Tuesday, October 19, 2004

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Oct. 19

Guest: John Harwood, Jon Leiberman, Andy Borowitz, Harry Shearer


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

Do Americans really think the election of one of these men would increase the odds of another terrorist attack? And if so, why isn't he doing better in the polls?

Never mind rock the vote. How about rock cocaine for getting out the vote? Registering voters and getting paid for doing so with crack.

What a year Michael Jackson is having. Now his own sister is saying he didn't invent the moonwalk. Jeffrey from "Soul Train" told him about it.

And O'Reilly speaks. Quote, "I am stupid. I am a stupid guy." This just in. First comment on the Andrea Mackris case. Meanwhile, she's accused of having had a crush on him. But her lawyers says the accuser has a crush on her. That's right. We're all back in the seventh grade.

All that and more now on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Good evening from Burbank, California. This is Tuesday, October 19, fourteen days until the 2004 presidential election. The politics of terror meets the terror of politics, in New Jersey. This has nothing to do with, you know - him later.

But opening with our fifth story in the Countdown tonight, polling in the Garden State showing that whether they have developed the impression or have been sold it, a majority of residents of New Jersey believe that another terrorist attack would be more likely with John Kerry in the White House than with George Bush. That just one of a number of numbers coming in over the transom. The general message continue to be the same: Two weeks out, dead heat. Kerry's numbers fluctuating. Bush's, not rising.

Our own NBC News poll out this evening: The three-way race is a dead heat among Kerry and Bush, both at 48 percent. Ralph Nader trailing at just 1. A little more wiggle room in the latest national poll from "The New York Times," however. Mr. Bush leading 47 to 45. Mr. Nader drawing 2 percent of that vote. While the head-to-head match-up in Zogby's daily tracking poll for Reuters has the top two candidates deadlocked at 45 percent 42nd straight day. The other major daily poll, "The Washington Post," in its sunset poll, out at sunset, giving the president a five-point lead, 51-46. Mr. Bush having gained two points since yesterday.

And some of the number of note from New Jersey, which may or may not be a swing state after all. Likely voters giving Mr. Kerry a comfortable 13-point lead in "The Newark Star Ledger" Eagleton Rutgers poll. But the other New Jersey poll, from Quinnipiac University, has Kerry ahead by only 4, obviously well within the margin of error.

9/11 is forever associated with New York, with Washington, D.C., with Pennsylvania. New Jersey is the foremost of the unmentioned outskirts of ground zero. Seven hundred from there dead. And the voters there surveyed in both of those places citing terrorism as the most important issue in the campaign. On that point, the advantage still entirely belongs to the president. A clear majority of voters, 53 percent, believing that Mr. Bush is better at handling terrorism, compared to 37 percent for Senator Kerry. Less certainty in our national poll from NBC. Asked the likelihood of terrorist attacking the U.S. during the second term for Bush, 20 percent said it would be more likely, 30 percent said it would be less likely. Nearly half said that it would not make any difference.

Should John Kerry win, 29 percent felt it more likely, 16 percent less. A clear majority, 51 percent, believing it would make no difference.

9/11 has of course been the subtext to the election campaign. It could be fair to say that 9/12 or 9/13 or 9/14 was the start of this election campaign.

Yet perhaps not until today did the inevitable occur. Both sides dropping any pretext, some would say dropping any dignity, now claiming they alone can keep us safe. The incumbent, depicting himself with an attack orphan; the challenger turning to a high-profile World Trade Center widow. The challenger's new ad first.


KRISTEN BRETWEISER, LOST HUSBAND ON 9/11: My husband Ron was killed on September 11. I've spent the last three years trying to find out what happened to make sure it never happens again. I fought for the 9/11 Commission, something George W. Bush, the man my husband Ron and I voted for, didn't think was necessary.

And during the commission hearings, we learned the truth. We are no safer today. I wanted to look in my daughter's eyes and know that she is safe. And that is why I'm voting for John Kerry.


OLBERMANN: The Republican version of the world is not directly from the Bush campaign. It was created by an interest group in Ohio. Otherwise, the premise is the same.


LYNN FAULKNER, LOST WIFE ON 9/11: My wife Wendy was murdered by terrorists on September 11th.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Faulkners' daughter Ashley closed up emotionally. But when President George W. Bush came to Lebanon, Ohio, she went to see him, as she had with her mother four years before.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He walked toward me and I said, Mr. President, this young lady lost her mother in the World Trade Center.

ASHLEY FAULKNER, LOST MOTHER ON 9/11: He turned back and came back, and said, I know that's hard. Are you all right?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our president took Ashley in his arms and just embraced her. And it was at that moment that we saw Ashley's eyes fill up with tears.

A. FAULKNER: He's the most powerful man in the world, and all he wants to do is make sure I'm safe and I'm OK.


OLBERMANN: Terror and politics longer just intertwined, no longer just intersecting, but now almost identical. To flesh this out, I'm joined from Washington by John Harwood, national political editor of "The Wall Street Journal." John, good evening.


