This is a rush transcript from "Fox News Watch," May 15, 2010. This copy is may not be in its final form and may be updated.
JON SCOTT, HOST: On "Fox News Watch..."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think it's -- I think it's on the website, if you want to see it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: The Obama White House takes another step in side-stepping the press, acting as its own news service, with videos, pictures, opinion and Twitter blasts, all positive and unfiltered. Has the mainstream media ignored the issue?
The president's Supreme Court nominee makes her rounds with lawmakers but stays mum to the media. Yet, this picture gets some in the press crying foul. Really?
Five California teens take heat for their pride in the red, white and blue. Did the media coverage add to the controversy?
Efforts in the gulf continue as the oil spill blame-game played out on Capitol Hill. Is the press playing along?
And an old man and his old men's magazine try to stay relevant in the Internet age. 36-24-36, with a couple of extra dimensions.
President Obama began the week by introducing his nominee for Supreme Court justice to the nation and to the press. Elena Kagan spent the rest of the week visiting with various members of Congress and ignoring the media. But Ms. Kagan did sit down to answer some questions on camera.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELENA KAGAN, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE NOMINEE: Public service has been an opportunity to take my legal skills and to take my legal training and work on some of the really important public policy issues of our time. And I did that both in the White House during the administration of President Clinton and in the Justice Department as solicitor general in this administration.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: That interview was not conducted by a journalist, but by a White House staffer, the interview posted on the White House website, raising concerns, once again, that the Obama administration is making every effort to side-step the press in order to put out an unfiltered message that tries to make the president and his people look good in every circumstance.
Josh Gerstein is the White House reporter for Politico.com, and joins us now from Washington.
Josh, this has been a recurring theme of ours on "News Watch." I know you've done a lot of work on it as well. The White House takes its own photos and puts out its own videos, puts out its own Twitter feeds. Where is the transparency?
JOSH GERSTEIN, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, POLITICO.COM: Well, Jon, you know, I really have no problem with them putting out their own photos and doing their own interviews if they want to. The issue is really, do the regular press, the independent press get access to the same thing and are able to present it the way they want to present it? In this case, with the Supreme Court nominee, Elena Kagan, that was emphatically not the case. She's off limits to interviews from the press, as is usually the case with most Supreme Court nominees. So all we have is this sort of an official news portrait from the White House.
SCOTT: Well, there hasn't been an official White House press conference since last summer. They counter that by saying they've done all of these individual interviews. Do they counterbalance?
GERSTEIN: Yes. I don't know if the press conferences are actually all that important, but what really steams some of the regular White House reporters is that President Obama really doesn't take questions on a day-to-day basis. You know, most presidents, even President Bush, who wasn't incredibly transparent, usually took questions every day or two while he's at the White House in the course of his regular events. President Obama does not like to do that. I don't know if it's press strategy or just his personal preference. The White House staff has said that they feel it slows things down to have to bring the press pool in and out. But at any rate, the president shies away from that. And as a result, you have reporters feeling like they don't get to know what the president's thoughts are on really the news of the day.
SCOTT: Does that mean they're being so busy trying to manage the message that they're not living up to the transparency promise?
GERSTEIN: I think, you know, in some ways, they live up to it. They put officials out to do web chats. If you take the new media stuff as part of that transparency in terms of the number of online discussions, the number of blog posts they put up, there's an element of transparency to that, but it isn't totally independent transparency. There's no sort of third-party person checking what they're doing or making sure that other questions are asked that they might not be comfortable with, so more of an official news.
SCOTT: That's precisely the -- that's precisely the point. You know, it's stretching the point, but Pravda put out in the Soviet days, it used to put out an awful lot of news releases about what the Soviet government was doing too. In some ways, if the American people aren't getting it filtered through an independent journalist, what are they getting?
GERSTEIN: Well, you know, that's a byproduct of the Internet age that anyone, including the White House, can put up what they want to put up. As I said, I don't have a huge problem with it. The question is, are the filtering journalists, the legacy media or even members of the new media getting the same level of access to ask the same kinds of questions. And I think, at times, that's been lacking. And I know the White House claims they're working on it, but certainly this in-house Kagan interview was a step in the wrong direction.
SCOTT: Josh Gerstein, from Politico.com, thank you.
SCOTT: For more on this topic, let's turn to our "News Watch" panel, writer and Fox News contributor, Judy Miller; syndicated columnist, Cal Thomas; Jim Pinkerton, fellow, New America Foundation; and Newsday columnist, Ellis Henican.
