Guest: Deborah Potter, Alex Jones, Richard Wolffe, Michael Musto
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? The CBS eye gets slapped on the wrist. Independent investigators say no political motive behind the Bush memo story. No way to tell even if those memos were fakes.
No fakery here. The nightmare continues to unfold unabated in the Indian Ocean.
And Iraq, 20 days until the election. A North Carolina congressman calling for the U.S. to disengage, a North Carolina Republican congressman.
Speaking of disengagement, Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston break up. I know, I know, it is not really news. You‘ll pretend. I‘ll pretend. We‘ll take a breather from the horror and the terror at the end of the program. All that and more now on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Good evening. Since it was introduced in October 1951, the CBS network eye logo has been characterized as everything from all seeing to blackened to bloodshot. Today it was described as myopic. The fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, the independent investigation into the so-called Killian memo story is over. And under the circumstances, it was probably as close to a win for CBS as was conceivably possible.
A vivisection co-chaired by a former Republican attorney general of the United States found no political motivation behind the CBS decision to run the story and could not even conclusively decide whether or not the memos at the heart of the controversy were real or fake. Dick Thornburgh co-chaired the investigation, along with the former head of the news service the Associated Press, Louis Boccardi.
They concluded CBS was guilty of myopic zeal in pursuing a journalistic beat over other news organizations, moving up the original air date of that story by three weeks in a rush to be first. The other primary failings were the circling of the wagons once the story was criticized, rather than the conducting of an immediate review of whether or not the story was valid, too much trust placed in a producer who dealt directly with the source who provided the memos.
And great deference paid to Dan Rather who as anchor and managing editor of the CBS EVENING NEWS, been involved in researching the story since 1999. Rather had already announced his departure from that anchor desk effective two months from yesterday, a move that was not significantly hastened by the controversy. He was cited as being guilty of quote, errors of credibility and over enthusiasm.
The 224-page report also says Rather never viewed any part of that story before it was first broadcast on “60 MINUTES WEDNESDAY.” But only four CBS news employees were fired, none above the rank of vice president. The dismissed VP would be Betsy West, who two days after the original report was ordered by CBS News President Andrew Hayward to review the opinions of the document examiners CBS had consulted. She didn‘t, says the report. The investigation says if she did or had, CBS might have withdrawn the story quickly.
Also dismissed, Josh Howard, the executive producer of 60 MINUTES WEDNESDAY and Howard‘s chief deputy, Mary Murphy and the hands on producer Mary Mapes. Among other things, she was accused of falsely characterizing another source‘s questions about the authenticity of documents, saying they were confirmations of their validity. Miss Mapes has responded by accusing CBS of having made her a scapegoat by writing, if there was a journalistic crime committed here, it was not by me and insisting that the documents were authentic and authenticated, something Mr. Thornburgh said was not accomplish by CBS.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DICK THORNBURGH, FMR. ATTORNEY GENERAL: They brushed aside objections made by experts whose advice was not heeded. In short, the whole authentication process was flawed from beginning to end.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Still perhaps the most significant thing in the Thornburgh report is what is not in it, no accusation that CBS set out to get President Bush before the election and no conclusion that the memos were phonies. For a unique perspective on this story, I‘m joined again by Deborah Potter, CBS New correspondent for 13 years and now president of NewsLab, the journalism training and research center. Deborah, good evening.
DEBORAH POTTER, NEWSLAB: Good evening Keith.
OLBERMANN: I guess it says a lot about the state of journalism that we‘ve now talked about news train wrecks two business days in a row. But to focus on CBS, would you agree with me that under these circumstances, this report was about as good as your old employer‘s and my old employers could have hoped for?
POTTER: I think so and particularly from the perspective of the president of CBS News who stays in his chair. Andrew Hayward is essentially absolved in this report. Apparently he asked for his underling to sort of take a closer look at what had been done and she didn‘t do it, according to the report and so he manages to keep his seat. It‘s sort have questionable about that decision, frankly. It seems to me that one of the options this report could have led to would have been for the company to actually remove the man at the very top. But they didn‘t.
OLBERMANN: There seemed to be a lot of that in the report. Not, I was following orders, but the reverse of that, my orders were not followed out. There was a lot of kicking it down the chain of responsibility, was there not?
POTTER: Well it certainly reads that way and when you read the report itself and it is well over 200 pages, quite a slog. But if you do, what you see is that most of the finger pointing is at the level of the producer of this one program, Mary Mapes. Essentially, her version of events is contradicted right and left by everyone else at the network including some of those who lost their jobs. She clearly does take the brunt of it in this one.
