Guests: Andrew Blankstein, Deepak Chopra, Diane Dimond, Jonathan Alter
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
What or who killed Michael Jackson? Police confirmed no murder investigation. They have met with the doctor, though, who is reportedly injecting him daily with the painkiller Demerol. While another report says Jackson was highly addicted to OxyContin.
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911 OPERATOR: And what‘s the prompt of exactly what happened?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, I have a—we have a gentleman here that needs help and he‘s not breathing. He‘s not breathing and we need to—we‘re trying to pump him.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
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BRIAN OXMAN, JACKSON FAMILY ATTORNEY: If he woke up dead one day, that I was going to speak loud and clear about what I saw as the abuse of medications and people who had enabled him.
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OLBERMANN: And the mourning goes worldwide: From the Walk of Fame in Hollywood to Beijing, from his boyhood home in Indiana to South Korea, from Paris to Mexico City. And tonight the next question: what happens to his kids?
Forgotten but not gone: Mark Sanford squeezed from the headlines—but only for a day.
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GOV. MARK SANFORD ®, SOUTH CAROLINA: What I find interesting is the story of David, and the way in which he fell mightily—fell in very, very significant ways.
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OLBERMANN: Why has the runaway governor not yet resigned? Even after the revelation taxpayers funded one of his tryst trips? Even after the rehashing of a story of a governor who, as congressman, was one of Bill Clinton‘s most moralizing of critics?
And whose fault is the demise of Mark Sanford? Obama‘s!
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RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: What the hell. I mean, I‘m—the federal government is taking over—what the hell, I want to enjoy life.
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OLBERMANN: So, are you next?
An affair with a staffer, daughter who‘s an unwed teenage mother, called the judge a racist, didn‘t know what volcano monitoring was, and now, keeps disappearing to Argentina because he has a woman down there! Are they presidential hopefuls or the real housewives of new Republican jersey?
All that and more—now on COUNTDOWN.
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GOV. SARAH PALIN ®, ALASKA: I am just a mom—a hockey mom.
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OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.
The coroner‘s office tonight says the preliminary autopsy on Michael Jackson produced no evidence of foul play, nor would it have produced data about quantities of drugs in his system. That report will be weeks hence. Thus, there is no criminal investigation under way.
But in our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: One news report has Jackson, quote, “highly addicted” to one pain killer, OxyContin. Another says he was being given daily doses of injections of another pain killer, Demerol, by a live-in doctor. A third says that doctor gave him one of those injections an hour before Michael Jackson suffered massive cardiac failure yesterday.
The spokesman of the Los Angeles County Coroner‘s Office, Chief Investigator Craig Harvey, saying this afternoon that determining the cause of Jackson‘s death will require the further tests. They will take four to six weeks. But Jackson‘s body is now ready for release to his family.
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CRAIG HARVEY, L.A. COUNTY CORONER‘S OFFICE: There was no indication of any external trauma or any indication of foul play on the body of Mr. Jackson. And the Los Angeles Police Department has requested that a security hold be placed on the investigation of Mr. Jackson so there is an extremely limited amount of information that we will be able to discuss about the case.
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OLBERMANN: But the reporting, disturbing in its specificity, began almost immediately. And though Jackson was officially pronounced dead yesterday afternoon, 2:26 p.m. Pacific Time at UCLA Medical Center, medics wanted to pronounce him dead on the scene at his rented home off Sunset Boulevard, that according to TMZ. They wanted to call a coroner to pick up his body then. But according to TMZ, Jackson‘s doctor demanded that medics continue CPR and take him to the hospital. More on that doctor presently.
The 911 call indicates that some doctor had already been performing CPR before the medics arrived.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
911 OPERATOR: And what‘s the prompt of exactly what happened?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, I have a—we have a gentleman here that needs help and he‘s not breathing. He‘s not breathing and we need to—we‘re trying to pump him, but he‘s not—he‘s not .
911 OPERATOR: OK. OK. How old is he?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He‘s 50 years old, sir.
911 OPERATOR: OK, and he‘s not conscious either, he‘s not breathing .
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He‘s not conscious, sir.
911 OPERATOR: OK. All right, do you have—is he on the floor?
Where‘s he at right now?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He‘s on the bed, sir. He‘s on the head.
911 OPERATOR: OK. Let‘s get him on the floor. We‘re already on our way. Did anybody see him?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. We have a personal doctor here with him, sir.
911 OPERATOR: Oh, you have a doctor there?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. But he‘s not responding to anything—to no no, he‘s not responding to CPR or anything, sir.
911 OPERATOR: Oh, OK. Well, we‘re on our way there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.
911 OPERATOR: Did anybody witness what happened?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, just the doctors, sir. The doctor‘s been the only one here.
Thank you, sir. He‘s pumping—he‘s pumping his chest but he is not responding to anything, sir, please.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Michael Jackson‘s personal physician, the man who was reportedly with him at his home, is now being identified as Dr. Conrad Robert Murray, a Las Vegas cardiologist board certified in internal medicine, in practice for 20 years.
