Guests: Roger Cressey, Jeffrey Goldberg, Lawrence Korb, Michael Moore, Wendell Potter
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
TSA meltdown—they patted down this young boy. They patted down this bladder cancer patient with a urine bag. They patted down Bob Cavnar‘s dog.
They do not pat down nor feel-up politicians. Nor our politicians volunteering to be patted down.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: Not if I—not if I could avoid it. No. I mean, who would?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The TSA now begging passengers to opt-out of the big opt-out on Wednesday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN PISTOLE, TSA ADMINISTRATOR: If people choose to opt-out of the advanced imaging technology because they‘re trying to slow down the process, then I feel bad for the people who are simply, again, wanting to get home for the holidays.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Stopping START: Republicans demanding other Republicans stop holding up the vital nuclear treaty with the Russians.
The plot to discredit “SiCKO”—
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WENDELL POTTER, FORMER CIGNA SPOKESMAN: They were afraid that people would believe Michael Moore.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Wendell Potter apologizes online to Michael Moore for his role in the 2007 smear campaign. Tonight, here, they will talk about it for the first time.
But it turns out they met while Wendell was still trying to slime Michael.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS: MSNBC—it is marked for death.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
And Brett Favre and the sexting photos—I have a solution, it involves the TSA scanners.
And Governor Jan Brewer‘s Arizona death panel. The state is still reneging on its promise to pay for 98 transplants to save the lives of people like Randy Shepherd—and news of your unbelievable generosity towards him and towards Francisco Felix.
All the news and commentary—now on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York. This is Monday, November 22nd, 715 days until the 2012 presidential elections.
If we needed one final straw in the disaster that has been the TSA‘s choice, do you wish your privates felt up or photographed, we have two. Agents actually patted down a dog, because it was wearing a sweater. And an al Qaeda affiliate endorsed the new security system in a sense for causing exactly the kind of economic strain on America that it seeks when it calls the strategy of a thousand cuts.
The message from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula referred specifically to a recent incident in which two bomb-laden craters from Yemen were placed on cargo planes when the intended destination of each, synagogues in Chicago. Even the bombs were intercepted, the online message claims that, quote, “It is such a good bargain for us to spread fear—fear that would cause the West to invest billions of dollars in new security procedures,” calling it operation hemorrhage. “The strategy of attacking the enemy with smaller but more frequent operations is what some may refer to as strategy of a thousand cuts. The aim is to bleed the enemy to death.”
We‘ll ask MSNBC terrorism analyst Roger Cressey if that is anything more than a desperate claim of an enemy that has largely been shut down.
But law enforcement officials told ABC that the pat downs are happening now in part because of al Qaeda‘s ingenuity.
And in response to the public‘s outcry over the new screening measures, today, the Obama administration announced tweaks to the procedures. Senior administration officials telling NBC News that the number of passengers picked at random for pat downs has been reduced and that screeners have been told to be more sensitive.
This after the embattled chief of the Transportation Security Administration, John Pistole, says that his agency was indeed willing to consider adjustments.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PISTOLE: Clearly, there has been a significant concern raised with the traveling public and members of Congress have expressed concern from their constituents and things. So, yes, we‘re going to look at how can we do the most effective screening in the least invasive way knowing that there‘s always a tradeoff that we talked about. That tradeoff between security and privacy and where, again, reasonable people can disagree.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: On Saturday, Mr. Pistole had agreed to exempt the pilots from the body scanners. As for national opt-out day, the call for protests on the busiest travel day of the year, day after tomorrow, Mr. Pistole expressed concern.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PISTOLE: If people choose to opt out of the advanced imaging technology because they‘re trying to slow down the process, then I feel bad for the people who are simply, again, wanting to get home for the holidays, that they would be delayed because of that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: In the meantime, the president has said that the aggressive security measures, quote, “are the only ones right now that they consider to be effective against the kind of threat that we saw in the Christmas Day bombing.” A reference obviously to the thwarted attempt by a Nigerian man to detonate plastic explosives hidden in his underwear on board a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit last Christmas—Amsterdam where the TSA doesn‘t have any authority.
While Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that she didn‘t want to second-guess security officials, there was also this:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOB SCHIEFFER, CBS NEWS: But would you submit to one of these pat downs?
CLINTON: Not if—not if I could avoid it. No. I mean, who would?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And there is House Speaker-elect John Boehner, who because of his security detail, gets to bypass security measures. As per procedures set by Capitol police and the TSA, Boehner was escorted past metal detectors on Friday—while other congressmen had to pass through it. The rest of us must choose between the porno scanner or the pat down feel-up—like Tom Sawyer, a Michigan whose urostomy bag was spilled by a pat down in Detroit.
By the way, do you need anymore symbolism here? They are abusing cancer survivor, Tom Sawyer?
Or the young boy who went through the secondary screening after setting off a metal detector. His father choosing to remove that boy‘s shirt to try to expedite the process.
