'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for August 8
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Guest: Tom Jarrie
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: All of us in television had heard the story, "The New York Times" printed it this morning, how in May, Peter Jennings, six weeks after his diagnosis and already 20 pounds below his regular weight, visited his colleagues. He touched his hand to his heart and publicly thanked his substitute, Charles Gibson, for ending each newscast by including the phrase "For Peter Jennings and all of us at ABC News." All present wept. They weep again today.
So for Peter Jennings and all of us in television news, this is Countdown. Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Peter Jennings remembered. His brilliant journalism and the untold story of how he persevered after his first tenure at the ABC anchor desk 40 years ago, when journalism was not so brilliant.
The shuttle landing delayed. On this mission, what else could it have been?
Rita Cosby's exclusive interviews. Two Jackson jurors say they got it wrong, he was guilty.
And it may have been Britney's baby shower. It was almost a paparazzi's funeral.
All that and more, now on Countdown.
It has been four months and three days since Peter Jennings told his audience the most compelling out of the thousands of news stories he ever reported or announced. Yet even the amount of time that fortune gave us to accept the diagnosis of lung cancer, and the prognosis that inevitably followed it, did not soften the blow.
Our fifth story on the Countdown tonight, at his home, at the age of 67, with, as a family statement said, his loved ones around him, without pain and in peace, Peter Jennings died yesterday. He is survived by his wife, his sister, two children, and uncountable millions of Americans who depended upon his calm and dignified reporting during his 41 years with ABC News, an anniversary he had reached just last Wednesday.
But his life was not merely a series of news broadcasts. It was an extraordinary story of extraordinary endurance.
OLBERMANN (voice-over): The calm, seasoned, assuring voice has been stilled.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, September 11, 2001)
PETER JENNINGS, ABC NEWS: In this instance, it's not New York City, it's not New Yorkers' city, it's everybody in the country's city at this moment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: We may remember him for his work on 9/11, or for any of a dozen other crises, from Vietnam to the Munich Olympics to the "Challenger" disaster. But the real story of Peter Jennings is not to be found in a kaleidoscope of unconnected moments of history. It is, instead, contained in literally a half-century of perseverance, growth, even redemption.
He was the only enduring anchorman to return to the desk from which he had been fired. He was the only of America's great newscasters to have anchored in another country first. He was the anchorman, who, having concurred with his early critics that he was simply unqualified, went out and did something about it.
He was a man of whom a colleague would say in the early 1980s with pride and affection, He is now as good as he used to think he was.
But would he ever think himself as good as the man with whom he was seemingly forever in competition, his own father? Charles Jennings was already Canada's first famous radio newscaster when Peter Charles Archibald Ewart Jennings was born in 1938.
Son followed father, but haltingly. He'd had his own radio show at age 10, but dropped out of high school, then been a bank teller before becoming a disc jockey, PJ the DJ. The show happened to include reading the news.
By the mid '60s, Jennings was the CBC parliamentary correspondent and frequent anchor of its national newscasts. In America, meanwhile, ABC barely had a national newscast.
While Walter Cronkite at CBS and Chet Huntley and David Brinkley at NBC set standards which the industry still strains to match, ABC was a revolving door of anchormen, 11 in four years. The 12th became the host of "Peter Jennings and the News."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JENNINGS: Tornadoes usually kill slightly more than 200 people per year.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Even the confident Jennings could see the trap. He was 26 years old, he was Canadian, he was taking over a ship that wasn't sinking, it had never left port. But he deferred to the advice of a new colleague, the venerable Howard K. Smith. It's like being nominated for president, Smith told him. You can't turn it down.
Jennings was not elected, and he did not serve.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JENNINGS: Good evening.
Konrad Adenauer is dead. The man Eisenhower called one of the great statesmen of our time, and Churchill called the greatest German statesman since Bismarck, died at his home in Rondorf (ph) outside Bonn.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: He would not change his Canadian inflections and pronunciations. Schedule became "shedule," lieutenant, "leftenant." Having not grown up versed in American history, when time came to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of the Civil War, he butchered the word "Appomattox."
And if he would not change the way he talked, he could not change the way he looked.
Critics, and, behind his back, some colleagues called him Anchor Boy and Peter Pretty. We could never improve his image, said his boss, Elmer Lower (ph), not as long as he looked that young.
At the end of 1967, from the top of his profession, perhaps the most publicized, most scrutinized anchor appointment in American television before or since, he was out, out in an industry that rarely offers second chances.
Peter Jennings was not yet 30 years old. But to him, his reporting experience in Canada and of the American civil rights movement had not been a mere stepping-stone. He enthusiastically accepted ABC's offer to become an international correspondent, thriving in Vietnam, in Rome, in the Middle East.