Here is a little about how the media did cover nominee Kagan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Accomplished poker player, opera lover, and given that nickname that Justice Marshal gave to her, she's five-foot-three, Brian.
DIANE SAWYER, ABC WORLD NEWS ANCHOR: She's long been a five-foot-three inch powerhouse.
KATIE COURIC, CBS EVENING NEWS ANCHOR: Her interests reflect her openness. She loves softball and poker.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
SCOTT: My mom was five feet...
...so I guess I know from whence she comes.
Judy, you were shaking your head during Josh's interview about the White House and transparency. You don't seem to agree?
JUDY MILLER, WRITER & FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: No, I mean, especially because Josh himself has done much of the reporting that supports the view that this White House is really trying to micromanage news in a way that we haven't seen recently. And their numbers speak for themselves. 46 Q&A's by this president versus 147 with President Bush and 252 with Bill Clinton. That's -- that says all I need to know.
SCOTT: In the case of Elena Kagan, Jim, we're about to at least nominate or maybe appoint to the Supreme Court a woman who could be there, what, 30 years or more. Shouldn't we get to know her a little bit? Know a little more about her?
JIM PINKERTON, FELLOW, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: Well, the press would have to be a lot more curious about her than they are. They were all over Clarence Thomas and his personal life 20 years ago. And yet, the press seems perfectly content to just accept that, oh, Kagan is a fine person and that's that.
SCOTT: Why is that, Ellis?
ELLIS HENICAN, COLUMNIST, NEWSDAY: Well, listen, lazy reporters maybe. I'm tired, I've got to tell you, of reporters bellyaching about this stuff. You know what, it's the White House's job to try to sell her and the media's job to go and find out stuff about her. And the relationships have ever been thus. We're never satisfied with the access.
And they always party after party, Cal, want to give us laughs.
CAL THOMAS, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Ellis, this is like an infomercial, this video thing that they put out. I expect Billy Mays to come back from the other side and say...
...buy this product. It's Kaboom. It cleans everything! This is propaganda.
You mentioned the Soviet Union. They said, about Yuri Andropov, he drinks Scotch and he listens -- he loves jazz and he listens to the Voice of America. What does that have to do with the Supreme Court interview or the law?
SCOTT: And something else that -- something else that -- well, makes you wonder what it has to do with the Supreme Court. The Wall Street Journal ran this photo of Elena Kagan, playing softball earlier in the week. It was criticized by all kinds of people for doing so, launching queries about her sexuality. The Journal responded, saying the allegations are absurd and the attempt was not to make connections between her sexual orientation and the photo.
What's going on there?
MILLER: Well, shame, shame, shame on Andrew Sullivan for raising her sexual preferences, whatever they may be. I want to know things about her, her judicial philosophy, not specific things about her, the positions she would take on the court, but her judicial philosophy. Look, the New York Times was prevented from sitting in on a class in Hunter High School with her brother. Another cousin was chided for talking about the fact that the family liked to debate at the table. The White House is trying to shut all that off.
You're right, Ellis, we do have to do more.
SCOTT: All right, we have to take a break.
You can get more on the stories that we cover. Log on to Foxnews.com/Foxnewswatch. You can also see and hear some interesting things you won't see here on TV.
Up next, why did wearing the American flag cause a major controversy in California and the media.
ANNOUNCER: High tension in high school after five teens wearing American flag t-shirts get punished for their pride. The dispute getting major media attention, but has the coverage fanned the flames of controversy?
And Playboy magazine adds a new eye-popping feature. Details next, on "News Watch."
SCOTT: Five California teens went to their high school last week, the American flag displayed on their clothing. The day was May 5th, Cinco de Mayo. A school administrator told the boys to take off the shirts or go home. They opted to go home.
And the controversy heated up from there, as seen at the school board meeting earlier this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PARENT: I want to see the principal and the vice principal fired or you will face legal action.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: All right. It's an emotional issue.
Did it get the kind of coverage that it deserved?
THOMAS: The media should have been asking the question, why is a school in the United States of America observing a battle between Mexico and France?
The Supreme Court has ruled that burning the American flag is legitimately protected speech, but wearing it on a t-shirt is not? How come the reporters aren't asking that?
Why are you laughing?
HENICAN: Well, of all the issues you could find in that story...
HENICAN: ...celebrating Cinco de Mayo appears to me to be about...
THOMAS: It's not America, for heavens sake. This is the United States.