And then there is our frequent guest, Bob Cavnar, whose poodle did not set off the metal detector but whose poodle was nevertheless selected for the enhanced screening because he was told his poodle was wearing a sweater.
Let‘s now turn to MSNBC terrorism analyst Roger Cressey.
Roger, good evening.
ROGER CRESSEY, MSNBC TERRORISM ANALYST: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: And never follow an animal act. The—
CRESSEY: I hate poodles. So it‘s OK.
OLBERMANN: That‘s the first reasonable explanation I‘ve heard yet.
CRESSEY: Happy Thanksgiving!
OLBERMANN: The al Qaeda claim, first off, in the al Qaeda magazine for God‘s sakes, that our billion dollar responses to each of their thousand dollar gimmicks is exactly what they want. Is that some sort of retrofitted claim to the fact that so many of their attempts have been thwarted? Or is there a measure of accuracy in that?
CRESSEY: Oh, absolutely. Look, they‘re going to spin it in a way that supports their narrative. And, frankly, there is some truth in it.
Whenever we overreact by just throwing an enormous amount of money at the
problem, then they believe they have won a small victory. What it comes
down to, it‘s incumbent upon us, to view the threats that are out there,
respond appropriately, but don‘t just trip over ourselves trying to over-
architect a solution that frankly cost too much money and might not be that
and might not be that effective.
This is not the case right now that we‘re dealing with security versus privacy issue, Keith, that is the toughest we‘ve had since 9/11, I believe. And we‘re trying to find where that comfortable middle ground is. And, so far, TSA and the American public has stumbled a little bit in finding that middle ground.
OLBERMANN: And to the point of that, everybody gets—everybody gets a full body scan or a feel-up or both. Is that necessary and would it even detect the kind of things it is said to be detecting?
CRESSEY: Well, it‘s actually not true. I flew out of Reagan National yesterday and I didn‘t get that, because I followed the same procedures that I have been doing since I started flying after 9/11. It only happens if you chose not—you get the pat down if you choose not to have body scan or if something triggers even the magnetometer or in the full body imaging.
So, you know, you want—you have to be consistent across the board for one important reason, and that is litigation. I mean, we talk about—well, maybe we only highlight those individuals who have the greatest risk. But unless you can come up with an approach that makes sense there, people are going to litigate left and right and I don‘t think TSA or DHS wants to deal with that.
OLBERMANN: Well, and to that point, the alternative method that‘s used by the Israelis, which is really coming to the spotlight in the last two weeks here—they ask everybody at the airport a couple of questions and then pull out the ones who seem agitated. Proponents say that‘s human intelligence; and opponents says it‘s not fitted to big airports and it‘s racial profiling. Which is it?
CRESSEY: I don‘t buy the racial profiling. I mean, we do profiling right now. TSA, indeed, just does profiling. It‘s called behavior profiling. They have behavior detection officers around a lot of major airports.
You know, I love the Israelis. The Israelis do a good be job. The Israelis have a problem that is so small in scale relative to us. They got a half a dozen airports. They got a fleet—EL AL has got a fleet of 40 aircraft. I could interview every single passenger if that was the universe that I have to deal with.
But our scale and volume is so much bigger. What we have done since 9/11 is employed a lot of the best practices the Israelis have. We have got canines. We‘ve got these detection officers. We now got secure flights where we are using terror watch lists matching that the government is doing instead of the airliners. All these things make sense.
But as the enemy adapts, we need to be more creative in figuring out a solution that maintains that privacy versus security line. And this is where we got to do a better job.
To TSA‘s credit, they have now said, all right. The pilots don‘t have to go through the same procedure because they are not a threat. And I think you‘re going to see other changes to the procedure in the coming weeks. But, look, they should have done a better job thinking through some of these things before the roll out. They are going to try to correct it now, though.
OLBERMANN: Is there anything topical that perhaps is not generally known that makes this a good time to continue to do this, or is that a talk over the weekend in Germany about looking for potential bombers there? Is that just a coincidence of timing?
CRESSEY: I think that‘s a coincidence, Keith. But the point you made earlier about the ingenuity that al Qaeda and others like it are now applying is something that makes a lot of people in the government and the intelligence community really nervous. I mea, the lesson we learned from flight 253 is that we did not anticipate what Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was going to do. We did not come up with that type of approach.
Now, we‘re going to get more creative and thinking through how they might adapt—how al Qaeda might adapt to our security measures and be more proactive. The problem there, of course, is—then you‘re trying to prove the negative with the American people. Yes, we‘ve got new measures in place. But trust us, this is adapting to the new threat.
I think one thing that has to happen is the government is going to be a little more forthcoming in explaining the narrative of why this is such an intelligence-driven choice right now and why the threat has evolved. If they‘re going to do a little bit better job on that, and I think, by and large, the American people will understand it.
OLBERMANN: MSNBC terrorism analyst Roger Cressey—always a pleasure, Roger. Thank you.
CRESSEY: You bet, Keith. Thanks.
