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ISSUES WITH JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL

Will Negativity Cost McCain the Race?; Sarah Palin Punked by Deejays; Study Links Teen Pregnancy to TV Shows; Superstition a Serious Business on the Campaign Trail

Aired November 3, 2008 - 19:00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
JANE VELEZ MITCHELL, HOST (voice-over): Tonight on the eve of a history-making election, Obama holds onto a formidable lead. Now some pundits say McCain has only himself to blame, because he followed the Karl Rove playbook of down-and-dirty tactics. Is it time for the GOP to try a new strategy?

Plus, Sarah Palin punked. Two deejays trick the vice-presidential candidate in a classic phone prank that goes on for minutes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love the documentary they made on your life, "Hustler`s Nailing Palin."

GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-AK), VICE-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Oh, good.

VELEZ MITCHELL: Does her gullibility destroy her credibility?

Plus, are raunchy shows like "The Gossip Girl" responsible for a jump in teen pregnancy? One new study says yes. OMG.

And a shocking update from the Amanda Knox trial. Could this pretty coed on trial for murder in Italy be part of a sick cult?

You think you`ve got issues? We`ve got more.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VELEZ MITCHELL: Good evening, everyone. We`ve got a lot on the plate tonight, including a secret that "Gossip Girl" won`t tell you about. A new study finds the television shows your teenagers watch play a significant role in teenage pregnancy. Is your kid at risk?

And the Italian prosecutor in the Amanda Knox case says the coed killer may have helped murder her roommate in a bizarre ritual reminiscent of a cult sect. But did his theory come from an Internet blog? This story just keeps getting stranger. We`re going to take a look at the latest twists.

But first, unless you`ve been living under a rock, you know tomorrow is election day, and most polls are pointing to an Obama victory.

CNN`s latest poll of polls shows Obama with a commanding seven-point lead over his opponent, John McCain. Considering the two nominees were essentially tied in September, the question on everybody`s mind is what exactly happened to the McCain campaign?

Now, personally, I think they shot themselves in the foot by taking their cues from Karl Rove`s nasty school of politics instead of from American people. Here`s my issue tonight.

The McCain campaign did not listen. Even when polls showed that six out of 10 Americans thought McCain was being unfairly negative, the campaign continued its character assaults on Senator Obama. It seems clear most Americans are sick of the negativity, and they will vote against it.

The McCain campaign had plenty of opportunities to adjust their tone, but they didn`t. Even now at the 11th hour, Republican McCain backers are still running negative robo-calls.

Joining me now, noted political observer Jonathan Allen from "Congressional Quarterly."

You know, Jonathan, thanks for being here. So many people say McCain was hobbled by forces totally out of his control: his association with President Bush, the economic meltdown, an unpopular war. But he did have control over his message and his tone. Did he bungle it?

JONATHAN ALLEN, "CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY": Well, you know, Jane, I think that there are a lot of factors, as you mentioned, that were working against him to begin with, but I think that Senator McCain also had some failures in this campaign. And of course, we will find out tomorrow whether or not he wins or loses. And if he wins, victory will have a thousand fathers, and if he loses, defeat only one.

But I think there were some things that he missed on. In particular, Senator Obama had a much more comprehensive plan for -- for the public. If you go to his Web site and look at what he`s offering on the economy. It`s a lot more substantial. I think Senator McCain articulated some of why he thought President -- Senator Obama shouldn`t be president, but didn`t do as much to say why he should be president.

VELEZ MITCHELL: Well, I agree with you. And what other message could he have chosen to distinguish himself from President Bush? Because we know the experience message doesn`t work. We saw that with Hillary Clinton. So that whole, "I`ve got more experience. I`m vetted," that doesn`t really play well with the voters. So he would have had to really develop some substantive, meaningful differences from the Bush White House and push those.

ALLEN: Well, I think what he would have needed to do and probably could have done is articulate why conservative or Republican philosophies could be applied to today`s problems in a better way. I think that`s something that voters wanted to hear, have wanted to hear.

There are a lot of serious problems out there right now, not the least of which is the economic cliff that we`re following off of right now. So I think voters were wanting to hear a little bit more about what it was Senator McCain would do for him and how he could apply his principles to today`s problems.

VELEZ MITCHELL: And, Jonathan, instead we got a lot of negativity. Watch this TV ad that is running in Pennsylvania.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REV. JEREMIAH WRIGHT, FORMER PASTOR, TRINITY UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST: Not God bless America, God damn America.

U.S. of KKK A.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He built his power base in Wright`s church. Wright was his mentor, advisor, and close friend. For 20 years, Obama never complained: until he ran for president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ MITCHELL: Now, this ad in particular was not authorized by the McCain campaign, and his people say something to the effect of, "Hey, we can`t referee everything." But couldn`t they have stopped this if they really wanted to?

