Guest: Michael Smerconish, Stephanie Miller
DAN ABRAMS, HOST: Tonight: “American Idol,” political-style. All three presidential candidates were just on TV‘s big talent show.
Tonight: We‘ll ask our very own glittering panel of judges: Michael Smerconish, Stephanie Miller, and Lawrence O‘Donnell, how they did.
And: New information from inside that polygamy compound. A confidential informant helped break the case, but then, why did police wait so long to go in?
And reality bites for those “girls gone wild,” now facing life in prison to that brutal beating caught on tape. They are being charged as adults.
VERDICT starts now.
“American Idol” just concluded with all three presidential candidates paying homage at the “Idol” altar.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I‘d like to say a few words, not just as the father of two young girls who are big “American Idol” fans, but someone who believes deeply in what tonight‘s show is all about.
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: For all the hours of enjoyment that “American Idol” has given us, I hope you can give back through “Idol gives back.” Thank you very much.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, ® PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: “American Idol” is a lot like a presidential primary election, except for people who live in Michigan and Florida. Their votes will actually count.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: John McCain, the funniest of the three. It was a special edition to help raise money for charity. But come on, this was also an effort to campaign. To talk to a huge audience, many of whom may not be following the campaign closely.
So, isn‘t it fair to ask even the most devoted of “Idol” fans, isn‘t this an odd way for the candidates to try to show they are best suited to run the country?
Joining me now: Radio talk show host, Michael Smerconish; Stephanie Miller, host of the “Stephanie Miller Show”; and, political analyst, Lawrence O‘Donnell.
Michael, John McCain, the funniest of the three?
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: It doesn‘t surprise me. I mean, McCain‘s got a great wit. If you read his book, “Faith of My Fathers,” he‘s a hell of a funny guy. Did you know that he once dated “Marie the Flame of Florida,” an exotic dancer from Florida? I didn‘t know that until I read his book. He‘s a funny man and I know it because he told us.
ABRAMS: Yes. All right. Now, Lawrence, let me ask you the question I was asking before, isn‘t this an odd way? I mean, we can claim it‘s for charity. Bottom line is: all three of the candidates got bumped from the show yesterday in favor of a series of “A” and “B” list celebrities and this is effectively an effort to campaign, isn‘t it?
LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, POLITICAL ANALYST: Dan, it‘s the single biggest audience you can reach in one shot. The only bigger audience watches the Super Bowl. And so this is where the candidates are going to go. And because it has a charitable context on it this week, it enabled them to do it. I think in a regular week of the show, it would be a much stranger fit for them.
And the fact that all three of them did it, legitimizes each other doing it. But this is—“American Idol” has a lot of undecided viewers watching. And this is the kind of thing that the undecided voter does. The undecided voter is watching this kind of show.
The undecided voter doesn‘t spend a lot of time watching cable news. They don‘t really very care much about what we‘re talking about. They‘re watching “American Idol.” That‘s where to find them.
ABRAMS: Yes. But, Stephanie, again, let me get back to this John McCain. I mean, John McCain, the only one who wrote some comedy into his very brief routine. Shouldn‘t all of them have been sort of funny and accessible? I mean, they had a very limited time to give their sort of one-line remark. You‘re a comedian.
STEPHANIE MILLER, HOST, “THE STEPHANIE MILLER SHOW”: You know, Dan, in my personal opinion, in the immortal words of Randy Jackson, “it‘s a little pitchy, dawg.” It‘s a sad day for Democracy for all of us.
Here‘s what I would like to see. I‘d like to see Simon Cowell be at the presidential debates, wouldn‘t you like that? I would like to see him go, “that is the worst analogy I‘ve ever heard. World War II has nothing to do with Iraq, Senator McCain.”
ABRAMS: And we cut out the part where McCain is joking about the fact that he‘s going to work on his new immigration policy and he says, watch out, Simon Cowell. I mean, John McCain becomes the “American Idol” star tonight in his very brief comment.
All right. But let me move on from this for a second. Because all the candidates have been appearing on late-night shows, they‘ve been appearing on talk shows. They‘ve been trying to humanize themselves. So, we put together some of our favorite moments by each candidate. Let‘s start with Barack Obama.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: A point Mitt Romney, secretary of lookin ‘good.
JAY LENO, TALK SHOW HOST: If you watch the pundits and the polls, Hillary appears to be a shoo-in is what they say. How discouraging is that?
OBAMA: Oh, it‘s not discouraging. It ought to be—Hillary is not be the first politician in Washington to declare mission accomplished a little too soon.
TYRA BANKS, TALK SHOW HOST: A crystal ball.
OBAMA: Oh, that‘s nice. Let me take a look at that.
BANKS: What do you see in your future, senator?
OBAMA: I see the White House right there.
BARBARA WALTERS, TV HOST: We‘ve got to close because we‘re a live show.
OBAMA: I‘m just already to go.
