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'Scarborough Country' for March 17

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

Guest: Jesse Jackson, Steve Michalik, Debbie Schlussel, Daniel Dodson, Jake Goldenflame, Tim Pawlenty, Ed Smart

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  A registered sex offender in custody tonight, a possible suspect in the disappearance of 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford. 

Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, no passport required, only common sense allowed. 

Police are spending tonight investigating registered sex offender John Couey in the disappearance of Jessica Lunsford, the beautiful little Florida girl who has been missing for three weeks now.  Besides being a sex offender, Couey was also Jessica‘s neighbor before fleeing Florida.  Tonight, why do our courts put sex offenders back on the streets?  And are sex offenders ever cured of their addiction? 

And it‘s the preacher and the pop star.  Reverend Jesse Jackson has a new mission as Michael Jackson‘s spiritual adviser.  So, how is that special project going?  Tonight, Reverend Jesse Jackson enters SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY to tell us all about it. 

Then, high drama on Capitol Hill, as baseball‘s bigs get slammed on steroid use. 


MARK MCGWIRE, FORMER MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL PLAYER:  My heart goes out to every parent whose son or daughter were victims of steroid use.  I hope that these hearings can prevent other families from suffering. 


SCARBOROUGH:  Baseball big-wigs bite their tongues and tell Congress no tales. 

ANNOUNCER:  From the press room, to the courtroom, to the halls of Congress, Joe Scarborough has seen it all.  Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, thanks for being with us tonight.  We greatly appreciate it. 

Now, in a minute, we are going to be asking a governor, a sex offender, and a victim‘s father why American courts let sex offenders and kidnappers back on the street, when many suggest they can never be cured from their desire to exploit young children. 

We are joined tonight by a great panel, Ed Smart, whose daughter, Elizabeth, survived a kidnaping ordeal, Tim Pawlenty, the governor of Minnesota, who has been fighting for more jail time for sex offenders.  We have Jake Goldenflame.  He went to jail for a sex crime.  And attorney Daniel Dodson, who says sex offenders can be reformed. 

But, first, NBC News‘ Kerry Sanders has been covering the Jessica Lunsford story all day.  And he joins us tonight live from outside the sheriff‘s office in Inverness, Florida.

Good evening, Kerry.  What‘s the latest? 

KERRY SANDERS, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Well, there have been more than 3,000 leads, Joe, and the sheriff here says the most aggressive lead is this 46-year-old sex offender who is now in custody.

His name is John Couey.  John Couey was taken into custody today, named a person of interest just days ago and taken into custody in Augusta, Georgia.  He had left this area on a bus, using an alias.  He slipped away, but he was known to police.  In fact, he has been arrested more than 24 times over the years.  These are the many faces of John Couey.  As you can see, he has been in and out of the jail here in Citrus County, as well as other jails throughout the state—throughout the state in Florida. 

Now, the authorities believe that he is a leading candidate to perhaps shed some light on what happened to Jessica.  They are calling him a person of interest, not a suspect, and they recognize, it could be a dead end. 


JEFFREY DAWSY, CITRUS COUNTY SHERIFF:  I got to tell you, if Couey is not it, then I am going to come back to you and ask you the same thing.  I need somebody to give me some information, because there is one person that knows something.  And somebody—if Jessica was taken out of this area, then somebody has seen her.  It‘s impossible in America today for this young lady to totally disappear off the face of this earth without somebody seeing it.  It is impossible. 


SANDERS:  Three weeks ago, Jessica Lunsford disappeared from her house.  The authorities now know that John Couey was staying almost across the street, within eyeshot of her house, staying with his sister. 

He is a registered sex offender.  He was not staying where he was supposed to be staying.  He was supposed to be staying somewhere else, so they are holding him in Augusta, Georgia, for leaving the state.  They are likely going to extradite him back here tomorrow.  He will be in court tomorrow, and they say, in their investigation thus far, in the interrogations, he has been forthcoming.  He has been cordial.

But, so far, they have not shed any light on whether he has revealed anything of where Jessica is—Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, thanks so much, Kerry Sanders, for that report from Inverness, Florida.  We greatly appreciate it. 

Now, police in Florida and Georgia are trying to discover the facts of Jessica‘s case and whether a repeat sex offender was involved in her disappearance.  Now, we do know that too often sex crimes against children are committed by repeat offenders.

You of course have Dru Sjodin.  She was a beautiful 22-year-old young girl, woman, who was abducted and murdered in Grand Forks, North Dakota, in 2003.  And the man accused of her murder, Alfonso Rodriguez, is a registered sex offender. 

