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'Scarborough Country' for May 24

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

Guests: Debbie Matenopoulos, Tina Dirmann, Michelle Sigona, Susan Filan, David Schwartz, Stephen Battaglio, Laura Saltman, David Caplan, Ashlan Gorse

DAN ABRAMS, GUEST HOST:  Good evening.  I‘m Dan Abrams, in for Joe Scarborough.  It‘s time to look back at today‘s winners and losers.  Winner, President Bush for establishing expectations today that ensure he‘ll be right about Iraq, no matter what happens.  Either the violence escalates this summer, as he predicted this morning, or the situation gets better, as he‘s been suggesting all along.  Loser, President Bush for establishing expectations today that ensure he‘ll be right about Iraq.

Winner, Michael Jackson for reportedly pocketing 10 million bucks to just show up at a birthday party for the Sultan of Brunei.  Loser, in addition to the sultan for shelling out big bucks to hire Jacko as a party clown, Dionne Warwick, who will make a paltry $500,000 for attending the party, and apparently, she‘s going to actually have to sing for her money.

Loser, “American Idol.”  Last night‘s finale brought in seven million fewer viewers than last year.  Who would have guessed that Bette Midler as the headliner wouldn‘t not pull them in the way she used to.  Winner, reality rival “Dancing With the Stars.”  On Tuesday, more people watched it than “Idol,” thereby assuring D-rate (ph) celebrities (INAUDIBLE) lack of talent of contestant Tucker Carlson, that they will always find work decorating, dawdling, dating or dancing for the cameras.

But first up, last night‘s loser, Rosie O‘Donnell, now seems she may have used up her ninth life after her on-air catfight yesterday with archenemy and co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck.  Now it appears Rosie may not come back to “The View” at all.  Just a few hours ago, in a question-and-answer section of her blog, in response to a fan‘s question, Rosie wrote, “when painting there is a point u must step away from the canvas as the work is done anymore would take away.”

I‘m not certain what that cryptic response means.  Maybe this helps.  Another fan asked, “r u seriously thinking of not going back to the view at all?”  Rosie said, “I have said all I needed.”

She wasn‘t on the show today because it was her partner‘s birthday.  Her contract not up until June 21, but it sure seems like Rosie has had enough after this outburst.


ELISABETH HASSELBECK, “THE VIEW”:  I just don‘t understand why it‘s my fault if people spin words that you put out there or phrases that—suggesting—and I gave you an opportunity two days ago to clarify the statement that got you in trouble...


ROSIE O‘DONNELL, “THE VIEW”:  Do you believe I think our troops are terrorists, Elisabeth?

HASSELBECK:  I don‘t think that you...

O‘DONNELL:  Yes or no!

HASSELBECK:  I think...

O‘DONNELL:  And you would not even look me in the face, Elisabeth, and say...

HASSELBECK:  What are you talking about?

O‘DONNELL:  ... No, Rosie.  I can understand how people...

HASSELBECK:  I asked you...

O‘DONNELL:  ... might have thought that.  Why don‘t you take this opportunity—like I‘m 6.

HASSELBECK:  Because you are an adult, and I am certainly not going to...

O‘DONNELL:  So are you!

HASSELBECK:  ... be the person for you to explain your thoughts. 

They‘re your thoughts!  Defend your own insinuations!


ABRAMS:  Oh!  With us now is Debbie Matenopoulos, the former “View” co-host, and is now co-hosting “The Daily 10” on E!  Steve Adubato, MSNBC media analyst, and Tina Dirmann, co-host for E!‘s on-line show “Planet Gossip.”  Thanks to all of you for coming on.  Appreciate it.

All right, Debbie, you think Rosie‘s done?

DEBBIE MATENOPOULOS, FORMER “VIEW” CO-HOST:  I don‘t know.  It‘s hard to say, you know?  I mean,  I think what happened there yesterday on that set, it was—anything that could have happened in the make-up room, you know?  I‘ve left in tears from that show more than once, and it wasn‘t that I didn‘t like the women I was with.  It was just simply your feelings get hurt on a show of that nature.  It‘s a double-edged sword because it‘s ground-breaking and it‘s riveting because you‘re allowed to put everything out there and really say what you feel.  But at the same time, after the camera is turned off, you‘re still a human being and you have feelings.

Is she going to come back?  I think her feelings were really hurt, genuinely hurt yesterday.  It was not about whether you‘re Republican or Democrat, whether you believe in the war or you don‘t.  It came down to Elisabeth not having her co-host‘s back in a way that Rosie felt, Wait a second.  It‘s not that you don‘t like my political views, you don‘t like me.


MATENOPOULOS:  And I think you saw that in Rosie‘s eyes.  She started to well up.

ABRAMS:  Tina, what‘s with this sort of Confucius-like responses that Rosie‘s giving on her blog about whether she‘s coming back?

TINA DIRMANN, E! ONLINE‘S “PLANET GOSSIP”:  Oh, she‘s being so, so cryptic, isn‘t she?  But you know, I really expect that, at minimum, she‘ll have a lot of absences over the next couple of weeks.  She‘s got less than three weeks left on this contract anyway, and sources are telling me that they‘re asking people like Kathy Griffin to be on standby so that she can fill in more often.  Kathy‘s being (ph) one of the frontrunners, by the way, to fill in for Rosie.  So I wouldn‘t be surprised if she—look, if she doesn‘t at least flat not show up for the rest of the week, I wouldn‘t be surprised if she has a lot of reasons, family outings, et cetera, to miss a lot of shows because I‘m being told she‘s over it.  The woman is just over it.

ABRAMS:  That would certainly make us in the winners and losers category losers because we‘d be losing out on the Rosie fodder every day.

Barbara Walters talked about the feud on “The View” today.


