Guests: Scott Ballard, Joe Laurinaitis, Dr. Todd Schlifstein, John Depetro, Jon Leiberman, Susan Filan, Craig Crawford, Pat Buchanan, Joan Walsh
DAN ABRAMS, GUEST HOST: New details tonight in the crime that has rocked the world of professional wrestling. Police say the so-called “Canadian crippler,” Chris Benoit, strangled his wife with a cord, then the next day killed his 7-year-old son with a chokehold in the boy‘s room, amid wrestling belts, a wrestling figurine and surrounded by posters of his father on the wall.
A lawyer for the WWE saying tonight that in the days before the killings, Benoit was fighting with his wife over staying home more often to take care of their mentally retarded son. And this disturbing detail from the DA tonight. The boy apparently had track marks on his arm, possibly from injections of growth hormones.
World Wrestling Entertainment has now revealed what Benoit said right after he killed his family. We‘ll talk live later with retired wrestler Joe Laurinaitis, otherwise known as “the Road Warrior.” He knew Benoit for 20 years.
But first, joining me on the phone is Scott Ballard, the district attorney for Fayette County, Georgia, where Benoit lived. Thank you very much for taking the time. We appreciate it.
Let me ask you this. You all have made it pretty clear that, based on the investigation, you believe he killed his wife first, and then the next day killed his son in his own room. What has convinced you that it was that chronology?
SCOTT BALLARD, FAYETTE COUNTY, GEORGIA, DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Well, the medical reports, for one thing. The autopsy shows—well, there was a much greater decomposition of the wife‘s body. The medical examiner places her time of death some time on Friday. The medical examiner places the child‘s time of death some time probably Saturday morning.
ABRAMS: All right. The track marks on the arms, track marks on the 7-year-old boy‘s arms?
BALLARD: Yes, that‘s correct. The medical examiner revealed that there were old needle marks on the arms of the boy.
ABRAMS: How do you know or what leads you to believe that he and his wife had been fighting about him spending more time at home?
BALLARD: Well, I don‘t know that—heard that. That‘s something I‘ve heard only on the news. I‘m not aware of that.
ABRAMS: I think that‘s probably coming from the WWE.
ABRAMS: Tell me a little bit more about what was found in the little boy‘s room?
BALLARD: OK. I walked through there after the body had been moved, but posters of his dad on the wall. Over on a chair by the bed were two toy championship wrestling belts. And on a shelf was a miniature wrestler action figure about a foot tall. It was obvious that he adored his dad.
ABRAMS: And you‘re convinced that that‘s the room that he killed his son in?
BALLARD: That‘s where the body was found, yes.
ABRAMS: You found some legal prescriptions for anabolic steroids?
BALLARD: That‘s correct. They were in the house.
ABRAMS: Were they in his name?
BALLARD: You know, I don‘t know. I don‘t know.
ABRAMS: And is there an investigation into the supplier of those steroids?
BALLARD: Yes. There apparently was already an investigation under way, and our authorities in Fayette County are cooperating. And at that point, really, I probably shouldn‘t say too much more about that for fear of compromising the investigation.
ABRAMS: Any concern that—the boy had a medical condition—that they may have been getting the steroids based on the boy‘s medical condition?
BALLARD: Well, it‘s my understanding that the boy was undersized. I don‘t know, perhaps—I don‘t think, though, based on what I know, that that‘s going to turn out to be the reason those steroids were in the house.
ABRAMS: It must have been awful walking through that crime scene.
BALLARD: It was. It was eerie because the house itself was well-kept. There were no furniture moved around, no pictures falling off the wall. But to walk into the room, particularly the little boy‘s room evokes all kinds of emotions—bewilderment, intense anger and some sadness, as well.
ABRAMS: All right. Scott Ballard, thanks very much for taking the time. We appreciate it.
BALLARD: OK. Thank you.
ABRAMS: Joe Laurinaitis, the pro wrestler known as “Animal” and “the Road Warrior,” knew Benoit for 21 years and joins us now. Thanks a lot for taking the time. Appreciate it. All right, we‘ve—so far, everyone we‘ve talked to said never could have seen anything like this, never was a violent guy in his personal life, didn‘t know him to be taking steroids. Let me start, first of all, on the issue of his personal life. Did you know that he was having marital problems?
JOE LAURINAITIS, PRO WRESTLER: You know, Dan, I didn‘t know that Chris was having personal problems. You know, you got to understand, when you become a top guy in the professional wrestling business, it is a very private club. Very few guys know what your personal life‘s all about. And I want to make it clear right now I‘m not here representing the WWE. I work for Debarlo (ph) Sports Entertainment right now. I‘m here on behalf of the wrestling community.
It‘s a tragedy. No way to get around it. I mean, did anybody see anything like this coming? Absolutely not. We have to keep in mind that Chris has two other children still, you know, around in Canada, and we have to—I think we have to walk on eggshells here, man. Those two poor little kids up there, man, you know, we don‘t want to hurt their feelings, either. This is—this is an absolutely horrible, horrible day...
ABRAMS: I think...
LAURINAITIS: ... for us—you know, for us wrestlers.
ABRAMS: I think that‘s well said. Let me ask you this. You had mentioned to one of our producers hearing about a safety deposit box that his wife may have left, showing some of the abuse?
LAURINAITIS: You know, Dan, there was all sorts of speculation. Of course, you know, being one of the top guys in our business and being one of the top tag teams in our sport, I hear everything, whether I want to hear it or not. People will call me (INAUDIBLE) my phones were ringing off the hook. There was a rumor going around that, you know, there must have been some spousal abuse in the past. I had even heard the DA down in Georgia say that on TV and some—you know, the sheriff say that, too, when I was watching the news clippings.
