updated 3/10/2005 4:02:36 PM ET 2005-03-10T21:02:36

Guest: Yale Galanter, Steve Clark, Lisa Bloom, Pam Bondi, Joan Walsh, Kurt Andersen, Bernard Kalb, Mary Murphy, Brent Bozell, Mort Zuckerman

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  Tonight‘s top headlines, Dan Rather signs off “The CBS Evening News” for the last time.  The “Real Deal,” hated by conservatives and loathed by some of his own peers at CBS, like Cronkite and Wallace.  It was a sad farewell for the 73-year-old anchor. 

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAN RATHER, CBS NEWS:  Courage. 

For “The CBS Evening News,” Dan Rather reporting.  Good night. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  A reporting career spanning more than 50 years, from Vietnam to the White House to the anchor desk at CBS.  Was he undone in the end bias or hubris or something else?  Tonight, people who know Dan Rather well dissect his final goodbye.  And they answer the big question.  Will old media and network news survive? 

Also, a bombshell today, as Michael Jackson‘s accuser takes the stand with a shocking account of his trips to Neverland.  Will bizarre Jackson once again escape abuse charges unscathed? 

And then, NBC‘s “Today Show” reported early that predators stalk women on city streets and in restaurants, taking photographic photos in very public places.  Why it is still legal in most of America for perverts to take Peeping Tom shots up women‘s skirts? 

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

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, 24 years to the day after he rose to the anchor chair at CBS News, Dan Rather signed off for the last time tonight.  Take a look. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RATHER:  Not long after I first came to the anchor chair, I briefly signed off using the word courage.  I want to return to it now in a different way.  To my fellow journalists in places where reporting the truth means risking all and to each of you, courage. 

For “The CBS Evening News,” Dan Rather reporting.  Good night. 

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

SCARBOROUGH:  With me now to talk about Dan Rather‘s career highs and lows, and, of course, his swan song tonight are Rather‘s former CBS colleague Bernard Kalb.  We have Mary Murphy of “TV Guide,” Mort Zuckerman of “U.S. News & World Report,” and Brent Bozell of the Media Research Council. 

Mary, let‘s start with you. 

Dan Rather, I mean, Dan Rather worked for a network that I grew up with, my family grew up with, I think most of America grew up with.  Did he leave the CBS anchor‘s chair in much worse condition than he found it back in 1981? 

MARY MURPHY, “TV GUIDE”:  Well, if he left the CBS anchor chair in worse condition than he found it in 1981, it is not Dan Rather‘s fault. 

He did not dismantle CBS News.  Dan Rather, I think, symbolized to all or to most journalists the journalist who was out in the field and passionate.  You could even see it in his goodbye tonight.  Although he was controlled, certainly more controlled than Dan can be, you felt the passion in him.  I mean, this is a guy who went after the truth, but did not dismantle CBS News. 

SCARBOROUGH:  So, Mary, you think that Dan Rather did very well tonight in his goodbye to America? 

MURPHY:  I thought he did exceptionally well in his goodbye, because he was controlled, but he really talked to the people, to other journalists and to the survivors of 9/11.  And I think he did it very effectively.

And I‘m sure that, you know, Rather himself could always, we know, go over the edge.  It‘s one of the things we loved about him.  But, tonight, he kept it in check. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Brent Bozell, a lot of people would say that Rather critics such as yourself have been very unfair to Dan Rather over the past six months, that you‘re judging because of one or two incidences in his career.  Respond to that charge against you. 

BRENT BOZELL, MEDIA RESEARCH CENTER:  Well, I think it would be twofold response. 

One—one is that where we‘ve judged him harshly, it‘s been not over own or two things.  It‘s been over 20, 30, 40, 50 things going over 20, 30 years.  And the biggest and the baddest was the National Guard memo, obviously.  And it wasn‘t just the National Guard memo story.  It was the succeeding days and the denials and the obfuscations and the continued denials to this day denying it. 

Now, if you look at critics who have been critical of him, and if anyone wants to look at this critic, this critic has also been very, very complimentary toward him in his coverage on, for example, the war on terror.  I‘ve said it many times.  After 9/11, I thought, of all the anchors out there, he did the very best job in covering this war. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, Mort Zuckerman, this is a guy, Dan Rather, who obviously has been attacked by conservatives such as myself and others.

But, in recent days, I‘ve been shocked to read these stories about his peers, Mike Wallace, Walter Cronkite.  And just yesterday, Cronkite said that it surprised quite a few people at CBS and elsewhere that, without being able to pull up the ratings beyond third in a three-man field, that they tolerated his being there for so long.

Now, you know Dan Rather.  You‘ve been on the show defending him before.  You like the man.  Why did some of his own turn against him in the final days? 

