updated 3/17/2004 10:54:15 AM ET 2004-03-17T15:54:15

Guests: William Donahue, Ed Koch, James Hirsen, James Kennedy, David Frum, Steve Forbes

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  Tonight, “The New York Times” is at it again,

You‘re about to enter SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  No passport required, no censorship allowed. 

George Bush opens an eight-point lead in a national poll.  But “The New York Times” buries the results.  Is it media bias at its worst or more of the same?

Then, the noose is closing around Osama bin Laden‘s neck.  But it looks like Bill Clinton blew chances to bag the man behind 9/11.  We‘ve got an exclusive report. 

And Mel Gibson‘s had enough.  He finally fights back at his “Passion” critics, especially Andy Rooney.  Dr. James Kennedy and former New York Mayor Ed Koch are in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY tonight with their take on Mel‘s counteroffensive.

And a popular store puts out a toy and clothing line that mocks Jesus.  You‘re not going to believe the stuff they‘re pushing.  The head of the Catholic League is here to weigh in on that. 

But, first, is there censorship at “The New York Times”?  You bet there is when it comes to reporting the truth about George W. Bush‘s campaign.  It‘s time for tonight‘s “Real Deal.” 

Now, you can forgive “The New York Times,” and you should, if their coverage leans left of center.  After all, the leading liberal voice of a very liberal town.  But “The Times”‘ desire to remain the paper of record outside of the Big Apple is being threatened by biased reporting on the war and, most recently, on the president‘s reelection campaign.  You know, for the past six months, the media elites have bombarded middle America with horror stories about how badly the president‘s poll numbers are slipping. 

Why, just last week, front-page headlines screamed the news that George Bush was losing by eight points to his Democratic rival, John Kerry.  So when I opened “The New York Times” to page A-24 this morning, I was surprised to read about a new poll that showed that Americans thought their country was headed in the wrong direction.  Now, I wasn‘t surprised by the negative news about the president, but, rather, about the fact that the “Times” had buried it on page A-24. 

But after reading a full eight paragraphs into the story, I learned the shocking news that instead of being behind by eight points, George Bush was actually ahead of John Kerry by eight points.  Now, surely, any self-respecting editor would consider a 16-point swing in a few weeks to be page one news, but not at “The New York Times.” 

Not only did they bury the story in the middle of their newspaper.  They buried the positive poll results in the middle of that story that they buried in the middle of their newspaper.  If “The New York Times”‘ liberal slant hadn‘t already made the paper a parody of itself, I suppose more Americans would be shocked. 

But, unfortunately, unlike most Americans, I still believe newspaper editors can report the facts fair and square to the American people.  But this latest example of shameful bias at “The New York Times” continues to chip away at my faith and the editors of that once great newspaper.  And that‘s tonight‘s “Real Deal.” 

Now, the story buried on page 24 carried the headline—quote—

“Nation‘s Direction Prompts Voters‘ Concern.”  And the story says—quote

·         “Bush faces unrest over the management of the economy.  But the poll numbers show President Bush with a 46 percent lead, John Kerry at 38 percent, and Ralph Nader at 7 percent.”

Here to talk about this story and the way it‘s been covered in this election is Pat Buchanan.  He‘s an MSNBC political analyst and a former presidential candidate himself, also, Lawrence O‘Donnell, “West Wing” consultant and senior MSNBC political analyst. 

I want to start with you, Pat Buchanan. 

Now, John Kerry seems to be bleeding.  He‘s lost 16 points in just a week or two.  What‘s happening?  What‘s accounted for this big turnaround in this “New York Times” poll? 

PAT BUCHANAN, NBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, John Kerry had a tremendous two months in January and February.

But what‘s going on now, Joe, is this.  For the last eight days or so, he‘s been fighting two issues.  One, the Republicans are all crooks and liars, but I‘m not going to tell you who they are.  And the second one is this most recent thing, this most recent flap he‘s been involved in, where he‘s talking about foreign leaders who are telling him he‘s the man and he‘s got to beat Bush.  But he hasn‘t met with any foreign leaders. 

But the real problem, Joe, in that poll is the one I see.  It‘s not so much the back and forth.  The internals of the polls show that Kerry is known to about 58 percent or 59 percent of the people; 29 percent of them have an unfavorable view and 28 percent favorable.  That is a collapse of his favorability rating.  There‘s 40 percent of the country that doesn‘t know him, and now he‘s got these problems and Bush‘s attack ads are just coming in. 

So what you could have, and this is going on long, is you could freeze in a very negative attitude on the part of the people about Kerry, which is a first impression, very hard to change. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Lawrence O‘Donnell, the Bush team obviously keeps releasing ads.  Today, they released an ad highlighting Senator Kerry‘s voting record when it comes to troops.  I want to play it for you and get your response. 


NARRATOR:  Though John Kerry voted in October 2002 for military action in Iraq, he later voted against funding our soldiers. 


NARRATOR:  No.  Body armor for troops in combat. 


NARRATOR:  No.  Higher combat pay. 



UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And better health care for reservists and their families.

NARRATOR:  Mr. Kerry.



