This is a rush transcript from "FOX News Watch," June 14, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
JON SCOTT, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: This week on "FOX News Watch," is Michelle Obama the next media target?
Did Newsweek slander Joe Lieberman?
Plus, Paula Jones and Gennifer Flowers making headlines again. Are the media buying it this time?
Katie Couric and others say sexist media helped sink Hillary.
And remembering a reporting legend: "Meet the Press" host and NBC News Washington bureau chief, Tim Russert.
First the headlines, then us.
SCOTT: On the panel this week, Jane Hall of the American University; Syndicated columnist Cal Thomas; Jim Pinkerton, contributing editor and writer for the "American Conservative" magazine; and Jonathan Martin, senior political writer for The Politico.
I'm Jon Scott. "FOX News Watch" is on right now.
Now that her husband is the Democrats' presumptive nominee, Michelle Obama is expected to come under ever-greater scrutiny from the media. She already has received plenty of coverage for this comment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHELLE OBAMA, WIFE OF BARACK OBAMA: For the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: That comment and others Mrs. Obama has made prompted this cover from the National Review in April.
All right, Cal, you look at that cover. It seems like pretty powerful people in the media have already made up their mind about Michelle Obama and that's before the general election got under way.
CAL THOMAS, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: In this campaign, we are being asked to accept three things simultaneously, the first woman with a credible chance of being president, the first African-American with the chance to being president and, whoever Michelle Obama is going to be styled, the angry black woman, first lady? This is an awful lot.
If she's going to be out there talking about policy, being a surrogate for her husband, then, within certain boundaries, she is open for criticism and critiques just like any other political figure.
SCOTT: Jonathan, The Politico, your outfit, had a big article about the GOP and Mrs. Obama. How should she handle the media going forward? She's going to be on "The View" in the week ahead.
JONATHAN MARTIN, SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER, THE POLITICO: Right. You can't hide her. She's going to be out there. I think she can be an asset for senator Obama, especially in the African-American community. That was certainly proven during the course of the primary.
There's no question that she's going to be used against Obama. Perhaps never by the McCain campaign or the RNC, but certainly by conservative voices, to pain Obama has somehow culturally unpalatable. She's part of that package used against him.
SCOTT: But could it backfire? I mean, some people say that GOP attacks on Hillary Clinton actually helped because she became the lightning rod and Bill sort of skated through. That's some people's view.
JANE HALL, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: I think one way that people who are going to try to defeat Obama is to somehow prove he's other — he's not one of us. If they can't prove he's a Muslim, then let's prove his wife is an angry black woman. I think it's going to get ugly. I don't think John McCain will sanction it. I think McCain — it's my opinion he will generally try...
SCOTT: But he won't be able to control it.
HALL: I think McCain genuinely doesn't want this kind of campaign, but I think that may be the only, and ugliest way, to go after Obama and people are going to use it.
SCOTT: What do you think, Jim?
JIM PINKERTON, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR AND COLUMNIST, "AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE": Oh, I don't know. I'm kind of curious about Obama, where he lived, what he's done and what he believed. The people that surround Obama so far, Reverend Wright, Father Pfleger, Tony Rezko, these people don't exactly satisfy all your concerns, do they, about who he is and what he stands for and so on.
I think this is entirely legitimate. I think Jane and Jonathan are right. The McCain campaign will stay away from it. As Rich Lowry pointed out, he's so honor-bound, he's going to lose trying to win this election. That's his choice.
But I think the American people deserve a thorough examination of everything about her, especially when they know the MSM are giving her the Jackie Kennedy treatment, trying to just sail her off into Camelot.
THOMAS: I want to pick up on something that Jane said about the angry black woman. Look at the image of angry black women on television. Politically you have Maxine Waters of California, liberal Democrat. She's always angry every time she gets on television. Cynthia McKinney, another angry black woman. And who are the black women you see on the local news at night in cities all over the country. They're usually angry about something. They've had a son who has been shot in a drive-by shooting. They are angry at Bush. So you don't really have a profile of non-angry black women.
PINKERTON: Oprah Winfrey.
THOMAS: Oprah Winfrey. Yes, there you go, Oprah Winfrey.
HALL: I wasn't endorsing that concept that some people are going to go after her.
MARTIN: What's so fascinating here in that we're having this conversation right now. This is the constant cable chatter. This is what folks are talking about on the Internet. But the campaign itself sort of aboveboard. He wants to raise taxes, against free trade. But the reality is that this is sort of a two-track campaign. It's the issues on the one hand but, at the same time, what seems so dominant and what seems to be on the minds of everybody, even though the campaign doesn't want to sanction it perhaps, these cultural issues, personality issues. Who is this person? It's just fascinating to watch and sort of keep track of.
