This is a rush transcript from "Fox News Watch," December 12, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
JON SCOTT, HOST: On "Fox News Watch," is the president outpacing the press with the economy, Afghanistan, health care, unemployment, climate control and his Nobel Prize? Are the media keeping up or is the coverage just a big blur?
New numbers on the president's performance started the week. The White House cared less. What about the press?
Tiger still in the Woods as more details and more women add to his sordid tale. The media can't get enough, but some think the press should just butt out.
Climate is all the talk in Copenhagen. But the controversy over Climate-gate gets the cold shoulder. Are the media afraid of opposing views?
And ABC News wants you to wake up with this guy. Really.
Joining us on the panel this week, writer and Fox News contributor, Judy Miller; syndicated columnist, Cal Thomas; Jim Pinkerton, fellow, New America Foundation; and News Day columnist, Ellis Henican.
I'm Jon Scott. "Fox News Watch" is on right now.
President Obama was juggling a lot this week. Let's start with Monday, as he convened a summit on jobs. As the week rolled along, his top generals faced questions from Congress about his plans for Afghanistan. The health care debate took another turn. And on Thursday, he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in Norway. A blur of presidential activity, the very picture of an involved chief executive, but that image stands against a back drop of sinking poll numbers. Eleven months into his term, the president's approval rating tipped to 47 percent in the latest Gallup poll. That puts President Obama on the low end of the scale compared with other presidents at this point in their terms, including President's Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush.
When questioned about the number, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said, quote, "I tell you, if I was a heart patient and Gallop was my EKG, I'd visit my doctor. If you look back, I think, five days ago, there was an 11-point spread. Now there's a 1 point spread. I mean, I'm sure a six-year-old with a crayon can do something not unlike that. I don't put a lot of stake in, never have in the EKG that is the daily Gallup trend."
Gallup none too happy about those comments. Editor in chief, Frank Newport responded, "Gibbs said if Gallup were an EKG, he would visit his doctor. Well, I think the doctor might ask him what's going on in his life that would cause his EKG to be fluctuating so much."
Jim, you have worked in the White House, you know how the spin goes on things like that.
Are they really paying attention to these polls?
JIM PINKERTON, FELLOW, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: Oh, yes.
PINKERTON: I can answer that question. Yes, they're paying very close attention. and they are trying to dismiss this poll, just as fluctuations, but — and the media basically accepted it, except for, hats off to Rusty Weiss, at News Busters, who pointed out that, back in February, when the Gallup poll showed enormous support for the stimulus package, the same guy, Robert Gibbs, was delighted to flap that as proof for what a great policy he had. Again, as always with this business, live by the sword and die by the sword, although it takes an alert media to call you on the previous whack as opposed to this whack.
SCOTT: How alert has the media been this week? It's been a week for him. He had the job summit on Monday, going through the Copenhagen trip, the Nobel Peace Prize. How did the media do covering it?
JUDY MILLER, WRITER AND FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I think if I were a member of the White House Press Corps, I'd be exhausted and asking for Christmas or holiday vacation early, because it was just very hard to keep track and keep up with everything. I mean, in terms of polling, I have to say, really, Ronald Reagan was about these rates and he didn't have much trouble being reelected. And same with Harry Truman, he was very popular. Look, I think they're worried how they're going to look a year from now as we go into the elections.
SCOTT: This is a blur of presidential activity, Ellis, is that intentional or is that just the nature of the job these days?
ELLIS HENICAN, NEWS DAY COLUMNIST: Well, in the nature of this job, done by this president, obviously, they've got an awful lot of stuff they want to do. But these polls, Jon, these are lazy reporters best friends.
Nothing is easier than just sitting at your desk and saying, it's up a tick, it's down a little. It doesn't tell us much. We've become overly obsessed by them, up or down. The reporters ought to get out and cover some stories.
How about that, guys?
CAL THOMAS, SYDNICATED COLUMNIST: I completely agree with that, Ellis.
And more than that, the media have a problem. They sold Barack Obama as an under-messiah, second only to Jesus at his abilities to part the water, walk on water, heal the sick and comfort the afflicted.
Now that the polls are falling, it reflects on credibility. He hasn't lived up to the advanced billing, which they were responsible for.
SCOTT: Isn't part of the story though, Ellis? I mean, lazy reporters are not part of the story here, is that he started with stratospheric numbers.
HENICAN: Part of the story and every now and then, every month or so, let's dig in him. But this every minute, second by second, daily poll, it doesn't tell us that much. Let's be honest.
PINKERTON: I agree. I think, therefore hats, off to one reporter who courageously has done great digging, that Matt Taibbi, at "Rolling Stone," who has done more than anybody to take apart all of the bailout, Wall Street billion-dollar stuff to the billionaires. I think he's striking, as he's so alone in what he's covering and reporting on, while the rest of the media are stenographizing for the Treasury Department.
