updated 5/22/2008 11:27:47 AM ET 2008-05-22T15:27:47

Guests: Roy Sekoff, Kevin Madden, Reed Dickens, Linda Sanchez, Lisa Caputo, Jodi Enda, Nancy Giles

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Tonight: Obama secures the majority of elected delegates and now Clinton is talking about sexism.  Does that translate into “you better offer me the V.P. spot”?

Lisa Caputo, Nancy Giles, Huffington Post‘s Roy Sekoff, are all among guests.

And: New comments emerged on the reverend whose endorsement John McCain sought and received.  Reverend John Hagee talking about Hitler doing God‘s work, it‘s on tape.

And today was the deadline for Karl Rove to agree to testify to Congress.  He refused again.  A member of the Judiciary Committee tells us what they will do now.

VERDICT starts now.

Hi everyone.  Welcome to the show.

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are in Florida today with very different agendas.  He, laying groundwork for a general election campaign; she, arguing that the Democrats should count the delegates from Florida‘s disqualified primary.  The numbers clearly stacked against Clinton.  While Clinton had a big victory in Kentucky last night by 35 points, last night also marked a milestone for Obama, who now has a majority of the elected delegates.

But not only is Clinton vowing to stay in the race, but it sure sounds like she‘s now blaming her predicament, at least in part, on sexism.  In a “Washington Post” interview, fully released today, she criticized the, quote, “vitriol from misogynist” and said that the race factor was often discussed but not gender.

Well, the “New York Times” reports Clinton is telling her inner circle that sexism played a key role in putting her where she is now.  Question—is she now playing the gender card to make a case to be vice-president?  If not, then why suddenly put gender front and center?

Joining me now: Lisa Caputo, former Hillary Clinton press secretary; Jodi Enda, who covered the White House for “Knight Ridder”; and social commentator, Nancy Giles.

All right.  Nancy, let me start with you.  Why suddenly, is it a V.P. play?

NANCY GILES, SOCIAL COMMENTATOR:  Well, it‘s either that or I think it‘s really because she‘s losing.  I mean, I‘m a woman and I see sexism every day and I see racism every day, but is it legitimate when Hillary Clinton is the wife of the former president and the wife also of the former governor that if that‘s mentioned—that somehow demeans her and it becomes sexist when that‘s just a statement of fact?

Is it sexism when she‘s sort of has played different aspects of her and her background at different points in the race when she‘s losing?  I don‘t - she‘s not a great test case.

ABRAMS:  Lisa, the timing is suspicious.  This weekend, she does this interview.  She knows she‘s going to lose the elected delegates this week and suddenly, sexism becomes a key talking point?

LISA CAPUTO, FMR. HILLARY CLINTON PRESS SECRETARY:  Well, I think, Dan, there‘s no way you can discounts that sexism and the role of gender is not at play in this election.  It is.

ABRAMS:  Is that a reason she‘s losing?

CAPUTO:  I don‘t know that it‘s the reason she‘s losing.  No, you can‘t lay that completely at the doorstep, but to suggest that sexism isn‘t involved here and there‘s been -

ABRAMS:  No one is suggesting that.  But she‘s suggesting she‘s losing.

CAPUTO:  No.  But Dan, when she‘s in New Hampshire at a campaign stop and someone holds up a sign that says “Iron my shirt”- no, but, wait a minute.  It says, “Iron my shirt,” and there‘s no coverage of this.  I mean, however, if it was someone holding up a sign at an Obama rally saying, “Shine my shoes.”  Come on.  I mean, that is—there is a gender issue at play here that‘s not being discussed, whereas the race issue is being discussed.

ABRAMS:  Right.  Except that, and again, maybe the “New York Times” reporting is wrong on this, but they say, “In private conversations and in interviews, Mrs. Clinton has begun asserting that she believes sexism, rather than racism, has cast a shadow over the primary fight.”

Has begun—I mean, there is something suspicious about the fact that suddenly conversations are being had that Hillary Clinton is making sexism a, quote, “talking point.”

CAPUTO:  Dan, I think if you follow this campaign and you had been out on the trail, as a reporter covering it, you would—talking to her supporters, particularly women, and I was at an event this morning, in fact, with Dee Dee Myers, where women in the room, when it was suggested that Hillary Clinton get out of the race, and these were people of whose political persuasion I didn‘t know, they said, “No.”

And it‘s more about, you know, the conversation that‘s been going on about the role of women in our society.  Frankly, we‘re not as progressive as we say we are about the role of women.

ABRAMS:  I‘ll tell you, let me bring in Jodi.  Jodi, I want to read you a viewer e-mail, all right?  This is from Karen Schmitt from Sedona, Arizona, who writes to us about the claim of sexism.

“It‘s never her war vote, her message, her campaign strategy, her unpredictable temperament, her personality, or the public‘s lack of trust in her.  It‘s the media or sexism in this country.  I would argue that the very fact that she‘s done so well actually proves the opposite.”

What do you make of that?

JODI ENDA, FMR. POLITICAL, REPORTER, KNIGHT RIDDER:  Well, look, I think there are a lot reasons that you could point to for Senator Clinton‘s position right now.  Sexism may be one of them.  I would never say that that‘s the reason she‘s behind, but I also don‘t think that you can say that there‘s not been sexism in this campaign.

And look, from the beginning, there was only one candidate who was criticized for being too ambitious.  It happened to be the woman in the race.  No one ever criticizes men for being too ambitious.  Nobody ever looks at how they laugh, sees how they cackle (ph), or criticizes them for being too calculating.  All candidates are calculating.  That‘s how they get to be candidate.

