Plane coverage hits new low; Greg Gutfeld on media 'coolness'

Chase for ratings feeds conspiracies


This is a rush transcript from "Mediabuzz," March 23, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: On the buzzmeter this Sunday, the media speculation continues to build as we enter the third week of the missing Malaysian plane. And at times, it's getting even more outlandish.


DON LEMON, CNN: When we go to church, the supernatural power of God. You deal with all of that.

People are saying to me, why aren't you talking about the possibility? And I'm just putting it out there, that something odd happened to this plane, something beyond our understanding.

GERALDO RIVERA, FOX NEWS: My favorite theory, the 5 percent theory, is that because of some secret passenger with some secret cargo, the aircraft was hijacked and landed some place.


KURTZ: The ratings are soaring, but how could the networks keep airing unproven theories and crazy talk? A look at how the coverage veered off course, and we'll talk to the New York Times reporter who keeps breaking stories about the investigation.

Plus, just who decides who is cool? The admittedly uncool Greg Gutfeld says liberals have a monopoly, and he's kind of ticked off about that.


GREG GUTFELD, FOX NEWS: The media is desperate to be seen as cool. They are kind of in the second -- they want to be celebrities, but they're not. So for example, if you ever see reporters mixing with actual movie stars, they are worse than groupies.


KURTZ: A pretty cool conversation with the co-host of The Five. I'm Howard Kurtz and this is "Media Buzz."

Television's coverage of the missing plane seemed out of control in the first week, but in the last few days, it's gone at times into another galaxy as the endless hours of airtime and the chase for ratings produce more speculation, more conspiracy mongering and just plain weirdness.


LEMON: Did lithium batteries play a role in the disappearance of flight of 370? Investigators are checking it out.

ED SCHULTZ, MSNBC: I don't think it was a suicide mission. I think it's a well funded, high tech hijack operation, and it's sitting somewhere in the jungle.

BILL WEIR, CNN: I think the chances are that this may have already happened, that this plane wandered into Chinese or the airspace of one of the stans, Kyrgyzstan or something, was shot down, and now there's some sort of a cover-up?

LT. GEN. TOM MCINERNEY, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: My course of action that I gave you last Friday, No. 1, it was hijacked; No. 2, we ought to look at Pakistan and eastern Iran, was a course of action that just wasn't arbitrary. That's all I can say now. It's interesting that we're starting to get other sources to verify it.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN: This is a theory that can explain why and how this plane went down. It is called the zombie plane scenario.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In the past, governments have used psychics to help with searches. Can they use a psychic here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I do believe that it actually crashed, and I see a lot of trees.


KURTZ: Has this become an embarrassment? Joining us now, Lauren Ashburn, Fox News contributor who writes the "Top Twitter Talk" column on the Fox website; Rick Grenell, Fox News contributor and a former Bush administration spokesman, and Julie Mason, host of the "Press Pool" on Sirius XM Radio.

I don't know whether to ask you about the zombie plain, Geraldo's secret passenger, or the psychic who was on HLN.

LAUREN ASHBURN, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: The psychic also said she thought there could be a hijacking or a larger organization involved. So she left all options open on the table.

KURTZ: She sees trees.

ASHBURN: She does. She sees trees. But let's not forget about the 239 people who were on that flight. That part of the story is very serious. It should be covered. However, all the rest of this mess should be knocked off of all of the stations. Cable news is the worst offender. CNN's ratings have doubled, though, as a result of this. And it's a pure ratings grab play. And it's working. As Charles Krauthammer says, it's capitalism at its finest.

KURTZ: Now, I get that there's great public interest in this story, and every time there's a satellite image of something in the Indian Ocean that might be a piece of the plane, we all go crazy. And I'm interested in the story, too, but I'm not interested in endless conspiracy theories.

RICK GRENELL, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I'm not sure. I disagree a little bit. I don't think it's endless conspiracy theories. I think people are saying, I think or I speculate, or a lot of these people -- outside the psychic -- are coming in this with expert opinions. And, again, it's an opinion.

This story is a serious story. It has incredible implications for U.S. national security. If this plane was taken over by terrorists, we are the target, the United States will be the target if it comes back. I think what we have to do is have a curious media, just have a caveat that this is opinion. And you hit it, the ratings really show. People are very interested in this.

KURTZ: I'm all for having experts on. We'll come back to that, Julie. And it's not just cable news. Every nightly newscast in the last two weeks, every night, has led with this, whether there were new developments on not. But on cable, I often have the impression that it's kind of like a lot of reporters sitting around in a bar, well, I think it could be this.

