updated 5/1/2008 12:44:15 PM ET 2008-05-01T16:44:15

Guests: David Corn, Nancy Giles, Tony Blankley, Jeff Gardere, Hanno Settele

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Tonight: Barack Obama offers his most personal words yet on the Reverend Wright controversy when confronted by a voter.

Plus: Some are now saying the media is to blame for the Wright story.

David Corn, Nancy Giles, and Tony Blankley are with us.

And: New details about the man who kept his children in a bunker at their home for 24 years.  There is new videotape of the man.  So, what happened to the victims while he was away on vacation?

VERDICT starts now.

First: Barack Obama along with his wife Michelle are trying to change the subject away from Reverend Wright today.  But at a town hall meeting, an Obama supporter wanted to know how Obama made the decision to go after Wright the way he did.  Obama offered an answer that was as personal as anything we had seen on the campaign trail thus far.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Recently, you have been forced to basically turn your back on someone who had been a good friend for a long time.  And I‘m wondering if you could tell us how much of a toll this takes on you to be forced by attacks, sometimes unfair attacks on people to have to turn your back on people who have been good to you in the past or.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Well, look, I mean, the situation with Reverend Wright was difficult.  I won‘t lie to you.  You know, he‘s somebody who married us.  He had baptized our children.

He has done good things in terms of building the church but frankly, what he said over the last few days and, you know, and some of the sermons that have been excerpted were unacceptable.  And weren‘t things that you know, we believed in or cared about or care to believe in.  And so, I—you know, I made a statement yesterday that was hard to make but it was what I believed.  And you know, what we want to do now though is make sure that this doesn‘t continue to be a perpetual distraction.

I mean, it is true that part of the job when you‘re running for president is that anybody who has tangentially, you know, even remotely associated with you is somehow fair game.  And that‘s unfortunate because most of us in our lives, you know, we meet people and we know people, some people who we work with or we sit on a board with, we don‘t really go vet them and find out all of the terrible things they might have done because, you know, we don‘t know that‘s or, you know, what they said to see if it‘s politically correct.

But when you—look, the truth is when you‘re running for president, that‘s part of the deal.  And I accept that because I think it‘s important for the American people to know who I am and what my values are and what I stand for and I don‘t stand for some of the things that Reverend Wright said.  What Michelle and I do stand for though, is the values that helped raise us and that we‘re now passing on to our kids.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Joining me now: David corn, “Mother Jones” Washington bureau chief and “Congressional Quarterly” blogger; Commentator Nancy Giles; and, syndicated columnist Tony Blankley.

All right.  David, is he going to get plagued with this question until Tuesday?

DAVID CORN, MOTHER JONES:  Well, I think he‘s going to get hit with this question until the general election if he makes it that far.  Now, we can argue whether that‘s fair or not, we can argue if there will be any more marginal impact on the campaign that what we‘ve had.

I think his appearance yesterday which was very heartfelt as was his appearance today, you know, gives us as much material as many answers as one needs to, to evaluate Barack Obama on the Wright matter.  And the media and others can keep bringing it up.

But I think this is one case when you can say it‘s been asked, it‘s been answered and it‘s really be up to the voters to absorb it.

ABRAMS:  Nancy, this is the most personal answer I‘ve ever seen him given, even much more so than yesterday.

NANCY GILES, SOCIAL COMMENTATOR:  I agree.  It was really heartfelt and another thing that‘s really interesting when you watch Barack Obama talk is he thinks while he‘s talking.  And I think that some people, they perceive that as weakness because he‘s actually thinking, it means there‘s a silence, they‘re might be a hesitation, I appreciate the fact that you really believe that things are coming from his heart.

ABRAMS:  Well, one of the things he said, Tony, was he said, he used the words politically correct, and I think that Nancy‘s right.  He‘s thinking as he‘s saying it and I think he then realized that‘s the word that I want to use here.  He said, “I can‘t say everything is politically correct,” and then, he had to go and say again, that he disagrees with everything.

TONY BLANKLEY, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST:  Look, I have a little different take on this.  I found his statement to be somewhat misleading.  He was suggesting that, you know, he haven‘t vetted this guy, you bump into a lot of people along the campaign trail of life.  And in fact, this is a man, who we all know the descriptions that he‘s given of him in the recent past, a mentor, et cetera.

And I think until he gives a genuinely honest and credible explanation for what their relationship was, why he should—because the only thing we learned new in these last three days was the attack on him as being a politician.  Other than.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  But Tony, what else you want to know?

CORN:  What other questions are there to put to Barack Obama.  He says he‘s been to the church for 20 years, whatever it‘s been.  And I assume you‘ve gone to church and you know what it‘s like to have a relationship with the guy who leads the church.  What else can he tell us about the so called relationship?

ABRAMS:  Let me let Tony answer because I have no idea what the answer is.

BLANKLEY:  Well, I mean, the fact is—he recently said he was not his mentor yet a Youtube showing him from 2007 saying he was his counselor and that - so, I mean, I don‘t think.

ABRAMS:  Come on.

BLANKLEY:  Let me tell you a second, I think that this is a fascinating psychological relationship between these two men, a father/son kind of a relationship that‘s gone bad.  And I don‘t think he can figure out how to disengage from it.