OLBERMANN: Short of showing planes hitting towers in commercials, have these two campaigns basically said, to hell with it, there's two weeks left, we're going to pull out all the stops?

HARWOOD: Keith, fear is one of the most powerful motivators in American politics, and in a post-9/11 country, we're simply going to see this for the rest of this campaign. Both campaigns essentially saying, on the George Bush side, we're going to be safer because George Bush is taking the fight to the terrorists, and on John Kerry's side, both domestically, saying that George Bush may take away your Social Security benefits, but on the war on terrorism, because he's made such a mess in Iraq, he's made all of us more vulnerable. Those are pretty strong arguments, and in a very, very close race, they're going to use them.

OLBERMANN: Let's look at this information we're getting from New Jersey. For all the unexpected closeness of that race there, it still does not seem as if there's an automatic connection, that Mr. Bush would seem to need to gain reelection, or at least gain a lot from the terrorism point. He wins the we're safer polling in New Jersey handily, but not in terms of a leadership against John Kerry. And is that actually nationally not really going to translate at the ballot box two weeks from today?

HARWOOD: I don't think so, Keith. There is political equivalent of a head-fake in basketball. Unless something dramatically changes in the national horserace, New Jersey is going to go Democratic. It went very strongly for Al Gore four years ago. When George Bush went there yesterday, he was really talking to some degree to a national audience to make a PR point, but that's also the Philadelphia media market. He's contesting Pennsylvania. You'll know that they're serious about trying to get New Jersey when they spend money on New York television, which you need to reach two-thirds of the state. That hasn't happened yet.

OLBERMANN: Is there going to be a terror slash reelection connection, if not in New Jersey than nationally? Is that going to work nationally?

HARWOOD: Well, certainly, the issue of terrorism is the best thing going for George W. Bush. He has a reputation for strong leadership, and specifically for leadership on terrorism. That's a major edge that he has over John Kerry. And one of the things that's happened to George Bush's benefit in the last few weeks is an increasing focus on terrorism and voters now giving it a higher priority than they do the economy. That's something that could help George Bush, who needs some help in a race where he is facing a lot of headwinds right now.

OLBERMANN: John Harwood, national political editor of "The Wall Street Journal," and we're fortunate to say, our frequent guest here on Countdown. John, many thanks again.

HARWOOD: My pleasure.

OLBERMANN: Back to terror and politics. And terrorism's immediate impact is obvious, but its most insidious one may be the post-traumatic effect. Spain suffering anew tonight because of new images from March 11th. And thus we suffer anew with them. A Spanish TV network today airing previously unseen security camera footage of the train atrocities around Madrid. No sound on the tape from the main station at Tatoka (ph), just horrifying images, including dazed passengers on a platform, the air already smoky from one blast, before more explosives and that massive orange fireball you saw. The camera mounted at the top of an escalator. Those commuters not enveloped by flames running for their life; 191 people killed in those attacks from March 11th of this year.

The more traditional, no less lethal kind of violence on the ground in Iraq today. Multiple mortar attacks killed at least five there. Plus the kidnapping of yet another Westerner. A rocket and mortar attack on a U.S. military base in Baghdad claimed the life of an American contractor working for a Halliburton subsidiary. That according to a company spokesperson.

North of the city, U.S. military officials say a separate mortar attack killed at least four Iraqi national guardsmen; 80 more injured.

And a British woman named Margaret Hassan, the national director of CARE International, was kidnapped from her car this morning in Baghdad. The case is, even by the horrific standards and volume of kidnappings there, extraordinary. Mrs. Hassan is married to an Iraqi citizen. She has lived in that country for 30 years now, having spent much of that time fighting against U.N. sanctions, bringing food and medicine to the Iraqi people. The Al Jazeera network reporting that an armed Iraqi group is claiming responsibility for the kidnapping, but the network has not said if any demands have been made.

Back here another development, extraordinary, even in extraordinary times. The whistle-blower at Sinclair Broadcast Group, its Washington bureau chief, Jon Leiberman, has been fired from that position after he revealed that his employers were planning not merely to broadcast an anti-John Kerry film on all 62 of its stations in the last 12 days before the election, but that the company would also have its news department dress up the film and make it look like some kind of a news broadcast.

The film in question is "Stolen Honor." It is in essence a 42-minute long version of the swift boat ads and Sinclair Broadcasting ordered it's stations to preempt prime time programming from various networks, to instead show it.

The reporter Leiberman told "The Baltimore Sun," that the company's news department had been instructed to involve its self with the film. He decried the lack of journalism inherent in the process. And said the company was acting out of bias, political propaganda, with clear intentions to sway this election. Sinclair fired him within 12 hours of the newspaper hitting the streets. Ostensibly because he had violated policy by speaking publicly about company business. But it did not make much of an effort to conceal the real reason for Leiberman's dismissal, quoting the statement.

