updated 6/30/2005 8:22:49 AM ET 2005-06-30T12:22:49

Guest: Joe Huston, Elio Nicolaas, Julia Renfro, Nancy McBride, Representative Phil Gingrey, Representative Gary Ackerman

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Coming up, two mothers come face-to-face, one trying to find her daughter, Natalee in Aruba, the other trying to help her son who has been arrested in connection with Natalee's disappearance. 


ABRAMS (voice-over):  The question:  Did they find any answers—this as a private search and rescue team prepare to begin the search for Natalee.  A team member joins us only hours before they get on the plane to Aruba. 

Plus a constitutional amendment, which will make it illegal to desecrate the American flag, passes in the House.  Do we really need a constitutional amendment for this? 

And the missing Boy Scout found alive in the Utah mountains after four days says he saw searchers looking for him but was afraid to talk to strangers.  We hear from his parents and see him in public for the first time. 

The program about justice starts now. 


ABRAMS:  Hi everyone.  First up on the docket tonight, Natalee Holloway's mother meets with the parents of the key suspect in her daughter's disappearance and reports that the Dutch teen might have changed his story.  Beth Holloway Twitty whose daughter has been missing in Aruba for over three weeks went to the home of Joran Van Der Sloot hoping to speak to his parents just for a few minutes.  Well she got more than she expected, an hour and a half conversation in their home. 

During the emotional meeting, Natalee's mom repeatedly asked the Van Der Sloots for anything that they night know about her daughter's disappearance.  More than three weeks have passed, still no sign of Natalee.  But by this time tomorrow a fresh team of volunteers with search dogs and sonar equipment will be in Aruba ready to comb through the underbrush and search the surrounding waters hoping to find something. 

In two hours, my next guest is going to be getting on a plane to Aruba.  Joe Huston is a rescue diver with a Texas-based EquuSearch team, a group of volunteers who most recently went to Sri Lanka to help with the search and recovery efforts there following the tsunami.

Mr. Huston thanks very much for coming on the program.  Appreciate it.

JOE HUSTON, RESCUE DIVER, EQUUSEARCH:  Thank you for having me. 

ABRAMS:  All right, so what do you think you will be able to do that they have not been able to do so far there? 

HUSTON:  Well, I think being able to have a fresh set of eyes look at the situation.  We have - EquuSearch has done in excess of 450 searches in the last four and a half years and due to that experience, I think we'll be able to look at it with a fresh set and take a look and see what we need to do.  We're going to get down there tomorrow, try to map out the area and see what areas have been covered, what has not been covered, and try to do the best job possible for the Holloway family. 

ABRAMS:  But in addition to a fresh set of eyes, you've also got some pretty high tech equipment that might not be available in Aruba, right? 

HUSTON:  That is correct.  We are taking what is called side scan sonar with us.  That will allows us when we're in the water, offshore, the sonar actually is able to scan down to a feet of 800 feet and do a sideway scan of 300 feet and give us a very good 3-D image.  And we are taking technical experts with us to be able to read the images as they come.  And when that happens, if there is anything of interest, Dan, either myself or the other divers on the team that are going will get in the water and go check it out.  And hopefully we'll find what we are looking for. 

ABRAMS:  How sensitive is that equipment? 

HUSTON:  It is very sensitive.  It is very high tech.  And one of the things is it takes an expert to be able to read the images, so we're having a team come with us—sonar when it arrives in Aruba. 

ABRAMS:  Were you able to bring any of the equipment with you?  I know we'd asked you if you had it with you to be able to bring it along.  If you do...


ABRAMS:  ... can you show it to me?  Yes.

HUSTON:  One of the pieces of equipment we use extensively in our searches both on land and in water is a Rino 120.  It's a combination unit between a global positional satellite unit and a radio.  It does multiple things.  It allows us to keep in contact verbally with our teammates, but also the GPS unit allows us to map out the area we've already covered and it allows us to tell where our other members are.  So if we have a member who makes a find, they can push a paging button on their unit, it'll show up on our unit where they are, and we can go directly to the spot instead of trying to find them by guessing. 

ABRAMS:  Let's be clear, the family asked you to come, but you are doing this for free, correct? 

HUSTON:  Yes we are.  Texas EquuSearch is a nonprofit organization.  It's been in existence since 2000.  And the only reason we're able to do this is through the generous donations of individuals, and also companies like Continental Airlines who is actually flying us down there for free. 

ABRAMS:  Are you worried that once you get there that some of the locals are going to be saying come on, we don't need these outsiders meddling in our business? 