ABRAMS:  That maybe true but I don‘t think there‘s any ambiguity here as to what he‘s saying.

GILES:  You know, me either.  And I got to say, I‘m so annoyed by the extra special treatment that this relationship seems to be getting at the expense of a lot of other weird relationships out there that not only have all of us have but other (ph) candidates may have had.  I mean, we can start by talking about the close association Hillary had with Bill Clinton.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  I know you‘re serious but you really think it‘s comparable considering what Reverend Wright had said?

GILES:  In a way, I do.

ABRAMS:  Wait.  But think about what Reverend Wright.

GILES:  I‘ll tell you why I think it‘s comparable.

ABRAMS:  But also, remember, Hillary Clinton has been saddled with Bill Clinton throughout this campaign, right?

GILES:  No, you can use the word saddle but I‘ll tell you, honestly, there are people that I know that when she was running for Senate in New York, women, also that said they would never vote for her, because, quote, “She should have divorced Bill,” and it was many of the same reasons that people are saying, a lot of the same reasons people are saying Barack should throw Reverend Wright under the bus.

CORN:  You know, there is a tactic that political partisan has often used which is whenever an issue, whatever point an issue has reached, they always say there are more questions to the answer and Hillary Clinton has done this many of time with the Barack Obama on this campaign, saying the Rezko case.  Well, there‘s still unanswered questions and, Tony, I think we have about as much as we‘re going to get here.  You know, should we know more about John McCain and the relationship that he had with his pastors if he‘s gone to church?

GILES:  And Hagee.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Let me play.

ABRAMS:  Well, if you want—if the public is interested in it and press this in, he‘s going to have to.  The fact is that right now, the public is intrigued with this relationship and not satisfied.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Look, I can remind you that on this program, we‘ve been talking about Hagee, we have a segment called Teflon John for that very reason.  But let me—Michelle Obama in an exclusive interview that‘s going to air on THE TODAY SHOW tomorrow just made this comment about the Reverend Wright situation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, THE TODAY SHOW/NBC NEWS)

MEREDITH VIEIRA, NBC HOST:  Do you feel that the Reverend Wright betrayed your husband?

MICHELLE OBAMA, SENATOR OBAMA‘S WIFE:  You know, I think that Barack has spoken so clearly and eloquently about this.

VIEIRA:  But you do personally feel that the reverend betrayed your husband?

M. OBAMA:  You know what I think, Meredith, we‘ve got to move forward.  You know, this conversation doesn‘t help my kids.  You know, it doesn‘t help kids out there who are looking for us to make decisions and choices about how we‘re going to better fund education.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Nancy, it sometimes seems Michelle Obama has a hard time being a politician.  She wants to say—don‘t go there.  Don‘t go there with me, I don‘t want to talk about it, we‘re done, right?

GILES:  That‘s enough.  Exactly, enough, I mean, it‘s like - look, I respect what Tony is saying about, well, he hasn‘t said this or that or needs to come clean.  But it‘s funny, when this whole thing sit (ph) down, I was arguing with a friend of mine and saying, “He shouldn‘t talk about it, enough, don‘t say anything,” and my friend was saying, “No, he‘s got to repudiate it and he‘s going to come out really strong.  And I think - even if he does, there are going to be people who‘ll say—it‘s not enough, it was too much too little too late.  It‘s like the guy can‘t win.  So, I understand his wife‘s frustration with—let‘s no go there and let‘s talk about the real issue.

ABRAMS:  She seems angry, Tony Blankley.

GILES:  She‘s righteous, she‘s a righteous black woman, there‘s a difference.

BLANKLEY:  Hello, I mean, I have a lot of trouble commenting on an anguished wife watching this process, I‘m not going.

ABRAMS:  All right.

BLANKLEY:  And let me tell you, I‘ve been in politics an awful long time and I had politicians on my side and on the other side, they get into some situation that‘s personal and you always say let‘s talk about the real issues of (INAUDIBLE) and what everybody cares about is the personal stuff.

ABRAMS:  All right.

CORN:  But we‘ve had plenty of talking on this.

ABRAMS:  Speaking of such, Hillary Clinton was on FOX News tonight and she was asked about Reverend Wright and she pushed on it.  Here‘s what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, FOX NEWS)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I think it‘s offensive and outrageous and you know, I‘m going to express my opinion and others can express theirs.  But you know, it is part of - you know, just an atmosphere that we‘re in today.

Well, I think that he made his views clear finally.  That he disagreed.  And I think that‘s what he had to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  You know, David Corn, some people are interpreting that as Hillary slamming Obama.  I think it‘s just the opposite.  I think she was using the exact same words he used in describing Wright which was outrageous, et cetera, and I think that she was trying not to be seen as capitalizing on it.

CORN:  Well, I think—she kind of this threaded the needle there which is not unlike her and I think she missed an opportunity which is to say—you know, this is really sad.  I feel for Barack Obama.  When we run for president, when we enter political life, you know, we hope to not get saddled with such controversies and drag people around us into this but it happens.

And identify with him and sort of for a moment, sort of show that there‘s something other than calculation going on.

ABRAMS:  Tony.

