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This is a rush transcript from "Fox News Watch," March 23, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JON SCOTT, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: On "Fox News Watch":
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Any drama between me and my friend Bibi over the years was just a plot to create material for Eretz Nehederet.
SCOTT: With the media in tow, President Obama takes his show on the road doing his best to convince Israelis and Palestinians that he really does care. Is the press buying his pitch or asking tough questions like why now?
After months of bluster and blame by liberal media pushing for tougher gun laws, the Democrats attempt to ban assault weapons hits a dead end. But that headline mostly missed by the press.
A new study shows what we already knew - the mainstream political press were parrots of political campaigns lacking investigations and real objective reporting. Will anything change?
Taking a page out of the Obama sequester scare playbook, a top Democratic leader is accused of trying to tie the budget cuts to the deaths of American Marines, most in the media missed this as well. And a new book out about our Fox News chief. What kind of attention do you think that's getting?
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SCOTT: 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.
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OBAMA: I believe that Israel is rooted not just in history and tradition, but also in a simple and profound idea. The idea that people deserve to be free in a land of their own. The Palestinian people's right to self- determination, their right to justice must also be recognized. And put yourself in their shoes, look at the world through their eyes. It is not fair that a Palestinian child cannot grow up in a state of their own.
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SCOTT: President Obama speaking to a primarily Jewish audience in Jerusalem on Thursday, a major trip to the Middle East, which had some critics in the media asking, why is he there? So, Jim, let's get your answer on that. Is this part of the charm offensive continued overseas?
JIM PINKERTON, THE AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE MAGAZINE: OK, right, And first Republicans, which was mixed to now Netanyahu would probably be a tougher sell. Look, this is a trip that probably should have happened in the first term and then for sort of various reasons it didn't. And now they're doing it now. Not because I think they have anything great to offer, it's just they think they have to, it's sort of checking the box. It's fun to watch little drama between Prime Minister Netanyahu and the president. And here the civil rights narrative, which Josh Gerstein of Politico described as sort of a strange transplant from the American south to the West Bank of Israel. But the real story is outside of Israel. It's Syria, it's Egypt, it's Iran and then the media is having a tough time dealing with that as they cover all this pompous circumstances.
SCOTT: Judy, you're just back from that part of the world. Just back.
JUDY MILLER, WRITER & FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Yes.
SCOTT: Are the media buying what the president is trying to accomplish?
MILLER: Well, in Israel, Jon, it was a total love fest, I would have said, Jim, exactly what you said before I went, but to see the outpouring of affection for this president and for what he represents, it was truly astonishing.
SCOTT: But not from Netanyahu.
MILLER: No, what was interesting, though, is that both men have clearly figured out and several commentators noted that they need each other and that it's going to be a very, very rough three years, and so you've got to get off on a better footing and work together because of Iran, Syria and all the other and Egypt, I might add, humongous challenges facing them.
SCOTT: So both sides have managed to change the media narrative, do you think?
MILLER: I think they've almost had to because the trip was such a success. I mean, you know, critics like Herb Keinon of The Jerusalem Post said, he had us at shalom. And, you know, the biblical references, the acknowledgment of the Jewish people's connection to the land, all the things he didn't do in the Cairo speech. All the things he should have done on a first trip as commander-in-chief now he did and Bibi has to respond to that. And people do.
SCOTT: But Ellen, there were critics like the London Daily Telegraph who put together an editorial saying, you know, this is a trip he should have taken four years ago.
ELLEN RATNER, BUREAU CHIEF OF TALK RADIO NEWS SERVICE: Well, that's right, and also what was fascinating to me is the different journalists and their take was almost a Rorschach test for themselves. I mean Andrea Mitchell saying, well, this was to repair relations, Jennifer Rubin talking about the right turn and those folks. You had the real clear politics folks talking about how he was, you know, doing this trip for the radical left. I mean, so, everybody had a very different take on why he was there.
SCOTT: Have the media been critical enough of this president's foreign policies?
CAL THOMAS, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, we're seeing some cracks in that, John. I want to give kudos to Chuck Todd of NBC News who actually challenged the president during the news conference with Prime Minister Netanyahu and asked him to explain what he called his failure, the president's, to achieve Middle East peace. Now, this is an amazing breakthrough prompting a rather snarky remark from the president, saying that he should behave - Chuck Todd should behave just like the Israeli press and ask only one question and label him as being obsequious.
