Guest: Dave Lenihan, Rodney Colvin, Scottie Colvin, Thomas Nelson, Craig
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
No warrants? No problem. Until you meet an American convinced he's been NSA-eavesdropped and FBI-searched without a judge's OK. We will meet attorney Thomas Nelson.
Swing and a miss. Barry Bonds sues over the steroid book, but he doesn't sue for libel, and the judge throws out his request as fast as he files it. Did his own attorney just put Barry Bonds on trial?
When is a mistake just a mistake? If you're on the radio extolling Condi Rice's qualifications to become football commissioner, what happens when you say this?
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She loves football. She's African-American, which would kind of be a big coon.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A big coon. Oh, my God. I am totally, totally, totally, totally, totally sorry for that.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Coup. He meant coup. He says it was a slip of the tongue. It sounded like a slip of the tongue. He'll join us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your state sucks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Mean drunks and not-so-mean drunks respond to a new policy in Texas. You can be arrested for public intoxication at a bar.
And we'll set the bar for the most gratuitous replays of one cat's catastrophe, Piper the flying feline joins us. We'll ask her what this 80-foot drop felt like.
All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Good evening.
The NSA wiretaps, the FBI searches. As controversy and politics have swirled around them, it's all been happening largely in a vacuum, a lot of talk about the necessities of war and the rights of citizens, but no victims until now.
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, it appears we have a face to attach to the debate, an attorney who's taking legal action, convinced he has been listened to and his office searched without even the slightest glance by any judge. He joins us in a moment.
And if the White House feels it does not need a court's approval, why should it worry about Congress? Sure, it may have looked as if President Bush was agreeing to inform Congress about how the FBI would be using the expanded police powers in the renewed PATRIOT Act when he signed the renewal earlier this month.
But after the cameras and reporters had gone, he quietly issued another so-called signing statement, saying, in effect, I signed that document, but with the fingers of my other hand crossed behind my back, Mr. Bush claiming that, despite the law's requirements, he has the power to withhold information from Congress as he sees fit, if the disclosure, quote, “could impair foreign relations, national security, the deliberative processes of the executive, or the performance of the executive's constitutional duties.”
Mr. Bush's interpretation of the Foreign Intelligence Agency Act already allegedly in action in the case of Al Haraman (ph) Islamic Foundation, et al., versus George W. Bush, et al., the plaintiffs in this alleging that the Bush administration illegally intercepted international phone conversations between the co-director of an Islamic charity and his former attorneys in the United States and for using that information it had gained against the charity, in addition, the charity's current defense attorney claiming that he was the target of warrantless physical searches, Thomas Nelson writing to U.S. Attorney Karen Immergut (ph) in Oregon in September 2005, three months before the NSA spying story broke, telling her that in the previous nine months, quote, “I and others have seen strong indications that my office and my home have been the target of clandestine searches.”
Attorney Thomas Nelson kind enough now to join us from Portland.
Thanks for your time tonight, sir.
THOMAS NELSON, DEFENSE NELSON IN TERRORISM CASE: Happy to be here.
OLBERMANN: Strong indications. What exactly led you to believe that federal agents had been searching your home and your office?
NELSON: In the office, we saw a number of things. For example, my desk papers were rearranged on several occasions, my computer had been tampered with in my absence, both to the point of turning it off and then rebooting it. And then finally, there was an individual who showed up several times in the office, who wasn't part of the cleaning crew, who went back long after the cleaning crew was done for the day to my office and attempted to gain entry.
At home, we had a number of problems and anomalies with our alarm system that were reported to the alarm company, but got no satisfaction.
OLBERMANN: In the public polls, in any event, the reaction nationally to the Fourth (INAUDIBLE) Fourth Amendment considerations here have been mixed. They've been tepid in some regards. You're the first person we know of who's convinced that they're a victim of this warrantless eavesdropping, warrantless searches. How—it's the oldest cliche question in the book, but how does it feel? What do you want to tell people about that feeling?
NELSON: Well, the feeling is, number one, you feel violated. And that's the obvious one. In my own personal situation, I feel very angry. And that anger and that upset was what led to the letters Karen Immergut and then to the National Security Agency, which I think was actually behind the invasions.
OLBERMANN: The agents were searching for what, do you think, the ones who came into your office and came into your home?
NELSON: This is my opinion only, but I think that they were looking for the documents that we have now filed with the court under seal in the litigation that's going on out here in Oregon challenging the NSA wiretaps.
OLBERMANN: Do they have any reason to suspect that you were talking to a terrorist, or that you were a terrorist?
NELSON: Well, one of my clients has been designated as a specially designated terrorist. I think that was part of it. The truth is far from that. And that certainly is not the case. But I clearly have been involved in these matters for some time.
OLBERMANN: About the eavesdropping allegations, and we fully understand that you can't discuss the specifics of documents that you've filed with the court, but do you have evidence that you believe demonstrates that the National Security Agency's practice of wiretapping has happened in your case? In other words, what elevates this beyond your word against theirs?
