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'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Nov. 16

Read the transcript to the Wednesday show

Guests: Jim Vandehei, John Dean, Solomon Wisenberg, Blain Newsome

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST:  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

Deep Throat, Jr.  “The Washington Post”‘s Bob Woodward unexpectedly reveals he was told by a Bush administration official about Joe Wilson‘s wife in June 2003.  He writes, it wasn‘t Scooter Libby.  He implies, it wasn‘t the vice president.  He says it wasn‘t Andy Card.  And Karl Rove‘s spokesman says it wasn‘t Karl Rove.

So who is it?  And why do Scooter Libby‘s defenders see the news as a bombshell?  We‘ll ask John Dean and Jim VandeHei of “The Post.”

Checkout time is December 1.  Katrina victims still living in hotels get something slipped under their doors by FEMA.  And it isn‘t a room-service menu.

And you‘d call it child and animal abuse.  They call it a game show.  Fortunately for everybody concerned, they shot it with eight different cameras.

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening.

It was 32 years ago today that a Harris poll shocked the White House.  Eighty-three percent had a negative impression of Richard Nixon‘s handling of Watergate, 65 percent believed he should be impeached if the tapes indicated he was involved in it, 59 percent believed he should resign if it could be proved he knew about the coverup.

The next day, Mr. Nixon would get up in front of a news conference and tell the country, “I am not a crook.”

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, if you think the comparisons between Watergate and the CIA leak investigation are pejorative or unfair, that‘s fine.  You may be right.

But today, the two events became officially linked when “The Washington Post” identified who gave a two-hour deposition to special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald the day before yesterday, Bob Woodward, the “Washington Post” assistant managing editor revealing that he testified on Monday in the CIA leak case by deposition, telling special prosecutor Fitzgerald under oath that a senior Bush administration official told him about CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson in June 2003, nearly one month before her identity was outed publicly.

Who that senior Bush administration official was, Mr. Woodward would not say, citing a confidentiality agreement that allowed him to testify but not to discuss the source publicly.  He says it was not Lewis “Scooter” Libby, and that it could be either a current or former official.

As to why the former Watergate sleuth took so long to reveal this, he writes he felt obligated to maintain his source‘s confidentiality until that unnamed source spilled the beans, telling the prosecutor about that conversation little more than a week ago.  Woodward also admitted he was worried.  “I hunkered down.  I‘m in the habit of keeping secrets.  I didn‘t want anything out there that was going to get me subpoenaed.”

Mr. Libby‘s attorneys treating this as if it were salvation.  Ted Wells, formerly the attorney for Philip Morris in the big-tobacco lawsuits, briefly addressed the media this evening.


TED WELLS, LIBBY‘S ATTORNEY:  Mr. Libby is very grateful to Bob Woodward for coming forth and telling the truth.  And we urge all reporters who have relevant information to do like Mr. Woodward did today and come forward with the truth.


OLBERMANN:  Is it raining?

Earlier, Wells had issued a statement in which he claimed that Woodward‘s testimony severely undermines the prosecutor‘s case against his client.  Quoting, “Mr. Fitzgerald‘s statement that Mr. Libby was the first government official to tell a reporter about Mr. Wilson‘s wife was totally inaccurate.  Hopefully, as more information is obtained from reporters like Bob Woodward, the real facts will come out.”

Of course, that is not what Fitzgerald said.  His October 29 news conference did not describe Libby as the first official to tell a reporter about Valerie Plame.  Fitzgerald had left open the possibility that somebody else had said something earlier.


PATRICK FITZGERALD, SPECIAL PROSECUTOR:  In fact, Mr. Libby was the first official known to have told a reporter when he talked to Judith Miller in June of 2003 about Valerie Wilson.


OLBERMANN:  His word “known,” left out of Mr. Wells‘s statement today.

The other operative phrase in Wells‘s statement today, “as more information is obtained from reporters,” “The New York Times” reporting that Libby‘s defense team is planning to seek further testimony from many of the journalists involved in the case, or at least waste a lot of time trying.

“Lawyers close to the case made clear to ‘The Times‘ that the defense team plans to pursue aggressively access to reporters‘ notes beyond the material cited in the indictment and plans to go to the trial judge to compel disclosure as one of their first steps.”

In a moment, more on the legal implications of Woodward‘s involvement with Nixon White House counsel John Dean.

First, let‘s call in “The White House Post” White House correspondent

“The Washington Post” White House correspondent Jim VandeHei, whose reporting on this story has been second to none.

Jim, good evening.


OLBERMANN:  Trying to keep all the pieces of this story in your mind, as you‘ve had to for months now, how, in your assessment, does the Woodward revelation actually change the timeline of the story?

VANDEHEI:  Well, what it changes is the chronology, at least laid out by Fitzgerald.  Fitzgerald had said that he believed that the first reporter, or the first official to tell a reporter about Valerie Plame was Libby.  And what Woodward‘s testimony shows is that a senior administration official other than Scooter Libby had told him before this conversation took place.

