Guests: Jonathan Turley, Welton Gaddy, John Ghazvinian, Andrew Blankstein, Gerald Posner
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
We rejoin the sliming of Sotomayor already in progress. The Supreme Court overrules the three-judge lower court of which she was one member, and overturns a reverse discrimination case in New Haven—that the lunatic right-wing now says means she is a racist.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: The court found that she was indeed a racist. The driveway is on the state-run media saying it‘s a 5-4 decision along ideological lines. If you read Ruth Bader Ginsburg, you‘ll find out it‘s a nine-zip decision.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The magic of far right math: How 5-4 becomes nine-to-nothing.
But the party of values still insists Governor Mark Sanford should not resign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, ® SOUTH CAROLINA: I think we‘re a party of sinners, just like every other group in America.
RUDOLPH GIULIANI ®, FMR. NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: This is not a Republican or Democratic issue. For every Republican, we could name a Democrat who had the same kind of trouble.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Yes. Except the Democrats resign or get impeached, while the Republicans, like Giuliani, shamelessly hang on.
Shamelessly hanging on in Iran: The recount confirms the Ahmadinejad re-election, and Ahmadinejad promises an investigation into the murder of
Died intestate you say -- $500 million in debt and three kids and no will? Custody of Michael Jackson‘s children goes temporarily to his mother. Custody of the weirdest possible reaction to his death goes permanently to his father.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSEPH JACKSON, MICHAEL JACKSON‘S FATHER: Remember, we just lost the biggest star in the world, superstar in the world. So, it‘s been tough.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Son—you just lost your son.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JACKSON: I was very proud of my son and the legacy of Michael will still go on. I promise you that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And what about Dr. Feel Good? Sorry, Dr. Conrad Murray?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EDWARD CHERNOFF, DR. CONRAD MURRAY‘S LAWYER: When everything is finally resolved in this case, Dr. Murray will be exonerated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And Worsts: Joe the Plumber calls for lynching of Senator Dodd. He says repeatedly, “Why hasn‘t he been strung up?”
All that and more—now on COUNTDOWN.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
SAMUEL WURZELBACHER, JOE THE PLUMBER: I think it‘s asinine.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.
A landmark civil rights ruling affecting employers and job seekers of all ethnicities proves that Judge Sonia Sotomayor isn‘t fit to sit on the United States Supreme Court.
Our fifth story tonight: Legal analysis from opposite land, direct from the bizarro news desk, the right-wing version of today‘s Ricci ruling. The New Haven firefighters denied promotion after the city tossed out its test fearing lawsuits from minority candidates who do not score as well as white ones did. According to the right, all nine Supreme Court justices voted against the Sotomayor ruling in the lower court that New Haven was allowed to discard its own test.
Republican Senator John Cornyn writing that, quote, “all nine justices were critical. The unanimous verdict proving Sotomayor is rewriting law outside the mainstream to favor minorities, giving short shrift to white claims of reverse discrimination.” As the judiciary committee Republican Orrin Hatch pointed out, given the brief order from Sotomayor‘s second circuit panel, this bias apparently prompting additional concerns from Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, ® KENTUCKY: Just a day or so ago we discovered that there are 300 boxes of additional material that have just been discovered from her time working with the Puerto Rican Legal Defense Fund. The committee needs to have access to that material and time to work through it so we don‘t—so we know all the facts before we vote on a person who‘s up for a lifetime job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And now, the latest from reality land. Sotomayor did not write the Ricci order. Another judge did. Nor did Sotomayor rewrite law. Title VII of the civil rights law prohibited employment practices even if they had no obvious bias if the results were discriminatory in practice. That interpretation originated with the Supreme Court in 1971. That was why New Haven tossed out its test. When no black candidates qualified for promotion, the test became discriminatory in practice.
Rewriting law? Justice Kennedy‘s opinion today says that employers, before ending potentially discriminatory practices like the New Haven test, now first have to prove somehow that they would be libel to lawsuits if they did not—a new legal obligation that some might call rewriting existing law.
Oh, that nine-to-nothing vote? Here in math world, it was actually 5-4. Voting against Sotomayor, five Reagan or Bush appointees and even Justice Kennedy called the case difficult, requiring a ruling that, quote, “clarifies how Title VII applies.”
Voting with Sotomayor? Justice David Souter, the man Sotomayor has been named to replace.
Time now to call in Jonathan Turley, professor of constitutional law at George Washington University.
Jon, thanks for your time tonight.
JONATHAN TURLEY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Before the politics, the impact, what‘s the impact, if you would, on this still ongoing effort to ensure justice in hiring? Tell me about the case first.
TURLEY: Well, you know, it is a major case in the sense that it rewrites a significant portion of Title VII by saying that employers have essentially a new defense that they can make. It is not as extreme as what was suggested by Justice Scalia, who was really challenging virtually any race-based remedies. What Kennedy here is saying is that fear of a lawsuit is not enough to justify throwing out these types of test results and that he‘s giving a little more of a deference to this process.
