Guest: William Bastone, Richard Wolffe
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
What happens in Plamegate stays in Plamegate. The judge in the Scooter Libby case rules the special prosecutor can keep the name of the Plame identity leaker a secret.
The secret is out in the ports contract crisis. Andy Card told the president about it a week ago Thursday. The White House had said Mr. Bush found out from news reports.
And oh, by the way, it isn't just six ports involved over which Dubai Ports World will have influence. It's 21. They just forgot to mention the other 15.
Speaking of forgetting, the star of the documentary about the 35-year-old man who awakens in a New York subway remembering nothing of his life?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Film is great, but it just seemed a little too good to be true.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: What, just because the film was called “Unknown White Male,” and the guy's e-mail address was “unknown white male”?
Also on the Web, can you sue if the Web site The Smoking Gun includes your mug shot among its foxy felons?
And how about Fox felons? Bill O'Reilly starts a petition to get this show canceled. No, I'm not kidding. And no, I'm not paying him.
All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.
Before a U.S. district court in our nation's capital today, Scooter Libby's lawyers referred to the president's daily security briefing as “the family jewels.” Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald called them “the family jewels.” Judge Reggie Walton described them as “the family jewels.”
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, can we come up with a less salacious name for these documents, especially given that Mr. Libby' wants to get his hands all over them?
It's still up in the air whether Team Libby will eventually be allowed copies of the highly classified president's daily briefs from the time period in question, the judge deferring on the matter of the “family jewels” until the CIA can report back on how hard it would be to gather all the material.
Libby's lawyers claim he did not take notes during those briefings, so needs a reminder about what security matters he was dealing with back in 2003 and 2004, Judge Walton today ruling that he will be allowed to have copies of notes he took for 11 months between '03 and '04 while he was the vice-president's chief of staff, Judge Walton ruling, though, that he will not be allowed to know the name of the other government official who first told about Valerie Plame's CIA work and identity.
What did not come up today, the Libby defense filing that ostensibly argues that the indictment should be thrown out because Mr. Fitzgerald's role as special prosecutor, they claim, is unconstitutional.
MSNBC's David Shuster spent his day at the courthouse monitoring the hearing, and joins us now.
David, good evening to you.
DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Is this right? Libby's lawyers essentially want to get their paws on the “family jewels,” the PDBs, because, they say, Mr. Libby can't remember what he was dealing with in 2003? Is that the flagstone of the case here, memory loss?
SHUSTER: Well, there are two ways that Scooter Libby can win in this case, and that is, first of all, if the case cannot go to trial. And so that's why the judge strongly suggested today that he was not going to allow Scooter Libby to get his hands on the PDBs, both because the judge wasn't sure they were material or relevant to this case, but also because the judge pointed out that that would spark huge fights with the White House, which, according to the judge, might sabotage the case.
The second way that Scooter Libby wins is if this does go to trial, and the jury sees his contradictions, in other words, the testimony that Scooter Libby gave to the grand jury, which is at the heart of the perjury case, and the jury determines, well, even though that contradicts seven government witnesses and a couple of reporters, the jury might say, Well, Scooter Libby made some innocent mistakes because he had some memory problems.
And if they conclude that, as opposed to that these were intentional lies, Scooter Libby could get off. That's why you had the defense today saying to the judge, Look, Scooter Libby's entitled to show that he was focused on national security, and why you have the prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, say today that, no, Scooter Libby was consumed by the Wilsons in July of 2003, and therefore, he should have known what the truth was when he testified.
OLBERMANN: Speaking again of the Wilsons, the two officials who leaked the identity of Valerie Plame, are we any closer to knowing both identities than we were when we spoke last night?
SHUSTER: Well, we know that one of the officials, and that it came up today, is that the person who was on the receiving end of one of these leaks in June of 2003 was Bob Woodward. And there was another reporter who at that same time got the leak. And there were some indications a couple of months ago that Woodward got it from a State Department official, possibly Richard Armitage, the undersecretary of state for Colin Powell.
But what the judge said today is that it's not relevant. The judge suggested that the issue at hand is, did Scooter Libby tell the truth when he was talking about his conversations with Tim Russert and Matt Cooper, and that Bob Woodward and the other reporter who were involved in this other leak, that that's irrelevant.
And also, the judge pointed out that the government official, whether it was Armitage or somebody else in the State Department, the judge said there's no evidence that that official had any conversations with Libby, which might have colored Libby's memories of who he got the information from.
So the judge says, said it's irrelevant, and that's why he's not letting Libby's team have that information.
OLBERMANN: Something else the judge said today, and gather that you think this is very important, as do I, that the investigation is still ongoing. Does that offer us any clues as to who Mr. Fitzgerald might still be looking at?
SHUSTER: It doesn't really offer us any clues, but again, it gets to the idea that the way Fitzgerald has conducted previous investigations is, he sort of operates up by going up the pyramid, and that perhaps Libby is just one step in that.
