This is a rush transcript from "FOX News Watch," July 26, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
JON SCOTT, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: This week on "FOX News Watch," Barack Obama travels overseas and the media can't get enough of him. John McCain, the ex-boxer, fights to stay in the headlines during the Obama hoopla. Did he land any punches?
Plus, CBS can relax after Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction.
Michael Savage defends parents of kids of autism. Did the talk show host cross the line?
And hating each other in the City of Brotherly love, the case of the co-anchors, the computer, the cops and the coverage.
First the headlines, then us.
(FOX NEWS BREAK)
SCOTT: On our panel this week, Jane Hall of American university; Syndicated columnist Cal Thomas; Jim Pinkerton, contributing editor and writer for the "American Conservative" magazine; and Kirsten Powers, FOX News analyst and columnist.
I'm Jon Scott. "FOX News Watch" is on right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When you, the German people, tore down that wall, a wall that divided East and West, freedom and tyranny, fear and hope, walls came tumbling around the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: Well, in case you missed it, that was Barack Obama, speaking in Berlin on Thursday before an audience of 200,000 people or so. The senator arrived in Europe after visiting Afghanistan and Iraq and the Middle East. Coverage of the trip dominated the week all week long. Not surprisingly, a new FOX News Opinion Dynamics poll finds 67 percent of the Americans think that the media want Obama to win the election. Only 11 percent think that the press want McCain to win.
Kristin, what do you think about those poll numbers? Do the people have it right or wrong?
KIRSTEN POWERS, FOX NEWS ANALYST AND COLUMNIST: I think most people understand that most reporters are registered Democrats and so it is not surprising they are voting for the Democratic candidate. That said, I know...
SCOTT: They're not supposed to let that leak in the coverage.
KIRSTEN: I am not sure that poll shows that it is leaking into the coverage. I think if you ask that question at any given time they say that about the media. At the end of the day, no voters will make a vote on Election Day on whether the press is favoring Obama or not. It is the oldest campaign complaint in the world and it has no effect on what voters do.
SCOTT: Jane, let's get your take on that. It seems to me, if the coverage gets skewed one way or the other, it helps the candidate?
JANE HALL, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: There could be a slight back lash. I don't know how it might play out. If the Obama people believe their press clippings, that is a potential danger. I don't think it is not necessarily true that a lot of people in this country are as enthusiastic about his global world view, speaking to 200,000 Germans. They are not voting in the American election. Because the media is so pro him, is not getting expressed except on this network.
SCOTT: Jim, the McCain campaign is trying to take advantage of the Obama fervor in the press. Have they done that effectively?
JIM PINKERTON, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR & WRITER, "AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE": They pointed it out. I would dispute my colleagues. If press coverage is no big deal, why people fight so hard to get it? Why do they go to extraordinary lengths to...
SCOTT: Why do we have a show about press coverage?
PINKERTON: Why do they invite reporters for exclusive interviews on the planes and in Israel and Iraq? Obviously look, in politics, if you get five straight minutes of uninterrupted — good pictures and scenes of Obama meeting with foreign leaders — it makes your meters go up on people's minds. So it is enormously positive. And this has been Obama's...
POWERS: I'm saying is that didn't matter. What I'm saying is that what the voters think about media coverage being biased or not biased.
PINKERTON: Right. I think the McCain campaign, to go to Jon's question, is saying, look, folks watch this. It is not the American people trying to, elect Obama president. It is the media trying to elect the Obama president. That's a good argument. It might not win but it's a good argument.
SCOTT: Cal, I am sure you are champing at the bit to jump in here. But I want to ask you about the scenes and imagery from Obama's trip. Did it succeed in making him look presidential?
CAL THOMAS, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I think that's what his campaign wanted. The music should have been the old Negro spiritual, "Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho and the Walls Came Tumbling Down." There was so many walls failing, it looked like a demolition derby out there. But there was more worship of Obama on this trip than occurs in an average church on a Sunday morning. I've never seen anything like it. More than Kennedy and more than —it was messianic and unbelievable.
It was Jon Stewart on the daily show, Obama, when he was in Israel, should have gone back to Bethlehem to visit his birthplace.
That's the kind of thing we're talking about. It was over the top.
HALL: I think we should have kudos to Katie Couric who really asked Obama to the point where he said "Katie, you've asked me this three times." She took the...
SCOTT: And he didn't answer three times.
