This is a rush transcript from "FOX News Watch," August 23, 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 finally picks his running mate and the media have a lot to say.
Will it be chaos at the Democratic convention? How will the press handle the politics?
Plus is the press ignoring our athlete's patriotic messages from the Olympic Games.
And who do you trust when you look for news?
On the panel this week Kirsten Powers, Fox News analyst.
Syndicated columnist Cal Thomas joins me in Denver.
Jim Pinkerton, contributing editor and writer for the "American Conservative Magazine.
And Joe Strupp, senior editor at "Editor and Publisher Magazine." I'm Jon Scott coming to you live from the Pepsi Center in Denver. "FOX News Watch."
Today I come back to Springfield to tell you that I've found that leader. A man with a distinguished record. A man with fundamental decency, and that man is Joe Biden.
All right. Barack Obama made it official today after stringing the media along all this week. He finally introduced his pick for the number two position, Delaware Senator Joe Biden.
All right, Cal. So now that we know it's going to be Biden, what do you think of the media coverage. Is it what you expected?
CAL THOMAS, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Not really. I think he played it safe. David Brooks in the "New York Times" this had an excellent column making a case from a conservative perspective. I found it rather an amazing column.
But look, from a media perspective, John, this is manna from heaven. Joe Biden has been around for a long time. There's a lot of clips, including some we've run on this network even today saying, I will never be a vice president or secretary of state and a lot of clips criticizing Barack Obama for not being experienced enough in foreign policy.
SCOTT: What about those statements, Jim. I mean there are a lot of them, including remarks he made about Barack Obama on the opening day of his campaign. How do the media handle those?
PINKERTON: And Biden praising McCain and saying he's honored to serve with him. The McCain people in a record of rapid response put out that ad I think two hours after the Biden selection. Look, Joe Biden has been frankly running at the mouth for almost 40 years now in American politics. So, of course, they're going to find a rich trove of stuff to choose from and I think we're just seeing the beginning of it now.
SCOTT: Kirsten, what about the whole change thing? Are the media supposed to hold Barack Obama's feet to the fire on the idea that he is an agent of change when he picks one of the longest serving senators?
KIRSTEN POWERS, FOX NEWS ANALYST/COLUMNIST: I think he can still be an agent of change. I said this before, he has to balance this out a little bit. And the big issue that you see that came up, you certainly saw it in the primary with Hillary Clinton, you see it with John McCain people say he doesn't have enough experience. I think the overarching mood of the country is to want change. And more people say they want change and experience.
But at the end of the day there's a basic bar that you have to reach and I think people want to feel there's somebody there who he has the experience in foreign policy and he knows his way around, much in the same way that George Bush needed Dick Cheney because he was seen as not having as much substance as voters wanted him to have.
SCOTT: Joe, what about all the speculation. The media spent hours and hours and tons of ink all week long speculating who the presidential nominee was going to pick. Did they overdo it?
JOE STRUPP, "EDITOR & PUBLISHER": Overdo it? Come on. Just because cameras camped out at every house. And the Obama-Bayh bumper stickers out there and everyone waiting for this announcement. This is a slow week before a very busy week in Denver. They've got something to latch on to, it's 24 hours news, et cetera, et cetera.
It's funny I've never heard so many great things and so many bad things in the last few hours since Biden was picked. Survived a terrible family ordeal but then again loves McCain, he's ripped into Obama. He's too Washington, he's too liberal. He's not liberal — I don't know, it's all mashed together. But that's air time.
SCOTT: But, John, now all the speculating doesn't matter. We know who the guy is and now you can start a new round of stories.
STRUPP: You have to get into the real issues. We say all along, we have to start questioning him. A lot of the tape is going to haunt him where he said things about Obama good and bad, about McCain good and bad. But they are going to have to start questioning getting into the issues and asking what these guys are going to do. And also what McCain's going to do when his pick comes through.
PINKERTON :For example, John, I mean, Barack Obama's lifetime rating for the American Conservative Union on a 1 to 100 scale. With 100 being most conservative. For perspective, John McCain's an 83. Barack Obama is an eight. That's pretty liberal. Joe Biden's life line record in 36 years in Senate is 14. So I think that as people look back at decades and decades of liberal votes they will have a better sense of who he is.
