Guests: Steve Adubato, Bill Donohue, Laura Schwartz, Michael Smerconish, Larry Birkhead, Paul Waldman, Dawn Yanek, Bex Schwartz
JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST: Right now in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, a sex scandal erupts in Washington with accusations that House Speaker Denny Hastert covered up for Mark Foley. Now some conservatives are demanding his resignation. Were Republican bigwigs more interested in protecting their congressman than the children he was targeting? Plus, Rosie‘s war on Christians and Catholics continues as she targets the pope and what she calls “drunk priests.”. Now Catholic groups are demanding apologies from ABC and “The View.” We‘ll show Rosie‘s anti-Catholic comments straight ahead. And later: Democrats are mad as hell and they‘re not going to take it anymore as they launch a war on Fox, Clinton-style.
Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. No passport required, only common sense allowed.
We‘re going to have all that straight ahead, but first up tonight, a sex scandal that I think could spell the end to Republican rule in Washington. Now, I know Mark Foley. Mark Foley‘s a friend of mine, and I have no idea what Mark Foley was thinking. His abhorrent actions have launched a sex scandal that may bring down the Republican Congress. No longer is the GOP simply known as the party of Abramoff, DeLay, Ney and Cunningham. It‘s now also identified with Internet child predators, ironic when you consider Mr. Foley was put in charge by the GOP leadership as chairman of a task force to protect children from on-line predators. That‘s why you saw him standing next to President Bush and John Walsh when Mr. Bush signed Foley‘s bill to crack down on Internet predators who used e-mails and IMs to pick up minors.
That‘s also why you saw Foley on this program talking about “Dateline‘s” how to catch a predator.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MARK FOLEY ®, FLORIDA: Hopefully, more people will be forewarned, more parents will be taking advantage of the chance to talk to their kids, instructing them about the dangers of the Internet. And certainly, more people that have seen this segment that may be thinking about interacting with a child may go ahead and get mental health counseling.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: And that‘s when he was sending those e-mails. In the middle (INAUDIBLE) hypocrisy is staggering. But so is the dismal judgment of top GOP leaders in Congress. And tonight, I have some questions that I want answered.
First, why did Republican leaders bury information of Mark‘s inappropriate e-mails? Why did they allow him to continue heading a task force meant to protect minors from such e-mails? And why did they allow him to show his face on programs such as mine as a champion of children‘s safety, again, after they knew about these inappropriate e-mails?
Why didn‘t GOP leaders inform Democrats that their pages could also be endangered? Could it be they were more interested in protecting their majority than a child‘s innocence? And how could Speaker Denny Hastert, a guy I‘ve long considered a friend, forget his conversation with a congressional committee‘s chairman about Mark Foley‘s inappropriate contact with a former page? He doesn‘t remember it? Exactly how often does one have that kind of conversation in today‘s Congress?
And why did they allow him to stand next to the president during that bill-signing ceremony? If I were George Bush, I‘d say, Hey, buddies, next time, how about a heads-up? What did Republicans know, friends, and when did they know it?
And the same can be asked of the Democratic Party. Who exactly buried these e-mails for a year and decided to drop them 34 days before congressional elections? And how did Democrats who served with a congressman named Gerry Studds now step forward and express shock over Mr. Foley‘s disgusting behavior? After all, their colleague, Chairman Studds, sodomized a 17-year-old boy in his Georgetown apartment, and then he took the congressional page to Portugal to carry on his illicit affair in Europe.
Should future Speaker Nancy Pelosi really be passing judgment on GOP leaders when her Democratic Party rewarded Congressman Studds with a congressional chairmanship years after he had sex with that young male page? I ask Ms. Pelosi because she was one of five Democrats who asked to sit on that committee under the guidance of Chairman Gerry Studds.
Those and many more questions will be answered in the coming weeks and months, but one thing is for sure. Mark Foley‘s exposed the ugly underside of D.C. politics. And since Washington has been a Republican town now for six straight years, expect the party of Abramoff, DeLay, Cunningham, Ney, and yes, Mark Foley to take a pounding at the polls next month.
Well, that‘s my take. Now let‘s bring in political analyst Lawrence O‘Donnell. He‘s the former executive producer of “The West Wing.” MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan is also with us, and Michael Crowley, he‘s senior editor for “The New Republic.”
Let me start with you, Lawrence. If you‘re a Democrat running today in middle America, do you talk about Foley, DeLay, Abramoff? Do you talk about the sex scandal? Does it prove the Republicans in Washington are just as corrupt as that Democratic Party they replaced in 1994?
LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you don‘t have to talk about the sex scandal specifically, Joe. I think what they want to talk about is the leadership, talk about John Boehner, talk about the Speaker, talk about what did they know and when did they know it, exactly what you‘re asking tonight. The Democrats should be trying to move this away from Mark Foley, away from the particulars, and take it straight to the leadership. What you can say...
SCARBOROUGH: Lawrence, that‘s a great point because if I were campaigning, I would want to stay away from the sex scandal. Instead, I would ask this question. How does Denny Hastert not remember when the head of the Republican congressional committee comes to him and tells him one of his own members is having intimate or at least very, very disturbing e-mail contacts with a page?
