Guests: Michael Isikoff, Philip Rucker, Dana Milbank, Christina Bellantoni
LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, HOST: And the search is on for the gold in the Sarah Palin emails.
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS: Sarah Palin‘s emails are about to do a whole lot of talking.
MICHAEL ISIKOFF, NBC NEWS: We‘re seeing a lot of redactions.
O‘DONNELL (voice-over): Thousands of emails from Sarah Palin‘s half term as governor.
MITCHELL: It has taken nearly three years.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The wait to get the documents is longer than Palin was governor.
ISIKOFF: There‘s a lot to go through.
MITCHELL: Twenty-four thousand pages of documents.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Twenty-four thousand emails.
ISIKOFF: Sarah Palin, from the beginning, according to our top aides, was concerned about just this.
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS: Are you worried that some of those emails could be damaging?
SARAH PALIN ®, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: No, because it‘s already been kicked over.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It‘s going to be like Geraldo‘s Al Capone vault moment.
ISIKOFF: This is a massive dump. It‘s a massive document dump.
O‘DONNELL: Sarah Palin the movie leaves some inconvenient truths on the cutting room floor.
MITCHELL: This documentary, quote-unquote, “documentary,” is very favorable documentary. You could call it sort of the first flick poll.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of all the 50 governors in the United States she was sitting at the desk as one of the most powerful.
MITCHELL: They go after Eric Cantor, Mitch McConnell. She‘s going after the Republican leadership.
CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS: She compares her path to prominence with Ronald Reagan in 1976.
O‘DONNELL: Newt Gingrich thinks he can stay in the race even without a campaign staff.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Despite the worst campaign kick off in history.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He vows he will survive.
TODD: That‘s about the best bid you could put on.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Going on a two-week vacation in the Greek isles.
RICH GALEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: While he was out on the cruise, he should have been on the phone.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, “HARDBALL” HOST: Newt Gingrich‘s Grecian formula.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why men like Anthony Weiner and Newt Gingrich can never say good-bye.
O‘DONNELL: In our round up of the best of late night comedy this week, don‘t be surprised if there‘s a couple of Weiner jokes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Last night on LAST WORD with Lawrence O‘Donnell, Barbara Walters of “The View” said there‘s still hope for Weiner.
MITCHELL: It seems almost incredible that he could survive this politically.
STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDIAN: He‘s tweeting dirty photos of himself to strange women who he never meets for sex? Come on.
At least Republican Chris Lee was trying to get some action.
O‘DONNELL: Good evening from Los Angeles.
Today, the state of Alaska finally released more than 24,000 pages of emails from the first 20 months of Sarah Palin‘s half term as governor. It comes in response to a three-year old request from reporters who at the time were trying to vet the then unknown vice presidential candidate.
Team Palin knew this day was coming and was ready. Minutes after the emails were released, Sarah Palin tweeted a link to the Web site for “The Undefeated,” the soon-to-be released propaganda film about Sarah Palin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The first 90 days of Governor Palin‘s administration were insane. We worked like dogs. Seven days a week, 15 hour days.
All decisions must go through this CEO.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If things were go to go wrong in the state, they wanted the ability for the people to know where does that blame lay.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was the CEO of 25,000 employees.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of all the 50 governors in the United States, she was sitting at the desk as one of the most powerful. And she wasn‘t afraid to use those powers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: An official from Sarah PAC put out a statement saying, in effect, the Palin‘s had nothing to worry about in those emails. “The thousands upon thousands of emails released today show a very engaged Governor Sarah Palin being the CEO of her state. The emails detail a governor hard at work. Everyone should read them.”
The bulk of the emails are from the Sarah Palin we never knew. The woman who was governor before John McCain chose her at his running mate.
Consider this email from Sarah Palin only 25 days before John McCain changed her life. “Obama gave a great speech this morn in Michigan, mentioned Alaska. We need to take advantage of this and write a statement saying he‘s right on. He did say, yay, to our gasoline—gasline. Pretty cool. Wrong candidate.”
Joining me now from Juneau, Alaska, NBC News national investigative correspondent Michael Isikoff.
Michael, thanks for joining us tonight. What are the highlights of what you‘ve been able to dig through so far and exactly how many of the 24,000 have you read, Michael?
