Guests: Dana Milbank, Michael Bouchard, Michael Musto
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
The funeral of the widow of Martin Luther King becomes every bit as political as was her life and her husband‘s. And guess who was the target?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FORMER PRESIDENT JIMMY CARTER: The civil liberties of both husband and wife violated, as they became the targets of secret government wiretapping.
REV. JOSEPH LOWERY, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: We know now that there were no weapons of mass destruction over there, and we know that there are weapons of misdirection right down here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And that was before the Clintons even spoke. Is any venue appropriate for political comment?
And for a picture of mourner Nicolette Sheridan.
For the second time in a week, the churches are burning in Alabama.
Four more Baptist houses of worship in ruins.
Karl Rove‘s blacklist. A conservative magazine reporting arm-twisting, the deputy chief of staff threatening any Republican who makes too much of the warrant-free wiretaps.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This might be a really good experience and good exposure.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The exposure, I‘m giving you that. And the experience? I don‘t know. I guess it was inevitable, women valets, overdressed or underdressed, in Southern California.
And somebody should take the wheel from Britney and her infant son, Sean. Check your mirrors, side of your eye, side of your eye. Don‘t drive angry, don‘t drive angry. Hey, you‘re doing pretty well for a 4-month-old old.
All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.
There‘s that awful old joke about how there‘s really nothing worse than going to a funeral, only to find out when you get there that you are the guest of honor.
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, that may have crossed the president‘s mind this afternoon in Georgia, when he attended the services for Coretta Scott King. A surprising percentage of the speakers devoted surprising amounts of their eulogies not to the widow of the slain civil rights leader, but to the most controversial of Mr. Bush‘s policies.
More than 10,000 gathering inside the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church outside Atlanta to pay their respects to the late wife of Martin Luther King, Jr., Presidents Bush, Bush, Carter, and Clinton among them, Pastor Eddie Long greeting all those assembled by the national Cago (ph) audience with the message, quote, “Today we will mourn, some of us will weep, but what Coretta Scott King wants us to do after this moment is to get up, carry the torch, move forward.”
Many speakers not waiting even till the service was over to pick up that torch, the eulogies for the civil rights movement pioneer and longtime antiwar activist becoming both personal and political.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I‘ve come today to offer the sympathy of our entire nation at the passing of a woman who worked to make our nation whole.
LOWERY: She extended Martin‘s message against poverty, racism, and war. She deplored the terror inflicted by our (INAUDIBLE) or missions way afar. We know now there were no weapons of mass destruction over there.
But Coretta knew, and we know, that there are weapons of misdirection right down here.
CARTER: The struggle for equal rights is not over. We only have to recall the color of the faces of those in Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi.
It was difficult for them personally, with the civil liberties of both husband and wife violated as they became the targets of secret government wiretapping, other surveillance.
FORMER PRESIDENT GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Every step he and his followers subsequently made from Selma to the statehouse -- That‘d be your lucky day, I‘ve lost a page.
FORMER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: We are honored to be here. I‘m honored to be here with my president and my former presidents...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And our future president.
CLINTON: ... and when—when—when—when—when...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Even in this, there was precedent for this president. When Mr. Bush attended the funeral of Pope John Paul II last April, the appearance of his face on the giant TV screens set out outside St. Peter‘s Square prompted many in that crowd to boo and whistle.
As to today, time to call in national political reporter Dana Milbank of “The Washington Post.”
Good evening, Dana.
DANA MILBANK, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:
OLBERMANN: Not that that was his constituency rising up to knock him around today, but would the president have seen that coming? Is that—
I‘m not meaning to sound disingenuous by asking this question, but was that an appropriate venue for that kind of barrage?
MILBANK: If you‘re President Bush, as a rule of thumb is, you know you‘re in trouble when you have to rely on President Clinton to defend you. And Clinton more or less was saying, Hey, you know, call off the dogs here. He said, I don‘t want everybody to forget there‘s actually a woman in there, pointing to the coffin, because the hits were coming at him—at Bush so fast and furiously.
I think we now understand why the White House originally was not planning to send the president down there, why there was some hesitance. And it‘s no mystery. When you‘re, you know, looking at polls showing you have about 2 percent support in the African-American community, and probably those 2 percent are not going to be in the audience today, you can expect a lot of grief. You might not have been expecting the crack about the weapons of mass destruction.
OLBERMANN: Expectations aside, the president having to sit there, essentially, and take it, I mean, his father had tried to break the tension there during his remarks about missing the page of it. But Bush 43 on camera, right behind the podium for the most of the afternoon, and largely forced to sit there and squirm, and even stand to applaud those who, like the Reverend Lowery there, were slamming him, what would have that experience have been like in this context for a president who is pretty much used to having those prescreened audiences?
