Guest: Michael Wolff, Bobby Ghosh, Bob Eubanks, Linda Feldmann, Harvey Levin
ALISON STEWART, GUEST HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
She got naked. They said sorry.
Now he says...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL POWELL, FCC CHAIRMAN: I wonder if Walt Disney would be proud.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEWART: First the nipple slip, now the towel foul. While the FCC looks into ABC, we‘ll let you decide if it was all that bad.
The Fallujah mosque shooting. Controversy here at home, and outrage in the Arab world. We‘ll look at the reaction unfolding the places we‘re trying to win hearts and minds.
Hillary in 2006 and or 2008. Confirmation from the New York Senator her plans to run for Senate, could she face Colin Powell?
No puso (ph), no problem. They made him an offer he couldn‘t refuse, and lo and behold, “The Godfather” returns. Meet the author of the new book about the Corleone family and find out how he was picked.
All that and more now on COUNTDOWN.
STEWART: And good evening to you. I‘m Alison Stewart in for Keith Olbermann tonight.
Well, not since Dennis Miller‘s polysyllabic pontifications has “Monday Night Football” stunts backfired so spectacularly, nor has the sport itself taken such heat since the C-cup cameo of Janet Jackson‘s right breast at last season‘s Super Bowl halftime show.
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, different network, same problem. Another potential gridiron collision between football and the FCC. Now, by tying its hit series, “Desperate Housewives,” to the opening moments of the iconic sports telecast, ABC, which broadcasts “Monday Night Football” got the attention of the FCC, the Federal Communications Commission, which continues to interject what some call a moral authority. That same moral authority that apparently showed up on election day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NICOLETTE SHERIDAN, ENTERTAINER: You and your little game. I‘ve got a game we can play.
TERRELL OWENS, PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: Hey, this is major. We‘ve got Parcels and the Cowboys, and Donovan needs me.
SHERIDAN: But what about my needs? What about (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
OWENS: Will you stop it? All of Philadelphia is counting on me.
SHERIDAN: Well, I can‘t help myself. I love you T.O.
OWENS: Then how about you tell me what‘s buried underneath that pool?
SHERIDAN: You know I can‘t tell you that.
OWENS: Then I‘ve got a game to play.
SHERIDAN: Terrell, wait.
OWENS: Oh, hell. The team‘s going to have to win this one without me.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my god. Who watches this trash?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEWART: Apparently some people were watching, and they were none too pleased. The network, issuing an apology the very next day.
“We have from many of our viewers about last night‘s “Monday Night Football” opening segment, and we agree the placement was inappropriate. We apologize.”
A statement from the NFL was equally brief, but a little more finger-
pointing. “ABC‘s opening was inappropriate and unsuitable for our “Monday
Night Football” audience. While ABC may have gain attention for one it‘s
other shows, the NFL and its fans lost”
Well, the last word will ultimately be that of FCC Chairman Michael Powell.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
POWELL: Well, I think it‘s just sort of very disappointing. I wonder if Walt Disney would be proud. It would seem to me that while we get a lot of broadcasting companies complaining about indecency enforcements, they seem to be continuing to be willing to keep the issue at the forefront, keep it hot and steaming in order to get financial gain from the free advertising it provides.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEWART: Well, let‘s bring into this discussion astute media critic, Michael Wolff, who is a columnist and contributing editor for “Vanity Fair” magazine.
Michael, so ABC has this hit show, a racy hit show, so it makes sense that they promote it when there are a lot of eyeballs, a lot of male eyeballs. Yet, they shrug after the fact and say, we‘re sorry. Does the chairman have a point about ABC just courting controversy?
MICHAEL WOLFF, “VANITY FAIR”: I‘m sure he probably does. But I‘d also point out that that‘s exactly what the FCC chairman is also doing, is courting controversy. And I think the real point is this works for everybody, everybody is happy about this, aBC is happy about this, the NFL is happy about this, the FCC is happy about this. You know, contrary to what the NFL says, everybody wins here.
STEWART: All right. Why does ABC win? What‘s the risk vs. the reward?
WOLFF: I think the—I mean, I think the risk is minimal and the reward is—is that they‘ve courted attention. You know, one of the things a network has to do, the business that they‘re in—in fact, the reason that we are here tonight is that once you have a hit on a network, you have to leverage it any way you can. So that‘s what—they‘ve got this hit. Finally ABC has a hit in “Desperate Housewives” and they‘re going to squeeze it for everything it‘s worth, because that‘s how the stay in business.
STEWART: Now, why does the FCC win?
WOLFF: They win because they get to be the moral enforcer. They get to speak to the now famous Republican base. They get to be the guys looking out for the interests of middle America.
