updated 10/21/2009 10:59:33 AM ET 2009-10-21T14:59:33

Guests: Howard Fineman, Rep. Anthony Weiner, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Craig Crawford, Michael Musto

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over):  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

“The Washington Post” poll: Not only do Americans want the public option, they want the public option more than they want a bill which Republicans would agree to.  And the majority leader in the Senate then takes heart and takes a firm stance about possibly taking a firm stance later on, maybe, in theory.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HARRY REID (D), MAJORITY LEADER:  We are learning toward talking about a public option.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Why the endless pussyfooting around?  Our guest:

Congressman Anthony Weiner.

Medical bankruptcy: We‘re going to let people go broke trying to save their children from things like cystic fibrosis.  At least we can make it easier for them to file for bankruptcy to save families, like the Burns, who are getting 60 collection calls a day in the E.R. because they could not go bankrupt past enough.

We‘re joined by the chairman of the Senate subcommittee on administrative oversight, Sheldon Whitehouse—to whom Elizabeth Edwards also testified.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ELIZABETH EDWARDS, JOHN EDWARD‘S WIFE:  I sit in a chemotherapy chair once every few weeks and listen to people wondering how they‘re going to pay for the kinds of care that they—that they need in order to stay alive.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The White House versus the evil empire: Now, two fronts are open.  Press Secretary Gibbs on how FOX noise differs from news networks.  “You and I should watch sometime around 9:00 tonight or 5:00 in the afternoon.”

But the less obvious influence of FOX‘s opinion shows has side doors through which to push phony news stories onto their supposed non-opinion shows and then into the real news media.  Like, all the TV networks get together to do special theme weekend dramas and sitcoms on volunteering.  Or, as Lonesome Roads put it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS HOST:  It‘s almost like we‘re living in Mao‘s China right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Uh-huh?

And the reality show Richard Heene was publicity-stunting in hopes of getting, he had already written a theme song.

(MUSIC)

OLBERMANN:  Michael Musto on the American family Heene.

All that and more—now on COUNTDOWN.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This is fantastic!

(END AUDIO CLIP)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Good evening from New York.

The day after a new poll confirmed not only that do most Americans want a public option, but that most Americans want a public option even if not a single Republican would vote for it.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is asked about the public option—and in our fifth story tonight: He gets cute about it while Americans are going bankrupt, dying.

But first, the new poll as Reid, Senators Chris Dodd and Max Baucus continued to hash out with the White House whether the Senate‘s final health care bill will or will not include the public option.  A new “Washington Post”/ABC News poll echoes the findings of an earlier one from Daily Kos/Research 2000 that we had discussed on this news hour, namely, Americans want a public option.  Fifty-seven percent, more than elected Mr.  Obama, want a public option; 36 percent, more than one out of three Americans, strongly want the public option.

Support up five points since the Republicans went on a town hall rampage against the public option on August.  The numbers strongly opposed is down four points.

And bad news from Republican Senator Olympia Snowe, to whom Mr. Obama and Mr. Reid have granted considerable say in this process in hopes of winning her vote, despite her opposition along with every other Republican to the public option—most Americans would rather have a public option than Senator Snowe‘s vote for a plan without a public option.  Fifty-one percent preferring a totally partisan, Democratic-only bill; only 37 percent of the country is saying, no sacrifice the public option to win some kind of bipartisan support.

And to all those who treat as axiomatic, the notion that Americans consider health care reform too much government, this wake up call, only 42 percent of the country thinks it‘s too much.  Fifty-five percent, the clear majority, say it is just right or not enough.

Nevertheless, when Mr. Reid was asked today whether talks are leaning toward a public option, he first joked that they are leaning about a public option—whatever that was supposed to mean—and then that they are leaning toward talking about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER:  Are the negotiations leaning toward or against the public option at this point?

REID:  The negotiations are leaning about a public option.

(INAUDIBLE)

REID:  I said—he said, “Are we leaning toward or against a public option?”  I said, “We are leaning toward talking about a public option.”  We—no decision has been made.  We had a—not a long discussion last night on public option.  I‘ve have had a number of meetings in my office dealing with Democrats and Republicans on the public option aspect of it.  And when the decision‘s made to send this on to the CBO, I will have made a decision of what we‘re going to do with the public option.  It‘s not done yet.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Mr. Reid‘s obtuseness is especially odd, given that his spokesman had already told “Roll Call” they discussed the public option last night—but perhaps offering some insight as to why that poll shows Mr. Obama‘s approval on health care has dropped 15 points in just the last month, and that is among Democrats.

Let‘s turn now to Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York. 

He‘s been good enough to join us here.

Good to see you, sir.

REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK:  My pleasure.

OLBERMANN:  Senator Reid can ask the Senate to vote for a bill with a public or without.  Neither right now has 60 votes supporting it.  Why is he acting like the public option alone has to clear the 60-vote hurdle?