MILBANK: Yes, he hasn‘t really had something like this since, say, the John Kerry debate, or something like that. I mean, he was protected a bit. You didn‘t have to see him all the time. He did come out reasonably well, I thought, because the applause for him was certainly greater when he finished his speech than when he entered the room.
He played the good sport, he gave Lowery a nice hug when that rather abusive eulogy was done. So, you know, in a sense, going there and taking the abuse, whether it‘s on Katrina or the wiretapping, allows him to at least say, I‘m trying to be the uniter, not the divider.
OLBERMANN: Well, during the hug he was placing the wiretap.
MILBANK: He might have been.
OLBERMANN: All right, that‘s just a joke. Don‘t write.
Is there a backlash coming on the other side of this? I mean, will there be columns now written this week in conservative haunts about politics trumping something as supposedly dignified as a memorial to Mrs. King?
MILBANK: Yes, I mean, it‘s coming already. The question is, how much does it stick? You already hear people throwing around the Wellstone word, and this is similar, in that it became very political, and it was extremely long. I‘m not even sure it‘s ended yet.
But the difference here is, we‘re not talking about the death of a politician. We‘re talking about the death of an icon. And this is something that her family wanted, and her family was very much joining in this. So it may be a little perilous to try to launch some sort of a political backlash to this. The president probably just is happy to just get away with—as easily as he did.
OLBERMANN: But of all those politicians who spoke, really there was only one who might consider truly active here, and certainly there was only one former first lady who spoke, and that happened to be Senator Clinton, who is, of course, as the crowd called out, the previous president says, President Clinton said, and someone shouted out, And the future president.
Was that by itself too political? Did that—is that going to create a backlash? Is that the right venue for something like this?
MILBANK: I‘m not sure about the backlash there, but I don‘t think this was a good day for Hillary Clinton. And it‘s never a good day for a guy who has to—or a gal who has to follow Bill Clinton. He was just brilliant there. Did you like the line when he said that he thought that Coretta Scott King still fit the bill when she was over 75? The whole place erupted, and they were laughing, of course, right at Bill Clinton.
But he had them eating out of their hands.
And then for her to follow—and ultimately, she actually ripped off one of Clinton‘s lines to use during the campaign to help John Kerry on the Vietnam issue. It wasn‘t really a strong moment for her. And that‘s going to be a difficulty with her far more eloquent husband.
OLBERMANN: Dana Milbank of “The Washington Post,” giving us a unexpected political perspective on the Coretta Scott King funeral today. Great thanks, sir, as always.
OLBERMANN: It was not all politics, it was not just, as the wags will observe, four presidents and a funeral. It was not even partially about the incongruous sight of Nicolette Sheridan, the actress from “Desperate Housewives,” in the church, accompanying her friend Michael Bolton, who sang at the funeral.
There was, at the day‘s heart, the poetry dedicated to the woman whose extraordinary life was remembered.
Key moments now from the eulogies to Coretta Scott King.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We thank you, God, for allowing us to know a woman named Coretta Scott King. Thank you for her witness, her walk, her work. Thank you for her elegance and her eloquence.
REV. BERNICE KING, CORETTA SCOTT KING‘S DAUGHTER: A woman of authority, a woman of power, woman of grace, a woman of essence, a woman of strength, a woman of dignity. We praise the Lord for Coretta Scott King and her example.
DOROTHY HEIGHT, NATIONAL COUNCIL OF NEGRO WOMEN: With all of her experiences, she said she would not live a life dominated by fear.
MAYOR SHIRLEY FRANKLIN (D) ATLANTA: The last stanza and the highest note of Coretta King‘s freedom song remains to be sung. She‘s gathered us here today from all walks of life and all persuasions to lift our voices in songs of freedom, equality, social and economic justice, not just for our own sake, but for the sake of the children the world over.
MAYA ANGELOU, AUTHOR, POET, ACTIVIST (singing): I open my mouth to the Lord, and I won‘t turn back, no. I will go, I shall go, I‘ll see what the end is going to be.
SEN. EDWARD M. Kennedy (D), MASSACHUSETTS: In the face of her constant courage, her unshakable faith, her inner strength, and quiet grace, even Jim Crow had to yield.
BEBE WINANS, GOSPEL SINGER (singing): You just stand, (INAUDIBLE) we know God has a purpose. Oh, yes, and God has a plan.