GILES:  Wait a minute though, but people criticize Barack Obama‘s bowling, they‘ve gotten into all kinds of things that don‘t make any difference.  I mean, there‘s been an element with Hillary Clinton and women‘s identification with her and I know this from people I‘ve talked to.  There were people who wouldn‘t vote for her as senator in New York because she should have divorce Bill and a lot of those same women, I‘m talking about women have this identification with her as representative of everything in their lives, bad marriages -

ABRAMS:  But it just seems to me like we‘re isolating the - again, I want to come back though and, Jodi, I want to come back to the fact that this is a new talking point on the part of Hillary Clinton.

Look, Hillary Clinton is a white woman.  Barack Obama is a black man.  And John McCain is an older white man.  All right?  Those are all three of them are going to face issues related to every one of those demographics.

ENDA:  Absolutely.

ABRAMS:  But for Hillary Clinton to now suggest, now suggest that, again, that it is—that it is sexism that has put her where she is now - and I know you‘re saying—look, I‘m not going to say that, but - but the fact that she‘s bringing it up now, suggests that that is exactly what she‘s saying.

ENDA:  Well, I don‘t really know what her reasons are for bringing up now.  I‘m not part of the Clinton campaign.  I‘m a journalist.

But what I think is unfortunate is that this didn‘t get reported on much earlier in the campaign.  I mean, this sexism has been going on for many months, and it‘s just kind of too bad we couldn‘t have a conversation about it earlier.  But now, it‘s kind of late in the game.

ABRAMS:  But see, look -

CAPUTO:  But it‘s not been covered.  It‘s not been covered.  I mean, listen, when John McCain is at a rally, at an event, and somebody in the audience says, “Senator, how are we going to deal with that and it rhymes with the word rich and begins with B,” you know, and he says, “That‘s a good question,” and -

ABRAMS:  We covered it.  Everyone covered that.

CAPUTO:  You covered it, but it was covered, but in a different way than fast forward, when they say—Barack Hussein Obama.  And McCain, you know, apologizes and says, “There will be none of that on my campaign.”  Different reaction—different reaction.

ABRAMS:  Let me ask you this, Nancy, is it possible that because women are not a minority that as a result that it‘s being treated differently?

GILES:  Because women are in a minority in this country.  I think that‘s a very good question.  I think it is a possibility.  I think it is a possibility, because, I think, all women don‘t feel the same way about this issue.  And look, isn‘t it possible that maybe the reason that Hillary Clinton‘s not winning right now is people just don‘t respond to her specifically?  There are other women -

CAPUTO:  If people didn‘t respond to her, she wouldn‘t have won Kentucky by 35 points last night.  She wouldn‘t have been ahead—she‘s ahead in the popular vote.  She‘s got 17 million—how can you say people aren‘t reacting to her?

(CROSSTALK)

ENDA:  Could I bring a voice of reason in here, please?

GILES:  Well, I just have to get to make this one point because this is really bothering me.  She‘s only ahead in the popular vote if she goes back on the agreement she made with the DNC and tries to count Michigan and Florida.

CAPUTO:  She‘s not going back on it.  She signed.

GILES:  It is going back.  It‘s changing the rules again.

(CROSSTALK)

CAPUTO:  She signed an agreement that was a covenant that said, do not campaign there.  She did not campaign in those states.  It didn‘t say don‘t count their delegates.  You can‘t disenfranchise us.  We‘re not changing the rules.  That‘s not absurd.  We‘re not a 48-state country.

ABRAMS:  We‘re going to talk—we‘re going to talk about that again later.  But Jodi, is this a V.P. play?  I mean, I‘m asking for analysis now?  Do you think that this is a V.P. play because I‘ve got to tell you, there‘s something going on here?

You just say - well, look, there‘s been sexism, no one is covering it, look, you know, you may be right.  It‘s a legitimate issue to discuss, but what I want to know is why now?  Why now?

ENDA:  I think, look, Dan, I don‘t know if it‘s a V.P. play or not, but frankly, I think she has much better arguments to be made than suggesting sexism in the race.  That‘s an argument that‘s going to turn off a lot of people, particularly men.

Now it may rally women, but women are already rallied behind her.  So, I think frankly she‘d be better off saying, talking behind the scenes if she wants to be V.P. and to talk about her strengths and what she brings to the race.

So, you know, if it is, I‘m not sure it‘s a very successful argument.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Let me play, this is Geraldine Ferraro on THE TODAY SHOW, who has been one of the leaders of this theory—about Clinton and sexism.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “TODAY”/NBC)

GERALDINE FERRARO, CLINTON SUPPORTER:  After one of the—she mentioned after Philadelphia that she - do it before Philadelphia, that she had gone out, she learned to shoot a gun.  He kind of ridiculed her.  Who does she think?  Like standup comedian walking up and down with a microphone and saying, “Who does she think she is—Annie Oakley?”  And when something else was said about a campaign, this thing, clicking it off, diminishing her.  Sorry, that‘s not fine.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  This is not just the media coverage, Lisa.  What Geraldine Ferraro is saying is Barack Obama is doing this to Hillary Clinton.

CAPUTO:  Yes, you know, and I think this is a very personal thing for Geraldine Ferraro.  You know, who in and off herself broke so many glass ceilings and broke new ground for women with she got on the ticket with Walter Mondale, and it is emotional for her.  And I think, you know, she‘s expressing what she‘s observed.

ABRAMS:  Be careful.  You‘re talking about a woman and emotional.  You‘re going to get yourself in trouble.  Be careful.

CAPUTO:  Yes, apparently so because if she gets emotional, she‘s viewed as weak.  If a man gets emotional -

ABRAMS:  Right.  Right.

