updated 5/26/2004 10:24:09 AM ET 2004-05-26T14:24:09

Guests: Lloyd Grove, Ana Marie Cox, Chaunce Hayden, Drew Pinsky, Megan Stecher, Michelle Stecher, Myron Ebell, Jack Burkman, Eric Alterman, Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  Tonight‘s top headline, the elite media says they‘re going too easy on President Bush.  The “Real Deal”:  I don‘t think they‘ve actually seen their coverage over the past six months. 

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

You know, when it comes to the president, the media pounces on scandal and ignores good news.  Are they trying to undermine the administration and the war?  We‘ll debate it. 

And, a new summer scare flick that warns of a second Ice Age is being used to attack the president‘s environmental record.  Do they really want us to base national policy on science fiction?  We‘re going to be asking Robert F. Kennedy Jr. that question. 

And then, have you noticed your daughter wearing colored jelly bracelets?  Well, if so, they could be sex bracelets.  We‘re going to tell you all about the latest trend that is sweeping middle schools, with an 11-year-old girl who was expelled for wearing them. 

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

SCARBOROUGH:  Welcome to the show with the host that has truly seen it all, and I mean all. 

Well, the media has been bashing George Bush for the past six months. 

But that‘s news to them.  It‘s time for tonight‘s “Real Deal.” 

You know, the White House has faced unprecedented attacks from media elites throughout this election year, starting with the coverage of the bitter Democratic primaries and continuing through one manufactured scandal after another.  And since the war ended, media elites have continued pushing scandal after scandal at our TV screens.  And yet, a recent poll suggests that members of the elite media believe by a 2-1 margin that they‘re actually being too easy to President Bush. 

Sadly, that conclusion is going to shock few Americans, who believe that the media has actually been way too negative in their coverage of George Bush.  Maybe this continued obsession with the most negative aspects of America‘s efforts in Iraq and the president‘s job performance explains why media outlets continue to lose respect if the public‘s eye. 

Now, that being said, America‘s top newspapers actually gave the president‘s speech coverage very fair coverage.  Let‘s start with “The New York Times.”  Now, “The Times” gave the paper top coverage today.  And if you look at this, “The Times” got most of the top of their newspaper on what they did.  They spent the first page summarizing the president‘s address with very little editorializing in the body of the paper.

Now let‘s take a look at the “USA Today.”  The “USA Today” also gave the president probably his most favorable news coverage in I would say close to six months, again, almost the entire right side of the newspaper and included data showing that the president and Senator Kerry were deadlocked in the polls.

Now, finally, let‘s take a look at “The Washington Post.”  Again, “The Washington Post” gave the president top billing and a great picture, a very positive picture.  As you know, a picture paints 1,000 words.  And sometimes, they find the goofiest pictures they can of the president.  But they ran a very positive story, again taking the president‘s words at face value instead of just shoving what critics had to say at the top of the paper.  Very positive again for the president.  They did print a graph on page showing the president‘s erosion of support on the war.  But you know what?  That‘s not media bias.  That‘s just the facts right now.

Meanwhile, the big four networks decided to broadcast a beauty pageant last instead of the president‘s speech.  They decided also to broadcast a reality show, a sitcom, and a movie rerun.  And they did all of this, again, instead of broadcasting the president‘s most important only speech in months.

But that shouldn‘t surprise the rest of us.  Media outlets have ignored the troops‘ progress in Iraq over the past year, burying the lead in hopes of burying the president‘s chances at reelection this fall.  It ain‘t fair, but it‘s tonight‘s “Real Deal.” 

Is the liberal media working to end President Bush‘s presidency?  Republican strategist Jack Burkman is here.  Also, we‘ve got Eric Alterman from the American Center for Progress who wrote the book on George Bush, “How George W. Bush Misleads America.”

Jack Burkman, let me begin with you.

Do you believe the media elite is actually trying to help John Kerry getting elected? 

JACK BURKMAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Oh, I do. 

I think, Joe, media bias, as you know, has been around for 50 years.  It‘s an old, old issue, an old, old topic.  What‘s difference about George Bush is, this is the first time in American history where you‘ve seen a deliberate, concerted and very systematic effort to drive this guy out of office.  And it started from the guy he came in.

Even if you go back to a guy like Richard Nixon, support—strong, coalescing press support against Nixon, it didn‘t really end up being that way until the very end of his presidency, near the very end.  This is something very different.  Think about it.  We have a wartime president making an important wartime speech at a dramatic moment in the nation‘s history.  And the major networks refuse to cover it?

Anyone who doubts that there‘s media bias, anyone who doubts that the media is out to get the president, how could you possibly ask for any more data than you saw last night?

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, I‘ll tell you what.  We‘ve got somebody who doesn‘t believe there‘s media bias here in the form of Eric Alterman.

Eric, according to an MSNBC.com story by Michael Moran, the White House is lashing out at the media, from seemingly casual remarks by George Bush, to outright attacks and boycotts.  A strong subtext is being transmitted that the media is undermining support for the war. 