HUSTON:  Well, we hope that we'll be able to work very closely with the authorities.  When we get down there tomorrow, our intent is to meet with the authorities and see what areas they have covered.  We don't want to step on anybody's toes.  That's the last thing we could do.  However, even listening to the prime minister last night make the comments about any help like this will be welcomed and we're taking that as an invitation that they're going to welcome with open arms, give us the support we need, and help us in anyway that we can possibly need it. 

ABRAMS:  All right, well good luck.  Good luck to you.  I think everyone is rooting for you and please let us know how it goes. 

HUSTON:  Thank you very much.  I do appreciate it.

ABRAMS:  Joe Huston, all right. 

Let's go down to Aruba and talk to retired Aruban police detective, Elio Nicolaas, who has followed this case very closely.  Mr. Nicolaas thanks very much for coming on the program.  We appreciate it.  Let me start by asking you, how do you think that the Aruban authorities have been doing so far? 

There have been a lot of questions about why these two security guards were first arrested, and then they were released.  The three people who were later arrested were not arrested for 11 days.  Are they doing a good job down there? 

ELIO NICOLAAS, RETIRED ARUBAN POLICE DETECTIVE:  I believe so.  I think the police and the government and the people of Aruba are doing everything they can to find Natalee hopefully alive, but of course, as in any investigation, also in the United States, sometimes you make mistakes that you would rather not have made during the (UNINTELLIGIBLE).  You will see that, but I think all in all that Aruba is doing all it can to find Natalee.  And I personally believe that this story will come to a good end, hopefully a good end for everybody.  We will get to the bottom of this. 

ABRAMS:  What do you base that on?  I mean I know you believe that Natalee is alive.  Why do you believe that? 

NICOLAAS:  Well, because of a few things, you know.  What she wrote in her yearbook that something like if I go there's a lot of things to be seen yet, et cetera.  Will you remember me?  And then on (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that was (UNINTELLIGIBLE) call me, we can talk.  And also on the bus trip I think it was that the mother said I won't give in this time.  And there are a lot of rumors that this has already happened on other islands, Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, something like that.  And it all seems—it looks to me like she is a runaway teenager and maybe she doesn't want to be found yet.  And hopefully it's that and not something worse than that. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  The problem with that is that sort of blames

Natalee, right?  You are saying that you think that it's likely she ran

away.  And I think that a lot of people in Aruba want to believe that, so -

·         and look, and I'm hoping that something—look, that would be great if that were the result.  My concern is that I think a lot of people in Aruba are trying to say oh, look, it is not our fault, don't blame us.  No one here would ever do anything like that.

You know I think we have to be practical and realistic here that there's no evidence to suggest that Natalee wanted to run away and just sort of get away from all of this.  I mean by citing sort of random things that she said in a yearbook, my goodness, if everything I said in a yearbook suggested as to what I wanted in life, I'd be in big trouble. 

NICOLAAS:  I'm not saying that all of Aruba is thinking it.  I am thinking it.  When you're on an investigation you have to try all avenues.  And the avenue that I would like people to try out—especially FBI—but also the local people are the parents.  Maybe she didn't run away, but maybe she is not alive.  And who has to deal with something like that, these three boys in Aruba?  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Are there other things that we have to look at to see if there's anything...

ABRAMS:  You know, though, from your investigation—look, you were you a long-time detective.  You know that when murders occur, a lot of the time there was no gain.  There was no reason.  When someone gets harmed or kidnapped or whatever it is, a lot of the time there is no gain because people do dumb things for dumb reasons in a lot of cases.  And I'm just concerned about sort of floating these theories that oh maybe she wanted to get away from the parents or this or that.  It just sort of smudging and smearing Natalee and the parents. 

NICOLAAS:  It's not smearing, sir.  It's not smearing.  Smearing is what is being done with the people of Aruba, not by your station, but with some station, radio station, et cetera.  I'm just telling...

ABRAMS:  Wait...

NICOLAAS:  ... that is one of the possibilities.  I see at least three possibilities and don't forget what happened to Laci Peterson.  Who (UNINTELLIGIBLE) said that she was missing? 


NICOLAAS:  It's not always a gain, but always can be a reason.  What is the motive for this disappearance? 

ABRAMS:  Yes...

NICOLAAS:  That you have to look at. 

ABRAMS:  I have to tell you, I don't see any comparison to the Laci Peterson case.  I don't really know what the relationship...

NICOLAAS:  Not yet.  I hope you won't have to see that.  I hope so, really, for Natalee's case I hope you don't have to see that...

ABRAMS:  I don't even get it...


ABRAMS:  I don't even...

NICOLAAS:  We have to look at all.

ABRAMS:  I don't even get theoretically what would be the connection to the Laci Peterson case?  That the parents somehow...


ABRAMS:  ... are responsible for killing her? 

