'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Sept. 8
Guests: Tom Nicoletti, Thomas McClarty, Cyrus Nowrasteh, David Cunningham, Judd Legum, Paul Tompkins
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories we be talking about tomorrow?
Hollywood trade publications report ABC may cancel its 9/11 docudrama, slammed as a smear against the Clinton administration and against history. Now, ABC's own terrorism expert says it shouldn't run. One of its stars says it shouldn't run as is. Former Reagan cabinet member Bill Bennett says, "There is no reason to falsify the record." Another conservative commentator reverses course, now says at least one crucial scene is based on Internet myths.
And the current president has asked for TV time right in the middle of part two of the ABC show.
Are the producers and writers really carrying water for a political point of view, or is this just artistic license run amok?
A Countdown exclusive tonight with Tom Nicoletti, former FBI agent, consultant to the film, who quit when he saw what they were doing, his first interview.
The last word on those who still say there was a link between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. They are lying. No connection, none, reports the Senate Intelligence Committee today.
To boldly go where no other series canceled after just three seasons has gone before, "Star Trek," two captains, 10 movies, exactly 40 years later, it premiered four decades ago tonight, and then we canceled.
First it was Paris Hilton and In-N-Out, now it's Lindsay Lohan just out, out a million dollars' worth of jewelry after her purse was stolen. Hmm. Isn't Hilton Lohan's mortal enemy?
All that and more, now on Countdown.
Good evening from New York. This is Friday, September 8, 60 days until the 2006 midterm elections, three days until the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, and two days until part one of the ABC docudrama "The Path to 9/11" premieres, probably.
President Clinton wants it pulled, and it now appears that President Bush might fulfill his wish. He decided today to address the nation on September 11. He wants all the networks to carry his speech live at 9:00 Eastern, which will be right smack in the middle of the second part of "The Path to 9/11," but in our fifth story on the Countdown, even before the presidential prime-time address announcement, "Variety" magazine reporting that ABC was already thinking about pulling the plug on the docudrama because of all the criticism, criticism which is now even coming from the conservatives, former Reagan and Bush 41 cabinet member Bill Bennett asking that ABC correct the inaccuracies, pointing out that, quote, "I think there were problems in the Clinton administration, but that's no reason to falsify the record, falsify conversations by either the president or his leading people."
And conservative author Richard Miniter actually reversed his position. Three days ago, he was on this network perpetuating the inaccuracy that Clinton ignored over a dozen opportunities to get bin Laden, quote, "They had 13 different shots, including a February 1996 offer by Sudan." Then even he pulled a 180, saying, quote, "We just never had eyes on bin Laden in the pre-9/11 situation," calling the docudrama scene showing agents on the verge of catching him, quote, "Internet myth."
But despite such fact-checking, and despite the fact that ABC's own terrorism expert, Richard Clarke, who's featured in the docudrama, says it is inaccurate, certain members of the media still repeating the factual inaccuracies. Case in point, Alessandra Stanley in "The New York Times," who writes, "The September 11 commission concluded that the sex scandal distracted the Clinton administration from the terrorist threat."
Wrong. As often happens, Ms. Stanley is doing her research in an alternate dimension. Here is, verbatim, what the 9/11 commission concluded about the impact of the Lewinsky scandal on President Clinton's national security decisions after he was criticized for ordering missile strikes in the Sudan and Afghanistan.
Quote, "Everyone involved in the decision had of course, been aware of President Clinton's problems" with the Lewinsky scandal. "He told them to ignore them." Former national security adviser Sandy "Berger recalled the president saying to him 'that they were going to get crap either way, so they should do the right thing.' All his aides testified to us that they based their advice solely on national security considerations. We have found no reasons to question their statements."
Even the star of the ABC docudrama, Harvey Keitel, had doubts about the material, which was sold to him as a historical piece, telling the TV show "Showbiz Tonight" that he thinks the mistakes need to be corrected.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "SHOWBIZ TONIGHT," CNN)
HARVEY KEITEL: Yes, I had questions about certain events and the material I was given in "The Path to 9/11" that I did raise questions about. Yes, I had some conflicts there. When I received the script, it said "ABC History Project." I took it to be exactly what they presented to me, history, and that facts were correct.
It turned out not all the facts were correct. Where we have distorted something, we've made a mistake, and that should be corrected. It can be corrected. It can be corrected by the people getting involved in the story that they're going to see.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Tom Nicoletti, a former FBI agent who was hired as a consultant for this docudrama, also saw problems with the project, though, unlike Harvey Keitel, he actually chose to quit.
He joins us tonight for his first interview on the topic.
Thank you for it, sir. We appreciate your time.
TOM NICOLETTI: Evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: How did you get involved with this project to begin with?
