'Fox News Watch,' June 12, 2010

This is a rush transcript from "Fox News Watch," June 12, 2010. This copy is may not be in its final form and may be updated.

JON SCOTT, HOST: On "Fox News Watch," it's full spin ahead as the White House pumps it out for positive press and the president talks tough on TV.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers, so I know whose ass to kick.


SCOTT: How did the media react?


HELEN THOMAS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Tell them to get out of Palestine.


SCOTT: Controversial comments cause Helen Thomas to end her long reign at the White House, leaving a prized briefing room seat up for grabs. Which reporter should get it?


ROD BLAGOJEVICH, FORMER GOVERNOR OF ILLINOIS: You and the media have been lied to.


SCOTT: The corruption trial for a defamed governor gets started. Has the media circus begun as well?

Did pressure from the press help pin a suspected killer to a murder?

Slipping and sliding with V.P. Biden. Which members of the media were part of the party?

On the panel this week, writers and Fox News contributor, Judy Miller; syndicated columnist, Cal Thomas; Jim Pinkerton, fellow, New America Foundation; and Newsday columnist, Ellis Henican.

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

SCOTT: Oil continues to gush into the gulf this week as reports of progress were mixed. And images of the oil slick and dead birds kept the media's attention. The White House ramped up its efforts to prove that Mr. Obama is fully engaged in stopping this thing, releasing pictures of his meetings and unleashing an angry President Obama.


OBAMA: I don't sit around just talking to experts because this is a college seminar. We talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers, so I know whose ass to kick.


SCOTT: Well, that sound bite from the media unleashed a torrent of media reaction.

Sum it up for us, Cal.

CAL THOMAS, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: First of all, the president was set up to say this by Matt Lauer, who used the word butt-kicking. And the president took it to the next level.

SCOTT: And suggesting he didn't think the president was sufficiently angry.

THOMAS: But the media is complicit in this. They're the ones that built him into even a kryptonite defying superman. He was the man — he said it himself. Lower the waters and he could even walk on water, including in his — as far as many of the press were concerned.


But now, it appears that he's mortal, like the rest of us, with the exception of Ellis here.


And all of a sudden, there's buyers remorse that's kicked in.

SCOTT: After the ass-kicking comments, let me read a couple of headlines. On Matt Drudge, he wrote, "Obama goes street, seeking ass to kick," and Time magazine's senior political reporter, Mark Halperin, called the headline racial. Was it?


JIM PINKERTON, FELLOW, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: I don't think so. But I can see why, you know, Drudge picked the headline. And I can see why plenty in the media loved the idea of Obama as an African-American and they loved the street credibility. As I said in the show a couple of weeks ago, Bill Maher said he should pull out a gun. And Spike Lee and these kinds of people celebrate that aspect of Obama. And when he pulls it out, Drudge just simply took note of that.

SCOTT: There seems to be more media reaction to the president's handling of the crisis. I think he got a pass in the early days, but is the White House working, do you think, to appear tougher?


JUDY MILLER, WRITER & FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Message — we care. The president gets it. I mean, we all may be very sorry that we asked the White House and the president to show us that they cared, because now they're doing nothing, but that.

But you know, the president's anger seems to be as directed at the press and the media as it is at BP. No matter what he says, and the message somehow, is this really what this crisis is about, messaging? Or is it about the fact that he still isn't doing the things that he could do to counter this crisis? And that the press doesn't seem to pay much attention to.

SCOTT: Let me read you, Ellis, something that AP wrote. Ron Fournier, from the AP, Washington bureau chief, he wrote this about the Gulf oil spill. He said, "Nobody led, not the president of the United States, not the chief executive of BP, not Congress, federal agencies or local elected officials." Are they just now figuring that out?

ELLIS HENICAN, COLUMNIST, NEWSDAY: Wait, no ass in the question?

SCOTT: No ass.


SCOTT: I like when you talk dirty like that.


