Guests: Michael Perlstein, William Jefferson, George Haddow, Vinda De
Sousa, William Fallon, Harris Faulkner, Stanley Borgia, John Newsom, James
Hirsen, Eddie Jordan
DAN ABRAMS, HOST: Coming up, the man who‘s responsible for the federal response to hurricane Katrina effectively saying, don‘t blame me for the bungled relief effort. I didn‘t realize how dysfunctional they were in Louisiana.
ABRAMS (voice-over): Former FEMA director Mike Brown pointing lots of fingers as he is called to testify at Capitol Hill, at the locals and other federal agencies and, of course, at the media.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You had a hysteric media reporting rapes and murders and everything else.
ABRAMS: And they were both drunk, but it was all consensual, so says Dutch teen Joran van der Sloot about his night in Aruba with Natalee Holloway. We‘ve got more of his first interview.
Plus a nationwide manhunt for a murder and rape suspect, authorities say he killed his 13-year-old neighbor because she was talking about him molesting her best friend.
The program about justice starts now.
ABRAMS: Hi everyone. We will get to all of that, but first up on the docket tonight, breaking news out of New Orleans. The city‘s top cop, Police Superintendent Eddie Compass has announced he is done. He is resigning. What happened?
NBC‘s Donna Gregory joins us now from New Orleans with the latest—
DONNA GREGORY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hi Dan. He is actually calling it a retirement and he announced it at a very hastily called news conference, 2:00 p.m. Local Time. The mayor said he did not call for Compass‘ resignation. Let‘s hear some of what Compass said at that news conference.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Since I was a little boy, my whole life, I wanted to be the superintendent of police. And God blessed me with fulfilling that dream. I have served this department for over 26 years and I have had the pleasure to be superintendent over three and a half years. Every man in leadership positions must know when it‘s time to hand over the reigns to someone else. At this time, within the next 30 to 45 days during the transition period, I will be retiring as superintendent of police. And I will be going on in another direction God has for me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GREGORY: Compass faced a firestorm of controversy after 249 police officers were AWOL, Dan, in the height of the looting and the wrath after Hurricane Katrina. And again the mayor said he did not ask for his resignation or early retirement, as he‘s saying.
ABRAMS: All right, Donna Gregory, thanks a lot. All right, what is this about? There has got to be an explanation here. You don‘t just sort of step down and decide to take personal time. Michael Perlstein covers the police department for “The New Orleans Times-Picayune” and joins us now on the phone.
Thanks lot for joining us. All right, what do you make of this?
MICHAEL PERLSTEIN, “THE NEW ORLEANS TIMES-PICAYUNE” (via phone): Well first of all, it‘s Perlstein, but you guys are pretty quick on the draw. We are you know slapping together a deadline story sorting out all of the reasons behind this. You know, New Orleans is a very—you know has a very rich political climate to say the least and, you know, lots of different accounts are trickling in and we‘re hoping to get some more definitive background on this on our Web site...
ABRAMS: So you don‘t know anything right now?
PERLSTEIN: Well, the timing obviously is a bit odd in the middle of this major crisis and—you know but there are differing accounts that we‘re sorting through.
ABRAMS: Do you want to give us some of those accounts?
PERLSTEIN: Well, one thing to keep in mind is that the police department was having its problems even before Katrina hit, a murder rate that was steadily climbing, you know, placing New Orleans in the top five of per capita murder rates of large cities and, you know, Compass‘ job security wasn‘t the firmest before all of this.
ABRAMS: But the mayor is describing him as a hero. I mean you know the mayor is standing up there...
ABRAMS: ... his boss, saying this guy is a hero. He sure wasn‘t making it sound like his job was in jeopardy. Was it the pressure from dealing with all this? Was it the investigations into why a lot of his force went missing?
PERLSTEIN: Yes, I think that absolutely, no doubt, that anyone in that situation was going to be under just immense pressure and, you know, how much of that played a role in his stepping down. Again, I mean the thing that I think we really have to bare down on is the timing of this. You know it is a time when the department needs very firm leadership, probably more than at any time in the department‘s history, and I don‘t know if this kind of bombshell...
PERLSTEIN: ... is announced so suddenly, number one and...
ABRAMS: Well my guess is that there‘s a lot more to this.
PERLSTEIN: Oh yes, no doubt...
ABRAMS: And I‘m going to tell you right now that I predict that tomorrow your paper is going to report about the pressure that he has been under, that the scrutiny that he has been under, the questions that have been asked as a result of this. That‘s my guess as to what you‘re going to report tomorrow, but I guess apparently we‘re going to have to read it in the paper.
ABRAMS: Michael Perlstein, thanks a lot. Appreciate it.
PERLSTEIN: You bet. Absolutely.
ABRAMS: Now to Capitol Hill where the name of the game was blame as former FEMA director Michael Brown testified before a House committee investigating the pathetic federal response to Hurricane Katrina. But Brown didn‘t take much blame himself and said he pointed a finger at Louisiana Governor Blanco and New Orleans‘ Mayor Nagin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL BROWN, FORMER FEMA DIRECTOR: My biggest mistake was not recognizing by Saturday that Louisiana was dysfunctional.