MORT ZUCKERMAN, EDITOR IN CHIEF, “U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT”:  Well, I think that‘s a very difficult question to answer. 

Walter Cronkite, after all, left the anchor chair, was succeeded by Dan Rather.  And he was succeeded because Dan Rather was being wooed by another network and would have left if he hadn‘t had the anchor‘s chair.  And so they moved Walter Cronkite out a long time before he expected to leave.  And so, there‘s always this kind of, you know, sort of the inner workings of any kind of group. 

But having said that, I mean, I do think Dan Rather had an extraordinary career.  And, frankly, his best moments were as a reporter.  I think that was where he really did his best work.  And he always wanted to be a reporter, even as an anchorman.  I think he felt more comfortable as a reporter, and I think that showed. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Bernard Kalb, tonight, Dan Rather didn‘t respond to his critics.  He didn‘t go after some in his own organization.  He didn‘t go after those regarding the Memo-gate issue.  Do you think that—would you have liked—as somebody that respects Dan Rather, would you have liked to seen him swing back a little bit more at his critics tonight? 

BERNARD KALB, FORMER CBS NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  No, I thought he did very well.  He didn‘t want to get involved, as he said in one of the interviews, in a mud fight. 

If you went after Dan Rather, as you suggested—and I must say, Joe, you used a huge verb when you talked about Mike Wallace and Walter Cronkite, saying they hated Dan Rather.  That‘s a huge word.

Now, I, too, over the years have dealt with Dan Rather through my own prism rather harshly.  And my harsh assessment turns out to be one of admiration for Dan Rather.  When I riffle through Dan‘s decades—and I‘ve had the opportunity to work with Dan in Vietnam.  I went on that first trip to China with President Nixon in 1972.  We‘ve worked together at the White House when I‘d been assigned there briefly, etcetera. 

I have always been impressed by the journalistic eagerness with which Dan goes after a story.  I thought you felt that in the biographical or the autobiographical program tonight that CBS offered us, one hour.  I thought you got a sense of Dan‘s passion, of Dan‘s eagerness.  And if I try to find a word or a sentence, for example, to sum up Dan, I think of it this way.  I think Dan made an enormous contribution of nourishing democracy, because that‘s what journalism essentially has to do, nourish democracy, and then we take those facts and we pick and choose. 

Yes, there was a huge mistake.  But if that one mistake stains 40 years of reporting, I think that‘s much too harsh an assessment.  And I‘ll add one other phrase while I‘ve got the camera, so to speak.  I think CBS buckled on this fact. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Mary—let me bring in Mary here.

First of all, I don‘t think I said hated.  If I did, I certainly take that back.  But I have been reading stories, though, Mary, where you have, again, Mike Wallace, again, being very critical.  You have Walter Cronkite being very critical. 

Why didn‘t these guys start talking this way five or six years ago, instead of talking about it when Dan Rather was down? 

MURPHY:  Well, that‘s the thing that‘s the most interesting to me.  I don‘t know the answer, but I do know one thing.  If Dan Rather were No. 1 in the ratings, they wouldn‘t be doing this. 

Dan is now a commercial liability, not a journalistic liability.  And because he‘s a commercial liability, what I think they did is just use this opportunity to ask him to leave.  But no one, including Mike Wallace—they may have criticized Dan by saying he was uncomfortable, but they never said that Dan wasn‘t a good reporter. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Brent Bozell, not exactly profiles in courage, when you have Mike Wallace—and what Mike Wallace did say was that basically Dan was stupid for not having Walter Cronkite back on for 19 years, also said that he was insecure and suggested that he didn‘t have the character of Murrow‘s successor. 

Again, the vultures really started swirling around Dan Rather‘s carcass at the end.  It seems unseemly to me.

BOZELL:  They were cheap shots.  They were personal cheap shots.  I‘m so glad Mr. Rather didn‘t respond in kind. 

In fact, what he said about Mike Wallace was quite nice in response.  And good for him for doing that.  But, you know, all this discussion really gets away from I think the point that conservatives have been making for 20 years.  And the conservative outrage at times at what Dan Rather was doing in the anchor chair didn‘t begin in September of 2004.  Like I said, it began 20 years ago with the coverage that he had on the political scene, where, on a constant basis, conservatives were seeing their values, their leaders attacked by him, with no semblance of fairness in his reporting. 

So, either millions upon millions upon millions of conservatives are wrong or they‘re right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Bernard Kalb, I‘ll let you respond to that in conclusion.

(CROSSTALK)

KALB:  Well, let me pick it up, if I may.

BOZELL:  Right. 

