I don‘t know. 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Ojo Maduekwe.  Sen. Obama, same question. 

ARMISEN:  Ojo Maduekwe

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Don‘t you see that I‘m in a panic.  A blind, unreasoning, inexperienced panic? 

POEHLER:  For god‘s sake, Mr. President, man up!  Calm down and listen. 

ARMISEN:  OK.

POEHLER:  First of all, go to our key allies, the British, the Germans, the French and show them our intelligence.

ARMISEN:  Hold on, I‘m trying to write this down.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Senator, that‘s the only question I have for you.  And if I seem a bit nosy there or made you feel uncomfortable, I sincerely apologize.  Not my intention. 

ARMISEN:  That‘s all right, Tim.  You were just doing your job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Rather than viewing that as comedy, Obama supporters are saying it‘s a grand conspiracy against Obama.  Now, for months, the inside D.C. media was enamored with Barack Obama, and, as I said many times in this program, was far tougher on Clinton.  That‘s why the skits were funny.  They are in the funny business. 

And according to the “L.A Times,” “Saturday Night Live‘s” head writer, Seth Meyers, donated $1,000 to Obama in January.  Even the Obama campaign was having a laugh about it using the language of the “Saturday Night Live” skit. 

They said, quote, “Frankly Barack Obama knows he‘s good enough, smart enough and, gosh darn it, he‘s won more states, more votes and more delegates and that‘s probably what‘s more important anyway.”  This “Saturday Night Live” is pro-Clinton nonsense.  It‘s just that.  It‘s nonsense. 

Here now, actor, entertainer and former “Saturday Night Live” star, Joe Piscopo, who joins us.  Roy Sekoff, founding editor of “The Huffington Post,” and political analyst Lawrence O‘Donnell.  All right.  Joe, what‘s your take on this? 

JOE PISCOPO, FORMER “SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE” CAST MEMBER:  No, I think it‘s ridiculous.  “Saturday Night Live” is an equal opportunity basher.  I know from day one, when I first started doing impressions on the show, they‘d go after anybody.  And it‘s the one show on television that is really equal and really doesn‘t side with anybody.  Look, if you‘re a target, we‘re going to go for it. 

ABRAMS:  Look, what they are trying to do - again, the notion there‘s this sort of agenda at “Saturday Night Live.”  You know what?  We have to go after Obama.  I mean I assume it‘s hard enough to make it funny week after week, but then you say to them, you know what?  It can‘t just be funny.  It also has to be pro-Clinton.”

PISCOPO:  There‘s no agenda.  I‘m telling you, I was there, man.  I‘m speaking from the source.  Even when I first did my first impression, which I think was Millard Fillmore there was no - you know what?  I‘ve got to tell you something.  You don‘t have time to do an agenda.  You‘re so under the gun to write the sketch, to get it on the air, man.  You‘ve just got to go with what is funny.

ABRAMS:  See, Roy Sekoff, I think why some people are so upset about this is because “Saturday Night Live” is mocking the Roy Sekoffs of the world. 

ROY SEKOFF, FOUNDING EDITOR, “THE HUFFINGTON POST”:  Well, first of all, Joe did do the definitive Millard Fillmore.  I just want to say that. 

PISCOPO:  Thanks.  You‘re most kind.

SEKOFF:  You know, Dan, here‘s the thing.  I don‘t believe that there‘s a media conspiracy against Hillary.  And I don‘t believe that there‘s a comedy conspiracy in favor of her.  But what I know is when something on the shows work, they are going to do it again and again and again.  And when that first Pro-Hillary sketch worked and that was a rating bonanza, you can be guaranteed they‘re going to do it again and again and again.  And that‘s why they‘re doing it because it works. 

ABRAMS:  But it also, Lawrence, strikes a chord.  Because the media was being ridiculously anti-Clinton for a period there.  Not the case anymore, but for a period there, it was piled on Hillary.  They made it funny. 