It was as ABC's Beirut correspondent that he was offered what was to be a break from the chaos of the Middle East, a chance to do feature news reporting at the Olympics, the 1972 Olympics in Munich, the ones which introduced terrorism to the world stage.
Crouched in hiding outside the infamous Building 31, Jennings was the world's eyes and ears as the Black September terrorists took hostage and ultimately murdered 11 members of the Israeli team.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Peter Jennings is inside the village and is observing this with the naked eye. Peter?
JENNINGS: Jim, I am almost directly over the Israeli building. It will be a famous number before long. It's Building 31. It's on Konnely (ph) Strasse. It does appear to be confirmed, though anything confirmed today is difficult, that these guerrillas are from one of the very extreme left-wing groups, the group called Black September .
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: There he cemented his reputation, no Peter Pretty now, but a familiar, analytical, calm but never dispassionate translator of world events to an American audience.
It earned him another chance at the anchor desk. On ABC's embryonic challenge to the "TODAY" show, a program called "A.M. America," five minutes of news each morning from Washington.
But if he had aspirations of returning to the evening news, they were soon dashed. He was back in Europe, and a new man was in charge of ABC News, a man who would proclaim, I think the old concept of the anchor position is outdated and outmoded. That man was named Roone Arledge. Arlege may have pronounced the anchorman dead, but he quickly tried to hire Robert MacNeil away from PBS and then whipped up a newscast with no less than three anchormen.
Jennings was a part. But with Frank Reynolds based in Washington and Max Robinson in Chicago, his London perch seemed merely a place from which to introduce the reports of other foreign correspondents.
Meantime, Arledge, the man who had called the anchorman outdated, tried to hire away first anchorman Dan Rather from CBS, then anchorman Tom Brokaw from NBC.
Even when "WORLD NEWS TONIGHT" morphed back into a one-anchorman program, that one anchorman would not be Peter Jennings. It would be Frank Reynolds.
Jennings, now not quite an anchor, no longer fully a correspondent, seemed a quaint appendage. And then Frank Reynolds got sick. In a shock that, in retrospect, seems to have foretold Jennings' own demise, Frank Reynolds, thought to be recovering from persistent hepatitis, suddenly died in July 1983. He had had multiple myeloma, a rare cancer, for four years. He had told almost no one.
Even then, Roone Arledge, who had bypassed Jennings for Reynolds, and who would have bypassed Jennings for Robert MacNeil, and who would have bypassed Jennings for Dan Rather, and who would have bypassed Jennings for Tom Brokaw, sought to bypass Jennings yet again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: This is ABC News "NIGHTLINE." Reporting from Washington, Ted Koppel.
TED KOPPEL, ABC NEWS: Before we begin, a couple of observations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Ted Koppel, who had almost single-handedly established ABC's news credentials with the still-novel "NIGHTLINE," was offered the anchor chair first and turned it down. And then so did Peter Jennings. The scars of the 1965-67 experience were deep. The satisfactions of reporting ran perhaps deeper.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JENNINGS: But there are 50 villages here, and there are more than 50,000 people homeless.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: But now ABC had no other options left, and neither, truly, did Jennings. At best, he was ABC's sixth choice.
But he acquiesced.
The years abroad had not just rid him of the Anchor Boy patina, they had also given him an unique perspective and an intense work ethic. American history still did not flow naturally from him, but world history did.
And so when the "Challenger" shuttle exploded on January 28, 1986, he could ad-lib for five hours of special coverage. "The picture is now etched in our minds, but still horrifying," he concluded. The disastrous end of the 25th shuttle mission, the sudden death of seven astronauts, America once again reaching for the stars, and this time, for the first time, not making it.
When the opportunity came to join the panel at the first presidential debate of 1988, he could compose hundreds of questions, domestic and international, and cull from them the dozen best.
When war broke out in Iraq in 1991, he could anchor most of ABC's first special report, 42 hours in length.
And in 1993, his experiences at Munich and in the Middle East could provide a sad but compelling context for his coverage of the first attack on the World Trade Center.
And four years earlier, Peter Jennings had achieved a seemingly impossible milestone. He was the new arrival to Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather, yet he had occupied his anchor desk 16 years before either one of them. And he had been fired 14 years before either one of them had been hired.
But somehow, in a career, in a life of perseverance, he had in 1989 vaulted over them both into first place in the audience ratings, the first time ABC had ever beaten CBS and NBC for a full year.
