updated 4/29/2008 11:31:12 AM ET 2008-04-29T15:31:12

Guests: Tucker Carlson, Rehema Ellis, Robert Moore, Mike Huckabee, Nancy Giles, Jonathan Turley, Bob Garrett, Wendy Wright, Tom O‘Neil, Clint Van Zandt

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Tonight: Is Reverend Jeremiah Wright trying to sabotage Obama‘s campaign with his latest speeches?

Governor Mike Huckabee, Nancy Giles, and Tucker Carlson are all with us.

And: Supreme Court Justice Scalia claims the Bush v. Gore decision was not political and that torture is not cruel and unusual punishment.  We dissect this tortured logic.

And later: A man confesses to keeping his own daughter locked in an underground bunker for 24 years.

VERDICT starts now.

Hi, everybody welcome to the show.

First up tonight: Barack Obama‘s controversial former Pastor Jeremiah Wright going public this weekend, and again today, creating more controversy as he tries to defend his most controversial of statements.  However you slice it, it‘s not helping Obama who was forced to respond today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  He does not speak for me.  He does not speak for the campaign.  And so, you know, he may make statements in the future, that don‘t reflect my values or concerns.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  I think you can count on that.  Last night, Reverend Wright was in Detroit, speaking to the NAACP and today at the National Press Club in Washington for almost an hour.  Wright tried to retreat from some of the worst of his statements like that “America‘s chickens came to roost” on 9/11, he simply restated them.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REV. JEREMIAH WRIGHT, SEN. OBAMA‘S FORMER PASTOR:  You cannot do terrorism on other people and expect it never to come back on you.  Those are biblical principles not Jeremiah Wright bombastic device of principles.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Wright even delivered a message to his longtime friend, Barack Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WRIGHT:  I said to Barack Obama last year, “If you get elected, November 5th, I‘m coming after you - because you‘ll be representing a government‘s whose policies grind under people.”

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Isn‘t it fair to ask whether he is intentionally trying to torpedo Obama?  Reverend Wright is either totally self-absorbed or he has got to know, his comments are hurting the Obama campaign.

Joining me now: Former Republican presidential candidate and pastor, Mike Huckabee; social commentator Nancy Giles; and, MSNBC senior campaign correspondent, Tucker Carlson.

All right.  Governor Huckabee, thank you very much for joining us.  We appreciate it.  Let me start with you.  Do you think it‘s intentional, do you think he‘s doing this on purpose?

MIKE HUCKABEE, ® FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  You know, Dan, I don‘t think he‘s doing it on purpose but he sure is doing a number on the guy that he said he wants to be president.  And what he‘s doing is making it awfully difficult for Barack Obama to convince people that sitting in that pew for 20 years, hearing stuff like that, didn‘t have some impact on him.  He‘s taking of what Obama had which was—an election that was rising above race and has turned into an election that‘s nothing but race.

And it‘s really unfortunate.  I think, Reverend Wright has gotten a taste of the limelight, he‘s enjoying it, he refuses to leave the stage, someone needs to turn off the lights, grab the hook and tell him it‘s time to go back to Chicago and pass out food to people because he‘s lost.  This is crazy.

When he first came out, I even tried to say things like you know, let‘s understand that he had a tough, tough experience.  He experienced a lot of racism, cut him some slack.  Look, no more slack cutting at this point.  If anything, I would look and see if Hillary Clinton is maybe paying his expenses to travel around the country.

ABRAMS:  Let me play another piece of sound.  This is from Wright mocking John Kennedy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WRIGHT:  John Kennedy could stand at the inauguration in January and say, “Eee-ask not what your country can do for you.  Eee-ask rather what you can do for your country.”  How do you spell eee-ask?  Nobody ever said to John Kennedy, that‘s not English.  Eee-ask, what‘s eee-ask?  Only to a black child, would they say, “You speak bad English.”

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Nancy, he says this is an attack on the black church.

NANCY GILES, SOCIAL COMMENTATOR:  Well, number one, Reverend Jeremiah Wright represents a black church about as much as Warren Jeffs represents the white church.  OK, number one, there is no one black church.  And this is—maybe in a way he‘s helping people understand that and by his absurd crazy, self-involved ego maniacal statements, he‘s showing a lot of people how very different Barack Obama is from him.

I totally agree with Mike Huckabee.  Barack Obama has been nothing but loyal to him, as a member of his parish.  It‘s true, he attended, he was married by Reverend Wright, his kids were baptized by him.  But this guy has not been loyal.  He‘s not acted in any way that I can see Christian or spiritual, all he‘s done is go for the limelight.  And light show time at the Apollo, or at little black restaurant, get that hook, get them off, and get the guy dancing, get him off and stop talking.  Stop it.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Tucker, let me to ask you politically now.  Tucker, what does Obama do?

TUCKER CARLSON, MSNBC SENIOR CAMPAIGN CORRESPONDENT:  Well, Nancy raises the question.  I mean, why has Obama been loyal to this guy?  I mean, this guy is telling the truth, he‘s saying what he saying.  He‘s saying pretty much when he said on those Youtube videos that were supposedly taken out of context.  He said today right on the camera: “It is absolutely possible the U.S. government created the AIDS virus to kill minorities.”  He said that right at the National Press Club.