WEINER:  Well, it doesn‘t.  All you need is 60 votes to allow the thing to be voted on the floor.  Look, Senator Reid has to make a basic decision: Do we want majority rule or not?  You know, an overwhelming majority of the country, a clear majority of the House and Senate want a public option.  The question is: Are we going to allow the minority to drive this train?  And we shouldn‘t.

You know, I did something interesting recently.  I have this Web site, CountdowntoHealthcare.com and we put on a pin map where the calls were coming from to get the public option.  It‘s coast to coast.  It‘s red districts; it‘s blue districts.

This notion that somehow this is an ideological thing on the cost, that people want a choice and want lower cost on health care is mythology.  You know, I like Senator Reid.  He has a difficult job, I grant that.  But if we can‘t get 60 votes just to get it to a vote, and then allow a majority to decide, we really, I‘m not sure we even deserve to be running the House and Senate.

OLBERMANN:  And the president‘s role on this is obviously just as difficult—if not difficult than anybody else‘s—but why is he down in this poll, do you think, 15 percent among Democrats in terms of his position on health care?

WEINER:  Because he was elected and a lot of us were elected in part on a promise to do something here on health care.  And his seeming desire to kind of let this process be governed by Senator Snowe, who seems like a very nice senator, but I don‘t think we want to outsource it to her.  You know, I think that the moment the president puts his finger on the scale for the public option, people start remembering why they voted for him and will rally to that cause and I think senators will—and members of the House and Senate will.  And the public will even more so.

Remember, we have at 57 percent even without the president with a full-throated way embracing it and going around the country rallying support for it.

OLBERMANN:  The White House‘s point seems to be about this and about his position, that this is the year we start health care reform seriously in this country, that anything that says, health care and insurance are rights, not privileges is a historic victory and a changing of society that there‘s too much look at the trees and not enough forest imagery.  Is he right about that?  Or is the White House right about that?

WEINER:  He is wrong in a fundamental way.  We only get one crack at this for the next 10 to 15 years.  We, as Democrats, we control the House, the Senate and the White House.  If we don‘t get this right and we don‘t bend the cost curve down and we don‘t show that people are going to stop losing their insurance, we don‘t show that we listen to those people who signed up in Web sites and voted for President Obama and the Democratic Congress, I don‘t know if we‘re going to get a second crack at it.

We were successful with Medicare 44 years ago, because we did it right.  And we did over the objections of Republicans that called it socialism.  We did over the objections of people that said, “Oh, my God, you are nationalizing this industry.”

We did it right, and now, 151 of colleagues have Medicare, a single-payer health care plan that they don‘t seem to be complaining about.  They have the public option; they seem not to want the rest of us to have it.

OLBERMANN:  That poll, what does that—what does it do in terms of assessing—again, that question, I‘ve asked you this at least three different times—if they pass—if the House could pass a bill without a public option in it, when in this poll it is clear more people think health care reform, as currently constituted, does not go far enough than think it goes too far?

WEINER:  Yes.  And look, we cannot pass a bill in the House without a strong public option.  And why would we want to?

OLBERMANN:  Yes.

WEINER:  When we see that at least 57 -- I think it‘s more than that when you describe it as being a plan similar to Medicare, it goes up over 60 points.  Why would we want to?  This is something the president campaigned on over a very long campaign, something we have been talking about now for six, seven, eight months.

Why would we want to leave the public option aside?  There‘s only one reason I can think of, and that is, to continue worshipping at the altar of Olympia Snowe.  And again, that‘s fine.  But that‘s only one vote.  And frankly, we‘re Democrats, we were elected to take care of this problem, we should just go do it.

OLBERMANN:  Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York—as always, great thanks for your time, especially coming in.

WEINER:  Thanks.  Appreciate it.

OLBERMANN:  And let‘s turn now to MSNBC political analyst Howard Fineman, also the senior Washington correspondent and political columnist for “Newsweek” magazine.

Good evening, Howard.

HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Maybe this is too simple a question.  What‘s Harry Reid‘s problems?

FINEMAN:  Well, let‘s see.  There are a few of them.  One, he‘s caught between the wiener of the House and bun of the Senate.  I‘m sorry.

But the problem is—the problem is, as Congressman Weiner said, they can‘t pass a bill in the House without a public option.  And Harry Reid is convinced he can‘t pass a bill in the Senate or at least get it to the floor with a public option, but he‘s going to try to sneak it through if he possibly can, somehow procedurally.  So, that‘s one problem is the math in the Senate.

Another problem he‘s got is Nevada.  Now, Nevada went for Obama by 13 points in 2008.  But Harry Reid is unpopular right now—at least if you believe the polls in Nevada.  And he doesn‘t know quite where to turn politically.

He‘s been attacked from the left with ads.  He‘s been attacked from the right, because in certain ways, Nevada is a conservative state.  There are also a lot of union people in Nevada who are worried about taxing those big health care plans.

And the third problem he‘s got is President Obama, who has not really put the wood to the moderate Democrats who are saying they will not vote for a public option.

OLBERMANN:  Talking Points Memo and others have done reporting that suggests: Don‘t worry, Reid is actually on board.