ATTALLAH SHABAZZ, DAUGHTER OF MALCOLM X: Coretta Scott King gave people a backbone and a poise. If you didn‘t have any of your own, you could mimic it, at least. You knew what grace looked like, you knew what poise looked like. And in her, it came in brown, which we didn‘t always get to see forecast before us. We got to see it in wonderment, in beauty, just that film, you know, was she never not cute?
LOWERY: Coretta, my child, come on home. You‘ve earned your rest, your body is weary, you‘ve done your best.
Her witness and character always strong, her spirit a melody from heaven‘s song, her beauty warm like the rays of the sun.
Goodnight, my sister, well done, well done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: On this day of remembrance in the civil rights struggle, a disturbing echo of the past. More church burnings hit Alabama. Motive? Suspects? We‘ll talk to an investigator. These four churches were all black churches.
And Karl Rove, reportedly laying down the law to Republicans in the Senate, vote against the president‘s NSA spying program, and face a blacklist. And the story comes from a conservative magazine.
You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: Dozens of American journalists and politicians wound up in jail after the Adams administration passed the Alien and Sedition Acts in 1798, stifling political protest and creating the nation‘s first transgressors‘ list.
Nearly 2,000 who refused to name names before the House Un-American Activities Committee were rendered unemployable in Hollywood after the self-imposed blacklist of the 1950s.
And two decades after that, there was President Nixon‘s enemies list, posed with the goal of making difficult, by means of things like IRS audits, the lives of anyone thought to be against the Nixon White House.
Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, you haven‘t really made it into the Black Museum of American Political History until you‘ve created your own list. Karl Rove may have just made it, congressional sources telling the conservative digest “Insight” that Mr. Rove has been twisting arms to ensure that the Senate Judiciary Committee‘s investigation of the domestic spy program does not bear any fruit, threatening any Republican member of the Senate who dares buck the administration‘s authorization of domestic wiretaps without warrants.
The iron fist inside the glove, that any straying lawmaker running for reelection in November could no longer count on any support from the White House. The assumption there being, of course, that come November, any Republican running for reelection will still want said president‘s help.
The lesson in the whole thing, perhaps, President Adams was roundly defeated in his bid for reelection, Mr. Nixon had to resign, and the chairman of the House Un-American Activities Committee wound up serving time in the same penitentiary in Connecticut as one of the screenwriters he helped to put there.
It was in the wake of Nixon‘s enemies list that Congress enacted legislation aimed at putting a check on the power of the presidency to snoop on its enemies, perceived or otherwise. Perhaps you‘ve heard mention of it the last seven weeks. It is commonly called FISA. Three decades after its creation, it is under threat, and it‘s more relevant than ever.
Our chief Washington correspondent, Norah O‘Donnell, takes a look at FISA‘s origins and impact.
NORAH O‘DONNELL, MSNBC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On Capitol Hill, yesterday‘s Senate hearings focused all day long on a four-letter F-word.
ALBERTO GONZALES, ATTORNEY GENERAL: ... FISA...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... FISA...
SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R-PA), CHAIR, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: ... FISA...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... FISA...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... FISA...
O‘DONNELL: FISA stands for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a 1978 law critics charge is now being violated by President Bush‘s decision to authorize eavesdropping without court warrants.
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-V), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: This is against the law. In America, our America, nobody is above the law, not even the president of the United States.
SPECTER: The president does not have a blank check.
O‘DONNELL: FISA was specifically created to put a check on presidential powers following the abuses of Watergate and Richard Nixon during Vietnam.
DICK SAUBER, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY LAW SCHOOL: President Nixon and Henry Kissinger decided that they would wiretap staff people from Kissinger‘s office, the National Security Staff in the White House, without a warrant, to see who was leaking information to the press about negotiations with the North Vietnamese.
O‘DONNELL: Many of the Nixon abuses were uncovered in 1975 by the Church Committee in the U.S. Senate. Former senator Gary Hart served on the committee. He said today‘s NSA controversy is deja vu all over again.
FORMER SEN. GARY HART (D): It was as a result of the Church Committee‘s investigations that we passed a number of laws to control the activities of intelligence agencies such as the CIA and NSA. And one of those laws was the so-called FISA or Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
O‘DONNELL: The attorney general claims the 27-year-old FISA law is too cumbersome and too slow to catch al Qaeda. Still, some Republicans aren‘t buying it, arguing it may be time to change the law.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to look specifically at how we could amend that FISA law looking at a possible decades-long war on terrorism.
O‘DONNELL: But the attorney general says FISA doesn‘t need amending, because the president has inherent authority under Article 2 of the Constitution.
GONZALES: Presidents throughout our history have authorized the warrantless surveillance of the enemy during wartime.