HENICAN: Let's eat burritos together sometime, OK?
Believe me, we have a very diverse culture and we can celebrate a lot of stuff. That's not the issue. Listen, there's pandering on both sides of this. It's a symbolically potent issue. Nobody has clean hands. The kids did it to make a point. The school district administrators did it for their other point. It's grown ups acting stupid.
PINKERTON: So you're saying that the kids who wore the American flag...
HENICAN: Are making a point.
PINKERTON: ...are culpable for doing something wrong?
HENICAN: They did something to...
PINKERTON: No, the principle...
HENICAN: ...to poke a finger in their classmates' eye. They probably have a right to do it, but not a very sweet thing to do.
PINKERTON: So you're -- I'm just fascinated by this moral equivalency. The principal violates their constitutional rights and the kids express their constitutional rights and in your mind they're both equally bad.
HENICAN: Here's a good theory so work this, why don't we be nice to each other, kids? Let's all get along. Get along.
SCOTT: Is it so evil to wear the American flag?
HENICAN: You have a right to do it. You have a right to do it. OK. So what have you proved?
SCOTT: Well, here's what Roger Ebert...
PINKERTON: You're a patriot?
SCOTT: Roger Ebert...
HENICAN: Poke the finger in their eye on the big day. Ha, ha, ha, ha.
SCOTT: Roger Ebert, the film critic, known for his liberal point of view, tweeted thusly, "Kids who wear American flag t-shirts on the 5th of May should have to share a lunch table with those who wear a hammer and sickle on the 4th of July."
Is that kind of language helpful, Judy?
MILLER: Well, I think this is the best argument I've heard for school uniforms. Don't give anybody a choice.
THOMAS: There you go. Amen.
MILLER: Let's go back to having a democratic, small "D" playing field. Everybody wears the same thing, and we won't have these problems.
SCOTT: Is this effectively the school clamping down on free speech? If so, the defenders of the First Amendment ought to be...
PINKERTON: Sure. you'd think they'd be all -- look, this whole issue began in 1969, when the Supreme Court, in the Tinker versus Des Moines decision, said kids have a right to wear "protest uniforms" against the Vietnam War. And then the mainstream media said, this is great, we all know that all protests will always be against the evil conservative establishment. Now, they've discovered there's kind of a counter establishment of conservatives protesting liberals and, of course, we can't allow that.
THOMAS: That sums it up. I can't add anything to that.
That's good. I'll bet the t-shirts though are made in China. Better check the labels.
MILLER: It’s going to be very busy, and...
HENICAN: They have a right to do it, but let's also be nice, how about that?
THOMAS: Thank you, Rodney King.
MILLER: Let's be nice.
HENICAN: Kumbaya to you, too.
MILLER: But is that really the big -- is that really the big media issue? With everything going on today, should we focus on this?
THOMAS: Of course, it is.
PINKERTON: And, look, when -- as Michelle Malkin...
PINKERTON: ...has been the only journalist that I think has been courageous enough to regularly run photographs of maps of America with Mexico re-annexing California and Texas and so on.
PINKERTON: Those things never get -- nobody complains about those. Nobody ever says, oh, that's a violation of anything, because it's not. It's free speech.
THOMAS: Well, given California...
PINKERTON: You would think the media would be interested in what the real agenda, reconquistador agenda is or not.
HENICAN: I am not turning to Michelle for ethnic understanding, I'm afraid.
SCOTT: Ellis, we'll defend to the death your right to say it.
Up next, the media coverage, is it helping or hindering the cleanup and investigation of the gulf oil spill?
ANNOUNCER: Congress looks for the answers to the gulf oil spill as everyone points fingers in the big-spill blame game. Is the media playing along?
And the president gives advice to new graduates.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Information becomes a distraction.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Is his media message mixed? Answers next, on "News Watch."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: The coming of age in a 24/7 media environment that bombards us with all kind of content and exposes us to all kind of arguments, some of which don't always rank that high on the truth meter, and with iPods and iPads and Xboxes and Playstations, none of which I don’t know how to work...
...information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: President Obama there warning graduates about the perils of technology advancements and the free flow of information. Did we hear the leader of the free world correctly?
He said, Cal, that information can be a distraction and a diversion. What are we missing?
THOMAS: Right, from what the administration wants to tell you, unfiltered by anybody else. Listen, the dirty little secret here is he's talking about Fox News channel. He's talking about Limbaugh, Hannity, Levin, talk radio. That's what he doesn't want you listening to. He doesn't care about Xbox and Playstation. He wants you to listen to him only.
