This is a rush transcript from "FOX News Watch," April 4, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
JON SCOTT, FOX HOST: This week on FOX "News Watch," the jet-setting Obamas take Europe by storm, conferring with world leaders on economic concerns, rubbing elbows with royalty, pleasing the queen and her court, as protesters riot in the London streets. Did the media gush too much?
GM's big guy gets the boot from the White House. Did that move have the blessing of the press?
Did the government and reporters get it wrong in blaming the U.S. for supplying guns to Mexican drug gangs?
Plus, Howard Dean helps CNBC find its way back to the left.
SCOTT: And FOX Nation arrives on the scene and shakes things up.
On the panel this week, Patricia Murphy, founder and editor, and citizenjanepolitics.com, a nonpartisan Web site; Bill Sammon, vice-president of FOX News and Washington managing editor; Jim Pinkerton, columnist and fellow, New America Foundation; and Judith Miller, writer and FOX News contributor.
I'm Jon Scott. FOX "News Watch" is on right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today we've learned the lessons of history. I know that in the days leading up to the summit, some of you in the press, some commentators confused honest and open debate with irreconcilable differences. But after weeks of preparation and two days of careful negotiation, we have agreed on a series of unprecedented steps to restore growth and prevent a crisis like this from happening again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: President Obama there in London speaking with reporters on Thursday.
Here is what some of the media are saying about his overseas sojourn.
The Guardian, a London-based paper ran this headline on Wednesday, "Where is the new JFK we expected? He's stuck in a rut with Gordon Brown."
Back at home, American media are a little more fawning. This from The Washington Post, "In London, a jam packed schedule for Obama. On first trip to Europe since taking office, the president is a dynamo of diplomacy and charm ahead of G-20 summit."
All right, Bill, you're watching the coverage of the G20 summit along with everybody else, but you're in Washington. Give us your take on how the American media, especially, covered it.
BILL SAMMON, VICE-PRESIDENT OF FOX NEWS AND WASHINGTON MANAGING EDITOR: The American media basically gushed and fawned over President Obama and the real reason is because he's not George W. Bush. And the reason that doesn't make any sense is, if you look at the issues, such as Iraq, Afghanistan, the economy, let's break it down. Iraq, that is an issue owned by George W. Bush. That's the issue that everybody was hating on him for and yet, it's actually going well. But when you look at the two issues that aren't going well, Afghanistan and the economy, both owned by Barack Obama, by virtue of his — the initiatives in his first couple months in office. And yet, still the press fawns over him even though he's not presiding over issues very well.
SCOTT: I can't tell if Judith is about to agree with you or hit you over the head.
JUDITH MILLER:, WRITER & FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I'm about to disagree because I think by the end of the summit, both the American media and European media were in full fawn. In was an extraordinary performance.
What happened, that is the great walkout of Sarkozy, did not happen. Never mind that he didn't get anything that he really wanted on the fiscal stimulus side. He got a trillion dollars for the IMF. They spun it into a great success. And. look, the camera loves him. The camera loves her. They were the first couple and it was a bravado performance.
SCOTT: At his news conference, Jim, he was asked basically how did you do? He says, I think we did OK.
MURPHY: Actually, he said, "I think I did OK."
SCOTT: Yeah, I think I did OK?
JIM PINKERTON, WRITER & FELLOW, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: Yeah, well, I mean, the beauty — he can afford to be modest since we can agree the press is falling over him. I can understand why Chris Matthews would say, quote, "He is the new us." Because Chris Matthews and MSNBC and General Election are on the government payroll. Of course, they're praising. I don't know why the rest of them, who are about to get laid off, are praising them, too.
SCOTT: You're talking about the bailout, General Electric...
PINKERTON: General Electric getting $139 billion from the government last year, $139 billion.
MURPHY: I don't think you need to pay off Chris Matthews to like Barack Obama. I think you can do it for free.
SCOTT: The leg is still tingling.
MURPHY: I know, but I think — I was interested to watch the coverage. It almost as if the president's trip was going as well as the media who were covering him. And I did see a difference in the networks, left, right, center, as you would expect. And I kind of marvel that you could change the channel and the trip was going from bad to worse to much, much better. So I think it was in the eyes of the beholder.
SCOTT: What about the protesters, Jim? Some people suggest that if the media weren't there or television at least, you wouldn't see such mayhem in the streets.
PINKERTON: I think that's an endemic problem to the media age. If you throw a rock through a window, you'll get on TV, and that's just a moral hazard that frankly the media, anywhere they go in the world, can't really solve.
SCOTT: Because when you look at some of the pictures, you know, smashing the windows at the Royal Bank of Scotland, for instance, there are more cameras held up in the air than bobbies with night sticks.
SAMMON: It's an unhealthy, symbiotic relationship where the press carries the protest shots because they're more interesting than having a bunch of talking heads in business suits shaking hands at the meetings.
