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Top Journalists Denounce English as Official Language as "Silly" --5/22/2006


1. Top Journalists Denounce English as Official Language as "Silly"
On the Sunday shows, three top journalists mocked and ridiculed the Thursday Senate vote to make English the official national language, and thus prevent demands for government agencies to provide official forms and processes in other languages. On ABC's This Week, Cokie Roberts dismissed it as "a very silly debate" and Fareed Zakaria, Editor of Newsweek International, castigated the bill as "nonsense" and "nativist populism that is distasteful." In his end of show commentary on Face the Nation, Bob Schieffer also derided the vote as "silly."

2. MSNBC Sees GOP "Hard Turn to the Right" Alienating Middle America
On Friday's Countdown show on MSNBC, substitute host Brian Unger lived up to Keith Olbermann's habitually liberal standards as he portrayed recent efforts by Senate Republicans to declare English America's official language and to ban gay marriage as a "hard turn to the right." He hearkened back to the "exclusionary rhetoric" of the 1992 Republican convention that spelled a "political disaster" for Republicans, and wondered if it could be "1992 all over again." Regarding the proposed gay marriage ban, Unger referred to it as part of the "far right's greatest hit list," and characterized the Senate Judiciary Committee vote for a constitutional amendment as "tossing social conservatives a straight-as-an-arrow bone." He asked: "Could these two right turns alienate the American middle?"

3. Schieffer's Guantanamo Disdain: "More Trouble Than It's Worth?"
Bob Schieffer on Friday decided to use the uprising at Guantanamo as an opportunity to express his disdain for the detention facility. Schieffer opened the CBS Evening News by asking: "Has the U.S. prison for terror suspects at Guantanamo become more trouble than it's worth?" He then presumed: "Even those who created it have to be asking that question tonight." Schieffer listed a litany of reasons it should be closed, "It has generated reams of bad publicity for the United States, today a UN committee said it ought to be shut down because it violates the Geneva Convention, and now the latest: Prisoners wielding improvised weapons lured ten guards into an ambush and a riot broke out."

4. USA Today's NSA Phone Database Story Reporter a Democratic Donor
Leslie Cauley, the USA Today reporter who last week "broke" the news that three major U.S. telecommunications companies were assisting the National Security Agency in building a database to more easily track any communications by potential terrorists, is listed as a donor to former House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, according to a search of The Center for Responsive Politics Web site. A search found a listing for "writer and journalist" Leslie Cauley, indicating she gave $2,000 to Gephardt on June 30, 2003, when Gephardt was running for the Democratic presidential nomination. Before Cauley joined USA Today, she teamed up with former AT&T and Global Crossing executive Leo Hindery to write a book on business deals, Biggest Game of All. But Hindery is not just a businessman -- he's listed as a major donor to Democratic candidates and the Democratic Party, and was even mentioned by The Hill newspaper as a possible DNC chairman in late 2004.

5. NBC Notes Charges Against Torricelli, But Fails to ID His Party
Lisa Myers delivered an enterprising report, on Friday's NBC Nightly News, on how a Senate committee is investigating possible UN "oil-for-food" program misdeeds by former Senator Robert Torricelli. But no where in her story did she identify Torricelli's party. He's a Democrat. The only party label in the story came in an on-screen "(R) Minnesota" for Senator Norm Coleman. Anchor Brian Williams summarized the oil-for-food program and then noted how "there are allegations that a former member of Congress may have been involved in part of the scandal." Myers began by reminding viewers of how "former Senator Robert Torricelli, forced to abandon a Senate race four years ago because of ethical lapses today is back under investigation again." She explained: "In 1996, then-Congressman Torricelli repeatedly lobbied Iraqi officials to give lucrative contracts to a company owned by Korean-American businessman David Chang, who later went to prison for making illegal campaign contributions to Torricelli."


