Guests: Wil Hylton, Kim Masters, James Hirsen, Anthony Weiner, Mark Brzezinski, John Ensign
JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST: Tonight‘s top headline: Saddam‘s atrocities take a back seat to the Iraqi prisoner controversy. The “Real Deal”:
Let‘s not lose sight of the real enemy.
Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. No passport required. Only common sense allowed.
Mass graves filled with hundreds of thousands of Saddam‘s victims have been uncovered in Iraq, but you probably haven‘t heard about it. Is it media hypocrisy or bad P.R.?
Then, scandal infects the United Nations, with officials at the highest level stonewalling the investigation. So some fed-up members of Congress are stepping in.
Plus, it‘s Mickey Mouse vs. Michael Moore, as Disney refuses to distribute the director‘s latest political hit piece. Is this a sensible decision by Disney or censorship?
ANNOUNCER: From the press room, to the courtroom, to the halls of Congress, Joe Scarborough has seen it all. Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.
SCARBOROUGH: Hey, welcome to our show. I‘m Joe Scarborough.
Now, the media is hyperventilating over the Iraqi abuse scandal. It‘s time for tonight‘s “Real Deal.” By now, you‘ve probably seen the disturbing photos hundreds of times. In fact, it‘s hard to turn on the TV and see anything else, because the same media outlets who downplayed Saddam Hussein‘s murder of a million Arabs are making up for lost time by showing these images, well, a million times.
Since I‘m now in the media, I guess I need to show the same photos. Now, here‘s the first one I want you to see. Well, wait a second, that‘s actually footage of the Kurds who were gassed to death by Saddam Hussein‘s bloody regime. That is bad stuff, but it‘s probably not as humiliating as it was to prisoners who had to take off their clothes and simulate sex acts. So, let‘s put that photo up.
Well, actually, those are pictures of Saddam‘s torture chambers, where he and his sons actually would drag young women out of their homes at night, they would savagely rape them, and then they would feed them to a pack of dogs, or possibly through huge metal shredders. It‘s barbaric, I know, but it‘s certainly nothing as depraved as an American soldier holding two thumbs up over a pile of naked Iraqi prisoners. So let‘s show that photo.
Well, actually, I‘m sorry again. These are photos of remnants of Saddam‘s mass graves, where he systematically executed hundreds of thousands of people. You know, he would actually pull families from their homes. He would make them watch the execution of their father or their mother. And if the family didn‘t applaud at the end of the execution, well, Saddam‘s Iraqi thugs would then murder another member of the family.
But who really wants to talk about that part of Iraq‘s past? It‘s more fun for media elites and the radical left to whip themselves into a frenzy over the deplorable actions of a few criminals in uniform.
Now, as I have been saying from the beginning, these actions were sickening, and they merit harsh punishment. But isn‘t it ironic that the same people who downplayed Saddam‘s murderous reign to keep us out of war are now rediscovering that they actually care about the human rights of Iraqis after all? It‘s hypocrisy at its worst, and it‘s tonight‘s “Real Deal.”
I want to play you now Major General Geoffrey Miller. He apologized in Iraq earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAJ. GEN. GEOFFREY MILLER, U.S. ARMY: I would like to personally apologize to the people of Iraq for the actions of the small number of leaders and solders who violated our policy and may have committed criminal acts. We are investigating those acts as rapidly as possible and will bring those responsible to the bar of justice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: With me now is Lawrence O‘Donnell. He, of course, is MSNBC‘s senior political analyst. We also have Mike Barnicle from “The New York Daily News.”
Now, Mike, you know, I did my “Real Deal” to make a point. I saw these pictures on Friday in “The Washington Post.” My stomach literally turned. I saw them on Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday. I started getting calls yesterday from people that I knew all across America, and they‘re saying, you know what, Joe, we get it. Enough already. You guys in the media are losing perspective on the bigger picture.
Do they have a point?
MIKE BARNICLE, NBC ANALYST: Well, I think they‘re beginning to have a point, Joe. It‘s now the fourth or fifth day into this. The pictures are dehumanizing. The behavior was despicable. It was deplorable.
But it happened within the context of war. And, unfortunately, I think that‘s something, an issue, the fact of war, that a huge number of Americans seem to have forgotten. It‘s part of the cost of this war, of every war. It does dehumanize people on both sides.
Now, the perspective here, Joe, ought to be that while disgraceful behavior it was, it was perhaps 12 or 14 soldiers, reservists, I understand, out of a total of 135,000 soldiers, American soldiers on the ground. Those are pretty good averages. The other thing is, on the front page of “The New York Times” today, there was a compelling story of this brutality committed upon an Iraqi citizen. And it was his story, and it was, indeed, compelling.
