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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

Read the transcript to the Wednesday show

Guests: Shari Grass-Redfox, Mary Liebig, Karen Tuerk, Tom Annis, Glenn

Grothman, Adam Green, Andy Cohen


LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, HOST:  Police still can‘t find the missing Wisconsin senators.  So, now, they‘re getting fined $100 a day.  But last night, police did find Charlie Sheen‘s sons.  So, now, he‘s home alone with the goddesses.



EMILY PEASE-CLEM, TEACHER, MADISON, WI:  Governor Walker and the Republicans just gave over $100 million in tax cuts to corporations and now, they‘re asking teachers and nurses to pay for it.

NARRATOR:  Obama and the union bosses are standing in the way of economic reform.

O‘DONNELL (voice-over):  Big money ads come to Wisconsin as workers fight for their rights.

NARRATOR:  Stop Obama and his union bosses today.

RICHARD SCOBY, GRAPHIC DESIGNER, MIDDLETON, WI:  Not selfish, it‘s just survival.

O‘DONNELL:  More new polls show support for the protesters.

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS:  Tonight‘s NBC News/”Wall Street Journal” Poll shows Americans are adamant against eliminating collective bargaining rights for public workers.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, “HARDBALL” HOST:  Three out of four say that public employees should have the same bargaining rights as other people do.

O‘DONNELL:  Which is welcome encouragement for the unions.

TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS:  They are playing hardball out there at the moment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  So, the stalemate continues.  It‘s really cold here.  And 10 people, 10 protesters slept outside, 107 slept inside.

O‘DONNELL:  And last night on this program, a Wisconsin Republican used a new label to describe the protesters.

STATE SENATOR GLENN GROTHMAN ®, WISCONSIN:  We can no longer to continue to have all of these slobs in the building.

STATE REP. CORY MASON (D), WISCONSIN:  These slobs that you‘re referring to are police officers and nurses and firefighters.

GROTHMAN:  I think if you would interview all the people who are creating a ruckus, the vast majority who are here today are not police officers or nurses.

O‘DONNELL:  We will interview them tonight, and that Republican senator and see if he still thinks they‘re slobs.

GROTHMAN:  All of that is being shut down by a bunch of slobs taking up the building.

O‘DONNELL:  And the judge decides Charlie Sheen has gone too far and sends police into “Sober Valley Lodge.”

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Overnight, police removed his twin boys from his care.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Charlie Sheen called us last night and told us that police had just come to his house in the darkness of night with representatives from Brooke Mueller‘s camp.

CHARLIE SHEEN, ACTOR:  At this moment, on live television, I do not know where my children are.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Love him or loathe him, the question remains, were Charlie‘s rights as a father actually trampled on?


O‘DONNELL:  Good evening.

As protests in the Wisconsin capitol continued for a 19th straight day, the Republican Governor Scott Walker and Republican state senators ramped up pressure on the state‘s 14 Senate Democrats who are still refusing to come back and vote on the governor‘s so-called “budget repair bill.”

Today, the Republicans in the state Senate unanimously adopted a resolution that will fine senators $100 each time they miss a session day without a valid excuse.  The missing senators will also have to repay the state for the costs of seeking to compel them to show up for work.

Governor Walker is earning his paycheck these days almost entirely by holding repetitive news conferences.


GOV. SCOTT WALKER ®, WISCONSIN:  There may have been some skeptics out there that thought the budget repair bill was somehow a bluff, that somehow we weren‘t serious about this, that somehow the consequences maybe were overblown.  I think people recognize loud and clear that we presented our biennial budget yesterday to the members of the state legislature.  That the only way for us to avoid massive layoffs and major changes in services we see at the local level and our governments and schools is to ensure we give them the tools.  And the only way to do that is for these 14 state senators to come back home.


O‘DONNELL:  A new NBC/”Wall Street Journal” Poll finds only 33 percent of Americans think eliminating collective bargaining rights for public employees is acceptable, 62 percent find that idea unacceptable.

The political advertising wars have begun in Wisconsin.  The Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Democracy for America launched this ad in Milwaukee and Madison today.


KRISTINE FANTETTI, SECRETARY, WHITEWATE, WI:  I‘m just a secretary, and this bill that Walker‘s proposing is going to cost me over $3,000 a year, not to mention more down the road when we lose our collective bargaining rights.

JEREMIAH HOLDEN, EDUCATOR, MADISON, WI:  I believe that the issues that are being discussed here in Madison are not unique to Madison or the state of Wisconsin.  These are national issues.  Money is being taken from workers and tax breaks given to major corporations.

KATHLEEN SLAMKA, ELECTRICIAN, OAK CREEK, WI:  This is Republican class warfare, an attack on the middle class.  This is a battle and we need to win.