Top Journalists Denounce English as Official
Language as "Silly"

On the Sunday shows, three top journalists mocked and ridiculed the Thursday Senate vote to make English the official national language, and thus prevent demands for government agencies to provide official forms and processes in other languages. On ABC's This Week, Cokie Roberts dismissed it as "a very silly debate" and Fareed Zakaria, Editor of Newsweek International, castigated the bill as "nonsense" and "nativist populism that is distasteful." In his end of show commentary on Face the Nation, Bob Schieffer also derided the vote as "silly."

Criticizing Americas for speaking too few languages, Zakaria demanded: "What is the great problem in the United States?...That we speak too many foreign language languages, there are too many signs -- Americans are too multi-lingual? Have we forgotten what language we speak?" Zakaria soon charged: "It's a political football that has nothing to do with the real problem. It is simply one more way to try to assert a certain kind of nativist populism that is distasteful." Schieffer mockingly asked: "Were you like me and thought English was our national language? Sort of like we know the Washington Monument honors George Washington even though it doesn't have a sign on it that says 'Official Monument to George Washington.'...Of course new citizens should speak English, but why would the Senate spend hours debating whether to make English our national language? Let me break it to you gently: because it gives Senators something to do while they avoid addressing the real problems..."

[This item was posted Sunday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

# ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos, picking up the roundtable discussion after George Will pointed out how the Voting Rights Act requires ballots in additional languages:

Cokie Roberts: "At the moment what you've got is a political debate over this question of English and it is to me a very silly debate because on the one hand we know that most people speak English. It is true that-"
George Stephanopoulos: "Most want to speak English."
Roberts: "Exactly and learning English is a pathway to success. It is also true, however, that you dial 411 and you get press one for English, press two for Spanish and that's not going to change. As long as American business sees it in its best interest to have bilingual everything we're going to have bilingual everything."
Fareed Zakaria: "About 150 years ago, German was the second most-spoken language in the United States. In fact, Bismarck speculated on whether the United States was going to be a German speaking country or an English speaking country. It's nonsense. This is an English-speaking country. The commercial incentives are all to speak English. Anyone who is trying to get ahead in this country knows that. There is a transitional phase for those who come in here and because we take in lots of people that means the transitional phase involves lots of people who companies want to cater to. What is the great problem in the United States?"
Roberts, over Zakaria: "None, none."
Zakaria: "That we don't speak, that we speak too many foreign language languages, there are too many signs -- Americans are too multi-lingual? Have we forgotten what language we speak?"
Roberts: "I grew up in a city where the stores all said [gives French and Spanish for "we speak French," "we speak Spanish."]
Zakaria: "If you went to Yorktown in New York, until 30 years ago it was essentially German speaking part of New York."
George Will: "More than 200 years ago, the first Congress of the United States contemplated printing laws in German as well as in English."
Zakaria: "And they lost by one vote."
Will: "And they didn't do it and it's a very good thing. You [Roberts] say it's 'silly.' You [Zakaria] say it's 'nonsense' to worry about this. Let me tell you why it's not. The law has an expressive function and by saying there are some expectations that we can have for immigrants coming to the country, we set not a high bar but a bar which is that we are not a nation defined by ethnicity, we are defined as Lincoln said by a proposition, we're a creedal nation-"
Zakaria: "The proposition is that liberty is spoken in English? George, my point is what is the problem that we are trying to solve?"
Will: "We are trying to solve the problem-"
Zakaria: "That Americans aren't speaking English?"
Will: "No, we're trying to get people who come here to understand that if you cannot read the laws, read the founding documents and follow the political arguments of the country, you are not going to be part of the country."
Roberts, over Will and Zakaria: "But I think that people do understand that."
Zakaria: "Believe me, they understand that, George, because they can't cash a check without-"
Will: "But then why is it -- if you say it is obviously true, why is it 'silly' or 'nonsense' to stipulate something obviously true in the law of the United States?"
Zakaria: "Because it's a political football that has nothing to do with the real problem. It is simply one more way to try to assert a certain kind of nativist populism that is distasteful."
Will: "It's 'nativist populism'? That's just name-calling. It's like Mr. Reid saying it is 'racist' to expect people to speak English."
Roberts: "There is a lot of name calling going on in this debate."