And protesters carry on and act up because they're surrounded by cameras.
SCOTT: Talking about meetings, there was the meeting with the queen.
The Obama's spent, what, two hours with her. Did the press make too much of that?
MILLER:: That was kind after extraordinary meeting. And I have to say that the Michelle Obama embrace of the queen, thank goodness, she didn't courtesy. After all, we did win the revolution. we did it. But the fact that she put her arms around her, and the queen withdrew, and yet the press did not pick up on that. They said the queen loved Michelle Obama. And in fact, towards the end of the meeting, the queen put her arm around Michelle Obama. So it goes down as a great victory.
By the way, I think that if anything, Michelle Obama shown even brighter in terms of the media spotlight on this trip.
SCOTT: She got a lot of ink for her fashion.
PINKERTON: She did. And the test though is how Cindy McCain would have been covered. If Cindy McCain had been in the identical situation, would NBC News, back to General Electric and the bailout again — play Andy Williams' "I Can't Take my Eyes Off You," during that?
SCOTT: We're going to talk fashion during the break. And if you want to hear what we're saying about Mrs. Obama's fashions or anything else, go to our Web site, FOXnews.com/FOXnewswatch.
And we'll be back in two minutes with this.
ANNOUNCER: Barack Obama tells GM's chief to hit the road. Will more heads roll in the government's power play? And could there be more outrage in the media? Plus, clear winners and losers in cable news, but the news is hard to swallow for CNN. All next, on "News Watch."
(FOX NEWS BREAK)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Just in case there are still nagging doubts, let me say it as plainly as I can. If you buy a car from Chrysler or General Motors, you will be able to get your car serviced and repaired just like always. Your warranty will be safe. In fact, it will be safer than it's ever been because, starting today, the united states government will stand behind your warranty.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: President Obama there, trying to assure American car buyers that Chrysler and GM are safe bets. This, after the decision to ask Rick Wagoner, the head of General Motors, to step aside.
I couldn't help but think back to Lee Iacocca, when I was watching that and the 770 Protection Plan.
I mean, you could almost see the president appearing in a GM or a Chrysler commercial, couldn't you?
PINKERTON: I mean, I thought that Charles Krauthammer had a terrific column in The Washington Post on Friday when he said, listen, when you get to the level where your president is guaranteeing car warranties, there's at least a chance that the Uncle Sam is biting off more than he can chew in terms of managing. We've got the bailout, the stimulus, omnibus, health care and this. Those are five mega projects that...
MURPHY: Forbes called it government gone wild. And I think that would be the picture of his entire presidency. And the press coverage of it was quite negative. Politico called it carrots for banks, sticks for autos. And a lot of the headlines were very, very bad.
SCOTT: So if my transmission goes out of my Escalade, do I take to the White House and get my money back?
SAMMON: If your muffler is bad, you go see Barack Obama. When he actually fired Wagoner, the General Motors chairman, and forced the ouster of Wagoner, the press played this as a bold move by Barack Obama, instead of a dangerous overreach of government into the private sector.
MILLER:: No, I disagree. I think the press was very skeptical. Even the Detroit Free Press raised questions about what was in the president's package, whether or not getting those liabilities off your books really meant that you were going to not make good on the promises they made to the UAW.
But you know, come on, he's not popular. He's managed to lose $80 billion in the past five years. And that's not bad, so.
SCOTT: Let's talk about UAW for a moment there. Leading up to Detroit's problems, everybody said, legacy costs are a big part of the problem. I mean, has the press been giving the UAW its due in all of this coverage?
MURPHY: The coverage that I've seen of the UAW in this episode is how little influence they're actually having over the process. Reuters and Bloomberg went into great detail saying UAW is really nowhere at this point in terms of really rescuing the company. They've had a few concessions, but I don't know if they're going to be enough. But they they've basically been under covered.
SCOTT: Is that the way you see it, Jim?
PINKERTON: There were kind of influential in the run-up of costs to the big three automakers over the last 40 years. And we have this strange spectacle of auto workers at healthy companies in Alabama and Tennessee paying taxes to pay for auto workers making higher salaries at unhealthy companies up in Michigan.
SCOTT: The New Jersey Star Ledger ran a cartoon a bit earlier in the week. I want to take a look at that. There it is, "From president to Mr. Goodwrench."
"We all know the stakes for this summit are high and the eyes of the world are upon us, so before we begin I'd like everyone to keep in mind, I can get you guys some really great deal on a Buick."
That was the perception.
SAMMON: Yeah, and it's funny, there's at least as much culpability on the part of the United Auto Workers as there was on General Motors management. And yet, the press, when it was suggested maybe they ought to fire the head of the union, the press said, well, we didn't give tax dollars to the union. Let me tell you, the more we take over the company, the tax dollars are going to end up funding the union pensions. So I think there's a stake in the union as well.
