This is a rush transcript from "Fox News Watch," November 21, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
JON SCOTT, HOST: On "Fox News Watch," Sarah Palin grabbing the media spotlight this week, delivering her message here and there, pretty much everywhere, and giving the liberal media another chance to take a swipe at the former Alaskan governor. Why so bitter?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: It is a great honor to be in Tokyo.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: Following his jet-setting diplomacy tour, President Obama's Asia trip comes to an end. But with all the missteps and lack of real progress, has media support for him ended as well?
News about mammograms and cervical cancer testing made headlines this week. But did the media coverage report the facts or muddy the message?
And Fox News gets the green light for a sit-down with the president, really!
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAJOR GARRETT, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Mr. President, the Fox News Channel is very happy to see you.
OBAMA: Good to see you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: And the interview makes news, really!
On the panel this week: Writer and Fox News contributor, Judy Miller; editor of the National Review, Rich Lowry; Jim Pinkerton, fellow, New America Foundation; and columnist, Ellis Henican.
And I'm Jon Scott. "Fox News Watch" is on right now.
In case you haven't heard, Sarah Palin's new book, "Going Rogue," hit book stores this week. The former VP candidate made the rounds, talking with a select group of media heavy weights from Oprah, Barbara Walters, Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity and Greta van Susteren.
Not everybody, including one conservative columnist, thought Palin deserved all this attention.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID BROOKS, NEW YORK TIMES COLUMNIST: She's a joke. I mean, I just can't take her seriously. We've got serious problems in the country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: And the sour notes didn't end there. Most of the negative views, coming from left-leaning media groups.
Our Fox News Opinion Dynamic Poll asked whether or not she's treated fairly by the press. Here are the numbers. 31 percent think she's being treated fairly. A whopping 61 percent think she is not being treated fairly or treated unfairly, I guess, I should say.
Why, Rich? Why is she still such a lightning rod? She's not a candidate.
RICH LOWRY, EDITOR, NATIONAL REVIEW: Well, David Brooks isn't a liberal, but his attitude captured perfectly the elite media's attitude towards Sarah Palin. It's undisguised contempt. I believe it's because she hits every single cultural hot button for them. She's an evangelical Christian. She has red state morays and likes hunting and fishing. She's conservative, and on and on and on.
And the beauty of this, and what this demonstrates to me, is that there is justice in the universe. The more they show their hatred for her, the more her fans are cemented to her. And the more of them are going out and buying her book. And God bless them.
SCOTT: It's not even her fans. That poll was just a random sample of Americans. 61 percent say she's being treated unfairly.
JUDY MILLER, WRITER & FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, the issue of sexism continues to be an issue when it comes to Sarah Palin.
And as, Rich Lowry, as you wrote, the most divisive person in America.
I think the most divisive woman in America. The fact that she's a woman, she continues to be out there, clearly rankles people more than it would others. Somebody actually called her, in print, this week, Nixon without the intelligence and the experience. And that's -- you know, I think it's pretty harsh. We've -- she's really -- continues to take a beating.
SCOTT: You're a former colleague of David Brooks. What about that comment of his? He said, -- and the thought that she is sort of catnip to those on the left and the right?
MILLER: Exactly, because I think that she has split Republicans. I mean, that's what's interesting about her is that McCainites have been as critical of Sarah Palin as the left.
LOWRY: Some of them. Some of them.
LOWRY: The ones that trashed her after the campaign, I think, continues to be very critical.
SCOTT: "Newsweek" magazine put her on its cover with a photograph that they apparently bought from the folks at "Runners World." It's her in running grab. Did they go too far with that picture?
ELLIS HENICAN, COLUMNIST: You know, I'm not sure that putting a women, who looks fit and athletic and strong, is particularly sexist. What I don't understand is why she has chosen this narrative of "everybody is picking on me." All these, the McCainians were too mean, the media is asking the wrong questions, the job of governor didn't pay enough, I guess.
In the long run, you can rev up an extreme, disgruntled minority...
... with all this "everybody is picking on me." But I don't think most Americans expect that from top political leaders. You know, get in the arena, nobody makes you play, but be touch enough to keep complaining, all right?
SCOTT: Is the press giving this attention to her -- Levy Johnston, I guess, the boyfriend of her daughter, the best -- the father of her granddaughter. That's the way to explain it.
HENICAN: Grandbaby daddy.
SCOTT: Are they giving him all the attention, Jim, because it's a way to embarrass her?
