updated 3/8/2005 2:07:43 PM ET 2005-03-08T19:07:43

Guest: Michael Smerconish, Jack Burkman, Carrie Lukas, David Pollak, Bob Jensen, Bob Kohn, John Nichols, Ralph Peters

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  Tonight, the latest on the Italian reporter from the communist newspaper who was rescued in Iraq.  She charges, American soldiers may have tried to gun her down.  The White House says that‘s ridiculous. 

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

So, what really happened when U.S. military fired on the Italian reporter rescued from Iraqi insurgents?  We dug up the facts from the reporter from the communist newspaper she works for and her longtime dislike of the United States. 

Next, dead man anchoring.  Dan Rather‘s march towards his journalistic judgment day.  But does a sense of bias continue at CBS?  Its year-long assault on America‘s most powerful Republican leaders continued last night on “60 Minutes.”  The question is, will it ever stop? 

And Michael Smerconish in the hot seat, taking the tough questions on bizarre sex-ed classes, the CIA shipping terror suspects overseas for torture, and a high school teacher losing his cool over patriotism. 

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

SCARBOROUGH:  Welcome to the show. 

Now, our top story tonight, the Italian journalist who was freed by her Iraqi captors on Friday, only to be shot at by the U.S. military.  Giuliana Sgrena, a reporter for a communist newspaper, says she may have been deliberately targeted by American soldiers.  U.S. soldiers opened fire on her car just after she was let go, killing an Italian intelligence officer who had negotiated her release. 

Now, just yesterday, Sgrena told an Italian reporter that—quote—

“I can‘t exclude that I was the real target of the shooting.”  The Bush administration, for their part, dismissed the charge.  But it‘s put a new strain on the U.S. relationship with Italy, which has been an important ally in the effort to bring democracy to Iraq.  Now, there are 3,000 Italian troops in Iraq right now.  And Sgrena also provided a reason why she thinks she may have been a target. 

She says: “I believe, but it‘s only an hypothesis, that the happy ending to the negotiations must have been irksome.  The Americans are against this type of operation.  For them, war is war.  Human life doesn‘t count for much.”

With me now to talk about her claims are John Nichols.  He‘s a Washington correspondent at “The Nation.”  And we also have Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Peters.  He‘s the author of “Beyond Baghdad.” 

Colonel, I‘m going to start with you.

This reporter for this communist newspaper says, for American soldiers, life doesn‘t matter much.  She thinks she was a target.  What do you say to that? 

RETIRED COL. RALPH PETERS, AUTHOR, “BEYOND BAGHDAD”:  Well, first of all, if Giuliana Sgrena had been a target of our soldiers, that witch would be dead. 

Secondly, I‘m tired of U.S. soldiers getting blamed for everything under the sun.  Now, look, the Italians are valued allies.  I‘m sorry that the Italian agent was done—was killed.  But I‘m a former intelligence hand, and I think I can tell you as a former telling officer what happened.  The Italians were clearly hotdogging.  They didn‘t coordinate.  They were running at night, trying to run a U.S. roadblock, for God sakes. 

And the right way to do this, instead of playing James Bond and trying to dash to the airport, would have been, OK, you have got the hostage.  Take her to safety on the ground.  Coordinate with us.  We‘ll get her to the airport safely.  But the guys, the Italian agents, were clearly trying to be national heroes, darting about in the night, sort of a Ferrari mentality.  Sorry it happened, but you cannot blame our troops. 

SCARBOROUGH:  John Peters, can you blame American troops for a shooting for an operation that America wasn‘t even told about, despite the fact that we got 150,000 troops on the ground in Iraq right now?  Don‘t you think somebody with the Italian government probably should have notified us first that this operation was going on? 

JOHN NICHOLS, “THE NATION”:  Well, let‘s begin with, I‘m John Nichols. 

Colonel Peters is the other guy. 

But, as for your question, what Colonel Peters just said was, as he acknowledges, entirely hypothesis.  He doesn‘t know what happened.  Neither do we.  And what we‘ve got is a situation here where the Bush White House has said, all the charges are ridiculous.  They dismiss this as an accident.  We don‘t know that.  And that‘s a very, very bad approach to this incident.  The Bush White House...

SCARBOROUGH:  Wait.  You are telling me, John, we don‘t know whether American troops purposefully shot at this car trying to kill this reporter?  We don‘t know that?  You don‘t know that tonight?

NICHOLS:  We don‘t know whether American—we don‘t know whether American—excuse me, Joe.  You don‘t know whether American troops shot at the car.  You don‘t know what happened there.  You don‘t.

SCARBOROUGH:  This reporter is suggesting tonight that—that she may have been targeted by American troops. 

NICHOLS:  She has suggested...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Now, we can all have our hypotheses.

NICHOLS:  Exactly.  And we‘ve just heard...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hold on a second, John. 

(CROSSTALK)

NICHOLS:  We‘ve just heard a load of hypothesis.

SCARBOROUGH:  John, John, I want to you answer this question. 

NICHOLS:  Sure.

SCARBOROUGH:  Do you believe that American soldiers, as Eason Jordan has also suggested, try to target journalists for killing in Iraq? 

NICHOLS:  I don‘t know that, and, in fact, let me—let me go...

SCARBOROUGH:  You don‘t know that? 

NICHOLS:  No, I don‘t.  And neither do you. 

SCARBOROUGH:  So...

(CROSSTALK)

PETERS:  Listen, I do know.  American soldiers do not target journalists. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  I do know that.