MILLER: Fox News isn't doing that. Fox News is critical and taking a lot of heat for being skeptical of the president, which was what I thought we were all supposed to be, skeptical.
THOMAS: I refer on my earlier remark. The guy was sold as a messianic figure. Most of the media were in the tank for him all during the campaign. They didn't question his promises then and they're still not questioning his policies now.
SCOTT: One of the policies he seemed to make a lot of waves with was that Noble speech when he said basically said, hi, thanks for the peace prize, but you've got to make war sometimes.
Is that a major turnabout for this president? Is that engendered by those poll numbers?
HENICAN: Listen, there were a lot of audiences for that speech. It was not one that got a lot of applause in Oslo, I noticed. But my conservative friends ought to have their hearts warmed.
PINKERTON: Sarah Palin, Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich, Mike Gerson, all praised it and...
HENICAN: And a little skeptical, however...
MILLER: And as well, Cal, as well...
SCOTT: That's the story here. I mean, the media are writing about how the president is getting plaudits from conservatives.
MILLER: Right. He is because, in fact, he finally stopped the bowing. He stopped the apologizing for America. He said, let's get real here, we live in an evil world, there are bad people.
THOMAS: Yes, and evil must be opposed. That's what the conservatives wanted to hear.
MILLER: He said that to the Nobel Committee.
THOMAS: Exactly. Right.
MILLER: And that's what made...
HENICAN: And listen, it made my heart pump, too, but it would have been a little nicer, from where I sit, if we got a little peace on the way to peace. War isn't the only way to solve problems.
MILLER: Come on, Ellis.
HENICAN: Most of the recent ones aren't working out that well.
SCOTT: We are going to take a break.
If you want to know what our panelists really think, because I cut Jim off just before I let him give a final thought.
During the break, we keep the cameras rolling here in the studio. You can catch some of those spirited discussions after the program. Check out FoxNews.com/foxnewswatch.
We'll be back in two minutes to talk about Tiger Woods. The media helped him make — helped make him the world's most famous athlete. What are they doing to him now?
ANNOUNCER: Golf great Tiger Woods' squeaky-clean image takes a nosedive into the gutter as more details about his hookups pop up in the press. Should the media let go of this Tiger's tale?
And Climategate gets some attention at a big U.N. gathering, but have global warming doubters been sidelined in the press? All next, on "News Watch."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMIE JUNGER, TIGER WOODS MISTRESS: One thing led to another, and next thing you know, I was sleeping with Tiger Woods. It wasn't like boring, married couple sex. Like, it was fun and exciting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: Jamie Junger, just one of more than a dozen women who reportedly had an affair with golfer, Tiger Woods. She was speaking out on her relationship on "Dateline NBC" and on a live interview on "Today" on Friday. We've been hearing from Junger and others since the golf great crashed his car in the early morning hours after Thanksgiving. Since then, Tiger Woods' squeaky-clean image has taken a beating in the press. He has falling far and fast, joining the ranks of disgraced politicians, like Eliot Spitzer, Bill Clinton, John Edwards, Mark Sanford, and entertainers, like David Letterman.
All the sordid coverage has also chipped away at his approval ratings. According to a Rasmussen poll, done in June 2007, 83 percent of Americans were impressed with Tiger. That number dipped to just 56 percent the first week in December and it had dipped again to 38 percent by the following week.
All right, Ellis, you wrote about Tiger Woods recently.
HENICAN: Relentlessly, yes.
SCOTT: What does he need to do to turn the media coverage around? He's getting hammered in the press.
HENICAN: Before I say, let me take brief offense at that expression, boring married...
THOMAS: Yes, thank you so much.
But, no, listen, the lesson that I hear is the names that you just mentioned, if you can tough out the media coverage, you know what? You may be OK. Just this week, the governor of South Carolina wasn't impeached, right. And David Letterman spent the week making Tiger Woods jokes. Just hang tough and don't do a Spitzer, Tiger, and you'll be OK.
THOMAS: I disagree. I think this brand is something unique. He has been sold as so many things. First of all, the man of color, who really didn't want to be an African-American or whatever. He was every man, an incredible talent, a beautiful wife, two beautiful children. This was O.J. Simpson that we wanted before all of his problems. I think he's got to walk the saw dust trail of redemption. I think he's got to get help. He clearly is — got a sexual addiction. So he's got to get help and that will resonate with the public very well because people like repentance and restoration. and then he's got to go on Dr. Phil for at least a week.
SCOTT: Is there too much media coverage of this? I mean, should this be a private thing between him and his wife?
MILLER: I'm sorry. For me it's just TMI, too much information. I think I am more stunned by the women standing up and talking about how they had sex, and what they did with the money from the sex. One woman actually told The New York Post this week that she used it to do liposuction on her thighs. And another said she was going to...