But the difference between us and the Iraqis is that this man lived to tell his story, lived to have his picture on the front page of one of our greatest newspapers. People in his past, perhaps people in his own family who were tortured by Saddam Hussein, they have disappeared. They‘re perhaps out in the desert. They‘re corpses lined with maybe thousands, perhaps millions of other people brutalized, tortured and killed in the Saddam Hussein regime.
SCARBOROUGH: You know, Lawrence O‘Donnell, the president spoke today to the Arab world, and he said he thinks the alleged abuse needs to be kept in perspective. I want to play you a clip of what he said in an interview with an Arab TV network earlier.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That stands in stark contrast to life under Saddam Hussein. His trained torturers were never brought to justice under his regime. There were no investigations about mistreatment of people. There will be investigations. People will be brought to justice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: Lawrence, we, as Americans, are held to a higher standard. We should be held to a higher standard. But how do we keep this in perspective, not only in our media in America, but across the Arab world, across Europe, across the rest of the world that, quite frankly, opposed this war? And these acts of, you know, 12, 14, maybe 20 people are now just feeding into their worst suspicions about the great Satan, America.
LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, MSNBC SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Joe, it‘s a choice of perspective that is available.
The president, using the perspective of what about the Saddam Hussein regime and what happened there, you know, before the Americans came in, that‘s one perspective. And the Americans are going to look great if you compare them to that. You can compare it to the history of warfare. You can compare it to the history of modern warfare. And if that‘s the worst that happened to you, what happened to some of these guys, being forced to be naked in a prison cell, that‘s not bad at all. That is really getting off lightly in terms of the horrors of war.
But the problem for the president and the problem for this administration is that human rights was one of, if not the now, central compelling issue in the Bush administration going to war in Iraq, to stop the abuse of human rights in Iraq. And so, this administration will pay and is paying a gigantic public relations price worldwide when it is found to be complicit in some abuse of human rights.
And rhetorical excesses will be used absolutely in criticizing this administration and criticizing the American forces. But that, the problem is set up by—partially by the president‘s rationale for going to war.
SCARBOROUGH: And I think it was a legitimate rationale myself personally. But I want to ask you, you said the administration is explicit within some part. Who would you say within the administration was complicit in the acts of these reservists?
O‘DONNELL: Oh, I don‘t think so at all.
I really think that these acts, as in police departments around the country, stop with the perpetrators who execute the acts. And if there are cover-ups involved by higher officials, then those higher officials are involved. But, look, there‘s nothing that‘s been described here, nothing that‘s been described bad as what New York City police officers did to Abner Louima. Nothing.
So to suggest that there‘s—there is something bad about it. something abhorrent about it. But there‘s something completely, totally predictable about it in police work, which is what this is, in prison work, which is what this is. This happens all the time in small numbers all around the world. It happens in the United States, this sort of thing.
What gets me about it is this registering of surprise. This is what the human condition produces when you introduce these elements.
SCARBOROUGH: Any time.
Now, I want to ask you, Mike Barnicle, to look at a quote from a “New York Times” interview on the Iraqi prisoner you were talking about earlier. And he said he was beaten, he was stripped. And he told “The Times” he couldn‘t move back home, saying he would be too ashamed. He wants the American government to pay compensation. He said he would not refuse an offer to move to America.
It seems to me again—it reminds me of what John Kennedy said when the communists were constantly attacking us, saying how evil America was. He said, America may have its flaws, but we never had to put up a wall to keep people from coming to this country. Doesn‘t that speak volumes to what the Iraqi people really think about this country, and they know that there‘s democracy here, and they want a piece of it?
BARNICLE: Well, you know, he knows. I think he knows what we all know, that this is a great and kind country that we‘re all a part of. It‘s almost the most litigious society the world has ever known. And this fellow has perhaps picked up on the fact that he could move here and sue for damages and get himself a house in Beverly Hills because of what happened to him.
BARNICLE: Lawrence O‘Donnell pointed to an interesting aspect of
this, though, Joe. And it is that the undercurrent of this, while horrific
· the media impact of the pictures is horrific, I think both on Americans and certainly within the Arab world. I don‘t know what we can do about our relations with the Arab world, or our public relations image. It‘s not going to get much worse than it is.
But here at home, the undercurrent of danger is that you have a secretary of defense and other people in the Defense Department, in the Pentagon testifying before Intelligence Committees in both the House and the Senate last week, maybe, perhaps with forehand knowledge of these pictures that were going to be on TV later that evening, saying not a word to our elected representatives about it, which either proves that they were ignorant of it or were willfully trying to cover up the fact that these pictures were in existence.
