Guest: Dana Milbank, Savannah Guthrie, Tom O‘Neil
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
A Republican votes against Judge Priscilla Owen. Two Democrats vote for her. A leading conservative newspaper blasts Bill Frist, and a top Republican implores his fellow senators not to vote for John Bolton. As the left and the right go to war, did the middle wind up winning?
And who‘s the winner in the runaway bride story? You‘re sick of it?
Not so fast. Today, we learn she faces six years in jail.
Fictional plot line turning all too real. What if the prescription drugs you are getting were diluted or fake? How would you know? And would it make you more sick?
And so he got slapped by Burt Reynolds. Everybody gets slapped by Burt Reynolds. Ask Dom DeLuise in “Cannonball Run.” Burt versus the producer, as brought to you by Burt Reynolds Slap-a-Producer Puppet Theater.
All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.
Evidently they have turned the gravity off in the Senate. George Voinovich, Republican of Ohio, trying to express his opposition on the eve of the confirmation vote for U.N. ambassador-designate John Bolton, his voice breaking with emotion, seemingly on the verge of crying. Crying? There‘s no crying in the Senate.
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, you may have thought that the running partisan Tong war between the left and the right was bad, but in fact, the bizarro world where the middle controls the political fates could be even worse.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. GEORGE VOINOVICH ®, OHIO: We‘re going to vote tomorrow. And I‘m afraid that when we go to the well that too many of my colleagues—that too many of my colleagues are not going to understand that this appointment is very, very important to our country, at a strategic time when we need friends all over the world.
We need somebody up there that‘s going to be able to get the job done. And I know some of my friends say, (INAUDIBLE), let it go, George. It‘s going to work out.
I don‘t want to take the risk. I came back here and ran for a second term because I‘m worried about my kids and my grandkids, and I just hope my colleagues will take the time, and before they get to this well, do some serious thinking about whether or not we should send John Bolton to the United Nations.
I yield the floor.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: There‘s a miraculous weeping icon of the Theodicus in Barberton, Ohio, but this is ridiculous.
Senator Voinovich circulated a letter yesterday to the other 99 senators, urging them to vote against Bolton, stating essentially what he said today on the Senate floor. No reports of tearstains on that letter.
If Voinovich or somebody convinces five other Republicans to opposite Bolton, Bolton would be defeated. Although Bolton‘s Democratic opponents have dropped plans to delay tomorrow‘s vote through procedural machinations, others are saying they might still filibuster if the administration will not release documents they want to see relevant to Bolton‘s testimony about Syria two years ago.
No truth to rumors that some Democrats are threatening to make Senator Voinovich cry again.
More absence of gravity in today‘s first judicial vote A.C., after compromise. Patricia Owen is confirmed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, 56 to 43. Senator Byrd, Democrat of West Virginia, voted for her. Senator Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana, voted for her. Senator Chafee, Republican of Rhode Island, voted against her.
And just as Senator Hutchison of Texas was saying she will immediately become one of the best judges on the federal bench, the Houston Bar Association‘s biannual evaluations of judges comes out and suggests that its members felt she was one of the worst on the Texas Supreme Court bench.
The vote itself, a mere afterthought, at 56 percent. Far more U.S. senators in favor of Justice Owen than were the Houston lawyers who had to work with her. Each member of the Harris County, Texas, judiciary evaluated by Houston attorneys from across the political spectrum in categories including knowledge of the law, impartiality, efficiency, courtesy, and the quality of their written opinions.
Judge Owen faring next to last among the six justices of the state‘s highest court. Her overall marks, nearly 40 percent gave her an outstanding rating, 15 percent acceptable, 45 percent deeming her poor.
So when did the meek inherit the earth? And what is it going to be like with them as our all-powerful overlords?
To assess, I‘m joined now by Dana Milbank, national political reporter of “The Washington Post.”
Good evening, Dana.
DANA MILBANK, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:
Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Two Democrats voted for Judge Owen, after all that?
MILBANK: I, as you can imagine, I‘m very choked up about this, and it‘ll be hard to get through. But let me try to explain.
This is what we call a free vote in the United States Senate. The real fight was over whether we‘re going to have a filibuster or not. Once that was resolved, well, we knew this woman‘s going to get through. I think—it‘s surprising there weren‘t more Democrats who‘d be in tough races who would, because they had a free vote on this, the outcome isn‘t in doubt, might go ahead and do it anyway.
So, you know, the party cracks the whip of loyalty when it‘s really important, and when it‘s a lost cause, give them a pass.
OLBERMANN: Does the vote, and that whole post-filibuster mood of compromise in Washington, suggest that the far right and the far left might have been, if not defanged, at least proved fallible? Is there a third guy in the match now here called the moderate?
MILBANK: Well, I think there was for about 24 hours, but it‘s, alas, a fantasy that—of those of us covering this to think the extremes of the two sides might be defanged, and people would begin to talk in the moderate middle.
Look, this dispute over the filibuster, as Senator Hatch said, they‘ve reached a truce, not a treaty. This is all going to blow up again as soon as we get to the Supreme Court fight, if it doesn‘t blow up over the Bolton nomination.