HENICAN: Listen, when it comes to symbols in P.R., tone maters. And the tone was wrong at the beginning. It was the no-drama Obama that so many Americans thought we wanted after the eight years of maybe a little too much drama. And now we're getting the flip side of it.

SCOTT: So do you think he should jump up on a fire truck and grab a bull horn?


HENICAN: No. No. because I think it's fake. I think what he needs to do — I think we got a pretty good read of it, which is a little flash of anger. But I don't think we want this guy to pretend to be some kind of steroidal maniac. And it's not productive and not who he is.

PINKERTON: I agree with Judy and Ellis both just said, which is, look, emotion doesn't really matter. What matters is the technical competence of the government or BP to clean this stuff up. If we can drill that deep, we can clean up that deep. Nobody seems to be thinking about, well, what machines and technology do we need to solve this problem? Obama could be cool as a cumber or hot as hell, and it wouldn't make a difference to the oil.

THOMAS: Even of greater significance, I think, is how the European media, especially the British media, are turning on a president that they admired during the campaign. You had on your show on Friday, Happening Now, James Harding, the editor of The Times of London, who said, the British people are angry the way that BP has been treated. They pointed out, over there, the huge, millions of pounds of money tied up in pension funds, and they don't like the way that BP is being beaten up in the British press.


HENICAN: A hit for the home team.


HENICAN: And I know this is American sometimes, when we have international issues, we're for the home team. There's nothing unusual about that.


MILLER: Wait a minute, wait a minute.


PINKERTON: Cal, there's a very high correlation between teams in the World Cup and who the folks...



HENICAN: ...as they call it.

THOMAS: I hadn't heard of that.

SCOTT: But is it being jingoistic, what Mr. Obama is saying?

MILLER: No, look, 40 percent of BP's stock is owned by people in the United States so let's not kid ourselves. These are huge international conglomerates that spend huge amounts of money. And that's something that I wonder, where is the press when BP spends millions on these ridiculous ads in newspapers that also basically say, we care, we care.

PINKERTON: Where is the press? Taking the money.


HENICAN: No, no, no, no, so of the press, they're blaming Obama for something at that they should be focusing on BP about.

SCOTT: And then there was this, Cal, Reverend Jesse Jackson was telling people they should boycott BP stations, which really isn't going to hurt the BP corporation. It's going to hurt the individual franchisees that own the stations. Should he just be ignored?



SCOTT: In a word?

THOMAS: In a word.


HENICAN: But you say that...

THOMAS: A long time ago. No I never ignore you, Ellis.

HENICAN: But you say that to everything.

THOMAS: He should have been ignored years ago. He has long outlived his sell-by date.


SCOTT: All right, and when it comes to the meeting with Tony Hayward, the BP CEO, it seemed like Robert Gibbs, the presidential spokesman, sort of got badgered into it. He didn't have an answer earlier in the week when asked whether Mr. Obama would meet with him. By the end of the week, it was all set up.

PINKERTON: The press figures this stuff out slow, as we agree. And then they say, why isn't Obama being emotional. OK, so the White House in a meeting say, let's get emotional. And the press figures he hasn't met with BP: Let's meet with BP. The Obama administration does not appear, I don't think even Ellis will agree with this, to be ahead of the story.

HENICAN: Well, but...

SCOTT: So they're being pushed into it by the media, pushed into their management of it?

HENICAN: A little bit. But let's remember, the pageant doesn't matter. What matters is turning off the oil.

THOMAS: Yes, absolutely.

HENICAN: And being aggressive. But yet, we've taken this role in the media and then we want to be drama critics — no, this didn't happen quickly enough or he didn't show emotion.

MILLER: That's true.

PINKERTON: Right. But it's bad enough to be drama critics, but it's worse to be — let your script get written by the media.

THOMAS: That's exactly right.

PINKERTON: And that's what the White House is doing.

THOMAS: That's what happens. The media is writing the script and then he doesn't play to the script and then they criticize for him not playing to the script.

PINKERTON: If only the media would say...

HENICAN: Quit doing that.


PINKERTON: If only the media would say...