I was unable to persuade Governor Blanco and Mayor Nagin to sit down, get over their differences and work together.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: He seemed to implicate even the Bush administration itself for not providing the necessary resources.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: We did the catastrophic planning a year ago and had no money since then to do anything.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: And what is the blame game, if the media is not a target?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: I became tied to the news shows, going on the news shows early in the morning and late at night. We should have been feeding that information to the press instead—and in the manner and in the time that we wanted to instead of letting the press drive us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: We‘re going to talk about that later. I have a few words about that. But it also provided an opportunity for the congressmen, almost all Republicans, because Democrats boycotted in the hope of getting an independent investigation to attack Brown.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. CHRISTOPHER SHAYS ®, CONNECTICUT: If someone like Rudy Giuliani had been in your position instead of you, I think he would have done things differently.
UNIDENTIFIED REPRESENTATIVE: You folks fell on your face. You get an F-minus in my book.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Joining me now is New Orleans congressman, William Jefferson, one of the few Democrats who was at today‘s hearing and George Haddow, FEMA‘s deputy chief of staff during the Clinton administration. Gentlemen thanks very much for coming on the program. We appreciate it.
All right, Congressman, you were there. You‘re from Louisiana.
You‘re from New Orleans, you wanted to have a few words with Michael Brown.
What he is saying is, look, it‘s ultimately the local‘s responsibility.
They blew it. I couldn‘t even get them to sit down in a room together.
REP. WILLIAM JEFFERSON (D), LOUISIANA: I was shocked by that. It didn‘t make any sense to me. I was there through all of the events and in every room there‘s going to be some basis, some disagreement about this or the other thing. But the response was—FEMA‘s response is what we were looking for. We were looking for ice and busses and some plan about how to retrieve people who had died and how to keep those folks alive who were still trying to hang on and FEMA was not there to respond to that.
And that had nothing to do with the mayor or the governor. He is talking about some free landfall things that he couldn‘t see them getting together on. But the fact of it is FEMA had a role to play in both those situations. One is coordinating, collaborating all the assets of the federal government for the emergency that was impending. The other was, after it all happened, to get in there and pitch in and get everything done. That was almost fully FEMA‘s responsibility and they failed at it.
ABRAMS: But look, you‘re not going to quarrel with the idea the mayor and the governor made some mistakes as well, right?
JEFFERSON: Oh no, I‘m not going to—as I told them today, I‘m not there to defend the mayor or the governor. But I‘m there to point out those were not the overriding factors of what happened and what went wrong in Louisiana.
JEFFERSON: Because if—any evidence of that, the folks in Mississippi and Alabama, where he said they didn‘t have these control issues or these unified control issues, nonetheless had the same delivery problems from FEMA...
ABRAMS: Why did you go? I mean most of the Democrats boycotted this.
Why did you decide to go?
JEFFERSON: Well I didn‘t think I could have the folks back home see me sit on the sidelines and not get involved, pitching in here because there are so many people who we now have to justify to them back home, why the government didn‘t respond. I think Gene Taylor felt the same way, as did Charlie Malone (ph), who couldn‘t make it because he had (INAUDIBLE).
ABRAMS: All right, Mr. Haddow, as a matter of what FEMA is supposed to do, I mean it sounds like as a layperson when you listen to Mr. Brown, that he‘s basically saying that‘s not FEMA‘s job. That‘s not FEMA‘s job. That‘s not FEMA‘s job when it comes to all of the mistakes that occurred here. Is it fair—are we being too hard on him by saying, wait a second, we thought that FEMA was supposed to be responsible for at least some of this?
GEORGE HADDOW, FORMER FEMA DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF: No, I don‘t think we‘re being too hard on him. I think two points have to be made. One, it‘s his job to set expectations. It‘s his job to explain to the American people and to his partners at the state and local level what FEMA is going to do. And two, when he makes a promise to deliver resources, any mission assigned to the Department of Defense on Saturday and Sunday, before Katrina made landfall to provide air and ground transport and then doesn‘t follow up to find out if those mission assignments were fulfilled, he sure could use principal responsibility as a federal coordinator and director of the federal response.
ABRAMS: Congressman, do you agree?
JEFFERSON: Yes and I agree also that apart from Mr. Brown, (INAUDIBLE) with FEMA would have to be attacked and straightened out in the Congress. He admitted some of them today. That the Homeland Security chief cut money out of the FEMA budget and transferred money out after Congress had appropriated it...
JEFFERSON: ... and didn‘t have the manpower and other...
ABRAMS: Let me play this piece of sound from Brown from today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: The failure to evacuate drove all of—it was the tipping point for all of the other things that either went wrong or were exacerbated. For example, the police department, the disintegration of the police department, you can tie back to the lack of evacuation, because they couldn‘t handle that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: So Mr. Haddow, shat he is saying, again, is, it wasn‘t our responsibility.
