Guests: Elaine Donnelly, Eric Hegedus, Cyril Wecht, Gustavo Arellano
JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST, “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY”: And that‘s all the time we have for tonight. Now let‘s pass it over to Tucker Carlson, where THE SITUATION starts right now.
Hey, Tucker, what‘s the situation tonight?
TUCKER CARLSON, HOST: Thanks, Joe, and God bless you.
And thanks to you at home for tuning in. We appreciate it.
Tonight, Bush advisor Karl Rove says Hillary Clinton, quote, “has a brittleness about her.”
Hillary responds by saying, Rove, quote, “spends a lot of time obsessing about me.”
So she‘s a psycho, he‘s a stalker. Who‘s winning this war of the words? We‘ll tell you.
Also, a real life invasion of the body snatchers. A New Jersey man is arrested for stealing bones and tissue from copses and selling the body parts to hospitals for a profit. We‘ll bring you the details about the business of cadaver trafficking. It is widespread.
Plus, a politically incorrect column called “Ask a Mexican” is raising some gringo eyebrows in California. We‘ll meet the Mexican in question in just a few minutes.
We begin tonight with U.S. hostage Jill Carroll. Iraqi officials reportedly believe the kidnapped journalist is alive tonight, a day after her capturers had vowed to kill her. Iraq‘s interior minister says he knows the name and address of Carroll‘s kidnappers and is following up with American authorities about her.
Carroll has been held since January 7 by a group calling itself the Revenge Brigades.
For more on Carroll‘s fate, we welcome MSNBC terrorism analyst Evan Coleman. He joins us live tonight from New York.
Evan, thanks for coming on.
EVAN COLEMAN, MSNBC TERRORISM ANALYST: Thanks for having me.
CARLSON: So who is this Iraqi interior minister and what does he know?
COLEMAN: Well, supposedly he knows quite a bit. In the same day, he not only announced that he knows the name and location of Jim Carroll‘s captor; he also announced the capture of a heretofore unknown senior high-ranking al Qaeda operative in Ramadi, someone that the U.S. military coalition was unaware of his capture. And actually, the interior ministry prefaced this news by saying that we would have never heard of him before.
So there‘s all of a sudden a lot of good news coming out in one day from the Iraqi interior ministry, something that we know has been infiltrated by sectarian militias, particularly the Badr Corps, the Badr Shiite militia.
COLEMAN: It seems a bit curious.
CARLSON: It sounds to me like you have no confidence at all in anything the interior ministry said, if it‘s been invaded by the enemy, essentially. We can‘t believe a word they say.
COLEMAN: Let‘s put it this way. It‘s been infiltrated. They have a certain edge in this that they want to sell. I think we have to take everything they say with an extreme degree of skepticism.
I think even the Iraqi Army has shown hostility towards the interior ministry, has shown skepticism whether the interior ministry is serving the needs of the Iraqi people or whether it‘s serving more sectarian needs.
And certainly, if you look at the death toll in the last couple of days, any agency of the Iraqi government that‘s controlled by one particular ethnicity, you have to look upon that agency with a lot of skepticism.
CARLSON: Well, that‘s an excellent point. And we‘ve been getting a whole bunch of different reports on what the death toll might be after the bombing of the Shiite mosque.
“The Washington Post” is reporting just a few minutes ago that, according to its interviews with coroners and people who work in places where corpses are prepared for burial, 1,300 people at least have been killed in the last week.
Considering the chaos going on in Iraq, is the government able to spend any time looking for Jill Carroll?
COLEMAN: That‘s a good question. We don‘t really know. I mean, it‘s quite amazing how close Iraq came to civil war this past weekend. And you know, we haven‘t stepped that far away from it just quite yet.
I think it‘s amazing that at this particular time that the interior ministry would be coming out and making such a provocative statement, not only for Miss Carroll, obviously, but I would hope for this interior minister that he‘s correct in what he‘s saying.
Because if it turns out that Ms. Carroll is in a location where we do not know, or that her captor is someone that we‘re not aware of, he‘s going to look awfully stupid, and it‘s going to undermine further the already shaky confidence that the American public has in the Iraqi government.
I mean, if you look what happened last weekend is certainly no endorsement of their capability of running this country without the help of U.S. forces.
And at the same time we have reports from the Pentagon that the single battalion of Iraqi soldiers that was able to go out on its own to conduct counterinsurgency activity, on its own, without the support of U.S. military, it‘s been downgraded. So there‘s no single battalion of Iraqi soldiers capable of carrying out their mission on their own. There are a lot of bad signs here, and it just feels like this might be a little bit of news pushing by the interior ministry.
CARLSON: It certainly does. Now Evan, last month you and I had talked about these reports we were getting from Iraq that the U.S. military, or the Iraqi government actually, but clearly with the approval of the U.S. military and the U.S. government, was releasing—or had released a number of female prisoners, apparently in response to these kidnappers‘ demands that these prisoners be release.
That didn‘t do anything? A, did that happen? And B, did it have no effect? Did the kidnappers respond to it?
COLEMAN: It‘s not clear exactly how many, if any of these female detainees were ultimately released. But the announcement seems to have done little to nothing. I you remember, even after the announcement was made, the demands just became increasingly shrill.
I think what this brings us back to, and this is something that I think the interior ministry was hinting at, which is probably true, is that the folks that did the kidnapping here had ulterior motives other than just politics.
COLEMAN: Look, they‘ve issued three ultimatums, none of which have been carried out, thank God. And I think ultimately when we look at this, we have to realize that these folks keep issuing ultimatums and then aren‘t following through with them, which means that they‘re not really that serious about this.
Now let‘s hope that that means that Jill will be released. Let‘s hope that they realize that this is not, you know, a winning strategy. But at the moment, given the chaos of what‘s going on, it‘s hard to believe that anyone is that close to finding her without the—without at least the willing acceptance of her captors.
