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," Blagojevich busted. A media feeding frenzy erupts after the governor of Illinois is charged with trying to sell Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat.
Bail out blues. Has the press changed its mind about the plan to rescue the auto makers?
Plus, a friend in nude lends some of her assets to try to help sell magazines as some major newspapers might soon stop the presses forever.
And Jay Leno leaps from late night to prime time.
On the panel this week, Jane Hall of the American University; syndicated columnist, Cal Thomas; 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)
ROD BLAGOJEVICH, (D), GOVERNOR OF ILLINOIS: I don't believe there's any cloud that hangs over me.
REPORTER: Well, getting back to that, can...
BLAGOJEVICH: I think there's nothing but sunshine hanging over me. Let me answer that. The true question is — and by the way, I should say, if anybody wants to tape my conversations, feel free to do it. I appreciate anybody who wants to tape me openly and notoriously. And those who feel they want to sneakily and — wear taping devices, I remind them that it kind of smells like Nixon and Watergate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: Well tape him, they did. Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich there speaking on Monday. His forecast was very short-term. The sunshine he referred to disappeared by Tuesday morning when he was rousted from bed, arrested and charged with trying to sell barrack Obama's now vacant Senate seat.
Jim, you're a Chicagoan. What do you think of the coverage of all this?
JIM PINKERTON, COLUMNIST & FELLOW, NEW AMERICAN FOUNDATION: Well, I mean, first, you may remember back in 1987 Gary Hart, accused of various allegations, said, "Follow me, you'll be bored." And the National Inquirer did and got a picture of him on the monkey business with Donna Rice and that was the end of his career.
SCOTT: Don't challenge the press; is that what you're saying?
PINKERTON: When you're guilty, watch the defiance angle. But, yes, I grew up in Chicago. My family still lives there. All I can say is what did you expect? This is the matrix of corruption in that city that is deep. Four of the last eight governors have gone to jail, or in Blagojevich's case, are about to go to jail. That's quite a streak.
SCOTT: The press has been careful to say that President-elect Obama is not implicated in any way in this scandal really. But what about — does the coverage threaten — does the maelstrom that surrounds the governor, does it threaten to pull Obama and his people into it?
JANE SCOTT, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: It may. First of all, he was criticized for saying, "I'm saddened by this." He held a press conference to announce the new health and human services secretary and had to say, "I'm appalled." I think some people are questioning why didn't he get out there and say I'm appalled. We're now seeing stories that these guys are not close friends. On the tape, the governor is saying, all these guys gave me was appreciation, to heck with him. I say this on FOX family network. The interest of the media is, is this going to lead to Obama? Otherwise, it would be a Chicago story.
JUDITH MILLER, WRITER AND FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Patrick Fitzgerald went out of his way to exonerate Obama, saying there was no indication that there were any connections between...
HALL: That doesn't stop the media from talking about it.
CAL THOMAS, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: The Chicago Tribune has been out front on this. They broke the story on the wiretaps on December 5th. Some people think that may have advanced Patrick Fitzgerald's going public with this.
Here's the real story. First of all, the media have a tremendous amount invested in Barack Obama. The messiah, the one that's going to part the waters and bring peace on earth, good will to men. They've got him set in Chicago. As somebody wrote this week, here's a guy who's in a swamp. Chicago politics is a swamp. Al Capone was buying off judges and police chiefs years ago. This is nothing new. How can he rise from the swamp untainted? That's the big story yet to be told.
PINKERTON: I think that's exactly right. Obama himself may or may not be involved in this somehow. Who knows? We can take what he said for now. But new evidence could come along. Let's zero in on Rahm Emanuel who is totally out of the same...
SCOTT: You think the press are doing that?
PINKERTON: As of Friday, they started to. It started to dawn on them, oh, who was advisor to the President-elect, number one? And we don't know the identity yet, but it's pretty clear that they met all the time and talked all the time among themselves because they're in the same Democratic Party in the same city.
A proper analysis of this case will lay out in great detail everybody that the governor of the state talked to. And I guarantee Ron Emanuel will pop up a hundred times.
THOMAS: You know what's amusing? All these guys are coming out holding news conferences — I'm clean, I never talked to anybody.
THOMAS: They're holding news conferences to declare their innocence.
MILLER: Come on, guys. The media raised all the questions about when Valerie Jarrett decided to withdraw her nomination in Senate. They've raised questions on who on Obama's staff talked to Blagojevich's people about filling that Senate seat. They have raised the questions, and they have acted responsibly.