BARBARA WALTERS, “THE VIEW”:  What this show was for many years, and for most of this year, was that women could talk and argue and debate without it getting personal, nasty.  It‘s—and this is the way women are at home, and this is the way we want it to be and the way it has been...


ABRAMS:  OK.  Steve, I‘m not really sure how that clarifies anything that happened yesterday.

STEVE ADUBATO, MSNBC MEDIA ANALYST:  Well, Dan, I‘ll tell you what.  Barbara Walters and ABC are ultimately responsible.  Yes, Rosie is responsible for the crazy way she often acts on the air, but they hired her.  They got a nice run out of this.  They got a bump in the ratings.  But long term, Dan, you know it, I know it, everyone in this business knows it, you can‘t have people in an ensemble situation who are attacking each other personally.  I mean, if people really look at what she said...

ABRAMS:  Really?  Hey, Steve?


ABRAMS:  I don‘t like your tie, man.  Not at all.  Not a good-looking guy, either.  Seriously.

ADUBATO:  And you know something, Dan?

ABRAMS:  I‘ve always thought this.

ADUBATO:  Could you imagine us actually going back and forth and—

what Rosie did was, it went back and forth and she said, you know, People

don‘t like me.  Conservatives pundits criticize my statements about

implying that the troops might be terrorists because she was—her words -

a fat lesbian and that the reason that people didn‘t attack Elisabeth is because she was Christian and cute.  What is that?  People don‘t talk like that as professional broadcasters.

ABRAMS:  Here‘s what she said.  Just before -- (INAUDIBLE) professional broadcaster!  Come on, Steve.  This is “The View.”  Professional broadcasters—that‘s, you know, so monotone...

ADUBATO:  Take it easy!

ABRAMS:  You know, professional broadcaster.  All right.  Before the blow-up, Rosie said she did not—she just didn‘t want to fight with Elisabeth.


O‘DONNELL:  You know why I don‘t want to do this, Joy?


O‘DONNELL:  NO, let me tell you why I don‘t want to do it.


O‘DONNELL:  Because here‘s how it gets spun in the media.  Rosie, big fat lesbian, loud Rosie, attacks innocent, pure, Christian Elisabeth.


O‘DONNELL:  And I‘m not doing it!


ABRAMS:  Debbie, when you were on the show, did everyone kind of have their role on the show?

MATENOPOULOS:  Well, yes.  Of course.  That‘s why it‘s called “The View.”  It was five women then.  Now it‘s four.  But it‘s different generations, different backgrounds and different views.  Let‘s be honest.  Dan, nobody wants to see level-headed, you know, normal quiet people on television.  You want that.

It was genius, what happened yesterday.  The reason that show is what that show is, the reason that it‘s relevant at all, is because of that.  People are not going to be watching “The View” if everyone agrees.  And I think it was wonderful.  And Barbara and Bill (ph) knew that, too.  It was financially lucrative to the point where they just said, The hell with the commercial, and they just kept rolling.

ABRAMS:  Go ahead, Steve.


ADUBATO:  You know, listen, if you want to compare what happened yesterday, this back and forth personal attack, listen, of course it‘s good television.  But you know what else?  People don‘t tune away from a car wreck, either.  My point is, over time, it‘s no secret why Rosie‘s leaving.  If the ratings were great and everything was working well and there was such a good plan, the question is, then why is she leaving?  She‘s leaving because you can‘t continue to look at the car wreck day after day.

ABRAMS:  Or...

ADUBATO:  And that‘s my point.

ABRAMS:  Or maybe she‘s...


MATENOPOULOS:  ... in the middle of the car wreck, either, you know?

ABRAMS:  Or maybe they‘re not giving enough money.

MATENOPOULOS:  I mean, I think people start to forget...


MATENOPOULOS:  ... her own show for $30 million...


ABRAMS:  Do I think it‘s about money?  I think it might be about money, sure.

ADUBATO:  I‘m not—I‘m not convinced.  And listen, no one really knows what went on there in the negotiations.  My gut tells me that in the end, the folks at ABC and”The View” said—and including Barbara Walters, who says, I had nothing to do with it—I don‘t buy it...

MATENOPOULOS:  Oh, I think you‘re wrong.

ADUBATO:  ... but over time, they didn‘t want another year of this with Rosie.


MATENOPOULOS:  I think you‘re so wrong.

ADUBATO:  You think I‘m...

MATENOPOULOS:  I think you‘re so wrong.

ADUBATO:  What information do you have?

MATENOPOULOS:  Yes, because I sat there.  And I will tell you (INAUDIBLE) I have enough information to tell you that you‘re wrong.  And you know why?

ADUBATO:  Go ahead.

MATENOPOULOS:  Barbara Walters is the smartest, most shrewd businesswomen in network news, OK?  So by the way, she‘s not going shoot herself in the foot when her ratings are up 17.5 percent.

ADUBATO:  Why did she never stand up to Rosie?

MATENOPOULOS:  Why would she want Rosie O‘Donnell to go up against her?  Because Barbara never stands up for anyone.  She takes her—she takes the view of the news side of things because she comes from “20/20.”  She was very clear about that.  She cannot take either side.  She just stays right in the middle.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Tina, real quick, because I want to show another thing that happened that I thought was interesting that kind of glossed over yesterday.  But do you think she‘s gone?  Do you think this is it for Rosie?

DIRMANN:  For Rosie?  You mean in terms of not finishing up her (INAUDIBLE)

ABRAMS:  Yes.  Do you think she‘s just literally—you think that we‘ve seen the last of her?

DIRMANN:  I don‘t think we‘ve seen the last of her.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Do you think...

DIRMANN:  I think she‘ll come back.

ABRAMS:  ... she‘s going to call in sick.  All right.