OLBERMANN: Did it surprise you, given the fact that Dan Rather was emphasized as being in effect, the sponsor of this story, that he did not come in for more criticism in the report?
POTTER: Yes and no. I mean Rather obviously has already made it public that he is going to depart in a couple of months. Now, CBS has said he‘s going to stay on as a contributor to 60 MINUTES and that‘s problematic, I would think, under the circumstances because I mean clearly, he is not absolved here. This is the public face of CBS News and was the public voice of this particular story. And yet as you point out, he apparently never even screened it before it went to air. I mean that‘s pretty basic journalism and he wasn‘t doing it.
OLBERMANN: Lastly, again and again, Mr. Thornburgh and Mr. Boccardi came back to one critical issue, this rush to get a story on the air. For as long as there has been journalism, this has been the siren‘s call, the rocks on which a thousand careers have crashed. How could it still trip up an organization that has led the news business to some degree since the 1930‘s?
POTTER: Well, I think that‘s one of the issues and that is that CBS has not been a leader for some years now. And CBS has been struggling, working hard, trying to prove itself again as a journalistic organization. It has been lagging in third for some time and I think there probably was in addition to the competitive pressure, that is, other people were sniffing around this story, the sense that boy, if we can really nail a big story, it will make our reputation once again. Unfortunately, it came right back and bit them.
OLBERMANN: Deborah Potter, now the president of NewsLab, formerly of CBS News. Thanks again and I hope we have nothing to talk about like this tomorrow.
POTTER: Me too.
OLBERMANN: There is of course a larger context in which the CBS flap fixed politics and reporting, the presumption that if there is a story, there is a bias. The Thornburgh Boccardi report suggested otherwise as the president and CEO of CBS was today quick to note.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LES MOONVES, CBS CHAIRMAN: Forget about political bent. I don‘t think it had anything to do with it. I think it had to do with not doing their jobs. It is very important that people consider CBS News a fair organization that reports those stories fairly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: For people who assume there is a liberal bias in the media, two odd things have happened since Friday. First the conservative commentator Armstrong Williams turns out to have been taking government payments to promote administration policy. Now the former attorney general under President Reagan and the first president Bush says the Killian memos CBS story was not politically motivated. I‘m joined now by Alex Jones, formerly the Pulitzer Prize media reporter for the “New York Times” and now director on Shorenstein Center on the press at Harvard. Mr. Jones, good evening. Thank you for your time.
ALEX JONES, MEDIA ANALYST: Good evening. Glad to be here.
OLBERMANN: How do these two stories, Armstrong Williams and the Thornburgh findings about CBS, fit into that matrix that insists that the media is tilted largely to the left?
JONES: Well, I think that the media is kind of an all-sides abuser actually. The media is basically aimed at getting the story. The media was after Bill Clinton during the last administration. The media has been after the Bush administration. John Kerry got shellacked during the campaign as well. I think the fact is that the media is after the story and I think that‘s what happened in this case. I‘m not trying to suggest that the reporters involved had no political opinions but I think that Thornburgh and Boccardi were correct in saying that this was fundamentally about getting on the air, about ambition, about going too fast because they were trying to make a big splash after the Abu Ghraib thing.
Keep in mind that the producer of this was an 800 pound gorilla at the moment this was happening at CBS, because she had been the one who had gotten the Abu Ghraib scoop and that had gotten CBS news a lot of attention and this was right on the heels of that and it was just too tempting to resist. I think that they fell in love with it. She fell in love with it and they made a terrible mistake.
I think that the Armstrong situation, Armstrong Williams situation is much more frightening to me. I think it is scary because what it says is that the government and I don‘t care whether it is a Republican or a Democratic administration, the idea that the government is hiring journalists, is paying journalists to have opinions, that‘s very, very bad. It‘s something that I would think that the pundits of this world would be most up in arms about because it is going to cast a reflection on all of them.
It‘s going to basically be saying to everybody who goes on of these talking head shows, did anybody pay you? And the thing is, the administration, unlike CBS News, has not really come clean about this. They haven‘t said how many journalists they‘re paying. The PR firm has not said what‘s going on. Nobody has really opened it up with an investigation like the one CBS news did. So I would say, CBS news is a model that the Armstrong Williams situation ought to emulate.
OLBERMANN: To some degree, do you think CBS got caught in this here because they had otherwise played within the journalistic rules? I mean if you look at the swift boat ads last summer, full of distortions, some demonstrably untrue content in there. Yet they were run as gospel by many news outlets, even though they were by definition designed to influence the election. But you‘re not going to see Fox News appointing an independent investigation into its own journalistic ethics or lack there of over those ads.