By the start of this year, the world that surrounded Peter Jennings was barely recognizable as the same world he had tried to cover from the ABC anchor chair in 1965, and so too was his craft unrecognizable.
News had become intensely politicized. Even his Canadian birth became reason for criticism, no longer because he said "shedule," but just because he wasn't a native. Cable abounded, and forecasts of the end of the nightly network newscasts seemed as frequent as the newscasts themselves.
And Peter Jennings was suddenly the last remaining mandarin. Perseverance had suddenly become survival. Tom Brokaw retired in November 2004, Dan Rather in March 2005. Jennings was the senior network news anchor by a margin of 21 years.
But something was wrong. When the tsunami hit the nations of the Indian Ocean last December, this most international of national newscasters was not there. When Pope John Paul II began his final journey, the only anchorman who had once been a correspondent in Rome stayed in New York.
It was severe bronchitis, he told ABC, and ABC told the country. Then on April 5, he told the country something else, something terrible.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JENNINGS: As some of you now know, I have learned in the last couple of days that I have lung cancer. Yes, I was a smoker until about 20 years ago. And I was weak, and I smoked over 9/11. But whatever the reason, the news does slow you down a bit.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: It was, in the end, the kind of blow that the calm, seasoned, assuring voice had always softened for us, always relieved of its sharp edges and its tragedy, the kind of mitigation with which the years abroad had gifted him.
And the perseverance of 57 years in front of a microphone could not restore the calm, seasoned, assuring voice. There were none now to soften and relieve this shock.
He is now as good, that '80s colleague had said, as he used to think he was. Those who sit in the chairs of his rival networks, or other chairs like them, know all too well at this hour. The calm, seasoned, assuring voice has been stilled.
And for now, at least, there are no others.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JENNINGS: I'm Peter Jennings. We hope you have a good evening, and that we'll see you tomorrow. Good night.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: I'll be back in a moment with Peter Jennings' longtime colleague, the former ABC News correspondent Tom Jarriel.
OLBERMANN: The race among the three network nightly newscasts has been with us so long, it seems to date to time immemorial. Not so. The era of Walter Cronkite and Huntley and Brinkley was called that because almost nobody watched the third newscast, the one on ABC. Peter Jennings would change that.
But while everybody from John Cameron Swayze to Barbara Walters anchored in obscurity there, the seeds of future greatness were being sown. In 1964, ABC hired Ted Koppel, in 1964 Jennings, in 1965 Tom Jarriel, and in 1967 Sam Donaldson.
Our fourth story on the Countdown, Tom Jarriel joins us in a moment to remember his colleague Peter Jennings.
First, other memories from other colleagues.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
TED KOPPEL, ABC NEWS: Peter was just 25, and I was 23, and we were covering the Goldwater campaign in 1964. And neither one of us knew squat about American politics. I was born and grew up in England. Peter, of course, was born and grew up in Canada. And we were faking it the whole time we were doing it. But at least we were faking it at a low enough profile, a low enough level, that nobody caught on.
BARBARA WALTERS, ABC NEWS: He was a stickler for detail. He pushed himself, he pushed us, he made us better.
TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS: People often ask, Are you friends? And Peter
said, Yes, we are friends, because we don't see each other that often. And
· but the fact is that we were friends, and then he went on to say that we've all made each other better. And I think that's the essential truth of the relationship that we have.
DAN RATHER, CBS NEWS: He had it in perspective. It was, Don't take yourself so seriously. Peter took his work very seriously, but he did not take himself seriously. And he was a little uncomfortable with - very uncomfortable with the word "star," and a little uncomfortable with the word "anchor," because he really did think of himself as a reporter.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
OLBERMANN: And as promised, Tom Jarriel, for nearly 40 years a veteran of ABC News, anchor of weekend editions of "World News Tonight," frequent substitute for Peter Jennings during the week.
Tom, thank you for your time tonight, and our deepest condolences.
TOM JARRIEL, ABC NEWS: Thank you very much, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The journalism part in a moment. But I think we all sense that that is secondary tonight. This outpouring of emotion from colleagues, from rivals, from viewers, what was it that connected people to Peter Jennings so strongly?
JARRIEL: I think because he was a man in full, a man who was the total package when it came to anchoring the news and being a reporter. I think all those years that he spent, as your report earlier pointed out, being kicked around, having his ego bashed, competing with others for the anchor chair, when he reached the anchor chair at a mature age, with the experiences he had, he could do everything.
He could report. He was the smoothest ad libber I think I've ever seen in the business. And he could ad lib with facts, and make the - as if he had an entire staff writing his script, he could make stories come out so clear.
