Guests: Dana Milbank, Richard Wolffe, Steve Madden, Michael Musto
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
All the newspapers that are fit to scapegoat. It‘s a shooting war now, over the revelation of the secret Bush bank-tapping plan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The disclosure of this program is disgraceful.
And the fact that a newspaper disclosed it makes it harder to win this war on terror.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Then the vice-president all but calls “The New York Times” traitors.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: “The New York Times” has now made it more difficult for us to prevent attacks in the future.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Uh-huh. Do they really believe that tripe, or that this another madcap attempt to play to the base?
The latest plan for troop withdrawals on a loose timetable, deployment reductions by September, 60 percent withdrawal by the end of next year, from another cut-and-run Democrat?
No, from General George Casey, the top American commander in Iraq. Kind of cuts the rug out from those anti-timetable Republicans in the House, doesn‘t it?
Buffett‘s buffet, how to give away $30,700,000 million via the Bill Gates charity.
“Lance Armstrong threatened me, he threatened my wife, my business, my life.” So a French newspaper quotes his predecessor as America‘s top cyclist. Another quotes an ex-teammate who says he heard Armstrong confess to using banned performance enhancers. Armstrong caught, or Armstrong foully abused by the French?
And Keith gets married, Keith Urban to Nicole Kidman with wardrobe malfunctions and Michael Musto.
All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL MUSTO: Dream on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Good evening.
The genesis of Watergate, his critics and his supporters agree, was the day Richard Nixon picked up “The New York Times” and read the first installment of the Pentagon Papers, which detailed all the secret internal correspondence about Vietnam that had flowed through the Department of Defense for decades.
President Nixon launched two responses, the plumbers‘ unit that led to the Watergate scandal, that destroyed him within 38 months, an attack on “The New York Times” in and out of court, which “The Times” won.
Moral, breaking the law eventually catches up with any administration.
And beware “The Times,” they have better lawyers than you do.
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, as Clarence Darrow said, history repeats itself. That‘s one of the problems with history. Another White House has attacked “The New York Times,” and one of the wingmen in Congress has suggested prosecution. This is about the publication by “The Times,” among other newspapers, of details of warrant- free, unauthorized administration access to some of the international banking records of Americans.
The story was published last Thursday. The president and vice-president apparently only got all honked off about it today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We‘re at war with a bunch of people who want to hurt the United States of America. And for people to leak that program and for a newspaper to publish it does great harm to the United States of America.
If you want to figure out what the terrorists are doing, you try to follow their money. And that‘s exactly what we‘re doing. And the fact that a newspaper disclosed it makes it harder to win this war on terror.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And he was the good cop. The bad one was the vice president, at a fundraiser for a local Republican in Granyla (ph), Nebraska. Mr. Cheney did everything but accuse “The Times” of treason.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHENEY: “The New York Times” has now twice, two separate occasions, disclosed programs. Both times they had been asked not to publish those stories by senior administration officials. They went ahead anyway.
The leaks to “The New York Times” and the publishing of those leaks is very damaging. The ability to intercept al Qaeda communications and to track their sources of financing are essential if we‘re going to successfully prosecute the global war on terror.
Our capabilities in these areas help explain why we have been so successful in preventing further attacks like 9/11. “The New York Times” has now made it more difficult for us to prevent attacks in the future.
What is doubly disturbing for me is that not only have they gone forward with these stories, but they‘ve been rewarded for it. For example, in the case of the terrorist surveillance program, by being awarded the Pulitzer Prize for outstanding journalism. I think that is a disgrace.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: No poll results yet in on what percentage of the citizenry would use the same term to describe the vice president or the administration‘s scapegoating of a newspaper. Still, neither the president nor the vice president went quite as far at Congressman Peter King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, who went on “Fox News Sunday” and accused “The New York Times” of breaking the law.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “FOX NEWS SUNDAY,” FOX NEWS CHANNEL)
REP. PETER KING ®, NEW YORK: I‘m calling on the attorney general to begin a criminal investigation and prosecution of “The New York Times,” its reporters, the editors that worked on this, and the publisher. I believe they‘re violated the Espionage Act, the (INAUDIBLE). This is absolutely disgraceful. The time has come for the American people to realize and “The New York Times” to realize we‘re at war. And they can‘t be just on their own deciding what to declassify, what to release.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: “The Times” responded to the criticism even before the president and vice president weighed in, the executive editor, Bill Keller, explaining in a lengthy letter why the paper decided to publish the banking story, reading in part, “The administration case for holding the story had two parts, roughly speaking, first that the program is good, that it is legal, that there are safeguards against abuse of privacy, and that it has been valuable in deterring and prosecuting terrorists. And second, that exposing this program would puts its usefulness at risk.
“We weighed most heavily the administration‘s concern that describing this program would endanger it. The central argument we heard from officials at senior levels was that international bankers would stop cooperating, would resist, if this program saw the light of day. We don‘t know what the banking consortium will do, but we found this argument puzzling.
