Tech CEO ousted over gay marriage; David Letterman, last late-night liberal

What began as an online protest, erupted into a huge debate about tolerance and same-sex marriage


This is a rush transcript from "#mediabuzz," April 6, 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, an online explosion after a tech company CEO is ousted because he donated to an initiative banning same-sex marriage. One gay blogger accuses his side of intimidation. Should the media stand up for tolerance?

Many news organizations declaring victory for the White House as the administration touts 7 million signups for ObamaCare, while others are openly skeptical.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Armageddon has not arrived.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN: And tonight, a major victory for President Obama. Months of low enrollment numbers, you've heard about them left, right and center, website plagued with technical problems. But vindication for the president in terms of enrollment.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: We didn't know explicitly ahead of time that this was going to be that rarest of all Obama era things. We didn't know ahead of time that it was going to be a rare presidential victory lap. An oh, yes, I did it and it works kind of speech.

MEGYN KELLY, FOX NEWS: Is it really up? Remember, 6 million people lost their coverage last fall, were issued cancellation notices.


KURTZ: Are the mainstream media buying the White House spin?

David Letterman hanging it up after three decades in late night.


DAVID LETTERMAN, TALK SHOW HOST: I said, Leslie, it's been great. You've been great. The network has been great, but I'm retiring.

PAUL SHAFFER: This is really --


SHAFFER: This is -- the this is -- you actually did this?

LETTERMAN: Yes, I did.

SHAFFER: Wow. Well -- do I have a minute to call my accountant?


KURTZ: We'll look at how he changed the television culture, and whether part of his legacy is as the most openly liberal network comic.

Plus, life as a lowly liberal in the Fox's den.


BOB BECKEL, FOX NEWS: I'm outnumbered every place I go, but I'm used to it. That's why I'm OK with it. It doesn't bother me, I got a thick skin. I get a thousand contacts a week from people saying, you know, you commie son of a b.


KURTZ: A conversation with the combative Bob Beckel.

I'm Howard Kurtz and this is "Media Buzz."

It began as an online protest that erupted into a huge debate about tolerance and same-sex marriage. The CEO of Mozilla, Brendan Eich, was forced out of the tech company that makes the FireFox browser because he donated $1,000 six years ago to Prop 8, the California initiative to ban gay marriage. Some Mozilla employees took to Twitter to demand his resignation. News accounts were pretty straightforward, though allies like the Washington Post utterly buried the story. But these reports did not describe Eich's ouster as any kind of outrage. Now there's an angry backlash over what the company did.

Joining us now, Lauren Ashburn, Fox News contributor who also hosts "Social Buzz" on the Fox website. John Aravosis, the founder and editor of Americablog, and Amy Holmes, who anchors The Hot List at the Blaze.

What's been the emotional tone of the debate on Twitter?

LAUREN ASHBURN, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: It's been a virtual earthquake. I think a lot of people on the right are saying the company has been intolerant. Here is one tweet as an example from the Right Scoop. Mozilla has proved today they are the true bigots, not Eich. I'm done with FireFox." I wrote a Twitter Talk column right after this happened, and most of the tweets were saying people were taking FireFox off of their computer right away.

However, there are employees from Mozilla and others who did say, like Cathy McDaniel, who is a developer, "proud of Mozilla through this, humbled by colleagues, grateful for support."

John Aravosis, I want to read to you something that got a lot of attention, blogged by Andrew Sullivan, who said the following about the ouster. "This whole episode disgusts me as it should disgust anyone who is interested in a tolerant and diverse society. If this is the gay rights movement today, hounding our opponent with a fanaticism more like the religious right than anyone else, then count me out."

A lot of people look to you as a prominent gay blogger, but you have a very different opinion than Sullivan.

JOHN ARAVOSIS, AMERICABLOG: Yes. I think Andrew raises some good concerns in the sense that we should always be careful about who we go after. If we have the power to destroy, we should use it wisely, fair enough. In this case, I think you have a company that -- no corporate America is going to hire someone who is an anti-Semite or a racist. I was on a BBC show the other day that a conservative guy had said to me, well, you know, if someone were a Holocaust denier, I'd be fine with him as a CEO. And I said, come on, nowhere in America -- but my point is we already do have standards for corporate--


ARAVOSIS: -- why not gay rights too?

KURTZ: You described Brendan Eich, who we probably -- neither of us probably heard of a week ago -- as an anti-gay activist when all he did was contribute $1,000 to Prop 8 six years ago.

ARAVOSIS: But I think that does make you an anti-gay activist. His position was not just against gay marriage. His position was to repeal 18,000 gay marriages that already existed in California. It was already legal in the state, and I think when you start talking about repealing gay people's marriages, that's a lot different than saying, you know, philosophically I may not agree about the issue.

ASHBURN: But it passed.

ARAVOSIS: Last year we finally won after five years. Yes.

AMY HOLMES, THE BLAZE: And what the media reports on this did not include was that his position was identical to the three leading candidates in the Democratic Party for president of the United States in 2008.