SCARBOROUGH:  Lawrence O‘Donnell, are these ads seemingly working so well because John Kerry is not defined, people don‘t know who he is? 

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, MSNBC SR. POLITICAL ANALYST:  I think that‘s a good ad, Joe.  It might be too early for that particular ad, because of it easily being described as a negative ad. 

Now, it‘s an informative negative ad.  Kerry will surely, within 24 hours, have a counter-ad to that explaining his positions on those votes and the fact that he‘s in favor of greater veterans benefits than the president has put in his budget.  So there will be a counter to it that should probably be pretty effective, too. 

But, Joe, let me just jump back to “The New York Times” poll for a second, because I, for one, am finally thrilled that “The New York Times” is the first newspaper in America to learn how to present a poll.  I‘ve always thought...



SCARBOROUGH:  I‘ll bet. 

O‘DONNELL:  I always thought it was journalistically criminal for “The Los Angeles Times,” or “The L.A. Times,” or any newspaper to commission a poll and then declare it to be the most important news in America, that their work, this thing they created, is news. 

Putting it in the back pages and not highlighting the highly speculative, you know, Bush-Kerry numbers, putting it down in paragraph eight was the most sensible use of poll I‘ve ever seen. 


SCARBOROUGH:  But, of course, you know, though, if the poll had been bad news for George Bush, it would have been A-1, banner headlines. 

O‘DONNELL:  Joe, if that‘s true, then that is a worst journalistic crime. 

I hope not.  I hope what this means is that “The New York Times” has decided, when we buy a poll, when we and CBS news or NBC News, when we in journalism buy and pay for a poll, it is not news.  It is interesting.  It is worth giving to Pat Buchanan and to all of us to read and take apart, but it is not the nation‘s most important news, especially on poll numbers this far away from an election. 

BUCHANAN:  All right.  But there is, Joe—I mean, Larry, there is in this poll, there are two numbers.  One of them is bad news for Bush.  When the country is headed in the wrong direction, according the majority of the people, the president of the United States is vulnerable. 

But I‘ll tell you, Lawrence, I do see in these numbers, Kerry‘s favorables were something like 37 to 25 or something like that.  They have now gone down to 29 unfavorable, 28 favorable, with 41 percent of the country not even knowing the guy and all these negative ads hitting.  And I don‘t think John Kerry‘s got the money to respond to this. 

I think—you know, there are races that are won and lost in April. 

And I think this could be one of them. 


O‘DONNELL:  This poll has some very, very bad news for the president, a 30 percent majority saying the president‘s economic policies have hurt the economy, a very big majority saying John Kerry will create more jobs and Bush will not create jobs.  There‘s some really bad news in it. 


SCARBOROUGH:  I‘ll tell you what shocked me about this poll is, actually, more people think that George Bush cares about people like them than John Kerry.  I don‘t think I‘ve ever seen a Republican win on that number. 

Let me bring in Steve Forbes, another candidate for president in past elections. 

Steve Forbes, why do you think there‘s been this 16-point turnaround in the past few weeks?  Do you think it all boils down to John Kerry‘s credibility on the flip-flops or do you think it has more to do with his voting record in the Senate? 

STEVE FORBES, CEO, FORBES INC.:  Oh, I think the impression is beginning to go out there that Kerry is more of a weather vane. 

George Bush I think is being portrayed as the eagle and Kerry is the weather vane.  And Pat is right.  He has not formed a strong impression yet with most of the American public.  And by going early, the Bush people, I think they can turn it around.  And, on the economy, even though the poll numbers are very negative right now, as the year wears on and the recovery becomes more real to more real people, I think those numbers will change as well. 


BUCHANAN:  Joe, let me respond to that, that—Steve is right. 

Now, the numbers on the economy are bad for Bush.  But those numbers can change.  If the economy, if they create a lot of jobs, everybody will feel better.  His numbers will go up.  But what people think about your character, that‘s what‘s starting to take effect on Kerry. 

O‘DONNELL:  Well, Pat, 45 percent of the respondent think that the president will say whatever the audience wants to hear. 

Now, everyone in this poll knows the president.  About half of the people in the poll don‘t really have an impression of Kerry.  Kerry is the one where the impression is forming.  The president changing—for the president to change the public‘s impression of him is a much more difficult job. 

BUCHANAN:  But Kerry—a majority of the people that know Kerry think he will take any position that will help him politically, and when they‘re just getting to know him, Larry. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Steve Forbes, I‘ve got to bring you in here.  I‘ve been taken aback—really, I have—by how people have responded to this foreign leaders gate situation, this dust-up over the past week with Senator Kerry.  Do small issues like that, a slip of the tongue, really have the effect of changing the entire dynamics of a campaign this early? 

FORBES:  Well, I think if there had not been any doubts about John Kerry‘s veracity or his ability to stay on a straight line for a while on various issues, that world leader thing would have just been a tempest in a teapot. 

