'Fox News Watch,' April 17, 2010

This is a rush transcript from "Fox News Watch," April 17, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

JON SCOTT, HOST: On "Fox News Watch," is there a communication crisis at the White House? Some in the press get the cozy and others get the cold shoulder. Are journalists putting self interest above public trust?

A new book about daytime TV queen Oprah has some in the media running scared.


KITTY KELLY, AUTHOR: Barbara Walters won't have me on her show.


SCOTT: Are they afraid of offending Oprah or protecting their favorite media maven?


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I've been a little amused the last couple days where people have been having these rallies.


SCOTT: The president takes his shot at the Tea Party movement on tax day. Did he take his cue from the mainstream press?

The Pulitzers are handed out for journalistic efforts. But the National Enquirer comes up empty-handed despite their Edwards blockbuster. Were they robbed?

And the top guy at Fox News hits another high. Fairness, plus balance, equals success.

On the panel this week, writer and Fox News contributor Judy Miller; conservative columnist Andrea Tantaros, Jim Pinkerton, fellow, New America Foundation; and Newsday columnist Ellis Henican.

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

President Obama started the week by hosting world leaders at his nuclear security summit in Washington. Whether that gathering will achieve meaningful results in nuclear security still is questionable — as was press access. The White House press complained about overly restrictive limitations on coverage of the summit.

Correspondent James Rosen reports it turns out not all reporters are being denied access to the president and his advisers.


JAMES ROSEN, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: An accomplished author himself, President Obama appears irresistible to his fellow literati.

JAY WINKIK, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: And he captivates the imagination. And I think it's safe to say that the White House Press Corps has been galvanized by him. And perhaps one could also add to that. There's a touch of bias where he may reflect the sentiments of many in the White House Press Corps.

ROSEN: Indeed, no modern presidency has seen so many White House correspondents, elite members of the Washington Press Corps and high priests of New York literary society queue up so quickly to publish books about the chief executive they cover, and receive so much special access to the president and his aides.

To some eyes, this brisk business in Obama books raises ethical questions.

MARK FELDSTEIN, GWU JOURNALISM PROFESSOR: Whenever reporters cover the White House, there are more journalists than there are knowledgeable sources. So the sources are always in a position of power.

When you start getting into book territory, the fly on the wall narratives, the reporters become even more desperate for the inside skinny. And it actually translates into dollars for them.

ROSEN: Perhaps, the granddaddy of the insider White House book was "Lyndon B. Johnson, the Exercise of Power," written by late syndicated columnists Roland Evans and Robert Novak, and published in April 1968, when LBJ was still in office. Then and now, real-time reporter authors have faced the vexing question of when to withhold nuggets of news for their books.

Five years ago, it was the looming publication of James Riesen's "The State of War," that prodded his employer, the New York Times, to publish the books chief revelation, the existence of the Bush-Cheney terrorist surveillance program.

WINIK: What is vitally important is that, if something crucial is unearthed in the process of these reporters digging up information for their book — that would be reported in a timely fashion.

FELDSTEIN: And these are deals that are usually worked out in complicated negotiations between the reporter and his bosses and also the reporter and the sources.

ROSEN: One insider White House book sure to be written and sure to reflect the thinking of the player with the greatest knowledge is also sure not to be published until after President Obama leaves office. That would be his own memoir of his time in office.

In Washington, James Rosen, for "Fox News Watch."


SCOTT: So that report brings us questions of fairness in access at the White House.

Jim, you've worked at the White House in the past. Is this administration doing it any differently than past administrations have?

JIM PINKERTON, FELLOW, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: I worked in the various campaigns in the '80s and early '90s, and there were deals with Newsweek that stuff that was news would not get reported in real time and would wait for the Newsweek book, which would then come out a month or two after the election. But I never heard of this sort of systemic two-tier process, if you will, where White House reporters, on a daily basis, are telling their readers and viewers one thing and then saying, I'm going to save these nuggets for the book, which I get the big advance for later on. That is — at a minimum, new, and at worst, corrupt.

SCOTT: Judy, Howard Kurtz wrote a piece saying the White House was overrun by journalists who are working on books, people like NBC's Chuck Todd and so forth.

JUDY MILLER, WRITER & FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: David Remnick's, "The Bridge." Look, no surprise. Surprise, surprise. This is not a new practice but you do have about ten times the number of reporters who want this kind of access now. I think they're willing to pay for it in terms of going easy on the person they are covering. That's why you have the extraordinary split between the way Washington views Obama and the rest of the country views Obama, because they're not in there day-to-day being charmed by him.

SCOTT: Is it personal fortune over public interest in cases like that, Andrea?