“First, the bankers provide this information under the authority of a subpoena, which imposes a legal obligation. Second, if, as the administration says, the program is legal, highly effective, and well protected against invasion of privacy, the bankers should have little trouble defending it,” Keller also pointing out that the administration argued the same points about the NSA phone-tracking program, which is still going strong despite “The Times” report it back in December.
Is the administration‘s slightly delayed umbrage at “The Times” legitimate? And why did it take five days to blossom?
I‘m joined now by Dana Milbank, MSNBC political analyst, national political reporter for “The Washington Post,” which appears to be the less-evil newspaper for the moment.
DANA MILBANK, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:
Keith, I was almost late for the show. It was hard to get my leg irons in the elevator.
OLBERMANN: Why the drag time on this? Did Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney and Mr. King not know about these stories being published in many newspapers until now? Or did they all just realize they were so angry? Or is this manufactured anger to stir up the base?
MILBANK: No, anger to stir up the base is going to be driven by the flag-burning amendment, which the Senate will be debating all this week.
MILBANK: So there were actually various phases in this. The first was to try to convince “The Times” not to run this at all, then realizing “The Times” was running it, there was a scramble to leak it to “The Wall Street Journal,” some other newspapers, including, belatedly, my own.
And then the third wave comes now, with the anger here.
The complication for the administration is, they actually do have a stronger case here than they have had in other cases, such as the National Security Agency program, the secret prisons in Europe. The record is a bit muddled here, so it‘s hard, because they do make the same arguments whether they have a strong position or not.
OLBERMANN: You may have just answered this. But let me go into it in detail. We have a letter from Treasury Secretary John Snow to Bill Keller, accusing him and “The Times” of breathtaking arrogance, calling the publication of this irresponsible and harmful to the security of Americans.
Why is it just “The New York Times”? As we pointed out here, “The Wall Street Journal” published this, “L.A. Times” published this, “Washington Post” published this. Why is it “The New York Times”?
MILBANK: Well, they think that “The Times”—it‘s clear in their statements that “The Times” was the genesis of this story. And it—which seemed to indicate that the other publications were tipped off as a result of this, even if they were legitimately sniffing around on their own.
There are also obviously some points to score whenever it‘s “The New York Times,” and indeed, sometimes “The Washington Post.”
OLBERMANN: Is it built into the genes of politicians to assume they can shut off freedom of the press like a light switch? I mean, whatever you think of the argument that publishing the story hurt the nation‘s defense, is there not a more practical consideration here, from John Adams versus “The American Aurora” to Nixon versus “The Times” and “The Post”? Presidents always lose to newspapers. Newspapers are on a 200-year winning streak.
MILBANK: Well, except that this is a historically very weak time for newspapers and for the media business generally. And this administration has been extraordinarily successful. We‘re looking at this landscape of prosecutions as a threat to go after newspapers, starting with the Scooter Libby case, all the way through this broad spectrum of national security cases, common criminal cases, and a lot of press freedoms are being broken down now.
That‘s why this case is difficult. “The Times” went ahead with the story even despite the requests on national security grounds not to. For example, when “The Post” published its report on the secret prisons, it removed the names of the countries at the request of the administration. So there‘s always been some give and take in these issues here. And that‘s why this one is particularly difficult, since “The Times” was not necessarily suggesting that it was exposing this program because there was some issue of wrongdoing.
So at this time, when we‘re under great siege generally, this is going to create quite a complication for the press.
OLBERMANN: Dana, the vitriol about this should not be a surprise, I mean, Representative King sounded like he needed a sedative or a new copy of the Constitution or maybe both. But in one specific area, I thought it was kind of surprising. Where was the umbrage and the vitriol about the leakers? “The Times” did not steal these documents. They were given them by somebody in the government. They‘ve left the leaker out of the equation. If it‘s a security crisis, doesn‘t the administration need to go look in the mirror first?
MILBANK: They do. And indeed they are in all these other cases. The large area of the crackdown, a lot of this under the Espionage Act, which, ironically, the one King was citing, really hasn‘t been used at all in the 90 years it‘s been (INAUDIBLE) in existence. So don‘t worry, Keith, they‘re going after the leakers as well. They‘re going after the press. But the idea of going after both of them at the same time is having a chilling effect on the various investigations launched by the media.
OLBERMANN: And I know, lastly, we all sound like dilettantes when we talk about freedom of the press. But honestly, if we‘re going to start prosecuting newspapers for revealing government policy that is, at best, legally questionable, if we‘re willing to trade freedom for temporary security, as the old saying goes, in this area, sorry for the clich’ here, but haven‘t the terrorists won something in this?
MILBANK: Well, there‘s a question now, as the Senate begins four days of debate on, do we need to amend the Constitution to prevent flag-burning and flag desecration, a lot of people are asking the same question, that, you know, are—we seem to be aligning ourselves with countries such as Iran and such as Cuba that feel the necessity to pass these flag-burning amendments.
OLBERMANN: When the terrorists start burning the flags, then we can prosecute them, because we‘ll be able to see them out there burning the flags.
Dana Milbank, national political reporter of “The Washington Post,” great thanks, as always.
MILBANK: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: It is to be remembered that this administration previously insisted that its secrets were inviolable, and its sources unimpeachable, and the media listened, and we wound up in an unending war in Iraq.