THOMAS: There's nothing wrong with raising the question, nothing wrong with talking about the Senate seat. The question is, was there a quid pro quo. According to Patrick Fitzgerald, he was selling everything, including himself, a children's hospital. You can't get much lower than that.
HALL: This is when — I've seen some conservative commentators say the media have not been pointing out he was a Democratic governor. That is not true. Maybe they would be pointing it out more if it was...
SCOTT: It was a Washington Post story. The first Washington Post story I don't think...
PINKERTON: Zero mentions.
HALL: OK, but the broadcast news had it. They had it in coverage. It's not true that they're not covering this because they like Obama.
SCOTT: Talk to me about Patrick Fitzgerald. You've had your own run-ins with him. What do think of the coverage of him? He's kind of in the background.
MILLER: Yes. Well, talk about kind of halos and hosannas and unquestioning coverage, yes, it's great that Eliot Ness put somebody we believe is guilty under the spotlight and in the limelight. But this is a guy who strong-armed people he's targeting. And the press has not pointed this out. There is hardly a newspaper that mentioned that he put me in jail and threatened to put other journalists in jail. Did he threaten to put the girlfriend of someone he was investigating in jail if she wouldn't testify against her former boss? I mean, this is a guy who really is very tough.
SCOTT: He feeds the media.
PINKERTON: I think it's fair to say he is a no-nonsense tough prosecutor. I'll go back. This is a city who desperately needs somebody like Patrick Fitzgerald. Judy might say he could stay there forever as opposed to New York or D.C. But the point is, it's clear the culture is so thick and a proper investigation of the last two decades of Barack Obama's life will produce a lot of seamy revelations.
HALL: Let us know there's no evidence in the statement Jim just made.
I do think it's interesting. I saw David Gurringen say Truman came from a corrupt machine and managed to rise above it. That is interesting, that is to walk separately from it.
PINKERTON: But Truman spent ten years in the Senate being vetted before he became vice president.
MILLER: Look, it's already started. Jay Stewart told the Wall Street Journal this week, in fact, Obama was, quote, "conspicuously silent," I think the quote was, about the calls for Blagojevich's impeachment in 2006. So I think that we are seeing criticism in the press.
SCOTT: And we didn't even get to the Jesse Jackson Jr. question. Will that story get the kind of coverage that some people say it should get? We'll find out in future episodes of this program.
In just a moment, times are tough for print media, but can a daring cover like this lose the fortunes of a news stand veteran? That's later. We'll be back in two minutes with this.
ANNOUNCER: Cash for the car companies. As Congress cracks a plan to rescue Detroit is the press cheering them on or raising red flags? Next on "News Watch."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RON GUTTELFINGER, PRESIDENT, UNITED AUTO WORKERS: The UAW called on Secretary Treasurer Paulson or the Federal Reserve to use their authority to prevent the imminent collapse of the auto makers and the devastating consequences that would follow for millions of workers, retirees, for families across our nation and for our economy as a whole.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: That's the president of the United Auto Workers, Ron Gettelfinger, speaking at a press conference on Friday.
What do you think about his role in all this, Judy? Some say he's been very low profile. Would you agree?
MILLER: I think he has been because the media have not focused on him until recently, until this press conference today. He's been the 10th or 15th paragraph of every story. He has not really appeared on TV. But clearly, he was a major factor in the inability to get this bailout.
SCOTT: And you've got the United Auto Workers to bush to make some concessions to keep these companies alive. Have the media done enough reporting on that aspect of the story.
HALL: I think probably the media were against this. I don't usually generalize. I think the American people were against it, the media didn't want this.
SCOTT: Didn't want the bailout?
HALL: Didn't want it. People were made about the previous bailout. Let's go after these guys.
He has been rarely on television. Maybe that's his fault. But this whole idea that the auto workers were making 80 bucks an hour, it's not true. It was repeated all over the place. There are a lot of things about him.
SCOTT: Let me give you some numbers that support what you just said. Our "FOX News" opinion dynamics poll indicates 58 percent of Americans disapprove giving money to the auto makers, 37 percent approve of that kind of a bailout.
What do you think, Jim? Has the coverage reflected the unease with this?
PINKERTON: I think it has. I think there's the general sense this isn't going to work. That $14 billion is nowhere near what it would take. They could spend $100 billion or $125 billion. They don't make any particular promise this bailout will succeed. As Mickey Kaus in Slate wrote a very smart comment, he said, listen, the issue isn't so much the wages, it's the work rules. It's the way the union is structured going back to the 1930s that prevents them from competing against other companies in the United States like Toyota and Honda.
