updated 8/20/2004 10:01:22 AM ET 2004-08-20T14:01:22

Guest: Brooks Jackson; John Harwood, John Fallert, Michael Musto>

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over):  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? 

You sunk my Swift Boat! John Kerry attacks the anti-John Kerry attack ad and 35-year-old Navy records attack one of Kerry‘s foremost attackers as a flip-flopper. 

What‘s the record for being the keynote speaker for the most different political parties?  We think it‘s two and we think that Zell Miller‘s going to set it in two weeks.  The Georgia democrat will front the republican convention. 

Inside the Oprah jury:  It‘s not about Oprah, they explained.  No, it‘s about going on Oprah‘s show. 

And speaking of shows, need a summer replacement for the “Sopranos?”  how about the “McGreevey‘s.”  We‘ll tell you who the new character is, the guy in the blue trunks.  The doctor guy how‘s in the CIA and dies his skin -- yeah. 

All that and more now on COUNTDOWN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Good evening.  Considering how much political time has speeded up since 1964, the “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth” commercial has had the modern shelf life of the Lyndon Johnson ad showing the little girl picking daisies while an atomic bomb goes off.  And there‘s a second version of it coming out tomorrow morning.  But in our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN:  Today, two symbolic atomic bombs went off inside Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.  John Kerry attacked back and the 35-year-old Navy records of one of Kerry‘s chief attackers actually attacks the attacker‘s version of the day  Kerry earned his Bronze Star.  Brooks Jackson of bipartisan watchdog Web site, factcheck.org, will join us in a moment about that. 

First, the senator himself.  In Boston, Kerry took the gloves off—he blasted the president for still not disavowing the Swift Boat ad nor calling for its withdrawal.  He blasted him for not acknowledging a connection to it, and blasted the group portrayed in the ad itself. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Of course this group isn‘t interested in the truth.  They‘re not telling the truth.  They didn‘t even exist until I won the nomination for president.  But here‘s what you really need to know about them, they‘re funded by hundreds of thousands of dollars from a republican contributor out of Texas.  They‘re a front for the Bush campaign.  And the fact that the president won‘t denounce what they‘re up to tells you everything that of need to know.  He wants them to do his dirty work. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Meanwhile in Washington, the Kerry/Edwards‘ campaign unveiled another new ad featuring Republican Jim Rassman, the Green Beret who says that Kerry saved his life along the Mekong Delta in 1969.  And that commercial rebuts the Swift Boat commercial.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

Kerry:  I‘m John Kerry and I approved this message. 

ANNOUNCER:  The people attacking John Kerry‘s war record are funded by Bush‘s big-money supporters.  Listen to someone who was there, the man whose life John Kerry saved. 

JIM RASSMAN, FMR. GREEN BERET:  They blew me off the boat; all these Vietcong were shooting at me.  I expected I‘d be shot.  When he pulled me out of the river, he risked his life to save mine. 

ANNOUNCER:  The Navy documented John Kerry‘s heroism and awarded him the Bronze Star.  Today he still has shrapnel in his leg from his wounds in Vietnam. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  A bigger, far more impartial hit to the anti-Kerry ad came from the United States Navy.  Kerry and Larry Thurlow were two of the five commanders who led their Swift Boats into Vietcong controlled territory on March 13, 1969.  For what he did that day, Kerry was awarded the Bronze Star.  Last month, Thurlow, as part of the anti-Kerry campaign, swore on affidavit in which he said Kerry‘s craft was, quote, “Not under fire” and that the Bronze Star citation was, quote, “totally fabricated” and, quote, “I never heard a shot.”  But the Naval records about Thurlow, from 1969, tell an entirely different story.  Released to the “Washington Post” under the Freedom of Information Act, the document that recommended Thurlow for his Bronze Star said that Thurlow‘s craft and the other four boats, including Kerry‘s were, quote, “under constant enemy small-arms fire.” 

The after-action reports in such cases are usually written by the senior officer in a flotilla, on that day it would have been Larry Thurlow.  Thurlow told the newspaper that he thinks Kerry may have written it himself, tonight on “Hardball” Thurlow he told Chris Matthews he thinks that the medals and the reports were all prearranged by Kerry. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LARRY THURLOW, U.S. NAVY (RET.):  I‘m saying that he had a plan that included, not only being a war hero, but getting an early out. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Nice of the Vietcong to have helped out with the shrapnel.  With no disrespect to any Vietnam veteran, it seems clear that the accusations and counter-accusations about this one commercial are flying thicker and faster and will continue so than any enemy fire could. 

Last year, the veteran “Associated Press,” “Wall Street Journal” and CNN reporter Brooks Jackson, started the non-partisan Web site, factcheck.org for times like these.  He joins us now from Washington.

Brooks, good evening. 

BROOKS JACKSON, FACTCHECK.ORG:  Hello, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Your groups that had a lot of time to study this one.  Mr.  Kerry has attacked its voracity, its funding, and its connection to the Bush campaign.  Does he have valid complaints in any of these areas? 

JACKSON:  Well, as to the Bush campaign, no, there‘s no connection.  It‘s a—if there is and if it‘s escaped reporters‘ notice it‘s a violation of law, this is an independent group.  It is, however, receiving some of its initial funding from one of the largest republican contributors in Texas.

