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'Verdict with Dan Abrams' for Tuesday, April 29

Read the transcript to the Tuesday show

Guests: Dan Abrams, Chris Matthews, Lawrence O‘Donnell, Lee Cowan, Paul Davis, Clint Van Zandt, Lynn Sweet, Tanya Acker, Jennfer Spaulding

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Tonight: Obama slams Reverend Wright.  We‘ll play an unedited portion of his extraordinary statement.

And did it work?  Will this put the Wright issue to rest, even temporarily?

HARDBALL‘s Chris Matthews is here along with our great panel.

And: New information on the man who confessed to keeping his daughter in an underground bunker for 24 years where she was repeatedly raped and had seven children.

VERDICT starts now.

Hi, everyone.  Welcome to the show.

Today: Barack Obama says, “Enough is enough,” slamming his former pastor Jeremiah Wright after Wright‘s weekend publicity tour where he repeated some of his most controversial statements and accused Obama of distancing himself from Wright only because he‘s a politician.  Rather than just play pieces of what Obama said on this extraordinary press conference, here‘s an extended clip of exactly what Obama said.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Yesterday, we saw a very different vision of America.  I am outraged by the comments that were made and saddened over the spectacle that we saw yesterday.

You know, I have been a member of Trinity United Church of Christ since 1992.  I have known Reverend Wright for almost 20 years.  The person I saw yesterday was not the person that I met 20 years ago.

His comments were not only divisive and destructive, but I believe that they end up giving comfort to those who prey on hate and I believe that they do not portray accurately the perspective of the black church. 

They certainly don‘t portray accurately my values and beliefs.  And if

Reverend Wright thinks that that‘s political posturing, as he put it, then,

he doesn‘t know me very well.  And based on his remarks yesterday, well, I

may not know him as well as I thought either

Now, I‘ve already denounced the comments that had appeared in these previous sermons.  As I said, I had not heard them before.  And I gave him the benefit of the doubt in my speech in Philadelphia explaining that he has done enormous good in the church.  He‘s built a wonderful congregation.  The people of Trinity are wonderful people and what attracted me has always been their ministry‘s reach beyond the church walls.

But when he stated and then amplifies such ridiculous propositions as the U.S. government somehow being involved in AIDS, when he suggests that Minister Farrakhan somehow represents one of the greatest voices of the 20th and 21st century, when he equates the United States wartime efforts with terrorism then there are no excuses.  They offend me.  They rightly offend all Americans.  And they should be denounced.  And that‘s what I‘m doing very clearly and unequivocally here today.


ABRAMS:  We‘re going to play more from that press conference in a moment.

But joining me is Lynn Sweet from the “Chicago Tribune,” she‘s been covering Obama since his Senate run.  Political analyst, Lawrence O‘Donnell; and, Tanya Acker; are with us as well.

All right.  Lynn, how hard was this for Obama to do?

LYNN SWEET, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES:  I‘m with the “Chicago Sun Times.” 

Better say that so my bosses don‘t get me in trouble.

ABRAMS:  Sorry about that.

SWEET:  But to your question, Dan, very painful, very hard for Obama.  This is a painful chapter but he was upset about this.  He was angry and I think Wright‘s actions at the National Press Club yesterday made it easier for him to go and do this today.

ABRAMS:  Lawrence, I mean, it seem—do you agree that this is a political no-brainer?

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, POLITICAL ANALYST:  Oh, sure.  It‘s a political response but it was an unscripted response.  He wasn‘t there with teleprompters over a written text.  He came out there and basically told the story of his experience of watching this over the last 24 hours.  He says he hadn‘t seen it earlier in the day yesterday, finally got to see it last night and decided he had to come out and do this.

Both politically and tactically, I‘m sure and it also seemed and I‘ll take Lynn‘s guidance on this, she knows him, it seemed personal at certain points.  He talked about he felt disrespected by Reverend Wright.  There were some very personal elements on it between the Reverend Wright and Barack Obama.

SWEET:  Absolutely.  Absolutely, Larry.  He went back last night and he saw—this is what I found out—he finally had a chance to go through the transcript.  He saw some of the clips, I don‘t think the whole thing and he decided on the spot, so I‘m told, that he wanted to have a more forceful response today than the statement he made on the tarmac on Monday, because he realized he just didn‘t do enough.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  All right.  Tanya, let me do this.  Let me let you—I want you to listen to another piece of sound from Obama today and then, I want to ask you about it.


