updated 10/2/2005 9:56:53 PM ET 2005-10-03T01:56:53

Guests  Flavia Colgan; Jack Burkman; Dr. Holly Phillips, Clint van Zandt,

Mary Fulginiti

MONICA CROWLEY, MSNBC NEWS ANCHOR:  Tonight on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY one month after Hurricane Katrina and hundreds of mobile homes sit unused.  An amazing investigation you have to see to believe.  Why does it seem FEMA can‘t get anything right?  Then Bill Bennett‘s controversial comment—democrats demand am apology, republicans are not standing by their man.  That‘s tonight‘s SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY showdown. 


ANNOUNCER:  From the pressroom to the courtroom to the halls of congress, Joe Scarborough has seen it all.  Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.


CROWLEY:  Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY everybody.  I‘m Monica Crowley, Joe is off tonight. 

Well, a little later in the show, we will take you inside missing honeymooner‘s George Smith IV‘s final night aboard a Mediterranean cruise.  The drinking, the gambling, the people who were there.  Plus, we‘ll bring you the latest on that investigation. 

But first, FEMA has been on the hot seat since Katrina first came ashore over a month ago.  On Monday, Victims of the storm will begin moving into these trailers in Baker and Baton Rouge.  Providing housing is one of FEMA‘s primary missions, but is the agency getting that job done? 

For more on that, let‘s go to live to our affiliate WESH in Orlando and bring in Stephen Stock. 

Stephen, I know you did an in-depth investigation on these temporary housing facilities, what did you find out? 

STEPHEN STOCK, WESH-TV ORLANDO, FL:  That‘s right, Monica.  We found that FEMA says has said it‘s spent more than $560 million here in the state of Florida alone putting folks in temporary housing from last year‘s hurricane.  Remember, four hurricanes hit Florida.  But many are wondering if there might be some people using that and taking advantage of the federal government. 


STOCK (voice-over):  They sit silent in abandon industrial parking lots around the country.  More than 10,000 of them in all by FEMA‘s own count.  FEMA trailers, temporary housing that despite four hurricanes in Florida last year and hurricanes Katrina and Rita this year, are currently not being used by anyone. 

FRANCES MARINE, FEMA SPOKESPERSON:  There are a variety of reasons that something could be slow or appear to be slow in coming. 

STOCK:  Reasons as much as local building codes and a lack of appropriate sites to put the trailer.  Whatever the reasons the trailers remain here in Florida, sitting empty in four different staging areas while 300,000 victims of Katrina, alone, also sit, waiting, without a home. 

MARINE:  We know that when it comes to response and recovery, it‘s never fast enough. 

STOCK (on camera):  The WESH (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I-Team has also learned that when it comes to movering storm victims out of these temporary homes, the process can be just as slow.  Immediately after hurricanes Charley, Francis, Ivan and Jeanne hit Florida, more than 16,000 families moved into FEMA trailers.  Now more than a year later, nearly 8,000 of those families remain in those trailers. 

(voice-over):  And in Virginia, more than two years after hurricane Isabel hit, 20 families still have FEMA trailers next to their still-damaged homes.  The cost to you, the taxpayer -- $1.3 million a month just to maintain the occupied FEMA trailers nationwide. 

FEMA typically leases these trailers for 18 months after a storm, residents usually only pay for utilities.  Most live in these trailers rent-free. 

MARINE:  The regulations around emergency management have some flexibility built in. 

STOCK:  Some contribution say that flexibility creates room for abuse. 

BOB HEBERT, CHARLOTTE CO.  RECOVERY ADMIN:  I think there‘s probably some of that.  I think it‘s basically, they‘re paying utility builds, but they don‘t pay rent or anything like that, and I think that there‘s no push other than just to get into some permanency. 

STOCK:  FEMA rules require proof that residents are actively looking to find permanent housing, but government officials stress that in the case of victims who‘ve lost everything, patients is necessary. 

(on camera):  Has FEMA ever kicked somebody out and said, OK, that‘s long enough, you‘re taking advantage of us? 

MARINE:  Ever is a long time, I‘d have to research that.  But, I can tell you it hasn‘t happened here in Florida unless someone has been violating the terms of their lease. 

STOCK (voice-over):  Even so, FEMA admits there are probably people who are abusing the system staying longer than they have to, tying up trailers that could be used by other  victims of other storms such as Katrina or Rita. 


STOCK:  And Monica, tonight we have heard from several people who say they literally tow trailers for a living, that they‘ve contracted with FEMA and that they‘re sitting there waiting to get to work while they watch those trailers sit unused in many of these staging areas through out the country, not just here in Florida—Monica. 

CROWLEY:  Stephen, I find this totally unbelievable.  We‘ve got hundreds of thousands of people totally dislocated one month after Katrina, over 3,000 of these trailers, as you mentioned, now open and available, ready to be occupied, and yet again, four weeks after the storm we have only 100 families moved into some of these trailers.  Why the delay?  Why can‘t FEMA get its act together?

