Guest: Gerald Posner; Jeffrey Addicott, Robert Greenwald, Glenn Trainor
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Group think: The Orwell-like term used to describe the CIA and prewar intelligence in the long awaited Senate Intelligence Committee report.
Bin Laden, another scary term: Are his fingerprints all over whatever made Secretary Ridge say what he said yesterday? Investigative author, Gerald Posner, joins us on both topics.
The recalled reservist who won‘t go quietly: If Uncle Sam wants him, it‘ll have to go to court to get him.
Hair today, gone to Washington: Political do‘s and don‘ts, including an actual poll asking Americans which presidential candidates‘ hair they like better.
And the man who bulldozed Granby, Colorado: Jaw dropping new videotape released, today. We‘ll talk to one of the sheriffs who tried to stop this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get him. Get him, get him, get him.
All that and more now on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Good evening. Contrary to what you will hear often over this weekend, “group think” is not part of the vocabulary of the ultra fascist society portrayed by George Orwell in his novel, “1984.” It is a term coined by a psychologist in 1972, but it gets the point across and it was used today by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to describe how the CIA convinced itself and others that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction that actually did not exist.
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: Intel or the lack thereof, in a moment. The analysis of the Senate report from investigative author Gerald Posner, coming up. First, that report itself.
Five-hundred and eleven pages long, a veritable laundry list of misjudgments. Saddam reconstituting the nuclear program. Conclusion? Not supported by the intelligence, which does not add up to a compelling case.
All that snazzy looking evidence that Secretary of State Colin Powell presented to the United Nations in February 2003. Conclusion? Overstated, misleading or incorrect.
Chemical weapons? Conclusion? No way, none of them, either.
Three conclusions out of 117. We will let the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee summarize the other findings for us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. PAT ROBERTS ®, INTELLIGENCE CMTE. CHAIR: The committee concluded that the intelligence community was suffering from what we call a collective “group think” which led analysts and collectors and managers to presume that Iraq had active and growing WMD programs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: That was a Republican talking. The Democrats on the committee have a slightly different take. Group think or no, the vice chair says it would be a mistake to group blame the CIA and the CIA alone.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JAY ROCKEFELLER (D), INTELLIGENCE CMTE. VICE CHAIR: The fact is that the administration at all levels, and to some extent, us, used bad information to bolster its case for war. And we in Congress would not have authorized that war. We would not have authorized that war with 75 votes, if we knew what we know now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: If you‘re the White House, how to respond is a delicate matter. The release of today‘s report coinciding with, and threatening to overshadow, the president‘s campaign swing through Pennsylvania. Press Secretary Scott McClellan, briefing the media on the way to the airport this morning, suggesting they report essentially agrees with what the White House has been saying all along.
But Mr. Bush, himself, at an asked the president a Q&A session, may have been much more forthright than his own spokesman.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I haven‘t seen the report yet. I—I—I know it‘s quite critical. It‘s a very important for our fellow citizens to know there‘s some really good people working hard in our intelligence gathering agencies, taking risks for their lives, doing the very best job they can.
I will remind them that there has been some failures. Listen, we thought there was going to be stockpiles of weapons. I thought so, the Congress thought so, the U.N. thought so. I tell you what we do know, Saddam Hussein had the capacity to make weapons.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Who to blame and how to fix? The latter, landing on the desk of the next head of the CIA. George Tenet, who now has only an outbox on his desk, departs on Sunday. The agency‘s official reaction coming instead today, from Tenet‘s deputy, the soon to be acting director, John McLaughlin. A rare news conference at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, DEPUTY CIA DIRECTOR: We get it. Although we think the judgments were not unreasonable when they were made nearly two years ago, we understand with all that we have learned since then, that we could have done better.
The Senate report is an in-depth look at essentially one document, on one issue, an important one to be sure. In other words, it is wrong to exaggerate the flaws or leap to the judgment that our challenges with prewar Iraq weapons intelligence are evidence of sweeping problems across the board spectrum of issues with which the intelligence community must deal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The turnaround on explanations for vague but dire sounding public intelligence pronouncements was a lot swifter when it came to yesterday‘s statements by Homeland Security Director Ridge. A reported clue about the reliable information about an al-Qaeda effort to supposedly disrupt the November elections? Three words: Osama bin Laden.
The “New York Times” quotes senior Bush administration officials who say the Qaeda chief and his top henchman are believed to have chimed in in some fashion in the latest chatter about plans to attack the U.S.
“What we know about this most recent information is that it is being directed from the senior most levels of al-Qaeda,” says the unnamed official. Who adds “that senior most level is still ensconced on the Afghanistan/Pakistan border. The degree to which he is actually involved in planning or supervising or approving is still unclear.” That unnamed official adds, he may be limited to “urging them to carry out operations in the name of the terror network.”
Joining me now to talk about both the bin Laden element to the latest chatter and the Senate‘s postmortem on the CIA prewar, is the man who wrote “Why America Slept: The Failure to Prevent 9/11,” investigative reporter, Gerald Posner.
Thank you again for some of your time tonight, sir.