And that's why, again, the judge said because of the sensitivity, because of the nature of the ongoing investigation, and the fact that the investigation continues, that's why he wasn't willing to disclose the previous information about who leaked in June of 2003, because the judge suggested that get, that was getting to the overall strategy of the investigation, and the possibility that there might be charges against other people, forget about Scooter Libby, there might be other charges against other White House officials in the months to come or perhaps the years to come, depending on how the Scooter Libby case goes.
OLBERMANN: Lastly, and I know this is silly, but you mentioned the word sensitivity. Can you explain to me the insistence on calling the PDBs the family jewels? Does nobody there realize that there's a double entendre there?
SHUSTER: Well, that's actually a reference to Vice President Cheney. When the White House was opposing the 9/11 commission and didn't want to turn over the PDBs to the 9/11 commission or an independent inquiry, it was Vice President Cheney who described these as the family jewels.
I suppose it's a bit ironic that Scooter Libby now could possibly somehow harm Vice President Cheney's family jewels, if Scooter Libby were to testify against the vice president in the way that prosecutors think he might be able to. But we'll see.
OLBERMANN: We'll just need to watch out for birdshot in the family jewels.
David Shuster, as always, great thanks for joining us. Have a good weekend.
SHUSTER: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Speaking of sharing secrets, if not birdshot, the vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence placing blame for the recent spate of intelligent leaks firmly on the shoulders of the Bush administration. In a letter to the new director of national intelligence, John Negroponte, the Democratic senator, Jay Rockefeller, reams the White House for revealing classified information.
The culprits, according to him, mainly executive branch officials looking to forward a political agenda. The letter cites a recent news report that Scooter Libby was authorized by his superiors to disclose classified information in order to make a case for war in Iraq, refers to Bob Woodward's revelation in his book “Bush at War” from 2002 that he was given plenty of access to classified info.
The letter also criticizes the president for revealing previously classified information about a reported al Qaeda plot to fly a plane into what was previously known as the Library Tower in L.A.
In theory, Senator Rockefeller wrote the letter to exhort Mr. Negroponte to carry a message to the White House, noting that, quote, “Given the administration's continuing abuse of intelligence information for political purposes, its criticism of leaks is extraordinarily hypocritical.
“Preventing damage to intelligence sources and methods from media leaks will not be possible until the highest levels of the administration cease to disclose classified information on a selective basis for political purposes.
“The president,” it concludes, “and other senior members of the administration must set the example for others to follow.”
Joining us now, “Newsweek” magazine's White House correspondent, Richard Wolffe.
Good evening, Richard. Thanks for your time.
RICHARD WOLFFE, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, “NEWSWEEK” MAGAZINE:
Keith, good to be with you.
OLBERMANN: Senator Rockefeller criticizing the president for declassifying certain information about the NSA spying program after the news of the program was leaked in December. But certainly that whole thing only hurt the administration politically. What is his point on that?
WOLFFE: Well, his point is politics and hypocrisy. I mean, it's—it may shock you to know that people engage in these things in Washington, but Rockefeller himself has come under a lot of fire because of his opposition to the NSA program, and revealing that he was concerned about it.
So, you know, both sides here are punching each other about this. And, of course, what he's laying out here is a pattern of behavior. The White House is getting all het up about the NSA program, but strategically, has used it for political purposes, leaking for political purposes when it suits them.
OLBERMANN: But certainly this is not the first administration ever to use a leak, especially a leak of potentially classified information, to further its own political agenda. Where's the outrage? Do we have to supply the outrage, or is it contained somewhere in the letter?
WOLFFE: I think you're going to have to be outraged yourself. You know, there's an old British prime minister called Jim Callahan who joked, I brief, you leak. And admittedly, British humor isn't great, but that's as good as it gets.
Government all over the world have used this. The system isn't very different whatever the party, whatever the government, whatever the period. What's different, of course, here is the war on terror, is this focus on national security, and the particularly secretive nature of this administration.
Members of Congress of both sides have repeatedly said that things have been classified, and they shouldn't have been. The administration's perspective has been that Congress is an obstruction, not a help, in pursuing the war on terror.
OLBERMANN: One specific thing in here, again, about whether or not there's any value to a leak, the president's revelation about this possible al Qaeda plot against the Library Tower, what was the Library Tower, Senator Rockefeller implying that the release of that information helped the terrorists in some way.
But on the day of the revelation, the counterterror experts that we had on this program, and many others, said that the plot was not much more than a hookah dream, that it was more valuable for the administration to have revealed it than it was for any terrorists to have considered it.
So how—again, how does—yes, you can see a violation of the process, but what's the plus on this for the administration for leaking it?
WOLFFE: Well, the administration wants to show that there are, in fact, plots, real plots that they've disrupted. But Senator Rockefeller is grasping at straws here. And, you know, you've got to think that if there are really al Qaeda terrorists masterminding these kinds of plots, then they know when the plots have been disrupted, because people are caught, they lose their operatives, and they figure they've been busted.