STOCK:  Well, FEMA says that this is a complicated business.  That you can‘t just move trailers into an area, especially, say, in Biloxi, Gulfport where there‘s so much devastation, that you have to get some concrete and you have to get plumbing and electrical outlet‘s and that they want to actually lease the land, but many of the victims are saying hey, we just want to live in something, as you say, Monica—something a little more permanent than a shelter.  And so there‘s a lot of angst by a lot of people wondering why can‘t they move quicker than this? 

CROWLEY:  Stephen, you also mentioned in your report that hundreds of families are still living in these trailers from hurricanes past.  So, how do we get these families to move out so that other families from more recent storms can move in? 

STOCK:  This is a very, very difficult question and a good one.  FEMA rules require that folks who move into these trailers move out within 18 months.  We have not reached that point for hurricanes Charlie, Ivan, Jeanne and Francis, however we‘re getting close.  But FEMA admitted to me, during this investigation, that even when we get to the 18 month period, they fully expect hundreds of families to still be living in these trailers, just like the families we saw in Virginia.  So, unless they take some action, maybe even criminal action and force these people to move, people are going to take advantage and still live in these trailers.

CROWLEY:  It is unbelievable, these folks having been through a lot and lost everything in one of these hurricanes and now they are living rent free on the government here, and it‘s going to take a lot of incentive to try to get them out so people from more recent hurricanes can move in.  Quite an issue, quite a job for the new FEMA director.  Right, Stephen?

STOCK:  Absolutely.  And, Monica, one other point we wanted to make.  We broke down some numbers we just got yesterday from FEMA, and it shows that there‘s even housing assistance here in Florida in some counties that were not hit directly by the hurricanes.  For instance, Marion County and Ocala, horse country, never got a direct hit from any hurricane—FEMA spent $11 million on temporary housing assistance, this kind of thing in Marion County alone, so there‘s a lot of questions about where all these resources going and if they‘re going to the right place and the right victims who really need it? 

CROWLEY:  Well, this is another example of dysfunction at that agency—at FEMA.  Great work Stephen.

STOCK:  Thank you.

CROWLEY:  Stephen Stock from WESH our affiliate in Orlando.  Thank you so much.

Well, let‘s move on now to New Orleans.  Waterlogged homes are covered in mold, there‘s no safe drinking water, power is spotty.  Floodwaters and the sludge left behind are contaminated with bacteria, fecal matter, arsenic, and led.  Despite all of that, the mayor there, Ray Nagin today invited residents to return to the Big Easy.  But is it too soon for people to go back? 

Joining us now to discuss this is Dr. Holly Phillips from New York and Heath Allen from our affiliate WDSU in New Orleans.  Welcome to you both.


CROWLEY:  Keith, let me begin with you.  You‘re down in New Orleans.  Are you seeing a lot of people streaming back into that city? 

HEATH ALLEN, WDSU NEW ORLEANS:  No.  No.  I actually got up for work to come in early this morning.  I was going to come in a couple hours early, you know, expecting to sit in traffic coming back into the city of New Orleans this morning, since residents, this is their first, you know, day of really having the invitation to come back into targeted zip codes.  I cruised in.  It just, I was surprised there was not the flood everybody expected. 

Talking to some of your guys, they said they went out and looked, you know, for the crowd that was supposed to be coming back in.  Not what they expected.  So people are coming back in more like a trickle instead of the flood that everybody was looking to see.  Just did not happen this morning and maybe, you know, some people are just using good, common sense and saying I don‘t really don‘t want to go to the city of New Orleans if I have to camp on my front steps.  You know, we‘ll wait until things are a little more stable.

CROWLEY:  Keith, as we just mentioned, very little operating infrastructure in the city of New Orleans.  No safe drinking water, sporadic electricity and telephone service, also limited places to live and to eat, hospitals a little sketchy.  What are people, who are choosing to return, what are they actually coming back to? 

ALLEN:  Well, you know, it all depends on where they are coming back to.  Most of the areas that have been opened back up were areas that weren‘t that hard hit.  So what they are coming back to, like a family we visited with last night.  They‘re coming home to homes literally covered in mold, which you were talking about a little bit earlier.  They just don‘t have the safe drinking water.  They‘re coming back to a boil order.  They‘re coming back to no or little electricity.  They‘re coming back to a situation where they don‘t know what neighbors are going to be coming back into the neighborhood; they don‘t know who‘s going to be roaming the streets once the sun goes down and the curfew goes into effect.  So they‘re coming to a kind of an uncertain situation, you know, in the overnight periods.  They‘re coming back to an uncertain situation generally in the daytime, because they don‘t have the things they need, really, to ever get back on their feet.  Really can‘t really go to a store in downtown New Orleans.  You‘re gong to have to go into the outlying areas anyway, whether it be over in Kenner or across the river in Algiers.  So you‘re really coming back into a situation, as the water superintendent told me the other day, “Come back, be prepared to camp.  Come back, be self-sufficient.  Bring your self a tent, bring yourself a sleeping bag.  Leave your kids someplace else.  It‘s not the place to have your children at this point.  You know, it‘s a camping trip right now. 

CROWLEY:  Urban camping, unbelievable. 

Dr. Phillips, let me go to you.  There are a lot of public health concerns right now, for the city of New Orleans, perhaps the greatest one is contaminated water.  Can you tell us how safe is the water in New Orleans to drink and also to come in contact with? 

