Guests: Kent Jones, Lieutenant Colonel Fehrenbach, Nina Totenberg, Jim Moret, Ben Hoover
ALISON STEWART, MSNBC HOST: Good evening. Nice to see you, Keith. And thank you for tuning in tonight after a really busy summer news day. Rachel has a well-earned night off.
The Supreme Court weighed on the case on which Sonia Sotomayor had ruled and NPR‘s Nina Totenberg will join us live. And there is legal news surrounding the death of Michael Jackson. And Governor Mark Sanford continues his apology tour ‘09.
Plus, a huge milestone was reached in Iraq a day early. Wikipedia and “The New York Times” actually cooperated. And we‘re all one step closer to being the Jetsons.
That‘s all ahead.
But we begin tonight with President Obama‘s White House welcome to one of his most restless constituencies. Will lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans be happy with face time when life-changing executive action does not appear to be a presidential priority?
Late this afternoon, President Obama hosted some of the nation‘s top leaders and activists in the LGBT community, 250 of whom in the East Room of the White House, were there to celebrate Pride Month. At least that was the official purpose of their visit. Impossible to escape, though, was the feeling among some in the room that the president has not done enough on gay rights issues.
Mr. Obama acknowledged the dissatisfaction and promised more action was on the way.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know that many in this room don‘t believe the progress has come fast enough, and I understand that. It‘s not for me to tell you to be patient, any more than it was for others to counsel patience to African-Americans who were petitioning for equal rights a half-century ago. But I say this: We have made progress and we will make more.
We‘ve been in office six months now. I suspect that by the time this administration is over, I think you guys will have pretty good feelings about the Obama administration.
We are all witnesses to monumental changes in this country. That should give us hope. But we cannot rest. We must continue to do our part to make progress step-by-step, law-by-law, mind by changing mind.
And I want you to know that in this task, I will not only be your friend, I will continue to be an ally and a champion, and a president who fights with you and for you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEWART: In a moment, we‘ll speak live to someone who was there today: Lieutenant Colonel Victor Fehrenbach. He‘s a decorated 18-year veteran of the United States Air Force who has been informed that he is being booted out of the military as a result of the federal law that has become to be known as the “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” policy.
President Obama has voiced unequivocal opposition to “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” and promised to repeal it, but to this day, openly gay members of the U.S. Armed Forces are being discharged from the services.
The president addressed that issue directly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I believe “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” doesn‘t contribute to our national security. In fact, I believe - I believe preventing patriotic Americans from serving their country weakens our national security.
OBAMA: I know that every day that passes without a resolution is a deep disappointment to those men and women who continue to be discharged under this policy. Patriots who often possess critical language skills and years of training and who‘ve served this country well. But what I hope is that these cases underscore the urgency of reversing this policy - not just because it‘s the right thing to do, but because it is essential for our national security.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEWART: As for the timing of today‘s White House event, it does coincide with the anniversary of the Stonewall protest. Forty years ago yesterday, New York City police raided a bar called the Stonewall Inn in Manhattan‘s Greenwich Village. At the time, gay people could be arrested just for kissing or holding hands in public. And the Stonewall Inn was known as one of the few bars in the entire city that would accommodate openly gay men and lesbians.
That night, as police began their raid in the middle of the night, and patrons of the bar stood their ground. They refused to disperse and they stood up against the police action which they thought was discrimination. That night launched what became several days of protest and it eventually helped create what we now know as the modern day gay rights movement. As a matter of fact, today‘s White House meeting was official recognition of that movement.
Unofficially, gay rights advocates have been unhappy with President Obama, not only for the continued existence of “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” but for his Justice Department‘s brief earlier this month regarding the Defense of Marriage Act. That brief implied that being gay was somehow comparable to incest when it cited a case involving an uncle wedding his niece.
The frustration in the gay community over President Obama‘s inaction on these issues was made evident just last week as several high-profile gay activists boycotted a DNC fundraiser in Washington, D.C. hosted by Vice President Biden. As one person told “The Miami Herald,” the GayTM is closed.
Officially, today was a commemoration of a civil rights movement that has been determined to achieve equal rights for all gay Americans. Unofficially? One of the least pleased corners of the president‘s base met the man they believed promised to champion their cause but has yet to deliver.
Joining us now is Lieutenant Colonel Victor Fehrenbach, an 18-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force. He is being kicked out of the military as a result of “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.” Lieutenant Colonel Fehrenbach is in Washington, where he met earlier today with President Obama.
Lieutenant, I know it‘s been a really busy day for you. So, thank you so much for making the time for us.
LT. COL. VICTOR FEHRENBACH, U.S. AIR FORCE FIGHTER PILOT: Thank you, Alison.