WALTERS: Come back -
OBAMA: You know I will. Although I think you, guys, might want to have Michelle back the next time, because she will dish the dirt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Lawrence O‘Donnell, you‘re a political guy with Hollywood connections. When Obama goes on those shows, is there a big decision-making progress that goes into not wearing a tie during certain appearances and wearing a tie at other times?
O‘DONNELL: Sure. He‘s trying to strike exactly the right note with each show. I think Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton do these kinds of shows very well, actually, better than anyone who‘s tried it before. You remember, Bill Clinton was too relaxed in some of this stuff in 1992. He ended up talking about what kind of underwear he wears.
Both Hillary and Barack Obama know exactly where to draw the line on these kinds of shows, and they keep a kind of dignified distance from the personal material, and yet convey a personal feel about themselves.
ABRAMS: I wouldn‘t be so sure about that because at the end of this segment, we are going to play moments of each of candidates dancing and singing on television. So, we will get to that in a minute.
But first, I‘m going to go to Michael on this. Michael, you say John McCain, great sense of humor. Here he is doing the late night circuit.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: You look like the guy who the neighbors later say, he mostly kept to himself.
Whoopi, you shouldn‘t have gotten all dressed up, really.
You know, the difference between a lawyer and a catfish?
LENO: Don‘t know.
MCCAIN: One is a scum-sucking bottom dweller.
MCCAIN: The other is a fish.
WHOOPI GOLDBERG, TV HOST: I‘m hoping that we don‘t have the same
effect on John McCain as we had on Barack Obama, as pointed out to us by -
OBAMA: I am surrounded by women. I am surrounded by women. You‘re full of surprises.
MCCAIN: No one should be nervous on this show before the
interrogation starts. I just uh -
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Michael, we‘re yakking it up over this stuff, but this stuff matters in this campaign.
SMERCONISH: Well, it does, and, you know, from the outside looking in, you might not recognize this as being pretty sophisticated campaigning, but I think that it is. If you go on “American Idol,” I mean, it‘s a shotgun blast. Everybody in the country watches that show.
I watch that show and our whole family does. But each of these other programs, I think the appearance is designed to reach a different demographic. You know, “The View” versus the late shows versus “Dan Abrams.”
Everybody is out there. It‘s a vulcanized world in which we live. The “New York Times” said that this morning relative to the television world. So, I think they‘re casting lines into different communities that they need to reach.
ABRAMS: Here now - go ahead, Steph.
MILLER: Michael, may I just say that I have never worried about being depantsed on the “Dan Abrams Show” like clearly Barack Obama was when he got on “The View.”
SMERCONISH: It could be a first.
MILLER: I‘ve never gotten my bra frozen.
SMERCONISH: It‘s your night, Stephanie. Tonight‘s the night.
ABRAMS: Here is Hillary Clinton on the late night and daytime shows.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: I was worried I wasn‘t going to make it.
CLINTON: Yes, I was pinned down by sniper fire.
This is one of those stressful situations. Oh!
It made you look good.
BANKS: If you were a contestant on a reality show, would you rather be on “Dancing with the Stars,” “American Idol,” or “America‘s Next Top Model”?
CLINTON: Well, you know, it‘s—in my dreams, I‘d be on “America‘s Next Top Model.”
CLINTON: Number six. My vice president will never shoot anybody in the face.
UNIDENTIFIED IMPERSONATOR: I love your outfit.
CLINTON: Well, I love your outfit.
UNIDENTIFIED IMPERSONATOR: Why, thank you.
CLINTON: But I do want the earrings back.
UNIDENTIFIED IMPERSONATOR: Oh, OK.
CLINTON: Do I really laugh like that?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Stephanie, is Hillary Clinton funny?
MILLER: She is. You know, I actually just met her here in L.A. last week, and she laughed that Hillary laugh. And I got to tell you, you know, it‘s like, here‘s the thing, Dan. Here‘s the sad thing, is the comedians end up being the truth-tellers in this election. They kept telling the Bosnia sniper story and telling it and telling it and telling it, when it gets to be a late night television show, she was like, I was kidding. That was a joke.
ABRAMS: All right. I‘m going to ask each of you to be our judges, all right? Because we are now going to play a little montage of each of the candidates, not John McCain, just Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, dancing and/or singing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON (singing): The land of the free.
OBAMA (singing): Happy birthday, dear, Harris, happy birthday to you.
MCCAIN (singing): Memories, like the corners of my mind.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: I mean, come on. That one right there, Stephanie, Obama
boogying. I mean, I think he gets the cake. If he‘s the -
ABRAMS: Go ahead.
MILLER: Listen, better than Chris Matthews, is all I‘m saying. And Hillary Clinton is better than any of those McCain girls. Youch (ph).
SMERCONISH: I‘ve always been a Sinatra guy. I‘ve got to go with McCain and be a partisan on this one.
O‘DONNELL: They‘re all better singers than I am, Dan, and Obama is the best dancer who‘s ever run for president.
ABRAMS: You know, here‘s an interesting note. Here‘s an interesting note, all right? This is a tally of how many times they‘ve appeared on the talk shows. On “The View”: McCain once, Clinton once, Obama once. “Jay Leno”: McCain twice, Clinton once, Obama once. “Conan O‘Brien”: Clinton three times—sorry, McCain three times, Clinton never, Obama once. “Letterman”: McCain two, Clinton two, Obama one.
