Guests: Joan Walsh, Nico Pitney, Paul Waldman, Terry Holt
JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST: Tonight, the crying game and whether “American Idol” used a troubled young girl to spike their ratings. We‘re going to talk about it with somebody who knows about troubled young girls losing their cool in a concert. “The Partridge Family‘s” Danny Bonaduce weighs in on the latest “American Idol” controversy.
But first, President Bush and Congress in a nasty showdown that‘s likely going to end up at the Supreme Court. Last night, George W. Bush told Congress to go ahead and make his day. Well, today they did, Congress drawing up subpoenas for the man long called “Bush‘s brain,” Karl Rove, as well as other White House advisers.
Congress wants to know what the president knew and when he knew it about the firing of U.S. attorneys, and they want everybody to hear those answers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. WILLIAM DELAHUNT (D), MASSACHUSETTS: To insist that these interviews be conducted privately, not under oath and with no transcript, I would suggest is—borders on insulting to this committee and to this Congress.
REP. JOHN CONYERS (D), MICHIGAN: We can meet at the local pub to have that kind of a gathering. It‘d be a great conversation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: It‘s open season on the White House, and Mr. Bush appeared ready today to dig in play his own game with Congress, a political version of “Deal or No Deal.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: The House and the Senate are both moving towards issuing subpoenas for these officials. If subpoenas are issued, is this offer withdrawn?
TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, we‘re just going to have to wait and see.
QUESTION: Well, no. The...
SNOW: The answer is, if they issue—yes. If they issue subpoenas, the offer is withdrawn.
QUESTION: And then...
SNOW: Because it means that they will not have responded to the offer. They will have rejected the offer.
QUESTION: OK. And then—so basically, if they issue subpoenas, there will be no...
SNOW: I‘m just telling you—I‘m telling you that the moment subpoenas are issued, it means that they‘ve rejected the offer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: You take what‘s in the briefcase or you keep playing. Will the White House blink first or will Mssrs. Rove, Miers and Bush be found in contempt of Congress? And what are they afraid of?
Here now to tell us, Nico Pitney—he‘s associate director for research at the Center for American Progress—Joan Walsh—she‘s editor-in-chief for Salon.com—and former presidential candidate, White House communication director, MSNBC political adviser and all-around great guy, Patrick J. Buchanan, friend of Ali G.
SCARBOROUGH: Joan Walsh, we start with you. Why is the White House afraid to have Karl Rove testify under oath?
JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM: Because I think, Joe, they‘re afraid that he would have to lie about the extent to which politics played an enormous role in the vetting and the firing and the hiring of U.S. attorneys, far beyond what is customary with a president, who does have the choice of making these appointments. Politics was at the soul (ph) of these decisions. They were pushing voter fraud cases on these Republican attorneys, and some of them were saying they did not have enough evidence to bring cases. There were issues of corruption in the case of Carol Lam. And they don‘t want us to know how much politics played a role. It‘s clear to me.
SCARBOROUGH: But that‘s legal, though, right? I mean, you know, the president could have come out the day all of this started, say, You know what? I just didn‘t like the fact that some of these women may have colored their hair. I may have not liked the fact that some of the men were just kind of short. I mean, the president can fire these people for any reason whatsoever.
WALSH: You know, I‘m not sure...
SCARBOROUGH: So why would Karl Rove have to lie? You‘re not sure about what?
WALSH: I really...
SCARBOROUGH: That‘s their right.
WALSH: I think we‘re going to find that out. I‘m really not sure if you‘re interfering with an investigation and a prosecution or the lack of a prosecution, maybe it‘s legal, maybe it‘s not, but it sure looks like hell, frankly, Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: What I don‘t understand—wait! Hold on a second. I want to clear this up. Is there any suggestion, Joan, Pat or Nico, that the president didn‘t have the legal right to fire these U.S. attorneys?
NICO PITNEY, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: No one suggests that. The problem—the legality issue comes in here is if it was done to obstruct an investigation. I think there are serious legal issues there. There‘s also...
SCARBOROUGH: Hold on a second! We‘ve got the eight dismissed attorneys up there. Tell me which one was fired because the president wanted to obstruct an investigation?
PITNEY: Well, we—we think...
WALSH: We don‘t know. We don‘t know yet, Joe. That‘s why we need to ask...
PITNEY: But there is—there is...
WALSH: ... these people to testify under oath.
PITNEY: ... plenty of smoke.
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, why are you making all these accusations? I mean, Joan, what you‘re saying is ridiculous. The woman, Ms. Lam, was fired in California because she refused to follow policy and go after people hiring illegal aliens. She should have been kicked out sooner. As for suggesting Karl Rove would have to commit perjury, that is an outrageous thing to say.
PITNEY: No—no one knows that, Pat!
WALSH: I don‘t—I don‘t know that it is.
PITNEY: That‘s—that‘s the reason for...
WALSH: What are they afraid of, Pat?
BUCHANAN: The president of the United States has a right to have the confidential advice of his closest advisers. You can‘t get John Roberts‘s clerks, Supreme Court Justice, Chief Justice, and bring them up to the Hill and saying, What did you tell John Roberts? You can...
WALSH: I think that‘s very...
SCARBOROUGH: Hold on a second. Hold on. And if everybody‘s talking at the same time, we can‘t hear. Joan, go ahead and respond to Pat.