NBC News confirmed that the Los Angeles Police Department had been looking for the doctor, had impounded his car last night, thinking it might contain medications that might assist the coroner‘s office in its investigation. Police spoke briefly with Dr. Murray but wish to interview him further—which brings us to the part of the narrative that, while still not fully verified, might jive with the deepest fears expressed about Jackson in recent years and again last night.
What we know for certain is that Jackson had been rehearsing regularly at the Staples Center in Los Angeles for a 50-concert series in London scheduled to begin July 13th. By some accounts, Jackson had arrived home from rehearsal just after midnight Thursday morning, complained he was not feeling well and his doctor, ostensibly, Dr. Murray, was summoned.
The LAPD was told that Jackson received an injection of Demerol one hour before his death, that according to ABC News. Senior law enforcement official also telling that network that Jackson was heavily addicted to the pain killer OxyContin and that those Demerol shots were a daily occurrence.
A close Jackson family member telling TMZ that yesterday‘s dosage, at 11:30 a.m. local time, was too much and that his breathing slowed until it stopped. It was described to me by a Jackson family acquaintance and attorney, Brian Oxman, this was sadly predictable.
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OXMAN: I do know that I had warned of the use of prescription medications in the past. And I have said to many members of the family, that if one day, Michael wound up in this condition, the words exactly were, if he woke up dead one day, that I was going to speak loud and clear about what I saw as the abuse of medications and people who had enabled him. This is something which we all feared in this family. And here we are.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Let‘s turn to “Los Angeles Times” reporter Andrew Blankstein who joins us now from their newsroom. Thank you for your time tonight, sir.
ANDREW BLANKSTEIN, LOS ANGELES TIMES: Thank you. Good evening.
OLBERMANN: Can you clarify for us where things stand right now between the police and this doctor?
BLANKSTEIN: Well, the Los Angeles Police Department told me as recently as an hour ago that they‘re still trying to sort out the issues with regard to which drugs may or may not have been administered in the time leading up to his death. I mean, one of the things that—as your report pointed out—this morning, the reports were Demerol, then we get this subsequent report about OxyContin.
There‘s a lot of contradictions and the investigators are saying, look, there‘s a lot of—there‘s a lot of issues they have to sort out, including what medication he might have been on.
OLBERMANN: Who is this doctor? Do we know much about him and how he wound up in Michael Jackson‘s home and administering whatever he was administering to him if there was, indeed, any regular painkiller or anything, if he was giving him aspirin? How did he wind up in the man‘s home?
BLANKSTEIN: Well, one of the things that we reported is that he was hired by the company that was doing the concert promotion. And so, he was attending to Mr. Jackson, and at this point, beyond kind of—those kind of broad issues, we‘re not sure exactly how long he was with him the night before he died.
OLBERMANN: They‘ve said, obviously, no murder investigation. The coroner‘s office said this afternoon no foul play. Are the police out of this necessarily?
BLANKSTEIN: No. I mean, they‘ll be in it for a while. And certainly, now that they‘ve said that the toxicology report is four to six weeks away, one of the things that they want to sort out is all of the circumstances leading up to this.
One of the other things that‘s kind of underplays is that his physical condition. Obviously, he was preparing for a grueling set of dates in London and he‘s 50 years old. I mean, it‘s a different thing from being in your 20s and 30s, and together with prescription medications that the coroner‘s office said he was taking, it could have all come together to contribute to this.
OLBERMANN: I know anybody who‘s seen 10 minutes of television coverage in the last two days has probably seen that Brian Oxman—I mean, in terms of interviews, he‘s just this side of stopping passersby on the street to tell his story. But do you know—relative to the family—is there validity to his message? Were he and others desperately warning of this kind of outcome? Is the family pressing to have that point followed up?
BLANKSTEIN: Well, I think, in the past, people have raised issues about prescription drugs that Mr. Jackson may have used. But in the context of this case, there‘s still a lot we don‘t know. And the police have made it pretty clear that there‘s a lot of information that‘s coming outside of their investigation.
And, certainly, in the coming days and weeks, we‘ll know a lot more and it‘s one of the things—I think, one of the most important aspects of this investigation is what was he given in those fateful hours leading up to the death.
OLBERMANN: Last point—we‘ve heard a lot from people who knew him a long time or a long time ago. Have we heard a lot from people who have been around him in the last few days or weeks?
BLANKSTEIN: Not a whole lot. And I think that‘s another aspect of the story that the police are going to be looking at very carefully. I mean, they really—part of the investigation—and it is not a criminal investigation at this point. It‘s merely a preliminary investigation into the circumstances of his death. But one of the things they want to do is cast a wide net and interview as many people who might have been with him up until that point.
OLBERMANN: Andrew Blankstein of “Los Angeles Times”—great thanks for your time and for the perspective this evening. Thank you.
