Guest: Sean Morrison, N.G. Berrill Bert Weiner, Allen Havey
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
The Congress speaks. The president speaks. The Vatican speaks. Only the United Nations has not ruled on the life or death of Terri Schiavo.
Charges in the death of Jessica Lunsford, the start of the trial in the death of Samantha Runnion. Is there ever hope of returning pedophiles safely to society?
Is there ever hope of Michael Jackson returning to court on time? Or under his own power? Without an emergency meeting with his lawyer in the men‘s room? Puppet Theater has the latest.
And as Groucho Marx sang, “Whatever it is, I‘m against it.” The plan to ban commercials for male potency drugs and the plan to ban suggestive cheerleading. Well, if you ban one, you sure don‘t need the other.
All that and more now on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Good evening.
The word “hysteria” is pejorative and excessive. On the other hand, as she evolved into one of the most famous women in the world, Terri Schiavo has become a lightning rod for seemingly every medical, legal, ethical and religious dispute in this country.
An e-mailer to this program asked us to stop reporting what she called the, quote, “lie,” unquote, that Mrs. Schiavo was at all brain damaged. And when I replied that independent physicians had concluded otherwise, the e-mailer wrote back and called me a Nazi.
Our fifth story in the COUNTDOWN, the Schiavo case. It has gotten comment from Congress, from the White House, from the national media frenzy, even from the official newspaper of the Vatican.
Alone in silence, however, is the man whose words now matter most. The federal judge who could have the final verdict. And has only hinted at what that verdict will be.
James Whittemore, the Tampa district judge who was given the case by
act of Congress, this afternoon heard arguments for and against the
reinsertion of the feeding tube that keeps Mrs. Schiavo alive. After two
hours, Whittemore surprised onlookers by saying he would not make an
immediate ruling on the request for an emergency injunction to resume the
feeding, the outcome that is sought by Schiavo‘s parents and fought against
by her husband.
But he seemed to be leaning against reinserting the feeding tube. Judge Whittemore told the parents‘ attorney, quote, “I think you would be hard pressed to convince me that you have a substantial likelihood,” unquote of that lawsuit succeeding in a full federal court hearing.
Today‘s rush to court marked the end of a frantic weekend in Washington. Congress came back from recess to pass special legislation enabling Schiavo‘s parents to take the case into the federal court system. The House approved it, 203 to 58, at 18 minutes to 1 Eastern Time this morning.
President Bush ended a vacation early for the first time in his term of office, raced back to Washington, and was awakened 29 minutes later to sign the bill outside his bedroom door in the White House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a complex case with serious issues. But in extraordinary circumstances like this, it is wise to always err on the side of life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Terri Schiavo‘s husband, who has been fighting against her parents in court for seven years now, disagrees with that rationale.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL SCHIAVO, TERRI SCHIAVO‘S HUSBAND: Right now I‘m very outraged. It‘s a sad day for Terri. And it‘s a sad day for everybody in America. The government is going to trample all of your personal and private matters.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: But Schiavo‘s parent and their lawyer argue that the original ruling to remove the feeding tube was the real violation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID GIBBS III, ATTORNEY FOR SCHINDLER‘S: As we look at this case, we say her life, we say her liberty, we say her religious freedom, and yes, we agree her right to privacy is even being violated, because we don‘t believe Terri ever had these wishes. There was never a time where Terri Schiavo said, “You know, if I‘m ever brain injured, be sure to starve me to death.”
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The case today reached the pages of the official newspaper of the Vatican, “L‘Osservatore Romano.” An editorial opined, “Who can decide to pull the plug as if we were talking about a broken or out of order household appliance?”
In a moment, the attempt to clarify the legalities involved and also the medicine involved. If you believe the one extreme, that Terri Schiavo is being kept alive totally artificially, or if you believe the other, that she‘s capable of recovery, you are apparently wrong either way.
First, something much simpler which underscores the extraordinary political bandwagoning going on here. Politicians on all sides of this issue, divided—or dived into it with a vigor not seen in the time before the invasion of Iraq. Probably not even seen during the last presidential election campaign.
House Majority Leader DeLay overtly threatened Democrats who opposed the measure. Florida senators Bill Nelson‘s name came up in a memo.
But before the cameras rolled and the microphones and mouths opened, would it have been too much to ask, would it have not made it look less like opportunism if everybody had bothered to learn how to pronounce Terri Schiavo‘s name?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JIM SENSENBRENNER ®, WISCONSIN: I rise in support of s686 for the relief of the parents of Teresa Marie Schiavo.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Teresa Marie Schiavo.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Terri Schiavo‘s family.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will stay out of Terri Schiavo‘s life today.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The—Terri Schiavo told her husband...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Schiavo and Schindler families...
