updated 4/25/2008 11:16:40 AM ET 2008-04-25T15:16:40

Guests: Dan Abrams, Joe Watkins, Lawrence O‘Donnell, Kevin Madden, Drew Peterson, Joe Brodsky

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Tonight for the first time, Obama‘s controversial pastor defends himself publicly.  Did he help or hurt Obama?

Joe Watkins, Lawrence O‘Donnell, and Kevin Madden are with us.

And: Could this be a sign for John McCain?  President Bush‘s own daughter says she‘s open to voting for Obama or Clinton.

And: Suspect Drew Peterson still claims his missing wife Stacy ran off with another man six months ago, leaving her kids and family without a word.  He joins us live to answer the tough questions.

VERDICT starts now.

Hi, everyone.  Welcome to the show.

First up, Senator Obama‘s controversial former pastor speaking out publicly.  A month ago, Reverend Jeremiah Wright created a political firestorm for Obama after pieces of his sermon widely viewed as anti-American were played over and over.

Tonight, in an interview with Bill Moyers that airs tomorrow night on PBS, Wright claims his words were twisted to be used against Senator Obama.  Moyers asked him how he felt after hearing Obama publicly distanced himself from Wright during his speech on race.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL MOYERS, PBS HOST:  Here is a man who came to see you 20 years ago, wanting to know about the neighborhood.  Barack Obama was a skeptic when he came to religion.  He sought you out because he knew you knew about the community.

You led him to the faith.  You baptized him.  You performed his wedding ceremony.  You baptized his two children.  You were for 20 years his spiritual counselor.  He has said that.  And yet, he in that speech in Philadelphia had to say some hard things about you.

How did it go down with you when you heard Barack Obama say those things?

REV. JEREMIAH WRIGHT, TRINITY UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST:  It went down very simply.  He‘s a politician.  I‘m a pastor.  We speak to two different audiences.  And he says what he has to say as a politician.  I say what I have to say as a pastor.

We‘re at two different worlds.  I do what I do.  He does what politicians do.  So that what happened in Philadelphia where he had to respond to the sound bytes...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Ouch.  Obama didn‘t throw Wright under the bus.  And now, Wright is basically calling him just another politician?

We‘re going to have much more of that interview coming up.

Joining me now: MSNBC political analyst and reverend: Joe Watkins; Political analyst, Lawrence O‘Donnell; and, former Mitt Romney press secretary, Kevin Madden.

Joe, it sure doesn‘t seem that Reverend Wright is doing Obama much good here?

JOE WATKINS, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Dan, this is “reverend wrong” as far as the Obama campaign is concerned.  I mean, this interview couldn‘t come at a worse time.  I mean, just a few days after Obama loses to Hillary Clinton by 10 points, after dropping $30 million in Pennsylvania, and now this.  And all the wrong stuff.

The reason why Obama has such a big following is he‘s excited so many people and so many (INAUDIBLE) voters, is because he‘s always characterized himself as a different kind of person.  He‘s not the same old kind of politician.

And here it is, Reverend Wright who he didn‘t throw under the bus is throwing him under the bus by saying that he‘s just another politician, he‘s doing what he has to do as a politician, he‘s saying what politicians say.  Bad stuff, not helpful at all to Barack Obama.

ABRAMS:  Lawrence?

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, POLITICAL ANALYST:  I think that if you roll back the tape, you will not hear him say that Barack Obama is just another politician.  He simply used the word politician.

WATKINS:  Yes, but politician has a negative connotation, Lawrence.

O‘DONNELL:  No, it doesn‘t.  Not to me.

ABRAMS:  Really?

WATKINS:  But to many Americans it does.

O‘DONNELL:  Not to Kevin, it doesn‘t.  Kevin worked for a politician.

ABRAMS:  Come on.  Kevin...

KEVIN MADDEN, FORMER MITT ROMNEY PRESS SECRETARY:  I‘m going to be the tie-breaker here.  When someone calls you a politician, they‘re not offering you...

WATKINS:  Not a compliment.

ABRAMS:  Lawrence?

O‘DONNELL:  That‘s not true.  Look, that‘s crazy.  George Washington was a politician.  Thomas Jefferson was a politician.  He did not use.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  I don‘t want to get into a definition of politician.

O‘DONNELL:  Reverend Wright, well, Reverend Wright—well, you did though.  You mischaracterized instantly, you instantly...

ABRAMS:  Lawrence, come on.  You‘re not suggesting that he‘s complimenting him by saying he‘s a politician?  Why are you staking out on this?

O‘DONNELL:  I‘m not suggesting he‘s saying anything negative.  I didn‘t hear a negative thing about him.  I didn‘t hear Wright say a negative thing about...

WATKINS:  That‘s what he said.  He said, “Obama had to say what he has to say.  I say what I have to say.”  That‘s not a positive statement.  He didn‘t come to the defense of Barack Obama.  He didn‘t say, you know what, Barack Obama is running for the presidency, he‘s one of my good members, and, you know, please don‘t judge him by my words.  Instead, he says, “He says what he has to say.  I‘m saying what I have to say.

ABRAMS:  All right.

O‘DONNELL:  He didn‘t say anything bad about Obama in that clip.

ABRAMS:  All right.  I will let our viewers judge whether they view being called a politician is negative.  I‘ll just leave it at that.  But I do want to play a little more.

Here is Reverend Wright.  This is Reverend Wright defending himself.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WRIGHT:  The persons who have heard the entire sermon understand the communication perfectly.  Failure to communicate is when something is taken, like a sound bite for political purpose and put constantly over and over again, looped in the face of the public.  That‘s not a failure to communicate.  Those who are doing that are communicating exactly what they want to do, which is to paint me as some sort of fanatic or as the learned journalist from “The New York Times” called me a “wackadoodle.”