So nobody's being fooled here. It's not like the terrorists discovered something when the president went out there. I think the terrorists probably knew about their own plot, if it was real.
OLBERMANN: Yes, we hadn't heard from Mohamar (ph) for a while.
Bottom line here, even if Mr. Negroponte takes this message from Senator Rockefeller and takes it to the White House, is it going to make any difference there?
WOLFFE: It's not. Politics will carry on as usual. It's election year. Everyone wants to accuse each other of being weak on national security. And you just got to get used to this this year.
OLBERMANN: Richard Wolffe with “Newsweek,” who managed to introduce Prime Minister James Callahan to the American audience tonight. Great thanks, sir.
WOLFFE: Any time.
OLBERMANN: Also tonight, the port operations debacle continues, expands. You heard there are six U.S. facilities involved. Is the correct number actually 21?
And “Congress shall make no law,” the First Amendment reads, in part, “abridging the right of the people to petition.” Perhaps that explains why Bill O'Reilly has started a petition to get me fired. That's right, free publicity for me. And I didn't even get him a new loofah.
You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: One of the many surprises out of the furor over the U.S. ports deal has been that the president defended it unflinchingly, even though he didn't know about it until it hit the news.
In our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, that contradicted today. Another surprise, whether the deal involves only the six U.S. ports, or 21, United Press International reporting that the P&O, the company that Dubai Ports World is buying, is itself the parent of P&O Ports North America, which runs some port operations from supervising the storage to organizing the stevedores, the longshoremen, at 15 facilities besides the six we already knew about, 11 on the East Coast in total, from Portland, Maine, to Miami, 10 on the Gulf Coast, from Gulfport, Mississippi, to Corpus Christi, Texas.
Perhaps we'll get the discrepancy between those two numbers straightened out by somebody next week, along with another discrepancy from this week. On Wednesday, the White House had said that the president learned about the port deal after the fact from news reports. Today, though, Scott McClellan told reporters that, no, chief of staff Andrew Card notified the president about the deal more than a week ago, on Thursday, February 16.
As for national sentiment, no surprises there. A national poll producing results that indicate the country is strongly against this port deal, only 17 percent saying Dubai Ports World should be allowed to purchase operating rights at those American ports, that's according to the survey by Rasmussen reports. Sixty-four percent against.
The emotionally charged subject also taking a toll on what had always been the president's strongest issue, national security, Americans now saying they trust Democrats more than the president on national security issues, 43 to 41 percent, obviously only a slight edge, possibly in error statistically. But it's the first time this poll has found a preference for Democrats on that subject since Mr. Bush took office.
For more on where the deal stands at this moment, we turn to our White House correspondent, David Gregory.
Good evening, David.
DAVID GREGORY, MSNBC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Keith.
There is a sense of relief here at the White House tonight after this decision by Dubai Ports World to complete the transaction, but to delay, to postpone, its actual assumption of management responsibilities at the major U.S. seaports that it would take over, six of them on the eastern seaboard.
This is an attempt by the company to kind of introduce a cooling-off period, given the politics surrounding all of this here in Washington. I spoke today to the vice president of the company, who said, Look, we need to spend some time allaying fears, getting our country—rather, our company better known on Capitol Hill, our mission, our reputation. And that simply hasn't been done enough.
The administration's been admitting all week that they sort of dropped the ball on this in terms of keeping Congress in the loop. So a story that became kind of controversial, and that is, this United Arab Emirates-run company taking over managerial control of U.S. seaports, causing this furor, could have been dealt with in advance by maybe briefing Congress in advance.
Now, it's a situation where they've got to backtrack a little bit. Congress, however, Republicans and Democrats, don't seem to be entirely satisfied. There is legislation that is still moving forward, and will move forward next week when Congress reconvenes after the recess, emergency legislation that would effectively kick off a 45 (INAUDIBLE) -- 45-day investigation of this transaction, and of the company itself, as well as giving Congress the authority ultimately to give a yea or a nay on whether this deal goes forward.
The president has been outspoken on this point, saying that he would veto any attempt to unravel the deal. But certainly they're pleased that there's a little bit more time here for them to try to head off a showdown with Congress that might require a veto and a potential override of that veto.
So where it stands going into the weekend is that there's a little bit of detente here, there's some room to breathe, some room for the White House officials and the company to do a better PR job on Capitol Hill, but little inclination right now of kind of a decreased sense of tension about all of this among both parties on Capitol Hill, Keith.
OLBERMANN: David Gregory at the White House for us tonight. Thanks.
Also tonight, no, these people are not celebrating that delay in the Dubai ports deal. It's Carnivale, German-style.
And when style and lawbreaking collide, The Smoking Gun called it Foxy Felons. This lady called her lawyer.
