Guest: Jack McCallum, John Zogby, Diana Duyser, Deborah Potter, Marc Peyser
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? From humming along like Ray Charles to a situation that would give aspirin a headache. Dan Rather to leave the “CBS Evening News.” Was he pushed? Did he jump? Did the Killian memos get him?
Does Ron Artest get it?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything is positive. Look at this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Suspended for the year for the basket brawl. But on national television, he is trying sell his music CD.
It‘s go from the G.A.O. The General Accountability Office tells 14 U.S. congressmen it will, as they asked, investigate the presidential election. Much of the reps‘ complaint hinged on the exit polls. Respected pollster John Zogby joins us to give for the first time, his interpretation of what happened to them.
And holy grilled cheese sandwich, batman. She said it shows the image of the Virgin Mary. She has now sold it for $28,000 to a casino. She will join us. All that and more now on COUNTDOWN.
Good evening. Once breaking the news from the Parkland Hospital on the death of president Kennedy, his career was as he might have phrased it hotter than a Times Square Rolex. At a memorable news conference during Watergate he made Richard Nixon as he could have put it tighten up like a too small bathing suit on a too long ride home from the beach. Later his presence forced the retirement of Walter Cronkite and unforeseen, enabled the rise of Peter Jennings. Or to quote him again, one is reminded of that old saying, if you try read the tea leaves before the cup is done, you can get yourself burned.
But in our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN tonight it is another of his own quotes from election night 2000 which at this moment best fits Dan Rather. When the going gets weird, anchormen punt. CBS and Rather today announcing he will step down as the anchor and managing editor of the “CBS Evening News” next March 9. His 24th anniversary on that program. This comes not two months after he acknowledged that a story, the coverage of which he was personally involved in, was in effect retracted by the network. The story of the so-called Killian memos which purported to support claims that President Bush did not fulfill his Air National Guard Reserve service. Rather spoke briefly of his exit on tonight‘s broadcast.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAN RATHER, “CBS EVENING NEWS”: I‘ve decided it is time to move on. I‘ll be leaving the “Evening News” next March. I will not be leaving CBS News, however. I will continue to report to you working full time on both editions of “60 Minutes” and on other assignments for CBS News. It has been and remains an honor to be welcomed into your home each evening and I thank you for the trust you‘ve given me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: On ABC, Peter Jennings actually reported Rather‘s departure earlier than Rather reported it on CBS. Whether or not the Killian memos actually influenced Dan Rather is unclear. Or the internal independent investigation of them. Before that storm, Rather had spoken of retiring after his 25th anniversary which would have been March 9, 2006.
The “New York Times” reports that Rather‘s representative had early last summer, begun to discuss an exit from the anchor desk next May. CBS says he is to continue with the network, as you heard him say. It said similar things about Walter Cronkite in 1981.
My next guest is not only president and executive director of the Journalism Training and Research Center news lab, she was also Dan Rather‘s colleague as a correspondent for CBS News from 1978 to 1991. Deborah Potter, good evening. Thanks for your time. Thanks for coming back to the program.
DEBORAH POTTER, FMR. CBS NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Thanks.
OLBERMANN: Reading these tea leaves based on your own experience at CBS, what do you think this was? Was it retirement, firing, an attempt to get out in front of the internal investigation?
POTTER: I think it was hastened retirement. I think whether the writing is on the wall or not, Dan had apparently been talking about retirement for some time. The most recent incident, the internal investigation, due out any time now. And Dan‘s departure that these things coming so closely together. That‘s not coincidence.
OLBERMANN: Two facts which I think are suggestive. One, they were not ready to name a successor today. And two, three weeks ago tonight, the publicity department at CBS was still emailing the Ratherisms from election night stuff. Still selling Dan Rather to newspapers as the identity of CBS News. Do those facts make it fair to assume, that whatever this was, it happened in the last few days or at the most, in the last week?
POTTER: Yes. I think so. And particularly the fact that there was no succession plan in place. Clearly when Walter Cronkite was asked to leave CBS at the age of 65, they knew perfectly well who they were putting in the seat. They made that announcement at the same time. NBC, how long ago was it that Brian Williams was announced as the heir apparent? Three, four years ago? They‘ve clearly had a succession in place for some time. There‘s been a lot of speculation about who might take over but they haven‘t resolved it apparently and that makes it appear that this departure is a little bit of a surprise. This is exactly the kind of question in a truncated time frame that you and I both hate. But that‘s show business. Can you sum up Dan Rather and his career and his meaning in news?
POTTER: Well, I think he was and remains a really aggressive reporter. Committed to doing serious hard journalism. I think to some degree he transformed the role of the anchor into the anchor/reporter. I think before Rather, we had anchors who sat at a desk most of the time. They were called anchors for a reason. They sort of sat there. And Dan Rather was never a just sit there kind of anchor. I think in that way he really made a difference in the way television news has been done for the last 30 years.