It‘s to paint me as something: “Something‘s wrong with me.  There‘s nothing wrong in this country - for its policies.  We‘re perfect.  Our hands are free.  Our hands have no blood on them.”

That‘s not a failure to communicate.  The message that‘s being communicated by the sound bites is exactly what those pushing those sound bites want to communicate.

MOYERS:  What do you want they wanted to communicate?

WRIGHT:  I think they wanted to communicate that I am unpatriotic, that I‘m un-American, that I am filled with hate speech.  I have a cult at Trinity United Church of Christ.  “And, by the way, guess who goes to his church?”  Hint, hint, hint.  That‘s what they wanted to communicate.

MOYERS:  What did you think when you began to see those very brief sound bites circulating as they did?

WRIGHT:  I felt it was unfair.  I felt it was unjust.  I felt it was untrue.  I felt that those who were doing that, were doing it for some very devious reason.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Reverend Watkins, let me ask you, look, you know, you have a sermon every week in Philadelphia.  Would you be willing to stand by everything you said in those sermons?

WATKINS:  Yes, because what I do is, I don‘t preach politics in the pulpit.  And you know what?  Even if the country has made mistakes and the country has, there have been some terrible things that have happened to people of color in this country over the course of the country‘s history.  You know what my role as a pastor, my role as a pastor is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to say what Jesus said and to mirror that by my action.

And you know what Jesus said?  Jesus said love those who hate you.  Do good to those who do bad to you.  Bless those who cursed you.  Pray for those who spitefully used you.  That‘s what he said.

ABRAMS:  So, what do you make of what Reverend Wright just said?

WATKINS:  Well, what I make of what he said is, you know—whatever—the snippets may not fairly capture everything that he‘s preached over the course of 30 years at an illustrious church in Chicago.  I know it‘s a great congregation.  I know he‘s a charismatic pastor.

But nonetheless, you can‘t‘ put words in his mouth.  The words that came out were words that he said.  And at the end of the day, they don‘t sound like the words of Jesus Christ.

ABRAMS:  Let me play another piece of sound from Reverend Wright here.  Again, defending himself today for the first time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WRIGHT:  Being at odds with policies is nothing new to me.  The blowup and the blowing up of sermons preached in 15, seven, six years ago and now becoming a media event again, not the full sermon, but just snippets from the sermon and sound bites, having made me the target of hatred, yes, that is something very new and something very, very unsettling.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Lawrence, look, whether it‘s unsettling or not, what do you make of his defense that this—that these are just snippets?  Again and again, we just keep hearing these are just snippets and you heard Joe just say that, look, he would essentially live and die by whatever it is he said in his sermons.

O‘DONNELL:  Well, I think everything Reverend Wright is saying in this clips is true.  They were just snippets.

ABRAMS:  Yes, they were.

O‘DONNELL:  They were out of context.  I don‘t think it‘s going to work as a defense for him.  You know, very few people, some tiny handful of people are going to watch Bill Moyers whole piece.  I think that if they do, they might see a guy who‘s a very nice, mild mannered guy, a completely different image that the clips show.

The clips are what he‘s going to have to live with, the clips are what the Obama campaign has to live with and they are what they are.  And there‘s nothing Reverend Wright is going to do in a forum like this that‘s going to, in any way, take the sting out of it.

ABRAMS:  Kevin Madden, you were press secretary for a candidate in this particular election, what is happening behind the scenes at the Obama camp tonight as these clips are being released?

MADDEN:  My good friend Bill Burton over there in the Obama campaign has got to be shaking his head saying, “Why, why are you doing this to me?”  I mean, look, the very fact that they just came out of an election in Pennsylvania where they didn‘t do very well with rural white voters, a lot of it had to do with these divisive comments in the past couple of months, whether it was Reverend Wright or the bitter gate.

This is an—any attempt to change the story or to turn the page has been hurt because here‘s a new narrative emerging with Reverend Wright trying to explain and relitigate statements that they‘d been now explaining for probably close to two months.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Let me play another piece of sound again.  This is Wright being asked about what Obama may have done with the statements that Wright made.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MOYERS:  In the 20 years since you‘ve been his pastor, have you ever heard him repeat any of your controversial statements as his opinion?

WRIGHT:  No.  No.  No.  Absolutely not.

I don‘t talk to him about politics.  And so he had a political event, he goes out as a politician and he says what he has to say as a politician.  I continue to be a pastor who speaks with people of God about the things of God.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  And Lawrence, do you say again when a politician who says he has to say is sort of like saying, he‘s a doctor who goes out and does he what he has to do.

O‘DONNELL:  Yes, I don‘t hear anything in that negative in that all.  There are things politicians have to say...

(CROSSTALK)

WATKINS:  That‘s because you‘re a good guy, Lawrence.  You‘re a very good guy.

O‘DONNELL:  Is anyone here going to suggest that there are things - that politicians, in (INAUDIBLE) when they don‘t have to say things?

WATKINS:  No.  But it‘s the way that he said it.  It‘s the way he put it, Lawrence.  He says...

O‘DONNELL:  It was put in a perfectly friendly way.  Of course, what‘s wrong with that?  What‘s unfriendly about—what‘s negative about the way he said it?

ABRAMS:  Let me get Kevin.

MADDEN:  Lawrence, I think you can feel the chill in the air when he starts using the word politician.  It‘s almost as if he‘s using this...