O‘DONNELL:  Joining me now, four protesters who have spent nights sleeping in the state capitol.

Shari Grass-Redfox, who‘s a nurse.

Mary Liebig, a customer service rep for a local phone call.

Karen Tuerk, a student services coordinator for University of Wisconsin.

And, Tom Annis, a paving foreman whose wife is a teacher.

And also joining us is Republican Wisconsin State Senator Glenn Grothman who had this to say about protesters sleeping in the state capitol building on this program last night.


GROTHMAN:  We‘re trying to keep some people out of the building because right now the building is becoming a pigsty.  People are staying overnight, the building smells.  We can no longer continue to have all of these slobs in the building.


O‘DONNELL:  Senator Grothman, you‘ve had quite a reaction to that statement last night.  Would you like to apologize to these protesters for referring to them as slobs?

GROTHMAN:  Well, maybe qualify what I said.  Some of them are friendly slobs, some of them are lovable slobs, but they‘re still slobs.

I should have added that, by the way, I walked in there last night after I gave my interview, and they snored a lot, too.  They‘re kind of loud.  But they are—some of them are friendly and lovable.

O‘DONNELL:  Shari, you‘re a nurse.  Last night, Senator Grothman said that it wasn‘t nurses.  It wasn‘t police officers who are out there.  It‘s slobs.

What do you have to tell the senator about who is doing, is running these protests?  And who are expending their nights in the capitol?

SHARI GRASS-REDFOX, NURSE:  Senator, I‘m a nurse.  And I‘ve been here

this is like my fifth night.  And I‘m an American citizen here in a building that I paid taxes for since I was age 16, and I‘m going to be 50.  And it‘s an honor to be an American and exercise my rights, and to be in this building here—


O‘DONNELL:  Mary Liebig—

GRASS-REDFOX:  -- fighting for our rights.

O‘DONNELL:  Mary Liebig, what do you have to say to Senator Grothman?

GRASS-REDFOX:  And no, I‘m not a slob.

MARY LIEBIG, CUSTOMER SERVICE REP.:  Well, I think he is kind of exaggerating a little.  A lot of us are cleaning ourselves up in the capitol bathroom.  If we are allowed the access the people of Wisconsin are supposed to get where we can come and go through that building, maybe we could go home and take some showers because believe me, if he smells anything, it‘s not because we did—we want to smell bad, it‘s because they‘re shutting down the capitol and not allowing the capitol to be open, as it legally is supposed to be.

O‘DONNELL:  Karen, how does it make you feel to be called a slob by one of the senators in the building?

KAREN TUERK, STUDENT SERVICES COORDINATOR:  Well, I think he‘s really mistaken by trying to marginalize the people in that building.  He is marginalizing that it is a bunch of students and they‘re having a party.  Since the citizens have been locked out of the house, there is a greater majority of students in there because they have more flexibility.  They have less family responsibilities, they can stay there, whereas some of us with more obligations have to leave and then we cannot get back in.

And I did talk to some students in there and they do have a message for the senator.  They said that it‘s not a big party.  Four days without fresh air, showers, and beer, freezing on cold marble surrounded by 100 police officers is not their idea of a party.

O‘DONNELL:  Senator, you‘ve been smiling and chuckling at what you‘re hearing from the protesters.  I don‘t know—in your camera position, Senator, can you actually see the protesters on a monitor?

GROTHMAN:  I saw a few of them.  They brought up another interesting point.  They are kind of using the bathrooms as showers, which I would say is another definition of a slob.  But they sound like very nice people.  I talked to several of them.

I‘m sure they‘re very nice, but—and having a bunch of college students spend the night on an air mattress with their girlfriend.  I mean, to me, that doesn‘t sound like—you know, I think there‘s an element of joy in that.

O‘DONNELL:  Well, Senator, the reason I asked if you could see them is because America is looking at these protesters right now, these four, on the same television screen as you, and there is nothing about them that would in any way fit the word that you used to describe them.  What has made you do that, what has made you choose that way of describing these people who very clearly don‘t fit the description that you seem to want to throw at all of the protesters?

GROTHMAN:  Well, you got to have—you got to—instead of taking a picture of them tonight at 7:00, you ought to take a picture of them at 6:30 in the morning when they‘re on their sleeping bag or their air mattress, or see what they look like when they‘re showering in the bathrooms.

TUERK:  At 7:00 in the morning -- 


GROTHMAN:  I mean, I‘m sure they‘re very nice people.

TUERK:  I was actually at 7:00 in the morning going around and was collecting trash with a crew of other students.

GRASS-REDFOX:  Senator, my brother and I, we came in with nothing, and we slept on that cold, hard floor and—to exercise our rights and our beliefs.