ALLEN: Well, technically, they`re not allowed to consult with the group that`s doing it.

VELEZ MITCHELL: Yes, but I mean, couldn`t they have -- couldn`t they have influenced it, really?

ALLEN: Senator McCain said very early on in the campaign he didn`t want Jeremiah Wright to be used. And most of the outside groups took that to mean, I think, that he didn`t want Jeremiah Wright to be used, as opposed to a wink and a nod.

But now we`re seeing this ad. It is -- there is a distinction, I think, between this ad and some of the negative ads. One of the reasons it may, in some places, be a little more effective is that a lot of negative ads have this, like harsh, overbearing voice. What you hear in this ad is a lighter, I believe, a woman`s voice in the ad, in addition to Jeremiah Wright`s. It`s not exactly what you might have expected from a Jeremiah Wright ad. It`s not as doom and gloom.

VELEZ MITCHELL: Yes, I don`t think that makes it OK, just because we`ve got a woman`s voice, basically approaching the very thing that McCain said he wouldn`t be discussing, which is fascinating.

Now, let me ask you this one last question. McCain wants to distinguish himself from George Bush, and yet the person running his campaign, who many say spearheaded the whole negativity, is -- is a guy who actually worked for Karl Rove and worked in Dick Cheney`s office. So if you`re distinguishing yourself from Bush, why use those people?

ALLEN: Well, Steve Schmidt is a longtime Republican operative. He actually worked in Republican circles before he worked for Karl Rove and also worked for Arnold Schwarzenegger and a number of other Republicans.

But I do think that Senator McCain wanted to bring in somebody who had a little bit more of that national political experience, had a little more of that bare-knuckle political fighting style, and certainly, Steve Schmidt fits that.

And Jane, I`d just like to make clear I wasn`t saying that ad was OK. I wasn`t passing judgment.

VELEZ MITCHELL: I didn`t...

ALLEN: Simply -- simply how it might strike voters and why it might be effective.

VELEZ MITCHELL: John, we have to wrap it up. Thank you so much. I hope you come back. Great gift. I appreciate it.

Vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin has been punked. You have to hear this wild conversation with a phony foreign leader in 30 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELEZ MITCHELL: A new poll shows almost 60 percent of likely voters feel Sarah Palin does not possess the qualities needed to be president. The contempt from Governor Palin is not only coming from the Democrats. One in five Republicans now think she should sit it out in 2012.

Sarah Palin`s credibility was further destroyed by two Canadian deejays who actually got on the phone with Palin and pretended to be Nicolas Sarkozy, the president of France. She was totally duped, and it went on for several minutes. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP )

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is Nicolas Sarkozy speaking. How are you?

PALIN: So good. It`s so good to hear you. Thank you for calling us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, it`s a pleasure.

PALIN: Thank you, sir. We have such great respect for you, John McCain and I. We love you. And thank you for taking two minutes to talk to me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I followed the campaigns closely with my special American adviser, Johnny Holiday, you know?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ MITCHELL: All right. Johnny Holiday.

With me now, Carol Leifer, comedy writer and comedian, and Nico Pitney from the Huffington Post.

Carol, I`ve got to start with you. We`re friends. I was at this party this weekend. Everybody was talking about this nonstop, I mean, everybody at the party. The most shocking part, nobody was shocked that she bought this ridiculous, phony Parisian accent. Let`s face it: she only got her passport last year.

CAROL LEIFER, COMEDY WRITER/COMEDIAN: I know. Really. Well, first of all, the guy did sound about as French as Pepe Le Pew. I mean, come on. And yes, you know, it just shows how inexperienced Sarah Palin is. You`re right: she got her passport, her first passport a year and a half ago, and the first stamp was from the International House of Pancakes. Come on.

VELEZ MITCHELL: Nico Pitney, you`re the national editor of the Huffington Post. We seek a lot of qualities in people we vote for for higher office, but gullibility is not one of those qualities. I feel sorry for her, but yet this does highlight, in a frightening way, her lack of experience, does it not?

NICO PITNEY, HUFFINGTON POST: Well, I mean, it`s hard for any story to break through in the last 72 hours before an election, and for this to be the one, where she is the butt of the joke, where you know, she appears -- I mean, everyone is laughing at her who sees this story. It`s -- it`s horrible for the McCain campaign. It`s really poor timing.

VELEZ MITCHELL: It is. It`s very bad. But it`s also -- unfortunately for them, it`s very funny, so everybody`s playing it. Listen to this. The fake Sarkozy even duped her into believing he shared her favorite hobby, hunting.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN: Oh, very good. We should go hunting together.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Exactly. We could go try hunting by helicopter like you did. I never did that.

