'Fox News Watch,' July 3, 2010

This is a rush transcript from "Fox News Watch," July 3, 2010. This copy is may not be in its final form and may be updated.

JON SCOTT, HOST: On "Fox News Watch," Capitol Hill had the media's attention this week.


OFFICIAL: Do you solemnly swear?



SCOTT: A Supreme Court nominee took center stage at her Senate hearings. But did the media take it seriously or not?




SCOTT: General David Petraeus slips through Senate approval.


SENATOR: General, we thank you. We admire you greatly.


SCOTT: But what does the press think of the president's pick?

Robert Byrd, the longest serving Senator, passed away. But as the media paid tribute to the elder statesman, did they whitewash his past?


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The system is broken, and everybody knows it.


SCOTT: Illegal immigration is still an issue. Does the media really care?

And a celebration of our freedoms on this Independence Day weekend.


SCOTT: 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.

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


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: I just asked you where you were at on Christmas.


ELENA KAGAN, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: You know, like all Jews, I was probably at a Chinese restaurant.


GRAHAM: Great answer.



SCOTT: One of the lighter moments, and there were a few during the Senate judiciary hearings this week for Elena Kagan, President Obama's nominee for Supreme Court justice. But the hearing attracted some attention.

The media also put some focus on the Senate hearings for General David Petraeus, Mr. Obama's choice to be the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan. He takes the place of General Stanley McChrystal, who resigned following the controversial profile in Rolling Stone magazine. General Petraeus received unanimous Senate approval and, as of Friday, was already on the job in Afghanistan.

Judy, it was kind of an interesting week. We had dueling hearings on Capitol Hill. Let's start with Petraeus. Afghanistan had taken a back seat to the oil spill or coverage of it had, until the Rolling Stone profile in the Petraeus hearings.

JUDY MILLER, WRITER & FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: And all of a sudden, there was a story everyone had to cover. And General Petraeus' testimony was only slightly less vapid and hollow, to use Ms Kagan's words about her own testimony, than her testimony. But he did manage to say a lot in his.

SCOTT: The story, the article that brought down McChrystal is called "The Runaway General." Some in the media are saying Petraeus could be the real runaway general. Why?

ANDREA TANTAROS, CONSERVATIVE COLUMNIST: I don't know. I don't know why the media would not cover the fact that three years ago, in 2007, when Petraeus was on Capitol Hill, the Democrats and the main stream media was highly critical of the general. They went after him and they criticized him. And now you don’t see any pieces about the general anymore. You don't see any pieces talking about how Senators, like Karl Levin, voted against a resolution to support him. Now there seems to be a collective hush on the media to let him go.

JIM PINKERTON, FELLOW, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: If I could venture the explanation. Perhaps three years ago, it was President Bush pushing General Petraeus in the forefront, and, of course, the media didn't like that.


MILLER: Oh, come on.


PINKERTON: And now, three years later, it is President Obama. It makes all of the difference in the world.

SCOTT: If he succeeds, if General Petraeus succeeds, how will the media react?

ELLIS HENICAN, COLUMNIST, NEWSDAY: People will be thrilled and shocked. I don't think anybody thinks this is going to succeed.

What is interesting, Jim, is that the chief opposition to our policy there is not coming from Republicans, it is coming from people like me who have been skeptical about it all the time, who don't understand why we have to stay there forever, and wonder what is going to lead us to victory?

That is the underlying discussion. At least we got a glimmer of it in these hearings.

SCOTT: Ellis, you are getting into the next question.


Bob Herbert, New York Times, the day of the Petraeus hearings and the day they began, on Tuesday, he wrote under the headline, "Wrong track distress. Gulf oil disaster and joblessness epidemic and war in Afghanistan has put the nation in a funk," he said. Are the media in the same funk?

HENICAN: Being president is a tough job.


There's a lot of bad stuff out there. We can argue forever how much from Bush policy and how much from Obama policy. But when you are the president and bad stuff happens, you are blamed politically.