DIRMANN:  I think we‘ll be calling in sick (INAUDIBLE) but I think she‘ll be back.  She‘ll say her farewell, all that good stuff.  Everybody‘ll kiss and make up and—you know, that‘s how they‘ll end it.

ABRAMS:  Now, I don‘t know who here is, like, a celebrity expert.  Right after the fight yesterday, Alicia Silverstone, who was a guest on “The View,” she guest totally snubs Elisabeth after this.  Here‘s what happened.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Please welcome back Alicia Silverstone!





ABRAMS:  Talk (ph) to the hand (ph).  Talk to the hand.  Debbie, did that happen when you were on the show?  Would people—would guests...

MATENOPOULOS:  People used to snub me all the time, Dan.

ABRAMS:  Did they really?


MATENOPOULOS:  No.  No!  You know, what happened, like I said yesterday, that usually most of the time did not happen on the air.  That would happen—if we got in tiffs, it would be behind the scenes and it would be—you spend so much time with these women, whether you want to or not, because—for the simple fact that you‘re working together so much.  So at some point, you‘re going to get on each other‘s nerves.  It‘s just what happens, you know?  But at the end of the day, we did all kiss and make up.  And you know, Barbara and Bill always smoothed things over.  And they‘re like a rock band, you know?  They make beautiful music together, and then when they‘re off stage, it‘s not always so great.

ADUBATO:  Dan, like a rock band.  She‘s talking about World Trade Center building 7 collapsing, and she believes there‘s a conspiracy theory.  She talks about the troops as terrorists.  That‘s not a coffee klatch!

MATENOPOULOS:  She‘s not talking about the troops as terrorists!

ADUBATO:  That‘s not a—listen, one second, Deborah (ph).  Deborah, I let you finish.

MATENOPOULOS:  She‘s talking about the government.

ADUBATO:  Deborah, one second.  There is nothing funny, at a certain point, about that.  And it‘s not just entertainment.  At a certain point, she crosses the line into matters of life and death.  And I‘m not saying you can‘t have fun on the air and argue, but at what point do you say you have no self-respect and you should conduct yourself like a professional?

ABRAMS:  Well, speaking...

MATENOPOULOS:  Well, then that goes for Elisabeth, as well.

ABRAMS:  Speaking of professionals, Rosie‘s archnemesis, Donald Trump, commented on the feud today, and he wasn‘t on Elisabeth‘s side.


DONALD TRUMP, REAL ESTATE DEVELOPER:  Well, I think Elisabeth Hasselbeck, who called me obnoxious, is correct.  I didn‘t see her say it, but if she called me obnoxious, she‘s probably 100 percent correct.  But you know, in all fairness to Elisabeth, she‘s sort of known as being the dumbest person on television.  I mean, here‘s a woman who‘s totally in favor of the war in Iraq.  She thinks it‘s wonderful.  You know, Elisabeth is over her head, I suspect, when she talks about many subjects.


ABRAMS:  I mean, you know, you just—you just got love the—look at Debbie!


ABRAMS:  You got to love the Donald injecting himself...

MATENOPOULOS:  He just says whatever he wants.

ABRAMS:  ... into the debate.  Right?

ADUBATO:  Yes, but we look for him for the quote, though, Dan.

ABRAMS:  Oh, yes.

ADUBATO:  We never disappoint.

DIRMANN:  That‘s what he‘s there for is to be obnoxious that way.  You know, she called him obnoxious.  He‘s made a whole career out of that, and so has Rosie, by the way, you know.

ABRAMS:  Donald Trump sort of lives his life as if he‘s a character—as if he‘s one of the people on “The View.”


ABRAMS:  He‘s great.  He injects himself...


ABRAMS:  You guys said it before.  One of you said it before, that a bunch of people sitting around a table who aren‘t interesting and aren‘t controversial are not going make for good television.

MATENOPOULOS:  Are not good TV, no.

ABRAMS:  Donald Trump is good TV.


DIRMANN:  And by the way, you know, if you notice, during—if you notice, during that show yesterday—the other day, Joy, I think it was, kept interjecting, Cut to commercial.  Cut to commercial.  And they...


ABRAMS:  Hey, Steve, real quick...


ABRAMS:  Rosie‘s future.  Let‘s say she leaves.  I think she‘s going to make big, big bucks somewhere else, hosting her own show.  You disagree?

ADUBATO:  No, I don‘t.  But she‘ll never work with other people.  She doesn‘t play with the other children well, Dan.  She‘ll have her own show, be it satellite or HBO or someplace where she can say what she wants but doesn‘t have to play with the other kids on the air.  She‘s very good by herself, not with other people.

ABRAMS:  Tina, I‘m predicting big bucks for Rosie in her next contract, wherever it is.

DIRMANN:  Oh, I wouldn‘t be surprised at all, big bucks.  I keep saying I see her as some kind of a la, you know, Bill Maher-style cable show, where she can fly off the handle.  I think she will have guests, but I don‘t think they‘ll be like a regular panel.  I think she‘ll have rotating ones.  She needs somebody to get her to rise to the challenge, and she loves that.

ABRAMS:  All right, well...

MATENOPOULOS:  I got be honest with you.  I‘m sad to see her go off “The View.”

ADUBATO:  Me, too.

MATENOPOULOS:  The best thing that ever happened...

DIRMANN:  Oh, yes.

MATENOPOULOS:  ... to Elisabeth Hasselbeck‘s career is Rosie O‘Donnell, and I think those two should do a show together because I would definitely watch.

ADUBATO:  Dan, I‘m going to miss her.

ABRAMS:  All right.  All right.  I wish we had background music now to say our farewells!  God, I hope it‘s not true that Rosie‘s leaving!

Thank you, Debbie, Tina and Steve.  Appreciate it.