GERALD POSNER, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Good to be with you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Let‘s start with bin Laden. From the “Times” account, sounds as if he may have been reduced to being a kind of motivational speaker for the al-Qaeda operatives. What does his reemergence, even if it‘s only in messages to his underlings, tell us about what Homeland Security thinks it is seeing developing on this front?
POSNER: Well, it certainly indicates that Homeland Security thinks this is a more serious threat. But I am somewhat befuddled by this, Keith, because of the fact that bin Laden has never disappeared. When you talk about his reemergence, it‘s reemergence as far as we, in Homeland Security and the American public‘s concern, but he‘s never left.
Sure, he‘s been on the run. He‘s stayed free of us for over two-and-a-half years. But, he‘s been trying to direct al-Qaeda in a general sense, and urging them to have attack in the homeland, here in the U.S. at some point.
So, this isn‘t a surprise that he would like to pull something off before November, before the elections. It wouldn‘t take a rocket scientist, much less Secretary Ridge, to tell us that.
The thing that I‘m somewhat—I shake my head at, is I don‘t believe that administration officials really are able to say with any certainty that bin Laden is giving some urging and communications and chatter to this type of attack.
We can‘t locate this man. We‘re doing everything, we‘re spending millions of dollars, we‘re paying off local tribe war lords in there, trying to find him. We have spy satellites all over the northern borders of Pakistan and Afghanistan. We have specialized vehicles out on the ground that are robots going all over the mountainside looking for him. And now we‘re to believe that somebody has picked up chatter that involves Osama bin Laden urging an attack in America before November, but somehow with all of our billions of dollars in high technology, we can‘t trace that call to find out where he is?
I think he‘s there, he‘s still trying to urge a big attack on the U.S. and what Secretary Ridge told us, may sound like news, but isn‘t news to those of us following terror alerts.
OLBERMANN: Yeah, it might be rephrased, instead of “reemerge,” it might have been “we lost him and just found him again.”
POSNER: That‘s right.
OLBERMANN: This may be incidental to the threat that we‘re talking about, but the process mystifies me and continues to do so. Now, Secretary Ridge comes out and his statement is bland enough that it sounds like one of the disclaimers at the end of a commercial for a weight loss program. Then a senior Bush administration official holds this anonymous briefing for reporters and goes into detail about bin Laden and chatter and what isn‘t referred to.
How can we have any confidence in a system in which a cabinet secretary stands up and tells the public, live on television, “We have no details on this threat” and another member of the same administration then hides behind anonymity and tells reporters, “Here are the details we have on the threat?”
POSNER: No, I think it‘s absolutely terrible. As a matter of fact, there is no credibility to it. What Secretary Ridge should be doing, if I could be so presumption to say so, is giving the American public the details.
We have the right to know, we‘re the one at risk. Three-thousand of our fellow American died on September 11, because of a surprise attack by an enemy that no one wanted to acknowledge beforehand.
I think that the secretary of Homeland Security has a right to get before the cameras and if has information and any specifics, as opposed to an anonymous administration official giving that to a private press briefing off the record, we should be able to hear it in the public and listen it on the record and on the air.
You know what? This is a bit of what I call “cover your behind.” Homeland Security is doing a good job. They‘re trying their hardest to stop the next attack, but they also just want to say, “And by the way, be careful, we hear a lot of chatter,” because if there is an attack they don‘t want to be caught saying, “We didn‘t tell you.”
OLBERMANN: Moving on to the Senate Committee report on the CIA. This is political dynamite, but I gather that you think that the debate over whether or not bureaucrats pressured analysts and agents for particular information or interpretations is actually distracting from a much more important problem structurally in the CIA.
POSNER: Yeah—you know, we‘re looking for whether in fact the Bush administration pushed—you know, did they pressure the CIA to say this? And I tend to think that takes the CIA off the hook a little bit for the real ultimate responsibility, which is, despite what the CIA spokesman just said a few minutes ago, when you showed that tape, that this is just one problem, although the problem that led us into a war to invade a country and now we‘re in a war where we don‘t know what to do about it.
And this is a problem that is an epidemic inside the agency, which is an inability to sort of analyze and really debate the issues in the open and find out whether in fact this operation is correct before they pass it to the policy makers.
I‘ll give you just two very quick examples. They had a picture, for instance, of a truck that could have carried chemical weapons. It might have also been used for other purposes. They used that truck satellite picture to conclude that Iraq had an active chemical weapons program.
They used the information from an informant called “Curveball,” I love that name, who they never debriefed or had any direct access to, to determine that Iraq had an active biological weapons program.
What was going on here, Keith, is that inside the CIA they were taking information, drawing conclusions from it without presenting the caveats to what might be, giving it to the policy makers who had already made up their minds that they wanted to invade Iraq, and it was one hand sort of clapping the other and saying, “we‘ve all got the right conclusion, here.” It was really a disaster from the get-go.
OLBERMANN: So lastly and briefly, tie it together for me. When you hear what Ridge says, what that unnamed official says, what the Senate committee says today, what the deputy director, McLaughlin says today about it being just one issue, how in the hell are we going to get intelligence up to speed in this country and when?
