updated 8/18/2010 12:34:23 PM ET 2010-08-18T16:34:23

Guests: Eugene Robinson, Corey Saylor, Spike Lee, Eric Burns, Alex Pareene

           

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

The Park 51 cultural center and the red herring.  Phony right-wing outrage in New York, while Muslims face real discrimination below the radar around the country—and the GOP gets to avoid the issues.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Double digits when it comes to unemployment.  And this is the best that we can do in America?  This is what we want to focus on?  This is what politicians want to run on?

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OLBERMANN:  “If God Is Willing and Da Creek Don‘t Rise.”

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This oil spill is the biggest environmental disaster in American history.

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OLBERMANN:  Our guest on his new documentary about the Gulf Coast, in the time of Katrina and BP: Spike Lee.

Smell test, literally.  How the government now checks if there‘s dispersant in Gulf Coast seafood—sniff it and see if it smells like Windex.

All pretense dropped.  FOX News‘ parent company gives a huge donation to the Republican Governors Association.  How much?

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  One million dollars.

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OLBERMANN:  Funny, didn‘t the real life version of that character say

--

           

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RUPERT MURDOCH, NEWS CORP.:  I don‘t think we should be supporting the Tea Party or any other party.

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OLBERMANN:  Tea Party hostile takeover.  A bunch of white corporate fat cats is trying to commandeer the GOP.  What about their current bunch of white corporate fat cats?

Our guest: “Salon‘s” Alex Pareene.

“Worsts”: Missing for 26 days, fiance polygraphed, web sites set up, two states searching.  She‘s fine.  You will never believe this story.

All the new and commentary—now on COUNTDOWN.

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OLBERMANN:  Good evening from New York.

Many colonists, like those who settled in Jamestown in Virginia, traveled in search of fortune, betting that the cultivation of cash crops, such as tobacco, would allow them to realize the promise in a promised land.  But others, like those who landed at Plymouth Rock, hope for a different reward, sailing to the new world on the Mayflower to escape religious persecution.

Our fifth story: put aside the ginned up faux controversy surrounding the building of an Islamist community center somewhere near Ground Zero—the non-news that Republicans want you to talk about instead of focusing upon unemployment, the Gulf oil disaster, health care.

The real actual controversy might be this: the threat to religious freedom, a threat already being faced by other Muslim Americans nationwide, and a freedom upon which this nation was founded.  Those who oppose the Islamic community center near Ground Zero, being many of the same people who love to wrap themselves in the yellow parchment of our founding documents with little to no understanding of what those documents represent.

Muslim and interfaith leaders today are expressing concern that the question of religious freedom is not contained to Lower Manhattan, calling for the protection of community centers, of mosques, of other houses of worship, of Muslim Americans, and of other worshippers around the country, their fears not unfounded.  Recent weeks and months witnessing an alarming rise in incidents.

Mosques now facing zoning challenges in Tennessee, in California, in Georgia, in Kentucky, in Wisconsin and in Illinois; standing room-only in a courthouse when a proposed facility in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, was discussed—as well as only miles from Ground Zero, itself, in Midland Beach in Staten Island, and Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn.

Then there‘s the unmasked hatred and violence.  Last week, Christians protestors confronting worshippers outside a mosque in Bridgeport, Connecticut, before Friday evening prayer services during Ramadan just because.  Screaming, among other things, “Jesus hates Muslims” and calling the children murderers.

In Jacksonville, in Florida in May, the pipe bombing of the mosque—the FBI is investigating it as a possible domestic terrorist incident.

In the San Francisco Bay Area in California, Muslim man beaten in broad daylight by attackers who called him a terrorist.

And mother and son reported assaulted after a softball game in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  Why?  The Iraqi immigrant who moved her family here to escape violence tried to defend her adult son when he was called “raghead,” “terrorist” and “camel jockey‘ by members of the opposing team.  Also, the man‘s jaw is broken, now wired shut.  The police is saying the incident seemed to be trash talking that got out of hand.

The attackers in these cases are calling their victims terrorists.  The attackers meanwhile claiming they, themselves, oppose violence, while they were assaulting others.

By the same logic, the man behind the Islamic community center near Ground Zero, Feisal Abdul Rauf, has been called a radical Muslim, a militant Islamist, and the enemy—when in point and fact, reporting “The Huffington Post” today, he has spent the past decade helping the FBI as tried to crackdown on domestic security threats.  The portrait does not meet the manufactured reality of how Feisal Abdul Rauf is now being painted.

Just as the manufactured outrage against this community center does not address the lack of outrage over the two prayer centers, the masjids—one, a dozens blocks from Ground Zero, the other one shown here, four blocks away and in operation without incident since 1970.

Or the halal carts that had been serving what New Yorkers adoringly refer to as street meat to New Yorkers both before the 9/11 attacks and in the decades since.

At today‘s news conference in Washington, Muslim and interfaith leaders are decrying how the ginned up controversy has been used for chief political purposes.