And I believe that made him also a stronger figure behind the scenes in deciding what stories ABC News would cover. Indeed, this morning on "Good Morning America," David Westin, the president of ABC News, pointed out that when he first got to know Peter, Peter was working for him, ostensibly as an employee, but in fact, Peter would call him in the middle of the night and tell him what he wanted to do. And he said it felt like he was working for Peter.
That type of leadership made Peter very strong among his colleagues.
OLBERMANN: To that point, viewers obviously saw the newscast. They did not see someone in the act of being senior editor of a newscast. What was, practically speaking, that influence away from the cameras like?
JARRIEL: Peter - everyone, I take it, is somewhat different in person than on camera. On camera, you must be very authoritative, you must be sort of a father figure, all those things that go into being a good anchor. Peter did indeed have a god sense of humor. He did indeed have a sparkle to his smile and in his eye, and he was always looking for a lighter moment.
He was very easy to get along with. Many anchors are pompous. Some are obnoxious to those around him. Peter was considerate to virtually everyone, from the floor men to the janitors. He could talk to anyone on any level. He could speak with chefs in New York City on the street, or busboys, and he could talk with presidents like Sadat and the commanders in chiefs and so forth with equal ease, with equal ease. He made them feel exactly as if what he was saying was important to both of them.
OLBERMANN: We both mentioned this perseverance, and the fact that he had anchored from '65 to '67 and failed, and was removed. What was it about him that made that comeback, which seems impossible, possible? How did he do it?
JARRIEL: I believe he didn't fail quite as much as the management did when they first put him on the air as an anchor boy, so to speak. ABC was small at that time. You could have a staff meeting in a phone booth. And they were desperately trying to break into competition with Huntley, Brinkley, and Cronkite.
So an executive came up with the idea that, What we'll do is find a young anchorman, put him on the air, and in a couple of years, the others will be older, and we'll have the newest mature anchorman on the show. That just didn't happen.
So it wasn't Peter's failure quite as much as the management's decision to do so. At that point, Peter had to make probably the most important decision of his life and the lives of those that he touched. He could have gone back to Canada with bitter grapes and said, I'm getting away from this goofy business.
But instead, he caught the flu, the bug of journalism. He saw the excitement of the stories. He saw the excitement and the thrill of chasing to exotic lands and different places and reporting. He became a first-class, world-class reporter, a sound journalist, after really not having that much experience when he went to ABC News.
And it was that experience that sort of carved the rest of his success throughout his life up to the anchor chair, and with the confidence and poise and...
Once in covering the hijacking of a plane in the Middle East, Peter was anchoring in New York and speaking to his correspondent in the Middle East. And a news - a telephone operator in France decided that they had enough, in French, spoke on the air, while Peter was on the air, and said he was giving up the phone line.
Peter immediately went from speaking English to speaking French, and explained and negotiated on the air with the operator a continuation of the line, and then he conversed right back into English, picked up his correspondent reporting, and continued.
That was the type of thing that made us in total awe of Peter, how smooth he was on the air, how knowledgeable he was, and how his maturity grew, and he grew with it.
OLBERMANN: And to be smooth in that way in two different languages.
What a wonderful last thought.
Tom Jarriel, ABC News correspondent from 1965 through 2003, again, our great thanks for helping us remember tonight.
JARRIEL: Keith, thank you.
OLBERMANN: From the life of Peter Jennings to his passing, and the message it contains that he would want sent to millions of us who smoke.
Also, the verdict in the Michael Jackson trial. Two members of that jury say they made a mistake, and they are talking only to MSNBC's Rita Cosby. She'll join us here.
OLBERMANN:... the death of Peter Jennings. Within this sad news, a lesson for all of us, amplified, perhaps, by a dose of reality that struck home for me last week.
Also tonight, the shuttle "Discovery" still in orbit, weather forcing a delay in landing. Do you really expect the landing to go off without a hitch on this ride?
This nearly did, the voyage to the bottom of the sea. The international rescue mission, and the stories of the Russian submariners who it saved.
And Rita Cosby's exclusive conversation with two of the Michael Jackson jurors. They say the jury made a mistake.
You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: Space travel was supposed to have been perfected in the 1960s, the submarine during the First World War. As we have learned in the last five years in the debris field of the shuttle Columbia in Texas, in the underwater tomb of the 112 submariners of the Kursk in the Berents Sea, both assertions proved to be anything but true.
Our third story on the Countdown: unqualified good news about another Russian sub in trouble. But first, more crossed fingers about the shuttle Discovery. It was supposed to land this morning. The weather has dictated otherwise. Our correspondent on Cape Canaveral is Tom Costello - Tom.