THOMAS: That's part of it. But here's the story line the media like to focus on. Just before Christmas, thousands of people may get laid off. It's a horrible thing. Nobody's talking about making the kinds of cars like the Japanese are making that people want to buy. After you've spent the %50 billion, the $100 billion, you're still going to be stuck with lots of cars, some mandated by Congress. Who wants anything that Congressman mandates — that they don't want to buy. So what's the end of this? The media would prefer the human story of poor, horrible, thrown out of work people. It's a terrible story.
MILLER: I don't think so.
HALL: I don't think they've been focusing this. I don't think they've been focusing on the lack of innovation by the automakers. I don't think they've done enough. I think this guy should have been on TV a lot more.
MILLER: Blaming the United Auto Workers for the leadership of these companies as they continue...
HALL: When they made the deals.
MILLER: Exactly. These deals run these companies into the ground.
THOMAS: They made the deals because they were going to strike.
Look, you've got more people now making money. More retirees are now making — have made more than they ever made while they were working for the automobile industry. This is what is crippling this whole thing.
HALL: Cal, the CEO that's been there 20 years that G.M. has been making, I would say, a lot more and is a lot more...
THOMAS: But he drove a hybrid to Washington.
PINKERTON: And we do need a little perspective. For example, Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan, told NBC that the government told him to take $25 billion. He didn't even want it, as we said. The government said take it anyway as part of the bailout. So $25 billion for a bank that nobody had any idea what was going on. Nobody keeping track of that. Nobody's asking him for a salary cap. Nobody's cutting the wages at JPMorgan. It is a crazy system. Auto workers are getting it in the neck. And it's just a little unfair.
SCOTT: Time for another break. Jennifer Aniston bears all in the new issue of GQ Magazine. Is this a sure fire way to pump up sales? That's later on. But first....
ANNOUNCER: Bankruptcy, cash crunch, going out of business, bad news for newspapers. As print struggles to stay afloat, what's next? And the peacock network puts Leno in prime time. It's all coming up on "News Watch."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAY LENO, HOST, THE TONIGHT SHOW: We're going to be going on at 10 p.m. A lot of people were shocked when they heard. Not that I'm moving to prime time, but that NBC still had a prime time. We're starting a new show in the fall. We'll start at 10 p.m. after the last hour of the "Today" show. The way they did the schedule, it's all talk. You may have heard, there were rumblings I was leaving NBC and going to ABC. Those were nothing but rumors started by a disgruntled employee.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: We cut that a little bit. So Jay Leno moves to 10 p.m. five nights a week.
Is this a smart move, Cal, by NBC?
THOMAS: It's a great move by NBC because they're going to save $400 million on all the money that they paid for shows like "Law and Order." I think it's basically an economic decision.
Jay Leno is an incredibly talented comedian, a wonder, very nice guy. I know him a little bit. And I think he'll do very well, depending on the kind of variety show it is. There hasn't really been a successful variety show since the "Carol Burnett Show" on CBS. It requires an awful lot of work. It's a different kind of comedy because it is in prime time. And a lot of the sexual-oriented jokes that he gets away with late at night, he's probably not going to be able to do in prime time.
SCOTT: Does it mean the network is becoming more like cable TV? You've studied television for a longtime.
HALL: Yes, and I've written about Conan O'Brien and David Letterman a lot in my previous life. I think it does show that NBC has not been doing very well in prime time. I don't know if it's their fault there's no new entertainment dramas that they've been able to put through. I do think it's more low-cost programming and more attempts. Maybe this is good for news. Ultimately, I don't know.
PINKERTON: Allen Steppenwall, writing in the Newark Star Ledger said, look, the real story is the collapse of NBC under Jeff Zucker. They went from first to fourth in this period. Now, in desperation — Leno may do well but he's a cannibalized Conan O'Brien. There's two variety shows an hour apart from each other — half an hour — competing for the same guests. This can't be good for the original plan, which was to make Conan the big star at 11:35.
SCOTT: Well, full disclosure, I was one of the original correspondents on "Dateline NBC".
Does this mean, Judy, this decision to put Leno on in the 10 p.m. time slot, does that mean the end of shows like maybe some of those 10 p.m. dramas?
