Transcript: 'FOX News Watch,' August 25, 2007

This is a rush transcript from "FOX News Watch," August 25, 2007. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BILL HEMMER, GUEST HOST: This week on "FOX News Watch", three brutal slayings igniting a media debate about crime and illegal immigrants. What took them so long?

The public has mainstream media. It's called the web.

And did Barack Obama's wife take a swipe at Hillary Clinton as the news media pumped that up?

A Seattle newspaper deciding not to help find these suspicious men. We'll ask why.

And is this the face and the shape of things to come?

First the headlines, and then us.


HEMMER: It has been a big week for news, and news coverage. Let's get started with Jim Pinkerton of Newsday, Rich Lowry, editor of the National Review, in for Cal Thomas, who is on assignment in Ireland. Jane Hall from the American University, and media writer Neal Gabler is here too. I'm Bill Hemmer. Good weekend to you. In for Eric Burns. "FOX News Watch" is on right now.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're going to take a closer look now at how a brutal triple murder in New Jersey is fueling the outcry against illegal immigrants. We've told you about the killings, the senseless shootings of three college students in the city of Newark. Two of the suspects were in this country illegally, and some say it's a crime that never would have occurred if immigration laws were enforced.


HEMMER: That, from ABC News, is one of several reports this past week about the Newark slayings in New Jersey, sparking the sudden interest in illegal criminals by the mainstream media.

Let's start with Jim.

Are we late to this party, Jim?

JIM PINKERTON, NEWSDAY: I think we were. Pat Buchanan, as almost always, said it well, this will be like the Willie Horton incident on illegal immigration. It was in the 1988 presidential campaign. And now 20 years later, we're revisiting the crime issue. Although we did much to restrain crime in the past, we have a whole new wave of criminality coming, and we have to do something about it. And the media are late on picking up on it.

HEMMER: Do you think this is a Willie Horton moment, Jane?

JANE HALL, AMERICAN INSTITUTE: I think it could be. It's hard to argue that these people should not have been at least given over to the government, that they had been arrested. And the mayor of Newark, — it seems as if the public has been much more on this issue as a crime issue and the politicians in the media have viewed it as a template about immigration, and that's not working.

HEMMER: And it's put that way too.

HALL: And Bill O'Reilly was doing stories about this early, and the public seems to be more in line with him.

HEMMER: Rich, when the mayor comes out and says, I'm not going to charge my employees with checking whether or not you're legal or illegal, how does the public respond is to that?

RICH LOWRY, NATIONAL REVIEW: I think he makes a decent case. In general, you want the illegal immigrants that are around, you want them feel comfortable calling the police and reporting things. But when it comes to people who are arrested — this guy allegedly committed the murders was not someone you need not to report to the feds because he was going to report things to the cops, this is absurd. And this is a story driven by the grass roots. I tip my hat to ABC and others who picked it up, but they wouldn't have if people like Newt Gingrich and Tom Tancredo hadn't been banging the drums on it.

HEMMER: Tom Tancredo went into New Jersey this past week.

Neal, what do you make of this?

NEAL GABLER, MEDIA WRITER: What I make of it is that the comparison to Willie Horton is just as bogus as the Willie Horton idea. To say that because an illegal alien committed a crime then all illegal aliens are thus suspected or possible murderers is absolutely absurd. It's crazy.

HEMMER: I think what people found out on that, Neal, is that, first, he was ill legal and then they found he had been indicted on two other...


GABLER: If you were an American citizen and had been indicted, one of the crimes being a child abuse case, why wasn't he in jail? That has nothing to do with the fact that he was illegal.


GABLER: I'll tell what you I think the media has missed here. What the media is missing is the fact that, for example — and I'll read you some statistics, from Ruben Rumbaut, the sociology professor at the University of California - Irvine, who says that the misperception of immigrants, especially illegal immigrants, are responsible for higher crime rates, is deeply rooted in American public opinion, which you just heard. But it's wrong. It's not supported. Robert Sampson, the chair from the sociology department from Harvard, said that immigrants lower the crime rate.

LOWRY: They don't.

PINKERTON: Neal, sling around professors, we're here to talk about the media coverage.

GABLER: What I'm saying is the media coverage...

