All-Star Panel: Media coverage of Romney's Mideast response

All-Star panel weighs in


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," September 13, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


RICHARD BENEDETTO, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: There is a general feeling out there that the president, I think among the press corps, generally, not everybody but in general, that the president's policies are policies that they agree with. And when you agree with somebody's policies, it affects how you go after the person that you're covering.

And I think that in reverse that most reporters who were covering the White House when President Bush was president didn't generally agree with his policies. And that makes a difference. How do you think President Bush would have been treated if he had gone off to Las Vegas after this?


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: One journalism professor's take on the questioning, the coverage of this week, all of the embassy back and forth and Mitt Romney, frankly, a lot of Mitt Romney. If you look at some of the statements, the tweets from some reporters, Mark Halperin from TIME, "[Romney] doubling down of criticism of the president for the statement coming out of Cairo is likely to be seen as one of the most craven and ill-advised tactical moves in this entire campaign." John Avlon with CNN, "Romney foreign policy attack was disgraceful." Ben Smith at Buzz Feed, "'Bungle...utter disaster...not ready for primetime...not presidential...Lehman moment.' And that's just the Republicans." Judge, your thoughts on all this?

JUDGE ANDREW NAPOLITANO, FOX NEWS SENIOR JUDICIAL ANALYST: I have not hesitated to disagree with Governor Romney where I felt like we had different value judgments. But this was one of the best things I have heard him say in all of his years in public life. It was strong, it was direct, it was clear, it was forceful, it was angry, and it was true. And these guys who are criticizing what he said don't want him to get elected, and that's why they're jumping on him.

BAIER: Kasie, a lot was made of the press conference and the talking before the press conference about what kind of questions would be asked of Mitt Romney. And then the questions came, and there were about seven in a row that were roughly the same. Your thoughts about covering this campaign?  You have been on the trail with all of these folks and there are a lot of great journalists that travel with Governor Romney.

KASIE HUNT, ASSOCIATED PRESS: I think what you saw with that was just an instance where in fact, if there is discussion about such questions, the aim is really to make sure a wide variety of topics are covered. In this instance we had a hyper focus on this one particular subject, which was obviously what Governor Romney was there to talk about.

But more broadly, I think, the questions that were raised about what Romney has said, is if he is going to stand up and make this argument against President Obama and essentially say he is apologizing for America, sure, they've stood by that argument. I think, the questions were mainly about the timing of his statement and the fact they made a statement without knowing all of the facts on the ground, which is something that, you know, American officials are usually pretty careful about.

BAIER: Weighing that coverage versus the amount of coverage or scrutiny that president received or the administration policy received, it didn't seem like it --

HUNT: I think there was some surprise when, you know, you still had events unfolding on the ground in Libya late on Tuesday night. We knew that one American had been killed at least. We didn't -- we knew from Hillary Clinton about the same time that that person was an American official. And at that time we were all of a sudden hearing from the Romney campaign with some criticism of President Barack Obama when the president himself had not had a chance or did not have the information that he needed to weigh in at that point.

BAIER: Charles, you talked about the whole tick-tock about the Cairo embassy statement. And there is a pretty detailed article in Foreign Policy it's called "The Cable" it's a blog. But put that up, it goes in to detail about how that statement came out, when it came out and how the State Department reacted. Even Secretary Clinton reacted very angrily during that time. And it has specific quotes from senior State Department officials saying they didn't understand it. The statement was, quote, "...tone deaf. It didn't provide adequate balance. We thought all of the references to 9/11 were inappropriate, and we strongly advised against it," to your point.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Look, they apparently have no idea how to handle this. Because her speech reiterated. It didn't use the word "apology" but said we are sorry for this expression of intolerance. And that is the problem that was at the beginning. They can't decide on that, can't decide if Egypt is an ally and can't decide if Obama's policy still stands. That's the issue, not Romney's statement.

BAIER: That is it for the panel. But we wanted to save time for a final goodbye to an American icon.

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