This is a rush transcript from "Fox News Watch," March 9, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
JON SCOTT, HOST: On "Fox News Watch," the media hyped the president's fear and blame game leading to the sequester and now that we're there have the media changed their tune on the exaggerations and hysteria? Hugo Chavez's rule over Venezuela ends. His death giving the liberal media a chance to honor a man of the people, dismissing the dictator's dark side.
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SEN. RAND PAUL, R-KY.: He will be the executioner-in-chief if he sees fit.
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SCOTT: Republican Senator Rand Paul makes a stand on Capitol Hill delivering an old-fashioned filibuster demanding the White House come clean on drone strikes. Did the media back him or bash him? Ann Romney speaks her mind for the first time since the election, pointing out the failures of the press for not giving her man Mitt fair treatment. How do you think the media reacted to that? And speaking of the campaign, the verdict is in, well, you finally know who the best debate moderator was.
On the panel this week, writer and Fox News contributor Judy Miller, editor of The National Review, Rich Lowry. Jim Pinkerton, contributing editor of 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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PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: These cuts are not smart, they'll hurt our economy and cost us jobs. And Congress can turn them off at any time, as soon as both sides are willing to compromise. It's unnecessary. And in a time when too many of our friends and neighbors are still looking for work, it's inexcusable. Hundreds of thousands of Americans who serve their country, border patrol agents, FBI agents, civilians who work for the Defense Department, will see their wages cut and their hours reduced.
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SCOTT: Remember that? The president pushing the doom and gloom scenario over the sequester, and as we have discussed on this program, the media pretty much parroted the White House hype. Well, the hysteria never really came, the trains and planes are still running in this country, the lights are still on. Sewage is not flowing in the streets as far as we are aware, but the media seem to have changed their tune. The Washington Times, "Obama poll numbers take a post-sequester dive." The Washington Post, "did Obama cry wolf on sequester?" From U.S. News and World Report, "how Obama Bungled the Sequester." And from Politico, "Obama administration sequester claims shot down by fact checkers." Even Tom Brokaw said Mr. Obama spent too much time campaigning, suggesting he should have been at Camp David with congressional leaders working out a deal.
So, Jim, has the coverage changed? Have we seen that about-face?
JIM PINKERTON, THE AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE MAGAZINE: I think it has. The Media Research Center's Jeffrey Dickens pointed out that two-thirds of the mainstream media coverage was alarmist before all this happened, but then, I think, last week I said that the administration was getting a little ahead of its skis in terms of the sequester, in terms of pushing it too hard, in terms as declaring, you know doom and gloom and I think having watched "Saturday Night Live" last weekend, where it had a fake President Obama saying, quote, "I don't know anything about money," unquote. I think now you can say the administration has jumped the shark on -- to use a TV cliche, and then they further compounded the problem by canceling the White House tours, which I think was a PR fiasco that even the mainstream media had to make fun of.
SCOTT: You bring up the Media Research Center, 66 percent of the stories done from Valentine's Day, February 14th until March 1 when the sequester actually kicked in, 66 percent advanced essentially the White House talking points. On ABC, 89 percent of the stories parroted the White House line about budget, panic, and the sky is going to fall. That doesn't exactly seem to comport with what we're seeing, Judy?
JUDY MILLER, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Right. Exactly. But I think that accounts for the political backlash as Jim was saying. And I find it interesting that this week in the Washington Post, you had two very different columnists, Jennifer Rubin saying, by the way, where is everybody on trying to figure out the actual impact on the economy of these sequester cuts? And Howie Kurtz who is not exactly on the same political ideological spectrum as Jennifer Rubin, saying, you know, if the media had spent ten percent of the time that we've spent on Beyonce's lip sync, we might know more about the actual impact of this and I think that this is an area where the media fell short.
SCOTT: Did the media just take the White House line as gospel, that all of these people were going to lose their jobs and, you know, economic doom was going to result?
KIRSTEN POWERS, USA TODAY AND DAILY BEAST COLUMNIST: Well, I think they took the gospel up to a point, and then it started, as we got closer to it, I think, people started to realize that some of the stuff they were saying wasn't really adding up and they were making very specific claims, that the president claiming about janitors not getting paid and then it turned out it wasn't true. And so, I think - but I agree with what Howie was saying, because there actually would be a real impact of this long-term, if it is-- if they don't do something about it and that hasn't really been talked about. I mean the CBO has projected 750,000 lost jobs in a fragile economy. Instead, the White House is making up to the stories about janitors and canceling White House tours.