SENSENBRENNER: Terri Schiavo is not on life support.
OLBERMANN: Trying to unravel the political gamesmanship behind the story seems more difficult for most of us than pronouncing the woman‘s name was to the very representatives who insisted on making this a federal case.
In Florida, the state senate, led by nine Republicans, had refused to change Florida‘s Death with Dignity law last week, even in the light of the growing maelstrom over the Schiavo case.
In Washington, it is House Republican Majority Leader DeLay who is being credited or blamed with summoning the influence of the House on the side of congressional intervention. Even though an ABC News poll released this morning indicates 70 percent of the public feels that that intervention is wrong. And 67 percent feels politicians like DeLay have become involved not for principles but for political advantage.
Ironically, it is in Texas from which Mr. DeLay hails that passed a bill permitting the termination of life support in cases where further treatment is considered, quote, “futile,” even when family members oppose that termination.
Last week that law permitted a Houston area hospital to discontinue the life support for an infant named Sun Hudson, a 5-month-old boy whose lungs were too small to support life. Over his mother‘s objections, the Texas Futile Case Law permitted the hospital to remove the boy‘s breathing tube, and he died minutes later.
The bill was signed into law in 1999 by then Texas Governor George W.
The subtleties, medical, political and legal, seem as fine and fragile as that which could be the difference between life and death. Critics say that in light of the Futile Case Law in their home state, the president and the majority leader are being hypocritical.
Defenders say that the case is legally and medically completely different from the Sun Hudson story in Texas.
Uniquely qualified to give us some perspective here is Wayne Slater, senior political editor of “The Dallas Morning News,” who covered the creation of the law in Texas and is also the co-author of the biography of Karl Rove called, “Bush‘s Brain.”
Wayne, thank you for your time tonight.
WAYNE SLATER, AUTHOR, “BUSH‘S BRAIN”: Good to be here, Keith.
OLBERMANN: First that law. If Terri Schiavo were from Texas and not from Florida, would the futile treatment statute even be applied to her now?
SLATER: It would be applied, but it probably wouldn‘t have much effect. Ultimately, what the law allows is that a hospital, after a series of procedures, can pull the plug, can withdraw special care, and a person can die.
What the law does, and what Bush signed into law in 1999, was a provision that guaranteed that before the plug could be pulled, there would be special attention, that the person representing the patient would have 10 days to find somewhere else to go.
If that were the case in Texas, she probably would have run that 10 days and, ultimately, the same situation would have happened here as happened in Florida.
OLBERMANN: When the law passed in the Texas, did—did the then
governor have a role in it besides signing it? Was he an advocate of this
· of this law?
SLATER: He does. If you listen to the debate on the House floor, it was a bit confusing, at least as presented by the Democrats and the Republicans, where there was a lot of politics. And you‘re right.
Ultimately what happened was in 1997, a law was passed very quietly. We really didn‘t see it. It got to the governor‘s desk, and the right to life forces asked the governor to veto it.
It was a law that basically provided the procedures for hospitals to turn off ventilators or withdraw food and water from patients who were declared hopeless or it was a futile situation.
The governor, Governor Bush, then did veto it. And the two years that followed, the 1999 law passed, and it included a provision sought by right to life forces that allowed this 10-day waiting period, an extra grace the period, an extra effort on behalf of the right to life forces, an extra protection for those families of the people who were in care so that they had an extra opportunity to be kept alive.
It didn‘t guarantee that they would be kept alive. It added a simple provision that they could be if their families could find somewhere else for them to go.
OLBERMANN: Lastly, Wayne, in the context of that law, and as finally written as it may have been, is there, in your opinion, having covered then governor and now President Bush, is there consistency between his position on that and the statement today that he made, it is wise to always err on the side of life?
SLATER: There actually is consistency. The law then was aimed at the provisions to provide that life could continue, not guarantee it but continue it for patients who were in a hopeless or a bad situation. What he moved here this weekend was in the same direction. It really complicated and difficult, but it was a consistent pro-life position by Bush as governor and as president.
OLBERMANN: Wayne Slater, senior political writer for “The Dallas Morning News.” Great thanks again for your time tonight, sir.
That‘s some of the law and all of the politics. But what are the medical facts? Is this woman smiling at her parents? Is she talking to them? Or is it all wishful thinking on their part?
And the father of Jessica Lunsford, outraged that he was not told a known pedophile was living in his neighborhood just yards away. To save children, do we have to give up on the adults who prey on them?