But I think that the decision is going to have a very big impact so that it‘s no longer sufficient to simply say that it has a disparate impact upon minority groups. It has—it gives this extra burden, as you pointed out, to cities. And that burden is also an added defense in some respects for those cities.
OLBERMANN: So, what was—what was the court doing to the ruling that Sotomayor was one-third a part of? Was it saying that she and that ruling were wrong? Or were they saying that we need to clarify maybe undo the precedent and the law on which she based the decision? In other words, she read the rules correctly, now, we‘re changing the rules?
TURLEY: Well, it seemed to me that the majority went out of its way not to criticize the second circuit. The panel decision was very brief. And on that, you know, there is some criticism of the panel that they did not give a more fulsome attention and scrutiny to the firefighters‘ claims. The liberal judge on second circuit criticized the panel for that, and I think that Judge Cabranes was right in that criticism.
But we have to remember that they were upholding the district court judge, and when they did so, not only was it unanimous on the panel, but later, the entire second circuit decided that they did not want to review that panel decision, and then four justices came to the same result. And so, it‘s a little bizarre to be saying that this was a 9-0 ruling or that she‘s out of the mainstream. There are a lot of judges here that felt that the result was correct.
OLBERMANN: Yes, 9-0. I meant to ask you about that. Can you—and trust me, I‘ll understand if you can‘t—can you explain the nine-nothing, 5-4 ruling?
TURLEY: No, it really is an exercise of fanciful math. Look, we really need to dial down the rhetoric—as impossible as that may seem—in today‘s political environment.
But when I read the majority decision in this case, and the dissent, and even Justice Scalia‘s concurrence, I find them all to be pretty provocative and very sort of good-faith treatments of the subject. This is an issue upon which people can reasonably disagree and you don‘t fall outside of the mainstream. It‘s tough.
And I think that‘s what Kennedy said. Kennedy said, “Look, well, I‘m clarifying this area. It‘s a very difficult inquiry.” To use this case to suggest someone is out of the mainstream is truly ridiculous.
You know, the one thing that I think you cannot call Judge Sotomayor is biased. You know, on my blog, I analyzed her major decisions. And one thing I said was: I don‘t see any bias at all. She comes very neatly on both sides of the political aisle and that is much to her credit.
OLBERMANN: Yes. She looks—from my reading of it—she looks like she has, in fact, where she anticipated some possible bias because of her own background, pointed that out and compensated for it and tried to balance it out all the way through. I think you‘re—obviously, your analysis of it is much better than mine.
But, in any event, Jon Turley, professor of law at George Washington -great thanks, as always, for your time, Jon.
TURLEY: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: And given right wing opposition to a judge who embodies their judicial values, you could imagine how the right is defending a governor whose personal life should have nothing to do with his job. That‘s right. South Carolina‘s mark Sanford should keep his job if he can salvage his personal life.
According to the newspaper “The State,” some South Carolina Republicans want Sanford to step down. A past party chairman there saying, quote, “Their patience will run out.”
So what criteria will they use to determine whether he should go? Quote, “It depends on how people see things are working out between the governor and the first lady.”
Of course, Republicans, like Senator Lindsey Graham—who endorsed an adulterer for president—would never suggest a man who‘s fitness to govern was not based on his personal life, he would be fit to govern based on his personal life.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRAHAM: I think the people of South Carolina appreciate what Mark tried to do as governor, to change their state and they‘re very disappointed at what he did as Mark the individual and his malfeasance at, at times, but they can reconcile the two only if Jenny and Mark can get back together.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: So, given this new standard for Republican officeholders, what do we know about Sanford‘s gubernatorial prospects? According to Jenny Sanford, at the same time they were in religious marital counseling, her husband repeatedly—I really need to be on camera for this part—she told “The Associated Press” that her husband repeatedly asked her for permission to visit his mistress. She said no.
Marital counselor Cubby Culbertson told “The Associated Press,” quote, “For most Christians, if you‘re married long enough, you do it because that‘s what we‘re called to do—out of obedience instead of out of passion. And I think that‘s where Mark and Jenny are right now.”
I‘d like to turn right now to the Reverend Welton Gaddy, the president of the Interfaith Alliance and host of “State of Belief” on Air America Radio.
Thank you, again, for your time, sir.
REV. WELTON GADDY, AIR AMERICA RADIO: Thanks, Keith. Good to see you.
OLBERMANN: Mr. and Mrs. Sanford in this union as it‘s described here of obedience rather than passion, from—just—truly, from the religious definition of marriage, does that sound like a happy one or a revivable or reclaimable one?
GADDY: Well, the danger of that kind of talk, Keith, is that in the name of obedience, you can be depersonalized trying to obey a principle which in some of the Christian tradition says that the wife should be submissively obedient to her husband.
I don‘t think that marriage is about that kind of obedience. Marriage is about intimacy. And you don‘t establish intimacy on the basis of obedience to a rule.
