Guest: John Harwood, Bill Nye, Paul Tompkins
BRIAN UNGER, GUEST HOST: Hello. And welcome to COUNTDOWN. I'm Brian Unger, standing if for Keith Olbermann, who is not—I repeat, not—taking Meredith Vieira's job at “The View.”
Yes, Keith could do the job. It makes complete sense, but Keith is merely taking the day off. Just a rumor.
Welcome to the show.
UNGER (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
It's leaky Friday—tonight, White House reaction, following the revelation that President Bush approved a 2003 intelligence leak.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you for your time.
UNGER: While the president was mum, his press secretary wasn't.
SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: That's engaging in crass politics.
That's crass politics.
That is the kind of crass politics that I'm referring to.
UNGER: Scott's new Democrat-hammering catchphrase, plus, all the hair-splitting you can handle.
A dissenter in the peanut gallery, literally.
HARRY TAYLOR, AUDIENCE MEMBER: In my lifetime, I have never felt more ashamed of, nor more frightened by my leadership in Washington, including the presidency.
UNGER: Let's keep that mike moving. Next question?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was raised on a ranch in New Mexico. And my heroes have always been cowboys.
BUSH: There you go. Thank you, yes.
UNGER: Now, that's more American, folks.
The missing link—scientists say they have uncovered the most important fossilized fish since Abe Vigoda.
CSI: Judea—new archaeological evidence suggesting that Judas, thought to have betrayed Jesus Christ, was simply a victim of 2,000 years of bad pub. Didn't someone proofread the Gospels?
And help me, Canadian civil court system. You're my only hope. A high school prank turned into Internet infamy. We will tell you how the “Star Wars” kid struck back.
All that and more now on COUNTDOWN.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UNGER: And good evening.
As the son of two English teachers, even I found today's White House press conference is bit of a circus, filled with amazing contortions of the language we call English.
In our fifth story, the greatest semantic show on Earth, the dizzying and tortured lengths to which the administration will go to distinguish a good leak of information from one that is very, very bad.
Good: any leak that is politically expedient for the White House, often referred to as in the public interest.
Bad: anything classified—unless, of course, President Bush has just declassified it, making it leak-friendly, optimizing its leakability, worthy of leakage.
The White House today not so much disputing the leak allegations, as maintaining that President Bush reserves the right to declassify whatever he wants, whenever he wants to—the reason, because this is a nation at war, a conflict.
Conflict in Iraq going a long way towards explaining the president's latest job approval numbers. What's the temperature? Just above freezing. Only 36 percent of those surveyed for the Associated Press now approving of the president's overall job performance, a new low in that poll—even fewer, just 35 percent, approving of his handling of the war in Iraq—and that survey, taken before the Libby allegations, placed the president in the chain of events that led to the outing of CIA officer Valerie Plame.
Damage control, job one at the White House—as we mentioned, Press Secretary Scott McClellan bending the English language into positions only Gumby could envy, rejecting any charges that Mr. Bush selectively declassified intelligence data for political purposes, without ever really denying that the president authorized Scooter Libby to leak on his behalf.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president believes the leaking of classified information is a very serious matter. And I think that's why it's important to draw a distinction here.
Declassifying information and providing it to the public when it is in the public interest is one thing. But leaking classified information that could compromise our national security is something that is very serious, and there's a distinction.
Now, there are Democrats out there that fail to recognize that distinction or refuse to recognize that distinction. They are simply engaging in crass politics.
QUESTION: You are not disputing the allegation that the president was involved in the leaking, or authorized the leaking of classified information. Are you satisfied with that? And is that really...
MCCLELLAN: I'm not getting into confirming or denying things, because I'm not commenting at all on matters relating to an ongoing legal proceeding.
QUESTION: How would you explain to the nation the president's assertion that anybody who leaks information would be prosecuted when they are now, the Democrats now, see that the president...
MCCLELLAN: Leaking classified information.
MCCLELLAN: I mean, there's a distinction here.
That is the kind of crass politics that I am referring to.
The national intelligence information was declassified information that was provided to the American people. Now, the other issue I brought up was the issue of the terrorist surveillance program. And you bet, the president has spoken out about its unauthorized disclosure, because what its disclosure has done is shown al Qaeda, our enemy, the playbook.
I'm glad to stay here all day, though, because this is an important subject. And I'm glad to make the distinctions for everybody.
QUESTION: Scott, can I ask you about...
MCCLELLAN: Have a good weekend.
QUESTION: ... commenting on ongoing investigations?
MCCLELLAN: Thank you.
