'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for
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Guests: Rep. Barney Frank, Matt Taibbi
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
The plot to buy America revealed tonight. U.S. Chamber of Commerce seminars at which Chinese government officials teach American businessmen how to outsource jobs from America.
But the chamber attack ads may be blowing back on the GOP: Sestak up on Toomey by three; Conway over Paul by two; Feingold just two back now of Johnson.
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NARRATOR: You've seen the ads. Millions being spent by right-wing groups to buy an election, all from secret donors.
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OLBERMANN: Our special guest: Congressman Barney Frank.
The chamber of secrets: The newfound connection between the COC and the infamous Koch brothers. Secret meetings next January and last June, including the missing link -
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GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS HOST: I want to thank Charles Koch for this information.
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OLBERMANN: He was at the June meeting, with the Kochs, with the chamber, with Bechtel, with Anschutz, with Scalia, with Thomas.
The black battalions who fought for the South under Stonewall Jackson in 1863, thousands of African-Americans defending slavery - that's what our guest found in a Virginia public school textbook.
And, leave a message after the bleep? The wife of Clarence Thomas phones Anita Hill asking her for an apology? We get to go through all this again?
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe it seems to me you didn't really intend to kill him, but you might have.
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OLBERMANN: What's next? Dick Cheney demanding another apology from the guy he shot?
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You need to say you're sorry for getting in the way of my gun. Oh, it's Dick, by the way, Dick Cheney. I need my damned bird shot back.
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OLBERMANN: The Countdown Voice Mail Apology Demand Hall of Fame.
All the news and commentary - now on Countdown.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please leave a message.
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OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York. This is Wednesday, October 20th, 13 days until the 2010 midterm elections.
And the question Democrats are raising today is: what exactly do the secret big money bags behind hundreds of millions of dollars worth of attack ads against Democrats want from the Republicans they are trying to help? Most of those Democrats supported bailouts to save the economy, especially after the chamber threatened to punish anyone who voted against the bailouts.
So, why is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce now funneling big bucks to support Tea Party and other Republican candidates campaigning against those bailouts? What do they want that these Democrats will not give them?
In our fifth story tonight: would you believe sending American jobs overseas, how-to symposiums sponsored by the chamber, starring officials of the Chinese government. Outsourcing - just one of the Republican priorities spotlighted in a new national Democratic ad that explains exactly what the secret money behind the chamber and other groups expect from the Republicans they will elect next month.
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NARRATOR: You've seen the ads. Millions being spent by right-wing groups to buy an election, all from secret donors.
What's not a secret is why. Republicans and their corporate buddies want to be back in charge, Wall Street writing its own rules again, big oil and insurance companies calling the shots, more jobs shipped overseas.
Millions in attack ads to put the corporate interests back in charge.
If they're in charge, what happens to you?
Fight back. Visit Democrats.org/SecretMoney.
The Democratic National Committee is responsible for the content of this advertisement.
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OLBERMANN: If there were any doubt that the chamber supports outsourcing, along with Republicans who consistently voted for outsourcing this year, a new revelation from "Think Progress" should end those doubts, because at events like this 2008 gathering, the chamber actively helps American companies outsource their jobs by bringing them together with Chinese officials and companies, American companies, like BChinaB (ph), which specializes in outsourcing.
Nor is that the only way the chamber is pursuing corporate agendas harmful to America's future. Politico.com reports that the chamber is distributing this, quote, "educational guide" to 100,000 classrooms around the country to educate American kids about, quote, "energy," like gasoline represented not by an oil well or oil slick but by this nice, clean drop, telling students, quote, "Oil is the leading energy source for transportation in the United States. Find out more about this vital energy source."
Asking them questions like, "What do you think could happen if one of our energy sources was unavailable - e.g., power plant maintenance, government curb on production, et cetera?" All kids know what e.g. means.
And what about the ads themselves? "The Plum Line Blog" has tracked just how many of these ads paid for by the secret big-money backers behind the chamber, Karl Rove's groups and others, are lies. Not according to "The Plum Line" or this show. Rove's ad claiming Pennsylvania Senate candidate Joe Sestak voted to gut Medicare - a wild exaggeration, according to FactCheck.org.
His ad against Kentucky Senate candidate Jack Conway - misleading says Fact Check.
Two chamber ads against California Senator Barbara Boxer, Fact Check says, strictly speaking, both ads are untrue.
Rove's ad hitting Senate Leader Harry Reid on the stimulus - false says PolitiFact.com.
And here's what Rove and the chamber and their big money backers will not tell you, the bailouts begun by President Bush and continued under stricter terms by President Obama, "Bloomberg News" today reporting that the money that the government put into TARP, the Troubled Asset Relief Program, was actually a good investment. How good? It has made taxpayers $25 billion. That is an 8.2 percent return, better than treasuries, high-yield savings accounts, or money market funds.