OLBERMANN: To take that next step, that next leap from there into the political world, into—not even the political world, government, Jenny Sanford‘s religious obligations allow her husband to stop sleeping on the couch. How does that make him qualified to remain in office and how does the reverse make him not qualified to remain in office?
GADDY: You know, I‘m so confused by all of this, Keith, because it‘s the tactic of the religious right, over and over to confuse religion, politics, and law. Whether or not he ever returns to his marital bed has nothing to do with whether or not he ought to return to the governor‘s office. That‘s two different spheres.
In that sphere of interpersonal relationships, those two people have a right to work through that and to work it out according to their best judgment and wisdom, what‘s best for each of them, both of them, and their family. The people of South Carolina need to make a decision on whether or not this man can still be a good governor.
OLBERMANN: Reverend, is—why does this story have any religious element to it at all? I mean, is that the best prism through which either to understand fidelity, marital stress, or even the stress of being the governor of a major state?
GADDY: It‘s a horrendous prism through which to look at it. And, as oddly as this sounds, it has a religious dimension to it in the public rhetoric because of a political interest, not because of a religious interest. There‘s been a lot of talk about hypocrisy in this case and there is enough hypocrisy to go around for everyone. When you talk about being self-righteous and being the party of God, being a party of the righteous ones, you invite critical judgment.
To hear Rudolph Giuliani say that for every Republican that has done something like this, a Democrat has—so what? I mean, that is—are we counting up evil? Are we counting up mistakes to decide who‘s going to be the best governor, the best senator? No. That‘s like getting in a spitting contest in a high wind blowing in your face. It‘s going to be pretty nasty on everybody.
OLBERMANN: Well, now, here‘s a question that may be—that may be up your alley and maybe it‘s not. It sounds to me like one of those medieval arguments about how many angels can dance on the head of a pen. It‘s Mr. Giuliani‘s. It‘s an extension of what you just mentioned from those quotes this morning. He—basically, he said that if cheating has no bearing on a politician‘s job or whether or not he should stay in it, but staying married does.
There‘s—I‘m missing something. As if these two things are an elephant and a mouse. They don‘t look like an elephant and a mouse to me.
GADDY: No. Keith, there are two tracks on which you have to travel in making a decision here. One is a justice track, a consequences track. One is a religious track that has to do with forgiveness.
When one does wrong in an instance like this, you, first of all, have to ask what are the consequences of this and what do those consequences imply for the political future of this individual? Can he be forgiven? Of course.
But forgiveness is not about wiping away consequences. Forgiveness is about creating possibilities. His future is open but he has to pay for his past.
OLBERMANN: Reverend Welton Gaddy, president of the Interfaith Alliance and also of Air America Radio. It is always a pleasure, sir. Thank you for your time.
GADDY: Thank you. Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Oh, yes. Sonia Sotomayor, court-defined racist. I mentioned that at the beginning. That‘s Boss Limbaugh talking. We‘ll get to him and his explanation of the Supreme Court decision in Ricci was actually nine-to-nothing. You know, it sounds to me like he was the guy doing the vote counting in Iran. Oddly enough—Iran is next.
OLBERMANN: Good news and bad news for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The good news is: the recount is over and he is the lucky winner. The bad news is: there are lots of people on his side of the equation in Iran who think that a big compromise would be a good thing in a really, really, short order.
Later: Michael Jackson and the last video. Joe Jackson speaks about his late son in between plugs for his new record label. Good thing the mourning period is being restricted by the family.
And there‘s breaking news tonight about what the coroner‘s office pulled out of Jackson‘s medicine cabinet this afternoon. Cabinets?
You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: It‘s hard to believe you have to say something like this, but in a bad sign for Iran, that country today became a lot more like America. Bad because—in our fourth story tonight—the America it now resembles would be the one of Bush v. Gore and O.J. Simpson.
Incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad certified as the winner there today after officials say they did a random recount of 10 percent of the vote and found—yes, there are some errors in at least one Tehran district, they wound up awarding more votes to Ahmadinejad. These results are coming not from the people or from people elected by the people, but from people appointed by people who are not elected by the people: Iran‘s Guardian Council, six judges and six clerics appointed by the supreme leader who just happens to be a supporter of Ahmadinejad.
And the O.J. Simpson part? Discussing the notorious murder of Neda Agha-Soltan, Ahmadinejad—reportedly, with a straight face—vowed to find the real killer, asking a top judge to investigate her shooting which occurred as his forces were cracking down on protestors. A doctor who says he treated her at the scene having told the BBC, witnesses spotted an armed member of the Basij militia, the militia controlled by the government of Ahmadinejad—who is now claiming to have arrested people allegedly posing as members of the militia and as the police.
The International Federation of Human Rights, meanwhile, is estimating that the Iranian government has now arrested at least 2,000 people with hundreds more having disappeared. Among those in custody, a handful of British embassy employees whom Iranian officials accused of being at some of the protests and committing the crime of mingling.
Let‘s turn once again to University of Pennsylvania‘s senior fellow, John Ghazvinian, who among other things, went to Iran to exercise his vote in person.