OLBERMANN: Deborah Potter of News Lab and formerly of CBS News, once again great thanks or for your time tonight.
One man is silently cheering. One man is silently cheering tonight incidentally. Our buddy Brian Williams who takes over for Tom Brokaw next Thursday, now gets to looks forward to becoming after just 98 days on the job, the second most senior anchor of a nightly network newscast.
Tonight‘s fifth story is not just about Dan Rather. It is about the bigger picture in television. It starts with the surprising news that the owners of CBS, NBC and Fox reportedly have figured out how to deal with the increasingly sharp eye of the Federal Communications Commission. Get rid of the Federal Communications Commission. Not literally but figuratively. The trade publication “Television Week” reporting that the three networks yesterday informed the Supreme Court that they are seriously considering urging the court to overturn the decision upon which most of the FCC‘s control of broadcasting rests. That case was from 1969. It was called Red Lion Broadcasting versus FCC. And in it the Supreme Court ruled that since broadcasters use a scarce government resource, the airwaves, they should be closely regulated by the government.
Ironically, this would be part of a legal action supporting FCC Commissioner Michael Powell. He had moved to loosen regulations on how many and what kind of stations broadcasters could own. The third court of appeals overturned that loosening. The broadcasters appealed. This case will now go to the Supreme Court.
It is not TV ownership but TV content that has been driving much of the political discussion in this country all year, but especially since the election. New poll numbers tonight from the “New York Times” on this subject. How worried are people that popular culture, TV, movies, music, lowering the moral standards of the country? Very they say. 40 percent are very concerned. Another 30 percent, somewhat. Asked what kind of impact Hollywood is having on the standards of popular culture, 62 percent said it was lowering them.
The FCC was busy on that front today agreeing to accept a $3.5 million settlement from Viacom to resolve an ongoing investigation of a “Howard Stern Show.” And two more involving fired New York shock jocks Oppie (ph) and Anthony. Still outstanding the FCC demanded that Viacom pay $550,000 for last February‘s Super Bowl incident.
One commentator suggested that the election was decide that had day when Janet Jackson‘s breasts emerged in front of hundred of millions of TV viewers. It is evident that moral values or no cultural conservatives do not appear to be voting with their television remotes. The “New York Times” reporting that the controversial new ABC show “Desperate Housewives,” is doing virtually as well in the television ratings in Salt Lake City, Utah, as it is in New York or Los Angeles. Second highest rated among all TV shows nationally it is the fourth most popular in the heavily religious Utah market. First in Atlanta, Georgia, and environs, and even in Birmingham, Alabama it is the eighth most popular show on all TVs. What‘s going on here? Hypocrisy? A lot of bad television? Values, viewers choosing to watch sin anyway? To help us try to understand, I‘m joined by Marc Peyser, television writer for “Newsweek” magazine. Good evening. Thanks for your time.
What is this? Do as I preach not as I watch?
MARC PEYSER, “NEWSWEEK”: Absolutely. It is easy to go out there and say you believe in moral values and you even vote in a way that you think pretends that you do. In the comfort of your own home, you can watch anything you want. I think there are plenty of people in this country, who when asked by a pollster, are moral values important to you, they‘ll say yes but they still want to watch the hot chicks on Sunday night.
OLBERMANN: What has been the practical impact of all this on TV programmers? We had the Janet Jackson Super Bowl flap in February. And eight months later, “Desperate Housewives” premiers. It would appear that this does not sound like they feel moral values is much more than a brand name and not a popular brand name.
PEYSER: That‘s right. One of the nice things about television, it is a Democratic medium. If something isn‘t working on television, if people don‘t watch it, it is off the air. So if people really were that outraged about amoral programming, you wouldn‘t be seeing risque programs. HBO wouldn‘t certainly be on the air. “Desperate Housewives” is hardly the most risque program we‘ve ever seen on television. It is fairly tame by certainly cable standards and not really worse than what you see in a soap opera.
OLBERMANN: On the other topic, it is not so much about managing content. Rather about managing their businesses. But this warning to the Supreme Court that was reported in “Television Week” from Fox, CBS and NBC, we may challenge the FCC‘s omnipotence.
What do you make of that?
PEYSER: I think probably two things. One is, they‘re tired of getting beaten up on. The networks have rolled over repeatedly, when someone says, I don‘t like something, even if they haven‘t seen it before, the networks turn tail and throw it off the air. We saw that with the Reagan miniseries. But I think it is part of the argument they‘ve been making for a long time, which is, it was one thing to say several years ago, that this was a limited precious resource. There are hundreds and hundreds of channels now to say these, you know, public airwaves needs protecting in a way AMC doesn‘t, is sort of silly.