BLANKSTEIN: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Jackson lived at least four or five lives in one lifetime, it seems; which strands of those lives will dictate his place in the collective consciousness is not yet entirely obvious. But mourning him today turned unmistakably into a worldwide phenomenon: from his boyhood home in Gary, Indiana, to the Eiffel Tower, where a moonwalk is planned on Sunday, a memorial at Notre Dame today, from the Walk of Fame in Hollywood to the halls of Congress, where there was a moment of silence observed during the day today.
In Hong Kong, even, fans with candles there—a kind of scene that was repeated in country after country after country, and wall-to-wall Jackson news coverage was hardly limited to the United States, and at the place where 1967 performance led to the Jackson 5‘s first recording contract, the Apollo Theater.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I saw the crowds and I kind of wanted to be part of it and want to kind of pay my respects.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And it was almost like, it this for real. And even now, I feel like, I still can‘t—I still can‘t comprehend it. He has done so much for us as African-American people.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He‘s just happy the way it went because he‘s doing what he loves, making a real comeback, and he went out on top.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The Philippines prison, infamous for re-enacting the dance from “Thriller,” will perform it again in tribute. There was a “Thriller” party in Atlanta today, as well as a “Thriller” re-enactment or an attempt of one in Times Square here in New York, organized through Twitter and Facebook.
Moonwalking, crotch grabbing, the sequined glove, the military style jackets, boyish charm or face-altering freakishness, there is much that symbolizes Michael Jackson and the genius on stage was certainly matched by the bizarre off of it oftentimes an uncomfortable mix when the Pepsi commercial explosion, which infamously set Jackson‘s hair on fire, to the marriage to Lisa Marie Presley in 1994, to Jackson dangling his then infant son over a hotel balcony in Berlin in 2002, and, of course, the allegations of molestation—one from 1993, which ended in a settlement reported to be $20 million, and the other resulting in trial with Jackson acquitted in 2005.
Let‘s turn now to a best selling author and radio show host, Deepak Chopra, who knew Michael Jackson for 20 years and has been good enough to spend some of this evening with us tonight. Thank you for your time, sir.
DEEPAK CHOPRA, AUTHOR, FRIEND OF MICHAEL JACKSON: Yes, you‘re welcome.
OLBERMANN: You heard from Mr. Jackson relatively recently? Is that correct?
CHOPRA: Yes. I spoke to him a few times in the last three weeks. And then, two days before he died, he left a message on my voice mail saying he had good news to share and would I call him back. I picked up the message a day later. When I called him back, the phone number wasn‘t valid anymore. And I didn‘t really panic about that because he used to frequently change his phone numbers.
OLBERMANN: Can you describe, how did he sound relative to your long experience with him? Was there much change indicated, or none?
CHOPRA: In the last few weeks, he sounded really good. He was very excited about the concert. He was especially excited about a particular song that he was wanting to write.
He had created the music. He had sent the music to me. We were discussing the lyrics of the music.
So he was in a good mood. He was in a really good mood. I said, “Michael, you‘re coming back.” He said, “For sure, this time, I‘m coming back.”
OLBERMANN: What do you make then, especially, in the context of his hopefulness at the end of these reports of possible abuse of prescription drugs and people trying to intervene to stop this and a live-in doctor, which you probably heard “The L.A. Times” reporter say had been brought in by the promoter of this concert?
CHOPRA: Well, you know, in 2005, Michael came to spend a week with me in San Diego, after his trial was over and he asked me for a prescription for narcotics, for OxyContin actually. And I was quite shocked and then I started to quiz him a little bit, and it became obvious to me that he was taking these substances and they were being prescribed by various physicians.
When I started to really probe, he became very defensive and he started to deny that he had a problem. He said he was in a lot of pain. I know that Michael has been in a lot of psychological and emotional pain over the years, so I said to him, there are ways to deal with that pain. And he started to avoid me for a while.
And this happened intermittently through the years. Whenever I brought up this problem, he would then stop calling me, and then, two or three weeks later, he‘d call me and say he was sorry, but there wasn‘t a problem. When he had a pain, he would get somebody to prescribe either Demerol or give him something orally like OxyContin.
So, I was very aware that he had a problem. I was in constant conversation with the nanny of his children, who actually I had introduced to Michael when she was 18, which is almost 18 years ago. And she would call me when she thought he was kind of over the edge or his behavior was erratic. And she felt that it was maybe a result of the drugs.
But we were never able to get to the point where we could have a real intervention. I loved Michael. He was like a brother to me. I have a lot of anger right now at the enabling doctors that perpetuate this. There is a tradition—there‘s a culture of this in Hollywood. And, you know, I think it‘s about time we did a real investigation into this culture of legalized drug pushers. That‘s what they are.
OLBERMANN: You mentioned the prospect of intervention or the hope for intervention. Do you think you had—not to try to assign any of the blame for this to you—but do you—did you have a full handle on how bad this situation may have been that would have—might have ended in the kind of outcome that presented itself evidently yesterday?
