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'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Oct. 20

Read the transcript to the 8 p.m. ET show

Guest: Arianna Huffington, Mercedes Colwin, Sue Bailey


KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? 

The vice president says we need to get our minds around the idea of terrorists using nuclear weapons here.  So why then is the president‘s best mind on the subject out on the campaign trail?  The Rice factor inside the fear factor, Arianna Huffington joins us. 

And this man rejoins John Kerry.  Bill Clinton back in the campaign. 

No Capitol Hill blue flu.  You won‘t get a vaccination, but your Congressman will.  Your tax dollars in action. 

The nightmare in Missouri, the first major commuter plane crash in several years.  They think they know what happened.

And we think we know what happened before any of us knew about O‘Reillygate.  Tonight, Fox reportedly offered to buy off his accuser. 

All that and more now on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN:  Good evening.  From Burbank, California, this is

Wednesday, October 20, thirteen days until the 2004 presidential campaign -rather, the election. 

If terror really does loom ahead of us, why the Democrats ask, is the Republican national security advisor out campaigning instead of securing.  And the terror of the Republicans will be campaigning this time next week, Bill Clinton out of his sick bed to stump with John Kerry. 

And speaking of beds, major developments in the O‘Reilly case.  Fox reportedly offered millions if his accuser would just go away. 

But beginning with our number five story on the COUNTDOWN, T-13 and indeed counting, new polls, same old results, namely all of the above.  Beginning with our own numbers tonight.  Out in the five red battleground states won by George W. Bush in 2000 the incumbent still leading in all of them.  Senator Kerry, though narrowing the gap in three.  Foremost among them, Ohio and it‘s 20 electoral votes, a virtual tie.  Mr. Bush‘s lead down to just one fine point, last month it was seven. 

Ohio voters equally split on the job performance, 47 approving, 46 percent approving.  Just one month ago, a majority approved.  A reminder, that no Republican has ever won the White House without Ohio. 

The show me state, showing a five point lead for the president.   That lead shrinking by two since September.  Of note, only in Missouri does the majority hold a favorable opinion of Mr. Bush.  Turning to New England and New Hampshire, Senator Kerry now down by three.  Last month it was nine.

And for the national numbers, both candidates tied for a third straight day in the Zogby Daily Tracking Poll. 

While, in our “Washington Post” sunset poll, the president is up by three.  Yesterday his lead had been five.  Voters in all of the red battleground states we polled, still believe the odds of another terrorist attack would be lower should President Bush be reelected.  The politics of fear maintaining its stranglehold in this election.  A subject we‘ll discuss that in a moment with Arianna Huffington. 

In these last 13 frantic days, the reelection campaign will no doubt make something out of this.  In an interview to be published Friday, John Kerry, said he would discontinue the color coded terror alerts used by the Department of Homeland Security since 2002.  I think Americans sadly laugh at it, Kerry tells “Rolling Stone” Magazine.  They don‘t know what to do.  The senator said he would find some more thoughtful way of alerting America.  He also picked two songs by the Rolling Stones as his all time favorites, by picked “Abby Roads” by the Beatles as his all time favorite album. 

Stay for those 527 ads from the swift boat veterans for classic rock consistency.  As the Kerry camp has latched onto what seems like a serious mistake by the Bush administration.  If the vice president is out there on the campaign trail talking about the prospect of nuclear attacks by terrorists in the U.S., why, the Democrats ask, is the national security advisor also out there on the campaign trail rather than doing her job? 

Dr. Condoleezza Rice, has already spoken in battleground states like North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon and Washington.  She is yet to speak in Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania over the next five days.  She has had time to give extensive media interviews at those locations.  And to the horror of many in the field, she has been overtly political.  Last Friday, speaking to the city club of Cleveland, Dr. Rice named no names but spoke at length of how some, how they view the war on terror. 


CONDOLEEZZA RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR:  For some, it is a limited engagement whose goal is to go after Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, assume a defensive posture here at home, put it out of our minds, eventually, and hope they do not attack us again.  They see a narrow struggle against a narrow enemy.  But I suggest to you that this is a fundamental misunderstanding about what happened to us that day.  A day that should have changed us all. 


