This is a rush transcript from "Fox News Watch," December 22, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
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JON SCOTT, HOST: On "Fox News Watch."
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REP. DANA ROHRABACHER, R - CA: I'm sorry, Mr. Ambassador, but your statement that the president and ambassador-- and Secretary Clinton made clear that it was a terrorist attack right afterwards is not true. It's not accurate.
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SCOTT: Following the release of the Benghazi report, which slams the State Department for failures at high levels, congressional hearings get underway to unravel the murky details surrounding the deadly terror attack on our consulate.
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REP. GARY ACKERMAN, D - NY: I want to first start by apologizing to the deputy secretaries, because you have been brought here as a ruse.
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SCOTT: But the probe turned into a political face-off, as some politicians ignored the issues. Are the media following their lead?
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LT. PAUL VANCE, CONNECTICUT STATE POLICE: Shortly after 9:30 this morning, Newtown police department received a call for help at the Sandy Hook elementary school.
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SCOTT: A heartbreaking tragedy unfolds in Newtown, Connecticut. 20 elementary school children and six adults gunned down in their school. The media providing wall to wall coverage, then the focus changes.
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MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, I-NEW YORK CITY: It's so unbelievable and it only happens in America.
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SCOTT: Is this the time for liberals and their media lap dogs to push the agenda against guns?
Time magazine names its man of the year, and guess what? It's Barack Obama. Are you surprised?
SCOTT: On the panel this week, writer and Fox News contributor, Judy Miller. Richard Grenell, who served as press spokesman for the last four U.S. ambassadors to the U.N. Jim Pinkerton, contributing editor to The American Conservative magazine, and Daily Beast columnist Kirsten Powers. I'm Jon Scott. "Fox News Watch" is on right now.
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SEN. BOB CORKER, R-TENN.: You were aware of the security risk there. We've read the cables. You were fully aware, and either you send people there with security or you don't send them there.
SEN. JIM RISCH, R-IDAHO: I looked at the people streaming through the front gate in Benghazi. That wouldn't have taken that much to stop that attack if indeed they'd have been-- they would have responded to it immediately.
ROHRABACHER: The president and high level officials of this administration immediately after the attack and for days afterwards kept talking -- an overwhelming part of their discussion of the issue dealt with movie rage about these Muslims being upset about portraying Mohammed in a bad way in some movie on Youtube.
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SCOTT: Those are the congressional hearings that began this week to try to piece together some of the details surrounding the deadly terror attacks on our embassy in Benghazi. The attacks killed four Americans, including our ambassador, on September 11.
So, Jim, this accountability, accountability review board appointed by the State Department takes a look at the State Department and finds that the security was, quote, "grossly inadequate to deal with the attack." What kind of coverage does it get?
JIM PINKERTON, AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE MAGAZINE: Oh, that got a lot of coverage, that it was grossly inadequate. The people who escaped the coverage and could go on interviews, for example, Hillary Clinton -- are Hillary Clinton and President Obama. They are different. They're in a different category. Anybody with undersecretary and below is dead meat in terms of this thing. They can be fired, embarrassed, humiliated. However, President Obama and Hillary Clinton are on their own category, immune from this criticism.
SCOTT: You even had some questions, Judy, as to whether Secretary Clinton answered questions about all of this.
JUDY MILLER, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Right. That was the amazing thing about the press conference on Friday that the Republican senators had, because they suggested that she hadn't even sat down and talked to the men who were leading the panel that she created. If that's true, that is truly an astonishing omission, and I don't think she is going to be able to escape responsibility for it. She's already claimed responsibility, but I think questions are going to be continue to be asked about what she knew when.
It's not good enough. You're not going to be able to get away with saying this is just an assistant secretary problem. It's not.
SCOTT: Those three Republican senators came out in that news conference and said, you know, there are questions here that need to be answered about the president and his policies, and suggesting that Secretary Clinton needs to answer those questions as well. Are the press - - are the press answering or asking those questions?
KIRSTEN POWERS, USA TODAY AND DAILY BEAST COLUMNIST: We talk about this a lot here. The press overall has not been terribly interested in this. They sort of range from no interest to claiming it's a right wing conspiracy, that is sort of where they fall on this. And Secretary Clinton obviously needs to be the one to testify.
I don't even know why these people had to even go through what we were just watching, they are just sort of lambs to the slaughter. They are not the people that -- Tom Nides is not -- full disclosure, he was my first boss in the White House, but I mean, he's not really the one who is responsible for this. And so I think Hillary Clinton has said the buck stops with her. The president says the buck stops with him, and yet, they're the only two people who don't seem to be really taking any kind of responsibility.