CARLSON: I hope every one of those kidnappers is caught and brought to very swift justice. Evan Coleman, MSNBC terrorism analyst, thanks a lot.
EVAN COLEMAN, MSNBC TERRORISM ANALYST: Thank you.
COLMES: This could be the oddest couple in the history of politics, Karl Rove and Hillary Clinton. Before you scoff, listen to what Rove said today about New York‘s junior senator, in a new book. Quote, “She is the dominant player on their side of the slate. Anyone who thinks that she‘s not going to be the candidate is kidding themselves.” But he went on to criticize for what he called her, quote, “brittleness.”
For her part, Senator Clinton says Rove‘s obsessed with her.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: Karl Rove spends a lot of time obsessing about me. He spends more time thinking about my political future than I do.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
CARLSON: So what does all this political trash talk mean? For the answer to that question, we bring in our old friend, Rachel Maddow of Air America Radio—Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, AIR AMERICA RADIO HOST: Hi, Tucker. I‘m the trash taker outer here.
CARLSON: Yes, you are. I mean, the obvious point is that Hillary and the White House need each other. Of course, Hillary is the new Ted Kennedy and the White House...
MADDOW: The new Ted Kennedy?
CARLSON: Sure. I mean, if you want to raise money on the Republican side, Ted Kennedy is getting a little old. He‘s kind of pathetic, having been a drunk (ph) for a long time. Clinton is the new, you know, scary person. And she is kind of scary in some ways.
On the left, obviously, Mrs. Clinton needs to, you know, reestablish her bone fides were the left, and so being attacked by the White House helps her. I actually think this exchange helps Hillary more, because I think she has more to get out of it. The left of the party has been criticizing her, and this helps.
MADDOW: Well, I think that—I don‘t think Democrats pay nearly as much attention to Hillary as Republicans do.
MADDOW: I don‘t think Hillary needs to raise her profile among Democrats, and I don‘t think she pays...
CARLSON: But you don‘t think she needs to convince the left? Look, she supported the war in Iraq. That‘s made a lot of lefties mad, understandably. And when she‘s attacked by Karl Rove, don‘t you think it makes them feel better?
MADDOW: No. Actually, as a lefty, my feeling about it is I pay attention to Hillary Clinton. I pay attention to Russ Feingold. I pay attention to John Kerry, kind of roughly all to the same degree.
MADDOW: She‘s a political figure that‘s a household name. She‘s a political character for the country, but in terms of her political importance to the Democrats, I don‘t se it. It‘d only really Republicans that are...
CARLSON: Are you serious? Because Russ Feingold is not going to be the Democratic nominee. I don‘t believe John Kerry is either.
MADDOW: I don‘t believe Hillary Clinton is, either.
MADDOW: I really don‘t. I‘ve said it for a long time. I don‘t think she...
CARLSON: The -- you may have the smart counterintuitive and ultimately correct prediction on this. And you know, we‘ll see. And I tend to think she‘s weaker than people think, too.
But she has raised the most money. She‘s the most famous. She has all these Democrats behind her, behind the scenes, mostly the money people in L.A. and New York. You‘ve got to think she‘s the front runner.
MADDOW: Well, I think that he Democrats—I both hope this is true and I think that‘s true, that the Democrats are not going to pick another senator. I mean, there hasn‘t been a senator elected to the White House since 1960, since John Kennedy. I think that the Republicans have seen what‘s happen. I think the Republicans aren‘t nominating senators either.
And I think that Hillary is a great job for the party, and she‘s actually doing a great job as a New York senator. I differ with her on some substantive issues. I think she‘s an important person in the party. I don‘t think she‘s going to be the nominee. I think it‘s going to be something more like a governor.
CARLSON: That would be good news for the Democratic Party. I personally think she will be the nominee.
But I think that Rove‘s point that she‘s brittle is easy to dismiss as an attack, but there‘s actually something to that. This is someone who has run for office precisely once in New York state as a Democrat.
To run for president, a process I‘ve seen up close a number of times, really up close a number of times. You have to be a very tough person, able to think on your feet, willing to expose yourself to complete strangers day after day after day after day. She‘s never done anything like that, not even close. This is the most guarded, protected removed person in American politics right now.
MADDOW: But to get into that nuance about her political skills in February of 2006 when we‘re talking about November of 2008, when we have a huge election in November that is probably really going to change how things look in D.C.
MADDOW: I think—I feel like the idea of trying to turn the political discussion back to Hillary is just a way to turn the discussion away from the Republicans. The Republicans have real, real, real problems in November and nothing to run on.
CARLSON: I absolutely agree with you on almost all counts, except the first one, which is that it‘s too early. If you look back at every race since ‘92, the ones I‘ve been watching carefully, with the exception of ‘92 himself with Bill Clinton, you could tell pretty far out who the nominee was going to be.
We sort of knew it was John Kerry and we sort of, you know, got caught up in the Howard Dean thing. But you can kind of tell. The front runner usually wins.
MADDOW: I think things are going to change a lot in November. It‘s going to become much clearly thereafter, and I‘m still pulling for George Clooney.
CARLSON: He might be able to win. I bet he would get more votes than Hillary Clinton, by a lot.
MADDOW: I would go George Clooney, Tom Vilsack, Brian Schweitzer, Mark Warner. I‘d go with any of them.
CARLSON: You haven‘t mentioned Oprah, but I think it‘s something you ought to think about.
MADDOW: Fair enough.
CARLSON: Rachel Maddow, thank you.
MADDOW: Thanks, Tucker.
Still to come, 48 servicewomen have been killed in Iraq and more than 350 wounded in action. Is this the equal treatment feminists have been fighting for? Our next guest says no, it‘s not.
And ghouls who steal body parts and sell them for profit. It happens. We‘ll tell you the remarkable story in the “SITUATION Crime Blotter,” when we come back.