NICOLAAS:  Not connection, comparison, comparison.  A lot of our cases, we have to look at all possible avenues.  Don't just block your views and just look at one way. 

ABRAMS:  But see I look...

NICOLAAS:  I don't see...


NICOLAAS:  I don't say that these three fellows are not...

ABRAMS:  Right.

NICOLAAS:  ... involved.  Maybe they are involved in some way.  I don't know how.  I think they are hiding something.  But I also think that the family knows more than they are saying. 

ABRAMS:  That the family...


ABRAMS:  So the family is hiding this because what, they don't want to really find Natalee? 

NICOLAAS:  That's why they have to find out in Birmingham and here in Aruba, they have to do a little background checking...


NICOLAAS:  ... what is really going on. 

ABRAMS:  Yes...

NICOLAAS:  Some background checking will do this case a lot of good. 

ABRAMS:  Yes, I'm not so sure if the kind of background checking that you're doing—you are talking about would do any good in this kind of case because look the bottom line is you're—the authorities where you've lived, and I know you respect the authorities there, have arrested these four on suspicion of homicide.  That means that they suspect—and again, look I am hoping...


ABRAMS:  ... hoping that Natalee...


ABRAMS:  ... is on some other island and somehow she got to another island and hasn't heard about all the attention and she's going to come back.  That would be a lovely ending.  But again, even if we're going to hope for that, I'd rather not sort of just throw out ramp speculation that maybe it is because she wanted to get away from her parents or whatever.  You get the final point...

NICOLAAS:  This is—you are thinking that that's just one possibility.  But you're not talking about the other ones.  I don't want to go into details because I don't want to say that anybody did something...

ABRAMS:  Right.

NICOLAAS:  ... but I'm telling you, don't forget this because will you have to come maybe back on your word.  Do a good background check on the family, what is really going on—mother, stepfather...

ABRAMS:  Yes.  All right...

NICOLAAS:  ... check on that. 

ABRAMS:  I promise you if the mother or stepfather have done anything wrong in this case that we will have you back on.  And when you find out that they did nothing wrong we're going to have you back on and you're going to apologize, all right. 

NICOLAAS:  I will be glad to...

ABRAMS:  All right.

NICOLAAS:  I will be the first one to apologize...

ABRAMS:  Fair enough.

NICOLAAS:  And I hope that Natalee is alive, but...

ABRAMS:  I do too.

NICOLAAS:  ... that's a big hope. 

ABRAMS:  I do too.  Elio Nicolaas...

NICOLAAS:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  ... thank you very much.  Appreciate it. 

Coming up, more on the story.  You know I don't know that—there is something about that that just bothered me.  I don't know if it bothered my viewers, but it bothered me, the notion that somehow he's blaming the parents.  All right, talk about the meeting between the mother and the parents of the lead suspect in the case. 



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Not one minute that I think he's a child molester.  And you have know what?  A child molester has a pattern.  My son don't even fit that description. 


ABRAMS:  Really?  All right, Michael Jackson's mother, Katherine Jackson, in an MSNBC exclusive—more of that interview coming up. 

We told you also about the amazing rescue of an 11-year-old boy missing in Utah for four days.  He just joined his parents in public about an hour ago.  We'll let you hear from that. 

Your e-mails abramsreport@msnbc.com.  Please include your name and where you're writing from.  I respond at the end of the show.




BETH HOLLOWAY TWITTY, NATALEE HOLLOWAY'S MOTHER:  I know that it is a matter of just you know confirming, plugging in holes as we can refer to it as and I know that they are just getting one step closer.  I know it is slow.  But I do feel that they are accumulating, you know the evidence is being collected and we are moving forward. 


ABRAMS:  That is Natalee Holloway's mother talking about this case in Aruba.  All right, there are a number of things I want to talk about here, three things.  First of all, we just heard from this former detective in Aruba basically saying that well his theory is that maybe she ran away.  Maybe something to do with her parents it really disturbs me, that part of it. 

Number two:  This business about Joran Van Der Sloot, one of the key suspects possibly changing stories as to exactly what happened.  And also this meeting between the mother of Van Der Sloot and the woman that you just saw, Natalee's mother. 

All right, so let me check in with Julia Renfro, who has been on the show before, editor-in-chief of “Aruba Today” newspaper.  Thanks for coming back on the program.  We appreciate it.


ABRAMS:  Let me take these one by one.  I don't know if you were able to hear Elio Nicolaas on the show a minute ago, but I think you probably know what his position is on this.  He has been saying that well, you know, I think that it's likely or certainly a strong possibility that Natalee sort of ran away and that we should keep our minds open to the idea that we should look into her parents' background and everything.  Sounds to me like someone who is just trying to say it couldn't have been anyone here on Aruba.