O‘DONNELL:  I don‘t.  I‘m watching him.  I don‘t feel that.

MADDEN:  I think a lot of people will.  And I think it‘s almost as if he‘s using a code word for pondering, and essentially labeling Barack Obama as conventional, a conventional politician.  And we all know that the whole reason for Barack Obama‘s assent during this campaign...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Hang on, one at a time (ph).

O‘DONNELL:  He‘s deliberate - this is great.  He‘s not using those words and every pundit on TV talking about this wants to force those words into Reverend Wright‘s mouth.  He‘s not using them.  So, we‘re pretending he‘s using them.

WATKINS:  I don‘t think that‘s it, Lawrence.  I mean, here‘s is a guy who is throwing Barack Obama under the bus.

O‘DONNELL:  He did not throw him under the bus.

WATKINS:  I think so.

O‘DONNELL:  You are saying he did but...

WATKINS:  I can no more distance myself...

O‘DONNELL:  Watch Bill Moyers show.  See if he does.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Let him finish.  Go ahead, Joe and I‘ll give you another (INAUDIBLE).

WATKINS:  No.  Barack Obama said, “I can no more disown Reverend Wright than disown somebody in my own family.”  And here it is that Reverend Wright is saying, “You know, he‘s a politician, he has to do what he has to do.  I‘m pastor.  I have to speak to the people.  He‘s a politician, he has to do what he has to.  He has to say because he needs the votes.”

That‘s not a compliment by any stretch of the imagination.  I don‘t think anybody watching would suppose those comments were meant to be complimentary to Barack Obama.

ABRAMS:  Lawrence?

O‘DONNELL:  I‘m watching.  I don‘t see him saying anything negative about Barack Obama.

Listen, I worked for a politician who I admired every minute of the day, a noble person.  Politician is not a bad word to me, it‘s not been a bad word about—if you think it‘s a bad word, then, you‘re saying it‘s every one of our presidents has been a bad person.

WATKINS:  No, I did the same thing.  I worked for a U.S. senator, I worked for a United States president, I think they‘re tremendous human beings, and great people and all are politicians.

O‘DONNELL:  All three of these people running for presidents are bad people because they are politicians.

(LAUGHTER)

ABRAMS:  Kevin, go ahead.

MADDEN:  Well, you know, I would have to agree with Lawrence has said.  Look, we all work for people that we admire and we all know that they‘re in politics for a reason, because they want to do good.  But it just seems to me that in this case that Reverend Wright seems to be using it in the a term to kind of distance himself from him.

ABRAMS:  Lawrence, when people say to me, Dan, you‘re a lawyer, I know what that means.

(LAUGHTER)

ABRAMS:  I know what that means.  You‘re a lawyer I like you.  Even if they say, you know what, Dan‘s a lawyer, he‘s got to do what he‘s got to do.  I mean, when people say that, they mean he‘s full of it.

O‘DONNELL:  Yes.  The way you performed that word lawyer is a little extra edge.

ABRAMS:  All right.

O‘DONNELL:  But look, Dan, like you, I grew up in a house with a lawyer.  My father was a lawyer.  Lawyer has never been a bad word to me.  Politician is not a bad word to me either.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Joe Watkins, Lawrence O‘Donnell, Kevin Madden, good stuff.  Thanks a lot.

WATKINS:  Thanks, Dan.

ABRAMS:  Coming up: It turns out, 25 of the mothers from the Texas polygamy compound are actually minors, children.  As more kids are separated from their parents today, isn‘t that pretty strong evidence that these kids need to be protected by this state?  We debate.

And Drew Peterson joins us live.  The man under suspicion in his wife Stacy‘s disappearance, now possibly in his third wife‘s death is with us.  I‘ll ask him the tough questions.

Plus: The V.A. covering up the number of vets who‘ve tried to commit suicide?  Another reason Why America Hates Washington in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Tonight‘s edition of Why America Hates Washington: Allegations that the Department of Veteran Affairs tried to cover up how many veterans tried to commit suicide in 2007.  The V.A. told CBS News, 790 vets tried to commit suicide last year.  But an internal e-mail revealed in federal court shows the department seems to have known it was really closer to 12,000.

The e-mail titled “Not for the CBS News Interview Request” reads: “Shh!  Our suicide prevention coordinators are identifying about a thousand suicide attempts per month.  Is this something we should carefully address before someone stumbles on it?”

The government trying to hide the extent of the emotional damage to our brave troops: Another reason Why America Hates Washington.

We‘re back with a new revelation from that polygamist compound: that 25 of the mothers also happen to be children.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We‘re back.

Today, we learned that 25 more children were taken into custody following that raid on a Texas polygamist compound.  But these 25 children are also mothers.  They now join 437 other children already in state custody.  This has stoked to the debate as more children are taken away by the state and separated from their mothers.

A Texas judge ordered the siblings should be kept together, that babies younger than one stay with their mothers, and breast-feeding mothers with children between the ages of one and two should be allowed to live near their kids.

But now that it‘s clear so many of these young girls were pregnant and/or had kids, isn‘t that enough to say these kids need to be protected from these parents?

Here now: Richard Wexler, executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform; and former Houston prosecutor, Nicole DeBorde

Richard, isn‘t this evidence in and of itself that they need to get these kids away from these parents?

RICHARD WEXLER, NATIONAL COALITION FOR CHILD PROTECTION REFORM:  Well, this has been the evidence all along.  And it is certainly further indication that they may need to be away from the men on the ranch.  It is not an indication that they also need to be taken away from their mothers.  That‘s the terrible tragedy here.