CHOPRA: There are occasions when I felt that, you know, we need to really have an intervention and that‘s when we confine him or when we would -- you know, Michael was very good at finding the right doctors who could give him drugs and avoiding the doctors who did not want to participate in that. Michael was also very good at isolating himself when he wanted to and being unreachable when he wanted to. He would frequently change his numbers.
He was a very damaged, abused child as well. And, you know, a lot of his behavior can be traced to his childhood. And, you know, now, there are studies that show—there‘s a paper in psychosomatic medicine that children who‘ve been either physically or verbally abused will go on to develop auto immune diseases like lupus and vitiligo, both of which he had. He was quite disfigured, so, he would, you know, avoid being seen, at least his body, and therefore, he would cover himself and then that would lead to people making all kinds of fun of him and calling him all kinds of things. He would feel the cruelty of that. He didn‘t understand that.
And then he would become obsessed with plastic surgery, which is also a sign of shame and humiliation and self-loathing, which happens in children who have been abused. And there was no way people who knew the context of his behavior would have a much more compassionate understanding of why he did the things that he did.
OLBERMANN: Deepak Chopra, I heard—I did four hours worth of interviews on the subject of Michael Jackson‘s life and death last night and many in the past. I don‘t think I‘ve ever heard more insight and more tenderly expressed. I‘m sorry that you lost your friend and I thank you for being as open with us as you have been tonight.
CHOPRA: Thank you, Keith. He was my brother. Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Our condolences, sir. Goodness.
Lisa Marie Presley blogged today that her ex-husband feared ending up like her father. Michael Jackson outlived Elvis Presley by eight years, John Lennon by 10. But neither of them would have ever witnessed what appears to be looming on the horizon after they were gone, custody battles over their children.
And this—there‘s also calls growing today for the resignation of Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina and Argentina.
OLBERMANN: There are three Michael Jackson children, two mothers—one of whom has never been publicly identified, no biological connection to the Jackson family and a complicated estate to which those children have natural claim and on which custody of the children might hinge. Michael Jackson‘s life is over. An extraordinary drama over his children may have just begun.
And back to our news. The latest on the calls for the resignation of Governor Sanford and the Missouri legislator with the, quote, “Dickensian view” of childhood hunger.
You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: The mother of two of Michael Jackson‘s children twice gave up her parental rights—obviously, somebody thought the first time didn‘t count legally. Does the second time?
Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: Can she now get her kids back? And if she does, what happens to the third child? Michael Jackson had two children with his ex-wife Debbie Rowe, 12-year-old Prince Michael and 11-year-old Paris Katherine. And there was a third child, 7-year-old Prince Michael II, nicknamed and better known as Blanket by a surrogate whose name has never been released.
Joining us now, an investigative reporter, author of “Be Careful Who You Love: Inside the Michael Jackson Case,” my old colleague, Diane Dimond.
Good to see you.
DIANE DIMOND, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Don‘t say how old, OK?
OLBERMANN: My colleague, Diane Dimond.
DIMOND: The other day, you said when we first met how many decades ago. You don‘t need to say that, Keith.
OLBERMANN: OK. I‘ll skip it.
OLBERMANN: Does Debbie Rowe still have parental rights, and perhaps, more importantly, has she had contact with those two children?
DIMOND: No, she has not had contact with the two children. And she testified at the trial, for example, that they didn‘t know who their mother was.
The other issue is cloudy, but here is the short story: Apparently, there was a deal made way back when with Debbie Rowe and Michael Jackson. “Here, you can have the kids, I‘ll sign whatever you want, give me some money. Good-bye. You raise them, they‘re my gift to you.”
But you can‘t do that.
DIMOND: That‘s illegal. So, her attorney took it to court, had her parental rights restored. Many sources have reported that after the trial after the criminal trial, she then again said to Michael Jackson, in a lawsuit saying, “You know, all that money you said you‘d give me, you didn‘t give it to me all. Give it to me now and I‘ll sign another piece of paper giving away my rights.” That has never—I‘ve never gotten a document showing that. But there is confusion about it.
OLBERMANN: Obviously, there‘s also confusion about the—even the identity of the mother of the third child.
OLBERMANN: How does this all factor into custody?
DIMOND: Oh, Keith. Can you imagine? Now, let me tell you. It has long been known by those of us who covered Michael Jackson that Michael Jackson is not biologically connected to these children. So, there was a sperm donor that made these children with Debbie Rowe.
Many of us know who that sperm donor is. Michael Jackson handpicked that sperm donor. If he now suddenly comes forward and says, “Hmm, I want my kids. Take my DNA. Those kids are mine, I want them.” Then what happens? He‘s going to fight with Debbie. He—it‘s just a mess.
OLBERMANN: Well, fortunately .
DIMOND: And then a surrogate could come forward for Blanket.
OLBERMANN: And fortunately, there‘s no money involved in the equation.