OLBERMANN:  There is no misunderstanding about how the Kerry campaign, the national security advisor for President Carter and others, are responding to Dr. Rice‘s unprecedented preelection swing state speaking engagements.  As usual, it was vice presidential candidate John Edwards delivering the hard punch. 

In an interview with NBC News today, saying Dr. Rice‘s tour was further indication the president will go to any length to cling to power. 


SEN JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  National security adviser has other things that she ought to be focused on.  We have a mess in Iraq.  We have a very serious war on terror and we don‘t need the national security advisor traveling around the country to battleground states campaigning.  She‘s campaigning for George Bush. 

I mean, it is not an accident the places she‘s going to.  She‘s going to key battleground states, places that are hotly contested by both sides.  It‘s not what the national security advisor should be doing.  Traditionally the national security adviser is completely non-partisan.  They‘re focused on people saying, we don‘t need a partisan who‘s out there campaigning for the president. 


OLBERMANN:  Dr. Rice doesn‘t even involve herself in the political campaign, that according to communications director, Dan Bartlett, but we‘re a nation at war and Dr. Rice is helping to explain the administration‘s actions.  To which Jimmy Carter‘s national security advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski says in essence, bolshoi. 

In a media conference call arranged by the Kerry campaign, he today said, her speechifying was, “Obviously time to coincide with the national elections.  I‘m afraid that represents, at least in my book, excessive politicalization of an office which is unusually sensitive.”

The “associated press” reports that since the inauguration of President Bush, Dr. Rice has given 68 speech, most of them in Washington, D.C. until this fall‘s two month eight city tour.  Then there is the mixed message.  Things are not bad enough for the national security advisor to stay near her office, but they are bad enough for the vice president to make a speech at Carroll, Ohio, invoking images which make his earlier opinions about the relative security under a Kerry presidency seem like a quick dance in the spring rain. 


DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  The biggest threat we face now as a nation is the possibility of terrorists ending up in the middle of one of our cities with deadlier weapons than ever before have been used against us.  With a biological agent or a nuclear weapon or a chemical weapon of some kind, and able to threaten the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans, not just 3,000.  John Kerry would lead to you believe that he has the same kind of view that President Bush does, that he would be a tough, aggressive individual, leader, commander in chief to pursue the global war on terror.  I don‘t believe it. 


OLBERMANN:  Speaking of commanders in chief, the comeback kid will make his comeback on the campaign tour next Monday.  President Bill Clinton recuperating since last month since his quadruple bypass surgery.  Now scheduled to join John Kerry at a large outdoor rally Monday in Philadelphia, that‘s according to sources quoted by Andrea Mitchell at NBC News.  She also reports, if Mr. Clinton‘s health suffices, he will campaign for Kerry by himself in and give speeches in Nevada and New Mexico, two swing states known for their affection for the last Democratic president. 

Two more submissions to campaign and it has been to bid to win honors as the strangest one in history. 

President Bush today gaining the endorsement in one of the countries in what he term the axis of evil, but losing the endorsement of six of his own relatives.  Six of Mr. Bush second cousins have launched a Web site called  None has ever met the president, though, they claim this is not a factor in the advocacy of his challenger.  All six are the children of Mary Bush House.  She was the sister of former U.S.  Senator Prescott Bush who was the father of Bush 41 and the grandfather of Bush 43.  Their slogan is because blood is thicker than oil.  They say they want to do our small part to help America heal from the sickness it has suffered since George Bush was appointed 2000.  That‘s their word.  And they end with please don‘t vote for our cousin. 

Ordinarily that would count on any incumbent‘s any bad news for the day.  But it actually gets worse for the president on the endorsement front.  The head of the Iran security council has said Mr. Bush‘s re-election is in the best interests of his country.  His country, Iran, axis of evil, Iran.  Hasan Rowhani, says that historically in Iran, “We haven‘t seen anything good from Democrats.”  The administration has accused Iran of harboring al Qaeda and threatened it with sanctions over the nuclear dreaming.  Despite the evil words from the evil doers or kind words from the evil doer, a Bush administration spokesman said it is not an endorsement we‘ll be accepting any time soon. 

