This is a rush transcript from "FOX News Watch," December 21, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
JON SCOTT, HOST: This week on FOX "News Watch," Governor Blagojevich speaks to the media. Are reporters trying too hard to link the president-elect to the Blagojevich scandal?
Plus, case closed. How did the Adam Walsh investigation change the way we cover missing children?
Also, Deep Throat is dead. How did he change relations between the press and the president?
And the shoe heard around the world.
On the panel this week, Jane Hall, of the American University; syndicated columnist, Cal Thomas; Jim Pinkerton, columnist and fellow, New American Foundation; and Kirsten Powers, columnist and FOX News analyst.
I'm Jon Scott. FOX "News Watch" is on right now!
Governor Rod Blagojevich of Illinois on Friday addressing the media for the first time since his arrest ten days earlier. He said he had wanted to speak to the media, and that he did. But the question is what did he say?
I had to wonder, Cal, was he speaking to the people of Illinois as he said, or was he trying to spin the people of Illinois?
CAL THOMAS, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I think both. I've been reminded -- Jim and I have been around long enough to remember some of these great statements of innocence. Nixon's, "I'm not a crook!" Clinton, "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky." They all get out their TV evangelists, they declare totally pure as the driven snow. And later we find out something else.
Now, he is right because nobody has shown any evidence. His lawyers were right. He's innocent until proven guilty. But it is Chicago.
SCOTT: And he didn't answer any questions. He didn't take questions from the media.
JANE HALL, AMERICAN UNIVESITY: Right. And I thought this is typical of a lot of politicians. He's obviously really angry at the media coverage and the leaking of — he's quoting Rudyard Kipling but he was a lot saltier in the language that he was wiretapped. He said I'm not going on "Meet the Press." I thought, if it served him, he would be going on "Meet the Press." That's what struck me about it.
SCOTT: Jim, earlier in the week he said he couldn't wait to tell his story in the media. And he didn't tell us anything.
JIM PINKERTON, COLUMNIST & FELLOW, NEW AMERICAN FOUNDATION: Again, like Clinton, Nixon, they all say — eventually, the facts will all come out. When I watched him, he's bouncing on the balls of his feet. He's clearly enjoying this in his own way. I thought of Jimmy Cagney at the end of the movie "White Heat" when he's on top of the oil tankers and he's, "Top of the world, Ma" — and then it all blows up. I don't think this is going to end well for Blagojevich but he's certainly making it a great show.
SCOTT: Are the media being fair to him, Kirsten?
KIRSTEN POWERS, COLUMNIST & FOX NEWS ANALYST: There's been a feeding frenzy and it still remains to be seen exactly what it is that...
SCOTT: Well, it is a pretty juicy story.
POWERS: But what it was that he did that was illegal. As many people in politics speaking to you and based on my experience, a lot of stuff he did is very unseemly but it's not that usually in the world of politics. I think that he probably thinks that he is going to be able to fight this, and that's probably unlikely. I think that he feels he's been treated unfairly by the media.
SCOTT: His lawyers do say, Jim, he was just talking. He didn't exchange cash with anybody.
PINKERTON: A conspiracy is just talking. If I tell you that I plan on committing a crime, you've committed a crime in many circumstances if you don't turn me in. So, I mean...
POWERS: But then there's also the issue of a delusional person that has delusions of grandeur and saying they're going to do things they're never going to be able to do.
PINKERTON: If Blagojevich wants to plead insanity, I give him some sympathy for that because he clearly is off his rocker.
PINKERTON: But let's also bear in mind, it is Chicago and this is pretty standard operating procedure. I'm sure they can't quite get their heads around the fact that the Feds have jumped in to prosecute them for doing what they always do.
THOMAS: You know what?
HALL: The main thing is whether the case was rushed. I think it may be we find Fitzgerald, the attorney, may have rushed the case because it was coming out and he was afraid things were going to happen.
SCOTT: He said he didn't want somebody in the seat. He didn't want someone to accept it.
HALL: Right. He didn't want appointments to be made. I think we're starting to sea a wave of articles saying is this criminal? Can you prosecute the guy if he didn't get money for this stuff?
THOMAS: Another thing, it's the Christmas season. While we have Bush and the bailout and the presidents doing a lot of interviews and the rest, there's a vacuum out there for salacious news. We like salacious news and this helps fill the vacuum.
SCOTT: If you had told me he would still be in office ten days after this whole thing began and, in fact, the legislature seems to be stalled on this whole impeachment thing. The way the media is covering this in the early days, he wasn't going to be able to last a week.