WALSH: Pat, I think, first of all, we don‘t know what‘s at the bottom of these decisions. We really don‘t. And I think if they‘re not afraid of it, then why are they trying to stop it? And also, let me say...
BUCHANAN: All right, let me...
WALSH: ... the spectacle of these Republicans who suddenly want to claim executive privilege—Tony Snow was hoist on his own petard today at the press briefing, thrown back in his face...
BUCHANAN: But what you‘re saying, Joan, is...
WALSH: ... the column where he said President Clinton...
WALSH: ... was trying to duck accountability.
BUCHANAN: Well, look...
WALSH: You know, I think...
BUCHANAN: ... you are saying—look, you just said, We don‘t know what they did. No, you don‘t, and stop making accusations! You can bring up the attorney general, the deputy attorney general, his assistant, make them explain the contradictions. You can go into those things. But you have no right, Congress of the United States, to walk into the White House and demand the person‘s closest confidants and advisers be hold up before them because they suspect something they don‘t know!
SCARBOROUGH: Let me let Joan respond, and then I‘m going to have Nico respond. But Joan, I‘m going to start with you. You talked about the hypocrisy of Tony Snow, who, of course, was against presidential privileges in the 1990s—yes, was against it when Bill Clinton was president...
WALSH: Now he‘s all for it.
SCARBOROUGH: ... but thinks that privilege is a great idea. Right. But you could also look at Democrats like Henry Waxman, who runs the Government Oversight Committee, who in the 1990s believed very much in presidential privilege when it was Bill Clinton claiming it but now who‘s against it. Isn‘t this why Americans just hate Washington politicians—because...
WALSH: Oh, come on, Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: ... they‘re hypocritical? Republicans and Democrats alike.
WALSH: There‘s absolutely some truth to that. I‘ll give you that, Joe. But there is no comparison between the potential obstruction of justice here with the firing of these attorneys and the Monica Lewinsky scandal. That‘s one. People...
SCARBOROUGH: What about China? What about China? I mean, we can go through...
WALSH: They never...
SCARBOROUGH: ... China-gate, we could talk about fund-raising. There were scandals after scandals where they always claimed presidential privilege.
BUCHANAN: But Joe, look, if a crime‘s been committed, ask for an independent counsel or a special prosecutor. But look, I am a White House aide who was called up and subpoenaed and had to testify for five hours before the Watergate committee. But that was a criminal investigation of the White House and the president of the United States.
PITNEY: But Pat, we don‘t know...
BUCHANAN: This is a political operation!
WALSH: We won‘t find out if there‘s a crime committed...
BUCHANAN: Well, then...
PITNEY: They‘re being dishonest. That‘s the reason why they want them to testify.
SCARBOROUGH: Hold on. Hold on. Nico, let—let Nico—go ahead, Nico, take a shot at it.
PITNEY: Well, I‘m—you had 30-plus Clinton advisers go up and testify on over 40 occasions. This is not unprecedented. President Bush doesn‘t have any legal authority to prevent Karl Rove—he just doesn‘t want them to tell the truth.
BUCHANAN: Why don‘t we wait for the—look, the president is going to take the subpoenas and tell them what they can do with them. Then if they want to take it up to the Supreme Court, that‘s where it‘s going to be decided. And the president‘s going to—the president does have executive privilege. Everybody agrees with it. Everybody agrees it‘s not absolute. Let the Supreme Court decide it...
SCARBOROUGH: OK, and Pat...
BUCHANAN: ... doing the right thing.
SCARBOROUGH: The question is, though, Why isn‘t Congress doing the right thing, though? Why doesn‘t Congress have that right to issue subpoenas and try to get the truth from the White House? Because...
BUCHANAN: Well, look...
SCARBOROUGH: ... after all, you got to admit, Pat, they have been lying through their teeth from the very beginning.
BUCHANAN: Joe, they can send a subpoena up to Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney and tell them to come up before them. That‘s their right to do it. But let me tell you one brief thing. Congress has the power to declare war or authorize war, and Nancy Pelosi just ceded that authority to the president of the United States to attack Iran just the other day. That‘s where they really have power. They do not have power to call the president or his closest aides to explain policy.
PITNEY: That‘s not—you know—you know, the Supreme Court has weighed in on this. You know, USA verses Nixon. They said...
BUCHANAN: But that‘s a criminal investigation!
PITNEY: ... Congress—the White House can only prevent their aides from coming in cases of national security, state secrets. This is not involving that. They can clearly...
PITNEY: ... come and testify, and tell the truth.
BUCHANAN: They cannot—well, why haven‘t they called up Rove and everybody every time they‘ve got questions, then?
PITNEY: Well, we‘ve had a Republican...
WALSH: Well, because we‘ve had a Republican...
SCARBOROUGH: OK—there has been a Republican...
WALSH: He didn‘t practice that.
SCARBOROUGH: ... Congress. And Joan, this is about the fact that the White House has basically had Republicans in charge that have not challenged them as aggressively as they should have challenged them on many different issues.
And Joan, I want you to watch this fascinating exchange between White House spokesman Tony Snow and the press corps today that suggests that even Tony Snow no longer trusts the word of other Bush administration officials. Roll it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: You keep saying the Justice Department, the response in these e-mails, the 3,000 pages, are unprecedented and very responsive. Why, then, is there this gap from mid-November to about December 4, right before the actual firings? Why is there a gap in the e-mail?