POSNER: It is going to take years to get intelligence up to speed. And I must tell that you that we need a CIA director in who‘s going to shake things up, who‘s going to change that “old boys” culture in there, and really make the CIA accountable.
I hope that we also find people inside the CIA, responsible for this failure of intelligence, this massive failure, and that they pay a cost if some of responsibility is laid there.
And as for Secretary Ridge, I think that he is saying the right thing. If there‘s not an attack before November, it is not because Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda didn‘t try.
OLBERMANN: It is sometimes terrifying, but it is always educational when we are fortunate enough to have Gerald Posner on COUNTDOWN. Thank you again, sir.
POSNER: Thanks Keith.
OLBERMANN: So, we open with Iraq and Intel. Up next, tonight‘s No. 4 story: A former soldier suing the government to try to avoid recall to active duty. He thought he was done with his service, but the military says he did not read the fine print in the contract.
And later, a month after the attack, the newly released videotape, an almost unbelievable new perspective as police in one small town try to stop a man in an armored bulldozer intent on destroying it.
OLBERMANN: Coming up, the former soldier suing Uncle Sam. The Army says he is not former soldier, not even after four years of service, four years in the Reserves. What could be a landmark case for that Individual Ready Reserve call-up process, next.
OLBERMANN: He spent four years in the Army and four more in the Reserves and says they told him his commitment was eight years and now he‘s done that. They say they commissioned him a lieutenant and he never resigned, so he‘s still liable to be recalled to service as part of the Individual Ready Reserve. In fact, he will remain liable through the year 2034.
Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, tonight: Todd Parish of Kerry, North Carolina thinks the Army has simply made a mistake. The military is looking into that. But Parish‘s lawyer is taking no chances. He‘s suing for breach of contract claiming his 30-year-old client is the victim of a, quote, “back door draft.”
To try understand this case, we‘re joined by Jeffrey Addicott, a professor of law and director of the Center for Terrorism Law in St. Mary‘s University School of Law, also a former member of the Army Judge Advocate General Corps.
Professor Addicott, good evening.
PROF. JEFFREY ADDICOTT, ST. MARY‘S SCHOOL OF LAW: Good evening.
OLBERMANN: Does Todd Parish have a case, here?
ADDICOTT: Well, his argument is that it is an unlawful taking under the due process clause, the 14th Amendment, and that the contract was not clear. Essentially, what you have is he did he four years on active duty and then he had a four-year obligation in the Reserves as a Reserve officer. But, he never resigned his commission as a Reserve officer, therefore he is put into the IRR, which is the Inactive Ready Reserve, which is the place that most retired and individuals that come off active duty remain for a number of years, subject to being recalled.
OLBERMANN: The catch for him, as I understand this, is that they made him an officer and as you said, he did not resign his commission. If he doesn‘t resign his commission as an officer, when he leaves active service, he goes into the IRR, but if he had resigned his commission, wouldn‘t they also put him in the IRR, anyway?
ADDICOTT: It depends on the specifics of his contract. He was an ROT
· ROTC candidate and then from there he went into active service. There are a number ways to become an officer in the military: you can become a direct commissioned officer, you can come in through ROTC, you can stay, you can serve your time and then leave, so it depends on the contract.
His argument is that, “Hey, I didn‘t read the fine print and therefore you didn‘t explain it to me. I didn‘t realize the ramifications and the consequences, and therefore again, under a concept of fairness, due process, that I have served my time and therefore, it‘s not fair to call me back on to active duty.”
OLBERMANN: Obviously, it‘s a breach of contract suit. You heard that quote that the lawyer said, that this Reserve is actually a back door draft. Does it meet the requirements for that kind of statement?
ADDICOTT: Well, on the one hand, we are in war, I mean, people need to remember, we‘re at a time of war. Our Congress, our president, our courts have indicated that we‘re at war. And the fact that the military is calling on the IRR, indicates that we are stretched very thin.
In fact, there has been some speculation by some members of Congress that we might have to reinstate a draft, and of course, that‘s a situation where individuals don‘t volunteer, they‘re simply asked by their country to serve, requested, demanded, if you will. And this individual, of course, I think we feel for this individual, the military has called back about 6,000 IRRs. I, myself, am an IRR and I could theoretically be recalled to active duty.
OLBERMANN: Jeffrey Addicott, former Army GAG (sic), the—now at the St. Mary‘s University in San Antonio. Great thanks for explaining this to us.
ADDICOTT: Thank you, sir.
OLBERMANN: COUNTDOWN now past our No. 4 story. Up next, continuing MSNBC coverage of the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona and other stories of the “Oddball” variety.
And later, the secret source for the bad Gephardt scoop. Could it have been none other than the “New York Post‘s” owner, Rupert Murdock. Bad week for him, and it‘s only going to get worse next week. We will explain, and add to it.
OLBERMANN: We‘re back and we pause the COUNTDOWN to check in one last week this week with the strange news and weirder video from around the globe. The stuff that makes up the segment voted “most offensive” by the Texas Cattlemen‘s Association. Let‘s play “Oddball.”
And it‘s day three of “Oddball‘s exclusive MSNBC primetime coverage of the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona. And once again, today‘s match was no contest. It was, in fact, a massacre, we mean that quite literally.