That changes the chronology.  It doesn‘t necessarily change the substance of the case, which is what we‘re most concerned about.

OLBERMANN:  But did not Fitzgerald say, as I just pointed out, that—did he not leave himself the wiggle room exactly on this point...


OLBERMANN:  ... in case somebody else turned up?  I mean, he did say, someone who was—the first official known to have told a reporter.  That‘s a big difference than just, This was the first guy, right?

VANDEHEI:  It is.  And I think the bombshell that you were talking about from the Libby legal team earlier, I think a bombshell is all in the eye of the beholder.  I think they‘re giddy over in the Libby camp because they feel this is the first piece of evidence coming from someone outside of their legal team that Fitzgerald‘s case might not be absolutely airtight.

So they‘re seizing on this, and they‘re portraying this as really a vindication for Libby.

What you need to keep in mind is, is that the charges against Libby deal with providing false statements, lying and obstructing justice in the course of this investigation.  And none of what Woodward says seems to go to the heart of that.

OLBERMANN:  This is still labyrinthine, to say the least, in many respects.  But fact-check me on this.  Andy Card today authorized Woodward to say he was one of the three people he talked to in June of ‘03, and that they did not talk about Valerie Plame.  Woodward wrote that he had prepared a list of questions in June of 2003, including about Joe Wilson‘s wife.  He was going to ask Dick Cheney.  He was telling Scooter Libby on the phone he was going to send it to Scooter Libby and presumably get it vetted, so that Cheney would answer.

And Karl Rove‘s office or spokesman says today that Rove is not the person to whom Woodward spoke about Plame.

Do all those pieces add up to a conclusion that Woodward‘s source was not Card, not Cheney, not Libby, not Rove?  Or is it all even more labyrinthine than it looks?

VANDEHEI:  Right.  What we do know is that it‘s not Libby, that according to Rove‘s lawyer, it‘s not Rove.  And it does not appear to be Andy Card.

It‘s important, I think, as a reporter, what I‘m most interested now in is, who is that administration official?  And sort of how do they fit into this scheme?  Because clearly this was an official who was talking about Plame in mid-June, when all of this activity was taking place.  What the Libby legal team is seizing on is that Woodward talked to Libby twice in mid-June, when apparently, according to Fitzgerald, he was talking to reporters and talking to his colleagues in spreading news about Plame, but did not mention her.

So Libby‘s team says, Well, that shows that he clearly wasn‘t obsessed with unmasking her.

OLBERMANN:  Do we have any idea—it‘s the one part of this story that I haven‘t seen anything from—any of the reaction from the special prosecutor‘s offices, or are we back to dead radio silence from there.

VANDEHEI:  Right.  They‘re more tight-lipped and secretive than the Cheney operation.  We‘ve heard very little out of Fitzgerald‘s office.  We‘ve tried all day to get some response to this assertion from the Libby camp that they owe some sort of apology for saying originally that Libby was the first official to talk to a reporter about this.  And we‘ve heard nothing back.

OLBERMANN:  The word “known” will appear prominently around the country, I think, in the morning, and the explanations thereof.

“Washington Post” White House correspondent Jim VandeHei.  We‘ll let you get back to your great work.  And great thanks for your time.

VANDEHEI:  See you later.

OLBERMANN:  Depending on the day, Watergate analogies to this investigation have been either strained or supremely obvious.  Tonight, of course, they have been rendered, to just pick a word out of the air, inoperative, Bob Woodward, serving as the missing link bridging the gap between both of these events.

It is only fitting that we now turn to Nixon White House counsel John Dean, who is COUNTDOWN‘s guru and has been on both stories.

Good evening, John.


OLBERMANN:  Well, of course, we finally clear up who Deep Throat is, and five months later, we‘re back to asking who is Bob Woodward‘s secret source?

DEAN:  Deep Throat, Jr., as you appropriately said.

Well, there is a certain irony here, the big difference being that in this instance, we‘re going to learn who this is a lot faster than we learned out who Throat was.  And that‘s because Libby has a—the power of the subpoena.  He has discovery power to build his defense.  And he‘s going go after this information posthaste.

So that tends to result in that kind of information, when it gets in the hands of lawyers, dribbling out.  They have been the principal source in most all of these kinds of cases.  And so I think we‘ll know sooner rather than later.

OLBERMANN:  Other than that, how do you think this impacts the case and Fitzgerald‘s prosecution?

DEAN:  Well, you know, it‘s difficult to read.  I would say it‘s probably a net positive for Libby and a net negative for the prosecutor, for this reason.  First of all, as the defense team has already said, they look upon this as a gift.  And the reason I think they look upon it as a gift is the second basic thing, is what Woodward actually told in his testimony, what he said, what he testified to, and that it‘s not unlike Judith Miller, in that it‘s less than concrete.

