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This is a rush transcript from "Fox News Watch," March 2, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
JON SCOTT, HOST: A jam-packed week of news.
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PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: This is going to be a big hit on the economy.
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SCOTT: The president takes the sequester doom and gloom show on the road playing the same old tune for the people and the press.
A media icon calls Mr. Obama the sequestration source, then gets pummeled by his so-called liberal media pals.
Pope Benedict is pope no more. ABC News edits out the first lady's error on guns. A former Obama spin man admits to misleading the press. The one year anniversary of the Trayvon Martin shooting gives the media another shot at the shooter. And The Washington Post recorder admits to a bias in his work, which stories made our list, find out now on "Fox News Watch."
On the panel this week, writer and Fox News contributor Judy Miller, syndicated columnist Cal Thomas, Jim Pinkerton, contributing editor of the American Conservative Magazine, and Ellen Ratner, bureau chief of Talk Radio News Service, I'm Jon Scott. Fox News Watch is on right now.
President Obama on Friday, a surprise appearance in front of the White House press corps, after his meeting with congressional leaders over the sequestration. It ended a week of more doom and gloom forecasts. Mr. Obama claims will be a result of the automatic spending cuts, the theme parroted by the press, members of Congress and members of the president's cabinet.
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ARNE DUNCAN, EDUCATION SECRETARY: Well, some of this stuff happens earlier, some stuff happens this fall, but what it does, it creates tremendous instability and there are literally teachers now who are getting pink slips, who are getting notices that can't come back this fall.
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SCOTT: Well, that statement was totally wrong. In fact, The Washington Post gave the education secretary four Pinocchios for the phony claim. Jim, the media has been pushing the doom and gloom theme all week. We heard about, let's see, Obamageddon and Barack-alypse as the result of all of this. And yet, Friday came and went and the world is still turning.
JIM PINKERTON, AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE MAGAZINE: So far we're still alive. Right. I think, actually the White House had the template of the 1995-96 shutdown with Gingrich and President Clinton back then and they might have kind of get -- gotten a little ahead of their skis on this in terms of pushing out Arne Duncan, the education secretary, and also Janet Napolitano, allegedly unbeknownst to her and letting those prisoners go on and so on like that. But I think the alternative media, the conservative media did a pretty good job in this case of sort setting it up. Jim Geraghty of National Review writes a morning thing, that goes out, said, that this morning thing will be two percent shorter because of this and then he proceeded to under the hashtag sequester tales, all bunch of very funny tweets including one from Jonah Goldberg, who said, and joking, now it wasn't until I ate my neighbor's pancreas that I realized that president was right about the sequester. That kind of mockery I think he's pushed it back pretty well so far.
SCOTT: Is that why the president decided to appear in front of the White House press corps, Judy?
JUDY MILLER, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I think so. You know, when the Washington Post calls the media treatment of this the fiscal equivalent of clubbing a baby seal, you know you've perhaps a bit of overkill -- look, a lot of at stake for the president, he has basically said I'm going to blame the Republicans for this and they are going to take the political heat and that's going to help me in 2014. And I think what I haven't seen enough of is media writing about the political repercussions of this. We know about the fiscal repercussions. but not who is going to win and who's going to lose.
SCOTT: Peggy Noonan wrote in the Wall Street Journal that the president, whom you adore, is taking a real risk here, that this thing is going to blow back on him, despite his attempts to ...
MILLER: I think he's taking a risk. I think actually what went around the talk media circuit as well as some of the conservatives, is that he was -- he was for the sequestration before he was against it. And that was sort of the line that I heard repeated throughout the week through some of the alternatives, as Jim says, media.
SCOTT: He is -- in that news conference, he mentions, specifically he said talking to our television audience now let me explain what the continuing resolution is. He clearly knew he had the megaphone.
CAL THOMAS, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: He did, but if you listened to some of the questions, not all of them, but some of them are the typical sycophantic questions. There was one -- I don't remember who the one was, who she worked for. Mr. President why can't you just invite those Republicans down and put them in the room and, you know, win this issue, what is that? And he says, well I'm not a dictator. Well, he's certainly -- he's behaving like one. The media continue to be in the tank, they continue as Richard Benedetto wrote, a former White House correspondent for USA News -- for USA Today, the media megaphone distorts the budget cut battle. They won't get into the specifics of what is being reduced in the level of spending. They only get into the battle. That's what they're more interested in.