CAPUTO:  Now, but I think in this case, this is personal for her, and what she endured as a V.P. candidate and then just what she has personally experienced in the campaign, I think, is what you saw come to light on THE TODAY SHOW in her interview.

GILES:  I can‘t believe that we‘re even listening right now to Geraldine Ferraro after the rude remarks she made diminishing, if you want to take her word, Barack Obama by saying that if he were white, he wouldn‘t even be considered in this campaign.  And she‘s somebody that I really truly respected.

So it‘s weird.  This little gesture, it‘s from a Jay-z video and it‘s also just a little brush aside about a whole lot of things that didn‘t specifically have to do with Hillary Clinton at all.

ABRAMS:  Is it a V.P. play, Lisa?

CAPUTO:  I don‘t think it‘s a V.P. play at all, Dan.  What this is about, she‘s committed to her supporters, she‘s got 17 million people behind her.  They don‘t want her to get out and she‘s committed to seeing the process through, so that every state, all 50 states, you know, have their voices heard.

ABRAMS:  After all 50 states‘ voices are heard, does she want the V.P. job?

(LAUGHTER)

CAPUTO:  I think she‘s got to decide.  I think she‘s got to decide, it ain‘t over until it‘s over and you know, she‘s still in the race for the nomination.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Thanks to everyone.

Coming up: Hillary Clinton, desperate to count Florida‘s delegates, is now comparing the Obama campaign with Republicans in 2000.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D-NY) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I remember very well back in 2000, there were those who argued that people‘s votes should be discounted over technicality.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Clinton even comparing the battles to a corrupt election in Zimbabwe.

And: A top CIA official in hot water for allegedly getting sexual favors as a bribe.  Why America Hates Washington is coming up.

What‘s your VERDICT?  E-mail us at: “mailto:verdict@msnbc.com” verdict@msnbc.com.  Your e-mails are in the P.O.‘ed box at the end of the show.  Pleas include your name, where you‘re writing from.

We‘re back in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Tonight‘s edition of Why America Hates Washington.  The former executive director of the CIA is facing new bribery allegations this week.  Among the list of bribes, he‘s accused of taking sexual favors.

Kyle “Dusty” Foggo, the number three official at CIA until 2006, indicted on corruption charges, facing new allegations this week, that among the tens of thousands of dollars in bribes he allegedly accepted, some came in the form of sexual companionship—all this in exchange for helping a friend land government contracts worth millions.

A top official accused of trading sex for defense contracts: Another reason Why America at least suspects Washington.

Coming up: Clinton‘s new arguments about why she‘s really winning - really?  Yes, really, winning.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON:  I‘m told that more people have voted for me than for anyone who has ever run for the Democratic nomination.

(APPLAUSE)

CLINTON:  That‘s more than 17 million votes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  That‘s what she‘s told.  Hillary Clinton last night, is continuing her popular vote argument, during her victory speech in Louisville, Kentucky.

We‘ll analyze what I view as her fuzzy math in a minute, but today, she took that argument even further, comparing the current situation in Florida and Michigan to what took place in Florida in 2000.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON:  I remember very well back in 2000, there were those who argued that people‘s votes should be discounted over technicalities.  For the people of Florida, who voted in this primary, the notion of discounting their votes sounds way too much the same.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  I remember 2000, too, but is that really comparable, especially since Hillary signed that pledge of she‘s saying she didn‘t adhere to the DNC-approved nominating calendar and campaigning?

Late today, she compared Florida‘s primary to Zimbabwe‘s recent disputed presidential election.

Here now: Kevin Madden, former press secretary for Mitt Romney; Roy Sekoff, founding editor of the Huffington Post; and back with us again, is Lisa Caputo.

All right.  Now look, Lisa, I know you want to talk about the popular vote argument.  First, let‘s just talk about the way she‘s doing it.  The Zimbabwe, 2000, I mean, isn‘t this getting crazy, the comparisons she‘s making here?

CAPUTO:  I don‘t think so.  I mean, she‘s stating what the facts are today, and I think -

ABRAMS:  Zimbabwe - the facts of Zimbabwe?

CAPUTO:  But, Dan, you‘ve got to take a step back for a second.  This is an unprecedented voter turnout election for the Democrats.  I mean, voter turnout at the polls is at an all-time high and when you have a situation where it is so close, right?  There‘s about 150 pledge delegates separating them, the popular vote is very close, she‘s ahead, it does hearken back to the year 2000 when you had Al Gore ahead in the popular vote and the thing had to go -

ABRAMS:  It doesn‘t really hearken back.  I mean, it doesn‘t.

CAPUTO:  It sure does.

ABRAMS:  Really?  I mean, come on.

CAPUTO:  It‘s why we have superdelegates, it‘s why the system was set up this way, I mean, so that the superdelegates can weigh in when the primaries play out, to see who they feel is the more electable candidate.

ABRAMS:  Roy, go ahead.

ROY SEKOFF, HUFFINGTON POST:  Dan, this is absolutely ludicrous.  I mean, I had to look closely to see if that was actually Hillary or Amy Poehler from “Saturday Night Live.”  I mean, it‘s one of the most ridiculous arguments I‘ve ever heard.

For starters, Al Gore did not sign a pledge saying that the Electoral College wouldn‘t count and second of all, let me repeat this, she is not ahead.  Lisa, she is not ahead.  The only way she‘s ahead is if you don‘t count Iowa, if you don‘t count Maine, if you don‘t count Nevada, and if you give Barack Obama zero.  Zero of the 238,000 votes that were voted for uncommitted in Michigan.  It‘s a ludicrous argument.