STEWART: You spoke with President Obama today. What did you tell him?
FEHRENBACH: I did, just after he spoke, I was about the third person to get to him and I introduced myself and told him my situation, and he looked like he knew who I was and what my situation was already. So, I basically told him that I was currently being discharged under “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” and I told him the situation for me was urgent and I needed his help.
STEWART: And were you satisfied with the answer you got from the president? How did he respond? That‘s a very direct question.
FEHRENBACH: It was. He looked me right in the eye and he said, “We‘re going to get this done.” And then he continued to say, you know, everyone seems to be onboard. We‘ve got about 75 percent of the public that supports this. He said, but we have a generational issue. And so, there is some convincing to do, that there is a generational gap it seems and some of the senior leadership.
STEWART: Did that satisfy you? Did that sound like a reasonable answer?
FEHRENBACH: It is a reasonable answer. That‘s what I expected. I knew that was probably the case because, you know, I go to work every day and the people I work with, the young officers and the young enlisted corps, for them this is a non-issue. They don‘t have a problem with this.
So I sort of suspected that the - maybe the people that were a little bit disconnected were some of the senior leadership. So, I expected that.
For my case, in particular, it doesn‘t necessarily help me because what I heard then was it might take a lot longer than expected. You know, I‘m on the clock. I‘ve got about five to six months left. So, it didn‘t sound like we‘d get this repealed before I was officially discharged.
STEWART: You were there today with hundreds of activists and leaders in the gay community, and the president, you know, he acknowledged the disappointment among some that more progress hasn‘t been made. Like you said, in your case, the clock is ticking. What was the mood going into the event? And then if you can describe the mood coming out? No pun intended.
FEHRENBACH: I was - I was somewhat skeptical. I would say going in, and I think the mood as he spoke was very optimistic and very hopeful. This was the first time I had heard the president speak since his inauguration about “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.” We heard him as a candidate and we heard his promise, and this was the first time, again, he addressed the issue. And it did give me a new sense of hope.
STEWART: Is it your sense that those in attendance today really felt their concerns were being listened to or was it the president seeking support from the gay community and a really fine photo-op?
FEHRENBACH: No. I don‘t - I didn‘t get that impression at all. In fact, the president - you saw in some of his comments - he likened this - these efforts to the efforts 40, 50 years ago for the African-American community. So, this is - you know, this discrimination is something he‘s felt his whole life. So, this sounded like it was a personal issue for him, that he really did believe in these causes and wanted, you know, equal rights for all Americans.
STEWART: I know that you had intended to wear your Air Force uniform to the event today. Were you able to?
FEHRENBACH: No, it turns out I wasn‘t. You know, I had gone to previous events in the White House. I went to George W. Bush‘s inauguration in 2000 and other inaugural events and every event I ever attended where the commander-in-chief was present, as an active duty member of the military, I have always worn my uniform. And so, I thought it was appropriate that I would wear my uniform today.
Again, to be at an event with the commander-in-chief was hosting and I‘m active duty military, but early this morning, I was informed by my chain of command that they viewed this- they perceived this as a political event, and they told me it would be inappropriate for me to wear my uniform.
STEWART: Lieutenant Colonel Victor Fehrenbach, thank you for your service, of course, and thank you for your time tonight.
FEHRENBACH: Thank you, Alison.
STEWART: Before taking off for the summer, the Supreme Court reversed a decision by a judge hoping to join their exclusive club - Obama‘s nominee Sonia Sotomayor. What that means for people seeking promotions and what it means to Sonia Sotomayor‘s nomination are the topics next with NPR Nina Totenberg.
And as the shock of pop uber-icon Michael Jackson‘s death subsides, the very messy, expensive, and high-stakes drama of the world he left behind takes the stage. The essential Jackson news of the day is coming up.
But first, “One More Thing” about the anniversary of the modern gay rights movement. The 40th anniversary of Stonewall was marked in Fort Worth, Texas, with a raid on a gay bar which had been open for less than a month. Early Sunday morning, officers from the Fort Worth Police Department and agents with the Texas Alcohol Beverages Commission arrested seven patrons at the Rainbow Lounge. Police say some patrons made sexually explicit moves on them and that one person grabbed an officer.
By the end of it all, one customer was taken to the hospital for brain trauma after police threw him down to the ground. Protestors of the raid gathered at the bar and county courthouse on Sunday. Police deny they were targeting the gay bar and pointed out the Rainbow Lounge is the third bar they stopped by that night for inspections. They can tell that to the two Fort Worth city council members now calling for an investigation.
STEWART: What do Bernie Madoff and Eliot Spitzer have in common? Get your minds here together, Madoff just got massages allegedly.