Thanks for your time tonight, sir.
JOHN GHAZVINIAN, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA: Good evening.
OLBERMANN: “Huffington Post” today had this picture of the Iran parliament where a member had suggested leeway for dissent and was promptly jostled, surrounded by his peers. Are there enough democratic elements for something resembling genuine democracy to rise in Iran or is this the reality coming to—coming to the surface again?
GHAZVINIAN: Well, the elements are certainly there, but, no. I mean, in reality, the short answer to your question is no. I mean, this is—although the elements are there, fundamentally, Iran is an Islamic theocracy, which happens to allow certain elements of democracy.
OLBERMANN: The talk officially here now is of putting advisors to, I guess, the runner-up, may be revised them down to fourth place, to Mr. Mousavi on trial for—we assume the actual reason for this is being advisors to Mr. Mousavi. What does that tell us? Where does that lead?
GHAZVINIAN: Well, I hope that that doesn‘t happen obviously, because, obviously, they wouldn‘t bode very well. I mean, obviously, they‘re trying to consolidate power.
In terms of where it leads, I think we‘re now heading into a third phase of this election crisis. I think the first phase, obviously, was when the hundreds of thousands of people just sort of erupted onto the streets. Then I think the second phase really was last week, when you had a kind of internal power struggle within the regime between supporters and opponents of Ahmadinejad kind of jostling and jockeying for power.
I think what we‘re heading into now is a feeling that that, you know, that this is basically over. And there‘s a feeling now of, “Look, let‘s take a deep breath and recognize the fact this guy is probably going to be president for the next four years. You know, what do we do?”
In a sense, the superdelegates have spoken today, if you will, and this is, you know, the Mousavi camp is in the position of Hillary Clinton after the Puerto Rico primary. You know, will he play ball and what will he do now?
And I think your comparison to 2000 Bush-Gore is also pretty apt. I mean, this feeling after a long drama, long kind of drawn-out drama, you know, the reform movement needs to, you know, kind of pull up its boots and take a deep breath and think about how it‘s going to regroup for the next four years, how it‘s going to deal with an Ahmadinejad presidency.
OLBERMANN: Well, what does the—in that equation—what does the winning side do? They—there‘s already been some call for compromise from some of the ayatollahs. What does that—you know, forbid government violence against unarmed protestors, as if that were significant compromise, I guess in the context it might be that. But what do they do to meet somewhere in the middle, in their middle, with these protestors?
GHAZVINIAN: Well, I mean, certainly, that‘s been happening. I mean, you can see that there‘s been a lot of, as I said, jockeying and kind of figuring out exactly, you know, where the clergy is going to stand on this. The clergy has actually been pretty quiet.
I think, one of the people to really watch right now, actually, and I wrote about this a couple days ago in “The Huffington Post” is Ali Larijani, the speaker of the parliament. I mean, he‘s actually not a reformist at all. He‘s a hard-line conservative, but he‘s no fan of Ahmadinejad. He‘s made a lot of very carefully calibrated statements on either side of this over the last couple weeks.
The fact is that Ahmadinejad now as president is going to have to work with parliament. He‘s got a massive amount of resentment in the country. And if there‘s one person who really can make his life hell for the next couple of years .
GHAZVINIAN: . it‘s the speaker of the parliament, who can, you know, block or kind of hassle his legislative agenda.
OLBERMANN: We talked last week about the possible overrating of America‘s role in what was happening after the election in Iran. But now, there‘s no way of overrating America‘s role in its relations with Iran. What does Obama do now in hopes of getting these talks started to reach some sort of rapprochement with this government?
GHAZVINIAN: Yes, Obama has basically two choices at this point. On one hand, he‘s going to be coming under a lot of pressure from the Israelis, in particular, over the next few months.
You know, basically, the argument is going to be, “Well, you see, you can‘t talk to these people. You can‘t talk to Iran. There‘s no point. So, you might as well, you know, ratchet up the pressure, you know, and allow us to bomb.”
On the other hand there is an argument being made in Washington that, you know, fundamentally, America‘s long-term strategic interests in the Middle East depend on realigning our relationship with Iran. You know, I think that Obama is probably—you know, there is a certain kind of, you know, dignified pause that has to be there, you know, to kind of show respect for what‘s happened over the last couple weeks.
I think Obama‘s personal sympathies and his impulse is towards that latter position. But he‘s going to be coming under a lot of pressure over this.
OLBERMANN: John Ghazvinian, senior fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, also of “Huffington Post”—great thanks again for your time, sir.
GHAZVINIAN: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Temporary custody of the Jackson children now settled. Status of the Jackson personal doctor, anything but. And some breaking news coming up on what the coroners found in the Jackson house today.
And when is a 5-4 squeaker decision by the Supreme Court really a nine-to-nothing decision? When he says it is. That‘s when.
Worst Persons is ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Best in a moment, and if they let him out 100 years early, he‘ll get out of jail at the age of 121.