NELSON: Frankly, I can't talk about the contents of the document that is under seal, and it's up in Seattle now because it's too hot for Portland.
But I can talk about the contents of the complaint. And the complaint is very specific on when the wiretaps occurred, and who the parties to the conversations were, and what they said, because two of the parties, on the one hand, and the director in the other were involved in attorney-client communications, so those conversations were also privileged in the legal sense of the word.
OLBERMANN: Last question, are you scared by this?
NELSON: No, I'm angry.
OLBERMANN: Scared on behalf of the Constitution, perhaps?
NELSON: Well, I'm certainly concerned about the direction the administration has taken this country in the last three, four, five years. If the idea of untrammeled executive power survives this administration, we're in real trouble, because it means one of our sacred protections, the judiciary, is gone.
OLBERMANN: It's not like you couldn't go to a judge and get this same right.
The defense attorney Thomas Nelson of Portland, Oregon. Great thanks for your time tonight. Please let us know what happens as this case proceeds.
NELSON: I sure shall. Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Thank you.
Elsewhere on the COUNTDOWN political court calendar, it appears Jack Abramoff will soon be spending a lot more time under oath, the convicted Republican lobbyist in high demand to testify in cases other than his own, including an apparent “Sopranos”-style mob hit. Cue the black hat.
Mr. Abramoff likely to be subpoenaed to give a statement in the case against three men charged with murdering the former owner of a fleet of casino ships based in Florida, according to court documents, the lawyer for murder defendant Anthony “Big Tony” Mascatiello (ph) expressing a desire to question Abramoff about the slaying, the judge in the case approving the request for subpoenas, which, though, have not yet been issued.
Mr. Abramoff likely to be subpoenaed to give a statement also in the trial, or perhaps be a witness in the trial of the associate David Safavian, the former top procurement official at the White House. He is charged with misrepresenting his connections with lobbyists such as Abramoff while working in the General Services Administration. Mr. Safavian's trial today penciled in for the end of May. Get a scorecard.
Time now to call in our own scorecard, Craig Crawford, also a columnist for “Congressional Quarterly,” for more on all the day's political headlines.
And there's one breaking that we'll get to in a moment.
Good evening, Craig.
CRAIG CRAWFORD, “CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY”: Hello, Keith.
OLBERMANN: All right, let's start with this first story, the president reserving the right to rewrite the congressional oversight provisions in the reauthorization of the PATRIOT Act. A lot was made of this this week of the fact that the president had gone the longest since any president since Jefferson to have never vetoed a bill. Who needs a veto, if you're just going to rewrite the law anyway?
CRAWFORD: Yes, you don't need the veto if you're going to edit the legislation on the fly. I wish I'd have thought of that when I signed my mortgage, say, Oh, I might, might not pay it every month.
This is something presidents have been up to for some time, though, trying to establish a precedent for legislation along these lines, the so-called signing statement. It came up in Samuel Alito's Supreme Court hearing. It's something that's coursing through and probably will be decided by the Supreme Court.
OLBERMANN: Did the president, after saying he would faithfully execute the laws of the United States, did he issue some sort of signing statement after taking the oath of office either time?
CRAWFORD: I don't know, I haven't checked the video on the inaugural too carefully. Maybe he had his fingers crossed, you know. But, you know, there are those, and this White House is certainly one, Dick Cheney, you know, talked about this before they even took office. They are on a mission to enhance what they see as weakened powers of the presidency.
And, you know, there are those who believe that the presidency does need to be strengthened in these various ways. The founding fathers were very careful to put a lot of restrictions on presidential power. They weren't very interested in having a chief executive with too much power. They almost called the president Chief Magistrate, in fact, because that's how many of them viewed the office they were creating in the second article of the Constitution. Article One was Congress, because that's what they intended to be the preeminent branch of government.
OLBERMANN: Yes. Just remember they were engaging in pre-9/11 thinking in 1787.
This story that I mentioned that's breaking—we got two versions of this, and obviously it's a Friday-night dump—the Pentagon saying that Russian intelligence apparently shared information about the U.S. military with Iraq during the opening days of the war three years ago.
But there's more details on this now that Jim Miklaszewski's reporting out of the Pentagon, that this was three days before the invasion actually occurred that the Russians intercepted battle plans electronically. Talk about eavesdropping, there's a little bit of an ironic connection.
The Russians gave them to Saddam Hussein. The only thing that prevented Saddam Hussein from knowing the U.S. war strategy in 2003 was the fact that he didn't believe any of it. This is extraordinary.
CRAWFORD: It is. And I got to hope this one isn't true, Keith. I mean, that—it is frightening, the notion this could have happened. And then, if the administration cannot look away, (INAUDIBLE), and of course this is a very delicate time in dealing with Iran and Russia's been involved in that.