You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: Is Terri Schiavo actually reacting to events around her or are her emotions just involuntary responses, devoid of meaning? And word of a school shooting in northern Minnesota that is apparently the largest in this country since Columbine. The latest details in a moment, here on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: Lost in the frenzy around the Terri Schiavo case, lost in the rhetoric and the politics and the law and the sympathy is the medical reality, whatever that is.
Our fourth story in the COUNTDOWN, the extremes of truth. Court appointed independent physicians reporting parts of Terri Schiavo‘s brain have actually liquefied. But her father saying she smiled at him last night.
In a moment, a recognized medical expert on end of life issues. Not that Terri Schiavo‘s parents, the Schindler‘s, believed such a doctor‘s opinion is relevant to their daughter‘s case. Though the independent physicians have concluded her facial gestures are random, her father insists his daughter can communicate and just did.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOB SCHINDLER, TERRI SCHIAVO‘S FATHER: Honest to God, I told her, I said, guess what?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no.
SCHINDLER: Do you feel like going for a ride?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And she had a big smile.
SCHINDLER: Do you want to go for a ride in a little while? And she got a big smile on her face. I said, “We had to wake the president up to save your life.”
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The crux of the case is whether or not Mr. Schindler is right.
Terri Schiavo‘s husband has invited the president to come visit her to see if he can get any reaction from her and suggested that that would settle everything.
One doubts now that anything could settle this case. But in hopes of getting a better medical understanding of where we are, I‘m joined now by Dr. Sean Morrison of the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine. He professor of geriatrics and research director of the Hertzberg Palliative Care Institute.
Dr. Morrison, thank you for your time tonight.
DR. SEAN MORRISON, MT. SINAI SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: Good evening.
OLBERMANN: Medically from what you know of this, is this a close call case? Is there the possibility of a recovery? Or a partial recovery here?
MORRISON: If this is truly a persistent vegetative state, then there really is no realistic medical hope of recovery. A persistent vegetative state is called persistent, but it really is better terminology might be a permanent vegetative state.
What is so hard about this condition is that the lower areas of the brain stem are still working. Our ability to breathe, our—our sleep-wake cycle are all preserved.
And what‘s even more difficult is oftentimes, we see random movements, random smiles, random turns of the head that for all intents and purposes look as if somebody is responding to that person in the room. But from everything we know about this condition, that‘s really not happening.
OLBERMANN: So it is as if we are supplying the meaning to those images, that the images are what we might, someone might do in a dream or in an unresponsive coma?
MORRISON: Oftentimes, this is such a devastating condition. And it‘s so difficult for families to be there that we look for any sign of hope, any interpretation that there might be a chance of recovery. And we often do, indeed, put meaning to what are oftentimes random gestures for people in this type of condition.
OLBERMANN: As I said, you specialize in end of life issues. This national focus on this case, the way this has grabbed people, does it represent to you something of an enlarged version of what you might see a family struggling with in this situation, that a doctor tells a family, or in this case, doctors tell the country, the courts, the Congress, there is no hope of recovery here. This is a cruel joke played by nature.
And the family says, or in this case, the nation, part of the nation, part of the Congress, part of the political structure, returns and says, “No, you must be wrong or biased or lying.”
Is this a magnified version of what you might in a hospital room anywhere in this country?
MORRISON: I think it‘s an extraordinarily magnified position. As somebody who takes care of patients with serious and life-threatening illness, I make decisions almost every day with patients and families about life sustaining treatments, about what are the goals of care, what are the types of conditions that people face.
These decisions are always devastating. They‘re oftentimes wrenching. They‘re made with a great deal of thought, a great deal of purpose, a great exploration of the patients‘ wishes, her values, her goals.
But I think that many physicians are making these decisions with patients and families. They‘re made quietly at the bedside. They‘re made in terms of deep discussions. They‘re made with a great deal of thought. And certainly they are not made with the extraordinary media coverage we‘re seeing today.
OLBERMANN: Lastly, sir, if the woman‘s eyes were closed, would you think any of this would be happening?
MORRISON: I don‘t think so. I think that, if she had been in a persistent coma now for close to 15 years, her eyes are closed, she didn‘t appear to be responding, I‘m not sure that we‘d be saying the same attention that we‘ve seen today.
OLBERMANN: Dr. Sean Morrison of the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine. A great thanks for your insight tonight, sir.
MORRISON: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: There are other medical issues tonight, and they seem laughable by contrast. You know who late again. And we‘re glad to see him tonight. This time he brought more than just a note from his doctor.
Inside the courtroom, as we will talk to his doctor and also join you via the miracle of Michael Jackson Puppet Theater.
