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'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for May 21

Read the transcript to the Monday show

Guests: Jonathan Alter, Rachel Maddow, Robert Greenwald, Michael Musto, Maria Milito

MONICA NOVOTNY, HOST:  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?


FORMER PRES. JIMMY CARTER (on phone):  I think as far as the adverse impact on the nation, around the world, this administration has been the worst in history.


NOVOTNY:  Former president Jimmy Carter lashes out at the Bush administration.  The White House fires back, calling Carter “irrelevant.”  Now the Georgia Democrat says his comments were careless, while the current president shrugged them off.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I have understand some people are—may not agree with the decisions I made.


NOVOTNY:  Something else they may not agree with, his support of the attorney general.  As votes of no confidence loom on Capitol Hill on Alberto Gonzales, the president rallies around Gonzo.


BUSH:  I frankly view what‘s taking place in Washington today as pure political theater.


NOVOTNY:  Scripts or scores (ph), a bachelor party hosted by the guy from “Girls Gone Wild” and spinning stories to favor friends.  All in a day‘s work at Page Six..  We go inside the house of Murdoch.

And Donald Trump calls it quits before he hears his own catchphrase.


DONALD TRUMP:  You‘re fired.


NOVOTNY:  And someone should fire the guy who presses play on Britney Spears‘ CDs.  Skipping tracks while lip syncing is so not cool.

It‘s been a season extraordinaire on “American Idol,” complete with a panther, a lion, the exposed, the overexposed.  And now, it all comes down to this, Blake or Jordan.  Our “American Idol” princess, Maria Milito, gives us the lowdown.

And breaking “Idol” news about a broken “Idol” judge.

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Gloria, you‘re always on the run now.


NOVOTNY:  Good evening.  I‘m Monica Novotny, in for Keith Olbermann.

It wasn‘t Joe Frazier versus Muhammad Ali, it wasn‘t Alexander Hamilton versus Aaron Burr.  Heck, it wasn‘t even Chris Matthews versus Zell Miller.

But in our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, President Bush versus President Carter sure was fun while it lasted, even if today Mr. Carter seemed to pull his punches a bit.

At this point, (INAUDIBLE) -- criticism, rather, of President Bush isn‘t anything new, but when that criticism comes from a member of the former president‘s club, it is definitely noteworthy, one of the two living Democrats in that club, former president Jimmy Carter, speaking out against the Bush administration foreign policy over the weekend.


CARTER (on phone):  I think as far as the adverse impact on the nation, around the world, this administration has been the worst in history.


NOVOTNY:  The third stringer in the White House press office, Tony Frato, firing back yesterday, quote, “I think it‘s sad that President Carter‘s reckless and personal criticism is out there.  I think it‘s unfortunate, and I think he is proving to be increasingly irrelevant with these kinds of comments.”

By this morning, appearing on the “TODAY” show from New Orleans, Mr.  Carter seemed to be having second thoughts, calling his own remarks “careless.”


CARTER:  What I was actually doing was responding to a question comparing the—this administration‘s foreign policy with that of Richard Nixon.  And I think Richard Nixon had a very good and productive foreign policy.  And my remarks were maybe careless or misinterpreted, but I wasn‘t comparing the overall administration, and I was certainly not talking personally about any president.


NOVOTNY:  As for President Bush, he is simply adding Mr. Carter to the seven out of every 10 Americans who now disagree with just about everything he does.


BUSH:  I get criticized a lot from different quarters, and that‘s just part of what happens when you‘re president.  And I will continue to make decisions that I think are necessary to protect the American people from harm.  I will continue to make decisions based upon certain principles, one of which is my strong belief in the universality of freedom.

I understand some people are—may not agree with the decisions I made, but what the American people need to know, I‘m making them based upon what‘s best for this country.


NOVOTNY:  Time now to call in our own Jonathan Alter, senior editor at “Newsweek” magazine.

Good evening, Jonathan.


NOVOTNY:  President Carter has been one of the most outspoken former presidents in U.S. history, and many would no doubt prefer it if he were just seen and not heard.  But is the blowback he‘s now experiencing justified?

ALTER:  You know, this is one of these red state, blue states thing.  I think, you know, people who don‘t like President Bush think Carter was right, and they‘re maybe even a little bit concerned that he seems to be backing away from it, because they agree that this president is arguably the worst in history, at least when it comes to the prestige of the United States in the world during his presidency.

Obviously, if you‘re more supportive of President Bush, then you‘re going to think he was out of line, or, as the White House said today, irrelevant.

There is a sense around today that this was somehow unprecedented, and actually, there are some examples of this kind of thing happening before.  Former president Truman unloaded on Richard Nixon, and Herbert Hoover, who‘s often compared to Jimmy Carter, he really went after Franklin Roosevelt, at one point comparing his handling of the banking crisis is to burning down the Reichstag, which was kind of like saying that FDR was like Hitler.

So we—occasionally, we do see these rows, where former presidents weigh in on the incumbent.  And, of course, they‘re entertaining, and even informative for all of us who are watching.

NOVOTNY:  Let‘s talk about the explanation that Mr. Carter gave today, that he was really just comparing Bush foreign policy to that of Nixon.  Doesn‘t really seem to wash when the exact phrase that he used was, “the worst in history.”  So why is he pulling his punches?