That and much more ahead, here on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: On this date in 1825, Thomas Bowdler died. He was the Englishman who thought Shakespeare was too smutty, so he published the Bard's plays having first edited out the naughty bits. His name soon became synonymous with ridiculous censorship, or nearly synonymous. His name itself somehow got ridiculously edited. Thomas Bowdler became the inspiration for the word “bolderize” (ph). Perfect.
On that note, let's play Oddball.
We begin in Cologne, Germany, for the festival of bizarre costumes and public drunkenness that is Carnivale. Today was Women's Carnivale Day, so drunken female jesters ran through the crowd clipping the neckties of drunken male revelers. The men are given kisses as compensation. We think this would be a great chance for nerds to maybe score some free kisses, but you guys just can't drop the “Star Wars” dress-up thing, can you? Not even for the chance of female companionship.
Then again, drunken women running around with shears snipping things off, huh? Back to the family jewels.
To Oklahoma for an update on the story we first brought you this week in our segment Sound Bites of the Day. A lumber company expecting a delivery of a bunch of work gloves opens the FedEx box to find this instead, the skull of a hippo-po-potamus. No one at Chickashaw Lumber knew how they got a hippopotamus skull in the mail, nor who in the world would be shipping a hippo skull in the first place.
With FedEx shipping packages all over the planet, it seemed impossible that the mystery would ever be solved -- until today, when the real owner stepped forward. With the help of Google Earth, we can demonstrate just how far off the package was. It was delivered to tiny Chickashaw, Oklahoma, but it was originally intended to be shipped more than 42 miles away, to Oklahoma City. Same hemisphere.
The owner of a shop called—and I swear I'm not making this up—
Skulls Unlimited was the true intended recipient. He'll get his skull. As for all those gloves? Ah, keep em, you freak show.
Finally, to the Oddball capital of the country, central Florida, where one man was sick and tired of his home being burglarized. So he did something about it. He installed a video camera to catch the perpetrators in the act. What do you know, one night later, he was robbed again, apparently by lookalikes from the teen heartthrob band Hanson. Mmm-bah. Case closed.
Speaking of Oddball, people think I'm making this up. I'm not. The Big Giant Head takes on COUNTDOWN. Started a petition to get this show canceled.
And too hot for The Smoking Gun? Why one Foxy Felon says, Take my mug shot off your Web site now, or I'll sue.
Those stories ahead.
But now, here are COUNTDOWN's top three newsmakers of this day.
Number three, Thomas Lawinky. He is an actor in a production of Ionesco's “The Killing Game” in Frankfurt in Germany. In the play, the cast interacts with the audience, one of those things. Mr. Lawinky allegedly did his interacting by throwing a rubber chicken at a theater critic named Gerhard Stabelmeier (ph). Now, you've heard of critics giving actors the bird, but never the other way around.
Number two, the Illinois governor, Rod Blagojevich. He sat down to do what he thought was a TV interview about contraception, then the interviewer told him he could not pronounce the name Blagojevich, so he would instead call him Governor Smith. It was only then that the governor realized he was being interviewed for Comedy Central's “The Daily Show.” Blagojevich says he saw the show's title on his daily schedule, but he'd never heard of the show before. Welcome to America.
Number one, Brittany Spears and Whitney Houston. That's Brittany, B-R-I-T-T-A-N-Y. She and Ms. Houston are two top high school basketball stars. They have both been recruited to attend and play for the University of Colorado. Just so long as they don't bring along Kevin Federlane (ph) and Bobby Bralla (ph).
OLBERMANN: How does this happen? Every time? I'm Dr. Pavlov. I ring a bell. Ted Baxter salivates.
Our third story on THE COUNTDOWN, Bill O'Reilly has launched an on air
campaign and an online petition to get this newscast canceled and replaced
by Phil Donahue.
(singing) Happy days are here again. The skies above are clear again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL O'REILLY, HOST, FOX NEWS CHANNEL'S “THE O'REILLY FACTOR”: Time now for “The Most Ridiculous Item of the Day.” Bring back Phil Donahue. It was three years ago this month that MSNBC fired Mr. Donahue for low ratings. We felt bad for Phil. He didn't get much of a chance.
Phil actually said his firing was a mistake, and he was right. His successor, after three long years on the air, actually has fewer viewers now than Donahue did when he left. That is a disaster.
So in the interest of fairness we have a petition on BillOReilly.com to bring Phil back. If enough of you sign the petition, we'll send it over to NBC and hopefully, Phil Donahue will get the chance he deserves. Let's all go to bat for our pal, Phil.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: So here's the petition to NBC chairman, Bob Wright: “Dear Chairman Wright, we the undersigned are becoming increasingly concerned about the well being of MSNBC and in particular, note the continuing ratings failure of the program currently airing weeknights on that network at 8 p.m. EST.”
The median age of viewers of this program is 58.7. The median age of viewers of Mr. O'Reilly's program, 68.6. If you want to be concerned about well being, Bill, be concerned about the odds of your viewers living into next week.