ELLEN RATNER, TALK RADIO NEWS SERVICE: Most of - the most of the real careful analysis I saw was from something like National Journal, but that was only on their paid content. So if you really wanted something that was a little more in depth, you had to pay for the content.
SCOTT: There was the blame game amplified this week when Bob Woodward, the famous journalist who was involved in uncovering the Watergate scandal, wrote a column last week claiming that the sequestration plan was the president's, charging that the president actually moved the goal posts in asking for more revenue as part of the sequestration. Now, that article led to a call by the president's economic czar, Gene Sperling, first screaming at Woodward and then sending an e-mail apologizing for the warning, I think you will regret staking out that claim. Woodward talked about it earlier this week.
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BOB WOODWARD, WASHINGTON POST: The problem I have with the Gene Sperling memo and e-mail, and this comes after a shouting match. Now, you know, lots of people shout at me, and he says I'm going to regret, you know, that's -- that's -- that goes into the coded, you know, you better watch out. The problem is, there are all kinds of reporters who are much less experienced, who are younger, and if they're going to get roughed up in this way and I'm flooded with e-mails from people in the press saying this is exactly the way the White House works. They're trying to control and they don't want to be challenged or crossed.
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SCOTT: Fair to say, Jim, that every White House tries to control the message, and if -- they know somebody is working on a piece they don't like, they'll pummel that messenger.
Interesting thing was the backlash from the media.
PINKERTON: Right. Right. I worked in two White Houses and I can tell you I've heard pretty big screaming matches with reporters and you know, Gene Sperling is not an aggressive, nasty guy at all. What -- but Woodward obviously referring to was the way the media reacted to him. It wasn't the White House reaction, it was the media reaction. John Nolte at Breitbart did a long list of New York Times, Politico, CNBC, Slate, Gawker, Andrew Sullivan wrote a headline Bob Woodward quote, "demonstrable liar," unquote.
And that's push back -- not from the White House, but from the press.
SCOTT: I thought it was interesting, Judy, that taken The New York Post
on Friday, the editorial read it -- the story isn't whether Bob Woodward was right, when he said he interpreted the words of the White House email as a threat, it's whether he was right when he reported that the president isn't telling the truth about his role in the sequester and his behaving badly, as his actions on national security show. America is still waiting for the White House press corps to take up that story.
MILLER: Right, well, the issue of whether or not Woodward was right, in asserting that tax revenues were never on the part of the original sequester, is really very, very important. And we've seen all to little discussion of that in the media and much too much about whether or not the threat was a kind of Karl Rovean -- you're going to be story because you're wrong or whether or not it was a, here is a horse head in the bed kind of threat, as in a Joe Pesci movie. That's what the press focused on, not what Woodward actually said.
SCOTT: All right. Next on "News Watch," a controversy over an edit at ABC.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Michelle Obama pushes gun control in an interview on ABC delivering wrong facts. But ABC rescued her image by editing out the error. Is that good journalism? Find out next on "News Watch."
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MICHELLE OBAMA: She was standing out in a park with her friends in a neighborhood blocks away from where my kids grew up, where our house is, and she was caught in the line of fire. I just don't want to keep disappointing our kids in this country. I want them to know that we put them first.
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SCOTT: First lady Michelle Obama, discussing the need for a new gun control, as she sees it, during the interview on "Good Morning, America" this week, however, that clip was edited. Here is what she actually said:
"She was standing out there in a park with her friends in a neighborhood blocks away from where my kids grew up, where our house is. She had just taken a chemistry test. And she was caught in the line of fire because some kids had some automatic weapons they didn't need. I just don't want to keep disappointing kids in this country. I want them to know that we put them first."
Yes, the mention of automatic weapons was cut out of the clip that aired. Automatic weapons were not used. They are and always have been illegal. ABC claimed the edit was made for time. So, does that pass the smell test, Ellen?
RATNER: Well, it does and it doesn't. First of all, ABC should have never claimed that was done for time, but we have all made mistakes on the air, doing either live reads or giving opinions or whatever and all of us have, if we've been in charge of our own editing before the piece goes on the air, we'd edit that out. I don't have a problem with that. I have a problem with ABC saying it was cut for time.
