The following is a transcription of the July 9, 2005 edition of "FOX News Watch," that has been edited for clarity:
DAVID ASMAN, GUEST HOST: This week, on "FOX News Watch," violence on the large scale in Britain.
Violence of a more personal kind here in America.
New York Times reporter Judith Miller goes to jail;
Time's Matt Cooper does not go to jail.
And some conservative radio talk show hosts are heading for Iraq. They call it "The Truth Tour." First the headlines, then us.
ASMAN: The evil deeds of political and sexual terrorists dominated the news this week, and for that reason, they dominate our program today. On the panel, Jim Pinkerton of "Newsday," media writer Neal Gabler, Jane Hall of the American University and Rich Lowry of "The National Review." I'm David Asman, filling in for Eric Burns. "FOX News Watch" is coming right up.
Four explosions, dozens of people murdered, the work apparently of Islamic terrorists punishing the British for their support of the United States in Iraq. That is our first topic today. And when you look at some of the headlines, you wonder whether journalism crossed into boosterism. Jane Hall, we're going to put up some of the headlines for our viewers. One of them, "Our Spirit Will Never Be Broken"; Anoter, "A Dark Day From Which We Will Emerge Stronger." When a country is attacked the way Britain is attacked, is there room for boosterism in covering this story?
JANE HALL, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: Well, I think it's — it's perfectly reasonable that this would happen. Tony Blair said the same thing. We — the prime minister, We won't allow to — to ruin the civility of our coverage and undercut what we're trying to do here. So I think the British press would naturally reflect that. I don't condemn them for that.
ASMAN: But Jim, when does it cross the line away from journalism itself?
JIM PINKERTON, "NEWSDAY": Well, I — there is clearly a line to be crossed there. But as all of us like to think after 9/11, we're Americans first and reporters or commentators second.
I do think there will come time for analysis as to what happened in London and the important issues there. But maybe give the British a couple days to kind of pull their spirits up.
NEAL GABLER, MEDIA WRITER: But I'm not so sure.
ASMAN: But Neal, when does it cross the line though? Can you give is us an example?
GABLER: Well, I'm not so sure that you're Americans first and reporters second, if two things are mutually exclusive.
I think boosterism was part of the story here. And the journalists isn't doing his job unless he talks about the resolve of the British people, unless he talks about Tony Blair's speech. So when boosterism is the story, then I think it's perfectly appropriate. When boosterism is not the story, then I think it may be inappropriate.
ASMAN: But when is it not the story though? Can you give me an example?
GABLER: Well, when you're examining the situation, and you say, Holy cow, these people are really in panic; they're demoralized; things are really terrible. But you want to know something? I'm going to gloss that over and say, The British people are great and they'll get through this. That did not happen to be the case in this instance.
ASMAN: Well, Rich, the reason I ask is because we are at war in Iraq, the way we are at war with terrorists. And some people complain that some of the coverage of the war in Iraq crosses the line into boosterism, and that's inappropriate.
RICH LOWRY, "THE NATIONAL REVIEW": Some of the American coverage of the war in Iraq fades into boosterism? I don't see that. I don't see that, David, very widely in the American media.
GABLER: Read "The National Review."
LOWRY: Yes, in fact, maybe in "The National Review."
But I think, you know, this is totally appropriate for the British press, because it is the British press, and they should express some of that national feeling. And I think the problem with the American press, we have too much of this affected cosmopolitanism, where reporters think they're citizens of the world and it's inappropriate for them to express any patriotism or national feeling whatsoever.
ASMAN: Jane, another question about definitions here: how do you describe the terrorists responsible for these acts? Do you credit in any way the political motives behind this act of terrorism, or do you just call them evildoers and leave it at that?
HALL: Well, I think in order to try to understand, you try to understand. I mean, they've been a couple of interesting pieces in "The Washington Post" and in "The New York Times" talking about al Qaeda - I hate to use this phrase - as a brand, as a decentralized brand, about young Muslim men that are disaffected that are in England and they're - I've learned a lot, sadly, in the last few days. And I think, you know, we don't know who did this, but to identify them as simply evildoers I don't think helps anybody.
