Guest: David Pollak, Candice Jackson, Robin Bronk, James Hirsen, Cliff Kincaid, Martha Zoller, Brent Bozell, Bob Jensen
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK WHITAKER, EDITOR, “NEWSWEEK”: The U.S. service men and women who were put in harm‘s way is something that we feel awful about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST: Tonight‘s top headline, “Newsweek” magazine‘s editor retracts a report that has incited Muslim hatred and riots around the world. But are Americans abroad, including our troops, in danger because of that “Newsweek” story?
Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, no passport required and only common sense allowed.
Riots are rocking the world tonight, leaving at least 16 people dead, more than 100 wounded and Americans all across the Mideast in danger. And now “Newsweek” says that story was wrong. But what is the danger to Americans abroad in the future and the media at home? Our all-star panel will talk about it in a minute in the SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY showdown.
Then, more controversy in public broadcasting, this time at National Public Radio, with charges of bias and countercharges of meddling, this as a new study as Americans think the media has too much freedom. We‘ll talk about that in a minute.
And also, in a galaxy far, far away, some call it France, some are saying that the new “Star Wars” movie is really an attack on George Bush‘s foreign policy. And the Cannes Film Festival, last year, these folks gave Michael Moore their higher honor. Now they‘re honoring dark anti-American films. Hey, movie fans, big surprise. It doesn‘t seem the French like us too much.
ANNOUNCER: From the press room, to the courtroom, to the halls of Congress, Joe Scarborough has seen it all. Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.
SCARBOROUGH: You know, our American troops tonight all across the world are in grave danger. You know that. I don‘t have to tell you that. But, unfortunately, their job is a little more difficult tonight. You know, just yesterday, I read in “The New York Times” a story talking about how the insurgents in Iraq had lost the battle for the hearts and the minds of the Iraqi people and that, actually, American troops seemed to be in good shape, that they could possibly win the battle for the hearts and the minds of the Iraqi people, because the insurgents were doing all the wrong things.
Well, unfortunately, what a difference a day makes. A short article in the May 9 edition of “Newsweek” reported that U.S. interrogators at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, flushed a copy of the Koran down the toilet as a way to get detainees to talk. Now, that item, of course, sparked protests and riots throughout the Islamic world. After being hammered by the Pentagon and the White House, “Newsweek” today finally retracted its story.
NBC Justice Department correspondent Pete Williams has that full story.
PETE WILLIAMS, NBC JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The kind of demonstrations that erupted in Afghanistan seemed to have died down for now; 16 people were killed when the protests turned violent late last week. And today, Bush administration officials blamed the violence on an item in “Newsweek” that said Guantanamo interrogators flushed a copy of the Koran down a toilet to unsettle terror suspects there.
SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This is a report that has caused serious damage to the image of the United States abroad. It has had serious consequences. People have lost their lives.
WILLIAMS: The Pentagon today called “Newsweek”‘s original report demonstrably false and said a search of 25,000 documents from Guantanamo found no report for it.
DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: People are dead, and that‘s unfortunate. And people need to be very careful about what they say.
WILLIAMS: Today, “Newsweek” says the information came from a senior U.S. government official and was consistent with complaints of religious desecration from former Guantanamo prisoners.
But now “Newsweek” says its original source is no longer sure about the information. Some Muslims in Afghanistan who oppose the government there and supported the protests accuse the U.S. government of pushing “Newsweek” into a retraction. Al-Jazeera broadcast an interview with an opposition political figure in Pakistan who said he still believed it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Report of “Newsweek” was not the only evidence.
WILLIAMS: He said former prisoners have confirmed similar allegations.
(on camera): While the debate rages over “Newsweek”‘s journalism, some experts on the region say last week‘s protests had long been simmering and involved more than just the Koran story.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From the very beginning, the demonstrators also said they didn‘t want any permanent U.S. bases in Afghanistan, which was a reaction to some statements by President Karzai that he would discuss a long-term military relationship with the United States.
WILLIAMS (voice-over): And Afghanistan‘s foreign minister says the article did not create anti-government sentiment in his country, but may have pushed it into violence.
Pete Williams, NBC News, Washington.
SCARBOROUGH: There‘s absolutely no doubt, my friends—that‘s Pete Williams, NBC‘s Pete Williams, by the way.
I got to mention right here that NBC News has an editorial relationship with “Newsweek,” its owner, also its owner of “The Washington Post.” And I‘ve got friends that work over at “Newsweek,” men and women that I respect a great deal. But if anybody comes out and says these riots were not caused directly by this article, they‘re just not telling you the truth.
