Transcript: 'Fox News Watch,' November 14, 2009

This is a rush transcript from "Fox News Watch," November 14, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

JON SCOTT, HOST: On Fox News Watch, a crazed killer guns down 13 people and an unborn baby at Ft. Hood. Federal agencies point fingers about who knew about his potential threat? But the news media steers clear of his ties to terror. Why are they scared?

9/11 suspects will go on trial near the scene of the terror attacks in New York. The announcement creates shock waves. How has the press reacted?

The White House's anti-Fox News architect, Anita Dunn, calls it quit earlier than expected. Did her flawed agenda hasten the move?

Unemployment above 10 percent, a sour economy, no decision on troops in Afghanistan, the president flies off to Asia. Is the press paying attention?

A cable news veteran says adios to CNN. Did the network cave to outside pressure?

And this week, we honored U.S. veterans. Today, a look at the reporters who tell their stories.

On the panel this week: Writer and Fox News contributor, Judy Miller; syndicated columnist, Cal Thomas; Jim Pinkerton, fellow, New America Foundation; and Fox News analyst and New York Post columnist, Kirsten Powers.

I'm Jon Scott. "Fox News Watch" is on right now.


SHEPARD SMITH, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Breaking news coming to us from Killeen, Texas, where officials at Fort Hood Army base say seven people are dead and 12 wounded in what appears to be a man shooting at a facility there. Our Tim Golan on the national news desk down in the news room is working this story.


SCOTT: Fox News coverage of the Fort Hood massacre last week. Details about the suspect were quick to surface, but most in the media were hesitant to link Major Nidal Malik Hasan, his Muslim faith, and the murders as a terrorist act. Even several days after the attack, a Rasmussen poll asked Americans how they felt about the murders at Fort Hood. The polls asked, should the shooting incident be investigated by military authorities as a terrorist act or by civilian authorities as a criminal act? 60 percent said military authorities should investigate it as a terrorist act, 27 percent thought it should be investigated as a criminal act, 13 percent not sure.

The Culture and Media Institute noticed something about the news coverage. Until President Obama spoke on Tuesday at a memorial service for the victims of the Fort Hood attacks, 29 percent of evening news reports mentioned that Major Nidal Malik Hasan was a Muslim, 93 percent of the stories ignored any terror connection. But after the president hinted at what ABC called Islamic extremist views, all three networks mentioned terrorism. 85 percent of the stories on the broadcast networks did not mention the word terror. ABC, CBS, NBC evening news referenced terrorist connections to the Fort Hood attack just seven times in 48 reports.

Cal, you wrote about this, this week. Was there a hesitancy on the part of the network, on the part of the media to call this terrorism?

CAL THOMAS, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Without question, Jon. Every time I wrote on the subject, I get a slew of mail. My syndicate gets a slew of mail, calling me a bigot, calling me Islam-phobe. Most people can't put up with that sort of thing. I relish it. I'm happy to have it.

But there's a double standard in the media. Back in the 1980's, when the so-called religious right, the conservative Christians came up in the political system, the media sent cameras to their churches. They stereotyped little old ladies and men driving pickup trucks. They labeled them ultra right, extreme right, fundamentalist. They didn't care about labeling then. But now, it's hands off. No cameras in the mosques. No labeling of Islamic extremists beyond that word. A terrible double standard.

SCOTT: Judy, you seem to have a different take. You say both the left and the right are getting this story wrong. What do you mean?

JUDITH SCOTT, WRITER & FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Right. Basically, you have exactly the phenomenon that Cal is talking about on the part of the left, the psycho babble that really substitutes for reporting, and no mention of terror. But on the right, you have another phenomenon, which is this insidious slide from Major Hasan as a Muslim into criticizing and fears about Islam as a religion. And I think we had to be -- we saw a little of that, enough of that in the media to be very concerned this week.

SCOTT: Well, and, Jim, there are some in the media who make this guy a victim.

