The following is a transcription of the June 4, 2005 edition of "FOX News Watch," that has been edited for clarity:
ERIC BURNS, HOST: This week, on "FOX News Watch," who's really getting trashed by this book? Hillary or the author?
Can you get fired from a newspaper for being too religious?
The runaway bride runs to NBC.
The Durbin apology, the Rove attack, and should the media get the credit for finding the missing Scout?
First the headlines, and then us.
BURNS: On the panel this week are four people who hope for fame, hope for accomplishment, hope that their accomplishments will be remember and hope Ed Klein will not write their biographies: Jim Pinkerton of "Newsday," syndicated columnist Cal Thomas, Jane Hall of the American University and media writer Neal Gabler.
I'm Eric Burns. "FOX News Watch" is coming right up.
This is Ed Klein's book, "The Truth about Hillary." In it, among other things, Klein charges Senator Clinton with punching a classmate in the nose in elementary school and not bathing enough in college. He also suggests that her daughter, Chelsea, was conceived when she was raped by Bill Clinton, and that she, Hillary, knows lesbians.
When we decided earlier in the week to lead with this segment, Cal, what we thought we would do is talk about the coverage of this book. In fact, what we talk about hear, I think, to begin with is how little coverage there's been. Klein has been on this network once, no other appearances. He will be on MSNBC once next week, CNN next week. The morning shows won't do him.
Why is he being, in effect, informally blackballed on television?
CAL THOMAS, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, first I'd like to out myself and say that I got punched in the nose elementary school and I didn't bathe enough in college. But other than that.
I think - first of all, I think there's a double standard. I want to say something about the book, which I think is slimy, unsourced and the rest, and I'm not going to write about it because somebody has to say no to something sometime. But I do think that there is a media double standard, because the Kitty Kelley book, which was almost - not quite - as equally unsourced, full of innuendo, rumor and whatever, was all over the media, especially the "Today" show. She had a - she had a special deal with the perky Katie Couric on this. And some of the people who were raising the moral haggles about this and the slimy and seemliness didn't have the moral conscience on the Bush book with Kitty Kelley.
JANE HALL, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: Well, I think the Kitty Kelley book didn't get as much publicity as certainly her publishers and she had thought she was going to get.
I think what's really interesting is that Rush Limbaugh and Peggy Noonan and other people in the conservative side of things - Jon Podhoretz from "The New York Post" - have been writing negatively about the book, or talking negatively about the book. Limbaugh said that he thought it would inoculate her against serious charges, and I think that's part of what's going on. People who want to come after her I think would rather have a better book to come after her with.
This book is so misogynist. Everyone around her is unkempt, 6 feet tall - it is just bizarre. It is a very strange book.
NEAL GABLER, MEDIA WRITER: Kitty Kelley actually was kind of quarantined as well. She was on the "Today" show for three shows, and according to Tina Brown was carpet bombed.
But the point of fact is - I mean, this is a virus, and it ought to be quarantined. And if it gets out into the system, then it ought to be fought.
BURNS: Well, it's been published. That's out in the system.
GABLER: Yes, and I think that it is reprehensible that Penguin would publish this book. Of course, it published it under a separate imprint. I call this affirmative action for conservatives.
BURNS: It's a conservative imprint.
GABLER: A conservative imprint. As if it wasn't good enough to be published by the real Penguin. And that's true; it's not good enough.
Look at the sourcing in this book. It's all anonymous sources. I mean, you look at this, it says, interviews with anonymous sources close to the Clintons; interview with Wellesley College classmate who requested anonymity; interview with anonymous medical authorities, one after another. It's either that or diatribes against the Clintons. But it does indicate one thing: it says that there are certain lines that actually you cannot cross. And I think that's a good thing. And it took Ed Klein to perform that service to this society.
JIM PINKERTON, "NEWSDAY": OK. Time for the minority report on this.
Look, I know Ed Klein slightly; he's a nice enough guy. He's been a journalist for 40 years. When he was the head of "The New York Times Magazine," they won their first Pulitzer Prize ever. He's putting his reputation on the line with this book, and he's saying that somebody told him - and Eric, you frankly distorted the rape allegation in the book. The book -- the book doesn't say that Clinton raped his wife. The Drudge Report said that, and that was wrong.
What the book says is that Clinton bragged in a kind of jocular manner.
PINKERTON: .And then he bragged a second time in a who-knows-what, goshing (ph) manner that he -- that he -- that that's how Hillary -- that's how Chelsea was born. And that -- Klein -- either somebody said that to Klein or not. Klein is saying it happened -- I got it as an anonymous source. If all books with anonymous sources, we never would have had Watergate.
BURNS: Yes, but Jim, this is no time -- you have to admit -- this is no time to be -- to be loading up a book with anonymous sources, considering where anonymous sources stand today.
