updated 4/13/2005 12:40:22 PM ET 2005-04-13T16:40:22

Guest: Anthony Figueiredo, Robert Ashton, Anne Bremner, Savannah Guthrie, Tom O’Neil

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALISON STEWART, GUEST HOST:  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?  Which of these cardinals could be the new pope?  As millions pay their respects in Vatican City, just 117 Catholic leaders will choose the next pontiff.  Plus, the pope’s would-be assassin requests to attend the funeral. 

And this just in from an ABC News man, Peter Jennings’ revelation that he has lung cancer. 

The Michael Jackson molestation trial, testimony from another alleged victim might help put pop music’s Peter Pan in prison, allegations, accusations, and some unwanted tickling all now on the record. 

When “Desperate Housewives” attack each other over a little cover photo. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Why would they say we don’t want her in the center of the picture? 

TERI HATCHER, ACTRESS:  These are deeper questions than I can answer. 

STEWART:  Five beautiful women and one ugly photo shoot. 

All that and more now on COUNTDOWN. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STEWART:  And good evening to you.  Keith Olbermann is on vacation. 

I’m Alison Stewart. 

One million and counting.  Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, a throng of mourners, onlookers and those who simply want to pay their respects to Pope John Paul II have all assembled in Rome.  And the funeral is still three days away, that event expected to be the biggest in Vatican history, requiring extraordinary security measures, not to mention hotel rooms.

Meanwhile, as cardinals met for a second day, but were forbidden to talk about the election of the next pope, they could talk about preparations of the conclave, but they did not set a date. 

But today was further evidence that mourners were not nearly ready to move on, up to 18,000 people an hour were filing past the pope’s bier during this third full day of nine officials days of mourning.  One million estimated to have passed the pontiff thus far, another million estimated through Thursday.  Friday’s three-hour funeral expected to draw two million, including kings, presidents and prime ministers. 

The American delegation alone will include three presidents, former Presidents Bush and Clinton joining President Bush and the first lady.  And when an eventual successor to the pope is chosen, bells will toll in addition to the traditional puffs of white smoke.  The reason, to avoid the confusion from the two papal conclaves of 1978.  That’s when watchers couldn’t quite identify the smoke because it was neither black or white, but, actually, just sort of gray. 

Our correspondent Chris Jansing has been reporting from St. Peter’s Square since last week.  She’s been in Rome for two weeks.  And during that time, she’s added a lot of notes to her reporter’s notebook.  And she’s going to share some of them with us.

But, first, we’ll get an update on an intense day in Vatican City. 

Chris, get us up to speed. 

CHRIS JANSING, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Good evening, Alison.

What is happening right now outside of St. Peter’s Basilica is unlike anything Rome has ever seen before.  Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia, who spent years here at the Vatican, called it the most extraordinary thing that ever happened, this outpouring of affection for Pope John Paul. 

I was just out along the line a few minutes ago.  People who had not even reached St. Peter’s Square yet had been in line for 12 hours.  We saw, in a matter of minutes, a couple of people fainting, having to be pulled out of line after waiting for 12 hours.  Now, they are supposed to close the door to St. Peter’s right now.  It is 2:00 a.m.  Yesterday, they let it go until 3:00.  They want to allow as many people as possible to pay their respects to Pope John Paul II. 

And, of course, all this is just prelude to Friday, what is expected to be the largest funeral in the history of the Catholic Church.  We did learn some details today after the meeting of the cardinals.  He will be buried in the ground, not in a sarcophagus.  That was something we saw with Paul VI.  It is a sign of humility.  It will come after a funeral mass that will be said in Latin. 

The coffin is traditional, wood inside zinc, inside wood.  And, at the request of this pope, there will be a break with tradition.  There won’t just be that white puff of smoke coming from the Sistine Chapel after the conclave elects a new pontiff.  Instead, the bells will ring at St.  Peter’s.  Obviously, this man known as the great communicator wanted to make sure there was no miscommunication when announcing to the world that they have a new pope—Alison.

STEWART:  Chris, you’ve been on the scene there.  And I just want to debrief you, find some of those stories that you don’t always get to put into your reports.  We see all those people filing past the pope, if only for just a moment, all those humans in one small city.  Where are they all going once they leave St. Peters? 

JANSING:  Well, that’s a very good question. 

I mean, many of them are Italian, so they’ll go home.  But there are only 20,000 hotel rooms in the city, which is something that surprised me.  So, obviously, those are booked.  Every pension, every bed and breakfast for many, many, many miles around is booked.  And even if you could get a hotel, a pretty nice one in a good location could be $750 a night. 

They are setting up a couple of stadiums here in Rome.  They’ll essentially be tent cities.  They have cots moved in.  And so some people can stay there.  And, also, in a sign of welcome, many of the Romans have said they would open their doors to the Poles who will come here to pay tribute to their countryman. 

