Guests: T.J. Quinn; Harvey Levin; Lawrence Wilkerson
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
The Senate will investigate Haditha. Senator Collins of Maine insists the secretary of defense be held accountable.
And the political diversions fail. The amendment to ban gay marriage dies in the Senate, doesn‘t even get 50 votes, let alone the 60 needed to keep the process going. Supporters vow to try again next month, when it will fail again.
As Iraq and the administration come apart at the seams, we will be joined by the former chief of staff to former secretary of state Colin Powell, Larry Wilkerson, who basically said all this was going to happen.
What will happen now in baseball as a new drug scandal erupts, one that could make Barry Bonds and steroids look like an asterisk? The feds raiding the home of pitcher Jason Grimsley (ph) of the Arizona Diamondbacks in the belief he has distributed human growth hormone. The added twist, Grimsley has hundreds of thousands of dollars invested in a medical firm.
The Wicked Witch of the West is back, saying the widows of 9/11 enjoyed their husbands‘ deaths.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANN COULTER: These women got paid. They ought to take their money and shut up about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Just as Ann Coulter did after she made all her money off 9/11.
And Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie made all their money for charity off exclusive photos off their newborn, exclusive photos that are now on the Internet. Oops.
All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.
An easy-to-understand definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results, a ban on gay marriage put to a vote in the Senate today where it failed miserably, as its supporters knew it would, as they know it will when they try to bring it up again next month.
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, how it failed and how it failed to divert attention away to serve as political flak from the fiasco that is Iraq.
In a moment, our conversation with Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, former administration insider turned critic of the war in Iraq.
But we begin with what the White House would have you believe is really this nation‘s biggest problem, to be solved by an amendment to ban gay marriage, not even reaching the 60-vote threshold it needed to reach a final vote, where it would then have needed two-thirds (INAUDIBLE), 67 votes. Today it did not get a simple majority.
The final vote was 49-48, a total of seven Republicans voting to kill the amendment, President Bush saying he was disappointed by the outcome, adding that it sometimes takes several tries to amend the Constitution, you know, like Prohibition, every defeat being yet another opportunity to pander to the base, the parents of gay murder victim Matthew Shepard (ph) urging Americans to realize what values are really being debated when it comes to same-sex marriage, quoting, “Anyone that believes that the hatred behind this amendment is any different than the hatred that was the cause of our son‘s murder is fooling themselves. Instead of trying to enshrine discrimination into the U.S. Constitution for a threat that does not exist, let‘s spend the time more wisely by building and supporting rights for all citizens.”
But the Capitol has not been debating this week whether or not, by default or by design, what happened at Haditha, and what should be done about it now, but in the Senate, a bipartisan handful demanding that the Bush administration act swiftly to determine who‘s to blame for the alleged slaughter of two dozen innocent Iraqi civilians and for the evident coverup that followed, Senate hearings on the incident still in planning stages, some in the Senate, like the Maine Republican, Ms. Collins, urging—are eager to learn the extent of Secretary Rumsfeld‘s involvement, at the Pentagon, the head of the Marine Corps, General Michael Hagee, making the claim that the buck stops with him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. MICHAEL HAGEE, U.S. MARINES: As commandant, I am gravely concerned about the serious allegations concerning actions of some Marines at Haditha and Handania (ph). I can assure you that the Marine Corps takes them seriously. As commandant, I‘m the one accountable for organization, training, and equipping of Marines. I am responsible, and I take these responsibilities quite seriously.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Three long years at war with no apparent end in sight taking its toll on the home front now. An (INAUDIBLE) American Army officer at Washington state‘s Fort Lewis is now refusing to deploy, First Lieutenant Aaron Watada (ph) saying it is his duty as a commissioned officer to speak out against what he sees as grave injustices in Iraq and a war that he feels is not only morally wrong but a breach of American law. Lieutenant Watada has not applied for conscientious objector status, explaining that he is not opposed to all war, just this one.
A key administration official in the planning stages of the war in Iraq was retired U.S. Army colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, then serving as chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell. He has since become a serious critic of that decision to go to war. These days he can be found teaching at both George Washington University and the College of William and Mary.
Thank you for your time, sir.
COL. LAWRENCE WILKERSON (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Glad to be here, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Is Haditha some sort of inevitable, if unplanned, event, as the result of an administration that declared the Geneva Conventions irrelevant? And with that, is the seeming lack of any lasting outrage here at home predictable if a Congress has given the White House carte blanche?
WILKERSON: I think it is a part of the slippery slope that I‘ve described a number of times.
I think there are three dimensions to it. First of all, as many have pointed out, you have to remember that 99 percent of the troops are performing well.
WILKERSON: Second, this sort of (INAUDIBLE) -- this sort of thing happens and has happened in every conflict we‘ve ever engaged in. And it tends to happen when things look interminable, and when the going gets really rough and tough, and it looks like there‘s no light at the end of the tunnel.
