Recap of Feb. 19 Edition

The following is a transcription of the February 19, 2005 edition of "FOX News Watch," that has been edited for clarity:


ERIC BURNS, HOST: This week on "FOX News Watch," the godfather of steroids meets the godfather of investigative journalism. Are we finally about to find out who Deep Throat is?

What is so extraordinary about the Michael Jackson (search) witness list?

Why did a top-ranking CNN executive quit his job?

And believe it or not, this is a story about money more than sex.

First the headlines, then us.


BURNS: You know the story. Former major league slugger Jose Canseco has charges to make and books to sell. His charges are that a lot of baseball players have been taking steroids. And this week he made them on both editions of "60 Minutes" on CBS.

Is this the kind of story that deserves the kind of press it's getting? Because he, it seems to me, Neal, has been the newsmaker of the week.

NEAL GABLER, MEDIA WRITER: It deserves the kind of press, but it deserved it five years ago. Why now?

I mean, everyone benefited from steroids. Obviously the players benefited, the owners benefited, the fans benefited. And the press was complicit in looking the other way when records were being broken. You know, the late Ken Caminiti (search), who was an MVP in baseball and broke another story about steroids a couple of years ago, in "Sports Illustrated" said, look it...

BURNS: ...And then died.

GABLER: And then died, in point of fact. He said, you know, you could build your body without steroids, but you can't build your head. He said, look at players' heads and you can tell whether they've been taking steroids. The press could look at those heads, too, and they didn't.

CAL THOMAS, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: The ratings were falling for Major League Baseball (search) coverage. And all the networks and the local stations around the country have contracts with Major League Baseball to carry these games.

So what do they do? They need players to break Babe Ruth's record, break Roger Maris' record, break Hank Aaron's record. So they pump them up.

A lot of them, as Neal said, knew this stuff was going on quietly and secretly. But everybody benefited, and all the investigative reporters who supposedly were going to look into politicians, but haven't done a very good job of that either, just bailed on that story.

JIM PINKERTON, "NEWSDAY": It's a lot closer to Sergeant Schultz on "Hogan's Heroes." I know nothing. I see nothing.

Look, going back to the East German swimmers, those mutant females in the '60s, through...

BURNS: I'm sorry, what was the gender you gave them?

PINKERTON: I'm not really sure what they were. But the guy who went on and said that he had given Florence Griffith-Joyner...

BURNS: Griffith-Joyner, yes.

PINKERTON: ... steroids — and since she died at the age of 38, I mean, there's been — this has been so obvious for so long, culminating in Canseco. And Penner of the "LA Times" said, "This is baseball's new rite of spring." Write a book that points fingers, names names, smears careers, and then kick off a promotional tour by hooking up with a television network interested in the same objective as you, which is to build an audience.

This is a million-dollar open scandal.

BURNS: Neal's phrase a moment ago, "media complicity," it seems to me, Jane, the media are really culpable in this for two reasons. One of them, that they ignored this evidence to create — or rather that they were creating heroes. And also that they were ignoring the evidence. You put those two things together, and I think this is as much a story about the media abusing the public trust as baseball players abusing the public trust.

JANE HALL, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: Well, you know, before we went on, since I'm not an expert on sports journalists, I asked my colleagues if anybody had won a Pulitzer Prize for investigating this. And the answer was no.

And I think it does show — I mean, there had been stories in "Sports Illustrated" a few years ago. But if this was that much of an open secret, if the media were — if people were in there and knew it, then why didn't we see stories earlier?

BURNS: But the thing is, you — you know it — you know it because of your eyes. But you can't go on the air — you couldn't have gone on the air, Neal, let's say five years ago, and said, "Barry Bonds' head is demonstratively bigger now than it used to be. I'm sure he's taking steroids."

And you couldn't have said...

GABLER: There's circumstantial evidence, before and after photographs, the records being broken. Let's face it, Roger Maris' record lasted from 1961 to 1998, and suddenly it's being broken every single year.

