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'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for July 27

Read the transcript to the Friday show

Guests: J.K. Rowling, Michael Musto

KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC HOST:  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

I‘ve got a secret.  That secret, the reason the attorney general was not contradicted by Negroponte memo?  That‘s secret.  The reason the attorney wasn‘t contradicted by FBI Director Mueller‘s testimony?  That‘s secret.  The reason the attorney was not fired by president for corruption and incompetence long ago?  That‘s secret.


DAVID GREGORY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  The president believes that Alberto Gonzales‘ credibility is intact?



OLBERMANN:  The president also believes in Brownies and Elves.

What does a White House do when all its answers have become lies and all its lies have suddenly become punch lines?  John Dean joins us.

The lies about the death of Pat Tillman.  Congressional hearings next week.  But what is really needed as evidence found that his death was not only covered up but that Army medical personnel thought the bullets came from 10 yards away and could easily have constituted murder.

Liftoff before liftoff.  NASA confirms there is an independent report suggesting at least two astronauts were dangerously drunk just before fights or even before space missions.  So Lindsay Lohan could star in a remake of “The Right Stuff”?  Her passengers on drunk driving chase the assistant‘s mama night repeat what they claim she told them.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I can‘t get in trouble, I‘m a celebrity, I can do whatever the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) I want.


OLBERMANN:  And indeed, you can, and then the police take this nice souvenir photo of you that you can take home as a parting gift.

The parting gift from J.K. Rowling as she offers some inside baseball on an urgent question from the actor that gave life to her most famous creation.


J.K. ROWLING, CHILDREN‘S AUTHOR:  At one point he says, I‘ve just got to ask you, do I die?


OLBERMANN:  All that more and now on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening from New York.  Tomorrow morning Vice President Cheney will undergo surgery to have the battery replaced on his heart defibrillator, which means that in an exact reversal of last week‘s colonscopy and invocation of the 25th Amendment, for a few hours at least, George W. Bush will actually get to be president.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, let‘s hope he uses his alone time wisely because today his administration was again reduced to try to transform clear reality into foggy myth with a dedication of language parsing that makes Bill Clinton look like a chronic generalizer.  Not that you would have known anything wrong from Mr. Bush‘s schedule today devoted to an economic speech and handing out science medals.  Perhaps he could have given Alberto Gonzales a blue ribbon for science fiction.

The fallout continues over the attorney general‘s sworn testimony to the Senate on Tuesday in which he evidently lied about a massive 2004 dispute between the White House and the Justice Department, a dispute of the legality of the domestic spying program brought to light by former deputy Attorney General James Comey.

Yesterday, FBI Director Robert Mueller only making things worse for Mr.  Gonzales by contradicting the testimony of his boss in sworn testimony of his own.  The White House, however, now trying to claim Mr. Muller did no such thing, hiding behind a veil of secrecy while arguing that there‘s a distinction between the “terrorist surveillance program” and the over intelligence activities that Mr. Gonzales claims Mr. Comey was objecting to.

Do the math their way and the testimony of the attorney general and the FBI did not contradict each other at all.  Not only that, but Alberto Gonzales is a talented and an honest man.


GREGORY:  Why does the president believe that the attorney general does not reflect badly on the Justice Department and on this White House with the way he has handled questions related to this and other matters?

SNOW:  Well, again, because he has testified truthfully and tried to be very accurate.  And what also happens is you‘ve got an interesting situation when members of Congress know that somebody is constrained by matters of classification, they can ask very broad questions and those are questions that they know the person sitting on the other side cannot thoroughly in an open session.


OLBERMANN:  Although, in this case, Mr. Gonzales volunteered his testimony about a White House meeting with congressional leaders regarding other intelligence activities that he says were the basis of the NSA dispute, a claim that many of those congressional leaders have since publicly disputed.  Perhaps Mr. Snow would be better off sticking to one word answers.


GREGORY:  So the president believes that Alberto Gonzales‘ credibility is intact?

SNOW:  Yes.


OLBERMANN:  On that note, let‘s turn to Richard Nixon‘s one time counsel, John Dean, more recently author of “Worse than Watergate” and “Conservatives with Conscience.”  John, good evening.


OLBERMANN:  This White House has made a habit of leaking or of

declassifying secret intelligence findings, sometimes almost on the spot

when that has served its political agenda which raises the question in the

context of the Gonzales thing.  If the administration really had

information that would clear the attorney general on this specific point,

do you think they would have declassified now?  Would we have not heard it

by now?

DEAN:  Well, that‘s a good point, Keith.  Because what traditionally happens in situations like this would be an attorney general would invite the chairman and ranking member of the committee down to the Department of Justice.  He would explain exactly what was going on in this situation.  You would Mueller there.  You would have Comey there and they would lay it out on an off-the-record private session to defuse this thing.

And it strikes me as either he is just going to tough it out and lie, or the truth—it may be so much worse than the reality that they don‘t even want the truth out.

OLBERMANN:  Does even the generous interpretation of what Mr. Gonzales and the White House are trying to do here in the wake of his disastrous testimony insist on this dishonestly narrow definition of the terrorist surveillance program.  From a legal standpoint, if we give them the benefit of all the doubts here, would that be enough to overcome a perjury rap?