QUESTION: The president commented on...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UNGER: That's his story, folks and he's sticking to it.
For more on whether anyone is actually buying it, let's call in John Harwood, CNBC's chief Washington correspondent, as well as a senior contributing writer for “The Wall Street Journal.”
Good evening, John.
JOHN HARWOOD, SENIOR CONTRIBUTING WRITER, “THE WALL STREET JOURNAL”:
UNGER: John, does parsing what constitutes a good leak vs. a bad one work for or against the White House? I mean, does it look sort of desperate? Will—will people buy this, or will they just sort of tune it out?
HARWOOD: Well, it may work with his supporters, his political base, which is getting smaller, as your poll numbers noted, and be tuned out completely by everybody else.
Look, this isn't the first administration to—to define a good leak as one that helps us and a bad leak as one that hurts us.
Adlai Stevenson, in 1962, for President John F. Kennedy, went to the United Nations, showed spy photographs in the Cuban Missile Crisis to try to make their case. So did Colin Powell when he went to the United Nations before the Iraq war. Administrations all the time use information to advance their political goals and their policy goals.
And it's plain, from what Scott McClellan said today, that—that—that they're not trying very hard to discourage the idea that that happened in this case.
UNGER: But, John, you know, if I'm sitting in a bar and I'm having a beer in Ohio, and I'm listening to the parsing of good leak vs. bad leak, is—is that guy having a beer in Ohio, staring up at the television, buying this dissection?
HARWOOD: Well, no. It—it is a political problem for the administration, because they have, while practicing the art of leaking, the way all administrations do, have also tried to maintain the—the fiction that it doesn't happen, or that it's always bad. And, so, they look like hypocrites.
I was with a Republican member of Congress today, who said: You know, we want to help the president, but they keep making it harder for us.
And this Libby case is just one more example of that. It—it does not implicate the president in the leaking of Valerie Plame's name, the CIA agent. But it does raise this surface contradiction, which they have to explain. And it distracts from the—the other items on their agenda, which, of course, aren't doing too well, either.
UNGER: Let's—I would like to talk about this public-interest argument.
Now, we don't know what the White House actually told Judith Miller, but we know that what she wrote in “The New York Times” about Iraq's WMDs often turned out to be wrong. So, the public service that the White House was providing here would be what, exactly?
HARWOOD: Well, look, let—let's don't forget, Brian, a lot of people were wrong about Iraq, Democrats, as well as Republicans.
A lot of Democrats, of course, voted for the war, echoed the idea that Saddam Hussein was a threat at the time. So, the fact that you were wrong doesn't necessarily mean you didn't think you were acting in the public interest.
But, obviously, we, the United States government, suffered a massive intelligence failure. Now, the—the additional question is whether or not the Bush administration was lying or trying to mislead the American people. A lot of Americans believe they were.
But the Bush administration has argued very vigorously, as you know, from the beginning, that they were making decisions based on what they understood the situation to be, even though it turned out to be wrong.
UNGER: Any upside in all of this for the White House spin machine, I mean, maybe that, at least, we did not spend all this time talking tonight about Iraq, and what's going on there, and the inability to form a government?
HARWOOD: Hey, if there's an upside, Brian, I can't see it.
You know, this is a week where not too much went right for the Republican Party or for President Bush, aside from the fact that Tom DeLay said he was going to leave Congress. They couldn't get a budget. Things continue to—to struggle in Iraq. The immigration deal collapses.
So, I am not sure if there were any better stories out there that they
· or worse stories that they were distracting from. This didn't help, and nothing much else is helping at this moment.
UNGER: That seems to be the case.
John Harwood of “The Wall Street Journal” and CNBC, thank you for your time tonight.
HARWOOD: My pleasure.
UNGER: The other White House battle plan today, accusing any Democrat who is now criticizing the White House over the Libby allegations of engaging in crass politics. You heard it.
From more now on that angle, time to call in political analyst Lawrence O'Donnell, a contributor to the Web site HuffingtonPost.com, as well as the—and an executive producer of the NBC drama “The West Wing.”
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: How are you?
UNGER: Good. Thanks.
Before we get in to—to the politics of this, can we talk about this from a legal standpoint for a moment? Libby's lawyers have been claiming that he was just too busy just doing his job to have paid any attention to Valerie Plame. What does this filing do...
UNGER: ... to that defense?
O'DONNELL: This is a devastating legal filing.
The—the Libby case is a perjury case. That is what has to be remembered. And the—the—what's relevant in the perjury case is extremely narrow, extremely limited.
