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Farewell, but not goodbye

Dan Abrams blogs: “I would not have taken this job if I did not think I could help propel us to great heights. But as with most choices in life, I had to make a sacrifice. A big one. While I am going to remain NBC News’ chief legal correspondent, I had to give up hosting this program that I love so much.”

June 20, 2006 | 1 p.m. ET

Farewell, but not goodbye
(Dan Abrams)

Well, this is it. As you may have heard, I have a new job ... running MSNBC.

I am thrilled about it and truly believe we have a unique opportunity to build on some of the successes the network has seen as of late.

I would not have taken this job if I did not think I could help propel us to great heights. But as with most choices in life, I had to make a sacrifice. A big one.

While I am going to remain NBC News’ chief legal correspondent, I had to give up hosting this program that I love so much.

I just could not manage an entire network and host my show every day. although I’ll admit I thought about it!

For more than four years, this show has been my life. And that means all of you have been a large part of it.

Every day, many of the hundreds of e-mails you sent flattered or insulted me.

But all of them made me think. They were smart, direct and opinionated, and I felt like I had pen pals in most of the regular e-mailers.

You all helped determine how I covered the various stories. Your thoughts were always in my mind.

I am so appreciative of the comments of support so many have sent since the announcement.

And then of course there is my incredible staff: Meghan, Cory, Bob, Jamie, Amy, Alexis, Anthony, Sheara, Brian, Shannah, Kevin, Lilly, Kara, Adrian, Brian and Frank.

My regular crew: Bill, Jim, Jeff, Leo, Joe, Anna, Rob, Al and Fred.

And never forget graphics: Cathy, Lisa and Stephanie.

This was our show. A better name for the program would have been “The Abrams-Team Report.”

They are the ones who challenged and helped me, told me when I went too far; didn’t dig deep enough or looked too angry; or gently informed me that my tie was too crooked.

They cared about this show as much as I did. For that, I will be forever grateful.

So what happens to the show now?

Well, it would be tough to keep “The Abrams Report” on the air without, well, Abrams, so this program will end in the relatively near future.

I have not decided yet what is going to replace it.

But hopefully, it will be a more interesting, more compelling program that even more people will watch.

But this is not goodbye.

I am not leaving you.

While you won’t see me at a particular hour every day on TV, I hope you will recognize a little bit of me throughout the network ... well, at least the good part of me.

Thanks for everything. And look out because I am going to help make MSNBC the news channel.

Time now for your rebuttal ...

Thank you, thank you, thank you to all of you who sent me e-mails about leaving the show ...

Amanda Conklin from La Plata, Md.:

“I guess I should be happy for Dan getting a new job, but for my own selfish reasons I don’t want to see him go!”

Tania Valcourt from West Palm Beach, Fla.:

“Ya know, every day I’d race home, walk the dogs and be ready by 6 p.m. for your show. You have no idea how mad you’ve made me.”

Jess Woodward from Winston Salem, N.C.:

“I think that the station picked the correct person to improve MSNBC. Congratulations! Unfortunately, yours is the one show in all of television I watch religiously.”

Thanks Jess. I appreciate it.

John Helsel from Nutley, N.J.:

“Dan is proof that lawyers can be successful!”

Ralph Lowe from Elizabeth, Ark.:

“What is the real story regarding Dan? We understand how upset he was on the Duke rape case. Did he go too far? Sometimes persons are promoted ‘up and out.’”

While it is certainly possible I could be out at some point, but that would be a heck of an effort to get rid of me. Let’s see ... “We don’t want Abrams on the air. Let’s have him run the network instead”?

Mary Beth Crowley:

“I feel worse about losing my daily fix of you and the Abrams Report than I did when I broke up with my boyfriend. I’m really going to miss you!”

Well, I’m going to miss hearing from all of you every day!

Susan Vidolin from Edison, N.J.:

“You get promoted (well deserved). And the first thing you do is alienate your viewers by not coming on air to announce it, by not telling us you will not be on your show any longer, and by not saying good-bye. If this is how you treat your girlfriends, it’s no wonder you are single!”

Nice. Look, I intended to talk to you on Monday, but things got so crazy, and I wanted to make sure I had the time to talk to you, so I waited until the end of the week.

