Guests: Margaret Carlson; Greg Hartley, Tom O‘Neil
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
What do you say after you say you‘re sorry? Donald Rumsfeld finds out. He apologizes and first the Senate, and then the House, fill his day with questions.
While one question filters into mainstream media and mainstream politics for the first time: Should we just get out of Iraq?
The human face of the Abu Ghraib scandal? Her family compares Private Lynndie England to Private Jessica Lynch. Not what she did, but how they say, both their stories were exaggerated and twisted.
The frozen moments of a disastrous helicopter crash: the pilot‘s thought, “If I have to die, so be it, but I might have to save my passengers.”
And now it can be told, the Nazi plot to kill Eisenhower: if captured, they were to say “sorry,” then pull down their pants, and fake an attack of diarrhea. How did we ever beat these evil geniuses?
All that and more now on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Good evening. On the ABC newscast “Nightline,” last night, retired Lieutenant General William Odem, who was Ronald Reagan‘s head of the National Security Agency called, in the wake of the abuse at the Abu Ghraib Prison, for a phased out U.S. withdrawal from Iraq.
On this newscast Wednesday night, the journalist, Raghida Dergham, after months of insisting that the only solution for the two countries was for the U.S. to stay the course in Iraq, said that the reaction to Abu Ghraib had changed her mind too, that it was time for the U.S. to get out. And today, a columnist with the trade publication, “Editor and Publisher” asked, “When will the first major newspaper editorial call for a pullout?”
Our fifth story of the COUNTDOWN: The context of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee and a similar one in the House, may have been much larger even than shocking photos or the need for apologies. This may be the proverbial tipping point, either, for what has been until now, a largely infective anti-war movement. We start our Pentagon correspondent, Jim Miklaszewski after Rumsfeld testimony.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do each of you solemnly swear...
JIM MIKLASZEWSKI, NBC PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The swearing in that opened the hearing, signaled the gravity of what was about to unfold. In his opening statement, Secretary Rumsfeld, for the first time, apologized and offered compensation to Iraqis who had been abused.
DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: To those Iraqis who were mistreated by member of the U.S. Armed Forces, I offer my deepest apology.
MIKLASZEWSKI: Rumsfeld then dropped a bomb, revealing that there were more photos, even videos depicting abuses far worse than what has been seen so far.
RUMSFELD: There are other photos that depict incidents of physical violence towards prisoners, acts that can only be described as blatantly sadistic, cruel, and inhuman.
MIKLASZEWSKI: U.S. military officials tell NBC News, the unreleased images, show American soldiers severely beating one Iraqi prisoner to near death; apparently, raping an Iraqi female prisoner; acting inappropriately with a dead body; and Iraqi guards apparently videotaped by U.S. soldiers raping young boys.
SEN. LINDSAY GRAHAM ®, SOUTH CAROLINA: We‘re talking about rape and murder here, we‘re not just talking about giving people a humiliating experience, we‘re talking about rape and murder and some very serious charges.
MIKLASZEWSKI: Senator Carl Levin raised questions about one photo which appeared to show the abuse of prisoners may not be random, but part of routine operations.
SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN: That the conduct we were witnessing and watching was not aberrant conduct of a few individuals, but part of an organized and conscious process to extract information.
MIKLASZEWSKI: Many expressed outrage that Rumsfeld didn‘t inform Congress about the explosive scandal until after it broke in the media.
SEN. MARK DAYTON (D), MINNESOTA: It‘s against our principled, when yous (SIC) come to before 40 to 45 member of the Senate, three hours before the news report is going to occur and don‘t mention one word about it, sir.
MIKLASZEWSKI: Rumsfeld said even he didn‘t see all the photos until last night, but admits he underestimated the negative impact those images would have.
RUMSFELD: If there‘s a failure, it‘s me. It‘s my failure for not understanding and knowing that there were hundreds or however many there are of these things, that could eventually end up in the public and do the damage they‘ve done.
MIKLASZEWSKI: The Joint Chiefs Chairman Richard Myers said he first asked the media not to release the photos because it could increase the threat to U.S. troops.
RICHARD MYERS, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: Here‘s the problem. It doesn‘t take a rocket scientist to figure out the explosive nature to these photos, in my opinion, we could have done a better job.
MIKLASZEWSKI: Former prisoner of war in Vietnam, John McCain, fears the troubling images threaten total war effort.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA: We risk losing public support for this conflict as Americans turned away from the Vietnam war, they may turn away from this one.
MIKLASZEWSKI: Senator Edward Kennedy claims, America‘s image may be permanently damaged.
SEN. TED KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: The symbol of America is not the Statue of Liberty; it‘s the prisoner standing on a box wearing a dark cape and a dark hood on his head.
MIKLASZEWSKI: At one point, demonstrators disrupted the hearing with shouts for Rumsfeld to resign. But, the secretary said he has no intention of stepping down.