But I think one of the things he‘s learning is, it‘s very different from being a campaigner in primary for a party nomination or a U.S.  senator, where your words aren‘t parsed the way you are when you‘re a prospective president of the United States, you have your party‘s nomination or virtually have your party‘s nomination.  He‘s discovering very quickly those things get taken very seriously, and if you make a mistake and say, well, the world leaders are for me—as Pat pointed out, he hasn‘t met a world leader in two years.

Unless they call him in the middle of the night and whisper, John, we love you and we can‘t say it in public, the guy looks like—he comes off as a blowhard. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right. 

FORBES:  And that‘s very damaging and underscores these ads that the Bush people are putting out.  What Kerry did really provided ammunition for the Republicans. 

SCARBOROUGH:  We‘re going to have to leave it there. 

Steve Forbes, Pat Buchanan, and Lawrence O‘Donnell, as always, thank you all for being with us tonight. 

Now, later on, I know somebody else who isn‘t too happy with “The New York Times.”  Mel Gibson.  After weeks of silence, he lashed out at his critics today, including the paper of record.  And we‘re going to tell you all about that. 

And then, did Bill Clinton miss a shot at killing Osama bin Laden when he had him in his sights?  And how soon will al Qaeda strike again?  Don‘t miss the exclusive NBC report coming up next. 


SCARBOROUGH:  If President Bush had a clear shot at Osama, would he take it?  You bet.  Would Bill Clinton?  An NBC exclusive report says, he had the shot and he didn‘t take it. 

That‘s coming up next.


SCARBOROUGH:  ... around the neck of the world‘s most wanted terrorist.

NBC‘s Lisa Myers has an exclusive report on the hunt for bin Laden and some shocking video of how the 9/11 mastermind was captured on tape during the Clinton administration, but allowed to walk free. 

Here‘s Lisa Myers. 



Nineteen ninety-three, the World Trade Center bombing, six killed. 

Nineteen ninety-eight, two U.S. embassies bombed in Africa, 224 killed.  All the work of al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, who in 1998 declares holy war on America, making him arguably the most-wanted man in the world. 


WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We will use all the means at our disposal to bring those responsible to justice. 


MYERS (on camera):  What you‘re about to see is extraordinary secret video shot by the U.S. government and obtained exclusively by NBC News.  It illustrates an enormous opportunity the Clinton administration had to kill or capture bin Laden—critics say a missed opportunity. 

(voice-over):  The fall of 2000, Afghanistan, unmanned, unarmed spy planes called Predators fly over known al Qaeda training camps.  The pictures, transmitted live to CIA headquarters half a world away, show al Qaeda terrorists firing at targets, conducting military drills, then scattering on cue through the desert. 

Also that fall, the Predator captured even more extraordinary pictures, this tall figure in flowing white robes.  Many intelligence analysts believed then and now it is Osama bin Laden. 

The images may seem fuzzy to amateurs, but to William Arkin, a former intelligence officer and now a military analyst for NBC, they couldn‘t be more clear. 

(on camera):  Why does U.S. intelligence believe this is Osama bin Laden? 

WILLIAM ARKIN, NBC MILITARY ANALYST:  You see a tall man, you see him surrounded by or at least protected by a group of guards. 

MYERS (voice-over):  Bin laden is six-foot-five.  The man here clearly towers above those people around him and seems to be treated with great deference.  Another clue, the video is shot at Tarnak Farm, the walled compound where bin Laden is known to live. 

The layout of the buildings in the Predator video perfectly matches

these secret U.S. intelligence photos and diagrams of Tarnak Farm obtained

by NBC. 

ARKIN:  It‘s dynamite.  It‘s putting together all of the pieces, and that doesn‘t happen every day.  I guess you could say we‘ve done it once, and this is it. 

MYERS (on camera):  The tape proves the Clinton administration was aggressively tracking al Qaeda a year before 9/11.  But that also raises one big question.  If the U.S. government had bin Laden and the camp in its sights in real time, why was no action taken against them? 

GEN. WAYNE DOWNING (RET.), NBC ANALYST:  We were not prepared to take the military action necessary. 

MYERS:  Retired General Wayne Downing ran counterterror efforts for the Bush administration and is now an NBC analyst. 

DOWNING:  We should have had strike forces prepared to go in and react to this intelligence.  Certainly cruise missiles, either air or sea launched, very, very accurate, could have gone in and hit those targets. 

MYERS:  Gary Shrone (ph), a former CIA station chief in Pakistan, says the White House required the CIA to attempt to capture bin Laden alive rather than kill him. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Reduce the odds from, say, a 50 percent chance down to, say, 25 percent chance that we were going to be able to get him. 

MYERS:  A Democratic member of the 9/11 commission says there was a larger issue.  The Clinton administration treated bin Laden as a law enforcement problem. 

BOB KERREY, 9/11 COMMISSION:  The most important thing the Clinton administration could have done would have been for the president either himself or by going to Congress asking for a congressional declaration to declare war on al Qaeda, a military-political organization that had declared war on us. 

MYERS:  In reality, getting bin Laden would have been extraordinarily difficult.  He was a moving target deep inside Afghanistan.  Most military operations would have been high risk.  What‘s more, President Clinton was weakened by scandal, and there was no political consensus for bold action, especially with an election weeks away. 