TOM COSTELLO, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Keith, good evening. It was the low cloud cover here this morning that caused NASA to decide to wave off this landing attempt here. Keep in mind they only have one chance to land, once they're committed, because this is not an airplane that you can maneuver. This is essentially one big glider, and you don't want to come through rain because rain can damage the tiles. And so they're going to try this again tomorrow.
They really do have to land Discovery because the crew is starting to run low on supplies. Here are the options for tomorrow, three different landing sites. The first one is to land here at the cape. This is really their first choice - 5:07 AM and 6:43 AM Eastern time is the option that they have open to them. The primary backup location is Edwards Air Force Base in California, 8:12 AM and 9:47 AM Eastern time for that particular location. And then they can always go to their third backup, which is White Sands, New Mexico. That really is a backup of backup. They don't want to go there, but if they absolutely had to put Discovery down, they could, in fact, go there.
Let me put you through or walk you through the exact process tomorrow morning. Once Eileen Collins decides that she is - or NASA decides that they are committed to a particular location, Eileen Collins, the commander, will fire those rockets, and they will start the maneuver from a backwards upside-down position at 17,000 miles per hour. They will then begin to flip the nose forward in the D-orbit burn.
Now, for an hour, Discovery will descend from 220 miles above the earth, through the atmosphere, in temperatures approaching 3,000 degrees, the maximum heat occurring while Discovery is over the Pacific Ocean at about 40 miles altitude. And then somewhere over Central America, they expect Collins will begin a series of S-turns to slow the shuttle down. She will then, on one of these landing slots, if you will, one of these glide paths - she will then come in over the south, over the Yucatan peninsula, and come in over the south and land here at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Again, we won't know until about an hour and 20 minutes before landing time which landing zone, which landing strip they've decided to go with tomorrow morning. If they still have low cloud cover 500 to 1,00 feet clouds here at the Cape, they will probably wave off and go to Edwards Air Force Base. Keith, back to you.
OLBERMANN: Tom Costello at Cape Canaveral for us. Thanks, Tom.
Over a million feet below the shuttle's orbit, seven other travelers were likewise stuck in a small metal ship tangled in a fishing net at the bottom of the ocean, trapped for three days in a Russian mini-submarine with dwindling oxygen, little water and no heat, with the ominous fifth anniversary of Russia's Kursk disaster looming on Friday, no less. Ned Colt has our report tonight on the international rescue that came up big just hours before the air ran out inside that mini-sub.
NED COLT, NBC NEWS (voice-over): Stepping ashore after more than three days trapped in frigid blackness at the bottom of the sea, seven sailors only now realizing how close they came to death. "I feel fine, at least now," said this sailor, "but it was very cold." So cold at 600 feet down in the northern Pacific that even their survival suits couldn't keep them warm. Precious oxygen and water were running out.
It was a race against time for rescuers. The sub had been snared in old fishing nets. Intent on averting another Kursk disaster, when 118 sailors died in similar circumstances five years ago, Russia moved more quickly this time, approving help from British, American and Japanese rescue teams. Ultimately, it was the British with their unmanned mini-sub who freed the seven. The Russian submarine bobbed to the surface, everyone alive, answered prayers for sailors and their families. "I was crying happy tears," said the captain's wife. And from the British rescuers...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The team are over the moon that we have got these guys out alive.
COLT: Alive, but freed with just four hours of oxygen left. Ned Colt, NBC News, London.
OLBERMANN: And also an explanation tonight for the least disastrous air disaster of our time, the crash of flight 358 in Toronto last Tuesday, to the bad weather causes, officials adding now a bad landing. According to investigators, the co-pilot landed long on the runway, leaving only 5,000 feet to brake. That would have been enough if the weather had been good, but with rain having minimized traction, the plane overshot that runway by 200 feet, coming to rest in a ravine.
And we're beginning to understand that luck played a lot less of a role than initially thought. Not only did the flight attendants manage to evacuate all 309 on board within 90 seconds, they did so even though four of the plane's eight emergency exits could not be used. The chutes did not deploy on two of those, the other two were too close to the fire to be opened. Ninety seconds, four escape methods - that's nearly one person saved per exit per second.
Speaking of quick escapes and how your seat can be used as a flotation device, the Michael Jackson case, two jurors breaking their silence and saying he was guilty. Rita Cosby joins me with a look at her exclusive interview of those two. And instead of getting a shot, the paparazzo gets shot, a BB gun used to protect what might have been Britney Spears's baby shower, something to tell the child in later years.