And a break from the breaking headlines of the day for the broken headlines of the day. China waging war on a mortal enemy. Ice. Ice, baby.
OLBERMANN: Surrounded by grim or farcically grim stories from the real news of the day, we are blessed to have always the people who do not know that their news was not quite as serious as they thought it was.
Let‘s play “Oddball.”
You are looking live at ice. Chinese television, fascinating its viewers with the latest crackdown by the nation‘s military. Literally a crackdown, a crackdown of ice.
Using 82 millimeter mortars to break up the ice that every year jams the Yellow River, which will later cause flooding headaches during the spring thaw in Mongolia.
They beat the ice! Kick the ice.
No thaw from the U.S., though, this time of year. No prospect of lifting weapons bans on China. Secretary of State, Dr. Rice reiterates, no bombs for you, and visits an ice skating rink.
Coincidence? I think not.
And this appears to be a sports highlight of some sort. From way downtown, bang! That, the key to the Minnesota class 4A state boy basketball championship.
Koonkaew‘s (ph) buzzer beater from a supine position, tying the game with two of a second left in overtime. His school, Hopkins, pulled away in the second bonus canto, beating Eastview 71-60 in double OT.
That was good enough for one day‘s work. But earlier, Hoparmer (ph) had hit a three-pointer at the end of regulation that forced the first overtime.
Also tonight, it‘s as if Michael Jackson is trying to atone for whatever sins he may have committed by making his own trial more surreal by the day. We will talk to the E.R. doctor who was there for the pajama drama.
And the latest details on a school shooting in Minnesota. The FBI investigating. So far, it has awful rings of Columbine. This time, though, with one shooter.
Those stories ahead. Now here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers on this day.
Number three, with something of a theme tonight. Zabedah Mahedi of Koala Lampur, she finally got hitched, marrying Jafar Sarat (ph) on Saturday. The new Mrs. Sarat is 67 years old and said she had rejected nine marriage proposals during her lifetime because she was waiting for Mr. Right. She evidently took the scenic route.
Number two, Stu Hemesat of La Porte City, Iowa. He may be Mr. Right, but he costs $29.95. He put his services up as a prom date for bid on eBay. The girl who bought him, Rachel Kay, said she really didn‘t expect to win. She was trying to make her boyfriend jealous. Rachel, welcome to adult life.
And number 1, Monica Barbosa and Ampura Cruz (ph). Arrested in Fairfield, Connecticut. They have been shoplifting clothing from area stores. Their ring was finally busted up.
Found in their car when they ran a red light, 220 pair of thong underwear. Thongs? They‘re thong thieves? Thorny thinkers, these thong thieves. What kind of thongs were stolen in this thong thievery? They were thick thongs. That figures. The thick thong thieves.
They‘ve some kind of an alibi? Yes, but I‘m not buying it. You‘re not buying the thorny thinking thick thong thieves alibi? Why not? Because it‘s thin.
(MUSIC: “The Thong Song”)
OLBERMANN: There are at least eight people dead tonight in the small Minnesota town of Red Lake, six of them at the town school. Four students, a teacher and a security guard, and one of the dead students is apparently the lone shooter. Fourteen or 15 other students have been injured, two of them critically.
Our third story in the COUNTDOWN tonight, the continuing perils of childhood beginning on an Indian reservation 75 miles south of the Canadian border, about 240 miles north of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Details are still sketchy. The FBI just has released the numbers, not names at this point.
But the town‘s fire director, a man named Roman Stately (ph), has told several news organizations that one student committed all the crime, all 22 or 23 shootings. That his first victims were his own grandparents in their home. That his grandfather was a police officer in Red Lake, Minnesota, and the guns used by the shooter may have belonged to that man. The police officer.
Fire Director Stately said the unidentified student moved to the school and began firing at everybody he saw. That the six dead students were found in one school room. Some of the wounded victims were being transported to hospitals as far away as Fargo, North Dakota. It is carnage and shock so widespread that even the FBI does not think it will have a full picture until morning.
But to repeat the details that we have now, at the high school on the Red Lake Native-American reservation on Red Lake, Minnesota, four students, a teacher and a guard are known dead. One of the dead students, believed to have been the lone killer, 14 or 15 other students may be injure. Two other people are dead, reportedly the shooter‘s grandparents.
Once another crime against children was almost hidden from the public. Now seemly, each example of it gains national attention, only the coverage is different. The pain is identical and unspeakable. Today at almost the same time the alleged murderer of Jessica Lunsford was charged, the man charged with murdering 5-year-old Samantha Runnion (ph) went on trial.