GROTHMAN:  That‘s true.  Most of them have their mattresses and sleeping bags—

GRASS-REDFOX:  And there was no probably no boyfriend, no nothing.  OK?  But we were not allowed to bring anything in and we do not care because our presence here representing American rights and our right to be free and to speak is worth sleeping on a cold, hard floor for, and that‘s what we did.


GRASS-REDFOX:  I was gifted to have a sleeping bag and a pillow last night.


LIEBIG:  And I would also like to know, Senator, what you look like when you get up first thing in the morning.  I‘m sure you‘re not a pretty picture either.

GRASS-REDFOX:  This is what I look like this morning.


O‘DONNELL:  Tom, I want to get Tom—


O‘DONNELL:  Senator, let me get Tom Annis here.  He hasn‘t had a chance to speak yet.

Tom, I want your reaction to the senator‘s description of who‘s in these protests.  You‘ve been there.  You‘ve been there overnight.  Give us your description of who you have been protesting with inside that building and on the grounds around the capitol.

TOM ANNIS, PAVING FOREMAN:  Well, there‘s private business people here.  There was a lady from Stevens Point in there.  There was a lawyer in there.  There was iron workers, there‘s firefighters, there was a carpenter.


ANNIS:  And I don‘t—I don‘t think they deserve to be called slobs.


ANNIS:  And—I mean, Senator, you don‘t have to put somebody down to bring yourself up.  You know, this is America, and workers—and workers are not slobs.  We don‘t—we want respect senators, and we deserve the same respect as any senator does, and we just don‘t like this slob—it‘s just not very respectful and it‘s not very professional.

LIEBIG:  Name-calling isn‘t going to get us anywhere.  We need to work on solutions to the problem.  So, the name-calling needs to stop.  We don‘t appreciate it.


O‘DONNELL:  Senator Grothman, go ahead.

GROTHMAN:  Well, I tell you, I‘ve had this job for quite awhile.  And probably I‘ve seen tens of thousands come through the capitol and express their opinion on this bill or that.  Everybody else has managed to express their opinion without staying overnight in a capitol that‘s supposed to be closed, without posting obnoxious signs on the halls, without pounding drums mindlessly.

So, I like these people, they‘re wonderful people.  I like all people. 

And probably there‘s not a legislator that talks to as many people as me.

But I will tell you—the vast majority are either students, unemployed people, teaching assistants, but other people just kind of—


GROTHMAN:  And I talked to enough—when you have 500 people staying overnight, obviously, you can pick a few people out there who have a more serious job.  They are wonderful people.  I‘m sure they are having a wonderful time.

But most people, everybody else, is able to tell me how to vote on a bill without spending—without staying overnight and pounding on a drum.

O‘DONNELL:  Senator Grothman, I wanted—you had a run-in with the protesters last night when you were trying to get into the state building.  Let‘s take a look at that now.


O‘DONNELL:  Senator, did your comments about the protesters have anything to do with having gone through that—your own personal experience with the protesters last night?

GROTHMAN:  Well, I think that little video took place an hour before I called them slobs.  It might not have been a coincidence there.  I mean, obviously again, I have been on the winning side of votes, I‘ve been on the losing side of votes, seen a lot of people on very emotional issues.

Normally, people, on whatever those emotional issues are, the environment, deer hunting, pro-life issues, they are able to exist without chanting at people, harassing them, yelling at them.  It‘s just a further example, you‘re getting a different breed of person opposing Governor Walker‘s initiatives.

O‘DONNELL:  Senator, I have to tell you from where we are sitting, we are looking at these protesters.  You‘re not in a position to control our image of the protesters with your words because our cameras have them.  They are here discussing this with us.  These are as responsible a set of citizens as I think we could put in front of a camera.

It seems to me that when you—

GROTHMAN:  Are you serious?

O‘DONNELL:  I have to—yes.  You‘ve got to see who these other four people are in this frame with you, Senator.  When you call them slobs, it makes it seem as if you have absolutely no substance to your position—that you‘re just down to name-calling.

GROTHMAN:  Did you see that tape a second ago which happened before I called them slobs?  Did you see the people screaming in my face?  I mean, these are not normal sort of people who come to Madison—


O‘DONNELL:  Mary, what?

GROTHMAN:  Obviously, you‘re dealing with a different breed of people.

LIEBIG:  These people were yelling shame.

GRASS-REDFOX:  Sir, can you describe us in more detail?


GRASS-REDFOX:  Do you mean the middle class, Senator?

TUERK:  And we are out there by the millions.

LIEBIG:  And what we were saying and what those people were saying last night was shame.  They weren‘t calling you a name.  They were saying shame because of what you and the rest of the Republicans are doing—

GROTHMAN:  It‘s typical.  They kind of talk over each other and—

LIEBIG:  -- is shameful to the Wisconsin people.  What you‘re doing is shameful to the Wisconsin people.

