Guests: Nat Kern, Joel Mowbray, Gerald Nicosia, Tim Graham, Glenn Beck, Bill Donohue
JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST: Tonight gas prices are exploding at the pump. Are the Saudis to blame? You‘re about to enter SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. No passport required. No price gouging allowed.
It costs more than ever before to fill up your tank and our supposed allies the Saudis may be one major reason why. What‘s our government doing about it and what about the Bush administration‘s relationship with the world‘s largest oil supplier? Our experts weigh in.
And secret FBI files on John Kerry that could have an explosive impact on his campaign vanish. What‘s the real story? We‘re going to be talking to the author at the center of this real-life political thriller and find out more about this high stakes who done it.
And Bush bashing hits prime time as TV execs let their liberal politics shine through in their storylines. Now some admit they‘re even trying to sway the election. Is it free speech or hate speech? It‘s our SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY showdown.
And even though it‘s been pegged by critics as anti-Semitic, “The Passion” is being banned in some Islamic countries and pirated copies of the controversial film are selling like wildfire all over the globe. Our panel weighs in on that, too.
But first, with gas prices on the rise, our dear Saudi allies are putting the gun to America‘s head. It‘s time for tonight‘s “Real Deal.” Now how long will American leaders continue to protect the Saudi loyal family? After all, we started a war in 1991, more or less, to protect the Saudis‘ massive oil reserves. And not only did we get Saddam‘s troops off of Saudi Arabia‘s border, we forever defamed the butcher of Baghdad.
And to show their gratitude, the Saudi royals began funneling secret cash payments to Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. And even after September 11, George Bush‘s doctrine that said you‘re either on the side of the terrorists or on the side of America was largely ignored by the Saudis who were still convinced they could have it both ways in Washington and they are.
Now with America‘s economic recovery endangered by rising gas prices, the Saudis are actually using their leverage to screw their old friends once again. This week they joined OPEC in conspiring to cut oil production even more, which will drive American gas prices in your neighborhood even higher. Then the Saudis‘ prince had the nerve to assure the Bush administration we could count on our old friends in Saudi Arabia to keep oil prices steady. But as George Bush should know by now the Saudis‘ word means nothing.
We don‘t need Saudi billionaires giving bland assurances outside the White House. We need them speaking up at OPEC meetings, but don‘t expect that to happen anytime soon, because, as with terrorism, the Saudi royals continue to believe that their oil and their money can buy them the royal privilege to always have it both ways in Washington. It‘s a Capitol Hill disgrace and it‘s tonight‘s “Real Deal”.
Now, are we too close to the Saudis? MSNBC analyst and former presidential candidate Pat Buchanan is here. So is columnist Joel Mowbray, who wrote “Dangerous Diplomacy” and worries about our close relationship with the Saudis. We also have Nat Kern. He‘s president of “Foreign Reports” who says Saudi Arabia‘s only oil policy is a strong world economy.
Pat Buchanan, let me begin with you. Are U.S. politicians afraid to stand up to the Saudi royal family?
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC ANALYST: I don‘t know that‘s exactly the case, Joe. I do know this. The Americans believe that before 9/11 the Saudis clearly were playing footsie with Osama bin Laden. In fact, probably buying protection money. But post 9/11, the Saudis themselves have been hit and there is an apprehension, I think, in Washington that this regime is unstable and it is in deep trouble. But if it goes down, we‘re going to wind up with Osama bin Laden or someone like him deciding oil prices and, therefore, what we have may be the lesser of two evils.
SCARBOROUGH: Joel Mowbray, you‘re concerned obviously about America‘s relationship with Saudi Arabia. Is Pat Buchanan right? Is the devil that we know better than the devil that we don‘t know? Joel?
OK, we‘re having audio problems with Joel. Let me go ahead and bring in Nat Kern. Nat, I‘ll ask you the same thing. Is the devil that we know, the Saudi royal family, better than the devil that we don‘t know?
NAT KERN, PRESIDENT, “FOREIGN REPORTS”: I think that‘s pretty obvious. And I mean you started out in your lead trashing them under a bunch of different things and let‘s talk about reality. The past three days wholesale gasoline prices have dropped 10 cents a gallon. Crude‘s down more than $4 since the Wednesday OPEC meeting. So we‘re not talking about rising prices. We‘re talking about falling prices.
SCARBOROUGH: So you don‘t think that cutting production—I mean maybe I‘m not good in economics, but I always thought that if you cut oil production then actually that would cause prices to go up and isn‘t that why OPEC always cuts oil prices?
KERN: No, no, no, no. There‘s a supply side and a demand side. Demand goes down in the spring. If the producers don‘t trim back their supplies a bit, then you can have prices crash. I‘m not sure we want that.
BUCHANAN: Let me talk to this, Joe, a little bit if I can. There‘s no doubt, look, the Saudis want to maximize the profits on oil, which is their only export and frankly, they got a hellish economic problem. Per capita income in that country has fallen dramatically. What they want is a booming western economy, an American economy, drinking as much oil as they can at the maximum price they can get. They do not want the prices going up so high they throw the West into a recession and they don‘t want them going so low that they don‘t have enough to take care of their problems. I think they are looking for the maximum price they can get for their product.