CAPUTO:  It‘s not a ludicrous argument.  I mean, if you count Michigan and Florida, and she did sign the pledge, saying, “I won‘t campaign there,” that doesn‘t mean you don‘t—you don‘t count the delegates.

KEVIN MADDEN, FORMER PRESS SECRETARY FOR ROMNEY:  I tell you what, Dan, let me - Dan, let me referee this.

ABRAMS:  All right, Kevin.

MADDEN:  Let a Republican referee this.

ABRAMS:  Go ahead.

MADDEN:  Look, it‘s—look, it‘s an argument of convenience.  You know, Hillary Clinton, if she would have a lot more weight with this argument, if she was as vocal about seating Florida and seating Michigan back when the DNC decided to sanction those two states.  And also, it‘s one that doesn‘t have—it‘s one that doesn‘t have much weight, because of the simple fact that right now, it‘s all about pledge delegates.

And we don‘t have the math adding up for Hillary Clinton, so she doesn‘t just doesn‘t have the ability to make a very strong argument here.  It‘s one of process, when in fact she should be arguing with a little more passion about policy.

ABRAMS:  Go ahead, Lisa.  And I want to play the Zimbabwe byte.

CAPUTO:  What I would argue here is that, look—you come out of last night, and you‘ve got her winning by such a large margin out of Kentucky.  It does pose questions, it has to, in voters‘ minds.  Barack Obama cannot close this deal, a huge loss in West Virginia, huge loss in Kentucky.

When you look at the exit polls, he‘s not chipping away at the blue-collar base of support for the Democrats.  Something is at play here.

SEKOFF:  He did very well with the white blue-collar vote in Oregon.  He did very well with the white blue-collar vote there.

CAPUTO:  And where was he with that in West Virginia and Kentucky, and where was he in the battleground states?  You can‘t discount this.  You just can‘t.

SEKOFF:  You can‘t change the rules.  It‘s not about the popular vote.  It‘s about the delegates.

ABRAMS:  But, look, but, Roy, look, the bottom line is, the superdelegates haven‘t stepped in yet, they haven‘t said this thing is over yet.  Let me play—but this is—it‘s the way she‘s going about doing it, that troubles me.  I do think Kentucky was a big deal.  I said it last night, but it is the way Hillary Clinton is doing it.  This is her talking about the comparison, not to the 2000, but to Zimbabwe.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON:  We‘re seeing that right now in Zimbabwe.  Tragically, an election was held, the president lost, they refused to abide by the will of the people.  So we can never take for granted our precious right to vote.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  You know, the Zimbabwe election is a great comparison.

(CROSSTALK)

SEKOFF:  Look at the look - just a little bit over the top?

CAPUTO:  With respect, what she‘s talking about there is to let the process play out, and let people have their voices heard.  I mean, all of this clamor for her to get out before June 3rd is not right, is not right.

ABRAMS:  She shouldn‘t get out.

SEKOFF:  She should stay in.

CAPUTO:  What she‘s saying—what she‘s saying is let‘s go through our process.  Let‘s let all the voices be heard, let‘s let all the votes be counted.  Why wouldn‘t we?

MADDEN:  That‘s a valid argument.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Kevin, final 10 seconds.  I got to wrap this up.

MADDEN:  Now, that is a very valid argument.  I don‘t think anybody is really making a, you know, a strict case of the DNC that she has to get out, but the look of befuddlement on those people‘s faces behind her when she‘s arguing about Zimbabwe said it all about that argument.

ABRAMS:  Lisa Caputo showing us tonight why the Clinton camp were known as fighters.

(LAUGHTER)

SEKOFF:  So much for not embarrassing those superdelegates, Dan.  An admirable fight, too, Lisa.

ABRAMS:  Thanks for coming back in, Lisa.  All right.  Appreciate it.

Roy and Kevin are going to be back.

Coming up, you may already know what he said about Catholics and gays.  Wait until you hear what Reverend John Hagee, the pastor whose endorsement John McCain sought and received, said about Hitler and it‘s on tape.  Is McCain still glad to have his endorsement?

And history was made on Sunday, historically black college in Atlanta graduated its first white valedictorian, but if you watch FOX News, let‘s just say, you might have walked away with a very different story.  That‘s next in Beat the Press.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  It‘s time for tonight‘s Beat the Press: Our daily look back at media hypocrisy, agendas, and the amusing perils of TV.

First up: Monday on CNN, Larry King covered the polygamy story with accounts of underage girls having sex with much older men.  Then he turned to an interview with actress Denise Richards and asks this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “LARRY KING LIVE”/CNN/MONDAY)

LARRY KING, CNN HOST:  Someone as pretty as you must have had relationships very young.  People look like you are usually out and about at 15.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Next up: Morehouse College, the historically famous black college in Atlanta, graduated its first valedictorian on Sunday, but FOX News viewers would have thought the first white valedictorian was their first valedictorian ever.  The school has been around since 1867 just not with white valedictorians.

Finally: Last night, during the post primary coverage, a little after 1:30 in the morning, a tired anchor had trouble with some of his script.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, LAST NIGHT)

ABRAMS:  Coming back, ad-lib viewers - ad-lib.  Ad-lib means I should make up my own words here.  And I‘m reading a thing that says ad-lib.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Ad-lib response?

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

Up next, John McCain‘s pastor problems just got a lot worse today.  Reverend John Hagee on tape, saying Hitler did God‘s work.  Most of the mainstream media continue to ignore it.  Not here.