When you take a child away from a mother who is not offending in a situation like this, that does so much emotional damage to a child that one expert said it‘s like pouring salt into an open wound.  Why do we want to hurt the children even more?

ABRAMS:  No, no.  The standard here and correct me if I‘m wrong, Nicole, is what‘s in the best interest of these children, right?

NICOLE DEBORDE, FORMER PROSECUTOR:  That‘s exactly right.

ABRAMS:  We‘ve got to look, what is the best interest of these children?  And these mothers have been either sexually abused themselves when they were children.  It‘s against the law in Texas for a parent to allow a child in their home under the age of 16 to be sexually abused.  Meaning, they can lose custody for that alone.  And it seems now it‘s a systemic problem on this ranch.  It seems to me it‘s a non-issue.

DEBORDE:  It‘s absolutely a non-issue.  I mean, the reality is that these children are in a place where they‘re not being protected.  And the situation is that that the judge can‘t release these children back into the home until they believe that the children will be safe, and so they can release them back to their mothers.

WEXLER:  But they can be kept with their mothers outside of the ranch.  These children and their mothers need to be treated like what they really are, which is refugees.  You know, when the boat people fled from Vietnam, nobody said that because pirates attacked those boats and raped the mothers and the children, when they finally made it to these shores, nobody said, “Oh, to the children, we‘re going to make your trauma even worse by taking you from your mother because the mother failed to protect you from the rapist.”  That‘s a terrible thing to do from a child to suggest that...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Richard, the bottom line is these women, these mothers—stop for a second.  Stop for a second, Richard.  Stop.  Hey, Richard, stop.  Richard, hey.

Cut off his mike, please.  Can you cut off his mike?  OK.

All right.  Nicole, let‘s talk about it.  He‘s just going to blab on and on.

The bottom line here is that in my view—I‘m happy to have a discussion.  It‘s an important debate.  And you know, look, I don‘t know as much about this as some people do.  But can I tell you from talking to people who were in this cult, who are talking to people who were there, it is clear that these women were brainwashed, OK?  And that is a big issue in determining whether they should be able to get back with their kids.

DEBORDE:  Well, and the reality is that the mother is not participating in the investigation, there‘s an indicator there that they‘re not doing what they can to keep the child safe.  If the mother isn‘t doing what they can to keep the child safe, then, the government has a very difficult time making a decision to return a child into an environment where the mother or the parent who they‘re going to go back to, won‘t keep the child safe.

And that‘s really what the issue is in this particular case.  It‘s not that they shouldn‘t be their mother.  Most of the time, CPS, which is the agency that is helping to facilitate where these children will go, has to make sure that they‘re sending the child back to a safe home.  And that‘s the reality.

ABRAMS:  All right.  I want to play a piece of sound from, again, a former member here who is talking about the age.  And again, this is the point, 25 pregnant or girls, who are mothers, have been found.

Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SIMON, FORMER FLDS MEMBER:  A couple girls out of my class had gotten married shortly after graduating eighth grade and was already having kids after a year.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Richard, does that matter?

WEXLER:  It matters enormously.  But you keep talking about returning them to the compound or separating them from the mothers as though those are the only options.  There is a third way.  The third way is treat these children and their mothers as refugees, resettle them as families until we know what‘s actually going on, so these children don‘t have the equivalent of salt poured in their emotional wounds by being taken from the their mothers.

ABRAMS:  Right.  But, we do know one thing, right?  I mean, it‘s a fact that 25 girls are pregnant or mothers.  It‘s a fact that a 16-year-old has four kids.  So you would agree with me, would you not, that at this compound there is systemic child abuse.  Would you agree with that, Richard?

WEXLER:  There are 437 children in all.  So, we don‘t know.  What we know is, if there is even one—that is a tragedy for that one.  Polygamy here is a euphemism.  If this is what has happened and we‘re talking...

ABRAMS:  No, wait.  It‘s a fact, Richard, it‘s a fact that 25...

WEXLER:  You know, shouting at me really isn‘t going to help us to get anywhere here.

ABRAMS:  Then, I‘ll talk to Nicole.  Nicole, it‘s a fact that there are 25 children who have—who are either mothers or who are pregnant.  That‘s not speculation.  That‘s not maybe.  That‘s not we need to determine it.  That‘s a fact.

DEBORDE:  That‘s 25 crimes, at least.  It depends on how many times they‘ve had children and if they were minors at the time and if the men that they were with were of a certain age.  And the reality is that even if the women are not at the compound, these women are not participating in the investigation by all indications, which means that the child may not be able to go into therapy or do whatever CPS thinks that they need to do to be reunited into a safe home.  Even if that home is outside the compound.  If the CPS can‘t determine that or the government can‘t determine that, they can‘t send the child back.  That‘s just the way it is.

ABRAMS:  Yes, this is troubling.

WEXLER:  Now what you‘ve done is moved from fact to speculation.  You‘re speculating about what the mothers are or aren‘t doing.  Several mothers have said they will do anything to get their children back.  We don‘t know if that‘s the case or not.  Let‘s separate the fact as you put it from the speculation.

ABRAMS:  Right.  And the bottom line is, in my view, that, I would rather err on the side of caution which is to say that these mothers who may have been enabling what is child rape should not be able to stay with their children.

WEXLER:  But you are not erring on the side of caution.

ABRAMS:  Of course I am.

WEXLER:  Putting the children at risk have an enormous abuse in foster care and tremendous emotional trauma.

ABRAMS:  Oh, I‘m sorry.  Right.  OK.