(CROSSTALK)

NICHOLS:  Colonel, you‘ve acknowledged—the colonel started by acknowledging that everything he‘s saying is hypothesis.  He began by saying that.  I hold him to that point. 

PETERS:  Because I‘m trying to be honest, unlike “The Nation,” with its attack on...

NICHOLS:  Yes, you say it‘s hypothesis. 

PETERS:  No, I didn‘t use the word hypothesis.  And I can tell you...

(CROSSTALK)

NICHOLS:  You did.  You began by saying that you don‘t know.

PETERS:  I didn‘t use the word hypothesis.

Now, look, “The Nation” is putting words in other people‘s mouths for a long time.  You guys just can‘t get over the fact you‘ve been wrong about everything for the last half-century.  Bush‘s doctrine is working—sloppy, but it‘s working.  Democracy is breaking out.  And it‘s a troubled process, but it‘s working.  And you just can‘t accept the fact that American soldiers, whom you despise, have done a great thing for humanity. 

NICHOLS:  Can I just correct something here?  I don‘t despise American soldiers.  I grew up in a military family.  I‘ve covered wars.  I‘ve driven these same roads in the Middle East with American soldiers.  The suggestion that I despise them is comic.  And it is typical of the absurd...

PETERS:  Well, read—just look at your magazine.  Look at your magazine. 

NICHOLS:  It is typical of the absurd way of arguing from folks who don‘t want to actually support our troops. 

The way to support our troops is to get to the bottom of this issue, figure out what happened, investigate these charges in a responsible way, not to simply dismiss them.

PETERS:  The way to support our troops is not to accuse them or raise hypotheses that they might have targeted an Italian journalist.  American soldiers do not target civilians.  We do not target journalists.  And, after 22 years in the military, just playing these word games, well, hypothetically, it‘s possible.

(CROSSTALK)

PETERS:  It‘s just not so.

NICHOLS:  Yes, I agree with you.  Your opening statements were ridiculous.  But let‘s get to the core reality here. 

(CROSSTALK)

PETERS:  So you‘re saying it‘s ridiculous that...

(CROSSTALK) 

SCARBOROUGH:  OK, hold on a second.  Hold on, guys.  I‘m going to nail something down.  Hold on a second.

John, we‘ve got to nail something down here, because you said

something that obviously causes a great deal of concern to the colonel and

I.      And that is, you said earlier that you didn‘t know whether American troops purposefully targeted journalists in Iraq.  I‘m going to ask you that question again. 

NICHOLS:  Sure.  You asked me that question.  I don‘t know.

SCARBOROUGH:  Do you think it is possible—let me ask it. , So, you‘re saying it could be possible that it is the policy of American troops in Iraq to target journalists that they don‘t like?  You‘re suggesting that that‘s the truth? 

(CROSSTALK)

NICHOLS:  No.  I think you‘re trying to put words in my mouth here. 

I think it‘s unlikely.  I don‘t believe that.

(CROSSTALK)

NICHOLS:  I know too many American soldiers. 

But what‘s happening here is an insult to American soldiers.  The

colonel is suggesting they are so fragile, so unable to be questioned that

·         that we can‘t have a serious investigation of this.  I think that‘s absurd.

PETERS:  No, I‘m not suggesting that.  Come on. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Nobody is suggesting that, John.

(CROSSTALK)

NICHOLS:  That is exactly what‘s being suggested here. 

PETERS:  No, it is not. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  No, John.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  John, you‘re—you‘re setting up—you‘re setting up false choices, John.

(CROSSTALK)

NICHOLS:  But you just set up false—you did the same thing to me.

SCARBOROUGH:  John, you‘re either saying, John, by setting up a false choice, by saying either you leave open the fact that American soldiers have as official policy the targeting of journalists or you‘re not for a fair investigation. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  I want a fair investigation of this policy, but at the same—but at the same...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Listen, we‘re not all going to talk at the same time. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  We‘re not going to talk—Colonel. 

NICHOLS:  The colonel just said that I despise American troops.  He was wrong. 

(CROSSTALK)

PETERS:  That‘s good to hear.  That‘s very good to hear.

NICHOLS:  Yes. 

PETERS:  Because I would like “The Nation” to do some pieces on the quality performance of our soldiers and do some pieces on all they‘ve accomplished in bringing democracy to Afghanistan, to Iraq, perhaps even Lebanon.

Do some pieces in “The Nation” about our special operators risking their lives as we speak around the world.  Do some pieces on the quality of our soldiers, not playing this Upper West Side, left-wing word game of, well, we‘ve got to trust that our soldiers are strong enough to be accused of murder. 

NICHOLS:  You know...

PETERS:  You‘re essentially accusing our soldiers of cold-blooded murder. 

NICHOLS:  No, I‘m not.  I‘m here as an American saying, believing that our troops can handle an investigation. 

PETERS:  Sure, they can. 

NICHOLS:  You‘re here saying they can‘t. 

PETERS:  Sure, they can, but why should there be an unfair investigation? 

NICHOLS:  Why should there be an unfair investigation?  I‘m not for an unfair investigation.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, John.  All right, John.

NICHOLS:  I‘m for an investigation.

SCARBOROUGH:  You know what?  Guys, guys, guys, guys, I mean, this—this semantics game is getting absolutely ridiculous. 

John, you know what you said that set both of us off and I would guess probably set off about 85 percent of Americans out there.  You said you didn‘t know whether Americans purposefully targeted journalists or not.  That‘s the problem.