OLBERMANN: Marc Peyser, television writer for “Newsweek” magazine, great thanks for your insight and your time sir.
PEYSER: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: The intense focus of the last three weeks on moral values has centered on their collective role in the election. You will recall the exit polling from November 2 asking people on which issue they based who they voted for. That night, the top four answers were as follows, Moral values first at 22 percent, the economy and terrorism, close in second and third places, and Iraq, fourth.
From that one set of poll number, as much of the recent political discourse of this country rippled outwards?
Yet those poll numbers may be statistically meaningless. First off, they‘re from the same set of exit polls that were so far off in predicting the presidential winner that night, or both statistics might be right or wrong. But it‘s hardly unlikely that one was right and the other was wrong.
Also as a “Washington Post” article point out, those results were produced when pollsters offered voters a list of top issues to choose from, seven of them. The week after the election, the Pew Research Group did exactly the same thing. Asked which out of a list of issues was most decisive in voters votes. Respondents answered moral values first, Iraq second, economy third, terrorism fourth.
But Pew Research asked half of it‘s surveyors takers the same question without giving them a list. People had to remember the issues that made up their mind for whom to vote. And the results were startlingly different.
First was other. Nearly a third of those polled gave a relatively obscure reason like, I didn‘t like one of the guys. Iraq was second in this poll. In third place, barely more than half as important as Iraq, moral values. The economy and jobs, a very close fourth. So moral values, the new compass point for American politics and American political commentators, probably not—except on a multiple choice test.
From values to your best value for your music dollar. Basketball player Ron Artest goes on the “Today Show” to explain this fight and to try to sell you his CD.
And from investigating brawls, to investigating elections, two weeks after some member of Congress asked for it, the GAO announces it is looking into the election irregularities. Standby.
OLBERMANN: Fans should not throw things. And by the way, please purchase my CD. Basketball‘s Ron Artest breaks his silence and that‘s about all he had to say in the way of an apology in Friday night‘s chaos in Detroit. You will hear him next.
OLBERMANN: It was probably the worst player fan violence in North American sports history. After hitting another player with a stick, the star of the Montreal Canadien‘s hockey team was suspended by the league president for the rest of the season. Four days later, with the league president sitting in the stands at the Montreal forum, Canadien‘s fans began to pelt him with food and garbage. Then a tear gas bomb was set off outside the arena. The place had to be evacuated and angry fans spilled onto the streets of the Quebec metropolis where they did half a million dollars worth of damage during a seven hour riot. Another milestone in the recent collapse of civility in pro sports, not exactly. Next March we will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the rocket Richard (ph) riot. This all happened in 1955.
Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, the continuing fallout from the latest in the series of ends of sports civilization as we know it. The Indiana Pacers brawl with the fans of the Detroit Pistons in Auburn Hills, Michigan last Friday, as the story of the Montreal riot suggests, we have a worst sports incident ever, every year or so. But Ron Artest, at the center of the melee, and suspended for the season as a result, appeared on the “Today Show” this morning. And by all estimations, he made it worse.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RON ARTEST, NBA, INDIANA PACERS: First I want to say, I wish that situation would never have happened, you know. It wasn‘t good at all for anybody. David Stern, he‘s been pretty good to me throughout the years. And I don‘t think it was fair, you know, that many games. I really want to play this year. I‘ve been trying to make a big effort in changing the image of the league, because that‘s not the image that David Stern want‘s to put forth. He doesn‘t want to put forth a negative image. And I‘ve been working real hard on doing a lot of positive things. And you know, I‘ve got this album coming out. It‘s positive. It‘s about love, you know. It‘s not rap. It‘s not hard core.
I think, that I never harmed anybody. And that‘s really important. That you don‘t want to harm anybody. And all these suspension, I‘m glad that nobody was hurt. And I always took it out on something, maybe a technical foul or a camera.
I need that camera, because I paid $100,000 for that camera. And I don‘t have a piece of that camera.
It was—obviously, everybody knew I was frustrated, the tape speaks for itself. They‘ve seen disrespect from the crowd. And then they seen a frustrated reaction from a player. And they got to understand that sometimes things happen. People go to war, but we don‘t want to go to war. You know, nobody wants to die. But things happen and you move on. I think you should look at the tape and then you should hopefully answer the questions for me. That would help me out a lot.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Well, that should dispel any thoughts anybody has about the modern athlete being out of touch with reality. For reaction and analysis, I‘m joined by Jack McCallum, who has authored what will be “Sports Illustrated‘s” cover story on the melee.
Jack, good evening, welcome back to the show.