"We are disappointed that Jon's political views called him to violate company policy. We have no further comment on the actions of a disgruntled employee or an on going personnel matter."

After 25 years in broadcasting, let me translate for you. What it means when they call you a disgruntle employee, it means you're right.

Jon Leiberman joins us now from Baltimore. Good evening, sir.


OLBERMANN: We should state for the record, to avoid any appear of a conflict of interest, that you and I share the same television agent, Gene Sage (ph) and we should also mention we're damn lucky to have her.

LEIBERMAN: We are. We're very lucky. And I watch your program every night, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Thank you, sir. Presumably, you had no doubt in your mind that your now former employers wanted to use the patina, the appearance of journalism that's provided by a news department to kind of add weight to the showing of this film. Otherwise you wouldn't have said what did you and the results would not have been what they are. But tangibly, practically, what did you find they want you and the news operation there to do, that you found so onerous?

LEIBERMAN: Well, I'll tell you Keith, we were called into a staff meeting on Sunday. And we were told that the company wouldn't run this documentary in its entirety. Instead, it would be a one-hour news program produced by the news department, and we would have to do different stories. The reporters and the photographers and the producers would have to do different issue-based stories to kind of surround the showing of this documentary. And I stood up and said, look.

I don't think we're acting in the public interest by airing such an inflammatory bunch of assertions and allegations, 10 or 12 days before the election. I said I felt the company had political motives. And I said all we have in this business is credibility. And if we go on the air and make this look like news, no matter if we show 10 minutes of the documentary, 12 minutes, 15 minutes, we are going to lose our credibility.

And I said I didn't want to have a part in that, because that's not what we're here for. That's not what I learned in journalism school back at Northwestern and that's not what I've learned in my experiences. And I thought somebody had to speak up for the viewers. And my boss looked around and asked does anybody want to join him, meaning did anyone want to protest with me, and unfortunately, everybody was quiet.

OLBERMANN: Were you OK with the idea of showing that documentary or that film or whatever it was in its entirety without the involvement of the news department if that company simply wanted to show that on the stations, did they have the right to do that, do you think?

LEIBERMAN: I think they absolutely have the right to do. That I did send an e-mail to our CEO David Smith about two weeks ago when this all came out saying I was concerned, how this would impact the news department, our ability to be fair and objective and to get interviews with some members of the Kerry camp and things like. I think it's certainly their right if they want to to air it. But I wanted them to call it commentary or an editorial or something to that effect. And please, I urged them, please don't lump it in with news because that's going to make our job so much harder. And we need to look for the viewers. We need to tell credible stories, we need to tell the truth. And we don't know if this documentary is the truth or not.

OLBERMANN: And the ultimate irony here, I guess, is that a bunch of Sinclair share holders announced today that they will be suing over this because the stock price has tanked. So it may be decided one way or another over finance. But I have one last question for you. A lot of people who look at this and say, this is marketplace of ideas. Look at the Dan Rather fiasco with the Killian memos. Everything just all evens out in the long term.

How would you respond to that?

LEIBERMAN: They may say that, Keith, but I don't believe we can stand by and continue to let journalism erode. The company says that I have political ideals that are getting in the way of the news. I tell the story straight down the middle. I've given zero money to the Republicans, zero money to the Democrats this election cycle. And I think we need to be more transparent. We need to do a better job of being fair and objective. There's nothing in this for me, Keith. I got fired from my job. I spoke up, because I truly believe that we can still do good things in journalism and that's what I want to see happen out of this. And hopefully, because I understand now, Sinclair, has kind of come out of it's stance. They were going to air a lot of the documentary, now they paired it down. Hopefully, I can just hope I had some impact in that. And what we'll see the broadcast is some semblance of some sort of objective presentation. I hope.

OLBERMANN: Jon Leiberman, agree with him or oppose him, this is one of the few acts of conscience, in this otherwise morally flexible political year. Jon, many thanks. And it's a weird word to use under these circumstances, but congratulations.

LEIBERMANN: Keith, we'll see you soon. Thanks.

OLBERMANN: Take care.

Intentional or not, neutral or not, TV has an extraordinary influence on this election. Hardly limited to news or things dressed up as news. How Jay Leno might swing the swing states.

And the Countdown to O'Reilly-gate. A day of new twist for accuser and accused. An admission for one, questions about motive from the other.


OLBERMANN: Late night TV's link between the average Joe and Joe politics. How Jay Leno and company are shaping decision 2004. That's ahead on Countdown.

Also big clock.


OLBERMANN: It is amazing in some respects that just 104 years ago, a president of the United States running for re-election not only did have of his wife make campaign appearances for him, but when on those few occasions that she was out in public, he would sometimes drape a handkerchief in front of her face so she could not be seen. To be fair the president was William McKinley and the first lady, his wife, Ida, she suffered from paralyzing seizures. But the contrast to today is nonetheless stark.