OBAMA:  I understand that I think he was pained and angered from what had happened previously during the first stage of this controversy.  I think he felt vilified and attacked and I understand that he wanted to defend himself.  You know, I understand that, you know, he‘s gone through difficult times of late and that he‘s leaving his ministry after many years and so, you know, that may account for the change.  But the insensitivity and the outrageousness of his statements and his performance in the question and answer period yesterday, I think, shocked me.  It surprised me.


ABRAMS:  Tanya, this is about as hard as you can go after the guy, I think, at this point.  I mean, he‘s being so, and I think rightly so condescending to Reverend Wright, talking about the difficult times he‘s been going through, trying to explain in essence how this guy who doesn‘t at all reflect what he says he knew has come out and done this.

TANYA ACKER, POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, remember that really masterful speech that Senator Obama gave in March in Philadelphia where instead of simply attacking Reverend Wright and making it about Reverend Wright, he did something, I think, was politically courageous.  And he said, “We‘re going to talk about these resentments, these black resentments, these white resentments,” and he really tried to elevate the conversation and make it a bigger conversation about race in America.

Reverend Wright would not let that be and really threw Barack Obama under the bus this past weekend.  And I think that, you know, Obama really had no choice but to come out in this way and I think that it was really personal and he was appropriately angry.

ABRAMS:  You mention Philadelphia.  And here, Obama is talking about in essence why he said what he did in Philadelphia and why he felt the need to come out and speak again now.


OBAMA:  I tried to do in Philadelphia was to provide a context and to lift up some of the contradictions and complexities of race in America of which, you know, Reverend Wright is a part and we‘re all a part and try to make something constructive out of it.

But there wasn‘t anything constructive out of yesterday.  All it was a bunch of rants that aren‘t grounded in truth.  And, you know, I can‘t construct something positive out of that.  Yesterday, I think he caricatured himself.  And that was, as I said, that made me angry but also made me sad.


ABRAMS:  Lynn Sweet, you know this campaign, you know the people associated with it, is the translation here: I‘m sorry I didn‘t go after him harder Philadelphia?

SWEET:  No.  It‘s disappointment that Wright didn‘t do, if I‘m kind of paraphrasing what Obama thought was the right thing which was to just stay on the sideline.  You know, Obama gave him the benefit of the doubt.  A big benefit of the doubt because I think what we‘ve learned in the last four or five days that the stuff that Reverend Wright talked at dealing with terrorism, with whether or not the government had anything to do with spreading the AIDS virus—you know, it was out of context.

We now heard a lot of him.  And by the way, you know, he was on and off a lot on Sunday night, too.  So, Reverend Wright cannot complain about this.

But he had to do this also because these elections are coming up Tuesday in North Carolina and Indiana.  So, there is no time to predicate about what to do.

ABRAMS:  And Lawrence, it seems to me that Reverend Wright has demonstrated what an ingrate he is in the sense that Obama really held his fire previously, saying: You know what—even though this is a political problem for me, I‘m not going to distance myself from this guy yet.

Let me throw this one to Lawrence.  And this is the reward he got for the Philadelphia speech.

O‘DONNELL:  Well, if Jeremiah Wright were a member of Congress we could expect a certain kind of political behavior on his part.  He‘s not.  He‘s a proud man.  You can see that pride every time he talks.

And, you know, Obama said today it was an accumulation of these things.  He didn‘t think there was anything terribly wrong with the Bill Moyer‘s appearance.  It seemed to give Reverend Wright a chance to present the reasonable version of himself.  He wasn‘t really complaining very much about the appearance at the appearance at the NAACP.

But he said that it all today, amounted to a three-day taking of the stage and then the final thing being at the National Press Club where in effect, let‘s remember, the news media decided on Monday to create a new story by inviting him into their house.  It was a specifically a Hillary Clinton supporter, Barbara Reynolds who used to be at “USA Today” invited him in.

SWEET:  No.  That was not the case.  Larry, hold on.  Larry, that‘s not how it happened.  If you want I can tell you a little bit of how it unfolded.

ABRAMS:  Quickly.  Yes.

SWEET:  It‘s not—quickly, the National Press Club had an invitation to Reverend Wright for a few years but less than important enough From Barbara Reynolds who‘s a member.


ABRAMS:  Hang on.  Lawrence, let her finish and I‘ll get you respond.

SWEET:  (INAUDIBLE) straighten this out.  She is a minister now, former journalist with the “Chicago Tribune.”  She‘s a member of the speaker‘s committee.  There is a conference in town where Wright would be in town for this black church conference.

The point isn‘t who invited him.  The point is from the Wright perspective is that he accepted it and he had never been before the major media before.  This was a very high stakes venue.  I think he was gotten some bad advice because if he thought he would get softball questions, he went to the wrong place.  The speakers‘ committee has nothing to do with the campaign and it‘s a different group of people.