ASMAN: Jim, you also have "The New York Times," on July 6, describing Zarqawi, one of the terrorists - one of the lead terrorists in Iraq - as - quote - "the Jordanian fighter," not even using the word terrorists.
PINKERTON: The Jordan freedom fighter maybe. That was them, not me.
I think Zarqawi is a terrorist. However, what Jane is saying - you can hate the terrorists, you can hate terror, you can hate Hitler - you still have to understand what's going on and how you beat them and so on.
Peter Bergen had an op-ed in Friday's "New York Times" in which he said, Look, London - or maybe we should call it Londonistan - is now the leading hub of Islamic radicals. And not just Arabs, Pakistanis, all sorts of South Asians and so on. And this is a huge unassimilated, disaffected, militant population that you have to got to deal with. And I think America's got the same potential issue, and it leads to issue that we need to address. If there's any positive thing to come out of this bombing, (INAUDIBLE) things like immigration. ASMAN: But Rich, do you worry about giving legitimacy to the terrorist cause? LOWRY: Yes. A Jordanian fighter does not capture - that's just not an accurate and full description of Zarqawi and who he is. Now, the fact is the insurgency is a little complicated, and you do have elements of it that - Sunni elements that are - have truly nationalistic aims and do not engage in these sort of bombings of innocents. But that's not what Zarqawi is all about; he's a terrorist. And.
ASMAN: So let me just ask Neal, did "The New York Times" make a mistake in dropping the word terrorist to describe him?
GABLER: Well, I think we're magnifying something that - you know, do I think they make a - made a mistake? Yes. I don't think he's a freedom fighter of any sort or a fighter.
ASMAN: They didn't say freedom fighter. They said Jordanian fighter.
GABLER.what Jim said.
No, I think he's a terrorist. But I think we're magnifying a relatively small issue here, and blowing it out of a proportion.
ASMAN: But the motives of terrorists, at some point, should be covered.
GABLER: Well, maybe or maybe not. I mean, the point of fact is, that that borders on speculation. We don't know what these guys are really about. Even to this day, we really don't know what these guys are about.
And one of the things in watching the cable news coverage of the London bombings this week that I thought was, I mean, sort of proformist - we got hours of speculation. Hours and hours of it. Hours of experts and hours of press conferences.
ASMAN: Five seconds.
PINKERTON: Robert Pate, University of Chicago, has got a new book, "Dying To Win" - he's been all over the news lately - says they have, whether you like it or not, whether we hate it or not - geopolitical motives.
ASMAN: All right.
We have to take a break. We're going to right back to talk about the coverage of violence and evil on a more personal scale.
ANNOUNCER: We know what he apparently did. And what he apparently did. And what he apparently did. But should we know the horrible details?
More "FOX News Watch" after this.
ASMAN: We begin this segment with a warning: viewer discretion is advised. What you're about to hear is graphic, sick and evil. It's indecent in ways that the FCC never even imagined. Here we go.
Joseph Duncan: he made the news this week when The Associated Press published some of the details of an affidavit from Shasta Groene. She's the 8-year-old Idaho girl he apparently kidnapped. Now, Shasta reported - quote - "genital-to-genital contact with Duncan," according to the affidavit, and - quote - "rectal penetration of her 9-year-old brother," who may have been killed.
The BTK killer made the cover of "People" magazine this week after a courtroom in Kansas became a public forum pretty much in which we learned how the killer derived sexual pleasure from torture and murder.
And John Couey made the news recently for what he did to 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you have sex with her?
JOHN COUEY, MURDER SUSPECT: Yes, I had intercourse with her. (INAUDIBLE) I mean, I wonder why I done some stupid stuff like that for in the first place. I was going to let her go.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
ASMAN: Now a question - first of all, to you, Jim. Is any of this appropriate for broadcast?
PINKERTON: I think it's all appropriate, and I'll tell you why - because I think it is about time, after decades and decades - all the time I was growing up in my life, we heard about innocent criminals, Oh, the cops are too mean. You know, "12 Angry Men," the jury is - shouldn't convict the wrong person. And now we're starting to see, as you said at the beginning of the show - there's foreign terrorism and there's domestic terrorism. I think the more people learn about these people, the more support they'll be for tough justice and the death penalty.