PALIN: Well, I think we could have a lot of fun together, as we`re getting work done. We can -- we can kill two birds with one stone that way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just love killing those animals. Mm-mm, take away a life. That is so fun. I`d really love to go as long as we don`t bring Vice President Cheney.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ MITCHELL: Carol, you know...

LEIFER: Yes.

VELEZ MITCHELL: ... at what point should somebody actually say, "Wait a second. This doesn`t sound right. This is not how the president of France would really have a discussion with me."

LEIFER: Yes, right.

VELEZ MITCHELL: He wouldn`t say, "I love killing animals." And you know, I mean...

LEIFER: I love taking away the life. No, I mean, I`m shocked that, really, literally ten seconds into this she did not know that it was a prank call.

And what I think is really kind of scary about it is, I mean, someone calls saying they`re a world leader, and she just takes their word for it, you know, at face value? I mean, is she going to get another call? You know, "Hello, Sarah. This is Ahmadinejad from Iran."

"Oh, hi, Mahmoud, how`s it going?"

"Sarah, let me ask you a question. Is your refrigerator running?"

"Oh, Mahmoud, oh."

I mean, you know, it`s a little bit serious here. It just shows how inexperienced she is, and I think it`s frightening.

VELEZ MITCHELL: It is frightening. And Nico Pitney, you know, I actually felt sorry for her when I was watching this. Because I saw it right after it came out, and I watched the whole seven minutes, and I felt bad for her. I felt sad. It was very humiliating.

But then I thought, hey, this is the pit bull with lipstick. She came out swinging, kind of the bring-it-on mentality. If you can dish it out, you`d better be able to take it.

PITNEY: True. I mean, a lot of the responsibility does go to the staff. They are -- they are clearly incompetent.

The radio hosts who did this were interviewed this morning. They said the only easier person to fool was Britney Spears, and Britney Spears was also the only -- the only other person, other than Palin, who they actually had to tell that it was a prank call. Everyone else ended up realizing that, you know, they were faking it in an obvious way.

VELEZ MITCHELL: Right. And we`ve got to get to this next one. You will not believe this. Check this out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I must say, Governor Palin, I love the documentary they made on your life. You know, "Hustler`s Nailing Palin."

PALIN: Oh, God. Thank you, yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ MITCHELL: Carol Leifer, that was, of course, the porno that was made using...

LEIFER: The porno version, yes.

VELEZ MITCHELL: A Palin look-alike.

LEIFER: From the brain child at Hustler, yes. I mean, it really was -- I mean, at -- at what point was she going to lock in and realize like, hello, prank call?

I mean, if the -- Howard Stern has not taught us something about shows, you have to expect prank calls at any time. And that staff member obviously, you know, was inane to take the call. But the candidate is their staff. You know, the fish stinks from the head down. She has to take responsibility for that.

VELEZ MITCHELL: Well, it`s -- it`s a very wild, wild story. And you know, I wondered actually, as we wrap it up -- we have to. You`ve been incredible guests -- if she`s being shielded from the news. Because the whole world heard about "Nailing Palin" and that porno. So when she heard that, she should have -- alarm bells should have gone off, but it didn`t. So I`m wondering if the staff has shielded her.

Final word, Nico. Do you think the staff is shielding her from the reality of what people are saying out there?

PITNEY: She`s actually said that she`s had staff not tell her about these -- these incidents where she`s been mocked. She`s mentioned it in interviews repeatedly, that she doesn`t like to see herself mocked. I think that there is an issue there. She`s deep in the bubble.

VELEZ MITCHELL: All right. Thank you. I hope you two come back. I`m sure there`s going to be more hijinks related to this campaign coming up soon.

A new study shows there could be a connection between sexy shows like "Gossip Girl" and "The Hills" and your teenager -- yes, your teenager -- getting pregnant. Unless you`re looking to become a grandparent, you`d better not miss this story.

And was coed killer Amanda Knox also a cult murderer? Find out, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELEZ MITCHELL: Italian police accusing fresh-faced Amanda Knox of being a coed killer. The prosecution says she`s caught up in a deviant and esoteric cult. But did they get that info from the Internet? Stay tuned and find out.

You know, one of the enduring images of this political season was of a pregnant, unwed 17-year-old Bristol-Palin at this year`s convention. Bristol`s bump is an issue because teen pregnancy is a national crisis. Even someone like Bristol, who comes from a conservative, evangelical-style family, is not immune.

In a year when 17 Massachusetts high school students reportedly made a pregnancy pact to have kids and raise them together, we now have a new study from the Rand Corporation, of all people, that shows there could be a connection between sexy television shows like "Gossip Girl" and your teen getting pregnant or, if you`ve got a boy, impregnating someone.