THOMAS: Well, let's give Obama some credit. He built tension up, the anticipation on this. He made the announcement by text message to his supporters. Well, look, a lot of us who may not be his supporters were in on that because it's part of the game. What's McCain going to do to counter that? He couldn't do the same thing.
Look, I think we got the media message. I think we're going to see throughout this campaign, we're going to see it in their commercials. Basically what the message is from Obama and Biden is your life sucks. It's all McCain and Bush's fault, vote for us and the day we take office your life will be better. That's all you need to know.
SCOTT: What about the text messaging though, is that out for John McCain?
POWERS: For him to do it as a text message? Does John McCain know what a text message is? I don't think so. He can ask Cindy.
PINKERTON: John, I think it was a good tactic. I think Obama built a huge list this way of people receiving his text message. I don't see why the McCain people wouldn't do the exact same thing.
One thing McCain has done early on, does more of and a lot of people respond to is negative ads. He's come out with one today, he is going to come out with other ones that are going to keep pushing. Obama's going to have to get his own push back or focus on the issues. We know the negatives work and they're going to keep working. He's up on that for the moment.
SCOTT: Time for a break from this special live edition of "News Watch." But first...
ANNOUNCER: Convention chaos? How will the press handle the pumped up politics in Denver? Next on "News Watch."
SCOTT: "Conventions are mini dramas made for news coverage. Every hour, especially in the evening, is carefully scripted. Voters understand conventions are theatrical productions." That from Karl Rove, President Bush's former senior advisor, current Fox News contributor, that from a column in the "Wall Street Journal" on Thursday.
Kirsten, do you think that that order could be in danger this time around. Might Hillary Clinton's people really throw this convention into some chaos? Are they itching for a fight? And do the media want one?
POWERS: Well, I think they are itching for a fight and the media loves conflict. They'd love to cover that as well. The question is whether or not they actually disrupt something if they have enough people to do that. I wrote a column earlier in the week with the Hillary groups and there's quite a few of them, actually. You'd be surprised how many are in existence and how many events they're having. And I can tell you that there definitely planning to do stuff.
Whether they're able to execute it, that's another story.
Another thing that's come up is there's a petition going around because they want Hillary to be the vice president. And so these are the kind of things going on behind the scenes and we have to see whether they actually are able to accomplish what they would like to do which is to be disruptive.
SCOTT: Don't the media, Jim, don't they like conflict? Wouldn't they like to see a big battle between the forces of Hillary and the forces of Obama here?
PINKERTON: Sure. Because it brings back the key element of news as opposed to theater which is in news you don't know what's going to happen. The script hasn't been written yet. Obviously the Obama people try to control this. I think they badly underestimated the energy of the Hillary Clinton supporters and therefore the inventiveness will show in terms of making this roll call. Where all those gruesome states where Obama, like Pennsylvania where Obama got beat 2-1. You can be sure the Hillary people will be crowing on national television as Pennsylvania goes 80-2 for Hillary. But I do think that reporters obviously like news but they also like theater. They also like pageantry. There's a reason why people got into political reporting anyway. They sort of like the game, like the balloons and like to see a spiffy convention. They like the Republican Convention 2004 because it was so well .
SCOTT: Cal is nodding his head I think in agreement with you. But when it comes to a convention like this, Cal, can the media really — I mean can the party totally control the message? Is there any chance of this thing breaking off of the script?
THOMAS: Yes. I agree with that part of what Jim said. But look, there are always tones to these conventions. As we're surrounded by these big sky boxes, john, and the main street media ones, ABC, CBS and NBC and some of the liberal cable networks, which we will not mention, they will not challenge Democrats, any Democrat interviewed on the substance of their policy. For example, when the president of Planned Parenthood gets up at the rostrum here behind me, one might this week, there won't be any commentary about the 50 million babies that have died because of the policies that Planned Parenthood and Barack Obama believe in.
But at the Republican convention you'll hear a different tone. What do you say to people that say you're an insensitive cur, questions like that. So there'll be a real tonal difference between the coverage of these two conventions.