BLANKLEY:  But I think, David, I think she would be accused of having crocodile tears if she did that, in a sense was that O‘Reilly was pressing her to give a harder answer and she eventually gave O‘Reilly what he wanted but she was trying to duck it, I thought.

GILES:  Well, I don‘t know, Tony, I think she was sort of looking like she tried to duck it and then she went for it.

ABRAMS:  But she didn‘t really go for it.

BLANKLEY:  You can never tell with a Clinton.

GILES:  But I agree with David, this could have been a really good opportunity for her after her own personal experience with way too much examination of a person‘s personal life.

ABRAMS:  But again, there‘s so - I‘m sorry, but I just don‘t—

GILES:  I disagree with you.

ABRAMS:  I know that a lot of my viewers agree with you.

GILES:  Because we‘re talking about a long association and if you really want to talk about it.

ABRAMS:  I understand.  But are you suggesting that Bill Clinton hasn‘t been an issue for Hillary Clinton?

GILES:  Well, she‘s not.

ABRAMS:  I mean, please.

GILES:  Even MSNBC‘s own Chris Matthews said that there are certain issues around Hillary that have almost been out of bounds that people won‘t really go there.

ABRAMS:  Oh, please.

GILES:  They haven‘t been - you can‘t mention Monica Lewinsky.

CORN:  Nancy, we‘ve been there already.

GILES:  I know, I‘m not saying I want to go there.  But I think it has as valid as everything with Reverend Wright.

ABRAMS:  Well, look, the bottom line - but do you think that Bill Clinton is equally destructive as Reverend Wright?  The comments by Reverend Wright you‘re going to compare to Bill Clinton?

GILES:  Well, but if you look just in terms of a relationship.

ABRAMS:  No, that‘s not what I‘m asking about.

GILES:  No, sure not.

ABRAMS:  OK.  You agree.

GILES:  Well, you switch the argument on me.

ABRAMS:  No, that‘s the only discussion.

GILES:  No, I‘m talking about associations and associations that argue your brother‘s keeper.

ABRAMS:  Fair enough.  Everyone is going to stay with us.

Coming up: Some say the whole story Reverend Wright - the whole thing was created by the media and it‘s not a story at all.  We‘ll discuss that.

And: The online community already making fun of Hillary Clinton‘s apparent trouble today with a coffeemaker.  The battle of the photo ops is coming up in Win, Lose or Draw.

Plus: The Defense Department paying millions to a company with close ties to the church behind that polygamist cult in Texas.  We‘re back with Why America Hates Washington in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Tonight‘s edition of Why America Hates Washington: The Pentagon given contract to a company‘s linked in cults and even the FBI‘s most wanted.  Over the past decade, the Defense Department bought nearly $2 million worth of airplane parts from three companies with close ties to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  That‘s the same polygamist church raided by officials earlier this month in Texas, where more than half of the teenage girls were found to be pregnant or already with children.

Now, there are allegations that they may have abused boys as well.  Some of the proceeds from the sales allegedly went directly to the church and its leader Warren Jeffs who was on the FBI‘s most wanted list until his capture in 2006.  The Pentagon indirectly funding child abusing polygamists: Another reason Why America Hates Washington.

Coming up: Is the media to blame for the Reverend Wright controversy? 

In a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We‘re back.  Barack Obama is very public falling out with his former pastor continues to make headlines.  But amid all of the finger pointing and denunciations, some say the real culprit is the media for making too much of the story.

For example, MSNBC‘s Alex Witt asked former presidential contender John Kerry about the Reverend Wright flap today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN KERRY, (D) MASSACHUSETTS:  You folks need to let go of this.  Television needs to stop dwelling on something that is in the past.  You guys have got to focus on the things that really matter to the American electorate.

I think the other thing, it‘s just worn out, old history now.  This guy had his narcissistic moment and it‘s finished.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Is the media to blame?  Isn‘t a relevant story to cover who a candidate chooses to surround him or herself with?  Sort of similar of what we‘re talking about before.

Huffington Post‘s Roy Sekoff is with us, as well as Nancy Giles, and Tony Blankley.

All right.  So, Roy, what do you make of it.  Is it the media‘s faults?

ROY SEKOFF, HUFFINGTON POST:  Well, it‘s not the media‘s fault but it‘s all a matter of proportion, Dan.  I mean, is the Wright story newsworthy?  Absolutely.  But is it worth the wall to wall coverage it‘s gotten?  Is it in comparison to the fact that this month has been the deadliest month for U.S. soldiers in Iraq in seven months?  But we‘re not hearing about that and we heard absolutely no follow up about the military analysts who were paid and trained to go on TV and lie to the American people about war.

ABRAMS:  Look, that‘s about whether people are covering the administration enough and I can assure you on this program we do and on this network.

SEKOFF:  You haven‘t cover that story though, Dan.

ABRAMS:  Roy, you know, look, I don‘t want to argue with you about that story.  I‘ll argue with that if you bet (ph) that offline because I investigated that story myself.

SEKOFF:  All right.

ABRAMS:  But, Tony, I want to talk about this, alright?  Do you think that the media—does Roy have a point that the media has turned this into a 24-hour story as opposed to an eight-hour story or a 12-hour story?

BLANKLEY:  No.  I think the media has got this right.

