Guests: Dana Milbank, Savannah Guthrie, Philip Giraldi, Craig Crawford
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Did one man cook the books for the Bush administration‘s, quote, “intelligence,” unquote, about Iraq prewar? Yes, says the Pentagon‘s own inspector general. That one man was Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith, replacing the actual not so pro-war conclusions of the intelligence agencies with stuff of, quote, “dubious quality or reliability.” The 3,100 Americans dead in Iraq would like to thank Mr. Feith.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DOUGLAS FEITH, UNDERSECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The CIA had a theory. The issue is not so much whether the theory was right or wrong, it was speculative, it was questionable. And the people in the Pentagon questioned it. That‘s a good thing to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Today‘s Republicans living up to his fine ethical standards. Anatomy of a smear. The speaker‘s plane. How a rumor in the Moonie paper in Washington was exaggerated into an official GOP-issued talking point.
But Mr. Exaggeration has finally been shut up. Bill O‘Reilly out, axed, as keynote speaker at a high-priced fundraiser for the Center for Missing and Exploited Children, after his repeated claims that one missing and exploited and raped child, Sean Hornbeck, was having fun during his nightmare of captivity.
Obama versus Clinton versus Gore, on the eve of the campaign announcement from the junior senator from Illinois, news of a Draft Al conference in Boston.
And the day after Anna Nicole Smith dies, her story turns back into farce. A maternity test to make sure she was her daughter‘s real mother. A third claim of paternity from Zsa Zsa Gabor‘s last husband, the refutation of that claim from Zsa Zsa Gabor‘s publicist, the one who once dated Anna Nicole Smith. Is there a shred of seriousness left in this sad saga? There is indeed—the autopsy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At this time, we do not make a determination of the cause and the manner of death.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.
Good evening from New York.
The new Pentagon report on prewar intelligence proving the old chestnut that just because you‘re paranoid does not mean they‘re not out to get you.
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, anyone who had been blaming former Pentagon official Douglas Feith for the Bush administration‘s having cooked the books on the purported link between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda was vindicated today with the Pentagon‘s acknowledgement that Feith‘s office acted inappropriately in advancing its false conclusions. The bad news tonight, we are still involved in the war Mr. Feith help lead us into, and it is still going badly, the fraud unraveling today on Capitol Hill, the Pentagon‘s own inspector general issuing a long-awaited report which concludes that Feith‘s office took inappropriate action by pushing claims of a, quote, “mature symbiotic relationship” between Iraq and al Qaeda, claims that nobody else in the intelligence community seemed to be able to find, among the false conclusions that 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta met with a top Iraqi official in April 2001, Vice President Cheney, of course, stressing that link only before months before the invasion of Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, September 6, 2002, “MEET THE PRESS”)
DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We‘ve seen, in connection with the hijackers, of course, Mohammed Atta, who was the lead hijacker, did apparently travel to Prague on a number of occasions. And on at least one occasion, we have reporting that places him in Prague with a senior Iraqi intelligence official a few months before the attack on the World Trade Center.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The only problem, even the White House now conceding that the meeting probably never happened, almost certainly never happened, Democrats in the Senate today condemning the Bush administration‘s manipulation of intelligence.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FEITH: The CIA had a theory. The issue is not so much whether the theory was right or wrong, it was speculative, it was questionable. And the people in the Pentagon questioned it. That‘s a good thing to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Mr. Feith, as you heard today, stressing he did nothing illegal, insisting that he merely had a difference of opinion with the CIA , and his speculation was turned into concrete truth upon which his masters marched us to war, where 3,100 of us have died so far.
Time now to call in our own Dana Milbank, national political reporter for “The Washington Post.”
Dana, good evening.
DANA MILBANK, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:
Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The Pentagon report providing more evidence of the administration‘s adversarial relationship with the truth, if you will, but again, it seems nothing‘s going to happen in the wake of this. Is this what the president means when he says he‘ll let it to the, to the history books to judge him, because it appears nobody alive is going to get the chance to do so?
MILBANK: Well, but keep in mind, the first rough draft of history is coming out right now, and it‘s not giving very favorable grades to the president.
Look, we actually had reports at the time, back in 2004, 2003, that this information was wrong. Of course, the administration insisted otherwise. But I think if we say, Well, it‘s not having consequences, of course it is having consequences immediately, and judgments being made all around the world. We‘re saying, Look, we‘re not going to believe American intelligence when it comes to Iranian nukes, when it comes to Iran‘s role in Iraq. So clearly judgments are being made, even if the historians will have some more to deal with later on.
OLBERMANN: And we‘ll be getting to Iran and what this implies for that intelligence in a moment. But the Douglas Feith role in this, it would be convenient to pin all of it on him as a scapegoat. Is that fair? Or does that obscure Mr. Feith‘s links to and the roles played by Mr. Rumsfeld, Mr. Wolfowitz, Vice President Cheney? Was Feith manipulating them? Was he manipulating the intelligence in a vacuum? What‘s the conclusion of this report about that?
