Guests: Dr. Louis Teichholz, Michael Musto
ALISON STEWART, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Rudy G. just wants to clarify his position on abortion.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDOLPH GIULIANI ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don‘t agree with myself sometimes. And I change my mind sometimes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEWART: Let‘s try that again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIULIANI: I would grant women the right to make that choice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEWART: Will Roe v. Wade define Giuliani‘s presidential campaign as he goes against the socially conservative grain? What does it mean for the other Republican candidates?
Politics and corruption? Toss in Nevada‘s governor, his wife, a cruise ship, party photos, damaging e-mails, and this guy, who was awarded tens of millions of dollars in government contracts. The FBI‘s investigating a potential scandal.
The Department of Homeland Security told us, If you see something, say something. Then sue someone. Six Muslim clerics removed from a U.S. Airways flight and questioned for suspicious behavior are now suing the passengers that alerted the authorities.
If 40 can be the new 30, then thin can be the new fat. A new study out says that even if you‘re a skinny mini, you could be El Gordo on the inside.
And let‘s take a trip to the island of overexposed celebrities. Michael Musto joins us to dissect this year‘s Forbes list, the bald, the classic, disputing divas, dueling Howards, and he‘s back, 14 minutes, 50 seconds, and counting.
All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.
Good evening, everybody. I‘m Alison Stewart, in for Keith Olbermann.
Allegations of flipping, not to mention charges of flopping, may have hurt Democrat John Kerry in the 2004 race for president. But so far, in the ‘08 campaign, at least two Republican candidates would seem to be the ones spending the most time doing front somersaults in the pike position.
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, Rudy Giuliani‘s rude awakening when it comes to abortion and the GOP. The former mayor of New York, who has tried to finesse a correct answer about abortion, will likely have an even harder time explaining his views to the conservative wing of his party, now that a 1997 questionnaire from the National Aborts (ph) Rights Action League, NARAL, is making the rounds online.
In it, the moderate Republican said he is against parental notification laws and for Medicaid-funded abortions. To be filed under bad timing, the questionnaire surfaced the night before Mr. Giuliani was scheduled to make a speech about abortion at Houston Baptist University in Texas.
We start things off with a report from correspondent David Gregory in Washington.
DAVID GREGORY, NBC CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is a political gamble Rudy Giuliani thinks he can win. His message today to a conservative audience at Houston‘s Baptist University, I am what I am. While the former New York mayor says he thinks abortion is morally wrong, what he is, is in favor after woman‘s right to choose.
This week, it was reported he donated money during the ‘90s to Planned Parenthood.
GIULIANI: With regard to other things that people could work on to restrict abortion, I would be very open to that. But I would not be open to removing the right.
GREGORY: Giuliani‘s troubles on abortion stem not only from his stance on the issue, but his attempts to explain it. At last week‘s Republican debate, critics felt he was trying to pander to both sides when asked if a repeal of Roe v. Wade would be good for the country.
GIULIANI: It would be OK to repeal it, it would be OK also if a strict constructionist judge viewed it as precedent.
GREGORY: That left neither side happy.
DAVID KEENE, CONSERVATIVE ANALYST: He‘s trying to take a position that, under some circumstances, could be very harmful to him with a lot of Republican primary voters, and at least neutralize it so that he can talk about issues he wants to talk about.
GREGORY: Namely, fighting terrorism in a post-9/11 world, Giuliani‘s strength.
GIULIANI: I think that we‘ve got to work through our disagreements and try to figure out how to create a party that is known to Americans more about what it‘s for than about what it‘s against.
GREGORY (on camera): Giuliani‘s bet is that he can deemphasize the early-voting states and focus on that megaprimary next February 5, which includes big states like California and New York, places where his moderate social views may be a strength, not a weakness.
David Gregory, NBC News, Washington.
STEWART: One of Mr. Guiliani‘s opponents in the race for the nomination, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, is also trying to dye some of his blue state credentials deep red, because what gets you sent to the statehouse in Boston certainly will not fly with some residents in the Bible Belt.
Last night, Mr. Romney accepted an award from a central Massachusetts antiabortion group, even though he didn‘t want—even want to accept the group‘s endorsement during his 2002 run for governor. Check out what happened when his Democratic opponent in that race, Shannon O‘Brien, asked him about it in a debate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHANNON O‘BRIEN: So why did you accept the endorsement—
MITT ROMNEY ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: (INAUDIBLE) lot of people that endorsed me.
O‘BRIEN: --of the Mass. Citizens for Life?
ROMNEY: I don‘t know about the endorsement of the Mass. Citizens for Life. I didn‘t seek it, I didn‘t ask for it.
O‘BRIEN: But you accepted it.
ROMNEY: Let me say, I accepted it.
ROMNEY: I didn‘t write them a letter and say, Here, thank you very much for your endorsement.
O‘BRIEN: Your spokesperson stated that you accepted their endorsement.