All right.  Richard Wexler and Nicole DeBorde, thanks a lot.

DEBORDE:  Thanks.

WEXLER:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, it‘s now been six months since anyone seen Chicago mother Stacy Peterson alive.  But her husband Drew still insists she ran off with another man.

Tonight, he‘s here to answer some tough questions about Stacy and his third wife‘s death which now has been ruled a suicide.

And: Greta van Susteren gets a little too much information from a guest about where he likes to relieve himself.  Beat the Press is next.

Your VERDICT, e-mail us at verdict@msnbc.com.  Your e-mails during the P.O.‘ed box at the end of the show.  Be sure to include your name, where you‘re writing from.  I‘m guessing that some people are going to tell me that I need to lower my voice.  Coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

First up: On the FOX News program we like to call “Hannity and Company,” it seems the long ignored co-host, Allan Colmes has finally had it.  He‘s tired of being the back-up singer to Sean Hannity and last night he‘s finally tried to assert himself.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALLAN COLMES, FOX HOST:  Excuse, can I speak to him?

SEAN HANNITY, FOX HOST:  I‘m just (INAUDIBLE).

COLMES:  May I speak to Mr. Kemp (ph), you just had your turn.  May I speak to Mr. Kemp (ph), please?  Do you mind if I speak to Mr. Kemp (ph)?

HANNITY:  Go right ahead.

COLMES:  Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Wait until November (INAUDIBLE).

COLMES:  Excuse, can I speak please?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, go ahead.

COLMES:  Thank you.  Thank you for your permission.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  You go, Allan Colmes.  Keep it up.  Hannity may let you even have your own exclusive some day.

Next up: My friend Greta van Susteren got a surprise answer last night when interviewing wacky guest, Prince Frederick von Anhalt, also he ninth husband of Zsa Zsa Gabor.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRINCE FREDERICK VON ANHALT, GUEST:  This paparazzi, you know, it‘s so much pressure on us.  I remember years ago when I had pressure (ph) and I had to pee, I could go and I didn‘t find the men‘s room, I could go in the bushes.  Today, you can‘t pee in the bushes anymore because next day your picture is on television.  You see, we don‘t have freedom anymore.  The paparazzi are all over us.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX HOST:  I don‘t know.  You had me until you got to the bushes, I think.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  I wonder how often Zsa Zsa has to take the prince out for a walk, so he can pee on the bushes.

ABRAMS:  Finally: Last night, this guy had a little trouble with the day and month.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Tonight‘s “Winners and Losers” for this third day of - it‘s not the 23rd day - 23rd day of May - April.  Beat the press on me. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  We need your help beating the press.  If you see anything right, wrong, amusing or absurd, go to our Web site, Verdict.MSNBC.com.  Leave us a tip in the box.  Please include the show and the time you saw the item. 

Up next, still a suspect in the disappearance of his fourth white, Stacy, now Drew Peterson facing a possible wrongful death suit in the death of his third wife.  He‘s still saying Stacy ran off with another man.  Drew Peterson is with us, live. 

And later, first daughter Jenna Bush won‘t rule out voting for Obama or Clinton.  That‘s in “Winners and Losers,” coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Welcome back.  Twenty-three-year-old Stacy Peterson was last seen in October of last year.  Days later, her husband Drew was named a suspect in her disappearance.  Since then, the death of his third wife, Kathleen Savio, was deemed a homicide changing what had been believed to be an accidental death in a bathtub. 

Many now believe he was responsible for both, but he has not been arrested or charged in either case and maintains his innocence.  He says he believes Stacy is still alive and with another man. 

Drew Peterson and his attorney, Joel Brodsky, join me now.  Gentlemen, thank you very much for coming on the program.  I appreciate.

JOEL BRODSKY, DREW PETERSON‘S ATTORNEY:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Let me start by saying I give you both credit for coming on the program to answer some tough questions and I appreciate that.  Let me start with you, Mr. Peterson with a fairly easy question which is, why are you so convinced that Stacy is alive? 

DREW PETERSON, SUSPECT IN THE DISAPPEARANCE OF STACY PETERSON AND THE DEATH OF KATHLEEN SAVIO:  Last time I talked to her she told me she was leaving with someone else.  

ABRAMS:  Tell me about that conversation.  What did she say?

PETERSON:  It was a phone call.  She said that she found somebody else and she was leaving for a while, she said.

ABRAMS:  Did you try to convince her not to leave? 

PETERSON:  I much said, you know, “What am I supposed to do with me and the kids and what are we supposed to do now.”  And she seemed kind of snotty in the phone conversation, so it was a pretty quick conversation.  And then I was abruptly - she terminated it.  

ABRAMS:  When you say “snotty,” what do you mean? 

PETERSON:  For her - I mean normally, she‘s kind of like giddy and up (UNINTELLIGIBLE).  Her demeanor during the conversation was kind of snotty for her.  

ABRAMS:  How long did the conversation last? 

PETERSON:  It was - maybe a couple minutes.  That‘s it. 

ABRAMS:  And she hung up and that‘s the last time you heard from her? 

PETERSON:  That‘s it.  

ABRAMS:  Does it surprise you that she hasn‘t contacted her children or any of her friends? 

PETERSON:  Yes, I‘m very surprised over that.  Yes.  

ABRAMS:  And what have you done to try to find her? 

PETERSON:  Oh, we have private investigators working right now.  And basically, they‘re kind of limited to computer activity, or you know, monitoring charge cards and that type of thing.  But I just don‘t have the resources to go traipsing the globe to, you know, find her at the beaches or, you know, other parts of the world where I think she possibly is.  