And later today was the deadline for Karl Rove to agree to testify before Congress about whether he was involved in the prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman because he‘s a Democrat, shocker.  Well, he‘s not testifying.  We‘ll hear from a member of the Judiciary Committee about what they do now.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Coming up, the deadline passes for Karl Rove to voluntarily testify before congress about the former governor of Alabama who says he was prosecuted because he‘s a Democrat. 

And a CNN political contributor essentially calls Hillary Clinton a B word, that‘s in “Winners and Losers.”  Plus, a bear who can play baseball in “Reality Bites.” 

But first, the latest in our continuing series, “Teflon John,” the media‘s failure to call out John McCain.  Tonight, an astounding new audio recording from Pastor John Hagee, the controversial evangelical leader whose endorsement John McCain sought and says he‘s still happy to have. 

Yes, you may know he‘s called the Catholic Church the great whore and claimed god sent hurricane Katrina as punishment for a New Orleans gay pride parade.  But the newly discovered comments may top them all.  In sermons, from the 1990s revealed today, Hagee claimed Hitler was doing God‘s work and that the Holocaust was just Hitler‘s way of fulfilling God‘s will. 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

PASTOR JOHN HAGEE, JOHN MCCAIN ENDORSER:  God says in Jeremiah 16, “Behold, I will bring them, the Jewish people again unto their land that I gave unto their fathers.”  That would be Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  “Behold, I will send for many fishers and after will I send for many hunters.  And they, the hunters shall hunt them.”  That will be the Jews.  “From every mountain and from every hill and from out of the holes of the rocks.” 

Then God sent a hunter, a hunter is someone who comes with a gun and he forces you.  Hitler was a hunter.  How did it happen?   Because God allowed it to happen?   Why did it happen?   Because God said, “My priority for the Jewish people is to get them to come back to the land of Israel.”

(END AUDIO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  McCain has condemned many of Hagee‘s defensive remarks, but just last month he told ABC news he‘s still glad to have his endorsement, partly because he admires Hagee‘s advocacy for the state of Israel.  The questions tonight - shouldn‘t John McCain finally say enough is enough and renounce Hagee‘s endorsement?   And why isn‘t much of the mainstream media playing John Hagee‘s clips, even a fraction of the amount, that they played Jeremiah Wright‘s clips. 

Still with us is Roy Sekoff, from the “Huffington Post”; former Mitt Romney press secretary Kevin Madden, Henry Dickens, former assistant press secretary for President Bush.  Thanks to all of you for coming back.  We appreciate it. 

All right.  Kevin, let me start with you.  First on this issue, doesn‘t McCain have to say, “Now, I don‘t want this guy‘s endorsement”? 

KEVIN MADDEN, FORMER MITT ROMNEY PRESS SECRETARY:  Well, I think - I‘m not in the process of giving any advice to the McCain campaign, but I expect that that exact question will be posed to the campaign and he‘ll have to make a choice. 

ABRAMS:  What‘s the answer?   Let‘s say you‘re the one they‘re asking.  What do they do? 

MADDEN:  I think he will do what he has done which is he‘ll be very swift and very decisive and very emphatic in his denunciation of those remarks and any association with those remarks. 

ABRAMS:  But I mean, I don‘t know - I mean, Reed, doesn‘t he have to go further now?  Doesn‘t he have to say, “I don‘t want this guy‘s endorsement?  I just can‘t be associated with him in any way?” 

REED DICKENS, FORMER ASSISTANT PRESS SECRETARY FOR PRESIDENT BUSH:  Well, Dan, there‘s a couple things at play here.  Let‘s back up for a second.  Built into this whole conversation about Hagee is a very flawed premise and the premise is that something Hagee says is on equal footing or some great equalizer or some “got you moment,” some young researcher probably dug this up and is proud himself.  And if it‘s on equal footing with Jeremiah Wright.  The problem with -

ROY SEKOFF, FOUNDING EDITOR, “HUFFINGTON POST”:  You haven‘t heard that one bit.  That‘s a faulty premise.  I said -

(CROSS TALK) 

ABRAMS:  Hang on a second.  Roy, wait.  Wait.  What I said in the introduction, Reed - I‘ll let you finish.  I‘ll let you respond.  What I said in the introduction was even a fraction of the amount, as Jeremiah Wright.  Let‘s focus - let‘s try to keep the focus on Hagee.  I know you want to talk about Wright, but let‘s talk about Hagee. 

DICKENS:  I wasn‘t going to talk about Wright.  I was only going to say, the problem is here, McCain doesn‘t understand the evangelical.  Not only did I work on two presidential campaigns, my dad is a pastor.  I grew up in this world.  McCain doesn‘t understand the evangelical world enough to know which evangelicals to go after. 

This wasn‘t a good guy to seek his endorsement.  He doesn‘t have a big following, and anyone who has read any of his materials knows that this is his theology, and it is controversial.  So I think there‘s a couple of problems here.  One, this is not an equal situation, because this is not his mentor, his personal friend.  And two, because this was not a good political move for McCain to seek this person‘s endorsement, and yes, it‘s going to cause him headaches, that‘s what is trying to say. 

SEKOFF:  But he sought it for a year -

ABRAMS:  Hang on a second.  Reed, what does he do now?  Doesn‘t he have to come out and say, “I don‘t want to have anything to do with this guy?” 

DICKENS:  Absolutely.  He has - look, this is going to be - this is going to haunt him as we‘re discussing right now, this kind of conversation is going to go on until he completely rejects, or whatever the right word is, everything that Rev. Hagee said.  This is just a reality in the YouTube world we‘re playing in right now.  Of course he‘s got to denounce it. 

ABRAMS:  Roy, I‘m sorry.  Go ahead. 