OLBERMANN:  The newest issue about whether Mr. Thurlow‘s recollection of the Bronze Star event is correct, “no enemy fire,” or the Navy record version is correct, “all boats under fire,” does factceck.org have any insight into that one in particular?

JACKSON:  Well, what the “Washington Post” dug up, of course, were Navy records and what they show is what you described earlier.  It‘s a flat contradiction between what Larry Thurlow is saying now and, at least, what his commanding officer, George Elliott, wrote in the recommendation for his award, the Bronze Star.  Now, we don‘t know 35 years later how much due diligence commander Elliott did when he put in Kerry or Thurlow for those awards, we took somebody‘s word for it, maybe Kerry‘s, maybe somebody else‘s.  We don‘t know.  It‘s impossible to resolve these directly conflicting eyewitness accounts 35 years later, but there‘s no question the wording of the citation and recommendation for Larry Thurlow‘s award contradict what he‘s saying now. 

OLBERMANN:  The commercial, the one so far, and we‘ll have another tomorrow, and the book-length, what is essentially a book-length version of the same commercial, tries to present a broad conclusion and I guess it requires a broad evaluation to the degree that you can do that, to quote the Navy captain who you mention, Elliott, in the spot itself.  “John Kerry has not been honest about what happened in Vietnam.”  Is there enough evidence to support such a statement in a political advertisement in the middle of a presidential election campaign? 

JACKSON:  Well, that‘s clearly Commander Elliott‘s opinion, he‘s—as to whether John Kerry was honest or not.  The thing to know about Mr.  Elliott is that he had a different opinion as recently as June of last year when he said Kerry‘s Silver Star, for which he recommended Senator Kerry, was “well deserved,” quote, unquote.  Now he‘s changed his mind and sees it differently. 

OLBERMANN:  Brooks Jackson of, factcheck.org, who will doubtless be going back to the record books after the new second Swift Boat ad comes out tomorrow morning.  Good luck with that and our great thanks for helping us with this one, Brooks. 

JACKSON:  Thank you. 

OLBERMANN:  And, if you think this was a political controversy, how about the idea that the keynote speaker at the republican convention will be a man who is still officially registered as a democratic senator.  A democratic senator who himself, three weeks ago, called John Kerry “an authentic American hero” and who, three years ago, insisted Kerry “fought for balanced budgets and worked to strengthen our military.”  The man who said those things, Senator Zell miller of Georgia, will give the keynote address on Wednesday, September 1.  Democratic Chairman Terry McAuliffe was good enough to described his opponents of “trotting out an elephant in donkey‘s clothing.”  This will not be Senator Miller‘s first keynote address.  He gave that speech at the democratic convention in 1992, in it, he said that the first George Bush “just doesn‘t get it, he just doesn‘t see, he doesn‘t feel it, and he‘s done nothing about it.”  The rest of speaker‘s lineup is as previously announced:  Giuliani and McCain on Monday on courage; Laura Bush and Governor Schwarzenegger on Tuesday on compassion; Keynote Speaker Miller and Vice President Cheney on Wednesday; and the president‘s acceptance speech on Thursday.

To assess the Miller affect, if any, and the rest of the convention lineup, I‘m joined by the national political editor of the “Wall Street Journal,” John Harwood. 

John, good evening. 

John? 

JOHN HARWOOD, “WALL STREET JOURNAL”:  Yes Keith, I‘m here. 

OLBERMANN:  Good.  Well, let‘s start.  Is Miller, as the keynote speaker, the right call?  Does it matter for—given that whatever, there‘s no zealot like a convert stuff they might get out of him, certainly there‘s also got to be a big flip-flop bull‘s eye painted on his back for the Democrats, is it a tradeoff of some sort? 

HARWOOD:  I don‘t know, Keith.  Maybe they‘ll get some bang out of the symmetry between him having addressed this comer—the Democratic Convention in 1992 and now coming to testify for George W. Bush, this time.  But I think you have to wonder how effective it will be.  First of all, he‘s not officially converted yet.  Maybe that‘d be the big surprise of his keynote speech, but you have to think that what has happened with Zell Miller in the last few years is more idiosyncratic to Zell Miller than anything about changes in the Democratic Party or in John Kerry.  Has the Democratic Party changed in fundamentally in its philosophy since he stood with Bill Clinton since 1992?  I don‘t think so. 

OLBERMANN:   What‘s the interior reaction to this choice?  Is there any doubts?  Are there any reservation?  Is this the kind of thing that doesn‘t happen without George Bush‘s personal approval, or are we overrating the importance nowadays of the keynote address? 

HARWOOD:  Well first of all, the keynote addresses have became progressively less important and remember that Zell Miller is going to be followed on Wednesday night with Dick Cheney with his vice-presidential acceptance speech, that is likely to be the dominant story that night.  But Zell Miller has been useful for the Bush administration for the last couple of years because he always provides them a Democratic vote in favor of Bush priorities, like tax cuts and on other issues so that they can say—the president and the White House aides can say, “we‘ve got a bipartisan proposal.” 