Our graphics aren‘t really following me here. But you know what I‘m saying. Basically, they‘ve all been doing the rounds on the talk shows, and I think that “American Idol” tonight—there we go. We‘re finishing it up here with the final talk show circuit. They‘re all doing it. And they all did “American Idol” tonight.
A great panel. Thank you to all of you. Appreciate it.
Coming up -
ABRAMS: Go ahead, Steph.
MILLER: Can I just say, Chris Matthews, sucky dancer, Chris Tucker, sucky dancer. Would you like to dance before I go?
ABRAMS: Well, you know, Stephanie, if there was more room, you know, everyone looks for the excuse, right? I‘ll say, if there was only more space here on the studio. If you could go a watch out (ph) of how incredibly large this studio is. There‘s plenty for room. It‘s just not happening.
Coming up, Colin Powell supports Barack Obama on Reverend Wright and dozens endorse John McCain. Our Win, Loser or Draw edition of On Their Trail is next.
And: We‘re getting in new details about that raid on a polygamist church compound in Texas. Authorities now say they had an informant in the church for four years. So, why did they wait so long to go in and stop the alleged sexual abuse? We‘ll take a look inside.
Plus: Politicians may all say they hate lobbyists, but someone likes them. Nearly $3 billion spent last year on lobbying for special interests, a record amount.
Why America Hates Washington is coming up in 60 seconds.
ABRAMS: Tonight‘s edition of Why America Hates Washington: Special interests gone wild. We learned today that last year corporations, unions, and others spent nearly $3 billion wooing Washington. That‘s a record amount and up $200 million from the year before. Topping the list of big spenders are drug and health care companies who dished out a sickening $227 million to get their way with lawmakers; insurers weren‘t far behind with $138 million, followed by electric utility companies at $113 million.
Lobbyists spending billions to lean on lawmakers who claim they can‘t be bought is another reason America Hates Washington.
We‘re On Their Trail of the candidates, including Colin Powell supporting Obama on Reverend Wright in a minute.
ABRAMS: Welcome back.
New misstatements from the Clinton camp tonight over Hillary‘s now-infamous trip to Bosnia and Obama claiming a trip he took in college now counts as foreign policy experience.
It‘s time for a Win, Lose or Draw edition of On Their Trail.
Still with us: Michael Smerconish and Lawrence O‘Donnell.
First up, Obama likes to talk about his appeal among Republicans, or as he likes to call them “Obamacans.” Well today, he got the support of a high-profile Republican, Colin Powell, on a hot-button topic. Powell praised Obama‘s handling of the Reverend Wright controversy and even took it a step further.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COLIN POWELL, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I think that Senator Obama handled the issue well. He went on television and I thought he gave a very, very thoughtful, direct speech. I admired him for giving it and I agree with much of what he said. Reverend Wright is also somebody who has made enormous contributions in his community and has turned a lot of lives around.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Wow. I mean, Powell is not endorsing anyone yet, but Michael Smerconish, that seems huge to me.
SMERCONISH: Me, too, because I regard Colin Powell with someone with tremendous credibility even in the aftermath of the statements that he made to the U.N. Security Council. I know that others don‘t see it that way but, I mean, Colin Powell is a guy that I wish, as a Republican, years ago would have put his own name forth.
And this is, in your category, you know, this is a major loss, I think for John McCain because you would absolutely expect that Colin Powell would be embracing McCain. A war hero and so forth at this stage of the campaign. I also happen to agree with what he said relative to that speech on race. I mean, he‘s right. Barack Obama knocked it out of the part when he dealt with that situation head-on.
ABRAMS: Lawrence, how big a deal, the Powell backing of Obama here?
O‘DONNELL: I think it‘s helpful to Obama. Not as helpful has it could have been in the past when Powell had a huge popularity rating. And you know, look, as far as I can tell, all Powell did was answer the questions honestly. And he‘s a guy who‘s had experience in black churches. You know, it‘s overwhelming. People who have had experience in black churches tend to see it Obama‘s way, that controversy.
ABRAMS: Well, and I think you‘re going to hear the Obama camp saying the words as Colin Powell has said, moving forward, I rule this one a big win for Obama moving on.
Next up: Bill Clinton. This one is almost hard to believe. Stumping in Boonville, Indiana, tonight while trying to defend Hillary‘s Bosnia misstatement, he misstated numerous facts of his own.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: There was a lot of culminating because Hillary one time, late at night when she was exhausted misstated and immediately apologized for it what happened to her in Bosnia in 1995.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: We added the bells, all right?
First of all, Hillary Clinton‘s trip to Bosnia was in ‘96, not ‘95. Second, she repeated the story a number of times, not just one time late at night. And third, she didn‘t apologize immediately. She waited until the media uncovered the video that proved her story false.
I mean, Lawrence, what is he doing?
