Guests: David Was
BRIAN UNGER, GUEST HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
The Watergate investigation. Not plumbers, this time it‘s hookers, prostitutes. Duke Cunningham and the FBI investigation into whether the Dukester and others in Congress exchanged sexual favors were exchanged for political ones.
Libby and the Brain. Scooter‘s motion to dismiss shot down by the judge in his perjury trial.
And why Karl Rove is reportedly more worried after his latest trip to the grand jury.
FEMA, the disaster cleanup agency, is itself a disaster. The Senate calling for an complete overhaul about a month before hurricane season begins. It‘s going to be a heck of a job.
Road test rock. Music industry icons and Pink taking on the Bush administration through the gift of song, clearly in response to this pro-Bush shot across the bow.
And an NBC exclusive, Ann Curry‘s journey in Africa for an exclusive interview with the actress, the activist, the children‘s advocate, Ms. Angelina Jolie.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANN CURRIE, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Giggling is something I understand you‘re doing a lot more lately.
ANGELINA JOLIE: I actually am. I‘ve gotten (INAUDIBLE), it‘s really horrible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.
And good evening. I‘m Brian Unger, in for Keith Olbermann.
The three key ingredients of any D.C. key political scandal are as follows, sex, money, and the Watergate apartment complex. With President Nixon, it was a combination of money and Watergate. With President Clinton, sex and Watergate. It‘s where Monica Lewinsky lived, as if you‘d forgotten. And now, finally a scandal with all three.
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, the Duke Cunningham corruption probe, now with hookers. The only thing more compelling than that, a Karl Rove indictment. And it looks like we might be getting one of those too.
Federal prosecutors now said to be investigating whether the former congressman was bribed with a steady supply of prostitutes that he may have been meeting up with at the Watergate Hotel.
“The Wall Street Journal” also reporting that investigators are looking into whether other congressmen may have been bribed with the very same, how you say, services.
I guess the lesson no one seems to be learning, if you‘re going to do something illicit in Washington, do it at, say, the Comfort Inn in Tyson‘s Corner.
As for Karl Rove, Wednesday‘s grand jury appearance apparently no trip to the Watergate, if you know what I‘m saying. The presidential adviser now more worried, not less, that he could get indicted.
Time now to call in correspondent David Shuster in Washington, who‘s had a very busy day keeping track of both stories.
DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Brian.
UNGER: Let me begin by asking about the Cunningham investigation. This sounds like something straight out of the Hoover years. But if the FBI is now knocking on the doors of escort services, talking to prostitutes, how nervous is the mood in Washington?
SHUSTER: Well, the mood right now is certainly on e of intrigue. I think this article from “The Wall Street Journal” got a ton of play all over Capitol Hill.
But between the lines, what a lot of people are talking about is the fact that right now, this all seems to be aimed at flipping one of two key defense contractors in this case. One of the defense contractors is already cooperating. Of course, he got Duke Cunningham, who‘s already cooperating. But this seems to be a lot of pressure on a man by the name of Brent Wilkes. And according to the other contractor, it was Brent Wilkes who did some work with Duke Cunningham. He‘s the one who‘s got the little black book, and perhaps the memory of which congressmen were getting these prostitutes.
But until that particular defense contractor flips and actually substantiates the allegation of the other defense contractor, right now, people think there‘s still a little bit of breathing room. But if that other defense contractor soon becomes a government witness, then everything changes, and that‘s where it really gets interesting.
UNGER: David, let me ask you, how widespread might this be? I mean, what are—are there other names involved here?
SHUSTER: Well, you always hear, you always hear rumors about this congressman or that congressman who sort of gets drunk with power in Washington and engages in these sort of activities. But until, I think, we get some substantial allegations, I‘m not going to drop any names.
But any members of Congress who did business or had interactions with these two defense contractors, those officers are nervous tonight, not so much for the prostitution allegation, but simply because of fears that they‘re going to get caught up in this sort of prosecution of bribery or corruption.
UNGER: Here we go again. Very unseemly.
Turning to your reporting on the Karl Rove story, was he pleased with how his latest testimony went?
SHUSTER: Well, that depends on who you ask. A spokesperson for Karl Rove said that his testimony was just fine. But a supporter of Karl Rove, at a party last night where they were both in attendance, the supporter of Karl Rove said that Rove described his grand jury experience as “hell,” and that Rove was surprised both by the tone of the grand jury questions and also the length, three and a half hours.