If this is either political theater or him finding himself politically in his own state, and it ends with a public option in the final bill, why not just stand-up on principle and lead especially since the people are already on board—the people, the voters, those guys?

FINEMAN:  Yes, the voters are on board.  But there are four or five, at least, Democrats, numbers predicting—you know, vary.  But four or five who said either publicly or privately that they absolutely will not vote for something that has a real public option in it.  Ben Nelson, for example, in Nebraska told me just the other day, “I will not vote for it if it‘s got that in it.”

Harry Reid‘s problem is to design something that partakes of the public option, that‘s enough of the public option in the bill that is to be voted on to the floor to get the 60 votes in there, because procedurally, he needs some whiff of the public option in there so that it can remain in the bill.  Procedurally, you want to have the bill and force somebody to vote it out rather than the other way around.  So, that‘s what he‘s trying to do.

OLBERMANN:  And that leaves to a version of a question that I asked Senator Wyden when he and I were in both Washington last night which is:

are they all still pushing for the public option, but also simultaneously preparing for life without it?  And in a serious degree, what percentage of the impact of a public option do they think they can get with the lesser ideas like insurance exchanges and insurance industry regulation?

FINEMAN:  Well, I‘m not sure how seriously they think the other things will work.  What would work in an alternative that they‘re not really considering is Senator Wyden‘s idea of really opening up health care—health insurance to competition, allowing individuals to choose health insurance nationwide.  That‘s his rather radical, at this point, alternative.  But they‘re not really considering that.

I think, without the public option, it‘s got—we have to rely on really firm, federal regulation and also, in getting rid of the antitrust exemption.  Because the antitrust exemption allows health insurance plans in some parts of the country to have a virtual monopoly, that can‘t be allowed to stand or there won‘t be true cost-cutting reform.

OLBERMANN:  And last question, no matter what you think the Democrats are doing here, are the Republicans doing it worse?  If that last poll says that bipartisanship means little to the voters and more people think this is too little rather than too much, why are Republicans sticking to an anti-patient platform?

FINEMAN:  Well, I can‘t—I can‘t explain why they think the way they do, sometimes.  They are convinced that the public is really worried about deficits and debt—and they are.  But I think, especially in this recessionary period, with concerns about the economy, they are worried more about health care, both keeping what they have and making sure that everybody has some.

And I think the Republicans may reap short-term gains from their position here.  But especially if—in the end, the Democrats get a bill, almost any bill, it will be the Democrats in the end—come Obama‘s reelection campaign—who will benefit.

OLBERMANN:  Howard Fineman of MSNBC and “Newsweek”—as always, Howard, great thanks.

FINEMAN:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  The choice meantime of debt or death.  It is, of course, bad enough that some people will go bankrupt because of health care.  But can‘t we at least make the positive effects of bankruptcy easier for those people?  “No, we can‘t,” say the Republicans, even after a family testifies to Senator Whitehouse‘s committee that while in E.R., with their son with cystic fibrosis and they were getting 60 calls a day from collection agencies because of the red tape involved in going bankrupt to get him the treatment he needed so he could breath.

Senator Whitehouse—next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Bankruptcy because of medical bills, at least we can make it easier and better for the families, right?  The Republicans say, “No, screw ‘em.”  Senator Sheldon Whitehouse joins me next after an emotional of testimony from the likes of Elizabeth Edwards.

And it was a nice little week-long effort by TV drama and sitcom producers trumping a scene or two about volunteering.  Glenn Beck has just announced, it means we might as well be living in Chairman Mao‘s China.

“Worst Persons”—ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  While their 4-year-old son fought cystic fibrosis, Kerry and Patrick Burns were fighting collection agencies.  They have since lost their retirement funds, their home and their son.  The fallout from their medical debt however continues.

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: New legislation aimed at helping Americans forced to declare bankruptcy, the ability to declare bankruptcy and do it quickly.  The man who‘s overseeing the legislative fight, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse joins us presently.

But first, the details.  A judiciary subcommittee today is holding hearings on the Medical Bankruptcy Fairness Act aimed at carving out an exemption to current bankruptcy law by providing assistance to those buried in medical debt, like the aforementioned Kerry Burns.  Ms. Burns and her husband Patrick tried to help their son Finnegan to a 13-month battle with cystic fibrosis.  Both parents took leaves from their jobs and lived off on disability and unemployment pay.

After several surgeries, the Burnses fell so far behind in their bills they could not recover.  And young Finnegan Burns lost his battle with cystic fibrosis in March.  His mom and dad, though, are still fighting theirs—with creditors.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KERRY BURNS, FINNEGAN BURN‘S MOTHER:  In order to file bankruptcy, we needed a $250 retainer and a $1,300 filing fee.  We actually had to borrow the money in order to official go bankrupt.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Burns family also had to go through mandatory credit counseling.  Kerry Burns called the entire process demeaning and demoralizing.