First, it is the birthday of my friend Richard Lewis—not Richard Lewis the British Anglican bishop, not Richard Lewis the baseball pitcher, not Richard Lewis the baseball pitcher, not Richard Lewis the Welsh martyr, not Richard Lewis the head of the New Zealand party of destiny, not—well, I think you‘re beginning to understand a little better, aren‘t you? Happy Birthday, friends!
Let‘s play Oddball.
We begin in Warren, Ohio where Oddball is kicking the 3D tires, HD? I thought we were in 3D. Oh, boy. HD tires with video of a police interview of a woman with a squirrel tucked in her tank top. The woman was brought into the station to speak with police about a recent crime when detectives were stunned to see the baby squirrel emerge from her cleavage.
Upon the interview‘s conclusion, the woman and her baby squirrel left headquarters without incident. As for the crime, here‘s hoping police solve it, because after all, even a blind squirrel finds justice once in a while. Dr. Fang‘s discount (ph) house of squirrels. That‘s a TV reference.
In Japan, it‘s a walking cupcake, with a smiley face—all fired up about Chubu Airport‘s newest mode of transportation, the i-Real, Toyota‘s new tricycle/lounge chair that will revolutionize the way airports hustle to avoid you and your problems. The airport bought four of these, one features a computer to help check-in passengers. The other three are for touring around in and looking ridiculous.
After the event in which the i-Real‘s arrival was announced, the assembled dignitaries and the media were allowed to dig into that cupcake guy.
The Jacksons insist there is no will. A judge says Michael Jackson‘s mother gets the kids, at least temporarily. Jackson‘s father keeps saying all kinds of weird stuff. And what about the weird stuff the “L.A. times” reports they just pulled out of the house?
And what‘s up, doc? Aggressive defense from his last personal physician at a time when Dr. Deepak Chopra called all of them, quote, legalized drug pushers.
These stories ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three best persons in the world.
Dateline, Baltimore; number three, best wishful thinking, David Zurawik, TV writer of the “Baltimore Sun,” writing up the ratings for one night of TV, the night Michael Jackson. He noted of prime time on this network, quote, “the time period at which it rose and is now starting to fall, with a slumping Keith Olbermann.”
Yes, the ratings for the second quarter of 2009 just came in this afternoon. And despite the lack of a political primary season, despite the one-time ratings on Jackson night, COUNTDOWN remains sizably ahead of CNN and Headline News at 8:00 p.m. for the last quarter. We are the second highest rated show among all viewers. And the network finished second in prime time as well. This is the number one prime time show anywhere in cable news among viewers under the age of 35. Some slump. If you have a TV column and you have a rooting interest about who wins the ratings, to the point you will falsify their meaning, either you should drop the rooting interest or they should drop you from the column.
Dateline Washington, number two, best false equivalency, Dana Milbank of the “Washington Post,” on last week‘s presidential news conference and the question of Iran—from Iran by Nico Pitney. Quoting, “during the eight years of the Bush administration, liberal outlets such as the ‘Huffington Post‘ often accused the White House of planting questioners in news conference to ask pre-planned questions. But here was Obama fielding a pre-planned question asked by a planted questioner from the ‘Huffington Post.‘”
Yes, those are exactly the same thing. The Bush White House credentialing a male escort from a non-existent news organization to feed softballs, and denying they were doing so. That is exactly the same thing as the Obama White House telling Pitney, those questions you‘re asking Iranians to send in, bring in a good one, and we‘ll call on you. And being so above board about the pre-planning that both the president and Pitney sounded like the chef of the future bit from the “Honeymooners.” Come on, Dana. You‘re smarter than that.
Dateline New York City, number one, best judge, Denny Chin, who was already a winner after his ruling in the 2003 Al Franken case. Now responding to the guilty plea of Bernard Madoff upon defrauding thousands of investors of 13 billion dollars, by sentencing him to 150 years in jail. Mr. Madoff only turned 71 this past April 29th, meaning if he served the sentence in full, he would not be free until sometime late in the year 2159, at the age of 221. Obviously a physical impossibility.
But it‘s the thought that counts.
OLBERMANN: Breaking news from the “Los Angeles Times” on what coroners found in Michael Jackson‘s rented home today coming up in a second. Already decided, his mother gets custody of Jackson‘s kids, at least for now. Now who gets custody of Jackson‘s father?
Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, the Jackson roundup—prefacing this with the caveat that his son is dead; he might be acting this way out of grief. But goodness, should your first two public appearances after that death really be devoted to how big a superstar he was, and to the new record company you are launching?
The news, such as it is, today; late today, family attorney Wandell McMillan (ph) told NBC that if Michael Jackson left a will, he has not seen it. Manager Frank DeLeo claims also that Jackson had a will, but he can‘t prove it. McMillan added that under California law, if there is no will, the estate would then go to the next of kin, in this case an adult administrating and overseeing for the best interests of the children.