OLBERMANN: Let‘s turn to the national correspondent for “The Atlantic,” Jeffrey Goldberg, who has been writing extensively on this. Thank you for your time, sir.
JEFFREY GOLDBERG, THE ATLANTIC: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Let‘s start with something to lighten up the mood slightly. National opt-out day and the kilt? Would you explain that, please?
GOLDBERG: Yes. Well, I recommended that people wear kilts to the airport on opt-out day. Both because it‘s a festive holiday and also because one of the goals of people who object to these porn machines is to convince TSA employees to go to their supervisors and say, look, we don‘t want to do this. We don‘t want to do these aggressive pat-downs.
And so, I was joking, but only really half joking. I thought kilts would expedite that process a little bit.
OLBERMANN: To Mr. Pistole‘s point about opt-out day. What does opt-out day actually accomplish other than, as he suggests, slowing the process down and potentially screwing up travel for all these people who just want to get there before Thanksgiving?
GOLDBERG: Right. Well, for me, every day is opt-out day. I don‘t want to participate in that machinery. I don‘t want to go through the porn machine.
I really object to the humiliating pose that you have to stand, that you have to take. It‘s a pose of someone being mugged while you stand in that machine. I find it an invasion of privacy. And I‘d rather have the person-to-person humiliation rather than the cold, mechanical humiliation.
But the point of opt-out day is to convince the TSA that this machine is objectionable to a lot of people and to look for something better. Look for some more sophisticated way of doing this.
I‘m not soft on terrorism. I want to catch terrorists. I happen to not believe, by the way, that the airport is the best place to catch terrorists. If the terrorists have already matured their plot to the point where it‘s at the airport—
GOLDBERG: -- where they‘re an hour away from execution, that means they‘ve already defeated the CIA, the FBI, the entire military. And then all that‘s standing between them and the successful execution of their plot are these guys in blue shirts with the shoe bins.
GOLDBERG: And I‘m not—I‘m not overly confident about that. But that‘s another—
OLBERMANN: By the way, if you do find them in the screening process, in that crowd of people that usually exceeds the number of people who are actually on a plane at a given moment, guess what they may do at that point? That‘s the other part.
GOLDBERG: That‘s a very, very important point. The TSA and the federal government, by trying to solve one problem, hijacking, has created another problem, which is that they have built these huge masses of people in coiled lines, tightly-packed coiled lines, sometimes hundreds of people, who are completely unprotected.
And if you are a terrorist and you have a bomb on you, you don‘t have to—you don‘t have to have it hidden. You could walk out of the taxi, go up to the line, get to the middle of the line, detonate yourself. You would accomplish the same exact thing that you would accomplish by blowing up an airplane, which is to say terrorizing America, terrorizing the world, bringing aviation to a complete halt, and try and destroy the American economy.
Nobody is going to go to the airport the next day to go through security to fly if that happens.
OLBERMANN: Yes. Can you verify, refute or just amplify and clarify this seeming urban legend that the former homeland security chief under Mr. Bush, Mr. Chertoff, had advocated for these scanners at the same time his consulting firm was representing companies that made the scanners?
GOLDBERG: Well, I don‘t believe that‘s an urban legend. I think that‘s true. He—after he left government, he founded a group called the Chertoff Group, which does homeland security consulting. And one of their clients was this company, RapidScan, which is one of the manufacturers of this type of technology.
So—and he has been on television advocating for that technology. He may very well believe honestly that this is the best way for the American security system to go, but it‘s sort of a profound conflict of interest, I think.
OLBERMANN: Yes. And why not make a little profit on the way out.
Jeffrey Goldberg, national correspondent for “The Atlantic”—great thanks for your time tonight, sir.
GOLDBERG: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: The Republican senator warning other Republican senators to stop stopping the START Treaty.
And Michael Moore and Wendell Potter live tonight on this news hour as Wendell Potter apologizes for the insurance industry scheme to slime Michael Moore three years ago.
OLBERMANN: One Republican senator chastises another Republican senator for holding up the START Treaty and thus stopping our inspections of what might be loose nukes in Russia.
For the first time, Wendell Potter and Michael Moore speak here on COUNTDOWN, about the insurance cartel‘s attempt to slime Moore in 2007.
He criticizes my performances in the Republican debate I moderated, except I never moderated one.
And the Arizona death panel and your amazing response to the plights of Randy Shepherd and Francisco Felix—ahead here on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: On one side, Iran and al Qaeda—on the other side, Israel, NATO, the U.S. military and President Obama.
So, in our fourth story tonight: Guess whose side the Republicans are on? That‘s right. The Republican Party standing firm for Iran and al Qaeda on the issue of nothing less than nuclear terrorism against the staunchest supporters of Israel.
This time, the political football is the new START Treaty, the Strategic Arm Reduction Treaty, historically a bipartisan effort, the Reagan aid there at the START joining us presently.