Now, talking about “Newsweek”‘s article and its possible cost to Americans abroad and the media at home are Brent Bozell from the Media Research Center. We also have Bob Jensen. He‘s a professor and journalism professor at the University of Texas.
Brent Bozell, let me begin with you.
I‘ve got my theories, but why do you think a story like this was ever printed in the first place?
BRENT BOZELL, MEDIA RESEARCH CENTER: Well, let me say just something first, if I can. That setup by Pete Williams was very disappointing., to suggest that maybe it‘s not really true that, after all, that this “Newsweek” article had that much of an influence.
Pete Williams at NBC has been reporting, like everyone else has for the last week, that that‘s exactly what happened. And now, suddenly, they‘re saying that‘s not what happened. I wish they would get their story straight. Why did it happen? How did it happen that you had, Joe, you had a reporter report a story based on a—quote, unquote—“reliable source” and, in “Newsweek”‘s own words, they turn it over to two Pentagon officials for confirmation and said they had, in fact, confirmed them, when in fact now we know nobody confirmed that story and that story was never reliable.
This is the National Guard story all over again, the exact same M.O. of the CBS National Guard story. It‘s disgraceful. They never should have done this, but they‘re so blinded by their hostility to the United States‘ position in Iraq, they simply run with these because they simply believe they have to be true.
SCARBOROUGH: You know, Brent Bozell, I‘m glad that you said, instead of saying that they‘re blinded by hostility towards George W. Bush, that you said they‘re blinded towards the hostility for the United States, because I don‘t think this has anything to do with the Republican Party or the Democratic Party, that type of bias. It is a bigger bias that I believe was born out of reporting during the Vietnam era and also during Watergate.
And let‘s face it, Brent. If people had written an article about George W. Bush‘s policy or U.S. policy and how it was spreading democracy through the Middle East, they would know they would never win a Pulitzer Prize for writing that type of story. You are not rewarded in American journalism for talking about how U.S. foreign policy changes lives, whether it‘s in Central America, whether it‘s in Central Europe, whether it‘s in Eastern Europe.
You write an article like this, though, and all of a sudden you‘re in line for a Pulitzer.
BOZELL: We came across an interesting factoid. There have been 50 times as many stories done on alleged abuses at Gitmo Bay, at that base, as there has been on all of the rest of Cuba. Now, what part of the country is more responsible for human rights abuses, Cuba or that base?
You know, earlier today, “Newsweek” editor Mark Whitaker sat down with “NBC Nightly News”‘ Brian Williams in an exclusive interview. Let‘s take a quick listen to some of that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WHITAKER:: We are going to, in the wake of this, review all of our practices. Obviously, there‘s a lot of talk, not only at “Newsweek,” but elsewhere, about the use of unnamed sources. Frankly, I don‘t think we can do our job if we totally abandon the idea that some of our sources are going to be confidential.
But I think we have to push as hard as we can to identify who our sources are and give our readers at least some sense of who they are. When we wrote the report, we went to the Pentagon for comment. Again, as I said before, we took the extra step of showing the entire story to a very highly placed Pentagon official.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC ANCHOR: It‘s been asked rhetorically all day during the coverage, the nonstop coverage of this story, what does “Newsweek” say to the fact that lives were lost?
WHITAKER: We say that we feel terrible. I have expressed my sympathy in my editor‘s note this week to all of the people, all of the victims of the violence, to the U.S. service men and women who were put in harm‘s way. It is something that we feel awful about. And we do not in any way minimize that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: I‘ll tell you what. And I know they don‘t. Again, I know people over at “Newsweek” personally, got great respect for them.
But I think—Bob Jensen, I think this is a bigger problem. And I‘m glad to have your voice here tonight, because I suspect that you‘ll strongly defend “Newsweek.” But I suspect the bigger problem is that American media is too cynical when it comes to U.S. foreign policy. I would guess that you think, actually, that‘s a very healthy cynicism and it‘s good for our democracy.
DR. BOB JENSEN, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS: Well, actually, the U.S. news media is not cynical enough.
If we think of the way the U.S. corporate news media rolled over in, let‘s say, the run-up to the war in Iraq, when the lies and the distortions of the Bush administration were never challenged, what we see is that, in these hyperpatriotic times, the news media isn‘t aggressive enough. The problem isn‘t not enough isn‘t too much coverage. It‘s not enough coverage.
SCARBOROUGH: Bob, what about Abu Ghraib? Did you not think “The New York Times” doing 43 pieces on it was not aggressive enough?
JENSEN: I think that when the United States is guilty of torture, murder and the sexual humiliation of prisoners—we should remember, by the way, that the story about the Koran has not been disproved. It‘s a question about sources. There are detainees who come out of these prisons who talk about this kind of treatment.
