'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Thursday, February 16th, 2012
#ShowPlug 1: Romney outspending Santorum 12:1 in Michigan, losing by 10. His big ad mistake: recalls Detroit Auto Show but pix of NYC event
#ShowPlug 2: Plus Palin all but volunteers to be drafted at GOP Convention & GOP big 3 push their PACs while decrying PACs w/ @KenVogel
#ShowPlug 3: A Birth Control Hearing? Without Ovaries? Only Darrell Issa could dream that up. My guest: Cong. Carolyn @RepMaloney
#ShowPlug 4: Ex-Editor calls it "Civil War" inside NewsCorp: Murdoch's UK Newspapermen vs Rupert. NPR's @DavidFolkenflik joins me
#ShowPlug 5: Ron Paul auditions candidates for "The Ron Paul Girl." @MaysoonZayid does not audition, joins me instead.
#ShowPlug 6: Worsts: Romney's porn problem, @AndrewBreitbart crumbles; can you guess guest star in Breitbart Rage Video Mashup Theater?
#ShowPlug Last: And a few words of farewell to the late, great Gary Carter.
#5 'Bitter Polls', David Drucker
#5 'Bitter Polls', Ken Vogel
#4 'No Girls Allowed', Rep. Carolyn Maloney
# Time Marches On!
#3 'London Calling', David Folkenflik
#2 Worst Persons: Mitt Romney, Eric Bolling, Andrew Breitbart
#1 'Dislike', Maysoon Zayid
printable PDF transcript
On the show: Maysoon Zayid, Carolyn Maloney, Ken Vogel, David Folkenflik, David Drucker
KEITH OLBERMANN: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Romney outspending Santorum 12-to-1 in Michigan. Santorum beating Romney 43 to 33 in Michigan. And the governor just made another hard-to-believe gaffe.
(Excerpt from audio clip) MITT ROMNEY: Remember going to the Detroit Auto Show with my dad. That was a big deal.
OLBERMANN: Maybe, but that wasn't the Detroit Auto Show, that was the 1964-65 New York World's Fair. The Chrysler Pavilion.
Santorum has his own gaffes to sweat out.
(Excerpt from video clip) RICK SANTORUM: There is income inequality in America, there always has been. And hopefully, and I do say that, there always will be.
OLBERMANN: And as the Republicans push to eliminate birth control, Santorum's biggest financial backer, Foster Friess, says the unbelievable.
(Excerpt from video clip) FOSTER FRIESS: You know, back in my days, they used Bayer aspirin for contraception. The gals put it between their knees and it wasn't that costly.
(Excerpt from video clip) ANDREA MITCHELL: Uh, excuse me, I'm just trying to catch my breath from that, Mr. Friess, frankly.
OLBERMANN: This, as Congressman Issa conducts an anti-birth control hearing, missing one key component.
(Excerpt from video clip) CAROLYN MALONEY: What I want to know is, where are the women?
OLBERMANN: No women witnesses. Our guest, Representative Carolyn Maloney.
Plus, is Sarah Palin ready to be the prize at a brokered Republican convention? Remember her?
(Excerpt from video clip) SARAH PALIN: Nobody is quite there yet, so I think that, months from now - if that's the case - then, you know, all bets are off. I would do whatever I could to help.
OLBERMANN: Murdoch's man strikes back. The arrests in his bribery and hacking scandal, quoting his editor, "has put us behind ex-Soviet states on press freedom." But another former Murdoch editor says it's civil war within News Corp.
Plus, auditions for the Ron Paul Girl.
(Excerpt from video clip) WOMAN: I'm the Ron Paul Girl.
OLBERMANN: With Maysoon Zayid, who is not auditioning.
And Breitbart folds. The list of 17 shrinks.
(Excerpt from video clip) ANDREW BREITBART: So what? We're allowed to drink wine in America. I'm not living by the one percent/99 percent bulls--- -
OLBERMANN: But who will be tonight's special guest villain in the third episode of Breitbart Rage Video Mash-up Theater?
(Excerpt from video clip) BREITBART: It looks like.
OLBERMANN: All that and more, now on "Countdown."
(Excerpt from video clip) BREITBART: Behave yourself!
OLBERMANN: Good evening, this is Thursday, February 16, 265 days until the 2012 presidential election.
With Mitt Romney's Michigan home-state advantage dissolving by the day, the double centi-millionaire wielding a 12-to-1 cash lead there, yet Santorum with about a 40-to-30 poll lead.
Our fifth story in the "Countdown" - Michigan was supposed to be a "gimme" for Romney, the state where he spent his early years, where his father was both a governor and an auto executive and where, today, he got the nod from Governor Rick Snyder.
(Excerpt from video clip) RICK SNYDER: I am very excited today to announce my endorsement of Governor Romney.
OLBERMANN: Following a round of hand shakes, Romney waxing sentimental, if somewhat incoherent, about the state:
(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: This is something very special here. The Great Lakes, but also all the little inland lakes that dot the parts of Michigan. I love cars, I don't know, I mean, I grew up totally in love with cars. I love the auto industry. I want to see it thrive and grow.
OLBERMANN: It is. Thanks, in large part, to the bailout of GM and Chrysler started under the Bush administration and continued by President Obama. A bailout former Massachusetts Governor Romney opposed.
Though not his endorser Michigan Governor Snyder, who told the New York Times in November, "I'm not going to second guess it. The more important thing is the results. And the auto industry is doing very well today."