"Bloomberg" also reports the stock market also performed better. That it's just possible that that would not be the case without the TARP investment in the first place.
Democrats are not hitting back only on TV. One of them even took it right to the chamber's doorstep. House Energy and Commerce chairman, Henry Waxman, yesterday in a speech at chamber headquarters in Washington, calling them out for their secrecy.
In a summit on Israeli relations, the only example they would offer the world, quote, "Without proper transparency and disclosure, it is hard for the chamber to be a role model for corporate citizenship in America and around the world."
The unanswered question, of course, is: whether voters care. And by "unanswered," I mean, answered clearly and with little room for error.
From the new NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll: do the ads from outside groups make a positive or negative contribution to the election? Positive, 11 percent; negative, 55 percent.
Are Americans concerned that these groups have their own agenda?
Twenty-four percent are not, 70 percent are.
Are Americans concerned that the groups do not disclose who's paying for their ads? Twenty-six percent are not, 72 percent are.
And which party is serving the agenda of the big businesses behind these ads? The poll asks whether each party is more concerned about large corporations or average Americans. Forty-one percent said Democrats care about large corporations, 45 percent said average Americans, 68 percent said Republicans care about large corporations, 22 percent said average Americans.
All things considered, perhaps no surprise, then, that while Republicans still enjoy hefty leads in generic national polls and in polls gauging which party is more fired up to vote next month, in specific and individual races, some Democrats, notably some Democrats targeted by Rove and the chamber and others, are beginning to show signs of life in the recent polls.
Mr. Sestak of Pennsylvania, all but written off in some quarters, is showing up ahead in a couple of new polls, leading by Republican rival Pat Toomey by as much as three points in one of them.
Kentucky's Conway, even after criticism for his Aqua Buddha ad against former Aqua Buddhist Rand Paul also tightening the race with some polls giving him a tiny edge.
And Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, at one point barely in Republican rival Ron Johnson's rearview mirror, closing his gap to just two points, essentially a dead heat.
The Democratic Party itself, the DNC, revealing today it took in a staggering $11 million just in the first 13 days of this month. That's almost $1 million every day, all of it public information that donors disclosed - more than 90 percent of it, the DNC reporting, coming in donations of less than $200.
This as "The New York Times" reports a right-wing billionaire's secret summit to plan for 2012, about which more on later in this news hour.
And "Politico" reports that the Tea Party Express spent $100,000 for staff to run the campaign of Alaska's Joe Miller from on board Holland America's MS Amsterdam, your typical at-home, grassroots cruise ship.
At that point, let's bring in Massachusetts congressman, Barney Frank.
Congressman, thank you for your time tonight.
REP. BARNEY FRANK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I'm glad to, Keith. There's nothing more important right now.
OLBERMANN: I want to get to the secret millionaire money in depth in a moment. But let me start with the polls. What are Democrats making of these individual upticks? Is it cause for hope here, or is there, you know, statistical white noise on the weight of Speaker Boehner? What do you think is going on?
FRANK: I think it's encouragement that we're moving in the right direction. What we are talking about here is an increase in the likelihood that Democrats will vote.
The right wing's hope is not to convert moderates and Democrats and Obama voters so much as it was to discourage them. You know, part of the reason for this vituperation in the campaign is to try to disgust people. They figure their extremists are so energized that they're beyond being disgusted. They will come out and vote. They hope to turn people off.
I think what's happened is that - look, in some levels, and you and I talked about this, they're understandably discouraged because we weren't able to do more. I think the answer to that, of course, is to get out and vote while you are pushing for more. But I think what's happened is that Christine O'Donnell and Carl Paladino, the Tea Party, the right-wing movement of Republican Party.
You know, I have an opponent that used to be a Democrat years ago and then he originally presented himself as a mainstream Republican, now he's bought into the Tea Party extreme, right-wing agenda, privatize Social Security, do away with the minimum wage.
I think that scared the Democrats. It may not be there's a great increase in enthusiasm for our record, but there's a very understandable fear of the consequences of these right-wing extremists taking over. And I think what you're seeing is people getting more energized.
OLBERMANN: Greg Sargent at "The Plum Line Blog" has been making himself crazy, asking people to notice the pattern of deception in the ads produced by the Rove people and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce people. Is he crazy? Do you see a pattern in these ads?
FRANK: I do. These are people who are distorting. You know, you talked about the whole economic situation.
Look, Barack Obama made one mistake, in my judgment. He was trying to govern in a bipartisan matter.
FRANK: Not giving up his own principles, but being cooperative. So when he took office, he did not hit home on what a disastrous situation he inherited.