We contacted the three top Clinton national security officials.  None would do an on-camera interview.  However, they vigorously defend their record, say they disrupted terrorist cells and made al Qaeda a top national security priority. 

JAMES STEINBERG, CLINTON DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER:  We used military force, we used covert operations, we used all the tools available to us because we realized what a serious threat this was. 

MYERS:  One Clinton cabinet official says looking back, the military should have been more involved—quote—“We did a lot, but we did not see the gathering storm that was out there.”

Lisa Myers, NBC News, Washington. 


SCARBOROUGH:  Boy, that‘s unbelievable. 

David Frum was a special assistant to President Bush and also is co-author with Richard Perle of the Book “An End to Evil: Strategies For Victory in the War on Terror.” 

David, thank you for being with us tonight.


SCARBOROUGH:  We saw from this shocking NBC report that the Clinton administration let Osama bin Laden slip through their grasp.  How‘s the Bush administration doing, and do you think they‘re going to nail this guy soon? 

FRUM:  I hope they will.  I think they‘re doing better.  I they‘ve made the most important fundamental decision, which is exactly as Lisa said, to treat this as a military matter. 

But, look, it is hard.  It is hard.  And we suffer defeats as well as victories, and we have surprises along the way.  We took a terrible defeat in Spain, and it‘s got some pretty severe consequences ahead. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I want to talk about that terrible defeat, because it looks like al Qaeda actually affected the outcome of that election, a democratically elected campaign in Spain.  What‘s going to happen?  Do you think we‘re going to see the United States impacted by a terror attack, or do you think they understand that America ain‘t Europe?  You punch us, we‘re going to punch you back harder.

FRUM:  Well, I think there‘s a compare and contrast that they can draw. 

The 9/11 -- I mean, they killed a lot of people, so they‘re always happy about doing that, and they did a lot of mayhem and murder, and that‘s good news for them.  But, in the end, 9/11 strengthened American resolve.  And one of the lessons you may take when you compare what happened on 9/11 with what happened to 3/11 is exactly as you say.  Try Europe.  So I think we can really fear—we can fear that the voters of Spain have opened the way to terror attacks on other European capitals during the time of their elections. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I agree with you. 

And I want you to hear what President Bush had to say earlier today. 


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  They‘ll never shake the will of the United States.  We understand the stakes.  And we will work with our friends to bring justice to the terrorists. 


SCARBOROUGH:  David, I know you can‘t get inside of Osama bin Laden‘s diseased mind, but do you think he understands that, that America is not going to back down?  Do those thugs understand that? 

FRUM:  Well, Osama bin Laden, he is a hard person to enter into the mind of, because, look, he‘s not—he‘s a fanatic, but he‘s not entirely a lunatic.  He does plan and project. 

He‘s also operating in a term of reference that is very alien to us.  But we‘re not talking anymore just about him.  This is becoming a franchise operation.  There are people who espouse his ideology who aren‘t necessarily under his direct control.  And I think some of those people, as we saw with Spain, they got the message, the document that the terror group released at the time of the bombing.

And maybe—we don‘t even know if this is the same people as actually did the bombing.  But it‘s a very different idiom, the language of that terror bulletin from the things al Qaeda has said.  It‘s much more political.  It‘s much more aware of what‘s going on in the Western world and it is much more determined to strike at the weak spots of democratic countries.

It is so important that we be strong through this battle, and that is why it is so disheartening what happened in Spain. 

SCARBOROUGH:  One final question, David.  I know we‘ve got to go.

But you—like me, you‘ve been a very harsh critic of Saudi Arabia and America‘s policy toward Saudi Arabia.  But the Saudis actually went out and killed a major al Qaeda operative.  Is that good news?  Have they finally started to change their stripes? 

FRUM:  They have had a consistent policy for a decade and more of constantly balancing, who are they more afraid of, the extremists in their own country or the United States?  And most of the time, they‘ve decided they‘re more afraid of the extremists in their own country.

And we have to change that, make them understand that the dangers from their two-faced policy toward the United States are much greater.  And although they are doing something, they are doing nowhere near what is adequate. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, David Frum, thank you so much for being with us.  The book is “An End to Evil.”  And I‘ve got to tell you, I‘ve read it.  It is an incredible book.  It‘s must reading for you. 

Now, next up, is “The Passion” an anti-Semitic propaganda film?  Mel Gibson finally gave his answer to that today, blasting back at critics.  And we‘re going to tell you about his counteroffensive coming up. 

And then, is making fun of Jesus OK?  A popular clothing store seems to think so.  We‘re going to show you the anti-Christian merchandise that they‘ve been peddling. 

But, first, let‘s get the latest headlines from the MSNBC News Desk. 



SCARBOROUGH:  Two hundred sixty-seven million dollars and counting.  “The Passion of Christ” is still blowing up box office records by the day and enraging Hollywood insiders in the process. 

And Mel Gibson struck back today on radio, charging that he‘s been

discriminated against, saying—quote—“I‘ve never experienced quite the

furor.  I‘ve gotten what amounts to discrimination.  Nobody likes being

dragged out in public, especially by beacons of integrity like ‘The New

York Times.‘”

Dr. James Kennedy, you‘re head of the Coral Ridge Ministries. 