CARLSON: Still to come, when is it OK for a reporter to ask someone if she‘s gay? A gay journalist says it‘s not only acceptable; it ought to be required. You should ask the question every time. Hear from him when THE SITUATION comes back.
CARLSON: Welcome back.
Chivalry is dead, at least in Iraq. The Army is putting women on the front lines, where they‘re more likely to see combat and be killed, and in many cases, horribly. My next guest says that‘s more than just impolite; it is illegal.
Joining us now is Elaine Donnelly. She‘s the president for the Center for Military Readiness. She joins us live tonight from just outside Detroit. Elaine Donnelly, thanks for joining us.
ELAINE DONNELLY, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR MILITARY READINESS: Hi. Nice to see you Tucker.
CARLSON: So you‘re saying it is illegal the state of affairs in Iraq.
Just very quickly, what is the current law about women serving in combat?
DONNELLY: Well, here‘s the situation. There‘s no dispute about the courage of the women who are serving. We really respect and thank the women serving in uniform.
DONNELLY: It is a matter of policy and law. The Department of Defense policy says that female soldiers will not be assigned to direct ground combat units. That means infantry, armor, special forces, the tanks, Marine infantry. Those units are all male.
The units that are close in with them, embedded support units that are there 100 percent of the time, those are also required to be all male. Now that is regulation. There is also a law that says if the Department of Defense wants to change the regulation, they have to notify Congress in advance.
CARLSON: Right. Because it is a democracy and we‘re supposed to have some control over what our military does.
DONNELLY: That‘s great. We have congressional oversight. The law is there to mandate congressional oversight.
DONNELLY: That‘s rather a hot topic these days.
The problem is, well, for well over a year now, the Department of Army has been assigning female soldiers to these land combat co-located units, the ones that are embedded, 100 percent of the time. That is a violation of regulation. It is a change in the rules that the Army cannot make. It‘s not authorized to make. And there‘s been no notice to Congress.
And oh, by the way, if women are in these land combat units without challenge by Congress, well, guess what happens next? The ACLU goes into court, and this time they win a case that says that young women, civilian women, should be subject to registration for selective service. Congress wanted oversight on that, too.
CARLSON: Wait, wait, wait. The ACLU would like Congress to force women to register for the draft?
DONNELLY: Absolutely. They‘ve been trying for years.
CARLSON: And what‘s—and that is...
DONNELLY: They‘ve gone into court several times on behalf of men.
CARLSON: OK. So...
DONNELLY: They think it‘s unfair that women are not required to register for a selective service.
CARLSON: So having your limbs blown off by an IED in Iraq, that is empowerment? Is that the idea?
DONNELLY: Let‘s talk about—again, the definition of combat. It‘s not just being in danger, although my gosh, we wouldn‘t want to be in that situation. Everybody in Iraq is in harm‘s way.
CARLSON: That‘s right.
DONNELLY: These are courageous people, men and women. But the close combat units actually go after the enemy. Do you remember when Fallujah was cleaned out, liberated in November of 2004?
DONNELLY: That was done by the units I‘m talking about. Direct ground combat, infantry, armor special operations forces.
CARLSON: Were those women?
DONNELLY: Not in those units and not in units that were embedded 100 percent of the time.
CARLSON: But wait...
DONNELLY: They are there now, because it is a different situation now.
CARLSON: But is it—is it a meaningful distinction. I remember when I was in Iraq. I remember speaking to an Army officer who had just been at a field hospital where a woman, who was assigned to some sort of supply convoy moving water, I think, had had her legs blown off in an IED attack and had just died.
CARLSON: She was not in, strictly speaking, a combat position, but was exposed, obviously, to hostile fire. In Iraq, is there a difference?
DONNELLY: Remember, being exposed to hostile fire does not meet the definition of combat. Combat means deliberate, offensive action. To go after the enemy offensively. It‘s not the same as being in harm‘s way. The distinction is important, and it‘s not that hard to understand.
Regulations make it very clear.
CARLSON: So then—yes, it sounds like they do make it very clear, then. How come the Pentagon is getting away with breaking federal law? That‘s not something you think of the armed forces as doing. I mean...
DONNELLY: Good question. The secretary of defense, Mr. Rumsfeld, has allowed the Army to do this. Last year there was a big debate on this in Congress, and legislation passed in the House Armed Services Committee to codify the current rules, to get the Army‘s attention to say, wait, Congress needs to have oversight.
Well, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, behind closed doors, asked the chairman of that committee to withdraw the legislation. Instead, he promised, and it was put into law, that a report on what is going on in the field would be given to Congress, again, for congressional oversight, by March of this year.
Well, guess what? Now they‘re not even going to produce that report.
CARLSON: Of course not.
DONNELLY: ... Rand Corporation. I‘m sorry. We won‘t hear anything until new year‘s eve. So if anybody—nobody objects by New Year‘s Day, they‘ll say the Army has gotten away with violating regulation and law.
CARLSON: Of course. Because the bottom line is, they need the warm bodies to fight the war.
DONNELLY: No. There is really no evidence that there are not enough men to have in the all-male units.
CARLSON: Well, the whole thing is repulsive, as far as I‘m concerned, and not the kind of thing that civilized nations do. I just could not be more opposed to it. Doesn‘t seem like empowerment to me, to get killed by an IED.
DONNELLY: It‘s a pretty awful thing, but I tell you, it disrespects women in the military. They have a right to expect that regulation and law will be followed, and it‘s not being followed.
DONNELLY: Congress needs to intervene. The president needs to intervene, too. And people need to tell their congressman.
CARLSON: Don‘t hold your breath for that, Elaine Donnelly, but thank you for what you‘re doing.
DONNELLY: Thank you.
CARLSON: I appreciate it.
Still to come, is it fair to ask Olympic ice skater Johnny Weir or any other celebrity, for that matter, if he‘s gay? Of course not. But you‘ll meet a man on a mission to out everyone when THE SITUATION comes back.