RUMSFELD: Needless to say, if I felt I could not be effective, I‘d resign in a minute. I would not resign simply because people try to make a political issue out of it.
MIKLASZEWSKI: Jim Miklaszewski, NBC News, the Pentagon.
OLBERMANN: Given tonight‘s new charges tonight, perhaps Saddam‘s rape rooms of were not closed after all.
Mr. Rumsfeld opened his testimony today with an apology, reportedly his boss was supposed to do the same thing on Wednesday directly to the people of the Middle East, but he did not do so. Yesterday of course he did with something less than an asterisk, maybe something more than a caveat. Mr. Bush expressed his remorse to the king of Jordan and confirmed it along side King Abdullah in the rose garden.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I told him I was sorry for the humiliation suffered by the Iraqi prisoners, and the humiliation suffered by their families.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: But a, quote, “wide variety” of administration officials told the “Washington Post” that they had advised the president to apologize directly the day before yesterday when he gave interviews to two Arabic language news stations. Moreover, the administration source told the paper they were puzzled when Mr. Bush finished those interviews without delivering the apologies they all thought the State Department included he had agreed to. The president‘s second change of mind on the subject resulting in the apology by King Abdullah reportedly followed an overnight push by senior aides to get him to agree to say, “I‘m sorry.”
An apology might also be in order from the Pentagon to the State Department and to Secretary Colin Powell. According to members of the Black Congressional Caucus, Mr. Powell assured them on Thursday that there were no new requests forthcoming for more funds from Iraq. Shortly after that meeting, the White House told republican congressional leaders, they were making a new request for more funds for Iraq -- $25 billion worth. Though, some Powell associates reportedly made light of the muddle. Representative Barbara Lee, a democrat from California, did not, she told “USA Today” quote, “It‘s unbelievable that our chief diplomat is not being heard. It‘s tragic and it‘s dangerous.” Thus suddenly, Colin Powell and Donald Rumsfeld, the two men who were supposedly the counter balancing weights at the opposite ends of the White House teeter totter seemed to be identical in one area at least—The cloudiness of their long-term futures.
Joining me now, to assess their respective futures, senior writer, Margaret Carlson of “Time” magazine, also author of “Anyone Can Grow Up:
How George Bush and I Made it to the White House.”
Margaret, good evening.
MARGARET CARLSON, “TIME” MAGAZINE SENIOR WRITER: Good evening.
OLBERMANN: Well, obviously the president took Mr. Rumsfeld to the woodshed over Abu Ghraib, but now, tonight we have these charges escalating from images of abuse to potentially image of beatings, sex, rape standing by while children are raped. Is this—is Mr. Rumsfeld‘s danger, his job endangerment—is that over or could that still be an open question?
CARLSON: Bush is unlikely to fire Rumsfeld. But, Rumsfeld set up today in the hearings, a way for—to resign with honor, which is something that you can picture Rumsfeld, who sees himself as a cross between John Wayne and Hugh Grant, might do, and that is to do it for the good of his country. He‘s probably will go in the second term anyway, but this would allow him to “do the right thing.”
OLBERMANN: Obviously, the phrasing of, “if there‘s a failure, it‘s me.”
And the story about Mr. Powell, meanwhile, in this $25 billion appropriation request, is that—was that a typo or was he kept out of the loop? Is he the unknowing soldier? I mean, first there were the comments from his aides to the magazine reporter about how tired he is, about how ready to go he is. Is Secretary Powell a lame duck, or a borderline lame deck?
CARLSON: You might add sick and tired. This is just the latest in a series of slights to the secretary of state, who is an anomaly in this administration. He‘s a diplomat who‘s actually been to war. He knows what it‘s like, he didn‘t want to go, he came around at the last minute, and he must certainly regret it. Not only did he not know about the $25 billion, but according to the Bob Woodward‘s book, he hardly was informed of the fact the United States was actually going to war.
OLBERMANN: Back to the bigger picture for a final thought, the prisoner abuse and what we‘re doing in Iraq on a larger scale, at the start of this newscast tonight, I pointed out that the former NSC chairman, General Odom, his remarks, “time to pull out of Iraq over six to eight months,” Raghida Dergham of “al-Hayat” who‘s got this unique view of the Arab street and then the intersection with the American street, she just change her mind, said the best thing we could do for this country is to get out. Has this become that moment where the opponents of the war in Iraq could make themselves politically viable for the first time.
CARLSON: Oh, that we could become viable. Odom is as utopian in his comment about getting out as Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld were about our getting in and that we would be greeted with sweets and flowers. The only way to ever get out is to internationalize the situation in Iraq and hope that these other companies come in, help us stabilize it so that we can get out. Because if we just pull out, the United States will have someone in power in Iraq, probably the most radical that will make Saddam Hussein look like Mother Teresa and the United States will be in far more danger than it was before we even started this war.
OLBERMANN: Happy weekends set thoughts.
CARLSON: Sorry Keith.