DEAN:  It wouldn‘t.  Literal truth is actually a full defense even in a situation, the Supreme Court has ruled back in 1972 in a very celebrated case, that even with an intent to mislead by giving an evasive and hair splitting kind of answer, that wasn‘t, because it was a literally true could not be reached by the federal perjury statute.  So if indeed that‘s what Gonzales is doing, if he is parsing it so finely, he may well get away with it.

OLBERMANN:  Regarding the Tony Snow parsing of the Robert Mueller, Alberto Gonzales discrepancy which you‘d think one could drive a truck through, on HARDBALL last night on MSNBC, the former Reagan justice official Bruce Fein said of Mr. Snow, let me quote it exactly, “He is Ron Ziegler during Watergate.  And you all remember the equivocations that were made by Mr.  Nixon that these are just concocted allegations and John Dean is lying, well, John Dean wasn‘t lying.”

As John Dean, what do we do now?  Should we wait this out?  Will we require the services of a special prosecutor which it doesn‘t look like we are likely to get?  In other words, how do we get from now to where Tony Snow might actually be recognized as this administration‘s Ron Ziegler.

DEAN:  Well, let me preface first my answer by saying that Ziegler at one point did go very publicly and say that I indeed, I had not lied but rather it was the other way around, the president indeed was lying.

Tony Snow is doing a pretty good Ron Ziegler imitation.  But I keep looking at it this way, Keith.  Modern press secretaries really don‘t have a lot of inside information.  In fact, the higher people and the staff often keep a press secretary out of the loop so that they can go out and do the sort thing that Ziegler did and Snow is doing now and I am always surprised knowing the press corps, for example with the clip you had earlier pressed Snow, and said do you really know what the testimony is and do you really know what happened?

And they don‘t do that, and I wish they would.  That would probably be revelatory in itself.

OLBERMANN:  As we proved in the example you cited of Mr. Ziegler, Mike McCurry with Mr. Clinton, both very honorable men who were deliberately kept out of the loop and perhaps Mr. Snow is in the same situation.

But one more nostalgia trip here that may be relevant.  I went back recently and watched again that tremendous documentary series on Watergate that the BBC and The Discovery Channel did in the early ‘90s and I was thinking today after what Bruce Fein said about Ziegler and Snow, that a point that the series made was that the impact of public ridicule on hastening the disintegration of the Nixon administration.  Do you think that we‘re at a point where public ridicule now has any role to play in the future of the Bush administration?

DEAN:  I think it does.  I think it always does with any presidency.  It clearly did with the Nixon presidency.  Nixon was very sensitive to it.  Nixon really sort of became the national joke when he went out and said I‘m not a crook.  I‘m not sure that Bush didn‘t do it when he put on a costume of a flight pilot and declared “Mission Accomplished.”

But there‘s a difference in the men and that Nixon‘s sensitivity really drove him from office.  I‘m not sure Bush gets it, even yet.

OLBERMANN:  Great point.  John Dean, as always, great thanks for your time and have a good weekend, sir.

DEAN:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  Another scandal was already due to ripen with congressional hearings next week.  The friendly fire death of football star turned Army Ranger Corporal Pat Tillman.  Then came the military records obtained by the Associated Press through the Freedom of Information Act that military officials initially blocked investigators from probing whether Tillman‘s death was not friendly fire at all but perhaps murder.

The request or a murder investigation came from Army medical examiners suspicious about the tight grouping of three bullet holes in Pat Tillman‘s forehead.  All were within a two inch diameter suggesting that the M-16 that killed him was fired from perhaps just 30 feet away.

CID, the Army‘s Criminal Investigation Division refused to look into it.  Only later did a criminal probe rule Tillman‘s death friendly fire.  No evidence was found that anybody but Americans fired shots on that day, April 22nd, 2004, in Afghanistan.  The Army new almost immediately that he had been killed by one of his own but it did not drop its story of enemy fire until five weeks later.  A week after Tillman‘s death a top general had urged the head of Central Command to tell President Bush that Tillman might have been killed by friendly fire and two days later Mr. Bush referred to Tillman‘s death in a speech but avoided any mention of how he died.  The White House is refusing to turn some of its internal records about Mr. Tillman, including Mr. Bush‘s draft versions of his speech.

Let‘s turn now to Jon Soltz, veteran of the Iraq War and chairman of  Jon, thanks for your time tonight.

JON SOLTZ, VOTEVETS.ORG:  Thanks for having me, sir.

OLBERMANN:  First, as a combat Army veteran, what does it tell you when you hear, no enemy shots fire, three bullet holes, extraordinarily tight grouping to the forehead?

SOLTZ:  It tells me the first investigation was a lie.  It tells me the second investigation was a lie.  He wasn‘t killed marching up a hill earning a Silver Star against the Afghan fighters.  He wasn‘t killed by a Humvee and a squad automatic weapon from 150 meters away, waving his hands, that he was either killed through homicide or negligent homicide.  And obviously the difference there, was it an accidental discharge of someone next to him.  But this administration has their hands on a line and they need to come forward and tell the truth for our soldiers and for the family.