(CROSSTALK)

NICHOLS:  Joe, you are doing a comic...

SCARBOROUGH:  What you said earlier.

NICHOLS:  No, Joe, I won‘t let you—I will not let you put words in my mouth and make... 

SCARBOROUGH:  John, you said it earlier.  No, John.  Do me a favor, John.

NICHOLS:  Joe, you are making—do me a favor.

SCARBOROUGH:  Tomorrow morning, go—go on my Web site.  It‘s Joe.Scarborough.MSNBC.  We‘re saying this on national television. 

NICHOLS:  Yes. 

SCARBOROUGH:  So, we‘ll see who suggested it or not.  Look at the transcript and see what you said. 

NICHOLS:  Yes, but, Joe, Joe...

SCARBOROUGH:  And we‘ll talk about it tomorrow night.

NICHOLS:  But let‘s—but let‘s do some real discussion here.  Let‘s do some real discussion, instead of just trying to blow things out of proportion in a silly way. 

I said it‘s unlikely that Americans did this.  I said I don‘t believe that they did.  That‘s where I‘m coming from.  And you‘re trying to create...

SCARBOROUGH:  That‘s good.

NICHOLS:  No, no, no.  You‘re trying to create the fantasy that...

SCARBOROUGH:  No.

NICHOLS:  ... because, as a journalist...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Look—look at the transcript.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  John, look at the transcript tomorrow and you will say what...

NICHOLS:  I said I...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  No, John.  Come on, John.  Look at the transcript tomorrow morning and you actually will see the way you moved in here. 

PETERS:  Let‘s get back to common sense, guys.

(CROSSTALK)

PETERS:  ... back to common sense? 

NICHOLS:  And look at the whole dialogue.

(CROSSTALK)

PETERS:  Mr. Nichols, like your magazine, you never stop.

NICHOLS:  OK, look...

SCARBOROUGH:  You don‘t stop.

Colonel, I want to read you, first of all, what Sgrena wrote in November about the battle for Fallujah.  I think, unlike this discussion, it actually adds perspective.  “Fallujah is dying under the criminally indifferent gaze, not only of the United States, but also of the Iraqi government.”  It goes on to talk about how Americans have criminally targeted civilians, as well as military targets. 

This is the perspective coming from this reporter, who is now suggesting American soldiers may have targeted her. 

PETERS:  Yes. 

And she represents a broad spectrum of the European hard left and, unfortunately, the hard left in our own country.  They will never forgive us for proving that capitalism works and Socialism doesn‘t.  They are just clinging to nostalgia for the golden age of Che Guevara and berets. 

And now they‘ll say anything, do anything, make any accusation to try to undercut the great good that America in general and the American soldier specifically has done across the world. 

And I‘ll tell you, Mr. Nichols, you can put it any way you want, but I‘ll tell you, the way to show confidence in our troops, to support our troops is to trust them.  They‘re the best soldiers on Earth.  And they make mistakes, but they do not purposely target civilians. 

And, by the way, had we targeted that journalist, what would we have gained? 

(CROSSTALK)

PETERS:  For God‘s sakes.

SCARBOROUGH:  Colonel Peters, John Nichols, we greatly appreciate you being with us.

I got to tell you, personally, I hate segments like the one that we just had.  I hate it because a statement is made early on.  John Nichols suggests that Americans may have targeted this journalist and it may be our policy.  We try to follow up on that.  And, instead, all we get is a filibuster.  We get three people talking. 

I apologize to you.  I don‘t like cutting people‘s mike.  I believe in the free marketplace of ideas.  But that means, if John Nichols said something that he didn‘t believe later on, he should have just fessed up to it and told us, and then we could have moved on. 

Now, coming up, Dan Rather‘s last day as anchor at CBS, but the bias at CBS seems to keep going on and on. 

And later, the University of Colorado‘s president resigns amid a football recruiting sex scandal and the outlandish comments from a professor.  Why is she taking the bullet, while others are keeping their jobs? 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Straight ahead, Dan Rather‘s last couple days as anchor at CBS, but CBS‘ year-long attack on Republican leaders continues.  Is there no end in sight?  That‘s coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Dan Rather is going to be broadcasting his last evening news show on Wednesday.  And he‘s going to stay at “60 Minutes,” though, and CBS filing for “60 Minutes.” 

And in the past year, CBS has given a platform to no less than five Bush bashers on that program, topping it off, of course, with Dan Rather‘s now infamous report of President Bush‘s National Guard service.

But also, last night on “60 Minutes,” Lesley Stahl went after Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.  Take a look. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “60 MINUTES”)

LESLEY STAHL, ANCHOR:  Congressman DeLay turned down our many requests for an interview, so we caught up with him at a news conference in Washington to ask him about the case.

REP. TOM DELAY (R-TX), MAJORITY LEADER:  There‘s plenty of time to talk about those kinds of things, Lesley.

STAHL (on camera):  When can you talk about them?

DELAY:  What we are interested in...

STAHL (voice over):  While he wouldn‘t answer my questions, DeLay has said in the past that he does not expect to be indicted. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  With me now to talk about it are University of Texas journalism professor Robert Jensen.   We also have Bob Kohn.  He, of course is the author of “Journalistic Fraud.”

Now, let me start with you, Professor Jensen. 

Obviously, a lot of Republicans believe “60 Minutes” is slanted.  Over the past year, they‘ve attacked the president.  They‘ve attacked DeLay.  They‘ve attacked a series of Republicans, but don‘t seem to go after Democrats.  Does this prove once and for all that CBS News, with or without Dan Rather, is the most biased outfit in America? 