OLBERMANN: Margaret Carlson of “Time” magazine, many thanks, especially on a Friday night, for coming in. Appreciate it.
OLBERMANN: That‘s the big picture about the terrible pictures, then there is the smaller one. That almost waif-like figure, that U.S. service woman who showed up in so many of them has tonight been charged by the military with, among other crimes, conspiring to mistreat detainees. Officials at Fort Bragg, releasing a statement accusing Private First Class Lynndie England of having, quote, “assaulted Iraqi detainees on multiple occasions, committed acts that were prejudicial to good order and discipline and committed an indecent act. Earlier today, Private England‘s family spoke out. Saying she is being made a scapegoat and analogizing the amount of publicity she‘s gotten and the amount of distortion of her story with that of another private from West Virginia, Jessica Lynch.
Says England‘s father: “Just like what happened to the Lynch girl, this is getting blown out of proportion. But, this is in a negative, rather than a positive, way.”
And Private England‘s sister saw something else in those photos.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JESSICA KLEINSTIVER, PFC ENGLAND‘S SISTER: I don‘t believe my sister did what she did in those photos, I believe they‘re posed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: This is all dire stuff, of course, there is no avoiding it. On the other hand, if you hold not one, but two inquiries on the Hill, on the same day, on a Friday, focused on a secretary of defense whose syntax has been redirected in first poetry and then classical song, you are going to get a few lighter moments mixed in, perhaps mercifully so. And that doesn‘t even factor in the hecklers.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Fire Rumsfeld! Fire Rumsfeld! Fire Rumsfeld!
DAYTON: Bringing you in, in response to all this, and this is also important to me, this is the future of our nation and the people who are over there...
RUMSFELD: You need another mike, I‘m sorry, because, you can‘t hear you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And that under those circumstances, that general should have been relieved.
RUMSFELD: It‘s something I just (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I‘m sure that when you look at me, you say, thank goodness this will be the last line of questions, but...
MYERS: I‘m sorry I look tired, but...
OLBERMANN: That wraps up our fifth story in the COUNTDOWN:
Mistreatment and miscommunication. Up next, the psychology of imprisonment, how the events in Abu Ghraib seem to have played out exactly as did an infamous experiment at Stanford, more than three decades ago. No. 4 story in the COUNTDOWN, next.
Then later, it is definitely bigger, but is it better? A look inside the biggest people plane ever. Coming up on COUNTDOWN. They have the biggest (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
(OLBERMANN: Apparent rape, photographed beatings in the name of information: The fine line between interrogation and atrocity. Our fourth story in the COUNTDOWN tonight, next.
OLBERMANN: It is legend in the realms of psychology and late night cable documentary reruns: The Stanford Experiment, a 1971 psychologist Philip Zimbardo, recruited 18 men for a study on the conduct of guards and prisoner, assigning each volunteer a role as a convict or his keeper. The experiment was scheduled to last two weeks. Zimbardo cancelled it on day six because his instant guards had already begun to beat and restrain his instant prisoners, and were moving towards having the prisoners simulate sex acts.
Our fourth story in the COUNTDOWN: The psychology of Abu Ghraib Prison, where what were, in effect, instant guards got ever more abusive of what were all too permanent prisoners. For perspective, we‘re joined by Greg Hartley, a former U.S. Army interrogator, a former trainer of Army interrogators, now a trainer with the private firm, Delta Team.
Mr. Hartley, good evening.
GREG HARTLEY, FORMER ARMY INTERROGATOR: Good evening. How are you?
OLBERMANN: Is the big surprise of Abu Ghraib not that it happened, but that evidently not enough people in the military knew about the Stanford Experiments and their results, to make sure that—would not become reality in a prison in Iraq.
HARTLEY: I think you‘ve got a valid point and that is insuring that this doesn‘t happen. It‘s not really a surprise that this could happen, is it a surprise that it did happen with someone there? Yes. The Stanford Experiment gave us one very valid thing to note. That is that we go into any place we go with an idea of the roles that we‘re to play. And if you are to assume today that you think you know who you are, that‘s because partially of your roles and because of the input that other people gave you. If you‘re transplanted immediately into an entirely new environment, an entirely new role, that will change who you are to some degree and you start as an organism, meaning the group would start evolve their social mores.
OLBERMANN: And the psychology of that is what? That without proper training to be a guard, you have to think of the prisoner as not really a human being?
HARTLEY: Well, no. I don‘t think that‘s true. What I do think is true is that, like any situation where you have a very clustered group of people and no outside input, if you sit long enough, you will evolve to a new set of social mores. So for instance, if you have a position and one person comes out and there‘s a violent encounter with a prisoner, and you have to raise the level of activity or the level of force to make that prisoner behave, that never seems to go down, it‘s natural for that to evolve to the next higher level the next, the next higher level the next time, and you have to have outside intervention because if you‘re involve in that, you can‘t see it clearly. Even Zimbardo said, himself in his ‘71 experiments, that he became involved as the prison warden. He found himself a prison administrator rather than an impartial observer.