STEWART: All right. Well, we‘ve talked about the financial reasons about ABC would want to do it, and we‘ve talked about the morality reasons. But aside from all that they‘re another issue here. They‘s the issue of race. Imagine the same scene with long-haired Nicolette Sheridan throwing herself at Bret Favre or Eli Manning or any cute white guy player.
Is this image of a woman throwing herself at a black man like T.O., can we rule out institutionalized racism fueling the discomfort?
WOLFF: Well, of course, we can‘t rule it out. And I think it‘s certainly part of—I mean, we have to assume, at any rate, that it is part of what lots of people or what some people are thinking. You know, I mean the background to this is obviously—is obviously the election, the idea that there is this rising conservative back lash, this anti-liberal media thing that‘s going on. And is race a part of that, yes. I mean, race is a part of everything.
STEWART: Do you think we‘ll see a shift in programming so far? Do you think that shift is going to have legs?
WOLFF: I do not think we will see any shift at any time. This is television.
STEWART: Michael Wolff of “Vanity Fair,” it‘s always a pleasure speaking with you.
STEWART: Changes, in fact, may be a little more subtle. For example, the increased use of a five-second delay to most “live broadcast,” a direct result of the infamous wardrobe malfunction.
Joining me now to discuss how we got from the little town of Mayberry all the way to smoldering Wisteria Lane. Host of the “Newlywed Game,” television legends, Bob Eubanks. I‘ve always wanted to do that.
His new book is called “It‘s in The Book, Bob.”
Mr. Eubanks, thanks so much for being here.
BOB EUBANKS, AUTHOR: Thank you for having me here. I really do appreciate it.
STEWART: You‘re a man who has seen a lot of TV, made a lot of TV, made a lot of choices, What do you think of this whole NFL/”Desperate Housewives” flap?
EUBANKS: You know, I think probably did the first really—not maybe one of the first edgy shows. I had four married couples, we wouldn‘t even use the term make love, we used the term whoopi. But my impression is this, I disagree with Michael in one area.
I don‘t think it has anything to do with whether you‘re a Democrat or a Republican. What it has to do with, I believe, is that Hollywood and New York still don‘t get it. If a mid America wants to sit down and watch a football game with their children, they should not be subjected to that kind of programing. And I really believe in my heart of hearts that they don‘t get it. They don‘t know what mid America want. And until they come to that realization, I think we‘re going to have all of these controversies.
STEWART: Well, let me pick your brain a little bit. Lets take a walk down memory lane. The show “The Newlywed Game,” you said it was racy for it‘s time. You were on ABC‘s prime time lineup. At the time, were you aware of how racy you were and how did you make decisions about how far to go?
EUBANKS: I refused to ask 20 percent of the questions they put in front of me. But you‘ve go to remember, we couldn‘t even use the term panties. We have to be very careful. I mean, it was so straightforward that I can‘t even tell you. However, I will tell you this, in the 1970‘s, there were a couple of major corporations that wouldn‘t by time on our show because we were too, “edgy.” Come on, I had four married couples. I didn‘t think we should use the term make love, because I didn‘t think you should have to explain that to your children until you were ready to do so. So, that‘s how whoopi came about.
STEWART: Were you ever, did you ever find yourself in hot water?
EUBANKS: No, I never did. And I don‘t think we pushed the envelope at all—take a look at today‘s television. I mean, good God. But to sit down and want to watch “Monday Night Football” with your 10-year-old child and have to be subjected to that, without being redundant, I just don‘t think that the industry understands what middle America wants, Democrat or Republican, I don‘t think it matters.
STEWART: Well, that‘s a little bit of an essay question for you, though. How does broadcasting change with the times, reflect the times, without being offensive to someone?
EUBANKS: Well, it depends on what you call reflecting the times. I think that the only reason that the government steps in, the only reason the FCC steps in is, because I believe personally that the broadcast industry has not done a very good job of policing itself. I mean, you know, disk jockeys are using the F-word, all kinds of things are happening, that I just don‘t think it‘s appropriate. And I don‘t think—I don‘t think, personally that that‘s what the American public wants to hear or see.
STEWART: All right. Before you go, I can‘t let you go without you telling me what you‘re doing next.
EUBANKS: Well, I‘m involved with a company called New Wave, which is an e-commerce company, we show people how to money on the Internet. And I‘m also speaking to corporate America. I do a real funny 1-hour keynote speech called “It‘s All About People” how to maintain your people skills in a world of high technology. And I formed a group called firstclassspeakers.com. And I‘m running around the country speaking to corporate America, and I‘ve never had so much fun in my life.