From—the state slogan is battle born.  Maybe that should be changed to battleground.  Bombarded by campaign stops, commercials and canvassing, Nevada is now giving its residents a way out, Viva Las Voting.  Still reeling from reports that a private company actually ripped up Democratic forms, Nevada is nonetheless forging forward with an early voting drive that stretches from the supermarket to the infamous strip. 

COUNTDOWNS Monica Novotny has the Skinny from Sin City.  Monica, good evening.

MONICA NOVOTNY, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Keith, good evening.  There are five electoral votes at stake in Nevada but this is a swing state and the voting started Saturday.  There are 67 different places to vote here in Clarke County.  So if you‘re a resident and you‘re registered, the strip has got you covered. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We‘ve got turkeys on sale.  I guess we voted for a few and we‘ll pick up a few. 

NOVOTNY (voice-over):  Only in Las Vegas, picking poultry and the president in one place.  The early vote here is on.  From grocery stores. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I saw there was early voting and I said great, two birds with one stone. 

NOVOTNY:  To gambling halls. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I knew if I didn‘t do it now, I wouldn‘t go later on to do it.

NOVOTNY:  To the gym. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I worked out and came here to vote for the first time ever. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We think we do it better than anyone else. 

NOVOTNY:  Election officials in this southwestern swing state started a two-week long early voting effort last Saturday confident they can avoid early balloting problems and gather 200,000 votes before November 2.  That‘s half the total number of votes expected in Nevada.  This is the Clarke County registrar. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  They‘re sick and tired of the campaigning, they‘re tired of the mail, they‘re tired of the phone calls, the TV advertisements.  And by voting early, they can just shut it out of their mind. 

NOVOTNY:  The secrets to success here, paper receipts for every early vote. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You print it out.  You look.  You know it‘s right. 

NOVOTNY:  And the satellites.  Rolling polling stations making stops throughout the state for a few hours or days. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  As soon as they see it, then they‘re going to vote. 

NOVOTNY:  Early satellite polling is not new but it is gaining in popularity.  And the rules are the same as on election day.  So if you‘re registered in this county, you can vote anywhere one pops up.  So while polling problems are already hitting Florida, the pressure is on here as the political spotlight hits the strip. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Being a battleground state is a new experience for us.  We‘re getting all of the vote.  We‘ve had the presidents, the presidents‘ wives, his competitor and his competitor‘s wife. 

EUGENE LEWIS, SATELLITE VOTER:  I‘m on a blackjack team and when you‘re seeing the president and the Democratic candidate walking by in the same week. 

CHARLES WEINSCHREIDER, SATELLITE VOTER:  Only a couple electoral votes.  I‘m amazed that they think it‘s going to come down to that. 

NOVOTNY:  But it just might.  So here they stay the safe bet is on the early ballot. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You‘re going to have to decide you don‘t want to vote as opposed to you want to vote.  Because if you‘re registered, in the next two weeks, you‘ll walk by one of our sites. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The stakes (UNINTELLIGIBLE) excuse for anybody not to vote.  It makes it real simple.

SHAWN MORGAN, SATELLITE VOTER:  Look at the last election.  One vote did make a difference. 


NOVOTNY:  Now as of about an hour ago, 66,595 people have voted here in Clarke County.  We should also point out that there are some critics who believe that this early voting could have a negative impact on overall voter turnout but they also acknowledge the satellite voting places do bring in an a few extra votes because there are some people who might not have otherwise voted had they not encountered them—Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Of course, how can we prove that either in favor or against?  You can‘t say that will be provable either way.  How will they know whether or not this was a success? 

NOVOTNY:  Right.  You can‘t have both scenarios.  Either you have the early voting and count that voter turnout or you don‘t have it.  What they do say in Nevada is that they have had growth commensurate with the growth of this project.  They say that the voter turnout is due to these early and satellite voting places. 

OLBERMANN:  And of course there‘s no way to disprove that.  That‘s Monica Novotny in Las Vegas for us.  Many thanks.

According to the latest NBC News/”Wall Street Journal” poll, one in four voters does not think his or her ballot will be properly counted.  Those fears may have some justification, despite the post-2000 drive to fix voting problems across the county.  There are still wide differences in the means and methods of counting the votes from county to county.  Our correspondent Tom Costello explains it all from NBC election headquarters  Democracy Plaza in New York.  Good evening. 