That jury was told that the little girls DNA was found in the defendants car. It was in her tears. Prosecutors allege 30-year-old Alejandro Avila, lured Samantha Runnion from her yard in Stanton, California, forced her into his car, sexually assaulted her and then murdered her. The day after her July 2002 disappearance, her body was found 50 miles away. Avila has pleaded not guilty. He faces the death penalty if convicted. A jury acquitted him of having molested two girls in 2001. And in keeping with California law, this jury will hear about those allegations as well.
And in the Jessica Lunsford case, that suspect‘s past playing a critical role as well. Police in Inverness, Florida announcing charges in the murder of Jessica Lunsford in addition to capital murder, 46-year-old convicted sex offender John Couey has been charged with burglary, kidnapping and sexual battery. Couey has confessed to the abduction and killing of the little girl. Her body was found early Saturday morning about 150 yards from her own home, near a mobile home, owned by Couey‘s half sister.
He will be arraigned on the new charges tomorrow morning. For the moment, he is being held on violating his parole and for having failed to register as a sex offender. The victim‘s father seemed to transcend his personal tragedy, reminding everyone of that the system‘s failure meant the victim could have been anyone.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK LUNSFORD, JESSICA LUNSFORD‘S FATHER: He is scum. Anybody that could act the way he has acted does not deserve to live in my world. But then he‘s not in my world. He is in our world. And together we need to take people like this and punish them severely. They do not deserve to be around us. They do not deserve to be on the same planet as us. Our children depend on us to protect them and to keep them safe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And his daughter‘s memorial service yesterday, Mr. Lunsford and a friend circulated a petition calling for 50 year mandator sentences and electronic monitoring devices for predators. But was it the law that failed the Lunsford‘s or the premise of rehabilitating pedophiles?
I‘m joined by the forensic psychologist, Dr. N.G. BERRILL, the director for the New York Center for Neuro-psychology and Forensic Behavioral Science.
Doctor, good evening, thanks for your time.
DR. N.G. BERRILL, FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGIST: Hello.
OLBERMANN: You evaluate and treat sex offenders. Bluntly, can pedophiles be rehabilitated?
BERRILL: Well, I don‘t know about rehabilitate. But I suppose that the best way to frame this whole thing would be to be managed. Clinically managed and managed through law enforcement in what we refer to, at least in our practice is a containment model.
OLBERMANN: What would help improve that containment model? What are we not doing legally?
What are we not doing medically that would increase the safety of the children and perhaps even benefit the perpetrators?
BERRILL: In this model, at least, the doctors who treat pedophiles, particularly violent or aggressive pedophiles, and law enforcement in our case, generally speaking, federal probation officers, need to meet regularly and monitor the progress, compliance with treatment that, you know, the patients we see in the office—that they are complying or they‘re not. And that the dialogue is sometimes daily about an individual. If you release these individuals from jail, prison, hospitals, and don‘t monitor carefully and treat intensively someone is going to slip through the cracks, and unfortunately, though the base rates are low, you‘re going to have these horrifying event take place out in the community.
OLBERMANN: When you see a case like this, Jessica Lunsford killing, whereas we speak, the principal charged against that suspect right there is failing to register as a sex offender, do you feel betrayed and that this little girl was betrayed by a criminal system?
Do you feel something has been thwarted in your effort, by a system that some how has enough latitude to let an offender not register?
BERRILL: Well, you know, look. Each state handles this differently. And the federal government handle these it differently. But if you know you have a violent predator in your midst, you‘re letting them go from prison, you know, the very next day there‘s got to be a probation officer waiting at the front door and initiating the process of careful monitoring. The idea of electronic monitoring came up. It‘s not a crazy idea. You know, the expenditure wouldn‘t be so really great when you consider the magnitude of the law in a case like this.
OLBERMANN: Would it have an impact, the monitoring device? Are not most pedophiles so driven that even the fear of being caught in the act would not stop them?
BERRILL: No. That‘s not the case at all. In fact, these guys who commit these aggressive pedophilic acts, kidnapping and murder, are the rare case. I think, you have just the vast majority of these fellows, who with constant psychotherapy, sometimes medicine, careful monitoring by probation, you don‘t have the relapse or the recidivism that we all worry about.
OLBERMANN: Forensic psychologist, Dr. N.G. Berrill, great thanks for your time tonight.
OLBERMANN: This is one night to be grateful for the farcical and egomaniacal aspects of the Michael Jackson trial. Against that back drop here he is comic relief. It is your entertainment and tax dollars in action, day 490 of the Michael Jackson investigations. On the stand today, a child psychologist testifying that inconsistent stories are common for children who have been the victim of sexual abuse.