How well? As we reported Tuesday on this news hour, GM reporting a record profit of 7.6 billion dollars last year, including profit-sharing of around $7,000 for factory employees.
Romney also making much of his Michigan background in his latest campaign ad:
(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: Remember going to the Detroit Auto Show with my dad. That was a big deal.
OLBERMANN: Not a big enough deal to show them at the Detroit Auto Show. The image accompanying the nostalgia was from their visit to the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair. Romney and his father are admiring the Chrysler Pavilion in this shot. Wow. Romney rival Rick Santorum also declining to admire Detroit's bailout, in Detroit.
(Excerpt from video clip) SANTORUM: We should not support - the government should not be involved - in bailouts, period.
OLBERMANN: It has not hurt him in the polls. A Detroit News/WDIV poll putting Santorum four points ahead of Romney, more or less a tie. Santorum is leading Romney by 10 in the MRG/Michigan poll, by nine in a Mitchell Research poll, who put Santorum in the lead. Mitchell Research President Steven Mitchell saying, "Conservatives are uniting behind Santorum. Now, we will have to see if Santorum has the financial resources to compete against Romney's big money in the state in which he was born and raised."
CBS is reporting Romney outspending Santorum 12 dollars to every one of Santorum's. In The Washington Post reporting, Romney and his "Restore Our Future" super PAC spending more than $1,240,000 in Michigan ad buys this week alone. Santorum? Less than $43,000.
Santorum playing the poverty card on the stump as well:
(Excerpt from video clip) SANTORUM: When I grew up in the steel town of western Pennsylvania - Butler, Pennsylvania - as he mentioned, my grandfather was a coal miner. I knew that was the wealth. It wasn't great wealth. It wasn't opulent wealth.
OLBERMANN: He has made up for that since. Santorum releasing four years of tax returns today, showing him earning nearly $700,000 in 2007, more than $950,000 the next year, a million in 2009, $923,000 in 2010. So, no surprise that Santorum's saying today:
(Excerpt from video clip) SANTORUM: There is income inequality in America. There always has been. And hopefully, and I do say that, there always will be.
OLBERMANN: And while Newt Gingrich is not competing in Michigan's primary, literally or figuratively, he is considering his responsibilities as the future commander-in-chief, telling a delegation from the Asian American Leadership Program in Los Angeles this:
(Excerpt from video clip) NEWT GINGRICH: You have my commitment to maintain a position of adequate - more than adequate strength, so that people will understand that there is no practical future in engaging the Republic of Korea and its American allies.
OLBERMANN: Aye, Aye, Admiral. And if Gingrich still thinks he's got a chance at the nomination, could Sarah Palin be far behind? Offering herself to Fox News as a candidate who could bring the party together if the GOP turns to a brokered convention.
(Excerpt from video clip) PALIN: Months from now - if that's the case - then, you know, all bets are off as to who it will be, willing to offer themselves up in the name of service to their country. I would do whatever I could to help.
OLBERMANN: She has a nice time up on the cross like that.
For more on the GOP Michigan primary race, I'm joined now by Roll Call staff writer David Drucker. David, good evening.
DAVID DRUCKER: Hey, good evening.
OLBERMANN: Governor Snyder's endorsement of former Governor Romney, what is it worth? And, given that the two men seem to disagree on the principle issue - at least the one that Romney keeps bringing up, the bailout - what's behind the endorsement?
DRUCKER: Well, I think they both have similar backgrounds, in that they came from the business world to politics. And Romney still has a very deep wealth of support among Republicans, at least establishment Republicans, in Michigan. And, I think - you know, we've learned that these kind of endorsements, this cycle, can sometimes be worth something, sometimes nothing, or worse than nothing.
But I think what's good for Romney is that Santorum didn't get it, and I think that whatever disagreement Romney and Snyder may have over the auto bailout is probably not very material here. The one thing you can say about Snyder is that he won a Republican primary when he was running for governor as sort of the outsider, tea-party-type candidate. And that can't hurt Romney, even if it doesn't help.
OLBERMANN: The things that seemed to have hurt Romney the most have been things that Romney has done. I mean, waxing poetic about his memories of the Detroit Auto Show in that commercial and then the accompanying image is from the New York's World's Fair from my childhood.
Won't that - I mean, that's such an easy thing to not screw up. Does that not annoy the home folks in Michigan? In an ad being shown there and, perhaps, in a meta sense? Is the only reason that there's still really a race here the fact that Romney does something like this about once a week?
DRUCKER: Well, I would say you're right, and that one of the reasons this race is still competitive is because Romney has a habit of occasionally putting his foot in his mouth, and not in a good way. I would say this isn't one of those times.
I think this is the kind of, you know, maybe slip up in an ad that people may notice. But what he's talking about, generally, and I think the images they wanted was of him talking about growing up in Michigan and hanging out with his dad, doing the kinds of things that people in Michigan did. And so, I don't think this is that big of a deal.
Having said that, you're right. He periodically has stuck his foot in his mouth in a way that has caused him very measurable problems.
OLBERMANN: He and his dad growing up in Michigan, the thing they did together was go to the New York's Worlds Fair. The bailout - the agreement between Romney and Santorum about being against it despite its overwhelming success in Michigan, however that plays in a GOP primary - what do Michigan independents see in that, as we get closer to the general election?