Why would Obama spend 20 years in the intimate company of this man?  That‘s the unanswered question.  That‘s the main point of this story. If he answers this question, what were I doing with this guy?

GILES:  But why should he have to answer that question?  Why should we even keep bringing in people‘s religion, leaders or religious connectors?  I mean, it‘s...

CARLSON:  I‘ll tell you why.  I‘ll tell you exactly why because he brought it up himself.  Barack Obama, you go back over the last year, and I covered this when it happened, again and again and again said, this is my spiritual adviser, he pointed to Jeremiah Wright as a way of answering the criticism and the rumors that he was somehow a Muslim.  He said, “No, no.  This is my guide, Jeremiah Wright.”  He raised himself.

So, explain what this is all about please, because you‘re making a lot of us nervous, you could be president.  What would you do with this guy?

GILES:  I don‘t disagree with you Tucker, which is an amazing statement in and of itself.  It‘s just that what I‘m so angry about is that Jeremiah Wright won‘t be like a good quiet preacher and just shut up already.  Shut up.

ABRAMS:  Yes, Mike—Governor Huckabee, let me ask you this.  What does he do now?  Let‘s say you‘re advising the Obama campaign, all right—as hard as that may be for you.  But if you‘re advising them, what do you do about this, what do you do about this guy?  Does he have to come out and make a more definitive statement?

HUCKABEE:  He‘s got to.  I think the first thing I‘d advise him to do is walk down the aisle of the biggest most visible church somewhere in America and join it Sunday and say that he‘s no longer going to be a part of the Jeremiah Wright church.  I think the most egregious and outrageous thing that Jeremiah Wright has said is when he makes the claim that he‘s no longer being attacked, that this is an attack on all African-American churches.

That‘s total, total utter nonsense.  I‘ve been in many, many African-American churches, and I can assure you that this is not the spirit.  They are about helping people to be empowered so that they can rise above whatever circumstance, whether it‘s poverty, whether it‘s disease, whether it‘s racism and is to give them a platform on which to stand, not a club in which to beat people over the head, and the most absurd thing to accuse the U.S. government of creating AIDS and to kill people.

You know, that‘s the ravings really not of a guy who‘s just a little bit, as we say, the cheese isn‘t on the cracker full well.  That‘s really stuff that‘s way, way off the mark.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Nancy, let me ask you about this politically for a minute.  But I want you to listen to what Obama has said about the issue of him being a political liability.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  People were legitimately offended by some of the comments that he had made in the past.  The fact in a he is my former pastor, I think makes it a legitimate political issue.  So, I understand that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Now, you said only moments ago that you think this guy is really, you know, kind of lost it.

(CROSSTALK)

GILES:  And trying to sell a book.

ABRAMS:  OK.  Fair enough.  All of those things and Tucker‘s question before was, well, then, he‘s got to come out and either...

GILES:  He does.

ABRAMS:  And say anything about, you know, “This isn‘t the guy I knew.”

GILES:  He does.

ABRAMS:  “This isn‘t the guy I was once with” or something, right?

GILES:  I would use every bit about language and say, “I don‘t agree with him.  I‘m no longer a part of that church.”  I mean, he needs to literally go in and just—I know this is probably - I know I don‘t know but I feel like this really hard for Barack Obama.  I‘m not putting him up as a deity or anything like that, but having seen him and heard him and seen the way he influences people and gets people excited, I really do feel that he‘s trying to run a different kind of campaign and not just jettison people that he can‘t - that are political liabilities.

But he‘s got to do it.  He‘s got to be like: Enough, I have nothing more to do with this guys, he baptized my kids.  He married me and my wife.  And that‘s it, and leave, he‘s got to.

ABRAMS:  And Tucker, if he does something like that, if he comes out and he makes a definitive statement, something like: “This is not the man I once knew” or, you know, “This is not the man who I followed,” the words that I‘m hearing now are simply unacceptable, does that—I‘m not going to say does it solve his problem because it certainly going to come up again regardless.  But does it help alleviate some of the problem here?

CARLSON:  Yes, I mean, I don‘t think it could hurt, although, the Reverend Wright today made a really interesting claim which we‘re going to get to the bottom of, I suppose at some point which is: Obama agrees with me, he knows what I think, he‘s known for a longtime, Wright said in effect today, and he‘s claiming that he disagrees with me now because he‘s running for president.

So, at some point somebody is going to ask, I don‘t know if that‘s true or not, but someone should ask Barack Obama, and by the way, let‘s get right to the bottom of: Did you know he said these things?  Obama has given a couple of conflicting answers to that question.  His sort of honesty with his speech, his eloquence, his depth, his honesty and because of that it obscured the basic factual questions like: Were you aware that he was accusing the U.S. government as using AIDS as a tool to kill black people?  When did you learn that?

ABRAMS:  You know the answer - the answers to those questions are going to be no.  I mean, he said he never those statements.

CARLSON:  But wait a second.  Wait a second.  This guy gave a speech right after 9/11 which he blamed the U.S. government for the attack.  He never heard that?  Come on.

ABRAMS:  That‘s right.  That‘s what he said.  Look, you may not believe it but that‘s what Barack Obama had said.