# CBS's Face the Nation, Bob Schieffer's end of show commentary:
"And finally this morning, as we were just discussing, it is official. The Senate voted last week to make English the national language of the United States. Do you feel a lot better knowing that? Or were you like me and thought English was our national language? Sort of like we know the Washington Monument honors George Washington even though it doesn't have a sign on it that says 'Official Monument to George Washington.' Even I figured out that one.
"Of course new citizens should speak English, but why would the Senate spend hours debating whether to make English our national language? Let me break it to you gently: because it gives Senators something to do while they avoid addressing the real problems -- the war, health care, the ballooning deficit and immigration, for that matter. Working on real problems that have to do with national security and the country's fiscal well-being take determination, political courage and the ability to compromise -- all of which have become the missing ingredients of modern politics.
"So we'll hear more about silly issues between now and election day and come to think if it, maybe we should make the Washington Monument the national monument to our first President, otherwise people might think it honors the Washington Airport. And if Senators designate Grants Tomb the official tomb of General Grant, maybe that old joke about who's buried there will go away. While they're at it, maybe Senators could also declare the U.S. Capitol to be the national monument to wasting time and avoiding responsibility. Actually, I doubt any of us needs to be reminded of that."

The above, what he actually said on the air, differs slightly from the posted text on CBSNews.com: www.cbsnews.com

MSNBC Sees GOP "Hard Turn to the Right"
Alienating Middle America

On Friday's Countdown show on MSNBC, substitute host Brian Unger lived up to Keith Olbermann's habitually liberal standards as he portrayed recent efforts by Senate Republicans to declare English America's official language and to ban gay marriage as a "hard turn to the right." He hearkened back to the "exclusionary rhetoric" of the 1992 Republican convention that spelled a "political disaster" for Republicans, and wondered if it could be "1992 all over again." Regarding the proposed gay marriage ban, Unger referred to it as part of the "far right's greatest hit list," and characterized the Senate Judiciary Committee vote for a constitutional amendment as "tossing social conservatives a straight-as-an-arrow bone." He asked: "Could these two right turns alienate the American middle?"

In spite of a recent Zogby poll showing 84 percent of Americans, including 77 percent of Hispanics, support making English the nation's official language, Unger teased the show wondering if Republicans would "alienate the American middle": "Could these two right turns alienate the American middle? What playing to the Republican base could mean for the President and voters come midterm election." He introduced the show by recounting the 1992 Republican convention which renominated former President George H.W. Bush: "The 1992 Republican convention was widely regarded as a political disaster in which the party's social conservatives managed to alienate swing voters with their exclusionary rhetoric. A new cultural war was launched, and not coincidentally, it was the Democratic ticket that managed to win the '92 election. Our fifth story on the Countdown, could it be '92 all over again?"

[This item, by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth, was posted late Friday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

Unger then portrayed recent pushes by Republicans on illegal immigration and gay marriage as a "hard turn to the right": "The Bush administration hoping to rally the base with a hard turn to the right on a host of exclusionary issues. Some merely call them wedge issues, but most call them downright divisive. Gay marriage and immigration among them. The question, whether the strategy might do more harm than good. President Bush hitting the road Friday to stump for Republican candidates ... The immigration debate taking its own hard turn to the right. The Senate voting to make American, rather, English, the official language of the land."

A piece by Mike Taibbi, which also ran earlier on the NBC Nightly News, elaborated on a Senate proposal to declare English the national language, during which Taibbi notably claimed that "the debate has turned nastier," referring to "conservative commentators" who have criticized a watered-down version of the proposal, and showing a clip of Rush Limbaugh from his radio show.