OLBERMANN: The story...
HARTLEY: It begs for us...
OLBERMANN: Yeah, go ahead.
HARTLEY: It begs for to us put psychologists into every prison compound. If we don‘t do that, I think we‘re doing ourselves a great disservice.
OLBERMANN: The story evolved, to some degree, this afternoon and tonight, that these other photos and videotape of which Secretary Rumsfeld spoke, as he described as “sadistic, cruel, inhuman,” and the U.S. officials have told NBC News, that on these tapes and photographs, they make these pictures, that we‘re looking at now, look like—essentially like nothing, that there is apparent rape, that there certainly are beatings—beatings to near death, and that there may have been Americans looking on as Iraqi guards raped young boys. Does it surprise you, having seen what we‘ve been publicly exposed to, that there is an entirely new and worse level behind that?
HARTLEY: Well, assuming that something would leak to the press is kind of how this would look—you know, if someone had something, they would first, I would think, send the least damaging, and then it would follow. So I, after having read the reports, I don‘t think there is a surprise coming. It‘s just that the pictures are available. It‘s horrendous that this happened, even more horrendous that people would find it amusing enough to take picture.
OLBERMANN: I wanted to ask you about that. That seems to be the only wrinkle in this. Where is the idea of posing in the middle of this coming in? That seems to be something new. Is it?
HARTLEY: I‘m not sure it‘s something new. I would bet that if you went to any war, you could find this kind of thing and if you look, there are places all over the Middle East that you could find were Middle Eastern armies have done the same thing. The thing that is odd, and the thing that is—that boils this whole down to mean that it‘s just like the Stanford Experiment, is that became acceptable in that subculture—in that very narrow subculture of those guards. Do I believe that that‘s normal for soldiers? Absolutely not. I don‘t even think it is normal for prison guards, it just happened to became the norm for that very small group.
And, the other interesting thing is, once you get to this point, the natural leaders are the most hostile, the people who are in charge, the people who need to get out that and say something about it take great moral courage to be able to do that kind of thing and I commend the young man who came forward and brought this out. Had he not done that, who knows what would have happened. And he brought this out early to investigators who have now started to do this long before it became public knowledge and that is what separates a country that believes in human rights from one that doesn‘t.
OLBERMANN: Indeed. Greg Hartley, former U.S. Army interrogator and interrogation trainer. Our great thanks tonight, for helping us try to understand some of this.
HARTLEY: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Four more things you need to know about tonight‘s No. 4 story. For exotic interrogation techniques that have been employed by U.S. forces and intelligence services over the years:
No. 4: During the second world war, some captured German U-boat captains were given an alleged truth drug, namely tincture of Marijuana, in hopes it would make them talk. Some of them are still talking.
No. 3: White noise. Blasting prisoners with the sound of a baby crying or static.
No. 2: Stress and duress: Bombarding prisoners with lights to keep them awake for 24 hours or until they talk.
And No. 1: The technique that Army field manual 3452 calls “the most successful of all”: the direct approach. Asking a prisoner what you want to know from him directly without using any coercive techniques at all.
That ends the fourth story in the COUNTDOWN. Up next, those stories that just missed the actual news mark, but definitely hit the spot for us. “Oddball” is next. Relase, rotation, splash.
And later, two more jump from the top. Paychecks go bouncing. Is it too to assume the crash position for Air America?
OLBERMANN: We rejoin you now, and we pause the COUNTDOWN for the serious news, and by serious, of course, I mean not serious at all. Let‘s play “Oddball.”
And we begin in Redmond, Washington where a shocking case of animal abuse has been caught on tape. Just look at these people throwing their dogs in—I‘m sorry. It‘s the Dock Dogs Western Championships of Dog Jumping. These pooches are competing for distance off the dock with a running start of 40 feet. By mean of full disclosure, Redmond, Washington is the headquarters of Microsoft, co-owners of MSNBC, which explains everything you‘re seeing right there.
From the weird thing people do in other countries file, we go to Guadalajara, Mexico, and the tiger fights of Zetierla (ph). It‘s an annual event to kick off the fertility festival for the Nahua indigenous peoples of Mexico. They believe that dressing up in tiger costumes and beating the crap out of each other with sticks will bring forth rain and good harvests. It is only then that the bounty of sweet fresh corn will make these horrible broken ribs and cracked skulls all seem worth it. They‘ve been performing this ritual for 400 years. No good data about whether or not it actually brings them rain or not, but unfortunately, the forecast seems sunny and clear right now, so just keep swinging, boys.
Back to this country and the strange things we do here. We still got terrorists, pickpockets, and Women National Basketball Association to worry about, but the Republican National Convention at Madison Square Garden in New York this August will be pigeon-free. Pigeon shocking devices will be installed atop the U.S. Post Office across the street from the garden to prevent the unsightly leavings of New York‘s hoard of flying rats. During the convention, the shocking devices will also be handy in the event that any delegates stray off message.