Now, Eric, Colin Powell, Rice, and Andrew Card are all giving exclusive interviews to friendly outlets like “The Washington Times,” while the president and Rumsfeld are saying they‘re not even reading newspapers anymore.  Are we in the middle of a P.R. war here, where the president is going to be bashing the media for the next six months? 

ERIC ALTERMAN, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS:  Well, to judge by your introduction, they seem to be doing a very good job.

First of all, Joe, let‘s get the introduction straight, Center For American Progress, not American Center For Progress. 

Second of all, Joe, I think you‘re a smart guy, and therefore I don‘t think you even believe most of what he just said about these—he called this unprecedented.  Do you think that the media coverage of George Bush is so harsh that it‘s unprecedented?  Do you really believe that?

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, I really do believe that. 

ALTERMAN:  In American history?  Joe, I‘m disappointed in you.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hold on, Jack.

You start with the Iraq war.  It‘s going to be a failure.  It‘s going to be a quagmire.  We win the war.  Then all of a sudden, there‘s riot gate, basically.  They‘re talking about the Baghdad Museum, 170,000 priceless artifacts.  That ended up not being true.  And we‘ve had one scandal trotted out after another.  It‘s been unprecedented.

ALTERMAN:  And I suppose it was the media that tortured those people in that prison. 

Listen, Joe, it‘s just ridiculous.  If you take a look at how this war took place, this war was allowed to happen because George Bush and his administration pulled a bait-and-switch operation.  They took the war on terror which people supported and they turned it into a war against Iraq, which had nothing to do with terrorism and in fact didn‘t pose any of the threats that the administration said they did. 

Now, if the media were really strong against George Bush and were a liberal media, the kind of you describe, you‘d be reading stories in the American media like you read in “The Guardian.”

(CROSSTALK)

BURKMAN:  First of all, you bring up prison abuse.  It‘s an interesting subject, because while all of that was going on, while the media was covering it and brining all of that forth to the American people, they didn‘t bring out the polls that showed over 90 percent of Americans thought it was widely overblown.  There wasn‘t a single network, not a single major publication that ever brought that up. 

(CROSSTALK)

ALTERMAN:  What major poll?  Cite one poll.  That‘s complete nonsense.

BURKMAN:  Any of them.  Any of them.

ALTERMAN:  Cite one. 

(CROSSTALK)

BURKMAN:  “Newsweek”‘s own internal polling. 

(CROSSTALK)

ALTERMAN:  Internal polling?  You‘re just making that up.  You‘re just making stuff up.   

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hold on. 

(CROSSTALK)

ALTERMAN:  Tell me something you‘ve got some evidence for.

SCARBOROUGH:  Jack, let me just—I‘ll give you a poll that we can tell you we‘re not making up.

A new poll of journalists themselves show a disproportionate number of liberals in the media, according to the Pew Research, 34 percent of print, TV, and radio journalists say they‘re liberal, compared to only 20 percent in the general public.  Conservatives make up only 12 percent, but are 33 percent in the general public. 

Tell me, Eric, do you believe this confirms conservatives‘ worst suspicions, that the media is liberal?

(CROSSTALK)

ALTERMAN:  Wait a minute.

Even if we accept these numbers as true, and I have no reason to doubt the Pew Center—they‘re a lot more reliable than some made-up poll that we just heard about—listen, 34 percent of journalists say that they‘re liberal.  OK, that‘s one-third of journalists.  You guys are always saying all journalists are liberal.  Every journalist is liberal.  Oh, my God, they‘re practically communists.  But it turns out, only 34 percent of them.  So what‘s the big deal.

BURKMAN:  Eric, two points here.

ALTERMAN:  Yes, go ahead.

BURKMAN:  Let me ask you, do you think last night the president speech was not televised.  Do you think it was a newsworthy event? 

ALTERMAN:  Well, it seemed to me that it was more like a commercial for the president‘s reelection.  First of all, again, you undermined your own story with that introduction.  You‘ve got “Pravda”-like coverage on “The New York Times.” 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  “Pravda”-like coverage.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  After about a year and a half of Radio Free America coverage absolutely trashing the president.

ALTERMAN:  Oh, that‘s nonsense.

“The New York Times” was the newspaper that took the lead in printing this nonsense about Saddam Hussein‘s weapons programs. 

(CROSSTALK)

ALTERMAN: Can I finish?  Can I finish? 

“The New York Times” has a reporter named Judith Miller who printed

all kinds of stories that came from Ahmad Chalabi that turned out not to be

true, that turned out just to be propaganda.  “The New York Times” hasn‘t

apologized for any of this.  This is just as big a scandal as the stuff

that

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Jack Burkman, I‘ll give you the last word.  Go ahead.

BURKMAN:  The worst of the media bias has been the comparisons to Vietnam, where in Vietnam we had 58,000 or 60,000 people killed, I think 58,000.  Here, we‘ve had 800.  The media, CNN, the major networks, they let this comparison go on and on. 

Final footnote.  If you check out the Media Research Center, there are all of the polls.  There are many, many polls going back to the issue of public, the public feeling that the issue of prisoner abuse was overblown.  There are many, many polls.  You can check it out.