JIM PINKERTON, FELLOW, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: Right. I mean, they're using every hammer they have against her. And the best evidence, single evidence was Norah O'Donnell, of MSNBC, went to Grand Rapids, Michigan, and was reading from talking points as she badgered some 17 year old, well, don't you know about Palin's positions on this. And she kept saying, what policies of Palins' do you like or dislike and so on. What they miss is that she is a cultural figure. She reminds me of a -- I'm of a certain age -- of Mirabelle Morgan, who, in 1974, wrote a book called, "The Total Woman," which was a defense of traditional marriage and Christianity and so on. And the MSM of then pounded her mercilessly with no talk radio...
SCOTT: I don't think you're getting agreement from Judy on that one.
MILLER: She reminds me of a soap opera character and Levy Johnston business, of whether of not he's coming to Thanksgiving dinner or not, is another episode of "As the World Turns."
LOWRY: Let's remember who the addresser was here. She was on the stage for about 24 hours. All she had done is given her announcement speech in Ohio. And she was deluged with contempt and lies against her. she had a center of right record. She is a pragmatist with bipartisan appeal in Alaska. And it was the media hatred that made her into this lightning rod. And McCain aides...
LOWRY: ... after the campaign. Good for her defending her reputation and pushing back.
HENICAN: I love her as a cultural icon. I think she's terrific. I'd like her to be the nominee. This notion that we, in the media, need to go easy on our national political figures, come on, you all are complaining.
HENICAN: ... fact checking the book and...
LOWRY: Did they fact-check Biden's book. Did they fact check Obama's book?
HENICAN: Rich, they ought to fact check anybody's book, but...
LOWRY: But you can't defend a selective fact checking -- 11 fact checkers for a book when they didn't fact any other book.
HENICAN: My friend, don't...
LOWRY: What is it about Sarah Palin?
HENICAN: Don't be against fact checking.
LOWRY: I'm not.
LOWRY: You're not in favor of selective fact checking, right?
HENICAN: Check any fact that's called into question.
LOWRY: They didn't check the other books. They didn't check any of them until her book.
HENICAN: They should check them all.
LOWRY: And that's...
HENICAN: It's agreed, check them all.
PINKERTON: Just mark my words, Oprah Winfrey leaves her show in 2011 and Sarah Palin will fill that space.
SCOTT: Do you think the media wants her to run?
PINKERTON: No. They don't want her to run. I don't really think she wants to run. I think, again, all this discussion -- if Judy thinks she's a soap opera, that's just -- Sarah Palin's laughing all the way to the bank. Soap opera's...
MILLER: Soap operas sell.
PINKERTON: In the last seven to 12 years, have been making money.
MILLER: Soap operas sell. Absolutely.
HENICAN: It's niche marketing. It really, really, really appeals to a narrow niche of America. You go.
LOWRY: It's a huge niche. When you do $300,000 in sales the first day, that's a big niche.
HENICAN: It's almost -- what is it -- one-tenth of 1 percent of America.
LOWRY: It's a lot of people.
PINKERTON: When she was on Oprah, she was Oprah's hottest show. I mean, she...
MILLER: And Barbara Walters. She had played this very shrewdly.
HENICAN: How do I get such a niche? I'll buy the book.
MILLER: All Palin, all the time.
LOWRY: That's a small niche.
SCOTT: And I had better be accurate on a media criticism show. Levy Johnston, the father of Sarah Palin's grandson, I guess I said granddaughter before. Anyway, grandson.
Time for a break.
We have lots of extras available to you on our web site, including some of the spirited discussions that erupt here during our breaks. You can hear them after the show at FoxNews.com/foxnewswatch.
Back in two minutes on our take on coverage of the president's trip abroad, his eighth.
ANNOUNCER: President Obama grabs attention in Asia, battling issues and taking a bow, but has his favorite status with the press gotten lost with the baggage?
And it's true. Mr. Obama gives Fox News a one-on-one, and it's making news. Details next, on "News Watch."
SCOTT: President Obama spent most of his week on the tour of Asia meeting with dignitaries in four nations. Some of the headlines didn't indicate too much news or success being made. In fact, most of the headlines were being made back home.
In fact, Jim, if you take a look at the biggest headline coming while Mr. Obama was overseas, he was already in Japan. And on Friday, a week ago, here comes his attorney general, Eric Holder, to say we're going to prosecute these five Guantanamo Bay suspects in the United States. Now, some say the White House was trying to bury that because the press core was travelling with the president. They didn't think it'd get the coverage or controversy that it received.
PINKERTON: I think it's fair to say that they miscalculated the negative reaction, aka, the deluge that came against Holder. But, look, I think that the fact that the press is now kind of on to Obama was illustrated by the fact that the Obama administration felt they had to bring out the Republican ambassador to China. I mean, the former governor of Utah, John Huntsman, to complain about the press conference, saying, look, you're not giving due deference to the important ribbons that Obama cut with the Chinese.
SCOTT: There was the announcement that he made as he got ready to jump on the plane that he was going to hold a jobs summit. This, after it came out that unemployment is, what, 10.2 percent now.
