Transcript: 'FOX News Watch,' January 24, 2009

This is a rush transcript from "FOX News Watch," January 10, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

JON SCOTT, FOX HOST: This week on FOX "News Watch," President Obama makes bold moves as he begins his first 100 days in office. How's the press treating the new man at the White House?

Plus, how about coverage of his historic inauguration?

Then, it's not just about the politics. What's the press saying about the new first family?

And the Bush twins have some advice for the Obama kids.

And we have some advice for the media.

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.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I can say without exception or equivocation that the United States will not torture.


Second, we will close the Guantanamo Bay detention camp and determine how to deal with those who have been held there.


SCOTT: President Obama speaking on Thursday after signing the order to shut down the prison at Guantanamo Bay.

Cal, big headline in The Washington Post: "President Obama has effectively ended the war on terror as it was waged by President Bush for seven years." Is that accurate? And what's the reaction?

CAL THOMAS, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I read the story and we were discussing this before we got on the air. I think the headline does not live up to the story itself. There's no way that you can make a unilateral declaration that the war against terror is ended. This might be a semantical headline effort, but the war is going to go on. It might go on with a different headline and under a different rubric, but it will continue because it is now ours to decide when it ends.

SCOTT: And, Jim, the question is, is he going to use the phrase "War on Terror"?

JIM PINKERTON, COLUMNIST & FELLOW, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: That is a question. Robert Gibbs, the new press secretary, won't use that phrase. But with apologies to Shakespeare, "A rose by any other name, doesn't smell as sweet." They have to call it something. You'd think since this has been such a major part of the Obama agenda and transition, they would have figured out the word they're going to use to describe that which they're doing.

SCOTT: Judy, you know, the headline writer is not the journalist. Often journalists, such as yourself, have complaints about the way the headlines come out. But this article said, with the stroke of his pen, president Obama effectively declared an end to the war on terror as president Bush define it.

JUDITH MILLER, WRITER & FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Someone ought to tell the secretary of state that, because at her first press conference, at her first announcement of George Mitchell and Dick Holbrooke as her special envoys and special reps, she said these are two of my most powerful weapons in the arsenal of diplomacy. So I think you can have it a lot of different ways. But it is what it is, what it is.

SCOTT: Interesting, Jane, the president said we're going to close Guantanamo Bay but then we're going to figure out what to do about it.

JANE HALL, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: I think that was the one promise he made that was highly symbolic to a lot of people. I've been joking. He's been reaching out to the right. I'm sure people on the left are like where is the part he reaches to us. This is one way that he does symbolically keep a campaign promise.

But if you read the other stories — this story was written by the woman who broke the story, the secret prisons, Dana Priest. If you read the story, she talks about the interrogation techniques and whether or not they're going to use them. They haven't said they're not going to waterboard. So the story doesn't really add up in some ways to the headline.

PINKERTON: It's going to be murky, shall we say, what's going on, if they have a year to horse around with this. What's not getting as much attention is the people who have already been let go from Guantanamo, some of whom are now top Al Qaeda operatives again. You'd think that would be kind of more important than media, but it's not.


THOMAS: There was a front page story on The New York Times, which I was quite surprised to see. But kudos to Ed Henry of CNN and to our Major Garret of FOX News for bringing up this very point in Robert Gibbs, the new press secretary, first press briefing on Thursday. They repeatedly challenged them on the order of things, whether it's best to announce the shutdown first or the process first. They kept asking Gibbs, what is the process? Well, we'll find out and get back to you on that.

SCOTT: Judy, the president made that unannounced visit to the press room and it didn't seem to go quite the away everybody expected, especially him. Did he break protocol or did the press?

MILLER: No, I think the honeymoon is over the day after the huge party.

SCOTT: Really!

MILLER: The day after the celebration.


MILLER: That's right. The Brits know about pomp and pageantry. They know how to have a party, and they know when it ends. It ended the day he walked into that press room.

HALL: There were no cameras, Jane, at the second swearing in. The media upset about that, upset to not have a photographer in the Oval Office on day one. Is that a bunch of sour grapes from the press? We're not exactly well liked by the people in general.

HALL: You know, I don't think the question of whether they should have had somebody there for the second swearing in is an illegitimate question. I think some other questions maybe. That's a serious question. They clearly in this administration, guess what, like every other administration, it sounds to me like they want to manage the news.

I do think there's a certain protocol, when someone comes in, you don't necessarily shout a lot of questions. But if people feel their questions are not being answered officially, they're going to shout the question.