PHILLIPS:  Well, really not at all.  Frankly, if the CDC says that it‘s not sanitary to drink, you simply shouldn‘t drink it.  Not only that, if it‘s not safe to drink, it‘s not safe to brush your teeth with, really not safe to cook with, not save to bathe in.  So it‘s difficult.  You‘ll need to boil the water, under their guidelines, which is about one to two minutes before you can use it at all.  And that may be difficult, particularly if electricity is spotty, and there are other concerns.  So it‘s a major concern. 

CROWLEY:  Dr. Phillips, what about mold?  Heath was just talking about the mold, and I can imagine after the city starts to dry out, after the entire city, itself, had been underwater for so long, that molds can be a serious health problem.  What are people supposed to be looking for in terms to exposure to molds? 

PHILLIPS:  Sure.  Mold is going to be a huge issue.  When people get back into their homes, anything that has been drenched, which, for moist people is everything, such as upholstered furniture, carpeting, draperies, all that will need to be removed, and mold can cause respiratory problems particularly in the very old, sometimes in the very young, anyone with asthma, emphysema or underlying respiratory illnesses can get very sick from exposure to the mold. 

CROWLEY:  Heath, what about the quality in New Orleans?  I know after September 11, there was a controversy about allowing people to move back into lower Manhattan because of the air quality.  Any airborne contaminants and bacteria and other disease that folks should be worried about? 

ALLEN:  Well, you know, down here, I mean, the air quality, right now, is just fine because what happens down here once everything dries out and of course nobody‘s been here, and if anything Rita gave us a little, or you know, the rain that drenched us one more time and washed everything and settled everything down, so air quality, you know, in effect is OK.  But what happens is once people start coming back into their homes and they dumping that carpet that we were just listening to and taking the refrigerators out and putting them outside, and all of a sudden all the garbage that‘s been inside these houses for so long, goes back onto the streets, then you‘re going to have some air quality issues, then you‘re going to have some problems when all this stuff starts piling up on the street.  It‘s been contained inside the houses, now when people come back and start tossing everything back out on the street corner; I think that problem is just a little down the road. 

CROWLEY:  Well, additional problems now to look out for.

Dr. Phillips, what do you think those who choose to return to New Orleans now, what should they be on the lookout for in terms of protecting their own health? 

PHILLIPS:  Well, certainly any cuts would need to be attended to right away, and you can‘t wash it with, of course, the dirty water, they would need to use boiled and clean water, antibiotic ointment.  It‘s really not a place for, again, the very old or anyone who has underlying medical issues, or the very young.  Anyone who spends time around toddlers and infants knows it‘s very difficult to keep things out of their mouths.  They put absolutely everything in their mouth and so toys, anything that they can get their hands on, would have to be washed clean of the dirty water and that sort of thing. 

CROWLEY:  A lot of public health concerns for the folks in New Orleans.  All right, Dr. Holly Phillips and Heath Allen, thank you so much for being with us tonight. 

PHILLIPS:  Thank you. 

CROWLEY:  And, coming up next, former education secretary, Bill Bennett in hot water tonight for what he said on his radio show.  Can he possibly explain it?  And should he have to? 

And later, the sad fate of newlywed George Smith who disappeared from his Mediterranean cruise almost three months ago.  What does the FBI say now?  Stick with us. 


CROWLEY:  Well, right there, you‘re looking at the former education secretary, Bill Bennett who put himself right in the middle of a political firestorm with some controversial comments he made on his radio show this week.  Welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY everybody, I‘m Monica Crowley in for Joe. 

Bill Bennett who served in the Reagan and the first Bush White Houses stirred up a hornets nest of controversy on his radio program, Wednesday, when he made this comment about how to reduce the country‘s crime rate.  Take a listen. 


WILLIAM BENNETT, “MORNING IN AMERICA”:  I do know that it‘s true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could—if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country and your crime rate would go down.  That would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down.” 


CROWLEY:  So, were Bennett‘s comments over the top?  Has he been taken out of context or is there truth in what he said?  Here to debate that is republican strategist, Jack Burkman and democratic strategist, Flavia Colgan. 

Welcome to you both.  Nice to see you.

JACK BURKMAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Monica, good to see you in primetime, here.

Well, thank you Jack, and Flavia, you too.

OK, Jack, before I get you, I want to go through a statement Bill Bennett released on his website today, defending his comments.  Here‘s what he said.  He said, “Anyone paying attention to this debate should be offended by those who have selectively quoted me, distorted my meaning, and taken out of context the dialogue I engaged in this week.  Such distortions from leaders of organizations and parties is a disgrace not only to the organizations and institutions they serve, but to the first amendment.” 

Well, Jack, what do you think Bill Bennett was trying to get at in those comments?  There wasn‘t really an explanation there on his website.  What do you think he was talking about? 