The problem for them is there isn‘t much to the bipartisanship beyond Zell Miller, it‘s a pretty thin veneer of bipartisanship and we see—after 9/11, there was a time when George Bush was drawing very broad support, but that time is gone and we have two parties that are very, very polarized, the electorate is polarized and having Zell Miller speech isn‘t going to change that. 

OLBERMANN:  And perhaps nothing better symbolizes that, at least in this week‘s headlines, than the story of the “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth” ad and now the fact that there‘s another one coming out and I guess we‘re getting a hint, after the appearance of two people on “Hardball,” earlier this evening on MSNBC, Larry Thurlow and Michelle Malkin that the next ad is going to be even more—I don‘t know, characterize it, it‘s going to be more out there than the previous one, even though there seems to have been some backlash for the first one.  Is there advice—is the president getting advice to back away from these ads?  To actually disavow himself from them or is there—just sort of stand back and let this happen?  What‘s going on inside the re-election campaign, relative to the Swift Boat veterans‘ ads? 

HARWOOD:  Keith, I think the question now is whether John Kerry, having personally raised the stakes today, by coming out and said outright that he regards this as a front for the Bush campaign, making his bring it on challenge to George W. Bush to debate Vietnam, whether or not that will change the calculations within the Bush campaign and the White House about how to respond.  The president had a chance to specifically repudiate the ad last week, personally when Larry King asked him about it.  He declined to do so.  His aides declined to do so today.  But, John Kerry may have taken it to another level.  So far, republicans, I think, have been enjoying the fact that somebody is out there whacking John Kerry.  There‘s a lot of ads attacking George W.  Bush, more in fact, on the democratic side or the side opposed to President Bush.  So they see it as evening the score, somewhat. 

OLBERMANN:  Where—is there a line that could be crossed, though?  John, I‘m just thinking about what we saw in the last hour.  Larry Thurlow said, and we just played a clip of it, that his belief was that John Kerry had arranged for not only his heroism in Vietnam, but also his early out, which is a code word for being sent home, and you get sent home usually because you have been injury, meaning he arranged his own injury in some way.  And this woman, Malkin, who made a fool of herself on this network, about an hour ago, basically said that in this --  in what she was reading, the book that accompanied the Swift Boat ad, that Kerry, at least, somebody asked whether or not Kerry should be asked, in that sort of, “let‘s step away from actually making a statement, let‘s just put it as a question about a question about a question...”

HARWOOD:  Right.

OLBERMANN:  Whether or not Kerry shot himself.  If that‘s the gist of the next Swift Boat ads, is that something that damages more of the Republican Party and George Bush than it could possibly damage John Kerry? 

HARWOOD:  Keith, the line gets crossed in this situation when polling starts to show that one side or the other is really getting hurt by this.  And everybody‘s going to be watching to see—first of all, we don‘t know how much the average American voter is getting exposed to this because the ads are not running all that heavily.  They‘re not running on network television, but there is a lot of news coverage of them.  If, in the polls, either side starts to see that they‘re being hurt substantially by this, they‘re going to change their reaction and so is the White House.  If this beginning to backfire on the Republican Party and George Bush, you can bet they‘re going to come out strongly and try to get it to stop. 

OLBERMANN:  Stay tuned, as they say.  John Harwood, national political editor of the “Wall Street Journal.”  As always, many thanks for your insights, sir. 

HARWOOD:  My pleasure. 

OLBERMANN:  And, just in case the residue of the commercial or the Zell Miller speech or the supposed terror threat have not raised the stakes at what would otherwise be a routine rubber stamp, the incumbent convention, two weeks hence—the FBI has now officially said it expects violent protest during the Republican Confab in New York, denying that a recent wave of preemptive interviews of anti-war activists was an intimidation attempt.  Gary Bald, the assistant director of the bureau‘s antiterrorism division, said it was merely a follow-up effort to follow up on reported plans to firebomb media vehicles at the Democratic Convention in Boston, or perhaps the one in republican‘s in New York.  “We don‘t have a specific plot, were we have all the variables.  We need to go out and take preemptive and judicial action,” Bald said.  But he added, “There is an activist Web site that suggests that appropriate things to bring along to the convention includes slingshots, bolt cutters, and Molotov cocktails.”

COUNTDOWN opening up once again with politics, everything from the ad fights to fears of real ones.  Up next, the No. 4 story, the situation in Iraq, perhaps at critical mass.  U.S. Aircraft pounding Najaf as the Iraqi government tells Muqtada al-Sadr, this time it really is your last chance to surrender. 

An later, the dirty underbelly of disaster:  Price gouging in Florida

·         $10,000 to cut down a tree?  Stand by. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Next up here, tonight‘s No. 4:  The showdown in Najaf. 

The most critical test of the fledgling Iraqi government could come to a head at any moment.  Stand by.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Inexplicably, the issue of threats to behead Americans in Iraq seems to have lost its horrible grip on much of this country.  Not for the possible victim nor his family or friends, of course, not for those involved in the fighting that could indirectly end or save his life.  Our fourth story tonight:  Al-Sadr, Najaf, and Micah Garen. 