NICOLETTI: Keith, I was actually the second choice. A retired agent, who is arguably the most expert regarding presentations made in this film, reviewed the script, and declined to participate, and informed ABC immediately prior to the date of production. And another request went out to the Association of Former FBI Agents, and based upon my background and the fact that I'd worked on a couple of movies before, I was asked if I was available to participate in this project.
OLBERMANN: And then left after three weeks. Was there a specific reason that you resigned? Was there a specific scene? What happened?
NICOLETTI: Well, Keith, I was hired as a technical adviser/consultant to ensure the actions of the FBI were portrayed in an accurate manner, and to review the script for accuracy. When I was given one of only five copies of the complete script and spent two days doing that, I annotated all the problems that I was aware of regarding the context of this production, and I presented it to the producer.
And there were several major scenes that I advised him unless they were corrected, I could not lend my name to it and would be leaving shortly.
OLBERMANN: And they didn't correct them, even though you had documentation of what it was that concerned you?
NICOLETTI: Some were corrected, and some were not. The director, Mr. Cunningham, in several scenes did try to get them accurate. But it's my personal opinion, it was improper research done on this project, and the fault lies with the writer.
OLBERMANN: Your concern about the accuracy of this film, is your concern political? Are you defending the Clinton administration? Where is your stance on this in terms of that political football that this has become?
NICOLETTI: No, I am totally apolitical. I think Mr. Clinton and Mr. Berger are quite capable of defending themselves. But there is accurate - inaccuracies in the portrayal of John O'Neill, who is not here to defend himself. And one of the major scenes was entirely incorrect regarding Mr. O'Neill and I insisted that be changed.
OLBERMANN: What you think should be done at this point, with this thing supposedly going on on Sunday? Should they pull it outright? Should they delay it? Should they do what they did with that - with the Reagan film from three years ago and move it to cable? What should happen at this point, at this late hour?
NICOLETTI: Keith, based upon what I observed, I think the film should be reshot and a lot of it corrected. I know ABC put a lot into this production. I know Mr. Cunningham was very proud of the work he did. But I think he was unaware of a lot of the factual inaccuracies. He worked with the script he was given, and although he was aware of the problems I had, I don't know if he was aware of all the other government officials who had concerns.
OLBERMANN: After you left, did they bring anybody else in to make sure that what they had was factual or nearly such? Do you know that?
NICOLETTI: Well, I had - I spoke on two occasions to the writer, and there was no inclination to change some of the scenes. So I gave them seven days' notice that I'd be leaving, and they needed to get somebody else. They did get another consultant to replace me. I am unaware who it was.
OLBERMANN: Tom Nicoletti, a former FBI agent and also, as you heard, a former consultant to "The Path to 9/11."
Mr. Nicoletti, great thanks for some of your time tonight.
NICOLETTI: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Turning from the general inaccuracies to the political ones, I'm joined now by President Clinton's former chief of staff, Thomas "Mack" McClarty.
Thank you for your time tonight, sir.
THOMAS "MACK" MCCLARTY, FORMER CLINTON CHIEF OF STAFF: Keith, delighted to be with you.
OLBERMANN: Given what Mr. Nicoletti just revealed, it seems exceptional that the docudrama got this far along without somebody saying, Hey, this script is just full of holes. ABC is reportedly still tweaking it, changing it, debating about whether or not they should run it at all. Given the flaws in the historical timeline, and the other elements in the script, should they just pull it entirely?
MCCLARTY: I think they certainly should consider that. Exceptional is one way to put it. I think very disappointing is another way to put it.
This is about, really, such a serious matter in terms of 9/11, and it requires a kind of care and accuracy, particularly of this kind of six-hour, five- or six-hour miniseries. So I think clearly they need to pause, reflect, rethink their position, and perhaps pull the program.
OLBERMANN: President Clinton's spokesperson today called the allegations that he had been too distracted by the Lewinsky scandal to pay attention to Osama bin Laden, quote, "indisputably wrong." And yet you have "The New York Times" reviewer repeating that misinformation, evidently from the docudrama, rather than from the "9/11 Commission Report," since we know what the "9/11 Commission Report" says.
How do you begin to counter that kind of misconception, when it's being perpetrated by those who really should know how to do some research? And if that kind of mistake could get past people with research training, will it get past the average audience member who's watching the show?
MCCLARTY: I certainly hope not, and I think the fact that this is being discussed so broadly will certainly help that. The fact that the Scholastic group pulled the miniseries from their efforts is just another example of that.
But I think, Keith, it is easy for allegations to become fact. And I think that's why it is so critical that we take into full account people like Mr. Nicoletti, others, and we've had conservative voices speak out about this in a fairly large number that have said, This is just simply not right to proceed forward with this kind of distortion.