And that taken together, Rove thought that the experience, his experience at the grand jury made it more likely, not less likely, he feels, that he‘s going to get indicted. Rove‘s lawyers say that he‘s got no reason to worry, that anything he said at the grand jury yesterday might have implicated him, but the very fact that he spent three and a half hours there has at least signaled to Karl Rove, and Rove is at least telling a few friends, that certainly he‘s very worried about what‘s going on.
UNGER: Hell, never good.
Let‘s go back a little bit, though. Does this look like his dubious status in the CIA case may have played a role in narrowing his responsibilities to focus on the November elections, then?
SHUSTER: Well, Rove‘s legal team has admitted that they were in contact with prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald for several weeks. They were talking with him frequently. And that Karl Rove was keeping his new boss at the White House, the new White House chief of staff, Josh Bolten, informed.
So while the White House suggests that Rove had his duties shifted for other reasons, it‘s easy to imagine that if you‘re the new White House chief of staff, and your top policy guy is telling you, Hey, I‘m not clear of the CIA leak investigation, and I‘m having talks with the prosecutor, and, by the way, the poll numbers are so bad, that maybe if you‘re the new White House chief of staff, you say, Look, let‘s give this guy some (INAUDIBLE) breathing room, let‘s give him less responsibility right now, just in case he‘s going to be distracted with this other matter.
UNGER: Possibly a little preemptive mood. Is there a chance he might resign?
SHUSTER: Well, we‘ll have to see. I don‘t think there‘s any chance that Karl Rove is going to (INAUDIBLE) resign barring an indictment. And perhaps that‘s why the stakes are so high. You remember that Scooter Libby, he only got notification that he was a target of the—of his indictment that very morning when the grand jury actually returned the indictment. So he simply didn‘t have time.
It doesn‘t look like Karl Rove is going to get any sort of advance notification either, if he gets indicted. So we‘ll just have to wait and see.
UNGER: David Shuster, thank you very much.
SHUSTER: You‘re welcome.
UNGER: With just about a month left until the start of the next hurricane season, a Senate committee has figured out what went wrong with the government‘s response to Hurricane Katrina. Their conclusion, FEMA is in shambles, and is beyond repair, say, like Michael Jackson‘s nose. As for FEMA, the Senate investigation came up with a bold recommendation, scrap that agency, put together a brand-new one, and give it a different name.
Our correspondent is Chip Reid.
CHIP REID, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The report says it took Hurricane Katrina to reveal that FEMA is so dysfunctional it should be scrapped.
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS ®, MAINE: FEMA has become a symbol of a bumbling bureaucracy in which the American people have completely lost faith.
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: It is beyond repair. And you need to dissolve it and begin again.
REID: Begin again, the report says, with an entirely new disaster-relief agency, the National Preparedness and Response Authority. In 86 recommendations, the report describes the proposed agency as far more powerful than FEMA, with a much larger budget, a director who would report directly to the president during a crisis, so powerful, the report compares the position to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs.
And there would be 10 regional strike teams, where federal, state, and local emergency responders would work and train together.
The report has the committee‘s bipartisan support, except on one key issue. Democrats heap blame for FEMA‘s failures on President Bush.
LIEBERMAN: The president and the White House were not sufficiently engaged...
REID: Republicans blame the president‘s advisers, especially former FEMA director Michael Brown.
COLLINS: I don‘t think that that is the president‘s fault.
REID: With the president today in New Orleans, a top White House adviser flatly rejected any proposal to abolish FEMA.
FRAN TOWNSEND, WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: I don‘t think it‘s productive to talk about dismantling the agency. I mean, I really think what the point of this is, is to strengthen the inherent (INAUDIBLE) response and preparation capability.
REID (on camera): Even supporters of abolishing FEMA and replacing it with a bigger, stronger agency say there‘s no way that‘s going to happen before this year‘s hurricane season, which begins in about a month. And whether it ever becomes law will depend on how well FEMA responds in the future.
Chip Reid, NBC News, the Capitol.