DR. BOB JENSEN, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS:  Well, first of all, in case nobody noticed, the Republicans are in power.

And one of the central tenets of journalism is to confront power.  During the Clinton administration, the U.S. press harped on a number of things, including something that were rather trivial, in retrospect, like Whitewater.  So I think it is in fact the role of journalism to attack power, especially when power has been concentrated in a way that‘s really unheralded in American history, the way the Bush administration has done that. 

I think if there‘s a problem in American journalism, it‘s not that it‘s been too much Bush bashing.,  It‘s been that it‘s been afraid to confront the power of the Bush administration.  It‘s been afraid of public opinion.  I mean, look at the run-up to the Iraq war.  The U.S. press abandoned its role to critically evaluate the statements of power people.  And that—the lies that took us into the Iraq war still have never been corrected, in some sense. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Bob Kohn, the professor does bring up a good point.  You don‘t usually attack Nancy Pelosi if she‘s the minority leader.  You attack Nancy Pelosi if she‘s speaker of the House. 

Here, you have Tom DeLay, the most—I don‘t care what anybody says -

·         I don‘t care what anybody is called—Tom DeLay is the most powerful Republican on Capitol Hill.  So, you go after him, don‘t you? 

BOB KOHN, AUTHOR, “JOURNALISTIC FRAUD”:  Well, you know, the professor can have his opinion, but he can‘t have his own facts. 

The facts were that, the run-up to the war, the mainstream media was just railing against President Bush and for his reasons.

(CROSSTALK)

KOHN:  And, right now, the mainstream media has got to kind of backtrack and maybe consider that Bush was right. 

They wouldn‘t be reconsidering their position right now if they hadn‘t taken a position against President Bush to begin with.  But, you know...

SCARBOROUGH:  Now...

KOHN:  ... we‘re focusing on CBS specifically.  You know, “60 Minutes” has been using Michael Moore techniques for 20 years in going after big business and going after the Republicans. 

And there‘s no sign of it whatsoever of stopping.  And, you know, to

say that, you know, that they have to speak to power, they have treated

President Clinton like a friendly witness on “60 Minutes.”  But you take a

·         you have a Republican or you have a conservative or a businessman on “60 Minutes,” they just simply treat them hostilely—with hostility. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Professor, let‘s take a closer look at—let‘s take a closer look, Professor, at some of the stories that the show has reported on this past year.  Last January, Lesley Stahl also profiled outgoing Treasury Secretary Paul O‘Neill, who called President Bush a blind man in a roomful of deaf people.  Of course, he was promoting a book that Viacom owned, also owns CBS. 

Last March, the show gave two segments in two weeks to former terror aide Richard Clarke, who bashed the Bush administration in his book, also had a book owned by Viacom.  And, in May, outgoing military advisory Anthony Zinni claimed that Bush was—quote—“taking us over Niagara Falls” with his Iraq policies. 

And, again, it seems so terribly one-sided here.  Are you just saying that, because Republicans are in power, because they‘ve concentrated power in all branches of the federal government, that this is what they get? 

JENSEN:  Well, first of all, I think we should contest Robert‘s facts on the run-up to the Iraq war. 

In fact, the United States press did communicate the lies of the Bush administration about terrorism ties and about weapons fairly uncritically.  And, in fact, anti-war voices were virtually shut out.  And a study by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting showed that, on CBS News, 1 -- less than 1 percent of the voices that made it into the news were anti-war voices.  So, those are the facts.

(CROSSTALK)

KOHN:  Check out—read the front page of “The New York Times.”

(CROSSTALK)

JENSEN:  No, let me finish. 

KOHN:  Sure.

JENSEN:  On the question—on the question of corporate consolidation and the problems of Viacom owning CBS, or let‘s say GE owning certain other networks, those are real problems. 

And as a person, a left critic of corporate power, I‘ve been making those arguments, as have many on the left for a long time, so I‘m very grateful, Joe, that you‘re coming around to a left point of view. 

But as far as the people you noted, for instance, Paul O‘Neill, the last time I checked, was a Republican.  Nobody ever accused General Zinni of being a radical.  These are voices within the mainstream of American politics.

KOHN:  Oh, come on. 

JENSEN:  Who are very worried about the concentration of power in the Bush administration.

(CROSSTALK)

JENSEN:  And the illegal foreign policies.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Bob Jensen, do they not select, though, people that bash...

KOHN:  That‘s right, Paul O‘Neill was...

SCARBOROUGH:  There‘s nothing that these people love more than Republicans who bash Republicans.

KOHN:  That‘s right.  Paul O‘Neill was on there to bash the Bush administration. 

(CROSSTALK)

KOHN:  Let me finish.  Richard Clarke was on to bash the Bush administration.  Dan Rather was there to bash President Bush, you know, with Mary Mapes with these forged documents. 

But what about when the Swift Boat Veterans‘ book came out?  Was that on “60 Minutes”?  No.  If “60 Minutes” had researched the Swift Boat Veterans‘ book and found errors throughout the book, don‘t you think they‘d have a special segment on “60 Minutes” to ambush those guys?  Well, if they did do the research and it came out clean, why didn‘t they put the Swift Boat Vets on “60 Minutes”?  OK?

It‘s clearly biased.  You can‘t say that Viacom, just because it‘s a big business, is influencing CBS to be liberal.  That doesn‘t make any sense whatsoever.  I don‘t understand where this conspiracy theory is coming from.  Explain it.