JULIE MASON, HOST, "THE PRESS POOL" ON SIRIUS XM: And it's not even reporters. And that's when the story veers into trouble, when it gets into speculation, by so-called experts. That's the trouble. A lot of the reporters have been very responsible. Not all the anchors, but the journalists covering this story have been pretty good.

KURTZ: You mentioned the surge in CNN's ratings. But CNN has been, shall we say, been casting a wide net here, including the host of the program "Naked and Afraid." Take a look at that.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I talked to survivalist EJ Snyder. Maybe you know him from Discovery Channel's "Naked and Afraid," that TV show.

EJ SNYDER, HOST, "NAKED AND AFRAID": And when you have a bunch of people together like that, and somebody steps up in the calm in all the chaos and takes charge, and makes that situation better, it is possible. People can be out in those conditions and survive.


KURTZ: It is possible. Anything is possible.

What happens is CNN is covering this 26 hours a day, doing good numbers, doing some good reporting and some supernatural reporting. And then in the past week, Fox and MSNBC started doing the plane more and more, I think perhaps tempted by the fact that that's a built-in audience for this.

ASHBURN: Don't you care about the "Naked and Afraid" host of this survival show? You don't care what he has to think about this plane?

KURTZ: I don't care.

ASHBURN: What's wrong with you, Howie? They're all naked and they're in mud. Come on. Look, these stories are spectacles, and that's what's happening right now. The actual coverage of the news is becoming the news because it is surreal.

KURTZ: The New York Times had a story on CNN's success with this story, at least in terms of ratings. And there was an anonymous CNN executive quoted saying it's a really good story for us, it's right in our wheelhouse. Nobody could go on the record for that, apparently.

But here is the dilemma that you lay out. You want to bring on experts, you want to bring on people who work for the FBI, the NTSB, aviation experts, terrorism experts, and, of course, I want to hear from that. And the anchor asks questions. But then, when you do that, the people who are smart people, I'm not denigrating them, they start saying, well, I think it could be this and I think it could be that. You say that's opinion, but is it always responsible to put opinions that are not backed by facts on the air?

GRENELL: They're being curious, Howie. I disagree with Julie in that. Reporters have completely taken the line of the White House that this is the Malaysians are in charge of this investigation. We don't see a curious White House. We don't see a curious press corps. The simple fact is, the Chinese government railed against the Malaysian investigation. The only people that pointed that out were what you call opinion journalists. The journalists haven't pointed that out. There have been a lot of people who are saying, look at the Chinese. They're furious with this investigation.

KURTZ: I've read a couple of stories on how badly the Malaysian government has botched this thing.

GRENELL: Yes. But what I'm saying is that opinion journalists are curious. Journalists right now are not that curious. They're sticking to the White House line.

MASON: How can a reporter in Washington cover the search for an airplane? That's kind of ridiculous. They're not taking the White House line. We cover politics. We don't cover plane crashes.


GRENELL: No, you don't cover politics. You're supposed to cover the government, not politics.

MASON: It's hilarious that someone like you is telling me what I'm supposed to be doing.

GRENELL: No, you brought up journalists. Journalists are supposed to not just cover politics. That is where you're wrong.

MASON: We're here in Washington.

GRENELL: Journalists are supposed to cover the government. Right, the government, not politics.

KURTZ: What about Rick's point that there are journalists who obviously want to cover this story, because every time I turn it on, I see people covering it, are following the White House line?

MASON: No, not following the White House line at all. Reporting the White House line isn't following the White House line. It's --


MASON: Curious, yes, everyone is curious about it. Look at the ratings for CNN. But curious? Challenging the White House's claim that Malaysia is in charge of it?

GRENELL: Yes. Because we have the best technology in the world. We should be leading this investigation. We should not be waiting for the Malaysians--

MASON: But the U.S. is involved in it.

GRENELL: -- to ask us to come in. No, the U.S. was waiting for the Malaysians to ask us to come in like a week late. Why aren't we having reporters at the White House saying where is Obama? Get off the golf course and start investigating, and using our technology to find out where the plane is?

ASHBURN: I don't think you can say that. I don't think you can say get off the golf course. I know by reading it that there are reporters who have challenged that, who have talked about the FBI's role in it, and why the FBI hasn't been able to step in.

GRENELL: President Obama has not had a sit-down on this issue. He gave six local TV journalists a sit-down. He brought the dogs into the room, the pre-briefing room to say here are the dogs. Do you want to take some pictures on Twitter with the dogs before they did a sit-down to talk about the minimum wage. A couple of those local reporters tried to ask serious questions. The White House press corps was completely silent. I'm not getting a sit-down with the president. I'm not getting it.