The study found that teens who regularly watch TV shows with sexual content are twice -- twice -- as likely to get pregnant or get somebody else pregnant as those who don`t. So I`m guessing reruns of "The Brady Bunch," not must-see TV for these particular kids.

Joining me, Wendy Murphy, a former prosecutor and author of "And Justice for Some" and law professor at New England School of Law and, most important, mother of five.

Wendy, is the takeaway from this study that there`s too much sex on TV or IS IT that we adults should be talking to our kids about what they`re seeing and putting it in context?

WENDY MURPHY, LAW PROFESSOR, NEW ENGLAND SCHOOL OF LAW: How about both? You know, you`re scaring me, Jane. I do have five kids. Two of them happen to be teenage girls. This is a very serious issue.

And you know what it makes me think when I hear about this study? Did we really need to have a study to figure out that, if we saturate our culture with images of teenage kids engaged in sexual activity that -- oh, I don`t know -- the pregnancy rate might go up? Did we really need to study that?

VELEZ MITCHELL: Well, you know, Wendy, speaking of that, there are a lot of movies about teenage pregnancy, and they supposedly take a hard line, like "Juno." You know, "Juno" struck me as really an endorsement for pregnancy. Because oh, you know, you get pregnant. Oh, let`s give the baby away to a nice lady, and everything`s OK. What a ridiculous message to kids: basically, it`s all going to wind up in an hour and 35 minutes being OK.

MURPHY: Yes. And it`s so easy to give up your baby. And wouldn`t it be nice if everybody was as brilliant as that girl was in that movie. You know, kids really aren`t that smart.

Look, I don`t think we need to study whether a culture that saturates -- everybody watches television. A culture that saturates television with images of sexualized girls is going to see an increase in pregnancy.

Jane, advertising wouldn`t exist as an industry if there wasn`t a cause and effect between the things we see and the behavior that follows.

Remember that kid in Florida: that boy who beat and killed his little girl neighbor? She was 6 years old. He said he did it because he was watching wrestling.

VELEZ MITCHELL: Yes.

MURPHY: He actually carried out the behavior. This is not shocking.

VELEZ MITCHELL: No, it`s not shocking. And it exists with violence, as well. But you talk about shows like "Gossip Girl," and what I find, really, the problem is, is that they`re not talking about consequences. In other words, it`s the romance; it`s the sex; it`s the glamour. But it`s not the very unglamorous result of getting pregnant and, basically, having the rest of your life dictated by -- by that one moment of passion.

MURPHY: Oh, and let me tell you something, I wanted my five children. I love them dearly. And I`m telling you, it is not glamorous. There is nothing glamorous about the process of raising kids. It`s joyful. It`s at times frustrating. It`s extremely expensive. It`s very difficult. My mother had her first child at age 16. I`ll tell you firsthand, it is extremely difficult.

And we do have to talk to our kids about it. We had pregnancies at my kids` high school last year, and thankfully, both of my daughters said, "That`s a dopey thing to do."

VELEZ MITCHELL: All right. We`ve got to go. We`re going to have you back. More on this.

In these final hours of his presidential campaign, is Barack Obama getting superstitious? It could be bad luck if you don`t wait to find out. So you`d better come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN, MUSICIAN (singing): Come on up for the rising. Come on up, lay your hands in mine. Come on for the rising. Come on for the rising tonight.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ MITCHELL: That was the Boss, of course, performing for a crowd of 80,000 Obama supporters Sunday. He said he was glad they let him come back and didn`t consider him a jinx because, as we all know back in 2004, he performed for a John Kerry rally in Ohio on the eve of election day. And we all know how that one turned out.

Superstition on the campaign trail has become serious business. We`re talking no shaving, lucky cowboy boots, and a pocketful of charms. This all goes on in the Obama camp.

So do politicians really believe that something as simple as, say, shooting hoops on election day can actually change the race?

David Paul Kuhn, the senior political reporter for Politico, these are some of the smartest people on the planet, and yet they`re as superstitious, it turns out, as Hollywood actors and sports stars. How is that possible?

DAVID PAUL KUHN, THE POLITICO: You know, it`s because there`s an element of the unknown in presidential politics. As much polling as -- that goes on, as much demographic research that goes on in each state, in the end, states as important, as central as Ohio, we still don`t know how it`s going to trend tomorrow. We don`t know if McCain or Obama is going to win that race.

For Obama, it`s -- even if he may be leading the polls come election day, he doesn`t know if he`ll pass that all-important 50 percent mark.

So there`s so much unknown in presidential politics, that for these politicians, especially on the eve of the presidential election itself, they -- they tend to want to do what has worked best for them in the past and change as little as possible, because in the end they are superstitious men, and destiny is always on their minds.