SNOW: I don‘t know. Why don‘t you ask them?
QUESTION: Well, you‘re—the White House and the Justice Department...
SNOW: I know, but I‘m not going to be the fact witness on Justice.
QUESTION: But you‘re the one representing that this has been very responsive...
SNOW: And I‘ve been led to believe that there‘s a good response for it, but I‘m going to let you ask them because they‘re going to have—they‘re going to have the answer.
QUESTION: Was there any—you think perhaps any e-mails about the president in there? And did the president have to sign off on this? Because the question was raised...
SNOW: The president has no recollection of this ever being raised with him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: Joan, I‘m not going to be a fact witness for the Justice Department. You‘ll have to ask them. I mean, this is a guy that got lied to and then got...
SCARBOROUGH: ... sent up to say it was all Harriet Miers‘s fault, and now he doesn‘t even trust his own administration. Is it any wonder the Democrats want to subpoena the Bush administration?
WALSH: Is it any wonder that we want them under oath? Tony Snow probably wants them under oath. I mean, this is ridiculous.
SCARBOROUGH: Tony Snow would love them under oath when they‘re telling him what to say!
WALSH: He‘d like to have them under oath every day when he talks to them. And we might have to get there. I mean, look, we saw what they did to Scott McClellan around Scooter Libby. They lie to their press people. They lie to the American people. There‘s nothing wrong with asking that they come up and tell the truth under oath...
WALSH: ... and that‘s what the Congress is doing. And Republicans want that, too. I agree there‘s partisan politics somewhat in this. I‘m not going to lie about that, you guys. I‘m not even under oath and I won‘t lie. But these are Republican attorneys. There are Republicans who are upset about this. And I don‘t think this is the end of it. I think this is a really ugly...
SCARBOROUGH: Pat, you were a White House communication director. You know you could never lie to your guy and send him out there to get hammered by the press. But that‘s exactly what‘s happened to Tony Snow, and so that‘s why he‘s defensive, right?
WALSH: Week after week.
BUCHANAN: Well, look, there‘s no doubt that there‘s been a lot of misrepresentation going on, people not telling the truth...
BUCHANAN: ... and Congress should call up...
SCARBOROUGH: ... all the members of the Justice Department. And they can ask Rove to testify. They can subpoena him, and the president of the United States can say no. It can go to the Supreme Court. If Congress feels it‘s that horrible, they can move to impeach the president. They cannot call up his closest advisers and say, You have to talk to us.
SCARBOROUGH: But this isn‘t a matter of national security, right?
BUCHANAN: I don‘t care whether it is or not, Joe! Look, I mean, I told the president of the United States to fire Archibald Cox! Do they have a right to call me up and ask my advice? That‘s preposterous!
SCARBOROUGH: All right, Pat...
PITNEY: If you‘ve lied about it, then they do.
PITNEY: If you‘ve lied to them once—if you‘ve...
SCARBOROUGH: Buchanan obviously takes all this presidential privilege stuff very seriously.
BUCHANAN: You bet.
SCARBOROUGH: You‘ve had to deal with it before. Pat, I‘d love to say I defer to you on this one. I defer to you on a lot of things. But again, if the press secretary can‘t even believe what the White House is telling him, why should Congress?
BUCHANAN: They shouldn‘t.
SCARBOROUGH: Nico, Pat, Joan, thanks so much. Greatly appreciate it.
And coming up here: Is the vast right-wing conspiracy trying to take down Al Gore before he runs for president? How conservative critics are attacking the vice president even as he takes his inconvenient truths to Capitol Hill today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, honey, I‘ve said it once before and I‘ll say it again. I‘m definitely an addict. I‘m definitely an alcoholic.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: Oh, honey, Miss USA, Tara Connor, hits rock bottom but lives to tell SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY all about it. She‘ll talk about drinking, rehab and whether it was all a Trump publicity stunt. All that and my candid interview with her.
And later: She‘s “American Idol‘s” answer to Beatlemania, but if you think last night‘s crying (ph) fan (ph) was a loony accident, guess again. We‘re exposing the truth behind “Idol‘s” crying game.
SCARBOROUGH: Is the vast right-wing conspiracy alive and well and trying to melt Al Gore‘s presidential chances? Well, today the former vice president returned to Capitol Hill in his first appearance there since certifying the Electoral College victory of George W. Bush in 2000, not one of his happier days. His business today, though, the battle against global warming, but the reception was far chillier than the one he received in Hollywood a few weeks back when he brought home an Academy Award.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JAMES INHOFE ®, OKLAHOMA: My perspective has been that some of the statements that you have made are—have inaccuracies and have been misleading.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: In fact, things have gotten so tough for Gore on the Hill that the chairman of the committee had to rein things in at one point.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D-CA), ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS COMMITTEE CHAIR:
INHOFE: I‘m asking...
BOXER: We‘ll freeze the time for a minute.
INHOFE: Oh, yes.
BOXER: I‘m just trying to make...
INHOFE: Take your time. We‘re freezing...
BOXER: We‘re freezing the time, just for a minute. I want to talk to you a minute, please.