Historically, an effort to reduce the number of American and Soviet nuclear missiles aimed at each other. And while this START treaty would reduce both Americans and Russian arsenals down to 1,500 warheads and 700 launchers, the big issue in the 21st century is the problem of keeping Russia‘s nuclear material secure and out of the hands of rogue states and terrorists who have openly voiced their desire for a nuclear weapon or radioactive dirty weapon.
President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev have signed the new the START Treaty back in April. But it has not taken effect because treaties require Senate ratification, which Republicans, most notably, Senator Jon Kyl, have delayed for months—months during which America has been unable to inspect Russia‘s nuclear stockpiles to make sure they are not falling prey to terrorists.
This is not the only threat Republicans are posing to our national security by blocking this treaty. As chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff explained yesterday, the treaty has led Russia to help America in other ways.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ADM. MIKE MULLEN, CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINTS CHIEF OF STAFF: The Russians have supported us in Afghanistan, allowed us to transport some of our most significant equipment where they could have pushed back on that. They have also helped in other ways that wouldn‘t be widely known. So, the relationship is maturing very specifically, and it‘s one that‘s helped us in Iran.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Specifically, Russia has let the U.S. access northern Afghanistan supply routes to get vital material to U.S. troops. Five months after signing the treaty, Mr. Medvedev outlawed the sale of tanks, aircraft and ships to Iran, which canceled the deal five years in the making to sell Iran $800 million of S-300 missiles. Missiles that if Russia allows the sale would help Iran defend its nuclear facilities.
The Anti-Defamation League and National Jewish Democratic Council are both calling for Republicans to let the treaty go forward. “We are deeply concerned that the failure to ratify the new START Treaty will have national security consequences far beyond the subject of the treaty itself,” wrote the ADL.
As promised, we‘re joined now by former assistant secretary of defense under President Reagan, now a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, Lawrence Korb.
Thanks for your time tonight, sir.
LAWRENCE KORB, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Nice to be with you again.
OLBERMANN: Senator Kyl suggested the treaty doesn‘t do enough to modernize the U.S. arsenal. The secretary of defense, Mr. Gates, says it does, too, as do seven out of eight former commanders of the U.S. nuclear forces, as does the senator from Indiana, the Republican, Dick Lugar.
Can you explain to Senator Kyl why his concern might just be misguided here?
KORB: Well, not only is it challenged by the real experts, but President Obama has increased spending on nuclear modernization by 20 percent over what President Bush did.
And remember that when President Bush had an arms agreement with the Soviets back in 2002, the so-called SORT Treaty, it was approved 95 to nothing. So, if anything, Obama has gone overboard. In fact, I would say he‘s probably putting more money in that you need to really modernize the nuclear arsenal.
OLBERMANN: This issue of how the Republicans are jeopardizing Israeli national security. Can you amplify that, please?
KORB: Well, basically, what has happened is—in addition, to what you mentioned in the run-up to the segment here, in terms of what the Russians have stopped selling Iran, they voted with us to put pretty tough sanctions on Iran. Remember, they are a member of the U.N. Security Council. They could have vetoed it by supporting that.
Basically, what has happened, you have probably had the toughest sanctions we have ever had against Iran. And unless those sanctions can work, you‘re not going to prevent Iran from going nuclear. You have to tell them that, you know, if you continue on this path, it‘s going to cost you economically. And hopefully, that will get the people there to say, you know, with he don‘t need to do this.
And that‘s why people in the Israeli community and the Jewish community are very concerned because if the Russians pull back on Iran, no telling what will happen.
OLBERMANN: Obviously, anything that pertains to Iran pertains to us. But what about this other implication on our national security, the Republicans preventing, in essence—indirectly, anyway—inspectors from having a close-up look at the Russian nuclear arsenal? What else is that - do people want to think about that?
KORB: Well, again, you got to remember—just about a year ago now, we no longer because the old START, if you will, this is new START, had expired. We can longer go in and verify and check up on what‘s happening there.
And real danger is not so much us getting into a nuclear exchange now that the Cold War is over, but some of that material falling into the wrong hands. And if we can‘t verify and go in and inspect, we don‘t know where it is. And we do know that groups like al Qaeda have tried to get the material, the so-called “loose nukes” from Russia, because it‘s not hard to make a bomb. It‘s hard to get the material.
And the other thing, as you mentioned in your—in the run-up to this segment, the Russians have been very helpful, allowing us to send all kinds of material across Russia into Afghanistan. Because remember that the Pakistanis stopped it for a couple of days when they were upset that we had gone into their territory against some of the terrorists.
OLBERMANN: This is not only an issue of cooperation between Russia and the United States—historically, it‘s a direct issue of cooperation between Democrats and Republicans, even the approval of this ratification from committee was bipartisan. What do the Democrats do now—you bring it to the floor for vote or wait for the next Senate? Or what do they do to move this along?
KORB: Well, I think they‘ve got to call the bluff of the Republicans and say, look, this is a matter of national security. If you don‘t vote, you‘re going to be undermining our security for all the reasons we talked about.