O‘DONNELL: Furthermore, the attorney general cites the congressional authorization for the use of force against al Qaeda after 9/11. But even some Republicans dispute that.
‘SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: When I voted for it, I never envisioned that I was giving to this president or any other president the ability to go around FISA carte blanche.
O‘DONNELL (on camera): Tonight, Vice President Dick Cheney was asked if the White House is willing to work with Congress to settle some of the legal disputes. And he replied, quote, “We believe that we have all the legal authority we need.”
For COUNTDOWN, I‘m Norah O‘Donnell in Washington.
OLBERMANN: Thank you, Norah.
Also tonight, four more Alabama churches go up in flames overnight.
The latest on the investigation.
And the mayhem continues over the Muhammad cartoons. A second straight day of deadly protests, Iran upping the outrage quotient.
But one entrepreneur is bridging the cultures. He‘s turning the outrage over a prophet into outrageous corporate profits.
All of that and more, ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: It was on this date in 1839 that the eminent Kentucky senator Henry Clay announced on the floor of the U.S. Senate, quote, “I had rather be right than president.” So it‘s now exactly 167 years since any American politician has uttered such blasphemy aloud. To Henry Clay, then, we dedicate tonight‘s traipse through the absurd.
Let‘s play Oddball.
We begin in Lucknow, India, where it‘s time once again to kick off the Muslim religious month of Muharam (ph) by walking barefoot on hot coals. Yes, it‘s good clean fun for all ages, and almost nobody gets hurt. Hundreds line up for the opportunity to march across the glowing embers or drag their children across. Thanks. But organizers say most people out on the other side completely unscathed, if you don‘t count their horribly, horribly burned feet.
Now, here‘s a really big rabbit. Hello. It‘s a German giant bunny bred in Germany. Most of these bunnies get pretty big, but this wascally wabbit has gwown to more than 20 pounds and stands more than three feet tall on his hind legs. According to his twainer, Irvin Teichman (ph), who himself weighs more than 20 pounds, the rabbit‘s name is Rudy. Teichman says Rudy grew up that large on a regular diet of rabbit food, steak sandwiches, and RC Cola.
Finally, this guy. He‘s perhaps the world‘s biggest “Star Trek” nerd, British ex-DJ Tony Allen (ph). Yeoman Allen here earned some fame, but not a lot of fortune, a few years back when he remodeled his entire apartment to look like the inside of the TV spaceship, the starship “Voyager.” Allen‘s wife then left him when he began the project—shock, shock—and by the time he was finished, he had racked up almost $300,000 in debt.
He hoped to start a business doing the same thing for other Trekkies, but apparently nobody else could get their mom‘s permission to redo the basement. Now the British tabloid “The Sun” reports Allen has filed for bankruptcy. The starship apartment will go on the market. And he still hasn‘t had a date in three years. (INAUDIBLE), ladies.
Beam me down, Scotty. Can you act, but can‘t get an audition? How about a role in which you drive a car in an evening gown, or a bikini? Yes, ladies, put your Hollywood career in overdrive by putting somebody else‘s vehicle in park.
And if you had reservations when we heard Britney Spears was going to be a mother, good thinking. Why this photo sparked an investigation by the sheriff‘s department into her mothering skills.
All that ahead.
But first, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.
Number three, Cory Davidson of Elwood, Indiana. He had volunteered for admission to the Army but was turned down because he had a tattoo on his neck, two-inch-tall Japanese letters meaning “brothers.” No visible neck tattoos in the Army. Ah, but that was in July of 2004, and recruiting has not gone well since then. Davidson said the recruiter called back late last month, said they‘d changed the neck-tattoo policy, and he is now headed to boot camp in May.
(INAUDIBLE) Moo Moo the Dachshund, a little Wiener dog who doubles as a smoke detector. Who knew? His owner‘s home became filled with smoke, the batteries in the real detector had expired, so Moo Moo clawed and barked at his human‘s bedroom door until she got herself and him the hell out of there. Moo Moo said he wants a reward for this, a new name. Anything other than Moo Moo.
And number one, speaking of which, B.B. King‘s dog, Lucille. The 2-year-old white Maltese disappeared in West Hollywood. King has offered an autographed guitar to whoever returns her safely. The blues legend says he named the dog Lucille after his favorite guitar, Lucille. He also has a cat named Lucille, a bowling ball named Lucille, and a ball named Lucille.
OLBERMANN: It may constitute the most bitter of coincidences. This was the day of Coretta Scott King‘s funeral and this was the anniversary of the birth of Fredrick Douglass in 1871. And in our third story tonight, this was the day that four more Baptist churches were discovered burned to the ground or nearly so in Alabama. In the town of Boligee, 45 miles southwest Tuscaloosa, our correspondent is Ron Mott. Ron, good evening.