CARLSON: Welcome back.
My next guest believes “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” has no place in the newsroom. In a column in yesterday‘s “San Francisco Examiner,” Eric Hegedus wrote, quote, “reporting on sexual orientation and gender identity, perceived or otherwise, whether in life or post mortem, should be included and dealt with the same way we approach subjects for such basic information as to whether they‘re married, divorced, single or dating. This is an important part of providing a full measure of an individual‘s life, one we should stop avoiding.”
Eric Hegedus is the president of the National Gay and Lesbian Journalists‘ Association. He joins us live tonight from New York.
Hey, Eric, thanks for coming on.
ERIC HEGEDUS, NEWSPAPER COLUMNIST: Thank you for having me, Sean.
CARLSON: I could not disagree with you more. I have many, many times being doing interviews for people where the person, where there was—you know, the person, I don‘t know people said, “Oh, he‘s gay.” And, “She‘s a lesbian.”
I never asked that question, because I always felt like, even if people were whispering about it, A, it was way too uncomfortable to ask; B, none of my business; C, if the person wants to tell me, he will.
HEGEDUS: But don‘t you think part of your job is to ask the uncomfortable questions?
HEGEDUS: Even if you don‘t know what the answer is going to be?
CARLSON: Ones that are—ones that are relevant, which is why I also rarely ask, “Are you cheating on your wife?”
HEGEDUS: Well, talking about relevance, we‘re talking about Johnny Weir. I mean, the one thing that really pushed me to do this column, and it was for the “San Francisco Chronicle,” was because we saw a flurry of stories that really—sorry for the term—but they danced around the subject of his, quote unquote, “gay lifestyle.”
We saw a lot of terms like flamboyant, eccentric, theatrical, prissy, that were used, talking about him, but no one asked the question flat out, are you gay? Instead, they talked about speculation and conjecture, and it got ridiculous. And no one would ask the question. I don‘t understand that.
CARLSON: But in the case of Johnny Weir—in the case of Johnny Weir, he essentially announced he was gay.
HEGEDUS: No, he did not.
CARLSON: He said, quote—he said, quote, “I‘m a drama queen.”
HEGEDUS: Come on, that‘s not—come on, Tucker. Come on. That‘s a stereotype, though.
CARLSON: It‘s a stereotype. He‘s living up to it. I mean, there‘s no doubt about that.
HEGEDUS: But that doesn‘t mean that he‘s gay.
CARLSON: Who cares? Who cares?
HEGEDUS: Well, you know what? It‘s getting a part of the full picture. The problem we have here is that the news media, by not asking the question, is assigning some de facto shame. I think that‘s wrong. There‘s a lack of professionalism in treating someone who is potentially gay, differently from someone who is straight. Especially when it‘s someone who is in the public eye.
CARLSON: There are a lot of questions that you could ask that are either morally neutral or questions about good deeds that you wouldn‘t ask because they are too personal. How much do you give to your church is a question I would not ask unless the person I was interviewing bragged about, you know, how much he gave to charity. I was never...
HEGEDUS: That‘s relevant.
CARLSON: Sure, absolutely.
HEGEDUS: But I think in this case, again, I saw stories from on ESPN.com, “The New York Times,” to “San Jose Mercury Knees,” where they were all literally dancing around the subject. They were doing a lot of conjecture and absolutely not getting to the gist of what was the most important question.
CARLSON: OK. Then that—I‘m not, again, not certain why that‘s important. But here‘s the next problem I have with it.
CARLSON: And it‘s a philosophical one. People ought to have the right to reveal or not reveal their sexuality, who they‘re sleeping with. Because in fact, as you know real life is more complicated. I know people who are, I don‘t know whether they‘re gay, maybe they were married, they‘re gay. Then they‘re not gay. I mean, I actually personally know people.
HEGEDUS: Many permutations.
CARLSON: Right. Exactly right. So it‘s like who are we to tell you that you have to define yourself as gay or not? I mean, shouldn‘t you...
HEGEDUS: We‘re not telling them that. All we‘re doing is doing our jobs. You know, to a certain degree, the answer is not really the relevant part of what I was getting at.
My point is, we need to be asking all of the questions that are pertinent, And I think especially in Johnny Weir‘s case it‘s very pertinent, because we were just avoiding the subject. I think it‘s ridiculous that a bunch of news organizations are totally talking about the conjecture and the speculation and certainly, the innuendo, but then they‘re not going to the subject and just saying, “Are you gay” to get to the right answer.
CARLSON: OK. Getting back quickly to Johnny Weir.
CARLSON: How would that be a relevant question? I mean, what does who he sleeps with have to do with how he skates at Torino? I mean, I don‘t see it has anything to do with that.
HEGEDUS: Well, I mean, on a very director basis, It‘s not, you know, you could talk about, you know, how much gay style he has. That was addressed in these—in these...
CARLSON: What‘s gay style?
HEGEDUS: That‘s a very good question. Instead of asking him, “are you gay,” they say that his dancing is gay style. You know, that‘s the kind of stuff that we‘re trying to...
CARLSON: I don‘t know what the hell that is.
HEGEDUS: I have no idea what that is either, Tucker. I was hoping you‘d be able to tell me, Tucker. But I guess not. That was one of the terms that was used.
CARLSON: My many years of gay activism, and I‘ve never—I‘ve never learned the definition of that. I‘m sorry.
HEGEDUS: You know, I mean, for better or for worse, you know, the sport itself has been seen as one of the gayest sports that is out there, if not the gayest. And so in that respect, I think it‘s—I think it‘s relevant to be talking about this, especially if he is known as someone who‘s very up front about things. He has said on his blog that, you know, who he sleeps with, you know, that doesn‘t really affect his sport.
However, I don‘t think—I don‘t think asking if he is gay is a question that should be avoided, because we are already covering the speculation around it, and it should not be a shameful question to ask.
