updated 5/14/2004 12:36:56 PM ET 2004-05-14T16:36:56

Guests: Shmuley Boteach, Claudia Rosett, Pam Bondi, Joe Tacopina, Sarah Eltantawi, Ben Shapiro, Keven Ann Willey, Robert Jensen

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  Tonight‘s top headline:  The elite media think the Berg execution is old news.  The “Real Deal”:  Hey, “New York Times,” mainstream America doesn‘t agree. 

Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, where no passport is required and only common sense is allowed. 

The power of pictures.  The media is saturated with images of Iraqi prisoner abuse, but not of Nick Berg‘s gruesome beheading at the hand of our enemies.  Has that made this horrible act a one-day story?  We‘re going to be asking “The Dallas Morning News” why they decided to show at least part of the atrocity to their readers. 

And why the silence from the Arab world?  We‘ve got an explosive SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY showdown on that. 

And then, Rush Limbaugh fights back, taking out full-page ads in Florida newspapers saying his prosecutors are politically motivated.  But is he rushing his defense?  We‘ll going to debate that, too. 

ANNOUNCER:  From the press room, to the courtroom, to the halls of Congress, Joe Scarborough has seen it all.  Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

SCARBOROUGH:  American media takes a page from Al-Jazeera.  It‘s time for tonight‘s “Real Deal.” 

Now, since 9/11, most Americans have been disgusted by how media outlets across the Arab world have excused the slaughter of innocent U.S.  citizens.  Arab media outlets dismissed 9/11 as a Jewish conspiracy initially, until bin Laden admitted that he was the murderer of 3,000 American souls.  Since then, distortions have littered Arab papers all across the world, talking about the United States, its troops and our intentions in Iraq. 

The bias has been sickening.  But what‘s even more disgusting is the anti-American slant that Americans are having to endure now in their own country.  That‘s right, I said anti-American.  Now, it‘s not that individuals are consciously rooting against American soldiers at war in newsrooms.  It‘s just that their hatred for George W. Bush, their left-leaning slant and their belief that every president is Nixonian and every war is a sequel to Vietnam leads them to feed their bizarre obsession with anything that hurts our cause overseas. 

You know, last night I called it bias, but tonight it‘s looking more like purposeful distortion.  Take my favorite daily read, “The New York Times.”  After we blasted “The New York Times” last night for ignoring the slaughter of Nick Berg while continuing their obsession over the prison scandal, the top of “The New York Times” was filled with an image of a military man carrying a briefcase.  The big news?  Inside were some real bad pictures. 

Well, stop the presses.  Next to that picture was a story on Nick Berg with a headline and a lead that left readers with the very real impression that it was the U.S. government and not Islamic terrorists who were ultimately responsible for Berg‘s death by detaining him in Iraq.  You know, “The Times” never even bothered to tell loyal readers like me that the U.S. government told Berg to get out of Iraq immediately and even offered to fly him to safety?

I had to read an Associated Press story later to learn that Berg got that offer, turned it down, and said he‘d rather make the dangerous drive himself to Kuwait.  Then there‘s “The Boston Globe.”  “The Globe” actually published tickets that reportedly were downloaded from a porn site and passed it off as American soldiers raping Iraqi women.  Well, “The Globe” got caught.  They apologized and they admitted that picture was a hoax. 

Again, I‘m not suggesting “The Times” and “The Globe” are acting irresponsible because they hate America, just that they hate America‘ policy, especially when it‘s directed by the likes of George Bush or Ronald Reagan.  The elite media is causing damage to its reputation that‘s going to take years to undo in middle America.  Their explanation that they‘re simply seeking the truth just doesn‘t wash with Americans anymore. 

The majority see a liberal agenda that‘s undermining our efforts overseas and endangering the lives of our soldiers and our sailors in Iraq and Afghanistan.  It‘s an ugly story, but it‘s tonight‘s “Real Deal.” 

Now, look at this.  The front page of the “USA Today,” absolutely nothing on Nick Berg.  The front page of “The New York Times,” no pictures.  And the only article there criticizes the U.S. military for Berg‘s death. 

Now, “The Washington Post,” they had this headline.  “Lawmakers Are Stunned By New Images Of Abuse.”  Are they talking about Nick Berg‘s beheading?  No.  They‘re talking about the alleged abuse of Iraqi prisoners who had to take their clothes off. 

Well, we‘ve got Robert Jensen.  He‘s professor of media law, ethics and politics at the University of Texas and the author of “Citizens of the Empire.”  Also, we‘ve got Ben Shapiro.  He‘s the author of “Brainwashed:

How Universities Indoctrinate America‘s Youth.  And also, we have Keven Ann Willey.  She is the editorial page editor for “The Dallas Morning News.” 

Let me begin with you, Ben Shapiro.  You wrote a book about brainwashing.  A lot of middle Americans think that “The New York Times” and “Boston Globe” and other elite media outlets are really the ones that are brainwashed.  How are they responding to this coverage, this uneven coverage, we‘re seeing? 