RON MOTT, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Keith. Since Friday and throughout the weekend officials from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms believed they were working with a one night fire wave of crime against churches here in Alabama. Well now they have changed their mind and they believe they have a serial arsonist or arsonists on their hands.
(voice-over): Today four more churches were burned and two of those four completely destroyed. Now, obviously, these fires are emotional traumas for the people who call these churches their home away from home. We spoke to one member of the church that burned, sustained heavy damage on the inside of the church itself, it can be saved, but there‘s a lot of work ahead of them and their it may be some time before they can worship there again.
(on camera): This member says she has been a member of that church for 60 years and thought that this crime today leveled against her church hit far too close to home.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNIE HODGES GARDERN, DANCY BAPTIST CHURCH: We can deal with anything else, but don‘t mess with any of my family or my church. That‘s my life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MOTT: Now there was a $10,000 reward established for those five church fires in Bibb County, Alabama, that‘s the center part of this state. We presume that there will be additional moneys added to that reward fund for information for these four fires. Officials say that there are clear signs that these were deliberately set. Now tomorrow, the governor of Alabama, Bob Riley, will begin doing what he did on Saturday, coming to tour the fire damaged the small churches here in Alabama. Keith, that‘s the latest from here. Back to you.
OLBERMANN: Ron Mott at Boligee, Alabama. Great thanks. And joining me now the assistant director for field operations for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Michael Bouchard. Thank you for your time tonight, sir.
MICHAEL BOUCHARD, ATF FIELD OPERATIONS: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Nine fires. They might be connected. What is the kind of evidence that you‘re looking for that suggests the link that you‘re presuming here between the five fires last week and the four last night?
BOUNCHARD: Well, we‘re not saying all of them are linked but we have circumstances that are similar. The time of day that the fires occurred and some of the similarities in the burn patterns and the fact that these are all rural churches, so there are some similarities that we‘re certainly considering strongly.
OLBERMANN: How do you begin to discern whether this is a serial arsonist or a hate crime? I mean last week some of the churches had mostly black congregations, some of them had mostly white congregations. Last night‘s four were all black churches. Do you know what the motive is?
BOUCHARD: Well, we don‘t know what the motive is now and typically in these kind of cases you don‘t know the motive until you arrest the person and they tell you why they did it. What we do is we take a systematic approach at doing every fire investigation, much like any other fire investigation, we look at all of the evidence and follow the leads and when the evidence takes us to the person that we feel is responsible we then start looking more closely at the type of motive that was involved. But we‘ve been successful in these cases over the years and I fully expect that we‘ll be successful in this one.
OLBERMANN: Was the same factor true last night that was true this week, that the churches were burned were essentially seem to have been fired at intervals matching the amount of time it would take to get from one to the other?
BOUCHARD: Well, it is pretty similar but being in a rural areas many of the fires burn a lot longer than in an occupied area, a lot go unnoticed for a period of time and so it‘s tough to tell right away the exact times they were set. But, obviously, they were all set during the middle of the night as the fires were last week.
OLBERMANN: How does the serial arson or sequential arson compare to other serial acts? Is—in the sense that the perpetrator in those other kinds of serial cases seems to have a need for attention and perhaps even a need to be caught. Is it true with arson as well?
BOUCHARD: It is true with arson. Many of the serial arsonists target the same types of buildings, typically use the same type of fire and the same type of things to set the fires. But, again, we‘ve done these for a lot of years, this is what we do for a living and we do these every day, and we‘ve done over 1,000 church fires in the last four years and we‘ve been very successful, particularly with serial arsonists, over the last few years.
OLBERMANN: And we thank you for your efforts on our behalf, on those things, and we also thank you for your time tonight. Michael Bouchard, the assistant director of field operations for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
BOUCHARD: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Good night.
And from the hope that no religious hate fueled those fires to the certainty that in many parts of the world Muslim anger has been ignited and sustained by a series of offensive cartoons, and the protests are continuing today, seemingly unabated. And though the outrage suggests insults deeply felt there are also the opportunists ready to aggravate the injury. Our correspondent in Baghdad is Mike Boettcher.
MIKE BOETTCHER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The rage and scope of protest escalated across the Muslim world. In Afghanistan, several hundred demonstrators attacked Western bases and military forces. Three Afghans were killed in one battle.
Thousands marched in Pakistan. Indonesia. Iraq. And Iran. To protest the caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed published in Denmark and republished elsewhere in Europe. A leading Iranian newspaper retaliated by running an ad announcing a contest for the best cartoon about the Holocaust.