Look, we are in the middle, maybe some people don‘t appreciate it of this extraordinary possibility we‘re going to elect the first African-American president of the United States.  A person we don‘t much about, he‘s on the cusp of getting Democratic nomination in a year when the Democrats are likely to win the presidency.  And this is an extraordinary drama about who this man is, and what he believes and what he cares about.

I think the media has got this about right.  I think the public really cares.  It‘s not just a political story.  It‘s gone beyond politics and it‘s—it may determine whether we have the first African-American president or not.

GILES:  Well, I think what Tony says, really, the key words are the first African-American president because I think he‘s being held to a completely different standard than other people in terms of his vetting.  I mean, I have to say, this is bunk.  We‘ve heard about Reverend Wright ad nauseam.  So, he didn‘t make any statements today.

So, the new story today is going to be—Reverend Wright didn‘t make statements, let‘s have a Reverend Wright watch?  What‘s going to happen tomorrow?  Why aren‘t we investigating John McCain‘s relationship with the pastor who he sought his endorsement, John Hagee.

ABRAMS:  But is there a difference—and Roy, let me ask you about that question.  Isn‘t there a difference - because look, we covered Hagee on the show and I‘ve done it in what I call my Teflon John segments because it seems that they never stick.  But with that said, is it fair to compare Hagee and Wright considering that Hagee was never McCain‘s pastor?

SEKOFF:  It‘s not the same but I think the interesting thing is is that Obama has repudiated Wright but McCain had said that, you know, he is welcomed his support, why, because he believes the things that I believe.  That‘s a pretty interesting statement that he‘s made and he hasn‘t been held to the fire on that.

ABRAMS:  But he has distanced himself recently although he did say that he still welcomed his support.  He‘s try to sort of say it and we were joking on the program before—trying to speak out of both sides of his mouth.  Go ahead, Tony.

SEKOFF:  I mean, the Wright thing has gotten this four beat cycle there, Dan.  You know, it‘s like this is what Wright said what‘s Obama going to do it?  Then Obama does something that‘s like - OK, here‘s what Obama did, then, it‘s like, did what he do wasn‘t enough.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Tony, go ahead?

BLANKLEY:  Let me make a point, the drama of him being an African-American first president is a little bit like Kennedy being the first Catholic.  I can remember that election, I was the kid if I can remember it.  We have a big deal about that.  When Reagan, my candidate, was going to be the first real conservative to run since Coolidge, there was a big deal about all of his thoughts that he had about conservatism.

It was just proportionate to my recollection to my point of view, but

I understood it because it was a big deal to elect a new kind of a person

president.  It‘s not just that he‘s African-American, he happened to be a -

Kennedy happened to be Catholic, Reagan happened to be a real conservative

this is a dramatic moment.

GILES:  Well, taking that into consideration, along those lines, Hillary Clinton is the first female president and also strangely the first spouse of an already doubly elected president.  And I don‘t feel like even though we sort have had some idea what she and Bill stand for, there‘s an awful lot of information about her and an awful lot of examination of their relationship and what makes the two of them tick that has not been covered.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Hang on.  One at a time, one at a time.  Go ahead, Tony.

BLANKLEY:  If she gets the nomination, I think you‘ll see exactly that kind of reaction because then she would be the first woman.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Roy, am I crazy, or the fact that I believe there‘s going to be nothing new about the Clintons that‘s going to come out if Hillary Clinton is the nominee?

SEKOFF:  Oh, no, that‘s absolutely crazy.  Of course, there‘s going to be more and more coming out.  The differences when Kennedy ran and Reagan ran, there wasn‘t this 24/7 news cycle, endlessly repeating, endlessly tuning over it.

ABRAMS:  Hillary and Bill Clinton have been the most scrutinized couple in America.  You‘re saying you need more information?

GILES:  We don‘t know where they got the $300 million from really.

ABRAMS:  Wait.  There was a full investigation of all this stuff.

GILES:  Well, where‘s the information.  We still didn‘t get all the information about their tax returns, I‘m serious.

ABRAMS:  Wow.

GILES:  And what about just in on this strange level, the cosmoses (ph) behind, or psychology behind one spouse being president for two terms and then another spouse going, hey, good job, hey, now, it‘s my turn to be president.  I mean, that‘s a little weird, don‘t you think?

ABRAMS:  That‘s interesting.  There‘s no question, that‘s interesting but the notion that we‘re going to get more information.  You know what - I don‘t want (INAUDIBLE).

GILES:  I know.  No, don‘t get me wrong.

ABRAMS:  OK.  I got to go.  Nancy, David, Roy, thanks a lot.

Coming up: We‘re On Their Trail: the battle of the photo-ops, the online community is poking fun at Hillary‘s apparent trouble with a coffeemaker as she tries to make a case for lowering gas tax and tries to show that she‘s just one of people.  Well, Obama gets the University of North Carolina basketball team in trouble.

Win Lose or Draw is coming up.