ISIKOFF: Well, a small percentage at this point, Lawrence. We‘ve got a lot of reading to do this weekend.
You know, what‘s striking to me is you sort of see the evolution of Sarah Palin through these emails. You know, remember, when she is first gets elected and she‘s viewed as a reformer in the state. She‘s taking on the oil companies, pushing an oil tax proposal that‘s much not in the oil company‘s interest. And she‘s fighting with members of her own party on that and you see that reflected in the emails. She takes some swipes at Governor Murkowski, her predecessor, and Senator Murkowski, who‘s in the Senate, who—from our perspective—is siding with those oil companies.
And you really do see that. You see that right through that email you just read, where she‘s praising Barack Obama in an energy speech. Can you imagine her reading that at a Tea Party rally today?
But then by the time you get to the summer of 2008 is when I think things really start to change her—you know, things are exploding on all front seat. She‘s facing that trooper-gate investigation by the state legislature. She‘s having her integrity challenged by state bloggers. And she‘s being considered as a vice presidential nominee being promoted by some and then finally gets selected.
And then, at that point, you can really start the see the change in Sarah Palin and, in particular, her obsession with the news media and what she views as the, you know, their mistakes, their corrections. At one point she says, I‘m reaching my breaking point.
I think that, you know, that‘s the point—that‘s the pivot point for Sarah Palin where she‘s starting to become the Sarah Palin we know today.
O‘DONNELL: That clear-eyed Sarah Palin who could listen to a Barack Obama speech that refers to Alaska and say, hey, great speech. I mean, that was her summary: Great Obama speech.
How much more of that character emerges as you read the older emails?
ISIKOFF: Well, actually—look, a lot of this is tedious stuff it‘s in the weeds to have Alaska legislature. It probably doesn‘t mean much to people beyond the state capital here and lobbyists in Anchorage as well. But—I mean, you do see signs of that. You see, as I said before, you know, the swipes in Murkowski.
But you also see—I should add—that there is another threat here, and that is the manipulation of her public image. She‘s always very concerned about that. And something we just spotted in the emails a little while ago.
You know, one of her former top aides, Frank Bailey, wrote that book in which he says one of the things that he used to do while working for Palin was manipulate online polls that were being done by state TV stations and radio stations. When they were doing it, Palin would send out the word and then Palin‘s staff would get people to vote on the polls to support Palin‘s position on various issues.
When Palin was asked about that on “FOX News Sunday” the other day, she said, Bailey‘s allegations are a complete lie. Well, sure, enough, we did find in the emails references to these polls which seemed to show Palin trying to get out the word to her staff to vote on these polls and affect their outcome.
O‘DONNELL: Michael, I‘m reading an email of August 15th, before she‘s chosen for vice president, and she‘s asking the staff about the convention, the Republican convention and what if she leaves early? “What am I missing in terms of major events at the convention if I leave on the 5th? And when is the candidate actually nominated? On the 5th?”
So, you get a feeling on August 15th—just weeks before—she really was not expecting to be in the position she was going to be in at that convention.
At those emails get closer to that fateful day when John McCain calls her name, do you see her awareness developing that she‘s really in this thing?
ISIKOFF: Well, one of the things you do see is even before that, she‘s getting emails from people around the country who seen about, seen her on TV, or heard about her, encouraging her to try to become McCain‘s running mate. Talking about what a great vice presidential candidate she would make.
And she‘s watching them. She‘s forwarding those emails to her staff.
So, she‘s clearly monitoring them closely. It‘s on her radar screen.
But I think as that email shows, I don‘t think she really knew she was going to get selected until the very end when she flies to Sedona. And, remember, also, everything that was going on this summer as I mentioned before, she‘s under investigation by the state legislature. She‘s got a real tempest to deal with, challenges to her credibility over the firing of the state public safety commissioner. These were big issues for her at the time.
O‘DONNELL: Michael Isikoff, we need you to have every one of those emails read by Monday night‘s show. Go back to work.
O‘DONNELL: Thank you very much for joining me tonight, Michael.
ISIKOFF: OK. Yes, aye, ayes, sir. Right. OK.