I mean, we don't need two enemies like this, you know, if we are saber-rattling Iran, all of a sudden we got Russia in a posture like this on.
I just can't imagine things getting much worse for the administration in dealing with that region than an imbroglio over this sort of thing.
OLBERMANN: Yes, we got two directions going here. One is, while we're worried here about what the administration is listening to, perhaps it should have been more (INAUDIBLE) worried about what and who was listening to it. That's number one.
But number two, (INAUDIBLE), what does this do to—I know it's not as close as they once claimed it to be, this relationship between President Bush and President Putin? I mean, what are we, on the verge of renaming the Russian dressing at the Capitol cafeteria something like Freedom Salad Topping?
CRAWFORD: I mean, you know, at a time when we have devoted so much of our resources militarily, financial, everything, into this adventure in Iraq, and this mission to create democracy, to suddenly have the cold war come back again, and that's what we would be looking at going down this road, just in terms of just spending, (INAUDIBLE), if nothing else, it's a frightening prospect.
OLBERMANN: And it certainly, it also has that financial component, because as we remember, the Russians had so much Iraqi debt that they were owed before from the Saddam Hussein administration and the dictatorship there. So this has—this is going to off in all sorts of different directions, I would assume, starting on the Sunday talk shows. So we'll look for it then.
Craig Crawford of MSNBC and “Congressional Quarterly,” have a great weekend. And, as always, thanks.
CRAWFORD: Good to be here.
OLBERMANN: Also tonight, the Barry Bonds steroids drama, from the bookshelves to the courtroom. But a judge has already smacked down the first Bonds legal salvo. Could that lawsuit that he filed now force the commissioner of baseball to act against Bonds?
And you may have heard it, at least heard about it. St. Louis radio host praising Condoleezza Rice, appears to mean to say “coup,” instead winds up using a word that sounds like that but is actually unfriendly racial slang. He gets fired. Tonight, he gets defended by the NAACP.
You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: Accused in public of being gay, back when that got you five years in prison breaking up rocks with a pick, the legendary 19th-century English writer Oscar Wilde sued for slander. The problem was, the man who had accused him was Wilde's boyfriend's father. When they all went to court, the lawyers produced a couple of dozen male prostitutes Wilde had hired. Wilde eventually withdrew his lawsuit and the same day was arrested and wound up in jail breaking up rocks with a pick.
Moral, be very careful of suing people saying bad things about you, especially if you may have done it, and they might have proof.
Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, a California judge immediately dismissed a motion today for an injunction against the writers and publishers who reported that Barry Bonds had repeatedly used steroids. Bonds was in Arizona for spring training. His attorney, Michael Rains, was in court in California using an obscure and ambiguous business law of that state to ask Judge James Warren to prohibit the authors and publishers of “Game of Shadows” from making money off the book. The judge declined that request, noting that freedom of speech protected the defendants, adding that the lawsuit itself had little chance of success.
Strike one. Mr. Rains is also seeking a contempt of court citation against reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada (ph) and Lance Williams, claiming they used grand jury transcripts illegally obtained.
Attorney Rains joined Dan Patrick and me on ESPN Radio this afternoon. So did ESPN legal analyst Roger Cossack. Dan and I tried to stay out of the way as Mr. Rains tried to explain why there was no libel suit, and Roger cut him up into little Michael Rains pieces.
Mr. Rains first.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIPS)
MICHAEL RAINS, BARRY BONDS'S ATTORNEY (on phone): This is the thing that's staring us in the face right now. We take legal issues as they come to us. And, you know, you've got to win your statute of limitations upon a libel suit. So I don't have to rush into court on a libel suit right now, till I've had opportunity to read the book and study it.
Barry Bonds has never said Barry Bonds is above the law. Barry Bonds has never said, I did steroids, but, boy, I'm Barry Bonds, and I deserve to do them. The only people who said they're above the law here are these authors. They say, The laws don't apply to us. We can print anything we want, and we can do it based upon illegal materials, because we're above the law.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But that's what libel, that's what the lawsuit of libel is. They can't print whatever I want. And that's why the notion that you didn't sue them for libel, I mean, that's the big (INAUDIBLE)...
RAINS: Hey, Roger, hey, Roger, here's the deal. If I'd have sued them for libel, you'd have said, Why didn't you sue them for something else? And we...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no. Oh, no, no, no, no. I would have said the reason—and I'm saying that the reason you don't sue him for libel is because you know and I know that you don't want Bonds asking, answering questions under oath.
RAINS: And you're absolutely wrong about that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.
RAINS: Bonds has already answered the questions under oath.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Let me CALL in Stanley Brand, the noted defense attorney, who served as counsel to major league baseball during the steroids hearings last year.
Thanks for your time tonight, sir.
STANLEY BRAND: Good evening.
