Guest: Jay Sekulow, Pam Bondi, Joe Tacopina, Drew Pinsky, John Avlon, Jennifer Giroux, Michael Newdow, Armstrong Williams
JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST: Tonight‘s top headline: The White House pays off a talk show host to push its agenda on the air.
Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, where no passport is required and only common sense is allowed.
The Bush administration shoves $240,000 into Armstrong Williams‘ pockets to push their No Child Left Behind program, leaving Democrats to demand a refund, while taxpayers are left holding the bill.
And your teenage son may be at risk, as more sex-crazed female teachers target youngsters. Why are so many female teachers turning into sexual predators?
Plus, the same atheist who tried to take God out of the pledge is now fighting in the courts to ban Jesus from this month‘s inauguration. But has he gone so far as to compare an inaugural prayer to the September 11 attacks?
ANNOUNCER: From the press room, to the courtroom, to the halls of Congress, Joe Scarborough has seen it all. Welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, the Bush administration pays a journalist almost a quarter of a million dollars to push its controversial education agenda. It‘s time for tonight‘s “Real Deal.”
Now, the “USA Today” reported this morning that conservative columnist and radio talk show host Armstrong Williams was paid $240,000 to promote the president‘s No Child Left Behind Act and to give Education Secretary Rod Paige face time on his programs. Williams was also played to use his influence with other black journalists in promoting the Bush agenda when it came to education.
Now, Armstrong, good to his word, wrote columns supporting the act in his Tribune media column on January 7, March the 1st, May the 14th, and May the 24th. He also gave the education secretary the face time on his programs that he promised.
Now, listen, for you conservatives who always complain when I question the policy of my fellow Republicans, let me ask you this question. How would you respond if you learned that Ted Kennedy‘s Senate office used tax dollars to pay Dan Rather $240,000 to shamelessly promote the Abu Ghraib prison scandal? You would raise hell. And you‘d demand accountability. And so am I. The same has got to be done in this instance.
You know, Armstrong Williams has long been respected in the conservative community. And I say how he uses his influence and how he risks his reputation is between him and his God. However, the White House and the education bureaucracy in Washington, well, how they decide to use your tax dollars is a matter of my business and your business.
Paying reporters and columnists to flack for a centralized government scheme seems to confirm the worst fears of Hyatt (ph), Friedman (ph) and Reagan. Oh, yes, it also seems to confirm what Al Franken, Janeane Garofalo and David Brooks have been saying about the right-wing media being extensions of the White House.
Now, what Tribune Services does to Armstrong Williams is their business. But tonight, I‘m calling for the inspector general of the federal Department of Education to conduct an immediate investigation and get to the bottom of this taxpayer-funded scandal. Americans need to know who approved this payoff and that bureaucrat had better be held accountable.
I‘m telling you, friends, this is dangerous new territory. And it‘s tonight‘s “Real Deal.”
Now, later on, we‘re going to be talking to Armstrong Williams. We booked him this morning when the program first broke.
But, first, we‘re going to go to James Hattori in Sri Lanka. He‘s got the latest news on the tsunami—James, what do you got?
JAMES HATTORI, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Secretary of State Powell met with officials in Colombo, then took a helicopter tour of the southern coast of Sri Lanka, where he saw fishing boats washed up onshore, homes and hotels leveled by the tsunami. The tourism industry has taken a big hit.
Later, he visited a school which has been converted to a shelter for homeless. And afterwards, he vowed more help is coming.
COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: American U.S. Agency for International Development personnel are hard at work delivering food assistance, medical assistance, providing shelter. And we‘re going to do more.
HATTORI (voice-over): Over on Indonesia‘s Sumatra Island, U.S. Secretary-General Kofi Annan took a firsthand look at damage today. One of the areas he overflew, Meulaboh, near the epicenter of the quake, where one-third of the population of 120,000 was killed.
Officials believe 20,000 people in the area are still in desperate need. They are not even close to knowing a final tally of the dead and missing. In southern India, more dramatic pictures of the tsunami, these taken by a 16-year-old boy on vacation with his family in Tamil Nadu. You can see waves as big as 30 feet crashing across a memorial site where the family was waiting for a ferry. Homes along the shore were inundated. The family did manage to escape safely and survive.
(on camera): Meantime, experts in Thailand continue to try to identify some of the thousands of bodies of tourists that were killed in the tsunami. It‘s the biggest forensic job ever undertaken.
James Hattori, NBC News, Galle, Sri Lanka.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, thanks a lot, James.
You know, 7,000 more names were added to the Indonesian death toll today, taking the total number to more than 100,000 people. Now, most people perished in the Banda Aceh region, where U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan visited today.
