Guests: Lars Larson, Tony Potts, Stan Goldman
DAN ABRAMS, HOST: Tonight, what could be a major turning point for the war in Iraq. A influential Republican senator breaks with President Bush and calls for a troop withdrawal to begin next month. Senator John Warner, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, just returned from Iraq and today said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN WARNER (R-VA), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: We simply cannot, as a nation, stand and put our troops at continuous risk for loss of life and limb without beginning to take some decisive action which will get everybody‘s attention. I think no clearer form of that than if the president were to announce on the 15th that in consultation with our senior military commanders, he‘s decided to initiate the first step in the withdrawal of our forces.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: He says he‘d like to see those troops home by Christmas. And tonight, the question—is this the first of what could be more Republican senators calling for a timetable? Could this turn the political tide?
Here now, HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster. David, good to see you. All right. How big a deal is this?
DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT: Dan, this is a very big deal for two major reasons. First of all, the headline Americans are going wake up to tomorrow, the PR nightmare, essentially, in all of this is the headline that, Influential Republican senator calls for start of Iraq withdrawal. If people read the fine print, they‘ll see that Warner‘s saying, Oh, it can be as few as 5,000 and it doesn‘t—it‘s up to the president to determine the timetable. But most people, when they see that headline, that is devastating for the White House.
Secondly, Dan, the politics of all this is fascinating. A number of Republicans are going to look to John Warner to sort of set the tone for this debate, and by having John Warner out there saying that the president‘s action has not gotten the attention of the Iraqi government, that gives cover to half a dozen Republicans who can now say, Yes, me, too. I also agree with the president‘s policy (ph). We need to do something different.
ABRAMS: And Warner is not just your sort of average Republican senator. This is a guy on military issues who is particularly influential, right?.
SHUSTER: Yes. I mean, he‘s a former Navy secretary. He was Navy secretary during Vietnam. Three times he has been the chairman of the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee. He is known as somebody who does work well on military issues and other issues with Democrats. So this is a guy who has a lot of respect on both sides of the aisle, and that‘s why it is such a devastating blow politically for the White House now, just 20 days before this formal debate is going to begin.
ABRAMS: But David, there‘s quite a list of Republican senators who
have at least questioned the president on the war. Let‘s put up the list -
Alexander, Coleman, Cornyn, Domenici, Hagel, Lugar, Smith, Sununu, Snowe, Voinovich and Warner. I believe only three of them have actually voted for a timetable, right, Hagel, Smith and Snowe?
SHUSTER: Yes, that‘s right. I mean, Lugar, for example, in July, said, We simply can‘t wait until September to change policy, but he was not willing to vote with the Democrats as far as their recommended changes. And that‘s where the rubber‘s going meet the road in this. I mean, for Warner to say, Yes, we need to start drawing down the troops—if in September he says, You know what? I‘m still going to leave it up to the president, then the Republicans and the White House may survive this and the Democrats may not get the 60 votes to overcome a presidential veto and essentially overcome a Republican filibuster.
So again, there‘s a lot to be seen—but again, the other thing to keep track of, Dan, is that Warner today pointed to one other thing that he‘s waiting for, and that is a resolution of the latest effort by the Iraqi government to reach political reconciliation, de-Ba‘athification, oil revenue sharing. It is his expectation that he is going know whether they resolve that in the next couple of days. So you have the possibility that if that is not resolved, if Warner is disappointed, then he could shift even more to the left and say, Look, nothing is working, we have to do this. And that‘s where it gets really dicey for the White House.
ABRAMS: David Shuster, as always, thanks a lot. Appreciate it.
SHUSTER: Thanks, Dan.
ABRAMS: Now what could be a sign of growing distrust of the administration. There‘s a battle brewing in Seattle over a local newspaper‘s decision not to publish the pictures of two men who, according to the FBI, quote, “exhibited unusual behavior,” which was reported by passengers aboard Washington state ferries. The FBI asked for the public‘s help in locating the duo. Now, local TV stations aired their photos.
“The Seattle Post-Intelligencer” would not. The managing editor says, quote, “We have no confirmation that these men‘s behavior was anything but innocuous, and to forever taint them by associating them with terrorism under these circumstances is not consistent with our policy.”
My take. They should publish the pictures. Using their reasoning, they shouldn‘t publish pictures of anyone suspected of anything that hasn‘t been confirmed by a guilty verdict. But there‘s a broader issue at play here, and that is growing national distrust of this administration. They‘ve lost enormous credibility by exaggerating successes in the war on terror while hyping the real threat of terrorism for political gain. They‘ve often demonstrated a disdain and a distrust of our courts and laws, which is now being reciprocated by many in the public, not just this newspaper.
So it‘s not just partisanship on the part of the paper or anyone else to look at the history of this administration and question their motives. But this isn‘t the right forum. No one is saying they‘re guilty of anything. The FBI wants to talk to them. That‘s it. The media and everyone else should help.