HADDOW: No, what he is saying is he‘s blaming everybody. First he blames the size of the storm, then he blames the state and local officials. He blames disaster assistance employees. The next thing he‘s going to do is blame the French for building the city there in the first place.
ABRAMS: But do you think that—you would agree, Mr. Haddow, right, based on what you have seen, that the governor and the mayor and the local officials have a lot of explaining to do as well?
HADDOW: Nobody is going to escape blame or responsibility here. But the bottom line is that when the president made the declaration on August 27, two days or 36 hours before Katrina made landfall, he opened up the availability of federal resources that were promised by Mike Brown to the governor and to the mayor, and the federal government did not deliver on that promise. And I think that‘s what has to—the answers that have to be found. Why didn‘t the Department of Defense move quicker? Why weren‘t other resources made available? When did the free deployed resources actually get into the city and why did they take that long to get there?
ABRAMS: All right, but one of the other points that Brown made today is that in Mississippi, things kind of worked, he said. Here is what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: The system was there to do what it was supposed to do, but I have no record sometimes of whether some of those places—some of those things actually got to where we asked them to go to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: So basically what he is saying there, Congressman, is that look, in Mississippi they had the system in place. It worked. You heard the Mississippi congressman going after him, but he is saying that they had the structure in place for us to help and yet in Louisiana it was a mess.
JEFFERSON: But he adds that he couldn‘t tell whether the things that they had planned to get in Mississippi got there. Well he knew they didn‘t get there and so they didn‘t get there anywhere. Where you had a unified commander that didn‘t work or where you didn‘t have one in his opinion that didn‘t work, the fact of it is, the promises that were made to our city and to our state were never delivered. Three hundred and fifty buses by Wednesday, got 50 buses by Friday. Ice and water and all the rest never got there.
ABRAMS: Well believe me I agree with you and—I agree with you in this sense, that I‘m going to talk about this later about something I know about and that is that he blamed the media for the coverage and it‘s all the media‘s fault and other people are starting to do that. I‘m going to have a little discussion about that later in the program.
Congressman Jefferson, George Haddow, thanks a lot. Appreciate it.
JEFFERSON: Thank you.
HADDOW: Thank you.
ABRAMS: Coming up, Dutch teen Joran van der Sloot is talking. We‘ve got the tape of what he said happened the night Natalee Holloway went missing in Aruba. He‘s admitting he lied to police. Can he be charged for that?
Plus, police need your help tracking down a suspected murder and rapist. They say he killed a 13-year-old girl because she confronted him about molesting her best friend.
Your e-mails email@example.com. Please include your name and where you‘re writing from. I respond at the end of the show.
ABRAMS: Dutch teen Joran van der Sloot breaks his silence, telling his version of what happened the night Natalee Holloway disappeared in Aruba. He‘s now a free man in Holland after spending 85 days behind bars in Aruba. In part two of an interview to be aired tonight on “A Current Affair”, van der Sloot admits to being with Natalee that night and then says he left her on the beach after she refused to leave.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JORAN VAN DER SLOOT, SUSPECT IN NATALEE HOLLOWAY CASE: Obviously, she was drunk. I had stuff to drink, too. But now I don‘t respect that the Aruban authorities tried to pin it that it was a rape case. She wanted to go with me. I wanted to go with her. It was totally consensual. I had something to drink. She had something to drink and I just don‘t think it‘s fair that people...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well I think if you can explain to people what really happened and you were really forthcoming, the more forthcoming you are, the more chance there is of you to get on with your life.
VAN DER SLOOT: I will. One day I will explain exactly what happened, but right now I don‘t (INAUDIBLE).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Van der Sloot says he is still a suspect in the case and admits he initially lied about when he last saw Natalee.
Joining me now is Holloway family‘s attorney Vinda De Sousa, former prosecutor Bill Fallon, and “A Current Affair” reporter Harris Faulkner. Thank you all for joining us. We appreciate it.
All right, Vinda, let me just start with you. Is it against the law in Aruba to lie to the authorities about something like, when is the last time you saw Natalee Holloway?
VINDA DE SOUSA, HOLLOWAY FAMILY ATTORNEY (via phone): Well no. Hi Dan. Good afternoon first of all. No, there is no obligation for any suspect to incriminate him or herself. When you lie about something to the authorities, when you‘re a suspect, whenever you are brought to trial, that will continue to a—they will certainly consider that—the judge will consider that whenever imposing a sentence. But nobody, and I think—correct me if I‘m wrong, it‘s the same thing in the U.S. that nobody is under obligation to incriminate oneself.
ABRAMS: But it‘s not incriminating yourself. I mean the bottom line is when you‘re asked a question about where you were, Bill Fallon, in the state of Massachusetts, where you‘re from, for example, if authorities are asking you questions and you lie about it, is it a crime?
WILLIAM FALLON, FORMER ESSEX COUNTY MA PROSECUTOR: No, it is not a crime, Dan. As you know, federally it‘s a crime, hence not the steward (ph). I mean there is a big difference, which is why we always try to get the feds involved in these cases. In most states it is not a crime. In a couple of states it is.