SCARBOROUGH: And, you know, Lawrence O‘Donnell, last night, we had Trent Lott on. We told him that we had this secret Army report and you could go to it on our Web page. And Trent Lott said, you know what, that‘s news to me because the Army hasn‘t even given it to the Intelligence Committee yet.
And earlier today, John Kerry was out there, and he was actually trying to talk about this abuse scandal, and some would say that he tried to turn it into a political spectacle. This is what he had to say about Don Rumsfeld earlier.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I called for Secretary Rumsfeld‘s resignation months ago, based on his miscalculations with respect to Iraq and based on the lack of a plan to win the peace. With respect to this particular incident, we‘ve got to have the facts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: I want to ask you, Lawrence O‘Donnell, do you think that John Kerry should—how should he handle this issue, a very difficult issue? But do you think he risks alienating voters if he wades into it and starts attacking the soldiers, the administration too much?
O‘DONNELL: Oh, sure. And I think that‘s why he was very careful and stopped himself exactly where he stopped himself. He has called for Rumsfeld‘s resignation in the past, so that makes it all right for him to continue to do that now, not so much leaning on this.
I actually think, Joe, that this incident ultimately plays well for Kerry, because I think, in a week or two, there‘s going to be a swing the other way in American public opinion on this. I think American public opinion is going to turn a little bit more defensive of its soldiers, of the reservists, of the odd position they were put in there, knowing that, yes, they committed some reckless excess there in the extreme.
But I think there‘s going to be an American opinion developing that they don‘t want to see anything too terribly harsh happen to the people who were involved in taking pictures or doing nonviolent acts. And I think that plays somewhat to Kerry‘s past in the military, meaning the argument that‘s going on now about what did John Kerry do when he came out of the military, what did he do under pressure as a military serviceman in combat...
O‘DONNELL: ... I think it actually will play a little bit toward Kerry‘s advantage, people feeling forgiving toward American military under this kind of pressure.
SCARBOROUGH: Yes, Lawrence, I think you‘re exactly right. If he plays it right, if he stays away from it, if he doesn‘t make it look like he‘s trying to gain political points from it.
SCARBOROUGH: But I agree with you. Americans are already getting defensive. And that‘s why I‘m getting these phone calls. And I‘m sure you guys are hearing about it, too.
Hey, thanks for being with us tonight, Lawrence O‘Donnell and Mike Barnicle. As always, we greatly appreciate it.
And next up, the U.N. oil-for-food program was designed to help the Iraqi people. Instead, it helped Saddam fund terror. We‘re going to tell you who‘s trying to cover that up and what Congress is going to do about it.
And then, Disney is not going to distribute Michael Moore‘s documentary about George Bush. Why? Well, some say they don‘t want to get involved in partisan politics. Others say it‘s censorship.
And a news chopper loses control, crashes into an apartment building, but miraculously the passengers come out with no serious injuries. More incredible video coming up.
SCARBOROUGH: Scandals plaguing the United Nations, but is the head of the U.N. looking for a scapegoat?
We‘re going to be debating that next.
SCARBOROUGH: You know, the U.N. oil-for-food program was supposed to feed starving Iraqi children, but it wound up funding Saddam tyranny and lining the pockets of French and Russian conspirators. Now it looks like the U.N.‘s obstructing America‘s investigation.
Here is “Meet the Press”‘ Tim Russert grilling Kofi Annan about Annan‘s friend who directed the program.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE TODAY SHOW”)
TIM RUSSERT, HOST: So, Mr. Sevan, who is being investigated, is telling a company that‘s also being investigated, don‘t cooperate with government authorities unless you clear it with me. Why is he still involved in the investigation?
KOFI ANNAN, U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL: No. I wasn‘t aware of this. First of all, Benon has worked with the U.N. for several decades. And I would be surprised if he is guilty of this—these accusations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: Senator John Ensign, here we have Kofi Annan‘s right-hand man in the middle of this scandal. He is actually ordering people that were part of this conspiracy to defraud billions for the food-for-oil program, do not cooperate with the investigation, obstruct it. What are you guys on Capitol Hill doing to get to the bottom of this scandal?
SEN. JOHN ENSIGN ®, NEVADA: Well, Joe, I introduced legislation today.
Zell Miller‘s my Democrat lead on this as a bipartisan effort. And we‘re saying that we‘re going to withhold our dues, or at least a percentage of our dues from the United Nations, unless the United Nations does a few basic things. We need transparency in the investigation. We need to have our General Accounting Office, our FBI, have access to the records.
And we also want those who are implicated, for the United Nations to waive their diplomatic immunity, so that they actually can be brought to justice, and then if they are found guilty, for them to have to repay whatever profits that they made off of the U.N. oil-for-food program for those profits to be repaid to the Iraqi people, to the Iraqi government.