HENICAN: Quit doing that.

PINKERTON: If only the media would say, bring in the people who made "Ironman" and actually clean up the spill. Then Obama would do that.


MILLER: We'll, we've brought in Kevin Costner. Kevin Costner is here.


SCOTT: Nothing succeeds like success.

It's time for a break.

But first, we have some interesting chats here on the panel during the breaks, and you can catch what we don't say on TV after the show at Foxnews.com/Foxnewswatch.


THOMAS: Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine.


ANNOUNCER: Helen Thomas' rein at the White House comes it an end after spewing her views about Israelis. Should her absence have come sooner? And now that her prize seat is open, who is going to get it? Details next, on "News Watch."


REPORTER: Any comments on Israel? We're asking everybody today. Any comments on Israel?

THOMAS: Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine.

REPORTER: Ooh. Any better comments?


THOMAS: Remember, these people are occupied and it's their land. It's not Germany, it's not Poland.

REPORTER: So where should they go? What should they do?

THOMAS: Go home.

REPORTER: Where is home?

THOMAS: Poland, Germany.

REPORTER: You think the Jews should just go back to Poland and Germany?

THOMAS: And America and everywhere else.


SCOTT: Well, those words from veteran journalist, Helen Thomas. The reaction to them caused her to call it quits. She retired, apparently ending the career she began as a copy girl in 1942. Thomas had covered the White House since John Kennedy was president, and because of her longevity, she held that prized front-row center seat in the White House briefing room. Her departure asks the question, which news organization will get that seat? We'll get to that in a second, but first, her statements, your reaction.

MILLER: Well, you know, John Brennan, the president's counterterrorism advisor, can't bring himself to say the word Jerusalem. He says Al Quds instead. So maybe Helen didn't want to mention the word "Israel" and speaks about occupied Palestine.

Look, I think the L.A. Times got it right. It's a sad finale to a career that was truly distinguished and trailblazing in many ways, but it should have ended. It was time.

SCOTT: She had a history of strong opinion, especially in the latter years.


SCOTT: Did you once, in your one of your columns, call her Mount St. Helen?

THOMAS: No, that was somebody else. I wish I had thought of it.


But look, this is part of the continuing debate between liberals and conservatives when it comes to the media. Do the personal biases of reporters and columnists enter into their reporting? This was an exposure on a scale of ten on a scale of one to ten that, of course, that it does. And it didn't help with that video, the close-up of her features, which reminds me of the opening scene of Macbeth.


SCOTT: Yes, I thought I was looking at the "Blair Witch Project," or something.

PINKERTON: Howard Kurtz reported that she said back in 1982, "Thank God for Hezbollah." Now, I guess the rest of the Press Corps, which sort of enjoyed listening to her talk and trash, especially George W. Bush, just gave her a pass on that. Just kept that secret for almost 30 years, as she was rooting for the terrorists who were killing Americans.

THOMAS: And killing Jews.

HENICAN: Well, listen, very good argument for the 65-year-old retirement age.


Even the 75-year-old retirement age.


I mean, listen, you know, she's a woman who had a great run, a great career, and has gotten to be an old coot at the end in saying all this stuff.


SCOTT: She's 90.

HENICAN: No, that's — that's — but you know, there's one piece, even though, I think we all are happy to denounce what she said. There's a little thing we need to be careful of though when the Correspondents Association and others get into the business of weighing the positions of people inside the Press Corps. I don't think we want the White House doing that. And I don't think we want our own brethren doing that.

SCOTT: You're talking about the seating chart?

HENICAN: Yes, the seating chart, the question of whether...

MILLER: And who is suppose today seat them, Ellis?

HENICAN: No, but...

THOMAS: First come, first serve.

HENICAN: Granted, but seat them based on the media organizations they represent, on the work they do, not so much on the personal opinions that they may hold. Because tomorrow, guys, that's going to turn on you all.

MILLER: I don't think they did that. They — they...

HENICAN: They were revoking her seat and talking about pulling her out of that role in the White House.