BEN SHAPIRO, AUTHOR, “BRAINWASHED”:  Well, I think clearly you‘re seeing a lot of uneven coverage.  You‘re seeing a massive amount of coverage of the Abu Ghraib scandal and very little coverage of the Nick Berg beheading. 

And it‘s incredible to me, because I think what this really does is promote a moral equivalency between the terrorists who are beheading Nick Berg and these soldiers who committed reprehensible abuses in Iraq.  But clearly these are exceptions to a rule of an honorable U.S. Army in Iraq, while the terrorist photos are clearly representative of something much larger. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, you say there is a moral equivalency.  If there were a moral equivalency, then they would be running stories on Nick Berg‘s execution and slaughter as much as they‘re doing on the prison scandal.  It just seems like there‘s absolutely no perspective. 

SHAPIRO:  I think that‘s absolutely true. 

I think what you‘re looking at is very much like what you see on campus.  You‘re seeing a real bias towards one side and attempts to paint the U.S. military as evil, as the terrorists are, and you‘re seeing this clearly in the coverage of the Abu Ghraib scandal vs. the beheading of someone.  I don‘t know how you equate getting some people naked and piling them up or possibly even abusing them in a reprehensible manner with beheading. 

I think if you‘d give any of those people in the Abu Ghraib prison the choice between being beheaded and being forced to pose naked, I think they would choose being posing naked. 

Professor Robert Jensen, what do you say about this media coverage, where there seems to be this obsession with what‘s been going on in the Iraqi prisons over the past 12, 13 days, and, yet, Nick Berg‘s a one-day story, not even talked about on the editorial pages of “The New York Times”?

ROBERT JENSEN, AUTHOR, “CITIZENS OF THE EMPIRE”:  Well, I didn‘t have any trouble learning about what had happened to Nick Berg from America‘s newspapers. 

I do think there‘s a problem with perspective and bias, but it‘s not the problem you‘re identifying.  The problem is the United States news media, the mainstream commercial corporate news media has ignored important stories about systematic U.S. abuses.  Take the U.S. attack on Fallujah, essentially collective punishment against an entire town, hundreds of people dead, many of them civilians, women and children.  Those images weren‘t in the U.S. media as well. 

In other words, you‘re keying on one particular case to avoid the systematic abuse in the prisons, which is not a one-day story, because it wasn‘t a one-day set of abuse.  And you‘re also ignoring the fact that the United States in its illegal invasion of Iraq has committed war crimes.  The U.S. media has largely ignored those.  You don‘t see pictures of the dead in Fallujah. 

When I wanted to learn about what happened in Fallujah, I had to go to the Web, I had to go to foreign media, and it was covered there, but not in the U.S.  So I think there is a problem with selective coverage, but it‘s selective coverage that paints the U.S. not in a bad light, but in a good light, when in fact it‘s engaged in an illegal occupation that all of the world objects to. 

SCARBOROUGH:  So, all of the world objects to.  So you‘re saying that the United States trying to root out foreign terrorists that are in Fallujah is the moral equivalency of five, six terrorists taking an American by his head and carving his neck off his shoulders?  You think there a moral equivalency there? 

JENSEN:  No, no.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  It certainly sounds like it.

JENSEN:  Because the U.S. were not taking on foreign fighters in

Fallujah.  They were killing Iraqis who were rising up against the U.S.

occupation.  And in the course of that 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  You‘re saying there are no foreign fighters in Fallujah? 

Are you really that ignorant? 

JENSEN:  But it‘s also the case that most of the people fighting in Fallujah were Iraqis who rose up against the U.S. occupation, while the U.S. military was sniping at ambulances, shooting at everything that moved. 

(CROSSTALK)

JENSEN:  Now, that‘s facts.  Now, the facts are available if you want to read other media. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know what?  The fact is also that certainly there were a lot of Saddam Hussein‘s thugs that ran his bloody regime for 30 years that used Fallujah as their home base.  If you want to protect them, that‘s fine.  That‘s fine. 

(CROSSTALK)

JENSEN:  If you want to defend the U.S. military occupation of Iraq and the violation of international law by the U.S. military, that‘s fine. 

I‘m an American citizen.  I believe my role in this country is to hold my own government accountable for its abuses, whether they‘re abuses in the prison system in Baghdad that we saw, whether they‘re abuses of the military.  Those are abuses I think have to be called into question.  And I think the American media has largely ignored them. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Why don‘t we just focus on that? 

You know what?  During World War II, we really should have just focused on the abuses of the United States and our bombing of German cities, instead of what happened in the concentration camps.  Boy, that really would have helped us, wouldn‘t it? 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Absolutely not. 

(CROSSTALK) 

JENSEN:  Let me finish. 

SCARBOROUGH:  No, you know what the difference is between World War II and now? 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hold on.  Hold on a second.  Hold on.

The difference between World War II and what‘s going on now is Hitler had no way to blow up American cities.  The enemies that we are fighting now do.  And it is not the fact—you know, just not showing the pictures or the video of the beheading, you know, turning Nick Berg into a one-day story, that‘s happening in the Northeast, but it‘s not happening everywhere. 