ABRAMS:  Still ahead, the latest on that missing mother out in Illinois.  Tonight, police say they‘ve confiscated several assault weapons from her home, weapons that reportedly belong to her estranged husband.  They were involved in an ugly divorce.  But now, almost four weeks later, the question: Is he a suspect?

And later: It sure looks like “American Idol” is past its peak.  The ratings are down from last year.  Is this the beginning of the end for “Idol”?

And up next in “Beat the Press,” what‘s the first thing you want to know about in the morning?  World events?  Presidential politics?  How about what‘s the best way to cross your legs?  That‘s coming up next in “Beat the Press.”


ABRAMS:  It‘s time for another edition of an old favorite, “Beat the Press.”  First up: I admit I‘m not a big “American Idol” watcher.  I told you that the other night during a segment we did about who should win.  But here‘s an angle we just hadn‘t thought of until our good friends over at “Your World With Neil Cavuto” brought it to our attention.


NEIL CAVUTO, HOST:  My next guest still says that if Jordin wins “American Idol,” it‘ll be an American tragedy simply because she‘s overweight.  So does that mean we shouldn‘t idolize other big stars, like Queen Latifah, Jennifer Hudson or even a pretty heavier now Kelly Clarkson?


ABRAMS:  What?  I don‘t even get it.

Next up: Rosie O‘Donnell and her morning show blow-out with Elisabeth Hasselbeck.  You have to admit, it makes for good TV, much better than the reenactment created by the anchor team at ABC‘s “World News Now.”


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It is totally easier to fight someone like Peter Grimm (ph) than it is to fight me.  And I‘m tired of this, OK?  This is really annoying, picking on poor little Ryan (ph) every morning.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Well, I have to say, Ryan, I think you deserve it sometimes because—I don‘t know why.  I can‘t do it.  I‘m not a fighter.


ABRAMS:  I get that it‘s 4:30 in the morning.  Probably regret it.  It‘s live TV.  And I just did something not quite exactly the same but analogous with Adubato.  All right.

Up next: You know, I just love it when my pal Anderson Cooper takes a moment to enlighten us about what cable news is and isn‘t, what it should and shouldn‘t be about.


ANDERSON COOPER, “ANDERSON COOPER 360”:  I know it‘s popular in cable news these days to wear your opinion on your sleeve or try to force it down viewers‘ throats.  I don‘t do that.  I try to give facts and information.


ABRAMS:  That‘s right, facts and information, and most importantly, making the story about me.


COOPER:  I learned long ago you can‘t just stay behind an anchor desk.  You have to go to the front lines of a story and you have to see it and experience it for yourself.


ABRAMS:  Self-created promo (INAUDIBLE)

Finally, from one journalistic extreme to the other, while Anderson Cooper‘s on the road, getting the story straight from the scene, we‘re covered back on the home front by our pals at “Fox and Friends.”


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  How do you fold your legs or cross your legs sexy?  Because on “Fox and Friends,” the women who do this show...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  A big thing is, like, how—how do you cross your legs to make them look the best they can possibly look?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Well, I was always taught to sit—first of all, sit on a pillow.


ABRAMS:  They report, you decide.

Still ahead: The estranged husband of the missing mother in Illinois isn‘t letting their kids talk to the police anymore.  It‘s been reported they were sent out of the house around the time their mom went missing.  Got that story.

And coming up next, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert offer up the lighter side of the immigration bill.  Yes, talking about that bill can be funny, particularly when Lou Dobbs is involved.  Next in “Must See S.C.”


ABRAMS:  It‘s time for tonight‘s “Must See S.C.,” video you have to see.  First up: Some have criticized the controversial new immigration bill by saying it‘s too complicated.  Thank goodness we have Jon Stewart to help put it into layman‘s terms.


JON STEWART, “DAILY SHOW”:  What is the bill?  Basically, some immigrants already in the country illegally will have to pay a $5,000 fine, and then the head of their household will make a touch-back trip to their home country, at which point they can apply for Z visas to have a chance at gaining permanent legal status within eight years.  Or you can get a guest worker Y visa, renewable every two years, although there‘s only 400,000 of those that are capped, based, of course, on market fluctuations.  Of course, you understand all that because you‘re an illegal alien who doesn‘t speak English very well and lives in fear of deportation.


ABRAMS:  And CNN‘s Lou Dobbs was lambasted by many for some comments he made in a “60 Minutes” interview about his coverage of immigration.  The battle has won him an unlikely ally in the cable TV universe—sort of.


STEPHEN COLBERT, “THE COLBERT REPORT”:  Leprosy!  Yes, Mexicans have it, 7,000 cases in three years.  Sure, the Department of Health and Human Services says it‘s actually over 30 years and no one knows how many cases were from immigrants.  But as Lou Dobbs says...

LOU DOBBS, “LOU DOBBS TONIGHT”:  If we reported it, it‘s a fact.

COLBERT:  Which reminds me.  Bubonic plague has hit the squirrel population in Denver.  That‘s right!  You know who else is in Denver?  Mexicans!  Yes.  Nice fit.  You see the connection?  If I insinuate one, it‘s a fact.


ABRAMS:  All right.  Coming up: The disappearance of a mother in Illinois, questions still swirling about her relationship with her estranged husband, and now we learn what authorities found in Lisa Stebic‘s house that might help crack the case.

Plus: “American Idol” brought out the big guns last night, but it didn‘t bring in as big ratings.  Is this the beginning of the end?


ABRAMS:  What goes up must come down - even “American Idol‘s” ratings.  We‘ll talk about why viewers tuned out for this year‘s season finality - comparatively - in a moment.

But tonight there‘s new information in the search for Lisa Stebic, a missing mother of two from Illinois.  Police say they confiscated several assault weapons during a raid of the Stebic‘s home.

