updated 2/15/2005 2:41:06 PM ET 2005-02-15T19:41:06

Guest: Jane Velez-Mitchell, Penny Nance, Laura Berman, Rena Lindevaldsen, Ron Schlittler, Bill Press, Radley Balko, Hugh Hewitt, Ana Marie Cox, Jason Pontin

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  Tonight‘s top headline:  The bloggers bag another media big shot.  A CNN executive calls it quits after online critics blow the whistle. 

Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  No passport required and only common sense allowed. 

First Dan Rather and now CNN executive Eason Jordan resigns after reports from Internet bloggers.  Are media barons ready to accept the new media watchdogs?

Plus Valentine‘s Day, a day of love, romance and abstinence.  It‘s the second annual Day of Purity, a grassroots effort to get teenagers to remain sexually pure until marriage.  Is it just a tool of the right-wing conservative Christians?  We‘ll debate that coming up. 

And, then, the defense in Michael Jackson‘s molestation case releases its list of possible witnesses, and you‘re not going to believe who is on it.  

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

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, welcome to the show. 

You know what?  I learned this weekend that all Republicans are evil, or at least that‘s what I was told.  It‘s time for tonight‘s “Real Deal.” 

Now, this weekend, I moderated an event in Colorado on the future of punditry.  Is it, as noted political scientist Jon Stewart has warned us all, bad for America?  Well, the event‘s organizers counted on fireworks, and they weren‘t let down, despite the fact that we all got along well before and after the discussion and despite the fact that I found co-panelist Janeane Garofalo to be very likable when we weren‘t discussing politics.

But things heated up when liberal media critic Eric Alterman declared that George W. Bush was one of the biggest ever liars to occupy the White House.  Now, I let that pass at first.  This was a debate about punditry, after all, and not George W. Bush.  But next, Ms. Garofalo talked about the sins of Bush and Cheney and Halliburton and the Republican Party in general.  What she said was wrong 90 percent of the time. 

Later, an audience member suggested that these anti-Bush themes were not opinion, but fact.  And that was also the viewpoint of those on the panel.  So that in a nutshell explains what‘s wrong with modern American liberalism.  You know, it never occurred to the listener that calling George W. Bush the biggest liar in American history didn‘t really pass as a nuanced debating point. 

In fact, it never occurred to most of the people in that audience that having a discussion on the honesty of presidents, while Joe Lockhart, Bill Clinton‘s chief apologist, sat on the panel was the least bit ironic.  And it never occurred to Janeane Garofalo that saying Republicans were wrong 90 percent of the time on the issues was the opinion of political activists and college professors on the far left, but few others. 

In America, listen, they have the right to share those views with the rest of us.  And I not only welcome their comments.  I encourage them, even if I find those opinions troubling.  But what I found at this conference and on college campuses and all across America is that, too often, those on the far left don‘t share the same open-mindedness.  To them, anybody that voted for George W. Bush is either an ignorant peasant or a money-grubbing apologist for corporations. 

So, what‘s wrong with liberal America?  And am I the only TV commentator who counts as many Democrats as friends as Republicans?  Am I the only sane voice in the growing wilderness of political hatred and intolerance and divisiveness?  Am I the only TV host that thanks God that there are Democrats out there to keep Republicans in check and glad that Republicans are around to curb the worst instincts of Democrats? 

Maybe not, but unlike the party to which I belong, I am in a dwindling minority.  And that‘s not good for public discourse.  And it‘s not good for American democracy.  You know, we can disagree in our debate, but when we paint our enemies as lying peasants, nobody in America is served.  And that‘s tonight‘s “Real Deal.”

Now, as we told you at the top, got a lot of stuff going on with CNN, the Eason Jordan case, the debate over blogging, the debate over old media vs. new media.  I‘m telling you, it‘s an explosive story in a radically changing media landscape. 

With me now to talk about bloggers and the downfall of CNN‘s executive, Eason Gordon, is Jason Pontin.  He‘s editor in chief of MIT‘s “Technology Review.”

Jason, what‘s your take on Eason Jordan resigning after bloggers went after him the same way they went after Dan Rather this summer? 

JASON PONTIN, EDITOR IN CHIEF, “TECHNOLOGY REVIEW”:  I suppose it‘s a triumph, isn‘t it, for the blogosphere? 

I‘m note sure, Joe, if it‘s a great triumph for journalism.  I think one thing which your listeners have to understand is, we actually don‘t know what Mr. Jordan said.  The remarks were off the record.  The World Economic Forum, at which he made the remarks, has declined to release a transcript.  All we know is what the bloggers say Mr. Eason Jordan said.  And Mr. Jordan...

SCARBOROUGH:  But we also know, though—I mean, Barney Frank, who is no right-wing fanatic, Barney Frank, a liberal Democrat from Massachusetts, has come out and said he was troubled by the comments.  They were also denounced by Connecticut Senator Dodd, Senator Dodd, who was also there.  I mean, come on.  We have a pretty good idea what Mr. Jordan said in that room. 