KALB:  I think the conservatives, to pick up Brent‘s point, have eminently succeeded in adding the word bias to the word liberal and then spinning that liberal bias on the media when it turned out that they did not care for the presentation of news. 

Now, in watching the program for the last few days about Dan Rather, they pick up some of the questions then put to presidents, President Nixon, President Johnson, etcetera, particularly the confrontational session that he had with President Bush about Iran-Contra.  It seems to me, when you take a look at that question, that is a question that every reporter should have asked President Bush, the same way you had to ask impressions about President Nixon.  Would he resign?

The same way you had to come at LBJ about troops in Vietnam.  These are reportorial solid questions.  And, in my view, they do not radiate a point of view. 

BOZELL:  If that was the case, then why weren‘t the same questions, the same line of questioning put to Bill Clinton by Dan Rather after Whitewater—after the Whitewater—the Monica Lewinsky perjury impeachment? 

KALB:  Well...

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, I‘ll tell you what, Brent.  We‘ll answer that question and also a lot more when we return from break.  I‘m going to ask all of you to stay around.  We‘ve got a lot more coming up, and going to get into the story that‘s made Dan Rather‘s farewell more bitter than sweet. 

And, later, dramatic testimony in the Michael Jackson trial today, the entire courtroom on edge as they hear from the boy who could bring down the former king of pop. 

That‘s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Dan Rather‘s final days and the story that brought him down.  When SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns, we‘ll ask the question, did CBS buckle?  That‘s coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

(MUSIC)

SCARBOROUGH:  “What is the Frequency, Kenneth?” the only pop song probably, inspired by a network anchor. 

We‘re back now talking about Dan Rather with our panel.

Mary, I want to go back to you.  Now, Bernard Kalb said earlier that CBS buckled to pressure in Memo-gate.  Do you think that‘s a fair assessment of the way CBS handled this scandal? 

MURPHY:  I think somewhat it buckled to pressure.

But I think the most fascinating thing about the scandal itself was the flawed system of network news in this competitive, competitive world we live in, in which, you know, it is a producer‘s medium.  and here is Rather, the anchor, the reporter who is flown in at the last minute, a producer promising that they have three sources, and the flawed medium of saying we‘ve got to get it on before anybody else gets it on. 

And this is the really serious problem of network news, not necessarily the buckling, but the succumbing to pressure and not checking all the sources. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Brent Bozell, I want to is you that question, because, obviously, you believe and I have believed before that Dan Rather has been bias.  But, in this presidential campaign, are you willing to admit that Dan Rather was just as competitive, that it had just as much to do with competition with NBC and ABC as it did with any inherent bias, which you or I really can‘t prove at the end of the day? 

BOZELL:  No, I don‘t believe that at all. 

Look, there‘s great competitive feeling.  Of course there is.  But if

·         if it‘s competition, why wasn‘t there competition to do an equally tough story on John Kerry?  Why was it just competitive to get George Bush?  When you look at the story—and, you know, the interesting thing about the unfolding of the scandal was that it wasn‘t just conservatives who blew the whistle on him.

It was his colleagues who did it.  It was ABC.  It was NBC.  It was CNBC.  It was Fox.  It was CNN that did.  All of them, “Dallas Morning News,” “Washington Post,” they all had stories exposing the fraudulent nature of this.  So, once it was done and once it was discovered how wrong the story was, the correct thing would have been for Dan Rather, not just Dan Rather, but CBS, to acknowledge the mistake and take corrective action.  Instead, they denied it. 

ZUCKERMAN:  Joe, it‘s Mort.

SCARBOROUGH:  Go ahead.

ZUCKERMAN:  Look, I think that is missing the point.  It is one thing to go after a story that‘s inaccurate.  It‘s another thing to attack Dan Rather for being biased.  That‘s where I think the charge is absolutely false. 

If you look through his record, you see the tough questions he‘s asked of people like Jimmy Carter and Lyndon Johnson and a lot of other Democrats.  He‘s just a very aggressive reporter.  Now, I agree.  I think the fact that they didn‘t acknowledge that this was an error for 12 days just strikes me as being nothing short of fantastic.  But that isn‘t the point that we‘re talking about here.  What the charge is, that he‘s biased, and that I think is a false charge. 

And if you look at his record over all those years, that is something that you just cannot establish.  And I think it‘s an unfair charge to Dan. 

KALB:  But...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, Bernard Kalb, respond. 

ZUCKERMAN:  What‘s that?

SCARBOROUGH:  Bernard, respond to that. 

KALB:  Say something to what Mort just said.  And this is a rather not insignificant asterisk. 

You take that report, Memo-gate, as it‘s been called, 12 days of standing firm on that story before CBS and Dan admitted, yes, it is a mistake.  But it was not fatal.  It was not fatal to the president‘s reelection.  If there had been—if the president had gone down in flames because of that report, had failed to be reelected, you would have had a powerful story. 