And tonight a lesson for you, if you own a cello worth more than $3 million, please do not leave on it your front porch. See the kid on the bicycle in here, stealing something from the porch? It‘s bad surveillance video, but you get the idea. That‘s Peter Strump‘s home and that was the L.A. Philharmonics Stradivarius cell0 valued at three-and-a-half million fish, which they have to keep there, which is now stolen -- $50,000 reward. He left it on his porch! Put out a $50,000 reward on his missing brain.
And it sounds like a scene Mel Brooks ordered cut out of “The Producers” because it was too stupid. A Luftwaffe lance corporal is revealing the Nazis mounted an S.S. plan to capture or kill then General Dwight Eisenhower in late 1944. But in Fritz Crists (ph) version of the events, the secret operation couldn‘t have caught a cold let alone a general. The plan was to attack Ike at his headquarters in France using 600 Nazis masquerading as Americans. The main problem was that while the leaders trained them to salute, shoot, and even smoke like American G.I.‘s, nobody bothered to teach them English. Only 10 of the 600 were fluent in English, says Crist, the others, if confronted by real Americans, were trained to say, “Sorry,” and then quote, “open their trousers and hurry off feigning an attack of diarrhea.” Thus, Operation Poopy Pants seemed destined to fail from the onset.
Back to the COUNTDOWN in a moment. The third story, the hero recounts his nightmare. How the pilot of this news helicopter managed to save his passenger, the people below, and himself.
Then later, Jerry is gone, the “Friends” are out, “Frasier” will follow soon. Are we hearing the death rattle of the American sitcom?
These stories ahead, but first, COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers:
No 3.: Joe Hero. Running for commissioner of Lake County, Indiana, loses the Republican primary by 96 votes, possibly because the automated machine that phoned his taped campaign message to voters in the town of St. John decided to dial them starting at 3:00 a.m. You had to be Joe Hero.
No 2: Mike Bigelow, a veteran director of commercials, just hired to oversee a Rob Schneider movie sequel. That‘s right. Mike Bigelow, director of Deuce Bigelow.
And No. 1: Police in (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Norway, they‘re asking for your help in finding a suspect who appeared in the district at 9:00 p.m. prevailing local time Tuesday. The suspect is described as a big fat man wearing women‘s clothes, seen exposing himself, just north of the toll booth on the highway near (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and oh, yeah, in case you‘re still not sure whether or not it is him. They say he also has a cucumber stuck in his mouth.
OLBERMANN: On October 18, 1983, the news helicopter of the ABC station in Boston, WCBB, was in trouble in midair above Hudson, New Hampshire. The pilot, 31-year-old Dennis Repoli (ph), realized the inevitability of the disaster and in his final moments, he became a hero. With what little control he had left of the chopper, Repoli (ph) guided it into a parking lot where it crashed and burned and killed him. He missed the apartment complex next to that parking lot. He missed the middle school, and the hundreds of kids in that school on the other side of the street. Our third story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, three stories of flight.
The first of them as harrowing and as inspirational as that of the Boston pilot, Dennis Repoli (ph). Only in this case, the man lived to tell his story. The 60-year-old former Vietnam pilot Ross Mowry was at the controls when the news chopper of Channel 4 New York, WNBC crashed atop two rooftops in Brooklyn on Tuesday. The images by another news helicopter from WABC. Incredibly, Mowry and his two passengers survived. The pilot and his co-pilot trainee Hassam Tom (ph) are already out of the hospital. The reporter, Andrew Torres (ph) is expected home shortly. Mowry told his extraordinary story this morning on the “Today Show.”
ROSS MOWRY, WNBC HELICOPTER PILOT: That is the absolute worst thing to happen. It is a nightmare for a pilot. And I knew it was going to be really, really ugly. I just knew that we were not going to come out of it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You didn‘t think you would make it.
MOWRY: Absolutely not. No way. I called up the tower, I called Kennedy. I made some radio calls and said, I know the other helicopter‘s in the area. I knew they should know we‘re going down. But I just wanted to try to regain some kind of a control of the helicopter to keep it level. Because if you go in level, the skids will compress, the flow will compress. Under no circumstances, do you go to the street. Never, ever. Half an hour before we took off, I was explaining to the new pilot that when you‘re in this situation, if something happens, you find a roof top, a parking lot. You have to have yourself an out. Leave yourself an out. A parking lot, a park, and there was a park in front of me. A Sears and Roebuck to the right of me. Those are my outs, I‘m sitting there hovering and knowing if something happens, I‘m going there, I‘m going there. Next thing I know, I was just pointing straight down.