SCARBOROUGH: Well Pat, but the fact is right now oil prices out there, as you know, are at nearly an all-time high. Of course, despite OPEC‘s cutting production a million barrels a day, Saudi ambassadors to the U.S. promised the president the following. Quote—“we will not allow any shortage on the world oil market. Oil prices should be between 22 and $28 a barrel. My government‘s target is $25.” But Pat, some analysts say this could actually drive oil past $40 a barrel, which, of course, would be a huge drain on the American economy.
BUCHANAN: You know—but that‘s not in Saudi Arabia‘s interests. If the American economy goes in the dumpster and we stop buying and consuming oil, that‘s not going to help them, Joe. I‘m not saying these guys are saints. They do what American profiteers do. They‘re trying to maximize their profits. Let me tell you something, back in the 1950‘s when I used to drive around Chevy Chase, you get about four and a half gallons for a buck, but if you take that figure 20 cents, 25 cents a gallon and take it up to today, a buck 75 a gallon isn‘t much higher than what we were paying in the 1950‘s. It‘s not as low as the good years for us, but it‘s not out of sight.
SCARBOROUGH: Nat, a former CIA agent wrote this in “The Atlantic Monthly” last year. He said—quote—“Five extended families in the Middle East own about 60 percent of the world‘s oil. The Saudi family controls more than a third of that. This is the fulcrum on which the global economy teeters and the House of Saud knows its kingdom is dangerously at war with itself.”
Would you say that‘s an accurate depiction of what‘s going on in Saudi Arabia right now? Is it a kingdom at war with itself?
KERN: No, I don‘t think so. That‘s Bob Baer. He‘s never even been to the kingdom. He doesn‘t know anything about it. He wrote a book in order to make a lot of money selling it. He—I read that book. He doesn‘t know—have the slightest idea what he‘s talking about.
SCARBOROUGH: So what are you saying? Are you saying that the Saudi government is stable right now? They have no concerns with Islamic extremists?
KERN: Sure they have concerns. I mean they got bombed—housing convents were bombed last year in May and November in their capital. They discovered they do have a problem with Islamic extremists and a big one. And I was just there in January. There are checkpoints all over the place. They‘ve been rounding people up and a lot of fire fights with them. They didn‘t think it was that bad until they suddenly had to face it right at home.
BUCHANAN: Joe, let me talk about—you know look, I remember back there when the Shah and everybody was saying how wicked the Shah was and he was a rough customer and Zavach (ph) was not a good bunch of guys and then we talked—we undermined him and so we got the ayatollah. Now I mean this isn‘t the ideal situation we‘ve had with Saudi Arabia, but ever since FDR met you know the king in the Suez Canal back in—after Yalta, they have been basically playing ball with the United States of America and would I not like to, you know to contemplate the alternative because I don‘t think it would be good for Saudi Arabia and I don‘t think it would be good for our country.
SCARBOROUGH: Joel Mowbray, let me bring you in here and I want to read you what Prince Bandar once said. He said—quote—“If the reputation then builds that the Saudis take care of friends when they leave office, you‘d be surprised how much better friends you have who are just coming into office.”
Joel, sounds like...
SCARBOROUGH: ... the Saudis know...
SCARBOROUGH: ... how to buy off American politicians.
JOEL MOWBRAY, AUTHOR, “DANGEROUS DIPLOMACY”: The Saudis aren‘t stupid and they‘re hip to what they need to do to maintain their influence inside Washington. But I dispute Pat‘s notion that I think he‘s presenting a false choice. This is not a Shah versus ayatollah as the only option. Remember, you have 5,000 Saudi royals running around. You could have a, you know a variation of the current regime come into power if this one falls.
I mean there‘s so much money, there is so wealth with the oil that you‘re going to have a long, drawn out power struggle and I don‘t think you‘re necessarily going to have an Osama bin Laden. As for the bombings in Riyadh, people forget this was not an attack on the Saudi regime. There‘s never been an attack on the Saudi regime. The only attack they had with these bombings in Riyadh happened during Muslim prayer time, so in the minds of al Qaeda the only people who died were the infidels and they weren‘t hitting one of the many soft targets that the Saudi government operates inside the country that would have been crippling to the royal family. But instead, they hit a relatively—it was bad, people died, but it didn‘t really harm the Saudi regime in the long run. Al Qaeda could have done that. They could have dealt a crippling blow and they chose not to...
SCARBOROUGH: And why did they choose...
MOWBRAY: That‘s because...
SCARBOROUGH: ... why did they...
MOWBRAY: ... you don‘t bite the hand that feeds you.
SCARBOROUGH: Why—yes, I was going to ask...
SCARBOROUGH: ... why did they choose not to? Do you think—are you saying, Joel, that the Saudis continue to fund money to Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda and other Islamic terrorist groups?
MOWBRAY: Of course. It‘s kind of like telling—you know when you tell your 2-year-old son to stop breaking things and stop knocking things over inside your house, he might nod his head a little bit but he‘s going to keep doing it, so the Saudis are going to tell us that they‘re doing it. Look, Pat said that they‘ve been there playing ball with us for so long. But you know as they‘re shaking our hands with one hand they‘re stabbing us in the back with the other hand. This is not a friendly Saudi regime...