“The Dallas Morning News” ran an editorial with a picture of the terrorists holding Nick Berg‘s decapitated head.  They pixelated the severed head.  And the editorial said this: “Look at the photo of what they did to this young Pennsylvanian and understand that this is why we Americans fight, however imperfectly, and that this is why we dare not to lose faith in the justice and the necessity of our cause.”

Let me bring in Keven Ann Willey.  You‘re the editorial page editor of “The Dallas Morning News.” 

I want to ask you, why did you decide to go further than most media outlets and actually show more of this execution than, say, even NBC or “The New York Times” or other media outlets showed? 

KEVEN ANN WILLEY, EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR, “THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS”: 

We didn‘t really decide to do more than anybody else did.  We just took what we thought was a sound news judgment and did what we thought was the right thing, good journalism, which was to show the American public reality, what had happened.  That‘s what we do in journalism every day. 

We thought this was an important development to share with our readers.  We tried to do it in as nongruesome way, if you will, as possible. 

I should clarify that, rather than pixelating, we actually blackened out.  There was a black rectangle in the place of the head.  So what you see is a terrorist with his arm upholding something.  You can‘t tell what it is.  But the implication in the editorial‘s explanation is clear. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Keven Ann, how did your readers respond to this, respond to the fact that you all may have gone a little bit further than most news outlets across the country? 

WILLEY:  We have gotten a lot of e-mail, a lot of phone calls.  I think today we had about 150 e-mails on this topic alone, not just about what we did, but in general about the media‘s placement of the Nick Berg issue. 

I would say a slight majority is in favor of openness here, of showing these photos, obviously, with some kind of editing applied to them.  But it is a slight majority.  I mean, there‘s a lot of robust debate on both sides of this. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, you know, that‘s the same thing we found here.  Americans are split down the middle on whether to show these pictures or not. 

Ben Shapiro, you‘ve been left out of this debate.  I‘ll give you the last word. 

SHAPIRO:  Well, I think that clearly it shouldn‘t be a shock that Professor Jensen is espousing some sort of moral equivalency here.  He‘s, of course, the man said that 9/11 was no more despicable than acts committed by the United States government during his lifetime.  So I think that that should tell you where Professor Jensen stands and why he backs the media in its quest to establish some sort of moral equivalency between terrorists and the U.S. military. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Are you surprised that despite very little coverage, Internet search engines are actually showing that more Americans are searching this story out than any other story out there, Ben? 

SHAPIRO:  No, I think that‘s absolutely—that‘s absolutely accurate.  I think that Americans are more concerned with our enemy than we should be with ourselves, because we know who we are, but we need to know who the enemy is in order to get enough strength to confront them. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Robert Jensen, Ben Shapiro and Keven Ann Willey, thank you so much for being with us tonight. 

And please help us fight against media bias in your hometown.  We‘ve shown you examples we caught.  But if you see bias in your hometown paper or on local news or in the national media on either side of the story, drop us an e-mail at Joe@MSNBC com and we‘ll follow up on it. 

Coming up, more of the horrific decapitation of Nick Berg.  How do Christians, Jews and Muslims view that atrocity, and are Muslims giving terrorists a free pass?  I will be talking to leaders from each faith. 

And Rush Limbaugh is fuming at the way media has covered his prescription drug addiction.  Today, he fought back.  We‘re going to tell you how another—how we got another SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY exclusive from Rush Limbaugh himself. 

And then, how did billions of dollars that were meant to feed Iraqi children end up in the pockets of U.N. bureaucrats?  We‘re going to be talking to the reporter who broke the U.N. scandal.  She is going to give us the very latest developments.  So stick around. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Why has the Arab world mostly been silent about the atrocities committed against American Nick Berg?  Where is the outrage from the Middle East? 

A heated SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY showdown is coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  So how are religious leaders reacting to the execution of Nick Berg?  Well, some say Arab leaders are hypocrites to remain silent on the brutal beheading of an American when they were so outraged over the abuse of Iraqi prisoners. 

One of our next guests wrote the following today for “The Jerusalem Post”—quote—“Muslim civilization is losing its ability to mold good and decent people.  A religion that once distinguished itself for its benevolence and religious tolerance is producing a generation of hate-filled malcontents.”

With me now is the author of that piece, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach.  Also, Sarah Eltantawi is here from the Muslim Public Affairs Council.  And we also have William Donahue.  He‘s president of the Catholic League. 

Rabbi, let me begin with you. 

Those are some harsh words.  Back them up. 

RABBI SHMULEY BOTEACH, SPIRITUAL ADVISER:  You know, I‘ll tell you, Joe, Islam was once a proud, glorious and advanced civilization that was so religiously tolerant that they took in all the Jews that had been kicked out of Catholic Spain and Portugal in 1492.

They were so humane as fighters that their commanders, Sultan Saladin, allowed all of the Christian crusaders of Jerusalem in 1187 to redeem their lives with a nominal payment, rather than be killed by the sword.  I ask you, Joe, is there any semblance of that portrait of Islam left in the world today?  Islam today, sadly, tragically, is devolving before our eyes into a religion of bloodthirstiness and brutality, a religion where fighters will not only behead a man, but will take his brains and hold it out in front of AP photographers. 