A flight attendant who said she had served Michael Jackson a number of alcoholic beverages in Diet Coke can, but insisted she had not seen any intoxicated children on any of the 15 flights she had flown with the entertainer.
All of this, of course, irrelevant to the headline of the day. Michael Jackson‘s back, it hurts again. He arrived three minutes late to court, family and doctor in tow. His condition necessitating further delay, while he, the doctor, and his attorney Thomas Mesereau spent time in the court bathroom and the whole first floor was sealed off. Judge Melville resumed testimony after a 45-minute of the apparent heal related hold-up, offering no explanation to the jury nor any admonishment to the defendant.
Dr. Bert Weiner was the doctor in that bathroom with Michael Jackson today. He is the medical director for the emergency room at Cottage Hospital in Santa Ynez. Dr. Weiner, thanks for you time. Good evening.
DR. BERT WEINER, TREATED MICHAEL JACKSON TODAY: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Mr. Jackson‘s day actually started in your hospital‘s emergency room?
What can you tell us about what happened and how did you end up being in court with him?
WEINER: Well, he presented with some difficulties due to a fall. And he was evaluated preliminarily, and—but expressed a clear need to go to court immediately knowing that he would be severely penalized if he was late at all. And we were able to find enough time to run the tests, but not to have the final reports. And since I was just getting off duty at 8:00, the lawyers felt that I would be best, the best one to discuss the situation with the judge, even with the results pending as they were.
So I was, I was—went with them to the court and then discussed the situation with the judge and was able to get the final reports at the time that I was with the judge. And so things were able to proceed.
OLBERMANN: Did he have another episode of back pain after you guys got to the court, is that what the whole business in the bathroom was about?
WEINER: No. But I think that would be something that would be more in the area of medical privacy that something I really can‘t discuss.
OLBERMANN: Can you give us a perspective, if not on Mr. Jackson‘s exact back condition, but the strains that might be faced by someone with that kind of injury or ailment who has to go into court everyday. Is this liable to continue? Is it going to be a consistent problem do you expect?
WEINER: Well, I feel he has a painful condition that may—which should improve over the coming days. Naturally, he‘ll be uncomfortable and is under medication for treatment for the pain. But it‘s not something that is, once we had the final results in, not something that was life threatening. But certainly something that produces considerable discomfort for him.
OLBERMANN: And the end result of all this evening for you is that Jay Leno invited you to be in the studio audience for the “Tonight Show” tonight?
WEINER: No, actually, I had tickets before that. We had been planning this for quite sometime—Jay Leno that is.
OLBERMANN: But he know you‘re going to be there.
WEINER: Actually, I‘ve just come from the taping. It‘s in the same building the—they‘re just about finished right now. But I was not part of the show.
OLBERMANN: You didn‘t get one of those Ed Sullivan style waves from the audience, unfortunately.
WEINER: No. No. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) there thought.
OLBERMANN: Dr. Bert Weiner of the Cottage Hospital in Santa Ynez, attending physician today of Michael Jackson‘s recent back ailment. We thank you for your time tonight.
WEINER: You‘re quite welcome.
OLBERMANN: Michael Jackson, part of the mysterious goings on in the courtroom bathroom. You didn‘t really think we were going to let that go, did you? We take you there now, kind of, through what we call half journalism, half burlesque. The experience we refer to as Michael Jackson Puppet Theater.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: I know, I know, I‘m late again. But I did not feel well.
And we had to meet here because my lawyer, Mr. Mesereau and I need privacy. What, you thought I liked meeting men in bathrooms? I know the judge is angry again. But this time, I didn‘t just bring a note from my doctor. I brought my doctor.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: From the theater that is the Jackson trial to the theater of the baseball steroids story, new developments spell very bad news for Barry Bonds.
And first Bob Dole starts talking about, you know. Now somebody else on Capitol Hill is trying to make sure the talk gets, tamed down in prime time. Standby.
OLBERMANN: It may turn out that the dog and pony and steroid show, staged by the House committee on government reform last Thursday, was more important than it had first looked.
Our number two story in the COUNTDOWN, the man poised to break baseball‘s all-time home run record, already accused of using steroids illegally, is reportedly under investigation by a San Francisco grand jury.
Barry Bonds is being, quote, “looked at,” so the San Francisco Chronicle
quotes the attorney for a former girlfriend of the Giant slugger. Hugh Levine says his client, Kimberly Bell, testified to a grand jury last week, summoned there by prosecutors in the big steroid inquiry in the Bay area. The newspaper quotes two sources familiar with her testimony as saying, Miss Bell told the grand jury that in 2000, Bonds had told her he had begun using steroids. He has repeatedly denied such use. He even told the grand jury that in December 2003. That could be the problem.