And if you think we‘re nice and wonderful, you don‘t call us slobs.  And what Governor Walker is doing is an extreme thing that‘s never happened to Wisconsin before.  So, it‘s taking extreme measures.  He‘s not listening to us.  So, we have to do what we have to try to be heard.

GROTHMAN:  Governor Walker is a very kind person.  Governor Walker is

a very kind person and he is trying to make sure that the state employees -




O‘DONNELL:  Senator -

GROTHMAN:  He‘s a very kind person.

O‘DONNELL:  Senator Grothman—


O‘DONNELL:  -- I want the technicals of where we stand right now—

GROTHMAN:  I know Governor Walker.  He‘s a wonderful husband, wonderful father.  Yes?

O‘DONNELL:  Senator Grothman, we have passed a couple of deadlines that the governor has outlined, a couple of deadlines that we‘ve already passed through.  What happens next with this bill?

GROTHMAN:  Well, think Governor Walker is going to be forced into a difficult position.  I mean, he wanted everybody to take a small cut, so nobody got laid off.  Eventually, we can‘t do the small cuts.  I think Governor Walker is going to have to give some of these state employees 100 percent cuts.

I know Governor Walker desperately does not want to do that.

TUERK:  We all agreed on the cuts.  You are taking away our rights.


GROTHMAN:  No, look, you don‘t understand is—look, the federal employees do not have collective bargaining rights at all, which is less than you have.



GROTHMAN:  And the reason the federal employees don‘t have collective bargaining rights is because Jimmy Carter got rid of them, and Barack Obama kept them away.  Now, you‘re expecting Scott Walker to give you far more rights than people like Barack Obama wants you to have.

TUERK:  What does that have to do with our rights here in Wisconsin?

GROTHMAN:  And we are for local control and that we want local mayors or school administrators to assign people to the jobs they want.  We are all for local control.  So, we are for local control and we are for having people keep their jobs.

TUERK:  And how is restricting—how is cutting school funding and restricting local municipalities from increasing taxes to fund those schools when you‘re giving them the squeeze?  How is that local control?

GROTHMAN:  Well, it‘s local control because we are going to allow school administrators and mayors to assign people however they want.

TUERK:  You are putting restrictions on local government.  You are mandating restrictions on local government.

And I have one question for you: when are you going to start doing your job?  We have Democratic senators doing the people‘s business from Illinois because they aren‘t listening to us.  You are locking the doors.  You‘re not returning phone calls.  You are not representing your own constituent.

Poll after poll shows that this state is not with you and you are not doing your job.


O‘DONNELL:  We‘re going to have to—

GROTHMAN:  I think we have a—

O‘DONNELL:  Go ahead, Senator, just a final word.

GROTHMAN:  I think we have a problem here in that like some other people, they don‘t seem to understand they‘re not the only one talking to us.  And while I may hear a couple of people like this in Madison yelling at me, if I go back to my office and pick up my phone, all I get is people calling from my district telling me to stick with Governor Walker.  So, these people have to realize that not everybody thinks exactly like they do.


O‘DONNELL:  Before we go, we‘re going to have to wrap this segment here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Senator, what sacrifices are you making?

O‘DONNELL:  I‘m going to have to end this segment now.  Before we go, Senator Grothman, I would like to offer you this opportunity to offer a decent Wisconsin apology to these four protesters who have appeared with you and to the other protesters at the capitol who clearly are not slobs.

GROTHMAN:  Well, I have told them that they are lovable and likeable. 

That‘s as far as we‘re going to go.  But I think the world of them.


O‘DONNELL:  All right.  I want to thank you all for joining me tonight.  I want to thank the four protesters for joining me and Wisconsin State Senator Glenn Grothman.  Thank you for joining me again tonight.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Thank you for having us.

O‘DONNELL:  While workers are fighting for their rights in Wisconsin, workers in Ohio may have just lost some of theirs—thanks to some shocking Republican legislative maneuvers.  Progressives say this Republican attack on unions is really an attack on the middle class.  Adam Green from Progressive Change Campaign Committee is next.

And later, Charlie Sheen‘s battles took a surprising turn in the early morning hours when police came to his home.  Charlie Sheen tells the story ahead.


O‘DONNELL:  Dr. Seuss was born on this day 107 years ago.  His birthday has been adopted as National Read Across America Day.  Nancy Pelosi believes that the Republican governor of Wisconsin can learn something from Dr. Seuss as well.

She sent this tweet from one of Dr. Seuss‘s children‘s books to the governor tonight: “I know up on top you are seeing great sights, but down here at the bottom, we, too, should have rights.”

Also speaking out on workers rights, Adam Green of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.  He joins us next.