We are dealing with people who have no semblance of humanity.  They have no hint of conscience.  And we often speak of how Islamic human bombs have erased from themselves the will to live.  What about erasing the image of God?  There‘s no image of God on these men. 

And what‘s so sad is that these cowardly imams seem to be afraid of their own thugs.  How could they not rescue their religion from its devolution into barbarity?  Islam was a civilization.  What happened to the word civilized? 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Sarah, you know, obviously, the rabbi said a lot you would like to respond to.  I‘d like you to do that.

I‘d also like to read you this quote, because, according to a man who said he was with Nick Berg in early April, Berg claimed he had been arrested by Iraqi police—quote—“Because I had a Jewish last name and an Israeli stamp in my passport.”

I‘d like you to respond to what the rabbi said.  And I‘d also like you to tell us, name the most senior Muslim leader in America or the world that has come out and condemned Nick Berg‘s execution. 

SARAH ELTANTAWI, MUSLIM PUBLIC AFFAIRS COUNCIL:  Well, as for the rabbi‘s comments, I have to say that the op-ed he published today in “The Jerusalem Post” is an example of the most virulent, racist filth that I have read in my entire time doing this type of work. 

It is so dehumanizing.  It is an absolutely horrific article.  And it leads to an environment that is really very poisonous.  This op-ed says that, “Since self-esteem cannot motivate the Arabs”—the entire article is riddled with “the Arabs.”  If you replaced with “the Jews,” it would be unpublishable. 

Since self-esteem can‘t motivate them, “the only thing the Arabs have left is hatred.  But what they really hate is themselves.”  He goes on to talk about, “Imagine a man who, due to being a hothead, cannot hold down a job, fails to support his family and watches his illiterate children walk around in dirty rags.”

And we wonder why people in the Arab and people in the Muslim world believe that this is a war on Islam and that people here hate them for who they are.  So to answer your question, Joe, I am not going to sit here now and defend myself or defend the Muslims or the Arabs, because this man, this rabbi that you have on today, hates me because of my heritage and because of my religion. 

BOTEACH:  No, that is absurd.  Everything you said is so absurd. 

(CROSSTALK)

ELTANTAWI:  No, this article is absurd. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hold on.  Rabbi, respond.  Rabbi.

(CROSSTALK)

BOTEACH:  Sarah, what is humiliating to Islam...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hold on, hold on, hold on.  We are not going to have two people talking at the same time.  Rabbi spoke.  Sarah spoke. 

Rabbi, respond. 

BOTEACH:  I find it astonishing that Sarah would sit here and say that I‘m filled with hate, when the whole article speaks about the glorious heritage of Islam as the world‘s leading civilization over the past 1,000 years. 

ELTANTAWI: It is a filthy, disgusting, and hateful article.

(CROSSTALK)

BOTEACH:  Sarah, you have to let me speak, OK? 

(CROSSTALK)

BOTEACH:  And, Joe, it laments how Arab leadership and people like Sarah continue to think that I‘m humiliating them, when, sadly, their actions are humiliating themselves.  Arabs have to stop denigrating women.

ELTANTAWI:  That‘s very condescending and racist, Rabbi.

(CROSSTALK)

BOTEACH:  Arabs have to stop having tyrannical leaders.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Sarah, we are going to have to cut the mike off if we can‘t speak one at a time.  Nobody gains anything by you both speaking in stereo. 

Rabbi, finish your thought and then we‘ll go to Sarah.  Go, Rabbi.

BOTEACH:  It‘s a very simple thought, Joe.

The West has not humiliated the Islamic world.  Sadly, the Muslims have humiliated themselves.  They have to democratize.  They have respect their women.  They have to go back to education.  They have to espouse a compassionate religious message.  If Sarah doesn‘t like what I wrote, let her change the Islamic world rather than condemn the messenger, because I‘m actually a Jew who respects and reveres Islam, but not in its current incarnation.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Sarah, I want you to respond and I want you to answer the question I asked you at the beginning. 

ELTANTAWI:  Yes, I‘d like to do that. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Please name me, if you will—because this is a complaint, Sarah, that I‘ve got to tell you that I hear wherever I go.  It‘s that no Muslim religious leaders will come out in America or across the Arab world, will condemn these type of killings. 

Name me, if you will, the most senior Muslim leader in America—prove these people wrong—the most senior Muslim leader in America and across the Middle East that‘s condemned these killings. 

ELTANTAWI:  OK, Joe, we don‘t have a church, No. 1, so I can‘t point to a pope for you. 

But I can tell you my organization condemned it within minutes.  Every major Muslim organization in this country condemned it.  From my understanding, Hezbollah condemned it.  I know that it was condemned by Al-Jazeera, in terms of, in the sense that they will not show the actual beheading because they say it‘s so gruesome.  I know that that‘s the case for most of Arab television.  So this charge that somehow nobody condemned it is simply wrong. 

