Transcript: 'FOX News Watch,' July 28, 2007

This is a rush transcript from "FOX News Watch," July 21, 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, YouTube was the star of the debate. Will it also be the star of the campaign?

Lindsay Lohan arrested again. The media all over it again.

The media and the NBA betting scandal.

Were NASA astronauts flying under the influence?

Harry Potter makes history. And the Obama girl and the Democratic electoral process. First the headlines, then us.


BURNS: On the panel this week are four people who have never been busted for DUI. No wonder they're not bigger stars. 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.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wonder since this is such a revolutionary debate that if you as politicians can do something revolutionary and that is to actually answer the questions that are posed to you tonight, versus beating around the bush, so to speak, that would be wonderful.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello, Democratic candidates, I've been growing concerned that global warming, the single most important issue to the snowmen of this country is being neglected. As president, what will you do to make sure my son will live a full and happy life? Thank you.


BURNS: "The Washington Post" said the debate "underscored the arrival of the Internet as a force in politics.

But the "Los Angeles Times" had a different view saying "the event didn't amount to a lot more than an interesting town hall. It remained mostly a one-way conversation. Powerful people talking to a giant screen."

And a rabbit that reminds me of - what was that?



BURNS: Reminds of.

PINKERTON: Mr. Bill from "Saturday Night Live."

BURNS: And Chuck Barris' old show, remember "The Gong Show."


BURNS: Irrelevant. I apologize. Jim, was, in fact, this debate in terms of its editorial comment provided by people on YouTube a step up or a step down?

PINKERTON: I'll give it that. It was imaginative. It's fun to hear real people as opposed to the usual hack journalists.

BURNS: (Inaudible)?

PINKERTON: I think we should say that it led to the most interesting departure in the Democratic presidential race now, the split between Hillary and Obama over whether or not to negotiate with enemy regimes.

So in that sense - people thought the news would be the technology and YouTube. In fact, the news into the weekend is now this major thing inside the Democratic primary.

THOMAS: I - Excuse me. I give CNN a B-plus for trying to change the form. But an F on the substance. Look, these are serious times with serious issues and I think this was more of a gimmick.

All those lecterns looked like "Jeopardy" on steroids or a version of "The Price is Right". Hey Democratic candidates, come on down! What are you worth?

And they also without having hack journalists, as Jim put it, they missed the follow-up questions. Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama took different positions, entirely opposite positions, on the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq. Hillary Clinton as recently as April of this year said something entirely different than what she had said on the debate. There was no journalist there to follow up.

BURNS: Well, Neal, we had a slight drop in ratings from this debate.

GABLER: Overall.

BURNS: Overall.

GABLER: And a slight up-tick in the 18-34 demographic, which is what they're aiming for.

BURNS: Yeah. Let's broaden the topic a little. Is YouTube going to be an important force in the campaign, and if so, will it be for the reason you just stated, that that's the way to reach younger potential voters?

GABLER: Well, I think it will be important not as a debate mechanism, but I think you are right, through viral videos and things of that nature, it may further engage young voters. But the problem with the debate here and I think the problem for YouTube generally is that it's yoked to traditional media. This was CNN televising the debate, not the public going to see the debate on the Internet.

BURNS: Why is that a problem?

GABLER: This is the problem with that. Because you get then the typical media analysis, the typical media spin, and you have Ann Kornblut of "The Washington Post" talking about the coat that Hillary Clinton wore, in other words, you get all the bad habits of the traditional media, and little of the freshness of the new media.

THOMAS: Yeah, but John Edwards brought up the coat that Hillary was wearing.

JANE HALL, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: I think it was a pretty cool idea, I think it was also an interesting new media/old media story. Which is the old media, CNN, which is only 27 but is old compared to YouTube, trying to reach younger viewers, just as the politicians are trying to reach younger voters. I thought it was pretty cool. I agree with Jeff Jarvis, it would have been even cooler if the public had voted on the questions, because it was like a mediated chat. And the 3,000 people, that's not that many people, really. In terms of how many people watched George Allen's gaffe.

I think that's where YouTube has played more of a role.

GABLER: That's right. That was my point.

BURNS: Jim, will we see YouTube playing a major role in the campaign?

PINKERTON: I think because Google owns it, they will muscle their way into the debate and the presidential campaign many, many times over and over again.

And Google is so powerful, that everybody will want to suck up to them one way or another.