John Irvine with our European partner ITN was there. And he has this report.
JOHN IRVINE, ITN REPORTER (voice-over): Today, those who could make it through the muck and rubble went to the mosques that could take them. And during Friday prayers, worshipers were told that God had sent the tsunami as punishment, in the same way he‘d sent the flood in the time of Noah.
Rarely can a people be tested in such an appalling way and yet how stoically they‘ve responded. This girl was cleaning the family‘s van because they thought they could get it back on the road.
(on camera): Good luck.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good luck. OK. Thank you very much.
IRVINE: The tsunami refugees, the homeless of this city are no longer enduring food or water shortages. They have shelter and they have clothes, thanks to the world‘s response to all of this. In some places, there is even a little entertainment for the children.
They have been clearing up the city center first. However, it remains a place of incongruous sights, a surreal world. But, by the standard of elsewhere, it‘s in good shape, for most buildings are intact. In some neighborhoods, the people will bounce back relatively quickly. They may be living in a quagmire, but at least their houses are still here.
And then finally, there are other places where nature seemingly sought to bring all man‘s work tumbling down and to annihilate everyone who called this home.
(on camera): Obviously, reconstruction is need on a huge scale. But if an area like this is rebuilt, will anybody want to come back and live in it again? There will be so many memories, so many ghosts.
John Irvine, ITV News, Banda Aceh, Indonesia.
SCARBOROUGH: Thank you, John. I‘ll tell you what. He‘s been doing some remarkable work, as has everybody with ITN.
Now, almost two weeks ago, the tsunami devastated an entire section of the globe. The heart-wrenching images have made a lot of people ask the question, how could a loving God allow something so horrible to happen.
Jennifer Giroux of Women Influencing the Nation is here. And Michael Newdow, who is an atheist, attorney and an activist, is also with us tonight.
I want to start with you, Jennifer.
You‘ve been here this week and, to be quite honest, we‘ve gotten a lot of e-mail, more e-mail about this subject than probably any other subject in the past six months. And a lot of people are—well, quite frankly, they don‘t agree with you. And they don‘t agree with what John Irvine said in this package that a lot of Muslims over there that are praying said that God sent this tsunami as punishment.
All political correctness aside, give it to us straight, like you always have. Do you believe that God punishes people through natural disasters like this for their sins?
JENNIFER GIROUX, DIRECTOR, WOMEN INFLUENCING THE NATION: Well, first, Joe, I think a lot of people also agree with me. And some of the e-mails I‘ve been getting as well....
SCARBOROUGH: They do.
GIROUX: I‘ve gotten some negative and positive.
But I‘m going to tell you, I‘ve thought about this and continued to pray about it and studied it. And I do believe that God allows disasters to happen as a payment for evil. And we have all allowed evil to build up in this country and around the world, us as individuals, us as a country.
What I want to talk about for a second, Joe, is, this has been a very, very interesting year. You know, this time last year, the phenomenon of “The Passion of the Christ” took the country by storm, took the world by storm. And people couldn‘t believe you could walk down the hallway at work and everybody was talking about Jesus. And I had many people and many e-mails of people telling me that God is somehow using Mel Gibson and this movie to draw people to him as an additional chance, as a source of hope.
And I believe now we can look at “The Passion” in a different way and apply it to what‘s going on.
GIROUX: Look at the scene, for instance—death is a very, very uncomfortable subject for everyone, for all of us. Look at the scene where the blessed mother presses her lips to the bloody feet of our lord and says, let me die with you.
All of us—I sobbed at that point, probably harder than I did in every movie, because death is a punishment. It is painful. It is the punishment from original sin.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, Jennifer, but you know what? What I‘m seeing in these e-mails are people saying we see pictures of young little children being swept out to sea, innocent people. Why are they being killed? Does Jennifer Giroux believe they‘re being killed because they don‘t believe in Jesus?
SCARBOROUGH: Does she believe they‘re being killed because their parents sinned? What sins have these young children committed to cause the sort of pain and suffering that they‘ve had to endure? And what loving God would kill these children like this?
GIROUX: Well, Joe, let me tell you, I don‘t believe these children committed sins. Most of them are so young, they weren‘t even able to commit sins.
But, historically speaking, the good have suffered with the not good, with the sinful. And this is a tough concept, Joe, but I‘m going to throw it out there. Sometimes, the most merciful moment is when God takes us to heaven with him. And that is a tough theological thought. But I will tell you that the most providential moment in all of our lives and one which no one can avoid, king, Castro, bad or good people, is the moment of death.