STEWART: And “It‘s In the Book, Bob” what‘s that about?
EUBANKS: “In the Book, Bob” it‘s not an autobiography, because I happen to think celebrity books are really boring. This is a book about some of the most interesting people in the world, because I‘ve dealt with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and Dolly Parton and Cary Grant and Buddy Hackett, you name it. And this book is one of those books that has some remarkable stories about some fascinating people.
STEWART: Well, I hope you put that book on tape, because you got a heck of a set of pipes.
EUBANKS: Ah, you‘re a nice lady. Thank you very much.
STEWART: Bob Eubanks, thank you so much.
EUBANKS: Thank you.
STEWART: The book is “It‘s in the Book, Bob.”
From images on our TVs here to the images seen in the Middle East, insurgents attacks on U.S. forces and the reaction it gets in the Arab world.
And votes are still getting counted, and in some cases recounted, in this past election. But news already out there about 2006. Hillary Clinton plans to run for re-election to the Senate. And wait until you hear the names some people would like to run against the former first lady and current senator.
STEWART: Until the military investigation is complete, nobody knows exactly what happened inside a Falluja mosque over the weekend. But the video of a Marine apparently shooting an unarmed insurgent, and the handling of that image, is causing two different kinds of outrage on two different continents.
Our 4th story tonight, sifting imagery from reality in Iraq. In a moment, reaction from the streets of Baghdad.
First, the backlash back here against the media‘s handling of this story. Rush Limbaugh blasted the, quote, liberal media, for using the footage to criticize the war on Iraq. Another talk show host Steve Yuhas accused the media of being unpatriotic and not putting the video in proper context. And the argument even reached Capitol Hill today once al Jazeera started airing the unedited version of the video.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. SILVESTRE REYES, (D) TEXAS: Can we abandon that plan about embedded reporters. Having had the experience of combat, it‘s an ugly situation, and people get into different kinds of situations and we should not be providing the al Jazeera with the kind of propaganda that they‘ve had the last couple, three days.
COMMANDANT MICHAEL HAGEE, UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS: I understand the concern about embedded reporters. Obviously, I know the incident you‘re talking about. But sir, in my personal opinion, embedded reporters actually work very well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEWART: In Iraq Prime Minister Iyad Allawi today said he was quote, very concerned about the shooting. So imagine how ordinary Iraqis feel about it. Time magazine senior correspondent and senior editor Bobby Ghosh joins us on the phone from Baghdad tonight. Thanks for taking the time, Bobby.
BOBBY GHOSH, TIME (via telephone): Not at all. Greeting from Baghdad.
STEWART: Greetings. So, what has been the response of the Iraqi people there: shock, anger, a confirmation of fears?
GHOSH: Pretty much all 3 of those. Although, I have to say that I think we‘re all getting al Jazeera much more credit than it deserves. It‘s true that they are running this thing over and over again on their channel, but Iraqis know, or in the Arab world, people know when they turn to al Jazeera what to expect. There are different news channels here, and they have different political leanings. And folks who turn on to al Jazeera know that they will get an anti-West or an anti-American line.
There are other channels that have shown it less often and with more care. But people are pretty mad either way, even those who have not seen it on al Jazeera and even have just only heard of it or read it in the newspaper. They‘re all pretty mad.
STEWART: Bobby, in terms of the way it‘s presented on al Jazeera, is it presented with a political slant?
GHOSH: Yes, pretty much, as things are on al Jazeera. That‘s become that channel‘s signature in this past year and a half.
STEWART: Now, does al Jazeera‘s repeated airing, has it changed the Iraqi perception at all of the offensive in Falluja?
GHOSH: I wouldn‘t say that. I would suggest that what‘s changed the perception of the Iraqis is this outbreak of violence in a number of other Iraqi cities.
As soon as the attack on Falluja began, ther‘s been a wave of insurgent attacks up and down the Sunni Triangle, the center of Iraq. And that has really made Iraqis very concerned about what Falluja has actually done. There‘s a perception that instead of destroying the scorpions nest, this operation has merely broken the nest and the scorpions are scattered widely across Iraq. And are stinging in different places. So people are concerned about that.
STEWART: And Bobby, I‘ve heard many western pundits say that perception can often trump reality when you‘re talking about images on Arab television. Is that true?
GHOSH: This is true. I suspect in any society, people tend to get swayed by what they watch on television. That‘s the power of the medium.
STEWART: And finally, al Jazeera did not air of shooting of the woman to be Margaret Hassan. Did the woman on the tape, her death, transcend any sort of political or wartime activity?