Look, I was there in September of '08 when George Bush's top economic people, Secretary Paulson, Chairman Bernanke came to us and said, we're on the verge of a total collapse - a total collapse. The economy was in the worst shape it had been since the Great Depression.
Now, Obama didn't drive that home then, and so people did not understand how negative the situation was that he inherited. And of course, he hasn't been able to dig out of that deep hole so quickly.
What the Republicans are doing is assuming that the world began on January 21st. You talk about the bailout situation. I was just re-reading Hank Paulson's book where John Boehner says, we'd be crazy not to go to the aid of AIG. He's now very dishonestly running a campaign of demonizing people who listened to his Republican president and followed his lead in trying to respond.
The distortions are extraordinary.
OLBERMANN: This new ad which we showed from the DNC, which tries to connect the chamber ads to the agendas of the big money assets and corporations that are behind them. Can you elaborate on that - on the connection and that agenda?
FRANK: Yes. You know, one thing I want to make clear, I spent this morning with two very reasonable Chambers of Commerce in the cities of Fall River and New Bedford, and I met with local Chambers of Commerce all over my district, in the town of Mansfield, in the town of Wareham. They are not the right-wing ideologues. They tend to be smaller businesses.
What you have is the largest enterprises don't like what we are doing. Look, I just read in the "Financial Times," a very responsible moderate to conservative newspaper, the affirmation that what the lobbyists of financial institutions want to do if they take over the House is to gut the financial reform bill that I helped to pass, by intimidating and defunding all the regulatory agencies. They know with the president, they can't repeal it, because he'd veto it.
So, yes, that's their agenda. They want to go back to the days when they weren't regulated. They want to go back to the days when - well, one of the things they'd to do, there were some trade treaties pending, they're hoping to force them through because in their view, the kind of trade treaties that resulted in the loss of American jobs because of the terms of those treaties, they make big money for them. So, yes, this is very much their economic agenda and the Chamber of Commerce is their instrument.
What they are doing is - and, of course, what we should be clear is, this is enabled by the very radical activist five-member majority of the conservative Supreme Court that struck down more laws regulating campaign contributions. Thanks to this conservative Supreme Court, the United States is the only democracy in the world where there is virtually no effective regulation of money. And that means that the big money and the big interest behind the big money, they're threatening our democracy.
Keith, briefly, our view - we have to systems: we have a capitalist system where money counts, as it should in a capitalist system. We have a political system where money is not supposed to count, where it's supposed to be equal - one man, one vote.
What this Supreme Court has done, what Karl Rove and the chamber trying to take advantage of, is a system whereby the money counts system of the capital system will overwhelm the democratic equality. And I really believe that in this off-year election, our democracy is very much at stake in the sense that the principle of "one person, one vote" is going to be submerged by a flood of right-wing anonymous, extremist money.
OLBERMANN: Yes. It's like we're back to a three-fifths of a person, only we're all the three-fifths and the corporations are -
FRANK: Look, I'd be happy if we could meet them three-fifths.
OLBERMANN: Yes. Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts - as always, sir, thank you kindly.
FRANK: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: This programming note: Tomorrow night on news hour, Speaker Nancy Pelosi will be my special guest.
Secret money, secret meetings. The Koch brothers' little gatherings in Palm Springs next January, the one last June featured two Supreme Court justices, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, those small businesses like Bechtel, and Lonesome Rhodes Beck who promptly went on the air and thanked the Kochs for some info - next.
OLBERMANN: You want a face to put on the Koch brothers' bid to buy America's elections? That's it. He not only attended their secret conference, he went on the air and thanked one of them for the info he was given.
Stonewall Jackson did not lead two battalions of black Confederate troops during the Civil War. Yet, a Virginia school textbook says he did.
By day, anti-sex ed Georgia state legislator. By night, salesman of stress relief devices shaped like men's genitalia.
And yes, Virginia Thomas, there is somebody dumb enough to believe it was all Anita Hill's fault. It's Virginia Thomas, wife of the Supreme Court justice, and she wants Hill to apologize. And it's on tape.
OLBERMANN: The scope of the Koch brothers' influence on the grassroots Tea Party movement has been well-documented. The billionaires through Americans for Prosperity stir up populist anger against big government, which is getting in the way of big business - big business like Koch industries.
But what has never been clear before today is the influence the Koch brothers have on other big businesses and the country's conservative infrastructure.
In our fourth story: "The New York Times" now revealing the tentacles of the Koch-topus reach farther than we've previously known. "The Times" has obtained this invitation to a Koch Industry-sponsored secret conservative retreat. The cover letter signed by Charles Koch describes a two-day event to be held in Palm Springs. The event is titled, "Understanding and Addressing Threats to American Free Enterprise and Prosperity."