And this blows the mind of people that don‘t believe in God or can‘t understand God, because God‘s ways are not our ways. And I am not being dispassionate or not sympathetic to what‘s going on. It could be us as well as anybody else on the other side of the world. But, historically speaking, things have started to pick up in the environment.
Since 1989, the United States has seen seven of its 10 greatest disasters. And, Joe, I‘m not a doom-and-gloom person, because I believe God gives us hope. But a lot of Christians feel we have not seen anything yet.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, Michael Newdow, let me bring you in here.
There have been a lot of Christians that have come out and said that this is a cause of an unbelieving people. And yet the Middle East Research Institute, which translates Arab television, found the head, the person in charge of the Islamic relief effort in Mecca saying this—quote—“This disaster is a warning from Allah to all those who went to those places and their sinning peers to serve as a lesson and a warning for them.”
So, Michael, you not only have Christians on this side of the globe saying that an angry got caused this disaster to happen. You actually have Muslim leaders that are in charge of the relief effort telling these people, you died because you upset God. What‘s your response?
MICHAEL NEWDOW, ATTORNEY/ACTIVIST: Well, I mean, you know, everybody has their own view. I can only express mine. And mine is that there is no God. There‘s natural disasters and they‘re horrible and we try to learn to live with them.
I find a lot of inconsistencies in what the religious people are trying to do. We don‘t know the will of God, yet we spend all day telling each other the will of God. This is a benign, benevolent God and yet we lost 150,000 people. It doesn‘t make sense to me, but everybody has to decide for themselves.
SCARBOROUGH: Let me read something else from the Middle East Research Institute, also translated, an adviser to a Saudi justice minister saying:
“Whoever reads the Koran given by the maker of the world can see how these nations were destroyed. There is one reason. They lied. They sinned and they were infidels.”
Jennifer Giroux, what‘s your response?
GIROUX: Joe, I think I have to point out here that the chief rabbi in Israeli agreed that this is a warning to all of us. And I have to clarify this.
I am not saying those people on the other side of the world deserve this. I am saying all of us are sinners. God has given us all a wakeup call. It is very sad and tragic that it hurt there. But Catholic bishops and Jewish rabbis and Muslim leaders are all saying that this is a warning to all of us.
And it is very sad and I am very, very compassionate to those that are grieving over there, the children that are orphans, the children that are being exploited. All of that is terrible. But not just the Muslim leaders are saying this. A lot of other leaders are saying this.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, Jennifer Giroux, thank you so much for being with us. As always, we greatly appreciate it.
I saw the shot of that poor young boy swallowed up by the wave, so heartbreaking.
Michael Newdow, stick around. We‘ll be back with you.
We‘re also going to be talking to Armstrong Williams when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.
SCARBOROUGH: The Bush administration is paying a talk show host to push its agenda. Is that proper strategy or illegal propaganda? We‘re going to get the inside scoop when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.
SCARBOROUGH: Now, here‘s the picture again, this young boy that we saw before being overwhelmed by the tsunami waves. Just absolute disaster. It‘s—the scope of this is just so hard for people. I‘ve spoken with people on the ground there. They just can‘t even begin to explain the devastation and the heartache, and, of course, seeing that young boy being taken away by the wave.
Now, if you believe that this wave, this earthquake, this wave, this disaster, was caused by God, if you will, go ahead and vote on our online poll. You can vote at Joe.MSNBC.com. Do you believe that the tsunami was caused by God, was God‘s will? That‘s Joe.MSNBC.com. As I said, the e-mails have been flooding in all week. It‘s obviously an issue that has divided a lot of people of faith and a lot of atheists, too.
From that sad story to a story of Washington sleaze. I want you to picture this for a second. Bill Clinton is president. Hillary‘s pushing her health care plan. And to promote it, the Clinton administration hires CBS News to create made-for-TV videos that look like news stories to tout new legislation. Unthinkable?
Well, the Bush administration, no great friend of journalists, actually paid radio talk show host Armstrong Williams a quarter of a million dollars to promote the controversial No Child Left Behind education reform law.
Does this constitute flat-out propaganda and is it even legal? Democrats on Capitol Hill want some answers. And here to talk about it is John Avlon of “The New York Sun” and I believe—do we still not have Armstrong Williams? OK. I guess Armstrong didn‘t like our “Real Deal” tonight, because we booked him early this morning. He was with us all day. I guess he just got up and walked.
So, John, I‘ll talk to you.
SCARBOROUGH: John, we usually agree with each other. Some would say we‘re to the center-right as reporters, as journalists, as columnists. Am I off-base here or has the Bush administration and Armstrong Williams engaged in a dangerous, sleazy practice here?