ALTER:  Well, I don‘t think—I think it‘s sort of silly of him, at this point.  In for a dime, in for a dollar.  And it reminds me that when Jimmy Carter was president, you know, he has this reputation for being this completely pure man.  He was political.  He sometimes was seen as stretching the truth a little bit.  He referred to himself as a nuclear physicist, for instance, when he wasn‘t.

So in this case, when he was trying to kind of weasel out of this, it was a reminder that he was a politician.

NOVOTNY:  Could it have hurt him had he stuck to his guns on this?

ALTER:  Not really.  He should have just defended his position. 

There‘s certainly a lot of other people who are making this case.  The argument was kind of kicked off in a cover story in “Rolling Stone” magazine by Sean Wilenz, a professor at Princeton, professor of history, who made this argument that Bush was the worst president ever, that‘s kicked off an interesting debate.  And Carter, you know, weighed in on one side of it, and he just should have stuck with it.

NOVOTNY:  Now, the same White House spokesman, Tony Frato, who called Mr. Carter “sad and irrelevant” over the weekend, today responded to the former president‘s change of heart by saying, quote, “I think it just highlights the importance of being careful in choosing your words.”

Now, Jonathan, given his repeated use of the pronoun “I” when speaking for the president, and what some might interpret as his own lack of respect for a former president, as our own executive producer put it, Where are his manners?  Could the same thing be said of Mr. Frato?  Was this the very best way that he could have handled this for the White House?

ALTER:  Well, he‘s the third-string spokesman.  You know, when you get to the end of an administration, you‘re really bringing in the JV.  So I don‘t, you know, hold him to blame.  President Bush actually seemed fairly cool about the whole thing this afternoon.  None of the ex-presidents, by the way, like Jimmy Carter.  You know, former president Bush and former president Clinton are kind of in the same club.  They travel around the world together.  It‘s notable that they have excluded Jimmy Carter from their jaunts.

NOVOTNY:  In other political news—we‘ll shift gears here, Jonathan

there‘s talk that Democrats in the Senate will capitulate in drafting an Iraq spending bill without any troop timeline.  With public approval behind them, why wouldn‘t they stand their ground here?

ALTER:  Well, they really don‘t have public approval behind them.  They‘ve got public approval for benchmarks for the Iraqi government.  That, there‘s a real consensus on.  And even President Bush is coming around to that, because he knows that‘s where the public is.

They‘ve got public approval for timelines for getting out of Iraq.  The public is very much against this war.  What they don‘t have is the translation of that public approval into votes in the United States Senate.  And this is not something that they could just, you know, pretend that they‘ve got the votes.  They can count, and they know they don‘t.

They‘re not backing off because of they‘re wimps, they‘re backing of because, right now, anyway, they don‘t have the votes.  That doesn‘t mean they shouldn‘t continue to try to translate that public opposition to the war into changing the way our representatives speak for us in Washington.

NOVOTNY:  And lastly, while we have you here, let me just quickly ask you about the attorney general.  Even with notable Republicans saying he‘s gone this week, the president continues to stand his ground and support Mr.  Gonzales.  How much longer can the president continue to do so?  Or will this be one of those 180-degree Rumsfeld shockers where, you know, I love you, I love you, I love you, and then, oh, you‘re gone?

ALTER:  Well, it depends on what comes out.  You know, he had a bad week because the former deputy attorney general, Comey, really just painted a very, very grim, depressing picture of Gonzales‘s almost pathetic leadership.  And really, you could argue, his refusal to defend the Constitution of the United States.

But President Bush is extremely loyal to Gonzales, because Gonzales has been so loyal to him going back to Texas.  He bailed Bush out of trouble on the drunk driving business.  They go back, there‘s a lot that he‘s protected him on.  Much closer to him than Rumsfeld, for instance.  So I think he‘s going to stick by him as long as he possibly can.

NOVOTNY:  Jonathan Alter of MSNBC and “Newsweek.”  Thank you for your time tonight, sir.

ALTER:  Thanks, Monica.

NOVOTNY:  The destabilization of Iraq proving to be great news for al Qaeda‘s bottom line, as the terrorist organization rebuilds in tribal areas of Pakistan, “The Los Angeles Times” reporting that even though the CIA‘s secret effort to find Osama bin Laden is proving to be a bust, it‘s providing valuable new intelligence about how and where his terror organization is getting its funding—largely, it seems, out of Iraq, the CIA operation revealing an alarming amount of cash for al Qaeda that is coming out of Iraq, much of it in donations to anti-American insurgency groups, as well as from kidnappings of wealthy Iraqis and from other criminal activity.

When it comes to Pakistan‘s efforts to find bin Laden, it seems we should set our expectations even lower.  Yes, that can be hard to do once you consider the U.S. is paying the country about $1 billion a year to hunt him down.

Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski has more tonight on your tax dollars in action.


JIM MIKLASZEWSKI, NBC PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  It sounded like a good idea, pay the Pakistani military to hunt down al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, hiding in the rugged regions of western Pakistan.

But after spending $5 billion over the past five years, Osama bin Laden still on the loose, and the U.S. is left holding the bag.

SEN. JACK REED (D), RHODE ISLAND:  And the question really is, are they taking the money but not producing the kind of aggressive military operations that are necessary?