SCOTT: And you don't want to read all of this coverage? You've got it pretty well cataloged.
MILLER: I don't want — it almost makes me feel — almost makes me feel sorry for Tiger Woods. And I certainly feel sorry for the family. Enough. Enough. Of course, it's not going to stop, so I'm living in another world.
SCOTT: Jim, your experience has been in political spin, but what does Tiger need to do if he's going to stop this drum beat of negative stories.
PINKERTON: He can't stop the drum beat of negative stories. that's for sure. I agree with Ellis. I think that, if he just hangs tough, do a Bill Clinton, deny it for a while and then admit something and then...
MILLER: He did not have sex with that woman? Or women?
PINKERTON: You deny, admit, you admit, you deny whatever it is, but you don't resign. Spitzer...
HENICAN: That's a mistake.
MILLER: By resigning?
HENICAN: Yes, he didn't...
PINKERTON: Spitzer could be making a big come back now. The Marist College poll had a survey that said that 90 percent of Americans think this coverage is too much. So, there's clearly a backlash among...
PINKERTON: It won't stop the media, but I think it does speak to the base he has underneath him, Tiger.
SCOTT: And then there's the Mark Sanford lesson, a guy who might have been able to tough it out, if he hadn't said that the woman he'd been cheating with was his soul mate, even after he said he wanted to get together with his wife. We know, as of yesterday, that's not going to happen.
THOMAS: I like the sound bite we did not see from the woman on earlier, Debby or whatever. She said, "All he wanted from me was sex." No, he wanted the last book you read. What do you think?
By the way, Jim, we haven't heard you speak up for boring marital sex.
Ellis and I were right up front on that.
HENICAN: Yes, but we've gone from a TMI nation to a TMZ nation.
PINKERTON: Oh, very good.
SCOTT: In the earlier segment, was here you've got the jobs summit, all of this stuff going on at the White House. A lot of it doesn't seem to get covered, but, boy, we know a lot about Tiger Woods, don't we.
PINKERTON: I thought the point of the earlier segment was don't peg everything to a poll.
THOMAS: Yes, but that's the problem. But Judy and I were talking about this earlier. As just before 9/11, all of this tabloid stuff, sharks off of Florida, and then when we get hit with something — hit with something that's really important, we say, gee, why didn't we see it coming? Because you were focused on other this stuff that doesn't really matter, that's why.
MILLER: The entire White House Press Corps was covered Monica Lewinsky instead of the formation of Al Qaeda and the plotting that was going on in Hamburg.
HENICAN: And 300 million lives. We say how much we hate it and then we keep watching.
MILLER: And then we buy. Right. We watch it and buy it.
SCOTT: Time for another break. We'll be back to talk about the press and the party crashers.
ANNOUNCER: A party crashing couple slips through security, but nabbed by the media, and leads to more details about secret security slip-ups.
And is ABC News giving a former Clinton insider more editorial control at that network? Answers next, on "News Watch."
SCOTT: The widely covered Copenhagen climate change conference got underway Monday in Denmark. It continues for the next week. The conference opened amid growing controversy over what's been dubbed Climate-gate by the press, the release of e-mail messages related to the global warming debate. Those messages seem to suggest manipulation of data by some adherents of global warming theory and widespread disagreements, even pettiness among researchers who are warning us of climate change.
This week, Texas Representative Lamar Smith, who chairs the Congressional Media Fairness Caucus, gave ABC, NBC and CBS the lap-dog award for media bias. Why? Because it took them two weeks to cover Climate-gate on their evening broadcasts.
And there is more. On Monday, the EPA declared that greenhouse gases are officially harmful to your health.
All right, Jim, this Copenhagen summit has been eagerly awaited by the media. What about the coverage?
PINKERTON: I think the coverage has been astonishingly biased in favor of global warming, Al Gore and so on, and then the propagandistic elements there, NBC News having a whole segment on flooding in Bangladesh, the "Washington Post" — and attributing that to global warming. and the "Washington Post," which is going broke and shut down all its foreign bureaus, nevertheless, sent a reporter to Australia where the reporter called Australia, quote, "a crematorium for kangaroos," because it's so hot, and why can't the Australian get on board with the global warming stuff.
SCOTT: Bangladesh never flooded before. That's for sure.
What have you noticed from the coverage, Cal?
THOMAS: Tom Freedman had a column in The New York Times once again indicating that he'd drunk the Jim Jones fundamentalist Kool-Aid, and there is only one point of view. Any reasonable scientist will tell you, very few things in science are settled, otherwise they wouldn't need new textbooks in the schools every couple of years as new things are discovered.
What the skeptics don't like about this is, it's being rammed down their throat with a bunch of public policy attachments without a fair and full debate. Nobody argues that the planet has not warmed from time to time. But the argument is whether it is all man made and whether not only the polar bears, but the rest of us are going to die. And most of the media dismisses that as being unworthy of consideration. And that's not scientific.