Both Madoff and the man who ran the prostitution ring that notoriously cited Spitzer as client “number nine” were sentenced by the same judge. That man is federal Judge Denny Chin. And in both cases, the judge laid down the most serious law possible, dealing maximum sentences in both cases.
Prostitution ring leader Mark Brenner got 30 months in prison for his misdeeds which notoriously led to the Spitzer debacle.
In Madoff‘s case, today, he got 150 years in federal prison for his $65 billion Ponzi scheme. And we learned tonight, 10 others will face charges in the next few months, according to “The Associated Press.”
In sending Madoff away until the year 2159, Judge Chin cited the fact that there were exactly no mitigating circumstances. In other words, if you‘re guilty, and Judge Denny Chin has your case, you‘d better hope you look good in an orange jumpsuit.
STEWART: Schools‘ out for summer and so now is the U.S. Supreme Court. Before the justices could sign David Souter‘s yearbook and scatter across Europe - for the nine justices have summer teaching gigs over there there were decisions to make here.
For starters, the court handed down the highly-anticipated, much-awaited decision on the Ricci firefighter discrimination case overruling a decision handed down by a three-judge appeals court panel that included Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor. We‘ll get details and analysis on that key decision in a moment from NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg.
But first, a few other interesting headlines from the justices‘ final day of work before summer break. Just last week, “The New York Times” published more than 100 pages of newly-obtained documents compiled by lawyers working for families of 9/11 victims, showing considerable financial links between al Qaeda and members of the Saudi Royal family. A group of thousands of 9/11 survivors and victims‘ families were trying to sue Saudi Arabia and four Saudi princes for allegedly funneling money to al Qaeda.
But today the court refused to hear the case. That means the appeals court ruling against the victims‘ families stand. The ruling says that since Saudi Arabia is not a designated state sponsor of terrorism, it cannot be sued, thanks to the get-out-of-court free card known as sovereign immunity.
The Supreme Court also refused today to hear a case being brought by the television and film industry - including our parent company - against cable TV company, Cablevision. Studios and networks were trying to block Cablevision from introducing a new kind of DVR service. Now, the Supreme Court has cleared the way, expect to hear about remote storage DVR, essentially TiVo without the box in the very near future - and please continue to patronize our sponsors.
The court did put one piece of work in the unfinished business file. Chief Justice John Roberts announced today the court will rehear a campaign finance case that revolves around a 90-minute film about Hillary Clinton released during election season last year. At issue is whether it was a very long negative ad and therefore subject to campaign finance rules or a documentary, and only subject to Roger Ebert.
Real arguments are set for September 9th, which could be - put new pressure on the Senate to quickly confirm Sonia Sotomayor. Now, the question is: which factor will most affect the debate over and the speed of Sotomayor‘s confirmation - this new semi-artificially-imposed September deadline or the fact the current Supreme Court just overruled an important decision she helped make?
Joining us now, Nina Totenberg, the award-winning legal correspondent legal affairs correspondent for National Public Radio.
Thank you so much for coming on the show, Nina.
NINA TOTENBERG, NPR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: My pleasure, Alison.
STEWART: The New Haven firefighters‘ case was among the most closely watched discrimination case in years. What was exactly the court was making a decision about?
TOTENBERG: Well, New Haven had a promotion exam, and there were black and white firefighters who passed but only white firefighters scored high enough to be promoted. And New Haven finally decided when it looked at that and said, “Oh, my God, we‘ve only got white firefighters getting promoted.”
It said, “We need to have a new test. We need to redesign this test. So we don‘t have such a disproportionate racial disparity here.” Whereupon the white firefighters sued. The city of New Haven had been worried about the black firefighters suing them for a racial discrimination, but instead, the white firefighters sued. And today, they won in the Supreme Court.
STEWART: And the decision was a five-to-four decision, correct?
TOTENBERG: That‘s correct.
STEWART: And how - what were the arguments?
TOTENBERG: Well, this could have been a far more sweeping decision than it was. The court ruled only on statutory grounds and it says that the civil rights law does bar disproportionate racial disparities when there isn‘t a good reason for it.
But in this case, the court said there was a good reason. The test was related to the job - to job questions, that it was a fair test, and that there wasn‘t a better alternative that was presented and that therefore, the white firefighters were entitled to their promotions.
STEWART: What sort of implications will the ruling have for hiring practices of workplace, both public and private?
TOTENBERG: I talked to a lot of experts today and this is not 20 or 30 years ago. Almost nobody hires this way anymore, with very rigid test scores being the basis for promotion. Almost nobody hires or promotes that way anymore, with the exception of some government agencies, mainly fire departments and police departments - and even not most of them anymore.