HENICAN: That's right. Uncomfortable news. And you do anything you can as a politician to bury it.
To me, what was a little disappointing about the coverage was it didn't have a lot of discussion how it is, when we see our banker, always an uncomfortable situation, and it was the kind of silly stuff. It was the bowing and the political hits back and forth and the buried fact. I wish we had a discussion about the other stuff.
SCOTT: Symbolism did matter. I mean, the bowing did offend a lot of people.
LOWRY: Yes, I find it offensive. I believe it's an offense against smaller "R" Republican manners for any president of the United States to bow to a foreign potentate. Look, this is a classic narrative story where a Republican -- you know, Nixon can do it, and it's not a big deal. But Obama does it, because the idea's out there, justifiably in my mind, that he's a weakling abroad, that he has an overly submissive attitude towards foreign countries. And that's why it was exploded. And kudos to the blogosphere, which was onto this way before the mainstream media.
SCOTT: Should the press be highlighting more of the accomplishments of this trip or are there just not enough to highlight?
MILLER: There are a few concrete highlights, alas. And that's why we have the continuation of this narrative. Biography is diplomacy. We have Obama talking about licking ice cream in Japan and his mother's great work in Indonesia and all the other things that he has done to, quote, "connect with people." And when asked about those accomplishments, Axelrod, David Axelrod, actually had to say, well, he's knocking down the notion that America doesn't connect with the rest of the world. Given the fact that you're talking to China, which is 14 percent of U.S. trade, and that's all you can point to. That's not a great record.
SCOTT: Yes, the Chinese didn't exactly treat him like the rock star that he often -- you know, he gets that treatment in this country. Is the bloom off the rose?
PINKERTON: I think it is. Steve Clemens, who runs the blog called the Washington Noted, a little while ago, had a picture of Secretary Gates, not Obama, Gates, reaching out his hand to some Chinese general, and the general is sort of like this, you know, like I'm not going to shake your hand. I'm not sure they did eventually, but the body language was unmistakable. And that was, I think, just indicative of where the press is. They realize it's now the G-2, not the G8, the G-2, the U.S. and China with China frankly on the rise.
SCOTT: I don't know. Does the coverage hurt U.S. interests here, Ellis?
HENICAN: Well, you know, listen, it'd be great if you go there and you were able to go there and point to terrific achievements. I just wish the coverage had some actual discussion on some issues, our banker relationship, the human rights stuff, the censorship questions. Those are really important issues, whether anything is accomplished or not.
SCOTT: Well, Jim, you've worked in administrations. Is it because his people didn't lay the proper groundwork to come up with big achievements?
PINKERTON: Right. You always have something in the bank to announce when you get there. And if you don't, you get blown away by little stories, which didn't really happen. I mean, I think things like auditing the Fed, the Ron Paul bill, would have -- if that happened under Bush, everybody in China would have said, oh, President Bush, tell us what you think about what is going on back in Washington about Ron Paul or Greg Craig or Eric Holder. As it was, there was there was -- as Judy was saying, there's a lot of polite, well, tell us how you like your ice cream.
SCOTT: Time now for another break. We'll be back to discuss how the media and medicine mix. When it comes to coverage of women and their health, did the press mangle the messages?
ANNOUNCER: New recommendations about when to get a mammogram making headlines. But have the media muddled the message?
And President Obama sits down with Fox News. Has the cold war of words ended?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Appreciate it. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Answers next, on "News Watch."
SCOTT: Big medical news this week for women. First, a government panel announced new guidelines on mammograms, recommending most women not begin getting that procedure until the age of 50 instead of age 40, and saying that breast self-exams for cancer are not necessary. That news led to controversy and confusion for women and their doctors.
Take a look at some of the headlines. From "The Washington Post," "Mammograms and politics, task force stirs up a tempest." From "The New Jersey Star Ledger," "For health groups, it's simple, mammograms save lives." And from the "Atlanta Journal Constitution," "Cancer advice, policy at odds, White House gives task force guidelines the cold shoulder."
And that's not all. Later in the week came the word that young women didn't need to take pap tests to screen for cervical cancer until at least age 21. Many women do not need to be screened annually either, according to that study.
What about it, Judy, did the press muddy the waters on the issues here or help lay out what the government is now saying?
MILLER: I think the press did a fairly good job in laying out the recommendations of this panel, which are clearly, clearly incendiary. The statistics simply don't mesh with what women have been told, which is you've got to take preventive action. If you catch things early you may be able to -- the statistics are very clear. We have been over testing. They don't save lives. There's no justification for it. But this message, coming at this time, when we're thinking of these huge changes in insurance and medical care reform, are bound to create a firestorm, and they have.