O‘DONNELL: Well, look, we‘ve come to expect this of him now. He‘s become kind of the crazy uncle character in this sitcom. You know, and—but look, you know, a lot of Democrats, especially liberal Democrats out here in Hollywood, where I am, are looking at Clinton this way for the first time and they think, what‘s happened to him.
Rush Limbaugh, I would insist to you that nothing‘s happened to him, that he‘s been talking this way for 15 years, but since it‘s aimed in effect at another Democrat, only now can the Democrats see what kind of wild statements he makes and how loose he is with fact.
ABRAMS: All right. Bill Clinton but - Michael, I want you to hear this before I want you to respond, right? He didn‘t just stop there, we already named three. Here‘s another small one from the same speech.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
B. CLINTON: I think she was the first first lady since Eleanor Roosevelt to go into a combat zone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: No. As we told you on this show last month, Pat Nixon was the first American first lady since Eleanor Roosevelt to visit a war zone. She went there in ‘69.
I mean, Michael, you know, look—it seems almost incomprehensible that an issue that has gone on for this long, that Bill Clinton is out there and just overtly misstating facts with regard to what happened.
SMERCONISH: I don‘t understand why he even brought this issue up. I mean, a week ago, it was Hillary with Jay Leno and you even played the clip tonight, where she said, I came out to sniper fire and - I‘m mystified by this because I think it‘s a significant issue. I think that what it does is remind folks of some of the worst stereotypes that they ascribed to the Clintons.
And I can only imagine, Dan, that the strategy is, that they realize that she‘s been hurt by it and that they‘re trying to minimize it and make it seem that they‘ve been under attack by the most bogus of charges. I think it‘s for real. It‘s a big loss for her.
ABRAMS: This has to go as a loss for the Clinton camp.
ABRAMS: All right.
Now, finally, Obama now is trying to puff up his foreign policy credentials, by citing a college trip he took to Pakistan, telling a group of California defense attorneys, quote, “Foreign policy is the area I am probably most confident that I know more and understand the world better than Senator Clinton and Senator McCain.” OK?
“Knowing the leaders is not important. What I know is the people—I traveled to Pakistan when I was in college—I knew what Sunni and Shia was before I joined the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.”
Now, look, Obama never mentioned that trip in either of his two books, but it‘s clearly intended as a slap at McCain on the Shia/Sunni issue. But does this mean, Michael, I can cite my college partying trip to the Greek islands to bolster my credibility?
SMERCONISH: I would for you if that‘s true. Were you really there?
ABRAMS: Yes, I was.
SMERCONISH: I think, it will be -
ABRAMS: I met a lot of Greek people, too.
SMERCONISH: Then you get the Greek vote backing (ph) up for you. I think that it will be mischaracterized as, oh, look at this, the guy is even pointing to his ninth grade resume. I don‘t know that that‘s really what he‘s saying.
It is a shot at McCain. And I think he‘s saying that he‘s had some worldly experiences. Sooner or later, at the Republican convention, they‘re going to say that Barack Obama learned all that he knows about foreign policy from, you know, the international house of pancakes.
ABRAMS: Yes, but the problem, Lawrence, you can‘t use the word experience and college in the same sentence and not expect to get attacked.
O‘DONNELL: Right. I think we all know what he was trying to say, what he meant, and I think he did a very messy job of trying to say it. I don‘t think college travel is what you want to use when you‘re saying, you know, make me commander in chief.
And especially, the longer you stay with the thought, the less it‘s going to work. Because are you able to vote on the Colombia Free Trade Act if you‘ve never been to Colombia? Yes, you are. So he‘s got to be careful about this, and I think he really messed this one up.
ABRAMS: I‘m calling this a loss for Obama. Gives us a final score tonight of one win and one loss for Obama, and one loss for Clinton.
Michael Smerconish and Lawrence O‘Donnell, thanks a lot. Appreciate it.
SMERCONISH: Thank you.
ABRAMS: Coming up, prosecutors charge those teenage girls caught on tape beating another as adults. They could now face up to life in prison. It‘s clear the beating is atrocious, but should they really be tried as adults?
And: “Nightline” may have been started during the Iran hostage crisis, but now it‘s tackling issues like doggy yoga and last night‘s “bromance.” Yes, that would be a really good relationship between men. Beat the Press is next.
ABRAMS: It‘s time for tonight‘s Beat the Press: Our daily look back at media hypocrisy, agendas, and the amusing perils of live TV.
First up: To the self-described best political team on television, here‘s CNN‘s Wolf Blitzer, urging care on the questions directed at General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker on Tuesday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: They have to be very careful, because General Petraeus is a career military officer. Ambassador Crocker is a career diplomat, a foreign service officer. It‘s not as if they‘re political appointees by the Bush administration.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Really? We love Wolf, but they were appointed, their positions, by President Bush. Ambassador Crocker‘s not a political appointee?
Next up: Continuing our “Ted Koppel would be proud” series, last night, ABC‘s “Nightline,” the program that has brought us the most important stories of the day for over 25 years, tackled the always controversial topic now known as the “bromance.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What do you call it when guys, dudes, buddies become so unabashedly, unapologetically, warm and fuzzy with each other, spending all their time together? Well, there is a name for it, a “bromance.”