SCARBOROUGH: Professor, how do you prove a negative, though? How can you say it hasn‘t been disproved?
JENSEN: It hasn‘t been disproved because there are people who...
SCARBOROUGH: How do you disprove a negative?
JENSEN: People who testify to this, that the United States government then denies it.
But in the context of the proved abuses by U.S. officials in these prisons, not just in Guantanamo, but in others, Abu Ghraib and, of course, in Bagram, we have a repeated record of up to and including homicide in these prisons. So is it so hard to believe...
BOZELL: Oh, come on. Just stop that. Just stop that.
JENSEN: No, the record is clear.
BOZELL: Just stop that.
JENSEN: So, if you want to talk about what the United States news media had and has not done, my argument is—would be, it has not been aggressive enough.
Now, did “Newsweek” perhaps represent a source‘s words improperly? Yes. Should it be corrected? Yes. But it doesn‘t go to the question of this pattern of abuse in U.S. facilities, both in Guantanamo and in the Middle East and Central Asia.
SCARBOROUGH: Brent Bozell, respond.
BOZELL: Let me put you on the record right now. You cite me the evidence of American soldiers murdering people in prisons.
JENSEN: Well, these are in reports that...
BOZELL: No, don‘t give me reports. You give me the evidence.
JENSEN: No, the evidence is from the Army‘s own reports. There have been homicides in these prisons. We have photographic evidence of the routine sexual humiliation of prisoners.
BOZELL: I‘m didn‘t say about routine sexual humiliation. I talked about murders. You‘re accusing the American military of murder. If you don‘t back it up, back off.
JENSEN: Well, I‘m not at my computer. I‘ll send you the sites tomorrow, Brent. You might want to put them up on your Web site.
BOZELL: In other words, you can‘t do it?
JENSEN: No, I can. If you want to talk about the—if you don‘t believe the government‘s own reports about homicides in these prisons...
BOZELL: I‘m saying, don‘t make allegations you can‘t back up on national television.
JENSEN: I‘ll back them up to you tomorrow, Brent. Give me a call.
BOZELL: Send it tomorrow.
JENSEN: The point is that there‘s a pattern of this kind of abuse. And to pretend that this story about the Koran is sort of fanciful I think is to ignore reality.
I also think that you‘re willfully distorting the reality of these protests in places like Afghanistan. These are not simply a reaction to this. These are not simply spontaneous protests. There‘s a political process going forward in Afghanistan. And many people, not just ex-Taliban or al Qaeda, but many people, disagree with the U.S. occupation. They disagree with long-term presence of U.S. military troops.
And this event is being used—yes, it‘s being used to whip up people‘s opposition, but that opposition is real.
SCARBOROUGH: All right. I‘ll tell you what, Professor. I invite you back tomorrow night. If you could get us those names.
JENSEN: I would love to.
SCARBOROUGH: The evidence, we would like to have you back tomorrow night. Thanks for being with us tonight, Professor.
Brent Bozell, if you can stay with us, we‘re going to continue. We appreciate you all being here, as always.
Now, as you saw, the White House was not happy with the “Newsweek” situation. Well, they‘re not, also, happy about what‘s going on at Public Broadcasting either. We‘re going to talk about a new controversy sparked today, the same day that a study just got released that should make a lot of us in the media shudder. Is there a symptom of a bigger problem going on right now? We‘re going to be talking about that when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns and, I‘ll tell you what, some shocking new information on a study.
And, also, Bill Clinton, he‘s back in the news again today. We‘ll tell you why when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.
SCARBOROUGH: Some shocking results about a new poll showing the public losing more confidence in the media. And there are new rumblings about bias at NPR. What‘s the real deal? We‘re going to debate it with our all-star panel coming up next.
SCARBOROUGH: Welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.
New controversy tonight on public airwaves, this time National Public Radio. “The New York Times” reported today that the Corporation For Public Broadcasting is actually considering a plan to monitor NPR for evidence of bias. Meanwhile, a new study suggests that there‘s a huge gulf between the media and the public.
Now, listen to these—listen to these results. In two separate questionnaires, researchers asked, does the press have too much freedom in this country? Forty-three percent of the public say yes. Only 3 percent of journalists agreed. That‘s a huge gap, but is it a symptom of a bigger credibility problem? We‘ve got Brent Bozell back from the Media Research Center still here, also with Cliff Kincaid, from Accuracy in Media, MSNBC analyst Flavia Colgan and radio talk show host Martha Zoller.
Let‘s start with you, Brent Bozell.