GILES:  And Tucker, in some of this - I think, in the National Press Club speech that Reverend Wright gave today, he said, he himself said that Barack hadn‘t been at all of the sermons and hadn‘t heard everything, he was making his decisions like the press off of some little news clip.  So, he‘s made some conflicting statements himself.

CARLSON:  He must have to have got the point.

GILES:  I don‘t disagree with you.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  It‘s pretty obvious.  Listen for two minutes, and you know where he‘s coming from.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Governor Huckabee, any way that Obama can alleviate or sort of reduce the damage here for - forget about the Hillary—let‘s assume Obama is the candidate, any way he can reduce the pain when it comes to the general election?

HUCKABEE:  Well, he‘s got to come out and specifically, categorically, and emphatically distance himself from these specific comments.  He can‘t just say in general: I don‘t agree with Reverend Wright.  He‘s got to come out and say: I do not believe the United States created AIDS to destroy the black population.  He‘s got to specifically say that he does not believe that it‘s Americans fault that terrorists murdered thousands of innocent people on September 11th.

Now, he‘s forced to go beyond simply a generic statement of saying, “You know, I didn‘t hear it all.”  I‘ll tell you one thing Obama ought to do, this is probably the best opportunity anybody has ever had in America to actually justify not going to church very much and saying: I just didn‘t know he was saying all of that stuff on the Sundays I wasn‘t there.

GILES:  I really agree with him.  Governor Huckabee, I think that...

ABRAMS:  Let me play another.  This is a piece of sound from Reverend Wright analyzing, this is along the lines of what Tucker was talking about, analyzing what Obama had said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WRIGHT:  He didn‘t distance himself.  He had to distance himself because he‘s a politician from what the media was saying I had said which was anti-American.  He‘s saying I didn‘t offer any words of hope.  How would he know?  He never heard the rest of the sermon.  You never heard it.  I offered words of hope.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  He keeps denying and he keeps saying that it‘s snippets and he said this stuff.

GILES:  Yes.  I know he did.  And I think that little clip you just showed where he talks about, he speaks of hope.  I spoke of hope.  I mean, if that‘s not competitive, I don‘t know what is.  I talked about hope first.  No, he‘s being attentive to me.  I mean, it really is like that.  It‘s like, I feel like he‘s like the old school civil rights leaders who I respect incredibly, who laid down their lives and did so much to try to improve the lives of everyone in this country.

But I think there is a jealousy there of someone that‘s new and fresh and didn‘t go through their so-called trenches that‘s going forward and trying to bring everybody together.  And how crazy is that?

HUCKABEE:  Let‘s talk about a real civil rights leader.  You know, let‘s talk about a real civil rights leader.  When Dr. Martin Luther King led this country to a new level of understanding and compassion, he did not do it with a kind of inflammatory statements that we‘ve heard.  He was bold, he was prophetic.  Yes, he calls sin as it was but he also was careful to be factual in what he alleged.

And his was a message of nonviolence, his was a message of reconciliation and even in his harshest sermons, because I studied them when I was in seminary, I‘ll tell you, his was a voice of compassion and a voice to try to bring people together not tear them apart.  And even though he would point out how, frankly, how pathetic our own government had acted toward bringing race together, he never accused the federal government of creating disease and doing these outrageous things.  That‘s where Jeremiah Wright has absolutely gone off the deep end.

ABRAMS:  I think everyone agrees that Barack Obama is going to have to say something.  He‘s got to say something about him.

GILES:  Throw him under the bus.  That‘s it..

ABRAMS:  Mike Huckabee great to have you on the program, thanks a lot.  Tucker Carlson and Nancy Giles, as always, thank you.

GILES:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Coming up.  Conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia tells Democrats, upset over the court‘s 2000 decision on Bush v. Gore to quote, “Get over it.”  And he actually said that torture is not cruel and unusual punishment.  His tortured logic is coming up.

And teen star Miley Cyrus, a.k.a. Hannah Montana apologizes for provocative photos online and in “Vanity Fair” magazine.  Her employer, Disney, blames the magazine.  What about her parents and the PR team who were there?

Plus: The senator with the wide stance, Larry Craig, trying to use campaign donations to pay his legal fees: another reason Why America Hates Washington, coming up in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Tonight‘s edition of Why America Hates Washington: A senator using campaign cash to try to explain away his “foot dance” in a bathroom stall.  Last June, Idaho family values senator, Larry Craig pled guilty to disorderly conduct after getting caught in an airport bathroom gesturing to an undercover cop.  Then, when his plea became public, he reversed course, saying his wide stance in the toilet was misunderstood.

Now, we learn Senator Craig used $80,000 in his campaign war chest in February to pay part of his legal fees.  The Senate finally put its foot down, saying Craig has to pay what‘s left of the $400,000 plus fees out of his own pocket.

Senator Craig using campaign donations to try to defend his stance on the issue at hand: Another reason Why America Hates Washington.

We‘re back with Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia telling voters to get over it about the Bush v. Gore ruling, up next

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We‘re back with maybe the most important voting rights case since Bush v. Gore was decided at the U.S. Supreme Court today.  The justices ruled six to three that states can require photo IDs in order to vote.  And speaking of that other voting rights case, you know, Bush v. Gore, Justice Antonin Scalia was on “60 Minutes” last night, saying that those upset about Bush v. Gore should just get over it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JUSTICE ANTONIN SCALIA, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE:  I and my court oath, no apology whatsoever for Bush versus Gore.  We did the right thing, so there.