He doesn‘t actually fully recall whether he did or did not mention Joe Wilson‘s wife to Libby.  And so it‘s—this is the sort of opening that you can start building reasonable doubt in a jury‘s mind about how Libby might have actually learned these facts. and where he might have learned them, and could he be confused?  And turning to Tim Russert, when there‘s so many people who had this information that‘s out and about.

So I think that‘s a negative.  The positive is that it probably helps the prosecutor to, some ways, button down his case, and may make him a little bit more aggressive in his inquiry in the future.

OLBERMANN:  As to the subject of memory, Woodward, of course, also says that he shared some of this knowledge with his colleague Walter Pincus, and Walter Pincus says today, I don‘t remember any of it at all.  So we now add to that sort of retrospective two-year haze.

And additionally—we‘ll go into this at length in the next segment -

but Libby‘s defenders are saying this changes everything, and the talons clearly have been unsheathed regarding Mr. Fitzgerald.  Is it deservedly so?  Is his aura hurt by this?  Or does, in fact, he look even smarter for having not closed the case after he got the indictment against Libby?

DEAN:  Keith, I was very glad to see you use that missing word in so much of the spin that‘s been going on, the “known” word.  The fact that that little bit of information has been left off the—sort of the noise machine that‘s out there trying to attack the prosecutor on this issue, and say that they went too premature in indicting Libby, they should have waited till they had all this information.

That‘s pure spin.  In fact, he kept the investigation open.  This came in as a part of his continuing investigation.  And I think that it‘s pure nonsense to overplay this as any negative on Fitzgerald.

OLBERMANN:  Of course, it has already succeeded.  “World News Tonight” on ABC this evening, and I‘m paraphrasing it, actually said exactly what was in Wells‘s, Mr. Wells‘s statement as if it were fact, and left out that word “known,” and said that this was vital because it changed the whole timeline, because it disproved Mr. Fitzgerald‘s contention that Libby was the first one to reveal the name.

So it may not be—it may have been transparent to some people, but other people missed it.

Let me ask you one last thing, John.  Woodward wrote, “Interviews I conducted with three current or former Bush administration officials.”  Two things.  You often pointed out that a lot of the Deep Throat clues fit Ron Ziegler, Nixon‘s White House press secretary.  Could these clues fit a former White House press secretary from this administration, Mr. Fleischer, and B, would it be beyond Woodward to have thrown in “former or current officials” just to get us guessing that it might be a former official when it isn‘t?

DEAN:  Well, I‘ve got to tell you frankly, my first reaction was that it could be Ari Fleischer.  That was sort of what flashed in my mind.  I don‘t think Woodward, when I looked at his statement, it‘s unusual in the fact that it‘s done in Courier, as the type, the font that‘s used.  The only people in the world using Courier anymore are lawyers.  So I think this is probably a document that was prepared in his lawyer‘s office and very carefully gone over.

So I don‘t think he was playing games in the statement.

The other fact, though, the reason that Ari Fleischer probably is not it, there is a report that‘s out there tonight from a source, as they say in the FBI, that has been reliable in the past.  It identifies Stephen Hadley African-American being the source for Woodward.

OLBERMANN:  We will see.  Obviously there is somebody else in this ballgame, as these things always evolve this way.  There is always another player whose name is not on the scorecard.

John dean, author of “Worse than Watergate,” and our unofficial guide to the Fitzgerald investigation.  As always, sir, our great thanks.

DEAN:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  More on this.  The headlines are getting spun as good news for Scooter Libby‘s by none other than Scooter Libby‘s lawyer.  Why they think it‘s a bombshell, even though their man was indicted for lying and not leaking, and even though they left out that one small but crucial word in that press statement today.

And there is other news.  No matter that the temporary trailers it promised are not there yet, FEMA is kicking tens of thousands of Katrina and Rita victims out on the streets, just in time for the holidays.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN:  Scooter Libby and his counsel spent the afternoon holed up in a secure room at a Washington district courthouse examining documents.  The documents they had examined this morning were copies of Bob Woodward‘s revelations in “The Washington Post.”

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, revelations they have described as a bombshell, in the sense that they think it has blown apart the case against their client.  They wasted no time in sharing their thoughts.  The full statement, issued over the name of Libby‘s attorney, Ted Wells, reads as follows.

“Woodward‘s disclosures are a bombshell to Mr. Fitzgerald‘s case.  First, the disclosure shows that Mr. Fitzgerald‘s statement at his press conference of October 28, 2005, that Mr. Libby was the first government official to tell a reporter about Mr. Wilson‘s wife, was totally inaccurate.

“Second, Woodward‘s disclosure that he talked to Mr. Libby on June 23 and June 27, 2003, and that Mr. Libby did not mention Wilson‘s wife undermines Mr. Fitzgerald‘s key theme, that Mr. Libby was involved in a scheme to discredit Wilson by telling reporters about Wilson‘s wife‘s employment at the CIA.