MASON: The White House press corps is never silent about not getting a sit-down with the president. And they were enraged. They were enraged.

GRENELL: Name one who spoke up.

MASON: Like the whole briefing room was angry.

GRENELL: Name me one.

MASON: Okay, Peter Baker from the New York Times, me, Carol Lee from the Wall Street Journal because of people who were challenging in the briefing --


MASON: No, they know why the White House brings these local reporters in. The president did get questions about Malaysia. The White House press core is mounting a mutiny because the president does not make himself available.

KURTZ: You're a former member of the White House press corps. Let me come back to the point you raised at the top, which is this is a serious story, the fact that too many in the business have kind of turned it into a clown show. There are or were 239 people on board. Until that video we saw of those sobbing mothers, and we can put this up, who had barged into the Malaysian press conference and were escorted out, until that happened, it really seems to me there has been remarkably little focus on the people on board and their family members, as opposed to everybody delivering their favorite theory about what happened to the plane.

ASHBURN: It's true. I did watch and see on CNN several reports about the victims. I think we have to --

KURTZ: After what, a week, ten days?

ASHBURN: It was five days, probably. But it did exist. And I think that we just have to ask when it comes to this, what would the victims or the people on the plane and their families want? Would they want all of this speculation? Would they want these wild theories from psychics or would they want their lives to be shown for the people who they are?

KURTZ: I would just say, Rick, for the American media, if this had been a plane that had taken off from New York and mostly had American passengers as opposed to Chinese passengers taking off from a far away land, half the coverage would be about the human toll, the impact on the families, and it kind of saddens me that the more sensational aspects of this are getting plenty of airtime and there's been so little focus on this part of the story.

GRENELL: I agree. It's a tragedy. You look at how many people were lost and how many families affected. It certainly is something that should come. But I think right now -- and this is not to make an excuse for the coverage. But right now, there's a real concern about where this plane is and what could happen to the United States if this plane was taken over by terrorists. That's a very real concern. Now, we don't know what happened. Maybe it crashed. But if it didn't, it's a very big deal for the United States government.

KURTZ: I agree it's a very real concern, but it's a question as you say that we cannot answer. And of course the story is important and of course it should be covered, but I can't tell you how many email messages and Twitter messages and Facebook messages I have gotten from people saying I'm just turning it off. People can tell in the first 30 or 40 seconds whether anything new has happened and whether it's just a rehash, when it's just more theories. And does anybody, Julie, think that this story will continue to be obsessively covered by cable news once the ratings fade?

MASON: No, absolutely not, and once we have a resolution, no. Then the story goes away. That's just the news cycle.

KURTZ: Right. It's a news cycle, but it's also executives chasing a number.

MASON: It's a business.

KURTZ: Right, but it's a short-term bump. It's like crack, it's an easy way to get your numbers up, but I don't know that it helps your long- term brand.

ASHBURN: But it's also something we have seen before, all the way back to America held hostage with Ted Koppel. That was his show, where every night they talked about the Iranian hostages for 444 days. And it was the precursor to "Nightline." And listen to this, it was called cheaply theatrical, mawkish and self-promotional by one of your colleagues in the Washington Post at the time in 1979.

KURTZ: The one difference, of course, in 1979, you had no cable news, you had no Twitter, you didn't have all the realtime aspects of this. But still, ABC was doing it every night and Koppel got a show out of it.

Before we go, I want to put up one last banner about this, that I saw on CNN. There you go, solving mystery could take years. Breaking news. There's been a lot of breaking news banners up there when there's not really that much breaking news. Seems to me we'd broken the news a little bit on this story.

Don't forget, send me a tweet about this show, @howardkurtz. We'll read some of your messages at the end of the hour.

When we come back, remember the crisis in Crimea, how the missing plane coverage caused that story to lose altitude. And later, my chat with Greg Gutfeld on who's cool and who is not.


GUTFELD: Conservatives are the people that get things done, and getting things done is often boring. Being cool is subverting tradition, subverting the norm. I do think that people become liberal because they want to be cool. That's the way I -- that's how it happens.



KURTZ: It was, however briefly, the biggest story in the world, Russia sending troops into Crimea despite stern warnings from President Obama. But when Vladimir Putin completed his audacious land grab, it was far from the top story.


DIANE SAWYER, ABC: It was game on between the two super powers today after Crimea voted to break away from Ukraine. President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin locked in a kind of duel, and economic pain is the weapon.

RICHARD ENGEL: This is Richard Engel in Crimea, where today they welcomed their new patron, Russia.