So, most people seem to think it will have an extremely limited effect. There will be some cases, a few, a handful or two, in which it will have a big effect. But in most instances, this is not going to have an enormous effect. It might have 20 or 30 years ago, but it doesn‘t today.
STEWART: And also, if we‘re very honest, in reality, one of the reasons people are paying so much attention to this case is because it overturned a ruling from the panel that included Judge Sotomayor. What effect, if any, will this have on her confirmation process?
TOTENBERG: Well, certainly, her critics will try to use it as fuel to fan the fire of opposition. But as you pointed out a few minutes ago, the court is now going to hear an important campaign finance case in September, before the court term - the new court term actually begins. And that is putting (ph) - I suspect that is going to put increased pressure on Republicans, from Democrats, to try to have a vote on the floor on this nomination in August.
STEWART: Finally, I want to ask you one big picture question. What do you think was the most significant ruling of the session? I know it‘s hard.
TOTENBERG: I think, usually, you need some years to figure that out, but there are a lot of things the court didn‘t do this year. It didn‘t strike down the Voting Rights Act. It didn‘t declare this provision - a key provision of the employment discrimination law unconstitutional. It didn‘t do a lot of things that liberals worried it was going to do. It was it took steps that were far short of that.
Now, we‘ll have to see. The next big chance is this big campaign finance case. Six years ago, the Supreme Court upheld the McCain-Feingold law. This case gives them an opportunity to undo that ruling, to overrule a key part of that ruling - and the court looks very much like it might do that in this case.
STEWART: Putting it into perspective for us. NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg - Nina, thank you very much.
TOTENBERG: Thank you, Alison.
STEWART: The essential Michael Jackson news of the day is coming up and so is more reporting on South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford. He had an affair. We got that part.
But who hijacked his steamy e-mails and then sent them to a newspaper? Was someone out to get him or something more random than that? I‘ll ask Ben Hoover, a reporter from South Carolina who knows all about things Sanford. That‘s coming right up.
STEWART: Still ahead: The sad, sad story of Michael Jackson‘s death and his legacy - artistic and otherwise - saw more twists and turns today. Who gets custody of his children? Who assumes his debt? Who gets whatever money there is and what was his father doing on BET last night? All you need to know is coming up.
We also have the latest weirdness from the Mark Sanford story. And just because the pictures are amazing, Kent Jones has the rainbow colored highlights from gay pride across America. That is coming up.
But first, it‘s time for a few holy mackerel stories in today‘s news.
It‘s over - in a way - from one perspective. The Iraq war now six years on saw the end of one significant phase today as Iraqis formally took control of their own security - after American troops withdrew from Iraq‘s major cities a day ahead of tomorrow‘s deadline. U.S. forces handed over security to the Iraqi military and left for bases outside of the cities where the vast majority of the more than 130,000 forces will remain.
Thousands of Iraqis celebrated in Baghdad tonight with fireworks and patriotic songs and Prime Minister Maliki declared tomorrow, June 30th, as National Sovereignty Day. Iraq‘s 650,000-member military will control the security of urban areas, although some American forces will be embedded with Iraqi troops as advisors.
The U.S. military will continue to operate in rural areas and near the border and engage in combat with Iraq‘s government‘s permission.
President Obama wants all combat troops out by August of 2010, and America‘s deadline for withdrawing all forces is December 31st, 2011. A momentous day surely, but probably not what architects of the war envisioned when the invasion was launched.
Now, next up: the president of Honduras Mel Zelaya was grabbed out of his bed at gun point and flown to Costa Rica in his PJ‘s on Sunday - not as the next contestant on “I‘m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here,” but as part of the first coup in Latin America since the Cold War ended.
The order to arrest the president came from the Honduran supreme court, just hours before Hondurans were to go to the polls to vote in a referendum which - if approved - would have allowed the president to serve more than one term. But when the supreme court ruled, the referendum was illegal and the military refused to distribute the ballots, the president fired the chief of the army, leaving the military to fight back with the supreme court‘s help.
Leftist leaders from several countries, Central and South American countries, led by President Zelaya‘s close ally, Hugo Chavez, are pulling their ambassadors from Honduras in protest as governments around the world condemned the coup.
President Obama today calls it, quote, “not legal,” and said the U.S. still considers Manuel Zelaya to be president. Zelaya said tonight that he will travel back to Honduras on Thursday.
As police fired tear gas at protestors in front of the Honduran presidential palace, occupied for the moment by the head of the Honduran congress, instructing (ph) the military and playing the role of president, as Central America experiences a fairly frightening time warp.