JENSEN:  It‘s not a conspiracy theory.  It‘s not a conspiracy theory, Bob.  It‘s a simple acknowledgement that power dictates the course of action in a company. 

If you think that the American press is going to be dangerously radically left, I think you‘re missing sort of the key point about a structural critique, not pecking away at anecdotal things.  I can tell you that Lesley Stahl once did a very critical interview during the Clinton administration of the Iraq policy of the Clinton administration.  Does that prove they were biased against Clinton?  Oh, come on.

KOHN:  Those anecdotal things are where the real—what‘s really happening. 

(CROSSTALK)

KOHN:  You‘re talking about professors...

(CROSSTALK)

JENSEN:  Yes.  They‘re really happening.  I agree.

KOHN:  You are talking about such ethereal things that really don‘t have...

(CROSSTALK)

KOHN:  You can‘t bring that and match it to anything that‘s really happening. 

JENSEN:  I can match it...

(CROSSTALK)

KOHN: “60 Minutes” has been liberal for 20, 30 years.  They continue to do that.  How do you explain that by the fact that Viacom is a large corporation?  What‘s the connection?

JENSEN:  Well, I happen to think—I happen to think that facts matter.  So, when a study shows that 76 percent of the sources in “The CBS Evening News” in 2001 are Republicans...

KOHN:  OK.  And 80 percent of the reporters are Democrats.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hold on a second. 

Professor...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  No, hold on.  Professor, though, final question, though. 

JENSEN:  Yes, sir. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Can you name a Democrat in the past two, three years that CBS has gone after the way they‘ve gone after President Bush or Tom DeLay, just one major Democratic figure?

KOHN:  How about Senator Byrd?

JENSEN:  The Democrats are out of power.  During the Clinton administration, the entire American press harped on the Clinton administration.  And I agree.  They should have.  They should have been critical.  That‘s the function of journalism in a democratic society. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  So you‘re saying no.  You‘re saying no, right, Professor? 

(CROSSTALK)

JENSEN:  I‘m saying the Democrats are virtually irrelevant in American politics.  You‘re talking about a time in which the judiciary, the White House and Congress are controlled not only by Republicans, but by a radical, reactionary faction of the Republican Party. 

KOHN:  No.

(CROSSTALK)

JENSEN:  And many mainstream Republicans don‘t like it.

(CROSSTALK)

KOHN:  The press should be telling the truth.  It shouldn‘t be going after...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Professor Bob Jensen, Bob Kohn, greatly appreciate you both being here.

I will guarantee you, though, friends guarantee you, though, friends, even if the Republicans were in the minority and they had a senator who was a member of the Ku Klux Klan who then compared the Democrats to Nazis, that be would be on “60 Minutes” the next weekend. 

Now, coming up next, what‘s going on at the University of Colorado?  The school‘s president is quitting.  But the head of the football team embroiled in a scandal and the crazy Ward Churchill are both keeping their jobs.  Why is she the only one taking the bullet at C.U.? 

And how far would you go to honor America?  Caught on tape, a high school professor loses his cool when students disrespect the national anthem. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Up next, does a school system have the right to teach that homosexuality is normal?  We‘re going to debating that question in a minute.  But, first, let‘s get the latest news that your family needs to know. 

(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:  University of Colorado President Elizabeth Hoffman submitted her resignation today, finally folding under the pressure of the university‘s two recent scandals. 

There was, of course, the football team sex scandal and the outrageous comments from Professor Ward Churchill.  Of course, Churchill compared 9/11 victims to Nazis. 

With me now to talk about that and much more is Democratic strategist Dave Pollak.  We have Carrie Lukas from the Independent Women‘s Forum.  And we also have Republican strategist Jack Burkman. 

Jack, let me begin with you. 

Should the American people ask members of Congress to cut off funding from the University of Colorado until they take care of the Ward Churchill scandal? 

JACK BURKMAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Joe, you‘re a man after my own heart.  I‘ve been calling for this for a month.  Nobody‘s listening.  These are taxpayer dollars. 

If Ward Churchill wants to go down on the corner on a soapbox and fly the Nazi flag or worship Saddam Hussein or whatever he thinks is great, this is a free society, and I support his fight.  I would defend to the death his right to do that.  But if you want to use taxpayer dollars, state or federal, that should be cut off. 

And, Joe, I would ask you tonight, you and I should put together a coalition of House Republicans.  Let‘s get a provision in the next moving vehicle on the House to slash immediately any earmark, any earmark for the University of Colorado.  Let‘s go back retroactively.  Let‘s do everything legally possible to shut down their funding, anything given last year. 

There‘s too much—Dante‘s quote, it‘s too long.  Those in times of moral crisis maintain their neutrality—I‘m paraphrasing—that‘s what is going on.  There‘s a lot of people sitting on the sidelines thinking this will blow over.  And it‘s not just federal funding.  It‘s major corporations who are involved with this university.  They need to be tarred with this brush.  They need to be speaking up and demanding.

It‘s a good thing that the president quit.  As far as I‘m concerned, the entire administration and the board should resign, but Churchill should resign. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Carrie Lukas—let me ask you, Carrie Lukas, do you agree with Jack Burkman?  Are you ready to take up his banner and go to Capitol Hill and say cut funding for University of Colorado until they take care of this professor who compared 9/11 victims to Nazis? 