Libby's defense, such as we can make it out at this point, has been:
If I did not tell the truth to the FBI, and if I did not tell the truth to the grand jury, it's because I was so distracted with so many other things around that time that it was hard for me to remember the specifics of—of the questions that they were asking.
What Fitzgerald's filing shows is Libby, himself, at this stage of the case, is his own worst witness against him. Libby is saying, under oath to the grand jury, that he had never before been instructed to have a conversation, a leak-style conversation with a reporter, as he was instructed to do with Judith Miller, specifically with Judith Miller of “The New York Times.”
That is a conversation that, according to Fitzgerald, he has perjured himself about. And because Libby himself says the circumstances surrounding this conversation were unique, Fitzgerald is saying in his pleading that it is reasonable to expect Libby, given that the circumstances were unique, to remember accurately what he said to Judy Miller.
And this is the essence of the perjury case, is that he maintains that he did not tell Judy Miller about Valerie Plame, and Judy Miller says that he did, without using her name, that he actually did. And, so, this is one of the elements of the perjury case that is so critical here.
And this—this filing by Fitzgerald, the 39-page filing, which is what all this news is about, is absolutely devastating to the Libby defense.
UNGER: How devastating are these allegations for President Bush?
O'DONNELL: It has been explosive politically.
You know, every newspaper in the country has the headline that the president is involved in the leak. And a typical example is “The L.A. Times,” which has that on the front page. Then, in the interior of the newspaper, on page 20, it does a full, very responsible page about how, if the president chooses to declassify something, most legal opinion indicates that he can decide to do that on the spot, so that the president, in effect, did nothing wrong, if you read these articles long enough.
But I don't think most of the public is going to stay with the details of these articles and dig down into the legal scholarship that says, apparently, the president did nothing wrong. And, by the way, within Fitzgerald's filing, the president is not referred to as having done anything wrong.
This is a very, very bad story for the president, for just the reasons you and John Harwood were just discussing, which was the overall sensation that the president is somehow involved in authorizing leaking around this story that became the Valerie Plame-Joe Wilson scandal.
UNGER: Lawrence, I can't decide if this is a good thing or a bad thing, but each new scandal out of this White House sounds like one of your plotlines on “The West Wing” or—or out...
UNGER: ... of another great drama, “24.” Where do you come down on that?
O'DONNELL: Well, you know, we did a leak story in “The West Wing” this season, starting last season. And we were inspired by this White House to do it.
It wasn't us leading them. They led us on this story. And we had ours come out a different way, where the guy who was caught leaking, the Toby character in our show, was immediately fired and disgraced in the White House. And no one in the White House tried to help him out, tried to carry him through the problem, the way, to a great extent, a lot of Republicans, up to now, anyway, have been trying to help Scooter Libby through this problem, contributing to his defense fund.
Now it looks like, the more Scooter Libby keeps this case alive by not reaching a plea agreement with the prosecutor, the more damage Scooter Libby will do to his own White House, to the vice president, to the president. And this is—this case has never been a—a quiet case, in any real sense. It has had slow periods, but this case has always been one that has the capacity to explode in the White House at any time.
The big mission for the White House, when the case first started, was, let's get through the election. Imagine if any of this information that is coming out now had come out before the election in 2004. All of this information existed before the election in 2004. If it had been revealed then...
UNGER: Yes, different story.
O'DONNELL: ... we may very well have had a different outcome in the election.
Lawrence O'Donnell of “The Huffington Post” and “The West Wing,” thank you so much for joining us tonight.
O'DONNELL: Thank you.
UNGER: The comment to the president could have been written by someone from Hollywood, but who would have had the guts to say it? Harry Taylor, that's who, folks. Now, simply put, he's a cult hero on the Internet already.
And the fish sticks that have launched 1,000 arguments—the missing link fossil, the alleged smoking gun in the evolutionary chain, once again pitting science against religion.
You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
UNGER: “You're my favorite cowboy.” And, “Are you ever ashamed of yourself?” No, this is not dialogue from “Brokeback Mountain.” That's the president's interaction with the common folk yesterday. Now one of those commoners is a hero on the Internets.
That's next. And this is COUNTDOWN.
UNGER: Now, just when you thought Q&A with the president was pre-selected, conformed, and sanitized for your viewing pleasure, along comes Harry Taylor.
Amidst rough-and-tumble remarks, like, “I just want not to ask a question, but just to offer you a message of encouragement,” and “My heroes have always been cowboys,” Harry Taylor was highly unorthodox, to say the least.
At the president's visit to the Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, North Carolina, Taylor stood up and actually criticized the commander in chief.
Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, the unusually harsh denunciation of Mr. Bush from the peanut gallery, and the even more unexpected response from the president himself: Please, let him speak.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TAYLOR: You never stop talking about freedom, and I appreciate that.
But while I listen to you talk about freedom, I—I see you assert your—your right to—to tap my telephone, to—to arrest me and hold me without—without charges, to try to preclude me from—from breathing clean air and drinking clean water and eating safe food.
If I were a woman, you would like to restrict my opportunity to make a choice and decision about whether I can abort a pregnancy on my own behalf. You—you are...
BUSH: I'm not your favorite guy. Go ahead.
BUSH: Go on. What's your question?
TAYLOR: OK. I don't have a question.
What I wanted to say to you is—is that I—in my lifetime, I have never felt more ashamed of, nor more frightened by my leadership in Washington, including the presidency, by the Senate, and...
BUSH: No, no, let him speak. Let him speak.
TAYLOR: And I would hope—I feel like, despite your rhetoric, that compassion and—and common sense have been left far behind during your administration. And—and I would hope from time to time that you have the humility and the grace to—to—to be ashamed of yourself inside yourself.
And I also want to say that I—I really appreciate the courtesy of allowing me to speak what I'm saying to you right now. That is part of what this country is about.
BUSH: It is, yes.
TAYLOR: And I know that this doesn't come welcome to most of the people in this room, but I do appreciate that.
TAYLOR: I don't have a question, but I just wanted to make that comment to you.
BUSH: I appreciate it, thank you. Let me...
QUESTION: Can I ask a question?
BUSH: The—I'm going to start off with what you first said, if you don't mind. You said that I tap your phones.
I'm not going to apologize for what I did on the terrorist surveillance program. If we're at war, we ought to be using tools necessary within the Constitution, on a very limited basis, a program that's reviewed constantly to protect us.
Now, you and I have a difference of agreement on what is needed to be protected. But you said, would I apologize for that? The answer—answer is, absolutely not.
BUSH: I'm going to start off with what you first said, if you don't mind. You said that I tap your phones. I think that's what you said. You tapped your phone—I tapped your phones. Yes. No, that's right. Yes, no, let me finish.
I Would like to describe that decision I made about protecting this country. You can come to whatever conclusion you want. The conclusion is, I'm not going to apologize for what I did.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UNGER: Now, the president was not the only one appreciating Mr. Taylor's blunt remarks. He now has a fan site. It's not as fancy as having your own reality show, but the site, thankyouharrytaylor.org, allows other enthusiasts to post messages of gratitude to Mr. Taylor for his comments.
And the Web site has even scheduled a national thank-you event for April 15, asking people to set up parties in their hometowns to protest the administration's policies. Taylor mates, they work very fast.
And Internet infamy of a much different variety—the “Star Wars” kid
· you know who he is—he's pissed and fighting back in court. That is, until the cold, hard cash got waved right in front of his face.
Speaking of bribes, did Judas give Jesus up for 30 pieces of silver or not? I mean, now we're hearing about this lost Gospel, and Jesus and Judas are, like, best friends? What's next: Romeo was gay?
We will be right back.
UNGER: Hello. I'm Brian Unger, holding down the fort for Keith Olbermann.
We have reached that point in the program where we take a much-needed break from the real news. And, well, it's our nightly segment of the weird news, cool video and, well, dumb criminals.
How do you say it? Oh. It's time to play “Oddball.'
We begin in Northumberland, England, where a long gunman stands guard over some old guy's garden, keeping a watchful eye out for the big rabbit that has been eating his turnips. English television saw fit to cover this amazing story. And, in “Oddball,” this counts as international news.
The rabbit strikes at will, often in the dead of night, stealing vegetables, then disappearing as quickly as it came. Only one man has even laid eyes on the beast. And his description will send chills down your spine.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's bigger than a cat. You know, what a big cat, right? It's—well, it's bigger—it's bigger than the cat. And you can get some big cats, right? But that's—that's mostly what it is. It's—it's just one of them big—one of the big, rabbits. That's all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UNGER: If there's any doubt, it's bigger than a cat.
And now there's a bounty on the big bunny, dead or alive. That “wabbit” is going down.
To Quebec, and some bad news for anyone who was hoping to see the trial of the millennium start up next week. The “Star Trek”—“Star Trek Wars”—the “Star Wars” kid...
UNGER: ... the guys who made him famous have settled out of court.
Ghyslian Raza was 15 when he videotaped himself getting his Sith on with his high school audiovisual equipment. He left the tape in the camera and, weeks later, was a worldwide Internet sensation.