MOWBRAY: ... now in fairness to the Saudis because I‘m being harsh on them here for a moment. Let me just—in fairness to them I understand why they‘re raising the price of gas—the barrel of oil because it costs a lot of money to buy off those American officials and so how else are they going to do it except exploiting the U.S driver and other you know consumers of oil to pay more so they can buy off more American...
SCARBOROUGH: Pat Buchanan, you‘re a straight talker. Now come on. You read—heard that quote about the Saudis saying they buy off American politicians. You know that‘s how Washington works, don‘t you?
BUCHANAN: Sure. But the Saudis aren‘t the only ones that buy them off. You‘ve got secretaries of state and trade officials and senators and congressmen. This is a town of whores and tramps who are bought and paid for. The Saudis buy their share and, Joe, you and I could go through a list of six countries that buy up this town and buy up foreign policy. But let me respond to Joel.
SCARBOROUGH: China. Go ahead.
BUCHANAN: Let me respond to Joel. He‘s right. You could possibly have some other princes take over and all the rest of it, but I think it would be a terrible mistake for this country to destabilize Saudi Arabia when the hostility of the population there toward America is as great, according to those polls, as it is in Iran. Maybe some friendly prince will take over. I don‘t know anybody who is going to take over who is going to say let‘s make sure the Americans get $15 a barrel of oil. None of them. They‘re all going to maximize their profits. I think you deal with the situation you‘ve got, which to me, is better than rolling the dice on the alternative.
SCARBOROUGH: All right. Pat Buchanan...
SCARBOROUGH: ... we‘re going to have to leave it there.
SCARBOROUGH: Unfortunately, we‘re going to have to leave it there, Joel.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right.
SCARBOROUGH: I‘m sorry. Thanks for being with us Joel. Nat Kern and Pat Buchanan, stick around because I‘m going to be talking to you more in a minute.
And, hey, are you feeling a little pinched at the pump? Check out msnbc.com‘s special report on who‘s to blame and what you can do to protect your wallet.
And coming up on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, explosive documents about 1970‘s FBI surveillance of John Kerry goes missing from an office file. But who would want them? We‘ll sort through that mystery with the author himself.
And then Whoopi Goldberg‘s lacing anti-Bush themes throughout her prime time TV show and she hopes it helps defeat George Bush in the fall. Is that an appropriate goal for a half-hour sitcom?
And then Roman candles light up any festivity. You just have to be careful where you point them. We‘ll show you the rest of this video that features a guy who volunteered to be a human target. You‘re not going to want to try this one at home.
SCARBOROUGH: Scandal and intrigue on the campaign trail. John Kerry‘s FBI records are stolen. The man who they were stolen from enters SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY coming up next.
SCARBOROUGH: Assassination plot, stolen FBI files and a mad scramble of a political cover-up. It may sound like Tom Clancy‘s latest thriller, but it‘s what the Kerry campaign has faced over the past three weeks. First, a “New York Sun” investigation reveals John Kerry‘s involvement with a group that considered assassinating several United States senators. The campaign denied he was a member of the group at the time of the plot, but “The Sun‘s” investigation uncovered six eyewitnesses and FBI records that placed John Kerry at that event.
But now thousands of pages from Kerry‘s FBI files have been stolen and with us is Gerald Nicosia. He‘s the author of “Home To War”, which documented the Vietnam vet‘s movement and the assassination plot. He‘s also the man whose home was burglarized and whose FBI files were stolen.
Gerald, thank you so much for being with us. And tell us what happened to those files of John Kerry that were stolen from your home.
GERALD NICOSIA, AUTHOR, “HOME TO WAR”: Well, that‘s the great mystery. I brought them in from the garage. I had is 14 boxes of FBI files, about 20,000 documents. I had spent 11 years basically struggling with the FBI to get those documents. I put in my first Freedom of Information Act request in 1998 when I started work on my book “Home To War: A History of the Vietnam Veterans‘ Movement”. It took 11 years to get them. I got them in 1999.
My book was just about completed and ready to go to press. I wasn‘t able to use them. I knew they had great historical importance. I put them in the garage figuring some day when I put all of my archives in a library they‘ll be useful to somebody. But, as this controversy began to heat up about whether John Kerry was at the November Kansas City meeting, John Glione (ph) of the “Los Angeles Times” asks me if he could look at those FBI documents figuring that they would show very precisely who was there.
Indeed they did show who was at the meeting and so I brought the boxes into my house out of the garage, 14 boxes, counted them carefully, put them in the dining room and there they stayed. Mr. Glione (ph) looked at them. He broke a story about them on March 22 in the “Los Angeles Times.” At that point my phones started ringing and really haven‘t stopped ringing since.
CNN came out to my house, which I think was maybe the big mistake. I let CNN—I did a lot of other television interviews but in studios, as I am right now, but CNN came into my dining room, filmed my dining room, filmed my house, filmed with the boxes. They looked very distinctive. That story was aired that same Monday night, I believe, March 22 so everybody in the world got a road map of where the boxes were and what they looked like and...