UNGER: NBC‘s Brian Williams spoke with President Bush after his visit with volunteers in New Orleans. He asked the president about the proposal to kill FEMA. Mr. Bush did not sound like he was ready to seriously considering scrapping anything.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My thoughts are is that we‘ve got to make sure it functions well. We‘re coming into a hurricane season.
I ordered an executive branch review of what went wrong in Katrina. The Congress is doing its part as well. Some of the things that we found, I think the Congress might have found as well, is we need to preposition assets better. We need to make sure there‘s clear coordination between the federal, state, and local governments.
Obviously there‘s a communications problem, as you well know, and we have prepositioned communications equipment, or have communications equipment ready that is available that‘ll help us in case of a big storm.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UNGER: Well, if that answer felt a little tortured, try this. S&M at the gas pumps. Yes, your pain is the oil company‘s pleasure. The huge profit numbers are out for big oil, and it‘s leading to big political drama on Capitol Hill.
And dissing The Decider in satire, in song, in satirical song. The pop-culture backlash against W.
You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
UNGER: Well, before you finish the paperwork on that second mortgage, or loot your kid‘s college fund just so you can fill up on your next tank of gas, two things you should know about in our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN.
Congress is hard at work on a solution, and oil companies are making more money than ever. Don‘t you feel better now?
Democrat Ron Wyden of Oregon staging a five-hour filibuster in the Senate in an effort to get energy companies to pay royalties on domestic oil exceeding $65 a barrel. There goes their lunch money.
Other Democrats voicing their outrage at a gas station near Capitol Hill, before getting back into their SUVs to drive away.
Senate Republicans, meanwhile, unveiling an eight-point plan that would give a $100 rebate to every car-driving taxpayer, but only if we open up the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve for drilling first.
All of this to break our addiction to oil?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BILL FRIST (R-TN), MAJORITY LEADER: Republicans come forward with a bold agenda that looks at supply, demand, alternative sources, to make sure that the markets are working boldly, are working fairly, are working transparently. There is no silver bullet. There‘s nothing, nothing we can do that can compensate for the fact that today we‘re 60 percent dependent on foreign sources of oil. But we can put forth a bold agenda. It will be introduced today, and it‘s an eight-point plan, you‘ve heard it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UNGER: Those darn car alarms. I think somebody just stole the senator‘s Prius.
Of course, on no one has the situation been hardest than on the oil industry itself. I think we should hear sad music here, maybe. The corporations, they‘re struggling to get by. ExxonMobil, for example, reporting earnings of a puny $8.4 billion for just the first quarter.
Senior investigative correspondent Lisa Myers with all the sad details on why it‘s hard out there for a pump.
LISA MYERS, MSNBC SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):
For outraged consumers, the staggering profit numbers boil down to this. Exxon earned 9.5 cents on every dollar of gasoline and oil sold, cashing in at every stage of the process.
JOHN KILDUFF, OIL TRADER: The big money for ExxonMobil is being made by taking crude oil out of the ground, and refining it into gasoline, and selling it at the street corner.
MYERS: So consumers clearly feel gouged. Are oil industry profits out of line with other industries?
An oil industry ad dubbed “Straight Talk” claims they are not, and highlights a multiyear average that is lower than current profits. In fact, the oil industry‘s profit margin last year was 8.5 percent, higher than the average for all industries, but less than half the profit of banks.
KILDUFF: Their profits rank well behind the profits generated by the financial services industry, the pharmaceutical industry, and several other industries...
MYERS: But consumer groups argue that oil companies are profiting unfairly from their own failure to invest in refineries, which is now driving up gas prices.
MARK COOPER, CONSUMER FEDERATION OF AMERICA: People‘s budgets are being clobbered by companies who have failed to expand capacity, failed to compete, and then stockholders get rewarded, executives get rewarded, and the people suffer.
MYERS: What about CEO pay? Chevron‘s CEO received $$37 million in total compensation last year. ConocoPhillips‘ CEO, $17 million. Big numbers, but experts say in line with Wall Street‘s inflated standards.
Then there‘s Exxon‘s CEO and his stunning $400 million pay and retirement package, which an industry spokesman still defends.
JOHN FELMY, AMERICAN PETROLEUM INSTITUTE: One has to compare any executive‘s compensation with the performance of the companies that they manage.