Obviously, if you lie about something that you can then piece to something else, it does become evidence against you. It is not a crime, at least in Massachusetts to lie to the police. Now, if you lie under oath in a grand jury investigation, if you in fact sign something under the pains and penalty of perjury, then it is in fact a criminal offense.
DE SOUSA: Exactly.
FALLON: I don‘t know if he did that here.
DE SOUSA: Same thing here. Same thing here. Whenever you‘re under oath or you sign under the penalty of perjury and it later is—appears not to be true, then it is a crime. But he hasn‘t up to now, nothing under oath.
ABRAMS: All right. Here is the statement the he made to “A Current Affair”.
When she didn‘t show up for the first couple of days, I was like OK, but you know maybe she‘s still with someone else. I thought about going to the police and telling the truth, but I really couldn‘t because I lied to everybody. I lied to my parents. I lied to my friends.
Question: So you say that lying is your worst crime?
Yes, I lied basically because I was scared and that‘s the truth. I didn‘t want to admit leaving her alone at the beach. I know what I did was wrong and for lying I probably deserved to be in that jail for three months, but I didn‘t do anything against the law.
So, Harris, in the context of this whole interview, is that the most incriminating comment, you think, that he made?
HARRIS FAULKNER, “A CURRENT AFFAIR”: No, actually. You know Joran van der Sloot talks about buying Natalee Holloway the last drink that he saw her take, it was a shot that he bought for her. He was 17 at the time in an establishment that was serving to 18-year-olds and older. So he says at least something legally incriminating in that statement. And then you know, when asked whether or not he had sex with her that night, why that has been important is whether or not Natalee was of the frame of mind to even consent.
Many people, patrons, witnesses had described her as being very, very, very drunk. Deepak Kalpoe in his statements we knew reportedly has said that she was too drunk to—quote—unquote—“drive”. When I talked with Beth Twitty, when we watched this tape together she was talking about how drunk she knew that witnesses had said her daughter was, so whether or not they had sex comes into play.
Because if they did and she didn‘t have the frame of mind to consent, was it then sexual assault? So that‘s why we were asking him about it and Dan, we got three different answers. The first time we asked, he said well it‘s none of your business. The second time we asked, he said well we were drinking, she was drinking, I was, we were both went together. It was consensual. The third time we asked he said I did not have sex with her, neither did the Kalpoe brothers...
ABRAMS: Let me read...
FAULKNER: Which one is it?
ABRAMS: Let me read that.
Did you have sex with her that night?
Answer: That‘s—first of all, it‘s none of your business.
Question: It‘s just a question.
Answer: Yes, but it‘s absolutely none of your business.
Question: I mean did anything else happen that night?
No. Well yes. I kissed with her, but neither me or Deepak or Satish ever had sex with her and no one ever, ever said otherwise.
Now, that directly contradicts what Beth Twitty has said. She has...
ABRAMS: She has said again and again that she has read statements that have said just the opposite.
ABRAMS: So Bill Fallon, I mean, that‘s not really incriminating per se, though, is it?
FALLON: Dan, I think these type of answers, if you will, or evasive answers are incriminating but not enough to go to trial on.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I agree.
FALLON: I think what we have here is typically what the rapist says. A typical rapist that we prosecuted for years, when I was a prosecutor would say, it wasn‘t me. I wasn‘t there. If I was there, nothing happened and if something happened it was consensual. He‘s trying to have it all ways. Now the question is going to be, at least my information (INAUDIBLE) information was originally he made some statements that there was some—we thought it was sexual intercourse of some kind.
Now was he playing the Bill Clinton “I never had sex”? I don‘t know what he‘s playing here, but this is going to be the type of information...
FALLON: ... that if they ever find the body and they find any DNA evidence, I said on the show when he came up with the DNA evidence, he was afraid his first statement or his second statement or third, I don‘t know which, that there was going to be some DNA connecting him. He was very cautious on this, whatever it is, is consensual. He said she‘s too drunk to consent to sex it seems to me, so the question is going to be at the end of the two years, before the statute of limitations runs out, are they going to feel is enough without a body, without any other evidence...
ABRAMS: Yes. All right...
FALLON: ... to proceed.
ABRAMS: Here is what he said.
I just thought she was attractive. I thought she was very outgoing. She came to me. She was the one that talked to me. She asked for me to dance with her, which I didn‘t even do and she wanted to come with us, and it was probably a bad choice. We probably should have told her she had to get out of the car when her friend told her to get out of the car. Then you never know what would have happened.
Vinda, that kind of statement has got to really get the family upset, right?
DE SOUSA: Oh it does. It does. Not only the family, everybody else involved. Myself included. You know, it‘s like—your other guest was saying. He‘s just trying to—he‘s trying to—first, he realizes he incriminates himself and then he tries to duck the hits or the punches that he is going to get because of that. He is playing with definitions.
And in my mind—there‘s no doubt in my mind that he knows more than he is saying and so do the authorities. I have spoken to them. And Dave has met with them here at my office when he was down here. And they all do believe and feel in their hearts that he has more to tell.