BURNS: And aren't the candidates going to welcome this, Cal, because it would be so much cheaper than buying time on the networks?


BURNS: They may and probably will do that anyhow, but they can cut back on buying network airtime and just put it on the Internet.

THOMAS: That's an element, but what concerns me, you and I as reporters who knew the way it was before is, is that once the trivialities become the norm, that once the "macaca" comments by George Allen become repeated over and over, you lose the substance. It's like eating junk food, you get used to it, you get addicted to it and you don't have time for the gourmet meal anymore.

BURNS: Cal and I said he knew how it was before. He means in both of our cases, black and white.


THOMAS: Oh please.

BURNS: Black and white. Time for a break. We'll be back with this.

ANNOUNCER: Train wreck or tragedy? After another DUI arrest, why does Lindsay think the press has her story all wrong? That is next on NEWS WATCH.


BURNS: First came Britney. Then came Paris. And this week, for the second time it was Lindsay Lohan's turn. The actress who just turned 21 and who just left rehab was arrested for a DUI this week and returned to rehab.

Of course, the tabloids and cable channels could not get enough of the story, especially once she contacted "Access Hollywood" and declared her innocence.

OK, here is what surprises me. My daughter, who is 18, and her friends, Jane, have talked about this. And I've overheard three conversations in the last day and a half among adults about this. Tell me why adults are talking about Lindsay Lohan.

HALL: Well, as a 10-year-old who is not my child, but a friend of mine's.

THOMAS: Wait a minute, we're adults and we're talking about Lindsay Lohan.

HALL: I was talking with a group of grownups about this and we were wondering what the message was to our daughters, I think that's part of it, what are your kids getting from this? And this child said, to her mother, well, I know she's a bad role model, mommy, but it's fun to read. And I think that's the lesson here.

I'll tell you what I thought was noteworthy, there was a very interesting discussion on LARRY KING LIVE and Daniel Baldwin who was actually speaking pretty seriously about addiction and how people around these celebs are always offering them, to enable them, but Billy Bush, is now - you have this weird phenomenon where Billy Bush was called by her.

BURNS: Billy Bush who is the anchorman of "Access Hollywood."

HALL: . of "Access Hollywood" and so he then becomes the guy who is interviewed on LARRY KING by Harvey Levin who is the new Larry King, it is bizarre.

PINKERTON: This speaks to formula, right? We all know that Lindsay Lohan and Nicole Richie, they're fighting to get the Anna Nicole Smith slot for this year.

BURNS: Nicole Richie who has just been sentenced herself to DUI.

PINKERTON: But I'm going to honor another formula and that would be Mika Brzezinski on MSNBC and Jack Cafferty on CNN who refused to read their copy. It might have been a show, it might have been an act for the cameras but I'm going to do the same thing and see what happens. I don't think this is really worth covering on our segment.

BURNS: You don't, and I know that Neal doesn't from a previous conversation.

GABLER: I'm with Jim!

BURNS: Hold on a second, let me ask you this question in all seriousness. When stories like this are covered, it is shown that ratings tend to give up. People want to watch this kind of story. And as Jane said, they want to know about this kind of story.

GABLER: No surprise.

BURNS: Just let me finish. Let me finish.

This is a democracy governmentally. Why shouldn't it be a democracy in terms of what television news presents. If people want this, why not give them this in addition to other stories?

GABLER: Because there's a responsibility by the media, particularly the news media, and the responsibility is not just to satisfy the public curiosity, which is what this is all about. Look it. She's young, she's sexy and her life is a trainwreck.

BURNS: I just said satisfy the curiosity and cover other stories.

GABLER: Because on this network alone in the first quarter of this year, only 15 percent of the time was dedicated to the war in Iraq. So unless you're going to give us more, deeper and intensive coverage, I don't see how you can justify this. And I think it's the height of hypocrisy, frankly, for us, I agree with Jim, for us to be discussing this and condemning the media, when we're doing it.

BURNS: When this show is about what the media do and the media are covering this story to a significant extent, we are irresponsible if we don't talk about it.

GABLER: I disagree with you. First of all, "The New York Times", "The Washington Post", "The L.A. Times", "The Chicago Tribune," don't cover this story.

BURNS: You want me to list the ones that do?

GABLER: NBC broadcast news, CBS broadcast news.

BURNS: Come on, Neal. Let's not do lists. I can do a long list of other media outlets.

