updated 8/14/2008 12:01:42 PM ET 2008-08-14T16:01:42

Guest: Dan Abrams, Lauren Lee, Contessa Brewer Brad Blakeman, April Ryan

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Tonight on VERDICT -

More bad news for John Edwards.  Now, Elizabeth Edwards‘ brother and best friend are telling her side of the story.  And it‘s not pretty.

And while Elizabeth Edwards‘ suffers -

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  What could have John Edwards‘ motivations been?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Rush Limbaugh suggests the explanation for John Edwards‘ affair could be that Elizabeth isn‘t sexual enough—what may be the low point of this already sorted tale.

And, who‘s the daddy?  Rielle Hunter‘s sister said the child sure looks like a certain former presidential candidate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT”/CBS)

ROXANNE DRUCK, RIELLE HUNTER‘S SISTER:  She looks just like John Edwards.  She‘s got exactly his eyes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  And more questions about the timeline.  A friend of Hunter‘s is with us.  She says Edwards is lying about when the relationship started, that she remembers trips and loving words exchanged.

And then some not so loving words for Barack Obama.  Book sales through the roof for the latest right-wing hit job on him.  The “New York Times” says it‘s headed to the top of the best seller list.  Which great historian pen (INAUDIBLE) -- the same guy who wrote the “swiftboat” book that attacked John Kerry.

Then, from swiftboat to a guy who swims like one.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER:  Is it going to be a world record?  Yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Did you know Michael Phelps has consumed 12,000 calories a day?  That includes three fried egg sandwiches and eight slices of pizza a day.  Olive Garden would love to have his endorsement, but apparently, not so much when it comes to one of Hugh Hefner‘s girlfriends who keeps saying how much he loves it there.  Olive Garden is not exactly offering any love back.

And, love on the rocks.  Carrie Underwood the “American Idol” darling and country music star taunting Jessica Simpson—claiming that Jessica‘s guy, quarter Tony Romo has been calling her.

O-oh, the Winners and Losers of the day are also coming up on VERDICT.

Welcome to the show.

Tonight: Elizabeth Edwards‘ side of the story.  Her brother and closest friend is telling “People” magazine why she decided to stay with John Edwards.  And the sister of his other woman is now blasting the former presidential candidate, quote, “half-truths and claiming her sister‘s baby is definitely his.”

Today, Rielle Hunter‘s own sister criticized her for sleeping with a married man but also attacked Edwards for not coming clean.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT”/CBS)

ROXANNE DRUCK, RIELLE HUNTER‘S SISTER:  The most shocking thing is watching him on TV last Friday night on “Nightline” giving these half truths, these half fake answers.  I just want John Edwards to come clean, tell the truth and let‘s get it over with.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  And it didn‘t stop there.  She went on to challenge Edwards‘ vehement denial that the baby isn‘t his.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN EDWARDS, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  It‘s not possible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT”/CBS)

THEA ANDREWS, ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT:  Is it possible, chronologically that he could be the father of the baby?

DRUCK:  Yes.  I do know that much.  She looks just like John Edwards.  She‘s got exactly his eyes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Before we talk about it, NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell has the other twists and turns in the Edwards‘ story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice over):  As more questions emerge about what John Edwards told his wife and when, Elizabeth Edwards‘ brother and her closest friend now tell “People” magazine, “He told the truth slowly and not until they were in the frenzy of the campaign‘s official launch in late December 2006.”

He talked to Matt on “TODAY.”

EDWARDS:  I‘m here to announce I‘m a candidate for president of the United States.

MITCHELL:  By then, Edwards implied strongly to ABC, the relationship was over.

EDWARDS:  In 2006, I told Elizabeth about the mistake, asked her for her forgiveness.

MITCHELL:  But despite what he says he told his wife, when he launched his campaign on December 28th, 2006, Rielle Hunter was right there behind the scenes, still very much part of his entourage.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I think there‘s still a lot of questions about precisely the timeline when this started, how long it went on for, what Elizabeth Edwards knew and when she knew it.

MITCHELL:  In fact, Edwards only revealed his affair on New Year‘s Eve, 2006, days after he had announced.

During their campaigns, both Edwards have been very public about their marriage, inviting the media along for their wedding anniversary at Wendy‘s, a family tradition, celebrating their 30th anniversary by renewing their vows in 2007, accepting the Father of the Year Award six months after he said he told his wife about his infidelity.

EDWARDS:  The best parent of my family is here with me today, it‘s my wife, Elizabeth who‘s right down there.

MITCHELL:  Elizabeth Edwards‘ brother told “People,” “The uncertainty of her own mortality,” her cancer diagnosis, and “People” reported, the reality that her young children will one day no longer have a mother that they (ph) just stay with her husband—still murky, when the affair began.

An acquaintance of Hunter‘s at the time says the attraction was immediate.

PIGEON O‘BRIEN, RIELLE HUNTER‘S FRIEND:  They became romantically involved pretty quickly and it was a joyous love affair for her.

MITCHELL:  Edwards said it took place for a short period when she started working for him.  But -

O‘BRIEN:  It definitely began way before that.  My recollection is that it began almost six months before the initiation of the Web site project.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  Here now is Sandra Westfall, political correspondent for “People” magazine, who co-wrote the Elizabeth Edwards‘ article; Lynn Sweet, Washington bureau chief of the “Chicago Sun-Times: and, Michael Crowley, senior editor for “The New Republic,” he traveled with the Edwards campaign.