VELEZ MITCHELL: So give us a lowdown on what`s going on with Obama and McCain. And I don`t know if I really want to get to the point where I hear about James Carville`s dirty underwear. Apparently, he wears them over and over again. I don`t want to go there, but let`s do the two candidates.

KUHN: Certainly. For Barack Obama, he carries an American eagle pen, a gambling chip. And on election day, as you noted, Barack Obama plays basketball, and that, of course, is because in Ohio shortly before the Iowa caucuses, in fact, the day of, Barack Obama played ball, and he won. The day of the New Hampshire primary, he did not play ball, and he lost. For the most part, he`s played basketball since on primary day.

Now, McCain is the more famous superstitious politician. Since the 2000 campaign, he`s been well-known for his lucky charms. Carried a lucky feather, a lucky penny, all these weird rituals that were part of his top advisers. So both candidates are, to some extent, superstitious men.

VELEZ MITCHELL: And it just strikes me as so bizarre, like, for example, McCain wants to stay at the same hotel where he once won a primary. It`s really something I wouldn`t expect from either of these presidential candidates, but I do understand the whole concept of not wanting to jinx something by being arrogant and assuming. That`s a little bit different from superstition, right?

KUHN: It is a little bit different. One can also understand how a politician wants to keep as many things consistent as possible. And if certain symbols sort of remind themselves of their better days of past victories or comebacks, as in McCain`s case, and past victories as in Obama`s case, you know, those tokens carry a certain maybe profound consequence to a politician.

VELEZ MITCHELL: Got to leave it right there. Thanks so much. Hope you come back.

President Bush spending his final days in office focusing on environmental legislation but not in a good way. We`ll tell you about it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: As authorities continue to investigate the triple murder of Jennifer Hudson`s family members, a public memorial service was held yesterday. The family will grieve in private. The very latest coming up.

But first, take a look at this YouTube video. It is an ad showcasing Sarah Palin`s support for hunting wolves aerially. That means you chase them down with a chopper and shoot them from the air. This horrifying video has gotten more than 500,000 hits. It`s one of the many reasons many environmentalists consider Palin public enemy number one.

Now the Bush administration in its waning days is trying to take wolves off the endangered species list. It`s one of a slew of changes to weaken environmental regulations which the administration is trying to squeeze through while everybody is focused on what else, the election.

The Bush White House also wants to loosen rules for mountain top coal mining and factory farm waste disposal; both huge causes of global warming. Environmentalists are outraged, and being an environmentalist myself, I say shame on the administration.

Here to talk about it, Ralph Nader, Independent candidate for president. Ralph thank you for joining us. What`s the -- how do they say it -- strategery here for the Bush administration, and are they going to get away with it?

RALPH NADER, INDEPENDENT PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, they`re going out as slaves to the big corporations the way they came in. And unfortunately, the Democrats have let them get away with it too often.

Look at Jane, the plight of the American working man and woman. They`re losing ground. They`re getting unemployed. They`re having their jobs and industries shipped by these big corporations to Communists and fascist dictatorships abroad, like China, who know how to keep their workers in their place.

Then these same workers as consumers are ripped off by oil companies, drug companies, health insurance companies, banks and credit card companies. Then as taxpayers, they`re required to bail out these crooks on Wall Street and other companies that are mismanaged. And then to make matters worse, voters -- they`re in gerrymandered districts carved out by one party or another to deny them even two votes that`s why --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And I want to get to that in a second, but I want to get back to the environmental changes, the anti-environmental changes that the Bush administration is trying to make. Apparently, they`re doing it through the Interior Department and the Environmental Protection Agency.

What an oxymoron that is, if they are actually using those agencies to make these changes by Saturday so that they`re locked in before the new administration, whoever wins, gets in there. It would be very hard for them to change it.

So they`re -- and the American people are stuck with these rules when they had eight years to argue this before the American people. They choose to do it at the 11th hour. Tell us about how they`re getting away with this.

NADER: Well, because, you know, the Democrats let them get away with it. But now, if Obama sweeps and the Democrats have a huge majority in the Congress, they have no excuse. They can overrule them. They can repeal them. They can freeze the money to enforce them. So we`ll see what happens.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: But let me jump in and ask you this one question.

NADER: Yes.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: How do we stop them from changing these rules at the 11th hour? How do we right now stop them? Who do we write to? Who do we call to, to get them to not just slip these horrible changes through and make them actual law? Because in one case, for example, 15,000 factory farms can avoid certain aspects of the Clean Water Act.

We`re talking about hundreds of millions of tons of manure potentially going into America`s streams and rivers, and these industries get to police themselves now.

NADER: Well, they can`t do anything about it because these are directives and executive orders in departmental rulings under the complete control of that criminal recidivist, impeachable President George Bush.