ROMNEY: Shannon, I can tell you again, I did not, in any way, acknowledge their endorsement, nor do I, do I—
O‘BRIEN: You accepted it.
ROMNEY: When you say, I accept it, in what way did I accept it, Shannon?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEWART: Senator George Allen still the clear favorite when it comes to which politician possibly hates YouTube the most, Mitt Romney, COUNTDOWN‘s new choice for runner-up.
Time now to call in our own Dana Milbank, national political correspondent for “The Washington Post.”
Nice to see you, Dana.
DANA MILBANK, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:
STEWART: So conventional wisdom is that Republican candidates often evolve, shall we say, during campaign. There‘s a preconvention set of stances for the conservative base, and then maybe a more moderate postconvention set for swing voters. Did Giuliani just not follow the rules here, basically?
MILBANK: Well, you know, I think the extraordinary part is that he‘s been so successful for so long here. I mean, here is a man who is basically the most famous crossdresser in America, who is leading in the polls for the Republican nomination for president with an extraordinarily conservative Republican electorate.
So I think it speaks well of his abilities that he only got tripped up at the debate last week, and then I think, as your report indicates, it was more because he tried to say, Well, it‘s OK either way on that Roe v. Wade thing, rather than articulating his view precisely.
So I think the real—we haven‘t even gotten to sort of his stance on gay rights yet. So I think the real question is, how he‘s gotten it along this far.
STEWART: Oh, we‘ll get there, Dana, I‘m sure we‘ll get there to that second point. But I want to talk about something that David Gregory reported, that Mr. Giuliani is hoping he can bring the Republican Party, some members of it, some voters with him to the middle on abortion. Can he do that? And if so, why would he be able to do it, as opposed to any other moderate Republican?
MILBANK: Well, he‘s not going to bring voters with him on abortion, he‘s going to bring voters with him despite abortion. True, it will help if big states like California have injected themself—themselves early into the process here. But the whole Giuliani campaign is based around avoiding the social issues.
I was at a speech he gave to the Heritage Foundation, conservative group here in Washington, this week, avoided the issue entirely. All about taxes, all about terrorism. He just wants to get this issue behind him as quickly as possible. To the extent he can keep the debate on terror and taxes, then he can bring the party with him on abortion.
STEWART: Will you indulge the conspiracy theorist in me?
MILBANK: I‘d be delighted.
STEWART: Will social conservatives undermine Giuliani on this in any way?
MILBANK: Well, they‘re already undermining Romney on this issue, and he‘s made his conversion there, issuing statements of protest, and, as you see, digging up some unhelpful footage from the past. So there‘s every reason to believe that if they continue to see Giuliani as a threat, and if they‘re not willing, for the moment, to say, Look, we‘re just more afraid of Hillary Clinton than everything else, that‘s what they‘re willing to say for the moment. As soon as they drop that sort of reasoning, then they go after Giuliani.
STEWART: So Giuliani, in this particular—on this particular issue is probably Mitt Romney‘s best friend, because he does take the heat off a little bit about abortion.
MILBANK: He does. I think Romney‘s going to get his share of this, and Romney always creates new troubles for himself. Now he has a “60 Minutes” interview coming out in which he actually takes a question and says he did not have premarital sex. So we‘ll be talking about that next week.
STEWART: Excellent. I‘m glad you‘re booking for us. I appreciate that. Hey, you know, is it better in politics just to have a firm stance? Did Giuliani do the right thing today by just saying, Look, this is my position, even if it‘s unpopular with you, than to go ahead and go, I‘m going back and forth and I‘m changing my mind now, as Romney has suggested?
MILBANK: Well, what‘s happened here is, the person who‘s made it impossible to do what Romney‘s doing is George Bush, because he so successfully tarred Al Gore and John Kerry with the flip-flop label. Now you have somebody wearing a dolphin flip-flop costume, following Romney around at certain events talking about Flip Romney.
So Bush, in a way, has made it more important to be consistent with your view, whatever it is, rather than vacillating to suit the electorate. Now, arguably, that‘s not necessarily the best governing position in the world, but the president has made that sort of a political imperative.
STEWART: Well, let‘s talk about that a little bit in terms of the Iraq war. The president may be conceding he might negotiate with the Democrats on benchmarks. Where do you see those negotiations going in the weeks to come? Is he going to continue to stand firm like before, or is he really going to have to negotiate on this, Dana?
MILBANK: Well, he negotiates because he has to, not because he wants to. We‘ve got about two weeks to put together some sort of package here.
Seems like it‘s easier to see where this compromise is going to be. Senator John Warner is now talking about benchmarks, not with the real teeth the Democrats are talking about, but forcing the president to report to the Congress in July, moving it up from September, the day of reckoning. That would therefore give the Congress some ability to make changes after September.
So you can see where things are headed now in terms of the benchmarks, probably not all the teeth that the Democrats want, but certainly allowing for more reckoning on Capitol Hill.