But Raza says the mockery of the multitudes was too much to bear. And he eventually dropped out of school, and sued the kids who released the tape on the Web.
The settlement is a reported $351,000 Canadian, which is about one-tenth of what he could have made if he had just embraced his nerd fame.
And, finally, to Nice, France, where researchers say they have developed an amazing new invention, a mirror that can reveal what the user will look like in the future. Using cameras and special software, the mirror takes your image and represents what you will look like up to 10 years later and older.
The inventor is hoping the mirror can be persuasive in getting people to take up a healthier lifestyle.
Now, after seeing this story, I decided to try this thing out for myself to see what I will look like in 10 years.
Let's take a look.
UNGER: Oh, my God. I look like Larry King. That's—that's very weird. Weird.
The evolution battle gets freaky. Cyclops, the cat, some say the one eye and no nose is proof of creationism. Bill Nye, The Science Guy, picks all that apart and tells us about his own run-in with religion this week.
And the legal battle over “Da Vinci Code”—will it hit theaters on time? The judge in London rules today—those stories ahead.
But, first, here are COUNTDOWN's top newsmakers of the day.
Number three, James Burda of Athens, Ohio—the state chiropractic board has banned him from practicing, pending a hearing on his mental stability, after patients say he tried to cure their back pain by traveling back in time to when the injury occurred. Officials have called him delusional and dangerous, but, on the other hand, Napoleon Bonaparte says he has never been so limber.
Number two, Vladmir Villisov of Russia, the unmarried 56-year-old man had a special coffin made so he can take his extensive pornography collection with him when he dies. Quote, “The girls in those magazines have been my companions for years, and well, I want to them accompany me in the next life.” That's what he said. If that coffins rockin' don't come a knockin'. I think that's what they say.
And number one, Senator Bill Frist, his political action committee has sent out a strange invitation to supporters to attend a fund-raiser this month in Nashville. According to the “Washington Post” there seems to be a hidden “Brokeback Mountain” theme to it. The card features a blue-jeaned cowboy with a red handkerchief hanging from his white pocket and just in case that's too subtle, the invitee has to undo the belt buckle to get the details inside.
I wish I knew how to quit you, senator.
UNGER: Well, scientists are giddy as schoolgirls after an astonishing discovery in the Canadian Arctic. Our number three story on THE COUNTDOWN. Meet tiktaalik. Tiktaalik. You'll be saying it.
It's a fish, with a skeletal structure consisting of gills, fins and scales, as well as arms, wrists and elbows but no iPod, curiously. Something fishy you say. Judge for yourself. Paleontologists are calling this 375 million year old fossilized creature the missing link to how sea animals made way to live on land. Ultimately, evolving into humans.
It is believed the crocodile like animal lived in shallow water only to make it onto land from time to time. Now many creationists are calling the discovery of a variety of fish and nothing more. Now, the dictionary definition of evolution, “A gradual process in which something changes into a different and usually more complex or better form.”
Now that we got the definition out of the way here's another story of evolution versus creationism. This is a Cy, short for Cyclops, a one eyed, noseless kitten. The owner of Cy has sold the remains to a new museum in Phoenix because that's what you do. The museum collects oddities. The museum founder, who believes in creationism, believes this is just another example of debunking the theory of evolution, saying, “If evolution is the process of changing something into a more complex or better form, size deformities refute the entire story, since it was born with less than the form it was originally intended.”
In a moment we'll get to the bottom of all this with the science guy, Bill Nye, about the debate between evolution and creationism but first this beloved scientist was greeted with a standing ovation, then heckled during his speech by Christian audience members. The Emmy Award winning scientist held a lecture covering topics such as Mars exploration and energy consumption to a group of children in Paris. At one point Mr. Nye criticized the literal interpretation of a bible verse, Genesis Chapter 1, verse 16, which reads, “God made two great lights, the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars.”
He said the greater light is just one of many stars and that the lesser light is the moon, and not a light at all, merely a reflector of light. A number of audience members left the auditorium in protest. One visibly upset woman screamed out unambiguously, “We believe in God,” as she exited the room with her young children.
Joining us to talk about how we all came to be, and we don't have to settle it all tonight, it's the famous science guy, Bill Nye. Bill, thanks for joining us.
BILL NYE, THE SCIENCE GUY: Greetings, Brian.
UNGER: Greetings. Let's start .
NYE: Now, we're covering a lot of things there.