JOHN AVLON, AUTHOR, “INDEPENDENT NATION”: Absolutely.
This is inexcusably bad judgment on the part of Armstrong Williams and the White House. I mean, taking a quarter of a million dollars of taxpayers‘ money to try to spin the news cycle, it is a scandal. And it‘s part of the function of this partisanship that‘s taken over the news industry.
We‘ve got these talking heads acting like they‘re fully-owned operatives of one political party or the other and all of a sudden we start to start to find out the line is blurred. It‘s an outrage.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, the thing is, a lot of you would say, well, you write for a conservative paper. You write conservative columns. I certainly have during the campaign would be called a center-right reporter.
But, at the same time, could you even—could you ever imagine taking money from a politician to promote a position? Because I just I can‘t even imagine doing that. That‘s about as low and sleazy as it goes. You‘re prostituting yourself, first of all.
AVLON: That‘s right.
SCARBOROUGH: And, secondly, you‘re betraying your readers‘ trust.
This breaks every commandment of journalism there is. We get paid to voice an opinion, to take a stand, to fight the good fight as we see it. But the understanding is, also, that we‘re not being paid. We‘re not prostituting ourselves for public opinion. This is an absolute violation of every ethical order.
And people should be outraged. And you pointed out in your “Real Deal” if the Democrats were doing this, Republicans would be screaming bloody murder. So, if folks on that side decide to sit this one out or try to make excuses just because it‘s from their team, well, they‘re open to accusations of hypocrisy.
SCARBOROUGH: Yes, you‘re exactly right.
Now, let‘s look at what the Democrats have said. A letter today was sent to the president signed by Senators Kennedy, Reid and Lautenberg. And it reads in part—quote—“In addition to recovering these funds, we would urge you to disclose if any other journalists have been paid by your administration to skew their media reports in favor of your initiatives, proposals or political messages. For example, have any journalists or any media organizations been paid by your administration to promote your Social Security privatization plan or otherwise promote the idea of a crisis in Social Security?”
Democrats are going to have fun with this. And you know what? It‘s the Republicans‘ own fault. This is one of the stupidest things I‘ve ever heard. What can taxpayers do, what should reporters do to get to the bottom of this scandal?
AVLON: Well, I think there should be full disclosure. And if we find out this goes deeper and throughout the campaign or throughout the first term, there was a practice in compensating journalists, well, that is an outrage. And the American people should be furious about it.
I have a feeling this probably doesn‘t go much deeper, but that may be partially hopeful on my part. Look, this is part of what happens when partisanship and polarization take over the media. And this is a symptom of that. This is a cause of that. And this is a real example of the cost of it. And we‘re all implicated and we should take action and be outraged.
SCARBOROUGH: You know, a guy I served with on the Education Committee, George Miller, still on the Education Committee, he said he believed that there may actually be some criminal activity related here.
Just dissecting this, I don‘t know. Obviously, Armstrong Williams has shown horrendous judgment. Can you think of any way that the White House or the Department of Education has broken a law here?
AVLON: Look, the line between unethical and illegal, I‘m not sure where that is on that. And I think we want to be careful before we start throwing those kind of accusations around.
But it sure doesn‘t pass the smell test. And that should have been enough from the get-go to stop them from going down this path on both sides, from the White House communications side and from Armstrong Williams‘ side. Somebody left their common sense at the door. And there should be repercussions.
SCARBOROUGH: Yes, and picked up a big check because of it.
Now, according to the story in the “USA Today,” the Education Department hired Ketchum P.R. firm, which in turn hired Williams to push the education reform program pushed by Bush. “The campaign, part of an effort to promote No Child Left Behind, required commentator Armstrong Williams to regularly comment on No Child Left Behind in the course of his radio broadcasts and to interview Education Secretary Rod Paige for TV and radio spots that aired during the show during 2004.”
And I also mentioned that this guy writes for Tribune Media Services.
Should they fire him?
AVLON: There needs to be accountability on this. This is unacceptable.
SCARBOROUGH: If you were running a newspaper and you found out that a columnist that wrote for you was getting paid by a politician to push an agenda, would you fire him?
AVLON: Gone. Done.
SCARBOROUGH: No question about this, is there?
SCARBOROUGH: What if you were running a radio station and you found out that somebody that was on an on-air talent, didn‘t matter how far right or how far left they were, but you found out that they were paid by a politician to push an agenda. Would you fire them?
AVLON: It‘s a firing offense. If this was happening in Huey Long‘s Louisiana or some big city and the political boss was paying off the pundits, that‘s the standard we‘re looking at here and it should be clear across the board.