MEGYN KELLY, FOX NEWS: Russian President Vladimir Putin announcing the annexation of Crimea as Russian soldiers stormed and shot at Ukrainian soldiers, killing one and wounding two others. And new video shows an anti-Russian group attacking the head of the Ukrainian TV network after they ran Mr. Putin's speech.


KURTZ: The media went into full crisis mode, it seems to me, when Putin first moved those troops into Crimea, Rick, but when Russia actually completed the act and annexed that part of Ukraine, the coverage seemed to lack urgency. It was there, but it almost was flat. What do you think?

GRENELL: I think it was almost glossed over. More than just flat. They wanted to move on quickly. Yesterday we saw Karen DeYoung (ph) in the Washington Post, front page, above the fold piece saying all is fine on this Russia-U.S. problem, that both sides pinky swear that it won't bleed into the nuclear issue. And we just don't know that. It's been three days since we've had sanctions. But you also saw people like Richard Haass, on MSNBC, and Politico trying to say these sanctions are gripping, they're working already, three days in. We have a media that are saying the sanctions are already working and we're back to things are normal again.

I think this is a very big issue. Eastern Europeans are very concerned. And we have the Obama administration cutting Radio for Europe funding, so we can't even have a conversation in Eastern Europe.

KURTZ: It seemed to me at the beginning when everybody was shocked by what Vladimir Putin did, Julie, there was this sort of debate, particularly on cable, is it President Obama's fault or not? That seems to have faded a bit with perhaps a rough consensus that whatever the president did in the past, that he had few options and we weren't going to send troops into Crimea and so forth, and maybe that took away the element that cable loves, which is making it into a left-right argument.

MASON: Right, making it into a conflict. You certainly had John McCain and some others on Capitol Hill very critical of President Obama. But you saw the president really bristling at criticism that he was flat- footed or weak on this issue, and the White House really pushing back hard on that. A lot of the coverage had questioned the efficacy of those sanctions.

KURTZ: This is such an important international story, but I wonder if there almost became a consensus in the media, fairly or unfairly, that we knew how it would end.

ASHBURN: Well, I think we did because the troops were there. Then they came in and then Putin said, we're done. We're not going to --

KURTZ: There was a ginned up referendum.

ASHBURN: Right. And then he said we're not going into Ukraine proper. And I think at that point people lost interest. I do have to argue with the point, CNN did go wall to wall with this coverage at the very beginning. And as a result, they saw a small demo bump in the ratings.

KURTZ: And then what changed between that period of time and the last couple of weeks was the plane.

ASHBURN: The plane, what else have we been talking about for the past couple of weeks? That plane.

KURTZ: It's almost as if Putin had to outlast the western pressure, with Europe joining the U.S., how bad would the sanctions be, but to outlast the American news cycle. And so now suddenly he's on the tail end of the news cycle, even though right now Russian troops are massed at the border of Ukraine. He could conceivably go into other parts of Ukraine. He says he won't. But we're all doing flight 370.

GRENELL: It's a serious sorry, but international news is hard to comprehend for a lot of people, and it's a complicated story. The implications are longer term. And so I think the unknown of the plane story is an immediate story for a lot of newsrooms. And I get that. But we do need to concentrate on some of these serious issues.

KURTZ: Just briefly, so it's an international story, it's complicated. But also there are no U.S. troops involved. So it's almost like there's not that much of a rooting interest.

MASON: Like it's someone else's problem. But at the same time, Howie, I want to add how expensive it is to deploy reporters overseas. Incredibly expensive to get the insurance, especially, to send someone into a war zone. There just aren't that many reporters in Ukraine.

KURTZ: Expensive and dangerous. Just in the last day we've had some western journalists who have had their cameras, their equipment confiscated. I guess a week or so ago, there were reports of some beatings of people trying to cover this story.

ASHBURN: Of course. It is dangerous. And I think that the problem is that people here, as Rick said, do not care that much about international stories. They can take it in bursts. But something like the plane, everyone flies, right? You can all relate to something like that. And it is also very much of an issue for everyone.

KURTZ: It has much more universal appeal, no question about that. Julie Mason, Rick Grenell, thanks very much for coming by this Sunday.

Up next, enough with the missing plane speculation. The New York Times reporter who has broken several scoops on the Malaysian mystery is here.


KURTZ: For all the loose talk on the airwaves, some journalists have been doing groundbreaking reporting on the missing Malaysian plane. Joining us now is Michael Schmidt, who has been covering this story for the New York Times. How difficult is it to uncover reliable information about what happened?

MICHAEL SCHMIDT, NEW YORK TIMES: I think the biggest problem is there is not a lot of information to come out. And on top of that, the U.S. is only getting so much of it. We don't have a lot of sources in Malaysia that can help us, so we've been forced to rely on folks here in Washington.