If somebody in America is found guilty of doing something wrong, they‘re held accountable. And we need to have the same standard for these scoundrels I guess is the best way to say it at the United Nations and maybe in other countries who profited building up Saddam Hussein, while the people of Iraq were starving.
SCARBOROUGH: You know, and, I actually, John, because we know each other so well, I have a better word than scoundrels that I used on Capitol Hill, but I can‘t say it on TV tonight.
These people, these scoundrels, as you say, literally took billions of dollars that was supposed to feed Iraqi children and put it—lined it in their own pockets. Now, do you really think Congress and the president are going to have the guts to step forward and tell the U.N., you all clean up your act or the American taxpayers are going to stop paying for this type of fraud?
ENSIGN: Well, our legislation is modeled after legislation that passed in the 1990s. The United States, back in the ‘90s, wanted an inspector general for the United Nations. And we said that we were going to hold a percentage of our dues back until the United Nations has an inspector general.
And, in fact, legislation was passed unanimously out of the Senate to do exactly that. And that‘s what we‘re doing right now, is, we‘re saying that we want the United States to hold a percentage of its dues to the United Nations back until the United Nations complies with some basic, fundamental principles that would be—that would apply here in the United States.
As a matter of fact, let‘s look at the atrocities right now that some of our service members did on these Iraqi prisoners. Everybody in the Arab world, in the United Nations, in America is expecting not only those people to be held accountable, but also their superiors. Well, shouldn‘t we expect at least the same from the people at the United Nations? I mean, their credibility, their very credibility is at stake right now. We want them to go in.
And everybody from around the world is saying the United Nations needs to be part of the reconstruction. They need to be able to certify elections. Well, if they have no credibility, what does that say to their future not only in Iraq, but other places in the world?
SCARBOROUGH: You‘re exactly right.
Mark Brzezinski, I want to play you another clip from Tim Russert. And this is when he the U.N.—Kofi Annan—if the U.N. knowingly propped up Saddam Hussein with more than humanitarian assistance?
And here‘s was Kofi Annan‘s response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “MEET THE PRESS”)
ANNAN: We went to the council and said, there is something going on here. There seems to be a scheme to enrich the regime. All these contracts we discussed with the Security Council.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: Now, Mark Brzezinski, you‘re a former National Security Council official. You certainly know how the United Nations operates. You also know that this investigation was put in the secretary‘s office. Is he trying to make a scapegoat out of the Security Council when he knows that the French who profited, the Russians who profited, and others who profited would never let this investigation off the ground?
MARK BRZEZINSKI, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL MEMBER: And, Joe, it‘s the U.N. staff that administered the oil-for-food program.
And I think Claudia Rosett, the journalist, has done a tremendous public service in her articles in “The Wall Street Journal” and in “Commentary” magazine uncovering the graft, the corruption, the skimming, the—quote, unquote—“Saddam surcharges” that were paid to Saddam in the course of the oil-for-food program‘s administration.
And I am glad that Volcker has been appointed to lead an investigation to find out what happened. But I would urge Volcker to produce recommendations going forward in terms of how to monitor and how to ensure accountability in terms of other U.N.-administered humanitarian programs abroad, not just in Iraq and elsewhere, but in Kosovo, for example.
SCARBOROUGH: Mark, do you support Senator Ensign and Zell Miller others‘ plan to say to the United Nations, be accountable, conduct this investigation in a straightforward way or the United States is going to keep 20 percent of its funding out of the U.N.‘s hand in the future?
BRZEZINSKI: I agree with the statement that the U.N.‘s credibility is at stake. And it is in the U.N.‘s interests to come clean right now.
I was concerned by what I saw on Sunday in the Tim Russert interview. There doesn‘t seem to be the kind of openness and the transparency that has to be in existence if the U.N. is going to regain its credibility in the course of this investigation. And I think that there is smoke, and I think Volcker is going to find fire as well.
SCARBOROUGH: Yes, he‘s a tough man. Anybody that raises interest rates to 21 percent has what it takes and is tough.
John Ensign, let me ask you in closing, do you believe your bill has a chance of passing?
ENSIGN: I really do, Joe, and simply because I think it would be very difficult for anybody to face their voters back home to say that we didn‘t want to hold the United Nations accountable.
If anybody saw that interview with Tim Russert on Sunday with Kofi Annan, you learn to read people in interviews. And that interview did not go well for Kofi Annan. It looked like he was hiding something. And we need to not just hold the staff accountable. And that‘s the problem with Paul Volcker‘s—we have a great deal of respect for him, but that‘s the problem with his investigation is, he has no subpoena power. He really can‘t get to a lot of the meat of the issue.
