Guests: Geraint Vincent, Keith Morrison, Clint Van Zandt, Herbert Bauernebel, Jeff Gardere, Bill Press, A.B. Stoddard, Roy Sekoff
DAN ABRAMS, HOST: Tonight: The Barack Obama interview. On Obama on whether Clinton should get out, on whether he is now the presumptive nominee, on how he was convinced to bowl—the unaired portion of today‘s Brian Williams interview.
Then: It sure sounds like Clinton‘s top aides are sending the message that she‘s done. We‘ll debate that.
And: The man who kept his family imprisoned in an underground bunker for more than 20 years speaks out for the first time.
VERDICT starts now.
Hi, everyone. Thanks for joining us.
Today: Barack Obama took what looked like a victory lap on Capitol Hill with fellow legislatures even asking him for autographs as we walked into the Capitol, a lucky and stunned group of students on a field trip got a chance to say hello and give him some high fives.
Meantime, Hillary Clinton told voters in West Virginia and South Dakota that the fight goes on. We‘ll talk about that later.
But first: Today, NBC‘s Brian Williams had an in-depth interview with Barack Obama.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “NBC NIGHTLY NEWS WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS”)
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: Have you had any discussions about declaring that victory on the 20th after Kentucky and Oregon are decided?
SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That will be an important day, if at that point we have the majority of pledged delegates, which is possible, then, I think, we can make a pretty strong claim that, you know, we‘ve got the most runs and it‘s the ninth inning and we‘ve won. But, you know, I think it‘s also important for us to—if we win, do so in a way that brings the party together.
WILLIAMS: I know you‘ve looked at the numbers and one thing is so clear from—especially this last round of primaries—there are Obama voters in the Democratic Party and there are Clinton voters. And an astoundingly high number of those Clinton voters when asked would not vote for you if given the choice - so, many of them said Senator McCain instead. How do you as perhaps the nominee bridge that gap?
OBAMA: Well, Brian, first of all, you know, if you take these polls after any, you know, hard fought contest like this, you‘re going to see a certain percentage—there were McCain voters who said they would not vote for George Bush back in 2000, and the overwhelming majority of them ultimately did.
So, there‘s always—there are always some bruised feelings after a contest like this. Now, that doesn‘t mean that I don‘t have a job in front of me if I end up being the nominee. There‘s no doubt that there are a lot of people who still don‘t know me well. We‘ve made mistakes on occasion in our campaign.
I think it‘s important for us to systemically reach out and describe for people with as much specificity as possible what exactly an Obama presidency would mean in making their lives better.
WILLIAMS: You mentioned a moment ago you made mistakes in this campaign. Is one of them your handling of the Wright stuff - the Reverend Wright material? You presented to a lot of people kind of the style of a loner—it was allowed to come out given the news cycles these days, it was out there as cable wall paper for several days. And there were.
OBAMA: It was more than several days, maybe several weeks.
WILLIAMS: But you didn‘t engage. Did you think there was a valor in letting it out and taking the hit initially? What was the strategy?
OBAMA: Well, you know, I don‘t want to revisit this, you know, over and over again. Look, this was a difficult situation. I have a great loyalty to a wonderful church. Reverend Wright helped build that church. It is a pillar of the community in Chicago. He said some things that I thought were wrong and deeply offensive. I tried to provide a context for it in that speech in Philadelphia that I gave on race.
He rather than recognize, maybe, that he had gone too far chose to amplify it and I had to break a relationship in a very public way. I don‘t regret how it was handled. I don‘t think there was any great way of handling it, you know, when you have somebody who you know who behaves in a way, you know, doesn‘t reflect your values—then it‘s never easy.
But one of things that I‘ve seen is that the people in North Carolina and people of Indiana and, I think, people around the country do not ascribe those offensive statements to me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: We‘re going to play more of that interview in just a minute.
But first: Joining me now: Talk show host and author of the new book, “Train Wreck,” Bill Press; associate editor of “The Hill,” A.B. Stoddard; and Huffington Post editor, Roy Sekoff.
All right, Bill. Did it sound to you, as it did to me, that Barack Obama was saying that this maybe over on May 20th?
BILL PRESS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I think he would like to declare it over on May 20 - yes, absolutely. I think he said that. You know, but it makes me wonder, Dan, really, you know, he may know about basketball, I don‘t know how much he knows about baseball. You can be in the ninth inning, you can be ahead in runs, but you haven‘t won the game yet.
And it seems to me, I don‘t get the May 20 date. If he‘s going to go as far as May 20, I think he might as well go all the way to June 3rd, let the whole thing run its course, and then declare himself a victor.
ROY SEKOFF, HUFFINGTON POST: Yes. I think he was basically talking about that—that will be the day if things go the way they‘re going to go, he‘ll have more than half of the pledged delegates. I think that was the metric he was talking about. But if you do want talking about the sports analogies, I think Hillary is playing up like that Pistons game where the clock never ran out.