The papers‘ editors wrote, “Does western free speech cover issues like America‘s and Israel‘s crimes or an incident like the Holocaust?” But even some Iranians say the reaction has gone too far.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It‘s been exaggerated in a very big proportion.
BOETTCHER: And while protesters in Gaza fired at an image of Denmark‘s prime minister, the prime minister said his country is not to blame.
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN, DANISH P.M.: Neither the Danish government nor the Danish people cannot be held responsible for what is published in a free and independent newspaper.
BOETTCHER: President Bush called Denmark‘s prime minister to offer solidarity and support. Vice President Cheney publicly reinforced the administration‘s view.
DICK CHENEY, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: It‘s appropriate for people to respect one another‘s religion, but I don‘t believe that the printing of those cartoons justifies the violence that we‘ve seen.
BOETTCHER (on camera): Even though the protests are directed at European targets here in Iraq, U.S. military commanders worry if this crisis does not abate, American forces, too will be a target. Mike Boettcher, NBC News, Baghdad.
OLBERMANN: Also tonight Hollywood is not quite the same kind of political flashpoint as Baghdad, remember the movie “Valley Girls”? Meet the latest, the Valet Girls. And who is going to take Britney‘s keys away from her. Especially since she thinks she can drive with her four-month-old on her lap.
The weekly Britney bash with Michael Musto is ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: It evidently started a few decades ago in, where else, Australia, and has migrated to, where else, Southern California. Only in the latter locale is the pun possible. Our number two story on COUNTDOWN, Valet Girls as in the bitchin‘ bod babes of the ‘70s and ‘80s, only this time it‘s spelled v-a-l-e-t. It‘s near the ocean and the two largest demographic groups seem to be unemployed would be actresses and guys who have long since lost the ability to distinguish between their automobiles and their reproductive organs and so the only question is, what took so long? Mark Mullen introduces us to women in evening wear or swimwear parking your car. Valet Girls.
MARK MULLEN, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For thousands of young wannabe actresses, the jobs are few and the competition fierce. Sixty six young women at this casting call.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just thought it would be a good experience and good exposure.
MULLEN: All of them vying for the big break, for the demanding role of a lifetime, the role of .
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, how are you this evening?
MULLEN: Parking attendant?
Lots of young women are literally lining up for the chance to park the cars of the rich and famous, make up to $400 in tips nightly and maybe even get discovered by Hollywood‘s movers and shakers.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We‘re women, we‘re beautiful and we‘re friendly.
MULLEN: Twenty-three-year-old Erica Rumsey (ph), a struggling actress from Des Moines, Iowa.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People are worried when they first see us. They say, are you models? Are you drive my car? And I say, I got this, I can drive.
JOEL STEIN, “L.A. TIMES”: It‘s a land of good looking women and good looking cars and it‘s a way for good-looking women and good-looking cars, and someone had the genius of putting them together and he‘s going to be a billionaire.
MULLEN: Brad Saltzman is the brains behind the beauty.
BRAD SALTZMAN, VALET GIRLS: It‘s so Los Angeles and so la-la land.
MULLEN: Saltzman just merged two companies that offer all female parking service at trendy restaurants, hotels and private parties. His company, Valet Girls, now serves a growing edge in the male dominated world of valet.
SALTZMAN: Would you rather have me park your car in a red vest or would you rather have a hot-looking model park your car wearing a bikini or a skirt?
MULLEN: With the typical valet service, the male attendant does something called rip and run. They rip you a ticket and then they run your car to the parking lot. But with the women .
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hey there, Mark, good evening. How are you doing tonight?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Make sure you bring this back at the end of the night.
MULLEN (on camera): It‘s a whole different story.
(voice-over): Patrons we spoke with are pleased with the service.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It‘s like Christmas every day.
MULLEN: But wise-cracking columnist Joel Stein of the “L.A. Times” claims to be worried.
STEIN: I‘m disturbed, I won‘t lie to you. I think this is a sad mark on our culture. I know that if a woman half naked asked me for my keys, I‘m going to think twice.
MULLEN: To make matters worse, the Valet Girls are now the subject of Hollywood buzz.
JAY LENO, TALK SHOW HOST: The company has pretty girls parking cars wearing bikinis, miniskirts and lingerie. That is if you have a nice car. You show up in a 1989 Celica and you get a transvestite in a thong.
MULLEN: Valet Girls could soon be the basis for a reality based TV show. And the company has big plans to expand nationwide.
STEIN: This guy thinks he‘s going to export this concept to the middle of the country, the middle of the country is not interested in attractive women. It will never work.