HALL: Yes, but she isolated it. She said are you saying the surge didn't work? How do we know the surge didn't work? Then they got in trouble for the way they edited the McCain glitch about what he was saying about the surge, took it out of context and either protected him or just had a glitch. I think she deserves kudos for sitting there and saying excuse me, but what is your real opinion on this?
SCOTT: If there is a crush in the media on Obama, is that starting to cool, Jim?
PINKERTON: I don't think so. Frankly I think they smell they can get Obama elected president. Why would they give up now?
THOMAS: Let's take a look at an "Investors Business Daily" editorial this week that really reveals some interesting information. It found 235 journalist donated money to Democrats and 20 gave to Republicans. When it came down to McCain and Obama, there was a 20 to 1 gap between the two of Democrats working in the media. Journalist, self identified journalists, contributing to the campaign. You cannot tell me that doesn't make a difference in coverage.
POWERS: Then how did Bush get elected two times. I mean, the idea is...
HALL: They were trying to prove they weren't.
POWERS: No, the point of this it's always been the same dynamic and it is not — John McCain is not doing badly because of the media. John McCain is doing badly because he is running a bad campaign. I don't know what he wants them to focus on because all he is is just one gaffe after another. He's confusing major things on foreign policy. Does he really want the media focused on him? Because I think that they could make...
PINKERTON: I think he'd like if they focused on his ideas of Iraq and his ideas on energy independence and his ideas on opposing Obama tax increase.
SCOTT: All right, we're going to have wrap it up there. Time for a break. We'll be back in two minutes with this.
ANNOUNCER: They are in love. The McCain campaign complains about the media's love affair with Barack Obama. How did McCain fight back, next on "News Watch."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Sean, you know very well that if anybody complains that is just non-productive. I am happy with where our campaign is. We are very close in the polls. I am happy with how we are doing. I look forward to the convention and the two months following. I am convinced we can win this race. I am the underdog and have a lot of work to do but I am proud of our campaign.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: There's John McCain making news of his own on a one-on-one interview with FOX's Sean Hannity on Wednesday.
Cal, we touched on this before. The McCain campaign has been openly upset about the adulation that Barack Obama is getting in the media. But with Hannity, he had a chance to rebut some of that or to take it on and he didn't really seem to go after it.
THOMAS: I think you have to. I watched the interview. Sean gave him at least three opportunities that I counted to go for the jugular.
Look, McCain needs to go on "Extreme Makeover." Kirsten is right in the previous segment. He is not running a good campaign. Even the conservatives don't know what he believes in. One day he's for one thing and the other day he is for the opposite. He has got to go after the juggler. If Lee Atwater were running the campaign, who convinced George Bush 41 to quite being Mr. Nice Guy and go after Mike Dukakis and it worked and he got elected. That is what John McCain is going to have to do, particularly in the media.
SCOTT: But if he starts complaining, will the media tear him apart?
HALL: We have to remember John McCain benefited enormously — he was the love object in 2000. So you know, I think he may genuinely be hesitant to go forward.
I think what is interesting. He had this line about Obama would rather lose a war than win a campaign. People said that is going too far. I think he has a tough thing to do. The closeness in the polls to me, given everything else, indicates that people are nervous. There is a little bit of buyer's remorse. Do we want somebody who doesn't have that much experience?
SCOTT: Jim, columnist, Bob Novak, suggested McCain would name the vice-presidential pick to steal some Obama's thunder. Well, that didn't happen.
PINKERTON: Well, it was not a bad tactic...
SCOTT: To float it out there?
PINKERTON: ... to get pictures of Tim Pawlenty and Mitt Romney and whoever on the TV for a while, interfering with Obama and Israel and so on.
SCOTT: You think it worked?
PINKERTON: It was a decent tactic, although I'm sure...
SCOTT: The media bit.
PINKERTON: Novak is probably a little mad now because he feels used and so on. I have to agree with Cal and that is I think that McCain people have to get a message. This is a media thing. I think if they went after the media and who picks the president, the liberal press or the voters. I think the voters would say the voters. They have to make that choice clear and hard.
The campaign is doing it with video of the Frankie Valli song and so on of how much the media loved Obama. But as Cal said, McCain's steps on your own message. You have to do both. You have to hit on both barrels.
SCOTT: Kirsten's shaking her head.
POWERS: I just would leave the media thing alone. I don't think the voters really — shoot...