PINKERTON: There are some things the media are happy about. For example, in The Washington Post on Thursday, how's this for a fair and balanced headline, about Elena Kagan's confirmation hearings: "A winning performance that charmed her critics." This is not an opinion story, not a news analysis, just a plain news story in the A-sections. And the media can cheer for her at least.

SCOTT: The Washington Times, Andrea, called it Kagan's kabuki theater. There are some different takes, I guess.

TANTAROS: Absolutely. And Jonah Goldberg went as far as to say these hearings are a sham. They really are. Since Bork, we see someone like Elena Kagan be able to get up there with very little judiciary experience and give very, very few answers. But I do think, because she is not going to replace someone like, say, a Scalia, a lot less attention was paid to this by the public and the public, and a lot less money was poured in the battle.

MILLER: No. They are not saying anything anymore. They are taught not to say anything. And that's what we're getting.


TANTAROS: Let's just petrify it.

HENICAN: But the media and political story here is she skated through without getting...


HENICAN: And she will get confirmed.


PINKERTON: Let's compare her -- let's compare the treatment of her to Justice John Roberts, five years ago, another Bush appointee.


PINKERTON: He was always called a conservative, a right winger and stuff like that. The same media that was calling Roberts a right winger, is calling Kagan a moderate.

HENICAN: Jim, what is all of this whining? I mean, this criticism of this woman is the same way there was in Judge...


HENICAN: It's the big leagues. And if you can't handle a little criticism, you shouldn't be there.

PINKERTON: Here's what this show is about, Ellis, this show is called "Fox News Watch." We talk about the media here.

HENICAN: Absolutely.

PINKERTON: We compare and contrast the media then and the media now.

HENICAN: But the whining is not a one-party thing.

PINKERTON: We are not whining. We are critiquing.

HENICAN: It's not a one-party thing.

PINKERTON: We're covering the coverage.


SCOTT: But answer his point. I mean, John Roberts was described as a right winger, a conservative, that kind of thing. You don't get that same kind of...

HENICAN: His critics responded to him that way in the same way, as Andrea just quoted so eloquently, Judge Kagan's future -- future Judge Kagan's critics are responding to here.

PINKERTON: The difference is how the mainstream media covers it.

HENICAN: That's ideological.

PINKERTON: The mainstream media, as Media Research Center has abundantly documented, called Roberts a right winger and calls Kagan a centrist.

HENICAN: I don't think we can call the MRC the arbitrator of fairness in this particular incidence or any other, Jim.

TANTAROS: All we know is she likes Chinese food.

MILLER: No, that's not true. We know, for example, that she is skeptical of the libel laws of the court's interpretation that you can say anything about anyone and not pay a price. She expressed some concern, siding, by the way, with Roberts on that, saying -- we did get, every now and then, an inkling of something. So it's hard for the media, when you're working with nothing, to come to a conclusion.

SCOTT: That's one of the questions. She once described these hearings, the whole process of hearings, before she was up for one, she described it as vapid and hollow. Can you say the same thing about the media coverage?

TANTAROS: Yes, it absolutely was. The same is true about the Petraeus hearings this week. There was no coverage. I saw one piece, human events, and one piece that actually I wrote, talking about the difference, the way the left wing media covers. You have MoveOn.org that has scrubbed its sight of the Petraeus criticism that it had in 2007. None of that was covered. It was very, very different than the way they covered it in 2007 when he came up to give his report, and Hillary Clinton grilled him. The media probed him, and now they've taken a breather because it is Obama.

HENICAN: No, Andrea, no.

MILLER: Yes. Because the surge has worked, not because it's Obama.


MILLER: Because the surge has worked, that makes General Petraeus untouchable. It makes him un-fireable.


HENICAN: Jim, Jim -- hold on. Jim...


TANTAROS: ...from voting to support him in 2007. Nobody covered the fact that Barack Obama and Joe Biden both voted to abstain in a resolution to support him. And now they are going to him, putting all of their faith in him.

HENICAN: No. You don't want coverage.

TANTAROS: No outlet covered that.

HENICAN: You don't want coverage. You want an ideological attack. And this coverage reflected two people who were getting approved with a relatively small amount of drama. The coverage would be dishonest if it carried your...