ARAVOSIS: Not about Prop 8.

HOLMES: You can talk about Prop 8, but what this was about was gay marriage. And what we know is that President Obama said that he thought -- he believed at the time that marriage was a sacrament between a man and a woman, and he said that was based on his religious principle. Hillary Clinton did, as well. Both Senator Obama and Senator Clinton did get the endorsement of the Human Rights Campaign despite their position on the gay marriages issue.

KURTZ: But the entire debate about Brendan Eich is about something he did, contribute money in 2008, yet as Amy says, I'm not --

ARAVOSIS: No, President Obama and Hillary Clinton came clean. They are not sticking with their positions in 2008. Brendan Eich is.


ARAVOSIS: Did we attach Brendan Eich in 2008? No.


HOLMES: Let's look at the way this is being reported. An editor at Business Insider, for example, went on BBC and compared this man's position on traditional marriage to supporting the KKK. What I'd like to tell that business editor that, in fact, the Democratic Party, Senator Robert Byrd did have a member, a former member of the KKK representing them, and I never heard the Business Insider editor denouncing the Democratic Party or trying to run him out of office.

ARAVOSIS: Let's go back to the issue at hand, which is no one was attacking Brendan Eich in 2008. Today, Brendan Eich wants to run a large American corporation, having called for the repeal of 18,000 gay marriages. Barack Obama, you know because I've written for you about it, Barack Obama, we beat the bejesus out of that man on his position on marriage. So don't tell me that we did not hold Obama accountable. Obama came around and--


KURTZ: John, John, John.

ARAVOSIS: Would you have a Holocaust denier as a CEO of a company?


ARAVOSIS: Wait a minute, we are talking about whether there is unfettered free speech for corporate CEOs.

HOLMES: Of course there is, but --

ARAVOSIS: So now we're just saying -- I -- if you think a Holocaust denier shouldn't be a CEO --

ASHBURN: How can you equate gay rights with the Holocaust? That's outrageous.

ARAVOSIS: It is outrageous, and you said that under no circumstances, should a CEO not his job because of his political positions.

I am saying that we actually all agree that under some circumstances, we should not.

KURTZ: We'll pick this up with you in just a moment. I want to turn back to Lauren and talk about the coverage of this issue. The New York Times put this on the front page. Many other news organizations played it down. The network newscasts didn't have time to talk about this. And I have to ask you, what would the coverage have looked like if this was flipped, if Brendan Eich, CEO of the Mozilla company, had been ousted, pushed out the did door essentially, by an employee revolt because he was in favor of same-sex marriage and contributed money to an initiative on that side?

ASHBURN: Okay. Let's just give another example. What about abortion? What if this had happened about abortion? The left would be going crazy. We would see this wall to wall on MSNBC.

KURTZ: What does this tell us about the media coverage?

ASHBURN: Well, it tells us that we have a liberal media for the most part.

KURTZ: At least on these social issues?

ASHBURN: On social issues, on gay issues, on abortion, on other issues that are in front of the Supreme Court like religious freedom.

ARAVOSIS: But when they cover the issues, we're told it's a liberal media, I would say it's kind of illiberal, because they didn't care. To me, they didn't care that as a gay man that we had a great success. To me, that shows they didn't care, and I don't think of that as being a good liberal thing.

HOLMES: Do you consider the firing of Brendan Eich a great success, of scalping this man and ruining his business life, his career and his reputation because of a position he held that as we all know --

ARAVOSIS: I think that as we all --

HOLMES: -- same position as president of the United States --

ARAVOSIS: Excuse me, the president of the United States was not for repealing gay marriages and --

HOLMES: He was for marriage being defined as being between a man and a woman.

ARAVOSIS: Stop, stop, stop, you are not -- please let me answer the question.


ARAVOSIS: You keep making this point that the president had the same position. A, the president spoke out against Prop 8 in 2008, and B, liberals with myself taking the lead ripped the man to shreds on this position. It was my blog that got the president to admit that he would evolve on gay marriage, because we held him face to face on the issue.

KURTZ: John, you've made your point. Let me ask you another question and I'll let you respond.

ARAVOSIS: We did not let him get away.

KURTZ: I am old enough to remember when gay people mostly stayed in the closet, because they were concerned they might lose their jobs. Barney Frank ran for Congress in the early years. He didn't say that he was gay. So I would think that you would have a special sensitivity, and you had indicated some conflicting feelings about what you wrote on Americablog. Is it your position that no one who holds the traditional position, which is still the law in most states, not the 17 that have adopted same-sex marriage, that no one who holds the traditional position that marriage is between a man and a woman should be able to run a company? Should be able to be employed? Where do you draw the line?

ARAVOSIS: No. And I wrote that, in the thing I wrote this week, I basically said this week that I would not oppose CEOs who don't agree with gay marriage. I do think from the gay community's perspective, it is something different when you go and you are trying to repeal civil rights, which is what Prop 8 was. It wasn't just being against gay marriage. I'm just telling you, from the gay community's perspective, people were outraged because they literally took rights away from people.