UNGER: We're going to solve the whole dilemma tonight, and we only have a few more minutes so we've got to get going. Let's start first, though, with what happened to you during that lecture. Now as a scientist you come across this sort of heckling from time to time? Is this just .
NYE: I have to tell you guys, I didn't think I was heckled. People left. I don't remember being heckled. I got a standing O at the end. I was just .
UNGER: Lots of shouts out there. That was kind of a heckle.
NYE: Let's—I don't want to get to far afield here and talk too much about me, but I was talking about how a very famous reverend, Jerry Falwell insisted that he thinks that global climate change, global heating is a myth, and he was going to buy a Chevy Suburban the next time he had an opportunity, and I pointed out that that's bad.
And that the literal interpretation of the bible, to me, is not satisfactory, it's just not enough information. The Bible is not about the process of evolution or relativity or anything else. The Bible is about - I think it's about the human condition and so on. So this - these details that this wire service picked up are fascinating and charming, but it wasn't really the whole point.
UNGER: I'm going to go with you and blame the media myself.
NYE: Not the media. I just didn't think I was heckled.
UNGER: I understand. Yeah.
NYE: Some people left because they were concerned. Knock yourselves out. But people—we have taxpayers and voters that don't believe in global heating, think it's a myth. That's not in anybody's best interest. I'm going to tell you, as a scientist and so on, engineer and taxpayer and voter that global heating, global warming is a very serious problem. And you can't ignore it. It's a problem discovered through the process of science. So it's a worthy thing.
UNGER: I'm a big fan of yours on NPR and I always listen to you and find you interesting. I want to get to this tiktaalik.
NYE: Tiktaalik I think.
UNGER: Exactly. Tiktaalik. That's what I meant to say.
NYE: Well, it's from an Inuit word.
UNGER: Was this still a fish?
NYE: No. It may have been. But the thing is it's going to be a big deal fossil, like the famous archaeopteryx, the feathered bird. It's going to be, as we look through history in the fossil record, this is going to be a significant discovery, because tiktaalik has some fancy feet. There's the famous archaeopteryx, or one of them yeah, it's where they found—we found feathers on an ancient dinosaur, which is a big deal. A significant thing. It tells you a lot about what happened in history in the history of life on earth. And the same will be of this tiktaalik. It's got some unusual wrist bones and unusual crossover between paws and feet and fins.
UNGER: Bill, I know that men of science love pedestrian observations like the one I'm going to make right now, but it kind of looks like a crocodile to me. Could it be a relative of the crocodile that we just didn't discover until now?
NYE: It certainly could be.
UNGER: Why are we calling it .
NYE: You're on your way to becoming a naturalist. That's right. It looks kind of like a crocodile.
UNGER: I am? That sounds obscene, Bill?
NYE: But if you look closely—it sounds obscene if you were somehow embarrassed about nature.
UNGER: But is it a missing link, because it looks sort of like a crocodile? It takes a .
NYE: Well, the word missing link is charged with connotations that you may not want to carry with. But what it is is it's something that's very fishlike, very land animal-like, but has aspects of both and it was discovered on a remote island in the Arctic. I don't know what you do with your day, but I don't go looking for fossils in the Arctic. There are people who do.
UNGER: I actually do, Bill. I actually look for - I do.
NYE: Well, then, I'm sorry you didn't find tiktaalik. You could have
changed the world. This thing will shape our world view. Now I—Do we -
· we're almost out of time, but let me point out that this definition that you asserted or your people asserted that evolutionary process of life on earth carries with it improvement or increased complexity is not especially a good definition.
I'm here in the newsroom in Burbank, California, and this dictionary .
UNGER: You have a different definition than we do .
NYE: Well it doesn't have that improvement business in it. Whoever fits in the best, whatever organism fits into the ecosystem the best will do the best. That cat with no nose .
UNGER: It's an adaptive quality, it's not necessarily not like an improvement or a good one, is what you're saying.
NYE: Improvement does not—The word improvement is a human idea. Let's say you are a seabird and you spend your whole life airborne, maybe you think humans are kind of losers, because they never get off on the ground. It could be. You never know what a seabird things. That's just for an example.
But just remember that this cat with one eye and no nose and died is not evidence of creationism or intelligent design. It's a classic example where the genes go wrong and misfire, the organism is born and cannot live and pass its genes on. Cannot have baby cats. And it's eliminated, wiped out of the gene pool. That is a misinterpretation of a fabulous, classic insight into the fundamental process of life on earth.
UNGER: Well, we have to wrap this up, and I would love to talk to you more about this, because you're fascinating about this. And I'll make like a seabird and fly.
