This is a rush transcript from "FOX News Watch," May 16, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
JON SCOTT, FOX HOST: On "FOX News Watch," President Obama takes an about face showing pictures of detainees.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Publication of these photos would not add any additional benefit to our understanding of what was carried out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: Did Nancy Pelosi have the details on waterboarding and more? Yes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NANCY PELOSI, (D), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I did not get the briefing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: Or no, maybe?
Donald Trump plays ringmaster for the Miss California media circus.
Notre Dame hosts the president and a whole lot of controversy.
And the White House cracks down on unruly reporters.
On the panel this week, Jane Hall of the American University; syndicated columnist, Cal Thomas; Jim Pinkerton, fellow, New America Foundation and "FOX Forum" contributor; and writer and FOX News contributor Judith Miller.
I'm Jon Scott. "FOX News Watch" is on right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PELOSI: They did not brief us that these enhanced interrogations were taking place. They never told us that these enhanced interrogations were being — we were not, I repeat, not told that waterboarding or any of these other enhanced interrogation methods were used. What they did tell us is that they had some legislative counsel — the Office of Legislative Counsel opinion that they could be used.
No, I wasn't informed — well, I was informed that a briefing had taken place. Now, you have to look at what they briefed those members. I was not briefed that. I was only informed that they were briefed, but I did not get the briefing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: Speaker Nancy Pelosi trying to explain what she knew and didn't know about the waterboarding of terrorist suspects.
All right, Judy, the press really seemed to be going after her at her weekly briefing on Thursday. Has she lost the liberal media?
JUDITH MILLER, WRITER & FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Appropriately. I mean, if ever there was a reason for skepticism, it was the sequence of stories that she has told about this. as the ring leader, the Democratic Party's ring leader of those who accused of Bush administration of all of these heinous activities, this story has really come back to bite her in an unmentionable part of the anatomy, appropriately so.
SCOTT: Is it smart, Jim, to go out on camera in front of a bunch of reporters and say that you were misled by the CIA?
JIM PINKERTON, FELLOW, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION & FOX FORUM CONTRIBUTOR: I mean, Dan Balls from The Washington Post, says she's declared war against the CIA.
I mean, look, we can stipulate that most reporters are liberals and they are perfectly happy to see Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, and not, say, John Boehner. That's a true fact. But it's also true that reporters, at least ones who take journalism seriously, hate to be lied to and they hate to be misled. And they love to solve problems. They love to put words and quotes next to each other in juxtapose and figure it out. And it is obvious, as slate.com said in their headline on Friday, Pelosi knew about waterboarding, period.
SCOTT: Well, she said the CIA misled her and other members of Congress.
JANE HALL, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: You know, my father was mayor of my hometown and he used to say never go against people who buy their ink by the barrel.
Never go against the CIA. They have better spooks than anybody in Congress does. And they're angry. And she has given the Republicans the chance to move this away from a discussion of torture that was banned by Obama when he first came into office. Now we're talking about it as if Obama and his administration did the torture. I mean, that's a tremendous flaw. And I think the media have gone after her. I mean, they're making fun of the press conference, the way, Dana Novak in The Post, said she crab walked out of it. She's getting no good press.
SCOTT: What about it, Cal? For years, for eight years, really, the media pushed hard against the Bush administration on the issue of torture. And now it seems almost to have totally flip-flopped where it could hurt the Democrats.
CAL THOMAS, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Right. Picking up on something Jim said, and he was absolutely right on this, the immediate may be liberal, but more than anything else, they love the story. And when you have a — particularly the Democratic Party, running every branch of government, this is a big story.
Dana Milbank also said, in the column that Jane referenced, that she has, Nancy Pelosi perfected the art of backtracking while simultaneously walking side ways.
When the blood is in the water, the media sharks go after it. The blood is now in the water.
SCOTT: Do you think the media will keep up the pressure? It seemed like there were a million unanswered questions at the news conference. They were shouting questions at her.
PINKERTON: A millions threads to pull. And now you hear Republicans saying, yeah, you want a truth commission? Great, let's have one.
THOMAS: That's right.
PINKERTON: And everybody will subpoena everybody. And it will be a media frenzy if nothing — to say, who knows what it will do for America's national security, but it will certainly keep reporters busy.
MILLER: And you have a CIA director, appointed by Obama, and one who was appointed by the Republicans both saying the same thing, we told her, she doesn't remember, we stand by the story. So, you really have the sides pretty clearly drawn now.
SCOTT: How much danger is she — could this be death by a thousand cuts for the speaker of the house?