SCARBOROUGH:  Eric go ahead.  I‘ll give you the last word.  Go ahead. 

You‘re outnumbered 2-1. 

(CROSSTALK)

ALTERMAN:  I just don‘t get it.  The abuse was going on for months and months and months while this government covered it up.  Finally, we get some news about it. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  How did the government cover it up?  How did the government cover it up when they put out a press release two days after they found out that there was abuse going on?

ALTERMAN:  Excuse me.  Excuse me.  The government ignored the International Red Cross‘ report for months.  They ignored the report of Amnesty International. 

When the Senate Intelligence Committee Democrats asked for this

report, they said it didn‘t exist.  This went on for months and months and

months, until Seymour Hersh, a heroic reporter who uncovered My Lai 30

years ago, had to bring this to the attention of the country.  And, of

course, the country is having trouble

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  All right. 

Listen, we‘ve got to leave it there.  But I‘ll tell you what, Eric Alterman.

ALTERMAN:  Tell me.

SCARBOROUGH:  I want to bring you back because I want to talk about that heroic reporter, Seymour Hersh. 

ALTERMAN:  I want to get paid.

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  OK.

I read what you wrote about Seymour Hersh in 1999 when he went after JFK.  You didn‘t think he was that heroic back then.

ALTERMAN:  I was pretty favorable disposed to Sy Hersh back in those days.  And I agree, he made a mistake back then.

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, because he went after the left.

(CROSSTALK)

ALTERMAN:  Joe, have you made any mistakes? 

SCARBOROUGH:  Let‘s see.  Yes.  You know what?  I admit I‘ve made mistakes. 

ALTERMAN:  Everybody but George Bush makes mistakes. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, that‘s why I know you‘re going to be voting for him in November, the only guy in America that‘s perfect. 

Well, thanks, Eric Alterman and Jack Burkman.  We appreciate it. 

Stick around, because environmental activist Robert Kennedy joins me after this short break to talk about “The Day After Tomorrow.”  This movie opens this week and some say it‘s being used by environmentalists as a reason to vote for John Kerry. 

Then, young girls are wearing bracelets to signal to boys around them that sex acts are something they‘re willing to perform.  That scary trend and one girl who just got kicked out of school for selling them still to come. 

Plus, we‘re going to tell you about the latest sex scandal to rock Washington, D.C. 

So don‘t go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  As Al Franken once said on “Saturday Night Live,” the world comes to end.  Details at 6:00.  Well, that‘s what they say happens in “The Day After Tomorrow” movie.  We‘re going to be talking to Robert Kennedy about that in just a second.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Is Hollywood using its summer blockbusters to sway the next presidential election? 

Well, this Friday, “The Day After Tomorrow” opens.  It‘s a $125 million movie that portrays a worldwide natural disaster that is brought on by global warning.  MoveOn.org and Al Gore are even promoting what some are calling a presidential hit piece.

Well, we‘ve got Robert F. Kennedy Jr.  He‘s the senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council and president of the Waterkeeper Alliance.  We also have Dana Kennedy, no relation, I don‘t think, NBC entertainment editor.  And Myron Ebell, he‘s the director of global warning policy for the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Dana Kennedy, let‘s go to you. 

First Michael Moore at Cannes and now this movie.  Is Hollywood going to actually take votes from George Bush this fall with these movies? 

DANA KENNEDY, NBC ENTERTAINMENT EDITOR:  If I had to vote right now about these two movies—I haven‘t seen Michael Moore‘s documentary.  I quite a bit about what‘s in it. 

But I have to say, I think this cheesy disaster movie, which is very reminiscent of the ‘70s disaster movies like “Towering Inferno” and “Poseidon Adventure,” might actually do more damage to Bush.  What‘s amazing, though, I saw this movie yesterday, and you kind of laid it out for us.  Dennis Quaid plays a climatologist who warns the current administration that there may be catastrophic results if they don‘t take his warnings.

And sure enough, all of the sudden, a new Ice Age is upon us.  We see tornadoes in Los Angeles.  We see Manhattan in the best special effects sequence of this movie inundated by floods.  What‘s amazing, though, is the president is played by a Bush look-alike.  And the vice-presidential character, the actor, is a dead ringer for Dick Cheney.

SCARBOROUGH:  Oh, God.  Unbelievable.

(CROSSTALK)

D. KENNEDY:  The most amazing sequences are, they have to evacuate to Southern states.  The North is lost to us.  And state see Americans trying to get into Mexico, yes, but Mexico won‘t have us.  And we see desperate Americans crossing, yes, the Rio Grande trying to get into Mexico in an obvious and quite hilarious reversal of immigration laws. 

And the end, we see Dick Cheney—sorry if I‘m spoiling this for people—delivering a mea culpa, basically that should have listened, we were wrong, and saying we have to forgive all Latin American debt, just so we can be allowed to evacuate in there.  And I was surprised that it was this sharp a broadside.  So I think this movie might do more damage than all of Michael Moore‘s—all of his P.R. for his documentary. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Wow, Dick Cheney saying, if I had only known, if I had only known Bobby Kennedy was right all along. 