Thanks to all of you for coming on.

Sandra, let me start with you.  Is it fair to say that the story that you guys have in this week‘s magazine is effectively Elizabeth Edwards‘ side of the story?

SANDRA SOBIERAJ WESTFALL, PEOPLE MAGAZINE:  You know, she authorized her brother and her best friend to speak to me on her behalf.  I was told that she was too raw to do it herself, but that she did want people to know what she was going through.

She didn‘t, I think, anticipate the firestorm that took place after the “Nightline” interview.  I think she had hoped that the “Nightline” interview would be the last word on this and that it would kind of die off when it didn‘t.  Late on Sunday, she authorized her brother and best friend to talk.

ABRAMS:  I want to read this—this is from her brother.  “The uncertainty of her own mortality—she couldn‘t say, “Well, maybe we‘ll work through this for years or maybe we should separate for two years.”  The cancer forced her to choose whether to move forward.”  I mean, that almost sounds like she is saying through her brother, “I had no choice but to do it this way.”

WESTFALL:  Well, when she was first told, she already felt like she didn‘t have a choice.  They were in the middle of this, you know, announcement to work.  She‘d already been boxed in.  You know—you know how campaigns move—they‘re big machines and they‘re self-propelled and, you know, she had her children with her on the campaign trail.

So, she already felt boxed in and then she got the cancer diagnosis in March and knew that she‘d been gone too soon and that those children needed a family after she was gone and that she couldn‘t tear their father down, and leave them with nothing.

ABRAMS:  Michael, look, you know the Edwards campaign, you know both of the Edwards, that you follow the campaign around—what does this tell you that Elizabeth Edwards authorized this interview?

MICHAEL CROWLEY, THE NEW REPUBLIC:  Well, you know, it‘s hard to know what‘s going through her mind right now.  I mean, I will say that she is very savvy—always has been—about media and about the family, the couple‘s public image.  And, you know, even through the thick of this horrendous story they‘re going through, I think she has a keen sense, clearly, the story‘s not going away.

That “Nightline” interview was a little bit of a fiasco.  There are a lot of unanswered questions and, I think, you know, she understands that there is a need for people to hear more.  There are, in particular, a lot of people who really admire her who, I think, want to hear more from her than one fairly defiant statement at the end of last week.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Let me play a piece of the “Nightline” interview and then I want to read you a response from a family friend who spoke to “People” magazine, blasting John Edwards for this comment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “NIGHTLINE”/ABC)

BOB WOODRUFF, NIGHTLINE:  She‘s had enormous sympathy because she‘s also going through cancer.

EDWARDS:  Yes.

WOODRUFF:  How could you have done this?

EDWARDS:  Can I explain it you what happened?  First of all, it happened during a period after she was in remission from cancer.  That‘s no excuse in any possible way for what happened.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  All right.  So, here‘s what “People” magazine reports: “One family friend is outraged by both his behavior and his public apology.  The idea that so long as her cancer is in remission, his cheating is somehow not so bad—it‘s mind-blowing.”

Before I go to Lynn, Sandra, was that person also authorized to speak by Elizabeth Edwards?

WESTFALL:  Yes.  I‘ll tell you that that wasn‘t the only person who told me, who told me that.

ABRAMS:  Wow.

WESTFALL:  I mean, they had former aides screaming at the television throughout that interview and, you know, they said, “This is not the John Edwards we thought we knew.”

ABRAMS:  Lynn, I find that to be startling that Elizabeth Edwards authorized a friend to effectively attack John Edwards for his “Nightline” interview.

LYNN SWEET, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES:  Well, here‘s the little bit of insight I can bring to this tonight (ph), talking to somebody who‘s close to the family today is as bad as it might seem to us, you know, we‘ve done this a few nights now, that by having these interviews, by having people come out, there‘s a thought that, at least, you know, it might be four days, it might be a few weeks and there‘s closure.

If they did not do this, then the “National Enquirer” story would have hung over them, and it wouldn‘t have gone on forever.  Now, I don‘t know if that‘s the best press strategy.  Probably would have been if Edwards‘ gave the interview just to tell the truth and get it over with.  But now—I mean, he didn‘t do a good job and that‘s why we‘re seeing what we‘re seeing now.

ABRAMS:  But I want to—but, Sandra, I mean, again, I want to look at the emotional side of this.  These are effectively Elizabeth Edwards‘ words, are they not?

WESTFALL:  I—I mean, it was somebody that had talked to her within, you know, the 24-hour period that the interview happened.  And they were emotional interviews, I think it‘s an emotional time for Elizabeth and I would guess that they pretty, fairly reflect her thinking.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Here‘s a very interesting piece of sound to listen to.  This is John Edwards being awarded the Father of the Year Award in June 2007.  Now, I‘m not doing this gratuitously to mock him for getting Father of the Year.

Listen to what he‘s saying about Elizabeth Edwards who is in the audience.  As he‘s speaking, remember, this is after he supposedly told her about the affair, et cetera.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, JUNE 7, 2007)

EDWARDS:  I also want to say a word about receiving this award because, actually, I hate to admit it, but I‘m not the best parent in my family.  The best parent in my family is here with me today, it‘s my wife, Elizabeth, who‘s right down here.