You know,, you and I have been critical of the mainstream media, you, of course, much longer than I have. But, at the same time, I see that 43 percent of Americans actually want to cut back on press freedoms. That concerns me. Does that concern you?
BOZELL: Oh, sure. It‘s like Winston Churchill said about democracy, where he said it‘s the worst form of government, except for all the rest. Our American media is the worst form of media, except for all the rest. No, you take what you got and you go with it. I don‘t want to restrict their media at all.
Flavia Colgan, let me ask you, why—why is there such a huge disconnect between journalists and mainstream Americans about what kind of job American media is doing in reporting the news?
FLAVIA COLGAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, I want to point out that that study—I just looked at it right before we came on air—is a bit contradictory, because they say what you just said, but then they also said that they supported a federal shield. And they also felt that reporters should protect their confidential sources, but then thought that they shouldn‘t use unnamed sources.
SCARBOROUGH: What does it mean?
COLGAN: So you have a lot of—a lot of contradictory things going on.
I think it means a couple things. I do think that there is a large chasm between journalists and the average public, but I appreciated you softening Brent‘s kind of rough edges around the Republican canard that that chasm has to do just with political philosophy. I think it has to do that a lot of journalists have gone to elite institutions, have high levels of education, sit around talking and writing their stories all day and maybe aren‘t spending as much time out in the community as they should be.
But, also, there‘s a large chasm between the American people and any occupation that they‘re not involved with. I‘m sure if you asked them does the average congressman care about making a difference in his district or is he there, you know, for power or political reasons, they might say the latter, even though you might give your colleagues a little bit more of the benefit of the doubt. So, I think that would be true in a lot of professions.
But I think there is a chasm that we should all take note of in the media. But I think that it‘s far more complicated than just a difference in political leanings, which is what a lot of Republican talk show hosts like to say over and over and over again.
SCARBOROUGH: Brent Bozell, do you want to respond to that?
BOZELL: With my rough edges?
SCARBOROUGH: Yes, exactly.
BOZELL: Look, look, no, no. What your guest is saying are true. There are other factors. Of course there are. And elitism doesn‘t mean necessarily that there‘s a function of bias. But that bias is there.
But I think what this—what the survey is pointing to is an American public that is increasingly upset and disturbed by the lack of credibility that is emerging within the national media. Go back to the National Guard story, with this story that we were talking about in the last section, the Al Qa Qaa story right before the elections.
There‘s been numerous stories that have come out of the press that, oops, it turns out weren‘t true. So there‘s a credibility problem.
SCARBOROUGH: No doubt about it.
Cliff Kincaid, let me bring you in here.
This study also found—found this: 39 percent of the general public believes that the media is accurate in its reporting, while 72 percent of journalists believe the media are doing a good job in reporting accurately. Obviously, 39 percent of Americans thinking the press is accurate doesn‘t mean we‘re scoring too well. What‘s that mean?
CLIFF KINCAID, ACCURACY IN MEDIA: I think what the American people are saying is that with freedom should come responsibility, but too, too often, we see irresponsibility by the media, the “Newsweek” case being the latest example.
As a result of what “Newsweek” did, it‘s worse than shouting fire in a crowded theater. More people are going to die. More Americans are at risk. And when it comes to taxpayer-financed or supported broadcasting, it can get even worse. We filed a complaint with the Corporation For Public Broadcasting over bias on National Public Radio. We were basically brushed off by the ombudsman or consumer advocate for National Public Radio.
So, we‘ve got big problems there, all at taxpayer expense, incidentally. The taxpayers are being forced every year to spend $400 million on public TV and radio. And the American people are saying, there‘s bias here, no responsibility. Give us our money back.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, let‘s actually talk about that, because former PBS anchor Bill Moyers, obviously, he‘s long been a target of those who see bias at PBS—yesterday, had this to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL MOYERS, FORMER PBS ANCHOR: The more compelling our journalism, the angrier became the radical right of the Republican Party. That‘s because the one thing they loathe more than liberals is the truth.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MOYERS: And the quickest way to be damned by them as liberal is to tell the truth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: Martha Zoller, respond to that.
MARTHA ZOLLER, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, I think it‘s interesting that he‘s crossed over, where he is not an unbiased reporter of what he sees anymore.
I‘ll tell you what. The truth, it is based upon facts. And the biggest problem we‘ve got today—take the “Newsweek” story for example—an unnamed source. Journalism 101, you have two other sources to corroborate that before you use it. This is what the problem is. And there‘s a blessing and a curse in the 24-hour news hour cycle, that you want to be first in things.
And by being first, sometimes, you get things wrong. But Bill Moyers is—has become a joke. He‘s a great journalist that has become a joke.