GHOSH: Oh, absolutely. People here are horrified and gutted by the murder of Margaret Hassan. I‘ve had all kinds of people from all different walks of life and all different political leanings, tell me that this goest beyond the pale. Killing a woman, killing a person who has been nothing but a friend to the Iraqi people, a humanitarian, is absolutely beyond the pale. There is definitely a sense here that whoever did this has gone several steps too far.
STEWART: “TIME” magazine senior editor Bobby Ghosh on the phone from Baghdad tonight. Many thanks and please be safe.
GHOSH: Thank you very much.
STEWART: Al Jazeera and other TV outlets aren‘t the only source in the Arab world for images of violence from Iraq. Insurgents have now started filming their attacks on coalition troops, then posting them on the Internet. As NBC‘s Lisa Myers reports, the videos are helping militants gain popularity and possibly even solidarity on the Arab streets.
LISA MYERS, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The carnage is posted on Internet sites four or five times a week. Videos shot by Iraqi insurgents. Attacks on Americans and allies. Along with bodies and body parts NBC News will not show you.
This is an attack on an American convoy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, this is a civilian convoy. You‘ll notice the insurgents right there firing automatic weapons at the trucks going by, the convoy.
MYERS: Evan Coleman (ph), an NBC terrorism analyst says these videos are now a key weapon in the effort to drive the U.S. out of Iraq.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The message is is that America‘s military is not invincible, that it can be defeated. And this is the way it can be defeated.
MYERS: Most videos are branded with this, the logo of Iraq‘s most wanted terrorist, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Here, a celebration in front of what‘s left of an American military vehicle. Here, insurgents make and bury a roadside bomb, wait for the target to approach, and blow it up. Here, a white sedan with a suicide bomber at the wheel, heads for an American convoy and detonates.
This is a burning American armored vehicle.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That‘s correct, yes. That was quite a large car bomb.
MYERS: Narration over one attack says the invaders who were walking like peacocks became like rats, fleeing, leaving everything behind. In many Arab countries the videos are viewed in Internet cafes, sold in markets.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, people watch it. People like to watch it.
MYERS: An Arab journalist says while there‘s widespread revulsion over videos of beheadings in Iraq, these military videos generate support for insurgents.
MOHAMED SALAH, “AL HAYAT” NEWSPAPER (through translator): If an American or Englishman is killed in an operation there‘s no sympathy at all. It evokes pride, not sympathy.
MYERS: Why? Experts say one reason is al Jazeera, the network bombards Arabs with images of dead and maimed Iraqi civilians and repeatedly aired graphic footage of an American marine shooting a wounded Iraqi. Yet, the network did not show the shooting execution of Iraqi aide worker Margaret Hassan at the hand of insurgents. A spokesman says it‘s al Jazeera‘s policy not to air killings of hostages, but that airing similarly violent killings by Americans is justified because it‘s part of a war. Little wonder, says one Arab expert, that the Arab street, saturated with images of American violence against Muslims, sees insurgent videos as a welcome measure of revenge. Lisa Myers, NBC News, Washington.
STEWART: The new president takes time out for new cabinet picking to do a few pardons. This turkey, not going to do any hard time. Oddball is next.
And a variation on “Desperate House Wives” you‘ve got to hear to believe. Diane Ritchie in trouble with the law for wrinkle injection parties.
Stand by people.
STEWART: I‘m Alison Stewart at the wheel, while Keith Olbermann is on a much-deserved vacation. It‘s that time in the show to pull off the main road of real news for the rest area of the strange and bizarre. I‘m up for it. Let‘s play Oddball. We begin in the White House rose garden, where today two turkeys facing certain death won the Thanksgiving pardon lottery and were spared a stuffing by President Bush. It‘s a White House tradition for the president to pardon a turkey or two each year. Not just a pardon they get to go to turkey camp, unfortunately named Frying Pan Park in Virginia. On the subject of names, the president explained how voters on the White House website finally settled on these birds new names, Biscuit and Gravy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It came down to a few battleground states. It‘s a tough contest, and it turned out some 527 organizations got involved including Barnyard Animals for Truth. There was a scurrilous film that came out, “Fahrenheit 375 Degrees at 10 Minutes Per Pound.”