SCOTT: All right. We're going to have to take a break.

But first, some crazy things are said on this set during the breaks, usually involving Ellis.


Don't miss the fun. Go to Foxnews.com/Foxnewswatch right after the program.

ANNOUNCER: An alleged Russian spy ring gets busted by the feds, reviving images of the Cold War spy mania. But is the press concerned about the security breach or lacking at their comic-book capers.


CARTOON CHARACTER: Natasha, where is your pride, your professional integrity? We steal ticket and go back home.


ANNOUNCER: And a fake conservative gets outed at the The Washington Post, leading to real questions about a vast far left conspiracy in the media. Details next, on "News Watch."



VIDEO ANNOUNCER: Martin Sobal, a principle in the nation's first atomic spy trial, leaves New York's federal courts. An electronics expert, he is being tried with Julius Rosenberg, electrical engineer, for conspiring to deliver to Russia the vital secrets of the atom bomb, also a defendant is Rosenberg's wife, in this drama of espionage that endangered the country's security.


SCOTT: Fox Movietone news coverage of the Rosenbergs, accused, convicted and executed as Soviet spies in 1953, a period in our country when suspicion and intrigue and Cold War tension dominated the headline. That tension and some Cold War paranoia reignited this week when authorities rounded up 11 men and women accused of participating in a bizarre spy ring. The FBI calls them sleeper agents from Russia. "Redhead" was the headline in the New York Post, spotlighting flame- haired Anna Chapman, one of those arrested in this spy ring.


We're kind of chuckling about it, Ellis. It, I guess, could be serious. But here's one of the best headlines we saw this week.

HENICAN: Lay it on.

Mediaite.com wrote, "Sexy Russian spy captures media attention because sexy Russian spies capture the media's attention."


HENICAN: I have to admit, Jon, that is a story I would read.


Listen, these spies had every single thing we could want, right, high- tech gizmos, hot-looking women. They had everything but secrets.


It doesn't seem like they knew anything. They were not charged with espionage.

SCOTT: But are the media taking this seriously?

MILLER: No. They're making fun of it because it is infinitely mockable. There is a serious issue here, that the media are simply not dealing with, which is the Russian spy program is still on autopilot. What else from the good old Soviet days is still on autopilot? The biological warfare program they said they would get rid of?




MILLER: And by the way, did any of the media say, are we doing the same thing in Russia. The fact that it is such a pathetic bunch of bunglers doesn't make it not a serious story, and I don't think it was treated seriously.

SCOTT: The president seemed to try to minimize it. He had President Medvedev for burgers at his favorite burger joint there in Alexandria. Then comes this Russian spy bust. The White House seemed to want to throw a wet blanket on it. And I guess, did the media concur?

PINKERTON: Right. President Obama has staked his presidency on future international brotherhood, international disarmament, everybody getting long, rule of international law. The fact that Russians are acting like the Soviets, as Judy said, just doesn't fit in the happy universal federalism Obama narrative.

So he just ignores it, which I suspect will have implications for the way the Justice Department pursues the case down the road, as in not pursuing it very hard, not putting Russian diplomats under oath and so on, to investigation. Because they don't want to discover that America has genuine enemies in Russia. And I would also say, by the way, down the road somewhere, China.

SCOTT: And the Russian media have also made a big deal of this case. But they say it is sort of a sham and it's aimed at derailing improvements in Russian and U.S. relations.

TANTAROS: Which is absolutely false. You have a foreign affairs expert, a Russian security expert come on Fox News this week and say that there are the same number of spies now in the United States from Russia as there was during the Cold War. And other countries, too. It begs the question, how many other countries have spies in this country right now spying on us? And I see very little coverage of that too.

HENICAN: All countries is the answer. All countries is the answer. MILLER: All countries. May we always have such incompetent spies, people using invisible ink and Morris Code in the 21st century.


TANTAROS: Judith, why didn't they leave them there? I mean, I wonder why they wouldn't just let them go and we could spy on them.

MILLER: No. They had terrible -- the media stories are wonderful about this. The terrible troubles they had with them, the constant requests for money, the fact that they couldn't get their expensive technology to work.