MYERS (on camera): Oil industry officials also argue that some profits are passed on to average Americans who invest in the companies. But critics say, in most cases, those dividends won‘t begin to offset the high cost of gas, and the outrage.
Lisa Myers, NBC News, Washington.
UNGER: Oh, yes, big oil companies, you and the horse you road in on, buddy. Wait, horse?
COUNTDOWN on your side, how to ease your pain at the gas pump, next in Oddball.
And there is no easing the jitters in Tinseltown. It‘s called Hollywood‘s Watergate. And when it‘s all said and done, there‘s no telling how many celebrities could be implicated. Inside the Pellicano case, later on COUNTDOWN.
UNGER: I‘m Brian Unger, in for Keith Olbermann.
As we take a step back from the so-called hard news of the day, to find out how these hot-button issues, such as rising gas prices, are affecting the lives of everyday people, like Texan cowboy hairdressers and Russian guys with really strong ears.
Let‘s play Oddball.
We begin in Arlington, Texas, where hairstylist Egon Settle (ph) says the price of gas is so high, he‘s got to ride a horse to the salon every day. Settle says he rides his trusty steed Freefall around town on his lunch break. But when he‘s cutting hair, he just leaves the big guy in the parking lot next to the Corvette.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EGON SETTLE, HAIRSTYLIST: I have people ask me, Are you scared somebody‘ll steal him? Well, I tell you what, if you can get on this horse right here and ride away, you take him.
But if you do get on him, I hope you got a pillow on your butt, because he‘s sure going to (INAUDIBLE) you for a ride.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UNGER: And on to Tblisi, Georgia, where a man with a broken hand has tied a rope around his ear and is pulling two trucks with it. We cannot confirm this has anything to do with the high price of gasoline, we just know Lasha Petaraya (ph) has got some crazy strong ears. This was a new world record for the Georgian engineer, who pulled the four-and-a-half-ton rig more than 40 yards. Petaraya told reporters the honor of being listed in the “Guinness Book of Records” would be worth the lifetime of hideous disfigurement and chronic ear pain.
And finally, here‘s a Dalmatian riding a bicycle. Oh, yes, look at him go. Put your foot up (ph) there. It‘s another award-winning piece of video from the magic makers of Japanese television. (INAUDIBLE) this dog was interested in bike riding ever since he was a puppy, yet here he is, full grown, and still using training wheels. So I think that Dalmatian‘s kind of a loser.
Three very different rockers, all singing the same message to President Bush. Here‘s a hint, it‘s not “Happy Birthday.”
And she‘s asked the press to respect her privacy while she rounds out her pregnancy in Africa. But that didn‘t stop Angelina Jolie from granting an exclusive interview to NBC.
Those stories ahead.
Now here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.
Number three, “The City Pages” newspaper of Minneapolis-St. Paul. The editors are receiving a bit of criticism over its Best of the Twin Cities issue, which named as this year‘s best cheap thrill in town crystal meth. The paper says it was a bad joke.
Number two, Mark King of Lake Okanor (ph), California. He‘s under arrest for bank robbery after his brilliant criminal scheme went awry. Police say he accosted an employee outside the bank as she was the doors for the morning, went into the vault, and told the woman to go back out and pretend everything was normal, or else.
She went outside and locked him in. Oh, we can never plan for that kind of thing, can we?
And number one, William Bethel (INAUDIBLE) Pennsylvania. Apparently the 24-year-old has been working two jobs to make ends meet. By day, he‘s a delivery guy for Domino‘s Pizza. By night, he transports corpses from the Philadelphia Morgue to area funeral homes in the same car.
Police say they pulled him over for an outdated registration and found two pies waiting to be delivered sitting on a makeshift stretcher in the back next to a sack of wet clothes. Yeesh. That will do a number on the old crazy bread.
UNGER: And welcome back to COUNTDOWN. I‘m Brian Unger, keeping the seat warm for Keith Olbermann.
Since the war began three years ago, pundits and critics have been making numerous comparisons between Vietnam and Iraq, that we‘re fighting a homegrown insurgency, that it will last for years, that it‘s ultimately an unwinnable war.