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEWART: Comedy. In other strange food product news, there‘s the Virgin Mary grilled cheese sandwich on Ebay. We first told you about this last night and today the auction was pulled again from Ebay due to outrageous bidding. But what the holy sandwich has spun is a phenomenon of mockery not seen since the giant Cheeto auction of 2003. Overnight the wise acres (ph) came out in full force and now a search of Virgin Mary grilled cheese on Ebay brings up the following auction items. There is a Virgin Mary grilled cheese Christmas ornament, the T-shirt, the lunch box, the Atkins friendly version Mary grilled cheese, George Bush on a grilled cheese, Mickey Mouse, a monkey or something, Yasser Arafat on a falafel, Bill O‘Reilly is the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) bidder there. The virgins Mary-Kate and Ashley on a grilled cheese, a Gumby doll wearing a Virgin Mary grilled cheese mask, a hand drawing of the Virgin Mary actually eating the grilled cheese.
All that, plus the Internet domain name VirginMarygrilledcheese.com. As for the original artifact, Ebay pulled it down when bidding reached a ridiculous $99 million, but the owner is still a believer. She says she‘s had good luck ever since she made that sandwich.
Hillary Clinton in 2006. The senator wants to reclaim her Senate seat, but some critics say that‘s only going to hurt her chances for the big job in 2008. And years after Mario Puzo brought us the Corleone family, the family is back again in a brand new book, “The Godfather Returns.” Those stories ahead. Now here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of the day.
Number three, Kura Tumanako of New Zealand. She explained to news agencies that she wants her bull terrier Honey Boy to grow up and protect her newborn baby which is why over the last two months, she has been breastfeeding the puppy. Quote, “she drinks more than the baby. Doesn‘t hurt but it‘s a little bit ticklish.” Too much information.
No. 2, the students of Spurger, Texas, high school. It‘s an annual tradition there for the boys and girls to switch roles for one day. During homecoming week, the boys dress as girls and the girls dress as boys. But after a parent complained that the practice has homosexual overtones, the school board has scrapped the event and replaced it with camo day, black boots and Army camouflage for all students who wish to participate.
And, No. 1, Jennifer Ward of Pope County, Florida. She swears that she saw a Bigfoot-like creature next to the road while driving through a remote area called Green Swamp not long ago. Ward says she went back to the scene with a camera, but hasn‘t seen the eight-foot beast since. So all she‘s got is her own hand-drawn sketch of what it looked like.
Mulder and Scully are on the way.
STEWART: There is little middle ground when it comes to how people feel about the former first lady and junior senator from the state of New York. Chances are you either love Hillary Clinton or you really don‘t love her. Then there‘s the media—that would be us—and the undisputed fact that any story involving Senator Clinton is like catnip to the press.
Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, Hillary in ‘06. Can ‘08 be far behind? Her advisers have been leaking word of her intention to run for reelection to the Senate. Some see it as a springboard to a run for the White House four years from now. Others see it as an obstacle to a successful campaign for president. And, more still, mostly in the red states of the country, wish she‘d just go home to Chappaqua, New York, and stay there.
The prospect of another Clinton in the White House is the kind of thing that makes political reporters just giddy with anticipation. Here to help us gauge the excitement, Linda Feldmann of “The Christian Science Monitor.”
Linda, five years ago, when the rumor mill started buzzing that the first lady was thinking about a run for the Senate in a state she didn‘t live in, the rumors all but dismissed, and, of course, Ms. Clinton not only ran, but she won. Should we be cautious about dismissing Hillary for president?
LINDA FELDMANN, “THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR”: I think so.
I think most of the media is pretty dismissive of her chances, especially in light of the election we just had. But, you know, never say never. I think, you know, if she were to run now, I think she would still be very polarizing. As you pointed out, people either love her or they hate her. In a few years, I don‘t know. I still tend to think that she is too polarizing to really be elected president. But a lot of us didn‘t think she could get elected to the Senate from New York. So, who knows.
STEWART: So let‘s break that down a little, because that was lot to digest.
STEWART: What is the down side for Senator Clinton to say, yes, that‘s it, I missed the White House, I want back in, I‘m running for president? What is the problem with doing it now?
FELDMANN: Well, the problem for her in running for president is that we get a rehash of the eight years of the first Clinton White House, and that she was, herself, very controversial. There seemed to be things coming up all the time involving her own legal career. There was the business of the missing legal records. So she was not an uncontroversial first lady like, say, Laura Bush.
STEWART: And heading up that health care initiative, that didn‘t go so well.
FELDMANN: That‘s right. That‘s right.
You can maybe blame her husband for that. He shouldn‘t have put her in that position, but he did, and she—people weren‘t happy with how she handled that. She was very secretive. But I think she‘s learned a lot. And, you know, she‘s very well-spoken. She‘s charismatic. And so I wouldn‘t rule anything out.
STEWART: OK. It‘s difficult for a senator to run for president. You can probably ask John Kerry.
STEWART: A senator really hasn‘t won in over, I think it‘s 40 years.