My last thought was I wanted to get away from the street. I wanted to hit a roof top. I wanted to get on a rooftop level. I saw that white, I thought it was a white chimney. I thought if I can hit that chimney and stop; that will arrest my forward motion. I‘ll stop when I hit that chimney and land on the roof. I thought, well, this is it. And it‘s over. No flashbacks. I‘m dead. That‘s it. And I woke up in the emergency—I‘m 60-years-old. I saw the end of my life. These guys in the back are kids. They‘re 25 and 30, maybe. They have their whole life in front of them. So I was the captain of the ship. I‘m supposed to get hurt and go down with it. These guys, they made it out. It was perfect.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know you said you have a great job. You love your job. You get to cover stories and fly above this beautiful city. Are you going to jump back in a helicopter? You‘re 60 years old, as you just said.
MOWRY: I‘m not 60. I‘m 35 or 40 maybe.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely.
MOWRY: This cannot be the coda to my career. I‘ve got to take off and land and walk away. And I‘ll let you know.
OLBERMANN: From the tragedy of flight to its highest aspirations, our second flying story tonight is of an airplane designed so large, that it renders the term jumbo jet wildly insufficient. Long ago some wag noted that the name of the aircraft manufacturer “Airbus” managed to invoke images of all the worst of the two worst form of travel. But as Robert Hager reports, Airbus is stepping up to the plate with a jet passenger flight big enough to contain a shopping area and a shower.
ROBERT HAGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It‘s huge. By far the biggest passenger plane ever. And it is starting to come together now. A piece of fuselage is trucked toward the final assembly plant. The wingspan alone will stretch nearly the length of a football field. Finished, it‘ll look like this. Double-deck, not just at the front like a 747, but all the way. Nose to tail. That gives it 1 ½ times as much floor space as a 747, too. So that depending on how airlines want to order it, it could carry from 550 passengers up to more than 800.
(on camera) And inside? This is what first class might look like. Don‘t think I‘ll see first class once this plane starts to fly. But this is a mock-up. So airlines can see how it could be outfitted. The most striking feature, this broad central staircase. The gateway to the entire upper deck of this plane.
(voice-over) The list price, super sized as well. A quarter-billion dollars a plane. No U.S. airlines committed yet. But foreign carriers have ordered 129. And so far, announced plans to fly at least into New York and LA. And maybe other U.S. cties. Airbus‘s John Leahy.
JOHN LEAHY, AIRBUS: People like more room, the like more space. We like bigger cruise ships, we like bigger airplanes, and we like to fly further nonstop. That‘s what this aircraft can do.
HAGER: But Airbus‘s rival Boeing is betting the opposite. That smaller and cheaper like its planned new 7E7 Dreamliner will be what airlines want. Meantime, the A-380 is so big airports like New York‘s Kennedy and London‘s Heathrow, where a new terminal is being built, are spending 10s of millions on changes to accommodate it.
ALAN LAMONO, PASCALL AND WATSON ARCHITECTS: It really is super size. The gates have to be further apart. We need to double in most cases, the jetways to get on to these planes.
HAGER: One jetway for the use of passengers seated in the upper deck, and a whole different jet way for passengers below.
So it will be a cattle car or a luxury liner? Airbus shows it with a stand-up duty free shop and a decorative onboard waterfall.
(on camera) And check this out as an option for airlines to order. A lavatory with a shower in it. And after your shower, maybe a meal or a drink at the bar. There‘s only 550 people waiting. Bon apetit.
(voice-over): Fasten seatbelts. Commercial service could be barely two years away. Robert Hager, NBC News. Toulouse, France.
OLBERMANN: And the third part of the third story of flight. From super sizing to downsizing at Air America. Ok. We cheated. Two airplane stories and a radio network story. It‘s Friday.
After only five weeks on the air, the network had already endured a round of executive resignations and troubles with the stations it was paying to run it in two of the top three markets. Now more high level departures and high bouncing paychecks. The “Chicago Tribune” reporting today the resignations of cofounder and chairman Evan Cohen and his investment partner and co-chair Rex Sorensen. That leaves neither cofounder still in the Air America picture. Asked when those positions will be filled again, network president Jon Sinton replied, quote “I wouldn‘t hold my breath.” As to the money, hold your breath, too, the “Tribune” reports Air America‘s paychecks to such stars as Al Franken and Janeane Garofalo bounced and at payday, Wednesday for the staff came and went without any checks. The network officials said those were technical issues and that everybody got paid yesterday.
That wraps up our third story tonight. In the air, on the air, maybe soon off the air.
Number two on the COUNTDOWN, a whole genre disappearing from the air. America‘s seemingly moving out of the living room and into the backyard to eat some worms on TV.
Then later, a mother‘s touch. The holiday campaign note from the President‘s mom. That story ahead on COUNTDOWN if my mouth begins to work again. Stand by.
OLBERMANN: Our second story on the COUNTDOWN. A cause for grief or celebration, depending on your point of view. The American sitcom is a dying breed. The autopsy is next.