NYE: And fly, yes. Tiktaalik is going to be a big, significant fossil in the history of humans understanding the process of life.
UNGER: All right. Bill Nye, the science guy, thank you so much for being with us tonight.
NYE: Oh no. It is I who must thank you.
UNGER: And speaking about what to believe, could the biggest villain in all of Christendom actually have been helping his best friend Jesus? “Extreme Makeover: Judas Edition.”
An speaking of makeovers, who's next in line now that Meredith Vieira is calling it quits on “The View.” The gossip monger favorites next on COUNTDOWN.
UNGER: Well, forget the First Amendment, who cares about evolution, it's conventional wisdom that's under assault. First it was a glass of red wine is healthy for your heart, that butter is actually good for you, that jogging can kill you. Now we're being told that Judas was a good guy. What are you telling us, Natalie Morales?
NATALIE MORALES, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Lost in the sands of Egypt for more than 1,700 years and almost lost forever to Christianity, the Gospel of Judas tells a story that contradicts centuries of Christian belief that Judas was not the friend who betrayed Jesus, but rather obeyed him.
MARVIN MEYER, CHAPMAN UNIVERSITY: He was the closest one to Jesus. He truly understood Jesus, and when he turned Jesus in, he followed the wishes of his good friend Jesus, because that allowed Jesus to get rid of his attachments to the physical body and to realize the true spiritual being within.
MORALES: The Gospel of Judas was condemned in the second century as heresy by one of the church's most influential leaders.
REV. DONALD SENIOR, CATHOLIC THEOLOGICAL UNION: This one early teacher that refers to this gospel, he considered it a heretical gospel.
MORALES: The National Geographic Channel documents the 30-year long journey of the manuscript's discovery and authentication. It is believed the Gospel of Judas was found by chance along the banks of the Nile in the 1970s and was nearly destroyed after being stored in a safe deposit box before finally falling into the right hands of scholars.
(on camera): We can only see the document now in this low lighting, so as not to compromise its integrity. What was left of it was over 1,000 tiny little pieces that took scholars about five years to be able to put back together. Now 80 percent of it as it exists today.
(voice-over): Careful radiocarbon dating of the 66 pages of papyrus proves it dates back to the third century. What is still unknown, just how important the Gospel of Judas could be to religion and history.
UNGER: And a lesson to draw from this revised gospel, no more insulting your cheating, lying, friends and spouses in the name of Judas. Now praise your lying, cheating friends and spouses with heck of a job, Judas, heck of a job.
To Jesus' surviving bloodline, the segue into our nightly roundup of celebrity and entertainment news, “Keeping Tabs.” The author of the “Da Vinci Code” is breathing a sigh of relief today after a huge victory in a London court room. Multimillionaire Dan Brown was sued for copyright infringement three years after his book hit book stores.
Michael Baigent and Richard Lee claimed Brown lifted the central idea for his best-seller from their nonfiction book, “Holy Blood, Holy Grail,” which posits that Jesus and Mary Magdalene had a child and that the blood line survived. But a judge ruled that Brown didn't plagiarize the book and ordered Baigent and Lee to pay nearly all the legal costs of the lawsuit. After the victory, Dan Brown brazenly plagiarized this line from “Law & Order.” Quote, “Today's verdict shows this claim was utterly without merit.”
The ruling also clears the way for the release of the film “The Da Vinci Code” starring Tom Hanks. Now that Meredith Vieira is moving to the “Today” show, the hunt is on for her replacement on “The View.” Among the names now being floated to join Barbara Walters, Joy Behar, Star Jones and Elisabeth Hasselbeck on the couch, Patricia Heaton, famous as the long suffering wife on “Everyone Loves Raymond.
Insiders also tell the “New York Post” that she might potentially take over for Elisabeth Hasselbeck, because both women have right-wing viewpoints and that Marina Parerra (ph) will come on the show to boost the Latino audience.
Unfortunately, no rumors that Star Jones is not getting off the couch, so stand by for another season of fascinating, titillating stories about her plastic surgery.
And America's princess of the positive, the diva of delight, Paula Abdul roughed up at a party and reporting it to police days later? That's ahead.
UNGER: Sure, there's a reason why Paula Abdul is hopped up on goofballs but knowing might just ruin all her mystery. And when we hear that harm may have come to her, we quake. Our number one story in the COUNTDOWN tonight, Paula Abdul manhandled. Gather round the TV. Here's what happened.