ABRAMS: Well, look—we‘ll talk later about - in the next segment about whether the Clinton camp is effectively already putting up the white flag.
But, A.B., what did you make of that? Did you think that that was Obama saying that this really could be done in a couple of weeks?
A.B. STODDARD, THE HILL: He has to straddle telling the party hat we‘re going to move onto the general election while also giving her her space; it‘s a very hard balance. You have to continue to focus on John McCain, travel to states out of these primary contests, remain in primary contests, and at the same time, be really nice and not have a superdelegate stampede to upset her.
So, it‘s a difficult straddle. You have to give the air of inevitability, at the same time, you have to be humble. I think he‘s doing the best he can.
ABRAMS: All right. The question—the most important question in this campaign has been: What was Obama thinking when he started bowling in front of the cameras? That is the question America wants to know the answer to and Brian Williams asked him about it and Obama answered.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “NBC NIGHTLY NEWS WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS‘)
WILLIAMS: With due respect, Senator, I‘m not guessing you had a lot of bowling experience but you end up with people talking about your bowling score and gutter balls, wearing a tie - wearing a tie with farmers and how have you dealt with that? Is there an operating theory that guides your life these days?
OBAMA: You know, my theory is not to overthink it because, I think, the American people are smarter than that. The bowling is a wonderful example, right? You go to a bowling alley because you want to go meet with a bunch of folks—and folks are lined up and they‘re having a great time and we‘re talking and kids - I‘m signing autographs and then, some woman says, “Hey, why don‘t you bowl a couple frames?” And I say, “Sure,” although I haven‘t bowled in 25 years.
And I‘m out there and I‘m having a great time, you know, and suddenly this becomes some big sort of signifier of whether or not I‘m in tune with blue-collar culture. Well, look, if I had been really serious about protecting my political image, I would have gone into some lane, somewhere secretly, practiced for a day and emerged with a respectable 100 or 115 or something, and that wouldn‘t—in any way speak to whether or not I was going to be fighting for those people in that bowling alley.
WILLIAMS: Whether or not you‘ve been the presumptive nominee of the party, have there been internal conversations or any outreach, any contact at all with the Clinton camp about a ticket that would involve Senator Clinton?
OBAMA: You know, we have not had those conversations because I respect what she has said publicly that she‘s continuing this campaign.
WILLIAMS: Is it under consideration?
OBAMA: Brian, what I‘ve said is, I want to respect her and her desire to continue in these coming contests, and as soon as I know that I‘m the nominee, then I‘m going to start making overtures certainly to her as well as everybody else, to figure out how we‘re going to bring this party together.
WILLIAMS: Would she meet the criteria of a Barack Obama running mate in the eventuality that you would be the nominee?
OBAMA: Well, there‘s no doubt that she is qualified to be vice president, and there‘s no doubt that she‘s qualified to be president. I‘ve said that before. Obviously, I think, I‘d be a better president otherwise I wouldn‘t have been running. But she is a very capable and very smart person. And, I think, anybody who has been in a political contest with her can tell you that she‘s no pushover.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: You can say he avoided the question, the second question pretty well but took the bowling one, Roy, head on.
SEKOFF: Yes, it was a very, very charming answer. But you know that he was saying to himself—note to self, general election: brush up on billiards, ping pong and horse shoes on.
ABRAMS: Yes. All right. A.B., on this issue of VP seemed almost a little one uncharacteristically uncomfortable.
STODDARD: I think it‘s a very uncomfortable topic because Barack Obama‘s entire sell (ph) is: “We‘re going to break with the past, I am the future, we‘re going to be bold and experiment with a new kind of politics.”
He‘s begun a movement and he‘s most zealous followers would not accept a Clinton—Bill and Hillary traipsing around the White House.
It‘s not going to happen. I can‘t imagine a scenario where he would ever ask her.
PRESS: I disagree. I think it would be phenomenon - if you can
get the passion of Obama and the energy of Clinton on the same ticket, look
John McCain may as well go back to the ranch in Arizona and stay there.
I think he will ask her and I think.
PRESS: I do. And I think she will accept if asked. And I think it would be a dynamite ticket.
ABRAMS: Wow. Bill Press, I don‘t think it‘s going to happen.
SEKOFF: I think he‘s got his fingers crossed going, “I hope she wants to be Senate majority leader.”
ABRAMS: Yes. It‘s - I‘m going to play another piece of sound from the Obama interview but it reminds me of—when they sent John Adams abroad, I was just watching that HBO series on Adams and he‘s stuck, you know, in the Netherlands for a while, and he doesn‘t want to be there.