CARRIE LUKAS, INDEPENDENT WOMEN‘S FORUM:  Well, I think there‘s a lot of federal funding that should be cut and I wish we would cut—and I wish we would—the congressman would take a real look at the budget and try to get rid of all the pork-barrel spending that is in there. 

But I think, in addition to looking at the use of federal dollars, it‘s time for the University of Colorado to take a real hard look at what‘s been going on, on its campus, because I really think this is a symptom of a larger problem.  And that‘s liberalism run amuck. 

These campuses have become hotbeds of anti-Americanism in many ways.  And it‘s time for alumni to start trying to hold their schools accountable and for the American people to take a real look at what‘s going on, on American campuses. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Dave Pollak, you know, as Jack Burkman was talking about starting this crusade, I could see in your eyes just a glimmer, excitement.  I‘ve got a feeling that you think that Ward Churchill should also—I can‘t even say it with a straight face. 

Do you think Ward Churchill should be fired? 

DAVID POLLAK, PRESIDENT, DEMOCRATIC LEADERSHIP FOR THE 21ST CENTURY: 

Let me first of all say, I think what Jack proposed is one of the most frightening things I‘ve heard of in a long time, because, after all, this is not really mainstream America we‘re talking about.  This is the people‘s republic of Boulder, Colorado. 

And you have one professor.  You talk to any student at the University of Colorado, they will you, this guy is known for being really kind of a controversial character, raising crazy subjects, making students uncomfortable.  And, still, they flock to his class, not because it‘s liberalism run amuck.  I mean, that‘s just silly.  It‘s because sometimes, in academic environments, there‘s an advantage to having people on extremes who are there to sort of provoke reactions...

(CROSSTALK)

BURKMAN:  But why should federal dollars support that?  But the question is, why should federal dollars support that? 

POLLAK:  Who is going to decide—because who is going to decide? 

Then I want to be able to decide what federal dollars go to other...

(CROSSTALK)

BURKMAN:  But you and I aren‘t elected.  The Congress decides. 

(CROSSTALK)

BURKMAN:  Wait a minute.  You‘re forgetting, we have an elected Congress. 

POLLAK:  It‘s preposterous. 

(CROSSTALK)

BURKMAN:  The Congress decides.  I don‘t understand why you stop short of calling for—A, you didn‘t answer Joe‘s question about whether he should resign. 

POLLAK:  Let‘s you and I sit down—let‘s you and I sit down right now and decide all the federal funding we want to cut off for all the universities and all the corporations and everything else in this country where federal funding goes...

(CROSSTALK)

POLLAK:  ... because you and I don‘t like it.

BURKMAN:  We don‘t decide.  Congress decides. 

And what I suggested to Joe is, we put together a coalition and take our case to Congress. 

POLLAK:  And I heard your suggestion, and I think it‘s going to go nowhere, because I think it‘s ludicrous. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, let‘s move on.

Carrie, I want to show you about a—a video that could be in your child‘s classroom soon.  It‘s teaching them about sex, homosexuality and how to get in touch with their transgender self.  One part of the video teaches girls how to put a condom on a cucumber. 

It tells them that putting one on seems pretty straightforward, but this is where everybody makes the mistakes.  And it says to remember to use a condom for oral, anal and vaginal sex.  The video would first be in Montgomery County‘s school district in a class called “Family Life and Human Development” curriculum.  And, of course, also, they‘re talking about getting that curriculum all across the state of Maryland and trying to expand it beyond the borders. 

Do you think this is what children should be learning in public schools? 

LUKAS:  You know, every time this issue comes up on what should be a part of the sex education curriculum, I think, you know, what a shame there is that there‘s not greater school choice in America, so these decisions were being made by parents, instead of bureaucrats.  And I really think that these are two issues, both the Ward Churchill issue and the issue of federal funding and this issue of sex education really go hand in hand. 

You know, taxpayer dollars shouldn‘t be going to either of these institutions.  It should really be about parents and consumers—education, consumers making these decisions, because you‘re right.  Parents are going to be appalled by—many parents are going to be appalled by what‘s going on in this sex education class.  But it should really be about giving parents choice, instead of bureaucrats. 

(CROSSTALK)

BURKMAN:  What it is, you‘ve got a moral equivalency.

A lot of this is trying to suggest that there‘s some kind of moral equivalency between homosexual and heterosexual lifestyles.  I mean, look, what you have—I largely agree with that.  But I think what is going on here is, you have a deliberate attempt, A, to promote promiscuity and, B, to promote the homosexual agenda, all under the guise of tolerance and sex ed.  There‘s a role for sex ed in the schools, but this isn‘t it.

The irony is, the irony is, a lot of sex ed is designed to inhibit the spread of AIDS.  And there‘s some value in that.  But as you drive the homosexual agenda, what you will do is, you will cause AIDS—you will cause AIDS to increase.  And I don‘t think a lot of people understand that. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Dave Pollak, listen, you know, I think a lot of parents, middle America, don‘t mind sex education being taught.  But when you have a class like this one in Maryland, where you‘re having middle schoolers putting condoms on cucumbers and you‘ve got a course description that talks about how children need to get inside themselves and figure out whether they‘re gay or straight, that‘s offensive I would guess not only to conservatives and moderates, but also to some liberals, who would say, hey, don‘t teach my eighth grade kid that stuff. 

What do you think? 

POLLAK:  I do agree with you. 