Lisa estranged husband, Craig, was reportedly caught with the same weapons when he was arrested in 1995, with high-powered rifles in his truck near an elementary school.

Lisa Stebic vanished on April 30th.  Craig was the last person known to have seen her alive, and they were estranged.

Although the Stebics were divorcing, they were still living in the same house.  The day she disappeared, Lisa mailed off a petition seeking to have Craig removed from the home.

In their divorce case, she accused him of being cruel, inconsiderate, domineering and “verbally abusive.”

We‘ve also learned today that Lisa‘s husband, Craig, is not letting his kids talk to the police anymore.

Here now with the latest is Michelle Sigona, correspondent for “America‘s Most Wanted”; criminal defense attorney David Schwartz; and MSNBC legal analyst, Susan Filan.

Thanks to you all for coming on the program.  Appreciate it.


ABRAMS:  All right.

So, Michelle, what does this new development tell us about the weapons?  We know for a fact that these were the same weapons that he was arrested for back the 1900s?

SIGONA:  Yes.  This information is reported.  It is what we do know right now.

Back in 1995 - this is January of 1995 - Craig reportedly had a broken windshield.  He was pulled over for that.  That‘s when investigators found a lot of weapons inside of his truck, including two assault rifles.

So, you know, I did speak with family members.  I just got off the phone with them about an hour ago.

They said, look, Michelle.  Here‘s the deal.  The deal is, is that, yes, Craig is an avid hunter.  He‘s always had a lot of guns in the house.  So, is it surprising that investigators went in and found guns and removed them, possibly the same guns he had in 1995?  Not very surprising.

ABRAMS:  That‘s Craig‘s family, right?

SIGONA:  No, this is Lisa‘s family.

ABRAMS:  Oh, really.  So, Lisa‘s family is very supportive of him?

SIGONA:  Lisa family‘s right now, yes.  They are corresponding with Craig, especially because of the kids right now.  They‘re really trying to keep the common goal of finding Lisa together.

Craig, of course, is protecting his children.

Evidently, according to Lisa‘s family, what they did tell me is that he‘s just trying to keep things as mellow and as normal as they possibly can be with Lisa gone.

ABRAMS:  And is it true that he, though, is not allowing the authorities to talk to the kids anymore?

SIGONA:  Yes.  This is true right now.  Lisa‘s family did confirm with me, again, a little less than an hour ago, that Craig has not let the children speak with authorities at this time.

ABRAMS:  Doesn‘t that upset them, though?  Doesn‘t Lisa‘s family say, come on.  We‘ve got to do everything we can here .

SIGONA:  Absolutely.

ABRAMS:  . to find her.

So, what is he doing saying you can‘t talk to the authorities?

SIGONA:  That‘s his right.  That‘s his right right now.  He can say what his kids can and what they can‘t do.

Lisa - Melanie Greenberg, who is Lisa‘s cousin, says, you know, this is ridiculous.  I really want the kids to get out there.  I really want them to be able to speak with police as often as they possibly.

Maybe they have some more information that they can pass over.  But for right now, he‘s just not allowing that.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  Before I play a little sound bite of Craig, you know, Susan Filan, it always upsets me.  Put aside guilt or innocence or suspect or not suspect, it always upsets me in cases like this where a parent or a close relative isn‘t doing everything and anything to help the authorities.

And when I hear he‘s saying that the kids can‘t talk to the authorities anymore, you know, it gets me upset.

SUSAN FILAN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST:  Let me tell you how this plays out. 

Here‘s dad trying to be a good guy and protect his kids.

There‘s a grand jury convened.  These kids are going to get subpoenaed.  They‘re going to be compelled to testify without a parent in the room in a super-secret proceeding.

How is that going to help these children?

What the father should do is take them to the authorities, help them assist in finding their mother.

But instead what Craig has done is gone and petitioned the court trying to remove Lisa Stebic from having any potential custody of these children.

The court, obviously, denied that, because it was a bogus move.

I think it was his see-through ploy to say, look, I didn‘t kill her, because I know she‘s alive and I‘m afraid she‘s going to come back.  And that‘s why I‘m trying to get sole custody of the kids - loser move.

ABRAMS:  Listen to Craig Stebic talk about his wife.  This is a few days after she disappeared.


CRAIG STEBIC, LISA STEBIC‘S HUSBAND:  She‘s a good mom.  She‘s always there for her kids.  She‘d do anything for them.

I can‘t imagine her just disappearing on her kids like that.


ABRAMS:  You know, David, look.  He‘s got to be careful here, right. 

I mean, they were estranged.  They were involved in an ugly divorce.

The wife had said a lot of things about him that were not very flattering.  So, he‘s got to walk a fine line, unlike, for example, someone like Scott Peterson, who goes out and speaks publicly and talks about how much he loved his wife, et cetera.

This is a couple - and again, I‘m not necessarily comparing him to Scott.  But in terms of how you deal with the media in a case like this, you know, he has got to be real careful.

DAVID SCHWARTZ, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Of course, Dan, he has to be careful.  He knows he‘s a target of an investigation right now.  He knows that the police will always look at the husband.

He can‘t start shouting at - what good will it do to start talking to the media, to give interviews?  You know, and the thing .

FILAN:  He should talk to the police!

SCHWARTZ:  And the thing, you know, Susan .

FILAN:  Forget the media, David!  He should talk to the police!

SCHWARTZ:  Susan.  Susan.  In your world .

FILAN:  He‘s not .

SCHWARTZ:  In your world .


ABRAMS:  Hang on, Susan.  Hang on.  Hang on.  Susan, Susan, hang on. 

Let David finish.

SCHWARTZ:  In your world you‘re guilty, you‘re guilty until proven innocent.  That‘s the Susan Filan world.  It‘s a bunch of guesswork, speculation, hypothesis.