OLBERMANN:  Corporal Tillman held a number of personal views that were unpopular within the context of the Bush administration, perhaps also within the Army.  He reportedly favored John Kerry in that election that year.  We know he opposed the invasion of Iraq.  He thought it illegal.  He had plans to meet with Noam Chomsky.  The Associate Press told us in a report last night that during the firefight a fellow soldier was hugging the ground, crying out to God and Tillman said, let me quote this directly, “Would you shut your (EXPLETIVE DELETED) mouth, God is not going to help you.  You need to do something for yourself.  You sniveling -“.  And that‘s all the quote was.

Apparently at the last moment of his life.  Explain how all of those details intensify the need for openness here that we are not getting now?

SOLTZ:  Obviously, White House has its executive privilege.  For some reason, they don‘t want to be honest to a family or to our country of a soldier that died at war.  And we know he was against the war in Iraq.  He signed up for Afghanistan.  We know he was a freethinker.

But it leads you to think was this guy killed possibly by people who didn‘t like his political views or was he killed accidentally and we had a time in the war when we had the Abu Ghraib scandal that broke in April, 2004 in Iraq.  We had basically the Iraqi Tet Offensive, as referred to it, when the Shia militias rose up and the contractors were burned at the stake and the president was facing reelection, he decided not to go into Fallujah for six months and did they use him to justify politically bad policy in Iraq and until they tell us the truth, they are not only hurting themselves and they are hurting the family and they are hurting the military.

This is the time for openness.  If they use them for a political ploy, the president of the Untied States is disgraceful.

OLBERMANN:  Jon, we know, speaking of the Tillman family, we now the results of their investigation conflicts to some degree with some of the findings that were cited in this Associated Press report last night but whatever the precise facts turn out to be, on the broader scale, what is the message sent to current troops and prospective recruits from the way this has been handled so far in the three years and few months since it happened?

SOLTZ:  I think for the Army this is so important.  I‘ll never forget where I was.  I was in Germany, I open up the “Stars and Stripes” and I saw that an NFL football player, Pat Tillman was going to leave the NFL, leave the pop glory of our country and be one of us.  It was just a tremendous honor.

I‘ll never forget where I was when I read - I was in a computer lab in graduate school and I read that Pat Tillman was killed.  And he made people want to be a soldier.  He made us feel great about ourselves and we rely on families and people who have family members to help enlist our troops into the military and when a recruiter walks into a home and they ask the mother and father to give their 18-year old to fight for our country, that mother and father is going to sit there and they are going to say, hey, can I trust that you guys are going to tell me how my son or daughter dies?  It decimates our recruiting abilities and it‘s the fault of our president.

OLBERMANN:  Jon Soltz veteran of the Iraq War, now chairman of, as always, Jon, great thanks for your service and great thanks for your service here.

SOLTZ:  Thanks so much.

OLBERMANN:  Good night.

Astro drunks.  Is this possible?  NASA‘s response to the story of liquid launch.

And if you kill Hagrid, I will never forgive you.  Who said that to J.K.

Rowling?  You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN:  The stories are legend.  Some of the original Mercury astronauts, men profiled by the writer Tom Wolfe, were notorious party animals.  As concerned with the hard stuff as “The Right Stuff.”

So far as we know, none of them ever blasted into orbit while they were actually blasted.  In our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, that‘s not the case recently, evidently, according to a startling a startling NASA look at the habits of some of today‘s space voyagers.  Houston, we have a drinking problem.

Our correspondent at the Johnson Space Center is Don Teague.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  . one.  Booster ignition.

DON TEAGUE, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  The commission report cites to incidents where NASA astronauts were intoxicated at or near launch time.  One involved a scrubbed space shuttle mission and a T-38 training jet.  The other a Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

COL. RICHARD BACHMAN, NASA HEALTH CARE COMMITTEE CHAIR:  We have no way of knowing if these are the only two incidents that have occurred in the history of the astronaut corps or if they are the tip of a very large iceberg.

TEAGUE:  NASA administrators said they also don‘t know when the incidents happened or who was involved because questioners didn‘t ask.

SHANA DALE, NASA DEPUTY ADMINISTRATOR:  Much of the information contained in this report is or comes from anecdotal material.

TEAGUE:  Another surprise from NASA, until today, there was no policy forbidding alcohol before space flight.  It‘s even allowed in crew quarters during quarantine but administrators assumed astronauts would follow the same 12-hour rule that applies to jets.

ELLEN OCHIDA, DIR., FLIGHT CREW OPERATIONS:  Everybody in the office realized it applied to space flight as well and that that‘s the way that we‘ve always treated it.  But there was no actually documentation that said “space flight” on it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  . dream about outer space.

TEAGUE:  Even from the early years, NASA‘s astronauts have been portrayed as hard partying space cowboys but NBC‘s veteran space correspondent Jay Barbree says it‘s unthinkable that an astronaut today could fly drunk.