“It is now apparent to everyone that a grave injustice”—don't say “grave.” Fifty percent of your viewers are over the age of 68 and a half.
“It is now apparent to everyone that a grave injustice has been done to the previous host for that time slot, Phil Donahue, whose ratings at the time of his show's cancellation three years ago were demonstrably stronger than those of the current host.”
Let me see. January 2003 and February of 2003 in what FOX calls the money demo, Phil averaged 152,000 viewers a night. In January and February this year, we're averaging 157,000 thousand viewers a night. Oh, Bill, you made a factual error. Now you have to ignore another one of those.
“Therefore, in an effort to rescue MSNBC from the ratings basement and to restore the honor and dignity of Mr. Donahue, who was ignobly removed as host three years ago, we ask that you immediately bring back Phil Donahue's show at 8 p.m. EST before any more damage is done.”
When he says damage, of course, he means his ratings dropped 20 percent last year and another six percent this year, and COUNTDOWN's have gone up another 21 percent this year.
Still, I don't know why he's really mad at me. Bill? What did I ever do to you?
The producers tell me I've occasionally reported on some of the stuff you've done on this show here and that we should probably review some of those things, but I can't remember any of it, except—oh.
OLBERMANN: And Bill O'Reilly is at it again.
None other than the big giant head himself.
In “Oddball,” the definition thereof, Bill O'Reilly.
Now I can remove this stupid mask. Tito, hand me a loofah.
O'REILLY: I am a stupid guy. And every guy listening knows how that is.
OLBERMANN: The giant head again, explaining to his radio audience that we won the Second World War because of spanking.
Bill O'Reilly about women just talking dirty with some guy and it would be no—oh, yes. Loofah.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Save the tapes! Save the tapes!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Save the tapes! Save the tapes!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Save the tapes! Save the tapes!
OLBERMANN: You're dam right, I'm curious. Would I have gotten this giant prop check made if I was not serious?
Apparently, you have him to thank for the recent minor drop in gas prices. He has told an interviewer, “I have five guys inside the five major oil companies. They got scared because of my reporting and reporting of some others. They said, 'Uh-oh'.” Thanks, Bill.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need a distraction, something divisive and wily, a fabrication straight from the mouth of O'Reilly.
OLBERMANN: You hear his whole attack on Christmas nonsense that he made up? The fantasy that you can't say “merry Christmas,” but you can only say “happy holidays,” the thing designed to stir up religious hatred and paranoia in this country?
Guess what they're selling over at the FOX News online store: the FOX News holiday ornament and “The O'Reilly Factor” holiday ornament.
O'REILLY: The world could blow the hell up. They'd be dead and saying, “How many people are dead from Katrina? How can we make fun of it?” That's what you do.
JON STEWART, HOST, COMEDY CENTRAL'S “THE DAILY SHOW”: I will say this; we do add insult to injury.
O'REILLY: You do.
O'REILLY: He's an honest man.
O'REILLY: He's an honest man.
STEWART: You add injury.
O'REILLY: I add injury?
You want to be your own country, go right ahead. And if al Qaeda comes in here and blows you up, we're not going to do anything about it. We're going to say, “Look, every place in America is off limits to you except San Francisco. You want to blow up the Coit Tower? Go ahead.”
OLBERMANN: Quoting, “You can have a militia that's a rainbow coalition armed with spatulas and the basic training will be in hate. OK, we'll have it right on the Castro Street. March up and down. Since they are so good at parades,” unquote.
So Bill, you've now insulted all the gay people, too. Terrific.
As a public service I'm going to read portions of his remarks and then translate them into what he's actually saying.
“'Talking Points' is troubled by the behavior of NBC, which cheap shots FOX News on a regular basis and has been doing so for some time.”
When we quote your own words back to you about how the Catholic Church was out to get Christmas or how we should let al Qaeda attack San Francisco, they must seem like cheap shots.
“We hope Robert Wright will right the situation, and believe he has the power to do it. But perhaps we're wrong about Wright.”
Bill made a funny.
Bill O'Reilly, today's worst person in the world.
Today's worst person in the world!
Today's worst person in the world.
Today's worst person in the—you know the rest.
O'REILLY: This brutal ordeal is now officially over, and I will never speak of it again.
OLBERMANN: Don't you tell me it's over. I'll tell you if it's over.
OLBERMANN: OK. Well, maybe I have occasional mentioned him. Now I feel bad.
So maybe I understand Mr. O'Reilly's petition to get me fired and replaced by Phil Donahue. And then there's that sense of inter-network camaraderie and respect that he once mentioned on the air. So what the heck.
Mr. O'Reilly has been good enough to start a good grassroots movement, and as Leslie Nielsen once noted, “There's nothing like a good movement.” Which you already know if you've seen Bill's show.