JACK MCCALLUM, “SPORTS ILLUSTRATED”: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: So, if I understand Ron Artest from the “Today Show” correctly, the guy who threw beer at him was some kind of insurgent or he thought he was in a war or what was that all about?
Do you know?
MCCALLUM: Well, your first part is I understand Ron Artest, you‘re on shaky ground here. I just think it is a great possible PBS special, the mind of Ron Artest. You could have people come on every week, you know, kind of deconstruct what he said. It was a very unusual thing. And obviously, he had not—I guess the good thing is he had not thought out a stock response before he went on there. That‘s for sure.
OLBERMANN: The NBA has been under heat for a number of years and clearly has been hurt by this impression a lot of its players give that they are gangsta wannabes, or in some few cases, actual felons. Have we just seen this evolve into something new in the Artest case, some new kind of disconnect? He‘s been suspended for the season. Yet he is trying sell Matt Lauer a CD.
MCCALLUM: Well, you know, Keith, Artest is a funny case, because one of the strangest things he said on the air was he was trying to put forth a new image. While two weeks earlier, he had just done this horrible thing of saying he wanted a month off to promote the CD that he was selling. But the odd thing is that of all the players in the league, people will tell you, you know, Ron is one of the guys that plays both ends of the floor. He plays very hard when he‘s out there. It‘s a real strange situation with him. But obviously, the league now with this incident has reached its nadir. We were not sure it could have gotten any lower after the Olympics, but I think we‘re at that—we‘re at that bottom point right now.
OLBERMANN: Well, obviously he‘s gotten this time off that he needs to promote the CD and he already is promoting it. Are there any conspiratory theorists out there who are saying, you know, maybe his desire to get the time off and his going off like that were somehow interconnected? Does anybody think it might have been deliberate, to get suspended?
MCCALLUM: You know, all the thinking I‘ve done about this the last 48 hours, that‘s the first time I‘ve heard that. So perhaps it is a good—perhaps you‘re one of those conspiracy theorists. I think if you look at them, you know, one of the interesting things somebody said was that Ron ran right over to Pacers radio announcer when he was on his way to the seat. And later on, he said to the guy who looked a little torn up, what happened to you? And Ron said, the guy said, hey, you ran over me. He didn‘t even know it.
So I think he was in kind of a blind rage. And we‘ve spoken before about some of the, quote, “issues” that Ron might have. Hopefully he‘ll spend his time, half of it promoting the album, and half of it maybe going into some counseling or some other things he needs to deal with to come back in the league.
OLBERMANN: And by the way, the invisible people that I see throughout the week always accuse me of being a conspiracy theorist, but we can leave that for a moment.
Now, let me ask you one last one about this Artest situation. I started the segment the Rocket Rishard riot in the National Hockey League in 1955, and there are countless other examples before and since of things going completely out of control. Why do you suppose people, especially people who are not big day to day sports fans, see each of these episodes as the end of the sports world?
MCCALLUM: Well, obviously, Keith, we‘re in this cycle now where things are played more endlessly. And in the case of the NBA, I think people are really ready, ready to proclaim the end of this league. It is not very popular. In baseball, we‘ve had more instances of people, players going over that sacrosanct line into the crowd. I mean, Frank Francisco just threw a chair into the crowd in September, which we‘ve almost forgotten about.
I think if you took everything in the arena, the way the situation is, it is almost remarkable that this hadn‘t happened previously. The last time was 10 years earlier. So in many ways, the NBA was lucky this hasn‘t happened more frequently. But I think it will focus a lot of attention on the problems this league has happened. And they‘d better take it seriously, and it better be kind of a watershed event in their history.
OLBERMANN: Jack McCallum with “Sports Illustrated,” always a pleasure, sir. Many thanks.
MCCALLUM: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: One morning show has Ron Artest today. Another has the guy fingered by his ex-next door neighbor, the county prosecutor, as the fan who not only threw the beer at Artest but also later tried to grab him from behind. His name is John Green, the guy in the white cap. And he was on ABC‘s “Good Morning America.” And as Ron Artest said, the tape speaks for itself. John Green‘s attorney said, the video speaks for itself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHAWN PATRICK SMITH, JOHN GREEN‘S ATTORNEY: There‘s a criminal investigation going on. We‘ve been working with the detectives over at Auburn Hills. The video is clear about what happens. I suggest anybody who wants to take a look at it, look at the video. There‘s legality questions involved in what the intent was. And we‘ll be taking care of those in the next couple of days.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Any criminal charges against anybody could be weeks away. Civil lawsuits, however, are faster to the hoop than Michael Jordan ever was. Nine assault complaints had been filed with local police by close of business yesterday. Two spectators already going to court. John Ackerman, the 67-year-old fan who says he was hit by that thrown chair. He‘s going to sue the Pacers, the players, and possibly the arena, too. 26-year-old William Paulson says he was standing next to the first fan hit by Ron Artest, and then he, Paulson, was sucker-punched by the Indiana player Stephen Jackson. Asked if Paulson just happened to throw a drink at Artest as he went by, his attorney asked—what else? The video speaks for itself.