Last night, the network Al-Jazeera aired a video that showed a man resembling the independent journalist being held by a group of militants calling itself the “Martyrs Brigade.”  The group threatened to kill the man within 48 hours if the U.S. does not leave Najaf. 

The Statement Department—the State Department, rather, says its doing, quote, “everything possible to ascertain his whereabouts.”  And top aides from Muqtada al-Sadr are also calling for Garen‘s release, saying the militia is against the kidnapping.  British journalist kidnapped and threatened with death last week, was released after a public appeal by those same aides. 

Other aides to the Shiite cleric though, are not being quite so helpful.  After promising that al-Sadr would surrender yesterday, militiamen today, attacked a police station, killing seven, wounding dozens of other.  Another group attacked the headquarters of Iraq‘s south oil company in Basra.  And this afternoon, another aide said that the cleric had now told his followers to turn over control of the Ali Imam shrine to Shiite religions authorities.  Yet tonight, the standoff ensues. 

Thousands of U.S. and Iraqi troops circling the city.  In Baghdad, the prime minister issued a final warning to al-Sadr‘s group to leave the mosque and, quote, “engage in political work.”

Al-Sadr‘s response to that latest ultimatum?  He sent a text message vowing to seek martyrdom or victory.  In fact, since January of this year, he has seemed to seek both at the same time or maybe neither.  Chief foreign affairs correspondent, Andrew Mitchell now, on who this guy is and why he has seemingly found a home between the proverbial rock and the proverbial hard place. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDREA MITCHELL, CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  As the standoff continues, U.S. officials try to figure out who is Muqtada al-Sadr.  He is charismatic; the son of a revered Shiite cleric murdered by Saddam Hussein in 1999, but at 31, al-Sadr is considered more of a politician than a respected religious leader. 

DAN BRUMBERG, IRAQ EXPERT:  In terms of the senior clergy, he‘s just in his diapers.  But that‘s really not what counts.  There are two factors, first of all, that he comes from the Sadr family and his father was murdered by Saddam Hussein.  So he inherits the legitimacy of his father. 

MITCHELL:  Once dismissed as a thug by the U.S., officials now concede he has broad appeal with Iraq‘s underclass, largely because he‘s confronted the U.S. So, what does al-Sadr want?  His goal, the U.S. believes, is to bring down Iraq‘s interim government. 

KENNETH KATZMAN, IRAQ EXPERT:  And if they succeed in that, then they would be, in their view, positioned to grab quite a large share of power. 

MITCHELL:  But, why are Shiite leaders, whom the U.S. counted on for support, not stopping al-Sadr‘s rebellion?  U.S. officials say some are afraid to oppose him, others hope the chaos he‘s creating will improve their own chances to grab power. 

SHIBLY TELHAMI, MIDDLE EAST EXPERT:  The very continuation of confrontation weakens the Iraqi government and makes more enemies for the U.S. every single day, not only within Iraq, but outside. 

MITCHELL:  And finally, the Iran factor.  Reports that al-Sadr is getting arms from radial Iranian clerics.  The U.S. say that‘s possible, but even if true, doubts Iran‘s government is involved. 

(on camera):  If al-Sadr succeeds, what does it mean for the U.S.?  Worst case, it could disrupt Iraq‘s January elections, cause civil war, and make it harder for the U.S. to get out of Iraq. 

Andrea Mitchell, NBC News at the State Department. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  COUNTDOWN now past the No. 4 story.  Up next, we‘ll put it in neutral.  And remember, whenever you see a car chase, think “Oddball” on COUNTDOWN on MSNBC. 

Later, speaking of oddballs, Michael Jackson has something to say about what happened to him while he was under arrest.  The big question mark tonight, whether or not a judge will let him say it.  Stand by.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  We‘re back and we put the COUNTDOWN on hold for that segment filled with wild video, strange people, and giant blobs from outer space.  Well, at least the outer banks of North Carolina.  Let‘s play “Oddball.”

We begin more scary than odd.  No saber dance music for this police chase from Riverdale, Georgia.  The driver has just carjacked that SUV, pulling a woman out of the vehicle and speeding off.  Worse, he is entirely drunk.  The police began the chase, the driver was all over the road, sometimes off of it.  He lost control of the truck, slamming it into a tree.  He wound up on the other side of the street and into a ditch.  He was caught after a short footchase.  Police say the suspect was so drunk an officer had to physically hold his head up.  He‘s not wearing a scarf there; those are the officer‘s hands holding his head up for the mugs hot.  Come on, smile for me, buddy.  Come on. 

To Indianapolis now, where once again life imitates the “Simpson‘s.”  A convention for videogame nuts, “Dungeons and Dragons” fans and science fiction movie freaks, it‘s “Bi-Mon-Sci-Fi-Con II.”  Thousands of futurists, cyberphiles, and other dateless wonders, flocking to the event, many of them in full costume, plus the Bat Mobile, the original one from TV was on display.  Right you are, boy wonder.  The four-day extravaganza marking the 30th anniversary of “Dungeons and Dragons,” celebrating three decades of keeping nerds single. 