SCOTT: Do you think, I mean, is the media giving the coverage of the future of the auto industry its due?
MILLER:: I think that almost every paper that I read said that let's not forget that the UAW paid $5 million in contributions to the Obama campaign. That's very important. And I think the media have also asked whether or not there isn't a double standard in firing Rick Wagoner, but not firing anyone in the banks, because they, too, got bailouts and nobody's doing that. So, the questions are being asked.
SCOTT: So a double standard?
PINKERTON: Absolutely, a double standard. And why is Steve Rattner, big New York finance guy, overseeing the auto industry? Why was he quoted in The Washington Post on Friday talking about the ups and downs of the auto industry? He doesn't know anything about cars. And he would be the first to admit it. But he does know finance and he does know Obama. And he is a big contributor, ergo.
SCOTT: Time for another break.
First though, we'd like your opinion. Story ideas would be welcome, especially if you come across a story about media bias. E-mail us at newswatch@FOXnews.com.
And we'll be back with this.
ANNOUNCER: Capital threats, North Korean missiles and security on our borders challenge our new Homeland Security chief. Is the media paying attention? Plus, CNBC falls hard to the left. And FOX Nation shakes the media landscape. All next, on "News Watch."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: The guns sold in the united states, which are illegal in Mexico, get smuggled and shipped across our border and arm these terrible drug dealing criminals so that they can outgun these poor police officers along the border and elsewhere in Mexico.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: Secretary of State Clinton speaking last week with FOX News' Greta van Susteren while on a trip to Mexico.
While in that country, Ms. Clinton made the claim to reporters on the plane. She said, "Since we know that the vast majority, 90 percent of that weaponry, comes from our country, we are going to try to stop it from getting there in the first place.” Last week, parroting the claim that 90 percent of the guns in hand of the Mexican drug cartel came from the U.S.
Now, that claim was repeated many times in the media. But according to a FOX News investigation, that number is way off.
Bill, just give us the thumbnail of what we've learned.
SAMMON: Well, it turns out that the vast majority of weapons that are seized in these raids on Mexican drug cartels are not traceable. They don't have American serial numbers. So they took a small fraction of them that did have American numbers and traced them to American gun manufacturers and said, a-ha, 90 percent are from Americans.
The fact is most are from Asia, Israel, South America. They're smuggled in. Some are from the Mexican army. So it was a falsehood repeated by the highest levels of this administration.
SCOTT: And you could almost see it happening on the plane, you know.
She says 90 percent and reporters scribble down that figure and it becomes gospel. Should reporters treat that kind of thing a little more skeptical?
MURPHY: Probably also what happened was Hillary Clinton scribbled down a number one of her aides gave her. I don't know where her numbers are coming from. I don't think there's a dispute that a great deal of demand for Mexican drugs does come from the United States. Or even that a lot of the guns along the U.S.-Mexican border may be from the United States.
But I think you do get — we've seen this a couple of times not just with the Mexico story, but reporters being fed numbers, scribbling them down, sending out their stories with really very little double-checking.
It's good that you follow up on these.
SCOTT: And what happens with skeptical friends?
PINKERTON: As Mark Twain said a long time ago, the truth gets halfway around — a lie gets halfway around the world before the truth gets its boots on.
Look, things may stand to reason, but you check them. And obviously, the press loves the idea that we can blame America for the guns and they never bothered to check.
SCOTT: There was another flap, I guess you could say, about our northern border, with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano saying that the situation on the northern border was pretty similar to what we see going on in Mexico. How did that get covered?
MILLER:: Well, I don't think it received the skepticism that it deserved. There were just a couple of papers that really called her on it.
And in fact, Ms. Napolitano seems to have a problem with the word "terrorism" in general. And the press hasn't really looked at that either.
SAMMON: Well, she actually said she doesn't refer to acts of terrorism. She refers to man-caused disasters. Now, this is in the same week where the administration lets it be known that instead of being referred to the war on terrorism we are going to refer to the overseas contingency operation, which sounds like something that happens so you don't lose your luggage at Euro Disney.
SCOTT: And a man-caused disaster...
MURPHY: I don't think that it's fair to question people's dedication to fighting terrorism in the federal government. I think that's the very last thing they would want.
MILLER:: Wait a minute. What if she never mentions it in her first public statement, never mentions the word "terrorism"? I don't quite understand why it seems to be being downgraded, but that's the impression she gives.
PINKERTON: I think the Obama administration is slapping on a layer of political correctness on to reality. And the problem is the reality of terrorism, of violence, is not politically correct. So there's going to be a horrible situation where the American people are lulled now into thinking these things aren't real when they are.
SCOTT: But doesn't it seem...