“Hopefully, as more information is obtained from reporters like Bob Woodward, the real facts will come out.”

Of course, as I‘ve pointed out twice now, contrary to what Mr. Wells wrote, Mr. Fitzgerald did not say Mr. Libby was the first government official to tell a reporter about Mr. Wilson‘s wife.  His actual quote at the October 28 news conference was, “Mr. Libby was the first government official known to have told a reporter.”

There‘s also another fundamental question.  If Libby was indicted for lying, not leaking, what do today‘s developments have to do with this?

Let me call in Solomon Wisenberg, former deputy independent counsel while Kenneth Starr held that position.  A disclosure here.  Mr. Wisenberg is currently representing a client who‘s peripherally involved in the CIA leak investigation.  We don‘t think that will affect the interview.

We thank you for your time tonight, sir.


OLBERMANN:  Mr. Libby‘s attorney seems to think he‘s caught the special prosecutor in a big inaccuracy, if not a big lie.  But legally, is there a big difference between calling somebody the first to do something, and calling him the first known to do something?

WISENBERG:  Well, there‘s no legal significance to Fitzgerald‘s statement at the press conference at all.  And you are correct to point out that Fitzgerald made it clear that he was speaking about what the government knew.  So I just don‘t think it‘s a big deal at all.

OLBERMANN:  The second point, what does an earlier leak by somebody else have to do with one count of obstruction of justice, two counts of perjury, and two counts of false statements?

WISENBERG:  Well, we‘ll to have see.  I heard John Dean say something,

and I don‘t know if he was speculating or not, Keith, but I heard him say

that—something about Woodward not remembering whether he told Libby that

you know, about Valerie Plame.  If indeed he may have told Libby, or Libby now remembers that Woodward told him, it could be helpful, in the sense that he could say, See, I did originally hear it from a reporter.

But even in that case, he‘s got some problems, because his answers that are put in the indictment are very broad and very lengthy.  And he‘s got the problem that, according to the government, he talked to four different administration officials who told him that Valerie Plame was a CIA agent.

And I think the government‘s going to try to present a picture that that‘s kind of a hard thing to forget, just a few months after you had these conversations, because this first conversation with the bureau was only three or four months after all this stuff occurred.

OLBERMANN:  The premise of this, of today‘s statements from Mr.  Libby‘s defenders, as I understand it, is that a previous leak would mean he would have no reason to lie about his own leaks, so that Mr. Fitzgerald would have trouble convincing a jury that Libby had any motive to lie, and he therefore loses his case against Libby.  Is there anything to that line of logic?

WISENBERG:  I don‘t understand that at all.  All that could mean, theoretically, is that there was more than one person in the administration who was trying to get that information out, whether malevolently or not.

But, you know, the fact is, he is—I just don‘t understand that.  He‘s still got to deal with—you know, what he‘s charged with is not telling the truth.  And the particular allegation is that he said he was getting it from reporters.  And, you know, that‘s important, because if you‘re getting it from reporters, you don‘t fall under the statute.

And he‘s still got to deal with that, that he‘s a smart guy with a good memory, and he‘s talking to four different highly placed people in the administration, who say they told him this information.

OLBERMANN:  So wrap this up for me, if you can.  Mr. Wills—Mr.  Wells, rather, called Woodward‘s deposition a blockbuster to his client‘s benefit.  Is it?  Or have they presented simply a very impressive-looking smokescreen?

WISENBERG:  Based on what we know right now, it is not a blockbuster.  But I would certainly expect any good criminal defense attorney to put the best spin on it that he could.

OLBERMANN:  He seems to have done that.

Solomon Wisenberg, the former deputy independent counsel under Kenneth Starr.  Great thanks for your time and your perspective tonight, sir.

WISENBERG:  My pleasure.

OLBERMANN:  And there‘s one more moving part to this story, though it‘s pretty unlikely that Mr. Fitzgerald would be very pleased by it.  The guy whom friends say never even had the gas for the oven turned on in his shabby, genteel New York City apartment has been chosen as one of “People” magazine‘s sexiest men of the year, in the issue that hits newsstands on Friday.

The magazine—ah, hell, I‘ll just read what it says.  “Subpoena to very special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald.  You are commanded to testify to your incorruptible appeal and unfathomable lifestyle.  You must bring with you the evidence indicted below, the ties and underwear you keep at the office that allow to you maintain your workaholic schedule, the pizza boxes and Chinese food cartons that expose your dishonorable eating habits, your voice of reason.  Compliance with this subpoena will be deemed satisfactory when somebody cooks you a meal and bottles your political intelligence.”

Mr. Fitzgerald, can you indict whoever wrote that?

We here on COUNTDOWN would like to hire whoever dreamt this up.  One lizard, a dozen teenage girls, and every camera angle imaginable.  Japanese TV.  You can‘t stop it.  You can only hope to contain it.  Cue the screaming.