CARLSON: I think you‘ve got to call him and ask him, because you know what, Eric? I‘m not doing it.
HEGEDUS: I would love to do that. You get me his number; I will call him and ask him. I‘ll report back to you.
Thanks, Eric. I appreciate it.
HEGEDUS: Thank you, Tucker.
CARLSON: Up next, are people aware they could be getting stolen body parts during their surgeries? Who‘s checking to make sure the tissue is not contaminated? Good question.
Plus, Hurricane Katrina isn‘t putting a damper on this parade. We‘ll check in with Mardi Gras, live from the French Quarter, next.
CARLSON: Welcome back.
You‘re looking now at a live shot at the festivities in the French Quarter on the eve of Fat Tuesday. It‘s normally a time when hundreds of thousands of tourists line the streets of New Orleans searching for beads and liquor. But this year, Hurricane Katrina has stirred up a cocktail of strange emotions.
Here to tell us about it is NBC‘s Donna Gregory. She joins us live tonight from Bourbon Street in the French Quarter.
Donna, you look great. I love the beads.
DONNA GREGORY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, and I earned these, Tucker, but unfortunately, probably not the way you‘re thinking. They tossed them up from the floats.
We saw some unbelievable floats here, but now the madness has moved to Bourbon Street. You can see it behind me. The street is packed. There‘s very little space for people to walk. And there‘s all kinds of vendors lining the streets.
It‘s a fairly well-behaved crowd. We haven‘t heard big police sirens for a couple of hours. And I should tell you, police are out in full force. There are uniformed officers. There‘s undercover cops. We witnessed a couple of arrests from undercover cops. They swoop in, grab the perpetrator, or alleged perpetrator, pull them away from the crowd and then let the party continue to roll. They found that‘s the best way to handle this big crowd scene here.
But when I say big, it‘s all relative. It‘s big to me, because I don‘t normally hang out with this many people. But in terms of New Orleans Mardi Gras, Tucker, very, very much on the downside. I would estimate two-fifths to maybe half of the people that would normally show up here. But keep in mind, fewer than half of the residents are back here.
But it‘s a great party for the people who live here. Most of the locals have gone home, at least the ones that brought their children to watch the Orpheus float. It was the last—the Orpheus parade. It was the last parade to go down Canal Street tonight.
Steven Seagal was the grand marshal. Scarlett Johansson, kind of the “it” girl in Hollywood now, was on one of the floats with Josh Hartnett.
And again, they‘re throwing these beads out to people, and you really just have to wave and smile and have a good catching hand and you can grab them. Having a lot of fun here, Tucker.
CARLSON: Are they—I‘ve wondered this, ever since we were down there for Katrina. The official cocktail of Bourbon Street is, of course, the hurricane. Do they still sell those? Did they change the name?
GREGORY: You know, I‘ve seen people with hurricanes in hurricane glasses. So at least the ones that I‘ve witnessed, you know, they‘re still going by “hurricane.”
CARLSON: That‘s unreal.
GREGORY: It‘s kind of tongue and cheek. I do have to tell you one funny thing they did today. Unfortunately, I don‘t have pictures for you. They had a fashion show, Tucker, with outfits made out of blue tarps. These were actually designers that made these unbelievable outfits, using blue tarps.
CARLSON: A city with a sense of humor. I love that.
GREGORY: Absolutely. Touching.
CARLSON: Now is the city ready for Katrina? I mean, there are two hospitals now running in New Orleans. Are city services in place for the people there?
GREGORY: Yes. You know, I think lessons learned from Katrina. They have emergency medical staging areas all along the parade routes. They want to make sure that if there are minor cuts and bruises and scrapes and little broken bones they can triage people right on site.
They also have a temporary medical facility set up, coincidentally, at the convention center. And there‘s even plans in place to airlift seriously hurt people to Baton Rouge, if that‘s necessary.
Again, police all in place. The big question now is who‘s going to pay for all this. And you know, the city says that it will pay to clean up this mess when Ash Wednesday starts on Wednesday and Lent starts and all of us repent from what we did at Mardi Gras tomorrow night.
CARLSON: Donna, maybe you‘ll come back tomorrow and give us some more detail on that. NBC‘s Donna Gregory, of course, live in the French Quarter. Thanks a lot, Donna.
GREGORY: You bet.
CARLSON: Now to a story so scary it makes Mardi Gras look like a G-rated event. Authorities in New York and New Jersey have arrested four men for running a multimillion-dollar body snatching operation that looted the bones and tissue from more than 1,000 corpses. In some cases the body parts were replaced with PVC piping then sold to legitimate companies that supply hospitals across the country. Hundreds of unsuspecting people have received the stolen tissue.
Here to explain how something so outrageous can happen in this country, forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht. He joins us live tonight from Pittsburgh. Dr. Wecht, thanks for coming on.
DR. CYRIL WECHT, FORENSIC PATHOLOGIST: Good evening, Tucker.
CARLSON: Now how—you know, in a sentence, how could this happen?
WECHT: Well, I‘m puzzled by the fact that funeral homes from three different states as far away as Rochester sent bodies to Brooklyn for embalming. We‘re here in little old Pittsburgh. Embalming is done. Not every funeral home has an embalmer, but there‘s one located a couple of miles away.
That‘s one thing that puzzles me. And I wonder how much had to have been known by these people.
In any event, what has happened, reportedly, is the bodies were sent to this Brooklyn funeral home for embalming. At the funeral home, the allegations go on, these individuals forged consent forms, indicating that the descendents or their family members had given authorization for removal of various bones, tendons, ligaments, heart valves, teeth and so on. Not major organs like heart and lungs and kidneys, because that just could not work.
WECHT: These other body structures, the muscular skeletal system, can be retained and are indeed stored for months and even years to be used by neurosurgeons and orthopedic surgeons for disk surgery, knee surgery, dental implants and so on.