But next year the Democrats would probably control it. And if Nader- Gonzalez gets votes for a third political force from people all over the country, we`ll be a hammer, and we`ll be a watchdog to make these terrible environmental disasters not happen.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Listen, I`ve got to be real. Obviously, you`re an Independent candidate. Your chances of winning are nil. So why are you doing this? Because and I play devil`s advocate here. I want to be respectful, sir, but a lot of people blame you for 2000 and saying, we wouldn`t have had the great Chad debacle and eight years of Bush had you stayed out of the race and not taken that 2.75 percent of the crucial votes?

NADER: Well, Gore doesn`t blame the Green Party. He blames -- having won the popular vote -- he blames the shenanigans from Tallahassee all the way to the five Republican politicians on the Supreme Court who selected George W. Bush.

So no more scapegoating, Jane, why Nader-Gonzalez running? I mean, just read the papers, for heaven`s sake. Look at the $700 billion bailout Obama and McCain have supported. Look at the decline in our economy. Look at the waste and the bloated military budget. Look at the lack of public works to repair America. Look at the lack of health insurance for tens of millions of people; 20,000 who die every year because they can`t afford health insurance.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And I want to jump in and ask you this last question.

NADER: Lack of a living wage for one out of every three people. Wal- Mart wages, and you say why we`re running? We`re running because --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ralph, I want to ask you this question. Because what I find fascinating about your position, you`ve attacked Obama as well as McCain. You`ve suggested that Obama is just on some very exorbitant career move.

NADER: Oh, yeah, because he`s the corporation candidate like McCain. I mean, Obama has raised more money from corporate Wall Street interests by far than McCain; no Democratic nominee has ever done that in history. Why are they investing in him? Because he`s their man.

Just at look at votenader.org, touch the issue page, and you`ll see the redirections is this country that we`re supporting and the majority of the American people are swearing they`d opposed or ignored by McCain and Obama. And there`s a great skit on the search for the Obama.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ralph, you say essentially that both parties are toxic. That our two-party system has failed us and we need to come up with something new. Well, what`s something new?

NADER: Yes.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I know you`re campaigning for president and you`ve given your campaign pitch.

NADER: Yes.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: But what`s something new are you looking for in terms of how we do our politics?

NADER: Right here, shift the power from the few to the many, full Medicare for all, living wage, cracking down on corporate crime that`s looting and the environment and draining trillions of dollars of worker pension funds and mutual funds; solar energy and energy efficiency first, no to nuclear power.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Do you really believe there`s no difference between the Republicans and the Democrats?

NADER: On corporate power, yes, on corporate power, they are very, very similar. They`ve surrendered our government under Clinton, under Bush, and Obama and McCain are no different on issue after issue when it comes to subordinating the sovereignties of the people to the domination of global corporations, trade agreements and on.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right, we`re going to leave it right there. I thank you so much for joining us fascinating stuff. And we`ll have you back real soon. Thank you, Ralph.

Reports say -- and this is such a tragic and awful story -- that accused coed killer Amanda Knox was into drugs. But was she also a member of an esoteric cult called the Order of the Red Rose? Find out right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: While Italian authorities accuse Amanda Knox of murder, some reports claim she killed in the name of a cult. I`ll try to separate the fact from the fiction next.

Now, the latest on the murder of Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson`s family; Hudson skipped the public memorial service of the slain family yesterday, but the Dream Girls star was in attendance today for the private service at a church on Chicago`s South Side.

Friends and family mourn Hudson`s murdered mother, brother, and her seven-year-old nephew. Thousands showed up for the public service with one mourner pleading, quote, "We need to come together to stop the violence." Amen to that.

Meanwhile, no one has yet been charged with this triple homicide. Police are still calling William Balfour, seven-year-old Julian King`s estranged stepfather, a person of interest. We will keep you updated with any developments as they happen.

But big developments today in the shocking case of American exchange student Amanda Knox. Charged in a possible sex game murder, Knox is in jail in Italy waiting to stand trial for the brutal slaying of her roommate, 21-year-old British student Meredith Kercher. Kercher was raped and stabbed in the neck a year ago after a Halloween party in the medieval town in Italy of Perugia.

Prosecutors say Kercher was an unwilling participant in a sex game gone horribly wrong. And if that doesn`t chill your blood, prosecutors are now speculating Kercher`s murder was part of -- get this, are you sitting down -- a Halloween cult ritual that involved human sacrifice. Italian newspaper "Il Tempo" reports prosecutors believe the murder was quote, "A rite celebrated on the occasion of the night of Halloween, a sexual and sacrificial rite," end quote.

What the heck is going on over there in Italy? Can this tragedy and macabre case -- this tragic and macabre case get any more bizarre?