Joining me now, MSNBC media analyst Steve Adubato and radio talk show host Lars Larson, who‘s been talking about this story from Oregon. Also, his station is heard in Washington state, as well. Thanks to both of you for coming on. Appreciate it.
So Steve, you‘re really saying that the newspaper shouldn‘t publish?
Why shouldn‘t the media help law enforcement in a case like this?
STEVE ADUBATO, MSNBC MEDIA ANALYST: Well, in general, you say, Of course we want to help law enforcement. But Dan, the bar is not high enough. There is nothing that I see in the FBI reports that say that these guys committed a crime. In fact, they say several times in everything I‘ve read they may be innocent. They may have...
ABRAMS: They just want to talk to them.
ADUBATO: Yes, but Dan, you started out by saying, If in fact, “The Post” is right—you know, the newspaper is right, then you would never print anything of anyone who hasn‘t been convicted. These guys haven‘t even been charged. So you‘re saying that if someone isn‘t even charged but isn‘t even suspected but might think you might do something...
ADUBATO: By that standard, then you‘d have pictures of people in the newspaper every day...
ABRAMS: All right. So if...
ADUBATO: ... disproportionately people of Middle Eastern background.
ABRAMS: So there‘s someone the police say is a suspect, We want your help in finding this person, right? Haven‘t been charged, but we think the person is a person of interest in a particular crime. Then it‘s OK to publish their picture?
ADUBATO: I argue that the bar is getting closer on your end. What you just described is something that, from my point of view—and it‘s a tough call. Let‘s be blunt about this. These guys are going to get heat for it, and I don‘t think that, as a publisher or an editor, you‘re supposed to be doing things that people like or are popular. I‘m saying you‘re getting closer to it, Dan. The FBI information I have is not even remotely as close as what you just described.
ABRAMS: This is number three. Lars, here‘s the FBI says that they rode as many as six different ferry routes in recent weeks. They took photos of doorways. They asked questions about ferry operations. They went into areas where passengers don‘t normally go.
LARS LARSON, KXL RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I got to disagree with Steve because here‘s the thing. Newspapers publish pictures of persons of interest all the time. We also publish pictures—or newspapers publish pictures of people who are suspected in crimes but have not yet been formally charged. If newspapers only published pictures of people who have not been—or who have finally been charged, they wouldn‘t publish much of anything at all.
The fact is, is that the fourth estate—and I‘ve been part of it for
about 32 years—likes to talk a good game when it says the public has the
right to know and we have the right to publish, and we‘ll go out and
publish anything we want. Then the FBI says, We‘d like to find these guys
and find out if they are terrorists or tourists, and the newspapers say,
all of a sudden, We got religion. We‘re not going publish their pictures -
until what, until they‘ve been charged with a crime? That presumes that after they‘ve blown up a ferry and after they‘ve been formally charged...
ADUBATO: Come on!
ABRAMS: ... if they‘re still alive, then we‘ll publish their picture.
ADUBATO: Lars, I got to tell you something. I understand, as a radio talk show host, you‘re very good at getting people‘s emotions, like, all charged up, and you just did it right now on MSNBC. But here‘s the problem. There‘s something called the Constitution. There‘s something called due process, civil liberties. Dan asked me, What‘s the role of the media? I argue, in part, the role of the media here is to protect the civil liberties of people who are not suspected of doing anything, not charged with anything.
And I‘ll tell you what. Lars, what about if they went, in fact, they published these photos, somebody gets them, a patriot, if you will, in quotes, and beats the hell out of them? Then all of a sudden...
LARSON: Then that‘s a crime.
ADUBATO: Wait a minute.
LARSON: That‘s a crime. Look...
ADUBATO: Wait a minute. But don‘t you say that by publishing those newspaper—those photos of those guys, it increases the chance that some vigilante...
ADUBATO: Oh, come on. It‘s happened all the time in this country.
LARSON: Look—look, all the time, you see pictures of bank robbers where we don‘t know the name of the robber, but they published the picture.
ADUBATO: These guys robbed no bank.
LARSON: Under your theory, if a man who‘s picture is taken robbing a bank, if somebody mistakes somebody else for that man and beats him to death, the newspaper‘s at fault or the TV station‘s at fault.
ADUBATO: These guys robbed no bank, Lars! Were you missing that detail?
ABRAMS: But—but again...
LARSON: No, I‘m not missing that detail. We say that this person is a person of interest. Newspapers publish pictures of persons of interest all the time.
ABRAMS: They just—they just want to talk to them. And my concern here—my concern is that this paper may be doing it for political reasons.
ABRAMS: Yes, that they don‘t like—look, the bottom line is—I laid it out. I said that there‘s increasing distrust of this administration, and I laid out the reasons that I think that they‘ve shown disdain for the courts, and I think that this—this sometimes is the punishment. And I‘m afraid that this newspaper is making a political decision to say, We are so distrustful of this administration that we simply can‘t publish these pictures. And I would say, Don‘t get law enforcement involved, would be my response, in your political problems.