And you knew it was coming on FOX News, now trying to link Reverend Wright to national security.  Beat the Press is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

First up: Thank goodness for the political experts on FOX News, they are so good at what they do, they just knew Barack Obama would have to respond to Reverend Jeremiah Wright‘s comments.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARA LIASSON, NPR:  But last night, you know not to toot my own horn, but I said there‘s going to be pressure on him to push back and today he pushed back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Not to toot my own horn, but I agreed with Mara last night, exclusively, that needed to push back.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  They‘re great.  They really are.  I said it, and all guests said it, just about every political and nonpolitical analyst said it.  But when they get it right on FOX, it is cause for a celebration.

Next up: We should have known that it wasn‘t going to be long before the folks in the FOX News bubble will take the Reverend Jeremiah Wright story and turn it into a national security story.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What this man has become is a recruiting campaign for al Qaeda and all of the enemies of America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Right, right.

Finally: You can always count on the crew at “FOX & Friends” to quote real journalism.  Today, they confused the story with of Lisa Stebic, a woman missing from Bolingbrook, Illinois with suspect Drew Peterson and his missing wife Stacey.  Peterson‘s third wife was also suspiciously the victim of a homicide.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRIAN KILMEADE, FOX HOST:  They say they are not closer to Lisa Stebic sadly, but the second wife, they‘re very close with coming down with charges for her disappearance.  She was definitely killed.  He has found that out.  And now, they‘re very close to coming down with charges on him, Drew Peterson.

GRETCHEN CARLSON, FOX HOST:  His third wife who drowned in the bathtub.

KILMEADE:  The second wife drowned in the bathtub.

STEVE DOOCY, FOX HOST:  Well, it‘s hard to keep track.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Yes, it‘s hard, I know.  Lisa Stebic‘s case has nothing to do with this.  Not related to Drew Peterson or his third wife Kathleen Savio, who was found dead on the bath tub.  But it‘s not like we watch that show for facts any way.

Up next: Well, Obama is busy trying to distance himself from his former pastor.  Now, some Democrats running for local office are trying to distance themselves from Obama because of it.  We have a Win, Lose or Draw edition of the latest ads and video from the campaign trail.

And later: New video tonight of the man who confessed to keeping his own daughter in an underground bunker for 24 years where he repeatedly raped her and fathered her seven children.  I got an update on that story coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Welcome back.  Barack and Michelle Obama now desperately trying to put the Rev. Wright controversy behind them.  But Obama‘s former pastor is already making appearances in the TV ad wars. 

It‘s time for a “Win Lose or Draw” edition of “On Their Trail.”  Still with us David Corn, D.C. bureau chief of “Mother Jones” magazine, and former Reagan speech writer Tony Blankley. 

First up, while Obama fights to distance himself from his former pastor, the controversy now leaving some Democrats running for local office to take cover and distance themselves from Obama.  One of those Democrats now under attack from the Republican National Congressional Committee which unveiled this new ad in Mississippi featuring Rev. Wright.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VOICE OVER:  Travis Childers, endorsed by liberal Barack Obama.  Obama says Childers will put progress before politics.  But when Obama‘s pastor cursed America, blaming us for 9/11, Childers said nothing.  When Obama ridiculed rural folks, for clinging to guns and religion, Childers said nothing.  Travis Childers - he took Obama‘s endorsement over our conservative values.  Conservatives just can‘t trust Travis Childers.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Wow.  I mean the Democrat under fire in that ad, Travis Childers, now trying hard to put some space between him and Obama in this new ad.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRAVIS CHILDERS (D-MS), CANDIDATE FOR U.S. CONGRESS:  I‘m Travis Childers.  This campaign has been one for the books.  My family heard the lies and attacks linking me to politicians I don‘t know and have never even met.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  David Corn, Democrats trying to flee from Obama?  I mean is this a dangerous omen?

DAVID CORN, D.C. BUREAU CHIEF, “MOTHER JONES” MAGAZINE:  Well, you used the plural there - Democrats.  What we see so far is one Democrat fleeing from the Republican attack machine, which is engaging in double triple hearsay in terms of guilt by association, you know, because he knows Obama and Obama has the Wright problem.  They‘re trying to tag him with Wright.  You know, this isn‘t the first district in Mississippi.  Gosh knows this if this is going to make a different down there.  But, you know, it‘s not yet a trend.  

(CROSS TALK) 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Well, look.  Let me play another one.  Just so we‘re clear that I‘m not making this stuff up.  Here‘s a Louisiana Democrat being attacked by being linked to Obama.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MALE VOICE OVER:  Everything today has a warning label; why not

politicians too like Don Cazayoux -

FEMALE VOICE OVER:  You mean Don “Tax You.”

MALE VOICE OVER:  He did say a vote for Don Cazayoux is a vote for Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi.  Obama and Pelosi voted to raise income taxes, so did Don Cazayoux. 

FEMALE VOICE OVER:  Don “Tax You.”

MALE VOICE OVER:  Cazayoux also supports Obama‘s radical agenda on

healthcare.  If Don “Tax You” gets to Washington -

FEMALE VOICE OVER:  He‘ll do what they tell him to do.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  All right.  Look, Tony, the real question here, I think is, is this politics as usual - meaning is there something different about Obama that‘s leading the national Republicans to go after him in some of these southern states?