(APPLAUSE)

EDWARDS:  And by the way, Harry, I was happy to hear that you have a modern marriage where everything is negotiable.  I need some advice—where everything is negotiable because I don‘t seem to get that very much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  I mean, you know, that‘s a little—Lynn, now in retrospect, knowing what we know, a little bit odd to be making that comment.

SWEET:  Also tasteless, potentially hurtful, what one earth could Elizabeth Edwards had been thinking when she hears it, you know, insensitive.  You know, a few more words like that are, you know, are all in order right now.  When you hear that—sure, especially knowing the context.

ABRAMS:  All right.  And, finally, Michael, do you expect that Elizabeth Edwards will do her own interview?  She is—you know, I‘ve been with Elizabeth Edwards; she is a very independent, strong-willed woman.  I can‘t imagine who wants to be sort of just the person who is by the side.  I got to believe, at some point, she is going to want to be heard.

CROWLEY:  Dan, you‘re absolutely right.  This is a woman who, you know, goes on to blogs and posts comments and interacts with, you know, strangers on the Internet, readers of popular liberal blogs, very outspoken, did a lot of campaigning on her own.  I saw her in New Hampshire in the fall, made a great case for John Edwards.

She‘s just a really smart, strong woman, and I don‘t think she wants to play the role of just kind of hiding out, hiding behind public statements, and it‘s probably too painful for her to do right now.  So, she may be using friends to get her message out.  But, I think, sooner or later, yes, we probably will hear from her.  That would be my guess.

ABRAMS:  Sandra, you‘re nodding.

WESTFALL:  Absolutely.

ABRAMS:  Yes.

WESTFALL:  And you know what?  She‘s her own best spokesperson.

ABRAMS:  Oh, yes.

WESTFALL:  And, you know, that book that she wrote was incredibly raw and honest and I expect we will see more of that when the time is right.  Her friend told me, there‘s a lot of healing to be done.

ABRAMS:  Yes.

All right.  Sandra Westfall, Lynn Sweet, Michael Crowley, thanks a lot.

CROWLEY:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Coming up: A friend of Rielle Hunter says there‘s even more inconsistencies with Edwards‘ story.  She joins us, next.

Plus: Rush Limbaugh outdoes himself by saying what Elizabeth Edwards wouldn‘t do—was the reason for the affair.

And: Far right groups put an anti-Obama book at the top of the “New York Times” best seller list.

Plus: According to a new report, 98 percent of bills passed in Congress this year were for corrections to existing laws or events like the “National Day of the Cowboy”?  It‘s today‘s edition of Why America Hates Washington.

We‘re back in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Tonight‘s edition of Why America Hates Washington: A not so winning record for our vacationing Congress.  Congress, as you may know, is officially in recess, but before they went away on summer break, lawmakers were apparently working hard, doing very little.

According to Citizens Against Government Waste, of the 106 bills enacted so far this year, 98 percent were to rename buildings and land or to amend already existing laws.  Their accomplishments this session include “Frank Sinatra Day” and “National Plumbing Industry Week,” and, of course, the “National Day of the Cowboy.”

Wasting time and hitting the road: Another reason Why America Hates Washington.

We‘re back with a friend of John Edwards‘ girlfriend.  She has said she has a very vivid memory of the affair and it‘s not what John Edwards has said.  Up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Welcome back.

We‘re learning more about Rielle Hunter and her relationship with John Edwards as we‘ve been discussing.  There are questions about Edwards‘ account of that relationship.

Joining me now is Pigeon O‘Brien, a friend of Rielle.  Pigeon, thanks a lot for coming on.  We appreciate it.

PIGEON O‘BRIEN, FMR. FRIEND OF RIELLE HUNTER:  Thank you for having me.

ABRAMS:  All right.  How well do you—did you know Rielle Hunter?

O‘BRIEN:  We don‘t know each other well at the moment.  Back in 2006, we were really, really good friends and that we were friends before that for—in the ‘80s.

ABRAMS:  What did she say about the relationship starting with John Edwards?

O‘BRIEN:  Well, I spoke with her.  I was out of touch with her for a few days, and then at a certain, she got back in touch and after a week, and then tell me that she‘d met the most amazing man outside of a hotel in New York City and was quite taken with him instantly.

ABRAMS: And when was that?

O‘BRIEN:  It was February or March of 2006.

ABRAMS:  And John Edwards, as you know, says it began in July of 2006.

O‘BRIEN:  That‘s correct, yes.

ABRAMS:  And you‘re saying it‘s not true?

O‘BRIEN:  It‘s not true, right.  They did meet very early in 2006.

ABRAMS:  And you‘re sure?

O‘BRIEN:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  And how are you so sure?

O‘BRIEN:  I was in intimate contact with her in those days.  We were working on a project together, e-mailing, and speaking quite frequently and he made quite the impression on her.  So, I distinctively remember when they met and the, you know, have the communications that discussed when they met.

ABRAMS:  So, when he says that effectively he met her when she was working on the campaign, your understanding is that‘s how she got the job on the campaign?

O‘BRIEN:  I don‘t—I can‘t speak to the reason why she was hired.  I don‘t know that but I know that they met quite a while before she was working for the campaign.

ABRAMS:  It sounds like she really talked to you about it starting, right?

O‘BRIEN:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  And did she say anything beyond the time she first met him?

O‘BRIEN:  Oh, yes.  Yes.  She talked about some, you know, how the relationship was going and some travel that they took together, and just details that you would share with your friend and talk about falling in love and her connection with this person and what he was like.

ABRAMS:  And so, she talked about this as a love affair?