And the first-ever revised edition of Michael Jackson Puppet Theater, after an official statement today clarifying Jackson‘s bathroom bafflement in Dubay.

That‘s next.  This is COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN:  We‘re back.  And before we move from one bit of serious news to another, we take this opportunity to cleanse the journalistic palate, as it were, with a very special one-topic Oddball segment.

Some clips are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.  And then there‘s this one, which is all three.

But this warning, following video may be unsettling if you‘re easily disturbed by images of Japanese bubble-gum-pop girl-band members with pork chops strapped to their heads, put in a big glass box with a large lizard, all on live television.

No, I‘m just kidding.  It‘s nothing like that.

We present, in its entirety and without commentary, this weird Japanese video clip we just happened to find on the Internet.

Let‘s play Oddball.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (subtitled):  No way!  No way!  No way!

Go away!  Go away!

No!  No!


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (subtitled):  He‘s heading right for her!

He‘s heading for Abe!

He‘s going to Abe!  He‘s going to Abe!

Abe, Ogawa, Yasuda!

Keep your head up!

Don‘t run away!

Go on!  Stay in!

That‘s it!

She ran away!

Izam is heading back that way.

Izam-san is taking off!  He‘s taking off!

He‘s going to fall!  He‘s going to fall!

The studio is in a panic!

Everyone‘s panicking!  Yasuda has run away!


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator):  Izam-san is taking off!  He‘s taking off!

He‘s going to fall!  He‘s going to fall!

The studio is in a panic!

Everyone‘s panicking!  Yasuda has run away!

Izam-san is taking off!  He‘s taking off!

He‘s going to fall!  He‘s going to fall!

Izam is falling!

Izam-san is taking off!  He‘s taking off!

Izam-san is taking off!  He‘s taking off!

He‘s going to fall!  He‘s going to fall!

Izam is falling!

The studio is in a panic!

Izam-san is taking off!  He‘s taking off!

He‘s going to fall!  He‘s going to fall!

Izam is falling!

The studio is in a panic!

Everyone‘s panicking! 

Izam-san is taking off!  He‘s taking off!

He‘s going to fall!  He‘s going to fall!

Izam is falling!

The studio is in a panic!

Everyone‘s panicking! 


OLBERMANN:  You know, it‘s the pork chops that raises that to the level of art.  Now I‘m just thinking out loud here.  With Martha Stewart‘s version of “The Apprentice” canceled, we do have a slot open on the network, Jeff (ph).  Hmm?  Hmm? 

It is check-out time for tens of thousands of hurricane victims.  FEMA has pulled the rugs and the hotel rooms out from under them, today, just in time for the holidays. 

In case you have not visited farm country in a while, it turns out there are not a lot of singles bars next to the back 40, so now the farmers are going to the Web. 

Those stories ahead.  But now here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.  Number three, Florida State Senator Mike Fasano, a politician with a good idea.  Wait a minute, write this down.  Require convicted drunk drivers in Florida to have license plates whose ID tags start with the letters DUI.  And the license plates would be bright pink, by the way. 

Number two, the Bank of America in Jacksonville, Florida.  Don Eaton (ph) was in line at the drive-through when he found a deposit bag on the pavement.  Took it home, quickly he called the police.  Inside, $850,000 in deposits.  It was just dropped there by a real estate company.  Mr. Eaton‘s reward from the company from the Bank of America?  A hearty handshake.  Cheapskates!

And number one, Beijing‘s Olympic Organizing Committee.  One of the things they want to fix in time for the 2008 summer games, apart from the human rights violation, the appalling English used on many bilingual public signs in the city.  A sign about wet roads has the English translation, “the slippery are very crafty.” The emergency exits at the airport, “no entry on peacetime.” And this will be the one they‘ll to have fix first, the city‘s tribute to ethnic minorities sign reads, in English, “racist park.”


OLBERMANN:  It has been nearly three months since we all learned that the F in FEMA might as well stand for “failure” as for “federal.” We have heard about “heckuva job Brownie,” we have read his frantic mid-Katrina e-mails about his clothing and his dinner options.  We have heard about the ice shipments to nowhere.  We have, whether affected personally or just by extension by these disasters within a disaster, remembered that all of this was paid for with our tax dollars.  It is hard to imagine that it could get worse. 

But in our third story on the COUNTDOWN, it has.  FEMA, as our chief investigative correspondent Lisa Myers reports now, is now sending Katrina‘s and Rita‘s victims little eviction notes.  Happy holidays. 


LISA MYERS, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Misty Haley (ph) just moved into this Atlanta hotel. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Today is Wednesday.  This is the third day we‘ve been in the hotel. 

MYERS:  Since she and her husband and two children evacuated New Orleans, they‘ve sought shelter in California and now Atlanta.  This hotel room is the only help they have gotten from FEMA.  So Haley was stunned to hear today that she must give it up in two weeks. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Another slap in the face.  It is like another hurricane that hit us.  We have two weeks to get ourselves together.  Even if I found a place today, I don‘t have the money to move into it. 