DE SOUSA: It‘s what your other guest is saying.
DE SOUSA: You need evidence...
ABRAMS: I told her I had to go home. I had school the next day and I thought maybe she would understand. She told me no, she wanted me to stay there with her because the next day she was leaving and she wanted to stay there the whole night. I told her no. I had to go. I even lifted her up to carry her back to the hotel and she told me to put her down. I let her down. I sat down next to her and talked to her for awhile and I called Deepak to ask him if he could come pick me up, which Deepak didn‘t do. She wasn‘t angry. If anything, she was probably more upset that I was leaving her there.
Bill, I would expect that the Aruban authorities are going to be comparing these statements with the statements that he made to the police, right?
FALLON: Absolutely Dan, and they‘re going to look for any inconsistency, because again, without a body, without the corpus electi (ph), it‘s hard to prosecute but they‘ll be looking at this. And did you ever hear of anybody become such a victim? He almost sounds, if you will, like Scott Peterson, meaning poor me, woe is me.
At the end of this it‘s like why can the police be doing this to me? Well I think this might still be the beginning of his trouble. I think he knows there‘s someone out there who saw him on the beach and that‘s why he‘s giving these statements so that he can exculpate himself by making himself look good to the world.
ABRAMS: All right. Vinda De Sousa, Bill Fallon, Harris Faulkner, thanks a lot. Appreciate it.
DE SOUSA: Thank you very much.
FAULKNER: Thank you.
ABRAMS: Coming up, police say this man killed his 13-year-old neighbor because she accused him of molesting her best friend. Then they say he killed two others. They need your help to try to find him.
And former FEMA Director Mike Brown, not just blaming the Louisiana officials, but also sticking it to the press, saying the coverage was hysterical. Our Tucker Carlson was down there. He‘s not so thrilled with that characterization. He joins us.
And our continuing series “Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose”, our effort to find missing sex offenders before they strike again. This week focuses on Arizona, authorities are looking for Tibby Perry, 39, 5‘10”, 167, level three sex offender, convicted of child molestation. He is not registered with the authorities.
If you‘ve got any information on his whereabouts, please call the Arizona Department of Public Safety Sex Offender Compliance Unit, 602-255-0611.
Be right back.
ABRAMS: Coming up, a nationwide manhunt for a man suspected of killing his 13-year-old neighbor after she allegedly confronted him about molesting her best friend, first the headlines.
ABRAMS: A nationwide manhunt under way for a man suspected of killing a 13-year-old girl because she was cooperating with police in a sex abuse investigation against him. Last Monday as Katelind Caudill was getting ready for school in her bedroom, she was shot in the head and chest. Police suspect her neighbor, 43-year-old Melvin Keeling, of killing her because Katelind found out he was molesting her best friend, who was also the daughter of his girlfriend.
Just days before Katelind was killed, she reportedly confronted Keeling, calling him a pedophile. Just last week while on the run Keeling was indicted on two counts of rape and 33 other sex abuse charges. That‘s not all though. He was caught on surveillance tape at a convenience store in Indiana where two store workers were later found dead.
Joining me now is FBI special agent in charge for Ohio, Stanley Borgia and Major John Newsom of the Warren County Ohio Sheriff‘s Office. Gentlemen thanks a lot for joining us. We appreciate it. All right...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you Dan. Hello Major.
ABRAMS: Agent Borgia, let me start with you. Why is the FBI involved here?
STANLEY BORGIA, FBI SPECIAL AGENT: Well thanks for asking, Dan. The FBI has long been involved in the apprehension, especially dangerous fugitives. It remains a priority in the FBI. The FBI has the resources to work these cases...
ABRAMS: But is there anything specific about this case? Is it just -
the bottom line is you‘re just helping out because it could be a multi-state search, correct?
BORGIA: No. It‘s because it‘s not only a multi-state investigation, it‘s also fast moving and, of course, a notorious case in which an individual murders a child.
ABRAMS: Right. All right. Major, he is—explain to us what happened. So the girl apparently confronts him and says, you‘re a pedophile. He was already being investigated at that point.
MAJOR JOHN NEWSOM, WARREN COUNTY OH SHERIFF‘S OFFICE (via phone): I‘m not getting into that. That‘s probable cause for a future court case. We‘re still investigating a homicide. I‘m not going to get into anything that may be probable cause down the line.
ABRAMS: OK, so you won‘t talk about any of the facts at all?
NEWSOM: No, there‘s just no way. I mean...
NEWSOM: ... we have not—we haven‘t signed a warrant. We haven‘t been to the grand jury to indict him. He—we are calling him our primary suspect.
ABRAMS: OK. And he is a suspect in what—on what charges? I mean there are a whole host of charges here, right?
NEWSOM: He‘s indicted on sexual charges, on gross sexual positions involving a minor, 33 counts, and then two counts of rape also involving a minor.
ABRAMS: And he‘s a primary suspect in other...
NEWSOM: He‘s a primary suspect in the murder of Katelind Caudill.