Now, in our third story on the COUNTDOWN, another trait the two conflicts have in common, a plethora of protest songs. Of course, this being 2006, not 1966, protesters have updated the folk singing and flag burning with a lot more electricity, like in that most accessible of technologies, the Internet, where an artist can combine the parody style of Jib-Jab, rip off—sorry, emulate the Beach Boys and add a little Hogan‘s Heroes to produce this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Move our pieces to Afghanistan. Move into Iraq and control the waterways. Sign that new treaty with India. We can party right there. Have a business relations with the Saudi. We got it covered.
Dick, you scared me.
I think you forgot Halliburton?
Halliburton right there. I found a new place to put Halliburton. Away go the colored people. Now what do we do next. I just can‘t seem to figure it out?
Bomb bomb bomb bomb bomb Iran. Bomb bomb bomb bomb bomb Iran. Bomb bomb bomb bomb Iran.
We‘ll do nothing to it. Bomb Iran.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UNGER: OK. And then there are the mainstream protesters, Neil Young is about to release an entire album of anti-war and anti-Bush songs with titles like “Let‘s Impeach the President,” “Living with War” and “Shock and Awe.”
UNGER: And elsewhere Bruce Springsteen, a local supporter of John Kerry in 2004 releasing a new album covering music by folk singer and protestor Keith Seger. When asked if the songs make a political statement about the president, Springsteen told the “Associated Press” quote, “I‘ll let somebody else sort that part of it, but a lot of them seem pretty applicable, you know. Mrs. McGrath is basically an Irish anti-war song, but it‘s ripped right out of the headlines every day today.”
And there‘s a more obvious indictment of the president coming from a relatively new artist, Pink, in her acoustic song “Dear Mr. President.”
UNGER: And to discuss this sudden influx of protest rock, I‘m joined by David Was, a contributor to “National Public Radio‘s Day to Day” and half of the musical group “Was Not Was.” Thanks for your time David.
DAVID WAS, CONTRIBUTOR NPR‘S DAY TO DAY: Thanks, Unger.
UNGER: Rock n Roll by its nature is rebellious. And it‘s a long tradition of music encompassing political protest when Peter, Paul, and Mary sang “If I Had a Hammer” it was figurative. This Neil Young song is quite literal it is a litany of Bush offenses that might appear on an op-ed page. Is that unusual?
WAS: Well the hook being impeach the president is sort of, with a republican congress in control, it seems like if you were an Iranian folk singer you would say embrace the Jews and love them. It‘s sort of an impossibility politically. The classic empty gesture I‘m glad there is discourse, but I don‘t think it‘s heading towards anywhere practical.
UNGER: During this administration country music has been very vocal. We heard the Dixie Chicks criticize the president in 2003 and Faith Hill and Tim McGraw criticized the president recently over the Katrina recovery. We‘ve heard rappers be critical. Has mainstream rock been kind of slow to add their voices?
WAS: I think so. I think it‘s far more risky in country music in that political world to stick your neck out. I think the Dixie Chicks are to be congratulated. Neil Young has an old tradition though of speaking his mind since Ohio dealing with the Kent State killings. So it may be late but I think everybody put an exorbitant amount of faith in this war and its prosecution and it‘s been given a lie recently, I think.
UNGER: Will any of these songs actually change the political landscape? Could these artists actually have an impact on 2006 or 2008?
WAS: Well I tend to think, I hope so, I would hope that people would take the word of the airwaves and that people would respond. But I tend to think of music and pop culture just like the instantaneity of the news world where everything is cycled through in about 48 hours and forgotten. I wish there was something other than the short attention span theater of politics in America these days.
UNGER: Does though, and aside from partisanship, does rock ‘n‘ roll have the same influence today as it did in 1966, in actually changing people‘s minds?
WAS: Well, you know, I think hip-hop carried the cajole for a long time and I give credit to those writers for dealing with things more directly. Although the old tradition and it dates back to the 1600‘s, the broadside is to carry the word of political events or floods or earthquakes in a song so it‘s memorable, has a chorus. But for my money “Masters of War” by Dylan which is a timeless song and could deal with any era is going to be more enduring than a temporal call for the president‘s impeachment whether I‘m for it or not.
UNGER: So you‘re not into the date stamping or time stamping the lyric as Neil Young may have done here?
WAS: It‘s like cottage cheese, you know, you put a name in a song and you know that in 30 years people, you might as well have mentioned Gabby Hayes or Roy Rogers in a song, people are going to say who is that? You‘re going to look for the footnotes.