ANDREA TANTANROS, CONSERVATIVE COLUMNIST: Absolutely. It's their job to report the stories fairly. I used to be a political press secretary, so both Republicans and Democrats — you go to a favorite reporter when you can. Republicans and Democrats have favorites, someone you give the story to first or someone who may go a little bit easy on you. But I agree with Jim. Never before have we seen this kind of cherry picking and favoritism where you actually are keeping certain reporters out. I've never seen that before. Just on the basis they will in some way do some quid pro quo.

SCOTT: Ellis has a smile on his face. Is this affecting us...


SCOTT: Come on.

ELLIS HENICAN, COLUMNIST, NEWSDAY: I'm not going to join my brethren in outrage at this.


Politicians since Julius Caesar and before have been doling out access like M&Ms. It's to the advantage of politicians to reward some people, to withhold from others. And believe me, reporters have no obligation to say everything they know. That's between the reporter and his or her news organization. Some people file every minute. Some people file every decade. And that's just the business. Get used to it. Don't play this game if you can't handle that back and forth.

MILLER: But what about the readers, who think they're getting everything from the daily newspaper or the broadcast they're watching, whereas the reporter is saving stuff for himself?

HENICAN: That's why...

MILLER: What about that?

HENICAN: That's why competition is so important. We have people on a whole variety of deadlines, fighting with each other for this information. The danger — as you know, we've all suffered from this. We hold something back until next week, and we read it somewhere this afternoon. That's the game you play. That's competition.

MILLER: But do the news organizations not have an obligation to their constituents, to their readers and viewers?



PINKERTON: But does the White House, therefore, corrupt the entire Press Corps by saying, look, if you are good to us, we will give you stuff to use for your book?


SCOTT: And, Andrea, look at the complaints that came after the nuclear summit. The nuclear summit — the White House was happy to see the lines written about how this is the greatest gathering of world leaders since the United Nations in 1945. A lot of that stuff was written, yet reporters were left to complain that they had no access.

TANTAROS: Yes. Well, the coverage of this nuclear summit, for as little as it garnered, was tremendous. I mean, this was a political press secretary's dream. Having, like I said, worked on that side, yes, this event would have been perfect. But Charles Krauthammer, he made, I think, one of the shrewdest points this week, which was, they trumpeted the fact that Canada and Mexico and other countries will limit supplies of uranium. Charles Krauthammer and myself included do not lay awake at night worrying about Canadian uranium.


TANTAROS: And then there's Iran.

PINKERTON: Andrea, there's no chance you're going to get a deal from the White House.


TANTAROS: I'm not holding my breath.

MILLER: Absolutely, absolutely wrong. If anything, this summit was under-covered. You had 120,000 bombs’ worth of lethal material all over the world, 47 countries, the representatives of — either their leaders or their number twos assembled in Washington for a very important moment — and where were the conservatives? Where were the conservative voices, asked David Korn. Let's salute the guy when he deserves it.

PINKERTON: Where were the Iranians and where were the North Koreans?

HENICAN: Yes. But there will always...

MILLER: They weren't invited.

HENICAN: But there will always be this access fight. We want more access. The people are served by more access. And political people want less. That's the battle of the day. Nothing new here.

MILLER: But this is about the substance of what happened there. Do Americans really know what they agreed on? I don't think they do.

SCOTT: Time for a break.

First, you can go to our web site after the show, because I think this discussion is about to continue. The debates that erupt in here during the commercial breaks, we keep the mikes hot and the cameras rolling. Go to foxnews.com/foxnewswatch.

Next, is the new Oprah biography too hot to handle for the mainstream media?

ANNOUNCER: A new book about TV queen Oprah hit the shelves. But is the tale of Winfrey's dark secrets too much for the protective mainstream media?

The Tea Party rallies on tax day, raising attention to their cause, and raising the ire of the liberal media and their negative rants about the grassroots group. More next, on "News Watch."


SCOTT: Author Kitty Kelly, famous for her tell-alls about Princess Diana and Elizabeth Taylor, has a new book on the shelves this week. Her new target, queen of all media, Oprah Winfrey. In the past, a Kitty Kelly book has been big news. She's been invited on all the networks to dish and discuss the dirty little secrets she's uncovered. But not this time. You won't see much of Kelly promoting this particular book. She has a theory as to why.


KELLY: Barbara Walters won't have me on her show because she doesn't want to offend Oprah. Larry King, Rachael Ray, which is kind of understandable, because she's an Oprah acolyte, Charlie Rose. Even David Letterman, who has had a 16-year feud with her, said, “I don't want to disrupt the relationship I now have with her.”