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  I don‘t know.  I don‘t agree with you in terms of how far you go with that.  But look, Jim Downey who‘s written every one of the clips that you just showed there is a lifelong friend of mine.  I talk to him every week before he writes these things.  He usually performs them on the phone for me before he‘s written them, then he sends me the script toward the end of the week. 

I can tell you exactly what his process is.  It has now been well examined by the “New York Times.”  And Joe is absolutely right.  Jim is as desperate as every comedy writer who‘s looking for the joke.  And as soon as he finds it, that‘s what he‘s going with. 

And he‘s revealed - he‘s actually been forced in the course of this publicity to reveal things that he‘s not - I know he‘s not comfortable with.  For example, that he actually favors Obama over Hillary Clinton.  He doesn‘t like to talk about that stuff publicly. 

And he was on “HARDBALL” this afternoon with Chris talking about this stuff in the same way.  And if you‘ve ever been in the comedy writing room as Joe has and trying to get this stuff done, if you can make somebody laugh with anything, that‘s what we‘re going to go with. 

ABRAMS:  Here‘s a little bit more from one of the clips that‘s become so, quote, “controversial.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Sen. Obama, are you comfortable?  Is there anything we can get for you? 

ARMISEN:  No.  Thank you.  I‘m fine. 

POEHLER:  John King, a follow up? 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Sen. Obama, a minute ago, Jorge Ramos asked if there was anything we could get you and you said quote, “No thank you, I‘m fine.”  My question is, are you sure? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Yes.  Joe, let me ask you this.  Some of the critics, some of

the Obama supporters were very upset about this.  They‘re saying look at

who they chose to do Obama and who they chose to do Hillary Clinton.  She

comes across as so attractive, et cetera.  And yet, he doesn‘t -

PISCOPO:  Dan -

ABRAMS:  Go ahead.  Tell me, because I don‘t buy it.  Go ahead, Joe. 

PISCOPO:  No, just think about it.  When Hillary went on with Amy Poehler, it was wonderful.  I thought they just buried her.  I thought right up against her and Hillary with that surgically implanted smile, you know, that just kept staying -  And you know she was being nailed.  But next week, on “Weekend Update,” they nailed her again. So it‘s insane to do it like that.  My question is where‘s John McCain in all this? 

SEKOFF:  But  Joe, isn‘t it true that, you know, in comedy, timing is everything.  And for these appearances, it was the perfect timing for Hillary.  She was just putting out the whole “the media is against me” message. 

ABRAMS:  No. 

SEKOFF:  It gets to come right after that.

ABRAMS:  I was the only - I was the only one talking about that at the time. 

SEKOFF:  You and Hillary?

ABRAMS:  Yes, maybe me and Hillary.  But you know what?  She was right at the time.  As you know, I‘m going to call them as I see them.  Joe, about it again, the selection process.  How do they go about - again, those who are saying, you know what?  They should have picked someone else to do Obama, et cetera.  How do they go about picking who gets which part? 

PISCOPO:  You know what?  It‘s pretty much between dress and air.  It‘s a terrible time.  It‘s between like 7:30 to 9:30, dress rehearsal on “Saturday Night Live.”  And then you find out what‘s in the show, what‘s not in the show.  What works, what doesn‘t work.  And what you planned for the previous three days really doesn‘t mean much.  And sometimes you‘re hoping your sketches get in. 

So it‘s pretty much last minute.  When I tell you, you don‘t have time to have an agenda, you just don‘t plain have time.  You just want to make it funny.  And you‘re so right.  The point is so well-taken when you say that the timing is everything.  Oh man, you couldn‘t make this up.  You couldn‘t make this whole Democratic primary up.  It‘s gold for comedians.  And to say they‘ve got an agenda, for one or the other is ridiculous. 

ABRAMS:  Lawrence, did you want to jump in or was it Roy? 

SEKOFF:  Oh, I was just saying likability of the performer is very

important.  And Amy Poehler is a very, very likable performer.  In the same

way -

O‘DONNELL:  Remember when Will Ferrell -

SEKOFF:  Who do they have who‘s unlikable? 