MIKLASZEWSKI:  U.S. military officials warn that‘s exactly what‘s happening.  Eight months ago, in a truce with local tribes, the Pakistani government actually cut back counterterrorism operations in the west.

U.S. military and intelligence officials fear that without aggressive Pakistani military operations, Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda operatives appear more safe and secure than ever.

That‘s also left the area pretty much wide open for the Taliban to conduct cross-border attacks into Afghanistan, then retreat safely back into Pakistan.

But U.S. money for counterterrorism still pours into Pakistan, more than $80 million per month.  Perhaps worse, the U.S. has no control over the money to tell just how it‘s being spent.

XENIA DORMANOV, FORMER OFFICIAL, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL:  We have no verification of it, so there‘s no way of really calibrating, really understanding what their operations are costing, what exactly they‘re doing.

MIKLASZEWSKI:  Senate Democrat Jack Reed wants to change all that and make those U.S. payments conditional.

REED:  We should demand more for what we give them.  It‘s necessary to support them, but we should demand results.

MIKLASZEWSKI:  But this is a delicate and potentially deadly balancing act.  If the U.S. pushes too hard, it could risk undermining President Pervez Musharraf, a strong ally against terrorists in that region.

Musharraf is already on shaky political ground at home, and the billion-dollar payoffs help keep the Pakistani military in line, and under control.


NOVOTNY:  Jim Miklaszewski reporting.

Well, it‘s shaping up to be a really long week for Alberto Gonzales, as votes of no confidence loom in the attorney general scandal, the president showing no signs that the embarrassment will cause him to waver in his support.

And as Rupert Murdoch moves to try to buy “The Wall Street Journal,” damaging headlines on exactly how he does business as a so-called newsman.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.


NOVOTNY:  Members of the House of Representatives today introduced a resolution expressing no confidence in Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, and urging President Bush to fire him.  A Senate no-confidence vote is expected later this week.

But in the fourth story on our COUNTDOWN tonight, neither this historic rejection of the nation‘s top lawman nor a top Republican‘s prediction Gonzales will resign, nor still more revelations about Gonzales, moved President Bush today to the conclusion that justice demands America have confidence in the man sworn to pursue justice.


BUSH:  You asked about Alberto Gonzales.  He has got my confidence.  He has done nothing wrong.  There‘s been enormous amount of attention on him, that there‘s been no wrongdoing on his part.  He has testified in front of Congress.

And I, frankly, view what‘s taking place in Washington today as pure political theater.  And it is this kind of political theater that has caused the American people to lose confidence in how Washington operates.  I stand by Al Gonzales, and I would hope that people would be more sober in how they address these important issues.


NOVOTNY:  In fact, polls have shown support for congressional oversight of Gonzales, and the question of wrongdoing is far from settled, “U.S. News and World Report” reporting that Democrats will ask the Texas Bar Association to determine whether Gonzales, in 2004, when he was White House counsel, violated the law or professional rules of conduct by discussing secret wiretapping in front of then-Attorney General John Ashcroft‘s wife.

And Senator Chuck Schumer has sent the White House a letter asking who exactly sent Gonzales to Ashcroft‘s hospital room in that late-night quest for someone to approve the wiretaps, after acting AG Jim Comey refused to do so, Mr. Bush today still not saying whether it was him, although Schumer‘s letter marks the third time the president has been asked directly, and “Newsweek” today reporting that the White House the day after the midnight ride of Alberto Gonzales claimed its top officials did not know who was running the Justice Department, despite a fax receipt proving the DOJ notified them about Comey, and despite the fact a DOJ spokesman had announced Comey‘s temporary status days before in public.

Then there is Monica Goodling, set to testify Wednesday about her role as DOJ‘s White House liaison, and, quite possibly, about the fired U.S.  attorneys, with Justice releasing still more of her e-mails tonight.

We‘re going to bring in Rachel Maddow, who stays on top of this story on her Air America radio program every weeknight.

Rachel, thanks for joining us.


NOVOTNY:  So first, let me get your take on the punctuation to the unbelievable hospital visit that we‘re now hearing about, thanks to Mr.  Comey.  Is it really possible that the White House counsel and chief of staff would not know who was running Justice?  Or is it, perhaps, that they just did not recall?

MADDOW:  Well, that‘s actually—I mean, which explanation is better, that they didn‘t know, that they missed the announcement, or that they didn‘t care, and that they were trying to ram this through a semi-incoherent, half dead John Ashcroft in an intensive care unit, because they knew the program couldn‘t get past any sentient being?

I mean, either way, it‘s not a good situation.  And I think what you mentioned there about what “U.S. News and World Report” is reporting today about the Texas Bar Association is very important.  It‘s possible that that entire midnight ride, that entire incident in the intensive care unit, was actually illegal in a pretty significant way.

There‘s very serious restrictions on when and where classified information can be discussed.  In front of John Ashcroft‘s wife in an unsecure hospital room is not one of those places.  So that may end up being a very, very serious matter, what happened that night.

NOVOTNY:  Let‘s talk about, why does the fact that we‘re talking about Justice make this week‘s no-confidence vote more important than, say, for some other cabinet agency?