MILBANK: Well, he is certainly an ideologue in his own right. But he‘s really a pawn in this larger operation. Consider that these sort of bogus reports that he was writing leaked to Bill Kristol‘s “Weekly Standard,” sort of a neoconservative journal. Then the vice president comes out in January of 2004 to a newspaper in Colorado and says that report in “The Weekly Standard,” based on this bogus information, is, quote, “your best source of information,” unquote, about al Qaeda in Iraq.
So this is the vice president of the United States going out there, at a time when even the Pentagon is saying, Wait a second, we‘re not so sure about this, saying, your best source of information.
OLBERMANN: The Pentagon inspector general‘s report concluded that while these actions from Douglas Feith and his office were inappropriate, they concluded they‘re not illegal. Senator Rockefeller of West Virginia, for one, today raised the possibility that might not be the case. What do those in Congress who believe the administration actually acted unlawfully in manipulating the intelligence think is their next step?
MILBANK: Not a whole lot more than what they did today, and that is just holler about it a lot. The problem is, a lot of these actors are gone from government, so they can‘t be fired. When you think about accountability at this level, of the president and the vice president, of course, that happens in an election. (INAUDIBLE) the Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee were very successful at stalling an effort to look into this, so that not only did it miss the 2004 election, but it missed the 2006 election.
So, in a sense, they‘re home free now. But, of course, everybody‘s dealing with the consequences now of the actual failure of the policy.
OLBERMANN: And as you point out, perhaps it will bleed over into whatever the administration says about Iran.
Dana Milbank of MSNBC and “The Washington Post.” As always, Dana, great thanks. Have a good weekend.
MILBANK: You too, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The Pentagon report today failing to make any recommendations in the wake of its findings because it concludes, quote, “The circumstances prevalent in 2002 are no longer present today.” Well, not about Iraq. But what about Iran?
Mr. Feith‘s office at the Pentagon may have folded, the defense secretary at the department he was working in may have changed, but today in Germany, the new defense secretary, Robert Gates, saying the U.S. has evidence of Iranian involvement in helping insurgents in Iraq, specifically, Mr. Gates claiming that serial numbers and other markings on bombs used to kill U.S. military personnel inside Iraq point back to Tehran.
This time last week, administration officials were acknowledging they had not compiled any evidence strong enough to back up their claims. At least they were saying that publicly, today‘s public statements by Mr. Gates suggesting either that the evidence itself has changed in the past seven days, or that it no longer matters how strong that evidence truly is.
Let‘s turn now to former CIA officer Philip Giraldi, a contributing editor to “American Conservative” magazine.
Thank you for your time tonight, sir.
PHILIP GIRALDI, FORMER CIA OFFICER: Good evening.
OLBERMANN: Surely, any skepticism over the administration‘s current claims about Iran are not merely kneejerk reactions to having been deceived about the prewar intelligence about Iraq. But what kinds of things are you hearing from the administration that remind you of their presentation of the case for war against Iraq?
GIRALDI: Well, the two situations seems to be—seem to be very parallel. You have the process starting by claiming that there‘s a threat coming from Iraq, and now Iran. You then leak information to friends in the media. You sharpen the threat issue by having people in the administration making speeches and comments about Iran, sharpening the state of the threat. And finally, you have very specific charges, just as Robert Gates made today.
OLBERMANN: In a speech about Iraq last month, a major speech before the State of the Union, the president accused Iran of, and his words were, “providing material support for attacks on American troops,” and he vowed to seek out and destroy the weapon transport networks. Today, the secretary—Secretary Gates became more specific, putting these serial numbers and the other markings on the bombs out in the public domain.
Obviously, all of that is very difficult to verify independently. Is there any way that lawmakers can approach that evidence before the situation escalates into the position where we‘re confronting Iran based on what no one can verify independently?
GIRALDI: Well, particularly, based on what happened with Iraq, I think it behooves both the lawmakers and the media to be as skeptical as possible about this. What they should demand from Secretary Gates is as much detail as possible about what kinds of—what kind of weapons have been identified, where the serial numbers come from, where they were manufactured, what the scale of this intervention in Iraq is, and what other information they have that supports the theory that something is taking place.
OLBERMANN: Do you think Congress is doing enough to make sure that it and thus the American public is getting the information we all need before any action would be taken against Iran?
GIRALDI: I don‘t think they‘re taking enough steps yet. I think there‘s a great deal of uncertainty in Congress about the Iranian threat, and about what to do about it, and there‘s also a great deal of pressure on Congress by various advocacy groups, like AIPAC, who strongly support military action against Iran.