At odds with the proposed legislation: the ranking Republican, Jeff Sessions of Alabama.  Senator Sessions is opposing the elimination of an income-related test for medical debtors.  His point, requiring people above the median income to pay back something is not unfair.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JEFF SESSIONS ®, ALABAMA:  But if they do have high income—high incomes, then why shouldn‘t they pay their hospital?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Back in the Whitehouse proposal, Elizabeth Edwards who testify that the plan would be a less catastrophic bankruptcy option that recognizes unique circumstances.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EDWARDS:  I sit in a chemotherapy chair once every few weeks and listen to people speaking with the person who accompanied them and wondering how they‘re going to pay for the kinds of care that they need in order to stay alive.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

Joining me now—as promised—the chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight: Sheldon Whitehouse.

Senator, thanks for your time tonight.

SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D), RHODE ISLAND:  Good to be with you, Keith.  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  How is this not a no-brainer?  How do Republicans fight you on this?

WHITEHOUSE:  I don‘t know, you got me.  This is the perfect family.  Kerry Burns and her husband Patrick both worked.  They are a hard working American couple.  She had worked since she was 14 years old.

They had a baby boy.  They had health insurance.  Everything looked ideal.

And then comes the diagnosis that their little boy has cystic fibrosis, and the nightmare of all that medical care and ultimately losing their son begins.  And on top of that, it gets piled on the nightmare of dealing with our broken health care system and of dealing with a bankruptcy system that treats them as if they were crooks, as if they were there to abuse the system.

OLBERMANN:  And we‘re not—nobody is asking and you‘re not proposing a bailout for each of these families—to use the appropriate term.  You are asking, simply to make what is an ugly and life-changing process, in addition to the horror that they‘ve gone through, an ugly and life-changing process of bankruptcy.  Just a little bit faster and a little kinder, is that essentially what you are asking?

WHITEHOUSE:  Yes.  The human element of this is really important.  We‘ve talked about the health care problem in terms of, you know, socialized medicine and all these concepts.  We talked about bankruptcy.

Here is a mother, in the intensive care unit with her dying son, and she is being bombarded by collection agencies, calling her on the cell phone.  When the boy dies, and she has to come home to Rhode Island, she has to sell goods on eBay to pay for the gas and tolls home because she‘s broke.

And when he gets back and tries to go into bankruptcy, she has to undergo credit counseling, and answer questions like, “What has this experience taught you about better managing your credit?”  I mean—and she‘s doing this to a machine.  There‘s a computer on the other side of the credit counseling.

I‘ll tell you, for a party that likes to say the government should keep out of people‘s lives, this is government requiring a mother who just lost her son to go through nonsensical credit counseling just to string out the process longer.  I think the original purpose of this bill was to string out the process longer so that credit cards could make more money of people longer.  But let‘s at least carve out people who had a medical catastrophe.

OLBERMANN:  Do you sometimes feel, Senator, that when you see such obstinance, you know, the human dimension you mentioned, when you see the disconnect from that, from the simple humanity of the situation like this and so many other—hundreds, thousands of other cases exactly like the Burns family, do you want to ask the folks who are opposing you here, like, you know, have you ever been sick?  Have you ever thought about how much worrying about paying would make it more difficult to get better?

WHITEHOUSE:  Yes.  And I think one of the things that we‘ve tried to do on the Senate floor is bring these personal stories forward to the American public, because this is not—this health care fight is not a fight about concepts.  It‘s not about ideologies.  It‘s a fight about families who think they have coverage, then there‘s a hole.  And they lose everything that they‘ve ever fought for.

It‘s a fight about people who think they have coverage and lose it.  And then they don‘t go to the doctors to visit and they missed that critical diagnosis and their disease takes them on a deadly path because they didn‘t get diagnose in time.  I mean, these things happen over and over and over again, and the human cost of our present health care system simply has to be brought home over and over and over again against the propaganda.

OLBERMANN:  Well, Senator, I congratulate you on your restraint and not, you know, slamming your head against one of those marble doors behind you when you deal with this in this kind of intensity—as always, my compliments and my thanks to your great efforts on this.  Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island and the judiciary committee—thank you, again, sir.

WHITEHOUSE:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Tonight, the White House opens a second front in the push to rescue journalism from that hostage drama over there at FOX—when COUNTDOWN continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  “Bests” in a moment.

First, on this day in 1931 was born New York Yankee‘s immortal Mickey Mantle.  On tomorrow‘s date in 1928 was born New York Yankees‘ immortal Whitey Ford.  And on today‘s date in 1910 was born the man who introduced them literally every day of their careers, the legendary voice of Yankee Stadium, Bob Sheppard.

In trying to figure out who did the public address announcing there before Bob started in 1951, a fact lost for years under the sofa cushions of history, I once asked him directly.  “I know,” he said, “Methuselah.”  So, Bob Sheppard, happy birthday—birthday number 99.

Let‘s play “Oddball.”

We begin in northern California where siblings Danielle and Kevin East‘s (ph) cross-country journey included an eight-hour stretch with a live coyote jammed in their radiators.  That‘s your problem right there.  Around the Nevada and Utah border, the Easts noticed a pack of canines near their car, one got in front, which was doing 70 at that time and thump.  The Easts assumed the worst, kept motoring and eventually stopped eight hours later.  That‘s when they noticed the living, breathing coyote wedged in the grill.