SCARBOROUGH: And people broke into your—and somebody broke into your house...
NICOSIA: Three days later...
SCARBOROUGH: ... and stole John Kerry‘s FBI files?
NICOSIA: Well three days later while I was out during the afternoon, three of those 14 boxes were taken. One of the boxes had no Kerry material in it. Two of the—each one of those boxes held over 1,000, maybe up to 2,000 documents. I don‘t know what was in two of the boxes, but I do know that four or five file folders which held 250 documents each, they were hooked together—you know put into folders by the FBI, metal prongs holding them together. Those folders did have specifically Kerry material because I book marked it. I had stuck lots of book marks in, put them out on the dining room table so the thieves, while I believe that they left in haste, I think they came for the whole load, but they did see those folders with the book marks and grabbed those up when they left, too.
SCARBOROUGH: Wow. Pat Buchanan, MSNBC analyst and former presidential candidate, you‘re a trusted Nixon advisor. Do you smell something funny here?
BUCHANAN: I sure do. I‘ll tell you what. What I smell is that John Kerry has not told the whole truth about his relationship with that Vietnam Veterans Against the War. I think he‘s not been forthcoming about that Kansas City meeting. We have heard, Joe, now from “The Boston Globe” about the fact that he talked with Fulbright (ph) and the others after his testimony where he said Americans murdered 200,000 a year Vietcong or Vietnamese. He apparently went to Paris and met with the Vietcong and the Vietnamese over there during those negotiations. We had not known that. I think he‘s got a lot of explaining to do.
SCARBOROUGH: What about these files? I mean you know this almost sounds like a West Coast version of Watergate 2004 that somebody broke in...
SCARBOROUGH: ... to a home and stole FBI files with damning evidence. Not all of them, but went after FBI files to try to get damning evidence on John Kerry either to help him or maybe it was an inside job by somebody in the Kerry campaign.
BUCHANAN: If it‘s an inside job I would think they would have gotten
all 20 boxes there and taken them out and those things would be in a river
somewhere right now. But I‘ll tell you, this is an argument for—you
know for other journalists going to the FBI and getting the same redacted -
· incidentally was the material redacted that they got? And I‘d be interested to know you know exactly what it was like, Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: Yes. Well you know the “Los Angeles Times” gave details of some of the FBI reports and one of them from a Veterans Against the War event said—quote—“The entire conference lacked coordination and appeared to be a platform for John Kerry, national leader of the VVAW, rather than for VVAW itself. Another FBI report on a speech John Kerry gave at George Washington University describes—quote—“A clear indication that Kerry is an opportunist with personal political aspirations.”
Now Gerald, some are whispering out there the stealing of John Kerry‘s FBI files in your possession may have been an inside job from the Kerry camp. Respond to that.
NICOSIA: Oh, I would think it would be the Republicans not John Kerry. I was cooperating with John Kerry. I‘m a Kerry supporter.
NICOSIA: When the senator was making statements that he wasn‘t at the meeting in Kansas City, which initially I believed he wasn‘t either. In my book I had it wrong. I had him resigning in the summer of 1971 in St. Louis. And that was based on oral testimony, people with faulty memories. So I was quite surprised myself, but once I found those documents when I was working with Glione (ph) actually and I saw that you know Mr. Kerry—
Senator Kerry was obviously there I called the Kerry office and said you know I think you folks really should look at these documents before you make any further statements and they sent...
SCARBOROUGH: What did they say?
NICOSIA: They immediately sent a messenger to my house, got copies of the documents and that evening Senator Kerry did issue a retraction and said based on the documents he now believed that he was at that meeting. So you know the Kerry camp had no reason to believe I would not cooperate with them further.
NICOSIA: I would say that the Republicans had the largest motivation because there definitely is a tremendous amount and I‘m now going through those documents, by the way, I‘m writing an article for the “Los Angeles Times” Magazine, in which I will—since I‘m the guy that spent 11 years fighting to get this stuff and it was blood, sweat and tears, I felt like I should be the person to break the first story. So I‘m reading all—there are 16,000 left. I‘m reading through them and I‘m finding that—you know there‘s a heck of a lot—even the stuff that‘s left to me, I don‘t know what those folders were that are gone...
NICOSIA: ... there‘s a heck of lot of explosive stuff about Kerry in there.
SCARBOROUGH: Pat Buchanan, you know Kerry‘s folks would say the
senator has no personal recollection of being in Kansas City but said this,
· quote—“If there are valid FBI surveillance reports we accept that historical footnote in the account of his work to end the difficult and divisive war.”
Do you think attending a meeting where they talked about assassinating United States Senators is a historical footnote?
BUCHANAN: Well, this is what you and I talked about, Joe. I don‘t understand why the major media have not covered this. Now Kerry said, look, I was in the Vietnam Veterans Against the War and at some point they got a little radical and so I moved out of it. I would understand that. But why did he insist he was not at Kansas City unless there was some reason why you wouldn‘t be at Kansas City and the only reason we know now is that something really radical was proposed.