There was also Megan Kanka.  She was a 7-year-old New Jersey girl who was raped and murdered in 1994 by her neighbor, Jesse Timmendequas.  He also had a history of molesting children. 

The disturbing pattern is causing many to ask whether repeat sex offenders can ever be cured.  Many believe they should never be put back on the streets, where they can prey on children. 

With us tonight to talk about that is Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty.  We‘ve got criminal defense attorney Daniel Dodson.  We‘ve got Ed Smart, who is Elizabeth Smart‘s father, and convicted sex offender Jake Goldenflame.  And he‘s, coincidentally, the author of the book “Overcoming Sexual Terrorism: 40 Ways to Protect Your Children From Sexual Predators.”

Governor, you are so angry about what has been going on in our court system involving sex offenders and repeat sex offenders that you are actually fighting to toughen the laws.  How long can we keep sex offenders off the street and keep them away from our children? 

GOV. TIM PAWLENTY ®, MINNESOTA:  Well, Joe, hopefully for as long as possible.  And, first of all, of course, all of our hearts and prayers go out to Jessica Lunsford and her family.  And we sure hope that turns out in a hopeful and good way.

But in terms of keeping these folks off the streets, from my personal point of view, for the ones who are the most heinous, I think we should bring back the death penalty in Minnesota.  I proposed that.  Our legislature won‘t pass it.  So, what we are left with now is the most serious offenders having life sentences without the possibility of release. 

And then, in Minnesota, instead of having determinate sentencing, which is on a grid, we‘re going to back to something—or proposing to go back to something called indeterminate sentencing for these kind of offenders, so that there isn‘t a defined end to the sentence, that we can keep them there as long as we think they need to be there, until a parole board reviews them and releases them, but hopefully doesn‘t release them. 

But that‘s a different approach that we are going to try in Minnesota. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Governor, some in Florida and across the nation have suggested chemical castration for sex offenders.  What is your point—what is your take on that? 

PAWLENTY:  That‘s been proposed in Minnesota as well.  And other states do have it, Joe. 

And I haven‘t had a chance to fully study it, but that is something I would be open for, for these kinds of offenders, if it was proven effective.  My own view is, the most serious sex offenders can‘t be cured.  So, the real trick or the challenge here is to keep them off the streets for as long as possible. 

The problem is, once they serve their sentence, the courts are very strict in limiting whether you can civilly commit them.  That‘s different than criminally committee them.  That‘s why I think it‘s just better to keep them in prison for as long as possible, through either life sentences or indeterminate sentencing. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Ed Smart, before we go any further, why don‘t you tell us, what is this family going through right now, those that love Jessica Lunsford who are missing her?  It‘s been three weeks now.  You had to go through a lot more—a lot longer ordeal with your—your beautiful daughter.  But what is this family going through tonight? 

ED SMART, FATHER OF ELIZABETH SMART:  You know, it‘s just a really hard situation.  You want to know, regardless of whether they are dead or alive—of course, you want them alive, but the not knowing is a nightmare.  And you just want to find them.  You want to do everything you possibly can.

And it‘s just, I mean—you are racking your brain to try and figure out, who could have been there, who did she know, what activity triggered this, and what can we do to find her?  And it‘s something that you are just asking for help, trying to do whatever you can to find them.  And it‘s a nightmare. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Ed, you heard the governor talk about the possibility of the death penalty for repeat sex offenders, for those heinous sex offenders.  Let‘s take it out more generally to adults who prey on young children.  Do you think those laws need to be toughened up to those who sexually exploit or who kidnap children and take them away from homes like yours? 

SMART:  You know, there‘s no question that they need to. 

I went to Minnesota and I spoke with sex offender registry people, the law enforcement there.  I have spoken with Florida.  They have a wonderful model.  You know, one of the biggest issues is trying to monitor the sex offenders.  When they go off monitoring is when most of the issues and the problems occur.  So, if they can be monitored, there‘s a much greater chance that they won‘t do something, but that is a huge issue. 

I mean, in the Dru Sjodin case, he served his full term.  He got out and reoffended almost immediately, but he had no monitoring, no type of parole.  And I think that you can‘t let these people go back out into society without being monitored, because you are just asking for it.  And there are so many issues. 


SCARBOROUGH:  Jake Goldenflame, you are a registered sex offender.  You wrote a book, and you believe sex offenders can be rehabilitated.  You believe they can be brought back into the mainstream of American cultural life.  What is your take on this? 