ABRAMS:  Lawrence, quick response, then I want to play another piece of sound of Obama.

O‘DONNELL:  Barbara Reynolds is on the speaker‘s committee.  Wright was her idea.  She‘s a Hillary Clinton supporter and the club is a press club.  The press created Monday.  They created the event.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Well, look, to blame this sort of the more conspiratorial theory on this that this was sort of a Hillary backer that got this going and as a result, I mean, that seems sort of nonsensical, the idea that.

O‘DONNELL:  Did she—wait.  Did Barbara Reynolds think this was going to be good for Obama or Hillary?

ABRAMS:  I don‘t care about her.  She‘s not the point.

SWEET:  One person, Larry, come on, you know.  I don‘t know - I‘m involved, I‘m a member of the club for what it‘s worth.  They have committees.  This was not one person going in and booking.  So, we have enough to discuss here that we could keep on, we have plenty of grease here.

ABRAMS:  And you know what else we have to do?  We‘ve got a lot more sound from Barack Obama which I want to play from today.  Everyone‘s going to stick around.  The question though: Did Obama do enough today to put the Reverend Wright issue behind him?

Up next: HARDBALL‘s Chris Matthews tells us whether this could be a turning point in the Obama campaign.

And: Congress votes on a “National Watermelon Month” and a “National Funeral Director‘s Month.”  Your Congress hard at work: Another reason Why America Hates Washington.

What is your VERDICT?  E-mail us at Your e-mails during the P.O.‘ed box at the end of the show.  Be sure to include your name, where you‘re writing from.  Back in 60 seconds.


ABRAMS:  Tonight‘s edition of Why America Hates Washington: As the economy tanks and two wars grind on the House of Representatives voted today on whether it‘s worth having a “National Watermelon Month,” a “National Funeral Director and Mortician Recognition Day” and a “National Letter Carriers‘ Day.”  I love my watermelon as much as the next guy, and letter carriers and morticians should be appreciated, but maybe not by Congress—maybe not now.  The fruit and funeral Congress: Another reason Why America Hates Washington.

We‘re back with more on the Obama speech today, coming up.



OBAMA:  Whatever relationship I had with Reverend Wright has changed as a consequence of this.  I don‘t think that he showed much concern for me, I don‘t - more importantly, I don‘t think he showed much concern for what we are trying to do in this campaign.


ABRAMS:  That‘s Barack Obama in a pretty amazing press conference today denouncing Reverend Wright after his repeated public statements.  The question is: Is it working?

Now, the latest Gallup daily tracking poll shows Hillary Clinton now actually edging ahead of Barack Obama among Democrats nationwide.  Now, yes, this changes day-to-day.  But it had been a fairly consistent lead for Barack Obama since March.

So, the question: Did Obama do what he had to do today?

Joining me now: HARDBALL‘s Chris Matthews.  Chris, did he do what he had to do?

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST OF “HARDBALL”:  Yes.  He had to do it.  He has to separate from this guy as fast as possible.  He was a little slow on the trigger but he did it today, conclusively he said: From now on, whatever this guy says, don‘t hold it against me because we disagree.  We‘re not the same guy.

ABRAMS:  But is that enough?  I mean, is that enough of a distinction from where he had been before with regard to Reverend Wright?

MATTHEWS:  He said: The damage between them is real, it‘s personal.  My wife agrees with me.  This guy causes too much trouble.  He‘s saying things that are outrageous, even ridiculous.  I cannot even recognize the guy anymore.

I don‘t think he could have gone much further, Dan, but I think he could have been a little faster.

ABRAMS:  Let‘s listen to another piece of sound from Obama today.


OBAMA:  I want to be very clear that moving forward, Reverend Wright does not speak for me.  He does not speak for our campaign.  I cannot prevent him from continuing to make these outrageous remarks, but what I do want him to be very clear about as well as all of you and the American people, is that when I say I find these comments appalling, I mean it.


ABRAMS:  Chris, seemed to be a little more emotion today than we‘ve seen previously from Obama on this issue?

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  I think that‘s what anger looks like from this fellow.  But you know, he will still suffer from the critic who will say—he‘s is like that guy that Claude Rains played in “Casablanca” who said, “I can‘t believe there‘s gambling going on at Rick‘s cafe.”  Because for 20 years, he‘s been attending this church and only now under pressure is he disowning this guy.  So, you could say, he‘s only doing it because he has to and if he weren‘t running for president, he‘s still be going to that church.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Now, here‘s where he really tries to make it clear that this campaign should not be about Reverend Wright.  I want to listen and then, I want to ask you, again, looking at the polls, whether this is enough.