Anyway, all right. Let me play another piece of sounds from the Obama-Williams interview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “NBC NIGHTLY NEWS WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS‘)
OBAMA: Sometimes I wear a tie, sometimes I don‘t. Sometimes I wear a flag pin, sometimes I don‘t. You know, sometimes I like a burger and a beer; and sometimes a glass of wine and a steak is good.
But this doesn‘t have much to do with how I‘m going to lead the country. What it does have to do with leading the country is my commitment to make sure that everybody has the same chances that somebody gave me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: But I definitely don‘t like a suple (ph) and crambobroli (ph). Let‘s be clear, as you want to be on the record with that.
But, no, this is - A.B., this is a good interview. I think Obama did a nice job in this interview.
STODDARD: I agree, I think it‘s - I mean, I wrote a column last week saying the guy look like George Walker Bush in 1992. He didn‘t look like he wanted anymore, he looked like he was tired. There was some sense of on way (ph) coming the fort (ph). It was—I literally almost wrote him off, I thought he was depressed. I mean, it was a totally different guy, there‘s nothing like winning.
But I think that the fact that he feels that he‘s in command of the nomination, that‘s going to happen for him, and he‘s finally off the Reverend Wright stuff, has really allowed him to be the comfortable and confident person that we saw months ago.
PRESS: Yes, Dan. Let me just.
ABRAMS: Real quick, yes.
PRESS: I think—I think we see a Barack Obama today who is very comfortable in his skin. We didn‘t see that in the beginning. In the early debates, you know, he was really edgy and didn‘t look like he kind of belonged there or wanted to be there. This is a real tour de force today, I believe.
ABRAMS: It‘s good to be the king.
ABRAMS: Everyone is staying with us.
Coming up: Obama on whether he thinks of himself as the nominee.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “NBC NIGHTLY NEWS WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS)
OBAMA: Senator Clinton, you know, is going to continue to campaign. And my hope is that when everything is over, all sides feel as if, you know, democracy has worked, the process has worked and now it‘s time to turn to the attention to the issues that matter to the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: More of the Obama interview when we return.
And: Clinton campaign manager, Terry McCullough says, “It will all be over by early June. So, doesn‘t that mean the Clinton campaign is basically conceding?
Plus: A Republican congressman tries to ban men‘s magazines like “Playboy” and “Maxim” from military bases. Politicians telling our hard-working adult soldiers what not to read: Another reason Why America Hates Washington, in 60 seconds.
ABRAMS: Tonight‘s edition of Why America Hates Washington: A congressman trying to ban men‘s magazines at military bases, rather than focusing on getting soldiers out of barracks with, let‘s say, clogged drains, flies and molds or even bringing more of them home.
Republican Representative Paul Brown of Georgia has introduced the Military Honor Indecency Act aimed at expanding the definition of sexually explicit material ban on military bases, if it passes—“Playboy” and “Penthouse” will be wiped off the shelves along with other not as racy magazines like “Maxim” and “FHM.” They could be gone as well.
Congressman Brown focusing on dirty magazines instead of dirty
barracks: Another reason Why America Hates Washington
Coming up: The Clinton campaign sure sounds like they‘re admitting that it‘s over—in a minute.
ABRAMS: We‘re back.
For two months, Hillary Clinton has talked about taking the fight all the way to the convention. After all, time is her greatest ally. But today, it sure sounded like campaign chairman, Terry McCullough, was saying it‘s over for Clinton.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “TODAY”/NBC)
TERRY MCCULLOUGH, CLINTON CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: It will be over early June. I remind everybody that President Clinton didn‘t win the nomination until June of 1992. We all came together, had a historic win in 1992.
We‘re going to do it again. We‘ve all said we‘ll be together at the end. If Hillary doesn‘t win, Hillary and President Clinton and myself, will be over there helping Senator Obama.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Early June, how could she probably win by early June? If she‘s really in it to win it, why would her campaign chair be eliminating their best chance of winning, to hope that something happens between now and the convention? McCullough‘s comments sure sounds to me like the talk of a campaign unpacking the white flag.
Our panel is still with us.
Bill Press, do you agree with me?
PRESS: No, I don‘t. You know what—I think what they‘re doing, look—there‘s one thing you got to know, Dan, Hillary believes she can win this, she believes she‘d be a better president, at the same time, I think, what they‘re doing is and you hear from Terry McCullough is, and you know what - you and I know, Terry McCullough doesn‘t speak without talking to you know who, right?
ABRAMS: Right. So, what does he mean by that?
PRESS: I think what he‘s doing is that he‘s accepting reality. By early June, there‘ll be no more primaries and Michigan and Florida will be decided and the superdelegates are not going to sit around until November, they will have made up their minds.
ABRAMS: But there is zero percent chance then that it will be Hillary Clinton. I mean, the only chance—would you agree with me—the only chance that Hillary Clinton has to actually win this is if something happens over time? I guess something could happen between now and June 3rd.
PRESS: I believe that Barack Obama is the nominee of the Democratic Party, will be the nominee.