(CROSSTALK)

PONTIN:  And David Gergen, a longtime appointee to Republican administrations, also said that Mr. Jordan immediately walked the remark back. 

Now, here‘s what Jordan said he said.  He said he was making a distinction between what is called collateral damage, when a journalist or a civilian is accidentally killed, and what‘s called direct fire, when someone is deliberately targeted.  But someone might be killed through direct fire and the troops would have no idea he was a journalist.  He might be shot, for instance, because the troops believed he was an insurgent. 

As soon as Jordan made whatever remark he made, by everyone‘s account, he immediately walked it back.  I think it‘s also important to remember that Jordan had just got back from CNN—from Iraq, where three of his own journalists had recently been killed.  He was clearly distraught.  He perhaps overstate—said what he meant to go and say. 

But I‘m not sure he deserved to be chased from a position which he‘s held for some years and from a company he had worked at for 23 years. 

SCARBOROUGH:  But, Jason, the bloggers didn‘t fire him.  We didn‘t fire him.  We suggested that he be fired unless he could get the tape released, unless he could backtrack, because, again, this isn‘t the first thing Mr. Jordan did.  Obviously, in 2004, he made similar remarks at a Portuguese conference.

In 2002, he got in trouble in saying that he had looked the other way from Saddam Hussein‘s torturing of his own people because he wanted to keep his CNN bureau open.  This guy had a checkered past.  But what‘s wrong with a blogger who was in the meeting reporting on it and telling the rest of us what went on inside that room?  Because, certainly, the mainstream media wasn‘t going to tell us about this. 

PONTIN:  Well, Joe, that‘s the argument.  The blogosphere likes to call the mainstream media the MSN, as if it were this vast homogeneous group.  Certainly, the mainstream media deliberately didn‘t say anything. 

The mainstream media has a series of standards, fact checking, reflection, reporting.  The blogosphere...

SCARBOROUGH:  And denial when it involves other people in the so-called mainstream media.  Now, you know they‘ve always protected themselves.  Have many times have you seen an CBS go after an anchor at NBC?  How many times have you seen an editorial writer on “The New York Times” going after an editorial writer on “The Washington Post”? 

They don‘t do it.  And isn‘t American democracy served by having third parties out there that can do it? 

PONTIN:  The argument certainly is the blogosphere is having a wonderful intent in bringing down figures like Rather and like Jordan. 

I would also suggest, though, there perhaps is an appropriate place in our national and international discourse for people to make remarks off the record and feel they‘re not going to be taken out and piled on to.  I thought it was actually to some degree a gesture of extraordinary, I don‘t know, responsibility on Jordan‘s part to go and say that he would resign, rather than bring disrepute upon CNN. 

Did he actually do anything wrong? 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well...

PONTIN:  We don‘t know.  We don‘t know, Joe.  We have no idea what he said. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Why didn‘t he ask the conference to release the videotape?  If his neck was on the line, you and I both know he could have gotten a copy of that tape and released it. 

But the fact, again, I mean, you don‘t want to say, where there‘s smoke, there‘s always fire, but you had participants from both sides of the ideological spectrum saying that what he said over there was shocking.  David Gergen—you said he immediately backtracked.  David Gergen immediately shut the conference down, because he said nobody from the U.S.  military was there to defend the American military. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Now, don‘t you think...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  ... Americans should know what‘s going on inside here, if you‘ve got a top executive at CNN saying U.S. soldiers are trying to kill journalists?

PONTIN:  I think journalists are, particularly senior executives inside a news organization, are, as you know very well, Joe, from being an anchor yourself, are given to misspeak and I think we‘ll allow to go and walk a remark back. 

What I find disturbing about the blogosphere is to what degree it‘s almost incentivized to be scandalous, to be sensational, to whip up a froth of emotion around events that perhaps don‘t go and deserve it.  I think, for many years, Mr. Jordan has done a very respectable job.  He‘s much, much admired inside the journalistic world.  He‘s a brave man.  Amongst the journalists he sent out in the field, he was trusted.  I‘m not quite sure it was a firing offense.  And I...

SCARBOROUGH:  All right. 

PONTIN:  I detect...

SCARBOROUGH:  And again, Jason—I‘m sorry, Jason.  We‘ve got to go to break.

PONTIN:  My pleasure. 

SCARBOROUGH:  But I appreciate you being here. 

Again, it‘s important to remember that it was Jon Klein who, I believe

·         I know you don‘t, but I believe did the right thing by firing.  It wasn‘t the bloggers. 

But thanks for being here. 

PONTIN:  Pleasure.

SCARBOROUGH:  And one thing I‘ll say to all of you is what Jason just said the bloggers did seems to me what “60 Minutes” has been doing for some time.  Mike Wallace basically kicks down doors and tries to get at the truth, whether people like it or not.  And he‘s held as a great journalist. 