Those stories ahead, but first time for Countdown's list of today's three nominees for the coveted title of "Worst Person in the World." Bronze nominee, the editorial board of "The Wall Street Journal." After the dust-up between James Carville and Robert Novak on TV last week, wherein Novak swore and humiliated himself, "The Journal" today wrote, "Carville was lucky he didn't get punched in the nose." "The Wall Street Journal" editorial page staff, for whom it is always late in the year 1898.
Also nominated, Don Fehr, head of the baseball players union. He is expected to file a grievance because somebody leaked to the media which of the many steroids the Baltimore Orioles slugger Rafael Palmeiro was caught using. Not exactly the recommended action in these circumstances, which would be shut up and hope it all goes away.
But the winner, Bill O'Reilly. Honestly, we should just retire the award to him. But this is for explaining the usefulness and appropriateness of torture to his on-air guest, Senator John McCain, who spent five years as a POW in North Vietnam. If this were 1972, Bill O'Reilly would be Jane Fonda. For now, he's merely today's "Worst Person in the World"!
OLBERMANN: You've doubtless heard that two of the Michael Jackson jurors did not really have much of a doubt. You may have dismissed the story that they thought him guilty when you heard part B, in which it turned out that each of them had gotten a book deal. But in our third story on the Countdown: Not so fast. A third juror, a woman named Katharina Carls, says she, too, thinks Jackson did it. But as to her doing it, namely writing a book, she says she will not do so. And the other two have spoken exclusively to MSNBC's Rita Cosby.
RITA COSBY, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: The other jurors who are going to be watching this are going to be angry at you. Are you ready for the onslaught?
RAY HULTMAN, MICHAEL JACKSON JUROR: Yes, I'm ready.
ELEANOR COOK, MICHAEL JACKSON JUROR: They can be as angry as they want to. They ought to be ashamed. They're the ones that let a pedophile go.
COSBY: I see you, and I think this is a woman who feels guilty, who's at home at night - you're probably crying about what you did.
COOK: Sure. I sure do. But God has forgiven me, and now I'm going to have to forgive myself. And I will.
COSBY: If the boy is watching right now, what would you want to say to him?
COOK: What would I want to say to him right now?COSBY: Do you feel you let him down?
COOK: No, I did the best I could with my - in my surroundings. And I had prayed for that young lad every night.
OLBERMANN: Rita Cosby joins me now. Her new news hour, "RITA COSBY LIVE & DIRECT," premiering here on MSNBC at 9:00 PM Eastern and then again at 11:00 PM Pacific, kicking off with these interviews. Welcome, officially.
COSBY: Thank you very much.
OLBERMANN: So Ms. Cook and Mr. Hultman, and now this Ms. Carls - why didn't they hang the jury?
COSBY: Well, in fact, that's what I asked. I said, Why did you succumb? Why did you, quote, "cave"? And what they'll tell me in just about 15, 20 minutes from now - they basically talk about the venom in the juror room, some of the things that were said, some of the things that were done. And you know, it's easy for everybody to judge them. And I grilled them. I said, Look, are you into the money? Why are you doing this now? People are going to question the timing. And I spent a lot of time with the two of them, and you could tell Ellie was very remorseful, very upset. And she said, Look, I'm 79 years old. I spent five months on this jury. I spent seven days in deliberation. Walk one day in my shoes. It's easy for you to judge me. If you were in that situation, I think a lot of other people might have done the same thing.
OLBERMANN: More to that point, let me ask you about - about what you have found to the exact degree of tension inside the jury room. But first, let's see what the two jurors told you on that subject.
COSBY: How angry are you at the way you were treated by other jurors?
HULTMAN: The thing that really got me the most was the fact that people just wouldn't take those blinders off long enough to really look at all the evidence that was there.
COSBY: So what happened that day when the verdict came down? How bad was the air?
COOK: The air reeked of hatred! And people were angry. And I had never been in an atmosphere like that before.
OLBERMANN: An atmosphere like that before can mean, depending on your experience, staring daggers at other people or actually using them. How bad did it get, though?
COSBY: It sounds very bad. And some of the things that (INAUDIBLE) she said, Look, a lot of them were saying, you know, you're X years old, and Katharina Carls, the third juror that you brought up, is Indonesian descent. And apparently, they said, You don't understand the American justice system. You're stupid. You're dumb. And apparently, the comments went much further than that.
One of the things we'll also talk about later is the foreman of the jury. He apparently said some very strong things. We've spoken to Katharina Carls. She's going to be on my show tomorrow night, and she confirms some of the things these two jurors say.
And again, as you point out, she's not doing a book deal. A lot of the other jurors that you see in the picture here are, not just these two jurors that are with me tonight.
