This is a rush transcript from "Fox News Watch," January 28, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
Watch the latest video at FoxNews.com
JON SCOTT, HOST OF “FOX NEWS WATCH” (voice-over): On “Fox News Watch” --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH, (R), FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER & PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So maybe Governor Romney, in the spirit of openness, should tell us how much money he's made off of how many households that have been foreclosed by his investments.
MITT ROMNEY, (R), FORMER MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR & PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Have you checked your own investments? You also have investments through mutual funds that invest in Fannie and Freddie.
RICK SANTORUM, (R), FORMER PENNSYLVANIA SENATOR & PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: These two gentlemen who are out distracting from the most important issues we have by playing petty personal politics --
REP. RON PAUL, R-TEXAS & PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm willing to challenge any of these gentlemen up here to a 25-mile bike ride any time of the day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: In the final debate before the Florida primary, GOP frontrunners don't hold back on the attacks on each other. Are the media pushing the buttons? Are the media asking the wrong questions?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER, R-OHIO, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The President of the United States.
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SCOTT: President Obama delivered his State of the Union address to Congress and the nation. The mainstream press made a big buildup, but when all was said and done, did the speech meet media expectations?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ED WHITFIELD, R-KY.: We're going to recess this hearing for 10 minutes.
REP. HENRY WAXMAN, D-CALIF.: Are you calling the Koch brothers during the recess?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: The stalled Keystone Pipeline, a hot topic on Capitol Hill and a hot topic for the media. But is the coverage too one-sided?
WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, gets a gig on television. What's going on here?
And some interesting images from the State of the Union address.
SCOTT (on camera): On the panel this week, a columnist for the Daily Beast web site, Kirsten Powers; Jim Pinkerton, contributing editor, the American Conservative magazine; syndicated columnist, Cal Thomas, and bureau chief of Talk Radio News Service, Ellen Ratner.
I'm Jon Scott. “Fox News Watch” is on right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI, D-CALIF., HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: Let me just make my prediction instead by it isn't going to happen.
JOHN KING, HOST OF “JOHN KING USA”: Why are you so sure?
PELOSI: There's something I know. The Republicans, if they choose to nominate him, that's their prerogative. I don't think that's going to happen.
GINGRICH: I think if she knows something, she ought to say it. If she doesn't know something, she ought to quit saying it. But this is bologna. I don't think any Republican is going to be threatened by Nancy Pelosi. And frankly, I would rather have her threaten me than endorse me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: Just a little bit of the political theater covered in the media.
Jim, what about it? That is the second time Nancy Pelosi has implied she knows something sort of dark and sinister about Newt Gingrich. Should the media push for answers?
JIM PINKERTON, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE MAGAZINE: And the second time she's had to back down, saying, no, I don't have anything. The first time was the Ethics Committee. Now there's this. She just appears not to like Gingrich and the media are happy to quote her saying it. To their credit, they're genuinely, although in small fonts, reporting she says she’s nothing.
#: They did sit on the couch together.
ELLEN RATNER, BUREAU CHIEF, TALK RADIO NEWS SERVICE: The fact is that on Capitol Hill, the media pressed her. And it hasn't necessarily made how they pressed her, but they have pressed here, and again, nothing.
SCOTT: Well, Newt didn't seem all that bothered by whatever it was she's talking about.
KIRSTEN POWERS, COLUMNIST, THE DAILY BEAST: Of course, they're pressing her. They’re dying to know what it is. So, I think that -- I think she what she’s more getting at is that anybody who’s worked with him knows a lot of things about him. I don't know that it's necessarily a specific thing. This is something we've heard from conservatives. I mean conservatives have been carpet bombing him, coming out, saying watch out. If you know this guy, he's a disaster.
CAL THOMAS, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: You stole my line about carpet bombing.
But I do have something on Jim that I'll share with you later.
Look, this is where politics has gotten us now. And I think the line from Rick Santorum during the debate that got such huge applause was on point. He said can't we get with back to some serious issues? We've got a $15 trillion debt and counting, we've got threats from Iran. Ahmadinejad has been down there in Venezuela trying to dredging up things with Castro and Cuba to undermine the United States. We have some serious economic and political and social issues and they're talking about, you're richer than I am. Sounds like schoolyard sandbox stuff. It's disgusting.
RATNER: It is true that Joanna Goldberg though, in the National Review, says look, Newt is capitalizing on the anti-establishment move in terms of the GOP. And that is true. His people might not like him but the rank-and-file people, who are sort of angry at the establishment GOP, have liked him.
PINKERTON: Right. I mean this is -- what Ellen and Cal are saying is the theater part is sort of taken over. The biggest variable, as far as I can tell, in the last three debates, was CNN, audience participation; NBC, no audience participation.