Our fourth story, two weeks to go, bring out the wives. Bring them out onto TV and try to assess the total impact of that medium, television. The wives first. Laura Bush went on "Live With Regis and Kelly" and Kelly, and the talk was almost entirely issue-free.


REGIS PHILBIN, HOST, "REGIS AND KELLY": Oh my gosh, you have got to have thick, thick skin. I swear.

LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY: You do, I mean. That's one thing you know when you get into politics, on any level, but especially on this one, is you have to know that you can handle the criticism and the, you know, that's really a part of it when you throw your hat in the ring.

KELLY RIPA, HOST, "REGIS AND KELLY": Has your skin gotten thicker through these four years?

L. BUSH: Yeah, I would say so. I mean, that doesn't mean it doesn't hurt or it doesn't bother me. Of course it does.


OLBERMANN: Fess up, you were expecting Kelly Ripa to interject something about moisturizer there, weren't you? The first lady's competition, Teresa Heinz Kerry, also appeared in competition on another ABC talk show this morning, with the women of "The View," explaining to them why she decided to hug Laura Bush after the third and final debate.


TERESA HEINZ KERRY, SEN. JOHN KERRY'S WIFE: She's a very nice person. And she like me, you know, we have husbands who are in this arena. And she was very nervous. And she said, I'm so glad we have no more debates. And I looked at her face, and I thought, I just had to hug her. And I did.


OLBERMANN: Televised politics is fine if you meticulously stuff it through the de-issueizing machine. But what happens when the jokes fly fast and furious even if both sides take an equal number of hits? Jay Leno of "The Tonight Show" told me here last night that he can actually see the Bush people laughing at the Kerry jokes and only them, and the Kerry people laughing at the Bush jokes and only them. And heaven help him if either side perceives the ratio isn't 50/50.

Late night TV, where more people hear Leno's political commentary in a month than probably heard the satire of Will Rogers in his whole lifetime. Countdown's Monica Novotny joins me here in Burbank on the Leno effect.

Monica, good evening.

MONICA NOVOTNY, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Keith, good evening. It is the height of the election season, a time when the candidates, their family member, and even some of the journalists who cover them spend a little quality time with Jay Leno. It is a kinder, gentler side of the campaign trail. Sometimes.


JAY LENO, HOST, TONIGHT SHOW: What do you make of the undecided voters at this point?

OLBERMANN: These are the people who have trouble finding the polling place.

NOVOTNY (voice-over): The late night land of Leno, where politics and entertainment intersect.

LENO: Occasionally your husband will make a gaff, which we will exploit to the hilt.

L. BUSH: Yes.

LENO: I mean, do you guys have fun with that afterward?

L. BUSH: We do. We laugh about it sometime. Sometimes we don't laugh.

LENO: Yes!

NOVOTNY: Like it or not, the contenders know, late night talk is a prime-time political platform, where Jay Leno is the ratings king, delivering the right audience, more than five and a half million viewers, at the right time, where candidates work to shape public perception with a message that's less policy, more personality.

LENO: Senator John Kerry. There you are.

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Can you run fast with those cheer leading outfits on? I don't know.

LENO: Wow.

That's scary.


NOVOTNY: And though it won necessarily win the vote, it may have helped in this case.

First, the announcement.

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: I'm going to run for governor of the state of California.

NOVOTNY: Then the celebration.

LENO: The governor of the great state of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger!

NOVOTNY: The laughs are no joke. One Washington think tank actually tracks the late night taunts during the campaign season.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Frequently we find that the person who is mocked the most ends up losing the election. But the incumbent will always get parodied far more than the challenger, because the incumbent is more familiar to the comics.

NOVOTNY: And the campaigns have been counting for years, checking in to see how their candidate is playing in Peoria.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The candidates have to go on these shows nowadays. It is as if there's this little whisper in the air: If you're undecided, they will come.

NOVOTNY: A recent Pew Center poll reveals that almost three-quarters of Americans sometimes get their election information from late night comedy talk. Thirty-six percent regularly get their campaign news there.

LENO: I tell you, President Bush practicing hard for this one. All day long, he's been walking around saying to himself, Internet, Internet.

NOVOTNY: And so while candidates and their families aren't spending too much time in California campaigning, they do fly in for Jay, knowing that a few minutes in the hot seat is only the beginning, because Jay and his guests may say anything.

OLBERMANN: But if you enjoyed the recount four years ago, you'll really enjoy a contested election, no matter who's the hell is president.


NOVOTNY: The Center for Media and Public Affairs first began tracking the late night jokes back in 1988. That was after former Republican National Committee chairman, the late Lee Atwater, said that he was watching "The Tonight Show" to see how George Bush, number 41, was playing in Peoria - Keith. Did you have fun?