ABRAMS:  When you say that you don‘t have the resources, et cetera, I mean, this is your life, right?  I mean your life has now become the - being the suspect in the case of your missing wife.  I think there are a lot of people out there who would say, “My goodness, I would be doing everything I could, not just to clear myself, but also to make sure that she‘s OK.  I mean she is the mother of my children.”

PETERSON:  Right.  Well, my primary concern is my children.  There‘s four children that are requiring constant care, every day.  So I just can‘t abandon them to, you know, go traipsing the globe, looking for her.  She could be next door hiding out in Sharon‘s house or she could be on the other side of the world.  I don‘t have a clue where she is.  

ABRAMS:  Here is what the Illinois State Police said in a statement.  They said, “As stated previously, Stacy Peterson didn‘t voluntarily cease all contact with her children, family and friends.  The investigation continues to make progress proving that claim.  We are confident the investigation‘s momentum will culminate in an arrest.”

Look, you‘re a former cop.  You would think that the cops would want to give you the benefit of the doubt, wouldn‘t they?

PETERSON:  Not particularly. 

ABRAMS:  Why not?

PETERSON:  I think they‘ve gone out of their way to get me.  I think, being a policeman, I think has worked against me.  I‘ve gotten no professional courtesy, none whatsoever, and seemed that they‘ve been overly rude to me.  

BRODSKY:  Can I add something to that? 

ABRAMS:  Yes, go ahead, Joel.

BRODSKY:  You know, what the police believe really doesn‘t concern us.  It‘s what the prosecutors and the state‘s attorney believe that really concern us.  They‘re the ones that bring charges.  They are the ones that go to the grand jury.  And so far they have not given any indication of what their thoughts is.  So what the state police say really doesn‘t concern us whatsoever.  

ABRAMS:  All right.  Let me - your ex-fiance - you know all this stuff, Drew - your ex-fiance and the sister of your third wife have both made some pretty damning - said some pretty damning things about you.  Let‘s listen.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KYLE PIRY, DREW PETERSON‘S EX-FIANCE:  He pushed me over a cocktail table and pinned me to the ground, sort of like a police hold.  That‘s what I would call it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNA DOMAN, SISTER OF KATHLEEN SAVIO:  She told me she‘d never make the end of the divorce, she would never make the property settlement.  She knew it, and it‘s a shame.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER:  She knew she was going to be killed?

DOMAN:  That‘s what she told me.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  And then we have your second wife telling the “Chicago Tribune” that she said, “During their marriage, and increasing controlling Peterson told her he could kill her and make it look like an accident.” 

So you‘ve got your fiance talking about how you threw her around.  You‘ve got your second wife talking about the fact that you said you could kill her.  You got the sister of the third wife talking about the fact that you were talking about the violence.  You got your fourth wife who is missing.  Isn‘t it true that you‘re either the unluckiest guy in America or you‘re behind some of this? 

PETERSON:  I‘d say the unluckiest guy in America.  Whenever you break up with somebody, you don‘t really leave on a positive note.  And statements by an ex-fiance are just totally ludicrous.  

ABRAMS:  But they don‘t usually say that “The guy was trying to kill me.”  I mean I‘ve had some bad relationships and no ex-of mine has ever said, “The guy was trying to kill me.”

PETERSON:  Well, they never said I was trying to kill them either.  They‘re just saying what somebody else allegedly said to them.  

ABRAMS:  Your second wife said during their marriage an increasingly controlling person told her he could kill her and make it look like an accident.  That‘s according to Vicky Conley. 

PETERSON:  Oh, that never happened.  I never made any type of statement like that.  

ABRAMS:  Let me - again, let me - this is number seven here.  This goes again to the notion that everyone else out there is wrong, everyone is either lying or wrong.  For example, the pastor, Neil Schori, said as you know, that Stacy Peterson told him that Drew Peterson killed Kathleen Savio.  You‘ve got then her step brother, Walter Martineck, told him he helped Peterson move a large blue container that night Stacy Peterson disappeared.  A neighbor, saying Peterson and another man loading a container into Peterson‘s SUV.  You‘ve got Pamela Bosco saying Peterson was fearful of her situation and trying to move out days before she disappeared.  Now, I know you‘ve got individual responses to each one. 

PETERSON:  Right.

ABRAMS:  But on the whole, again, everyone else is lying? 

PETERSON:  Well, the problem is, when you - you‘re right.  We have individual responses to each one.  If you start piling on like that without looking at each individual statement -

ABRAMS:  Let‘s start with - I‘ll throw that to you, Joel.  Let‘s start it broadly.  All of them are lying, right? 

BRODSKY:  You‘ve got to look at each individual one.  You really can‘t say all of them are lying.  For example, Pastor Schori - she may have heard that from Stacy.  We don‘t know.  But let‘s suppose Stacy said that.  What‘s her motivation in saying that?  Perhaps she thought accusing somebody of a crime they didn‘t commit is a great way to get rid of her husband which she wanted to divorce.  

ABRAMS:  But there‘s a lot of people talking about killing them.  I mean, that‘s the thing.  You‘ve got a lot of ex-wives, and a fiance, and they‘re all talking about not just, we didn‘t get along, not just things weren‘t going so well.  They‘re using the word “killing” with regard to Drew Peterson.  

BRODSKY:  Well, you mentioned Tom Morphey, for example, for example.  When you look at him - I‘ve got pictures to show you - recent pictures of Tom Morphey to show you what they‘re relying on.  

ABRAMS:  You say he‘s not credible.  You say he‘s not credible.