BOXER: Would you agree—would you agree to let the vice president answer your questions, and then if you want an extra few minutes at the end, I‘m happy to give it to you, but we‘re not going to get anywhere...
INHOFE: Why don‘t we do this...
BOXER: You‘re asking questions...
INHOFE: Why don‘t we do this. At the end, you can have as much time as you want to answer all of the questions.
BOXER: No, that‘s against the rule of—you‘re not making the rules. You used to (INAUDIBLE) You don‘t do this anymore. Elections have consequences.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: Getting rough in there. So are Republicans gunning for Mr. Gore? Here‘s Terry Holt, a Republican strategist, and Paul Waldman, a senior fellow at Media Matters. Paul, do you think the vast right-wing conspiracy has their target fixed in on Al Gore‘s political future?
PAUL WALDMAN, MEDIA MATTERS: Well, I don‘t know what the people who do the secret handshakes are saying now, but you know, it‘s certainly true, whether you want to call it a conspiracy or not, that the Republicans have a very sophisticated apparatus by which they can get their messages out, and they have certainly been attacking Al Gore, as they have other Democratic politicians. But what really makes it effective is that the media are such willing partners in the attacks on Gore. I mean, if we think back to 2000 when he ran for president, there‘s been no candidate probably in the last 40 years who got savaged by the mainstream media the way Gore did. They made up all kinds of stories to tell us that he was dishonest and he was a phony. And you know, it continued even after that. In 2002, he gave a speech in which he said that the Bush administration was being dishonest about Iraq and that going to war there was a terrible idea, and everyone wrote about how he was just crazy. But he turned out to be right about that, as he has about a lot of other things.
SCARBOROUGH: Terry Holt...
WALDMAN: But there are a lot of people who just don‘t like him.
SCARBOROUGH: Terry Holt, why do conservatives dislike Al Gore so much?
TERRY HOLT, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, what makes the criticism so effective about Al Gore is that Al Gore himself is—generates the problem. It‘s not that he‘s just a hypocrite, and he is, but he‘s a braggart. I mean, he‘s claimed to have invented the Internet, among many other things. He claimed to have discovered the environmental problems that exist today, when in fact, he himself uses more energy in one month at his house in Tennessee than most people use in an entire year at their house. The pristine grounds of Al Gore‘s house in Tennessee backed up on the other side of a mountain by a zinc mine that his family has leased for some 30 years to a mining company. So there...
SCARBOROUGH: But Terry...
SCARBOROUGH: Terry, I talked to a supporter of Al Gore, somebody really close to the former vice president, who said—used that as an example, the fact that the day after he won the Academy Award, it was up on The Drudge Report and a lot of conservative sites that Al Gore was a hypocrite. And they were, like, Man, why can‘t they just give this guy 24 hours to enjoy the Academy Award? Why do they hate him so much?
HOLT: Well, because he‘s out there claiming to be something he‘s not, and I think, Joe, from your experience in politics, you know, you can have people disagree with you about everything, but if you‘re sincere, people are going to have some empathy toward you and maybe even like you. Think of Ronald Reagan.
HOLT: But in politics, the single worst thing in the world you can be is a flat-out hypocrite and a braggart. And Al Gore, unfortunately, happens to fit in both categories.
SCARBOROUGH: Paul, I want you to listen to what another Republican congressman had to say today going after Al Gore.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I sincerely don‘t agree with your conclusions. Even the mainstream media, Mr. Vice President, are now noticing that global warming science is uneven and evolving. We need to be deliberative and careful when we talk about so-called scientific facts. It appears that the temperature appears to drive CO2, not vice versa. On this point, Mr. Vice President, you‘re not just off a little, you‘re totally wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: And Paul Waldman, that, of course, we need to say—that‘s a guy from Texas, a congressmen from Texas, Joe Barton, who obviously is not going to be supportive of what Al Gore supports. Go ahead.
WALDMAN: Well, you know, I‘m glad that Terry brought up this idea that Al Gore said he invented the Internet. That is actually a lie that started at the Republican National Committee and then was picked up gleefully by the mainstream media.
HOLT: No, but it‘s a direct quote!
WALDMAN: It‘s been repeated...
WALDMAN: Joe, let me finish...
HOLT: He said, I led the way on the Internet...
WALDMAN: I‘ll tell you exactly what he said. This is important to clarify, Joe, because this lie has been repeated literally thousands of times. And let me be clear about this. Al Gore never said he invented the Internet. He didn‘t say it. What he said was that when he was in Congress, he took the lead on the congressional action that led to the creation of the Internet.
WALDMAN: I‘m sorry, Terry, what he said is 100 percent true. What you said...
HOLT: I appreciate your apology.
WALDMAN: ... about him is false. And the thing is, it‘s been repeated so many times by reporters who just think, Oh, yes, it must be true because Al Gore is a great big phony. And that‘s not the only thing...
HOLT: The left is blaming the media?
WALDMAN: Excuse me?
HOLT: The left is blaming the media.
HOLT: That‘s rich.
WALDMAN: Absolutely. You know, Terry, I don‘t know where you were in 2000, but they savaged him...
BUCHANAN: I was on the Bush campaign.
WALDMAN: ... every single day. Exactly. So you had a terrific...
WALDMAN: If you were on the Bush campaign, you knew that the media were willing partners in that attempt...