I just think it‘s unfortunate, though, if you look around in our culture and perhaps maybe where there‘s some common ground now with people on the panel, whether it‘s television, all the images of sexuality, gay and straight, that children are just bombarded with.  Never mind the Internet.  It seems to me we really do have to think carefully about how—I think all parents would like to have it in their control, how their children learn about sexuality. 

I just think, in today‘s day and age, it‘s so difficult.

BURKMAN:  Dave, let me just...

POLLAK:  And perhaps there‘s a role that the schools can play to try and at least teach accuracy, if nothing else. 

BURKMAN:  Let me ask you this question.  Would you sign a letter asking Montgomery County to drop use of that video immediately? 

POLLAK:  Well, no.  Actually, I would support the local school districts deciding their own morality.  So, I think it‘s up to the parents of that community and not people like us telling us them what they should...

(CROSSTALK)

BURKMAN:  Do you think they should drop it?  Do you think they should drop use of the video? 

POLLAK:  Again, I really believe in the power of local community boards to decide their education.

BURKMAN:  But what do you think about the issue?  Are you afraid to say what you think about the issue? 

POLLAK:  No, no.  I just told you as clear as I—very clearly, I believe that it‘s up to local standards to decide what‘s to go on in their education. 

(CROSSTALK)

POLLAK:  I don‘t want to tell them what...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Carrie, what do you think about that, Carrie? 

(CROSSTALK)

SNOW:  What do you think about that?  If Montgomery County wants to teach this stuff—Republicans always talk about local control.  So, should we in Washington, D.C., be telling Montgomery County or Escambia County, Florida, what to teach their kids? 

LUKAS:  I think we should be even thinking more about localized control.  And that‘s putting power back in the hands of parents. 

I mean, if I‘m a public school parent, I have no option.  If I can‘t afford a private school and I‘m in Montgomery County, you know, it doesn‘t matter to me that it‘s the local government making this decision or whether it‘s the federal government.  That‘s why I think we should be trying to put power back in the hands of parents instead, so that they can make these decisions about what they want their children taught in school. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Carrie Lukas, thanks a lot.  Dave Pollak, Jack Burkman, as always, we greatly appreciate both of you being here also. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Now, coming up next, caught on tape.  A high school teacher loses his cool when the students disrespect the national anthem.  How far should teachers be allowed to go for patriotism?  That coming up next.

And later, hanging 10 and 10 and 10 and 10 more.  More than 40 surfers attempt to break a world record.  That‘s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Welcome back. 

It‘s great to introduce to you Michael Smerconish.  He is, of course, a man about town in Philadelphia, where he hosts the top-rated morning radio talk show.  He‘s also a columnist for “The Philadelphia Daily News” and is also author of “Flying Blind: How Political Correctness Continues to Compromise Airline Safety Post 9/11.” And, tonight, he comes on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY to take on the hottest stories of the day. 

Michael, great to have you here. 

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Thank you, Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Now, let‘s get back to story of the Italian journalist, Giuliana Sgrena.  She‘s saying that U.S. troops may have deliberately tried to kill her shortly after she was freed by Iraqi insurgents who were holding her hostage.  What‘s your take on the story?  Should we believe anything this communist journalist has to say? 

SMERCONISH:  Absolutely not. 

And, you know, Joe, I remember from the Patty Hearst era, those words Stockholm Syndrome were bandied around, indicating someone who had been taken hostage and becomes sympathetic to their captors.  She was sympathetic to her captors even before they took her captive.  And the bottom line is that the Italians, in paying money for her release, are probably setting up future hostage situations.  And that‘s the real story here. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, Michael, we had somebody on the show earlier that suggested that U.S. troops may have a policy to target journalists who disagree with their positions.  Is there any evidence out there anywhere...

SMERCONISH:  Lunacy. 

SCARBOROUGH:  ... that any reporter has ever been shot at because American troops disagree with their position? 

SMERCONISH:  Lunacy.  I heard him.  It was ridiculous. 

You‘ve got 150,000 American G.I.s over there taking care of business.  More than 1,000 have lost their lives.  They‘re in the hottest spot in the world.  And what are they supposed to do when this car comes without any forewarning?  The Italians didn‘t put the Americans in the loop as to what was going on here.  And they have blood on their hands, not the Americans. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Let‘s move from Iraq to New Jersey, your backyard.  A teacher in New Jersey may be in hot water after yanking the chair out from under a student when the kid refused to stand for the national anthem.  Watch this video. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STUART MANTEL, TEACHER:  You will stand!  You will stand quietly!  You will pay attention!  Any questions? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No, sir. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  That video, of course, was captured by another student using a cell phone.  And the school‘s reaction so far is to—a ban on cell phones. 

But get this.  Brick Township, New Jersey, was the place where some—more kids spent the holiday trashing local Christmas decorations.  It‘s the same exact place.  What‘s your take on this, Michael Smerconish?  Should you have teachers yanking chairs out from underneath students? 

SMERCONISH:  Well, Joe, when you put it in those terms, you know, I‘m tempted to say, no, you shouldn‘t. 

But, frankly, I‘m on Mr. Mantel‘s side here.  You watch that video in its totally, those kids were pushing his buttons, probably so that that one kid could capture it on his cell phone.  And, you know, you‘ve got to be respectful.  New Jersey law and statutes across the country say, you don‘t have to stand, but you‘ve got to respect others and their ability to either salute the flag or to sing the national anthem.  I‘m with the teacher. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Should the teacher be—in any way whatsoever, should the teacher be punished? 

SMERCONISH:  I would give him the tenure that we‘ve given to Ward Churchill.