RENFRO:  Well, you know, I don't think he is speaking on behalf of the police force or...

ABRAMS:  He's not.

RENFRO:  ... on behalf of the government... 

ABRAMS:  He's not.

RENFRO:  ... in no way whatsoever.  He is saying that as a person who has been involved in investigations before.  And although he gave specific details, I think his main point is you know we just have to keep our eyes open and look at all different kinds of possibilities. 

ABRAMS:  But there's something disturbing, isn't there, about basically saying look into the background of the parents of what may be a victim here...

RENFRO:  Yes, like I said, I would never say any specifics about you know any one thing.  But, he has spoken to me about it in the past as well and his point is, is that in an investigation, when you do it properly, you have to look at all the whole...


RENFRO:  You have to look at...


RENFRO:  ... all of the people involved. 

ABRAMS:  Yes, I know.  But you know he starts making comparisons to the Laci Peterson case, et cetera, it gets to be—I think it boarders on being downright insulting to the family who is out there searching their hearts out.

RENFRO:  Well I don't—you know, Dan, I don't think he is trying to be insulting to the family...

ABRAMS:  He is not trying to be, but he is. 

RENFRO:  He is in a position where he's only heard all the rumors that have gone around, and there's been a lot of bad stuff.  Not only bad stuff about Aruba, but people have said things about Natalee, and for the most part it is all made up, as well as a lot of things about Joran Van Der Sloot.  A lot of that is all made up.  And so he is sitting there and as a retired police officer, he is hearing all these rumors and that's what he put together. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  Well that's good that he is basing his theories on rumors that are mostly untrue.  Let me move on with you because...

RENFRO:  Right.

ABRAMS:  ... you don't want to serve as his defender I know that, OK.  All right, so let me ask you about this meeting between the mothers.  What do you know about it?  Tell me...


ABRAMS:  Do you know about anything that they said, the mother of Joran Van Der Sloot and Natalee's mother? 

RENFRO:  Well I think basically it was really just an amazing thing that happened.  They were just wandering through the neighborhood, which she does quite often, as Beth and her friends, as well as other members of the family, have been circling this island over and over and there they found themselves in front of the door.  And Beth Twitty decided to put a prayer card in the mailbox and when she was there, she saw somebody, and called out and Mr. Van Der Sloot came to the door and invited them in. 

ABRAMS:  Do you know anything about what they talked about?  They have been very tightlipped about that, right? 

RENFRO:  Yes, I think it's very personal stuff and the main thing was you know very much mother to mother.  I don't think Mr. Van Der Sloot was very much involved in the conversation.  I think it was more between mothers and talking about their feelings and trying to come together as, you know, Natalee's mother from a small town, and obviously Aruba is a small town, and we all just need to pull together and be friends and try to come to a conclusion here. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  And I'm out of time.  I know you've said that your paper is not reporting anything about Joran Van Der Sloot possibly changing his story.  The police chief there telling us that's not true, but we'll have to continue to follow that to see if that pans out.  So Julia...

RENFRO:  Well Dan...

ABRAMS:  ... quickly, yes.

RENFRO:  ... we wouldn't know if he changed his story. 

ABRAMS:  Well we might.  I mean there might be leaks from the people inside.  I mean it happens all the time. 

RENFRO:  Then that's a rumor. 

ABRAMS:  Well no, that's—you could have a good source who tells you.  We don't have it.  I'm not saying we have it.  I'm saying that your rival, I guess papers or whatever reporting it, some other networks, but you're not reporting it, neither are we.  Let's forget about it and move on.  Thanks a lot for coming on the program.

RENFRO:  Excellent.

ABRAMS:  Appreciate it.

RENFRO:  Thank you. 

ABRAMS:  All right, we're going to keep on the case. 

Now an MSNBC exclusive—Michael Jackson's mother, Katherine, spoke with MSNBC's Rita Cosby about everything from her views on the accuser and the prosecutor in the case, to her emotions the moment the verdict was read. 


KATHERINE JACKSON, MICHAEL JACKSON'S MOTHER:  When they said not guilty, for all 10 counts, I felt like the world had been lifted off my shoulders.  I just hugged him and cried and he hugged me.  And I said at last they saw the truth. 

RITA COSBY, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  How did you feel also sitting there in court, because they talked about porno magazines, they talked about booze.  Did you see a different side of your son that maybe you hadn't before? 

JACKSON:  Well, the porno magazines, a lot of them were sent to him and I'm sure he looked at them.  And the booze, that they said they gave to children and the porno magazines that he was sharing with children, all of those were lies.  I knew my son as a young man and a child, but when they grow older, they change, so I guess he was no different than any other man that was out there in the world. 