PINKERTON: And look, I watched as you were at the press conference on Twitter just for fun, and all of a sudden I saw this flurry of tweets, oh, who is this thug Chuck Todd, you know ...
PINKERTON: And I thought he - I didn't see it on TV, I thought, well, he's on something, he's, you know, he pulled up his pants in the middle of the press conference. In fact, all he did was, as Cal said, asked a tough question and it caused an eruption of reporters saying how dare you be mean to our fearless president and then that night Brian Williams on NBC had to take time off in the broadcast. By the way, Chuck Todd is fine, you know, they kind of laughed it off. That shows how desperate they are to preserve their master-slave relationship with Obama ...
MILLER: Well ...
MILLER: Come on, Jim.
SCOTT: But what about the timing of the trip? I should - did the media ask the question why now and what does he hope to accomplish?
RATNER: They did ask that - they did ask - they, definitely asked that question ...
RATNER: They all had a different take on it.
SCOTT: After kind of ignoring the peace process for much of his first term, why now?
MILLER: Well, I still don't think the peace process, even though there was a lot of talk about it is at the forefront of that agenda. The agenda is clearly Syria and Iran or perhaps in reverse order, but there, and Egypt. Keep your eye on Egypt. As net several commentators are beginning to take note of. You're going to have very, very severe crisis as you're heading - -
THOMAS: We saw last week in The New York Times another indication of how the media are just totally clueless about the dynamics here. Here is the headline, this is beautiful, it says everything. "Muslim Brotherhood Statement on Women Stirs Liberals' Fears." Who knew that the Muslim Brotherhood doesn't like women?
SCOTT: Might crack down.
RATNER: You know, it was interesting, because one person even suggested while the real reason he was doing this was so that Israel would withdraw from Judea and Samaria. Where they pulled that from? I don't know. But it was like everybody had their own little theories here. And nobody asked ...
MILLER: My favorite headline was The National Post, "Obama is from Venus, Bibi is from Mars." And it will remain thus no matter how much good will this trip generated among people.
THOMAS: Palestinian Daily had all you need to know, that two op-ed pieces welcoming the president and it said that, it suggested that Hitler was better than Roosevelt and that Americans were behind 9/11. That tells you the mentality.
SCOTT: Here you go. All right, next on "News Watch", a plan to ban guns falls flat and the media go largely silent.
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SCOTT: The Sandy Hook shooting ignited a fierce debate over gun ownership. The liberal media in overdrive attacking anyone opposed to a ban. Now, the ban is dead. Where are the media now? Answers next on "News Watch."
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OBAMA: The coming weeks I'll use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens from law enforcement, the mental health professionals to parents and educators, in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this.
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SCOTT: The president there reacting to the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School. One key item in his plan, a ban on so-called assault weapons. That plan ended this week after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid dropped the ban from any legislation. So, Jim, you didn't get a lot of coverage on that in the media.
PINKERTON: Well, you got on CNN on Thursday, you got a certain amount of oh, you know, hand wringing, oh, this is so terrible. This is the end of everything in terms of this issue with this. And what you're struck by is the contrast between the way that news Thursday was covered and the clip you showed up on the president, December 16th of last year, in which he talks about mental health professionals, parents, educators. He talked the whole panoply of things you may do, whether you agree with him or not on behalf of eliminating shootings. And so Adam Lanza, the killer there, and sort of fallen out of the picture and these all issues have become gun control. And the media is so focused on the gun issue that the fact that John Holmes, now, according to "The National Enquirer" which has been right about a lot of things, he has converted to Islam. Do you think that would be kind of interesting, too, in terms of, you know, what was going on with him. But no, they are not interested in anything. The only thing they want - the only thing they define as justice for Newtown is gun control up or down.
SCOTT: I'm going to get to you in a second, Judy. Because I know how you feel on this issue. But Ron Fournier of The National Journal wrote, Ellen "The ban on assault weapons sponsored by Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California apparently died Tuesday with barely a whisper from media outlets or the White House. Black bunting should have hung from every window in Washington. It's like they don't even want to acknowledge what happened.