OLBERMANN: The judge ruling and so quickly on the, on the temporary restraining order kind of suggests this might have been a bad idea on the part of Mr. Bonds and his attorney. Doesn't suing this way inevitably leave that impression, that Bonds doesn't have the goods, can't sue for libel or slander?
BRAND: Yes, I think so. I think it's a strategy that was too cute by half. Rather than suing under the libel laws, as he pointed out, they picked this obscure statute where they don't have to take on the truth or falsity of the allegations in the book, and they don't open themselves up to discovery.
What every defamation plaintiff in the world fears is that the defendants will have very access to them that they've tried to avoid during the investigation of the story. And so they thought they came up with this scheme where they could cite this separate statute and avoid the truth or false of the allegations. Of course, what everyone is going to be asking about is, Is it true?
OLBERMANN: In our radio interview with Mr. Rains today, he said he was still looking into the prospects of a libel suit, and he had a year to do so. But if you're going to go to court, if you're going to sue over this, don't you lead with your strongest, most important argument? I mean, in a sense, couldn't Barry Bonds lose a libel suit or settle a libel suit or even withdraw a libel suit and still win in the court of public opinion, simply by dint of having stood up for himself legally?
BRAND: I think so. But now, what he's got is, he's got one strike against him in court. He tried to get a temporary restraining order, for which the burden is very, very high, and now he's got the judge having already rejected that preliminary move. So he starts out behind the eight-ball, and he still has—runs the risk that all the testimony and all the particulars about his appearance before the grand jury and that of other witnesses will be stirred up by his action.
OLBERMANN: And more than just stirred up. All the grand jury transcripts, however they came out, whether it was the people who testified who just gave up the information voluntarily, which is their right to do, or it came out in some other way, doesn't it all now get reintroduced, or conceivably all these witnesses who said, I sold Bonds steroids, I made them for Bonds, I gave them to him, I taught him how to inject them, doesn't that all come into this case if it gets to trial? Isn't this suddenly the Barry Bonds steroid trial, not some sort of obscure legal action on his behalf?
BRAND: Absolutely. As you pointed out today on the radio show, every witness in front of that grand jury is perfectly free, under the rules governing grand jury secrecy, to talk about their own testimony, as apparently some of them did with the authors of the book. The only person whose testimony hasn't been revealed by that person is Barry Bonds.
The likelihood that he would be forced to explain what his testimony was in a civil lawsuit, it seems to me, is very high, which, again, is one of the reasons why he didn't want to bring a defamation case.
OLBERMANN: Yes. Or this one, or any one, apparently.
Lastly, mix, if you would be so kind, your baseball experience and your legal experience here. The last thing the commissioner, Bud Selig, wants to do here is deal with a Bonds case. He's said as much. Doesn't the fact that Bonds has sued just add pressure on the commissioner to act? And in a way, does it give the commissioner more leeway to act?
BRAND: I think it absolutely continues to force the issue, and I don't know what the commissioner do. He said he's going to review the situation and decide. But I would be surprised if he didn't review it, and at least look at it, to determine whether some further investigation or review is necessary.
OLBERMANN: Yes. This is not the Oscar Wilde case, but it has some reminiscences of it there.
BRAND: Or the Alger Hiss case.
OLBERMANN: Yes. Defense attorney Stanley Brand. Many thanks for your perspective tonight. Appreciate it.
Also, this started off as a sports story, a radio talk show host trying to endorse Secretary of State Condi Rice as the next commissioner of the National Football League. But he said the word “coup” wrong. He got blasted, fired. Tonight, he's being defended by an unlikely source, the NAACP. We'll hear the blooper, and we'll talk to him.
And a good neighbor can be a comfort. If you're a neighbor of this man, Mr. Al Comfort, you probably find no comfort in that fact at all.
This is COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Neighbors. Eighty-two years ago, the actor who played maybe the most unluckiest neighbor in movie history was born. The late Murray Hamilton was terrific in “The Graduate.” He played Mr. Robinson, husband and father of Dustin Hoffman's two love interests in that film. That was a tough neighborhood.
We have another tough neighborhood for you tonight.
Let's play Oddball.
This is the home of Mr. Al Comfort of Tecumseh, Michigan. And this is Al Comfort. Al's neighbors have been complaining that he's left his Christmas lights up too long, three years too long, along with his Halloween decorations and his Fourth of July stuff. Three years of nonstop holiday blinking and flashing and ringing and dinging.
Apparently it was a dispute over the property line that sent Al Comfort over the edge. Something tells me, though, it was not so long a trip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AL COMFORT: I wonder if the neighbors are home. They love my bell.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Ah, seems like a reasonable enough guy. Let's hope they can work this whole thing out in the spirit of the season, any season you like.
To lovely Vermont. (INAUDIBLE) of this and many more beautiful Green Mountains. It's the Green Mountain State, you know. But there's a petition to rename this particular mountain to honor the first state to pass equal rights for gay couples, and to capitalize on the success of a recent movie. You figured it out yet? Yes, they want to name it Brokeback Mountain. Only takes 25 signatures to get things rolling. Ten times that many have already signed the online petition, so reserve your campsite now, because come spring, there'll be pup tents popping up all over the place.