The goal of the Palm Springs getaway is to, quote, "develop strategies to counter the most severe threats facing our free society and to review strategies for combating the multitude of public policies that threaten to destroy America as we know it." Policies like California's landmark global warming legislation.
Americans for Prosperity and Koch Industries are leading the charge to repeal the law on a ballot initiative next month. According to "The Times," Koch's invitation warns of unrelenting attacks on freedom and prosperity. Koch defining freedom as freedom from taxes and government regulation.
Government regulators have fined Koch Industries and its subsidiaries tens of millions for oil spill and pollution over the years. They found that an explosion which killed two men in 1996 was caused by, quote, "the failure of Koch to adequately protect its pipeline from corrosion."
If you're interested in heading out to Palm Springs, according to the invite, admission costs $1,500, though if you're a first-timer, they will waive that. The first Koch party is free.
To whet a prospective attendant's appetite, the Kochs have included their sales package the agenda from their June soiree in Aspen. "Think Progress' compiled the list of Aspen attendees. Among oil men and health industry big wigs and hedge fund billionaires was the billionaire and so-called small business owner Steve Bechtel, the entertainment magnate and billionaire small business owner, Philip Anschutz, David Chavern, the number two at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce who led a discussion on judicial elections, Glenn Beck of FOX News was there to ask, is America on the road to serfdom in his Koch retreat appearance. I'm wondering if the Koch people were in favor of that.
Beck apparently learned so much at the getaway, he went on the air next day and name-dropped.
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BECK: This is the world per capita, GDP. I want to thank Charles Koch for this information.
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OLBERMANN: I met a famous rich person.
The Kochs go on to brag in their invitation about the cavalcade of conservative all-stars they have hosted in retreats past. Their list includes Governors Haley Barbour and Bobby Jindal, Senators Jim DeMint and Tom Coburn, Representatives Mike Pence, Tom Price and Paul Ryan, and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas of the Supreme Court.
Not among them, "Rolling Stone's" Matt Taibbi, who joins us, of course, contributing editor for the magazine and author of the new book, "Griftopia."
Good to see you again.
MATT TAIBBI, ROLLING STONE: Good to see you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: What the hell are these things? Are these businessmen's orgies or what?
TAIBBI: I don't know. It's really weird. When I was doing my story in the Tea Party, all we really knew at that time is that the Koch brothers were supporting the Tea Parties.
But this vastly expands the story, because it involves all these people from the financial services industry, these hedge fund guys like Stevie Schwartzman, Bechtel, Amway, Home Depot, plus FOX News, and all these think tanks. So, it's much more organized than we previously thought, and it really - it does read lake a conspiracy theory, you know, straight out of a - you know, a Hollywood film.
OLBERMANN: Yes. Or "The Simpsons" episodes when they had all the evil leaders meeting in the castle.
OLBERMANN: And there was Dracula and Count Chocula.
TAIBBI: Dr. Evil.
OLBERMANN: And Mr. Burns, the Arnold Schwarzenegger character.
Unfortunately, this is not a cartoon with a laugh track to it.
TAIBBI: No, no, no. It's all real.
OLBERMANN: The Koch literature says - let me quote this, "make the new case for liberty and smaller government that appeals to all Americans, rich and poor."
Is there an implication there that they're somehow helping the poor or helping to create more poor?
TAIBBI: Well, no, I think for them, this is: we have to make an argument for people who are rich and poor. And I think that's what this is all about.
I mean, everybody knows that these people are - have had the same agenda of reducing regulation and taxes forever. But what's new and what's different is that they're finding this way to connect with ordinary Americans through this Tea Party and they're organizing. They're finding a way to transmit this message to everybody, and they're becoming very, very effective at it.
OLBERMANN: And by transferring it also via FOX News.
OLBERMANN: I mean, this is the one aspect that obviously would fascinate me as much as anything else in here.
OLBERMANN: The Koch brothers, the Chamber of Commerce, all the people you mentioned, all the people I mentioned, and there's Glenn Beck, and the next day, he's on the air spewing out this stuff that he has been handed. This is now the scene from "Network" with Ned Beatty telling the, you know, Howard Beale character, you, you know, you will atone for having -
OLBERMANN: - meddled with the primal forces of nature.
I mean, it really - it really is, let's just find a sap with a TV show and let him spew this, right? I mean, he basically becomes the spokesman for this argument that this is what America is really about, for everybody who makes $32 million or more a year.
TAIBBI: Right. It's really amazing. I mean, it's like the unified field theory of right-wing propaganda. It's all of this brought together and, you know, the fact that Glenn Beck is sitting right in the middle of all this stuff is - you know, as someone in the media, it's a role that is previously unimagined for a media figure to be in the middle of all of this and occupying such an important part.