O‘BRIEN:  Yes, yes.

ABRAMS:  And when you say traveling together, you mean when she was working with him?

O‘BRIEN:  Well, this was before she was working for him.

ABRAMS:  So, she was taking trips with him.

O‘BRIEN:  She went to North Carolina, I suppose to visit him.

ABRAMS:  Did she ever talk to you about Elizabeth Edwards?

O‘BRIEN:  She met—yes, she mentioned Elizabeth Edwards.  She mentioned in the context of the man she had met his wife, yes.

ABRAMS:  And what else did she say?

O‘BRIEN:  She just really referred to the—I knew that this man‘s wife had been ill, and she referred to the fact of their committed relationship and how difficult it was to be with someone who was in a marriage.

ABRAMS:  Why speak out about this now?

O‘BRIEN:  Well, I was dismayed that Mr. Edwards made a statement on television to the voters and to the people who supported him last Friday in which he said he was going to be completely honest, having been 99 percent honest.  And it dismayed me that part of the content of that was something that I knew to be untrue and I found that upsetting, particularly as I know so many people in the mainstream media and a lot of people have been working for a very long time to talk about this.

And a lot of us who knew her had been under tremendous pressure from the press and various other people for a long time about this.  So, (INAUDIBLE) that I found it rather difficult to deal with given that he had a factual inaccuracy.

ABRAMS:  Why is it that you don‘t talk to her anymore?

O‘BRIEN:  Well, would you talk to somebody who goes on national TV and talks about your sex life?

ABRAMS:  Did you—I mean, is that the reason she no longer talks to you because you went public?

O‘BRIEN:  I think, also, because, at a certain point in her life became very involved in the Edwards campaign and in his life and her new life with him and I‘d just think maybe there was room for the project that we had been working on and for the friends that she had been hanging out with.  I think, you know, her life took a different turn in response to this relationship that she was engaged in.

ABRAMS:  How are you in retrospect so certain about the timing?  I mean, this is now a few years back and people sometimes get dates wrong, et cetera.

O‘BRIEN:  Right.  We were working on a project together and I have current files and in some of my client files, I have notes to pertain and they‘re chronologically marked and, you know, communications that had specific dates or refer to specific events.

ABRAMS:  Pigeon O‘Brien, thanks very much for joining us.  We appreciate it.

O‘BRIEN:  Thanks, Dan.

ABRAMS:  Coming up: Rush Limbaugh‘s theory about why John Edwards had the affair.  And it has to do with what Elizabeth Edwards does or doesn‘t do with her mouth.  Yes, seriously.

And, the fair and balanced folks at FOX News inaccurately thought Colin Powell was ready to endorse Obama.  So what they do?  Well, discuss how it could hurt Obama, of course.  That‘s next in Beat the Press.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

First up: This afternoon on FOX, it wasn‘t entirely clear what story America was really talking about today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE LIVE DESK”/FOX NEWS)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, America is talking about politics and the mysterious disappearance of Caylee Anthony.  America clearly is talking about it.  Clearly, the top story of the day is about the crisis going on in Georgia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Clearly, clearly.

Next up in the “Don‘t call me Shirley” department, remember the movie “Airplane.”  This morning on “FOX and Friends,” anchor Gretchen Carlson introduced a reporter from their central Florida affiliate and surely somebody forgot to mention that certain names can go either way.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “FOX AND FRIENDS”/FOX NEWS)

GRETCHEN CARLSON, FOX HOST:  Alexis Brito of WOFL is live for us in Jacksonville.  Alexis, all right so—you‘re not Alexis, are you?

ALEXIS BRITO, WOFL REPORTER:  I‘m Alexis, yes.

CARLSON:  OK, sorry.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Finally: FOX News reported that Colin Powell will endorse Barack Obama and that he might even speak at the Democratic convention.  It seems now that was wrong.  But when you‘re FOX News and you hear something that could help Obama, what do you do?  Of course, you talk about how it could hurt him, of course.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “YOUR WORLD”/FOX NEWS)

NEIL CAVUTO, FOX HOST:  Colin Powell, whatever you say of him was there front and center as we got into Iraq and there is always going to be the baggage liberals will associate with that endorsement.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  So, liberals would be upset that Colin Powell endorsed Obama?

Up next: Rush Limbaugh is going after Elizabeth Edwards, suggesting that her husband had the affair because of what she wouldn‘t do.

And: A new book written by the same author of 2004 book led to the so-called “swiftboating” of John Kerry has shot to the top of the “New York Times” best seller and this one is about Obama.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Breaking tonight, the Arkansas State Democratic Party Chairman, Bill Gwatney gunned down at party headquarters in Little Rock, Arkansas today.  The suspect, coming asking to meet with the party chairman, was later killed by police. 

Lauren Lee from KARA TV joins us from Little Rock.  Thanks for joining us.  We appreciate it. 

All right.  What do we know about this guy? 

LAUREN LEE, REPORTER, KARA TV:  Well, we now know the gunman‘s name.  His name is Timothy Johnson.  He was 50 years old.  We had heard several reports that he had possibly just had lost his job at one of the dealerships that Gwatney owned.  However, police say that is not true.  He was never employed by Gwatney. 

Now, earlier today at 11:45, he entered the Democratic Party headquarters and asked to speak to Bill Gwatney.  He went back to his office and spoke to Gwatney‘s assistant.  Police say that she told him he was busy.  He walked around her and entered his office anyway.  The two spoke briefly.  They shook hands and then employees there heard three shots fired.  Employees then ran out of the building to get help.  Police say the two men didn‘t even know each other. 