TOM COSTELLO, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Yes.  Every county in the country is labeled here with the different types of voting machines they use.  Let‘s give you an example. 

You remember what happened in 2000 in Florida when we had the hanging chads?  That was caused by the punch card system.  Right now 12.5 percent of the country uses that.  So Utah still using the punch card system.  And hopefully not the hanging chads.  And look at Ohio.  An awful lot of red there.  Remember the old lever system?  The man behind the curtain?  You pull the lever when you‘re done? Represented by blue here.  About 14 percent of the country using that.  Louisiana using that.  As well as Virginia and look at this.  The entire state of New York as well as much of Connecticut using the lever. 

So what about electronic trading?  30, sorry, voting, 30 percent of the country will be voting electronically represented by the purple.  All of New Mexico will be using that, as well as all of Nevada, as well as much of southern California.  And then come over here.  The deep south is all purple.  All going electronic.  The electronic voting is going to be replacing the old systems, the way we used to vote.  That is, as you would expect, the lever system.  By 2006, this will be gone.  By the way, this has been around since the end of the 1800s. 

And then over here, this is the punch card system we saw in southern Florida.  It will go gone by 2006.  What replaces it?  Electronic voting.  Right over here, we have a bunch of different versions of this.  Here‘s how it works.  You punch in your card and you begin typing away.  Would you like the vote for Ben Franklin?  You simply vote for him.  Who do you want for the Senate?  We‘re going to vote for Eleanor Roosevelt and it keeps on going.

And by the way, there is even a back-up system to ensure that yes, you can verify your vote with a paper tab.  However, that is on only a fraction of those systems around the country using the electronic voting.  I want to show you the statistic because it goes to the heart of the concerns that you mentioned about whether or not people feel safe and feel that their vote is going to be accurately counted. 

According to an NBC News/”Wall Street Journal” poll, will computerized voting increase the likelihood of vote tampering or miscounting?  48 percent said yes.  47 percent said no.  Even though this is a new technology.  And maybe that‘s why, Keith.  Here‘s something you should know.  One of the big companies making electronic voting machines, and by the way, not one of these but the company is Diebold.  The CEO of the company last year held a fundraiser for the Republicans.  He said he believed his job was to make sure that he got every delegate in Ohio voting for George W. Bush.  That is the CEO of the company that is making voting machines.  You can understand why there‘s some mistrust out there.  Back to you. 

OLBERMANN:  I would like to see him and those ballot boxes vote for Ben Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt.  I think there would be a better outcome.  Tom Costello at NBC Democracy Plaza.  Many thanks. 

Come November 3, that may become recount cathedral.  Terror in the brain.  How serious is the fear factor?  More on what the vice president said and what Dr. Rice didn‘t say and didn‘t do.  Arianna Huffington joins me.

And news in the Bill O‘Reilly harassment case.  Two million dollars worth of news.  A reported prelawsuit settlement offer.  That‘s ahead.  This is COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN:  COUNTDOWN continues from California.

And, once again, we pause it to balance the day‘s important news with the day‘s stupid.  Let‘s play “Oddball.”

We begin in Bogota, Colombia, where catching smugglers is the country‘s second favorite pastime, just behind smuggling.  So no routine arrests at the El Dorado Airport would be interesting enough to warrant placement as the lead story here on “Oddball.”  The smuggler would have to do something weird like, oh, I don‘t know, eat 157,000 euros. 

Police busting a Spanish man trying to enter the country when X-rays showed he had stuffed capsules with bills in the denomination of 500 euros and then swallowed the capsules, 40 of them in all.  Officials are not sure whether the man planned to surgically remove the cash or if he was going to spend a week in Bogota as the human ATM machine.  No.  No, I do not want a receipt!

To Milan now, where the hottest bar in town only lets patrons stay half an hour for fear of frostbite.  The entire place is made of ice, ice, baby.  It‘s filled with Italy‘s most fabulous people drinking $30 martinis while dressed up like Nanook of the North.  This must have been what the raves were like in the Paleozoic Era. 

The only drawbacks to club frozen water are these three.  One, it needs to be rebuilt every six months.  Two, twice a night the fire department has to rescue some guy with his tongue stuck to the bar.  And, of course, three, all the women there are frigid. 