OLBERMANN: All right, so you spent time with these people. You've talked to them. You got their stories and a sense of who they were. Are these real non-buyers' remorse stories, or are these set-ups for book deals?
COSBY: You know, it's hard to tell. But I can tell you, from my spending time with them, they seemed awfully sincere. They seemed awfully remorseful, particularly Ellie. The other guy, Ray, said, Look, there's nothing I could have done. I walked over and over my mind, Should I have changed something? Should I have done something? When I (INAUDIBLE) he's much more methodical and less emotional than she is. And he said, Look, if you look at everything I did, I didn't cave, I did the only thing anybody could have done.
And I think when you watch tonight, this is not just a powerful lesson about Michael Jackson, this is a case of anybody who could have been on a jury and what can happen in the jury room. It's incredible.
OLBERMANN: Any of these stories going to get back to the DA? Are any of these jurors in trouble?
COSBY: They are - well, the DA is watching tonight, and Tom Mesereau's also going to be on our show reacting. I'm sure he's going to have some interesting words.
OLBERMANN: A series of stories ahead...
OLBERMANN:... not just the one. Rita, it goes without saying that the full interview with the jurors will be the centerpiece of the premier of "RITA COSBY LIVE & DIRECT," as this expensive graphic illustration shows here.
COSBY: Very nice. It's a very expensive one, huh?
OLBERMANN: Eleanor Cook and Ray Hultman, exclusively with "RITA COSBY LIVE & DIRECT," live and directly here at MSNBC. Thanks, Rita.
COSBY: Thank you so much, Keith.
OLBERMANN: All the best to you.
COSBY: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: An easy segue, then, into our nightly roundup of the celebrity and entertainment news, "Keeping Tabs." A-list gossip magnet, BB gun. A paparazzo who was staking out what he believed to be Britney Spears's baby shower on Saturday was shot in the leg with a BB gun. Brad Diaz (ph) was about 200 feet from a home in Malibu, says the shot came from that direction. It's not clear whether Spears and husband Kevin Federline were there at the time. Diaz was hospitalized but released a few hours later.
The shooting does not even rise to the level of assault with a deadly weapon, according to the LA sheriff's department. But because of the media frenzy, a detective has been assigned to the case, and it will probably be put on the, quote, "front burner." Your entertainment and tax dollars again in action. Call in the puppet theater department tomorrow.
Also, Ms. Spears already wears a tattoo that has been interpreted as having something to do with the Kabala religion, that, of course, the hobby and home project of the Britney Spears from last century, Madonna. And she may have gotten two new converts, soccer star David Beckham and his wife, Victoria, AKA Posh Spice. Beckham has been spotted with a large Hebrew tattoo on his arm, his wife rumored to getting a smaller version on her neck, that according to msnbc.com's Jeannette Walls.
The tattoo means, quote, "I am for my beloved and my beloved is for me, who grazes sheep in roselike pastures," end quote. Roselike pastures. Could be a soccer field. But the tattoos supposedly represent belief in Kabala, and Madonna has reportedly been pursuing the Beckhams for some time. Just don't anybody - or don't anybody of you - or any of you tell Tom Cruise.
You're glib, Madonna. You're glib!
And Rosie O'Donnell is back. Whether she's back where she belongs, you decide. It's Broadway for her again. This time, she will join the cast of "Fiddler on the Roof" on September 20. She will play Golda, the wife of Tevye the milkman, Tevye currently played by Harvey Fierstein. O'Donnell no stranger to Broadway. She was Rizzo in the hit revival of "Grease," and then she produced the $10 million Broadway flop "Taboo," best remembered for the plug that she gave it while on the courthouse steps after the resolution of the lawsuits over her magazine.
Also tonight, several of the colleagues of Peter Jennings have said it already today. Right now, he would want you to stop smoking. To that noble and logical suggestion, I'll add the story of my personal brush with cancer. That's next. This is Countdown.
OLBERMANN: We close where we began tonight, with the death of Peter Jennings. We've already talked about him. Now, in our number one story on the Countdown, we need to talk about you and cancer. The statistics are staggering. By the time this day is over, just in this country, 447 people will have died of lung cancer, 1,562 from all forms of cancer - today.
Nobody did a better job of remembering this part of this sadness that we're trying to forget than Tom Brokaw this morning on the "Today" show.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM BROKAW, FORMER "NBC NIGHTLY NEWS" ANCHOR: To go through this very difficult time seems particularly cruel to me, but I know Peter would want us to say this happens to families in America every day, and we can't forget them, either.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: To that point, the story now of somebody who quite probably should have been in Peter Jennings's shoes, except for dumb, undeserved luck. Me.