HALL: Well, unless she wants to go before the truth commission she's calling for, yeah. I think so. But again, you know, I think the other TV media angle is — for Vice President Cheney, it clearly, I think, has also been sort of almost, you know, going at Obama from two different sides. Obama clearly doesn't even want to talk about this?
THOMAS: Well, the media — to win, you can't live by the politics and die by the politics. When this was good politics, the Democrats were on board. Yeah, do whatever it takes to protect America. Now they're trying to reconstruct past statements. It's not working for them.
SCOTT: All right, President Obama decided to delay the release of photos that allegedly showed detainee abuse. Here is what he had to say about it on Wednesday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: It's therefore my belief that the publication of these photos would not add any additional benefit to our understanding of what was carried out in the past by a small number of individuals. In fact, the most direct consequence of releasing them, I believe, would be to further inflame anti-American opinion and to put our troops in greater danger.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: All right. So, what about it, Jane. Is that the case? I mean, did he think about the potential impact of splashing more Abu Ghraib- type photos in newspapers all over the world, not just in the U.S, and decide, hey, not worth the risk.
HALL: I think he did. And now he may have to classify them because the ACLU, again, is saying that he is implicit in torture by not releasing these. I mean, positions that are being taken are pretty extreme. I think it's naive. I've seen some legislators say we should release these. The truth will help us. These photographs will be used to recruit for al- Qaeda. That's true.
THOMAS: Say the sound bite, "President Obama is right on this one."
Because — it's all said during the campaign. It's one thing to campaign. It's another thing to be an authority as president. and he's finding that out.
MILLER: And this is, by the way, the first — not the first time he's reversed himself. He's now reversed himself on military commissions. He's reversed himself on whether or not we're going to hold detainees indefinitely. This is the difference between candidate Obama and commander-in-chief Obama.
SCOTT: Jim, any final thoughts?
PINKERTON: And John Cook, in Gawker, a Web site that focuses on gossip and occasionally politics, said the thing to watch for is whether the pictures ultimately get out. It's entirely possible that Obama could lose in the courts and the pictures get — now at least his position will be against what will happen.
SCOTT: All right.
Time for a break. First, if you want to hear what we're talking about during the commercial, go to our Web site, FOXnews.com/FOXnewswatch.
And what the heck is going on at The New York Times? Wait until you see what the paper did this week. That story and more, two minutes away.
ANNOUNCER: Sarah Palin supports Miss California. Is this story just getting started? All next, on "News Watch."
SCOTT: The photo on the front page of The New York Times showing U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan has gotten a lot of comments this week. One soldier seen in his boxers, leading many to ask why the Times even decided to run the photo.
Here is how his mother reacted when a reporter from our Fort Worth affiliate showed her the picture of her son.
SHEREE BOYD, MOTHER OF U.S. SOLDIER: Oh, my gosh.
UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is Sheree Boyd's first time to see the picture in the paper. Her 19-year-old son, Zachary, made the front page of The New York Times in his boxers and flip-flops.
BOYD: You can see that it says "I love New York" all across his rear end there.
UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT: Zachary is a member of the 1st Battalion, 21st Inventory. They're on the peace-keeping mission in Afghanistan. His area is a hot spot.
BOYD: When he came home in March for his break, he said he'd been in over 200 fire fights.
UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT: Sheree said the photographer took the picture yesterday. Zach called his parents at midnight and said he was getting ready for bed when the shots started flying.
BOYD: He was taking care of business and everything, didn't take the time to completely dress up.
SCOTT: All right. So here is that photo as it ran in The New York Times. The caption, Judy, "Specialist Zachary Boyd, left, had to scramble from his sleeping quarters on Monday to help his fellow platoon members to defend their fire base in Kunar Province, Afghanistan, during attack by the Taliban."
Is the Times just saying, hey, look at what our soldiers do or are they just trying to embarrass this poor kid?
MILLER: No. First of all, this poor kid undoubtedly gave his name so it could be used in the identification line going underneath that story. Second of all, it's an A.P. photograph, which was widely carried all over, so he would have had a chance I think to say it. Third, Zachary Boyd's face does not appear.
You see the boxers, not briefs, and I love New York. So, I really don't understand what the entire flack is about.
SCOTT: Yeah. New York's Tourism Commission is...
SCOTT: Is that an appropriate photo, Jane?