OBAMA:  This campaign has never been about me, it‘s never been about Senator Clinton or John McCain.  It‘s not about Reverend Wright.

People want some help in stabilizing their lives and securing a better future for themselves and their children.  And that‘s what we should be talking about.

And the fact that Reverend Wright would think that somehow it was appropriate to command the stage for three or four consecutive days in the midst of this major debate is something that not only makes me angry but also saddens me.


ABRAMS:  Chris, I‘m guessing he is more angry than saddened particularly when you look at these.

MATTHEWS:  You bet.

ABRAMS:  Well, when you look at the latest polls that came out today comparing Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama against John McCain.  Hillary now has a nine-point lead over McCain, Obama only two.  Is that the Reverend Wright effect?

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I think it is.  And I think in politics, from everything I‘ve ever learned, it‘s the topic at hand that decides who is winning.  If the topic is Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama loses.  He has to change topics by tomorrow.

If we are still putting this up as our main story of the day, that‘s bad news for him.  If we‘re still saying it by Thursday—that means the weekend news shows will talk about it.  That means it will be the talk going right into the primaries in Indiana and North Carolina next Tuesday which means he will probably lose Indiana.  He will not do as well as he thinks right now he should do in North Carolina.  Hillary will still be in the hunt.

ABRAMS:  Well, let‘s assume for a moment that the conversation does die down about Reverend Wright.  There‘s no question that it‘s going to come up again in the general election if Obama is the candidate.  Has he done enough to blunt that?

MATTHEWS:  No, because he‘s got a 20-year record of association with the guy and a one-day record of separating from him.  No, he‘s going to have to keep fighting this fight.  Now, a bigger danger for him, well, actually, it might be a serendipitous break for him.

Suppose the Jeremiah Wright persona, suppose that guy continues to be a parade float, this huge personality, this huge narcissistic personality and trails him around for the next several days, campaigning against him in effect, that might be the best break Barack Obama has had in months that this guy running against him by saying, you know—he‘s the bad guy, I‘m the good guy—that people might decide that Barack is in fact the good guy.

ABRAMS:  Chris Matthews, thanks for coming on.  Appreciate it.

Coming up: More on Obama‘s latest reaction to Reverend Wright.  We go inside the Obama campaign and find out whether they think they achieved their goals today.

And everyone knows Barack Obama loves basketball.  I think someone at FOX News got confused as to what sport that was.  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: Last night, I defended “Vanity Fair” over this photo shoot of Disney star, Miley Cyrus a.k.a. Hannah Montana by Annie Leibovitz.  I said, “If anyone is to blame it‘s Miley‘s parents and PR team who were all there at the photo shoot.  But CNN‘s Anderson Cooper took it a step further, showing he really may not be the every man he sometimes claims to be.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR:  Annie Leibovitz is like one of the greatest photographers in the world.  I have been photographed by her, and then she makes you do something just absurd.  Anyway.


ABRAMS:  Yes, he‘s been photographed by her.  Just say it.  Staying with the Miley Cyrus photo shoots, the “New York Times” had to apologize for the headline in yesterday‘s paper that said, quote, “A Topless Photo Threatens a Major Disney Franchise.”  She isn‘t exactly topless.  I love the correction.

In true “New York Times” stodgy fashion from today‘s paper, quote, “A headline and an article on Monday about a “Vanity Fair” photograph showing the actress, Miley Cyrus in a suggestive pose left the incorrect impression that she was bare-breasted.  While the pose was indeed revealing, she was wrapped in what appeared to be a bed sheet.  She was not topless.”

Thank you for that clarification.

Finally: “FOX & Friends” weekend anchor Ainsley Earhardt delivered this jam on Sunday.  Watch the screen and listen to the sport she mentions.


AINSLEY EARHARDT, FOX ANCHOR:  You have heard bowling for dollars?  How about dribbling for voters?  Barack Obama putting his baseball skills to use on the campaign trail.


ABRAMAS:  No. No.  No.

We need your help Beating the Press.  If you see anything right, wrong, amusing or absurd, go to our Web site:  Leave us a tip in the box, please include the show and the time you saw the item.

Up next: More on Obama‘s response today to Reverend Wright.  We go inside the campaign.  Do they believe they accomplished what they had to today?

And later: The DNA tests are in on the man who‘d confessed to fathering seven children with his daughter as he kept her and many of the children imprisoned for over 20 years, in a bunker underneath his house.