You will pardon us if we continue to root for the bulls in this yearly event, because while the morons and Hemingway wannabes running with them may risk terrible injury, the bulls face certain and pointless death.
But, word must be getting around the bull-vine community of what awaits them in the bull ring, because today‘s group was all horns. Four humans gored, and several others trampled today, most notably, this guy in the top center of the screen. He‘s run down by the big brown bull and he struggles to recover, but—oh my, look out, here comes Ferdinand. Don‘t that beat all? But, it looks like he‘ll be OK if he can just get out of the way of the—boom! Welcome to Pamplona, sir.
But, a few bloody gorings and tramplings, not enough to overcome that which awaits to toros in the ring, and thus, after three days, the series stands unfortunately at western bipeds three, bulls nothing. Are you discerning a pattern, here?
Now to a slightly less lop-sided battle: Short guy versus tall guy. If you‘ve ever seen the video of my old colleague, Charlie Steiner, wrestling a British writer, James Whittaker of the “London Daily Mirror,” inside the press room at the Wimbledon tennis tournament, you know there‘s no better TV than watching two reporters a-scrappin‘.
The new arena, the Senate news conference room yesterday, just after three senators had spoken about Homeland Security, a short news man has accused a tall news man of blocking his view during the news conference. And you‘re about to witness what happens when journalists attack!
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh my god!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I asked you a favor.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you talking about?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You blocked us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you talking about? You‘re crazy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You crazy? You crazy, man. (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you just hit me?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey! Hey!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you doing?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come here (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He knows he was wrong.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, you were, you should have sat down when we asked you the first time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, it‘s not worth it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And it‘s over, it‘s all over. Tall guy wins with a quick take down—right there. But then gets yelled at by his colleague who obviously must have missed the provocation. And you people call yourself boxing writers?
Finally, nothing says summer like the sport that teaches us that when we jump improperly into water, it can hurt as much as if we were landing on plywood. The Belly Flop Competition from Denver. No longer just for kids who haven‘t yet learned to point towards the water when they dive, now these adults—and in public, no less. The winners move on to face the bulls of Pamplona next week in the semifinals at Carrolton, Texas.
(UNINTELLIGIBLE), rotation, splash.
“Oddball” on the record books, now. Coming up, decision 2004: Sure, there are polls, sure there are platforms, but in a tight race, maybe it‘s all ultimately about the hair.
And later, a madman and a bulldozer: A new close-up view of the bizarre rampage, as told by the man who jumped up on the bull dozer to try to stop it.
These stories ahead, first here are COUNTDOWN‘s “Top 3 Newsmakers” of this day:
No. 3: Geraldine Williams, the cleaning woman from Braintree, Massachusetts, changed her mind and quit her job more or less on the way to clean a client‘s home, possibly because she had just won the Mega Millions jackpot worth $294 million.
No. 2: An unnamed gentleman from Iran lost his keys 16 years ago, just found them—in his leg. Apparently he had accidentally shot himself in 1988 and the bullet had forced the keys from his pocket into his leg. Oops!
And No. 1: Sheriff Jackie Barrett of the Fulton County Jail in Atlanta, who is in a bit of a jam after an inmate escaped from the maximum security wing while guards were serving as extras during the making of a rap music video in the prison. That‘s right, he beat the wrap. We do not expect the sheriff will.
OLBERMANN: It is perhaps useful to remember tonight that, in the landmark film “Network,” one of the key elements of the newscast that its detractors call a bastardization and a pornographic network news show was a nightly segment called “Vox Populi.”
In 1976, when they made the film, it was considered horrifying, unjournalistic, heretical. It was a nightly roundup of public opinion polls.
Our third story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, politics, including the fingering of the idiot who told “The New York Post” that Dick Gephardt would be the Democratic vice presidential nominee.
But, first, for the fourth time this week, public opinion polls on the presidential race, which have painted four different pictures. A poll just released just released by “TIME” magazine throws a dart into the Republican criticism of John Edwards, 55 percent saying his experience as a trial lawyer is a plus, just 26 percent saying it has contributed to the problems of frivolous lawsuits. The “TIME” poll, conducted Tuesday through Thursday, also shows Kerry leading Bush 49-45, but an equally new Associated Press poll conducted Monday through Wednesday shows Bush ahead 49-45, with a margin of error of 3.5 points.
Yesterday‘s Zogby poll called it Kerry 46, Bush 44, margin three points. And a special NBC News overnight poll following the designation of Edwards as Kerry‘s running mate on Tuesday had Kerry had 49, Bush at 41, Nader at 4, and undecided at 6. The rush nature of that job required a margin of error of five points.
Well, that clears that up. As General William Tecumseh Sherman once noted, vox populi, vox humbug. Just to add to the confusion, another poll is out sponsored by the Wall Clipper Corporation. It is about the candidates‘ hair. Well, hell, John Kerry brought it up. He deserves whatever he gets. The survey of 512 men and 497 women in May indicated the president‘s hair was preferred by 51 percent, Senator Kerry‘s by just 30 percent. Presumably, the undecided 191 respondents are bald.