Yes, this is the same president, Jim, who doesn't have enough hands to carry all of his electronic gadgetry.
SCOTT: I mean, he had the national security administration give him this special Blackberry, right?
PINKERTON: As Michael Scherer of Time magazine pointed out, he does know how to use those machines and has used in the past. I can only agree with Cal that the perspective of being in the White House has so persuaded him that anything other than what he's telling the American people ought not to be trusted. Even the mainstream media isn't reliable enough, that's why they go to our threatened in-house video operation.
SCOTT: Does it come back to the fact that he wants to manage the media message 24/7?
MILLER: I think he's smart enough to know that he cannot do it, though every president wants to that. I do think that -- the very -- there is something -- chutzpa, is that the word?
From these words from the man, for whom this technology is responsible for his election, in part.
MILLER: I mean, he used this new technology better than anyone. And the idea that he's now having second thoughts about it is interesting.
HENICAN: I'm not going to try to match Judy's pronunciation of chutzpa.
We don't say that in Louisiana so much.
I would say, though, that I do experience some media clutter. In fact, some of it across this table from time to time.
I mean, there's a lot of stuff out there and, if we're going to be smart media consumers, we do have to filter some of the silliness out. This is a guy, by the way, who has contended with the allegations of birthers and that he loves the terrorists. I mean, there is some nutty stuff out there. You've got to admit that.
THOMAS: Yes, and on the left too, on MSNBC.
HENICAN: Fair enough. We don't have to embrace it all naively.
THOMAS: Let a thousand flowers bloom.
HENICAN: I absolutely, agree.
SCOTT: Let's move on now to the blame game on Capitol Hill. This week, the guys in charge of British Petroleum told Congress the spill was caused by the failure of a safety device that another company built. That company said B.P. was in charge. And a third company, hired to plug the exploratory well, didn't do it right. President Obama said something about it on Friday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: B.P. is committed to pay for the response effort and we will hold them to their obligation. I have to say, though, I did not appreciate what I considered to be a ridiculous spectacle during the congressional hearings into this matter. You had executives from B.P. and Transocean and Halliburton falling over each other to point the finger of blame at somebody else. The American people could not have been impressed with that display, and I certainly wasn't.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: What about media reaction to what the president had to say there, Ellis?
HENICAN: Kind of well said, right? Most people I know blame the companies that dump the stuff in the water and we've got to divide among the three of them who did exactly what. Let's make sure we get some ability to pay for that stuff. Don't put up a $75 million ceiling. Got to get rid of that.
THOMAS: Look, the New York Times had a great front-page story on Friday in which it exposed this administration for granting a lot of rights for drilling without approvals, without the proper licensure. Now, if this were the Bush administration doing something like this, the media reaction would have been like its reaction to the Bush administration's failure on Katrina. It would be orgasmic. It would be over the top. Obama is basically getting a free pass.
MILLER: No, he's not. In fact, I was impressed with the president's remarks on Friday when he said there's more than enough blame to go around and some of it is right here in the federal government, because of this agency which has been out of control. And not, Cal, just under Obama, but for a long, long time.
THOMAS: But he was going to fix it.
PINKERTON: But, Judy, if this had happened under the Bush administration, I believe that all three networks would have been there permanently in Louisiana covering every oily bird there.
Instead, it's one more story from Washington.
MILLER: Give it time.
SCOTT: When we come back, 3-D technology isn't just for the movies anymore.
ANNOUNCER: A new feature in Playboy magazine may make some want to reach out and touch. That's next, on "News Watch."
SCOTT: According to box office, mojo.com, the Fox film "Avatar" is the top earner at the box office domestically and internationally, also, the number-one 3-D movie ever, a format we'll be seeing more of in the future. Television manufacturers and producers are racing to create products and programs to put 3-D programs in your home.
And now, Playboy magazine is trying 3-D in its latest edition as part of a promotion with HBO and an effort to help its flagging sales. The June issue comes with a pair of 3-D glasses for a unique view of the content.
And for those fans that only buy the magazine for the articles, Playboy is about to unveil a new web site, it claims, will be office safe, called thesmokingjacket.com. Playboy says it is where you can see everything from the magazine minis the stuff that will get you in trouble at work.
That's a wrap on "News Watch" this week.
Thanks to Judy Miller, Jim Pinkerton, Cal Thomas and Ellis Henican.
Cal is in 3-D next week.
I'm Jon Scott.
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