(LAUGHTER)

LESLEY STAHL, CBS CORRESPONDENT:  People say that that decision was not based on judicial philosophy but on politics.

SCALIA:  I say nonsense.

STAHL:  Was it political?

SCALIA:  Gee, I really don‘t want to get into—I mean this is—get over it.  It‘s so old by now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Yes, who cares about that silly little case any way?

Justice Scalia also suggested that he sees no constitutional problem with torturing suspects.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCALIA:  Has anybody referred to torture as punishment?  I don‘t think so.

STAHL:  Well, I think if you‘re in custody and you have a policeman who‘s taking you into custody.

SCALIA:  And you say he‘s punishing you when he‘s hurting you to get information from you—you don‘t say he‘s punishing you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Joining me now, George Washington University law professor, Jonathan Turley.  Alright, professor, thanks for joining us.  Appreciate it.

We‘ve got a number of issues to talk about here—that Justice Scalia was talking about.  First, this business about him sort of saying it‘s nonsense that it was political, that people should get over it.  You know, that‘s kind of an unbelievable statement.  He seems to be minimizing and the court tried to do it back at that time to say, “We don‘t want this to be used as precedent but we‘d like this case to kind of go away.”

JONATHAN TURLEY, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW PROFESSOR:  Well, you know, that was perhaps the most troubling thing about the decision, is that after the court fractured and took a position that many academics consider to be highly assailable, they also said, “By the way, we‘re going to decide the outcome of this election but don‘t ever cite what we say as precedent.”

I consider that to be one of the great outrages in history.  I don‘t like it when the court ever uses that line even on minor cases.  It seems to me when you make a decision, it should be valid enough to be cited again.  But the fact that none of them ever wanted to be held to this same standard tells you something about the case and about what they consider to be the value of their own opinion.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  Jon, here‘s what—he also misstated some of the facts related, which is sort of stunning, again, considering how important a case it is.  Let‘s listen to Scalia here blaming it on Al Gore.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCALIA:  It was Al Gore who made it a judicial question.  It was he who brought it into the Florida courts.  We didn‘t go looking for trouble.  It was he who said, “I want this to be decided by the courts.”  What are we supposed to say, oh, not important enough?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  All right.  Now, Jon, look, I don‘t remember every detail in this case, but I think I recall that if you get technical about it like that, actually the Bush team was the first ones who went to the courts to try and stop a recount?

TURLEY:  I believe that is true.  And it was the Bush people that first made these challenges.

Look, both sides were challenging this question.  The funny thing of course is that Al Gore appears to have won Florida.  And so, when Justice Scalia says he brought this trouble upon himself, that‘s not exactly fair since he apparently won the state, did not get credit for the state and ultimately lost the presidency over that failure.  But to say that “Al Gore brought this upon himself and he asking for trouble and we gave it to him” is a rather curious way to defend your legacy.

ABRAMS:  Here‘s Lesley Stahl pushing him on the politicizing the Bush v. Gore decision.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STAHL:  It ended up being a political decision.  It ended up in effect...

SCALIA:  You say that, I don‘t say that.

STAHL:  You don‘t think it handed the election to George Bush?

SCALIA:  Well, how does that make it a political decision?

STAHL:  It decided the election.

SCALIA:  Oh, I see, if that‘s all you mean by it - yes.

STAHL:  That‘s all I mean by it.

SCALIA:  OK.  I suppose it did, although you should add it that that it would have come out the same way no matter what.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  OK.  Well, that‘s your point before, Jonathan, that there‘s not entirely clear.  But again, Scalia seems to be mocking the idea—everything about this case seems to be kind of humorous to him that people, oh, they would suggest that‘s politicized, I mean, this is serious business.

TURLEY:  Well, it is a serious business.  And first of all, I don‘t know of any law professor, I certainly have never talked to one who thought that this decision was handled well.  The court fractured, came up with a decision in which many of the justices took a position that seemed wholly at odds with their prior positions, then they insisted that no one should ever cite them for what they just said as precedent and then they prevented any other court from taking any other action.

Now, that doesn‘t seem to me like a good basis to say, “It would have come out the same way any way.”  You know, it‘s easy to say that when you won‘t let anyone take another step to try to correct the record that you say was insufficient.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Real quick, Jonathan.  What do you make of him claiming that torture is not cruel and unusual punishment, he starts parsing words on this?

TURLEY:  You know, well, this is precisely what we‘re seeing in both the administration of the courts—they first say that due process doesn‘t apply to these guys because they‘re foreign or they‘re outside the country.  Now they are saying, “Well, this really isn‘t punishment when you talk about the Eighth Amendment,” and so, they simply say, “There‘s really nothing we can do.  We awfully hate torture but it just isn‘t something we can do anything about.”

ABRAMS:  All right.  Professor Turley, thanks very much for taking time out to come on the program.  Appreciate it.

TURLEY:  It‘s great pleasure.

ABRAMS:  Coming up: A man confesses to keeping his own daughter in an underground bunker for 24 years, fathering seven children with her, awful, awful case.