Mary Rodriguez from New York:

“Good luck in your new job. Like a lot of women, I didn’t have to do the single scene because I had you. Now what do I do?”

Well, Mary, we do still have four other, very handsome and taller anchors for your choosing.

Take your pick.

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Defending Britney ... sort of  (Dan Abrams)

I have had it with the scurrilous attacks on Britney Spears’ parenting.  That’s right I am going to take on the thankless task of defending Britney... sort of.

Her latest headline grabbing maternal transgression ... a photo of her eight month old son Sean in a car seat facing the wrong way.  Oh the horror.  To think how lucky she is that her child survived the ride.

Now let me be clear I don’t care about Britney Spears, I don’t know her music and I know very little about her life, but it seems when it comes to Britney the parental police are always on patrol.

There’s no question car seats are crucial in helping to save children's lives.  In fact there is a California vehicle regulation that requires that children under age one face backward.

Fair enough she made a mistake, but many, including my own producer, said that her child and unborn child after birth should be taken away from her because this shows she is an unfit parent.

Alas, if you ask around, many parental purists say the misdirected car seat is not the only problem.   "She should not have been riding with her child in a small convertible car" some have quipped.  "The car seat was too big" and my personal favorite, that the child should not have been exposed to the sun.

This comes on the heels of another photo where Britney had her child in her lap as she tried to escape paparazzi.  Again, not a smart move.  I hope she does not "do it again."

But I have to wonder do all of these maternal magistrates always make the safest decision for their kids.  Let’s hope none of them has ever fallen asleep in bed with a baby or even had the child sleep in an adult bed at all.  Both are considered potential hazards.  I assume none have even placed a baby on soft bedding, considered a suffocation risk; or even placed a baby to sleep on its stomach rather than its back.

And they never jaywalk with their kids or allow them to eat any fatty foods either right?  Is Britney the most meticulous mom?  Apparently not.  I have no idea what she does with her child behind closed doors.  At the least she could use a crash course in PC parenting; but, the champion child rearers out there might want to ask themselves if they were always being photographed might they ever be busted for a child safety infraction?

Accusing someone of being an unfit parent is serious stuff.  I wonder whether the accusers always live up to the standards they apply to others.

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May 3, 2006 |

There aren't always two equal sides to a story (Dan Abrams)

I admire Chris Hansen. Not only because of all the important work the Dateline team has been doing to expose child sex predators, but also because Chris has the poise and courage to confront each of these shady characters when they arrive at the house. Then, in that calm, yet firm Hansen voice, he somehow coaxes them to stay and answer incriminating questions. Who knew that “Wanna have a seat” or “Why don’t you sit down” could be so persuasive?  I keep fearing one of the men will try to slug him. But then again, Chris is a pretty big guy. 

As Chris addresses in his blog, it is astounding that so many men show up at a strange house in hopes of engaging in sex with a minor they’ve met over the Internet— particularly those who are supposed to be pillars of the community, like the teacher, rabbi, soldier, or firefighter.

But what I really appreciate about these reports is the accountability. On the “Abrams Report” we have debates about a range of topics. It often feels like there is another side to every story. But there aren’t always two equal sides. There is something refreshing about seeing a prospective child molester being caught red-handed. No arguments here about whether the accused was lied to, about the minor’s age, or whether the minor is lying.  In these reports, Chris has all of the facts and documentation right there. And the excuses are all so similar.  “I’ve never done anything like this before” or "I just came to teach the kid a lesson.” Yeah, that is tough love alright.  It is one thing to hear about a man soliciting a minor over the Internet, it is another thing entirely to actually witness it. It makes this all too important issue hit home that much more.

And finally, for me, the most recent installment of the series is the most important, because this time, law enforcement is in the picture. In previous installments, jurisdictional snags and other legal technicalities often prevented authorities from prosecuting these guys. This time, in this third installment in southern California, Perverted-Justice has involved the police from the beginning, ensuring that these men face the police once they walk out of the home. In the video, you see the police approach them after they walk outside. I am consistently amazed at what some of these online predators are able to get away with before they are finally nabbed by police.  Some are back out doing it again the next day. This time, the bad guys aren’t only humiliated, but are arrested as well.   

'The Abrams Report' will follow up Chris and “Dateline’s” work with segments on what happened to some of these men once they were arrested.