UNGER: That‘s Neil Young you‘re talking about there, sir.
WAS: I love Neil Young, don‘t get me wrong.
UNGER: No, no, no, I‘m just teasing you. Let me ask you this, is there a distinction between what music resonates in red states versus blue states? Because, you would think Neil Young‘s music seems to span the country roots and the blues tradition of red states and the folk rock of blue states. Is there a distinction between the red and blue and what music they sort of sink their teeth into?
WAS: Well, do you know, I think it‘s a question of these days how narrow cast radio is and that there‘s not a great difference in character with these great conglomerates like Clear Channel broadcasting the same 18 songs 24 hours a day. I think just as the political map goes red and blue, tastes aren‘t going to be that much different. But I would say that you are preaching to the converted already when you write a song with political leanings. You are sort of resonating with the audience that‘s already there. I‘m not sure you‘re changing hearts and minds on the other side of the color spectrum.
UNGER: Interesting perspective. Thank you David Was of “National Public Radio‘s Day to Day.” Thank you for sharing all of that with us tonight.
WAS: Thank you.
UNGER: Some of the biggest celebrities are finding no excitement in the latest Hollywood thriller. It‘s no script. It‘s all too real and there‘s no telling how many stars will get fingered in the west coast version of the Abramoff scandal.
And an NBC world exclusive, where in the world is Ann Curry? Namibia in a super secret location talking to one very pregnant Angelina Jolie. Those stories ahead, but first here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three sound bytes of this day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
The victim says it all began with a minor complaint.
I said how can you be out of iced tea?
When the victim who asked us not to identify him left the window, he says the employee handed him not iced tea, but a soda instead. The soda came without ice just like he asked. But something was floating on top.
It had a strong mucus of somebody who had a cold.
It‘s alarming to think you could, you know, just go through a drive through and end up getting spit in, you know. It‘s not your fault. You just want to get some fast food.
CONAN O‘BRIEN: The other day Snoop Dog announced that he is writing a novel. Yeah, Snoop Dogg‘s writing a novel, yeah. Snoop says he can‘t wait to buy a copy of the book, hollow it out and use it to store weed.
Oh. [laughter] .
BUSH: Maybe we can find somebody here who will voluntarily take a puppy?
Are you volunteering your staff—
Or you take it.
Are you giving that dog away?
No, not now. I‘m retracting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UNGER: Thirteen years ago this summer, Heidi Fleiss, the 27-year-old Hollywood madam was arrested for operating a prostitution ring catering to L.A.‘s rich and famous. Not since the rumored existence of her little black book supposedly containing names of her celebrity Johns and how much money they paid for sexual services rendered have we seen Tinseltown go into a silent panic. The book was never made public of course and Hollywood breathed a sigh of relief.
Our number two story on the COUNTDOWN, panic has struck again in what is the second biggest wiretapping story in the nation, involving everything you‘d want in a feature film, spies, sex, violence, power and money. Our Jennifer London with more on the scandal dubbed, the Hollywood Watergate.
JENNIFER LONDON, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: He was Hollywood‘s go-to guy for celebrities in trouble, Anthony Pellicano. A powerful private eye whose client list included Tom Cruise, Chris Rock, even the king of pop. Pellicano was Michael Jackson‘s private investigator during the 1993 sexual abuse case.
LAURIE LEVENSON, LOYOLA LAW SCHOOL: He‘s the P.I. who‘s sent out there to get the dirt on people.
LONDON: But Hollywood loves a good twist and the hunter is now the hunted. In February Pellicano was indicted on a slew of felony counts including illegal wiretapping, conspiracy and destruction of evidence.
JOHN CONNOLLY, VANITY FAIR: He wiretapped people, he used police officers, paid them off to gather people‘s information illegally and on occasion was not afraid to resort to violence or thuggery to scare people or terrorize people.
LONDON: John Connolly knows all about Pellicano and his unusual tactics. He‘s written an expose for “Vanity Fair” on newsstands in June.
CONNOLLY: I think it sends a chilling affect throughout Hollywood, who is going to get called, whose name is going to be dragged in front of maybe a trial or maybe another trial, maybe a civil case. I think this opens up Pandora‘s box for all kinds of legal problems.