MYERS:  Former FEMA officials question why evacuees are allowed so little time. 

JOHN COPENHAVER, FMR. FEMA REGIONAL DIRECTOR:  Being given two weeks right in the middle of holiday season seems to be an ill-advised step taken by FEMA. 

MYERS:  One reason may be money.  Approximately 150,000 evacuees are spread across 49 states and Washington, D.C.  Cost so far, $273 million. 

(on camera):  About one-fourth of them live in Louisiana and Mississippi.  They‘re likely to get a reprieve until January because of housing shortages.  FEMA says those forced out of hotels may be eligible for other assistance to help rent an apartment. 

(voice-over):  But as we told you last week, this woman applied more than two months ago for such help and today said her application is still pending.  The Bush administration also has been criticized for refusing to issue housing vouchers from an anti-poverty program used effectively after other disasters.  Advocates for the poor predict some will be become homeless. 

SHEILA CROWLEY, NATL. LOW INCOME HOUSING COALITION:  It shows a remarkable lack of understanding about what has happened to the people who have been displaced.  And it‘s a very callous attitude. 

MYERS:  But today FEMA officials predicted everything will go smoothly.  They said there is plenty of available housing and promised no one will end up on the street. 

Lisa Myers, NBC News, Washington. 


OLBERMANN:  Also tonight, a puppet theater first.  Facts have surfaced that call last night‘s “Michael Jackson Puppet Theater” into question.  So rather than doctor the transcript, we on COUNTDOWN will do the right thing and do it all over again. 

And relationship advice for Paris Hilton‘s latest boyfriend.  You‘re not going to score points with the family by triggering a hotel-wide evacuation on one of their properties. 

Those stories ahead.  But first, a special COUNTDOWN sound bite of this day. 


HOWARD STERN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  You‘ll love this.  This is from the Keith Olbermann show? 


STERN:  He counts down the world‘s worst people. 

OLBERMANN:  But the winner, Rush Limbaugh.  He is offering the gullible a special patriotic deal.  They can adopt a soldier, give any U.S.  serviceman a free subscription to the Web site.  All they have to do is pay Rush Limbaugh $49.95.  The soldier gets free access to the Web site and Rush Limbaugh gets nothing out of the deal unless you count the fact that he gets to keep the $49.95!  Rush, I see we have found a new doctor.  You want to donate something to the troops, man?  Just give them the free subscription.  You know, it is called charity!  You don‘t make anything off of it!  Rush Limbaugh, today‘s “Worst Person in the World”!

STERN:  Thank you.  And thank God for this guy, Keith Olbermann.  I will now watch his show.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Very intelligent thing to say.

STERN:  He gets A-plus.  Hero of the week.


OLBERMANN:  It is, as Michael Musto noted here last night, a literal equivalent of that old cliche about somebody‘s career going into the toilet.  Our number two story on the COUNTDOWN, we have an official version of the Michael Jackson-goes-into-the-ladies-room-in-Dubai-dressed-as-a-woman saga. 

You will recall the newspaper account from the United Arab Emirates. 

Jackson at a mall in Dubai in a full-length robe and a woman‘s scarf went

into the women‘s restroom and began to touch up the make-up on his cheeks -

on his face.  After realizing Jackson was a man, a 35-year-old schoolteacher named Latifah (ph) let out a scream.  We‘re not told how she realized Jackson was a man. 

Latifah ran out then ran back in and took snapshots of Jackson in the ladies‘ toilet, the account goes.  And then, according to police who had by this time shown up, she demanded money from Jackson.  The police, who act differently in Dubai than they do here, decided on the spot she was an extortionist and somebody happened to erase the photos. 

Today comes the official version from Jackson‘s publicist, Raymone K.  Bain.  It is short and sweet.  Quote: “Mr. Jackson mistakenly entered a ladies room in Dubai labeled in Arabic during an outing with friends.”

Outing?  You couldn‘t find a better word than outing?  Anyway: “Upon realizing his mistake, he quickly exited.  Upon his exit, he was recognized and a crowd ensued.  He had to wait in a nearby bookstore until police arrived to escort him through the crowd.”

Thus, if you saw yesterday‘s edition of Michael Jackson-whoops-wrong-door-sorry-lady-Puppet Theater, you know that we made a slight but significant factual error. 


MICHAEL JACKSON PUPPET:  Excuse me, fellas, I have to talk to a man about some make-up.  Hmm, hmm, a little help here? 


OLBERMANN:  The bathroom doors were, according to a spokesman, marked only in Arabic and for some reason, Michael Jackson not only did not ask somebody which was which, he didn‘t even have anybody else ask which was which.  Instead, though accompanied by his security staff and family, he just guessed and went in by himself. 