BURNS: But would it have been responsible on the basis of that when these people are saying that they're taking — for instance, in McGwire's case, legal substances? They say they're lifting weights more than ever. Don't the media have to back up? Wouldn't we accuse them of going too far?

GABLER: Absolutely not, Eric. And I'll tell you what happened.

One writer challenged Sammy Sosa a couple of years ago to say, look it, you say you're not on steroids? Let's take a test right now.

The media could have said to all of these baseball players, Bonds, Sosa, you know, Caminiti, Canseco, take a test right now under our supervision. If you're not taking steroids, you've got nothing to worry about.

BURNS: But shouldn't Major League Baseball be making that statement? Aren't we talking about a kind of activism in journalism that a lot of times we don't like?

PINKERTON: Well, but there's the element made by Senator McCain several times, which is kids are at risk here.


PINKERTON: Kids are dying of this stuff as they imitate senior athletes doing it. And so I agree with Neal. If reporters had all ganged up on all these athletes and said, "Look, we demand it," the same way they demand politicians asking the question, reveal their finances, or whatever, something would have broken.

THOMAS: Yes. Yes.

Well, look, there's something else to it. Pete Rose has got to be petitioning organized baseball pretty soon for a restoration. He's been banned for life for gambling on sports, and he — and, you know, the sportswriters were on both sides of this.

At one point when this broke, they said, oh, it's a terrible horrible thing. And again, the influence on kids. But they also decide, the sportswriters do, who's going to be in the hall of fame or not. So they've got a conflict of interest, as well as the networks, that stand to benefit from the ratings from high-performance athletes.

HALL: We talk about access, and I think this is one of the problems. I mean, everybody wants to have access to the winning sports team. And they didn't talk about the players union, they didn't talk about the...

BURNS: And if you break the scandal, you lose the access.

HALL: Yes, I think so.

BURNS: It's time for a break. We will be back with...


ANNOUNCER: The biggest mystery in the history of journalism, is he Deep Throat? Is she? One thing's for sure, she isn't. Is she?

Stay tuned for more "FOX News Watch."



BURNS: The "FOX News Watch" announcer got it right before the break. It is probably the biggest mystery in the history of journalism. Who is Deep Throat, the source for the Woodward and Bernstein revelations that brought down the presidency of Richard Nixon?

And we're asking the question now for two reasons. First, the University of Texas has just opened its Watergate papers collections for which it paid Woodward and Bernstein $5 million. And second, Woodward and Bernstein have said that they will reveal the identity of Deep Throat when he's no longer alive.

And William Rehnquist (search) is now very sick. And Jim, to some people there is a connection between those two.

PINKERTON: Well, Rehnquist is one of the 100 or so names that have been associated — or alleged to be Deep Throat. Let me tell you, I think the whole thing is a hoax, a parlor game for journalists to entertain themselves up there with Anastasia, the last surviving Romanov daughter, or whether the Loch Ness Monster...

BURNS: There isn't a Deep Throat?

PINKERTON: I read this book by Adrian Havill called "Deep Truth," which I think goes through it pretty closely and says, look, the incidents that Woodward talks about in the book, how he met Deep Throat and how he'd hold up a flower pot in his balcony and Deep Throat would look at it and see that they had to go meet under the underground garage, actually Woodward had an interior balcony, it wasn't visible from the street. You'd have to break into the apartment to see it first.

How Deep Throat manipulated "The New York Times" and put a little scribble on "The New York Times," a little clock where that was — when they were supposed to meet, it's such crap. And people have been falling for it for 30 years, and now we're doing it too.

HALL: But Jim...

BURNS: But Jim, listen to the detail. You know about that. It must mean that there is something inherently fascinating about this speculation.

PINKERTON: Well, it's fascinating that everybody in Washington has fallen for it.

BURNS: And everybody in the rest of the country, as you were saying before, thinks Deep Throat has an entirely different meaning, which we won't get into — Jane.


HALL: Yes, only in Washington is it not associated with the porno movie.