Well, Al Gore thinks the Bush environmental is more fictitious than the movie.  And this is what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We‘re dealing with two fictions.  First is the honest fiction of this movie, which distorts for entertainment purposes and is up front and honest about it.  The second fiction is the Bush White House story about global warming, which is far more fictional than this movie is. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Bobby Kennedy, you were there.  You were on that panel.  You‘re probably considered the leading environmental voice in America right now.  Do you think it‘s a good idea to use movies to—do you think it‘s a scare tactic or do you think this movie is based on solid science? 

ROBERT F. KENNEDY JR. NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL:  Well, the movie was produced by Fox, which is Rupert Murdoch‘s company.  So I don‘t think there‘s a political conspiracy here. 

It‘s not good science, but it is a wakeup call.  It‘s a way of elevating the debate.  And the problem is, if you talk about the facts about global warming, we win the debate every time.  The problem is, the White House has suppressed 12 separate studies by the Natural Research Council, by Natural Research Council, by the National Academy of Sciences, the EPA, 10-year studies.  The White House has suppressed them, has heard scientists, had blackballed scientists for talking about this issue, has fired the best scientist in the country, Robert Watson, for talking about this. 

They don‘t want the American people to discuss this issue, because this is a serious calamity that we‘re facing.  The North Pole is melting right now.  It will be gone within 40 years.  We‘ve had 19 of the 20 years hottest years on record over the past 20 years.  All the glaciers are melting around the world.  The snow pack is going.  The ocean levels are rising.  This isn‘t something that you need a scientist to testify to anymore.  We are experiencing global warming.  And there‘s a global calamity that‘s now facing our planet. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Myron, I want to read you what scientist Patrick Michaels from the Cato Institute said, a libertarian think tank.

They said: “I bristle when lies dressed up as science are used to influence political discourse.  This film is propaganda designed to shift the policy of this nation on climate change.”

I want you to respond to that, if it‘s propaganda dressed up as policy, and also, if you will, respond to what Bobby said. 

MYRON EBELL, COMPETITIVE ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE:  Well, I agree with Pat that there‘s—I have nothing against fantasy disaster movies, but the people behind this movie are saying that it‘s more important than just a fantasy disaster movie.  It actually makes a contribution to the debate. 

Well, if global warming causing a new Ice Age strikes you as a little bit implausible, I think you‘re with the American public.  I think most people can tell fantasy from what‘s possible.  Unfortunately, many environmental groups, including Mr. Kennedy‘s, and many politicians live in their own fantasy worlds and they can‘t actually tell fantasy from reality.  And that‘s why they think that this movie somehow makes a serious contribution to the debate. 

The facts are of course that global warming doesn‘t cause ice ages.  I think everyone can relax on that score.  And secondly, you know, Al Gore promoting this, really, I think just associating with the movie with Al Gore is a really bad sign for the future of this movie. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Bobby Kennedy, do you live in a fantasy world? 

B. KENNEDY:  No. 

I think the organization that Myron works for is an organization that is funded by the coal industry, by the oil industry.  And for 20 years, they‘ve been trying to deceive the American public by housing these phony scientists.  We call them biostitutes who are lying and deceiving the American public and saying there‘s no such thing as global warming. 

But there‘s a consensus in the mainstream American community.  There‘s literally no prominent scientist left in the world that will not tell that you we are now experiencing global warming, that it‘s the result of human emissions, and that we face a catastrophe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Now, the White House will say that actually emissions have gone down, airborne emissions have gone down since the president has taken control in 2001 and actually air pollution is improving.  Is that the case? 

B. KENNEDY:  No, that‘s not the case.  Air pollution is getting worse.  And the laws that govern air pollution, every kind of air pollution, not just CO2, but air pollution, but mercury pollution, the pollutions that cause asthma, particulates of ozone, all of those things are climbing. 

The president has suppressed the laws that were meant to control them.  He‘s abandoned the statutory requirements that control acid rain, that control ozone particulates.  Things are getting worse under this president.

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Myron, I‘ll give you the last word.  Go ahead.

EBELL:  Well, almost nothing that Mr. Kennedy has said this evening is true.  He may not be aware of that fact.  I don‘t know.

And the NRDC, which he is associated with, actually lies about the environment.  They recently did so in a full-page advertisement in “The New York Times” in which they solicited funds based on lies.  And Mr. Kennedy may not know enough to know that he‘s not telling the truth, but in fact virtually everything he said this evening is either wrong or untrue. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Actually, I‘ve got to give you the last word. 

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  That was so personal.  We‘ve got to go, but I‘ve got to give you the last word, 15 seconds. 

B. KENNEDY:  Yes. 

The facts are out there.  And, as I said, the man on the street knows that global warming is occurring.  The Competitive Enterprise Institute, Mr. Ebell is funded by the oil industry, by the coal industry.  And their job is to deceive the American public, so that they can continue to burn fuels irresponsibly without removing the CO2, which is what we ought to be doing. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Bobby, good to see you again.

B. KENNEDY:  Good to see you again, Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Myron, thank you for being with us. 