We‘ll talk live with another woman who was imprisoned in a dungeon about what it‘s like to come back into the real world, coming up.





DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Coming up, new details in that secret sex bunker case.  The man confessed to keeping his own daughter locked in an underground bunker for 24 years, fathering her seven children.  Today, the DNA tests are in.  We‘ll also talk live with another woman imprisoned who was imprisoned in a dungeon about what it‘s like reentering the outside world. 

But first, more on Barack Obama‘s fiery speech, striking back on his former Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the man he has known 20 years, who performed Obama‘s marriage ceremony, who baptized the candidate‘s two daughters and who has now become Obama‘s biggest liability.  Our panel‘s back in a minute, but first NBC‘s Lee Cowan has the story. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Who would convince them that

LEE COWAN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice over):  It was a voter who first brought up Rev. Wright today at a town hall meeting in North Carolina, and Barack Obama was ready to pounce. 

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I‘m going to be having a big press conference afterwards to talk about this.

COWAN:  And when he finally appeared before the mics, he unloaded on Rev. Wright like never before, describing his former pastor‘s remarks as rants not grounded in truth.  He called them destructive, outrageous and flat-out appalling. 

OBAMA:  At a certain point, if what somebody says contradicts what you believe so fundamentally, and then he questions whether or not you believe it in front of the National Press Club, then that‘s enough. 

COWAN:  It had gotten personal.  And suddenly, the pastor who only six weeks ago to the day, Obama said he could no more disown than he could the black community, was now out the door. 

I want to use this press conference to make people absolutely clear that obviously whatever relationship I had with Rev. Wright has changed as a consequence of this.  I don‘t think that he showed much concern for me.  More importantly, I don‘t think he showed much concern for what we are trying to do in this campaign. 

COWAN:  His somber, almost angry response was different, though, than yesterday when the senator casually dismissed Wright‘s comments and blamed the media for making too much out of them.  But he explained today that he hadn‘t seen all of Wright‘s most controversial remarks and when he did, he said it became clear Wright wasn‘t just defending himself. 

OBAMA:  The insensitivity and the outrageousness of his statements and his performance in the question and answer period yesterday, I think, shocked me.  It surprised me.  I‘ve known Rev. Wright for almost 20 years.  The person I saw yesterday was not the person that I met 20 years ago. 


ABRAMS:  Lee Cowan, thanks for that report.  So how will the Obama campaign move on from this, and continue to distance themselves from Wright and what does Wright do now?  

Let‘s bring back our panel.  “Chicago Sun Times” columnist Lynn Sweet, Lawrence O‘Donnell and Tanya Acker. 

All right.  Lynn, is the campaign worried about how Wright may now respond? 

LYNN SWEET, COLUMNIST, “CHICAGO SUN TIMES”:  Absolutely.  There is no way of knowing right now if Wright is going to continue to speak out.  He has nothing to lose.  He has had a taste of the national limelight.  So there is uncertainty as to what he is going to do.  That is a big concern to the campaign right now.

ABRAMS:  Lawrence, how much attention will he continue to be able to garner?  And I guess that is a media question I can answer or speculate about as well as you can.  I‘ll give you my take on it.  I think that his day in the sunshine has faded.  Meaning, I think that from now on, Wright‘s going to be covered less and less and less, particularly, if he continues to go out and out and out. 

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, there‘s no conceivable justification for continuing to cover Wright as a campaign story, given that Barack Obama has said that, “He doesn‘t speak for me.”  Barack Obama said today, “I do not expect those views to be attributed to me.” 

So we also know, Dan, that in this media being what it is, every network, every show, has offers out to Wright, any minute he wants to come on at any time, OK?  So, it‘s really a question of what does the news media do from this point forward?  What do they do?  Do they say, “No, this is a very serious voting issue.  We really want to make this much more important than the Iraq war, much more important than taxes, much more important than how we finance the government to bring down the deficit.  Let‘s get Rev.  Wright on.”  So anyone who does get Rev. Wright on is guaranteed to have a story the next day.  Absolutely guaranteed.

ABRAMS:   Tanya, I think there may be one more round to this.  I mean if he, right now, attacks Obama publicly, I think that that may be the final round in this from a media perspective.  Do you think he‘s going to do that? 

TANYA ACKER, POLITICAL ANALYST:  I hope he doesn‘t.  And I have to say, if he does and if the media jumps on that story, there‘s absolutely no conceivable newsworthy reason to keep going on and on about this.  It did have some newsworthiness at some point. 