One of those it defended was an informant in that story named Curveball, who told the Bush administration that Iraq had mobile biological weapons labs and whose information got into speeches to the country and to the U.N., despite what we now learn were emphatic and proactive warnings about his unreliability from the CIA, Tyler Drumheller, the former chief of the agency‘s European operation, telling “The Washington Post” that not only did he flag his superiors before the president‘s State of the Union address 2003 that Curveball‘s evidence was unreliable, but he personally crossed out the reference to mobile weapons labs in a draft of Secretary Powell‘s speech to the U.N.
Drumheller says he also warned both CIA director Tenet and deputy director McLaughlin by phone before the speech that the information was suspect, yet it made it into the speech regardless. Both Tenet and McLaughlin say they do not remember hearing such a warning.
German intelligence had warned the U.S. that Curveball was an alcoholic, a liar, and mentally unstable in 2002.
From the buildup to war to how to get out. When Democrats propose a timed withdrawal, it‘s cut and run. When Republicans announce one, it‘s military intelligence.
And comedian Rush Limbaugh stopped at Customs carrying a prescription drug, this prescription not in his own name. Now, it could be Rogaine for all we know.
Still, you are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: Cut and run for reelection.
Our fourth story in our COUNTDOWN, that screeching sound you may have heard was the Republican leadership on the Hill slamming every foot it could find onto every brake it could locate. A week ago, they were humiliating the Democrats for talking about a firm timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. Republicans called that a cut and run. For a loose timetable, Republicans called that a cut and job. They smiled with great satisfaction.
What do they do now, after it turns out the top U.S. commander in Iraq has proposed to the Bush administration his own loose timetable for initial withdrawals from Iraq by this September, and up to 60 percent by the end of next year? It‘s anybody‘s guess.
Our cut and jog is less unpatriotic than your cut and jog? Or blame “The New York Times,” maybe? President Bush confirming what that newspaper, that newspaper, reported on Sunday, that he has spoken with top military commanders in Iraq about troop withdrawals, specifically with General George Casey, outlining a proposal to begin bringing (INAUDIBLE) bringing (INAUDIBLE) the troops home this fall, coincidentally just in time for the midterm elections, reducing America‘s military presence in Iraq by about half, maybe 60 percent by the end of next year.
Currently there are roughly 127,000 American troops stationed in Iraq, the administration‘s claim that any redeployments would depend on conditions in Iraq, that is, conditions improving in Iraq.
At least 35 people killed there in bombings Monday, their time, Iraq‘s new prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, presenting his plan to stop the bloodshed, 24 vague points about reconciliation, including amnesty for some insurgents and others who have not been involved in terrorist activities, making them insurgents how, exactly?
Let‘s call in our own Richard Wolffe, also senior White House correspondent of “Newsweek” magazine.
As always, sir, thanks for your time.
RICHARD WOLFFE, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, “NEWSWEEK” MAGAZINE:
My pleasure, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Are the discussion with General Casey something new?
WOLFFE: Well, the specificity of it, the details that we‘ve heard, are new. And, of course, this is a classified briefing, so we shouldn‘t have known about it in the first place. But there‘s a whole lot of information here that is new. The general gist of it, the time frame, the desire to pull down troops, all of that was expected. But again, to have the president hearing these kinds of details, although the White House says this is just one of a range of options, but to hear those kind of details being given and presented to the White House at this kind of level is significant.
OLBERMANN: And if these things are being presented to the White House while the Republicans on the Hill were calling the Democrats everything from cut and joggers to unpatriotic, it seems to leave only two options here. Either the Republicans on the Hill didn‘t know about those conversations, or they were, to put it politely, disingenuous about them. Is there is any idea which?
WOLFFE: Well, congressional leaders worked very closely with the White House in coming up with a whole strategy on the Iraq debate, the whole line of cut and run. They worked hand in glove here. So someone in the mix certainly knew about these kind of military options being laid out.
And, you know, the dirty secret here is that actually there‘s a lot of agreement between Democrats, Republicans, the White House, the military officials about what to do over the next 18 months. Everyone wants to see very substantial troop withdrawals.
So this debate wasn‘t really about what to do in Iraq. It was about domestic politics. And they framed that up as well as they could.
OLBERMANN: Well, what does this news do to that political football about domestic politics on both sides of both the Democratic side and the Republican side?
WOLFFE: Well, it muddies the water. I mean, what the debate did, what the slogan did of cut and run was to give some clarity where everyone is feeling very unsure and anxious on the Democratic side and the Republican side. So it gave clarity and distinction, again, where basically everyone is in agreement. Even the Iraqis want the Americans out.
So eventually, when times are right and the conditions are there, but, you know, John Kerry says the same thing. And even in his fixed timetable, there‘s room for flexibility according to what happens on the ground.
There‘s not—you know, you have to be a policy wonk or Karl Rove to figure out the difference here.
OLBERMANN: But the part about some 5,000, 6,000, 7,000 troops being redeployed to this country from Iraq before the elections, does that really have to do with conditions on the ground in Iraq? Or does it have to do with the midterm elections?
