Friday, April 2, 2004

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for April 2

Guests: Clint Van Zandt, Tyler Crotty, Rich Crotty


KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

Her kidnapper used duct tape, rope, a knife, cold medicine, gum -

Audrey Seiler bought those things herself. The Wisconsin disappearance was a hoax; the only one charged may be Audrey Seiler.

From A-OK to just go away: The Tyco trial is over the final score is 11 to one, the final word is "mistrial."

Another 9/11 blow to the White House: Now it's Gary hart, co-chair they have National Security Commission saying he told Condoleezza Rice, just days before the attacks, quote, "The terrorists are coming, the terrorists are coming."

The Traverse City conundrum: Why is that bear hugging that tree? Why has he been up there so long? What do these guys know about it?

And, the many yawns of Tyler Crotty, the teenager who upstaged the president, joins us tonight, live, alert, and awake - we hope.

All that and more now on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN: Good evening. On December 3, 1926, the already legendary mystery writer Agatha Christie disappeared. The following morning her abandoned car was found, her clothing, and some identification scattered inside. She was presumed kidnapped or murdered or suffering from amnesia, the real life victim of any one of the dozens of plots she had used in her own fiction. An intense police investigation fanned out across England, inquiries were made in New York and Australia, the world held its breath. On December 14, 1926, 11 days later, Agatha Christie was found at a health spa.

Our No. 5 story in the COUNTDOWN tonight, they have not only found the, quote, "missing," unquote, University of Wisconsin student, Audrey Seiler, they've also found her out. She was not kidnapped.

In Agatha Christie's day they did not prosecute you if a sudden urge to get away from it all touched off a manhunt involving very expensive policemen and dogs. These days they sometimes do. The dog chasing his tail around the train tracks of Madison, Wisconsin, looking for traces of Seiler's abductor, was neither incompetent or lost, he was running around like that because there was nothing to find. Evidently true also of the local police, and as our correspondent, Jeannie Ohm reports from Madison, they are none too happy about this.

Jeannie, good evening.

JEANNIE OHM, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Good evening to you, Keith.

Hot off the press tonight from the "Capital Times" in Madison:

Audrey's New Story. Police confirming what a lot of people had suspected, and that is, there never was a suspect, there never was an abduction. The police chief gave five major reasons why they say Audrey's story just didn't add up. First, that surveillance video showing Audrey Seiler willingly leave her apartment building in the middle of the night. Originally she told police that she had been abducted at knife point at that building. When confronted she changed her story saying she had been abducted from somewhere else.

Well, No. 2: When police found Audrey, they also found duct tape, rope, and some cold medicine. Audrey had told them the abductor had used that on her. It turns out, based on another surveillance video from a store, Seiler herself had purchased those items.

There are also two other witnesses who have come forward saying they saw a woman matching Seiler's description walking freely around Madison, earlier this week.

Moving on to No. 4: Someone had been using Audrey's computer during that time she reportedly was missing. And on that computer, someone had conducted searches of a five-day weather forecast for Madison as well as nearby wooded areas. So, Madison police saying there were just too many holes in Seiler's story. But, the police chief explained why they couldn't come out right away and say they didn't believe that college student.


ASST. CHIEF NOBLE WRAY, MADISON POLICE DEPT.: It would have been a disservice to the community, a disservice to the country, in this particular case, and also to a disservice to the family for a professional law enforcement organization in the United States to jump to conclusions and assume that this was bogus.


OHM: As for what happens next, well, police still have to put a timeline together, a minute-by-minute account of where Audrey was for those four days. Also the district attorney is looking into gathering all this information and considering whether to file charges against Seiler -


OLBERMANN: Jeannie Ohm in Madison, Wisconsin, many thanks.

There are now a lot of confused folks in that city, known as an oasis of learning. Wednesday they were gratified that Audrey Seiler had been found. Yesterday they were offended that some news organization, and even the police, seemed to be hinting that something smell funny about the kidnapping. Today, as correspondent Zac Schultz of our affiliate there, WMTV reports, they don't know what to think.


ZAC SCHULTZ, WMTV CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The entire Madison community rallied together to help locate Audrey Seiler. Now each person is on their own to deal with the emotions created by what appears to be an elaborate lie.

BESS LEMBERG, UNIV. OF WISCONSIN STUDENT: I'm really in shock. Like, I just can't imagine why anybody would do this or what caused it - what triggered it. I can't imagine why or what was the trigger, really.

BOB MORRIS, RESIDENT: I think it's a very perplexed thing, and I think it's very sad, I think it's very tragic.