So they would take these parts, and then they would sell them to institutions that utilized these. So here again, I have a question about the institutions...
WECHT: ... and the doctors who acquired these. Where did they think they were getting them from?
CARLSON: But wait a second. I mean, even to back up just one step. When, you know, you‘re in the hospital and you‘re ill, or you have a loved one who‘s ill, you‘re often presented with the question, will you donate your body to science, is the term, the phrase that used to be used. And you think of your loved one‘s body going to save a child, right, who‘s been in a car accident or something along those lines.
You don‘t think that your loved one‘s body is going to be plundered for parts and sold for a profit. But this seems like it‘s par.
WECHT: Well, that‘s right. Now I‘ve been involved in some cases over the years, quite a few years ago, they were doing this with eyes. A funeral director tied in with an autopsy technician in a large hospital, and they were taking out people‘s eyes and selling them to foreign countries. I exhumed a couple of bodies—that is the attorneys did; I did the autopsies—and demonstrated that.
More recently, a case which is still pending, so I can‘t identify it, the attorneys have found instances in which willed body organs, willed bodies have been then sold to institutions, including U.S. governmental institutions, for all kinds of tests: how much explosions—explosive force does it take to blow up a body in a vehicle, that kind of thing.
So these things have gone on, and we don‘t know how many more have.
CARLSON: Well, it makes people, I think, much less likely to want to donate. To donate their bodies.
WECHT: Tucker, yes, you hit—this is very tragic. We‘re looking to try to get people—just think how wonderful it is, if you can give a part of your body to help somebody live, to help somebody live a better life. And now these people are being discouraged. So all the fine work done by the legitimate organizations has been really struck a blow, not a fatal blow, but a very damaging one. That is the tragedy.
CARLSON: But it‘s not just because of illegal activity, it seems to me. People‘s bodies goes to plastic surgeons to practice doing nose jobs or go, as you said, to the U.S. government, you know, to test the effect of explosives on the human body.
Quickly, this story came to light because the body of an 82-year-old deceased woman was exhumed from the ground, and it was found that the bones in her legs were missing and replaced with PVC piping. That‘s what started this whole thing. What would you do with the bones of an 82-year-old woman? Why would you...
WECHT: Well, that‘s it. What they did, Tucker, was they forged the documents, and they changed the ages. They also forged and changed the documents. They eliminated things like cancer and put in heart disease. So I guarantee you that the person who bought, who received organs, tissues, body parts from this 82-year-old woman did not know that she was 82 years old. That‘s the answer.
CARLSON: That is just absolutely shocking.
WECHT: And what‘s frightening, too, by the way, there may be communicable diseases, like syphilis, like hepatitis and other things, which have not been properly tested for, which is what would take place under appropriate circumstances, and that may have happened. And so the individuals who have received these tissues, they‘re living an additional life of horror, wondering whether or not some disease may manifest itself in the months and years ahead.
CARLSON: That‘s just unreal. I hope the body merchants who got caught here do hard time. I assume they will.
Dr. Cyril Wecht, thanks for joining us.
WECHT: Thanks. Thanks.
CARLSON: Stay tuned. Still plenty more ahead tonight on THE
CARLSON (voice-over): We reveal why Osama bin Laden lacks the true touch of evil.
MIKE MYERS, ACTOR: Give me a hug.
SETH GREEN, ACTOR: No way.
MYERS: Come here.
GREEN: I‘m not coming over there.
MYERS: Let‘s go.
CARLSON: Then, why George Michael proved once again he‘s no father figure. Wait until you hear what the pop star is accused of now.
GEORGE MICHAEL, SINGER: It‘s a big deal.
CARLSON: Plus, we‘ll show you what‘s got the faithful flocking to this New England hardware store and why it could make a true believer out of you. It‘s all ahead on THE SITUATION.
MYERS: I‘m with it. I‘m hip.
VANESSA MCDONALD, PRODUCER: Coming up, shouldn‘t speaking English be one of the things you have to learn in American high schools? Some people say no. Plus one more reason to hate Osama bin Laden.
CARLSON: As if we needed another one. We‘ve got it. THE SITUATION is back in 60 seconds.
CARLSON: Welcome back to our show.
Ben Franklin once said, “He is a fool who cannot conceal his wisdom.”
Ben Franklin was often calling people fools.
Joining me now, a man who is nobody‘s fool, “The Outsider.” He is ESPN Radio and HBO Boxing host Max Kellerman.
MAX KELLERMAN, ESPN RADIO: Tucker, good to see you.
CARLSON: Max, great to see you. Welcome back from Las Vegas.
KELLERMAN: Thank you very much.
CARLSON: Here‘s a simple question, Max. Should students have to be able to speak the language in order to graduate from an American high school? The language, of course, being English. Surprisingly, some people are answering no.
One in five members of California‘s class of 2006 has not passed the state‘s exit exam, a test of basic English, math and algebra. And according to some critics, the exam is punitive and unfair to students who don‘t speak English very well. To which I reply, it ought to be.
One of the topics is English. The point, the central point, in fact, of going to high school in this country is to get a command, a working command of English, to be genuinely fluent in the language. Because without that, you‘re not likely to succeed in this country.
KELLERMAN: I disagree. I think the actual point of an education is to train you how to think. It‘s not so much about the facts you learn and the formulas you learn, it‘s did those formulas help you learn how to...
CARLSON: But as linguists are discovering, it‘s very difficult to think, even without language. You need the words in order to...
KELLERMAN: Yes, certainly. We‘re not talking about an absence of language. First of all, in the first place, as soon as I heard this topic, I agreed with your position.
CARLSON: Of course. You‘re a sensible man.
KELLERMAN: Because—because you know, you can‘t pass the math test because you don‘t know algebra. Oh, it‘s unfair. Duh. All right. And English is the national language.
But then I started asking questions about this to which I don‘t have the answers. Maybe you do. Let me just tell you...
CARLSON: Hit me with it.
