This is a rush transcript from "FOX News Watch," April 11, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
BILL HEMMER, FOX GUEST HOST: This week on FOX "News Watch," President Obama takes a detour to Iraq, surprising the troops there, and gets picture-perfect press.
It's holy week, a time for the faithful to reflect, and a time for the media to take a swipe at religion.
Sarah Palin's family matters go public with some of the media using the details to discredit the political hopeful.
Also, has the opportunity to photograph fallen heroes given critics an opportunity to exploit their fate?
And it's time for the press, as America gears up for tax day tea parties.
On the panel this week, Marissa Guthrie, programming editor for Broadcasting and Cable magazine; syndicated columnist, Cal Thomas; Jim Pinkerton, columnist and fellow, New America Foundation; and Kirsten Powers, New York Post columnist and a FOX News contributor.
I'm Bill Hemmer, in for Jon Scott this week. And FOX "News Watch" is on right now.
It was the picture of the week, President Obama surprising our troops in Baghdad at the end of his first big overseas trip. Here is how the New York Post put it on Wednesday, "Barack star." This is how the caption reads under the photo in the New York Times, "An unexpected visit to Iraq, Obama wins, troops cheers."
Let's go to our panel and talk about this now.
Jim, hello to you, first of all. Happy Easter weekend. What did you make of how the media covered this tour to — I guess we should say, to the detour to Baghdad.
JIM PINKERTON, COLUMNIST & FELLOW, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: Well, the Iraq trip was great. It's a beautiful photo op and he did a wonderful job. But I ask you and my fellow panelists here, if John McCain had gone to Europe and asked for no — for more NATO troops and gotten none, if he'd asked for more stimulus money and gotten none, if he's asked for a U.N. resolution for North Korea and not gotten it, if the John McCain thought that Austrian was it's own separate language, and if he'd bowed down to the king of Saudi Arabia, what do you think the press would be covering? How would they cover it?
CAL THOMAS, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: A good question. And we might follow up by saying there's a double standard when Barack Obama goes to Baghdad and when George Bush went. The media were full of stories, when George W. Bush went to Baghdad, saying, if Iraq was safer as he claims, he wouldn't stay in the safety of the Green Zone. He'd go out of the Green Zone and mingle with the people. But Obama goes only to the Green Zone, not a word of criticism.
HEMMER: Are they on to something, Marissa? We get half the story?
MARISSA GUTHRIE, PROGRAMMING EDITOR, BROADCASTING & CABLE: Look, I think that he was — he was certainly criticized and taken to task for not getting the two things he wanted, commitment from NATO for combat troops in Afghanistan, and some spending in Europe for global stimulus. This is this president's first overseas trip. It's going to be more about image and symbolism than actual substance. And you can't belie the pictures, cheering crowds in Europe. The troops photographing him, asking for autographs. So I think it was inevitably going to be about...
HEMMER: Even Time magazine said he took a page from the Bush play book.
And, Kirsten, I don't think it's much of a stretch for a commander-in-chief to go to a war zone and get the treatment that we saw this past week. It's almost a political layup.
KIRSTEN POWERS, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTER & COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK POST: Yes, except conservatives are always claiming that the military hates Democrats and Democrats are weak on military and defense. So I think it's more news worthy when you see Barack Obama going there and the opposite happening and they don't seem like they're unhappy with him at all. In terms of the Green Zone issue, Barack Obama's never claimed Iraq is some great place. And I mean, the contrast is different.
HEMMER: Technically, there is still more Green Zone. It's dissolved into the international zone. And now the Iraqis are in control of it.
POWERS: Right. But even if he had, it's not the same thing. I think it's because George Bush was making claims about it.
HEMMER: But their point is that if you go back to Europe, on the stops in London, the treatment was not what it should have been.
PINKERTON: And my point is when Dan Quayle misspelled potato, that was the subject of media criticism for weeks. And Obama's Austrian thing slips right below the water surface.
THOMAS: Well, the worshipfulness of the media continues. My favorite headline of the week was The Boston Globe. I was up in Boston this week. It said, "In a stroke of brilliance, Obama defies easy caricature." How is that brilliant to defy easy caricature? And then the copy in the story said this, "Obama may not actually be perfect, but so many poor souls out there think he is." Oh.