LONDON: If Pellicano‘s going down, he may not be alone. The largest scandal to hit Hollywood now threatens A-listers. “Die Hard” director John McTiernan has been charged with lying to the Feds about his involvement with Pellicano.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The big question is, is when he was hired by some of the big name lawyers and law firms in town and big clients. Did they really know what Anthony Pellicano was up to?
LONDON: It‘s not clear if the stars themselves knew about Pellicano‘s dirty practices, but he‘s reportedly been connected to some of the biggies, like John Travolta, Sylvester Stallone, Barry Bonds and the head of Paramount Pictures.
NEVILLE JOHNSON, PRIVACY ATTORNEY: The legal equivalent of Watergate in my opinion. The reason being, that its tentacles reach out so far across this community, into police departments, major institutions such as the phone company, major players in business and in Hollywood.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Anthony Pellicano is Hollywood‘s Jack Abramoff. A lot of people have known Pellicano. A lot of people have worked with him, used him. It doesn‘t mean that they‘re all dirty but I can guarantee you right now, everyone hopes there‘s no picture of them with Anthony Pellicano.
LONDON: Like many great Hollywood dramas, this one will play out for some time. Pellicano‘s trial isn‘t scheduled until October and you can bet this will be one blockbuster that keeps Tinseltown on the edge of its seats. For COUNTDOWN, Jennifer London, NBC News, Los Angeles.
UNGER: And an easy turn to our round up of celebrity and entertainment news, “Keeping Tabs.” And Rosie O‘Donnell‘s return to the daytime talk show, this time with company. She‘ll be the newest co-host of “The View.” ABC‘s expected to make it official on Friday, according to the celebrity news magazine “Extra.” O‘Donnell will be named as co-host of “The View.” Her first day on the job not yet known, but it will mark her first regular gig on television since she hosted her own daytime chat show, “The Rosie O‘Donnell Show” which ended in 2002.
“Extra” is also reporting that the short list for the job included Connie Chung, Patricia Keaton and Soledad O‘Brien. O‘Donnell will be replacing Meredith Vieira, who will be replacing Katie Couric on the “Today Show” who will be replacing Bob Schieffer on the “CBS Evening News.” You got all that?
Snoop Dog in the pound. This time in London. The rapper and five other men in his posse were arrested late Wednesday after a disturbance that allegedly injured seven police officers. The entourage was on its way to Johannesburg, South Africa for a concert and tried to enter a British Airways first class lounge. But some of them were denied entry because, well, they were flying coach. A spokesman for British Airways said Snoop Dogg‘s group, “Became very rude and abusive to our staff and we took the decision to offload the party and refuse them travel.” At that point some men in the group became abusive and pushed police officers according to a police spokesman. Snoop Dogg has now been released on bail. His lawyer said he was not charged but will return at a later date.
And another Tom Cruise, shocker. He prefers to call Katie Holmes Kate. So she is going to make it official. Ms. Holmes will reportedly change her first name to Kate to reflect her newfound maturity according to “The Sun.” Mr. Cruise explained it himself, “Katie is a young girl‘s name. Her name is Kate now. She‘s a child-bearing woman.” Look for a run to the social security administration by child bearing women whose names end in “E” wanting to change their names. As for Cruise‘s use of his girlfriend‘s new name, we have a sample from earlier this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM CRUISE, ACTOR: Yeah, I don‘t want to leave her, you know Kate. I wasn‘t going to come and then Kate said, you know, go, go.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UNGER: Tom go, please, go.
On to that other (INAUDIBLE) celebrity mom, Angelina Jolie, talking exclusively to NBC about her pregnancy, her kids and her latest cause, that‘s next. This is COUNTDOWN.
UNGER: Well she has retreated into the African nation of Namibia for privacy as she awaits the birth of her third child. The Hollywood sex symbol Angelina Jolie is not just hiding from the swarms of paparazzi, she‘s submerging herself into another important topic dear to her heart. It‘s not the script to “Laura Croft Tombraider 3”. It‘s helping kids get an education. It‘s not a movie, it‘s a humanitarian act. Our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, girl interrupted by our own Ann Curry. The nearly eight months pregnant pillow lipped star sat down with Ms. Curry in this exclusive interview to talk about her new mission for children and the upcoming delivery of her baby with Brad Pitt.