This is not as farcical as you might think. Somewhere along the line, every president‘s hair has been commented upon. Certainly, all the multiple-term presidents have had coiffure that represented, even defined their eras, not their ears, their eras.
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We‘ve got better vision. We‘ve got better ideas. We‘ve got real plans. We‘ve got a better sense of what is happening to America, and we‘ve got better hair. I‘ll tell you, that goes a long way.
OLBERMANN (voice-over): The opening salvo of decision 2004, taking a poke at the incumbent combs. If presidential hair were all that mattered, Al Sharpton would have won the nomination. Jim Traficant would be his faux follicle veep. And Arthur Fonzarelli would be secretary of “ehhh.” Happy days, indeed.
Before it mattered at all, that is well before television, you had all kinds of do‘s in the White House, starting with the powdered wigs of the era of George Washington. Then came a dizzying time in which America was trying to find itself, to say nothing of trying to find its presidential hairstyle. Bald, John Adams. Mullet, James K. Polk. Balder, John Quincy Adams. Kind of mullet, James Buchanan. Baldest, Martin Van Buren. Abe Lincoln ran for the office without the whiskers and evidently without a comb. He and principal opponent Stephen Douglas had famously debated two years earlier, Lincoln winning by a whisker.
But, of course, in the hair competition, there had been no winners. It was a letter from a young girl after the election that led Lincoln to grow that beard. She said it would make him look more distinguished. But beards were already on their way out. No whiskered man has run for the presidency since Charles Evans Hughes in 1916. And none has won since Benjamin Harrison in 1888.
The mustache was believed to have twice sunk Thomas E. Dewey‘s bid for office. No lip caterpillars have won since William Howard Taft. The hair atop the head would eventually come to take on that kind of importance in the age of TV. If you think hair had nothing to do with Nixon‘s loss to Kennedy in 1960, you don‘t know Dick Nixon.
In 1968, Hubert Humphrey and in 1972 George McGovern had worse hair. And Nixon won. Ford vs. Carter? No malaise up top for Jimmy. Then came Ronald Reagan with the first professional hair, a Hollywood hero‘s head full. Bill Clinton once held up traffic at LAX while he got a $200 hair cut aboard Air Force One. He also twice swept to victory.
Four years ago, George Bush first wiped out the thinning John McCain. But the rules of hair engagement suggested he should have fallen to the seemingly full-headed Al Gore. Aha, seemingly. This year, John Kerry, almost an Andrew Jacksonesque throwback. John Edwards, from the Carter-Clinton school with plenty of running the fingers through it. George Bush, grayer but hair under control. Dick Cheney, just watching.
And if you think the hair issue is as phony as a bad toupee, remember this. No predominantly bald man has been elected president since Dwight Eisenhower. And both times he won, he was running Adlai Stevenson.
OLBERMANN: So now it is Bush and Cheney running against Kerry and Edwards, not Kerry and Gephardt, as reported Tuesday in what was supposed to be a gigantic scoop by the newspaper “The New York Post,” one that wound up scooping out much of what remained of the newspaper‘s credibility.
The source of that ill-fated story was revealed by another newspaper today, “The New York Times.” And it‘s a big surprise, Rupert Murdoch, owner of “The Post” and Fox News and Fox Television, of newspapers around the globe of their multinational titanic corporation News Corp. “The Times” reports a “Post” employee demanded anonymity confirmed that Murdoch phoned “The Post” news desk just after 10:00 p.m. Eastern Monday night and dictated the story and its positioning in the paper.
A spokesman rebuts the “Times”‘ account. The paper stands by its flat denial that Rupert was the source of the story. The spokesman admitted his source for that denial was “The Post”‘s editor. We report, you decide, whether or not we just made it up.
Not a good week for Uncle Rupert. Not a good week ahead either. Monday, a film called “Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch‘s War on Journalism,” will make it debut on the Internet. And it will be screened in theaters on Tuesday. The filmmaker is Robert Greenwald. And he joins us now from Los Angeles.
Mr. Greenwald, good evening.
ROBERT GREENWALD, FILMMAKER: Good evening. Nice to be here.
OLBERMANN: “The Post” headline first. Does the identification of Mr. Murdoch as both source and editor of that story surprise you? And what possibly could have motivated him?
GREENWALD: Well, it doesn‘t surprise me. It‘s part of a long tradition in which Mr. Murdoch has taken a very aggressive and firm role in all of his publications all over the world. This has been a consistent policy where his personal political viewpoints have been interjected into newspapers, into supporting candidates, into supporting the war among hundred of his papers around the world.
So I don‘t think it‘s a surprise. This time he was caught with his hand in the cookie jar, to everyone‘s embarrassment.
OLBERMANN: I have a piece of tape I want to play and I don‘t know if you‘ve ever seen this, but there was a great British TV playwright named Dennis Potter. And he had been a newspaper journalist for a while and worked for Murdoch. And he wrote “Pennies From Heaven” and “The Singing Detective” and a lot of great stuff.
And I guess 10 years ago, he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. They gave him three months to live and did he this remarkable TV interview with a British arts journalist named Melvin Brag (ph). And Murdoch‘s name came up in a startling way. Here‘s the tape.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DENNIS POTTER, PLAYWRIGHT: One of the favorite fancy plots of a writer is, a character is told, you‘ve got three months to live, which is what I was told. And you, who would you kill?