ADUBATO: Dan, if that is the motivation, I agree with you. I want to believe it‘s not. And I also want to say that another part of this is that the NSA, the wiretapping thing—most Americans would say, We don‘t want the federal government tapping our phones in post-9/11. My problem with that is the disproportionate number of people who would say they didn‘t want that...
ABRAMS: What does that have to do with this?
ADUBATO: Because it has to do with the fact that after 9/11, a lot of people say, We can‘t wait for anything bad to happen. I‘m saying the pattern—you have to draw the line where the bar is. On the wiretapping wasn‘t high enough, and I say this is not a high enough bar to have these guys‘ photos out there because something could happen to them. They could be...
ABRAMS: ... happen to them? Something could happen to anyone who‘s ever put in the public eye.
ADUBATO: These people are perceived as potential terrorists, Dan.
You know it and I know it. Even if they‘re not saying that yet...
ABRAMS: All they need to do—all they need to do is call in and say, Hey, we are the guys you‘re looking for.
ABRAMS: No problem. No harm. No foul.
ADUBATO: What about their privacy?
ABRAMS: What do you mean, their privacy?
LARSON: There‘s no—there‘s no...
ABRAMS: These are pictures taken on a ferry!
ADUBATO: You know what? That‘s like saying—a few years ago, when the feds were going after the Mob, that if a guy‘s Italian-American—you‘re going to say it‘s not connected—is at a restaurant owned by the Mob and some Mob activities are taken there...
ABRAMS: What does that have to...
ADUBATO: ... you take his photo, then the guy has to come around and turn around and say, I‘m not a mobster.
ABRAMS: That has nothing to do with it. The bottom line—the FBI has made a decision—let me get Lars...
LARSON: Look, the newspapers all the time publish pictures of suspects. Suspects haven‘t been charged. And once you‘re identified as a suspect in a rape, a murder, a child molest, you‘re going to be tarred, to a certain extent. If Steve believes that the Constitution says a newspaper should never publish the picture of somebody until they‘re found guilty, which would ultimately be protecting them and not contaminating the jury pool...
ABRAMS: Got to wrap it up.
ABRAMS: Lars and Steve, thanks a lot. Appreciate it.
ABRAMS: Up next: Actress Lindsay Lohan headed to jail after pleading guilty today to drunk driving and cocaine charges. She will serve one day. I know. Many of you are going to tell me she got special treatment. I‘m not going to say it. She didn‘t. And tonight: We learn Nicole Richie spent 82 minutes in jail today. I don‘t even know what to make of that one.
And later: CBS under fire for a reality show where kids are left without parental supervision. The show‘s producers say they followed the law. Now the New Mexico attorney general says, Not so sure. We‘ll talk to former child star Christopher Knight, AKA Peter Brady, as well as interviewing an ordinary 9-year-old boy. Coming up.
ABRAMS: Breaking news. Tonight, actress Lindsay Lohan has reached a plea deal on misdemeanor drunken driving and cocaine charges. She‘ll spend just one day in jail, serve 10 days of community service and then be on probation for three years.
Tonight, Lohan issued a statement saying, quote, “It is clear to me that my life has become completely unmanageable because I am addicted to alcohol and drugs. Recently, I relapsed and did things for which I am ashamed. I broke the law, and today I took responsibility by pleading guilty to the charges in my case. No matter what I said when I was under the influence on the day I was arrested, I am not blaming anyone else for my conduct other than myself. I thank God I did not injure others. I easily could have.”
My take. (INAUDIBLE) popular thing to say will be she got off easy, just like Paris Hilton. You‘re not going to hear that here. Lohan got what just about anyone else would have gotten with this type of misdemeanor plea, nothing more, nothing less. And Paris served more time than a non-celebrity would have. Tonight, we learn that Paris‘s pal, Nicole Richie, served—she literally served today -- 82 minutes to fulfill her four-day sentence. Not quite sure what to make of that one.
But joining me, the man with the answer, Stan Goldman, law professor at Loyola law school, who has defended over 2,000 drunk driving cases in LA, and “Access Hollywood‘s” Tony Potts.
All right. Tony, let me start with you on this Lindsay Lohan thing and how they went about getting her to plead and issue this statement. Did they have to twist any arms?
TONY POTTS, “ACCESS HOLLYWOOD”: I don‘t think so. I think you‘re right on the money there. And people comparing this to Paris Hilton—they‘re two different cases. Paris violated her probation. Lindsay was at the first stage of all of this. If she violates her probation down the road, then of course, she might get 23 days or 44 days of what have you her in California.
I think the plea deal by her attorney has been in the works for about three or four weeks, from sources I know. And I think that it was key to get Lindsay into rehab because it shows—and for her to stay there, by the way—it shows that, you know what? She‘s really serious this time. So when this did come up and the charges were filed, all seven of these misdemeanors, they could say to the judge, Look, she‘s in rehab. She‘s doing well. Here‘s her progress report. And let‘s treat her like anybody else. And I think they have, actually.