You know, let the facts play out.  Let the evidence play out.

SIGONA:  Exactly.

SCHWARTZ:  This man is innocent until proven guilty.

I don‘t understand why we‘re speculating about what (UNINTELLIGIBLE) .

ABRAMS:  All right.  Let‘s not speculate.  Let‘s talk about - and what I‘d like - you know, what I‘d like to do - we have Michelle with us, and who knows the facts of this case well and is talking to all the people.

And Michelle, I just want to use you as our fact checker, OK?

SIGONA:  Sure.  No problem.

ABRAMS:  So, I‘m going to go through, here are the things that we know supposedly about the case that don‘t look great for Craig Stebic.  All right?

He reportedly failed to report Lisa missing until the next morning. 


SIGONA:  That I do not know.  I do not know .

ABRAMS:  All right.  Fair enough.  Fair enough.

Lisa allegedly visited a battered woman‘s clinic?

SIGONA:  According to some of her friends, this is what they say. 

That has not been confirmed with police.

ABRAMS:  OK, good.

Police say Craig Stebic refused the polygraph.

SIGONA:  Yes, that is true.  His lawyer did advise him, do not take that polygraph.  It‘s not admissible in court.

ABRAMS:  Police say Stebic will not let his children talk to the police.  You just told us that‘s true.

Craig Stebic filed .

SIGONA:  The first week, yes.  The first week, the children were in contact with police.  Craig was in contact with police.  Craig was very willing to cooperate with investigators.

As a matter of fact, he even passed over the family computer.

That‘s how they found out that Lisa put that ad up online to reach out, to find someone to go out to do outdoorsy things with.  She was looking for a friend.  She was looking for someone just to be a friend with.

ABRAMS:  All right.

We know about the weapons.  We talked about that a moment ago.  We talked about him having been caught.  We talked about the filing for sole custody, et cetera.

All right.  So, that‘s - those are sort of the facts we know.

And what about this report that the kids were sent out of the house right around the time that she went missing?

SIGONA:  Right around the time she went missing - that has not been confirmed.

I can tell you that 11:45 p.m., about 2.5 weeks ago, when investigators went into that house to do the search warrant, the kids were definitely ordered out of the house then, and that they did sleep in a police car, according to the family, for about 4.5 hours while investigators went in.

They were carrying items out in blankets, and they also took both of the family vehicles.

ABRAMS:  All right.

David, let‘s say, you know - by the way, before I ask this question, Michelle, has he hired a lawyer?

SIGONA:  Craig Stebic?


SIGONA:  Absolutely.

ABRAMS:  OK.  So, David, let‘s assume that you‘re the lawyer, right?


ABRAMS:  At this point, this police aren‘t saying he‘s a suspect.  They‘re investigating the case.  We don‘t know anything beyond that as to how much they know.

We know that there was some blood found, but unclear at this point whether it‘s her blood.  He says it might have been hunting blood, et cetera.

Do you say to him, don‘t talk to the authorities anymore?

SCHWARTZ:  In this - look, every case is different, Dan.  Every single case is different.  Some cases, you have to talk to the authorities.  Some cases it‘s warranted.  Other cases it‘s not.

I mean, the laundry list that you just laid out, I don‘t see one item on that laundry list where you can make the jump this man is a murderer.

So what, he didn‘t take a lie detector test.  It‘s not because it‘s inadmissible in court.  Why is it inadmissible in court?  It‘s because it‘s not scientifically reliable.

ABRAMS:  Right.

SCHWARTZ:  That‘s why he didn‘t take it.

ABRAMS:  The problem is - and David, you know this, because we‘ve faced a number of these cases that have become high profile.

When you‘re talking about husband and wife, even estranged husband and wife, most people look at these kinds of cases and they say, I‘d be out there doing everything I could to help.  Period.

SCHWARTZ:  I‘ll tell you why this is different, Dan.  He was not in love with her.  These facts actually work to his advantage.

ABRAMS:  So, he says, you know what?  She disappeared!  Hey!


ABRAMS:  You know, it‘s neither here nor there!

SCHWARTZ:  He could .

ABRAMS:  Maybe he said, maybe I‘m better off.

SCHWARTZ:  He could have hated her.  I mean, who knows?  This is not a loving husband who is going to go out and do whatever he can.  He‘s - it‘s just not going to be.

They are going through a divorce process.  They were estranged.  And he‘s not - he doesn‘t have those feelings like you would as a loving husband.

ABRAMS:  I don‘t know.  How bad was the relationship?

SIGONA:  Well, here‘s what we do know, according to family, again, is that they only said maybe a few sentences to one another within a five-month period.

Investigators were called out to the home in December 2006, for a verbal altercation.  Nothing physical was reported in that, and that Craig did file for divorce the end of December, early January, to go ahead and move on with .

ABRAMS:  Susan, have a final word on this.

FILAN:  Well, most women who are suffering abuse at the hands of their husbands are very reluctant to report it to the authorities.

If the husband gets arrested and he makes $80,000, which he did in this case, and she made $10,000, there goes her income stream.  There are practical consequences to a family splitting up.

So, she also was said to have told friends and family members, if anything happens to me, if I go missing, look at Craig.  I think we have to look at that.

And I think this is absolute nonsense to say he didn‘t love her; that‘s not why he‘s helping looking for her.

This is the mother of his children.  You heard that sound bite from him.  She was a good mother.

So, he‘s got to do - if he really loves these children, as he said when he went to court - everything he can to find the mother of his children.

What he is doing is, he‘s doing duck, cover and run.  And that‘s .

ABRAMS:  All right.  We‘ve got to .

SCHWARTZ:  You don‘t know what he‘s doing, come on.