No segue here, no segue at all, just this editor's note. Earlier this week, on two separate occasions, we brought you a video we found on the Internets of a man we thought at the time was Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi acting, well, acting inappropriately.
We were not able to confirm with 100 percent certainty that it actually was Silvio Berlusconi, but it sure looked like him, and we played the tape anyway, twice. Tonight, I'm sorry to say, we've decided to play it again.
The balding man with the dark hair making a beeline for the traffic officer is the man we think is Berlusconi. And we have to admit, if he's not the leader of Italy, he certainly is the prime minister of getting it on.
Sort of thing you can watch 1,000 times. And you keep seeing something new, like the security guard who turns his head, there, as if to say, Oh, God, here we go, he's doing it again.
We're not going to play this video 1,000 times, no, sir. Thirty or 40 more, tops.
Talking of “Brokeback,” Piper the cat did no such thing, despite his 80-foot drop. COUNTDOWN world exclusive. Piper the cat watches her fall on tape live for the first time on TV.
And then we're all going to get snatched at bar in Texas where you can now get arrested for being drunk. At a bar.
Those stories ahead, but first your COUNTDOWN top three newsmakers.
“The Washington Post” Tuesday—Tuesday it started an avowedly conservative blog on its web site, hired a Republican politician named Ben Dominic to write it. Today he resigned after being accused of plagiarism. Four days.
No. 2, Jonathan Sander of Montgomery County, Maryland, knew he forgot something as he hopped onto the metro from his home in the suburbs, headed for D.C. to his car. When he got off the subway, he realized what it was. It was his 7-month-old daughter. He left her in the car at the parking lot. She was fine. He was beside himself with anxiety, even grief. He could face 30 days in jail and a fine.
Police observed that Mr. Sanders, quote, “is not regularly responsible for his daughter's child care arrangements.” You think?
And No. 1, an unnamed 26-year-old burglary suspect in Granger, Washington. Quote of the month. Police found him stuck in the chimney of a local bank. They asked him what he was doing there, and he said, quote, “What do you think? I'm trying to rob the bank.”
OLBERMANN: Psychologists and amateur psychologists always wonder if Freud was right, if there are no real mistakes. Especially true if you're on the radio and something bad comes out of your mouth.
Our third story in the countdown, 25 years ago I tried to rush through a radio script and say, “The Mecca of quail club hunting.” Only, it didn't come out that way.
What if you're ad libbing, and instead of complimenting somebody, you say an offensive racial term, then immediately and profusely apologize for it? Well, you get fired anyway, apparently.
Dave Lenihan, a radio talk show host in St. Louis, less than two weeks on the job, talking about Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who has often suggested her dream job would be commissioner of the National Football League. The incumbent is retiring. Lenihan was singing the praises of Rice's potential candidacy. He apparently wanted to call it a, quote, “coup”—C-O-U-P. He didn't.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
DAVE LENIHAN, FORMER RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: She's got just a patent resume of somebody who's got some serious skill. She loves football. She's African-American, which would kind of be a big coon. A big coon.
Oh, my God. I am totally, totally, totally, totally sorry for that. OK? I didn't mean that. That was just a slip of the tongue. She's definitely got all the attributes to be commissioner. I'm really sorry about that. All right. Let's just take a break.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Twenty minutes later he had been fired, even though his employers agree it was an accident. They still said it was unforgivable.
The NAACP initially complimented the station for the dismissal. It is now apparently reversed itself. More on that in a moment.
Lenihan's other employers, Logan College of Chiropractic, suspended him from his post as a full-time instructor there, saying it was deeply saddened at Lenihan's, quote, “inappropriate racial comment regarding Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on his KTRS radio program. Following it's policy of faculty employment regarding code of conduct, the college took immediate steps and suspended Dr. Lenihan, pending an internal investigation.”
As for the State Department response. “We are letting his statements,” it says, “speak for themselves.”
Dave Lenihan, formerly of KTRS in St. Louis, joins us now.
Thanks for your time tonight.
LENIHAN: Thank you, Keith. I appreciate it.
OLBERMANN: Let me start with the breaking news here. The NAACP is now supporting you? Is that right?
LENIHAN: That is correct. It seems that they're changing their stance. I think once they had an opportunity to listen to what was said and the circumstances, they realized that it was just two words kind of unfortunately put together, and it wasn't really any malice or any bad meaning towards it.
OLBERMANN: The amateur psychologists' analysis of this, and I'm not subscribing to this—I literally once crashed a sentence together on network radio and referred to the female anatomy of a quail. And I'd never thought of it before, and I've never thought of that since.