ABRAMS: Stan, your friends in the LA court system have a PR problem, all right? I‘m going to tell you about it right now, and I think you might know about it. When you have Nicole Richie come in and serve 82 minutes and you give Lindsay Lohan—I know! -- when you give her a day, it just sounds bad. It sounds like Lindsay and Nicole are getting special -- 82 minutes? What do you do in jail for 82 minutes?
STAN GOLDMAN, LOYOLA LAW SCHOOL PROFESSOR: Well, first of all, she didn‘t serve any jail time, I‘m sure, in 82 minutes. As a matter of fact, I can‘t even figure out why it took 82 minutes. I tell you what happens. They literally go in and go through the booking process, and then they get released because the reality is, as we talked about in the Paris Hilton case, the—not the prison system in California—you don‘t get any time off like that in the prison system. But in the jail system, for these misdemeanors, it‘s so overcrowded in LA County, you take these short sentences. You literally just go through the booking process and you‘re out the back door.
I have no doubt the same exact thing‘s going to...
ABRAMS: And Stan...
GOLDMAN: ... happen to Lindsay. By the way, I think Lindsay Lohan—
I think the reports are wrong. Legally, she has to be sentenced to at least 96 hours in jail. So I don‘t want the reporters are talking about when they talk about being sentenced to one day. She‘ll get the four days‘ sentence in jail. She‘ll probably go in and she‘ll do an 82-minute turnaround, if they‘re taking a long coffee break. If not, it‘ll be 52 minutes.
ABRAMS: And Stan...
POTTS: No—no, that‘s not...
ABRAMS: Yes, go ahead.
POTTS: ... true. That‘s not true. She did get the four days. He is right, the 96 hours. She was given one day, of course, for already being in jail on the DUI originally. She‘s going serve one day in jail, and then they‘ve taken the 48 hours remaining and given her 10 days of community service. So that‘s how it plays out.
ABRAMS: All right. Before I get to another legal question, I want to play a piece of sound. This is from Lindsay Lohan on the “Today” show back in 2005.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATT LAUER, “TODAY” CO-HOST: When the subject of partying comes up, you don‘t apologize for...
LINDSAY LOHAN, ACTRESS: I hate that word!
LAUER: Well, what‘s a good word? Celebrating, going out with your friends, hanging out in clubs? I don‘t know how to—I‘m 47 years old. I don‘t have the term for it anymore.
LOHAN: I don‘t hang out in clubs as much as they say I do. I go out with my friends and I got to get dinner and sometimes I go dancing. That‘s relaxing...
LAUER: Well, I was going to say, you shouldn‘t have to apologize for a certain amount of that.
LOHAN: Oh, I‘m not apologizing. Now I‘m defending myself, which I said I shouldn‘t do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Tony Potts, for a long time now, it seems that Lindsay Lohan has been speaking publicly. She has been denying having a problem. But she‘s had, as she says today, an alcohol and drug problem.
POTTS: Yes. Denial‘s a tough thing. I remember seeing her about six to eight months ago. She came careening into a “GQ” Man of the Year event, and she was an hour late. And I looked in her eyes, and it looked like she had been crying. And I said, What‘s wrong? And she goes, Oh, there‘s just so much. My sister doesn‘t want me to leave tonight. There are so many demands on my time. And people are saying I‘m here and there and I‘m doing this and that and what have you.
And I could tell that—and I‘ve seen her over the years, way back since she did “Freaky Friday” and even before that, with “Parent Trap.” This is a changed girl. And you could tell that she was caught up in that tornado. You could see in her eyes, she‘s in this tornado, and she had no idea where she was going to touch down, Dan.
ABRAMS: All right. Bottom line, Stan Goldman, when you read about this sentence and you hear exactly what she‘s going to have to serve—look, you defended 2,000 of these cases in LA. How does it compare?
GOLDMAN: It‘s typically, I got to tell you. She benefited from the counterintuitive fact that she got them so close in time. It really looked like she has a problem. Also, her lawyers got her into rehab really fast, and also, she‘s young and doesn‘t really have any other kind of criminal record.
So you know, she didn‘t violate any probation because she got them so close in time, she never pled guilty to one first. So that went in her favor. So she kind of lucked out a little here. And also, they‘re going to give her a break.
I go to tell you, if she screws up on this, she may be looking at a Paris Hilton sentence. But by the way, she has to be sentenced to four days by law in California.
ABRAMS: All right.
GOLDMAN: I don‘t know what the judge tried to work out here, but she has to be sentenced to four days, and that one-day business of jail time...
ABRAMS: All right...
GOLDMAN: ... that‘s another story.
ABRAMS: Tony Potts, thanks a lot. Appreciate it. Stan, you‘re going to stick with us for another topic. Appreciate it.