And: FOX News goes on and on about the Lincoln-Douglas debates but that doesn‘t look like the Lincoln-Douglas debates that actually occurred.  But that doesn‘t stop them.  Beat the Press is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

First up: The folks over at “FOX & Friends” were yanking it up yesterday, teasing an intern about trying to find video of Abraham Lincoln and Steven A. Douglas from their 1858 series of debates.  Now, watch the screen as they don‘t even seem to know that the wrong Douglas is up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLAYTON MORRIS, FOX HOST:  I said to an intern (INAUDIBLE), “Can you see if we can go and get some video of Lincoln-Douglas debates, I think that would be great and we can play it.”  He looked at me and said, “Yes, I‘ll see what I can find.”  Good luck finding the video the Lincoln-Douglas debates.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Rather than spending time mocking their intern Clayton might have recognized that was Frederick Douglas, the 19th century African-American abolitionist leader who certainly wasn‘t running for any Senate seek.

Next up: My pal, Rick Sanchez over at CNN promised viewers an informed discussion following the Reverend Wright speech last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN HOST:  We are going to be talking to two superdelegates, one representing Hillary Clinton and the other one representing Barack Obama to get their take on what they‘ve heard tonight.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Fair enough.  They came back with two superdelegates, but the guests didn‘t seem comfortable sharing, quote, “their take” on what they heard from the speech.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ:  Did you find the speech to be offensive either to you or others?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I didn‘t hear the speech in its entirety.

SANCHEZ:  Do you think Senator Obama knew that he was going to make these comments tonight?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I also didn‘t hear the speech in its entirety.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Finally: For those of you who don‘t spend your weekend mornings with the jolly folks over at “FOX & Friends,” this is a sort of quality television you‘re missing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  In other news today, we‘re going to be taking a look at interesting stories out of California and if you like news, you‘re going to like “FOX & Friends.”

AINSLEY EARHARDT, FOX HOST (singing):  Is it me you‘re looking for.  You see it in your eyes.

(INAUDIBLE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Look, really, why put on cartoons for the kids when they can catch these clowns.

All right.  Up next:  Breaking tonight—Texas child welfare officials now saying they determined that over half of the girls rescued from the polygamist ranch between the ages of 14 and 17 are or have been pregnant.

Plus, provocative photos of Disney star Hannah Montana has a lot of people pointing fingers of blame, but her parents and PR team were there.  The debate coming up. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Breaking tonight out of Texas, Child Welfare officials have now determined the ages of girls rescued from the polygamist ranch in Texas.  We now know that more than half - more than half - 31 of 53 girls between ages of 14 and 17 have children, are currently pregnant or both.  And when it comes to the children between 14 and 17, there are three girls for every teenage boy.  So it‘s now crystal clear to me these girls are being abused, the boys being sent away.  And yet some still claiming that the children should be reunited with the parents. 

Joining us with the latest on the case is Bob Garrett, a reporter with the “Dallas Morning News.”  Bob, thanks for joining us.  So why did it take them so long to determine their ages?  Were some lying about it?

BOB GARRETT, REPORTER, “DALLAS MORNING NEWS” (on the phone):  Well, Dan, the State of Texas says some older girls claim to be adults - you‘re right - while they are actually minors.  And so, it also - the state also implies it‘s been given a lot of bad information on dates of birth and things like that.

ABRAMS:  Were they given that information by the mothers?

GARRETT:  They‘re vague about who misled them.  The agency says it wants to try the case in court.  But I think we‘d be naive not to note that they are putting this information out in the press because it is a public relations war.  

ABRAMS:  But I mean public relations war, it‘s true.  But isn‘t this, if it‘s true - if these numbers are true, isn‘t that pretty strong evidence that these are kids who needed to be protected?

GARRET:  Well, that is certainly the State Of Texas‘ view.  And I should say for fairness sake that an attorney for the sect said today that he thinks the state has miscounted and as many as 17 of the 53 girls may be adults. 

However, even if you subtract 17 from 53, you get 36, Dan.  And that‘s still twice as many as the 17 boys.  So this idea of the lost boy phenomenon, critics could still say exists.  

ABRAMS:  Yes.  Well, look, we‘re going to follow the numbers on this.   The lawyers can say whatever they want until we see more hard evidence, including this notion they are lying about their ages.  We‘ve got to watch this carefully.  Bob Garrett, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it.

GARRETT:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Moving on, teen sensation Miley Cyrus, star of the Disney Channel blockbuster “Hannah Montana” courting controversy over provocative photo spread in the upcoming issue of “Vanity Fair.”  NBC‘s Rehema Ellis has more on the racy photos and controversy.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) 

REHEMA ELLIS, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  At 15 years old, Miley Cyrus already has sold-out concerts and hit movie and a recently announced book deal that some estimate could make her a billionaire by 18. 

But now, the young star, in the June issue of “Vanity Fair” magazine, not the first read for most “Hannah Montana” fans, photos of the girl next door pop star, taken by famed photographer Annie Lebowitz, have created an uproar.  Especially this one of Cyrus with a topless look, covered with just a sheet. 

On “VanityFair.com,” Cyrus says, “I thought this looks pretty and really natural and really artsy.” 