PINKERTON: And the media coverage is finally waking up to the endless chain of stories you see on the Internet of drunk driving and runaways and so on, of rampant criminality. And the best media coverage, this is about the media, and the "Newark Star Ledger" said that Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark, is running a P.C. effort blaming it on budget cuts when the reality is that it's illegal immigration that has wrecked the safety of much of urban America.


GABLER: The media coverage is this. The media is making it seem as if illegal immigrants raise crime rates. What the media ought to be doing...


HEMMER: Believe it or not, in 15 months, you're going to have a national election for the White House. And if it's true that the media is now catching on to these stories, like illegal immigration in New Jersey and the crime that comes from that.

GABLER: With misinformation.

HEMMER: where does that come on the list of priority for voters in 2008?

HALL: I think the Bush administration misjudged public opinion on this. They don't trust the government to enforce it.

HEMMER: Jane, is it number one, is it number two, is it number five?

HALL: I think it's a big issue. And talk radio drove it and FOX was...


RICH: Can I address the point here? The point is not illegal immigrants, what the crime rates are, or not. It's this guy was arrested a couple of times, and they should have checked his immigration status and if he was illegal, he should have been held and deported. And that's what the media is finally picking up on. And only because there's a grass roots outrage.

GABLER: What does the illegal alien have to do with it? If he's been arrested twice, what would you do with an American citizen?


HEMMER: We've got to go to commercial break.

Time out now. Back with this in a moment.

ANNOUNCER: News viewers are growing less trustful of the mainstream media, and the Internet is giving them a chance to fire back. Details next on "FOX News Watch."


HEMMER: If you follow the news, chances are you're not as happy with it as you used to be. That's the results from a study on press values and performance from the Pew Research Center. That study finding that, quote, "The American public continues to fault news organizations for a number of perceived failures, with solid majorities criticizing them for political bias, inaccuracy and failing to acknowledge mistakes," end quote.

At the same time, several Internet websites, including the liberal Media Matters and the conservative Media Research Center, are offering daily reviews of the media's performance, pointing out a bias or a mistake or watching the press's every move. Good thing or not?

Rich Lowry's back in the house on this one. There was a time not too long ago, if it happened on TV, it was gone. No longer.

LOWRY: I'm very glad those days are gone. We didn't need three anchors telling us the voice of God, what to believe. And people are taking it as the word of God, the proliferation of all the watch dog organizations is good. And people shouldn't trust the media.


HEMMER: Shouldn't trust us. Come on, Rich.

HALL: I disagree.

HEMMER: Give us more credit than that.

Neal, what do you think about that?

GABLER: I'm not in disagreement with Rich. I think the fact that so much of the Internet, at least the political Internet, is devoted to deconstructing media coverage is a good thing, both the left and the right. They're not letting the media get away with anything. And that's the way it should be.

HEMMER: Have you ever changed a story based on what a writer or a viewer wrote in to you?

HALL: Yes, I have.

HEMMER: How did it influence you?

HALL: You have an accountability you used to not have. You used to not be able to get NBC on the phone if you had a problem on a story. And they exposed Don Imus' racism by it's being on YouTube and Media Matters. But I don't think it's a good thing to end up with people trusting us less. They still like our watch dog function. People who watch FOX — because they beat up on the media a lot — have a stronger negative opinion of the media than other networks. I'm not so sure it's so good for people to be beaten up on all the time.

HEMMER: At the risk of defending all of us to a fault, when the big stories come around, like Katrina and 9/11, the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, that trust is rebuilt again — Jim?

PINKERTON: If the media earn it. And according to the survey, support for the press went up after 9/11. And that goes to the real news, which is in the Pew Center data online, and people, by a plurality, think that the media don't stand up for America.

HEMMER: They think we're anti-patriotic?

PINKERTON: They don't think — the way the question was, the media don't care about ordinary people, about what's right and wrong. And here's the punch: those findings are stronger among the young and the Internet savvy. The people you think would be most cynical and jaded, because their young and college kids, are the most anxious to see a sense of virtue.

HEMMER: So you're feeding into Rich's point.

LOWRY: I've got both Neal and Jim, so I must be right.


LOWRY: I'm — as a columnist, when they were printed online, you get so much more feedback and you get so many more corrections. When things appear in print, you tend not to hear about them. But people online are more engaged and they really keep you on your toes.

HEMMER: Has it forced you to change your story?

LOWRY: It makes you more careful, and everyone should be more careful.