Animal control rescued the critter, brought to a shelter, aside from a few scrapes.  The coyote was doing just fine, so fine it was then able to escape back into the wild.  Authorities are now cautioning locals to beware this was taken seconds before impact.  Beep, beep!

To a city council meeting in St. Petersburg, Florida, where some crazy shouting and cursing led to a full-pledged old guy fight after the council voted to privatize a sidewalk.  Well, at least this was for a good reason, like a bad scene out of the movie, “Cocoon.”

The 76-year-old man in the Hawaiian shirt took the first poke.  The other guy is 61, wearing a “Jed Bush sucks” shirt.  He was walking out of the meeting before both men hit the deck.  The (INAUDIBLE) cost each man a trip downtown.  Both were charged with disturbing the peace and we‘re at least in time to catch the early bird specialty.

Finally, another cautionary tale for people doing live demos of products on the air.  This is from a Home Shopping Network.  They‘re pushing a tennis game for Nintendo Wii when something goes—weeee!

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Right here, I‘m getting ready to serve.  All I do is throw that ball up in the air and—oh, geez, there goes the tennis racket.  I didn‘t have it on this all the way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Weeee!  And act now and get this gently LG plasma television.  And if you look at that broken TV, you can see a horse.  The bushy tail, the big teeth.  Maybe it‘s a butterfly.  Might even be a moth. 

The real danger of Fixed News, as the White House continues the push back.  How it propagates phony stories, then calls the reaction or the controversy news.  Then complains to real news organizations that they‘re not covering the original phony story.

That‘s next.  First time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three best persons in the world. 

Dateline Washington, number three, best selective amnesia, Newt Gingrich.  Hannity says to him, “Anita Dunn, who has great admiration for, quote, one of her philosophers, you know, one of the biggest mass murderers in the history of mankind, Mao.”

Gingrich replies, “I just have this interesting idea of asking Anita Dunn is this is her idea of a cultural revolution, and if she really wishes that she could get Sean Hannity and the other Fox commentators to go to a farm and work, the way Mao got sent the intellectuals out.” 

Anita Dunn makes a Mao joke; suddenly she‘s a Maoist.  What about a guy who, during a speech about how Congress operates, uses this quote: “war is politics with blood.  Politics is war without blood.” 

Hmm, that‘s from Mao.  It was used in May of 1995 by the then Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, the Mao quoter. 

Dateline, Uganda, number two, best hiding your light under a bushel basket, Charles Wesley Mumbere, just crowned king of the Urwenzu Uru (ph) tribe of Uganda after tribal kingdoms were reestablished in that country.  King Mumbere was, until July, an assistant working in nursing homes in Maryland and Pennsylvania. 

Dateline Portage Township, Indiana, number one, best failed road dental removal, Donna Conners.  Found a large raccoon living under her mobile home, so she did what anybody would do.  She decided to chase it out by setting off eight to ten smoke bomb fireworks, which promptly set the mobile home on fire.  Nobody was injured, especially not the raccoon. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It was a standard of the so-called yellow journalism dating back as far as the 1890s, even earlier; make up a story, print it in a gossip column or as rumor.  Then when somebody denies it, or if someone else reacts to it, suddenly it‘s a news story, the reaction, the denial.  You can put that reaction or denial in the newspaper. 

If you really want to play the game, you can then criticize the other newspapers for not covering the story, which, in turn, forces many of them to cover it.  Our third story in the COUNTDOWN, a second front in the White House attempt to rescue journalism from the hostage situation at Fox and the ghost of William Randolph Hearst. 

An unnamed White House source telling “Politico,” quote, “we are doing what we think is important to make sure news is covered as fairly as possibly.”  Offering the Acorn story as an example, “Fox News covered it breathlessly for weeks on end.  Then you had a couple days of breast beating from the ‘Washington Post‘ and the ‘New York Times‘ about whether or not they were fast enough on the Acorn story.  It‘s like, wait a second, guys, let‘s make sure we keep perspective on what are the most important stories and what‘s being driven by a network that has a perspective.  Being able to make that point has been important.”

Meantime, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said, off camera, this morning, quote, “we render opinion based on some of their coverage and the fairness of their coverage.”  When asked what he thought the difference was between Fox and news networks, his answer, “you and I should watch some time around 9:00 or 5:00 this afternoon. 

As for how Fox opinion bleeds into its so-called news, you don‘t have to take the White House‘s word for it.  A non-exhaustive list from the Media Matters website details dozens of instances, including October 1st;

“America‘s Newsroom” co-host Bill Hemmer advanced a smear that the Department of Education state school adviser knew of statutory rape, but never reported it. 

May 6th, “America‘s Newsroom” pushed the falsehood that Democrats tried to protect pedophiles by voting in favor of a Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act. 