SCOTT: Right, yes.
PINKERTON: CNN, on Thursday night, back to audience participation. It makes it more entertaining. And the surprise was that even though Newt had the benefit of audience participation in the CNN debate Thursday night, was Wolf Blitzer. It still didn't help him very much. For whatever reason, Romney was better. He was worse. Santorum was kind of the star. But the media are so focused on Newt versus Romney that they almost forget Santorum.
SCOTT: The media ignoring a candidate? Is that possible, Kirsten?
POWERS: No. That never happens. That never happens.
But I think even the establishment thing -- I know the voters feel like oh we don't care with the establishment says about him because we're anti-establishment. Newt is the establishment. The establishment is turning against somebody who’s part of the establishment. They're not against him because he's this free-thinking, independent person. That's sort of the distinction that's lost. He's not some populist that's out there. These people know him. He's been part of the Washington establishment for as long as I can remember and then the establishment doesn't like him.
THOMAS: I want to pick up on a line Jim used about theater. This has become theater. And as I said on this show a couple weeks ago, knowing no higher authority to quote but myself --
-- the Republicans shouldn't put engage in this. They shouldn't put themselves into a "Jeopardy"-like game show with the lecterns and everything else, letting Wolf Blitzer, John King, all the other people formulate the questions and formulate the plot. Mix it up and decide on their own venues at least some of them. There's nothing written in the Constitution or anywhere else where they have to submit themselves to these people.
SCOTT: What about --
SCOTT: -- you mentioned, Jim, that Monday night debate that had no audience participation. Why invite an audience in if you're not going to let them be involved?
PINKERTON: That's a good question.
Jon, you used to work at NBC. You tell me?
SCOTT: I don't know. They obviously -- I think they didn't want certain candidates to get that -- I don't know, roar of --
THOMAS: Rush, yes.
SCOTT: -- rush of adrenaline that comes from the roar of a crowd.
POWERS: I think it's more that they're intimidated by it. They don't like having their questions booed. They don't want to be booed over. And it could get out of control. If you starting coming back and people are booing over you and you can't get your word out, I think some people don’t wanna lose control--
RATNER: But, except people watch more when there's audience participation.
THOMAS: That's true.
RATNER: If you want to get up your numbers, you ought to have an audience.
THOMAS: Wolf Blitzer was primed. He did come back at Gingrich after John King on the earlier one was kind of flummoxed by Newt's adversarial position. Blitzer came back and said, hey, I'm not saying anything you haven't already said.
SCOTT: Are these questions designed to get answers to the issues --
-- that people want to know about or are they designed to create fireworks and conflict on stage?
PINKERTON: They're designed for fireworks and conflict. But I must say I can see how the media and Democrats are delighted to see the Republicans hacking each other. But I have to also say, after 19 of these things, I'm getting a little -- how do I say this -- slightly bored by the same answers. I'm going to cut taxes, I'm going to -- it's not to say I'm for all those things, however, it's just is not as if they're not breaking new ground, except for Newt, when he talks about space colonies.
And then they make fun of him.
SCOTT: Yes and the replays element you get on TV are all about the candidates attacking each other, not about their ideas.
RATNER: They're not about issues. They're not about issues.
SCOTT: Or their ideas versus President Obama. Will that change once we get down to one nominee?
RATNER: Well I think when we get to one nominee; there will be comparisons because the debates are focused a little more on comparisons of issues than presidential debates. They're done by a presidential commission and I think they're good.
SCOTT: One of the topics that CNN didn't include is Thursday's debate, President Obama's State of the Union address. But we'll take it on next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT OBAMA: As long as I'm the president, I will work with anyone in this chamber to build on this momentum. But I intend to fight obstruction with action and I will oppose any effort to return to the very same policies that brought on the economic crisis in the first place.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: President Obama during his State of the Union address there Tuesday night with a pointed message to Republican members of the Congress.
Jim, the overall coverage was that this was a wonderful speech.
PINKERTON: Right. Rich Noyes, at NewsBusters, had a piece commenting about how each of Obama's speeches in the State of the Union are the first -- his inaugural address, the media all go crazy over it. They're all different and they all make different points about bailouts versus banks versus winning the future now to class warfare, but each one of them, they all love them, each and every one. It's like four children in a row. They all love them.
SCOTT: NBC described it as rousing and an optimistic speech. They couldn't give it enough praise. Jonah --
SCOTT: Jonah Goldberg called it doggerel. Who's right?
RATNER: First of all, I am a liberal. And I liked what the president had to say. But what NBC did was off the charts. If one of our staff had written that, I’d be like furious.