ASHBURN: So if Brendan Eich had stood up and said to the world, I am against gay marriage, you wouldn't call for his head?

ARAVOSIS: Had he not given the money?

ASHBURN: Had he not given the money.

ARAVOSIS: Had he not given the money, I would have been much less outraged, and then you'd have to see -- in this case his staff and his own board of directors revolted. I would have to see what their -- I followed their lead, frankly.

KURTZ: I have to wrap it.

HOLMES: Prop 8 was a voter initiative to overturn a judge's decision and to enforce California law at that time. Prop 8 defined marriage. Prop 8 was to define marriage as between a man and a woman, and there are many, many Catholics all around the world --

ARAVOSIS: It repealed gay marriage in the state.

HOLMES: It repealed a judge's decision.


ASHBURN: Let's go back to media coverage. Look at what a spirited debate we're having right here. And you said the Washington Post buried this story. That is exactly the point.

KURTZ: Okay. And, you know, Brendan Eich didn't do much to defend himself in the press. He did a couple of interviews. He said I don't want to talk about my personal beliefs, because I kept them out of Mozilla for 15 years. I don't believe they're relevant. Obviously this huge debate now is making them relevant and appreciate the chance to have an honest discussion about this.

When we come back, we're going to talk about the coverage of ObamaCare. We were going to get to it a little earlier, but I didn't want to interrupt that conversation. Don't forget to send me a tweet during this show, @howardkurtz. We'll read some of them a little later in the program. Also when we come back, Bob Beckel on the frustrations of trying to defend the Obama White House.


BECKEL: I've talked to the White House and said why don't you guys give us something, anything to work with, those of us that are out here in the trenches.



KURTZ: Very intensive coverage of ObamaCare this week as the administration announced that it hit or slightly exceeded the 7 million enrollments target. Here is a quick look at how various channels covered it.


BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS: The problem with this number has always been the problem with this number, and that is that it really wasn't going to mean very much.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: These numbers that they are touting are phony numbers.

ED SCHULTZ, MSNBC: It is amazing, this is a huge night for this man right here. This guy who campaigned on hope and change has delivered the mail. Period.


KURTZ: Amy Holmes, whatever the problem is with these numbers, and certainly they are problematic, shouldn't the media credit the administration with at least making up a lot of ground after the complete debacle of the ObamaCare rollout, which was so heavily covered?

HOLMES: It certainly depends on your point of view if the administration did make ground when you consider that 6 million people lost their coverage under ObamaCare and we still don't know how many of those people were driven on to the exchanges to reacquire health care.

KURTZ: And do you think (inaudible), the number of people who have lost as opposed to the people who have signed up, has been missing from much of the coverage of de-emphasized, played down?

HOLMES: I think it has been missing. You showed those clips of the media saying this is vindication, this is a victory, instead of what I think it was, which was self-serving propaganda for the administration to reach this 7 million number goal that the health and human services secretary laid out last fall. So this was a goal that the administration knew it had to meet, otherwise it wouldn't be called a victory by the media.

KURTZ: All administrations put out self-serving propaganda, John, but don't the media naysayers have a valid point, that among these 7 million, we don't know how many have paid, we don't know how many previously had their insurance canceled? That this story -- the full story remains untold.

ARAVOSIS: The full story will always remain untold. But what we know from the media narrative is, three weeks ago we were told by the AP that it would be a quote/unquote miracle if we reached 7 million. It wasn't going to happen. We were told a week ago on Fox by what's his name, Karl Rove, Karl had his whiteboard out and did this whole analysis. You would have to have 8 million in order to get 7 million. It was never going to happen. The media -- and as Amy or Lauren said, the coverage of the website debacle, I ripped them apart on the website. It was a disaster.

There has been ample coverage of ObamaCare. To suggest the media is biased about it is a little bit strong. They got their goal. Whether you want to haggle about the numbers, whether it was right or wrong, the bottom line is nobody thought they were going to get the goal of 7 million, and they did.

KURTZ: Lauren.

ASHBURN: I think there's still a lot of unanswered questions. You can say, they can say this is a victory, but there's still a lot of things that are wrong, not the website, not just the website, but if you look at Maryland's exchange, right? Up the street here, it was a complete failure, and they were using Connecticut's system. So at the press conference that President Obama had, he said to the media, hey, there are going to be a lot of problems.

KURTZ: Oh, I have that soundbite in reserves. I wouldn't describe it as a press conference because he didn't take any questions. Here is the president during the victory lap with Vice President Biden.


OBAMA: So, press, I want you to anticipate, there will be some moment when the website is down, and I know it will be on all your front pages. It's going to happen. It won't be news.


ASHBURN: I'm sorry, we will decide what's news, thank you very much.

KURTZ: Will you address that to the president?

ASHBURN: President Obama, we will decide.

HOLMES: Let's get to this point of there are still unanswered questions. What do you need, a magic eight ball? We have a town full of reporters who are supposed to get down to those questions, asking those questions of the administration.