First of all, at the outset, I would like to make it clear that, in the United States today, we have over 400,000 registered sex offenders.  Unfortunately, the only ones we hear about are the registered sex offenders who get into dreadful circumstances, such as the one involving this case, and I urge the audience not to judge all 400,000 by the few that we hear about at their worst. 

Most of them do not reoffend again and they go on to live lives where they don‘t cause further problems.  Secondly, there‘s no question but that we can live lives where we‘re not problems, again, if we have the community monitoring us.  I thought the point was well made a moment ago.  What is needed is adequate monitoring.  Now, that‘s what Megan‘s Law should provide.  People should make it their business to know who the registered offenders are living in their community.

And they should monitor them.  My book even goes so far as suggesting that you contact local law enforcement or the probation officer or the parole agent for that person, and you have a meeting with that person and your neighborhood in which you inform the person... 

SCARBOROUGH:  Jake, let‘s cut to the chase, though.  And I want to ask you this question, a personal question. 


SCARBOROUGH:  A lot of people do not believe that sex offenders, people that prey on young children, can ever be cured of their addiction.  It‘s like alcoholism.  You can fight it, but the urge never goes away.  Is that a fair statement? 

GOLDENFLAME:  That‘s a very fair statement, and like alcoholism, you cannot cure it, but you can manage it, so that it does not become a problem again. 

SCARBOROUGH:  How do you manage your urge to prey on young children? 

GOLDENFLAME:  The same way that the alcoholic manages his urge for alcohol.  He doesn‘t go around alcohol.  I don‘t go around kids. 

SCARBOROUGH:  So, you wouldn‘t be trusted around kids.  You wouldn‘t be trusted next door, like this sex offender was next door to Jessica Lunsford.  You just stay away from little kids.

GOLDENFLAME:  I wouldn‘t even choose to live in a building with children.  I live in a child-free building, and that‘s my choice and that‘s why.  I realize there‘s a temptation that could come up.  I don‘t even want to be exposed to it. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Governor, I want to ask you, it seems that we all agree that—except for Mr. Goldenflame—that, right now, sex offenders are not getting treated as tough as they—possibly law enforcement should treat them.  Why is there not the will in Minnesota to agree with you?  You want to set forth some very tough, stringent standards. 

I am sure most of Minnesota voters support your position.  But why isn‘t it being passed by the legislature? 

PAWLENTY:  I think it will be, Joe, and we had this terrible tragedy of Dru Sjodin.  It was another wakeup call for America and for Minnesota.  I do think now the bulk of the legislators will support many or most or all of our initiatives.  They don‘t support reinstating the death penalty for most the heinous sex offenders.

The chemical castration idea is very controversial, but at least as to getting possibility of life sentences without release and/or so-called indeterminate or open-ended sentencing, those items look like they will pass in our session this year, and I‘m grateful for that. 

SCARBOROUGH:  But, Governor—don‘t you think, though, Governor, that most Minnesotans would support chemical castration for adults that prey on little children? 

PAWLENTY:  Well, I think they would. 

Again, I haven‘t viewed the research on that to see if it‘s effective.  But, again, other states have used it, apparently effectively, so I think it‘s at least worth looking into.  But I am fed up.  I have got a 12-year-old daughter, a 9-year-old daughter.  These events have happened too often.  I think the other guests made a good point.  There‘s various levels of sex offenders, ranging from fairly—I don‘t want to say routine, but at least things are more on the low end, all the way up to the most heinous. 

And for those who are on the high end, the more heinous crimes, they have a higher likelihood of reoffending, of not being amenable to treatment and reoffending.  And, for that group, we really need to hone in. 

As to the monitoring, Joe, another way to do it, an additional way to do it, is to get GPS bracelets on them.  And you can monitor by the Internet.

SCARBOROUGH:  You know where—exactly.  You know wherever they go, whenever they leave.  And you are right.  Law enforcement can monitor them on the Internet. 

We are going to have a lot more with our great panel.  Plus, we are going to bring in an attorney, Daniel Dodson.  He believes that sex offenders can be cured.  We also are going to have Jake Goldenflame back and be asking him what he thinks should be done to stop this epidemic. 

We‘ll be right back in a second in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, live tonight from Charleston, South Carolina.


SCARBOROUGH:  Should child predators be locked up for life?  That‘s next. 

And also, Reverend Jesse Jackson and Michael Jackson are prayer partners.  We are going to be asking Jesse Jackson why. 

That‘s coming up next.




The disappearance of Jessica Lunsford, the little girl who was taken without a trace from her grandmother‘s home on February 23, is reigniting a much larger debate tonight.  And that is, can sexual predators be reformed and put back on our streets?