MILLER: They're just now considering whether or not an opinion journalist ought to be in the front row. And I think that's appropriate for them to decide.

HENICAN: But let's do it uniformly. Let's do it uniformly.

SCOTT: A lot of viewers might be surprised to know that the White House does not do the seating chart. It is done by something called the White House Correspondents Association.

THOMAS: Right.

SCOTT: Which is, after all, a group of political reporters.

You've worked in the White House. Who gets the seat? I mean, how does that process work?

PINKERTON: It's all politics, like everything else. The finalists appear to be Fox News and Bloomberg News and...

SCOTT: Fox is the only network that doesn't have a correspondent in the front row. And Bloomberg...

PINKERTON: I'm rooting for Fox.


SCOTT: Bloomberg, the Financial Wire Service, or Financial Service, it doesn't have a correspondent in the front row.

PINKERTON: You make a good case, Jon.


MILLER: Should we let ratings decide?


THOMAS: I think, with the exception of the hookups, because broadcasters have requirements that print and radio people even don't have, television broadcasters, I think it ought to be open seating. It is on Southwest Airlines. That works out all right.


HENICAN: So you'd hire some kid to sit there from six in the morning to save our seat?

THOMAS: No, no.



HENICAN: Is that where we're going with this?

THOMAS: Look, that's part of the elitism that people hate about the media, that you've got these prime seats reserved for the elite media. What is the — the elite media are down in market share. They're down in circulation in their newspapers. Who's got the audience? This network.

SCOTT: Well...

HENICAN: And I appreciate that you liked when the Huffington Post got that nice role.

THOMAS: Oh, yes. That's dear to my heart.


HENICAN: Good. Good.

SCOTT: I'm pulling for my buddy, Major Garrett, to move up a row.


SCOTT: Time for another break.

If you come across a one-sided story that you think illustrates media bias, e-mail us at Newswatch@Foxnews.com.

Up next, the Blagojevich corruption trial begins and the media gives it center stage.


BLAGOJEVICH: It's the beginning of a process to finally unlock the lock box that's holding the truth in.

ANNOUNCER: The Rod Blagojevich trial begins and the Blago media circus takes the stage. What antics should we expect?

And the media's mission to pin Van der Sloot for murder may see success. What role did the press play in the latest drama? All next, on "News Watch."


SCOTT: Well, the media have been tracking him for five years, Joran van der Sloot, the prime suspect in the disappearance of an American teenager, Natalee Holloway. He says he will tell authorities in Aruba where to find her remains, that according to police in Peru where he is accused of killing another young woman, Stephany Flores. Van der Sloot is currently in custody in Peru, held on murder charges.

He has been sort of the media's favorite criminal suspect, uncharged criminal suspect. Did they — you know, did the media essentially build the case against him?

HENICAN: First of all, I'm not sure I'm going to go with "favorite" on that. It was a fascinating case down there. And the fact it was never able to be made, and everyone had great suspensions but we never quite had the proof to make the case. Listen, it was a compelling story and I think we covered it. There's nothing to apologize for there.

THOMAS: Two things about this story. First of all, kudos to Greta Van Susteren, of this network, who has kept this story, and especially Van der Sloot, alive in the public consciousness for these several years. She's done a tremendous job on that.

Secondly, look at the story itself, predatory, big male, preying on young innocent females. Let's see, where else have I heard this? CSI, all of them. Every network show has the same theme. It plays into the desire by the advertisers to a female audience, so they can sell them more products. It's something you see in entertainment. It is something you see in real life.

SCOTT: But wasn't there the feeling that the media chose him as a villain because the media felt that he got off too easily when he was arrested those two times in Aruba before?

MILLER: I think I agree with Ellis on this one. It's just a question of, this is where the trail of evidence was leading, and the only question is, and I'd like to see more reporting on this, why did it take so long to actually nail the guy. Why did another woman have to die? What happened in that investigation, other than Greta? And hats off to her.

THOMAS: Incompetent police in Aruba and...