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: From the Iran hostages to war to “bromance.”
Finally: The “Wall Street Journal” points to a story in today‘s “Pittsburgh Post-Gazette” about jurors in a case that ended in a mistrial.
Reporter Jonathan Silver, quote one jury, “In my opinion, the plan, the scheme was a problem for me personally, said the jury foreman who requested anonymity in light of the judge‘s request that jurors not yet speak publicly.”
Since the judge knows who the jury foreman is, that‘s not going to help him a whole lot.
We need your help Beating the Press. If you see anything right or wrong, amusing or absurd, go to our Web site: Verdict.msnbc.com. Leave us a tip in the box. Please include the show and the time you saw the item.
Up next: New details in the Texas polygamy case. Beds found in the compound temple where much older men allegedly had sex with girls as young as 13, right after forced marriages.
And later: The eight teens involved in the brutal beating of another teen will now all be tried as adults, and that could mean they‘re facing to life in prison. The beating was terrible, a price should be paid, but some now saying this is the ultimate juvenile—not adult crime.
We‘ll debate, coming up.
ABRAMS: Welcome back. Authorities in Texas are revealing new details tonight about their raid of a polygamist compound this week. More than 400 children taken into protective custody. Now we learn local authorities were getting information from a confidential informant. NBC‘s Don Teague has the latest on this story. Don?
DON TEAGUE, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Dan. Today, the county sheriff who‘s helping to lead the investigation into activities on the compound confirmed that he‘s had a confidential source feeding him information about the church for the past four years.
What he won‘t say is whether or not that informant has ever actually been on the Texas compound, or exactly how much he or she knew.
(voice over): Why did authorities in Texas wait so long before raiding a polygamist compound, despite worries for years that children may have been abused?
DAVID DORAN, TEXAS SHERIFF: I have a person that I have been communicating with, and I‘m not going to go any further than that.
TEAGUE: Sheriff David Doran confirmed today he‘s been working with an informant for the past four years, gathering information about the inner workings of the FLDS church.
Court papers reveal the informant is a former member of the church. Sheriff Doran wouldn‘t say if the informant had ever been in the Texas compound. He did say there wasn‘t enough evidence to raid the ranch until last month, when a 16-year-old mother cried out for help.
DORAN: Until we get evidence that there is a problem, that‘s when we‘re able to go in and do what we need to do, and that‘s where we‘re at today.
TEAGUE: Legal experts say it‘s doubtful the informant‘s tips alone would have been enough for a search warrant.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You may have an informant. The informant may or may not be giving you sufficient information to justify probable cause.
TEAGUE (on camera): Among the other revelations today, that 60 to 70 male church members who remained at the compound during the week-long search tried to hide children from investigators.
DORAN: They were shuffled around houses. As we were searching the houses, they were playing kind of like the eggshell game and we were trying to - and we had issues with that.
TEAGUE (voice over): And when investigators finally entered the temple, they found a bed, allegedly used for sex with underage girls, along with a locked vault, safes and some shredded documents.
DORAN: And we got all the evidence that was there, we believe.
TEAGUE: Now, investigators will work to determine who, if anyone, will face criminal charges.
TEAGUE: Also today, federal authorities announced they had served a search warrant on the ranch as well - a federal warrant, but they won‘t say what they‘re looking for. They also say that the affidavit that led to that warrant will remain sealed. Dan?
ABRAMS: Thanks, Don. Now, news of this informant raises some serious issues. If they‘ve had an informant for four years and knew at least the sorts of things that were going on, why did they have to wait for this complaint to come in before they did something about it?
Joining us now, Margaret Cook who escaped a polygamist FLDS sect and prosecutor Pam Bondi. All right. Pam, what‘s the legal explanation here?
PAM BONDI, PROSECUTOR: Well, Dan, in order for an informant to be useful, the information an informant gives cannot be stale, meaning, it has to be recent information. So we now he‘s been feeding the sheriff information for four years. But what we don‘t know is how fresh that information was. And we don‘t know now whether or not he was even in the compound at any time, or if he was simply communicating with someone in there.
So that‘s very difficult. But initially you look at it and you think, this is outrageous. They‘ve had this information for four years. But it takes - as you know, it takes a very high burden to get a search warrant from the judge. And we know they didn‘t have enough information until the 16-year-old girl came forward.
ABRAMS: Look. Here, the sheriff is now under fire, a lot of people asking, you get an informant in there for four years and you didn‘t go in? The sheriff responded to questions about that today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DORAN: We did not have evidence of that - you‘re exactly right. We did not have evidence of that crime until we got this first outcry. Now, we are aware that‘s a problem amongst the community. We‘re not going to violate their civil rights until we get an outcry, complaint, and I‘ve said that from day one. Until we get evidence that there is a problem, that‘s when we‘re able to go in and do what we need to do, and that‘s where we‘re at today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Margaret, look, you told us last night about the fact that when you were part of this cult, that it was commonplace for girls to be abused, effectively brainwashed, et cetera. The sheriff is now saying, “You know what? We didn‘t have any specific reports of that.” Hard for you to accept?