SEKOFF:  No, I mean, this is a key thing, Dan.  It is a complete double standard.  For some reason, the media remains enraptured to John McCain, the maverick straight talker of 2000.  But that‘s not what we‘re seeing.  Could there be a greater example of an agent of intolerance than this guy, Hagee?  I mean this is an outrageous statement that he made.  And what they never say is McCain says how much he likes his Israel policy. 

But don‘t forget the reason they want Israel to be intact is that‘s where Armageddon is going to happen and all the Jews are going to be incinerated and sent to hell forever.  That‘s why they want them to be - you know, it‘s the end time story, so it‘s kind of remarkable that he appreciates his Israel policy. 

ABRAMS:  Reed - Kevin, let me play this piece of sound.  This is McCain talking with George Stephanopoulos about the Hagee endorsement. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, HOST, “THIS WEEK WITH GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS”:  Your own campaign acknowledging should have done a better job of vetting Pastor Hagee. 

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Oh sure. 

STEPHANOPOULOS: So was it a mistake to solicit and accept his endorsement?

MCCAIN: Oh, probably, sure. But I admire and respect Dr.

Hagee‘s leadership of the - of his church.  I admire and appreciate his advocacy for the state of Israel, the independence and freedom of the state of Israel.

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHANOPOULOS:  So you don‘t want his endorsement?

MCCAIN: I‘m glad to have his endorsement.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Kevin, at this point, I can‘t imagine many Americans who support Israel want that - I mean, American, let‘s even just say Jews for a minute, who support Israel are going to really want that kind of support. 

MADDEN:  Well, this goes exactly to Reed‘s point, which is that, you know, this is an evangelical leader that doesn‘t have that great of a following.  And if they had done probably a greater degree of vetting, that they probably realized this was an endorsement that was something - that was something they were probably going to have to answer for somewhere down the line, like they‘re doing today. 

SEKOFF:  But Kevin -

MADDEN:  Yes, but I do expect -

SEKOFF:  Kevin, they didn‘t try to do it right away.  It wasn‘t a quick decision.  He worked for a year to get this endorsement.  So what does that say about his judgment, which is what they‘re always asking about Obama? 

MADDEN:  Well, you know, I don‘t think this has anything - this is not the type of issue that‘s going to come - bring any of John McCain‘s core judgments into question.  This has much more to do, Roy, with the process of endorsements.  Some endorsements matter, some of them don‘t.  The fact is you go off there as many as possible when you‘re building up a primary campaign -

ABRAMS:  All right.  Reed, let me ask you the question that you want to talk about before and that is the media coverage and the comparison of the Wright to Hagee thing.  Look, whether it should be equal or not, is it not a fair criticism, a media criticism to say, Wright was everywhere.  All the time. 

Tonight, we‘ve got this story on Hagee, and this Hitler comment.  You know, I think a couple of other programs have done it, but it‘s basically being ignored in the mainstream media.  Isn‘t there something wrong with that? 

DICKENS:  Well, I think, again, I think we‘re kind of missing the point, and here‘s why.  Barack Obama ran as the post-racial, post-partisan candidate, ushering in this new age of post-racial, post-partisan politics and it turns out his mentor is a Louis Farrakhan racist.  This is not John McCain‘s best friend or mentor.  I agree the comments are outrageous and they‘re going to haunt John McCain for quite a while, and yes -

SEKOFF:  And Barack Obama repudiated his pastor and repudiated Louis Farrakhan in no uncertain terms.  John McCain has nothing to say about Hagee.

MADDEN:  But Roy, I think the difference is there was such a close identification with Rev. Wright, over 20 years versus Rev. Hagee, who is somebody - who John McCain hardly even knows. 

SEKOFF:  But there is something -

MADDEN:  I‘m probably not trying - I‘m not trying to validate anybody‘s remarks, as much as we try to explain the process by which this is being covered. 

ABRAMS:  But there is something different about seeking out an endorsement, OK? 

DICKENS:  Can I just go back to my - let me go back to my original point.  The real story here and again, I‘m just coming from an evangelical conservative perspective.  The real story is how awkward and uncomfortable Sen. McCain is within this sect of the party.  He didn‘t know any better.  There‘s a lot of evangelicals that he needed to go get their endorsement. 

SEKOFF:  That‘s interesting.

DICKENS:  And he needed to humble himself.  And this was not the guy. 

SEKOFF:  And that‘s a great point that Reed is making because McCain‘s whole brand is that he‘s a straight shooter.  But we see that what he did is he was against the agents of intolerance.  But the new John McCain went and kissed the ring of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson and went searching for Hagee so he could prove his bona fides to the right.  It shows that he‘s playing a false game and he‘s not the straight shooter. 

MADDEN:  But Roy, he‘s been very, very aggressive in knocking down and repudiating and doing it very quickly, knocking down and repudiating these remarks by Hagee. 

ABRAMS:  Roy, are we expecting more comments from Hagee to emerge? 

SEKOFF:  Oh, there‘s no question.  I mean there‘s a book - you watch sexism from the last segment, he compared unfavorably, a woman with PMS to a terrorist.  He said the difference is you can negotiate with a terrorist.  Yes, there‘s a lot more of this coming, Dan. 