Finally, here‘s the reason why you shouldn‘t believe everything you read on the Internet. “The New York Times” revealed it had been monitoring and changing Wikipedia pages. The paper revealed over the weekend that its editors worked with the cofounder of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales, to keep details about the kidnapping of a “Times” reporter off the user-edited Web site while the reporter was captive. The Taliban in Afghanistan kidnapped the “Times” reporter David Rohde in November and held him until his incredible fearless escape earlier this month.
Rohde‘s editors were convinced that any publicity about his kidnapping would hurt his chances of being released so kept all details of his whereabouts out of the paper but they didn‘t stop there. Another “New York Times” reporter and friend of Rohde changed his Wikipedia page, highlighting his reporting to make him look sympathetic to Muslims.
As news of the kidnapping made its way around the Internet, Wikipedia users added the news to Rohde‘s page, until those changed were erased, then they‘d be added back on and then it get erased again, and then added back on and then erased again you got it. You got the idea, right?
Finally, Wikipedia also froze Rohde‘s entries at least a dozen times so that no one could edit it. This continued until Rohde escaped when, according to “The Times,” Wikipedia‘s cofounder himself unfroze the Web page. At least that‘s what I‘ve read online.
STEWART: Welcome back. I‘m Alison Stewart, in for Rachel tonight.
Four days after Michael Jackson‘s sudden death at the age of 50, the story just continues to grow. New information has emerged about just what happened to the most famous and infamous pop star since Elvis. The details, like Michael Jackson‘s behavior, raise as many questions as they answer. Many are sad. Some are frankly a little odd.
After Jackson‘s personal physician, Dr. Conrad Murray resurfaced this weekend for a three-hour talk with police, Dr. Murray‘s attorney revealed that paramedics were called for nearly 30 minutes after the singer collapsed. The reason? Because Jackson‘s room didn‘t have a telephone, and because Dr. Murray apparently didn‘t know the street address to give the emergency operator.
Once they were finally called, paramedics got there within three minutes. By that time, Dr. Murray had been performing CPR on Michael Jackson while he lay on a bed for nearly half an hour. This news came as the L.A. coroner returned to Jackson‘s house today to retrieve medications as his family awaited results of a second autopsy which they requested.
As for what and whom Michael Jackson left behind, his mother Katherine Jackson now has temporary guardianship of his three children. It‘s still unclear if the mother of his two eldest children, Debbie Rowe, is planning to file for custody.
Her lawyer today vehemently denied reports in a British tabloid that Jackson wasn‘t the father of her children. As far as Michael Jackson‘s money, his parents filed initial papers today requesting that Mrs. Jackson become the administrator of his estate.
And intriguingly, a very public debate about whether or not Michael Jackson had a will. As far as Michael Jackson‘s work is concerned, the Associated Press reports that Jackson finished an elaborate video production dubbed “Dome Project” two weeks before he died. It‘s expected to be completed July 15th.
As to Michael Jackson‘s family, his sister Janet Jackson made her first public appearance since his death at the BET Awards Sunday night, reminding the world that he was not just the subject of public attention and scrutiny but he was also a human being.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JANET JACKSON, POP STAR AND MICHAEL JACKSON‘S SISTER: To you, Michael is an icon. To us, Michael is family. And he will forever live in all of our hearts. On behalf of my family and myself, thank you for all of your love, thank you for all of your support. We miss him so much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEWART: His father, Joe Jackson was also at the BET Awards but with a different message than his daughter, a message that struck many observers as, well, calloused. And the message he expounded upon, again, at a news conference this very afternoon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE JACKSON, MICHAEL JACKSON‘S FATHER: This is my friend (INAUDIBLE).
QUESTION: How‘s the family.
JOE JACKSON: The family is fine. Thank you.
I established a record company with Marshall (ph) and the company is called Ranch Records, distributed by Blue Sun, Blue Ray. Yes - so we have a lot of good artists fixing to come out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEWART: Here now, Jim Moret, chief correspondent with “Inside Edition,” a lawyer who has covered Michael Jackson for nearly 20 years. Jim, thanks for taking the time.
JIM MORET, CHIEF CORRESPONDENT, “INSIDE EDITION”: My pleasure, Alison.
STEWART: What is the situation with Michael Jackson‘s will? Who says he has one? Who says he doesn‘t have one?
MORET: His family says he does not have one. They filed papers today. Katherine, his mother, filed the papers saying that Michael died intestate, meaning without a valid will. That‘s why she asked for temporary control over his assets and also asked that she be named the guardian for the children.
STEWART: But there seems to be an account that he does have a will.