OLBERMANN: As, as someone from the, from the agency, does, does the march to war with Iraq and the consequences of what we‘re learning about it now every day, every week, every month, how it suggests that it is, even in this complex world, comparatively easy for any administration to manipulate intelligence, say what it wants, release what it wants? There seems to be little or nothing that anybody can do to stop it. Is that your perspective, and does that worry you?
GIRALDI: Yes, it worries me very much, because the administration always has a trump card in this kind of situation. It could always claim that they have classified information or special information or special access that gives them an insight into the situation that the public and Congress and the media do not have.
OLBERMANN: And that has been said in off-the-record briefings from the president as lately as (INAUDIBLE) as last month, where he said, If you knew what we knew, if you could see what we saw. Is the question not whether or not we can know what they know, but whether or not they know what they think they know?
GIRALDI: I think you‘re putting it aptly, yes. One wonders if they know what they think they know. I think in many cases, the agenda is driving the policy, and the policy is driving the intelligence. And this is—this was the problem in Iraq, and it‘s also the problem in Iran.
OLBERMANN: And here we go again. Phillip Giraldi, former CIA officer. Great thanks for joining us. Great thanks for your insight, sir.
GIRALDI: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: More playing with the facts, and where else but in D.C.? Attacks in the media on Nancy Pelosi and the plane that the speaker of the House should get to use. How did false allegations mushroom out of control, and who in the media is to blame?
And what killed Anna Nicole Smith? Investigators say it‘s not a crime, but the cause of death is still a mystery, as is the question of when the sideshow might end. Another man comes forward to claim he‘s the father of Smith‘s new baby daughter. Four years ago, he had also reportedly claimed that Viagra had made him impotent. Oh, here we go.
You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: It was a false story about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi‘s airplane request, finally getting truthful illumination when the House sergeant at arms said in a statement, quote, “The fact that Speaker Pelosi lives in California compelled me to request an aircraft that is capable of making nonstop flights for security purposes. I regret that an issue that is exclusively considered and decided in a security context has evolved into a political issue.”
In our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, anatomy of a crash, not of a plane, but of journalism about a plane, February 1, eight days ago, the “Washington Times,” the paper owned by the Moonies, citing unnamed administration and congressional sources, printing that the speaker was seeking military flights for herself, her staff, relatives, and members of the California Congressional delegation. It cited a so-called knowledgeable source that Ms. Pelosi‘s request was, quote, “carte blanche for an aircraft any time.”
Perhaps not even Republicans read that publication, because the plane story this week barely took off. Four days later, though, CNN‘s Lou Dobbs said on his program, quote, “She,” Pelosi, “wants a plane that accommodates 42 people, private stateroom,” later saying, quote, “She could take a circus with her, for crying out loud.”
Enter congressional Republican stone-throwing from the misinformation tarmac. “There is a stateroom,” said House minority whip Roy Blunt of Missouri. “It is kind of a flying Lincoln bedroom.”
Next escalation, Mr. Blunt said the speaker had requested a C-32, which is the military version of the Boeing 757, and proof that plop runs downhill from Republican conference chairman Adam Putnam of Florida, she specifically requested that supporters be able to travel, and from Republican Congressmen Dana Rohrabacher of California, “commandeering a huge government plane for her personal transport to California.” Eventually they‘ll be claiming she insists they fly her back to her district in the space shuttle.
All that is only a sampling of days‘ worth of misinformation from politicians and the media. Of course, Speaker Pelosi is entitled to military transport between Washington and her district, just as her predecessor, Dennis Hastert, was.
Let‘s turn to “Congressional Quarterly” columnist, MSNBC political analyst Craig Crawford.
Craig, good to talk to you. Good evening, sir.
CRAIG CRAWFORD, “CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY”: Good to be here. It‘s kind of like that game where one person tells a story, and it goes around the room, and becomes a whole different story by the time it‘s finished.
OLBERMANN: Yes, we used to call that Telephone. And in this game of telephone—
CRAWFORD: Party line.
OLBERMANN: ... yes—it‘s really difficult to separate the politics and the media on a story that is as botched as this one. The House was ramping up towards the Iraq war debate, and Republicans were still freshly in the new minority. They saw something about Nancy Pelosi and the possibility of a big plane, and they smelled blood. Is that our post-mortem on this?
CRAWFORD: Sure, minority mischief, you might call it. Democrats or Republicans when they‘re out of power on Congress, particularly in the House, have a lot of time on their hands, Keith, because they don‘t have much to do when you‘re out of power in the House of Representatives especially. And they are looking for any opportunity to portray her as Queen Nancy. We saw that before, when she set up the celebration party before she became speaker, and the “New York Post” put a picture of her, a PhotoShopped photo with a crown on her head, calling her Queen Nancy, because she wanted to have a party. So this will go on.