April 23rd, Mr. Hemmer claims to keep track of the stimulus money, but, in fact, was using research lifted almost verbatim from the website of House Republican Whip Eric Cantor. 

April 15th, “America‘s Newsroom” promoted Tea Party organizing, on air and online, frequently posting specific information and directing viewers to its websites with a list of protest sites. 

The other example offered by Media Matters are from Fox‘s “Happening Now,” “Live Desk,” “Special Report,” and the broadcast network‘s imitation of an actual Sunday news show, like “Meet the Press,” which it calls “Fox News Sunday.” 

Let‘s bring in MSNBC political analyst, CQPolitics.com columnist Craig Crawford, also now author—co-author of “Attack the Messenger” with Helen Thomas of—we got this all screwed up here. 

(CROSS TALK)

OLBERMANN:  We have too many words here for me.  Co-author with Helen Thomas of “Listen up Mr. President, Everything You Always Wanted Your President To Know and Do.”  Hi, Craig. 

CRAIG CRAWFORD, CQPOLITICS.COM:  Hi. 

OLBERMANN:  My sense here is the White House reacts viscerally to the carnival fun house stuff that the Becks and the Hannitys and the O‘Reillys do, but what they are worried about, in terms of its affect on society, is the in by the side door method of main-streaming a dubious story.  Explain that—I went through it cursorily.  But explain the process in better terms than I used, and why they would be worried about it. 

CRAWFORD:  Well, back in the old Monica Lewinsky days, I used to call it the baton march of the bogus, where a crazy rumor or story would start in a blog or a gossip rag somewhere on the Internets.  Then it would move to English newspapers.  Then it would move to a tabloid here.  And pretty soon, it‘s on the network news.  That happened over and over and over again.

Now, that cycle seems compressed.  It used to take a week or two or more.  Now, it‘s a lot quicker. 

OLBERMANN:  If a TV outfit covers one story—the Lewinsky thing is a perfect example, but we‘re not talking about anything nearly as substantial news-wise.  However trumped up, and they cover it 400 shows in a row, the real news outlets begin to second guess themselves.  That‘s another point the White House is making that I don‘t think is getting the attention perhaps it deserves. 

CRAWFORD:  What happens is the main stream media gets hammered, being attacked for covering up the story.  Then they feel like they have to do something.  And in some cases, they will write about how they are not writing about the story and why, or they will cover the people who are attacking them.  And pretty soon, the story is in mainstream media and becomes real. 

I would point out, however, that with a lot of what Fox News does, if the attack is that they are a Republican campaign machine, they sure did a lousy job of it in the last election.  We have a deeply Democratic Congress, a Democratic president, and most of the world worships Barack Obama. 

OLBERMANN:  Also, the other part about this—I have no credibility to tell anybody not to push back against Fox News.  It would be laughable if I said that for a minute, even if I felt that for a moment.  But the active push back against media outlets of any kind has got to be a tight rope.  What do you see the negatives as being? 

CRAWFORD:  The problem for presidents, I think, when they punch down, take on a lesser foe—I think presidents are better off when they punch up, take on bigger foes.  I think the real problems this White House has are among political leaders, lawmakers on Capitol Hill, Republicans who are in the way with their legislation.  They seem to take a kid glove approach to some of those Republicans and conservative Democrats on Capitol Hill, who are in the way on health reform and other things.  That‘s where their problems lie.  It‘s not Fox. 

I do think one thing they are concerned about is this mid-term election coming up, the Congressional elections next year, because, with such low turnout in midterm elections, the feisty even minority of the voters, the Republicans and conservatives who watch Fox, can have a disproportionate impact.  So if Fox is allowed to really whip them up, it could hurt a lot of Congressional races for Democrats on the House and Senate side. 

OLBERMANN:  What about the bully theory?  Being that you learn very early in life that the bully is going to hit you, whether or not you hit back.  You might as well hit back. 

CRAWFORD:  Right.  The best defense can be an offense sometimes.  As I said, take on somebody at least equal to you in the great arena of politics.  I think taking on a cable channel like this, singling out individual hosts, just elevates them, give them what they want, which attention, and allows them to continue the circus, and the almost comic opera of characters, good and bad and villains and so on, that they play on that network.  This White House is helping them feed that story line. 

OLBERMANN:  I‘m just glad there‘s somebody helping me do this.  Craig Crawford of MSNBC and CQPolitics.com.  Thanks, Craig. 

CRAWFORD:  Good to be here. 

OLBERMANN:  There‘s a perfect example of the main-streaming of a crazy story in worsts, tonight.  Calling TV executives who are pushing story lines about volunteering Maoists. 

Then the balloon boy story took another bizarre twist.  The reality show dad thought he would get out of the stunt, he had already written the theme song.  Now, to sing some it for you before the commercial, you know him as the cop in our re-enactment of the arrest of Senator Larry Craig, and as the happy typist in Liz Beckton (ph) email saga.  Ladies and gentlemen, here are the song stylings of COUNTDOWN producer Carry Fox (ph).