Joining me by phone from Rome, Italy is a fabulous Peter Popham, Rome correspondent for the British paper, "The Independent." The evidence that I`ve read about so far does not seem to support any sort of cult ritual. So where, oh, where did the prosecution get this crazy theory? Peter?

PETER POPHAM, ROME CORRESPONDENT FOR THE BRITISH PAPERE "THE INDEPENDENT": We have been reporting this for the last year, have been asking ourselves for a long time.

A few days ago, when I was in Perugia, I stumbled upon the blog of a woman called Gabriela Carlizzi (ph), who is a devout Christian and whose teacher died several years ago. And she claims that she`s been receiving messages from her the other side form her dead teacher, giving her clues to solving important crimes up and down Italy, one of which was the murder of Meredith Kercher exactly one year ago.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You can`t be saying that the prosecution or are you the prosecution`s case against this American young woman is based on an Internet blog in which the blogger says that she`s communing and communicating with the deceased?

POPHAM: Well, it seems incredible does it? I mean it seems too bizarre to be true. And of course, the prosecutor himself has now denied it. He went on Italian television last night, to say this is not true.

And we cannot find a definite -- we cannot claim 100 percent that it`s the case, but there`s an uncanny resemblance between the blogs which Miss Carlizzi has been putting on her blog for the past months and the case which has been built up with very little supporting evidence at all by Giuliano Mignini who is the chief prosecutor in the case.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well look, we know that this young woman, this British woman, is dead. We know that there were four other people who -- some of whom deny being there, but the prosecution says there were three other people there, so four all told; two guys, two girls. There was sex involved.

Paint a picture of what we do know happened and where the facts end and the possible fiction of the prosecution`s case begins.

POPHAM: Well, it`s difficult in such a complicated case to sketch it in a couple of minute`s time.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Try to spell it out. I mean, they were there. It was around Halloween. They were having a party. There were drugs involved allegedly. There was a knife. What happened?

POPHAM: Jane, let me spell out for you what we know for sure. There`s a young man, Rudi Guede, a 24-year-old originally from the Ivory Coast on the west side of Africa who is now serving 30 years on this crime. He was a drifter, a drug dealer. He was supposed to have molested women in the past, and he was also a serial house breaker.

Now, he was put away by the judge in this case last week for 30 years for this crime. But the prosecutors insist --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Right, but I want to go back to the night. What were they doing? Amanda Knox and her then boyfriend who are charged now with murder, what were they allegedly doing that night?

POPHAM: Allegedly, they, the two of them, and Rudi Guede were involved in this sacrificial rite that the two men were holding this unfortunate Meredith, and Amanda was the one who, according to the prosecutor, stabbed her in the neck.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And this now has been sort of expanded to be not just a sex game gone bad and an orgy but also a human sacrifice. That`s where the huge leap occurs.

POPHAM: Well, the human sacrifice -- the term human sacrifice has come from the blog, but the idea that this is a sacrificial rite -- these are actually the words of the prosecutor used in the court last week.

So the idea that -- I mean, this is why Halloween is so important. In fact, it happened on the day after Halloween. But according to the prosecutor, they wanted to do it on Halloween, and they couldn`t because the flat was being used for other purposes.

But it`s definitely being tied as a sort of quasi-religious or even satanic -- the word satanic has also been used ritual connected to Halloween night.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right Peter, thank you so much for taking the time to speak to us. It is a crazy case.

Joining me again, Wendy Murphy former prosecutor and author and law professor at the New England School of Law.

Wendy, as a former prosecutor, what do you make of this crazy ritual cult theory that the prosecution, not just some blogger, but the prosecution is putting forth?

WENDY MURPHY, FORMER PROSECUTOR: Coming from the dead too.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes exactly.

MURPHY: What do I make of this crazy theory? I think it`s a crazy theory. And I`m actually stymied why would a prosecutor embrace something that isn`t supported by the evidence? Apparently, beyond theory, it isn`t supported by the evidence. Because what that does -- and you know this, Jane -- it means that the prosecutor gets up and starts to talk about anything cultish, they`ve got to produce evidence. There are no witnesses calling it a cult. No confessions referring to this as a cult-like event.

So if you make that your theory and you`ve got no real hard evidence to back it up, you`re in trouble. So I`d be surprised to hear the prosecutor go in that direction in trial. It might have been something that was discussed publicly, certainly if the bloggers were talking about it.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Wendy, I want to jump in and talk about these bloggers. Because you and I have covered so many cases, and you know that there are always these bloggers, and they either contact you or you stumble upon them, and they always have these wild conspiracy theories with all these details, and they`re selling you on why they`re right. And it`s all of this one way that they figured out that nobody else has figured out. And we all know they`re usually cuckoo for cocoa puffs, and we leave them alone.