LAUREL ELM, UNIV. OF WISCONSIN STUDENT: I think it's pretty sick, I mean, it's sad that she would be at a state in her life when she would need to do something that drastic.

SCHULTZ: Some outrage was based on the financial cost of the investigation.

ANITA SCHLEICHER, UNIV. OF WISCONSIN STUDENT: It's very disturbing. I was glad to hear that - that she was fine - you know, at least relatively, when she was released from the hospital, but now to hear that her story has just been completely fabricated, it's really upsetting to know that our resources were wasted like that.

SCHULTZ (on camera): Now that Audrey's story has proved to be a hoax, what will this mean for other missing persons? Will the community still rally together to help those in need?

LEMBERG: I think that if this ever happens again, if a missing woman or person ends up - I think we should like, do as much as we can to find them. I don't think we should assume anything.

ELM: I think the thing that worries me about it is that they would be more cautions next time it happens to somebody else, and they wouldn't do such intense search, which is what helps us save these people.

SCHULTZ: Even though Audrey apparently cried wolf, many hope the community will react the same the next time someone needs their help.


OLBERMANN: For a peak inside the mind of somebody who would touch off a panic search for themselves, we turn now to former FBI profiler, now MSNBC analyst, Clint Van Zandt.

Clint, good evening.

CLINT VAN ZANDT, FMR. FBI PROFILER: Hi Keith, good evening.

OLBERMANN: Is this a crime? Do people do this deliberately or is it more a case of suddenly realizing that you're desperately in need of an excuse?

VAN ZANDT: Yeah, well you know, in my 25 years as an FBI agent - you know, I was always looking for criminal intent, and if guess in this particular situation, did this young lady intend to commit a crime or is she someone who was very needy who needed some level of support? She went from a junior college to a big 10 college, was she over her head academically, socially, she's reaching out saying "somebody help, love me, care for me." And as her father said, she had no idea what this big hullabaloo was all about. So, you know, I think at 20 years old she probably didn't know what firestorm she was creating and the level of resources that would have been brought out to try to bring her back alive.

OLBERMANN: From the point of view of someone who tries to help in cases, or did in your previous career, try to help in cases like this, when there is fraud, whether intentional or accidental should it be prosecuted? Would it be sufficient to charge this woman with the expense of the hunt or do you need to set an example in some way towards other people who might just need counseling and instead set off, literally, police and dogs on their heels?

VAN ZANDT: Well, if you are figuring - you know, as a college sophomore maybe she's got maybe 187 - you know, $187 in the bank and her parents are middle class hard working people who supported their daughter, in the particular case, short of putting her in debtor's prison, I mean, this is someone who's crying out for help. And - you know, did - you know, it's probably going to cost the community a quarter of a million dollars, it's going to make us all take a second look when somebody cries wolf again, but in this particular case, do we serve the community, do we service the criminal justice system by prosecuting her or by trying to get her some type of help so she can move on with her life. And - you know, the psychologists, the attorneys, everybody's going to weigh in. So - you know, let's find what's best for her, what's best for the community, and ladies and gentlemen, take a lesson out there, if you've got some challenges in life, this is not the way to get your 15 minutes of fame.

OLBERMANN: We reported here earlier this year on that group of teenagers at California that made up the story that sent a man to jail for child molestation and they were covering up the fact that one girl was late getting home from school. There's a notorious story, years ago, of pitcher named Flint Remm (ph), who disappeared for two days, claimed he'd been kidnapped by the fans of a rival team and forced to drink an incapacitating amount of whiskey. Lord knows how many other stories there are like that, but they all seem to have one them, including this one: Excuse, alibi, fake kidnapping, whatever they are - they're consistently ridiculous. Why are the - why are the stories so bad?

VAN ZANDT: You know, because you're not dealing with criminals, you're dealing with everyday people. In this case, she's 20 years old, but she's a kid because she did a very immature thing. So, you have someone whose behavior reflects their immaturity, reflects their lack of criminal intent, and your exactly right it sounds stupid, I mean from day one on this case, my - you know my B.S. alarm was going off and I said no, this is not the case, this is not a kidnapping, it's going to take a couple of days, we've got to break her story down, and - you know, law enforcement hopefully sat down with here yesterday, Keith and had a real come to Jesus time and said, "young lady, let's stop this train before it runs away." She chose not to stop the train.

OLBERMANN: Clint Van Zandt, the former FBI profiler. As ever sir, many thanks for your time.

VAN ZANDT: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: There is a positive to the Seiler story; of course, it means that one less young woman or child was abducted this week. That counts, because there are still so many of them out there who were, like the nine-year-old girl taken from her bus stop late yesterday afternoon in Mercer Island, Washington. This is the suspect in custody after having led police on a high-speed chase for nearly an hour with the girl in the car. He'd allegedly called her father and demanding ransom money, after he picked it up the authorities went after him. The girl was recovered safely and so was the cash.