KURTZ: And on that point, you said one of your stories, the plane was diverted from its flight path, through a sophisticated onboard computer that somebody had to have a lot of knowledge, according to senior American officials, raising the question are they sure?

SCHMIDT: Well, look, this is the information they're getting. In any story, it's a game of telephone. Information is moving from one place to the other. But this is the best information that we have, and that they had, and we felt confident in it to publish it. But I don't think we're at a point where we're just going to take anonymous stuff coming out of Malaysia and use that. I think we want to have some backup on this side to know that people are really taking it seriously here.

KURTZ: You reported in another story here in the Times that the plane altered its course more than once as if still under the control of a pilot, again, according to American officials. And then there was the piece about the story about the plane turning sharply to the west, but then it turned out the turn was not so sharply. So even it seems to me that unlike pundits going on the air and speculating, American officials presumably know what they're talking about, but even they are engaged in some informed speculation. Is that unfair?

SCHMIDT: I wouldn't say it's informed speculation. I would say that they're getting information as it comes out through this investigation, and like in any investigation, they uncover new things and the story evolves. At first, there's always a bit of fog of war, what really happened, and especially in this story where there's not a lot of information about anything.

The interesting thing is, I've never received as much reader e-mail as I've received on this story. Hey, I've flown two commercial flights, but let me tell you how the plane went down. But at the same time that there's so much interest, there's not a lot that we know. What do we really know today that we didn't know a week ago? And that's sort of the frustrating part about covering it.

KURTZ: But since U.S. officials don't control this investigation, and have been playing more of a role lately, aren't you worried, do you get nervous when you publish one of these things, that their information will - - some sources who won't go on the record will turn out not to be fully credible?

SCHMIDT: I think we have that fear in any story that we do. But in these cases, this -- the U.S. has representatives, they are sitting in the room in Malaysia, where all the information is coming in. They're getting briefed on it. They're incredibly interested in what happened. They still haven't run every lead to the ground to know whatever. And because of that, you know, we feel comfortable, you know, relying on that, to, if we can also corroborate on the other side as well.

KURTZ: What's it like to report a piece of solid information, and your stories have held up so far, and see it batted around on TV for the next 24, 48 hours by a bunch of pundits speculating about it?

SCHMIDT: I guess that's part of the fun of what we do is get to see how other people digest it. It's interesting that very small pieces of information can really move this story. In the middle of this week, it came out that the FBI was getting involved, and that they're going to be going through these hard drives that they found in the flight simulators. And, okay, it's a pretty incremental thing. But that really drove the story for that day, just the FBI getting involved.

KURTZ: Right. I noticed a little bit of a change in your appearance as you've been on TV talking about this story. Have you vowed not to shave until the plane is found?

SCHMIDT: No, look, I'm a newspaper reporter. I am who I am, so I have got to stay true to that.

KURTZ: So you're not trying to adjust your look for television?

SCHMIDT: No, no, not at all.

KURTZ: Do you think you'll stay with this story until we get an answer or I should say if we get an answer?

SCHMIDT: Yes, I think so. I'm going to stay with it as long as I can.

KURTZ: Michael Schmidt from the New York Times, thanks very much for joining us.

After the break, I challenge Fox's Greg Gutfeld on who is cool and uncool, and why he puts liberals at the heart of some coolness conspiracy. And later, the president appears on "Ellen," and she embraces Obamacare.



KURTZ: Greg Gutfeld was walking around Fox headquarters in New York, not looking terribly cool, which was no surprise, as he was carrying his new book which is called, "Not Cool: The Hipster Elite and Their War on You." I thought the cool thing to do would be to ask him about it, so we borrowed a studio and did just that.


KURTZ: Greg Gutfeld, welcome. You admit it right up front, you are not cool.

GUTFELD: Definitely.

KURTZ: So is this book about getting even with those who are cool or who set the standard for coolness?

GUTFELD: Yes. I am a very bitter person, Howie. This has been 40 years building up inside me. Actually, no. It came from kind of a trend that I kept seeing in all the stories I was writing. When people do stupid things, why do they do stupid things? It always comes down to a desire to be liked, and that desire to be liked comes from wanting to be cool, to be accepted, to get in past the velvet rope. That starts in grade school and moves up through high school and college, and you end up getting involved in weird activism.

KURTZ: You were scarred by grade school, clearly.

GUTFELD: Yes, I was. I was tortured.

KURTZ: But you also say that you wish it were not the case, but conservatives are not cool, conservatives are not seen as cool.