JAY BARBREE, NBC SPACE CORRESPONDENT:  To be launched into, to be drunk into orbit, that‘s hard to buy.

TEAGUE:  Still, the commission found that some astronauts did cross the line.  Despite warnings from flight surgeon who say their concerns were ignored.  For former flight surgeon John Clark whose astronaut wife died in the Columbia disaster, the news is troubling.

JOHN CLARK, FORMER NASA FLIGHT SURGEON:  Am I surprised about alcohol use in astronauts?  Not at all.  Am I surprised that there were some very serious potential events, yes, I am.


TEAGUE (on camera):  And aside from alcohol, there‘s another big problem NASA is trying to figure out today, it‘s sabotage.  Federal agents spent much of today searching a Texas company that built a computer that‘s to be carried aboard the shuttle to the International Space Station next month.  They are trying to figure out who deliberately disabled that computer. 


OLBERMANN:  Thank you, Don Teague at the Johnson Space Center.

How do you market a movie when people have already known the characters for 18 years?  The selling of “The Simpsons.”

And thank you, come again, ample parking day and night next on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN:  On this date in 1916 was born future top character Keenan Wynn, unique among famous film fathers and sons he started first in the movies and then convinced his dad, comedian Ed Wynn to take up serious character roles when Ed was70.  Keenan Wynn also played a character with one of the most memorable names in movie history, from “Dr. Strangelove,” Colonel Bat Guano.  But that was nothing compared to his full real life name.  Frances Xavier Aloysius James Jeremiah Keenan Wynn.

Let‘s bay “Oddball.”

We began in Frankfort, Kentucky and stories of drunk people plowing cars through store fronts are about a time a dozen these days.  This crime scene tape is from an accident back in June.  But what is unique about this one is newly released security footage.  There‘s lots of it.  Four different camera angles.  Multiples.  Every second of the car plowing through the store is on the tape.  It‘s like the freaking Super Bowl here.  Thankfully, besides bumps and bruises, nobody was actually hurt.  The woman driving the war pleaded guilty to DUI charges and the store‘s surveillance video team has just been nominated for a Cable Ace Award.  I know, they went out of business.

To Annapolis, Maryland where we have secretly placed this parrot on the soldier of deputy defense secretary, Gordon England.  Oh boy is he going to be steamed when he sees this tape.  Actually, he planted the bird there during a speech honoring the retirement of his friend Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Ed Giambastiani.  Now, England had some place the parrot on the soldier and then briefly referenced the bird saying it was an inside joke between he and the admiral.  Then just continued the speech wearing the bird.  Arrgh, matey.

England didn‘t say what the joke was but we are sure it has something to do with the time they he and the admiral went to see that Johnny Depp movie together.  “Donnie Brasco.”  Actually, England‘s office did explain the parrot joke but the details are much more lame than our joke about the joke so we won‘t bore you.

J.K. Rowling bids farewell to her characters and recalls the night he had to tell one of the actors whether or not she was really saying farewell to him.

Now the eyewitness account that places in Lindsay Lohan‘s drunken mouth one of the greatest quotes of a generation.  “I‘m a celebrity and I can do whatever the F I want.”  Details ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three “Newsmakers” of this day.

Number three, an unnamed burglar in Victor Harbor, Australia, near Adelaide.  Tried to held up a fish and chips shop with a sawed off shotgun.  He was not prepared for the defensive weapons the owner possessed, a c container of cooking oil and another of the batter in which they cooked the fish.  They were both very hot.  The owner threw them at the offender, who then dropped the gun and quickly alighted from the scene empty handed stuff-wise.

Number two, Daisy Valdivia of Paterson, New Jersey, upset and rightfully so and significantly startled by the daring overnight theft at her home.  Somebody came over and while the family slept stole its inflatable swimming tool, including, apparently, the 1,000 gallons of water contained therein.

What mystifies everyone is not only is there no sign any of the water was drained from the pool first or spilled, the area is not even damp.

But number one, Kevin Bae, vice president of K.M. Communications and somebody who fell asleep at the switch at the FCC.  When the company applied for call letters for new low-power digital TV stations in Waikiki and Phoenix.  And they were approved.

Mr. Bae has apologized because the new channel in Hawaii is for the moment, station K-U-N-T.  Which leads to the question that is represented by the calls of the new one in Phoenix.  KWTF?


OLBERMANN:  To our third story in the COUNTDOWN, and new revelations about Harry Potter.  Once again, a warning; if you are slowly savoring the final book, there are some spoilers are ahead.  As author J.K. Rowling tells Meredith Viera just what the very end of the book was meant to be and why she changed it.  And she gives us some insight into why the actor who plays the boy wizard in the movies, Daniel Radcliffe, would have said three weeks ago today on “The Today Show” that he thought his character might die, but he wasn‘t certain, even though he had not yet read “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.”


MEREDITH VIERA, “THE TODAY SHOW”:  Joe, when you look out over Edinborough, you wrote so much of the beginning of the book at a cafe, and the last chapter of your book in the Balmoral, a beautiful hotel.  Talk about where your life as come over all these years.  What goes through your mind? 