WOLFFE: Well, this is not a huge number of troops. And I have to kind of take the president at his word when he says that he‘s not going to help politicians in Washington when it comes to Iraq, that he‘s going to do what he thinks he needs, because he‘s staked so much on this war in Iraq, and so have the Iraqis. He‘s not about to pull the rug from under the feet of the new Iraq government.
So I don‘t think he‘s actually offering the Republicans too much here, and that‘s why this whole cut-and-run strategy, the political framing of it, was so important, because he wasn‘t going to give them big troop withdrawals to go and celebrate in November.
OLBERMANN: So what was the cut-and-run debate? Was that, like, one final shot that the Republicans could take about on the Democrats before there was actually some cutting and running done by the administration?
WOLFFE: Yes, of course. What they want to do is present the Democrats as being weak, and, of course, the White House said today, Well, the big difference between what Casey was talking about and what, say, John Kerry was talking about is that the president wants to win, and therefore, in parentheses, the Democrats don‘t want to win. Of course, that‘s kind of ridiculous. The question is, what do you define as success? What kind of level of violence? You know, that doesn‘t exactly play itself out well in Washington or for November. But that‘s the kind of debate they wanted to have, a very stark, simple one.
OLBERMANN: Richard Wolffe, of “Newsweek” and MSNBC, as always, our great thanks.
WOLFFE: Any time.
OLBERMANN: It‘s the contribution heard round the world. Warren Buffett hands over most of his fortune to the BILL Gates Foundation. It‘s the largest gift of its kind ever.
And then, the gift of a child‘s laughter, courtesy of a minor league baseball manager. Swing and a miss.
That and more, ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: On June 26, 1903, Floyd Caves (ph) Babe Herman was born. He was the Brooklyn Dodger baseball player who once doubled into a double-play. The lead runner on base retreated towards third base, the second runner stopped at third base, and Herman himself, noticing none of that, ran to third base. One base, three Dodgers.
In his honor, let‘s play Oddball.
And we begin with a baseball highlight from Lexington, Kentucky, that rapidly turns into an exhibit at a sanity hearing. That‘s the old ball game for you. Bill McKulick (ph) is number 23, manager of the minor league Asheville Tourists. He wanted to be a Dodger like Babe Herman, but he never made it out of the minors as a player.
And it was in the fifth inning yesterday that he took a vacation from his senses. McKulick was upset that runner Kobe Clemons (ph) of the Lexington Legends had been called safe after a close play at second base. He obviously has extensive training in mime theater. So he stole second base. Kobe Clemons, actually the son of major league pitcher Roger Clemons, so he‘s seen this type of behavior before, usually around the dinner table.
But McKulick had already been ejected, and minor league umpires aren‘t allowed to carry TASERs, so he stormed around for a while, stopping to pour water on home plate—we still don‘t understand that one—and throw a few bats on the field before he finally left to the tune of “You‘ve Lost That Loving Feeling” playing over the stadium PA system. Thank you, Joe.
Now, another grown man caught on tape having trouble with his job. It‘s the cable guy again. Get her some sleep. We first brought you this story last week, home video of a technician for Comcast Cable asleep on the couch in a customer‘s home while on hold with main office for over an hour. Now the tape has been viewed more than 300,000 times on YouTube. Comcast has jumped into action. It has fired the technician, saying customer service is its top priority.
Well, then, why not fire whoever put the guy on hold for an hour back at the main office? What‘s he supposed to do while he‘s out there, read a book while he waits? He could have watched funny video on the Internets, but the guy‘s modem was broken. Too bad. Here‘s this great one of a cat climbing in and out of a bottle. Look at him, look at him go. It‘s a cat in a bottle, everybody. Cat in a bottle. OK, I got nothing else.
What‘s Lance Armstrong got? On the eve of the Tour de France, it‘s open season on him, allegations he threatened another legendary American cyclist, and admitted to using improper drugs.
Nicole Kidman‘s wedding day nightmare, the last-second drama that could have ruined her big -- Oh, hell, I don‘t care.
But first, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.
Number three, the management of the Lenin Museum in Ulyanovsk in Russia. It is built on the site of the birthplace of the revolutionary, Vladimir Ulyanov, (INAUDIBLE) known as Lenin. Not the most popular locale, since the Soviet Union went out of business. Short of funds now. They are now renting out the basement for businessmen‘s parties, complete with strippers. Hey, comrade, get a load of those Trotskys.
Number two, your Department of Homeland Security is at it again. It has a direct phone line, a tie line to the office of every governor in the country. According to Governor Ruth Anne Minner of Delaware, this may not be the most secure setup imaginable. She says the Homeland Security phone in her office rings constantly, and it‘s always people offering time shares, or asking if she‘s satisfied with her long-distance service. That‘s right, the department says it has now had to put those phone lines on the Do Not Call registry.
Yes, and it‘s “The New York Times”‘ fault.
Number one, Jacob Newton. The 18-year-old from Tampa had to be TASERed three times after police found him on the Babe Zaharias Golf Course there overnight Saturday, naked. Besides, the TASERing while nude, we hear that throughout his naked round on the golf course, Mr. Newton drove the ball well off the tee but had continuing trouble with his putts.