MORET: There is one report that a former attorney claims that he has a will executed some five, six years ago and plans to file that with the court. The question is, is it a valid will? And we really don‘t know.
It‘s like so many things happening in this story. We‘re hearing one thing over here, another over here. And everything is muddled; everything is confusing.
For example, you just reported a moment ago that the doctor now comes forward saying there wasn‘t a phone in the room. He didn‘t know the address of the house so paramedics weren‘t called for 30 minutes. That‘s something new today that complicates things even more and people are going, what is going on?
That news conference for example was the strangest thing I‘ve ever seen, coming from a father who‘s just lost his son and he‘s hawking a record label. This whole story is taking on a bizarre, twisty, uncomfortable feeling.
STEWART: I want to go back to something you mentioned earlier. We talked about Michael Jackson‘s parents want permanent custody of the children. They want to administer his estate. They‘re having a second autopsy performed on him. Will they likely get what they want? And should they be in sole control of all he left behind?
MORET: Well, if he didn‘t have a will, they are his family and certainly, they have the interests of the children at heart. It‘s very important - you know, the father, Joe Jackson. There were numerous allegations about his abuse of his children, specifically Michael, over Michael‘s lifetime.
It‘s interesting to note that Joe Jackson is not listed as the guardian but Katherine is - his mother. And I think that those children are very close with Katherine. It‘s not just those children now that are living there, but other cousins and siblings. And presumably, that will give those kids the best shot at a normal life to be surrounded by family who loves them.
STEWART: Let‘s knock down another set of rumors. The British tabloids - they‘re notorious; I‘m just starting with that - and may have thrown out some wild allegations. I need you to help me do a little rumor control.
STEWART: One British tabloid is claiming that Debbie Rowe says Michael Jackson is not the father of her two children, a charge her lawyer is denying. Another claim that a restaurateur is the father of Jackson‘s child. Is there any truth to any of this?
MORET: You know, the rumors about Michael Jackson not being the natural father of those children has been floating around so long. The fact is, under California law, he is presumed to be the father. It‘s even an issue legally.
STEWART: So those reports - they wouldn‘t have any effect on a custody case or anything with his parents.
MORET: That‘s correct. They would not.
STEWART: Michael Jackson‘s personal doctor, by his lawyer‘s admission, didn‘t manage to call the paramedics - we discussed that - for half an hour. Could that be some kinds of grounds for a negligence suit against him?
MORET: Well, the doctor said that he was trying to give Michael Jackson CPR. But what we heard on that phone call to 911, the first thing the 911 operator said was get that person on the floor. We find out he‘s on the bed. The doctor said, “Well, it was a firm bed. And Michael Jackson is so frail and thin that I was using a technique that you‘d use on children, putting one hand underneath and one on top.”
We heard one tabloid report said Michael Jackson was only 112 pounds when he died. He‘s five foot, ten inches. But Brian Oxman, a former attorney and family friend, said that during the criminal trial, Michael Jackson got down to 108 pounds. So it is certainly possible that he was 112 pounds when he died. And basically, the doctor was able to deal with him like he would a child in performing CPR.
STEWART: And finally, quickly, the L.A. Coroner‘s Office reportedly took two large plastic bags of what was called evidence out of the home.
STEWART: What were they looking for?
MORET: They‘re looking for and say they found drugs, presumably prescription medication. And family friends say that for years, they had been concerned about Michael Jackson‘s abuse of prescription medication.
STEWART: The story gets thicker and thicker.
Jim Moret, chief correspondent with “Inside Edition,” thank you so much for walking us through this.
MORET: My pleasure. Sure.
STEWART: Now, someone linked those scandalous e-mails between the governor of South Carolina and his Argentinean lover. So who do we credit for this? That story is next. Stay with us.
STEWART: In tonight‘s moment of geek, we are one step closer to living like Elroy, Jane, Judy and George Jetson.
Not quite flying cars and treadmills with fire hydrants for dog walks, but NASA has solicited two private companies to bid on the job of taking astronauts into space. NASA needs these companies up and running immediately so they don‘t have to farm out the American space program to the Russians when the old shuttle fleet is retired this year.
But while both companies have had some success at launching cargo into space, they have yet to deliver shuttles capable of carrying anything more than space diapers and Tang.
For the record, the two companies currently competing for the job are Space X and Orbital Science Corps. No word if Cogswell Cogs or Spacely Sprockets has entered the bidding.
And for the record, Ooh eeh ooh ahah- that means “I love you.”
STEWART: The sociological pathology of Governor Mark Sanford‘s fall from grace continues. There is new clarity about many of the people and events leading up to last week‘s dramatic public confession of infidelity. And there‘s one huge unanswered question - whodunit? Who stole the steamy e-mails and gave them to the press?