RATNER: Well, it's interesting, because there were some-- there was another headline, goodbye to assault weapons and then you had Michael Moore on Piers Morgan's talking about - Piers Morgan - talking about it, and what I found interesting is nobody talked about the political implications and why this happened. You don't like watch how sausages are made. They didn't talk about that. They just talked goodbye or, you know, Dianne Feinstein is upset about this, but nobody really talked about the horse dealing and trading that went on.
SCOTT: Mike Lupica of The New York Daily News, Judy, wrote an op-ed piece, and here is how it was titled "Spineless pols spit on the graves of Newtown victims by not pushing for assault weapons ban", but, you know, just days before that he had also written an article talking about how video games play a role here.
MILLER: All right, I mean, you know, I think the simple fact remains that the people like me who believe in restrictions have failed to make a strong enough case to the American people so that the deluge of kind of outrage and calls for restrictions that were expected to come to Capitol Hill and expected to fall upon the people who were going to do this, and even on Harry Reid, a traditional supporter of gun freedom, it never materialized. And that - those are the hard facts and The New York Times of course can be predictable in comparing Harry Reid and his cowardice to the courage of Governor John Hickenlooper of Colorado. But the fact remains, until the Congress feels the heat nothing is going to change and they didn't on this issue. If anything they felt the opposite.
THOMAS: We've heard all of this before. Eugene Robinson, ultralib for The Washington Post, also an MSNBC commentator was all over Harry Reid, frankly in a very honest column in The Washington Post this past week, basically calling him a weasel, which is very unusual coming from him. He's pretty much a defender of all things Democratic. But I think, you know, the president knows this, isn't going anywhere, and it's all about politics and appealing to the base. It's not going to happen. There are too many Democrats who are up for reelection and they're from states with a strong gun ownership constituency.
PINKERTON: And the president has taken some heat on this, the lack of leadership on this, including from the left. And the thing you see - the thing that connects the Middle East story from the previous segment and this story is, President Obama is now reelected. It's much safer, it is not going to help Mitt Romney if you criticize the president, the way you would have pre-election.
SCOTT: All right. There coming up on "News Watch", more from the sequester fear playbook.
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SCOTT: Senate Leader Harry Reid sinks to a new low trying to tie the deaths of U.S. Marines to the sequester cuts. And a new study tells how the political press failed their mission leading to the election. Details next on "News Watch."
SCOTT: A new study by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism examined the personal portrayal of the 22 presidential candidates in 50 major news outlets over a 10-week period. They found 72 percent of this coverage has been negative for Barack Obama and 71 percent has been negative for Mitt Romney. Back in 2008, 57 percent of media coverage was negative for John McCain, 31 percent for Barack Obama. But the real story is where those narratives come from, the campaign - the study shows, Jim, that political journalists are not really investigating, but just sort of following the narrative that's laid out by the campaign. Surprised?
PINKERTON: No, not really. I mean, you know, there's a limit to what a reporter watching a candidate to six stops a day can really do. I mean do you really want them to step in back and saying - this is, you know, whatever - maybe you do, but their job they think, and people certainly watch and that's what the news has to say, what the guy said today. It's up to others to provide perspective and context.
SCOTT: But the feeling, Judy, is that the campaigns then sort of create their own stories and the media just (INAUDIBLE) them off.
MILLER: No, how many times on this show are we going to complain about the lack of investment in both foreign reporting and investigative reporting? It is the most expensive kind of reporting to do and fewer and fewer news outlets are doing it and it's a terrible shame, and this is what you get.
SCOTT: So will anything change?
RATNER: No, and what was fascinating, is that I like the word that the report used about reporters on the campaign trail, calling them mega phones.
RATNER: And because that is what happens. I always say if you want to cover the White House, don't go to the White House because you're not going to get anything except what's fed to you.
THOMAS: Let me repeat a story I did on your show, actually it wasn't - we did it in the green room, Marvin Kalb, the great CBS correspondent for many years now at Harvard told me the story that when the great Edward R. Murrow visited two Nazi death camps at the end of World War II, he went back to his hotel room and thought about what he had seen for two days before he went on the air. Those days are completely gone. Nobody contemplates or assimilates anything anymore, they just go right on the air. And by the way, the Project for Excellence in Journalism, I think that's a contradiction.