OLBERMANN: We preface this with the caveat that the Customs borders people are not identifying the drug in question, so it could be anything from Viagra to Vagisil. In our third story on the COUNTDOWN comedian Rush Limbaugh has been caught by customs agents reentering this country with a prescription drug prescribed to somebody else‘s. Zach Mann of U.S. Custom‘s Border Protection confirms that upon his return on a private plane, to Florida from the Dominican Republic, on Monday, Limbaugh was stopped at Customs at Palm Beach Airport and the prescription medicine found on him. He was allowed to leave with Customs writing up a report. The office would not identify the prescription drug. It could be anything, it could easily be innocent, but given Mr. Limbaugh‘s past struggles with addictions to pain killers and still open possible charge against him on doctor shopping for prescription drugs, it is news. No comment from comedian Rush Limbaugh.
Meanwhile, Lance Armstrong was cleared of charges that he won some or all of his Tour de France cycling races in part because of improper performance enhancing drugs. Then about a week later the charges got recycled complete with a purported confession and amazingly that‘s not even the worst or the newest of the accusations against the American hero. His predecessor as America‘s top cyclist reportedly claims Armstrong threatened his life. Greg LeMond who was the first American to ever win the race in 1986, he won it again in 1989 and 1990. He says he came under pressure when questioned Armstrong‘s association with a notorious European sports doctor who had been implicated in doping. LeMond reportedly telling the French newspaper “L‘Equipe,” “Lance threatened me, he threatened my wife, my business, my life. His biggest threat consisted of saying he would find 10 people to testify that I took EPO.”
EPO is the preferred blood doping for cyclists. In a cleverly response Armstrong denies all of that and damns LeMond with faint praise all the while insisting LeMond used to be his hero.
“That‘s absolutely not true,” he says, “Greg was a great rider. Greg was that greatest American rider for a long, long time and I guess some would argue still might be. But he was always my idol and I always looked up to him. He‘s really the reason I got into cycling. I think sometimes the coincidence is all too tricky with the start of the tour. It‘s an opportunity to get your name out there and say some things and get your name out there. But I don‘t have anything bad to say about Greg other than that‘s not true.”
And what Armstrong said later about LeMond being “Not in check with reality, Greg is obsessed with foiling my career.”
Then there‘s the revived charge that Armstrong cheated. That French newspaper, “Le Monde” claiming it has copies of testimony out of a Dallas court and in it a former Armstrong teammate, Frankie Andreu and his wife Betsy reportedly testified they were with Lance Armstrong in October 1996 when he met with a doctor who was treating him for cancer and the doctor asked Armstrong if he had ever taken doping products, Armstrong replied, yes, later listing them as “EPO, growth hormones, cortisones, steroids, testosterone.” The testimony was ostensibly the result of a lawsuit brought by Armstrong, a lawsuit ultimately won in arbitration. Armstrong‘s lawyer has denied this charge releasing an affidavit from one of Armstrong‘s doctors at time, saying that Armstrong “Never admitted, suggested, or indicated he has ever taken performance-enhancing drugs.”
Joining me now to try to sift though this maze, the editor-in-chief of “Bicycling” magazine, Steve Madden.
Thanks for your time, Steve.
STEPHEN MADDEN, “BICYCLING” MAGAZINE: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Given the wobbliness of the French sports media, I‘ve been looking all day for some sort of follow-up in which either Greg LeMond denies those quotes about Armstrong threatening him or confirms those quotes. Have you seen either and what are we to make of that story?
MADDEN: No, there has been no follow-up. This is kind of the course that it‘s always run. These accusations come out as broadsides in French newspapers and then there tends to be very little follow-up. What makes it a little hard to digest in the stomach is the fact that “L‘Equipe” is owned by the same organization that owns the Tour de France and didn‘t bother to come out with any of these charges while Armstrong was still racing.
OLBERMANN: I‘m confused also, by now, we had the Armstong denial about LeMond being his hero, I‘m not going to say anything bad about him, and then this latest one that just hit the wires, I guess about dinner time, that LeMond is “not in check with reality, Greg is obsessed with foiling my career.” Is there bad blood between them that you know of?
MADDEN: There is. There was a very—a much publish reconciliation between these two guys at a charity event in New York in 2000, where they were—the whole idea was that they would bury the hatchet, but it seems like they just buried the hatchet in each other‘s backs. When Lance won his fifth tour, Greg came out with all kinds of accusations about drug use and things like that. None of which has ever been substantiated. I mean, that‘s the thing about Armstrong is he‘s never failed a drug test. There‘s a lot of he said-she said that always comes up, particularly around this time of year as the tour‘s about to start, but he‘s never failed a drug test.
OLBERMANN: And speaking of he saids-she saids, this latest doping charge, if I‘ve got it right, it‘s a report about testimony about somebody else‘s wife said in October of 1996. Again, is there some grain of truth at the center, here? Is there an ax to grind by this former teammate of him, Frankie Andreu?
