This is a rush transcript from "FOX News Watch," December 6, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
JON SCOTT, FOX HOST: This week on FOX "News Watch," the big three try again to convince Congress to keep them in business. Did their new P.R. efforts help them win over the press?
Terror in Mumbai. As the media here at home watched the attacks unfold, did we go too far?
And another sports star in trouble with the law. Are too many bad-boy athletes getting a pass from the press?
And O.J. speaks. An emotional plea before he's sentenced for kidnapping and armed robbery 13 years after he got off in the trial of the century.
On the panel this week, Jane Hall of the American University; Robert George, editorial writer for the New York Post; Jim Pinkerton, columnist and fellow, New America Foundation; and writer and "FOX News" contributor, Judith Miller.
I'm Jon Scott. FOX "News Watch" is on right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)Video: Watch Part 1 of the 'News Watch' discussion Part 2
RICK WAGONER, CEO, GENERAL MOTORS: We're here today because we made mistakes, which we're learning from, because some forces beyond our control have pushed us to the brink, and most importantly saving General Motors. And all this company represents is a job worth doing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: Rick Wagoner there, the chairman and CEO of General Motors.
Jim, you probably watched some of the testimony this week. And he and the other CEO's were putting on a good show. A couple even drove to Washington to try to get — make their P.R. case and get that money from Congress. How'd they do?
JIM PINKERTON, COLULMNIST & FELLOW, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: They did much better than last time around.
PINKERTON: You hate to make fun of them. And there's a serious issue at stake. And it is interesting to me that the media have clobbered — I think that's a fair word — the auto industry, including Robert's "New York Post," compared them to the three stooges. And yet the entire amount of money is $34 billion — probably more than that when it ultimately is accounted for. And that pales in comparison to $700 billion for the so- called TARP program and the $8.5 trillion. In other words, the media are missing the big story, which is not the bailout of the auto industry. It's a bailout of Wall Street. Because people can't get their heads around it, we're clobbering the auto workers instead.
SCOTT: Is there a double standard, Jane?
JANE HALL, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: I think there is to some degree. You can make the case that everyone benefits from bailing out the financial industry and banks because credit is stopped. And everyone sort of resents the fact that these guys came in on corporate jets. I do think they happen to be disadvantaged by the next guys over the hill as people say maybe we shouldn't have that $700 kazillion, so let's don't do the $34 billion. I think this has been badly reported. Whether union workers really do make $100 an hour — there's a lot of myths out there about this story.
ROBERT GEORGE, EDITORIAL WRITER, NEW YORK POST: I think part of the problem, it is a double standard to a certain extent, but the thing is, we have been here before with the auto industry. It's not something new. And they have made basically the same mistakes that they've made in the past. So I think it's fair of people to say — the financial industry's situation seems to be that once in a generation, once in a lifetime hit, and that's why the money's being piled out. But the auto makers, we've bailed them out before and here there are asking for a handout again.
JUDITH MILLER, WRITER & FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: This is a repeat what happened with the financial institutions. We're going to start now with $35 billion with the automobile companies. And then they're going to come in for more. That's what everyone says, that $35 billion is not enough. And that's what happened to us nationally.
SCOTT: The media started to use the term "bailout fatigue" on Friday. Is that an apt description for what's going on?
MILLER: I think it is. And I think what it portends is even more frightening. Right now, it's cars, but next it's our credit card.
PINKERTON: It could be. I think there's still a...
PINKERTON: I agree with Jane. There's a double standard. These Detroit executives, if they get the bailout, will commit to a $1 a year. No one asked Goldman Sachs and AIG and all those other places to take $1 a year in payment. It's just plain not fair. It's a bias of New York-based reporters for a New York-based industry.
HALL: How about a bias of Washington reporters who didn't cover all the years that Congress was allowing these auto makers not to innovate, giving them money not to innovate, rewarding them with low environmental standards. Nobody's saying how are you trashing them now when you enabled them not to innovate?
GEORGE: If you wanted to, you could actually say Washington did actually stop pushing — trying to force more standards on them, but basically saying you follow — you kind of follow our rule. Now the question is, to what extent did they follow them? I mean, that's the question.
HALL: Have you seen that story? I didn't see that story reported as a backdrop to this drama.