Also this morning, Federal Judge Michael Bechlov (ph) approved Katherine Jackson‘s request for temporary custody of Michael Jackson‘s three children, but he refused to name her administrator of her son‘s estate. So her attorney has filed a new petition about that.
There may be more money in it than you would guess, in that estate. The Associated Press reporting tonight that two weeks before he died, Jackson finished a video called “Dome Project,” on which he had worked for five weeks.
Also, the L.A. County coroner followed up his initial investigation with a visit to Jackson‘s Bel Air home, this as the family awaits the results of a second and private autopsy it requested and received yesterday. The coroner‘s office says it retrieved medications from the Jackson home today. Investigators emerging from the mansion off Sunset Boulevard, bearing two large plastic bagfuls.
And then there was the freak show. A Joe Jackson news conference at which, first, we had a kind of unintentional flashback to his son‘s early childhood.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE JACKSON, FATHER OF MICHAEL JACKSON: What I‘m doing is I established a record company with Marshall. And the company is called Marantz Records, distributed by Blu-Star and Blu-Ray.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And then the personal touch. Another strange state statement from somebody who has just lost a child.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JACKSON: The legacy of Michael will still go on. I promise you that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Joining us once again, “Los Angeles Times” reporter Andrew Blankstein. Thanks for some more of your time tonight, sir.
ANDREW BLANKSTEIN, “LOS ANGELES TIMES”: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: That investigation we mentioned before; your reporting on the evidence that the investigators found at Jackson‘s rented home today. What more can you tell us about this?
BLANKSTEIN: Well, today they removed two bags of evidence from the home. This is in addition to prescription medication that they retrieved last week. And so one of the things that we‘re hearing is that this shows kind of a broadening of the investigation. Some of these prescriptions were over—prescribed over years.
So one thing we‘re learning is that they are looking at a number of doctors. Obviously, in the past few days we‘ve been hearing about Dr. Murray. One of the things that this is indicating is that, again, there are other physicians that might have prescribed the medication they‘re looking at.
OLBERMANN: So when his friend Deepak Chopra said last week on this news hour that Michael Jackson was always capable of finding somebody to get him prescription drugs he thought he needed, as opposed to what a doctor thought, and that that‘s what they should investigate as much as anything else at this point; it sounds like, to some degree, the coroner‘s office, maybe coincidentally, is doing just that.
BLANKSTEIN: I think the coroner‘s office, Los Angeles Police Department‘s Robbery/Homicide Division, they are looking at this. Obviously, it‘s not a criminal investigation, as we noted. But one of the things they want to establish is a timeline in this case, and also who had access to him, who prescribed medication. What was that medication? And one of the ways to do is not only retrieving this evidence, but interviewing a number of these doctors.
OLBERMANN: Why is—having some experience covering the entire mixed bag that is law enforcement in southern California, explain why robbery/homicide would be involved in this? I assume it‘s because there isn‘t actually a department of—well, for no other term to use, but there is no department of doctors who help celebrities feel good.
BLANKSTEIN: Correct. Well, the bottom line is why you would call in robbery/homicide detectives. It‘s the elite detectives. It‘s the Los Angeles Police Department. They specialize in complicated and high profile cases. And this would definitely fit the bill.
Again, one of the things that‘s really important here, as you try to establish what really happened, is kind of keeping somewhat of a veil of investigative secrecy over it.
OLBERMANN: But to the degree that veil is impossible, let me just recap this, and see if I understand correctly. What they found today, these two bagfuls, these two plastic bags that the video shows them taking out, is in addition to whatever was found on scene last week when Jackson collapsed, and was removed from that place off Sunset Boulevard?
BLANKSTEIN: That‘s correct. It‘s in addition to.
OLBERMANN: The other legal aspects of this, what you have on it, starting with Jackson‘s children; his mother granted guardianship. Hearings slated soon. Any signs that anybody is going to be outside of the family fighting for custody here, the mother that we don‘t know about or Debbie Rowe or anything else? Or is this maybe moving more fluidly than originally thought?
BLANKSTEIN: Well, one of my colleagues talked to the attorney for Debbie Rowe. At this point, she has not made a decision whether she wants to move forward with either trying to challenge guardianship or visitation. It‘s not really clear at this point. I‘m sure it‘ll be one of many court filings that we‘ll see. This is kind of the first volley.
OLBERMANN: Is the first big legal thing going to be about whether there actually is a valid will?
BLANKSTEIN: That‘ll be one of the key things. Obviously, you‘ve heard different reports. The attorney who was standing next to Joe Jackson last night at the BET Awards said he hadn‘t seen a will. But just because he hadn‘t seen a will doesn‘t mean there isn‘t a will. That‘s one of the things—under California law, you have 30 days to come forward. So that‘s where we‘re heading, in that direction.
OLBERMANN: A reminder, that might not be a nefarious thing. A 50-year-old man probably doesn‘t think he‘s going to have to produce—or his survivors will have to produce a will suddenly. Andrew Blankstein of the “L.A. Times,” sharing with us what they‘ve just posted on the website and will be in the paper in the morning. Thanks for your time.