“It‘s clear from the subpoena that they are looking at Barry Bonds and the possibility he may have given untruthful testimony to the grand jury,” says the attorney, Mr. Levine.
The attorney for Bonds says the entire steroid investigation, seemingly aimed at manufacturers and distributors, is actually just a cover for a real target, Bonds himself. Bonds did not testify before Congress last week. Even if they had subpoenaed him, he probably would have been excused, as was Jason Giambi of the New York Yankees who had already testified to that Bay area grand jury.
But those endless hearings last Thursday changed at least one mind on the subject. Senator John McCain, originally opposed to the hearings and denying the need for Congressional action, now saying the opposite. Among his suggestions, that the sport could be monitored by the U.S. Anti-doping Agency which currently does Olympic steroid testing.
Why the Arizona senator‘s reversal? What he heard the witnesses say. As McCain put it, the, quote, “absolute insensitivity of both the owners and the players to the American people.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA: Look, it just seems to me that they can‘t be trusted. What do we need to do? It seems to me that we ought to seriously consider, and I‘ve been talking to Congressman Sweeney about this, maybe a law that says all professional sports have a minimum level of performance enhancing drugs testing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: McCain also expressed sadness at the testimony, or nontestimony, of Mark McGwire, saying that the great slugger should, quote, “get himself a new lawyer.” McGwire may also need to get himself a new highway. A Missouri Congressman said McGwire‘s name should be stripped from the five-mile stretch of I-70 named in his honor a year after he broke the single season home run record. Representative William Clay said, quote, “it would take an act by the state legislature, but I don‘t think he deserves a name on the highway if he can‘t be forthcoming about this issue.” While four other players adamantly denied ever using steroids, McGwire said his lawyer had told him neither to confirm nor deny it.
And one other steroid development in the wake of the hearings: only during it did most players learn the new steroid punishment system was not what they were told it was going to be. They had agreed to a 10-day suspension for anybody who tested positive for steroids for the first time. It turned out the deal actually said a 10-day suspension or a fine of $10,000. Congress bristled at that. Many players were angry, too. The owners say they had fixed the loophole. First offense now means 10-day suspension, period.
The baseball news leading us smoothly but, for me, uncomfortably, into our nightly round-up of celebrity and entertainment news. A long time sportscasting colleague revealing he has entered an alcohol rehab program. Pat O‘Brien, better known now as the co-host of the syndicated TV series “The Insider,” formerly of “Access Hollywood,” releasing a brief statement last night. Quoting it, “I have had a problem with alcohol. I have decided to take action by checking myself into an intensive recovery program.”
Pat was on this network and NBC from the Olympics in Greece last summer. Previously, I worked with him at CBS. All the best, Pat.
Also tonight, news of the passing of the man who got exactly the publicity he needed, exactly four years too late. John Delorean has died. He would nearly bankrupt himself, he would get himself put on trial for cocaine distribution, all in hope of getting car buyers of 1981 and 1982 to purchase an obscure, oddly designed vehicle, that would itself become one of the stars of the 1985 movie “Back to the Future.” By then, the Delorean was out of production, reportedly, only 8,900 of them having been made. After the movies, who knows how many hundreds thousand he could have sold? Delorean also designed the famed Pontiac GTO in the ‘60s. He suffered a stroke last Thursday, died Saturday at the age of 80, and collectors and dealers report that the price of both the GTO and the Delorean itself have, as a result of his passing, risen.
From fast cars to fast-acting drugs, and even faster cheerleading, one Texas legislator said it is time to put a stop to this. Ban something! .
OLBERMANN: He is long forgotten to all but the most ardent of old-time radio news fans, but a critic of the 1930‘s news analyst Upton Close said it wasn‘t hard to divine Mr. Close‘s philosophy toward international developments. Quote, “Whatever occurs, opposed to it.”
Our number one story on the COUNTDOWN tonight—that‘s an instinct as old as this country itself. From books to some immigrants to playing baseball on Sunday, we have adhered off and on to one brief wisdom: when in doubt, ban it. This week it‘s a twofer: TV ads for Viagra and the like, and what one politician is calling sexually suggestive cheerleading. You do realize this would mean that there‘d be absolutely nothing on television on Sundays during football season, don‘t you?
First, the happiness pills. Democratic Congressman Jim Moran of Virginia, is touting a bill that would ban erectile disfunction drug ads from broadcast TV from six in the morning and 10 at night. He says, quote, “You can hardly watch prime-time television or a major sporting event with your family without ads warning of the dangers of a four-hour experience airing every 10 minutes.” The experience to which the Congressman refers is the alarming disclaimer, so often uttered in a low, rush tone near the end of each ad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Side effects may include headaches, flushing or runny nose. In the rare case an erection lasts for more than four hours, seek immediate medical attention.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Strong, lasting—experience Levitra for yourself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Honey, did I just sneeze?