ARAVOSIS: And we haven't been? There's been no critical coverage of ObamaCare in the last three years? Are you kidding me?


ARAVOSIS: Finish and then I want to respond.

HOLMES: And to ask the administration, the 7 million number of enrollments. Enrollments in this case is a very squishy term. And so therefore, did they meet this goal? And aren't we moving the goal posts when in fact what ObamaCare was supposed to do was to cover the uninsured?

ARAVOSIS: ObamaCare promised to have 7 million people covered, and it did. Secondly, as far as the untold stories, what we keep hearing are stories of people who got basically screwed over. We heard it in the State of the Union from the Republican response, and we found out that story was wrong. We had three people on "Hannity," families talking about how their coverage got destroyed. We found our their stories was wrong. We have had story after story after story. I don't know that there's a single ObamaCare horror story that ended up being true. We have had ample press coverage. Sure, do we need more information? We always need more information, but to suggest that the press has been positive on ObamaCare? Give me a break.

ASHBURN: Let's take a look at what is leading the cable news shows. 6 p.m. Thursday, CNN and Fox, Fort Hood shootings. MSNBC, GOP still out to repeal ObamaCare.

KURTZ: I just want to take the last half minute to talk about something we hoped to have more time here, and that is the General Motors scandal, which is an absolute outrage, a failure of both the company, which covered up these defective ignition switches for 10 years, during the Bush and Obama administrations. A failure of regulation. I'm surprised it hasn't been more of a cable news story. Maybe because there's no clear villain, Mary Barra just took over GM, and because both administrations bear responsibility. The New York Times has done a very good reporting job on this. And I think, because this affects car safety, 2.6 million recalls, 13 deaths, that this deserves more coverage. I wish we had the time. But we had such a vigorous debate here. John Aravosis, Amy Holmes, thanks very much for joining us.

Up next, David Letterman says he's giving up his desk. What's his television legacy? And is he the last of the late night liberals?

And later, an NBC exclusive. George W. Bush interviewed by his daughter.


JENNA BUSH: Congratulations, dad. This is pretty exciting.

GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, it's -- yes. Who would have thought it?



KURTZ: He was a kid, really, when he debuted on NBC's "Late Night," lost out to Jay Leno for the "Tonight Show," and then jumped to CBS. David Letterman became known not only for his quirky style, but also as a political comedian who didn't hide his left-leaning views. He said Sarah Palin looked like a slutty flight attendant and had to apologize for this joke about a ball game.


DAVID LETTERMAN: One awkward moment for Sarah Palin at the Yankee game. During the seventh inning, her daughter was knocked up by Alex Rodriguez.


KURTZ: Wow. And he likes sparring with Bill O'Reilly.


LETTERMAN: So when you say working your way up, does that really apply to Fox?


KURTZ: Joining us now from New York is Marisa Guthrie, who covers television for the Hollywood Reporter. The media critics love Dave, I'm reading all these glowing profiles, just like they couldn't stand Jay Leno. What would you say was Dave's impact on the whole late night culture?

MARISA GUTHRIE, HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: Well, I think Dave was the most incisive interviewer since Johnny Carson. And I think that that's why he'll be missed, one of the main reasons he'll be missed. You see the late night hosts now, what they're doing is things that go viral, the interview, the guest interview is sort of an afterthought for them. For Dave, the guest interview was the thing. And he interviewed, you know, people of all political stripes. It's something you just don't see in the broadcast late night shows now.

KURTZ: Well, he did do stupid pet tricks.

GUTHRIE: He did, and stupid human tricks.

KURTZ: Not to mention the top 10 list. And stupid human tricks. All right, for my next stupid human trick, I will ask you about the political edge that Dave often seemed to have, not just with Sarah Palin, and we showed that joke he had apologized for, but he always felt comfortable I think being a New York liberal, he talked about gun control after Newtown. What's your take on that?

GUTHRIE: I think that -- and don't forget the interview he did with John McCain, which was just kind of brutal when McCain was running against Obama. I think you can do that in New York, and that was so much of Dave's style, was to sort of, you know, take the you know out of people, out of guests. And I think for him, I mean, his political bent, as you said, Howie, was not a secret. So you knew if you were John McCain and you got in that chair, remember that interview he did, McCain first canceled, said he had to fly back to Washington, but then he didn't really have to fly back to Washington doing another interview.

KURTZ: Dave was taunting him, was taunting him every night.

GUTHRIE: Taunting him. And that is the comedian's way of, you know, sticking it to somebody in the audience. The guy who shows up late for the show. So I think that that's -- if you gave Dave an in like that, he would take it and run with this.

KURTZ: I don't think any of the younger comics who followed him, all of whom say they've been influenced by David Letterman, whether it's Conan, whether it's Jimmy Fallon, whether it's Jimmy Kimmel, don't seem to have that edge to talk about politics on any part of the spectrum. Maybe they think it turns the audience off.

Now, in all the pieces I've read, and I've read a lot of them about David Letterman, who's not hanging it up until next year, he hasn't set an exact date, I didn't see mentioned something I spent a lot of time covering in 2009. That was the sex scandal that he was embroiled in. He would have been the target of a $2 million extortion plot. Let's take a quick look at what Letterman said to his audience when he revealed this.