DICKENS:  Let me chime in here.  Of course there‘s going to be a lot more.  On the Republican side, there are thousands of pastors that endorse.  Yes, he sought his endorsement.  Yes, it‘s going to cause headaches.  The problem is, this isn‘t John McCain‘s personal mentor and friend of 20 years, and I don‘t think that this is really speaks to John McCain‘s judgment, other than he‘s not very comfortable and not very knowledgeable of the evangelical world. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Reed, final question here politically, all right?  John McCain still wants all those - all those people who Hagee is talking to.  All right.  So as a political matter, is this stuff awful enough that finally McCain is going to have to say something more, which is, “I don‘t want his endorsement?”  I mean, this is the same guy who is criticizing Barack Obama over the Hamas endorsements, which Obama has said he doesn‘t want.  Doesn‘t McCain have to come out and say, “I don‘t want his endorsement?”

DICKENS:  Yes.  I think he, one, uses Ronald Reagan‘s quote, “If someone endorses me, doesn‘t mean I endorsed him.”  He‘s going to have to reject everything he says, but more importantly, he‘s going to have to - he can‘t try to be one of the evangelicals and try to be so friendly with them, because he‘s not one of them.  He‘s going to have to just talk about topics that they‘re interested in, and not try to pretend that he‘s one of them, which I think has gotten him in trouble. 

ABRAMS:  No, I was just going to say it‘s been a very interesting thought, Reed.  Thank you very much for coming on the program.  I appreciate your insights. 

DICKENS:  Thanks for having me.

ABRAMS:  And as always, Roy and Kevin, appreciate it. 

SEKOFF:  Thanks, Dan.

ABRAMS:  Up next, the deadline has come and gone.  Karl Rove rejects a request from the House Judiciary Committee to voluntarily testify about whether he was involved in the political prosecution of the former Democratic governor of Alabama.  The congresswoman leading the investigation joins us. 

And, a bear that plays baseball.  That‘s coming up in 60 seconds. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Now to “Reality Bites,” a dose of reality caught on tape.  Tonight, a Japanese baseball team has a new mascot, one that might some skills behind the plate.  A Hiroshima baseball team gave this Asiatic black bear named Claude a pair of baseball bats to play with and Claude immediately put on a show.  Before he got a hold of the bats, Claude was famous for delighting audiences at the zoo by twirling sticks.  His handlers say they never trained him.  He apparently learned how to handle a bat all on his own.  I thought he was actually going to be hitting balls.  All right.  We‘ll be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Breaking tonight, an update on our “Bush League Justice” series.  Another deadline and another refusal by Karl Rove to testify before congress about whether former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman was prosecuted because he‘s a Democrat. 

Today, Rove‘s attorney Robert Luskin, citing executive privilege, turned down yet another invitation from the committee for Rove to testify voluntarily.  At issue - were Rove and other top Republicans behind Siegelman‘s prosecution for corruption? 

A few weeks ago, the committee threatened to subpoena Rove.  Rove‘s lawyers said he would only speak so the House Judiciary Committee without a transcript and not under oath.  After further pressure from the committee, his lawyers said Rove would only answer written questions.  That led the judiciary chair, John Conyers, to say that if he does not appear, quote, “We‘ll do what any self-respecting committee would do.  We‘d hold him in contempt.  Either that, or go and have him arrested.  We‘re closing in on Rove.”  But are they really?  Today, another deadline came and went and so far Rove has not been subpoenaed. 

Joining me now, California representative, Linda Sanchez, chair of the subcommittee investigating the Siegelman case.  Thanks a lot for taking the time.  We appreciate it. 

REP. LINDA SANCHEZ (D), CHAIR OF SUBCOMMITTEE INVESTIGATING THE SIEGELMAN CASE:  My Pleasure.

ABRAMS:  So what happens now?  I mean you guys have set a number of deadlines for Rove to offer to voluntarily testify.  Every one has passed.  You‘ve extended the deadline.  Tonight, we‘re at another milestone where he‘s given a week.  He‘s saying no.  What happens now? 

SANCHEZ:  Yes.  Well, we just received written communication from his attorney, stating that he‘s declining to voluntarily come before the subcommittee, and the committee to answer questions, with respect to the selective prosecution of the Siegelman case. 

Because we got that reply today, tomorrow morning, key members of the Judiciary Committee will be meeting to confer and I expect that we‘ll act fairly quickly to try to resolve the matter. 

ABRAMS:  When you say resolve the matter, is he going to be subpoenaed? 

SANCHEZ:  That is one of the options that is on the table, quite frankly.  You always want to start with diplomacy first and try to get people to come voluntarily before the committee. 

ABRAMS:  That‘s failed, right?  That‘s now been going on for months now and Rove‘s lawyers made it very clear.  Let‘s go through the timeline.  On April 29th, he said the interview would not be transcribed nor would Mr. Rove be under oath.  On May 9th, Mr. Rove is prepared to respond to written questions on the subject of the Siegelman prosecution. 

And then today in the letter, “While the committee has the authority to issue a subpoena, it‘s hard to see what this will accomplish, apart from a Groundhog Day replay of the same issues that are already the subject of litigation.  Such an approach would unfairly burden Mr. Rove while bringing no one - not the committee, the White House, or Mr. Rove - a step closer to a resolution.” 

But it sounds like he‘s saying if you subpoena him, he‘s just going to refuse. 

SANCHEZ:  Yes.  We won‘t know until we - if we take that step until that actually happens.  Again, you know, when you start in the beginning of a process, you always want to try to do things in a way that is, you know, sort of cooperatively and once you hit the point where negotiations fails, then you have to take a little bit stronger tack, and I expect that that‘s the direction that the committee is headed towards. 

ABRAMS:  As you know, we actually asked the attorney for Karl Rove back in April, whether he would testify if subpoenaed.  We had gone through a number of questions, which we‘ve aired on this show before, because he‘s accused us of taking it out of context.  But the final question was, “Sorry, let me be more clear.  Will Karl Rove agree to testify if congress issues a subpoena to him as part of an investigation into the Siegelman case?” 