I think somebody‘s got to keep the mainstream media in check.  OK, I know I‘m a member of it.  I‘m just telling you.  That‘s the truth.  That‘s our little secret.  Don‘t tell anybody.  That‘s my little Valentine‘s gift to you. 

Now, coming up next, why doesn‘t the old liberal media understand that blogs are here to stay and they‘re serving us all? 

Also ahead, why are so many people against letting your kids get a lesson on the benefit of not having sex tonight?  What are they afraid of?

And later, are Michael Jackson‘s lawyers using celebrities to affect potential jurors?  I‘ve got issues with that coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  The bloggers strike again.  This time, they take down a top CNN executive.  Did they really dig up the truth or are they just out there to go after the liberal media? 

Stay with us.  That‘s coming up in a second.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, welcome back. 

More now on the power of bloggers.  As we‘ve been telling you, CNN executive Eason Jordan resigned on Friday after bloggers pursued the truth about his comments that U.S. troops in Iraq targeted journalists.  So, what does “The New York Times,” the last bastion of the old media, have to say about it?  The gray lady of journalism still doesn‘t get it.  Look at the headline in today‘s edition.  “Bloggers As News Media Trophy Hunters.”  Then a subhead reads, “A Resignation at CNN Shows Growing Influence.” 

So, are the bloggers the new media watchdogs or are they just out for more trophies? 

With me now to talk about the growing influence of bloggers, we‘ve got Hugh Hewitt.  He‘s the author of “Blog: Understanding Information Reformation That‘s Changing Your World.”  Ana Marie Cox, the editor of the blog Wonkette.  We also have political commentator Bill Press and Radley Balko of the Web site TheAgitator.com.

Bill Press, let me begin with you. 

BILL PRESS, BILLPRESS.COM:  Hi, Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You worked at CNN.  Good to see you again, buddy.

You worked at CNN.  Don‘t you think that accusing U.S. troops of killing—or trying to target journalists for killing, don‘t you think that‘s a fireable offense, when that comes out of the mouth of a news executive? 

PRESS:  If that‘s what Eason Jordan said, Joe, I agree with you.  Your earlier guest said, we‘re not sure that is what he said.

But I think the real question here is the power of blogs.  And we‘ve all got to recognize there‘s this huge new giant out there in this world of communications both on the right, by the way, Joe, and on the left. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And on the left.  Is that good for America? 

PRESS:  I think it‘s great for America.  I‘m a part-time blogger.  I check the blogs every day.  I‘m telling you, if we‘re in this business and we‘re not checking the blogs, that‘s so last century. 

(LAUGHTER)

PRESS:  But here‘s the risk.  The risk is, right, these are people basically for the most part with no credentials, no sources, no rules, no editors, and no accountability. 

So they‘re going to make mistakes, and you just can‘t take everything in the blog, we in the mainstream media can‘t, and blow it up into a legitimate story. 

SCARBOROUGH:  A big story. 

You know, one of the best things that happens, Ana Marie Cox, for me every morning is, I got my Google alert.  So when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY comes up, I see all the nasty things that are written about me. 

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  And the thing is—obviously, if they‘re just hit jobs, I go on to the next one.  But when somebody quotes me saying something stupid, as you effectively do from time to time, that‘s a very good thing. 

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  I think this is positive.

Now, I want you to follow up on what Bill said.  We‘ve got this story.  But, also, last week, we had a fake reporter at the White House, a conservative. 

ANA MARIE COX, WONKETTE.COM:  That‘s right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And so bloggers have smoked them out too, also, didn‘t they? 

COX:  That‘s right. 

It‘s funny.  Actually, I have heard this reporter, Jeff Gannon, actually been described in news reports as a blogger, which I think now that just for—for reporters, now they think any fake reporter must be a blogger.  I‘m not sure if he actually was one. 

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, you actually brag about being a fake reporter, though. 

COX:  Well, yes, that‘s true.  I just don‘t want the pressure of being a real reporter. 

You know, these whole—this whole scenario right now, where we have these two stories with Jeff Gannon and with Eason Jordan, it‘s really easy to portray it as kind of bloggers gone wild.  And I think, you know me.  There‘s nothing I would like more than a bloggers gone kind of video if it included swimsuits and lots of liquor. 

(LAUGHTER)

COX:  But I‘m not sure if it‘s really fair to, like, sort of say that this is—this is—this is an effect of bloggers in general.  I think we should remember, much like with the mainstream media, there‘s a spectrum of opinions.  There‘s a spectrum of like what people want. 

I think bloggers, most people that wrote about the Eason Jordan case, all they wanted to know was what he said, right?  They didn‘t want his head on a platter. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Right. 

COX:  They just wanted the transcript from Davos.