We are joined again by our panelists.  We‘ve got Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty.  We‘ve got Ed Smart.  We‘ve got criminal defense attorney Daniel Dodson.  And e have Jake Goldenflame. 

Mr. Dodson, let me go to you.  I take it that you believe that sexual offenders can be reformed and put back on the streets? 


SCARBOROUGH:  What evidence do you have? 

DODSON:  Of course they can. 

Well, I have experienced it in cases like this for many years now.  I can recall a specific client 15 years or so ago.  We had him—had a psychiatrist from a state program, that had—it was new, but, at that point, it had a zero recidivism rate.  And we asked that this prior offender with mental issues and so on be sent in to be rehabilitated.

And the judge instead sent him into prison, where, if he had been sent to the state program, he would have been in until he was proven to be not dangerous anymore.  We spend far too much time looking to punish rather than to rehabilitate on cases like this and possibly in the whole criminal justice system, but that‘s for another day. 

What we need to look at is, we need to study cost-effective ways.  We could lock these people up forever, but it‘s not cost-effective.  Maybe it is effective.

SCARBOROUGH:  What about chemical castration?  That‘s a little cheaper. 

DODSON:  And, again, you seem very much in favor of that without even—and the governor keeps cautioning you, let‘s at least find out if we think it works.

But that really amounts to, even if it‘s done in sort of a nice way, that amounts to mutilation and should raise some Eighth Amendment cruel and unusual punishment concerns in all of us, should be a very, very last resort.  We haven‘t explored a lot of different ways to rehabilitate people.  We haven‘t determined if some of these ideas that the former sex offender on the panel has will work, because very few places try them.  There are a lot of ways to approach this problem. 


SCARBOROUGH:  Governor—let me ask the governor.

Governor, are we being too tough on these sex offenders?  Should we be more concerned with reforming than throwing them in jail? 

PAWLENTY:  Well, Joe, I guess the question is, where do you want the margin of error to be?  And I think we err on the side of caution, err on the side of making sure that we provide as much safety as possible.

And I think that makes you keep them in prison longer.  By the way, if they‘re in civil commitment, in other words, they‘re out of prison, but you have them civilly committed in a community-based setting that is secure, the courts require us to provide treatment at $300 a day.  That‘s what it costs in Minnesota.  To keep them in our state prison system, it‘s about $70 a day. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Ed Smart, let me ask you.  Let me bring you in here, because you have experienced this pain very personally.  Again, we are not just talking about sexual exploitation.  We‘re talking about kidnapping also. 

What would you think if the state of Colorado decided two, three, four years from now that the man that took Elizabeth from your home—I would say the beast that took Elizabeth from your home—really deserved another shot at getting by in society, and three, four years from now, five years from now, he was back walking the streets of your hometown? 

SMART:  You know, I would be outraged, because I believe that if he gets out again, he will just do the same thing, because, in my understanding, it is his belief, the way he is going forward.  And if that is his belief, then he will do that again.  And I just...

SCARBOROUGH:  What about generally, though, Ed, with sexual predators?  Do you think they can be reformed? 

SMART:  You know, I think that they can maybe be controlled, as the panelist has said.  I don‘t think that you can really reform them. 

There is absolutely—I would say that there is not a cure out there.  I think control is the word that you can use.  But, you know, our wonderful nation has got a lot of problems with the sex offender registry and how the states work together.  Like the Amber Alert, it finally took every state coming together to make it work.  And, right now, we are in a nightmare situation as far as the sex offender registry. 

It just is not working right.  You know, other—different states have different evaluations, different standards that they look at.  And when you get people crossing state lines, sometimes, they will flee to a state because that state has poor laws.  And they are going to be able to get off easy there. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You are exactly right, Ed.  It‘s just far too inconsistent. 

Jake Goldenflame, you are—again, you‘re a registered sex offender.  We have got about 20 seconds left.  Tell parents, what is the key thing to do to protect their children from people like you?

GOLDENFLAME:  In the first place, of course, I have been offense-free for 14 years.  I do want the audience to know that, in favor of recovery being a possibility.


GOLDENFLAME:  But looking back to the worst of my years, what I would tell parents is this.

I would say, first of all, teach your children strong personal values and a strong sense of boundaries.  And, secondly, tell your children that there are people out who are going to tempt you to do things that may feel good, but are very bad for you.  You should know that, and you should not allow them to do that.  Thirdly, parents...

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  I‘m sorry.  We don‘t have time to go through all of them. 


SCARBOROUGH:  But thanks a lot for being with us. 