SCOTT: Is it fair to say, Jim — some of the auto workers were saying, hey, you in the media are giving us a hard time because we want a blue collar bailout. We want to save blue collar jobs. But you weren't complaining when you tried to save a bunch of white collar jobs.
PINKERTON: Exactly. If some real reporter were to do the job, they wouldn't worry about the auto industry so much. They'd say how much money is flowing to Greenwich, Connecticut as a result of this bailout. How much is George Soros getting? How much are all these hedge fund people getting? They're getting hundreds and hundreds of billions. And to complain about some auto worker making $80,000 or $75,000 a year, doesn't seem fair to me at all.
MILLER: Maybe I'm a little cynical here because, I hate to say this, but I actually covered the Chrysler bailout almost 30 years ago when we heard about all the changes and innovations they were going to make. There was government supervision of that loan. Chrysler paid back all the money. It was a great success. I don't think we have that luxury now. And I think the media have not done a bad job on this story because the situation is dire. And these companies don't make anything that people want to buy. And Americans know that.
PINKERTON: Since you brought up the media and since you used to work at The New York Times, I can't resist pointing out that the New York Times — shifting gears slightly on the economy — that the tragedy at the Wal-Mart on Long Island where the employee was trampled to death, the New York Times summarized this in a sign of consumer desperation on a bleak economy. That was why the guy got killed. Bush, in this recession, invented the stampede. We should all know that.
SCOTT: If you haven't heard about it, that was the story of the Wal- Mart worker who was trampled to death literally at 5:00 in the morning when a Wal-mart on Long Island got ready to open its doors. He was trying to hold back the hordes and got stomped to death.
You're saying that the "Times" is ascribing it to the Bush economy?
PINKERTON: It's Bush's fault.
HALL: I think they're ascribing it to creating this whole idea of Black Friday that you have to be there at 5:00 in the morning. People are fearful. I think there are some larger lessons. I don't know you can blame the Bush administration.
GEORGE: If you want to call it materialism, if you want or — it is quite possible that it won't...
MILLER: How about rampant greed?
GEORGE: Wal-mart might have done it and been a little more responsible if they recognized how many people are waiting to get out there, that they would have more than one security person there to hold back the forces.
HALL: They're so well known for their worker benefits.
GEORGE: Not just for the workers, just for the safety of the consumers who were trying to get in.
SCOTT: We're going to take a short break. We will be back in two minutes to talk about coverage by the U.S. media of those terror attacks in India.
ANNOUNCER: Deadly attacks in India put the American press on edge, raising new fears we're all sitting ducks for terrorists. Did the coverage go too far? Answer's next, on "News Watch."
(FOX NEWS BREAK)
SCOTT: It's been more than a week now since the deadly terror attacks in Mumbai. Is the media now using those attacks to scare Americans?
Take a look at some of these headlines. First yesterday's cover of "USA Today," "Mumbai attacks refocus U.S. cities;" Reuters, "Daring Mumbai attacks reveal any city's vulnerability." The "Kansas City Star, "Terrorist in Mumbai should frighten Americans, too."
Judy, you've spent a lot of time covering terrorism issues. Do you think the press took it too far this time or is this apt?
MILLER: No, I think this is appropriate. This is a major attack in a very sophisticated city of 14 million people, 18 million people. A city that is very much like New York and is not in the third world, backward. It is sophisticated. And it shows the adaptability of the al-Qaeda network, the al-Qaeda inspired network. I think we got very, very complacent. I think we're now being told al-Qaeda is not the threat it was before. Maybe al-Qaeda central is not the threat, but this shows that groups that are inspired by that organization are capable of inflicting terrible havoc on our city.
SCOTT: Robert, what's the difference between warning people and asking them to pay attention to a threat versus scaring them?
GEORGE: Well, I mean, it has been the case that since the last seven to ten months, since the economy has become — has been going down the drain, that Americans have been focusing solely on economic issues. And I think it's not a bad idea that we come back and start looking at national security questions. Now, the fact is, New York is not going to be invaded by terrorists the way Mumbai was because they came in by boats, I guess off the port.
MILLER: We are on an island.
GEORGE: I know — I know we're on an island.
PINKERTON: We're right near Pakistan.
GEORGE: But my belief is that our security forces are going to be a little better than any.