But the most disturbing thing about this to me is that we have had, at the highest levels of leadership in this country, the vice president, the secretary of defense, endorsement of an environment that departs from Geneva, departs from the International Convention Against Torture, and other norms. And that is—that starts the slippery slope.
And so these sorts of things, I think, can be expected more frequently than perhaps they would be otherwise.
OLBERMANN: Since you‘ve started speaking out against the administration‘s conduct of this war, have your views about the needs and the situation in Iraq changed at all? You had said in October that our forces must remain there. Do you still feel that way?
WILKERSON: Well, this is a very strategic situation, unlike the one I was involved in in Vietnam many years ago. And by that, I mean Vietnam was an interest to America only because we made it an interest. The Middle East is an interest because it is the Middle East. So much of the oil reserves are there, so much unrest and instability is there, so much potential for terrorism is there, terrorism not just directed at Israel but directed at us and other Western countries.
And so I think departing from there, leaving chaos, even though this administration has been largely responsible for creating that chaos, I think leaving there while it‘s still there and we haven‘t done anything about it would be probably just as bad as going in in the first place, and maybe even worse.
Into that power vacuum would pour the Turks, the Persians—that is, Iran—Saudi Arabia would back with megadollars whomever it thought was going to win. We would be leaving a real potential catastrophe if we left with no other objective than just to leave.
OLBERMANN: You, of course, were involved intimately in the precipitation of the presentation that Secretary of State, former general, Powell made before the U.N. as secretary of state, arguing the case about the purported weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Did you—can you be clear in your mind about what your state of mind was at that point? Did you have misgivings about the evidence then? And if you did, why did you proceed as you did?
WILKERSON: Well, it was a complex situation. And you always, I think, if you‘re a rational person, you have misgivings at times about complexity. And there was also a lot of debate about whether this or that point was correct. And, of course, we‘d already had the Niger incident, which was obviously not correct. And that had got all of us a little bit skeptical of what the intelligence community was offering it, whether it was the NSA, the CIA, the DIA, or whomever.
And so, yes, there was some skepticism as we went into it. But I will tell you that the DCI, George Tenet, the director of Central Intelligence, and his deputy, John McLaughlin, were very close to Secretary Powell and myself throughout days and nights of hard work to get him ready for that presentation.
And to this day, I believe both were sincere in their efforts to convince the secretary that the intelligence they were giving him was correct.
I just cannot bring myself to believe that they were twisting or cherry-picking that intelligence.
Now, were they suffering from psychological groupthink, from not having enough competition in the intelligence community, from being politicized by others, like, for example, the undersecretary of Defense, Douglas Feith, who was running his own intelligence operation in the Pentagon? That‘s probably true. Were all these factors involved? Yes.
But I don‘t believe that George Tenet and John McLaughlin were willfully misleading the secretary.
OLBERMANN: Is it clearer, is it more of a straight line regarding Niger in the aftermath? Do you feel there was a decided, concerted effort to discredit Joseph Wilson via his wife, Valerie Plame?
WILKERSON: I do, I certainly do. I‘m absolutely confused over the so-called Plame affairs. I don‘t know where Mr. Fitzgerald‘s taking that. But I do think that there was a palpable movement on the part of the administration to discredit Joe Wilson.
OLBERMANN: We all ask what kind of shape Iraq‘s going to be in when the war ends there. We‘ve discussed it here. You‘re a 31-year veteran of the U.S. military. What kind of shape do you think the military‘s going to be in once we‘re finally out of Iraq?
WILKERSON: I think we‘re in desperate straits in terms of our ground forces already, the Marine Corps and the Army. I think the bill the next president is going to be presented for reconstitution of everything from Abrams tanks to Apache helicopters is going to be billions and billions of dollars.
I think Haditha and things like Haditha are exemplary of the fatigue of our troops. I think we‘re probably maybe 18 to 24 months left, and then we‘re going to have really broken them. And it‘s going to take a decade or two to recover from that.
And I just think the secretary of defense ought to be held accountable for that. I think the old Navy rule, if the ship runs aground, the captain needs to quit, ought to be applied here. I think the secretary of defense has become a lightning rod for criticism of this administration. And I think he‘s culpable in so many areas that the leadership at the Pentagon desperately needs to be changed, because until it is changed, we can‘t start putting into place corrections for what I‘m talking about.
OLBERMANN: Eighteen to 24 months before the military is broken. What happens if we run into a situation where we need the military somewhere else? Iran is an obvious example. But who knows what might happen around the world?
WILKERSON: Well, there are two options, essentially, We use the Air Force and the Navy, who haven‘t been that heavily committed, in terms of people and resources, to this conflict. Or we go to conscription, reinstitute the draft, and we mobilize the nation. Those are the only two choices that I can see, and the first one doesn‘t really make much sense.
OLBERMANN: Retired U.S. Army colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, 31-year veteran of the military, former chief of staff at the State Department under Colin Powell. A great pleasure, sir. Thank you for your time.
WILKERSON: Thank you for having me.