ABRAMS: Right. So, then, you agree with me that Terry McCullough is saying that they have to chance? I mean, Roy?
SEKOFF: Yes, there‘s two things going on.
PRESS: No, something could happen—something could happen between now and early June.
SEKOFF: Yes, a meteor. A meteor could come out of the sky and land on Barack Obama.
ABRAMS: I mean, isn‘t that what he‘s saying?
SEKOFF: Yes, that‘s what he said. Look, there‘s two things going on—below the surface there‘s these negotiations going on, how do we have an exit strategy where she comes up looking good and the $11 million that they loan to the campaign, you know, can get paid back. But she is still - you ever been to a sushi bar—and they kill a shrimp and, you know, they take shrimp (ph), the head is still, you know, wigging all over the place - that‘s what Hillary‘s doing. She‘s still wiggling all over the place, saying he can‘t win white voters.
ABRAMS: I‘ve never seen them kill a live shrimp in a sushi bar, and the shrimps like, you know.
SEKOFF: Yes, the head. The things keep wiggling but, so that‘s why she - and then she‘s writing this letter where she‘s making demands, that‘s kind of like, you know, that‘s like a kidnapper who‘s in prison already saying—you know, here‘s what you got to do with this ransom note. It‘s over.
ABRAMS: A.B., I mean, isn‘t that what he‘s saying, I mean, he‘s talking about coming behind the party, I mean, isn‘t he saying, “We‘re done”?
STODDARD: As fond as I am of Terry McCullough I‘m not going to take it to the bank. We have no idea what the Clintons are going to do. We read today that Bill Clinton wants to go to the convention. Hillary Clinton is writing a letter challenging Barack Obama on Michigan and Florida.
Hillary Clinton also gave that interview to the “USA Today” where she basically said the senator has trouble winning white votes. And we have - and we have people taking out of every side, they should (ph) talk back up, I think.
ABRAMS: Well, let‘s play that. Let‘s play that. Bill Clinton, I‘m going to let you talk about this afterwards, A.B. Here‘s Bill Clinton talking about what A.B. just said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, FMR. UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: Don‘t believe all this stuff you read in the press. She can still win this thing if you vote for her big enough.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Is it possible Bill Clinton is the only one that doesn‘t know, A.B.?
STODDARD: No, no. I—there‘s one thing that we all know after 16 years of the Clintons, there‘s always a tomorrow for the Clintons. And I do think that we have no idea what the plan is. She might pull out this weekend. It might go on another six weeks. I think that.
SEKOFF: But behind the scenes - behind the scenes they are talking about an exit strategy.
STODDARD: Of course.
ABRAMS: But Clinton supporter—former Senator Bob Kerrey said, “At some point between now and the 3rd June, she‘ll make that call, make a gracious concession and then rally behind Barack Obama and rally her supporters behind Barack Obama.”
I mean, you know, he‘s being honest about it.
STODDARD: And we don‘t have to go and believe it.
PRESS: Dan, look, the Clintons.
STODDARD: When it happens we‘ll believe it. Anything can happen to Barack Obama.
ABRAMS: Have I just not lived in Washington and so, I‘m jaded when I hear McCullough say that, I think, OK, it‘s done, I don‘t know.
PRESS: Look, Dan, let me tell you, the Clintons are not dumb, they do read the tea leaves, they know that by early June, as we said, everything, all the possible plays are going to have played. Maybe there‘s a chance, a very slim chance between now and then, I don‘t think there is. But by that time, I think, Terry is saying they recognize it‘s going to be over. We‘ll have a nominee.
ABRAMS: All right. So, does Barack Obama consider himself the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party and that is what Brian Williams asked him in his interview today, and Obama answered.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “NBC NIGHTLY NEWS WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS”)
WILLIAMS: Are you the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party?
OBAMA: Not yet. I will be if Senator Clinton decides not to go on or if we complete these six contests and we are ahead as we are now. But nothing is certain; I don‘t want to take it from granted. Senator Clinton has been written off before and came back and she‘s a formidable candidate.
So, obviously, we feel good about the results on Tuesday. It strengthens our position and, you now, I‘m confident that we can finish these last few contests and be in a continuing strong position. But it‘s not yet settled.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SEKOFF: He‘s being very, very delicate. He wants to let her have her dignity, let her have her honor. You know, it‘s not you, it‘s me. It‘s kind of letting her go like that.
ABRAMS: Yes. I mean, the amazing that, I mean, and, A.B., you talked about this before, too, that Hillary Clinton talking about the white vote—I want to play that piece of sound because there‘s a question of McCullough on the one hand is saying, “By June 3rd, we‘ll know,” it‘s to me says, by June 3rd we‘re finished but then you have Hillary Clinton saying this.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How does Hillary Clinton win the nomination?