And there‘s also this photo with her father that some find equally disturbing.  But now, Cyrus has started to distance herself from the photos, saying she‘s embarrassed and, quote, “I apologize to my fans who I care so deeply about.”  How could this affect the pop star‘s career?

BOB GARFIELD, “ADVERTISING AGE”:  The word that comes to my mind is bonanza.  She‘s probably positioned very nicely for the next stage where she can, you know, no longer be a 15-year-old ingenue. 

ELLIS:  For its part, Disney says it‘s not going to cancel the show.  Some parents seeing a front page story about the photos for the first time were surprised and disappointed. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It makes me question whether I want my daughter to like, listen to her music or participate in anything she does any more. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Look at who‘s on her shirt.

ELLIS:  Some others, while disapproving, aren‘t giving up on her yet.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) but we‘re going to watch her more closely.  

ELLIS:  At this point Disney and Miley Cyrus may just hope people keep watching.  Rehema Ellis, NBC NEWS, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  Now, the Miley Cyrus PR battle morphed into a blame game.  Disney coming down hard against “Vanity Fair,” released a statement saying, quote, “Unfortunately, as the article suggests, the situation was created to deliberately manipulate a 15-year-old in order to sell magazines.” 

“Vanity Fair” fighting back releasing a statement of its own, quote, “Miley‘s parents and/or minders were on the set all day.  Since the photo was taken digitally, they saw it on the shoot and everyone thought it was a beautiful and natural portrait of Miley.”  The magazine also released this video today taken during the photo shoot to show that was, I guess, more family-oriented than scandalous. 

Joining me now, Wendy Wright of Concerned Women for America and “In Touch” magazine‘s Tom O‘Neil.  Thanks to both of you for coming on.  I appreciate it. 

All right.  Tom, look, I don‘t blame “Vanity Fair” here.  I mean they are taking pictures.  They‘re trying to, you know, create an interesting magazine shoot.  Disney is saying, “Oh, ‘Vanity Fair‘ is trying to make money off of this.”  I‘m sorry.  What is Disney doing here?  They‘re trying to keep their brand.  

TOM O‘NEIL, “IN TOUCH MAGAZINE”:  Yes, but they‘re playing by the rules.  The pact that “Hannah Montana,” Miley Cyrus, broke with these pictures is this pact of wholesomeness between her and her fans.  When the Olsen twins broke it, they lost their audience.  And so -

ABRAMS:  Look, I‘m not - whether she loses it or not, I‘m less interested in.  The bottom line, though, is that her parents were there. 

O‘NEIL:  Right.  Right.  Right.

ABRAMS:  She was there. 

O‘NEIL:  Right.

ABRAMS:  Her PR team was there.  If she lost the trust of the public, then why is “Vanity Fair” to blame?

O‘NEIL:  Because they set this up.  They‘re not solely to blame.  But look this picture that everyone is so upset about with Miley.  She‘s got lip stick on.  These aren‘t just sheets, these are satin sheets, clutched up to her naked breasts.  She‘s got this come hither look on her face.  She‘s 15 years old.

ABRAMS:  And Wendy, I assume that that‘s the part that disturbs you in particular, the fact that her age, et cetera.  Look, I agree that it seems inappropriate for a 15-year-old.  But do you allocate blame here, Wendy, between “Vanity Fair,” Disney, her parents, et cetera.

WENDY WRIGHT, CONCERNED WOMEN FOR AMERICA:  None of the adults acted responsibly in this case.  I think all of them share the blame.  Someone should have stepped up at some point and said, “Wait a minute, that‘s gone too far.” 

And what I find so disturbing is that she is made to look like a child, even a baby, her lips are plumped out like a baby while her lips are bright, bright red.  This is the kind of thing that would fuel a child predator. 

Some adult should have stepped up at some point and said, “Wait a minute.  This is not just not the right image for her.”  This just isn‘t even responsible.  

ABRAMS:  You know, Tom, I was actually - I have to tell you.  I didn‘t find these pictures - you could  talk about the lipstick and the look, et cetera.  OK.  There are models who are 15 years old out there, who are doing things that are a lot more provocative-looking than this. 

O‘NEIL:  Sure.  Right.

ABRAMS:  I‘m more troubled by the personal photos - and we can put this up - that came from her MySpace page. 

O‘NEIL:  Oh, yes.

ABRAMS:  She‘s blaming now - I mean, now you have her saying, “I‘m disappointed in how the pictures turned out,” et cetera from the “Vanity Fair” shoot.  What about her pictures from her own MySpace page.  

O‘NEIL:  Right.  We‘re talking about pictures where she‘s in her bra and underwear.  She‘s stretched over a guy‘s lap.  We have pictures of her with the blouse coming down and the bra showing.  Yet, this is all part of a pattern now.  So this isn‘t just a fluke mistake with “Vanity Fair.”  She‘s making a deliberate ploy here to -

ABRAMS:  You think so?  I mean do you think this is on purpose so she can be taken more seriously as she becomes -  

O‘NEIL:  Every kid wants to be treated like an adult.  But they‘ve got to wait their time.  

ABRAMS:  But you can‘t be Hannah Montana and want that, Wendy.  Can you?