After Taibbi's piece, and before bringing aboard Time's Mike Alan to discuss the issues further, Unger focused on the gay marriage issue: "Now, also on the far right's greatest hit list, gay marriage. In case you've forgotten, they're against it, not for it. They being the Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, tossing social conservatives a straight-as-an-arrow bone. The committee voting along party lines in favor of a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages ..."

Below is a transcript of relevant portions from the May 19 Countdown show:

Brian Unger, in opening teaser: "Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? America talk English, only? Sayanara, pig latin. The Senate votes to make English America's official language. Plus, the Senate push to ban gay marriage picks up steam today. Could these two right turns alienate the American middle? What playing to the Republican base could mean for the President and voters come midterm election ..."

Unger introduced the show: "And good evening. I'm Brian Unger in Los Angeles for Keith Olbermann. The 1992 Republican convention was widely regarded as a political disaster in which the party's social conservatives managed to alienate swing voters with their exclusionary rhetoric. A new cultural war was launched, and not coincidentally, it was the Democratic ticket that managed to do win the '92 election. Our fifth story on the Countdown, could it be '92 all over again? The Bush administration hoping to rally the base with a hard turn to the right on a host of exclusionary issues. Some merely call them wedge issues, but most call them downright divisive. Gay marriage and immigration among them. The question, whether the strategy might do more harm than good. President Bush hitting the road Friday to stump for Republican candidates, which doesn't look nearly as much fun as what he was doing on Thursday dune-buggying along Arizona's Mexico border. That's more like it. The immigration debate taking its own hard turn to the right. The Senate voting to make American, rather, English, the official language of the land. Correspondent Mike Taibbi has all the details, almost all of them in English."

Mike Taibbi: "At the New York Language Center in Queens, New York, they learn one language -- English, America's national language if a Senate amendment to a new immigration law passes."
Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN): "English is part of our national identity. It's part of our blood."
Taibbi: "But opponents say the bill's wording that unless otherwise authorized, 'no person has a right to have the government provide services or materials in any language other than English' is aimed squarely at Hispanics, the bulk of this country's illegal immigrants."
Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader: "While the intent may not be there, I really believe this amendment is racist."
Taibbi: "The official White House position is that command of the English language should be a requirement for citizenship. The students who come to schools like this one already know that. But as the debate has turned nastier with conservative commentators attacking a less restrictive amendment-"
Rush Limbaugh: "They vote to make English the what, national language, and then they say, 'Screw it, it doesn't mean anything.'"
Taibbi: "-immigrants concerned about their status are avoiding classes like these."
Barbara Dick, New York Language Center: "Because people are afraid. They don't know what's happening."
Taibbi: "And while the national language amendment has mostly symbolic importance, some critics say it could kill the chance for any meaningful immigration law."
Deborah Notkin, American Immigration Lawyers Association: "These kind of things are being used as poison pills to break down the legislation."
George W. Bush audio, followed by Spanish translation: "This week I nominated General Mike Hayden."
Taibbi: "From the top of our government to the wording of our currency to the signs and symbols at every direction you look, this has always been a multilingual country. But in the current atmosphere, the label of English as the official language is closer than ever to becoming the law. Mike Taibbi. NBC News, New York."

Unger: "Now, also on the far right's greatest hit list, gay marriage. In case you've forgotten, they're against it, not for it. They being the Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, tossing social conservatives a straight-as-an-arrow bone. The committee voting along party lines in favor of a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages like these. How come we don't have video of the vote? The committee meeting behind closed doors, but not, I repeat, not in a closet. One Democrat on the committee, Senator Russ Feingold, storming out as a result. It did get ugly. Committee chairman Arlen Specter bidding Feingold good riddance, telling him, quote, 'I don't need to be lectured by you. You are no more a protector of the Constitution than am I.' Feingold, however, with the last word, saying, 'I've enjoyed your lecture, too, Mr. Chairman. See ya.' That's right. 'Mr. Chairman.' Even during a political stunt, manners never hurt. The measure going next to the full Senate for debate and a vote has been scheduled for June 5th."