JIM PINKERTON, FELLOW, NEW AMERICAN FOUNDATION: Like Harry Smith, for example, on CBS, who is one of hundreds of reporters in the MSM who said it's stress. It's PTSD, the poor guy. It was unbelievable. But, again, as always, as your segment intro alluded to, they take their cues from Obama. Obama said, at Fort Hood, it's, quote, "incomprehensible what happened." Well, George Neumayr at The American Spectator, said, no, it's perfectly comprehensible. The guy was getting ideas and not orders from some killer in Yemen.

SCOTT: There are reports that he was harassed on the job because of his Muslim faith. Now, you know, again, I have a son at West Point. My experience with the military is, if you're not doing well at your job, you're going to get harassed, and that seems to be the case here. But why -- why has the media been, I guess, dancing around the Islam issue?

KIRSTEN POWERS, FOX NEWS ANALYST & WASHINGTON POST COLUMNIST: Well, I felt they were initially dancing around it. And I actually would applaud the media the way they reacted to it, which was more...

SCOTT: You think they were being sensitive?

POWERS: With more restraint and not jumping to conclusions when it first came out. Whereas, I had a lot of friends on the right e-mailing me and saying, when you go on air make sure you say this is a terrorist attack. And it's like, let's wait and get all the information. And as we've gotten more information, I think you can start to put together a case.

Look, the initial information was that he'd been killed. The initial information was that he was killed by this woman, who it turns out didn't kill him.

MILLER: That's true.

POWERS: I mean, there was a lot of misinformation. And I think it's better to show restraint until you have actual information, which we now have, about these connections, and then make a judgment.

THOMAS: I agree with that to a point, but there were several hosts, including Shepard Smith, who's quite -- very good on this network, who said on the air, we know the man's name, but we're going to withhold it for basically reasons not only to ourselves. We know the reason because it is Arab sounding, it's Muslim sounding, and nobody wanted to be the first to put that out there. That's the kind of restraint that we're seeing on this.

Restraint is a good thing, as Kirsten says, when you don't have the facts. We remember after Reagan was shot, people reporting that Jim Brady was dead when he wasn't dead. That kind of restraint is good. But when you've got the facts, let's put them out there no matter who it reflects on.

MILLER: But on the first day, we knew that he had yelled, "Allah Akbar," "God is great," as he gunned down people. That automatically says something about his motivation in his actions.


POWERS: And also, he could have just as easily been a crazy lunatic who snapped.


MILLER: Yes. But even now, we're not claiming that...


POWERS: And just having a Muslim name is not -- is not enough.

PINKERTON: It could have easily been a crazy person, except for the fact that he was saying Allah Akbar.


POWERS: No. You can be a crazy lunatic and yell...


POWERS: ... and it not be Islamic terror. I'm just saying...

MILLER: That's true, that's true.

SCOTT: Another story involving Islamic terror this week that made headlines, Attorney General Eric Holder held a press conference on Friday explaining his decision to bring Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four other 9/11 attackers to new York city for trial in a civilian federal court.

Here is some of what the attorney general had to say.


ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES: After eight years of delay, those allegedly responsible for the attacks of September the 11th will finally face justice. They will be brought to New York, to New York, to answer for their alleged crimes in a courthouse just blocks away from where the Twin Towers once stood. I am confident in the ability of our courts to provide these defendants a fair trial, just as they have for over 200 years. The alleged 9/11 conspirators will stand trial in our justice system before an impartial jury under long-established rules and procedures.


SCOTT: He also said he was confident that he can get a conviction.

Judy, I don't know, I was surprised frankly that he took questions after this thing. The press was pretty skeptical.

MILLER: Right. And I think you're going to see the skepticism build over time. Here in New York -- I don't have any doubts about the ability of a New York jury to convict this man. We've done these trials before. This argument will ultimately prevail. And the people will calm down if the media don't turn it into a political...


PINKERTON: Kind of a large "if" there. As a leading analyst, namely me...