ABRAMS: All right, so you don‘t know that—you don‘t know that personally.
LAURINAITIS: No, I can‘t...
ABRAMS: OK. Fine. Fine.
LAURINAITIS: I can‘t (INAUDIBLE) it‘d be wrong for me to even say anything...
LAURINAITIS: ... that‘s factual on that.
ABRAMS: Understood. Let me...
LAURINAITIS: All that I know is that this is a very demanding business. You‘re on the road anywhere from 200, 250 days to 300 days a year, not counting personal appearances. That‘s different cities every night. I know for a fact that knowing Chris, we had talked about it, myself being a family guy, he had expressed to me in the past he‘d like to have more time off. Every top guy has.
But you know, on the other hand, you‘ve got the promotion, who‘s paying hundreds of thousand dollars to develop your character. You can‘t get a day off.
You know, there was 15 years ago, and the old—and you know, you say in the olden days, but 15 years ago, if you wanted a day off, you would just take it. The promoter didn‘t even want to give it to you, you would just take it off anyway, and they had to deal with it. Now you have one big dog in town. You have one boss. You have one company. You know, something needs to change. This—you know...
ABRAMS: Let me ask you just a question, and this is the question everyone‘s been asking. And look, you knew the guy well. Was he taking steroids?
LAURINAITIS: You know, I can‘t say I‘ve physically ever seen him take a steroid. But you know, and you look at the common man next to you, not everybody was built like Chris Benoit. Not every—you know—you know, I mean, it—it takes a lot of hard work. It‘s like saying, you know, some baseball player took steroids, and you still—you know, you still got to hit a baseball going 105 miles an hour.
I‘m not pro, I‘m not con any of that. All that I‘m saying is we have to look at the bigger picture here. There definitely needs to be a governing body in our sport. You got it in baseball. You got it in football. You got it in other things. There has to be something for these guys—you know, we all see that they‘re sound in body, but they all got to be sound in mind. We have to do something to take care of these athletes. We can‘t afford to lose any more Benoits, Guereros (ph)...
ABRAMS: The numbers of wrestler deaths is stunning. Let me—let me ask you to hold on for a second. We‘ve got a statistic...
ABRAMS: ... we‘ll show on the other side of this break about this issue of how many wrestlers are dying out there.
But take a quick break—well, I guess we‘ll show it now. There it is, just—the unbelievable number of wrestlers who died young—young wrestlers, as well, killed by heart attacks, some by steroid use, some other drugs. We‘ll talk about all of that in a minute. We‘ll talk more about the investigation, as well.
Also coming up: Bill O‘Reilly on Fox now suggesting that Chris Benoit‘s dead wife is to blame for her own death. That‘s right, he says because she knew he was on steroids and didn‘t leave him, it was her fault. And then he says, But I‘m not blaming her.
Plus, another case where O‘Reilly‘s blaming the victim, the murdered pregnant mother Jessie Davis. We‘ll also tell you about the new twists in that case, what her accused boyfriend was doing on the Internet around the time of her murder.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELIZABETH EDWARDS, WIFE OF JOHN EDWARDS: I‘m asking you politely...
ANN COULTER, AUTHOR, “GODLESS”: Yes, we‘ll have a debate.
EDWARDS: ... to stop personal attacks...
COULTER: How about you stop raising money on your Web page!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: You may have heard about Elizabeth Edwards‘s TV smackdown with Ann Coulter. We‘ll play it. But WAT (ph) is also looking into how both of them may benefit from the public (INAUDIBLE)
ABRAMS: We‘ll talk about Bill O‘Reilly blaming the victims in both the wrestler case and the pregnant mom in a second.
But I want to get back—back with us, Joe Laurinaitis, the pro wrestler known as “Animal” and the “Road Warrior.” He knew Chris Benoit for 20 years. We‘re also joined by Dr. Todd Schlifstein, a sports medicine rehab physician and steroid expert at New York University Medical Center. Thanks to both of you for coming back.
All right, Joe, before the break, we were talking about this issue of wrestler deaths. We were talking about this issue of steroids. You know, let‘s assume for a moment that he had taken some steroids. Let me ask you, have you taken steroids ever?
LAURINAITIS: You know, that‘s really not a question I‘m going to answer. You know, I‘m not denying it. I‘m not going to say yes.
LAURINAITIS: You know, back—well, whenever I did anything, it was always legal prescription. I would never, you know, black market‘s ridiculous.
ABRAMS: All right...
LAURINAITIS: You‘re taking an awful chance on your body and you—you know.
ABRAMS: Based on what you...
LAURINAITIS: So I‘m all for...
ABRAMS: Based on what you know, then...
LAURINAITIS: I‘m all for...
ABRAMS: ... about steroids...
ABRAMS: ... what do you—what do you make of the possibility that this might have been sort of ‘roid rage, as they‘re calling it, that Benoit acts out based on his overuse of steroids?
LAURINAITIS: You know, that is so—to me—I‘ve seen ‘roid rage, and to me, I think it‘s a crock what O‘Reilly‘s doing and everybody else, trying to get these ratings and calling it ‘roid rage and everything else. I‘ve never seen a 48-hour ‘roid rage. Most ‘roid rages I‘ve seen have been five minute (INAUDIBLE) Oh, I‘m sorry for blowing off, and that‘s it, you know? And in somebody that happens, that‘s definitely overuse, where your blood pressure‘s up and you‘re blowing a cork, you know? And I just think there‘s so many contributing factors, it‘s more than ‘roid rage (INAUDIBLE) an individual. I‘ve seen Chris with his son, Daniel. Chris loved that little boy. There‘s something else psychologically that happened to have him flip out and blow his cork like that and do what he did. It just—you just can‘t blame it on steroids.