And later, why did FOX News suspend two of several Republican candidates that it employs?  That‘s tonight‘s “Rewrite.”


O‘DONNELL:  The fight over collective bargaining rights that exploded in Wisconsin is now spreading across the country.  Today in Ohio, an aggressively anti-union bill passed the state Senate by one vote, 17-16, with six Republicans defecting and voting against it.  The bill restricts the collective bargaining rights for public employees, including police and firefighters, and bans them from striking.

The bill only barely made it to the Senate floor.  I, for one, have never seen, never seen a more corrupted legislative process than what the Ohio Senate did today.  The bill had to get through two committees before being voted on by the full Senate.  There were not enough Republican votes for the bill in the first committee, so the Republicans actually removed one of the Republicans on that committee, and replaced him with another Republican who supported the bill right before the vote.

And once the bill cleared that hurdle through the sleaziest legislative maneuver I have ever seen, it moved to another committee where the Republicans did exactly the same thing again.  They were exactly one vote shy in that committee, so they removed a Republican senator in that committee and replaced him with another Republican senator who supported the bill.

So, having then cheating the bill through two Senate committees, the Republican leadership managed to outrage Republicans.

Cincinnati Senator Bill Seitz who was kicked off the labor committee warned his fellow Republicans that they were in danger of overreach and said, “I have learned my tea party lessons from the Obamacare debate.  I‘m not going to pass the bill so we know what‘s in it, as former Speaker Pelosi urged her colleagues to do.  Neither will I support a bill without taking time to read it and understand it.  We should expect no less from Republican majorities than we demand of Democrat ones.”

The bill moves to the Ohio House next week.  Ohio Governor John Kasich hopes to sign the bill into law by March 15th.

Joining me now is Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.

Thanks for joining me tonight, Adam.


O‘DONNELL:  Adam, you recall the outrage from Republicans when the health care bill was moving through the United States Senate through reconciliation.  They just said, how can you possibly use this unfair procedure, which, of course, was a procedure that required a majority vote.  What we‘ve just seen in Ohio takes ramming it through to a whole new level, doesn‘t it?

GREEN:  It does.  This definitely demonstrates the extremes to which Republican politicians will go to view what can be described as nothing less than class warfare—Republican class warfare against working middle class families, often in pursuit of a corporate agenda.  It‘s really sickening.  And that‘s why in Wisconsin, Ohio, and some of the other states across the nation, thousands and thousands of people are fighting back.

O‘DONNELL:  Adam, the support in polls is clearly lining up behind unions, and we‘re seeing Republicans still trying to legislate against public support in the other direction.  The—what you saw today in Ohio, it seems to me, is what it‘s come down to.  The public isn‘t there.  Republican senators are defecting in Ohio.  And so, now, they go to these tactics, the like of which we‘ve never seen before.

GREEN:  Right.  Look, I think what we‘ve seen over the last couple years is a pattern of Republicans standing clearly on the wrong side of issues and having no accountability, no consequences.  What we‘re seeing, thankfully, in Wisconsin and what I think will carry over into Ohio is finally some public pushback, finally a spotlight on these bad actors.

And what we‘re seeing in Wisconsin is the governor and the Republican Party‘s approval ratings are in the tank.  It‘s getting lower every day.  And that‘s groups like ours and Democracy for American are continuing to go on offense, hold their feet to the fire, and we‘re going to keep pushing until Republicans cave and we have a victory for working families.

O‘DONNELL:  Adam, we‘ve already shown that you‘ve gone on the air in Wisconsin, which I have to say, parenthetically, is beautiful filmmaking.  I‘m really quite struck by it.  But I now want to show you what your—what the opponents are putting up against you in Wisconsin.  This is the ad that the RNC is running in Wisconsin.


NARRATOR:  Barack Obama is preparing $1 billion campaign.  With his record, he‘ll spend every penny.  Families are struggling, state budgets have run dry, and the federal debt is skyrocketing.  But Obama and the union bosses are standing in the way of economic reform, intimidating taxpayers, leaving classrooms empty.

They made this mess, let‘s clean it up.  Stop Obama and his union bosses today.

The Republican National Committee is responsible for the content of this advertising.


O‘DONNELL:  Adam, how should the Democrats counter that message about Obama and his union bosses?

GREEN:  By not being distracted, keeping our eyes on the real message here which is that, consistently, Republicans cut taxes for corporations and pay for it on the backs of teachers and nurses and regular working people.  That‘s the polling that is being reflected in Wisconsin and we got to stay focused.

Let me just say one point, Lawrence, about the ad that you said was beautiful.  You know, legislative stuff is kind of your passion.  This is kind of a passion of mine.  The ad that we just saw was kind of a hackish D.C. consultant ad.  It wasn‘t very persuasive.