STEWART: If Mrs. Clinton were to run, would she be better off quitting the Senate and just focusing up on the White House?
FELDMANN: I think that‘s—this business of quitting the Senate to run for the White House, I think that‘s overrated. I think Bob Dole would tell you that‘s overrated.
Being in the Senate, it gives her a bully pulpit. It gives her a position of authority and involvement with the issues that I think would work to her benefit.
STEWART: OK. Let‘s say they aren‘t printing up the Hillary in ‘08 bumper stickers somewhere and she‘s content to run for senator again.
STEWART: There‘s a possibility, it‘s out there floating, that Colin Powell could be drafted into this. What do you think?
FELDMANN: I think that‘s one of those dream matchups. It would be fascinating. I personally don‘t see Colin Powell doing it. I get the idea that, at age 67, he really does want to retire. He‘s not going to sit at home.
But running for office is grueling, and, you know, then you have to serve. If he wins, he‘d have six years. I just don‘t see it.
STEWART: Linda Feldmann, political reporter for “The Christian Science Monitor,” big thanks for joining us tonight.
FELDMANN: All right, thank you.
STEWART: Should Senator Clinton decide to make a run for the White House there‘s a good chance she‘d have to face John Kerry in a primary. The Massachusetts Democrat made a return to oratory on the floor of the Senate this afternoon. His remarks sounded a lot like one of those stump speeches, only he wasn‘t wearing the barn jacket and the Red Sox cap.
But Senator Kerry did manage to accuse the Bush administration of fiscal irresponsibility.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: In less than four years, a 10-year, $5.6 billion budget surplus was turned into a $2.4 trillion debt. That is the worst fiscal turnaround in our nation‘s entire history. Since raising the debt limit last year, the government has run up more debt than all of the presidents from George Washington through Ronald Reagan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEWART: Now, if anyone is entitled to be suffering from PEST, post-election selection trauma, surely it‘s John Kerry. But that probably wouldn‘t keep Rush Limbaugh from making fun of him.
On his radio talk show, the conservative host has apparently been offering free therapy to any traumatized Kerry voters. But because many despondent voters really are seeking treatment, mental health officials are suggesting that Limbaugh just back off. “The Boca Raton News” reports that the first of several group therapy sessions in South Florida has been scheduled for just after Thanksgiving. One therapist telling the paper that Limbaugh is trying to—quote—“ridicule the emotional state this presidential election produced in many of us here in Palm Beach County. Who is he to offer therapy?”—end quote.
As for the most famous potential PEST sufferer, regular viewers of COUNTDOWN already know it‘s “Law & Order” actor Vincent D‘Onofrio. “The New York Post” speculating today that post-election stress has caused D‘Onofrio to faint three more times. He was even hospitalized for two days. Some are calling it a case of the Bush flu.
On the House side of the U.S. Capitol today, Republicans were circling the wagons. They have changed parties to protect Tom DeLay, should the majority House leader be indicted. There was no indication that DeLay will face charges in a Texas campaign finance investigation that has already led to the indictments of three of his associates. Nevertheless, should it happen, DeLay will not have to give up his party leadership post, no siree, as the old rule required.
The second-term Cabinet shuffle has found the president inclined to appoint only those who already work inside of the White House, a trend that makes a rare bipartisan appointment even more unlikely. Nevertheless, a Connecticut newspaper is raising the possibility that one of its own might be willing to join the Bush Cabinet, should he be asked. “The Hartford Courant” reports that Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman—he actually was running for vice president one time—and he is one of the most conservative members of the blue party—isn‘t ruling out a Bush Cabinet appointment—quote—“If the president ever calls, you‘d have to consider it. But I‘m very happy to be in the Senate”—end quote.
At the same time, Al Gore‘s former running mate says, “I don‘t expect an offer and I have no indications that it will happen.” As for what may have fueled the speculation, Mr. Lieberman has been a strong supporter of the war in Iraq, as well as the president‘s faith-based initiatives.
But, at the White House today the president was once again promoting from within. Current Deputy Chief of Staff Harriet Miers will be the next White House counsel. She will replace Alberto Gonzales, who has been nominated for attorney general. And he will replace John Ashcroft. Hope you‘re taking notes, because there might be a test tomorrow.
But if you‘re wondering who replaces Gary Locke as the governor of Washington, you‘ll have to keep waiting, because we just don‘t know. More than two weeks after the election, officials are still counting ballots. This afternoon, Republican Dino Rossi was leading by 187 votes. Just last night, Democrat Christine Gregoire was up by 19. You heard me, 19.
