Transcript: 'FOX News Watch,' July 14, 2007

This is a rush transcript from "FOX News Watch," July 14, 2007. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

ERIC BURNS, FOX NEWS HOST: This week on FOX NEWS WATCH, the media war on Iraq.

Is McCain done? Are the media finishing him off? Michael Moore diagnoses CNN's doctor as sicko. From Katie Couric a remarkable confession. From the so-called Pizza Bomber's brother, a plea to reports. And President Bush does something reporters applaud. First the headlines, then us.


BURNS: On the panel this week are four people who make enough noise for five, but it is perceptive, erudite noise. Pressure is on, Jim.

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 on right now.


GEORGE W. BUSH, U.S. PRESIDENT: I understand why the American people are tired of the war. There's — people — there's war fatigue in America.


BURNS: And increasing war opposition in the press. Four days before President Bush made that statement, The New York Times in a lengthy editorial called for the United States to get out of Iraq now and explained how the exit could be accomplished.

However, on Thursday, an interim report by U.S. military and diplomatic officials said the American effort in Iraq is making progress in several key areas, and another government report emphasizes the continuing, perhaps growing strength of al Qaeda, which means, Neal, the media had a lot to sift through this week.

NEAL GABLER, MEDIA CRITIC: Oh, they sure did.

BURNS: And they sifted how?

GABLER: Well, earlier this week, NBC's headline on the "Nightly News was "Tipping point?" And that seemed to be the narrative all week long on ABC, CBS and other media, is this a tipping point?

BURNS: Inspired perhaps by the "Times'" position?

GABLER: No, I think inspired really by the Republican defections of Domenici and Lugar and Voinovich. But I think it's wrong. I think they got it wrong. The tipping point really should have happened a year ago when the public turned against the war. Gallup poll this week, 71 percent want the troops to begin to withdraw by spring. So they really kind of missed the boat on this.

And by thinking that Republicans coming out and clearing their throats and saying we ought to have a new policy but not voting for a new policy, they talk about change but it's not a change, and the media is missing it.

JANE HALL, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: I think the media has been behind public opinions. I thought one of the most interesting things, I watched the whole press conference, was how mournful it was.

I thought the questions were very respectful, and it was only David Gregory who has been sort of a thorn in the side of Bush's all along, asking if this was realistic to think there would be progress.

GABLER: And Wendell Goler of Fox. Let's give him some credit.

HALL: And Wendell Goler of Fox.

GABLER: I'll get fired.

HALL: Well, I don't know about that.

But I noticed that his remarks about Congress should just fund the war, that's what some people picked up on. I think — other people said Bush was firm. I think the media still are kind of feeling their way. They're still afraid to be accused of being anti-war when the American people are overwhelmingly opposed to this.

BURNS: Certainly afraid for it to be anti-terrorist and there was evidence released there's all the more reason not to be anti-terrorist .

JIM PINKERTON, "NEWSDAY": Right. And all the news from London and Britain has reminded people there really are a lot of enemies out there trying to kill us. Now the wisdom of the Iraq War is one thing but the overall war on terror is another thing. And I think the media, as Jane says, are terrified of getting pegged as the people who caused us to lose in Iraq as they got tagged causing us to lose in Vietnam. They don't want to go through that again.

CAL THOMAS, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I think it's possible for two seemingly contradictory ideas to be simultaneously true.

Examples. Charles Krauthammer, "Washington Post" Friday noted the progress being made in Anbar. Bob Woodward, "Washington Post" said that the head of the CIA says he sees no hope for the Iraqi government as currently constituted being able to become stable.

And yet, we still have in the media especially, and therefore as a result in the public, the idea that this is some kind of a war like World War II. It isn't. It's a virus. The president has done a terrible job, a propaganda job of in explaining this. And everybody says, withdrawal, withdrawal, withdrawal.

And even the "New York Times" article, editorial acknowledges there will be chaos but they don't say what will come after that? What will come after that is precisely what the president has been saying, they're coming after us, the cells want to come here. It doesn't matter what we do. It only matters what they do.

GABLER: But they're not coming after us from Iraq.

What I thought was interesting in the media coverage this week is how they cherry pick things. They gave a lot of attention to the president's report, even though as Jon Stewart said weeks ago, this is like having kids grade their own exams. His own administration grading him in the same way that Petraeus is going to grade his own strategy.

But there was a National Intelligence Council report this week also from the administration that essentially said things are hopeless in Iraq. That got no coverage, and I mean absolutely no coverage. To read about it, you had to go to the blogs.