OLBERMANN: Disney's chairman is the former respected Democratic senator George Mitchell. How is this happening under his watch, especially given the fact that his predecessor, Mr. Eisner, had said about controversial political issues, like distributing Mr. Moore's film, "Fahrenheit 9/11," that they couldn't do it, his company had to stay neutral at all costs?
MCCLARTY: I have enormous respect for Senator Mitchell, and had the opportunity and privilege to work with him when I served in the White House. And, of course, I've been a director on a number of public boards, and I can't speak to what has been discussed in the boardroom. And that's really where it should stay.
But I think Senator Mitchell is a very thoughtful person. He's certainly person of great standing. And I would hope he would express his opinions about this, not only because of his time in public service and his great respect there, but also just from a network standpoint. I really think this is a mistake.
OLBERMANN: Do you think, ultimately, there is a true political agenda behind this? Or is this people at ABC or at Disney not being as good at their jobs as perhaps they should be under the circumstances?
MCCLARTY: Well, I can't, you know, speak to that with real accuracy in terms of the motivations. I think probably, my guess would be that some people just got carried away from a corporate standpoint, thinking this was a timely effort that would have a great interest in it. And I think Mr. Nicoletti said it right, they clearly put a lot of money and effort into this.
I do think that you clearly have an effort to have political points by some of the people involved with this miniseries. I don't think there's any question about that. I think the relationship with Rush Limbaugh and so forth really speaks to that. And I think that's what we have here, in terms of the script.
And I think when you look at the 9/11 report, and you compare it, when you talk to people like Richard Clarke and others, you see just direct, Keith, inaccuracies, misstatements, and distortions. And that's just simply not right.
OLBERMANN: Mack McClarty, former chief of staff to President Clinton.
Great thanks for talking with us tonight.
MCCLARTY: Keith, thank you very much.
OLBERMANN: With all the uproar and the problems with "The Path to 9/11," we'll take a look now at the men behind the project to see what we can learn about the motivations and agendas that went into altering history.
And another fabrication, except this one is not Hollywood make-believe. The Senate Intelligence Committee declassifies its report on Iraq intel and finds the White House ignored evidence that there was no link at any point between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda.
You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: We discussed how a movie meant to warn us about missing the warning signs was apparently made by people who missed the warning signs about their own movie.
Our fourth story on the Countdown tonight, those people. They are writer Cyrus Nowrasteh, on the left, and director David L. Cunningham on the right.
Yesterday in "The New York Times," Mr. Nowrasteh ascribed the movie's falsehoods to the innocent exigencies of filmmaking. Specifically, he said, "A lot of things happen on set that are unscripted. Accidents occur, spontaneous reactions of actors performing a role take place." But in a promotional interview before the controversy, Nowrasteh said he was trying to portray higher-ups in the Clinton administration as not taking terrorism seriously and not doing all they could to stop it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CYRUS NOWRASTEH, WRITER, "THE PATH TO 9/11": What I wanted to focus upon was the handful of people, an FBI agent, someone in the State Department involved with counterterrorism, a CIA agent, a reporter, focus on these real people who were ahead of the game, who felt the towers may be hit again, who were on top of bin Laden and al Qaeda very early on in the game, who were warning their superiors, who were telling people about what was going to happen, and sort of feel their frustration over, you know, actions not being taken.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Judd Legum is the editor of ThinkProgress.org, which has led the way in investigating "The Path to 9/11," also research director for the Center for American Progress.
Mr. Legum, thank you for your time tonight.
JUDD LEGUM, THINKPROGRESS.ORG: Thanks for having me.
OLBERMANN: Is there any hard evidence that Mr. Nowrasteh is interested in advancing a political agenda in the movies, or in this movie?
LEGUM: Well, I think there is, both because he admits that he's a conservative, he says he's more of a libertarian than a strict conservative, but a conservative nonetheless, and he has appeared at places like the Liberty Film Festival on panels about how conservatives can retake Hollywood. So I think this is something that he's been fairly open about, at least before this latest controversy took shape.
OLBERMANN: There's a second element to the controversy. ABC denied that the movie had any connection with a Christian group called Youth with a Mission, they call themselves WYWAM. But less than an hour ago, one of our producers interviewed a spokesman for an organization called The Film Institute, an auxiliary of WYWAM, and The Film Institute confirmed that David Cunningham, the director of this film, is on their board, that TFI had a dozen interns and an adviser on the set.
The spokesman denied that TFI either funded or initiated the film "The Path to 9/11," but it confirmed that part of the mission of TFI is to have a positive influence on Hollywood movies. Does the director being on TFI's board change this story at all?