You know, I think — I have a colleague who's writing a book, Lisa Shepherd (ph), about Woodward and Bernstein, and she told me that she believes them that it was a real person, that this is a person who is not near death, according to — that's been misreported, I believe. John Dean wrote a column and said he'd been told...

BURNS: Yes, but it did fuel the speculation, Jane.

HALL: It fueled the speculation. I think people who don't want to believe it's true don't want to believe it was a well-sourced story. I mean, my beef with these guys is why didn't they give their papers to the University of Texas, which is a different journalistic issue.

BURNS: As opposed to get $5 million?

HALL: Yes.

BURNS: Well, here is what I was told. And I wrote an Internet column about this some years ago, and my source has since died. And I will tell you what he told me.

The source is the historian Stephen Ambrose (search), who has the same editor at Simon & Schuster as Woodward and Bernstein. Ambrose says there is in the safe at Simon & Schuster a copy of the manuscript, first draft. It doesn't mention Deep Throat?

Why? Because Deep Throat was put in at the editor's suggestion in the second draft because it seemed as if there were too many sources. She said, let's make them one, your narrative drive is a little week, let's create a mystery.

Now to say, Cal, if this is right, that there is no deep source, is actually the same thing as saying, as a lot of people have, deep source is a composite.

THOMAS: A composite. That's what I have always thought. I do not think it was one person.

Some of the names, people mention Rehnquist. He was already on the Supreme Court before the break-in. Highly unlikely that a justice would go to a garage.

Henry Kissinger? I doubt if he ever went to a garage. He had somebody to get his car.

There are just an awful lot of people that don't seem — wouldn't seem possible to do. Plus, even then, in the 1970s, there were certain electronics and internal security things. Somebody could have been followed. Look, Nixon sicked the IRS on a bunch of people.

So I think it was a composite. I don't think it was one person.

BURNS: And more than anything else, Neal, can't we say the unlikelihood of keeping the secret, if there were one individual who was Deep Throat, keeping the secret for, what, more than 30 years, very, very slight?

GABLER: The thing is, I think, as you point out, look it, you don't have a thriller unless you've got a Deep Throat. And for a best-selling book, and let's not forget a hugely popular film, you need that thriller element. I don't know whether he exists or not, but certainly Deep Throat gives it that narrative drive that you discussed.

BURNS: It was a good idea to put Deep Throat in if that's the way it happened.

GABLER: Right.

PINKERTON: Just so we're clear, Watergate was real. Nixon was guilty. However, as all of us seem to agree, this was — took some dramatic license here in the name of the story.

BURNS: But the question I ask you — and your answer was so unsatisfactory, I'm going to — no. Truly, why is it still so compelling? Is it just because it's a mystery?

THOMAS: People like mysteries, absolutely. Look at the network entertainment. Murder mysteries are on all the networks.


THOMAS: Absolutely.

GABLER: People like mystery and they like gossip. And this is both combined.

PINKERTON: It's very unfortunate there weren't the bloggers then, because they would have been all over this. And preening the story at the time, instead of the very credulous mainstream media that fell for the Woodward-Bernstein crap.

THOMAS: Here's what I don't understand, though. How did "The Washington Post" allow two reporters in their employ to personally profit $5 million from the University of Texas?

BURNS: From notes that were taking on the job, yes.

Jane, it's got to be quick.

HALL: Do you think they paid the people for information they got to break this story? I don't think so. I think it's a very bad precedent.

BURNS: Time for another break. We'll be back with our "Quick Takes" on the media.


ANNOUNCER: What do these celebrities have in common?

And if you think this is a remarkable figure, wait until you hear the ones that go with it.

FOX NEWS WATCH continues after this.



BURNS: It's time now for our "Quick Takes" on the media.

Headline no. 1: "Characters or Character Witnesses?"

Elizabeth Taylor, Jay Leno, Larry King, Kobe Bryant, Diana Ross and Stevie Wonder are all possible witnesses for the defense in the Michael Jackson trial. And assuming this is interesting, what is interesting about it, Jane, to me is this seems like one of the most blatant ploys I have ever seen lawyers make to bypass a jury and get right to the media.