Now whether it was some drunken comment of let‘s kill Stennis and Tower and another senator or whether this was actually talked about and voted is a big, big issue. I mean if Kerry was there, everybody says he talked against the proposal. I don‘t know the truth, but I do know this. This is a major story. This guy was 27 years old. It was during that period after Vietnam. He ought to come on someone like Russert‘s show or your show or one of the other shows, even “LARRY KING” and go down the tick tock and say exactly what happened at Kansas City and what he heard, why he got out, and what he was doing in Paris and why he said Americans were murdering 200,000 Vietnamese...
SCARBOROUGH: All right.
BUCHANAN: ... which to me sounds very bad.
SCARBOROUGH: I think it does, Pat Buchanan. And I think it sounds very bad, also, that he goes to a meeting where they talk about assassinating United States senators and he says he can‘t remember.
Well, Pat Buchanan, Gerald Nicosia, thank you so much for being with us on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY tonight. It‘s an explosive story that I think we‘re going to be hearing about for the next few months.
And up next, Hollywood producers have been willing to spend big bucks to try to oust President Bush. But now they‘re taking their liberal politics to the small screen. Have they gone too far?
And the battle over “The Passion” has traveled to the Middle East. Some Islamic countries are banning the film. We‘re going to have the latest on that controversy.
But first let‘s get the latest headlines from the MSNBC News desk.
SCARBOROUGH: This just in from the front page of “The New York Times”: Hollywood hates George W. Bush. The Hollywood entertainment complex is gearing up to take on the president in the upcoming election. Not just in newsrooms and on shows like “The West Wing”, but also entertainment prime time shows like “Whoopi,” “Law & Order,” and HBO‘s “Curb your Enthusiasm”. Here‘s a sample.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As far as I‘m concerned you‘re a national treasure. How about a picture?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let‘s go, let‘s go.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let‘s go, let‘s go...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And don‘t even think about coming back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: Tim Graham from the Media Research Center, which monitors liberal bias in the mainstream press, you were quoted in “The New York Times” today and said this concerned you. Why?
TIM GRAHAM, MEDIA RESEARCH CENTER: Well because really it‘s Hollywood‘s in kind contribution to the Kerry campaign. You know they have every right to do this, but I think that a lot of people are going to see it as unfair. We‘re in this environment now after McCain-Feingold where you‘re not allowed to criticize a candidate for federal office. You know, are the campaign cops going to have to police Whoopi Goldberg in the last 60 days of an election period?
SCARBOROUGH: Is it any worse this year than it‘s been in the past?
GRAHAM: Well, we haven‘t seen anything like this in about 12 years.
The Media Research Center used to really watch this kind of politicking. It was much—very common with “Murphy Brown” and “Designing Women” and these kinds of programs in the late ‘80‘s and the early 1990‘s. And once Bill Clinton was elected that whole trend seemed to just sort of fall away. So this is a new thing and we‘re concerned about it.
SCARBOROUGH: Lawrence O‘Donnell, obviously you‘re an MSNBC political analyst. You‘re also a consultant to “The West Wing”. I know when I read “The New York Times” this morning the one that really jumped out at me was the dialogue in “Law & Order” where these two characters are walking down the street and one just out of nowhere said yes, that dude George Bush lied to us and the other said, yes, but you know what? The weapons of mass destruction Saddam had were the ones that his old man sold to him years ago. Does that really fit in prime time on broadcast networks?
LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Joe, it‘s—a very passing reference on a show like “Law & Order”. No one is watching “Law & Order” to get any political information at all. Their minds are not open to political information from a show like that. And, look, the problem of the Whoopi Goldberg thing that we want to make a lot of, Joe, is that on this broadcast tonight and on the rerun of your broadcast later on tonight more people are going to end up seeing Whoopi‘s clip than saw the show. It is one...
O‘DONNELL: ... of the lowest rated shows...
SCARBOROUGH: That is...
O‘DONNELL: ... on...
SCARBOROUGH: That is so cold Lawrence, but I want to follow up on...
O‘DONNELL: ... listen, I mean I want...
O‘DONNELL: ... I want to pump up—I want to help us pump up the story here and make a big deal of it...
SCARBOROUGH: OK, well Lawrence hold on a second...
O‘DONNELL: ... unfortunately, nobody is watching “Whoopi” this season.
SCARBOROUGH: Well you know you made a point, though, and of course “The New York Times” reported it, too, so I guess they‘re helping “Whoopi” also. But you said people don‘t tune in to “Whoopi” or “Law & Order” to see political dialogue, which, of course, they do when they turn on “The West Wing” and know what they‘re getting. But wouldn‘t you say...
SCARBOROUGH: ... wouldn‘t you say the fact that they tune in not to watch politics and they get it may even affect more crossover voters, the people that don‘t know what to expect.
O‘DONNELL: Well, you know “The West Wing”, I don‘t know how “The West Wing” is supposed to help or hurt Bush, but if you‘ve actually been watching it this year, Joe, you would have seen “The West Wing” a few weeks ago in an episode, watched the president sign a bill for school vouchers for Washington, D.C., which, as you know, is a current issue in Washington, D.C.