PINKERTON: And by - just there are other outfits now, doing (INAUDIBLE) you've got ProPublica and you've got the Franklin Center for Public Integrity and you've got new groups emerging out of the nonprofit world that are doing exactly this, and that's sort of a different function and probably from the days of Murrow should be divided between coverage and analysis.
SCOTT: Moving on, seven Marines were killed during live fire training at the Hawthorne Army Depot in Nevada on Tuesday. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada's senator talked about the tragedy saying he will do whatever he can going forward to support the United States military and the families of the fallen Marines. And then he followed with this.
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SENATE MAJORITY LEADER HARRY REID, D-NEVADA: It's very important we continue training our military, it's so important. But one of the things in sequester, is we cut back in training and maintenance.
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SCOTT: His comments went pretty much unnoticed by the mainstream media that day. Cal, blaming the deaths of seven Marines on sequester?
THOMAS: All you have to do, Jon, is say if a Republican had done this, if a Rand Paul, if a Marco Rubio, the media would have been all over them. Instead, we have a CNN reporter chasing Michele Bachmann down through the bowels of the Capitol, wanting to have evidence of some stupid comment that was made when they're not chasing down Harry Reid and asking him about that. It's an unbelievable double standard.
SCOTT: Should they, Ellen?
RATNER: Yes. And, you know, again, you're hearing this from the liberal side. Listen, now sequester has and will probably cause some real pain. I don't agree with some of the things like ending White House tours and all that stuff. But to blame the killing of the Marines when this was apparently a trained exercise that have been planned pre-sequester? Come on.
SCOTT: Is there anything unfair about what the senator had to say there?
MILLER: I think of course, it's unfair and it is utterly predictable. I mean there is a double standard and we see it again and again.
PINKERTON: One point. I mean I agree with what Ellen said and Judy and - Michele Bachmann's comments at CPAC last weekend were based on a book, written by Robert Keith Gray who served in the Eisenhower White House as (INAUDIBLE), and so she was quoting - the things she was quoting were from a book. She had a source, maybe some would disagree with the source, but the source is certainly an expert on White House life styles.
THOMAS: Yeah, but the point was that CNN spent all this time chasing her and didn't do anything with Harry Reid, that was the point I was trying to make.
SCOTT: All right, next on "News Watch", a new book about our Fox boss gets some media reaction.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now to one of the most powerful media moguls on the planet. Roger Ailes, the mastermind, of course, behind Fox News and regardless of where you stand on politics, he has got an incredible story and he is sharing it in his brand new biography, "Roger Ailes Off Camera."
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SCOTT: Just out this week, and getting lots of media attention, the new book about Fox News chief Roger Ailes, a biography written by Zev Chafets, a few of the quotes getting some special attention like this about Barack Obama. "How many fund-raisers does he attend every week? How often does he play basketball and golf? I wish I had that kind of time. He is lazy, but the media won't report that. He noticed my arched eyebrows and added, I didn't come up with that, Obama said that to Barbara Walters. Well, CNN anchors told about O'Brien embarrassed herself and her network by trying to spin that as a racist comment, ignorant of the fact that those words were echoing the president's own words about himself. Many in the liberal media including New York Times reacted as expected, but as the author points out the liberal media not so liberal when it comes to accepting other points of view.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why is it that the cultural left, just, you know, he drives them crazy.
ZEV CHAFETS, AUTHOR OF "ROGER AILES: OFF CAMERA: Well, I don't know. I think I'm a member of the cultural left. And he doesn't drive me crazy. I think it's more a question of how much tolerance people have for other people's point of view. And Roger is so direct and he can be at time so abrasive and at times I think he is - I'm sure, he's intentionally abrasive. He likes to pull people's chain.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sure.
CHAFETS: He's not - he told me a couple of times that I'm not a puncher, but I'm a counter-puncher. And that's certainly the way he sees himself, as being under assault by the cultural elite. And so, when people fight back, they are controversial and Roger is a tough fighter.
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SCOTT: But he did build Fox News channel into number one. Tough being on top. Everyone's always aiming at you trying to bring you down.
That is a wrap on "Fox News Watch" for this week, thanks to Judy Miller, Jim Pinkerton, Cal Thomas and Ellen Ratner. I'm Jon Scott. Thanks for joining us. Keep it here on Fox News channel. We'll see another - see you back next week for another edition of "Fox News Watch."
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