HEMMER: I love it when you bring your notes with you.
Listen, there's this back and forth going whether or not President Obama bowed to the king of Saudi Arabia. And we've debate that had on the FOX News channel.
Here is how Robert Gibbs, White House spokesman, described it on Thursday about the bowing photo. Then we'll talk it. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: We took a look at the video and it does appear that the president actually bowed to King Abdulla. Did he bow or didn't he?
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN: No, I think he bent over to shake with both hands to shake his hand so — to show, on one hand, that he...
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Well, did he bow or didn't he?
GIBBS: No, but I think this meeting was like a week ago, right?
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: That's right, but this is something that a lot of people are still talking about today.
GIBBS: I can only imagine that it is a great cause and concern for many people struggling with the economy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HEMMER: So that's two days ago on Thursday. Is this the photo — the photo, rather, is that an issue for the White House?
GUTHRIE: I don't think it's an issue. Here is your potato analogy there. He's being taken to task for bowing. Michelle was taken to task for hugging the queen.
HEMMER: Well, what do you think it was?
POWERS: I think it was a — he was leaning over, leaning over.
POWERS: I'm sorry, it's ridiculous. He was clearly leaning over to shake his hand. The idea that Barack Obama would bow to him is so ridiculous.
PINKERTON: Wait, wait, wait, wait. Hold on.
HEMMER: So you would...
PINKERTON: As Groucho Marx said, "Who are you going to believe, me or your own two eyes"? He bowed. That's all there is to it. He bowed.
THOMAS: We have (INAUDIBLE). We have bowing. And what did you say it was?
POWERS: Leaning over to shake his hand.
THOMAS: Leaning over. It's not the bowing. It's leaning over or bending down.
POWERS: A person is sitting down and you lean over to shake their hand.
GUTHRIE: I think we need some tape of Barack Obama shaking hands.
HEMMER: Cal, you say this is an issue.
THOMAS: Well, it is an issue, only because of the underlying stuff you read on the blogs and on the web that somehow Obama is a secret Muslim, or he's reaching out in a way to the Muslim world that will be in a way that will be injurious to the United States. So, there's that — I'm not saying that's accurate. I'm saying that's part of the stereotyping surrounding Obama. That's why the story is interesting.
HEMMER: He's made a point of it several times during the campaign that he lived in Indonesia.
HEMMER: Perhaps it was just natural instinct for him to do what he did, so don't dismiss it entirely as a bow.
POWERS: Come on. I mean, I'm sorry.
HEMMER: The Saudis...
POWERS: The only people that think this are right wing nut jobs. I'm sorry.
PINKERTON: Actually, the Saudi Arabians said isn't this nice President Obama showing respect to our king.
POWERS: He was respectful. What's wrong with that? He was respectful in like, the person is sitting down and he's being respectful and leaning over and...
HEMMER: All right, next topic.
Cal, you wrote a piece this week about Turkey and why words matter. Explain that.
THOMAS: Well, the president was saying in conjunction with North Korea, about the resolutions of the United Nations, condemnations for so many acts of North Korea. And in that context, he said, words have meaning. In the piece I wrote for syndication, I said, well, if words have meaning, maybe we should take a look at the words from the Islamic extremists and some of the Muslim media, Arab media, caricaturing Jews, putting down Christians and Jews, calling for eradication of Israel. So if words have meaning when it comes to U.N. resolutions, maybe the media ought to take a look at words coming out of the Middle East and what the ultimate objective of radical Islam is with respect to Israel and the United States.
HEMMER: Where can we find at that piece?
THOMAS: Well, on my famous web site, calthomas.com.
THOMAS: And all the other places. Thank you, for asking.
HEMMER: On an Easter weekend, I'll give you props, OK?
THOMAS: Thank you so much.
HEMMER: Time for a break. But first, a conversation. It gets kind of hot during the commercial break. You can listen in. Head to our web site, FOXnews.com/FOXnewswatch.
And we're back in two minutes with this.
ANNOUNCER: As the world celebrates holy week, the press puts a negative focus on God and religion. Is there an agenda? And tax day is coming and so are the anti-tax tea parties. What are they? And is the mainstream media ignoring the movement? Answers next, on "News Watch."