PINKERTON: Well, no, Eric, sometimes anonymous sources are right, as in Watergate.
PINKERTON: .for the most part, and sometimes they're wrong, as in the Newsweek Koran-flushing story. It goes to the credibility of the journalist in question.
HALL: But wait a minute. First of all, this is - he is hiding somebody who says that Bill Clinton told him something. He prints dialogue as if he were in the room, all over the place. And then you go and it says, anonymous source who talked to somebody 30 years ago.
PINKERTON: And Woodward and Bernstein said that.
HALL: They had multiple source.
PINKERTON: Woodward and Bernstein, in the final days, reported that Pat and Richard Nixon hadn't had sex in a decade. Now how would they know that?
THOMAS: Well, of course, Woodward interviewed former - the dying Bill Casey of the CIA in the hospital too, when he was supposedly comatose. That's a separate issue. I think it's an important one.
GABLER: Totally separate issue.
THOMAS: But look, here's what the Clintons need to do, in my judgment - and I'm sure they're not going to listen to my advice. A lawsuit, because the truth is the only defense for libel Let's get it in the court of law, let's put people under oath, let's subpoena witnesses, and let's find out what the truth is.
GABLER: They're public figures. They can't sue.
THOMAS: Well, no, you can.
GABLER: They have to prove malice.
HALL: They have to prove malice.
THOMAS: Well, hey, if there's not malice in this book, it doesn't' exist.
BURNS: We have to take a break. We will be back with a fascinating story about church and press.
ANNOUNCER: Two editorial writers for "The Indianapolis Star" say they are now former editorial writers because they were too Christian for the paper.
Stay tuned for more "FOX News Watch."
BURNS: "`The Indianapolis Star" consistently and repeatedly demonstrated a negative hostility toward Christianity." So say two former editorial writers for "The Star," who are suing to get their jobs back. James Patterson was fired, Lisa Coffey was demoted and then quit.
"The Star" responds: "The suit is wholly without merit and charges of an anti-Christian bias at the paper are inaccurate and misleading."
Cal, it seems the event that got Patterson fired was an editorial in which he said, in effect, pray for the war in Iraq. That, apparently, was the last straw for him.
THOMAS: Yes. Well, I know the editorial page editor, Dennis Ryerson. Known him for years. He is a good journalist. He put me into The Des Moines Register, my column. He kept me in when he went to The Denver Post, in that newspaper. And now he's at the Indianapolis paper and he's kept me in there.
There are a number of Christians who work on the staff. Catholics, evangelicals or whatever. Russ Pulliam, who is the overall editor of the paper, is a solid evangelical Christian, writes a column in which he introduces many biblical and moral thoughts into the column when inappropriate.
I don't know the facts of this case, but I don't think that the profile of this newspaper, and certainly in my relationship with Dennis Ryerson for many years, is indicative of any kind of anti-Christian bias with which I'm familiar.
HALL: You know, it's interesting --I think we talked (INAUDIBLE) about things that fit the script. I saw O'Reilly asking Franklin Graham on Thursday night about whether there was widespread anti-Christian bias in the media.
I mean, I think this is one of those things that people continue to say. This story seems to fit that if you believe these charges. And I --I think that's part of why it's even getting publicity.
PINKERTON: Well, the two employees took their case to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which would love to find any corporation guilty of discrimination. And one of the - one of the --as -- we'll see, one of them was black, the other was female -- and the EEOC dismissed the case. So I suspect on the merits, so far at least, there's not much evidence that they were unfairly treated.
However, there is clearly - just to refute Jane here for a second - there's clearly, if you're a Wiccan, if you're a Muslim, if you're any kind of odd - I'll take that back.
BURNS: Yes you will.
PINKERTON: Any kind of non-mainstream, non-religion, you get a much better run than if you get up there and talk about Jesus Christ.
HALL: And you're basing this on what? Your experience personally?
PINKERTON: Forty-seven years of observation (INAUDIBLE).
GABLER: Clearly - you used the word clearly. In a court of law, you'd have to present some evidence, and you haven't.
Patterson said something, though, very interesting. He said that he has a First Amendment right to express his opinions. I don't know in the Constitution if there was any First Amendment to express your own opinions in an editorial in a newspaper. I think he misunderstands this completely.
BURNS: Well, I'll tell you something interesting about this. Do you know that "The Indianapolis Star," in its masthead, has a passage from Second Corinthians.
THOMAS: Right. They always have.
BURNS: "Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty."
THOMAS: That's right.
BURNS: That's in the masthead everyday.
So Cal, it would seem that this is a paper that is not opposed to injecting religion in opinion pages.