Isn't the implication if people like this think he's OK, and these people are the stars of our society, you in the jury ought to think it's OK — he's OK?

HALL: Well, I think this is celebrity trumping celebrity. You know, a celebrity man accused of trial molestation with Kobe Bryant as a reference.


HALL: No offense, I don't find that a compelling case. But I think - - I think they're trying to talk to the jury, too. The jury could be swayed by this.

PINKERTON: Stevie Wonder...

BURNS: Easy, Jim.

PINKERTON: ... is a terrific singer...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And a great character witness.

PINKERTON: I really don't see him as a good eye witness.

BURNS: That's why I was saying take it easy, Jim.

HALL: Oh, Jim.


THOMAS: Elizabeth Taylor married eight times. If you count Burton twice, again, I'm not sure that great a character witness.

What is the point of all of this? A judge...

BURNS: But the point of this is to acknowledge the celebrity culture almost more than it's ever been acknowledged before.

THOMAS: Well, I know that's the point. But, I mean, when you get a lawyer, as there's certainly going to be in the prosecution, the first question is going to be, "What do you personally know about the behavior of Michael Jackson? Have you seen this? Have you seen that?"

And I would doubt seriously if Elizabeth Taylor, Stevie Wonder — well, with all due respect, I mean, we're not going to go with a "seeing" thing. But, I mean, you're not going to ask Stevie Wonder what he personally witnessed.

BURNS: Quickly.

GABLER: This is an acknowledgement that this is not a trial. This is a circus, as I called that several weeks ago.

BURNS: All right. And perhaps will again.

GABLER: Yes, I'm sure I will.

BURNS: "Quick Take" headline no. 2: "Did Bloggers Force Resignation of CNN Executive?"

Supposedly, Eason Jordan, executive vice president at CNN, said that the U.S. military in Iraq had journalists on its hit list. The story was picked up by bloggers, who then proceeded to blog it all over the World Wide Web. A week ago, Jordan resigned, saying that he did not want CNN to be unfairly tarnished by the controversy.

Was it a real controversy, Jim? And was it a real endorsement once again of bloggers?

PINKERTON: Well, the bloggers clearly had an effect in terms of panicking CNN. My own view was I was a little sympathetic. I figured, look, we all make mistakes, say the wrong word, and stuff like that.

Then I read in "The Guardian" in November of '04, which was two months before this incident in Davos, Switzerland, where Eason Jordan had said pretty much the same thing, the U.S. government is going after reporters and so on and so on. So to me, that tells me that he's been enjoying walking up to the sort of line of slandering or maybe even a little over it for some time now, and he finally got nailed by, of all people, Barney Frank (search), the Democratic congressman, Chris Dodd, the Democratic senator.

So this was no right-wing hatchet job. This was the guy hanging himself with his own carelessness.

BURNS: Saying these things for what possible reason, Jane?

HALL: Well, you know, I called up Eason Jordan. I covered him a long time as a reporter for the "LA Times," and I asked him. And he said that he never meant to imply that soldiers are being targeted — that journalists were being targeted by U.S. soldiers.

A number of U.S. journalists and others have died in this conflict. I think he's haunted by that. And I think he objected to the term "collateral damage," which was used in the past (ph).

I think that the man's whole career might be considered to, as opposed to remarks that he tried to back away from. And he didn't say the right thing, obviously.

BURNS: He did start backing away immediately.

THOMAS: He started backing away immediately. But, look, here's the problem now. You have the tremendous advent of Fox News and talk radio and the rest. CNN has declined significantly in the ratings. They're concerned, they're worried about this middle America, red state voter.

These are the kinds of comments that heed the notion among these red state voters that most of the media is full of commie-loving, pinko-left- wingers.

GABLER: I think Cal puts his finger on the real issue, and it's not the blogs. The real issue here is that the right wing media, including the right wing blogs, can cow and bully the mainstream media and force it to surrender. And that's what it did here.