OLBERMANN: Well, perhaps in fiction -
TAIBBI: In fiction.
OLBERMANN: In fact, it's been unimagined.
OLBERMANN: Unfortunately, it's coming to fruit now.
Maybe the most disturbing part of this, and it's not beat up Clarence Thomas day, although maybe every day should be beat up Clarence Thomas day - do you have any problem with the justices of the Supreme Court showing up in the middle of this hoo-ha?
TAIBBI: Well, it's funny. I talked to a bunch of law professors today about the ethics of this, and, you know, everybody agrees that judges just historically don't do this. You know, there's no prescription against them being involved in political causes. They're human beings, they're flesh and blood, they're allowed to have opinions, but just sort of out of respect for everybody else, they kind of pretend that they're impartial.
And for Scalia and Thomas to kind of openly go around with these people is a bit of - it's thumbing their nose at everybody in a way. It's different for a Supreme Court justice.
OLBERMANN: And obviously, this didn't happen concurrently. But it happens concurrent with Alito's statement that he won't, and several other justices, won't go to the State of the Union address because it's become too politicized. Well, that looks like a recitation of the phone book compared to this.
OLBERMANN: This is a high-financed - as high financed as it could be kapow (ph).
TAIBBI: Right. And the other thing about this is that for a Supreme Court justice, if there is a question about a judge's impartiality: where do you go? Who do you - where do you go to get that guy removed or get him to recuse himself from a case?
There is nowhere to go. So, it raises all kinds of questions.
OLBERMANN: Ask him for a recusal, his wife will ask you for an apology.
OLBERMANN: Matt Taibbi, the contributing editor at "Rolling Stone" - thanks again for your being good enough to come in.
TAIBBI: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: And as we know: he who controls the past, controls the future. The mother who discovered her fourth grader was reading a textbook that claims thousands of blacks fought for the South in the Civil War, our guest - ahead.
OLBERMANN: You know that nonsense about how the federal government's heavy hand is deciding everything taught in local schools? Not in Williamsburg, Virginia, where a fourth grade class is being taught that thousands of black troops fought for the South in the Civil War. The historian and mother of a student who discovered this joins us next.
First, the sanity break and the Tweet of the day, which is actually an episode in when Tweeting goes wrong, and contained therein here, Let's play Oddball.
Meg Whitman, Republican candidate in the California gubernatorial race and supposed Internet expert, recently received the endorsement of the Deputy Sheriff Association of San Diego County. Extremely excited, Spokeswoman Sarah Pompeii (ph) fired off a Tweet announcing "SD Cnty Sheriff Accoc says @Whitman 2010 4 gov!, RT @Murphy3MegNews. Ca Cops get it. Jerry Brown is too soft on crime." She then included a video link that really drove the point home. It showed us - all righty then.
The official story is that an R was somehow left off the link, resulting in the wrong video. Perhaps an Arrgh matey. Unless this is just another one of Miss Whitman's undocumented employees. I don't wish to know that.
To the Internets and the latest Tea Party rally. These men have decided that shooting cans of beer from a slingshot, then firing bullets at the cans sound like a pretty good time. Let's ignore for a moment the wasted beer. But anyone familiar with slingshots or the "Amazing Race" are aware of the danger of blowback. Oh, right in the kisser.
The man was OK, oddly enough, protected by a beer belly.
Time marches on.
Trying to wash the Civil War of that whole slavery/racism thing by rewriting the history in fourth grade textbooks in Virginia, next.
OLBERMANN: A misrepresentation central to the narrative of the oppressed and the oppressor, and to the most painful part of this nation's history. In our third story, a third grade history textbook with that claim that thousands of African-Americans fought in the Confederacy for the south. The Virginia textbook, "Our Virginia, Past and Present," was distributed to that state's public elementary schools last month according to the "Washington Post."
In a short section devoted to the roles of whites, African-Americans and Native Americans in the Civil War, the relevant sentence reads, "thousands of southern blacks fought in the Confederate Ranks, including two black battalions under the command of Stonewall Jackson." As the Post notes, such claims about black Confederate soldiers are almost unanimously rejected by actual historians. They are misrepresentations of history.
There is evidence of some African-Americans having fought for the south. But since they were either slaves or, if freed by their owners, still oppressed citizens - not even citizens - context is everything. And Stonewall Jackson, by the way, was killed in May 1863. And any idea that the south would have given weapons to large numbers of slaves in 1863 would be, in any other context, comical.
"The Washington Post" cited a University of Virginia historian who says he's documented evidence in the form of newspapers and personal letters of some black Confederate soldiers. But that historian also says, quote, "there's no way of knowing that there were thousands. And the claim about Jackson is totally false. I don't know where that came from."