DIMOND: Well, we don‘t know about that. He is said to be in terrible debt, but the debt was getting restructured—and don‘t forget, every radio station in America and all over the world is playing his songs now, residuals are coming in. And Michael Jackson is not there to spend the money as it comes in. So, it‘s going to begin to accumulate, pay off debt, go to the kids.
OLBERMANN: I wanted to close with you on the conversation we had with Dr. Chopra.
DIMOND: Oh, I was riveted.
OLBERMANN: It was extraordinary.
DIMOND: I got goose bumps listening to him.
OLBERMANN: And also, this begs the question about this doctor. You heard “The Los Angeles Times” reporter .
OLBERMANN: . identifying him as having been, essentially, supplied by the firm that was handling the comeback concert in Los Angeles. If you have a live-in doctor, what does that mean?
DIMOND: Well, if you‘re a celebrity and have a live-in doctor—I lived in Hollywood. You lived there, too. It means you have your in-house drug pusher, is really what you have. I need OxyContin please. I need a little Demerol. I need—and they‘re on hand to do that for you.
That the promoters would bring this man to live with Michael Jackson and the reports are that he was going to go on tour with him, to keep him healthy or to keep him supplied? I don‘t know. This doctor is pivotal to this investigation, and, boy, I hope he‘s got a lawyer.
OLBERMANN: Good grief. And to think—just that picture that Deepak Chopra just painted of Michael Jackson going to his house and asking him for a prescription.
DIMOND: Hat in hand almost.
OLBERMANN: To Deepak Chopra—I mean, it‘s .
DIMOND: You know .
OLBERMANN: It‘s mind-boggling.
DIMOND: Remember, there was a lawsuit not long ago, 2007, a pharmacy in Beverly Hills, Billy Fine (ph) or something like that, in the basement of the dermatologist that he uses, $100,000 Michael Jackson owed—
$100,000. It was figured that it was about $10,000 a month in prescription drugs.
Now, who is writing those prescriptions? Dr. Deepak Chopra was exactly right. It‘s legalized drug pushing.
OLBERMANN: The author of “Be Careful Who You Love: Inside the Michael Jackson Case,” and investigator particularly on this story for several years, Diane Dimond.
DIMOND: My pleasure, my friend.
Well, before we get back to the politics, how do we follow all of that? Of course, with a five-legged puppy.
And, the Missouri state legislator who says kids should not get free meals when school‘s out because hunger can be a positive motivator. Other Missouri leaders are now suggesting it‘s time for her to motivate herself out of chairing the committee on children.
Worst Persons—ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Bests in a moment, and the continuing gift that is Michele Bachmann.
First on this date in 1483, Richard Plantagenet assumed the British throne as Richard III, the least popular king in English history, largely through Shakespeare‘s play about him. He is believed to have been hunch-backed, with a withered arm; not true. That he usurped the crown from his two nephews; probably did do that. Executed their guardian; certainly did that. Then killed them in the Tower of London; he probably did not do that. Was then killed himself five years later by Henry Tudor at Bosworth Field, which did happen. And his final words were “a horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse.” They weren‘t. Witnesses said he said “treason” five times and then simply snuffed it.
Let‘s play Oddball.
We begin in Lukasa (ph), Zambia, where yesterday that country‘s president, Rupiah Banda, held a news conference to address some of the economic issues facing his nation. In attendance, several reporters in a gallery facing the president and a monkey—is that your monkey—in a tree above the president. Did I mention the president‘s name? His first name is Rupiah?
RUPIAH BANDA, PRESIDENT OF ZAMBIA: And the leaders of the opposition.
Look at this.
OLBERMANN: Translating for you, that was President Banda saying, ah, the monkey has urinated on me. And then laughing a little bit like Barney Rubble. Normally, of course, it‘s the government that leaks to the media.
Back here in Besemer City, North Carolina, five-legged dog, hello. Yes, this Chihuahua puppy only looks like she is sitting on another white puppy. That actually is an extra leg. The dog‘s owner says the pooch is otherwise healthy. The dog they named Precious gets around very well for having an extra appendage. They say they may attempt to remove the leg once the puppy matures. Until then, we at Oddball are rooting for young Precious, and we remind her to put the lotion in the basket.
Governor Mark Sanford, your 24 hours off are at an end. The latest call for his resignation and the last rationalization imaginable for the governor who was sparking somebody else‘s wife in Argentina comes from this man: it‘s all Barack Obama‘s fault.
These stories ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three best persons in the world.
Dateline St. Augustine, Florida. Number three, best fraudulent 911 call, Michael Kruse, arrested by county deputies there after dialing the emergency number, being told not to call back, and then calling back. Both times he asked for a police escort to drive him to Miami to see a concert by rapper ‘Lil Wayne. They think Mr. Kruse might have been under the influence of something. Well, yes, under the influence of some fine rap music.
Dateline Tasmania, Australia, number two, best science. The attorney general of the state, Lara Giddings, says she has found in a scientific journal an explanation for crop circles showing up there: wallabies, stoned wallabies. Tasmania is the world‘s largest producer of opium, grown legally for use in pharmaceuticals. As Ms. Giddings put it, scientists have now explained that the kangaroo-like animals eat the poppies, then get, quote, high as a kite and start hopping around in circles.