OLBERMANN: But if this was in, from whatever source, and Speaker Pelosi suggested the leak might have come out of the Pentagon originally, if this wound up in the “Washington Times,” and it just sat there for four days, which is about the equivalent of four years in, say, 1995 time, what happened to it? (INAUDIBLE) nobody in the, nobody in the spin machine saw this till, till it was on Lou Dobbs?
CRAWFORD: Well, maybe they were getting—they were a little rusty at this minority mischief game. They‘ll get up to speed soon enough. No, actually, I think that many times they wait until—not deliberately, but once something appears in bigger media than a blog or something, then they jump on it, because they think maybe the media would be interested.
And, you know, this is a story that fits what people want to believe, oftentimes, about members of Congress, leaders of Congress, is that they‘re excessive and have all these perks for themselves. So anytime you have a story that sounds good, you know, it, you can make it good, even if it‘s not true. But it‘s like Mark Twain said, you know, (INAUDIBLE) a lie can travel the globe many times while the truth is still putting its pants on.
OLBERMANN: Yes, we‘re not going to get into the size of pants relative to Mr. Hastert and Ms. Pelosi. But there are other broadcast and cable networks, including this one, reported this story, and even where there was fair-minded treatment, viewers are bombarded with this phrase “air Pelosi.” And is this scored as one for the Republicans, or is it, as I suggested to Howard Fineman yesterday, is this not the wrong time to be seen to be obsessing on this crap, even in regard to your own base? I mean, don‘t the Republicans simply look now like they are the party that is not serious about Iraq?
CRAWFORD: Well, I think they‘re going to look for many opportunities to change the subject from Iraq. And, you know, some they don‘t not going to have any control over, and some they‘ll try to push out there. And that‘s going to happen. I mean, it‘s, not, there‘s no, no (INAUDIBLE), there‘s no upside for Republicans in the administration to have Iraq on the front pages.
So yes, I think that‘s a possibility. But then you get down to the whole the argument of, does the speaker of the House deserve a military plane? And she is third in line. I mean, after all, she‘s one heartbeat and one pacemaker away from the presidency. And as such, in a wartime, I mean, maybe we need an Air Force Three, a military plane, for her.
OLBERMANN: How dare you interject substance into a story that is based entirely on rumor and innuendo, sir?
CRAWFORD: Well, I mean, there are larger issue, like also the whole question of all these members out West, who have to travel so far to get back to Washington. And, you know, with the population moving out that way, I think maybe Congress ought to meet out in Denver every now and then to help those folks out.
OLBERMANN: Get them out in the real world for a change.
CRAWFORD: You bet, (INAUDIBLE).
OLBERMANN: Craig Crawford of MSNBC and “Congressional Quarterly.”
Great thanks, Craig. Have a good weekend.
CRAWFORD: Good to be here.
OLBERMANN: However, reality has caught up to one bull slinger at least. Bill O‘Reilly‘s sad, inhuman comments about how a kidnapped, sexually abused boy enjoyed his captivity. Now Mr. O‘Reilly is no longer the speaker at a high-profile fundraiser for missing and exploited children.
The death of Anna Nicole Smith, from shock to sadness to farce in just 36 years, initial autopsy reports obscured by a third claim of paternity for her daughter from the husband of Zsa Zsa Gabor, the one who sued a pharmaceutical company claiming it had made him impotent. No, I‘m not kidding.
That‘s next. This is COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Fifty-seven years ago today, Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin stepped to a lectern in front of a women‘s club in Wheeling, West Virginia, carrying with him two speeches. One was about postwar housing shortages, the other was about domestic communists. He chose to give the latter. He embellished it with a completely concocted assertion that he was holding a list of names of 205 people known by the U.S. Department of State to be communists, who were still working in the government. Thus began the years of fear, smear, blacklist, and suicide known as McCarthyism. Some say McCarthy died at the Bethesda Naval Hospital in 1957. Others say you can still see him every night on the Fox Noise Channel at 8:00 Eastern.
On that note, let‘s play Oddball.
We begin in the Groningen, in the Netherlands, home of the world‘s first cannabis pharmacy, now the first legal one. Of course, this is all just medical marijuana for cancer patients and such. That‘s a medical hookah thing right there, and that Buddha pipe, medical. Yes, I have a prescription here for Dr. Willie Nelson. Pharmacist Lisette Winkoop (ph) sells the pot in little bags. Patients can choose to smoke it or eat it or make tea with it. She doesn‘t care as long as you pay.
You don‘t want to know what she‘s capable of if you try to Bogart (INAUDIBLE).
San Diego, California, hello. Another one of those wacky radio stunts. But in this story, everybody lives. With Valentine‘s Day just around the corner, a radio station is playing Cupid, tee hee hee, by lining up 100 single men along the side of the road, stretching nearly a mile, while women in cars drive by to take their pick. If this was the other way around, we‘d have ourselves a vice squad situation. Station says every one of the guys in the lineup scored a date, including one guy who had nothing to do with the contest, he was just standing there selling oranges.