LEGUM: Well, I think it does, because this has all the markings of TFI's project. They had a project, they sent out a newsletter to their members saying, Our first project's called The Untitled History project. And then that's how this project was referred to under development. It was reported in "The New York Post," this is the Untitled History project. Harvey Keitel on TV the other day referred to it as "The ABC History Project." That's how it was presented to him.
So basically, this is started in what really is an evangelical advocacy group, and now has made its way to ABC Entertainment.
OLBERMANN: Mr. Nowrasteh spoke at this seminar for conservatives to get their views into the movies, you mentioned that. Mr. Cunningham's group is, by its own admission, explicitly out to remake Hollywood in its own - their own image. Between the writer and the director and their own special interests, is - can you characterize "Path to 9/11" as, as, as a stealth attack in the culture wars?
LEGUM: Well, I think that's right. You know, you might want to - you could probably give them the benefit of the doubt before you saw the film. I've had a chance to look at it. And it's very clear that there is a political agenda here. They say it's based on "9/11 Commission Report. Most of the stuff in there directly contradicts the "9/11 Commission Report," or at least the key scenes.
So it has all the markings of a group of people with an agenda, and now that with this history sort of unravels, it becomes clearer and clearer.
OLBERMANN: Judd Legum with ThinkProgress.org, great thanks for your time tonight, and good work on this.
LEGUM: Thanks a lot, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Despite repeated claims by the Bush administration that there was some sort of connection between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, today the Senate Intelligence Committee released its classified findings that nothing could have been further from the truth.
And from the lies to the pies, that's not just a pizza, that's record-breaking pizza.
Countdown, we deliver.
OLBERMANN: Would you go back in time to September 8, 1858, 148 years ago today, to witness one of the Lincoln-Douglas debates at Clinton, Illinois, the one during which Abraham Lincoln delivered his remarkable warning to his opponent and to all generations to come, "Justice Douglas cannot fool the people. You may fool people for a time, you can fool a part of the people all the time, but you can't fool all the people all the time."
Problem is, nobody reported or mentioned Lincoln saying that until 1904. There's no record of it. In fact, the Abraham Lincoln Association concluded three years ago that Lincoln never said it. Which proves, I guess, that you can fool all the people all the time.
Let's play Oddball.
And we begin in Moscow, coincidentally, a city Abraham Lincoln never visited. But maybe if they'd had a big pizza like this one in the 1860s, Mr. Stovepipe Hat would have gotten himself on a plane.
They're saying it's the world's most original pizza, 238-square-foot decorated as an exact map of the Russian capital city, roads, rivers, buildings represented, little broccolis for the trees, a tiny little stuffed Lenin. And is that sausage gulag? Ahh.
After measuring the pie, it was carved up and eaten, because Guinness specifies it must be edible to qualify for the record. Yes, yes, I'd like a piece that hasn't been walked on. Thank you.
Hastings, Nebraska. This is crazy, this is crazy, this is crazy. It's doggie day at an area water park. Since the summer is over and they're going to drain the pool anyway, management figured, why not let man's best friend paddle around in a summer's worth of bacteria? Before they pulled the plug, about 30 pooches took the plunge. They paid - played fetch, they careened down water slides, and showed off an Esther Williams synchronized swimming routine that evidently we don't have tape of.
The vice president kept saying it, keeps saying it, that Iraq was connected to al Qaeda before the war. The Senate Intelligence Committee now says Saddam not only did not have a connection to al Qaeda, he hated Islamic extremists. What does all this mean for the Bush White House?
What happened to Lindsay Lohan's jewel-filled handbag? Was it stolen? Has Paris Hilton branched out from drunk driving? The hijinks at Heathrow have a happy ending.
But time now for Countdown's top three newsmakers of this day.
Number three, Katie Couric, the Thursday ratings are in. She lost another 6.5 percent from Wednesday's audience, 30 percent since her debut on CBS on Tuesday. Also, tonight's newscast opened with her with her saying, "You are looking at one dangerous man." Unfortunately, they were still showing a picture of Ms. Couric at the time.
Number two, head coach Brian Billick of the NFL Baltimore Ravens, who wants you Ravens fans to spy on his players. Before Sunday's season-opener in Tampa, Billick says, they got to get a lot of rest and no alcohol. That last one, I need help. If anybody sees any of my players having a beer between now and Saturday, I want to hear about it.
Number one, four prisoners inside El Salvador's maximum security prison at Zacatecoluca. They were discovered inside Zacatecoluca hiding cell phones, with which they directed criminal activity on the outside. Where does one hide a cell phone in a maximum security prison? On the inside, inside a popular body cavity, wrapped in plastic, along with spare phone chips and a battery charger.
Can you hear me now?
OLBERMANN: The proverbial breaking news at the New York Pennsylvania border tonight, just a day after he was placed on the FBI's top-10 list of American's most wanted, Ralph "Bucky" Phillips is in custody tonight. He escaped from a Buffalo Jail-area back in April using a can opener.