Coming up: CBS‘s new all-kid reality show now being accused of skirting child labor laws by having the kids create their own society? We‘ll get reaction from someone who grew up as a kid on TV, Chris Knight, AKA Peter Brady. And we‘ll ask an ordinary 9-year-old what he thinks about the show.
But first: How Fox News manages its guests‘ assets, next in “Beat the Press.”
ABRAMS: Time for tonight‘s “Beat the Press, our daily look back at the absurd and sometimes amusing perils of live TV. First up: On Fox News, you can‘t always count on the presumption of innocence—unless, of course, you‘re talking about the Bush administration doing something wrong, even if it‘s something like warrantless wiretapping that they admit they did.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIT HUME, FOX ANCHOR: The Senate Judiciary Committee‘s latest deadline for the White House to comply with its subpoena for documents relating to warrantless—allegedly warrantless wiretaps has come and gone...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Allegedly. Allegedly. President Bush admitted to having authorized warrantless wiretaps. (INAUDIBLE)
Next up: On Fox‘s “Red Eye” show, they did a groundbreaking interview with model and actress Simona Pouskou (ph), who was wearing a beautiful red top and had really nice—well, just watch the graphic that they keep removing from the screen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got ask you, Simona, if your significant over dropped a ring in a filthy place, would you actually make him retrieve it?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I would.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You would?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Definitely.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, if you asked me, I guess I would. Simona, what was the worst thing you‘ve been caught doing while in another country possibly drunk?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my God! I can‘t say that on Fox!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Simona, have you ever been to a Hooters? Do you know what a Hooters is?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I haven‘t, actually, but I know what it is, yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: See the way that every time they put it up and then—Oh, wait. Let‘s get rid of that graphic there. It‘s covering something up.
Finally: This probably wasn‘t the sort of wardrobe promotion our friends over at men‘s retailer Joseph A. Bank had in mind.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) real tough talking about in the camera, aren‘t you! Bring it on out here and say that! You try that...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Kudos to the team, that Fox News team over there, for pointing that one out themselves.
We want your help beating the press. If you see anything amusing, absurd or just right or wrong on the press, go to our Web site at Abrams.msnbc.com. Please leave us a tip in the box and include the show and time you saw the item.
Coming up: Cbs accused of skirting child labor laws for its new reality show, “Kid Nation,” where 8 to 15-year-olds are left alone in a ghost town to create a society. Now parents of one of the kids is speaking out against the show, saying their child was harmed during the filming. We‘ll get reaction from someone who grew up as a kid on TV, Chris Knight, also known sometimes as Peter Brady. And we‘ll also talk to an ordinary 9-year-old about what he thought of the show.
And later: Toy company Mattel takes on a porn star for using the name China Barbie. China is with us to talk about her Barbie battle, coming up.
ABRAMS: Coming up, it‘s the battle of Barbies, as toy company Mattel sues a porn star for using the name China Barbie. China Barbie is with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Parents of America, you have never seen your kids do anything like this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I‘m a 30-year-old trapped in the body of a 14-year-old.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hauling water, cleaning latrines, cooking meals, and washing dishes all on their own.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As Martin Luther King, Jr., said, “I have a dream.”
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: It‘s part of the controversial new CBS reality show featuring 40 kids left in a ghost town, no adults, left to fend for themselves. Not exactly your average summer camp. More like a social experiment. It may be entertaining, but is it legal? Child star Christopher Knight, aka Peter Brady, is with us in a minute, but first NBC‘s John Larson has the story.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It‘s the first ever “Kid Nation.”
JOHN LARSON, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The idea of 40 kids, no adults, living in a ghost town. Reality TV meets “The Lord of the Flies.”
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is our world.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kids can do just as much as adults can do.
LARSON: But here‘s the problem: The state of New Mexico wondered whether the taping of “Kid Nation” last April violated child labor laws.
CARLOS CASTANEDA, NEW MEXICO DEPARTMENT OF LABOR: We were a little concerned about the kids and the type of environment they were in. I don‘t see where this state is going to bend its rules for anyone.
LARSON: The kids were hauling water, cleaning latrines, cooking meals, and missing school. Sure, there were adults taping the show, but was it safe?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It‘s just been really stressful, and I guess I‘m just going to have to keep pushing.
LARSON: One parent complained her daughter had been burned while cooking and there wasn‘t proper adult supervision. New Mexico labor officials say they tried to investigate but were prevented from inspecting the site.
CASTANEDA: In the end, we were unable to contact any of the production staff.
LARSON: CBS, who according to New Mexico labor officials argued the show was like summer camp, yesterday called the complaints against “Kid Nation” irresponsible and said CBS had onsite paramedics, a pediatrician, a child psychologist, and others.
New Mexico‘s attorney general so far has found no violation, which means “Kid Nation” may already be getting the two things every reality TV show needs: controversy and publicity.