TONY BLANKLEY, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST:  No.  I mean both parties, traditionally, if we think that the other party‘s speaker or presidential candidate is not popular in a particular region or state, you run ads like this.  These ads were run by Republicans.  I remember that - I think it was Bill Clinton trying to keep away from the Democratic congressional leadership.  So there‘s nothing new about this. 

But what is significant is the fact that everyone had assumed that Hillary was going to be a drag on the Democratic ticket - down ticket.  And now, we have at least a beginning of evidence that maybe Obama will be seen that way also.  

ABRAMS:  This one goes down - you‘ve got to say that this is going to be a lose for Obama, the fact that he‘s already become the subject of attack ads for other prime candidates.  

CORN:  No.  I disagree, Dan.  I think it‘s a draw at this point.  If the Republicans weren‘t attacking Barack Obama, the leading Democratic nominee at this point, I‘d say they were asleep at the switch and should be thrown out for neglect.

ABRAMS:  But, wait a second.  But Tony, they are linking another Democrat to Obama, that‘s the problem, isn‘t it?

CORN:  They do that all the time.  But they just ...

(CROSS TALK) 

ABRAMS:  Tony, is this is ...

BLANKLEY:  That‘s what they always do - both parties.  One of the

reasons that Thompson was asked to run for president on the Republican side

was because southern Republicans were afraid of running under McCain or -

ABRAMS:  I‘ve got to move on.  

BLANKLEY:  It‘s a standard stuff.  

ABRAMS:  Obama and Clinton both trying their hand at the staged photo-

op.  Clinton turned today into “take your candidate to work” day in

Indiana, riding shotgun with an Indiana voter on his way to work.  The

photo-op included a pit stop at a gas station, of course, to point out the

soaring gas prices.  At which point, she had a little trouble with the

coffeemaker.  This clip comes to us courtesy of YouTube

(VIDEO CLIP OF HILLARY CLINTON TRYING TO GET COFFEE)

ABRAMS:  We‘ll talk about Obama‘s photo op in a minute.  But David, this is kind of ridiculous, is it not?  A fake trip with a regular guy and real problem with a regular coffee maker?

CORN:  Wait a minute Dan.  You don‘t think she starts every day of her life commuting to work with a blue collar worker and then getting morning, not from Starbucks but from 7/11.  You don‘t think that‘s authentic? 

ABRAMS:  Tony?

CORN:  I mean listen, this is what candidates do.  I think it‘s ridiculous, you know.  But cameras go after them.  They use these ads.  They use these spreads.  They put them on - they tell you to put them on the news.  And it conveys nothing to me.  And listen, Hillary Clinton, you know, hasn‘t pumped gas or made her own coffee probably for a long time now.  That‘s what happens when you‘re a senator and the wife of the president.  

ABRAMS:  And Tony, I don‘t know, it bothers me as an outsider, every time we say, well, this is politics as usual.  This is politics as usual.  I mean we can still call people out when there‘s something that‘s not genuine, can‘t we?

BLANKLEY:  Of course you can.  And politics as usual sometimes don‘t mean ineffective.  And the fact that it‘s usual doesn‘t mean that it‘s necessarily smart.  I think the general concept of Hillary turning into a regular person when (UNINTELLIGIBLE) is a smart one, but I don‘t think this one pulled it off quite so well.  

ABRAMS:  All right.  We will call this a win for Obama, because here I want to talk about the fact that he‘s playing basketball.  Do we have that video of him playing basketball?  Here‘s where it‘s a win, because he‘s really playing basketball.  Now, I should point out, which is interesting, he actually got the North Carolina team in trouble because coaches are not allowed to watch pickup games during the off season.  They are also prohibited from any mandatory athletically related off-season activity through final exams. 

And there was Obama with the coach and they were shooting hoops, et cetera.  Is that it?  All right. 

David Corn and Tony Blankley, thank you very much.  Appreciate it.  

ABRAMS:  Up next, lots of people probably hold their breath watching “Oprah,” but David Blaine literally held his breath.  It‘s in “Reality Bites.”

And we have new information about that horrible story of the man who confessed to keeping his own daughter locked in an underground bunker for 24 years and fathering her seven children.  We‘ve got new video. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Now to “Reality Bites,” a dose of reality caught on tape.  Tonight, David Blaine appeared on “Oprah” attempting to break the record for breath holding under water.  The magician had to beat the previous record of 16 minutes and 32 seconds. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OPRAH WINFREY, HOST, “THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW”:  17 minutes, 4 seconds. 

17 minutes.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Congratulations. 

WINFREY:  17 minutes, 4.4 seconds.   How do you feel right now?

DAVID BLAINE:  I feel great.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  17 minutes under water.  Be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We‘re back.  New details tonight in that horrible story we‘ve been following, of 73-year-old Josef Fritzl who held his own daughter, Elisabeth, captive in this secret bunker for 24 years, where she gave birth to seven of his children.  Three of whom were also kept in this windowless dungeon, never seeing daylight until their recent discovery and release.  Here‘s the latest from Paul Davis with our British Partner, ITV.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAUL DAVIS (voice over):  He is tanned.  He appears pleased with himself.  He certainly likes to indulge himself.  This is Josef Fritzl enjoying the pleasures of a holiday in Thailand.  Listen to that laugh.  Massage on the beach.  Jokes exchanged with a friend who is filming him. 