SCARBOROUGH: All right, and guys, I‘m going to have to...
HOLT: ... direct quotes from Al Gore.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, I‘m going to have to ask you guys to take it out to the parking lot. Terry Holt, Paul Waldman, thank you so much. As Paul said, they‘ve been lying about Al Gore, that Internet thing, for a long time. And you know, it‘ just—I‘m sick and tired of people continuing to lie about me, saying that I dated Elle MacPherson (ph) for 10 years. It‘s just not true, not true at all.
Coming up next: “Idol” producers try to bounce back from a low ratings week and a weak crop of contestants by exploiting an overemotional fan. We‘re going to be exposing “Idol‘s” latest shameless trick. It‘s called “The Crying Game” straight ahead.
But first: Love‘s in the air when Barbara Walters sits down with Hugo Chavez. “Must See S.C.” coming up next. At least she straightened up from Rosie.
SCARBOROUGH: Hey, nudge Grandma, it‘s time for tonight‘s “Must See S.C.,” some video you just got to see. First up: Barbara Walters is known for her up-close and personal interviews and all those Academy Award things. But did Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez take things too far?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARBARA WALTERS, ABC NEWS: I want to ask some questions about your life.
HUGO CHAVEZ, VENEZUELAN PRESIDENT (through translator): I open my heart to you, and I will tell you whatever you want to know.
WALTERS: Venezuela elected you to a second term.
CHAVEZ (through translator): You know, I tape you on “The View,”and I play it back very, very slowly.
WALTERS: I would like to talk about oil.
CHAVEZ (through translator): I will cover your body with oil.
CHAVEZ (through translator): Have you ever heard of a “dirty Chavez”?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: Oh, my goodness! I didn‘t know that‘s where it came from.
And finally, as the drama unfolds at the White House, Hollywood‘s already planning the movie. Conan brings us the cast for the next political blockbuster.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CONAN O‘BRIEN, HOST, “LATE NIGHT WITH CONAN O‘BRIEN: Alberto Gonzales will be played by Carlos Mencia. Not bad. Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman General Peter Pace will be played by Dewey from “Malcolm in the Middle.” Democratic senator Patrick Leahy will be played by the Muppet Statler (ph).
Senator Chuck Schumer will once again by played by Grandpa Munster.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: Who also ran for office!
Coming up: Tara Connor dishes the dirt about the Donald, her scandal and charges that it was all a big publicity stunt. Our conversation coming up next.
But first: Speaking of publicity stunts, what‘s the deal with “American Idol‘s” crying girl? Did the producers plant her? Of course they did! Is it just another way the show‘s manipulating what happens to spike ratings? We‘re going to talk to somebody who knows about out-of-control fans, “The Partridge Family‘s” Danny Bonaduce straight ahead.
SCARBOROUGH: Unbelievable. Coming up, Miss USA, Tara Conner, come clean about her drinking problems, her road to recovery, and what she thinks of critics who say it was all a publicity stunt. That story and a lot more, straight ahead.
But first, “American Idol.” Now, don‘t worry, West Coast viewers. We‘re not going to tell you who got booted off tonight, but we are going to get to the bottom of what “Idol” fans have been talking about all day, the girl in the crowd who stole the show with her uncontrollable crying.
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SANJAYA MALAKAR, “AMERICAN IDOL” CONTESTANT (singing): Girl, you really got me now. You got me so I don‘t know what I‘m doing.
RYAN SEACREST, HOST, “AMERICAN IDOL”: You‘re a fan?
PAULA ABDUL, JUDGE, “AMERICAN IDOL”: Yeah.
SEACREST: Say hello to this young lady. What is your name? Ashley, Sanjaya. Sanjaya, Ashley.
SEACREST: Are you having fun, sweetheart? Yeah? OK, just checking.
If you need anything, let us know, OK? We‘ll be right here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: I think she needs a doctor. That was 13-year-old Ashley Ferl. The “Los Angeles Times” reports that she won that front row seat after producers saw her crying uncontrollably at dress rehearsal (INAUDIBLE) crying uncontrollably on camera last night over, and over, and over again.
Tonight, fans and critics alike are wondering if it was all staged and if the TV‘s top show manipulated the young girl for ratings. And how often do producers manipulate what happens on the live show? All the time?
Well, here now to talk about it, former “American Idol” contestant Carmen Rasmusen. Also, Danny Bonaduce from “The Partridge Family,” VH-1‘s “Breaking Bonaduce,” and from “The Adam Carolla Show” on 97.1 FREE-FM on the West Coast, and “OK” magazine senior report Courtney Hazlett.
Carmen, let‘s start with you. Was this all staged? Did producers put her right there in the middle because they knew that she was going to get this type of reaction?
CARMEN RASMUSEN, FORMER “AMERICAN IDOL” CONTESTANT: Of course they did, Joe. Of course they did. I mean, she was sitting in a camera seat right behind the producer, Nigel Lythgoe. They obviously thought it would be something very funny and entertaining to put on TV.
I don‘t think they made her cry. I think those were real tears. I think she really was overwhelmed with watching the contestants. I really think she is a huge fan of the show, and it‘s fitting. It‘s British Invasion week. I kind of think they wanted to redo the whole Beatlemania thing with the girls crying in the audience. But of course it was staged. Of course they put her there.