J.K. ROWLING, HARRY POTTER AUTHOR:  Finishing has certainly made me look back a lot.  And it‘s almost incredible to me at times what has happened.  There are certainly moments when I imagine that I have dreamt it all. 

VIERA:  You know, this is an interesting experience for you, because you have never had the chance after a book to talk. 

ROWLING:  It‘s just really liberating. 

VIERA:  And now you look at—I‘m reading the book sales for this book, in America 5,000 a minute. 

ROWLING:  That right?  Really?  My god, that‘s—My god.  See, I really can‘t comprehend that.   

VIERA:  But could you ever have imagined back then what this would turn into? 

ROWLING:  No, Harry saved us security wise.  He turned my life around completely.  It has been phenomenal and so unexpected.

VIERA:  What‘s next for you?

ROWLING:  I am going to take a break definitely.  And I‘m just going to savor for a while the feeling that I don‘t have a deadline.  It‘s just really liberating to think I can almost return to the beginning and write any old thing and see where it goes.  And I don‘t have pressure on me.  And there‘s no particular expectation that anything will get finished. 

VIERA:  Seventeen years, seven books, what do you want people to take away from all this?

ROWLING:  If it‘s true that Harry got people reading, anyone who wouldn‘t otherwise have enjoyed or started to enjoy books, then that‘s the best thing anyone could say to me.

VIERA:  Did you feel, in writing the seventh book, a sense of responsibility to those fans?

ROWLING:  Yes, I definitely felt a sense of responsibility in that I wanted to make it the very, very best book I could.  I‘m often asked, don‘t you feel guilty killing people, characters that kids love.  It sounds horrible and heartless to say no.  But the truth is that when you‘re writing, you have to think only of what you‘re writing.  Even my nearest and dearest—my sister, as she opened the book just looked at me and said, if you kill Hagrid, I will never forgive you. 

VIERA:  You‘re lucky you didn‘t kill Hagrid.

ROWLING:  Yes, but I never planned to kill Hagrid. 

VIERA:  The end of the book; I had read that the last word was supposed to be scar.

ROWLING:  And it was for a long, long time.  For a long time the last line was something like: only those whom he loved could see the lightning scar.  And that was a reference to the fact that Harry was flanked by his loved one. 

VIERA:  So, all was well.

ROWLING:  All was well, yes.

VIERA:  And you know when you came up with that line, that was it?

ROWLING:  I felt a kind of—and that felt right. 

VIERA:  I want to talk a little bit about the movies, because I know when that first was presented to you, you said no.  You weren‘t interested.  What changed your mind? 

ROWLING:  Well, the biggest thing by far was that I was looking for an agreement that said they would follow my story, even though the rest of the books weren‘t written. 

VIERA:  Have you been happy? 

ROWLING:  I‘ve been really happy with them.  Visually, it‘s so close to being indistinguishable, particularly Hogwarts.

VIERA:  And Daniel and Emma and Rupert, who play the three leads, have nothing but wonderful things to say about you.  How do you feel about them?  I mean, they‘re inhabiting your characters.

ROWLING:  They‘re all amazing, and I told all three of them, the three main ones.  Emma, Daniel and Rupert new more than they ever let on.  

VIERA:  Did any of them ask, are you going to off me?

ROWLING:  Yes, Dan did. 

VIERA:  Daniel did?  Did you tell him? 

ROWLING:  At one point, he said, I‘ve got to ask you, do I die?  And I thought quick, and I whispered so no one else could hear, you get a death scene.  But Dan is very smart and I am pretty sure he would have walked away from that dinner, thinking yes, I get scene, but what does that mean.  She didn‘t say yes, you die.  So, I hope he is happy.

VIERA:  I know that NBC News universal, our parent company, has started—there‘s going to be a theme park.  Universal Studios; are you looking forward to that? 

ROWLING:  I‘m look forward to that 100 percent.  I want to be first on the rides. 

VIERA:  One of my favorite scenes is in the first book.  It‘s the mirror. 

ROWLING:  That‘s my favorite chapter of the first book. 

VIERA:  Oh, it is as well?  I just—there‘s something about that when he looks in that mirror and sees his family that is so moving to me.  If I had that mirror here and you looked into that mirror, what do you think you would see? 

ROWLING:  I would definitely see what Harry sees.  I would have seen my mother.  I would be able to have a conversation with my mother. 

VIERA:  She battled M.S. for ten years.  How did that shape you as a young woman?  And how did her departure, her death affect this book? 

ROWLING:  Definitely, mom dying had a profound influence on the books, because I had been writing about Harry for six months when she died.  And in the first draft, his parents were disposed of really quite—in an almost cavalier fashion.  Six months and my mother dies, and I really think from that moment on death became a central, if not the central theme of the seven books.  And in many ways, all of my characters are defined by their attitude to death and the possibility of death. 

VIERA:  Did your mother ever know that you were writing these books? 

ROWLING:  No.  It‘s one of my biggest regrets.  She never knew.  She would have loved this.  Any mother wants to know that their child is successful.  She would have been at every event I did.  She would have had so much vicarious pleasure at knowing who I had met and would have been fascinated and interested.  That‘s a massive regret that I didn‘t at least tell her. 