DRUCKER: It's probably very troubling, but I don't really think Republicans were going to compete for Michigan in any event. And so, I think that if you're a Republican candidate in a competitive primary, you have to look at this, first of all, from whatever it is you happen to believe and from what Republicans are likely to support.
And if you're Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum or anybody else running in a Republican primary is 2012, and if you're going to tout that you're for a government bailout, you're going to have huge problem. I mean, Santorum is already going after Mitt Romney for being in favor of TARP, among other things.
And so, there's really no other opinion you can have if you hope to be successful overall, because I don't know that it would have won you Michigan to be for the government bailout of the auto industry, but it probably would have caused you problems in many other states.
OLBERMANN: And the polls - with Santorum still tied or leading Romney in all the polls - you're saying the conservatives are lining up behind Santorum. How does Romney look nationally, especially to independents, if he beats Santorum to, you know, figurative political death with negative ads as he did with Gingrich in Florida?
DRUCKER: Well, I think that the first task is to win the primary, and I think that horse-race numbers and things like that you can turn around. So, for Romney, if you have got to beat Santorum by barraging him with negative ads, you do it.
You know, in a general election - as much as independent voters and other voters say they hate negative advertising, and it can sting you if you don't accompany it with positive messaging, you know, it can be a problem - but the general election is going to be all about negative ads and both sides picking apart the opponent's flaws and trying to spend as much money as they can to drive up their opponent's negatives.
So, if you're Romney, this is a real race. Negative ads, if they can help him win, he should use them and whoever wins the nomination is going to have an opportunity, whether it's big or small, to sort of reset the race for the general election. So they shouldn't - I wouldn't worry about it. I would just worry about winning the primary first.
OLBERMANN: David Drucker of Roll Call. Great thanks for some of your time tonight, sir.
DRUCKER: Anytime, thank you.
OLBERMANN: For more now on the super PAC wars in this GOP primary race - an interesting twist to them - I'm joined now by Ken Vogel, chief investigative reporter with Politico. Good evening, Ken.
KEN VOGEL: Hey, great to be with you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: And same here. You reported today Santorum and Gingrich, or his surrogate, are planning to speak at fundraising events for their super PACS. As a layman, something strikes me illegal about this. How is this working? I thought they couldn't coordinate with the super PACS.
VOGEL: Well, what they say and what their lawyers say is that the coordination prohibitions are intended only to prohibit them from coordinating on spending strategy, not fundraising strategy. But when you get down to, sort of, brass tacks here, the sole purpose of these organizations - these super PACS - is spending money to support these candidates.
So, even if they're just helping with the fundraising, they are almost, by definition, helping with the spending as well. The formal name of these super PACS are Independent Expenditure-Only Political Action Committees. And so, by definition, they are intended to help these candidates with their campaign strategy.
And then, beyond that, when you look at the individual donors who have been most prominent in helping to support these super PACS - folks like Sheldon Adelson, who has supported Newt Gingrich's super PAC, and Foster Friess, who has supported Rick Santorum's super PAC - those donors have also been active in helping the campaign.
Sheldon Adelson has sat in on a meeting of Newt Gingrich's national finance committee in a Las Vegas hotel that Sheldon Adelson owns just this month.
Foster Friess, I talked to him on the phone the other day, he was telling me about internal Rick Santorum fundraising figures. He was telling me about a conversation that he and Rick Santorum had with Newt Gingrich over a particular ad. So, if that is not coordination, I don't know what is.
OLBERMANN: Well, now we know that the Election Commission is an honorary organization that I don't know the last time they did something of substance within six years of an election question. But - but, certainly, the legality of this must come under somebody's radar.
VOGEL: Well, the Federal Election Commission is one of the agencies that is tasked with policing this and enforcing these laws, as is the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Justice. None of them have shown any inclination to really look into this, either this election cycle or, really, historically.
The last time we saw any action on this front was in 2004, after George Soros, Peter Lewis and other Democratic donors poured $200 million to outside spending groups that were intended to help John Kerry against George Bush, obviously unsuccessfully. And then, in that same election, when Swiftboat Veterans for Truth - some of these organizations that are being funded by the same folks who are funding Mitt Romney's super PAC and Karl Rove's "American Crossroads" - they were hit with big fines by the Federal Election Commission. But guess when those fines came down? 2007. So, too late, and if there's any action on this, it will probably be in 2015.
OLBERMANN: The Washington Post reported that - if you add up Romney's spending to the spending by his super PAC - the combined figure gives Romney a 29-to-1 ad-buy advantage this week alone. Santorum's super PAC is apparently just watching. Is that suggestive of Santorum possibly going under, purely because of the super PAC?
VOGEL: Well, he certainly needs help and the super PAC is - as we reported today - for the first time, getting sort of the de facto blessing of the campaign and of Rick Santorum, who's going to speak at this super PAC fundraiser. And, it should be noted, that the super PAC fundraiser is - at the same time, dare I say, coordinated - with a fundraiser for Santorum's own committee.
So, they recognize that this is a weakness, and they're going to Texas where there is big conservative money, big evangelical money, which is something that Rick Santorum really needs at this point - both in his campaign and in his super PAC - in order to be able to continue to compete, because we see that the places in which Rick Santorum has done best - including Iowa, as well as his sweep in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado - he did have spending by the super PAC. And the places where he has done poorly is where the super PAC has not competed.