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IBRAHIM RAMEY, MUSLIM AMERICAN SOCIETY:  They are good citizens.  They are good Muslims and they‘re good human beings.  And to see them demonized and drag through the mud, the way some people are willing to do for political gain or their own political issues and agendas is really reprehensible.

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OLBERMANN:  Let‘s turn first Corey Saylor, the national legislative director of CAIR, the Council on American Islamic Relations.

Mr. Saylor, thanks for your time tonight.

COREY SAYLOR, COUNCIL ON AMERICAN-ISLAMIC RELATIONS:  Thanks for having me on, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Is Ground Zero and Park 51, is that a deck?  Is that a feint?  Is it an attempt to obscure this larger pattern of discrimination and of hatred and violence?

SAYLOR:  Yes.  Some times you have to wonder if somebody thinks it might be a good way to obscure other more immediate issues like the economy and what‘s going on in the Gulf.  But, realistically, you know, it‘s not just this mosque in Lower Manhattan that‘s being attacked.  It‘s just about every Islamic center that‘s trying to do any kind of construction or expansion across the country.

That has to strike everyone as deeply troubling, when any one faith can be subjected to attacks like this, with people calling for all Muslims to leave this country, other people calling for all the—no more mosque building.  That can, at any point in time, be applied to other faiths in this country.

So, right now is the time for everyone to stand up and say, no, the Constitution is not subject to opinion polling.  The Constitution is our founding document.  We must stand by it—freedom for all religions.

OLBERMANN:  Does this take you by surprise after the—say the first seven years after 9/11 when it was not perfect by any means.  There was blowback against the Muslim community and the Arab communities in this country.  But there was nothing that had this sort of undertone of connection to it like this seems to.  Were you surprised by it?

SAYLOR:  Unfortunately, no, but I think the visceral anger that we see is—I don‘t want to call it surprising, but what disturbs me the most—

I mean, you had in your opening segment a man place a bomb outside a mosque.  Had he placed it in the right position, it would have killed or injured up to 60 people inside.

And this almost gets no news whatsoever.  And there are still elements

that want to say that, you know, Muslims are the extremists, Muslims are

terrorists.  And yet when Joe Stack flies an airplane into a build in Texas

that‘s not called terrorism.  So, it seems like the label is definitely unfairly applied.

           

OLBERMANN:  Yes, if it were—if the Muslim Americans were the committers of these attacks rather than being the victims, would there be doubt what the charges would be?

SAYLOR:  No.  Unfortunately, not at all.  The way you smear Muslims in this country right now is you call them terrorists and unfortunately, any time someone lifts their finger, they‘re accused of a terrorist act.  I mean, look at Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the man behind the initiative in New York.  This is a guy who‘s been consulting with the FBI.

The Bush administration sent him overseas to try to win hearts and minds in the Muslim world.  This man is renowned—Jewish, Christian leaders in New York are saying this is a man of peace.  And yet, now, he‘s under attack and being called an extremist.

OLBERMANN:  The project with which he is involved—is there any doubt that that project in Lower Manhattan is on firm legal footing?

SAYLOR:  I think the vote last week shows it.  You have a unanimous vote in favor of the mosque.  Believe me, if there was any legal question with their right to go forward with this initiative, it would have been brought up and dealt with then.

OLBERMANN:  And is there not some irony to the fact that the federal

law that would prevent New York from changing the zoning requirements or

not going along with what is legal there, was passed by Republican Houses -

the House of Representatives and Republican Senate in 2000?  Something of an irony to that, don‘t you think?

           

SAYLOR:  Well, I think that, unfortunately, many people in the Republican Party—I don‘t think the Republican Party as a whole, because you haven‘t heard from the RNC or Michael Steele, but the people in the Republican Party—people in the Republican Party as a whole have been leading this anti-Muslim charge.  Senator Harry Reid, the Democrat, being the one lone standout on the Democratic side.

And it is troubling.  I‘d like the Republican Party to remember its own roots.  They were the ones who—they are the party of Abraham Lincoln.  They led the way in pushing slavery aside and moving our country forward.  I think it‘s time for them to lead the way and help push aside the kind of bigotry that‘s focused on American Muslims right now.

OLBERMANN:   Corey Saylor, Council of American-Islamic Relations—great thanks for your time tonight, sir.

SAYLOR:  Appreciate it, Keith.  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  For more on the overall political picture turning on this, let‘s turn now to our own Eugene Robinson, also associate editor, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist at “The Washington Post.”

Gene, good evening.

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  What have we not been talking about during these 24-hour news cycles that are been commandeered by the so-called mosque controversy?

ROBINSON:  Oh, boy, basically anything important.  We haven‘t been talking about the economy.  We haven‘t been talking about Iraq or Afghanistan.

We haven‘t been talking about who should be elected senator or representative in the elections coming up in November.  We haven‘t been talking about anything that—that really matters materially to the American people.  We‘ve just been talking about this non-story that is constructed on wholly false premises.

OLBERMANN:  And those wholly false premises, that started in December.  This was barely a blip on the radar at that point.  Laura Ingraham, who let her shrill down, defended this on FOX and only when the right-wing media machine, particularly Mr. Murdoch‘s operations, and the Republicans, propped it up and decided this should be a story, everybody else ran with it.