By the end of the day, the state must select a winner, but that does not mean the race is over. If the margin of victory is less than 2,000 votes, there will be an automatic recount. Good luck, Washington state.
And speaking of recounts, only hours to go until New Hampshire‘s recounts is officially under way. Ralph Nader requested it. At 9:00 a.m. tomorrow morning, state officials will begin a hand recount of all ballots cast in five jurisdictions that used electronic scanning machines, the towns of Litchfield and four more wards in Manchester. At least six more jurisdictions will be counted in the next week or two.
A reminder to you. The vacationing Keith Olbermann is keeping an eye on developments on Bloggermann at COUNTDOWN.MSNBC. It was either that or Club Med. Go figure.
A club you don‘t want to belong to, Diane Richie, secret plastic surgery hideaway. She now faces charges for allowing wrinkle injections at her home. Harvey Levin has all the details for us.
And Jude Law, he‘s moving into Keith Olbermann territory. Don‘t go messing with COUNTDOWN‘s sexy commander in chief.
STEWART: Good plastic surgery gone bad, why you really don‘t want to try this at home. And we‘re going to the mattresses. We‘re taking the gun and leaving the cannoli. The legend of “The Godfather” lives on.
Stay with us.
STEWART: Have a few laughs, maybe a white wine spritzer, lose a few wrinkles. There‘s called Botox parties, and they may be fabulous, but are no longer very original, you know, kind of like the last season of “Sex and the City.” But what happens when that party uses an illegal injection instead of Botox?
Our No. 2 story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, wrinkle crime. Diane Richie, former wife of “Dancing on the Ceiling” vocalist Lionel Richie, was arrested and taken into federal court yesterday for allegedly letting her boyfriend use a bathroom suite in her Beverly Hills home to give illegal anti-wrinkle injections. She faces two counts of aiding and abetting Daniel Tomas Fuente Serrano, who calls himself Dr. Daniel.
Ms. Richie spent one night in jail and was released on $25,000 bail after appearing in court yesterday. Dr. Daniel Serrano remains in jail until his bail hearing tomorrow. Serrano claimed to be an Argentinean doctor, but was not licensed to practice in the U.S. And the anti-wrinkle cream injections he allegedly used on 20 to 40 people were not FDA approved.
Oh, there‘s one more problem. Some of Serrano‘s patients developed complications, like women with lumps on their lips and holes in their faces. Nice.
“Celebrity Justice” has been all over this one, and we‘re lucky to have the host and executive producer of that syndicated program join us tonight.
Welcome back to the COUNTDOWN, Harvey.
HARVEY LEVIN, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, “CELEBRITY JUSTICE”: Hi, Alison.
STEWART: All right, first of all, oy is all I have to say about this story.
STEWART: Secondly, some reports say Lionel Richie even partook in these events. Now, how did that work if the pseudo-doctor is Mrs. Richie‘s beau?
LEVIN: You ask a good question, Alison.
Here is the way it seems to shake down. They filed for divorce in October of last year. It appears from the documents that we have that Lionel Richie got the injection around June of last year. So there are friends of hers who have suggested that Diane Richie‘s boyfriend injected her husband in the home of Lionel Richie with her standing over. At least, that‘s what the investigators are saying.
We know that Lionel Richie had been suspicious of this guy, believed that these two were having an affair at some point last year and didn‘t like him. And there were a lot of people who didn‘t like him as well. But it is just a bizarre Hollywood tale.
STEWART: OK, that is so L.A. And my apologies to all the normal people in L.A.
Any other bold-faced names involved?
LEVIN: Well, Larry King‘s wife, Shawn King, also had been introduced to this man. He went by Dr. Daniel, and she really believed that he was a doctor. And she had injections at her home, as well as did several other people, including the wife of Larry King‘s lawyer, who didn‘t have the cash to pay this guy, because he generally took it in cash.
So, it appeared that Larry king‘s wife had fronted the money, and then they took it off of the lawyer‘s bill for the next month.
STEWART: Doctor taking cash. Second note to self, this might not be a good idea.
LEVIN: Well, I‘ve got to tell you something.
Diane Richie, her housekeeper had said that this guy had come over with $3 million in a satchel to prove to her that he was in this relationship for love and not money. And he proved it by bringing the cash to the house. This is at least what the housekeeper said. So this is Beverly Hills start to finish.
STEWART: Well, we‘ve got a graphic showing the injections allegedly used by Serrano. What the heck are these people shooting into their faces?
LEVIN: Well, it‘s kinds of like Botox, only more permanent.
It is legal in some countries, not in the United States, and that‘s why the feds got on this. They initially got tipped by a dissatisfied customer of Dr. Daniel‘s. And when the medical board found out that he was allegedly using this article, which is this non-FDA-approved substance, that‘s when the feds got involved. They did this investigation.