SCOTT: And so, would they have done the same thing if it had been a Laura Bush?
THOMAS: Of course not.
MILLER: They should.
THOMAS: But look -- this is -- this apparently is a virus going through the networks. NBC and MSNBC have had several similar situations, they've edited tape to either make a Republican, in the case of John McCain look bad or the Democrat look good. This is clearly an editorial decision based on a political point of view and that's what makes it outrageous and in violation of whatever journalistic ethics remain.
SCOTT: ABC did put the actual text on the Web site, their news Web site, but that doesn't exactly have the same impact.
PINKERTON: No, it doesn't. But this is -- this is a close call, because if they left it in, they would have said -- half the people watching, would have said, oh, they had an automatic weapon there, and we should be banning those, just like the president says. And so, I think that they -- this is sort of like "The 60 Minutes" situation with the tape of the president on the Benghazi going back a few months, you know, where they did it on one version on the air and another version on the Web site. And Scott Whitlock of Media Research Center pointed out. It was an eight and a half minute segment. Ellen was right, it's ridiculous to call it a time choice. It's not noticeable, however, just to clean up the show and avoid having to do a correction on well, she said automatic weapons and didn't mean it. I don't blame them for leaving it out on the air.
SCOTT: And she also appeared on the Oscars, naming the best picture winner, evening opening the envelope and all of that. Critics claim that it was wrong and it illustrates this coziness between Hollywood and the White House. Your take, Judy.
MILLER: I agree with the Boston Globe, that it demonstrated a kind of tone deafness on the part of the White House. I mean, this is a woman who doesn't not lack for air time, face time with the American people on air, and the fact that she was quote, promoting the White House's care about the arts. And that just doesn't muster, and I particularly disliked the use of soldiers as props in the background. If she wants to give them the envelope to open, at least they'd have a speaking part.
RATNER: Would we have had a Hollywood person announcing the election results? It just didn't work.
THOMAS: I think it simply ratifies the synergistic relationship between Hollywood and Washington. Both of them are phony entities.
PINKERTON: But the troops are real. And it would be a little difficult here and say that was a thrill of a lifetime for those military aides to wait, in effect, wave to their families, and I don't think it was that bad.
THOMAS: You're going soft, Jim.
RATNER: Listen, I'm an Obama-- I'm an Obama person and I don't think it was appropriate. So you know, what can I say?
SCOTT: There were some who thought it looked a little creepy.
PINKERTON: I mean, they're handsome people and they look nice in their uniforms and it is sort of-- I mean, I--
MILLER: She was rattled enough.
PINKERTON: There's an adversarial culture that requires to say whatever the Obama administration does it's bad, and sometimes when they unite on having troops on the air, it's not a crime.
RATNER: I don't have a problem with the troops. But do you have the first lady of the United States announcing the Oscars, do we have Hollywood people announcing elections?
PINKERTON: I think that Cal explained the parallel between them earlier.
THOMAS: I don't care. I mean, it's all phony, right? So it goes.
SCOTT: All right, next on "News Watch," a former White House spokesman reveals a secret.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Former Obama spokesman Gibbs gives it up, admitting he was told not to talk about our drone program, ordered not to tell the press or the public. What does that say about our transparent president? That's next. On "News Watch."
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ROBERT GIBBS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: When I went through the process of becoming press secretary, one of the things, one of the first things they told me was, you're not even to acknowledge the drone program.
You're not even to discuss that it exists.
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SCOTT: Well, that's Robert Gibbs, a former White House press secretary, who now works for MSNBC, telling the world that he was instructed to dodge questions from reporters about the drone program. The program that allows the president to kill enemies of America that he deems are combatants. So the question here is, anybody here surprised at his admission?
SCOTT: You are?
RATNER: And I'll tell you why, did he -- people told me when he left the White House, he was still very, very close to the president. So is this a Scott McClellan, former secretary to President Bush, kind of reveal all? There is something going on in that relationship that we don't know about.
SCOTT: But this was the man who was the first press spokesman for the most transparent administration in history, Jim.