After a day in court, Courtney Love shares one of her phobias.  You will not believe what she said she was asked to do.  Smoke them if you‘ve got them.  Our COUNTDOWN to the O‘Reilly case.  As Bill O‘Reilly‘s side works to get its hands on the accuser‘s proof, new word today of how much it was willing to pay to keep quiet the story of how O‘Reilly worked to get his hands on the accuser herself.  That‘s next.

Now, though, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.

No. 3, the Wal-Mart, the retail giant, announcing it is banning the tale of Jon Stewart‘s best-selling satirical book “America” due to concerns about the doctored naked pictures of the nine Supreme Court justices.  They‘ve also just pulled Tucker Carlson‘s “Big Book of Bow Ties.” 

No. 2, Target, the other retail giant, has announced its location in East Strasburg, PA, will be closed for several days after a man in a stolen car smashed through the front window, drove around the store for a while and then went back out before being arrested.  Cleanup aisle five, six, seven, eight. 

And, No. 1, the cetacean community, defined as the world‘s population of whales—that should be cetacean—whales, dolphins and porpoises, their lawsuit against President Bush thrown out by the California 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that animals should not be allowed to sue the president, even if they have been fathered by Navy sonar.  The mammals and their self-appointed attorney, Lanny Sinkin, were seeking unspecified damages, reportedly to the tune of $60 million, just like the Bill O‘Reilly case? 


OLBERMANN:  The oldest, most cynical joke in the book has the man approaching the beautiful woman and asking, will you spend the night with me for $1 million?  She recoils in horror and then abruptly recalculates the cost-benefit analysis. Why, yes, she purrs.  OK, says the guy.  How about for $50?  The woman tenses with anger and self-indignation.  Are you nuts?  What do you think I am?  The man looks at her cynically and says, we both know what you are.  We‘re just haggling over the price. 

Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, “The New York Daily News” reports that Fox News Channel offered the accuser in the Bill O‘Reilly sexual harassment scandal $2 million to make that complaint disappear.  When her lawyer suggested that $60 million was the appropriate price, Fox got indignant and sued them.  We all know what you are, Fox.  You‘re just haggling over the price. 

It‘s your entertainment dollars in action, day eight of the Bill O‘Reilly investigations.  The newspaper attributes the story to unidentified sources.  But it also quotes a Fox spokesman, who in essence confirms the negotiations with Ben Morelli, the attorney for O‘Reilly‘s phone a friend, ex-producer Andrea Mackris.  “The Daily News” quotes the spokesman as saying, when—quote—“Morelli demanded $60 million, that was the end of discussion, period and absolutely.”

Fox has been pushing that $60 million figure since the day O‘Reilly let the cat out of the bag, just as the cat was about to gnaw its way through.  “The Daily News” quotes attorney Morelli as confirming something we asked about here last week, that the figure of $60 million was never a demand, just their estimate of what the O‘Reilly franchise was worth to Fox‘s owner, News Corp.

Morelli does say he talked with Fox attorneys for two weeks before the dam broke publicly, but he never got any offer of $2 million, although he does not say if he might have gotten an offer for $2 million and 50 cents.  O‘Reilly attorney, Ronald Green, denies there was any firm offer.  Then again, he agreed to join us on this program tonight and then backed out. 

On another front, the Reuters News Service has obtained a copy of an order from a judge in Nassau County in New York directing Mackris and her attorney to appear before him on Friday and divulge whether or not, as presumed, they have audio recordings of Mackris‘ conversations with O‘Reilly and to show cause why they should not be turned over for examination to O‘Reilly‘s attorney and also not to destroy any such tapes. 

So, tonight, anyway, it is less about the sex and more about the cash. 

Defense attorney Mercedes Colwin joins us tonight to help try to put it all in legal perspective.

Ms. Colwin, good evening. 


OLBERMANN:  Confused. 

The Fox spokesman is quoted as implying that there were settlement negotiations if Mr. O‘Reilly did not do anything untoward or harassing, if as he says, he‘s going to fight this to the end, why would they offer her that much money? 

COLWIN:  It is simply a cost-benefit analysis.  The average cost to defend these cases is about a quarter of a million dollars.  So you say to yourself, we‘re going to go through all this time and expense and the resources to try to defend ourselves, and why go through that and perhaps lose advertisers, because that‘s one of the threats that apparently Morelli was doing during the negotiation. 