O‘DONNELL:  Who‘s the unlikable woman on “Saturday Night Live” who you could possibly cast as the Hillary player?  I mean, look, Joe knows how this is done. 

And in fact, you know, they did go out and did a little casting

attempt to try to find a new Obama player possibly.  And couldn‘t get

anybody that was - so they went with Fred Armisen and he‘s learning his way

through it, I think, getting better every week.  Amy Poehler has been doing

Hillary for a long time.  She‘s a logical candidate for that.  And every

time they portray -

(CROSS TALK) 

ABRAMS:  Oh, yes, no question about it.  Hang on.  I‘ve got to wrap this up.  But Joe, I‘ve got to give you a final chance to tell us what John McCain might say about this controversy. 

PISCOPO:  My friends, my friends, my friends.  That‘s all he would say about it.  I want to see more McCain impression.  Leave Hillary and Barack out of it. 

(CROSS TALK)

ABRAMS:  Joe Piscopo, Roy Sekoff, Lawrence O‘Donnell.  Great to have you on the show.  Appreciate it.

PISCOPO:  Thank you, my friends. 

ABRAMS:  Up next, new information tonight on Ashley Dupre, the high-priced prostitute who spent a couple of hours with client nine a.k.a. the governor of New York.  She is an aspiring singer, and her tune is suddenly a hit. 

And later, the man who‘s about to become the new governor of New York was asked today if he has ever used the services of prostitutes.  He‘s in tonight‘s “Winners and Losers.”  Coming up.

But first, “Reality Bites,” the sometimes painful dose of reality caught on tape.  Tonight, TV news trucks were supposed to be out doing just that, covering news.  But last weekend in Texas, two boneheads from rival stations in El Paso made news when they raced their station trucks on the local drag racing strip. 

Footage of the race showed up a few days later on YouTube.  One of the drivers was fired, the other is still waiting to find out if he‘ll be reprimanded.  Did they forget they work for TV stations, meaning there are cameras there filming it?  We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  New details have emerged about Kristin, the high-dollar call girl at the center of the Eliot Spitzer prostitution scandal.  Twenty-two-year-old Ashley Dupre, born Ashley Youmans, described a hard life of heartache, abuse and poverty on MySpace.  Her father and mother live in this New Jersey home. 

And her brother spoke out today in her defense calling her a great person and an independent woman.  These are pictures from her brother‘s MySpace page.  Now, Ashley is an aspiring singer.  And today, the biggest radio station in New York played one of her songs. 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

ASHLEY ALEXANDRA DUPRE (singing):  Can you handle me boy?  Can you take my hand and carry me boy?  Wanna see what you feel?  Look in my eyes so I can see if you‘re for real.  Can you ride with me boy?  Bonnie and Clyde, baby die with me boy?

(END AUDIO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Here now, two friends of Ashley Dupre, Freddy “Logan” Sagastume and Robert “Mysterious” Cummings and Jo Piazza, a gossip columnist for the “New York Daily News.”

All right, guys let me ask you, guys first.  You guys were friends with her.  You knew her.  Do you have any idea that this was what she was doing? 

FREDDY “LOGAN” SAGASTUME, ASHLEY DUPRE‘S FRIEND:  Not at all.

ABRAMS:  No idea?

ROBERT “MYSTERIOUS” CUMMINGS, ASHLEY DUPRE‘S FRIEND:  No.

ABRAMS:  How did you know her. 

CUMMINGS:  Actually, we started off with a music relationship and it grew into a great friendship as well. 

ABRAMS:  What is she like? 

SAGASTUME:  She‘s a fun person.  Like, a regular person.  A normal girl.  I mean, now that she‘s getting depicted as other things and everything.  It was like your friend.  You have a girlfriend as your friend.  And you guys talk about things. 

ABRAMS:  Did she seem to have more money than might be appropriate for what she was doing?  She lived in a nice apartment, about $3,500 a month apartment. 