Is this not what to some degree sort of textbook what the president was complaining about regarding that operation over there?  You push a phony controversy long enough and eventually, actual news organizations feel some sort of bizarre obligation to report on it no matter how much it was bull—you know the rest of that word.

ROBINSON:  Absolutely.  And I don‘t know why we keep doing this.  You know, we can sit around and say, well, this isn‘t a story.  You know?  Just look at what it‘s called.  The Ground Zero mosque—well, you know, it‘s not at Ground Zero.  It‘s—there‘s a prayer room, but it‘s really a community center.

Yet, we seem to be unable to help ourselves, and the right-wing image machine, which has been spectacularly effective over the last couple of years, knows this.  And they know that if they can define the terms an imagery of the issue, then the battle is fought on what they consider favorable ground.  And so, when you say Ground Zero mosque, well, everybody can picture the site of the World Trade Center and everybody can picture a mosque.  You see minarets and maybe domes in the middle of this.

OLBERMANN:  In the middle of it—in the middle of the site.  That‘s the image.

ROBINSON:  Right in the middle of it, right on top of it, when nothing could be farther from the truth.  But that‘s what the image that I fear is in a lot of people‘s minds.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  More people have been surprised by the idea that it‘s at some distance, that‘s it‘s not sitting there, you know, right next to the Burger King and Ground Zero strip joint which is across the street.

Last August, you and I were talking about town hall meetings and hysteria and death panels and hysteria and killing grandma and hysteria.  Is it just August, August, or is something else going on?

ROBINSON:  Well, August is August.  I mean, it‘s traditionally thought of as a slow news month.  And, in fact, there‘s always news in August.  The problem is the news is about an inch deep.  There‘s not that second or third story to fill those inside pages.

And so, something, you know, a live day story—a running story is something that news organizations jump at.  Nonetheless, that does not take away the responsibility to sit and think—well, is this actually a story and are we actually telling the truth when we report it in the way we report it?  And I don‘t think enough of us have stopped to think that basic thought.

OLBERMANN:  Or is the story, how it has been fabricated?  Why are the mainstream news organizations not when they send—when they sent out the nightly news reporters—not particular to NBC—the nightly news reporters, why they‘re not sending them out to do a story about how a story has been fabricated?  That would be actual journalism.  We don‘t practice it very much in this company, in this country, and in this nation, and this world.

MSNBC contributor Gene Robinson—great thanks, Gene.

ROBINSON:  Great to be here, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  The Gulf.  His documentary on what is literally the smell test for the nation‘s fish yield.  Spike Lee—next.

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OLBERMANN:  The man behind “”If God Is Willing and Da Creek Don‘t Rise” on the Gulf Coast, and the smell test—which is the only way to tell if there‘s dispersant in the seafood.  Sniff it.

Was it the most famous moment in sport‘s history?  The man at its center has died.

So much for his protestations that his network supports no one.  He‘s given the Republican Governors $1 million.

And the Tea Party reveals its plans to take over the Republican Party.  It involves replacing career politicians with outsiders—like him, former Republican majority leader in the House of Representatives.  How does that work exactly?

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OLBERMANN:  Government scientists had estimated that only about 25 percent of the Gulf oil spill remained in significant form.  But a new study now says it‘s more like three times that amount and as much as fishermen want to get back to business, they are calling for more and more credible tests of shrimp and fish—particularly since the FDA measure for dispersants is a smell test.  No figure of speech there.  This smells like oysters, this smells like Windex.

Our fourth story: Day 120 of the crisis in the Gulf.  The filmmaker Spike Lee joins me in a moment.  Scientists at University of Georgia estimate that 70 percent to 79 percent of the spilled oil remains in the Gulf, probably below the surface.

The leader of the UGA research group saying, quote, “One major misconception is oil that has dissolved into water is gone and therefore harmless.  The oil is still out there and it will likely take years to completely degrade,” he said.

The UGA study is not yet published or peer-reviewed.  But it raises serious questions about the claims of federal scientists.  For instance, how much of that oil could have possibly evaporated by this point?  And how much might still exist under water?

Both the UGA and government reports do agree that oil will continue to break down.

But meantime, shrimpers on the Gulf coast opened yesterday‘s fall season with skepticism, expressing concern that the government‘s testing was simply not adequate.

The FDA and NOAA have tested dozens of fish and shrimp in the region and given the all clear.  But the trained experts use a smell test for dispersants.  They literally sniff for Windex-like odor.  The FDA says it is developing an actual test for dispersants in food.  But an official says that dispersants in small doses are similar to what is consumed in toothpaste and other consumer products—something else for you to worry about.

The FDA also says that all seafood samples tested below the level of concern for petroleum compounds, to say nothing of streaky windshields, but David Veal of the American Shrimp Processors Association told the “Washington Post,” members kept calling him with the question, “Are we sure?”  His answer, “Well, it‘s as sure as we can be if we don‘t trust the FDA and other agencies—who do you trust?”