(FOX NEWS BREAK)
HEMMER: All right. We like to hear from our viewers, certainly. And many of you writing, asking about Newsweek's discouraging cover this week, "The decline and Fall of Christian America.
Mike out of Oklahoma City writes, "John Meachum, Newsweek editor, should come and visit my congregation where we're filled to capacity every Sunday. Him and his buddies, (sic), over at Newsweek should focus their time on examining the decline of journalism, specifically the magazine and newspaper sales, or you'll be out of a job soon."
The timing doesn't seem to be a coincidence. It's holy week for Christians and Passover for Jews. And it's also not the first time the mainstream media has weighed in with a negative message on God and religion.
1966, Time magazine said, or asked, rather, "Is God dead?" Three years later, they asked, "Is God coming back to life?"
Back with our panel now, Marissa, Jim, and Cal and Kirsten.
Let's start with Kirsten here. It's no accident. It's no coincidence they're doing it this week. What's the intent?
POWERS: Probably, to make news and get attention. They're a news magazine. I have to say this, I generally am pretty critical of having media deals with religion, Christianity specifically. They tend to be very critical, very unfair.
HEMMER: But in this case?
POWERS: I read the article and I thought it was sort of — I don't take issue with it. It seems to be that religion is a little less intense than it used to be. That doesn't mean that there aren't parts — evangelical Christianity is growing. And they talk about that in the article.
You know, I don't have a problem with it. I'm a religious person as well and I really didn't have any trouble with the article at all.
HEMMER: Marissa, when you cover the industry, is it only commercial reasons? If you look at religion in America today, when you put it in the television, newspaper or magazine, it sells.
GUTHRIE: Sure, look at the cover. They knew exactly what they were doing. They have a provocative headline in red text, shaped like a cross on a black background. The headline is sensationalistic. It was on purpose, OK. But if you read the article and if you read the survey, it's much less sensationalistic than the cover. They achieved what they wanted.
PINKERTON: I agree with that. It was. The cover was more provocative than the article. Let's talk about the cover. Let's imagine Newsweek doing a Star of David and then saying, the decline and fall of Jewish Israel. Let's imagine Newsweek doing a crescent and saying, the decline and fall of Muslim fill-in-the-blank country. They would never do it. Because they'd be accused of being anti-Semitic or they'd be afraid of being car bombed.
POWERS: It also...
PINKERTON: But they know they can do it to Christians and get away with it.
POWERS: It would be inaccurate. There is no decline in Islam. There's no — I believe...
PINKERTON: Actually, there's a huge decline of religious belief in Israel. Sure there is.
POWERS: But the — Islam is a growing, very growing religion. And in the United States, the reality is that we've become a less religious country. That's a fact. I'm sorry.
HEMMER: Newsweek article had a survey, right?
HEMMER: And the survey said a lot of things about religion in America. But you believe it missed one point. What was that?
THOMAS: I think it miss a lot of points. The real question is, is Time magazine dead and some other weekly magazines. But the real question is — the problem for the media is that they've always had trouble covering religion.
I remember Bill Moyers in 1980, after the initial rise of the moral majority got on television and said, where did the people come from? We didn't see them coming. Because they don't hang out in places that conservative, religious people frequent. Most of them don't go to church on Sunday. Survey after survey have shown that most of the media are secular. They don't even have the wording down. They don't know the difference between born-again and born yesterday.
POWERS: I agree with that, but I don't think that John Meacham really falls into the category.
THOMAS: No, no. He doesn't. No, no, no. But they have a general problem with covering the subject. The Meachum piece was quite good I thought.
HEMMER: Jim, you had a problem with the cover itself. If you were crafting this cover, would you do it differently or stayed away entirely.
PINKERTON: I wouldn't have done it, because I would hate — if I were a member of the media, I would not want to contribute to the stereotype that the liberal media despises religion, and takes a whack at it every chance they get, as this cover documents further.
HEMMER: It sells.
PINKERTON: The magazines are going out of business. I'm not sure it sells.
HEMMER: Thank you, Jim.
Time for another break.
