The following is a transcription of the July 16, 2005 edition of "FOX News Watch", that has been edited for clarity:
ERIC BURNS, FOX NEWS HOST: This week on "FOX News Watch": Matt Cooper (search) says Karl Rove (search ) was his Deep Throat. There was something new and remarkable about the way last week's terrorist attacks in London were covered. Or were they terrorist attacks?
Has the governor of California done something scandalous or just lucrative?
He says he's not even retiring. What's with the death watch? First the headlines, next.
BURNS: Sometimes during commercial breaks in this program, Jim Pinkerton pulls out his cell phone or Blackberry and the rest of us make fun of him. Maybe we'll have to stop. We'll explain in about eight minutes.
First, the introductions. Jim Pinkerton of "Newsday." Media writer Neal Gabler. Jane Hall at the American University and Bob Lichter, professor of communications at George Mason University, sitting in this week for Cal Thomas.
I'm Eric Burns. "FOX News Watch" is coming right up.
Last week, The New York Times's Judith Miller went to jail for not revealing her source about the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame. This week, Time magazine's Matt Cooper (search) did reveal his source. He says it was presidential advisor Karl Rove. The White House wishes he hadn't... Take a look:
DAVID GREGORY, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Scott, can I ask you this? Did Karl Rove commit a crime?
SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Again, David, this is a question relating to an ongoing investigation.
GREGORY: Scott. I mean, just -- I mean, this is ridiculous.
MCCLELLAN: I will be glad to talk about it at the appropriate time. The appropriate time is when the investigation .
GREGORY: ... when it's appropriate and when it's inappropriate?
MCCLELLAN: If you let me finish .
GREGORY: No, you're not finishing. You're not saying anything. You stood at that podium and said that Karl Rove is not involved.
BURNS: Neal, the key issue here, it seems to me, is was Karl Rove involved and should a journalist have gone with Rove as a source for a political story? But given the nature of that interchange there, let's begin by talking about a comment made, I believe, in the "New York Daily News" which is that reporters are getting more - should I say obnoxious, should I say more strident? Toward White House officials because they think the Democratic Party is no longer the opposition party, reporters have to be.
NEAL GABLER, MEDIA WRITER: Now, I'm not going to comment on an ongoing investigation -- I think there might be a grain of truth in that but really not very much. And this administration, frankly, has been handled pretty much with kid gloves. I've said this on the show repeatedly. I think there are a lot of subtexts to the story, one of which is obviously that the press doesn't mind if politicians lie to the American public, they don't even mind being lied to themselves, but they don't like having their noses rubbed in it, and this is a story in which their noses were rubbed in the lies.
But there's another subtext here, and that is that the media worship efficiency and people who stay on message, which is epitomized by Karl Rove. Karl Rove is the Machiavellian genius and nothing falls harder than someone who is regarded as infallible who is then revealed to be infallible.
BURNS: Is he in fact falling as a result of this, Jim, already?
GABLER: In the media, I'm saying.
JIM PINKERTON, "NEWSDAY": He is definitely falling in the media. As the media -- they're torn their, because they love to see special prosecutor Fitzgerald put Karl Rove in jail but kind of worry he'll put Matt Cooper and Judith Miller in jail, and that bothers them.
I'd say there's more than a grain, as Neal said, of media bias and media diligence here. I think that David Gregory clip with Scott McClellan there showed simultaneously the press at sort of its best and its worst. At their best, they are like people filling out crossword puzzles. If you ask them a three-letter word for European blackbird, they'll sit all day and never come up for air until they find it.
At their worst -- so they are hard working -- at their worst they are belligerent, obsessive and mono-focused and I think that takes away from other news that's going on if they just obsess over this.
BURNS: But look, Jane, you're a reporter, and you get this information and you assume, and I think it's fair to do this, that Karl Rove provided this information not for informative purposes, but for political purposes, to get even with Valerie Plame .
PINKERTON: Eric, can we just -- that's not a fair statement of what we know to be true about Karl Rove.
BURNS: It's not a fair assumption?
GABLER: It may not be a fair statement but it's common sense.
PINKERTON: You can't plant the assumption like that and ask a question of Jane like that.
BURNS: Well, do you want to ask the questions?
PINKERTON: I'd say, Jane, comment on what has been said so far, but I wouldn't say that Rove leaked to .
JANE HALL, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: I've never been so thought of ..
BURNS: One week! I was off one week, Jim.
Would you answer Jim's question, Jane, please?
HALL: Let me try to be the peacemaker here. There have been reports in the Friday "New York Times" that Rove may have even said that he got this from the news media, so Jim is right in saying that we don't know everything yet.