But, by last estimate, as many as two million people may come from Poland to Rome.  So, no amount of hospitality can accommodate that many people.  It going to be amazing to see what happens here on Friday, Alison. 

STEWART:  Now, how is the sea of humanity affecting the local Italians and their livelihood? 

JANSING:  Well, I’ll tell you, there’s nothing open along these routes.  And you would think they would be, because people waiting in line for 12 or 14 hours are going to need food, need water. 

They’re handing out free water.  But, as far as the people who run the shops, it is not that they don’t want to help out or certainly not that they don’t want to make money.  They can’t get supplies in.  If you’ve never been to Rome, this is the city that is ancient and many of the streets look like alleys.  On a good day, it is tough to get supplies in. 

So, all of these shops are closed and may well be closed for the duration.  Just one little anecdote.  A priest told me that he ran into the local operator of a cafe.  And he said he was really kind of offended that people said to him, you must be making a lot of money.  He said, this is not about money.  This is about honoring Pope John Paul. 

STEWART:  And as you spend time with the people who have made this pilgrimage to say goodbye to the pope, how multiculti is the crowd?  I know you ran into a Filipino woman you told me about. 

JANSING:  Oh, people literally from all over the world.  And I think, frankly, it is going to get more multicultural as people are able to get into the city, people from the Philippines.  We someone from California today, quite a few people from the Far East, a number of Japanese, and, of course, all over Europe, which is interesting, because if you talk to anyone who studies the Catholic Church, they will tell that you Catholicism is in real trouble in Western Europe.  But they are coming from far and near. 

They are taking planes, trains and automobiles.  We have that couple from Bosnia who drove and then took a ferry and then drove again.  So, it really is a broad audience here.  One thing, though, I did notice is there are an awful lot of young people.  You know, the pope reached out to so many youth and clearly now they’re coming back to him. 

STEWART:  Chris Jansing, you’re a trooper to stay up so late to join us here on COUNTDOWN.  We appreciate it. 

JANSING:  My pleasure. 

STEWART:  As for the famous the and infamous attending Friday’s funeral, there has been one surprise, Mehmet Ali Agca, the gunman who tried to assassinate Pope John Paul II back in 1981.  Agca had asked Turkish prison officials if he could attend the pontiff’s funeral.  Through his lawyer, Agca said he is mourning the man he once tried to kill, referring to the pope as his—quote—“spiritual brother.”

Agca was memorably forgiven by the pope in a face-to-face meeting two years after the assassination attempt.  He is now serving a 17-year sentence for earlier crimes.  But Turkish officials have denied his request for a funeral trip.  Turkish prison officials not known for special favors. 

As for the next pope, Vatican cardinals may stop speaking to the media to prevent press reports from influencing their choice.  Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said that 91 of the church’s 117 eligible cardinals met in the Vatican today, though their initial preparations for the papal conclave would not have included even a whisper about whom the next pope should be.  That discussion is forbidden until the conclave, which must begin within 15 and 20 days from the pope’s death. 

Why are there only 117 of the 183 cardinals involve?  That’s how many of the men are under 80 years of age, a measure for participation. 

Now, the composition of the cardinals’ electors has changed remarkably since Pope John Paul II was chosen 26 years ago.  One-third are now from developing countries.  And, for the first time, representatives from Latin America will outnumber those from Italy. 

Another reality cardinals must consider, Africa is the only continent where the number of Catholics is currently growing. 

Joining me to discuss who the cardinals might turn to, Father Anthony Figueiredo.  He was an assistant to the pope for five years and he is an MSNBC analyst and he’s always a pleasure to speak to. 

Father Figueiredo, good evening. 

FATHER ANTHONY FIGUEIREDO, FORMER PAPAL ASSISTANT:  How kind of you, Alison.  Thank you. 

STEWART:  I want to you help us figure out who some of the key figures are.  And I would like to do this in terms of geography, if we may.  Let’s talk about the candidates from Italy. 

Cardinal Angelo Scola has been spoken about quite a bit, as well as Dionigi Tettamanzi.  Have I said that correctly?

FIGUEIREDO:  Absolutely, Alison.  Interesting candidates. 

About 17 percent of the College of Cardinals come from Italy.  Angelo Scola, who ran the Pope’s University in Rome and comes from Venice, where Pope John Paul I came from, a very intellectual figure, good candidate. 

Cardinal Tettamanzi, who was very influential in writing a major encyclical about moral law, that is going to be a major challenge for the next pope.  Also, he was moved from Genoa to Milan, the largest diocese, I think in the whole world, so very key figures. 

Also an Italian we can say, Cardinal Ratzinger, who has worked in Rome at the Curia from many, many years.  If we want a safe bet, a transitional pope, who will carry on the legacy of John Paul II, Cardinal Ratzinger, at 77, is certainly a major figure. 

STEWART:  Let’s take a look at Europe as well.  There’s a pope from Belgium, as well as Vienna, correct? 

FIGUEIREDO:  Absolutely.