MICHAEL SCHNEIDER, TV EDITOR, “VARIETY”: I think what will make or break the show is, a, does it seem like the kids were exploited on the show? You know, there are clips of them crying. Does that turn off people? Or is it done in a way that‘s tasteful enough that people are willing to suspend their concerns and will come back the following week?
LARSON: And advanced publicity apparently can sway even the toughest audience.
CASTANEDA: I‘m even anxiously awaiting “Kids Nation.”
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Forty kids, one town, no adults. Welcome to “Kid Nation.”
LARSON: John Larsen, NBC News, Los Angeles.
ABRAMS: Joining us now to talk about this, former child star Christopher Knight, best known as Peter Brady. Knight went on to be part of “The Surreal Life” and just wrapped up taping a new reality show. Loyola law Professor Stan Goldman and concerned 9-year-old Milo Goodell, who we just think is a really smart kid and we wanted to talk to him about it.
All right, Chris Knight, let me start with you. Look, you‘ve done both the reality show thing, you‘ve also grown up in front of a camera. What do you make of the show?
CHRISTOPHER KNIGHT, REALITY TV STAR: You know, it‘s hard for me to assess. I haven‘t seen the show yet. But I don‘t know if there‘s really been any law broken. But I would think that the parents, being the first line of defense for any child...
ABRAMS: When you were shooting “The Brady Bunch”...
KNIGHT: ... has been asleep at the wheel.
ABRAMS: When you were shooting “The Brady Bunch,” for example, parents were on set at all times, right?
KNIGHT: Not only were parents on set, you had to have a guardian on set. But the state also mandated, and we were a union show, so the union supported that mandate, that there is a welfare worker who is there as your advocate. And, in fact, if the production company needed to go over with the child, it wasn‘t the parent intervening, telling them that they were going over and that needed to stop, but the welfare worker was responsible for that.
ABRAMS: What do you make—I mean, look, you looked at some of the language that these parents signed to let their kids film this show. And you signed waivers for reality shows before. Does it trouble you that the parents effectively were signing away the kids‘ right?
KNIGHT: Absolutely it troubles me. I think that the parents are the ones exploiting the children. And maybe they didn‘t even know they were. But, I mean, I can‘t believe that the payday is that compelling that you would, as your child‘s legal representative, sign a document like. And that‘s a standard document for reality television. And though I‘ve signed one, I‘m an adult. I make those decisions for myself. But in this case, a parent is signing that document for a child, and the child is the one to pay the consequences.
ABRAMS: All right, before I get to Stan Goldman on the legal issues, I want to get the most important perspective here, and that‘s from Milo. Milo is a 9-year-old, and we just asked him on the program because we just think he‘s a smart 9-year-old kid. All right, so, Milo, based on what you‘ve seen of the show, the idea that kids your age, 8 to 15, being taken out into sort of a ghost town and being told to create their own society by themselves, no parental supervision, what do you make of it?
MILO GOODELL, CONCERNED NINE-YEAR-OLD: I think that—I don‘t think that that was a right thing to do. They...
ABRAMS: Why not?
GOODELL: They could have—I think they could have been injured.
And I don‘t think that parents or the children should have taken that risk.
ABRAMS: Now, Milo, if you had been asked to do it, right, I mean, if you were told, “Hey, here‘s an opportunity to be on this show. They‘re going to create their own society, but no parents are going be around, and you‘re going to have to fend for yourself against these older kids,” what would you have said?
GOODELL: I would say I don‘t think that this is a great program to actually make. And, no, I would not like to be part of something like this.
ABRAMS: Why not?
GOODELL: Because it might—it might be dangerous. And I think that it might, you know, affect some—the children might be not—they might not have—they might not have realized exactly what it would have been like. And I think that, once you were in, even though you could drop out, it would be pretty hard to drop out, you know? You know, like just like drop out?
ABRAMS: I think that‘s a really good point, Milo. I mean, you‘re basically saying that, you know, you think that it would be hard, once you‘re there, even though you‘re allowed to leave, to say, “I want to get out of here.” Right?
KNIGHT: You have to have a lot of guts to do that.
ABRAMS: Yes. You really do. I mean, to be the kid at that age to say, “I want out of this” is tough. And I think Milo is representing, you know, what most kids would feel like.
All right, Stan, let‘s talk law real quick on this. They signed this agreement. They basically waive every single possible right that they could have to ever do anything, right?
STAN GOLDMAN, LOYOLA UNIVERSITY LAW PROFESSOR: Well, you read that contract, it‘s unbelievable. It‘s exactly what adults sign. But I‘ve got to tell you, you should understand that it has very little validity when it comes to the children. A parent can‘t waive all their children‘s rights. What they can waive is—it‘s like any field trip or sending a kid off to camp. You waive, in effect, no matter what you sign, the right to sue over normal risks, but not some sort of gross negligence or abuse or terrible neglect. The kids have their own rights.
And, by the way, the statute of limitations (INAUDIBLE) you get an 8-year-old who is injured and his parents have waived it, at age 18 the statute that begins to run. That kid could sue over individually as an adult any damages he may receive.