STEWART: Dana Milbank of “The Washington Post” and MSNBC. Thanks for taking time on a Friday night.
MILBANK: Thanks, Alison.
STEWART: The FBI is very, very interested in the new governor of Nevada. What happened in Vegas and D.C. and the Caribbean may lead to corruption charges. NBC‘s Lisa Myers joins us with exclusive details and a whole stack of e-mails that paint a prickly picture.
And you sure might be looking all slim on the outside, but don‘t gloat yet. A new study just finds out because you‘re skinny, you could be fat on the inside.
You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
STEWART: Since the birth of politics, there has been two temptations that have led many an official to his or her downfall, sex and money, and not necessarily in that order. In the modern era, you can add illegal nanny.
For the number four story on our COUNTDOWN tonight, and an NBC exclusive report on a politician who, in the space of just one year, has been accused of the full trifecta. Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons is a decorated war hero with a spotless record. No charges were brought after a cocktail waitress accused him of a sexual assault, or when his former nanny emerged to say she had come to the country illegally, and that Gibbons knew it. No charges, see? Spotless record.
But now the FBI‘s investigating Gibbons on the third issue, money, specifically, money allegedly in return for defense contracts.
NBC News senior investigative correspondent Lisa Myers has landed an exclusive interview with the insider accusing him, and she‘s got the always crucial cruise ship photos to boot. Here‘s the report.
LISA MYERS, NBC SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The new governor of Nevada.
GOV. JIM GIBBONS ®, NEVADA: This election is finally over with.
MYERS: Is now being investigated by the FBI because of alleged gifts and payments from this man, Warren Trepp (ph), a defense contractor whose Nevada firm received tens of millions in federal contracts. The FBI wants to know if Jim Gibbons, while a member of Congress, improperly used his influence to help Trepp get those contracts.
Sources close to the investigation say a key focus is a lavish week-long Caribbean cruise aboard this ship in March 2005 by Gibbons, his wife and son, and Trepp, who paid for almost everything.
In photos obtained by NBC News, Gibbons is seem hamming it up, kicking back with a drink, and posing with his wife, Dawn, Trepp, and Trepp‘s other guests.
(on camera): What would you estimate that trip cost per person?
DENNIS MONTGOMERY: Probably $20,000 a person.
MYERS: Software designer Dennis Montgomery was also on that cruise with Gibbons. Montgomery says his former business partner, Trepp, chartered this 727 to fly guests from Nevada to Florida and back and picked up the tab for penthouse rooms, private meals, and expensive wines.
In an exclusive interview with NBC, Montgomery, who‘s now at war with his former partner, makes an explosive charge. He says that near the end of the cruise, he saw Trepp pass money to the congressman.
MONTGOMERY: There was a lot of alcohol and a lot of drinking. And that‘s when I first saw Warren give Jim Gibbons money.
MYERS: How much?
MONTGOMERY: Close to $100,000.
MYERS: How can you know?
MONTGOMERY: Because he gave him casino chips and cash.
MYERS: Are you sure about what you saw?
MONTGOMERY: I‘m absolutely, positively sure.
MYERS: So sure that Montgomery has made the same allegations in federal court. Montgomery‘s wife also says she saw Trepp pass casino chips to Gibbons. In addition, Montgomery has provided NBC with hundreds of e-mails, he says, from Trepp‘s computer.
Days before the cruise, Trepp‘s wife e-mails her husband. “Please don‘t forget to bring the money you promised Jim and Dawn on the trip.”
Hours later, Warren Trepp e-mails back. “Don‘t ever send this kind of message to me! Erase this message from your computer now!”
There also is a paper trail showing Gibbons helped Trepp‘s company, Etreppid, get government contracts. In this 2003 e-mail, an Etrippid executive tells Trepp that Gibbons helped secure a contract, and “We need to take care of him like we discussed.”
Two years later, the same executive writes, “He has always been really good to us.”
Gibbons, a Republican, says he would help any Nevada company and strongly denies any wrongdoing.
GIBBONS: I‘m not the kind of an individual as a congressman or a governor that would ever accept any kind of payment or bribe or gift or whatever it is.
MYERS: Gibbons says Trepp is a longtime friend, that he reimbursed him $1,654 for the trip, and that he only flew one way on the 727. Trepp also strongly denies any wrongdoing and suggests the e-mails were doctored. Both men also question Montgomery‘s credibility, arguing he‘s involved in a vicious legal battle with Trepp over ownership of their company, with millions of dollars at stake.
Montgomery, a registered Republican, is now cooperating with the FBI in the criminal investigation of Gibbons and Trepp. In court, and in our interview, Montgomery claims that Trepp gave Gibbons cash twice.
(on camera): Some people are going to look at this and say, This is just one angry, disgruntled man. Why should we believe you?
MONTGOMERY: Because I know what happened for the last five years, and I can prove it.
MYERS: The FBI is now trying to sort out who‘s telling the truth. And Alison, it‘s always possible that no charges will be brought, but grand jury subpoenas have gone out, and a governor‘s reputation hangs in the balance.