MILLER: I think it's the same phenomenon as the news. Talk is cheap and reporting is expensive. In entertainment, talk is cheap and series are expensive. We're getting ready for a possible strike out in Hollywood. Everybody's concerned about the economy. I think you're seeing a protective defensive move. And I think it is worrisome, yes. And I certainly think it's going to be a little boring after a while.
SCOTT: Let's move to another story making headlines. Check out this headline from The New York Times on Monday. "Tribune Company could be flirting with bankruptcy." And then there's this from my home state. "Rocky on the block," referring to the sale, the impending sale of The Rocky Mountain News. It is the state's oldest business. They're looking for a buyer. If they can't find one, the publisher says they will shut down.
Does that mean, Jim, in this news — in this Internet age, the newspapers have no future?
PINKERTON: I suspect they don't, frankly. In five years, you will not be able to find a hard copy of a newspaper. They'll still be online. But I think the big winner is going to be like NPR and PBS. They will still feel the obligation to do the news in a local area. Conservatives, who are cheering the destruction of the MSM, will be a little sobered when they realize what's going to replace it.
THOMAS: I agree with that. The big winners really are going to be corrupt politicians, like the one we talked about in the first block of this show.
As, Bill Keller, the executive editor of The New York Times, said on NPR recently, good journalism costs money. You've got to have people to make the phone calls, do the shoe leather work, do the investigative stuff. It takes time and money.
The First Amendment is a great thing, but if you can't afford a printing press, it doesn't do you any good.
SCOTT: All four of you spend part of your time, or have spent of your careers making your money through the newspapers.
Jim, you're doing most of your writing for the Web.
PINKERTON: I am. I am.
HALL: I worked for the L.A. Times, which is owned by the Tribune Company.
SCOTT: Which is going bankrupt.
HALL: That deal is particularly bad because the guy took the employee stock plan of the employees — and having no exposure in this now, I'm going to use the word the governor used. I'd like to use the word the governor used in our previous segment. Newspapers are — investigators are worried about them, they're losing advertising.
I will tell you though my students read the newspapers but they read the online Web sites. The challenge is going to be, can you make money with serious news online? So far you need The Washington Post to do the Walter Reed story. You just do.
SCOTT: What kind of career advice are you giving them these days?
HALL: I'm teaching them that they have to learn how to report and write, and it actually works online. And they're mostly getting being hired online.
PINKERTON: One hopeful indicator is a new Web site that's kind of "Pro Publica." It's kind of liberal. It's a big donor. It gave a lot of money for investigator journalists. They have created an interesting site. And they give away all their content to anybody and any newspaper that wants to use it, which I think is a specific service.
MILLER: But that's not a money making...
PINKERTON: It's not. The point is, as we discovered, no longer a profit-making business.
SCOTT: And you've given Cal an idea. He's going to start giving away his column.
THOMAS: I might as well. The Tribune distributes my column. I just missed a check.
MILLER: By the way, the Tribune, all of this is happening, the bankruptcy in the middle of the biggest Chicago story that has ever come down the pike. I think there's a certain irony and sadness to that.
SCOTT: They've done some pretty great reporting.
MILLER: Amazing reporting.
SCOTT: They sure have.
We have to take one more break. Newspapers and magazine sales are down across the board. So if you put a cover like this out there, can it appeal to both men and women? GQ Magazine may be on to something here. We'll tell you about that on the other side of the break. Back in two minutes.
SCOTT: We talked about circulation among newspapers and the print media in general, a drop in numbers pretty much across the board. Desperate times call for, well, a naked celebrity. Will that boost circulation? GQ Magazine tries up with this January issue featuring Jennifer Aniston draped with an itty-bitty red, white and blue tie to cover her assets. The patriotic colors perhaps because she talks about the state of her union or former union. Her relationship with ex-husband Brad Pitt is as covered as she is uncovered.
Aniston bares her soul about Pitt's new partner Angelina Jolie, which may or may not be interesting to most GQ readers. But a magazine that usually puts men on its cover probably sees this naked gambit to boost circulation payoff. After all it appeals to both sexes, women who love gossip, and men who love women.
The question is, can this Aniston cover top the last time she showed up without a top on top on GQ back in 2005 when GQ named her one of the woman of the year. If she racks up sales this time, don't you know they will be thrilled to hand her that award for 2009.
That's a wrap on "News Watch" this week.
Thanks to Jane Hall, Jim Pinkerton, Cal Thomas and Judith Miller.
I'm Jon Scott. Thanks for joining us. Keep it right here on FOX News channel. The "FOX Report" is up next.
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