And I call my cancer, the main one, the pancreas one, I call it Rupert, so I can get close to it, because, that man, Murdoch, is the one who, if I had the time—in fact, I‘ve got too much writing to do and I haven‘t got the energy—but I would shoot the bugger if I could. There is no one person more responsible for the pollution of what was already a fairly polluted press.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: In essence, Mr. Greenwald, this dying man, Dennis Potter, said that if he did not have better things to do with his last three months, he would have shot Rupert Murdoch on behalf of mankind. Surely, the man can‘t be that bad, can he?
GREENWALD: Well, as someone who doesn‘t believe in capital punishment, I certainly wouldn‘t want to go that far.
I think what Mr. Murdoch has done with News Corporations around the world, with the Fox News network here, I spent six months studying Fox News Network for “Outfoxed.” And it is really quite shocking and scandalous that a network that would say fair and balanced is so far on the other end, the other extreme.
But having said that, I do think it is part of a larger problem. It‘s not just Mr. Murdoch. It‘s part of media consolidation. When that happens, when you have five companies controlling all of the media we get, that‘s a very serious and profound issue for a democracy, because the sources of information that we‘re getting to make our most important decisions about who we are and how we‘re going to live are being affected by a smaller and smaller and controlled by a smaller and smaller group of company. I don‘t think that‘s good for any of us. And Murdoch is perhaps the most extreme example of the media consolidation problem.
OLBERMANN: The “Times” article today noted that their source demanded anonymity out of fear of being fired. There are rumors going around cable, the business, right now that Fox has already vowed to expose CNN or MSNBC if we cover your documentary.
My own experience working for Fox always left me wondering—he still owned the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team, Murdoch did. And I got a tip from outside the company that he was looking to sell them. I confirmed that tip. I went back to the people I worked for at Fox. I said, look, this is your team. It‘s also your network. If you don‘t want me to report this, I‘m not going to. It is your candy store and your rules. I think that‘s fair.
And Murdoch‘s personal publicity man said, we are not going to comment on the story, but it is legitimate news. If you think the sources are solid, go ahead and report it. And I did. And two weeks later, I got fired. And another reporter called me up and said he had heard, but he had never been able to confirm that when Murdoch heard about my story about the Dodgers, Murdoch had personally ordered that I be fired, even though his own people had OKed the story.
Is this the kind of stuff that you have come across in putting your movie together?
GREENWALD: Absolutely. Over and over again—in the movie, I have nine different people who have worked for Fox News network who have come forward and talked on camera, three of them anonymously, by the way.
But the level of fear about Roger Ailes and Fox News Network was as extreme as I‘ve ever seen. People hung up the phone on me. People told me their e-mail was being read, that they couldn‘t afford to e-mail me. People told me to lose their numbers. They were in fear for their jobs and they—one of them said, Roger Ailes is Tony Soprano. I cannot talk to you.
And I must have had 20, 25 people who work at Fox News who wanted to talk but became too scared and too intimidated. So your example is hardly unique. Plus, there were many former employees of Fox News who are forced to sign these onerous agreements when they leave the network. Now, how many networks force you to do that? Because they are concerned about the fact that they specifically give political messages to their reporters and their producers and their writers.
They tell them what to cover. They tell them how the cover it. And they tell them the viewpoint to cover it with. In addition to these nine people in the movie, I also have about 15 of those infamous memos that they get every day with a guide as to, well, here‘s how we think. Here‘s how we want you to think.
I wanted to start a campaign to free the reporters at Fox News. How dare they not trust them to interpret the news, but spoon-feed them and tell them, we want you to think this way and we want to you report that way.
OLBERMANN: Twenty-five years in the business as of tomorrow and I never had to sign a don‘t-talk deal that referred to after you leave. If you are working for a company, I can understand that.
Robert Greenwald, the documentary is “Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch‘s War on Journalism.” Good luck with it. Thank you for your time, sir.
GREENWALD: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Still ahead of us here, a true test of strength and endurance, much harder than running with the bulls in Pamplona. It is time for your and my weekly grilling on the week that was, “What Have We Learned?”
OLBERMANN: Still ahead, time for the weekly equivalent of, thank you, sir, may I have another? I will take the weekly news quiz “What Have We Learned?” next.
OLBERMANN: Each week, the details of the news cascade down upon us like sudden rainstorm that went unpredicted by the weatherman. We get soaked with it, but how much do we really absorb?
Thus, our second story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, our weekly news quiz, your chance to see what if anything you have remembered and my chance to fine out how, if measurable, dumb I really am. And we call it:
ANNOUNCER: “What Have We Learned?”
Our regular master of ceremonies, senior producer Denis Horgan, has run away with the circus or something. So we have a special “What Have We Learned?” guest host, the one and only COUNTDOWN correspondent herself, Monica Novotny.
Well, isn‘t this nice?
MONICA NOVOTNY, NBC CORRESPONDENT: It is so very, very nice, such a proud moment for me, really.
OLBERMANN: I‘m sure. Put it on the resume tape.