And dateline Washington. Number one, best Bachmann-ism, Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann is back, on her latest paranoid quest that if you fill out the census, you might wind up in an internment camp. “If we look at American history, between 1942 and 1947, the data that was collected by the census bureau was handed over to the FBI and other organizations at the request of President Roosevelt. And that‘s how the Japanese were rounded up and put into internment camps. I‘m not saying that‘s what the administration is planning to do. But I am saying that private, personal information that was given to the Census Bureau in the 1940s was used against Americans to round them up.”
Obama is planning to round up Japanese Americans, or somebody, using new evil questions about racial background that he just put in the census, even though they‘ve been in the census since 1790? But wait, there‘s more. “Does the federal government really need to know our phone numbers? You know, the one question that is not on this survey, are you a U.S. citizen? This would be your perfect opportunity to find out how many illegal aliens are in the United States. Guess what? That‘s the one question they don‘t ask on this, your resident status.”
Hold everything. We never thought of that! Find illegal immigrants by asking them if they‘re illegal immigrants. By the way, Congresswoman, about your phone number, the government already has your phone number and your e-mails. Remember those warrantless wiretaps you supported during the Bush administration?
What makes Bachmann act like this? Scientists have now explained that the kangaroo-like animals eat the poppies, then get, quote, high as a kite and start hopping around in circles.
OLBERMANN: South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford returned to work today. And by work, I do not mean those grueling missions to Argentina, during which he swapped trade negotiation points. Our third story tonight, it‘s not about sex anymore. OK, it‘s still about sex. But the lies are now piling up. And PS, we have new questions about money and public corruption.
Let‘s start with lies. All right, lies about sex. We already knew the Appalachian lie and the driving alone lie. Sanford‘s wife now tells the AP she found a letter from Sanford to his mistress in January, confronted him, and he agreed to stop the affair. Lie.
When she warned him this month not to visit his mistress, he said he needed time alone to write. Lie. In a statement yesterday he said the purpose of his trip to Argentina last year was, quote, entirely appropriate. Lie.
And not just because of the sex; a spokesperson says the trip was the state Commerce Department‘s idea. The Brazil leg, sure. But the legs in Argentina entirely professional? The state commerce secretary invited Sanford on a personal side trip to Argentina, bird hunting, and Sanford then asked commerce to arrange economic meetings there. The “New York Times” reporting a much lighter itinerary in Brazil, including a self-guided tour and dinner on your own.
Were even his trade talks appropriate? McClatchy reports the official policy of the U.S. government was not to have trade talks with Argentina, which had defaulted on its debt, which might explain why Sanford met with officials like Daniel Schiolli (ph), whose administration had split with Washington in favor of Cuba and Venezuela.
Sanford‘s office unable to provide a single achievement of his in Argentina, except OK, the achievements about sex. Today, he apologized to his cabinet, talking about humility and modestly comparing himself to King David.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. MARK SANFORD ®, SOUTH CAROLINA: What I find interesting is the story of David and the way in which he fell mightily, fell in very significant ways, but then picked up the pieces and built from there. It really began with, first of all, a larger quest, that I think is well expressed in the Book of Psalms, on the notion of humility, humility toward others, humility in one‘s own spirit.
And I guess the larger context that Scott‘s alluding to, in terms of me wanting to address you all, is that the epicenter of the administrative team really rests with the cabinet. And in as much as I had not yet had a chance to apologize to you all personally, I wanted to do so.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: About King Sanford, “I think he‘s gone. It‘s over,” quote, the state Senate leader in the “New York Times.” “Sanford has to decide whether he can be effective in office,” The House speaker. “Sanford should resign,” one of the state‘s two national committee-men. One state senator calls for an investigation. Another asks whether failing to transfer power last week broke the law by itself. Those were just the Republicans.
The up-coming Value Voters Summit no longer listing him as an invited speaker, in fact, only the national party leader has an excuse for Sanford worthy of the annals of time travel fiction. Governor Sanford, it turns out, was driven over the edge by President Obama.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: This is almost like, I don‘t give a damn. The country is going to hell in a hand basket. I just want out of here. He had just tried to fight the stimulus money coming to South Carolina. He didn‘t want any part of it. He lost the battle. He said, what the hell? I mean, the federal government is taking over. What the hell? I want to enjoy life.
The point is, there are a lot of people whose spirit is just—they‘re fed up and the hell with it. I don‘t even want to fight this anymore. I just want to get away from it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Well, sure. Infidelity, dishonesty, malfeasance and abandonment of office that dates back to like last June, and it was Obama‘s fault. I‘ve got to say, given the impediments facing him, I didn‘t think somebody like Rush Limbaugh could jump the shark that cleanly and athletically, but he just did.