PINKERTON: What is interesting now is look, there are bombshells blowing up underneath both positions all the time. In other words - Bill Kristol made a good point, he says where did all these reports come from? Who mandated all the reports? Every two months somebody's got a report and then as Neal says, there's more reports than that bubbling out.

Somebody is always leaking some report. I'm not convinced any of them are worth anything in terms of their validity. But yet almost all of them get coverage.

BURNS: But Jane, what seems to me what's got to happen in the media is, and I don't think it's happening sufficiently, and I don't think any of you do, too, is making that clear distinction between the war in Iraq on the one hand and the war on terrorists who are scattered in a number of places on the other.

HALL: Well, opponents of the war — and I won't let Neal get in on this. It has been inflated for us. But I think to go to the media angle, this report comes out. I was thinking, my God, remember Usama bin Laden determined to bomb America with airplanes. We should be paying attention to our national intelligence reports, and the media didn't know what to do with this.

NBC did a reality check and Michael Chertoff said, gee, in my gut I feel like they might strike us this summer. Again, the media didn't know what to do with it. I don't think Chertoff knows what to do with it.

THOMAS: Here's another quick example of - of the wrong approach in the media. Al Newhart interviewed George McGovern for "USA Today" on Friday. He is going to be 85 years old. Says it is going to be just like Vietnam. We pulled out, they've got cell phones now, they'll do fine. That's the wrong approach.

BURNS: Quickly.

GABLER: And is it really necessary to go to Keith Olbermann to get the distinction between the al Qaeda in Iraq and the people who bombed us on 9/11?

BURNS: Well, I don't know. We'll have to let the question be rhetorical. It's time for a break. We'll be back with this.

ANNOUNCER: From media darling in 2004 to media dud this time around? Is the press giving John McCain a fair shake? That's next on NEWS WATCH.


BURNS: Whatever happened to John McCain? Once the apparent front- runner for the next Republican presidential nomination, McCain is now dropping in the polls, especially in important states like Iowa and New Hampshire. He is losing money, down to $2 million in the bank, and losing top campaign ads (ph). Jim, to any extent, are the media responsible for McCain's fall?

PINKERTON: Well, there's no question McCain had the most media friendly operation in 2000. And all the campaign aides are chatterboxes when it comes to yakking to the press. And so the media have been following the rise and fall of the McCain campaign pretty closely.

However, they still managed to miss, I think, the real dynamic here, which is the mainstream media said he's toast because of the Iraq War. In fact, the reality is he's toast because of the immigration bill and it's only the MRC (ph) that caught that, saying that look, the real thing that hurt him with the Republican base, the people who are in the primaries, was immigration, not Iraq.

THOMAS: That's right. That's one point. The other point is the media loved him when he was against Bush and even when making supportive statements of Bush after Bush's election and reelection, they continued to try to find gaps between him and Bush to create controversy and tension. But you're right, ABC led with a story that said McCain's problems had to do with his support of the war in Iraq, when in fact, especially if you listen to conservative talk radio and blogs, it had to do with his support along with Ted Kennedy and the immigration bill.

BURNS: So two problems.

GABLER: And it's a function of both. He lost the independent voters because of Iraq and he lost the conservative voters who are going to nominate the Republican candidate because of immigration. But this is also a function of the bigger they are, the harder they fall.

BURNS: Also .

GABLER: He was a front-runner.

BURNS: We're using the past tense here. It's still a long time before Election Day, but we're all writing him off.

THOMAS: But that's one of the problems. The media decides. Look how far we are from the first primary. They decide who is up, who is down, who is getting the most money, therefore — Romney is raising the most money and he's not considered on the Republican side the front runner.

GABLER: But that becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy because when you don't have the money you can't ultimately get your campaign going, the media keeps on talking about that, drives down your funds further. It's very tough to beat the media perception that you're finished.

BURNS: But Jane, it is fair, is it not, for the media to report that McCain is down?

HALL: Absolutely. Absolutely. And in 2000, he didn't have the money, so he got the media. I remember when "The Today Show" practically helicoptered Matt Lauer in to be on the Straight Talk Express.

I've been reading some interesting pieces, Anna Marie Cox had an interesting piece about how basically, they thought we don't need to worry about the primaries, we're going to win, we're going to win a national campaign, people will like him for taking a strong stances.

I mean, there were problems in the campaign we can't entirely blame on the media, but that's an element, there, for sure.