HALL: You know, at first, I thought of one of the rules about libel, even, I think, this would be hard to prove, exposing them to public ridicule. Having them in the underwear, yes, it sort of does, but on the other hand, if you're trying to show a guy in hundreds of fire fights, this was probably chosen particularly because it's different from the photographs we've seen before. Unfortunately, the mind and the eye glaze over on some of these combat shots. It says what's happening there, which is the scramble for hundreds of times.
SCOTT: I just got to wondering thought, Cal, during World War II would we have seen a photo like this?
SCOTT: Of G.I.s taking on the Japanese.
THOMAS: No. And it's cute. It's human. It humanizes the troops as real people and go through real affairs. It's certainly a lot better than a picture of an American soldier all over the front of newspapers in Mogadishu being dragged dead through the streets. I'd much prefer this picture.
SCOTT: Your thought, Jim?
PINKERTON: Let's just ask ourselves if Jesse Jackson were photographed in pink underwear...
PINKERTON: ... or Al Sharpton or David Dinkins or Barack Obama, would the Times use it on the front page. The answer is no, of course, not.
THOMAS: Well, Obama is always photographed naked from the waist up.
PINKERTON: The point is, the Times would — the Times feels a certain license to make what they think of as gentle fun of the military on front page. And having said that, so clearly, that's where the Times is coming from, a liberal mind.
MILLER: Oh, no, no, no.
PINKERTON: But, it was a good picture. It is kind of funny with the "I love New York" thing. I can see why the New York papers, a New York paper would like that. And I must say I think back to the scene in the film, "Flags of Our Fathers," about the Marines who raised the flags at Iwo Jima, and one of the mothers says, "I recognize my son up there. It's his bottom. Look, I wiped that bottom."
"I know my son." And in fact, it was one of the flag wavers, flag raisers.
SCOTT: Take a look at another photo from the Times. This also attracted a significant amount of attention. At first glance, it looks like boys playing with guns. In fact, these are teen Explorer Scouts at a training program which teaches them how to arrest illegal immigrants among other things.
And what do you think about this? Explorer Scouts under a Homeland Security banner, Cal?
THOMAS: I will tell you, things have progressed since I was a Cub Scout and we were out learning how to tie knots and identify leaves on the trees. This is amazing because the administration has not been known for its aggressive policies against illegal immigrants. Quite the opposite. So if we are training young people to finally police our borders, how could that be a bad thing?
HALL: Well, I think, from a media standpoint, you can editorialize with pictures. You can write a story that's on one hand, on the other hand. But this picture, you know, you look at it, it's menacing. You open it up — now the story itself is — there's a question. Should we be doing this with our Explorer Scouts? Another picture they shoot from below and the young boys appear to be holding what appear to be guns. That is an editorial stance, the way you shoot something, the fact that you have the sign. And they're trying to tell you something. I think that's what they're trying to say.
SCOTT: What are they trying to say, Judy?
MILLER: I think they're trying to raise questions about the program and about the Explorer Scouts doing this. And the picture was used to reinforce those questions.
The picture as a form of editorial is what many people now object to at The New York Times. They see more and more of that. And today, they're — I'm sorry — on Friday, there was another problem, which was required an editor's note. They actually had run inadvertently a staged photo taken on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan. So, clearly this was not a good picture week at The New York Times.
PINKERTON: And just, by the way, Henry Blodgett, who writes a very cool blog for something called "Silicon Alley Insider," says The New York Times will have new owners soon because of financial problems.
SCOTT: Time for another break.
First, we would like your help. Story ideas always welcome here at "New Watch," especially if you come across a story about media bias. E- mail us, newswatch@FOXnews.com.
And we'll be back to talk about controversy and how it's covered next.
ANNUONCER: Miss California keeps her crown. What's behind the media fascination with her story? Plus, Catholics, controversy and the commander-in-chief at Notre Dame. All next, on "News Watch."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I come to embrace the notion that I haven't done enough in my life. I heartily concur. I come to affirm that one's title, even a title like president of the United States, says very little about how well one's life has been led. That no matter how much you've done or how successful you've been, there's always more to do, always more to learn, and always more to achieve.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: President Obama there, explaining why he did not deserve an honorary degree from Arizona State University on Wednesday night. He'll speak at Notre Dame's commencement tomorrow afternoon where he will receive an honorary degree, an event which has stirred a certain amount of controversy.
All right, Cal, in watching the coverage of the way Mr. Obama's speech and degree has been portrayed, it seems that in some circles Catholics are being portrayed as sort of a fringe group. Would you agree?
THOMAS: Always have when it comes to social issues like life and marriage and celibacy for the priesthood and women in leadership. The media always portray them that way. But look, you've got to look at the polls. An overwhelming number of Roman Catholics favor Obama's appearance.