BRODSKY:  Well, look at this.

ABRAMS:  All right.

BRODSKY:  This is a recent picture of him smoking dope.  

ABRAMS:  You say you‘ve got pictures of him doing drugs.

BRODSKY:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  Look, even if - you claim you have pictures.  OK. 

BRODSKY:  What do you do when he‘s not credible?  You can‘t trust a man like that, that‘s so stoned he can‘t even stand up. 

ABRAMS:  Did you see, though, that everyone in the context of the case - everyone except for Joel Brodsky and Drew Peterson has to be lying?

BRODSKY:  No.  We didn‘t say that.  But what you have to do is you have to examine each person‘s story individually.  I mean you can‘t lump them together and say everybody is lying.  That‘s simply unfair.  That‘s a loaded question. 

You have to examine each statement individually and look at each person - that‘s how you testify in court.  Each statement goes up there.  It‘s given.  You cross examine it and you‘ll test its reliability.  That‘s what we have to do.  Just saying there‘s a lot of stuff and gee whiz, statistically you must be guilty is unfair and is a loaded question. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  There are - Drew, you said a lot of things about Stacy.  You just said some more on this program a few moments ago.  You‘ve kind demeaned her, belittled her.  I want you to listen to some of the things you‘ve said and I want to ask you whether you regret having said any of this. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PETERSON:  Stacy would ask me for a divorce after her sister died on a regular basis.  I‘m not trying to be funny.  It was based on her menstrual cycle. 

Stacy loves male attention.  She could be -

LARRY KING, HOST OF “LARRY KING LIVE”:  Ran off with a guy? 

PETERSON:  Ran off with a guy and she could be dancing somewhere.  I don‘t know. 

Stacy wanted it, she got it.  She wanted a boob job; I got her a boob job.  She wanted a tummy tuck, she got that.  She wanted braces, Lasik surgery, hair removal - anything.  Stacy loved male attention.  And we did all these repairs on her.  She wanted it.  She got it.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  As you know, Drew, all of this stuff sounds like you‘re slamming her.  You‘re insulting her and she‘s missing.  And a lot of people find that to be really offensive. 

PETERSON:  I don‘t think any of it is insulting or slamming.  It‘s just laying out facts.  Everything that - all those statements you just played off for me is all facts.  That‘s what was happening. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Let me take a quick break here.  I‘m going to ask you both to stand by.  Joel Brodsky, Drew Peterson are going to stay with us.  Coming up, more of my live interview with Drew Peterson.  And we‘ll be back in a minute. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We‘re back again with Drew Peterson, who is a suspect in his wife Stacy‘s disappearance, and his attorney Joel Brodsky. 

All right.  Let me ask you about your kids, Mr. Peterson.  You said before that everything in your life is now about your kids.  How are your kids dealing with, A, the fact that their mom is gone and, B, the fact that you remain a suspect? 

PETERSON:  Well, the fact that I‘m a suspect isn‘t really an issue for the children right now.  I mean it‘s not really something that they‘re thinking about every day.  But the children get my full attention every day of every week.  So they‘re doing fine. 

My 15-year-old is number one in his class in high school, straight A honors, along with my 13-year-old, he‘s straight A honors also.  And the little ones are very happy, healthy children.  They‘ve been looked at and talked to by psychologists and noted people in the field of child care.  And the kids are doing great.  

ABRAMS:  How could the 14 and 15-year-old not be interested in the fact that their father is a suspect in his wife‘s disappearance and there are now questions about his third wife‘s disappearance?  I‘ve got to believe a 14 and 15-year-old are going to kind of get it.  

PETERSON:  They‘re 13 and 15.  But the thing is, they‘re kind of bored with all this.  And they -

ABRAMS:  Really?  I mean they‘re bored?  I mean Dad‘s a suspect in Mom‘s disappearance and that‘s a boring story to them? 

PETERSON:  They‘re bored with it.  The story comes on TV these days and they want to watch “Family Guy” or something kid-appropriate.  

ABRAMS:  Is that because dad is changing the channel? 

PETERSON:  No.  I let them watch it and make all of them fully abreast of what‘s taking place.  And they‘re pretty much bored with it.  

ABRAMS:  Again, so the older ones know everything about what your fiance had said about you, and what your second wife said, and what happened to the third wife and the fourth wife, et cetera.  They know all of that? 

PETERSON:  Yes.  

ABRAMS:  All right.  Let me ask you about how you‘ve handled this case.  There have been a lot of people who‘ve talked about the fact that you‘ve been very cavalier.  When the media has been outside, you‘re making jokes, you‘ve been laughing about it.  And I know you‘ve talked about the fact that this has been your way of dealing with it. 

But would you agree that your public persona has been one that would lead many people to think that you don‘t really care? 

PETERSON:  I would say so.  Because what has kicked in - when all this was bombarding me, I had the press circling my house for months, and the police coming at me.  I was scared.  I was scared to death.  And the way I‘ve dealt with fear or uncomfortable situations in the past is through humor. 

There was no book written that I could read to say, OK, when this happens, act this way.  I was doing the best I can.  

ABRAMS:  You understand why people suspect you, don‘t you? 

PETERSON:  Sure.  Without a doubt.  

ABRAMS:  And why do you think they do? 

PETERSON:  They always suspect the husband.  It‘s always the husband who did it.  Plus, the press has done everything they can to keep me sinister.  If anything positive comes out about me, it‘s quickly played down or shot down and not played and not revealed.  