Representative Moran also noted when Bob Dole was doing the commercials it didn‘t really bother him.
Meanwhile, the unrelated story from Texas where State Representative Al Edwards has introduced a bill banning sexually suggestive bumping and grinding during high school cheerleading routines. Edwards says, quote, “It‘s just way too sexually oriented, you know? The way they‘re shaking their behinds,” end quote. Any offending squad would have their funding cut and be prohibited from performing for the rest of the year. Representative Edwards has something of a reputation for creative proposals: most notable, the 1990 bid to punish drug dealers by chopping off their fingers.
So, if Congressman Moran and State Representative Edwards get their wishes, what the hell kind of world would we be left to live in?
To give us some answers, I‘m joined now by humorist, actor, social commentator, and a man who has known cheerleaders personally, Allen Havey.
Good evening, my friend.
ALLEN HAVEY, COMEDIAN/SATIRIST: Hi Keith. Go Panthers!
OLBERMANN: Yay. Let‘s...
HAVEY: I just saw those cheerleaders. I‘m rooting for the Panthers...
OLBERMANN: For awhile any way. Up to four hours.
Let‘s look at these two efforts separately, and we‘ll start with the bill in Texas. Has someone been watching the highschool cheerleaders a little too closely?
HAVEY: Absolutely, and you can‘t blame the cheerleaders for bumping and grinding, because they have to compete with the women in the stands now. This is Texas. They got bikini tops, jeans, breast augmentations, tank tops, and those are just the grandmothers. There‘s a lot of hot women in Texas.
And Edwards says that this is the wrong message to send to teenagers, this sexuality. Teenagers have this message from within. It‘s a 24/7 hot beam message that goes through them. Cheerleaders are fine. You know, back in the old days, Keith, I don‘t know if you remember this, but what‘s really more erotic that this move right here? The girls who put their arms straight out like that, and bring up both legs, you know, like that. That‘s the one I waited for, you know, so, um, the cheerleaders are just reacting towards our times today.
OLBERMANN: Don‘t you think we have bigger problems when we worry about Texas cheerleaders like their mothers trying to kill each other off to make room for them on the squad, that story from 10, 15 years ago?
HAVEY: Absolutely, and you got the woman that ran over her husband not once, not twice, but three times with her Mercedes. You have, I mean, the state has a lot of problems. It‘s a big state. This is a minor thing but, like you said, people like make stuff up, they like to ban things just for the sake of it. It started with Janet Jackson‘s breast and it hasn‘t stopped.
OLBERMANN: We‘re just gradually moving our way down the body.
The second topic, and speaking of that, the commercials, apart from the fact that banning them from prime-time TV would knock out 30 percent of the gross national product, is there any reason not to ban them? Is there any some point to this? Are they not a little upsetting?
HAVEY: Oh no, the commercial are great. These are parents complaining. With today‘s obesity rates, when the commercials come on, the parents actually have to get up and move to the remote, or move to the TV, you know, to burn off calories. Children see their parents move quickly. That‘s very inspiring for children.
There‘s no imagination now. Parents need to lie to their children about what a four-hour election is. We have lied to them about Santa Claus and the tooth fairy, you know, Uncle Billy isn‘t an alcoholic. He‘s just sick. You know, what‘s a four-hour erection? You tell your kids it‘s a bad golf stroke, it‘s a new NBC miniseries, it‘s a filibuster in a pair of Dockers—there‘s a lot of things parents can tell their children but they‘re just—they‘re lazy.
OLBERMANN: We‘d like an NBC series to last four hours, by the way, but that‘s something else. But let me ask you finally...
HAVEY: With no breaks, I might add.
OLBERMANN: Not too personal, but have you ever need to employ any of those drugs?
HAVEY: One time, my girlfriend put a Viagra in a pepper mill. I can‘t tell you what happened but at the end, there was Caesar salad all over the place.
OLBERMANN: Hey-oh, Allan Havey, humorous, social commentator and also known as the magic chef. He‘ll be appearing at the Improve in Washington D.C. a month from now...
HAVEY: With croutons.
OLBERMANN: With croutons, the weekend of April 8th.
Thank you, my friend.
HAVEY: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: That‘s COUNTDOWN. Thanks for being part of it. NBC‘s coverage of the Terry Schiavo case resumes next with a special full-hour report. I‘m Keith Olbermann—good night and good luck.
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