PINKERTON: We have been able to enjoy it in real time. For example, Rich Galen, who runs a blog called son was the deputy campaign manager for the McCain campaign. So now that he is the ex- deputy campaign manager, the coverage is going to turn south on "Mullings."

BURNS: And Jim, you said, he got the media coverage in 2000, he has gotten it until very recently, too. A curious point about the campaign so far, as of recently, the top three Republicans in terms of TV air time, McCain first, Huckabee second, Romney third. Top three Democrats in terms of air time, Bill Richardson first, Joe Biden second, Barack Obama:

THOMAS: Well, look, the media will hope that McCain will break like the other three Republicans and come out against the war. We gave our best, it's not winnable. And then they might be much more favorable to him. But it just goes to show that coverage versus support is not necessarily a correlation.

GABLER: But they have to make themselves available. That's also a part.

BURNS: But they have in the past been correlated. The assumption is, the more you're on television .

PINKERTON: But Biden has been a blowhard for 35 years, and it never gotten him more than senator of Delaware.

BURNS: It has gotten him on television.

PINKERTON: He's run twice. He didn't get anywhere in '88. He's not getting far now.

HALL: And I would just say one other thing, which is voters. And you look at them, it's like the old joke, who are you going to believe, me and your own eyes. McCain looks weary. He looks tired. Here's going to be 72 if he won this race. That is unfortunately a factor, I think.

GABLER: But there are reservoirs of great good will toward him still in the media. Chris Matthews never mentions his name without saying he's an American hero. Even Mark Shields, a liberal, says he's a great American. So don't count him out yet. Because there's a lot of love for McCain.

PINKERTON: That's what they say at funerals.

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

ANNOUNCER: Katie spills her soul, asking, "Oh my God, what did I do?"

And paging Dr. Gupta.


MICHAEL MOORE, FILMMAKER: There you go again.


ANNOUNCER: Michael Moore stares down CNN and wins. All next on NEWS WATCH.


BURNS: It's time for our "Quick Takes" on the media. Headline number one: Moore thinks less of CNN.


MOORE: I'd like about 10 minutes to respond to what was said.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Give us a couple headlines. What would you like to say?

MOORE: I don't talk in sound bites. So that report was so biased. I can't imagine what pharmaceutical company ad is coming up after our break here. But why don't you tell the truth, to the American people?

I mean, I wish that CNN and the other mainstream media would just for once tell the truth about what's going on in this country, whether it's with health care, I don't care what it is. You guys have such a poor track record.


BURNS: That's filmmaker Michael Moore blasting CNN on CNN the other day. He told Wolf Blitzer that he was upset about a number of things, one of them that CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta got his facts wrong in what was called a fact-checking report about his movie "Sicko".

The movie is about health care, and Moore was right, Gupta did get some of the facts wrong. To CNN's credit, they did acknowledge the fact. Much of this wasn't to CNN's credit.

THOMAS: Well, I just love it when a liberal like Michael Moore beats up on the media for being biased. I want to save that clip and just run it all day. Yeah they did but in typical media fashion, we stand behind until they couldn't stand behind anymore.

But look, I thought the best line to come out of this was former governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, saying that Michael Moore, with what he weighs is the greatest ad for poor health in the country and ought to lose some weight.

PINKERTON: What I thought was interesting was that Michael Moore in real time can say, go to my website and see the real truth over and over. This is a world now where what's on TV can be fact checked immediately on the Web, and hats off to Rachel Sklar (ph) who I think had the best thing on Huffington Post where she had kind of a nasty characterization of Dr. Gupta which I'd better not say on the air.

HALL: I thought it was very interesting television. And it was about something. Everybody is talking about Michael Moore, his movie is raising an issue, a lot of people agree with. He was right about the facts and they went on LARRY KING LIVE and they talked about how they were wrong.

So I thought it was really quite interesting.

GABLER: The narrative on Moore is that he bends the facts. So that's the narrative and they conformed their report to that narrative and they were wrong.

BURNS: Meaning what?

GABLER: Meaning Moore - right here on the Web site, Moore got all the facts here, every single one is annotated. And he was right.

BURNS: "Quick Take" headline number two: Katie Couric, cover girl. It's the cover of this week's issue of "New York Magazine." And in addition to revealing that Couric once slapped a coworker several times across the shoulder for inserting the word sputum in a script without telling her in advance, it reveals that considering how things are going at CBS these days, Couric is having second thoughts about taking over as the networks anchor.