PINKERTON: Every since we had the bomb, the atomic bomb, the first personality and character of the president is essential. If he or she is, in any way, defective, we can all be dead. That's a serious and heavy charge. It's not some president like Garfield and McKinley can't lose their...
MARTIN: ... about taxes and about trade?
PINKERTON: Because character and how you handle a crisis matters more.
SCOTT: We can't focus on Michelle Obama without talking a little about Cindy McCain.
What about the press coverage of her to this point, Jane?
HALL: I agree with this whole spouse question. Look how fascinated we've been by Hillary and Bill. What a show that's been. We're all interested in other people's marriages.
I think what's interesting about Cindy McCain is she has looked more traditional. Meanwhile she inherited a brewery, a beer distributorship. She's on the board. She's a millionaire and yet that's never said.
HALL: And wears a size six jeans as Cal has read in those magazines.
THOMAS: That's true.
SCOTT: But she hasn't put herself out there in the same way Michelle Obama has.
HALL: Right. She's done the traditional, looking up adoringly thing.
SCOTT: Does that mean she should be allowed to sort of escape some of the scrutiny or criticism?
THOMAS: I don't think so. The media pressure already ousted her tax returns. Remember, she said I'm absolutely am not going to do this. We file separately. It was like, what, two weeks or something, they were out on the table.
SCOTT: All right, we're going to have to take a break. But first, if you want to hear what we're talking about during the commercial break, check out our web site, foxnews.com/foxnewswatch.
We'll be back in two minutes with this.
ANNOUNCER: Did "Newsweek" slander this senator? Why a story about a conversation between these two has one of them crying foul, next on "News Watch."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I appreciate the fact that you are here. The town hall is the essence and everything about the democratic process that I believe in.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: John McCain speaking in a town hall meeting in New York City on Thursday.
Jim, one of his big supporters in the senate is a guy who used to be a Democratic and caucuses with the Democrats, Joe Lieberman. "Newsweek" magazine put out this article regarding Obama, "his Jewish problem a myth." It quotes an anonymous source about a conversation that Obama and Lieberman supposedly had on the senate floor. Now, what do you think about that?
PINKERTON: Look, "Newsweek" — if you hide behind anonymous sources, then people have a right to say, is not true. The Lieberman operation said this is not true.
However, something big is happening here. And that is Joe Lieberman getting knocked out of the Democratic primary and then he had to run for re-election in Connecticut as an Independent. And endorsing McCain, I think speaks to the huge shift in American politics as Jews are moving from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party. I think the Lieberman saga is emblematic of that giant shift. And I think it's big news.
MARTIN: I don't think it's a giant shift. I do think there's some hawkish Jewish men, perhaps are voting more now based on national security. But Jim, I think a lot of Jewish women are still voting Democrat based on the abortion issue.
PINKERTON: We shall see.
SCOTT: Jane, I keep wondering about whether you teach your students it's OK to use anonymous sources when you put out articles like this.
HALL: They've gotten in trouble. I believe the infamous Koran episode was also sort of a gossip item in "Newsweek."
I think three people writing an item that is unsourced, that looked to me as if it was a leak from the Obama campaign — I mean, if you read between the feelings, it did not look well sources. It does look as though there's about Lieberman maybe bringing people away form Obama, if they think Obama is naive about the Middle East, which Lieberman says he thinks he is.
SCOTT: Lieberman, a pretty well respected senator. The fact that he's supporting a Republican, is he going to become an issue? How did Democrats go about attracting this guy when he was their vice presidential standard bearer?
THOMAS: They're kind of afraid of Lieberman because, as of now, many people expect that to change in the fall. Democrats only have 49 seats and they expect to pick up more, of course. But they're afraid of offending Lieberman to the point that he might go over to the Republican side and screw up the majority. So they have to handle him with kid gloves.
SCOTT: Do you see that as a possibility? Do you see Lieberman joining the GOP?
THOMAS: I don't.
PINKERTON: I think, if the Democrats get a big majority, as Cal says, in the next election, I think the Democrats will throw him out. And be happy being a Republican.
MARTIN: And if McCain wins, don't rule him out. He could be secretary of defense or a high-ranking spot in the McCain administration.
SCOTT: Well, that raises all kind of questions about what that does to the balance of power in the senate.