Speaking of life imitating art, it is a real-life remake of the sci-fi cult hit the “Blob,” although for some reason has attacked Dunn, North Carolina.  There‘s a theory that floodwaters in the area simply mixed with detergent from an old factory site, but is that mundane explanation sufficient?  No man can say! It‘s the boy in the bubble.  All we know is that there is a 20-foot-high suds drift across Jonesboro Road and police will not confirm that this stuff is color safe.  They‘re urging motorists to rinse and repeat. 

“Oddball” now, safely rinsed into the COUNTDOWN time capsule.  Up next, our No. 3 story:  Oprah the juror.  What was it like to deliberate a murder trial with Ms. Winfrey?  The jury foreman will join us next. 

And later, never mind the sex, never mind the sexual orientation.  The real soap opera in New Jersey is the soap opera itself.  We‘ll tell you the story of McGreevey‘s and introduce the newest character, the gay emergency room doctor and CIA operative who hates America.

These stories ahead, first here are COUNTDOWN‘s “Top 3 Newsmakers” of this day.

No. 3: Joe Piscopo, speaking Jersey gubernatorial soap open, the former “Saturday Night Live” star, centerpiece of the old “you from Jersey” sketch, says he has been approached by some prominent business guys to run for governor.  You know what some prominent business guys means in Jersey-ese? 

No. 2: Fat Darrell, named “Maxim” magazine as the best sandwich in the country.  The Fat Darrell, specialty of the Rutgers University campus, it features chicken fingers, mozzarella sticks, and French fries inside the sandwich.  That‘s right.  Looks like a deep fried Swiss army knife. 

No. 1:  Ray Montana of Farmington, Montana, we think that‘s his name -

·         goes into a Chevrolet dealership, wants one, explains it will be financed for him by Jesus.  When they said, make that GMAC.  He said if they don‘t give him key to the new car, he‘s going to drive his old pickup through the showroom window, which he promptly does and gets out, sits down, and reads the bible in the showroom.  No doubt looking to see what it says in answer to the question—what would Jesus test drive? 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  No juror has gotten this much publicity since the O.J.  Simpson trial.  Heck, who are we kidding?  This juror was famous before the O.J. Simpson trial and every day since.  Our third story in the COUNTDOWN, two hours and five minutes of deliberation, just about the amount of time it takes her to tape her regular program plus Oprah after the show.  After three days of reporting such earth-shattering details regarding a certain billionaire juror that she sat in the third seat in the front row everyday, had a difficult time finding a breadless turkey sandwich for lunch, read her book club choice, Tolstoy‘s “Anna Karenina” during the court breaks, and even relaxed her fellow jurors by bringing them individually wrapped nuts and fruits, turns out the media had it all wrong. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OPRAH WINFREY, TV TALK SHOW HOST:  The bigger story here for me is that a man is dead, murdered, supposedly over $50, and that the real war is still going on in the inner city streets every day with young black men killing each other. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  This was not Oprah‘s Book Club, but rather Oprah‘s throw the book at them club.  Defendant Dion Coleman was found guilty  and quickly.  But while Ms. Winfrey insists that she was not the story of the trial, that‘s not preventing her from gathering her fellow jurors to talk about their own experience in serving on a jury, possibly on her show.

Joining us now from Chicago,  the jury foreman, John Fallert.

Mr. Fallert, good evening.  Thanks for your time. 

JOHN FALLERT, JURY FOREMAN:  Good evening. 

OLBERMANN:  I gather that you and the other jurors don‘t think that Ms. Winfrey‘s presence affected the trial at all.  How do you think you all managed to avoid having her make a difference?

FALLERT:  None of us were really star-struck by her.  Initially, we were, obviously, having Ms. Winfrey in the jurors‘ room with us, but she opened up with us and was very personable and a joy to be around.

OLBERMANN:  She said afterwards it‘s very distracting to have people who  are known who are serving on the jury.  This not good for the victims‘  family.  I gather you‘d disagree with her, that it was—that justice was completely well handled in this situation, even though you had such a high-profile member of the jury with you?

FALLERT:  I think what was distracting was the amount of media attention that was outside the courtroom.  But once we were in the courtroom, it was all business. 

OLBERMANN:  Are you and the other jurors in fact going to wind up on her show?

FALLERT:  The offer was presented to us after the trial had ended.  And when that offer comes, we will be happy to go on her show if time is available to me. 

OLBERMANN:  There was a public defender quoted today in “The Chicago Sun-Times” who said that if there is a show about the trial, about the jury process so soon after the verdict, that could hand the defense a sort of custom-wrapped appeal.  Do you worry about possibly undoing your good work on behalf of the justice system by going on the show?

FALLERT:  I don‘t think so.  I don‘t think I show would involve anything that was discussed during the deliberation.  I think the show may involve our camaraderie outside of deliberation.  We had some nice talks when we had break times and during lunches, personal conversations.  We weren‘t allowed to discuss the evidence or what was presented to us during the trial until we were allowed to  deliberate and when all the evidence was in. 

OLBERMANN:  It brings me to the last question.  You just mentioned the word camaraderie.  What did you think of her?  You worked with her basically for three days.  What did you make of this woman who  happened to be Oprah Winfrey?