But one thing he's not, that's a child molester.  He is not a child—he's not a pedophile.  A child molester has a pattern.  My son don't even fit that description.  A child molester don't strike every 10 or 11 years or 13 years like they're trying to say my son did and these were—back then it was a lie, and it is a lie now. 

COSBY:  What happened in Michael's childhood that he feels such an attachment to children?  What did he miss? 

JACKSON:  Well, Michael—if you know Michael started singing when he was a very—at a very young age.  He was in the studio most of the time when the other kids had free time.  And then after that, he went on tour.  They had to practice and do all of that.  He did miss out on a lot of his childhood. 

COSBY:  Do you think, Michael Jackson, has shaken these allegations of child molestation once and for all? 

JACKSON:  He's been proven not to be a child molester and they know he's not, but some people just want to believe what—they want to—they believe what they believe.  I can't stop that.  But I wish they would stop and think about it.  That he's not a child molester.  He's not a pedophile and he doesn't give liquor to children.  These kids were bad kids. 

COSBY:  Some of the jurors said that they believed your son may have molested someone else before, but they didn't believe the word of this family. 

JACKSON:  I think that was one juror, I think they said juror number one said that.  I can't change his mind.  He believes what he wants to believe. 

COSBY:  I spoke with District Attorney Tom Sneddon, he was unapologetic, said he made no mistakes and would do it again.  What do you say to Tom Sneddon?

JACKSON:  Maybe he didn't make no mistakes in what he called no mistakes, but he made a big mistake.  My son is not a pedophile.  My son is a better person than he is because what he did to my son, my son would never do to anyone else.  And when I asked him, Michael, please don't let anyone else come on your ranch.  He said mother if I have to help these people, from now on I will help them from a distance. 

COSBY:  But do you think from here on out he will he say OK, no kids, no boys in the bedroom because I don't want to be accused of something? 

JACKSON:  I'm sure he's not going to do that now.  Twice he has been accused of doing something he hadn't done. 


ABRAMS:  All right.  You can see Rita's entire interview with Katherine Jackson tonight on a special edition of “Scarborough Country” at 10:00 p.m. Eastern—a big get for Rita and MSNBC.

Coming up, sure almost no one likes the idea of burning the American flag, but do we really need to change the Constitution to protect it from a few radicals.  The House of Representatives today approved a constitutional amendment to do just that.  I say we didn't need it, but two U.S.  congressmen will join us. 

And 11-year-old Brennan Hawkins was found in the mountains of Utah after disappearing last Friday, is home with his family today.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  How are you doing, Brennan?



ABRAMS:  He said he heard rescuers looking for him but didn't take their help because he wasn't supposed to talk to strangers?  Coming up. 


ABRAMS:  Coming up, about an hour ago that 11-year-old missing in the Utah mountains for four days, a Boy Scout just found, well he showed up with his parents, spoke publicly.  We'll show you in a minute.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I went back in and he had gotten up and taken a shower and he was standing in his boxers, and I said Brennan you're on television and he said I am? 



ABRAMS:  I can only imagine how Brennan Hawkins' parents feel.  It's been only about 24 hours since their 11-year-old son found after disappearing in the woods of Utah last Friday.  We heard from Brennan for the first time since he was recovered outside his parents' home this afternoon.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  How are you doing, Brennan?



ABRAMS:  That's about it.  Brennan's parents, Jody and Toby Hawkins had a lot more to say about his ordeal and what it was like for them to find out he'd been found, even thought they didn't know if he was dead or alive. 


TOBY HAWKINS, BRENNAN'S FATHER:  And then I said Shawn you've got to tell me what I am dealing with here and I said talk to me goose.  And he said if everything that I am hearing on the radio is accurate, they have found Brennan.  My first response was they found him and he said yes.  And he said this is all preliminary. 

There is a possibility that this is not accurate information.  And then he went in and then he says but if everything on the radio is accurate, he has been found.  He—and then my first question was is he alive.  He said he's alive.  I said what is his condition and they said good. 

JODY HAWKINS, BRENNAN'S MOTHER:  I at that point didn't think Brennan was still with us.  I never felt that he was abducted, that he was in harm's way.  I felt peace with the situation, but at that point I really didn't think he could have survived that long in the wilderness and so when I got into the sheriff—when I was going to get into the sheriff's car I knew they were going to tell me that Brennan was no longer with me and I collapsed before I could get into the truck and they put me into the truck and then they told that Brennan was still alive and that he was in good shape.  My brain still cannot comprehend that. 

T. HAWKINS:  They tried to shield us from the sun with blankets over the top of us.  Brennan was in the ATV and we embraced.  You know, he was lethargic...