Let’s begin with Cardinal Danneels from Brussels.  Cardinal Danneels is often cited as a possible candidate.  The difficulty is, he has been quite liberal about certain issues in the church, such as celibacy, such as women who may be ordained priests.  And I’m not sure if the cardinals are going to go for that. 

On the other hand, we have Christoph Schoenborn from Vienna, a major figure who helped write in the catechism of the Catholic Church, a major document.  The difficulty with him, he is only 60 years old.  I’m not sure if they’ll want a pope for many, many years after John Paul II the Great.

STEWART:  There seem to be a good number of cardinals from South America, Latin America, and Asia.  Is it possible that the non-European cardinals could unify and push for a non-European candidate? 

FIGUEIREDO:  Very interesting.  I don’t think that is going to happen this time, because each cardinal is very much his own person. 

When I think, for example, of South America, we do have some major figures, unusual figures.  They haven’t been cited too often yet, for example, Cardinal Bergoglio, the archbishop of Buenos Aires, a major figure, humble Jesuit, I say, who has made major negotiations with the government there. 

On the other hand, we also have Claudio Hummes from Sao Paulo in Brazil.  He both worked in the Vatican and now has been given charge of a major diocese.  Or let’s take Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga from Honduras.  If the cardinals want to go with a man who is concerned with social justice, it could be him. 

Asia, I think this is where it is going to be very, very interesting, a long shot, Cardinal Ivan Dias from Bombay, who worked in the Vatican Diplomatic Service, who has also great respect from this Holy Father, speaks many languages and now comes from Asia, a major diocese, India.  And, at 68, that’s a possibility as well that might surprise us. 

STEWART:  And one quick final question.  I know you say that there’s an American cardinal who won’t be chosen, but will be quite influential. 

FIGUEIREDO:  Obviously, Alison, the Holy Spirit will ultimately decide.  But I believe someone like Cardinal McCarrick, who’s the archbishop of Newark, now in Washington, speaks many languages, has traveled with this Holy Father to many different regions of the world, has the affection of many cardinals.  I think he is going to be a major figure in influencing who the next pope will be. 

STEWART:  Father Anthony Figueiredo, we thank you so much for spending some time with us this evening. 

FIGUEIREDO:  Thank you, Alison.

STEWART:  Peter Jennings’ disturbing diagnosis.  He thought he was battling a cold, but instead he found out he has lung cancer.  Jennings in his own words next.

And what a difference a week makes in the Michael Jackson trial.  We’ll take you inside the courtroom for reaction to testimony from a past Jackson accuser. 

This is COUNTDOWN on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEWART:  Lung cancer, that’s the diagnosis given to ABC’s Peter Jennings.  He’ll wage a very public battle, as he plans to remain in the anchor chair during his treatment.  We’ll talk about the challenges ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEWART:  Brokaw, Rather, Jennings, the faces, names and reputations America has trusted to bring them the news of the day, the good and the bad, the uplifting and the sad, for over two decades. 

Brokaw retired.  Rather moved to a new assignment.  And now Peter Jennings has a new fight far more important than the big get or that little bump in the ratings. 

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, the remaining vet of network evening news, Peter Jennings, has cancer.  Mr. Jennings, at the helm of ABC’s “World News Tonight” since 1983, received the diagnosis of lung cancer yesterday, breaking the news to his staff only this morning.  He did so to the nation during this evening’s broadcast. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “WORLD NEWS TONIGHT”)

PETER JENNINGS, HOST:  I’ve been reminding my colleagues today, who have all been incredibly supportive, that almost 10 million Americans are already living with cancer, and I have a lot to learn from them.  And living is the key word. 

To be perfectly honest, I’m a little surprised at the kindness today from so many people.  That’s not intended as false modesty, but even I was taken aback by how far and how fast news travels.  Finally, I wonder if other men and women ask their doctors right away, OK, doc, when does the hair go? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEWART:  ABC has announced that had Mr. Jennings will remain in the anchor chair and managing editor of the broadcast for as long as he is able. 

I’m joined now by Dr. Robert Ashton, a thoracic surgeon at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital.  He specializes in lung cancer treatment. 

Dr. Ashton, good evening.  Thanks for being with us. 

DR. ROBERT ASHTON, THORACIC SURGEON:  Good evening. 

STEWART:  You heard Mr. Jennings’ voice there.  I just want to get your take, your professional take.  Is that the result of stress, of his illness or of his treatment? 

ASHTON:  It’s unknown.  He may be speaking a lot in the last few days to a lot of people.  He may have had a procedure.  It is very difficult to know what the cause of his hoarseness is. 

STEWART:  All right. 

ABC has announced that he will remain in the chair simply based upon how well he feels.  How likely is it, Doctor, that once Mr. Jennings begin his treatment, his chemotherapy, that he’ll be able to continue to work regularly?  And, also, what will be the physical toll of the chemotherapy?  He even made a joke there about hair loss. 