... who wrote for "Politico" on Friday, this is a magnet for lawyers and show boaters, not to mention terrorists. This is going to be the biggest disaster this country has seen. and that's saying something.

THOMAS: This trial ought to be held at the Bronx Zoo. That's exactly what it's going to be from a media perspective. They're going to be interviewing every kind of crazy. And in terms of a fair trial, you have to be tried by a jury of his peers. His peers include Muslims. Are they going to exclude them from the jury? It only takes one to have a hung jury and a mistrial.

SCOTT: I sense a big argument about to erupt in here.


And you can go to our web sites after the show to see what happens during the set during our breaks. Go to

We're back in two minutes to talk about coverage of the president's latest overseas journey and an early exit at the White House for a top staffer.

ANNOUNCER: She led the White House attack on Fox News.


ANITA DUNN, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Let's not pretend they're a news network the way CNN is.


ANNOUNCER: Now she's leaving her high-level post earlier than expected. Did her flawed effort force the decision?

And unemployment up, the economy down, and the president flies away to Asia. Has the press noticed? Answers next, on "News Watch."



DUNN: The reality of it is that Fox News often operates almost as either the research arm or the communications arm of the Republican Party - - when they want to treat us like they treat everybody else. But let's not pretend they're a news network the way CNN is.


SCOTT: White House Communications Director Anita Dunn just a month ago. Her harsh words about Fox News roundly criticized by her news organizations. then a perceived warming by the White House when senior advisor, David Axelrod, gave an interview to our White House chief White House correspondent, Major Garrett. And this week, the news that Dunn is going to be leaving her post earlier than planned. She was always expected to leave by the end of the year, but called it quits a month earlier.

Was she outfoxed by her own strategy decision?

PINKERTON: Put it this way, I worked in two White Houses and the standard text is to say, "I'm leaving next year sometime." If they don't want you to stay, they let you go. And if they say, please stay, then you look all the more powerful because they begged you to stick around. And they seem perfectly happy to see her leave early. And I think that it might have something to do with the NPR poll, the survey on the NPR Web site, that said, by a 7 to 1 margin, National Public Radio listeners thought she made a mistake. And the Obama White House was in the wrong. So in P.R. terms...



SCOTT: Kirsten, last week, you said you've never had a problem appearing on Fox News as a Democrat. Was the White House embarrassed by what she -- by her...

POWERS: My understanding is they're not at all embarrassed and that she was always going to leave at the end of the year. And she has a 13- year-old son. And her husband was just appointed to take over for Gray Craig, which was in the paper today, so he's leaving. It makes sense. You are not going to have two parents working in the White House. She was leaving at the end of the year anyway. I don't think it's any connection to the Fox News thing.

THOMAS: Let's do a little compare and contrast. When Anita Dunn said Mao Zedong was among her favorite philosophers and somebody she consulted everyday, the mainstream...

POWERS: She's being sarcastic...


THOMAS: Well, that's what she says, but if you watch the whole byte, you would have got a done a laugh in the middle of it.

There was no dumping on her by the mainstream media. But when George W. Bush said, in the year 2000, that Jesus was his favorite philosopher, the media weighed in with editorials and criticism and laughter. I rest my case.

MILLER: I think the idea that Anita Dunn is out because of her attack on Fox News is naive. This attack was approved at a higher level and she was planning to leave, as Kirsten says, anyway. And this is very, very convenient. It's a way of saying, OK, we tried something, it didn't work, it back-fired. Now, Anita, who was going to leave anyway, leaves a little earlier. I agree with...


SCOTT: But doesn't it make it look like she's falling on her sword?

MILLER: Well, if you want it to look that way, which the administration may very well want to. It's an impression they may want to create now.

PINKERTON: It's like that World War II movie, they were expendable.


SCOTT: But does it suggest that somebody got wise and realized that trying to battle Fox News is maybe not a smart choice, so they're going to bury that strategy by letting her...