PINKERTON: Why would Jordan do this? Easy. He is not the — was not the head of CNN. He's like the secretary of state for CNN, the roving diplomacy.

His job was to go on panels and pander to European and other left wing audiences outside of the U.S. And he was doing a great job until he got nailed.

BURNS: "Quick Take" Headline no. 3: "What's a Classy Show Like "FOX News Watch" Doing with a Magazine Like This?"

This, the 41st annual "Sports Illustrated (search)" swimsuit issue? Well, what we're doing is pointing out an amazing figure, and not this one.

The "Sports Illustrated" swimsuit issue all by itself brings in $50 million to its corporate parent, Time Warner. That is — more pictures like this, I get rattled. That is more than the vast majority of American magazines gross in a year.

And Neal, that to me is an astonishing statistic.

GABLER: I have two questions about this. First of all, what is a sports magazine doing with a swimsuit issue? Is there an athletic supporter issue, an athletic socks issue?

And the second question I have in looking through this — and I even subscribe to "Sports Illustrated" — is, why do so many swimsuits come without tops?


BURNS: Well, there's a — you don't know about the fabric shortage?

PINKERTON: Rudy Gehrnreich invented the topless bathing suit 40 years ago.

Look, Brian Curtis at "Slate" said it well. It used to be sports and sex are separate. Now there's a sport-sex nexus.

THOMAS: I can't add, or in this case, subtract much from that. I think it's a form of voyeurism. It's a Victoria's Secret catalogue. It isn't sports. It's just nudity.

BURNS: Quick.

HALL: They tripped onto this, they found it made jillions of dollars. And, surprise, they're doing it again, and again.

BURNS: And it is amazing how much money it does make.

We have to take one more break. When we come back, it will be your turn.


BURNS: About media coverage of the president's budget, here's Sam from Dallas, Texas...

"During your discussion of the recent budget proposal, Jim tried to make a point about budget cuts and the size of the budget. When both Jane and Neal began to shout over him, Jim never got to finish his point. I thought I was watching "Hannity & Colmes.'"

About the lack of network news coverage of Usama bin Laden before 9/11, here's Terry from Fort Thomas, Kentucky...

"No one, including Fox, paid much attention to bin Laden in the mid to late '90s. In your criticism of ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN, it would have been helpful to remind viewers that Fox also failed to provide much coverage of it."

Terry, you're right.

About Ward Churchill, the University of Colorado professor who compared victims of 9/11 to Nazis and about others, here's Bob from Lakeland, Florida...

"President Clinton lies and nothing is done. Ward Churchill lies and nothing is done. Martha Stewart lies and she goes to jail. Where is justice? She is having coffee with the good old boys."

And one more comment about Ward Churchill. This is from Harold in Seattle, Washington...

"I think Michael Moore has just found the star of his next movie."

About this year's non-controversial Super Bowl halftime show, here is Ted from Lancaster, Pennsylvania...

"I'm pretty sure that Paul did not lip synch any of his halftime show, and you owe him an apology for saying he did. As usual, you conservatives have your facts mixed up."

And now, Neal, here's a poem for you. It's from Bill in Davis, California.

"Hurray for Mr. Gabler, than whom there's no one abler. He shares his views on all the news, like a first-class, left-wing fabler."


Finally, from J.D. in Chandler, Arizona, "Eric and company, first may I say that "News Watch" is the one weekend program I consistently watch. Neal's left-wing analysis is always worthwhile..."

And J.D. goes on to compliment all of the panelists. Unfortunately, we don't have time to read the rest of the letter, only to commend you, J.D., for addressing as "Eric and company." The panelists tend to get big- headed when they're referred to by name.

Here's our address: Please write to us, tell us your name, and let us know where you live.

That's all the time we have left for this week. I have to use the names now. Thanks to Jane Hall, Jim Pinkerton, Cal Thomas, Neal Gabler. And I'm Eric Burns, thanking you for watching.

We'll see you next week, when FOX News Watch will be back on the air.

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