So let me start the ball rolling here. I'll sign that petition. Let's see. Put in the e-mail address. Good. The “K” is broken on this typewriter. All right. We'll just put that in. OK. That's close enough. Not like they're going to write me back or anything. OK.
Does this mean that the MSN part of our company doesn't exist any more? Keith Olbermann.
You know, as a bonus, if you fill out this form you get three days warning any time homeland security puts out a terror alert. Did you know that? Plus 20 percent off at Dave's Discount House of falafels.
Just put in the state. And we've signed. Signed here. Here—does it still work? Well, it's just—it's like, it will take, like, 10 minutes. But as far as I'm concerned, we're all done. Terrific.
Now, we're all having a good laugh and we're all having good fun, but seriously, I know that NBC stands firmly behind this program, from the chairman, Mr. Wright, all the way through my loyal and gifted staff to my colleagues on other MSNBC shows, on air and off. And that none of them would ever support this nefarious petition to take COUNTDOWN off and put Donahue on—why are they all lined up? Why are they all lined up in front of that computer? That's the petition. Tucker, no.
That's Dennis Horgan (ph). He used to work here. That's Izzy Povich.
She's the executive producer. At least she was as of at least 8.
Dan Abrams. Come on. Tina Cohen (ph), she's from England. It doesn't matter. Cordic (ph)? He's the producer of the show. Get back in the control room!
Oh, that's pretty funny. She's the executive producer of Rita's show.
I know where she works.
That's very funny. Former FOX employee. Former MSNBC employee.
Taking a long time there with that computer, pal.
OK. Then there's the story of the brain-damaged unknown white male—we just did that. Oh. This is another one. It's a new documentary about a man who struggles to rebuild his life after being hit with amnesia. The question is tonight whether any or all of it is true.
And the art of the mug shot. Now one of the perps, a woman called a foxy felon on the web site The Smoking Gun is threatening a law suit, claiming web browsers are using her photo for sexual gratification.
Bill O'Reilly has never signed on to that web site. That's ahead on
OLBERMANN: A subway ride ends in a total mind blackout, sparking a two-year journey to rebuild a man's life, an extraordinary story captured by a documentary film—providing it's true.
And foxy felons. Crime time in prime time starts early tonight.
OLBERMANN: It is a film that has courted controversy ever since its premiere at the Sundance Festival in Colorado in the era of James Frey non-fiction fiction. Is the documentary about a British born New York City stock broker who abruptly develops a severe case of amnesia real?
Our No. 2 story on THE COUNTDOWN tonight, it's called “Unknown White Male,” and the movies' producers would really love it if you'd pony up $10 and judge for yourself. But in the interim, COUNTDOWN's senior amnesia correspondent, Monica Novotny, has done some of the digging for you for free, if she can remember it.
Monica, good evening.
MONICA NOVOTNY, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Exactly, Keith. Good evening.
The story behind this small documentary is so good it has some film critics, like Roger Ebert, for example, wondering whether or not the whole thing is a hoax: one man who forgets everyone and everything in his life, even his own name.
DOUG BRUCE, FEATURED IN “UNKNOWN WHITE MALE”: She said, “Doug?” And I said, “I don't know.” She said, “Yes, you're Doug.”
NOVOTNY (voice-over): Rebuilding a life he cannot recall. A 35-year-old man wakes up on a New York City subway with no knowledge of who he is, how he got there or even where there is. His story now a documentary, “Unknown White Male.”
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Doug opened his eyes on a subway train miles from his home.
BRUCE: The first thing I see is this scenery which I don't remember.
NOVOTNY: Ultimately diagnosed with an extreme form of amnesia, Bruce allows a friend from his previous life, filmmaker Rupert Murray, to follow him for the next several months as he creates a new life and a new persona.
ROBERT MURRAY, FILMMAKER: You're able to see the world through his eyes, walk in his shoes and experience some of the insights and the revelations that he has.
NOVOTNY: Amnesia has often served as a plot device in feature films.
In “The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”...
TOM WILKINSON, ACTOR: By the time you wake up in the morning, all the memories we targeted will wither and disappear.
NOVOTNY: And the Hitchcock classic “Spellbound.”
INGRID BERMAN, ACTRESS: You can't put him away. You can't. It destroys minds.
NOVOTNY: Fine for fiction, but already several reporters are raising the question, is this documentary really a mockumentary?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It just seemed a little too good to be true.
NOVOTNY: “GQ” magazine's Mickey Ravkin (ph) sat down with Bruce for his first interview.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are a lot of things that weren't mentioned in the movie that, once you find out about those things, you think, “Oh, maybe this isn't so true.”
Doug had a very good friend who did get amnesia and did use that as a way to make some changes in his life. Then also, I found out that and Doug had registered an e-mail address, UnknownWhiteMale@yahoo.com. It seems a little cheeky.