JONES: Well, I think that was a terrible situation. And I think again, this is not a matter of partisan politics. This is a matter of getting things into the information news stream that looked like news when they aren‘t at all. This was ostensibly reporting about an ad. But the ad was a dishonest ad. And the fact that it was put on again and again and again communicated to people who were watching it on television that it was true. Because television wouldn‘t put it on if it weren‘t true, right? Well, that wasn‘t the case at all. The people who put it on repeatedly were simply justifying themselves by saying it was about the news of the ad. That‘s not good enough.
OLBERMANN: Right. It was true. There was an ad. That was the truth contained there in. Alex Jones, director of the Shorenstein Center at thee Kennedy School at Harvard. Great, thanks for your time tonight.
JONES: Glad to be with you.
OLBERMANN: Also tonight a peace mission in Iraq turning deadly. Our Richard Engel is there as all hell breaks loose around him and the symbolic kind of hell may be breaking loose here. Another Republican calling for the U.S. to get out of Iraq and two weeks after the tsunami, more all too real images from southeast Asia. You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: Throughout the election campaign, we heard agreement from both parties on perhaps only one issue, that there was no way for the U.S. to simply leave Iraq. In our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, that statement in the infamous words of a long ago presidential operation may no longer be operative. In a moment, why a Republican congressman says it is time to consider pulling out. First more graphic evidence of what we would be pulling out from, what American soldiers are facing every day there, the ambush. Today our correspondent Richard Engel was on the wrong side of one of them.
RICHARD ENGEL, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Soldiers from the 25th infantry division set out at noon in a convoy of striker fighting vehicles. It was a peace mission to make deliveries to a girl‘s school in Mosul. But as we approached a mosque under construction, we were attacked. The roadside bomb targeted a pickup truck nestled in our convoy. In it were Iraqi National Guards taking part in the mission. It was only a few feet from the vehicle carrying our NBC News team.
U.S. soldiers and medics rushed in to help the Iraqis. But during the rescue, another attack from the mosque. We had been on a mission to deliver heaters to schools, but our convoy was hit by a roadside bomb.
Then we were attacked with small arms fire. U.S. troops have spread out
through the area and are trying to catch the insurgents. There‘s still a
lot of fire coming at us. Some of it is exploding in the car that was hit
by a improvised explosive device.
There are—U.S. troops are retaliating, trying to fight out off what they think could be an intense ambush. Four Iraqi guards were killed. Two others remain hospitalized tonight. For our news team, cameraman Kevin Burke and audio technician Martin Francis (ph), it was a close look, sometimes too close at how these daily attacks unfold. As for the soldiers, they told us they‘re becoming numb to the attacks. Staff Sergeant Jeremy Brown (ph) has only been in Iraq for three months.
SGT. JEREMY BROWN: This would number 17 that I‘ve been in where an ID has gone off within our convoy.
ENGEL: He said he knows he‘ll be driving the same road tomorrow.
Richard Engel, NBC News, Mosul, Iraq.
OLBERMANN: 17? Now about getting out. North Carolina Republican Congressman Howard Coble has told his home town newspaper that he is quote, fed up with picking up the newspaper and reading that we‘ve lost another five or 10 of our young men and women in Iraq. All I‘m saying, the congressman continues, is that troop withdrawal ought to be an option. It ought to be placed on the table for consideration.
Today‘s number two killed, four Americans injured, but those casualties followed a vague “New York Times” report about discussions in the government about new ways to define when the U.S. mission in Iraq could be called accomplished. Most center around the elections on the 30th. The U.S. today rejecting an offer from Sunni Muslim clerics about it. They would have lifted their boycott if the U.S. would have set a time frame for withdrawal.
“Newsweek” reporting this country has something entirely different in mind, perhaps targeting insurgents for assassination or capture, the Salvador option it‘s called, a reference to the Reagan administration‘s response to leftist guerrillas in El Salvador. Joining me now the senior White House correspondent for “Newsweek,” Richard Wolffe. Richard, thanks for your time tonight.
RICHARD WOLFFE, NEWSWEEK: It‘s good to be with you again.
OLBERMANN: The “New York Times” report seemed like it was written in code, terminology like hot topic and bubbling up and rumblings of disengagement. As congressmen are returning from their districts, they suggested that there had been some sort of feedback from the public. We had such a rumbling from the Republican representative, Mr. Coble. Is there really some sense that the public has spoken in the last few weeks and there‘s been some sort of sea change in American support for our presence in Iraq?