And, Governor, thank you for being with us.  Ed Smart, Daniel Dodson and Jake Goldenflame, we certainly appreciate your time in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. 

I will tell you what.  As a parent of three kids, it is just so important.  This is a critical issue.  And we got to keep talking about it. 

Now, coming up next, all-star blame.  Baseball‘s biggest names go to Washington, D.C., to take the heat about possibly taking steroids.  Possibly?  Look at those guys‘ muscles.  You know they did it.  Are the lessons taught by these and other so-called heroes bad for your kids? 

Plus, Jesse Jackson is coming to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY tonight, and he is going to be talking about the spiritual guidance he is giving to Michael Jackson. 

We‘ll ask him all about it when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.


SCARBOROUGH:  Well, big league brutes on Capitol Hill today balk at saying anything about steroids, yet another example of the bad example these guys are for America‘s kids and sports fans.  We will tell you about that in a second.

But, First, here‘s the latest news that you and your family need to know. 


ANNOUNCER:  From the press room, to the courtroom, to the halls of Congress, Joe Scarborough has seen it all.  Welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.


DON HOOTON, STEROIDS CAUSED SON‘S SUICIDE:  You are cowards when it comes to facing your fans and our children.  Why don‘t you behave like we try to teach our kids to behave?  Show our kids that you are man enough to face authority, tell the truth, and face the consequences.  Instead, you hide behind the skirts of your union, and with the help of management and your lawyers, you have made every effort to resist facing the public today. 


SCARBOROUGH:  Boy, that is tough talk on Capitol Hill today. 

You know, we are broadcasting live from WCBD, Channel 2, in Charleston, South Carolina.  And I will tell you, while I was in South Carolina today, I was watching this testimony through the evening.  What a dramatic day in Washington, D.C., as Congress held hearings on steroid use. 

Now, the pain and anger you just heard was from one of the parents whose child died because of steroid use.  Daniel (sic) Hooton testified about the death of his son, 17-year-old Taylor.  His child was a high school baseball player who committed suicide after using steroids.  Why did he use them?  Well, his father says to be like the men he idolized, Major League Baseball players. 

Now, in just a few minutes, you are going to hear more from other parents who spoke today about how their children died because of steroid use and abuse, again, following the example of their baseball stars. 

But, first, just listen to what some of the biggest names in Major League Baseball had to say about the deadly drug earlier today on Capitol Hill. 


MCGWIRE:  Asking me or any other player to answer questions about who took steroids in front of television cameras will not solve the problem.  If a player answers no, he simply will not be believed.  If he answers yes, he risks public scorn and endless government investigations. 

JOSE CANSECO, FORMER MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL PLAYER:  My heart and condolences go out to those families who lost their children to the use of steroids.  Today, I commit myself to doing everything possible to assist them in conveying to the youth of America the dangers that using steroids will bring. 

RAFAEL PALMEIRO, MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL PLAYER:  I have never used steroids, period.  I do not know how to say it any more clearly than that.  Never.  The reference to me in Mr. Canseco‘s book is absolutely false. 

I am against the use of steroids.  I don‘t think athletes should use steroids.  And I don‘t think our kids should use them.  The point of view is one, unfortunately, that is not shared by our former colleague, Jose Canseco.  Mr. Canseco is an unashamed advocate for increased steroid use by all athletes. 

MCGWIRE:  My heart goes out to every parent whose son or daughter were victims of steroid use.  I hope that these hearings can prevent other families from suffering. 

CURT SCHILLING, MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL PLAYER:  I urge the committee to focus its efforts in that direction, as well as—and not dwell on what may have occurred in the past.  I also urge the committee to not make this process just about baseball.  Steroids and supplements usage appears not to be a baseball problem, but a society problem. 


SCARBOROUGH:  Oh, it‘s a baseball problem.  It‘s a big baseball problem. 

I got a problem with the so-called heroes of professional baseball trying to talk their way out of personal responsibility for what they have done.  You know what?  Telling the truth on Capitol Hill actually is not only good for the conscience.  It‘s also good for America.  But too many professional athletes, so-called all-stars, just wouldn‘t step up to the microphone and tell the truth today, so this is going to drag on. 

Now, three parents did speak and were very blunt about their children who died tragically and died young because of steroid use. 


HOOTON:  During the fall of his junior year, his J.V. coach told this 6“3‘, 175-pound young man that he needed to get bigger in order to improve his chances of making the varsity team.  Taylor resorted to using an anabolic steroids to help him achieve his objective.  And like the Garibaldis, I am absolutely convinced that Taylor‘s secret use of anabolic steroids played a significant role in causing the depression, the severe depression, that resulted in his suicide.”