And an Amber Alert issued this morning for a day-old baby girl in Stanford, Kentucky. Grayci Jean Barrows was taken from Fort Logan Hospital; discovered hours later in an alley with a blanket wrapped around her head an clamp on her still attached umbilical cord. In connection with the kidnapping, authorities are questioning Tonya Shelton who has at least two other known aliases. Shelton overheard on an interstate payphone complaining she had been named in an Amber Alert. Police arrested her on drug-related charges. A hospital spokesperson saying Shelton worked there for a short period of time as an aid.

No. 5 on the COUNTDOWN: Kidnapping, abduction, and the deception of Audrey Seiler.

Coming up, the fourth story: The man who allegedly spent millions of dollars of company money to furnish his luxury lifestyle, free for right now curtsy of one feuding jury, two dubious newspapers, and one threatening letter.

Then later, a sleepy guy whose yawns during a presidential speech sparked a media controversy. He joins us live here on COUNTDOWN. So, somebody go get him and wake him up.


OLBERMANN: Our No. 4 story: The public naming and shaming of juror No. 4. Are the media outlets who chose to break protocol and out that dissenting jury member responsible for today's mistrial in the Tyco case - next on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN: It's one of the biggest corporate cases ever to go to trial and one of the most notorious, we're calling the accesses of "Diamond Jim" Brady or maybe, Nero. And, that's saying nothing about the jury that was at each other's throats. Story No. 4 on the COUNTDOWN: The Tyco case. Thanks, in part, to the fact that one of the jurors was identified by name by both the nation's most respected financial papers and most infamous tabloid, that trial has ended today. But the case will still have to go on. Witnessing the unexpected denouement, our correspondent, Anne Thompson.

Anne, good evening.


It's been an absolutely bizarre turn of events. A week ago, the Tyco jury couldn't get along, but today, as jurors say, they were on the verge of reaching a guilty verdict on some counts, the judge declared a mistrial.


THOMPSON (voice-over): The Tyco jurors walked out to a sea of cameras and flashbulbs, but all the focus was on juror No. 4, Ruth Jordan. NBC News confirmed she received what's described as a threatening or coercive letter that derailed the trial. The retired teacher made headlines last weekend when she was seen making an "OK" sign to the defense, her name and background reported by some news organizations. Today, citing new outside pressure on Jordan, Judge Michael Obus declared a mistrial.

The packed courtroom gasped. One juror cried. Defendants Dennis Kozlowski and Mark Schwartz showed little reaction as nearly 6 months of trial and 11 days of deliberation were nullified. Mark Glatzer was one of the jurors.

MARK GLATZER, TYCO JUROR: I was somewhat disappointed and I was also somewhat relieved. It's been stressful. So, I hope they redo it and redo it correctly.

THOMPSON: The ending left everyone stunned.

CHARLES STILLMAN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I've been doing this 40 years. I will tell you, if I piled up all the experiences, top to bottom, I ain't seen nothing like this yet, but you know...

THOMPSON: Kozlowski, Tyco's former CEO and Swartz, the former chief financial officer, were accused of stealing $170 million from the company and reaping another $430 million by artificially inflating the stock price. The excesses, the stuff of legend: A $2 million birthday party for Kozlowski's wife, Karen, on the island of Sardinia, featuring Jimmy Buffet. Half the bill paid for by Tyco. Expensive furnishing and artworks for Kozlowski's New York apartment, including a $15,000 umbrella stand and a $6,000 shower curtain, all paid for by Tyco.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This had nothing to do with business. This was - this was people stealing money.

Prosecutors say they will retry Kozlowski and Swartz. But many, including the judge, worry about the impact this high-profile case and the singling out on one juror will have on jury selection in the future.


THOMPSON: Now, Kozlowski and Swartz said little as they left court, today. They will return on May 7, and at that time, the judge is expected to set a new date for a new trial - Keith.

OLBERMANN: As fascinating as the case is on its merits, as you pointed out Anne, the picture may be this dynamic of "Wall Street Journal," "New York Post" identify a juror in the middle of a trial. Is the legal community more worried about the ramifications of that - of the jury system - the impact on the jury system than whether or not Dennis Kozlowski gets nailed next time?