And that‘s why the U.N. records have to be opened. And that‘s what our legislation says, that we want complete transparency or we‘re going to hold some of our money back from the United Nations.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, Senator John Ensign, it‘s great to see you again, buddy.
ENSIGN: Good to see you, Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: Thank you, Mark Brzezinski. As always, we appreciate you being here.
And straight ahead, Michael Moore may be getting a film premiere in France later this month. But Disney chief Michael Eisner says he‘s not going to be backing the new Bush-hating film here in the U.S. We‘re going to tell you how Jeb Bush is actually getting dragged into this Michael Moore mess.
Plus, Colin Powell‘s reputation is taking hits. And now there are reports he may be ready to quit the Bush team. The author of an explosive new profile in “GQ” Is here to tell us more—coming up.
SCARBOROUGH: Controversial filmmaker Michael Moore is crying foul. Why? Because Disney refused to distribute his new Bush-bashing documentary. So is Disney guilty of censorship? Our arr—our all-star panel is going to weigh in. And I‘m going to learn how to talk—coming up.
But first, let‘s get the latest headlines from the MSNBC News Desk.
ANNOUNCER: From the press room, to the courtroom, to the halls of Congress, Joe Scarborough has seen it all. Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.
SCARBOROUGH: You know, Disney‘s blocked the distribution of Michael Moore‘s new film, “Fahrenheit 911,” which claims there is a—quote—
“murky relationship” that exists between the Bush and bin Laden families.
The film will be shown at the Cannes Film Festival later this month.
We‘ve got MSNBC entertainment editor Dana Kennedy is with us now to tell us about this story.
Dana, update us on the story. Tell us, how unprecedented is it for a company like Disney to step forward at the last minute and say, hey, we don‘t want you distributing this film?
DANA KENNEDY, NBC ENTERTAINMENT EDITOR: Well, it‘s not totally at the last minute, Joe, because Michael Eisner warned Michael Moore‘s agent about a year ago. He talked to Miramax about a year ago. It was not a big surprise. He told them then he didn‘t want them distributing the film.
What‘s happening now, we‘re coming down to crunch time. Michael Moore wants this documentary out there prior to the 2004 elections, obviously. And Disney is saying absolutely not. It‘s at a real standoff. Disney is not saying on the record, but the word is they are understandably concerned that Governor Jeb Bush in Florida will not look kindly upon this. And right now, they are getting serious tax breaks for their parks and other theme parks and all that down in Florida.
Miramax said this is happening. Disney, as I said, will not comment on the record about that. They just say it‘s within their rights contractually to not get involved in movies like this if it‘s not going to be to their audience‘s interests, if it‘s too partisan.
SCARBOROUGH: You‘re talking about Jeb Bush and tax breaks and things like that. I know Michael Moore‘s agent was saying that. You‘re saying Miramax is also saying that?
KENNEDY: They are alluding to that, yes. But, yes, Miramax is saying it may go to mediation. They‘re hoping I think to somehow work this out.
The thing is, with all this controversy, it‘s a bit reminiscent of “The Passion.” It‘s going to mean that all that many more people are going to be focused on this movie.
SCARBOROUGH: Exactly. You are exactly right.
KENNEDY: And I just wonder if Michael Eisner will have a Congress of heart. At this point, Michael Eisner can‘t do anything right. And maybe if he goes ahead and distributes it, he‘ll make some money for Disney.
SCARBOROUGH: Who knows? Maybe, like a year ago, Michael Moore and Mel Gibson were having tea at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills and they said, hey, how about this for a marketing plan? I doubt it, though.
KENNEDY: Well, you know Mel Gibson‘s company was behind this and then dropped it, right?
I want to bring in Congressman Weiner.
Obviously, you‘re very upset about the decision that was made earlier, but doesn‘t Walt Disney Company have a right to say, you know what, we think this is going to be bad for business; we don‘t want to have any connection at all with the distribution of this film? Free market, right??
REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: Bad for business? “Bowling For Columbine” was the most profitable documentary ever made.
This is a movie that‘s in great demand, whether you like it or someone might not like the politics of it. This is bad on a lot of levels. It‘s bad if you‘re concerned about free speech. It‘s bad if you finally want the truth to come out about the Saudis, something that you have been on the soapbox about, just like I have for years. And it‘s especially bad if you‘re a shareholder in Disney who‘s saying, wait a minute, this is a hot product. This is the first movie since “Bowling For Columbine.”
It‘s certainly of a topic that people are interested in, and they are refusing, without even seeing it, to distribute it. I think it‘s outrageous on a lot of different levels. Even if you don‘t believe in Michael Moore‘s politics, if you‘re a shareholder in Disney, I‘d be pretty ticked off that not only are they taking a pass, they‘re doing it in a public way. I guarantee, if you and I have this conversation a year from now, someone else will have released it and made a bundle of money on it.