Hillary Clinton heads to New Hampshire for the first time as an official candidate for president. Her campaign style is being compared to a past presidential winner not her husband.
And the initial hours of the Anna Nicole Smith investigation, what authorities have ruled out thus far. And a hard-to-believe claim from the current husband of Zsa Zsa Gabor. The prince says, Who‘s your daddy? I am.
But first, COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.
Number three, just in time for Valentine‘s Day, highway robbery in Liverpool in England. Thieves broke into a van. They stole 36 sex toys, 18 tubs of chocolate body paint, 12 blow-up dolls, and a global positioning satellite system. Looking for a good time, were they? Estimated value, $3,900.
Number two, Gangarum Gautam of Kampur (ph), India. It says he went on a one-food diet five years ago, and it‘s going well for him, grass. Not marijuana, green stuff, you know, like lawns. As a local newspaper headlined this story, “This is turf to swallow.”
And number one, Canada‘s Transportation Safety Board, saying it is looking into the rumored cause of an accident that sank the Ferry Queen of the North off the coast of British Columbia last year, that some folks were having sex on the ferry‘s bridge at the time of the accident. Thirty 36 sex toys, 18 tubs of chocolate body paint, 12 blow up dolls and a global positioning satellite system.
OLBERMANN: As of 11:00 a.m. tomorrow, 95 days after the 2006 midterm elections, the 2008 presidential campaign, our number three story tonight, will have two official Democratic front runners, and perhaps a dark horse, who has a Nobel Peace Prize nomination in his back pocket.
Senator Barack Obama will announce his candidacy tomorrow morning in Springfield, Illinois, at the old state capital. The symbolism difficult to miss, especially when news casters add graphics like this one to the story. Obama‘s announcement, followed by trips to, of course, Iowa and New Hampshire, means that, with almost a year to go before the first primaries, the top two polling Democrats are already officially in the race.
Senator Hillary Clinton beating Obama to New Hampshire tomorrow, speaking, campaigning and raising money. Her outsized prowess at which already has some observers, such as NBC News political director Liz Wilner, comparing the Clinton campaign to the 2000 Bush effort, which also raised gobs of money early on, helping to create that PR phenomenon known as the aura of inevitability.
Meanwhile, the one person who might credibly challenge Senator Clinton for that aura, Al Gore, still says he is not running. But that did not stop former supporters and his advisers of his from meeting in Boston yesterday, in his absence, to talk, just talk they assure the Associated Press, about starting a Draft Gore movement.
Following all of these races from the hill is A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of the political insider‘s publication, “The Hill.” Great thanks, as always, for joining us tonight.
A.B. STODDARD, “THE HILL”: Thanks Keith.
OLBERMANN: Let‘s the former vice president steal the thunder from Senator Obama on this show, if not in the actual race. What would happen to Senator Obama, to Senator Clinton, to Senator Edwards, if Al Gore said, you know, OK, guess what, I‘m going to run again?
STODDARD: Well, you know, it is said that the Democratic party doesn‘t give a second chance to losers. But it is universally accepted in the Democratic party that Al Gore won the election in 2000 and could be president today. There is always a vacuum. There are Democrats supporting Edwards and Obama who feel that they can‘t make it through the primary or the general. There are Democrats supporting Hillary Clinton because they think they have no choice.
And I think, though we couldn‘t say at this point whether or not he could take it from them, he certainly splinters their support and could be a real spoiler there, Democrats who think he is better than all three options.
OLBERMANN: Let me tell you an anecdote out of school here, Gore was on this news cast last year. He was about 100 feet over my shoulder here, and I asked the obligatory, might you run question. He gave the obligatory, I‘ve got a great life answer. But when we finished the interview, one of the technicians went up to him and said, you know, what if we all asked you real nice, would you please run. And he said, well, all right, if you ask real nice, I‘ll run, and then he looked at me and laughed. And I said control room, you‘re still rolling, right? And the look that came across his face was indescribable, as if I had caught him at something.
Two questions, have you heard a story similar to that anywhere else in the last couple of years and is there is a kernel of truth in there? If he felt there was a ground swell of people asking him real nice, and in large numbers, do you think he would run?
STODDARD: Well, those are hard to resist. Just ask Barak Obama. Barack Obama feels that he was, sort of, called to this duty. I think that there are good reasons why Al Gore wouldn‘t run, obviously. He has a great life and has taken on a meaningful cause, that he is very passionate about.
However, I met with a Gore person in December, who said there are rumors that he wants to run. I think that the supporters of Al Gore, and advisors of Al Gore, that are getting together in Boston to discuss the Draft Gore movement, have better things to do with their time. And if there was no interest from Gore in running again, they wouldn‘t be meeting.