But there were stories in The Washington Post that this was an attempt to -- whoever said it first was trying to get back at Joseph Wilson for the piece he wrote in The New York Times criticizing the Bush administration's case for war. I think we are in danger of going into a real sideshow where the press is going to pursue this. I think that they are reacting to being stage managed. They are reacting to the fact that they did in some ways mythologize Karl Rove and McClellan stood before them-- the reason-- what you don't know about the David - the David Gregory quote comes in the context that he stood before them and he said I talked to Karl Rove, he said it's not true.
BURNS: Bob, would it be a sideshow for the media to pursue this? It seems to me something worth pursuing.
BOB LICHTER, PROFESSOR, GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY: First, let me say this is a lesson in group dynamics that we have. The two alpha males going at each other and the woman in between them trying to make peace. So I really like the way you've arranged this thing.
BURNS: The problem is which alpha male won? That's the problem I'm having.
LICHTER: It keeps the viewers coming back.
BURNS: It does? I'm not sure. Please go ahead, Bob.
LICHTER: Yeah, I think what's going on here is precisely that the reporters are responding to being lied to, or the feeling they've been lied to. They bristle at that. I don't think that this is anything greater than what we've seen in the past.
Now, I disagree with - I hate to agree with Neal, I'll disagree with him first. They have not been soft on the Bush administration. We just did a study of Bush's first 100 days of his second term, found that the coverage on the network was two to one negative, worse than any 100 days of any other president's term back to Reagan. So it's been negative.
But I think you'll see that kind of bristling in a news conference any time you have reporters feeling that a president has lied and you saw it under Clinton, you saw it in Iran Contra, so I think reporters are already the oppositional party, that's what they think of themselves. And they should be.
PINKERTON: And I think what Bob's getting at speaks to a larger point. This is a power struggle. Let's be honest here. "The New York Times" opposed the very law, in 1982, the very law that makes it illegal to leak the name of a CIA agent because they, back then, they wanted to see CIA agents getting bashed.
So this is really a power struggle between the Democrats and the Republicans with the media as a surrogate for the Democrats.
HALL: Well, there are also some law professors that say "The New York Times" shouldn't have pursued this the way they did and ended up with Judith Miller in jail, so there are a lot of ironies in this case.
BURNS: Anything else you want to say to me? We don't have time.
We have to take our first break. We will be back to talk about a new kind of journalism for a new century.
ANNOUNCER: You saw the pictures of the terrorist attacks in London last week, but do you know where they came from? Some of them will astonish you.
"FOX News Watch" continues after this.
BURNS: For more than a week now, the whole world has been watching the scenes of terrorism in London. Unjust, unexpected, indefensible. Some of those scenes, like this one and this one, were not shot by conventional cameras, but by cell phones.
And Bob, we have talked on this show before about the word of ordinary people getting into the public mainstream because of blogs. Now it seems to me we have something different. We have the picture and these two together, it seems to me, are heading us toward some kind of revolution in news coverage, are they not?
LICHTER: Well, I think you could actually go back to the talk shows of the 1980s when the public started to enter into the news process. Talk radio, talk television shows, public started to ask their questions and this is a large scale process, a kind of passing of the guard, a changing of the political power of who determines what the news is and now we're dealing in pictures as well as words and when you have that you have the potential for a great deal of new information coming in, you have also the potential for misinformation coming in.
BURNS: But Jim, do you not have less potential for misinformation with pictures than you do with words.
PINKERTON: Well, I'm ready to do my part. If anything newsworthy .
BURNS: If anything breaks in the studio .
PINKERTON: We're getting that much closer to the Andy Warhol, everybody famous for 15 minutes. Everybody is a journalist for 15 minutes. There is an interesting - I mean, this London tragedy, I don't mean to make light of it, did lead to a lot of new things. I had never heard of Flickr before, the place where you can post your own pictures of this. I was clicking around and I found a Web site called thecablegame.com where I think learned about wikinews, which is an online, interactive free service where everybody in London, seemingly, put their own impressions and thoughts about this.
But I do agree that the tension is a profusion of information and an explosion of information and the implosion of time available for this which is why there is still going to be a market, thank God, for people who actually interrupt the news, put a framework around it, and put it in some kind of useful context.
BURNS: But we are, Jane, going to have to be more careful with believing the words, are we not, than believing the pictures.
HALL: Well, I'm not sure I have as much faith - pictures can also be distorted and misrepresented. I think in the tsunami and in the London tragedy there was a raw .