LETTERMAN: The creepy stuff was that I have had sex with women who worked for me on this show.

Now, my response to that is, yes, I have.


KURTZ: And those women included an intern. How was it when so many other politicians and even corporate leaders are brought down on this sort of thing, that Dave was able to ultimately escape?

GUTHRIE: He's a comedian, right? I hope we don't hold comedians to the same standard as politicians. Maybe we should. I think Dave is --

KURTZ: But he's also a boss. He's also an employer.

GUTHRIE: He's also a boss, he's also a employer, but he's a comedian. I think Dave's brilliance and the reason that these things didn't become more of a personal indictment against him is because he went on his show and talked about all of them. He brought the scandal out in the open. He brought the audience into it. He explained it to the audience. I'm not saying it was right. And I -- but I think that that's why he got away with it. He wasn't engaged in this cover-up. He didn't go on his show the next day and pretend like nothing happened.

KURTZ: Right. And he made an more full-throated apology a few days later after some people thought he had taken it a little too lightly. Now, of course, the big media guessing game has began, who is going to take over CBS's "Late Show" next year. Mashable reported that the odds-on favorite is Stephen Colbert, the Comedy Central guy. His name has popped up a lot in the counts (ph). Do you think he would be a good fit? Do you have your own candidate? Let's join the game.

GUTHRIE: I know that CBS has been looking hard at Stephen Colbert. They also went after John Oliver for 12:30. Craig Ferguson, who's currently in 12:30, has not emerged at Dave's heir apparent after several years of being in the 12:30 slot. So I think Colbert would do it. I think he's willing to do it. He may want to do it. He would have to, I think, drop the news -- the obtuse news anchor persona in order to satisfy the sort of broad kind of show that CBS would want to do at 11:30. I think he'd be great at it.

KURTZ: Not -- we won't be seeing the Stephen Colbert we're used to on Comedy Central. We'll be seeing the real Colbert.

GUTHRIE: Something like the real Colbert.

KURTZ: We'll see how long the speculation drags on. Marisa Guthrie, thank you very much for joining us from New York.

Ahead on Media Buzz, Bob Beckel on verbal combat with The Five and some physical combat outside Fox headquarters.

And later, how Jenny McCarthy and Sherry Shepherd gave their audience quite a view.


JAMIE COLBY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Hi, everyone. A Fox News alert for you. I'm Jamie Colby. It is still being called an important and encouraging lead. As Chinese ships reportedly hear two separate pulse signals in the southern Indian Ocean. The Australians are also looking into that sound they heard and they say it could be the same black box recorder frequency that the box uses. Crews are scrambling, though, to confirm if any of the noises are, in fact, from the plane before the black box beacon shuts off. It only lasts 30 days. And meantime, in the Pacific, a rescue attempt under way. The U.S. Navy ship, the USS Vandergrift, rather, reaching a crippled sailboats that's hundreds of miles off the Mexico coast. The vessel took on water and it has a sick one-year-old girl on board. California Air National Guard medics parachuted in trying to stabilize her. She was on a trip to the south Pacific with her parents. I'm Jamie Colby. See you again at the top of the hour for America's news headquarters.

KURTZ: Anyone who watches "The Five" knows that Bob Beckel is outnumbered on that show. The former Democratic strategist carries the liberal banner at 5:00 and has the scars to show for it. But I had to change my first question the moment I saw him in New York.


KURTZ: Bob Beckel, welcome.

BOB BECKEL: Thank you, Howie.

KURTZ: I can't help but notice that your hand is bandaged. Did you finally get fed up at "The Five" and take a swing at somebody?

BECKEL: No, I didn't. I didn't. Somebody gave me a little heat outside. You know what happens?


BECKEL: Well, it's like this - I mean it gets this OK. If some jerk outside starts talking about my politics. He can't stand it, right? So I had to -- go through this all the time. But this guy kept pushing me and pushing me and pushing me, so I gave him a little tap back and that was it, and then I dislocated my fingers, which proves that you never want to fight, right? And I'm too old for this stuff, Howie. I mean I'm just -- it's no good.

KURTZ: You know, do you get a lot of heat on email, as well? Because obviously "The Five" is mostly four against one.

BECKEL: Yeah. I get that. I mean I'm outnumbered every place I go. But I get used to it. That's why I'm OK with it. It doesn't bother me. I have got a thick skin. I mean I must get a thousand contacts a week from people saying, you know, you commie son of a b. And they go on with the other issue, so I used to email them back and say "Thank you for your nice words. By the way, was it your mother who married her brother or your father who married his sister?" And some guy from Kentucky just back to me and says, you are lying, counting my father married his cousin. That's what you ...

KURTZ: Bob, you clearly like to fight.


KURTZ: And do you think some people tune in just to kind of rude against you?

BECKEL: Oh, sure.

KURTZ: From Fox?