OLBERMANN: Who was that idiot you saw at the end of your piece and at the beginning of it?

NOVOTNY: Did you enjoy yourself?

OLBERMANN: After I returned to my own body? After the out of body experience, it was fine, yes. Everybody was very nice and Jay is a delightful guy to sit there and talk politics with.

NOVOTNY: You looked like you both had a good time. We're glad you came back, though.

OLBERMANN: You mean here.




OLBERMANN: Through today anyway. Countdown's Monica Novotny. Many thanks.

NOVOTNY: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: Our favorite daredevil, besides Monica, is back in the headlines. First it was this high-flying act. Only "Oddball" can make you believe his latest idea could actually be crazier than that one.

And then it was the falafel-lufa mix-up. Now a stunning admission of stupidity. Really? Your daily dose of O'Reilly news looms ever closer in the distance. One's a lufa, one's a falafel.


OLBERMANN: With the presidential election just two weeks away and dominating the news cycle, it is important that we as journalists not lose focus about what really matters to the viewer. And so I offer you this pledge: No matter how heated the campaign or how close this election gets, we will endeavor to bring you at least one segment each evening filled with weird news and spectacular but otherwise meaningless video. It is the least we can do for America.

Let's play "Oddball."

And we begin with "Oddball" hall of famer Felix Baumgartner. You may remember Felix. He has flown across the English Channel on homemade fiberglass wings. He has base-jumped from the Christ statue at Rio de Janeiro and the Bridge of the Americas in Panama. No idea how he pays to travel around the world and then bail himself out of jail in these exotic locales. We're just glad that he keeps doing it.

So, Velebit National Park, Croatia, hello. That's Felix standing at the edge of the 650-feet Mamet Cave. And this is Felix jumping into it - named for David Mamet. His freefall lasted only a few seconds before he released a parachute and glided safely to the bottom. Felix will now be looking into the whole vexed problem of how to get out.

Sure, jumping into a big hole is easy, but can you scale the side of a skyscraper without any ropes? Enter Spider-Man; 42-year-old Alain Robert, dressed as the friendly neighborhood web-slinger, climbing the side of the building owned by the oil giant TotalFina today in Paris. It was the second time Spidey has gone up the side of that building. And for the second time, when he got to the top, he was arrested.

And we would like the thank mild-mannered photographer Peter Parker for this exclusive videotape.

These stunts are best left to the professionals, as evidenced by this unlucky paraglider in Cannon Beach, Oregon. You may have noticed the absence of a beach. That's where he is started. Where he ended up was in the forest, stuck for seven hours at the top of a 200-foot spruce. He was not injured, but he did hang around all night long. But, to his great disappointment, Spider-Man did not show for some reason. And there were rumors he was still in Paris.

From freefalling stunts to freefalling careers. When it is all said and done, will anybody come out on top in the face-off between Bill O'Reilly and his ex-producer Andrea Mackris? New developments on the "who had a crush on whom" front. Then, the flu vaccine fight. Long lines attention doctor's office have now turned into applause lines in stump speeches.

Those stories ahead. Now here are Countdown's top three newsmakers of this day.

No. 3, Laurice Rahme, a French perfume seller. He's introduced his new line of fragrances, 21 varieties, each named after a different part of New York City, each with its own individual smell. The Park Avenue scent is said to be elegant. Chelsea smells like flowers. And, of course, Ode to East River smells like guys we haven't seen in, like, years.

No. 2, Randal Wagner of Lakewood, Colorado, removing all the "Vote Democratic" signs in his neighborhood, police say, until he tripped over a chain and knocked himself cold. Police found him unconscious on a driveway with those stolen signs neatly arrayed around him.

And, No. 1, Real Simard, a mafia hit man from Canada on the lam for five years and found hiding in an unlikely location, as a security guard at one of the top private high schools in Montreal. And what gave him away? He did a television interview about his days as a hit man. He obviously was not auditing any of those classes in that top private school in Montreal, was he?


OLBERMANN: The end of the first complete week of the Bill O'Reilly saga, and we are moving not closer to the first denial of some kind from somebody, but perhaps the first confirmation.

Billy O. speaks. Mud is slung against his accuser. And a couple of professional women who may have actually thrown mud chime in. Our third story on the Countdown, it's your entertainment dollars in action, day seven of the Bill O'Reilly investigations, also known as dialing for dollars.

Still all quiet on television. But on his radio program yesterday, O'Reilly actually lent substance to the broad outlines, if not the specifics of the intent, in his ex-producer Andrea Mackris' lawsuit against him charging sexual harassment in the form of unwanted graphic phone conversations.


BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS: This is my fault. I was stupid. And I'm not a victim. But I can't allow certain things to happen.

I am a stupid guy, and every guy listening knows how that is. That we are very stupid at times. But, there comes a time in life where you got to stand and fight. And I knew these people were going to do this, I knew they were going to do everything they could to try to destroy me and the channel. And I just made a decision that I'm just going to ride it out, and I'm going to fight them.