Now, to go back to the rabbi once again, I want to read him a sentence and I want to replace the word Arab with the word Jew:  No people could be proud of the direction Jewish civilization seems to be taking.  A once majestic civilization that has now become synonymous with religious murder, violence and poverty has little to take pride in.  And since self-esteem cannot motivate the Jews, the only thing the Jews have left is hatred.  But what they really hate is themselves. 

Now, I ask you, Rabbi, is that not the type of language that persecuted your people, the type of stereotypes that made your people have so many problems in Europe for the past 1,400 years? 

(CROSSTALK)

ELTANTAWI:  It‘s very offensive. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Rabbi, I‘m actually going to respond to you, because we‘ve got to move on to Bill Donahue next. 

But I can tell you, Sarah, with you changing Arab to Jew, you know what sounded like?  You sounded like a professor from Columbia University or from Harvard. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  I mean, professors on college campuses across America are saying this. 

ELTANTAWI:  I don‘t think so. 

SCARBOROUGH:  They‘re writing it.  

(CROSSTALK)

ELTANTAWI:  No, they‘re not.

SCARBOROUGH:  I want to go to you, Bill Donahue. 

ELTANTAWI:  You need to prove that. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes.  And you know what?  I think it‘s sickening that it‘s happening, whether it‘s with Arabs or with Jews. 

ELTANTAWI:  But it‘s OK with Arabs?  OK.

(CROSSTALK)

BOTEACH:  Sarah, you see, with the Jews, it‘s not true.  That‘s the point. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  I‘ve got to go to Bill Donahue. 

Bill, a young laborer in Baghdad actually supported the killing of Nick Berg and said this: “This is the price Americans have to pay for what they‘ve done.  There is a price for the atrocities they commit.”

Now, Bill, I speak to a lot of Arabs.  I really do.  I speak to a lot of Jews.  I speak to—you know, because of the position I‘m in here.  And I‘ve got to tell you, an awful lot of Arabs I speak to, certainly not Sarah, in between the lines, they sort of say, you know what?  You guys deserve this because you‘ve embraced Israel for too long.  Is that what you hear?  What‘s the Catholic Church‘s position? 

WILLIAM DONAHUE, PRESIDENT, CATHOLIC LEAGUE:  Well, I don‘t hear enough, quite frankly.  I trust Sarah, but I have to say at the same time, her organization does have a statement which says that the root cause basically is the corruption of American culture, that Arabs are demonized in this culture. 

Arabs never had it so good any place in the whole world except the United States of America.  So let‘s get rid of that root cause nonsense.

ELTANTAWI:  I work for a Muslim organization.

DONAHUE:  Well, it‘s on your Web site.  Go read it. 

ELTANTAWI:  I know my Web site.

(CROSSTALK)

DONAHUE:  The fact of the matter is that the Catholic Church has its own problems with the Vatican foreign minister who now has come out and said that the Iraqi treatment—the Iraqi soldiers there who have been mistreated by some Americans, that is in fact worse than 9/11.  Now, this is the Vatican foreign minister.  This man is irresponsible.  He‘s insulting. 

I am a veteran myself.  I love the Catholic Church, but I‘ll never testified anybody who is this anti-American.  And there is anti-Americanism in the Vatican.  It needs to be cleaned up.  Look, everybody knows that there‘s a profound difference between somebody who‘s guilty of sleep deprivation and somebody who beheads somebody, maybe everybody except that professor you had on, Jensen there. 

This is splitting along left-right lines, not so much along Muslim, Jewish and Catholic lines.  That is to say, most people who are decent fundamentally understand that Americans are there as liberators.  Our enemies or oppressors.  They like slavery.  And in fact if we have to deal with people in a manner with sleep deprivation, maybe that‘s what we need to do. 

After all, what are we supposed to do, give these bums a hammock? 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, I‘ll tell you, I want you all to stay right there with me. 

We‘ll be right back.  We‘ll continue this conversation.  We‘ll also be talking about Rush Limbaugh‘s counteroffensive against the liberal media in his own backyard.  That‘s coming up in just a minute. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  We‘re going to be back in a second talking about whether there‘s a conspiracy of silence in the Arab world.  We‘re going to be talking about Rush Limbaugh‘s latest fight with “The Palm Beach Post,” and why the U.N. continues to steal money from the Iraqi people. 

That‘s coming up next. 

(NEWS BREAK)

ANNOUNCER:  From the press room, to the courtroom, to the halls of Congress, Joe Scarborough has seen it all. 

Welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

SCARBOROUGH:  I‘ll tell you what.  I don‘t buy that explanation about gases in the atmosphere or whatever.  Those look like UFOs to me.  It looked like it was straight out of “Signs.”

Let me bring in Rabbi Shmuley Boteach again. 

Rabbi, I want to read you a report that was released last year.  It says that Palestinian textbooks given to school children are not exactly teaching tolerance.  It says this.  Jihad a martyrdom are exalted and Jews are referred to as oppressors and slaughterers.  The name Israel doesn‘t appear on a single map.  The entire region is called Palestine.  And there‘s not a single mention of the Oslo accords. 