And we‘re told that they went to all of Diane Richie‘s friends, a lot of rich, famous people, but never said that they were looking at Diane Richie. I have to tell you, I called Larry King‘s wife last night and I talked to her. And I‘m the one who informed her that Diane Richie, who is a friend of hers, had been busted. She had no idea that she was even under investigation.
And her beef was really with the doctor and not Diane Richie. And so there are a lot of people in Beverly Hills who kind of feel a little bit used by the feds. They are flabbergasted.
STEWART: Someone used in Beverly Hills? Who would think of that?
LEVIN: Good, Alison.
STEWART: Thanks for sharing your reporting, Harvey Levin of “Celebrity Justice.” We appreciate it.
LEVIN: I‘ll see you.
STEWART: A simple enough turn to our nightly lifestyles of the rich and famous segment.
And proving that you don‘t need to visit Diane Richie in some back alley to be beautiful, Jude Law has been named the sexiest man alive—not sexiest anchorman alive, by the way. That title is already taken. It‘s in the annual edition of “People” magazine. It called the “Alfie” star—quote—“the most beautiful man who ever walked the earth”—end quote, due to, apparently, his supernatural good looks, supersized talent and—quote—“so nice he might just kiss you if you have the nerve to ask.”
Johnny Depp was the sexiest man alive a year ago. Last we checked, he‘s still alive, so he might have gotten just slightly less sexy, although I don‘t think so.
Speaking of sexy, there‘s Tom Cruise, or Tom Mapother, as I remember him back in junior high school and high school. That‘s true, by the way. The 42-year-old superstar says he plans to fulfill a lifelong ambition next year by claiming the world‘s tallest mountain, saying it is every little boy‘s dream to climb Mount Everest. Cruise, a recreational climber, says he believes he can make that dream become reality, Cruise, having already conquered many other little boy‘s dreams by marrying Nicole Kidman then dating Penelope Cruz.
The expedition is planned once filming wraps on “Mission: Impossible 3,” which is likely by the end of the year.
“The Godfather” is back. The Corleone story lives on in a new book sanctioned by the family of the man that gave rise to this epic in the first place. Join us on the other side of the break.
STEWART: Our top story tonight, “The Godfather” resurrected with the help of a ringer.
NBC‘s Jamie Gangel explains.
JAMIE GANGEL, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Mario Puzo‘s characters and story have become legendary.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE GODFATHER”)
MARLON BRANDO, ACTOR: I‘m going to make him an offer he can‘t refuse.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GANGEL: With the help of director Francis Ford Coppola‘s epic movies, Marlon Brando immortalized Don Corleone. But it was Mario Puzo who invented the term mafia godfather just myth that went with it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE GODFATHER”)
AL PACINO, ACTOR: But don‘t ever take sides with anyone against the family again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GANGEL: A struggling writer, Puzo sat down to write “The Godfather” at the age of 44 with one goal, to write a bestseller; 20 million copies later, he was rich and famous and everyone now knew what this meant.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE GODFATHER”)
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: That means Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GANGEL: Puzo died in 1999, but his last editor at Random House, 40-year-old Jon Karp, and the Puzo family estate decided to take a risk and bring back “The Godfather.”
JON KARP, EDITOR: I love the book. I love the characters. I wanted more. I wanted to revisit this world.
GANGEL (on camera): You‘re not worried about the dangers of a sequel?
KARP: No, not at all. I think that a good story is a good story.
And if they have their daggers out, well, we know some people.
GANGEL (voice-over): So calls went out to literary agents. There would be a contest.
KARP: We‘re getting a lot of entries. I‘m thinking of changing my name to Johnny the pencil.
GANGEL: Anyone interested had two weeks to send in a 10-page outline for “The Godfather Returns.”
KARP: I just saw it arrive on my screen and I‘m quite eager to read it.
GANGEL: From a field of more than 40 entries, a winner soon emerged.
KARP: Welcome to the mafia. You‘re the man.
GANGEL: And ever since, a new collection of mafia hits, double-crosses and other Corleone family business has been taking shape inside writer Mark Winegardner‘s head; 42 years old, Winegardner is chairman of the creative writing department at Florida State University. He has written five other books, but never a bestseller. And now the pressure is on, as millions of “Godfather” fans decide whether he just has.
Jamie Gangel, NBC News, New York.
STEWART: And that is it for COUNTDOWN. Thanks for watching. I‘m Alison Stewart, in for Keith Olbermann.
I‘ll see you back here tomorrow.
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