Somebody is suing over this? Turkey bowling with a twist. It‘s almost time for Thanksgiving, and it‘s almost time for “Oddball.”
What better way to get in the Christmas spirit than to take a bite from the Virgin Mary grilled cheese sandwich. Bidding is now closed. The blessed sandwich has been sold. Stand by.
OLBERMANN: We‘re back, and just because for some of us this is a short holiday week, does not mean that there‘s any kind of shortage of weird news and strange video out there. And in a moment, we will prove it when I say let‘s play “Oddball.”
We begin in Corpus Christi, Texas, where the Corpus turkey was flying in the 12th annual charity turkey bowling competition. This is a radio stunt carrying on a broadcast tradition of turkey desecration that dates back to Les Nessman on WKRP in Cincinnati. I thought turkeys could fly.
But this is more than just some crazy promotion. This is sport. Just ask this guy, who hit the shopping cart. Good aim, sir.
The city experienced unseasonable warmth for the event this year. Bad for frozen turkeys. Good for the crowd. Hooray!
To London, where once again the iron-clad security at Buckingham Palace has been breached by some dope in a superhero costume. This time it is Santa—OK, it‘s close. It‘s another protester for fathers‘ rights in England. Because nothing shows the judge you‘re ready for the responsibility of child rearing like your willingness to get arrested over and over again for trespassing. This same guy, David Pike, earlier appeared as Robin when his partner, dressed as Batman, pulled the same stunt in the same place. Before that, he was Spider-Man, but of course at heart he remains the Joker.
And the University of Iowa, where an animal rights group has released this videotape showing masked men destroying a psychology lab there. The Animal Liberation Front released the tape. And if there‘s anyone we hate more than the Animal Liberation Front, it is the stinking front for the liberation of animals. Splitters. The group smashed 40 computers and claims to have released hundreds of lab rats, mice, and pigeons. I‘m sure those little fellows will do just fine in the wild. Didn‘t any of you see the movie “28 Days”? Federal agents say they are investigating. They might want to start with the guys who released this videotape!
Speaking of investigations, 14 congressmen say they have gotten their answer and will soon get a government investigation into election voting irregularities, their complaint hinging largely on those exit polls. The pollster John Zogby will be our guest coming up. And fighting the insurgents in Iraq, U.S. forces are now focusing well beyond Fallujah.
Those stories ahead. Now here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.
No. 3, Juan Rodriguez of Queens, New York. Friday morning, a court officially declared him bankrupt. He had 78 cents in his bank account, debts of $45,000. Friday evening, he won the New York State lottery, a record payoff of $149 million.
No. 2, Ghislain Breton of Bow, New Hampshire, he is in jail now for having filed too many frivolous lawsuits. He claims to have copyrighted his own name. And each time somebody else says it, he claims they owe him half-a-million dollars. Ghislain Breton, his name is not to be spoken. Ghislain Breton. I hope I‘m pronouncing that correctly.
And, No. 1, Andrew Pearson of London, convicted yesterday of a stick-up 11 years ago, the key evidence DNA evidence drawn from the stocking mask Pearson wore as he pulled off the robbery. The DNA in the stocking mask was in Pearson‘s dandruff. He has been sentenced to 12 years, rinse and repeat.
OLBERMANN: A poll this week indicates eight out of 10 Americans think President Bush won reelection legitimately three weeks ago tonight. The other two are going to get a recount in Ohio and something of an investigation out of the General Accountability Office.
And as exit polls are being used by the U.S. to buttress charges that a foreign election was rigged, everybody is going to get to hear perhaps the nation‘s premier pollster‘s postmortem on the exit polling here.
Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, your tax dollars in action, day 21 of the 2004 presidential election irregularities investigation. First, what else, some poll numbers; 80 percent may be confident he was elected fair and square. But, still, Mr. Bush‘s approval rating is at 55 percent, that from the latest Gallup poll. A “New York Times” poll has approval at just 51 percent. And worse still, it shows 48 percent thinking that the next four years will divide the nation more than it will unite it; 40 percent see it the other way around.
And a little more from the two out of 10 who are not sure about the results. The Friday of election week, four U.S. congressmen, led by John Conyers of Michigan, wrote the GAO, the Government Accountability Office, asking it to investigate alleged voting irregularities. Today, the GAO said A-OK. At least that‘s how the now 14 Democratic members of Congress interpret its response. In a statement they said: “We are pleased that the GAO has reviewed the concerns expressed in our letters and has found them of sufficient merit to warrant further investigation. On its own authority, the GAO will examine the security and accuracy of voting technologies, distribution and allocation of voting machines, and counting of provisional ballots.”