MARTIN: Well exactly. And my the way, if you want an anymore far fetch scenario, not totally fantastic, that is this, Joe Lieberman, McCain's V.P.
Cal, what do you think?
THOMAS: Well, you know, Bob Beckel and I write this column for "USA Today" called "Common Ground." This is one of the things we've been talking about. Obama talked a lot about finding common ground and common cause of people on the other side. He hasn't said where he's going to do it yet, but I think the public would not mind something like this as long as people are not compromising principles. I think the media are way behind on the yearning to get away from the partisan politics of Washington. Where one guy says, in one party, it's a nice day, and the other guy has to say, no, I think I see a cloud up there. You can't agree on anything.
SCOTT: What about that? Are the media behind in sort of pushing that issue?
PINKERTON: I think the media understand the power of the dynamic of a fight. That's what car wrecks, train wrecks, boxing matches, sporting events, two teams get into — I mean, nobody wants to watch consensus on TV. It's boring. It might be good for the country but it don't...
THOMAS: That's right. Never mind what's good for the country.
SCOTT: All right. We're going to take another break. We will be back with this.
ANNOUNCER: They made headlines during the Clinton presidency. And they're at it again selling sexy tales. Are the media buying in? Answers next on "News Watch."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GENNIFER FLOWERS, FORMERLY INTIMATE WITH BILL CLINTON: Paula and I, first of all, got together for the first time in all these years and started comparing our stories. And we were amazed at what we had in common. And we also realized in these conversations that Paula was never really able to tell her story other than in a legal document.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: Well, they are telling the story now, aren't they? That was Gennifer Flowers, who has claimed she had a long-term affair with former President Bill Clinton, talking with Neil Cavuto on Wednesday about a new website she has created with Paula Jones. It's called Two Chicks Chatting. For a buck ninety nine a pop, you can log on to paulaandgennifer.com to hear all the dirty details about the encounters they claim they once had with the former president.
All right, Jane. They control the message.
(CROSSTALK AND LAUGHTER)
HALL: Don't send me in, Coach, on this one.
SCOTT: They control the message. These two women have been treated pretty badly in the press in the past. Now, hey, you got the Internet, you've got the power out there. Do you blame them for what they're trying to do? In terms of getting their message out?
HALL: Well, at the time, I thought, you know, they were infamously described by top Clinton strategists as trailer trash basically. A lot of people didn't want to believe their stories. But for them to be selling stories, I gather, about, you know, pretty intimate details for $1.99, I don't think it does them a lot of good except for $1.99 a pop.
SCOTT: I guess my question is why does anybody care at this point? He's not even in office anymore.
THOMAS: Well, it reminds me of the old joke about the guy who offers the woman a million dollars to go to bed with him and she accepts. Then he offers her a hundred, she says what do you think I am? And he says, we've already established that, we're just negotiating the price.
SCOTT: Is she going to — are they going to generate any traffic with this?
PINKERTON: I think they would have been better off had Hillary gotten the democratic nomination. That would have helped a great deal.
PINKERTON: I have no plans on giving them my $1.99. But the famous press critic, A.J. Liebling said that the free press is only guaranteed to those who own one. Well, thanks to the Internet, thanks to the web, everybody owns one. Whatever they have to say, for good or bad, they get to say it. Frankly, in the spirit of free speech, that's good.
MARTIN: There's no more (inaudible) for a small (inaudible) Internet. They're taking advantage of that and the American capitalism right now. There you go.
THOMAS: It's not free speech. It's $1.99.
SCOTT: Jane, we talked about sexism and Hillary's campaign, now done campaign. There is talk of a boycott of MSNBC and CNN. You've had a couple weeks since our discussion. Is Katie Couric right? Did sexism doom Hillary Clinton's campaign?
HALL: That's a complicated question. I was one of the first people I think to say that I thought MSNBC had been particularly unfair to Hillary Clinton. She probably made mistakes in her own campaign. And then she benefited from a lot of women. She became the patron saint for a lot of women who thought she was being treated badly. So I don't think it duped her campaign.
I was amused to see media executives in The New York Times on Friday have looked at whether they had done anything wrong. and they concluded they didn't. That made me laugh.
SCOTT: That's good. A little self-examination is always good.
Let's take a listen to what Katie Couric had to say? And then I want to get the gents to chime in.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KATIE COURIC, NEWS ANCHOR, CBS NEWS: Senator Clinton has received her fair share of the blame and so has her political team. But like her or not, one of the great lessons of that campaign is the continued and excessive role of sexism in American life, particularly in the media.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: All right, Katie Couric talking about sexism in the media. In fact, she's had her own struggles in the media. Some say people say she's...