Many are saying that, again, not only in the Palestinian lands but also across the Middle East, that hatred of Jews and the United States is taught from an early age.  Is that your viewpoint? 

BOTEACH:  Well, you know, Joe, we‘ve seen the scapegoating earlier in history.  And when rulers are able to deflect the discontent of their citizens and blame someone else for their problems, they can continue in power. 

So here‘s what we have.  We have 500 million Arabs who think that Israel and the United States are the source of all their problems.  And let‘s say we said hocus pocus and Israel and America disappeared off the face of the Earth.  You would still have one out of two Arab women who cannot read or write.  You would still have the Arab world with a higher level of poverty than sub-Saharan Africa. 

You would still have the Arab world with the highest infant mortality rate anywhere in the world.  And you would still have children being born who will never in their lives taste a single day of liberty.  Now, Sarah can sit here and identify me as the big anti-Muslim.  I revere the Islamic faith and I‘m wondering why she won‘t condemn what is happening to this glorious civilization. 

(CROSSTALK)

BOTEACH:  Joe, at the end of the day, this is a religion that most people in the world now think is synonymous with barbarity and brutality.

ELTANTAWI:  Thanks to you. 

BOTEACH:  And people like Sarah should rescue it from its decline.

ELTANTAWI:  Well...

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, Sarah, I want to ask you a couple of things very quickly.  I want you to respond.  But, also, I spoke with an Arab-American this morning.  And he told me basically all of the problems that America has arises from our support of Israel, and he said you guys are over there because of Israel. 

I said, no, we‘re not.  We‘re over there because one-fifth of the world, and mainly it‘s the Arab world, lives in oppression.  Do you think that America is over there because of Israel or because of oil or because we want to liberate an oppressed people? 

ELTANTAWI:  Well, this is an interesting question. 

I mean, the whole—what‘s very fascinating here is that if you buy the rationale that we are there to liberate an oppressed people, which was definitely one of the rationales for this war, then that goes back to the beginning of this conversation, which is that is why the torture scandal is getting so much more press than the beheading of Nicholas Berg, because the stated reasons for going to this war include bringing some sort of rule of law and international law and ending the horrible torture that was taking place in Iraq.

And when we engage in that type of activity, that‘s a huge story.  No.  2, in terms of what the United States is trying to do in the Middle East, unfortunately, it is a well known fact to Arabs and to other people that our government has helped sustain a lot of the dictatorships in the Middle East.  So that is also a fact that we cannot overlook.  Third, our support, our blind support of Israeli policies, certain Israeli policies, particularly under the Sharon government, yes, is something that is causing major problems in the Arab world and major consternation. 

You mentioned earlier Palestinian textbooks.  Did you know that just this week 110, if not more, Palestinians have been made homeless in Gaza, one of the worst bombardments of Gaza in the past 10 years?  Do you know that many Palestinians were killed today.  Do you see any of these images?  Do you know what is going on?  The Arab people see it and they think that America is funding it. 

(CROSSTALK)

ELTANTAWI:  These are realities. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Bill Donahue, I‘ve got to give you the last word.  Go ahead. 

DONAHUE:  Well, you know, there‘s enmity there.  There‘s no question about it.

I do think, though, that the Americans went over there because we had to deal with international terrorism.  I don‘t think I want my country to be the world‘s liberator of every oppressed people, because we‘re going to be very busy indeed.  Certainly, there‘s a nexus there between the United States and Israel. 

But let‘s face it, Sarah.  Come on, you have to understand that Catholics like me—and I‘m not in use the way Jews and Muslims are—we do look in vain for Muslims to condemn these guys who would behead a guy, let‘s face it, not just because he was an American.  They singled him out because he was a Jew.  His name was Berg.  His name wasn‘t Donahue.

And when you do that, and then you hold his head up and you say, “God is great,” that is blasphemy.  If a Catholic did that, I would condemn him.  And I‘m waiting fro the Muslim world to break their silence and to condemn this kind of barbaric behavior. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, thank you, Bill Donahue.  Thank you, Rabbi Shmuley.  And thank you, Sarah Eltantawi.  We certainly appreciate you being in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. 

And up next, Rush Limbaugh is fighting back.  He‘s actually taken out a full-page ad in the newspaper that says it‘s biased against him.  Stick around for that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, Rush Limbaugh fought back against media treatment of his case today.  He took out two full-page ads in two Florida newspapers to defend himself against what he says is slanted news coverage. 

Prosecutor Pam Bondi and criminal defense attorney Joe Tacopina are here to talk about Limbaugh. 

And let me begin with you, Joe. 

What do you make of Rush Limbaugh going public, taking out ads with a case that‘s still under investigation? 

JOE TACOPINA, TRIAL ATTORNEY:  I think—I mean, you know, I think he did the right thing. 