WRIGHT:  Well, I think you can learn from past child stars that perhaps this is not the right road to be going down.  There is this bizarre idea among cultural elite that stars and celebrities have to push the envelope.  And they have to be provocative in order to stay relevant. 

Well, hopefully, we‘ve learned enough by now from the Britney Spears and the others that this is not the best thing to be encouraging them to do.  

ABRAMS:  Yes.  And again, Tom, it just seems to me, that when I look at the “Vanity Fair” photos, the actual photos, they don‘t seem that bad.  Yes, she‘s wearing lipstick. 

O‘NEIL:  No.

ABRAMS:  But if you‘re going to make a cause out of this, why don‘t you make a cause out of all the models in America who are doing this stuff?

O‘NEIL:  Oh, I know.  I know.  I know.  But it‘s the Disney Channel. 

ABRAMS:  Oh.

O‘NEIL:  There‘s something sacred here.

ABRAMS:  It‘s the Disney Channel.  Right.  Isn‘t that the point?

O‘NEIL:  That‘s like - sure.

ABRAMS:  It‘s about the money.  

O‘NEIL:  It‘s about the values and all of things that go with it. 

ABRAMS:  Oh, I get it.

O‘NEIL:  I think you forgot that.

ABRAMS:  Oh, I get it.  And look, this is bad news for her as a brand.  But you can‘t blame “Vanity Fair” for that if you are Disney and making an enormous amount of money off of her.  

O‘NEIL:  Well, yes.  You can, but a little bit, Dan.  A little bit, come on.  

ABRAMS:  Wendy Wright, Tom O‘Neil, thanks very much.  I appreciate it. 

WRIGHT:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Up next, a man - this is a horrible story.  A man admits that he locked his daughter in a secret underground sex bunker for 24 years.  He admits he‘s the father of her seven children. 

Plus, we‘ll have the president at the White House correspondents‘ dinner, coming up. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) 

ABRAMS:  Now to “Reality Bites,” a dose of reality caught on tape.  Tonight, the president‘s final White House correspondents‘ where took aim at the candidates vying to take his job.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE BUSH, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT:  I have to say I‘m kind of surprised we don‘t have more presidential candidates here tonight.  Like any.  Sen. McCain is not here.  He probably wanted to distance himself from me a little bit.  You know, he‘s not alone.  Jenna is moving out too. 

The two Democratic candidates aren‘t here either.  Sen. Clinton couldn‘t get into the building because of sniper fire and Sen. Obama is at church. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Will be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  A father today confessed to a series of appalling crimes against his own daughter.  Josef Fritzl admitted to imprisoning his daughter, Elizabeth, in this secret bunker for 24 years where he repeatedly raped her and where she gave birth to seven of his children.  Three of whom were also forced to live in the secret windowless dungeon.  Reporter Robert Moore from our British partner ITV has this horrifying story. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERT MOORE, REPORTER, ITV (voice over):  Who can believe that beyond a hidden door here and down this corridor lay an unimaginable family secret.  Elizabeth Fritzl and three of her seven children were held here, never glimpsing daylight.  In these narrow rooms, a few poignant efforts have been made to decorate the underground prison. 

This network of chambers was reached through a hidden door, sound-proofed and accessible only with a secret code.  And this is the man whose actions have shaken Austria.  Josef Fritzl is still being questioned by police.  But he has already confessed enough for this clearly to be a grotesque and bizarre criminal case. 

All the more so because this is an ordinary looking home in a small Austrian city, where neighbors had no suspicion, where even his wife had no idea of the horror, quite literally below the surface.  Locals we spoke to described it as like a horror movie unfolding in their community.  

This woman said simply, “If he was my husband, I would kill him with my own hands.”  

Elizabeth was one of seven children born to Josef Fritzl and his wife, Rosemarie.  She was imprisoned in the cellar from 1984.  Over the next two decades, she had seven children by her own father. 

Kerstin was born around 1988; Stefan, a year later.  They were both kept in the cellar with her.  In 1993, a baby girl, Lisa was taken from the cellar and looked after by Joseph and Rosemarie.  In 1994, another girl, Monica, was also taken upstairs.  In 1996, Elizabeth gave birth to twins, one of whom died.  The survivor, Alexander, was moved upstairs.  In 2002, Felix was born and was kept in the cellar. 

After 24 years of terror and abuse in this house, Joseph Fritzl was undone by a solitary single act of mercy when he took his 19-year-old granddaughter Kerstin, unconscious, out of the cellar and to the hospital.  From that moment, everything unraveled.  

HERMAN GRUBER, AMSTETTEN, AUSTRIA CITY SPOKESMAN:  We are shocked, depressed and heavily hurt about this incredible criminal case.  And it‘s hard to believe that such an abuse could happen here in our village.  

MOORE:  But it did happen and as Josef Fritzl was taken from the police station this afternoon, hidden by a blanket, Austrians are still grappling, not only with the sheer cruelty of it all, but with the fact that no one noticed the evil in their very midst.  

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  Elizabeth and her children are now being cared for by the authorities as the investigation continues. 

Here now, MSNBC analyst, former FBI profiler, Clint Van Zandt. 