OLBERMANN: The CBS News correspondent critically injured last week in Iraq, Kimberly Dozier, is back on American soil now, flying Wednesday from Germany alongside about 40 other patients to Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington. She has been admitted to Bethesda Naval Hospital to continue her recovery there. You will recall that Ms. Dozier was critically wounded by a car bomb on Memorial Day of this year. It killed the two members of her television crew, as well as an American soldier and an Iraqi translator.
Also here, the 2006 elections. Will there be a tidal wave of discontent about the Republican Party? David Shuster looks at the early indicators after Tuesday‘s primary results in the special election in California.
And Ann Coulter and the widows of September 11. You have heard her charge that they enjoyed their husbands‘ death. Wait until you (INAUDIBLE) to hear what she has just said about them, and what I will say about her. It is “her,” right?
You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: Politicians would never turn up their noses at a sneak preview, a chance to take the temperature of the electorate without the electorate knowing it. And a special election to replace a now-imprisoned republican congressman may have offered a quick glimpse of the political tea leaves. Problem is, both parties could take some solace from the result.
Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, another Republican won the vacated seat of Randy “Duke” Cunningham, but it was a relatively close race in what had been a solidly Republican district, the Republican, Brian Bilberry, garnering 49 percent of the vote in California‘s 50th Congressional District, defeating Democrat Francine Busby by just 4 points.
Across the rest of the nation, party primaries in Montana, a Republican lawmaker with ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff won his party‘s contest with ease, Senator Conrad Burns taking 73 percent of the vote against fellow Republicans in his bid for a fourth term. He responded by saying, “Excellent.”
For some guidance on what can and cannot be divined from Tuesday‘s voting, we‘ll turn to our correspondent David Shuster, joining us now from Washington.
DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, Keith, political analysts of both parties say that a couple of things you could learn from Tuesday, and that first of all, the Democrats are making some progress in criticizing what they call the Republican culture of corruption.
But political analysts point out that in order for the Democrats to take maximum advantage of it, they need to run candidates who are stronger than Catherine Busby was in San Diego. A number of analysts point out that in going into the final week, when she made her infamous gaffe on illegal immigration that a lot of people believe tipped the election, going into that final week, a number of internal polls had Busby actually beating the Republican there. And a lot of people suggested the gaffe could have been predicted, given the weakness of the candidate, and it was just inevitable, they suggest, until she made a mistake.
So that‘s the first lesson.
The other lesson, of course, is, when you look at Montana and the primaries there involving Conrad Burns, who‘s been touched by the Abramoff investigations, the Democrat who won his primary, John Tester, there‘s been a poll in Montana that points that if John Tester against Conrad Burns in the general election, Tester actually comes out ahead. So while the Abramoff investigation hasn‘t hurt Conrad Burns yet, a lot of people in Montana think that it could come back to haunt him as far as the general election is concerned in November.
OLBERMANN: We also have more evidence, David, as if we needed it,
that Tom DeLay was up to his eyeballs in benefits from lobbyists, making
reference back to Mr. Abramoff and his connection to Senator Burns. What
is it this time? I (INAUDIBLE), I can‘t keep track of them all.
Retirement account for the wife?
SHUSTER: Right, congressional rules prohibit members of Congress from receiving more than $50 in gifts from a lobbyist. But there‘s nothing that stops a member of Congress‘s spouse from receiving unlimited funds from a lobbyist, as long as they work for it, in other words, as long as it‘s part of salary or wages, and it‘s considered reasonable.
Christine DeLay, Tom DeLay‘s wife, was paid by a lobbyist, Ed Buckham, and her job was to track the charities of other members of Congress, what they were interested in. It appears that Buckham was rather charitable with Tom DeLay‘s wife as far as a retirement fund is (INAUDIBLE) is concerned, giving her lots of money towards her retirement fund. And this was part and parcel of an overall investigation into the finances of the DeLays, and their connections to this lobbyist who is under investigation.
And the big picture is that investigators are still building this pyramid as far as their investigation into corruption and influence peddling. It appears that they‘re trying to squeeze this lobbyist, Ed Buckham, to get him to squeal, and then, of course, all signs point to them eventually going after Tom DeLay for all these finances.
And again, this is just part of the puzzle.
OLBERMANN: And he‘s only got two more days in office, right, so it‘s build your pyramids while ye may, as they say.
SHUSTER: Well, that‘s right. And investigators don‘t care whether Tom DeLay is in office or not. Their investigation continues. And whether they indict Tom DeLay eventually, whether he‘s in office doesn‘t matter. It may matter to Tom DeLay, which a lot of people suggest is one of the reasons why he decided now was the time to go ahead and get out of Congress before this investigation really ratchets up.
OLBERMANN: Always good to smile in your mug shot, in a suit rather than in prison stripes.
MSNBC‘s David Shuster, great thanks.
SHUSTER: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Also here, more of your tax dollars in action. No, this is not another congressman caught in scandal. It‘s one town‘s answer to stopping bad drivers.
And how are you, sir? You heard me.