Louisiana shrimpers have asked BP for millions of dollars to pay for continued testing and requested that federal and local agencies report the results in one central location.

Let‘s bring in now, as promised, filmmaker Spike Lee, who‘s new HBO documentary, “If God is Willing and Da Creek Don‘t Rise,” premiering tonight in New Orleans.  The film debuts on HBO beginning Monday of next week, the 23rd.

Spike, thanks for your time tonight.

SPIKE LEE, FILMMAKER:  How you doing, Keith?

OLBERMANN:  Your new documentary, the five-year anniversary of Katrina, with the, obviously, unwelcomed addition of the BP disaster.  Tell us what your focus is about—

LEE:  Right.

OLBERMANN:  -- about the documentary, itself, first.

LEE:  Well, Keith, we were finished shooting before April 20th, but when the rig blew up, and, I would say, 11 people got murdered—we had to rethink the whole thing.  So, we made nine trips back.  So, the last hour of the four-hour piece is all about BP.

OLBERMANN:  The BP disaster has produced a lot of promises from various quarters, governmentally and not from government, about what‘s going to be done for the Gulf Coat.  Focusing on the aftermath of Katrina and the promises that were made there—how well did those first set of promises pan out?  And what do they tell you about the likelihood of the second set of promises panning out?

LEE:  Well, people here are still waiting for a lot of stuff that was promised from the havoc of Hurricane Katrina and the breach in the levees.  And we‘re getting the same thing from BP.  I think only 25 percent of the claims have been settled by BP.

And you see these commercials, these PSA commercials, they run day and night.  They say, like—well, we‘ll decide if you have a legitimate claim.  That‘s like the—the insurance companies deciding down here.  Very few people got their money.

So, for me, Keith, what—the threat between the first documentary when the levees broke and this one, “If God is Willing, Da Creek Don‘t Rise” is greed—is all about greed.  And I really think that this is going to bring about the downfall of the United States of America because we have people in office appointed and voted in and people in big business positions who only care about the dollar bill and there are people get harmed, people die.  They say that‘s the cost of doing business.

So, it was the greed of the United States Army Corps of Engineers who

did faulty engineering that brought about the breach in the levees and BP

cutting corners down here.  That blowout protector cost a half million

dollars.  Now, who knows how many billions later they‘re paying out?  If

they would have just done what they were supposed to do, but MMS was bought

out.  People are going to Super Bowls (ph), sex orgies, all types of stuff

so they were corrupt.

           

And so, the whole thing is in disarray down here.

OLBERMANN:  If it is that great a threat to the country—obviously,

the first stage in making sure that doesn‘t happen is to keep it front in

mind of people.  Obviously, the timing of the documentary coming out when

it does now, when people seem to be getting the impression everything is

fine now because the spill is not actively spewing 40 million gallons a day

at least the timing of the documentary is good.

           

But are you worried this is going to recede away from the consciousness of America in the coming months?

LEE:  Well, I am.  That‘s why I‘m so grateful that you have me on tonight, because within the last two weeks, we‘ve been getting reports from these government scientists who say 75 percent of the oil has disappeared.  You know, presto, chango, abracadabra, vanish.  Well, my thing is 75 percent of the oil on the surface or 75 percent of the oil in the Gulf?  That‘s the big question.

Another thing, Keith, nobody has gotten ads about BP about how many millions gallons of the dispersant—of the dispersant Corexit has gone into the Gulf?  In five, 10, 15 years from now, we might find out that this Corexit was more—did more damage to the Gulf than the—than the crude oil.

OLBERMANN:  So, what do you think of this latest thing that I mentioned from the University of Georgia?  The scientists there are looking at the government numbers, have reinterpreted them and they say that 70 percent to 79 percent of the spilled oil remains in the Gulf below the surface.

LEE:  Well, I believe that, because the same people who were saying that this is the—the government officials that were saying this is the largest oil disaster of the history of the world, two weeks later made about-face and saying 25 percent of the oil disappeared.  And, to me, this shows you—to me, this shows me the power of BP and the power of the oil and gas industries which make more money than God on this planet.

Throughout this whole thing, I feel—and a lot of those people feel down here—that BP was dictating the United States government what to do.  BP dictated the FAA who could fly over the site.  BP dictated to the Coast Guard and Thad Allen which boats can come and go.  And BP dictated the EPA -- the EPA sent a letter to BP saying we have serious concerns about your dispersant Corexit.  They sent back saying, we‘re going to use it anyway.

So, BP‘s been running things.

OLBERMANN:  “If God Is Willing and Da Creek Don‘t Rise” premiering tonight in New Orleans and on HBO on Monday—Spike Lee, a pleasure as always to see you.  And we‘ve been seeing you a lot recently.  Good to see you.

LEE:  And, Keith—

OLBERMANN:  Yes, sir?

LEE:  What you did last night was phenomenal.  I was jumping up and down in my kitchen.  What you did last night with your “Special Comment”—much love for you.  Much love for you.