Look over in the House of Representatives. Suddenly the moderates rose up and passed the stem-cell legislation yesterday. Well, guess what? The president‘s going to veto it. And then there are not the votes to override it. These are symbolic things that the centrists are able to achieve right now, and it really is not going to change the overall direction.
OLBERMANN: Speaking of Bolton and Senator Voinovich, this was not Ed Muskie weeping on the statehouse steps during the 1972 primaries. But how surprising was it in this day and age, particularly and more importantly, how influential might that kind of public emotion be?
MILBANK: Well, Kay Bailey Hutchison came pretty close do tears in praise of Priscilla Owen, but she was probably going to pass anyway.
Now, I can tell you why Senator Voinovich was crying. And that‘s because he‘s been pummeled mercilessly by the conservatives since he announced in committee that he was opposed to this nomination. Now, it‘s hard to feel too bad for poor Senator Voinovich, because if he really was worried about his grandkids and didn‘t want Bolton at the United Nations, he could have blocked him in the committee. He said no, I‘m going to let this go on to the Senate.
So there, once again, a moderate, although it‘s arguably—Voinovich would be a stretch to call him a moderate, said, I‘m going to make my symbolic statement, and let‘s let Mr. Bolton through anyway.
OLBERMANN: Yes, this isn‘t the last guy voting on the Andrew Johnson conviction, saying, No, I can‘t go into posterity—this isn‘t on that level, and he certainly didn‘t act the same way as his choked emotions might have suggested.
But before we leave this, what is the latest reading of the tea leaves on Bolton? Is anybody besides Voinovich straying away from the herd?
MILBANK: Well, you hear little rumblings that John Thune, he‘s awfully disappointed he lost that base in South Dakota he promised to keep. But then, you may get a couple of Democrats going for Bolton.
Basically, the way the Democrats were going to stop Bolton was through the filibuster. And as you might have mentioned over the last couple of nights, the filibuster is not exactly the card that the Democrats want to play right now in this temporary era of good feeling.
OLBERMANN: Which ends at Thursday at 12:30 p.m. Circle your calendars.
Dana Milbank of “The Washington Post,” as always, Dana, great thanks for your time.
MILBANK: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: And the gravity is off, not just in terms of political action in some areas, but also in terms of political action groups. We need to remember that three years from today, we will almost certainly know the names of the Democratic and Republican nominees in what will probably be the first all-rookie election since Eisenhower ran against Stevenson in 1952.
And it sure looks like the compromise will impact the Republican race. John McCain, the first senator to the podium Monday night to announce that compromise. He joked about how they were really there to plug the movie “Faith of Our Fathers.”
He‘s widely credited with engineering the deal from the Republican side, a deal which, on the floor of the Senate moments later, majority leader Frist announced he was not a party to, and about which, ever since, Frist has been giving hints about how and when it might not apply.
That does not sound like the essence of a unified Republican Party. An editorial in the “Manchester Union Leader” today said essentially that this morning.
Our friend MSNBC analyst and former presidential candidate Pat Buchanan has been outspoken about Frist and McCain, and he joins us now.
Good evening, Pat.
PAT BUCHANAN ®, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hi, Keith, how are you?
OLBERMANN: OK. Yourself?
BUCHANAN: I‘m doing fine. A little better than yesterday.
OLBERMANN: I guess. But simply put, did John McCain knock Bill Frist out of the pennant race?
BUCHANAN: Well, what he did is, he stripped the ball from Frist and ran the distance of the field and scored, and he‘s getting tremendous plaudits from the liberal press and others, so he‘s helped himself. And Frist looks ineffectual. He couldn‘t—it was a tremendous deal. We could have got all eight—all seven hostages out, had a clear run for the president‘s Supreme Court nominee.
We don‘t have that now. So Frist blew it, in effect. So he‘s been hurt. McCain‘s been helped a great deal in the center and on the left, but Republicans nominate from the right. So I think he‘s hurt himself there. But Frist clearly has not been helped.
OLBERMANN: Does he have more of a problem within the Republican Party, where he could not hold a lead in a game when the other team was not allowed to touch the ball, or does he have more of a problem with the evangelicals, to whom he basically offered to end the judicial filibuster for the sole purpose of protecting the president‘s nominees?
BUCHANAN: Well, I think Frist, I mean, he gets a lot of goodwill. He tried. He did his best, and he failed. So I think he‘s got that going for him. But the problem is, he‘s been ineffectual.
But it‘s not only—you know, this isn‘t only the Christian conservatives. Every socially conservative Republican, the Federalist Society, the Supreme Court, and the courts are an enormous issue. In the last 40 years, Keith, I would say, the courts and those battles have been Second only to the cold war as the most important issue for conservatives.
And I think—I‘ll tell you one fellow who has been helped marginally here, and that is George Allen, who came out and he said, Look, we‘re going to keep—we‘re going to get a vote for every one of these judges, even though the deal had just been made. I think those folks that came out and said that, I think they see where the real power is inside the party.