MARGARET COOK, FORMER MEMBER, FLDS SECT: No, not really. I think that the girls that are raised like that, they - it‘s hard for me to accept that they‘re still doing it and that people aren‘t doing something more about it. But I think it‘s really hard to get anything that you can do about it with the way that it‘s set up.
So I think that now that there is something that can be done, I think it should be investigated, and then they should be treated fairly, with whether their child ...
COOK: ... children are abused or not. You know.
ABRAMS: Well, I mean just the idea that there‘s a bed in the temple is just so awful. The idea that they‘re just - they‘re getting married and there‘s a bed just waiting there, so the men can abuse girls. Horrible. All right. Go ahead - did you want to say something?
COOK: Yes. I think that, you know, the bed in the temple may not, you know, imply that that‘s exactly what it was used for. It may have been. But I think that, you know, the rumors out there that that‘s what it would be used for. But I‘m sure they would have other ordinances that they would use a bed for. I think that we - you know, people need to sit back, you know.
ABRAMS: Yes, it‘s a little odd. A little odd to have a bed in a temple though, isn‘t it? I mean, come on.
COOK: Well, it depends on what - yes, it‘s odd to me. I have to admit, yes.
ABRAMS: I mean - yes, OK. OK. All right. Margaret, stand by. I want to play a portion of a documentary that provides an extraordinary look inside a polygamist compound; sort of different world.
Girls seem almost to be brainwashed. They aren‘t allowed to talk to boys. They‘re taught that anyone outside the sect is wicked. Here‘s another clip from the award-winning film by Mike Watkiss called “Colorado City and the Underground Railroad.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My daughter was being raped and held by a 39-year-old man.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My dad sexually molested all of us girls.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just want to cry. I‘m afraid to even make
more friends, because I felt so bad. I feel sorry for what the women go
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They‘re slaves. They‘re slaves for the men.
This is abuse and it‘s a horrible way to live and to grow up.
MIKE WATKISS, REPORTER (voice over): It‘s a story about young girls.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don‘t think it should be me. I‘m so young.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I didn‘t want to get married, I was only 15, and I don‘t like - I don‘t think I want to be married.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wish I wouldn‘t have got married when I was 16, because I‘m too young to have three kids.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These kids are being abused. And authorities refuse to help them.
WATKISS: It‘s the story of the secretive religious sect that some have called America‘s Taliban.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE POLICE OFFICE: We believe in plural marriage.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Are you a polygamist?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I‘m not going to answer that. It‘s none of your business.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You‘re a sworn law officer. You‘re accountable to somebody. You‘ve got a complaint in this town.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But we‘re not accountable to you. Now, get that straight.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They want to control every aspect of a person‘s life.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Parker(ph), you can‘t touch the camera,
please. We can‘t -
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I consider (UNINTELLIGIBLE) much a part of America as anyone else.
WATKISS: It‘s a fundamentalist society best known for the practice of polygamy. One man, multiple wives and often dozens of children. Anti-polygamy activist Flora Jessup heading for a rendezvous with two teenage girls.
FLORA JESSUP, ANTI-POLYGAMY ACTIVIST: Let‘s go get my kids.
WATKISS: A couple of 16-year-olds who have run away from their families in Colorado City and now say they don‘t want to go back.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don‘t want to become some 50-year-old man‘s wife or something like that.
WATKISS: The two girls, best friends, who share the same first name, Faun Hall(ph) and Faun Broden(ph) on the run and hiding out in a safe house on the outskirts of La Verkin, Utah. And it‘s here in the middle of the night, the two teenagers place their fates in the hands of a woman they‘ve never met, hoping for a future outside of Colorado City and away from the practice of polygamy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can‘t talk to boys; that‘s like really wicked.
You can‘t, like, do anything. You can‘t watch movies or TV or anything.
You can‘t dress like you want to.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We‘ve always been told that people out here are wicked. And I don‘t believe everyone is wicked.
JESSUP: Can I tell you a secret, something that I found out when I left? It‘s true that we‘re all wicked, but we‘re not as wicked as them.
WATKISS: Are you going to miss your family?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, especially my mother, my little brother and sisters. My little sister Amelia.
JESSUP: I think they‘ve got a hard road ahead of them and I hope that we have enough to give them what they need. My aim is to get these kids to safety ASAP. It‘s a top priority.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Pam, in this Texas cult, a lot of the girls were pregnant, had children. Is that in and of itself evidence of a crime, that you have these pregnant young girls who are coming out of the compound?
BONDI: I would say yes.
HAMMER: Hang on. Let me let Pam Bondi answer that. Go ahead.
BONDI: Yes, Dan. It‘s statutory rape. And in Texas, anyone under 17 has to have parental consent to get married. The problem here is the parents are consenting, and it‘s so hard to infiltrate these societies. But, yes, it‘s statutory rape, and it‘s going on in our country. It‘s unbelievable.