MADDEN: I don‘t know. I mean, again, there‘s—Greg—I‘m sorry, Lance surrounds himself with excellent teammates, but as the course of the tour changes and the needs of the team change, teammates come and go, and they‘re often not let go in the most ceremonious fashion, if knew what I mean. So, before Lance—before Frankie gave this testimony, he and Lance hadn‘t spoken in 2-1/2 years. Bad blood, I don‘t know, but certainly not a close relationship.
OLBERMANN: Probably should stop using the phrase “bad blood” when we‘re talking about doping, took, it just occurred to me. But let me ask you, big picture, this is your sport. Which of these two things is more plausible, that the French media has this vendetta against Lance Armstrong and will go to any length to discredit him or that Lance Armstrong is actually a cheater who has largely been given a pass by the American media?
MADDEN: I think they‘re equally plausible, but that‘s not to say either of them is true. If one is based in reality, then the other one has to be, too. I mean, the real problem with this, of course, is the fact that it‘s been almost 20 years since a Frenchmen has won the Tour de France and so the French are seen to have an ax to grind with American riders, especially one as brash as Armstrong was.
OLBERMANN: So, conceivably this could—none of this could be true or ranging all the way to all of this could be true?
MADDEN: You know, it‘s hard to tell. I mean, yes, absolutely. Some of it could be true, and it could all be complete nonsense, just people who have spent far too much time together with axes to grind with each other.
OLBERMANN: Steve Madden, editor-in-chief of the magazine “Bicycling.”
Great thanks for your insight. Great thanks for your time.
OLBERMANN: Speaking of great thanks, the world‘s two richest men join their vast fortunes to spread charitable good around the world. Warren Buffett serves up the full menu charity-wise. Brad Pitt‘s good deeds earn him a spot on the list of the top 15 people who make America great and it manages to irritate Tom Cruise all at the same time. This to me sounds like a win-win. Details next on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: One of the world‘s ripest men gives the largest charitable contribution in recorded history. And one of the world‘s richest authors reveals a big secret about the final “Harry Potter” book. And on of the world‘s strangest dads, Tom Cruise, is upset that nobody‘s offering top dollar for pictures of his little bundle of joy. Those stories next, this is COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: If charity does indeed begin at home, Warren Buffett must have a huge coin jar. In our No. 2 story in the COUNTDOWN, it‘s official, the business man and investor has donated $30 billion 700 million to the Bill Gates charity. I hope he got a receipt.
Details from our correspondent in New York, Dawn Fratangelo.
DAWN FRATANGELO, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Warren Buffett says it was a simple decision.
WARREN BUFFETT, BILLIONAIRE: We always agreed would it all go back to society.
FRATANGELO: During a multimedia blitz on TV and the web, Buffett gave away most of his fortune.
BUFFETT: There we go.
FRATANGELO: Much of it to the foundation run by Bill and Melinda Gates. The donation alone is staggering, more than any charitable gift in history.
BILL GATES, MICROSOFT FOUNDER: It will be hard work to make sure it‘s all well spent. It‘s means doubling over the next three years up to over $3 billion a year of giving.
FRATANGELO: Gates, just two weeks ago, announced he would give up day to day operations at Microsoft to focus on the foundation and its work on global health and education.
ERIC POUDLY, “FORTUNE MAGAZINE”: They have a proven track record of making a difference. They‘re already scaled up, they‘re doing extraordinary work.
FRATANGELO: One example, a child‘s vaccination program in poor countries. The Gates‘ say it has saved 1.7 million lives. Now with the added money, Melinda Gates today was aiming for a loftier goal.
MELINDA GATES, BILL‘S WIFE: In our lifetime, I hope that we see a solution to AIDS, a long-lasting solution.
FRATANGELO (on camera): Gates and Buffett met in 1991, they share a love of bridge, a knack for accumulating wealth, and are now the new role models of philanthropy.
DANIEL BAROCHOFF, AMERICAN INST. OF PHILANTHROPY: Well, this is wonderful, if people can think that that goal is to buy a Lexus, the goal is to make money so that you can do good and help the world.
FRATANGELO: Buffett always intended to give away his fortune upon death, but thought again when his wife passed away unexpectedly.
BUFFETT: I had to rethink of the best way to the money into society and have it used in the most effective way and I had a solution staring me in the face.
FRATANGELO: Bill gates coined what may be Buffett‘s new title, the greatest investor for good.
Dawn Fratangelo, NBC News, New York.
STEWIE GRIFFIN, “FAMILY GUY,” BABY: Oh, “Keeping Tabs,” wonderful. Dog, dog, look, more stories about Don Johnson and the new Christian Lindstrom (ph).
BRIAN GRIFFIN, “FAMILY GUY,” DOG: You never hear them talk about “Family Guy.”
STEWIE GRIFFIN: You‘re right. Why the (INAUDIBLE) doesn‘t he just do more stories about that bastard Bill O‘Reilly.
PETER GRIFFIN, “FAMILY GUY,” FATHER: What‘s “Family Guy?”