And the other is to say, wait a second, you didn‘t want to vote before the election because you said, well, let‘s not do it and politicize it, let‘s have it in the lame duck. And now, you‘re claiming that you don‘t want to have it.
If this thing is not ratified before this Congress adjourns, you‘ll have to start all over. You have to go through the committee again. You have to have hearings. We‘ve already had 20 hearings. And then, they‘ll say, well, it‘s getting too close to a presidential election.
And what this allows them to do is prevent the treaty from going into force without raising any substantive objectives because all of the objections that they raised have been shot down by members of their own party—former secretaries of state and defense and military commanders.
OLBERMAN: Lawrence Korb, assistant secretary of defense under President Ronald Reagan—a great thanks, as always, sir.
KORB: Thanks for having me.
OLBERMANN: Michael Moore and the man who apologized to him today on behalf of an entire insurance agency, Wendell Potter. Plus, Mr. Moore‘s thoughts on Jan Brewer‘s Arizona death penalty and your generosity towards two of its victims. We will continue.
OLBERMANN: We‘ll save time for Wendell Potter and Michael Moore by cutting the preamble and just saying, let‘s play “Oddball.”
OLBERMANN: Get ready for cute. The only thing more precious than one kitten is a pile of them. Oh, they are so sweety. Three kittens cuddle together for warm. It‘s sweeter than sweet.
But wait, there‘s more. Hidden beneath the piles of claws and cuteness is a surprise, another kitten. Put your hands up, it‘s raid.
The little guy is the luckiest or the unluckiest kitten in the world. Just like the famous poster says, “Hang in there, baby.” And yes, this is video of the TSA screening.
To (INAUDIBLE) -- to Smithtown, Poland, a horse is a horse, of course. Of course. And there‘s no such thing as an artistic horse. That is, of course, unless the horse is the famous Maceba, the painting horse.
With the help of her owner, Maceba is able to hold the paint brush and with a simple up and down motion, create art. This is the Picasso method, I believe. She adds a happy little tree and voila, a masterpiece. This one is called “Ode to Barboro.”
Finally to Harpo Studios in Chicago, it is time for Oprah‘s “Favorite Things.” The crowded responded in its usual calm, muted manner. And with prizes such as a sweater and scented candles, who wouldn‘t be excited?
Wow, one car. That‘s pretty awesome. But I think one audience member got a little too dramatic. And you get a salmon, and you get a salmon and you—time marches on.
Wendell Potter‘s apology to Michael Moore and both of them live next on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: In his book “Deadly Spin” former health insurance executive Wendell Potter describes his industry‘s efforts to de-legitimize Michael Moore‘s 2007 documentary “Sicko.”
According to Mr. Potter, the industry at large had a plan to figuratively, quote, “push Moore off the cliff.”
In our third story tonight, my guests, Wendell Potter and Michael Moore. We‘ll discuss cliffs and pushes for the first time. Of course the premise of “Sicko” was to highlight the fundamental flaws in this country‘s for-profit health care system as well as the benefits of universal health care at a time when no one in this country was even really talking about either.
According to Potter, insurers feared the movie could crater their industry. So to subvert the movie, Potter says American Health Insurance Plans, AHIP, funded a campaign to smear “Sicko.”
The principals, a public relations firm APCO which in turn created a front group called Health Care American and some media outlets took the bait. June, 2007, “USA Today” prints an op-ed critical of “Sicko‘s” premise. The author Sarah Berk was identified as executive director of Health Care America, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization.
No acknowledging that Berk was essentially on the payroll of the health insurance industry. The same Sarah Berk showed up in that infamous CNN‘s “SANJAY GUPTA REPORT” on “Sicko.” Berk, never identified in the piece, told CNN‘s audience that Michael Moore, quote, “played fast and loose with the facts.”
An ironic quote in retrospect.
Joining me now as promised Academy Award-winning filmmaker, Michael Moore, and the former head of Corporate Communications at CIGNA, now senior fellow on health care at the Center for Media and Democracy, author of the new book “Deadly Spin,” Wendell Potter.
Gentlemen, good evening. Thanks for your time.
WENDELL POTTER, AUTHOR, “DEADLY SPIN”: Thank you. Hey, Michael.
MICHAEL MOORE, DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER: Good morning to you.
OLBERMANN: Wendell, on your blog today, you apologized to Michael Moore. Is there anything you‘d like to say to him more or less in person here?
POTTER: Well, I‘m sorry for the part that I played in attacking the movie. I did see the movie actually twice before it was screened across the country. Once in Sacramento when you had the initial screening an then the official premier in your hometown in Bel-Air.
I knew when I saw the movie the first time that you had really gotten a lot of it right. And I was really not very happy at all to have to be a part of the effort to discredit the movie. But I was still working for the industry then. So my apologies.
MOORE: Well—well, first of all, Wendell, thank you for saying that. And certainly, the apology is accepted. In fact, I think of you as a real hero. You‘ve done something very brave and courageous, giving up a very good job and knowing that you would not earn that income again and probably be vilified by this industry.