BURKMAN:  Oh, I think it‘s a very thorough explanation.  I think he should stand his ground.  I‘m ashamed of the president and some other republicans aren‘t standing behind him.  What people have to understand is that false allegations of racism is are as bad as racism, itself.  Bill Bennett isn‘t advocating this as public, he was discussing a theory contained in another work.  What he‘s trying to do is show the evil effects of abortion, Monica.  He‘s trying to show that there‘s a slippery slope, once you go down that road it is a slippery slope to selective elimination of peoples.  It leads to it‘s logical conclusion to where Adolph Hitler was.  Look, the problem is, you know this well, there was a whole terrible cottage industry of people in this country who earned their living off stimulating racial hatred, the Jesse Jackson, the Al Sharpton.  I hope our friend Flavia is not in that category. 


BURKMAN:  I whether she is or not, but.

COLGAN:  Jack.

BURKMAN:  This is wrong when people know—anybody with an I.Q.  above 60 knows that Bill, if you graduated high school, you know from that statement Bill Bennett was not advocating killing black children and it is wrong, it is terribly wrong for people to come out and make that kind of allegation. 

COLGAN:  Jack, first of all, I got to say, as you know, you and I are friends, but after just listening to what you said and we‘re friends mostly because I‘m a catholic and you‘re part of my penance but you know, I‘m outranged and I‘m completely surprised at what you just said.  And the only thing I agree with you on is that I feel let down by the president as well.  For the president to come out and say that his comments were inappropriate, he should call his comments what they are, which is wrong. 

Well, what.

CROWLEY:  Wait a minute, hold up, hold up Jack.  Hang on.


CROWLEY:  Flavia, let me call you on this.  The House minority leader, Nancy Pelosi came out and she was saying what you were saying, which is, she was calling on the president to come out and condemn what Bill Bennett had to say.  However, Bill Bennett is a private citizen, he is no longer a part of any public administration.  Why does this White House or any White House have to be accountable for the comments of a private citizen? 

COLGAN:  They don‘t have to be accountable, but if they choose to respond, which they did, I feel the way in which they responded was not adequate.  I think they should have said his comments were wrong, I think they should have said they they were disrespectful. 

BURKMAN:  But, why is they are wrong, Flavia, he‘s stating the.

COLGAN:  Hold on, Jack, Jack.


COLGAN:  Jack, you sit tight for a minute and give me the respect that you just didn‘t give to blacks across this country, OK, just wait one minute and then you‘ll have a chance to respond.  And they should—he should also point out, not only is it disrespectful to an entire race of people, but also disrespectful to the position of sanctity of life.  And I want to talk about that for one movement, because Jack, as you know, my father is very involved in life and pro-life and I find, you know, part of this argument and this new work ironic, because the pro-life movement has always argued that abortion is in fact, you know, helps crime rates go up not the opposite, because before abortion, they say, there was a greater stigma to being pregnant and therefore people were one family unit...



CROWLEY:  All right, wait, wait, wait, Jack, Jack, Jack, hang on.  Jack, let me just pick up on something Flavia said, Bill Bennett is famously pro-life.  So when he‘s talking about abortion in this context, nobody can possibly take those comments seriously, right? 

BURKMAN:  Absolutely, look, I‘ve done a lot of words with Bill Bennett over the years, he‘s spent a lifetime fighting abortion, that‘s a good point.  But the issue is race it‘s not abortion.  Nobody, even if what Flavia says is true, and I don‘t think it is, nobody, anywhere is criticizing Bill Bennett because of his here‘s the of abortion or where it leads or anything like that, what they are calling him is a racist.  That‘s why the president said it‘s inappropriate.  Flavia is trying to turn this into a debate on abortion, it is not in any, way, shape, or form about abortion. 

COLGAN:  Well, Jack I don‘t know if you..

BURKMAN:  It is about race.

COLGAN:   Jack, I don‘t know if you spoke to anyone in the pro-life movement today, but I did speak to a couple of people about this, and I have to say they were offended and I also find it offensive.

BURKMAN:  But your party is not—that‘s not.

COLGAN:  As you know I‘ve disagreed with comments you‘ve made on the show beforehand which is that I think that crime, and the numbers show this, is directly correlated not only to poverty, because if it was just that.

BURKMAN:  But Flavia, this isn‘t‘ the issue.

COLGAN:  Blacks would still be disproportionate.  They also.

BURKMAN:  This has no relevance.

COLGAN:  It also relates to.

BURKMAN:  This has no relevance to the issue.  The issue is that Nancy Pelosi, your leadership, even the president has criticized him because of race, not because of abortion, you may be cricizing him because of.

COLGAN:  I‘m also, I‘m also.

BURKMAN:  But democrats all over the country are.

COLGAN:  Look, I‘m also criticizing.

BURKMAN:  As a racist.

COLGAN:  OK, I‘m also criticizing him on race as well.  And I certainly don‘t think.

BURKMAN:  Why is he a racist because of that comment? 

COLGAN:  I also don‘t think that Bill Bennett.

BURKMAN:  But why is he a racist because of that comment? 

COLGAN:  I also don‘t think that Bill Bennett should be morality.

I certainly—excuse me. 


CROWLEY:  Excuse me, excuse me, Flavia, are you suggesting there‘s racial animist on the part of Bill Bennett and that‘s why he made these comments? 