ABRAMS: Doctor, let me ask you about that. Do you agree with that assessment of ‘roid rage?
DR. TODD SCHLIFSTEIN, SPORTS REHAB PHYSICIAN: ‘Roid rage is a term typically used for violent, aggressive, unexplained outbursts. In this case, over a period of 48 hours, you couldn‘t label it as ‘roid rage, but I think that‘s really stretching what the term ‘roid rage really means.
ABRAMS: So let me ask you straight out. Could this be the result of steroids? Put aside ‘roid rage for a minute.
ABRAMS: But could, ultimately—you know, let‘s assume he was alive and there was a trial or something. Could you then say, Look, this was the result of taking steroids over X period of time?
SCHLIFSTEIN: Yes. You can certainly attribute that to anabolic steroid use in two different ways. One, steroids, depending on dose, on what drug and how long you‘ve been using it, can certainly cause aggressive behavior, depression. There are even cases of psychosis, confusion and altered mental state, which can be for extended periods of time, and certain paranoia, as well, with that confused state.
Now, also, if someone is taking steroids for long periods of time and high doses of them, if the person suddenly stops taking steroids altogether, you get dramatic mood swings, serious major depression, feelings of hopelessness, and no way out of it, that you have rapid (ph), dramatic levels of hormonal changes from several times normal to almost nothing that can lead in serious signs of major depression.
ABRAMS: And I just put up on the—we just put up on the screen a moment ago the comment from WWE about the fact that the last test they did came up negative.
But let me—let me talk—this is—this is our—this is the timeline that we now know of. This is according to the WWE, that on Saturday, Benoit was scheduled to appear at a WWE event. At 3:30 PM, he left a voice-mail for a co-worker saying he missed his flight, he‘ll be late. He sounded tired and groggy. He returned the call. Benoit said, I love you.
At 4:40, another co-worker calls him. He says his wife and son are
throwing up blood, possibly food poisoning. He calls then at 5:35 the WWE,
saying he and his wife are at the hospital with his son. At 6:10, he calls
the WWE calls him. He says he has a family emergency and he won‘t make it to an event.
Joe, bottom line is, when you‘re not showing up to a big WWE event, it better be a pretty big deal, right?
LAURINAITIS: Well, you better have a good reason or your butt‘s getting canned. You‘re going to get fired. You know, my brother is vice president of operations for the WWE, my brother, John (ph). And I had—once I heard of this horrific situation, I called him and said, Man, what‘s going on? He said, Man, all that I know is that some of the guys and my brother himself had got text messages saying, you know, This is my new address. The dogs are out on the deck. The side garage door‘s open—just plain one-liners like that that didn‘t make any sense that were so unlike Chris Benoit.
Chris Benoit, you got to understand, in the ring was the most detailed guy and the ultimate professional in his life. Every time we saw his family around, he was phenomenal dad. I—you know, this just totally blows me away.
And I agree with the doc, man. You know, if you‘re a person that has depression in your system or depression in your background, in your family‘s background, and you‘re taking another substance to—that‘s going to have layered that or heightened that state, you‘re—you‘re a ticking time bomb. And that‘s why in our business, that‘s why I got to say, man, there has to be a body that‘s got to—you know, the wellness program with the WWE is phenomenal. It‘s only the first step, though.
ABRAMS: We hear you...
LAURINAITIS: There has got to be more psychological stuff.
ABRAMS: Joe Laurinaitis, thanks a lot for taking the time. We appreciate it. And Dr. Todd Schlifstein, thank you very much. Appreciate it.
When we return: Bill O‘Reilly seems to be blaming the victims in both the wrestler case and the case of the pregnant mom. Will victims‘ rights groups come to the aid of these women and demand that Fox News keep the blame on the actual killers? That‘s up next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don‘t remember Chris ever confiding to me any kind of marital problems, and I never had any idea that things were anything but rosy there. I always thought he was a—a good family man and a good husband, and I never knew any different.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Friends and family of wrestler of Chris Benoit, his wife and 7-year-old son still grieving tonight, just days after the grisly murder/suicide at the wrestler‘s Atlanta-area home. But that has not stopped Fox‘s Bill O‘Reilly from blaming Benoit‘s wife for her own death, and blaming murdered Ohio mother Jessie Davis for not seeing the warning signs before she was killed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL O‘REILLY, “THE O‘REILLY FACTOR”: In both of these terrible situations, the men involved were troubled and chaotic, and the women involved had to know that. Those ladies made big mistakes. They were obligated to protect their children, and I submit by allowing the chaos they allowed, they did not protect them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: He says he‘s not blaming them, though.
My take. This is an absolute outrage. I‘m so tired of people like O‘Reilly blaming the victims of violent crimes for their own demise. His lectures on what a dead crime victim should have or could have done, now that she‘s dead, is an insult to their families and to all victims of violent crime. I would hope that that organizations and individuals who support crime victims will make sure their voices are heard by Fox News and its parent company, News Corp., on this one.
Joining me now is John Depetro, a radio talk show host at WPRO up in Providence, Rhode Island, and MSNBC legal analyst Susan Filan.
Susan, you‘re as outraged as I am, right?
SUSAN FILAN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Oh, this is sick! Here‘s what‘s happening. Men are flocking to the defense of men who kill women. And by doing so, they are enabling these men to continue to kill them. It is a culture of enabling. Men who batter women blame the women. Hey, it‘s your fault! You got me so mad! What‘d you expect? And O‘Reilly‘s saying the same thing. You were with them. What‘d you think was going to happen to you? It is insane!
ABRAMS: John, this is not the time to be lecturing people about what they should and shouldn‘t be doing, using dead crime victims as the examples.