RICHARD GRENELL, FORMER SPOKESMAN, LAST 4 U.S. AMBASSADORS TO U.N.: But, here is my problem with that is that Tom Nides was sent out there because he's Hillary's political deputy. If he's the one that Hillary says is going to testify because she has got a concussion, then he's got to take responsibility for looking at the cables, for the undersecretary in the different departments, for the regional bureau assistant secretaries.
The State Department power is in the regional bureaus. The assistant secretary of state for near east, Beth Jones, is not named in the report. She's responsible. If she would have approved security, it would have been done. You can't blame others. And Tom Nides is her boss.
So, the fact of the matter is, the coverage for Tom Nides showing up for Hillary Clinton was atrocious. CNN just basically said it was something that Tom Nides said we could do better on, when in fact, Tom Nides is married to the CNN deputy bureau chief, Virginia Moseley, and that wasn't disclosed. And so CNN is ignoring the story to benefit a staffer and her relationship with Tom Nides. So I think the media have got to do a better job here, they've got to get to the bottom of this.
PINKERTON: I think that that press conference on Friday, Senator Graham, Senator McCain and Senator Ayotte -- who I think has now replaced Joe Lieberman of the three amigos that have made so much of an impact on U.S. foreign policy over the last 10 years or so -- I think that guarantees the story will continue into the next year in a big way.
I thought that between the fiscal cliff and Newtown, Connecticut, that the story would kind of fade away. I don't think it will. And I think the pressure is on Secretary Clinton to testify while she's still in office as secretary of state, and then whatever carryover that takes over to Senator Kerry of Massachusetts confirmation hearings, the secretary of state sometime early next year, I think the story has got a lot of legs coming into 2013.
SCOTT: We know that Susan Rice lost her chance to become secretary of state because she went out on the morning shows and insisted that the protests were all spawned by the video. Here is what the report concluded.
"The board concluded there was no protests prior to the attacks, which were unanticipated in their scale and intensity."
A lot of people in the media bought the administration's spin. Should there be, you know, repercussions to that?
MILLER: The amazing thing about the way this whole story has been covered and the way certain news outlets continue to cover it is as a political attack on the Obama administration, rather than an inquiry into why four American diplomats died. And that meme continues, that theme continues, despite such information, despite the report concluding that what Susan Rice said was wrong.
The issue is, when did Susan Rice know that? When should she have known it? What steps did she take to try and find out what the situation was on the ground, apart from the talking points she was handed. None of these questions are being asked, except by Fox and a few other news outlets.
SCOTT: Kirsten, you heard it at the top of the hour, there are some Democrats who still insist this is just a partisan witch hunt.
POWERS: Oh, yes, I mean, it's incredible. Even if you look at what this report found, it's stuff that you would have known if you'd just been watching Fox News. I mean, it doesn't take an investigation to get this information, and I think that's what's so frustrating is that there was no curiosity, I mean, you know, we knew there wasn't a protest, it was reported. It was reported before she went on the air to say that there had been a protest that there was no protest. You know, and yet, this is such a media scandal. You know? That just -- the way that they not only have a lack of interest, but actually smearing anybody who is asking questions as just being some sort of a right wing wingnut.
GRENELL: Let me say something positive about Democratic senators. Because I think that some Democratic senators recognize that -- no female Democratic senator spoke up in Susan Rice's defense, not one.
SCOTT: All right. We have a lot to get to today on "News Watch." Reporting on the Newtown massacre. Did a media agenda take over the coverage?
SCOTT: The scene in Newtown was echoed across Connecticut on Friday. Bells tolling 26 times for the 20 children and six adults killed at the Sandy Hook elementary school a week earlier. That horrific story getting major media attention this week, but coverage of the tragedy took a quick turn with many in the media using the killings to push their agenda against guns.
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BLOOMBERG: It's so unbelievable, and it only happens in America. And it happens again and again. There was another shooting yesterday, three people killed, I think, in a hospital. We kill people in schools, we kill them in hospitals, we kill them in religious organizations, we kill them when they're young, we kill them when they're old, and we've just got to stop this.
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SCOTT: Well, you might applaud what Mayor Bloomberg says there. Judy is nodding in agreement. But Jim, part of his statement was wrong. Ask the people of Scotland, or Norway or Russia whether these kinds of things happen only in America.