O‘DONNELL: On Thursday, team Palin held a screening of the new documentary which is titled “The Undefeated,” the soon-to-be released propaganda film about Sarah Palin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unlike many states, the governor in the state of Alaska is a CEO of the state. When the Constitution was written, the Founders decided that we need a CEO, just one person that would be responsible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Philip Rucker, national political reporter for “The Washington Post” attended the screening of the movie by its director, Steven Bannon. And he joins me now from New Hampshire.
Thanks very much for joining me.
What did you make of that movie that you saw last night in Washington?
PHILIP RUCKER, THE WASHINGTON POST: You know, Lawrence, it was interesting the film is profession ally done. It‘s about two hours long. It‘s a documentary, but there‘s not a single dissenting voice there. There were more than a dozen key characters throughout the film who were interviewed and they were all her supporters or even some of her staff from the governor‘s office or people in the state legislature who had worked with her to pass legislation.
And the film really focuses mostly on those years before she got the call from John McCain asking her to join the ticket in 2008. It focuses on her rise as mayor in Wasilla, tries to demonstrate that she was a CEO type figure there who was really able to roll up her sleeves and get things done for the people, and then showed her rather truly remarkable win in that governor‘s race. You know, she knocked off the sitting Republican incumbent in the primary and then beat out former governor, Democratic Governor Tony Knowles in the general election and won that race.
But the movie leaves out a lot of the more controversial aspects of
her tenure. There‘s no reference at all to trooper-gate, which is that
scandal that Michael was talking about a few minutes ago. There‘s no
reference at all to her family, to some of the dramas within her family.
No reference to Bristol‘s pregnancy.
And there‘s also no reference to what happened at the end of that 2008 campaign where some of her rallies became really heated and she was criticized for rhetoric that some viewed as hateful. And there was really no reference to the fact that her ticket lost in that 2008 election.
So, it‘s very much a documentary that‘s presented as the kind of movie that the candidate, if she were to run for president, would want to present to the country.
O‘DONNELL: Well, when you call it “The Undefeated,” it‘s hard to get into the actual vote count of the 2008 election that kind of gets in the way of that title.
O‘DONNEL: Philip, “The New York post” which is owned by Sarah Palin‘s employer, Rupert Murdoch, who owns FOX News, “The New York Post” review said this, “Its tone is an excruciating combination of bombast and whining. It‘s so outlandishly partisan that it makes Richard Nixon look like Abraham Lincoln.”
That‘s as friendly as the reviews are going to get it seems like at this point.
And, Philip, you were on the bus tour—the recent Palin bus tour. You‘ve seen Team Palin up close. It seems to me that they are a very coordinated bunch. That it‘s no accident that this movie was screened last night, knowing that the emails were coming out today.
RUCKER: Well, I have to say there was no representative of Sarah PAC, that‘s her political action committee, at that movie screening. And, indeed, the film‘s director said that Sarah Palin‘s political action committee has no involvement with the film financially, had no editorial control over it.
That said, Steve Bannon, who‘s the director and producer of the film, he said he came at this with a perspective. He thought—he even likened himself to Michael Moore. He says he has an objective here and it‘s present a narrative, a positive narrative, of Sarah Palin‘s tenure as governor. He said she was one of the most accomplished governors in his mind out of any, in any state in the country.
And he even points to some poll numbers, which are really stunning looking back at it now. She had an 80 percent approval rating at one point in Alaska. She won with a huge majority of the vote there. This was all before that 2008 presidential campaign, of course.
O‘DONNELL: Well, I have to say, I know Michael Moore and I‘m afraid this filmmaker is no Michael Moore.
Philip Rucker of “The Washington Post”—thank you very much for joining us tonight.
RUCKER: Thank you, Lawrence.
O‘DONNELL: Coming up: Newt Gingrich tries to put a positive spin on the mass mutiny of his campaign staff. He does this by saying he and his wife make decisions as a couple. Does that mean that Callista is going to be the new campaign manager?
And later, Donald Trump reveals the real reason he ended his fake campaign for president. He couldn‘t afford to run. That‘s tonight‘s “Rewrite.”
O‘DONNELL: Coming up: Newt Gingrich‘s staff may be gone, but he says he doesn‘t need them because he‘s got a secret weapon.
Meantime, Tim Pawlenty is picking up support from the far right. How far right? How about the only member of Congress who has heckled the president?