Look, and I think it is fair to examine the associations of somebody who wants to be president of the United States.  But Barack Obama has spoken of this issue.  If anybody really believes that Barack Obama with his white mother, half of whose family is white, with his very interracial family, with his long background of being exactly about the sort of change and about the type of progress that his campaign is about.  If anybody really believes that Rev. Wright still speaks for him, then that was never a vote that Obama was going to get in the first place. 

ABRAMS:  But then again, I think question - I‘m going to ask this after I play another piece of sound from Obama - is not whether he speaks for him.  I think everyone would agree now that he doesn‘t speak for him.  The question that the Republicans are almost certainly going to bring up, that some who are on the right are going to bring up in the general election is, does it lead to questions about judgment?  And you can sit and you can denounce that but that is a political reality, it seems to me.  Very quickly, let me see if you agree with me on that, Lawrence, and I‘ll play some more from Obama.  You agree with me, right? 

O‘DONNELL:  I do.  It raises to me a tiny question about judgment.  How you voted on the Iraq War resolution raises a much bigger question about judgment. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Here is Obama talking about - here he is basically saying, “Look, I didn‘t vet my pastor.”


OBAMA:  At a certain point if what somebody says contradicts what you believe so fundamentally and then he questions whether or not you believe it in front of the National Press Club, then that‘s enough.  That‘s a show of disrespect to me.  It is also, I think, an insult to what we‘ve been trying to do in this campaign. 


ABRAMS:  All right.  He also went on there, Tanya, to say, “I did not vet my pastor before I decided to run for the presidency.  I was a member of the church.”  But there is no question the Obama camp knew that Rev.  Wright was a potential problem.  In fact, they had rescinded an offer to him a long time ago to appear with Obama.  So they knew that this guy was a potential problem. 

ACKER:  But the extent to which the campaign knew about Wright as a political liability is a very different question from what Barack Obama knew and believed about this man during his 20-year association and his membership in that congregation ... 

ABRAMS:  But how do you separate the two?  I mean, Tanya ...

ACKER:  ... which, by the way, Oprah Winfrey was a member of that church. 

ABRAMS:  But Tanya, she is not running for president.  I mean let me ask you, how do you separate the two?  Which is you‘re saying that there is a separate question of his campaign knowing and Obama‘s got to know.  I mean I think his Philadelphia speech reflected how he felt before he came out which is to say, “Look, all his views don‘t necessarily reflect mine.  He is a part of who I am.  He is a part of the life that I have had.”

But now he is saying, “Wait a second, if this guy is going to if this guy is going to say this stuff about me I‘m not even going to embrace him in the past.” 

ACKER:  No, because it‘s a couple of things.  One, I think that the vetting - I think the campaign did do vetting that Barack Obama did not do while he was a member of this guy‘s church.  Barack Obama has repeatedly said that he hadn‘t heard those statements, that he wasn‘t in church when Rev. Wright made some of the more controversial statements.  And so whatever vetting happened subsequently, I think, made it clear that he was a liability.   

ABRAMS:  I have to wrap it up.  There is no question they knew that Rev. Wright was a problem well before this.

ACKER:  Well, they knew.  They knew, that‘s why he wasn‘t invited to the kickoff event in Springfield. 

ABRAMS:  Right.  Right.  He has just become a bigger problem that they ever imagined.  All right.  Lynn Sweet, Lawrence O‘Donnell, Tanya Acker, thanks so much.  Appreciate it. 

Up next, new developments in that horrifying case of a man who confessed to imprisoning his daughter in an underground bunker for 24 years, fathering seven children with her.  The DNA tests are in.  We‘ll talk live with another woman who was imprisoned and repeatedly raped in a similar type of situation. 

And this dash-cam tape has just been released.  That is coming up in 60 seconds. 


ABRAMS:  Now to “Reality Bites,” a dose of reality caught on tape.  Tonight, an update on a story we first told you about last month when this dash-cam footage was released.  The South Carolina troopers allegedly using their cars as weapons.  Now, the Department of Public Safety there has released two more tapes showing troopers hitting suspects with their vehicles.  The tapes have caused an uproar in South Carolina where some of the troopers have been reprimanded.  Officials are deciding  whether others will be further disciplined.  We‘ll be right back. 


ABRAMS:  We‘re back.  New details tonight in a truly horrifying story we brought you last night.  73-year-old Josef Fritzl confessed to imprisoning his own daughter Elisabeth in this secret bunker for 24 years where she gave birth to seven of his children, three of whom were also forced to live in his dungeon.  Here is a report from Paul Davis with our British partner, ITV. 


PAUL DAVIS, REPORTER, ITV:  The headlines screamed incest, and begged the question how was he able to get away with it for so long.  Josef Fritzl, seen here with his head covered in the back of a police car, has now made two brief appearances before a district judge. 