OLBERMANN: And to start our roundup of celebrity and entertainment news “Keeping Tabs,” the legacy of television impresario, Aaron Spelling. The TV producer died at his home in Los Angeles on Friday, he had suffering a stroke five days earlier. Hard to say what he‘s best known for out of the legion of shows he produced starting the ‘60s but particularly in the ‘70s and ‘80s such as “Charlie‘s Angels,” “Starsky and Hutch,” “T.J. Hooker,” “The Love Boat,” “Fantasy Island,” “Dynasty,” in fact many credit ABC‘s recovery from last place during that time to Aaron Spelling, jokingly referring to the network in that period of time as the Aaron Broadcasting Company. Spelling also produced more than 140 TV movies. When his contract with ABC ended in 1989, he considered retirement, but instead came out with “Beverly Hills 90210” and “Melrose Place” which helped propel the upstart FOX network out of obscurity. Aaron Spelling was 83 years old.
Another picture in the pop culture firmament, “Harry Potter”. The author of the series leaking more details about how that series will end. J.K. Rowling says two characters will die in the seventh and final installment of the “Harry Potter” books and they will not be extras. She also confesses to understanding the mentality of an author who might ultimately kill off the main character, “So it will end with me and after I‘m dead and gone they won‘t be able to bring back the character.” Yeah, tell Sherlock Holmes that. Ms. Rowling wrote the final chapter of the final book before she even had a deal to publish the first book. She says she‘s now well into writing the rest of that finale.
And another one of those ubiquitous lists has come out. This one trying to be high-minded than the average one: “15 People who Make America Great.” Brad Pitt is still on the list, “Newsweek” magazine honoring Mr. Pitt because he used his stardom to bring attention to some neglected causes in Africa. Pitt told “Newsweek” that he and Angelina Jolie wanted to lure cameras to areas that needed the world‘s attention and referring to the paparazzi, Pitt said, “It‘s the first time I‘ve actually felt like we had some degree of control over it. I can‘t describe what an immense relief it was for me.” As to the sale of the pictures of their daughter, Pitt said, “We were able to turn that around and collect millions for people who are really going to need it.”
Pitt, the elder, is also win the baby photo wars, it appears. Tom Cruise, reportedly less than pleased that photos of his little Suri are not garnering the same prices as those for Shiloh Pitt. Michael Musto joins us in another story my producers are forcing me to cover.
That‘s ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s latest list of nominees for “Worst Person in the World.”
The bronze, to the National Health Service Trust in Eastbourne Downs in England. It decided to set up an advice service for teenagers entering those difficult dating years, the called it the “Sexual Health Action Group” or by the acronym S-H-A-G—SHAG! Ooops!
Our runner-up, conservative politician John Jacob who‘s unseat five-term republican congressman, Chris Cannon in Utah. He has now twice in the last week explained that he has not been able to donate as much of his own money to his campaign as he planned because his businesses deals have fallen thought because an “outside force.” Quoting Mr. Jacob again, “It‘s the devil is what it is.” The devil. What, not the “New York Times?”
And speaking of the devil, our winner Roger Ailes, the head of FOX “news.” Apparently its position as the network of choice for those aged 70 or over or with I.Q.s 70 or under is insufficient. He is now threatening his own staffers through “Now Hiring” ads in trade publications and through a statement issued by a FOX spokesman, “Anyone that displays launch type intensity will continue to have a job at FOX News. Those who don‘t will not and that includes talent.”
Which merely proves the theory that even in hell, satin will periodically demand more productivity from you. Roger Ailes, today‘s “Worst Person in the World.”
OLBERMANN: When Tom Cruise and Nicole Kid—I‘ll try it in English. When Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman split, admit it, you thought—if you thought about it at all, that she‘d be likelier to stumble towards obscurity than he would. Odd! In our No. 1 story in the COUNTDOWN, not so fast Kemo Sabe, at the same time Cruise is reported reportedly complaining that his newborn is behind the Pitt-Jolie baby in the infant earning sweepstakes. She‘s getting married again with no couch jumping.
Nicole Kidman wed Keith Urban in Sidney in front of a who‘s who of Australian celebrity: Russell Crow, Hugh Jackman or Huge Ackman as he‘s also known—Naomi Watts, Rupert Murdoch, Yahoo Serious—they were all there. The day did not go off without a hitch for the bride, though, her dress described as “flowing and gorgeous,” also did not fit precisely. A local haute couture designer was able to jimmy the stick-figure bride into the Balenciaga gown, crisis averted.
Of course she—should the newlyweds face further marital crisis, there‘s always the prenup they signed. Mr. Urban would reportedly receive $600,000 for each year they were married unless he falls off the wagon, illegal drug use or excessive drinking would reportedly void the deal.
As for Nicole‘s ex, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes allegedly tried to raffle off photos of their daughter Suri to major tabloids hoping to reap close to the $4 million price tag that Brangelina got from “People” magazine for Piloh or Shilo. Not happy with the meager bids from celebrity gossip rags, the couple rescinded its offer. How much do you think those meager bids for were for? The highest was $3 million. For shame.
Joining me now to make sense of all this, perhaps, Michael Musto, of the “Village Voice.”