And later, what happens on Capitol Hill next week when Congressman Weiner goes back to work with all of his Democratic colleagues?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN LITHGOW, ACTOR: But surely they had killed him off. This was the way it always worked.
LITHGOW: A lesser person could not have survived the first few minutes of the onslaught.
LITHGOW: But out of the billowing smoke and dust that have tweets and trivia, emerged—Gingrich.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: That piece, an actual Gingrich press release, performed by John Lithgow on “The Colbert Report,” was penned by Gingrich press secretary, Rick Tyler.
Tyler was one of 16 Gingrich staff members who resigned yesterday, making Tyler, according to himself, one of the, quote, “sheep not wanting to be dropped from the establishment‘s cocktail party invite list. Who will rue the day when, quote, “out of the billowing smoke and dust of tweets and trivia emerges Gingrich, once again ready to lead those who won‘t be intimidated by the political elite and are ready to take on the challenges America faces.”
Today, Gingrich called out party consultant elitists like Rick Tyler for not understanding that he wants to run a nontraditional campaign based on ideas and solutions. His former campaign aides say that Gingrich‘s idea of a nontraditional campaign includes attending an opera in Washington, D.C. instead of shaking hands at a Memorial Day parade in key primary state, South Carolina.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There is a fundamental strategic difference between the traditional consulting community and the kind of campaign I want to run. Now, we‘ll find out over the next year who‘s right. But I believe we live in a time where Americans are genuinely frightened for their country‘s future and when the country really wants to have leadership that talks with them honestly, and isn‘t automatically doing the old politics.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Gingrich has only spent 12 days on the campaign trail since announcing for president 37 days ago. And that time period includes, as we mentioned last night, a two-week Mediterranean cruise.
Joining me now is Dana Milbank, national political reporter for “The Washington Post.”
Thanks for joining me tonight, Dana.
Dana, I want you to listen to something Newt Gingrich said about how he and his wife approach campaigning and how they make decisions together. Let‘s listen to that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GINGRICH: We make decisions as a couple. I think most couples would find that refreshing, not a problem. I think that what we‘ve been trying to do is carry messages to the American people and listen to the American people. And you‘ll see us over the next few weeks doing it in new and dynamic and much more appointment open ways than the traditional consultants are comfortable with.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Dana, conservative writers are all over this. They‘re blaming Mrs. Gingrich for this. They‘re saying it her fault.
The irony being, of course, that without this version of Mrs. Gingrich, the third, there would be no Gingrich campaign. He had to have a stable marriage and he had to advertise a stable marriage, to get into this campaign and now, it may be Mrs. Gingrich—according to the conservative observers who‘ve been up close to this campaign—who‘s ended up ruining the thing.
DANA MILBANK, WASHINGTON POST: Yes. You know, the interesting part is the most savage part of the blame Callista movement here is not only they do go to the opera, but they said the opera was Don Pasquale, which is, of course, about this rich old guy and his lavish spending wife. So, I think they were twisting the knife in there.
Look, when Newt before he explained his adultery earlier on by saying he had a lot of passion for his country, well, it‘s very clear right now he has a lot of passion for his wife. But he seems to have cooled some of the passion for the country—or at least in terms of being its president right now.
He can blame his wife or the staff can blame his wife all he wants, but Newt is the candidate. Newt is the guy who wouldn‘t get on the phone and dial for money. They didn‘t even have $25,000 to enter the Ames straw poll in Iowa. But they had $500,000 to send Newt around the country on chartered airplanes.
O‘DONNELL: Yes. And parentally, the campaign is in trouble for money already. This isn‘t exactly the way to raise anymore money is it?
MILBANK: No. I don‘t think so. Everybody expected when Newt got into the race, he has this vaunted fundraising machine. Well, it just isn‘t there.
And it seems what it was is Newt‘s vaunted fundraising machine was a few other rich guys who gave him large sums of money because it wasn‘t regulated in the same way a campaign is. And, you know, so that‘s enough to send you for 14 days to the Greek isles. But it‘s not enough to run a presidential campaign.
When he says he has a difference in this strategic vision, he wanted to be a public intellectual. The people running his campaign actually wanted him to run for president.