OLBERMANN: All right, back to Senator Obama, who‘s weekend, at least, this is. We have strived for better race relations in this country for 150 years, up and down on it, obviously. We have dreamed of the point where it just wouldn‘t matter what the color of a ball player‘s skin was, or businessman‘s skin, or a presidential candidate‘s skin. Is it really possible, after all that time, that Senator Obama could be hurt by that, he can‘t or won‘t use the potential landmark nature of his candidacy enough, in some way?
STODDARD: There is already serious concern among Obama supporters that he is not able yet to galvanize black voters and Clinton has a clear advantage over him with that group. But obviously it is still early, and he‘s making himself known to them. It‘s just the start. He has more time. As a man with an American mother, African father, many black voters don‘t feel that Obama represents African Americans.
That‘s a problem for him, but just as the black vote is not guaranteed for him, not automatic for him, the woman vote is not automatically—it doesn‘t belong to Clinton either. He has tremendous support among women, and he is going to need to really galvanize both of those groups and really work for the support of both of those groups, if he hopes to overcome her.
OLBERMANN: We‘ll see what he has to say tomorrow. A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of “The Hill,” great thanks for your time.
Also tonight, after claiming that a kidnapped boy had enjoyed his captivity, Bill O‘Reilly is out as the keynote speaker at a fund raiser for missing and exploited children.
And the Anna Nicole Smith saga; Zsa Zsa Gabor‘s husband claiming he is the father of her orphaned daughter. The press conference makes it even sound stranger than it sounds with me saying it. Details ahead.
OLBERMANN: Nobody there or at Fox noise is saying exactly how it happened, nor why, but Bill O‘Reilly, the keynote speaker at next month‘s 500 dollar per person fund raiser for the Naples, Florida chapter of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, is tonight no longer the keynote speaker at next month‘s 500 dollar fund raiser for the Naples, Florida chapter of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
However, in our number two story on the COUNTDOWN, was he uninvited because of his grotesque remarks about how teenaged kidnap and sexual abuse victim Shawn Hornbeck had, quote, fun with his abductor? You might very well think so, I could not possibly comment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL O‘REILLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: The situation here, for this kid, looks to me to be a lot more fun than what he had under his old parents. He didn‘t have to go to school, run around and do whatever he wanted.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Some kids like school.
O‘REILLY: Well, I don‘t believe this kid did. And I think when it all comes down, what‘s going to happen is, there was an element here that this kid liked about his circumstances.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Nice to know everything, isn‘t it. The hypocrisy that man who trivialized what Shawn Hornbeck went through, who suggested was fun, would headline a fund raiser for the very victims he was dismissing resolved now. On the website of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, quoting it, “in response to the numerous e-mails and inquiries we have received, Bill O‘Reilly, host of the O‘Reilly Factor, will not be a speaker at the dinner. We would like thank everyone for their comments and e-mails.”
John Walsh will take O‘Reilly‘s place. The rest of us are left to wish Mr. O‘Reilly well, as he composes some rationalization, like a scheduling conflict, or transportation problem.
Our celebrity and entertainment news, Keeping Tabs, kept brief tonight so we can go into depth presently on the burgeoning post-mortem fiasco that is the Anna Nicole Smith story. Today there was some progress in the James Brown estate battle, but still no progress toward getting the Godfather of Soul, who died last Christmas, buried. A South Carolina judge ruling that Tommy Ray Heinie, who says she was Brown‘s wife, can return and collect her belongings from the home where she and Brown lived.
Miss Heinie, along with Brown‘s six adult children, claimed in court that the singer‘s estate is being mismanaged. They want the current trustees removed. The attorney for those trustees asked for a restraining order against Brown‘s children.
And also tonight, the legal drama survives Anna Nicole Smith, her partner, her ex-boyfriend, now Zsa Zsa Gabor‘s husband are all claiming to be father of the baby‘s, a baby who could inherit half a billion. That‘s ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s latest list of nominees for Worst Person in the World.
The bronze tonight to Cartoon Network, which has accepted the resignation of General Manager Jim Samples in the aftermath of the great Boston over-reaction to his network‘s light brite ad campaign for the adult cartoon “Aqua Teen Hunger Force.” Please, please, please, let him become the new police chief of Boston, please.
The silver to TV personality Anderson Cooper, who tells “Men‘s Journal,” in an interview, that he was, in their words, contemplating a move from his CNN post to a traditional anchor position at another network. But, in his words, doing 22 minutes of news from a desk in New York is just not just for me. Well, we all knew that from his current New York gig. The first night he has 22 minutes of actual news in there, we should declare it a holiday. Also, ABC, CBS and NBC are all full up AC. What network were you talking to? Telemundo? And by the way, is Anderson Cooper the only person that doesn‘t know that Anderson Cooper is not actually a TV journalist, but just an experiment in mass marketing.