And to come forward—I mean I have been making these movies for over 20 years. And I‘ve never had a top executive come forward and admit what you‘ve admitted. And—and yet, I‘ve been dealing with this with every movie since “Roger and Me” when—I remember actually I was on “The Tonight Show,” it was my first time ever on national TV.
And 20 minutes before the show, they‘re telling me that some executive from General Motors is there with a packet of information about Michael Moore and trying to smear me to the people, the producers of “The Tonight Show.” And it was that same line that—your first, the Health Care America, the fake organization, that CNN used and “USA Today” used and so many other media outlets used when “Sicko” came out, saying he plays fast with the truth.
And I‘ve listened to that for 20 years. And it‘s always a lie because all the facts in my film are always true. And I am very, very careful with this. I take it so seriously. And—because I want to win the political argument that I‘m trying to make. So the very first and foremost thing is that things have to be correct.
And so when you were working at CIGNA and what—you know, your insurance, all the insurance executives apparently—I read your book this weekend, all got together and met a number of times and you came to the small village in Michigan where I was living and I didn‘t realize it until I read your blog this morning that actually you had—we had met before.
POTTER: That‘s right.
MOORE: And that you were there, as you said, in the blog this morning, to spy on me and to do reconnaissance on the film. And it was—you know I‘ve had to go through a lot of this stuff for so long. And I‘m just so—you know, if you don‘t mind, Keith, I don‘t mean to—could I ask Wendell a question?
OLBERMANN: Go ahead, please, Michael, please.
MOORE: I—I mean—maybe we can—this is the first time we‘ve talked. So maybe we can talk later.
POTTER: I hope so.
MOORE: But I just—you mentioned that your son. You took your son to the screening when you came to the little town that I‘m in in Michigan. And I‘m just wondering, you said that he was—that—I mean you sat next to him during these two hours. He is watching on the screen what you do for a living, which, as you say in your book, contributing to the deaths of 45,000 Americans every single year because of this for-profit health insurance system we have.
It causes that many deaths every year. And you say in the book that you were a part of that. And I‘m just wondering, as you were sitting there next to your son, being a dad myself, and after the movie, he wants to come up and have his picture taken with me. You say this morning in your blog that he is telling you I‘m his hero, yet he is watching what you do for a living.
At that time, I‘m just curious what that must have done to you or how you felt going through that experience?
POTTER: He knew that I was having problems with the job that I was having to do, that I was having misgivings about what I was supposed to be doing as a spokesman for the industry.
And as you depicted in the movie, a lot of the people in this country have insurance but it‘s very, very inadequate. And people are finding every day that the insurance that they think they have is going to be there for them really isn‘t.
And he saw me be very affected by that movie. It‘s hard to watch that movie and not almost tear up. Many times here in the movie. And he and I talked. And I told him that I was thinking of leaving my job. I didn‘t know how I could do it. But I felt like I should do something other than what I was doing.
I just didn‘t feel very good about having to do what I had done to spy on your movies, to go to the back of theater and take notes as I was watching it and—you know then come back and know that I was going to have to be on the front line of the calls from the media when it did start showing nationwide.
And people would be calling me about the people who were CIGNA members in the movie. That was going to be tough and I knew it was going to be tough.
OLBERMANN: When—go ahead, Michael.
MOORE: Yes. No, I was just—at the time when you saw CNN falling, taking the bait and “USA Today” and “TIME” magazine and, you know, much of the media using the actual language that you and your guys developed --
MOORE: -- on referring to me as against American principles, socialist, all this stuff and of course FOX News then taking it --
MOORE: You know, running with it. I mean, that must felt like—I mean it must be a real victory when you‘re in those meetings, having a sense that when you can actually get our major media organizations, supposedly responsible journalists to just repeat verbatim your talking points.
POTTER: It was just amazing. We had a clipping service. I mean we -
every day we would get articles that would appear that had our talking points in them. And this, by the way, is a 23-page PR plan that was developed and carried out against the movie.
I was at the meeting when it was explained. And I‘m not supposed to have this. This was something that was actually obtained by Bill Moyers when he did an interview with me last year. But --
MOORE: Could I just read a line—actually I pulled up Bill Moyer‘s thing. There is a line in that plan that you guys put together where you said, I‘m quoting, “The worse case scenario would be that ‘Sicko‘ would evolve into a sustained populist movement.”
MOORE: That that was your worst fear.
MOORE: That this movie could make that happen.
POTTER: That‘s exactly right. And the industry monitored public opinion from that moment prior to the premier of the movie or the national release of the movie until, you know, many weeks after the premier just to see what—how public opinion had changed and also monitored the box office receipts of the movie and all these clips that we got.
Many of them were placed by Health Care America, which, as we‘ve talked before, was a front group and a very successful one at that.
OLBERMANN: Michael, hold on a second, I‘ve got to take a --
POTTER: Because they know—they know if there was a populist movement against them.