But I want to say, another thing that happened is there was a love fest from the networks. And even though Fox was one of the groups in there, the president had lunch with the anchors. This is not a well-known thing. But every president has done it. How come what --
SCOTT: Ahead of the speech.
RATNER: Ahead of the speech. How come the news media did not make that connection by who attended the lunch, what they said, and is there some kind of self censorship with that?
THOMAS: I think a better connection was made. The Republican National Committee put this out first and Fox picked it up. I don't if the other networks went with it, because I didn't see them all. I tend to doubt it. Where they compared the lines that President Obama had used in his previous two States of the Union that were almost verbatim. The other thing is, you mentioned what Brian Williams says, I would hold out some words the networks used when George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan and other Republicans were president. They said things like, "still" and "it raises questions," and "not everyone agrees with the president." You didn't hear any of that at least from NBC after this State of the Union address.
SCOTT: He started out by commending U.S. military forces and then ended by reminding everyone that Osama bin Laden was killed on his watch. Is there a coincidence?
Look, I think it was a very smart way to do the speech. He was trying to appeal to people sort of better sides and say this is something we can agree on. We have an amazing military. Look how they pull together under every circumstance. It was a smart way to honor the military and also to try and get people to get along.
SCOTT: Ellen, it was also the lowest rated of his State of the Union addresses. Are people growing tired of it?
RATNER: I have to say, as a press person who has been covering speeches since 1993, I'm like, how many times do we have to hear the same thing? And it was interesting it was one of the public radio stations pulled from a Reagan speech, pulled from a Carter, pulled from a Bush, and showed they take the same lines of the speeches and they sort of reformulate them. And --
RATNER: Give me a break, yes.
PINKERTON: This is the best you can do, if you're the media, and you love the president and have a weak product to deal with, you take the bad news and turn it into good news. So Chuck Todd leads off with, hey, competent, confidence about right track and the economy has gone from 22 to 30. Well, 30 is still a low number but to them it was big news. It was an eight point increase, so you do the best you can with what you have.
THOMAS: Let's have a new rule. Let's have it the way the airlines do it. You must stay seated until the speech comes to a full and complete stop.
It looked like Whack-a-Mole out there, up and down.
SCOTT: It would make for a quicker evening, wouldn't it?
Then after the speech, the president hit the road and went to, among other places, Arizona, where this photo was taken of him as he met with Arizona Governor Jan Brewer. The media had a heyday with this one.
Jim, was that fair?
PINKERTON: Yes. One MSNBC commentator, compared it to the Little Rock, Arkansas case in 1957 --
Seriously, I'm not making this up. As in her pointing the finger at him and who knows who started saying what.
Is the equivalent of white racist heckling of black students in an integrated school. That --
RATNER: Give me a well-earned break! I mean, my right-wing stations made a big deal of it. My left-wing stations made a big deal of this. I'm saying, you know, it was a conversation. We weren't party to it. Give me a break.
SCOTT: Maybe she's directing him to lunch.
POWERS: I think it was incredibly rude. To do it to anybody, but he is the president of the United States. And then she comes out and does all these interviews about he's thin-skinned, and all he did was basically bring up her book and she flips out on him and she starts waving finger in his face. I mean I think that's strange. I don't know why people are defending it.
THOMAS: It's good politics. What she was really saying is, you ain't nothing but a hound dog.
SCOTT: All right.
We're going to leave it there. It's time for another break.
If you see something that shows evidence of media bias, email us at newswatch@FOXnews.com.
Up next, the Keystone Pipeline, an important topic in Washington and other places; is it an important one for the press as well?
ANNOUNCER: The Keystone Pipeline, going anywhere due to political posturing. Have the media done a fair job in presenting the issue?
And WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, going from leaking sensitive secrets to talk-show host. And guess who's airing the program? Details next, on “News Watch.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: We're not going to be subpoenaing the Koch brothers and we're not asking the Koch brothers to appear because the Koch brothers have nothing to do with this project.
Now we're going to recess this hearing for 10 minutes and then we're going to come back.
WAXMAN: Are you calling the Koch brothers during the recess?
WHITFIELD: Let me tell you something. If you want to talk about that, let's talk about the millions of dollars that the Obama administration gave companies like Solyndra.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: Wow. Fireworks on Capitol Hill. That was House Energy and Power Subcommittee chairman, Ed Whitfield, reacting to Democratic Congressman Henry Waxman's calls for the Koch brothers to be subpoenaed. He says he wants answers on the Keystone Pipeline. Waxman wants the investors to answer questions about how they might have profited from the pipeline. Charles and David Koch are owners of Koch Industries. It's one of the largest privately held companies in the U.S. and they are frequent donors to conservative causes.
So one report -- well, first of all, Ellen, your reaction to that dustup?