SCOTT: Should the timing of it have been changed, Jim? I mean, if Judy is right about that?
PINKERTON: I think, in some small way, the people who were behind this study thought they were helping Obama care. They thought there's too much medical coverage and there's -- the Dartmouth study says one-third of all coverage...
PINKERTON: Too much testing, too much everything. That's the argument the left makes on this. And these people thought they were going to help. What they didn't count on though was that "ABC News' would lead with the story two nights running and clobber it. And the people like Robin Roberts of ABC, a breast cancer survivor, would pummel it. and therefore they had to withdraw within three days.
SCOTT: Let's talk a little bit, Rich, how the embargo process works, because these stories were embargoes for release on Tuesday. The media get them ahead of time, they get a look at what's in them, and they get to sort of lay the groundwork, right, for the coverage?
LOWRY: Yes. I think that's a very helpful thing. These are technical studies and it gives the press time to digest them and understand what they're about. But I agree with Judy and Jim. Two things drove the critical tidal waves against this. One is a lot of women reporters writing in very personal and powerful terms about this and what this meant in their lives. And, two, the health care debate prism through which this was viewed, because eventually, I think this panel is more innocuous than a lot of people have betrayed it. Eventually, you could have these sorts of task forces making these decisions effectively for everyone in the country. And that is scary.
SCOTT: Another big item being covered this week. Remember our $787 billion dollars stimulus plan? Well, thanks to some old-fashioned shoe- leather reporting, it looks like 75,000 of the created or saved jobs listed on the government web site, recovery.gov, those jobs are bogus.
Here is what "The Boston Globe" found about jobs created in its home state. "While Massachusetts recipients of federal stimulus money collectedly reported 12,374 jobs saved or created, a "Globe" review shows that number is wildly exaggerated. Organizations that received stimulus money, miscounted jobs, filed erroneous figures, or claimed jobs for work that has not yet started."
Ellis, shoe-leather reporting?
HENICAN: And a terrific example. This is, Jon, exactly why we need robust, local newspapers all across America. If the "Globe" and other papers aren't doing this stuff, nobody is going to. And all of those staff are shrinking. And the press is really in danger at this point.
SCOTT: And the administration was somewhat embarrassed by all of these figures. and that's probably a good thing.
PINKERTON: Not -- they were embarrassed. But as the Media Research Center pointed out, the morning shows gave this story exactly 21 seconds. So, no, they'll get over it because the media aren't going to turn this into another Watergate.
SCOTT: All right.
It's time for us to take one more break.
When we come back, is there a thaw in the Cold War between the White House and Fox News?
ANNOUNCER: Fox News talks with President Obama and that makes more news than the others. Who is asking all the right questions? That's next, on "News Watch."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CONAN O'BRIEN, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW": President Obama is in Communist China right now. And he held a town hall meeting in Shanghai, and he talked a lot about freedom of speech and unrestricted access to the Internet. As you can imagine, the Chinese authorities -- I don't think they liked his speech.
Here is how it was broadcast on Chinese television.
OBAMA: I am a big believer in technology and I'm a big believer in openness when it comes to the flow of information.
CHINESE INTERPRETER: We are experiencing technical difficulties. Really.
OBAMA: Then citizens can hold their own governments accountable.
CHINESE INTERPRETER: Oops! More technical difficulties. So sorry.
OBAMA: They can begin to think for themselves.
CHINESE INTERPRETER: This just in. Obama never came here or said those things! Now please turn off your TVs and return to making "Hello Kitty" tee shirts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: A bit of late-night humor during the president's trip to Asia this week.
And this from political cartoonist, Mike Thomas, from the "Detroit Free Press." She says, "Can we ask the president, Mr. Obama, about his comments in China regarding the importance of the free flow information? Depends, are you with Fox News?"
Well, we told you before, the relationship between Fox News and the White House has been chilly of late. In fact, outgoing White House communication director, Anita Dunn, tried to freeze out this network, saying that Fox is not a legitimate news organization and others should not follow our lead on stories. Well now, it looks like the ice may be falling.
While President Obama was in Asia, he sat down with our own Major Garret for an interview. And, of course, the discussion was legitimate. And when the president discussed the stimulus, it also made news. And many news organizations, including "The New York Times," "The Washington Post" and "The Los Angeles Times," reported on it. We sometimes criticize our media brother, and especially here on "News Watch," but we thank them for their support in not letting the White House have its way on this one.
That is a wrap on "News Watch" for this week.
Thanks to Judy Miller, Jim Pinkerton, Rich Lowry and Ellis Henican.
I'm Jon Scott. Thanks for joining us. Keep it right here on Fox News Channel and we'll see you back next week for another edition of "FOX News Watch."
Happy Thanksgiving, everybody.
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