Hollywood, California. An after-hours party last Saturday night, friends and fun amidst the fakery, Paula Abdul. She was girlish as always and some guy was brutish, at best. According to Abdul the man at the party grabbed her by the arm, and threw her against a wall. Hey, Mr., that's no way to treat an “American Idol” judge. The police haven't released the suspects name.
But “Us Weekly” says the culprit may have been Abdul's former CAA agent. Jim Lefkowitz (ph). He was reportedly offended by Abdul's smirky attitude. Now there's a dangerous cocktail. Agent garnished with a smirk.
The two argued, then Lefkowitz sort of accidentally on purpose bumped her, so hard that she wound up on the floor. Abdul's ex-boyfriend Dante Spencer then jumped in and punched Lefkowitz right in the face. Abdul filed the police report at 9:00 Pacific Time on Tuesday, claiming a concussion and spinal injuries. That would have been just three hours after the live taping of “American Idol.” You know, that was the night when nine karaoke singers murdered country music, delivering concussions and spinal injuries to all that appreciate the music genre.
And that's not all breaking news in the world of reality TV today. But first let's call in a contributor to VH-1's “Best Week Ever,” comedian Paul Tompkins. Good evening, Paul.
PAUL TOMPINKS, COMEDIAN: Good evening, Brian.
UNGER: Paul, this fracas with Abdul occurred at what is called a floating after-hours party.
UNGER: Now I've never been to one of those. You're a Hollywood insider and I grew up in Ohio. What the heck goes on at a floating party?
TOMPKINS: Well, I don't know if I could even explain it to someone from Ohio. There are tons of these floating parties all over the place. You never know they're going to be. They sort of finding you if you're one of the insiders. The only you can really get invited is if you know Tara Reid's publicist's assistant.
UNGER: You have to be that connected?
TOMPKINS: Well, that's not really that big a deal if you know what I'm saying. They run it kind of loosey goosey over there.
UNGER: Paul, in Hollywood circles, the ones you travel in, in the cafes and the salons, what are people talking about this untoward Abdul abuse? What are they saying about all this abuse to her?
TOMPKINS: Well, mostly people are concerned as to how they're going to explain it to their children, obviously, but a lot of people are coming out to Paula and saying, look, you don't need to force someone to slam you into a wall. If you want some more pills, I've got tons. Just ask.
UNGER: Paul, talk for a moment, if you, about how joyful it might be to actually strike your agent in the face with your fist. OK? Was this perhaps some residual steam that she was blowing off?
TOMPKINS: This is obviously everybody's dream. And it's one thing when you are worried that your agent is figuratively body checking your career, but now when they're literally manhandling you it just intensifies the desire to really put a hurting on somebody.
UNGER: Paul, in other TV reality news, because I know you're interested in this as well. Paris Hilton has .
UNGER: . finally explain why her relationship with Nicole Richie soured. Quote, “She cannot stand being around me because I get all the attention and people really don't care about her.” Hilton said Richie was jealous and pathetic and looks horrible. Paul, what's happening to the tone of rhetoric in Hollywood?
TOMPKINS: Well, you know, Brian, believe it or not, it's actually getting better. If we think back to the '40s, specifically, 1947 we all remember when Claudette Colbert called Greer Garson a straight up Oregon skank.
UNGER: Yeah, you're right.
TOMPKINS: I don't know if you remember that. So it's actually improving—it's improving. I want everybody to go to IMBD and see if Greer Garson is from Oregon.
TOMPKINS: Skip it, Brian, skip it.
UNGER: Is this one of your show business Web sites.
TOMPKINS: The Internet Movie DataBase, Ohio, come on.
UNGER: Paul, there's this Steven Spielberg, there's this word that he is doing a reality show with Mark Burnett.
UNGER: He produces survivor and they're going to find the next great film maker and the winner will be whisked away to the DreamWorks studio to be met by Steve Spielberg. Paul, I want to know where the losers go.
TOMPKINS: The losers get to meet Kevin Smith and they get to discuss the Criterion Collection of “Jersey Girl” which is due out next year.
UNGER: You know what I like about you Paul?
UNGER: You know your beat.
TOMPKINS: I do what I can, Brian. All I care about is show business.
UNGER: Paul Tompkins, comedian and contributor to VH-1's “Best Week Ever.” Have a great weekend.
TOMPKINS: Thank you, Brian.
UNGER: Keith returns on Monday and you can count COUNTDOWN - catch COUNTDOWN every weeknight at 8:00 and midnight Eastern. Up next, a special presentation of LOCKUP, “Return to Corcoran.”
I am Brian Unger. And thanks for watching. Look what I made, Keith.
You don't have to be so destructive.
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