Of course, it could be just another of the many so-called boys‘ holidays in this Thai resort.  Only at the time, he was enjoying the beach and sunshine.  Back home in Austria, the daughter he‘d raped and imprisoned and the daughter he fathered with her, were locked deep underground. 

While he was eating and drinking his fill in beachside restaurants, they were surviving on food he stockpiled in his cellar before locking the secret door and leaving them.  The German newspaper, the “Bild”(ph) obtained this film from a 69-year-old man who said he and Fritzl had a number of holidays in Thailand in the ‘90s. 

The man says, on one holiday, he saw and filmed Fritzl buying women‘s dresses and underwear.  When asked, he said they were for a mystery girlfriend.  Were they in fact for the daughter he‘d imprisoned and was abusing back home?

In the latest news conference, Austrian police said they were just starting to learn about Fritzl‘s shocking double life.  In his cellar, he‘d originally constructed one secure soundproof room for his daughter, Elisabeth.  But then had to dig and build extensions for the children she bore. 

Elisabeth Fritzl and five of her children are now being cared for a psychiatric hospital.  Doctors say they‘ve enjoyed a birthday party with a cake for her 12-year-old son Alexander, the first birthday the brothers and sisters have shared together. 

Police say Josef Fritzl has signed a full confession but will not cooperate further or answer the many questions they want to ask him.  Paul Davis, ITV news.  

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  Wow.  Joining me now is clinical psychologist Jeff Gardere; the bureau chief of Austria Radio and TV, Hanno Settele; and joining us on the phone again is Jennifer Spaulding, who, in 2001, was kidnapped and held captive for months in an underground bunker in upstate New York.  Her captor has since been caught, serving a term of 18 years to life in prison.  Thanks to all of you for coming on. 

All right.  Dr. Gardere, let me start with you, the psychology of this guy.  I mean, let me - I want to talk about the premeditation aspect that went into it, all right? 

This is from a former tenant of his who said, “He banned any of the tenants of the eight flats from going anywhere near the cellar or backyard.  He told us the cellar was protected with a sophisticated electronic alarm.  Whoever went there would have contract canceled without notice.” 

So he‘s very meticulous about making sure that no one gets there.  And then he‘s on the beach, in that video we see, just having a great old time.  

JEFF GARDERE, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST:  This is a guy, Dan, who is a narcissist, of course, sociopath, probably a psychopath.  We know he may be linked perhaps with the murder of a child to one of his children.  We don‘t know the full facts of that as yet.  But this is a man who probably ran his household with an iron fist, ran his home with these other tenants with an iron fist and ordered people, Dan, not to go near that basement.  So of course, it brings up a lot of questions, which I‘m sure you‘ll have about his relationship with his wife.  

ABRAMS:  Hanno, do we know anything - let me ask you two questions.  I want to ask you, do we know anything more about what his wife may or may not have known?  I mean the first we heard that she knew absolutely nothing about this.  

HANNO SETTELE, BUREAU CHIEF, AUSTRIAN RADIO AND TV:  They still say it‘s plausible that she has not had any knowledge of what was going on.  And they now are looking for around 100 people who have lived in this house during those 24 years, those tenants that you mentioned - actually about 100 people.  They want to talk to them.  None of them has so far stepped forward and presented any knowledge.  So it is plausible, if at all, almost incomprehensible that the wife would have not known what was going on.  

ABRAMS:  And a former tenant, the same one, as we mentioned before, quoted in the “L.A. Times” said, “He used to take food and shopping down there in a wheel barrow - always at night.  At other times, I remember you could sometimes hear a knocking from the cellar that I couldn‘t explain.” 

You know, this is - and Jennifer, I don‘t want to ask about this particular case because I don‘t want you to start comparing, et cetera.  What I‘d like you to do is listen to what an Austrian woman said who was held captive for eight years.  She talked about the children who were brought up - those three children who had been living underground their whole lives, and then I want you to respond to it.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (THROUGH TRANSLATOR):  I believe it might have been even better to leave them where they were.  But that was probably impossible because that was of course the environment they were used to.  Pulling them abruptly out of the situation without transition and isolating them can‘t be good for them.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Jennifer, look, that was from a separate case.  But I can‘t imagine that it would have been better for them to stay underground.  

JENNIFER SPAULDING, HELD CAPTIVE IN UNDERGROUND DUNGEON(on the phone): 

No, I definitely believe that it‘s more detrimental.  I don‘t care if they are down there for 18 years.  They deserve to get out as soon as possible, because it‘s just a scary situation.  

ABRAMS:  In your situation, the captor took great care to make sure that you would not be discovered as well.  

SPAULDING:  Oh, yes.  Nobody knew where I was.  There was no trace of me.  He made me write a letter saying that I was in a rehab and he stood over me while I wrote the letter.  And told me what to write word for word. 

Then he went to Rochester, which is like two hours away from where we were,

and mailed it from there.  So to like throw them off the case -

ABRAMS:  Doctor, what‘s stunning to me is that‘s very similar to what

and again, I hate to do this, we compare the cases.  But in terms of the psychosis here, I mean it is the same sort of thing this guy did with his daughter.  He forced her to write letters which basically said, “I don‘t want my kids.  I‘ve run away.”  And he left half of the kids up on the front door so his wife would believe, “Oh, our daughter left these children here, and she wants us to take care of them.”  But forcing those letters? 