ABRAMS: Let me read from some of the contract. “I hereby release and hold harmless the producers from any medical assistance, treatment, or services provided. I hereby waive any privacy rights in the context of the minors‘ participation, regardless of whether the minor is aware that recording of the minors‘ actions and conversations is taking place. I hereby provide my consent for the producers to search the minors‘ person and the minors‘ belongings without limitations by x-ray or similar device.” Any law, Stan, that you think in New Mexico that would prevent them from doing it?
GOLDMAN: Well, you know, the contract—first of all, it might very well be labor. I mean, I can see CBS‘s argument, but the more you look at this, it sort of does smack a little of the Dickensian work camps, you know, as opposed to some, you know, like summer camp you‘re going away to, because these kids were working, and they were getting paid. They were getting $5,000 a piece for the work, and apparently they understood that. So there is something about this that strikes one that they should have sent this over to the labor board first to clear it before production.
ABRAMS: Chris, the kids are getting $5,000 generally for appearing on this program. How does that compare, do you think, to the money that reality show people make?
KNIGHT: Well, the kind of reality show that I have done is...
ABRAMS: You‘re a big star. You‘re a different level.
KNIGHT: So the monies are different. So, frankly, it‘s probably right on par. You know, I would imagine they could have found 40 children to do this or parents willing to sign off on that contract for kids to do it when there wouldn‘t have been any pay and only maybe a payday at the end for the winner.
ABRAMS: All right, Chris Knight and Stan Goldman, thanks very much for coming on the program. Appreciate it.
And, Milo, you get a special thank you, because you were so great, and it was very brave of you to come on the show and talk to us. And I know you did a lot of research before you came on. So thank you for that, as well. It was great to have you on.
Coming up—I love him. He‘s great. Coming up, a Barbie you don‘t want to take home to your kids. Milo, close your ears. A toy company, Mattel, is suing a porn star for using the name of the famous toy. China Barbie joins us, next.
And later, talk about fantasy football. We‘ll talk to a 59-year-old who‘s getting a second chance to take the field as a college football player. That‘s coming up in “Winners and Losers.”
ABRAMS: You would think toy company Mattel has a lot to worry about these days, what with 19 million of their Chinese-made toys deemed unsafe for kids in a massive recall. Still, Mattel‘s lawyers have carved out some time from that child safety concern to go after a porn star using the name Barbie. On Tuesday, Mattel went to court to stop the Web site of adult film star China Barbie from using the toy icon‘s name.
Joining us now, the woman at the center of the controversy, China Barbie...
CHINA BARBIE, ADULT FILM STAR: Hi.
ABRAMS: ... hi—as well as adult film star Mary Carey.
All right, thanks to both of you for coming on the program. Appreciate it. All right, China Barbie, let me start with you. How did you first hear about this controversy? And how long have you had the Web site up?
BARBIE: I first heard about it yesterday. And a friend of mine called me and told me it was in the news. And I‘ve had the Web site for five years.
ABRAMS: So this is the first time you‘ve heard from Mattel, even though you‘ve had the Web site up for five years?
BARBIE: Yes. And I‘ve had the name for about six years.
ABRAMS: And is it true that you went from getting like 100 hits a day on your site to 100,000?
ABRAMS: Because of the lawsuit?
BARBIE: Because of this, yes.
ABRAMS: So this has been good for business?
BARBIE: Good for hits. Good for exposure.
ABRAMS: All right. Speaking of exposure, Mary, what do you make of this?
MARY CAREY, ADULT FILM STAR: You know, basically, I see where Mattel is coming from, because it‘s a dilution of trademark, which means she‘s using something that is a famous trademark and kind of portraying it in a different way. And I can see where, you know, Mattel would be upset, because, you know, Barbie is a toy generally made for children. And so if someone types in China Barbie, or if they search Barbie, this could pop it, which would, you know, kind of get people under the age of 18 looking at adult Web sites. And being in the adult industry and a member of the Free Speech Coalition, I definitely don‘t want to take a chance on minors looking at adult Web sites. I work really hard to make sure that it‘s, you know, just for adults.
ABRAMS: China, what of that?
CAREY: But I do feel bad for her right now.
BARBIE: No, no, no, there is a disclaimer and a block from Net Nanny and a couple of other associations that block minors. You see that on the Web site. I‘ve never marketed to children. And because of the exposure, now children would know about me when they hadn‘t before. And I had not even—you know, I don‘t understand coming from another porn star who used the name Mariah Carey, so I really don‘t understand. There are other girls with the name Barbie in their name, other porn stars, and this is really about Mattel going against me.
CAREY: Well, I mean, first of all, you know, the Barbie, I think if she spelled it differently, that would be quite another thing. It‘s just that Barbie has been trademarked for 48 years, you know, by Mattel. So I can see where they‘re coming from with this. Now, I don‘t think they should be suing her for $100,000. I think a simple warning letter telling her to change that name.