CUMMINGS:  I never knew how much it cost, but yes. 

SAGASTUME:  We know she came on some like -

CUMMINGS:  We‘re so focused on the music. 

ABRAMS:  Now, her song is, you know, being played on all the radio stations. 

SAGASTUME:  She deserves that. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Jo, what else do we know?  I mean her teacher said the following: “She was a wild kid.  She had a heart of gold, but she went to the beat of a different drum.”  What else do you know? 

PIAZZA:  I have to say first, I can‘t get that song out of my head now.  I really can‘t, Dan.  What we know is that she was kind of this wild child.  She left home when she was 17, came to New York.  I mean that‘s a huge thing when you‘re 17 to be making it on your own in the big city. 

So she came here.  She‘s an aspiring musician.  We‘re also she always had a penchant for older men, which makes sense and that she was living with a boyfriend for some time and that he recently moved out. 

And now, she‘s not sure how she‘s going to pay the rent on that $3,500-a-month apartment.  So, I‘m not sure exactly how much she was pulling in from the Emperors Club. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  Logan, you were saying when she said she had a penchant

for older men -

SAGASTUME:  It sounds like a joke when she said it makes sense. 

ABRAMS:  OK.

SAGASTUME:  You know, it sounded like a joke. 

ABRAMS:  I thought maybe you knew - Do you know any guys she dated? 

SAGASTUME:  Not at all. 

CUMMINGS:  No.

ABRAMS:  You guys just had pretty much a business - a different kind of business relationship. 

SAGASTUME:  Business - yes, we‘d go out to eat.  We walk around Manhattan, talk about the music.  She then would come up with new songs. 

ABRAMS:  And she never talked about sort of knowing people or anything like that? 

SAGASTUME:  No. 

ABRAMS:  All right, Jo.  Let me read to you - This is from her mother, “She‘s a very bright girl who can handle someone like the governor.  But she‘s also a 22-year-old, not a 32-year-old or a 42-year-old, and she obviously got involved in something much larger than her.”  You know, Jo, a lot of the local papers are now questioning her age.

PIAZZA:  Yes, we heard that too.  We‘re hearing that there‘s reports the only Ashley Youmans, which is her actual name from the Jersey shore area is around 32.  But we‘re also hearing that mom has denied that rumor. 

ABRAMS:  Do you, guys know anything about that? 

SAGASTUME:  I mean, we know personally - I can tell you I know the difference between a 32-year-old and a 22-year-old.  From what I know, she‘s not 32. 

ABRAMS:  No?

CUMMINGS:  She‘s not 32. 

ABRAMS:  Jo, do we have the music ready?  This is a little more of the song she had that‘s apparently now all over the biggest radio station in New York. 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

DUPRE (singing):  Brush up against me and whisper in my ear.  Make me feel what you want to feel.  Numb to the touch, deeper pulse inside.  Let‘s hit the dance floor, turn it up inside.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Jo, are the hot clubs in New York now going to be playing this? 

PIAZZA:  It‘s a pretty sexy song, Dan.  I mean I think that come tomorrow night, they are going to be busting it up in Marquis. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  And you guys are going to want to be on her next album. 

Right now, she‘s a big star.

SAGASTUME:  Yes, why not?

CUMMINGS:  We‘ve thought of it.  I would definitely love making music with her. 

SAGASTUME:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  Logan, Mysterious, gentlemen, thanks a lot for coming in. 

Appreciate it.

CUMMINGS:  Thanks for having us.

ABRAMS:  And Jo Piazza, thank you.  Appreciate it. 

Up next, will tonight‘s big winner or loser be the just eliminated “American Idol” contestant whose fortune seemed to sink since her stripper past was revealed; Dr. Laura in hot water since making controversial comments again, about Spitzer sex scandal blaming it on the wife; or New York‘s new governor, David Paterson, showing his quick sense of humor today, when asked has he ever gone to prostitutes.  It‘s in “Winners and Losers.”  Coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  It‘s time for tonight‘s “Winners and Losers” for this 13th day of March, 2008. 