ASMAN: Any one disagree with that?
LOWRY: Yes. Yes.
LOWRY: First of all, let me stipulate up front I'm very squeamish. So you should maybe discount my remarks here.
But I think there's nothing of news value in here whatsoever. You don't need to know the details of how the BTK killer actually killed people. It's enough to know that he killed people. And the cultural shift that Jim's talking about, I think that happened long ago. I think in the 90s there was a backlash against loose criminal justice rules, and everyone realizes these crimes are evil.
ASMAN: Hold on. Jane - hold on - Jane.
HALL: I'm in the - I'm in the middle on this. I'm mixed on this.
On the one hand, I think of these children, and I think of this young girl, and I think it is an extraordinary invasion of whatever privacy she has left. Had this all over the Internet - you can Google stuff about this.
ASMAN: Now what..
HALL: You can get it anywhere.
HALL: But the fact is, I - in some ways, I don't disagree with Jim. Not that it should all be out there - I don't think it should be broadcast. But there is genuine outrage in this country over the kinds of sentences, whether these people can ever be rehabilitated.
CNN did a very good piece where they talked about the states that commit these people to mental facilities. There needs to be more. We don't just need the prurient affidavit over and over.
GABLER: I agree with Jim, but for different reasons.
I often use on this standard public interest, as the standard for journalism. Now it's pretty clear that the cable news networks and even the broadcast news networks and even NPR for that matter, broadcast this material not because it was in the public interest but because it's sadistic and it's prurient and it's voyeuristic.
ASMAN: That's why they broadcast it?
GABLER: Oh, I think absolutely.
HALL: I agree.
ASMAN: Now, I have to tell you, I reported - I reported on Shasta Groene without those details, and I still - you know, we still did pretty good in the ratings. So you don't have to report all the salacious details.
GABLER: Well, I disagree. I think the salacious details are one of the things that draw in an audience.
But just because the networks might not have been operating out of a pure motive, that doesn't necessarily mean that good results won't follow. And here I agree with Jim. Knowing this stuff - and I have two daughters myself - knowing this stuff, getting it out there, can mobilize legislators to mandate more serious penalties. Look at the Amber Alert.
ASMAN: So journalism as a public service.
GABLER: Look at Megan's Law. Journalism is supposed to be a public service.
GABLER: And that's exactly what could happen in this case.
PINKERTON: Obviously agree with Neal. And I - like Rich, I thought there was a huge backlash against meaner sentences in the 80s, like the 1988 presidential campaign against Michael Dukakis. And then we discovered that Joseph Duncan has been in and out of jail for horrible pedophilic rapes and violence for the last 30 years. This guy should have been locked up.
ASMAN: In fact, he jumped bail when he.
PINKERTON: And he kept getting out.
ASMAN: .when he was accused of committing the crimes.
PINKERTON: He kept getting out. So obviously, there's something so terminally lenient in the prison system that's.
PINKERTON: .root and branch.
LOWRY: That obviously - I mean, that's an excellent point. And that's a legitimate story, and that's something people should know about and be outraged about. But I'm not sure you need to get into the details of.
PINKERTON: Because there's a romanticization of serial killers like "Silence of the Lambs." Every one of those kind of movies needs to be counteracted.
HALL: But we don't know the impact on a killer.
The BTK killer sent stuff to the news media. He saw himself in some ways as a celebrity. We don't know - the thing that troubles me is, Does this help trigger anybody else to go do something crazy because they're getting all this news coverage? GABLER: And what interests me is whether it's going to energize legislators and the public to do something.
ASMAN: But Neal, is there a danger..
ASMAN: Is there a danger that somebody out there watching might be turned on by this?
GABLER: I think there's a greater opportunity for legislators to do something than that there's going to be copycat killer.
ASMAN: Final word: evil. That's a word that we don't often use in journalism. But in this case, is it appropriate, or do we use the word "sick," or "has psychiatric problems."
LOWRY: Of course it is. Evil - of course it is. I mean, if you can't call this evil, you can call nothing evil.
ASMAN: OK. Everybody agrees on that.