I think it‘s actually a real disappointment that CNN would cave so quickly.  I find myself agreeing with, of all places, “The Wall Street Journal,” who had an editorial today criticizing CNN for just letting this go and not getting to the actual bottom of the story first. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, Hugh Hewitt, the thing we don‘t know, though, is, we don‘t know what went on behind closed doors.  I‘m sure Jon Klein called him in and said, what did you say in Switzerland?  Let me know now or else we‘ll get the tape.  And it‘s better for you to resign now than be fired later. 

But, Hugh, the bigger story for me is this.  We would have never heard any of this, ever, if we depended on the major networks, “The New York Times,” “The Washington Post” to get it out there and tell us, would we? 

HUGH HEWITT, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  You‘re absolutely right, Joe. 

I broke this story on Chris Matthews‘ show a week ago.  Chris had never heard of it.  Howard Fineman had never heard of it.  Sam Donaldson had never heard of it.  When Judy Woodruff was approached at a panel on blogging at the Campaign and Elections seminar a week ago, she hadn‘t heard of it.  The fact of the matter is, Jonathan Klein probably knows that, on November 19, the “Guardian” newspaper quoted Eason Jordan as saying exactly the same thing and indeed going further, saying that American military was torturing journalists. 

I think that a lot of the reporters in mainstream media are lazy.  I don‘t think they do their jobs.  I think they sit around and do the cocktail circuit, like Davos.  And when a story like this hits, the blogosphere, because it‘s so numerous, swarms around it, gets a lot of details like that November 19 “Guardian” story, does some original journalism. 

I sent out a lot of e-mails out, as did Michelle Malkin, as did a number of the other bloggers who worked the story, Easongate bloggers, got original information, published it, credible, and they embarrassed the mainstream media badly, Joe.  That‘s why there is bitterness. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And people moved on it.  And people moved on it quickly. 

Radley Balko, you write for TheAgitator.com.  You don‘t think this is necessarily good for journalism.  You don‘t think it‘s good for America.  Tell me why. 

RADLEY BALKO, THEAGITATOR.COM:  Well, that‘s probably overstating my position a little bit. 

I just think it‘s a kind of a false premise to frame it as an us-vs.-them kind of debate.  There‘s a lot of bleed-over between mainstream journalism and new journalism, or the blogosphere.  A lot of the most prominent bloggers write for mainstream media outlets.  And a lot of traditional journalists also run their own blogs. 

I think that bloggers are in danger of fetishizing blogs the way journalists have traditionally fetishized journalism.  I think that bloggers are susceptible to the same kinds of biases and double standards and feeding frenzy that they criticize the mainstream media for. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Ana, respond to the fetish remark and also the frenzy. 

(LAUGHTER)

COX:  Go ahead. 

BALKO:  I threw that one in there for you.

(CROSSTALK)

COX:  You want me to start talking about the Gannon story again? 

SCARBOROUGH:  No.  Go ahead. 

COX:  I actually think—I think, actually, Radley has a really good point.  As someone who is bi, as it were, about mainstream and being a blogger, I write for several mainstream publications.  I also have a blog. 

I think that—the blogosphere can be triumphalistic.  And I think

that victories like this, or so-called victories like this, have a definite

tendency to make bloggers think that they‘re always going to be on the side

of the angels.  And it‘s not necessarily the case.  I do think that we lose

·         we lose—parts of the debate drop out when something like this happens. 

Like, for instance, we may never know what Eason Jordan said, if that is what we consider to be an important thing.  He‘s gone now, but what if what he had to say had some point to it?  There is something to be said for being able to go off the record, for being able to speak whatever you‘re feeling and not have to worry about it—being accountable for it right away. 

PRESS:  Joe? 

COX:  Go ahead.

SCARBOROUGH:  Bill Press.

PRESS:  Just let me jump in.  I think the bloggers make a—serve a very, very important role, first of all, in holding, let‘s say, our feet or mainstream media‘s feet to the fire, a la Dan Rather, and also the politicians.  Remember, that‘s what brought down Trent Lott.  It was a blogger inside that room.  His remarks about Strom Thurmond were never reported. 

But I think what is important is that the goal should always be on the right and the left to go after the truth, not just to exalt and take glee in bringing somebody down.  That turns...

(CROSSTALK)

PRESS:  ... and not journalists.

HEWITT:  Let me agree with Bill Press, Joe.

SCARBOROUGH:  Go ahead, Hugh.

HEWITT:  Bill is absolutely right.  He is.  And he I have been doing this for a long time together. 

(CROSSTALK)

HEWITT:  ... together as partners for 15 years. 

PRESS:  Hi, Hugh.

HEWITT:  Hey, Bill. 

It‘s not about the bloggers.  It‘s about the story.  It‘s what Eason Jordan said in Portugal.  It‘s what he said in Davos.  It‘s about the continuing cover-up.  I want to know if my fellow colleagues believe that tape ought to be released immediately, because it should be released.  That‘s the story, not what “The New York Times” thinks about Power Line or about me or about InstaPundit.