Just try to cut your losses, contain the exposure.  Let‘s try to settle it.  So it is not unusual.  And, frankly, there are so many cases that settle right before it is even filed that that is probably why there were these negotiations to begin with. 

OLBERMANN:  To this show-cause hearing day after tomorrow and the presumed tapings of the conversations, in doing this, is there something besides simply getting ahold of the evidence and knowing what is on the tapes?  Is Fox also hoping to show that the recordings were made without Mr. O‘Reilly‘s consent and thus would not be just inadmissible, but they also might be illegal? 

COLWIN:  I think, Keith, what they want to see, what exactly are on those tapes? 

I mean, certainly if you look at the complaint, these quotes are in block lettering.  It is so specific.  There‘s ah.  There are ums.  There‘s uh.  And there are all these pauses within it.  It almost seems to be that they are definitely tapes.  They want to know.  If you have the tapes, let show it.  Let us listen to it.  We want to hear what it is.  We want to confirm one way or the other whether these conversations actually took place. 

But even if they do get tapes, there are so many plaintiffs that I‘ve had in cases where they‘re taping—they‘re putting the record order and off.  There‘s a conversation.  There‘s a bantering between the two of them.  And they‘ll turn the recorder on, the recorder off.  They‘ll start to manipulate the tape themselves.  So you have to be very careful with this type of evidence. 

But, certainly, as a defense attorney, you absolutely want to know what you‘re facing in these types of cases, because it can blow up later on. 

OLBERMANN:  Last question here.  Ms. Mackris‘s attorneys say that Mr.  O‘Reilly‘s employers, News Corp., are using their newspaper, “The New York Post,” to try to destroy her reputation, sling mud on her.  They‘re going to amend the suit to address that.  That is pretty much wasting the court‘s time, isn‘t it? 

COLWIN:  It absolutely is, Keith. 

I‘ve heard this.  Everyone keeps saying, oh, it is retaliatory.  Look what they‘re trying to do.  They‘re trying to destroy her.  They‘re trying to retaliate.  It‘s not retaliation.  These are newsworthy events.  These are individuals who are coming forward and saying, I‘ve had an interaction with Andrea Mackris and I have an opinion about it.  Opinions are not viable under the law.  So that is out of the question.

And then this other restaurant owner that they profiled yesterday, that was a deposition.  These were all newsworthy events.  Papers have to do this.  Certainly, “The Post” does it, has done it in the past.  This isn‘t something extraordinary.  This is just routine business.  And she‘s done it.  She‘s been in practically every show that I‘ve seen in the last week and a half setting forth her case. 

I don‘t know what she expected.  She didn‘t expect it to at least be profiled somewhere in the newspapers?  It‘s going to be. 

OLBERMANN:  As I always say, everybody in this business should have a

story done about them at least once.  And these people are finding that out

by the dozens of time. 

Defense attorney Mercedes Colwin, thank you for your time tonight. 

COLWIN:  Thank you so much. 

OLBERMANN:  One other development in the investigations tonight.  Several news organizations reported yesterday that Ms. Mackris had early this year completed a manuscript for a—quote—“tell-all book” about O‘Reilly and Fox News.

Now a new report that the book is fact not an expose, but a novel, one that never even mentions sexual harassment.  Lisa Bloom of Court TV reports she was given a copy of the unpublished work and that—quote—“It is a fictional story, similar to “Bridget Jones‘s Diary.”  Bloom describes the plot as centering on a young woman who just split up with her boyfriend and who was making her way in the city.  Bloom adds that there is no mention in the manuscript of Fox, Fox News, Bill O‘Reilly or falafels. 

One last tangent to the O‘Reilly-Mackris case.  “The New York Observer” today reports on the inhospitable environment most women find in the news business, particular in cable news.  The weekly paper quotes Gwen Ifill, our former NBC colleague, now at PBS, as saying: “I think we‘ve made tremendous window-dressing progress in lots of ways.  You can see a lot of women, and you can name them, but as far as who is running the program, who are the executive producers of the programs, who are making the news decisions every day, those are the more critical questions.”