If folks go to the Web site that we set up, and watch the full 60-second version of our ad, it was designed by two amazing filmmakers, Jim Cole and Aaron Duffey up in Maine, independents folks.

And, you know, that attracted just in the last couple of hours, 7,000 people to give $750,000 online.  That‘s a grassroots momentum looks like.

And for the next several days, we will be nailing these Republicans in Wisconsin on behalf of middle class workers.  We‘re going to win this war that they‘re waging against working families.

O‘DONNELL:  Adam, I‘m glad you got the credit for the film makers in there.  Adam Green of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, thanks for joining us tonight. 

GREEN:  Thank you, Lawrence.  Take care.

O‘DONNELL:  Still ahead in this hour, Fox News suspends Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich because they‘re thinking of running for president.  Why are Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin still on the payroll?  That‘s tonight‘s Rewrite. 

And the Charlie Sheen saga takes a dramatic turn inside his home in the wee hours of the morning, when the police arrived, and he tells his story ahead.



O‘DONNELL:  Time for tonight‘s Rewrite.  And now a message from Fox News. 


BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  Effective today, March 2nd, Fox News has suspended its contributor arrangements with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, both of whom have signaled possible runs for the president. 

The suspension is effective for 60 days.  Then on May 1st, their contracts will be terminated, unless they notify Fox that they are not running for president. 


O‘DONNELL:  Wow, suspended.  That‘s got to hurt.  I mean, how humiliating is that.  Newt Gingrich suspended?  Rick Santorum suspended for 60 days?  From Fox News?  Who even knew that you could get suspended from Fox News for anything? 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It‘s not a suspension like grade school, for example, for getting in trouble.  We‘ll make sure that that‘s clear. 


O‘DONNELL:  Oh, OK.  So no big deal then.  It is a suspension that‘s not really like a suspension.  But it‘s a suspension for thinking about running for president.  In fact, just in the last few minutes, a spokesman for Gingrich announced tonight that the former House speaker will start raising money to test if a presidential bid is even feasible. 

This all means you‘ve got to wonder why Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin were not suspended.  As I‘ve been saying for what feels like years now, this is the official position of this show: Sarah Palin knows she is the most recent losing vice presidential candidate who will never be president, and she has no intention of running. 

She made that perfectly clear when she quit the governorship.  Huckabee would like to be president.  He would love to be president.  But he‘s run once before.  He knows how hard it is, knows how much money it takes, knows he can‘t raise that money, and he knows this. 


MIKE HUCKABEE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  Well—and I‘ll tell you, I think it is a lot harder to beat President Obama in 2012 than a lot of people are saying. 


O‘DONNELL:  So here is the way this whole thing probably went down over at Fox News.  They get all the presidential wannabes in a conference room and say if you‘re planning on running for president or thinking about running for president, we‘re going to suspend you.  If there‘s no chance of you running for president, you‘re cool. 

Huckabee immediately says I‘m afraid to leave my job here for another losing presidential campaign, because maybe when I try to get my job back, you will have given it to some other Republican loser, so I‘m staying right here. 

Santorum and Gingrich just want to know when their suspensions start.  Everyone asks why is John Bolton even in this meeting.  And Palin, of course, is a no show, not just because she‘s a diva, but also because with her trailing Tim Pawlenty in some polls, even Fox News pundits can figure out there‘s absolutely no way Sarah is giving up her million dollar Fox paycheck and run. 


O‘DONNELL:  “Two and A Half Men” star Charlie Sheen was already at war with drugs, alcohol, his executive producer, his studio, and his network when the police arrived at his home last night to remove his children and present him with a restraining order barring him from contacting or coming within 100 yards of his estranged wife, Brooke Mueller.  Hours after that incident, NBC‘s Jeff Rossen returned to Sheen‘s home to conduct a live interview for “The Today Show” at 4:30 a.m., Pacific time. 


JEF ROSSEN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Charlie Sheen joins us now for an exclusive live interview, along with his lawyer, Mark Gross.  Thanks to both of you for joining us. 

Good to see you. 


ROSSEN:  Let‘s start at the very beginning.  What exactly happened at your house last night.  You‘re at home.  The boys were awake or asleep? 

SHEEN:  They were just being put to bed.  And I was informed that the police were on the way down to issue a restraining order.  And I thought OK.  We can deal with that.  I got you on the phone.  I got my lawyer on the phone. 

Then it was revealed once I opened the door that they were there to remove Bob and Max.  So I professed in these last few weeks—last few days, rather, to not deal with—come from a place of panic, ego, emotion, any of that.

So I stayed very calm, focused.  Somebody badgers you, they win in that moment.  And it just seemed odd, though.  There were other people there that didn‘t seem qualified to carry out such an operation. 

ROSSEN:  Like who? 