ASHTON:  Yes.  I mean, it is difficult to know. 

Every one is an individual and reacts differently to the medication that they get from the chemotherapy.  And some people are able to tolerate it very well and continue on with their work.  And other individuals have bad days or bad weeks here and there.  And how he tolerates it is an unknown.  I mean, there will be a lot of effects from, as he said, from hair loss, potentially, to just gastrointestinal problems are the biggest things that he undergoes and he’ll feel directly.  And they’ll be monitoring those. 

STEWART:  Now, obviously, you’re not privy to the stage of Mr.  Jennings’ cancer.  But we do know that he’ll be treated on an outpatient basis.  Now, from your experience, this outpatient chemotherapy, when it is used to combat lung cancer, does that mean the cancer is in its early stage, mid or late?  Or can you tell? 

ASHTON:  It’s difficult to know exactly.  Chemotherapy is used sometimes before surgery, sometimes after surgery, and sometimes on its own.  And it is difficult to know 100 percent. 

I would say that it is probably not the earliest stage of a 1A lung cancer.  But, other than that, I think we’ll to have wait and see what he says and what his other treatments are going to be, if there are any. 

STEWART:  And when you say before surgery, you’re referring to obviously removing a tumor of some kind? 

ASHTON:  Yes.  Sometimes, we give it, as we call, neoadjuvant, which is prior to surgery.  And then would you perform surgery on it to take that out. 

But that’s in certain cases and certain stages we do that.  Other time, it is given after do surgery.  And, sometimes, as I said, you give it just by itself. 

STEWART:  And what factors into a survival rate for lung cancer in men? 

ASHTON:  What factors in for men and women, No. 1, is their stage.  He has to be staged both clinically, pathologically, as we say, from having C.T. scans or PET scans.  There’s a lot of different ways that they can do that.  And that’s basically what his survival will be based on, is his stage and then his overall—his health overall, if there are any other mitigating factors in his health. 

STEWART:  What about the issue of smoking? 

ASHTON:  Smoking.  Having a smoking history, most patients, 90 percent of patients who have lung cancer, have smoked in the past.  And the biggest thing is that he has given smoking up, from the reports I’ve heard.  And that’s a good thing.  And other than that, there’s really nothing else. 

STEWART:  Well, we can certainly send him our well-wishes and our prayers.  That doesn’t hurt either. 

ASHTON:  No.

STEWART:  Dr. Robert Ashton with St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital in New York, thanks so much for your time. 

ASHTON:  Thank you. 

STEWART:  You know what?  Too much darn serious news lately.  We’ll fix all that when COUNTDOWN returns.  “Oddball” is here.  And it comes to one of the most bizarre car chases we’ve ever seen.  Right on with your bad self.

And desperate divas’ catfight.  The stars of the hit new show seem to be not such a big hit with each other.  Oh, it is a cover shoot gone horribly wrong. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEWART:  I’m Alison Stewart, holding down fort for Keith Olbermann. 

And it has been a busy week or so, but it is time to get back to the regular news, actually, more like the irregular news.  Let’s play “Oddball.”

We begin in L.A., where this was apparently just another Tuesday morning in la-la than.  No, we’re not watching a Lexus commercial.  That vehicle is stolen and the drivers won’t pull over.  Checking the “Oddball” score card for this year, we can see it is cops 17, guys trying to escape, zip. 

And the luck was no better for these two fancy fugitives.  They actually tried to do the split-up-and-run move.  But it wasn’t long before it was all over.  And they’ll soon be reunited in the big house.  But it wasn’t all over for KNBC’s news helicopter, because the mission of all news choppers is simple.  When one spectacle ends, you just move on to the next one. 

And what do we have here?  Just a few blocks away, a man wearing what looks like a purple silk boxing robe putting on his own one-man parade.  As police followed behind, he is in the car.  He’s out of the car.  He’s out of the robe at one point.  No one is sure what he’s doing, except that he’s having a lot of fun doing it.  But it wasn’t long before the guy decided to hang the cape out of the window and take to the highway at really dangerous speeds.  And police were probably wishing they had stopped him when he was going like 5 miles an hour and half naked. 

Luckily for them, after nearly an hour, our deranged suspect pulled into doughnut world.  Got a good spot, too.  A quick pepper spraying, a little Taser to the back.  Later, yes, he finally gave up.  Hope he got some glazed to go.

Michael Jackson’s defense team faces off with another accuser on the stand, the accusations, the cross-examination and the eerie connection some people in the courtroom are making.  And the investigation into the Red Lake school shooting.  After police say it was the act of one lone gunman, one student already faces conspiracy charges.  And more could be coming.  Those stories are ahead. 

But now here are COUNTDOWN’s top three newsmakers of this day. 