MADDOW:  Well, you know, the Department of Justice is not just any agency.  This is not a historical landmarks commission.  These are the folks who are in charge of law.  These are the folks who are in charge, supposedly, of terrorism prosecution, civil rights, crime, the FBI, public corruption, of course.

And if you‘re talking about Justice being led by someone whose credibility, whose judgment, whose political independence is now a national punchline, that is something that‘s more important than your average Washington scandal for a country that supposedly is run on the rule of law.

This is perhaps the most important government agency, other than the Department of Defense and the executive itself.  And if it‘s led by somebody who really has become a national joke, that‘s a real problem for the country.  This is not like going after Karl Rove.  This is going after the attorney general.  And it‘s very serious.

NOVOTNY:  Mr. Bush says there is no wrongdoing here.  How long do you think he‘ll continue to say that?  And how would you refute that assertion?

MADDOW:  Well, the reason that George W. Bush has been saying that it is not a—there hasn‘t been any wrongdoing is, he‘s been asserting his right to fire those U.S. attorneys, his right to fire those federal prosecutors, completely missing the point that this isn‘t a scandal because it‘s a personnel matter, this isn‘t a scandal because people were fired improperly, this is a scandal because what we learned about the Justice Department, because of those U.S. attorneys being fired, is that the Republican Party and the Bush administration were essentially trying to hijack the Justice Department for the purposes of benefiting the Republican Party, in the same way that Tony Soprano‘s gang would take over a waste management company and use it to further their own aims.

They were hijacking this department.  And it‘s not about one attorney here or there, it‘s what we learned about their overall aims for that department because of those firings.  If you look at the prosecutions that the Gonzales Justice Department, that the Justice Department under George W. Bush has brought against people who are elected officials or candidates for office, 80 percent of their prosecutions have been against Democrats, 80 percent.

That‘s a problem that‘s not about one U.S. attorney here or there.  That‘s the Justice Department being hijacked for partisan aims.  And that‘s a constitutional crisis.

NOVOTNY:  Rachel, are Democrats naive in thinking that symbolic votes will sway the president, or are they pursuing a scenario that might not be immediately apparent to us?

MADDOW:  Well, I wish I knew.  I wish I had great faith that the Democrats had a perfect political arc in mind here about how this ends up.  I think the best way to look at this, the most generous way to look at this, is to say that the Democrats are shy around the issue of impeachment.  They‘re shy around that issue with the vice president and the president, but also with the attorney general.  They may be trying to make it impeachment look inevitable, like they were forced into it, rather than make it look like they were going to that as a first recourse.

NOVOTNY:  Rachel Maddow, host of “The Rachel Maddow Show” on Air America.  Thanks for joining us.

MADDOW:  Thank you, Monica.

NOVOTNY:  From death-defying political stunts to the real thing.  Some blames and omissions ahead in Oddball.

And breaking “Idol” news, Paula Abdul broken, literally, at least her nose is.  But this time, she can‘t blame it on the technical problems.

That and more, ahead on COUNTDOWN.


NOVOTNY:  Welcome back.  I‘m Monica Novotny, in for Keith Olbermann, who normally starts this part of the newscast with a little history lesson.

So in that vein, allow us to point out that exactly 175 years ago today, in Baltimore, Maryland, the first-ever Democratic National Convention got under way, a full 21 years before the Republican Party even existed.

On that note, let‘s play Oddball.

And we begin in Hollywood, California, where it‘s not enough anymore to just be an actor-slash-model, you have to be on fire, literally.  Thus, this was the entertainment offered at the annual Taurus World Stunt Awards Saturday night, flaming models.  Now, that‘s hot.

And on the stunt beat, we turn to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where Dan Meyer (ph), AKA Captain Cutlass, decided it was time to combine his love of sharks with his love of swords.  He swam into the local aquarium and proceeded to gobble down a 30-inch blade while surrounded by dozens of sharks and stingrays.  Aside from terrifying the local children, Mr. Meyer also made history as the first person in America—and we hope the last—to swallow a sword in a shark tank.

To Rio Rancho, New Mexico, where patients at the Presbyterian Hospital got a nasty shock first thing Friday morning, a 125-pound bear, who got in through the automatic doors and wandered the clinic for hours.

And if you think that‘s scary, check out what happened in Rotterdam, in The Netherlands, where this cell phone video inside the restaurant of the Diergaard Bliebsdorf (ph) Zoo, where the 400-pound gorilla in the room is a 400-pound gorilla.  Little Moquito (ph) escaped from his cage and bit a tourist before charging into the caf’, presumably in search of something tastier.

Finally, to Tokyo, Japan, where scientists claim to have invented a device that, quote, “turns commuting hell into a heavenly experience.”  It‘s a mini-TV that sits on your glasses.  So those people who are already visually impaired enough to actually need corrective lenses will no longer see anything in front of them except television.  Well, that‘ll make getting to work much better.

Unfortunately, thanks to the Fox Noise Channel, anyone can already see what he‘s done to television, but now there‘s new insight into just how Rupert Murdoch operates in print too.

And despite the video showing him drunk and chomping a hamburger while his child pleaded with him to stop boozing, somehow David Hasselhoff just got custody of his kids, then showed his heart.

Those stories ahead.

Now, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.