But the winner, it‘s Bill O‘Reilly. It‘s one thing to turn valid criticism by a military analyst on his blog on the “Washington Post” website into part of your paranoid ravings about NBC News. That‘s the kind of voodoo journalism that has vaulted the old man into his position of high ratings and low esteem. But to drag Ken Allerd (ph), retired colonel, former NBC News military analyst, and still personal friend to some of us here, on to the air, and try to force words in his mouth, is something all together.
Ken Allerd had a stroke last year and has made an admirable and heart-warming recovery. For O‘Reilly to try his traditional ventriloquist act with him, under those circumstances, is the mark of a swine. And thus, just another day at the office for Bill O‘Reilly, today‘s Worst Person in the World.
OLBERMANN: Were there not a dead 39-year-old woman and a motherless 5 month old child, the Anna Nicole Smith story would have already become its own satirical television series. Our number one story tonight, not 36 hours after the model‘s sudden demise, we have one, not just a paternity test for her daughter, but now a maternity test as well for her remains, to make sure Ms. Smith really was the mother. Two, a claim of fatherhood from yet a third man. Three, the man is the husband of Zsa Zsa Gabor, Frederick Von Anhalt. Four, he claims to be a German prince. He got the title in an adoption for money deal in 1980, claims he had an affair with Miss Smith for a decade and that she wanted him to make her a princess.
Five, two years ago the prince was reported to have sued the Pfizer corporation, claiming its product Viagra had made him impotent. Six, the publicist for his wife, Zsa Zsa, says Von Anhalt is a chronic fabricator. Seven, his wife‘s publicist also says, by the way, that he too used to date Anna Nicole Smith. And also eight, an autopsy.
We will plow through each of the rapidly growing piles of garbage. Let‘s start with the grim realities of the investigation into the cause of death. The medical examiner telling MSNBC that Miss Smith died quickly, that there has not been, as reported, evidence that she choked on her own vomit, that he saw no physical signs that she was a drug user. Our correspondent in Miami is Mark Potter.
MARK POTTER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): While officials say they still don‘t know why Anna Nicole Smith died, they have eliminated several possibilities.
CHIEF CHARLIE TIGER, SEMINOLE COUNTY POLICE: No evidence has been revealed to suggest that a crime occurred. We found no illegal drugs, only prescription medicines.
POTTER: The medical examiner says he found no evidence of physical trauma or disease, and readily no apparent signs of chronic drug abuse.
DR. JOSHUA PERPER, BROWARD COUNTY MEDICAL EXAMINER: We didn‘t find in the stomach any kind of tablets or pills.
POTTER: The final answers will likely come from toxicology tests, which could take weeks.
(on camera): The medical examiner says there are three probable scenarios, that Smith died from natural causes, that her death was due to medication or chemicals, or it was a combination of those factors.
(voice-over): Meanwhile, on national television this morning, Smith‘s mother suggested her daughter‘s death was similar to that of her 20-year-old son Daniel, who died last Fall.
VERGIE ARTHUR, SMITH‘s MOTHER: I think she had too many drugs, just like Danny.
POTTER: Now legal questions are raised about what happens to Smith‘s five month old daughter, Daniel Lynn, and who gets Smith‘s money, which could eventually amount to half a billion dollars.
CHRISTOPHER CLINE, ESTATE PLANNER: In many ways her estate problems are simply a reflection of the instability she had during her lifetime.
POTTER: Attorney Howard K. Stern says he is the father and the husband. Ex-boyfriend Larry Birkhead says the child is his. And, in the zaniest moment of the day, Zsa Zsa Gabor‘s husband, Prince Fredrick Von Anhalt, hinted even he could be involved.
Mark Potter, NBC News, Miami.
OLBERMANN: About that extraordinary claim by the self-described Prince Frederick, first he told the Associated Press that he was the father of Anna Nicole Smith‘s child. Then he held not one but, two news conferences, wherein he danced around repeating that he was the father of the baby, instead alleging that dozens of men could be the father, except the two who have already claimed parentage, Howard K. Stern and Larry Birkhead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRINCE FREDRICK VON ANHALT, CLAIMS HE IS FATHER OF SMITH‘S BABY: The two guys who claim to be the father of the child, and I know for sure they are not the father of the child, and at that time, you know, when she was in Los Angeles, there could be 20 different men could claim the child.
I‘m sure there are other men. There could be easily 20, 30 men.
There could be 100 men who could be the father. There are lots of men around, you know. She liked men too. She loved men. I liked her. She‘s a nice woman. She was hot. She was a very hot woman. Everybody liked her. She was a blond. My wife is blond. I like blond women. She‘s nice. I wouldn‘t kick her out of bed, let‘s put it that way.
Sometimes I‘m a bad boy, yes. When I‘m with a woman, I don‘t ask her, did you have an affair with somebody before me, or what you do after me. I don‘t ask that. I have fun. That‘s all. I‘m out of it.