It‘s, what did he say, what did he mean by it, and what did he say in Portugal?  Does he really believe—do you believe, Wonkette—that the American military is torturing journalists?  That‘s insane. 

SCARBOROUGH:  No.  I can speak for the Wonkette and tell you, definitely not, definitely not.

HEWITT:  OK.

SCARBOROUGH:  She doesn‘t think they‘re torturing people.  But she does want to come back and talk more about fetishes and feeding frenzies and the like. 

(LAUGHTER) 

SCARBOROUGH:  Hugh Hewitt, Ana Marie Cox, Bill Press, and Radley Balko, thanks so much for your time tonight.  We greatly appreciate it. 

And coming up, I‘ve got issues with the Michael Jackson case, why his lawyers think a Backstreet Boy can help free him from jail.  Shouldn‘t this guy be staying away from boys?

Stick around.  We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  It‘s Valentine‘s Day.  Are your teenage kids having sex tonight?  That frightening thought and more coming up straight ahead.  And should they be taught in their class not to have sex?  We‘ll talk about that in a second. 

But, first, let‘s get the latest news your family needs to know from the MSNBC News Desk. 

(NEWS BREAK)

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

SCARBOROUGH:  Happy Valentine‘s Day, everybody. 

You know, it‘s a day of love, romance and, for many, abstinence.  The second annual Day of Purity, a grassroots effort to get teenagers to remain sexually pure until marriage, kicked off today.  But does teaching abstinence really work?  The Bush administration says yes.  They want millions and millions of your tax dollars to teach abstinence in schools. 

Now, on the other side, California Congresswoman Barbara Lee last week introduced a bill to spend more than $200 million of your tax dollars for comprehensive sex education.  So, who‘s right? 

With me now to talk about it, we‘ve got Rena Lindevaldsen.  She‘s with the Liberty Council, which is behind the Day of Purity.  And we also have Ron Schlittler.   He‘s the acting director of PFLAG, Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. 

Let me begin with you, Rena. 

George Bush wants to spend millions and millions of dollars to teach abstinence in public schools.  Should he get that money?  Does this really work with teenagers or do they just laugh that sort of talk off? 

RENA LINDEVALDSEN, THE LIBERTY COUNSEL:  Absolutely it works. 

And we‘ve seen just in the two years that we‘ve launched the Day of Purity that thousands and thousands of youths across the country have stood and up said, I am thankful for this message.  Thank you for the opportunity to get behind the message of sexual abstinence.  And we need more of this. 

And, frankly, the question is, is, do you believe kids are completely unable to control their urges or should we as a society support the idea of, they can wait, but we need to help them? 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, why don‘t we have—a lot of people will say, OK, well, fine, you can try to teach abstinence in schools, but also make sure that our kids are armed with knowledge so, if they‘re going to have sex, they won‘t get somebody pregnant.  What‘s wrong with teaching them about birth control?  What‘s wrong with teaching them about condoms?  What‘s wrong teaching them about, again, the things that can keep them out of trouble if they aren‘t perfect? 

LINDEVALDSEN:  Absolutely, we should teach them. 

And, actually, a recent MSNBC poll shows most kids are learning this information from their parents.  They cite 70 percent of teens are getting this information from their parents.  What I have a problem with is teaching it in our schools.  And you basically arm them with all this different information about sexual activity, sexual experimentation and then, at the end throw in, oh, you know what, but abstinence is better. 

A recent statistic shows that, although 90 percent of teens know the risks associated with oral sex, only two-thirds of them are protecting themselves.  So where‘s this safe-sex message?

SCARBOROUGH:  OK, Rena, though—OK, so you‘re saying, then, though, you want taxpayers to have their money spent on abstinence courses in classrooms, but you don‘t want their money spent on safe sex?  Is that what you‘re saying? 

LINDEVALDSEN:  Absolutely.  The idea of safe sex is not a workable notion.  And funds should not be poured into programs for safe sex. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Ron, what do you say? 

RON SCHLITTLER, PFLAG:  Well, I say she‘s sorely misguided on all of that. 

While I think that there‘s something to be said for promoting abstinence as an important choice, kids need to have information about sex far beyond their years in school, even if they choose to be abstinent during school.  They still need accurate information.  Polling shows that only 1 to 5 percent of parents in the country would pull their kids out of classes if they were being taught a comprehensive sexual curriculum. 

And I would say comprehensive includes things like how to protect yourself from abusive relationships, how to make smart decisions about relationships.  It‘s more than just about the plumbing and it‘s more than just about the equipment.  You wouldn‘t send somebody off to...

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, Ron.

SCHLITTLER:  Go ahead. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Do you really think, though, that taxpayers that may find this morally repugnant, that teachers are holding condoms up in front of classes and are going through all the details, that they just want to teach their kids at home?  Do you really think taxpayers should have to spend $200 million of their money on sex education courses that they find to be offensive? 