WOLFFE: Well, this has been bubbling under for some time and I think it was kind of suppressed by the fact that we were going through a presidential election. But if you talk to congressional Republicans over the last year or so, you would have heard the steady drip, drip effect of the criticism, the questioning. It‘s not a ground swell to the extent that any majority could be overturned or the White House is in some kind of trouble. But particularly among congressmen representing military areas, where there are bases and families, there is this steady questioning of why the troops are there and really a questioning of the administration‘s policy about delivering democracy to Iraq.
OLBERMANN: If there really is in the immediate future to be some form of disengagement or reduction in the personnel there, which of the means is the likeliest? Is it go to the European allies and say, we‘re leaving pretty much? You‘d better join us in a coalition? Is it the Lyndon Johnson option, declare victory and go home? Is it the Philippine option where we wait to be asked to leave by a new government? Which is the odds on favorite?
WOLFFE: The most likely is the Philippine option, that the Iraqi government will say, please leave. And actually, the administration is committed to leaving if that‘s the case because it is now a sovereign government. What you‘re seeing is, the European idea which Brent Scowcroft, who is obviously very close to the president‘s father floated the other day, that would really only have worked with a fresh start and for a very limit period. That was John Kerry‘s case and of course this administration is very, very skeptical to the point of absolute opposition to that idea. So I really don‘t think that is a possibility. But the Philippines option, being asked to leave is very much on the cards.
OLBERMANN: And yet, at the same time as all this on your own magazine‘s Web site, there is this report from Michael Hirsch (ph) and John Berry about using some of the insurgency‘s own tactics against it. Are both of these tracks being explored simultaneously, a search for an end, an early end to our presence there and a significant change in that presence?
WOLFFE: Well, let me make it clear. The administration and especially the president have absolutely no desire to explore withdrawal right now. They are very, very committed. The president knows this is where his legacy lies and they are absolutely committed to making this work and for Iraq to be established, to be stood up as a democracy in the region. So what they are exploring, however, other ways to beat the insurgency. And this Salvador option is basically relies on the kind of intelligence we just haven‘t seen. It requires U.S. forces to note who is behind the insurgency and where they are at any given point in time. That is not information the coalition has had so far.
OLBERMANN: Indeed and if not obtained, it could be dangerous in its own right because you could wind up shooting the wrong people, couldn‘t you? “Newsweek‘s” Richard Wolffe, great. Thanks for your time tonight.
WOLFFE: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Also tonight, extreme weather leading to extreme sports.
Can you guess the location of this golf match?
And a Hollywood tradition still going strong. Power couple weds, power couple splits. Everybody goes aw! And we care for some reason I can‘t really guess at the moment.
OLBERMANN: We‘re back and we pause our COUNTDOWN of the day‘s real news for that segment of stories that are similar to real news only slightly weirder. Let‘s play “Oddball.”
January 10, what better time to escape winter‘s icy grasp and head to sunny Las Vegas, Nevada. Wait a minute. This is Las Vegas, Nevada. A blanket of snow fell over sin city over the weekend but that did not keep the golf courses from opening nor did it stop the tourists from having to overpay for green‘s fees. Sure they lost a little white ball every single time but it might have been with it just to have been able to say, I played 18 the day hell froze over.
To Omaha, Nebraska, where another dope is selling ad space on his own forehead on eBay. For 30 days, this guy will feature your company‘s logo on his face. It is a bit of a trend among lazy entrepreneurs who figured out new ways to milk a quick buck out of goldenpalace.com. They‘ll buy anything. But as they say with all Internet purchasers, buyer beware. Make sure what you know what you‘re getting. Prime example, the difference between the mysterious cool guy pictured in the eBay auction and the actual product, 20-year-old Andrew Fisher. The bidding is up to $15,000 already but if you‘re hoping to get your ad in front of a lot of women, you may want to consider another marketing strategy.
Finally, yesterday would have been the 70th birthday of Elvis Presley. Nothing evokes the spirit of the king better than an impersonation concert by the official Elvis fan club of Tokyo. Male and female Elvi took the stage in Japan yesterday to sing their favorite songs before a crowd of perplexed and slightly bemused spectators. Quiet down there! The big winner could have fooled Priscilla Presley herself if only he spoke English. He is office worker (UNINTELLIGIBLE) everybody. Watch this. Thank you very much.
Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston no longer doing their impersonation of a happy Hollywood couple, splitsville. It‘s getting headlines all around the world. Why? But the story the world is paying attention to and for all too good a reason, the Christmas tsunami. New pictures showing its power even far away from the shoreline.