CLINTON: Well, Cathy (ph), you know, there was just an “AP” article posted that found how Senator Obama‘s support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again. And how, you know, whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me. And independents, I was running even with him and doing even better with Democratic leaning independents. I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition.”
(END AUDIO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Bill Press, you‘re an inside Washington guy. I‘m not. I don‘t understand how this stuff works. How can Terry McCullough on the one hand be saying, “By June 3rd, we‘re essentially conceding,” you got all these other Hillary Clinton supporters out there saying—by the beginning of June we‘re going to know, translation: it‘s going to be Obama, and then you have Hillary Clinton out there and Bill Clinton out there still talking about going to the end.
PRESS: She is one determined candidate. Let me tell you. She believes she can win, I‘ll say it again, and she believes she‘d be a better candidate and president than Barack Obama. But you know what I see in the quote you just played, Dan, is, because I heard about it today and I ran to read it myself, to find exactly what she said.
I think she‘s just repeating what the newspapers have told us, Barack Obama has done very well among African-Americans and very well among the higher educated and Hillary Clinton is getting the working class moms and dads and she‘s getting white voters.
ABRAMS: A.B., final 10 seconds, I got to wrap it up.
STODDARD: But that was her answer to the question the reporter asked which was how does Hillary win. Her answer was: “I get the white vote.” The Democratic Party loses the white vote in the general election. She‘s talking about winning through a group (ph) superdelegates; it‘s not going to happen.
ABRAMS: Watch what her campaign is saying. Listen to it people.
They‘re saying - they‘re saying it‘s done.
Bill Press, A.B. Stoddard, and Roy Sekoff—thanks a lot.
Coming up: You‘re known by the company you keep, right? Well, Bill O‘Reilly was not happy about being lumped in with Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh. That‘s next in Beat the Press.
And: The man who confessed to imprisoning her daughter for 24 years, repeatedly raping her, fathering her seven children, now speaking out for the first time. He says he‘s not a monster.
DAN ABRAMS, HOST: It‘s time for tonight‘s “Beat the Press.” First up, by now, it seems everyone knows that Bill O‘Reilly, Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh are three of the most outspoken media voices on the far right of the political spectrum. They agree on almost all of the big issues today. Except, believe it or not, O‘Reilly is still pretending that he‘s not one of them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DICK MORRIS, “WWW.DICKMORRIS.COM”: The real fight over the summer is going to be you and Hannity and Limbaugh, and all of those folks against Obama over issues like Rev. Wright and Bill Ayers and all that.
BILL O‘REILLY, HOST, “THE O‘REILLY FACTOR”: Yes, but you‘re lumping me in with Sean and Rush Limbaugh, but it‘s not the same presentation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Right. It‘s the presentation that‘s different. Next up, on “Hannity and Company” last night, sub-host Alan Colmes asked Cokie Roberts about a native American woman who helped explorers Lewis and Clark in the early 19th century. But Colmes seemed confused by the difference between an urban profession and the name of an Indian tribe.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST, “HANNITY AND COLMES”: What was the significance of the “shoe shine” woman with Lewis and Clark?
COKIE ROBERTS, JOURNALIST: The “shoe shine” - Shoshone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: The “shoe shine.” Shoshone. Not quite to-may-to or to-mah-to.
All right. Finally on a much more serious note. Another reminder today of the dangerous work journalists do to cover the most important stories of the day. Here‘s CNN reporter Cal Perry pinned behind a building in Beirut, Lebanon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CAL PERRY, CNN REPORTER: When these clashes (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
Sorry, Tony, you can hear an RPG explosion there. As you can hear, how do you bring calm to this kind of stuff?
PERRY: Tony, I‘m sorry, I‘m having trouble hearing you obviously. Because I‘m actually - You can hear there, Tony, another RPG going off.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: I wanted to take a moment to salute Cal Perry, Richard Engel and to say to all the brave journalists who risk their lives to bring us the rest of the story.
Up next, the father who kept his family in an underground bunker for 24 years is speaking out for the first time. He says he‘s not that bad. He says he could have killed them and no one would have known about it.
And later it actually happened here in South Carolina, a high school girl held hostage for days inside an underground bunker until she sent a text message from her captor‘s cell phone leading police to her. We‘ll hear from her, coming up.
ABRAMS: Welcome back. The sex dungeon father has spoken out for the first time. Josef Fritzl, who imprisoned his daughter, Elisabeth, in this underground prison for 24 years and fathered seven of her children, is trying to get his side out from behind bars.
Fritzl threw notes written from his cell and released through his lawyers says he‘s not a monster, quote, “I could have killed all of them and nothing would have ever been known about it.” Geraint Vincent with our British partner ITV has the latest.