GUTFELD: You know why? Because conservatives are the people that get things done, and getting things done is often boring. Being cool is subverting tradition, subverting the norm. The problem with being cool is they don't have anything to replace it with. So they laugh at the businessman or they laugh at the military or they laugh at religion. But their alternative is never anything as good.

KURTZ: But you blamed it on the blazers they wear and the way they dress.

GUTFELD: I do. I say that, I do say that conservatives in a way have to lighten up a bit. They got to develop a sense of humor about themselves. There is a moralism in the left and the right. They are almost equal. There is the political correctness of the left that tells you how to behave. And then on the right, there is a kind of moralism that is maybe based in religious tradition about, you know --

KURTZ: How you live your life.

GUTFELD: How you live your life.

KURTZ: But when you spray the targets here in these various chapters, the people who you target, as allegedly cool, they all seem to be liberal.

GUTFELD: Yes, absolutely.

KURTZ: So this is a screed.

GUTFELD: It is a screed. Everything I do is a screed, Howie. When I wake up in the morning, I'm screeding.

KURTZ: I just wanted to get that on the table.

GUTFELD: I actually have a screeding ointment that I have to put on.

But if you look at, for example, present-day politics, where you've got a liberal president, but he's also hip and he's cool, and you seem to see this kind of infiltration of hipster thinking, the idea that we all must look inward and that America is kind of at fault for everything, which allows us to retreat from the world stage, which is why you're seeing more problems around the world, because people see that we're navel gazing instead of building our navy.

KURTZ: But when you say for example a kind of sweeping generalization, most young people voted for Barack Obama because they saw him as cool. Doesn't it kind of neutralize what he stood for, what he ran on?

GUTFELD: Yes. Yes, it does. It does.

KURTZ: You're supposed to fight back.

GUTFELD: No, I'm agreeing with you. Here is the way I look at that election and I look at the election after that. Senator McCain was a war hero who spent many years in a prison camp, and he became a strong leader for America, and he's a true patriot. He should have been president. Senator Barack Obama was inexperienced, but he was charming, he was young, and he was going to be the first black president. If you were going to ask somebody, what would make you cooler? Voting for this older, white-haired gentleman, or this young, brash, articulate young man, what are you going to do? That's a cooler choice. Not to say that President Obama is not a capable person, but in that election, to me, John McCain was the more experienced one, and I think that decision has led to the consequences.

Now, I have a feeling Putin would be dealing with America under McCain far differently than dealing with President Obama. President Obama --

KURTZ: You're going off into politics. Let me get back to your book.


KURTZ: Cool liberals, liberals seen as cool, they quote, "pat themselves on the back for making decisions that are cheered on by a media and pop culture that already agrees with them."

GUTFELD: Exactly. The media is desperate to be seen as cool. They're kind of in the second -- they want to be celebrities, but they're not. So for example, if you ever see reporters mixing with actual movie stars, they are worse than groupies. They all run to get their picture taken. To me, that's kind of sad. I've never seen you do that, Howie. I've never seen it.

KURTZ: Only once a year at the White House Correspondents Dinner. But the movie stars think Beltway journalists are cool, and they want to get this picture taken, and there's kind of this mutual envy.

But I sense as I read this that this is you sort of shaking your fist at liberal culture. And you think all of the media culture from Hollywood to newsrooms leans pretty sharply left.

GUTFELD: Absolutely. I would agree with you on that. And I do think that people become liberal because they want to be cool. That's the way I -- that's how it happens. Why does somebody get involved in a crusade or a cause on campus if there's no productive value to it? It's because it's cool.

KURTZ: When Ronald Reagan was president, he was seen in many corners as cool, and a lot of young people at that time became conservative.

GUTFELD: I don't know -- I don't think Ronald Reagan was ever seen as cool.

KURTZ: He was a movie star.

GUTFELD: He worked with a monkey. He worked with a monkey, Howie. You can't be cool and work with Bonzo.

KURTZ: OK. But the thing about this liberal culture, and let's say for the sake of argument you're right about it, is that you can't change it. You can't even win over Bob Beckel.

GUTFELD: That is true. Beckel is a charming man. Actually, you can. You can beat them with facts. And you have to counter their kind of cool ethos. You cannot let them make you feel bad about not being cool. My belief is you reject the word cool and you replace it with good. The pernicious element of cool is that it negated good versus evil. Because you could be evil and cool. In movies, we romanticize the bad guy. I said this on "Hannity" earlier this week. I said that if Shakespeare today wrote "Othello," it would be wrote "Iago." We romance the evil. All the villains are so much more attractive if you look at things like "Mad Men" or "Breaking Bad" you find--

KURTZ: Charming rogues.