Time for another break. We're going to be back with our "Quick Takes" right after this.
ANNOUNCER: "New York Times" reporter Judith Miller goes to jail, and conservative radio talk show hosts go to Iraq.
"FOX News Watch" continues after this.
Headline number one: "She Is Serving Her Time, But Is It a Crime?"
"New York Times" reporter Judith Miller is now in jail for refusing to reveal her sources about the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame. She might be there into October.
Rich, question - Judith Miller is in jail. Should she be?
LOWRY: I don't think so, but I go back to the root of this controversy, which I think is absurd. I am very dubious that any crime was committed in the first place. This has all the hallmarks, to me, of an out- of-control special prosecutor, and almost any special prosecutor gets out of control one way or the other.
On the other hand, I think the press is going way overboard in arguing - some of the press argues journalists should always be able to withhold their sources no matter what, and I think that's going too far.
ASMAN: Now, Neal, you're a big fan of Judith Miller.
GABLER: Oh, yes, I think she's great. I'm a very big fan of Judith Miller.
ASMAN: I'm being facetious. You're not, but she is in jail, and that's tough times.
GABLER: Yes. Well, look at - two points here. And let - oh, actually three.
One, we don't know whether a crime has been committed. Actually, that's the point of a grand jury, Rich.
But number two - I mean, Judith Miller is probably - it's very unlikely that any shield law would have protected her.
And number three, we know next to nothing about this situation. So before we can judge whether she is appropriately incarcerated or not, we ought to wait and find out what Fitzgerald has found, what he's made public.
ASMAN: Fitzgerald the prosecutor.
GABLER: The prosecutor, at the end of this investigation.
HALL: I think it's a really regrettable train wreck between an overzealous federal prosecutor, and frankly.
ASMAN: Who the press was calling for, by the way.
HALL: Well, the Democrats - the Democrats were calling for it.
The press - I think that she - I think "The New York Times," in saying this is civil disobedience - most people are not going to understand this. This is not the Pentagon Papers case. I don't think we want to litigate this all the way up to the Supreme Court and have an open season on journalist over this case.
PINKERTON: I agree with Rich that all special prosecutors tend to go out of control. They - by nature, there's no checks and balances. But I think that Judith Miller should be fired from her job and let out of prison.
ASMAN: But Rich, Robert Novak - some people say he's the elephant in the living room. Why did he get a free pass?
LOWRY: I don't know. It's a great mystery - it's one of many things in this case that don't.
ASMAN: Does anybody here know?
GABLER: I think he probably cooperated. But as Jay Rosen of PressThink, said this week, He ought to be persona non grata.
PINKERTON: I don't think Novak.
GABLER: There's no reason why his column, which was in the further - published something in the furtherance of a crime should be published.
PINKERTON: I don't think that Novak did a single thing wrong. He printed - he printed what the White House envoy (ph) gave me.
ASMAN: All right. Quickly, Jane.
HALL: Judith Miller is in jail for protecting a rat. The rat ought to come forward, not the journalists.
ASMAN: The rat?
HALL: That rat who used the media in this way.
ASMAN: All right.
"Quick Take" headline number two: "Journalism or Propaganda?" Some conservative radio talk show hosts are heading for Iraq later this month to observe the fighting there. They are calling their visit "The Truth Tour," and according to San Francisco talker Melanie Morgan, they're doing it because they're sick and tired of the negative coverage of Iraq by the mainstream media. Neal, is this journalism?
GABLER: No. I mean, a journalist investigates a story before he reports it. But clearly, they have to come to their conclusion before they've investigated the story.
ASMAN: But is it a fair conclusion?
GABLER: And guess what? This is also being financed by a Republican PR firm and by the Defense Department.
ASMAN: Well, and by some of these journalists alone, some of whom are paying up to $20,000.
PINKERTON: Walter Durante went to the Soviet Union to praise Stalin and nobody - and he got a Pulitzer Prize for it. Anybody who goes into a war zone deserves some admiration for courage.
HALL: I think they clearly have a bias. They ought to call it commentary, not reporting.
ASMAN: Well, there is some commentary - I think they'd feel comfortable being called into commentarians on this.