OLBERMANN:  I‘m honored, sir.  See you soon.  Thanks again for taking some time.

LEE:  OK.

OLBERMANN:  And to a cause dear to us here at COUNTDOWN with which you have helped immensely.  The National Association of Free Clinics is staging another event, as we‘ve mentioned.  This one will be held in New Orleans on August 31st and September 1st.

Go to www.freeclinics.us to contribute.  Medical and nonmedical volunteers, go to that same Website.  We need your help, too.  And our great thanks.

Rupert Murdoch gives some Republicans $1 million worth of help.  How is this news again?

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OLBERMANN:  A quick re-clarification.  I asked earlier why nightly news reporters didn‘t spend more time doing stories about the fabrication of political controversies.  NBC‘s newscast is called “NBC Nightly News,” but I was not directing my rhetorical question to its reporters, but rather, all those who report the news on a nightly basis on TV, radio, and the Internet.

So, my apologies to my friend Brian Williams and his staff who do such a good job that I think of all reporting as nightly news. 

Now a brief farewell.  In seven weeks, it will have been 60 years since what remains the most iconic moment in the history of baseball, if not in all of American sports.  Sadly, the man who did it will not be there. 

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (INAUDIBLE).  The giants win the pennant!  The giants win!  They‘re going crazy.  They‘re going crazy. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Fifty nine years ago, Bobby Thomson, whose bottom of the ninth last game of the special playoffs home run capped the New York Giants‘ impossible comeback against their cross town rivals, the Brooklyn Dodgers, on October 3rd, 1951.  Died yesterday after a long illness and a fall.  All you truly need to know about Bobby Thomson the man was that he was so unassuming that for nearly all the years after “The Shot Heard Around the World” in ‘51, he remained listed in the local phonebook. 

Let‘s play Oddball. 

We begin in West Sussex, in England, where it‘s a bird; it‘s a plane; it‘s the International Bird Man Competition.  Up in the air, junior bird man, up in the air, upside down.  Close to 10,000 watched this nonsense.  Mary Poppins, greatest rodent spy in the world.  That‘s Mary, I suppose.  There was a prize.  The greatest rodent spy is there.  There was a prize to anyone who could travel 100 meters in the air.  Many tried hang glider-like machines.  It‘s kind of cheating.  Unfortunately, none of those not so high flyers are able to glide the 100 meters and the prize remained unclaimed and there was a lot of release, rotation, splash. 

To Budapest, where the power of Christ compels you to skate.  Meet Reverend Zoltan Lidvy (ph) who‘s been wowing the congregation with his sick shredding skills.  He learned to skate when he was 14, but only recently figured out he could draw people to the church with his board.  No official word if the Pope is in favor of this new gnarly recruiting plan.  But Benedict should be very careful.  Remember the trouble John Paul had after he endorsed the hackie sack. 

Million dollars from Rupert Murdoch‘s company to the Republican Governor‘s Association.  I‘m sorry, a million dollars in cash.  Not just the free pub.  Next.

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OLBERMANN:  Last night on his program, Bill O‘Reilly went after MSNBC‘s parent company, GE, for something that even O‘Reilly acknowledged was hard to get outraged about.  It was not news, but it appears to have come in response to some over the top remarks made here last week about O‘Reilly.  Having stated that as preamble, our third story is not a case of tit for tat, as demonstrated by the fact that it‘s not about O‘Reilly and it was not us who put it in the headlines. 

Our third story tonight was broken by “Business Week” magazine, was picked up all over the Internet today.  The story, Fox News has put its money where its mouth is.  You may remember that this spring Rupert Murdoch, chairman and CEO of the Fox News parent News Corp, was asked by the progressive media watchdog group Media Matters about Fox News‘ open endorsements of right wing Tea Party events. 

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Is it appropriate for a news network to engage in that much politics? 

RUPERT MURDOCH, NEWS CORP CHAIRMAN AND CEO:  No, I don‘t think we should be supporting the Tea Party or any other party.  But I‘d like to investigate what you‘re saying before I condemn anyone. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Fox News never released the findings of Mr. Murdoch‘s investigation.  But two months later, we now know on June 24th, News Corp wrote a check to the Republican Party for a million dollars.  The check was made out to the RGA, Republican Governors Association.  Such massive donations are not permitted for federal campaigns.  News Corp “Business Week” reports, the single largest corporate donor to the RGA.  Murdoch‘s money accounting for five percent of the RGA‘s total fund-raising in the quarter. 

By contrast, the largest donation to the Democratic Governors Association was half a million, which came from the union representing municipal workers.  Without explaining the disconnect with Mr. Murdoch‘s statement that his company could not or should not support any party, a News Corp spokesman said today, quote, “News Corporation believes in the power of free markets and the RGA‘s pro-business agenda supports our priorities at this critical time for our economy.”

Also, News Corp actually—rather, actively “supports organizations that advocate a pro-job, low tax, economic growth agenda.” 

As Media Matters has noted, Fox has not only employed numerous Republican politicians, at least two of whom actually were Republican governors, many of whom are active GOP fund-raiser on air and off.  But many of its media employees have also raised money for the party or openly campaigned for or endorsed Republican candidates. 