SCOTT: Let's change the topic, talk about NBC News and its coverage of the big debate at Saddleback Church. Joe, NBC got a pretty nasty complaint letter filed by the McCain campaign. They say that Andrea Mitchell from NBC was basically just repeating Obama talking points on "Meet the Press." Does the McCain campaign have a point?
STRUPP: If they're worried about the cone of silence report which was later debunked or at least explained, I think they're looking for areas to complain about. They're worried about Andrea Mitchell and MSNBC which is obviously is going to give their slanted side as Fox gives one side to the Republican — I'm not sure where CNN is landing in the middle or trying to. I don't think there's a lot to play on. Getting back to the convention as theater and news, I think you want reporters who want some differences. They want some strife — they want action. And if you look back 1980 when it was Reagan and Ford was a possible ticket, there was all excitement. You haven't had that much at a convention since then.
And there's going to be an undercurrent here of Clinton, the way she's going to handle things and lead any kind of anti-Obama charge or even a little bit of being dissed as it were. The way that plays out will have to be seen.
As for McCain and complaining about MSNBC, he, I think knows how to follow the criticism enough to get support. If you start looking like you're bashing the press too much, we all know that comes back to haunt you.
PINKERTON: I think actually bashing the press will rally Republicans pretty reliably. And also just to answer your question, John, I think Andrea Mitchell had an obligation to check her facts and prove her case before she just repeated as Rick Davis said in his letter to Steve Cappas (ph) of NBC, passing along Obama talking points. You've got to prove it. You can't just say it.
POWERS: But the thing is what she did, she was reporting that the Obama campaign was putting this out. She wasn't just saying that it happened. She was saying that the Obama campaign is saying this which I think is perfectly within bounds and says something about the Obama campaign. It says maybe people are unhappy because they do that and they felt they had to say something about John McCain
I also think that Rick Warren mishandled the whole thing and because he was not in a cone of silence and I think it was relevant to say where he was and that he did theoretically have access to hearing the question.
PINKERTON: I think Andrea Mitchell shared her creditability with that story with the Obama people. If I say so and so is an ax murder or beats his wife or something like that, I'm not supposed to do that. I am supposed to have evidence before making the allegation.
THOMAS: I would be very upset about the Rick Warren performance because it was one of the best things to come along in a long time. It sure beats three aging journalists sitting there with their green light, yellow light and red light trying to ask gotcha questions. I think that is the wave of the future, the format that Rick Warren put on so effectively, not what we're going to see in the presidential debates coming up.
SCOTT: All right. We are going to have to take another break. We will be back with this.
ANNOUNCER: Is Beijing just a backdrop for NBC? What have we learned about China since the games began? And who do you trust in the media? All next on "News Watch."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KERRI WALSH, VOLLEYBALL PLAYER: Mr. President! Thank you! Thank you for your inspiration and all you do. Everyone at home, we love you!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: That's U.S. women's beach volleyball gold medalist Kerri Walsh with her teammate Misty May-Trainor speaking on NBC. They had just won the gold medal and they thanked President Bush among others.
Now Cal, there were other patriotic messages from Olympic athletes. U.S. winning Olympic athletes. Did they get ignored by the media?
THOMAS: You have to make editorial judgments here. The media mostly ignore religion, too. Any time you want to get on, I want to thank God for my victory. They take the people crossing themselves pretty well but they can't really edit those out. But I thought there was a lot of good patriotic stuff. I think Olympics represent what America has traditionally been about. Hard work, self-control, commitment, never giving up and it's such a wonderful antidote to nonstop politics where everybody's supposed to be a victim and you can't do anything without the government. The Olympics show us that everybody can be a success if you put your mind to it and work hard enough.
But it seemed like athletes like Kobe Bryant talk about how proud they are to be an American it doesn't get a lot coverage.
PINKERTON: Yeah. Imagine that. NBC, the network that gave us Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow isn't very interested in covering people praising Bush. Imagine that. I can't figure it out. Maybe somebody else can explain it.
SCOTT: Well, Joe, do you have any ideas?