Thank you. Was that sarcastic?
I was not sarcastic that time.
Do you have a story or an example of media bias? E-mail us at newswatch@FOXnews.com.
And we're right back with this.
ANNOUNCER: A rising star in the Republican Party takes pot shots from the press over her daughter's private life. Is this fair game? And it's time for the tea parties. What's the media's take on this nationwide movement? That's next, on "News Watch."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TYRA BANKS, HOST, "THE TYRA BANKS SHOW": Did she think you were abstinent?
LEVI JOHNSTON, BOYFRIEND OF BRISTOL PALIN: No.
BANKS: OK, so she knew that you guys were active?
BANKS: You think she knew?
JOHNSTON: I'm pretty sure she probably knew.
BANKS: How are you pretty sure she knew?
JOHNSTON: She's pretty smart.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HEMMER: That was Levi Johnston on the "Tyra Banks Show" this past week. The interview gave fresh meat to folks at MSNBC and others to attack the Palin family.
Back to the panel now.
I have one question, why Tyra Banks? I mean, was...
GUTHRIE: She asked him very hard-hitting questions.
HEMMER: Was my buddy, Jerry Springer, not available? Hard-hitting questions?
GUTHRIE: He'll be on Jerry next.
HEMMER: What did you make of that, Marisa? Is the Palin family free game again?
GUTHRIE: They created this Frankenstein when they pressed old Levi Johnston into service on the campaign trial.
HEMMER: The press?
GUTHRIE: Where he was supposed to just stand there and be dutifully silent.
Now that they've all soured on each other, which — I mean, sorry — you could see coming from a mile away, he's out there telling his story to the people.
THOMAS: Well, he might have been on Maury Povich's "Who's Your Daddy." We already know that.
Look, I agree with the Palin family on this one. This is just cheap, crass exploitation. Instead of his name, they should have had white trash is the super. He's the poster boy for that.
HEMMER: Ew. They call some people bimbos, right?
POWERS: Mimbos. Mimbos.
HEMMER: What's a mimbo?
POWERS: A man bimbo?
HEMMER: Jim, what do you make of this?
PINKERTON: I have nothing good to say about Levi Johnston. I will just say this about Governor Palin and her media operation. Governor Palin has a right to strong feelings, and I'm sure she has plenty with this young man. But the press secretary should not have issued a statement like that. That just feed the fires.
PINKERTON: There should have been just a dignified "No comment."
HEMMER: The statement from the Palin's side...
PINKERTON: Governor Palin's.
HEMMER: ... which read in part — and it's a long one, too — "Bristol did not even know Levi was going on the show. We're disappointed that Levi and his family, in a quest for a fame, fortune and attention, are engaging in flat-out lies, gross exaggeration, and even distortion of their relationship. It is unfortunate that Levi finds it more appealing to exploit his previous relationship with Bristol than to contribute to the well being of child. Bristol realizes now that she made a mistake in her relationship and is the one taking responsibility for their actions."
POWERS: It also could have been something they did because he's probably going on other shows and say more things, and they want today say this guy is a liar, you can't trust him. This probably was just almost a - - just planning on that coming off and so that they wanted to...
HEMMER: Look, I just think kids — kids are not fair game. But in case, she inserted herself into the discussion. Well, the republican kids are discussion.
THOMAS: Well, Republican kids are fair game. Remember the Bush twins, out having drinks underage, that sort of thing.
HEMMER: I mean, you can go back and argue Amy Carter in the 70's was fair game too.
THOMAS: Well, OK.
HEMMER: So much focus on the Palin side. There was very little focus on his side of the story.
THOMAS: The reason for that is the left wing media realized that Governor Palin is a strong force within the Republican Party. The Republicans are leaderless at the moment. If they can take her down a few notches and not make her a player in the next presidential campaign, then that's something — they're going to do it.
GUTHRIE: You know what, I think we need to make a distinction between the responsible media and the media that is fueling the story, helped by Governor Palin's statement, by the way. And that's the tabloid media, US Weekly, "The Tyra Banks Show," "CBS Early Show."
HEMMER: And in this day and age, you cannot avoid this. If you want air time, and you're a news maker, shall we say, you can find it.