Let‘s turn to Eric Burns, president of Media Matters for America. 

Thanks for your time tonight, sir. 

ERIC BURNS, PRESIDENT, MEDIA MATTERS FOR AMERICA:  Thanks for having me, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  We now have another million reasons Fox News is the Republican news channel, correct? 

BURNS:  At least and then some.  It was a year ago, Keith, thereabouts, when I came on this program and said the evidence showed that Fox News was no longer a news organization, but had turned into a political operation.  Since then, as you alluded to in the lead-in, they‘ve sponsored Tea Party protests.  They‘ve hosted them, organized them.  We have Fox News activists and employees out there raising money on behalf of Republican candidates and causes. 

In fact, in this last year, they‘ve raised more than 50 million dollars for Republican candidates and causes.  They‘re smearing Democrats on a near daily basis on Fox News.  They‘re actually creating the talking points that elected officials and candidates on the Republican side are using. 

Of course, now we have this unprecedented million dollar donation to defeat Democratic governors from the company, itself.  And, you know, they‘re really doing everything that the RNC should be doing.  They just do it a lot better. 

OLBERMANN:  Why is it a problem?  I mean, the right‘s going to point to me and to Rachel Maddow and say, look, MSNBC does the same thing.  And we decided it would be an appropriate moment to mention that our parent company, GE, gave 105,000 dollars to the Democratic Gubernatorial Association and also to the Republican Gubernatorial Association 105,000 dollars, a complete 50/50 split, just for the record. 

BURNS:  Look, that‘s hugely different than what we‘ve seen News Corp do.  They‘ve given a million dollars, as you said the largest contribution to the RGA, and they‘ve only given it to one side.  So it‘s completely partisan gift on their part.  When you lump it on top of everything else they‘re doing, it‘s a huge problem for Fox. 

The reality is this is not a news organization.  Every time they say it‘s a news organization, it‘s a lie.  They say they‘re fair and balanced.  That‘s a lie.  You know, as you said earlier, when Rupert Murdoch, chairman of News Corp, was asked if this is something Fox should be engaged in, he said no.  He promised to investigate.  That never happened.  I guess the as a result of that investigation was he decided to donation to defeat Republican governors—Democratic governors, excuse me. 

OLBERMANN:  He investigated and discovered that there was not enough money coming out of his pocket to the Republicans. 

BURNS:  Exactly. 

OLBERMANN:  Why, though—what enabled them, or made them feel, I don‘t know, powerful enough or not—cavalier enough, perhaps, to stop playing coy about this?  I mean, there‘s been a wrist slap here or there when somebody raised funds too obviously or stood there with their hands out, one of the hosts and said, give me the money.  Are all bets off or on?  I mean, I‘m asking you to speculate to some degree.  Why now? 

BURNS:  Look, we‘re coming to the homestretch of the campaign season.  This election in November, there‘s a lot on the line.  Fox clearly has a vested interest, partisan interest in the outcome of this election, not just at the national level, but at the state levels as well.  I think it‘s important for folks to remember that we just had a census in this country which means we‘re about to go through another round of redistricting.  If you have more Republican governors in more state houses, that means we‘re going to see a more—a more likelihood there‘s going to be a repeat of what we saw in Texas with Tom Delay in the mid-decade redistricting, where they essentially stole seven congressional seats. 

So they have the ability, if they have enough Republican governors in place, to really influence the makeup of the Congress for many years to come. 

OLBERMANN:  Media Matters for America President Eric Burns.  Eric, thanks for your time tonight. 

BURNS:  Thank you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  So Dick Armey is trying to lead a Tea Party takeover of the GOP from the professional politicians.  A, he‘s got amnesia, or B, Dick Armey just admitted he‘s not a professional politician? 

This woman is tonight‘s worst person in the world.  That‘s on a night with a Limbaugh and a Beck. 

And at the top of the hour on “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW,” a look at the road from no controversy to faux controversy for Park 51.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  On the day President Obama announced the August 31st deadline for pulling American combat forces out of Iraq, he also warned, quote, “there‘s still those with bombs and bullets who will try to stop Iraq‘s progress.”  This morning in Baghdad, a suicide bomber wearing a vest packed with explosives and nails proved the president‘s words prescient.  On the seventh day of Ramadan and the final day of an Iraqi military recruitment drive, about 1,000 applicants lined up outside an Army base near central Baghdad‘s Mayadan (ph) Square.  Among them was a suicide bomber who blended in with the crowd before blowing himself up. 

Reuters reported 47 were killed.  The Associated Press count is 61.  Some of the wounded were so desperate for work that the injuries were treated at the hospital and then returned to the scene of the bombing, only to be turned away. 

White House Press Secretary—Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton saying today that the president was aware of this morning‘s deadly blast.  Mr. Burton also telling reporters we‘re confident that we‘re moving toward the end of our combat mission in Iraq. 