OLBERMANN: Michael? Michael?
MOORE: They know if there was a populist movement against them, that‘d be the end of their --
OLBERMANN: Michael, forgive me.
OLBERMANN: I‘ve got to take a commercial break. If you guys can stick around --
MOORE: Sure. Sorry.
OLBERMANN: -- we‘ll do this after—obviously, we have to sell something.
MOORE: I‘m so sorry, Keith.
OLBERMANN: That‘s right. I was staying back deliberately. Michael Moore and Wendell Potter, stand by. We‘re going to take a quick break and resume where we were in just a moment.
OLBERMANN: Former CIGNA executive Wendell Potter and filmmaker Michael Moore, two of the heroes of health care reform, continue their first conversation next on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: We‘ll resume where we were now in the first conversation between the former CIGNA executive, Wendell Potter, now an insurance industry whistleblower, and Michael Moore, the film director of “Sicko.”
Michael, you were saying before the commercial interrupted, you tried to follow up with a question to Wendell.
MOORE: Well, I was just—I‘m sorry. And I just—I know I‘m a
little—this is the first time we have had a chance to talk. And I just
I mean, Wendell, just want to say, first of all, you—I mean you‘re the Daniel Ellsberg of corporate America.
I mean it‘s—that—what that man did during Vietnam helped to end that war. And it would be my wildest dream that what your courageous action has done here to—and not just about my movie and me. People should read this book.
I mean it is—the whole book lays it right out there about how the health insurance companies had bamboozled this country and lied, just outright lied about things. And it—to have you say in the book that what I said in the film that everything in there is true and that this is—that is what it‘s like in Canada. That people do have it better. They do live three years longer.
It just—it really—I just was just amazed as I turned every page of this book. And I just—I was just, you know, thinking that this big fear of theirs, that there might be a populist uprising against the insurance companies because I believe that if people listen to what you have said and what you‘re righting that eventually that will happen because people will see them for the organized crime syndicate that they are.
That‘s what they‘re set—they‘re set up not to help you with your health. They are set up to make a profit. And the only way they make a big profit is to deny as much health care as possible to the people trying to get help. That‘s the bottom line.
It‘s a sick, rotten system. And for you to come forward like this is just—it‘s just really—I‘m just—I just can‘t say enough for what you have done.
POTTER: Well, thank you, Michael. But you know I‘ve been doing this for not even 18 months and you and many other people have been advocating for, you know, good health care reform for much longer than I have. So I‘m glad to finally be on what I think is the right side this time and to do what I can to try to pull the curtains back so people can see exactly what these companies do to win and to manipulate public opinion, to influence public policy which is at the core front of what I‘ve been writing about.
OLBERMANN: Let me jump in, Wendell. APCO, that PR film, issues a statement today that seems to contrasts some of the previous remarks you made about this personal APCO research on Mr. Moore.
Let me quote them. “APCO did not conduct research on Michael Moore‘s family. We did not attempt to suppress turnout for his movie.”
Explain what you know about the personal research that was done on Michael Moore and his family.
POTTER: Yes, I think whoever wrote that, I think, she was just protesting too much. The industry did an enormous amount of research on what we thought was going to be in the movie and on Michael Moore as a movie maker.
I myself did. I have seen every one of Michael Moore‘s movies, read all three of his books, I‘ve seen all 24 episodes of “The Awful Truth.” I know where you went to school. I know when you dropped out of college. I know who you are married to. And so I know a lot about you.
Everybody in the industry knows a lot about you. We needed to know as much as we could, not that we necessarily were going to be using that if we didn‘t have to. One of the things that I was afraid about doing what I‘m doing was that I would be attacked not by the industry directly by but its allies which shows to try to attack my character and my reputation. So that what goes on in a lot of the campaigns like this.
MOORE: When this—when you were doing this research and this spying on myself and my family, what—I mean, to what ends, really? Because, you know, obviously, they don‘t want to—they don‘t really want to have the debate on the issue, whether or not a for-profit health insurance system is what‘s really best for Americans.
MOORE: They want to do it—it seemed like their main goal was, if people get in to see that film, we‘re doomed. So we‘ve got to make sure as few people see that film as possible. And the way to do that is to smear Michael Moore, call him anti—American, say that he is not telling the truth.
And as you said the other day, you said that you—that you guys were ready for plan B. If that failed, if the movie was getting too much traction, that it might be necessary to push me off a cliff --
MOORE: -- were the words. What exactly did that mean?
POTTER: Well, I was in that meeting and those words indeed were said. And it was not literal, obviously. But I think it meant that we would do what we had to do to create ads and op-eds that we would get conservative pundits to place in newspapers with the whole objective of, as they call it, reframing the debate, to try to move the attention from them to you as a filmmaker.
MOORE: I know we‘re running out of time but I just—I notice a lot of the comments that Bush made about me in his recent book, it‘s like the exact language that‘s in the health industry insurance plan about me, about what names to call me.