Do you believe Mel Gibson is being discriminated against because of his faith in Jesus? 

DR. JAMES KENNEDY, CORAL RIDGE MINISTRIES:  Well, I don‘t think there‘s much question about that, Joe.  It seems obvious, I think, to many people that he is being dragged through the mud.

His motives have been questioned.  His financial motives have been questioned.  His purposes in creating the film have been questioned.  His father has been questioned.  I don‘t know what part of his life has not been dragged around and questioned, whereas other producers who have produced films that are equally or more controversial, such as “The Last Temptation of Christ,” have been lionized by the media.


J. KENNEDY:  And they haven‘t experienced anything like this kind of defamatory reaction. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Speaking of defamatory reaction, as you know, Andy Rooney of “60 Minutes” suggested that Gibson is a nut case.  And then, on “Imus” Rooney said he wasn‘t going to see the film for this reason. 

J. KENNEDY:  Yes, I recall that. 


ANDY ROONEY, “60 MINUTES”:  And I don‘t plan to see it. 


ROONEY:  I mean, I don‘t want to pay $9 just for a few laughs. 



SCARBOROUGH:  And Gibson was asked if Rooney‘s commentary was anti-Christian, and this was his response, Doctor. 

He said: “Yes, I do.  I don‘t think he‘s thinking.  If he wants to come out and say those sort of things, I think he should be man enough to say them in person, and I don‘t think he is.”

Dr. Kennedy, respond to that.  Are you shocked by the Rooney comment? 

J. KENNEDY:  I think it truly is appalling.  It‘s blasphemous in what he is saying about a film about Jesus Christ.  And blasphemy is something that seems to be commonplace among a certain section, left-wing, of our country today.

And I think it‘s also interesting that CBS received over 30,000 letters and e-mails protesting the Rooney comment, more than they have ever received in the history of the network.  


SCARBOROUGH:  But, Dr. Kennedy, let me ask you.  Dr. Kennedy, you know so much not only about the Bible, but also about American culture and politics.  Don‘t you think if Andy Rooney had said that about an anti-Semitic film—he had been anti-Semitic about “Schindler‘s List” and said, I‘m not going to watch a movie and get a few cheap laughs about the Holocaust, or if said that about “Roots,” don‘t you think CBS would have fired him? 

J. KENNEDY:  He would have been fired and probably ridden out of town on a rail if he had done that.  It seems that Christ and Christians are the only ones that can be publicly ridiculed by the Hollywood group and the media.  And that, I think, is truly tragic.  And I hope that maybe he learned something from the response that his comments got. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Dr. Kennedy, Mel Gibson was also asked today about movie and whether it‘s anti-Semitic.  And this is what he says.  He said: “It doesn‘t stray from the four Gospels.  There‘s room for artistic interpretation.  I‘m an artist, for Pete‘s sake.  The film opens up with a scene in the garden and says that what happens is part of a preordained plan.  It‘s ordained by God, accepted by Jesus for the transgressions of all mankind.”

Dr. Kennedy, I‘ve got to ask you the $64,000 question.  I mean, everybody says this film is anti-Semitic, but how closely does it follow the four Gospels in the New Testament? 

J. KENNEDY:  Oh, I think it falls them very, very closely.  There are a few things that he has added there aren‘t there.  But the basic theme is taken directly from the Gospels. 

And as far as it being anti-Semitic, I think a new poll that has been released by the Institute for Jewish and Community Research points out some interesting facts, if you want more than just individual opinion.  And those are that 83 percent of the people that have seen the film say that it did not affect in any way what they thought about the Jewish involvement in the crucifixion of Christ as far as modern Jews are concerned.  Now, that‘s 83 percent. 

But the poll did show that 2 percent of the people that saw it became more anti-Semitic and more likely to blame Jews, 2 percent. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Not much. 

J. KENNEDY:  Yet 9 percent said that they became less anti-Semitic as far as—because of the film, which means that the film is reducing anti-Semitism, not increasing it. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, we‘re going to have to leave it there.  Thanks, as always, Dr. James Kennedy.  We greatly appreciate you being here. 

J. KENNEDY:  Thank you. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Now, despite Mel Gibson‘s defense of his work, the debate is still raging about whether “The Passion” will incite hatred of Jews. 

Earlier, I talked to former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, who saw the film and agrees that it‘s anti-Semitic, Catholic League President William Donahue, and also the author of “Tales From the Left Coast,” James Hirsen, who has spent a lot of time with Mel Gibson since the movie was released.  Now a group calling itself the Messiah Truth Project is petitioning John Ashcroft to prosecute Mel Gibson for hate crimes. 

I asked James Hirsen if he thinks “The Passion” will incite violence against Jews. 


JAMES HIRSEN, AUTHOR, “TALES FROM THE LEFT COAST”:  There‘s so many inaccuracies here.