FALLERT:  She was very open.  And I was very amazed that a star of her nature and her status was so open and friendly and just very down to earth. 

OLBERMANN:  John Fallert, the foreman of the jury in the State of Illinois versus Dion Coleman.  Oprah Winfrey serving as one of the other jurors.  Many—thanks for your time, sir. 

FALLERT:  Thank you. 

OLBERMANN:  Another celebrity trial note or two.  The—these will not be long, I promise.  To California, and yes, it is your entertainment dollars in action.  Day 276 of the Michael Jackson investigations.  Michael Jackson submitting a sealed request to Judge Rodney  Melville to get a waiver on the gag order in his case and make a public statement regarding his arrest.

In an interview given a month after they brought him into the sheriff‘s office last November, Jackson said he was “manhandled” by Santa Barbara County sheriffs deputies.  Jackson complained of having a dislocated and swollen shoulder, which prevented him from  sleeping as a result of his treatment.  And even though the photographic evidence before and after his arrest showed nothing to  support that claim, and neither did a state investigation.

COUNTDOWN now passed our number three story.  Up next, the number two, profiting from disaster.  Authorities in Florida are going after price gougers who are capitalizing on Hurricane Charley.

Also, the flip-flop.  It is not exclusive to politics.  Supermodel Cindy Crawford makes a flip-flop in the fashion world.  Is it a flip-flop fashion faux pas?  We‘ll explain.  First, your COUNTDOWN top three sound bytes of the day. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Since you are a resident, we thought—I think these would like very nice on you.  And what about these to match?

KATIE COURIC, “THE TODAY SHOW”:  Natalie, they‘re beautiful and I like all the styles.  So thanks.  And I hope they‘re a 6 ½.  All right, little tone there.  OK...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The research teem team has identified several features of  the cave they believe point to its use by John, including this figure they say is a representation. Well, that‘s got to be John the Baptist.  Who else would that be?  Who would that be?  Pig pen, the scream guy, Mr. Garrison?  No.  That‘s John the Baptist. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Let me tell you an interesting story and then I promise to introduce (UNINTELLIGIBLE).  I want to talk real quick about the story and then I‘ll be glad to answer your questions.  Let me talk about three more  points and then I‘ll answer some questions, if we have  time.  Sometimes I can get windy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Still ahead, the McGreevey‘s saga latest chapter.  The other man and the other, other man.  And don‘t forget to send us your questions and try to stump me in our weekly news quiz, which will be tomorrow.  Go to countdown.msnbc.com and click on “send us” an e-mail or (UNINTELLIGIBLE.)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  A dramatized, fictionalized British prime minister once told viewers that events were the one thing no politician could control.  Disasters are political disasters, too.

Our number two story in the COUNTDOWN indeed, the disastrous ripples of Hurricane Charley continue to emanate through politics and through gouging.

The politics first.  Saturday, John Kerry obliquely criticized President Bush‘s tour of the storm racked state.  Asked if he was going to Florida, Kerry said resources and police should be used only for relief, not to escort officials or candidates.  It was suggested that it would only be seemly for Kerry to wait to go to Florida until he was invited there.  And now he has been.

Democratic Senator Bill Nelson of Florida has offered to escort Kerry on a tour of the devastated counties, perhaps as soon as tomorrow.

Common sense and maybe campaign finance laws suggest Mr. Kerry should bring his own supplies with him.  The Associated Press  writes of an Orlando woman being charged $2,400 by landscapers who were in from Ohio to cut up the oak tree that was blown over into her house.  She had no idea, she said, if that was high or low.  She  couldn‘t wait around to get estimates.

Turns out it was low by $8,000, compared to some true  gougers.  As of late yesterday, the state of Florida had received 1,854 different complaints of price gouging.  And as our correspondent Don Teague reminds us now, this is in a state that does not have full power or phone service. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DON TEAGUE, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  The first arrests in storm-ravaged Florida for alleged price gouging.  Two South Carolina men, who authorities say charged homeowners like Doris and Frank Yanic $1,000 to put plastic on their roofs.  Plastic that some other contractors are giving away. 

DORIS YANIC:  If I didn‘t laugh, I‘d cry. 

TEAGUE:  In Orlando, Jerry Olmstead wasn‘t laughing when he and his neighbor asked for estimates to have this big tree removed. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Total tree removal as far as taking out this part and the whole tree was around $10,500. 

TEAGUE:  Olmstead called another company.  He was doing the job for thousands less.  His neighbor called Florida‘s fraud hotline. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  So how much was it then?  $175. 

TEAGUE:  Which has received 1,800 calls from storm victims that claim they‘re being gouged.  Overcharged on services from  debris removal, to roof repair, and on products like generators, chainsaws and gasoline.

(on camera):  Florida law makes it illegal to raise prices during a state of emergency, a time when consumers are desperate and some others are looking to make a fast buck.

(voice-over):  Scores of fraud investigators have fanned out across storm-damaged areas on the lookout for gougers. 

DARREL GRABNER, STATE FRAUD INVESTIGATOR:  You‘re not welcome here.  You‘re not going to do business here.  We‘re going to do our best to shut you down.  We‘re going to make your life  very uncomfortable. 