O‘DONNELL: Dana, as you know, the official position of this show is that Tim Pawlenty is going to be the nominee. Don‘t be surprised that I see in this good news for Tim Pawlenty. You have Sonny Perdue, former governor of Georgia, who is a national co-chair of the Gingrich campaign, dropping Gingrich, endorsing Tim Pawlenty.
We also have crazy right wing Congressman Joe Wilson, the guy who shouted “you lie” at the president during the State of the Union address, of South Carolina, he has chosen to endorse Tim Pawlenty, thereby helping solidify Tim Pawlenty‘s crazy right wing conservative credentials.
It‘s looking good for Tim, isn‘t it?
MILBANK: Well, I certainly don‘t want to throw any water of the Tim Pawlenty bandwagon here. The Gingrich pull out looks good for Rick Perry because a lot of people are going to him.
But, yes, it does appear that Pawlenty is making some headway with sort of the party establishment figures. He also picked up the support of Al Hubbard, who is an early Bush supporter, who worked in the Bush White House.
Now, he‘s seventh place in the polls behind even Herman Cain. So, if he has Al Hubbard and Sonny Perdue‘s support, it doesn‘t necessarily get him across the finish line. But it gives him some credibility. So, he‘s going to be in the better position than he was a couple of days ago as they go into Monday night‘s debate.
O‘DONNELL: Dana, you can feel free to fight me on this Pawlenty theory of mine at any time. I kind of like the loneliness of it that I‘ve got going here. It‘s not a bandwagon people are jumping on.
MILBANK: I‘m in the tank for Herman Cain, so --
O‘DONNELL: OK. All right. You come back and make that case.
Dana Milbank of “The Washington Post”—thanks for joining me tonight.
MILBANK: Thanks, Lawrence.
O‘DONNELL: The New York City press is easing away from Anthony Weiner‘s saturation coverage. Will his fellow Democrats ease up on the criticism and get to work when they return from recess on Monday?
And a crazy week of news headlines for the late night comedy writers.
Your Friday funnies are coming up.
O‘DONNELL: Ahead in this hour, Anthony Weiner finally gets a show of support from a fellow Democrat. We‘ll show you Charlie Rangel‘s colorful defense of Weiner and his message to the media.
And later, Donald Trump returns to “The Rewrite.” I‘ll show you the letter Donald sent to me and I‘ll answer it right here.
O‘DONNELL: Developing news in the Congressman Anthony Weiner cyber scandal. NBC News now confirms a report that police in New Castle, Delaware, visited the home of a 17-year-old girl to question her about her direct online communications with Congressman Weiner. The congressman spokesperson said this in response to that report,: “according to Congressman Weiner, his communications with this person were neither explicit nor indecent.”
Congressman Weiner left his house in Queens just after 7:30 this morning, going about business as usual in his district. And that‘s exactly what he intends to do when the House of Representatives reconvenes next week. But Congressman Weiner will have to deal with a growing number of his colleagues calling for his resignation.
Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown is the latest Democrat to join in that call, saying “I hope that he does, because I think in the end it‘s a distraction for everybody else, for the media and for all the serious work that we need to do. What happens with him and his wife is totally up to them, but I would expect in the next couple of weeks he would want to end this and step down.”
And while Democratic leaders like House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer are avoiding the situation—
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you going to call for his resignation?
REP. STENY HOYER (D), MINORITY WHIP: I don‘t have any comment on it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: -- one member of Congress actually came to Congressman Weiner‘s defense today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. CHARLIE RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: Not one person has given any reason for resignation. The whole idea of resignation is something that‘s hyped up by the press more than his ability to serve.
I know one thing he wasn‘t going with prostitutes. He wasn‘t going out with little boys. He wasn‘t going into men‘s room with broad stances.
I know immoral sex when I hear it from other members. And no one has screamed for their resignation. So I don‘t know why they‘re selecting Anthony.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You think he can be an effective congressman?
RANGEL: Only if the press gets off his back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Of course, Congressman Rangel himself was censored by the House Ethics Committee last year. Congressman Weiner has commanded the front page of the New York tabloids until today, when “the New York Post” gave him only half of the front page, while the “New York Daily News” actually moved on to other news on its front page and had its first Anthony Weiner-free front page.
Joining me now, “Roll Call‘s” associate political editor, Christina Bellantoni. Christina, this latest report from Delaware indicating that police are talking to a 17-year-old, Anthony Weiner saying the communication with that person was in no way questionable. What do we have to wait for in terms of developments on that story?