FILAN:  . with somebody who is not looking to be a suspect in this case.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Well, there‘s the - for anyone who may be able to help here, there is the information.  There is the phone number to call, 815-267-7217.

Thank you, Michelle Sigona, David Schwartz and Susan Filan.

SIGONA:  Thanks, Dan.

SCHWARTZ:  Thanks, Dan.

FILAN:  Thanks, Dan.

ABRAMS:  Still ahead, is America over “Idol”?  Producers rolled out the all-stars for last night‘s finale, but ratings still kind of fizzled, at least compared to last year.

So, is this the beginning of the end for America‘s favorite talent show?

Plus, how much is a kiss with Clooney worth?

And will the woman ask for a refund?

Hollyweird is - you know how much it is?  You know, it‘s a good-looking guy.  It‘s worth a lot of money.  But still.

Coming up.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The winner of “American Idol” 2007 is - Jordin Sparks!



ABRAMS:  Jordin Sparks crowned the new “American Idol”!  Ah!

But is America over TV‘s top show?

Last year‘s finale was a ratings monster, more than 36 million viewers.  Last night‘s show still managed a huge 30 million plus, but still, a 20 percent drop-off from the year before.

So, the question:  Was last night‘s finale a flop?  Is it a sign of things to come for the TV titan?

Here now is Laura Saltman from  She was backstage at last night‘s finale.  And TV Guide‘s senior correspondent, Stephen Battaglio.  Thanks a lot to both of you for coming on.



ABRAMS:  All right, Steven, what do you think?  Was it a flop?

BATTAGLIO:  It was certainly an off year.

I mean, I think you‘ve got to look at this show like the Super Bowl.  Every year you‘re going to have two teams and a different story line, different characters.

This year the final two characters were not as compelling as past seasons, and interest was certainly down.  But I think it says nothing about the show going forward.

Next year you have a new set of contestants, new stories emerge, new - they‘ll probably do some tweaking to the format here and there, and it could be another big year.

And by the way, you have to look at - the entire season of “American Idol” was even with a year ago.  And that‘s in a year when most of your top shows in prime time broadcast television were down.

ABRAMS:  But Stephen, isn‘t it the case with almost every show, that after awhile people get, you know, tired of it, and it becomes less appealing?

BATTAGLIO:  There‘s no question.  That‘s a good point.  But this show has been on for six years, which is past the prime of most prime time top hit shows.

And it‘s still a dominant number one and was up through most of the season until the last month or so, when we saw a decline in ratings for a lot of shows, which had to do actually with some Nielsen measurement issues, as well as what happened on the program.

ABRAMS:  Laura, was it just kind of boring, the finale?  Is that the problem?

SALTMAN:  Oh, my, yes.  Boring is an understatement.

I was sitting in the Kodak Theater and actually snuck my Blackberry in, thank goodness, because I needed something to do during most of it.

It was really boring.  The energy level was down compared to last year.  I mean, last year people were out of their seats when Prince was performing, and there were so many surprises.

And this year, it was the same old people we saw all season long.  We‘ve already seen Gwen Stefani.  We‘ve seen Kelly Clarkson on “Idol Gives Back.”

We‘ve seen so many people.  So, it was like, can you give me something new and fresh?  And it just wasn‘t there.

BATTAGLIO:  I was surprised at the number of geezers that were booked for this last show - Tony Bennett, Bette Midler, Gladys Knight.


BATTAGLIO:  I mean, it‘s interesting.  The one segment of the audience where viewership was up for “American Idol” this past year was among viewers 50 plus.

ABRAMS:  That‘s what I was going to say.  Is it possible this is the one show on television where they‘re trying to get more older viewers?

BATTAGLIO:  I don‘t think they‘re trying to.  First of all, that happens naturally for any show that appeals to young people.  The longer that it‘s on, the older the audience seems to get.

But, you know, it is also one of “Idol‘s” strengths, is that this is one of the last shows on television where everybody can sit around the set and watch together.

There are young kids that - and young contestants that younger people will like.  And the music certainly appeals to all different generations.

ABRAMS:  The season .

BATTAGLIO:  So, that‘s really one of its strengths.

But last night, I think that they went - they skewed a little too old.

ABRAMS:  I think this season certainly got the most .

SALTMAN:  Well, you know - I know that Bette Midler - they actually called Bette Midler on Monday to be there for Wednesday, so something was going on there.

There was definitely somebody else I bet they were trying for.  It didn‘t work out.

BATTAGLIO:  Yes, they - maybe they were .

SALTMAN:  I mean, so, they called Bette Midler two days beforehand. 

It‘s kind of crazy.

ABRAMS:  Last-minute cost-cutting or something.

All right.


ABRAMS:  They got the most juice, no question, out of a contestant who many would concede wasn‘t very good.  Let‘s just, you know, just for the historical sake, we‘ll take a look at Sanjaya‘s performance with Aerosmith guitarist, Joe Perry, last night.


ABRAMS:  Wow, I mean.

SALTMAN:  Oh, it actually hurt my ear a little bit .

ABRAMS:  What do they have .

SALTMAN:  . listening to that.

ABRAMS:  What did they have to pay Joe Perry to perform with Sanjaya?

BATTAGLIO:  Not enough, whatever it was.


ABRAMS:  All right, Stephen, I want to ask you now sort of a question.

People use that term, “jump the shark” about television programs.  And I think it‘s a .

BATTAGLIO:  TV Guide actually owns that slogan.

ABRAMS:  Do you?


ABRAMS:  Isn‘t it referring to a “Happy Days” segment?

BATTAGLIO:  It is.  It‘s in regard to shows that have gone past their prime.  It refers to a “Happy Days” episode in which I believe Fonzy is in a water skiing contest and has to jump over a shark in order to survive.