JOHN DEPETRO, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Dan, that‘s not what Bill O‘Reilly‘s saying, and a lot of people agree with Bill O‘Reilly. What he‘s saying is with these women, there were warning signs there they were involved with dangerous, chaotic men and...
ABRAMS: And now that they‘re dead, they should have seen it coming.
They had it coming to them, right?
FILAN: It was their own fault!
DEPETRO: They had a—they should have protected their children.
It‘s the same way you would not put your child in a car with a drunk driver.
FILAN: Why is it OK...
FILAN: ... to call a man who is so dangerous to be expected to kill, without putting him in a cage, taking him out? Why is it her fault? Why aren‘t we talking about his behavior? Why are we talking about...
FILAN: ... her for staying? Why is it not his fault?
DEPETRO: Susan, because these women made choices. And they had choices, and that‘s...
FILAN: They chose to be killed?
ABRAMS: Wait a minute. Let him finish. Let him finish his—let him...
DEPETRO: He speaks out. He speaks out, Susan. Both of these women -
Jessie Davis made poor choices. This guy, Bobby Cutts, was on a downward spiral.
ABRAMS: You‘re doing it, too, John!
DEPETRO: He was with one woman after another...
ABRAMS: John, you‘re doing it, too! I don‘t want to hear about Jessie Davis‘s...
DEPETRO: Dan, she had a right—she should have protected...
ABRAMS: ... bad choices!
DEPETRO: ... that young child!
ABRAMS: She is—she is dead, OK? She is dead today, through no fault of her own. And any time you start this, “I‘m not blaming her, but,” which is what you and Bill O‘Reilly are doing, it is an absolute outrage!
DEPETRO: Dan, people agree. These women made poor choices with the men they were associated with. What kind of mother would stand by and watch her 7-year-old son get injected by steroids? Not a good one...
ABRAMS: Not steroids! Look, I don‘t know what the—I don‘t know what the heck was going on with these growth hormones.
DEPETRO: Well, we don‘t know.
ABRAMS: They had a mentally retarded child. I don‘t know what the deal—he had some sort of disease. I‘m not going to judge that yet. But the bottom line is, again, to suggest that the mother, that Chris Benoit‘s wife, who is dead tonight, is to blame...
ABRAMS: ... is—is—is an absolute outrage...
ABRAMS: It is absolutely sexist, as well.
DEPETRO: Dan, you and Susan...
FILAN: Dan, if this man...
DEPETRO: ... are suggesting that.
FILAN: ... Cutts, is so—wait a second. If this man, Cutts, is so dangerous, why is he an employed law enforcement officer? Why is he a policeman? Why is he on the force?
DEPETRO: He was a bad cop, Susan.
FILAN: If he was so dangerous—just a minute—for her to be married to him, why is he allowed to wear...
ABRAMS: Let me—hang on...
FILAN: ... a uniform...
ABRAMS: Let me play one more piece of sound—let me play one more piece...
DEPETRO: A strain of irresponsibility...
ABRAMS: ... of sound from O‘Reilly.
DEPETRO: ... with women involved. And that‘s not what Bill O‘Reilly said.
ABRAMS: All right, let me play one more piece of sound from Bill O‘Reilly. here he is talking about Jessie Davis and the fact that she should have known Cutts was a bad guy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O‘REILLY: All of this she knows. This Jessie Davis knows this, knows all of this, and has another baby with him. If you‘re going to live your life this way, you are going to get hurt. If you‘re going to do that, expect bad things to happen to you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: “This Jessie Davis,” “expect bad things to happen to you”—
John, don‘t you think you should distance yourself from him on this one?
DEPETRO: Dan, Bill O‘Reilly, that‘s why he‘s striking the chord with people. Her number one priority should have been to protect that baby and protect the 2-year-old, and she‘s lucky that—well, she‘s dead, but the 2-year-old is alive. The 2-year-old could have been killed.
ABRAMS: I hope...
DEPETRO: ... and where I disagree with Susan—hold on—is the fact that they have a priority, and their number one rights and responsibilities should be...
ABRAMS: Susan Filan, I‘m going to ask you...
DEPETRO: ... to protect those children.
ABRAMS: ... to do something tomorrow, Susan. I‘m going to ask you to call up—you‘re a former prosecutor—the victims‘ rights groups that you know of and that you worked with and ask them to get involved here because this is an outrage, and there should be some accountability here. Bill O‘Reilly‘s always calling for accountability, it‘s time for some accountability on his part. I hope that you do that. Let me know how that goes. We‘ll see you a little bit later on the program.
FILAN: Dan, you‘re my boss. You can be sure I‘ll do it.
ABRAMS: John Depetro, thanks a lot for coming on and trying to defend the indefensible.
Up next: The Internet may provide crucial clues about what Bobby Cutts was doing around the time police say he killed Jessie Davis, and new information about how he really felt about fathering her child. Plus...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELIZABETH EDWARDS, WIFE OF JOHN EDWARDS: You had a column a number of years ago...
ANN COULTER, AUTHOR, “GODLESS”: OK! OK!
EDWARDS: ... where you suggested...
COULTER: The wife of a presidential candidate...
EDWARDS: Wait until I finish talking, please.
COULTER: ... is calling in, asking me to stop speaking!
CHRIS MATTHEWS, “HARDBALL”: Let me finish the point!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Elizabeth Edwards versus Ann Coulter live, the HARDBALL drama. But do they both benefit from the showdown? Coming up next.
ABRAMS: We are learning more about accused killer Bobby Cutts‘s activities on the day nine months pregnant Jessie Davis disappeared, specifically activity on an on-line dating service. Here to bring us some more of the breaking developments, Jon Leiberman from “America‘s Most Wanted.” They‘ve been all over this story. Jon, what do you know?