SCHLITTLER:  There‘s plenty of people that find abstinence only until marriage as the core curriculum and only curriculum morally reprehensible, in fact, morally irresponsible.  Wishful thinking does not make kids safe.

And we all know that, in spite of our best intentions, the best work of parents, kids are going to be experimental.  And I emphasize, not even just in school, but beyond school as well, you don‘t send somebody off to climb a mountain if they don‘t know how to work the gear. 

LINDEVALDSEN:  You know, the problem with that...

SCARBOROUGH:  Rena.

LINDEVALDSEN:  Yes. 

The problem I have with that is organizations like PFLAG and organizations like GLSEN and Planned Parenthood, they want you to go into - - they actually tell students that it‘s healthy and normal to experiment with their sexuality.  That‘s why...

SCHLITTLER:  That‘s totally false.  That‘s simply not true. 

(CROSSTALK)

LINDEVALDSEN:  Yes, it is. 

SCHLITTLER:  No, it‘s not. 

LINDEVALDSEN:  I‘ve read myself, quickly, from GLSEN, for example, that explains that it‘s healthy and normal to experiment at an elementary age, even elementary school, your sexuality. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCHLITTLER:  I think that the thing is that there‘s balance to be found with accurate information that covers all of the bases that children need to be informed about in age-appropriate ways from the early grades on up.

And I think we can come to an agreement on what is reasonable and responsible.  But I‘ve got to tell you, abstinence-only until marriage is irresponsible.  And I‘ve also got to tell you that it completely cuts out the gay kid, for whom, in this society, they‘re not permitted to get married.  What do you tell them? 

SCARBOROUGH:  Rena, I will give you the last word. 

LINDEVALDSEN:  Sure. 

I think it‘s irresponsible to arm our kids with the information of experimenting with sexuality at an early age.  It‘s not incapable of a student to wait until marriage to have sex.  And it is a message that we should, as parents, be telling our kids. 

SCARBOROUGH:  OK, thanks, Rena.  Thank, Ron.  We greatly appreciate you being with us tonight on the debate. 

Now let‘s bring on, on our panel.  We have with us Dr. Laura Berman.  She‘s the director of the Berman Center in Chicago.  And we also have Penny Nance of Kids First.

And we are going to start with what we just talked about.  Does abstinence training work?  Should Americans pay millions and millions of their money to teach abstinence in school?

Doctor, we‘ll go to you first.  Go ahead. 

DR. LAURA BERMAN, DIRECTOR, BERMAN CENTER:  Well, I think there‘s definitely a role for abstinence-based education, as we heard, but it‘s not necessarily—I agree that it‘s not necessarily the most realistic road to take. 

Information, first of all, does not mean permission.  And kids are smart enough to absorb the information.  Studies have shown, recent studies, looking at abstinence-based education and these pledges of purity in particular, are that they may delay the first sexual experience that a child has, but not indefinitely.

And invariably the kids end up having sex, perhaps a little bit later than their counterparts who didn‘t take the pledge.  But the difference is, they have no idea how to protect themselves, so they find themselves in a sexual situation, they don‘t know what they do, and they can‘t—they don‘t have the mechanisms or the means to practice safer sex. 

PENNY NANCE, PRESIDENT, KIDS FIRST COALITION:  Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, Penny, we heard somebody in the last segment, though, we heard in the last segment somebody saying, well, you know what we need to do is, we need to just let parents take care of this.

But, you know, there are a lot of broken homes out there.  There are a lot of kids whose parents won‘t talk about it.  There are a lot of kids that run into problems.  If we‘re going to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on abstinence training, shouldn‘t we also talk to the kids who may make mistakes and tell them what they need to do to protect themselves? 

NANCE:  Joe, hey, you know what?  Since you and I were teenagers, you would have to live on another planet not to know about condoms.  They‘re sold everywhere.  They were sold back when we were kids in gas room stations—in the bathrooms of gas stations.  They‘re everywhere. 

Kids know about condoms. 

(CROSSTALK)

NANCE:  What they don‘t know is, they don‘t work. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Doctor, do you agree with that?

NANCE:  They don‘t know that, often, they break.  They don‘t know that

·         they don‘t know that, often, contraceptions fail.  Many of us have children because of that. 

BERMAN:  Right. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Doctor, respond to that.

BERMAN:  I completely agree that children need to know the shortcomings of contraceptives.  They need to know that abstinence is the only safe option. 

NANCE:  Absolutely. 

BERMAN:  That‘s right. 

NANCE:  It is. 

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN:  But they—they also need to know that, if they find themselves in a sexual situation at any time in their life, when they‘re married or otherwise, they need to know not only how to protect themselves with condoms, but what sexually transmitted diseases are out there and how to get their partner to use a condom.  Knowing that condoms exist and knowing where to get them and how to get your partner to use them are two totally different things. 