PINKERTON: I was going to say, where does Marissa put MSNBC then?
GUTHRIE: I think everyone knows where it falls on this topic.
HEMMER: Another topic this week has to do with the scene on Sunday in Belvidere (ph), Delaware. The body of Air Force Staff Sergeant Phillip Meyers came home. Killed in Afghanistan, arrived in the U.S. for the first time in 18 years when the media was allowed to photograph the arrival of war dead, given family approval. That's key at the end there, it is called family approval.
I have not heard from the family of Phillip Meyers this week, but it's our understanding that his parents, or his next of kin, said it's OK.
THOMAS: Well, let's remember that during the Bush administration, people who were opposed to the war wanted the pictures, because they felt that it would contribute to the anti-war opposition. Now that Obama's in, it's something that is empathetic and it's something that we should do.
HEMMER: Do you think this is a good decision, Cal?
THOMAS: I do. As long as it's left up to the family members, I have no problem with it. Freedom costs.
PINKERTON: I think that the movie, HBO movie, "Taking A Chance," came out a little while ago, and I guarantee that 99 percent of the people involved in making that movie were Democrats. They supported Obama. But the movie was reverent, respectful, patriotic, and it left you feeling good about the U.S. military.
HEMMER: Does the anti-war left have something tangible that they did not have for eight years? Is this an effective image for them to say, hey, man, the war is wrong and get out?
POWERS: It is, but I also disagree with the idea that people who just, just want it for that reason. And I think you can be against the war — I was against the war — and still think that these pictures should be shown with approval of the family, because it's a way to honor them.
HEMMER: Well, here is not...
POWERS: And it's not for...
HEMMER: Here is my view. I've watched this on the major networks this past week and said all said that the families had to give permission. But I haven't heard from the families. And I want to know what their justification was, to honor their fallen son. With all due respect to him, this is the ultimate sacrifice.
GUTHRIE: Well, yeah, and why shouldn't we see that? I mean, John McCain supported that, showing these coffins. What we haven't seen is pictures of wounded Americans in combat. I mean, that, I think, would be more explosive.
HEMMER: To all of our troops serving overseas if they're watching now, we wish them the very best and to stay safe. And we do know we lost several of our young men in Iraq on Friday.
Time now for our "Caught in the Web" segment.
The Associated Press is cracking down on Google, the Drudge Report and other site's that post A.P stories on line without permission or payment. And the A.P. is ready to take, again, with new policies and lots of lawyers. A.P.'s chairman, William Singleton, "We can no longer stand by and watch them walk off with our work under misguided legal theories." What should you do? Go to FOXnews.com, a real news site online.
Media watch dog site, News Busters, reports new MSNBC host, Ed Schultz, was given seed money by congressional Democrats to start his radio show. That claim is not coming from Republicans, says the site, but from former left leaning radio talk show host, Randy Rhodes. How much money are we talking about? It's said to be, reportedly, spoken of, $800 grand.
We have to take one more break. And when we come back, you'll see this.
ANNOUNCER: The tea parties are coming. Will the press give these anti-stimulus, anti-entitlement protests any positive coverage? Find out next, on "News Watch."
HEMMER: April 15th is Wednesday. That is not just the tax day this year in America. While the mainstream is ignoring the tea party movement, here at the FOX channel, we're gearing up to bring you special coverage of the events all across the country. Sean Hannity is in Atlanta. Glenn Beck is at the Alamo. Where else would he be? San Antonio. Neil Cavuto is live in Sacramento and Greta is in Washington, D.C.
Can't get to a tea party? FOX Nation hosts a virtual tea party. You can check it out on the site for the tea party in your area. Again, that is Wednesday, the 15th of April.
Plus, our coverage has begun at FOXnews.com. We've got you covered. We hope you will be with us on April 15th.
Big thanks to Marissa and her Easter colors, Jim and his Easter colors, Cal in his Easter colors. And a big thanks to Kirsten. I'm not quite sure what she was thinking.
Have a great weekend, everybody. I'm Bill Hemmer. Thanks for watching. We'll see you real soon.
Content and Programming Copyright 2009 FOX News Network, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2009 ASC LLC (www.ascllc.net), 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