STRUPP: I think we're getting a little too into the anti-Bush rhetoric here. Some people were complaining there was too much U.S. coverage. We weren't looking at things like the Jamaican track team, getting attention for what they did, what some of the Chinese athletes did. I think we're getting too picky on what elements of Americana. The whole U.S. team is a patriotic element itself.
The thing I would criticize is some of the lack of the protesting going on, some of the ways that the Chinese were oppressing things. There wasn't a lot of protest being show. It was great background on China and the history, et cetera, and a lot of the culture. But there were a lot of things going on with human rights that didn't get the time of day. Plenty of American flags were being shown.
SCOTT: What about that, Jim? Do you think there should have been more coverage of china's political system or was it really just a backdrop for NBC?
PINKERTON: I think NBC spent a billion dollars on the Olympics and they weren't about to have the Chinese pull the visa of Tom Brokaw or Brian Williams by coverage they didn't want. The Chinese proved they're tough. They mean business. They will not like like that guy Joey Cheek, the American athlete, get in the country because he was pro-Tibet. I think the real story here is NBC just obviously pulled its punches on its coverage of the real political situation in China for the sake of Olympic running and jumping.
SCOTT: All right. Let's talk about this now. A new study released this week by the Pew Research Center for the people and press has some new insight what Americans think of the media. The biennial news consumption survey finds over the last 10 years virtually every news organization or program has seen its creditability marks decline. Democrats continue to give most news organizations much higher creditability ratings than do Republicans. Among the three cable networks, Fox News had the most balanced audience. Thirty nine percent of regular Fox News viewers are Republicans, 33 percent Democrats, 51 percent of CNN's regular viewers are Democrats while only 18 percent are Republicans and 45 percent of regular viewers of MSNBC are Democrats. Eighteen percent are Republicans.
Kirsten, do those numbers surprise you?
POWERS: The 18 percent of Republicans watching MSNBC is impressive to me. I think the Fox numbers are interesting because I work here and the conversation I have with a lot of Democrats is that Fox does have a lot of Democrats watching. Even if it was a smaller percentage, the overall audience is so much bigger than the competitors certainly compared to MSNBC. You're talking to more Democrats even where there's a higher percentage of Democrats at another station. I think it's short-sighted when you have people boycotting debating and things because there are so many people watching and you could reach.
SCOTT: Cal, since we premiered on Fox on day one, the motto's been fair and balanced. Do those numbers reflect that kind of .
THOMAS: I think they do. There's a built-in bias among the Democrats. They have to have an enemy just like Republicans wanted to beat up in the broadcast networks rightly in my judgment for years. Look, I met a lobbyist at the airport today said I watch Fox all the time to find out what the other side is doing. Yuck, yuck, yuck. But they're watching. I'd like to see how many liberal talking points are reflected on Fox as opposed to how many conservative and Republican talking points are reflected on the networks. I'll bet there's better reflection on Fox than on the broadcast networks.
SCOTT: Jim, real quickly, do you think Democrats should spend more time coming to Fox? Talking to Fox?
PINKERTON: I think if I were Barack Obama and I were hovering in the low 40s and trying to get to 51, I would be grabbing votes anywhere I could including the 61 percent of Fox viewers who aren't Republicans.
SCOTT: All right. We have to take one more break. We're going to be back with more live coverage from Denver and a look at what is ahead this week.
SCOTT: Fox News will bringing you special coverage from both conventions. Here are some of our plans. Of course we are here in Denver bringing you live coverage of the Democratic National Convention starting on Monday night. Because this is my hometown I am especially proud to be here and part of our Fox coverage team in Denver. Then we are on to St. Paul, Minnesota and the Republican National Convention from September 1 through the Fourth. Several of our Fox News programs are scheduled t o air live from both conventions including "FOX & Friends," "America's Newsroom," "Studio B with Shepard Smith," "Your World with Neil Cavuto" and "On the Record with Greta Van Susteren."
Also, FOX News Radio, FOX Business Network and foxnews.com will be here providing extensive coverage of not only Denver but also St. Paul.
That's all the time we have this week. I want to thank our panelists once again. I'm John Scott. Thank you for joining us. Keep it here on FOX News Channel. "The FOX Report" is up next. So long from Denver!
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