SCARBOROUGH: I think you‘re exactly right, John.
John, you know what? That‘s why I love having you on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, because, again, I think our politics are similar. But I could invite nine out of 10 conservatives, conservative moderates, and they‘d flack for the administration. Or they‘d cover for Armstrong Williams. You know what? We have got to hold Republicans and Democrats to the same standard. That‘s what journalism is about. It‘s about telling the truth, even when it hurts.
John, thanks for being with us.
AVLON: Pleasure. Thank you.
SCARBOROUGH: I wish Armstrong would have been here to debate you. But, apparently, he was afraid of John and he was afraid of facing up to the music tonight. We‘re going to ask him to come on Monday and see if he wants to be here.
Hey, listen, you need to read “Independent Nation.” It‘s a book that John wrote. It‘s a great read. And, again, he talks about a lot of things in that book that we‘ve been talking about here tonight.
Now, coming up next, four new cases of female teachers charged with having sex with their students. I‘m telling you, it‘s like an epidemic, one that we didn‘t have when I was in high school. But it‘s still an epidemic. We‘re going to find out what‘s going wrong here right after the break.
SCARBOROUGH: The latest in a string of pretty young teachers turning into sexual predators. I mean, it just keeps happening. That story in a minute.
But, first, let‘s get the latest headlines from the MSNBC News Desk.
SCARBOROUGH: You know, I can‘t believe it, Joe (ph). Back when I was in high school, you didn‘t have like these blonde 20- and 30-year-old like teachers going after you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, we had like Mrs. Genaro (ph), who was like older than my grandmother.
SCARBOROUGH: Yes, 95.
SCARBOROUGH: You know, we joke about it. You know what it‘s called, though?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pedophilia. There‘s a problem here.
Teacher-student sex is all the rage these days. First it was Mary Kay Letourneau. She of course was the teacher convicted of having sex with a sixth grade pupil. She was sent to jail for rape and now, oddly enough, she is reunited with her younger lover.
And remember Debbie Lafave, who made national headlines for having a sexual encounter with a 14-year-old student? Well, the phenomenon keeps going. In the past week, four different women have been charged with similar crimes. There‘s been Jenae Wilson (ph), a 31-year-old teacher in Texas, who was arrested for having sex with a 16-year-old male student.
Sarah Bench-Salorio, 28, of Orange County, California, was arrested and charged with 20 counts of lewd acts on child 14 years old. Melissa Deel, a 32-year-old middle school teacher in Virginia, she was slapped with felony charges for allegedly having oral sex with one of her 13-year-old students.
And now a female volleyball coach in Wisconsin is facing felony charges for a sexual relationship she had with one of her 16-year-old players. That‘s four child molestations in a week. It‘s got a lot of parents asking what in the world is going on in school.
With me now is defense attorney Joe Tacopina, Florida state prosecutor Pam Bondi. And we‘ve got Drew Pinsky. He‘s the author of “Cracked:
Putting Broken Lives Back Together.”
Dr. Drew, I got to go to you first.
We‘re joking about it here, which brings up an interesting point. When men have sex with 13- or 14-year-old women, they‘re beasts—or girls -- they‘re beasts. When these older women have sex with young men, some people chuckle and say, well, you know what? Lucky kid. Well, it still has the possibility of destroying this young man‘s life, doesn‘t it?
DR. DREW PINSKY, AUTHOR, “CRACKED”: Absolutely.
If you look at the data on the young males who have been victimized by older females, the data is awful. They tend to come out with antisocial personality disorders, depression, substance abuse, and even suicide.
I had the opportunity to watch some footage on Mary Kay Letourneau‘s young man. And you should hear him. He just goes, well, now I got kids. What are you going to do?
His life is going to be completely destroyed. He‘s using substances. He‘s been depressed. He‘s in treatment. This has a profound effect. And the laws are absolutely right. They‘re there to protect the kids, because this does have such a profound effect on them. The basic covenant of our society is unraveling, big people taking care of little people. When those boundaries are violated, particularly by people in authority, it has a profound effect on young people.
SCARBOROUGH: What‘s happening here with women? We‘ve never heard about female teachers victimizing young men.
SCARBOROUGH: Do you think it‘s always happened?
PINSKY: Well, I don‘t think it‘s always happened, but it‘s certainly been around in my clinical practice.
And the fact is that there are really three common diagnoses in these women. The women themselves were often victimized as children. So, the same child who our heart is going out for now becomes the victimizer of the future about 60 percent of the time. The other thing is addiction and then bipolar disorder. Those are the three diagnoses, trauma in childhood, substance abuse, bipolarity. Those are the things we typically see in people that behave like this.