And, Dana Kennedy, thank you for setting this up for us.  Sorry we couldn‘t get you in the global warming debate, but maybe that‘s tomorrow. 

Up next, we‘re going to be talking to an 11-year-old girl who was just kicked out of school for selling sex bracelets.  Wake up mom.  She‘s going to want to hear about this one and hear about this new trend.

Then, another sex scandal on Capitol Hill.  Darn, and I had to leave.  The online diary of a congressional aide claims that members of the Bush administration paid her for sexual favors.  Is there any truth to it?  We‘ll get a full story coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, parents, if your middle school girl is wearing those, it‘s not just a fashion statement.  She‘s probably telling middle school boys she wants to have sex—that story coming up when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns. 

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

(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:  Hey, parents, if your daughters are wearing these bracelets here, she may just not be making a fashion statement.  They‘re so-called sex bracelets, multicolors plastic jelly bracelets that are an emerging trend among teen girls and preteen girls.  And each different color supposedly represents a different sexual act that wearer will do if a boy manages to snap one off her wrist. 

Now, my next guest was expelled from her girl for selling the bracelets.  I‘m joined by 11-year-old Megan Stecher and her mother, Michelle.

Now, Megan, I understand actually you told “The New York Post”—quote—“No one wants to tell teachers what these bracelets are.  Everybody collects and wears all colors to school.  And all the kids know exactly what every color stands for.”

When did these bracelets first become popular?

MEGAN STECHER, EXPELLED SELLING BRACELETS:  Well, they mostly became popular when I was at school and when I was around the block.  I started asking what they meant to my friends.  And then they started telling me what the black meant and everything.  And I don‘t wear them anymore because my parents said no. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes.  You know, let‘s talk about these different colors that you were talking about, this, again, according to “The Post.”

A black bracelet means sexual intercourse.  Blue is for oral sex.  Red is a lap dance or a French kiss.  White is for a homosexual kiss.  Green means you‘re going to be having sex outside.  And if you got a light green glow-in-the-dark, that means using sex toys.  Brown, purple and silver bracelets represent acts that shouldn‘t be mentioned on a family program like SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. 

You know, Megan, this obviously would shock a lot of parents across the country, that these bracelets are being used to send—what is it, to send the message out to boys of what you will or what you won‘t do? 

MEGAN STECHER:  You know, I don‘t do the stuff.  I just collect the colors.  Mostly, I have all the colors except for orange.  I just collect them.  I don‘t do any stuff like that. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes.  And we‘re not saying that you do stuff like that.

But, actually, “The New York Post” was strategy you were selling these.  Do other girls go around—and I see you smiling there, with your mom in front of you—but do other girls actually tell you that they use these bracelets to tell other boys what sexual acts they‘ll perform? 

MEGAN STECHER:  Yes, just because each boy knows what the bracelets mean, so they go over and they break it on a girl and then the girls—mostly, 210 girls do that, mostly in 210.

SCARBOROUGH:  And how old are they? 

MEGAN STECHER:  They‘re in junior high school and they‘re like 13 and up, or younger. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Now, are the teachers on to this and the principal on to this, they understand that preteen and teenage girls are carrying around these sex bracelets and that if the boys snap them off, that they‘ll have sex with them? 

MEGAN STECHER:  Yes, but the rings—if a girl is wearing the rings, like I have right now, it means that if a boy comes over and breaks it, it doesn‘t mean anything.  But the bracelets, they mostly mean everything. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes.  Now, you were kicked out of school.  Were you kicked out of school for wearing these or for selling them?

MEGAN STECHER:  For wearing them.  And it‘s because “The New York Post,” what they took is a picture in front of my school.  And you can see it in Sundays‘ paper on page five, if you still have it.  It‘s just because it says “Holy Child Jesus” design in the background.  And the Parish got really mad.  And the Board of Ed called up my school and started screaming at the school.  So now I got in trouble.

SCARBOROUGH:  Michelle, this has got to be pretty shocking to you as a parent to hear about this development.  I say it‘s got to be shocking.  When my boys—my oldest boy was going through middle school, I was absolutely shocked to hear the stories of what was coming out of those schools. 

MICHELLE STECHER, MOTHER OF MEGAN:  I‘m horrified as a mother.

I grew up in the ‘80s and I wore all the bands, like Madonna.  They were black and white.  And they meant a Chinese symbol.  And I played with Barbie Dolls back then.  But this, when I heard this, me and my husband were just shocked and outrageous.  It‘s like, wow.  I taught her about the birds and bees, but this is too much.  I‘m sorry. 

SCARBOROUGH:  It really is.  It‘s just unbelievable.

Megan, Michelle, stay with us. 

I want to move on right now and I want to bring in Dr. Drew Pinsky.  He‘s the author of “Cracked” Putting Broken Lives Back Together.”  And also Chaunce Hayden.  He‘s the editor of “Steppin‘ Out” magazine.

Dr. Drew, you‘re a progressive kind of guy, but I always bring you on the show and tell you the outrageous things that are happening in middle school and you actually almost sound conservative, because—I think it‘s because so many of our middle schoolers are getting further and further out there.  I‘m not talking about our guest tonight, but she told us, 11-, 12-, 13-year-old girls are carrying around these bracelets and having sex with boys.  It‘s shocking, isn‘t it?