Since then he had been on the run throughout New York and Pennsylvania, stealing and relying on friends to help him escape a huge manhunt, suspected of killing a state trooper, wounding two others since his escape, but this morning after two car chases, police and troopers finally surrounded him in a cornfield in Carol, New York.
After an all-day standoff, and an exchange of gunfire, he finally walked out of the cornfield, hands held high, and turned himself into police this evening.
Our third story on the Countdown may be an unfortunate reflection of how far we have moved from being a fact-based society. On a day when the nation's biggest debate was about a TV movie's fictional depiction of unreality, the real Senate Intelligence Committee issued a factual report about the deception that lead many Americans to support a war that has now cost us more lives than did 9/11 itself.
Senior investigative correspondent, Lisa Myers tells us what is new and what should not, but still might come as a surprise to anyone - Lisa.
LISA MYERS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Keith, the Senate report finds that that the Bush administration repeatedly regarded warnings that key intelligence might be wrong, even a warning that information have been fabricated.
(voice-over): The Bush administration repeatedly claimed there were ties between Saddam Hussein's and al Qaeda.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We've learned that Iraq has trained al Qaeda members in bomb making and poisons and deadly gases.
DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Al Qaeda sent personnel to Baghdad to get trained on the systems and involved the Iraqis providing bomb making expertise and advice to the al Qaeda organization.
MYERS: But this report finds that none of that is true. It says there was one meeting between Saddam's regime and al Qaeda in 1995 and other contacts, but no formal relationship. In fact, the report says Saddam actually rebuffed efforts by Osama bin Laden to forge a relationship, "Saddam Hussein was distrustful of al Qaeda and viewed Islamic extremists as a threat to his regime."
RICK FRANCONA, NBC NEWS ANALYST: The most damning part of this report is the lack of relationship between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein and the willingness of the administration to believe that there was in the absence of any intelligence saying that it existed.
MYERS: Some of the flawed intelligence is blamed on Iraqi, Ahmed Chalabi and his Iraq National Congress, which the U.S. was paying $300,000 a month before the war.
In scathing language, the report says "The INC deliberately attempted to influence U.S. policy on Iraq by providing false information through defectors."
Five defectors were provided by the INC, all their stories were apparently false or uncorroborated. In one case, the Bush administration continued to rely on a defector's account even after he was labeled a fabricator by the intelligence committee.
Nevertheless, the U.S. airlifted Chalabi into Iraq after Saddam was toppled.
(on camera): The White House dismissed the report as nothing new. And a key Senate Republican called it "little more than a vehicle to in advance election year political charges" - Keith.
OLBERMANN: Lisa Myers in Washington, great thanks.
Dana Milbank is an MSNBC political analyst as well, of course, national political reporter for the "Washington Post."
Good evening, Dana.
DANA MILBANK, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: You're not an intelligence reporter, you're a political reporter, and politics and intelligence, as we've seen for centuries are unrelated, but this report, a bipartisan document a conclusion that all, for instance, that Dick Cheney said and other implied was not true, does it change the political landscape at all?
MILBANK: For a minute, I thought you said I wasn't an intelligent reporter.
OLBERMANN: No, no, no, no, no.
MILBANK: It is potentially explosive. No, that's not to say it will not be overshadowed by other events like "Bucky" being captured or whatever Gitmo or whatever else is of the moment before the election. But what we have here is a bipartisan group of senators, the Senate Intelligence Committee, saying that Bush, in effect, did not tell the truth.
He had one set of information, he said something else. And this is the first time a bipartisan group has said that. No coincidence that this came out on a Friday, Chairman Roberts very eager to bury it, only came out at all because two Republicans, Olympia Snowe and Chuck Hagel forced it out by joining the Democrats. So, it is potentially explosive.
OLBERMANN: Perhaps for the sake of consensus, the Senate Committee has so far focused on intelligence failures. At what point do we get an assessment of whether or not our political leaders misused, cherry picked, inflated, conflated the intelligence that they had?
MILBANK: Well, if you read between the lines, we have it here already. Now, of course they're going to haggle over that. But let me read you something that Olympia Snowe said today in a statement which I think goes quite a bit further. She said, "Policy-makers seemingly discounted or dismissed warnings about the veracity of critical intelligence reports that may have served as a basis for going to war."
Now, that's pretty tough stuff. There she's saying that we - it appears that we went to war under a false pretense.
OLBERMANN: We were lied to about this. That's the simplest way to put this.
The administration has been out with this talking point response, essentially it is: we never said Saddam Hussein ordered the attacks 9/11, but nobody had said that that's what they had said. It's the connection that was implied over and over again which we now know to have never been true, is that the final finding of this committee today?