SCARBOROUGH: Joe Tacopina, I know you‘re a defense attorney, but I‘ll you what. As the father of two young teenage guys, I think these women should be treated just as harshly by the criminal justice system as men. What do we do with them?
JOE TACOPINA, TRIAL ATTORNEY: Joe, and as a father of five, I tend to agree with you. Defense attorney aside, I‘m also a former prosecutor and I‘m a human being.
And when you have an adult—forget gender, when you have an adult sexually abuse a minor, someone who‘s not legally capable of giving content, you know, they have to be treated with the heaviest hand that the law can provide. But one thing we need to make sure we don‘t do is have that knee-jerk reaction that we tend to do when we feel viscerally upset.
And the doctor just pointed some things out, Joe, regarding the potential for a mental defect. And without giving excuses where there may be none, in this instance, we have to make sure we‘re not criminalizing a person who is mentally ill and making sure that, if that‘s the case, they‘re treated differently.
SCARBOROUGH: But don‘t you know, though, Joe, that judges are going to be looking—if you have a young, attractive blonde like Mary Kay Letourneau, judges are going to be looking for excuses to cut them slack, whereas, a 45-year-old man who molests a 13-year-old girl, he goes, Judge, forgive me, I‘ve got bipolar disorder, that guy‘s going to jail for 30 years.
TACOPINA: Yes, Joe, you happen to be right, quite frankly. Let‘s call it like it is.
There is not that same sense of visceral disgust. There just isn‘t, right wrong or indifferent. I don‘t think it‘s right. But you‘re right. It‘s the way it is. It‘s not—if the roles were reversed and we had a male teacher and a female student, 14-year-old, you see the headlines when that happens. They‘re called beasts and predators.
Here, they‘re just called teachers. So you‘re right about that. And
· but you have to apply the law across the board equally. And, you know, I think that‘s—you just have to keep plowing ahead in that regard.
SCARBOROUGH: Mary Kay Letourneau, now 42 and out of prison, said this about her relationship with her young lover: “I just can‘t imagine traveling and seeing something without him, learning together, being with him, supporting him for what he would like to do in this life.”
Dr. Drew, what‘s wrong with this lady?
PINSKY: Well, she‘s got some problems. This relationship is going to go down in flames, if they‘re not careful.
The problem here is, though, it‘s not it‘s hard to not to support them staying together, because there are now children involved. There is a family unit here that we have to try to protect as well. The young male‘s life is completely turned upside down and destroyed. There‘s a relationship that is not what you would call healthy. But we do have kids involved here. What do we do? How do we solve these kinds of problems? I don‘t know.
Now, here‘s a conversation between a 24-year-old Florida teacher Debbie Lafave, and the 14-year-old student with whom she had sex. Take a listen.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi. So what time are you planning on heading over?
DEBRA LAFAVE, DEFENDANT: Are you sure? Like I just feel—I mean I don‘t want you lying to your mom. I mean it‘s like...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, it‘s all right. She‘s gone in a sales meeting like all day.
LAFAVE: You‘re sure?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
LAFAVE: Pinky promise.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
LAFAVE: Say pinky promise.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pinky promise.
LAFAVE: All right, well, tell me a time.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: I don‘t want you to lie to your mom, but I‘m going to have sex with you.
Pam Bondi, this happened in your state. This happened in my state. It‘s happening all over the country. What do you say to parents like myself about a criminal justice system that obviously is not sending a strong enough message to these female teachers that they can‘t get away with being sexual predators?
PAM BONDI, FLORIDA PROSECUTOR: Joe, you‘re right. I mean, there‘s nothing funny about this at all.
A sexual predator is a sexual predator. And that‘s one of the toughest times we have a prosecutor, is this double standard. If this was a man, he would be called a sexual predator. And these women are in positions of trust. They are teaching our children. And one example is, I mean, one of these teachers that was recently arrested taught the boy reading. He was still learning how to read.
And, as prosecutors, we treat all these cases the same. The toughest part is finding a jury who feels the same way we do.
SCARBOROUGH: Thank you. And, unfortunately, a judge, also—let me ask you, Dr. Drew Pinsky, what advice do you have for parents watching this show tonight, seeing the news that there have been four incidences of female teachers having sex with their students? How do you get them to talk to you and say, you know, are you being treated OK at school? Is anything going on there that we need to know about?
PINSKY: You just try to open an open dialogue of conversation.
There‘s good evidence scientifically that, between the ages of 8 and 12, if you establish that dialogue, it will carry on through young adolescence, when this kind of thing can occur. And they will talk to you about it. The fact is, the kinds of kids that tend to engage with these teachers tend to be at-risk youth. They tend to be kids who are already in trouble, who are already acting out, who are already seeking ways of sort of managing unpleasant feeling states.