JON LEIBERMAN, “AMERICA‘S MOST WANTED”: Dan, the more we look at Bobby Cutts, the more despicable he appears. We learned that in early June, a personal site was set up for and presumably by Bobby. On it, he put a shirtless photo of himself, a photo of himself in the police uniform, and on it he said he was looking for a woman to light his fire. Well, that same personal site was accessed just hours after police say Bobby killed Jessie. It was accessed with the same user name, cpd150, which says Canton Police Department 150, and an IP address from Canton. So it appears, at this point, that Bobby accessed his personal site on the same day he‘s accused of killing Jessie.
ABRAMS: Wait. So let‘s be clear. He accessed the personal site, a dating site, possibly right after he‘s alleged to have killed her?
LEIBERMAN: The killing, police believe, took place some time in the morning hours of June 14. He accessed the site at 6:43 that evening, and the site was shut down the day before Bobby was arrested.
ABRAMS: Did he shut it down?
LEIBERMAN: It was logged in to his profile, we can presume, unless he gave his user name and password to somebody...
LEIBERMAN: ... which, I suppose, is a scenario, Dan, but how likely is that?
ABRAMS: All right. Jon Leiberman, thanks a lot. You guys have been great on the story. Thanks a lot. Appreciate it.
Coming up: John Edwards weighs in on his wife‘s live TV feud with Ann Coulter. Why are the Edwardses picking a public fight with a professional provocateur? The answer may be obvious. It‘s coming up.
ABRAMS: Up next, John and Elizabeth Edwards accuse Ann Coulter of crossing the line with personal attacks on TV here on MSNBC, but who really won, like in dollars? It‘s next. But first, the latest headlines.
ABRAMS: It is the phone call everyone is talking about. Last night on MSNBC‘s “Hardball,” Chris Matthews played host to a political smackdown because professional provocateur and conservative pundit Ann Coulter and Elizabeth Edwards, wife of presidential candidate John Edwards.
ANN COULTER, CONSERVATIVE AUTHOR: The wife of a presidential candidate is calling in, asking me to stop speaking?
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Let her finish the point. Let her finish the point.
COULTER: You‘re asking me to stop speaking? “Stop writing your columns. Stop writing your books.”
MATTHEWS: Ann, please.
ELIZABETH EDWARDS, WIFE OF JOHN EDWARDS: You had a column a couple of years ago which made fun of the moment of Charlie Dean‘s death and suggested that my husband had a bumper sticker on the back of his car that said, “Ask me about my dead son.”
COULTER: That‘s now three years ago.
E. EDWARDS: This is not legitimate political dialogue. It debases political dialogue. It drives people away from the process. We can‘t have a debate about issues if you‘re using this kind of language.
COULTER: Yes, why isn‘t John Edwards making this call?
MATTHEWS: Well, do you want to respond? We‘ll end this conversation.
EDWARDS: I haven‘t talked to John about this call.
COULTER: I think this is just another attempt for...
EDWARDS: I‘m making this call as a mother. I‘m the mother of that boy who died. My children participate. These young people behind you are the age of my children. You‘re asking them to participate in a dialogue that‘s based on hatefulness and ugliness, instead of on the issues. And I don‘t think that‘s serving them or this country very well.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MATTHEWS: Do you want to respond? You have all the time in the world to respond to that.
COULTER: I think we heard all we need to hear. The wife of a presidential candidate is asking me to stop speaking. No.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: And that was just one part of the fight. My take: Who would have thought that Ann Coulter could help a Democratic candidate while also enriching herself? She makes outrageous, unfounded comments, and that just makes her more controversial, more popular, and richer. Then Elizabeth Edwards gets to energize her base by attacking the one person, maybe apart from Vice President Cheney, who just about any Democratic voter will despise. It‘s a win-win. Ann Coulter is as close as you will find to a political ATM.
Here now, MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan, Joan Walsh, editor-in-chief for Salon.com, and MSNBC political analyst and “Congressional Quarterly” columnist, Craig Crawford.
So, Pat, a smart move for Edwards to brawl with Coulter, right?
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I don‘t know if it‘s smart for her or not. It was clearly programmed. It was clearly set up. And she wants to get in a fight with Ann Coulter, and she wants to raise all these issues. And I think—and she‘s a very effective and attractive lady who‘s had some real tragedy—and I think they thought they could put her in a context with Ann Coulter. And for the constituency John Edwards is after and Mrs. Edwards is after, it was a no-lose proposition for them. However, I don‘t know if it wasn‘t, you know, demeaning of her to get in a fight with a conservative columnist.
ABRAMS: When you say it‘s demeaning—I mean, Craig Crawford, let me read—this is an e-mail excerpt from Elizabeth Edwards. “Dear friend, John‘s campaign is about the issues, but pundits like Ann Coulter are trying to shout him down. If they will not stop, it is up to us to cut through the noise. Help us fight back, please. Give what you can today. There are just over three days left to hit our $9 million goal for the end of the quarter.”
CRAIG CRAWFORD, COLUMNIST, “CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY”: And that end of the quarter does matter. They‘re looking for any opportunity to raise money, but I think Elizabeth Edwards was sincere in trying to go after Ann Coulter on raising the political dialogue. And I think it‘s a sincere point to make and a skill set that a lot of Democratic primary voters, Dan, are looking for out there, after the 2004 experience, when John Kerry did not stand up to the so-called Swift Boat Veterans who attacked his Vietnam record. That is really on the minds of Democrats. They‘re looking at whether these candidates and their surrogates are able to respond to the likes of Ann Coulter, once the campaign really heats up.