OLBERMANN: Howard Fineman said here last night that this deal also included the unraveling of the George Bush consensus of the many threads of the Republican Party. Is that correct? Is it like 1964?
BUCHANAN: You know, it‘s not quite like 1964 yet. But I, I‘ve been -
· in this book I‘ve done, I predicted a civil war coming in the Republican Party. This has advanced it. In the (INAUDIBLE) year 2008, what you‘re going to see, Keith, is sort of like a pennant race among the moderates to nominate one of them to be a finalist. I think it‘ll be McCain. There‘ll be a pennant race among the conservatives for a finalist to stand against McCain.
That clearly is unknown, and that will be, that battle, I think, will be like the Goldwater-Rockefeller race, except this. Rockefeller was an unabashed liberal Republican. You just don‘t have those creatures out there any more. They‘re all gone, they‘re extinct, they‘re down in the Smithsonian.
OLBERMANN: But the other thing about 1964, if the analogy is apt at all, is that the—let‘s see, let‘s call him the nonconservative Rockefeller, was dead in the water permanently, and did—suffered as much political damage certainly as the nominee, the ultraconservative Goldwater, did. Is it—did these two guys just, in effect, neutralize each other?
BUCHANAN: Well, the battle was so bitter, and Rockefeller refused to endorse Goldwater, and, of course, Johnson had only been in office a few months, and the dead—Kennedy was dead. The country didn‘t want change.
But there‘s no question about it. Rockefeller and the liberals taking a walk on Goldwater sank him and destroyed him, but the conservatives were left with domination of the party, which they held all the way up until 1980, when they nominated Reagan.
So I think what you‘ve got now is, even McCain will say, I‘m basically a conservative. You have to be a conservative to be nominated. I think McCain, however, will run as sort of a moderate conservative. And someone like a George Allen is going to come out of the pack, and, I think, be his principal opponent.
If you had to bet on a ticket right now, you might be wise to put your money on McCain-Bush.
OLBERMANN: MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan, always a pleasure, sir. Great thanks.
BUCHANAN: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Write down McCain/Bush.
Also tonight, could your prescription drugs actually be phony? There is at least one case of criminals tampering with the drugs, passing them off as the real thing, so real that even the pharmacists in your pharmacy could not tell the difference.
And our long national nightmare drawing to a close. Today at the Michael Jackson trial, the defense rests. Whoo-hoo-hoo.
This is COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: We rejoin you now with COUNTDOWN.
And our fourth story tonight is another one from the television playbooks of Things That Could Kill You But Probably Won‘t. These are some of the stables of TV news, but this one is actually a real-life version of a key plotline in the Orson Welles-Joseph Cotten movie “The Third Man.”
Welles is Cotten‘s best friend and hero, but in postwar Vienna, he‘s watering down penicillin to make an unimaginable profit on the black market. But the kids who take the diluted drugs end up insane.
Unfortunately, Janice Lieberman, the “Today” show‘s consumer correspondent, has found a real-life equivalent in Missouri.
JANICE LIEBERMAN, CONSUMER CORRESPONDENT, “TODAY” (voice-over): For 61-year-old Maxine Blout (ph), fighting breast cancer was hard enough. It was even harder when she found out what she thought was her cancer medication, Procrit, was tampered with and diluted down to a fraction of the strength she needed, a discovery that still pains her family years after her death.
TINA RANN, MOTHER RECEIVED COUNTERFEIT CANCER DRUG: I think it made her more sick, you know. Just—she didn‘t deserve it.
LIEBERMAN: Outside laboratory testing, the only way to tell that Blout‘s Procrit was tampered with, is here. See, there‘s a dash above the I in the word “sodium” where there should be a dot?
TOM MCGINNIS, DIRECTOR OF PHARMACY AFFAIRS, FDA: The packaging on the counterfeit product looks almost identical. When I hold the counterfeit product in one hand and the authentic product in the other hand, I can‘t even tell which is which.
LIEBERMAN: Counterfeit drugs are a problem that include more than just high-priced cancer medications. Authorities warn our nation‘s drug supply is an unprotected web which allows counterfeiters easy access to taint and sell drugs including statins, asthma medication, antidepressants, and lifestyle drugs, making millions of dollars for counterfeiters.
Journalist Katherine Eban broke this story and wrote about it in her new book, “Dangerous Doses.” We asked Katherine to show us the route she says that Blout‘s counterfeit medicine took after it was watered down.
KATHERINE EBAN, AUTHOR, “DANGEROUS DOSES”: The counterfeiter had them relabeled in the back of a dusty trailer in Miami. Then they were transported in broiling car trunks to a strip club, where they were stored in a beer cooler. They moved through phony companies and arrived here, a legitimately licensed business, and from here, they entered the nation‘s drug supply and landed on our pharmacy shelves.
LIEBERMAN: This man is a convicted cocaine trafficker, and now a paid informant for the government. He asked us to conceal his identity for his own safety.