HALL: It's a reflection of an increasingly partisan media divide, which again, I think there should be some set of facts on some stories on which we can agree, and that's being undermined by the Internet.

GABLER: Let's me pick up on what you're saying. One of the things that's interesting in this poll is the difference between Democrats and Republicans and between those who watch FOX.

HEMMER: How so?

GABLER: Republicans and "FOX News Watch" viewers are — FOX News viewers, are much more cynical about the press. And I think there's a reason for that. And that is, for 25 years or more, the right wing has been waging a war against an independent objective press. The mainstream press supported the war and Bush. And the right wing press has said you can't trust the press.


HEMMER: People are playing gotcha with the press, and the press doesn't like it.

PINKERTON: That's right. It's been 40 years, since Spiro Agnew, in 1959 first started saying...

GABLER: I said 25 years or more.

PINKERTON: Fair enough. In the speech in Des Moines, Iowa, where Agnew talked about negativism. He hit a cord.


PINKERTON: Hold on. Nixon sailed to re-election in 1972. And the country's politics moved substantially to the right because Nixon and Agnew and Pat Buchanan and William Safire, understood that the heart of the Democratic Party was a liberal media bias, pushing them forward. And that lead...


HEMMER: That's another reason why I love this show.

That survey also says more Americans rate the media ahead of Congress, ahead of the Supreme Court, ahead of Democratic and Republican parties. We're doing something right.

Another break, back in a moment with "Quick Takes on the Media."

ANNOUNCER: The press goes crazy when Mrs. Obama takes a shot at Hillary, but was it overblown? And would you let this blond Texan deliver your news? Details next on "FOX News Watch."


HEMMER: Welcome back. I'm in for Bill Hemmer, in this week for Eric Burns. Time for the "Quick Media Takes." Headline number one is this: The rubber gloves come off.


M. OBAMA: And my view is that if you can't run your own house, you certainly can't run the White House. Can't do it.


HEMMER: That was in one speech that apparently went on for a week. And the media picked up on it after a writer in the Chicago Sun Times wrote about it.

Jane, was she hitting back at Hillary Clinton?

HALL: I think it was partially a figment of the American media's imagination and our wish for a cat fight. She said we take care of our daughters.

HEMMER: We were imaging that, were we?

HALL: And it shows we're screwed up about male-female power relations, which are reflected in our much is let this spouses talk.

HEMMER: Yesterday, the writer Jennifer Hunter said she was putting two and two together and not reaching a conclusion, but a lot of other people did.

LOWRY: I don't think it was a shot at Hillary. But any time you bring up values or family in any context of the Clintons, you know, the people are going to read too much into it.

PINKERTON: Any time you bring up values and family in the primary, you have to be careful. Let's face it, there's a substantial vote, as the Clinton's discovered to their joy in the late '90s, that absolutely doesn't care, as an energetically atheist economist issue and doesn't want to hear it. And we'll hear from Neal in a second.

GABLER: I'm not going to touch that.

I'm just going to read you the rest of the speech, right after you cut that off. At least a little bit of it. "Our view was that if you can't run your own house, you certainly can't run the White House. So we've adjusted our schedule to make sure that our girls first. So while he's traveling around" — that is Barack Obama — "I do day trips. That means I get to go in the morning. I get the girls ready." She's talking about how she runs their family.

HEMMER: I don't think it was a hit on Hillary Clinton at all but Matt Drudges picked it up, they jump on it and there it goes.


HALL: And it's the media making a cat fight.

HEMMER: Headline number two: Suspicious behavior gets no coverage. The FBI in Seattle has asked for the public's help in identifying two men seen, quote, "exhibiting unusual behavior on board several ferries recently." In an effort to identify the men, they have released the photos, the FBI did. A major newspaper in Seattle will not publish them, saying, according to managing editor, quote, "We have no confirmation that these men's behavior was anything but innocuous, and to forever taint them by associating them with terrorism under these circumstances is not consistent with out policy. Ferry security is hugely important. So are civil liberties and privacy."

Jim, did they make the right call?

PINKERTON: I think it's the wrong call. This is why people hate the media. They don't think the media are looking out for the well-being of ordinary people.

HEMMER: Why did they hold out? A question of civil liberties in giving up these guys' identities?


PINKERTON: And also mistrust of the government.

HEMMER: But history will tell you, Ahmed Hassam was on one of those ferries prior to the millennium and was headed to for the airport in L.A.