THOMPSON: Well, certainly that's the focus of everyone's concern today, including the judge - worried about, be it what's happened in the last week in this case will have a chilling affect on people wanting to server on juries. And then what do you do? Do you do what Judge Cedarbaum did in the Martha Stewart case and that is take the jury selection process away from the media, away from the public, take it into the robing room and not disclose the juror's names until the end of the trial? Do you sequester a jury? And if you sequester a jury, how do you get people to serve on a jury - or on a trial that's as long as the Tyco trial took, which was six months. It's a very, very difficult question.

OLBERMANN: I've got jury duty on April 28 in New York City, so that was why I asked.

Anne Thompson covering the Tyco...

THOMPSON: Good luck to you.

OLBERMANN: Thank you. And as always Anne, you get the fun ones.

Many thanks.

We couldn't want to leave this Tyco case story without rehashing the top four party happenings that made Karen Kozlowski's $2 million bash on the island of Sardinia so memorable, so subject to prosecution.

No. 4: The archer who shot a flaming arrow into the night setting flame to a giant sign reading, "Congratulations Karen and Dennis."

No. 3: The quarter million dollar performance by Jimmy Buffett.

No. 2: The giant cake in the shape of a nude woman complete with exploding sparklers embedded in its breasts.

Money equals good taste, doesn't it?

And No. 1: The ice sculpture of Michaelangelo's "David" that dispensed Russian vodka through an organ.

Thus we dismiss our fourth story of the night. Up next, the stories that make us happy. The wonderful world of "Oddball."

And what does this look like to you? You'll find out in a moment.

Then later, got gas? The hot political potato at your local pump, still ahead on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN: We rejoin you and we immediately pause the COUNTDOWN now, for the portion of our show where everyday is St. Stupid's Day. Let's play "Oddball."

And, it may look like just any other day in San Francisco except this day all the weird people were walking in the same direction. It's the 26th annual St. Stupid's Day parade, a San Francisco tradition held every April first, when thousands turn out to honor the patron saint of stupidity. That's a made-up saint, though I can think of a few real nominees.

And here on COUNTDOWN, we're all about bears, especially bears in trees. Last summer we followed the bouncing bear of Macula, Montana, cleverly lured from his tree by a tranquilizer dart, his fall successfully broken by a trampoline. Well the first fall was broken by a trampoline. Actually, he was OK because when he hit the ground he was already so damned relaxed.

But now, in Traverse City, Michigan: What the heck is that? Is that a bear in a tree? Is that a big black bear barely hanging on to his bear perch at the Olson Buffalo Farm? Chased up there, treed by stampeding buffaloes? Anybody got a trampoline? Folks in Traverse City - those are not them, those are the buffalo, have been coming out for six weeks to see the amazing bear who lives in a tree. Turns out it is not a bear at all, it's one of the millions of plastic bags caught by the wind and stuck up into trees everywhere across our fair land. It's just a plastic bag.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Piece a plastic.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's been there for six weeks to two months.


OLBERMANN: Life in Traverse City, Michigan is not really that interesting.

Meanwhile, for 2,000 years the faithful have relayed the story of Christ's miracle of walking on water. Until now, modern science has been unable to explain, much less duplicate that miracle. But this year, a group of high school science students in Texas studying weight distribution in various scientific formulae have developed the technology to literally walk on water. Be prepared. What you are about to see will take your breath away.


That's the swimming pool at Cooper High in Abilene Texas and those miracle shoes were designed and built by students with styrofoam, old meat packages, plywood, and whole lot of duct tape. The scriptures are unclear whether or not Jesus had duct tape. But these kids are focusing on the future, not the past. Quick, call Mel for the director's cut of "The Passion."

Finally, here's a little bit of that good news we're always trying to bring you from Iraq. Dangerous, fast, and furious style street racing is sweeping Baghdad. They're running. The races have caught on in the capital city since the fall of Saddam Hussein who, of course, only approved of car racing if it involved a car versus one of his political opponents.

Iraqi youths taking advantage of their new-found freedom to hold weekly drag racing events. And U.S. soldiers are in attendance, too, to provide security and sometimes participate. Is that Simca? A Chrysler France 1970 Simca?

Moving back to the COUNTDOWN, and our third story: Another warning to the national security adviser before September 11, 2001, quote "The terrorists are coming, the terrorists are coming," unquote.

And he's looking for enterprising and moneymaking contenders, but it's one of the spurned applicants who seem to be showing real profiteering promise. From rejection to riches, coming up later on COUNTDOWN.

First here are COUNTDOWN's "Top 3 Newsmakers" of this day:

No. 3: Tigger! Ever wonder what the guy in the Tigger costume at Disney World looks like? There he is, Michael Chartrand arrested because police say that as a mother and her 13-year-old daughter posed for a picture with him, he was all hands.