We at COUNTDOWN tend to get a little self-absorbedly congratulatory.  here, usually for comedic effect.  We would like to show you something about MSNBC‘s prime-time lineup; 6:00 Eastern, “THE ABRAMS REPORT,” executive producer Megan Schafer (ph), 7:00 Eastern, “HARDBALL,” executive producer Tammy Haddad, 8:00 Eastern COUNTDOWN, executive producer Izzy Povich (ph), better known to us fondly as Queen Isabella; 9:00 Eastern, “DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT,” executive producer Bruce Perlmudder (ph), odd man out; 10:00 Eastern, “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY,” executive producer Lea Mackow (ph).

Women executives are not only doing well at MSNBC.  They‘ve won. 

No victory in Missouri.  Aviation officials investigating why a commuter plane essentially fell apart in midflight.  Local police combing the area to try to find five missing people.  Robert Hager has the latest from the scene. 

And the flu frenzy.  You might not be able to get a flu shot anywhere, but your congressman will be getting one, and his secretary, his pages, his P.R. people. 


OLBERMANN:  What brought down a commuter plane overnight in Missouri?  The latest on that investigation next and the latest rant from Courtney Love.  She‘s back before another judge, griping about things and cigarettes.


OLBERMANN:  Authorities called it remarkable, family members a miracle. 

Our second story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, two passengers survive a fiery commuter plane crash with little more than broken bones; 13 other people on board perish.  The Corporate Airlines commuter jet crashed last night en route from Saint Louis to Kirksville, Missouri.  The initial investigation showing the pilot did not make a distress call.  The plane crashed just miles from the runway. 

The 13 dead occurred apparently when the plane essentially came apart in midflight, two alive.  One woman was walking around.  The male survivor had a broken back.  They told doctors that they knew they were hitting trees.  They saw an opening in the plane.  They felt heat and both of them actually jumped out of that opening in the plane‘s fuselage.  Federal officials now investigating the black boxes, trying to find out the cause of this crash. 

And we make the rough, but tonight the particularly necessary segue to the comic relief provided by silly celebrities who populate the world of “Keeping Tabs,” none both more silly, nor more poignant in a sense than Courtney Love.  She has today pleaded guilty to charges that she hit a fan in the hand with a microphone stand during a concert in March in New York. 

The singer will not spend any time in New York as long as she stays sober and out of trouble for the next year.  Place your bets!  Ms. Love did stop for a chat and a ciggie with the swarm of reporters outside criminal court in Manhattan and was as charming as ever about her experiences inside the building. 


COURTNEY LOVE, DEFENDANT:  The guy in there wanted me to get in line with everybody else and get in line with everybody else.  But I‘m not everybody else.  And it‘s scary standing in line.  So he was just being a (EXPLETIVE DELETED)


OLBERMANN:  Got that word from Jon Stewart. 

Speaking of scary, tonight, “Tabs” is the venue for an election fact so terrifying, it could even make Dick Cheney run screaming into the woods.  Paris Hilton could still give Kerry a landslide.  The Pair (ph) partnership ad agency conducting a poll indicating that annoying dilettante is seen as so annoying that if she endorsed President Bush, 31 percent of voters surveyed said they would be tempted to vote against the president just because she had endorsed him. 

That same surveys suggest 29 percent of voters might vote against anybody endorsed by O.J. Simpson; 8 percent would wait to see who Martha Stewart supported and then vote the other way.  Negative endorsements clearly more impactful than celebrity positive ones, 9 percent saying they would support anybody admitted to Oprah‘s politicians club, 8 percent Jon Stewart, 8 percent retired basketball star Charles Barkley?  Seriously, Barkley?  Does he get a flu shot, too? 

To most of us, they are unavailable at almost any price, unless you‘re a congressman.  They have to get them because of all those handshakes. 



JAY LENO, HOST:  How about this whole flu vaccine shortage? 

OLBERMANN:  Well, does it alarm you at all that the president of the United States would get up there and proudly say, I‘m not going to get a flu vaccine and you shouldn‘t either, and be very proud of it?  This is a man we vaccinated for anthrax. 


OLBERMANN:  I don‘t want him to have the flu. 

LENO:   Also, he shakes hands with 1,000 people a day.  People go, hey, night to meet you. 


OLBERMANN:  The Democrats sent 37 people to the White House today just for that purpose. 