BURNS: And in the hurricane, by the way, last weekend there was a lot of amateur video.
HALL: Right, and there is a rawness and a sense of I think this is a person like you as opposed to a person speaking from on high. You identify, you think, oh my goodness, I was just on the New York City subway or I have been there myself.
BURNS: That's better.
HALL: That is an immediacy and I think it makes the news more interactive and more of a conversation, which is one thing that the mainstream media have got to figure out because they are losing audience because people want more interaction.
BURNS: And Neal, does it not make the news -- I'm sorry, what was that?
GABLER: Just let alpha male here weigh in.
BURNS: I just heard alpha male again and I figured I'd better shut up.
GABLER: I think you made a useful distinction between the pictures and words. Between just simply supplying things to a Web site and actually supplying words.
I think you're right. This is a portent of things to come in terms of immediacy, events that require immediacy. You are there. And in fact, the local ABC affiliate in New York this week came on the air and solicited people to send in their camera phone pictures and whatever.
BURNS: Anything they say on the street and let me say, Neal, and I'll get right back to you, and the week before the New England Cable Network which is a smaller, regional network, also said it was accepting video segments that it would put on its Web site so this is really .
GABLER: Video segments. There's the distinction I would draw, between just video and video segments. People just supplying pictures and people acting as reporters and I think the first - There are ethical issues that are raised, privacy issues that are raised, credibility issues that are raised but in - Look, I'll go to the movies to see a Stephen Spielberg movie or Ron Howard movie not to see my neighbors home movies.
And I think in the same situation here, I watch the news to see reporters, not to see my neighbors acting like reporters and I think you've got to make that distinction.
LICHTER: I think there are two cases. One is an immediate situation where you want to get the sense of immediacy. The other is the public providing information as reporters and end up like the Kremlin where you decide who's up and who's down by who got doctored out of the last photograph. Can be dangerous.
PINKERTON: Plenty of room for manipulation and cheating and lying and fraud which is why the brand that you are looking at matters a lot.
BURNS: The word "terrorism" actually came up a time or two in this segment. Should it have? That's how we begin our quick takes coming up after this break and then .
ANNOUNCER: Arnold Schwarzenegger is charged with improper governating. Are these magazines the reason? Stay tuned for more "FOX News Watch."
BURNS: It's time now for our "Quick Takes on the Media."
Headline number one, when is a terrorist not a terrorist? When the BBC says he's not. The British Broadcasting Corporation (search) is sometimes referring to the perpetrators of the recent violence in London as terrorists, but other times, especially in its programs broadcast outside of Britain, it's calling them bombers. Why, you say? Because the BBC says the network's credibility is undermined by the, quote, "careless use of words which carry emotional or value judgments."
Make sense to you, Jane?
HALL: Well, it's a little unclear to me where and when they are using it. If they are parsing it nationally versus internationally, I would have a problem with that. But it sounded to me as if the reporting on the London, they are calling it "terrorism" and it seems to me that's the distinction to be made.
BURNS: Otherwise ..
HALL: Reuters, I believe, has a different policy. I don't sense the BBC is not calling these guys terrorists.
BURNS: But doesn't it sound a little duplicitous because outside their coverage area where they might want more coverage but there are more sympathies to the bombers, then they call them bombers?
PINKERTON: This is the fruit of multiculturalism plus globalism. The media - the BBC clearly are short-shrifting the truth and the terrible truth of what happened as the pander to foreign audiences.
BURNS: Quick thought, Bob.
LICHTER: I am amazed at how a particular instance always becomes a general principle with Jim, but I think there is a principle here that in fact "terrorism" gets too widely used, loosely used, but here, if these guys weren't terrorists, nobody is.
GABLER: And as we pander to conservatives, I'm just astonished that 54 people are dead and we're worried about the words that are being used for the perpetrators? Bombers or terrorists, essentially, the story is the same.
BURNS: Quick take headline number two. Isn't that almost as much money as he got for "The Terminator"?
According to documents made public just this week, Arnold Schwarzenegger signed an $8 million contract to be a consultant for a chain of bodybuilding magazines two days before being sworn in as governor of California. Last year Schwarzenegger vetoed a bill that would have regulated the bodybuilding supplement industry in California and that doesn't sound good.
GABLER: Look, the conflict of interest here is as much the media as it is Arnold Schwarzenegger's. American Media making a deal with Schwarzenegger, Schwarzenegger admits said, we're going to take hands off the Schwarzenegger. Now, American Media not only publishes muscle magazines...
BURNS: ...American Media being the name of the company.