He says he worked in a strip club in Miami and claims hundreds of thousands of dollars‘ worth of counterfeit drugs were bought, stored in a beer cooler, and then sold back into our nation‘s drug supply, charges the owner of the club vehemently denied.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The drugs came into the club, went into the cooler, because they had to be maintained at a cold temperature. When the buyer came, I took it from the cooler, gave it to the buyer.
LIEBERMAN: He claims bogus labels like these were put on the diluted drugs, making it almost impossible to know they were fake.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They sold colored water to people that have cancer.
LIEBERMAN (on camera): They were sending out vials of colored water that was labeled as medicine that was going to be injected into cancer patients.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
LIEBERMAN: They could have died.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don‘t know how many have. And people that just don‘t care.
LIEBERMAN (voice-over): While authorities at the FDA are concerned about the problem, don‘t throw all your drugs away just yet. They and the pharmaceutical companies say they are working on new technology that will help curb the counterfeiting problem in our nation.
For COUNTDOWN, Janice Lieberman, NBC News, New York.
OLBERMANN: For the record, CVS has responded by saying it will sever its ties with all pharmaceutical suppliers who do not buy all their medications directly from the manufacturers.
Also tonight, do not adjust your sets. Revenge of the Spider Crabs and in Oddball.
And later, is it revenge of the searchers? Cold feet and a runaway bride. Do those factors merit six years in jail?
OLBERMANN: We‘re back, and as usual at this time, we step away from the stories of great import and moment to instead bring you another staple of cynical television news, goofball video. But at least we quarantined it and gave it a catchy name.
Let‘s play Oddball.
We begin under the sea off the coast of Melbourne, Australia.
Attention, Aussies, this is what the end looks like.
More than 50,000 spider crabs have swarmed to a sandbar off the southern coast of the city, something scientists say they have never seen before. At this point, it is abundantly clear the crabs mean to invade the city, enslave its residents, and overthrow Rupert Murdoch.
Stay tuned to Oddball for all the latest developments. I for one would like to welcome our crab overlords.
To Nepal, where the Frenchman Didiere del Sal (ph) has become the first man to reach the summit of Mount Everest in a helicopter. Below him, the ghosts of 152 dead climbers slapped their foreheads and said, Why the hell didn‘t we think of that?
Del Sal set a world record with the feat. That is the highest-altitude landing and takeoff in a copter. He parked at the 29,000-foot summit for two minutes, then flew back down to base camp. The experimental chopper will soon be going into production, and then any nimrod with four million fish will be able to fly to the top of Mount Everest whenever he feels like it.
In other aviation news, a notice to airmen who like to paint scary faces on the fronts of their planes. These planes may become aggressive and attempt to mount other planes.
Either that, or it‘s eating the small one.
Actually no one was injured in this bizarre accident, which took place in the air in Jennings, Louisiana. Both planes were trying to land at the same time. They got lodged this way on final approach. They crash-landed together.
The planes will remain on the airfield like this until the FAA has completed its investigation, not into the crash, but rather into how airplanes get it on.
Also tonight, the defense rests in the Michael Jackson case. Jackson did not testify. Or did he? And the criminal justice system from the other end of the telescope, a new program to help moms behind bars.
Those stories ahead.
But first, now here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.
A political theme tonight.
Number three, Kim Jong Il. A South Korean newspaper prints a photo of the North Korean dictator and American movie buff that indicates he wears platform shoes with heels that are four or five inches tall. Just like Huggy Bear in “Starsky and Hutch.”
Number two, Diana Cortez, the former mayor of La Grua (ph), in Texas. She‘s going to jail for 366 days for having stolen $54,000 in block-grant money from the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, money which she spent on a psychic.
Once again, perhaps the psychic could have warned her she‘d get caught.
And number one, Jerry Adams, Tennessee bureaucrat. There are many ups and downs in politics, but for 13 hours, Mr. Adams experienced none of them. He was stuck in the elevator at the state capitol, for 13 hours.
Why so long? Well, they had an emergency phone in there, but it was dead, disconnected. The state had forgotten to pay the bill. So Jerry Adams was stuck there overnight. The state‘s phone bills are the responsibility of the Department of Finance—the Department of Finance, deputy commissioner, Jerry Adams.
OLBERMANN: Let‘s boil our legal system down to its gist. Michael Jackson could walk out of court a free man, and Jennifer Wilbanks faces six years in jail. Now our third story on the COUNTDOWN, Jackson‘s first, and it‘s all about the numbers. On this 25th day of the month in the fifth month of the year in the year 2005, his defense rested. And as it happens, it is also your entertainment and tax dollars in action, day 555 of the Michael Jackson investigations.
Numerology tells us that the number five is supposed to mean freedom. Of course, in the Jackson Five, it only meant no freedom from Jackie, Jermaine, Marlon or Tito. Chris Tucker, finishing up his and the defense‘s testimony, calling the mother of Jackson‘s accuser, quote, “possessed,” and saying that after he help the cancer-stricken accuser, he eventually grew suspicious of the family. The boy, Tucker said, was unusually cunning for a 13-year-old. And the mother, Tucker added he warned Michael Jackson about her. Quote, I knew something mentally wasn‘t right,” the conversation occurring during a February, 2000, trip to Miami, one that Tucker claimed was at his expense and at the accuser‘s family‘s request. That contradicts earlier prosecution claims that the trip was a ploy by Jackson‘s associates.