SCOTT: John McCain used to call the media his base.
POWERS: Exactly. It is all flat because of that reason. He should do more — look at Hillary's campaign. She complained about the media and it didn't work for her. The things that started to work for her was when she went after what you were just talking about, where people do have serious doubts about Obama. They attack the John McCain name. It was nasty and it was mean that he didn't do the job. John McCain needs a 3:00 a.m. ad that provokes the emotion.
HALL: You run a tougher Republican campaign that he has.
PINKERTON: What worked for the Hillary campaign was the "Saturday Night Live" spot where she took the media on and said, you're obviously in the tank for Obama. And the media said yes, we are. And it changed and she confronted them and it worked.
THOMAS: It does work attacking the media for the Republican base. It may not work for others. but tied in not only with the media coverage but with Barack Obama's extreme liberalism and going down issue by issue of what he believes in, from tax increases and same-sex marriage and populating the supreme court with a living Constitution, that would work in a campaign commercial or interviews. But we don't see any of that.
HALL: He's had several gaffes, first of all around foreign policy and then when he said I don't know much about economics. And then when Phil Gramm said we are a nation of whiners, he's had a series of missteps you can't blame on the media.
SCOTT: Jim, did the "New York Times" give McCain a gift when it refused to publish his op-ed piece after it had published one from Barack Obama?
PINKERTON: Absolutely. "The Times" at its best functions as sort of the national board for discussions on this.
SCOTT: Because conservatives love to hate "The Times."
PINKERTON: Yes. But the point is that all of the news is fit to print. So if one presidential gets an op-ed, the other ought to get an op- ed.
For the editor to say, oh, it wasn't good enough or something, that doesn't matter. It's good enough to get McCain nominated for president.
THOMAS: That's right.
PINKERTON: Then the "New York Post" ran it and it was an expression of McCain's opinion. That is showing the snippy and snarkiness that Republicans — as Cal said, all Republicans know the mainstream media are against them and you've got to use that leverage like...
SCOTT: What do you think, Jane, media, bias?
HALL: McCain had more of ad hominem attack Obama and his patriotism. I can see them saying can you change it. But from a P.R. standpoint, if I'm running the P.R. for the "New York Times," talk about a gift to people who think they are unfair. This is a big one.
SCOTT: All right, we have to take another break. We'll be back with this.
ANNOUNCER: A federal court said CBS doesn't have to pay for Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction after all. And radio talk show host, Michael Savage, under fire for comments about kids with autism. All next, on "News Watch."
SCOTT: That huge sigh of relief you heard from the television set is courtesy of CBS and your local CBS affiliate. The federal appeals court tossed out the half million dollar fine that CBS was ordered to pay for Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction at the Super Bowl in 2004. Remember that? The court ruled that the flash of flesh on the screen for nine- sixteenths of a second was too quick to warrant such punishment.
All right. Cal, is there any standard of decency anymore?
THOMAS: I've studied this carefully, Jon as an intrepid journalist. There is more skin shown on "CBS's Victoria Secret" show than in that millisecond. I think it's a ridiculous fine. I am glad it was over turned.
THOMAS: Yes, absolutely.
SCOTT: Any — Jim?
PINKERTON: I have no opinion on the fine, except to say that the issue is not the money. The issue is the future ability of the government to do this. It was an advent drastically diminished. They spent more in lawyers over the last four and a half years than the fine ever amounted to and set a principle that holds that the networks are not responsible for something that happens that they don't plan. In this case, somebody else's half time show.
HALL: I think it was an appropriate decision. It was live. Bono said a word we can't say on the air, an adjective and they ruled the other way. The tide shifts. It's dangerous for the FCC to go after wardrobe lapses.
I will say, in defense of the broadcast networks, cable — MTV is — the average MTV video is so much more salacious than what they are held on.
POWERS: It is probably that people don't sit around with their children watching MTV and they...
HALL: And that's the presumption, right.
POWERS: And in the end, it is not a good use of the government's time and it's not what they should be doing. This was not anywhere near as egregious as people want to make it out to be in terms of harming children.
SCOTT: So if nine-sixteenths of a second is OK, Cal, what is unacceptable, nine seconds?
THOMAS: I didn't know it happened until they replayed it. Then it was frame by frame.
SCOTT: You were at the fridge getting a sandwich.
THOMAS: I was reading the Braille edition of "Playboy." I don't know.