SCARBOROUGH: Certainly. And it does. It sounds like “The Passion” all over again.
James Hirsen of NewsMax.com, conservatives were very upset about the way “The Passion” was treated over the past six months or so, said people like Frank Rich were trying to stand in the way of Mel Gibson‘s right as an artist to create. It was free speech. Well, aren‘t we talking about the same thing here with Michael Moore, even though I don‘t like Michael Moore‘s documentary, his last one? I don‘t think I‘ll like this one. But, still, it‘s free speech. Shouldn‘t he have the right to distribute it?
JAMES HIRSEN, AUTHOR, “TALES FROM THE LEFT COAST”: He does have the right.
I don‘t like Michael Moore‘s politics. I‘m not a shareholder in Disney. I do before in free expression. And free expression protects that speech which offends us. And so, he has that right.
But let‘s look at this on both sides. There‘s some strategy going on here, Joe. We look at Michael Eisner. He‘s been beleaguered for a long time. He needs to restore a tarnished image of Disney. Now, wouldn‘t it be a lot better for him if he ends up distributing this involuntarily through mediation or arbitration? So Disney almost had to turn this down. They freely contracted for the provision. They almost had to use it, knowing what kind of sort of lightning rod that Michael Moore is.
Now, we look on the other side, and, as was pointed out earlier, Michael Moore has known about this for a year. Miramax has known about this for a year. And “Bowling For Columbine” didn‘t get its distribution deal until after it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, which is happening next week. And now Michael Moore and Miramax have all kinds of free publicity and controversy.
Don‘t feel sorry for them. They‘re going to get a distribution deal, and this film is going to end up doing better from the way the story hit. The timing is such.
Kim Masters, you‘re the author of “Keys to the Kingdom: How Michael Eisner Lost His Grip.”
Tell me, what do you think went through Eisner‘s mind when he decided to make this move? Again, you‘ve written about him. You‘ve studied him. This has been a tough year. Why make this controversial decision now?
KIM MASTERS, AUTHOR, “KEYS TO THE KINGDOM”: Well, I think he initially made the controversial decision, as others have said, about a year ago. And I think at the time he may have been, as Michael Moore‘s agent says, worried about tax breaks in Florida.
I think since then, the pressure on him has gotten so high, that for this to break now, you know, he has made a lot of promises to shareholders that there‘s going to be a considerable improvement in their results, and that‘s dependent enter on theme park performance. And I think, with all that‘s happened in the past few months, if there were a right-wing backlash against this film, if there were a boycott that got some traction, that, if it touched the theme park revenues, that‘s far for damaging to Disney than whatever they‘re going to gain from distributing this film.
So I think that is what is going through Michael Eisner‘s mind: I don‘t need this. I don‘t want people organizing a boycott. And even though boycotts in the past haven‘t gotten that much traction, who knows. We‘re at war. It‘s a very emotional thing. This could actually galvanize people. And he doesn‘t need that kind of publicity and that problem.
SCARBOROUGH: And I want to play you Disney CEO Michael Eisner and what he said about the Michael Moore movie today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL EISNER, CEO, DISNEY: That film will get a distributor easily. There are many people that would love to have that film, successful filmmaker. Just Our company decided that we did not want a film in the middle of the political process where we‘re such a nonpartisan company, and our guests that participate in all of our attractions do not look for us to take sides. But I think it‘s a totally appropriate film.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: Kim Masters, respond.
MASTERS: Well, I think that that‘s a good argument to say. What‘s he going to say? He can‘t say, you know, I don‘t want people coming down on me for political reasons. I think he‘s absolutely right. They will find a distributor. They will probably sell it.
They will—I think Miramax, at least Harvey Weinstein and his brother, who run Miramax, will keep a piece of it and they will make a fortune. “Bowling For Columbine” grossed over 100 -- made like $125 million, counting DVDs, cost about $5 million or $6 million to make. You do the math. I think it‘s tough for Disney to pass it up.
But I think, for Michael Eisner right now, it‘s the better—it‘s more—it‘s the better part of the argument, to just let it go.
SCARBOROUGH: You all stay with us. We have much more on this.
Also ahead, is Colin Powell ready to cut his ties with the Bush administration? We‘ll be talking to a journalist who says yes in a new profile of the embattled secretary of state.
Plus, a news helicopter crashes into a building and all three passengers make it out alive. We‘ve got the incredible footage as the chopper goes down next.
ANNOUNCER: You‘re watching SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. Now here‘s some Hotwire travel trivia. If you want to take your mom to the state that first celebrated Mother‘s Day, where would you go?