No. 3, Michelle Kearny, first runner-up in the Miss Wheelchair Wisconsin beauty pageant.  She has refused the crown today to protest the disqualification of the real Miss Wheelchair Wisconsin.  That’s Janeal Lee.  Ms. Lee, who has a form of muscular dystrophy, was stripped of her title last week after she was shown in a newspaper photo standing.  The second runner-up has indeed accepted the title. 

No. 2, Texas State Senator Kel Seliger.  He was in a little bit of hot

water after inappropriate remarks during a debate about chuck wagons.  When

asked to yield for another question, the senator yelled on the microphone -

·         quote—“I’ve already yielded more than a cheerleader at a drive-in.”

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART:  Later, trying to explain himself, Seliger dug his hole even deeper, blaming the statement on—quote—“incipient Tourette’s syndrome.”  He then admitted he doesn’t actually suffer from Tourette’s syndrome.

And, No. 1, Ming Kung Chen, a Chinese delivery man who disappeared in New York City last Friday night while making a delivery.  Police feared he had been the victim of a crime, but they found him this morning.  He had been stuck in an elevator in the Bronx for four days, but, fortunately, he had a big old bag of Chinese food. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEWART:  I’m Alison Stewart, show sitting for the vacationing Keith Olbermann.  And it wasn’t that long ago that I sat in this very same position describing how defense attorney Thomas Mesereau was wiping up the courtroom floor with the prosecution’s case against his client.  That was way back on M.J. day 483, and we’re a long way from there, my friend. 

Our third story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, it’s your entertainment and tax dollars in action.  Day 505 of the Michael Jackson investigations, and boy, what a difference three weeks makes.  The turning point, no doubt, Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville’s March 28 ruling permitting five other alleged acts of molestation to be heard at this trial.  The result of that pivotal bit of jurisprudence, continuing today with the second day of testimony from another Jackson accuser. 

Our correspondent in Santa Maria is Karen Brown. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KAREN BROWN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  One of the prosecution’s most compelling witnesses, returned to the stand to talk about allegedly being molested by Michael Jackson more than a decade ago.  Under cross examination, the son of a former Jackson housekeeper stuck to his powerful story that on three different occasions, tickling games with Jackson turned into inappropriate touching.  The courtroom was tense as defense attorney Thomas Mesereau pressed the 24-year-old about the financial settle that he received and about the fact that he first denied he had been molested. 

JIM MORET, COURT OBSERVER:  The defense was trying to imply that sheriffs prodded him into making up a molestation.  I don’t think that that’s what came through though. 

BROWN:  One thing that may have come through was how much the past accuser looks like the current alleged victim. 

ANNE BREMNER, COURT OBSERVER:  They look very similar.  It’s almost uncanny and it’s a little haunting and I think it’s not lost on the jury. 

BROWN:  Also on the stand, was the 24-year-old’s mom.  She told the jurors that while she was a housekeeper at the Neverland Ranch, she once saw Michael Jackson in the shower with a young boy and their clothes were on the bathroom floor. 

JIM THOMAS, FORMER SANTA BARBARA CO SHERIFF:  It’s another brick that the wall that the prosecution is trying to build to show the jury that there were other instances besides the current instances where Michael Jackson acted inappropriately with young boys. 

BROWN:  The boy in the shower is one of the five boys that the prosecution has been permitted to tell the jury about, and their attempt to show Jackson has a history of abuse. 

Karen Brown, NBC News, Santa Maria. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STEWART:  And once again, we will do our best to analyze the unique court experience that is the Michael Jackson trial.  I’m joined now by criminal defense attorney and former sex crimes prosecutor, Anne Bremner. 

Anne thanks for being with us.

BREMNER:  My pleasure, thanks for having me.

STEWART:  And our eyes and ears inside the courtroom have been those of Court TV’s Savannah Guthrie.  Savannah, good to see you. 

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, COURT TV:  Hi, Alison. 

STEWART:  Let me begin with you, Savannah.  The second accuser on the stand today, as well as his mom, what did you think?  Points score for the prosecution or the defense? 

GUTHRIE:  I don’t think anybody who was in that courtroom these last two days will say this was a good moment for the defense.  Because this young accuser was very compelling on the stand.  You know, it’s not just me saying that.  I ran it past a lot of colleagues who were in that courtroom.  He just seemed very genuine, very credible.  His emotions seemed very appropriate to what he was describing. 

And the fact of the matter is, the prosecutor is going to be able to argue that this is someone who has no motive to lie.  The civil settlement is over.  The money has been in the bank for years.  He stayed in counselling for years after this was all over.  This is somebody who seemed very credible, who seem like he was coming in here to tell this story out of a sense of public duty. 

STEWART:  And two weeks ago, it just seemed the defense was really on fire.  But now with Judge Melville’s ruling in action, and we’re seeing it in action, what does the defense need to do to recover? 

BREMNER:  Well, what they need is at this point, just for today, almost a miracle.  Because things will never been the same now that we’ve started into the 1108 evidence.  But here’s where they’re going to come from.  This is—there’s only one victim that’s going to testify, and we heard from him today.  He was good, like Savannah said.  But this was 17 years ago.  There was a monetary settlement.  His memory was faulty.  It’s not the same kind of pattern. 

