• With: Jim Pinkerton, Judy Miller, Merrill Brown, Richard Grenell, Cal Thomas

    This is a rush transcript from "Fox News Watch," May 18, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

    JON SCOTT, HOST: It's been a week of nonstop news. The Department of Justice grabs phone records from the Associated Press, claiming it needs information as to who leaked secrets. The IRS admits to targeting conservative groups, delaying or denying their requests to be recognized as tax exempt, while greasing the skids for liberal groups to do the same thing. More details revealed about the attacks in Benghazi. Talking point e-mails give clarity to the administration's spin on the tragedy. A trifecta of problems for the Obama White House gets all media attention. Plus, an abortion doctor gets convicted of murder. The media finally show up. O.J. is back in the news. And the press is none too kind. And what is Scott Pelley talking about here?


    SCOTT PELLEY, CBS ANCHOR: Our house is on fire.


    SCOTT: Covering the coverage on this special edition of "Fox News Watch."

    On the panel this week writer and Fox News contributor Judy Miller, syndicated columnist Cal Thomas, Jim Pinkerton, contributing editor, the American Conservative Magazine, Merrill Brown, director of Montclair State University School of Communication and Media. And Richard Grenell, former spokesman to the last four U.S. ambassadors to the United Nations. I'm Jon Scott. "Fox News Watch" is on right now.


    REP. ZOE LOFGREN, D-CALIF.: It says no subpoena may be issued to any member of the news media or for the telephone toll records of any member of the news media without the express authorization of the attorney general. Did you delegate that express authorization in writing to Mr. Cole?

    ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTTORNEY GENERAL: No, I don't think the recusal - we've looked for this. I don't think there is anything in the writing with regard to my recusal, which is again, not ...

    LOFGREN: No, but the question was, what about the requirement in the code that you expressly approve -- now, you recused yourself. Was that express authorization authority delegated to Mr. Cole?

    HOLDER: Once I recused myself in that matter, he in essence - not in essence - he does become the acting attorney general with all the powers ...


    HOLDER: ... that the attorney general has.


    SCOTT: That's the Attorney General Eric Holder, once again facing a congressional hearing. This time getting a grilling over the Justice Department's seizure of phone records from the Associated Press. Details from 20 different phone lines where more than 100 journalists work on various stories. Gary Pruitt, the AP's president, reacted. "These records potentially reveal communications with confidential sources across all of the news gathering activities undertaken by the AP during a two-months period. Provide a road map to AP's news gathering operations and disclose information about AP's activities and operations that the government has no conceivable right to know." The media reacted. Here is one example from The Huffington Post online. This story really got the attention of everyone in the media.

    JUDY MILLER, WRITER & FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it certainly got mine and it's the one story that's kind of brought the media together, left, right, large, small, because all of a sudden, our ox is being gored and suddenly we have to remind the American people that a free press is one of those things that we often take for granted, but that's essential in protecting a democracy. But there was one journalist who apparently didn't get the talking points, if I can use that word, and that's Wolf Blitzer who said, well, if there is a national security issue at stake here, shouldn't the government have the right to tap my phone? No, Wolf. It shouldn't.

    SCOTT: Well, all right, so national security leak or no? I mean who decides if it's national security versus freedom of the press?

    JIM PINKERTON, THE AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE MAGAZINE: Well, the administration, of course, has that option. And so the Washington Post on Friday made the point that the AP had the story on May Seventh and of course, John Brennan was out talking about it on May 8. So it would appear that they were investigating the AP for doing what they themselves were doing, which is leaking. So they wanted the exclusive to themselves, and they were willing to violate the law or bend the rules at least to investigative reporters.

    MERRILL BROWN, MONTCLAIR STATE UNIVERSITY: There is a process here, it involves a notice period to the media in question. I've talked to multiple people at the AP and their lawyer. They were not notified about this as the law required. Had they been and had the Obama administration been deft at handling this, the firestorm might have ensued, they might have worked this out. They violated the provision requiring the notice.

    SCOTT: Well, it's also pretty clear, Cal, that the White House, well - the AP was going to blow the cover on this story that the White House was getting ready to announce and that may be the source of all this ...

    CAL THOMAS, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: That's exactly right. To follow up on what Jim was saying, there was an agreement between the White House and the AP to hold this story, the story of being the foiling of an al Qaeda plot for five days and then Monday came and they had another quick meeting with administration officials and the AP, said it was going to go ahead and publish anyway, even though the administration was going to announce this plot the next day. So the administration goes ahead, the CIA goes ahead and says, well, they violated security here and we're going to investigate it using that as a pretext when they were going to release the information the very next day themselves.

    SCOTT: So if the White House had gotten to make this announcement the way they wanted to, Judy, would we be having this investigation?

    MILLER: We don't know that because, you know, look, none of us has top security clearances here, right? We're at a bit of a disadvantage. But it's not correct that the government doesn't have the right to seize records without notifying a news organization. They do have that right if an ongoing criminal investigation or issue of national security is about to be compromised. And that's what the issue was here. Did the DOJ, Department of Justice have cause to do what it did and did it -- was its dragnet too broad? And we don't know the answer to that question yet.

    SCOTT: Rick, the Media Matters is that liberal watchdog group. They have taken a lot of heat here for sort of pushing the line that the Department of Justice, you know, the Department of Justice talking points on this AP scandal.

    RICHARD GRENELL, FMR. SPKSMN, LAST 4 U.S. AMBASSARORD TO U.N.: Yeah. And it's not just Media Matters. I mean you had Politico, who really immediately launched out with, well, President Obama is not really watching the Justice Department that closely because President Bush watched his Justice Department too closely and it was politicized. And so, President Obama's laissez-fair attitude is the correct way. That's really I think the talking point that the White House has been pushing, not only Media Matters picks it up, but Politico picks it up. But let me make one strong point here, the leak had already occurred at the Associated Press and the Obama administration was going after trying to find out who leaked. In the Bush administration, President Bush himself called the "New York Times" to say, let's hold back on this stories if you're going to give away some of our sources and methods. The "New York Times" said no. And they went forward anyway. I think the government has the right, but they need to be able to put some pressure on the news organizations to see if they'll comply first.

    SCOTT: Should the media be making the point that Eric Holder recuses himself in this case? I mean, it doesn't seem to be getting a lot of coverage.

    PINKERTON: Well, I mean Dana Milbank in The Washington Post said that Eric Holder "abdicated and just mocked him on Thursday for, you know, acting like he didn't know his own Justice Department and didn't write down his recusal. I mean who knew that lawyers never wrote things down?


    PINKERTON: However, you can always count Ezra Klein and also on the "Washington Post" to say with all these scandals are nothing. Nothing to see here, folks, just move on.


    SCOTT: What about that? I mean the fact that Eric Holder apparently was supposed to, you know, put all of this down in writing and doesn't do it? This is the nation's top law enforcement officer.

    BROWN: Well, this is sort of typical of what you see as the informality of governance of the Obama administration. They believe that word of mouth is sufficient when it shouldn't be. They believe that management is something left to underlings. They don't seem to take much of the acts of governance as seriously as we might ask them to do.

    THOMAS: Big story of the week, though, Chris Matthews, the thrill up the leg is gone.


    SCOTT: Next on NEWS WATCH, more on the media and the scandals overshadowing the president.


    UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there a siege mentality back here in the West Wing right now?

    UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The White House press grills Obama's spinman on a trifecta of scandals engulfing the White House. Will the media dig deeper for the details or back off to protect their man? Find out next on NEWS WATCH.