COLGAN:  Absolutely.  I think it‘s code.  Whether you want to say he‘s.

CROWLEY:  Flavia, is it possible—listen Flavia, I have radio show, one day a week in three hours, in the course of three hours sometimes things come out in a way that you don‘t intend, could that be the case here? 

COLGAN:  I agree that‘s happened but people get in trouble.  Look, savage was fired and I believe that Bill Bennett should come out and apologize. 

BURKMAN:  Apologize

COLGAN:  Not what he did on his website.

BURKMAN:  We‘re missing the point.  Apologize for what? 

COLGAN:  Jack, Jack, Jack, try to be a gentleman—Jack, try to be a gentleman and just hold on one moment and stop interrupting me, please. 

Bill Bennett should come out and he should apologize and he should say listen, this is what.  I meant.  I apologize that my comment certainly come off as extremely offensive.  And I think that the radio stations and the TV station that supports him and employees him should think long and hard about whether his comments reached the level Savage‘s did.

CROWLEY:  All right, quickly Jack, respond.

COLGAN:  Across the country.

CROWLEY:  All right Flavia, go ahead, Jack, quickly respond. 

BURKMAN:  We have listened to Flavia for 10 minutes; she has not laid out any case as to why Bill Bennett is a racist.  She has focused on abortion, Bill Bennett not only should not apologize but stand by his comments.  He‘s discussing a theory about abortion.  I have heard no basis that he‘s a racist. 

CROWLEY:  All right guys, we have to leave it there, but I‘m sure the controversy will continue.  Jack Burkman, Flavia Cogan, great to see you guys.  Thank you so much. 

And stay tuned because coming up next, an update on the mysterious disappearance of honeymooner George Smith.  What is the FBI saying right now and has that case gone cold?  Plus what happened to the men onboard who were the last to see Smith alive? 

All that, plus, this, they‘re giving their time and money and hearts to those who really need it, the victims of Katrina and Rita. 



MONICA CROWLEY, MSNBC NEWS ANCHOR:  You‘re looking at some amazing Americans, people who stepped up in the wake of Katrina to lend a hand.  We‘ll introduce you to some of these people who will really restored faith. 

Welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY everybody, I‘m Monica Crowley in for Joe, tonight.  That story in just moments, but first it‘s been nearly three months since George Smith IV disappeared from his honeymoon cruise.  You‘ll member he and his wife married June 25, were on the trip of a lifetime through the Mediterranean when he apparently went overboard in the early morning hours of July 5.  This apparent bloodstain, one of the only clues.  Well now, three months later Jennifer Hagel Smith remains in seclusion.  She‘s made no statements to the press neither have her family or her in-laws and there have been no arrests.  So, has this case turned cold?  People close to the case say no, that instead it‘s heating up.  Well, a “Dateline NBC” investigation has now turned up new clues including exact details of George Smith‘s final night.  Here‘s “Dateline‘s” Dennis Murphy. 


DENNIS MURPHY, DATELINE (voice-over):  The honeymooners, Jennifer and George, had booked themselves on snazzy, state-of-the-art cruise ship, a floating five-star hotel with round-the-clock diversions. 

Up on deck seven Illinois teenager, Emily Roush and her sister cruising with her mom were thrilled with the view out their balcony.  Emily had a brand new camera and was eager to try it out. 

EMILY ROUSH, CRUISE PASSENGER:  I got that camera as a present right before we left for our cruise.

MURPHY:  Emily‘s family had booked the vacation as a college graduation present for her sister.  That made them typical passengers on this Mediterranean run.  This particular line of ship was designed with active families in mind more than the sedate retirees of the cruises ship stereotype. 

Up on deck nine, Clete Hyman, for instance, a deputy police chief from Redlands, California, has reserved cabins for eight extended family members, a stress-free, no cell phone, no email, spin around the Med. 

CLETE HYMAN, STAYED NEXT DOOR TO SMITH:  You‘re hotel, if you will, goes with, you‘re not packing and unpacking.  There‘s very little you have to worry about. 

MURPHY:  Down the same hallway Pat and Greg Lawyer had a special celebration underway. 

GREG LAWYER, CRUISE SHIP PASSENGER:  This was our 35th wedding anniversary sort of present to each other and I‘ve always wanted to go to the Greek Islands. 

MURPHY:  And the cruise line delivered on schedule, the delights of Florence on July 1, wonderful weather in Rome on the second.  The second night, though, Clete Hyman did have one complaint.  After leaving France the young couple in the cabin right next door, No.  9062, had a noisy party.  He guessed four to six other people that lasted until 3:00 in the morning.  The raucous party throwers were the honeymooners, George and Jennifer.  According to fellow passengers who got to know them, the younger people on board, the 20-something‘s tended to hang out at night after the older passengers turned in. 

After dinner some in the young crowd say they would try their luck at the casino on deck six, continuing their festivities late into the night at the disco bar on 13, with the newlyweds sometimes joining.  One of the couple‘s new acquaintances was Josh Askin, 20-year-old college student from California, along with his parents as they celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary. 

KEITH GREER, ATTORNEY FOR JOSH ASKIN:  This was a luxurious vacation of a lifetime they were planning together. 