OLBERMANN: They‘re dropping like flies, Ross and Rachel and Frasier and Drew. Drew Carey. The “Drew Carey Show” is going off the air, too. You didn‘t know it was still on the air? That‘s between the two of you. Our number two story on the COUNTDOWN today: Only “Everybody Loves Raymond” ranks among the most watched shows on television. And another season with Ray Romano and his dysfunctional family is anything but certain. Since television was just three channels and an eight-inch black and white screen, sitcoms have been its foremost genre, or at least among the top three. Last night, not merely the finale of “Friends” but also situation comedy? Tom O‘Neil is the senior editor at “In Touch Weekly.” Tom, thanks for your time tonight. Welcome back.
TOM O‘NEIL, “IN TOUCH MAGAZINE: Thanks, Keith. Good to be here.
OLBERMANN: Ship all remaining episodes to the Museum of TV and Radio, is the sitcom as dead as the Western?
O‘NEIL: It sure looks that way, doesn‘t it? When “Friends” came on the tube, by the way, five of the top ten shows in America were sitcoms. And as you just mentioned, all we‘ve got left in those top ten now is “Everybody Loves Raymond” and it‘s on its way out.
OLBERMANN: Some people loved “Friends,” obviously. I will admit to not being one of them. But other than the “Simpsons,” if you look at the last decade, that‘re generally considered to be the ones that will last, that will still play and make people laugh 30 years from now, “Larry Sanders,” “Sex in the City,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “South Park,” with the exception of the “Simpsons,” those are all cable and they are also all adult language to one degree or another. Is it the cable or the language?
O‘NEIL: It‘s not the language. I think they would work, despite the four letter words. Go back a few years before that to what worked on broadcast television. “All in the Family,” “MASH,” these were edgy shows. Just like the ones you just mentioned. It comes down to these network executives taking a chance, which they‘re not doing anymore. And they‘re paying the big price for it.
OLBERMANN: When networks in the modern sense, the collective thing, the groupthink networks go outside the box and create thoughtful sitcoms or quirky ones, the thing on Fox, “Arrested Development” or “SportsNight.” Why do they not connect with an audience?
O‘NEIL: “SportsNight,” let‘s deal with that for a second. That was probably one of the great tragedies in TV history. In 1999, that show was named “Best Comedy Series” by “the Television Critics of America. You can‘t get any better than that. And what did ABC do? They pulled the plug after two years.
OLBERMANN: You know why that didn‘t work? O‘NEIL: Why?
OLBERMANN: Because it was about me. Who would watch a sitcom about me?
O‘NEIL: I know, and I‘ve always meant to ask you, Keith, since it was based on your ESPN days, why did they choose a comedy format, huh?
OLBERMANN: Well, because life was just one big laugh after another at ESPN. Obviously not.
O‘NEIL: But if they had stuck with “SportsNight,” it would have found its audience. We know it was a great show and it was—it had Aaron Sorkin behind it, one of the great writers of modern television. He gave us “West Wing.:
OLBERMANN: Anything on the sitcom horizon? Are there any prospects for next season?
O‘NEIL: I‘ve got nothing but bad news for you here. The Jessica Simpson sitcom that‘s coming this fall, they‘re going to have her be a journalist. That‘s really sad. And this “Joey” spin-off for “Friends.” I‘m sorry. It‘s not going to work. He‘s moving to L.A. He‘s going to move in with his nephew who is a 21-year-old rocket scientist. Why don‘t the producers of “Friends” do what the producers have done to them when they‘ve ripped them off? You mentioned “Sex in the City.” That‘s a “Friends” rip-off. But they made it an edgy female version. “Will and Grace” is an edgy gay version. If the “Friends” producers were smart, they would look at who is stealing from them.
OLBERMANN: Conjoined twins, “Friends” perhaps? Jessica Simpson is a rocket scientist? Anyway, Tom O‘Neil, senior editor of “In Touch Weekly.” Stay tuned for more reality shows, I guess. Many thanks.
O‘NEIL: I think so. Thanks Keith.
OLBERMANN: For once we get an easy segue into our news and gossip of the celebrity world. Although you may find the going rough during the first story in “Keeping Tabs” as I have found it going rough in reading tonight‘s show.
Floyd Grove of the New York “Daily News” with a quote of the week from Donald Trump. Speaking yesterday to the sales and marking staff of “People Magazine,” Trump told them, you know I love beautiful women. Well, this is the most beautiful guy I‘ve ever seen. Unclear of the guy of who whom he was speaking, Rob Lowe was present at this anointment, or if Trump was just looking at a picture of him or maybe an old videotape.
And lastly, as the late great Congresswoman Bella Abzug once said in my presence, “Happy Mother‘s Day, all you mothers.” A political hook. Barbara Bush, one of two women in American history to have been the wife to one president and the mother to another has sent out an email called “A Mother‘s Pride” this Mother‘s Day. With Mother‘s Day coming up this weekend, it reads “I‘ve been thinking about how proud I am of our children.” Ours? Yours and mine? It‘s a mother‘s pride that I‘m writing you today to ask you to support our eldest. George W., and his re-election campaign with a donation of $1,000, $500, $250, or $100 or 50 bucks.