Conyers and company say the House Judiciary Committee has received complaints about, 57,000 purported cases of voting problems. Much of the skeleton upon which the complaints of those 14 representatives hang is the by now famous or infamous variance among the early exit polls, the final exit polls, and the actual voting. Today, basing his conclusions in part on exit polling, a Republican senator said a presidential election was fraudulent and influenced by the incumbent government. That election was for the president of the Ukraine.
Exit polls showed the Western-backed candidate, Viktor Yushchenko, ahead by as much as 11 percent. But the Kremlin-backed candidate, Viktor Yanukovych, won the vote by 3 percent, prompting tens of thousands of demonstrators to pack the streets and prompting the chief U.S. election observer, Republican Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana, to his conclusions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RICHARD LUGAR ®, INDIANA: It is now apparent that a concerted and forceful program of Election Day fraud and abuse was enacted with either the leadership or cooperation of governmental authorities.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: In the Ukraine, the exit polls were seen as a monitor against vote fraud. Notorious former Clinton adviser Dick Morris said he used them for that purpose while running Vicente Fox‘s successful campaign for president of Mexico.
In the minds of at least 14 U.S. congressmen, again, all of them Democrats, they might have that purpose here, except that this year‘s exit polling was controversy in and of itself.
Joining me now for perspective is the man who is probably the nation‘s most respected political pollster, John Zogby, the president and CEO of Zogby International.
Mr. Zogby, welcome back to COUNTDOWN. Thanks for your time.
JOHN ZOGBY, PRESIDENT & CEO, ZOGBY INTERNATIONAL: Hi. Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: So, today, the GAO says it is going to look at these things the congressmen asked about. And there‘s already one academic study out from a professor at the University of Pennsylvania who calculated the odds of the exit polls being that wrong were like one million to one or worse. Do you believe it is appropriate to use those exit polls as a barometer or as a ruler against which you can assert that something may have been wrong with the elections?
Remember, you know, exit polls, like any poll, are samples. I don‘t know what happened with the exit polls. I‘m calling for more transparency, both in terms of the sampling and in terms of the data collected. But, no, I don‘t think that exit polls can be used as a barometer for the accuracy of an election itself, at least until we find out if there‘s something broken with this round of election polls.
OLBERMANN: You based your own election-night forecast on your own polls, not on the exit polls used by the television networks. Three weeks later, are you convinced in the your mind what happened with all the polling that night, including your own?
ZOGBY: Yes, I am.
Basically, my polls were for the most part right. I got all but two states wrong. One was a tie. I got all but two states right. One was a right. But, essentially, you had a president of the United States who apparently was elected with 51 percent of the vote, while 51 percent of the voters thought that he was doing a negative job. That‘s an anomaly. That‘s something that just doesn‘t normally happen. And so I based a prediction on the fact that I thought, as history usually points, that the undecideds would break against the incumbent and towards John Kerry.
And, hey, look, I was wrong.
OLBERMANN: Although this is still well below the radar screen and it can‘t become official until they have finished the first count, there is almost certainly going to be a recount in Ohio. Is that a useful thing, in your opinion, and would it be settling the doubts of those two in 10?
ZOGBY: Oh, I think it certainly is useful, but I don‘t it‘s enough.
I called this election for months the Armageddon election.
And, in that context, one of the things that we discovered throughout our polling was the fact that there were going to be significant numbers on both sides who were not going to accept the legitimacy of the other guy winning, especially if it was a close election. So I don‘t think that it is sufficient right now with one candidate winning 51 percent of the vote to say, hey, look, I‘ve got political capital, and, really, to heck with the other half of the nation. I‘m going to do what I‘m going to do.
Regardless of who the victor is, I think it is in the interests of the nation that we study what happened in this election and widen that. Let‘s study what happened with the exit polls. And let‘s come out with the definitive conclusions by a blue-ribbon panel to restore the legitimacy of this election. I saw the polling numbers today that you just related earlier; 79, 80 percent said that Bush is legitimate. But, Keith, 20 percent don‘t think that the president is legitimate.
And worse yet, if you take other half, those who didn‘t vote for him, that‘s about half of the other side that doesn‘t think that the president is legitimate. That just hasn‘t existed for a long, long time in our system. We need to restore, I think, some semblance of legitimacy and honor to the system.
OLBERMANN: To that 20 percent, to those people who are asking questions, to those people covering the asking of the questions, can you reassure them that they‘re not crazy for asking?