But imagine if something worked this way — which it never would. I've looked at commencement speakers this year at the major universities. not a conservative among them. But let's say through error, a pro-life conservative commencement speaker spoke at Harvard. We know what the protests would be there. Faculty would resign. There would be people in the streets. So, it will be interesting to see how the mainstream media cover the Catholic protesters of Obama's pro-choice position.
SCOTT: Does he have that right?
MILLER: The right to...
SCOTT: No, does he have it right. Would there be...
MILLER: Does Cal have it right?
SCOTT: How will the protests...
MILLER: I will only add this. That in the polling I saw, the percentage of Catholics who supported Obama getting this degree was actually higher than it was for the general population. And I found that very, very interesting.
SCOTT: Has that been clear from the coverage?
HALL: I don't think the coverage has been very good. There have been a number of stories that indicate people are more divided, and yet more nuanced on abortion than — the American public is not left and right, pro and con. And a lot of Catholics apparently have embraced the idea of his being there. But I don't think we've heard from the people who are opposed to him. I think the reporting has been very lazy. It's been very go-to- the-people-that-we-always-go-to. I saw the valedictorian interviewed. That was very interesting. People should be doing more about what's actually happening out there.
SCOTT: All right. Here is another story that we've been paying some attention to. Media coverage of the Miss California saga continued when America's favorite mogul jumped into the fray.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, CO-OWNER OF MISS UNIVERSE ORG: We made a determination that the pictures taken were acceptable. They were fine. In many cases, they were actually lovely pictures, and in some cases they were modeling pictures. Carrie will remain Miss California.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: And there's more. On Wednesday, Governor Sarah Palin issued a statement supporting Carrie Prejean. "The liberal onslaught on malicious attacks against Carrie Prejean for expressing her opinion is despicable," she said. "I respect Carrie for staying strong and staying true to herself, and for not letting those who disagree with her deny her protection under the nation's First Amendment rights."
All right. Jim, what do you think about the way Donald Trump handled this whole flap in the media?
PINKERTON: I mean, a star is born. What can you say? She's this — sometimes you— fate hands you a certain set of events and she's handled them well and now she's on her way.
SCOTT: And nobody remembers who actually won the Miss USA pageant this year.
THOMAS: That's right.
HALL: You know, I was sitting there thinking, who needs the pope?
You know, let Donald Trump arbitrate all the serious moral questions we have in this country. He has played the media better than anybody. I mean, talk about a guy with nine lives in the media. This came up with the last contestant where she'd been in trouble and he decided she got his blessing. I mean, this guy is amazing.
MILLER: This is a story that has legs, so to speak.
MILLER: Sorry, I couldn't resist.
SCOTT: Among other things, and then you've got the Sarah Palin jumping into it. Should she have come out a little sooner in support?
THOMAS: Well, she issued a statement through her PAC, which ought to tell you something. I mean, look, you've got Miss California, she's going to get a shot on FOX. And Jim says she's a star. I would say, given the panoply of made up blondes that are out there today everywhere, she's probably more like a shooting star.
SCOTT: I wish I could have gotten that kind of coverage when I was 21 years old.
We have to take one more break. When we come back, we'll show you how White House press secretary cracked down on cell phones in the briefing room.
ANNOUNCER: It's for you. Who comes out on top when reporters' cell phone calls interrupt the White House press secretary? That's next, on "News Watch."
SCOTT: How would you like to be the White House press secretary? He has a hard job, trying to explain what the president does what he does, taking pointed questions from the press and taking their other things, as well.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Those determinations are made by this president and — and — and are being made. Just put it on vibrate, man. We did this before.
GIBBS: That's all right. That's all right. Not seeking an exception for law enforcement.
Give me the phone.
All right? This is — here, let me see this phone. Come here.
I'll be right back.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: He threw your phone.
GIBBS: No, no. Somebody caught it. Don't worry.
I made the determination that the illumination of the sound was distracting to the briefing as the press secretary to the president of the United States.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORT: (INAUDIBLE)
GIBBS: You, too? You want to do this too? Here. Come on.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: They took my phone earlier.
GIBBS: No favoritism.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Let me take this. I'll explain later.
GIBBS: All right. Thank you.
I assume it's your banker with a suit like that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: Who says they can't have any fun in those White House press briefings?
That's going to do it for "News Watch" this week.
My thanks to Jane Hall, Jim Pinkerton, Cal Thomas and Judy Miller.
I'm Jon Scott. Thanks for being with us. We'll see you again next week.
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