SCARBOROUGH: I mean, so much of this stuff is staged. Can you tell me, Courtney, how she ended up being there?
COURTNEY HAZLETT, “OK” MAGAZINE: Well, she won her seat for a rehearsal, and she performed extremely well with the crying in the rehearsal, so they gave her this shot here at “American Idol,” hoping she‘d do the same. I have to tell you, Joe, if this girl is faking, then Dakota Fanning better be shaking in her boots, because her performance was just top notch. Everybody loved it.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, I mean, it just seemed a little strange to me. But Ashley‘s tears were not the first to be shed on “American Idol.” Let‘s take a look at this.
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SCARBOROUGH: Danny, you know the Hoff even re-launched his career by crying on “American Idol” last year. I mean, you were, you know, with “The Partridge Family.” With those teenage girls, preteen girls would cry like crazy, wouldn‘t they, when you were up on stage?
DANNY BONADUCE, RADIO HOST: Well, they would, but you‘ve got to remember, we had sold 20 million albums. So far, Sanjaya‘s biggest accomplishment is he stood in line at Wal-Mart longer than the other guys. You know, so...
SCARBOROUGH: He‘s a terrible singer, too, right?
BONADUCE: Well, everything about him. If I were half the man that Ryan Seacrest is, I‘d be Sanjaya. It‘s the year of the tear equals career. You know, you put this little girl in, who exploited who? FOX shot this little girl crying and got ratings. But if you ever put a camera in the face of your daughter or your niece when she didn‘t want her picture taken, they do this. They don‘t look right in the camera. That little girl knew just what she was doing just as well as FOX did.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, you know, the thing is, it seems like the whole thing is so manipulated. I mean, this week “Star” magazine is reporting that producers even script the banter, the fights between Simon and Ryan.
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SEACREST: Simon, any advise on the high heels?
SIMON COWELL, JUDGE, “AMERICAN IDOL”: You should know, Ryan.
SEACREST: Stay out of my closet.
COWELL: Come out.
SEACREST: This is about the top 12, OK? Not your wishes. We‘re friends.
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SCARBOROUGH: Courtney, all of this stuff is calculated, isn‘t it? I mean, I‘ve heard that they actually will come up with these plans, they‘ll talk about the fights. They‘ll even talk about the fights that they‘re going to take to “People” magazine. It‘s all calculated to whip us up, to see this show more, right?
HAZLETT: Well, if it is calculated, listen, it‘s working. We‘re talking about it right now. And in a way, it‘s really smart. Because, with this show, it‘s been through so many seasons, you kind of have to spice it up. Personally, I think the twist of spicing it up in the audience with little Ashley, doing the best cry that we‘ve since Nancy Kerrigan got her knees clubbed, was brilliant. It doesn‘t work sometimes when you try to change things up with the contestants. Doing it with the judges and with the audience I think is a brilliant move.
BONADUCE: That‘s a horrendous commentary on television.
SCARBOROUGH: Why‘s that, Danny?
BONADUCE: Because you‘re saying, well, if this little girl crying is faking and the fights are faking, it‘s really working, it‘s the best thing since one Olympian tried to disqualify and smashing the leg of another Olympian, god, that‘s really good TV. Let‘s see if we can get whacked next time.
And the fights are scripted. And I‘ll tell you how they‘re scripted exactly, because I know how this works. What they do is they pick the topic and the time they need the fight. Then they give them options of jokes so they can pick one so they don‘t have to say they were written. They can decide which one they‘re going to use on their own. So when he said, “Get those heels out of your closet,” and then Ryan said, “I‘m out of the closet,” my guess is Ryan didn‘t come up with that that fast.
HAZLETT: I don‘t know, though. If I could just jump in here for a second, Danny, I hear what you‘re saying. But at the same point in time here, you‘ve got to give these guys some credit. They‘re performers. They‘ve been doing this for a while. They actually know each other. They hang out after the show.
HAZLETT: I feel like these are things they‘re saying any way. And it‘s like, hey, you know what? This would work really great for this show. I think you have to give them a little bit of credit for knowing what works.
BONADUCE: I agree with you 100 percent; I just believe that that wasn‘t the first time they said it. They said it at lunch and said, “Hey, that will work great. Let‘s do that bit again.” They‘re not going to take a chance on the most popular in television on Ryan Seacrest and Simon Cowell being brilliant. They‘re just not going to take that shot.
RASMUSEN: The judges come in with a notepad and a piece of pencil on dress rehearsals, and they make notes about us, they make notes about what we‘re going to say. So I agree with both of you. It‘s scripted in a way, but as you were saying, they also—you know, they could have been talking about it over lunch, they could have been talking about it over at someone‘s house and said, “Hey, this would be something great to say on television.” Simon and Ryan do have a great relationship, and that‘s why it works, because they can banter back and forth, and it makes for great TV.
SCARBOROUGH: And it‘s all calculated.
BONADUCE: The second you say the word scripted, you don‘t agree with both of us. You just agree with me.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, why don‘t we just say this? It‘s brilliant planned spontaneity. Carmen Rasmusen...
BONADUCE: Oh, I wish I was doing it. Don‘t get me wrong.
SCARBOROUGH: ... Courtney Hazlett, and Danny Bonaduce, thanks so much.