TEAGUE:  This chainsaw dealer was doing everything right, actually selling his products at a discount.  Still, it‘s not a crime to make a profit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  $15 a piece. 

TEAGUE:  Just ask Jim Gephardt, who raced here from Indiana with a batch of souvenir T-shirts. 

JIM GEPHARDT, VENDOR:  I‘ve probably worked 12 hurricanes, an earthquake, a fire, floods.  You know, it‘s what I do for a living. 

TEAGUE:  Perfectly legal, but still distasteful to some. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It bothers me. 

TEAGUE:  Profiting from a tragedy, wrong.

Don Teague, NBC News, Punta Gorda, Florida. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  From the true horrors of natural disasters to the man-made disasters of Hollywood and high society.  It is our nightly roundup of the celebrity news, keeping tabs.  And tonight, it starts with celebrity nudes.

Remember when Cindy Crawford was one of those models who posed a decade ago in PETA‘s “I‘d rather go naked than wear fur” ads?  Apparently she no longer thinks she looks that good naked.  Ms. Crawford has signed on as the new spokesperson for Black Lama Furs, models five different sets of dead animals in the latest ad campaign.

More importantly, we‘re losing some of the great movie and television composers.  First last month it was Jerry Goldsmith, who won an Oscar for his work on “The Omen,” who wrote the music for everything from “Patton” to “Perry Mason.”  Goldsmith died age 75.

Now Elmer Bernstein has passed away.  He scored more than 200 films, was nominated for 14 Oscars.  One won for early modern “Milly.”  Mr.  Bernstein provided the music for “Sweet Smell of Success,” another great film, also “Ghostbusters,” “Airplane.”  And while he was blacklisted in the ‘50s for such B pictures as “Catwoman of the Moon,” Elmer Bernstein died yesterday at his home at Ohio, California at age 82.

And just in case you thought Michael Moore was going to step out of political controversy after the fall election, think again.  The auteur of “Fahrenheit 9/11” has made a deal with the publishers Simon and Shuster to release this November a collection of letters he was sent by American service personnel stationed in Iraq.  It will be titled “Will They Ever Trust Us Again.”  And take a wild guess from which group of soldiers that letter will come?

Just in case the “Fahrenheit 9/11” movie and DVD are not enough for you, Moore is also putting out the transcript of the film in book form next month.

COUNTDOWN‘s number on story up next.  Forget “The Sopranos,” move over reality TV, we‘ve got The McGreevey‘s.  Michael Muster joins us to cast the political drama.  That‘s ahead.

First, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top two photos of this day. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Previously on “The McGreevey‘s.”  The governor resigned announcing he was gay, surprising everybody.  Well, not everybody.  The homeland security advisor knew all about it, but of course, he isn‘t gay.  He was just abused by the governor.  And he told everybody that, which was a surprise to the other guy who claims he used to date the homeland security advisor.  He‘s an emergency room doctor.  And he addressed the media last night in Spanish and  in Hungarian, because he hates America.  And he‘s a CIA operative.  And he likes to address the media while dressed in only his shorts and his socks.

Oh, and the governor‘s advisor has pleaded guilty to hiring a  hooker.  The hooker was retaliation against a witness.  He had the hooker sleep with his own brother-in-law.  And he videotaped them. And then he sent the tape to his own sister, but not to the governor.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Yes, the number one story on the COUNTDOWN, the political implications of the resignation of New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey are pretty straight, even if he isn‘t.  It‘s the rest of the story that could easily serve as a replacement for the HBO show “The Sopranos.”

The latest—the appearance of Dr. David Miller of Livingston, New Jersey, who announced last night, wearing only blue shorts and white socks, saying that he once had an affair with Golan Cipel, McGreevey‘s former homeland security advisor.  McGreevey says their relationship was consensual.  Cipel said it was coerced.  Miller says Cipel is a gold digger.

Miller also claims he works for the CIA, which makes him take pills to make his skin darker so he can infiltrate unidentified groups.  And in that impromptu news conference outside his home last night, he spoke and swore in at least three different languages.

Meanwhile in Israel, Golan Cipel continued to insist he is not gay, despite the claims of Governor McGreevey, this Dr. Miller guy, and a third self-proclaimed ex-lover, an unidentified college professor.  Continually to and fro so memorably titled “He Said,” by “The New York Daily News,”  Cipel said, “Never in my life have I had relations with a man.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOLAN CIPEL, FMR. MCGREEVEY BODYGUARD:  I‘ve been through very difficult and troubling times.  I‘m here to spend time with my family and to gain strength.  I thank you very much for your patience in being here. 

It‘s great to be with my family.  And I‘m very moved and very touched by the tremendous support of many people, many people in New Jersey and throughout the U.S. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Cipel blames his situation in part on a “monstrous, well 50 oiled machine.”  Well that Dr. Miller guy didn‘t look so well oiled to me.  Cipel, in fact, was referring in part to this man, Charles Kushner, a major McGreevey backer who has now pleaded guilty to misleading election monitors and to retaliating against a witness who happened to be his own sister.  That‘s the part about the hooker and his brother-in-law and taping them and sending the tape to his own sister just to twist the knife.