PINKERTON: You're right. You're right. But this is a one-party state. This is what you get with a one-party state. You get a Chicago political machine of which Blagojevich was a part. The Democrats control the state government themselves.
Obviously, the Democrats have going to do everything they can to cut him some slack if they can. What you really need in this situation is divided government. That would have one party check another.
POWERS: I feel like Democrats are throwing him under the bus. They want to get rid of him for the most part. Certainly, at the national level, that's what he's getting. But, look, it's a juicy story. How many people get up and have the nerve to quote Kipling. It's absurd.
HALL: It's the hair. The hair is the great unspoken appeal of this story.
THOMAS: But to your point, you know, the media are often wrong. Remember, after the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke, Sam Donaldson said on ABC, he'll be gone in ten days, Clinton He wasn't. He beat impeachment. So you never know. And the media aren't always good at prognosticating.
SCOTT: Has Blagojevich made enemies in the media? Are their knives out for him as much as some in the state legislature?
POWERS: I think when the media feels they're not getting the information they want, they start to become somewhat hostile. They feel they're not getting the information they want from him and...
SCOTT: Well, he's not doing himself any favors on that score...
POWERS: Exactly. He went out — that was a clear P.R. strategy to appeal directly to voters to speak over the media and not have oversight from them.
PINKERTON: Let's give a shout out to those two lawyers who came on after Blagojevich.
PINKERTON: That one guy is well on his way to...
THOMAS: "The Sopranos."
PINKERTON: "The Sopranos," exactly! So this is going to be a great show to watch all the way through.
HALL: Don't address the entertainment factor for the media. I don't know they're that hostile because he's very entertaining right now. That buys you a lot.
SCOTT: "Saturday Night Live" is going to have a great time.
SCOTT: Time for a break. We'll be back in two minutes with this.
ANNOUNCER: A governor gone amok. Our new commander in chief. Is there a link or is the press out of bounds? More next, on "News Watch."
(FOX NEWS BREAK)
SCOTT: Time magazine has named President-elect Barack Obama its person of the year. You might think the media love affair continues, but there could be a little pushback.
Take a look at this exchange earlier in the week between the president-elect and a reporter covering him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, (D), PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't want you to waste your question. As I indicated yesterday, we've done a full review of this. The facts are going to be released next week. It would be inappropriate for me to comment. Because, for example, the story that you just talked about in your own paper, I haven't confirmed that it was accurate. And I don't want to get into the details at this point. So do you have another question?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: He's talking about the Blagojevich scandal there.
Jim, what do you think? Is he getting a little testy?
PINKERTON: He's reading the paper and calling on the reporter and then lecturing the reporter not to ask that question. Obviously, this is consuming more of his attention than his flacks are letting on. But when you see people like Joe Conason writing in Salon.com, saying, gee, it would be nice if Obama would answer more questions. Then you know even the left wing chorus for Obama is getting a little concerned about what's happening.
SCOTT: Is the honeymoon over?
HALL: I think that Obama's campaign was so brilliantly run but it was also very tightly held. And now they're at the White House. They're on their way to the White House. They're going to get a lot of questions. There's a very interesting piece on the new press secretary, Robert Gibbs, about whether they are going to try to manage the news. They model themselves after guess who? The Bush model. They don't want a lot of information. They want a lot of lip (ph).
SCOTT: I thought change had come to America!
HALL: I think not in the management of the media. That seems not to change.
THOMAS: The story that Jane is referring to is in Sunday's New York Times magazine. It's really interesting to read this because I'm a native Washingtonian. I've seen these people come and go. They're already talking about keeping on message and keeping it close knit. Now, the Bush administration managed to do that through the first term, but it broke down in the second term. I don't think Obama's going to be able to do it either through the first term.
SCOTT: Do you think, Kirsten, that maybe the media might be trying too hard to link the president-elect to the governor of his home state, Rob Blagojevich?
POWERS: I do, but I also think it's sort of a behind the scenes story. This is something I talked about before. The reporters that cover Obama haven't been that happy with him and they haven't liked covering him for the things you're talking about. They don't like being over managed. They don't like the fact they weren't able to talk to him. They don't like the fact that people don't return their phone calls. The frustration is kind of bubbling up.
It's unclear to me what it is Obama's being so defensive about. We have to see what happens when it's released next week. He hasn't even been accused of doing anything.
PINKERTON: I can answer that, two words: Rahm Emanuel, who was supposed to not talk about this at all and now has it turns out to have 21 conversations with this.
POWERS: No, he never said he didn't talk about this.
POWERS: He said there was no deal making. He didn't say that...
PINKERTON: Oh, I see. Actually, Obama said, quote, "no contact."