O‘DONNELL: Joe, if you were running the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, they‘d be running away with this now. Listen, I don‘t know if you even need me here tonight, Joe. I agree with everything you said about this, about the size of the problem, about how much impact it‘s going to have in November. This is the worst October surprise that the Republicans could possibly have, and it turns out it‘s not a surprise to all of them.
SCARBOROUGH: Yes, and I think that‘s the biggest surprise to those of us that know these Republican leaders.
Pat Buchanan, when you‘re out on the campaign trail, sometimes it‘s hard to explain to people the intricacies of what goes on in Congress. They don‘t understand everything about Iraq. They don‘t understand what a $9 trillion debt means. But they sure do understand when the Speaker of the House may be covering up a sex scandal for a possible pedophile. How bad is this for the GOP?
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it‘s—this is awful for the GOP from every standpoint. I don‘t know that Foley‘s a pedophile. I don‘t know if he committed any acts. This kid is a 16-year-old, he‘s not a 9-year-old. So what you got is a homosexual hitting on a page, apparently.
I tell you, the real problem, though—and you and Larry are right, it is, look what did the Speaker know and when did he know it? Apparently, some of these early e-mails were semi—looked innocent, Can I have a picture of you, and stuff like that. And the later ones that I‘ve seen are awful.
Now, if Hastert saw the later ones a while ago, they really got to explain why they didn‘t take that guy in, send him to the Ethics Committee, call in some authorities, and you know, tell him to get out of the congress of the United States. So there‘s a real problem there, Joe.
I don‘t know how you put a good spin on this, but you‘re right about the hypocrisy of Pelosi. For heaven‘s sakes, Studds got the Democratic nomination for Congress five times after that, was elected five times, got a chairmanship, and she sat happily beside him all during that time.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, again, I mean, the thing is that this guy, after he had sex with a 17-year-old page—and I mean, you know, he got a chairmanship after that happened!
BUCHANAN: You know, ask Lawrence to explain Roman Polanski getting an Academy Award, you know, 30 years after a seduction-rape of a 13-year-old.
O‘DONNELL: Let me explain Studds because when the Studds case broke, I thought, This guy is dead, it‘s over. I called my mother that day. She is in Gerry Studds‘s district on Cape Cod. I told her the story. I said, What now? She said, He‘s a good congressman. I‘ll vote for him. That‘s all she had to know.
SCARBOROUGH: I‘ll tell you what, Cape Cod is a lot different from the “redneck Riviera”! Rush Limbaugh says the Clinton warroom is in full effect here. Listen to what he said earlier today.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: The truth is that the people on the left who are acting all outraged and stunned and angry, they don‘t see what Clinton or Barney Frank or Gerry Studds did as repugnant. In fact, they view those things as private matters that didn‘t affect anybody‘s work, and it‘s nobody‘s business what somebody does with their private life, particularly when it comes to sex!
(END AUDIO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: Michael Crowley, I don‘t buy that argument, do you?
MICHAEL CROWLEY, “THE NEW REPUBLIC”: No, I mean, it‘s ridiculous. I mean, first of all, we‘re talking about minors here. I mean, we‘re talking about 16-year-olds. You know, so when the Clinton case, you know, was clearly sort of a troubling age discrepancy, but you‘re not—it‘s completely different terrain.
SCARBOROUGH: It‘s legal.
CROWLEY: I‘m sorry?
SCARBOROUGH: I said it‘s legal. I mean, what he and Monica Lewinsky did was legal.
CROWLEY: Was legal. Oddly enough, the age of consent is only 16 years old in D.C. But actually, the lines—the laws governing on-line contact are different, and I think partly because of legislation that Foley supported. So maybe the on-line stuff...
SCARBOROUGH: I was going to say, thanks to Congressman Foley, he may now be in trouble with the FBI, right?
CROWLEY: Yes. I mean, but I would also just say that, you know, Republicans, to some extent, ask for this sort of a reaction because of their position on moral issues. I mean, this constant drumbeat about family values and this very strict, scolding approach to how people should live their lives invites particularly high standards and harsh criticism when one of their own is caught in this sort of a situation. So you know, cry me a river, Rush. It just doesn‘t really move me.
BUCHANAN: Well, you know, Joe, I think that‘s a good point. There‘s no doubt Republicans—I remember back there when Mr. Crane and Studds were in there, I just recommended both of them be expelled from the Congress of the United States. This guy clearly ought to go, given what he did. But Republicans do have higher standards on these matters, and they‘ve come back to bite them. But I mean, that‘s the way the hand goes down.
SCARBOROUGH: And Lawrence, this reminds me so much of 1994. When Republicans ran to take control of Congress, when I was running to take control of Congress, we went after the scandals involving Dan Rostenkowsky. We talked about Jim Wright‘s scandal. We talked about the House banking scandal, which really was the straw that broke the camel‘s back. Don‘t you think this Mark Foley scandal may be that straw that broke the camel‘s back 12 years later and will make Nancy Pelosi the next Speaker of the House?
O‘DONNELL: It is, if the Democrats turn it into the Denny Hastert scandal and keep it away from Foley. I think the comparisons to Gerry Studds are a problem for the Democrats, so I think they have to stay away from Foley.