STEWART: Lisa, I want to go back to a couple of the elements of this case. Those e-mails in your story, they‘re just really extraordinary, just those couple of examples. How important are those e-mails to this entire case?
MYERS: The e-mails will be key, Alison, because Montgomery is now in the process of turning his e-mails over to the FBI, and Trepp‘s lawyer claims the e-mails have been doctored and claims that he‘s given that evidence to (INAUDIBLE)-- to the prosecutors.
But what—the reason they‘re key is, without the e-mails, it‘s he said, she said. And with the e-mails, though, they may be able to confirm whether these events did indeed take place.
STEWART: You mentioned Trepp‘s lawyer. I know that your team spoke with him today. What did he have to say about this report?
MYERS: Well, he wasn‘t terribly pleased, but he did say that his client—as we included in the piece—he says his client is innocent, and that the e-mails were doctored, and that the accuser here has no credibility. I should tell that you that, you know, Dennis Montgomery does have an axe to grind, in that he stands to gain, as we reported, millions of dollars in a business battle with Trepp.
However, it‘s also true that in extensive reporting over a period of months, we found that everything that he told us that we could check out, did check out. Doesn‘t mean everything he says is true, but what we were able to check out did hold up.
STEWART: To be continued. Lisa Myers, NBC News senior investigative correspondent. Thanks a lot, Lisa.
MYERS: Thank you, Alison.
STEWART: What do Britney Spears, Donald Trump, and Sanjaya have in common, besides making me want to run screaming into traffic? According to Forbes, they all have worn out their welcome with Joe Q. Public.
And look carefully. What‘s wrong with this picture?
And to kitty orthodontists take insurance?
The day in weird, next on COUNTDOWN.
STEWART: I‘m Alison Stewart, in for Keith Olbermann.
And as the COUNTDOWN does every night at this time, let‘s take a break from the so-called big news of the day to take a look at what is really important, dorks on the Internet, and cats with braces.
Let‘s play Oddball.
Think I made that last thing up? It‘s Baxter, the world‘s most narcissistic puddy tat. In an effort to straighten out those summer (ph) teeth, Baxter has gone to a people orthodontist for braces. Mittens might want to be a little careful about kissing Baxter at the senior kitty prom. Now, to be fair, Baxter was hit by a car sometime back, and his jaw never quite straightened out, so on some level, the braces were necessary. We‘re not sure how he‘s going to explain the lipo and botox, however.
To the Internets, where the top video making the rounds this week answers the question we‘ve been all asking, what could possibly be dorkier than a cat with braces? These guys. More than 2 million people have viewed this clip, which shows either two guys with the amazing but useless talent of catching sunglasses with their face, or two guys who fake it pretty well.
Very impressive, boys. Step two now, meeting girls. Might take some work.
Finally, a Far Eastern (ph) Russia so far east that St. Patrick‘s Day doesn‘t really even get there until May. Officials here actually say they have no idea why this river has suddenly turned bright fluorescent green, and they‘re doing tests now see if it‘s contaminated or if Shrek took a bath. There is a distillery and a garden center in the area, but officials don‘t know yet if chemicals were dumped into the river. They can only say that it tastes fantastic. (INAUDIBLE), (INAUDIBLE).
Do you count yourself lucky when you see that fat (INAUDIBLE) footage on TV and think, Oh, thank God, it‘s not me? Well, a new study is turning the weight-loss debate on its head. No gut, no love handles, guess what, you can still be a plumper on the inside.
And an Amber Alert for Scottie. James Doohan‘s ashes were shot into space for one last voyage, but they‘ve fallen back to earth, and now they are lost.
But first, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.
At number three, Steven Clay Stevenson of Ranson (ph), West Virginia—yes, his name is Steve Stevenson—he‘s been arrested and charged with a variety of offenses after police say he tried to hold up a convenience store at 4:00 a.m. with a gun shaped like a cigarette lighter and a pair of women‘s panties on his face. He got away with zero dollars and a new name, Dumb Dumberson.
At number two, the squirrels, the squirrels of Denver, Colorado. Residents of that city are being warned this week to keep away from the fuzzy little creatures. They may be carrying bubonic plague, and we‘re not kidding. So far, 15 squirrels and one bunny rabbit have tested positive for the plague, in what has to be the cutest deadly outbreak since the Middle Ages.
And at number one, the seven female students at Brendan (ph) State College in Massachusetts, featured on the front page of the school paper, “The Gatepost.” The girls had all worn shorts and tank tops and painted letters on their bellies to support a player on the school lacrosse team. But when the paper came out, some of them worried like they looked so fat in the photos, so they went around and stole nearly 1,000 copies of the paper around campus so no one would see it. Girls, now you‘re on the television. But really, what are you worried about? Have a Twinkie. Some beer? Pizza. Good.