OLBERMANN:  Don‘t tell me “The Tonight Show” doesn‘t have influence. 

It might have influenza, too. 

But, in our No. 1 story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, the attending physician at the United States Capitol is insisting that everybody working in that building, from congressmen to pages, even down to the occasional visiting president, is automatically eligible to get one of this year‘s trendy, scarcest accessories, a flu shot. 

A spokesman for Dr. John Eisold telling “The Washington Post” that representatives, senators, staffs, anybody with a Capitol credential can get vaccinated simply by presenting their I.D., no further questions asked.  “Members of Congress are at high risk,” says Dr. Eisold‘s spokesman, “because they shake hands with a lot of people.”  He adds that they also tend to visit a lot of veterans centers and could become carriers. 

Eisold says he has 2,000 doses under his control.  Senator Bill Frist, a cardiac surgeon himself, has written his 99 Senate colleagues and said, get thee to a vaccinatorium. 

Dr. Sue Bailey is the former assistant secretary of defense for health affairs and is currently an MSNBC analyst.  She knows from politicians and from the flu. 

Dr. Bailey, good evening.  Thanks for your time. 


OLBERMANN:  Dr. Eisold‘s office today told us he is worried enough about each member of Congress as a nexus of infection, that he is also concerned about the continuity of government during a flu outbreak.  Does he mean to talk like he is getting geared up for a repeat of the 1919 flu pandemic or is the man just a worrier? 

BAILEY:  Well, I think he maybe thought ways doing the right thing.  But, in fact, Secretary Thompson of the HHS and people from NIH and the CDC say, if you‘re healthy, you‘re not supposed to get a shot and that means most of the people on Capitol Hill. 

OLBERMANN:  Is the handshake thing a legitimate issue or is it just something that sounds just logical enough that it would forestall criticism if the elite got the medical care and the ordinary people did not? 

BAILEY:  Well, I don‘t think that necessarily that is why they are doing it. 

But I will say that handshaking is something that obviously can spread disease.  But let‘s face it.  With the flu, the main thing you‘re supposed to do is wash your hands to prevent it.  And, secondly, if you‘re sick, you‘re not supposed to go anywhere, much less to a V.A. hospital or any hospital or expose anybody else to it.  You‘re supposed to stay home.  You do those two things and you won‘t be spreading the flu. 

OLBERMANN:  Is it possible to convince politicians not to shake hands? 

Would that make a difference?

BAILEY:  I doubt that we‘re going to make that happen.  I think politicians are going to keep shaking hands.  But, again, as long as they wash their hands, they won‘t be spreading it. 

And this is a serious disease.  You‘re really going to feel bad.  You‘re not going to be questioning whether or not you‘re sick enough to be out and about shaking hands. 

OLBERMANN:  But the way this has been raised, suddenly this question needs to be asked.  I guess people are sitting there at home going, I wonder if maybe I shouldn‘t be shaking hands this winter.  Should we stop shaking hands for this winter of 2004-2005? 

BAILEY:  Well, I think it‘s not only hard for politicians.  It‘s hard for anybody.  If someone puts their hand out, you tend to want to shake it. 

But if you‘re shaking hands, I would suggest you wash your hands certainly afterwards.  And that‘s what politicians should be doing, too, not taking flu shots. 

OLBERMANN:  There is a late development, Dr. Bailey, tonight that says

·         from the Kerry campaign, so we have not been able to verify this independently—that the vice president has gotten a flu shot, even though the president says he is not going to do.

As a cardiac patient, is he more likely—is he more at risk? 

BAILEY:  Well, I don‘t know that we know all of his history, but, clearly, if you have a chronic illness, even if you‘re younger than 65, you would be in the high-risk group. 

And the thing to remember is, we are not thinking they are going to get the flu more likely.  It just means that they might get sicker, be hospitalized and they could die.  So he may be in a group that means he should get it. 

OLBERMANN:  OK, the former assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, Dr. Sue Bailey, many thanks for your time tonight and for not taking this too seriously.  We appreciate both.  Thank you. 

BAILEY:  You‘re welcome, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  And from California, that‘s COUNTDOWN.  Thank you for being part of it.  I‘m Keith Olbermann.  Good night and good luck. 



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