SCOTT: So do we believe that, Judy? Is Oprah so all-powerful that she squelches publicity? Bad publicity?

MILLER: Oprah in books is all powerful. Oprah is what the New York Times book review used to be. That is, it can make or break a book. It can make or break an entertainer. Everybody wants to go on her show. She has two million affiliates in her book club. She's a huge person and, yes, I think Kitty Kelly has a point.

SCOTT: The book purports to reveal secrets about Oprah’s past. Is it possible that the media doesn't want her image tarnished?

TANTAROS: Yes. I think a lot of the dark secrets have been revealed, but what I found so interesting was, the media that jumped to Oprah's defense this week — Heather Haverleski writes, in Slate magazine, that Oprah has influenced millions and has been a champion and an inspiration and we should let her go. Who cares? Leave Oprah alone, she says. This is what she says about Sarah Palin. On Palin joining Fox News, by the way: "How could a self-congratulatory dim bulb like Sarah Palin resist joining the idiot party?”


Wow. I thought that Sarah Palin was an inspiration to millions as well. This is a double standard, particularly with women in the media. When it comes to a powerful woman like Oprah, who — I'm not sure where she got her credentials to be a moral arbiter...


...versus that of Sarah Palin, who is a former governor and also an inspiration to millions of women.

SCOTT: Let's ask Ellis, because he's professing to be an Oprah fan.

HENICAN: So you don't like Palin and do like Oprah or is it the other way around?

TANTAROS: I like them both.


TANTAROS: For different reasons.

HENICAN: I've never met an author, Jon, who thought their book got in and out publicity. Let's just start with that right now.


Whoever thought they were interviewed on enough shows? Here's the problem with the Kitty Kelly book. There isn't any great stuff in it. Tell me what the great blockbuster is here. There are personal stories about Oprah that somebody, someday, may dig up and get into print but maybe I think Kitty failed to put them in her book.

SCOTT: Well, it does not exactly ring true with the Oprah we see on television.

HENICAN: The fact she once was a roommate of John Tesh, that's not enough to get my blood pumping.

PINKERTON: It's a mildly interesting book about an extremely important figure, who is extremely powerful. And I have no trouble believing that the publishers are nervous that Kitty Kelly didn't deliver the goods. And they're saying it's just as well because we'll have Oprah as our enemy if we do too much on this.

TANTAROS: But it's a double standard. In this book, they talk about how Oprah prefers Diet Pepsi, but they need to call it Diet Coke. It has to be Diet Pepsi. And if she doesn't get it, her staff goes absolutely apoplectic. Sarah Palin demands bendy straws, and the liberal media comes unhinged this week.

HENICAN: They're both divas, demanding stuff.


And they're both in print. What's so different? What's so different?


TANTAROS: And for the other one, it's no big deal. It's just a very powerful woman.

PINKERTON: One apparently refers to herself in a third person, as in Oprah doesn't climb stairs.


That was the most important news.

HENICAN: Well, Ellis is defending Oprah.


SCOTT: And Jon is going to take a break.

Up next, when it comes to a awarding Pulitzers for journalism, who is make the choice?


ANNOUNCER: Tax day brought out the Tea Party in Washington and the negative rants of the liberal press.

Plus, the National Enquirer gets credit for the John Edwards mistress scandal, but gets snubbed by the Pulitzer people. Is there more to their decision? Details next, on "News Watch."


SCOTT: The Pulitzer Prize winners for journalism were announced this week. Among the recipients, the Washington Post, the New York Times, Dallas Morning News. Pro Publica even won the first Pulitzer for online journalism. But no good news for the National Enquirer. That paper's bombshell reporting on former Democratic presidential candidate, John Edwards, his mistress and their love child, ignored by the committee.

Jim, I'm sure you're surprised.


PINKERTON: I'm disappointed, but not surprised. The Edwards story was the biggest discovery by any publication in the last couple years. And as we read the reports about the Pulitzer process, they never considered voting on the Enquirer to win the prize. It's a travesty.

SCOTT: If your former cohorts at the New York Times ran the same story, would they have won?

MILLER: I'm sure they would have run, which goes back to the discussion, Jim, we've been having about whether or not institutions that pay for journalism, pay for stories, should be rewarded by this august journalistic prize. Many of us feel, no, they shouldn't be, despite the fact I acknowledge it was great, great reporting.

PINKERTON: Or whether or not the Pulitzer's just a clubhouse for the New York Times and the Washington Post.

SCOTT: The story in the Enquirer single-handedly ended his run for the presidency, resulted in a grand jury investigation, which is yet to be wrapped up. It seems like pretty big news.