But it came.  It went.  President Bush was reelected and that story fades away.  Now, that doesn‘t erase irresponsibility, journalistic irresponsibility.  But I would like to throw a question to the panel.  I am here.  Yes, I‘m—accepted.  Joe invited me and here I am.  But I have the feeling there‘s an awful lot of journalistic overkill about Dan‘s departure after 24 years.  Am I alone on this thinking? 

ZUCKERMAN:  Well, I don‘t know why. 

It‘s actually a sad time for somebody—he didn‘t intend to leave at this time, as we all know.  I mean, he basically bit the bullet himself, knowing what was going to be coming down the pike with respect to that report.  And I give him credit, frankly, for doing that.  He wanted to do it as gracefully as he could.  And I don‘t blame him after the career that he had.  But I think you cannot look upon a career as distinguished as his, knowing the circumstances under which he left, without feeling sad.  So, I think this is a big story and a human story. 

KALB:  Yes, I just—I just can‘t resist that phrase overkill.

SCARBOROUGH:  I think also, though—well, let‘s talk about overkill for a second, Bernard.  I‘ll tell you what.  Why this story is so important, I think, to so many people is because, when Dan Rather first came on the scene in 1981, CNN had only been around, I think, for about two or three months. 

The network news...

KALB:  Right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  They still—that‘s where everybody went.  And, as Dan Rather departs 24 years later, you have got bloggers.

KALB:  Yes. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You‘ve got talk radio.  I mean, we seriously—I mean, we‘re seeing a new era.

KALB:  Right.

SCARBOROUGH:  And the departure of Dan Rather, I think, means the departure of much, much more. 

But, Bernard, I thank you so much for being with us.  Also, thank you, Mary. 

We want to bring in now Kurt Andersen, who actually wrote a story about, I believe, for “New Yorker” magazine, talking about—talking about the new era that we‘re going into.  And also Joan Walsh, who is with Salon and the editor of Salon.com. 

But, Kurt, let me ask you that question.  Dan Rather departing really has a lot more to do with a new era, does it not, than just the mistakes of one network anchor? 

KURT ANDERSEN, “NEW YORK”:  I think so. 

I think his departure at this moment, again, against the backdrop of CBS News‘ mistake and a lot of other mistakes in the mainstream media you can point out from the last six months is as symbolic, if anything else, of the end of what you and I, or at least I, grew up thinking was the media, the three big networks and a couple of papers and a couple of news magazines. 

And, as you just said, there has been a profound transformation over the last 20, 25 years, as the media has fractured into dozens, hundreds of voices.  And just on the basic numbers, you know, when Dan Rather took over in 1981, an enormous majority of the television audience every evening watched the network news.  It‘s about half that now.  And I don‘t see any reason to suspect it won‘t keep sinking. 

So—so, this idea of these—of these larger-than-life anchors telling us the way it is, is simply a thing of the past, and, as we look back at it now, really becomes kind of a fairly brief period, where anchors, television anchors, and the—sort of the big media that—of which they were kind of the most prominent symbol, prevailed. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Joan Walsh, we were talking about this earlier this morning on my radio show, that Walter Cronkite was like a member of the family.  We grew up with Walter Cronkite, whether we agreed with him every time or not.  And when he said that‘s the way it was, we believed him.  Is there anybody on the landscape out there, in the journalistic landscape, that carries that type of credibility today?  And will there ever be again? 

JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM:  No, I really don‘t see that happening.  There‘s really no one who can say that‘s the way it is and kind of begin the rest of our evening for our families, Joe. 

And, you know, I think that‘s sad, but it‘s silly to lament the past.  I think we need to look ahead.  And I think there is an element of media overkill to this story, I have to admit.  A bunch of us are over 40 and all white and we‘re sitting and we‘re obsessed with this story.  And the rest of the world I don‘t think cares enough. 

I think you‘ve got a media landscape where, yes, bloggers did contribute to Dan‘s departure.  But I want to go back to what Mary said.  CBS solved what was a commercial liability with this, and they had a real failure of nerves before Memo-gate. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Joan—I‘ll tell you what, Joan.  We‘ve got to go to the break.  We‘ll be right back with you with much, much more in just a minute. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Michael Jackson‘s accuser takes the stand.  And we have the very latest from inside that California courtroom. 

But, first, let‘s check in with MSNBC to get all the 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:  Hey, welcome back. 

We‘re back with our all-star panel talking about Dan Rather‘s final sign-off tonight. 