Number three, Michael Lusher of Huntington, West Virginia, possibly the soundest sleeper on the planet.  As he snoozed in his mobile home Sunday morning, he was hit in the head by a bullet.  According to police, it happened at 4:30 a.m.  But Mr. Lusher didn‘t wake up until 8:30 a.m., a full four hours later.  And he only noticed he‘d been shot when he saw blood on his pillow.

Number two, Zhang Shuqing of Zechuan, China, who just turned 100 years old.  According to his local paper, Mr. Zhang attributes his longevity to two things, smoking and drinking for every single day since his 20‘s.  His grandson did the math and worked out Mr. Zhang has drunk more than 15 tons of liquor and smoked more than a ton of tobacco in his lifetime.  Don‘t try that at home, kids. 

And number one, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who in the 218 hours‘ worth of oral arguments at the court since October 2004 has spoken a grand total of 281 words.  In the last 104 hours of arguments he hasn‘t uttered a peep.  As to why he doesn‘t contribute to the conversation, Justice Thomas once told high school students, usually if you wait long enough, someone will ask your question.  Your tax dollars in action, ladies and gentlemen. 


NOVOTNY:  Kick them when they‘re up, kick them when they‘re down.  Don Henley put tabloid news in its place.  But when a notorious tabloid airs its own dirty laundry, it really is a case of man bites dog.  Number three in our COUNTDOWN, the gossip column that could threaten one of the biggest news media empires ever built. 

First some background, Rupert Murdoch‘s news corporation controls Fox News, Satellite channels, websites and newspapers all over the world.  He‘s made a fortune with red meat headlines, a right-wing agenda and a good dose of naked women between the sheets of his newspapers, even though Murdoch has said that journalism carries special responsibility.  Well, isn‘t this special; a “New York Post” column last Friday confessing to a certain amount of, well, let‘s just call it accepting cash and goodies from people who got good coverage.  Juicy details include the “Post‘s” editor partying at a strip club, and a thousand dollar payment from a restaurant owner.

All of this noted at a time when Murdoch is trying to buy Dow Jones and the “Wall Street Journal” for a staggering five billion dollars, while promising that no sleaze would ever rub off on the traditional bible of the business world.  Film maker Robert Greenwald‘s documentary “Out Foxed” examines the Murdoch news empire, its power and its fury.  Thanks for joining us tonight.   


NOVOTNY:  Robert, word is the admissions in this column were designed to head off even more serious allegations in a lawsuit.  The last time we checked, the Post editor is still in charge over there.  How embarrassing is this for Murdoch? 

GREENWALD:  Well, I think it‘s seriously embarrassing if it were you or I.  Nothing seems to embarrass Murdoch or that eternal drive to squeeze every nickel out of every media outlet he owns.  And it doesn‘t matter whether he puts naked women on the cover or if he drives to the bottom line with all of his newspapers supporting the war action, it‘s just a consistent pattern we see over and over again. 

So I‘d like to think that he would be embarrassed, but I‘m not sure that that would be true in his case. 

NOVOTNY:  Murdoch‘s third wife, Wendy, was born in China and is said to be handling some of his business interests there.  And there are allegations that he‘s ordered his media to go easy on the Chinese government.  Who‘s making these allegations and how serious are they? 

GREENWALD:  Well, it‘s a long pattern of his currying favor with the Chinese communist government.  He actually had a book contract canceled by one of his publishing countries because it was critical of the Chinese communist government.  He‘s pulled reporters off of stories and this predates even his marriage.  So we have seen this over the years.  It‘s actually caused serious problems for him because of his desire to do whatever the Chinese government says, in an effort, again, same thing, greed, profitability, doing whatever it takes, in this case manipulating and using media to service the Chinese communist government. 

NOVOTNY:  Last winter at the Davos Economic Forum, Murdoch was asked if his media shaped the agenda on Iraq and he said, quote, no, I don‘t think so, but we tried.  Is he starting to pay a price for backing an unpopular policy? 

GREENWALD:  I think so.  I mean, the war—it wasn‘t, by the way, just that his newspapers and television backed the war.  It was the vicious, terrible attack of many people, myself included, who resisted the war.  And they tried to silence people.  They really went against the basic tenets of democracy.  And I think that‘s truly coming back to haunt him and haunt his many newspapers and the television stations that went along, lock step, in trying to silence all criticism. 

NOVOTNY:  Now, given the track record and everything that you‘ve just discussed, paint a picture for me, what if Murdoch gets Dow Jones and the “Wall Street Journal,” how long until they‘ll they‘re tabloids too? 

GREENWALD:  Well, it won‘t be long.  We know what happened in London with “The Sun.”  He quickly turned it into a tabloid and it was quickly from bikinis to topless women within the pages of the newspaper.  He has made promises in the past.  He then takes over newspapers, television stations and immediately turns them into this double-barreledy, deathly combination.  It‘s hard right conservative politics and it‘s taking it and taking news, which all of us in a democracy should care about and respect, and driving it down to its cheapest, tawdry level possible. 

NOVOTNY:  In fact, there was a column in the “Financial Times” the other day where they talked about the fact that apparently back in the 1970‘s when he was buying the “New York Post” that he wrote them a letter saying essentially what he said to the Bancroft family that owns the rights of the Dow Jones, saying I‘m not changing a thing.  Everything will stay the same.  And of course we know what happened to the “New York Post.”