No. 2: Betty Gooch. Betty is a 75-year-old grandma, she uses walker and a portable oxygen cart. Now five times she's allegedly bought cars, SUVs, or motorcycles with bad checks. Her attorneys have now dropped her. Why? Because she paid them with a bad check.

And No. 1: The FBI informant, shown here, accused of stealing $1,200 in government money in Manchester, New Hampshire. He hid it inside himself where the sun doesn't shine. As you see, some men's fates are spelled out in their name: Luis Colon.


OLBERMANN: For the third time in two weeks, the once virtually flawless reputation of the White House about 9/11 has taken a big hit.

Our third story on THE COUNTDOWN. First it was Richard Clarke, then the news yesterday that Condoleezza Rice had policy speech scheduled for 9/11 itself in which she was to emphasize that star wars missile defense, not counter terrorism was the most important aspect national security.

Today it is a quote from the co-chair of the Bipartisan Commission on

national security. He says he told Rice and others in the Administration,

"the terrorists are coming, the terrorists are coming."

Gary Hart quoted at length by the web magazine saying that

after the commission, he and former Republican senator Warren Rudman reported its dire predictions. He met with Dr. Rice on September 6, 2001 and told her, "Get going on Homeland Security, you don't have all the time in the world."

Hart says Dr. Rice's response was, I'll talk to the vice president about it. It should be noted as salon did at the start of the third paragraph of it's 52 paragraph article that Hart is now advising John Kerry's campaign on national security issues.

The Hart article was the day second 9/11 development. Earlier, it came news that the White House was holding back about 75 percent of the papers from the Clinton White House that the 9/11 Commission had requested and been promised.

Late this afternoon, the Bush Administration said the Commission would be allowed to inspect all those remaining 8,000 or so pages worth of documents starting on Monday. All of this adds to the impression of a White House if not under fire, then at least busy putting out fires. It's always a pleasure, and always worth the time to welcome in Howard Fineman, Chief Political Correspondent of "Newsweek", and NBC News Analyst. Howard, good evening.


OLBERMANN: These remarks from hart and the "Washington Post" story yesterday about Rice's planned speech on 9/11 about star wars and Richard Clarke, is the White House feeling hate on this? Is that why Dr. Rice will testify? Is that why the Clinton papers will be accessible Monday?

FINEMAN: I think they're not panicking about George W, Bush's re-election prospects based on this, but they are concerned about it. They know they've taken a lot of hits on it. They're sort of behaving in a kind of bunker mentality which has often made the problem worse rather than better. If they didn't do anything wrong, if they weren't sort of horribly lax before 9/11, they've often sort of behaved as if they don't want to make comparisons with the Clinton Administration.

OLBERMANN: Do they, in regards to the election as you have suggested, do they still have that sense that the President's performance in the weeks after 9/11 in this category, at least, makes him almost untouchable? That no matter how much damage there could be, it could not be enough to damage this part of his reputation?

FINEMAN: No. I think a couple of things Keith. I think firstly, they think that a lot of the American people have concluded that the 9/11 Commission has become a sort of arena of political football with the blame game going on. That's number one.

That way the Clarke attack sort of had the impact of neutralizing the impact of the hearings to some extent. Also they know that the American people - and we said and saw in our "Newsweek" poll this week that the American people tend to look critically at the eight years of the Bill Clinton presidency as well as if not more than the eight months of the Bush Presidency that preceded 9/11.

I think having looked at the polls and talked to people around the country as I traveled that the situation in Iraq ultimately is a greater political danger to the President than the sort of to-ing and fro-ing and blame game going on over 9/11. But the White House is still concerned. The are not just waiving it off.

OLBERMANN: Of course, perhaps the place where all this merges is the investigation into the leaking of the identity of Valerie Plame, Mrs. Joe Wilson. And the "New York Times" reporting that the justice department widened the scope of the investigation to include lying to investigators, or mishandling classified information.

And it could mean nothing at all. But it does have kind of a Watergatian tone to it. Where is it going?

FINEMAN: It does. It means that the thing is spreading out horizontally as well as digging down vertically. And in Washington, it's ever the case that it's not the crime if there is one, but the cover up that always gets people in trouble politically.

I think the White House is concerned about that. I think individuals within it are concerned. I think there's a lot of concern about the book that Joe Wilson is writing. There are other books that are going to be coming down the pipe. Bob Woodward's book coming out in a few weeks about the planning around Iraq, and the justification for it. Joe Wilson's book and so forth. There's no question that the White House is on the defensive on these issues from beginning to end, and why they're taking the attack to John Kerry on other topics to the extent they can.