And, Joan, I want to go back to you.  You reminded me that, seven years ago or so, Salon.com first caught the attention of a lot of Americans going after congressmen and congresswomen during the impeachment scandal.  Do you think this is a case, seven years later, where new media, conservative new media, took down a titan of the old media guard? 

WALSH:  I think they certainly helped. 

But, you know, to give credit to Brent, Brent has been after Dan Rather for two decades.  So, this is a really old conservative grudge match.  And I think they were energetic in hooking up with new media and smart about new media.  If you Google Dan Rather now, you get Rathergate.com and RatherBiased.com first.  So, they obviously figured out how to—how to hook up with the new media.

But we shouldn‘t act like these are citizen journalists or citizen bloggers just coming out of the woodwork to do this work.  You know, there‘s been an infrastructure of right-wing groups that have doing the research and fomenting discontent with Rather that had its heyday in this. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Brent Bozell...

WALSH:  I also...

SCARBOROUGH:  Oh, I‘m sorry.  Go ahead, Joan.

WALSH:  Well, no, I would also say the real issue here, though, is that in the age of Google and TiVo and iPods, this old paradigm of a man sitting in your living room reading you the news every day is amazingly anachronistic.  And it‘s an amazing thing that it hasn‘t been reinvented before. 

And I think CBS really had a failure of nerve, didn‘t know what to do, and kind of ungraciously took this opportunity to kick Dan to the curb, when they needed solutions five years ago. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Brent Bozell, Dan Rather is gone.  Conservatives have been after him for years and years and years, and I would say for a good reason.  But now that he‘s gone, is anything going to change at CBS News or any of the networks? 

BOZELL:  Well, first, I‘m flattered by this celebration of all my power. 

But it was Dan Rather who took down Dan Rather, in the final analysis.  It was not conservatives.  It wasn‘t anyone else.  It was Dan Rather.  But the real question is a question that you just raised.  You know, Dan Rather is the personification of CBS.  For good or for ill, that‘s the reality of a news anchor in a big network. 

The bigger question is CBS itself.  It was CBS, not Dan Rather, that was ultimately responsible for this story.  It is CBS that is losing the audience by the millions.  It is CBS that is in deep guacamole today. 

(CROSSTALK)

BOZELL:  And it‘s an unanswered question as to what exactly is going to happen with this network in the future. 

WALSH:  Do you really feel like CBS as a network was gunning for President Bush and that‘s what happened? 

BOZELL:  Put it this way.  As opposed to what was said before by Bernie Kalb, if this story had not been exposed for being the fraud that it was, absolutely it could have brought down the president of the United States.  That‘s how serious it was.

WALSH:  I‘m not sure people care. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Mort.

ZUCKERMAN:  I have to disagree.  I have to disagree on so many grounds.

First place, CBS is on a terrific run in terms of its entertainment business.  They‘re I think by far the No. 1 watched network.  This isn‘t true of the news part of it, but it‘s certainly true of the entertainment part, which is the bulk of their business success, shall we say.

And as far as the news is concerned, I mean, there are fundamental trends in this country that make this kind of news broadcast much less relevant.  No. 1, people have moved out into the suburbs in dramatic ways.  When you leave your work at 5:00 or 5:30 or 6:00 and you have to drive to your home, you just don‘t have a chance to watch the news at 6:30.  It‘s not the industrial economy anymore.  It‘s a service and knowledge-based economy, where people have moved out into the suburbs.

So, it just doesn‘t work anymore, particularly when you have the competition of other cable news, where you can watch the news whenever you get the time to watch it.  So, it is natural in one sense that their audience would decline. 

And the fact is that there are still, I think, very powerful anchormen who really have a lot of credibility.  Tom Brokaw was one.  I think Brian Williams is another.  The fact is that Dan Rather, in a—for a different audience and a much older audience.  The average audience of the news program is 60 years old.  So, it‘s just not going to work the way it did before. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Speaking about not working the way it did before, you know, we always—I always grew up, again, believing that network anchormen were supposed to be straight down the middle.  They were—I mean, we believed that was part of the deal.  But as you wrote in your most recent column, that really wasn‘t the history of American journalism. 

But I remember reading a biography of Joseph Pulitzer.  And we always hear about the Pulitzer Prize.  And, obviously, he put the Pulitzer up at the very top.  But Pulitzer himself was very ideological, very biased.  And we‘re moving that way again, aren‘t we? 

(CROSSTALK)

ANDERSEN:  Well, I think we are. 

And even in the relatively modern age, in the Henry Luce age, during the 1940s and 1950s, when “TIME” magazine and “LIFE” magazine together had incredible power, Henry Luce had a very ideological, Republican point of view he was pushing. 