OLBERMANN: Fight a sexual harassment lawsuit and a burgeoning, perhaps, serial file of sexual scandals that looms behind it, and, while doing it, also promote your own kid's book.

All that has proved too much for one man's plate, just too many falafel on the menu. "The O'Reilly Factor For Kids" book tour has been postponed. Publisher HarperCollins, also owned by the parent company of Fox, has canceled all planned media appearances, saying - quote - "We hope to resume the book promotion with Mr. O'Reilly at a later date. And we wish him well during this difficult time."

Off the schedule, ABC's "The View," "The CBS Early Show" and an O'Reilly appearance with HBO's "Real Time With Bill Maher," although we understand that the Maher-O'Reilly show might be rescheduled as a pay-per-view event. I'm good for $19.95 to see that, if anybody else is.

Speaking of anybody else, the only anybody else in this case thus far got another dollop of bad press today. In a sworn affidavit to Fox's employees, an ex-friend of Andrea Mackris says her motivation may have been more than money or justice. That former friend is a New York restaurant owner named Matthew Peretori (ph). He has claimed to both O'Reilly's attorney and "The New York Daily News" that Mackris and O'Reilly had a consensual relationship that went sour.

Then Mackris left her job with the intent - quoting this restauranteur - "to take down Bill O'Reilly and Fox News with a tell-all book. According to the affidavit, the unnamed publisher telling her - quote - "She had to do more to make the book more interesting and exciting." Mackris' attorney, Benedict Morelli, calling the sworn statement garbage and characterizing Mr. Peretori (ph) as a spurned potential lover of his client.

She had a crush on O'Reilly or the guy who says she had a crush on O'Reilly had a crush on her. Meanwhile, no love lost between Mackris and "The New York Post," like O'Reilly's employer and his publisher, all owned by the omnipresent News Corp. Court TV reporting today that she intends to file an amendment to her lawsuit, claiming that the company is using the newspaper to conduct a smear campaign against her. Fox, HarperCollins, "The New York post, corporationally speaking, they are all in bed together, so to speak.

And as to the more traditionally accepted definition of pornography, there is the adult actress, film actress whose appearance on O'Reilly's show in August purportedly prompted one of those phone calls, the charges for which Ms. Mackris did not accept. Adult actress and author Savannah Sampson telling the self-same "New York Post" that if she really did get him all hot and bothered enough to phone his producer - quote - "He should have called me. I would have given him phone sex for a lot less than $60 million."

Well, quote of the week. Congratulations, Ms. Sampson, if that is your real name.

My guest here in the studio is Andy Borowitz. And that is his real name, creator of the online humor column "The Borowitz Report" and its print version, "The Borowitz Report: The Big Book of Shockers."

Nice to see you.


OLBERMANN: Well, you have something of a scoop for yourself here on O'Reilly day seven?

BOROWITZ: This was the shocker of the day. And, actually, BorowitzReport.com is the only sort of news outlet to cover this, which is, Bill O'Reilly has actually decided to outsource all his phone sex to India.


BOROWITZ: And a lot of people say it is hypocritical, that he is sort of an America-first guy and there are so many capable phone sex workers in this country. It seems a shame. It's all going to come out of a calling center in Bangalore, which seems wrong to me.

OLBERMANN: And they're having a hard time in that industry, too.

BOROWITZ: Absolutely.

OLBERMANN: So - at least I've been told.

Now they're outsourcing the book tour?

BOROWITZ: Right. The book tour is in trouble.

Also, Fisher-Price was going to do a Bill O'Reilly Play Phone. That's also off the schedule, apparently.

OLBERMANN: I was saying today, seriously, that I had thought Bill O'Reilly had in one week's time gone into the pantheon of kind of permanent fixture punchlines, like Bill Clinton about Monica Lewinsky, Martha Stewart, even O.J. Simpson, oh, the real killer as he's playing golf. Am I right about that? Has he gotten into that Hall of Fame?

BOROWITZ: He definitely does.

And the way I can tell is, as somebody who writes a daily online humor column, I always wake up with that moment of panic, realizing that I hadn't written today's column yet. That panic is gone ever since Bill O'Reilly stepped up. He's really fighting the fight for me, I think.


BOROWITZ: I really do feel that way.

OLBERMANN: Right, and, unfortunately, having given up the one for America's phone sex workers.

BOROWITZ: Well, but as a phone sex worker, I also feel that he is -

I love that he is standing up and fighting for me. Enough is enough.

OLBERMANN: I'm just going to skip that last part completely.

But predict for me, ultimately, here, what does this do for his career? Clearly, he will always be able to get work, because he'll always be able to do a phone-in show.

BOROWITZ: Right. Absolutely.

OLBERMANN: But what happens to him now?