POWERS: Yes, but she's not being pushed out.

MILLER: Exactly.

POWERS: Those two things could be true that they could -- but I think it may have worked in a certain way for them and then it ran its course, you know, that they wanted to kind of gin up the liberal bases unhappy with them and now they're done with it.

MILLER: Or didn't work in a certain way.

THOMAS: Whether she was expendable.

POWERS: But she has nothing -- as you said, she was executing a strategy that was coming from higher up.

SCOTT: All right, time for another break. We will be back to talk about unemployment, the economy, and whether or not the press is noticing.

ANNOUNCER: We went from...




ANNOUNCER: ... to is "Anything working"?


OBAMA: We all know that there are limits to what government can and should do, even such difficult times.


ANNOUNCER: With record setting unemployment and zero job growth, where is the president going? And is the press on board?

Plus, a cable news veteran calls it quits. Did that network buckle to pressure from the left? Details next, on "News Watch."


SCOTT: President Obama announcing his jobs summit for next month. This news on the same day we learned half a million new jobless claims were filed last week. But before the press could react, the president hopped on a plane for yet another overseas trip.

Why do you suppose, Cal?

THOMAS: He's visiting our creditors. They hold all the debt.


Surely, getting out of town is always good policy for a president, Republican or Democrat, when things are going bad. I'm amazed how the media responded to this. Unemployment 10.2 percent nationally, 15 percent in Michigan and growing, and higher in other places, and yet there have been virtually no stories criticizing the policy.

Now, when gasoline under the Bush administration was $4 a gallon, the media went out of their way to get the "hurting" and the people who were struggling. And it was all Bush's fault. We don't see that yet.

SCOTT: Why not, Kirsten?

POWERS: I don't remember it being Bush's fault that gas prices...

THOAMS: Oh, sure.


SCOTT: There were a lot of stories about that.

MILLER: There were.

POWERS: I mean, I think that actually how -- I mean, I've seen coverage of the unemployment numbers. How many different ways can you tell that story? The numbers are the numbers. And they -- you know, they can talk about families that are hurting, but I don't know what more they're supposed to be saying.

MILLER: But why isn't the constant travel a story? Why isn't the fact that the man who's never seen an airplane he doesn't want to get on to or a speech he doesn't want to give a story? Where is the media skepticism that we're supposed to be expecting from all of us? Where is it?

SCOTT: You've worked in the White House, Jim. Isn't it the case that when you've got problems at home, you hop on a plane?

PINKERTON: That's totally true. Although, in the Reagan years, when unemployment went to 10 percent, they managed to find an angle every day. CBS News did a famous special called "People Like Us," that was all about people suffering, hour after hour of this stuff. I'll say this though. When he goes overseas, you've got to watch him as well. Because Mark Finkelstein, I think, was the first to catch it, at "News Busters," when he noted that Obama wouldn't answer a question, do you think that the bombing of Hiroshima by President Roosevelt which ended World War II back in 1945, was a good idea. And he dodged the question. This is huge in its implications, not only for President Truman's legacy and our nuclear deterrent, which Obama clearly doesn't think much about.

SCOTT: We got the announcement from the president about the jobs summit and then immediately he hopped on the plane. Is that, I don't know, the presidential way of saying, we've got you covered, but now I'm going to leave for nine or ten days.

POWERS: No, I think he's got business he's doing overseas. and in this day and age, it doesn't matter where you are. He can still be focused on the U.S. economy. Air Force One is a travelling office. Wherever he is, you know, anyone who's worked in the White House knows, turns into, wherever you are, a little mini White House, and you can do your business there. I mean, he can be just as focused there as here. I don't...

SCOTT: Here is something that caught us off guard this week, kind of, CNN anchor, Lou Dobbs, with a big announcement Wednesday night.


LOU DOBBS, FORMER CNN NEWS ANCHOR: This will be my last broadcast here on CNN where I've worked for most of the past 30 years, and where I have many friends and colleagues whom I admire deeply and respect greatly. I'm the last of the original anchors here on CNN. And I'm proud to have had the privilege of helping to build the world's first news network.