Now, Mariah Carey, it‘s true, I have been, you know, having a fight with her over my name. But I‘m still—we‘re coming to a settlement agreement very soon. But, you know, Mariah is another person. And I see where she‘s coming from. I don‘t think they should sue her, just maybe simply a letter would have been fine, telling her to change...
ABRAMS: Here‘s what they say in the lawsuit. “This domain name is confusingly similar to and dilutive of the Barbie trademarks. It has damaged the reputation, business, and goodwill of Mattel.” I mean, Mary...
CAREY: I don‘t think that‘s true at all. That‘s not true. I don‘t think she‘s damaging, like, the name.
ABRAMS: All these porn names, all these movies have names that are sort of mocking of, like, real movies, right? I mean, they use all these sort of...
CAREY: That‘s very common, yes.
ABRAMS: They play on words all the time, right?
CAREY: Very common.
CAREY: No, yes, we had “Black”—something—“down.” I can‘t say the word, instead of “Blackhawk Down.” There have been many titles like that. And I definitely—you know, I can see where Mattel is coming from, but I don‘t agree that she should be getting sued for this. I think maybe just change the name slightly, because I don‘t think she‘s caused any damage to Mattel at this point.
ABRAMS: Barbie, final word? It‘s a good thing that we‘ve got this full screen up, just so people understand—they can see this is Barbie. This is China Barbie...
ABRAMS: ... just in case you‘re confused. Go ahead, China, final word.
BARBIE: Look at the timing that this is happening, right when they are in trouble right now. So why—I mean, why come after me? Go after the other girls with the Barbie name. Go after other people. Don‘t just come after me.
ABRAMS: China Barbie and Mary Carey, thanks a lot. Appreciate it.
CAREY: Thank you very much.
ABRAMS: Up next, Russia‘s president loses his shirt, politicians lose their cool, and has this 59-year-old college football player lost his mind? The day‘s “Winners and Losers,” coming up.
ABRAMS: Time for tonight‘s “Winners and Losers” for this 23rd day of August, 2007.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS (voice-over): Our first loser, lawmakers in Bolivia, who flexed their muscles in an all-out brawl on the floor of Congress. The rival congressmen threw wild punches during a heated debate over judges and corruption. At least one was injured, but it did put Bolivia back in the headlines for more than just one type of blow.
Our first winner, Russian President Vladimir Putin making sure no one throws any blows his way with a classic form of Cold War deterrence. Show ‘em what you got. Putin flexed his muscled for the camera during a recent trip to Siberia, a photo op that left his pecs flashed across Russian front pages for days. Don‘t mess with Vlad.
The second winner, seven Wisconsin cheese factory workers who won the Wisconsin lottery again. Last year, seven of the same co-workers took home more than $208 million. Now they‘ve hit the jackpot again, winning another $10,000 bucks. Chump change for this team of millionaire cheeseheads who remain together at the factory even after they struck it rich.
Our second loser, this chump wedding crasher who struck it rich without any luck at all. Security cameras caught the uninvited cheese ball stealing from the gift table. He looked for big presents and small envelopes and walked away with $1,500 in checks, cash and cards.
But the big loser of the day, the Baltimore Orioles baseball team. Last night, they became the first team in more than 100 years to give up 30 runs in one game. They lost to the Texas Rangers 30-3.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is an absolute massacre!
ABRAMS: And the Rangers actually made a come back. The score had been 3-0 in favor of the Orioles before the Texas pounding began.
BOB UECKER, ACTOR-SPORTSCASTER: Vaughn into the wind up and his first offering, just a bit outside. He tried the corner and missed. Ball four. Ball eight.
ABRAMS: The big winner of the day, 59-year-old comeback kid Mike Flynt, who seems ready to take a Texas pounding as a college football player more than 30 years after he left the field. Kicked off the Sul Ross state football team in Texas before his senior year in 1971, Flynt has now earned a spot on the Division III team for the upcoming season.
HENRY WINKLER, ACTOR: Bobby, can you do this for me? Every single game, can you do this?
ADAM SANDLER, ACTOR: Oh, not only will I do it for you. Yes, yes, I‘ll do it for you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: All right. You know, it‘s part of the show where we go interview the person related to the show. We were supposed to talk to Steve Wright, head coach of the state football team. He was a no show.
Corey? Corey‘s my producer in the control happen. Want to tell me what happened? Corey, we can‘t hear you. All right, we can‘t hear a word Corey is saying. So you know what? Everyone is going, what? What? Not only do we not get the guest, but then our control room camera doesn‘t work either. All right. Forget that.
Anyway, all right, thanks to the coach for not showing up. That‘s all the time we have for tonight. Rather than waste your time, let‘s stay tuned. Stick around. “Murder by the Sea,” a young American moves to Nicaragua and soon finds himself accused of killing his girlfriend, a murder he swears he did not commit. Thanks for watching. See you tomorrow.
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