I don‘t go around, on the air, and my wife can see me on television, I have a child here, a child there. You know, I screw around. You know, I don‘t do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Here a child, there a child, everywhere a child, child. Joining me to look at the legal issues still ongoing, Court TV correspondent Savannah Guthrie. Let me make my claim at the outset Savannah, I‘m not the father of Anna Nicole Smith‘s child.
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, COURT TV: Thanks for clearing that up.
OLBERMANN: Yes, well we got that out of the way anyway. It may be the only fact we‘re dealing with. But let‘s start with this child, in a serious sense. There are three men claiming to be the father of DanniLynn Hope. We‘ll go through it again, Smith‘s fiance, the man on the birth certificate, Howard K. Stern, the ex-boyfriend, Mr. Birkhead, and now this Prince Von Anhalt.
What legally happens next? What happened today at this emergency hearing in L.A.? Who gets custody of the baby in the interim?
GUTHRIE: Well, those are all excellent questions and actually, there aren‘t easy answers really. What happened today with the court in California is essentially nothing. That court says, I don‘t know if I have jurisdiction over a corps. Remember, the photographer‘s lawyers wanted an emergency DNA sample, not of the little baby, but of Anna Nicole Smith.
And the judge said, well, wait a minute, let‘s just keep everything status quo, and has essentially asked the Florida authorities to preserve the evidence, preserve the body for 10 days, so that he can consider whether or not he has the authority to get a DNA sample.
And then, in terms of who gets custody right now, I can tell you what most American courts would do, would probably leave it as status quo until the custody issues can be resolved. But the very odd thing about this is this little baby, as far as we know, has lived her whole life in the Bahamas, and probably it‘s the Bahamas that will have ultimate jurisdiction over the custody fight. So, we all have to crack the books this weekend and study Bohemian law.
OLBERMANN: Is the baby now, in a sense, continuing the lawsuit that her mother began? Is the baby the potential inheritor of the half billion dollars from the J. Howard Marshall estate?
GUTHRIE: Well, potentially, absolutely. I mean there the question is does Anna Nicole Smith have a will. There are some reports that she does. And if she doesn‘t, what is the state of her legal residence, because then that state‘s laws would govern where the property goes, if she doesn‘t have a will. It‘s also a question of whether or not she truly was legally married to Howard K. Stern. If there was an actual legal marriage, then he might be a beneficiary, along with the child.
If he is the executor of the estate, then he could be the person who comes in and represents her interest in that big fat lawsuit going on in California over the huge fortune.
OLBERMANN: And not that Entertainment Tonight is your number one legal source, but it is reporting today that Anna Nicole Smith did have a will, but it was written before the daughter was born, and before her son died. So what happens if that‘s the latest document?
GUTHRIE: If that‘s the latest document, generally speaking, I think a court would say, OK, it‘s usually not someone‘s intent to disinherit an heir. You can legally tell your kids you‘re not getting anything, but you have to make it clear in the will. So I think in that situation, a court will look at the equities and say, all right, she probably would want her heir to inherit. And then, again, it‘s also a question of whether or not she was married. Because if she was married, then the husband, the surviving spouse certainly would be entitled to a share of the estate.
OLBERMANN: And these paternity claims, particularly the one form Zsa Zsa Gabor‘s husband, that he is the father, not to be too gross about this, but if the other report is true, that he sued Pfizer over Viagra making him impotent, A, is he going to have trouble, so to speak, standing in court on this? And B, is there going to be a problem with the paternity tests for DNA, or can we go other routes?
GUTHRIE: Thankfully Keith, there are other routes and a DNA swab is not an invasive procedure, and you can just swab the cheek and that‘s all that‘s involved in that. And I mean, look, if this guy is for real, which looking at the press conference, I don‘t know that he is, but if he is for real, all presumably, he has every bit of a right, as Larry Birkhead did, to go in and try to start a paternity action and try to get the DNA testing to see if he is a match.
But what‘s really kind of sad here is there‘s just so much money at stake, that it seems like people are just coming out of the wood work. Oh, you know, maybe I‘m the father. And it‘s just sad because there is a five month old baby here.
OLBERMANN: Yes, exactly, I mean, you know, there‘s no civil action that any of us can take to try restore dignity to this, after this poor woman‘s been dead? I mean, maybe just through the weekend or something?
GUTHRIE: I know. I hate to say it, maybe just turn your TV off, except for COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Thank you very much Savannah. Court TV‘s Savannah Guthrie, pulling that one out of the fire at the last minute. I have a feeling this will be not the last time we talk about this story. Great thanks for helping us to try to understand some of the legalities of it right now.
GUTHRIE: Hopefully not my last appearance.
OLBERMANN: Absolutely not. Thank you.
OLBERMANN: That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 1,398th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq, 1,400 days on Sunday.
Our MSNBC coverage continues next with a special report on the aftermath of the death of Anna Nicole Smith. From New York, I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
Copy: Content and programming copyright 2007 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2007 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.