SCOTT: That announcement, Ellis, from Lisa Jackson, administrator of the EPA, that greenhouse gases are harmful for your health, was that done so the U.S. could get some positive press out of the Copenhagen summit?
HENICAN: Sure, I mean this entire process is a political event. Let's be honest. It's not just scientists gathering for inquiry. The failing on the media on this is not to push all of this politics aside. Let's cover science, like science, let's get some facts out of it.
HENICAN: But your side, too. Pull back the...
THOMAS: Absolutely. I want to have a fair and balanced debate, to coin a phrase.
SCOTT: Which brings us back, Judy, to the Climate-gate memos. that didn't get a lot of coverage.
MILLER: No, it didn't. And it was covered here and it was covered in other media that were connected — that were associated with being kind of climate change deniers. But the people who should have been looking at it — there should have been a really fervent debate within the scientific community that we could have covered as journalists, and that really didn't happen.
THOMAS: Well, one of the reasons it didn't happen, of course, is because of the oppression of much scientific opinion.
THOMAS: I've talked to scientists who say they can't get the grants if they don't tow the line. And many in the media don't ask those kinds of questions. so they feel, you know, shut out and shut up.
SCOTT: All right, moving on to another story that caught our eye this week. When this Virginia couple was accused of crashing President Obama's first state dinner, it was surprising news. Now comes word that the Salahis were not the first. Far from it. In fact, an internal Secret Service report obtained by The Washington Post reveals 91 separate security breaches at the White House since 1980.
Judy, The Washington Post got its hands on this report. Are you surprised or is this another sort of convenient leak, sort of one of those, other administration's have had problems, too?
MILLER: No, I think that finally people are beginning to look at the systemic failures that go into something, an event like this happening. and hats off to the London Times, which told us a lot more about the Salahis as a family — the boat repossessions, the cars, the string of civil suits and throwing elderly parents out of their homes. We learned a lot more about them. But we should be learning much, much more about the Secret Service, how it operates, and that's how the reports are beginning to catch up. Very slow.
SCOTT: Is that something the press should have been looking into before this debacle?
PINKERTON: Yes, I think it's an important topic obviously. And these kind of events have happened before, and been in the public. In 1985, somebody walked into Reagan's inaugural address and so on. We know these things happen.
but again, on the spirit of praising people who done a good job covering this, Roger Aronoff, at Accuracy in Media, one of these sort of blogs that doubles as a media outlet, had a great list of questions that ought to be answered, that I predict won't get answered because the Democrats aren't interested in Desiree Rogers and what she did in this, as opposed to the poor Secret Service, who will be the fall guys.
SCOTT: All right.
We have to take one more break. When we come back...
ANNOUNCER: A former Clinton confidante gets a role at ABC News. Is that good news for the liberal media? Details next, on "News Watch."
SCOTT: After 10 years of co-host of ABC's "Good Morning America," Diane Sawyer said goodbye on Friday. Her chair to be filled by correspondent and this-week host, George Stephanopoulos. According to the Washington Post, Bill Clinton's former staffer wants to bring a harder news focus to the show. That was one of the conditions he put in place before taking the job.
I guess, the question here, Cal, this is guy that played a pretty big public role in Bill Clinton's White House. Does it mean there will be a slant to GMA from now on?
THOMAS: Well, no more than there already is. Look, George is a good buy. He's done a fine job for what he does. But what I'm interested in is the double reaction of the reaction of the media. When Susan Molinari, a former Republican Congressman, got named — I don't even remember the name of the show.
PINKERTON: CBS in the morning, on weekends.
THOMAS: She was excoriated by many of her peers, including people who should have known better. I think Nina Totenberg, of NPR, said it made her puke. Now, everybody is celebrating George's elevation. He has good hair, I'll give him that.
SCOTT: Is it going to help the show, Ellis?
HENICAN: He may do well. I feel like I should yield the rest of my time to Brother Pinkerton here, who might have some direct knowledge.
PINKERTON: Well, no. What would happen if they named Dana Perino to that slot? They would have gone through everything she said at the White House podium for two years and said, well, that was wrong, that was wrong, that was wrong. And she never would have heard the end of it.
MILLER: Well, I think we've see such a mixture of entertainment and news and politics that it would be hypocritical for anyone at this point to start raising questions about George, who came out of the White House and wrote a tell-all book that made the Clintons very unhappy. He's done his penitence. Time to welcome him to the fraternity.
PINKERTON: No, and he cashed in. He cashed in.
SCOTT: And he's been out for more than eight years.
That's going to wrap up "News Watch" this week.
Thanks to Judy, Jim, Cal and Ellis.
I'm Jon Scott. We'll see you next week.
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