Those stories ahead. Now here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three news makers. Number three, our old pal Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell running for governor there now. He sent a fund-raising letter out that says, corporate and personal checks are welcome. Actually, in Ohio, corporate campaign donations are illegal. But why would Blackwell know that? He is only in charge of the campaigns and elections in Ohio.
Number two, Robert Blake. A new theory about what happened to him the night his wife was murdered. Courtesy sources telling the syndicated TV series celebrity justice that he had to leave Bonny Lee Bakley and later threw up at her murder scene because he is a bulimic. Well, it is different.
Number one, the California Zephyr, Amtrak‘s train from Oakland to Chicago, derailed and stuck overnight because of the snow in the California mountains. Derailed and stuck as a matter of fact in Donner‘s Summit, California, you know, where the Donner party got stranded in the winter of 1846. All 140 passengers aboard the train were uninjured and continued their trip without incident except for that big fat yummy looking guy.
OLBERMANN: In a lot of the world, this was the first day back to school after the winter break. But nowhere else was it like the first day back to school in Banda Aceh in Indonesia.
Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, of all the numbers with which you have been barraged since the tsunami hit, perhaps none have approached these. As schools reopened today in the Guegaga (ph) elementary school, attendance was 50 percent. And the government says that, across Aceh Province, 420 schools did not reopen at all. They had been leveled. And 1,000 teachers were killed.
If how that could happen still requires explanation, there is new video. The cameraman was supposed to be filming a wedding. Instead, he captured the almost instantaneous exponential growth of the tsunami flooding. Those who survived in Banda Aceh were left stranded in trees and on high buildings, like a local mosque there; 104,000 killed throughout Indonesia, now 156,193 throughout the region.
In Thailand, meanwhile, beachgoers scattered on the island of Korai (ph) as the second wave from the tsunami came thundering on to the shore. Like other amateur videos, this newly released videos just how small the wave appeared as it came in from the sea and then how it seemed to grow. It swept over the hotel concourse, rose quickly past the first floor and smashed beach chairs and other objects against the buildings. The wave kept growing. It pushed tons of water and debris yards inland.
But, amazingly enough, everyone at this brand new hotel called the Raya resort survived the tsunami, that according to eyewitnesses. Survivors credit the first wave, which smashed on to the beach, but did not reach the hotel, with giving them enough warning to get inside to safety. And the clubhouse where this particular tourist filmed this footage was high enough to keep them out of harm‘s way.
We‘re showing you this video in real time and in its entirety because it provides a unique insight into how the tsunami works. Within about 30 second of having swept on to shore, the waters suddenly slowed down, then came to a swirling halt. And, slowly, the wave began to roll back towards the ocean, gradually gathering momentum, then suddenly speed up, sucking the water and the debris and, in other places, the victims back out to sea.
Many of those victims never made it back to shore. But, tonight, there is another amazing story of survival hundreds of mile away from land;
22-year-old Arif Aprizel (ph) survived in the open ocean at least nine days after his home town of Desa Kabong (ph) in Aceh Province in Indonesia was hit. He was picked up by a United Arab Emirates freighter late last week and actually managed to walk off that ship when it dropped him in Malaysia today.
In Sri Lanka, meantime, another unbelievable story of survival might turn out to be just that, unbelievable. Reports initially said this 60-year-old man was pulled alive from the rubble two weeks after the tsunami. But now local residents say they saw him walking around the village two days ago. And doctors are refusing to comment on whether his injuries are consistent with having been buried for weeks. One doctor even told a British paper—quote—“The nation needs miracles at this time. Who are we to say what has and has not happened?”
Not miracles, but methodical searches accounting for hope in this country. Tonight, the State Department says it is still investigating the whereabouts of 780 who might have been near the affected area. That is down from over about 2,500 last week and more than 1,000 just earlier today. The American death toll in the tsunami officially stands at 18. An additional 17 Americans are missing and presumed dead.
It is implausible and disrespectful to compare nature‘s impact on the nations of the Indian Ocean and the sudden convergence of winter weather in California and Nevada.
But, as our correspondent George Lewis reports from Los Angeles, do not tell that to the families of the nine dead in Southern California alone, nor to the hundreds of thousands from Malibu to Big Bear who are dodging mud slides and flash floods.
GEORGE LEWIS, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A horrifying sight this afternoon in the small coastal town of La Conchita, California. A hillside collapsed, killing at least one person and burying others as it tore through at least 15 homes.
Reporter David Cruz from KNBC was there.
DAVID CRUZ, KNBC REPORTER: We heard them crying out for help from underneath the debris. I saw one man who was clawing, trying to get his family pulled out.