GREENWALD:  Yes, and again, we see this pattern over and over again.  So if I‘m the Bancroft family, I would be running in the other direction, because, again, if you look at news, if you think it‘s important, if you value it in terms of its role in our country and our society, this is one of the terrible prices we pay for media monopolization.  And he continues to do that and drives in this one clear direction.  But we know what he‘s going to do.  The evidence is there. 

NOVOTNY:  We should point out that as right-wing as he‘s been, he‘s also sponsored a fund raiser for Senator Hillary Clinton after building the Fox Network on anti-Clinton attacks.  Do you sense a turn about here?  What‘s that about? 

GREENWALD:  I don‘t sense a turn about.  I see that he will create allies when he needs them for the moment.  Remember, he has legislative agendas.  He‘s always looking to have the rules bent in order to favor his media empire.  And sometimes you do one fund raiser and get plenty in return.  But day in and day out, we‘re monitoring Fox now.  We‘ve done a series of short videos, Fox Attacks, showing them how ruthless they are and their position has not changed at all. 

NOVOTNY:  Robert Greenwald, documentary filmmaker, we appreciate your time. 

GREENWALD:  Thank you. 

NOVOTNY:  Donald trump tries to out Fox NBC.  He doesn‘t get a spot in the fall line-up, so the Donald says, I quit, before he gets fired.  Michael Musto joins us. 

And the latest O.J. Simpson money battle, literally fighting for the suit off his back.  That and more ahead on COUNTDOWN.


NOVOTNY:  There‘s no science on exactly when someone becomes all washed up.  It‘s kind of a know it when you see it sort of thing.  But if the person in question has to quit for fear of being fired, they qualify.  In our number two story on the COUNTDOWN, Donald Trump and other has-beens, bad hair and all.  It‘s official, according to the Donald, after six seasons of “The Apprentice,” he‘s done.  He told TV Guide that NBC wanted to do another one but, quote, I just don‘t have the time, end quote.  Which is interesting, considering that “The Apprentice” was nowhere to be seen on NBC‘s fall schedule, although the network had not completely ruled out bringing back the show. 

But perhaps Mr. Trump, who‘s tag line on “The Apprentice” was “You‘re Fired,” thought it best to avoid being on the other end of that one.  From bad hair to no hair, unless you‘re counting extension, Britney Spears continues her mind-blowing, lip synching 15 minute sets at House of Blues clubs across the country.  The latest in Orlando where, oops, her record skipped. 

And then there‘s David Hasselhoff, who despite his drunken burger eating video extravaganza was today awarded temporary custody of his kids.  According to TMZ, the judge was stunned by the evidence from an expert who performed psychological evaluations on the family.  After the judge‘s ruling, Hasselhoff then agreed on shared custody with his wife until the next hearing. 

Who better to turn to now than “Village Voice” columnist Michael Musto, also author of “La Dolce Musto.”  Good evening, Michael. 


NOVOTNY:  I suppose we dispense with the Donald first.  By the time the sixth season came around, “The Apprentice” was doing about a third the ratings of its initial run.  But Mr. Trump says we should be on the lookout for his next big TV venture.  What might that be?

MUSTO:  I hear he has a great new TV deal.  It‘s 27.95 a month and for 7.95 more he gets the premium channel.  I hear he might end up on the Fox Business Channel, which is even worse than the Fox Noise Channel, bravo. 

NOVOTNY:  And what would he be doing? 

MUSTO:  Annoying me with his bad hair, and annoying Rosie O‘Donnell too. 

NOVOTNY:  All right, on to Britney Spears; during her 14-minute set in Orlando‘s House of Blues, the disk skipped and apparently she had to turn her head away from the audience until the song came back on track.  But the audience still loved her.  Are we premature in dubbing her a has-been?

MUSTO:  Absolutely.  This is wonderful.  It‘s her first sign of spontaneity.  This puts in her in the esteemed company of Ashley Simpson and Millie Vanilli.  So she lip sinks.  That‘s like saying David Copperfield‘s tricks might turn out to be tricks.  This is fantastic, and it came of kind of like a scratch remix, t-t-toxic.  I loved it.

NOVOTNY:  All right, here‘s another spontaneous move.  There was a report that Miss Spears demand to be allowed off a United Airlines flight recently because it didn‘t have leather seats.  So she‘s hoping people will keep thinking of her as a Diva as long as she keeps acting live a diva?

MUSTO:  Yes, and I hear that she lip synched the request by the way.  No, this shows her amazing sensitivity, Monica.  How dare you not kill animals to comfort my capacious butt.  I hear she was also upset that the flight attendants had a full head of hair.  And she was like, I‘ll show you.  I‘m walking to L.A.

NOVOTNY:  Let‘s talk about David Hasselhoff, who can not be stopped.  He cries in public last year at the “American Idol” finale.  This year his daughters videotaped him drunk.  But the judge today was apparently more afraid of the psychological profile of his ex.  Is this the beginning of a come back for the Hoff? 

MUSTO:  Absolutely.  You cannot hassle this Hoff.  I mean, yes, he eats burgers off the floor, but the ex-wife eats them with cheese.  Yes, he has more liquids in him than Pamela Lee has in her chest and were in all of “Baywatch” combined, but the ex-wife is an abusive gargoyle apparently and she‘s not even famous in Germany.  Hasselhoff always wins. 