MILBANK: Oh, it is very clear, in fact, not only was Zarqawi not linked to Hussein, but it turns out Hussein was trying to capture Zarqawi, yet President Bush, as recently as two weeks ago was suggesting a link between the two.
Much of what the administration did implied a link, but it went pretty close when Vice President Cheney said that Iraq was the "geographic base of the people who attack us on 9/11." That's pretty much saying that Iraq was behind the September 11 attack. So, it - they - it really went a long way towards making that point in this, again, in a bipartisan way, completely undercuts that.
OLBERMANN: What happens now? What do the Democrats do with this, even if it came out on Friday afternoon? Are they back at it on Monday morning with this?
MILBANK: Oh, they're going to keep shouting and yelling. I mean, in a way, the timing is good for them because Monday is the fifth anniversary of September 11. This, once again, allows them to remind people, wait a second, we're in Iraq for something that has - something other than to do with the September 11 attacks.
OLBERMANN: Dana Milbank of MSNBC and the "Washington Post," and an intelligent reporter from start to last. Great thanks, have a great weekend.
MILBANK: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: You know what today as? These people know what today is:
40 years ago tonight, America boldly went where no man had gone before.
"Star Trek" fans have kept customs stores in business ever since.
Fist Paris Hilton celebrates her arrest by hitting Hollywood with a new look. Is she really trying to go incognito? Details ahead when Countdown continues.
OLBERMANN: "Star Trek" turns 40, Paris Hilton tries to turn over a new leaf after an arrest, Lindsay Lohan's jewels turn up, you won't believe who the president has turned to for a special committee. That's next this is Countdown.
OLBERMANN: "I am interested in man's march into the unknown," the recipient of the invitation said, "but to vomit in space is not my idea of a good time, neither it is a fiery crash with the vomit hovering over me." The invitation was to board Richard Branson's first suborbital space passenger flight in 2008. The man who declined is William Shatner, "Captain Kirk" from "Star Trek."
Our number two story on the Countdown, with a minute, you're seeing "Captain Kirk" on "Star Trek" was not real? That is an actor? I've never seen any evidence that that man's an actor.
"Star Trek" debuted exactly 40 years ago tonight on NBC. Few entertainment franchises have ever gone so far, literally or artistically after such a slow start. Our commemoration is conducted for us by Kerry Sanders.
CAPTAIN JAMES T. KIRK, "STAR TREK": These are the voyages of the starship enterprise.
KERRY SANDERS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Who could have guessed, 40 years and the "Star Trek" franchise is still moving at warp speed. The series of first beamed into our homes on NBC.
ANNOUNCER: On NBC.
SANDERS (voice-over): Television executives canceled the show only three years into its five-year mission.
SPOCK, "STAR TREK": He's dead.
SANDERS: But killing "Star Trek" would not be so easy.
SANDERS (on camera): Is it fun to think 40 years?
WILLIAM SHATNER, ACTOR: Yeah, it is. The pinch-me moment is the passage of time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: May you's live long and prosper.
SANDERS (voice-over): Fans were and are unlike any other in TV history.
SHATNER: The surprise of the "Star Trek" audience is always that they're still there.
KIRK: Transporter room, energize.
SANDERS: He, of course, played James T. Kirk.
KIRK: Yes, we're aware of that.
SANDERS: Captain of the "Starship Enterprise."
KIRK: Reduce to sub-warp speed.
KIRK: What's your theory?
SANDERS: .and always the ladies' man.
SHATNER: "Star Trek" has a formula, a magic formula, exactly what it is, exactly what the proportions are, nobody knows.
NYOTA UHURA, "STAR TREK": Something is coming in on the star fleet channel.
SANDERS: Why does a 40-year-old shows to work today? Cast members say it is the stories.
LEONARD NIMOY, ACTOR: Because the show was not heavily budgeted and was not heavily dependent on special effects, I think it had an enduring quality.
SANDERS: Like the furry Tribbles that multiplied and multiplied on one of the most beloved episodes.
KIRK: And get these Tribbles off the bridge.
SANDERS: Those 79 original episodes gave birth to four more "Star Trek" TV series, 10 feature films, hundreds of novels, even parody. The fan base is today as supercharged as the dilithium crystals.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dilithium crystals just won't hold anymore.
SANDERS: .that powered the warp drive on the "Starship Enterprise."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are the Borg.
SANDERS: But is more than just dress up.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's certainly a worldwide phenomenon, it has a huge fan base.
SANDERS: Next month, the upper crust auction house, Christie's, will sell to the highest bidder memorabilia from those early shows.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have lots of incarnations of the "Phaser."
SANDERS (on camera): As your character might say, is it logical?
NIMOY: You know, it's really is not to me. I don't quit understand why they're doing that.