OLBERMANN: "Newsweek's" Howard Fineman. Always a pleasure, Sir.

Have a good weekend.

Might be wishful thinking to wish a good weekend to the White House. The startling book - speaking of books, by Richard Nixon's former presidential counsel John Dean is out, "Worse than Watergate. " A sweeping indictment of the presidency, Dean thinks literally more damaging, more dangerous than Nixon's. John Dean joins us Monday night here on COUNTDOWN.

The White House has got yet another problem being ushered in from the wings. One of its earliest campaign ads says that under a Kerry administration, gasoline could cost the average family $657 more per year. If you've been in or even around a gas station lately, you're probably now thinking this could cost me $657 more long before the end of this month. Kelly O'Donnell from San Diego now with the latest in a series of bits of grim gas news.


KELLY O'DONNELL, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The latest political weapon, the cost of a fill up. Pain at the pump. Campaigning in car-loving California, John Kerry pulled over his motorcade, halting traffic nearby, at a San Diego gas station where unleaded premium runs $2.37.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The public needs an explanation as to why the prices have escalated the way they have.

O'DONNELL: Kerry's campaign says gas prices jumped 12 percent since the president took office.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If the gas prices keep rising at the rate they're going now, Dick Cheney and George Bush are going to have to car pool to work.

O'DONNELL: While President Bush's campaign hit the accelerator again charging Kerry backs tax hikes in yet another top TV ad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some people have wacky ideas like taxing gasoline more so people drive less. That's John Kerry.

O'DONNELL: And in Wisconsin, the President entered the fast lane himself.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Gas taxes would hurt the economy. There's some in the other party in Washington who would like to raise gas taxes. I think it would be wrong.

O'DONNELL: Political analysts say gas prices can trigger voter anxiety.

STUART ROTHENBERG, POLITICAL ANALYST: Rises gas prices hits people where it hurts the most, in their wallets and pocketbooks. That makes people uncomfortable. They look around for somebody to blame.

O'DONNELL: Kerry who took a dig at the Administration's ties to big oil.

KERRY: Those aren't Exxon prices; those are Halliburton prices, ladies and gentlemen.

O'DONNELL: Pitched his own plan. Pressure the oil controlling OPEC nations to produce more supply. Open up the country's government-owned stockpile, the strategic petroleum reserve long enough to let prices drop. And simplify what Kerry calls a patchwork of regulations.

O'DONNELL (on camera): Bush advisers argue when President Clinton opened the reserve, prices dropped just a penny. What's more, they say the real issue is not gas prices in March, but in November.

Kelly O'Donnell, NBC News, San Diego.


OLBERMANN: And just like politics, when we're talking gas, it's all about the numbers. The prices here where they are the highest and lowest, third highest price, Nevada, the average gallon of unleaded running $2.05. Next door, in California, it's up to $2.12 on average. But the worst, Hawaii, the average price there, $2.12.054.

To find the three cheapest pumps, go south. Number three, Georgia, average price, $1.63 a gallon. Two, South Carolina, at about the same price, and at number one it is OK in Oklahoma, near where the wells are, $1.61. That raps up story number three on the COUNTDOWN. Political pangs and pain. Some of them even caused by gas.

Our second story tonight, the enterprising entrepreneur who turns repeated rejection from Donald Trump into profit. And later, the yawn that spawned the clash of the network Titans. The boy, stage left, joins us later in the news cap. But first hear COUNTDOWN'S top three sound bites of the day.


DONALD TRUMP: "Saturday Night Live is tougher than "The Apprentice" for me because I'm more in my own territory. I'm in my element. It's not comedic. I'm not a comedian.

MICHAEL JACKSON: I've been going to Africa since I was 12 years old and I love it very much and I take my children there all the time for vacation. And grace, there's a couple of things she has to say because I can't pronounce all the African names, so I have grace to assist me.

BUSH: Do they ever call you red?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On several occasions, I haven't figured out why.

BUSH: I'll be the funny guy.



OLBERMANN: Are you as sick of "The Apprentice" as I am? You're fired. Our number two story on the COUNTDOWN. There's a novel twist to the Donald Trump funded reality show that may actually appeal to you if like me, you are apprenticed out.

From our affiliate in Grande Rapids, Michigan, Jerry Barnaby has the story of a young man who has used the show to do what even Trump himself can't do, make a lot of money while failing.


JERRY BARNABY, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He wants to be on "The Apprentice" in the worst way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think I've got good business sense, I think I have good business ideas.

BARNABY: He's made his pitch at auditions for the show in Chicago and Cleveland.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have yet to really see anything out of you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm 0-2 as for getting on the show.