First of all, it‘s not anti-Semitic, according to the Vatican‘s official spokesperson, who said now definitively that it‘s a cinematic transcription of the Gospels.  If you‘re saying that the Gospels are anti-Semitic, then your beef is not with Mel Gibson.  It‘s with the Gospels.  And the Vatican has said so.  That settles it for Catholics.

And, moreover, Billy Graham, James Dobson, all of the biggest pastors in the country say it‘s not anti-Semitic.  And, furthermore, today, a survey by the Institute of Jewish and Community Research, which took a survey of people who saw the film, says that they are becoming less anti-Semitic, rather than more, from watching this film.  It‘s created a dialogue. 

Rabbi Gellman of the God Squad says so. 


SCARBOROUGH:  James, hold on.  I‘ll let you continue, but you talked about a poll.  And I want to show our viewers what you‘re talking about. 

It was a poll by the Institute for Jewish and Community Research.  They did a poll of people who had seen “The Passion,” and this is what they found; 83 percent said they were no more or less likely to blame Jews; 9 percent that they were actually less likely, and only 2 percent saying they were more likely.

James, pick up on your point.  Do you think that proves that this movie is not anti-Semitic? 

HIRSEN:  Well, I think it‘s not.  I mean, it‘s factually not.  And let me mention something. 

The only person in the film who‘s identified as a Jew is Simon the Cyrene...


HIRSEN:  Who is this individual that the audience sees as this—speaking for them, where he takes his life in his hands, tells the Romans to stop the torture of Christ, puts his arm around Jesus and carries the cross with him.  It‘s a poster for the interfaith movement. 

And Rabbi Gellman thinks it‘s not anti-Semitic.  Rabbi Fields (ph) and Daniel Lapin and many others.  So we‘ve got to get off of this.  It‘s inaccurate.

KOCH:  Could I respond to that? 


KOCH:  When he says—when he says that nobody is identified as a

Jew, of course, they‘re Jews.  There are only two kinds of people in that

movie, Romans, who are wearing their metal outfits, and the Jews, who lived

there.  That‘s accurate.  For you to say, oh


HIRSEN:  Well, that‘s true. 

KOCH:  ... they didn‘t identify people as Jews.  And the high priest,, Caiaphas, you look at his nose.

HIRSEN:  But you‘re forgetting...

KOCH:  That‘s a caricature, stereotyped


KOCH:  ... nose.

HIRSEN:  Mayor, you‘re forgetting about the most noble Jewish people to ever appear on the screen, and that is Jesus and Mary. 

KOCH:  They were all Jews.  They were all Jews. 


HIRSEN:  Yes.  That‘s why Jerry Lewis has come out in favor of this film, because he says that. 


SCARBOROUGH:  This is what I understand.  Yes, they are all Jews.

KOCH:  And he died a Jew.

SCARBOROUGH:  But Jesus is a Jew.  Mary is a Jew.  The disciples are a Jew.  The good guys are Jews and the bad guys are Jews.  It would be like saying that “High Noon” was anti-Western because some of the bad guys in “High Noon” were Westerners.  Well, so was Gary Cooper. 

KOCH:  That‘s absolutely childish.  You know it. 

SCARBOROUGH:  How is that childish? 


KOCH:  It‘s not even a


SCARBOROUGH:  How is that childish?

KOCH:  I want to explain to you. 

There is a charge of deicide, that the Jews killed God.  For 2,000 years, under that charge, there were people who said, kill him, kill him. 

SCARBOROUGH:  But, Mr. Mayor, we‘re talking about this movie.  The hero of this movie was Jewish.  The female hero of this movie was Jewish.  The disciples were Jewish.  Why is that childish? 

KOCH:  You‘re kidding yourself and you know it. 

SCARBOROUGH:  No, I don‘t know it. 


KOCH:  If he had, for example, as I said to you earlier, given us the comment of John Paul II, that you may not hold Jews up to the charge of collective deicide, of murder, that‘s what this movie does.  That‘s why Vatican II was so important and John 23 so brilliant and so wonderful.

WILLIAM DONAHUE, PRESIDENT, CATHOLIC LEAGUE:  But, Ed, you know that anti-Semitism today is not a function of people saying Jews killed Christ.  It‘s all the secular arguments.  Jews are taking over the world.  They want to kill the Arabs.  They‘re money grubbers.  This is not a religious-based argument. 


KOCH:  There are three arguments that they give.  One is that the Jews

are guilty of deicide.  The second one is that the Jews killed Christian

children to get their blood to make


KOCH:  And the third is that Jews run the world. 

DONAHUE:  Ed, where‘s the violence? 


SCARBOROUGH:  And you know what?  That‘s the third thing.  That‘s what you heard in Hitler, Germany.  That‘s what you‘re hearing now from anti- Semites that crawl out of the woodwork, and, quite frankly, with some that I came across in my campaigns for Congress and in Washington. 

The real anti-Semites never came up and said, Jews killed Jesus.  What they always said was, they were international bankers.  They‘re ruling the world.  There‘s this Jewish conspiracy.  They own Washington.  Come on. 


KOCH:  You guys know nothing about history. 

DONAHUE:  Yes, but, Ed, we‘re not Jewish. 