ABRAMS: And what about the two people at the convenience store...
NEWSOM: He is Indiana‘s primary suspect in the murder of the convenience store clerks.
ABRAMS: You getting any—Special Agent, you getting any tips of use?
BORGIA: Yes, in fact, we‘ve had about 200 leads that have come in and the great response that the media has given this case has been extraordinarily helpful. So these leads have not covered Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and have gone points throughout the country. And so through this—through the command post that we‘ve set up in Cincinnati at the FBI, we‘ve been able to triage a number of these leads and we‘ve coordinated the law enforcement response that has involved many, many agencies and law enforcement officers.
ABRAMS: Here is what we know about him. And this is just—this could be helpful to people in finding him, slight lisp, avid pool player, a pin in his neck, apparently limits some of his movements in his neck.
BORGIA: That is correct.
ABRAMS: He‘s an automotive assembly line worker, but he‘s also a fifth-degree martial arts black belt—again, the tip line, 513-562-5830. Gentlemen we appreciate you taking the time. Good luck. Let us know if there‘s any new information we can put out there for you.
NEWSOM: Thank you.
BORGIA: Thanks Dan.
ABRAMS: Coming up, I said yesterday that I would go after those who try to shift the blame about the response to Katrina to the media. Seems now I have a few people to deal with ranging from the “L.A. Times” to the former FEMA director.
And my suggestions for a few minor changes that need to happen now before the next one hits. It‘s my “Closing Argument”.
Your e-mails firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name and where you‘re writing from. I respond at the end of the show.
ABRAMS: Coming up, I guess it was bound to happen. Now the media is to blame for the government‘s failed response to Hurricane Katrina. Coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AUDRIA THORTON, HURRICANE EVACUEE: Please help us. This is a disgrace. Look at this dead body. Children—I mean on the second floor a little girl‘s (INAUDIBLE) throat cut in the freezer. We got to get food. We saw her up in there in the freezer. She is dead, been raped, throat is cut. We saw with our own eyes. Please help us somebody.
BROWN: You had a hysteric media reporting rapes and murders and everything else, which I think even the reports today began to say probably weren‘t true which compounded the problem even further.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Former FEMA Director Michael Brown on Capitol Hill today blaming the media coverage in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. But Brown isn‘t alone in targeting the media. Now that the convention center and the Superdome are effectively cleared out, local New Orleans officials report that 14 bodies have been recovered inside the convention center and Superdome. Fewer than I guess some had expected, leading of course to the typical blame of the media. Today‘s “L.A. Times” headline reads “Katrina take‘s toll on truth, news accuracy, and some in Congress, like Republican Peter King, jumping on the bandwagon as well.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PETER KING ®, NEW YORK: (INAUDIBLE) there‘s sort of a frenzy here by the media. Let‘s not forget the incompetence of the mayor of New Orleans, the governor of New Orleans. They were the ones in the first instance that are required to do the job and they didn‘t. As for as President Bush, it‘s wrong for you to say he wasn‘t caring. He certainly was caring. What he was not equipped for was to explain for the incompetency of the local officials or to explain the hysteria, anticipate the hysteria created by people like you in the media.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: All right, that‘s the part I want to talk about, the last part. (INAUDIBLE) it seems the president only learned about the conditions in the convention center from the media. “New York Times” and others reporting an aide handed him a wire report early on the morning of Thursday, September 1, and this was Michael Brown with NBC‘s Brian Williams later that night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: Why can‘t some of the Chinook helicopters and Blackhawks that we have heard flying over for days and days and days, simply lower pallets of water, meals ready to eat, medical supplies, right into downtown New Orleans? Where is the aid? It‘s the question people keep asking us on camera?
BROWN: Brian, it‘s an absolutely fair question. And I‘ve got to tell you, from the bottom of my heart, how sad I feel for those people. The federal government just learned about those people today. And I‘ve got to tell you, we are moving heaven and earth to get pallets of food and water to those people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Just learned today. “My Take”—this is one of those rare stories where the reporters were there as it happened, reporting what they saw with their own eyes. And I guess for some that may not be good enough or maybe it‘s too good, too true. Sure, in some cases relying on eyewitness accounts or sources, did certain officials provide details that were wrong? Maybe so, but this is one of those stories that should make people proud of the media for refusing to give in for insisting that a humanitarian crisis was coming and exposing the inaction of the government.
Eddie Jordan is the D.A. in Orleans Parish. He joins us. James
Hirsen is a media critic with Newsmax.com and author of “Hollywood Nation:
Left Coast Lies, Old Media Spin, and The New Media Revelation”, and MSNBC‘s own Tucker Carlson, host of “The Situation with Tucker Carlson”. He reported from the convention center in the days after Hurricane Katrina.
All right, Mr. Hirsen, let me start with you. I mean there seems to be this new movement to now say oh, wait a sec, here is a way where we don‘t have to blame the local officials or the feds. We can blame the media.