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April 14, 2006 | 4:15 p.m. ET

Judges can instill sanity (Dan Abrams)

As of late, judges have been taking a lot of heat, many members of Congress and the public demanding that the people, not judges, make certain decisions.  Well, I'm not ashamed to say that there are many times I'm thrilled to see judges step in and instill some sanity to the “people.”

In addition to reducing some outlandish jury awards, judges sometimes just knock some sense into the system. I was reminded of this by reading about the Wisconsin case of Berrell Freeman, an inmate at a maximum-security prison who is serving 58 years for a series of violent crimes.

He refused to obey prison rules required for meals. He wouldn't wear shorts or pants, didn't remove a sock from his head, and refused to clean up blood and feces smeared on his cell walls. So, they refused to provide him with certain meals over a period of 27 months.
Nurses and doctors visited to make sure he wasn't suffering any permanent injury, but Freeman says he lost 45 pounds. Well, rather than removing the sock from his head and cleaning the feces off the wall, he sued, alleging cruel and unusual punishment. Somehow, a jury awarded the troublemaker $1.25 million.

Fortunately, the trial judge stepped in, rejected the outlandish verdict, and ruled for the defense. Now the Court of Appeals based in Chicago has upheld that court's decision. And, so, the guy gets what he deserves: nothing.

The court wrote, he was “the author of his deprivation, rather than the victim of punishment.” So true. And they even astutely pointed out, “No doubt he would have sued the defendants for battery had they ordered him force-fed.”

So, next time you hear someone making sweeping allegations against all judges, remember that, if we always leave things up to “people,” people like Berrell Freeman will be a lot richer.

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April 12, 2006 | 12:44 p.m. ET

Duke case is different (Dan Abrams)

A lot of people on both sides are writing in suggesting we are treating the Duke lacrosse rape investigation case with kid gloves in a way we might not if it were another story.  Well it’s true, this is different.

So is it race? Is it gender? Is it because I’m a Duke graduate? No, no and no.

It’s a lot simpler than that.  First of all, unlike many of the cases we cover, no charges have been filed here.  No defendant or suspect has been identified publicly.  That fact, in and of itself, distinguishes the case from many.

But maybe most important of all, the uncharged suspects say that no crime was committed.  In most stories we at least know with certainty there was a victim. This came up in both the Michael Jackson and Kobe Bryant cases.  The accusers’ credibility was put into question as it has been here.  That is not an issue of race, but of rape.  We are not treating this case any differently than we treated the allegations of sexual misconduct against Bill Cosby.  In the end, he was never charged.

You can argue that makes this a gender issue because rape is a crime most often perpetrated against women.  And let me make it perfectly clear, as in the other rape or sexual misconduct cases we cover, I will not stand for scurrilous and irrelevant accusations about the chastity of the female accusers.

Their credibility, on the other hand, is crucial.

Sure we are treating this case differently from a murder case but no differently than any other rape investigation where no one has been charged.

This is sensitive stuff, so if you are one of the people preparing to write that angry email accusing the media, or even me, of racism, sexism or bias one way or the other, ask yourself this: do we really know enough yet to have that kind of certainty about what did or did not happen?  I sure don’t.

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April 11, 2006 | 9:32 p.m. ET

Don't forget what Duke scandal is really about (Dan Abrams)

Reading and watching some of the coverage of the rape allegations against members of the Duke lacrosse team, you might forget what this case is really about: a woman claiming she was raped by three individuals, not by the university, not by the entire lacrosse team or the athletic department, but, if true, by three criminals. 

Nevertheless, it seems some want to embellish the story by suggesting it was almost inevitable it would happen at Duke.  They vastly overstate the tension between Durham and Duke communities and inflate the sense of privilege at the university while exaggerating the economic woes of those in Durham.  It is often nothing more than race and class baiting. 

One of the worst pieces that appeared so far was on Sunday in The New York Times op-ed page.   A short story writer named Allan Gurganus, who apparently once taught a course at Duke, offered up a history of Native American pastimes, tobacco and slavery, and then torturously and unsuccessfully tried to link it to the rape allegations. 

He ever so pompously writes: “Lacrosse was our Eden‘s first team sport.  The Cherokees called it ‘the little brother of war.’ It bred loyalty among players, a solidarity demonstrated by the code of silence among party attendees.” 

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