First, what we know. The governor is still the governor and he does not intend to resign. He told NBC‘s Mark Potter that he considered stepping down but changed his mind.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. MARK SANFORD ®, SOUTH CAROLINA: To be human is to, on occasion, fall flat on your face. I‘ve done it in the most public of circles. The question now is what do I learn from it and what do others learn from it?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEWART: As he hangs on his office, Governor Sanford is still apologizing. Last Wednesday, before disclosing his affair, Mr. Sanford apologized to his wife, his family, his staff, his supporters, the people of the Palmetto State and the people of faith.
Today, Mr. Sanford started his big state budget meeting with this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
M. SANFORD: We‘ve dealt with each other for six and a half years now.
I want to apologize to you as well for letting you all down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEWART: That‘s the governor. As for the rest of the people snarled in the mess he created, there is the governor‘s wife, Jenny Sanford. We now know how and when she learned of the whole story.
The former Wall Street executive who is credited for many of her husband‘s successes issued a statement on Wednesday saying that she asked her husband to leave about two weeks ago adding that, quote, “This trial separation was agreed to with the goal of ultimately strengthening our marriage,” end quote. On Friday, Mrs. Sanford said her number one priority is her family, not her husband‘s political career.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JENNY SANFORD, MARK SANFORD‘S WIFE: His career right now is the least of my concerns. My important job right now is our children.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEWART: Jenny Sanford told the Associated Press she knew her husband was cheating after finding a love letter in one of Sanford‘s files in the governor‘s mansion. Sanford even had the nerve to ask Mrs. Sanford if it was OK for him to visit his mistress.
She told the AP, quote, “I said absolutely not. It‘s one thing to forgive adultery. It‘s another thing to condone it. He was told in no uncertain terms not to see her,” end quote.
South Carolina‘s first lady says her husband promised to end the affair and they agreed to enter counseling. And for better or worse, we now know more about that than we previously had. Enter Warren “Cubby” Culbertson.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
M. SANFORD: I see Cubby Culbertson in the back of the room. I would consider him a spiritual giant, and - hang on. And an incredibly dear friend. And he has been helping us work through this over these last five months.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEWART: Everybody meet Cubby. Today, Cubby Culbertson, in an interview with the AP, said that Mark and Jenny Sanford were in his love boot camp class with four couples this past spring and that they passed the class with flying colors.
Now, Culbertson‘s saying the only thing holding the Sanfords‘ marriage together is, quote, “their vow to God because it‘s not feelings. It‘s not emotions,” end quote.
That is the news about the Sanfords and the difficulties in their relationship. What‘s left to know is, whodunit? Who obtained and leaked the intimate e-mails between the governor and his Argentinean girlfriend?
The state newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina had the e-mails, informed the governor of it sometime before his fateful press conference. Last week, the newspaper said they got it from - the e-mail, that is - from an anonymous source back in December.
But “whodunit?” still the question. It starts with Maria Belen Chapur, Mark Sanford‘s girlfriend, who is also a mother, divorced spouse and a recipient of those difficult-to-read romantic e-mails. On Friday night, “The New York Times” reported a man who dated Ms. Belen Chapur may have leaked the e-mails to Governor Sanford‘s hometown newspaper.
“The New York Times” source? A Buenos Aires TV executive who hired Belen Chapur. The colleague told “The Times” the jilted lover happened to see the e-mail messages from the governor and hacked into her e-mail account to see the rest.
In one of the published e-mail messages, dated July 9th, 2008, she wrote Governor Sanford that she has seen another man, quote, “He is a very nice guy, great heart, but unfortunately I am not in love with him. You are my love,” end quote.
This is so TMI. Sunday, Sanford‘s mistress denied the report issuing a statement stating the accused leaker in question is, quote, “an excellent, respectable and honorable man, far away from being the author of this evil action. He was, instead, another victim.
In December 2008, the stolen e-mails were sent by the hacker to him as well as to the newspaper. Sanford‘s girlfriend adding, quote, “I do have a firm suspicion of whom particularly may have done this.”
Whoever the culprit is, he or she hacked into Belen Chapur‘s e-mail around November 24th and the following month, sent the e-mail messages to her ex and the state newspaper, which doesn‘t narrow it down all that much.
So again, whodunit and why? Joining us now is Ben Hoover from NBC News affiliate WIS in Columbia, South Carolina.
BEN HOOVER, WIS-TV ANCHOR: Hey, Alison. How are you doing?
STEWART: Doing well.
I want to know, are we any closer to knowing where these e-mails came from?
HOOVER: That‘s a really good question.