It’s not substantially similar.  And there were a lot of holes poked in what he had to say, he and also his mother.  But where they’re going to go from here is, there’s no pattern.  And it’s always about the money, money, and more money, with this 93 settlement.  And then this settlement, of course, was after that very well publicized settlement.  And one final thing, only three events with long periods of hiatus in between, not a pattern of a pedophile.  So it may be downhill from here in the pattern evidence for the prosecutors, because they don’t have any other “victims” that will testify. 

STEWART:  All right, Savannah, what about this accuser’s mother? 

She testified about the financial settlement that Anne just mentioned.  She also testified that Jackson—saw him with another boy in a shower, perhaps, and that her own son’s interaction with the singer bothered her.  Yet, she really did nothing.  And they’re having a lot of mother issues in this case.  And what kind of impact are these mother issues having? 

GUTHRIE:  I think we haven’t begun to see the mother issues.  You’re right, I think Tom Mesereau had some more successes with this particular witness, because she did accept some payment for a story she gave to a tabloid news magazine.  But yes the accuser’s mother in this case is a problem and even prosecutors are going to acknowledge that. 

And I think sooner, rather than later, we’re going to hear from the mother of that 1993 accuser.  And boy, does she have a lot of explaining to do.  Tom Mesereau will be able to point out that this is a woman who took gifts—lavish gifts from Michael Jackson.  A Cartier watch, he gave her his credit card and said go spend whatever you want, all while he sharing the bed with her young 13-year-old son.  It’s true that a lot of these mothers are not going to be winning parent of the year awards by any stretch of the imagination. 

STEWART:  Anne is it enough for the defense to paint these women as just in it for the cash? 

BREMNER:  Well, it’s a good start.  And, Alison, there was a lot of talk about daddy dearest, you know, Michael Jackson, calling me daddy.  But these mothers, they’re all in a lot of ways, remiss in their parental duties.  And of course, they were mesmerized by Michael Jackson and there was a lot left to pay if you believe the prosecution for these family as a result. 

STEWART:  All right, Savannah, what’s next? 

GUTHRIE:  Well, I do think we’re going to hear from the mother of that 1993 accuser. and also some former Neverland employees who say they witnessed Michael Jackson in the act of molesting other young boys.  Boys who by the way, actually deny that they’re victims.  One of those boys is Macauley Culkin, the child actor. 

STEWART:  And Anne, I’ll let you have the final word.  What do you think’s next? 

BREMNER:  I think that’s—we’re going to head into these third party witnesses.  There’s supposed to be one bombshell witness that actually saw something very graphic.  So, you know, at this point, is a third party witness better than a “victim,” maybe.  No bias, no interest in money, can’t really cross examine an eyewitness that has, you know, no axe to grind with Michael Jackson.  So, this pattern evidence is going to be powerful, I think.  It’s not predictable.  And the whole case hinges right now on this portion of the prosecution’s presentation, so stay tuned.

Two very smart ladies who just joined us, Court TV’s Savannah Guthrie and attorney Anne Bremner.  Thanks a lot. 

BEMNER:  Thanks. 

STEWART:  The school shooting in Red Lake.  Two weeks later, there are more questions than answers as the community learns there could be more students involved in this widening conspiracy. 

And Mrs. Kevin Federline, aka Britney Spears, is fed up with bad coverage in the media.  Bad media.  So, she’s taking the media into her own hands.  We’ll explain.  But, first, here are COUNTDOWN’s top three sound bites of the day. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CROWD (chanting):  Michael!  Michael!  Michael!  Innocent!  Innocent! 

Innocent!

(CHEERS)

GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT:  It’s great to be back in West Virginia as well.  And of course, you put on a beautiful day for which I’m grateful.  One of these days, I’ll bring my mountain bike. 

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

STEPHEN COLBERT, “THE DAILY SHOW”:  Next week, the college of cardinals will assemble at the Sistine Chapel.  What exactly go on there is shrouded in mystery.  But to help you understand, let’s say that this is the church.  And this part right here, is the steeple.  If at this point, you were to open the doors, what you might see is, all the people.  In this case, the cardinals, the princes of the church.  Now, they wiggle around for a while until they choose a new pope.  The process...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

The shootings at Red Lake High School were initially deemed the act of a lone, disturbed, teenage gunman.  But when police arrested the tribal chairman’s son, rumblings about a wider conspiracy became the source of investigation.  In our number two story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, investigators in Minnesota now think several other students may have been involved in planning the attacks, and even more may have known about it. 

Our correspondent Kevin Tibbles reports. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEVIN TIBBLES, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  In the emotional aftermath of 10 violent killings in Red Lake, Minnesota, two weeks ago, authorities initially said 16-year-old Jeff Weise was the lone gunman. 