NOVOTNY:  Michael Jackson, we have got some almost breaking news here. 

Apparently a Las Vegas auction of Jackson memorabilia is going forward.  Jackson tried to stop it, but they reached a settlement.  The items, they say, are worth an estimated 50 million dollars.  They include gold records, but also a sketch of young boy signed by Michael Jackson dated 1994.  Is this really something Las Vegas wants to be risking damaging its reputation with? 

MUSTO:  Well, you can‘t damage Las Vegas‘ reputation.  It‘s like

damaging Britney Spears‘ reputation.  But I hear it‘s a nudey portrait by

the way.  Among the other items, Monica, I hear are Michael‘s five last

noises, his black pigment, the test tubes that are the fathers of his

babies, some lube, and


MUSTO:  I could go on and I‘m bidding as we speak. 

NOVOTNY:  All right, George Michael recently telling an interviewer in Britain that he has for the first time considered leaving his country because he‘s under so much media scrutiny there.  And he said that if alcoholics simply switched to weed, quote, the world would be a much easier place to live in.  Any suggestions where Mr. Michael should go? 

MUST:  A rehab center.  Definitely the United States of America, because here he is now about as famous as the other guy from Wham.  He would be totally anonymous.  And he loves anonymous sex, by the way.  But he should avoid anywhere where there‘s a public restroom, maybe just stay on a farm where you go in a bucket or something.  You can‘t have sex in a bucket.  He would find a way. 

NOVOTNY:  Finally, let‘s nominate an entire show as a has-been, that would be “The View” once Rosie O‘Donnell leaves.  Any suggestions on how they can stop the rating slide after she‘s gone? 

MUSTO:  It is so doomed.  It‘s more doomed than “The Apprentice.”  I mean, all you have left is like Barbara, who can‘t crane her neck, and Elizabeth Hasselhoff, or whatever her name is, who‘s still promoting the—


MUSTO:  Still promoting the war in Iraq.  Let‘s get a living will on this show and just pull the plug.  Even “Murder She Wrote” went off after a while, didn‘t it?  Don‘t tell me. 

NOVOTNY:  Michael Musto, always entertaining.  Thank you. 

MUSTO:  Thank you. 

NOVOTNY:  Messed up celebrities to washed up fake celebrities, an easy segue tonight to Keeping Tabs, our nightly round up of entertainment news, and this evening we go back, 15 years, in fact, to the young woman they called the Long Island Lolita, Amy Fisher.  She served seven years in prison for shooting and seriously wounding the wife of her boyfriend when she was only 17 years old.  Her boyfriend, who could forget, Joey Buttafuoco—Thought you would never see him again?  No such luck. 

Joey and Amy did go their separate.  They remarried.  But both are now said to be getting divorced.  You see where this is going, right?  The television show “The Insider” says they‘ve been seen dating and says they might do some kind of TV reality show together, sure to be rated number one with a bullet. 

And then there‘s O.J. Simpson, famously found not guilty of the murder of his wife Nicole and her friend Ron Goldman 13 years ago.  He was, however, found liable for their deaths in a civil suit brought by the father of Goldman, and still owes something north of 30 million dollars to settle that judgment.  Enter Fred Goldman, father of Ron, with his latest attempt to collect. 

TMZ says Goldman is suing for the shirt off O.J.‘s back, also a tie and one of his suits.  Apparently O.J.‘s suit, the one that he wore during the famous verdict, is being sold by a sports memorabilia dealer for 25,000 dollars.  Goldman says he wants the suit and he suspects O.J. is somehow behind the sale, that another collector says could be worth 100,000 dollars.  Of course, if the buyer tries on the suit and it does not fit—well, let‘s not go there. 

May continues to be a record breaking month for the movie industry.  “Shrek The Third” had the biggest opening ever for an animated film this weekend, and the third biggest opening ever, taking in 122 million dollars, knocking the weekend‘s other three-quel, “Spider-Man 3” down to number two at the box office.  “Spider-Man Three” has now made 747 million dollars worldwide in just three weeks. 

The Shreks series stars Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz and Eddie Murphy.  “Shrek The Third,” however, is believed to be one of the highest-grossing movies ever to include in the same cast Larry King and Regis Philbin. 

“Shrek Three” scored big, but will “American Idol” six be a big flop?  On the eve of the finale, will the ratings slide continue and is there anything Idol can do to top last year‘s final results show?  All that and Paula breaks her nose.  Our princess weighs in next on COUNTDOWN.


NOVOTNY:  Plenty has been written about Paula Abdul since “American Idol” pout her back into the spotlight, but we never thought we would be telling you this.  Paula Abdul has tripped over a tulip.  In our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, the sordid details and the outlook for tomorrow night‘s Idol showdown. 

The TV entertainment show “Extra” says that a spokesperson has confirmed that over the weekend Miss Abdul tripped.  She claims that she was trying to avoid her Chihuahua named Tulip and the poor thing broker her nose.  That would be Miss Abdul, not tulip.  The spokesperson told “Extra” that contrary to reports, Abdul was not hospitalized. 