Schieffer's Guantanamo Disdain: "More
Trouble Than It's Worth?"

Bob Schieffer on Friday decided to use the uprising at Guantanamo as an opportunity to express his disdain for the detention facility. Schieffer opened the CBS Evening News by asking: "Has the U.S. prison for terror suspects at Guantanamo become more trouble than it's worth?" He then presumed: "Even those who created it have to be asking that question tonight." Schieffer listed a litany of reasons it should be closed, "It has generated reams of bad publicity for the United States, today a UN committee said it ought to be shut down because it violates the Geneva Convention, and now the latest: Prisoners wielding improvised weapons lured ten guards into an ambush and a riot broke out."

[This item was posted early Saturday morning on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

The MRC's Brad Wilmouth caught Schieffer's opinionated opening of the May 19 CBS Evening News:
"Good evening. Has the U.S. prison for terror suspects at Guantanamo become more trouble than it's worth? Even those who created it have to be asking that question tonight. It has generated reams of bad publicity for the United States, today a UN committee said it ought to be shut down because it violates the Geneva Convention, and now the latest: Prisoners wielding improvised weapons lured 10 guards into an ambush and a riot broke out. Our national security correspondent, David Martin, has our report."

USA Today's NSA Phone Database Story
Reporter a Democratic Donor

Leslie Cauley, the USA Today reporter who last week "broke" the news that three major U.S. telecommunications companies were assisting the National Security Agency in building a database to more easily track any communications by potential terrorists, is listed as a donor to former House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, according to a search of The Center for Responsive Politics Web site. A search found a listing for "writer and journalist" Leslie Cauley, indicating she gave $2,000 to Gephardt on June 30, 2003, when Gephardt was running for the Democratic presidential nomination. Before Cauley joined USA Today, she teamed up with former AT&T and Global Crossing executive Leo Hindery to write a book on business deals, Biggest Game of All. But Hindery is not just a businessman -- he's listed as a major donor to Democratic candidates and the Democratic Party, and was even mentioned by The Hill newspaper as a possible DNC chairman in late 2004.

The home page for the Center for Responsive Politics: www.opensecrets.org

[This item, by the MRC's Rich Noyes, was posted Friday morning on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

Cauley's link to a Democratic campaign seems likely to further cloud the credibility of her story. Two of the three phone companies Cauley fingered, BellSouth and Verizon, have since denied the accuracy of the May 11 USA Today story, and BellSouth yesterday went so far as to demand the newspaper "retract the false and unsubstantiated statements" made by Cauley in her piece. There have also been questions about the timing of the story, which was given huge play on USA Today's front-pages shortly before the former head of the National Security Agency, General Michael Hayden, was due to face confirmation hearings to be the next CIA director, and given the fact that many of the key points of the story were actually reported last December by the New York Times.

Cauley's Democratic campaign contributions seem not to be her only tie to liberal politics. Before Cauley joined USA Today, she teamed up with former AT&T and Global Crossing executive Leo Hindery to write a book on business deals, Biggest Game of All. But Hindery is not just a businessman -- he's listed as a major donor to Democratic candidates and the Democratic Party, and was even mentioned by The Hill newspaper as a possible DNC chairman in late 2004. See: www.thehill.com

The two were apparently close, at least at one point. According to a 2005 write-up in Broadcasting and Cable, "Cauley and Hindery developed a close relationship during their book project, giving her access to his insights and many documents from that period." The magazine, however, notes that "their collaboration apparently ended very badly," with Cauley trashing Hindery in a later book, End of the Line: The Rise and Fall of AT&T.