MOORE: How to refer to me. Do you—I mean, and I notice on this—on your group, you had Bush administration officials as part of—were on the board of the fake organization, Health Care America. I mean what --
MOORE: What‘s the connection there?
POTTER: Yes. We had a lot of Republicans and a lot of conservatives on the board. And people who were pollsters for the Republicans and—were becoming pollsters for the industry and for Health Care America. It was all connected.
OLBERMANN: Gentlemen, I‘m out of time but it‘s been time extraordinarily well-spent.
Wendell Potter, former CIGNA executive, and Michael Moore, of course.
Thank you, gentlemen, appreciate it.
POTTER: Thank you. Thank you.
MOORE: Thank you. Thank you, Wendell.
OLBERMANN: We‘ll postpone our full follow-up on the Arizona death panel until tomorrow night. We‘ll give you a brief update on that after we told you about the Arizona decision to renege on insurance promised for transplants.
And now we introduce you to two victims, Francisco Felix and Randy Shepherd. Following that broadcast, the National Transplant Assistance Fund, an organization that helps raise money for a transplant was overwhelmed with donations. It raised $36,000 on Friday night alone and they‘re still counting what they raised over the weekend.
And you can still donate to the individual funds at NTAFUND.org.
Back with “Worst Persons” next.
OLBERMANN: Let‘s close it out with getting extra (INAUDIBLE). It‘s time for today‘s nominees for “Worst Persons in the World (Not Really).”
The bronze to Milt Ahlerich, the vice president of security for the NFL which is reportedly trying to see if Brett Favre texted pictures of his privates to former, quote, “sideline reporter,” Jenn Sterger when both were with the New York Jets, trying to see if the alleged the little Brett can be proved to the real thing.
It‘s not the NFL‘s objection—investigation I‘m objecting to. It‘s the fact that they missed the obvious solution to all this. Just have Favre go to an airport and undergo a TSA full body scan.
Our runner up, televangelist Glenn Beck. Everything is a conspiracy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS ANCHOR, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: You‘re going to hear the liberals come out and start to throw MSNBC under the bus and throw them under the bus hard.
And here‘s why. MSNBC is marked for death. If it is sold to Comcast, Comcast will run it like a business. If it remains liberal, it will just be a good liberal station. It would just run things that will actually get ratings.
If it is—if it‘s not, it will most likely just be a news channel or
I mean I don‘t know what they‘re going to do with it. But it won‘t feature Keith Olbermann. And they know that. And so just like—just like everyone, as soon as they start to outlive their usefulness for radicals and revolutionaries, they shoot them in the head.
And that‘s exactly what‘s going to happen to MSNBC. And they‘ll offer up a false choice. Let‘s say, look, we‘re willing to get rid of MSNBC. You just get rid of FOX and then we can have real news.
Mark my words, that‘s what they will say. We‘ll get rid of MSNBC and you get rid of FOX.
Yes, really, you‘ll do that? Oh, you‘ll shoot the shows that nobody watches on one that‘s marked for death anyway?
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: OK. So now we know he doesn‘t know anything about television either. This is from an article that was in the Hollywood reporter on September 27th. It quotes an analyst named Matthew Harrigan at Wunderlich Securities, and obviously I can‘t confirm any of this.
I‘m not saying anybody here does. But this is what a guy who analyzes the finances of TV for the benefit of investors has concluded.
The ABCTV network, he says, worth approximately $1.2 billion. CNBC is worth $3.9 billion. MSNBC is worth $2.6 million.
There is only one guaranteed conspiracy, Glenn, the conspiracy to make money.
For our winner tonight, former House speaker, Newt Gingrich, now at FOX News, talking about boycotting any presidential debate if he didn‘t like the host network with the moderators specifically MSNBC.
Three years ago when Democrats objected to Democratic candidates appearing in a presidential debate on FOX News, we heard this. Mort Kondracke, “This is junior-grade Stalinism on their part.” Roger Ailes, “The candidate that can‘t face FOX, can‘t face al Qaeda.”
Of course mere hypocrisy would never be enough when we‘re talking about New Gingrich. Here‘s Newt actually saying this on C-SPAN. Newt sees things.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: There is no possibility that I would ever go to a debate and have, you know, Olbermann or Chris Matthews asking questions. I watched the debate a couple of years ago. It was an embarrassment because they were so relentlessly hostile and they were so left wing that every question they asked of the Republicans was designed to embarrass and divide the Republicans.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Who is they, Newt? Chris Matthews and I have never moderated a debate together and I have never moderated any Republican debates at all.
And, also, Newt, I was never in the Beatles. I didn‘t host the Oscars that one terrible year and I did not have an hour-long special on ESPN to announce I was leaving for Miami.
Newt also thinks “I was in a Chilean mine” Gingrich. Today‘s worst person in the world.
That‘s COUNTDOWN. I‘m Keith Olbermann. Now to Chris Hayes, filling in for Rachel Maddow, because it‘s a Rachel Maddow vacation day.
Chris, good evening.
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