Stay tuned for the answer.
ANNOUNCER: You‘re watching SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. And in today‘s Hotwire travel trivia, we asked you, if you want to take your mom to the state that first celebrated Mother‘s Day, where would you go? The answer is West Virginia. A church in Grafton, West Virginia, claims to have first celebrated Mother‘s Day in 1908.
Now back to Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, I celebrated my first Mother‘s Day in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1963 with my mom.
Anthony Weiner, I heard a statement that Disney was nonpartisan. Do you buy that?
WEINER: Well, if they want to be, they should take Rush Limbaugh off all of their stations. And I don‘t, of course, advocate that.
But I think it really does raise the question about their partisanship. Look, Eisner is hanging on by his fingertips at Disney. And one of the reasons is, is, he makes crummy decisions. A good decision to make is to follow the lead of Miramax, who has shown that they know how to find movies that find popular support.
To have someone—if I own a share in Disney and I hear the CEO just say on your show, we decided to take a pass, but someone will pick it up and make a lot of money on it, it makes you wonder what kind of decisions this company, which is an entertainment company, what kind of decisions they‘re making. They‘re passing on what their own CEO says will be a very profitable movie.
SCARBOROUGH: It‘s going to be a big hit. And so many media companies as we know every week release a book through their parent company that‘s controversial, that‘s partisan. It‘s called free speech.
David Kennedy, I want to ask you, do you agree with Kim Masters, though, that Disney could make money in the short run, but then possibly lose in the end?
KENNEDY: If they decide to go ahead with the decision not to distribute this, you mean?
SCARBOROUGH: No, I mean if they distributed it.
KENNEDY: Oh, yes, I think that would actually be, in a way, the smart move. And I agree with what Kim said, that the shareholders might not be happy if they learn this money won‘t be lining their pockets.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, Kim, let me ask you, what‘s so controversial about this film? Obviously, politics plays a part in a lot of movies. When‘s so terrible about this one?
MASTERS: Well, we haven‘t seen this movie, and neither did Disney when they decided not to distribute it. What we have seen is Michael Moore‘s previous work. And obviously it can be quite incendiary.
I think Michael Moore is an incredible genius. He has a genius for doing documentaries, which normally make no money at all, and just catching this kind of Zeitgeist and driving everybody crazy and generating a lot of publicity, as he‘s doing right now, which translates into a lot of box office. He seeks controversy with much more skill than most people who seek it.
SCARBOROUGH: Like I said, he and Mel Gibson may have been talking.
James Hirsen, I‘ll give you the last word.
I would say that Michael Moore doesn‘t make documentary. He makes fake-umentaries. And when I said he was a lightning rod, on his Web site, he said that the terrorists that are killing our soldiers are not insurgents. They‘re not the enemy. He said they‘re part of the revolution. He said they‘re minutemen. He said their numbers will grow, and they will win.
It‘s this kind of over-the-top outrage, and it‘s stuff that he put in “Bowling For Columbine” that would cause a company like Disney, that has a long heritage associated with family values, to back away from this because they stand to lose in the long run in their theme parks and hotels.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, James Hirsen, you know, of course, he also said he didn‘t want the U.N. to get involved because he thought, since America got into the war, it should be Americans who died there. Nice touch there.
Well, thanks a lot, James Hirsen, Dana Kennedy, Kim Master. And Congressman Weiner, as always, thanks for coming on our show.
Now moving on, is Colin Powell ready to jump ship? In the upcoming issue of “GQ” magazine, our next guest reports that Secretary of State Colin Powell is exhausted, frustrated and bitter, uncomfortable with President George W. Bush‘s agenda, and according to Powell‘s chief of staff, he wouldn‘t be interested in another four years.
With me now Wil Hylton. He‘s from “GQ” magazine.
Wil, I‘ll tell you what. This is a bombshell. Tell us, how did you get access? And I read the article. How did you get such great access to Powell and insiders to get this story that nobody else has gotten?
WIL HYLTON, “GQ”: I didn‘t. And the answer is, it beats me.
I went to Powell‘s staff and I said, I‘d like to do a story about Colin Powell, maybe a personality piece. And they said, well, no, we‘re not going to do that. We‘re not going to cooperate with that. But if you want, you can write a story about politics and foreign policy and specifically the machinations that go on behind the scenes to affect policy. And I said, well, who would I talk to if I was going to do that story? And they started feeding me these names, the chief of staff, the deputy secretary of state. It was spectacular.
SCARBOROUGH: They wanted the story out, didn‘t they, Wil?
HYLTON: I got the sense that they must, because I went in and interviewed these guys and that‘s what they were telling me. Powell is frustrated. He‘s bitter. He wants to quit. So you tell me, did he want the story out? It sure looks like it.