So, I don't think you can understate the importance of the super PAC to Rick Santorum's effort. However, he also does seem to have this grassroots momentum that Mitt Romney is lacking, despite all his spending.
OLBERMANN: Plus, the mistakes in the Romney ads that he's able to outspend on 29-to-1.
Ken Vogel, Politico. Always a pleasure. Thank you, sir.
VOGEL: It's my pleasure, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Only in Republican House is this sentence not a joke, "What if they conducted a hearing on restricting birth control and didn't invite any ovaries?" Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney on the farce on Capitol Hill today, next.
OLBERMANN: Republicans like Congressman Darrell Issa sometimes seem to live to conduct crackpot stunts. But even for them, refusing to let any woman who favored the president's insurance birth control requirement testify at a hearing about birth control is beyond belief. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney joins us next.
"It's civil war inside Murdoch Land," says one of his former editors. Another dynasty-shaking day at News Corp.
A Fox News commentator not only insists Congresswoman Maxine Waters must be on crack, but he then compares her to the death of the late Whitney Houston.
And, as his list of Occupy assaults crumbles, it's Episode Three tonight of Breitbart Rage Video Mash-Up Theater.
OLBERMANN: Last week, President Obama defeated the latest ginned-up controversy by reaching a quick compromise on the contraceptive insurance mandate. The deal was widely praised by religious leaders and women's health organizations.
In our fourth story - despite the compromise, Republican Congressman Darrell Issa held a hearing to discuss how the contraception mandate was robbing people of their religious freedom. A discussion about women's health that included no women.
In the hearing today, subtly titled "Lines Crossed: Separation of Church and State: Has the Obama Administration Trampled on Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Conscience," Representative Issa attempted to show how the compromise trampled on the First Amendment. But the idea that a discussion about women's health care consisted of no women, led Democratic members to question the validity of said hearing.
(Excerpt from video clip) MALONEY: When I look at this panel, I don't see one single woman representing the tens of millions of women across the country who want and need insurance coverage for basic preventive health care services, including family planning. Where are the women?
OLBERMANN: Two women were hurriedly tacked on to the schedule of the second session, neither of them a minority and both against the contraception compromise.
Democrats had wanted to call a woman in favor of the compromise named Sandra Fluke, Georgetown University law student, former president of Students for Reproductive Justice. But Issa denied the request saying Miss Fluke was, "not appropriate or qualified."
They let Issa be there.
But nothing said on the Hill today summed up the backwards thinking here of this sham hearing as well as the man single-handedly propping up the campaign of Rick Santorum, the impossibly named Mr. Friess.
(Excerpt from video clip) FRIESS: This contraception thing, my gosh, it's so - it's such inexpensive. You know, back in my days they used Bayer aspirin for contraception. The gals put it between their knees and it wasn't that costly.
OLBERMANN: Joining me is Democratic representative from the 14th district of New York State, Carolyn Maloney. Congresswoman, thank you for your time tonight.
CAROLYN MALONEY: Well, thank you, Keith. Thank you for speaking out on this and putting it on the air, it's an outrage. They really showed their anti-woman, anti-choice, and now, anti-birth control colors today in front of an all-male religious leaders, with an all-male GOP leadership.
OLBERMANN: I've heard a lot of crazy things in my life, but this is clearly top 100. But the one thing I'm wondering is the, sort of, undertext to this. Was there a - the proverbial dog whistle in this? Were the Republicans deliberately doing this to say, "Hey, guess what? We men are going to decide all women's health issues from now on, or at least try to."
MALONEY: Well, uh, I think that's what they were saying, but I think it blew up in their faces, because half of the population of this country are women. And we will not be sent back to the Dark Ages. And we will not be denied our rights.
We're talking about insurance coverage for basic health needs including the right to plan our families, and take care of our health needs. Our one woman witness that we tried to get on the panel was going to talk about how birth control pills are used for a whole slew of things that are important to women's health.
OLBERMANN: Do you have any doubt that the Republicans seem to think that, for some reason, now they can make a serious assault - not merely on insurance, and not merely on this exaggerated religious question relating to the insurance, relating to birth control - but they actually think now, for some reason, there's some window of opportunity to roll back access generally to the population to birth control?
MALONEY: I really do believe so. There are a number of initiatives in states across this country that roll it back. And the attack that they have, it's clear - they not only want to overturn Roe v. Wade, a women's right to choose, but they want to overturn the Griswold v. Connecticut decision in 1967 that gave birth control to married couples. So the - and these assaults on women's rights, forcing them to have sonograms. All of these ways that they're chipping away at a women's privacy.
They're not doing it in other areas, but they're doing it in women's rights, and women's bodies, and women's health care.
OLBERMANN: Politically speaking, is it the dumbest thing they could possibly do at the moment? Because there were some indications that there were some flagging support among women, certainly compared to the Democratic results of 2008. And independent women, in particular, might be less enthusiastic about 2012 then they had been. I imagine another couple weeks of this could turn that around by themselves.
MALONEY: I agree, Keith. Whoever came - if this was a Republican GOP plan, uh, it certainly back - blew up in their faces, and whoever came up with it should be tarred and feathered.
But, uh, women in America - Republican, Democratic, independent, conservative, liberal - women will not stand for this. This is about our basic health care, it's about our health and our privacy, and our ability to make decisions about our health care.