CHRISTINA BELLANTONI, “ROLL CALL”: Well, if the police decide to release anymore information or if the congressman says anything. I thought it was very interesting the congressman spokeswoman phrased that. According to him, the communication were not—that‘s not usually what you hear from a spokesperson.
Obviously, his staff is probably a little nervous. It‘s also important to note, we‘re talking about the use of Twitter and Facebook. You don‘t really know. Unless you‘ve met people, you don‘t know their real identities. You don‘t know how old they are.
This opens up a really big can of worms. He certainly walked into
this on Monday when a reporter asked him at that press conference, do you
know that all of the people you did this with were of age? He said I can -
whatever he said, it was something along the lines of I‘m not sure of that. I think that‘s why people are really digging into this.
O‘DONNELL: To keep it in perspective, just in terms of numbers, he has this huge number of followers. He follows a huge number of people on Twitter. And so even if we were to take everything we‘re hearing about his racy stuff to be all true, it‘s still a minority of what he‘s doing on Twitter. Most of his Twitter traffic is innocent Twitter traffic.
BELLANTONI: Although, you can‘t traffic direct messages, so you don‘t actually know that. There could be more to the story. I think it‘s very interesting watching weather lawmakers are supporting him or not. The reason so many of them are calling for him to—you heard it with Senator Brown, who is up for reelection in 2012, and will face a tough race -- is because it‘s a distraction from what they want to be talking about.
They don‘t want reporters to be asking them about another member. However, when you look at these polls, his constituents are saying they want him to stay. The question is whether he did anything illegal, whether he violated his office and whether his constituents want him there.
Well, it‘s a very interesting question. I‘m sure this is not the last we‘re going to be hearing of it.
O‘DONNELL: Christina, what I‘ve seen so far in the Democrats—I mean, Republicans calling for Weiner to resign, we get that. Of course, that‘s going to happen. The Democrats calling for him to resign, it‘s coming exclusively from Democrats who have to do that for their own political election and re-election purposes.
You look at the states they come from, Virginia, now Ohio. One from Montana, I believe. It‘s places with a strong conservative vote that could knock them over so they have so immediately separate themselves from any association from him.
BELLANTONI: Also, I think the media has a little bit of element of this as well, because if a reporter puts a microphone in your face and asks you whether—maybe you‘re from a really blue state and you get asked the question, you‘re probably going to come down on the side of not standing next to him.
When you have Charlie Rangel sort of as your only friend in Congress, that‘s maybe not the best advocate you want to have, given, as you mentioned, Rangel was censured last years for his own ethical troubles.
But I think that you‘re going to continue to hear more and more of this, particularly when the House comes back next week. That‘s a lot of members that are going to be asked this question.
O‘DONNELL: Christina Bellantoni of “Roll Call,” you‘ll be there to cover what those members have to say for us. Thank you very much for joining me this evening.
BELLANTONI: Thanks. Have a good weekend.
O‘DONNELL: Coming up, Donald Trump finally explains why he ended his fake campaign for president. That‘s in the Rewrite.
O‘DONNELL: In tonight‘s Rewrite, the return of Donald Trump. Donald‘s latest joke that some in the political media have already taken seriously is that he might change his mind some time next year and yes, decide to run for president.
The poor man is actually trying to convince me of that, in my very first bit of handwritten personal correspondence from Donald. Here it is. It‘s a package of press clips on which Donald had written, “Lawrence, thanks for all your help, best wishes, Donald. P.S., see you in the spring.”
A little gold card on it from the desk of Donald Trump. All very impressive. It‘s really just a package of press clips, this thing. He‘s underlined certain lines in these press clip stories here.
For example, on this first one, he really likes the sentence, “Trump is no clown.” That‘s positive press for him. There‘s a line in here saying that “NBC was begging him to renew his contract and offering him 60 million.”
And under the 60 million, he has handwritten in the word, more. The other articles in the package include reference to his standing in the polls and his ratings of his fake reality show. Now Donald is famous for writing very, very nasty, very hateful letters to anyone who the media who says anything negative about him.