THOMAS: No, far from it. Dennis Ryerson -- I talked to him just before the show -- they have upgraded their "Faith and Values" section. They have a lot of editors to the editor from religious people of different religious persuasions and backgrounds.
I just don't see, from my familiarity with the paper, with the family that has owned for many years, and the way I personally have been treated, in this instance, and I agree that - with Jim that a case could be made overall in the media, especially with "The New York Times" - that there is any anti-Christian bias that I can see.
GABLER: May I just say something about the editorial itself? If you read it, it wouldn't pass muster in the grammar school newspaper, frankly.
BURNS: Which one? This particular editorial? The one.
BURNS: .praying for the war in Iraq?
GABLER: And it has nothing to do with the content. It's just terribly, terribly written.
PINKERTON: It is worth noting, though, however, that President Roosevelt, on the day of D-Day, gave a national address and radio to the country and said, Let's pray for our troops. There's nothing wrong with praying for troops in war.
GABLER: And who said there was?
BURNS: And is there any thing wrong with talking about praying for troops in war in an editorial, Jane? Anything that should cause management to say, This is not the proper place for religion in a newspaper?
HALL: On the face of it, I don't think so. I mean, I think it's this question of whether your troops - the troops. I think everybody supports the troops, and everybody can pray for the troops. I don't see a problem with that.
I think it's whether they were proselytizing in some way. And that -- that's what we don't want.
THOMAS: They just said, Look -- it didn't say what God to pray to. I mean, you can pray to your own self, if you like.
GABLER: The larger question, What's the role of religion in a newsroom? And the answer is, whatever a newspaper deems it to be.
BURNS: Well, and what's the role of religion in - on an opinion page. Jim, I would think there's a little more latitude.
PINKERTON: Well, I think so. And also - look, "The Indianapolis Star" is a brand. And they've also - it's also worth noting they endorsed George W. Bush in both 2000 and 2004. It is not, by any stretch, a liberal paper. They have a right to run the paper their way.
And I agree -- you don't have a right to a job there. Or to put your stuff -- own stuff in the paper.
BURNS: It is time for another break. We'll be back with our "Quick Takes."
ANNOUNCER: The runaway bride runs toward the camera. Durbin says he's sorry. Should the media say they're sorry for the way they covered him?
"FOX News Watch" continues after this.
BURNS: Time now for our "Quick Takes" on the media. Since the first one is about the runaway bride, we'll try to make it even quicker than usual.
"Forget the Church, Get Me to the Bookstore on Time."
The runaway bride is back and NBC's got her: exclusive appearances on both the "Today" show and the magazine program "Dateline."
I don't know. Can you be exclusive twice? No.
Wilbanks is telling her story in a forthcoming book, and NBC is helping her along.
Jim, she is to some extent a troubled woman. She is officially a criminal. Why is she also a media star, or did I just answer.
GABLER: Next "Quick Take"!
PINKERTON: I very much worry about the moral hazard we're creating here. You know, instead of just going to the - run away like you're supposed to, you run away and get rich.
I guess - made the point before that the spin is going to be such a level of just total Stalinesque lying. She begins the interview with Katie Couric by saying, Let me just assure you, my running away had nothing to do with my prospective husband. I mean, I just don't believe that. I think they've so programmed her to say this stuff that - whatever they think will sell books, that I just find the whole thing completely unstoppable.
I'll read the Ashley Smith book instead.
HALL: The thing was a little bit of a new wrinkle on this was the memo that was leaked that allegedly reported that the book - people were going to pay her out of (ph) the interview, and NBC said, We never pay. But it's solid promotion.
THOMAS: If this was the state of journalism when I entered it, I'd be owning a hamburger franchise now. It is disgusting and deplorable. I'm embarrassed for this profession.
BURNS: Yes, and it'd be a Carl's Jr. and you'd have.
BURNS: ..washing the car. Enough.
"Quick Take" headline number two: "Durbin Apologizes, Controversy Continues."
On Tuesday, Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin told his fellow senators he was sorry for having compared America's treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay to Nazi treatment of prisoners. But conservative media watchdog groups still want to know why Durbin's remarks didn't get as much coverage as Trent Lott's remarks in 2002 that seemed to support racial segregation. And they want to know why Karl's Rove's very recent criticism of Democrats in the wake of 9/11 is getting what they say is so much coverage.
GABLER: Well, the reason that it is, is because Trent Lott endorsed segregation.
THOMAS: Oh, no.
GABLER: Which is a vile -- he said.
BURNS: And what did Dick Durbin..
GABLER: That the world -- the United States would have been better off if a segregationist candidate.
BURNS: What did Dick Durbin do?
GABLER: What Dick Durbin did is he compared the methods of interrogation to the prisoners to the methods of interrogation of Nazis and whatever. What Trent Lott said is vile. What Dick Durbin did is tell the truth. I mean...