MULLEN: Yeah, right, when it involves beautiful cars and attractive women reaching for the stars, it‘s probably best to never say never in Hollywood. Mark Mullen, NBC News.
OLBERMANN: If that sounds like two things that don‘t really mix, wait until you hear the headline from our nightly roundup of celebrity and entertainment news, “Keeping Tabs” the possible partnership of Michael Jackson and the late Pope John Paul II.
The Reverend Giuseppe Moscatti (ph), the head of a religious record label in Rome telling the Associated Press he hopes to put out a CD in which popular singers perform musical versions of prayers written by John Paul. Among the artists, Jackson.
The Vatican has not approved the project but Jackson‘s spokesperson first said the entertainer had indeed been contacted by Rome a year ago but could not respond because then on trial for child molestation. But Raymone Bain later retracted her statement and said that Jackson simply had no knowledge of these plans. And oh, yeah, he‘s been moved to another parish.
And those J-Lo baby rumors you and I don‘t care about are circulating again though her spokes person flat out has said quote, “she‘s not pregnant” and a source tells msnbc.com Janet Walls (ph) that is Jennifer Lopez is too. Apparently an upscale L.A. baby boutique was shut down recently as Ms. Lopez and a companion went in and bought thousands of dollars worth of things for a baby girl.
Maybe she is just hoping to dress up an entire neighborhood full of dogs.
And from baby rumors to baby facts. Britney Spears caught driving while holding her infant son in her lap. The authorities have been to her house already. We‘ll talk to Michael Musto about what we already knew about Britney‘s parenting skills but now have pictures of.
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.”
The bronze. Mike Holmgren, the coach of the Seattle Seahawks. He told the 15,000 fans at rally after Seattle lost the Super Bowl, that “We knew it was going to be tough going against the Pittsburgh Steelers. I didn‘t know that we would have to play the guys in the striped shirts as well.” It was a reference, of course, to the dubious refereeing, fair enough, except that Mr. Holmgren is also the team‘s vice president for football operations and also a member of the NFL Competition Committee which oversees rules and rule changes and refereeing and stuff. Beneath you, Mike.
And the silver tonight. Deputy Jack Muncie of Martin County, Florida. Deputy Muncie appealing having been fired. The sheriff dismissed him after determining that Muncie spent some of his off hours at the beach getting images like you see here, using his sheriff‘s vehicle‘s camera to videotape women in bikinis at the beach including one taking a shower at the beach.
But the winner. Ahmed Abu Daya (ph). He runs a store called the PLO Flag Shop. A souvenir stand of sorts in Gaza City. Everybody has got to make a living. Many of us in the West think that the Muslim reaction to those controversial Danish political cartoons has at least some justification, but it is hard to maintain that open-mindedness when you hear that after the rioting began, Mr. Abu Daya contacted his flag wholesaler in Taiwan and ordered 100 Danish and 100 Norwegian flags, which he then sold to protesters so they could burn them.
Ahmed Abu Daya, proprietor and genial host at the PLO Flag Shop in beautiful downtown Gaza City. Today‘s worst person in the world.
OLBERMANN: First there was a photo of her in the denim floor length dress with Justin Timberlake aside her in a denim tux and hat and then there was that shot of here with the peek-a-boo jeans, baseball cap and the temporary husband by her side, taken just as morning broke over the sincerity capital of the world, Las Vegas.
And in our number one story on the COUNTDOWN continuing to prove the 21st century maxim, live by the image, die by the image, oops, she did it again. Ms. Britney Spears and her infant son in Malibu, California, driving.
She appears to be driving. He, all four months of him, appears to be on her lap, not in a restraint of any kind, just sitting there waiting for the air bag to deploy around him like a roof full of snow hitting a passerby.
Though state law and common sense prohibits such things, she tells “People Magazine” she had removed young Shawn Preston Spears Federline from his car seat while waiting for her bodyguard outside a local Starbucks. Paparazzi descended. She was left with no choice but to leave immediately upon her guard‘s return with the kid on the lap.
The local Department of Children and Family Services did not think that excuse valid. Our friends at tmz.com are reporting an L.A. County Sheriff‘s Department Deputy paid the Spears residence a little visit this afternoon there to get contact info so that the DCFS could quote, “do their thing.”
We turn now to the only voice of reason amid the insanity that is celebrity, Michael Musto of the “Village Voice.” Good evening, Michael.
MICHAEL MUSTO, “VILLAGE VOICE”: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: As if we needed proof there was not much going on under the hair extensions.