SHEEN:  I don‘t—a couple of gentlemen that wouldn‘t identify themselves, wouldn‘t show ID.  Just looked like they were more from what we found out later the rehab facility than the actual law enforcement.  So I didn‘t push it because I am not into resisting the law.  And I just had to surrender to it, knowing that this was—this is now the challenge I claim to be looking for.

And I am more than willing to take on this task.  If anybody thought my focus was directed in a radical capacity, that‘s going to seem like child‘s play. 

ROSSEN:  So they went upstairs.  Who went and got the children?  How did they take them out of the house? 

SHEEN:  I did, and Emma and Lauren, the nannies.  And we just very calmly—we videotaped the whole thing, just so there was no—nobody could claim otherwise.  You have seen the video.  It was all very even and direct.  They didn‘t have car seats, so I provided them. 

And I said I love you, and I said don‘t say good-bye.  I said see you later, and later is, as we believe, to be very soon. 

ROSSEN:  Sitting here right now, hours after this happened, do you know where your children are at this moment? 

ROSSEN:  I do not.  It‘s a really good question.  It‘s a really good point.  Isn‘t there some legal protection or some law that should inform the father of where his children are being moved and delivered to? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You or any other father has the right to know where your children are.  The silence by Brook‘s attorneys is very conspicuous.

ROSSEN:  Did you say to them—did you say to those police officers, A, where are you from, and B, where are you taking the children before I just hand them over to you? 

SHEEN:  I stupidly—this is on me, I assumed they were going back to the house that they had been living in with Brook when they‘re not with me.  I think we got reports last night they were at a hotel in Santa Monica somewhere.  At this moment, on live television, I do not know where my children are.

But I am not panicking.  This is not about emotion.  It‘s not about ego.  It is just about getting very focused and getting very much in touch with what I have to do to complete the task of bringing these two beautiful young men back to the home that they deserve to be raised in.  There‘s more love, compassion, support, child care, and everything else you could possibly want for a child in this lovely home.  It is not a house.  It is a home right down that hill. 

ROSSEN:  According to TMZ—and they posted this overnight—Brook went to court yesterday and told the judge that you threatened her recently.  That‘s why she filed this court order.  She says you told her I will cut your head off, put it in a box and send it to your mom. 

SHEEN:  It‘s colorful. 

ROSSEN:  Did you say that? 

SHEEN:  No, I did not.  That‘s a good one, I guess.  You spend enough time around me, you can formulate things and make it sound like it could have come from my mouth.  But you could do that watching reruns. 

ROSSEN:  A lot of people watched that video on “The Today Show” yesterday morning, when we were in the house with your two girlfriends, the goddesses, and said to themselves, maybe two young boys shouldn‘t be raised in this kind of environment, with women who they are just meeting.  How do you respond to that?  How do you respond to the critics and clearly your estranged wife who agrees, who doesn‘t think they should be raised there? 

SHEEN:  I invite anybody at this point to come in and just observe.  If it‘s a court appointed monitor, if it‘s somebody from her legal team, if it‘s her, if it‘s you with a camera, there‘s nothing to hide.  As I said, there‘s nothing but love and compassion and absolute support for these amazing children. 

I am going to go ahead and say that, you know, regardless of what people offer in the form of judgment or opinion, based on preconceived whatever, it‘s 100,000 times better than what‘s delivered in her house. 

ROSSEN:  Will you sit here today and say you‘re willing to go to a negotiating table with Brooke Mueller.  I am sure your level of anger is through the roof right now.  But are you willing to sit down and do this for the children? 

SHEEN:  Absolutely.  Had I received a phone call, had you received a phone call, we would have been willing to play ball and say, absolutely, this is fine.  In fact, I was going to call her because she had been requesting a two-hour visit, asking Lordis (ph), the weekend nanny to bring them somewhere.  I had rejected it because I knew that, unlike myself, that her drug test would not be clean. 


O‘DONNELL:  Later, Charlie Sheen Tweeted to his over one million followers, “my sons are fine, my path is now clear, defeat is not an option.” 

Coming up, Bravo‘s Andy Cohen joins us to discuss the future of Charlie Sheen.  We will ask him how he thinks CBS has handled the Charlie Sheen crisis.  That‘s next.



ROSSEN:  So Les Moonves is basically saying CBS is just fine without Charlie Sheen right now, in the short term at least. 

SHEEN:  I don‘t know if I would paraphrase it like that. 

ROSSEN:  How do you take it?

SHEEN:  It was a very intelligent spin.  He is a brilliant business man.  Look where he is.  Look who he got. 


O‘DONNELL:  CBS President Les Moonves has yet to make a final decision on his demanding millionaire television star Charlie Sheen.  But he might want to seek advice from a television executive who has handled dozens of big stars.  Andy Cohen is Bravo‘s Emmy winning senior vice president of original programming and development. 