NANCE:  Joe, what kids in high school are looking for, according to the NBC poll that recently came out, is how to tell their partner no without hurting their feelings; 76 percent of the kids that you all interviewed, ages 13 to 16, who were sexually active—by the way, 27 percent of those kids interviewed were sexually active -- 76 percent of those said the reason they were sexually active was because they didn‘t know how to say no and because the other person wanted to. 

BERMAN:  I agree.

NANCE:  That‘s the kind of information that‘s helpful for kids.  They know about condoms.  They would have to be blind and stupid not to know.  They know.  We‘ve got to teach them how to say no. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Let‘s make the turn—let‘s make the turn now from kids to parents.  You know, there‘s a question out there, are children ruining our marriages?  A study of Rutgers University said this—quote—“that children seem to be a growing impediment to the happiness of marriages.  Many studies have shown that the arrival of the first baby commonly has the effect of pushing the mother and father further apart, bringing stress to the marriage.  One recent review of over 100 research studies found that parents report significantly lower marital satisfaction than nonparents.”

Dr. Berman, on Valentine‘s Day night, what should parents do? 

BERMAN:  Yes.  Lock those kids up.

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN:  No, mainly put a lock—mainly put a lock on your door and learn to set boundaries.  I think that the epidemic of supermoms and superdads and the co-sleeping and the parenting and the involvement that we have—obviously, we want to be greatly involved in our children‘s lives.   

But, often, it‘s to the detriment of our relationships, because we—children are 24-hour need machines, if we let them be.  And it‘s really important to set limits and set time aside for the relationship and set boundaries, even if it‘s in the form of putting a lock on your door.  You still have a monitor.  You can still go to the kids if they need you.  But if they perceive you as having a loving and intimate relationship, they don‘t need to know the details of your sex life.

(CROSSTALK)

NANCE:  That‘s right. 

BERMAN:  But if they know that you need private time and you have an intimate, loving relationship, that‘s the best gift you can give them, because you‘re giving them a model. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Amen. 

BERMAN:  For a loving relationship in their own lives.

SCARBOROUGH:  Exactly.  And let me just say another amen to that. 

Penny Nance, I‘ll give you the last word.

NANCE:  Well, I can‘t disagree with that.  My poor husband is at home tonight with two sick children, a cat and his mother-in-law and is loving me and letting me come out tonight and do something I enjoy and be with you all. 

But I want to say that, you know, the best way for a parent to love their children is to love their spouse and to be faithful and to be monogamous.

BERMAN:  Absolutely.

NANCE:  And to put each other‘s relationship first.  I‘m speaking to myself and to all of us.  We have to work at it. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right. 

NANCE:  And if you‘ve got a marriage on the rocks, having a baby is not going to fix it.  It does bring stress along, but kids are wonderful and they are such a wonderful addition to your life. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  Well, Penny Nance, why don‘t you go home and see yours?

Happy Valentine‘s Day. 

NANCE:  I‘m on my way.  Happy Valentine‘s Day, Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Thanks for being with us tonight.

Dr. Laura Berman, the same thing.  Thank you so much.  Greatly appreciate it. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Now, still ahead tonight, I‘ve got issues.  Why is the Centers for Disease Control, located in Atlanta, attacking Southerners eat? 

And are Michael Jackson‘s lawyers seriously thinking about a Backstreet Boy helping their case?  Hey, Michael, just say no to boys of all kinds. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, I‘m Joe.  I‘d like a No. 4 with a Diet Coke and a milkshake.  And I‘ve got issues. 

First of all tonight, I‘ve got issues with the Centers for Disease Control.  Now, the Atlanta-based CDC is working to fight obesity in America.  Now, I think that‘s great, but they‘re taking aim directly at the South.  The CDC has focused on what it says are the fried and fatty delicacies of the South and the tendency to cook even the healthiest green vegetables with seasonings such as bacon grease and meat drippings.  Mmm, meat drippings. 

Listen, I have spent my entire life living in the South,  And, frankly, I‘ve got no idea—excuse me—what eating habits the CDC is talking about. 

I‘ve also got issues with how low certain Democrats will go—and I mean low—to raise a little political awareness.  Some Democratic supporters of California Senator Barbara Boxer are marketing to the most diehard fans, I would only assume, pairs of Barbara Boxer thong underwear, which begs the question, how much worse can it get for the Democrats in 2005? 

First, there was Harry Reid delivering the Democratic response to the State of the Union address.  Embalm that guy already.  And now pairs of Barbara Boxer‘s thong underwear?  What‘s next, Ted Kennedy in a speedo?  Mmm.

And, finally, I‘ve got issues with Michael Jackson.  It seems Jackson‘s attorney told prospective jurors the day that the defense list of witnesses, which already included the actor Chris Tucker and child star Macaulay Culkin, will also include celebrities such a Kobe Bryant, magician David Blaine, Backstreet Boy Nick Carter and his little brother Aaron Carter. 