GABLER: ...the company that he made the deal with. Bu they also publish the "National Enquirer," "The Globe" and "The Star" and they have now taken a hands-off approach to Arnold Schwarzenegger. This stinks.
PINKERTON: This is a good argument why you do need an energetic and active press fearlessly chasing after these stories, which America Media clearly did not do and they clearly took a dive on this. The other 49 states ought to have the same kind of scrutiny.
HALL: It just reminded me of this question. Hugh Grant, what was he thinking? Just stunning.
BURNS: Quick take headline - no easy answer to that one. Quick take number three. Rehnquist rules against reporters, specifically all those reporters waiting for him to die or announce his retirement as chief justice of the United States. In a statement issued Thursday, Rehnquist said he has no plans yet to retire at all.
He is supposedly pretty tired, Bob, of seeing the media around him on this ghoulish mission.
LICHTER: I am sure he is with them camped out on his yard and so forth. I couldn't help thinking of the instance in which Lyndon Johnson planned to make an appointment and it was leaked to The Washington Post and he changed the appointment and said to an aide, in words not quite the words Lyndon Johnson used, take that, Ben Bradlee (search)!
This gives Rehnquist some breathing space to live a normal life and then decide what he wants to do.
BURNS: If it does. But isn't this, defensible or not, Jane, this is what the media do when a man of his eminence seems to be in his concluding days.
HALL: Well, if you can't speculate on that, given that Sandra Day O'Connor has announced she is leaving, Rehnquist is rather an important story. I don't see this as ghoulish. I haven't been in his shoes and had people speculating about my demise. However, I found it interesting .
LICHTER: So far as you know.
HALL: As far as I know. Not, hopefully, speculating about my demise, I hope.
But what was interesting to me was it was pointed out in the stories that rather - he must be mad because rather - he didn't go through the official public relations arm of the Supreme Court, he put this out through his family Thursday night to the Associated Press, which I thought was one of those peaks (ph) sending, yeah, I am mad.
GABLER: Are you sure, because Robert Novak said that his resignation was imminent so I would double check this story.
BURNS: You understand the conceivable problem of beginning a sentence with "Robert Novak said." Conceivable problem. Jim, your words on this about Rehnquist.
PINKERTON: In the media war there's always an offense and a defense. The media had been on the offensive for a while and Rehnquist is coming up with what's kind of a trick to fool them. For all we know he's going to retire tomorrow.
BURNS: Well, he says he wasn't. Let's go with it for now. We have to take one more break. When we come back it will be your turn.
BURNS: About the obscenely graphic descriptions of criminal acts made recently by the perpetrators and reported by newspapers and on cable TV networks like this one, here's Virginia from Kansas City, Missouri, "Sorry, Jim! Usually I agree with you. The facts of these sex crimes can be referenced in a way to convey the crime without the blow-by-blow descriptions. The details are strictly for ratings by way of their shock value."
But from Jean in Richardson, Texas, "Jim said it -- the reason we need to know some of the gory details is because perhaps it will awaken the sensibilities of the judicial system as well as the legislative branches of government to take more action to prevent these psychopaths from running free."
And now for the non-Jim Pinkerton-related portion of our email segment. About the "New York Times'" Judith Miller going to jail for not revealing her source, here is Rick from Fairfax, Virginia:
"We are a nation of laws. If, as Watergate demonstrated, even the president is not above the law, then surely journalists are not above the law. The courts have spoken. Judith Miller is in jail not because she is a martyr to the cause of journalistic freedom, but because she and The New York Times believe they are above the law. This is arrogance, not loyalty."
About the so-called truth tour and conservative radio talk show hosts like Melanie Morgan (search) going to Iraq to find out, in their words, what's really happening there, here's Michael from Lafayette, Indiana: "Hurrah to the conservative journalists headed to Iraq. There are plenty of stories that would never see the light of day if left to the so-called unbiased media."
Finally both Cal Thomas and I were off last week. Here is an e-mail we got about our absences. It is from Claudia in Warwick, Rhode Island. "Are Eric and Cal at Gitmo? If so, grant them a pardon and bring them back."
Well, actually, yes, Claudia, we were at Gitmo. I was released after a week for good behavior. Cal is still there for bad attire. He doesn't get out until he finds a shirt and tie that match.
Here is our address, firstname.lastname@example.org. Please write to us. Please tell us your full name, please let us know where you live.
That's all the time we have left for this week. Thanks to Jane Hall, Jim Pinkerton, the nicely matched Bob Lichter and Neal Gabler.
I am Eric Burns thanking you for watching. We hope to see you again next week when "FOX News Watch", we think with Cal Thomas, will be back on the air.
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