GABLER: Now, if we -- if we.
BURNS: Neal, that's a -- that's a really strong statement to make.
BURNS: We are Nazi-like in our treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo?!
GABLER: When you -- when you feed a prisoner an IV and then have him urinate himself, this is not the standards to which Americans hold themselves. Americans do not hold themselves to that standard. If you say that you -- we do, then we're in a different universe. We're not in the America I know and love.
PINKERTON: I will let the 20 million e-mails that are going into the show -- you know, I don't think it's comparable at all between an Auschwitz and a Guantanamo.
I will say quickly though that I do think there's a double standard. Trent Lott had to resign his post. Trent Lott was talking about ancient history when he had to -- said what he said. Durbin's talking about real time. It was propaganda for Al Jazeera. It hurt America's image around the world badly. And yet Durbin, I guarantee, will continue his career.
GABLER: ...not what Dick Durbin said.
PINKERTON: And the desperate attempt of the left to bring in the Karl Rove thing -- which they did that on the "Today" show Friday morning as the lead item -- I don't think will succeed.
HALL: Karl Rove's remarks were very interesting. It's the kind of thing where you hear - somebody says something at a fund-raiser that's pretty revealing. Durbin's remarks to me were over the line, and it was reported on.
BURNS: "Quick Take" headline number three: "But They Hate the Media in Aruba."
Brennan Hawkins, the missing young Scout, was found safe earlier this week. His grandfather thinks the media had a lot to do with it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONNIS MEINERS, BRENNAN'S GRANDFATHER: I am so grateful for the news media. I mean, you guys go the word out and the volunteers came.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNS: Very different from what we heard last week, Jim. I wonder if the media in fact - this is what the media do well in stories like this: they get people to volunteer to search.
PINKERTON: The media is light. It's like cockroaches run from it, flowers grow in it. This kid may well have been rescued because the media swarmed this story.
THOMAS: Well, I also - you know, the rescuers were out and he didn't say anything the first ones coming through. Really, the rescue occurred when he revealed himself to the guy on the motorbike.
BURNS: So it's good and bad, isn't it, Neal?
GABLER: Well, yes.
BURNS: We can get the facts wrong, we can inundate people, we can be a pain in the neck, and we can get people to help solve a problem.
GABLER: Well, this isn't why they covered the story, but sometimes there are unintended good consequences, and this is one of them.
HALL: You know, I think if you get into one of these stories, you suddenly have to be savvy about the media. The family of Jennifer Holloway (sic) - I wouldn't want to be one of these people caught in one of these real-life dramas.
BURNS: We have to take one more break. When we come back, it'll be your turn.
BURNS: About coverage of the Natalee Holloway case, here is Elizabeth from St. Louis, Missouri: "Shame on your panel for "pooh-poohing" the amount of coverage Natalee Holloway has received. Thanks to the media, millions of American parents, myself included, are better informed of the dangers our daughters face should they travel to the Caribbean."
But from Lou in Los Angeles: "Two U.S. military officers were murdered by a man under their command this week. According to the media, that deserved about 30 minutes of total coverage. However, Natalee Holloway's plight is entitled to wall-to-wall coverage.Give me a break." About coverage of the Michael Jackson verdict, here is Ruby. She lives in Murphysboro, Illinois: "I watched this trial from day one, each and every day, and I am so sick of the media's negative remarks."
About who is and isn't a journalist, here is Steven from Clifton, Virginia: "A person who compares television to journalism is the same person who compares bumper stickers and T-shirt slogans to philosophy."
And Mark, who is our second e-mailer today from St. Louis: "If Sean Penn can't be a journalist because he's famous, please explain to me how Arnold became California's governor."
About the controversy over the Guantanamo Bay military detention center in Cuba, here is Ed from Louisville, Kentucky: "Cal got it right. Where would send the prisoners [if not for Gitmo]? I got an idea. How about [Marine boot camp at] Parris Island, South Carolina? After 12 weeks there, they would think Gitmo is a vacation resort. Better yet, send the journalists to Parris Island."
Unfortunately, Ed from Louisville isn't the only one who thinks Cal got and gets it right. We bring our program to a close today with Bud from Brandenton, Florida. It's short; it's simple. He says, "Eric, why don't you all just settle down and agree with Cal?"
Well, I don't know, Bud. Common sense, I guess.
BURNS: Here's our address. It is: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please write to us. When you do, give us your full name - that's first and last - and let us know where you live.
That is all the time we have left for this week. Thanks to Jane Hall, Jim Pinkerton. Across the table, Cal Thomas, Neal Gabler.
And I'm Eric Burns, thanking you for watching. We'll see you next week, we hope, when "FOX News Watch" will be back on the air.
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