And by the way, I mean, I know Mark Foley, like you, Joe. I like Mark Foley. I feel very, very sorry for him tonight. I really do. And I haven‘t seen anything that indicates any legal case of pedophilia here. There is an age of consent of 16. The kid involved was 16 at the time. I don‘t know enough facts to know what really happened.
SCARBOROUGH: And you know—and Lawrence, I just want to say also—we‘re showing a picture—Mark and I have known each other for 12 years. I‘m just—all I can say—and I had some relatives that were concerned with me saying at the top of my show that Mark Foley‘s a friend of mine. I‘m sorry, he is. He‘s been for 12 years. He‘s been a decent guy. I want to sit down and talk to him face to face at some point and ask him, What the hell went on? What he was thinking? It was abhorrent. Of course, if he did that to my child, my 15-year-old, I would track him down, and you know, beat him up.
But Lawrence, he is—I mean, explain that—just explain that part of the story about Mark Foley.
O‘DONNELL: Well, I—look...
SCARBOROUGH: He‘s a decent, well-liked guy. At least, that was his reputation before.
O‘DONNELL: I mean, I always knew Mark was gay. I always presumed he was gay. But I am shocked at these revelations. Now, that‘s going to sound funny to people out there who think that we‘re all jaded and we‘re suspicious of everybody. As much as I read this stuff, I can‘t believe that it‘s Mark Foley. It just really does shock me. But it‘s a different thing.
You know, and when you read those e-mails, by the way, there‘s a little bit of cooperative stuff going on with the kid. The kid is behaving in those e-mails in a way that I never would have when I was 16. I would have stopped the guy.
BUCHANAN: Joe, let me ask you something. If the age of consent is 16 in D.C. and Foley is sending this guy little mash notes and sexy little notes, I mean, why would a Democrat say that is immoral conduct, if he supported the age of consent at 16 years old? Now, I think Foley should be bounced, but we got different standards than Democrats. But why should Democrats condemn it if they think 16-year-olds should be allowed to do this stuff?
SCARBOROUGH: Well, again, I think, like Lawrence said, instead of going after Mark Foley specifically, you ask how the Speaker of the House, who‘s in charge of the House and protecting these pages, speaks to a member of his leadership who says, Hey, we got a problem with Foley, this guy‘s sending inappropriate e-mails to a 16-year-old kid...
BUCHANAN: But if you can have sex with...
SCARBOROUGH: ... and then the Speaker six months later says, I don‘t recall that conversation.
BUCHANAN: Joe, there‘s a problem...
BUCHANAN: Go ahead.
CROWLEY: It‘s the arrogance of power. I mean, you were asking about a unifying larger theme. It‘s the arrogance of power. It‘s the same reason Republicans will hold open votes until 3:00 in the morning to twist arms until they get the last vote, that some of the members are putting their wives on the payroll...
SCARBOROUGH: And Michael...
CROWLEY: It‘s a leadership that‘s arrogant in its own power.
SCARBOROUGH: Michael, we got to go. But let me tell you, it‘s so funny that when we took over in 1994, we attacked Democratic leaders for doing the same thing in ‘93, ‘94. We swore we‘d never do it. We did it. We‘ve done so many other things we swore we‘d never do. I think we‘re going to pay for it next month. Lawrence, Pat and Michael, thank you so much for being with us. A great conversation.
And coming up next: Rosie O‘Donnell goes after the pope on national TV. Some say she smears him. Does ABC owe an apology to Christians, or do Christians need to lighten up? Then: Democrats war on Fox as they bash the Rupert Murdoch‘s network to win votes. In a SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY exclusive, brand-new information. And live, Anna Nicole Smith‘s other boyfriend who claims to be the father to the tortured model‘s newborn son.
SCARBOROUGH: New trouble at “The View.” Christians were outraged when Rosie O‘Donnell compared them to radical Muslims, but now Rosie‘s going after the pope. That‘s right. Here‘s what she had to say on “The View” today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROSIE O‘DONNELL, CO-HOST: Here‘s the most interesting thing about the “Deliver Us From Evil” documentary, that the person who was in charge of investigating all the allegations of pedophilia in the Catholic church from the ‘80s until just recently was guess who? The current pope.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: Boy, she is a very angry woman. And last week, she went after what she called drunk priests, said all the priests that serve communion were drunk, and of course, went after Christian communion, as well.
And here to tell us why ABC wants a woman who‘s making a habit of insulting Christians as their host on “The View” is media analyst Dr. Steve Adubato. He‘s also the author of “Make the Connection.” And also president of the Catholic League Bill Donohue.
So Steve, why does Rosie insist on attacking Christians? I mean, does that really make good business sense for ABC?
STEVE ADUBATO, MEDIA ANALYST: No, but I don‘t think ABC, Joe, ever figured out where Rosie was and how outrageous she is. And she clearly thinks she‘s the host of the show. And let me just say this. The irony about Rosie is that while she made outrageous statements today, the Islamic statements were off the wall a couple of weeks ago, she actually has a point. Maybe she‘s not technically right about the pope right now, but let‘s admit it. And I‘m sure Bill will admit it, as well. From a public relations and communication media perspective, the Catholic church blew this priestly pedophilia issue from A to Z. They know it. They waited too long to act. They transferred priests, out of court settlements, out of control.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, and—and...
ADUBATO: They blew it. Rosie‘s been jumping on it.