KELLERMAN: ... what they are. Objections to not knowing English, you know, and passing the test fall into two categories as far as I can tell.
KELLERMAN: One, there must be—one, it‘s the national language.
KELLERMAN: We‘ll deal with that in a second.
KELLERMAN: Two, there‘s some intrinsic advantage to knowing specifically English. For instance, if I were to tell you, you know, I didn‘t know algebra, so I couldn‘t pass the math test.
KELLERMAN: But I do know trigonometry, you know, is it better to know algebra than trigonometry in terms of training your brain? Let‘s say maybe it is.
KELLERMAN: But if you know trigonometry and not algebra, that‘s better than knowing nothing. In other words, Spanish, and we‘re talking about Spanish here, is a language.
KELLERMAN: It‘s best to know both.
CARLSON: It‘s terrific if you live in Latin America. In fact, learning Spanish is I think almost key if you live in Latin America. In the United States, however, daily life is conducted in English. It‘s our language. In fact, it‘s the world‘s language. So if you aren‘t teaching someone English, you‘re failing as a teacher.
KELLERMAN: But things are changing. So two—that‘s the first thing, there‘s some intrinsic advantage.
KELLERMAN: If you reject that argument, that one language is more or less as good as the next.
KELLERMAN: The other is it‘s the national language, why change?
KELLERMAN: And that, at best, is inertia and an unwillingness to adapt to your environment. And at worst, it‘s xenophobia of brown people.
CARLSON: So basically—basically, what you‘re saying, Max, is by not teaching the children of California English, these teachers are not negligent but on the cutting edge of tomorrow, essentially?
KELLERMAN: I would argue that you should teach both and that perhaps this country is moving in a direction where it is a bilingual country.
CARLSON: Yes, it is, unfortunately, because bilingual countries are almost always ridden by strife.
KELLERMAN: That is the trump card.
CARLSON: It always is, it always is.
Max Kellerman, a living trump card.
KELLERMAN: Thank you very much.
CARLSON: Thank you, Max.
Coming up on THE SITUATION, illegal immigration is a very serious problem, of course. But you‘re about to meet one man who can make it pretty amusing. We‘ll tell you why his outrageous column is causing quite a stir in California. THE SITUATION is coming right back.
CARLSON: Welcome back.
There are all kinds of stereotypes out there about Mexicans. I don‘t need to repeat them to you, because my next guest will. Gustavo Arellano‘s wildly popular and controversial “Ask a Mexican” column has turned him into a celebrity in Southern California.
He takes reader‘s real questions, like, “Why do Mexicans sell oranges at freeway off ramps?” And responds with hilarious political incorrectness. Mr. Arellano writes for the “Orange County Weekly. He joins me live tonight from Orange, California.
Gustavo Arellano, thanks a lot for coming on.
GUSTAVO ARELLANO, COLUMNIST, “ORANGE COUNTY WEEKLY”: (speaking Spanish)
CARLSON: Very well. I‘m from Southern California. I know the lingo. Why do Mexicans sell oranges by freeway off-ramps? What was your answer to that one?
ARELLANO: What do you want them to—yes, what do you want them to sell? Steinways? You know, oranges are easy to sell. They make a nice profit, and you don‘t have to—you don‘t have to report anything to the tax man. So you could make a good $5,000 a year, made it into the United States economy there.
CARLSON: I am—first of all, I‘m completely in favor of that. I love oranges and I think it‘s a great service. I‘m not criticizing it in any way at all.
I want to read you some of the questions directly from your column.
It‘s hard to believe you actually have a column called “Ask a Mexican.”
I‘m not attacking it. It‘s just pretty bold of you.
Here‘s a question: “Why do Mexicans swim in the ocean with their clothes on?” I‘ve never noticed that. I don‘t even know if it‘s true. What‘s your answer?
ARELLANO: Well, the question—I mean, the answer to that is actually one of the most responded to questions. And the answer to that is a lot of Mexicans, they happen to be very chubby, and so when they go in the ocean, they don‘t want to show off their fat rolls like Americans do, so they put on clothes. It‘s not Roman Catholicism or anything. It‘s just good manners and respecting your neighbors. We‘re not like white people who, if they‘re fat, they‘re going to show off all their rolls for the entire world to see.
CARLSON: All right. You know what? I‘m on your side on that one, completely.
ARELLANO: We‘re good people.
CARLSON: Now here‘s a question that‘s hostile. Again, these are questions you‘ve gotten for your column, not questions that I‘m asking, necessarily.
CARLSON: Quote, “What part of illegal don‘t Mexicans understand?”
What did you say to that?
ARELLANO: Well, Mexicans don‘t understand the word “illegal” because their employers don‘t understand the word “illegal,” No. 1. But more importantly, the reason they don‘t understand “illegal” is because that‘s English, and Mexicans only speak Spanish.
CARLSON: Very good answer. You have a question here and an answer I thought was fascinating: “Why do Mexicans call white people gringos?”
ARELLANO: No, Mexicans do not call white people gringos. Only gringos call gringos gringos. Mexicans actually call gringos gabachos, which is a slightly more hostile term than gringos, which I think—you know what a gringo is, right Tucker?
CARLSON: Of course.
ARELLANO: Yes, well some white people don‘t. But from now on, I would really appreciate it if you call your fellow folks gabachos instead of gringos.
CARLSON: Gabachos. No thank you. I‘ll just go with “Hey you.”
ARELLANO: Hey, you, yes.
CARLSON: So “Ask a Mexican,” where did you come up with this title, and you must have been—you must be attacked for this, I assume.
ARELLANO: The way “Ask a Mexican” started was I worked for “O.C. Weekly,” and my boss one day, we work in Santa Ana, which is the most Latino city of the United States. And we saw a billboard with a Mexican guy in a Viking helmet. And he said, “Wow, that guy seems like he could answer any questions about Mexicans. Why don‘t you start writing a column called ‘Ask a Mexican‘?”