From there, Johnson went down the street to the Arkansas Baptist State Convention Headquarters.  There, he encountered an employee, pointed a gun at that employee, but then left the building.  From there, police pursued him in his truck to a town about 30 miles south of Little Rock and that is where he was later killed. 

ABRAMS:  Now, Gwatney is a major player, not just in Arkansas, but he‘s long had connections with both Bill and Hillary Clinton, right? 

LEE:  That is correct.  He was actually a superdelegate.  His impact - Democrats from across the state are talking about how much he will be missed and what an impact he had, not only on the community here in Little Rock, but on the state as a whole. 

ABRAMS:  Lauren Lee from KRAK, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it.

The story of John Edwards‘ sex scandal couldn‘t get any lower.  Well, actually, it can if you‘re right-wing radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh.  Limbaugh is actually blaming Edwards‘ cancer-stricken wife, Elizabeth, for John‘s cheating ways. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, CONSERVATIVE RADIO HOST:  What could have John Edwards‘ motivations been to have the affair with Rielle Hunter, given his wife is smarter than he is and probably nagging him about doing this and he found somebody that, did something with a mouth other than talk. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Joining me now, April Ryan, Washington bureau chief for American Urban Radio Network, and Brad Blakeman, a former aide to President Bush. 

Brad, you‘re not going to defend that, right? 

BRAD BLAKEMAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Absolutely not. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.

BLAKEMAN:  It‘s indefensible.  Look, this guy has to appeal to a certain audience.  This is what he does.  The more outrageous, you know, the more he obviously gets paid. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.

BLAKEMAN:  He‘s the Howard Stern of the right and you cannot condone that kind of behavior. 

ABRAMS:  But it does seem, April, there is almost no accountability for something like that. 

APRIL RYAN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORK:  You‘re absolutely right.  It‘s almost up there with those Imus statements and really, it‘s probably worse.  He can do these things because no one stops him.  And I‘m quite sure - you know, as a woman, I‘m quite sure that many women who listen to him are upset and will be saying something soon.  That‘s just - it was outrageous.  It‘s crazy. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  All right.  Let‘s turn to the right-wing attack machine, speaking of Rush Limbaugh.  This time it‘s Jerome Corsi who helped launch the attacks on John Kerry‘s service in Vietnam.  He‘s now going after Barack Obama.  He says his goal is to, quote, “defeat Obama with “Obama Nation.”  The book now set to hit number one on the “New York Times” non-fiction bestseller list.  It‘s already six on Amazon.  But are the numbers what they seem? 

A new pact launched by Sen. Kerry to help Obama says, quote, “Sympathetic right-wing organizations and individuals make large purchases of these books to push the book onto the bestseller list to try to give the book a cover of legitimacy the lies and distortions wouldn‘t give it on their own.” 

All right.  You know, April, Media Matters went through this and found something like 80 factual errors in the book.  Is that going to matter? 

RYAN:  Yes, it‘s going to matter.  You know, you have people who want to read anything about Barack Obama right now because he‘s new to the political scene, the national political scene and the international political scene.  But at the same time, Barack Obama is somebody - he reminds me of when you started out in radio or TV years ago.  You have to love to love them or love to hate them.  There‘s no gray area.  So people are going to be reading this.  Now, the question is, if people are going to be looking at it objectively.  That‘s the question. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  I mean, look, again, among the accusations, Brad, debunked from this book, drug use in the U.S. Senate, that he didn‘t dedicate his book to his family, and wanted to decrease the size of the military.  I mean, the list goes on of the things that were debunked from this book.  Does the sort of mainstream right, which I think you may represent, do your people - do your folks endorse this kind of book? 

BLAKEMAN:  No, we don‘t.  But, look, the Republicans do this, the conservatives and the Democrats do it, too, that left-wing, you know, wing nut Cliff Schecter wrote a book on John McCain that was rife with lies.  And they preach to the choir that people will buy these books.  They‘re not changing their minds. 

ABRAMS:  The amazing thing to me, April, is the fact that it is going to be number one.  The reason we‘re discussing it is not because of some random book.  It‘s because it‘s set to be number one ...

RYAN:  Right.

ABRAMS:  ... on “The New York Times” bestseller list - number one. 

RYAN:  It‘s number one because of the person who‘s writing it, the person who dealt with swift boat issue, and that ultimately still haunts John Kerry.  And you have also the issues that are still haunting Barack Obama, even though he‘s tried to put them to rest - the issue about Jeremiah Wright and his religion.  People are trying to consider him Muslim as he‘s sitting in a church under Jeremiah Wright who is, quote, unquote, “a Christian.”  Then you have the name of the book, the pun, “Obama Nation” - “abomination,” a religious reference, OK? 

Then on top of that, they‘re going into this marijuana - this drug use issue.  Some of those things you cannot prove.  But people want to read.  We are in such a time when we obscure commentary versus fact and it‘s just, people want to read those things. 

ABRAMS:  You do have to feel a little sympathy, Brad, for Barack Obama in the sense that “The New York Times” at one point, went after him, suggesting at one point that he may have overstated his drug use.  They did a front page article on that and now you have, on the other side, others saying, “Oh, maybe understated.”  I mean, it gets a little crazy. 