MILLER: Oh, definitely.
GEORGE: But it's not a bad idea though to remind people that these issues are out there.
SCOTT: Jane, you know, first lesson in college journalism is take a story and make it local. I guess that's what some of these papers have been doing. But, again, my question to this side of the room is, did they cross the line?
HALL: I don't think they did. I think you've just said something profound because this terrorism is global and local. I mean, we have thousands of miles of coastline. A lot of containers come in here. I do think, while we have been somewhat, as you said — even the media have been focused on this, on the economy. And unfortunately, don't seem to be able to focus on more than one thing at a time.
This is frightening. It's frightening for a whole bunch of reasons. I don't think it wasn't over the line.
PINKERTON: One reason for the extra oomph of the headlines was there was a commissions report by former Senator Graham of Florida and co-chaired by former Senator Talent of Missouri, called preventwmd.org, which was a congressionally ordered commission, which said that the margin of safety for America is shrinking, not growing. They predicted a major WMD attack in the United States in the next five years. And that report, to its great credit, to some insight, was actually speaking about all the dangers that people — al-Qaeda still posed and so on. So the reporters I think were nationally taking the double hook of the incredibly telegenic images from Mumbai, plus a legitimate report from a government agency about the danger here.
SCOTT: Again, Judy, you spent a lot of time covering these kinds of issues at the "New York Times." How do you balance that? We haven't been attacked in this country since 9/11. A lot of people tend to forget that I think.
MILLER: Absolutely true. That's why it is easy to grow come place — complacent. That's why I think it's harder for the media to get these stories on the front page about lack of preparedness absent something like Mumbai that reminds us that terrorists are patient. They're very effective planners, and that these people are committed to killing a great many Democrats all over the world.
GEORGE: I don't think the coverage actually was that much different than when the attacks happened in London a few years ago as well. I think it's not a bad balance.
SCOTT: All right.
Where going to take another short break. When we come back, we'll be talking about the press and their treatment of pro athletes.
ANNOUNCER: Pac-man, Plax and Vicks, oh, my. Is the media to blame for the bad behavior of these sports superstars? That's next, on "News Watch."
SCOTT: What an image! Plaxico Burress, the New York Giants' wide receiver, catching the game-winning pass less than a year ago in Super Bowl XLII. Quite a different picture that ran in newspapers across the country this week, Burress in handcuffs. This imagine obviously videotaped and put on TV all over the place. Burress, in handcuffs, arrested for criminal possession of a handgun. This, after he allegedly shot himself in the thigh at a night club with an unregistered weapon, while trying to save himself from spilling his drink. Pretty sharp.
All right. We have seen, Robert, so many of these superstar athletes. You have the Burress case. You've got Pac-man Jones. Do they get the kind of coverage in the press they deserve when they go from Sunday adulation to this kind of notoriety?
GEORGE: Speaking for a New York newspaper, I'd like to say, yes, they do get the focus and attention they deserve.
GEORGE: This was a big story in New York because he was a Super Bowl hero and so forth. The thing is though, in comparison to say Pac-man Jones, who was actually in a nightclub in Vegas a few years ago where a gun went off and ended up critically injuring a bystander, the only personal — the only person actually injured here has been Burress himself. But New York City and New York State has some of the most stringent gun control laws in the country.
SCOTT: The mayor says throw the book at him, three years.
MILLER: And I think that makes it a legitimate story. It is the fact not only that he's a celebrity and therefore is going to be covered no matter what he does, no matter what he says, but in addition to that, this is an issue where will the same standards about possessing illegal firearms — will he be held to the same standards. I think it's entirely appropriate to cover this one.
PINKERTON: There's no question he's gotten clobbered. I think both the daily news and the "New York Post" had the same headlines, mostly giant idiot. The media are all over him. The mayor's after him. Only a few brave reporters and pundits, like John Lott at the University of Maryland, pointed out, look, he lives in a dangerous world. Sean Taylor, of the Redskins, was murdered in his home by intruders.
The full story of what dangers he faced or might have faced or might have imagined he faced, who knows, is yet to be determined. I look forward to a trial where he gets to make his case. Only so far, Lott stands out as a...
GEORGE: One of the fellow Giants actually was held up outside his own home just four days before Burress was caught with the gun.