He‘s been doing it for decades. He has sent these ugly, angry missives to the editors of publications that include even a single negative sentence about him. This year, we‘ve seen an example one of his manically defensive letters to Gradon Carter, editor of “Vanity Fair.” Gayle Collins at “the New York Times” has written of her collection of hate mail from Trump.
No one has ever criticized Donald Trump more pointedly than I have and I am the only such critic who has never been attacked by Donald Trump. His revenge mechanism simply doesn‘t work with me. I don‘t think it‘s because he‘s afraid of me. I think it‘s because he knows I‘m right about everything I say about him and he wisely does not want to draw anymore attention to someone who has him all figured out.
I told you from the start that he wasn‘t running for president and that he would announce he wasn‘t running for president on May 16th, the day NBC announced its prime time entertainment schedule for the coming year. And that‘s exactly what he did.
Trump always knew that every word I was saying about that was true. I also said many times that Donald Trump is simply not rich enough to run for president. He has throughout his life lied about how rich he is.
To run a credible campaign for president, Trump would have to spend at least 500 million dollars. The Obama presidential campaign spent 730 million dollars in 2008 and had extra money supporting it from the Democratic National Committee.
And that number, that 700 million, is going to go up next year. For real billionaires like Bill Gates or Warren Buffett, the big ones, spending half a billion dollars on anything is easy. Even for billionaire Mike Bloomberg who has only a fraction of Buffett‘s money, but much, much more money than Trump could ever dream of, spending half a billion dollars on a presidential campaign would be easy.
Bloomberg has spent 268 million dollars getting elected mayor of New York City. He wouldn‘t blink at half a billion to win the White House. And Mike Bloomberg wouldn‘t feel one penny poorer after spending half a billion.
Donald posted a video this week on his Youtube channel in which he answers the question he says many people are asking him: why didn‘t you run for president? His rambling incoherent answer came down to this—
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, “THE APPRENTICE”: So I look at the kinds of things that are happening, and on top of that NBC is calling me on an hourly basis offering me all sorts of money to continue with “the Apprentice”, which has been a tremendous hit show for NBC and frankly for me. And at one point, I just said, you know what? I think it‘s time to take the money.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: So I don‘t run for president because NBC is calling me and it‘s just time to take the money. Donald Trump just told you that the reason he didn‘t run for president was the money NBC was offering him to continue his job as an NBC performer. This from a guy who pretends to be a billionaire. There is no billionaire who looks at a TV job and thinks it‘s time to take the TV money.
There is no amount of money that NBC or any network could pay a billion anywhere that would make the job worth the money. Donald floated the lie this year that NBC was offering him 60 million dollars to continue working for the network. He then tried to inflate that lie in the note that he wrote to me with that little word more under the number 60 million.
The trouble is he‘s writing that note—he‘s sending that note to someone who had been an executive producer of a couple of prime time series for NBC. I know what the networks pay their stars, as does everyone else in show business.
Donald is worth no more than a couple million dollars in salary, if that, to NBC. And he‘s lucky to be worth that. The ratings of his show that he‘s so proud of are the kind of ratings that would get you canceled in NBC prime time when I had a couple of shows on that network, back when it was the number one network in the ratings.
Donald is very proud of getting about seven million viewers, 2.5 million of them in the prized age group 18 to 49. He‘s got those ratings right in here, in this package he sent to me. Very proud of them.
NBC used to cancel every show that fell below three million in that age group. Donald‘s show is way below three million in that age group. Donald‘s numbers used to spell failure at NBC. But they‘re good enough now because there‘s been an overall decline in the viewing audience of broadcast television and because NBC is struggling in fourth place, struggling more than the other networks to attract audiences.
So Donald‘s numbers are good enough for now at NBC. Let‘s listen to more of what Donald said about why he chose not to run for president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Life and business is funny. Every time I told NBC no, they kept saying, can we give you more? Will you take more? By the way, even if you‘re rich, it‘s a lot of money. When you have a hit show, it‘s a lot of money.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Well, yeah, a couple million dollars is a lot of money to most of us. But there is no billionaire who thinks a couple million dollars is a lot of money. But Donald Trump does think the NBC money is a lot of money, because he needs that money. He lives on that money. He couldn‘t live without his NBC paycheck.