PINKERTON: Right, and it will be interesting to see the reaction to it beyond a few, you know, clucks here and there. But I remember my former colleague in the Reagan administration, Larry Speaks, who resigned from the White House in good graces in 1987 and went to a big job at Merrill Lynch up at Wall Street, and then wrote a book the following year, 1988, in which he said he fabricated a grand total of two quotes in six years on the job for President Reagan. And the roof caved in on him. He obviously had no intention -- no idea (inaudible) publishing the book, and was fired within a week from his big job on Wall Street because of two quotes. It seems as if Robert Gibbs is at least fabricating the truth, for lack of a better phrase, for two years, and I don't think--
THOMAS: I listened to some of the clips, and in the clips I saw, I don't think he was fabricating. He just didn't tell all of the truth. Maybe they were saving the--
PINKERTON: Now he gave it away, he gave it away now by saying he was told not to do it.
THOMAS: Maybe they were saving the secrets to be leaked to the New York Times or Wikileaks.
MILLER: Well, the issue is now they tell us. Now he tells us that he's gone over to the other side, I'm not going to call it the dark side, but you know, come on, this is a guy who's joined MSNBC, and he wants to make some news and he wants to demonstrate his distance from the White House, so the way you do this is to say something that was obvious, that is that he was not going to talk about it.
RATNER: But what is the benefit of him saying that? I mean, MSNBC is still going to employ him no matter what. I don't understand, there must be something going on, which I don't think the press has explored, about his relationship with this White House or I don't think he would have said it.
SCOTT: There's no benefit to this White House if you're trying to portray yourself as the most open and transparent in history.
We have to move on. Patrick Pexton is the now former ombudsman for "The Washington Post." He delivered his final column last Sunday, taking on a reader's concern that the Post has a strong pro-gay bias. Pexton used emails from the reader who claims Post stories minimize the conservative view, and an unnamed reporter at the Post. The reporter, "the reason that legitimate media outlets routinely cover gays is because it is the civil rights issue of our time. Journalism at its core is about justice and fairness, and that's the view of the world that we espouse. Therefore, journalists are going to cover the segment of society that's still not treated equally under the law." The readers writes, "contrary to what you say, the mission of journalism is not justice. Defining justice is a political matter, not journalistic. Journalism should be about accuracy and fairness. Good journalism also means not demeaning conservatives as haters." What do you think about those points, Jim?
PINKERTON: That was a pretty good discussion back and forth, and I think you've got a window into the soul of much of the mainstream media that says our purpose here is not so much the truth as it is justice and fairness - there is a distinction to be made -- and this report-- this reader who ought to be a reporter, too, but of course will never get an offer, I think called it the way the First Amendment was intended, which is to tell the truth.
SCOTT: Can you have justice and fairness without truth?
MILLER: Well, it helps when they go together. Look, I thought that the exchange was illuminating for the reasons that Jim said, but also because I think it's good when a reporter gets a chance to express what motivates and what motive him or her, to talk about their reporting. Because the readers know there's an agenda there, they just want to know what it is.
RATNER: It depends where you come down on this, and I think that this is a civil rights issue of our time. And in the 1960s, we wouldn't put the other side in The Washington Post, not we, I (inaudible) hired (ph) by them, but is there another side to this? I'm not sure there is.
THOMAS: Well, African-Americans, including among the preachers, resent this being compared to a civil rights issue, and I think the ombudsman was absolutely correct. There is another point of view, and it doesn't get the kind of fairness it deserves.
SCOTT: Next on "News Watch." One last shot at the New York Times.
SCOTT: Our next story as featured in the New York Post falls under the getting the last laugh column. This is a guy named Amos Shuchman. He passed away last month when he was 84 years old, a New Yorker, a retired stockbroker, born in Israel. He loved his family, he liked finance, skiing, opera, ballet, and biking in Central Park. And according to his paid obituary, Mr. Shookman loved everything about New York City except for The New York Times.
That obituary appeared in The New York Times. Mr. Shookman's son Daniel says his father did not believe The Times provided honest and objective reporting. His family believes Amos is in heaven with a copy of the New York Post and a falafel sandwich, having a good chuckle over his notoriety.
And last week I was in Washington, D.C., where I met a big fan of this program, Michael Hayden. So if you are a fan of this program as well, you are in good company with the former head of the CIA and the National Security Agency. He told me he and his wife DVR "News Watch" every week.
And that's a wrap on "News Watch." Thanks to Judy, Jim, Cal and Ellen. We'll see you again, next week.
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