GERAINT VINCENT, ITV CORRESPONDENT: And so the monster speaks about the hell he created and appalling suffering he caused. From his jail cell, Fritzl recalls that he couldn‘t help but routinely rape his daughter; incest was an obsession. “I knew Elisabeth didn‘t want me to do what I did to her,” he says. “I knew that I was hurting her. It was like an addiction. In reality I wanted children with her.”
As a teenager, Elisabeth wouldn‘t follow rules. She would go out all night and come home smelling of alcohol, he says. Her imprisonment, her father tells us, was for her own good. “I had to create a place where I gave her the chance to keep away from the bad influences of the outside world. I was delighted about the children. It was great for me to have a second family in the cellar with a wife and a few children.”
Fritzl is clearly quite proud of the hole he dug underground. He‘s pleased with the bathroom and kitchen he fitted so the victims could exist while he was away. The cellar, he says, was his kingdom where he enjoyed a grotesque family life. “When I went into the bunker,” he says, “I brought flowers for my daughter and books and toys for the children. We all sat around the table and ate together. We celebrated birthdays and Christmas. I even bought a Christmas tree secretly into the cellar, and cakes and presents.”
Fritzl offers his Nazi upbringing as explanation for his crimes.
He‘ll plead insanity so as to avoid the punishment he gave of his daughter
a life in prison.
ABRAMS: Unbelievable. That was Geraint Vincent reporting. Here now, MSNBC analyst, former FBI profiler Clint Van Zandt. Herbert Bauernebel a correspondent with an Austrian daily newspaper and clinical psychologist Jeff Gardere. Thanks to all of you for coming on. Appreciate it.
Doctor, it is so hard to - those words gave me a chill as I listened to it. This is a guy who‘s trying to create an insanity defense, it seems like, right? Talking about the flowers he‘s bringing her, et cetera?
JEFF GARDERE, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: Yes, I think that this is a person who‘s allowing himself to consciously to compensate. He is just letting it all hang out. He‘s just talking about all of his fantasies, letting us know everything that‘s in his mind that I think that‘s part of his malingering so that we can all believe that there is some sort of insanity there.
I don‘t see insanity. What I see a personality disorder, someone who is more of a sociopath than anything else.
ABRAMS: Clint, in his first public words, Josef Fritzl said this as well, “My daughter was going out to seedy bars and would spend whole nights there drinking and smoking. I only tried to rescue her from that life. I had to create a place where I could keep Elisabeth separated from that world.”
CLINT VAN ZANDT, FORMER FBI PROFILER: What he‘s not telling us, Dan, is the separation started when he started having sex with her when she was 11, and then started to build this bunker three years before he actually captured her. So this fantasy - he was acting out the fantasy when the daughter was upstairs in the upstairs world. And then he created the downstairs world for her.
But you know, this gets deeper and darker, Dan because this is the guy who says, “My father left my mother. I stayed with my mother. I was like a husband to her. I had sexual thoughts concerning her.” There was something going on in that house that probably contributed to who this guy is today, Dan.
ABRAMS: He said, “I grew up in the Nazi times and that meant there needed to be control and respect of authority. I suppose I took on some of those old values with me into later life.” He went on to say, “The urge to have sex with Elisabeth was only increasing. There was no way out; not for Elisabeth, but also not for me.”
Why is he releasing these statements, Doctor?
GARDERE: Again, I think he wants people to understand that he‘s a human being, not a monster, this is about an impulse control problem. He couldn‘t help himself. He‘s not in charge. But one thing, Dan, no one has talked about this. If he has, in fact, raped his daughter, has he actually tried to be sexually aggressive or active with any of his other children and no one is talking about that. And I know Clint might have something on that, too.
ABRAMS: Let me ask Herbert about that. Herbert, do we know anything about that?
HERBERT BAUERNEBEL, AUSTRIAN DAILY NEWSPAPER: Well, so far, I haven‘t heard anything that‘s been confirmed by anybody. There are rumors, of course. But I don‘t think at this point, he has released any of that information.
ABRAMS: Can you tell us in Austria how it works when someone wants to plead insanity. I mean here, it varies state to state. The question is, very often, do they understand right from wrong? Do you know sort of what he will have to prove under Austrian law?
BAUERNEBEL: Well, he was to - I mean, he‘s making his first attempt with all of the statements he has released. That seems obvious that his lawyer wants to gather an insanity defense for him. He has to prove that he was driven by something that has nothing to do with reason. I think that‘s the standard in Austria.
ABRAMS: All right. I‘m going to take a break in a minute. But Clint, a final thing about his mother. This is about - talking about being attracted to his mother.
VAN ZANDT: Yes.
ABRAMS: He says, “I was like a husband to her,” talking about his mother. “I loved her across all boundaries. I was totally in awe of her. That did not mean there was anything else between us though. I was able to keep my desires under control.”
VAN ZANDT: I doubt that seriously. I think he crossed boundaries that, you know, society and life and the human mind you shouldn‘t be crossing. And this is a guy, Dan - I remember one time arresting a guy who had sexually abused his children, grandchildren and he was starting on his great-grandchildren before we finally found out about him. This guy is probably in that same class.