SCARBOROUGH: Brent Bozell, here‘s—I want to ask you this, because, for me, there‘s a big difference between CBS, ABC, NBC and PBS. You know what? There are stockholders that own stock in Viacom, in GE, in Disney. And you know what? I‘m a free market kind of guy. I think the market will correct it.
And, obviously, you apply pressure and that makes a big difference. But I draw a big, big difference between that and PBS. And I just—I think, sometimes, we conservatives, you know, we talk about, we love the free market, but then we whine about what happens at some of these companies that operate in the free marketplace of ideas.
BOZELL: Well, where PBS is concerned, it‘s cut and dried.
Look, Bill Moyers can spew his anti-American hatred. And there is anti-American hatred. When he equates the U.S. military bombing to the beheading of terrorists, that‘s anti-American hatred. He can do that all he wants. He‘s got the right to do that. If he wants to either find a slot on Air America or get his billionaire George Soros friends to fund him to do his own show, fine. That‘s the democratic system. That‘s freedom of expression. Let him have it.
But Cliff Kincaid makes the salient point. It‘s the American taxpayer that is being forced to do it. And when the American taxpayer lodges a complaint, as Cliff Kincaid did, they‘re brushed aside by that very entity. So now they‘re screaming that the new CPB chairman is saying, look, we‘re going to look into these charges and we‘re going to resolve this outrageous bias, if it exists. And now they‘re screaming that their independence is being threatened. Most, indeedy, it is, to which I say, hooray for Ken Tomlinson.
SCARBOROUGH: Hey, Flavia, let me ask you this question. During the campaign, we could actually find one or two things to agree on. Let me ask you if you will agree with me tonight, that any reasonable person that follows news knows that PBS has been left of center. I‘m not talking about Jim Lehrer. I‘m not talking about some of their documentaries.
But, for the most part, the news that you get on NPR, on PBS, it‘s left of center. I mean, there is a liberal bias at PBS. Is there not?
COLGAN: Joe, I hate to disappoint you, but I‘m going to have to disagree with you.
SCARBOROUGH: Oh, my gosh.
COOPER: And I also want to point—I want to point out that the CPB chairman that we‘re talking about could not be any closer to George Bush and hired the global communications person right out of the White House.
SCARBOROUGH: What‘s wrong with that, though? How can you come...
SCARBOROUGH: Wait. Hold on a second, Flavia. How can you come on this show tonight and not say that, all things considered, and that PBS does not at least go left of center in its political leanings?
COLGAN: Joe, you and I have had a conversation about this before. And I think there is liberal bias. And I will certainly concede to that, both in print journalism and on television. I think there is Republican bias. But I think that the truth is not Democratic and the truth is not Republican.
And rather than wasting time trying to do these ideological witch-hunts and trying to find ideological litmus tests, we should focus on having accuracy and good reporting.
SCARBOROUGH: That‘s my whole point. That‘s my whole point about PBS.
I mean, yes, let‘s have that conversation.
COLGAN: It‘s not just about—well, were you upset about Judith Miller using unnamed sources, also, while she was impersonating a stenographer in the lead-up to the Iraq war? Were you upset when ABC News last week said, we can‘t cover the Iraq war that much, even though it‘s the most important story, because people are just more interested in the runaway bride?
SCARBOROUGH: Yes, it‘s amazing to me.
COLGAN: What‘s going on in the media right now is very troubling across the board. And there‘s liberal bias and Republican bias.
SCARBOROUGH: I can talk to you about Judith Miller. I can tell you that what Judith Miller reported is what the ambassador to France believed was going on, is what everybody at the U.N. believed was going on. In fact, every intelligence operation across the world believed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.
I find it absolutely just fascinating that Judith Miller and others that reported that Saddam Hussein could have had weapons of mass destruction leading up to that war are all of a sudden shunned by the elites in the mainstream media.
But thanks a lot for being with us, Flavia. We‘re going to continue this conversation later. I guarantee you.
Brent Bozell, Cliff Kincaid and Martha Zoller, greatly appreciate all of you being with us tonight.
Coming up next, movie stars. That‘s right. It‘s time for the star-studded Cannes Film Festival. But this year, the festival is filled with dark, anti-American movies. So, why is it that some of these Hollywood-types just love to rag on America?
We will tell you about that when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns in a minute.
SCARBOROUGH: Film festival or anti-American rally? Does the Cannes Film Festival intentionally pick anti-American movies to celebrate? We‘ll be tackling that one in a minute.
But, first, here‘s the latest news that you and your family need to know.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, you know, Dan Abrams has got to be really happy. When I was in Congress, I actually passed a bill that the United States Supreme Court overturned today. Dan, a big wine connoisseur, happy nights at the Abrams household.