He‘s a public figure and he, unfortunately, for him and for the system, has to fight his case to some degree in public.  Here‘s a guy who I think—and I‘m not a big Rush Limbaugh fan.  I don‘t support a lot of his views.  And, quite frankly, if he were commenting on this, as opposed to being a part of it, he‘d probably be less sympathetic to his plight than I am. 

But I clearly think this is a partisan witch-hunt.  You have a situation here where a prosecutor has a standing policy, Joe, of not prosecuting addicts, which, by the way, as a former prosecutor, I could tell you is a good policy.  You don‘t want to prosecutor and lard the criminal justice system with people who are addicts and self-medicating, if in fact that‘s what was going on. 

But a lot of things happened here that were just dirty pool in this prosecution, which I think is a window inside the prosecution‘s lack of objectivity.  You have the ACLU, you have the Florida bar associations, the Florida attorney general all denouncing this prosecution or this investigation.  And Rush Limbaugh should absolutely go out there and let his story be known.  And all he quite frankly did was take an editorial that was written in “The Washington Post” and republish it. 

There have been plenty of leaks that shouldn‘t have come out from that prosecutor‘s office that have made its way into the papers.  Rush has every, every right to defend himself. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Now, on his show today, that‘s exactly what Rush did. 

He explained why he went on the offensive in the newspapers. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  While editorial writers and columnists at “The Palm Beach Post” search for new ways to bash Rush Limbaugh and discredit him, most recently by taking his comments about the Iraqi prisoner issue out of context and then using those distorted quotes as a means to justify the investigation of Mr. Limbaugh by the Palm Beach state attorney, Barry Krischer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Pam Bondi, you‘ve got a liberal state attorney from one of the most liberal counties in the state of Florida going against one of the most conservative commentators, the most powerful conservative commentator in America—other than me, of course.  And you‘ve get this leaking stories to the press that Joe Tacopina was talking about. 

Doesn‘t Limbaugh have a right to do this type of thing and go on the offensive against this prosecutor because it does appear, does it not, that he is running a very politically motivated prosecution of Rush Limbaugh? 

PAM BONDI, FLORIDA PROSECUTOR:  Joe, I don‘t know how in the world it can be considered politically motivated.  Rush Limbaugh (AUDIO GAP)

SCARBOROUGH:  OK, Joe.  Why don‘t you...

TACOPINA:  Joe, I knew I would shut her up. 

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  You did.  You‘ve won this debate.  I‘m going to let you go ahead and explain why you think it‘s politically motivated while our technicians scramble to get the feed. 

(CROSSTALK)

TACOPINA:  I‘ll tell you why, Joe, because this prosecutor is not letting the facts get in the way, or lack of facts thereof. 

There is not a shred of evidence that they catch Rush Limbaugh doing anything illegal, either being in possession of illegally prescribed pills or buying illegally prescribed pills.  They‘re going on a case where a witness, his former housekeeper, who, by the way, unsuccessfully tried to blackmail him for $4 million, is the only witness in a case against him for self-medicating, something that prosecutors do not prosecute.  It‘s unheard of. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, it‘s unheard of.  They‘re actually holding him to a higher standard. 

And if this case ever gets into court, will that information that you just said—you just said that there was an unsuccessful attempt to blackmail him for $4 million.  Will that information go before a jury? 

TACOPINA:  Oh, absolutely.  The only witness in this case, don‘t forget, is his ex-housekeeper and her contain-trafficking husband who are the only witnesses who are going to testify against Rush Limbaugh, if this ever were to become a jury trial, which it will not, by the way. 

And, yes, their credibility and the fact that they tried to blackmail him is absolutely fair game.  And don‘t forget, this prosecutor did things that were so underhanded, like leaking the fact that his attorney, Rush‘s attorney, was seeking a plea bargain to avoid embarrassment.  That‘s not supposed to be leaked, the fact that this attorney, this state attorney, tried to use letters from the Florida state attorney general that the Florida state attorney general said were taken utterly out of context, that this attorney, prosecuting attorney, tried to get the medical records of Rush Limbaugh behind his back, which is actually procedurally incorrect. 

So many things have been done here that are just below the belt, and I think evidence nothing more than a partisan witch-hunt, Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Now, you accused Rush‘s accuser‘s husband of being a cocaine-trafficking husband.  Clear that up, just to make sure that you‘re not just slinging around accusations.  Has he been charged for that?

TACOPINA:  Yes. 

Apparently, not only has he been charged, Joe.  He has been, according to my records, previously convicted.  How‘s that?  So I don‘t think I‘m going out on a limb by saying—I don‘t mean to cast aspersions, but someone who has been previously convicted for cocaine trafficking, I‘m pretty comfortable calling him a cocaine trafficking husband.

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, probably so.

Now, Joe, here‘s the next thing, OK?  If the state attorney of Palm Beam County knows that it‘s going to be—it‘s going to be Rush Limbaugh against his former maid and they know that they have this information that the former maid, you say, tried to blackmail him for $4 million, that her husband is a cocaine trafficker in the past, he‘s been convicted of those  charges, the Palm Beach attorney, state attorney, knows that he can‘t win this case, doesn‘t he? 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Is he just doing this to beat Rush Limbaugh about the head?  Because she‘s not going to rule the day in front of a jury in any county in Florida. 