And stick around. Coming up, Britney out of rehab. So what‘s next for the pop princess? And how long is her hair these days? The details coming up on “Hollyweird.”
But first, Tara Conner behind the tiara. Was her stint in rehab a publicity stunt orchestrated by Donald Trump? I‘ll ask her, coming up next.
SCARBOROUGH: From tiara to train wreck and back again. You know, Tara Conner only has two days left in her rein as Miss USA, and it‘s been a rollercoaster ride, taken her from the top of the world to the front pages of the tabloids. The beauty queen was nearly stripped of her crown by Donald Trump and forced into rehab to face her addictions. She‘s out of rehab now, and I talked to her about the critics who say this whole thing was staged by Donald Trump and that she should have actually been booted from Miss USA months ago.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... after reports of hard partying, Miss USA could hear those dreaded words from Donald Trump: “You‘re fired.”
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The reining Miss USA could get sent packing this morning...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Miss USA just might lose her crown over a scandal involving drugs, booze, boys, and kissing other girls.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Should Tara Conner get the boot?
SCARBOROUGH: So many people think that this whole thing could have been a publicity stunt. How do you convince them that this was not a publicity stunt, that this was very real, and you went through some terrible times?
TARA CONNER, MISS USA: You know, I don‘t think that I should have to convince anyone of the hard time that I had or if it was genuine. And if any part of it was for a publicity thing, the people that turned it into a publicity thing were (INAUDIBLE) and didn‘t even know it. If you can‘t tell a difference in the girl that I was before and the girl I am now, it‘s a night and day difference.
And, you know, I‘ve been very, very fortunate and very blessed through all of this to have the support that I‘ve had. And, you know, it‘s a matter of opinion. If you think it‘s a publicity thing, it‘s not that I know that every day now that I‘m living clean and sober, I‘m happier, and happier, and happier.
I want to apologize to my family if I‘ve put any disgrace upon you.
And now, thank God, I have the chance to make it right.
SCARBOROUGH: Can you tell us what your lowest moment was, when you had to pick up that phone, and call back home, and pass on some news that you just didn‘t want to tell your family?
CONNER: You know, it was funny. I actually called my mother the day that I got drug tested. And this was before everything went down. And I immediately apologized to her and said, you know, I need you to know that this is what‘s going on with me. And she asked me at the time, she said, you know, “Do you need help?” And at first, I was in complete denial. I thought, no, I don‘t need help. I can stop on my own. I just got a little too (INAUDIBLE) this, that and the other. But I think that was basically my lowest point. It was a pretty low point.
JAY LENO, HOST, “THE TONIGHT SHOW”: Well, you know, usually Donald is so tough on people. I wonder what it is about a big breasted, blonde, beauty queen that would make Donald change his mind?
DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, “LATE SHOW”: Well, they got a hold of her, and they set her down, and they straightened her out, and it looks like she‘s going to be able to keep her tiara. And Donald Trump gets to keep whatever it is he‘s got on his head.
SCARBOROUGH: There was this big moment when you went into talk to Donald Trump, and everybody was reporting that he was going to strip you of your crown, you were going to be kicked out of the Miss USA organization and be disgraced. You came out still on top. What happened in that meeting?
CONNER: You know, we sat down, and he just asked me. He says, “Tara, what do you want to do about this? What can we do about this?” And at that time, of course, I was like, “Well, I want to keep my job. Duh.”
So he said, you know, I think that you have a bit of an alcohol problem. I think that you may need some kind of a treatment. And at first, I‘m thinking, OK, well, I‘m just going to go to maybe a meeting or something. I didn‘t know anything about it, maybe like a seven-day stay somewhere. I thought, you know, it would just be a publicity thing and this, that, and the other. And then that‘s because I was in complete denial and I didn‘t realize that he was actually trying to help me, because he saw something in me that I couldn‘t see in myself.
DONALD TRUMP, HOST, “THE APPRENTICE”: Tara is a good person. Tara has tried hard. Tara is going to be given a second chance.
SCARBOROUGH: Do you think, after going through rehab, that you are an addict or you just got a little too wild for a while?
CONNER: Oh, honey, I‘ve said it once before, and I‘ll say it again. I‘m definitely an addict. I‘m definitely an alcoholic. Once you‘re there for a while, it is drilled into your head. And you kind of start to listen, when the person to the right and the person to the left says, “This is what I have a problem with, and this is how I am, and this is a disease that I have.”
And until I figured out that it was a disease, and until I understood and accepted that it‘s a terminal illness that I‘m going to have to treat every single day, or it could take me out, you know? That‘s when I realized, you know what? This is my problem that I have, and I‘m going to have to treat it. I have to treat it. And there‘s a misconception there. A lot of people don‘t realize it‘s a disease.
SCARBOROUGH: All right. Miss USA Tara Conner, congratulations on getting through the year and certainly getting through the year the way you did. Thanks so much for being with us, and good luck in the future.
CONNER: Thank you. Thank you so much.
SCARBOROUGH: All right. And I‘ll tell you what, as badly as things went for her, she actually could be a great role model for a lot of people moving forward, if she continues to face down her problems. And it certainly looks like she‘s been doing that for the past couple of months.
Coming up next, speaking of rehab, Britney‘s out. So what‘s her next move? Can her career and her hair make a come back? We‘re going to be talking about it with Danny Bonaduce and Courtney Hazlett.