DR. DREW PINSKY, AUTHOR, “CRACKED”:  It is shocking and it‘s unhealthy.  That‘s really the problem.

It‘s almost like they had to invent the bracelets because we ran out bases on the baseball diamond for them now.  What I don‘t understand is why we have to as a society take the position that somehow we have to anticipate that the bar is going to continue to be raised. 

Well, ever since the sexual revolution, we‘ve sort of looked at this as some sort of joyous exploration.  The fact is, we are at the stage now where kids are acting out, where these are unhealthy behaviors and that they‘re destructive and they‘re often signs of serious mental health issues and they need to be addressed as such. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, let me bring in Chaunce Hayden.  You‘re the editor of “Steppin‘ Out” magazine. 

CHAUNCE HAYDEN, EDITOR, “STEPPIN‘ OUT”:  Right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Chaunce, what‘s your take on these sex bracelets for 12-year-olds? 

HAYDEN:  Let me tell you what my take on this is.  Something stinks about this story.  Something truly stinks about it. 

Shame on all of us.  First of all, how did this story first become public?  It was a story in “The New York Post,” a story in “The New York Post.”  You have this young 11-year-old girl posing with these bracelets, holding them up.  Now, no offense to the parents, but something is wrong with that.  Something is wrong with calling “The New York Post,” having a photographer come down and take a photo of your 11-year-old daughter to show these sex bracelets.

And I‘ve got to tell you, something really stinks here.  Something doesn‘t sound like it‘s kosher, if you get my drift.

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, I‘m sure there are a lot of parents, though, with 12-year-old, 13-year-old girls who are sitting here tonight shocked that they‘re hearing a middle schooler say, yes, all of this stuff is going on in middle school.  And, again, it‘s not just one case in New York. 

Again, it‘s around the country.  It‘s in Pennsylvania.  It‘s in South Carolina.  I come from a very conservative area, and I‘ve heard horror stories about what goes on in middle schools there. 

(CROSSTALK)

HAYDEN:  Kids being kids.  It‘s kids being kids.  It‘s spin the bottle.  What a kid says and what a kid does are two different things. 

These are kids trying to get...

PINSKY:  I beg to differ.

(CROSSTALK)

HAYDEN:  No, let me finish.  These are kids trying to get the attention of the adults. 

They‘re just trying to get attention.  They‘ll say anything to get this type of attention that we‘re giving them.  This is ridiculous.  This child is going on a press tour.  We‘re dragging this kid around on TV.  It‘s absolutely, absolutely amazing. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, Dr. Drew, I don‘t want to be too explicit here, but, again, going back to a middle school in Pensacola, Florida—actually, I better not say it.  I‘m going to offend half the people that live there.

But these middle school girls in this one middle school had a club named after oral sex and you could only be in the club as a seventh or eighth grader after you performed the act of oral sex on middle school boys.  Is this kids being kids? 

PINSKY:  Yes, I share concerns with this particular story, but the reality is, this is an opportunity to talk about something that actually is happening in our country.

The statistics show this.  I work in a psychiatric hospital.  I can assure you, this is happening.  It‘s happening for sure in high-risk youth.  There‘s no doubt about it.  The problem is, the kids are starting to look at it as a sort of normative behavior.  And, as such, there can be a contagion.  It can drift to kids that otherwise wouldn‘t be doing these sorts of behaviors.  And it can be incredibly destructive and exploitative.

(CROSSTALK)

HAYDEN:  When the media takes someone like Paris Hilton and we give her a TV show for making a porn video, what do you expect children to do? 

And let‘s get back to this case again.  Let‘s not forget we have an 11-year-old child here that we‘re using as the postadolescent for this story.  And I think we should be ashamed, to be quite honest. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, I think we all agree that Paris Hilton being elevated to some super celebrity is a disturbing trend. 

Dr. Drew, in the 90 seconds we have remaining, explain to us, if you will, as parents of girls, what stops girls from engaging in this type of high-risk behavior?  What‘s the best step parents can take? 

PINSKY:  Well, really, the literature that I‘ve read suggests that in fact it is the parent that has the highest probability of containing these sorts of behavior, if you have a stable family system, if you create a home where the child feels safe, if you establish dialogue with your child. 

I think I mentioned this to you once before, that there‘s a window between the age of 8 and 12, that if you start that dialogue, that dialogue will continue into adolescence.  And it‘s not what you tell them.  It‘s just establishing that dialogue, so you can impress upon them what you think is and is not appropriate and what the consequences of these kinds of behaviors can and will in fact be.

So it is in fact incumbent upon the parent to do the job of parenting.  If I‘ll you what.  If you have a child that is still outlying in terms of their behavior, realize there‘s help out there.  It‘s bizarre to me to think that people don‘t get help with their children.  The schools know this.  Ask the schools for help.  They are afraid to tell the parents because parents are so defensive.  Don‘t be afraid to get help if you have a child who has a behavior problem.