SCARBOROUGH: ... of course, Steve, I don‘t—I mean, no need to re-debate that issue. I think the Catholic church, you‘re right, they did fumble it an awful lot. We‘ll talk about that another time. But Steve...
ADUBATO: Rosie‘s jumping on it.
SCARBOROUGH: The ratings are up.
SCARBOROUGH: I mean, does ABC figure that they‘re going to ride this horse as long as possible, and then send her to the glue factory after she takes it a step too far, which you and I both know...
ADUBATO: She‘s going to do it.
SCARBOROUGH: ... at some point, she‘s going to do?
ADUBATO: In fact, I have to tell you, Joe, I‘m actually surprised that the ratings are what they are. I didn‘t think she would wear very well. It‘s only been a month or so. My prediction is, long-term, Rosie doesn‘t make it. She has to have her own show, doesn‘t work well in an ensemble situation. And in the end, she‘s going to embarrass ABC, maybe not with this statement but others down the road. She‘s going to turn off a lot of Americans, and she‘s going to be gone. But for now, they‘re riding the wave.
SCARBOROUGH: Yes, you know, Bill Donohue, I think this is a fair question to ask. Why does Rosie hate Catholics? Why does Rosie hate the Catholic church? Why does she seem to have it in for Christians?
BILL DONOHUE, PRES., CATHOLIC LEAGUE: I can‘t answer that specifically in terms of the woman‘s own personal problems. But I can tell you this much. The biggest Catholic bashers in the United States are clearly ex-Catholics and those who have one foot out the door. At the very top of the list, which wouldn‘t include her, would be ex-nuns and priests. Now, look, let‘s remember what happened here today, to shine some light on what Steve said. Yes, the Catholic church handled this thing badly in the church, but what was the beginning today of this conversation? It wasn‘t about the Catholic church, it was about...
ADUBATO: It was about Mark Foley.
DONOHUE: Exactly! Now, they began and they ended their conversation talking about Foley, but in between, they spent most of the time in this lengthy diatribe against the Catholic church. Look, I would have let it go today except for one thing. She smeared the pope. The fact of the matter is that Cardinal Ratzinger, who is now Pope Benedict XVI, was not in charge of investigating the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic church. He wasn‘t given that job...
DONOHUE: ... until 2002, after Pope John Paul II...
SCARBOROUGH: Hey, but you know...
DONOHUE: ... appointed him.
SCARBOROUGH: ... what, though, Bill?
DONOHUE: So she‘s fact actually wrong.
SCARBOROUGH: The facts don‘t matter, Bill!
ADUBATO: No, they don‘t.
SCARBOROUGH: She says that line. The audience applauds. And (INAUDIBLE) sits there and they‘re happy. Do you think—and of course, last week, she called all the priests that ever served her communion “drunk priests.” Do you think ABC owes Christians and Catholics an apology, or do you want them to fire Rosie, Bill?
DONOHUE: Well, I‘ve asked for an apology today. We delivered it over by—by message today. It was Joy Behar made the little comment, the separate comment about the drunken priests. Rosie was actually worse. She was making fun of the host. We Catholics regard the host as the real presence of Jesus, and I don‘t really give a damn what Rosie O‘Donnell may think today in her professed atheism.
ADUBATO: Joe, let me say this. And Bill...
SCARBOROUGH: Go ahead.
ADUBATO: ... a Catholic without one foot out the door was trying to stay in the game, I‘ll say this. Rosie turns me off. She has a problem. She is a Catholic who clearly has resentment toward the church. And frankly, on some level, I understand it. However, Rosie, be responsible. Be accountable. Be accurate. Do not make sweeping generalizations across the board. It‘s irresponsible and wrong. And frankly, I hold Barbara Walters and ABC responsible.
ADUBATO: Bill, I hope you get the apology...
SCARBOROUGH: And again, Steve, had she said this about Muslims...
DONOHUE: Oh, forget it!
SCARBOROUGH: ... if she had said this about Hindus, my God, it would be World War 3, right?
ADUBATO: If she said it about—I‘ll bring it closer to home, Joe. If she said it about African-Americans, if she said it about Baptists, who are disproportionately African-American, let me say this, she would have a problem on their hands. But let me also make it clear, you can bash Catholics. It‘s OK.
SCARBOROUGH: Catholics are fair game. They‘ve all—I‘ve always said that rednecks from the South like me and Catholics like you two are the only fair game as far as bigotry goes in America. Thanks, Steve. Thank you, Bill Donahue, as always. We appreciate it.
Coming up: Brian Williams may be America‘s top anchor, but the crew at “SNL,” they aren‘t impressed. That‘s next on “Must See S.C.” Plus, the Democrats‘ new target isn‘t the GOP, it‘s Fox News. Why fighting Fox is uniting the party in time for next month‘s elections.
SCARBOROUGH: Hey, friends, it‘s time for tonight‘s “Must See S.C.,” some video that you just got to see. Now, the number one newsman in America is NBC‘s Brian Williams. He stopped by “SNL” this weekend to help out the “Weekend Update” crew, but unfortunately for him, they had other plans. He just didn‘t get the memo in time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Brian, what are you doing here?