BLAKEMAN:  Look, I don‘t feel sorry for any of these guys.  They‘re running for president.  They have to have thick skin.  Let this run off.  Books don‘t change minds, the ads do.  Now, if there‘s an ad that‘s generated from this and it‘s well-funded and it‘s an attack piece, then I think that it could have some real legs.  But a book is not going to change any minds. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.

BLAKEMAN:  These are people who are buying it who believe it anyway.  So, really, you know, it‘s water over the dam because these books are coming out fast and furious on both sides.

ABRAMS:  All right.  April Ryan and Brad Blakeman, thanks a lot. 

Appreciate it. 

BLAKEMAN:  Thanks.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, our Olympics edition of “Winners and Losers,” including Michael Phelps and his diet - 12,000 calories a day, including three fried egg and cheese sandwiches, eight slices of pizza and from eating like a horse to an actual horse who also swims.  That‘s coming up in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Now, to “Reality Bites,” a dose of reality caught on tape.  The swimming events of the Beijing Olympics have gotten all the glory.  Not to be outdone, this wayward horse on the Spanish island of Menorca(ph) made a splash, taking a swim in a pretty posh-looking swimming pool.  It started out in the deep end and worked his way to the other side.  When he was done, he climbed up the steps like anyone else does and went on his way.  Be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We‘re back with tonight‘s “Winners and Losers.”  And once again, it‘s our special Beijing Olympics edition first.  And again, joining me is MSNBC‘s Contessa Brewer.  Hi, Contessa.

CONTESSA BREWER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  OK.  So Dan, first up, the silver medal-winning Women‘s Gymnastics Team going for the gold in the sore loser category.  The team‘s two-point loss to China being blamed on a pair of tumbles by Alicia Sacramone. 

Instead of chalking it up to nerves, though, Martha Karoli(ph), also blamed it on slip-ups on officials in Beijing.  She said, “First they called her name up, then they did not even put her name up even though the Chinese had finished.  She mentally prepared and then she had a mental break.”  What?  I mean, she‘s blaming it on the Beijing officials.  The reason why someone fell off the of a -

ABRAMS:  Look, you know, Karoli is the big loser here, OK?  I‘ll tell you why.  It‘s not the athlete - it‘s the coach, because the coach later, after that first time where you point out that she‘s trying to blame it on the Beijing officials then she decides, “You know what?” I‘m going to blame it on the athlete.”  She said, “We developed her into a good competitor, but originally, she was not necessarily extremely easily focused and aggressive.” 

BREWER:  Nice. 

ABRAMS:  Right? 

BREWER:  Yes.  And by the way, her boss now says she basically doesn‘t know what she‘s talking about. 

ABRAMS:  Right.

BREWER:  He‘s like, “That‘s totally normal.” 

ABRAMS:  Right.  Yes.  Steve Penny, president of the USA Gymnastics.  I don‘t know if Martha knew exactly the details of what was happening when she said that.  It‘s a normal television thing.  That‘s typical in international competition.  Loser.  Loser. 

BREWER:  Yes.  I‘m with you. 

Next up, the Spanish basketball team not exactly scoring points for being good guests.  Before the Olympics, the team posed for a photo, part of a newspaper ad for a sponsor.  Now, look closely.  They‘re all playing this playground game, pulling their skin around their eyes, giving themselves Asian-looking eyes.  Boy, did that light up the controversy. 

I mean, kids on the playground get detention for stuff like that.  So the players are apologizing, kind of.  Point guard Jose Calderon says, “It seemed to us to be something appropriate and that it would always be interpreted as an affectionate gesture.  I want to express that we have great respect for the orient and its people.  Some of my best friends are of Chinese origin. 

ABRAMS:  You‘ve got to love - I mean, someone is giving these guys such bad advice.  You know -

BREWER:  Wait, my friends are Chinese. 

ABRAMS:  Exactly.  You use the old defense that “some of my best friends are Chinese.”  I mean, and you know, he says that he thought it was an affectionate gesture.  I mean, even if it was just dumb, right, I mean, the idea that it‘s affectionate, that they‘re saying, “Oh, we‘re going to be coming to your country and we wanted to give this affectionate gesture so we could look like you.” 

BREWER:  What?  You know what, they are losers.   And by the way, the Chinese people, apparently not all that upset about this.  So well, yes.  They‘re not upset, really. 

ABRAMS:  Whoever‘s giving them advice to the real losers. 

BREWER:  Yes, that might be the sponsors. 

ABRAMS:  It might be. 

BREWER:  And that‘s your first mistake, soliciting advice from sponsors.. 

Next up, Michael Phelps not only a super swimmer.  He‘s also a super eater.  In fact, to fuel that run on his gold medal sweep he chowed down on enough food to feed six regular guys.  Phelps says he‘s supposed to have 8,000 to 10,000 calories a day it keep up with his swimming schedule.  Some reports say he consumes as many as 12,000 calories. 

In his autobiography, Phelps ran through his typical breakfast as a teen, including three fried egg sandwiches with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, fried onions and mayonnaise, one five-egg omelet, one bowl of grits, three slices of French toast with powdered sugar, three chocolate chip pancakes and two cups of coffee. 