GABLER: And smaller tabloid media like cable and tabloid.

BURNS: And large tabloid.

PINKERTON: And we can agree to disagree on this much, there's a ghettoization, there's a segmentation of the market in different media niches on this topic.

THOMAS: Here's what this show ones - story and ones like it tell us. There is no shame about anything in America anymore. And the Hollywood culture proves that more than anything. The father of this young woman goes on Larry King and talks about it. In the old days, nobody would have --- you would go to your priest, you would go to your rabbi, you would go to your church, you would pray about it, you would go into seclusion. But now you just go on television.

BURNS: And do you blame television for giving this story the air time or do you blame people who have an inherent interest in it?

THOMAS: Chicken and egg. The TV cameras, the microphones, carry whatever you put on them. But I agree with Neal, we have in this business a special obligation and responsibility under the First Amendment not to continue to give people junk food but once in a while give them something that is nourishing, this is not.

HALL: I think this is a child actress. If you have children, you know, you saw her in the remake of "Parent Trap." It is a story about Hollywood and it is worth covering. I don't feel the same way about this as I feel about Natalee Holloway and crime victims.

GABLER: It's the same story, Jane.

HALL: It's a celebrity story.

BURNS: It is -- And we're done talking about it. So that ought to make you two at least feel good.

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

ANNOUNCER: Hoops horror as the NBA reels from a betting scandal. Will the media help the league score a comeback?

And Harry Potter makes history. All next on NEWS WATCH.


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

Headline number one: Don't Bet on It. NBA Commissioner David Stern met the press Tuesday as the league struggles to recover from a betting scandal that Stern himself characterized as the worst situation the NBA has faced in 40 years. We're at an early stage of this, Neal, perhaps there are more people involved than one ref, perhaps there aren't. Can the NBA recover its image through the media in time?

GABLER: I think it already has. Everybody here knows that I'm one of the greatest NBA fans in the world. And I think the media coverage has been very tempered and very responsible as they wait to see if there are going to be any other disclosures or if it's only this single referee.

PINKERTON: I think in this case, if a picture is worth a thousand words then a video is worth a zillion words. The expression on Stern's face was so serious, this tells me, as a hunch, there's a lot more to come.

BURNS: Or that he's just so stunned by what's happened already.

PINKERTON: He looks worse than just one guy, one rogue ref.

THOMAS: But the networks, those that cover the NBA, carry the NBA games, have a tremendous financial interest in this. So it is going to be very interesting to see if they probe this with the same level of responsibility they give to other stories that they'd like to sensationalize for ratings.

BURNS: Interesting last week. ESPN has a stake in Michael Vick indirectly. I thought at least they were covering Michael Vick pretty fairly. Now there is another story, a negative story that ESPN and other next have a stake in. Jane, so there are going to be some interesting discussions in newsrooms.

HALL: Well, there's that old remark about, "Say it ain't so." And someone pointed out there are a lot of fans are saying, "Say it ain't so," about the NBA. I think Michael Vick, probably gives them cover because I see everybody being appalled by his charges about dog fighting and murdering. So in a way the NBA story doesn't look so bad by comparison.

PINKERTON: It's not just a sports story, though, it's a legal criminal story and that gets a whole bunch of new reporters in there rather than the usual chummy sports reporters.

GABLER: But also the FBI is fully investigating this. So I think much of the media will wait and see how the FBI, what determination they come to.

BURNS: Your point is objective more coverage, for that reason?

PINKERTON: New coverage. Without the kind of bias Cal is alluding to in terms of the commercial interest in the network going on.

BURNS: All right. "Quick Take" headline number two. Sauced in Space? They changed that.

Did NASA astronauts blast into space despite being so drunk that they posed a safety risk? Granted, not a laughing matter. That is the charge reported by "Aviation Week and Space Technology" on its Web site this week. The findings come from a special government investigation into astronaut health. NASA officials challenged the report saying the charges were anonymous and unsubstantiated. But this week we also learned that a computer destined for the International Space Station was deliberately sabotaged by a NASA worker. Cal, I wonder if this is the story the media hate because NASA is a hallowed institution or they love because NASA is a hallowed institution?

THOMAS: Well, both. You're right. To ask the question that way, I used to cover the early days of the space program as a reporter for a local NBC station in Houston. These were the best and the brightest. These were holy men and women, later women. These were people that we didn't even think had sex with their spouses, I mean, this is how great they were. But look, maybe these guys, if they really were drunk, were trained to be pilots on Northwest Airlines.