MUSTO: The extensions are on a little too tight, but I must admit she thought she would make a responsible mother, then again, I thought she‘d be nominated for “Crossroads.” But look, at least Britney is not alone in this. Michael Jackson loves to have kids bouncing on his lap. It‘s kind of the foreplay before he dangles them from balconies. Kate Moss I hear is so dumb that she does the reverse, she actually sits on the kid. Britney is one step ahead of here. Now she actually has a hit single coming out called, “Sit On Me Baby, One More Time.” It‘s going to be so cute.
OLBERMANN: She says she was fleeing physically aggressive paparazzi and she feared for the baby‘s life, but the agency that‘s responsible for these photos says that the pictures were snapped, quote, “in a peaceful setting.” Which is a nice thing anyway here. But you have to admit she doesn‘t look in any of them like she is running for her life. She looks like she is teaching the kid to parallel park.
MUSTO: She looks very peaceful. I believe paparazzi here for the first time in my life. And if you actually look closely the kid is doing the driving. And he is totally in charge. Everything is fine. Britney is actually sitting there chomping on a teething ring. They are definitely not on the lam. Though they are definitely living on the hog. Look at her. She is totally peaceful and has the body guard there for safety while she wrecking and endangering lives without seatbelts. It‘s kind of like wearing a bullet-proof vest as you dive into a vat of battery acid.
OLBERMANN: You can see that the boy is checking his mirrors and doing a nice job. Now he is like any other L.A. driver right there.
MUSTO: Better than Halle Berry.
OLBERMANN: Clearly. You haven‘t seen him get out yet. So a sheriff‘s deputy had been to the house and children services investigating. What‘s the potential punishment here? Does she have to go to mandatory mommy and me classes, is it a subscription to “Parents” or “Highlights” magazine or does she have to hire a professional father figure to come into the mix here?
MUSTO: Maybe the Jason Alexander guy can come back. I would say not reading a magazine. Maybe she should be forced to read a book and “Cosmo Girl” doesn‘t count. She should also be forced to have a week without macaroni and cheese and she should be made to watch “Mommy Dearest” to learn how to be a better mother.
OLBERMANN: The macaroni and cheese leads to worms and that can cause all kinds of problems.
MUSTO: She has already got worms.
MUSTO: Kevin Federline is the worm.
OLBERMANN: I was just going to ask about him.
MUSTO: Oh, good.
OLBERMANN: Where is he in this equation? I mean, what now?
MUSTO: I actually think Britney was thinking this kid is better off here without a seatbelt than home with that freak.
OLBERMANN: He might be better off sitting there without either of his parents.
MUSTO: Yeah, but that‘s not allowed. Kevin is home with bad skin and bad white rap songs. That could really damage a child. Though I actually hear Britney has been keeping Kevin in the trunk and that‘s probably where he was at this moment. She thinks that‘s keeping down on his partying, but strangely it hasn‘t been.
OLBERMANN: Now about two weeks ago the paparazzi who were accused here, actually we know this assisted Ms. Spears when the husband‘s Ferrari broke down. Why is she being so quick to blame them for the incident when they actually helped?
MUSTO: Blame is an ugly word, Keith. It‘s also a big word for Britney. So I can‘t see her saying it. She prefers less than one syllable, like ble. More importantly why is this car breaking down?
OLBERMANN: That was the second part of the question. Where did he get this 200 --Was it being driven by those Valet Girls we saw in the previous segment?
MUSTO: I think so and I did watch that segment. That was very edifying. But I actually think more importantly is why is this superstar breaking down? Where was she driving anyway? Lip synch school? Somebody should give this kid to, I don‘t know, Jude Law‘s nanny. She‘s too busy having sex to drive anywhere.
Just don‘t give it to Jude Law‘s ex-wife because it will lick ecstasy off the floor.
OLBERMANN: Have we reached a time where Hollywood figures and celebrities need to be given a written test before they are allowed to procreate? Have we gotten that bad?
MUSTO: Absolutely not because then I will have nothing to comment on. Because none of them will be allowed in public, let alone allowed to have intercourse and to give birth. And then the human race of celebrities will stop.
I want this kid to grow up and write a book. It will be the first book Britney reads.
OLBERMANN: The idea of the human race of celebrities dying out is bad for .
MUSTO: Bad for my career.
OLBERMANN: Your career. All right. We have the priorities.
MUSTO: I‘m a trash gossip columnist. I‘m not a rocket scientist.
OLBERMANN: The one and only Michael Musto. Great thanks as always.
MUSTO: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: That‘s COUNTDOWN for this, the 1,013 day since the declaration of “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq. I‘m Keith Olbermann. Good night and good luck.
Our MSNBC coverage continues now with Rita Cosby LIVE AND DIRECT.
Good evening, Rita.
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