Whether “American Idol” has suffered only the metaphorical equivalent of a broken nose this season is yet to be determined, but it will send up it grand finale this week.  First, the face-off between Jordan Sparks and Blake Lewis, then the results show extravaganza.  But will it top last year‘s star studded affair, including the surprise appearance of his purple majesty, Prince? 

Joining me now COUNTDOWN‘s very own “American Idol” princess, also the mid day host of New York‘s classic rock station Q104.3, Maria Milito.  Good evening Maria.

MARIA MILITO, Q-104.3:  Hi Monica.  Thanks for having me here.

NOVOTNY:  So I‘m having a little trouble with this Abdul story.  Should she be blaming the dog and does she really want to admit that she named it tulip? 

MILITO:  I think blaming the dog is kind of like when guys have a dog and they pass gas and they say the dog did it.  I think it‘s something like that, not to tell the truth.  The fact that she named is tulip, I don‘t know.  That‘s a little bizarre.  Maybe she has a thing for Paris Hilton.  I don‘t know.   

NOVOTNY:  Onto the Idol showdown between Jordan and Blake; are you predicting fury or fizzle? 

MILITO:  I think fizzle.  I think the show is boring.  You know, I was thinking about last season we had Kelly Pickler.  You know, her mother was gone.  Her father was in prison.  She was raised by her grandfather.  This season is kind of—I don‘t want to say it‘s boring, but other than Sanjaya and his hair and Antonella and her naked photos, fizzle, fizzle, fizzle.  Kind of boring. 

NOVOTNY:  Now, it seems like Jordan is the favorite for tomorrow, but could Blake pull off a beat boxing upset?   

MILITO:  You never know.  I think a lot of the votes for Chris, who was eliminated a couple weeks ago, I think went to Blake. 

NOVOTNY:  Which one was Chris? 

MILITO:  Chris was the one who looked like Justin Timberlake. 

NOVOTNY:  Oh, yes. 

MILITO:  Yes, so I think a lot of the people who were voting for the good-looking boy went to—actually went to Blake.  I don‘t know where Melinda‘s votes are going to go.  Maybe the girl power people will go to Jordan.  But I don‘t know.  Blake might be the one to come from behind.  You never know.

NOVOTNY:  Now, Simon Cowell has been making the rounds lately, saying in interviews that he was truly disappointed that Melinda Doolittle didn‘t make it into the finals.  He‘s also said that season 10 of Idol, that‘s four seasons from now, will be his last.  First of all, are we sure it will make it to 10, given the ratings slide this year? 

MILITO:  Well, I think the ratings are still pretty unbelievable, compared to shows on other networks that have really low ratings.  And it‘s the star show for the network.  But who knows.  Maybe he has some sort of project coming up in a few years or maybe the show is jumping the shark and he knows let me get out—well, 10 years, that‘s a long time. 

NOVOTNY:  That‘s still four years away. 


MILITO:  Then he‘s in trouble.  But knowing him, because he‘s pretty smart and he‘s pretty rich, he probably has something planned ahead that he can‘t do right now. 

NOVOTNY:  All right, Cowell also got in another dig on Taylor Hicks, saying that Hicks‘ record sales prove the point that there is a difference between popularity and talent.  He really doesn‘t like that guy, does he?

MILITO:  I don‘t think so.  I just read something recently that last week supposedly Melinda was supposed to stay and Blake was supposed to go, but Howard Stern went on the air and said that two of the six seasons the producers let people vote for real, as opposed to the producers choosing the winner.  So that was a big scam that came out.  And that‘s why at the last minute they had to eliminate Melinda.  I don‘t know.  There could be some truth to that. 

NOVOTNY:  Are producers going to be able to top last year‘s results show finale.  Even people who don‘t normally watch the program had to admit that there were some great guest singers.  Any surprises this year.

MILITO:  Well, you know what I think would be awesome, and I would love, if they propped Elvis, propped him up and just made him sing with Celine Dion.  That would do it for me.

NOVOTNY:  I think they did that already. 

MILITO:  I know, but I really want them to dig him up, because that would be cool.

NOVOTNY:  And finally, will David Hasselhoff be in audience?  And will he cry?

MILITO:  Will he cry?  Well, read somewhere that David Hasselhoff and Simon Cowell are really tight friends, true blue loyal friends.  And I guess “America‘s Got Talent” is coming up and that‘s Simon Cowell‘s project, so I guess he will be shedding tears of joy because the new season is coming up of that show.  Who knows. 

NOVOTNY:  Hopefully he won‘t bring his hamburger. 

MILITO:  Yes, I was going to say that.  He won‘t be on the floor. 

He‘ll be in the seat or standing up. 

NOVOTNY:  All right, very quickly, your prediction, who‘s the winner? 

MILITO:  I think Jordan.  I think Jordan.  You know why?  Because at the beginning of the season—and this makes sense if the producers already chose her—Randy Jackson said curly haired girl. 

NOVOTNY:  Maybe he meant you, Maria Milito of New York‘s Q-104.3 and around here known as COUNTDOWN‘s “American Idol” princess. 

MILITO:  Thank you Monica. 

NOVOTNY:  That will do it for this Monday edition of COUNTDOWN.  I‘m Monica Novotny, in for Keith Olbermann.  Keith‘s back tomorrow.  Thanks for watching.



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