PINKERTON: I mean, look, I would have skeptical of the story until the Lisa Nowak, the astronaut accused of trying to murder a romantic rival. Once that story broke, now I'm starting to wonder maybe there's more of a rock to be pulled up than we might have thought.

HALL: I thought it was funny, too. And then I wondered. Someone said these guys are living their lives on the edge, what kind of pressures are they under? There's probably more to this story than we know.

GABLER: It makes you wonder if there was something in those old science fiction movies where people go out in space and they come back with something invading their souls.

BURNS: But is it in fact too early to be - for the media to be saying anything condemnatory because what we have right here, right now are charges.

GABLER: I think the media has been untempered. I said they were tempered about the NBA. Untempered here. Running with the story where they don't really have any of the facts yet.

PINKERTON: They have - "Aviation Week" is a legitimate publication, they deserve to be taken seriously for what they wrote, reported.

BURNS: "Quick Take" headline number three, Harry's History. It's official, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" made publishing history last week when the book sold 8.3 million copies in its first 24 hours in bookstores. And what's remarkable to me about this, and I hope you find worth discussing, Jim, is that this is the antithesis of a normal child's book. It is so much bigger, it is harder to read, it is not written for kids, it doesn't have pictures in it unless there are some illustrations, but kids are most of the people lined up at midnight to buy it.

PINKERTON: And it's getting great reviews from adults. And being read by adults. Look, it's a remarkable literary achievement, it's going to be one of the giant works of the 21st century, I guarantee.

THOMAS: Yeah. This is a phenomenon. I just got back from the U.K., same thing in Britain and Ireland as here, people lined up midnight, kids weren't allowed to stay up that late would be in line to get the first books.

But it is also a great human story. I love the story of J.K. Rowling, the author, she was a single mom on welfare. She had an idea. And now she has money second only to the queen of England. I love that. That's a conservative story.

BURNS: She was living in a car. Lord knows how many she has now.

GABLER: The media cannot get enough of this story. I think you can talk about the books themselves but this is a media story. And I think the media certainly didn't create this phenomenon, but, boy, have they amplified it.

HALL: Well, I think people in the media have an interest in people wanting to read. And it's great that she has this phenomenon. It's great that children are reading great literature. I hope she has more money than Queen Elizabeth. I'm for that.

BURNS: But not more money than Oprah.

HALL: I'll tell you what I didn't like and most people didn't like is the leaking, trying to leak who dies. Nobody really wants to know.

BURNS: We have to take one more break, and we'll be back with this.

ANNOUNCER: The Obama girl, the Giuliani girl and even the hot for Hillary girl, the candidates' curvy crusaders exit the Web and land on TV. That's next on NEWS WATCH.


BURNS: This is an actress and model known in an Internet video as the "Obama Girl."

This is an actress and model known in the same video as the "Giuliani Girl."

In the video the girls do such things as shake their groove things. I heard that in a disco song in the early `80s once, Neil and I think that's what it refers to.

They also attempt to settle political differences with a pillow fight. Which is a feat they reenacted on Fox News Channel's FOX & FRIENDS. Host Brian Kilmeade was impressed.


BRIAN KILMEADE, FOX NEWS HOST: A round of applause for women who have given it all for the democratic process. You don't get this in communism. That's one reasons why I am glad we are a free nation.


BURNS: The Obama Girl, Amber Lee Ettinger made a previous video singing a song called "I've Got a Crush on Obama" which has reportedly been viewed more than 3 million times. There is an Internet "Hillary Girl" who recently appeared on television with MSNBC's Chris Matthews.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, at first I thought it is ludicrous that me shaking my booty in a bikini is going to impact the election. But I guess from a broader scale we are getting young people more interested in politics. They are going on YouTube and they are at least think about the election. I don't think we are going to sway the votes either way. I hope not.


BURNS: So do we, young lady. So do we.

By the way the campaigns have nothing to do with these videos, their videos aren't nearly as entertaining. That's all the time we have left this week. Thanks to Jane Hall, Jim Pinkerton, Cal Thomas, Neil Gabler, thank you all for not doing any booty shaking during my "thank you"s.

And I am Eric Burns thanking now for watching. Now stay tuned to Fox for the latest news and more coming right up.

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