Back to Governor Sanford and back with us tonight MSNBC political analyst Jonathan Alter, also the senior editor of “Newsweek Magazine.” Thanks for your time, Jon.
JONATHAN ALTER, “NEWSWEEK”: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: How is this now different from just I cheated on my wife?
ALTER: Well, I don‘t think it actually is all that much different. Look, he shouldn‘t have gone to Argentina on the state‘s dime. He is repaying the money. He‘s political toast. He‘s probably going to have to resign.
But I got to say, I got a little sympathy for him. I mean, if I didn‘t get all that upset about Bill Clinton lying about sex, I‘m not going to get all that upset about this guy lying about sex. As it happens, I know him a little bit; he‘s not a bad guy. He‘s not a mean, nasty conservative. He‘s not a Rush Limbaugh in his affect and the way he talks to people. He was crazy for love. It happens.
OLBERMANN: I‘ll buy that. I said that the other night. It‘s like we all hope we have the sort of feeling that he expressed and were expressed to him in those e-mails. But if you‘re going to act on them, and they are in conflict with, say, your job and marriage, resolve the marriage and the job, and then go to Argentina.
ALTER: Thoroughly agree.
OLBERMANN: Just go. Who would at least not think about doing that?
ALTER: He can‘t run for re-election. His political career is over anyway. He should have just resigned and then proceeded to do his thing.
OLBERMANN: But you mentioned Bill Clinton. Lost in the equation of the last few days has been the role of then Congressman Sanford as one of the chief moralizers in the Bill Clinton impeachment, a man who was so put out by this in one way or the other that he was actually one of the few who acted on the wag the dog theory, who thought that the bombing of Iraq, the missions that Clinton ordered in 1998, were there to deflect publicity from his own dawdling there, correct?
ALTER: I even did a piece on MSNBC about the wag the dog phenomenon. At the time, there was a school of thought in the Republican party that Clinton was literally going to war to distract attention. So he‘s part of the hypocrisy caucus. Pretty big one now on the Republican side of the aisle. Obviously, there are Democrats who get into sex scandals, too. But they generally don‘t have, you know, the half gainer with the hypocrisy twist as part of the story.
Sanford is in that camp. You would think that as this happens over and over again, you‘d get a greater degree of humility when it comes to pointing fingers from the conservatives. But they don‘t really seem to learn much from these episodes. What they do learn, as we saw from Rush Limbaugh, is kind of laughable.
OLBERMANN: Yes. It is time travel. Obama caused all this to happen before—a year before he was elected. It‘s fabulous in its own way. Last point here; the headline in the “Washington Times” yesterday, social conservatives fall from moral high ground. One the Clinton impeachment managers said to the “Wall Street Journal” that the party should lose the stinking rot of self-righteousness. Is there one positive in this? Is it possible that we‘re going to stop being hit over the head with moralizers from the right on these points?
ALTER: No, I don‘t think it‘ll go away. I wish I could tell you that would happen. What it does do—it‘s positive for Barack Obama, because Sanford, attractive candidate, smart, would have been a better candidate than former lobbyist Haley Barbour, who is now getting the big push as the Republican nominee in 2012.
ALTER: Better candidate than Mitt Romney, who everybody turns off the TV when he comes on. Once again, in the same way as when he was running for the U.S. Senate, sex scandals on the other side of the aisle have helped Barack Obama.
OLBERMANN: Amazing. Jonathan Alter of “Newsweek” and MSNBC, thanks for coming in and disagreeing with me so roundly and have a great weekend.
ALTER: You too.
OLBERMANN: Thanks, Jon. Even if the governor doesn‘t quit office, he has been voted off the reality show that is the field of Republican presidential hopefuls for 2012. We‘ll watch an episode of the series.
And the dangerous implications of what Coulter-geist has now said about the murder of public figures, considering that all political commentators of all parties, of all extremes, are public figures. Worst persons ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: The may not even need Mark Sanford. It was already like this. But tonight, more than ever, the field of possible Republican presidential challengers in 2012 is acting more like the stars of the “Real Housewives of New Jersey.”
That‘s next, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s number two story, tonight‘s worst persons in the world.
The bronze to Missouri State Representative Cynthia Davis. You know, the chairperson of that House‘s Children and Families Subcommittee, who was opposed to free meals for under-privileged school kids over the summer because she thinks hunger can be a positive motivator and that government is interfering with family meal time by offering free meals to families who can‘t afford to feed their own kids.
When Representative Davis stuck to her guns Wednesday and suggested nobody had the right to criticize her, the state House Democratic leader, Paul Levota (ph), wrote to its speaker, suggesting Davis‘s views on child hunger were, quote, Dickensian, and that she should be removed from the committee chair. It was also a spectacular post-script provided by a reader of the “Kansas City Star” website—can‘t verify this—posted by somebody identified only as embarrassed in, quote, “Cynthia forgets how she takes multiple plates of food from committee and lobbyist dinners to feed her hungry children when she is in Jefferson City. She has been observed at receptions wrapping and stuffing food in her over-sized hand bag. Maybe that‘s what other hungry children should have, their poor working parents do, just steal food to bring home to them,” unquote.