And lastly speaking of tapes, a month ago, a New York radio station, WAXQ, had Governor McGreevey pinch-hit as a disc jockey.  On Monday, the station replayed the tape of McGreevey‘s show, including the part where he dedicated a song to his wife Dina.  The song was Paul McCartney‘s “Maybe I‘m Amazed.”  That in his consummate he said, he said is what she said.

What “Village Voice” columnist and friend of COUNTDOWN Michael Musto said made it on to his newspaper‘s cover this week,  titled with another arch pop culture reference, “Alien versus Predator.”

Michael joins us now from New York.  Hi. 

MICHAEL MUSTO, VILLAGE VOICE:  Hi, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  This literally is enough material to put together 13 episodes of some sort of HBO series, like a cross between “The Sopranos” and “Six Feet Under,” isn‘t it?

MUSTO:  Well, it could certainly be a daytime soap called “Golan Heights” or maybe “As the Stomach Turns.”  But I think it is better for a reality show because there‘s so much dissembling, you don‘t really need the director going, people, could you start lying and overacting?

I actually have the cast for you already, Keith...

OLBERMANN:  Please?

MUSTO:  ...if it‘s a TV series.  James Woods, though he played Giuliani already.  So that might be tricky.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.

MUSTO:  Or maybe you want somebody more conventionally handsome. 

James Naughton as McGreevey.

OLBERMANN:  OK.

MUSTO:  Of course, Liza as the wife, because she didn‘t know. 

OLBERMANN:  Oh, you‘re a cruel, cold man, Michael. 

MUSTO:  I just report the news.  For Gore and Visnik (ph) or possibly Lea Shriver, who‘s Israeli-American.  He was in “Manchurian Candidate.”  Either of them could play, of course, Golan Cipel.

And for Dr. David, why not Eugene Levy?  We know he‘ll do the underwear scene.  He‘s in the “American Pie” movie.  I would watch at least two or three episodes. 

OLBERMANN:  And they might be able to get away with it as well as the real-life characters did.  What‘s nice, I think, is that with the hooker on tape and the crazy doctor from Livingston and the CIA, and now—and parts of both political parties trying to get McGreevey to quit now rather than later, this really has transcended any kind of genre.  This is now a fun-filled romp for the entire family, no matter your orientation. 

MUSTO:  Yes, and I‘m straight by the way.  And—shut up.  And I happen to find it mesmerizing.  I think the “alien versus predator” was brilliant, though it‘s now unclear if maybe what‘s his name, Cipel was the actual predator since he‘s being portrayed as a gold digger.

I like the way, by the way, he‘s running around saying that  McGreevey is a kind of dissembling, two-faced, lying closet case.  And I‘m straight.

OLBERMANN:  Right.

MUSTO:  That‘s my favorite part of the soap opera.

OLBERMANN:  As to plot twists, in your column this week, you invoke, the movie “The Best Man.”  We had Shelley Berman on this show the other night, coincidentally, who plays the guy in that movie, who was brought out to ruin a politician‘s career by insinuating he was gay.  That‘s 1964.

It‘s 2004.  40 years after that film comes out, we‘ve got a politician whose sole chance of political survival, even just until November, is to prove that he‘s gay and that his boyfriend is gay and that everything was consensual.  As a gay American yourself, are you proud that politics is just as willing to embrace gay life as an expedient excuse as it is straight life?

MUSTO:  Once again, I‘m straight.  And furthermore, yes, we have come a long way actually from “The Best Man” because back then you only needed some gay stuff to “smear somebody.”  Now it has to be you‘re gay and you have a glorified trick/boyfriend on the payroll extorting tons of, you know, public taxpayer money for some kind of bogus job.

So I think we have come a little far.  And it‘s possible that McGreevey is setting up all this stuff so that Cipel comes off like a total extortionist phony.

But you know what?  I found out that in tomorrow‘s “New York Post,” it‘s going to be revealed that actually Cipel went to a gay bar called “The Slide” appropriately enough, and asked to be kind of semi naked on stage and do a little go-go dance.  That‘s something that you don‘t find straight people like I don‘t know David Guest or Elton John doing.  Are you with me?

OLBERMANN:  Yes, I‘m still with you.  But I think as a last question to stretch the soap opera scenario one last time, I‘m making you write next week‘s episode.  We‘ve got a little tease just there about the bar and the dancing.  And don‘t go in that direction, but what do you put in next week‘s episode?

MUSTO:  I would definitely put that Cipel starts on his inevitable line of handbags and is turned down for Weight Watchers, because he‘s not fat and he‘s not gay.  Really.  Really. 

OLBERMANN:  Really.  Tune in next week when we‘ll hear Golan say—

Michael Musto, author of the cover story on this saga in this week‘s edition of “The Village Voice.”  As always, Michael, many thanks. 

MUSTO:  Thank you. 

OLBERMANN:  And that‘s COUNTDOWN.  Thanks for being part of it.  I‘m Keith Olbermann.  Good night and good luck. 

END

Content and programming copyright 2004 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2004 FDCH e-Media, Inc. ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and FDCH e-Media, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,