MICHAEL TABMAN, FBI SPECIAL AGENT:  At this time, we believe he acted alone.

TIBBLES:  But they left a little room for doubt. 

TABMAN:  We certainly have to explore the possibilities. 

TIBBLES:  Investigators now believe there may have been a larger conspiracy involving more students.  As the community mourned, tribal chairman Floyd Jourdain, Jr., spoke out. 

FLOYD JOURDAIN, JR., TRIBAL CHAIRMAN:  This is the darkest days of the history of our people. 

TIBBLES:  But, now, government official say his own son, 16-year-old Louis, a juvenile, has been charged with conspiracy to commit murder.  Police also suggest more arrests may be pending.  Investigating four other students suspected of having planned the attack and 20 more who may have known about it. 

Investigators are focusing on computer traffic between those student and Jeff Weise whose own violent depictions on the web emerged soon after the shootings. 

LEE COOK, BEMIDJI STATE UNIVERSITY:  Their homes have been search, and their computers had been taken, with the notion of looking for the connect between Jeff and his friends. 

TIBBLES:  Experts say criminal investigations, particularly those involving young people, increasingly involve computers. 

ALAN BRILL, KROLL INC. INVESTIGATOR:  Is there going to be evidence on that computer that’s going to be a surprise to the perpetrator when they find out we found it? 

TIBBLES:  And FBI studies show that in 95 percent of school shootings, the gunmen tell other people. 

CLINT VAN ZANDT, FORMER FBI PROFILER:  Other students were aware of the active planning on the part of the shooter or shooters to commit these horrific acts, and did not come forward and tell the authorities. 

TIBBLES:  The fall-out has shaken this isolated reservation even further, with some challenging Jourdain’s leadership. 

SHANE MAY, SURIVIVOR’S BROTHER:  He can’t control the reservation, he can’t control his kids, and then, why is he in control? 

TIBBLES:  Teacher have begun returning to the high school as police try to determine exactly what the students knew and why they did not tell. 

Kevin Tibbles, NBC News, Chicago. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STEWART:  Making a sharp turn now into our celebrity and entertainment news, “Keeping Tabs.” 

We could use the relief.  Tonight it comes from Britney Spears, bless her heart.  It seem that Britney wants to set the record straight about whatever love potion managed to bring her and Kevin Federline together.  She’s sick of all those tabloid stories about the two of them, so she sold a six-part reality series to UPN detailing her courtship, engagement, and wedding.  It’ll air by the end of May, and even better, most of the video has already been shot by Britney and Kevin.  The possibilities appear endless.  Did Britney keep the cameras out of her bedroom?  We cannot say.  But, according to her autobiographical poetry one could find in her songs, we know that she’s not that innocent.  Dancing like that pretty much proves it. 

Meanwhile, another young bombshell is out of a job and she say’s it’s because she’s preggers.  Supermodel Heidi Klume claims her web site—on her web site—that she was fired from her modeling job with a German catalogue when they found out she was expecting.  But Otto, the clothing company said Klume was actually fired for blowing off a crucial business meeting.  Tough to say who is telling the truth here, but it is hard to believe the folks at Otto would make the idiotic decision to fire a pregnant supermodel as their cover girl, considering they sell women’s and baby clothes. 

Drama from the gals at Wisteria Lane and the stars of America’s hottest show, apparently hot under the collar when someone got a little too much attention.  Diva alert, coming your way.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEWART:  The drama behind the drama “Desperate Housewives” is back, and according to the latest batch of bad press, diva faced off against diva in a cast photoshoot for “Vanity Fair” magazine, and you just know somebody on the set was going to yell catfight. 

Our number one story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, the desperation is palpable, the actresses are fighting made, the tabloids are so psyched.  It all started when the five stars came together poolside for a “Vanity Fair” covershoot where perhaps the first sign of trouble came in the form of an ABC representative who was given the ill-faded job of referee.  Against previously agreed terms, Teri Hatcher not only got the first pick of swim suits, she was initially placed in the middle of the photo, breaking two of the mandates said representative was supposed to enforce. 

According to one “Vanity Fair” reporter, that was just too much for co-star Marsha Cross who quote, “explodedly and allegedly dropped the f-bomb” and according to witness accounts, Cross yelled at the referee, quote, “Get your bleeping bleep over here now, and do your bleeping job.”  When told the representative wasn’t allowed on the set, she bellowed back, quote, “I don’t care if it’s a bleeping closed set. You get him over here.” 

As reports from the set—on-set—meltdown trickled out, we heard Ms. Hatcher ended up in tears, and Mrs. Cross’ publicist went so far as to throw herself in front of the cameras. 

“Access Hollywood”’s Nancy O’Dell asked Teri Hatcher about the melee at a much nicer gathering, a fund-raiser for Tuberculosis Alliance. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NANCY O’DELL, “ACCESS HOLLYWOOD”:  It makes it look like the cat fighting stuff going on.  How do you respond? 