I‘m tired just reading it.  Imagine having to shove all that down (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

ABRAMS:  You know, usually, when we hear about people eating all that stuff, that much stuff, we say, “Where does he put it all?”  But, you know, when you‘re swimming and training that much -

BREWER:  It‘s a simple equation they tell me, calories in and calories out.  Maybe if I actually took some of that wisdom and applied it in my own life when I am looking at the half gallon of ice cream - 

ABRAMS:  If you had the time to actually work out the way that he does and of course, do it as well as he does. 

BREWER:  Well, yes -

ABRAMS:  This is apparently what the lunch is - one pound of enriched pasta, two ham and cheese sandwiches with mayo on white bread, 1,000 calories in energy drinks.  Dinner - a pound of pasta, a pizza.  And a pizza.  A whole pizza. 

BREWER:  Yes.  You know, presumably there‘s also someone who‘s making all this food for him right now while he‘s competing.  What happens when he‘s at home with his mom?  I mean, is she just cooking it all up?  And - I don‘t know. 

ABRAMS:  Contessa is staying with us.  Michael Phelps is always going to be a winner, no matter how much he eats or doesn‘t eat. 

BREWER:  Right.

ABRAMS:  Up next, more winners and losers including the Olive Garden.  Not thrilled that a “Playboy” bunny is talking about how much she loves the family-friendly establishment. 

In the not-so-family-friendly category, American Idol Carrie Underwood saying her old flame QB Tony Romo still calls her even though he‘s dating Jessica Simpson. 

Plus your e-mails.  A lot of them related to my outfit yesterday and Contessa‘s comments about it.  It‘s called the “P.O.‘d Box.”  I was P.O.‘d at Contessa.  We‘ll see if I was right or she was right.  Coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We are back with Contessa Brewer with more of the day‘s “Winners and Losers.” 

BREWER:  OK.  So it‘s round two in the battle of the blonds, Dan.  And this time, Carrie Underwood is sticking it to Jessica Simpson.  The former American Idol tells “Allure” magazine that her old flame, Dallas Cowboy Tony Romo, is still calling her.  Since their breakup, Romo‘s been dating singer Jessica Simpson. 

You know, this might all be payback, because earlier this summer, Jessica apparently took a shot at Carrie.  She wore a shirt with the slogan “Real Girls Eat Meat” reportedly to taunt Carrie Underwood because who‘s a vocal vegetarian and animal rights activist.

ABRAMS:  There‘s another way to interpret that shirt that‘s probably not appropriate. 

BREWER:  I think we should just refrain from commenting on that. 

ABRAMS:  No, I‘m just - but who knows why she wore the shirt? 

BREWER:  Well, I mean, that would make sense, right?  Because first, she breaks up with Tony Romo, and then Jessica gets him, then Jessica makes a country album to, what, compete with the former American Idol Carrie Underwood.

ABRAMS:  Carrie Underwood‘s got some song, right, called - I know this because I‘m a big Carrie Underwood fan -

BREWER:  Really? 

ABRAMS:  Because you told me in break. 

BREWER:  Here‘s what I‘m saying, they‘d better be careful because if they get the two of these girls together, you already know what Carrie Underwood is capable of.  I mean, she takes her key and runs it along the side of the jeep.  Haven‘t you seen the video?  She takes a Louisville slugger to both headlights -

ABRAMS:  What is the song?  Contessa, what is the song.  How does it go? 

BREWER:  Don‘t be trying to make me sing on national television. 

ABRAMS:  You did it already in the break and it was already on my -  

BREWER:  I mean, that was for your ears only.  That wasn‘t for everyone else who is listening in right now. 

ABRAMS:  You don‘t want to do it?

BREWER:  I mean, everyone else at home is singing it right now - “Before He Cheats.”  Next up - thank goodness, I have this.  “Playboy” bunny and Hugh Hefner‘s girlfriend - do you know woman, Kendra Wilkerson?  She apparently -

ABRAMS:  Do I know her?  What do you mean by that? 

BREWER:  I don‘t mean you.  This is a rhetorical question. 

ABRAMS:  OK.  All right.

(CROSS TALK)

BREWER:  Not you personally.

ABRAMS:  I don‘t know her, OK?  I want to state that clearly for the record.  I do not know her. 

BREWER:  May I continue now? 

ABRAMS:  Yes. 

BREWER:  Kendra Wilkerson loves the Olive Garden, Dan.  She blogs about it on her MySpace page.  She raves about it on her reality show.  She even shot her own unsolicited - meaning they didn‘t ask her for it - endorsement for “Playboy‘s” Web site. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KENDRA WILKERSON, “PLAYBOY” BUNNY:  I eat so many breadsticks when I go to Olive Garden.  It‘s not even funny.  I mean, I cannot stop eating at all.  I can‘t stop eating like the artichoke dip, the breadsticks, salad, the chicken parmesan.  Everything is so good there. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BREWER:  She‘s sounding a little bit like Michael Phelps there, don‘t you think? 

ABRAMS:  Yes.

BREWER:  Like how many carbs can I shove down my throat?

ABRAMS:  Yes, but the difference is when you‘re Michael Phelps, and you‘re talking about the Olive Garden -

BREWER:  Yes, thumbs up. 

ABRAMS:  When you‘re -

BREWER:  When you‘re a “Playboy” playmate - I mean, look.  The Olive Garden, when you‘re here, you‘re family, and we were thinking grandmas and grandpas and little kids at the dinner table.  So really what do you do with a family member who takes off her clothes in front of the cameras?  It is not like at your family dinner, you‘re going to invite the neighbors over to see something like that, right?  “The Wall Street Journal” reports that Olive Garden executives (UNINTELLIGIBLE) this famous fan.