It doesn't get better than this as a story.


SCOTT: But you have covered serious spy stories in the Middle East.

MILLER: Oh, yes, yes.

SCOTT: It could be a deadly business.

MILLER: Yes. It can be very deadly. And the Russians kill. They've killed all over Europe and in London. I do think obviously this was very embarrassing for the president. Only one newspaper, The New York Times, pointed out that Obama was unhappy with the story, not with the fact that the Russians were still doing this, but with the timing of the announcement, so close to the cheeseburger summit. I found that bizarre.


SCOTT: Is there a portion of this scandal, spy scandal that the press has missed?

HENICAN: I guess it would have been nice if we found out five years ago and however long it was going on. Could we be grown ups for one second?

SCOTT: All right.

HENICAN: All countries do this against other countries, and it will ever be thus.

SCOTT: I am not sure there are too many American couples that have settled in Moscow...


...trying to build themselves a new life.

MILLER: I hope they have.

HENICAN: We've got a few other there spying.

SCOTT: All right.

HENICAN: I think we have a few.

SCOTT: Anna Chapman, is there a movie deal for her?

TANTAROS: Oh, probably.

HENICAN: That would be a great idea.

TANTAROS: She is one of many that they have brought in, yet, she is the only one they are focusing on. And every picture of her, she seems to be wearing something skin tight and she's scantily clad. They've sensationalized this and made it into one giant joke. It is the born identity -- it's the Key Stone Cops of spies.

HENICAN: Yes, I know Jim is shocked at that part of the story.


PINKERTON: Again, one reason the media really like this story is because the stakes appear to be so low. But I think they're being fooled into thinking it is just about people who should have been Googling instead of trying to seduce Democrat contributors.

SCOTT: A little media rope-and-dope, maybe. We'll see.

Time for another break.

We are always on the look out for media coverage that doesn't pass fair-and-balanced test. If you find an example of media bias, send it to us at newwatch@Foxnews.com.

Up next, are the media ignoring the dangers on the U.S. border with Mexico?


JAN BREWER, R-GOVERNOR OF ARIZ.: Well, we finally got the message. These signs. These signs, calling our desert an active drug and human smuggling area.


ANNOUNCER: The illegal immigration issue heats up as the Arizona governor fires back at the White House. Is the media still ignoring the threats?

And is a poser at The Washington Post proof that far left media hacks are colluding to spin your national news? Answers next, on "News Watch."



BREWER: Two weeks ago, I met with President Obama. He promised that we would get word from his administration on what they would do. Well, we finally got the message. These signs. These signs, calling our desert an active drug and human smuggling area.


Time for our lightning round.

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer there taking a shot at President Obama for not living up to her expectations in securing the border with Mexico.

President Obama addressed the illegal immigration issue on Thursday.


OBAMA: In sum, the system is broken, and everybody knows it. Unfortunately, reform has been held hostage to political posturing and special-interest wrangling, and to the pervasive sentiment in Washington that tackling such a thorny issue is inherently bad politics.


SCOTT: So on Thursday, he made that speech, Andrea, and on Friday, 21 people were killed in a drug battle, apparently not far from the Arizona/Mexican border. They were on the Mexican side, of course. Mr. Obama said in the speech, the border is as safe as it has been for 20 years. Are the media covering it?

TANTAROS: No, they're not. But I will give them credit in one area. The majority of the media, when you look at the headlines today, came out and were fair to say that he was short on details here. Why is he doing this now? He didn't give a lot of substance. However, there was one article in The Washington Post today that actually made this a political issue, that Obama came out and he's blaming Republicans for it. But all in all, I think the one issue here, I think the crime is never covered, the border issues are not covered. But I think the media is catching on that he is not really doing anything. He's dragging his feet and he's short on substance.

SCOTT: Judy, there's a Fox News poll that shows that 59 percent of the Americans want the border secured before they want legislation on illegal immigration. Action first and talk later, you might say. Is that a point that the press is missing?

MILLER: I think the press has uncovered the border story. I really do. I think in this, the governor of Arizona wins because she can use it for politics, as the president does. It is a crucial national security challenge for this country that neither party wants to tackle. And the media doesn't want to go near it either.