PINKERTON: I'm sure that Katie Couric's self-pity over her own situation, where she gets paid $15 million a year and gets trashed in The New York Times, has spilled over to poor Hillary Clinton, who is only now a centi-millionaire thanks to her and her husband's deals over the years. This is just the worst kind of New York City narcissism ever, where they think, oh, poor Hillary Clinton, she is such a victim.
MARTIN: Look, I think that there's a middle ground here, believe it or not. That is that, did she lose because of her gender? Well, not entirely. Was there sexism during the course of the race? Probably so. I think it's possible to have both of those at the same time.
THOMAS: Yes, I agree. But here's the way she should have handled it and the media would have loved it. The guy who holds up the sign, iron my shirt, she should have said, OK, send it up, send up the shirt. Two things could have happened. He takes off the shirt, in which case she can make a disparaging remark about his physique or he doesn't. But if he does, she should say, I should tell you, this is very expensive when I iron shirts. It's going to cost you a $1,000 contribution towards my campaign. That would have settled it. It would have humiliated the guy. The issue would have been over. I would love to have seen that.
SCOTT: When Hillary says that sexism is actually a bigger obstacle than racism, is she right?
PINKERTON: In the battle of dueling political correctness, are we diligent in our anti-sexism or anti-racism? Obviously, the anti-racism P.C. won, which is Obama got the nomination.
Look, there's such a thing as human nature. Hillary Clinton was not a good candidate. She made a lot of mistakes. She said all sorts of stupid stuff on the campaign. She cried when she had to cry. She brought this on herself and she lost. And frankly, good riddance.
SCOTT: It's time for another break. We're going to be back to talk about the death of a reporting legend.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS VETERAN: It is my sad duty to report this afternoon that my friend and colleague Tim Russert, moderator of "Meet the Press" and NBC Washington bureau chief, collapsed and died early this afternoon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: We wanted to take a moment now to remember a friend and colleague who made such a powerful contribution to American journalism.
Tim Russert died — a lot of people shocked by that. You among them, Jane. You knew this guy from Washington.
HALL: I did. I covered television news for many years as a reporter for The L.A. Times before I became a professor. I remember when Tim's show — when "Meet the Press" was moving in, he used carried the ratings in his vest pocket. He was very well informed, very winning. I thought he did a fabulous job on "Meet the Press" with the Jesuitical education he had. He would pin people down.
After I was a professor, he always used to kid me about being a journalism professor. He was beloved with good reason.
THOMAS: I started out at NBC as a copy boy at the age of 18 in the very building where Tim died. Many years later, in 1992, I made my first and only appearance on "Meet the Press." I still remember my personal reaction. It was very, very special to me. He was very kind to me. And when I'd see him around Washington, he would also say kind things.
A lot of people on the right say, well, look at all the Democrats he worked for. I don't think anybody could accuse Tim Russert of a bias. He was tough on everybody who came on that program — Democrats, Republicans, liberals and conservatives. Over time, you could say, OK, maybe on one question or one issue, some people might have thought he was a little slanted. But over time, I think he was, as we say here, fair and balanced.
PINKERTON: He had a strong political balance, which made him well informed. He worked for Senator Moynihan and Governor Cuomo. But he knew his stuff as a result. And I think what Jane said about the Jesuitical — that's true. He was a Catholic, who went through that training. But I think it's also just the lawyerliness of it. Somebody would say "X," but back then he'd say why. He had a great research staff and a great instant recall. He said, listen, what you're saying now — and he's say it politely — contradicts what you said before. Now which is it?
MARTIN: And for somebody that was at the absolute pinnacle of his profession, the gold standard of political journalism, he was never caught up in the Washington scene. He was always very down to earth. He couldn't have been more gracious to me, a very young reporter. And it's very, very tragic.
SCOTT: I had that impression when I worked at NBC. I didn't know him well, ran into him once in a while. But he was always kind, always had a good word to say.
And our thoughts and prayer go to his family on the Father's Day weekend. His relationship with his own father and his son, a very big part of his life. He is going to be missed very, very much.
SCOTT: That is all the time we have this week.
I want to thank Jane Hall, Jim Pinkerton, Cal Thomas and Jonathan Martin.
I'm Jon Scott. Thank you for watching.
Keep it right here on FOX News channel. The "FOX Report" is next. And we'll be back next week with another edition of "FOX News Watch."
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