STEWART: All right, so just for the sake of argument, let‘s assume you really did stick to your New Year‘s resolution. You turned up your will power, turned down a lot of pizza. You lost some weight. You dieted down to a nice figure. Too bad, you can still be fatty, fatty two by four. Number three in our COUNTDOWN, another one of those stories that will make you throw something at your TV set.
Being thin doesn‘t mean you‘re not fat on the inside. So here‘s the skinny; after 12 years of studying people who have rocking bodies, British doctors say they found that dieting alone does not eliminate dangerous levels of fat stored inside of your body. Forty five percent of the women and 60 percent of the men who looked fit had potentially dangerous fat inside.
They used MRIs like this one to find the fat. It‘s that layer, the external fat, just under your skin, while the more stubborn internal fat appears yellow near the organs at the center of the body, making for an unhealthy environment and certainly the questions; does this MRI make me look fat?
The doctors say we have to revise our ideas about fitness and fatness.
And if that sounds confusing, Dr. Louis Teichholz can straighten us out. He‘s chief of cardiology at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. Doctor, thank you so much for being with us tonight.
DR. LOUIS TEICHHOLZ, HACKENSACK UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: My pleasure.
STEWART: First of all, this doesn‘t really seem very fair. You get yourself all skinny and you might not reap any of the health benefits. Explain to me how it works that someone can be thin on the outside but fat on the inside. Is it environment? Is it hereditary? Is it in the genes?
TEICHHOLZ: Well, Dr. Bell and his group have been studying this and found, just as you stated, that there are people who are thin, but when you look at the fat around the organs, the visceral fat, there‘s a lost fat there. And interestingly enough, that fat there is a risk factor for the development of diabetes and heart disease.
Why some people have it there and not in other places, we think there is a genetic factor, but that‘s not been fully determined.
STEWART: So why is that internal fat more unhealthy than, say, some of these little extra love handles?
TEICHHOLZ: Well, I would suggest that it may be more unhealthy because you don‘t know it‘s there. And thin people may say, you know, I feel invincible. And they have been able also to show that exercise is one of the major things to get rid of not only external fat, but to get rid of internal fat as well.
STEWART: So we shouldn‘t give up the go. Somebody who is thin shouldn‘t cancel their appointment with their trainer tomorrow, thinking what can I do?
TEICHHOLZ: Absolutely not.
STEWART: Now, in all seriousness—we‘ve been goofing around a little bit here—why do you think this research is so important, doctor?
TEICHHOLZ: Well, I think it‘s important because we‘ve always said obesity is a risk factor for coronary disease and indeed it is one. But these studies show that one can be thin and still have a risk factor that‘s internal fat that makes you more prone to diabetes and more prone to heart disease. We also know that you can be thin and have an elevated cholesterol or high blood pressure or smoke. So I think it points out that lifestyle changes are extremely important for everybody.
STEWART: One example I read in some of the literature about this study said that a sumo wrestler might actually be more fit than the skinny guy in the stands watching him. So how does this research factor into thinking that people who are a little overweight, but who exercise, can still be considered healthy? Do you believe that‘s true?
TEICHHOLZ: Well, I think we‘ve learned that exercise is extremely important. And this study gives us a mechanism that exercise helps to burn off this internal fat. And certainly sumo wrestlers are very obese and their body mass indexes are very high. But when he studied some of them, he found that they had low internal fat because of all their exercise.
STEWART: Bottom line, doctor, what‘s the best advice?
TEICHHOLZ: Bottom line is to avoid diabetes, heart disease, stroke, you have to control your risk factors. And obesity, external obesity is one, but the other risk factors are important, cholesterol, high blood pressure, family history, you can‘t change. Someone once said the best way to avoid heart disease is choose your parents well. But if you can‘t do that, I think all of us should be prudent our diet and in our exercise.
STEWART: And start moving it, in other words. Dr. Louis Teichholz, thanks for being with us tonight.
TEICHHOLZ: My pleasure.
STEWART: So the thin outside, fat inside, tofi, as this study called it, isn‘t only a physical condition. According to the crack researchers at “Radar Magazine,” it‘s a state of mind as well. A recent issue of Radar says even though most celebrities are thin and rich, some have fat personalities. They are, quote, inner fatties, as the magazine so delicately put it. Celebrities looking for love and acceptance because rich and famous aren‘t enough.
Radar says Jennifer Anniston is an inner fatty, maybe a little shy, eager to please, nice to be around. So is Tom Hanks, kind of quiet, funny, hard worker, nice guy personality. Somehow Britney Spears also makes the list of the humble cooperative souls. The list also includes the entire nation of Canada.
And then there‘s the flip side, the inner skinnies, like Dick Cheney, high on will power, confident to a freakish degree, unapologetic and they behave like skinny people, no matter the number on the scale. Donald, you‘re fired, Trump channels his inner super model. The self-assured, with an air of privilege, like Martha Stewart put her on Radar‘s inner skinny list, along with Simon Cowell.