You know, the focus here in Columbia, South Carolina, isn‘t so much on these e-mails. I think it would have been a bigger focus here in Columbia if you would have seen the supposed hacker break into Mark Sanford‘s e-mail account. But as far as we know, this hacker broke into Maria Belen Chapur‘s account - her hotmail account in Argentina.
Really, the focus here is more so, will Governor Mark Sanford stay or will he go?
But back to those e-mails, as far as we know from Maria Belen Chapur she, in a statement to the Argentinean media, said it was not her ex-boyfriend, not Mark Sanford, some other man down in Argentina. She even called him a victim in all of this ...
HOOVER: ... saying that whoever anonymously sent these e-mails to the state newspaper also sent them to him.
STEWART: Well, tell us a little bit about what this is doing to the local political scene? Who is lining up with Governor Sanford? Who is not?
HOOVER: Of course, who is not - that would be Senator Jake Knotts of Lexington. He is the lawmaker here in Columbia who, last week, had a press conference calling for an investigation into Sanford‘s trips to Argentina. We have not heard from Jake Knotts since that press conference last week.
But I‘m sure that we will hear more from him in the coming days.
On that same day, our state law enforcement division actually said that they will look at the facts. But as far as they know so far, there is no need for an investigation at this point.
Lt. Governor Andre Bauer - he is another player in all of this. He‘s been sort of getting a lot of attention right now because people have been thinking that he is sort of jockeying to take over for Sanford. And if he were to resign and finish out his term and that would put him in a better position to run for governor.
But now, he is saying that if Mark Sanford were to step aside, he would, in fact, just step in and then not run for governor at the end of that term. But you also have to ask the question, is he wanting to run for another office like U.S. Congress or something like that?
You need to ask yourself two questions, Alison, when you talk about people who are sounding off on if Governor Mark Sanford should stay or go. You need to ask yourself, are they running for governor in 2010? And you also have to ask yourself, who are they supporting for governor in 2010?
STEWART: All right. Tell me a little bit about Cubby Culbertson. I mean, I just know what I read on the AP. He said, “For most Christians, if you‘re married long enough, you do it because that‘s what we are called to do out of obedience instead of out of passion. And I think that‘s where Mark and Jenny are right now.”
HOOVER: Well, Cubby Culbertson - he was at that press conference last Wednesday as Governor Sanford said. He is a pillar in the Christian community here in Columbia. We are learning through the Associated Press that, in fact, Culbertson held these couples spiritual sessions with four or five other couples with the Sanfords in the executive mansion for every Sunday in the month of May.
And this was, of course, after Jenny Sanford had learned of the affair through that letter that she found in the file in Sanford‘s office. But you know, they had these sessions for all the Sundays in May talking about how to keep the passion alive in your marriage. And they specifically really target on the men in the marriage and how to keep yourself sort of straight and narrow in your marriage.
STEWART: Ben Hoover, co-anchor for NBC affiliate WIS in Columbia, South Carolina.
Thank you for sharing your reporting, Ben.
HOOVER: You‘re welcome.
STEWART: Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” Keith examines the very strange explanations coming from Michael Jackson‘s personal doctor with “Motown” author Gerald Posner.
And next, on this show, Kent Jones looks at the very solemn procession through New York this weekend complete with glitter and strategically placed sequins.
STEWART: We turn now to our floats and rainbows correspondent, Kent Jones.
KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST: Hi, Alison.
You know, all over America yesterday, there were incredible, dare I say fabulous pride parades just everywhere. And if you didn‘t get to go to one, well, maybe this will help.
JONES (voice-over): As many as 500,000 people turned out in New York yesterday for the 34th annual PrideFest. As always, it was a somber affair. Participants drudging dutifully down Fifth Avenue dressed in business casual. Just another day at the salt mines.
Despite the downer atmosphere, people came from all over, like Germany.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is really great. We love it.
JONES: . and Mexico.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I‘m just here from (INAUDIBLE) for the summer.
And this is for gay pride.
JONES: . and Israel.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can be free in Tel Aviv. You can kind of get married, which is great.
JONES: And some people were there from the village, you know, “Village People.”
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The parade is for us to get equal rights and to be treated like every other American and have the same civil liberties as everyone else in the United States.
JONES: It was also a big event for gay pets who, it should be noticed, still are not allowed to marry in New York. And until that day, pride fest will remain the gathering of quiet.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, New York, for making this possible.
JONES: Restrained introspection.
JONES: Always incredible.
STEWART: I still hear, “Ooh, ooh,” in my neighborhood since this morning. Hot pants all over the streets.
JONES: So much disco. It‘s fantastic.
STEWART: Kent, thank you so much.
STEWART: “COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN” starts right now.
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