JAMES HIRSEN, NEWSMAX.COM: Well I think they deserve some blame if in fact they failed in their primary function. If we‘re going to criticize FEMA for moving too slow, isn‘t it fair game to criticize the media for reporting too fast? I mean their primary function...
HIRSEN: ... was the accurate delivery...
HIRSEN: ... of factual information. And look, I‘m proud of them, too, Dan, because it‘s the media blowing the whistle on themselves, and I think encouraged by talk shows like Rush Limbaugh and sites like the one I write for...
HIRSEN: ... Newsmax.com...
HIRSEN: ... new media...
ABRAMS: I mean look, the bottom line look as to who gets the credit within the media for exposing the media is irrelevant to me. The bottom line is, you know people like Tucker were down there every day. And Tucker, we have the FEMA, the former head of FEMA basically saying that the reporting was hysterical. Now there seems to be this sense that you guys got it all wrong in the convention center and the Superdome.
TUCKER CARLSON, HOST, “THE SITUATION WITH TUCKER CARLSON”: Yes, well obviously we got some things wrong. Of course you always do with spot news. You know you don‘t—you never get an overview picture of it when you‘re there. You don‘t put things in context because you can‘t. But if there are people contesting that there was chaos in New Orleans and no one was in control, there was no authority, they‘re lying. They don‘t know what they‘re talking about.
We pulled to up the convention center a couple of days after Hurricane Katrina, the only cop we saw, the only police presence was a burned out cop car on you know three flat tires that people were playing on, right? There was a dead body the following day lying out in front of the convention center that nobody bothered to pick up for about 24 hours. I mean nobody was in control, at least effectively nobody was in control.
So I don‘t know. I‘m sure the casualty reports were wrong. The mayor of New Orleans was saying 10,000 people were probably going to be dead in the end. I mean right—there were numerical mistakes, but thematically we were absolutely right, it was chaotic, period.
ABRAMS: And Eddie Jordan, I read that you were saying that—you were saying it‘s not consistent with the high standards of journalism, that there was the impression that 40 or 50 murders had occurred at the two sites. OK, so we‘ve now—they have now found 14 bodies there. Look, I don‘t know who was reporting that 40 or 50 murders occurred there. But the bottom line is, wasn‘t the media coverage on the whole pretty good?
EDDIE JORDAN, NEW ORLEANS DISTRICT ATTORNEY: I don‘t take exception to the reports that there were chaos in the Superdome and at the convention center. But apparently, there were far fewer murders than reported by the national media.
JORDAN: Those reports of...
ABRAMS: Where did you see reports...
JORDAN: Those reports...
ABRAMS: Go ahead...
JORDAN: ... of bloodshed on the streets of the city were simply grossly inaccurate, and it‘s unfortunate that that was the picture presented to the public that in fact there was massive killing taking place on the streets of New Orleans and at the two major shelters, the Superdome and the convention center.
ABRAMS: Well see, I think that the reporting was primarily that there was mass chaos in New Orleans, including gunfire. I was there a week afterwards, and I was just on a drive by with some officers and we were just looking—they were looking for looters—we encountered gunshots in New Orleans in that one time. I mean look, whether it was “X” number of murders or “Y” number of murders, it really seems to me beside the point. I mean the point is that the media coverage was not hysterical. The situation was hysterical. Do you disagree with that?
JORDAN: Oh I agree that the circumstances were hysterical. The conditions were squalid at the convention center and the Superdome. But I took a trip to St. Gabriel, which is where the morgue is, and I talked to the coroner and he told me that he didn‘t have more than one or two children who had been killed, perhaps—actually by natural circumstances, and actually there were only four murder victims, one at the convention center and one at the Superdome and two in the streets of the city of New Orleans. So that was really inconsistent with the reports that I heard from the national media.
ABRAMS: Was that inconsistent?
CARLSON: Yes, I don‘t know what reports you were reading. I mean the only reports I saw were from the mayor of New Orleans and the chief of police, both who said there were a large number of shootings and rapes. I know that I interviewed a couple of people who said they had seen rapes. I interviewed someone who said he had seen all of these bodies in a freezer at the convention center. I didn‘t report either one of those because I had not seen them myself. I think the press was completely restrained.
I do think it‘s a bit much for Michael Brown or anybody who didn‘t sort of bother to go to New Orleans right after the hurricane to start getting on the press who, whatever their faults, actually showed up in stark contrast to aide officials who actually made it there and to start criticizing the press for being inaccurate. How would you know is my feeling?
ABRAMS: James Hirsen, this is what Peter King said last night. He said that we‘re giving ourselves too much credit. You guys dwell on self-congratulation. The fact is the media shots were distorted. What is the concern here? What was distorted? I mean is the claim that actually things were rosier than portrayed in New Orleans?
ABRAMS: Hang on. Let me let James Hirsen respond. Yes, go ahead.
HIRSEN: Sure, “The New Orleans Times-Picayune” reported that myths were being basically brought on the airwaves of the news media as reality. For example, you know it was reported there were 200 dead in the freezer at the Superdome, which caused an 18-wheeler to come down with three doctors to pick them up. It turned out there were six dead. There were exaggerations. There was hysteria and this is part of sort of the infotainment aspect of the news, which existed prior to Katrina, the search for the sensational and the emotional...