ABRAMS: But, Joan, the bottom line is, it seems to be—let me ask you first this. Elizabeth Edwards, if you were advising her, would you have said, “Do it. Go on TV. Attack Ann Coulter. It‘s a win”?
JOAN WALSH, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, SALON.COM: Absolutely. But you know what, Dan? I don‘t think Elizabeth Edwards was talking to her advisers. She is the adviser. She is a primary person in that campaign, and she saw an opportunity, absolutely.
But people are talking about this like Elizabeth Edwards paid Ann Coulter to go out and call her husband a gay slur that I won‘t repeat. I mean, Ann Coulter picked this fight a long time ago. She picked it with Edwards, and she‘s picked it with other Democrats. And Craig makes an excellent point: This is a valid political counterpunch, because Democrats are tired of getting their lights punched out by the likes of Ann Coulter.
So I think a lot of Democratic primary voters are paying attention.
This was a smart move, but it was also an absolutely sincere move.
ABRAMS: But, Craig, she becomes kind of the bogeywoman, doesn‘t she?
WALSH: She already was.
CRAWFORD: I‘ll say this: You know, I think it was politically smart as a tactic, but sort of sad that they had to do it, because the Edwards campaign is third in the race. I think if they were the frontrunner, they wouldn‘t have done this. They‘re needing...
WALSH: I‘m not sure about that.
CRAWFORD: ... to get attention, and this is a way to do it. But I‘ve got to tell you, if they plan on taking on the Clintons on the skill set of taking down the right-wing, I think the Clintons will probably win that one everyday.
ABRAMS: Hang on one second. Let me just play one more piece of sound from the interchange.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EDWARDS: ... in the South, when someone does something that displeases us, we want to ask them politely to stop doing it. I‘d like to ask Ann Coulter to—if she wants to debate on issues, on positions, we certainly disagree with nearly everything she said on your show today, but it‘s quite another matter for these personal attacks. The things that she has said over the years, not just about John, but about other candidates, lowers our political dialogue precisely at the time that we need to raise it.
COULTER: Right, as opposed to bankrupting doctors by giving a shyster Las Vegas routine in front of juries, based on science...
COULTER: Wait. You said I would have as long as I would have.
MATTHEWS: Go ahead. Go ahead. Go ahead.
COULTER: And you instantly interrupt me.
MATTHEWS: Go ahead. Go ahead.
COULTER: As I was saying, doing these psychic routines in front of illiterate juries to bankrupt doctors, who now can‘t deliver babies, and to charge a poverty group $50,000 for a speech. Don‘t talk to me about how to use language.
EDWARDS: ... language of hate. And I‘m going to ask you again to politely stop using personal attacks as part of your dialogue.
COULTER: OK, I‘ll stop writing books.
MATTHEWS: Why do you talk about...
EDWARDS: If you can‘t write them without them, then that‘s fine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Pat, did she win?
BUCHANAN: Yes. I mean, Ann Coulter is a very good debater. And Elizabeth wanted to get her on her turf, which was be nice, stop being cruel, stop being personal. And Ann is a very effective, you know, debater, and so she went right at her husband, the vulnerable target, the $50,000 speech on poverty and the fact what he did as a trial lawyer ripping off these doctors. And so Ann Coulter was doing was scoring points on her terrain...
ABRAMS: And changing the subject.
BUCHANAN: Well, sure, she put it on her turf, but there were three winners here, Dan: MSNBC and “Hardball” as a third.
ABRAMS: All right, everyone‘s going to stay with us. After the break, we‘ll look at just how much money this feud could generate for both Coulter and the Edwards campaign.
Plus, poor Ringo. He never got much respect. But as one of the only two Beatles still alive, you would think that Larry King would get his name right during his exclusive interview. He didn‘t. “Beat the Press” is next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EDWARDS: So, I want to use the opportunity, which I don‘t get much, because Ann and I don‘t hang out with the same people, to ask...
COULTER: Don‘t have enough money.
EDWARDS: ... her politely to stop the personal attacks.
COULTER: OK. So, I made a joke, let‘s see, six months ago. And, as you point out, they‘ve been raising money off of it for six months since then.
MATTHEWS: But this is yesterday morning, what you said about him.
COULTER: I didn‘t say anything about him, actually, either time.
EDWARDS: Ann knows—you know that‘s not true. And, what‘s more, this has been going on for some time.
COULTER: And I don‘t mind you trying to raise money. I mean, it‘s better this than giving $50,000 speeches to the poor...
EDWARDS: I‘m asking you—I‘m asking you politely...
COULTER: ... just to use my name on the Web pages. But, as for a debate with me, yes, sure.
EDWARDS: I‘m asking you politely...
COULTER: Yes, we will have a debate.
EDWARDS: ... to stop personal attacks.
COULTER: How about you stop raising money on your Web page, then?
No, you don‘t have to, because I don‘t mind.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Come on, Ann Coulter is also laughing all the way to the bank. But I wonder whether this could be sort of a political symbiosis here. They both raise cash from a feud. We‘re back with our team.
All right, Joan Walsh, who‘s making more money off of this debate?
WALSH: I don‘t know yet. We‘re going to see when the end-of-quarter results are in, Dan. I‘m sure they‘re both making money of it. But, listen, what‘s the alternative? Ann Coulter had a whole hour to herself on “Hardball,” and she was going to sell her books and peddle her hate on “Hardball” pretty much unchallenged. Chris did a good job, but there is a victim of Ann Coulter‘s watching her make money, and she has an opportunity to, a, correct the record and fight back, and, b, yes, raise some money for her husband. I think she did the absolute right thing. And I don‘t think it‘s a symbiosis, because it wouldn‘t exist if Ann Coulter hadn‘t started it. You‘re acting like there‘s some kind of equation here.