PINKERTON: Right, look, there are four clusters of ways to think about this issue in terms of policy prescriptions. One is guns, which we'll spend the rest of the year, 2013, talking about. The other one is mental health, which will be of some interest. Another one will be the culture of video games and so on. And the fourth one, which I think David Brooks brought up to his credit is the copycat issue. After Columbine, in 1999, there was kind of a meme in the media, well, don't mention the killer's names, don't give them any credit, no notoriety. And after the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007, the American Psychological Association said it is a mistake and it is harmful to mention this killer's name, it will encourage more copycats.
That whole idea of not mentioning the killer has just disappeared in a frenzy to get every last detail about the guy. And I think as Wayne LaPierre of the NRA said on Friday, you can see the next copycat killer making his plan right now based on all the notoriety this young man in Connecticut has received.
SCOTT: Judy, you're one of those who applauds the concept of gun control. Do you think the media made that turn too quickly out of this story?
MILLER: No, because I think the politicians they were covering made that turn, and I think it was an inevitable turn, especially after so many incidents of this -- tragedies of this nature. And I want to point out that there was an excellent story, I believe it was on NPR, about a rampage in a Chinese school in which a madman went after children in a school with a knife, and he stabbed over 20 of them, but none of them died. And that's the key difference. When you have an automatic weapon that you can rapidly reload, when you have a gun, it kills. It kills more easily. It's hard to stab people to death.
GRENELL: Certainly you're not suggesting that a Communist society rules are what we should follow. I mean, a mentally disturbed man stole guns. I haven't been shown any piece of legislation that is going to change that. If there was a gun law that would change the fact that a mentally disturbed man couldn't steal a gun, I would be for it, but the simple fact is, Judy, I don't care what law you're going to put in place, the mentally disturbed man is going to steal a gun.
MILLER: You can't abolish--
POWERS: -- he just took it from his mother, which is what has happened in Columbine, they took them from their parents. And I think that the NRA, which I consider to be a completely utterly destructive organization in this society, if they want everybody to have a gun, then they need to start talking to people about how to handle guns. Like, hey, here is an idea, secure your guns. My brother keeps his guns in a safe. And my father--
GRENELL: That's the law. That's the law in many states.
POWERS: Are people prosecuted like were the parents--
GRENELL: So that's a great point.
POWERS: The NRA needs to be leading on this stuff. And I want to finish what I have to say. The other thing is, I'm tired of hearing about how there's this anti-gun agenda. It's an anti-killing spree agenda. It's not an anti-gun agenda.
GRENELL: We're working on that.
POWER: I don't have a problem with guns, I grew up with guns. I have a problem with people having magazines, clips, whatever you want to call them -- everybody complains we don't use the exact right term -- we all know what I'm talking about -- where you can spray bullets and just kill 20 people in a minute. This is not the way a civilized society should operate.
PINKERTON: Funny you mention that, because on Friday, the NRA's Wayne LaPierre said exactly, we need more gun training, we need people -- more guards, we need all these things. I guarantee that part of his press conference, his statement won't get covered at all. I think the media do have an anti-gun agenda that doesn't follow politicians at all as you were suggesting, they have it on their own, and I think, again, all other ways to deal with school shootings and mass violence will be sunk below the radar.
POWERS: The reason (inaudible) brought up knives is because everybody always says, why don't we outlaw knives, because people will then kill people with knives. It is like, no, but they don't do mass killings with knives.
GRENELL: Why don't we outlaw mental illness?
POWERS: We don't do mass killings with knives.
MILLER: Come on, we know what the solutions are, we've discussed them for years.
GRENELL: No, we don't. I don't think we do.
MILLER: No, no, no, we can make it harder to kill that many people in a minute. We can do that. As the president said, and I think it was worth taking note of and covering, we can do that.
GRENELL: I think China can control behavior, but we can't.
PINKERTON: You might also note, by the way, the American people who do have a voice in this. The media will do their best to ignore what the American people think, but Gallup did a survey on this and said, what do you think we ought to do to stop these shootings in the wake of Newtown? Number one answer, more cops; number two answer, mental health; number three, less movie violence; number four, gun control. Again, the first three disappear, number four becomes the only issue.
SCOTT: And then there is Toure, the uni-named host on MSNBC, who said this.
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TOURE, MSNBC: NRA membership booms in these moments, gun sales boom in these moments, Bushmaster sales are booming. In the wake of the Gabby Giffords shooting, Glock boomed, so in a perverse way -- they would never admit this publicly -- but in a perverse way, these moments are actually good for them, so then how do we expect them to really not want these moments?