And he is explicitly telling you that. He is very clearly saying NBC is offering me what I think is a lot of money, an offer I couldn‘t refuse. I could not afford not to take it. Donald‘s explanation of why he didn‘t run for president included this—
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Who gives up a hit show? Nobody.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Nobody gives up a hit show? How about Jerry Seinfeld?
Jerry Seinfeld gave up a hit show. It was number one the year it ended. The final episode was watched by 76 million people, ten times more than watch Donald‘s show.
Alan Alda walked away from “MASH” with 106 million people watching its final episode, 77 percent of the television watching audience that night. That 106 million viewers was a record that stood for 27 years until something called the Super Bowl beat it in 2010.
Jerry Seinfeld and Alan Alda and Bill Cosby and countless others have walked away from much more successful shows than Donald Trump will ever have. And each of them—each of those stars made much more money in television than Donald Trump ever will.
George Clooney left “E.R.” when the show was ranked number one. He too was making more with money in television than Donald Trump is making. And then he went on to make even more money outside of television.
Then Juliana Margolese (ph) left “E.R.” when it was a hit show because she no longer needed the money. Shelly Long left “Cheers” when it was a giant hit, a huge hit, because she didn‘t need the money as much as Donald Trump needs the money.
And 19 years ago, in a studio three floors below where I sit right now, the irreplaceable king of late night, Johnny Carson, walked off of his stage never to return. He left this building with more money than Donald Trump will ever earn in television.
People walk away from hit shows all the time. And by the time they do, they are very, very, very rich people. And no matter how much money CBS offered Alan Alda to keep doing “MASH,” no matter how much money NBC offered Jerry Seinfeld, Bill Cosby, George Clooney and Johnny Carson to stay—and NBC begged them all to stay—they all just walked away because unlike Donald Trump, they didn‘t need the money.
O‘DONNELL: This week, the late night comedians and their writers turned their attention to Anthony Weiner without ever losing sight of their old favorite, Sarah Palin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID LETTERMAN, “THE LATE SHOW”: This is the worst congressional scandal all week. It‘s crazy.
STEPHEN COLBERT, “THE COLBERT REPORT”: It was after this humiliating public confession that Representative Weiner said the most shocking thing of all.
REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: I‘ll take any questions that you might have.
COLVERT: What? OK, I have one. Why are you taking questions?
LETTERMAN: He apologized 29 times -- 29 times. And experts believe if the guy stays healthy, he could beat my record.
JIMMY KIMMEL, “JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE”: When Clinton wanted to text someone a picture of his penis, he had to use an Etch-a-Sketch.
TRUMP: Anthony Weiner is a bad guy. He‘s a psycho. And when this came out, I was not surprised at all.
KIMMEL: Really? Not at all? Not at all. You know what surprises me? The fake that Donald Trump has not just one but two pairs of scissors in his office, and he uses neither one of them on his head.
LETTERMAN: We put together a segment for you tonight. It‘s called sex scandals before the Internet age. Watch. Take a look.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A little help here. Hello.
COLBERT: Last Friday, Palin visited the Old North Church in Boston to raise awareness of Paul Revere‘s famous ride.
SARAH PALIN, FORMER GOVERNOR OF ALASKA: He who warned the British that they weren‘t going to be taking away our arms by ringing those bells and making sure as he‘s riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we‘re going to be secure and we were going to be free.
COLBERT: We are neglecting to teach our children about the great American tradition of warning our enemies that we are about to attack them. Who can forget when General Eisenhower knocked on Hitler‘s door and said, hey, Adolf, we‘re landing at Normandy. Here‘s a warning shot. Ding dong, you bastard.
And then our boys stormed the beach at Normandy with bells around their necks. All I have to say is prepare to eat historical reenactments.
I just have to reload. I just have to—I certainly hope Paul Revere was wearing a cup.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: The comedians get THE LAST WORD for this week. You can have THE LAST WORD online at our blog, TheLastWord.MSNBC.com. And you can see my letter from Donald Trump on our blog. We‘ll have that posted soon. You can follow my Tweets @Lawrence.
“THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” is up next. Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good evening, Lawrence. Was the note in black Sharpie?
O‘DONNELL: Yeah, black sharpie. Yes.
MADDOW: You know, I‘m going to start doing that. I think it gives you a sense of importance that no other pen can.
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