But the psychologist might say that's not just a blooper. That's a racial epithet lurking somewhere in the back of your mind. Have you analyzed yourself to see if there's something below the surface that came out?
LENIHAN: You know, I've heard that before, too, and I've read that in the blogs and things like that. I think if you listen to the sentence I was saying coup in the NFL. And it was just two sounds that got put together. And it's kind of like “The Electric Company” when we were kids. You put two sounds together, and it made this fortunate word at a bad time. There was no meaning. That wasn't the word that was in my head. So there was no Freudian slip. No.
OLBERMANN: It's exactly the same thing with the Mecca of quail club hunting, which I will never ad lib again. I always read it off the script, see if I can get it right at least once in my life.
The mechanical question here. Radio, almost all of radio, is on a seven-second delay, some kind of delay, people with buttons, people with stun guns. Why did this wind up going out over the air? Why did it not get, as we say in radio, dumped?
LENIHAN: That's a fantastic question, Keith. I think what happened was, you know, I wasn't in control of the dump button. That was the producer at the board who actually controlled the dump button.
But I think what happened was they probably didn't know what the word was. It was such an antiquated word. They heard me—they recognized it was a slip-up. They heard me apologize and they probably just thought, you know, he apologized. It was a slip up, and they let it go.
During the break we actually sat around and talked about it. Should I come back and say, “Hey, this is what I meant to say”? And kind of came to the decision it was just an accident. You said you're sorry. Let's move the show forward.
OLBERMANN: Where does all of this go next? Have you contacted Dr.
Rice? Do you want your old job back? Are you going to stay in radio?
Where do we go from here?
LENIHAN: Well, first off, I sent Dr. Rice a letter. Because once this started to get into the media, I didn't want her to think anything bad of me. And she might not know who I am, but I'm a big fan of hers.
I've been contacted by Americans for Rice, which is a group that wants to elect Condoleezza Rice. They've been very supportive.
Do I want to get back in radio? Of course. I love St. Louis. The people in St. Louis are fantastic. We chose to move to U.S. from the U.K. because we wanted our children to grow up here. The people here are great. It's a wonderful city, and everyone should visit.
OLBERMANN: Do you think ultimately this boils down to the fact that people are forced against their will to work in the mornings in radio and television and if they talk fast the mind goes faster than the mouth sometimes does and vice versa?
LENIHAN: Yes. I think that might be. But I think the key thing here
is it was consonants that got pushed together too quickly. And it was just
· there was just an accident. There was no malice in it. And it wasn't even. It was just said too fast. If it would have been another situation or another person it probably wouldn't have been that big of a big deal.
OLBERMANN: If you'd said that about Paul Tagliabue, people would just sort of be sitting there going, “What? What was he talking about?”
LENIHAN: Exactly. Yes.
OLBERMANN: All right. Dave Lenihan, good luck, and do what I do every day on the radio. Just keep one finger, or perhaps your whole hand on the cough button at all times. It works for me.
LENIHAN: Thanks a lot, Keith. I really appreciate your time.
OLBERMANN: Thank you.
This might make you cough. This might make you spit out your drink. The new anti-drunken public drunkenness regulations in Texas. Meaning you can be arrested for being intoxicated at a bar.
And “Brokeback Mountain” again. Two references in one show. Falling victim to its own success, the boffo box office leading to legal action by an actor who was once the star of a movie I was in. Stand by.
OLBERMANN: Drunks in a bar. Calling the police. Controversial new move in Texas that is making drinkers angry.
And Piper the super cat, eight days in a tree, then an 80-foot tall. But until now Piper has never been shown the video of her great leap. We will change all that in a COUNTDOWN world exclusive, coming up.
Yes, you're correct. It is Friday.
OLBERMANN: At first blush it may sound like the dumbest thing in the world: wasting taxpayer dollars sending cops in to look for drunks at bars. Our No. 2 story in the COUNTDOWN. But think about it for a second. Where are most drunk drivers before they get into a car?
Our correspondent, Don Teague, reports from Dallas on a controversial policy that both pursues angry drunks and seems to create them.
DON TEAGUE, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For millions of Americans, it's at least an occasional ritual. Having a drink at a favorite bar. But what happens when one or two becomes a few to many? In the world of country music, it's material for a hit song.
But in Texas, getting drunk in a bar or anywhere in public can get you arrested, even if you're not driving.
CHRIS HAMILTON, TEXAS ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGE COMMISSIONER: We want everyone, and we want people going out, having a few drinks, to be responsible drinkers.
TEAGUE: In the last six months, police in Texas have arrested more than 2,200 people.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're under arrest for public intoxication.
TEAGUE: For suspicion of being drunk in bars.
(on camera) It's called Operation Last Call, and it's to combat drunk driving in a state with the highest DUI rate in the nation.
(voice-over) But same say the crackdown goes too far.
BARRY SORRELS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: If you're drinking in a bar and you're drinking responsibly, and you know, you get arrested and you haven't violated a statute, then that's an injustice.