You know and we know which side this president is on that and which
side the Democrats are on that. So, “The West Wing” isn‘t even as
predictable as you might think it is. And obviously it doesn‘t make any
reference to real world politicians. But the really ridiculous thing in
“The New York Times” story was “Curb Your Enthusiasm” where they use five seconds...
O‘DONNELL: ... of “Curb Your Enthusiasm”—Joe, you watch “Curb Your Enthusiasm”, don‘t you?
SCARBOROUGH: Oh, we‘re going to take a look at it right now, Lawrence.
O‘DONNELL: Go ahead.
SCARBOROUGH: “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” that is an incredible show.
“Curb Your Enthusiasm”...
O‘DONNELL: It‘s the best comedy on television and I know you agree with me on that.
SCARBOROUGH: Well actually I do agree with you on that and I will admit to my viewers I‘m a hypocrite. I can‘t say anything bad about Larry David, Paul McCartney or Gwyneth Paltrow regardless of their politics. So, Tim, I want to bring...
SCARBOROUGH: ... go ahead, Lawrence. Go ahead.
O‘DONNELL: Well look, as you know, Joe, 20 hours of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and not a single political note in the whole show. The season finale a five-second scene where there‘s a visual reference to President Bush. There are two people in that scene. One person loves President Bush, the other one doesn‘t. Now you don‘t get more fair and balanced than that.
GRAHAM: Oh, you know come on. There is no balance in any of these programs. And just because there‘s five seconds now, look, this is April. You know I think the closer we get, we‘re going to get new shows with high viewer ship in 2004, in October and November. And I‘m sure that writers in Hollywood are going to use these things, and even if they don‘t say vote for John Kerry or vote against George W. Bush, they‘re going to pick issues like prescription drugs or gay rights or something to try to sort of build that enthusiasm for John Kerry and his agenda.
SCARBOROUGH: Let me bring in Glenn Beck. Glenn, you‘re the author of “The Real America: Messages From the Heart and Heartland” and you‘re also of course a nationally syndicated radio talk show host. I want to play you the entire clip from “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and get your response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have a picture of Bush in your dressing room?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You‘re a Republican?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, Larry, I‘m a Republican.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: Oh, I love that show. Glenn...
GLENN BECK, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: You know I got to tell you...
SCARBOROUGH: ... besides the fact I‘m a huge fan of his, but the bottom line is...
SCARBOROUGH: ... OK, that‘s not damaging there, but you have—if you have these references in 100 different shows between now and the election, does that affect an election? Is it just free speech? Are we making big ado about nothing?
BECK: It‘s absolutely free speech and I hope we‘re not talking about censoring Hollywood or censoring anybody on talk radio or on—that do talk show hosts or in the newspaper. We‘re not here to censor anybody. But we are here to wake people up (UNINTELLIGIBLE). One of your guests just said, well, people aren‘t really tuning in. Their minds aren‘t open to politics and so it doesn‘t penetrate. Bull crap. It absolutely penetrates and that‘s—I think that‘s more insidious.
When you listen to a talk radio show, you listen to my program, for instance, you know exactly what my agenda is. You know where I‘m coming from politically speaking so you are getting that message clear and in the open. When you‘re tuning in for entertainment, you‘re not necessarily noticing those messages and they do pile up. And if you don‘t think it makes a difference, watch “Will & Grace” and then track and see how our attitudes towards gays were before “Will & Grace” and how accepted it is now years after “Will & Grace”.
It is exactly the same thing that happens when people who say, oh, gee, my kids can watch MTV and it‘s no big deal. They know the difference. Really? Do they? I think our society is becoming much more of an MTV society because that harmless television that is just there for entertainment is exposing to us these images and we‘re embracing them. It does make an impact, but that doesn‘t mean that we slam Hollywood. What we do is have to wake people up and say, hey, I just want you to know you are getting these messages and notice them. If you want them, great. If you don‘t, move on.
GRAHAM: Well why not slam Hollywood? There‘s nothing wrong with that. I mean there is something there that we seem to hallow the idea of free speech so much that we say oh, no one can criticize film producers. No one can criticize...
BECK: I think...
BECK: I think they have...
BECK: What we need to do is say...
GRAHAM: ... they have the right to make that show and we have
the right to say that the show is unfair, it‘s unfunny, and that it‘s,
GRAHAM: ... and it‘s actually political...
BECK: Well, wait a minute. Hang on. Now you‘re talking about two different things. They have the right to do it, absolutely they do. Unfunny, I happened to see that Whoopi Goldberg episode. That‘s more frightening than anything we‘ve heard is I actually saw it. I think I was the only one in America that saw it. It is unfunny, but they have the right to make the show. They have the right to put that...
BECK: ... political speech in it.
BECK: But more importantly...
BECK: ... we have the right to not watch it.
SCARBOROUGH: Hold on everybody...
SCARBOROUGH: Everybody can‘t talk at the same time. Lawrence O‘Donnell...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
SCARBOROUGH: ... I want to ask you, is there a difference in your mind between, let‘s say, a political message being played on “Curb Your Enthusiasm”, which is on HBO, when I go to HBO I know what I‘m going to get with “Curb” and let‘s say a broadcast show like “Whoopi” or “Law & Order”?