BRIAN WILLIAMS, ANCHOR, “NBC NIGHTLY NEWS”: Oh, I‘m so excited to be anchoring “Update” with you. It‘s been a long wait!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, gosh. Did you get my messages?
WILLIAMS: You know what? I‘ve been crazy busy. I‘ve written a ton of material and—what did you need?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, Brian. Oh, we decided to go in another direction.
WILLIAMS: Oh. OK.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
WILLIAMS: This is the right guy—the right guy got the job. This is—this is great.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you so much for saying that. Means a lot.
WILLIAMS: Look at you. I mean, doesn‘t look like you have one of these anchor earpieces that anchors wear.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I‘ll get one. That‘s great advice. Hey, congratulations on being the number one news anchor in America.
WILLIAMS: Don‘t patronize me.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hey, you know, Brian, feel free to stick around for the rest of the show.
WILLIAMS: I‘m going to head home. I‘ve got a wife and two kids, and someone has to tell them that daddy‘s not going to be on TV tonight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: That guy is so funny! I got one of those things, too.
Coming up: Top Democrats call Fox News the anti-Clinton network, but will taking on Bill O‘Reilly and friends really help the Democrats win back Congress? Michael Smerconish joins our all-star panel next. And later, breaking developments in the legal battle over Anna Nicole‘s baby. We have an exclusive interview with one of the two men who‘s fighting for custody of the newborn. How he‘s fighting back when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.
SCARBOROUGH: Coming up, one of the two men fighting for custody of Anna Nicole Smith‘s baby joins us for an exclusive interview. He‘s going to tell us what he‘s doing to prove once and for all he‘s the baby‘s daddy.
And later in “Hollyweird,” Robin Williams opens up about his decision to enter rehab and why Mel Gibson is his new inspiration.
Welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. We‘re going to be talking about those stories in minutes.
But first, Democrats are mad as hell at FOX News, and they‘re not going to take it anymore. Dems have long complained, of course, that FOX is nothing more than an extension of the Bush White House, but now, energized by the infamous Chris Wallace interview, Bill Clinton has helped Democrats come out swinging against the network.
Paul Begala, a former Clinton adviser, tells the “New York Times” that Democrats are tired of being bullied by FOX. And take a look at what he and James Carville had to say to Bill O‘Reilly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL BEGALA, FORMER CLINTON ADVISER: Come out of the closet. You all are conservative.
BILL O‘REILLY, FOX NEWS HOST: That is bull.
BEGALA: Just admit it.
O‘REILLY: I‘m not going to admit it, because it‘s wrong, OK? You guys need to get away from the far-left Web sites and open your eyes. If you go down the guest list, the 24/7 guest list, which we‘ll provide for you, it‘s 50/50. And on this program, it‘s more left than right. It‘s more than left than right on this program.
BEGALA: And, indeed, my hat is off to you for, for example, even having us on.
O‘REILLY: You‘re welcome any time.
BEGALA: I appreciate that.
O‘REILLY: But, look, you guys are now becoming propagandists, and I‘m looking out for you. Don‘t do that. Last word?
JAMES CARVILLE, POLITICAL STRATEGIST: Last word: We are propagandists. We think that FOX News is a right-leaning anti-Clinton network. We thought that before we came here, and we‘re going to think it...
O‘REILLY: Gentlemen, thanks very much. You‘re both going to be beaten to a pulp.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: Those are some characters.
Here now is Paul Waldman. He‘s a senior fellow at Media Matters. Laura Schwartz, a Democratic strategist, who appears regularly on the FOX News Channel. And Michael Smerconish, author of the book “Muzzled,” and a talk show radio host, of course, who‘s great at what he does, and he guest hosts Bill O‘Reilly‘s radio show.
Michael, I guess that interview, my God, those three people together. I‘m surprised the studio didn‘t catch on fire. Will this Democratic strategy of attacking FOX work at the ballot box this fall?
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I don‘t think that it will. It‘s all about motivating the base, and I think they‘re misinterpreting what went on with Bill Clinton and Chris Wallace. And by the way, though, Wallace is not one of the ideologues. This guy is not a Kool-Aid drinker. He asked a very fair question of President Clinton. Why didn‘t you connect the dots?
SCARBOROUGH: But, Michael, as far as the Democratic base goes, all they know is Wallace is on FOX and FOX is the enemy.
SMERCONISH: Well, they think that FOX is the enemy, but FOX is the great equalizer. I mean, Begala and Carville want O‘Reilly to concede that FOX is a conservative outlet. My response would be: Conservative in comparison to what? The “L.A. Times,” the “New York Times,” CNN, NPR, Air America?
I guess, in comparison to those far-left publications and outlets, it would be perceived as conservative. I think of FOX as middle of the road. I think that, for so long we‘ve had such vast liberal outlets, that along comes FOX 10 years ago and people say, “My God, we‘ve never had anything like this before. They must be conservative.”
SCARBOROUGH: You know, Laura, you‘re a former Clinton adviser. Did your old boss show Democrats, possibly the best way to unite their party this fall, by going after FOX News? Because after all, FOX has been a thorn in their side for the past 10 years.
LAURA SCHWARTZ, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Absolutely, Joe. You know, although FOX News network does skew Republican among their viewers and, among media analysis, does spend more time on conservatives sides of the aisle when it comes to discussing and phrasing the issue, FOX is a powerful venue that cannot be ignored.