ABRAMS:  Can you imagine being a Olive Garden executive and getting a call from “The Wall Street Journal” asking them how you feel about the fact that she‘s endorsing your product? 

BREWER:  Well, they see it as a complicated issue for the brand.  I mean, they don‘t want to offend her.  That would be wrong.  And they don‘t necessarily want to embrace it either, particularly when she‘s not wearing clothes.  A little less than thrilled. 

ABRAMS:  Yes, I‘m sure.  But you know what?  They should just say, “We welcome all people at the Olive Garden.”  They should - 

BREWER:  That‘s right. 

ABRAMS:  The fact that they‘re saying - I forget what the quote was.  Something about we have to be very careful and they were divided about - You know what?  They should say, “All types of people come to our restaurant and we welcome all of them.” 

BREWER:  How about this?  All publicity is good publicity.  That‘s what they told me. 

ABRAMS:  But when she‘s saying she likes it there -

BREWER:  Yes.  I mean -

ABRAMS:  And when she said hates the food, then you can say, “You know what?  We‘re happy.  We don‘t want her here.” 

BREWER:  Finally Unabomber Ted Kaczynski is furious that museum officials are putting his one-time home on display.  The museum in Washington has an exhibit on the most famous FBI stories.  And Kaczynski‘s cabin was hauled out of FBI storage for the display.  Kaczynski says that violates his victim‘s privacy. 

ABRAMS:  Right.  This is the gaffe, right. 

BREWER:  Are you kidding me? 

ABRAMS:  This is what you got to love about it.  Suddenly -

BREWER:  He‘s worried about his victims?

ABRAMS:  Suddenly Ted Kaczynski is worried about his victims and not just his victims, he‘s worried about their privacy now.  He wasn‘t worried about blowing them up before, but now he‘s worried about their privacy. 

BREWER:  I see this as problematic and Ted Kaczynski, as if we didn‘t know this already -

ABRAMS:  All right.  Time for the “P.O.‘d Box.”  It is your chance to tell me what you hate or love about the show.  And last night, I worked out with a female body builder.  And Contessa criticized - you guys pick the most ridiculous picture. 

BREWER:  Well, I mean, (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

ABRAMS:  Come on. 

BREWER:  Come on.  That‘s the one we all saw. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  There was a whole video of it. 

BREWER:  Yes, and all of it is bad.

ABRAMS:  I didn‘t look that ridiculous the whole time.  All right.  There we go.  Then she criticized my workout -

BREWER:  You don‘t think you look ridiculous there? 

ABRAMS:  Look at - I don‘t look that - All right.  She criticized my workout wardrobe, all right? 

Jim Gunther defends me, all right?  He says, “Your workout clothes are spot on.  What better clothes to wear for a hard workout than loose fitting cotton clothing unless you‘re only there to show off your body.” 

BREWER:  Wait a minute.  Did he see your shirt? 

ABRAMS:  He saw the whole thing. 

BREWER:  Did he see how tight t-shirt your t-shirt was -

ABRAMS:  Jim G. - my man, Jim Gunther. 

BREWER:  Yes, loose-fitting - That t-shirt is really loose-fitting. 

ABRAMS:  Just because I happen to be fit.  That is a very loose fitting t-shirt. 

Another under the name Coach N.M. writes, “I agree with Contessa.  Your gym clothes left a lot to be desired.”  Hey, Coach, why not tell us your name? 

BREWER:  That‘s not my mom.

ABRAMS:  Worried your students might start making fun of your clothes? 

Finally, Giselle from Queens says, “Don‘t pay attention to what Contessa said about your outfit during the female body builder segment.  I thought you looked great.  You‘re very fit.” 

BREWER:  That‘s probably your mom. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  Well, the great thing is I get to pick the E-mails.  I have to say, I did shorten Giselle‘s E-mail because she went on to say other really nice things about me. 

BREWER:  Yes.  They were probably too racy for air and that‘s why you‘re not saying that. 

ABRAMS:  No.

BREWER:  You know, why aren‘t you mentioning, Dan, the fact that I sent you an E-mail today as well. 

ABRAMS:  You did.  This is true. 

BREWER:  Not to your “VERDICT” account but to your personal E-mail account. 

ABRAMS:  That‘s right.

BREWER:  What did I do on your behalf? 

ABRAMS:  What you did and I didn‘t know we were going to discuss this.  But what Contessa did was she offered up places where I could purchase lovely shorts, t-shirt and socks. 

BREWER:  And most importantly -

ABRAMS:  Most important socks.  Because Contessa seemed particularly - put up the picture one more time - or the video. 

BREWER:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  Contessa seemed particularly disturbed by the socks. 

BREWER:  Because you had white tube socks on that you just pushed down.  That is a fashion no-no even at the gym and I‘m not saying this - I‘m saying this out of affection. 

ABRAMS:  I know.  I understand - you were concerned for me.  You were concerned for me. 

BREWER:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  Look at the socks. 

BREWER:  I mean, come on.  Next time, you can look fabulous.

ABRAMS:  That‘s all the time we have for tonight.  You can E-mail us about the show at verdict@msnbc.com.  Please include your name and where you‘re writing from.  See you tomorrow night. 

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

Content and programming copyright 2008 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2008 ASC LLC ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and ASC LLC‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

W atch Verdict with Dan Abrams each weeknight at 9 p.m. ET

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