Well, the talk of the Cannes Film Festival this week, aside from hair, was “Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith.” It could be the most talked about film of the year. But now some are claiming it could be a thinly veiled lightsaber attack against President George Bush.
NBC‘s Michael Okwu has that story.
MICHAEL OKWU, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is the much hyped, highly anticipated final episode of a decades-old drama. But this week, the buzz about Star Wars episode III, The Revenge of the Sith, opening in days: it may take shots at the Bush White House.
DAVID ANSEN, NEWSWEEK FILM CRITIC: It was clear that there was a parallel between the Bush administration and the rise to power of the empire—the evil empire.
OKWU: It‘s been major chatter in the blogosphere and beyond. First, the film‘s theme.
(on camera): In the movie, a war-mongering chancellor of an intergalactic republic asks the senate to give up their liberties and to give him more power under the guise of being under attack.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “STAR WARS EPISODE III: REVENGE OF THE SITH”)
EWAN MCGREGOR, ACTOR: We are at war, Anakin.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANSEN: It appeared to be a reference to the Patriot Act and our sort of giving up our civil liberties in the name of national security.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “STAR WARS EPISODE III: REVENGE OF THE SITH”)
IAN MCDIARMID, ACTOR: All who gain power are afraid to lose it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OKWU: Many are reading into key lines and their real-life references. This quote from Anakin Skywalker, about to become super- villain Dark Vader: If you‘re not with me, he says, then you‘re my enemy. President Bush in November, 2001.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You are either with us or you‘re against us in the fight against terror.
OKWU: In an interview, director George Lucas said he was less inspired by the current wartime climate than by the Nixon Vietnam era. When I wrote it, he said, Iraq didn‘t exist. A full-throttle, hair- raising climax now raising eyebrows.
Michael Okwu, NBC News, Los Angeles.
SCARBOROUGH: That was NBC‘s Michael Okwu.
Now, I haven‘t seen it, but one person who has seen “Revenge of the Sith” is Claudia DiFolco. She is co-host of MSNBC‘s “AT THE MOVIES.”
Claudia, tell us about this movie. Is it a veiled attack at George W.
Bush or just great cinematic fare?
CLAUDIA DIFOLCO, CO-HOST, “MSNBC AT THE MOVIES”: It is, but not as bad as “Fahrenheit 9/11” was. That was propaganda and it was a lot of lies there.
But I saw the movie, of all places, at Skywalker Ranch. And the room was full of journalists from across the country and all different media outlets. And, as soon as we heard that line, if you‘re not with me, then you‘re my enemy, everybody did one of these.
DIFOLCO: So, it was apparent that we kind of remembered that, you know, famous line from George Bush, of course. But I don‘t think it‘s a movie that‘s going to influence and poison a lot of minds, like “Fahrenheit 9/11” did, in my view.
SCARBOROUGH: So—but it was fairly obvious, though, to the movie—to the media that was covering the movie that there may have been some veiled references towards George W. Bush, but, again, nothing that in the end would get in the way of some great storytelling?
DIFOLCO: Well, yes, it wasn‘t important enough for me the next day when I actually sat down and spoke to George Lucas to actually have to ask him about it. As you know, when you‘re a journalist, you just get a certain amount of time with the actor, the producer, the director, the writer, so you want to be able to say—to ask a lot of other questions to put a good story together, a good story of your own.
So it wasn‘t that important enough for me to actually want to see it. And then there‘s another scene in the movie where a character is telling Anakin, where he‘s feeling left out and he‘s just about to cross over to the dark side, where this character says—Anakin says, the Jedi, we‘re good. We use our power, but for good reason. And then the character says, Palpatine says, but, you know, good is just a point of view, meaning that, well, you think you‘re good, but maybe you‘re not. Maybe you‘re actually on the bad side.
So, yes, did it make any references to what‘s going on now politically? Absolutely. And even George Lucas says himself that he was greatly influenced by the Vietnam War and Nixon when he started writing “Star Wars.” And, also, he began writing this movie October of 2001, a month after “Fahrenheit”—a month after September 11.
SCARBOROUGH: Nine-eleven, yes.
DIFOLCO: Yes. I believe—I believe he is making references to the political state right now. But is it something that I think is going to influence a whole generation of people? No.
SCARBOROUGH: Absolutely not.
OK. Quick, play Roger Ebert for us. Thumbs up, thumbs down? What did you think of the movie?
DIFOLCO: Joe, I was more interested—I was more interested in Anakin‘s six-pack, so there you go.
SCARBOROUGH: There you go. Good movie, good “Star Wars” movie?