And the objective of Democrats going on there doesn‘t have to be to sway a viewer to their side or get another vote, but rather to educate. And that‘s the lesson that Bill Clinton taught me.
In 1992, he wanted to go out and campaign in the Republican areas, and his advisers said, “Why are we spending this money going in there? Let‘s go to the Democratic district that we can tilt, that we can win?” Well, Bill Clinton won out in the end, and he knew that if he couldn‘t get a vote among those 20 or 500 people he was looking at, he wanted to get out there and talk about who he was, what he believed, and why he believed it.
SCARBOROUGH: OK. What does this have to do with FOX?
L. SCHWARTZ: ... is a much larger part.
SCARBOROUGH: What‘s that have to do with FOX.
L. SCHWARTZ: Well, we can‘t ignore FOX as Democrats. We‘ve got to get out there, both the strategists, the political pundits, and the candidates themselves. Because you may not sway that viewer to vote Democrat next time in the FOX viewership, but you‘re going at least tell them what you stand for. And, you know, what I think the Democrats do a disservice to themselves debating the fairness of the network. I think it‘s better to discuss the issues and get that fact out there, debate on the issues...
SCARBOROUGH: The question is this, though—hold on a second, Laura. Let me bring in Waldman. Mr. Waldman, let me ask you this question: Why do Democrats worry so much about FOX News, when you look at how big FOX‘s audience is? Take a look at this. The number of people who watch FOX on a daily basis is dwarfed by the number of people who watch 30 minutes of network news every night. Of course, you see, NBC 7.8 million, ABC News 7.4 million, CBS 7.2 million, FOX on average 890,000. Of course, this network and CNN less than that.
I mean, why are Democrats so bedeviled by a network that doesn‘t have the reach of the big three networks?
PAUL WALDMAN, MEDIA MATTERS: Well, they have an effect that goes beyond just the people who watch them. You know, in the White House, FOX is the only thing on all the television sets, and they have an ability to push stories out into the rest of the mainstream media. And that‘s one of the ways...
SCARBOROUGH: Explain how that happens. Explain how that happens to people, that it‘s not just what‘s on FOX TV or what‘s on the Drudge Report, it‘s how these things feed on each other and pretty soon it‘s all over the place?
WALDMAN: Well, they can start to create a din around something that isn‘t a story, that other mainstream news outlets are not paying to attention, and kind of create that noise machine that begins to force other news outlets to think they have to pay attention to it.
I mean, their ratings are dramatically down in recent days, and I think part of the reason is that they have a problem, which is that their guys, the Republicans, control all three branches of government. And when your guys are in power, but you‘re trying to argue that, you know, it‘s really all the Democrats‘ fault, and yet the ones who are in power, the Republicans, seem to be messing up anything, and things are going so poorly for them in so many different ways, you know, that starts to get old after awhile. All that...
SCARBOROUGH: You know, Michael, that is—and let me say this, Michael, I mean, first of all, to follow up on what Mr. Waldman said is—sure, numbers at FOX are down, but, as the chairman of that network said earlier today, the other networks—I‘ll guarantee you CNN or MSNBC who love to have those numbers even down. I mean, they are just an absolute juggernaut when it comes to cable news ratings and what they‘ve built over the past 10 years.
Now, let‘s get to the bigger subject, though, here, the bigger topic here, though, Michael, and that is whether FOX News and attacking FOX News is going to have any resonance with voters. I mean, do you think people are going to be less likely to vote for Rick Santorum because Bill Clinton and James Carville are attacking Bill O‘Reilly and FOX News?
SMERCONISH: No, I don‘t. I think that they misunderstand the significance of that Chris Wallace interview. The significance was that Bill Clinton, finally a leader of the Democratic Party, showed some fight. And I think that rank-and-file Democrats for a long time have been waiting for somebody, anybody, to seize the mantle and try and harness all the hostility that exists against this president.
I think it had very little to do with the outlet being FOX and a great deal to do with the fact that finally Bill Clinton was standing up and fighting back. And I‘ve got to tell you, what‘s...
SCARBOROUGH: Hey, Michael, Michael, answer this question for me: Why is it that Democrats have such a hard time fighting back? Why aren‘t there more politicians—I say this as a Republican—why aren‘t there more politicians on the Democratic side like Bill Clinton that can lean forward, and show passion, and not apologize for his stance?
SMERCONISH: Listen, you and I have discussed this in the past. It‘s remarkable to me—and a good thing for the Republican Party—that there is such discontent in the country and yet, relative to Iraq, there‘s no leader, apart from Clinton, among the Democrats, there‘s no uniform strategy, there‘s no exit strategy for Iraq. And that‘s why that interview was so significant. Finally, somebody comes along and says, “You know? I‘m not going to take it anymore.” It was kind of a Howard Beale “I‘m mad as hell and I‘m not going to take it anymore” moment.” But there‘s not been anybody else besides Clinton to take that approach.
SCARBOROUGH: Laura Schwartz, I‘ll ask you quickly, what are the Democrats out there that could lean in like Bill Clinton?
L. SCHWARTZ: Well, I think Joe Biden can do it on the war in Iraq. I think Hillary Clinton can do it on minimum wage, as well as Ted Kennedy. I think the same thing as Social Security and John Kerry on the Medicare program, as well, and ensuring that every American in this country has health care. So there are those Democrats.