MURPHY: Well, I— what is he talking about? Nobody wants terrorist acts on the United States or anywhere around the world. I don't buy the politically correctness argument.
SCOTT: Why are they saying it? Why are they changing the name?
MURPHY: You'd have to ask them.
SAMMON: Here's what's going to come back to haunt them. If, god forbid, we get hit with another terrorist attack, everyone's going to look at the Obama administration...
PINKERTON: Oh, man-caused disaster.
SAMMON: And say, wait a minute, I thought you said it was just an overseas contingency operation.
MILLER:: And overseas contingency operation.
SCOTT: In the last weeks, we've talked about reports of a liberal spin machine at work in Washington, shaping coverage of the Obama administration and its efforts. This issue caught the attention of Ed Gillespie, former head of the Republican National Committee. He says he fears conservatives are getting beaten up by the mainstream media because they don't understand how the landscape has changed.
In an article for the National Review, he offers his advice, "Accept the reality of today's mainstream media. Too many Republicans and candidates operated in a mindset that was formed more than a decade ago when the mainstream media meant seriousness and objectivity. Those days are gone."
Does he have a point, Judy?
MILLER:: I think he has a point. I think the media are very polarized. I think we have people now on the Internet who are extremely left wing and extremely right wing. I think that's good, by the way, in that people can hear any opinion that they want to. but there's no doubt that that old-fashioned standard of fair and balanced or what everyone wants to call it, all the news fit to print, is really under a lot of pressure.
SCOTT: Patricia, your Web site is advertised as nonpartisan. Can you survive nonpartisan?
MURPHY: Well, I think it's doing OK nonpartisan. And actually, people come to the site and they say thank god I can get straight information. If there's opinion, we certainly label it that way.
But I agree with Judy that this landscape has changed so radically that more Republicans and also Democrats haven't quite gotten their feet underneath them, but they are using tools like Twitter and Facebook to get around the media and straight to the constituents.
SAMMON: The idea that the mainstream media was honest ten years ago is absurd.
Ed Gillespie said the scales fell from his eyes when he started to work at the White House a few years ago. I saw Ed today and I said the scales fell from my eyes a lot earlier, and you've just finally got wise to it.
SCOTT: Time for our "Caught in the Web" segment. FOX Nation made its debut. You find stories like this about the media on that sight.
"Saturday Night Live" wins a Peabody Award. That's an award for excellence in electronic media. The folks handing out the award said, "The late-night legend stole the election-year thunder from its satirical competition on cable, and may have swayed the race itself."
Really? Business and Media Institute points out on its Web site that CNBC, an advocate of modern-day tea parties, is shifting hard to the left.
To help them in that direction, they've invited Arianna Huffington to guest host and hired former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean as a contributor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Former DNC Chair and Vermont Governor Howard Dean, who is, as of today, a CNBC contributor. CNBC...
HOWARD DEAN, FORMER DNC CHAIR: That's should terrify them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: tvnewser.com among the sites, I should say, pointing out Bill O'Reilly's 100th months as the number-one cable news program, also noting that FOX News is now the second most-watched cable channel, not just news channel, cable channel on television. Good news for us here at FOX.
As for the other two, well, MSNBC beat CNN in prime time. That's a big blow to CNN, which tried to spin the news a little differently.
We have to take one more break. When we come back...
ANNOUNCER: With government in control of GM and others, what new features can we expect in our American cars? Answers next, on "News Watch."
SCOTT: The news about General Motors this week got us wondering what life might be like with the government motors in charge of the warranty on your GM or Chrysler vehicle.
As Jim mentioned earlier, columnist, Charles Krauthammer, had a funny line in Friday's Washington Post. He wrote, "By sacking GM's CEO, packing the new board, and giving direction as to which brands to drop and what kind of cars to make, President Obama takes ownership of General Motors. He may soon come to regret it. He has now gotten himself so entangled up in the car business that he is personally guarantying your muffler."
Lots of other folks in the media offer their take on government motors. Here's something else that caught our eye.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AD ANNOUNCER: Stop worrying about your warranty on your automobile.
President Obama has announced that your warranty will be backed by the government.
Introducing the Department of Motor Vehicle's Automotive Repair Center. How does it work? Just take a number and fill out a simple form.
Enjoy a refreshment. And once your number is called, your DMV automotive repair expert will information you that you filled out the wrong form. But not to worry. You DMV automotive repair expert will gladly point you to the correct form just as soon as he gets back from his break. Once he returns, you simply repeat the process. Take a number, fill out the correct form, enjoy a refreshment, wait for your number, make an appointment and return in six to eight weeks to have your car serviced. It really is that easy.
Our management team of automotive experts can't wait to take you for a ride. So stop worrying and make an appointment today. Hours are 10 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., Monday through Thursday, excluding holidays.
SCOTT: And that is a wrap on FOX "News Watch.” See you next week.
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