TANTAROS: It was. It was huge news. But I think the Pulitzer committee looks down on papers like the Enquirer. They just seem them as some dirty-diaper supermarket checkout rag. There are magazine like US Weekly and The Star, who break stories more credible than the New York Times. We started with Jason Blair. We've talked about the credibility issues at the Times for years.

SCOTT: Don't tell me the process is biased, Ellis?

HENICAN: No. I think it was an awesome story. I credit them for that. It's a matter of snobbery, though, on the part of the Pulitzer jury, not politics.

TANTAROS: Exactly. Yes.

HENICAN: It has nothing to do with liberals, conservatives. It is looking down on a supermarket tabloid even when it does splendid work.

SCOTT: Tax day came this week, and with it, Tea Party protests over government spending. In cities all over the country, including the nation's capital, Americans supporting Tea Party movement gathered to share views against using tax dollars for growing government programs.

The mainstream media took their shots as well, and taking his cue, so did the president.


OBAMA: So I've been a little amused over the last couple of days where people have been having these rallies...


...about taxes. You would think they would be saying thank you.


That's what you would think.



SCOTT: Get those thank you cards into the White House.

The New York Times and CBS did a poll. It was on the front page of the New York Times. They showed the demographics of the average Tea Party person, especially when it comes to income, and also, in terms of the education levels, et cetera. There's the income demographics as broken down by the CBS-New York Times poll. And then, education levels achieved by Tea Party backers.

Ellis, this headline in the New York Times, "Supporters are better educated, wealthier and more conservative poll finds." It almost seems to me that it pained the newspaper to write that sub-headline.

HENICAN: Well, two things. First of all, can the Tea Party people get better songs?


That said, it's no surprise. The Tea Partiers are whiter, more Republican, more conservative, older, and more suburban than most of America. And that shouldn't be a surprise to anybody, Jon.

PINKERTON: There goes Ellis...


HENICAN: Who can read a poll. Who can read a poll.

PINKERTON: Playing the same line that — Kelly O'Donnell at NBC went up to an African-American Tea Partier by the name of Daryl Postal or Postal, however you pronounce it, and said, you're black, what are you doing here at this rally? Don't you feel uncomfortable? He gave the best answer you could possibly give. He says, I'm among my fellow Americans, period.

HENICAN: An anecdote...

PINKERTON: And that just shows that, again, the difference between the way the liberals are painting this group and the way they actually are. And hats off to iBlast.TV for having that video.

HENICAN: A lovely interview. But anecdote is not science and I think this polls show that, doesn't it?

SCOTT: Well, it seems like the mainstream media continue to try to paint Tea Partiers as racists and Obama-haters, right?

MILLER: I think that has been the image. It was the image for a long time and is still the image, in part, of the media. But the Media Research Study Center poll that showed that — I think it was 61 stories, was all the major networks ran on the Tea Parties in one year versus — what was it? Twice that amount for the Million Man March in 1995. They missed this story. They missed it.

SCOTT: After CBS ran those informational billboards about income and education on Tea Party participants, they ran this one about gun ownership and Fox News.

Can we take a look at the results of that poll?

How many Tea Party supporters have guns and watch Fox News?

Now, Andrea, what do you suppose they're trying to do there?

TANTAROS: I wonder. It's funny, because when the Tea Party movement organically started, the mainstream media discounted them and the administration as just manufactured outrage. Now, they see people are angry and they're trying to discount them as racist or, as you said, conservatives, Fox News watchers, when that's not really the case. These are Americans who are angry. And the president should discount them and insult them at his own peril.

SCOTT: We have to take one more break.

Do journalists think the business is taking a dive? The answer to a survey on that next.

ANNOUNCER: Is journalism an endangered profession? Some in the biz think so. But why? Answers next, on "News Watch."


SCOTT: The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism conducted a poll of print and broadcast executives about the future of journalism. The poll found that among broadcast executives, only 35 percent said their profession was headed in the right direction. 64 percent think it's going in the wrong direction, a margin of nearly two to one. Some of the reasons cited for that pessimistic review, biased reporting, less fact checking and confusing blogs and tweets with legitimate reporting.

Well, no reason for pessimism here at Fox News. Thanks to you, our viewers, Fox remains the most powerful name in news. And even after eight consecutive years at the top, this network is seeing record-high ratings these days. And just this week, this gentleman, our boss, Roger Ailes, named number one in TV week's top-10 list of most powerful in TV news.

Congratulations, Mr. Ailes.

That is a wrap on "News Watch" for this week.

Thanks to Judy Miller, Jim Pinkerton, Andrea Tantaros and Ellis Henican.

I'm Jon Scott. See you next week

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