O‘DONNELL: Well, look, nothing is going to hurt Whoopi‘s message more than being unfunny. Her job is to be funny on that show. So, if half of the audience or more is thinking that this Bush stuff is not funny that‘s going to be reflected in the ratings. And by the way, it might be already and the odds—listen, I had a show on NBC last year that had better ratings than “Whoopi” and it got canceled. So the odds of “Whoopi” having this show on...
O‘DONNELL: ... in the fall for this campaign, it‘s not very strong.
GRAHAM: Is that another one of those shows...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It‘s not the Bush...
GRAHAM: Is that another one of those shows about the idealistic Democratic senators and the...
O‘DONNELL: That‘s correct. No, he wasn‘t a Democrat. He was an Independent and...
O‘DONNELL: ... he was all over the place...
GRAHAM: ... Independent, liberally minded politician. All...
O‘DONNELL: ... not liberally minded, no...
GRAHAM: ... all of our political protagonists...
GRAHAM: ... on TV always seem to be the idealistic liberals and the conservatives are just there to be a caricature on a cartoon.
O‘DONNELL: “JAG”—watch “JAG”. It‘s a great show. It‘s about Navy...
SCARBOROUGH: All right.
O‘DONNELL: ... lawyers. The guy who created it is a very—is an old Marine, Republican, great guy, and it‘s a very patriotic TV show.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, Lawrence, we‘ll have to leave it there. We appreciate all of you being here. Tim Graham, Lawrence O‘Donnell, and Glenn Beck, we appreciate it.
And coming up on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, a new poll says anti-Semitism in America is on the rise. Are people going to blame “The Passion”? We‘re going to be asking Catholic League President Bill Donohue.
And later, what can possibly go wrong when young men mix fireworks, a motorcycle helmet, and a lot of poor judgment? You‘re not going to want to miss this explosive video coming up.
ANNOUNCER: Tonight‘s SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY “Challenge”. “The Passion” is in Aramaic, often called a dead language. How many people speak Aramaic today? Is it (A) 500, (B) 16,000 or (C) 800,000. The answer coming up.
ANNOUNCER: In tonight‘s SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY “Challenge”, we asked “The Passion” is in Aramaic, often called a dead language. How many people speak Aramaic today? The answer is © about 800,000 people including several thousand in the United States.
Now back to Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: Including me. You know the controversy around “The Passion” continues to explode. It‘s been banned now in some Islamic countries. Jewish groups in France are calling it—quote—“sick.” In parts of Ramallah copies of the film are being burned, while in other parts of the city it‘s selling like hotcakes. Now one week from Good Friday, the film controversy around this amazing movie continues. And with me to further discuss the phenomenon is Catholic League President Bill Donohue and we also have MSNBC political analyst Flavia Colgan, who is a graduate of the Harvard Divinity School.
Flavia, why does controversy continue to swirl around this movie?
FLAVIA COLGAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, let‘s be very clear on one thing. The prelimical (ph) nature of this film was constructed by Mel Gibson himself. He didn‘t have the Hollywood money to back him in a film that was in Aramaic and by business standards didn‘t seem like it was going to be a big hit. So he really started to fuel this fire by not allowing certain groups to be invited to the original screenings of it, then floating this idea that the Pope saw it and he said it is as it was, which was pretty shameful and the Vatican had to come out and of course say that that wasn‘t true.
And I think that a lot of the progress that we made in Vatican II and really trying to focus on the common ground and on tolerance and this idea of age-old prejudices and this idea that the Jews killed Jesus was undermining the sentiments of love and understanding and forgiveness, which is a huge part of Christ‘s message and I think that Mel Gibson and many, obviously, want to roll back what I view is a lot of that progress. And that study that you cited earlier in the program is very troubling to me because I think that shows that and certainly Mel Gibson is not solely responsible for that, but it‘s one of the reasons the film is very popular and it‘s certainly...
COLGAN: ... feeding into that anti-Semitism.
SCARBOROUGH: Bill Donohue, do you believe as Flavia does that Mel Gibson has stolen the message of Jesus and perverted it to make money?
BILL DONOHUE, CATHOLIC LEAGUE PRESIDENT: No. As a matter of fact, there are several errors of fact in what she just said. The controversy was not stirred up by Mel Gibson. It was stirred up by those people who stole a copy—stole, that‘s right, stole a copy of the script and then sent it out to some people to start to slam it. They were Catholic and Jewish theologians who slammed the movie without seeing the movie. Then they predicted that there would be violence.
Paula Fredriksen in “The New Republic” said when the violence begins, not if the violence begins. Also Flavia is flatly wrong to say that the Pope didn‘t said it is as it was. That‘s been—it‘s clarified...
DONOHUE: ... in fact, he did say that and you can check the clarification with the Vatican on this. There was some backtracking that they didn‘t want him to be in the position of trying to give his impromptu (ph) to it, but he did say exactly that. And read what the Vatican has said since. Read what Navarel Vas (ph) has said about this. Read what Foley and the others have said about it in “The Vatican”.