(LAUGHTER)

SMERCONISH:  That‘s what I would do with him. 

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  OK.

Now, the front page of Sunday‘s “New York Times” had the story of the CIA actually sending terror suspects to countries overseas to be interrogated.  Critics of the policy, known as rendition, say it‘s a backdoor to torturing these suspects. 

Do you think the United States should send terror suspects overseas so they can be tortured? 

SMERCONISH:  No.  I think we should torture them here.  I mean, I think this is ingenious.  I love that the CIA is so creative that we‘re flying individuals to Saudi Arabia because, if they‘re here, you know what the real deal is, Joe.

The terrorists know that, if they‘re in custody in the United States, they‘re going to be coddled.  They‘re given a piece of quiche and a warm blanket.  The reason we have this is so that they know they are in the hands of the Saudis or in the hands of the Pakistanis.  And, consequently, there are no holds barred when that‘s the situation.  There‘s no evidence that there‘s been torture here.  It‘s a whole psychological drill intended to prevent another 9/11.  I have no problem with it. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And, you know, Michael, the thing is, I always have people on the show that say, well, gee, there are studies out there to show that torture doesn‘t work. 

I will tell you what.  There are also studies out there that show, especially with these new band of terrorists from all Qaeda, they know how the system works.  They‘ve gamed the system.  They know, when they‘re in the United States, if they sit there and shut up, they‘ll be taken care of.  They‘ll be fed well.  They‘ll get an attorney.  And, sooner or later, if they say nothing, they‘ll get out of jail. 

(CROSSTALK)

SMERCONISH:  As far as I know, the ACLU is not yet operating in Riyadh, and they‘re pushing that card.  They know exactly what they‘re doing. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Now, let‘s finish with a crazy story.  This is the story of James Phillips.  He‘s actually suing the Philadelphia Eagles, the city of Philadelphia.  Why?  Because Phillips was part of the work crew that spent 30 hours shoveling snow to clear the field for his beloved Eagles prior to the NFC championship game.  The problem?  Phillips wasn‘t wearing gloves. 

Michael, how can this guy sue for losing eight fingers, but not wearing gloves on a bitter day in January?  Is that really the city of Philadelphia‘s fault? 

SMERCONISH:  I think you and I are the only conservative trial lawyers in the nation, and I‘m sure we‘re both not on his side on this.

James Phillips, lifelong Eagles fan, 48 years old.  And you‘re right, Joe.  We got dumped with about a foot of snow just before the NFC championship game against the Falcons.  So, they put the call out, and they say, we‘ll pay you $8.50 an hour if you will come and shovel the snow.  And they even let this guy stick around to watch the game.  He claims he shoveled for 30 straight hours, has now lost eight fingers due to amputation. 

And you know who he hired as his counsel?  Smokin‘ Joe Frazier‘s daughter, who is a lawyer here in the city of Philadelphia.  I grieve for this guy and the loss of his fingers.  But there‘s no way that we can have a system that compensates him.  I‘d be the first to tell you, as a trial lawyer, we‘ve got to reform the system if he gets compensated. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And this is exactly—cases like this, cases like the McDonald‘s $3 million hot coffee case, this is why people hate trial lawyers, isn‘t it? 

SMERCONISH:  It is absolutely the reason why. 

Give this man your sympathy, but nobody should be writing him a check for his own foolishness.  There.  I said it. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right. 

Hey, do you have any predictions?  What‘s going to happen in Iraq right now?  Do you think democracy continues spreading across the Middle East? 

SMERCONISH:  Hey, Joe, when even “The New York Times” begrudgingly gives a thumbs up to W. in the way that they did on the editorial page last week, you know things are headed in the right direction.  The Middle East has never been as stable in my lifetime as it is today.  I just wish people would start applauding the president for that. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I agree with you. 

And I‘ll tell you what, Michael Smerconish.  I saw—this weekend, on “Meet the Press,” I saw a “New York Times” columnist, still very bitter, Paul Krugman, very bitter about the fact that the president‘s policy is working in the Middle East, just like you have been saying it would work for two years, and just like I have been saying for the past two years it was going to work. 

Hey, Michael Smerconish, thanks for coming in here.

SMERCONISH:  Thank you, Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And standing in the hot spot.  We‘ll see you again very soon. 

SMERCONISH:  OK.

SCARBOROUGH:  Now, coming up next, it‘s a little crowded on that board.  More than 40 surfers attempt to break a world record.  You‘re not going to want to miss this and the giant shark that eats them all when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Coming up, much more, including an attempt to break the world record, more than 40 surfers on one board.  That‘s up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Saturday, in the land down under, a new world record was set in the world of surfing for the most people ever jammed on one board. 

More than 40 surfers rode a wave on the same custom-built surfboard in front of 5,000 onlookers.  Now, it took 20 people to carry the 40-foot-long board into the ocean.  And the new world record shattered the previous mark of 14 surfers on one board, set in 2003.  The board took a month to build, and the world record ride lasted a whopping four minutes, not too bad. 

Well, that‘s all the time we have for tonight.  If you want to catch the very latest from SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, you can do it 24 hours a day by going to Joe.MSNBC.com. 

And make sure you don‘t miss Senator John McCain.  He‘s on “Imus in the Morning” in Imus‘ snazzy new studio.  You‘re not going to want to miss him and my former friend Dave Weldon. 

But, for now, stick around, because “HARDBALL WITH CHRIS MATTHEWS” is coming up next. 

We‘ll see you tomorrow night.

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