SPOCK: I'm sure there's an answer.
SANDERS (voice-over): Maybe it's because they're expected to take in more than $3 million.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's right.
KIRK: Screen on.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Screen on, sir.
SANDERS (on camera): Star date 2006, four decades later, and thanks to cable, still boldly going where no man has gone before.
SHATNER: You are now going to disappear. Energize.
OLBERMANN: Oh, where do we go next but rather to our nightly roundup of celebrity and entertainment news, "Keeping Tabs."
And within 24 hours of her arrest for having been caught driving under the influence, Paris Hilton was out and about again, though conspicuously wearing a black wig. Here's Miss Hilton under arrest about 12:30 Thursday morning, that's a screen saver if ever I saw one - and she had a failed sobriety test after police pulled her over in Hollywood for driving erratically. She says she was hungry for a burger from "In-N-Out."
And here is Ms. Hilton on Thursday night. According to TMZ.com, she had been scheduled to appear at a release party for her new movie called "Bottom's Up." "In-N-Out," "Bottom's Up" coincidence? I think not.
Hilton said the wig was, "Just for fun." You heard it, "Just for fun." Her publicist, Elliot Mintz acted as chauffeur, by the way. Asked how Hilton was treated in jail he replied, "Just wonderfully." And that before the whole black wig fantasy thing, too.
But the best of the tabloidian fare tonight, Lindsay Lohan loses her handbag at Heathrow Airport, not uncommon for Heathrow travelers these days, except she had $1 million worth of jewels in it. That's planning.
First, time for Countdown's latest list of nominees for "Worst Person in the World."
OK, enough with the cute sales pitches. Buy the book. Thank you.
Nominated at the Bronze level, Joe Gorzinski (ph) of Ludington, Michigan. Three different fire departments tried to save it, but Mr. Gorzinski apparently managed to burn down his own garage and his oven, his fishing equipment, his collection of mounted animal heads, and the siding on his neighbors' house. How? He tried to roast a bear in a turkey fryer.
That Silver tonight, an unnamed driver in the Slovak town of Lavich (ph), he crashed into a bus at an intersection, he was the only one injured. Police found him unconscious with head injuries, his pants off, and a pump on his penis. They say he caused the accident by ignoring a right-of-way sign, or as they call them there, a give-way sign. No truth to reports, that the driver told authorities, "But I was giving way."
But the winner, in a related topic, Bozo the Clown. Right-wing hysteric, Brent Bozell weighing in in his usual light weight manner on the controversy over the "Path to 9/11" movie, he writes, "As a docudrama, it has taken certain poetic license with history." Three years ago in the middle of the controversy over the CBS docudrama about Ronald Reagan, Mr. Bozell said, "There is no such thing as creative license to invent falsehood about people. I do not care who you are, you don't have that right."
Hey Brent, when you look in the mirror, how many faces do you see?
The rest of us count at least two.
Brent Bozell, today's "Worst Person in the World."
OLBERMANN: First images from Carol, New York and the arrest tonight of a Ralph "Bucky" Phillips in custody, there, having turned himself in to police off of the America's most wanted top-10 list from the FBI, suspected of killing a state trooper and wounding two others since his escape from a Buffalo-area jail in April. And that was him in the backseat. The first videotape of the arrest, tonight of "Bucky" Phillips.
The paparazzi may have gone from zero to hero after one of their kind put video footage to good use helping London police recovered the missing handbag of Lindsay Lohan.
Our number one story on the Countdown, its contents reportedly totaling about $1 million. The handbag contained Lohan's asthma medication and a quantity of jewelry, we're assuming that was the value added. The actress was exiting London's Heathrow Airport when she realized the orange Hermes bag was missing from her luggage cart.
Tears were shed but today British police report they've recovered the bag and by that we do not mean Lohan's mom. Lohan's attorney now says in a statement that it was because paparazzi showed hours of videotape to the London Metropolitan Police that helped to catch the thief and return her belongings with nothing missing.
The statement also says that, "Lindsay wants to say a massive thank you today to Mr. Paparazzi, Darryn Lyons... She feels that maybe justice has been served, and karma may have played a role given that the paparazzi are usually a pest to her, and today they have bee a Godsend."
Also on the subject of carrying a little extra baggage, there's Brittany Spears, the birth of bundle of joy No. 2 may be imminent. "Us Weekly" magazine reporting that La Spears was scheduled to have a caesarian section today at the UCLA Santa Monica Medical Center in California. Spear's first child with Kevin Federline, born at that same place, also by c-section, a year ago this month. But K-Fed told reporters last month that their second child wasn't due until October 31. May just be a math problem there.
Bets on the gender of the child are heavily in favor of a girl, since Spears reportedly put girly items on the gift list for her baby shower.