BARNABY: But along the way, David has proven that he has what it takes. Just sitting in line for the casting call in Cleveland, he managed to make...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You made $7100 for the weekend.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I saw somebody in line in Chicago on Saturday morning pay $500 for a spot in line.

BARNABY: So he got on the phone, and rounded up eight of his buddies, and made sure they were first in line at the call in Cleveland.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I knew that showing up so early and setting up, that would draw a lot of publicity. So I made some marketing deals to market different, products.

BARNABY: David did publicity deals with Kinkos, Home Depot, Sprint, The Hard Rock Cafe, to name a few, by simply saying there was a good chance their product would be seen or mentioned on air while he was standing in line. Advertising dollars made?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's about $3,600.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's a great idea.

BARNABY: Then since he and his buddies had nine spots at the front of the line, why not sell eight of those.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So how much money did you make selling spots in Cleveland?


BARNABY: Of course, he kept one for himself so he could once again despite his obvious abilities.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who knows what they are looking for though?


OLBERMANN: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Grande Rapids. Clever on the one hand, now too clever by half. Time for our nightly round up of celebrity and gossip news keeping tabs.

(UNINTELLIGIBLE) leadoff, an indication that the FCC might be aiming at the wrong targets in trying to shut down offensive language, and perhaps should go first after idiot disc jockeys.

Morning host Brad Booker (ph) and Diane Douglas of WSTO radio in Evansville, Indiana decided to target their town's favorite son with an April fool's day joke. Our thoughts and prayers are with the friends and family of Don Mattingly they said on the air several times, referring to the New York Yankees former All-Star now coach, who was traveling home with the team from Japan.

The impression was that Mattingly had come to harm or was ill, or who knows what? And the deception worked. Friends of Mattingly's two youngest sons met them in school and offered them condolence and support. The younger boy is 12, he burst into tears.

The station has apologized but not fired the morning hosts. One of them, Mr. Booker (ph) wrote on its Web site, "We did not realize the impact our statements would have on Don's friends and family members." No, you didn't, because you're idiots. You should quit broadcasting, and go work in the dynamite testing business.

On the other hand, that was no April Fools Day joke in Louisville yesterday. That really was Mel Gibson showing up at the St. Joseph's Home for the Elderly there, breaking bread with the little sisters of the poor who run the place.

A week ago Gibson's production company had called the sisters and offered them a private screening of "The Passion of the Christ" but as sister Gonzaga (ph) said, we thought it was a charge to show it here. We didn't want that. We don't go to the movies. We aren't up on the actors.

So instead, Gibson showed up himself yesterday and donated several thousand dollars to the home. I guess the nuns if they want to go see the movie, they are on their own now.

And from the sublime to the ridiculous, Bobby Brown's production company has begun a reality TV series focusing on the often-jailed Brown and his often-rehabed wife Whitney Houston. No!

Tonight's stories up next. We are expecting you will not react to it this way. Beyond her (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in just about four seconds. The yawner joins us next, but first, hear COUNTDOWN'S top two photos of the day.


OLBERMANN: This is a touchy White House. It may be paranoid or may be totally justified. As our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, the saga of the many yawns of Tyler Crotty will show sometimes it might be both. Last Christmas we noted that the otherwise entertaining and engaging White House Christmas video Barney reloaded including one video clip that had been repeated from the previous Barney video.

We heard about it from the White House within 15 minutes. Turns out we were right. But the other day, CNN reported the White House had complained about the televising of the many yawns of Tyler Crotty. Then announced they were wrong, that nobody from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue had complained about it.

So is this touchy White House being touchy? The jury is still out. Of course that's only the serious and second half of the story. As first nationally aired on "Late Night with David Letterman," here is the video itself, the then 12-year-old son of the Chairman of Orange County Florida trying without any success whatsoever to shake off exhaustion by a speech by President Bush in Orlando two weeks ago tomorrow.


BUSH: Need to maintain spending discipline in our nation's capital. I have plans to protect small business owners and employees from (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I actually did vote for the $87 billion - with all of your heart. You may have members, all the local officials; the sheriff is with us today. If you're worried about the quality of the education - the community in which we live. We stand for the fair treatment of faith-based troops seeking federal support for their work. This will not happen on my watch.


OLBERMANN: Good comeback at the end. Joining us live from New York, Tyler Crotty, and his father Rich. Gentlemen, good evening.

Tyler, you're famous for yawning. How funny is that?

TYLER CROTTY, YAWNED DURING BUSH SPEECH: That's really funny. It's hysterical.

OLBERMANN: About the yawning itself, we've all been there. I sometimes do it during interviews when the camera's not on. What happened? Were you making political satire out there or were you just tired?