All right.  Clint, one of the most amazing things about this story is the reason that the other children were moved upstairs is because he forces his daughter to write these letters to the mother saying, “Hey, please take care of my kids,” and then she leaves.  Do you believe that the mother, the 66-year-old wife, could have known nothing about this?

CLINT VAN ZANDT, FORMER FBI PROFILER:  Well, Dan, you know, when we look at cases of child abuse, spousal abuse, over the years, many times we‘ll see a wife, a woman who just - you know, she will just become numb to what‘s going on around her because she wants life to continue the way it is.  She ignores everything else. 

Hey, listen.  This guy says, “Hey, by the way, wife, I‘ve got this secret room down in the basement.  It‘s huge, but never go down there or never try get in.”   And she says, “OK, husband, whatever you say,” and lets that pass for the last quarter of a century.  That‘s my challenge with her role in this.  

ABRAMS:  And apparently, the victim that was forced to write these letters to the mother saying, “I‘ve run away,” et cetera.  But isn‘t there got to be something that kicks in?  I mean it sounds like what you‘re saying is she knew something was off.  She must have known something was off but didn‘t want to ask questions.  

VAN ZANDT:  Well, these babies kept occurring on her door step.  You know, you think eventually, she‘d get a clue.   Now, supposedly, the baby would be accompanied by a letter from the daughter saying, “You know, I‘m living in a cult.  I‘ve got this baby.  I can‘t take care of it.  Will you take it?  And the mother says, “Well, you know, it‘s my granddaughter.  Sure, I‘ll take the baby in.” 

Well, these babies keep appearing on the door step and she never questions how near the daughter must be to be dropping these children off.  She was close, OK.  She was down in the basement.  She didn‘t have far to travel.  But Dan, realize this woman and her children that she had by her own father supposedly have never seen the light of day, the ones that have been kept down there.  I mean this is like a mole community and they were never allowed to let sunlight touch their bodies.  

ABRAMS:  Clint Van Zandt.  Thanks very much.  Appreciate it. 

VAN ZANDT: Thank you, Dan. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Up next, in tonight‘s Winners and Losers.  Eliot Spitzer, whose affair with an alleged hooker lands them, his and her offers from a Nevada brothel.  Roger Clemens who reportedly had an affair with an underaged country singer.  On actor Robert Blake who will have to get his affairs in order.  Now, he‘s been ordered to pay his late wife‘s family $15 million. 

Plus, your E-mails.  We call it the “P.O.‘d Box.”  Will be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  It‘s time for tonight‘s Winners and Losers.  Our first loser, Eliot Spitzer, now that his alleged call girl is back in the news.  Yes, Ashley Dupre, the 22-year-old aspiring singer and underaged girl gone wild was just offered $250,000 to be a working girl at the Bunny Ranch in Nevada.  The brothel also offered the former governor a lifetime pass to the ranch. 

Loser, Roger Clemens who might have cheated not just on but off the field as well.  According to the “New York Daily News,” the all-star pitcher had a decade-long relationship with country music star Mindy McCready.  The relationship, they report, started when McCready was just 15 and Clemens was 28 and married with two kids.  This comes after Clemens‘ reputation already got beamed earlier this year, with his less than convincing denial on Capitol Hill that he ever took steroids. 

But our big loser of the day - Robert Blake, after an appeals court upheld the ruling that he was liable for the shooting death of his wife Bonnie Lee Bakley.  Stunningly, the, “I wasn‘t there because I‘d gone to get my gun from the restaurant” defense did not sway the court again, although the jury award was cut in half from $30 million to $15 million.  The former Brit actor has declared bankruptcy, it‘s not particularly. 

Our big winner of the day, Matt Lauer who turned up in Buenos Aires, Argentina this morning for the first leg of his annual, “Where in the world is Matt Lauer” trek around the world.  As you can see, this made him our winner. 

Time for the “P.O.‘d Box” your chance to tell me what you love or hate about the show.  Many of you went after me for asking why Obama would agree to go on Fox News since they basically been out to destroy him? 

First up, Mike H. from Columbus Georgia, “I have seen on your network, right?  Politics is about getting your message out to as many people as possible.”

But, Mike, he legitimizes Fox by even appearing there.  I promise they‘re going to play clips of Obama‘s other TV appearances regardless of whether he appears on that network.  He‘ll reach the same audience. 

Aquala Bogan from Panorama City, California, “I believe it‘s good for Barack Obama to go onto to Fox News to prove he can stand up to a network that has continually tried to make him look bad.” 

Look, stand up to them?  Please.  He can get plenty of tough questions on other networks.  It had nonstop coverage of Rev. Wright‘s travel schedule as breaking news.  It should be beneath him to join them in the gutter. 

And John Vendenburg from Indio, California, “What is it about Obama‘s appearing with Chris Wallace on Fox that you don‘t understand?  One of his major foreign policy tenants is to talk to our enemies.”

Fair enough.  And I have no problem with Chris Wallace.  I just think Obama has limited time and this was not time well spent.  Although, look, the interview turned out fine, I just think that he legitimizes them by doing it.  My opinion.  That‘s all the time we have time for tonight.  You can E-mail our show verdict@msnbc.com. Please include your name, where you‘re writing from.  Our Web site is Verdict.MSNBC.com.  Thanks for watching.  See you tomorrow night.

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

END   

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