MURPHY: But sometimes they`re right.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Occasionally, occasionally.

MURPHY: Sometimes they have information that the media hasn`t printed yet because they don`t yet have too reliable sources. So I like to read the blogs if I think they`re local, if they know the people involved. It doesn`t mean they`re right, it doesn`t mean you`re right stories about it, but you might glean some insight, and it`s important sometimes.

But here`s the problem. If I get up in front of a jury and I want to talk about cult activity, nine out of ten jurors are going to say what? I have no idea what you`re talking about. I`ve never heard of that. I`ve never known anyone who has been in a cult.

So you really have to be careful with jury selection.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Wendy, we`re talking about Italy. This is all happening in Italy. And a lot of times when Americans get in trouble overseas in some foreign land, they freak out because they feel, hey, this is going to be some kind of kangaroo court. It`s not going to be the way they do it here in the US of A. And sometimes they`re right. This is starting to sound very much like a kangaroo court although the judge has said he doesn`t buy the satanic ritual sacrifice theory.

MURPHY: And I`ll tell you something, Jane, so you`re right. There`s this cross-cultural problem mixed together with the nonsense of a cult, coming from the dead. If that becomes a theme in the case, the defense is going to win at trial just by pointing at the silliness of the prosecution`s theory.

So I hope it doesn`t come up that the prosecution is hoping to win this case because I think the jurors are going to say, that sounds crazy. I don`t care if you speaking Italian or English that`s sounds crazy.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I know, I mean, remember what happened in the Michael Jackson case where if they just charged him with one count, they might have been better off than their 18-count conspiracy theory that nobody could keep track of. So when prosecutors get a little creative, it sometimes bites them.

MURPHY: And you know what`s interesting is they`ll bring up the Scott Peterson case, where the cult theory was rumbling out there, as well, as a defense strategy, because it`s a lot easier to wrap your head around the idea that some crazy, Satanic cult people would slice the belly of a nine months pregnant woman and steal the baby. That was easier to believe for some people than that dream-date Ken slaughtered his wife and nearly born son. So the cult works magically in some cases.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Wendy, thank you so much. We`re going to stay on top of this story. It`s so strange, and it`s not going anywhere because the trial doesn`t start until December.

Right after this, a puppy goes from death row to catching bad guys. A fabulous story we have got to tell you about, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: One of the most important issues to me and to my life is the health and safety of animals. I believe they have rights. And it`s important to have a fundamental respect for all creatures, especially my dogs, Cabo, St. Lucas and Foxy Lady.

That`s why I love stories like this next one. AND it`s terrifying to think about it, but every year, nearly 10 million animals are put to sleep in this country, mostly in shelters. So when one makes it off death row that is something to really celebrate.

But when a dog manages to not only live a happy and healthy life, but also help catch criminals, now this is a story we can all feel really good. Our friends at Bay-9 news have this story of man`s best friend with a badge.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: When Jazzy and Sergio Nagreen (ph) decided to get a new dog, they knew they wanted to rescue one.

JAZZAY NAGREEN: I would take all these dogs homes, if I could.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Detective JD Manny (ph) also came searching the cages a few months back. He wasn`t looking for a pet. He needed a new partner. His boss said the sheriff`s office didn`t have $5,000 to buy a new canine.

UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: The money wasn`t available. But he said if I wanted to find a dog that could be donated and I could train it, he said have it.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: So Manny came to the Polk County Animal Shelter and tested several dogs for alertness and lack of fear. He finally found a lab mix that passed his test with confidence.

UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: Everything you could think of, is the dog afraid to do it? And he had no problem with all of it.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Manny adopted the dog and named him Residue. He spent the next 12 weeks teaching him how to sniff out drugs from cars, buildings and boxes.

UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: He surprised me.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Residue has come a long way his since days here at the shelter. In August he earned national certification through the North American Police Work Dog Association.

They started working the streets as a team last month.

UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: Residue came down to the van, he stopped, went up, sniffed the handle and sat. Which is how, you know, the non-aggressive alert we train them for. And I opened it up and right there by the seat was a big piece of rock cocaine.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Sheriff`s officials now call Residue a valued member of the agency. They say Manny saved a life while saving them money.

And the Nagreens say they hope the puppy they decided to take home becomes just as important to them.

SERGIO NAGREEN: You never know what you get. It`s like a surprise on Christmas.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And the moral of that story, adopt a dog, don`t buy one.

There are two kinds of conversations, the kind that happens on TV, and the kind that happens everywhere else. I`m Jane Velez-Mitchell and I`m just trying to keep it real.

Thanks for being a part of all this. Please come back tomorrow, for a special Election Day edition of "ISSUES."

END

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