His response was,  “Sure.  Although it seems to me that the question is somewhat offensive.  It assumes he has something to hide, even though - Gov. Siegelman‘s uncorroborated assertions aside - there‘s literally no credible evidence whatsoever to substantiate his charges.  I would hope that you‘d get around to mentioning that fact.”

I mean he‘s now citing executive privilege and yet he‘s also saying, that Karl Rove never had any conversations with the White House about this.  So I‘m not really sure what the - isn‘t the executive privilege supposed to be to protect conversations you have with the White House? 

SANCHEZ:  That‘s exactly it.  You‘ve hit the nail on the head.  And I think it‘s very interesting that Karl Rove publicly and in the press, you know, said that he would be willing to - well, he didn‘t say, but basically gave the implication that he had nothing to hide.  He‘d be willing to testify, you know, sort of this show of bravado and then when we actually invited him to come and testify and give his side of the story, now he‘s cowering and hiding under this, you know, executive privilege assertion, which is on its face, as you said, pretty much ridiculous. 

Because executive privilege covers communications with the president when you‘re advising, and if Karl Rove in fact didn‘t have any of those conversations with the president about Don Siegelman or any of these other cases, then there could be no really ‘worthwhile assertion of executive privilege. 

ABRAMS:  To be fair, I don‘t think that Rove has actually said publicly that he would testify. 

SANCHEZ:  No, no, no.  His attorney -

ABRAMS:  Right.

SANCHEZ:  His attorney said he would be willing to testify.  I understand that.  But he‘s talked about it publicly and this is what is very interesting, because he‘s so confident to be able to be a commentator and talk about it publicly in the written press and in TV.  You know, come present yourself to the committee and let‘s hear what you have to say. 

ABRAMS:  Is there any other Department of Justice investigation ongoing in this regard? 

SANCHEZ:  There is.  We received word early this month that the Office of Professional Responsibility, or OPR, which is a unit within the Department of Justice, is pursuing independent investigations ...

ABRAMS:  Really?

SANCHEZ:  ... into a handful of these selective prosecution cases, including the Siegelman case.  And the OPR is charged with basically reviewing and investigating the conduct of people within the Department of Justice, attorneys, including assistant U.S. attorneys and U.S. attorneys to see if there has been an abuse of power or if they‘ve overstepped their bounds.  And so this is a big - I think, a big news item that there is actually an investigation internally within the DOJ, with respect to these cases. 

ABRAMS:  That is a big news item.  And let me just - finally, I just want to read - Karl Rove said to me in an angry letter, “I certainly didn‘t meet with anyone at the Justice Department or either of the two U.S. attorneys in Alabama about investigating or indicting Siegelman.”  about investigating or indicting Siegelman.”

Of course, that doesn‘t end the inquiry.  There‘s still a lot of other questions about who else he might have spoken with, et cetera.  We have to keep in mind, Karl Rove has basically denied any involvement in this.  We shall see if he‘ll agree to testify and say that in front of congress. 

Congresswoman Linda Sanchez, thanks so much for coming on the program.  I appreciate it.

SANCHEZ:  My pleasure, and appreciate your work in this issue, too.

ABRAMS:  Up next, will tonight‘s big winner or loser be a Republican strategist who thought it was acceptable to call women the B-word.  Suspect Drew Peterson whose B-word is bail, free tonight after his arrest on felony charges.  Or a boy band mogul whose double B‘s are now behind bars.  Your E-mails, we call it the “P.O.‘d Box,” coming up.     

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Time for tonight‘s “Winners and Losers” for the 21st day of May, 2008.  Our first loser, Republican strategist Alex Castellanos on CNN last night, talking about a published joke calling Hillary Clinton the B word.  He said, quote, “I think she thinks her problem is she‘s a woman.  Her problem is she‘s Hillary Clinton and some women are named that and it‘s accurate.”  And that is acceptable?  CNN?

Loser, controversial boy band mogul Lou Pearlman, the man who created the Backstreet Boys and ‘N Sync, and was accused of preying on young boys will now be saying bye, bye, bye, for 25 years after he was sentenced today for scamming thousands of investors out of over $300 million. 

Our big loser, suspect Drew Peterson, free on bail tonight, arrested, not for killing his third or fourth wife, no.  He was charged of unlawful use of a weapon a felony that carries something up to five years.  The charge alleges Peterson knowingly possessed a weapon that violated a state law. 

Our big winner is Suki(ph) the parrot.  The Japanese bird flew out of his cage and got lost.  When he was found two weeks later, he was able to cite his name and exact address, just as he‘s been trained.  The family had been teaching the parrot the details for about two years. 

Time for the “P.O.‘d Box,” your chance to tell me what you hate or love about the show.  A lot of you writing in about our segment on whether a recent GOP attack against Michelle Obama was fair game. 

Larry Barat from Washington, D.C., “Are you seriously questioning whether Michelle Obama‘s comments made on the campaign trail are fair game or not?  Is this even a question?  Hillary was raked over the coals by the media when she was a potential first lady.  Remember that baking cookies comment?”

And John Beese, “Sorry Dan.  It is neither unfair nor low class to counter those comments.  I had no problem with the commercial.  That‘s politics.”

John, it may be politics.  And I agree, she is fair game when she makes political speeches.  But it is also possible Obama‘s right that it is low class.  News flash - politics can be politics and also be low class. 

That‘s all the time we have.  Thanks for watching.  Remember our e-mail address is verdict@msnbc.com.  See you back here tomorrow.  Thanks for watching.

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

END   

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