BECKEL: Yeah, sure. But I get a lot of conservatives. You know, the line I hear over and over again, you're my favorite liberal, which is not necessarily a compliment, but, you know, after a while, I think what makes "The Five" work is that we have got good chemistry and we don't carry it off the set, you know, and we don't scream at each other. It's not a crossfire format. And I think people are tired of that. I think people want to do -- hear people differ, but they don't want to hear people scream about it.

KURTZ: But we're here one-on-one, so the odds are even.

BECKEL: Right.

KURTZ: You are often cast as being a defender of Barack Obama. Do you feel like at Fox News, the president often doesn't get the benefit of the doubt?

BECKEL: Oh, sure. But I mean I accepted that in the beginning. I mean look, I have to defend - on the other hand, Obama's got a lot of this on his own shoulders because I have to defend him every day. And some days I feel like I'm the only fire plug at the Westminster dog show. I mean I've talked to the White House and said why don't you guys give us something, anything to work with, those of us who are out here in the trenches. And you know, there always seems to be something. You know, like health care, today is a good day for them. They've got 7 million people, right? Or last Friday was. 7 million people. And this is a big deal. But it's been sold so badly. And they've got no message that's worth as far as I can tell.

KURTZ: You talked to the White House regularly? Does the White House suggest ...

BECKEL: Well, I used to talk to them more than I do now.

KURTZ: Why is that?

BECKEL: Well, they're not big fans of Fox, you and I both know that. And more her than him. Michelle Obama. But I still have friends, you know, who've been around Democratic Party politics a long time. So, I still have contacts. And, you know, they'll whisper to me when I call, but at least they'll give me what I need.

KURTZ: Now, I know you think the president has a pretty good record in office, but the last year when he's - not being able to get anything through the Hill, and that problems with Syria, and problems with Russia, of course, invading Crimea, it must be hard for you some days to be in that role. Maybe you don't feel like the president ...


BECKEL: And I don't go by talking points. I mean, I can criticize Obama. I mean and I think they have -- they've got it first -- somebody who has such a good message campaign, two of them, his messaging from the Oval Office is not as good as it should be. I mean and I'm surprised with a guy as articulate as that can't express himself or besides that gets behind the message. That's the real part of it. Look, it wasn't just Fox News in the conservative blogosphere. It was the mainstream media that jumped all over him on the health care thing. And one of the reasons was they set expectations high. They couldn't meet them.

KURTZ: Right. The mainstream media jumped all over the president because the health care roll website was a complete debacle.

BECKEL: That's what I mean.

KURTZ: He deserved it.

BECKEL: I agree. I agree with that. And so, it's - what I'm saying is, he doesn't get criticism just from the right wing. But a lot of this stuff they have got to own. This is not something that you can say oh, ghee, I'm getting beat up. And that's the problem.

KURTZ: But a lot of people here at Fox as you know think the mainstream media, that broad term, are still swooning over the president. And there was a lot of that in 2008. You have to admit.

BECKEL: Yes, sure.

KURTZ: I would admit.


KURTZ: But in the second term, do you think he's getting gentle treatment from the press?

BECKEL: No, not at all. I mean this idea that somehow because they don't criticize him as much as maybe somebody -- people at Fox do, as Sean Hannity does, for example, then all of a sudden they're being treated with kid gloves. That's not the case. Look at the ObamaCare coverage. Look at what happened in Syria. I mean he's been beat up a lot. And a lot of it he's brought on himself. I accept that. But look, the fact is they say don't compare it to Bush. But the fact of the matter is, a lot more people are working, we're not in a recession, there's a lot of things that are going right and I think in the end, the big mistake is to make ObamaCare the central part of their campaign, the Republicans.

KURTZ: Well.

BECKEL: That's a mistake.

KURTZ: We'll see about that. Now, you sometimes say controversial things, for example, after the Boston bombing you said that the students from Muslim countries should be denied visas.


KURTZ: On another program, you said, it sounded - it sounded like you were trying to minimize the existence of rape on campus. Do you regret some of those comments?

BECKEL: Well, the rape thing I regret because of the way it was interpreted. I didn't try to minimize it. But on the Muslim thing, the thing that amazed me about it whether it was after the Boston marathon or any of the other terrorist acts, I've never heard somebody in a Muslim country, the head of state, or Imam or cleric get up and say, it's the wrong thing to do. The prophet wouldn't have wanted this. So I've been very tough on them and they've been conversely - could be very tough on me. They've contacted Fox and I get - you know, haven't had a jihad put on me yet, but I did make the front page of the papers in Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq, which is a trifecta. And that was great. And that's what I said. There were 75,000 Muslims students in this country on student visas, which are not difficult to get. 15,000 of them never showed up at the schools they were supposed to go to. So, I only said look, let's find them before we issue any more student visas. You would have thought I said, oh, your mother had, you know sexually transmitted diseases. But I got heat from every direction, but they still don't say they're sorry.

KURTZ: Bottom line, you stand by the comments. Now, you famously served as Walter Mondale's campaign manager.