The president's plan was a balanced one. Insurance that in no way infringed on the conscious of religious leaders or of anyone, but basically said that it was there to be purchased independently from insurance companies, and they're even opposed to that. So, uh, it's like, what century did you wake up in?
It's - it's an outrage, and women will not stand for it. And like-minded men will not stand for it.
OLBERMANN: And speaking of a past century, Mr. Santorum's backer, the comment from Foster Friess about aspirin - I'm surprised he didn't mention coat hangers. I mean, what an extraordinarily unqualified individual to have any say in the public discourse of this county, unless it happens to be 1930 again.
MALONEY: Well, also, Mr. Friess is an example of what Citizens United gave us.
MALONEY: That one person who's very wealthy can have an undue influence in campaigns. If he wasn't around, Santorum wouldn't even be around. If you look at some of Santorum's statements and interviews that he gave, saying he doesn't believe in birth control. He doesn't believe in women having any right to control their own bodies. He's on record saying that. And it's people like Mr. Friess who can give unlimited amounts of money that are influencing our political process.
The Citizens United was the most undemocratic decision ever made. We should have a real uprising of citizens to repeal that, to have a constitutional amendment to stop it, because people like this Mr. Friess - who is obviously not in tune to what is happening in America, and obviously very anti-woman, anti-choice, anti-reproductive decisions of women, and anti-birth control.
OLBERMANN: Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney of New York, great thanks for your time tonight. Good to talk to you.
MALONEY: Thank you, Keith, for speaking up and putting this on the air.
OLBERMANN: Of course.
MALONEY: It's an important issue.
OLBERMANN: Indeed it is. Thank you again.
Another women's right - not to be blamed for being raped. After Andrew Breitbart did that, his side began to deflate today.
Breitbart Video Rage Mash-up Theater with another guest ragee continues apace, ahead on "Countdown."
OLBERMANN: A moment here to mention a great loss in sports. Baseball Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter, of the Montreal Expos and New York Mets, died today after a long struggle with brain cancer.
His exploits on the field were one thing, but this was a man who - an hour before a vital playoff game in Los Angeles - once overheard that a local sportscaster, me, had just lost his live interview guest.
Since we had met exactly once before, Gary Carter believed he should help if he could. So, without being asked, he volunteered to join me as the live interview guest. And everyone who covered him and every player who played alongside him had a similar story about him.
Gary Carter, a Hall of Famer in more senses than one, was just 57 years old.
Indeed, "Time Marches On!"
VIDEO: Cat suddenly falls asleep.
The jokey videos may seem incongruous, but I need the laughs. So we begin, as we always do, with a catnap.
And - down goes cat.
Oddly, the cat is Sarah Palin's presidential campaign manager. That's a big freakin' cat.
VIDEO: Sad French bulldog listens to Adele.
In music news, after winning six Grammys this past weekend, Adele has proven that her music has the ability to really make people ponder about their lives. And it's not just people that are moved by the music.
(Excerpt from video clip) ADELE: Old friend, why are you so shy/Ain't like you to hold back or hide from a lie.
OLBERMANN: You ought to just look at yourself in the mirror.
Rocco the dog said he has not been as affected by a song like this since the first time he heard "Who Let the Dogs Out?"
VIDEO: Homemade merry-go-round ends in disaster.
Finally, from the Bad Idea Department - what do you get when you combine too much time on your hands, a plank of wood, and what appears to be a cement mixer? That's right. You get a terrible idea.
This homemade carousel seems like a disaster waiting to happen, and, of course, it does.
Whee! Bye. Down goes Frazier!
We're hoping the number 28 does not indicate that this is their 28th attempt.
"Time Marches On!"
The unlikely new development at Murdoch's arrest-plagued London newspaper - the staff there is beginning to think Rupert may have sold them out. Rupert Murdoch selling his own people out to save his own hide? I thought only us ex-employees were permitted to realize that. Next.
OLBERMANN: A rift between the people who put out the paper - which built the foundation for a right-wing media empire - and that empire itself, today widened, and perilously.
Our third story on the "Countdown" - following the arrest of ten former and current senior staff of News Corporation's The Sun newspaper - including five editors this past weekend alone, on bribery allegations - Rupert Murdoch traveled to London today.
He is expected to show up at the newspaper's east London office tomorrow, to quell growing resentment from the newspaper's journalists, who argue that News Corp. management betrayed their sources. The clash went public when Sun veteran and reportedly close confidant of Murdoch, Trevor Kavanagh, published an article carrying the headline "Witch-hunt has put us behind ex-Soviet states on Press freedom."
In an interview with the BBC, Kavanagh described the mood among his staff:
(Excerpt from video clip) TREVOR KAVANAGH: I think that the newsroom is full of people who feel deeply unhappy about the way that their colleagues have ended up being arrested, searched, put on police bail, and suspended from their duties.
OLBERMANN: But according to a source close to the police investigation, this is about large-scale lawbreaking, and, "This is not about sources or expenses. This is an investigation into serious suspected criminality over a sustained period. It involves regular cash payments totaling tens of thousands of pounds a year, for several years, to public officials, some of whom were effectively on retainers to provide information. In totality, it involves a six-figure sum."
Joining me now to talk about this - David Folkenflik, media correspondent for NPR News. It's good to see you, sir.
DAVID FOLKENFLIK: Thanks so much.