So to keep up the strict journalistic standards of the segment, we now present a corrected edition of Michael Jackson-whoops-wrong-door-sorry-lady-Puppet Theater. 


MICHAEL JACKSON PUPPET:  Excuse me, fellas, I have to talk to a man about some make-up.  Hmm, hmm, a little help here? 

Oh, well.  You say Dubai and I say hello!



OLBERMANN:  An easy segue thus into our nightly round-up of celebrity and entertainment news, “Keeping Tabs.” And on the theory that you never really outgrow your need for Paris Hilton news, there‘s more of it.  Last week it was a $300,000 Bentley that the new boyfriend Stavros Niarchos dented while trying to flee paparazzi while trying to drive with a coat over his own head.  This week, it‘s an ultra pillow fight, the kind that involves throwing tables at a Hilton-owned hotel. 

The newspaper The Las Vegas Review Journal reporting that during Kelly Osbourne‘s 21st birthday bash at the Hard Rock Hotel, Ms. Hilton‘s current flame began a playful pillow fight that quickly escalated into hurling furniture and setting off the sprinkler systems.  The entire building was evacuated as a result.  Witnesses alleging Hilton screamed at Niarchos, quote, “I don‘t want Hard Rock to think I bring in people who do this stuff!” She also says they were asleep at the time, which begs the question, how could they tell? 

Lastly, he and his radio and TV shows were so famous for so long that they were satirized by anybody from Sid Caesar to Sonny and Cher to “Saturday Night Live.” One of them even caused a New Mexico town to rename itself after a show.  News from Los Angeles that Ralph Edwards has died.  He was most famously the producer and the host of “This Is Your Life” in which the subjects, usually celebrities, were brought into a studio on false pretenses, and then made the subject of a surprise half-hour biography in which everybody from their spouses to there fourth grade homeroom teachers would appear. “This Is Your Life” began on TV in 1952 and was revived at least three times, the third, scheduled to go on the air next year with Regis Philbin as host. 

Edwards also hosted “Truth or Consequences” on radio and TV, beginning in 1940.  On the show‘s 10th anniversary, he launched a campaign to get some American city to change its name to honor the show.  The residents of Hot Springs, New Mexico, voted 1,294 to 295 to change the name of the town to Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, which it still is. 

Ralph Edwards had been in broadcasting since 1937.  His longevity indicated by this fact, he produced “The People‘s Court” beginning in 1981.  His publicist says he died today of heart failure.  Ralph Edwards was 92 years old. 

Farmers looking for farmers, not for help in the fields but for, perhaps, the proverbial roll in the hay.  Looking online. 

That‘s ahead.  But first time for COUNTDOWN‘s list of today‘s three nominees for the coveted title of “Worst Person in the World.” Bronze winners, the crowd at a Mike Tyson promotional dinner in Darby, in England.  Police had to be called when a mass brawl broke out at a fight—meeting.  In the crowd, the former British champ Frank Bruno, who twice lost in the ring to Tyson, now if Bruno landed a punch, this is notable, because it would be the first time he ever connected at any event connected to cousin Mike. 

Runner up, well, it could be the 37-year-old woman Lisa Clark of Georgia.  She‘s pregnant.  She eloped with the father, married him and was quickly put in jail.  The father is a 15-year-old boy.  But the actual runner up is retired Georgia Judge Johnny Tallant, who married them.  You were thinking what, exactly, pal? 

But the winner, O‘Reilly again.  This let-al Qaeda-bomb-San Francisco-thing just keeps getting worse and worse.  Back on radio now, he has suggested that San Francisco defend itself with a new militia, quoting:

“You can have a militia that‘s a rainbow coalition armed with spatulas, and the basic training will be in The Haight.  OK, we‘ll have it right on the Castro Street.  March up and down since they‘re so good at parades,” unquote. 

So, Bill, you‘ve now insulted all the gay people, too.  Terrific.  Do you wonder if he worries about what his shift is going to be in hell?  Bill O‘Reilly, today‘s “Worst Person in the”—you know the rest. 


OLBERMANN:  Nothing has changed more dramatically in this country in the last century than where and how we live.  At the dawn of the 20th Century, 40 percent of all Americans lived on farms, 60 percent lived in communities of 2,500 people or less.  At the dawn of the 21st Century, the number of us actually living on farms is 1 percent.  Used to be the farmer‘s son met the farmer‘s daughter maybe at the county store and they either took over one of the family‘s farms or they got one of their own.  Today, what does the farmer looking for a date do? 

Our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, well, naturally, he or she goes online,  The site went up in May inviting farmers of both genders to post personals seeking others who are also, as the corny joke goes, outstanding in their own fields.  It is not strictly limited to farmers.  Other residents of rural areas are welcome.  They even have a horse dentist. 