Where that came from explains the author of the textbook, primarily from an Internet search. And the publisher, Five Ponds Press, offered three of those Internet links. But those links reference work by groups like Sons of Confederate Veterans, ascribing to a revisionist view that substantial numbers of African-American soldiers fought for the Confederacy.
One of the motivations behind that claim would be slavery was not the main cause of the Civil War. Meantime, officials from Virginia's Department of Education have told "the Washington Post" that the vetting of the book was flawed, and that they will caution school district against teaching that passage.
Quoting a spokesman, "just because a book is approved doesn't mean the Department of Education endorses every sentence."
The claim about black Confederate soldiers is, quote, "outside mainstream Civil War scholarship."
Back to the author, Joy Masoff; "the Washington Post" describes her as not a trained historian. "As controversial as it is, she says, I stand by what I write. I'm a fairly respected writer." She also says, quote, "it's just one sentence. I don't want to ruffle any feathers. If historians had contacted me and asked me to take it out, I would have."
Ms. Masoff has also written "Oh, Yuck: the Encyclopedia of Everything Nasty" and "Oh Yikes, History's Grossest Moments." We don't believe it includes the textbook.
Let's bring in a professor of 19th century history at the College of William and Mary, co-author of "A People at War, Civilians and Soldiers in America's Civil War," Carol Sheriff, who also happens to be the parent who discovered this claim about black Confederate soldiers in her daughter's history textbook.
Thanks for your time tonight.
CAROL SHERIFF, COLLEGE OF WILLIAM AND MARY HISTORY PROFESSOR: Thank you for having me.
OLBERMANN: Tell us how you came to find that passage and what you tried to do about it.
SHERIFF: OK. It was kind of an odd and striking coincidence, but I attended a conference in late September on the role of slavery in the Civil War. And during this conference, in the opening remarks of this conference, the governor of Virginia used the opportunity to recant what he had said last Spring when he was declaring Confederate History Month, that slavery was not a central cause of the Civil War.
In this speech, he spoke very eloquently and passionately about how slavery was, in fact, central to the Civil War. And he vowed that henceforth we would remember our history with candor and courage.
Three days later, my nine-year-old daughter brought home her social studies textbook, and I immediately turned to the chapter on the Civil War to see whether his vow had played out in what our children were going to be learning. At first, I was very hardened, because the book does say quite up front that the main cause of the Civil War was disagreements over slavery, and it talks about how slavery was a cruel institution.
And was thus floored when I came to the statement that said just what you read in your opening remarks there, which is a myth that's perpetuated by people who would like to lead us to believe that slavery was not the central cause of the Civil War.
OLBERMANN: I asked my friend Ken Burns, who put together the documentary "The Civil War" about this, and he e-mailed me back something. And I would like to read it in full and get your reaction to it. "Unquestionably, some African-Americans did fight for the south. But the implications that they were a tactically organized force in the thousands would be laughable, if its ultimate effects weren't so pernicious and ignorant of the far larger and more important story that African-Americans weren't passive bystanders to the struggle, but active, dedicated, self-sacrificing soldiers in an intensely personal drama of self-liberalization. The rest of this vile revisionism is the expression of an ultimately anti-American impulse that says that human beings are somehow happy as slaves, and were willing to fight to perpetuate that status. That is not what happened. That is not what the Civil War was about. That is not what America is about. If one wanted to play this game, let's talk about the tens of thousands of white southerners who fought to preserve the union and its indelible meanings, not the least of which is the fostering of freedom."
Do you think what Ken wrote there sort of boiling this down to its essence?
SHERIFF: I think it does very well. And I think what's striking about it is that this quote really flies in the face of what the textbook is otherwise claiming early on. The textbook does say that slavery was central to the war. And this claim undermines that. I think it must be extremely confusing to a ninth grader - I mean a nine-year-old, a fourth grader.
OLBERMANN: Is this it in terms of what the Department of Education is going to do about this? They're just going to say, be careful about that one sentence. Send someone around with magic markers and cross it out. Is that all? They're just going to say, don't read that one part?
SHERIFF: I don't know what they intend to do, but I know what I can hope that they might do. I actually think that this is a good approach, that they have several months until children will be learning about the Civil War. They still have 250 more years of history to cover. They're just at 1619 at the moment.
And I think that if they can send out supplementary materials to the teachers and have the teachers help the students understand how they need to bring a critical eye to what they read, and to also think about how this history book was produced, and to use this as a word of caution to our children about how we go about doing research on the Internet.
OLBERMANN: Carol Sheriff, professor of history at College of William and Mary, great thanks for your time.