DONOHUE: The fact of the matter is that Mel Gibson played by the book on this movie. There are people out to salvage this movie and they failed.
SCARBOROUGH: Bill Donohue, though, I want to expand this out a little bit more because we‘ve been seeing over the past couple of weeks how not only “The Passion” but other Christian-based books, films, music have been selling a lot and then of course we see John Kerry getting into the religious discussion and doing several things, getting into a debate with the Catholic Church. Do you think religion now is going to play a much larger role not only in movies and in bookstores but also at the polls?
DONOHUE: Yes, and I think it‘s on everybody‘s minds. The fact of the matter is you can‘t have it both ways. Kerry wants to say, that‘s his words, I‘m a practicing, believing Catholic. How come he won‘t answer the question. How many times was he married in the Catholic Church? He got married in a civil ceremony some eight years after he was divorced from his first wife Julia Thorn. Why was it a civil ceremony? Because he didn‘t seek an annulment until after.
And why did “The New York Times” say today he sought an annulment? Why did “TIME” Magazine say this week he sought an annulment? How come no one confirms that he obtained an annulment? Because when he was put the question to him by “The Atlanta Journal-Constitution” they said they‘re not going to answer that question. When they asked him about it in “The Providence Journal-Bulletin”, he said I‘m in good Catholic standing but I won‘t answer the question about the annulment.
Now he went on “Don Imus”, all right, you check the record, May the 8th 1997 on MSNBC, and he joked about the process of annulment. So he joked about it publicly. You can‘t have it both ways. Catholics have a right to know is he married in the Catholic Church or isn‘t he?
SCARBOROUGH: Flavia, you know expanding from John Kerry, again, talking about how “The Passion” is being banned overseas, a new Pew Research poll that you talked about shows that a growing number of Americans believe that Jews were responsible for Christ‘s death. In ‘97, just 19 percent of Americans said Jews were responsible for Christ‘s death. Today more than a quarter of Americans, 26 percent say Jews were to blame.
Do you think that may be why some countries overseas are banning this film?
COLGAN: Well, some of the countries, the Arabic countries that you referred to, of course, have banned all movies for quite some time that portray any prophet and certainly Jesus is a prophet and what I find more interesting is some countries lifting that ban. You saw a Shiite cleric urging the Kuwait government to in fact let “The Passion of The Christ” in because—quote—unquote - he said it shows that the Jews killed Jesus and you know my question would be how come this longstanding ban is now lifted for this film?
And my feeling is you know whether Arafat who came out and gave it two thumbs up for this movie, the reason it‘s being let into some of these countries, even though many films in the past about Jesus and his life have never been allowed to grace the big screen is because it‘s an endorsement of those who believe this film is anti-Semitic. I mean the film‘s portrayal of Pontius Pilate as some good willed U.N. ambassador who was persuaded by these bloodthirsty Jews to kill Jesus is outrageous and...
SCARBOROUGH: Bill Donohue, we got 30 seconds. I want you to respond to Flavia. Are Arab countries allowing this movie to be shown in their countries because it is anti-Semitic?
DONOHUE: Anything that could possibly put Jews in a bad light, those people who hate Jews and unfortunately, there‘s an awful lot of Abduls (ph) out there who hate Jews, shame on them, they‘re going to exploit this. But the movie is not anti-Semitic. As anybody—almost everybody who has seen this movie understands it, except of course for our elite, who think it‘s factious, think it‘s a snuff movie. All of a sudden they discover that pornography was bad by watching a movie about Jesus Christ.
SCARBOROUGH: OK. Thank you, as always, for being here Bill Donohue and Flavia Colgan. We appreciate it.
And still to come, the list of America‘s greatest exports to the world include Coca-Cola, McDonald‘s and Levis 501. Time to add MTV style “Jackass” stunts to that list. This was the first salvo in an intercontinental cultural war. Stick around and we‘ll tell you why.
SCARBOROUGH: Monday night in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, more women are choosing to leave the rat race. Dr. Laura will be here to tell us why that‘s a good thing. That‘s Monday, but SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY is just ahead. Stick around.
SCARBOROUGH: There are no borders in “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY”, especially when it comes to searching for the best stories about the strange who live among us. From a production company in Hong Kong and seen on MTV Asia, you‘re looking at a young man becoming a target for 25 Roman candles. It‘s clear that the asinine antics of MTV‘s “Jackass” should now be counted as our nation‘s export. What is not clear is whether or not the crotch-kicking monks we reported on earlier this week came to America in retaliation for corrupting their culture. I can‘t imagine how they will respond when they get Janet Jackson‘s latest CD.
Hey, I‘ll tell you what. We‘re going to be back on Monday and going to be talking to Dr. Laura and when we talk to Dr. Laura, we‘re going to have her respond to the “TIME” Magazine cover story that talked about how more housewives are staying at home. Women are deciding to get out of the rat race and go back home and raise their children. It‘s going to be an explosive time with Dr. Laura on Monday night.
We‘ll see you then. Have a great weekend.
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