MURPHY:  Keith Greer is the lawyer for Josh‘s family. 

(on camera):  Did Josh get to know the honeymooners, George and Jennifer? 

GREER  Yes.  The family actually met them first in Florence.  They got off the boat together and neither of the groups had tours set up and so they shared a cab, they spent a little bit of the day together that day, which was when they first met. 

MURPHY (voice-over):  According to fellow passengers, George, Jennifer, and now Josh were joined by another group of young men who, like Josh, were vacationing with their family.  Two brothers and a cousin from Brooklyn, New York.  Their parents had emigrated from the Soviet Union, so they became known, in the events that followed, as the three Russian boys. 

(on camera):  How does Josh describe his temporary friendship with these guys? 

GREER:  Fun, good group of guys, loud.  You know, um, but, you know, 18 to 20-year-old guys on a boat partying. 

MURPHY:  The honeymooners, Josh and the three Russian boys became buddies.  Boisterous young compoderes (PH) at sea with a mostly older crowd.  Though a young woman on the same cruise told us off camera that she thought the Russian boys were rough around the edges, she remembers them trying to pick fights and stealing liquor from the ship‘s bar.  Her instincts told her to give them some distance. 

(voice-over):  On the 4th of July, the ship tied up in Myconos, the Greek island with the whitewashed houses and blue doors, was as beautiful as the brochures.  What would happen in the next 12 hours after Myconos is the crux of the mystery.  Between the evening of the 4th of July and the wee hours of the fifth with the ship bound for it‘s next port of call in Turkey.  The account of the evening is told through Josh‘s lawyer who says Josh, George, and Jennifer and the three Russian boys made the ship‘s casino their home base in a night of heavy drinking. 

GREER:  In this evening you can‘t imagine the amount of alcohol.  It was an incredible amount of alcohol. 

MURPHY:  Josh‘s attorney says the newlyweds gambled but not always together. 

GREER:  In and out of the casino.  There Josh sees Jennifer at the blackjack table then George at the craps table and in fact that night George taught Josh how to play craps, for the most part. 

MURPHY (on camera):  Was George having some luck that night? 

GREER:  No.  And see, that‘s interesting.  There‘s talk out there about big money and big winnings and all that—didn‘t happen. 

MURPHY:  So he doesn‘t stager out of the casino with a wad of hundreds in his pocket? 

GREER:  No.  Nothing like that. 

MURPHY (on camera):  With the night in full swing, Josh would make an emphatic point about what he thinks he sees next, Jennifer and the “casino manager” getting cozy.  At 2:30 in the morning, now July 5 the casino is closed for the night and the honeymooners, Josh and the three Russian boys head for the disco bar up on deck 13.  Everyone‘s tipsy or better, according to Josh. 

GREER:  This is really where it stops becoming a normal night. 

MURPHY:  Packed into the elevator with the partiers is the casino manager and one of his dealers.  Josh says he thinks he sees is the casino manager put a move on Jennifer right in front of her, by now, very drunk husband. 

GREER:  Jennifer‘s there, on the other side of the elevator with the casino manager with his arm around her, in the elevator, and then another casino dealer, at that point Josh recalls looking at the other boy in the elevator because it was awkward, the way that—the touching, the holding, it just didn‘t seem right, which is really the first indicia, that evening, of something being a little bit off. 

MURPHY (on camera):  So presumably George is seeing the same kind thing taking place? 

MURPHY:  Yes.  But everybody‘s still happy.  Everybody‘s still jovial.  You know, eve, you know George is being happy and hugging the guys and singing and it was just—it was still party atmosphere at that point. 

MURPHY (voice-over):  Up at the disco bar Josh notices the new bride and the casino manager are together again. 

GREER:  Jennifer‘s there but there‘s a couch adjacent to the table and Jennifer sits down on the couch with the casino manager sitting right next to her. 

MURPHY:  As another account goes, George and the guys sit around a table and produce their own bottle of alcohol, something not permitted by the cruise line.  Someone has a bottle on an especially volatile green liquor with a notorious history—Absinthe.  One form of it was banned at the turn of the last century and young drinkers are attracted now to its taboo and reputation for being a kind of hallucinogenic.  That‘s largely urban myth, but it will get you smashed.  The boys sat in a circle doing shooters pf Absinthe, almost in a kind of ritual.  At 3:30 a.m. the bar man closes down the disco lounge.  The party‘s over. 

GREER:  The Russian boys and Josh escort George back to his room. 

MURPHY (on camera):  Could George get them under his own power? 

GREER:  No, no.  By that time George was stumbling, dropping his cigarette, according to Josh.  It was he was about 50 percent his own power on the way back to the room.  He wasn‘t being carried, but he was being guided with some assistance of the two larger boys. 

MURPHY (voice-over):  Jennifer is no longer with the boys.  Her whereabouts is publicly unaccounted for in the next four hours. 

MURPHY (on camera):  Where is Jennifer? 

GREER:  There‘s the big question. 