So, before the right could complain about the great liberal media, the single most powerful, arguably, media entity in America—that is to say the Luce, Time Inc. magazines—were strictly Republican well into the 1960s.  So—and we are going back to this age as it existed in the 19th century, where there were many, many more voices, many, many more of them as biased, as ideologically driven as Fox News is today or “The New York Post” or Air America or any of the rest. 

So, we really are going back to a sort of status quo ante that existed before the last 50 years or so. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, Kurt, I think you‘re exactly right.  And I think, again, it‘s the information age.  It‘s the information revolution.  Americans can decide where they‘re going to get their news.  And they‘re voting with their channel changers.  They‘re also voting when they go to the Internet every morning.  That‘s where I always start and get my news. 

Well, Joan Walsh, Kurt Andersen, Brent Bozell, and Mort Zuckerman, as always, thanks a lot for being with us tonight.  A great discussion.  We really appreciate it. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Now, turning now to the news from inside the Michael Jackson courtroom.  The king of pop‘s 15-year-old accuser took the stand and, in a dramatic account, he said he once considered Jackson the coolest guy in the world and—quote—“my best friend ever.”  The accuser also said that Jackson looked at adult Internet sites with him. 

So, did the start of the accuser‘s testimony move Michael Jackson closer to going to the slammer or to freedom?

With us now talking about is Florida Pam Bondi, Court TV‘s Lisa Bloom and criminal defense attorney Steve Clark, who has been inside the courtroom for some of the trial. 

Lisa Bloom, I want to start with you.  You‘ve been following this for sometime.  I‘ll tell you what.  The news that I‘ve been hearing over the past couple days has not been good for the prosecution, some uneven testimony at best.  It seems like the king of pop may walk.  What do you say? 

LISA BLOOM, COURT TV ANCHOR:  I disagree.  I‘ve read every word that‘s been said in that trial, every transcript.

You know, it‘s the same thing people said about Scott Peterson, Joe.  Every time the defense scored a point, they said, oh, he‘s going to be acquitted.  Well, he wasn‘t.  Most criminal defendants are convicted.  I admit, there are some problems with these kids.  But I think the problem is our justice system, which treats children very unfairly. 

I was a trial attorney for 15 years.  You give me any 14- or 15-year-old who has told a story multiple times on a sensitive subject, I can trip them up.  I can guarantee it.  I can make them look bad in that courtroom, make them look like a liar.  And that‘s what Mesereau has done.

SCARBOROUGH:  OK, Lisa Bloom, I am no Michael Jackson fan.  I have never been a Michael Jackson fan.  I think the guy may be guilty.  But when it‘s kids that are coming forward and have the power, with their testimony, to put away an adult for 20, 30, 40 years...

BLOOM:  Yes. 

SCARBOROUGH:  ... you better check out their testimony.  And if they‘re saying their father abused them, oh, no, they didn‘t.  Michael Jackson abused them two or three times.  Oh, wait, it is two or one? 

BLOOM:  Well, that‘s not true. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Oh, well, we looked at this magazine.  Well, of course, the magazine, as you know, wasn‘t even on the newsstands when those kids were there.  You have got to look at these inconsistencies. 

BLOOM:  Joe, I can respond to each of those points.

Look, the kid said that was the type of magazine, not that it was that specific magazine.  And Mesereau, I think, really tried to make a point that didn‘t come across, if you read the actual transcript.  A 9-year-old boy lied under oath five years ago about whether his father, who was still living with him at the time, was abusive?  Well, what a shock, Joe. 

I mean, do we really expect a child to say, in that kind of a setting, his father was beating him and then go back home with his dad that very night?  I mean, come on.  Let‘s impose a little bit of reality on what‘s going on here. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Steve Clark, respond. 

STEVE CLARK, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Well, I think yesterday was really the Tom Mesereau show. 

And if you saw that—just that part of the case, you would say he really outlawyered the D.A. on that particular situation.  He really walked that line between bullying the child and—but he didn‘t do that, but he did get all of these inconsistencies out and he really trumped on the two main themes of his case, is that this family is willing to lie under oath in order to achieve a financial objective and that the chronology of how this manifestation of molest came out when they went to a plaintiff lawyer and a trial lawyer, who then referred them to his psychologist to take a statement from the child, and then they report the case to the police, that is going to be a tough hurdle for the...

BLOOM:  God forbid that this family should have lawyers.  Michael Jackson has lawyers.  Why can‘t they?  They haven‘t filed a civil claim. 

CLARK:  Right. 

BLOOM:  And this is not about out-lawyering.  This is not a game. 

This is about getting at the truth. 

(CROSSTALK)

CLARK:  I agree.

(CROSSTALK)

BLOOM:  Tom Mesereau is a much better lawyer than Tom Sneddon, no question about it. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hold on a second.