Yes, I mean, I can reassure them that they‘re not crazy for asking. It‘s not just those who are far out. It is indeed many respectable, responsible people, many thousands. Here‘s my opportunity, in fact, to answer the thousands of people who are e-mailing me to get involved in this. I can‘t even answer all of them one at a time. So I‘ll take this opportunity right now to say, I think that it is in the interests of healing this country and restoring some unity to this country for us to have a thorough investigation of what happened, both to the election and with the exit polls.
I think that the gentlemen who are responsible for the exit polls should be fully transparent, release their data, discuss their methodology, let us see exactly what it is that happened and why it happened.
OLBERMANN: Knowing statistics, knowing polling, knowing politics, as you do, do you think there was anything amiss, whether it was accidental or intentional?
ZOGBY: I don‘t think on a grand scale, Keith. But I do think that any system is not geared for a close election like this. And when my polls and the poll of others show that 9 percent don‘t think that their vote was counted accurately, 11, 12 percent of some subgroups, that‘s many millions of people.
OLBERMANN: Pollster John Zogby of Zogby International, great thanks again, sir.
ZOGBY: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: I mentioned the Ohio recount tonight, a legal decision that would affect not whether it happens, but when it would begin. A federal judge has denied the Green and Libertarian Party‘s bid for a preliminary injunction that would force the state to start the recount early enough that it would be completed before December 7. That is the day Ohio‘s electors are certified to vote at the Electoral College.
The Glibs are considering an appeal. Whether or not they get it, as Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell told Howard Fineman of “Newsweek” and MSNBC last night, there will in fact be a recount in Ohio.
There is already one in New Hampshire. And so far the state is getting straight A-pluses. Recounts have been completed in three of the nine localities requested by independent candidate Ralph Nader. So far, the two counts differ by only 15 votes. The work in two wards of Manchester, New Hampshire, and the town of Litchfield, New Hampshire, have covered more than 12,000 ballots.
A software company owner convinced Nader to file for the recount after John Kerry led exit polling by double digits, but won the state vote by just 1.3 percent. Her interpretation of the data suggested unexplained voting fluctuations in areas with optical scan voting. So far, that fluctuation is at a rate of .0013.
A bomb found on a plane in Iraq, security stepped up at the airport as the U.S. renews warnings to travelers. And a burglar breaks into the home of Ozzy Osbourne. Now he is pleading with the public to help him get his family‘s stolen goods back. At least we think that‘s what he said. That‘s ahead.
Now here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three sound bites of this day.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because Crayola is America‘s Crayon, we wanted to give our country its own special pallet of Crayon colors.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like Arizona‘s Grand Tanyon, Delaware‘s First State Fuchsia, Maryland‘s Francis Scott Kiwi.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How about Pikes Peak Purple? Where do you think that is from?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pittsburgh.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Close.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The first thing Maggie (ph), Cricket (ph) and Mimi
(ph) saw when they hatched, Nancy and Alan Townsend. And a duck and two
geese have been human ever since, walking single file around Birkdale
Village in their diapers
NANCY TOWNSEND, PET OWNER: And they live in the house and they travel in our R.V.
ALAN TOWNSEND, PET OWNER: She like cartoons. She likes golf.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE TODAY SHOW”)
MATT LAUER, CO-HOST, “THE TODAY SHOW”: The whole Ron Artest thing, what happened in the basketball game, what would you do as an owner if that happened with your team?
JON BON JOVI, MUSICIAN: Well, I think it is a contradiction, because I would fire the guy. I would just out-and-out fire him.
So I have a no-thug rule. Honestly, I threw a guy off the team simply for getting in trouble like that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: U.S. troops working to stay a step ahead of the insurgents in Iraq, and a bomb discovered on board a plane there. And Ozzy Osbourne says he‘s lucky to be alive after fighting off an intruder.
OLBERMANN: One-hundred and fifty-six, the number of political parties now officially running candidates for office in Iraq. That‘s so far. Party registration is open until mid-December.
Our No. 2 story tonight, two months to the election and so much to do on the ground there. When U.S. troops when into Fallujah, the insurgents largely fled, regrouping in surrounding areas. So, today, 5,000 coalition troops launching a new offensive against the militants, conducing house raids in several towns south of Baghdad.
Back in Fallujah, U.S. troops uncovered a cache of weapons, including a 500-pound bomb, 200 mortars and unexploded rockets. In the capital, a homemade bomb found on a commercial air flight means that travelers there will now be subjected to extra screening at the Baghdad Airport. And for the second time in a week, an Iraqi cleric has been assassinated. Sheik Ghalib Ali al-Zuhairi was ambushed by masked gunmen after he finished morning prayers at his mosque. He was a member of a group that has called for a boycott of those January national elections.
Making the transition now to the nightly entertainment news that is “Keeping Tabs.”