SCARBOROUGH: Hey, make sure your assistant (INAUDIBLE) baby. It‘s time “Hollyweird.”
First up, Britney Spears. Look out Hollywood: The pop tart is out of rehab. With us once again, Danny Bonaduce from “The Partridge Family” and the “Adam Carolla Show” on 97.1 FREE FM on the West Coast.
BONADUCE: Thank you.
SCARBOROUGH: And “OK” magazine‘s Courtney Hazlett. Courtney, what about Britney getting out of rehab again? What‘s going on here?
HAZLETT: Well, I got a call last night, just hours before Britney was released from rehab, and it was an interesting call, because they were telling me, listen, she‘s leaving Promises, but it‘s an interesting situation. Although she was at the low end of the spectrum for a duration of stay at Promises, the people inside were actually beginning to have some sort of like uprising.
They felt she was a distraction. There were too much paparazzi around there. She wasn‘t taking this treatment seriously. And actually, a lot of people inside Promises said, “Hey, Britney, you know what? It might just be time for you to go.” If you want to continue your treatment, you can do it at a sober living house, but we think you‘ve done what you can here. You‘re making too hard for the other people to recover.
SCARBOROUGH: Danny Bonaduce, you‘ve always got a great scoop about Britney. What are you hearing?
BONADUCE: Well, first of all, I hear the same thing. And I happen to have lived through that. You know, I went to that rehab. And my roommate was a $20-million-a-picture movie star, but there was also another very famous person there under indictment. And there were helicopters and paparazzi. And finally the...
SCARBOROUGH: Danny, Danny, Danny, you cannot tell them about our time together in rehab. I beat the rap.
BONADUCE: I‘m sorry.
SCARBOROUGH: But, anyway, so what happened?
BONADUCE: So, really, the people, “We are not getting any kind of treatment.” All it is, is dodging cameras and, you know, talking about your life. Everything is you two people. And in this case, everything was Britney, and nobody was getting the service and/or help that they wanted.
And the problem is, when you check out of rehab, if you‘re the first time clean for 30 days, you feel great. The last two years of my drinking, I was physically sick every morning. To wake up feeling great made me felt good. I hate to say this, but if she‘s a real alcoholic, in 90 days, let‘s see if we‘re not mopping her up with a sponge.
SCARBOROUGH: Yes, no doubt about it. And Justin Timberlake, somebody also connected with Britney, tells “Details” magazine he brought sexy back to the Grammys. I‘ve got problems here. I‘ve got real problems here, Courtney. I don‘t think this guy is sexy. I think he‘s dorky. He‘s a skinny, scrawny little white boy who thinks he‘s black. Why does this guy think he brought sexy anywhere?
HAZLETT: Those are fighting words, Joe. Listen, Justin Timberlake, I think he...
SCARBOROUGH: Look at him! Look at him! There‘s nothing sexy about -
look at that dork. We would have beat him up in high school.
HAZLETT: I don‘t know about that. Seriously, he writes his own songs. He plays his own instruments.
SCARBOROUGH: Dork. Dork.
HAZLETT: He does his own lyrics.
HAZLETT: He‘s doing a lot for music that a lot of other people who are selling millions of records are not doing. They‘re not writing their own things.
SCARBOROUGH: Making it worse.
HAZLETT: They‘re not exactly trying to evolve music. Just because he doesn‘t sound like Bob Dylan doesn‘t mean that he‘s not emeritus in this industry.
SCARBOROUGH: He‘s scrawny. Bringing sexy back? I mean, that‘s like me saying I‘m bringing small noses back. It‘s just ain‘t the truth, Danny Bonaduce. What‘s going on here?
BONADUCE: Well, I‘m with you on the song. The song is just a horrendous song. I don‘t know whose idea it was. I mean, it‘s just saying, “Look at me. Aren‘t I beautiful and special?” And that‘s a big mistake for anybody in the entertainment business to do. I mean...
HAZLETT: ... he‘s doing pretty well.
BONADUCE: It‘s a bad idea, but I happen to think—this is the first time I‘ve ever disagreed with you. I‘ve spoken to Justin on many occasions, and he‘s a very nice, polite young man. I‘ll tell you what he‘s bringing back: He‘s bringing manners back.
SCARBOROUGH: My grandmother was nice, but she wasn‘t sexy.
BONADUCE: Well, actually she was. I meant to mention this to you.
SCARBOROUGH: You know what? You‘re cut off, Bonaduce. You are cut off. Don‘t talk about my sainted grandmother that way.
But you can talk that way about Heather Mills. Very quickly, Heather Mills—I guess, Courtney, she got flowers from Sir Paul last night?
HAZLETT: She got flowers from Sir Paul. It just said, “Dear Heather, Love Beatrice and Daddy,” something to that extent. And she said she wasn‘t at all surprised by this. I have to tell you, all eyes were on Heather Mills last night, including mine. She is the person to watch with “Dancing with the Stars.” She admits the led can come off, and everyone wants to be there when it happens.
SCARBOROUGH: Exactly. Exactly. Thanks so much. Danny Bonaduce. Thank you, Courtney Hazlett. Great having you here. That‘s all the time we have for tonight in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. We‘ll see you back here tomorrow night. Good night.
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