SHERIFF: Thank you very much.
OLBERMANN: How fitting, more history rewritten, courtesy of the right-wing whack job wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who demands an apology from Thomas' most famous victim.
So somebody thinks it's a good idea to start talking about how demonic the president looks? Looks are fair game now, sir?
And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, she'll take a look at Super-PACs, with Frank Rich of "the New York Times."
OLBERMANN: Is there anything sadder than his own wife protecting and enabling a sexual harasser? Apparently, when the enabling wife now demands an apology from the harassment victim in a voicemail. Virginia Thomas and other great crazy apology demands from American history next.
But first, get out your pitchforks and torches, time for tonight's Worst Persons in the World.
The bronze to Dustin Marshall Lindsay Shoal (ph) of Gallatin, Tennessee, charged with a string of burglaries and thefts, the least of which was the shoplifting of a pair of jeans, allegedly by Mr. Marshall, from a Walmart last week. How'd they find him? He didn't hide the new jeans. He simply changed into them in a dressing room and left his old pants behind. And inside them, his wallet and driver's license. Wile E. Coyote, super genius.
A tie at runner up, televangelist Glenn Beck and Tokyo Rose Limbaugh. I think you'll see the link between them her immediately. The first topic, photographs of President Obama.
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RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: These pictures, I've - they look demonic. And I don't say this lightly. There are two of them, and one that just - the eyes. I'm not saying anything here. They just look. It is strange that these pictures would be released. It's a very, very, very strange.
An American president has never had facial expressions like this. At least, we've never seen photos of an American president with facial expressions like this. I mean, I feel like I'm watching "The Omen." Um, 666 and all that. This is weird, weird, weird stuff.
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OLBERMANN: So, Rush Limbaugh, you look like you do and you really want to go there? How people look? My point, exactly. Part two, Mr. Lonesome Rhodes.
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GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: I'm not God, so I don't know how God creates. I don't think we came from monkeys. I think that's ridiculous. I haven't seen the half-monkey, half-person yet.
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OLBERMANN: Again, Glenn Beck, you look like you do and you really want to go there? How people look.
But our winner, Georgia Republican state legislator Calvin Hill. Last year, he led a campaign to stop the teaching of sexual health at public universities and colleges in his state because they included topics like gay history and male prostitution. There was even a push to fire the teachers of those courses.
Turns out that Mr. Hill is also the chief financial officer of a company that sells a catalog of products including a publication titled "The Little Black Book of Sex Secrets." Also what are described as "Stress Relievers" that come in the shape of male genitalia and female breasts. They say gay pride flag lapel pins, and a safe sex kit, complete with a condom, antibacterial wipes, and two breath mints. Also useful for when you have to eat your own holier than thou hypocritical words, like State Representative Calvin Hill of Georgia, today's Worst Person in the World.
OLBERMANN: It's hard to imagine she didn't consider the possibility of this becoming public. It's hard to imagine what exactly motivated her to do so. But in our number one story, only Virginia Thomas can explain why after 19 years, she called Anita Hill, the woman victimized by her husband's sexual advances, and asked her to apologize. And tangentially inspire our imagining of other voice mails wherein the perpetrators demand apologies from the victims. We'll play them in a moment.
But first, "the New York Times" reporting the details. Virginia Thomas, the wife of the ethically bankrupt Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, called Anita Hill's office at Brandeis University and left a voicemail for Hill at 7:30 in the morning on a Saturday. "Good morning, Anita Hill, it's Ginni Thomas. I just wanted to reach across the airwaves and the year and ask you to consider something. I would love you to consider an apology some time and some full explanation of why you did what you did with my husband. So give it some thought, and certainly pray about this, and hope that one day you will help us understand why you did what you did. OK, have a good day."
Hill initially thought the call was a prank, and kept the message for nearly a week before turning it over to the Brandeis Campus Police. They, in turn, turned it over to the FBI, which is not investigating. Mrs. Thomas confirming through a statement the voicemail was hers. "I did place a call to Ms. Hill at her office extending an olive branch" - I'm sorry -
"an olive branch to her after all these years in hopes that we could ultimately get passed" - that's right, P-A-S-S-E-D - "what happened so long ago. That offer still stands. I would be very happy to meet and talk with her if she would be willing to do the same. Certainly no offense was ever intended."
Meet for a Coke somewhere.
Mrs. Hill telling the "New York Times," "I appreciate that no offense was intended, but she can't ask for an apology without suggesting that I did something wrong, and that is offensive."