BUCHANAN: Joan, let me tell you where you‘re wrong here.
WALSH: Yes, Pat, sure.
BUCHANAN: I don‘t think she‘s peddling hate. And if MSNBC certainly doesn‘t...
WALSH: “Faggot”? “Faggot”?
BUCHANAN: ... because if they did, they would never put her on the air for an hour, would we, Dan?
WALSH: Well, she wasn‘t on for quite a while after she called Al Gore a “total fag”?
ABRAMS: Pat is misusing his MSNBC analyst moniker there.
WALSH: Thank you, Dan.
ABRAMS: Go ahead, Pat.
BUCHANAN: Look, she‘s very, very—look, she is a very good debater, and she‘s very good on TV and good on her feet. And she‘s a conservative, and she‘s an excellent writer. Maureen Dowd is an excellent writer...
WALSH: Pat, you know what? You‘re a good debate. She peddles hate.
BUCHANAN: Oh, cut it out.
WALSH: No, seriously.
ABRAMS: Let‘s at least admit something, Craig Crawford. I mean, look, people always say, “Oh, is Ann Coulter really like what she is in private the way she is in public?” I don‘t know. But I do know that, if you were to say to her, “Come on, Ann, you know that what you‘re saying is going to insult people,” Craig, she would say, and laugh, “Yes.”
CRAWFORD: Well, I mean, that‘s where I disagree with Pat about she‘s a good debater. If winning through intimidation and bold assertion with semi-plausible maintenance is a good debate—I mean, she uses straw man arguments, like she did with Elizabeth Edwards, saying that Elizabeth Edwards was saying she shouldn‘t write any books, which is not what Elizabeth Edwards was saying.
BUCHANAN: Let me ask you...
CRAWFORD: She uses personal insults. The thing I admire about Pat Buchanan, he‘s one of the passionate debaters in public life, and I‘ve never heard Pat use the kind of personal invective that this woman does. She‘d be a much better debater if she would drop that stuff. She‘s a smart woman.
ABRAMS: Pat, I want you to listen to what John Edwards said today. He was on “Hardball” today talking about this, talking about the issue of the money. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Two e-mails have gone out now to raise money off of Ann Coulter‘s attacks on you and your family. Do you think you can do both, attack her and exploit her?
JOHN EDWARDS (D), CANDIDATE FOR PRESIDENT: If we ask Americans, other good Americans, to join us in standing up and being strong, there‘s nothing wrong with that. And that‘s exactly what we‘re asking them to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: That‘s what they‘re asking them to do.
BUCHANAN: Well, look, I don‘t have any problem with John Edwards doing it. That‘s politics. This was a political gambit, a political move, pre-programmed.
But, look, let‘s take the two points that Ann made, which I think were very telling. John Edwards is running as a candidate of the poor. That $50,000 for that speech, as well as the $400 hair cuts, as well as the trial lawyer stuff, is very damaging. It‘s one of the real—those are the real problems he‘s got.
CRAWFORD: Are we saying that rich people can‘t defend the poor?
BUCHANAN: What I‘m saying is that is effective hardball politics she‘s using on John Edwards. It‘s one of the reasons he‘s been unable to get traction.
ABRAMS: She‘s used a lot more than that.
ABRAMS: But that glosses over—hang on a second—that glosses over, Pat. Pat, what you‘re doing is you‘re cherry-picking the pure politics stuff out of what she says and ignoring the sort of unnecessary hateful words that she uses, as well.
BUCHANAN: What hateful word did she use?
ABRAMS: You know, she described him as a gay person, but using a different term.
BUCHANAN: A what? Oh, you mean, that thing?
WALSH: I used it before. I won‘t use it again.
ABRAMS: I‘m not going to be drawn into that one.
CRAWFORD: Well, I mean, Edwards was responding to three things. What Dan just mentioned, three years ago, she wrote the column basically making fun of their dead son. And then, just a couple days ago, talking about Edwards being assassinated by terrorists.
BUCHANAN: No, no, no, let me tell you, she‘s making a very cutting point.
WALSH: No, she‘s not.
ABRAMS: I‘ve got to run.
BUCHANAN: OK, go ahead, wrap it up.
ABRAMS: Pat Buchanan, Joan Walsh, Craig Crawford is going to stick around for some fun later on. Ann Coulter will be on “Morning Joe” tomorrow to respond to Edwards‘ latest comments. That‘s tomorrow starting at 6:00 a.m. right here on MSNBC.
Time for tonight‘s “Beat the Press,” our daily look back at the absurd and sometimes amusing perils of live TV. First up, Anderson Cooper over at CNN expressed relief that the so-called pants lawsuit, where a man sued his dry cleaners for millions, was over.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, you know, I‘m glad this story is over because then no more puns, no more like, you know, cheesy anchorperson puns like, “They got taken to the cleaners.”
ERICA HILL, CNN HEADLINE NEWS ANCHOR: “We got it all buttoned up today.”
COOPER: Oh, I didn‘t think of that one. “They sued the pants off you.”
HILL: Oh, he‘s on fire tonight, that Cooper.
COOPER: That‘s right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: No more cheesy anchor puns, you mean like one, 14 minutes later?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Plus, will Rosie O‘Donnell go from talk show host to game show host? Erica Hill will come on down, next on “360.”
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Next up, poor Larry King spoke with the last two living members of the Beatles, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. They haven‘t been together for a while, so, you know, mistakes happen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LARRY KING, CNN HOST: George, where were you?
PAUL MCCARTNEY, MUSICIAN: George!
MCCARTNEY: No, this is Ringo here.
KING: Ringo, where were you?
RINGO STARR, MUSICIAN: I was in the Bahamas.