TACOPINA:  You‘re right, Joe. 

And I think, look, before this was leaked to the tabloids, before this housekeeper decided she wanted to sell her story—by the way, there‘s another fact that‘s fair game for the defense in this case.  She sold this story.  She just didn‘t tell this because she had some moral compunction to come out and tell the truth.  She sold this story to a tabloid, OK?

So, aside from everything else, she has that, the fact that she sold the truth, as a credibility issue.  But before that happened, this prosecutor made it clear to Rush‘s attorney he was not a target of this investigation at all.  It was the doctors who were writing phony scripts, not some individuals who was self-medicating because he was under such severe pain that he was taking painkillers to help him get through whatever crisis he was going through. 

You do not prosecute—prosecutors do not prosecute simply addicts, not people who are distributing drugs or doing anything else. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes. 

TACOPINA:  This was someone who was not doing cocaine or ecstasy. 

This was someone who was self-medicating to deal with some pain. 

SCARBOROUGH:  It is all a political witch-hunt.  You‘re exactly right, Joe. 

Thanks for being with us. 

I want to read our viewers what Rush gave us.  He gave SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY this exclusive statement about the story.  He said, “journalism is supposed to be objective and fair and balanced, but I have to buy my way into this paper in order to get some modicum of fairness.”  That‘s from Rush Limbaugh.

Joe, thanks for being with us. 

Pam Bondi, thanks for being with us.  Sorry we only got a couple words from you.  We‘ll invite you back. 

And straight ahead, we‘re going to be talking about how billions of dollars intended for the Iraqi people and their children ended up in the pockets of U.N. bureaucrats with a reporter who broke the story. 

That‘s next, so stick around. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY fans, if you are in the L.A.  area this weekend, MSNBC wants to interview you on camera about your favorite moment from the show.  You can log on to JOE.MSNBC.com for details.

We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)  

SCARBOROUGH:  The United Nations oil-for-food scam has cost innocent Iraqis $10 billion.  And now the U.N. is dragging its feet on the investigation. 

My next guest, Claudia Rosett from “The Wall Street Journal,” has owned this story from the very beginning. 

Claudia, thanks for being with us. 

And tell our viewers how high up this scandal goes.  Does it go all the way to Kofi Annan? 

CLAUDIA ROSETT, “THE WALL STREET JOURNAL”:  Well, we don‘t know precisely how high up the scandal itself goes, in terms of who might have been paid off.  It does go all the way up to Kofi Annan in the sense of who ran the program, who was the boss, who was responsible. 

And in that sense, we already know plenty about whose fault it was that this was allowed to take place. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And his right-hand man is right now under investigation for actually pocketing millions of dollars, is that correct? 

ROSETT:  He‘s under investigation.  Again, on that, we don‘t know whether or not Benon Sevan, who was picked by Kofi Annan to run the oil-for-food program—that is a matter still for investigation. 

What we do know is that by estimates of our own General Accounting Office, something like $10 billion was grafted or smuggled out of Iraq‘s oil supposed to have gone for funds to help for relief for Iraqis.  And that not only didn‘t happen.  It may well have ended up in bank accounts that at this point—secret bank accounts that at this point are funding terrorist groups today. 

Certainly, it went for things like attempts by the Saddam regime to buy arms while Saddam was in power.  And it definitely went to build things like palaces and provide for the ministry of torture or the ministry of justice, or whatever you wanted to call it under Saddam, minister of propaganda, Baghdad Bob, that kind of thing. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes. 

Claudia, the thing that bothers me so much about this story is the fact that as we were leading up to this war, we heard the French, we heard the Russians, we heard other countries who obviously had business people that skimmed money off of this program saying, you can have no credibility in this war against Iraq and Saddam Hussein Saddam Hussein unless you go through the United Nations. 

But isn‘t it the height of irony that it‘s the United Nations that‘s skimming $10 billion from the Iraqi people in this oil-for-food program, and it‘s the very countries that are blocking us going to war with Iraq that were profiting from it? 

ROSETT:  Well, yes. 

What the United Nations did was, they allowed Saddam to skim that money out of Iraq‘s oil revenues under the program.  And the United Nations—meaning the secretary-general, Kofi Annan, who should have—did not speak up to tell the public that, according to his secret, confidential information—the U.N. keeps a lot of things secret that should not be—enormous amounts of business had gone to France and Russia. 

The U.N. has yet to give us in fact the totals or specifics, which are now under investigation.  But there seem to be at this point quite a number of investigations, none of them being allowed or slated to produce results until after the U.N. may be dug right back into Iraq, which is something we probably ought to not do or not allow to happen until we actually have a handle on who was guilty, who did take payoffs, what actually happened inside this program. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes.  And I‘ll tell you what.  Because of your reporting, we have got a lot better chance of finding those—the questions to those out. 

Thanks for being with us.  We greatly appreciate it, Claudia Rosett.

We‘ll see all of you again Monday night.  Good night. 

END   

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