Your bronze loser, the U.S. dollar in a free fall versus other major currencies, making it increasingly difficult for Americans to travel or purchase anything overseas.  Today, the dollar fell to a new all-time low against the euro and a 12-year low versus the Japanese yen. 

Our silver loser, “American Idol” contestant and male stripper, David Hernandez, who got the boot from the show last night.  The 24-year-old was considered a favorite.  But regardless, he has helped strippers everywhere take one more step towards proving that they really are performers. 

But the biggest loser of the day - Dr. Laura Schlessinger who repeated again yesterday, the absurd comments that Gov. Spitzer‘s wife is somehow to blame for the sex scandal for, quote, “not making him feel like a man.”  I guess he would have been better off if he‘d been married to Dr.

L. 

But our big winner of the day?  New York Lieutenant Governor, David Paterson who‘s taking over as governor Monday, showing he‘s ready to take on reporters from day one. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER:  Have you ever patronized a prostitute? 

LT. GOV. DAVID PATERSON, INCUMBENT GOVERNOR OF NEW YORK:  Only the lobbyists. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  I‘ve got to give the guy credit.  Time for tonight‘s P.O.‘d box, your chance to tell us what you love or hate about the show.  A number of you wrote in after last night‘s “On Their Trail” when I gave Obama‘s team a blunder for changing his position.  He‘d supported mail-in voting, but now he‘s expressing concerns about mailing ballots in Florida. 

First one, “If you had shown the rest of the statement, he said, ‘If the mail-in was secure like it is in Oregon where they have signature match registration, that would be fine.‘  Talk about taking a statement out of context.” 

Hunt Helm(ph) says: “Obama did not flip-flop on this.  The reason there is concern is getting mail in set up time.  Oregon works only because registered voters‘ signatures are already scanned.  In Florida, they are not.” 

Shane Ashby(ph) from Irvine, “It‘s ridiculous to say Obama‘s reverse position regarding a mail-in ballot in Florida.  Per the Florida‘s legislature, it can‘t be done properly in time allowed when Florida, against all historical evidence, demonstrates they can manage a mail-in ballot without foul play, then they consider it.  Not before.”

All right.  I appreciate all of your comments.  We should have been more specific about Obama‘s position on mail in votes. 

But I‘m sticking to my call.  The Obama camp has been crusading against any mail-in option going forward at all.  Obama‘s campaign manager even accused Clinton supporters of designing and pushing the mail-in process.  That doesn‘t relate to issues of ballot eligibility or signatures. 

In this case, the Obama campaign is simply against a mail-in re-vote and probably against a re-vote at all.  Why wouldn‘t they?  Why would they want it? 

To claim that it‘s about supporting a perfect system for votes is disingenuous.  He‘s co-sponsored legislation that would support mail-in votes and he doesn‘t want one at all now.  I‘m sticking with the blunder but your points are well-taken. 

Doc Clay from Winston-Salem, North Carolina wants to know, “Why bother having panelists discuss cheap shots and blunders if you‘re always going to make the final judgment yourself?” 

Doc, it‘s not a final judgment.  It‘s just my scorecard.  A lot of times, our guests disagree with me.  You can make up your own mind if you agree.  I just want you to know where I stand. 

Donald Jude and Mary Sue write, “Why do you always get more Clinton more mistakes?  Is she always doing more than Obama?”  I care for neither but I care for fairness.  If you watch the show, you‘d know that Clinton doesn‘t always get more strikes than Obama.  A lot of times, when she does, it‘s because she‘s guilty of more misstatements, cheap shots and blunders.  I‘m not going to rig this just to keep the score even. 

Keep your E-mails coming - Abrams@MSNBC.com.  Please include your name and where you‘re writing from.  That does it for now.  Remember, our shoe show, “VERDICT,” starts Monday at 9:00 p.m. Eastern right here on MSNBC.  New name, similar show, some new segments.  It‘s just going to be better.  See you then.  

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

END   

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