NOVOTNY: Thank you for having me.
NOVOTNY: Let‘s start by reminding viewers at home that you too can play along. Take the entire quiz on our Web site at COUNTDOWN.MSNBC.com. And why don‘t you sign up for our award-winning newsletter while you‘re there? It can‘t hurt.
Now, Keith, you get five questions from the quiz. And then there‘s some sort of one-minute lightning round.
OLBERMANN: Yes. I‘ve been through this before, even if you have not.
NOVOTNY: Are you ready?
OLBERMANN: Yes. And I have not seen the questions. That‘s the key ingredient. I keep forgetting to mention every week, I don‘t know what the questions are in advance.
NOVOTNY: That‘s right. We pulled them out of our lock box. I have just removed them.
OLBERMANN: Or we pulled it out of somewhere. OK, go ahead.
NOVOTNY: Here we go. No. 1, Australian authorities this week issued a warning about not getting too close to which animal?
OLBERMANN: Well, it‘s Australian people. But my answer is going to be kangaroos.
NOVOTNY: Very good.
NOVOTNY: Which chart-topping musician shut down a chat room on his or her official Web site because of the personal criticism?
OLBERMANN: George Michael.
OLBERMANN: Two for two.
NOVOTNY: That had to hurt.
NOVOTNY: Who was the first choice of the L.A. Lakers to fill its head coaching vacancy, but turned down the job this week?
OLBERMANN: Mike Krzyzewski. Just don‘t ask me how to spell it.
NOVOTNY: That was my next question.
OLBERMANN: Rudy Tomjanovich just took the job. That‘s three.
NOVOTNY: Oh, that was your bonus round.
OK, No. 4, what Brit this week said—quote—and I‘m not doing the accent—“I know as a parent if your child is really naughty, you will want to smack them”?
OLBERMANN: Only one person said that this week in all of Great Britain. Queen Elizabeth.
NOVOTNY: Wrong. Tony Blair.
OLBERMANN: Tony Blair. OK, so three of four.
NOVOTNY: No. 5.
NOVOTNY: What‘s the name of the controversial new reality show to be broadcast on the UPN Network?
OLBERMANN: It‘s the one about the Amish. It‘s “Amish America” or “Amish Town” or “Amish People.”
NOVOTNY: Sounds like in the city.
OLBERMANN: “Amish in the City.”
NOVOTNY: That‘s the one.
OLBERMANN: Was that acceptable? Close enough?
NOVOTNY: No. No way.
OLBERMANN: What do you mean?
NOVOTNY: That‘s not even close.
OLBERMANN: I want Denis Horgan back! What a rip!
NOVOTNY: Denis Horgan is far, far away. And he‘s staying there.
OLBERMANN: And you‘re going to be far, far away, too.
NOVOTNY: All right. So how many was that? Four, right?
OLBERMANN: Well, three, one disputed.
NOVOTNY: Three. Sorry, one disputed.
Let‘s start the clock for the one-minute lightning round.
OLBERMANN: Our judge, the former director Mark Greenstein (ph), says I didn‘t get that one. So we‘ll get a new Mark Greenstein next week as well.
NOVOTNY: Let‘s go the clock, shall we?
OLBERMANN: Let‘s go to the lightning round.
OLBERMANN: I hope you all get hit by lightning. Go ahead.
NOVOTNY: What is the genus and species of a bull?
OLBERMANN: Bos taurus.
What did “The Daily News” send along with a congratulatory note to “The New York Post” this week?
OLBERMANN: Some champagne and some cold duck.
What does the winner of wife carrying contest win?
OLBERMANN: His wife‘s weight in beer.
OLBERMANN: OK, how about that?
NOVOTNY: And therein lies the conundrum.
OLBERMANN: That‘s what Horgan got.
NOVOTNY: The margin of error being plus or minus three here, because we want to be fair, how many children did Marlon Brando actually father?
OLBERMANN: It is reported to be up to 15.
NOVOTNY: Indeed, anywhere from nine to 15.
OLBERMANN: All right.
NOVOTNY: How many hot dogs did Takeru Kobayashi eat to win this year‘s contest?
OLBERMANN: I don‘t get a plus or minus on that?
OLBERMANN: I don‘t know. Like 34?
OLBERMANN: How many?
NOVOTNY: Internet handle of the person who first broke the John Edwards story?
OLBERMANN: Oh, the Internet? That‘s MSNBC.com and MSNBC and NBC News and Andrea Mitchell. All of the above, right?
NOVOTNY: The Internet handle.
OLBERMANN: The Internet handle?
Oh, I‘m sorry, USAAviation.com.
NOVOTNY: Aerosmith was actually the handle. I think we‘re way out of time.
OLBERMANN: Oh, handle. See, handle, the term handle is wrong there.
NOVOTNY: OK, well, I‘ve already made a mess.
But, Mark, how many are we at? Seven. You only got seven right. But it‘s your show.
OLBERMANN: Seven total and it should be nine.
NOVOTNY: It‘s your show so they told me you get a prize anyway. With love from Denis at the circus.
OLBERMANN: I was wondering what that was that smelled so badly. And we knew it wasn‘t back in our offices that are being remodeled today.