BOROWITZ: Well, I think this sort of uncovers a lot of unpleasant truths about Bill O'Reilly.

For example, the fact that he had a porn star on and then went home and did phone sex call shows that he does not budget his time well.


BOROWITZ: And I think that is going to hurt him in this industry, because we have to multitask, as you know. So, I think it's going to be very tough for him.



OLBERMANN: No, you got away with it. If I add to it, it is just going to be the end of the world here.

BOROWITZ: OK. We don't want that.

OLBERMANN: And his ratings are up, too.

BOROWITZ: Are they really?

OLBERMANN: Which is phenomenal. The ratings are up. I think that perhaps people are tuning in expecting to see just his head explode or something.

BOROWITZ: I don't know. You know, it's so - it is having such a massive effect on everything, because there are all these political polls out now. And I think they're completely inaccurate, because people are not answering the phone now because they're afraid it might be Bill O'Reilly on the other end. So I think the impact is going to continue to ripple on.

OLBERMANN: Will you accept a collect call from Mr. O'Reilly?


OLBERMANN: Andy Borowitz, online at the BorowitzReport, in bookstores with "The Borowitz Report: The Big Book of Shockers," and still able to go on bookstores without frightening small children.

BOROWITZ: Exactly.

OLBERMANN: Thank you, Andy.

BOROWITZ: For now.


Flu shots have also been canceled, but a shortage of finger-pointing on the campaign trail as to who is to blame for that, not so much. And we've heard of voter registration dishonesty unleashed by the root of all evil, money. Tonight, one where the prize was crack cocaine.

But now here are Countdown's top three sound bites of this day.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you give this fiery speech at the Republican Convention.

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: And I have been a Republican ever since.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How long did it take you before you talked to each other?


SCHWARZENEGGER: There was no sex for 14 days.



JAY LENO, HOST: And, once again, here's President Bush with his definition of a Freudian slip.


We will not have an all-volunteer Army.


BUSH: And yet this week - we will have an all-volunteer Army.




JON STEWART, HOST: They said that I wasn't being funny.

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": I thought you were going to be funny. Come on.

STEWART: And I said to them, I know that.


STEWART: But, tomorrow, I will go back to being funny and your show will still blow.






OLBERMANN: Did Michael Jackson steal the moonwalk? And if you register people to vote, should you get as your reward crack cocaine? Pressing questions, dry-cleaned answers, and also Harry Shearer ahead here on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: The term microcosm is remarkably overexercised, but it is absolutely apt for the flu vaccine shortage. America in a nutshell, the reaction, from robberies of supplies, to people crossing the Canadian border for shots, to political finger-pointing.

And in our No. 2 story on the Countdown, perhaps the most microcosmic element of the microcosm, the flu vaccine lottery; 300 doses left in Bloomfield, New Jersey. So, day after tomorrow, its citizens will to go fire station No. 3 and see which 300 of them will be lucky enough to win a jab with a sharp implement.

Speaking of jabs and sharp implements, cue the candidates.


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If Halliburton made flu shots, you would have more flu shots here than there are oranges in the state of Florida.

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The medical liability system that would also, as I recall, have protected manufacturers of vaccine against excessive punitive damage awards if the FDA had approved the vaccine. And that failed in the Senate. And it was opposed by Senator Kerry and Senator Edwards.

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It just shows that George Bush is out of touch. I mean, he couldn't even manage this latest flu vaccine crisis. How can we trust him to deal with anthrax? This is not leadership. This is incompetence.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to assure them that our government is doing everything possible to help older Americans and children get their shots, despite the major manufacturing defect that caused this problem.


OLBERMANN: Unfortunately, everything possible won't actually be available until January, the Health Department announcing today that an 2.6 million doses of flu vaccine will be ready for use next year. And negotiations are also under way to secure a million and a half doses from Canada before the flu season is over.

Officials are hoping that the news will at least allay fears of a major health crisis this winter and keep seniors from standing in line for hours, which could pose a greater health risk for some of them than the actual flu.

We segue out of getting stuck with needles to a "Keeping Tabs" opener that includes the unkindest jab of all, the stuck needle that is a disloyal sibling. Michael Jackson did not only not invent the moonwalk, but the claim about this comes from LaToya Jackson. I guess she won't be invited to the next preliminary hearing.

In an interview with a British television station over the weekend, she dropped the bombshell about her brother, saying a dancer named Geoffrey from the '70s TV show "Soul Train" taught Michael the dance step. Only he called it, Geoffrey did, the backslide. There has been no comment from Jackson yet, nor Geoffrey. But the moonwalk has been one of the singer's main claims to fame. It was the title of his 1988 autobiography and a video game by the same game. Geoffrey, of course, went on to become a spokes-giraffe for a chain of toy stores.