DIFOLCO: Yes, very much.
And here‘s another thing with George Lucas. He—this movie has over 2,000 special effects. When you‘re seeing the movie, it‘s quite fascinating. Everybody is sitting on just wooden boxes and wooden walls. There‘s over 2,000 special effects, but he would not admit to me that this is an animated film. He insisted that it‘s a live-action film.
SCARBOROUGH: All right.
DIFOLCO: Whatever, George.
SCARBOROUGH: Yes. Whatever, George.
All right, Claudia, thanks a lot. We really appreciate it.
You know, it‘s not just “Star Wars” that‘s being reported about in Cannes. They‘re actually screening a lot of dark movies, like “Sin City,” and also movies that some say have a distinct anti-American sentiment.
Let‘s bring in James Hirsen. He‘s, of course, author of “Tales From the Left Coast: True Stories of Hollywood Stars and Their Outrageous Politics.” Also with us is Robin Bronk. She‘s the executive directive of the Creative Coalition.
Robin, I‘ll start with you.
Let‘s talk about Cannes. A lot of people say there is an anti-American sentiment and it seems like people all across the world go there to bash the red, white, and blue. What do you say to that?
ROBIN BRONK, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CREATIVE COALITION: Well, as far as I know, Cannes is a trade show. It‘s a trade show of show business. And whether it was in Detroit or in Cannes or in the south of Italy, it‘s a trade show for show business.
And I don‘t think this—you know, as far as I understand, with George Lucas, he wrote the script way before Bush was even president. So I don‘t think that‘s even something that‘s relevant. And I don‘t know that Cannes this year is showing films that are any more anti-American than when “The Godfather” premiered or “Gone With the Wind.” There were many dark periods of American history that film depicts.
SCARBOROUGH: And they just, again, reflect—you think they just reflect what‘s going on in American society.
James Hirsen, do you by that?
JAMES HIRSEN, AUTHOR, “TALES FROM THE LEFT COAST”: No, Joe, I don‘t.
You know, did you know that Cannes is held in France? France is not a place that‘s known for loving America. And you get a bunch of Europeans together with Hollywood types and you have a crowd that‘s more like a MoveOn.org rally than it is aficionados of film. And you can tell by the cheering, Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: Do you think that‘s intensified, though? Do you think it‘s intensified, the anti-American sentiment, because of our U.S. foreign policy in Iraq?
HIRSEN: Of course it has, because our policy in Iraq is essentially a policy that turns its back on a U.N. that Europeans revere.
And so, when filmmakers go over to Cannes, they follow the formula that was set by Michael Moore. I mean, he won their highest honor last year. And the president of the jury this year said, well, that was perfect, because the film was against an enemy of aesthetics. Well, who is that enemy of aesthetics? Well, that‘s George Bush.
So, the president of the jury—I mean that‘s the group that judges the film—set the tone. And was he concerned about artistic excellence or cinematic accomplishment? No. He was concerned about bashing the president of the United States.
SCARBOROUGH: Robin, respond.
BRONK: So, I guess I don‘t understand. So what you‘re saying is that
· that Cannes and the jury at Cannes is really making political judgments and not artistic judgments, and so that any film that is winning, placing, or showing at Cannes, it‘s not based on great art or great film? Is that what you‘re saying?
HIRSEN: Well, those are not my words, Robin. Those are the words of the jury president, Mr. Kusturica. And that‘s what he said.
And the fact is, look. Look at the types of films that are being exhibited, “Manderlay,” which shows slavery taking place in the United States in the 1930s. “The History of Violence.” Where is the violence? Well, it‘s in America. “The Power of Nightmares,” a film that, right before it screened at Cannes, it screened on Al-Jazeera, a powerful American basher. It doesn‘t mean that all films or all awards are politically influenced, but what are the crowds cheering at over there?
SCARBOROUGH: Well, I‘ll tell you what, James. They‘re cheering at movies, again, that depict Americans as—well, just showing the darkest side of the American character.
James, thanks for being with us.
Robin, we greatly appreciate it.
And, coming up—there I am—this year‘s predictions about hurricane season. Well, I‘ve got my boots and jacket ready and I‘ll give you the ugly, dirty story. By the way, the backstory to that picture of me, that‘s about five, six days before I wound up in the hospital on my back.
SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY will return.
SCARBOROUGH: Did you see that picture of the Rumsfeld during the news break? That guy is getting younger and meaner by the day. I love him. I hope he runs for president in 2008.
Well, anyway, somebody who‘s already been president, Bill Clinton, is back in the news. In the new book called “Their Lives: The Women Targeted by the Clinton Machine,” we hear about Bill Clinton and his not-so-stellar past.