SCOTT: Dobbs has been vague about what his future plans are. But "Media Matters" and other groups have been calling -- have been claiming a victory with this announcement. "Media Matters," a liberally oriented group.

Was he pushed out, Judy?

MILLER: The New York Times virtually suggested he was. He says that he talked about his desire to move on to bigger and greater things. There have been all kinds of announcements about whether or not he's here.

And truth in advertising, when I was in jail, Lou Dobbs was one of the few broadcasters who, every night, ran a clock with another day that a journalist was in jail. So I'm kind of sympathetic to him even though I did not like his views on immigration, illegal immigration. And I think that that issue, of whether or not he was pushed out because of a left wing media campaign, is something that the press ought to look at.

SCOTT: We should say, just on Judy's behalf, that she was in jail for sticking up for the First Amendment.

MILLER: Thank you.


MILLER: Right.

SCOTT: But that is worth noting.

There -- you know, when he started at CNN, it was supposedly, the news was the star and not the personalities, and has that changed?

POWERS: Well, it would make sense -- I think CNN would be well within their rights of getting rid of him. And even if liberal groups are complaining. As much as they try to claim that they're straight down the middle, let's face it, we know who their audience is. It's liberals. And why wouldn't they get rid of Lou Dobbs.

SCOTT: All right, we have to take one more break.

When we come back, men, women in the military and the reporters who cover them.

ANNOUNCER: Americans honored our military veterans around the world. And "News Watch" will honor the reporters who bring you their stories. Next on, "News Watch."


SCOTT: We celebrated veterans' day this week. Americans across our nation honoring those who have served and our troops around the world still in uniform and in harm's way. And where our troops go, so do reporters, taking risks to bring the stories home. Some recognizable faces, some not so famous.

These days, Fox News is reporting from Iraq and Afghanistan. Our own Malini Wilkes has this from Baghdad:


MALINI WILKES, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tens of thousands of U.S. troops have spent years far from home both in Iraq and Afghanistan, in both cases, fighting the enemy while trying to train a new army, support a new government and engage citizens from citizens so different from our own.

Over the last four years, I spent time in Iraq, trying to cover the soldier's story.

In 2006 and 2007, as Iraq suffered through hundreds of bombings and thousands of sectarian murders, our reporting sometimes felt like a daily risk in between the carnage and destruction, crucial for the world to see, but also crucial to see what was being done to stop it.

(on camera): At Fox, we made the decision to leave our Baghdad bureau, as much as possible, to embed with troops to find out what they were doing first hand. Many journalists will remember this as the embed war when the Pentagon embraced the idea of allowing reporters to live side by side with soldiers.

(voice-over): We have faced some of the same dangers, patrolling with U.S. troops in Mosul, when a suicide bomber struck, and riding in a military convoy when a roadside bomb exploded, killing an Iraqi farmer in eastern Baghdad.

Embedding has allowed our crews to document soldiers' daily missions, from the first days of the invasion, through the following years of raids and patrols, and a less glamorous task of training a new Iraqi Army and tedious meetings with tribal leaders. We've gone everywhere with the troops, into the concrete crucible of a phosphate factory to a dusty sheep market in the desert and to a comedy show where the mood was light, but security was tight.

(on camera): The down sides to embedding? Reporters need to work even harder to stay objective when they are actually living with the soldiers they are covering. Also, staying at one base tends to give you a snapshot of only one area.

(voice-over): That is why it's important to talk with commanders to get a sense of the larger picture. And it's critical to hear from Iraqi citizens, whose lives will be affected for years to come by the choices the U.S. military makes.

In Baghdad, Malini Wilkes, Fox News.


SCOTT: And that's a wrap on "News Watch."

For Judy, Jim, Cal and Kirsten, I'm Jon Scott. We'll see you again next week.

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