ABRAMS:  We‘re showing video of it right now.  I just asked them to pull that video, just because I thought it would be very entertaining in the context of the conversation.

But the term really means, when you push too much, right?  When you try too many gimmicks and .

BATTAGLIO:  Well, it‘s when - it basically says they‘ve run out of ideas.  They‘re trying this.

ABRAMS:  Right.

BATTAGLIO:  I certainly don‘t think “American Idol” is even near that stage.  I would be happy to bet - take a bet with anyone right now - that it‘ll be the number one show next season, too.

ABRAMS:  All right.  I‘m certainly not going to bet you on that, because, you know, I don‘t know.

SALTMAN:  I think - I mean - I kind of disagree with that, though.

ABRAMS:  Really?

SALTMAN:  I think the show .

ABRAMS:  Real quick.

SALTMAN:  It‘s been on for so long, though, I actually think that the show - I don‘t think it‘ll ever come back to .

BATTAGLIO:  It‘s been on for so long!  Six years - yes.

SALTMAN:  . 28, 29, 30 million.  I think it‘ll come maybe still 24, 26.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Laura Saltman, Stephen Battaglio, thanks a lot. 

I appreciate it.

BATTAGLIO:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, if you were looking for a $10 million party clown, who would you hire?

Ah, the answer is coming up next in Hollyweird.


ABRAMS:  It‘s time for Hollyweird.

First up, Michael Jackson reportedly going to be paid $10 million to attend a prince‘s birthday party, and attend is all he‘ll do.  He won‘t even have to sing.

Here now, editor at large for “Life and Style” magazine, Ashlan Gorse, and celebrity journalist, David Caplan.

David, am I so wrong in guessing that Jacko would have appeared for a lot less than $10 million?

DAVID CAPLAN, CELEBRITY JOURNALIST:  Ten million dollars is the price, and he‘s not even going to pay (ph).  He‘s just going to be - this guy‘s desperate.  He needs the money.

But I would have thought he would have done it for a little bit less.  But $10 million?  He‘s just going to mingle.  He won‘t even sing, no moon walks, nothing.

ABRAMS:  What do you mean, a little less?

Ashton, I would think that Jacko - I don‘t - look, I don‘t know how much a night with Jacko is going for these days.  But I would think that he‘d be willing to do it for $1.5 million?  I don‘t know?

ASHLAN GORSE, LIFE AND STYLE MAGAZINE:  I think he‘d do it for a lot less if it was for a child‘s birthday party, but it‘s for a prince who‘s 25.  So, hey, $10 million just to run around the kid.  I guess that‘s what you‘ve got to pay.

ABRAMS:  How much would a kiss with George Clooney be worth?

Five thousand?

GORSE:  Well .

ABRAMS:  Wait, hang on.

Five thousand?

Ten thousand?

Try $350,000 at a recent auction in France.

This is the best part.  The woman‘s boyfriend paid for the kiss.

David, is this a peck?  Is there any sort of description of what kind of kiss is involved here for $350,000?

CAPLAN:  It was just a peck on the cheek.  So, this woman did not get her money‘s worth.

Come on, for $350,000, a lot of people were expecting maybe a little bit of tongue action.

That‘s all this woman got.  She walked up to the stage, George Clooney pecked her on the cheek, and that was it.

But she also did, though, get a yacht vacation, and that was sort of part of the auction, though.  But it was nothing.  But what a nice boyfriend, though.

ABRAMS:  But not a yacht auctioned with George Clooney.


ABRAMS:  She doesn‘t get to go on the yacht with George Clooney.

CAPLAN:  She‘s stuck with her boyfriend, who let her go kiss George Clooney.

ABRAMS:  Oh, nice guy.  But, you know, it‘s certainly a booby prize compared to George.

Do you want to call - have you ever thought about calling Keira Knightley anorexic?  You do and it‘s going to cost you.

The “Daily Mail,” a British tabloid, was ordered to pay Keira nearly $6,000 in damages for saying it.

Obviously, Ashlan, this is not something that she wants to be called.

GORSE:  Right.  This is the thing.  All these celebrities in Hollywood, they‘re all very, very thin, and they know that they‘re role models.

And, you know, on one point this is good that Keira Knightley sees that she is a role model and doesn‘t want people calling her anorexic.  But then, again, she does look very, very thin, so maybe she should eat a sandwich if she doesn‘t want people calling her anorexic.

ABRAMS:  Yes, well, I don‘t know how to - all right.

I was on the “Tonight Show” once and Keira and I were - (UNINTELLIGIBLE).  I don‘t know.  I didn‘t see how thin she was.

O.J. Simpson has owed the Goldman family over $33 million for over 10 years.  He‘s paid them virtually nothing.

The court now ruled that O.J. will have to pay them $3,500, which his lawyer is holding for him in a trust fund.

What is - why is O.J.‘s lawyer holding any money for him, David?

CAPLAN:  Well, this is his lawyer in Florida.  And I guess he‘s been keeping money from O.J., just to collect a small amount of fees.  But, I mean, $3,500 is nothing compared to the legal fees that they‘re racking up.

But you know what?  The judge is saying this hopefully, this creates some sort of precedence, or at least sends a message to O.J. saying, we will find you, even though this is in a state, you know, crossing state lines, we‘ll get our money.

About $33.5 million and they‘ve received nothing.  So, they have a lot of work cut out.

ABRAMS:  All right.

Ashlan Gorse, you‘re lucky that O.J. does not live in L.A. anymore, because I think if he saw you, he might say hello.

Thank you, David Caplan and Ashlan Gorse.

That‘s all the time we have for tonight.  Joe will be back here next week on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

And if you want a double dose of Joe - who wouldn‘t - tune in to MORNING JOE starting Tuesday at 6 a.m., right here on MSNBC.



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