He oversees the Real Housewives franchise and hosts “Watch What Happens Live,” both owned by NBC Universal. 

Joining me now, Andy Cohen. 


O‘DONNELL:  Andy, we have not seen anything like the Charlie Sheen on television.  How is Les Moonves doing?  You‘re a network executive.  You have to have thoughts about how the executives should handle it. 

COHEN:  Well, I think, first of all, it is an impossible situation.  There‘s a runaway train happening who is on a media tour that is no end in sight.  So it is a really hard situation. 

It was interesting.  CBS finally reached their breaking point with Charlie Sheen and suspended him.  And now the question is where do they go.  I ran into Les at Nate & Al‘s, actually, over the weekend in L.A. 

O‘DONNELL:  So you have the scoop. 

COHEN:  No.  I said look, isn‘t there a fraternal twin or a cousin or something like that that you could just bring in?  And I think that‘s the move.  To me, that‘s the only move.  You bring in somebody who‘s a relative, who essentially is playing a slacker character, who is playing the same character that Sheen plays on “Two and A Half Men” and you just make an easy transition.  Get yourself out of it. 

O‘DONNELL:  We‘ll see if Chuck Lorre wants to write that transition.  But this show is a phenomenal money maker for that network.  You can‘t face -- this is not an easy decision. 

COHEN:  No. 

O‘DONNELL:  -- to suspend or to stop. 

COHEN:  It‘s not.  The question is, what kind of damage has Charlie Sheen done to himself, not just with the binges that have reported over the last few months, over the last few years, but really have heated up.  But also, what has the media tour done to people‘s perception of him?  And are they—do they want to see him in this funny role in the show? 

O‘DONNELL:  The record indicates that he doesn‘t scare the audience away when he gets into this kind of behavior.  In fact, ratings have never suffered.  They‘ve actually gone up a bit.  It would seem to me that after this one, if Charlie makes another episode of “Two and A Half Men,” I am actually going to watch my first episode of “Two and A Half Men.”  I want to see it. 

COHEN:  I‘ve never seen it either.  I am scared to admit it because it is a huge show.  But no, you know what, it‘s a good point.  You‘re right. 

O‘DONNELL:  When he talks about I‘m worth three million an episode,

that is not as crazy as people out there might think.  This show has made -


COHEN:  A huge amount of money. 

O‘DONNELL:  There is no individual actor in television right now who is more valuable than Charlie Sheen. 

COHEN:  It is true.  Also, they wouldn‘t be dumping the wheelbarrow full of money at his house if they weren‘t making a lot of money in return.  So clearly, there‘s money to be made. 

O‘DONNELL:  Now, you‘re in the reality show business. 

COHEN:  Yes, I am. 

O‘DONNELL:  When you look at something like this, you‘ve got to be frustrated.  You‘ve got to say, I hope Charlie Sheen is not ruining reality TV, because what he‘s doing is better than a lot of—

COHEN:  Well, look, I think it certainly speaks to the fact that truth is stranger than fiction a lot of times.  And I think it is one of the reasons that reality TV is so compelling.  And you see him—by the way, every interview he has done has been completely different and compelling for different reasons. 

O‘DONNELL:  How much would you love to have the cameras trailing the Real Housewives of Charlie Sheen. 

COHEN:  The goddesses? 

O‘DONNELL:  The goddesses.

COHEN:  I don‘t know.  Surprised to hear that he did have custody of the two kids, that they have been in the house with the goddesses.  I was really taken with that over the last 24 hours. 

But I don‘t know.  It‘s a sad story.  What we have on Bravo, there‘s a lot of fun on Bravo.  And maybe too sad, the Real Goddesses of Sheen Manor. 

O‘DONNELL:  Tell us what fun you have coming up on Bravo. 

COHEN:  We have the season six premier of the “Real Housewives of Orange County.”  I know you‘re excited about that. 

O‘DONNELL:  I‘ll be watching “Lockup.” 

COHEN:  OK.  Well, if—some people won‘t be watching “Lockup.”  It‘s season six.  These were the women that started the housewives phenomenon.  They‘re back on Sunday night.  It is a whole lot of blonde from Orange County.  We‘re really excited.  I am going to be live afterwards on “Watch What Happens Live,” as I always am. 

O‘DONNELL:  Fantastic.  That‘s a point in television.  I am going to have to watch.  I‘m going to skip “Lockup” this week.  Andy Cohen, executive vice president at Bravo and host of “Watch What Happens Live,” thanks for joining us tonight. 

COHEN:  Good to see you.

O‘DONNELL:  Good luck with the premier. 

You can have THE LAST WORD online at our blog, 

“THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” is up next.  Good evening, Rachel. 


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