NOVOTNY: Critics have also noted Murray's inclusion of Daniel Schecter (ph), a Harvard psychologist considered the leading expert on amnesia.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Extreme forms of memory loss, to which we would give the term retrograde amnesia, those are the rarest of all kinds of amnesia.
NOVOTNY: At issue, though Schecter (ph) never diagnosed Bruce personally, does his presence suggest he did?
MURRAY: His role in the film was to explain how Doug's symptoms related to memory and amnesia in general. And that's his role. I've never said anything different.
NOVOTNY: What is clear, Bruce's struggle with lost memories is both moving...
BRUCE: I wish I could remember my mother. I mean, I have pictures of her on the walls in the apartment.
NOVOTNY: ... and amusing.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: “I discovered the best band.” And I'd be like, “Oh, what are they called?” He was like, “The Rolling Stones.”
NOVOTNY: Because there is no conclusive way to test Bruce medically and because all associated with the film stand by it as truth, viewers must ultimately decide for themselves.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're absolutely not saying that Doug isn't telling the truth. We're saying we don't know.
NOVOTNY: And Murray reminds us of one universal truth.
MURRAY: Sometimes fact is stranger than fiction.
NOVOTNY: Now, in the film a neurosurgeon treating Doug Bruce does say the amnesia may have been caused by a cyst found in his brain. To this day, Mr. Bruce has not regained his memory, but doctors say there is a 95 percent chance that he will and it could happen at any time.
OLBERMANN: Is he James Frey, by any chance?
NOVOTNY: No, he's not.
OLBERMANN: Why didn't we hear about this story when it happened 2 ½ years ago? We weren't—there was television news in this country, wasn't there?
NOVOTNY: There was. I asked the filmmaker that, and he actually credits the Coney Island police. This is where he landed on the subway. He came out of Coney Island, walked around, didn't know who was, didn't know where he was, turned himself into the police. And because no one ever reported him missing, you know, the reporters didn't get their hands on it.
OLBERMANN: Sure. Sure. Nice clip from “Spellbound,” though. I thought that really sold the piece. COUNTDOWN's Monica Novotny. Great thanks.
NOVOTNY: I have great ideas.
OLBERMANN: Would that the reality of the injuries to “ABC World News Tonight” co-anchor Bob Woodruff and cameraman Doug Vogt were debatable. They start our nightly roundup of celebrity and entertainment news, “Keeping Tabs.”
And about them there is good news and really good news. Mr. Vogt has been—turned well enough to check out of Bethesda Medical Center. That was yesterday, according to the statement issued by ABC News president Dave Westin. He and his wife have returned to their home in France. He's expected to continue his recuperation there.
As for the more seriously injured, Mr. Woodruff, his recovery is progressing, albeit more slowly. He remains under slight sedation but has been out of bed to sit in a chair for stretches of time. His doctor stating he may be well enough to move to a facility closer to his New York home in a few weeks.
An Indian scholar, the president of Indonesia, former secretary of state Colin Powell and the lead singer of U2. What do these people have in common? Are they a new international KISS cover band? Or Nobel Peace Prize nominees? Both choices seemingly make about as much sense. But it turns out Bono may be going to Oslo.
A hundred and 91 names in total being presented to the Nobel committee for consideration for the prestigious honor. The committee itself remains silent on exactly who makes the list each year, but those with nomination rights sometimes do not.
Bono has been nominated for this work—or his work, rather, to fight global poverty. He was not only the only rock star nominated, fellow Irish rocker Bob Geldof getting a nod. Sir Bob Geldof.
Non-voting Secretary Geir Lundestad telling the Associated Press, quote, “There are largely good nominations,” before adding the requisite disclaimer, nomination does not imply endorsement.
Your mileage may vary.
From celebrities at their best to celebrities at their worst. Sometimes when the law comes a-knocking, you're not ready for your close-up. Sometimes, though, you are. Our friends at Smoking Gun called her a foxy felon. She's now threatening a lawsuit.
That's ahead, but first, COUNTDOWN's list of top three nominees for worst person in the world. You guessing?
The bronze to a judge in the nation of Colombia. He found a bicycle courier guilty of groping a woman's backside. Fair enough. We're not defending groping backsides of any gender or religious conviction. But the guy gave the guy four years in jail for it.
Tonight's silver, Kevin Murphy, deputy commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Commerce. He has levied a fine of $140,000 against a gas station chain, Midwest Oil, because of the price it charged customers for a gallon of gas on 293 different days last year. The fine is for selling the gas too cheaply.
But tonight's winner, the staff of “Your World with Neil Cavuto” on FOX News. It yesterday analyzed the destruction of the Golden Mosque and the resultant murders of dozens of Iraqi civilians and described all of it with this on-screen graphic: “All out civil war in Iraq. Could it be a good thing?”
The staff of “Your World with Neil Cavuto,” today's worst—what are they going to do? Start another petition? Today's worst person in the world.