ABRAMS: And Margaret, real quick - it‘s very hard to escape?
COOK: It is. Well, it is - it‘s not as hard to escape if you voice your opinion. It‘s hard to escape if you have children that they want to keep there. But if you don‘t believe, they‘ll actually throw you out, and they‘re not letting new people in. So it‘s just so confined and secluded that I think, you know, the underage marriage thing can be hidden and this is an opportunity to expose it and find out if it‘s really continuing and happening.
ABRAMS: Pam and Margaret, thank you very much. Appreciate it.
Up next, new developments. The eight teens who beat another teen and taped it will now be charged as adults - could face up to life in prison. The beating was awful, but some now saying it‘s the ultimate juvenile crime.
And Teri Hatcher does a good thing for charity by singing on “American Idol.” but she wasn‘t really that good. It‘s seen in “Reality Bites.” We‘re back in 60 seconds.
ABRAMS: Now, to “Reality Bites,” a dose of reality caught on tape. Tonight, actress Teri Hatcher gave it her best shot on stage. She did it last night all the sake for charity on “American Idol,” singing a Carrie Underwood song. Let‘s just say, good thing Randy, Paula, and Simon weren‘t judging.
TERI HATCHER (singing): Carved my name into his leather seats. I took a Louisville slugger to both headlights, slashed a hole in all four tires.
ABRAMS: I don‘t know. My producers thought that was awful. I thought it was fine. I mean, I don‘t know. We‘ll be right back. She did it for charity. She did fine. Coming back in a minute.
ABRAMS: Welcome back. Today in Florida, authorities announced that eight teens involved in the brutal beating of another teen will all be tried as adults. The charges include kidnapping, which includes a penalty of up to life in prison. The vicious assault lasted about 30 minutes, much of it videotaped by one of the alleged attackers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (EXPLETIVE DELETED) again. Do it! (EXPLETIVE DELETED) Liar! That‘s what you get for being a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) liar.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, I‘ll leave.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, yes, baby. Oh, yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Come on. You‘re not leaving.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: According to authorities, the victim was knocked unconscious by a girl hidden in a bedroom waiting for the victim. The question tonight, considering their ages, 14, 15, and 16, is this really the type of crime where the adult justice system, with possible long prison sentences should apply?
Here now, Florida prosecutor Pam Bondi and Florida defense attorney Michelle Suskauer. Michelle, they‘re being charged as adults. What do you make of it?
MICHELLE SASKAUER, FLORIDA DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, just because they‘re being charged as adults doesn‘t mean that‘s how it‘s going to end up. Dan, in Florida - and by the way, Dan, in case, we‘re not going to see this case going to trial. This case is going to be resolved ...
ABRAMS: OK. But do you think they should be - Wait. Do you think they should be charged as adults?
SUSKAUER: Well, I think - probably, yes. I think they probably should be. I guess there‘s no way that they were going be - let this case, because it‘s videotaped, go into the juvenile system initially. But the judge has discretion in Florida to give juvenile sanctions. And that‘s what I think may happens with at least some of these girls.
ABRAMS: All right.
SUSKAUER: The judge is going to be ... I was just going to say, Dan, that the judge has to look at a lot of different factors. And there are some factors here that could warrant juvenile sanctions here. This is a fight between girls.
ABRAMS: Look, Pam, here‘s the argument, all right? The argument is, the juvenile justice system is designed for juveniles, right? And that they can be charged as adults when they‘re particularly adult crimes. But what some have said. This is the ultimate in sort of a juvenile attack, which is, they were angry about something she wrote on Facebook and they retaliated, et cetera. What do you make of that argument?
BONDI: I completely disagree. The first blow by the 14-year-old rendered the victim unconscious. They had to shake her to wake her up so they could continue beating on her. They drove her around in a car. They threatened her that if she called the police, the beating would be worse next time. They had two boys as lookouts.
ABRAMS: So up to life in prison?
BONDI: There, Dan, I disagree.
ABRAMS: Up to life in prison?
BONDI: No, no, of course not. Of course not. That‘s not -
ABRAMS: Kidnapping is a serious charge.
BONDI: Absolutely. And Dan, that was the vehicle in which they were able to charge the 14 and 15-year-old in adult court. They added those charges, because that‘s an enumerated felony in Florida where you can treat a child that young as an adult.
What Michelle is saying, what most likely will happen, you want to get them in the adult system, nothing‘s going to happen to them in the juvenile system. They can still receive initially juvenile sanctions in the adult system.
But, Dan, you‘ve got to hang something over their head, so if they violate, meaning, if they commit a new crime or get in trouble again, something can happen to them. Then they can go to jail.
ABRAMS: So it sounds like what both of you ...
SUSKAUER: Then ...
ABRAMS: Well, it sounds like that both of you are telling me is that it‘s sort of just the opposite of how we started this which is you‘re both telling me they‘re going to probably get off pretty light here. SUSKAUER: Yes. Well, no, no, Dan. Just because - when you think juvenile sanctions, you could get probation. That‘s not going to happen here. You could go to a residential program until they‘re, I believe, 21. Or they could go and get something called a youthful offender sanction, which is up to six years in prison.