LOWRY: Of course they have a bias. But I guarantee you there will be information that comes out from this broadcast - these broadcasts that will be useful and that you will not read in mainstream media outlets.
So in that sense.
LOWRY: The media tends to focus just on the bombings, for various reasons, some legitimate, others not.
There are other things happening in Iraq that deserve to be told.
GABLER: They're painting schools.
ASMAN: Jane, do you think it's journalism?
LOWRY: Well, there's also a political process moving forward.
HALL: I don't think if you go into a story with a feeling that something is not being covered that you are in a process of discovery. So, no, I don't think it's journalism.
ASMAN: But do you feel comfortable - do you feel comfortable with the belief that all the good news is being covered, the good news that should be covered?
HALL: Well, I know Donald Rumsfeld and people in the military say this all the time - I mean, from what I've read, from a lot of different people, it's fairly chaotic there. And I think people are free to go and report, and God bless them. They're brave to go there.
PINKERTON: The story of the last 50 years of journalism: people go at issues like civil rights or AIDS with a pre-bias in mind. And they report it and nobody complains. This is just one more voice.
ASMAN: Now, one of the dangers, Neal, is that we may have these rules for who is a journalist and who is not a journalist. You don't want to have some kind of examination, do you - as to who is a journalism and who is not?
GABLER: Oh, no. Actually, Cal, called for that a few weeks ago and I don't call for that.
I mean, I think people can.
ASMAN: Some countries do, by the way. Costa Rica, for example.
GABLER: People can look at these individuals' credentials and make a determination for themselves. These are not objective journalists. So, I mean, the whole thing is rather - and by their own admission, they're not objective journalists.
ASMAN: Will we get any good information out of this?
LOWRY: Yes, of course. The more information, the better. And they will focus on things the rest of the media doesn't.
ASMAN: We have to take one more break. When we come back, it'll be your turn. Your comments coming next.
ASMAN: About courts ordering journalists to reveal their sources, here's Steven from West Palm Beach, Florida: "The First Amendment is an absolute. You can't make slanderous or libelous statements, you can't perjure yourself in court.Likewise, you can't reveal the identity of a CIA operative without a damn good reason."
Rolf from Houston, Texas: "I've long suspected that some reporters make things up and then hide behind the anonymous sources. Hearsay evidence is not allowed in a court of law, so why should it then be allowed to give some reporters cover?"
About the incoming vacancy on the Supreme Court, here's Jeff from Hamilton, Massachusetts: "Sandra Day O'Connor's recent resignation is a perfect example of the media pouncing on something before it's an issue. They should be focusing on the great career she had .. before declaring a "Perfect Storm" brewing in Congress for the open seat."
About media coverage of shark attacks, here's Charles from Williamsburg, Virginia: "I want to know you guys (the various media) manage to get sharks to attack in concurrence for all the hoopla over the thirtieth anniversary of "Jaws" release in the theaters."
About the "Today" show deciding it will no longer rule out live coverage of a gay wedding, here's Robert from Ellensburg, Washington: "From my view, the `Today Show' is simply opening up a contest it holds to what may be up to 10 percent of the population. Even though a wedding contest is to some frivolous, denying participation in it simply because a couple is same-sex is repression and discrimination."
And finally, speaking of the "Today" show, here's a letter to our Jane from Gary in San Antonio, Texas: "Dear Jane, after watching you for awhile, I'm beginning to appreciate your position on some stands. That's why I admire Katie Couric so much. In fact, I will admit to you that she is first and foremost in my heart. In the meantime, while I'm waiting for Katie to call, would have you dinner with me?"
"I'm beginning to appreciate your position on some stands." Now that's the oldest line in the world, Gary. And if you think Jane's going to buy it, you are dead wrong, buddy.
So here's our address for all those who want to write in to us: email@example.com. Please tell us your full name, and let us know where you live.
That's all the time we have left this week. Thanks to Jane Hall, Jim Pinkerton, Rich Lowry and Neal Gabler.
I'm David Asman, thanking you for watching. Eric Burns is going to be back next week to restore some kind of order to this place. We hope you'll join us when "FOX News Watch" is back on the air.
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