This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," May 16, 2007, that has been edited for clarity.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: The "Big Outrage": Presidential heavyweight Rudy Giuliani vs. Congressman Ron Paul. The duo's 9/11 contest got a little spicy at last night's GOP debate in South Carolina after Paul suggested that the U.S. actually had a hand in the terrorist attacks.


REP. RON PAUL, R-TEXAS, GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They attack us because we've been over there, we've been bombing Iraq for 10 years. We've been in the Middle East. I think Reagan was right. We don't understand the irrationality of Middle Eastern politics.

RUDY GIULIANI, GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That's an extraordinary statement of someone who lived through the attack of Sept. 11, that we invited the attack because we were attacking Iraq. I don't think I've ever heard that before and I've heard some pretty absurd explanations for Sept. 11.


I would ask the congressman to withdraw that comment and tell us that he didn't really mean that.


GIBSON: And that was Republican vs. Republican. According to a recent Rasmussen Report poll, 35 percent of Democrats think President Bush knew about the 9/11 attacks beforehand. The so-called 9/11 Truth Movement has already infected people like Rosie O'Donnell and one in three Democrats, and many other people, Americans evidently, including Congressman Ron Paul. With me now is FOX News contributor and syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin.

So, Michelle, this stuns me. It wouldn't have stunned me had it come up in the Democratic debate, but it's a jaw-dropper to see it in the Republican debate.

MICHELLE MALKIN, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: It is and it doesn't belong here. And I'm glad that this moment provided great TV for FOX News — it was a very instructive exchange — but Ron Paul really has no business being on stage as a legitimate representative of Republicans, because the 9/11 truth virus is something that infects only a very small proportion of people that would identify themselves as conservative or Republican. And as you say, John, this is far more prevalent, this strain of 9/11 truth virus, on the left, and in much of the mainstream of the Democratic Party as that Rasmussen poll showed.

GIBSON: Why did 35 percent of Democrats believe it, and I think it's another 26 percent haven't quite made up their mind about it?

MALKIN: Well, I think part of it is what Charles Krauthammer has famously called "Bush derangement syndrome." I think that pathology has taken hold among many Democrats who would consider themselves mainstream, so anything that they could do to suspect or blame him for America's problems — and particularly the terrorist attack — they're willing to believe. I think a lot of it is just plain ignorance, and then there's a, you know, paranoid strain on the left. I talked about this in my book, "Unhinged," of tinfoil hat wearers who indulge in this kind of fantasy where America bears the blame for global jihad.

GIBSON: You know, Michelle, Rosie talks about this stuff all the time on "The View" and "The View" has a large audience. Would this notion be as prevalent as it is if there weren't prominent people like Rosie, Charlie Sheen and others constantly talking it up?

MALKIN: Well, they certainly bear the blame for mainstreaming it. Rosie O'Donnell and Alec Baldwin and Charlie Sheen, I believe, but it's there on the Internet and these people are absolutely rabid, and they are impervious to reason or logic. And it's good that we have magazines, publications like Popular Mechanics out there slogging everyday. There are a lot of blogs as well that have been debunking a lot of these 9/11 conspiracy theories. This war is going on on places like YouTube and in social networking places, but I think it's an incumbent on mainstream news outlets to debunk these people and I don't think you see nearly enough of that outside of FOX News.

GIBSON: Part of this 9/11 Truth Movement says that the United States attacked the Pentagon with missiles, that a plane did not hit it. I have never been able to understand how the 9/11 truthers then explain where is American Flight 77 and where are all those people? Have you ever heard them try to explain that?

MALKIN: You know, I try not to spend too much time in these cesspools, but it is worth taking a visit to places like, you know, these WTC7 sites and Students and Scholars for Truth, and I note that Ron Paul has basically allied himself with these people. He appears with Students for Truth on campus and he's appeared on radio shows like 9/11 conspiracy nut Alex Jones. And I would hope that that would disqualify him the next time around for appearing on stage with other Republicans.

GIBSON: We shall see. FOX News contributor and syndicated columnist, Michelle Malkin. Be sure to check out michellemalkin.com and hotair.com. Michelle, thanks a lot.

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