MURPHY (voice-over):  Continuing Josh‘s version of events, he and the three Russians stumbled George to his cabin on deck nine.  When they sees there‘s no Jennifer, George changes his shirt and they all set out again to find her.  It‘s now about 3:45 a.m..  The posse of five head right to the place that the young people onboard know as the after-hours hookup spot. 

GREER:  They go to the Jacuzzi in the solarium area, no Jennifer.  So, it‘s five, 10 minutes there, a very short amount of time looking, because it‘s obvious there‘s nobody else there and then five, 10 minutes back to the room which puts them back to the room at about 4:00 in the morning. 

MURPHY:  Josh describes a team ending to the night. 

GREER:  When they got to the room with George, the last time the boys put him down in the bed, take his shoes off, leave the room, good-bye, good-bye, let‘s go, we‘re out of here.  They go down to one of the Russian boy‘s rooms, order an incredible amount of room service and sit—room service shows up 4:30, 4:45 with the food, they eat.  Josh is back in bed by 5:15 that morning. 

MURPHY:  But Clete Hyman, the veteran California police officer in the cabin next door, had been awakened at 4:00 a.m. by a raucous that‘s at odds with Josh‘s account. 

Through the common wall, he shared with the Smith‘s cabin; he heard 15 minutes of loud voices and commotion that make him one of the best witnesses to the mysterious events in stateroom 9062. 

HYMAN:  That‘s when I heard what I describe as a horrific thud. 


CROWLEY:  That was “Dateline” NBC‘s Dennis Murphy.  And coming up next, what did happen to the missing groom and where does this investigation go from here?  No crime scene, no real help from Turkish authorities.  Is there any chance that the Smith family will learn the truth about what happened to their son and their brother (SIC)?  We‘ll ask two experts on where this investigation needs to go, coming up next.


CROWLEY:  You are looking at video from the interrogation of Josh Askin.  He‘s one of the people questioned in the days after honeymooner, George Smith IV disappeared.  Smith has been missing for nearly three months now and still no arrests and no answers.  Joining me now to talk about, former federal prosecutor, Mary Fulginiti, and former FBI agent, Clint van Zandt. 

Great to see both of your.


CROWLEY:  Hi, so Clint, Clint take apart this timeline for us, what does it tell you as an investigator. 

VAN ZANDT:  Well the timeline is very crucial.  And on this cruise ship it‘s very unique because you‘ve got a number of things that help you build the timeline notwithstanding Dennis Murphy and his crew they did a great story, when they put this together.  But realize, you‘ve also got your key card that goes in and out the door.  On this particular ship, there‘s 250 surveillance cameras, I mean, you can hardly make a move where you‘re not picked up on a camera somewhere.  So, Monica, there‘s going to be this layering.  You‘re going to take the eyewitnesses, you‘re going to take what Dennis Murphy calls the “ear witnesses,” the people on either side of the cabin, you‘re going to put that story together.  You‘re going to take the key cards going in and out the doors, you‘re going to take the cameras, and then the statements, some which may be self-serving, some not, from the people who were involved in this.  Put this all together, do your interviews, and I think the FBI ought to be able to come up with a very succinct timeline that should very quickly, perhaps, present this case to a grand jury for an indictment. 

CROWLEY:  Well, Mary, speaking of an indictment, it‘s now three months after this disappearance.  Do you believe, as a prosecutor, that this is in fact a cold case at this point? 

MARY FULGINITI, FMR. FEDERAL PROSECUTOR:  No.  It is far too soon to characters this as a cold case.  Just because somebody hasn‘t been charged with a crime yet doesn‘t mean the case has gone cold.  You really have to give investigators, and especially in this challenging investigation, the time to complete their investigation, gather the evidence, and put the pieces of the puzzle together, because that‘s when the prosecutor really comes in and they analyze the evidence and they want to determine if the evidence is suspicious, to charge any individuals with the violation of a criminal statute. 

If it is, they want to make sure they don‘t have just enough evidence to charge.  They want to have enough evidence to convict beyond a reasonable doubt.  So to get to that level it may take a little bit longer than we all would like but I agree with Clint.  I think they‘ve done—they‘ve got a lot of evidence to evaluate here, and I think at the end of the day they will probably have a pretty good idea of what happened to George Smith. 

CROWLEY:  Well Clint, with every passing day, though, evidence degrades and the situation gets more and more difficult to solve.  What is the FBI‘s role in this at the present moment? 

VAN ZANDT:  Well, the FBI is really the lead agency in this, not withstanding the Turks were involved, originally, the came onboard, threw some fingerprint powder around and did a few things, and the ship did their investigation.  These are tough cases, though, and don‘t really put it any other way.  You‘ve got a moving city.  You‘ve got 2,500 or 3,000 people, any of which could or could not be suspects or witnesses in this and within a day or two, you‘ve got some of the primary suspects are off the ship.  You‘ve got other passengers and crew members that are gone, so you‘ve got to chase all these people down, but still, you‘ve got this core group of people.  You‘ve got these young men who went in and out of that room that night.  Somebody knows something, and I really believe those video cameras are going to show it, and what we have to do, the determination we have to make is that—was there an act of wrong doing?  Did someone intentionally injury or kill George Smith?  Or did he have too much to drink?  He pat chair up against a rail?  He sat up there at night and had a cigarette?  Fell over backwards, fell down two stories and injured himself and then fell off the boat?  Some people might have you believe that, but I tell you what, as an investigators, that‘s on the table, but until I‘m sure and until all these timelines are—convinced me that I can go to a prosecutor and say ma‘am, this is what I have, do you think we can get a conviction on this?  The case will not be closed. 