POWERS: No, he said "no deal making. No inappropriate contact."
HALL: I think I know why he's testy because he wants people to be talking about the transition and the great cabinet appointments he's making. And he's gotten incredible press and now people are asking questions he doesn't — it's taking away from the honeymoon and from the transition.
SCOTT: You have a theory. You've expressed the theory that you think the president-elect doesn't really like the media all that much.
POWERS: I think that's correct.
HALL: I'm just psycho analyzing from afar and also from talking to reporters who have covered him. I think he holds himself back. I think that he is not a guy, like George Bush, who's going to nickname reporters. George Bush probably didn't like reporters any better either, but he played it better. I think Obama doesn't want to mix it up with the press. I think he doesn't like press conferences.
SCOTT: When those pictures came out of him as a college student, those pictures came out earlier this week, smoking the cigarette with the straw hat on, you don't think he was pleased about that?
THOMAS: Look, reporters have been in the tank for him. As things move along, if they don't develop the kind of communication strategy to seal a part of the deal, which is what they want to be a part of, they see themselves as the fourth branch of government and really better than the other three, then the sniping will begin.
SCOTT: Let's talk about the Rick Warren invocation. He's going to be delivering it at Barack Obama's inauguration. And a lot of gay rights activists not too happy about that. What do you make of the coverage?
THOMAS: He's from "The Washington Post," the head of the human rights campaign in Friday night's newspaper. They're very angry at this. They said Warren opposed Proposition 8 in California and how is this change we can believe in diversity.
I think it's a very smart move. Rick Warren, to a lot of evangelicals, is the next Billy Graham. But he's more than Billy Graham. He's not just going to meet in stadiums and tell people about salvation. He's addressing AIDS. He's addressing poverty and a lot of these other issues that younger evangelicals especially want to address.
SCOTT: I think you're getting a nod of agreement from Kirsten Powers.
POWERS: I think that's true. But I'm also just amazed how nobody seemed to be listening to anybody Obama was saying during the campaign when he said he wants to reach across — I guess people didn't really believe him. So when he appointed Hillary Clinton and he did this, people were like, whoa, wait a minute. This is not what we thought you were actually going to do.
HALL: I think he was so demonized that people thought he was going to have a communist revolution. I mean, that's the way his opponents painted him.
PINKERTON: Jim's still waiting for one.
HALL: I do think — let me say one thing. I think the commentary has been remarkably restrained. I thought Pat Buchanan would be the only one to raise the question of the human rights watch group. People have basically said this is fine with them except they're not members of the gay community. A lot of commentary.
SCOTT: All right, time for another break. We'll be back to talk about the death of Deep Throat, also known as Mark Phelps, the man who changed the way the media covered the presidency. And this.
ANNOUNCER: A heartbreaking tragedy. A little boy kidnapped, then killed causes a major shift in media coverage. Details next, on "News Watch."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN WALSH, HOST, "AMERICA'S MOST WANTED": Not knowing is almost as bad as the murder. But today's a good day. Today's a wonderful day. We can end this chapter of our lives. It's not about closure. See, that picture of that little boy will always be that of a murdered little boy. It's about justice. And for all the other victims who haven't gotten justice, I say one thing — don't give up hope. Don't give up hope.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: An emotional news conference on Tuesday with the host of "America's Most Wanted," John Walsh and his family after their son's killer was identified almost 30 years after the crime.
Cal, that case, the Adam Walsh disappearance, had had a huge impact on the way media cover missing children in general. What do you think was the biggest outcome of that?
THOMAS: I think, first of all, the reason there's so much interest in this subject is because every parent secretly, deep in their heart fears that this could happen to them as well. This is human interest stuff. People never get tired of hearing these things. And thanks mainly to John Walsh we've developed a system where many of them are recovered. That's a very good thing — the Amber Alerts. And it has heightened awareness in ways, if it had not been for Walsh and what he started, might not exist.
SCOTT: "America's Most Wanted" obviously came as a result of the crime that occurred to his own son.
POWERS: Yes, I think it's pretty amazing what kind of success it's had and it the fact that is used to be that people were fairly helpless. If you look at his case and how little response he got and little action that he got. And now we have these Amber Alerts, where people are able to move very quickly when a child disappears.
SCOTT: An example of the media actually doing some good?
PINKERTON: I think it is. But I think it's important to dwell on the contrast. When I was growing up in the '60s and '70s, the liberal media critique of the police was they were either incompetent or evil. And that made crime — always have to deal with crime as part of our racist ways, and nothing to do about it but maybe raise taxes and hire more hire more bureaucrats.