And they thwarted the paparazzi by selling the first picture of Shilo Nouvelle (ph) Jolie-Pitt to selected members of the media. Then the media itself got thwarted. The big leak.
Ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: We‘ll skip the crazy anniversary mention that usually precedes the cartoon section of the news hour to simply expresses the thanks and best wishes from the staff of COUNTDOWN to Rick Kaplan, who has announced he‘s leaving MSNBC after two and a half years as president. He was a staunch advocate of this show, and especially liked this segment.
So, let‘s play Oddball.
We begin in Japan with his successor. No, it‘s the COUNTDOWN Cool Ass Robot of the Week. Kiomori (ph), the Samurai robot, look at him Samurai! Yes, don‘t get too excited, he doesn‘t fight anybody yet. This is just sort of an introduction to the ways of the Samurai robot. Note the swagger in his walk. He‘s got a 39-jointed frame allowing him to extend his knees more like a human does. And once they get him a sword, you look out. Right now, he just scares children.
All this, his designers say, will give him an advantage over other robots in his job, helping the elderly. Oh, look, we‘re not saying helping the elderly isn‘t a noble cause for a Samurai robot. But do me a favor, call me when he starts fighting the Ninja robots, all right?
To West Palm Beach, Florida, where police have a new weapon in the war against red-light runners. Meet Officer Delicious. His name is actually Terry Gordon of the West Palm PD, dressed in drag. His mission, to stand at this corner all day long in six-inch pumps and a wig and fake nails and makeup, and a two-way radio with which to alert the motorcycle cops around the corner whenever somebody runs the light. So why does he have to dress up in women‘s clothing to do this? Well, he doesn‘t have to. You got a problem with that?
And finally, so this chimp walks into the EZ-Mart (ph) in Garland (ph), Texas, fires a warning shot in the air, and says, Give me all the money or I‘ll fling poo all over this place. No one was hurt. Police are on the hunt for this masked robber. They believe the gun was actually loaded with blanks, because they never found the bullet after he fired at the store. But most disturbing, have my producers turning me over the edge, or is that chimp talking on a bananaphone? What the -- Look, I think he‘s on a bananaphone. Look!
All right, that‘s it, I‘m out of here.
Move over, Barry Bonds. Could his steroid scandal be only the tip of the iceberg for baseball? The IRS raids the home of Diamondbacks pitcher Jason Grimsley looking for evidence that he distributed human growth hormone to other big leaguers. Lot of illegals in that.
And I wash—I wish somebody in a position of authority would raid these clowns. There‘s a wedding rumor, or there‘s a mission they‘re from outer space, or, I don‘t know, something happened.
It‘s all ahead.
But first, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.
Number three, Russett, the Jack Russell terrier. If Russett looks a little popeyed, forgive him. While chasing rabbits near a cliff on the Isle of Wight off England, he got too close to the edge. Didn‘t find any rabbits, but he found a 450-foot plunge, 450-foot drop. All he got was a cut lip, a grazed paw, but he now growls every time somebody mentions the name Elmer Fudd. I don‘t know how that happened.
Number two, Chuck Yeager. The famed test pilot who broke the sound barrier is suing his children, claiming they diverted hundreds of thousands of dollars from his pension fund. You know, they did grow up around a guy whose motto was, Push the envelope.
Number one, the unnamed 54-year-old man in Peterboro (ph), Ontario, Canada. He needed a light for his crack pipe. So where do you suppose he went to ask for one? Naturally, the local police station. On top of every other charge that resulted, hey, pal, this is a no-smoking area, eh?
OLBERMANN: It is the perfect storm of baseball scandals and has the potential to make the Barry Bonds steroid scandal look like an isolated incident and the disastrous congressional hearing of last year, the St. Patrick‘s Day Massacre look like a couple of guys who missed the cup while giving their urine samples.
Our No. 3 story on the COUNTDOWN, federal agents raiding the home of a 15 year veteran pitcher seeking evidence that might identify him as a distributor of the illegal performing enhancing drug, Human Growth Hormone. Worse yet, the pitcher has played with seven different clubs, been a teammate of seemingly everybody in the big leagues and perhaps worst of all, the pitcher has family and financial ties to the medical industry.
He is Jason Grimsley who, until the story broke, was a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks. In April, agents led by an IRS special investigator had found a shipment of HGH, Human Growth Hormone, in Grimsley‘s home. They said at the time that he had cooperated with them, confessed to using it and steroids and amphetamines, he named other players who he suspected of being users and suppliers. Looks like about eight of them from the affidavit. He even phoned his supplier of HGH and let the feds listen in.
Jason Grimsley has appeared with seven different teams over his 15 seasons. The variety of his teams make him a veritable Forest Gump of the big leagues. In his early days with Philly‘s he was a teammate of stars like Darren Dalton, Len Dykstra, John Kruk, he spent three years with the Cleveland Indians in the likes of Albert Bell, Manny Ramirez, and Jim Thome. There was a season with the Angels where he overlapped with such stars as Jim Edmonds, Darrin Erstad, Tim Salmon, Troy Percival, and Garret Anderson.