TERI HATCHER, “DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES”:  I’m not going to say it’s true or not true, it’s whatever.  It’s “Vanity Fair.”  They’re not going to print something they can’t print. 

O’DELL:  So, read between the lines, according to the magazine, an enabler by ABC came to the photoshoot with a list of stipulations.  The first being, quote, “whatever do you, don’t let Teri go to wardrobe first.”  Somebody was apparently concerned that Teri would get the best outfits. 

HATCHER:  I never heard that before I read the article.  So, I actually read the thing, and I went, really?  I’m not allowed in the wardrobe trailer before anybody else?  But, you know, I guess they have this enabler’s behavior, so apparently—I mean it must kind of be true but I didn’t know. 

O’DELL:  But, “Vanity Fair” claims when Marcia Cross saw Teri, she stormed off the set. 

HATCHER:  I don’t know that that’s true.  But, you’d have to—I’m not Marcia.  I kind of don’t believe that that—I’ve never seen Marcia admit that feeling so—I don’t think that’s—I don’t think that’s probably accurate. 

O’DELL:  According to “Vanity Fair,”  Teri’s positioning violated another stipulation.  Teri was not to be in the middle of any group photos. 

There’s a part in here that says you were actually brought to tears that day.  Is there any truth to that? 

HATCHER:  I don’t remember tears.  What I know is that all of the girls are supportive of each other and I think no one wants to damage that. 

O’DELL:  Why would they say we don’t want her in the center of the picture?

HATCHER:  These are deeper questions than I can answer.  I’m sure you can figure it out. 

O’DELL:  Nancy O’Dell, Los Angeles. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STEWART:  And joining me now with more of the “Desperate” dish, senior editor for “In Touch Weekly,” Tom O’Neil.  Tom, we got to stop meeting like this over the “Desperate Housewives.” 

TOM O’NEIL, IN TOUCH WEEKLY:  This is the juiciest one of all because our favorite nighttime soap is a soap off the screen.  What’s better than that? 

STEWART:  So, what did you think of the sort-of, kind-of denial but not really from Teri Hatcher? 

O’NEIL:  She’s lying!  Come on!  There were no tears—“Vanity Fair” recorded the tears.  We know Marcia Cross stormed off the set.  We have video of all of this.  She’s putting the best face on this she can.  At least she’s not lying outright like Marcia Cross did the other day when someone said, hey, how’d that photo shoot go for “Vanity Fair”?  And she said, oh, we had a wonderful time.  Maybe Marcia had a wonderful time.

STEWART:  Now, do either of these ladies have a reputation of being difficult to work with? 

O’NEIL:  Not really.  From the beginning of this show, there have been problems, and they all seem to center on Nicolette Sheridan who plays the floozy down the street, the blonde.  Now they’re all turning on Teri because she won the Golden Globe on January and the other actors didn’t and she’s trying to negotiate for a separate salary increase.  And that’s her big mistake—that could bust this gang apart. 

STEWART:  Money, the root of all evil. 

This is just the latest in a long line of stories about in-fighting on a set.  Don’t these ladies know that they’re going to kill the goose that laid the golden egg? 

O’NEIL:  I know.  There are some hit shows like “Gilligan’s Island” today it’s in constant reruns, but it was only on TV for three years, and if it tried to extend itself for a fourth year, the seven castaways would be six dead bodies and one person left standing, probably Ginger, meaning Tina Louise. 

If shows can’t survive this kind of cat-fighting, they’re miserable on the set.  Like, “Sex in the City,” you know, Kim Cattrell was always throwing diva fits, and for the last year since that show went off the air, Kim and the rest of the cast did not talk, the last week Sarah had her 40th birthday and Kim came to the party.  They’re all kissing up and making up now.  Where was the good-heartedness during the shoot? 

STEWART:  So what do you think, under the adage all press is good press?  Could this help any way? 

O’NEIL:  Oh, of course it’ll help in the show.  It makes it all the more juicy right now.  But they have to work this through because it could break this show apart, and she could end up like Susan Summers, either Marcia Cross or Teri Hatcher, selling Thigh Masters at 3:00 in the morning for a job. 

STEWART:  There’s a truth.  Some other very lovely lady could always move onto Wisteria Lane. 

Tom O’Neil, “In Touch Weekly,” we thank you so much—and I hope your makeup person was OK, and the car ride, the gift basket? 

O’NEIL:  Ah, I had a flat tire on the way over here.  I’m telling you, there’s drama all over the place. 

STEWART:  Oh, no.  Just don’t blame me for that one.  Tom O’Neil, thanks a lot.  We really appreciate it.  Get home safely, OK? 

O’NEIL:  OK, promise. 

STEWART:  That’s COUNTDOWN.  Thank you for watching.  I’m Alison Stewart in for Mr. Keith Olbermann.  Good night, good luck, and you be safe tonight, too.

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

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