RAYMOND GARIBALDI, FATHER OF SUICIDE VICTIM:  His depression was unsurmountable.  On October 1, 2002, in his car, a half-a-block from our home, Rob shot himself in the head.  He was 24. 

DENISE GARIBALDI, MOTHER OF SUICIDE VICTIM:  Because of ignorance, denial of these athletes who refuse to testify without subpoenas, and opinions touted as fact, coaches, scouts and parents will continue to make misinformed statements to those in their charge.  Even though Mr. Canseco states on the first page that steroids are for adult use, youth are not afraid to take the risk of losing their health or their lives to emulate their heroes or to help guarantee a place on a team, a scholarship, their physique, or a competitive edge. 

There‘s no doubt in our mind that anabolic steroids caused our son to unexpectedly assault his father and choke him until he was restrained by two men.  There‘s no doubt in our minds that steroids killed our son.  Without steroid use, Rob‘s suffering and ultimately his death would have been averted.  How many more youngsters will die questing ego and fame through steroids?

HOOTON:  I believe the poor example being set by professional athletes is a major catalyst fueling the high usage of steroids amongst our kids.  Our kids look up to these guys. 

They want to do the things the pros do to be successful, and with this in mind, I have several messages for the professional athletes.  First, I am sick and tired of having you tell us that you don‘t want to be considered role models.  If you haven‘t figured it out yet, let me break the news to you that, whether you like it or not, you are role models.  And parents across America should hold you accountable for behavior that inspires our kids to do things that put their health at risk and that teaches them that the ethics we try to teach them around our kitchen table somehow don‘t apply to them. 


SCARBOROUGH:  I will tell you what.  I am glad at least somebody spoke their mind and told the truth on Capitol Hill.  Those parents were great. 

Now, tensions, of course, ran very high for the eight hours that members of Congress grilled the baseball players.  And if you believe some of the players, they never used the performance-enhancing drugs.  Others, though, just refused to say anything at all. 

More importantly, though, are these players killing our children with their bad example? 

With me now, we‘ve got former Mr. America and Mr. Universe and former steroid user Steve Michalik.  And we also have sports attorney Debbie Schlussel.

Let me start with you.

You were Mr. America.  You were Mr. Universe.  Steve...


SCARBOROUGH:  You believe steroids could be killing our children.

MICHALIK:  Yes.  Joe, thank you for having me on. 

It‘s absolutely true, because these kids do not have any idea how dangerous they are.  They see their heroes using them.  And, incidentally, you know, I was having a bad day today, and I finally got to have a real better day by watching Congress.  I haven‘t laughed as much until I saw the movie “Dumb and Dumber.”

I mean, if you‘re going to have—what is the purpose of these hearings?  If you‘re going to have a hearing, why single out the baseball players? 


MICHALIK:  You could put the football players, the wrestlers.  Madison Avenue and Hollywood are all responsible for the fact that these children are trying to emulate their heroes. 

SCHLUSSEL:  Please, Joe. 


SCARBOROUGH:  Well, Debbie, I will tell you one reason, Debbie.  Hold on, Debbie.  I will tell you one reason, the reason why we are looking at Major League Baseball, it‘s because their screening process for steroids is an absolute joke. 

The union has seen to it that people like Barry Bonds, in my opinion, and some of those guys on Capitol Hill today have been shoving steroids down their throats for years, and they love the fact that people like Bonds hit 73 home runs.  That brings people into the parks.

But Debbie, I know you love steroids, but even you...

SCHLUSSEL:  I don‘t love steroids. 

SCARBOROUGH:  ... have to admit, they are killing our children.  You think there‘s nothing wrong with them.

SCHLUSSEL:  No, listen, they are not killing our children.  You know what?  I saw a lot of grandstanding today in Congress. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Those parents were lying? 


SCARBOROUGH:  Do you think those parents were lying, Debbie?

SCHLUSSEL:  No, but I think these kids committed suicide.  Steroids didn‘t kill them.  They killed themselves, No. 1.

And, No. 2, the athletes, who are role models, and I agree with that, not one of them has endorsed steroids.  The only one who has ever even publicly said he took them is Jose Canseco, so I don‘t see how you can say that they are providing bad role models for these kids when they‘re not even overtly saying they do them. 


SCARBOROUGH:  Hold on, Debbie.  Debbie, you have openly said yourself many times before that you don‘t think steroids should be banned.  You don‘t think they are bad for baseball.  You think, in fact, hey, it may even make the game more exciting. 