VIERA:  Had you been one of these students that ended up at Hogwarts, and they put the sorting hat on you, which one of the houses do you think you would have ended up at? 

ROWLING:  The virtue that I pride among all the others—and I think it‘s patently obvious from the books—is courage.  So I would hope to be in Gryffindor.  Whether I would be judged worthy or not, I don‘t know. 

VIERA:  Do you think most people in this world are more like Harry or more people are more like Draco? 

ROWLING:  I am reasonably optimistic about human nature.  Most people are decent.  What‘s interesting to examine is what happens to decent people when they‘re frightened. 

VIERA:  Steven king said this character is right up there with some of the greats. 

ROWLING:  That‘s very kind of him.

VIERA:  Frodo and Dorothy, Huckleberry Finn.  I suppose it‘s mind boggling to think that your book is up on that same shelf. 

ROWLING:  It is.  Ultimately, if the books deserve to survive, they will survive.  And if they don‘t deserve to survive, they won‘t.  That‘s it.  History will judge.  That ultimately is what matters.  And it really helps you put everything in perspective. 


OLBERMANN:  Dateline NBC is devoting a full hour to “Harry Potter this Sunday, featuring more of Meredith Viera‘s interview with J.K. Rowling.  And Chris Hansen does not bust into the room either.  Check your local listings for details. 

So, with all that hype out of the way, on to the Simpsons hype.  More people you don‘t mind seeing making a ton of dough.  And then there is the other kind, the claim that she damaged or walked off with 21,000 dollars worth of stuff that belonged not to her, but to “OK! Magazine,” ahead on COUNTDOWN. 


OLBERMANN:  Number two story tonight, our nightly roundup of celebrity and entertainment news, Keeping Tabs.  Twenty years after it debuted as a skit on the “Tracy Allman Show,” 17 years after it became a full length series, finally “The Simpsons” have or has made it on to the big screen.  Opening across the country tonight after what seems like decades of wily promotion. 

Of course, marketing a movie using corporate tie ins is nothing.  When “Spider Man III” came out, Sony Erikson produced Spider Man phones.  “Shrek III” teamed up with McDonald‘s.  “Shrek” one and two had previously tied up with Burger King.  James Bond even cross marketed with BMW.  And using gorilla marketing is old hat, although in the case of “Aqua Teen Hunger Force‘s” bright light-esque ads, which led the city of Boston to shut itself down that one memorable day, it can backfire. 

So when it came to advertising “The Simpson Movie,” a movie so anticipated that it already has millions of fans, and thus millions of ready critics, the challenge was to find promotional tools that were innovative and clever as the series itself.  So did Fox succeed?  COUNTDOWN‘s Monica Novotny reports and you decide. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Did I save the day? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Actually, you doomed us all. 

MONICA NOVOTNY, COUNTDOWN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Except for Fox, of course.  For them, he saved the day.  The cartoon, one of the studio‘s biggest money makers.  And the movie, well, Fox is hoping to outdo itself.

LISA LICHT, 20TH CENTURY FOX:  We are dealing with a brand that‘s been around for 18 years.  There have been a plethora of promotions over the years.  And we didn‘t want it to feel like another Simpson‘s promotion. 

NOVOTNY:  So cue the marketing machine.  Homer stepping in for Jay Leno.   

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Here I am at NBC, which, by the way, stands for never been crappier.  Ha, if you see the crap they put on this network. 

NOVOTNY:  7-11‘s across the country transforming themselves into Kwik-E-Marts, complete with Crusty O‘s cereal, Sprinkilish donuts, and, of course, slushies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It is kind of surreal.  It‘s overwhelming.

NOVOTNY:  Burger King running ads for, where you can turn yourself into a Simpson like character. 

Microsoft making a limited yellow Simpson edition XBox.  Jetblue even renaming one of their aircraft. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This aircraft, Woo Hoo Jet Blue, is going to be a permanent part of our fleet and will always say, the official airline of Springfield. 

NOVOTNY:  And for the cool kids, Van Sneakers hiring 12 underground artists to make Simpsons inspired sneakers. 

MATT GROENING, SIMPSONS CREATOR:  It‘s the best of all words.  It‘s Simpsons, crazy pop culture stuff.  It‘s weird graffiti art.  And it‘s an actual commercial product. 

NOVOTNY:  but while Fox decided to only team up with four companies for cross promotion, there is still all that guerrilla marketing.  Remember the “U.S.A. Today” sponsored search for the real Springfield?  Whichever town posted the most popular video advertising their eligibility would win.  Vermont won and hosted the movie premier last weekend. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘ll teach you to laugh at something that funny!

NOVOTNY:  In Canada, one of the world‘s tallest buildings, the C.N.

Tower, now has a sprinkilicious view.  While over in Britain, an artist painted a 55 foot chalk image of Homer Simpson next to an ancient chalk giant symbolizing fertility, well received by pretty much everyone but the logal pagans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The word apology is tossed around a lot of these days.  Doh.