J. HAWKINS:  But talking—I couldn't believe he was talking. 

T. HAWKINS:  Yes, he was talking.  And it was just, it was like a dream. 


T. HAWKINS:  You know it was just like a dream.  It was just such a happy moment. 

J. HAWKINS:  What we've ascertained is he had two thoughts going through his head all the time.  Toby has always told him if you get lost, stay on the trail, so he stayed on the trail.  We've also told him don't talk to strangers.  He stayed on the trail.  When an ATV or horst came by, he got off the trail.  When they left he got back on the trail. 

And so Brennan does focus on things and he kept those two thoughts in his mind, stay on the trail and don't talk to strangers.  We don't know how many, but we do he saw ATVs and horses.  And his biggest fear he told me was someone would steal him and that's what—I asked him you know cold, hunger, he said I didn't want someone to steal me.


ABRAMS:  Poor kid, so Brennan Hawkins just doing what he was taught.  Stay away from strangers.  So the question is, do we focus on the wrong thing when teaching kids to protect themselves from being—quote—

“stolen” as Brennan put it? 

Take these steps from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.  Every day in this country about 2,000 children, 2,000 every day are reported missing.  That means close to 800,000 kids are reported missing every year, but only  115 kids a year are victims of what is viewed as classic stranger abductions.  So is the stranger-danger lesson maybe outdated? 

Joining me now the national safety director for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Nancy McBride.  Nancy, thanks for coming on the show.  So do we need to step telling our kids hey don't talk to strangers in any case? 

NANCY MCBRIDE, NAT'L CTR FOR MISSING & EXPLOITED CHILDREN:  Yes.  I am so excited to have this opportunity to say let's take stranger-danger and put it in a museum.  We need to teach our kids things are actually going to help them if they are in trouble. 

ABRAMS:  Like what?  I mean for example—look a lot of people would say still I don't want my kids talking to some random you know guy on the street at the mall when you know they stray 20 yards behind me by accident and some guy walks up to them.  I don't want them talking to him.

MCBRIDE:  Which is fine advice, but we really need to teach our kids about situations to avoid and be concerned about, not people because we can't tell who the good people and the bad people are.  Wouldn't it be great if we could?  If we could just point them out?  But we can't, so that message really doesn't work for kids. 

ABRAMS:  So what do you say to them?  What do you say to them to prevent them you know from going up, talking—kids are friendly.  You know...

MCBRIDE:  Right.

ABRAMS:  ... you ask a kid a question, a lot of kids oh sure, you want to talk about you know Pokemon, you want to talk about whatever the issue may be, but if you get—if you touch the right nerve you could talk to a kid. 

MCBRIDE:  And that is the whole point.  Kids are easy to be tricked.  And what we need to teach our kids is that they don't really talk to anybody they don't know unless you, the parent, or guardian are with them and they don't fall for the tricks.  Mommy has not been in an accident, there is no puppy, and you don't respond to people you don't know.  You don't need to be polite, you need to stay safe. 

ABRAMS:  Nancy McBride, thanks for that advice.  Appreciate it. 

Coming up...

MCBRIDE:  Thanks.

ABRAMS:  ... the House today approved a Constitutional amendment.  It will effectively ban the burning of American flags.  It moves to the Senate next.  Do we really need a Constitutional amendment for this?  I say no.  Two U.S. congressmen join me in a moment. 

And runaway bride Jennifer Wilbanks tells Katie Couric there is a simple explanation for why she ran away from her fianc’.  I say it's probably not that complicated.  It's my “Closing Argument”.


ABRAMS:  Coming up, the House votes in favor of a Constitutional amendment that would effectively ban flag burning.  The Senate is next.  Almost all agree burning the flag is wrong, but the question is do we really need to change the Constitution?  Coming up.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The only way that we can protect the flag is to amend the Constitution, and that is what this is all about and many of us believe very strongly in this. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The question before us is not whether we respect the flag, but whether or not we ought to use the criminal code to prevent those who disagree with us to express their views. 


ABRAMS:  The debate in the House today over an issue the Supreme Court has ruled on again and again, seems it won't go away.  Today the U.S.  Congress voted to change the Constitution, amend it, to make it illegal once and for all for anyone to burn, mutilate, some say desecrate the American flag -- 286-130 was the vote.  In 1989, the Supreme Court ruled flag burning is protected by the First Amendment.  Now Congress trying to take that decision out of the court's hands.  The bill goes to the Senate next. 

Sixty-seven votes needed there before it can go on to the states.  Sixty-five senators have already voted yes for similar bills or said they'd back this one.  And if the Senate approves then it's up to the states.  Thirty-eight would need to say yes to modify the Constitution. 