OLBERMANN: Thanks for coming in. I know, from experience inside the Murdoch world, that if you cross Murdoch - even inadvertently and even with the supposed approval of his underlings - that's termination. And if he can arrange it, that's the end of your career. What does it mean that there are some who work for him who seem to be - perhaps off the record, perhaps with nuance - seem to be willing to cross him?
FOLKENFLIK: Well, at the moment, I think it's fair to say that News Corp. itself, and particularly in its British arm, is a house divided. You have corporate imperatives. You have internal investigators who have shared damning evidence with the Scotland Yard, leading to the arrests, we now know, of near ten current Sun journalists. And you also have people there who say, "Why are they turning us over for doing the journalism they paid us to do for all this time?"
There's a certain ventilation aspect going on. The pressure has built up at The Sun, at The Times of London, and The Sunday Times as well, the two sort of more-prestigious titles. And Murdoch may be letting them blow off some steam as they figure out what their corporate strategy is going to be moving forward.
OLBERMANN: But, truly, this is more than just complaints, because reportedly, more than a dozen of the journalists from the paper have approached the National Union of Journalists in England about possible legal challenges to News Corp. They argue that the company had a duty to protect journalistic sources, that they're sort of going at it from a principled standpoint, as opposed to the "You guys sold us out" standpoint. Where does that go? Is that lawsuits? Is it a complaint to the press board? What happens next there?
FOLKENFLIK: Well, they're really - this is the very earliest stages of those things. The idea of them rebelling against Murdoch - you know, decades ago, there were fights of the unions against Murdoch, which led to a reinvention of the British newspaper industry.
This is something different, where people have been very loyal to the kind of very brash and bare-knuckled reporting that has served The Sun well, the kind of reporting that, itself, was often invasive of people's privacies. The complaints that we heard from The Sun seems to have a little irony contained therein.
Nonetheless, they're saying now, "Why are we being put out in a vulnerable space?" Where Murdoch himself has to think, "What's going to be the best corporate interest of the company, how can I retain control, and how can, perhaps, my family continue to retain control?"
OLBERMANN: Well, he's managed to do that now through the drip, drip, drip of eight months of scandal, when there was some expectation this would come to some kind of head at the end of the summer, when the British parliament got back from its recess. During the fall, as we moved towards Thanksgiving, he survived eight months. Is there reason to actually believe that he is not going to survive another eight months, or if his health holds out, another eight years?
FOLKENFLIK: Well, you know, Rupert Murdoch at this point is very much about the preservation of Rupert Murdoch's hold of what is run like a family operation, but is nonetheless a publicly-traded company based here in Manhattan.
That said, the drip, drip, drip has also included a number of startling revelations that have led to a number of his top lieutenants being questioned, some arrested - questions about the veracity of James Murdoch, until recently, the presumed heir apparent of News Corp. So he's in a tenuous position, the younger Murdoch, and the hope of the family is to cauterize it before it gets any more close and more severe.
OLBERMANN: But you mention, it's based here in New York. That's the $64 billion question - is there any indication that anything untoward happened here, or that this scandal is by, even extension, moving to this country?
FOLKENFLIK: Well, this was, as you recall, a phone hacking, to a smaller degree, a computer hacking, and certainly a bribery scandal. So it's seeping, it's growing in recent days. It's clear that it has not been contained at the now-shuttered News of the World newsroom. It's slopped over into The Sun as well.
Questions on these shores - has this happened? Well, it doesn't appear to be the case. Jude Law has made clear that he feels that there's evidence showing he was hacked not only in Great Britain, but that his phone was hacked at JFK. That's on American soil.
More to the point, for corporate concerns, the question of violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. You can't bribe public officials abroad. There seems to be mounting and somewhat-credible evidence of such allegations in the UK, although we should acknowledge no arrests yet - excuse me, no criminal charges yet, although a lot of arrests. A lot of arrests. And so the question would be more - would there be some price to pay here at home, some prosecution or at least some sort of major civil settlement?
OLBERMANN: Parenthetically, John Dean had an interesting point of view on that, which is you need almost to prove that the bribing of the foreign officials led to quotes that sold X number of newspapers to make that charge stick in any meaningful way here. So that's an interesting sort of cold, wet blanket on the idea that, perhaps, that Foreign Bribery Act might actually mean something here.
In any event, David Folkenflik, the media correspondent for NPR. A pleasure to have you in the studio and for me to get to ask you the questions for a change.
FOLKENFLIK: You bet.
OLBERMANN: Thank you, David.
Besides what we mentioned earlier, Governor Romney has another problem tonight. If he signed a pledge to stiffen pornography laws, why has he accepted the maximum legal donation from the owner of bondage.com? Heh, I said stiffen.
OLBERMANN: Running for president with a disapproval rating of 63 percent. It's not exactly a crime but it might be defined as a psychological issue. Maysoon Zayid on the presidential follies, including Mr. Gingrich's bus breaking down in an unfortunate place in Los Angles - in greater Los Angeles.
And Episode Three in a series of at least 40. Mashing up his still-hilarious alcohol-powered screaming at Occupy protesters with the famous rages of entertainment history. Who will it be tonight? "Worst Persons," next on "Countdown."
OLBERMANN: Nomination are now being accepted for the new Ron Paul Girl and other political comedy with Maysoon Zayid. Next.
First, because these people are also very funny if only they could understand why, here are "Countdown's" top three nominees for today's "Worst Person in the World."