NOVOTNY:  For COUNTDOWN, Monica Novotny.


OLBERMANN:  And, of course, Monica meant squishies, not slushies.  The woman behind Bart Simpson will be joining us live here on Monday.  Nancy Cartwright, the voice of Bart, dude, on COUNTDOWN at 8:00 Eastern, 5:00 Pacific.  Be there, aloha. 

Which can mean hello or goodbye.  So it‘s also aloha to Nicole Richie, out of court, but heading for prison, following the footsteps of her “Simple Life” co-star Paris Hilton.  Miss Richie sentenced to four days in jail after pleading guilty to drunk driving, fined 2,000 dollars, ordered into yet another drug and alcohol rehab program.  It is her second DUI conviction in four years. says Richie gets her choice, serving time at L.A. city jail or L.A. county jail.  She and her unborn child will have to check in by September.  The judge sternly reminding Miss Richie that she could have been charged with murder if she had killed someone driving the wrong away down a freeway last December.  And just to cover all the bases, he also told her that if the DMV takes her license away, that means she‘s not allowed to drive. 

And Lindsay Lohan may have been drunk driving, but Britney Spears was open doored bathrooming.  The grim details ahead.  But first time for COUNTDOWN‘s latest list of nominees for Worst Person in the World. 

The bronze to Barry Bonds, responding to a segment on “Costas Now,” on HBO, in which our colleague, Mr. Costas, said Bonds‘ records are inauthentic and that Bond had started juicing.  Bonds has called Bob that little midget man who absolutely know jack expletive about baseball, who never played the game before. 

Firstly, Bob is bigger than you were, Barry, before you go started using steroids and human growth hormones.  Secondly, before you go call anybody a midget, take a look at yourself in an ethics mirror.  You‘re about four inches tall. 

The runner up, Bill-O, as he continues to provide the best advertising the website the Daily Kos has ever gotten.  When Fox News watch contributor Jane Hall pointed out that there are comments just as objectionable, if not more so, posted on his website as there are on its, Bill-O screamed.  Even as the Secret Service reportedly investigates death threats against Senator Clinton posted on BillO‘, “that‘s a lie and I can‘t let you say a lie.  We take them off.” 

He then ordered Miss Hall‘s microphone cut off.  Bill, if you can‘t face Jane Hall, how can you face al Qaeda?  And oh yes, Daily Kos, baiting Bill-O, quit working my side of the street, huh? 

But our winner is Glenn Beck, talking about this phony issue of immigration reform, which is code for hatred of Mexicans.  He welcomed a guest from the John Birch Society.  Beck said, when I was growing up, the John Birch Society, I thought they were a bunch of nuts.  However, you guys are starting to make more and more sense to me. 

The group that said FDR knew about Pearl Harbor in advance; the group that opposed the civil rights act and OSHA; giving back the Panama Canal; the group that called President Eisenhower a communist is starting to make more and more sense to you?  Your first conclusion was right.  If you‘re agreeing with them, Glenn, then you‘re now one of the bunch of nuts.  Glenn Beck, today‘s Worst Person in the World!


OLBERMANN:  Lindsey Lohan‘s new movie, “I Know Who Killed Me,” has not been widely reviewed, because no advanced screenings were held for critics.  Which means, of course, that however bad or good it might be, the film can‘t possibly be as watchable as her life.  But our number one story in the COUNTDOWN, we already know who is killing Lohan‘s career, that would be her. 

As eye witnesses from the night of her arrest tell that Lohan commandeered the vehicle she used to chase her assistant, and that she said she couldn‘t get into trouble because she‘s a celebrity.  Well, that worked out well.  TMZ interviewed the three men who are friends of the boyfriend of Lohan‘s ex-assistant, Tarin Graham.  The three amigos account, in a nutshell—listen carefully: on Monday night Lohan invited all of them to a party in Malibu.  At some point, the assistant and her boyfriend got into a fight.  Ms. Lohan tried to intervene and the assistant quit, fought some more with the boyfriend and then tore off in her own vehicle. 

The boyfriend had walked away from his friend‘s car, the white Denali.  The three friends were waiting in that vehicle and they say Ms. Lohan jumped into the driver‘s seat, quote, messed up and raging, unquote.  She then chased the assistant along PCH, Pacific Coast Highway, which equals one big mess.  And that‘s only part of it. 

As Ms. Lohan pulled away, one of the witnesses actually jumped out of the vehicle.  The other two were trapped, pleading with Ms. Lohan to stop. 


RONNIE BLAKE, WITNESS:  I jumped out of the car as she‘s just about to start accelerating.  She accelerates.  She runs over my foot. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  She was probably going 100 miles an hour the whole time on PCH.  And this is when I‘m like, dude—I‘m like, you‘re going to kill us.  And that‘s when she‘s like, you know, I don‘t give a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) about it.  I don‘t give a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) about.  I can‘t get in trouble. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Because she knows people who can do things. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  She says no, I can‘t get in trouble.  I‘m a celebrity.  I can do whatever the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) I want. 