I just have to say one thing. He said you guys need healthier snacks in your vending machines. I thought that was the best remark he made.


PINKERTON: When Sam Donaldson would yell questions at Ron Reagan, every moment that Reagan was visible, they didn't complain. The press, obviously, they're trying to get stories out of Obama whenever they can. Obviously, some will say, oh, they're begin too mean to Obama, look at it from his point of view. They never gave Reagan or Bush that benefit of the doubt.

THOMAS: Having been in the tank the entire campaign for Obama, they're trying to get their creditability back. It's a little late.

SCOTT: What about the coverage of some of the cabinet picks, like especially Timothy Geithner?

MILLER: This really astonishes me. Jeff Gerth, of ProPublica, had an astonishing story on January 14th that basically questioned what Geithner had done when he was managing the Fed of New York. It didn't go to taxes and things like that. It went to his philosophy and regulatory philosophy. Nobody picked that up. We had some very superficial coverage of Mr. Geithner.

SCOTT: We're going to have to take a break. But first, if you want to hear what the panel is talking about during our commercial breaks, check it out on our website, Jane has something to say but you'll have to listen to it on the web.

Back in two minutes.

ANNOUNCER: Barack Obama takes the oath as millions watch the historic day unfold. Did the coverage strike the right tone? Next, on "News Watch."



REVEREND JOSEPH LOWERY: We ask you to help us work for that day when blacks will not be asked to get back. When brown can stick around. When yellow will be mellow. When the red man can get ahead, man. And when white would embrace what is right. Let all those who do justice and love mercy, say amen.

CROWD: Amen!


SCOTT: The Reverend Joseph Lowery there delivering the benediction at President Obama's inauguration on Tuesday.

He brought up, Cal, the delicate topic of race. Has that been ignored by the media?

THOMAS: Not by Larry King, who said that his eight-year-old wishes he were black. Now, that just tells you go something. No, race is going to be a major part. Here's what's going to happen. As long as Obama continues high in the polls and is perceived as doing well, it won't be a problem, nobody will talk about it. But when he starts making mistakes and criticism begins against him, look for a Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton or a Joseph Lowery to raise the race card.

PINKERTON: Let's put it this way. What if Rick Warren, who gave the invocation at the inaugural, had said something, "Well, maybe now blacks will behave themselves better," the equivalent of what Lowery said. The lightning from the media would have come down and frazzled him on the spot. That's the double standard.

SCOTT: Is that something only a black minister can say?

HALL: He's a representative from the days of marching with Martin Luther King. I think — that to my mind is a piece of the day. Obama went out of his way to go all the way back to George Washington, who owned slaves, to talk about this country. I think Obama has been trying to set the tone. He didn't even mention that much compared to other — the commentary mentioned it a lot. And I do think — I have to say, I felt a little uncomfortable sometimes when reporters would tell you how they were moved. I was happy to see how everyone else was moved. I don't think it's our role to talk about how moved we are.

SCOTT: Yes, Judy, what do you think of the overall coverage of the inauguration?

MILLER: I think it was party coverage. They were having one large party. At, what, $170 million or whoever's counting. That's how it was covered. No one should have expected anything different. And they didn't get anything different.

PINKERTON: Aaron Brown, at the Culture and Media Institute, plucked up all the words that reporters were saying — sacred, majesty, sacrament. There was a party later in the day, but at noon, it was pure liberal piety.

SCOTT: There were a lot of religious references.

HALL: There were a lot of religious references. I blogged for FOX forum about this and I talked about the rock concert that felt like a prayer concert. People said, what god were they praying to. If you were there, it was moving. And the best coverage was when people — I mean, there were songs that invoked God. There was a lot of spirituality to it.

Again, my feeling is it is — to show people celebrating and being moved is different from declaring it a religious event as a reporter.

THOMAS: And then there Zain Verjee of CNN, who compared the inaugural crowd to the pilgrims who go to Mecca. The media have finally found a god in whom they can believe.


PINKERTON: And don't forget that Tom Brokaw took the time to compare Dick Cheney to Dr. Strangelove.


Every church has its devil figure. The media had theirs.

SCOTT: Cal, one research group found that President Obama's inauguration got 35 times more coverage than President Bush's inauguration. Does that surprise you?