SCARBOROUGH: Do you keep pinching yourself, saying I cannot believe what these officials are saying to me on the record?
HYLTON: It was very surprising to me. And it was all on the record. And I have it all on the tape. And I read my transcripts, I listen to my tapes and I think, I don‘t know why they wanted to come out and say all this. But I‘m sure they have their reasons.
SCARBOROUGH: Yes, I‘m sure they do.
Now, according to the State Department spokesman Richard Boucher, the article doesn‘t paint a fair picture. And this is what he said today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD BOUCHER, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: I took issue with the substance of what was being said. I took issue with the imputation and the conclusions being drawn from some of those remarks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: You know, Wil, I‘ve been in Washington long enough to know that they have to say that. Were you surprised, though, that after they cooperated with you so much, they send out the spokesman who essentially denies it?
HYLTON: I was—I‘ve been just sort of fascinated and amused by this backpedaling that they have done. I noticed that they did it with the Woodward book, which they clearly cooperated on and gave lots of information on, and then they distanced themselves from it.
And they kind of did the same thing here. They send me to all these people. These people all gave me a unanimous report. And then they kind of didn‘t really want that to be attributed to Powell. And I just go back to the editorial in “The New York Times” last week that said, it seems like Powell wants to have it both ways. He wants to show everybody that he disagreed with certain decisions that were made, but, at the same time,, also, he wants to seem loyal to the president.
And it does seem like he‘s trying to have it both ways and it doesn‘t seem like it‘s working.
SCARBOROUGH: No, it doesn‘t.
Wil, a final question here. Does it seem to you that what—because I‘ve always got this from just reading about Powell. It seems to me that, in a sense, he‘s very embarrassed to be associated with George Bush. He‘s even made jokes in the past about how George Bush wasn‘t the smartest guy in the world. Did you sense that while talking to these associates, that he just wanted to have nothing to do with this president?
HYLTON: I got a very clear sense from these guys that they thought he felt that way.
Now, I can‘t speak for Powell because I didn‘t get that when I talked to Powell. He dodged some of my questions in very clever and charming ways. And he didn‘t say the same things. But, from the aides, I got a unanimous consensus. Harlan Ullman, who is his friend and mentor from the National War College, told me in no uncertain terms, he said, it‘s hard for Powell to penetrate this administration.
And I think that speaks volumes about how Powell feels.
SCARBOROUGH: I think it does, too.
Wil Hylton, thanks a lot, a great article. If you haven‘t read it yet, get “GQ” magazine. You‘re not going to want to miss it.
Now, don‘t go away, because, just ahead, a helicopter spins out of control and crashes into a building with three passengers on board. All of them survived. But, from the looks of things, the helicopter didn‘t. We‘re going to have that incredible footage coming up next.
SCARBOROUGH: Tomorrow night: There is a new book out. And President Bush says he‘s promising to make John Kerry pay for berating the coalition that liberated Iraq. We‘re going to be talking about that and much more in the book that hits bookstores tomorrow.
We‘ll tell you about it, but more SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY straight ahead tonight.
SCARBOROUGH: Last week, we did a story about an article in “The Houston Chronicle.” It was about a local soldier who died in Iraq.
Leroy Sandoval Jr. was killed in Fallujah on March 26. His father and sister came on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY to claim that “The Chronicle” used his death to promote an anti-war agenda. The sentence in “The Chronicle” objected to read as follows—quote—“The soldier‘s family did not want to discuss their sentiments about the war or the political debate surrounding President Bush‘s failure to find weapons of mass destruction, one of the prime reasons cited for invading Iraq last year.”
Now, the paper declined to provide a representative to come on our show with the family. What they sent is a statement that I didn‘t see until after the show. We regret the oversight. And because we strive to be fair, I want to read “The Houston Chronicle” statement now.
They said—quote—“We called the Sandoval family and apologized for upsetting them. We continue to extend our deepest sympathies to the Sandoval family and to each family that has lost a loved one in service to our country. In reporting all sides of a story, newspaper reporters often have to ask uncomfortable questions. ‘The Chronicle‘ believes strongly in free speech and balanced reporting.”
And now a news crew‘s close call. In Brooklyn, New York, this WNBC news chopper crashed Saturday. The helicopter was covering a shooting when it spun out of control and slammed into an apartment building. The three people aboard miraculously escaped without serious injuries. Officials are investigating the accident.
Hey, I want to thank you for being with us tonight in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. Tomorrow night, we‘re going to be talking about the newest book on President Bush, “Misunderestimated.” You‘re not going to want to miss that.
We‘ll see you tomorrow night.
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