And it isn‘t just about the geography of the farm or of rural America, it‘s also about the hours and the mindset.  Organizers report 1,800 profiles so far.  No marriages yet, some examples of the profiles, there‘s heartattack who advises that cowboys need love too.  He‘s 31 years old from Lawton, Oklahoma. “Just a normal easygoing average guy who enjoys everything under the sun,” he says, “from horseback riding to motorcycles.” 

And from a woman who just relocated to—from Tennessee to the vicinity of Columbus, Ohio, who describes herself as “humorous, life of the hoedown, easygoing, slowpoke and romantic, let‘s watch the sunset together, any man who thinks I would like a fancy supper over four-wheeling in the mud is definitely crazy.” We left out her user name because she joins us now, Blain Newsome, who‘s getting her Master‘s Ag Communications at Ohio State. 

Thanks for your time tonight. 


OLBERMANN:  Has—as a Web site, this would seem no more unusual than one that might specialize in, I don‘t know, fans of the Beatles or left-handed people or whatever.  But I gather that the country versus city thing really matters to you, why? 

NEWSOME:  Definitely, because, you know, being someone that has their life involved in agriculture that takes up a lot of time, and you know, city people, they just don‘t understand and appreciate the kind of life that I like. 

OLBERMANN:  Any hesitation to go online for this?  Is that not always a risky thing whether you‘re from the city or the country? 

NEWSOME:  Definitely.  I definitely agree.  Yes, there‘s definitely some hesitation, but I‘m taking my time.  I‘m not going out and meeting, you know, hundreds of boys, you know, right off the bat.  You know, I‘m still on e-mail.  I‘ve haven‘t gone on a dates with anybody yet so.

OLBERMANN:  I gather though that you‘ve previously dated city men. 

What was the worst thing that happened on one of those dates? 

NEWSOME:  Oh, this is a good one.  When I was in college, I was dating a guy who was from the city.  You know, never been out to a farm before in his life.  And I was showing an Angus heifer, and she parked out her legs and she used the restroom right there in front of him.  And he pointed his finger out and started laughing at her because she was using the restroom.  And, no offense to you city guys but I thought, what a moron!  I mean, I couldn‘t have that.  So needless to say, he got dumped pretty soon. 

OLBERMANN:  Now don‘t assume anything here.  I got my degree in communications at the agriculture college at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.  So I may be a city guy but I went to an aggie school, so I know my stuff here.  Is it possible for some guy to have the attributes that you want and still be a city guy?  Are the two things completely mutually exclusive? 

NEWSOME:  You know, for me personally, yes.  I mean, because if he‘s a city guy, he‘s much more concerned about what kind of bar he‘s going to go to or what he‘s wearing or his hair.  And I‘m not trying to stereotype everybody.  I‘m just saying most—all of the city guys that I‘ve met are like that.  And that‘s just not the kind of guy I‘m looking for.  I don‘t really care about that.  That‘s stupid to me. 

OLBERMANN:  Tell me about the site.  You mentioned that there haven‘t been dates here.  But have you found the thing worthwhile?  And has it lived up to your expectations? 

NEWSOME:  Yes, definitely.  You know, I‘m already kind of a picky person anyway.  And you know, my friends back home in Tennessee would always tease me because I always told them, you know, I‘m not going to date somebody unless they‘re agriculturally oriented in some way, form, or fashion.  And this site lets me be really picky.  And there‘s all kinds of people with all kinds of interest in agriculture.  So it‘s pretty neat. 

OLBERMANN:  Is there anybody on there who is not agriculturally oriented? 

NEWSOME:  There are some people that are leaning on the city folk side but I‘d say 95 percent are all people that have been raised on farms or are some way involved in agriculture. 

OLBERMANN:  All right, last thing here.  It‘s not the Web site, but we‘ve got a couple hundred thousand people watching.  For any farmers out who might want to sign on and send you a message, what would you like them to know about you, Blain? 

NEWSOME:  I‘m down-to-earth, I‘m not hard to please, and I like to talk agriculture. 

OLBERMANN:  Is that in fact—I mean, is that the long-term goal with this, you want to go and talk agriculture and live on a farm with somebody who has the same approach as you do? 

NEWSOME:  Yes, I mean, I want to—you know, I‘m looking for a.


NEWSOME:  . first and foremost.  I‘m not in a hurry to rush into

anything.  But out—you know, when I‘m looking for someone to date, I

want someone that‘s going to like the same things that I like and enjoy the

same things that I enjoy and appreciate those things.  And yes, that life -

that farm life is the type of thing that I‘m looking for. 

OLBERMANN:  Blain Newsome, who is looking for no hat, all cattle at  Thanks for your time. 

NEWSOME:  You‘re welcome. 

OLBERMANN:  Good luck with the service and all the best generally speaking. 

NEWSOME:  Well, thank you. 

OLBERMANN:  That‘s COUNTDOWN, I‘m Keith Olbermann, keep your knees loose, good night and good luck.

Our MSNBC coverage continues now with RITA COSBY LIVE & DIRECT.