But will it be massive?
And what's the best career trajectory for "American Idol" has-been?
Joining the administration of the current president of the United States? Sounds pretty good. All right, Clay Aiken hasn't exactly joined the administration, but the "Idol" runner-up from season two is expected to be named to the President's Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities. Mr. Aiken was said to be thrilled and added he would just love to help out Mr. Bush with his homework. No, he didn't say that, but the first part was true.
Joining me now, comedian Paul F. Tompkins, contributor to VH-1's "Best Week Ever" for whom this is his daily meat.
Good evening, Paul.
PAUL F. TOMPKINS, VH-1 "BEST WEEK EVER": Good evening to you, Keith.
Nice to see you again.
OLBERMANN: A million dollars in jewels in a handbag that she leaves on a luggage cart. Lindsay Lohan, worst packer ever?
TOMPKINS: Well, it's not entirely her fault because in these uncertain times, it may seem that diamonds by themselves are fine, but if you mix diamonds with poor people on an aircraft, there could be a riot, so safety first.
OLBERMANN: The bag disappeared from the luggage, supposedly from the luggage cart. And then, according to her lawyer, this paparazzo, Darryn Lyons, and the Metropolitan Police and the crime squad at Heathrow, spent hours trying to get the bag back. Is this the kind of police manpower that a regular citizen passing through London can expect or is it something special just for her?
TOMPKINS: Well see, only a country that still has a monarchy really understands jewels. You know what I mean? Like they put a value on that kind of thing and I can only hope that the rapscallion, who absconded with that bag, is put into the stock's or at least soundly thrashed.
OLBERMANN: I'm not sure, have they officially categorized him as a rapscallion? I heard they were going for scalawag. Is it possible he's both?
TOMPKINS: I think he has been updated to scoundrel and then it's just a matter of time from there.
OLBERMANN: All right, back to the lawyer statement. There was a
backhanded compliment where she described the paparazzi as "pests." Then
there's also this, "Lindsay feels the tables have turned and for once the
paparazzi have finally been of help to her today. She offered a huge thank
you to Darryn Lyons, posed for a picture with him after the safe return of
her belongings and then added 'I love his hair!'"
Could there be a greater watershed moment between Lohan and the paparazzi than this one we've just heard described?
TOMPKINS: You have to understand, here in Hollywood, this is like our Israel and Lebanon. You know what I mean, like we never thought we'd see this day that Lindsay and the paparazzi would be posing for pictures together? You know? And we didn't need any sort of Jimmy Carter to help us out, just needed some guy stealing a bag at Heathrow.
OLBERMANN: Perhaps it was prearranged. Perhaps it was even predestined. But let's switch over to Britney Spears. Is it today? Is it soon? Is it any truth to the rumor that they've already picked up the name and it's Jaylynn or something?
TOMPKINS: Yes, Jaylynn, it's a combination of her mother's name, her sister's name, and a limited imagination.
OLBERMANN: And hyphen from K-Fed, no doubt. But do we know.
Yeah, why not?
I mean, is there a birth today or where are we?
TOMPKINS: Well, that remains to be seen. It could be that the baby has been born, but as the first baby born embarrassed, so it might be a while before we actually do get to see this baby. I don't want to say it's going to be as long as it took to see pictures of Suri, but that's one embarrassed baby.
This will bring, whenever it happens, or if it's already happened, the grand total K-Fed babies, including his other children, to what? I mean, do we have an estimate on that? I mean, is he finished now? Is he going to get tied off or what?
TOMPKINS: Well, Kevin Federline is the father of four children that I know of. Honestly, it is ever four children. That's - well, even the projected number of potential children is still in the single digits, so he's still got a ways to go, I think. And he's got a lot - he's sort of a Johnny Appleseed, if you will, of trailer culture.
And we could not let you go without touching on this other Clay Aiken story. Truly, the proverbial enigma wrapped in a riddle. How - is this what you get when you finish second in the voting for "American Idol" or how did he get on the presidential short list?
TOMPKINS: I do not know if it was alphabetical order or - I do not understand this at all. I just feel bad for the president because he clearly doesn't know that he is gay. And I mean, that's going to wreck him when he finds that out. I don't think he's ever seen a picture of the guy, I don't think he has ever heard him sing.
Comedian Paul F. Tompkins of VH-1's "Best Week Ever," forecasting next week's political lead story. Great thanks for your time, Paul.
TOMPKINS: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: That's Countdown, for this the 1,224th day since the declaration of "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq.
Also this reminder, join us again at Midnight Eastern tonight, 11:00 p.m. Central, 9:00 Pacific for the late edition of Countdown.
Until then, a special presentation of "Lockup: Louisiana:
I'm Keith Olbermann. Keep your knees loose. Goodnight and good luck.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END