Jim, my first reaction was good for her about not giving a sugar-coated response. My second reaction, like Neal, two of everything, was that this makes things at CBS look even worse.

PINKERTON: Eric, you're really hogging the air today.

Look, hats off to Joe Hagen for a great profile where he pulled back the perkiness off of her and got her to saying things like, I know my audience wants to see me eviscerated and they want to see me have a nervous breakdown and I'm going to halfway do it on the cover of this magazine and trash my boss and trash my audience at the same time.

THOMAS: This is the problem when you begin with a preordained agenda, first woman to host, we're going to take somebody off another show and you try to fit the square peg of Katie Couric into the round hole of broadcast journalism that is CBS News.

HALL: I thought it was really interesting. The piece was terrific. One of the things I learned is that, CBS, I knew it, they gave the figures of how much CBS News' budget has been cut, Morley Safer, Leslie Stahl asked to take pay cuts while she's making $15 million. It's no wonder they were dishing negatively about her.

BURNS: But another story, Neal, of more importance about the "Evening News," Couric in the 39 weeks she's been anchoring has lost 287,000 viewers. In that same 29 weeks NBC has lost almost twice as much, 533,000.

GABLER: Of course they're still second.


GABLER: She's deeply mired in third.

BURNS: And ABC going up. Still, in terms of loss, the bigger problem is at NBC.

GABLER: Look it. Couric here used Joe Hagen, it seems to me, to try and protect her job. And in doing so, she revealed why she's driving herself down, which is she's a celebrity. And when you're watching the news, you want Charles Gibson or even Brian Williams, though his ratings are declining, who are not celebrities. They put a celebrity on the news that overshadowed the news. That's her problem. She's losing credibility.

PINKERTON: I agree with that.

BURNS: Quickly.


BURNS: We'll just let Jane's "eh" hang there when you interpret it for yourselves while we go to "Quick Take" headline number three, "New developments in an old case."

This week, federal prosecutors stated that the so-called pizza bomber, the pizza delivery man who went into a bank with a bomb around his neck attempted to rob the bank and then died when the bomb exploded had not been forced to do so by others. He was named a co-conspirator in the botched robbery.

The man's brother wants the media to exonerate him by digging deeper into the case.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd like to see their evidence. I would like you guys to demand to see their evidence. I'd like you guys to demand that people in positions of power do their jobs.


BURNS: Jim, just an understandable emotional point or a point well taken in this case?

PINKERTON: Diagnose the way the system works. Some tabloid show gets on top of the story and chases down the facts. It will be pretty interesting. Look, this is a reminder, these crime stories, why we watch news. Because it's happening in real time and you're kind of curious as to the outcome. That's worth watching.

BURNS: What the brother is saying is that he doesn't believe that his brother was a co-conspirator, and it's up to the media to prove that.

HALL: Well, I think he's asking the media to do it because this thing has been unsolved and now they're charging people. I mean, the thing that was striking to me was the image of this man seemingly calmly sitting there. And I thought how image-driven we are. I remember that instantly when I saw that.

THOMAS: Jim is right about crime in the news but it's also crime in entertainment. Virtually every CBS show is about crime. The Crime Broadcasting System. This is fascinating. What I would really like to look into is this alleged co-conspirator, this female who is in prison who is supposedly has four or five college degrees and was involved in this gig, too. That's fascinating.

GABLER: What he's really asking the media to do is stay on the story and stay on the prosecutors. However, I'm waiting for the made-for-TV movie.

BURNS: We have to take one more break. And when we come back .

ANNOUNCER: The White House press room gets a new makeover. Will the spiffy new quarters soothe the relationship between the president and the press? That's next on NEWS WATCH.


BURNS: For the past year, White House reporters have not had an office in the White House as the pressroom got a makeover. This past Wednesday the newly refurbished White House pressroom in the West Wing of the White House was opened. C-SPAN's Steven Scully welcomed the reporters back.


STEVE SCULLY, C-SPAN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. In just a moment president and Mrs. Bush will officially reopen this facility. The Brady Briefing Room. And on behalf of the White House press corps, I am able to offer something that those of us in the media rarely give this president or any president, a thank you. Let me extend that also .


BURNS: So a temporary ceasefire between the president and the press. When the firing started again, which it has thanks to the new pressroom, it was from closer range. That's all the time we have left this week. Thanks to Jane Hall, Jim Pinkerton, Cal Thomas, Neal Gabler and I'm Eric Burns thanking you for watching.

Now stay tuned to Fox. Coming up the latest news and more as soon as we finish here.

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