ABRAMS: All right. But let‘s be clear.
SUSKAUER: So that‘s still a very significant sanction.
ABRAMS: But in a juvenile facility, right?
SUSKAUER: Well, no. A youthful offender, and I‘m sure Pam agrees - a youthful offender is still going to an adult prison. You‘re going to be housed with juveniles, but it‘s prison.
ABRAMS: All right. So that‘s the question. Pam, final - so it is possible that these girls will be sitting next to, you know, murderers, whatever else - the people who are in prison for very serious crimes - are in prison for?
BONDI: Well, I know this state attorney. He‘s a very fair state attorney; I‘m privileged to know him. No, I don‘t think on a first offense, these girls are going to go to prison.
SUSKAUER: No. That‘s not going to happen.
BONDI: But I do think they need to be in the adult system so they‘ll know they face consequences if they mess up.
ABRAMS: I get it. I get it. All right. Pam Bondi, Michelle Suskauer, interesting stuff. Thanks a lot.
SUSKAUER: Thank you.
ABRAMS: Up next, will tonight‘s big winner or loser of the day, will it be Dr. Phil, stripped of his title as Oprah‘s favorite doctor; David Vitter, who many say should be stripped of his senate seat, gets support from wide stance Senator Larry Craig; or fallen Olympic sprinter Marion Jones whose relay teammates were just stripped of their medals because of her.
Plus, your E-mails - we call it “P.O.‘d Box” for a reason. Be right back.
ABRAMS: Time for tonight‘s “Winners and Losers.” Our first loser, David Vitter. Louisiana senator who now could be called to testify in the D.C. madam scandal, got some support and advice he could probably do without.
Wide stance Senator Larry Craig said, quote, “In these kind of issues, it‘s the state and the relationship you have with your state that really determines where you ought to go. That was certainly in my case. The senate itself wasn‘t going to judge me. I would allow the citizens of my state to do so, and there‘s still strong support there.” It sort of reminds me of when O.J. offered up support for Scott Peterson.
Loser - disgraced Olympics sprinter, Marion Jones who‘s already been stripped of all five of the medals she won at the Sydney games after admitting to steroid use. Now she‘s cost her relay teammates their medals too. The, IOC decided today to take their bronze and gold medals, the ones that Jones won with them. Now serving a six-month jail sentence for lying to federal investigators.
But our big loser of the day - Dr. Phil. Not only has his mentor, Oprah Winfrey gotten a second opinion and found a new favorite doctor in Dr. Mehmet Oz. But she‘s grooming him for his own show that will directly compete with a new show Dr. Phil is rolling out next year. It‘s never good to go against Oprah.
Our big winner of the day, landscaper Eli Estrada who turned in a bag he found on the street with a $140,000 in cash. No questions asked. The bank money bag was lost by an armored vehicle, delivering it to a local bank. Now. there are questions whether the company did the right thing, only giving him a $2,000 reward.
Time for the “P.O.‘d Box,” your chance to tell me what you hate or love about the show. First up, last night, we talked about Bill and Hillary‘s disagreement on some central campaign issues. Hillary‘s repeated her opposition to a Columbia free trade deal. Bill was paid $800,000 for speeches by an organization pushing for it.
Stan Richman, “Hillary is a closet supporter of the Colombian trade deal. However, opposing Bill makes it look like she‘s independent of him.”
Devonne writes, “I know in my home , my wife‘s income benefits me and vice versa. So how is it assumed that Bills‘ $800,000 doesn‘t benefit Hillary?”
Maggie says, “The issue with Hill and Bill is not that they disagree with each other. It‘s the $800,000 he received and she received by association.”
All right. Look, it‘s a fair point. But are you saying that we have to hold off spouses responsible for their husbands‘ and wives‘ business dealings and political opinions? If a Republican man is married to a woman who runs a company, he‘s then responsible for all the activities of her company?
And the book bag debate continues. Many of you wrote in, questioning Hillary Clinton‘s recollection of Martin Luther King‘s assassination, saying she couldn‘t have flung her book bag across the room because there were no book bags, many of you said, in 1968.
But at least as many wrote to defend her. Danny Panode says, “I got a book bag every year on my birthday starting in 1966.
And Barbara Martinez, “Many of us used book bags 40 years ago. Perhaps some people need to realize that not everybody on the planet has had the same exact experiences as they have.”
Fair enough, you know. I don‘t know. I was only 2 at the time. I don‘t know how prevalent book bags were. We‘re not doing it again, though. So - I mean we‘re interested. Everyone, you can keep writing in about whether there were book bags then. We had a slew of people saying, there were no book bags. There were no book bags. Look, I don‘t know.
That‘s all the time we have for tonight. E-mail us, email@example.com. Please include your name, where you‘re writing from. Our Web site, Verdict.MSNBC.com.
Have a great weekend. We‘ll see you Monday night.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.