The 73-year-old glimpsed, putting on his jacket for the court, remanded in custody while detectives piece together his shocking story. 

Today, facing questions from reporters from around the world, Austrian police were able to confirm that DNA evidence has shown Fritzl to be the father of his daughter Elisabeth‘s seven children. 

Elisabeth Fritzl at 18 was barely more than a child herself when her father drugged and imprisoned her.  For almost a quarter of a century, she was held in a cellar below the family home with the children she bore her father who repeatedly raped her. 

Austrian newspapers have today detailed the layout of the underground dungeon where they were imprisoned.  The four small rooms were accessed by a soundproof door protected by a coded lock.  Incredibly within the structure was a kitchen and bathroom, which over the years, was given personal touches by those trapped there. 

And one of the sleeping areas was accessed by a very narrow corridor.  The feeling of claustrophobia must have been all the worse because in places, it was 1.7 meters high.  Police have explained how Fritzl‘s wife, Rosemarie, was fooled into taking three of her daughter‘s children into the house upstairs. 

Letters in Elisabeth‘s handwriting would beg her own mother to take the children in.  He said she‘d run away in couldn‘t cope with the babies.  One letter arrived with Lisa Fritzl who is now 14.  Similar letters accompanied Monica and Alexander when they arrived. 

Josef Fritzl forced the daughter he was abusing to write the letters.  Only when one of the imprisoned children fell seriously ill and had to be rushed to hospital were his crimes were uncovered. 

Being imprisoned underground for 24 years is said to have left Elisabeth Fritzl white haired, frail and traumatized.  Her eldest daughter, Kerstin, is still in intensive care in a hospital, said to be in a critical condition.  Her 18-year-old brother Stefan is pale and emaciated.  Like the others, he may have permanently damaged eye sight for never having seen sunlight.  Five-year-old Felix, though, is said to be well.  In fact, in a ride to the hospital in a police car, he became very excited having only seen cars on TV.  Paul Davis, ITV News.


ABRAMS:  Here now, MSNBC analyst, former FBI profiler, Clint Van Zandt.  And joining us on the phone Jennifer Spaulding.  In 2001, she was kidnapped and held captive for months in an underground bunker in upstate New York.  Her captor has since been caught and is now serving a term of 18 years to life.  Thanks to both of you for coming on.  Appreciate it. 

Jennifer, first, tell me how difficult, you think, it is going to be for these kids, for the mother to acclimate to the outside world? 

JENNIFER SPAULDING, HELD CAPTIVE IN AN UNDERGROUND DUNGEON:  It is going to be very difficult for them because I mean, I couldn‘t even imagine.  I was only locked down there for three months and these poor kids have been down there their whole lives.  So I mean I can empathize.  But I mean they probably don‘t even know what it is like to be outside.  I just couldn‘t imagine.  They‘re probably just horrified. 

ABRAMS:  And I assume you lose a sense of time.  You lose all sensory

you probably have total sensory deprivation. 

SPAULDING:  Yes.  Oh, yes, definitely.  You don‘t know the difference between night and day.  I got to the point where I just felt like an animal, like I was less than an animal.  Like the reports say, the children are pale and you know, traumatized.  That is how I was when I came home. 

ABRAMS:  How were you ultimately able to be freed? 

SPAULDING:  He had burned me on my back with a cigar and over the period of a couple of months it had become infected really bad.  And he kept filling me with antibiotics himself, but it just kept getting worse.  And I kept threatening him with God, telling him that God was going to get him for what he was doing. 

One night, in July he came down and he brought me my clothes that I originally had on and said he was bringing me home.  And I was just terrified because he put handcuffs on me, a hooded sweatshirt backwards over my face and I thought he was going to kill me. 

And then when I got out of the car he dropped me at my mom‘s house and I don‘t even know how he knew where my mom lived.  And I just got out of the car, and I was like, “Thank you, God,” looking up to the sky.  And, you know, I was so happy.  The cops were like, “Why didn‘t you look at the car?”  I was too afraid.  I wanted to get as far away from him as possible. 

ABRAMS:  Jennifer, you are so brave to be able to even speak about that at this point. 

SPAULDING:  Well, yes.  If I can help somebody go through what I went through then I‘ll feel like a better person.  You know, and one thing these girls and this boy need to realize is that their dad was sick and what sick people like to do is make people suffer.  If you continue to suffer, then they win. 

ABRAMS:  Clint, you‘ve investigated a lot of these sick people.  I think Jennifer is absolutely right, isn‘t she? 