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SCOTT: I don't know what you answer that with. That's the feeling over at MSNBC.
GRENELL: You know, here is one solution. How about we pass a law that says any Hollywood actor who participates in a movie with violence has to donate their salary to the government? You do it, you get to do the movie, but if it's got violence in it, all the money goes to the government.
PINKERTON: And the profits of the movie, too.
PINKERTON: And remember, you can use that legislation --
POWERS: Is there any evidence any of these things happen because of movies?
POWERS: But movies, it has nothing do with a movie.
SCOTT: We're going to have to leave it there. Back with more "News Watch" in a moment.
SCOTT: We are at the time of year when we look at the past 12 months, remembering the big stories, the events that affected our lives, and it's when we get the big news. Who did "Time" magazine pick to be the person of the year? Well, ta-da, it's him again, President Barack Obama, quote, "for finding and forging a new majority, for turning weakness into opportunity and for seeking amid great adversity to create a more perfect union." Rick, what do you think?
GRENELL: Well, I think it's wrong because he's person of the universe.
GRENELL: And person not just of one year, but decades and universe, so why are we minimizing his role?
SCOTT: They make the rollout of this a big media event.
PINKERTON: I think we're kind of doing Time magazine a favor by even mentioned this. Otherwise, their magazine would just go the way of "Newsweek" pretty quickly. Look, this is the spirit of the mainstream media. David Maraniss said -- of the Washington Post, said that the president's speech at Newtown, Connecticut, was like Lincoln at Gettysburg. This is kind of the level they operate on.
MILLER: I think it's a failure of the part of imagination on "Time" magazine, if we can't come up with anyone other than the guy who won the election.
SCOTT: Was it a cop-out?
POWERS: I do think in their minds, he is the perennial person of the day, person of the hour, person of the year. It's like--
GRENELL: I think Egyptian President Morsi. I think the Islamists had taken over, it really has become the narrative of the entire world. What's happening, the Arab spring, which I call the Islamic awakening, and the Islamists. I think the fact is that Morsi should have been.
MILLER: But, Rick, aren't you going to hold President Obama accountable for that?
GRENELL: We'll give him credit for the Islamic awakening.
(LAUGHTER) SCOTT: So who should we expect next year? Or is it too early to start talking about it?
MILLER: I think it's too early to start talking about Hillary Clinton. I think she's going to have to wait a couple of years, I don't know, what do you think next year?
POWERS: I'm going to go with President Obama.
SCOTT: We'll have to see whether she actually testifies in front of the committee while she is still secretary of state as the senators seem to request.
Stay with us, we have more "News Watch" coming up.
SCOTT: We have come to the end of what has been quite a week. I want to thank Judy Miller, Jim Pinkerton, Rick Grenell and Kirsten Powers for their contributions. Merry Christmas to our panelists and to you, our viewers.
We want to end the program today with this reporter's thoughts about the challenges of covering a tragedy and heartbreak in Newtown, Connecticut.
SCOTT: It is the event no reporter wants to cover. No vocabulary is big enough, no word carries the power to convey what we all saw and heard and felt in Newtown, Connecticut.
Depraved, monstrous, inhuman, words that describe but cannot capture it all. Early word was that two teachers and maybe two students had been hospitalized. We thought, we hoped that was the worst of it.
Within two hours, though, more details emerged, and I felt the same sick feeling I had while on the air during the 9/11 attacks. This was something so heinous, so horrible, it would alter the nation's course.
There has been plenty of blame heaped upon the messenger. Reporting, especially in the early hours, was flat out wrong. Some of it, like the incorrect age and ID of the gunman, based on information from police. Some of it from sources far less reliable. We clamor for information to pass on, even if we really don't want to know it.
As a father who sent four kids off to first grade not that long ago, I can't imagine the grief of those whose children aren't coming home, or the families of teachers who died trying to protect the kids in their care.
We in the media have taken plenty of heat for the coverage of Newtown, for the scenes of that picturesque village now overrun with reporters and roaring trappings of our trade. Some of that anger is deserved, some of it misdirected. Because the man responsible for so much misery, the one who slaughtered so many innocents for no reason at all, is no longer here. We can't say to him what we want to say or do what we want to do, so we blame the messenger.
As journalists, we will try to cover this tragedy in a way that is respectful and honors the lives lost. Just know, our hearts are broken too.
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