ANN CURRY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: In what seems to be the middle of nowhere on the edge of Namibia in Southern Africa, a very pregnant Angelina Jolie emerged from her private family vacation to speak on behalf of children in poor countries who don‘t get to go to school.
What is the worst in your mind of that?
ANGELINA JOLIE, ACTRESS: God, I mean there is just so many things. It‘s really that thought of those, of the potential of a human being. The lack of education causes death. More children die under the age of five when the parents are not educated. More people get AIDS when they haven‘t had an education. Statistics prove that if every child was in school, every year 700,000 less people would get AIDS.
CURRY: It seems also for you kind of a personal thing. You have two children you‘ve adopted, both of whom might have been in this same circumstance if not being able to get educated. And when you look at them and you realize that—
JOLIE: I look at them and I just think, you know, I look at especially my daughter and how many million kids are out of school in her country and especially girls. And I know how families with AIDS when parents die of AIDS, how there is no possible way the children can make a school fee. There is no possible way she would have gone to school. And she is so smart and so strong and her potential as a woman one day is great.
You multiply her by thousands and that is the thing I can so clearly see when I look at her. The amount of street children in his country, in all probability what would have happened to Maddox, he would have probably been one of the kids doing the garbage picking in the streets and he would have been on his own.
CURRY: It must mean so much to you as a human being to be able to give them an opportunity that they would never have gotten.
JOLIE: You know I‘m happy for them that they‘re going to have all this education and I hope with it they do some good things and they‘re good people. Yeah, when I visit Cambodia and I see all those other moms, it‘s the worst thing in the world not to be able to give your kids everything you know they deserve.
CURRY: Like when you announced it, how many kids showed up for school?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Last year we had a total of 23 or 24.
CURRY: Why should the American people push this when there are so many issues at home, including educational problems, why should they call their congressman on this one?
JOLIE: Because if we just fix home and the neighborhoods around us fall apart, what kind of a place are we going to live in? It doesn‘t make any sense to just fix your own house and your neighbors are falling into chaos.
CURRY: There is another very famous person who talks a lot about education and you sound a lot like her. Laura Bush.
CURRY: She talks a lot about this issue, specifically educating girls.
JOLIE: Well she should nudge her husband.
CURRY: Well I think she does. And I think that it also could be said that the U.S. does spend a considerable amount of money helping poor people get educated. So what‘s your message?
JOLIE: They do? But no child left behind means no child left behind. That isn‘t with what we feel we can give right now, but with whatever it takes. Britain gives three times more than us right now. They‘re not richer than us. So I don‘t know what the great excuse is.
CURRY: Children are a priority for Angelina Jolie, especially now as she awaits the birth of her third child, her baby with Brad Pitt.
How do you feel about the birthing part are you good are you ready?
JOLIE: Yeah. I‘m quite, you know, we‘re just hoping it doesn‘t happen when we are—we don‘t know where it‘s going to happen or where we are going to be. We‘ll see.
CURRY: Yeah, well you have a doctor nearby? I don‘t want to be too
prying, but you know -
JOLIE: We have been smart about that. We‘re as prepared as, things will be as they will be. So, I‘m ready for anything.
CURRY: Do you know if it‘s a boy or a girl?
CURRY: Would you like to keep that a secret or you want to share that with the American public?
JOLIE: No I‘d like to keep it to myself.
CURRY: Giggling I understand is something you‘re doing a lot more lately. I hear that from a very good source. Your right hand woman, Holly. She said you are giggling a lot lately. Is it pregnancy?
JOLIE: I am. That‘s what I‘ve gotten from pregnancy. It‘s my, I actually have gotten—see? Brad said that to me too. I get hysterical now. Like it will go on for hours. It‘s horrible.
CURRY: And look at you, you‘re a mess. You‘re laughing, you‘re hormonal. Keep it up. Be pregnant more often because this is working.
UNGER: You‘re right, it‘s really hard on Brad Pitt suffering through all that giggling, I‘m sure. You can see the rest of Ann Curry‘s exclusive interview with Angelina Jolie on “Dateline”. That‘s Sunday night at 7:00, 6 o‘clock central time on NBC. Well that‘ll do it for this edition of COUNTDOWN. I‘m Brian Unger in for Keith Olbermann, he‘ll be back here Friday night, I promise you. Thanks for watching.
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