Two years with the world champion New York Yankees of 1999 and 2000.
Teammates like Roger Clemens, Mariano Rivera, Paul O‘Neil, Bernie Williams. Three and a half seasons in Kansas City along Carlos Beltran and Mike Sweeney. A season and a half in Baltimore as a teammate of Miguel Tejada, Raphael Palmiero and Sammy Sosa, all before he joined the Diamondbacks this year. And then Tuesday night had asked for his release, telling his teammates that he had, quote, “Too much respect for them to allows this to bring us down.” That‘s quoting Arizona pitcher, Terry Mulholland.
And then there‘s the final shoe here, I have known Jason Grimsley for years and consider him a baseball friend. In my last conversation with him at a stadium, a colleague who joined us on the bench had asked if Grimsley had made plans for the day his career ended since so many players made none and lived to regret it. “Basically, baseball‘s has been a hobby for several years,” he told us. “A couple of years ago, my brother-in-law convinced me to invest with him in his business. I gave him half of my net worth. My wife thought I was nuts. The other day he turned down an offer for the company. I believe the figure he quoted was in the hundreds of millions of dollars. I‘m thinking it was around $350 million.” Innocently, I asked Jason Grimsley what kind of company it was, it was a medical firm he said involving pharmaceuticals and recordkeeping.
T.J. Quinn of the “New York Daily News” was one of two reporters who broke this story in Wednesday‘s papers, joins us now here.
Thanks for your time, sir.
T.J. QUINN, “NEW YORK DAILY NEWS”: Oh, thanks Keith.
OLBERMANN: The initial response to this in a lot of places was, well who is Jason Grimsley, how could he matter? But, don‘t you think this is going to be huge? Could he not wind up to being the Typhoid Mary, here on Human Growth Hormones on steroids and on amphetamines, as well?
QUINN: Oh, I think you nailed it with the Typhoid Mary reference there. I mean, usually when you‘ve got some kind of performance-enhancing problem in baseball or any other sport, it happens in pockets. This Balco case really revolved around Bay area athletes. This one, on the other hand, you‘ve got a guy, like you said, all of those different teams. I‘m sure there are agents all over baseball now saying why are my guys the ones on the screen. But, I‘m sure any of those teammates are wondering is that my name under those little black marks covering up that search warrant affidavit.
OLBERMANN: When the steroid scandal broke that involved the Balco Labs, they figured OK, maybe dozens, maybe hundreds of players would be implicated in this, and their names will all come out, and that didn‘t really happen. I think largely because the prosecutors went after the manufacturers and distributors and not really the players, the players were the names that sold the whole idea. Could it be different here? Will they really be looking into prosecuting Jason Grimsley as a distributor, I mean, and could those family ties, the investment ties that he has to this medical firm also come into play?
QUINN: Well, I don‘t know that the connection to the supplement firm would have anything to do with it, unless that was a source for anything he was doing. I don‘t know anything about it, so I couldn‘t speak intelligently to it. But, it looks like they are going after him. I don‘t know if they really want to identify him as a distributor and prosecute him for that, or if for some reason he stopped cooperating and this is a really good way to get his attention back. But we find from the Balco case that no matter how much you do to go after the distributors, what gets a reaction, what gets congressional intervention and changes in the law of the land, is the names of the players. What drives it is the celebrity of these guys.
Jason Grimsley, by himself, I don‘t think is enough to do that, but if you connect him to a number of other players, and the fact that it‘s Human Growth Hormone is a big part of this, and that is not something baseball has dealt with a lot, I think you are going to see prosecutors going after players.
OLBERMANN: Speaking of not dealing with this, HGH, undetectable with an ordinary urine test, even some controversy over the blood tests. Are we nonetheless going to see some kind of push in baseball for blood tests for HGH of major league ball players?
QUINN: It won‘t be within baseball. The last I talked to them on the subject, and they were pretty mum today, both Bud Selig‘s office and the union didn‘t want anything to do with blood testing. Even when I talked to top NLB officials as recently as a year ago about this, they said even they felt like blood testing was too invase. Plus they can hide behind the fact, not maybe hiding, you know, it‘s legitimate that there is, you know, not agreement on how the efficacy of these tests. They are, right now, funding 150,000 a year for three years to the UCLA anti-doping lab to research a workable urine test. That exactly how much UCLA had asked them for. What they could do on the other hand is don‘t destroy the samples that they‘ve taken from players. Hang on to those with the threat hanging over the players heads of, maybe we don‘t have a test now, but we‘re going to hang onto this stuff, and when there is a test, we‘ll go back and get and if you‘re guilty, we‘ll find you.
OLBERMANN: Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life. A good point. Last thing, does this put to rest the idea that the media is only interested in the salacious stuff, drug use by Barry Bonds, or that only the sluggers and the hitters use this kind of stuff or that it‘s just the superstar players who are involved?