And we wrote it once. It was supposed to be a joke column. And we just received such an overwhelming response. A lot of people hated it. They were calling us racists. They were calling me a sell-out, frankly. But a lot of people liked it and more importantly, people starting sending their questions to me.
CARLSON: Yes. Because your questions are actually not demeaning at all. I mean, you give straightforward, I think very amusing answers. You‘re not—sell-out, please. Give me a break.
So what do your parents think of this?
ARELLANO: My parents love it. They—in fact, my mom, she kind of worries sometimes, because she says, “Sometimes you‘re telling the truth too much, and people don‘t like hearing the truth, frankly.”
And a lot of the questions are going to be some racist questions. But when you deal with those, you have to deal with it in an amusing manner. Or as you said, you know, you take that stereotype and then you explode it to let people know that it‘s not really—that stereotypes doesn‘t exist. All it is is just a stereotype.
CARLSON: Good for you. Gustavo Arellano, the Mexican in the “Ask a Mexican” column. Great column. Thanks a lot.
ARELLANO: Gracias, Tucker.
CARLSON: Gracias to you.
Still ahead on THE SITUATION, would you give this man a hug? He should give you a hug. We‘ll show you the softer side of being the worst human being on the face of the earth. That could only happen, of course, on “The Cutting Room Floor.” We‘ll be right back.
CARLSON: Welcome back. Time for “The Cutting Room Floor” and for that, Willie Geist.
WILLIE GEIST, PRODUCER: Hello, Tucker.
GEIST: Still trying to unravel Max‘s argument about the—teaching English in the schools. We‘ve got some CIA code breakers working on it right now. We hope to crack it by tomorrow.
CARLSON: I liked his argument. It was deep. You got to play closer attention to the show, Willie. You can‘t just zone out.
GEIST: It was deep. I was drowning in it, it was so deep.
CARLSON: It was deep.
Well, for a guy who hasn‘t been relevant since the 1980s, George Michael certainly spends an awful lot of time in the headlines. This time it‘s for having drugs on him when he was found slumped over the wheel of his car. The “London Sun” reports Michael was arrested with pot and liquid Ecstasy.
He was arrested in 1998 for engaging in, quote, a lewd sexual act in a Beverly Hills men‘s room.
GEIST: Why does—George needs to take his business in private. Public restrooms, parked cars. You got to have some Wham money stocked away. Get yourself a little flat there in London, invite Boy George over and get weird. Do whatever—do whatever it is that you do, in private. That‘s all I ask.
CARLSON: Didn‘t we have that segment a minute ago about how journalists are supposed to always ask about your sex life? I don‘t want to ask about this guy‘s sex life.
GEIST: Well, you don‘t have to ask George.
CARLSON: I don‘t want to ask. I don‘t want to know. Come on.
GEIST: It‘s there for the world to see.
CARLSON: OK. A lot of people don‘t think to keep an eye on sheet metal for the second coming of Jesus Christ. Luckily, the guys down at Hardy‘s Hardware store in Manchester, Connecticut, have us covered. And employee at Hardy‘s was unloading a shipment of sheet metal when he noticed an oil stain in the likeness of Christ. The man immediately did what any God-fearing person would do: he put the blessed sheet metal on eBay.
GEIST: Of course he did. And actually, I think we‘re getting a little interpretive.
CARLSON: We are.
GEIST: Where does Jesus come into that picture?
CARLSON: It‘s a more—it‘s a more modern version.
GEIST: To me, that looks like Elvis, which in some ways equally awe-inspiring. Doesn‘t that look like a little bit like an older statesman Elvis?
CARLSON: Yes, I‘m wondering—I‘m still caught up on the spiritual ramifications of putting a relic like this on eBay.
GEIST: Yes, it wouldn‘t be my instinct.
GEIST: I don‘t want to burst your bubble down at Hardy‘s, but Jesus ain‘t coming back in sheet metal.
CARLSON: You‘re playing with fire.
Well, there are food fights and then there are full-scale food wars like the one waged in Italy over the weekend. They call this monumental waste of food the Battle of the Oranges. It‘s a reenactment of a local 12th Century feud between two families. The people playing the role of the noblemen travel in cats filled with hundreds of pounds of oranges that they let the crowd throw.
GEIST: I hate the cliche, Tucker, when people say there are children starving in Africa, but there are children starving in Africa.
CARLSON: Yes, I know.
GEIST: I don‘t think—just wasting citrus left and right. And by the way, the 12th Century battle where they threw oranges at each other, you talk about a war with no end in sight. You‘ve got to come in with something bigger than an orange.
CARLSON: I agree. I agree with that. The Italians do it with flare, though, I have to say. They can pull it off.
It turns out the man whose stated goal in life is to destroy western civilization is an old softy. Osama bin Laden loves a good man hug. So says Jihad Jack, the Australian man convicted of having ties to al Qaeda. Jack, who met bin Laden three times, revealed the terror mastermind‘s affinity for hugs in an interview on Australian television. He said bin Laden likes man hugs but not man kisses.
GEIST: Not for nothing, Tucker, but I‘ve noticed in al Qaeda there‘s a lot of hugging and hand holding going on. I don‘t want to speak ill, but I don‘t know. They‘re a little weird.
CARLSON: I will never forget my—when I went to the Taliban embassy in Pakistan right after 9/11 and the spokesman was there with his little friend, holding hands. I remember thinking, this...
GEIST: That‘s a little weird.
GEIST: By the way, you resist man hugs. Bin Laden is giving man hugs.
CARLSON: I agree.
GEIST: You‘ve got to stop fighting it.
CARLSON: Just one—no, it‘s just one more reason.
GEIST: You‘ll love it (ph).
CARLSON: No chance.
That‘s THE SITUATION for tonight. Thank you for watching. Up next, “COUNTDOWN” with Keith. Have a great night.
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