“My Take”—why is everyone so afraid of some loony radicals who are trying to burn a flag?  We should be secure enough to say let them say what they want.  We'll hold them up to contempt and ridicule, but why do we need to get the government involved in prosecuting them?  What's next, a Constitutional amendment to prevent people from burning a picture of the president no matter who he or she is, and then what? 

And what exactly is desecration?  Someone wears a shirt with a flag on it, gets it dirty, is that desecration?  This is politics.  I say don't be fooled.  Opposing this radical move of a constitutional amendment says nothing about one's respect for the flag. 

Congressman Phil Gingrey is a Georgia Republican who co-sponsored the measure, and Congressman Gary Ackerman is a New York Democrat who opposed today's bill.  Gentlemen, thank you very much for joining us.  Appreciate it.

Representative Gingrey, what am I getting wrong here? 

REP. PHIL GINGREY ®, GEORGIA:  Well I think you are getting wrong the fact that the Supreme Court has not addressed this multiple times.  In fact, for over 200 years, and 48 states have laws against desecrating the flag.  It was not until 1989 when the Supreme Court in a 5-4 split decision decided that burning the flag was just an expression of free speech. 

Since that decision, we've had over 119 incidents of flag desecration.  And all 50 states of this nation have passed resolution asking the Congress to pass a constitutional amendment to prohibit the burning or desecration of the flag.  So that's what we are responding to. 

ABRAMS:  Why do we need a constitutional amendment?  I would think that should just be such an issue that we have to be so careful about tampering with.  Amending the Constitution for 100, as you pointed out, over x amount of times, loony tunes, that we have to go amend the Constitution for them? 

GINGREY:  Well these are different times in which we live and because of terrorism and embolden either domestic or international terrorists in the Middle East or wherever they might be, I think burning the flag is akin today to standing up in a crowded theater and yelling fire when there is no fire.  You but people at great risk when you do that and therefore your rights to freedom of speech in those circumstances should be abridged and that's what we are talking about...

ABRAMS:  Representative Ackerman, the argument goes it is conduct not speech.

REP. GARY ACKERMAN (D), NEW YORK:  Well I won't disagree with my good friend, Phil.  You know comparing this to yelling fire, what you guys are doing, you're trying to change the Constitution.  You're yelling fire when there is no fire.  There is no need to change our Constitution. 

This is the Bill of Rights we are talking about.  It has never been amended in the history of the country since it was written by our founding fathers.  These idiots and jerks who burn the flag I have no use for them.  And if they burnt it in front of me they'd have to deal with me.  But to make a law, not just a law, a constitutional change is absolutely absurd. 

Where is the threat to our republic?  What is going on here?  It's just an attempt by some people trying to call other people unpatriotic. 

ABRAMS:  But Representative Ackerman...


ABRAMS:  ... I think a lot of people out there are going to agree with Representative Gingrey in the sense that this is a different time, that when you are a nation at war, you know the argument goes people are going to use it as propaganda, et cetera, against this country. 

ACKERMAN:  You know during the Civil War if someone from the south burnt the union flag it wasn't against the law.  Who bans the burning of flags?  Hitler banned the burning of flags.  Mussolini banned the burning of flags.  Saddam Hussein it was a crime punishable by death if you burnt the flag.

Dictators ban the burning of flags.  There is no reason for it.  The flag is a symbol and it's a symbol of what our Constitution represents.  And it represents the right for the people to protest.  The flag represents burning the flag.  Our flag is different because it allows for protest. 

ABRAMS:  I get the feeling Representative Gingrey is going to want to respond to that. 

GINGREY:  Well again, in response to Gary and of course, he's a bright member and when you're in an argument with him you better know your stuff.  But there are countries—it's not just dictators that do that.  Japan has a law against desecrating and burning a flag.  I think South Korea, so we're not just talking about tyrants and dictators that do that, that have laws against banning or desecrating the flag. 

ACKERMAN:  Is our democracy so weak that we are afraid of a few idiots who go out and burn flags?  This is what democracy is all about.  And the argument that people died for burning the flag, saying that, that's symbolic language...

ABRAMS:  See...

ACKERMAN:  People died for the values and for what the flag represents.  You can't kill the flag. 


ACKERMAN:  Burn 1,000 and we still have a flag.

ABRAMS:  I just think (UNINTELLIGIBLE) definitional issues about

desecrating.  You know there was this case in '74 where the guy holds it

out of his window upside down with peace marker on it, et cetera.  I just -

·         I think you're going to start going down a dangerous road here. 

Representative Gingrey, final thought.  Do you think...

GINGREY:  Well the...

ABRAMS:  Go ahead.

GINGREY:  ... constitutional amendment, of course, would give the Congress the right to establish laws just like we had those laws in 48 states prior to 1989.  And we would determine what is the definition of desecration. 

ABRAMS:  Yes, I know.