BECKEL: And you famously had to mention that, did you?

KURTZ: I did. In 1984, for our younger viewers in 49 states, how did that experience shape your views as a commentator? Because you've been in and out every day and that was one campaign, obviously, you got into so well.

BECKEL: Yeah, well, let me put it this way. Only in America can you manage the largest loss in the history of American politics and get on air as a political analyst.


BECKEL: So I think I did all right by it. You know, I magnet 170 ...

KURTZ: You survived the Reagan landslide.

BECKEL: Yeah, that's right. That happened twice - but I was up against Reagan twice. Anybody who thought this guy was stupid, believe me, I've got his licensed plate tattooed right on top of my head.

KURTZ: But sometimes it's not really who've never - you've worked in politics - not really -- it's easy to criticize from the arm chair, know what it takes to win a campaign.

BECKEL: And that's one of the biggest problems. Whether it's a Democrat or Republican on television, political strategist, I hate that word. If you've gone out and done campaigns, then you've got a right to talk about it. If you don't, it's no different than talking to your great uncle. You know, I mean - it's - you've got to be out and having done it. And I did a lot of it. And I think I can talk about it pretty authoritatively. And you may not agree with me, but at least I know how it works. It's people, including anchors, now I know you don't talk about politics. Because you used to hang around and bug us all the time. But a lot of the press people don't go out and experience politics. And so, when they ask their questions, they're not informed. They don't have a sort of a history of it to ask good, solid questions.

KURTZ: Yeah, it's become more antiseptic. We -- a lot of reporting is done through email and Twitter and all of that ...

BECKEL: Yes, sure.

KURTZ: Rather than being on that bus. Bob Beckel, thanks very much for joining us.

BECKEL: Coming up, CNN is still all over the missing plane story in every possible sighting of debris. Jon Stewart has the videotape.


KURTZ: Now, I was positive this was the week we wouldn't be talking about coverage of the missing plane. Nearly a month after the tragedy, except when there's a new pain, most news organizations have largely moved on from Flight 370, but not CNN.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: By the time you get to the bottom of the Indian Ocean, anywhere out here, you're going to be so deep that there is really no life whatsoever. It's going to be flat out dark down there. And in those environments, you cannot look the way you do from a ship or from a plane.


KURTZ: Well, that shed light on the story. Look, I know this constant coverage has been very, very good for CNN's ratings, but I just don't get the obsessive focus. And we've seen some of this elsewhere, as well, on pumping up each potential sighting or pings picked up in the ocean.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Could they be close to finally find a scrap, a scrap of debris?

FOREMAN: This looks like the debris field from an airplane crash. It may not be, but it has the signature look of it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Perhaps it really wasn't the debris we thought it was.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Breaking news, a Thai satellite found 300 objects.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Pieces of debris, whether they're from the plane or not, we simply don't know.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Another day, no confirmed plane debris.


JON STEWART, HOST "THE DAILY SHOW": Basically, CNN has become this guy.



KURTZ: Let me try to be fair to CNN's viewpoint. The network is very good at international reporting. This is a real story, a mystery with strong public interest. Black holes and zombie planes aside, why not pursue it aggressively? Even you'd agree with that. Right, Jon Stewart?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Could this be a season of big earthquakes?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're concerned that the big one could be next.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is this a sign what so many people fear?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An 86 percent chance of a magnitude 7.0 or greater earthquake hitting California in the next 30 years?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The damage and the loss of life in the heart of Los Angeles could be catastrophic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So if the big one happened, it's going to pop, literally pop Los Angeles up like a cork.



KURTZ: Oh, well. Wake me when the big one comes. After the break, George W. Bush not exactly grilled on the "Today" show. More of a family affair. And the ladies of "The View bearing more than their opinions.


KURTZ: Time now for our video verdict. The "Today" show billed it as an exclusive with George W. Bush talking about his first ever art exhibit and the NBC correspondent who got this scoop, Jenna Bush Hager, talking to her dad, her mom and her grandmother.


JENNA BUSH HAGER, NBC CORESPONDENT: So you started off with a self- portrait.


JENNA BUSH HAGER: You think you got to the soul of you?


GEORGE W. BUSH: You're going to have to ask other people who know me better, such as yourself.

JENNA BUSH HAGER: Is this something you ever thought, you know, ten years ago would have happened?

GEORGE W. BUSH: No, no. If you would have said to me that, one, you'd be working for NBC and, two, that I'd be having a gallery full of paintings, I would have said neither.

JENNA BUSH HAGER: Granny, come on! What do you think, did he get to the soul of (INAUDIBLE)?

BARBARA BUSH: I think maybe he did.


KURTZ: OK, Bush's paintings were fascinating, but all this giggling and the stuff about Gamps (ph), it's like a family affair. I don't know what this was, but it wasn't journalism.

ASHBURN: What's wrong with you? It's a morning show. It was sweet, it was cute and these paintings are new. As they were on the front page of "The New York Times" on Saturday.

KURTZ: Which means the reporter not related to the former president of the United States should have conducted the interview.