KURTZ: Last question.


KURTZ: Anything old is uncool, you say.


KURTZ: And you blame the media for that. Because our --

GUTFELD: I blame you, Howie. No, I -- you know why? Because we have a fascination with the young. And the young spend a lot of money. But it's old people who are cool, because they are filled with information that we don't have. There are a locked and unlocked safe of information about history. If you want to -- you find a cogent 90-year-old woman, she can tell you what it was like during World War II. Isn't that's cool?

KURTZ: OK, but isn't television part of the blame, because--

GUTFELD: Absolutely.

KURTZ: -- young attractive people chase the demo, which is 25 to 54 because advertisers like that.

GUTFELD: Yes. But that's exactly what the impetus behind President Obama beating John McCain. Which one was more telegenic? Which one is younger? And you look at Mitt Romney in that election as well. Same thing.

KURTZ: Well, despite the telegenic thing, you seem to be on TV quite a lot.

GUTFELD: Yes, I am a hideous looking human being, and yet I managed to claw my way up to wherever I am, 3:00 in the morning.

KURTZ: Uncool Greg Gutfeld, thanks very much for joining us.

GUTFELD: My pleasure, Howie, thank you.


KURTZ: Your tweets on the missing plane coverage have been pouring in. Let me read a couple here. Frank Nardo (ph), "As sad as the flight's disappearance is, it's time for the news story to be on page two or page three." Mac Demuse (ph), "they will find the plane in the CNN parking lot. It's the only theory not tested." Ha.

Coming up, the web erupts after a local anchor charges that Jay Carney gets the briefing questions in advance. Really? We'll tell you what happened.


KURTZ: In our "Press Picks," this giant media fail, Catherine Anaya, an anchor with the CBS affiliate in Phoenix, who interviewed the president this week, told viewers she had talked to press secretary Jay Carney off the record, which means you're not supposed to use it, and he confided this about the White House briefings.


CATHERINE ANAYA, KPHO ANCHOR: He also mentioned that a lot of times, unless it's something breaking, the questions that the reporters actually ask or the correspondents, they are provided to him in advance. So then he knows what he's going to be answering.


KURTZ: In advance. This bounced around the web with this screaming headline on Drudge, "reporters rehearse questions with White House press sec." The charge is ludicrous, and Carney told me briefings would be a lot easier if this were true. Rest assured, it is not.

Anaya first put out a convoluted statement after this, in which she said Carney never told her that, but she inferred it because the White House had asked for her briefing question in advance. Then KPHO posted a stronger statement, in which the anchor said she was wrong, was guilty of bad reporting, the White House had never asked for her questions in advance. Quote, "I did not attribute or report factually last night, and for that I deeply apologize." And I'm glad she did because that was a pretty reckless charge.

More tweets coming in about the missing plane coverage, as you might expect. Here is Heidi Harris says "why are journalists on cable TV lamenting the flight 370 coverage for ratings? Everything they do is for ratings."

Coming up, our new "Video Verdict" segment, the craziest of all crazy theories about the missing plane.


KURTZ: We're back with our new segment, "Video Verdict." Of all the far-fetched speculation prompted by the missing Malaysian plane, this moment with CNN's Don Lemon was, well, out of this world.


LEMON: Whether it was hijacking or terrorism or mechanical failure or pilot error, but what if it was something fully that we don't really understand. A lot of people have been asking about that, about black holes, and on and on and on and all these conspiracy theory. Let's look at this. Noah says, "what else can you think about, black hole, Bermuda triangle," and then Deji says, "Just like the movie Lost."

And of course, it's also -- also referencing "The Twilight Zone," which is a very similar plot. That's what people are saying. I know it is preposterous, but is it preposterous, do you think, Mary?


ASHBURN: You've got to give it to Mary when she answered. She said, well, no, it is preposterous, but you know, this is a wonderful question. I just thought, wonderful question, are you kidding? This is the reason why the Gallup polls show that journalists, when you give them a rating of very high, 2 percent of people polled say they give journalists a rating of very high when it comes to truth.

KURTZ: Don Lemon is a smart guy, I don't know why he's saying these things about black holes on the air. I think our collective credibility is disappearing into a black hole, but at least he rephrased it as a question. I guess, so what is your score?

ASHBURN: I'm giving it a 4.

KURTZ: That's generous. I'm giving it a 2. I flirted with 0.

But at least it was a question.

ASHBURN: It was a question, and it was in the what-if category.

KURTZ: There's a lot of what-ifs on this story.