No Michael Jackson on the stand, thus the cast of “Jackson Puppet Theater” has moved on to “Burt Reynolds Slap a Producer Puppet Theater” later in this broadcast.
So the promised glitz factor on the stand was never really realized, despite cameos from Tucker Macaulay Culkin and George Lopez and Larry King and, of course, Jay Leno. The defense may not have not gotten anything out of his testimony yesterday, but his writers surely did.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAY LENO, HOST, THE “TONIGHT” SHOW: I was a little nervous before I testified. Once I got to the courtroom, I wasn‘t uncomfortable at all. They really made me feel at home. Show the security camera footage of me arriving in court today.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Next witness.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Order! order!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Reenactments? What‘s so funny about them?
So it‘s all over, unless you count the prosecution‘s rebuttal witnesses and the jury instruction meetings and a few motions here and there, the closing arguments, of course. Then there‘s the jury deliberations maybe for months.
Nobody‘s blowing out of Santa Maria quite yet, especially not Court TV correspondent Savannah Guthrie, who joins us again trialside. Savannah, good evening.
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, COURT TV: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Did anybody ever think Michael Jackson actually was going to take the stand, especially after how effective that three-hour video of him had been, the testimony without the cross-examination, as it were?
GUTHRIE: You know, there was a lot of buzz for a few weeks here in here and Santa Maria that Michael Jackson would take the stand, but you‘re right. After the Bashir documentary, those interview outtakes, aired and Michael Jackson was able to speak freely about his philosophy life and sort of wax eloquent about why it is that he cares to spend his time with children because adults have let him down—I think it was clear that the defense really didn‘t need to call him. And maybe they, you know, went back home and looked at some of those pictures from prior litigation, when Michael Jackson was showing the horns behind his head on the stand and, you know, engaging in all kinds of antics, and maybe the thought, Why bother?
OLBERMANN: Did Chris Tucker and these late witnesses of the last week or so take enough of a chunk out of the accuser and his mother? Did they succeed in what they were obviously trying to do, which was to make them all look like grifters?
GUTHRIE: You know, I think Chris Tucker was a pretty powerful witness for the defense, and the reason is that he—he really makes it the accuser who‘s repeatedly calling. It‘s the accuser who asked for money. And in particular, you know, he made it sound like it was the accuser who wanted to go to Miami to see Michael Jackson, not the other way around, that Michael Jackson was supposedly trying to get the family to come to Miami after that Bashir documentary.
And an important word he used to describe the accuser. He said he was “cunning,” and suggested that he was manipulative. And yesterday, we had a witness on the stand who said that the accuser‘s mother had rehearsed her kids and coached them to lie in that prior lawsuit against J.C. Penney. So I think the defense scored some points during their case.
OLBERMANN: But the prosecution just came back at Tucker, did they not? Did they not essentially bring in witnesses to say, We tried to talk to Tucker, and he told us he had nothing to say about this case?
GUTHRIE: Yes, there was a little dust-up about that because on direct, Tucker said, You know, my attorney tried to meet with law enforcement and law enforcement didn‘t show up. Then the prosecution, one of its first rebuttal witnesses was a detective that went to Tucker‘s house on three occasions witnesses was a detective who went to Chris Tucker‘s house on three different occasions, leaving his card there, and also tried to talk to the attorney. And he said the attorney told him, My client has nothing to say to you.
OLBERMANN: Now, you have said all along, as we‘ve talked to you throughout this endurance test, that the jury has been difficult to read. Is that still your opinion, or do you see them going one way or the other?
And should I even bring up the prospect of a hung jury in this case?
GUTHRIE: How dare you, Keith!
GUTHRIE: Because that would mean a mistrial, and we‘ll all be back.
But perish the thought...
OLBERMANN: See you next year.
GUTHRIE: ... I mean, for everybody. Yes. Exactly. You know, I do think this jury is hard to read. I‘m just not one of those prognosticators who says you can—you know, it‘s the tea leaves, it‘s a Rorschach test. I think people see what they want to see in the jury.
But I do think, you know, it‘s entirely possible we could have a hung jury. You know, I‘m a lawyer, but I have to tell you, I‘m always amazed that 12 people can agree on anything, let alone something as serious as this. And I really think this is a case that comes down to the closing arguments.
OLBERMANN: Savannah, stand by for a second. There‘s a story, and I just want your quick take on it, but first I got to tell it, so bear with me a moment.
Jennifer Wilbanks, the pop-eyed runaway bride, Miss Wear an Afghan on Your Head of 2005, has been indicted in Lawrenceville, Georgia, on two counts that could put her in prison for up to six years. Gwinnett County, Georgia‘s, district attorney says she now faces a misdemeanor, making a false police report, and a felony, false statement. That one is worth five years by itself. At some point, says D.A. Danny Porter, you just can‘t lie to the police. A bench warrant for her arrest will be issued within a few days, all this while Wilbanks‘s attorney continues to assert that her client committed no crime in Georgia and that she has offered to pay the city of Duluth, Georgia, 13,250 bucks towards the money it spent searching for her.