SCOTT: These guys do tend to wear an awful lot of gold and jewelry and that kind of thing and it...
GEORGE: Yeah, but in front of your own home?
HALL: Yeah. I was surprised. It was treated like a joke in the Washington papers. And then I read the death rate among NFL player is higher than the average population. They're targets in a way that I didn't realize.
SCOTT: Are you saying, Jim, that he's been convicted in the media and he ought to get his day in court?
PINKERTON: Worse than convicted, he's been ridiculed. I think he's been — he's gotten a terrible press. There's just a presumption he's an idiot who shot himself. And there might be more to the story. And not many reporters had the courage to even raise that possibility.
GEORGE: There is a question as to whether New York's stringent gun laws, when it comes to permits, is actually constitutional. And so there may actually be broader questions here to look at.
MILLER: Well, he might have shot someone else when that gun went off. And that's why we have these laws. And I think that it's just about as dangerous to smoke a cigarette in an office building here as it is to carry an illegal firearm. We can have a debate about that, but that's not what the news coverage has been focusing on.
SCOTT: Here's another story we wanted to tell you about this week. In Washington State, regulators are trying to figure out whether or not blogs are journalism or just a new form of political activism. If they are a form of activism, should bloggers have to reveal their financial status? The Washington State Public Disclosure Commission is still pondering that question. It decided to postpone the decision. But is there a point here?
Jim, what do you think? Should bloggers be disclosing all this stuff?
PINKERTON: I'm going to postpone a decision, too because it's so complicated. Technorati, which is a service that keeps track of blogs, counts 133 million blogs created since 2002, of which one and a half million have been active in the last week.
So, now, are there an extra one and a half million journalists in the country. I don't have a good answer.
SCOTT: Jane does.
HALL: I would defer to Judith on this. But I do know that there are efforts to create a shield law for journalists. Do bloggers — do they come under the shield law or do they not? It is a more complicated question. I would almost make a joke and say activism exposed or not exposed. To my mind, that's not really the question here.
GEORGE: Some blogs are legitimate journalists. Some blogs are arms of corporate entities in the sense, P.R. organs. It's a mixture. You have to look at it on a case by case basis.
MILLER: I'm always in favor of maximum disclosure of financial ties that may affect your reporting. And if you want to pretend you're a journalist, you ought to be bound by those. But I do think we've reached an important benchmark this week. More online journalists were arrested all over the world than ever — than print journalists. This is the first time ever. So online people are coming into their own. Let's disclose...
SCOTT: We have to take one more break. When we come back, we're going to talk about the press and O.J. Simpson.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O.J. SIMPSON, CONVICTED FELON: Your honor, I stand before you today sorry, somewhat confused. I feel apologetic to the people of the state of Nevada. I've been coming to Nevada since 1959. I worked summer jobs here for my uncle in 1960 and '61 and I've been coming ever since and I've never gotten into any trouble.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: As crimes go, it was pretty mundane. The criminal though, anything but ordinary. So when O.J. Simpson stood up to speak in a Nevada courtroom on Friday, the media were all over it. Three life courtroom cameras there to broadcast his words to the world.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SIMPSON: I'm sorry. I did not mean to steal anything from anybody and I didn't know I was doing anything illegal. I thought I was confronting friends and retrieving my property. So I am sorry. I'm sorry for all of it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
True remorse or a performance from a guy who earned some listing as an actor. Judge Jackie Glass was not this swayed, 15 years to life. At sentencing, Judge Glass mentioned another trial 13 years ago. We in the media call it, rightly or wrongly, the trial of the century. Charged with the murders of his wife and a friend, the Simpson trial lasted forever. And when the jury finally received it, dispensed with it in 24 hours, not guilty.
FOX legal analyst Bob Massi observed this week, that trial ushered in a new form of crime coverage that still draws viewers and fascinates the press. Entire TV shows like "Celebrity Justice" now exist because of O.J.
Now 13 years later, a strange coda to the sensational media case of a man once such a superstar, now a convict headed for hard time.
That's "News Watch" for this week.
Thanks to Jane Hall, Jim Pinkerton, Robert George and Judith Miller.
I'm Jon Scott. Thanks for watching. Keep it right here on FOX News channel. The "FOX Report" is up next.
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