OLBERMANN:  Meanwhile, dude, someone should have taken the reins when Britney Spears attempted to complete her photo shoot with “OK! Magazine,” because that publication is sparing no details, including this: when La Spears went into the bathroom, which was frequently, she didn‘t bother to close the door. 

Let‘s bring in “Village Voice” columnist Michael Musto.  Michael, good evening. 


OLBERMANN:  Let‘s start with Ms. Lohan.  If it weren‘t for the fact that she had evidently been drinking, this sounds like the kind of wacky plot from a movie that she might appear in.  But these poor guys holding on for dear life, I have a vision of this wild-eyed Lohan at the wheel.  It‘s just remarkable, isn‘t it?

MUSTO:  Nobody really knows the plot of a Lindsey Lohan movie anymore, because nobody sees them.  As you mentioned, her new movie is called I Know Who Killed My Career.  Look, the only plot in Lindsay‘s life these days is the cemetery plot for her filmography.   

OLBERMANN:  There was more, of course, to this.  The two witness who remained in the vehicle said that the assistant finally managed to allude Ms. Lohan so that she went to the assistant‘s mother‘s house.  At that moment the mother is pulling up in her own car.  She gets scared because here comes this woman at 100 miles an hour. 

She drives off.  Lohan follows her and it was then that Lohan blows through several red lights.  According to the guys, you know—would this not have been easier just to have Lindsey Lohan go in and get those words arrest me tattooed on her forehead? 

MUST:  Yes, but she doesn‘t know how to spell that any more than (INAUDIBLE).  Look, I think Lindsay actually thought, I can‘t get arrested in Hollywood these days.  That‘s why she started running red lights.  She thought she was above the law.  The result now is tragic.  It‘s going to be six hours of home imprisonment in Beverly Hills.  It‘s just awful.

OLBERMANN:  That‘s the tragedy of misunderstanding a cliche.  The really ugly part, once the police show up at the parking lot at the end of all this, she reportedly tries to say, quote, the black kid was driving.  That would Ronnie Blake, who we just saw, the African-American eye witness, who had jumped -- 

MUSTO:  He‘s charming, by the way. 

OLBERMANN:  In his own way.

MUSTO:  He hangs out with terrific people. 

OLBERMANN:  He jumped out of the SUV at the start of this whole thing.  So, of all the people she could have chosen from, Lindsay Lohan chooses Michael Richards as her damage control role model?

MUSTO:  I think she‘s actually choosing Susan Smith.  Remember the woman who drowned her kids and blamed the black guy?  I think it‘s the same black guy, Ronnie Blake.  She‘s also channeling Boy George here, because Lindsay said, I don‘t know where the cocaine came from.  It wasn‘t mine.  How did it get into your pocket, honey?  Poltergeist?  Was Mark Furman there?

OLBERMANN:  Somebody threw it and was just a really, really good shot. 

MUSTO:  Nobody on the New York Mets. 

OLBERMANN:  There was there proclamation that will unfortunately confirm, in many people‘s minds, why they hate celebrities where she said she couldn‘t get in to trouble because she is a celebrity.  That just blows the thing for everybody, doesn‘t it?

MUSTO:  The second she said that, she ceased to become a celebrity, as if by magic.  Celebrity is one of those words like fabulous, where if you say it out loud, you stop being it.  Maybe she should have said, I am a skank and that would have undone itself. 

OLBERMANN:  Go to a cloister.  There‘s good old Britney Spears.  According to “OK! Magazine,” she couldn‘t manage to shut the door when she went to the bathroom.  You talk about your career going into the toilet.  What have you got on this? 

MUSTO:  Well, you‘ve heard of TMZ, this is TMI.  But to followers of Britney, this is no surprise.  She has always put the pig in (INAUDIBLE).  The really gross thing, Keith, is that “OK! Magazine” went into the bowl afterwards, took out the stuff and put it on eBay while promoting it as really heart breaking. 

OLBERMANN:  There was a—I‘m glad to see, by the way, that you have adopted the pronunciation of the magazine. 

MUSTO:  Everybody has.

OLBERMANN:  There was some uncanny timing in this though.  Apparently after she wiped her greasy chicken hands on the silk dress, her puppy did it‘s business on a 6,000 dollar gown.  The dog has been trained, Michael.  And, of course, I‘m not referring to Miss Spears.

MUSTO:  No, that‘s the bitch.  No, the dog at least had the decency to close the door when he did it.  And also he was nice enough to use an expensive Zach Posen (ph), not a cheep Alicia Lavine (ph).  Even in crapping, the dog has more class than his mommy.

OLBERMANN:  And the last part here, after she came back ready to shoot, she seemed disoriented after going to the bathroom, according to “OK!?” 

MUSTO:  Don‘t know where you‘re going with that one, Keith.  I have no idea what they‘re implying.  Let‘s move on.  I don‘t know.  Where is this heading?

OLBERMANN:  We‘ll let them think about it over the weekend.  The one and only Michael Musto.  Great thanks for coming in, Michael. 

MUSTO:  Take care.  OK!

OLBERMANN:  OK!  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 1,549th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq.  From New York, I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.



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