The bronze? To Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney.
You will recall that Governor Romney, last month, responded forcefully to a survey from a group calling itself Morality in Media's War on Illegal Pornography Campaign, which is pushing for an outright ban on anything it considers pornographic. Romney told that group that he as for strict enforcement of our nation's obscenity laws as well as "the promotion of parental software controls that guard our children from Internet pornography."
Except, apparently, Friend Finder Networks brand pornography. Friend Finder Networks own Penthouse, bondage.com, bdsm.com and likemynudephoto.com. And campaign filings indicate that, last September, Romney accepted the maximum campaign contribution of $2500 from the chairman of Friend Finder Networks, Daniel Staton. In 2008, Romney had accepted $4300 from two of the porn company's executives.
So vote for Mitt Romney and Friend Finder Networks brand porn.
The runner up? The utterly pornographic Eric Bolling of the political whorehouse that is Fox News. After Representative Maxine Waters of California told her state democratic convention that they had to take back the House because John Boehner as speaker and Eric Kantor as majority leader represented "demons," Bolling - long known for his racist remarks on that network and on the Fox "Out of Business" channel - self-destructed.
(Excerpt from video clip) ERIC BOLLING: What is going on in California? How's this? Look, Congresswoman, you saw what happened to Whitney Houston. Step away from the crack pipe. Step away from the Xanax. Step away from the Lorazepam, because it's going to get you in trouble. How else will you explain those comments?
OLBERMANN: So, accusing a sitting congresswoman of drug abuse and invoking the name of a just-dead and much-beloved celebrity? It would be appropriate to call for Bolling's firing, but just last week they canceled his show anyway. So, they may just be letting him disappear slowly anyhow.
But our winner, once again? Right-wing blogger Andrew Breitbart.
We pointed out here last night that his supposed list of 17 rapes by Occupy actually included stories listed twice. Four others in which police said neither victim nor assailant were associated with Occupy. Six stories in which police identified the victims, but not assailants, as members of Occupy. And five other exaggerated or distorted stories.
That now-discredited list was, of course, the rationale for Breitbart's wine-fueled implosion in front of the Occupy protest at the conservative conference last Saturday, in which he called the group "animals, rapist and murderers."
Suddenly, today, Breitbart has changed his tune. Now, it's not Occupy that committed the assaults, it's that assaults were committed at Occupy events and thus, they are still Occupy's fault. Which is a complicated way of blaming the victims for being raped and assaulted.
Thus, we happily continue our series of Breitbart Rage Video Mash-ups Theater with yet another special guest villain.
(Excerpt from video clip) BREITBART: You filthy, filthy, filthy, raping, murdering freaks!
(Excerpt from video clip) CHRIS FARLEY: I am 35 years old. I am divorced and I live in a van down by the river.
(Excerpt from video clip) BREITBART: Behave yourself! Behave yourself! Behave yourself!
(Excerpt from video clip) FARLEY: You're not going to amount to jack squat!
(Excerpt from video clip) BREITBART: Stop raping people! Stop raping the people!
(Excerpt from video clip) FARLEY: I wish you could just shut your big yapper!
(Excerpt from video clip) BREITBART: You are freaks and animals! You're freaks and animals!
(Excerpt from video clip) FARLEY: You're going to be doing a lot of doobie rolling when you're living in a van down by the river!
(Excerpt from video clip) BREITBART: You freaks! You filthy freaks!
(Excerpt from video clip) FARLEY: Now. you kids are probably asking yourselves, "Hey, Matt? How can we get back on the right track?"
(Excerpt from video clip) BREITBART: And we're allowed to drink wine in America. I'm not living by the one percent/99 percent bulls--- -
(Excerpt from video clip) FARLEY: Old Matt's gonna be your shadow. Here's you. Here's Matt. There's you. There's -
(Excerpt from video clip) MAN: I wrote on your website.
(Excerpt from video clip) FARLEY: Oopsy daisy. Oopsy daisy.
OLBERMANN: And I apologize to the memory of the late Chris Farley for dragging him into this.
We'll be back tomorrow for Episode Four in a series of about 40 editions of Rage Video Mash-up Theater, starring Andrew Breitbart, today's "Worst Person in the World."
OLBERMANN: While Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum continue to battle their way toward Super Tuesday, Newt Gingrich continues his attempt to keep a hopelessly-sinking campaign afloat and the bus running. Without success.
In our number-one story - it seems Gingrich has his work cut out for him. Not only does he find himself trailing in delegates but, according to a new CNN Research poll, Gingrich now finds himself as possibly the least-popular politician in America.
When asked their overall opinion of him, a staggering 63 percent of registered voters said they had an unfavorable view. This compared to just a month ago, when respondents in the same poll only thought - 58 percent of them only thought he was unfavorable. In other words, the more they get to know Gingrich, the less they like him. The current 38-point spread between his favorable and unfavorable is a new high - or I should say new low - for him during this campaign. Although it merely ties his 1997 number, when he was facing both an ethics investigation and that revolt from inside his own party.
Evidence of just how unpopular Newt Gingrich truly is? When his campaign bus broke down in West Hollywood last night, it sat for hours while the locals did little to help. Although you didn't need a poll to tell you that Newt Gingrich is probably viewed unfavorably in West Hollywood.
Putting these numbers into a bit more context - even at her least likeable, Sarah Palin never had a CNN unfavorable rating that surpassed 60 percent. Yes, that Sarah Palin.