BLANKSTEIN: Thank you so much.
OLBERMANN: Then there‘s the doctor. That he was there when Jackson collapsed, say his lawyers, just a coincidence.
The advertisement encouraging atheists to come out of the closet. How such an inclusive attempt could possibly wind up on the worst persons list.
When “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” begins at the top of the hour, a lieutenant colonel who is losing his job because of Don‘t Ask Don‘t Tell, takes you inside the Obama reception tonight for the LGBT community. Wow, that‘s timing.
OLBERMANN: Dr. George Constantine Nacopolis (ph), better known to Elvis Presley as Dr. Nick. There was Dr. Robert Framan (ph), better known to the Beatles as Dr. Robert. The efforts by his lawyers to keep Michael Jackson‘s personal physician, Dr. Conrad Murray, from joining that list.
That‘s next, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s number two story, tonight‘s worst persons in the world.
The bronze to the person who donated the scratch for 10,000 dollars worth of ads on the sides of buses in New York City promoting atheism. They read, “you don‘t have to believe in god to be a moral or ethical person.” The hope from President Ken Bronstein of the group NYC Atheists, is to get people to stop hiding their non-belief, to stop hiding it. No complaint about the message. However, while Bronstein says, we want to get atheists to come join us to get out of the closet, unfortunately, the donor who made the ads possible is keeping his identity anonymous.
The runner-up, Boss Limbaugh. As we mentioned, the Supreme Court voted five to four to reverse the New Haven firefighters case, disagreeing with a lower three-judge court which happened to include nominee Sonya Sotomayor. Or—
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: The court found that she was indeed a racist, but there are things about this—well, they did. I mean, you—let me tell you something. This is a five to four decision. The drive by in the state run media saying it‘s a five to four decision along ideological lines. If you read Ruth Bader Ginsburg, you find out it‘s a nine zip decision.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Seriously Rush, if you‘ve fallen off the wagon, or if you feeling like you‘re losing your grip emotionally, I‘m dead serious about this, get to a doctor or a clergyman or a shrink or somebody. If not, what the hell, dude? You‘re starting to make stuff up? The Supreme Court votes five to four, and you decode that as nine to nothing? So you say you have 30 million listeners a week and I can say no, you got none. Here‘s why? Big bag of mashed up jack-ass.
But our winner, Joe the Plumber. He has moved from performing plumbing services without a license to lying, to working for a political party without disclosing it, to encouraging repeal of freedom of the press, to fomenting violence against elected officials.
But first the comic relief. Speaking at Wausau, Wisconsin about the founding fathers, Wurzelbacher said, quote, “they knew socialism doesn‘t work. They knew communism doesn‘t work.”
This is why you should have paid attention in school, and not just sat there practicing with your snake. The founding fathers‘ Declaration of Independence, that was all about 50 years before anybody thought up socialism or communism.
Now the evil part; the “Wausau Daily Herald” writes, “referring to Senator Chris Dodd, Democrat Connecticut, more than once, Wurzelbacher asked why hasn‘t he been strung up?”
See now, what strung up means, Joe, is to hang somebody, to lynch them, to kill them. Joe Wurzelbacher passively just called for the assassination of an elected U.S. senator. And some law enforcement agency should go make it clear to him that this is not only immoral, but also might just be illegal. Samuel Joe the lynch mob Wurzelbacher, today‘s worst person in the world.
OLBERMANN: A quick recap of the hour‘s breaking news in the Michael Jackson investigation: L.A. County coroner‘s officials took two plastic bags full of evidence from Jackson‘s rented home today. The “Los Angeles Times” is reporting that these were not the prescription drugs found when Jackson collapsed last Thursday. These were older medications. The Times also reporting this is part of an investigation of whether Jackson was using multiple doctors to get prescription drugs.
Speaking of doctors, Elvis had one. Anna Nicole Smith; the Beatles wrote a song about one. As questions arise concerning the man who was Michael Jackson‘s personal physician, in our number one story, just what role Dr. Conrad Murray played in Mr. Jackson‘s life and death, yet to be determined.
Murray surfacing this weekend to talk with L.A. Police after they had impounded his car, after he had disappeared briefly immediately following Mr. Jackson‘s death. Dr. Murray‘s lawyer, Edward Chernoff, saying Murray found Jackson unconscious Thursday, but still warm with a faint pulse. Chernoff confirming that Murray administered CPR to Jackson on Mr.
Jackson‘s bed, although Chernoff points out that the bed was a firm one.
Chernoff also maintains Murray never prescribed nor administered Demerol nor OxyContin to Jackson. The Reverend Jesse Jackson stating the Jackson family requested a second autopsy in part because of questions the family has about Dr. Murray. And the family claiming Dr. Murray has not spoken to them since Jackson‘s death.