So there you have it, like Oreo cookies and Jelly donuts, it‘s what‘s on the inside that really does matter.
Nervous airline passengers who pointed out the pre-boarding activities of some Imams are now facing a lawsuit. What will the affect on the national see something, say something campaign? And speaking of something to see, another preview of Keith Olbermann‘s big debut on the “Family Guy” this weekend.
But first here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three sound bites of this day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIMMY KIMMELL, LATE NIGHT TALK SHOW HOST: -- had a party for their 100 most influential people and Martha Stewart was there. And a reporter from Fox News found a way to hit her with a big question.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It‘s about influence. How influential is prison going to be on Paris Hilton?
MARTHA STEWART, TV HOST: Oh, I have no idea. I‘m not even thinking about Paris Hilton right now. Is she one of the hundred being honored?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, it‘s been suggested though that she‘s going to do better afterwards, the way you did --
BUSH: At least he didn‘t say I‘m proud to welcome to the podium a man
the first president for whom English was a second language. I did call him, I said what my speech ought to be about? That‘s what I asked him what my speech ought to be about. He said, about ten minutes. So here goes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jesse Courtney said something was wrong with his ears.
JESSE COUTNEY, CHILD: It was like this weird popping noise.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For two days a pair of spiders crawled around inside Jesse‘s ear, likely feeding on ear wax.
COURTNEY: The one on the top I call floaty and the one on the bottom I call Drowny.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Floaty and Drowny now souvenir spiders but it‘s Jesse who is soaking in the limelight.
COURTNEY: I want to be Spiderman.
STEWART: Suppose you were a Star Trek fan—a lot of them in my family—and dressed up as a Klingon for your flight to some convention. I‘ve never done that. But some fellow passengers didn‘t know that Klingons are now our friends, so they reported your suspicious behavior and got—you were yanked from the flight in handcuffs. Would you sue those other passengers?
Now if that is too frivolous an example for the second story on our COUNTDOWN tonight, swap Klingon for Benedictine Monk or Buddhist Monk, and if you made it a Muslim cleric you would have a real-life case and a real-life lawsuit. Pete Williams reports.
PETE WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Investigators say it was a clerk at this Circuit City store in Mount Laurel, New Jersey who gave the invaluable tip that led to the discovery of a plot to attack Fort Dix. The FBI calls it another example of why the message works on those signs on the New York City subway; if you see something, say something.
But in a separate case, reporting something suspicious is getting some people sued. Just before Thanksgiving, six Muslim cleric were removed from a U.S. Air jet in Minneapolis and handcuffed right before take-off.
DMAR SHAHN, MUSLIM CLERIC: The way they took us off the plane, it‘s a humiliation 100 percent.
WILLIAMS: The pilot responded to passenger complaints that they were acting suspiciously. Now the Imams are suing the passengers who complained, named in a lawsuit as John Does. The clerics say those reports may have been false, intended to discriminate against them because they‘re Muslim.
SHAHN: I want to know my rights as an American in America.
WILLIAMS: It all began at the boarding gate. Three of them knelt and said evening prayers. On board a passenger passed a note to a flight attendant saying he heard them chanting Allah, Allah at the gate and cursing the U.S. Other passengers found the way they spread out on the plane suspicious, sitting in the front, middle and rear, and questioned why at least two of them asked for seat belt extension, but appeared not to need or use them.
The FBI interviewed the six Muslims and concluded they were no threat whatsoever. But now their decision to sue the complaining passengers has touched a nerve. In Minneapolis, one defense lawyer says he‘ll represent at no charge any passenger they sue.
GERRY NOLTING, DEFENSE LAWYER: I‘ve been contacted by literally hundreds of attorneys nationwide offering to represent for free, as I am doing, representing for free, John Doe passengers.
WILLIAMS: And it hasn‘t stopped there. Worried that the lawsuit might make people reluctant to say something if they see something, Congress is considering a bill to give legal immunity to anyone doing so in good faith. A New York Congressman was among the first to suggest it.
REP. PETER KING ®, NEW YORK: We‘ve been contacted by police and other people in law enforcement telling me that you just can‘t allow this to go forward because we have to have people volunteering. We have to have people letting them know when they see something that‘s out of the ordinary.
WILLIAMS: But the leader of one Muslim groups says while he wishes the clerics had not sued the passengers, he believes the entire ordeal began when the airline failed to properly handle passenger phobias.
JAMES ZOGBY, ARAB AMERICAN INSTITUTE: Where the airline erred was by not dealing with the passengers‘s overreaction and calming people down, feeding into it as they did. In effect, legitimized it. And that clearly is a problem.
WILLIAMS: While the debate about tolerance goes on, law enforcement officials say they hope no one will hesitate to speak up after seeing something suspicious.
Pete Williams, NBC News, Washington.