Rich, is the paper at fault?

LOWRY: Well, the Seattle P.I. runs my column. So I can't say...


HEMMER: Rich Lowry has recused himself.

Neal, what do you think of that decision?


GABLER: Here's the story. The story is that the FBI finds two people suspicious. So if you're covering the story, you ought to have the photographs in the newspaper. That's not endorsing the view of the FBI saying they're guilty or innocent. That's just the story. They didn't cover the story.

HEMMER: Seems to me they were questioning the veracity of the FBI and the information they were putting out.

Jane, quickly, and we're going to go to...

HALL: Well, you know, there is an argument to be made if don't want to public the pictures of people that the FBI is somewhat suspicious of. See Richard Jewel and the millions he got for being labeled by the media. But this was multiple activities. This was serious. I don't see why in the heck you don't print the photos. They were all over the television.

HEMMER: All right, let's get to the fun topic of the week. Headline number three: Does T&A beat a Ph.D. at KYTX?

Meet Lauren Jones, start of the new reality show "Anchorwoman" premiering this week. The show follows her as she becomes the 5:00 new anchor at a station in Tyler, Texas, Channel 19. She has no journalism experience, none. But she's blond and she's a former bikini model. And before we make fun of her, she has a degree from the Fashion Institute of Technology here in New York City, FIT. Are we threatened by this?

PINKERTON: The audiences were underwhelmed. The show was canceled after one episode.

HEMMER: She's a whole lot of blond but not a whole lot of anchor woman.

PINKERTON: Being good looking obviously helps you on television. But you have to have something to say, you have to have news, judgment and news to present. And they didn't have any, and the show was canceled. And good riddance.

HEMMER: Good decision. That's the way I see it. If the show was any good, it would still be on the air.

GABLER: I'm not sure that's the reason the show was canceled, not do I think you have to have some...

HEMMER: But no one watched it.

GABLER: ... or anything else. I don't necessarily believe that's true. I think the reason it got canceled — obviously, nobody watched it. But why didn't they watch it? I'm guessing here — it's pure speculation - - but in some ways, they dealt with the sacred here, which is television news, and they profaned it.

LOWRY: And there's a belief among the priesthood of the media you have to be special. If you're good-looking and reasonably smart, you can do the local news. And this was not canceled because of the news value. It was the production values weren't very good. And it wasn't very dramatic as a reality show. But there's no reason this woman could not do local news. And I want Lauren Jones to note that I'm defending her.


HALL: I thought maybe I should tell my students to work on their dressing skills, the shortest skirt, the lowest neckline, not learn how to do anything else, but lie on an anchor desk.

HEMMER: And that's the way it is.

HALL: That may be the way we're going.

HEMMER: Let's take a break. Much more when we come back.

ANNOUNCER: From comedian to lefty radio bouncies (ph), to FOX TV hit "24," could this be the end of Jack Bauer? That's next on "FOX News Watch."


HEMMER: First, she was known for comedy routines and then for her movies. And then Janeane Garofalo got political and became an outspoken anti-war activist, which led to this memorable exchange on "FOX and Friends" back in 2003.


INTERVIEWER: Not that nice, not good...

JANEANE GAROFALO: Yes, and guys like you that are — at FOX, you are combative and...

INTERVIEWER: I will not let you get off because you are a celebrity.

GAROFALO: Why am I — what the hell does me being a celebrity have to do with anything, what does my occupation have to do with anything?

INTERVIEWER: That is reason you are here.


Well, Garofalo went on to co-host a show that flopped on the liberal radio network, Air America. It wasn't entirely her fault. The network flopped, too.

She left her radio gig in 2006 and kept a low profile since then. Now comes word this week that ultra-liberal Garofalo will join the super right wing cast of the FOX TV hit drama, "24." As government agent Janice Gold, she and her team will investigate a crisis facing the show's lead character, Jack Bauer, who knows what the man who created Bauer was thinking. Executive producer Joel Surnow has happily described himself as a right wing nut job. Could Garofalo be Bauer's biggest threat or a way to keep viewers glued to the TV sets? We can only say, stay tuned.

That's all time we have this week. Many thanks to Jane Hall, Jim Pinkerton, Rich Lowry and Neal Gabler. I'm Bill Hemmer, in for Eric Burns. Thanks for watching. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

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