ABRAMS: Herbert, thanks very much for joining us. We appreciate it.
BAUERNEBEL: You‘re welcome.
ABRAMS: Up next. Another case, this one here in the U.S., a 14-year-old girl abducted after school and held in this underground dungeon. This one not in the basement, but in the middle of the woods.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELIZABETH SHOAF, ABDUCTED AND IMPRISONED IN A DUNGEON: He told me to go down the ladder and get into the bunker. He had like a rifle and a belt and had a gun and handcuffs, and I saw a Taser in it. So I knew he was well equipped to do anything if I acted stupid or whatever.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: We‘ll hear more of how she survived the horror underground and how she escaped. Back in 60 seconds.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS (voice over): Now, to “Reality Bites,” a dose of reality caught on tape. Tonight, you heard the term, “trying to get in his pants.” Well, in this YouTube video, these men do incredible stunts from jumping off buildings to jumping off of beds, even doing back flips, just to yes, get into their pants. What you‘re seeing is them landing inside a pair of jeans. We‘ll be right back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: We‘re back. The Austrian sex dungeon case offers a stark and horrifying reminder that humans can be that cruel, and it‘s not just in Austria. Abductions followed by imprisonment in a dungeon have occurred here in the U.S.
In September, 2006, in South Carolina, 14-year-old Elizabeth Shoaf had just stepped off her school bus and was walking up her driveway when she was confronted by a man who told he was a cop. He asked Elizabeth to come with him. NBC‘s Keith Morrison has the story.
KEITH MORRISON, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Vinson led a shackled Elizabeth through woods and trails for an hour, doubling back, circling around, throwing off her sense of direction. Then he stopped her and bent down and picked up a piece of ground. And then she realized it was a trap door. There was a bunker down there.
(on camera): What did he say to you then?
SHOAF: He told me to go down the ladder and get into the bunker. He had like a rifle and a belt and had a gun and handcuffs, and I saw a Taser in it. So I knew he was well equipped to do anything if I acted stupid or whatever.
MORRISON: Inside, he closed the door, turned on a battery powered light.
And now, Elizabeth understood why he asked if she was a virgin.
SHOAF: He pretty much just raped me.
MORRISON: Right away?
SHOAF: Pretty much.
MORRISON: Forced you to take off your clothes?
MORRISON: How often did he rape you?
SHOAF: More than two times every day, between two and five times a day. All I remember is that it hurt worse and I looked off to the side to one of the shelves that were there. There was like a propane tank and dishes and stuff on it.
MORRISON: You just stared at that?
SHOAF: Yes, stared at it and cried.
MORRISON: Do you think you‘ll ever forget that shelf? Kept in that bunker, underground, naked.
MORRISON: Chained and where? How?
SHOAF: There was a chain that‘s hooked to like the roof part that was on.
And he just had it down and wrapped it around my neck and locked it.
MORRISON: What did you assume at that point?
SHOAF: That I was kidnapped and that I was probably going to die.
MORRISON (voice over): But killing her quickly didn‘t seem her to be kidnappers plan. He had outfitted the bunker to keep him going for weeks.
SHOAF: I was like dirt walls and then all over the walls, he had some kind of sheet, some kind of fabric. And then he just had like his own little homemade bed and homemade shelves and a retarded toilet.
MORRISON (on camera): A retarded toilet?
MORRISON: What do you mean a retarded toilet?
SHOAF: It was a broken plastic chair over a bucket.
MORRISON (voice over): Elizabeth could see a stove, food and heard Vinson talk about his water supply, a stagnant pond near the bunker. There was even a battery-operated TV. Vinson watched the news coverage of the abduction. He told Elizabeth, they‘ll never find her.
He kept her there in his bunker and day three became day four and then five. The perpetual darkness left Elizabeth disoriented until she lost track of the time of day or night.
SHOAF: It smelled muggy - really, really muggy. And then, at nighttime, it would be really cold. I would sit there for like hours, just thinking.
MORRISON (on camera): Thinking what?
SHOAF: About my boyfriend and my family and friends and just cry because that was all I could do.
MORRISON (voice over): In the deafening silence of the dank, smelly bunker, Elizabeth realized Vinson was right. The bunker was so well hidden. The search, obviously a failure. She would not be found. She would die there.
As dawn arrives on day ten, Elizabeth pushed with all of her might on the bunker‘s heavy door and forced herself up into the morning sunlight and heard the sound of barking dogs.
SHOAF: I started yelling, like hello, and I yelled it like ten times. And then somebody finally yelled my name back and then I was like it was big, big relief. I just like, fell down and started crying.
MORRISON: There was the captain, and she was finally saved.