(SINGING)

OLBERMANN:  The song of the balloon family.  So confident was he that this publicity stunt involving a run-away aircraft and his six year old kid would get him a TV show that Richard Heene had already written a theme song.  That‘s next, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s number two story, tonight‘s worst persons in the world. 

The bronze to Republican Congressman Greg Harper, third district Mississippi.  Asked a bunch of joking questions in a joking interview with Politico.  One of them was about a group to which he belongs.  “What in the world does the Congressional Sportsmen‘s Caucus do?”  His answer, “we hunt liberal, tree hugging Democrats.  Although it does seem like a waste of good ammunition.”

It‘s a stupid jokey answer to a stupid jokey question.  But Congressman, three Civil Rights workers were lynched from trees in your district in 1964.  At minimum, the joke is in very bad taste.  Harper‘s spokesman says no apology is forthcoming, that the remarks were supposed to be fun.  I am sure that‘s true.  I‘m just not at all sure that all of your constituents will think that was a joke.  Just say it was meant as a joke.  It offended many.  I‘m sorry.  Why is this so fricking difficult. 

Our runner up, Boss Limbaugh.  He is in high dungeon, because somebody caught on to his real deal, CNN.  “They‘ve got a reporter who stalks me, Carol Costello.  She‘s actually the beat reporter assigned to me.  That‘s why I call her a stalker.  She did today, started a series of reports today, anger on the air.  Talk radio made our country viciously partisan.  They went out and they found a psychiatrist to analyze the situation.  The answer is that I bully you.  You know what, Carol, you need to go sit on a fire hydrant and improve your day.” 

You do not need a psychologist to figure out that piece of childish fantasy.  Emotionally, Rush Limbaugh is a 14-year-old boy.

But our winner, Lonesome Roads Beck.  The “LA Times” reported that the Entertainment Industry Foundation, one of the top Hollywood charitable organization, which held a Stand-Up To Cancer tell-a-thon last year, has gotten its members of all the broadcast networks, many of the cable ones, to put story lines in dramas and comedies for a week about volunteering.  An “LA Times” article about this noted the foundation‘s chairwoman was inspired by the call for more volunteerism last year by candidates McCain and Obama.  The story quoted NBC‘s esteemed VP of programming, planning and scheduling, Mitch Metcalf, who said “we‘re lucky that the Obama administration happened to think this was a worthy cause, and that the first lady, in particular, is behind this general effort.  But that just provides support and shines a spotlight on it.  We are certainly not servicing the White House.” 

So they were inspired by McCain and Obama.  They were going to do this before Obama was elected.  They did it for one week.  Among the networks putting in the volunteering plot lines is Fox.  So you know what this all means to Beck?  It‘s an NBC conspiracy, with Obama and Chairman Mao. 

“Are we running out of volunteers in the country?  Are we trying to fix a problem that doesn‘t exist?  Are we creating a problem that doesn‘t exist to have an emergency that doesn‘t yet exist?” 

No.  You‘re nuts.  “Or is it just a coincidence that all of this falls in line with President Obama‘s Corporation for National and Community Service, and a call for more service and volunteerism?  Or not a coincidence at all?” 

No.  You‘re nuts. 

“This is fantastic.  It‘s almost like living in Mao‘s China right now.  But Mitch Metcalf, an EIF board member and NBC executive—my god, it can‘t be.  This can‘t be true, right, an NBC executive?” 

No.  You‘re nuts. 

“Obama controls the message through the media he holds in his pocket, or his little hand that soon, if you disobey, he will just go.” 

No.  You‘re nuts. 

“Now, the message will be embedded in television shows.  Isn‘t that great?  Aren‘t you proud of what we‘re doing?” 

No.  You‘re nuts. 

“Information control.  I‘m going to break it down for you.  I believe, by the end of the week, you‘ll be shocked.” 

No, I‘m shocked now.  Dude, it‘s about volunteering, charity.  Ain‘t got squat to do with who is president.  It‘s what you claim every other day of the week you believe in.  It‘s being done by your own employers.  Seriously, Glenn, delusional paranoia is a hell of a disease, man.  See a pastor, get a pill, check in somewhere.  You‘re nuts. 

Glenn Beck, today‘s worst—well, put it this way, he has issues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  There is a great risk in becoming a publicity hound.  And in our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, the former Miss California, Carrie Prejean, and hoaxter Richard Heene—the photo of Mr. Heene is not doctored—are discovering the downside separately.  The latest revelation from Mr. Heene, the aforementioned theme song for the reality show he was pushing.

As for Ms. Prejean, she‘s literally being sued over her breast augmentation.  Miss California, USA, the pageant company, requesting that Ms. Prejean return 5,200 dollars.  That would be the money it gave her for the aforementioned augmentation.  All part of the pageants counter-suit, which states, quote, “had Prejean headed the guidance of the Gospel of John, who admonished only those who were without sin to cast stones in judgment, she might have avoided this legal battle.” 

Ms. Prejean, you may recall, had sued the pageant for, among other things, disclosure of private facts.  But the counter-suit claims that Prejean‘s breast augmentation became obvious in the swim suit competition.  Ouch, babe. 