SCHLUSSEL:  Joe, I think the marketplace has said that.

SCARBOROUGH:  Don‘t you agree that there are negative—let me ask my question. 

Don‘t you think that there are negative health implications to people shoving steroids down their throats? 

SCHLUSSEL:  Well, there are negative health implications for a lot of things, like Hollywood actors doing drugs, and I don‘t see any hearings with Robert Downey Jr. 

You know, we had hearings with congressmen saying that acne medicine, Accutane, causes kids to kill themselves and die also.  Listen, steroids...

MICHALIK:  This is absolutely ridiculous.  Joe, listen, this woman is absolutely ridiculous.  Have you ever taken anabolic steroids? 


MICHALIK:  Do you know how they psychologically affect you? 

Yes, it‘s a tragedy that these kids had killed themselves.  Let me tell you something.  Hormones affect emotion.  They create misemotion.  If you have never taken these things, you know nothing about it.  Listen, anybody...


SCHLUSSEL:  You don‘t have to commit suicide to be against it. 

MICHALIK:  Anybody married to a woman during menopause or having her period can tell you right now that hormones play a major factor in your psychological outlook to have... 


SCARBOROUGH:  Steve, let me tell you right now.  Steve, we better not go there right now, Steve.  I want to ask you this, though, Steve.

You have taken steroids.  You took them a lot.  They helped you build your body.  I want you to explain the physical process, the physical changes that you endured after you started abusing steroids. 

MICHALIK:  Well, you start taking them.  You have no fear when you are young.  So, you take one pill.  And one pill leads to two or three pills.  And that leads to injections.  And then you are feeling good. 

It‘s not like you‘re getting high or something, so you have some kind of physical effects from it.  So, you don‘t think anything is going wrong.  Then, all of sudden, you get this feeling of immortality, this feeling of euphoria, that you can do anything.  And so you take more.  And you are getting strong.  You‘re getting more powerful.  You‘re getting admired by everyone around you, your peers.  Your performance is better. 

And then, you have to think about getting off them.  It‘s when you get off them, that‘s the thing that hurts you, because now your endorphins have changed in your brain.  Your brain chemistry has changed.  And it happens even weeks and months and even years after you have used it. 

So it‘s very dangerous. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You felt an impact?  I mean, you felt a definite impact?  I mean, did you feel an emotional impact that could drive younger kids to suicide? 

MICHALIK:  Well, your thinking becomes impaired.  Your psychological processes are different. 

What happens is, the anabolic steroids increase your metabolic process and also your thinking process, where you are able to absorb much more data from life.  There‘s more pictures coming in.  There‘s more information coming into your brain.  And, at that age, you haven‘t lived life long enough to be able to process this information.  So, you go into confusion. 

And when a person goes into confusion, they go into nonconfront.  When you‘re nonconfront, they just want to get out.  The only way some of these people can get out is by killing themselves, unfortunately. 

SCHLUSSEL:  Joe, listen, the marketplace...

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Steve and Debbie, we are going to have to leave it there, unfortunately. 

Debbie, I understand you believe the marketplace supports steroids.


SCARBOROUGH:  I think also that the marketplace supports the abuse of alcohol.  I don‘t think that‘s a positive thing either.  And I think we need to control it. 

I appreciate you for being with us, Debbie and Steve. 

And coming up in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, much more.  We‘re going to get the full story from the Reverend Jesse Jackson on the spiritual counseling he is giving to Michael Jackson. 

That‘s when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns live from Charleston, South Carolina.



SCARBOROUGH:  I will tell you what.  What is happening over in the Middle East, especially with Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah talking about moving into the mainstream of political life over there, some of the most encouraging words we have heard out of the Middle East in some time. 

Now we turn to another story that is involving accusations of child abuse, children and sex, of course, the case against Michael Jackson.  And while much of America has written him off as “Wacko Jacko,” some are still standing by him, including the Reverend Jesse Jackson, who joins us now. 

Reverend, thanks a lot for being back with us in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  We greatly appreciate it. 


SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, tell me, why did you decide to pray with Michael Jackson during this difficult time for him?  Did he call you?  Did you call him? 

JACKSON:  No, he called me several times. 

I have known this family since 1968, his mother and father.  It‘s a very devoutly religious family.  So, I have known him all of his life, basically, since he was a child.  Secondly, I believe fervently in the power of prayer.  I prayed with George Wallace on his dying bed in Montgomery, Alabama.  I prayed with Milosevic in Yugoslavia, as we brought three American soldiers out of jail there.  So, I believe that prayer is appropriate in a time of challenge and crisis. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Now, who does Michael Jackson pray to?  Does he pray to Jesus, Jehovah?  I knew he was a Jehovah‘s Witness before.  What is his spiritual bent? 