QUINN: I think that was starting to come down a little bit anyway. At least, you know, as far as what you said about the hitters, I think, you know, there‘s unfortunately, a pretty slow learning curve with a lot of reporters to this issues, and it‘s a complicated thing, I‘m not insulting anybody, but, you know, what people are realizing is that pitchers have even more reason to use steroids and HGH because of their abilities to help you recover from injury and workouts. But I think they‘re starting to realize now that there is a larger problem, it‘s not one guy with bust, one guy with a positive test, it‘s something endemic to the game itself. And you know, Jason Grimsley, right now, is the guy who represents that.
OLBERMANN: Yeah, Michael Kay who does another radio show on ESPN radio, as do I, we were talking about this this afternoon. He wondered if there might be some violation of these rules by 80 percent of big leaguers in the last 20 years. We‘ll see. I know this is going to continue.
T.J. Quinn of the sports department of the “New York Daily News.” Good reporting and great thanks for your time.
QUINN: Thanks Keith.
OLBERMANN: Also here, Ann Coulter, the shrill, shill of the right as evidently run her mouth one too many times. Outrage pours in across the country. There have been complaints from everybody except the predators they caught on “Dateline.”
And from who would dare or who would care, more “American Idol” news. Katherine McPhee signs a (SNORING). But here are COUNTDOWN‘s “Top 3 Sound Bites” of this day.
EUGENE FIELDS, UPSIDE-DOWN SKATEBOARDER: Now, I‘ve gotten to the point where I‘m hitting top speeds of 45 to 55 miles an hour depending on the hill.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Never seen that before. That was quite a trick that man pulled. Young feller, because he was young. He had to be. Otherwise he‘d be nuts.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you ready for a rematch?
STONE PHILLIPS, “DATELINE”: A word of warning. Some of the images you‘re about to see are awesome.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Suddenly, and without warning, it became a real-life game of Hungry, Hungry Hippos.
PHILLIPS: In the immortal wounds of Butterfly McQueen, “I don‘t know nothing about birthin‘ no babies.”
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dottie Stella had her first purse with her at her favorite hotdog stand when someone grabbed it.
DOTTIE STELLA, PURSE WAS STOLEN: I said, “Gimme my purse!”
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Police say he had Mrs. Stella‘s purse and medicines, which they returned to her and also had a wig, a dress and a bra, which they returned to him. Police told Mrs. Stella the robber was a man.
STELLA: He‘s not a man, he‘s a creep.
OLBERMANN: Ann Coulter takes her cold condemnation of 9/11 widows to an unexpected high and low. And the big business of snagging little Shiloh Pitt‘s first baby picture. Millions bid, photos leak, here comes the judge. That‘s next this is COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Honestly, if you were Ann Coulter‘s attorneys at a sanity hearing, where could you possibly start? Our No. 2 story in the COUNTDOWN, eclipsing even Bill O‘Reilly and Malmedy, the Connecticut screech has continued her assault on 9/11 widows. After calling the witches who acted as if the terrorist attacks happened only to them. She‘s now told “Reuters News” they are, quote, “professional victims,” all as part of the promotion of a book in which she claims liberals are, quote, “godless.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATT LAUER, “TODAY SHOW”: This is the part is the part I really need to talk to you about. “These broads are millionaires, lionized on TV and in articles about them reveling in their status as celebrities and stalked by griefparrazies. I‘ve never seen people enjoying their husband‘s death so much.”
ANN COULTER, CONSERVATIVE SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Yes.
LAUER: Because they dared to speak out?
COULTER: To speak out using the fact they are widows. This is the left‘s doctrine of infallibility. If they have a point to make about the 9/11 Commission, about how to fight the war on terrorism, how about sending in somebody we‘re allowed to responds (SIC) to. No, no, no, we have to respond to someone who just had a family member die.
LAUER: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) people in the middle of the story?
COULTER: Because if then if we respond, oh, you‘re questioning their authenticity.
LAUER: So, grieve, but grieve quietly.
COULTER: No, the story is an attack on the nation.
LAUER: And by the way.
COULTER: That requires a foreign policy response.
LAUER: They also criticized the Clinton administration for their failures leading up to 9/11...
COULTER: That does not entail the expertise. That does not—Oh! Not the ones I‘m talking about. No, no, no, no. Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no.
LAUER: But is your message to them, just grieve.
COULTER: They were cutting commercials for Kerry, They were using their grief in order to make a political point while preventing anyone from responding.
LAUER: If you lose a husband, you no longer have the right to have a political point of view?
COULTER: No, but don‘t use the fact that you lost a husband as the basis for your being able to talk about it while preventing people from responding. Let Matt Lauer make the point, let Bill Clinton make the point. Don‘t put up someone I‘m not allowed to respond to without questioning the authenticity of their grief.
LAUER: Well, but apparently you are allowed to respond to them.
COULTER: Well, yeah, I did.