Hey, I think Tina Fey summed up my issue best this weekend when she said the following about the young witness list on “Saturday Night Live.” 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE”)   

TINA FEY, ACTOR:  Sources say that Macaulay Culkin and Chris Tucker are willing to testify that Michael Jackson never molested them during their many child sleepovers at Neverland Ranch.  In a related story, I‘m going to testify in the Robert Blake trial, because that guy never tried to murder me.  He never murdered me once. 

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  And with me now to talk about the latest crazy twist in the Michael Jackson case, we‘ve got Jane Velez-Mitchell.  She‘s, of course, from “Celebrity Justice.” 

Jane, let me read you some of the names listed as Jackson‘s witnesses, Jay Leno, Larry King, Stevie Wonder as an eyewitness, Diana Ross, Elizabeth Taylor, Macaulay Culkin.  What are Michael Jackson‘s defense attorneys looking for? 

JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, “CELEBRITY JUSTICE”:  You would have thought, Joe, we were talking about the Oscars and not about a child molestation case. 

This was a jaw-dropper.  The judge said it was the longest potential witness list he has ever seen.  And he‘s been around a long, long time.  Stars like you mentioned, Elizabeth Taylor, Diana Ross, these are people who have known Michael Jackson for years.  Diana Ross, in some mythology, is credited with helping discover the Jackson 5.  They love Michael Jackson. 

Then there‘s another group of celebrities like the Kobe Bryants.  Well, they might be used to try to make the mother of the accuser look like a liar.  She said in one court document that she was friends with Kobe Bryant.  They might try to call him and say, do you know this woman?  And if he says, I never heard of her, then they can make her out to be a liar. 

And then there‘s a third group of celebrities like the Jay Lenos and the Chris Tuckers, who work with the Laugh Factory to help underprivileged kids and tried to help this kid way back in 2000, when he just was an underprivileged kid with a cancer issue. 

SCARBOROUGH:  But it sounds, really, though, like Jackson is just trying to wow this jury, though.  Isn‘t that really what we have here?  You bring across all of this star power.  You‘ve got comedians and actors and actresses and rock stars that the jury loves, and they‘re going to be willing to listen to them and give Jackson the benefit of the doubt. 

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  I think you‘re absolutely right.

And one thing that we all heard loud and clear listening to these potential jurors is that they really, really want to be on this jury panel.  They were saying, whatever they had to say to convince whichever attorney was questioning them that they were appropriate for this panel—one woman even said, my nieces were molested, but that will not in any way affect how I view this case. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Good lord. 

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  And people were just like guffawing.  Yes, it was wild in there today. 

SCARBOROUGH:  What about Kobe Bryant?  Is Kobe Bryant really the guy that you want to send out to help your defense team?  Isn‘t that stretching it a bit? 

(LAUGHTER)

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  It‘s just crazy. 

And look at the fact that they are listing Michael Jackson‘s children, Prince Michael and Paris.  These are two young children who, by the way, always appear with scarves around their head.  They‘re going to show up at court and testify?  It defies logic.  It‘s becoming more of a freak show than it even has been. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And, for Michael Jackson, that‘s saying something. 

Thanks so much for being with us, Jane.  We great appreciate it. 

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  Yes. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Coming up next, I‘ve got Dr. Ruth Valentine‘s Day advice for me.  I tell you what.  You‘re not going to miss this.  It‘s just—it‘s downright humiliating. 

Stick around. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, it‘s Valentine‘s Day.  And Dr. Ruth Westheimer has some advice for both you and me that you‘re not going to want to miss.  That‘s coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, since it‘s Valentine‘s Day, I thought I would share with you, my loyal SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY viewers, the humiliating Valentine‘s Day advice I got from one SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY guest on the show last week. 

Take a listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. RUTH WESTHEIMER, SEX THERAPIST:  You are going to use a sexual position that you have never used before.  And you call me, because then I can teach it to other people.  OK? 

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  Dr. Ruth, thank you so much.  I will get your phone number afterwards. 

WESTHEIMER:  All right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Let me check that off. 

WESTHEIMER:  I will wait for your call. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, I know you will. 

WESTHEIMER:  Never mind flowers.  Never mind chocolate. 

SCARBOROUGH:  It saves me a lot of money, and the best part is, it‘s not going to be that difficult.  I‘m a boring guy.  So thanks so much, Dr.  Ruth. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  I am a boring guy.  Just so you know the rest of that story, as Paul Harvey would say, I got my wife flowers.

Be sure to send your e-mails to Joe@MSNBC.com and also log on to our Web page at Joe.MSNBC.com. 

Hey, have a happy Valentine‘s Day.  And if you want to buy flowers, buy flowers.  If you want to buy chocolates, you want to buy chocolates.  If you want to listen to Dr. Ruth, I don‘t want to know about it. 

Thanks for being with us tonight.  Looking forward to seeing you tomorrow night in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. 

“HARDBALL” is coming up next.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END   

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2005 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2005 Voxant, 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 mayinfringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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