Meantime, back at the ranch, or rather the backyard of the fabulous flying Heenes, that theme song for Richard Heene‘s cockamamie reality show has been obtained by TMZ.  We‘ve given you a live rendition on this show.  Here it is form Mr. Heene, himself. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(SINGING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Joining me now, as the blood flows from our ears, Michael Musto, “Village Voice” columnist, also the author of the forthcoming book, “Fork on the Left, Knife in the Back.”  Good evening, Michael. 

MICHAEL MUSTO, “VILLAGE VOICE”:  Hello, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  He went with the rhyme of effective and detective, instead of Heene and bikini or Heene and weanie? 

MUSTO:  Or Heene, meanie, minie, ho, or, I don‘t know, trash compactor, tractor, balloon, saloon, con artist, pineapple.  There are so many great rhymes out there.  Get a thesaurus.   

OLBERMANN:  Do we assume—I heard the Monty Python guys used to do that.  They actually looked for great words.  Is there a relationship between that song and this poor kid, Falcon Heene, vomiting twice on live TV? 

MUSTO:  No, but there is a relation to me vomiting when I heard them at home.  These songs, if they were put in a balloon, nobody would chase them.  One more twang of that guitar and I would be spewing my Chuck-E-Cheese.  They are awful. 

OLBERMANN:  Another one line of the song and he would have been singing through the top of his head, his voice would have had to have gone so high. 

MUSTO:  It‘s like the “Beverly Hills Theme” on extra moonshine.  Ode to Billy Joel on Crack. 

OLBERMANN:  How do you grade this guy on the scale of great show business fathers? 

MUSTO:  Somewhere between Ozzy Osbourne, John Phillips, the bounty hunter.  Larry, what‘s his name.  Larry Birkhead.  I mean, this guy makes Jon and Kate look like the Von Trapp family.  At least he didn‘t put the kid in the balloon though.  I‘ll give him that much.  Please, put the songs in there. 

OLBERMANN:  Is he going to get, ultimately, some sort of reality show? 

If so, on which cable network. 

MUSTO:  Some of that twangy music to me sounds like the background music from “Deliverance,” particularly the scene where—

(CROSS TALK)

OLBERMANN:  How about Logo or Sy-Fy, which has that interesting spelling, like one of his shows.  Or I don‘t know, I think Fox News, because Obama has already made that OK for us to hate.  You were ahead of that curve. 

OLBERMANN:  Thank you.  I knew I had to be eventually.  Psy as in psychotic.  To Miss Prejean, briefly.  You play Judge Judy in this equation here.  Does the Miss California pageant have a prayer of getting their breast augmentation loan back? 

MUSTO:  They have a better chance of getting the breasts themselves.  But no, that money is spent.  By the way, Keith, we were just talking about balloon boy.  Now we‘re talking about balloon girl.  I‘m so proud of that one. 

Look, I‘m not making fun of her because she‘s beautiful.  Let‘s face it, she could be a float in the Macy‘s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  She‘s very inflated and she‘s not giving it back.  She didn‘t even keep the receipts.

OLBERMANN:  She says her privacy was breached when the boob job came out.  Yet, she didn‘t have a problem sort of positioning herself to get in the privacy of the lives of gay people who wanted to get married.  Do you think the irony of that is intelligible to her? 

MUSTO:  I think she leaves ironing to the help.  Oh, irony?  I can‘t believe I went there.  No, she‘s not big on irony.  I actually think she has some consistency, or feels she‘s being consistent, in thinking, well, two large same-size breasts should not be discussed any more than two same-sex genitals.  Whatever. 

OLBERMANN:  Let‘s do a little science on the way out here.  The Duke University physiological study on young men during election night last year says—it says that testosterone levels of young men who voted for Obama remained the same when they found out he had won.  But McCain and Bob Barr voters found out that they lost, their testosterone dropped significantly.  Take 25 seconds and explain that, Dr. Musto. 

MUSTO:  I have no idea, Keith.  But I‘d like to know how Larry Craig got the job of standing in the voting booth and testing all the testosterone levels.  By the way, Jodie Foster‘s was very high.

I also think it‘s sad that Bob Dole voted for McCain, because he really could have used the erectile boost. 

OLBERMANN:  Also, did you notice we mentioned Bob Barr ran for president last year?  That hasn‘t been mentioned since last year.

MUSTO:  Yes.  No wonder there were flaccid penises everywhere. 

OLBERMANN:  We almost got through one segment in tact. 

MUSTO:  Carrie Prejean‘s bosom.

OLBERMANN:  The one and only Michael Musto, great thanks for you time, Michael.

MUSTO:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  Well, that‘s COUNTDOWN For this 2,364th day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq.  I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.

Now with news that there is a Prop 8 movement festering in Maine, ladies and gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow.  Good evening, Rachel.

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

END   

Transcription Copyright 2009 CQ Transcriptions, 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 CQ Transcriptions, LLC‘s copyright or

other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal

transcript for purposes of litigation.>

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,