While he does not face the same favorability problem as Gingrich, Ron Paul also finds himself merely a subplot to the Romney-versus-Santorum narrative. In an attempt to give his campaign a much-needed boost, Paul's website released a section for supporters, called, "How Can I Help?"
The number seven way you could help? You could become a Ron Paul Girl, an "enthusiastic woman to record occasional video announcements for our site." The search is also on to be The Ron Paul Girl. And it would seem it's not off to a good start.
(Excerpt from video clip) WOMAN: Ron Paul for president. Ron Paul for president.
OLBERMANN: Remembers the words and has her own ukulele.
Joining me now, comedienne and "Countdown" contributor Maysoon Zayid, who leaves here for appearances in Chicago on March 2nd and 3rd, and we'll remind you of that at the end. Good to see you.
MAYSOON ZAYID: Good to see you too.
OLBERMANN: Newt Gingrich does not know this yet, but he can't be president. He's not going to wind up being president. So what I was thinking - he still can be as unpopular as any American politician who's ever lived. What can he do to achieve this? What can he do to make himself more unpopular?
ZAYID: To be even less liked?
ZAYID: He could strap his dog to the roof of a car and drive for 12 hours.
OLBERMANN: That's old hat.
ZAYID: He could - he could leave his cancer-stricken wife - oh, wait.
OLBERMANN: No, no.
ZAYID: He did that, too.
ZAYID: What if he shot Bambi? I mean, Bambi's mother's already dead. Shoot Bambi. That's all he's got.
OLBERMANN: Kind of - it's Dick Cheney-like though. You know? Basically, it's Dick Cheney he'd be competing with for least popular, I would think.
OLBERMANN: Ms. Palin - no, before Ms. Palin, the - the Gingrich bus breaks down in West Hollywood.
ZAYID: And no one helps them.
OLBERMANN: Could you have written this?
OLBERMANN: If you wrote that, somebody would go, "No, cut this out. It's ridiculous."
ZAYID: No, you can't write stuff like that, but the fact that even the characters - even the people dressed as Spider-Man - it wasn't even worth it to them to help for a dollar. They were like, "I'm not doing this. I have morals. I have ethics."
OLBERMANN: Exactly. All right, I was gonna ask you about Palin.
OLBERMANN: Hinting she might not get back into the race but she's there, in case they simply want to hand it to her at a brokered convention. As we said, nearly 60 percent in the unpopularity score, herself. If you had it - like a Palin/Gingrich or even a - you know, Gingrich/Palin ticket, could that be the worst - least positive in history? Could you do worse than that?
ZAYID: I had forgotten that she had even existed and I wish the world would let me continue to forget that, but the one ticket I think could compete for worst is Allen West/Christine O'Donnell.
OLBERMANN: Oh, Lord.
ZAYID: They could call it "Wacko Meets the Witch."
OLBERMANN: But how could Allen West share a stage with a woman?
ZAYID: We could put her in a burqa.
OLBERMANN: Okay. The Gingrich poll numbers - 66 percent of women have an unfavorable view of him. Forgetting the presidency, should he still be worried about the number, relative to the prospects of a fourth wife?
ZAYID: No. Sadly, he shouldn't. And the thing is this - you don't watch the amount of reality television that I do.
ZAYID: Well, I'm telling you, sadly, there are a bunch - a bunch - of desperate women out there who are ready to marry a pasty, angry muffin with a half-million-dollar credit line at Tiffany's. They're called "Real Housewives." None of them are married and they're ready to be wife number four.
OLBERMANN: And this is sort of an extension of the premise of women who marry guys who are spending lifetimes in jail? That kind of thing, I guess?
ZAYID: Yeah. It's a little bit worse than marrying a prisoner on death row but you still get the jewels.
OLBERMANN: Ron Paul searching for the Ron Paul Girl. He's the only one who can get away with that, right? I mean, if the - if Herman Cain had said "I'm gonna search for the Herman Cain Girl," there would have been 35 of them who came out and said, "I thought I was already the Herman Cain Girl!" Right?
ZAYID: Herman Cain's problem is that, instead of searching for them, he likes to catch them, like "Pokémon." And he doesn't understand that women running away means, "No," and not, "Chase me."
But I have to confess to you, I was gonna try out to be the Ron Paul Girl 'cause I got bills to pay. But the problem is I'm more CP than RP and he's not really a fan of the disabled, Medicare or affirmative action, so I don't really think I have a shot.
OLBERMANN: And we also will close with this thought. Ron Paul got the endorsement earlier this month - I didn't know this - of the Moonlite Bunny Ranch in Nevada.
ZAYID: Shocking. It's absolutely shocking to me because I thought Moonlite would go out for Mitt Romney because Mormons and licensed prostitution go together like peanut butter and jelly. And if not Romney, Santorum - he's there, anyway.
OLBERMANN: Or - or Gingrich.
ZAYID: Or Gingrich.
OLBERMANN: "Countdown" contributor Maysoon Zayid, thanks for your time tonight. March 2nd and 3rd in Chicago. Where in Chicago?
ZAYID: University of Chicago and Joynt's.
OLBERMANN: Excellent. Enjoy. Good to see you.
ZAYID: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Thanks for coming in.
All right, that's "Countdown." I'm Keith Olbermann. Good night and good luck.