CROWLEY:  Mary, what about these four guys, they say they put them in the room completely passed out, and yet, three months later, no arrests, no confession..  Is it, at this point, in the interest of those persons of interest to talk? 

FULGINITI: You know, that‘s a very interesting question because I was actually quite surprised that one of the individuals, the California boy‘s lawyer was speaking about the case because I think until you are conclusively told by authorities that you are merely a witness, and that you‘re status as a witness is not going to change, I do not think it is in their best interest, necessarily to talk.  But nonetheless it‘s a good thing that they are because it‘s helping the investigators, you know, gather some facts, and to sort of figure out what actually happened. 

You know, their account of what happened is inconsistent with what Clete Hymen and the lawyers have told authorities, so, you know, it‘s still—they still need to—like Clint said, I think, you know, the videotapes could be very revealing here and at the end of the day they‘re going to try to look at other things and other pieces of evidence to try to confirm or contradict, maybe, some of these statements, which could end up—help them and help authorities figure out, well, maybe they are more culpable than initially stated. 

CROWLEY:  Clint, though.

FULGINITI:  No, there‘s no other question—I just—so I think that we‘re going to have to take some time to let them really do all that analyzing of the evidence. 

CROWLEY:  Clint, does the FBI‘s continuing involvement in the case suggest to you, that they believe it is a crime and if so, why can‘t they break these four boys? 

VAN ZANDT:  Well, you know, one thing we look at right away.  We look at as

prosecutors or FBI agents, if you lie about the little things, you‘ll

probably lie about the big things so that‘s why, I think, the FBI keeps

digging in, and I guarantee you with terrorism and everything else, if the

bureau is charged with investigating, if they could rule this case as a

suicide, which I don‘t think it is, or as an accident, they would go to the

federal prosecutor and they would be out of this case, they‘d get a

declination and be gone.  Right now the FBI is still involved because I

think there‘s still information to be gained; there are still witnesses out

there.  There are people who know what happened that night, and that‘s what

the FBI has to determine for the sake of the family, for the sake of the

wife and for the sake of the country, we need to know that, as Americans,

when we travel internationally, somebody‘s going to come behind us and care

what happens to us.  That‘s the federal government, that‘s the FBI

CROWLEY:  And the mystery deepens and continues.  And hopefully we‘ll have some resolution to all of this.  Clint van Zandt and Mary Fulginiti, thank you so much. 

VAN ZANDT:  Thank you. 

FULGINITI:  Thank you. 

CROWLEY:  And, we‘ll be right back and we‘re going to meet some of the incredible people who‘ve stepped up and given some to the victims of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. 


CROWLEY:  As we‘ve gone through the month since Katrina and now Rita, we‘ve heard so much about what went wrong, but right now we want to take a couple of minutes to celebrate some of the people who made things go right.  Here‘s the “Today” show‘s Matt Lauer.


MATT LAUER, THE TODAY SHOW (voice-over):  The storms along the Gulf Coast have brought great destruction but highlighted even greater courage.  Obvious heroes like the armada of local boaters who braved rising flood waters to save the stranded. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This is the clear channel emergency response team. 

LAUER:  And the less oves disc jockeys along the Mississippi coast who stayed in the storm‘s path providing the only lifeline to communities cut off from the outside world.  As the scope of the disaster became clear, so did the mission for so many determined to help.  Volunteers rushed to places others were desperately trying to escape. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Today she‘s been working in the triage and I‘ve been helping unload helos (PH) as they come in. 

LAUER:  Doctors.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Why am I here?  Because of the human suffering and everything it was just breaking all our hearts.  You know, we wanted to do something.

LAUER:  In some cases laying out their own money for needed supplies. 

(on camera):  Who is paying for all this? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  My American express. 

LAUER (voice-over):  And nurses who found a way to evacuate premature babies. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And when we arrived, there was a team of nurses, about 10 nurses standing on top of the building waiting for us to land and they were just holding the babies. 

LAUER:  New Orleans Police Officers worked around the clock despite losing everything of their own. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Most of the guys got nothing to go back to. 

LAUER:  Large gestures like the San Diego businessman who paid for airlift of 80 people he‘s never met, now relocated to California. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I spent three hours in New Orleans yesterday, in the helicopter and it was devastation.. 

LAUER:  And efforts to save the often forgotten beloved animals who couldn‘t fend for themselves. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Here you go, kid. 

LAUER:  Countless examples of the best of human nature even in the face of Mother Nature‘s worst. 


CROWLEY:  Some incredible stories there.  We‘re coming right back. 


CROWLEY:  That‘s all the time we have for tonight.  Thank you so much for watching.  Joe will be back with us on Monday night.  I‘m Monica Crowley and I will see you next week on “Connected Coast to Coast.”  “The Situation” with Tucker Carson starts right now.


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