Some context; Clarence Thomas, a conservative jurist, was nominated in '91 by President George H.W. Bush to fill the seat of retiring Justice, civil rights pioneer Thurgood Marshall. Law professor Anita Hill submitted a confidential statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee accusing Thomas of having sexually harassed her ten years earlier, when she worked for him at the Department of Education, and at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The Judiciary Committee decided not to pursue the matter until Hill's statement was leaked to reporters two full days before the full Senate was expected to confirm Thomas. Mrs. Hill was then forced to testify at a public hearing, subjected to a public grilling, having to recall often graphic details.
Months later, the veteran CBS journalist, the late Ed Bradley, asked Miss Hill about her experience.
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ED BRADLEY, FMR. CBS ANCHOR: Do you think it would have been different if there had been a woman on the committee?
ANITA HILL, BRANDEIS UNIVERSITY: I think so. I think there would have been more sensitivity.
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OLBERMANN: Instead, this is some of what Anita Hill got.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are not now drawing a conclusion that Judge Thomas sexually harassed you?
HILL: Yes, I am drawing that conclusion.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I don't understand.
HILL: Pardon me?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't understand.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All we've heard for 103 years is about a most remarkable man. And nobody has come forward - and they scoured his every shred of life. It seems to me you didn't really intend to kill him, but you might have.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Mr. Thomas denied Hill's charges, instead suggesting that the accusations were racially motivated.
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CLARENCE THOMAS, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: It is a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves, to do for themselves, to have different ideas.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Funny, you never heard him say that about the president. When it was all over, Anita Hill went back to teaching law. Mr. Thomas went to the Supreme Court, confirmed by the closest margin for any Supreme Court justice in the 20th century, 52-48. His opinions to the extreme right of a right court, almost reactionary in nature. As for his wife, she achieved her own infamy by founding a Tea Party group, Liberty Central, dedicated to opposing the leftist, quote, tyranny of the Obama administration.
Today she was supposed to participate in an interview with National Public Radio, as well as a webcast with the right-wing Family Research Counsel. She canceled both. But Virginia Thomas can hardly be the first person in recent memory to demand this type of historically revisionist apology. We here at Countdown have obtained an answering machine found in the parking lot at the Smithsonian. Or we just made them up.
Let's see who else needs an apology out there.
Good morning, gay Americans, this is Ken Mehlman. I just wanted to reach out across the years and ask you to consider something. I would love you to apologize sometime for wanting to marry one another, which forced me and the other Republicans to put anti-gay measures on the ballots in '04, '06. So give it some thought and certainly pray about this and come to understand why you did what you did. OK. Have a good day. Alone, please.
All right. Who's next?
Good morning Valerie Plame. It's Scooter Libby. I just wanted to reach across my criminal record and ask you to consider apologizing to me for getting me convicted of lying to the FBI so I could cover up my boss' involvement in leaking your status as a covert operative. What were you thinking? I hope we can avoid this when we're selling the Iran war. OK. Have a good day.
Hey, you there, Macaca guy, this is George Allen, the governor. I used to be governor. Somewhere. I just - I just want to reach across my shattered career and ask you to consider apologizing to me for taping me calling you an ethnic slur. Thank you.
Harry, I just wanted to reach across my secret undisclosed location. You need to say you're sorry for getting in the way of my gun. Oh, it's Dick, by the way, Dick Cheney. And I need my damned bird shot back too.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you mean I have to wait for the beep?
Presidents don't wait for no one, Laura. Screw it. I'm talking.
Good morning, U.S. economy. It's W. I just wanted to reach across the income disparity gap and ask you to consider apologizing for not having the decency to wait to collapse until after I skipped town. Not cool. Not school. So give it some thought. Pray on it. Whatever.
OLBERMANN: Is this an all-Republican answering machine, I wonder?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good morning, Illinois. This is Governor Rod Blagojevich. I just wanted to (EXPLETIVE DELTED) reach across the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) aisle and tell you to (EXPLETIVE DELETED) apologize to me now. OK. Have a nice day.
OLBERMANN: All right. Guess it's bipartisan. The next one?
Good morning, Gulf Coast. Hayward here. I just wanted to reach across the oil slick and ask you to consider apologizing for having your fish get in the way of my oil. Come on, chaps. Joe Barton did it.
All right. We don't have much more time. Let's see whether we want to play any of the others.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Morning, Hillary. It's me. I just wanted to reach - forget it.
OLBERMANN: All right. One more.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good morning, Monica, it's me. I just wanted to reach.
And we're out of time. That's October 20th. It's the 2,729th day since President Bush declared mission accomplished in Iraq, the 2,318th day since he declared victory in Afghanistan, and the 184th day of the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf. I'm Keith Olbermann, leave a message after the beep. Good night and good luck.
And now to analyze why it's so hard to figure out what's funding what this election season, ladies and gentlemen, at the sound of the tone, here is Rachel Maddow.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END