They‘re good victims, so to speak. And the most important thing of all is, keep your family healthy. Focus on your kids. Give them communication. Stay on top of what‘s going on at school. This is not an epidemic. This is something that is out there. It‘s been growing because those people who have been sexually abused have about a 60 percent probability of going out and abusing themselves.
So it will continue to grow. We need to create very stringent standards to make sure there is structure around this behavior. And parents need to be on top of their kids.
SCARBOROUGH: I‘m sorry. Go ahead, Dr. Drew Pinsky.
PINSKY: It‘s just about doing the parenting, just being on top of things.
SCARBOROUGH: Dr. Drew, thank you.
And, Joe Tacopina, I‘m going to ask you a final question. You know about the criminal justice system. You‘ve worked both sides of it before. What do we need to do as voters, as citizens to make sure this type of behavior is treated equally for female teachers and male teachers alike?
TACOPINA: Well, I think that voters and citizens, we need to make sure that we elect public officials who are going to apply the law as harshly to a female as they would to a male, because, quite frankly, I—removing myself as a lawyer, just as a person, I think it‘s just as horrific, because what the doctor said makes perfect sense.
It may sound cool. And maybe when you were in eighth grade, it would have been a great thought to have. But the effect that we could have going forward on these children, the depression—they will not ever have normal lives. They‘ve been sexually abused. And female or male, that‘s something that changes, for the most part, changes the future for anyone.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, thanks so much, Joe, Pam, and Dr. Drew. We greatly appreciate you being here tonight to talk about this important subject.
Now, my next guest says that a prayer at the inaugural ball resembles the 9/11 attack, and he‘s here to explain that claim right after the break.
SCARBOROUGH: My next guest decided to file a lawsuit against the United States government because—quote—“A minister chosen by the president will deliver an invocation during the presidential inauguration,” this from the same man who sued to get God out of the Pledge of Allegiance.
We‘re joined again by Michael Newdow, who wants to prevent a prayer from being said during the upcoming inauguration. Also here is Jay Sekulow from the American Center For Law and Justice.
Michael, let me begin with you and ask you, what‘s wrong with a minister praying to God if that‘s what a president wants him to do?
NEWDOW: Well, let me just first say, especially in view of what—the Armstrong Williams issue, President Bush is going to be swearing to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. And I think he‘s very upset and torn because he has—on the one hand, that‘s what he‘s swearing to do and then on the other hand he‘s bringing in, in religion into the inauguration, and that tears at his heart.
SCARBOROUGH: What president has not done that over the past 220 years?
NEWDOW: I just want you to understand that President Bush actually called me and he‘s given me $240,000 to bring this lawsuit.
SCARBOROUGH: God bless you.
NEWDOW: Thought I‘d let you know.
SCARBOROUGH: Seriously, have you ever read George Washington‘s farewell address to the nation?
NEWDOW: Sure. And the establishment clause, too.
SCARBOROUGH: Yes, and all the references to—all the references to God that‘s contained in that?
NEWDOW: He didn‘t bring in a chaplain.
And Lee v. Weisman, the 1992 case, said you can‘t bring in chaplains to governmental events, at least in school. And they actually distinguish that case vs. Marsh v. Chambers, the case with legislative prayer. And they‘ve come out repeatedly. Justice Scalia says that you can‘t give access, preferential access, to a forum that no one else can have in a manner like this.
SCARBOROUGH: Michael Newdow, you have brought up a very good point that I want to bring up with Jay Sekulow.
Now, Jay, it amazed me that we would raise hell on the House floor. We‘ve taken prayer out of school. We‘ve taken the Ten Commandments out of public buildings. We‘ve done all of these and yet we have started Congress with a prayer.
JAY SEKULOW, CHIEF COUNSEL, AMERICAN CENTER FOR LAW AND JUSTICE:
Well, not only did we...
SCARBOROUGH: They start the Supreme Court session with a prayer.
SCARBOROUGH: Help me understand. Talk to me like a fourth grader, as we said in that movie. Help me understand. Why can‘t kids pray in school and yet we can have prayers at the inauguration?
SEKULOW: You know, well, two things on that point.
First, you mentioned George Washington. Actually, during Washington‘s
inaugural speech, when he was sworn in as our first president, he invoked -
· as our first president, he invoked define protection and define providence.
SCARBOROUGH: What about bringing in the chaplain that Michael Newdow talked about?
SEKULOW: Well, the Supreme Court of the United States—Michael was talking about the Supreme Court. And the Supreme Court said that paid chaplains giving prayers was constitutional.