So I‘d like to bring Savannah Guthrie back in. You‘re a reporter for Court TV, you‘re a lawyer, and your first name is the same as of one of the biggest cities in the state of Georgia, so you are uniquely qualified, I think, to answer this one question. Six years in prison? Seriously?
GUTHRIE: I don‘t really take that seriously. I think the D.A. there is probably trying to make an example out of this woman. Now, granted, there‘s some politics here. I don‘t know if the people of Georgia, you know, with my namesake city in there, you know, are there with torches lining up, and they‘re really mad at this runaway bride. But if she‘s a first-time offender, I really don‘t see the prosecutors throwing the book at her. Ultimately, I bet you anything, Keith, there will be a plea deal, and I don‘t think she‘ll be spending any time in jail.
OLBERMANN: Does a plea deal—would it necessarily have anything to do with this restitution stuff, or is that all separate?
GUTHRIE: No, no. That could be part of a plea deal and probably would be. You know, this thing just stinks to high heaven of community service.
GUTHRIE: She‘ll probably have to do a bunch of community service.
OLBERMANN: Yes, like a year‘s worth. That would—people would like to see her humiliated and cleaning up the side of the—the trash on the highway, but I don‘t think anybody thinks she should go to jail.
GUTHRIE: In a wedding gown.
OLBERMANN: Your imagination is worse than mine is! Savannah Guthrie of Court TV at the Jackson trial. Maybe that‘s the reason it‘s gotten that way. She‘s at the Jackson trial. As always, my great thanks.
OLBERMANN: Moving from the courtroom process to the long-term aftereffects thereof, how technology is helping mothers behind bars stay connected with their kids. And Burt Reynolds. Did he slap a TV news producer, or did he just tap one? What would happen if you tapped that face back? The latest episodes of “When Actors Attack” brought to courtesy COUNTDOWN Puppet Theater. Stand by.
OLBERMANN: The man who first successfully transmitted a television signal had a unique perspective on the invention. Of if not unique, he was certainly the last guy with this particular approach. Television, said Filo Farnsworth, is a gift of God, and God will hold those who utilize his divine instrument accountable to him.
So far, we‘ve all got a lot to account for. But in our number two story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, one of those periodic aberrations in which all this technology, all these wires and lights in a box, is actually put to the public use. COUNTDOWN‘s Monica Novotny joins us now with this most improbable of stories, television making parenting easier for inmates. Monica, good evening.
MONICA NOVOTNY, COUNTDOWN: Keith, good evening. The number of women in prison in the U.S. has grown almost 50 percent since 1995, and as many as two out of three of these women are mothers. Often, they lose touch with their children, which experts say puts both mother and child at risk. But in Illinois, they‘re trying to keep these families together just by turning on a television.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, Timmy!
UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Hi.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, Shannon.
UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Hey, Mom.
NOVOTNY (voice-over): This is what a family reunion looks like when mom is in prison.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I‘m here for embezzlement.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Selling drugs. I have an eight-year sentence.
NOVOTNY: Omega (ph) and Debbie (ph) are two of the 50 mothers taking part in an Illinois prison program called PACT, Parent and Child Together, providing 30-minute video conference visits with their children who live too far away to visit in person.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It‘s the most wonderful feeling in the whole world. I miss my children so much.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I‘m still getting a chance to help my son, even though I‘m here.
NOVOTNY (on camera): In Illinois, almost 3,000 women are currently serving time in state prison. Eighty percent of them have children. Here at the Decatur Women‘s Correctional Center, they‘re all mothers.
WARDEN MARY KEPLER, DECATUR CORRECTIONAL CENTER: Anytime you can involve a woman with their children, give her support, give her hope, that you will reduce the chances that she‘ll come back into any facility again. And by doing that, you have the same impact on her children, since we know that returning to prison and going to prison can become intergenerational.
NOVOTNY (voice-over): Eligible mothers must earn their visits, maintaining impeccable behavior in prison, participating in parental counseling sessions.
(on camera): This is your room?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
NOVOTNY: You have a few roommates.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. I share this room with three other ladies.
NOVOTNY (voice-over): For Omega, who has five years left to serve, the positive impact of these visits on her 12-year-old son, Max (ph), already obvious.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: His attitude is changing. His behavior has changed drastically. His grades are picking up. And just his overall personality is totally different.
NOVOTNY: But during this visit, Max grew uncomfortable in front of our camera, and the prospect of seeing Mom in prison on a real TV, his mother ready for the rare opportunity to parent.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don‘t have to be embarrassed because of something that I did. That‘s not your fault. I know kids can be cruel at times, but that‘s—you don‘t have to carry that. It‘s not your fault.
JEWELL OATES, PH.D., PARENT AND CHILD TOGETHER: It allows the moms to stay involved in their lives because they have something to come home to. They have a relationship to build upon. They have reason to change their lives and to remain with their children.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Without the videoconferences, I wouldn‘t know him and he wouldn‘t know me. We wouldn‘t have a relationship.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They are our children and our responsibility. You know, we might have done something wrong, but I think we deserve a chance again.