STEWART: Tough take my word for it when I tell you the previous Star Trek reference was written before we knew about this next story. The first story on our round-up of tabloid and celebrity news, Keeping Tabs. Scottie is missing. Actor James Duan‘s family had his ashes flown into space aboard a private rocket on April 28th, not to be scattered, but merely to skim the edge of that final frontier.
Now the rocket has landed back on Earth in America somewhere around there. That‘s right, two weeks after landing, they haven‘t found the rocket yet. The rocket has a locater beacon, however, so they have narrowed it down to a small area of the New Mexico mountains, but search crews are still hoping to find it before the project lands, because then they‘ll have to get Scotty‘s back from Dr. McCoy and it gets messy. And you know how prickly Bones can get.
And while Paris Hilton‘s attorneys work around the clock trying to keep the fame seeking socialite from jail before she is to report there on June 5th, her fans are doing their part too, and frankly jumping the gun just a little bit, starting up a Free Paris website and petitions to the governor, as well as public rallies, like the one scheduled in New York to coincide with NYU‘s graduation ceremony for maximum impact.
But Paris is still free right now. I digress. The rally brought out in Paris‘s defense a grand total of three. In a city of eight million, three people want Paris Hilton to stay out of jail. The website TMZ reporting the three also carried signs labeling Paris Hilton a victim and a martyr. Our favorite, Ike was right, free Paris. Because you know a hotel heiress breaking the law and Nazi Germany occupying France are just like so similar.
Turning to other legal issues, and Boston has dropped all charges against the perpetrators of the great tune terror earlier this year, Aqua Teen Hunger Force. You may remember the whole city shut down after someone mistook Cartoon Network‘s guerrilla marketing campaign, a series of electric signs for Aqua Teen Hunger Force. That cartoon character planted all around town. They mistook them for potential explosives.
So the city charged the two marketing guys who put up the blinking light bright-esque ads with planting a hoax device. But prosecutors finally dropped the charges today after the guys did some community service at a local rehab hospital and apologized actually for their actions in court, a distinctly different attitude than when they were first arrested in February and were preoccupied with coifs during a press conference that was both entertaining and a little infuriating.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The mod hair style, which I believe evolved into the sort of greased-back look of the 70‘s. But Peter what you‘re saying is you really think it came from the 20‘s?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I really think it came from the 1920‘s.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It sounds to us like you aren‘t taking this seriously.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you guys have any hair cut questions for us
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was it like to spend the last night in jail?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That‘s not a hair question. I‘m sorry.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you disappointed about?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That‘s also not a hair question.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEWART: Moving swiftly on to another hair raiser, nine months in the making, Sunday will mark the birth of Keith Olbermann as a cartoon. Back in August, he recorded a guest voice for a character on Seth McFarlane‘s comedy “Family Guy.” And this Sunday the episode titled “It Takes A Village Idiot-And I Married One,” premiers on Fox. Those of you watching COUNTDOWN last night saw a small slice of Keith‘s fine performance. Hey, here‘s a little bit more.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Hi, Bob Grossbeard, Cohog oil. I would like to buy you that coat.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Really?
OLBERMANN: All I ask in return is that you let my company do just a little bit of dumping in your lake.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This guy don‘t sit right with me, Lois. He don‘t sit right with me.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But I just cleaned up Cohog lake.
OLBERMANN: Do you want the coat or not?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want the coat.
OLBERMANN: Excellent. Then we have a deal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEWART: Tune in Sunday night for the exciting conclusion. This just in, Jared, the subway guy, did not rent out pornos to his fellow classmates when he was in college, he lent them out instead. VH1‘s “Best Week Ever” contended that Jared Fogel, best known as that guy who lost weight by eating nothing but Subway sandwiches made his money in college by running a porno palace. But as Jared told a morning radio show, that‘s not quite true.
While indeed own many, many pornographic movies, quote, I definitely didn‘t have it as a business and I definitely didn‘t rent to anybody. Instead, he let his buddies borrow his hard core collection for free. What a guy, Jared. Surprisingly, Jared Fogol not making it in a new poll of which celebrities are the most over exposed. Michael Musto will join us to rate the stars that did make it. That‘s next on COUNTDOWN.
STEWART: In the future there will be a special island for exposed celebrities. It will be remote, of course, and will have no communication with the outside world. Well, think of it as a celebrity time out and they won‘t be allowed back until we are ready. And then we woke up from this lovely dream and found our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, shameless celebrities who are fame gluttons and thereby have landed squarely on Forbes list of most over exposed celebrities.
As you might guess, talent bears little relation to ranking. Witness Kevin Federline, who lands at number three, even though his album bombed and it looks like a little K-Fed goes a long way. This is all based on a poll, so you know we‘re talking scientific here, people.
There‘s Sanjaya, who came in at number 11 on the over exposed list, really quite an achievement. So much cheese-ballness and so little time.
No surprise that former pals Britney Spears and Paris Hilton are one and two respectively, especially since both celebrities have literally over exposed from time to time. So this would be the point that anyone under four feet who isn‘t drinking age should leave the room, because when the conversation turns to over exposure and my sassy friend Michael Musto joins the conversation, who knows what could be said. Hi Michael.