That assertion supported by the ceremony held yesterday in Northern Baghdad, where the U.S. handed Iraqi security forces control over a large portion of Joint base Balad, one of the largest military bases in the country. 

Worst persons next on COUNTERDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Tea Party Astroturfers admit they‘re trying a hostile takeover of the Republicans.  That‘s next, but first get out your pitchforks and torches, time for tonight‘s worst persons in the world. 

Our bronze to Tokyo Rose Limbaugh, who claims President Obama is, quote, “bragging about his administration‘s accomplishments, accusing Republicans of trying to return to the policies of George W. Bush.  Oh, what we wouldn‘t give to go back a year and a half.  Just turn back the hands of time, before the stimulus bill, before all that rot gut bailout stuff.  What a scam.  We‘re all hoodwinked.  Well, not hoodwinked.  We were jobbed.  Phony crisis.  Imminent destruction of the world economic system unless we bailed out this and bailed out that.” 

Yes, that‘s right, George W. Bush did say all that about the crisis and the imminent destruction of the world economic system.  McCain, too, and Limbaugh.  Indeed, what we wouldn‘t give to go back a year and a half, back when Tokyo Rose Limbaugh had lied for a year and a half less. 

The runner, Lonesome Rhodes Beck, as he smeared Faisal Abdul Rauf, the man who would be the imam inside the prayer space in the community center in Lower Manhattan, Beck did something fascinating.  This is Beck condemning something Rauf about 9/11 on 9/30, 2001. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  He also said, quote, “I wouldn‘t say the United States deserved what happened on 9/11.  But the United States‘ policies were an accessory to the crime that happened.” 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Beck of course left out the context.  Rauf had just said that we in this country ally ourselves with oppressive regimes in many of these countries.  So that was Beck about what Rauf thinks about 9/11; we didn‘t deserve it, but our national actions contributed to what happened because we ally ourselves with oppressive regimes.  This next clip is Beck from four months ago about what Beck thinks about 9/11. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BECK:  When people say they hate us—well, did we deserve 9/11?  No.  But were we minding our business?  No.  Were we in bed with dictators and abandon our values and principles?  Yes.  That causes problems. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Oh, ally yourself with oppressive regimes, in bed with dictators; you and Rauf agree.  Beck‘s got his own problem tonight.  His colleague, Greta Van Susteren, has blogged that he should move his rally on the anniversary of Martin Luther King‘s “I Have a Dream Speech” to a venue other than the Lincoln Memorial. 

But our winner is Tiffany Bray of Fletcher, Oklahoma.  Since July 19th, when she borrowed somebody‘s SUV and left to go shopping in nearby Lawton, her friends and family, led by her fiance, have searched for the missing woman.  They had no contact with her since a terrifying text message on the 23rd which authorities did not release, but which was described by her brother-in-law as, quote, “obvious and very indicative that she‘s in danger.”  A State Bureau of Investigation spokesperson said Bray‘s life was at risk.  Quote, “we have to imagine that she could be held against her will.  And if so, by whom, and where they are, and how we can get her back safely.” 

The fiance was suspected and polygraphed.  Local and state cops and detectives throughout Oklahoma were called on.  Texas Rangers became involved.  Tens of thousands of dollars was spent and a Find Tiffany website was created.  Last Friday, 26 days after she vanished, they found Tiffany Bray.  Her body was found in a hotel room in Corpus Christi, Texas.  The body was found near the body of a man.  There was nothing wrong with either of the bodies.  Tiffany and the guy were alive and well.  It was that that man was not her fiance.  And she hadn‘t been kidnapped.  And she just hadn‘t told anybody. 

Police have charged her with obstructing officers and for borrowing the car.  They say she‘ll have to pay for every dime they spent.  The fiance says he‘ll never speak to her again, that he doesn‘t want her to go to jail, though he thinks he should, and that at least this explains why before she vanished certain of her personal items also disappeared from her house. 

Tiffany Bray of Fletcher, Oklahoma, today‘s worst person in the world.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Grim news revealed early this morning, one can speculate just how members of the Grand Old Party are coping: anger, disbelief, worst of all, culture shock.  Our number one story, Republican party officials preparing for a hostile takeover by other Republican party officials pretending to be non-politicians. 

Well known Astroturf activists Dick Armey and Matt Kibbe firing off the warning signal to their former employers by way of a “Wall Street Journal” op-ed.  “Let us be clear about one thing.  The Tea Party movement is not seeking a junior partnership with the Republican party, but a hostile takeover of it.” 

Both men facing the insurmountable task of merging the interest of the Tea Party with those of the older Tea Party.  Trying their best to outline the difference, “the Tea Party movement has blossomed into a powerful social phenomenon because it‘s leaderless, not directed by any one mind”—boy, Dr. Freud would have fun with this sentence—“political party or parochial agenda.” 