Runner-up, Morton Kondracke of the “Weekly Standard,” pitying poor Governor Mark Sanford. “Multiple affairs did not stop Bill Clinton from being elected president. That‘s because the Democratic party is a lot more tolerant of licentiousness than the Republican party is. And that‘s the rub for poor old Mark Sanford here.”
Right, that‘s why Governor Eliot Spitzer resigned and why Governor Jim McGreevey resigned, and why Gary Hart‘s presidential aspirations ended immediately, and why John Edwards could not get a free drink at a convention of John Edwards donors, and why John McCain and Rudy Giuliani ran for president last year, and Newt Gingrich will be unofficially running president next year, and Senator Ensign and Senator Vitter and Governor Sanford are still in office this year, even though they now have six known public affairs and four divorces among them.
But our winner is Coulter-geist. On the assassination of Dr. George Tiller, quote, “I don‘t really like to think of it as a murder. It was terminating Tiller in the 203rd trimester. I am personally opposed to shooting abortionists, but I don‘t want to impose my moral values on others.”
Ann? Annie? Over here, Ann. I know you think you‘re Dorothy Parker, but there are people even dumber than you are. I know it‘s hard to believe. As I was saying, there are people who are even dumber than you, who will not get the irony there. And they will decide they‘re now perfectly entitled to go shoot somebody they don‘t like, anybody in public, Annie. That includes me, and you. Coulter-Geist, today‘s worst person in the world.
OLBERMANN: A secret rendezvous, including steamy e-mails, an illicit affair with a married co-worker, a vendetta waged against opposing factions, the crisis of the teenage daughter getting pregnant, engaged and disengaged, and the introduction of an important new character, who turned out to have the intellectual depth of Kenneth the Page.
Of course, I could be outlining the plot of any episode of the “Real Housewives of Orange County” or of Atlanta or of New York or especially of New Jersey. But in our number one story, unfortunately for the GOP, I‘m talking about the recent history of its presidential hopefuls for 2012.
That list of course in order was Sanford, Ensign, Palin, Palin again and Jindal. Not even mentioning Newt Gingrich and the likelihood that his vote among Hispanics might be limited to three or four, not percent, three or four guys.
But even as the details involving the wild bull of a pompous, and his Maria, Maria, I‘ve just met a girl named Maria, continue to unfold, there is a silver lining. What is bad news for this quartet of GOP front runners is good news for Willard.
Now we give you the next reality show on our sister network, Bravo, the Real Republican Candidates of 2012.
OLBERMANN: Previously on the Real Republican Candidates—
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: An odd story out of South Carolina. The unknown whereabouts of that state‘s governor.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His loved ones don‘t know where he‘s at.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The only sign of South Carolina‘s governor was a cell phone picked up in Atlanta.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The governor is hiking the Appalachian Trail.
OLBERMANN: It was also National Hike Naked Day.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We‘re learning the governor wasn‘t even in the country.
SANFORD: I‘ve been unfaithful to my wife.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What does this do to his presidential ambitions in 2012?
SANFORD: It‘s going to hurt. I‘ve spent the last five days crying in Argentina.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These really graphic e-mails now exposed.
OLBERMANN: The erotic beauty of beholding yourself or two magnificent parts of yourself.
LIMBAUGH: Sanford could have been our JFK.
GOV. BOBBY JINDAL ®, ILLINOIS: Americans can—
OLBERMANN: Governor Jindal is set to deliver the Republican response.
JINDAL: As a child, I remember going to the grocery store with my dad. Instead of monitoring volcanoes, what Congress should be monitoring is the eruption of spending in D.C.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He and his prayer group performed an actual exorcism on a girl.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every form of witchcraft.
GOV. SARAH PALIN ®, ALASKA: You don‘t talk about my family.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are thick as thieves and protect each other to the end.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is stepping up her fight.
PALIN: I don‘t find it humorous.
DAVID LETTERMAN, “THE LATE SHOW”: Well, they‘re just jokes.
OLBERMANN: Last night, Letterman issuing his second apology.
PALIN: You know, you need a little levity in this job.
SEN. JOHN ENSIGN ®, NEVADA: If there was ever anything that I could take back in my life this would be it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Obviously, there has to be something else.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR: Republican John Ensign of Nevada is admitting—
OLBERMANN: What happens in Vegas gets disclosed at a late afternoon news conference.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Pay attention, please.
ENSIGN: Last year, I had an affair. I violated the vows of my marriage. I‘m truly sorry.
OLBERMANN: And the only questions that remain are which one of them turns over the table at the restaurant, which one of them once took a hostage, and which one of them will have to go to court to suppress a sex tape?
That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 2,248th day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq. A programming note, since Rachel Maddow had already taken this night off, and due to news developments, next, “HEADLINERS & LEGENDS,” remembering the life and impact of Michael Jackson. I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
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