MICHAEL MUSTO, “VILLAGE VOICE”: Hi Allison.
STEWART: So Brittany and Paris make it into the top two. No brainer?
MUSTO: Yes, I know the lives and habits and bodies of those two better than my own. They are followed more than bin-Laden. Every time I hear their name one more time, I want to beat up a hooker for some reason. Enough.
STEWART: Well let me ask you this—we‘re speaking about no brainers, literally and figuratively here—what‘s more intriguing, Britney Spears with no hair, Paris Hilton no brain?
MUSTO: Well, that implies that Britney has a brain. But in any case, I think Britney with her hair off is literally more exposed, her scalp, anyway, than Paris, especially since Paris is heading to slammer, where she‘ll only be seen by her lesbian roommates. I think for the next 45 days Britney is definitely the scary one who‘s out there and really to be feared, especially on the road.
STEWART: Michael Jackson is at number seven. Sanjaya at number 11, your thoughts?
MUSTO: Well, Sanjaya‘s 11 years old, by the way, which makes him about the age for Michael Jackson. No, this proves that even a national punch line on the top rated reality show is not as interesting to the press as a has been whack job with two blow holes. Sanjaya‘s hair designs were cute, but not nearly as fascinating as Michael Jackson‘s facial designs, which are constantly changing, or Britney Spears‘ no hair design. Sanjaya should cut it off, maybe he has.
STEWART: To be continued, I guess. Howard K. Stern is on the list.
He even beats out the other Howard Stern by four percentage points. ‘
MUSTO: The K was all the difference.
STEWART: Is that what it is? It‘s all about the K?
MUSTO: Yes, Paris K. Hilton would be huge.
STEWART: Understand, Sanjaya K. Sanjaya. You know, it‘s been kind of a bad year for Howard K. You know, is he responsible for his over exposure or is he just a poor lamb in the storm?
MUSTO: Oh, he‘s awful. He had a terrible year. I‘m the father. I‘m the father. Oh, I‘m not the father. Can I still have the money? This guy cried at two funerals in a row, using prescriptions as kleenex. He‘s sickening.
STEWART: He really rushes you out, huh?
MUSTO: No, I like the guy. I‘d meet with him to get some of the money.
STEWART: Well, good luck with that. Lindsey Lohan is number six.
She was really cute in “Freaky Friday,” and now she is just freaky. Why?
MUSTO: Well, it‘s Friday, by the way, Allison, so she‘s extra freaky today. But I actually like her as a movie star. I think she is a tremendous actress and personality. But it is kind of weird to have somebody practically entering rehab in diapers and emerging main lining crack while her mother‘s trying to get her on a reality show. I mean, this is sad. Keep her away from Howard K. Stern.
STEWART: Did you see at all her and Martha Stewart this morning, when Martha Stewart she was giving her what for being a party girl?
MUSTO: I‘m so sorry to admit this, but yes I did. And I think they‘re both headed back to the slammer.
STEWART: It was fantastic.
MUSTO: It was amazing. They had great rapport. Lindsey‘s a great star. I‘m telling you. She‘s just also a great mess.
STEWART: Lindsey looked like she was sent to her Great Aunt Martha‘s house and just could not wait to get out of their.
MUSTO: I went to college. I‘m glad I‘m watching all this crap TV.
STEWART: Exactly, right. Now, in between the battle between Donald Trump and Rosie O‘Donnell, both on the list, by the way. Trump is at number eight on the over exposed list. Rosie is at 14. So who exactly is the winner out of that?
MUSTO: Well, I didn‘t realize those were two different people. But I think the Donald definitely wins. His motor mouth takes precedent. He does not allow people like Rosie does, like she has Joy Behar chiming in every two seconds with a wise crack. Donald does not allow any competition. So he wins. It‘s basically Godzilla versus King Kong though. But Godzilla wins.
STEWART: Don‘t we the media and gossip officianados like yourself bear some responsibility for the over exposure of these poor people.
MUSTO: I was afraid you would say that, but guilty as charged. Gossips like me, Allison, love to report on young, sexy, interesting people, the same ones over and over again. What do you want? Doris Roberts denture watch? No, no, no, you want Paris Hilton genital search and that is what we give you.
STEWART: All right, five seconds left, who was not on the list who should be, Michael?
MUSTO: Oh, Kelly Rippa, Ryan Seacrest, Sarah Jessica Parker. But I hate to even name them, because I‘m giving them more press and making them more over exposed.
STEWART: That‘s for next year.
MUSTO: Me too. Get me out of here before I become over exposed.
STEWART: Michael Musto of the “Village Voice,” never too of “La Dolce Musto,” the name of his book by the way. Thanks for joining us. That‘s it for the TGIF edition of COUNTDOWN. I‘m Allison Stewart, in for Keith Olbermann. Have a great weekend.
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