KING: I was getting to (INAUDIBLE) George.
STARR: I was...
MCCARTNEY: No, you weren‘t, Larry. You said his name wrong.
STARR: Shut up, it‘s my turn.
MCCARTNEY: I know, but he got your name wrong, Ringo, on national television.
STARR: I know. Give him a break.
MCCARTNEY: We can‘t cut it. It‘s live.
STARR: Anyway, I was...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: You‘ve got to love Paul, sticking it to Larry.
Finally, for all the fodder Nancy Grace has provided this segment, take a moment to give her a little shout out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NANCY GRACE, CNN HOST: I have breaking news of my own. This past April, I married David, and tonight I announce that we are expecting twins. Thank you for sharing my joy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: From all of us at MSNBC, Nancy, congratulations.
Up next, the day‘s winners and losers. Plus, Rosie O‘Donnell under fire again. This time, it‘s for a photo showing her 4-year-old daughter playing with toy bullets. Rosie is against the war for gun control, right?
ABRAMS: It‘s time for tonight‘s winners and losers for this 27th day of June 2007.
First, our bronze winner, longtime Republican Tom DeLay. Today, a Texas court ruled that a conspiracy charge should not be included in his indictment. Now DeLay only has money laundering and conspiracy to launder money to worry about.
The bronze loser, younger than DeLay Republicans. A new poll shows that far more young people now consider themselves liberals that in the public at large.
The silver wiener, so to speak, hot dog eating champ Takeru “Tsunami” Kobayashi, despite a major injury to his jaw, the 160-pound overeater is still trying to train for the world title wiener bout on July 4th, even though his mouth won‘t open wider than a fingertip.
Loser, Victoria McArthur, who claims she injured her jaw eating Starburst fruit chews. She‘s suing the Mars Candy Company for $25,000 saying that the so-called refreshing candies are so dangerously chewy that she now has trouble talking and sleeping.
And, finally, the big gold, winner of the day, indestructible Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. Recently released CIA documents reveal more than 30 years ago, the militarily clad leader did survive an assassination attempt involving the CIA and the mafia.
The big loser, indestructible TV host Rosie O‘Donnell, whose daughter appeared clad in military garb in pictures posted on her blog. Photos of the 4-year-old wearing a toy ammunition belt have led many to ask, “I thought you were anti-gun and anti-war?”
Let‘s bring back Susan Filan and Craig Crawford. Susan, what to make of this?
SUSAN FILAN, FORMER CONNECTICUT PROSECUTOR: Oh, my gosh, Dan, it‘s just disgusting that she‘s exploiting her child. Good for her for a point of view. Good for her for making it so strongly. Shame on her for using her little girl. That girl looks up to her mom. And when she‘s older and she sees what she was clad in and how she was exploited and put there before the public, I think she‘s going to have some really hard feelings toward her mom.
ABRAMS: This is a Rosie e-mail from “ShowBuzz.” On her blog, a fan asked Rosie, “Why do you do this blog, subject yourself to this negativity?” Rosie responded saying, “This is my own TV station, free for all who seek it out. I‘ve done no interviews. If you‘re here, it‘s because you chose to come. This is the newest and best art form.”
And, also, it went on to say, “It‘s fascinating to me that an image of a child dressed up as a soldier evokes so much attention, yet the real soldiers, their deaths, their wounded bodies don‘t seem to phase most or make news.” Is this Rosie‘s attempt, Craig, to bring back attention to the war by dressing up her daughter?
CRAWFORD: And probably to herself. I‘ve got to say, I think that wiener-eating photo champion was more gross than this to me. I mean, no children were harmed in making this photo, as far as I can tell. It‘s not like dangling your child from a balcony. And as far as celebrities making a thing of their children, I mean, my god, look at Brad and Angelina in the celebrity magazines.
ABRAMS: Is there some hypocrisy?
CRAWFORD: I mean, this is pretty standard stuff for celebrities.
ABRAMS: Really, dressing your kids up looking like Palestinian suicide bombers?
FILAN: Yes, I think it‘s pretty offensive, Dan.
CRAWFORD: I‘ll grant you that‘s a little over the top, but I think it‘s in the same vein. I don‘t really see—I think it‘s more a case of just people who want to—this woman, just about anything she does becomes controversy, and I guess that‘s how she likes it.
FILAN: Well, maybe it‘s because what she did was controversial?
CRAWFORD: Well, you know, I think, in this particular case, this photo did not strike me as anything, you know, as outrageous as what I‘m hearing here tonight. But...
ABRAMS: Does it matter, Craig Crawford, that she is an outspoken opponent of guns or supporter of gun control?
CRAWFORD: I didn‘t get her point. I mean, she said it was art. I‘m no art critic, so I don‘t really know what kind of art—what kind of statement she was trying to make here, but I just don‘t think it rises to the level of, like I say, dangling your child off a balcony or...
ABRAMS: But the fact that, Craig—the fact you have to compare her to Michael Jackson to find an example that she‘s not so bad is not so good for your argument.
CRAWFORD: It might not be; I‘ll grant you that.
ABRAMS: All right, Craig and Susan, thanks a lot for coming on the program. We do appreciate it.
FILAN: Good night, Dan.
ABRAMS: We will—tomorrow, by the way, we‘re going to stick on this wrestling story about this wrestler, and we are going to be dealing with that again tomorrow. And remember, “Morning Joe,” tomorrow morning. Missing Joe? Oh, look who he‘s got on. It‘s Ann Coulter. How about that?
It‘s all the time we have for tonight. Up next, a young couple—this is a good story—vanishes during a boating trip. The question there: accident or murder? “What Lies Beneath” is the name of it, and it starts right now.
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