TEAGUE: Many of those arrested had designated drivers. These people...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your state sucks.
TEAGUE: ... were busted in the bar of the hotel where they're staying.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am not endangering myself or anybody else because I'm going upstairs and I'm going to bed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, by your very condition you're endangering yourself and everybody else.
TEAGUE: Agents arrested five people at this hotel, including the bar tending for allegedly over serving them. A big surprise and traumatic end to this formerly festive night.
Don Teague, NBC News, Dallas.
OLBERMANN: Randy Quaid was born in Texas. Houston, to be exact. He provides our segue into our nightly roundup of celebrity and entertainment news, “Keeping tabs.”
I like to think of the 1988 film “Dead Solid Perfect” as my film. Of course Randy is billed first in the credits. Me, I'm 26th. Still, he was a great guy to work with, and it's not a half bad film.
So when he files a lawsuit I listen.
Randy Quaid says the producers of “Brokeback Mountain” got him to take a small role for almost no money, by claiming to him that it would be a, quote, low budget, art house film with no prospect of making any money.
One hundred and sixty million dollars later, he's a tad upset. He says the director told him everyone is making a sacrifice to make this film. Quaid is asking for everyone to make another sacrifice now, to the tune of $10 million, plus punitive damages, as well as restitution for ill-gotten gains.
Would that it were so easy to sue Kevin Federline for his assault on our senses. The follow up to such non-hits as “Popozao” and “Y'all Ain't Ready” has just been posted on the site of Mr. Britney Spears' My Space. Apparently, it's not just the president who is at war with the media. The as yet untitled song, now for your listening pleasure.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
KEVIN FEDERLINE, RAPPER: And you magazines, you can all kiss (expletive deleted). “Us Weekly,” I'll shout every one of you bitches out. (expletive deleted) I love my kid. (expletive deleted) I love my wife, too. So you know what you can do? Grab your socks.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Grab my socks. Well, I will. Then my shoes, and then I'll run like hell away from you.
Cats have been known to fling themselves out of trees rather than listen to Kevin Federline sing. Perhaps this explains this. We will actually play this tape for the cat who survived that drop and see what reaction or comment she has, if any.
That's ahead. But first time for COUNTDOWN's list of today's three nominees for worst person in the world.
By the way, how fraught with peril is the idea of showing videotape to a cat and getting a reaction?
Anyway, the bronze tonight to the police in Newport, South Wales. They have shut down a device used by a store owner there, who was trying to break up the gangs of teenagers who hung around outside the store front. It's called the mosquito, and it emits a high-pitched whine that is audible to those 20 and under and not those 30 and older. Only kids can hear it.
Police say it worked like a charm, but they were worried that it also might start local dogs to barking uncontrollably, so they stopped it.
Runner up, Jacques Chirac, president of France. Walked out of a European Union summit meeting because of what one of his colleagues was saying. Not exactly what he was saying but how he was saying it. He was saying it in English. The delegate was asking European leaders to, quote, “resist national protectionism.” But because he wasn't saying it in French, Chirac bolted.
But tonight's winner, Ellen Green of Framingham, Mass. Her son came back from the fourth grade with a drawing done by a school counselor. It shows the word “love” written vertically, as you see, with the “O” replaced by a bunny head. The little boy didn't know what the bunny had to do with it, so he asked Mom. It turned out the drawing had been made for a girl who had Playboy logo earrings.
Ms. Green raised at the school, claiming that sex was being introduced into the fourth grade. She, of course, explained the bunny logo to her son and other kids, rather than simply telling them it was just a cute bunny rabbit. Yes, that's right. She introduced sex into the fourth grade and then blamed the school. Helen Green of Framingham, Mass., today's worst person in the world.
OLBERMANN: At this desk we can soberly analyze the nation's political wounds. We can reduce our leaders to caricatures when they deserve it. We can inflate them to the status of heroes when they earn it.
But you know what audience surveys show time after time? On Friday nights you want animals. Preferably falling animals. Falling animals that have survived their plummet, mind you.
Our No. 2 story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, she dropped 80 feet and lived to meow about it. In fact, she will join us. We will watch her watch the tape of her own descent in a moment. TV history.
But first, context. Analysis, the heart of a network newscast. Who can forget this classic bear on trampoline? This, its 9,000th airing, having already garnered permanent enshrinement in our animal hall of fame. The bear was all right.
Our judges currently working on the latest nominee, Piper Colvin. And you could be part of this. We will be trying to break the gratuitous video usage record. So please keep track with us, won't you? And here's your tool. Piper had been stuck in a neighbor's tree in Summerville, South Carolina for eight days. When a rescuer actually went up for her, she came down the hard way.
Her owners had tried unsuccessfully to lure her down by more traditional means.
Scottie and Rodney and Piper Colvin joining us now. Good evening to you all. And let me start with you, Rodney.