OLBERMANN: Let‘s return to this planet. To recap Coulter‘s argument, the wives of those who died in the worst attack in this nation‘s history enjoyed their husband‘s deaths and profited off them, they have publicized 9/11, their positions as widows immunize them from any criticism or debate over their opinions. All of this stated by a commentator much of whose income in the last four-and-a-half years has derived from her speachings and writings about the deaths of those same men on 9/11. All this stated by a commentator who staunchly, repeatedly, and enthusiastically defended an administration that began to politicize 9/11 within a month of the nightmare and has never paused for a moment since. All of this stated by a commentator who has called those who have criticize her and her party un-American and now godless, all of this stated by a commentator who is bitching that these 9/11 widows can‘t be criticized while she is writing a book and going on TV and venomously criticizing them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COULTER: If people are going to use a personal tragedy in their lives to inject themselves into a national debate, I‘m sorry, you can‘t say, oh, we‘re off limits. Oh, now we‘re going to invoke the fact that our husbands died and you can‘t criticize us. They were specifically using their husband‘s deaths and there were, gosh, hundreds.
TUCK CARLSON, “THE SITUATION”: That doesn‘t mean they are enjoying it.
COULTER: In fact thousands.
CARLSON: I mean, their husband are gone, and kids are there. I mean, geez, it‘s so depressing.
COULTER: And so are the thousands of widows who are not cutting campaign commercials for Clinton. These women got paid, they ought to take their money and shut up about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The way Ann Coulter always does when she‘s criticized. Ms. Coulter‘s monthly walk on the swaying tightrope of her own emotional stability did not end there. In her book she also wrote, “And by the way, how do we know their husbands weren‘t planning to divorce these harpies. Now that their shelf life is dwindling, they‘d better hurry up and appear in ‘Playboy.‘”—
Appearing in “Playboy” and getting divorced, neither of those being scenarios Ann Coulter is ever going to have to deal with in her life. Five of the most politically active of the 9/11 widows, including Kristen Breitweiser and Lorie Van Auken have responded in a written statement, “Contrary to Ms. Coulter‘s statement, there was no joy in watching men that we loved burn alive. There was no happiness in telling our children that their fathers were never coming home again. We adored these men and miss them everyday. It is in their honor and memory, that we will once again refocus the nation‘s attention to the real issues at hand: Our lack of security, leadership, and progress in the five years since 9/11.”
And lastly back to my illusion to the nightmare of having to defend Ann Coulter at a sanity hearing, that was inappropriate because that was insufficient. Imagine, in fact, defending her on Judgment Day, trying to find her soul.
You know what a fink she is when I‘d rather talk about Katherine McPhee. That‘ll be the starting point in our roundup of celebrity and entertainment news, “Keeping Tabs.” And two weeks after losing out to the “Soul Patrol,” Ms. McPhee can at least console herself with a spanking new record contract. She‘s going to make spanking records. Call Ann Coulter! She signed a deal with Clive Davis who previously brought us Alicia Keys and Whitney Huston and they are not wasting any time, her versions of “Over the Rainbow” and “My Density” will be out by the end of next month. I know, “My Destiny.”
Still no word, though, if she will be crooning one of those hits or any others at the Tom-Kat nuptials, but the wedding is now, apparently, on, at least until somebody else decides it‘s off again. “Life and Style Weekly” citing another one of those ubiquitous insider friends and says, “Katie Holmes will definitely marry Tom Cruise in the summer or fall.” Well, it‘s a pretty good guess they‘re not going to get it in during the spring, here. The insider saying Holmes pretty much has to marry the father of her child, quote, “If she walks now, Tom will fight her for custody of the baby and Katie can‘t outlast him in court. She knows she needs to marry him to get the money to fight him for custody if it comes to that,” end quote. The prenuptial agreement is now reportedly up to $33 million. Do I hear $34? 33.5? 33 -- sold American.
Also here, no good deed goes unpunished, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie sell exclusive rights to their first pictures of their baby for charity and someone snipes the pictures and puts them on the internet.
But first, time for COUNTDOWN‘s latest nominees for “Worst Person in the World “ besides Ann Coulter.
The bronze to the seniors at Independence High School in San Jose. A prank -- a senior prank is a wonderful thing at graduation. We filled up the discipline officer‘s tiny office with crummed up paper. They? They Super Glued shut the locks on every door in the school, all 180 classrooms. Finals were delayed, the senior picnic‘s been canceled.
The runner-up Lacqetta Monroe, a 23-year-old mother from Florida. She had the inevitable sixth birthday party for her son at Chuck E. Cheese, which is where she left him. She explained she thought he‘s gone home with her grandparents. Note here, the kid did not complain.
But our winner, Christy Swing, she didn‘t leave her kids inside a restaurant or bistro, they were outside. It was her dignity she left inside. Police arrested her after finding her two children in an Oklahoma city parking lot outside a bar, inside the bar they found mom, dancing on top of a table, naked.
Christy Swing, the aptly named Christy Swing, today‘s “Worst Person in the World.”