MICHAEL MUSTO, “VILLAGE VOICE”: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Start with the last note here, the Tom Cruise baby pictures story, there‘s this report from tmz.com that somebody stole Brangelina baby shower pics, they‘re stealing pictures there, but nobody is willing to measly $4 million for Suri Cruise. Did Tom and Katie wait too long in this or are we talking about an ugly, baby, here or just what is wrong, here, in my America?
MUSTO: We are talking ugly pillow. As you‘ll recall, I broke on this show that it‘s not a real baby at all and nobody wants a picture of home furnishings. They can get a catalog from “Bed, Bath, and Beyond.” And if by some chance it is an actual baby, the media doesn‘t really support this union. They don‘t want to give money to scientology, the don‘t want to further torture this baby‘s life and there also is the slight possibility that maybe Tom isn‘t exploiting the baby, maybe he‘s not—oh, he is? Never mind.
OLBERMANN: And Tom Cruise would be the one who puts the beyond in bed and bath.
MUSTO: And I didn‘t steal the Brangelina baby photos, believe me.
OLBERMANN: My sources tell me we‘re never going to see the pics of Suri because she‘s already taller than her father. Do—are we going—what happens now with this—are we going to see—is there going to be another baby substituted in here if your story is not correct? How does this play out?
MUSTO: I think we will see photos when Tom wins the Oscar or maybe even before that, I think it‘s going to be when Katie says look, moron, for $3 million, I can get a lot of psychiatric help, pimp out the baby. And you know, it‘s going to be so cute because the baby is going to have that fuzzy grin with the dazed in the headlights look of mama, it‘ll be perfect for holiday greeting cards, like Halloween and Groundhog Day.
OLBERMANN: And it‘ll be jumping up and down on its own little couch.
MUSTO: Two feet tall, taller than dad.
OLBERMANN: The wedding, the Nicole Kidman wedding, the dress in particular, this is not a voluptuous woman, this is a thin woman with voluptuous pockets. It‘s not like she just went down to Filene‘s and got a dress off the rack. How—what kind of dress is this that she could not fit into?
MUSTO: First of all it wrong color, it was white. But no, no, I‘m kidding. Nicole loses like five pounds every minute. She‘s down to the size of Calista Flockhart‘s ankles, so it‘s hard to calculate her dress size all the time, and her forehead is growing. She‘s up to a five head now. So, it‘s hard to calculate (inaudible), as well. And by the way, that‘s why she married a country star, they can share that cowboy hat. And also, he, if you notice is very fey-looking, he looks just like her and likes to wear her gowns sometimes, and so he has to fit into the wedding gown too. There were so many complications.
OLBERMANN: She does look video, awfully gaunt. I mean gaunt.
MUSTO: No, that‘s Kenny. That‘s Kenny. Or Brian or whatever his name is? Keith.
OLBERMANN: Keith. That‘s tough to remember under the circumstances.
MUSTO: Nicole looks great.
OLBERMANN: How about the guest? This is every Australian who ever did anything was there, Midnight Oil was the wedding band and “Crocodile Dundee” parked cars. I made that up, of course, but still—if we had—you and I had gone and faked Australian accents, would we get into this wedding?
MUSTO: Oh, absolutely mate, but I just didn‘t want to. But, you‘re forgetting Hugh Jackman was there singing a Peter Allen song to show how strange this whole affair was. Oh, Russell Crowe was there personally punching each guest with a phone. That was cute touch, don‘t you think? Baz Luhrmann was making a movie of the whole thing. Hopefully it‘ll be better than that ghastly “Moulin Rouge!” I mean, there was also an American, Renee Zelwegger was there telling Nicole, look, I was married to a country singer. It‘s awful, they‘re always on the road. And Nicole was like, oh, I hope so, he‘s so boring.
OLBERMANN: All right, and about the prenup. If they get divorced, Keith Urban gets $600,000 for each year they were married unless he‘s been drunk or high first. If she wants out, does this mean all she has to do is give him Nyquil and a breathalyzer test? Is this standard clause these days?
MUSTO: I‘ve never heard this type of thing. Country Love had the opposite, if you don‘t do hard drugs, you owe me money. But it‘s very untrusting, don‘t you think? It‘s very much like Katherine Zeta Jones deal with Michael Douglas were supposedly every time he cheats she gets $1 million and she‘s always going, oh look at that trollop, Michael, don‘t you want to piece of that? But I hear that Nicole on her wedding night slathered her body with cocaine, especially her privates. But, Keith, Kenny, Brian, whatever his name is, didn‘t go for it on his lawyer‘s advice. Plus, he didn‘t want it.
OLBERMANN: How much—just incidentally, in the few seconds we have, how much money does Katherine Zeta Jones have now at a million dollars a pop?
MUSTO: Michael is so cheap that he has not cheated once. So that deal actually worked, but she‘s penniless.
OLBERMANN: That makes me sad somehow. The and only Michael Musto is always much more interesting than the stories he covers. Thanks for your time, sir.
OLBERMANN: That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 1, 52nd day since the declaration of “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq. I‘m Keith Olbermann. Goodnight, and good luck.
Our MSNBC coverage continues now with “Scarborough Country.”
Joe, good evening.
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