Tonight‘s top story. The Secretary of Defense joining the ranks of sorry-sayers in the COUNTDOWN apology hall of fame. Next, but first here‘s COUNTDOWN‘s top two photos of this day.
OLBERMANN: To the top of the COUNTDOWN and our number one story on it, apologies. As this week has so vividly illustrated, there are some things for which no amount of remorse, no words, no actions will be sufficient. And yet as happens with human nature or, more accurately, political nature, people do make the attempt, feeble or otherwise.
BRIGADIER GENERAL MARK KIMMIT, U.S. ARMY: My Army has been embarrassed by this, my Army has been shamed by this and on behalf of my Army I apologize for what those soldiers did to your citizens.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I told him I was sorry for the humiliation suffered by the Iraqi prisoners and the humiliation suffered by their families.
SECRETARY DONALD RUMSFELD, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I feel terrible about what happened to these Iraqi detainees. They are human beings, they were in U.S. custody. Our country had an obligation to treat them right. We didn‘t, and that was wrong. So, to those Iraqis who were mistreated by members of the U.S. armed forces I offer my deepest apology.
OLBERMANN: At least before those apologies in our America of 2004, the apology had not been so much an expression of remorse as it was a marketing tool. Less a mea culpa, more a mea idiot. It‘s Friday, it‘s been a tough week. we need a laugh. We need to reclaim the mojo of the stupid “I‘m sorry.” Thus we take you for a quick tour of the Shrine of the Immortals, the COUNTDOWN Apology Hall of Fame.
RANDALL SIMON, PROFESSIONAL BASEBALL PLAYER: Just having a little fun and I wasn‘t trying to hurt neither of them. So I apologize again.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and I apologize.
BRITNEY SPEARS, SINGER: I think I did it again.
JANET JACKSON, SINGER: Unfortunately, the whole thing went wrong in the end. I am really sorry.
WILLIAM CLINTON, FRM. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know that my public comments and my silence about this matter gave a false impression. I misled people, including even my wife.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I‘m so sorry. I love my wife so much.
SEN. TRENT LOTT, ® MISSISSIPPI: In order to be a racist you have to feel superior. I don‘t feel superior to you at all. I don‘t believe any man or any woman is superior to any other...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But did you always hold that view?
LOTT: I think I did.
TONYA HARDING, FIGURE SKATER: I feel bad for Nancy and I feel really lucky that it wasn‘t me.
JAY LENO, TV HOST: What the hell were you thinking?
HUGH GRANT, ACTOR: I think you know in life pretty much what is a good thing and what‘s a bad thing and I did a bad thing and there you have it.
STEVE IRWIN, CROCODILE HUNTER: Sweetheart who do you want to be when you grow up?
BINDI IRWIN, STEVE IRWIN‘S DAUGHTER: Just like my daddy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Steve, let me jump in here.
STEVE IRWIN: I am sorry, man.
ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, ® GOVERNOR OF CALIFORNIA: ...that I have behaved badly sometimes. And to those people that I have offended I want to say to them I‘m deeply sorry about that and I apologize.
SEN EDWARD KENNEDY, (D) MASSACHUSSETTS: No words on my part can possibly express the terrible pain and suffering.
RICHARD NIXON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ...some of my judgments were wrong and some were wrong. They were made in what I believed at the time to be the best interests of the nation.
JIMMY SWAGGART, TELEVANGELIST: Please forgive me. I have sinned against you, my lord. And i would ask that your precious blood...”
OLBERMANN: And I‘m sorry that I read so badly tonight. Let‘s recap the five COUNTDOWN stories, the ones we think you‘ll be talking about over the weekend.
Number five, the Secretary of Defense says—Secretary Rumsfeld testifies and apologizes, he tells of more and worse images to come from Abu Ghraib prison. Sources telling NBC news video and photos depicting beatings and rapes. The military has filed charges against the woman soldier shown in so many of the photos, Private Lynndie England.
Four, the psychology of abuse. A former army interrogator telling us it is all too easy for inexperienced guards to dehumanize and act inhumanely to their inmates.
Three, a hero in a helicopter. The pilot of the New York television news chopper says he used his instincts and experience to try to guide the crashing aircraft away from the streets, thus saving the lives of his passengers and of the pedestrians below.
Two, the end of the sitcom. “Friends” came to its finale last night and “Frazier‘s” turn is next week and it‘s the “Drew Carey Show,” by the way. We viewers seem to think that we are looking at a new TV age where reality TV reigns supreme. And much cheaper.
And number one, Secretary of Defense, Mr. Rumsfeld is inducted into the COUNTDOWN Apology Hall of Fame. That is COUNTDOWN, thanks for being part of it. I‘m Keith Olbermann. Happy Mother‘s Day. Good night. Good luck.
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