SCARBOROUGH:  We are not debating Vatican II.  We are debating America in 2004. 

And I‘m telling you, as a public official, the biggest supporter of Israel in Congress when I was there, I never once had an anti-Semite come up to me and say, how dare you support Israel?  Jews killed Jesus.  They always said, how dare you support Israel?  They own Washington, the Jewish lobby.  That‘s all they talk about. 


KOCH:  What I said to you at the opening of this segment was that it won‘t change things in the United States.  But, overseas, in Poland, in Russia and the Ukraine, where the charge of deicide has existed for 2,000 years, this movie, when it is shown and shown with the subtext and the cry in Aramaic, let our blood be upon him and the blood of our children, that is a curse on the Jews lifted by Vatican II. 


HIRSEN:  Mayor Ed is ignoring all of the messages in the film that say it‘s not about blame.  It opens with graphic text, which says that he‘s wounded and bruised for all sinners.  It opens in the Garden of Gethsemane, where it says a divine, preordained plan.  It‘s not about blame.

KOCH:  Why do you think he avoided any reference to the statement of Vatican II and Pope John Paul? 

DONAHUE:  Because it‘s a movie, Ed.  It‘s not a documentary.  It‘s a movie. 


SCARBOROUGH:  We‘ll be right back. 

And just ahead, “60 Minutes”‘ Andy Rooney has gotten away with insulting millions of Christians.  Much more on Mel Gibson striking back at his critics right after this short break. 

ANNOUNCER:  Tonight‘s SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY challenge:  Mel Gibson recreated Jerusalem on an Italian set.  What other movie was filmed on the same set?  Was it, A, “The Piano,” B, “Die Another Day,” or, C, “Gangs of New York.”

The answer coming up.


SCARBOROUGH:  In tonight‘s SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY challenge, we asked, Mel Gibson recreated Jerusalem on an Italian set.  What other movie was filmed on the same set?  The answer is C, “Gangs of New York.”

Now here‘s Joe.

I talked to Dr. D. James Kennedy, as you know, earlier about Mel Gibson‘s response to Andy Rooney, who called Gibson a nutcase and said this on “60 Minutes”—quote—“How many million dollars does it look like you‘re going to make on the crucifixion of Christ?” 

I asked MSNBC‘s entertainment editor Dana Kennedy to respond to that vicious charge. 


DANA KENNEDY, NBC ENTERTAINMENT EDITOR:  My response is, I don‘t think that Mel Gibson made this entire movie just to make money.  But I certainly think it was on his mind.  I think he had two agendas here, his faith and making money in Hollywood. 

I happen to agree with 99 percent of what Mayor Koch said.  I don‘t know him.  I‘m not Jewish.  My visceral reaction to this movie, as a viewer, as someone who is not steeped in religious scholarship and certainly doesn‘t feel qualified to go up against people who are, I felt it was anti-Semitic.  That wasn‘t the only thing I took away from the movie, but it certainly did darken the movie for me. 

I thought there were good parts of the movie.  I enjoyed parts of it and it stayed with me, but I still thought it was anti-Semitic.  And, as I‘ve said before on this program, what Mayor Koch said about Mel Gibson and his father has troubled me and haunts me.  Hutton Gibson, his father, obviously has been someone who has spoken out a lot about how he believes there isn‘t a Holocaust, there wasn‘t a Holocaust, etcetera. 

And Mel Gibson has distanced himself from his father only to a point.  And it‘s very odd the way he has never said specifically he disagrees with what his father has said about the Holocaust.

DONAHUE:  Do you need a crawl for that, too, at the end of the movie?

D. KENNEDY:  In fact, he once said that his father has never lied to him. 

I think a crawl would have been a good idea.  And there are many crawls in many movies, yes. 

DONAHUE:  Vatican II, his father.           

SCARBOROUGH:  Vatican II, his father, yes, exactly. 

And one final thing I want to ask you, because—Dana Kennedy, because I am shocked.  I‘ve got to be honest with you.  I don‘t get shocked very, very often.  I really don‘t. 

But I am shocked that Andy Rooney could go on the air, went on “Imus” went on the “Imus” show, and say that he wasn‘t going to pay $9 to go see this movie because he wasn‘t going to waste $9 on a couple of cheap laughs.  Are you surprised that CBS not only got these 30,000 e-mails, but that CBS hasn‘t either fired this guy or put him on leave without pay?  Because, obviously, if he had said that about African-Americans or if he had said that—I believe if he had said that about Jews or if he had said that about just about anybody other than Christians, he would have been fired. 

DONAHUE:  They should fire that old Irishman, get rid of him. 


D. KENNEDY:  I don‘t think he was really saying it exactly about Christians.  I think he was saying about Mel Gibson. 

I think he‘s speaking in terms of the controversy engendered by this movie, which I think he probably thinks has helped in making a lot of this money.  But Andy Rooney is kind of known to be sort of the crazy old man.  His job is to be a provocateur.


D. KENNEDY:  But he doesn‘t insult everybody.  He just likes to insult Catholics.  That‘s because he‘s Irish and he thinks he can get away with it. 