SCARBOROUGH: All right.
L. SCHWARTZ: You‘re going to see it come out much more after this election. And we‘ll be standing up. We need to.
SCARBOROUGH: We‘ll see. I don‘t believe it. I think Democrats need to stop apologizing for what they believe. Paul Waldman, in 10 seconds or less, will Democrats take control of Congress?
WALDMAN: Well, that‘s not my job to predict that.
L. SCHWARTZ: I will. Yes!
SCARBOROUGH: That was about four seconds, Paul, and thank you, Laura, for chiming in.
Michael, what about you?
SMERCONISH: They‘re going to lose by a whisker. They‘ll gain seats, but they‘re not enough.
SCARBOROUGH: OK, we shall see. Thanks again, Paul Waldman, Laura Schwartz, and Michael Smerconish. I greatly appreciate you being here. I know you got to get up early to do your radio show in Philadelphia. Thanks again.
Coming up next, the fight over Anna Nicole‘s baby takes another bizarre twist, as one of the two men who claims to be the father goes to court to prove it. We have an exclusive interview with him and Rita Cosby next.
And later, legs to die for. We reveal who has the best stems in “Hollyweird.”
SCARBOROUGH: Brand-new information tonight in the fight over who‘s the real father of Anna Nicole Smith‘s newborn baby. Now, you may remember one of Anna Nicole‘s former boyfriends, Larry Birkhead, first claimed he was the father. And then her long-time attorney Howard Stern dropped a bombshell, claiming that he‘s the father.
MSNBC‘s Rita Cosby joins us now with breaking news in the case and an exclusive interview. Rita, what do you know?
RITA COSBY, HOST: Well, Joe, we have just learned that, in just the last few hours, Larry Birkhead has filed suit against Anna Nicole Smith and is demanding that a paternity test be ordered to prove his claim that he‘s the father. Sources tell me that the court filing is explosive, Joe, with some very damning claims against Anna Nicole Smith.
I‘ve learned that it alleges Anna Nicole Smith was taking methadone and that Howard K. Stern, her attorney, was allegedly facilitating her prescription drug habit, that she fled to the Bahamas after Birkhead suggested that the baby be tested for drugs, and that the filing says Howard K. Stern is claiming paternity for his own financial gain.
And this one a real shocker: It allegations that Anna Nicole previously tried to get another man, a third guy, to claim it was his baby several months ago. But get this: That man had a vasectomy.
Joining me now exclusively is the man who filed this legal action, the man who says he‘s the real father of Anna Nicole Smith‘s new baby girl, Larry Birkhead.
Larry, why are you taking this legal action now?
LARRY BIRKHEAD, CLAIMS HE‘S THE FATHER OF ANNA NICOLE‘S BABY: Well, I have to say, Rita, I was outraged and angry over Howard K. Stern‘s remarks on “Larry King Live,” where he claimed to be the father of my baby girl. And that really upset me, and I was outraged that he tried to hoodwink the American public—and Larry King, as well—into thinking and believing his story, which was filled with inconsistencies. And it lacked coherency. And it was just outrageous.
COSBY: You know, by doing this action, it appears that you feel she‘s intentionally fleeing to the Bahamas so you can‘t be a part of this baby‘s life. Is that how you feel? And how so?
BIRKHEAD: I feel that she has deliberately fled to the Bahamas to avoid any talks of custody and visitation. And this was all a highly orchestrated event between herself and her attorney, Howard K. Stern. And I feel that it has to be stopped and the truth needs to be told to the American public that I am the father of this child and all of Howard Stern‘s lies need to stop right now.
COSBY: You know, these allegations against Anna Nicole that I‘m told by other sources are in the lawsuit filing are very strong, including the allegation of a drug addiction, these allegations against Anna Nicole, and that the baby may be damaged.
I spoke with your attorney, Debra Opri, obviously very well-known. She‘s represented a lot of high-profile folks before you. And she had a pretty strong statement I want to show. This is what she said to me. She said, “The public will be very surprised when they learn the details of the lifestyle this baby is going to be faced with if she remains in the current situation.”
Do you believe that the baby‘s health is at risk, that you‘re doing what‘s best for the baby now?
BIRKHEAD: Well, I‘ll let my attorney, you know, stick with the statement that my attorney gave, but I will say that I‘m fighting for what I believe in, and that‘s that I am the father of my baby girl. And I want her to return to the States so that I can maintain a relationship with her and have a relationship with her.
Right now, I have no rights, no visitation, no rights whatsoever. They were all stripped from me. And again, this was orchestrated between herself and the attorney, and I think that it‘s time to get to the bottom of it.
COSBY: Is there any way Howard K. Stern, who went on national television last week who said he‘s the baby, is there any way he is the baby?
BIRKHEAD: There is absolutely no way that Howard Stern is the father of this child. He knows it; I know it. And that‘s all there is to it.
He challenged me on live television to get an attorney, and so I have taken him up on his offer. And it‘s time to get to the bottom of it, and we will soon see all the lies surrounding this circus that he‘s taken and he‘s made out of my birth of my baby daughter.