NOVOTNY: Yes. It is not only popcorn. It is actually burned popcorn.
OLBERMANN: It is burned popcorn. OK.
If our judge and director Mark Greenstein is watching, you looking carefully into the camera, Mark? OK, here we go. That‘s for you.
There you have it, folks, another completely rigged news quiz, another edition of “What Have We Learned?” brought to us this week with the lovely and talented Monica Novotny.
Thank you, Monica.
Tune in next time, if there is a next time, for another edition of:
ANNOUNCER: “What Have We Learned?”
OLBERMANN: Making our nightly segue into the celebrity news, “Keeping Tabs,” tonight, a judge in Los Angeles has issued a warrant for the arrest of Courtney Love. She was supposed to appear on charges of having beaten up another woman at her ex-boyfriend‘s home. But after waiting nearly three hours for her to show, the judge issued the warrant.
Her lawyer says she is in New York. Sources tell our station there, WNBC, that she in fact has been hospitalized in New York, but other than the word that it is apparently not life-threatening, no details of that hospitalization confirmed.
Up next, the view from a sheriff‘s car in a small Colorado town as an armored bulldozer plows through the streets.
OLBERMANN: The old saw about a picture being worth 1,000 words is usually an exaggeration, but our No. 1 story on the COUNTDOWN is no hype job.
Granby, Colorado, a month ago last Sunday, June 4, a man in a custom armored bulldozer slamming through the town like some robotic monster or escaped elephant. Granby‘s library was demolished, its town hall, the newspaper, 13 buildings in just over two hours, $5 million worth of damage affected by Marvin Heemeyer, who had spent over a year planning all this, keeping a meticulous record of his intentions, how he built the 53-ton weapon he used against the town‘s 1,500 residents.
These images newly released by the Grand County Sheriff‘s Department as Granby tries to rebuild, $600,000 chipped in by the state of Colorado. The estate of the perpetrator, Heemeyer, who shot and killed himself after the vehicle finally malfunction, will be worth about another $1 million. The rest will have to come from a relief fund. Contributing to that effort, T-shirts emblazoned with the image of Mr. Heemeyer‘s bulldozer being sold by Granby‘s Chamber of Commerce at $10.
The decision to use that symbol a matter of some debate, particularly when memories of that day are still so fresh, perhaps for no one more so than the scene commander that day, undersheriff for the Grand County Sheriff‘s Department, Glenn Trainor.
Undersheriff Trainor, thank you for your time. Good evening.
GLENN TRAINOR, GRAND COUNTY SHERIFF‘S DEPARTMENT: Thank you. How are you?
OLBERMANN: The video shot by your officer on that scene, at what point during the two-hour-plus period are we looking at and can you give us a sense of what kind of effort you were mounting in response?
TRAINOR: Well, the video is actually taking place after Mr. Heemeyer had destroyed about five buildings. It was about halfway through the destruction that this video shot took place and then continued on towards the end of it.
OLBERMANN: Other than hostage situations, which are obviously long and drawn-out events that can often give people too much time to think, rare are the occasions when law enforcement seemingly has no options.
What were you thinking as this guy continued on in this seemingly unstoppable destructive rage?
TRAINOR: Well, I think the thing that was primary in our minds was that we just had to continue to keep trying to stop this bulldozer using every resource at our disposal. We had called for SWAT teams with heavy weapons from the Denver metro area, had also notified the National Guard and asked them to respond as well.
OLBERMANN: You were unable with your own weapons to penetrate the armor on this bulldozer. At one point, you wound up riding it looking for a way in. How did this all eventually in fact come to an end?
TRAINOR: Well, after about two hours, Mr. Heemeyer went down to a local propane plant and fired a 50-caliber rifle at some propane tanks there. He then went back up on the main highway through town and lost radiator fluid. The bulldozer started smoking. And he then came to a halt on basically a concrete footing for a gamble store there in town.
OLBERMANN: Did you ever find out what led him to this, why he snapped in this way with such preparation?
TRAINOR: Well, Mr. Heemeyer had had a long-standing dispute with the town of Granby and the town board over some zoning issues and the fact that a concrete plant was built adjacent to his muffler shop.
OLBERMANN: It‘s a month and a few days since. How is Granby recovering from all this?
TRAINOR: Oh, the town of Granby is doing wonderful. The people of the town have just been extremely supportive of everybody who had buildings damaged. Over $100,000 has been raised for the fund to rebuild the town of Granby. And everybody is just working together fabulously.
OLBERMANN: Reflections on it a month later? Does it seem real to you?
TRAINOR: Oh, it is actually surreal. Everybody that was involved in it is a little bit jumpy any time they hear heavy equipment running down the street. But, by and large, the gentlemen I work with are all a bunch of professionals. And our purpose is to protect the town and our community and we did a great job of that.
OLBERMANN: And indeed you did.
Glenn Trainor, undersheriff of Grand County, Colorado, thanks very much for your time and we hope you never have to deal with anything like that again.
TRAINOR: Me, too. Thank you.
That‘s COUNTDOWN for this Friday. Thanks for being part of it. I‘m Keith Olbermann. Have a good weekend. Good night and good luck.
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