Meanwhile, the queen of pop is going on sabbatical, that according to Britney Spears' Web site, where the singer posted a message to fans to break the sad news. Ms. Spears says she loves being married, can't wait to start a family, so she's taking some time off - quote - "My prerogative right now is to just chill and let all the other overexposed blondes on the cover of 'Us Weekly' be your entertainment. Good luck, girls."

"My Prerogative" is also the name of her upcoming greatest hits album, as well as one of the songs on it. So, she's taking some time off from what exactly?

Democracy and drugs, how this guy allegedly put a whole new wrinkle into the voter registration drive. The founding fathers never anticipated crack cocaine campaigns.

Stand by.


OLBERMANN: Voter registration in this country appears to be at an all-time high and, allegedly, so does at least one of the people doing the registering.

Our No. 1 story on the Countdown, Defiance County, Ohio, knew there was something wrong when among the 130 new voters registered there appeared the names Mary Poppins, Dick Tracy and Jeffrey Dahmer. They could not have known that what was wrong led back to a crack-for-registrations deal.

In a moment, the thoughts of Harry Shearer on the entire campaign and this particular event, in which the catchphrase rock the vote has been replaced by rocks for votes.

First, the details from Ohio. Election officials traced the falsified forms to a 22-year-old worker, Chad Staton. Mr. Staton was arrested yesterday morning. He in turn led authorities to Georgianne Pitts, a volunteer for the NAACP National Voter Fund. Mr. Staton alleged Ms. Pitts was paying him for his efforts with crack cocaine.

The national executive of the organization, Gregory Moore, saying he was - quote - "shocked" and that group will welcome any investigation.

As promised, now I'm joined by actor, writer, comedian, artist and Angelino who braved the rain to come here in person, Harry Shearer.


OLBERMANN: I know. It's amazing.

SHEARER: We don't know how to drive in the rain.

But I worry about the segue between crack cocaine and me, Keith.


OLBERMANN: It is a political segment, Harry.

SHEARER: Interesting.

OLBERMANN: It has nothing to do with crack cocaine.

SHEARER: I see. All right. Thank you very much.

OLBERMANN: It is about, however, the story about crack cocaine.


OLBERMANN: Is this some kind of all-time high in low relative to this?

SHEARER: I think it's just a wonderful coincidence that we have on the one hand this guy who is registering voters with crack as his payback. On Drudge today, there is a story about workers for Kerry giving pill containers to voters in Florida. Voting for pills, yells Drudge.

And we have no way of counting these ballots. We have no way of knowing if your votes counts. There's no paper trail.


SHEARER: And we're going to teach the Iraqis how to run a democracy.


OLBERMANN: Because we've gotten it down.

SHEARER: Because we've got it down pat, man.

The United Nations said today they're not going to have nearly enough people to supervise the Iraqi election because of security concerns. I think we have an election they can supervise.

OLBERMANN: Yes. Bring them on over.


OLBERMANN: And ask them to just take a look at, for instance, the undecided voters, at 7 percent two weeks out.

In this polarized country, should we be angry or amazed that these people haven't decided yet? Or should we be saying, my God, somebody is actually thinking about this?

SHEARER: You know, I can't stand it, Keith, that you are using this platform to attack the undecided voters in this country. You are a nonpartisan - what's the word? - hack. This show blows.

I don't care who knows it. And I've been told I can't say this, you are as big a Tucker on stage as you are off.


OLBERMANN: I'm not wearing a bow tie, though.

SHEARER: You're not.

OLBERMANN: And, by the way, I heard Mr. Burns coming out in that


SHEARER: Yes, a little bit, little bit.

But I figured, maybe we can get a clip of this on the news.


SHEARER: The undecided voters, look, if you look at the nontext version of this election, which, given the fact that one of the candidates has problems with text, is probably advisable, it's possible to ask this question. When you're leaving the funeral, who would you rather hang out with, the preacher or the mortician?


SHEARER: That makes it a whole different kind of ball game, doesn't it?.

OLBERMANN: I'm going to have to now sit and think about this for like two days.


SHEARER: And, you know, here is the election where everybody has known since February the issue is going to be strength against our enemies, the revival of Cold War politics, in a way.

And John Kerry spends August not responding to vicious attacks on his own military record and, when asked about it, says, I wanted to, but my advisers wouldn't let me. So why is it strange that some people don't see him as the strong leader they might want to replace Bush with?

OLBERMANN: So the undecideds might just go in and remain thus, 7 percent.


SHEARER: And at least they'll have their vote counted. It will be nil.

OLBERMANN: Right. And the final score in Florida will be 203-201.

They have lost all the other votes.


OLBERMANN: Harry Shearer, a pleasure to talk to you and a greater pleasure to finally do this in person.

SHEARER: Same here.

OLBERMANN: Thank you, sir. And thanks for helping us close out the show.

SHEARER: My pleasure.

OLBERMANN: That was it.

That's Countdown. Thanks for being part of it. I'm Keith Olbermann.

Good night and good luck. Nine, eight, seven - OK.