George Zimmerman Interviews Cause Controversy

CNN ripped for airing Zimmerman interview


HOWARD KURTZ, HOST OF “#mediabuzz”: On the buzz meter this Sunday, the racially charged murder case that was utterly inflamed by cable news is back in the media spotlight. George Zimmerman returns to television after the Trayvon Martin verdict. And CNN gets hammered online for giving him a platform.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN: Do you regret that night? Do you have regrets about it?

GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: Certainly I've --think about that night. I think I -- my life would be tremendously easier if I had stayed home.


KURTZ: And another CNN anchor explodes over the mistrial of Michael Dunn on a murder charge for killing an African-American teen. In this case, over the playing of loud music.  Why does television turn these cases into national melodramas, and are some commentators going too far?

Everyone and his brother seems to be binge watching the entire season of "House of Cards."


KEVIN SPACEY, "HOUSE OF CARDS": It's not beginning the story that I fear. It's not knowing how it will end. Everyone is fair game now, including me.


KURTZ: But does the Netflix series really deserve all this great press? Plus, do business news channels help viewers make smart investments, or are financial pundits just pushing their favorite stocks? We'll ask the newest member of the Fox team, Maria Bartiromo.  I'm Howard Kurtz, and this is "#mediabuzz." George Zimmerman was back on television this week, refusing to express much in the way of regret for the killing of Trayvon Martin. He spoke to Fusion, to Univision and to CNN's Chris Cuomo.


CUOMO: What do you want to say to people who believe that you went out that night as a vigilante, looking for trouble, and found it, and bailed yourself out?

ZIMMERMAN: I don't focus on them. I deal with their hatred by loving my supporters more.


KURTZ: CNN got pounded, particularly by some African-Americans, for giving Zimmerman a platform. This as a study from M.I.T. confirmed that cable news inflamed the situation surrounding the case, which should have been obvious to anyone with a TV. Joining us now, Lauren Ashburn, Fox News contributor and author of Fox's "Top Twitter Talk" column. Ric Grenell, Fox News contributor and former Bush administration spokesman, and Kelli Goff, special correspondent for The Root. Lauren, should Chris Cuomo and CNN have done that interview with George Zimmerman?

LAUREN ASHBURN, FOX NEWS: Absolutely. It is newsworthy. The definition of newsworthy is that it's interesting, it's topical to the general public, and it warrants coverage. This absolutely did. Not to mention the fact that his second-degree murder trial now has a similar -- there was a similar trial in Florida that also brought up race and also self-defense. And so it is newsworthy to go back. Chris Cuomo did an excellent job in saying to him, do you regret killing Trayvon Martin? He didn't get a good answer and he went at it a number of different ways.

KURTZ: He was aggressive. And I talked to Cuomo, and he said he wanted to keep the story alive, he wanted to demystify Zimmerman, and he wanted to show how Florida's legal system bailed him out. But a lot of people, Rick, said I am so sick of Zimmerman, he should just go away and not be in front of TV cameras.

RICK GRENELL, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I think the big issue here was there's pending liability for George Zimmerman. He couldn't answer these questions. You can't be honest and talk right now about how he was feeling on that day. I think it's a phony criteria to pretend like he should be. He's basically speaking to Eric Holder on CNN. There's still a possible DOJ investigation. There's a lot at stake for George Zimmerman. The idea that the media would hold him to this account at this point to be completely clean, I think, is ridiculous.

ASHBURN: But that's still newsworthy, Ric, right?

GRENELL: Of course it's newsworthy. But know your liability at this point.

KURTZ: Kelli, do you have a problem with three different networks giving Zimmerman a platform at this particular point?  A lot of people don't think it's newsworthy.

KELLI GOFF, THEROOT.COM: One thing that got lost is the coverage of the CNN interview is my friend Derrick Ashong's interview for Fusion TV, and Derrick is actually black. And he actually wrote a defense of himself, because he did get a lot of criticism, including from some of our friends who are black journalists who agree that this is giving him too much of a platform, and I thought Derrick gave a really eloquent defense, which is Fidel Castro has been interviewed. Look at all of the notorious figures in history who were impactful, influential, even if we couldn't stand them. If Hitler were alive today, he would be the get. And to say that it's not relevant or newsworthy is not being realistic, even if we find them detestable.

ASHBURN: But the problem with it is that he came out afterward, right, and he had a -- do we have the quote?

KURTZ: Yes. Let me put the graphic up and have you respond, because as you nicely set me up for the next question involving Derrick Ashong of Fusion. He says, "I am not impartial on this. I believe Zimmerman got away with murder, aided and abetted by a justice system that does not have equal regard for the lives of black and minority youth. Maybe I simply wanted to look into the eyes of a killer and see if I could perceive an ounce of remorse. I found none."

GRENELL: That's not fair. Totally unfair criticism. He can't be honest.

ASHBURN: What I said initially is that my knee-jerk reaction was this guy shouldn't have been doing this interview at all if he has that kind of opinion.


ASHBURN: But then I went on to read the article where he talks about this, and quote popped out at me.  "I cannot accept that an African-American journalist is any less capable of conducting him or herself with the professionalism and composure that the job demands, regardless of my personal sentiment." To me, that's what a journalist is supposed to be doing.

GRENELL: Regardless of the race issue of the interviewer, I just think that it's not fair to be able to hold George Zimmerman to a standard at this point with the DOJ investigation hanging over him. If you look at the Univision interview, George Zimmerman is half Hispanic. And you look at the Univision interview, in Spanish, he does a very good job of articulating what some would want to hear, remorseful words.

GOFF: Here is what I disagree with a little bit. They've done a ton of studies that have shown that when doctors commit malpractice and make a big error, that one of the things that actually decreases a lawsuit is when they actually apologize. There's a fear in our culture that if you admit wrongdoing, that's the end, that's showing weakness and that you're done for. And actually the opposite tends to be true. I think --


GRENELL: He cannot do it.

KURTZ: I want to get off Zimmerman and bring us back to media. I want to talk more about this M.I.T. study, which found -- and a lot of people forget this -- that when Trayvon Martin was first killed, this wasn't even much of a story in Florida for a couple of weeks. And then it was pushed out by some activists, national media glommed on to it, and M.I.T. says--


KURTZ: President Obama was asked about it by the press.


KURTZ: Television says that cable news in particular really drove this, Al Sharpton was singled out because he was a spokesman and crusader for the Trayvon Martin family while still defending the cause on his MSNBC show, and Geraldo Rivera, who made that remark about the hoodie that the teenager was wearing--

ASHBURN: And Nancy Grace.

KURTZ: -- was as responsible for his death as Zimmerman.  And so my question is, what is it about these rationally charged cases = that's become so addictive for cable news?

GOFF: Well, I think because we're a country that has an African-American president and assumed that that would kind of end some of the bickering over race, and it hasn't turned out to be that way. And I also think that because we have a black president, a lot of people thought that it would heal certain wounds, that people find themselves sort of at a loss to define race and racism in the ways that we thought used to be sort of clear cut. It's a lot of nuance, and that's why we end up having this conversation.

KURTZ: But some of this predates Obama. And it feels like maybe you're letting cable news in particular off the hook. It is playing an inflammatory role here, is it not?

GRENELL: I think there's 24 hours of content that needs to be pushed out over cable.  So you're looking for a lot more content. But I actually think it has nothing to do with Barack Obama.  I mean, Barack Obama actually inflamed the problem of the George Zimmerman case by talking about it.

GOFF: He was asked about it. What was he, not going to answer?

GRENELL: Yes. He doesn't answer a lot. So yes, that would be one really good idea.

GOFF: Why should he not answer the question about that trial?

KURTZ: But finish your point.

GRENELL: The point here is that it was a very local news story until Barack Obama inflamed it.


KURTZ: -- to the point that the president was asked. But let me turn to this other case, the Michael Dunn verdict, and, of course, you mentioned this earlier, Lauren, it was a shooting case in which a teenager, Jordan Davis, playing loud music in the car. Michael Dunn fired at the car several times.  He was convicted on some counts, but a mistrial on the key murder count. And Don Lemon, another CNN anchor, here is how he reacted when the verdict came in. And then we're also going to show you Fox's Gregg Jarrett criticizing Lemon and Lemon's response. Take a look.


DON LEMON, CNN: I am absolutely pissed because it's none of your business. It's absolutely ridiculous. I think there needs to be a mind your business law that goes along with the stand your ground law.

GREGG JARRETT, FOX NEWS: This is an anchor who set aside all measure of objectivity and he acted on-air as judge, jury and executioner, condemning the defendant as guilty saying it was an open-and-shut case. My goodness.

LEMON: Old, white guys trying to claw their way back from obscurity by attacking other people who speak out against this?


KURTZ: Young lady.

ASHBURN: I don't think it's about whether or not someone is attacking him. I think it is about the question of what is a journalist. And is a journalist an objective asker of questions, as Chris Cuomo was, or is he a political commentator, which is what we're seeing with Don Lemon.  He said at one point, if you have kids in the room, you may want to keep them out. He also said if this turns out to be a hung jury, I'm just saying around the country there will be an outrage and I will be one of those people. That is not someone who is just trying to cover a story.

KURTZ: But he is giving the African-American perspective on the Dunn case, which has upset a lot of people in the minority community, coming on the heels of the Zimmerman case. So fair or unfair for him to react personally and emotionally?

GRENELL: Well, I think that Don Lemon has been moving into activism, advocacy for a little while. It's not a bad thing. I just think you've got to own it. If you're going to be an opinion journalist, you should not pretend to be a journalist.  And what my problem is that if this was just going to be his opinion, he should also bring up the fact that there was a black juror on the Dunn case that said race had nothing to do with this. So I tend to agree with Greg Jarrett here is that you have a very delicate responsibility when it comes to legal issues, to be very careful if you were not in the room for the entire time.

GOFF: I'm just wondering, did Craig criticize Don when he defended Bill O'Reilly on-air? Don got a lot of flack from the black community for not being impartial on that moment.  So look, Walter Cronkite cried – or began to cry when he announced Kennedy's assassination. Dan Rather became emotional announcing JFK Jr's assassination, or excuse me, death. I don't have a problem with the fact that journalists are emotional creatures and may express emotion on occasion --


KURTZ: What about this question of second-guessing a jury verdict because somebody may appear guilty to all of us, but the jury has to decide whether or not the facts in the case live up to the legal standard?

GOFF: But this goes back to your earlier question about where the media's role is in this. Sherrilyn Ifill from the NAACP Legal Defense Fund made a really great point to me.  She said that we're becoming a country that wants to have pop race conversation about Paula Deen, about Michael Dunn, about black Santa, and that gets us away from actually having the really tough conversations with our friends of different races about what we both think about affirmative action. Those aren't sexy and fun, so we want to have arguments about these trials and about black Santa.

KURTZ: Interesting point. Remember; send me a tweet about our show about this topic and the rest of our hour. It's @howardkurtz. We'll read some of them at the end of the program. When we come back, the FCC caves on a plan to investigate whether TV stations are biased. Was that an attempt at government intimidation? And later, talking business news with Maria Bartiromo.


KURTZ: The FCC touched off a storm of criticism with a plan to meddle in TV news rooms. Under a pilot project that had been scheduled to get under way in South Carolina, the commission said it wanted to examine, quote, "the process by which stories are selected; each station's news philosophy," and get this one, "perceived station bias."  The commission backed off late Friday afternoon saying it wouldn't ask such questions until its study was redesigned.  That in classic Washington fashion, Rick, means that it is dead as a doornail.  But how did this get so far, and why did some people think this was a good idea?

GRENELL: Well, you know, it's like creating a phony academic study to support a liberal mainstream media bias.  If you look at the two universities that they picked, you couldn't be more entrenched in the liberal bias. You have Annenberg. I used to teach at Annenberg. I know that institution. It is steeped in the liberal bias. And then the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

 This was a way to get the academia world to really put a stamp of approval on our worldview, our liberal worldview, and this is what you all should be doing.

KURTZ: The sensible reason here was to aid diversity and make sure that eight critical areas of information were being covered. But to me, I've been out front in this. I think this is just -- the FCC has no business meddling in news content. But most of the criticism, Kelli, has come from the right. Shouldn't liberals be equally concerned about what I see at least as assault on free press?

GOFF: I can help them from the get-go, that with this study, to let them know that newsrooms are not as diverse as they should be, so I can save them all the money they were going to spend trying to figure that out. But the other thing is, I actually think that in theory, I'd love to see us figure out what's going wrong in newsrooms, because I do think there is something that is going wrong, because the news should be better. I don't know anyone who's actually (inaudible) with the direction things are heading in the last couple of years. Do I think that this the direction to go? I have to say, though, I think my friend here could run a conspiracy theory blog, because I certainly didn't read this and go oh, my gosh, the University of Wisconsin is trying to pull some liberal wool over our eyes.


GRENELL: Let's talk about diversity.

GOFF: -- and I don't know where they stand, so I don't know if I agree with them or not.

GRENELL: I can assure you that the University of Wisconsin at Madison is a liberal institution. I'm all for diversity. Let's have diversity of opinion, not just color or gender or sexual orientation. The newsrooms are desperate for diversity of opinion, Howie.

KURTZ: I am not going to argue with that. I also don't want the governor as the arbiter of those opinions. And --

ASHBURN: Take a look at what happened during Watergate. Nixon's FCC basically harassed the Washington Post and said it was going to investigate two of its TV stations.

KURTZ: To challenge elections (ph). And that's the thing that is so ominous here, that the FCC has that power.  And yet while there seems to be a consensus at this table that this was not the way to go and the FCC ought to mind its business when it comes to the business of journalism, not whether a station is living up to its public interest obligations, but how it gathers the news, I haven't seen anything on this all week in the New York Times, the AP, nightly newscasts, and I wonder why that is.

ASHBURN: Ajit Pai came out, and he was actually on "Fox & Friends."

KURTZ: The FCC commissioner.

ASHBURN: The FCC commissioner. One of the FCC commissioners, and he came out in the Wall Street Journal saying this is ridiculous, we shouldn't be doing this. And he came on "Fox & Friends" this morning saying basically the same thing.

GOFF: I'd like it if the FCC had better priorities, like getting the Kardashians off the air --


KURTZ: They're unwilling to use the heavy hand of government. But Rick--

GRENELL: I'm pro-Kardashian.

ASHBURN: You are not!


KURTZ: I wonder, is it because the criticism is coming from the right and so the New York Times and others say, well, this is just sort of a conservative hobbyhorse?

GRENELL: Let me guarantee you, Howie, that if this was the Bush FCC that did this, it would be front page of the New York Times, and every single reporter at the New York Times would be trying to find a way to put it into their stories on any issue, including the Ukraine.

KURTZ: And I cannot argue with that. I think it was a big mistake by much of the mainstream media, even though this thing (inaudible). It is dead now, but it died because of the media pressure and criticism.


KURTZ: A small victory for free press. Rick Grenell, Kelli Goff, thanks very much for coming by this Sunday.  Up next, "House of Cards" is so popular, even the real anchors are vying to get on it. But how many hours of Kevin Spacey can you take at once?


KURTZ: I can't go 15 minutes without reading something or hearing something about the media obsession du jour, "House of Cards." Whether the people have seen the whole second season or just a few episodes. And real TV anchors have been lining up to make cameo appearances.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Replacing democracy with tyranny.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You've spoken publicly about this.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN: Mr. Galloway's (ph) is a fake.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: What we've come to expect from President Walker--


KURTZ: But why is the series you have to download from Netflix generating so much chatter? Joining us now is David Zurawik, television and media critic for the Baltimore Sun. You say you're hamstrung as a critic writing about this, a show where the whole second season has been dumped out there, but obviously, not everybody has seen all 13 episodes.

DAVID ZURAWIK, BALTIMORE SUN: Yes, it is really tough, because the new Netflix model of dumping all 13 episodes at once, in this case on Valentine's Day. You write about it, and for the first time, I felt this great -- I want to spoil it for people.  So I actually saw the first four episodes on February 4th in a screening. Then I saw the rest on the 14th. And I still don't feel comfortable talking about any plot developments. I really don't.

KURTZ: But the buzz seems to be as much about the binge viewing, as about the drama itself. You like it, some other critics don't like it so much, so what do you make of that?

ZURAWIK: I think that's the epic change that's being brought in. It's in lifestyle. It's in how we receive media. That's what's really important in one sense. You have the business model, which is a big deal. But the lifestyle portion of this, because we have the technology, and Netflix has a business model on how to do it, people, it's changing the way people watch TV. Howie, this goes back to 1948, when prime-time network television started. And somebody in Rockefeller Center said, David Soronoff (ph) said we're going to give you one episode a week. Now that's blown up.

KURTZ: We all grew up on that. But now Netflix says 16 percent of its 30 million subscribers have watched at least one episode of this new season the first weekend. That's about 4 million or so. That's impressive. But I'm just wondering, with all the things I read about this, they all say spoiler alert, is this as big in Georgia as it is in Georgetown?

ZURAWIK: Well, nothing is as big in Georgia as it is in Georgetown, because we live in -- the media is in Georgetown, absolutely. But listen --

KURTZ: So why does this show get so much press? Is it because the media elite all love it? Is it because it's become a stand-in for people's view of Washington as a kind of a venal, evil place?

ZURAWIK: I think that's part of it. It's got politics and it's got media. But the other reason, let's not be totally cynical. The other reason, is this is outstanding drama.  Kevin Spacey is superb in this lead role, and he's at the top of his game. This is really a great compelling narrative. And Howie, you know, at a time when America is sick to death of Washington and hates the gridlock and hates the dealing, this exposes it. This shows it to them. So it's really satisfying in a psychological sense for citizens who feel dispossessed by the self-interested people in Washington.

KURTZ: But you're not disputing my theory that the media and political lead are generating a lot of the chatter because this is where they live, this is what they love.

ZURAWIK: Oh, of course. This is the land of narcissism. So it's about us, so of course we'll say it's an unbelievable production. Yes.

KURTZ: I'm feeling called out as a narcissist. Now, let me also turn to "The Tonight Show," as the whole world knows, Jimmy Fallon is succeeding Jay Leno this week. And let's take a brief look at a clip from one of his first shows.


JIMMY FALLON, HOST “THE TONIGHT SHOW”: Thanks to all the fans for all their support. And to my buddy who said that I'd never be the host of "The Tonight Show," and you know who you are, you owe me a hundred bucks, buddy.


ZURAWIK: Great. That's great.

KURTZ: So Fallon had a smooth transition. He seems to be a very likable guy. But he's a lot less political, for example, than Jay Leno. He doesn't talk about politics as much in his monologue. And a lot of people feel at a time when late-night comics -- at least there is the argument -- are going relatively easy on President Obama, that this is a move away from political comedy, on the premier franchise of late night.

ZURAWIK: I always thought Jay Leno did political comedy like Bob Hope did political comedy. It was political, I agree. But it was gentle in a way. I mean, really --

KURTZ: But he hit both sides.

ZURAWIK: Yes, he hit both sides. Honestly, I don't see this move in a political context. Although it could well develop that way. This is, in that sense, a less political comedy. I don't think it. I think it's a really smart move by NBC. Look, it always seems crazy when you fire the guy who is No. 1.

KURTZ: Yes. I haven't gotten past that.


KURTZ: But Fallon, to his credit, seems very earnest. He's very polite; he's very likable, as I said. But he's also taking over a franchise that by definition is shrinking in part because people are watching Netflix and not as many people are tuning into late night, it's not just NBC. Quick thought on that.

ZURAWIK: It's absolutely true. But I think he is going to bring some new viewers to the table, some viewers that demographically are going to be good for NBC. And I think that surprisingly enough, it's because of his music. He has an original kind of talent and take on pop music. And you know what? I'm one of them. I wouldn't stay up to watch it. I'll watch it the next morning on video. I'll watch him to see if he has a musical guest, and he does one of his parody or imitation performances.

KURTZ: That's my headline; Jimmy Fallon is a hit, at least with David Zurawik. He might even stay up late. Thank you. Donald Trump seems to be having a fine time when Buzzfeed reporter McKay Coppins, calling him the biggest blogger in the world and saying the website had eclipsed the New York Times. But when the piece in Buzzfeed portrayed him as again flirting with a presidential run, in a bid for attention, Trump ripped Coppins on Twitter. "A dishonest slob of a reporter who doesn't understand my sarcasm when talking about him and his wife wrote a foolish and boring Trump hit." And that's not all. Trump went all Apprentice on the adviser who set up the interview, telling Sam Nunberg, you're fired. Trump told the New York Post that Nunberg had talked him into doing this, and "I said to Sam, if this guy writes a fair story, that's fine. But if he writes a wise guy story, you'll be fired." Coppins, for his part, tweeted the following. "I think Nunberg for the first time that day in New Hampshire, maybe once before. We weren't quite buddies. Still sucks that he got thrown under the bus." I guess the Donald had to find someone to blame for what was a tough story.

Coming up on "#mediabuzz," are too many fund managers using business channels to push their favorite stocks?  Maria Bartiromo on that and how she feels about being called the "money honey."



KURTZ: Fox Business network, CNBC and Bloomberg TV are all competing for viewers who care about the markets, but it can be hard for many viewers to make sense of the fast moving coverage, and especially when many guests seem to be pushing their favorite stocks.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You want to own the fracking industry, you want to own anybody that goes into the production of these things. You want to own sand, you want to own pipe.

CHARLES PAYNE, FBN: We looked at it real hard last night and this morning we're going to hold on to it, but I wouldn't buy it.

JIM CRAMER, CNBC: Recommend level three because of the incredible numbers. It was instant, though. It went up. But you know what? This company is back.


KURTZ: I sat down in New York with Maria Bartiromo, who launches her daily program, "Opening Bell," tomorrow from 9:00 to 11:00 Eastern on the Fox Business Network.


KURTZ: Maria Bartiromo, welcome.

MARIA BARTIROMO, FBN: Hi there, Howie. Good to see you.

KURTZ: And welcome to Fox. The rap on business news channels, if you're an average viewer who doesn't know that much about the markets, is that all the talk about stocks, the financial jargon, beating expectations, can be hard to follow. Is that a fair criticism?

BARTIROMO: You know, I think it is. I think that what has happened in business information is -- particularly on television -- is a lot of short- termism. And it's unfortunate because that's not the way to invest. Knee-jerk reactions and fast decisions. But, you know, when I first got into the business 25 years ago, it was all about the markets. First it was the individual investor explosion and people wanting to be armed with information 24/7. Then it was globalization and the dot-com boom and bust. All of these different cycles were focused on the market and what's going on in the stock market now.

KURTZ: And there you are as a floor reporter.

BARTIROMO: That's right. Things have changed quite a bit. I think today viewers don't want short-termism. And I think today, viewers want a much broader, deeper perspective of where their money is and what it's doing over the long-term.

KURTZ: You say they don't want short-termism, but I remember when I first started watching regularly in the late 90s, when I was writing the book when we first met, and even now, I see a lot of fund managers and analyst types come on, and I often have the feeling that they're pushing stocks that they have positions in or maybe talking down stocks that they're shot on, and it always makes me a little weary of some of that advice.

BARTIROMO: Well, I mean, people will tend to talk about things they like and talk about things that they're invested in.  That doesn't necessarily bother me as much as the short-termism.  I think today viewers are smarter than they ever have been before. People understand that the onus is on them to get armed with as much information as possible and then make your decisions. You can't trust anybody and everybody. You have to take pieces of information and then make your own decisions about investing. So it doesn't bother me that analysts may come on and say, hey, we have a buy rating on this and this is why I like it. They have a buy rating on it.

KURTZ: It should come with a consumer warning. And that's people like you obviously need to point that out.  But now the stars, I guess the big get in your world, and this world are obviously these corporate chieftains, I think you've interviewed everyone on the planet.  How important is it, whether it's Jeff Bezos or Marissa Mayer, or Jamie Dimon, or Mark Zuckerberg, how important is television exposure for these CEOs?

BARTIROMO: I think it's important. I think it's still important, as important as it ever was. Because today, investors are scrutinizing everything. They want to know their customer. They want to know who they're investing in. So having the CEO or the chairman or even Ben Bernanke come out and basically say, here is why we did all that QE, and here is why we've been stimulating the economy gives an investor more perspective, more analysis to again, make their own decision. So I think it is very important for CEOs, chairmen, allocators of capital to come out and explain what's behind their strategy. I think it's helpful. I think, you know, when you see someone on-air or on an interview and you know that person repeatedly is not answering the question and repeatedly is looking like something has gone awry or something is not right, well, guess what?  It probably isn't.

KURTZ: Camera doesn't lie.

BARTIROMO: You know, transparency is good.

KURTZ: You spent 20 years at CNN. You grew up there. You were a big part of--

BARTIROMO: Well, I was at CNN for five years. And then CNBC for 20 years.

KURTZ: Excuse me, I meant to say CNBC. And you helped build that channel. And it has a bigger audience. Was it a hard decision to leave?

BARTIROMO: It was hard. It was a tough decision, because I had the most unbelievable 20 years of my life at CNBC, and I loved it. And I'm proud of being a builder, helping to build the network, building up the brand globally. But I think after 20 years, I was looking at the next 20, and I was deciding what's best for me. And I realized that today I think people are looking for broader perspective, analysis, longer interviews in some cases, a little less short-termism.

KURTZ: Was there pressure to get people in the chair, out of the chair, everybody has got a short attention span?  Everybody's got a remote in their hands? So did you feel like you've been running through too many guests and not having enough time to do the in-depth stuff?

BARTIROMO: There is a pressure on having, you know, four and five people on the air at once, and then people start yelling at one another. That's--

KURTZ:  Hollywood squares.

BARTIROMO: Exactly. The markets are live and people want information five minutes ago and there's competition.  So there was a pressure in that regard. But, you know, that's all good in some regard, because it's giving investors more information. What I'd like to do is give more perspective, bring that rolodex that I was able to, you know, put together, create, foster relationships on the air here at Fox, to make sure that viewers are, in fact, getting an edge, in my own way, in a little different way than I was doing at CNBC. And I think that there is room for many alternatives. People want alternatives, by the way, I think.

KURTZ: Competition is good.


KURTZ: In business as well as in every kind of coverage. You, besides being on the air for a couple of hours every morning at Fox Business Network, you also were going to have a Sunday show, which is a very important program on Fox News, because it's a lead-in to "#mediabuzz."

BARTIROMO: That's exactly right.

KURTZ: So we're counting on you.

BARTIROMO: I'm your lead-in.

KURTZ: So how do you envision that program adding to the conversation?

BARTIROMO: Here is what I think about that. Every Sunday morning, you see so many politicos out on the air. You know, the political conversation on Sunday morning, I look forward to it. I want to hear what the talkers are saying.

KURTZ: There's a lot of spin out there.

BARTIROMO: That's exactly right, Howie. There's so much spin. And at the end of the day, very few people are actually connecting the dots. It's about the economy. It's about creating jobs.  It's about business. Where is the growth? And that pertains to the growth in the economy, the growth in corporate America, growth in America. So I'm looking for the growth, but I want to make sure business is part of the conversation. I don't just want a Republican and a Democrat talking on Sunday mornings. I want to ask that business guy, why do you have $1 trillion overseas? What is it going to take in terms of tax reform that's going to get you to take that money back to America?  Why can't you find the employees that you need with the right skill sets required to actually thrive in your business? This is such a big issue that people cannot find the employees that they need. They can't hire because they don't have the right skill sets. All of these issues are really best answered by the guy or gal on the front lines, the person who is operating a business, small or big. And I intend to get business people as part of the conversation on the Sunday morning.

KURTZ: You've got your work cut out for you. It's always bugged me that the tabloids here stuck you with the nickname, the money honey. Then at one point, you trademarked it. Did you reluctantly embrace this label?

BARTIROMO: No, it wasn't reluctant. I was just happy to get noticed early in my career. And I never, ever found it insulting. I think I was happy to be noticed. And what I --

KURTZ: You were operating in a very male environment when you were (inaudible).

BARTIROMO: Yes, but no one really picked up the phone, Howie, and said "hello, money honey?" Come on. You know? But it was something that you know, the New York Post had a rhyme, and they went with it. But the truth is, is I feel like my viewers know who I am, and my sources know who I am, and I never felt that it was belittling me in any way. So I let it roll off my back and I'm thrilled to have been noticed. It's not a big deal.

KURTZ: Okay, honey. Well, we will always refer to you as Maria Bartiromo. Thanks very much for joining us.

BARTIROMO: Thank you so much.


KURTZ: And look forward to checking out Maria on Fox Business. Ahead on "#mediabuzz," Ted Nugent unloads on CNN after the network rips him for an inflammatory attack on President Obama. We'll tell you what led up to his apology. And later, Facebook buys a texting app for $19 billion?


KURTZ:  CNN is in a big-time feud with Ted Nugent.  The back story is that the rock star turned political activist said this a few weeks ago about President Obama.


TED NUGENT: I have obviously failed to galvanize and prod and shame enough Americans to be ever vigilant, not to let a Chicago, communist-raised, communist-educated, communist-nurtured, subhuman mongrel like the ACORN community organizer gangster Barack Hussein Obama to weasel his way into the top office of authority of the United States of America.


KURTZ: Subhuman mongrel. That is so offensive on so many levels. And Wolf Blitzer made an issue of it when Nugent was campaigning with Greg Abbott, Republican candidate for governor of Texas.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN: Shockingly, Abbott's campaign brushed aside the criticism saying they valued Nugent's commitment to the Second Amendment. Do they know the history of that phrase, subhuman mongrel? That's what the Nazis called Jews, leading up and during World War II to justify the genocide.


KURTZ: Nugent hit back on Twitter, likening CNN to the Nazis. He wrote, "CNN, Joseph Goebbels, Saul Alinsky, Propaganda Ministry mongrels." Maybe it's debatable whether Abbott, who is running against Wendy Davis in Texas, should be held accountable for the inflammatory remarks of a supporter, as Blitzer tried to do. But after Senator Rand Paul called Nugent's words offensive, the singer went on a radio show and sort of apologized, quote, "not necessarily to the president, but on behalf of much better men than myself." Now, it's important for commentators on the right and the left to join in, in calling out this kind of ugly language, just as some did when MSNBC's Martin Bashir made his unspeakable attack against Sarah Palin. After the break, have you heard of Whatsapp? Mark Zuckerberg just bought it for an unbelievable amount of money. Our "Digital Download" is up next.


KURTZ: Time now for our "Digital Download." Facebook made a blockbuster deal this week, buying a phone messaging service called WhatsApp for a staggering $19 billion.

ASHBURN: Mark Zuckerberg stunned just about everyone with the move since WhatsApp has just 50 employees, no advertising and charges its users just 99 cents a year. And I was one of them, Howie.

KURTZ: Well, this is what my reaction, I've got to tell you was, what on earth is WhatsApp, because its founders never do any press, and I wasn't familiar with it, and my second reaction was, $19 billion? That's insane.

ASHBURN: Right. But if you look at a lot of analysts, you get over that huge sticker shock from the very beginning, a lot of analysts are saying, hey, it is actually in line with what people pay per user. They have 450 million users ...

KURTZ: around the world.

ASHBURN: Around the world. And it works out to be about $42 per user. Mark Cuban, actually, sold his website many years ago and it was $11,000 per user. So this seems pretty good.

KURTZ: Assuming that all those users stick with it. Now, I've been checking it out and it's a perfectly good messaging service, but like a lot of other messaging services, except there are no charges. You can basically text until 3:00 in the morning for free.

ASHBURN: Right. If you don't - well, I have a plan that is texting unlimited.

KURTZ: But you pay for that.

ASHBURN: Well, exactly right. So, but it's unlimited. But for people in other countries, especially where this is very popular, it is completely free. And you don't need to have a plan to do that.

KURTZ: I love the human interest back story here. Brian Acton, who is cofounder of this site couldn't even get a job, couldn't get hired by Facebook back in 2009, and here he is negotiating with Zuckerberg and coming up with this huge payback.

ASHBURN: Right. When Lexi Stemple, our executive producer sent that to me, I couldn't believe it. It's just one of those stories we go yeah! You go for it. Jan Koum, who was the other founder is Ukrainian and was living on food stamps when he was little. And look at this now.

KURTZ: All these techies are going back to their garage.

ASHBURN: It's amazing, American - right, American story.

KURTZ: But on Facebook, you know, whether it - I mean look, Facebook has the money to do this. It's betting about ten percent of its net worth on this. But Facebook is desperate to get into mobile, to be on everyone's phones, not just in the U.S., around the world. But its own messaging service was a complete flop so it's trying to buy its way into this market.

ASHBURN: Well, sure. And I remember when it happened and I looked at the 19 billion and I thought, oh, my gosh, how is this possible? I went immediately to its Twitter feed because I do the top Twitter talk column, and it was service is interrupted, we're sorry; we'll get back to you. Service was interrupted, well, sorry; we'll get back to you. Almost every two months. And then it happened again.

KURTZ: Some people have been deleting their accounts because they don't believe Zuckerberg's promise and not only WhatsApp remained independent, but then it will not carry advertising, which a lot of people like the fact that it's ad free.

ASHBURN: I'd love to know what people think about this. Because I tried it and I had a real big problem because I couldn't get emoticons on my iPhone.

KURTZ: Smiley face.

ASHBURN: That's right. So, at Lauren Ashburn, tell me what you think.

KURTZ: Still to come. "Vanity Fair" kills a profile Gwyneth Paltrow. Bill Maher has suffered the same by MSNBC and your tweets in just a moment.


KURTZ: Here are a few of your top tweets on whether CNN and other Networks should have interviewed George Zimmerman. Natal Zeitin (ph), in the past two years, only two networks have gotten an interview. Some seem to fear hearing the other perspective in the case, actually three networks. Chris Caagau (ph), excuse me if I mispronounced that, "The best thing that could happen is we never hear from this killer ever again. He will get what's coming to him.  God is waiting." And the FCC has now delayed plans to question TV newsrooms about bias in news gathering. Bill Grant(ph) says that Rick Grenell is right to comment on #HowardKurtz that if FCC had pulled outrage during Bush administration, the "New York Times" and rest of the MSM would protest immediately. James E. Robertson Junior, "Fascism pure and simple. Goebbels would approve this plan. In fact, he did something similar."

ASHBURN: What's interesting, Howie is about the FCC question -- was the free press at work stopping something that the government was doing?  Which is exactly what it's supposed to be doing.

KURTZ: Sometimes a little media outrage is warranted. Moving on to buzzworthy. "Vanity Fair" has killed a major profile of Gwyneth Paltrow, who had asked her friends not to cooperate, and called editor Graydon Carter to complain. Carter writes in the new issue, "there was nothing wrong with the piece about Paltrow," who's had dinner at his house," but that the media chatter about the piece created expectations of an epic takedown that would make a story seem like a disappointment." It sure seems like another example of coziness with the Hollywood crowd. Now, I've been arguing for weeks on this program that MSNBC has been utterly fixated on the Chris Christie scandal, whether there are new developments or not. Now here's a card-carrying liberal, Bill Maher, saying just about the same thing.


BILL MAHER: I love this network, but I thought they were a little over the top in how much they had been covering this story. A lot of the shows, it is the first story, the top story every night. It's two months into this scandal.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: I am totally obsessed with the Christie story, unapologetically, and will continue to be obsessed with it while amazing things in that story continue to happen.


KURTZ: Obsession is the right word. Finally, a researcher at Rice State University says that people curse a lot more on Twitter than in real life.

ASHBURN: Imagine that. The statistics are 0.5 percent in real life. And 1 percent on paper, on Twitter.

KURTZ: One in 13 words is a curse word. The f-bomb was the most popular curseword.

ASHBURN: 35 percent.

KURTZ: A whole list of others, the S word, we're not going to repeat them here.

ASHBURN: And then they get worse, progressively worse after that.

KURTZ: I think people are more relaxed on Twitter, they feel like they can be themselves and talk the way they talk on the street, but of course they're doing it in front of an audience.

ASHBURN: Right. And it's anonymous. And I think you can get into a lot of trouble on Twitter, as many people have found out. Especially when you're using words like this.

KURTZ: Well, blank that.


KURTZ: That's it for this edition of "#mediabuzz." I'm Howard Kurtz. Let's continue the conversation on Twitter. You can use any words you want. Check out our Facebook page. We post a lot of video there, we have conversations. Give us a like if you  Sunday morning, at 11:00 Eastern and 5:00 p.m. Eastern with the latest buzz.


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