THOMAS: No, it doesn't. Look, you have to be honest that this was a unique moment. This is a moment which we should be proud, an African-American being president of the United States. I just wish the media were more fair and balanced. When conservative or Republicans African-Americans come up and run for office and achieve some amount of notoriety, like a Clarence Thomas, like Condoleezza Rice, like Colin Powell before he endorsed Obama. Before he endorsed Obama, he was kind of evil, because he went to the U.N. and claimed weapons of mass destruction. Then when he endorsed Obama, he's a great American.

SCOTT: Well, there's two different things going on here, Judy. We agreed on this program, I think, generally, that Barack Obama has gotten fabulous treatment by the media. And yet, you say you don't think he likes the media all that much.

MILLER: I'm sure he doesn't. We see the enormous emphasis on control. And we've seen the new White House press secretary struggle with that when he has no guidance on things the press wants to know. This is an administration which is going to be determined to kind of control information. And they will not succeed anymore than anybody else has.

SCOTT: What about that, Jane? Considering how well-oiled the machine that led up to the presidency — and you got to be well-oiled to win that office. Have they been stumbling in terms of their media efforts?

HALL: I think they've been stumbling a little bit out of the gate. And I do think that when they — just look at Obama's Blackberry. They can talk to each other. Now they have to figure how to talk to each other while talking to the world. I was in an event where Gibbs and Dana Perino and other press secretaries, they all share a common feeling, Republican and Democrat, how do you manage the beast? We are the beast.

PINKERTON: Remember, if you have a media environment where George Stephanopoulos declares that he cried tears of joy when Obama was inaugurated, it's not going to be too bad for Obama.


THOMAS: Those that live by the media die by the media.

SCOTT: We'll see.

Time for another break. We'll be back to talk more about the first family.

ANNOUNCER: Lots of attention for the new first lady. But how long will she tolerate the press? And what's in store for the younger Obama girls? Will the media treat them right? All next, on "News Watch."


SCOTT: There she is, Sasha Obama giving her dad a good review after his inaugural address, in one of the most famous photos from the big event on Tuesday.

Jane, the media have been fascinated with the clothes the first family has worn, you know, especially the little girls. Did they overdo it?

HALL: Yes, they overdid it. But, you know what? It's the first time I ever really enjoyed reading fashion coverage. I think this was the symbolism and the stage craft to this. Judy said it was a party. If we continually focus on what Michelle Obama's wearing, then I think it becomes sexist. People wrote about what Nancy Reagan wore. It is very interesting. These children are very cute. And she's picking American designers. A lot is made of the fact she is a size 12. There's some symbolism for people in this. It's OK.

MILLER: It doesn't get more American than J. Crew.


HALL: Right.

MILLER: In fact, the Web site crashed as a result of all the interest in the little girls' dresses and coats, which they picked out themselves. I learned from watching television.

THOMAS: There's a big battle going on between mothers and daughters all over America. You read about this in the press, especially at back to school time. I think this will be a tremendously, potentially positive advantage for a lot of mothers who want their kids to dress more modestly. I think these outfits were wonderful. They were beautiful. The kids are cute. The next step is an American girl doll for both of them.

SCOTT: There are already Beanie Babies named Sasha and Malia.

PINKERTON: I have zero criticism of the Obama family, so I'll jump ahead to Jim Shudo (ph) at ABC who said, OK, what would be the other children of the world's message to the Obama children — what would they say to each other? The first, a kid in the Gaza Strip, said we just want the Israelis to stop bombing.


MILLER: That was one of the more moronic things I saw on television during the coverage.

SCOTT: There was a little bit of a forced nature to a lot of that.

MILLER: Over the top, yes.

SCOTT: The folks at Pravda, I suppose, would have been proud.


All right, President Obama's inauguration, the most watched since President Ronald Reagan was sworn in. It drew a huge audience and a young one as well, which is always important to those of us that make our living in broadcasting. But views how critical younger viewers are to the success of the show, or even television operation are starting to change.

What do you think, Cal? I mean, the indications are that advertisers aren't necessarily coveting that 25 to 54-year-old age group the way they used to.

THOMAS: This whole demo has been a total myth from the beginning. Most don't know it started at ABC when ABC was a distant third. They couldn't get any tracking on ratings. They had more young people than the other networks.

Our former panelist here, Neil Gabler, has blown this apart, in "The Myth of the 18-49 Demo," he wrote, for the Leer Center — it's viewable online. The networks are now looking at this and saying, "We've got to do away with it eventually because we are losing market share. And we need to be making more money. And the youth vote, the youth demo isn't doing it for us."