COSBY: You know, in the court filing, I understand from other sources outside of you and your attorney—I understand that Anna Nicole was pregnant with another baby of yours but miscarried last year. Is that true?
BIRKHEAD: Well, I‘ll let the—I think that will come out in time.
And I‘d rather not comment on that, you know, at this time.
COSBY: What do you want to say about your credibility, because he‘s attacked your credibility? And why are you speaking here tonight?
BIRKHEAD: Well, again, it was important for me to get, you know, to the bottom of this whole thing, the circus that they‘ve created, and also just to let people know that, you know, I am a credible person. I was told I was the father. I‘ve been through all of these motions and emotions to prepare for fatherhood. And I think this is just an absolute crime what has been done to me, and I‘m ready to fight for my daughter.
COSBY: At the end of the day, you believe you will be, 100 percent?
BIRKHEAD: One hundred and ten percent.
COSBY: Larry Birkhead, thank you very much for joining us.
BIRKHEAD: Thanks, Rita.
COSBY: Again, the filing just taking place, Joe, just a few hours ago, I understand, being served to Anna Nicole in the Bahamas, some breaking news. And back to you, Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: Rita, you get the big get. What a story. Thank you so much. I really do appreciate it.
COSBY: Thanks, Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: We‘ll be right back. I don‘t know how we top that in “Hollyweird,” but we‘ll be back with “Hollyweird,” next.
SCARBOROUGH: Hey, get ready to dodge the paparazzi. It‘s time to take a tour of “Hollyweird.”
First up, funnyman Robin Williams out of rehab, and he says Mel Gibson‘s arrest in Malibu inspired him to get help. He tells “Access Hollywood” Mel even sent him a letter of support. With us now to talk about it, “Life and Style Weekly‘s” Dawn Yanek and, from VH-1, Bex Schwartz.
Dawn, let me begin with you. When I first read about this, I thought it was a joke, but apparently he really did get inspiration from Mel Gibson, huh?
DAWN YANEK, “LIFE AND STYLE”: He did. And so it seems. I mean, if anything good came out of that whole disaster, I guess it was this, and perhaps George Michael, who‘s also having a bout of problems with drugs and alcohol, reportedly, might be inspiring by Robin Williams. And it will be a whole rehab inspiration chain down the line.
SCARBOROUGH: It‘s just a little rehab train going around in circles.
Bex, what do you make of the funnyman getting inspiration from Mel Gibson?
BEX SCHWARTZ, VH-1: I‘m glad everyone is paying it forward. But truly, when I think of a behavioral role model, not sure how I feel about Mel Gibson.
B. SCHWARTZ: Maybe look to someone who‘s respectable to emulate their behavior?
YANEK: Well, it‘s interesting to think, too, because, don‘t forget, Robin Williams has a movie coming out. And I hate to be cynical, but when you mention Mel Gibson, everybody is paying attention, so maybe this will draw some attention to Robin Williams and his new movie, as well.
SCARBOROUGH: Who knows?
Now, according to new research, former spouses Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman have perfect legs. Of course, the people who have decided this haven‘t seen mine, but, Dawn, talk about the best legs in Hollywood and this study.
YANEK: Well, Nicole Kidman apparently has the best legs in Hollywood. There‘s this new scientific study saying that your legs, a woman‘s legs, that is, should be 1.4 times the length of her torso. So somehow I can see this inspiring all sorts of drunken nights at bars with people trying to measure their legs in relation to their torso. But men, on the other hand, they‘re supposed to have equal torso and legs. Apparently, it makes them more muscular, where it makes women seem more reproductively viable.
SCARBOROUGH: Oh, well, that‘s good to know. I will, the next time I‘m in a bar in New York City, get out the tape measure.
B. SCHWARTZ: Run away.
SCARBOROUGH: Oh, put it away.
Janet Jackson says that she and Justin Timberlake haven‘t spoken since their intimate Superbowl concert, but now there‘s talk of a reunion. The “New York Post” is reporting that the two are planning a public performance. Bex, please, just tell them to go away.
B. SCHWARTZ: Go away. I love that, you know, even two years ago, everyone would have been like, “That‘s a publicity stunt.” And now they‘re actually planning their own publicity stunt? It‘s the irroberous (ph) of pop culture. It just keeps eating itself, and eating itself, and eating itself.
SCARBOROUGH: It‘s repulsive, is what it is. Dawn, you think this is going to go off?
YANEK: That‘s a good question. Will this happen? It doesn‘t surprise me that their handlers are talking about it. It would surprise me, though, if the Grammys or the Oscars, which were two of the big award ceremonies that were named in this possible publicity stunt, actually accepted this, because, of course, who the heck wants to garner a half a million dollars in fines, which is what CBS had when the whole Superbowl wardrobe malfunction happened?
B. SCHWARTZ: But I would like to see her nipples again.
YANEK: Maybe new jewelry this time perhaps?
B. SCHWARTZ: Yes, a star, a moon.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, Bex, I‘ve got to say, on that front, you‘re by yourself.
B. SCHWARTZ: Oh.
SCARBOROUGH: As we leave, news that David Hasselhoff‘s the toast of London. He is being besieged promoting his single, “Jump in my Car.” What a surprise. Hey, we‘ll see you tomorrow night in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. Thanks, Bex and Dawn.
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