KOCH:  Any abuse by Andy Rooney pales by comparison by the abuses of Mel Gibson. 


SCARBOROUGH:  So, Mayor, you wouldn‘t be offend, Mayor, if someone saw “Schindler‘s List” or said they didn‘t want to pay $9 to see “Schindler‘s List” or wouldn‘t see “Roots” because they didn‘t want to get a couple of cheap laughs out of it?  Come on. 


KOCH:  I wouldn‘t be offended.  I would say it‘s a stupid statement. 

What Mel Gibson did


SCARBOROUGH:  No, no, no. 

KOCH:  Is not a stupid statement.  It is a mean statement. 



KOCH:  Yes. 

SCARBOROUGH:  If Andy Rooney said, I am not going to go see “Schindler‘s List” or any movie about the Holocaust because I don‘t want to waste nine bucks on a couple of cheap laughs, you would call CBS and say fire that guy, wouldn‘t you? 

KOCH:  No, I want to tell you something.  No, I would rely on what Dana said.  He‘s 85 years old. 

D. KENNEDY:  So is Mel Gibson‘s father. 

HIRSEN:  So is Mel Gibson‘s father. 


KOCH:  Mel Gibson‘s father was a Holocaust denier when he was young.



SCARBOROUGH:  Whew.  Hold on, guys.  We are going to have to take a break. 

And when we come back, a clothing store is using Jesus as a novelty toy.  And I‘m going to ask my panel if it‘s fair game for jokes to dress Jesus up as the devil and a transvestite. 

Stick around.  That‘s next. 


SCARBOROUGH:  Now, tomorrow night in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, Panama City makes a lot of money during spring break, but at what cost?  And do businesses turn a blind eye to it?  That‘s tomorrow night.

But more on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY straight ahead.



SCARBOROUGH:  I want to show you something else that has just come out of Philadelphia.  It‘s remarkable.  And, again, it proves my point.  I believe, by the way—I believe it‘s OK to insult—in popular culture, you get a free pass if you insult Orthodox Jews, if you insult Catholics, if you insult evangelicals, I think you get a free pass from that because the left-wing liberal elites aren‘t offend by it.  I am, and I think most Americans are. 

But I want to show our viewers out there something that customers of the clothing store Urban Outfitters are seeing.  And a lot of people are outraged by its anti-Christian merchandise, including this, T-shirts showing Jesus in a crown of thorns with the quote “The Boss” written underneath, and magnetic Jesus dress-up figure clad in underwear, with interchangeable outfits like a devil costume, a skull T-shirt, a hula skirt, and a sign that says “Hang in there, baby.”

Doesn‘t that prove


KOCH:  Those are offensive. 


SCARBOROUGH:  Doesn‘t that prove, though, it‘s OK to slam the crucifixion and say it‘s about a couple of cheap laughs?  It‘s OK to have these dolls mocking Jesus? 

KOCH:  Because a few some schmucks open a store and sell offensive

merchandise, you draw the conclusion that society, either on the left or

the right


HIRSEN:  But Joe‘s point is well taken.


HIRSEN:  Anti-Christianism, there‘s a free pass.


DONAHUE:  This same company did something to offend the ADL recently, and I‘m on the ADL‘s side.  And they pulled the offensive item. 

I then wrote to Urban Outfitters, asked them to pull this.  They won‘t put it, OK?  That proves the point.  You offend Jews, there‘s one level of sensitivity.  You offend Catholics, that‘s another level of sensitivity.  By the way, there‘s also a magazine called “Heeb Magazine: The New Jew Review.”   Now, I have to say, there are Jews who are offended by this, as well as Catholics. 

KOCH:  That is put out by Jews who are stupid.

DONAHUE:  They have a whole thing of “The Passion” in which Mary—

Mary, who is naked in this, all right?  And so there‘s a lot of offensive stuff going on here, and Catholics can do it as well as Jews. 


DONAHUE:  But, Ed, let‘s face it.  We don‘t have an even playing field. 


HIRSEN:  This is like Andres Serrano‘s crucifix upside down in urine, the Virgin Mary with elephant dung.  Anti-Christianism gets a free pass.  Can you imagine if they put out a doll like this with Muhammad‘s picture? 

I don‘t think they would.

DONAHUE:  Ed Koch, though—Ed Koch has always stood up against anti-Catholicism.  He‘s the best guy in the Jewish community. 

KOCH:  Thank you very much. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, we‘re going to have to leave it there on that very high note. 

Thank you so much, Mayor Koch.  William Donahue, James Hirsen and Dana Kennedy, as always, we appreciate you being here. 

KOCH:  Enjoyed it.


SCARBOROUGH:  And isn‘t it so nice when people play nice the last two seconds of a 20-minute interview? 

Now, tomorrow night, we‘re going to take a look at Panama City and how it‘s become the destination resort for spring-breakers.  Do businesses there turn a blind eye to binge drinking, nudity and sex in an effort to maximize profits?  We‘ll be there tomorrow night live, 10:00 p.m. Eastern, to give you the “Real Deal” on spring break.

Have a great night. 


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