JACKSON:  Well, you know, prayer is such a serious act of devotion, communicating with God.  Suffice it, he is sincere in his prayer, and God hears and answers prayer. 

If you approach God with a contrite heart and sincerity, God hears prayer.  And so prayer—when you are going to a storm, what do you turn to?  Not to yourself or even to your own understanding, but you turn to God.  And, of course, that family is in prayer as they go through a storm.  They feel they are being much maligned as a family. 

I remember talking with them the night after the prosecutor invaded the home with the 70 deputies and ransacked the house and had the big sensational press conference, asking for more witnesses. 


JACKSON:  They felt very violated.  Yet, they knew they had to go through this ordeal, and they are going through it with strength because of prayer. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes.  Is Michael, though—I guess my question is, is Michael a traditional Christian?  Does he believe that Jesus is his personal savior, or is he more of a universalist, as some would say? 

JACKSON:  He is a traditional Christian.  He‘s a Jehovah‘s Witness. 


Now, let me ask you, compare, if you will, your spiritual sessions with Michael Jackson with the prayer sessions that you had with Bill Clinton during the height of impeachment.  Do you see the same thing, two internationally known figures sort of in a siege mentality that are reaching out to God to get them through this tough time? 

JACKSON:  You know, whether people are praying because they have the cancer and fear of surgery and not very well known, because they are in some kind of political trouble, I mean, prayer has a kind of bottom line.

It‘s the attempt to approach God.  And if one does approach God with a sincere—with sincerity and contrition, God answers prayer.  And people who believe that, it becomes a source of support.  And God will be the wind beneath your wings.  Michael believes that.  I certainly believe it.  And people of faith believe it all around the world. 

SCARBOROUGH:  How is Michael‘s state of mind right now? 

JACKSON:  He is very strong. 

He feels that the sensationalism of the prosecutor in many ways has backfired.  The prosecutor seemed to leave no stone unturned in his pursuit of Michael.  It‘s a almost 10-year obsession.  He thinks that the witnesses coming that he sought to befriend who are now accusing him in this way, that their stories are coming apart.  So, he feels that, in this case, that he has momentum.  He is very sincere, very focused.  And right through here, faith as his weapon, maybe it‘s on the recourse. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes.  You know, Reverend, I think the case is falling apart right now, the prosecutor‘s case.  I think you are right.  Momentum is on Michael Jackson‘s side. 

Hey, stick around.  We‘ll be right back in a second.  And we are going to have more of our conversation with the Reverend Jesse Jackson when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns. 


SCARBOROUGH:  When we come back, I am going to ask the Reverend Jesse Jackson to tell us one thing about Michael Jackson that America and the world doesn‘t know. 

That‘s when we return in a second.


SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, Reverend, tell us something about Michael Jackson that America doesn‘t know. 

JACKSON:  You know, while Michael doesn‘t have steroid muscles, he is amazingly strong, with a tremendous sense of inner strength, and he‘s very astute. 

You know, Michael, not only does he sing and dance.  He owns the catalog, the Sony catalog, which houses the Beatles.  And so he‘s an astute businessman and has tremendous inner strength and really has a very strong devotional and prayer life.  And it really comes out of his family roots. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes.  And you think he is going to get off, don‘t you? 

JACKSON:  Well, I certainly hope that he does. 

And I certainly hope that such cases in the future will be tried in the courtroom with due process and dignity, and not glamorized in a media that, in fact, destroys people outside, whether they go into court or not.  To me, that is the ultimately unfair thing.  The sensationalizing and taking away of one‘s person for one‘s politics is just not, in my judgment, the best of the American way. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I think you are right, Reverend. 

And by the way, thank you so much.  We disagree on a lot of things.  We agree on some things.  We can both agree tonight, though, the power of prayer is so incredibly important.  Greatly appreciate you being with us. 

And that‘s it from Charleston.  And I‘ve been here with the National Conference of Law Reviews, sponsored by University of South Carolina Law School.  And I will tell you what.  Hanging around those law students, it‘s very clear to see that they are truly some of the best and the brightest that America has to offer. 

Hey, that‘s it from Charleston tonight.  We‘ve been here at our NBC affiliate, 2 News.  Greatly appreciate them having us. 

We‘ll see you tomorrow night from Florida.


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