SCOTT: We got to move on.

Is there a vast left wing conspiracy in the media news world that shapes your news coverage? This guy, Dave Weigel, was employed by The Washington Post to cover the Republican Party and the Tea Party movement. He resigned from that job last week after two websites published disparaging comments he made about conservatives on a private liberal e-mail list, called the Journo-List.

What is it, Ellis, that list?


HENICAN: If there was this vast conspiracy, by the way, I am a little bummed that I haven't been invited. Let's be honest here.

You know what this is. This is like the old days when we used to hang out in bars and make fun of the people we were covering and trash our editors and have a few cocktails. And now people sit at computers and do the same thing. Unfortunately, lots of other people get to read it now.

SCOTT: So is there a vast left wing conspiracy to shape news coverage?

PINKERTON: I think it is a vast left wing movement to shape coverage. They come out of the same graduate schools, and they read the same New York Times and so on, and get their cues from that.

SCOTT: Then they read Ellis' column?


PINKERTON: Well, Ellis is part of the movement. He's not part of the conspiracy.


HENICAN: Where's my invitation?

TANTAROS: I'm sure they'd let him in.


MILLER: You're at the bar, Ellis.

TANTAROS: I'm sure they'd let him in.

HENICAN: I stayed too long at the bar maybe. That's right.


SCOTT: This week, our nation lost its longest serving Senator. Robert Byrd, passed away at age of 92. His body honored in repose at the U.S. capitol on Thursday. The headline in the New York Times, "Robert Byrd, respected voice in the Senate, dies at 92." Now take a look at the headline of the New York Times about the death of another Senator from the South. "Strom Thurmond, foe of integration, dies at 100."

Both of Senators really had similar history, very different headlines there. Why?

TANTAROS: One was a Democrat and one was a Republican. They buried the Klan involvement with Byrd and they fought to justify it in the New York Times eulogy. When you look back to the -- Jesse Helms, also another one, who was eulogized -- I'm sorry -- obituary in the New York Times, said that he opposed civil rights, gay rights and foreign aide and modern art.


They really just -- the coverage is just very different.

SCOTT: Strom Thurmond started out as a Democrat, switched to the Republican Party. Did that play in here?

PINKERTON: It did. I think Andrea is exactly right.

Look, Strom Thurmond, in this 40s, parachuted into D-day. He volunteered for combat way past the age. Robert Byrd managed to spend World War II as a ship wielder, and yet it's Byrd who gets this kind of treatment of being carried by soldiers to lie in state in the rotunda.

The gap, the coverage, the dichotomy, Ellis...


...is about as wide and as horrifying as the man.

HENICAN: One difference though, Jim, is Robert Byrd's biography was a man who changed over time.


And Strom Thurmond, pretty much, he didn't move so far as Robert Byrd did.

TANTAROS: He used the "N" word. He used the "N" word in 2001 on national television. That is not someone who is evolving.

PINKERTON: The co-chairman of Strom Thurmond's campaign in 1996, going back a ways, was a guy named Tim Scott, who was an African-American, who just got the Republican nomination to be the Congressman from Charleston. And he's probably going to win in November. And he was the co-chairman -- that's how much Thurmond had changed.



HENICAN: Go ahead.

SCOTT: I am sorry, but we only have a so many seconds.


Up next, celebrating our freedoms this July 4th weekend.


SCOTT: In this week, when the news has been full of Russian spies, al-Qaeda terror plots, American children not allowed to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in their classrooms, and a shakeup of military command in Afghanistan, we end with a celebration of our freedoms, July 4th, Independence Day, the birth of our nation.

Founded on the belief that all are created equal, along with the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And with the celebration, remembering those Americans who have sacrificed for our freedom, those that are away from their families fighting to preserve our way of life. Take a few moments to remember our troops, the real American heroes. You can send them a message at www.uso.org and www.ourmilitary.mil.

That's a wrap on "News Watch" this week. Hope the rest of your Fourth of July weekend is a great one.

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

I'm Jon Scott.

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