NOVOTNY: A chance these reunions offer for a family‘s future off-camera.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just remember Mommy loves you, OK? And I‘ll be home soon.
NOVOTNY: The PACT program has suffered in the past due budget cuts, but for now, they are able to offer visits to as many as 20 inmates each week. Prison officials say they‘d like to see this offered in facilities across the country because they really believe strongly that it is creating a better future for these families.
OLBERMANN: Not to be the cynic here, but you‘ve got videocameras and tape recorders and all the rest. Do the prison authorities monitor these or even tap into the feeds to see what their—what their convicts are up to?
NOVOTNY: Yes. Now, they‘re absolutely supervised, and they have a caseworker involved. And the caseworker‘s not actually on camera, so they try not to interfere in the visit, but they are sitting right there, typically next to the moms. And they can intervene, if they need to, if there‘s an awkward moment, or sometimes just to make suggestions because sometimes the children have problems talking to their mom about certain things. So the caseworker can jump in and suggest something.
OLBERMANN: Yes, as we saw with your guy in that piece there.
OLBERMANN: That‘s an extraordinary set of circumstances, but sounds like a good use of the available technology.
OLBERMANN: COUNTDOWN‘S Monica Novotny. Many thanks.
OLBERMANN: Not necessarily an odd segue, then, into our nightly round-up of celebrity and entertainment news, “Keeping Tabs,” which starts with a star seven-foot-one, 325-pound basketball player who‘s always wanted to go into law enforcement, getting a chance to be a kind of undercover cop. Must be some cover. Shaquille O‘Neal of the Miami Heat, in his new capacity as a U.S. deputy marshal, has joined a Department of Justice task force tracking down child molesters on the Internet.
According to the police in Miami, the basketball star spent six hours last weekend helping them with cases. He‘s currently training on the police tracking software from his home computer and is now just a few hours training-wise short of being allowed to actually make arrests and execute search warrants. I was arrested by Shaquille O‘Neal. His other alternate career, he once wanted to be a stand-up comedian.
Speaking of ungainly comedy, there‘s new drama unfolding in the Spears/Federline home, a source telling MSNBC.com‘s Jeannette Walls that Britney Spears‘s pet chihuahua, Lucky, really hates Kevin Federline, her husband, growling and snapping whenever he comes near. We assume that‘s the dog making those noises, although it could be Federline.
In any event, Ms. Spears was forced to hand her pet over to one of her assistants, but she secretly visits the pooch whenever Federline is away, another good indicator of a solid marriage, sneaking out while your husband is gone.
One more celebrity story. Burt Reynolds is trying to slap some life into the remake of his classic comedy, “The Longest Yard.” And apparently, he‘s also trying to slap some sense into a news producer covering the remake of the flick. Stand by and duck!
OLBERMANN: Bert Reynolds‘s publicist says his client was being playful. He never hit the producer, he just playfully tapped him on the cheek. Burt did not hit the producer. Our number one story on the COUNTDOWN: Ordinarily, who cares? Except that over the years, TV news producers, newspaper writers and even co-“Tonight” show guests have been playfully tapped by the former All Southeastern Conference football halfback.
About last night‘s incident, we‘d let you judge for yourself, but CBS, which employs the field producer who got slapped and/or tapped after he asked Reynolds to tell him a little bit about the remake of the film, “The Longest Yard”—CBS will not release this tape. Conveniently, they cannot stop a verbatim recreation called “Burt Reynolds Slap a Producer Puppet Theatre.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tell us a little bit about the movie.
“BURT REYNOLDS”: You don‘t know anything about the movie?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
“BURT REYNOLDS”: Well, then, what the hell are you asking me for?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to get your point of view.
“BURT REYNOLDS”: Did you see the original?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I haven‘t.
“BURT REYNOLDS”: What the hell kind of guy are you? This guy‘s never seen the (EXPLICIT DELETED) original. He‘s asking me to tell him about the picture. He‘s standing there in his shirt, needs ironing. The man works for CBS. I‘m just—I‘m embarrassed. I like the guy. He‘s a nice guy. He‘s a tough guy. He wants to come on out. He can‘t because he‘s under contract with CBS. But we‘ll meet later, if you want.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: If this all sounds vaguely familiar, of course, it should. It‘s the same premise as “Michael Jackson Puppet Theater.” If it all sounds vaguely familiar, in early 1994, a Los Angeles TV producer asked Reynolds about his divorce, Reynolds hit him and then said, I didn‘t hit you. If I hit you, you‘d be on the floor. Reynolds later apologized.
But later in the same year, on a book promotion tour, Reynolds cut off Jay Leno‘s tie with a pair of scissors, then doused guest Mark Summers (ph) of Lifetime cable with a cup of water. Two days later, he went ballistic on a San Francisco morning radio show. And the same afternoon, he ripped up the notebook of a San Francisco newspaper woman who had asked him about the split (ph).