So, I thought as I was hunched over, spitting blood into the garbage can in my office half an hour before the newscast, this is it. This is cancer. It gets uglier, I understood that, so ugly that those who have survived it can't even describe how much uglier it gets.
Still, that imagery that I want to have stick in your mind is pretty good. They've just had to cut something out from inside your body because they think it's cancer, and because it doesn't heal up right away, every couple of hours, the coagulation breaks and your mouth fills up with blood, and all of a sudden, hunching over a garbage can spitting it out is the best available option.
I'm not doing some sort of bad taste "What if" on the passing of Peter Jennings. I have had a tumor removed from the roof of my mouth. It was benign. That makes all the difference in the world, of course, except for the part where it doesn't make any difference because I was in that position, spitting globs of myself into a garbage can in Seacaucus, New Jersey, entirely through my own doing, my own fault.
And maybe there is the chance that if the loss of Peter Jennings has not impacted you sufficiently, maybe if you listen to my story, you might get smart enough in a hurry or scared enough in a hurry so that you don't wind up spitting blood into the garbage can and spending five days, like me, thinking you had cancer or having it.
There are some things in life you don't have much control over - terrorism, lightning, even cancer, when it runs in your family or when you just get it. But that's not what this tumor was, the one that for five very long days had me convinced I had cancer. This was from me smoking pipes and cigars for 27 years. And if you work for a company that produces or sells pipes and cigars and you are recoiling defensively and saying, You don't know that, let me quote Robert Novak. Bull. I do, too, know that.
The place where this thing grew on the roof of my mouth was precisely above the spot where the end of the cigar or the tip of the pipe would sit nearly every time I've smoked. I've been smoking, with the first place the smoke connected with my tissue right in this one spot in my mouth, since Jimmy Carter was president. So yes, biologically speaking, smoking caused that tumor on the roof of my mouth. Behaviorally speaking, I caused that tumor, period.
It's not like that thing they cut out of me a week ago last Friday just appeared overnight, either. It was there no later than 1991, and a dentist told me then, Either quit smoking, stupid, or keep an eye this or both because that thing could be pre-cancerous. But no, until my current dentist, Bob Schwartz (ph), said, This thing's changed, go see an oral surgeon, I knew better. Both my grandfathers, I like to say, lived into their 80s. And in the last weeks of their lives, they both walked into town to get a haircut and some cigars. And that would be good enough for me.
Well, maybe that would have been good enough for me, except the point is this. They cut something out of your mouth. It's a benign fibrous tumor. They have to cauterize your mouth with a laser. You wind up spitting blood like Rocky Balboa in front of Burgess Meredith. You spend five days thinking about the radiation and the chemo to come. And by the way, ten days later, your mouth still hurts and it'll probably all be healed in six weeks, and that's if you're lucky, so lucky that you start jumping up and down and singing "Happy Days Are Here Again." Imagine if it were bad news. My oral surgeon, Andre Mark (ph), admits now he feared the worst. And worse still, the last guy to see him before me, the last smoker with a tumor in his mouth - his was lymphoma B, cancer. No unexpected good luck for him.
Maybe if you're still sitting there smoking right now, this will make you think. And even if you sense there's already something wrong, don't wait. Oral cancers are survivable at a rate of 80 to 90 percent. Get your dentist to give you a simple screening. Even lung cancer you can do something about, if you do something about it.
Since that lovely evening I spent hunched over my garbage can, I have changed in a couple of ways, but most notably in this way. When I see somebody smoking, I want to smack the cigarette or the cigar or the pipe out of their mouth. And then I want to smack them. I understand about the addiction and how they hook you and all of that. I'm a smoker, remember?
But consider something I had to consider last week. It would be terrible enough to have cancer, but on top of it, you'd have cancer and you'd have to stop smoking at the same time. Guess what? It's easier to stop smoking when you do not have cancer. Ever thought of that before?
Anyway, we are all sad about Peter Jennings. Me, I feel sad and guilty. But if his death has saddened you and you smoke and you want to do something about it, something for him, stop smoking. Or get somebody else to stop smoking. Break the pipe or throw away the chaw or flush the butts or leave the cigar in the cigar store. Buy the gum, buy the patch, get them to tie your arms behind your back until you stop smoking. Do whatever you have to do to stop smoking. Now. While it's easier. So you don't have to stop smoking while you have cancer. Or while you are sitting there spitting into a garbage can, praying that you do not.
That's Countdown. Please stay tuned next for the premiere of "RITA COSBY LIVE AND DIRECT" here on MSNBC. I'm Keith Olbermann. Keep your knees loose. Good night, and good luck.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END