And most recently, in the case that Michael brought involving the Pledge of Allegiance, it was Justice O‘Connor who said that it would be ironic indeed if a nation founded by religious refugees would sever the ties that bind it to that heritage, even binding it until today.
And I think that Michael has got the same uphill battle that he had in that pledge case. He‘s a very good lawyer, but he just doesn‘t have the right argument. The Supreme Court has recognized that prayers are not unconstitutional. In fact, students can pray in school.
What the government has said, in the school context, is that the school system itself can‘t be overly involved in that process.
But, Michael, this is not a public forum, like in a government place. This is the president‘s inaugural. The president has the right to ask a minister to give an invocation, like Congress does. And, in Marsh vs. Chambers, the Supreme Court said that, in this legislative and other bodies. And that would that include of course co-equal branches of government. But Michael here has actually sued the president.
SCARBOROUGH: Yes. I‘m laughing here, but...
NEWDOW: Can I respond?
SCARBOROUGH: Yes. I‘m laughing here because there‘s such hypocrisy, because, again, we don‘t allow prayer in school in so many cases, and yet we bring chaplains.
And, Michael, we bring chaplains to the United States Congress every day. That‘s a big deal.
NEWDOW: It was a ridiculous decision.
SCARBOROUGH: Yes, but you say it‘s unconstitutional.
NEWDOW: It is.
SCARBOROUGH: Congress does it every morning.
NEWDOW: And I think it was a ridiculous decision. I think many people think the same thing.
James Madison said it was unconstitutional. How‘s that for an authority? There‘s not a single statement in that case, Marsh v. Chambers, where they talk about the meaning of the establishment clause, because they can‘t. It‘s clearly unconstitutional.
NEWDOW: Give me a chance.
SEKULOW: Go ahead. Go ahead.
NEWDOW: OK. Thanks.
In another case in the year 2000, the Supreme Court also said—and this was a majority opinion—said that the religious liberty protected by the Constitution is abridged when the state affirmatively sponsors the particular religious practice of prayer. Here it is sponsoring it. That‘s abridging...
SCARBOROUGH: And, as I‘ve said before, also, it‘s also sponsored every single morning in the United States Congress. I want to read something from your complaint, where you claim that prayer makes a mockery of human achievement. This is what your complaint says. And I know it‘s going to flame a people out there.
“Acknowledgments of God remind plaintiff”—that‘s you—“of the myriad of wars fought by those convinced that their religious truth justified intolerance. They remind him”—that‘s you—“of September 11, 2001, when a fanatic and his religious followers turned four of our airplanes into bombs, murdering 3,000 of our citizens, all in the name of God.”
Are you comparing a prayer at an inauguration with the attacks on 9/11?
NEWDOW: That follows from Justice O‘Connor, who said that the only ways, the only ways reasonably possible in our culture to express confidence in the future, to solemnize public occasions, is to acknowledge her religion, this belief in God.
And I think that I think we should recognize that other people don‘t see it that way, that acknowledging God reminds us of these other things, as it reminded the framers, by the way.
SCARBOROUGH: Michael Newdow, Jay Sekulow, thanks a lot for being with us. We greatly appreciate it.
And we‘ll be right back.
SCARBOROUGH: Heads are finally starting to roll at the U.N. over the Iraqi food-for-oil scandal. We‘re going to tell you all about that Monday night in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.
But stay tuned. We‘ve got a lot more ahead.
SCARBOROUGH: We‘re back.
Jay Sekulow, we‘re crunched for time, but I want to give you the final thought, since you didn‘t get a chance to respond. Go ahead.
SEKULOW: Well, I‘ll tell you this.
First of all, I think Michael Newdow is going to lose this case. He‘s a good lawyer, but he‘s going to lose. He‘s on the wrong side of this. The invocation will take place at the inaugural, because the First Amendment allows that kind of religious acknowledgement, for government to acknowledge the religious heritage of our country. And it doesn‘t have to cleanse every religious reference from our society, which is what Michael is advocating here.
And, at the end of the day, I think he‘s—it‘s not only an uphill battle. He‘s got an impossible task. That prayer will be given.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, thanks so much.
SEKULOW: Thanks, Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: We greatly appreciate you being with us.
And I‘ll tell you what. Read your history. These inaugural addresses are absolutely crammed with references to God, Jesus and Christianity. I mean, you can like it or you can hate it. That‘s just history. You can‘t rewrite it.
Now, that‘s all the time we have for tonight. Please make sure to vote on our online poll at Joe.MSNBC.com.
We‘ll see you on Monday.
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