LEWIS: Now firefighters are trying to find possible survivors. Closer to Los Angeles, people have seen mobile homes tumbling into swollen creeks, million-dollar houses falling down hillsides.
A man and his two children who lived here managed to get out alive. Others were not so lucky when their cars were caught up in the floodwaters and they drowned.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get ready to grab the rope.
LEWIS: For William McKrea (ph), it was a ride he will never forget. In the middle of the downpour, his car skidded off a Southern California freeway into a storm drain. And he was carried two miles down stream.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Grab the rope! Grab it tight! Grab it tight!
LEWIS: Firefighters threw him a line and began to haul him to safety.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hold on, dude.
LEWIS: But he couldn‘t hold on and the torrent swept him away. Fortunately, another group of firefighters was waiting for McKrea, grabbed him, and hauled him to safety.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes! Yes!
LEWIS: North of Los Angeles, the sun made a brief appearance, long enough to create this rainbow. Then it was back to foul weather.
(on camera): The last thing this area needs is more rain, but forecasters say it is going to continue tonight and into tomorrow.
(voice-over): In the mountains, that means more snow, 19 feet of it already in the Sierra near Lake Tahoe, the biggest snowfall since 1916. And, at lower elevations, more flooding, more mud slides, and more misery.
George Lewis, NBC News, Los Angeles.
OLBERMANN: They have now in fact found at least one survivor in that mud slide in La Conchita, with police reporting at least six people missing.
Also tonight, the media and the mea culpas. From a pundit to an entire network, it is time once again for the dignified and always moving induction ceremonies at the COUNTDOWN apology Hall of Fame. And the mooning that was not, the outrage that was. Those stories ahead, or perhaps behind.
But now here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three sound bites of this day.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was an old nasty bean that I wanted to pull out. And when I started to pull it out, it was a big, huge cockroach in there.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Once I saw it, I stopped looking at it. I was like, ewww.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is not photo-op No. 4,000. Charles.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to thank you for recently leading a delegation to the affected areas to express our nation‘s deepest concern. I want to thank you for keeping my little brother straight.
OLBERMANN: Two of the hardest phrases to say, I do and I‘m sorry, COUNTDOWN has them both covered. Apologies to separations, your full-service newscast continues in a moment.
OLBERMANN: There are many halls of fame in this great nation of ours, from the Baseball Hall of Fame to the Accountants Hall of Fame. Last year, we established one of our own.
Our No. 2 story on the COUNTDOWN, the Apology Hall of Fame. Just like baseball, we have two new members to induct all of a sudden. We will put CBS News in as one collective entry. Dan Rather already made it in personally last September. But the face on the plaque will have to be many of CBS President Leslie Moonves because it is his name over the 7-1/2 page, single-spaced statement from the network today, which includes this from paragraph No. 46: “We deeply regret the disservice this flawed ‘60 Minutes Wednesday‘ report did to the American public, which has a right to count on CBS News for fairness and accuracy in all it does”—a show plug and a news division plug inside the apology. Excellent.
Still, it pales in comparison to that of the other nominee, Armstrong Williams. His column on the Web site TownHall.com was entitled “My Apology.” It was on that Web site because the place where it used to be, Tribune Media Services, fired him Friday after it was revealed he had accepted a government contract from the Department of Education to promote its No Child Left Behind program in his broadcast for $241,000.
“People need to know,” Williams writes, “that my column is uncorrupted by any outside influences.” Of course, he also explained he is not giving back the $241,000. “That would be ludicrous,” he told “USA Today, “because they bought advertising and they got it.” A rationalization and a $241,000 profit wrapped up in the apology, that‘s one for the ages.
We welcome Armstrong Williams and CBS to the COUNTDOWN apology Hall of Fame.
ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I am a media pundit. People trust what I say when I write and when I‘m on television. And if I had to do this all over again, I would not do this again, because I can understand why the ethics question..
DAN RATHER, CBS NEWS: It was a mistake. CBS News deeply regrets it.
Also, I want to say personally and directly, I‘m sorry.
TERRELL OWENS, NFL PLAYER: Personally, I didn‘t think it would have offended anyone.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL”)
OWENS: Oh, hell.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OWENS: And if it did, we apologize.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I‘m sorry, so, so sorry that mistakes...
DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: For those Iraqis who were mistreated by the U.S. armed forces, I offer my deepest apology.
BERNARD KERIK, FORMER NEW YORK CITY POLICE COMMISSIONER: I apologize to anybody that‘s been brought into this unnecessarily.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE”)
ASHLEE SIMPSON, MUSICIAN: I feel so bad. My band started playing the wrong song. I didn‘t know what to do, so I thought I would do a hoedown. I‘m sorry.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JANET JACKSON, MUSICIAN: Unfortunately, the whole thing went wrong in the end. I am really sorry.
WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know that my public comments and my silence about this matter gave a false impression. I misled, including even my wife.
KOBE BRYANT, NBA PLAYER: I‘m so sorry. I love my wife so much.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “BET TONIGHT”)
SEN. TRENT LOTT ®, MISSISSIPPI: In order to be a racist, you have to feel superior. I don‘t feel superior to you at all. I don‘t believe any man or any woman is superior to any other...
ED GORDON, HOST: Did you always hold that view?
LOTT: I think I did.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TONYA HARDING, OLYMPIC SKATER: I feel really bad for Nancy, and I feel really lucky that it wasn‘t me.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO”)
JAY LENO, HOST: What the hell were you thinking?
HUGH GRANT, ACTOR: I think you know in life pretty much what‘s a good to do and what is a bad thing. And I did a bad thing. And there you have it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE TODAY SHOW”)
STEVE IRWIN, CROCODILE HUNTER: Sweetheart, who do you want to be when you grow up?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just like my daddy.
MATT LAUER, CO-HOST, “THE TODAY SHOW”: Steve, let me...
IRWIN: Poor little thing.
LAUER: Let me jump in here.
LAUER: You know what? I‘m sorry, Matt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER ®, CALIFORNIA: Yes, that I have behaved badly sometimes. For those people that I have offended, I want to say to them, I‘m deeply sorry about that. And I apologize.
RICHARD NIXON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That some of my judgments were wrong, and some were wrong. They were made in what I believed at the time to be the best interests of the nation.
JIMMY SWAGGART, TELEVANGELIST: Please forgive me. I have sinned against you, my lord. And I would ask that your precious blood...
OLBERMANN: From the Apology Hall of Fame to the stories of “Keeping Tabs.” And let me just say I‘m sorry in advance for these.
The following video may be offensive to some viewers. It was certainly found offensive by Fox sport commentator, my old colleague Joe Buck. The incident occurred in the fourth quarter of an NFL playoff game in Green Bay yesterday between the Vikings and the Packers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BUCK, SPORTSCASTER: Moss, Randy Moss is in for touchdown.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, Al Harris playing off bit up on the route. And Randy Moss, without even really being able to run, as he shoots the moon to the fans here in Green Bay.
BUCK: That is a disgusting act by Randy Moss. And it is unfortunate that we had that on our air.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Yes, it is the 477th time in the last 13 months that the world of sport as we‘ve known it as come to an end. They‘re talking of fining the player, Randy Moss, but across the country, at a different game, the coach of the Indianapolis Colts, Tony Dungy, saw the play on TV and lent us some perspective.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TONY DUNGY, INDIANAPOLIS COLTS HEAD COACH: Green Bay has a reputation and their fans being great, and they really are. But one of their traditions is, when they beat you, they stand around the parking lot all around the fence and they moon the bus when you leave. And so I‘ve seen that seven times, having lost seven times in a row up there. And I‘m sure Randy has seen it a lot.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Speaking of mooning, there‘s Angelina Jolie, who scores the rare daily double tonight, appearing both in “Keeping Tabs” and in our No. 1 story, the “Tab” first.
Britain‘s Sky News reports that the movie “Alexander” went over budget in part because the actor Val Kilmer says he kept deliberately forcing director Oliver Stone to do retakes. “My role consisted mostly of sharing a bed with Angelina Jolie and throwing her around it,” Kilmer is quoted as explaining, “which is about as much fun as it is possible for a man to have. When we were doing the really sexy bits,” he continues, “I kept messing up my lines on purpose. I would get right to the end of the scene and then mess up the last bit, so we would have to do it again.”
But it was Ms. Jolie‘s scenes with another actor that may have led to the breakup of a Hollywood marriage. And more importantly, as we reveal that question and the answers to it, this question. Will I be able to keep down my sense of revulsion at doing tonight‘s No. 1 story next?
OLBERMANN: Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston have just separated. But Linda Tripp has just gotten married.
Our No. 1 story on the COUNTDOWN, to quote the comedian Louie Anderson, what the hell kind of world are we living in? Yes, it‘s true. The gory details leaking out last Friday, take-out-the-trash day in the parlance of the White House press room.
Over the weekend came the tawdry follow-up about how there wasn‘t even actual infidelity in the end of the four-year marriage, that Aniston was disturbed because of the verisimilitude of the love scenes between Pitt and Angelina Jolie, who play husband and wife in an upcoming film, “Mr. and Mrs. Smith.”