SCOTT: We are borrowing 40 cents of every dollar we spend, Rich, and yet, they can't find a way to keep the White House open for tours?
RICH LOWRY, NATIONAL REVIEW EDITOR: Yeah. Well, that seems to be a classic instance of picking out the most painful possible high profile cut. But I think there's a hierarchy of blame worthiness. And how credulous this coverage was. The local media and local TV was at its very worst. If you are at the White House, you just send out a press release mentioning a local town or a state (ph)...
LOWRY: Yeah, it's going to be on the ten o'clock news, this regurgitated verbatim pretty much. The network news was next worst and not so bad was print. Some of it was bad, but you had some really good fact checking, particularly out of the "Washington Post," which blew the whistle on Arne Duncan's rank exaggeration and a couple other stories that didn't pan out. So it all wasn't terrible.
SCOTT: Is that any coincidence, Jim, that the White House is now out on sort of a charm offensive with Republicans in the Senate and in Congress?
PINKERTON: Or to put it another way, a 180 degree reverse course of no negotiations to taking them all out to dinner. Yes, I agree with Rich that Glenn Kessler at the Washington Post have been handing out Pinocchios to the White House like candy.
PINKERTON: And even Howard Schneider, in a headline in a post story entitled, "White House Seeks New Money for IMF." OK? In the middle of all this stuff about we can't afford the White House tours, the White House is asking for $65 billion for the International Monetary Fund, and as Schneider said, talk about awkward timing. Those were the first words, lines of the story.
SCOTT: The - Kimberley Strassel, the "Wall Street Journal" columnist pointed out this week, we are spending $27 million on a program in North Africa that includes pottery making. Pottery lessons.
MILLER: Yes, well, you know, we can always do that, we can always look at some silly sounding program in the foreign aid budget, which is a minuscule part of the budget. I mean, let's look a little closer at the Pentagon and here again, this notion that the president has no choice, he's just got to cut across the board, that is where the leadership issue that Tom Brokaw was complaining about really manifests itself. He can make this less painful.
LOWRY: The other thing, it shouldn't have been a mystery, if the press had just gone and talked to some of these government unions, there is no way they can be fired or furloughed immediately, it was going to take months and even if you agree with Kirsten, that there's a long-term harmful effect, there was no way it was going to happen on the time frame, immediately within weeks of the sequester.
SCOTT: All right. Coming up next on "News Watch," the media gush over a dictator who is now dead.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hugo Chavez dies, and the liberal media praised the dictator as a hero of the people, dismissing the demagogue's dark side. And Dennis Rodman visits North Korea, what role did the media play in this embarrassing escapade? Find out next on "News Watch."
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SCOTT: Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez died this week, the controversial president was 58. His admirers reacted. Sean Penn, the actor, says "Today the people of the United States lost a friend it never knew it had. And poor people around the world lost a champion. I lost a friend I was blessed to have." Former President Jimmy Carter, "We came to know a man who expressed the vision to bring profound changes to his country, to benefit especially those people who had felt neglected and marginalized. And Michael Moore shared this, "We spoke for over an hour. He said he was happy to finally meet someone Bush hated more than him." He was a polarizing figure, Kirsten. Was the -- did the coverage reflect that?
POWERS: I don't think it did. I don't think in the mainstream media, I mean those were quotes from, you know, some pretty far left people, but I don't even think that the mainstream media really was covered in the way that it should have been covered, which is this really was completely totalitarian thuggish leader, you know, a human rights abuser. Somebody who hated America, then the idea that he is a friend to America is absurd. So, I think that, you know, I expect that kind of stuff frankly from the people that you just named, but, you know, Rich had a great column, that I think outlined even more troubling things from where it wasn't so expected.
SCOTT: Why don't you share some thoughts from your column, Rich?
LOWRY: Well, the - it's-- Hugo Chavez were a figure of the right, if you talked about a 21st century fascism instead of 21st century socialism, none of the media stories would have mentioned his colorful and charming personality at all.