And then there was this ugly incident from 1981. Well—well, this you can justify. All right, that‘s actually Reynolds with Dom DeLuise in “Cannonball Run,” but you get the idea.
Joining me now, Tom O‘Neil, senior editor of “In Touch Weekly” and producer of “Top 10 TV Characters You Love to Hate” on the TVland network tonight. Good evening, Tom. Welcome.
TOM O‘NEIL, “IN TOUCH WEEKLY”: Thanks, Keith. Good to be here.
OLBERMANN: As best you can judge, you‘ve seen the tape and you‘ve also seen our brilliant reenactment here...
OLBERMANN: ... was it a tap or was it a slap?
O‘NEIL: It is really hard to tell because the contact happens just off-screen on the actual camera. But you guys got the smack just right. So we do hear some serious body contact. And who does this guy think he is?
O‘NEIL: Liza Minnelli?
O‘NEIL: Come on!
OLBERMANN: The sound seemed like a slap, from what we heard.
O‘NEIL: The sound does, yes.
OLBERMANN: Is there, though, a middle ground with Burt? I mean, maybe he thinks this is a—you know, a funny gesture when you reach into somebody‘s face and sort of get their attention and does not remember that even in his late 60s, he used to play college football at a high level and is probably stronger than the person he‘s touching that way?
O‘NEIL: I think if there‘s another explanation for him reaching out at this guy‘s hair, it‘s to grab his hairpiece because Burt could probably use another one. The bottom line is there‘s no such thing as a slight tap. Remember General Patton in World War II? I just smacked the guy once. He was a sissy. That ended his career.
OLBERMANN: We have cited these three other incidents, but they were from 1994. Has he been on good behavior since? I mean, did he go to the Zsa Zsa Gabor clinic for slaphappiness or something?
O‘NEIL: That‘s good! He didn‘t go Zsa Zsa‘s school for slapping because he would have decked this guy, like he would in the old days. This was kind of a sissy thing. I think if Burt‘s been anywhere, he‘s been on Mars. You‘ve seen him. He‘s got that...
O‘NEIL: ... pulled-back...
OLBERMANN: It‘s not a good look. But has he, in fact—all right, we keep showing...
OLBERMANN: We keep showing this...
O‘NEIL: Burt has been on good behavior lately. Yes, he has.
OLBERMANN: But—yes, so there have not been—did he approach anger management, or did somebody just, from a publicity point of view, say, Hey, dummy, stop it!
O‘NEIL: I think he was generally ticked off and tried to disguise it with humor and got caught.
OLBERMANN: Is it a journalistic crime, even in the entertainment field, worthy of corporal punishment to admit to somebody that you have not seen their film, nor their previous film, nor read their book or whatever? I mean, is it...
O‘NEIL: Right, right, right.
OLBERMANN: Is that justified some way?
O‘NEIL: In Burt Reynolds‘s case, I‘m guilty as a felon. Burt, if you‘re watching, take your best shot. I have never seen “Cannonball II,” “Smokey and the Bandit III.” And I never intend to.
OLBERMANN: Have you ever been slapped by an interviewee?
O‘NEIL: Yes, and I deserved it. It was Mom, and that‘s all I‘m going to say.
OLBERMANN: Right. Well, that‘s a different kind of interviewee, and I know that‘s—interviewing your own mother is kind of tough. There is lastly here the question of retaliation. If you are in the position where Burt Reynolds slaps you...
OLBERMANN: ... you cannot slap back...
OLBERMANN: ... because with all the plastic surgery, his face would just shatter.
O‘NEIL: That‘s true. That‘s true. So here‘s what I think we should do to Burt Reynolds. We should lock him up and make him watch one of his movies for an entire weekend, and I suggest “W.W. and the Dixie Dance Kings.” He‘s going to come out of that theater begging to be slapped!
OLBERMANN: Who was in there—who was in that one with him? Was that...
O‘NEIL: I have no idea.
OLBERMANN: ... one of the Sally Field ones, was it? Sally Field was just—all the movies are cars and they jump and Sally Field sits on his lap.
O‘NEIL: Yes, yes, yes. But he was also in “Without a Paddle,” which is a classic.
OLBERMANN: Then there‘s a suicide one with Dom DeLuise, too? Wasn‘t that another...
OLBERMANN: What was that where he tried to kill himself?
O‘NEIL: That‘s right. That‘s right.
O‘NEIL: “The End” it was called. “The End.”
OLBERMANN: Yes. Dom DeLuise tried to kill him for him. They were in a shower or something...
O‘NEIL: Many have tried.
OLBERMANN: Yes. Well, if anybody does it, it‘s going to be his plastic surgeon.
OLBERMANN: Tom O‘Neil, the senior editor of “In Touch Weekly,” thanks for coming in.
O‘NEIL: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: And lastly, all I can think of is Woody Allen‘s line from the movie from “Play It Again Sam,” when the Humphrey Bogart character tells him not to worry, he‘s been slapped plenty of times—yes, but your glasses don‘t go flying across the room.
That‘s COUNTDOWN. I‘m Keith Olbermann. Keep your knees loose. Good night, and good luck.
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