Former RNC staff member Kibbe left behind the shackles of the GOP and its corporate interests to grow those side burns.  I mean, I‘m sorry.  To head up the corporately owned and operated Tea Party organization, Freedom Works.  Mr. Kibbe—any other shot available at all?  Mr. Kibbe also a former Republican congressional aide, speaking to the lack of politics within the Tea Party movement earlier. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATT KIBBE, FMR., RNC STAFFER:  This is a revolution from the bottom up.  This is the real people saying politics is too important to leave it to the politicians.  1994 was an inside job of a few true believers that sort of took over the Republican Caucus. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The terrible outcome of that inside job elevating Mr.

Kibbe‘s partner, Dick Armey, to House Majority Leader.  Fortunately, Mr.  Armey is now a lobbyist and chairman of Freedom Works.  So he‘s not involved on the inside of Washington at all.  Earlier he lauded the virtues of the Tea Party movement, without discrediting the well-known diversity of the GOP. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK ARMEY, FMR. HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER:  You walk among these folk, the first thing you‘re going to see is, these folks are just like me. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Joining me now is Alex Pareene, writer for the “War-Room Blog” for Salon.com.  Thanks for your time tonight, sir.

ALEX PAREENE, SALON.COM:  Thanks for having me on. 

OLBERMANN:  All right, got to start with the obvious questions. 

What‘s the deal with Kibbe‘s side burns? 

PAREENE:  You know, I‘m actually really glad I did not show up with that exact same facial hair today. 

OLBERMANN:  Seriously.  How does somebody as inside politics, as classic smoke-filled room as Dick Armey, say what he said without the entire nation bursting into laughter as he said it? 

PAREENE:  Well, large sections of the nation I‘m sure were bursting into laughter.  But he says it because he‘s a professional.  It‘s what he does.  He‘s a lobbyist and his job is to sort of pretend or invent a ground swell of popular support for positions that he basically is paid to take. 

OLBERMANN:  I‘m going to ask the same question from three different angles.  From the viewpoint of the Tea Party, why did these guys say this now? 

PAREENE:  Well, from the view point of the Tea Party, why they said it now is that they have a book to sell and there‘s an election coming up.  That‘s always a good time to sell your political book and try to get your like-minded friends elected. 

OLBERMANN:  Version number two.  From the viewpoint of what they want the Republicans to think, why did these guys say this now? 

PAREENE:  Well, they want the Republicans to, I mean, basically toe the line and to also, I mean, get excited because now is their chance to, like really prove that all Americans really think the way they do about the capital gains tax.  So it‘s encouraging them to—you know, to really stick with it. 

OLBERMANN:  Lastly, version number three, from the viewpoint of what they want the Democrats to think, why did these guys say this now? 

PAREENE:  They want the Democrats to be terrified.  They want the Democrats to be utterly terrified of passing any progressive legislation or acting on any liberal priorities.  They want the Democrats to feel like the best thing to do is just sort of lay down and die and hope that there will be some of them left in Washington in January. 

OLBERMANN:  With the Tea Party, there‘s always, as you know better than I do, a scam somewhere.  Is there evidence of a new scam or is there something else going on that we‘re just not seeing that‘s below the surface? 

PAREENE:  It‘s not really a new scam.  It‘s sort of the oldest scam in the world, in which the sort of ultra-rich, not just the wealthy, but the incredibly rich, pay people to promulgate their opinion that the ultra-rich are better than us and shouldn‘t ever have to give their money up. 

OLBERMANN:  What‘s the weakness?  When you see people going and being so profoundly self-adoring like that, there‘s always a weakness that they‘re trying to prevent you.  There‘s always the magician‘s misdirection involved.  Is there something about the Tea Party that Armey and Kibbe have just realized that they‘re trying to cover up before anybody catches on? 

PAREENE:  Well, I think when you get basically a big white populist movement in response to Democrats taking control, what you don‘t—what you want to happen is that they‘re going to go around marching against, like, Democratic priorities.  You don‘t want that they‘re going to go around marching against immigrants and against black people.  Not to say that the Tea Parties are racist, but when you have all these white populists together, the fringe people are going to show up.  When you just want to harness their power to get your taxes cut, you might be a little upset when they have other priorities beyond making sure you‘re not paying too much. 

OLBERMANN:  Does Mr. Armey, do you think, regret that last quote that we played, “if you walk among these folks, the first thing you‘re going to say is these focus are just like me?  Is he saying everybody look like Dick Armey? 

PAREENE:  God, in his—he might dream of an America where that‘s true. 

OLBERMANN:  The Dick Armey army. 

PAREENE:  Basically, that‘s exactly what the Tea Party is, in a sense.

OLBERMANN:  Only with those sideburns.  Alex Pareene of Salon.com, thanks for playing along.  I appreciate it.

PAREENE:  Thanks for having me.

OLBERMANN:  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this August 17th, 2010.  It is the 2,665th day since President Bush declared mission accomplished in Iraq, the 2,254th day since he declared victory in Afghanistan, and the first day since Rod Blagojevich was found guilty of covering up something they didn‘t convict him for.  We didn‘t cover that tonight?  Darn. 

I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck. 

And now the provenance of the far right‘s latest big lie, the non-mosque that isn‘t at Ground Zero; in for Rachel Maddow tonight, Chris Hayes.  Good evening, Chris.

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