OLBERMANN: Entomologists think the term originated in the drinking mugs at 18th Century English pubs, shaped in hideous caricatures of the human face. Thus, the mug became a synonym for the face. And when police started taking photos of a mug they became mug shots.
For it to have an alcoholic origin is entirely fitting, since as our No. 1 story on the COUNTDOWN again underscores, so many mug shots are taken after the mug shotee has taken a few drinks.
But can you sue over your mug shot? We, of course, have our personal favorites here. Traditionally, they tend not to portray their subjects in the most flattering of lights. That 3 a.m. road trip to the hoosegow usually does a number even on the most glamorous among us.
Occasionally, however, someone overcomes even the darkest of hours. Winning smile, crisp shirt and tie. Mug shot or publicity photo? Can't decide, because it's just that good.
And it sure helps if the perp is pretty. SmokingGun.com featuring a bevy of felonious beauties in a gallery they call “Foxy Felons.”
You'd think they'd be flattered. Not so much. Twenty-five-year old Floridian Casey—Floridian in English—Casey Hicks is threatening a lawsuit. In a strongly worded letter sent to Smoking Gun's parent company, Court TV, Ms. Hicks' attorney demanded that the photo be removed, saying his client's privacy is being violated, that she's become afraid for her safety and that, according to, quote, “numerous blogs, Ms. Hicks' picture has invited members of the public to use her picture for their own private sexual gratification.”
Gee, I hadn't thought of that, but thanks for the suggestion.
Anyway, how do we know all this? The Smoking Gun has posted it on the site, right after Ms. Hicks' prominently displayed mug shot. William Bastone, editor of TheSmokingGun.com, joins us now.
Thank you for your time, sir.
WILLIAM BASTONE, EDITOR, THE SMOKING GUN: Nice to be here, Keith.
OLBERMANN: I'm guessing you didn't take her picture down?
BASTONE: No. It's still there where it was when we posted it several years ago. We're a little puzzled what caused her to decide to try to send us a legal letter and threaten us—threaten to sue us over it after it's been up on the site for a few years now.
OLBERMANN: Who—who is she anyway?
BASTONE: She was a—she's a New York—was a New York state resident who got arrested and charged with—she attempted to sell 49 Ecstasy pills to an undercover officer in Rockland County. She copped a plea to reduce the felony charge and moved to Florida, where she ended up being supervised by the state—the division of the state department of corrections. And that's where her photo was taken.
OLBERMANN: Do you have any sympathy for the argument that the mug shot gives her name, her height, the weight, the town where she lives, that maybe she has a reason to feel afraid of somebody who can just pick it off the Web somewhere?
BASTONE: Well, the fact that there's going to be what you call pedigree information attached to someone who gets arrested is a fact of journalism. We don't post her address. She lives in a large state, in a very large city in a large state.
It doesn't have the most distinctive surname, so you know, it's not like there are people who are creating blogs dedicated to her or tracking her around. I don't think that's true. There's no evidence. We've looked online.
That people, you know, are supposedly using her photo for self gratification...
BASTONE: ... strikes us as kind of strange since, you know, there are other kind of, you know, images on the Internet that might—someone might think about using before a mug shot of a women wearing a blue smock.
OLBERMANN: There are? I didn't know that.
BASTONE: I've heard about it.
OLBERMANN: I don't know anything about it. Have to ask the guy on the other show.
Are there—are there—same topic, though. Are there mug shot fetishists or something that we don't know about?
BASTONE: This is the first time we've ever heard that our site was being used for those purposes, though.
OLBERMANN: Makes you rethink the whole process, doesn't it, when you know about that?
BASTONE: It does. People have been known to get worked up over, like, the Scooter Libby indictment. So I guess anything is possible.
OLBERMANN: All right. Sixteen foxy felons were posted on your site, 15 of them from Florida. Are there better looking crooks in that state or what? You have an explanation for that ratio?
BASTONE: Well, I think initially when we did the collection, it was -
· it was fairly easy to gather up those kind of photos from the state of Florida. I think if we were to do a third installment, there would be—there would be a better representation across the country.
And keep in mind that Ms. Hicks actually is a product of the Empire State who just relocated south.
OLBERMANN: And we're proud of her for being a New Yorker. Maybe you could have just one from each state and then have some sort of Miss USA Mug Shot contest.
BASTONE: That is a good idea, Keith.
OLBERMANN: All right. Once again, I gave it away for nothing. Boy, that's the story of my life.
William Bastone, the editor of the Smoking Gun. Good luck with this, and as always, thanks for joining us.
BASTONE: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: That's COUNTDOWN for this, the 1,030th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq.
A reminder, please join us again at midnight Eastern, 11 p.m. Central, 9 Pacific for the late edition of COUNTDOWN. Until then, a special presentation of “Lockup: Inside Folsom.”
I'm Keith Olbermann. Keep your knees loose. Good night and good luck.
And one for you (ph).
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
Content and programming copyright 2006 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2006 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user's personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.'s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.