GARDERE:  That‘s part of the very controlling behavior, raping her over and over again leaving these kids in physical danger, not just psychological danger.  These kids are stooped over.  Malnutrition - it‘s a horrible thing.  But what you have to think about here, Dan, this isn‘t something that he did with a stranger or a friend of a family.  This is something that he did with his own flesh and blood - his own daughter. 

And for years, would go down there in that bunker, in that basement, lead that double life and tending to these kids, even though they were physically sick.  He would stay with them while they were sick and not give them the care that they needed.  

ABRAMS:  Well, Hanno, let me ask you.  Do we know - we‘re looking at this videotape again, of him on this vacation.  Do we know what he did with the family, with his daughter, with her kids while he was living it up on vacation?  How did they have food, et cetera?

SETTELE:  So far, it‘s only a guess.  But the location down there - the vault was big enough.  It‘s about almost 700 square feet that he dug out through all those years.  And they had a freezer there.  They had a refrigerator there.  They had a shower there.  So the guess for now is he just loaded them up with groceries, frozen food, water - and off he went to Thailand.  As we can see what men - some men do in Thailand.  

(CROSS TALK)

ABRAMS:  Jennifer wanted to get in.  Go ahead, Jennifer.

SPAULDING:  I wanted to say that I think that how he did that was his wife had to have known about it.  Because I mean, unless he had - I mean, there‘s just no way that she didn‘t know.  I don‘t think.  

GARDERE:  Two very quick things.

ABRAMS:  Final thought, yes.

GARDERE:  For one, going to Thailand.  We know there‘s a big sex trade there, so more of that pedophile behavior possibly.  Second thing, yes, children raped all the time and it happens sometimes by their parents.  And often we find that the mothers do know but they are in denial, Dan.  What they‘ll do is if that daughter is being raped every Wednesday at 2 p.m., the mom is in denial.  She will go shopping every Wednesday at 2:00 p.m. 

And when she finds out about it - finally, someone blows the lid off of it, she‘ll say, “I didn‘t know what was going on.”  It‘s part of that deep denial and the control that is happening in the homes where these things take place, not just in this bunker basement situation.  

ABRAMS:  Doctor, thank you.  Hanno and Jennifer ...

GARDERE:  Thanks, Dan.

ABRAMS:  ... thanks again for coming back on the program.  We appreciate it.  

SPAULDING:  OK.  No problem.  

ABRAMS:  Up next, we‘ll have the night‘s “Winners and Losers.”  Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  It‘s time for tonight‘s “Winners and Losers” for this last day of April, 2008.  Our first loser, international soccer superstar Rinaldo, in hiding after the Brazilian soccer great took three young ladies to his hotel in Rio De Janeiro, only to learn that they weren‘t ladies but transvestites.  They were prostitutes but prostitution is legal.  What‘s the issue?  Oh, yes, right. 

Loser, former Dartmouth professor Priya Venkatesan, apparently so unhappy some of her students challenged her teaching methods that she quit.  She‘s now suing, not just the school, but the students. 

In an E-mail to the students, the professor says, he writes, “Dear former class members, I regret to inform you that I am pursuing a lawsuit in which I am accusing some of you of violating Title 7 of Anti-Federal Discrimination Laws.  Have a nice day.” 

First of all, professor, it‘s just federal, not “Anti-Federal Discrimination Laws”  And you are suing your students? 

But our big loser - Paula Abdul who made a fool of herself last night on “American Idol,” when halfway through the show, she got confused about how many songs the contestants had sung. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAULA ABDUL, JUDGE, “AMERICAN IDOL”:  The two songs made me feel like

you‘re not fighting hard enough to get into the top four.  So David Cook -

RANDY JACKSON, JUDGE, “AMERICAN IDOL”:  It was just on the first song. 

Just on the first one.  Just on the first song.

ABDUL:  Oh, my god.  I thought you sang twice. 

RYAN SEACREST, HOST, “AMERICAN IDOL”:  You are seeing the future, baby.  You‘re seeing the future.  Come back.

ABDUL:  You know what?  This is hard. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Our big winner of the day - Barack Obama.  Why?  Come on, he sealed the coveted endorsement of “The Fonz.”  Henry Winkler has announced he is voting for Barack Obama.  Hey! 

Time for the “P.O.‘d Box.”  Last night, we brought you unedited portions of Obama‘s extraordinary press conference where he sought to stem the damage done by his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright. 

Joe writes, “If Obama‘s associations are fair game for the media then why is John McCain getting a pass from the media for accepting the endorsement of Rev. Hagee, who said Catholics are cult members and New Orleans was condemned by God during Katrina because of the gay pride parade?”

Joe, that just tells me you need to watch this show more often.  In our “Teflon John” segments, we deal with that very issue.  That is why we call it Teflon John. 

That is all the time we have.  We are going to start reading more of these E-mails.  We keep getting jam packed shows.  E-mail us at verdict@msnbc.com.  Tomorrow, John McCain is on “MORNING JOE.”  I‘ll 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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