Mr. Chernoff making the morning talk show rounds earlier, says Murray has spoken indeed with members of the Jackson family, including his mother and his children.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EDWARD CHERNOFF, LAWYER FOR DR. MURRAY: I can‘t explain how the Jackson family might feel under these circumstances. And I don‘t want to judge the decisions they‘re making and the accusations they‘re making as sinister in some way. I don‘t know why they‘re doing this.
I can say this: when the investigation is complete, when toxicology is done, when everything is finally resolved in this case, Dr. Murray will be exonerated and maybe they‘ll feel differently.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Mr. Chernoff also maintaining that Dr. Murray, quote, looked into Jackson‘s physical condition and found no evidence that Jackson was not fit to perform in an upcoming series of sold-out concerts in London. Quoting, there was nothing that Michael Jackson told him that led him to believe that he was not capable of making this tour.
Joining us now to talk about the doctor and the drugs, investigative journalist Gerald Posner.
Always a pleasure, sir. Thank you for your time tonight.
GERALD POSNER, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: Good to be with you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: That last statement from Mr. Chernoff seems a little confusing here. Would not past medical history play into whether somebody is fit enough to go on a tour? Why would a doctor rely solely on what his patient tells him, especially when the patient is Michael Jackson?
POSNER: You‘re absolutely right. You‘re talking about a tour where tens of millions of dollars are at stake, and you come in and you have to find out about the patient‘s history. You need to know more than just what the patient tells you.
The problem with Jackson is you can‘t go to one family doctor and say, by the way, what‘s his last ten years been like? This is a fellow who has had doctors around the world. He‘s got a doctor in London. He has a doctor in the United Arab Emirates, where he spends months at a time. He‘s got a doctor on the East Coast. There are several doctors in Los Angeles.
I think that the problem with Dr. Murray is he stepped in at the wrong time. He stepped in when the star died. He came in in May, all of a sudden, when the insurance company said, by the way, we want you to take care of him, and go on tour with him. And the next thing you know, he‘s giving him CPR on a, quote, firm bed.
And so this turns into the nightmare. He happens to be the doctor standing watch when Jackson actually dies. But he‘s not the doctor who was prescribing the pills for Jackson that have made up this prescription drug addiction for him for years.
OLBERMANN: This pertains, Gerald, to that breaking news that the “L.A. Times” is citing, that those bags that we‘re showing right now, that‘s not just—that‘s not the stuff that supposedly was in his system the last few weeks. That‘s old material. That‘s what, a stockpile? He had like a library full of past prescriptions?
POSNER: Well, that‘s the great thing. The past prescription history allows the Los Angeles Police to build up the case, and find out who the doctors were who were the doctor feel goods in this case. For instance, I happen to live in Florida in which we have drug clinics in which you can go if you have pain, and you can, for a hundred dollars every month, walk in and get an OxyContin prescription.
The great thing in Florida is they‘re going to start next year. But right now you don‘t find out if you go to multiple doctors. So you can doctor shop. You can do two or three or four doctors at a time.
For a celebrity, Keith, this is automatic. You can get prescriptions any time you want from any number of doctors. There are concierge doctors and private doctors who will write OxyContin and Demerol prescriptions for Michael Jackson and they do it around the clock. He can have multiple doctors doing that.
What they will find with these pills taken out today is who those doctors were, if they were over-prescribing, why they weren‘t monitoring him. The real question comes back to the current doctor, Dr. Murray, why wasn‘t he more aggressive in finding out what that prescription history was.
OLBERMANN: As you portray him here, a kind of loser in a game of medical musical chairs; what do we know about him? I mean, he was claiming to be a cardiologist and is not board certified. And he did seem to have a certain period of time where he tried to handle this situation by himself, half an hour or so before they called 911. Are these bad signs?
POSNER: You know, it‘s premature to tell. Let me tell you this: it‘s never good to have the King of Pop die while you‘re the only doctor at his house. And then when you‘re doing CPR, you have to have the CPR people, the EMT people tell you 911 on the telephone, by the way, don‘t keep him on the bed. Thank goodness it wasn‘t a water bed. But put him on the floor, where at least it‘s a little harder surface.
Then the doctor refuses to go in the ambulance with his patient, who he‘s been hired to take care of to the hospital. Then he refuses to sign the death certificate.
I must tell you, as a lawyer, that‘s the only smart thing I think he did, was refuse to sign the death certificate, because at that point he was saying, I don‘t know what killed him. I don‘t know what was involved here. I‘m not his regular doctor. And therefore, you‘re going to have to do an autopsy and find out.
OLBERMANN: Do you have any idea, in brief, where this is going to end up legally?
POSNER: This is going to end up making lawyers wealthy. There are lawyers licking their chops around the country. This is going to be years of litigation. We‘re going to be talking about this in terms of the estate for years to come.
OLBERMANN: Kids in the eighth grade right now will eventually serve as lawyers in this case.
POSNER: That‘s true.
OLBERMANN: Investigative journalist Gerald Posner, it‘s always a bizarre subject that brings us together, but it‘s always a pleasure when it does. Thank you.
POSNER: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 2,251st day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq. I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
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