According to B&C: "She [Cauley] calls him a 'carnival barker,' 'a junk-food addict with a waistline to match' and, in a particularly cheap shot, a 'Queer Eye for the Straight Guy makeover just screaming to happen.'" For the B&C article: www.broadcastingcable.com

Friday's USA Today carried BellSouth's demand of a retraction on page 4A, below a more prominent story headlined "Senators challenge Hayden on surveillance," with partial transcripts of General Hayden being asked Thursday about the claimed NSA database program.

According to Friday's USA Today:
"BellSouth asked USA Today on Thursday to '€˜retract the false and unsubstantiated statements' about the company that it contends were in a May 11 story about a database of domestic calling records maintained by the National Security Agency.
"In a letter to the newspaper's publisher, Craig Moon, the company noted that the story said BellSouth is 'working under contract with the NSA' to provide 'phone call records of tens of millions of Americans' that have been incorporated into the database.
"'No such proof was offered by your newspaper because no such contracts exist,' stated the letter, portions of which were read by spokesman Jeff Battcher. 'You have offered no proof that BellSouth provided massive calling data to the NSA as part of a warrantless program because it simply did not happen.'
"Steve Anderson, a USA Today spokesman, said 'We did receive the letter this afternoon. We are reviewing it, and we will be responding.'..."

For the May 19 USA Today story: www.usatoday.com

The paper also included this background that seemed designed to justify their earlier publication:
"USA Today first contacted BellSouth more than five weeks ago. On the night before the story was published, the newspaper described the story in detail to BellSouth, and the company did not challenge the newspaper's account. The company's official response at that time: 'BellSouth does not provide any confidential customer information to the NSA or any governmental agency without proper legal authority.'"

Since the story broke, Cauley herself has made the rounds. The Washingtonian magazine's Harry Jaffe wrote a gushing profile applauding her "victory for beat reporting." He quoted Cauley as saying her USA Today "scoop" demonstrated the usefulness of unnamed sources:
"Like any reporter," she says, "one thread leads to another leads to another" in the "messy process of reporting."
"Part of the messy process was clearing the use of anonymous sources, on which the story was based.
"Says Cauley: 'This further validates the use of confidential, unnamed sources. They have a real value in our business.'"

For the May 16 Washingtonian magazine posting: www.washingtonian.com

With the phone companies demanding a retraction and her own Democratic connections now revealed, the "value" of her unnamed sources seems increasingly dubious. Could Leslie Cauley may be on her way to becoming a print version of CBS's disgraced Mary Mapes?

END of Friday NewsBusters posting by Rich Noyes.

On Saturday, I posted the following update:

An editorial in Saturday's Washington Times highlighted the Noyes item first posted on NewsBusters. The May 20 editorial, "Spinning, Spying and USA Today," recounted:
"With Verizon and BellSouth both challenging USA Today's report on their alleged participation in NSA's surveillance programs, it's not yet clear whether or to what extent the claims in the Gannett daily's much-discussed article are true. What's clearer is that USA Today reporter Leslie Cauley has ties to the Democratic Party, which the Media Research Center's 'NewsBusters' Web site unearthed yesterday. Searching through campaign-filing records, Rich Noyes discovered that Miss Cauley gave $2,000 to then-Democratic presidential hopeful Dick Gephardt in 2003. That's the type of activity that journalists normally avoid if they wish to be perceived as objective..."

The Washington Times also relayed another part of the Noyes item, noting "Cauley's collaboration with Democratic fund-raising heavyweight Leo Hindery, with whom she coauthored a 2003 book."