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, thanks so much, as always, Dr. Drew Pinsky.  And, always, Chaunce Hayden, we appreciate you both being here.  And, of course, Megan and Michelle, thank you also. 

And coming up next, a Capitol Hill staffer‘s online diary of exploits with Washington bigwigs is the talk of the capital.  I‘m going to be joined by top gossip columnists from New York and Washington to talk about D.C.‘s latest sex scandal and how it‘s been spread around town.

ANNOUNCER:  Tonight‘s SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY challenge, according to a recent study, how many bloggers are there?  Is it, A, 60,000, B, 300,000, or, C, four million?  The answer coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER:  In tonight‘s SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY challenge, we asked, according to a recent study, how many bloggers are there?  The answer is, C, four million, 2.5 million of which are American.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky.  I never told anybody to lie, not a single time, never.  These allegations are false. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  That‘s just awful.  Just awful.  Let‘s never play that one again. 

Well, it‘s been a long time since there‘s been a good old-fashioned sex scandal in Washington.  But fear not, Jessica Cutler has saved the day.  The 24-year-old Hill staffer just got fired from a job in Senator Mike DeWine‘s office, who would have ever guess, for keeping a steamy sex diary online, a Weblog which detailed her exploits with unnamed power players, including, according to him, getting paid for sex by an administrative honcho appointed by President Bush. 

With me now, Washington blogger Ana Marie Cox, who recently spoke to the fired staffer.  And we also have Lloyd Grove of “The New York Daily News.”

Ana Marie, you are the Wonkette.  You have been stirring it up in the nation‘s capital.  Tell me about this story.  tell Americans about this story.

ANA MARIE COX, WONKETTE.COM:  Well, it‘s a story that, actually, as Jessica described it, it‘s a bunch of nobodies having sex with each other.

And, really, compared to Clinton, this is not something that‘s going to bring down the presidency or even come close to bringing it down.  But it is rather explicit in a way that I think even the Starr report—well, it‘s about the same as the Starr report.  And it‘s much more candid and much more funny. 

SCARBOROUGH:  It‘s also happening in real time, isn‘t it?  The amazing thing about what your Web site has done is, every day, this woman, you would post what she was putting on her blog and we‘d go step by step by step into this scandal and readers would see every day what was going on. 

COX:  And I‘m afraid she got fired in real time too. 

I‘ve learned that soon—about an hour after I posted her blog, she came back from lunch and was confronted with one of the people in the blog who had printed out the post and confronted her with it.  And she said that, well, she pretty much knew to start packing her stuff then. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, pretty much, because didn‘t she say that she actually got paid $400 after having sex within an administration official? 

COX:  Yes, so it‘s good that she had some money in her pocket to take home that day. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Exactly, because that‘s kind of—I don‘t know, that‘s kind of a fireable offense, I would guess. 

COX:  Yes, although it‘s funny.  They said they didn‘t fire her for...

SCARBOROUGH:  Getting paid for sex? 

COX:  Getting paid for sex.  They fired her for improper use of Senate computers, which I—I don‘t know what else she was doing with the computers besides keeping a diary. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes. 

Lloyd Grove “The New York Daily News,” you worked in Washington for a long time. 

(LAUGHTER)

LLOYD GROVE, “THE NEW YORK DAILY NEWS”:  I‘m sorry I left.

SCARBOROUGH:  This is nothing new for you.  But we saw that picture of Bill Clinton.  Obviously, that scandal was launched by “The Drudge Report.”  A lot of people in the media said, oh, my God, I can‘t believe that Matt Drudge is pushing news.

Now we move into the age of blogging, where these online journals are getting all that gossip out there.  It seems like, as they say in “Broadcast News,” they keep moving that line, don‘t they? 

GROVE:  Well, scandal, I must say, was launched by Ana Marie on Wonkette. 

(CROSSTALK)

GROVE:  She‘s the impresario of this whole thing.  And God bless her.  She‘s cut through the clutter.  Now Wonkette is something to be read by everyone all around the world. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Wonkette.com, that is.

But when you were in Washington, again, I‘m sure you got tips, scandalous tips every day that you couldn‘t just go out and run.  I‘m sure now at “The Daily News,” you hear things all the time that you can‘t print?  So what do you do? 

GROVE:  Well, you try and verify it.  You make phone calls.  They do make me make phone calls before I print stuff at “The Daily News.”

And if somebody came to me with an entertaining blog about having sex, I would seriously consider it.  And this blog actually is quite entertaining.  It‘s kind of the dark side of “Bridget Jones‘s Diary.” 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes.  And, again, but do you think, though—I know

there are a lot of people in journalism that are going to be very concerned

that this may start happening to presidential candidates.  We‘ve already

had in this presidential campaign a rumor that was thrown up on a Web site  

(CROSSTALK)

GROVE:  And Alexandra Polier is having a big story in “New York” magazine that is breaking next week.  So we‘ll here about how the process by which she came to the fore and “The Drudge Report” exposed her as allegedly having had an affair with John Kerry.  No matter that everyone denied it, it was out there and was a mini nonscandal for a while. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes. 