With me now to talk about it the author of the book, Candice Johnson (sic), a self-described libertarian feminist and also an attorney and commentator. Also with us is David Pollak. He‘s the president of Democratic Leadership for the 21st century.
Candice, let me ask you, why did you write this book? Some would say it‘s so 1998.
CANDICE JACKSON, AUTHOR, “THEIR LIVES”: Well, I think it‘s high time, now that Bill Clinton has chosen now to start forming his own legacy by releasing his autobiography, that it really is only fair and balanced to turn back to the past a little bit and put into perspective his treatment towards women over the course of his entire career.
SCARBOROUGH: Give us the worst—give us in your opinion what‘s the worst example of Bill Clinton mistreating women?
JACKSON: Well, clearly, I think the very worst example of all, the most disturbing credible accusation and story out there is that of Juanita Broaddrick, who came forward and told us about a very brutal sexual assault that Bill Clinton perpetrated on her back in the 1970s.
SCARBOROUGH: You know, there are different women. Obviously, we‘ve heard about Paula Jones, Gennifer Flowers, Monica Lewinsky, Kathleen Willey, Sally Perdue, Juanita Broaddrick, Elizabeth Ward, and several others.
But, you know, Dave Pollak, we hear time and time again, the Juanita Broaddrick story is the story that is probably the low point of all of these stories of possible rape. What have you heard about this book? What have you heard about these continued attacks on Bill Clinton, a guy you worked for?
DAVID POLLAK, PRESIDENT, DEMOCRATIC LEADERSHIP FOR THE 21ST CENTURY:
Well, let me answer the question that Candice didn‘t answer when you asked her why she wrote this book. And, actually, it‘s right there in the flap of the book.
It says that it‘s a wakeup call to stop Hillary Clinton from ever getting back into the White House. So, this is nothing but—this is not a factual book. It‘s not a book about law. It‘s not a book about morality. It‘s just an attack, a slanderous political attack. And she‘s very clear with what her agenda is.
And I would only suggest that, look a George Bush. He and Bill Clinton are working together on tsunami relief, Hillary and Newt Gingrich on health care. So Candice and the sort of right-wing folks needs to kind of get beyond the Bill Clinton hatred and sort of join the rest of sort of real modern society in trying though move our country forward and not kind of get caught up in the...
SCARBOROUGH: Candice, is this all about just stopping Hillary Clinton? Is this the same so-called right wing attack machine that went after Bill Clinton, now focusing their guns on Hillary Clinton in 2008?
JACKSON: Look, this is about trying to get at some of the truth about this person‘s behavior towards women. He got away with a reputation as some great defender of women‘s rights for his entire career. So has Hillary Clinton gotten away with that kind of a reputation.
And taking a look at his actual treatment of women through all of these stories—and this is just a representative sample of them—is more than fair when taking into account what we think of this person as president, as a person, and, yes, taking a look at his spouse, who very well could wind up back in the White House before long.
SCARBOROUGH: David Pollak, isn‘t that fair?
POLLAK: Candice, you once wrote in an article comparing the federal judicial system to Joseph Stalin. And you said that this country is on a road to serfdom, because the power of sort of—the presumption of innocence is lost, that everyone‘s now presumed guilty before innocent.
Isn‘t Bill Clinton, especially after a $70 million Starr investigation, where they came up with nothing, shouldn‘t the presumption of innocence, which you so passionately defended in the Internet and in your writings, shouldn‘t that be applied to the Clintons as well, or are we so blind with Clinton hatred that all that, everything that you‘ve stood for goes completely out the window?
SCARBOROUGH: David, it does sound like 1998 again. We‘ll leave it there.
Thank you so much, David Pollak.
Candice Jackson, we greatly appreciate it.
Tonight, forecasters reveal new predictions about hurricane season. Friends, it‘s not going to be pretty, a perfect excuse to dig deep into the SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY archives for a classic.
We‘ll be right back.
SCARBOROUGH: Bad news for SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. As many as five major hurricanes are predicted for this summer‘s hurricane season.
Now, SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY vets will remember my ace reporting last summer from the eye of Hurricane Jeanne. I know, with today‘s news, my staff is looking forward to more opportunities to have me get hit by flying debris and knocked over by 100-mile-an-hour winds. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: Actually lean back into this and it will push you over.
It doesn‘t matter what size you are. It is absolutely ferocious storm.
Everybody is off the street now. The police officers have been pulled off.
There‘s one of the gusts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: Everybody is off the streets. Of course, they are, jackass. There‘s a hurricane! Get inside!
Hurts my back just looking at it.
We‘ll see you tomorrow night.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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.