The MSNBC.com "media analyst" and former Democratic politician  appeared with former prosecutor Wendy Murphy just after the bottom of the 7 am Eastern hour for a panel discussion about the Johnston-Palin custody case. After asking Murphy about Johnston's move to open the case, substitute anchor Erin Burnett turned to Adubato for his take. "Steve, what's your point of view? I mean, it's pretty clear he [Johnston] wants it open because he sort of wants to build his brand and his name and a reality TV career but that's a high standard. I mean, why should they allow it to be open?"
Adubato almost immediately set his sights on Sarah Palin and her apparent role in the custody dispute: "Listen, Sarah Palin is a major figure in this...she's said things about this kid. The daughter Bristol has said things about this kid. Here's the problem: you can't have it both ways. You can't be Sarah Palin, use your public platform to trash this kid in certain cases, and then say- you know, for the right of the kid , who's one, let's make sure that we keep it private....I understand this kid's smart enough- his lawyers are smart enough to take advantage of the fact that they've trashed him publicly. It's his only platform."
Murphy took issue with the analyst's argument about the former Alaska governor: "This is not Sarah Palin's case. It's her daughter's case and- you know, to suggest that because Sarah Palin is the grandmother and doesn't perhaps like Levi very much, I don't even know- I haven't heard her say anything particularly vindictive." Adubato countered by raising Sarah Palin's public profile: "To say that Sarah Palin isn't part of this case is ridiculous. Why are we talking about it? Because of Sarah Palin. She is a major public figure....We're obsessed by her in the media. It will impact this case. To say that a judge is not in any way aware of that is ridiculous."
Later, after Murphy raised Levi Johnston's reality show ambitions, Adubato countered by likening the former vice presidential candidate's life to such a program:
MURPHY: The guy's got a reality show coming. That's why the judge should say, I'm not going to let you use this child to make money! It's ridiculous.
BURNETT: Fair points on both sides. Wendy, let me ask you though what Levi Johnston could do to prove he is a responsible father and does his acknowledged wish to be in a reality show hurt his case for being a good father?
MURPHY: Well, you know, unfortunately for Levi, this all comes up in the immediate aftermath of the destruction of Jon and Kate's [Gosselin] family. So, certainly, we're all going to be aware and the judge is going to be aware of the fact that reality show is bad for children, the whole idea of it. If he wants to win custody, partial custody- if he wants good visitation rights, he should shut up, visit the child, pay child support, act like a good father, stop parading nude in magazines, get out of the house with his drug-dealing mother- that's just a few things he should do.
ADUBATO: So look at this, look at this- the kid- listen, I'm not here to defend the kid, but Wendy, here's the point: Sarah Palin's reality show that she's been on for the past couple years- listen, she's not in public office, but she's in public life. It has an impact on this baby as well, and to say it's not her case- legally, you're right, but in terms of P.R. and image and people's perceptions, it is. She's got a reality show too, and it's not good for the kid either.
MURPHY: But the fact that we are interested in watching Sarah Palin's life unfold-
ADUBATO: And her daughter.
MURPHY: The fact that we may have strong political feelings about her is not an excuse to do harm to this child. That's what's wrong with the court's ruling.
ADUBATO: It's not about politics. It's about the fact that she has spoken about this kid, picks her spots. Listen, this kid is not the kind- if I had a daughter, this isn't the kind of kid I would want her to marry-
MURPHY: Hey, if Levi-
ADUBATO: That's not the point. The point is, she takes shots at this kid. He has a right to fight-
MURPHY: No, if Levi doesn't like what Sarah Palin is saying about him, he can sue her for slander. He can do all sorts of things.
ADUBATO: Everything's legal.
MURPHY: He can't use his kid for leverage in this grotesque way. It's really not very good parenting, as he's done so far in this case.
ADUBATO: They're all doing it.
BURNETT: So what is the bottom line, in terms of his chances, to have partial custody of the child, would you say, Wendy?
MURPHY: There's no way he's going to get partial custody, not because of- you know, anything we're talking about today, but because how he has behaved since the birth of this child is inconsistent with what good fathers do. He hasn't had a lot of time to spend. He's been off on his naked tour. (both Adubato and Burnett laugh)
BURNETT: All right-
MURPHY: He hasn't- he really hasn't shown himself to be interested in the child, and that's the reason I wouldn't give him custody.
BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you very much for a spirited conversation, both of you.
-Matthew Balan is a news analyst at the Media Research Center.