Now, Ana Marie, here‘s an excerpt from Cutler‘s blog.  She said: “Most of my living expenses are thankfully subsidized by a few generous older gentlemen.  I‘m sure I‘m not the only one who makes money on the side this way.  I‘m convinced that the congressional offices are full of dealers and hos.” 

I am sure you reprinting this is causing shockwaves in Washington.  I must say, when I went down to the Correspondents Dinners, you had all of these journalists down there with capital J.s, and yet everybody sort of seemed to be flocking around you.  Is the blogger sort of the new muckraker of the 21st century?

COX:  Oh, I can just talk dirty in a way that they can‘t. 

I think that—it‘s funny.  We were talking about Jessica‘s blog and whether or not having a blog was going to mean something in the way that this kind of gossip is distributed.  And, actually, I think something that people haven‘t pointed out is that Jessica, in a way, for a young person who has kind of grown up with this media, I think she‘s the one who was the most surprised and kind of the most naive about how quickly this got out and how easy it was for people to figure out who she was, where she was blogging from. 

SCARBOROUGH:  How did you track it down? 

COX:  Oh, someone just sent me the link.  It was a public blog.  It was BlogSpot, like hundreds of thousands of other blogs are.  I had—this is my naivete—I had assumed that she had disguised her paramours a little bit better.  I had assumed that someone who would keep such a public blog wouldn‘t make it so easy for people to find out who she was. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes.  Wow.  I‘ll tell you what.  And now I would guess she wants to come to New York.  What is she going to do? 

GROVE:  I can‘t wait.

SCARBOROUGH:  She is going to cash in and do a reality TV show with Paris Hilton?  I say that tongue-in-cheek, but, my God, that‘s where American society is going now.  Have sex.  Get paid for it.

(CROSSTALK)

GROVE:  Watch where you put your tongue, Joe.  That‘s all I‘ve got

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Come to New York.  Exactly.  It‘s pretty crazy stuff.

And, again, this could—this doesn‘t—it does actually have an

impact on how these stories are run.  “The Washington Post” picked this up

from Wonkette.com.  They ran a story, gave it

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  ... at “The New York Post.”  It‘s amazing stuff.

GROVE:  And, look, it‘s fun.  One thing that‘s sort of a revelation, I

think, is that all this sex is happening from a Republican office, a

conservative, pro-life Republican?  It‘s, you know, quite

SCARBOROUGH:  Mike DeWine, of all people, not...

COX:  Jessica herself proudly claims to be bipartisan.  I think she sleeps with both guys.

GROVE:  She is definitely bi. 

(LAUGHTER)

COX:  Actually, she told me that during her—well, never mind.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, you better watch out.  This ain‘t a blog, baby.  We could get sued for what you—unless you have some news you want to break that‘s not going to get us all sued. 

COX:  No, I should just keep my mouth shut about that. 

SCARBOROUGH:  OK, because you did say—I saw “The New York Times” article.  You said time and time again, you are not a journalist.  Is that correct?

COX:  Oh, I don‘t pretend to be.  I don‘t actually report.

This whole thing fell into my lap.  Maybe I should take more credit than I should.  But everything fell into Drudge‘s lap, too.

(CROSSTALK)

GROVE:  Kind of a literary lap dance. 

COX:  That‘s right.  Oh, my God, I wish.

(LAUGHTER) 

COX:  Neither of us really live our office.  It‘s sort of the journalistic equivalent of phone sex, really.  We get to just sort of sit there and have people tell us what to do.

SCARBOROUGH:  OK, the cameramen are laughing.  That means it‘s time to get off the subject. 

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  Thanks a lot for being with us, Lloyd Grove.  I appreciate it.

Ana Marie Cox, keep stirring it up in Washington, D.C.

COX:  Thanks. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And now, if you‘re still out there scratching your head wondering what a blog is, never fear.  I‘m going to break it down for you in our next segment, so go away. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Tomorrow night, is President Bush or former President Clinton responsible for not getting Osama bin Laden?  The battle of those books when authors David Bossie and Bob Baer debate.

But we got more SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY straight ahead.  So stick around.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, our sex scandal blogger story may have left some of you asking, what‘s a blogger?

Well, mom and pop, a blogger is one who blogs.  Speaking “Electric Company” style, our guests for that segment keep a political diary online.  It‘s called a Weblog.  Take the words Web and log and it becomes Weblog.  But since kids don‘t have a sufficient attention span to piece two syllables together, the terms has been mercifully cut down to blog. 

SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY‘s favorite blogs include Wonkette.com and Gawker, of course, InstaPundit, Dawn Patrol, AndrewSullivan, and the ArmedProphet.  And the keepers of these blogs mix news stories with political viewpoints and personal stories, which really make blogs most interesting.  And most blogs are updated daily using software that allows nimrods with little or no technical background, i.e., me, to update their blogs on a daily basis. 

Now, if you haven‘t checked out blogs or this crazy Internet thing, I highly recommend it.  I hear it‘s real big with the kids.

Well, thanks for joining us on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  We will see you tomorrow night, as both sides battle on who should have brought Osama bin Laden to justice. 

See you tomorrow.

END   

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