For the editorial in full: www.washingtontimes.com

Near the end of Friday's show, Rush Limbaugh briefly mentioned Cauley's donation and the RushLimbaugh.com home page over the weekend featured a link to the Noyes item on Cauley. Right under the picture of liberal Senator Patrick Leahy holding up Cauley's front page story, Limbaugh had a link to NewsBusters: "USA Today Writer Has Ties to Democrat Campaign." Limbaugh's home page: www.rushlimbaugh.com

NBC Notes Charges Against Torricelli,
But Fails to ID His Party

Lisa Myers delivered an enterprising report, on Friday's NBC Nightly News, on how a Senate committee is investigating possible UN "oil-for-food" program misdeeds by former Senator Robert Torricelli. But no where in her story did she identify Torricelli's party. He's a Democrat. The only party label in the story came in an on-screen "(R) Minnesota" for Senator Norm Coleman. Anchor Brian Williams summarized the oil-for-food program and then noted how "there are allegations that a former member of Congress may have been involved in part of the scandal." Myers began by reminding viewers of how "former Senator Robert Torricelli, forced to abandon a Senate race four years ago because of ethical lapses today is back under investigation again." She explained: "In 1996, then-Congressman Torricelli repeatedly lobbied Iraqi officials to give lucrative contracts to a company owned by Korean-American businessman David Chang, who later went to prison for making illegal campaign contributions to Torricelli."

NewsBusters contributor Tom Johnson alerted me to Myers' missing fact.

[This item was posted Friday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters: newsbusters.org ]

The online version of the Myers piece, posted by MSNBC.com with video, also avoids identifying Torricelli's party: www.msnbc.msn.com

Transcript of the May 19 NBC Nightly News story. Brian Williams set it up:
"It was after the first Gulf war when the UN began what had become known as the oil-for-food program in Iraq. The idea was, with Iraq under UN sanctions, Saddam Hussein should be allowed to sell some of Iraq's oil to buy food and medicine for Iraqi citizens, so they wouldn't suffer. As it turns out, Saddam skimmed billions of dollars from the program. And now, for the first time, there are allegations that a former member of Congress may have been involved in part of the scandal. Allegations now being investigated by the Senate. We get details tonight from NBC News senior investigative correspondent Lisa Myers."

Lisa Myers: "Former Senator Robert Torricelli, forced to abandon a Senate race four years ago because of ethical lapses-"
Robert Torricelli, September 2002, name not on screen: "It is the most painful thing that I've done in my life."
"-today is back under investigation again. The allegations, first reported by two European newspapers [Financial Times in London and Italy's Il Sole 24 Ore], involve the UN's scandal-ridden oil-for-food program. Iraqi documents, obtained by NBC News, indicate that in 1996, then-Congressman Torricelli repeatedly lobbied Iraqi officials to give lucrative contracts to a company owned by this [video of him] Korean-American businessman, David Chang, who later went to prison for making illegal campaign contributions to Torricelli. Senate investigators probing corruption in the oil-for-food program confirm they are now pursuing these allegations against Torricelli.
Senator Norm Coleman, with "(R) Minnesota" on screen: "We take it seriously, and we're going to actively investigate."
Myers: "Sources familiar with the documents say, while pressing the deal for Chang, Torricelli reportedly offered to help improve U.S.-Iraq relations."
Bill Allison, government ethics expert: "Senator Torricelli was willing to, on behalf of a contributor, take official actions, go to a foreign government and say, 'Help this guy out,' and that's something that an elected official should not be doing."
Myers: "This former U.S. ambassador says he remembers being uncomfortable when Torricelli asked for a meeting on the oil-for-food program and showed up with a Korean businessman, whose name he doesn't remember."
Edward Gnehm, Jr., former UN representative: "I wasn't sure who I was speaking in front of, so, yes, it was awkward and I thought a bit strange."
Myers: "Today Torricelli told NBC News he was only trying to help companies in his state get a piece of the oil-for-food business -- a program sanctioned by the U.S. and the UN. He says he did nothing wrong."
Torricelli, standing outdoors, with no on-screen tag: "Nothing was suggested that there was anything inappropriate about this. [edit jump] It was the right thing to do. What is regrettable is that they refused to buy American products."
Myers: "The deal eventually fell through when tensions between the U.S. and Iraq flared up. But investigators want to know whether there was an effort to conceal the arrangement and whether Torricelli was to receive anything in return. Lisa Myers, NBC News, Washington.

-- Brent Baker