ASHBURN: OK, it would not have been the same interview if Matt Lauer had done it. We got much more personal information out of George Bush.

KURTZ: Hey, Chelsea Clinton also works for NBC. Should she now interview her mother about her coming presidential campaign?

ASHBURN: Should she?

KURTZ: I don't think so.

ASHBURN: I don't think so either because that's politics. He's not in office.

KURTZ: I'm giving this a two.

ASHBURN: Come on. I'm giving it an eight. It was really interesting television. And it was an eye-catching moment on "The View." Jenny McCarthy and Sherri Shepherd were moaning about how Lena Dunham gets all this attention for taking off her clothes again and again on the HBO show "Girls." They played a clip of the partially naked star and then came back on camera.


SHERRI SHEPHERD: Go Lena! She gets creds every week for being naked. We're jumping on the bandwagon.

JENNY MCCARTHY: We want more ratings, too.

SHEPHERD: Wait a minute, look at my box. Why is my big black box so much bigger than yours?

MCCARTHY: Oh, my gosh!


MCCARHTY: Woman, you've got like a cube and I got a rectangle box.

SHEPHERD: Take time to enjoy ...

MCCARTHY: Our view.


ASHBURN: OK. How's this?

KURTZ: You don't need a black box, you're fully dressed.


KURTZ: Put those down.

ASHBURN: But it's -- it's cheap. It's a cheap stunt to do a TV show naked. Can you imagine Barbara Walters doing this? I don't think so.

KURTZ: Oh, so you're not in favor of this deed of frivolity?

ASHBURN: No, I'm not. And, you know, Jenny even said that we want more ratings too, and then she said "Enjoy our view."

KURTZ: Well, look, we've already seen plenty of Jenny McCarthy. She's been in "Playboy." And this was research for the show, of course.


KURTZ: And look, I have to agree with you. It was sad, it was cheap, it was tabloidy. It was like a desperate cry for ratings and I'm giving it a 10.


ASHBURN: I'm giving it a two.

KURTZ: All right. Still to come, your best tweets and how "60 Minutes" made a very loud mistake.


KURTZ: Here are a few of your top tweets. On David Letterman announcing his retirement, Sam Kalin, "He brought a new voice to "Late Night." Snark, offbeat. At least, at first." John Rigas, "He deserves some harsh words for his political stances on his show. It is why I stopped watching." Jon Shay III, "Letterman's talent spigot ran dry eight years ago. Great writers and dopey media icons i.e. Howard Stern kept him barely afloat. And Fox News fan, the show was great when it was on NBC, lost some early in the CBS years, but has been boring last five or more."

ASHBURN: I wouldn't say boring. But I do agree with John Rigas who said that he lost some viewers because of his political stance. I think that hurt him. What the good thing is, is that he recognizes, just like Barbara Walters does, it's time to get off the stage.

KURTZ: He didn't have to be carried out.


KURTZ: At 66 years old.

ASHBURN: He didn't get a hook, right?

KURTZ: Also he can't fight with Jay Leno anymore. Leno was first - and now he's like the best, the most entertaining thing was watching them snipe at each other.

ASHBURN: No more.

KURTZ: All right. Time for our press picks. A Fox News graphic on ObamaCare has drawn plenty of flak this week. Now, the numbers were right, and the chart airing Monday about 6 million people had signed up for health insurance and the administration's announced goal was 7 million, but the bar showing 7 million was way out of proportion looming far, far higher than the 6 million. Fox corrected the mistake with a new graphic the next day.

And it was this media fail. "60 Minutes" did a feature on the Tesla model S, a battery-powered car, whose fans include the wife of correspondent Scott Pelley and this is what it sounded like.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Apparently it's fast and smoke-free. The Tesla model S is powered by 7,000 battery cells linked to an electric motor. No engine, no transmission, no tail pipe.


KURTZ: Hear that whir? The problem is, Tesla's electric engine actually produces a quiet noise. That sound was added by CBS. And network spokesman told Fox, "Our video editor made an audio editing error in our report about Elon Musk and Tesla last night. We regret the error and it is being corrected online." This is not an online flab (ph). No artificial sound effects or visual effects should ever be edited to a news report.

ASHBURN: Now, and this is the annus horribles (ph) for CBS. They had the Lara Logan controversy.

KURTZ: Over Benghazi.

ASHBURN: Right. They had the drone post piece.

KURTZ: On Amazon.

ASHBURN: That's right. You keep searching for me. OK, we are back and forth here. And so, it does not look good for the network. They keep having these stumbles.

KURTZ: Yeah, and I think a lot of people say, well, so they put in a little sound because maybe they thought that was cool the way a car should sound, but the whole point of the segment is the quiet car that runs on batteries.

Well, that's it for this edition of "Media Buzz." I'm Howard Kurtz. We hope you'll like our Facebook page where we post plenty of original video and talk to our viewers. Check out our columns and segments you may have missed at That's the whole page. And follow us on Twitter as well. We are back here next Sunday morning, 11:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Eastern with the latest buzz.

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