TYLER CROTTY: I was tired.

OLBERMANN: Long day? It had already been a long day?

TYLER CROTTY: Yes. I stayed up late the night before.

OLBERMANN: I understand that the man who gave that speech there, the President, has written you a letter?


OLBERMANN: Do you have it? Do you remember the gist of it, what he said?

TYLER CROTTY: Yes. He just told me that - here, I'll read it for you.


TYLER CROTTY: Dear Tyler, thank you for attending my rally in Orlando. The hall was hot and the speech was long. I understand how a fellow your age could nod out. Thank you for supporting my candidacy and send my best to your father, George W. Bush.

OLBERMANN: Excellent. Do you remember anything, Tyler, about what was going through your mind during that speech, during that whole period of time you had to keep standing up?

TYLER CROTTY: The whole little dance and bending over and cracking the knuckles, that's when I was nervous. And the little dance thing, I really had to use the bathroom very bad at the very end. I thought I was going to die.

OLBERMANN: We have all been there, too. Listen, while we have the chance here, Tyler, do you want to say hi to any of your friends who might be watching?

TYLER CROTTY: Sure. I'd like to say hello to Zach, Megan, and the moles (ph).

OLBERMANN: Excellent. Rich, let me ask you a couple here. I know that you and Tyler are on the show because we asked you, so thanks for coming along. But there were reports today and throughout the day that the White House has actually been coordinating your interviews. What's the exact status of their - what do they have to do with any of this?

RICH CROTTY, TYLER'S FATHER: They don't really have anything to do with it. What happened was is that the Tuesday after the first Monday evening airing of the clip on "The Letterman Show," which Tyler is a guest on tonight...

_TYLER CROTTY: 11:30. _

RICH CROTTY: I got a call from a local Republican Party official telling me that it happened. My first reaction was, maybe a little bit like the incident that was just reported on your show about Don Mattingly, his 12-year-old being frightened at school. I didn't want my kid to be frightened or embarrassed.

But as time went on we talked to a lot of people. We did have conversation with one person in the campaign. But I have a communications manager in my office. I've dealt with the press in the past and there's just certainly much bigger issues. Even tonight we've heard about terrorism, gas prices, and all the things out there. So we're a little bit amused that a story about a 12-year-old at the time yawning during a speech has gotten such a great deal of attention.

OLBERMANN: You can't go wrong with good material, as they say. I caught Tyler promoting the David Letterman appearance. So let me ask you about that. You're on David Letterman's show tonight. It's already been taped. Is this now enough fame for you or are you going to try to make a career out of yawning in public?

TYLER CROTTY: I think it would be good to make a career, make a couple extra bucks on the side.

OLBERMANN: Take care of college in advance. I guess the last question, Rich, have you ever yawned during a political speech yourself?

RICH CROTTY: Well, I can tell you this, that I chair a number of county commission meetings and about half the audience will typically yawn.

TYLER CROTTY: If he says no he's a liar.

OLBERMANN: Rich Crotty, County Chairman of Orange County Florida, and his son Tyler, international television star. An unintentional political commentator. Thanks to you both. Tyler, belated happy birthday.


OLBERMANN: I hope it's exciting, as they say. Take care.

TYLER CROTTY: It was a week ago actually.

OLBERMANN: I know. That's why I said belated.

TYLER CROTTY: Thank you. Have a good day.

OLBERMANN: Your welcome. Thanks guys.

Finally the number one thing you should know about tonight's number one story, the number one political sideshow ever pulled off by a minor hanging on the edge of the podium there is little Andrew Giuliani 7 years of age, he upstaged his dad during the '94 inauguration speech in new York. It reached a climax when Andrew joined his dad at the podium and actually recited the oath of office.

All right, before we go let's recap the five COUNTDOWN stories.

Number five Audrey Seiler's abduction, her own carefully crafted hoax.

Police may charge her.

Four the Tyco mistrial, juror number four's identity revealed last weekend by "The Wall Street Journal" and "The New York Post." She received a threatening letter from someone and it was all called off today.

Three, the White House answering more questions, Condoleezza Rice preparing to testify to the 9/11 Commission. Former Senator Gary Hart says he too warned Dr. Rice on the eve of September 11 that a terror attack was eminent.

And two, practice making profit. Rejected "Apprentice" wannabe brings his buddies to stand in line at the audition, then sells their places, and makes money off of it..

Finally number one, Tyler Crotty, whose evident fatigue eclipsed anything the president actually said in Florida 13 days ago.

That's COUNTDOWN, thanks for being a part of it. I'm Keith Olbermann, good night, and good luck.