If these names, by the way, are all mysteries to you, Mr. Pitt is in the current film “Ocean‘s Twelve” and also appeared in “Meet Joe Black,” “Thelma and Louise,” and several other films in which he showed no special talent whatsoever, but continued to look vaguely like Robert Redford.
As to Ms. Aniston, she was part of the inexplicably successful NBC sitcom “Friends” and then the explicably unsuccessful films “Bruce Almighty” and “Along Came Polly.” Have you sensed yet that I‘m doing tonight‘s No. 1 story under protest?
If anybody can talk me out of my dyspeptic cynicism about this, it‘s my next guest, the columnist of “The Village Voice,” Michael Musto.
Michael, good evening.
MICHAEL MUSTO, “THE VILLAGE VOICE”: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Hollywood marriages break up every week. I believe 40 percent of them are broken up by Angelina Jolie. Actors and actresses get paid huge amounts of money to pretend to be sincere. And the guy in this has the world‘s leading doofus first name. So why should I care?
MUSTO: Because we needed Brad and Jennifer. They were my Gibraltar.
They were the receptacle for all my hopes and dreams. They were my rock.
They were the people you can count on to be forever.
And then, last year, Bennifer was gone. Now Brennifer is gone, Bradiffer, if you prefer. What do we have left, Brevin, Britney and Kevin? Paul and Joanne (ph)? And, as you say, Angelina is going to break all of them up, too.
OLBERMANN: They were not the receptacle for all your hopes and dreams? I don‘t buy that.
MUSTO: Yes, but they were a nice couple. I bought into the myth. I got the memo. I mean, he was like the high school football captain. And she was like the head cheerleader. And they were opposite enough. He‘s kind of suave. And she‘s insecure and self-deprecating. And they‘re the people that you love to hate in high school or hate to love, and I totally bought into the myth.
OLBERMANN: I saw something newsworthy in this in the story of their vacation in the Caribbean. One of the stories is that the lovey-dovey stuff that they did there was staged for the benefit of photographers. What was it with that whole Caribbean trip?
MUSTO: It seemed to be to throw people off the scent. And it worked, because the cover of “The Star” this week is Brad and Jennifer back together and they‘re having a baby.
MUSTO: This is Dewey Beats Truman or “The Post” cover about how Gephardt was going to be Kerry‘s running mate. It‘s embarrassing. A lot of editorials have cholesterol on their faces this week. But you go with the information you have at the moment.
OLBERMANN: And, by the way, “Star” magazine with be getting Mr. Boccardi and former Attorney General Thornburgh to do an investigation into what happened in story.
But what do you know? What ultimately broke up this marriage?
MUSTO: Well, the nice version of it is that Brad wanted to make babies. Jennifer wanted to make movies. But there must be some truth to the fact that Angelina Jolie is a total tempestuous vixen. She walks into a room, everybody throws away their wedding rings. And she says she‘s bisexual, so she‘s an equal-opportunity breaker-upper.
But even if Brad didn‘t do it with Angelina, he should have, because everyone thinks he did. Jennifer probably thinks he did because she read the tabloids, so he might as well have gotten himself a piece anyway.
OLBERMANN: Off the tabloids.
Is it permanent or would they be reunited once Ms. Jolie turns her attention to whoever is next on her alphabetical list?
MUSTO: I think it‘s permanent, though Brad and Jennifer will see each other in two years in court. And that will be the end of that.
I do think that Gwyneth, however, who still harbors some feelings for Brad, should get back with him, have a baby named Peach, so it will Peach Pitt. And these are the jokes.
OLBERMANN: Or Bottomless, that‘s another one, Bottomless Pitt. Or Pendulum, Pendulum Pitt.
Michael Musto of “The Village Voice,” it has never been more true than it is tonight, the man who is always more interesting than the story he‘s covering. Thank you. Thank you, Michael.
A final note just to add further bizarre context to the story. The newspaper “The Winchester Star” of Virginia reporting that, two weeks ago Thursday, Monica Lewinsky‘s well-wired friend Linda Tripp was married in that city, hitched in a valley wedding chapel, special stripped-down wedding which lasts three minutes and costs $30. The paper says Ms. Tripp married a man named Dieter Herman (ph). She was engaged to a childhood friend, a German architect named Dieter Rausch.
Dieter this, Dieter that, just so long as they don‘t reproduce.
That‘s COUNTDOWN. Thanks for being part of it. I‘m Keith Olbermann.
Good night and good luck.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
Copy: Content and programming copyright 2005 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2005 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.