OLBERMANN: The point may have been to channel the frenzy into charity. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie submitting their newborn daughter Shiloh to a private photo shoot, the rights to the picture sold to the highest bidder, the money going, apparently, to relief programs for newborns in underdeveloped countries. In our No. 1 story in the COUNTDOWN, that photos of anything, let alone a famous baby, are somehow worth $4 million, you can probably count on the internet getting a hold of it days before magazines could possibly hit the news stand. Both “People” and “Hello” magazines are now suing two websites that published a photo of Mr. Pitt, Ms. Jolie and baby Shiloh-Pitt, who as we keep pointing out later on will have a lot of trouble with kids who notice that if you transpose the name it becomes Piloh—
The image was reported—part of a purported cover of “Hello” magazine which had obtained the British rights. “Hello” denies leaking the picture, “People” magazine, which reportedly shelled out $4 million for the North American rights, just as miffed. Meanwhile, Ms. Jolie and Mr. Pitt made their first appearance publicly since Shiloh‘s birth, denying they have wedding plans and saying they plan to leave that Namibia soon.
Joining me now, the managing editor of the entertainment news website, tmz.com, Harvey Levin.
Thanks for your time, Harvey.
HARVEY LEVIN, TMZ.COM: Hi Keith.,
OLBERMANN: The photo obviously we can‘t show because we don‘t have $4 million here (UNINTELLIGIBLE), but it was presented as a cover to an upcoming issues of “Hello” magazine. Who could have leaked it and why?
LEVIN: Well, you know, a lost people saying the buzz is that it—somehow it came from inside “Hello” magazine. Now, it could—I‘m not going to do it your way, by the way.
LEVIN: But, you know, it could have been that they wanted to kind of ruin “People‘s” competitive edge or somebody did. Or it just could have been somebody who wanted to see how cool it would be to take the picture of the year and scoop everybody, but it made its way on the internet and sent the people at “People” into a frenzy. It really did.
OLBERMANN: But, legally from your background as a lawyer, what could the magazines get from websites if they could prove this case that, wherever it came from—do they have a damage case against them or what?
LEVIN: Yes. I mean, if one of the websites, and some of them did, just put the picture up, then theoretically they could have a claim for the amount they lost and you could argue they lost most of the $4 million since it‘s out there. Now, one of the things you can do is if you show the entire website with the picture included, then it just becomes a news story, Keith, and that‘s called “fair use,” which means that you were allowed to use a picture even if it‘s owned by somebody else.
OLBERMANN: Now, we didn‘t apparently know that here, so we didn‘t do that, so we can‘t show you the photograph.
LEVIN: We did.
OLBERMANN: Well, can I borrow your staff? Four million dollars for a picture. Could you make enough money off that? Could “People” sell enough magazines based on a photo to have made that kind of number work with or without this sort of claim jumping by the internet?
LEVIN: Yeah, I mean, one of the ways they make money, you know, subscripts are not the big way they make money, it‘s off of the advertising stand, they make more per magazine and they make more per magazine, so the idea is everybody wants to see the picture, so people would have bought “People” off the stand. And it remains to be seen if that‘s going to happen now.
OLBERMANN: Is this, now, the standard thing? We‘ve had Mr. Pitt and Ms. Ms. Jolie trying to blunt the paparazzi frenzy, at least, by making the shots for charity and Michael Douglas and Katherine Zeta Jones did it without charity. Is this it now for celebrity couples with kids?
LEVIN: Well, I think they‘ve set a standard. I mean, I got to tell you, Keith, I think it‘s grotesque, not as grotesque as Ann Coulter, but grotesque for celebrities to, you know, who $20 million a move to try to hock their wedding pictures or baby pictures and try to pocket another million dollars. I think what Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt have done is they‘ve shamed other celebrities into saying, look, if you want the baby pictures out there, you know, give the money to a worthy cause and not yourself. And I think that‘s probably a good thing.
OLBERMANN: One quick mention and I‘ve got about 30 seconds. Your Web site scoop about Britney Spears male nanny, the “Manny” as he‘s been described, not exactly versed in childrearing according in your report?
LEVIN: No, actually, I talked to his mother today and she told me that a couple of years ago he actually went up to a friend of his who just had a baby and said, you know, how old to babies get before they can open their eyes? So, she actually may have a leg up on him. But I can tell you, they‘re not having an affair, as his mother puts it, “He has a hot brunette girlfriend.”
OLBERMANN: And she hired him just so there‘d be somebody who‘d be a worse childrearer than her? Is that.
LEVIN: No, he‘s apparently, a very good guy, he‘s part of her security team, Team Britney.
OLBERMANN: Team Britney. Harvey Levin managing editor of the entertainment news website, tmz.com to say nothing of Team Harvey. Great thanks as always, for joining us, old friend.
LEVIN: Bye Keith.
OLBERMANN: That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 1,133rd day since the declaration of “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq. I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night, and good luck.
Our MSNBC coverage continues now with “Scarborough Country.” Joe, good evening.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
Copy: Content and programming copyright 2006 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2006 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.