Steve Clark, Steve Clark, you were in the courtroom yesterday.  Tell me, do you think that Mesereau actually drew blood with this young kid testifying? 

CLARK:  He did it in a very subtle and in almost a nice way.  He really didn‘t attack the child.  He pointed out the inconsistencies.  He pointed out that he was willing—that he did lie under oath, which could mean one of two things, one, he doesn‘t appreciate what under oath means.  Or, two, he‘s willing to lie in order to protect his mother‘s civil case. 

BLOOM:  Or he didn‘t want to get beaten when he went home that night. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Pam Bondi, let me bring you in here, Pam, because, obviously, you‘ve tried quite a few of these cases.  How do you take apart an accuser, an accuser‘s brother, an accuser‘s family, without turning off the jury? 

PAM BONDI, FLORIDA PROSECUTOR:  Exactly, Joe.  That‘s the problem with being too tough on a child as a witness. 

I mean, I‘ve been a prosecutor for 14 years.  And, yes, children—crimes involving children are the hardest ones to prosecute because of their vulnerability.  But they also have a lot of credibility.  And, you know, when it comes—when the day is over, what the jurors are going to look at is, did they believe those kids, their credibility when they sat in that courtroom and testified. That‘s what it‘s all about. 

And just like Lisa said, Joe, there‘s plenty too corroborate what these boys said.  Michael Jackson‘s image has been completely tarnished, in my opinion.  He had pornography all over his house.  We have witnesses saying he served those boys alcohol.  I mean, it doesn‘t matter about their past or their parents.  Sure, he‘s going to play on that.  But what‘s important is their testimony and when they look at those jurors, when they go home at the end of the night, did they believe those boys testimony?

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Steve Clark, thanks for being with us. 

And I‘m going to ask the rest of you to stick around, because, coming up, we‘ve got much more.  Could a Peeping Tom be taping your privates walks right out in public?  I‘m afraid so.  And the kick is, it‘s not even illegal.  That story is coming up next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Welcome back. 

We‘re joined again by our panelists, state attorney Pam Bondi and Court TV‘s Lisa Bloom.  And with us now, O.J. Simpson attorney Yale Galanter.

Now, Yale, you know a thing or two about difficult cases.  Do you think the testimony that the accuser gave today and that his brother gave yesterday may have Michael Jackson stepping one or two steps a little bit closer to jail? 

YALE GALANTER, ATTORNEY FOR O.J. SIMPSON:  I don‘t, Joe.  I think the prosecution case is extremely weak. 

I think tomorrow, on cross-examination of the chief witness, the accusing witness, you‘re going to see Tom Mesereau absolutely rip this boy apart.  And he‘s going to do it in a way that‘s very masterful.  This child, his sister and his mother have already given prior inconsistent statements under oath that nothing occurred.  And that‘s a real uphill battle for Tom Sneddon and the prosecution here, because prior inconsistent statements come in.

And there‘s going to be no way for this child, his sister and the mother to explain it. 

BLOOM:  Well, it‘s not inconsistent if those statements happened before the molestation actually occurred.  And that‘s not at all clear in this trial that that is so. 

(CROSSTALK)

GALANTER:  Lisa, that‘s just not true.  The L.A. Police Department interviewed the chief witness, interviewed the mother and the sister, and found there was no basis to the claim, as did child services.  And they found there was no basis to the claim based on their testimony.  So that‘s...

(CROSSTALK)

BLOOM:  I know, but the question is, did that happen before or after all of the acts of molestation? 

(CROSSTALK)

GALANTER:  Well, the reason they investigated the case, Lisa, was because of the accusations. 

BLOOM:  You or any other defense attorney could rip apart this 14-year-old.  And how proud Tom Mesereau and defense attorneys must be to rip apart children bringing claims of abuse against a major celebrity or against wealthy people. 

Just because they can rip them apart doesn‘t mean that the allegations are false.  How many kids have to come forward against Michael Jackson before one of them is believed?

GALANTER:  Lisa, the issue isn‘t ripping apart the child.  The issue is Michael Jackson‘s rights to a fair trial and whether or not somebody is going to take aware his liberties.  That‘s the issue in any criminal trial.  It‘s the defendant‘s rights that matter, because it‘s the defendant‘s liberty at stake.

BLOOM:  When the judge rules and other claims come in, I think you‘re going to be singing a different song, Yale. 

(CROSSTALK)

GALANTER:  Lisa, these witnesses can come into court.  They can say anything they want.  And if—but for defense attorneys to bring out these prior inconsistent statements...

BLOOM:  Michael doesn‘t have to speak at all, so we don‘t have to worry about his prior inconsistent statements.  He doesn‘t have to utter a word.  The kids have to give statement after statement after statement.