ASHBURN: We have another one. The president did more puffball interviews this week to promote Obamacare. He talked basketball brackets on ESPN, and Ellen DeGeneres asked him some joke questions, and one about his TV viewing habits.


ELLEN DEGENERES: Do you watch "House of Cards?" Do you watch "Scandal?" what are you thoughts on those shows?

OBAMA: I have to tell you, life in Washington is a little more boring than displayed on the screen.

DEGENERES: I hope so. While I have you, I think it's only fair we should talk about Obamacare, and that rhymed.

OBAMA: Well, you know, we've got about two weeks left to March 31st for people to sign up.

DEGENERES: It's doing very, very well. I think it surprised -- it had a rough start, but you have got 5 million people that have signed up so far.


KURTZ: Well, Ellen was funnier with the president than Zach Galifianakis.

ASHBURN: In "Between Two Ferns?" I think anything would be funnier than that.

KURTZ: But she so totally embraced Obamacare and became almost a pitchwoman for Obamacare at the end. She seemed like just another Hollywood liberal who wouldn't even ask a skeptical question.

ASHBURN: It's true. It is her show, though, and she gets to say what she wants. As you said, at least she was funny at times, but it was all Obamacare is great, Obamacare is great. It's an entertainment show, not a news show, I get that, but it was over the top.

KURTZ: Beyond that it was great. And it was like, go sign up for Obamacare right now. Again, it is her show, but would have been better in my book if she had at least asked him to defend something about how badly it was botched in the beginning. What is your score?

ASHBURN: I gave it a 6, because at least it was a bit funny.

KURTZ: You're in a good mood today. I give it a 4. Let's put those up. I'm grading generously here.

Still to come, your top tweets. And how about this L.A. earthquake? Jimmy Kimmel gets busted.


KURTZ: Here are a few of your top tweets about the missing plane coverage -- El Tore, "Amen. I have been trying to get away from this, tuned into ESPN, shocked to discover they were talking about flight 370." To Green Hano, "I got to the point where I change the channel when I see news about flight 370." Jeff Mayhue (ph), "Can you imagine if CNN had been around when Gilligan, the Skipper and their castaways were lost? What a spectacle."

And here is one from our Facebook page, where you can also comment. Simon McCabe (ph), "for the first time since I started watching Fox News, over a year ago, I have changed the channel if the lead starts with the tragedy, and all that follows are more speculations and experts. I resorted to watching Animal Planet. Lots more news there."

ASHBURN: I'm not sure how much news you can get from "My Cat From Hell" or "River Monsters." But a lot of people have been saying that to me, and they did on the front page of "Animal Planet" an article about "do lobsters feel pain?" So maybe that's the kind of news he's looking for.

KURTZ: You know, for every person who watches the coverage, because it can be kind of addictive, because it is a mystery, we all don't know the answer, there are other people who are --

ASHBURN: Fed up and done.


KURTZ: -- or checking out Animal Planet.

ASHBURN: And that's the beauty of the clicker.

KURTZ: Right, exactly.

Sometimes in television, the news can be rather earth-shattering, as we saw in Los Angeles this week when KTLA was broadcasting live.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Coming up, more problems --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Earthquake. We're having an earthquake.

Okay. It appears to have stopped. We're going to -- we're going to jump right now to the --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Look at our cameras behind us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- the U.S. Geological Survey.


KURTZ: I thought they handled that well, and that prompted Jimmy Kimmel to send out his "Lie Witness News team," you know, the stunt where they ask ordinary folks about a fake story and get them to react. But this one had a little twist.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're predicting tomorrow morning a cataclysmic earthquake to hit Los Angeles at 8:30 am. How are you preparing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We weren't aware of that news in any shape or form. It's a nonevent as far as we're concerned. We don't accept the premise that tomorrow will be a huge earthquake. I just think that's some sort of probably a spoof news item, perhaps.



ASHBURN: He's the first person, right, he did it. He was the first person who didn't lie just to be on TV.

KURTZ: I don't think these people are lying. They think, well, there must have been a story and we didn't hear about it--

ASHBURN: No, there was an article about this, where people actually said I lied because I wanted to get on TV.

KURTZ: They're so desperate.

This guy didn't buy the story, knew it was BS, and he got on anyway.

ASHBURN: Right. So it worked.

KURTZ: Good job. So that's it for this edition of "Media Buzz." I'm Howard Kurtz. Check out our Facebook page, give us a like, and we have a lot of conversations there, and we post a lot of video as well. You can also check out our home page, We're back here next Sunday morning at 11 a.m. Eastern and 5 p.m. Eastern with the latest buzz. Thanks for watching.

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