And on a public plea in England from rocker Ozzy Osbourne and his wife Sharon. The Osbourne family‘s latest reality TV appearance at this news conference. Burglars broke into the family mansion this week and stole nearly $2 million worth of jewelry, including sentimental items such as Sharon Osbourne‘s 10-karat wedding ring. The couple was home at the time of the break-in.
But rather than describe the confrontation myself, Geraint Vincent of our British affiliated network ITV was all over this story and he even has wicked cool artist‘s renderings.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GERAINT VINCENT, ITV REPORTER: Ozzy woke up to go to the toilet in the middle of the night. He wandered into Sharon‘s dressing room and saw something moving. When he noticed the room was in disarray, he realized they were being burgled. The 55-year-old rocker dived on to the intruder and grabbed him a headlock. But as the burglar dangled out of the window, he broke free, dropping 30 feet to make his escape.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Marvel Comics meets the news.
From the ridiculous to the, well, something. Ah, as they say, the power of cheese, $28,000 for a 10-year-old sandwich. The lucky seller joins us next.
OLBERMANN: A brief correction. It‘s Bow, now Bow, New Hampshire, from earlier in newsmakers.
And the grilled cheese sandwich is done, the special grilled cheese sandwich, the one whose owner says it bears the image of the Virgin Mary.
Our No. 1 story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, $28,000 for grilled cheese. Man, this inflation is killing me. That‘s how much at an eBay auction that closed last night an online casino paid for this. They might have done it for the publicity. I‘m just taking a wild stab there.
The sandwich is 10 years old. It has a bit taken out of it. And there are T-shirts now with its picture on it.
Soon to get a lot of those little green bills with the pictures of the presidents on them is the woman who made and sold that sandwich, Diana Duyser.
Ms. Duyser, good evening. Thanks for your time.
DIANA DUYSER, GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICH SELLER: Good evening.
OLBERMANN: Have you gotten this money yet?
DUYSER: Yes. We‘re going to get a check tomorrow.
OLBERMANN: And I assume there‘s going to be a ceremony in which the sandwich is handed over. Is that correct?
DUYSER: Yes, a ceremony at the Hard Rock in Hollywood, Florida.
GoldenPalace.com is going to hand me the check tomorrow.
OLBERMANN: And there is the sandwich.
Now, eBay had stopped the bidding originally because they thought this was a joke. A lot of people have made jokes about it. Were you offended when they made jokes about it?
DUYSER: At first, but it doesn‘t bother me anymore. I mean, look who‘s laughing now.
OLBERMANN: Tell me about when you realized that this was no ordinary grilled cheese sandwich. How did you—what were the circumstances?
DUYSER: Well, I knew from the moment I seen the face that it wasn‘t any normal grilled cheese.
So I had, you know, hollered for my husband. And he was, you know, like, scared, too. We didn‘t know what to do, so we put her in a—and my father gave me a plastic box to put her in, so we kept her for all this time.
OLBERMANN: And by her, you mean the sandwich?
DUYSER: Yes. I refer to her as a her.
OLBERMANN: But, obviously, you didn‘t recognize the face until you had already taken the bite out of it. Did that sort of alarm you after the fact, that you‘d already bitten into this thing?
DUYSER: Well, I didn‘t see it until after I bit into it. And then I spit out the piece that I didn‘t want to eat.
OLBERMANN: Now, you had this—her, the sandwich, for a decade. Why did you wait until now to auction her off?
DUYSER: Well, I had a lot of things going on in my life. I had my mother to take care of and my father. My mother passed away and my father did, too. And I have the time now to spend on it. So I wanted to get rid of her.
OLBERMANN: Have you made other grilled cheese sandwiches since that be one?
DUYSER: Many. Many, many. Nothing.
OLBERMANN: Any of them special in any way? Nothing?
OLBERMANN: Not even particularly tasty ones or just—they‘re just ordinary sandwiches?
DUYSER: Well, some are pretty good, but nothing like that.
OLBERMANN: About the buyer. If that really is a picture of her on it, does it trouble you that you sold the Virgin Mary to an online casino?
DUYSER: No, because they‘re going to take her and they‘re going to do good. They‘re going to go on a worldwide—you know, first of all, they‘re going to start in the country. Then they‘re going to go probably on a worldwide trip with her. So—and everybody will get to see her. So this is what I want. That‘s what I want.
Diana Duyser, thanks for sharing some of your time tonight.
DUYSER: OK. Thank you very much.
OLBERMANN: If not sharing your sandwich.
Well, anyway, that‘s COUNTDOWN. By the way, that‘s how Lourdes (ph) started.
Thanks for being part of it. I‘m Keith Olbermann. Good night and good sandwich.
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