SCOTT: It is supposed to be a family event, the Super Bowl, and there were a lot of parents that was outraged that it turned into an S&M show or something.
PINKERTON: They were running Paul McCartney. So the networks, CBS — they're responding to the pressure. The question is whether the FCC should be involved.
POWERS: Just the way — the response of the viewers, the people who - - the consumers how...
SCOTT: If the network can pay Katie Couric $14 million, what is the big deal about a half million dollar fine?
PINKERTON: Because they don't want to accept the principle involved with is.
HALL: There is a principle. There is a principle.
PINKERTON: It's a precedent.
HALL: Broadcast is funny. It's semi-regulated. It's not simply First Amendment but there are First Amendment rights that should be protected.
SCOTT: We'll have the dirty words in the next segment.
On this controversial story, conservative radio talk show host, Michael Savage, said this on a recent program.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL SAVAGE, CONSERVATIVE TALK SHOW HOST: I tell you what autism is in 99 percent of the cases. It's a brat who hasn't been told to cut the act out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: That got people steamed. There were protests and calls for Michael Savage's head. He said the comments were taken out of context.
HALL: The old out of context. What is the context for that?
SCOTT: Is that the best defense.
POWERS: It's shocking that Michael Savage would say something insensitive. Who cares what Michael Savage thinks?
THOMAS: People say more outrageous things than that. Howard Stern has made a career out of outrageous. He was on CBS with his own television show for a while.
PINKERTON: But there is a value, as a civilization, in saying, look, some things are out of bounds. It may not be illegal but we're not supposed to say them. It was cruel and it was wrong and factually inaccurate. I hope that eventually Savage come to apologize.
SCOTT: You can't make fun of sick kids, is that what you're saying?
PINKERTON: Among the people you can't make fun of. But, yes, it...
HALL: Illness. In a way, I think in a way it is the market responding. You can say these are parents of autistic children but I think common decency says you don't make fun of children that have an illness. It's kind of like when Rush got in trouble for saying Michael J. Fox's Parkinson's was an act. Just certain boundaries you don't cross
SCOTT: Does it come down to free speech? Both of these stores, Janet Jackson?
POWERS: I have to say I think it's different when you attack and individual and you're making a stupid statement about a group of people. He is obviously uninformed. It was not a scientific statement or medical statement. At some point, I feel like it is not — I don't know why people expend the energy worrying about what talk show host is saying.
PINKERTON: He does have a voice. Some kid is autistic and is in school and is getting picked on. There's lots of ramifications. Everybody who has an autistic child knows how painful it is. Savage was adding more pain to the equation.
THOMAS: One of the problems is that there are no lines. He crossed the line. There are no lines for decency. There are no lines for common decency.
POWER: And could he apologize, but it doesn't matter if he doesn't mean it.
SCOTT: We have to take one more break. We'll be right back with this.
ANNOUNCER: A jealous anchor hacks in his co-anchor's e-mail. Did he wreck her career? The story is next on "News Watch."
SCOTT: TV news anchors are supposed to report the news but sometimes they become the news. That's what happened to a Philadelphia station. This week, a U.S. attorney charged former KYW anchor, Larry Mendte, with violating the privacy of his co-anchor, Alycia Lane, not because he sat too close to her on the set or borrowed her makeup. No, Mr. Minty hacked into her private e-mail accounts, or so he is accused.
Even though news anchors read each other's copy, it is against the law to read their e-mail without permission. Mendte is accused of more than 500 intrusions, sometimes up to 10 a day. Then, authorities say, he leaked damaging personal information from Lane's e-mails to the press. There were reports that she e-mailed a picture of herself in a bikini to a married sports anchor, for example. How did that happen? That leak put her in the news and eventually helped push her out of the anchor chair. Of course, her very public scuffle with a New York City police officer didn't help either.
Lane was fired earlier this year. Her lawyer said Minty was jealous because she was making about $100,000 more than he was. Minty's lawyer said his client accepts the responsibility for his actions. He's expected to plead guilty to one count of hacking in about two weeks. Both anchors have been disgraced. Minty faces up to six month in prison. He can use that time to practice his ad-libs.
That's all the time we have this week.
Thanks to Jane Hall, Jim Pinkerton, Cal Thomas and Kirsten Powers.
I am Jon Scott. Thanks for watching. The "FOX Report" is up next.
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