ABRAMS:  But you can understand.  I mean you followed, you know, the O.J. Simpson case.  You were a cop.  I mean, in the O.J. Simpson case, he did nothing to try and find the killer of his wife, and you‘ve done nothing in this case to find your wife. 

BRODSKY:  I disagree with that.  We‘ve done everything that we can.  We wish that the state‘s attorney or the police would at least use some of their resources to try to find Stacy alive overseas.  Interpol can look at the entrance and exit records of every country in the world. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  But the problems, there is no evidence ...

BRODSKY:  Why don‘t they try that is?  

ABRAMS:  But Joel, I‘ll tell you why.  There‘s no evidence, none to suggest she‘s overseas.  

BRODSKY:  Well, there‘s no evidence to suggest she‘s under a bush in Bolingbrook either.  Why not you keep an open mind?

ABRAMS:  But then why not - Joel, you‘ve been very insistent and I‘ll ask this of you, that your client not talk about the timeline ...

BRODSKY:  Right.

ABRAMS:  ... about what happened?  Why not? 

BRODSKY:  Well, he talked about it once to the Illinois State Police.  

ABRAMS:  So what‘s the problem then discussing it again? 

BRODSKY:  Because I don‘t want - it‘s a very complex timeline.  It‘s ...

ABRAMS:  How can it be so complex?  I talked to this person at this time, then this person - I mean what‘s complex about it?    

BRODSKY:  It goes over a long period of time.  It‘s very complex and detailed.  And -

ABRAMS:  You can understand why people hear that and they say, come on? 

BRODSKY:  No, I can‘t.  Look, there‘s no lawyer - we‘ve gone well beyond what most lawyers would do with the media, and there‘s a reason for it.  But, you know, there‘s a certain point I have to draw the line.  And that‘s the point I draw the line. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Joel Brodsky, thank you very much for coming back on the program.  Drew Peterson, thank you as well.  Appreciate it.  

PETERSON:  Dan, thank you. 

BRODSKY:  Thank you.  

ABRAMS:  Up next, will tonight‘s big winner or loser be actor Wesley Snipes who‘s about to do some hard time for refusing to pay taxes; John McCain who might want to spend some time winning over a first daughter who says she may not support him; or President Bush whose time on a game show proved his ratings really are that low?  Your E-mails, we call it the “P.O.‘d Box.”  That‘s coming up next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  It‘s time for tonight‘s “Winners and Losers” for this 24th day of April, 2008.  Our first loser, President Bush whose low approval ratings seem to extend to his TV appearances.  The president did not bring a lot of good luck when he appeared on “Deal or No Deal” Monday night.  Not only did the Iraq war veteran who he was there to support not do very well, the show matched its lowest ratings ever for a Monday night. 

Loser - John McCain.  You‘d think he has the White House vote zone up.  Not necessarily.  At least not with first daughter Jenna Bush who said this on CNN last night. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KING:  You have a favorite between the two, the two Democrats? 

LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY:  My favorite is the Republican. 

KING:  Yours too, I would imagine? 

JENNA BUSH, DAUGHTER OF PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH:  I don‘t know. 

KING:  Aha.

J. BUSH:  But I mean, you know -

KING:  Are you open to -

J. BUSH:  Yes, of course.  Who isn‘t open to learning about the candidates?  I mean - and I‘m sure everybody is like that.  But I really - I honestly have been too busy with book it‘s really pay that much attention.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Come on!  Jenna, you‘re not paying attention, or you don‘t want to say that you too are joining the young voters for Obama? 

But our big loser of the day - Wesley Snipes.  The tax denier and “Blade” star sentenced to three years behind bars today for not filing taxes.  Snipes said many of his Hollywood buddies write character letters.  He was hoping he‘ll only get probation.  The judge apparently made an example out of him and gave him the max.  

Our big winner of the day - Alan Kieta of Indianapolis who caught a home intruder.  Oh, and I should have mentioned Alan is blind.  He appeared today on the “Today” show. 

ALAN KIETA, BLIND MAN WHO CAUGHT AN INTRUDER:  He attacked me.  It was just - as soon as I ran into him, it was just like a war started.  And it was like mayhem for the first few seconds until I was able to get him down.  And then things started calming down a little bit. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  And after a 40-minute struggle and over 20 attempts to dial 911, he finally got through.  

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

KIETA:  I have an intruder and right now I have him with a knife.  

911 OPERATOR:  Stay on the line, don‘t hang up.  Did he break in? 

KIETA:  Yes, he did.  

911 OPERATOR:  Has he hurt you in any way? 

KIETA:  No, not yet.  

911 OPERATOR:  Is he trying to fight with you at all right now? 

KIETA:  No, I‘ve got the knife to his neck.  

(END AUDIO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Unbelievable.  

Time for the “P.O.‘d Box,” your chance to tell me what you hate or love about the show.  Last night, I argued the media was blaming Clinton after last night‘s Pennsylvania victory for dividing the party.  I said what they really is that they believe that Clinton should bow out and they should say it. 

Melanie Freismuth writes, “I completely agree with you about the press that Clinton is getting.  They are afraid to say they want her out the race.”

John from Alpharetta, Georgia, “You are right.  Yes, we want Clinton out of the race.  She cannot win.”

John, you admit it.  That‘s fine.  I‘m saying I think many in the media are being dishonest about it.  That‘s all. 

That‘s all the time we have for tonight.  You can E-mail me about the show.  I‘m guessing tonight‘s show - there are a lot of people with a lot of opinions - verdict@msnbc.com.  Please include your name, where you‘re writing from.  Our Web site is Verdict@MSNBC.com.  See you tomorrow.

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

END   

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