GINGREY:  I think most of us understand.  Obviously burning...


GINGREY:  ... it's pretty clear. 

ABRAMS:  Yes, it's pretty clear, but this scares me.  I've got to tell you I think it's a bad idea...


ACKERMAN:  Mr. Abrams, I agree with you...


ABRAMS:  Look, I don't think the motivation is the people who are trying to do this are bad, but I just think that the result is going to be bad. 

Congressmen Gingrey and Ackerman, thanks a lot for coming on the program.  Appreciate it.

ACKERMAN:  Thank you.

GINGREY:  Thank you very much.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, runaway bride Jennifer Wilbanks says she doesn't want to marry her fianc’ until she's—quote—“the right person for him.”  I say there may be a much simpler explanation.  It's my “Closing Argument”.


ABRAMS:  My “Closing Argument”—while watching Katie Couric's exclusive interview with runaway bride Jennifer Wilbanks, it became pretty clear to me that Wilbanks may not want to admit the real reason she fled from her fianc’ and 600 guests in the days before her wedding. 


KATIE COURIC, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  I guess the question everyone wants to know the answer to is a very simple one.  Why? 

JENNIFER WILBANKS, “RUNAWAY BRIDE”:  Honestly, I wish I could give you and everybody else that answer.  Because I know that they want to hear that and they deserve to hear that.  But I honestly, I don't know. 


ABRAMS:  I think I might have some answers.  She wasn't a malicious criminal, although she violated several laws when she falsely reported to police that she had been kidnapped and raped.  And I said this before, that I thought she deserved to be charged, but it sure sounds like she just didn't want to marry John Mason at this time. 


WILBANKS:  I don't want to give myself to John until I am—feel like I'm the right person for him and right now I don't. 


ABRAMS:  That reminds me of the episode of “Seinfeld” when a woman named Gwen is breaking up with George Costanza and he says you're giving me the it's not you, it's me routine?  I invented it's not you, it's me.  Nobody tells me it's them, not me.  If it's anybody, it's me.  Jennifer says it's all about her—her mental state, dealing with her own issues. 


WILBANKS:  My running had absolutely nothing to do with this wonderful man sitting right here beside me. 


ABRAMS:  Come on.  She says—quote—“We hope to get married.”  He says he very much hopes they do, too.  They both hope to as they claim, then no one is stopping them.  She got cold, maybe even frozen feet, freaked out about either getting married or getting married to him. 

Yes, she has psychological problems.  It's good to see she's getting the help she needs.  But in the end, she's not so unusual or special.  Apart from filing a false report about her abduction, she's not that much different from George Costanza's girlfriend Gwen and every other man or woman who has told a former lover it's not you, it's me. 

Coming up, you've heard of lovely Rita, the meter maid.  Some residents of Chicago found their meter readers to be downright sneaky.  Our “OH PLEAs!” is coming up next.



ABRAMS:  I've had my say, now it's time for “Your Rebuttal”.  Last night 11-year-old Brennan Hawkins, the Boy Scout from Utah missing since Friday, found alive five miles from where he was last seen.  Many of you thrilled, so was I. 

From Tracy, California, Sharon Freschi, “One of the reasons I try not to miss your show each day is not just your reporting, but the fact that you're not afraid to show your emotions.  Your delight at the rescue of Brennan Hawkins and the fact that he's in such good condition was wonderful to see especially in this age of totally detached news anchors.”  Thanks.

And Veronica Hannah from Lima, Ohio, “I hope there are more cases like this so we can see you smile more.”  (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

But there's always a few like Gary Allen, Berkley, California.  “At what age do we assign responsibility for one's actions?  An 11-year-old Boy Scout should have known better than to wander off and then to keep wandering another five miles.”   

Come on, Gary.  You remind me of this absurd moment in the movie “Airplane” when the plane is preparing to make a crash landing.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  They bought their tickets.  They knew what they were getting into.  I say, let them crash!


ABRAMS:  Moving on, “OH PLEAs!”—it seems the Chicago Police Department has found a new way to increase revenue.  Crystal ball parking tickets, simply foresee parking violations in the future.  Some Chicagoans found available meter-less parking spots last Tuesday night, but when the motorists returned to their cars the next day, they found a little present on their windshields. 

Apparently meters and a meter reader appeared from thin air.  The motorists got parking tickets for not paying the meter that didn't exist when they parked their cars.  The tickets were dated for the following night.  The traffic control officer dated the citation for more than 15 hours after the ticket was placed on the windshield.  Chicago Department of Revenue denied the tickets were postdated intentionally to fool motorists into paying the city, but they say those citations will be voided.  Good. 

That does it for us tonight.  Thanks for watching.  See you tomorrow.


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