CLINT VAN ZANDT, FORMER FBI PROFILER:  Yes.  I have seen people like, you know, Jennifer, unfortunately - the victim that she was - victimized, too.  But in this case, Dan, you look at this.  This is his own daughter that he kidnaps when she was a teenager.  He impregnates her seven times. 

But as we‘re learning, these children had access to a television, Dan.  It was like being in a tiny submarine.  And you could look through the periscope.  You knew there was a world out there, but you couldn‘t reach up.  You couldn‘t touch it.  I mean the temptation must have been terrible and the degree of power and control that he had to exert over them to keep them in place. 

ABRAMS:  Yes, Jennifer, you also had a TV, didn‘t you? 

SPAULDING:  Yes.  Yes.  So I can understand where they were coming from.  But because they‘ve people like my family searching for me, and you know it was just devastating watching the days go by on the TV. 

ABRAMS:  Clint, have you ever heard of a case or cases with this kind of depravity? 

VAN ZANDT:  well, I‘ve been - I worked one in New York where a little girl was kidnapped.  I was the second person who had gone down in the dungeon.  This had been built for three years to keep this little girl Katie Beers in.  And she was held there about a month before we finally broke this guy and got him to confess that she was underground but not - that was a month, Dan. 

Here we‘re talking 24 years - a quarter of a century.  No, this goes beyond - the only scary thing here is what Jennifer and what these other victims have gone through and you have to think are there other people out there held under similar circumstances and we haven‘t found them yet. 

SPAULDING:  Yes.  I fear that every day.  Every time I see a picture of a missing girl or something, I think that they‘re in a spot where I was. 

ABRAMS:  All right. 

SPAULDING:  And I wish I could do something. 

ABRAMS:  Jennifer, good luck.  Thank you so much for taking the time. 

We appreciate it. 

SPAULDING:  Thank you, too.  My best wishes to those young people that went through what they went through and to the mother of the children. 

ABRAMS:  Clint, thank you.  Thank you.

SPAULDING:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  We‘ll be right back. 


ABRAMS:  Time for tonight‘s “Winners and Losers” for this 29th day of April, 2008.  Our first loser - train wreck actor Gary Busey not having a good year.  First, at the Oscars, he accosted Jennifer Garner and berated an 11-year-old girl.  Now, in an interview with “Inside Edition,” let‘s just say things didn‘t go so well. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER, “INSIDE EDITION”:  Tell me about this new movie you are doing - “1.88.”

GARY BUSEY, ACTOR:  There‘s two people talking at once.  Just slow down.  OK, ask that question again. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER:  Tell me about your new movie. 

BUSEY:  What new movie? 


BUSEY:  Yes, I know.  You get to say the whole thing in the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) question or it doesn‘t make sense.  It‘s dyslexic.  No, (EXPLETIVE DELETED).   No, (EXPLETIVE DELETED).  That‘s my answer to you.  Turn it off.  


ABRAMS:  Where is that straight jacket we saw?  Might come in handy.  

ABRAMS:  Loser - Tibetan protesters who have turned up across the globe for the Olympic torch relay to protest China, not because they are protesting but turns out many of those Tibetan independence flags they are waving at those events were made in China. 

Today, police in southern China raided a factory producing the flags.  The factory owners say they didn‘t know the flag signified Tibetan independence.  

But our big loser, Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury.  A letter he sent to voters about the state‘s upcoming primary, misprinted an 800 number that was supposed to help voters if they had any questions. 

Instead, they heard this -


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Hey there, sexy guy.  Welcome to an exciting new way to go live one on one with hot (EXPLETIVE DELETED) girls. 


ABRAMS:  Our big winner of the day - Pamela Anderson.  No, it wasn‘t her on the phone.  No, we can proudly call her one of our own.  One of us.  She confirms she‘s now a U.S. citizen.  The Canadian-born pinup says she‘s excited to vote and do more on Capitol Hill for animal rights.  

Time for the “P.O.‘d Box.”  Only time for one E-mail.  One viewer was incensed to be associated with the clowns from “Fox & Friends” who we figured in last night‘s “Beat the Press” as they sucked helium and then spoke. 

Sparky the clown writes, “I am a professional clown here in San Francisco and resent you calling those Fox Network anchors and/or hosts ‘clowns.‘  Any clown worth their salt knows it‘s dangerous to breathe helium due to the fact that there is no oxygen in helium.”

Thank you to Sparky the Clown for writing in. 

That is all the time we have for tonight.  You can E-mail me about the show -  Please include your name, where you‘re writing from.  The website is  We will see you back here tomorrow night.  Have a good night.