HIRSEN: ... it‘s fair game to talk about.
ABRAMS: It wasn‘t that the media members...
ABRAMS: It wasn‘t that the media members were down there and seeing these things happen and were becoming almost hysterical themselves seeing what wasn‘t being done.
HIRSEN: Well sure...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I don‘t think the media...
HIRSEN: ... there were media critics actually saying that the media was being over emotional and over hysterical in their coverage and it seemed that there was sort of a Pulitzer pursuit going on.
ABRAMS: Come on, a Pulitzer pursuit...
HIRSEN: So I mean what is it about the media...
ABRAMS: Wait. Wait. It‘s a Pulitzer pursuit that you‘re down there with basically no place to sleep and no place to stay and you‘re working on three hours of sleep a night and you‘re seeing dead bodies. Look, I saw dead bodies when I was there, period. No one is going to tell me that I‘m being hysterical. I saw them floating in the water a week afterwards. Tucker, go ahead and then I‘m going to let Eddie Jordan...
CARLSON: Well I just think it‘s important to have perspective...
CARLSON: ... of what news events are like as they happen. If you go to any situation where there‘s chaos, and especially large numbers of people, a war, a natural disaster, a demonstration, I‘ve been to all of them, there‘s going to be a huge amount of misinformation. That‘s the nature of news. It‘s always that way. It‘s not infotainment that causes that.
ABRAMS: Eddie Jordan, final word.
JORDAN: Yes, what I wanted to point out is the impression that you got from the media is that the city had descended into some kind of savage state where there was basically open warfare on the streets, and in the convention center and the Superdome. And that wasn‘t true. Most of those people apparently were fairly well behaved, if there were not the kind of murders that...
ABRAMS: And so...
JORDAN: ... the evidence to support that.
ABRAMS: So Mr. Jordan, we were wrong in saying there was mass looting, right?
JORDAN: No, I didn‘t say that. I said...
JORDAN: ... that about the murders. The murders are very important, because I think that that is probably the most graphic way of showing a savage state of affairs that people are killing each other every few minutes and that was certainly...
ABRAMS: All right.
JORDAN: ... I don‘t think you can back away from the point that—that‘s the image that the press was presenting to...
JORDAN: ... the people of the United States and that was wrong.
JORDAN: That was not a fair presentation.
ABRAMS: The image the press presented was that there was chaos in New Orleans and it included murder, it included looting, it included rapes, and I have seen nothing, nothing that suggest that all of that is not true. You can talk about how many. You can talk about how often. We can discuss this forever, but the bottom line is I continue to believe the press did an incredible job at this story. But James Hirsen is right. It‘s an important topic to discuss. Eddie Jordan, James Hirsen, Tucker Carlson, thanks; we‘ll be right back.
JORDAN: Thank you.
ABRAMS: I‘ve had my say, now it‘s time for “Your Rebuttal”. Last night in my “Closing Argument” I criticized those accusing the media of inaccurate reporting after Katrina hit.
Peggy from Cincinnati, “Dan, if not for the media‘s coverage of New Orleans, the donations would not have gotten so high. Everyone thinks the public is better off not knowing. Oh please, your words, not mine.”
Andrea Mihalo of Tulsa, Oklahoma, “I so agree with you. I watched reporters from your station and others tell the devastation and show the devastation. Pictures don‘t lie.”
But Maureen Pereiro, “Why can‘t we expect some level of verification on stories before they are hyped on air?”
Well first of all, much the reporters saw with their own eyes. But much of it was unverifiable. Predictions from officials as to the death count, how do you verify that? Like a war zone, sometimes you have to rely on those in charge or it‘s based on multiple eyewitnesses to describe it as just that. But even today, we do not know exactly how many people were murdered in the aftermath of Katrina. We can‘t know.
Also last night, a high school English teacher pleaded guilty to having sex with her 16-year-old male student. We asked is it possible she was the victim because of her alcoholism. Should it matter that the boys were 16 and 17? Her lawyer says she was the victim.
Don H. from Monument Beach, Massachusetts, “You‘re right on the money. The assumption that a 16-year-old male student should be considered a statutory rape victim is an absurdity in the law.”
Gina Reynolds from Phoenix, “You obviously go out of your way to make every excuse for this child predator school teacher. If it were a male, it would be 16 years, not six months.”
And Sam, a pastor from San Diego, “Evidently Dan you‘ve never been admired by an older woman. You don‘t know what they do. They buy you things, feed you, compliment you about how you look and so on. Have you ever felt like a piece of meat, Dan? Been there, done that.” No, Sam, I haven‘t.
Your e-mails abramsreport—one word -- @msnbc.com. We go through them at the end of the show. We are back in a moment.
ABRAMS: That does it for us tonight. Make sure you come back tomorrow. We‘re going to begin the process of auctioning off a couple of items that are both personal and professional of mine for Katrina victims as well as for another important charity.
Coming up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews.
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