PINKERTON: Well, it makes no sense. I mean, who's got the money?

MILLER: Right.


PINKERTON: People who paid off their mortgages and can spend their money — I mean, whatever. As Cal said, it was a bad idea that this metastasized, you know, like the sorcerer's mops in "Fantasia," and it has been running rampant every since.

SCOTT: Is this good news for the baby boomers, Jane?

HALL: I think so. I remember years ago, I interviewed a woman who founded this group, the Gray Panthers, and she called herself a wrinkled radical. She said, honey, it's not only layettes that people are buying. It's not only the MTV crowd that buys things. You could make the case, it should have been made.

Also, part of the idea is people don't change their minds past 49. I think maybe that has changed. People watching news, you know, are buying things. So it's a good thing for news ultimately.

SCOTT: I remember watching CBS Evening News and every commercial I saw was some kind of medical product, some kind of supplement.



SCOTT: I'm not kidding!


PINKERTON: ... is old. The question is whether they have money and the answer is, they do. And whether they change their mind, and the answer is, they do.

MILLER: In fact, women have twice the amount of money. Older women have twice the amount of disposable income to spend. So all this...

THOMAS: That's because their husbands died.


SCOTT: So is this fascination with youth, is it misguided?

HALL: Absolutely. I covered television for many years. You argue what you have. If you win an 18 to 49, you say you're winning in that. If you win in bigger, overall, you promote that. I think it's actually heartening because news tends to skew old, so this is good news for serious news. And you can only hope young people grow into consuming it. I don't know that's going to happen.

SCOTT: We have to take one more break. When we come back...

ANNOUNCER: A note with advice from 43 to 44. And the Bush girls give tips to the new kids on the block. Now, some sage advice to members of the press. That's next on "News Watch."


SCOTT: "Slide down the banister of the White House solarium," that among the gems of advice the Bush twins, Jenna and Barbara passed along this week to the Obama girls, Malia and Sasha. Their heart-warming letter, published in the Wall Street Journal for all of us to read.

President Bush left a private letter for President Obama this week as well. Now, we don't know the contents, just the address on the envelope, "To #44 from #43."

So with everyone passing along advice in this time of transition, "News Watch" has some advice to share with the Fourth Estate.

First, to MSNBC's Chris Matthews, go see a doctor about that tingle up your leg. Four years is a long time to put up with that it turns out to be sciatica.

Time magazine, you put candidate Obama on 15 covers in 18 months, now that he's won, you need to find a new favorite son or favorite Sun King.

And for Keith Olbermann, since you got booted from that election-night anchor gig, take a lesson from David Gregory, tough but fair. That's how you get to host "Meet the Press." And try to hang on to that gig you've got, because you're running out of places to work.

For The New York Times, your coverage gives us plenty to talk about each week, so don't worry about being balanced in your coverage. We hope those front page ads keep us afloat. Along with the quarter billion in cash you're getting from Carlos Slim (ph), the second richest man in the world. A year and a half ago, your paper called him a robber baron and a monopolist. Now that he's saving the dowager gray lady, what is he, a dashing prince?

Katie Couric, in this tough economy, you should think about taking a salary cut. Hey, you're in third place. Try to get buy on 10 million a year and let CBS spend your other $4 million to keep a few dozen of your fellow journalists employed.

Charlie Gibson, send Governor Sarah Palin some flowers and hope she runs for national office again. She was real good for your ratings.

Brian Williams, hire a food taster before you sample any gifts from Olbermann.

Now to our own panelists.

Jane, your job of molding new fair-minded journalists has never been more important.

Cal, may the traditional ink and paper live long and proper — prosper, I should say. We love your column and we can't keep you in cuff links with our paltry 30 minutes a week.

Jim, may the Internet media thrive. That's where you're making your living these days. And hey, the rest of us might need you to hire us pretty soon.

And, Judy, since your beat is the security of our nation and the threats we face collectively, we hope you have a slow, boring year with absolutely nothing to cover.

All right. That's my wishes for our panelists.

I'm Jon Scott. Thanks for watching. Keep it right here on FOX News channel. The "FOX Report" is up next. We'll see you again next week on "News Watch."

Content and Programming Copyright 2009 FOX News Network, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2009 ASC LLC (, which takes sole responsibility for the accuracy of the transcription. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material except for the user's personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon FOX News Network, LLC'S and ASC LLC's copyrights or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation