Media off course on missing plane; could Bob Costas leave the field?

Lack of facts doesn't stop cable talkathon on missing jet


This is a rush transcript from "#mediabuzz," March 16, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

HOWARD KURTZ, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: On the "Buzz Meter" this Sunday, television devotes hundreds and hundreds of hours to the strange saga of the missing Malaysian plane.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN: First of all, let's talk about the scenario of hijacking. Could that account for the basic question here of an inability to have contact with the ground? Yes, of course it could.

GREG GUTFELD, FOX NEWS: That leads to the next question which is, okay, is it a single act of terrorism or part of something greater, or if it's an accident, is it part of a flaw that is also in other planes?


KURTZ: But are all the mistakes and the theories and the speculation out of control or has this become a parlor game for ratings? Sharyl Attkisson, who has been investigating the Obama administration, quit CBS News in frustration after failing to get most of her hard-hitting stories on the air.


SHARYL ATTKISSON, FORMER CBS NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Three current fairly high-ranking State Department officials, an expert in security, an expert in counterterrorism, and a top diplomat will in essence be contradicting parts of the Obama administration's accounts on Benghazi.


KURTZ: Did the network discourage her aggressive reporting? We'll tell you about my interview with Attkisson.

The New York media swooning over Lena Dunham and her HBO show, "Girls." Last week she hosted Saturday Night Live.


LENA DUNHAM, ACTRESS: There is an old saying if you're nervous about giving a speech, just imagine the audience naked, or at least imagine they haven't seen you naked.


KURTZ: But does the real America care about the frequently naked star? Plus, Bob Costas still battling controversy for mixing politics and sports. Is he considering hanging it up? I'm Howard Kurtz and this is "Media Buzz."

It's on morning, noon and night. The lack of facts not slowing up the cable talkathon. The Malaysian plane that vanished without a trace has become one giant media mystery, drawing constant coverage, endless theories, troubling mistakes, and no shortage of speculation.


FOREMAN: That's why it's so astonishing to think that this plane took off, and some 40, 45 minutes after taking off, that it went utterly silent.

MEGYN KELLY, FOX NEWS: New reports tonight that the plane's communications system was shut down manually and not because of catastrophic failure. That it was shut down manually.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN: It is extraordinary. Nothing ever seen like this before. That search area, it looks horrendous.

AL SHARPTON, MSNBC: Could the plane still be out there, intact and simply diverted to an undisclosed location?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN: There is no other way of saying it, in the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight 370, developments today could change everything.

LT. GEN. TOM MCINERNEY, FOX NEWS: I don't believe that this airplane crashed. I do believe that it was hijacked. I do believe it landed someplace, and I would start first looking in Pakistan.

SHEPARD SMITH, FOX NEWS: The headline tonight is U.S. officials say it appears more likely that whatever happened to this plane was the result of human intervention, some sort of air piracy.

RONAN FARROW, MSNBC: Are you obsessed with the mystery of flight 370? Because the ratings suggest you are.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In the absence of facts, we have to look at the possibility --


KURTZ: So why are the media boosting this story into the stratosphere? Joining us now, Lauren Ashburn, Fox News contributor and author of the "Top Twitter Talk" column. Craig Crawford, publisher of the Trail Mix blog and a former columnist for "Congressional Quarterly." And Jim Pinkerton, contributing editor at "American" magazine and a Fox News contributor.

I get that the story is endlessly fascinating, but what do you make of this tsunami of speculation?

LAUREN ASHBURN, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: First, let's be very clear. For the people involved, this is a tragedy, and it deserves coverage. The question that you asked at the beginning is is it out of control? And the answer is absolutely yes. It is overkill. We're getting ambiguous answers, we're getting speculation that doesn't help anyone, and it is being used as a ratings ploy.

KURTZ: Jim, I hate to say this, but as I watch day after day and hour after hour, it almost seems like it's become a game for the media. It's a great detective story, and I think maybe losing sight of the point that Lauren just made, that there are lives at stake here.

JIM PINKERTON, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. Look, it's the kind of story that we can all relate to. Everybody gets on airplanes, and it's the sort of story that news was made for. You literally don't know what's going to happen next.

Jeff Wise at said, look, every day we report something that would have been preposterous the day before, and now it seems plausible and real. And if -- there's a value of this media overkill, if you will, or I'll call it just kill, is that the Malaysian government, for example, does not seem to be very responsive. And it's possible that the Malaysian government's disinterest in getting to the bottom of this at the time the airplane was still in the air might have cost people their lives.

KURTZ: But you have to lay that, Craig, against the reality of the networks that are going overboard on this, that there's all this airtime to fill, and relatively few facts with which to fill it.

CRAIG CRAWFORD, PUBLISHER, TRAIL MIX: Well, it's disaster porn, and that always gets ratings. And with the mystery and international intrigue and mystery with this one, it actually leads to some very sloppy reporting. That's the problem here.

You point out, Jim, that there was reporting rumors the previous day that are facts today. Well, what are the sources for these? Right now, they're fingering the pilots. Well, the sources for that I saw in the stories were officials with direct knowledge of the thinking of officials. That sounds like palm readers. We still don't know whether there could have been other people on board who did that.

ASHBURN: And I have to agree with Jim. There has been good reporting. The Wall Street Journal came out and said that the engines were transmitting and that the flight could have taken five more hours than we knew about. Reuters came and said it could be in the Andaman islands, and Wired had a great piece.

CRAWFORD: But none of those are named sources, none.

ASHBURN: But Wired had a great piece. I think the speculation on television has been horrific. Brendan Connier (ph) came out and he said as a terrorist and a hijacking expert, he gave his opinion on what could happen. And it wasn't salacious, and it wasn't porn, as you put it, but it was an interesting piece. And that's what's missing. What is missing is context.

PINKERTON: Here is a fact that I did not know. Here you go. Clive Irving (ph) at the Daily Beast pointed out that there's a European Union registry of airlines that are not allowed to fly into the European Union. There's 50, from Indonesia alone. Indonesia is not Malaysia, but it's close by, and it's actually hundreds of airlines. Every country now must have their own airline, they buy a 777, they're in business, and only later like in a case like this, you realize, hey, they actually don't have the adequate infrastructure of safety and surveillance that we take for granted when we fly American or United.

KURTZ: The mistakes and the false alarms, as I would call them, they tend to sort of vanish into the ether. We forget at the beginning, there was all this media focus on the two passengers who had forged passports. That was kind of ruled out. Then there were these reports, just picking out a couple, Bloomberg suspected aircraft tail found floating in the Gulf of Thailand, and it turned out to be a bunch of logs. Washington Post reported on these big oil slicks off the coast of Vietnam, turned out to be not from an aircraft. Just the other day, CNN was reporting on lithium batteries in the cargo could have been responsible for some kind of explosion. So it's not that these stories are wrong. We don't know what is right or wrong in many of these cases.

Now, CNN is well equipped to cover this kind of story, because of its big international footprint, but at the same time, CNN is covering almost nothing else, and that translates into good ratings for CNN, but I think that has opened the door for a lot of this speculation.

ASHBURN: Well, of course it has. But CNN as you say, is primed for this. They have amazing news resources across the country that can cover this. But what's happening is that CNN is taking it to the next level, and it is becoming dominant, we're missing all other stories like the CIA spying scandal. Ukraine has been knocked off the front page.

But if I do want to know about news, I do turn to CNN, because it is 24/7.

CRAWFORD: They had a great example of that yesterday on CNN. They went to Jay Carney's press conference when he was talking about ghost plane, and as soon as he stopped, a reporter asked a question about rising deportations, that boring immigration story. They immediately cut away from that. I was actually interested in his answer. And went to a reporter in the field who ultimately concluded about this plane story they don't know, we don't know, nobody knows.

KURTZ: Well, CNN's ratings up nearly 67 percent in prime time, at least in the first few days. CNN anchor Chris Cuomo talked about the fact that there is all of this hot air about the story. The job in a situation like this, he says, is to have more questions than answers because simply not enough is known. So if it seems like we're nibbling around the edges, it's because we are. How much of that is too much?

PINKERTON: Look, it might be too much, but look, there's a new player in this media mix, Xinhua, which is a Chinese news agency. Two-thirds of the people on that airplane were Chinese. The Chinese are being much tougher in their media on the Malaysian government for its noncooperation with this story than we are. We're too politically correct to go after a third-world country. The Chinese don't care, it was their people on the airplane, and they want answers, and I think they're going to make a major play in terms of forcing a better investigation we get out of CNN or the American media.

KURTZ: One of the things that troubles me here, and I understand the great temptation, and I understand that there are these hours you have to fill and these ratings, and people are genuinely interested. How does an airplane disappear out of thin air, what happened to it, did it crash, and all of that? But the fact that it is a plane that took off from Malaysia, and most of the passengers had been Chinese, imagine if this had been a plane that took off from New York and most of the passengers had been American? I think there would be a lot more focus. Obviously, there would be lots of interviews with the families of those on board. There'd be lots more focus on the potential human toll here, and instead it has become this sort of where in the world is flight 370?

ASHBURN: A Tom Clancy novel.


CRAWFORD: We live in a society where the microwave takes too long. We want the answers to every mystery. And in this case, we're getting a few facts, but why can't we just wait? And in the news room, you know, talk about speculation, I remember today in the news room where a lot of those rumors and leads that didn't pan out stayed in the news room. Now they're shoved right out the door as soon as you hear them.

KURTZ: You pursued them, but you did not pursue them on camera. You didn't constantly feed the beast by talking about them on camera. And I understand your point, Jim, that some of this reporting is helping us to understand and it's putting pressure on the Malaysian government. And I must say, this shows you why newspapers like the New York Times and Wall Street Journal actually have aviation experts, aviation reports who do this as a beat. They provided I think some of the best information. But at the same time, even now, we're all assuming because of the clues that have been pieced together, that it was -- something happened in the cockpit, that it was maybe one of the pilots, now the pilots' homes are being searched. But we don't know that, and we're also reporting on speculation by U.S. officials and intelligence sources who may not know what they're talking about.

PINKERTON: But we are piecing together it probably was an incident in the cockpit. We probably have nailed that down, which is why the flight simulator -- which reminds me of the 9/11 case, where they had a guy on a flight simulator, too. If this is a terrorist act, which is to say these pilots were somehow involved, which means now you have to start investigating the community, the people of -- the country of Malaysia, their security procedures, the mosque, it opens up the -- the world has kind of moved away from terrorism. We sort of -- President Obama declared the war on terror to be over, and the media kind of followed his lead on that. Actually, this could bring it all back in a big way.

CRAWFORD: But the facts -- or the theory on the pilot, other experts have said, well, the plane was veering and changing out. That actually is consistent with amateurs.

KURTZ: Let's not indulge in this ourselves. Go ahead.

ASHBURN: But this is overkill. I don't care if you're getting some facts, if you're not getting other facts, it is too much. This country has too many different problems to dominate the news by this craziness.

KURTZ: Well, I think there's been some speculation on Fox as there has been on other networks. MSNBC tried to stick with politics, but even MSNBC now is doing a lot more plane coverage. But you made the point, I mean, Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein accuses the CIA of spying on her intelligence committee, and that was covered, but it was a one-day story.

ASHBURN: And it was talking about waterboarding.

KURTZ: And today we have this referendum in Crimea. I'm going to go out on a limb and say yes, most people there in this, quote, referendum are going to vote to affiliate with Russia. And this was a story that two weeks ago we all said was a huge foreign policy challenge, was going to be the biggest test of the Obama presidency.

ASHBURN: This is a mistake, Howie.

KURTZ: This is a mistake, too?

ASHBURN: This is a mistake to not cover these stories. And you and I and all of us know that.

KURTZ: And the reason for that mistake is?

ASHBURN: Because we're missing important news.

KURTZ: So why does the focus remain on this missing plane, tragic as it is?

ASHBURN: Because it's almost a game now. It's a game at this point. Everybody and their mother, including mine, has a theory about where this plane is. It's in the jungle, it's everywhere.

CRAWFORD: It's like on the TV show "Lost," we had to wait six seasons to find out what the smoke monster was. And once we got the results, it was kind of dissatisfying. I think a year from now, we'll -- how much will we remember about this story once we find out about what really happened?

ASHBURN: If it's terrorism, we'll remember a lot.

KURTZ: (inaudible) where the plan is. And your mother's theory is probably as good as anybody else's right now.

Don't forget to send me a tweet about this coverage, about this topic, about the plane, what do you think of the coverage? We'll read some of those at the end of the program.

When we come back, Sharyl Attkisson quit CBS News and tells me she hasn't been able to get her investigative stories on the air.

And later, does America loves HBO's "Girls" as much as the Manhattan media?


KURTZ: CBS' Sharyl Attkisson has won praise and Emmy awards for her investigative reporting, some of it targeting such administration controversies as Obamacare, the Fast and Furious fiasco, and Benghazi.


ATTKISSON: When you found out the last two teams were being pulled from Libya, what was your feeling about that?

LT. COL. ANDREW WOOD, ARMY NATIONAL GUARD: I felt like we were being asked to play the piano with two fingers. There was concern amongst the entire embassy staff.


KURTZ: Attkisson tried to get out of her contract a year ago, and she quit CBS this week after a long period in which she could not get her most of her investigative pieces on the "CBS Evening News." Here is what Attkisson told me. "It's not a matter of me being on the air. It's the idea that so few of the incredibly interesting and important and original and investigative topics I brought to the table, often exclusively, could find no home at CBS in the past three years or so.

Jim Pinkerton, what do you make of her explanation for why she quit after two decades at CBS News?

PINKERTON: And before that, CNN. She seems to me to be a serious- minded reporter who then was covering investigative stories, winning Emmys, as you said, and all of a sudden the Obama administration happened, and she said I'll apply the same investigative standard to the Obama administration than I had to the Bush administration or corporate America, and then she discovered CBS actually didn't want that. They didn't want her to go after the Obama administration as hard as she went after other targets. Even Politico had to admit that she ran into a liberal bias at CBS, which is why she's no longer there.

KURTZ: That was a source or sources telling that to Politico. I think this is more than a left-right issue. For example, even during the Obama administration, Sharyl Attkisson did an investigative piece on a Republican congressman who had a charity and there were questions of conflicts. Earlier she had done some award-winning reporting on Bush's T.A.R.P. program and Iraq contracting fraud. It's not just left to right, but it does seem to be a case where she felt it was almost impossible to get these tougher pieces on the air.

CRAWFORD: I don't think there's been any secret that there's liberal bias at CBS, going back to when Walter Cronkite denounced the Vietnam War and by LBJ's admission, drove him out of the White House. I mean--

KURTZ: That was liberal bias? That was based on a reporting trip to Vietnam, I will remind you.

CRAWFORD: It was, but that was the liberal point of view against the war, wasn't it? I mean, I'm not saying it's wrong. I worked for CBS on "The Early Show" throughout the Bush years, and I can guarantee you almost no one there I can think of voted for Bush, I'm sure. I didn't, either. So it didn't bother me.

I think the point is, fess up to it, you know, and then be as critical to the people you support as those you don't.

ASHBURN: I can tell you firsthand as well that there is liberal bias in the media. I wrote a piece in Fox News Opinion this morning talking about my time as a reporter, where I didn't feel comfortable wearing a cross on the air. This exists. And whether or not it existed for Sharyl Attkisson and these sources are correct, it doesn't undermine the fact that it is there.

KURTZ: Well, I'm told a factor in her departure was that she is working on a book, the title of which is "Stonewalled, One Reporter's Fight for Truth in Obama's Washington." So she may have felt stymied not just by her network, but also by (inaudible) of getting information out of this administration. It's just rare to see somebody walk away at that level with a record of accomplishment.

ASHBURN: And good for her. Good for Sharyl for doing it.

KURTZ: Does it tarnish in any way CBS News?

ASHBURN: I don't know. They can say there's no liberal bias. There are tons of excuses or examples that you could point to that would say no.

CRAWFORD: I think it's also true that the Washington media has been biased for Obama since he first surfaced. Back in the 2008 campaign, I thought a lot of media acted like school girls cheering for Justin Bieber. It waned a bit as the years have gone by. But in general, the media --


KURTZ: -- says the media has been soft on this president.

CRAWFORD: No, actually, I didn't vote for Obama. I just said I didn't vote for Bush.

ASHBURN: You didn't vote?

KURTZ: I have to add as somebody who did a lot of investigative reporting when I was a young person, it is not uncommon for reporters to clash with their bosses over difficult stories and what's ready to publish, but there does seem to be a pattern here, and what Attkisson told me was it's been three years since she could get any of her investigative pitches on the air as opposed to stories that CBS wanted her to do.

PINKERTON: And when did Obama become president? Oh yeah, five years ago, so the hard time for her getting her stories on the air started to happen when she started digging deep and drawing blood from the Obama administration. That's no shock. I hope she finds a new career somewhere else, with (inaudible) freely and fairly.

KURTZ: But I do think it can be a way of tarnishing or neutralizing reporters when you say they lean one way or the other when Sharyl Attkisson's record shows she has taken on both sides, as well as corporations and not just political stories.

ASHBURN: But do we really believe in this day and age that reporters can be objective, that journalists can be completely objective without bringing their bias to the table?

KURTZ: We believe they can be fair.

ASHBURN: Exactly. Which is a lot different than being biased.

CRAWFORD: We don't check our citizenship at the door when we become journalists. I think the point is, fess up to it and show people you're as tough on the people you support as those you don't.

PINKERTON: Journalistic credo includes is words like speak truth to power. Power is the Obama administration. It was the Bush administration then, now it's Obama now, and reporters should be equally energetic towards both.


KURTZ: Gotta go. Let's not get too comfortable. Craig Crawford, Jim Pinkerton, thank you very much for coming in today.

Up next, Lena Dunham is the media's new it girl, but does most of the country care about her new HBO series, "Girls?" And later, Bob Costas on sports, politics, and whether he might retire.


KURTZ: Lena Dunham is a media darling. Her stark and sexual HBO show "Girls" is endlessly written about, along with her body, and one magazine dubbed her the host of her generation.


LENA DUNHAM: I came here to say that I don't think we should see each other anymore. I don't think we should see each other anymore, and it makes me feel stupid and pathetic to get a picture of your [ EXPLETIVE DELETED] that I know was meant for somebody else, and you didn't even bother to explain, because I made you think that you don't have to explain.


KURTZ: But does that media adulation reflect a very narrow slice of America? I put that question to two of our panelists.

Joining us now from New York is Joe Concha, a columnist for Mediaite, and here in Washington, Elise Viebeck, reporter for "The Hill." We're talking about "Girls." You're a girl. I'll start with you. Does Lena Dunham deserve all these media accolades for creating this, what some people think is kind of a dark and depressing show, even if it's not getting huge ratings?

ELISE VIEBECK, THE HILL: I believe she does, and I think it makes a lot of sense. In fact, a reporter went back and found that Lena Dunham was originally interviewed by the New York Times when she was 11 years old about her fashion choices. This is a woman who has grown up among the New York media elite. She has a critically acclaimed show. It might not have great ratings, but in fact, she's receiving coverage, and I think it makes sense.

KURTZ: Joe Concha, I'm going to guess that you're not a big fan because you described her in print as largely unfunny, profoundly annoying, and extremely self-important. And when she went on "Saturday Night Live," as you point out, second lowest rating of the season. So how come Lena Dunham gets so much media attention?

JOE CONCHA, MEDIAITE: Howie, apparently I am not the only person who feels that way, because as you mentioned, second lowest rating of the season for "Saturday Night Live." "Girls" gets about 800,000 viewers per first run episode. Compare that to "Sex and the City," which I think was much more influential way back when, much more of an impact on its generation. That gets or that got 3.5 million. "Game of Thrones," 5 million. So the audience isn't quite there.

Most of the Manhattan media, obviously, lives and is around Manhattan, they love the show, Elise describes them as elite. The problem is, the rest of the country is not following lock step within them.

And one final point, you bought up the New York Times before doing a feature on her at age 11. Since that time, according to the American Prospector, Lena Dunham has been written about or mentioned in the New York Times alone, 300 times. The problem is, Howie, the audience is simply not following. They don't buy what Lena Dunham is selling. And quite frankly, a lot of it is strictly for shock value, therefore the press comes running.

VIEBECK: What I would say is these New York media outlets constantly copy each other and steal each other's subjects. Journalists, we've heard they're lazy and --

KURTZ: Are you saying there's a certain pack mentality among the taste makers of the media elite?

VIEBECK: I don't think I need to tell you this. You've covered it for years. Of course. The pack mentality of the elite media knows Lena Dunham is a verbal subject, she's dynamic, she's easy. And you see these pieces coming out all the time, I think that's why.

KURTZ: You're leaving out the most important thing. She takes off her clothes a lot, and we like to write about that. And she gets testy when she's asked about it. And she's also featured in a lot of magazines like "Vogue."

VIEBECK: That's right. And I think that's a very interesting point. "Vogue" has come under constant criticisms for featuring only conventionally attractive women, faces and bodies, right? So Lena Dunham, by going on their cover, allowed "Vogue" to garner a lot of positive press, even though I will say that those photos were still air-brushed.

KURTZ: Joe, how much of this is incestuous, in the sense that you live in New York, you go to the same parties, and the HBO show "Girls" also stars the daughters of Brian Williams, David Mamet, so it seems like they're all kind of writing and talking about each other, and I don't know if it's real big in Kansas or Kentucky.

CONCHA: That's the thing, Howie, it's the bubble mentality. And I should mention, by the way, at least mention air-brushed. I am air-brushed now, as well. I am wearing makeup.


KURTZ: It's the only reason we let you on the show.

CONCHA: Thank you, Howie. We see this time and again with New York media. Let's say six inches of snow is heading towards Manhattan. We see it time and again. Breaking news banners, reporters sent out to Central Park, they're going to tell us exactly what kind of horror we're about to go through. Let's say that storm hits Philadelphia but misses New York. You don't hear a peep about it. If it affects the New York media, they therefore think it affects the rest of the country. If they love "Girls," they therefore think the rest of the country will love "Girls," and simply the numbers don't add up, Howie.

VIEBECK: I think it's interesting. A lot of people would call Lena Dunham self-absorbed. I think we can say the same thing about the media that's been covering her. They love writing about their own, and that's what we're seeing here.

KURTZ: I cannot argue with that. The one story, just to shift gears here that I thought would get a lot more coverage, because it involves a famous Olympian, Oscar Pistorius, his murder trial. He shoots his beautiful girlfriend. There are cameras in the courtroom. It seems like it hasn't made much of a media splash. Why is that?

VIEBECK: That's true. It hasn't. And I believe it's because there haven't been very many lurid images in the courtroom that would carry over into video coverage. And I think that's the real reason why. Oscar Pistorius is clearly an international athlete. We should be hearing a lot more about his murder trial.


CONCHA: I think it's a matter of pecking order. I think you have a missing 777, you have what's going on in Ukraine, you have the problems with Obamacare, and then a South African murder trial where there's no race involved. And I have to say it, but that's the new low bar we set since the Zimmerman trial. Add up all those factors, and that's why it's low on the pecking order now, Howie.

KURTZ: I think there's also a certain lack of drama, because we know that he shot and killed his girlfriend and --

VIEBECK: Allegedly.

KURTZ: Well, no, he did shoot her.

VIEBECK: Shoot her, but not knowing his intent.

KURTZ: But whether or not he is legally responsible, whether or not he thought it was an intruder. Maybe people are just not that captivated by it. As you say, Joe, a lot going on. Joe Concha, Elise Viebeck, thanks very much for joining us.

Meanwhile, your tweets are pouring in about the Malaysian plane. Here are just a couple. Billy Mark, "I hate dumbed down 24/7 missing plane coverage almost as much as the poorly produced, overrated HBO's 'Girls.'" David Wilson, "Some of us actually care about what happened to the missing plane and can make our own opinions about the validity of the speculation."

After the break, more of my conversation with NBC's Bob Costas. Is he thinking about calling it a career?



KURTZ: There has been a ton of reaction to my sit-down with Bob Costas last week, some people saying he should keep his political views out of sports, others appreciating his explanations about his commentaries on Vladimir Putin during the Sochi Olympics and about gun control. In this new portion of the interview, the NBC sportscaster said he may do only one more Olympics, prompting me to ask if he might be thinking about leaving the playing field. First, here is a bit more of what Costas had to say about athletes and guns.


BOB COSTAS, NBC SPORTSCASTER: I should have said not talking here about anyone's responsible, legal exercise of their legitimate Second Amendment rights, but I am talking about a gun culture which pervades sports, where guys carry guns not for protection of home and family, not for sporting purposes, not in a way that I applaud, a guy working the night shift at the 7-Eleven and he has got to have a gun underneath. He's in a dangerous situation, you know?

The list, if you Google athletes and guns, the list of tragedies and criminality and folly outnumbers the constructive use. Is it possible that a defensive use could take place? Yes. But it outnumbers the constructive use many, many, many times over. It was that gun culture in the NFL that I was talking about. It was misunderstood as something hostile to the Second Amendment or a gun control speech. I never used those words. But part of that is on me, because the time was too short and I didn't recognize how truly sensitive and volatile the issue was.

KURTZ: NBC pays billions to carry the Olympics, to carry pro football. You said if you had a son, you wouldn't want him to play football. And yet you're part of the NFL broadcast. Is there a self- imposed pressure because your employer has these massive deals with the leagues and the sports organizations that you cover? Or -- and why do you think there aren't more people speaking out about steroids and about violence and concussions in the NFL?

COSTAS: It's a legitimate question. Here is the way I look at it and perhaps rationalize it. If I were to be on the periphery writing an article a week or doing a commentary on NPR or on Fox every single week --

KURTZ: That's easy.

COSTAS: -- I'm not reaching as big an audience. My feeling is if once a year, I can do a commentary or interview Roger Goodell, and this is just for the sake of context, and I hope it doesn't sound like I'm patting myself on the back. Four years ago, I said in one of these halftime segments, the NFL is going to face lawsuits coming out of this, and many people scoffed. Willing assumption of risk. But we see that the lawsuits keep coming.

I asked Roger Goodell on the air four years ago, what would you tell the parents of a young boy who say we're lifelong fans, we're season ticket holders, but knowing what we now know, we won't let our son play football. Now what we see as part of the general conversation outside the sports pages, polls that show nearly 50 percent of American parents say they wouldn't let their kid play football.

KURTZ: But is there a timidity--

COSTAS: Yes, generally speaking.

KURTZ: -- among the people who work for these networks.

COSTAS: Generally speaking.

KURTZ: You've been around long enough, you can get away with it. You're Bob Costas, that they don't want to in the cliche, bite the hand that feeds them --


KURTZ: -- by taking on things that are part and parcel of the modern sports world?

COSTAS: Generally speaking, yes, but with notable exceptions. Bryant Gumbel and "Real Sports" are like the "60 Minutes" of sports. Although HBO does not have a contract with the NFL or Major League Baseball. Bob Lee, and "Outside the Lines" at ESPN -- and ESPN is involved with all these leagues and all these sports -- they do a fantastic job. They should win a Peabody for the work that they do on serious sports issues.

But generally speaking, especially during the games themselves, there aren't that many people willing to take it on. I am willing to take it on, but here is the point. I also respect and enjoy the drama and theater of sports. So did I talk about steroids in sports years and years before others did? I did. But I didn't talk about it with the bases loaded and the game on the line in the ninth inning. And have I talked about issues that relate to the National Football League that some people think are political? Yes. But when some people say, oh, right in the middle of the game? No. You never miss a play. It's at halftime. You didn't miss the last play of the second quarter, you won't miss the kickoff of the third quarter.

KURTZ: But there is that view, that sports are supposed to be sacrosanct, and you are alienating part of your audience that doesn't agree with you on Russians or Redskins, because you won't just stick with the balls and the strikes and the touchdowns and the extra points.

COSTAS: And I'm sure that people said that Howard Cosell, who could be be overbearing and obnoxious, but also could be courageous and correct, shouldn't have said anything about Tommy Smith and John Carlos. Or Muhammad Ali. Or Billie Jean King or Arthur Ashe, or that people today shouldn't say anything about Jason Collins or the football player from Missouri, who may soon be drafted in the National Football League. Or shouldn't say anything about public subsidies of stadiums, which is an issue that intersects with sports.

KURTZ: You said that you'll do at least one more Olympics. Are you looking forward to the happening up of the long and storied career of Bob Costas?

COSTAS: There will come a day. I'm not sure when it will. I know for sure I'll do 2016 in Rio. There will come a day when there should be, you know, you should like leave before they --

KURTZ: They yank you off the stage?

COSTAS: Yes. But that does not mean -- Tom Brokaw -- I am not comparing myself in stature or accomplishment -- but Tom Brokaw is still part of NBC News.

KURTZ: But he's not on every night.

COSTAS: Exactly. Vince Scully (ph) is still doing Dodger games. He's 86 years old and he's still great. So I could see myself doing baseball, I could see myself doing interviews and commentaries. But there comes a time -- I'm not exactly sure where it is -- where you're no longer the front and center guy, and someone who is, like I was but doesn't seem like that long ago to me, seems like the blink of an eye, the irreverent young newcomer, that man or woman deserves their chance.

KURTZ: Always somebody looking to take your job. Bob Costas, thanks very much.

COSTAS: Thank you, Howie.


KURTZ: Your tweets still pouring in on the missing plane. Here is a couple. Joanne Corely (ph), "Yes, too much at CNN, overkill equals meaningless speculation." Some say too much at Fox as well. Michael Darden (ph), "Time to move on. Crimea more important."

Ahead on "Media Buzz," President Obama drawing mixed reviews for trying to be funny with Zach Galifianakis. Why he didn't get much applause from the pundits.


KURTZ: There are two kinds of people in this world, those who think President Obama should have done a video interview with Zach Galifianakis and those who think it was the dumbest idea ever. You've seen the clips, President Obama trying to pitch Obamacare to the younger crowd by submitting to strange questions from the star of "Hangover."


ZACH GALIFIANAKIS, ACTOR: It must kind of stink, though, that you can't run, you know, three times, you know?

OBAMA: Actually, I think it's a good idea. If I ran a third time, it would be sort of like doing a third "Hangover" movie. It didn't really work out very well, did it?

Have you heard of the Affordable Care Act?

GALIFIANAKIS: Oh, yes, I heard about that. That's the thing that doesn't work.


KURTZ: Some critics, especially at Fox, thought this was a low class move.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But at the end of the day, this is way beneath the office of the presidency.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think he knew what he was getting himself into. It's cringe worthy.

GUTFELD: Perhaps you should wait until the country is in better shape before you engage in a manufactured orgy of hipster awkwardness.

O'REILLY: All I can tell you is Abe Lincoln would not have done it.


KURTZ: Galifianakis said Abe Lincoln wouldn't have gone on Fox, either. But it's funny, not funny ha-hah, but funny strange how it made people laugh at MSNBC.


LIZZ WINSTEAD: It was so hilarious. What I loved about it is you run the risk on doing a video like that where it's so funny that you forget what the message is supposed to be. But not with this, man, they nailed it.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: President Obama did something this week that was qualitatively unprecedented in terms of degrading the dignity of the White House. Is that true or is that false? Sorry, David Gergen, sorry, ABC News, you're completely and totally wrong.


KURTZ: My take is come on, it was fine for Obama to attempt this given the traditions stretching back to Richard Nixon on "Laugh In" and Bill Clinton on MTV, and it did produce 32,000 referrals to that first day. The problem is, it wasn't very funny. Now, I get that I'm outside the demo for this sort of thing, but if you ask me, it was just painfully awkward. Maybe the president is thinking about his next career.

More of your tweets coming in on the missing plane, here is one from Mike Truman. "Only the news media can glob together endless speculation on 370 and sell it as fact." Coming up, a ABC anchor talks about his panic attacks, and Chelsea Handler sticks it to Piers Morgan. We'll go to the videotape.


KURTZ: We're trying something new today, looking at television clips that are riveting, loud, combative, funny, cringe-inducing or just plain weird, and giving them a score on the Buzz Meter. Nightline co-anchor Dan Harris was on ABC this week plugging a book about his battle against panic attacks, one of which he had on "Good Morning America" a decade ago.


DAN HARRIS, ABC NEWS: I am about to freak out on national television.

But it's too early to prescribe statins solely for cancer production.

At this point I realized I'm helpless. So I bail right in the middle.

That does it for news. We're going to go back now to Robin and Charlie.

Once the fear subsided, humiliation rushed in.


ASHBURN: And I say good, good, good for Dan Harris to bring this up, to talk about an anxiety disorder on air, to talk about mental illness, and he's writing a new book.

KURTZ: He's writing a new book. I thought it takes a lot of courage to replay your worst professional moment on the air. He talked about recreational drug use when he was trying to cope with this. But I'm going to subtract some points because he is in fact peddling a book. He didn't talk about this until he was peddling a book. Maybe talked about this a little bit. So my score on the buzz-meter is 6.

ASHBURN: Well, I think you're completely wrong. I'm giving it a 9. Good for you, Dan, for bringing it up.

KURTZ: Not completely wrong. I'm looking at the whole picture.

ASHBURN: You're wrong. Wrong, wrong.

KURTZ: Your turn.

ASHBURN: Late night comedian Chelsea Handler was on CNN with Piers Morgan. You know, the guy who's losing his show at the end of the month. And she complained that he was tweeting during the commercial break and kind of tuning out.


CHELSEA HANDLER: You can't even pay attention for 60 seconds. You're a terrible interviewer.

PIERS MORGAN, CNN: Well, you just weren't keeping my attention.

HANDLER: But that's not my problem.

MORGAN: What is your problem?

HANDLER: This is your show. You have to to pay attention to the guests that you invited on your show.

MORGAN: If they're interesting enough.

HANDLER: Yes, listen, it doesn't matter how interesting I am. You signed up for this show.

MORGAN: Of course it does.

HANDLER: Well, maybe that's why your job is coming to an end.




KURTZ: Chelsea's a comedian, and that was as good a putdown as I've ever seen of someone who's not immensely likable. But a slight deduction for kicking Piers while he's down.

ASHBURN: But this is a running thing that they've had with each other. They did this two years ago. They did it a year ago. This is all about ratings. And it's her being mean to him for being mean. Which I don't think is a good idea.

KURTZ: Oh, he's being mean. I'm giving it an 8. Go, Chelsea.

ASHBURN: 4. 4. Stop being mean.

KURTZ: Wow. Not very generous. Still to come, the one spelling mistake television should never make. And the New York Post brings in the pink president. Buzzworthy is up next.


KURTZ: Your tweets have been coming in about the missing Malaysian plane. Here are a few top ones. Walter Sago (ph), "absent real news filled with babbling quote experts, ignore Ukraine, Venezuela, this is what cable news has come to." Phil Manger (ph), "I can't get enough of missing plane coverage. 13 nations in hunt, now 25. U.S.A. can spy on world, drop robots on Mars but not find a 777?" Robert Barry (ph), "I found it decent until they started doing ridiculous conspiracy theories, stolen plane, landed on an island? Silliness." Dr. Denny Wilkins (ph), "in the absence of substance, talking heads will blather." And Larry Kelly says, "it's the ratings, stupid."

ASHBURN: Absolutely, Howie. But it's the ratings because people are watching. So if you think that it's overblown and you don't think that you want to hear about it anymore, turn the channel.

KURTZ: It's a really important story. I think we need to cover it aggressively. But I could do without some of the conspiracy theories and speculation.

Now, I don't usually bother with typos on the screen. Assuming they're made by some young staffer who doesn't know the difference between its and it's. Drives me crazy. But come on, Fox News, if there's one time you don't want to get the spelling wrong, it's on an item for a spelling bee. Look at that. Spelling be. B-e. That's as bad as the New York Times running its usual daily list of corrections and then correcting it. An earlier version of these corrections misstated the date in which they appeared in print. Now, that is embarrassing.

Finally, the New York Post didn't exactly come out and say that Barack Obama's a girly man, but look at this headline. I'll take the pink one. Prez stuns shoppers at 42nd Street Gap. Of course as the story points out, he was buying sweaters for Sasha and Malia. Pink sweaters.

ASHBURN: And I'm telling you, his PR department has to know that by hanging up or holding up a pink sweater, he's going to get guff for it.

KURTZ: You're blaming the White House for the fact that the president of the United States is doing a nice thing by shopping for his daughters?

ASHBURN: Do you hear what he got his wife? A pair of socks. Come on. His big cheerleader in chief. That makes me even more mad.

KURTZ: Okay. No pass on that. But sometimes I get on the New York Post for these inflammatory front page headlines. This was funny, the story was accurate, he was holding up the pink sweater.

ASHBURN: Then he's got to learn how to take his lumps.

KURTZ: All right. You're blaming the president and not the paper. I think we're not too exercised over this one. And that is it for this edition for "Media Buzz." I'm Howard Kurtz. Go to our Facebook page. I hope you'll like it. We conduct a lot of conversations there. And check out our new redesigned home page, We're back here next Sunday morning 11 and 5 Eastern with the latest buzz.

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