MILLER: Absolutely. I want to see more about that and who was paid and what's...

PINKERTON: At least one other woman, as Geraldo Rivera on this network suggested, there might well be more than just these two. What is also interesting, too, is everybody's got videotape now. The Peruvian casino and the Peruvian hotel can give us the story of this guy's life. There's a new element in the media which is closer to television.

SCOTT: Let's talk about another legal story now, this one, out of Chicago, the corruption trial of former Governor Rod Blagojevich and the media circus that surrounds him.


BLAGOJEVICH: It's very difficult when you're falsely accused of things you didn't do, when you've been lied about, when people have been lied to, and you, in the media, have been lied to. The government has hidden behind their lies.


SCOTT: He has pleaded not guilty to charges that he tried to profit from his power to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama once he was elected president, and accusations that Blago squeezed people for campaign contributions.

Judy, he has never met a camera he doesn't like. Are the media rooting for him?


MILLER: Look, I just — it's a gift that keeps on going. I just don't know how they're going to find a jury of men and women who don't have an opinion about Blago, because they've seen so much of him. You know, really, he's compared himself to Nelson Mandela and even to Osama bin Laden. How good does it get?


SCOTT: Have the media picked a villain in this case, Jim?

PINKERTON: I think the media are fascinated. I'd say this. In the week of Sestak and Romanoff and White House machinations, it's a legitimate story. I think if you had to pick a story that's going to grow and grow and grow over the next year, it's this one.

HENICAN: Jim is exactly wrong about this one.


This guy is irrelevant. He's a second-rate reality-TV star at this point. Maybe marginally more interesting than the hair-gel guy on "Jersey Shore." Yesterday's news, yesterday's news.

PINKERTON: Did he talk — did he talk to Rahm Emanuel or not?

THOMAS: There you go.

HENICAN: I don't know.

SCOTT: But it does seem to play on two levels, this story.

THOMAS: Yes. That's right.

SCOTT: There's the local Chicago story and the national story.


THOMAS: A political story.

Now, you said second rate. Remember, Nixon called Watergate a third-rate burglary. That's how they all start.

HENICAN: No. We're sticking on second rate.

SCOTT: It's not the crime. It's the cover up.

THOMAS: There you go.

SCOTT: All right, it's time for one last break.

When we come back, some in the media hit the slippery slope of journalistic ethics. Wait until you see these pictures.

ANNOUNCER: And wet and wild time at the V.P.'s summerfest. Some in the media got to play, too. Should they have passed? That's next, on "News Watch."


SCOTT: Oh, summer just a few days away now. The warm weather already here, allowing the president's man to take away from the daily drudgery of running the nation, and enjoy a backyard beach party at vice president's mansion.

Joining the White House insiders; a few journalists and their families. CNN's Ed Henry and Wolf Blitzer; The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder, slipping with the vice on his bouncy castle water slide. Chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, there as well, frolicking with super soakers.

Now, we took note of it. It caught Jon Stewart's attention as well.


JON STEWART, HOST, “THE DAILY SHOW”: So which reporters jumped at the chance to jump on Biden's big bouncy castle? Well, for starters, there was David Sanger, of the New York Times, hanging with chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel. There's CNN's Ed Henry and Wolf Blitzer with a couple of their best iReporters.


You'd think — you'd think, with all those reporters there, they'd have better video. But still, it's fun to see politicians and the people we count on to hold them accountable super soaking each other.


Fighting over who gets to sit shotgun in the White House briefing room, jockeying for an invitation to bar-b-ques.

Are you journalists or are you rushing a sorority?


SCOTT: Nobody here on the panel got an invite. Appropriate?


MILLER: So, I don't know. I used to ride the metro liner with Joe Biden to see what he knew about intelligence. I don't know if sliding down the slide and all that different.


SCOTT: All right, that's it for this week.

Thanks to Judy Miller, Jim Pinkerton, Cal Thomas and Ellis Henican.

I'm Jon Scott. Thanks for watching. We'll see you back next week for another edition of "News Watch."

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