SCOTTIE COLVIN, CAT OWNER: Good evening.
RODNEY COLVIN, CAT OWNER: How are you doing?
OLBERMANN: I've avoided, obviously, this cliche. I've been trying to avoid this. But is Piper now down to eight lives or is she just spectacularly well-balanced?
R. COLVIN: A little of both. She's down to her eighth life now.
That's kind of a cliche that everybody else is being used, too.
S. COLVIN: Are you there?
OLBERMANN: Yes. I'm sorry to have said that.
S. COLVIN: Yes. Down to maybe seven. I think she had already lost one before we got her.
OLBERMANN: While she was waiting up there.
S. COLVIN: Right.
OLBERMANN: Scottie, we see her taking off at the end of the tape and hitting the ground, seemingly without a scratch. Did she, in fact, completely escape injury?
S. COLVIN: Injury from the fall, yes. A lot of—not injuries, but a lot of health issues just from being in the tree for so many days. But injuries from the fall, yes, she completely escaped them.
OLBERMANN: Were you amazed by that, that that was the case?
R. COLVIN: Yes.
S. COLVIN: Absolutely amazed. You have no idea. Seeing it on tape is one thing. Watching it is totally something else, and listening to the thud when she hit, that was pretty bad, yes.
OLBERMANN: Scottie, what got her up the tree in the first place? Do you know that?
S. COLVIN: A matter of speculation. But we believe it was our neighbor's dog. We think Piper had gotten in their backyard. They have a pretty tall fence, and we think she was just unable to get out. And then Bailey came out to spend her time outside, and we think Bailey chased her up the tree.
R. COLVIN: Bailey is the neighbor's dog.
OLBERMANN: I was hoping that was the case, actually, as opposed to any other possibly speculation of who that was. And to go 80 feet up the tree is to really be sort of traumatized.
We don't want to add to your cat's trauma, Rodney, but we would like to try this thing where she watches the amazing survival instincts for herself. We're going to play this video again and just see if she has any reaction to it. Just see it one more time.
S. COLVIN: Look, Piper. Look, Piper.
OLBERMANN: Like most of the viewers.
S. COLVIN: Here, Piper. Look.
OLBERMANN: Piper's not wearing an earphone. Oh, no, she cannot...
S. COLVIN: Oh, did you fall? She's like, OK.
OLBERMANN: No, she remembers that. I have no doubt about it. Well, you know, you experiment with things on television. You don't really necessarily know how it's going to turn out. All right. We don't need to make her go through that anymore.
S. COLVIN: Yes. Don't make me go through it anymore.
OLBERMANN: Exactly. Rodney, what—before this happened, what had you tried to do to get her down of her own accord in some other way?
R. COLVIN: With the exception of a bunch of coaxing, I had made a big bow that catapulted a chunk of wood up into the tree with a line attached to it. With that I hoisted up some food in a laundry basket, hoping she would get into the basket and I could lower her down. That didn't work.
S. COLVIN: Not even close.
OLBERMANN: No. NO. Scottie, is she aware of this newfound fame? Do you have to feed her only fancy albacore now or what?
S. COLVIN: Well, she got pampered while we were in New York City.
She got pampered for awhile. But I think at this point in the game she's just ready to go back to being plain old Piper.
She's more affectionate now than she was before. That's a give-me. She's definitely more affectionate. I think she's more appreciative of the fact that, you know, there's some people down here that want to take care of her.
OLBERMANN: I would think so.
S. COLVIN: So she's definitely a different cat.
OLBERMANN: Is she an indoor cat now? Is that it for being outdoors?
Is she going outside on her own accord?
S. COLVIN: Yes.
R. COLVIN: You're right.
S. COLVIN: Yes, definitely. Definitely. She's—she's ventured to the door a couple of times and then just looked down and thought better of it and turned around and said, OK, we're not doing that again. It's still a little chilly here in South Carolina, too. She knows she's got it good now, and I don't think she's going to be running off too many times.
OLBERMANN: Especially—especially chilly if you're up in a tree for several days. Goodness, gracious.
R. COLVIN: Yes.
S. COLVIN: Right.
S. COLVIN: Right, right.
OLBERMANN: Rodney and Scottie Colvin and their amazing cat, Piper, who's seen enough of herself on national television. And I think the rest of us have, too. Great thanks for your time tonight.
S. COLVIN: Yes.
OLBERMANN: The only thing I can suggest here is you might want to invest in a trampoline and a surveillance camera in case this happens again. Thanks, much, guys.
S. COLVIN: Thank you. Have a good evening.
OLBERMANN: You too.
That's COUNTDOWN for this, the 1,058th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. A reminder to join us again at midnight Easter, 11 p.m. Central, 9 Pacific, for the late edition of COUNTDOWN.
Until then, a special presentation of “Lockup: Inside Riverbend.”
I'm Keith Olbermann. Keep your knees loose. Good night, and good luck.
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