CAPT. DAVID THOMLEY, KERSHAW COUNTY SHERIFF‘S DEPARTMENT: I have been asked many times what it felt like to come out wood line and see her standing there. It makes you kind of emotional, doesn‘t it?
MORRISON (voice over): Now, just remembering the moment, he is overcome.
Because the fact is, he had been looking for a dead girl, a body.
(on camera): So what did you do when you saw her?
THOMLEY: I don‘t know if you could call it running in my shape but I ran as fast as I could. I went up to her and put my arm around her and told her I had been looking for her everywhere.
ABRAMS: Elizabeth had managed to free herself by stealing Vinson Filyaw‘s cell phone while he was sleeping and sending her mother a text message. And authorities located the bunker and Filyaw was eventually caught, sentenced to 421 years in prison, no chance of parole. You can see the entire story tonight at 11:00 p.m. Eastern on the “Doc Block” on MSNBC.
Dr. Gardere, what is it? We now covered two of these cases. What is it that makes someone go from just being an awful sex offender to being someone who goes through this amount of premeditation and care to create this kind of horrifying bunker and then go and kidnap someone.
GARDERE: It‘s very deep, Dan, but in a nutshell, this is someone who has probably been destroyed as a child. Of course, self-esteem issues, probably abused themselves. But it‘s about control, power, humiliation, torture, anything. That bunker becomes their world, their universe. They‘re the master of that dungeon and so this is how they humiliate someone else the way they‘ve been humiliated.
ABRAMS: Clint, I‘ve only got a few seconds left. But the fact she was able to get the cell phone, the fact that she was even able to talk about this is just amazing.
VAN ZANDT: Yes, it really is. And her abductor, Dan - these are two-part fantasies. Part one is building the bunker and thinking about how you‘re going to do it. Part two is actually carrying out the sexual assault, the kidnapping and assault. So the person who does something like this - he gets joy and satisfaction, both in the construction, as well as the actual act.
ABRAMS: Jeff Gardere, Clint Van Zandt, thanks a lot.
VAN ZANDT: Thank you.
Up next, we‘ll have the “Winners and Losers” of the night and your E-mails in the “P.O.‘d Box.” Please stick around.
ABRAMS: It‘s time for a special all-diva edition of “Winners and Losers” tonight - the ladies of “The View,” Barbara, Star and Rosie.
Our first loser, Star Jones, after Barbara Walters claimed in her new book that Jones spent too much time talking about her wedding freebies, not enough time talking about her extreme weight loss, and that led them to end her time on the show.
Loser , Rosie O‘Donnell, Walters said Rosie had too much rage for The Donald, not enough control of her emotions and was let go because she wanted too much control of Barbara‘s show.
Our big loser? Barbara. Because after all, when you go after Rosie and Star, you‘re bound to take fire two from media cannons. Rosie wrote in her blog, “What the hell are you talking about?”
Star stepped up the vitriol, “It‘s a sad day when an icon like Barbara Walters, in the sunset of her life, is reduced to publicly branding herself as an adulterer, humiliating an innocent family with accounts of her illicit affair and speaking negatively against me, all for the sake of selling a book.”
Our big winner of the day? Barbara. Yes, publicly branding herself an adulterer with accounts of her illicit affair and speaking negatively about Star is sure to sell books. And in the end, doesn‘t Barbara always come out the winner?
Time for the “P.O.‘d Box,” your chance to tell me what you hate or love about the show. Last night, I asked the panel about the possibility of an Obama-Clinton ticket. Former Congressman Harold Ford said it might be what the Democrats need to win the general election. Many of you not convinced.
Eric Wattree from Covina, California, “Obama-Clinton? Give me a break! What president would want Bill and Hillary looking over his shoulder? And besides, how would you like to be the ‘breath‘ between Hillary and the White House?”
SRD from Philadelphia, “Obama represents a change in old politics and Clinton uses old politics. This would be a hypocritical marriage that would ultimately alienate his own support base.”
Eric Larson from Salinas, California, “Why is the media pushing this Obama-Clinton dream ticket nonsense? That would be a nightmare ticket for the Democrats and a dream ticket only for the Republicans.”
Look, it was Harold Ford who brought it up, very well known, very prominent, very important Democrat. I know all of the Clinton-haters don‘t want her anywhere near the White House and it almost certainly won‘t happen. I don‘t think Bill Press thought it would. But don‘t let your hatred of Clinton obscure what is, I assume, your more passionate desire to see Obama win.
Finally, Warren Hudson weighs in on last night‘s loser, Rush Limbaugh, “You are right, Dan. Limbaugh is like a rooster who believes his crowing makes the sun rise. The results of Indiana and North Carolina turned out exactly as they were predicted to turn out, Limbaugh‘s ‘Operation Chaos‘ notwithstanding.
That‘s all the time we have for tonight. You can E-mail us at the show email@example.com. See you tomorrow.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.