Then Walsh came along and said, no, we can fight crime by putting criminals in jail. He was followed up by people like Rudy Giuliani and Meagan's Law and all sort of actions were taken. And we have a much better crime situation than 30 or 40 years ago. John Walsh was a huge hero. But it was a huge change engineered in defiance of what the media wanted us to have.
SCOTT: We now know what we long suspected that the bones found in that vacant lot in Florida are, in fact, those of Caylee Anthony, the little two-year-old really who's been missing for six or seven months now. Compare. Are there comparisons to be made I guess in the way the media covered Adam Walsh with the way this little girl's case has been covered?
HALL: The press conference where they released the results of the autopsy, I guess you would call it, were carried live on all three cable networks. I think that is a change. Sometimes I worry that we, in the media, are exploiting people's fears by doing these stories. And yet, you talk to people in the media and they are stories that people watch, I think just for the reason cal stated. It's literally every parent's nightmare. If it helps find some kids, maybe it's not such a terrible thing.
PINKERTON: There's no question it forces the hand of the cops. They've got to work harder on these cases than they would otherwise.
SCOTT: Let's move on to another case that changed the way the media does things. Former FBI agent Mark Phelps, the man who led reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein through the maze of the Watergate scandal, died this week.
So Deep Throat identified himself a few years back, Cal.
SCOTT: But when you think about the way reporters covered the presidency before Watergate and after, that guy brought some tremendous changes to the way we, in this business, do it.
THOMAS: He did. And among them, the elevation of the anonymous source to a new level. It was interesting to read in Friday's "Washington Post," a story co-bylined by Bob Woodward, half of the Woodward and Bernstein team, of course, that was so responsible for the major reporting of Watergate. They called him the most famous anonymous source in history. Now, there's been a great debate in journalism whether using anonymous sources is a good thing or not. And it has been overused in some cases and wrongly, in my judgment. But in this case, it appears to have worked for Woodward and Bernstein and the Washington Post.
SCOTT: What do you tell your students about anonymous sources, Jane?
HALL: I tell them to try to not to have too much anonymous sources. But I think there are a couple of other interesting things. This is a high-ranking government official who was appalled by the politicization of his agency. That's why he went and became a source. I also tell them it was two young reporters for the metro section of the "Washington Post." These guys were not — Woodward is now famous. And so is Bernstein. The White House beat reporters — I tell them you can get too close to the people you cover. These were young guys who covered Watergate.
PINKERTON: But we've got to also say the reason why Mark Phelps and Woodward and Bernstein are heroes is because they went after Richard Nixon. Reporters who go after Bill Clinton or Obama, nobody's going to care about them. They're not going to be heroes. Long after every newspaper has shut down, journalism schools will still be building shrines to Woodward and Bernstein...
I don't know. It's possible people, really good investigative reporters, have gone after all — not the level of Woodward and Bernstein because they took the big ogre.
POWERS: You don't talk about Michael Isikoff or people, really good investigative reports who have gone after all — I mean, maybe not at the level of Woodward and Bernstein picking up a much bigger thing.
SCOTT: We're going to have to take a break. When we come back, we'll talk about something that happened in Iraq last week.
ANNOUNCER: The president's surprise trip to Iraq gets scooped by flying heels. The postscript, next on "News Watch."
SCOTT: This is your farewell kiss, you dog. That's the translation of the words an Iraqi reporter shouted at President Bush on Sunday. And then came this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE).
IRAQI REPORTER: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: Well, some in the media focused on the shoe tossing as a high insult to the president. One CBS "Early Show" reporter said, "Mr. Bush's message of progress was eclipsed in Baghdad by a sign of his unpopularity. The symbolism wouldn't have been lost on Iraqis, for whom shoes can be used to show extreme contempt."
But many couldn't help notice how quick the president's reflexes are. Not bad for a guy over 60.
One commentator fantasized about what might have happened if the president had thrown the shoes back at the reporter. Some said the president looked all but ready to take on his assailant Texas style.
Well, the president laughed it off, saying the shoes were a size 10. But a few in the media wondered about what might have happened had that reporter, who threw his shoes, tried such a bold expression of his feelings under Saddam Hussein. Yes, there are new freedoms in Baghdad. And here in this country, a freedom of the press we tend to take for granted.
Still, a note to U.S. reporters: next time you're in the press room at the White House with the president, keep your shoes on. He's not running again and some of that Texas justice might come back at you.
That's a wrap on "News Watch" this week.
We want to thank Jane Hall, Jim Pinkerton, Cal Thomas and Kirsten Powers.
I'm Jon Scott. Thank you for watching. Keep it right here on "FOX News" channel.
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