(CROSSTALK)

GALANTER:  Actually, that‘s not true.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Lisa, that‘s—Lisa, isn‘t that Michael Jackson‘s constitutional right? 

BLOOM:  It is.  It‘s absolutely his right.

But a crime victim gives multiple statements.  When they do that on a sensitive subject, of course there are going to be some inconsistencies.  It doesn‘t mean that they‘re liars. 

(CROSSTALK)

GALANTER:  Lisa, they said it didn‘t occur.  That is not a minor inconsistency.  That goes to the heart of the issue.  When they were questioned by...

(CROSSTALK)

BLOOM:  ... got to let this trial play out.

SCARBOROUGH:  Hold on a second.

If we‘re going to find out, let the trial play out and it depends on when they made that statement.  If they made the statement before the charges, before the events, then, obviously, there‘s not going to be a problem. 

Now, let‘s talk about an issue that we saw on “The Today Show” and have a lot of people talking.  It‘s called upskirting or video voyeurism.  As cameras get smaller and smaller, it‘s easier for sick people to get underneath a victim‘s skirt and take a picture.  But the difficulty is, there‘s not laws out there in most states that say you can‘t videotape people in a public area, even if it‘s a very, very private part of that person.

Now, Pam, you actually prosecuted the first video voyeurism case in Hillsborough, Florida.  Are you saying that, in the state of Florida, there actually is a law that would stop somebody being on the ground and taking pictures up women‘s skirts? 

BONDI:  Joe, there is.  We have a voyeurism statute.  And it‘s only a misdemeanor.  I think it should be a felony, but at least we have something. 

Yes, a few years ago, I got a call from law enforcement.  They caught a guy at the mall with a briefcase filming up a woman‘s skirt as she‘s trying to negotiate her stroller on an escalator holding her 2-year-old‘s hand. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  But that‘s not the law in—like “The Today Show” said, that‘s not the law in most states, though. 

BONDI:  No.  No, it‘s not.

SCARBOROUGH:  I mean, that would be legal in most states. 

BONDI:  It is.  It is.

And what‘s happening—happening is, with our rapidly changing technology, our laws just can‘t keep up with what all these perverts are able to do now.  I mean, who would have ever thought five years ago we‘d all have cameras on our cell phones? 

And, in Florida, though, at least we have a law.  It‘s been upheld constitutionally.  And what it says is, you cannot surreptitiously record someone in a place where they would have an expectation of privacy, a restroom rest, a bathroom. 

BLOOM:  Joe, I don‘t believe this is legal in most places.

I mean, in California, for example, it‘s been held to be illegal to secretly video somebody, videotape somebody in a bathroom, tape somebody changing their clothes in a changing room, because she‘s right. 

If you have a reasonable expectation of privacy, the laws is going to enforce that.  I think women all have a reasonable expectation people aren‘t going to stick a camera up our skirts. 

BONDI:  Absolutely.  Absolutely.

SCARBOROUGH:  Even in public places.

BONDI:  And, Joe, you know, where we had a problem with it were cheerleaders.  When cheerleaders are out there on the field and they‘re doing these jumps, they don‘t have a reasonable expectation of privacy and these perverts can sit in the stand with their zoom cameras.  And, unfortunately, that‘s legal.  But...

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, well, you know what?  You know what?  Hold on, Pam.  You have just offended half the cameramen at MSNBC. 

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  We‘re going to have to continue this when we return.

BONDI:  Sorry, guys.

SCARBOROUGH:  But here‘s the problem, though.  The problem is that, when you are in public, when you‘re in public, a lot of law enforcement officers say, there is no right of privacy. 

Pam Bondi, Lisa Bloom, Yale Galanter, we greatly appreciate you being here.

We‘ll be right back in a second.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Speaking of illegal video, I‘m going to show you some video that, if California law enforcement has its way, could get me arrested.  Stick around.  I‘ll tell you why.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Lawmakers in California are trying to pass a terrible law that would devastate many viewers in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

Of course, we are talking about car chases.  They want to ban car chases.  California law enforcement groups are trying to get a bill passed that would strictly punish drivers that are fleeing.  Meanwhile, another group of California legislators are pushing for a bill that would penalize cops who recklessly pursue fleeing drivers. 

But what would that mean for breaking news?  And just think about all the helicopter pilots that would be out of business.  I mean, I am headed out to California myself to investigate the situation.  My son is going with me.  I have always taught him, the most fun part of having a car is fleeing law enforcement officers.  What are we going to do for fun on the weekend in the Redneck Rivera? 

Just joking, Joey. 

I‘ll see you from Los Angeles on Friday.  Have a great night.  Talk to you soon. 

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

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 may infringe 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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