RATNER: You know, I mean -- I looked a lot to see if it was really reported. And that dustup was not reported as was not a very -- at least in the print media. And it was not reported in terms of what the Democratic minority did in the letter that they sent to Ed Whitfield. So a lot of that was just not there. There was either rah-rah, re-pro or rah-rah, re-anti-pipeline. And the only place I saw a really good up and down was the Columbia Journalism Review.
SCOTT: You don't get a lot of coverage of subcommittee hearings generally, do you?
THOMAS: No. Look, this is good political theater; back and forth, impugning each other's motives, political one-upsmanship. But, look --
SCOTT: Who do you think we are? Britain?
THOMAS: Yes, there you go. But look, the real -- the reason it got a lot of traction, despite this Media Matters study, which said that there was far more pro-pipeline people interviewed than anti-pipeline, it's a better story on the pro side, 20,000 jobs estimated, oil that answers one of our major energy concerns right now. Canada’s going to sell it to China if we don't get it. So I think the pro-pipeline people were far more credible and interesting than the anti -- the environmentalist side.
SCOTT: What about that Media Matters study? The liberal web site says the pipeline’s getting all the good press.
PINKERTON: Well, I mean, what do you think they're going to say? They've got George Soros to answer to. Of course, they'll come up with some study like that.
PINKERTON: The point is, as Cal said, unemployment is kind of a big issue in this country, and jobs are a big issue. James Pethokoukis, from Reuters, made the point, look; the unemployment rate is officially 8.5 percent. If you really measured it according to the labor force participation, it would be 11. And yet, at the same time, President Obama can go to the State of the Union, use the word energy 25 times, while dancing around why he's against the XL Pipeline and the media’s giving a pass on it.
RATNER: But back to the Columbia Journalism Review, they did a study on where the numbers came from in terms of the statistics, was it really 20,000 jobs. I think they took it apart from the middle, not from the right, not from the left.
PINKERTON: The Columbia Journalism School definitely approaches the world from the middle. Absolutely.
RATNER: Look at that article, Jim.
SCOTT: All right, moving on. WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, has a new job title. He's a TV host. Assange is getting his own show on a network bankrolled by the Russian government. Assange will host a talk show on the Kremlin-backed RT News network, starting in March.
So this is the guy who likes to, you know, spill secrets and conspiracies and so forth.
THOMAS: I'm sure it was a difficult choice between the Kremlin and Russian TV and MSNBC because they both share the same ideological world view. I think he'll do very well.
PINKERTON: There are a few challenges.
PINKERTON: I'll let Ellen --
RATNER: No, you go. You go.
PINKERTON: I was going to say, he's under house arrest in Britain. This is going to be little bit of a challenge to make this a show from some --
PINKERTON: -- British estate.
RATNER: First of all, it's only 10 one-half-hour programs. I have to be honest. I share an office with Thom Hartmann, who does a show on RT, so I want to be open about that.
Look, we are talking about the Kremlin. But we have -- we have backed -- we have backed shows by Al Jazeera, et cetera, and nobody -- they've sort of now come in and become part of the media establishment.
PINKERTON: When did we back a show from Al Jazeera?
RATNER: No, what I'm saying is -- not we backed it, but they are now considered part of the legitimate media. How do we know, after a period of time, that RT is --?
POWERS: Yes, but Al Jazeera is not -- I mean, the Russian government is like murdering journalists. I don't think Al Jazeera is in the same category as that. I think that if you're going -- if I was Julian Assange, he should be concerned, based on his history, that he could do something to upset them.
SCOTT: We have to take a break.
Up next, some key moments from the State of the Union caught on camera.
SCOTT: There are always some interesting moments in the State of the Union address that grab media attention.
On Tuesday night, cameras and mics caught Mr. Obama telling Secretary of Defense to Leon Panetta, "Good job tonight." Of course, later, details came out about the successful rescue of an American and her Danish co-worker held hostage in Somalia. The mission, another success for U.S. Special Forces.
The next big moment came when the president gave a big hug to courageous Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who survived a gunshot to the head a little more than a year ago. Ms. Giffords resigned from Congress in an emotional ceremony Wednesday.
All cameras and attention then focused on the president's speech. But before his arrival, the media kept a watchful eye on the vice president, giving big shout outs to his friends in the room, enjoying his time standing up in front of all his peers, hanging out with the speaker of the House --
-- keeping it loose, telling jokes. Buzzfeed.com says photos like these prove Joe Biden is the ‘drunk uncle of the United States.’
That is a wrap on “News Watch” this week.
Thanks to Ellen Ratner, Jim Pinkerton, Cal Thomas and Kirsten Powers.
I'm Jon Scott. Thanks for watching. Keep it right here on Fox News channel. We'll see you next week for another edition of “Fox News Watch.”
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