How media pushed Shinseki firing

The media demanded a scalp and now they've got one


This is a rush transcript from "Media Buzz," June 1, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

HOWARD KURTZ, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: On the buzzmeter this Sunday, the media kept urging, insisting, demanding a scalp in the V.A. scandal. And now they've got one. Eric Shinseki pushed out on Friday after investigators confirmed press reports of secret waiting lists at veterans' hospitals.


MARGARET BRENNAN, CBS NEWS CORRESPONDENT: The secretary of Veterans Affairs did not have to wait long to learn his fate.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, ANCHOR, NBC NIGHTLY NEWS: The man at the top of the V.A. has paid with his job.

ED HENRY, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Jay Carney has been fielding tough questions about Eric Shinseki for weeks, suddenly they're both gone.


KURTZ: But will news organizations now move on, simply lose interest in the more complicated tale of how our vets are being denied medical care? And on Jay Carney calling it quits, did his constant and sometimes personal battles with reporters undermine his effectiveness?

Hillary Clinton leaks her book chapter on Benghazi to Politico. Will that help her diffuse the coverage of this story? And why are she and her team so wary of the press that her long-time spokesman says there's no such thing as straight reporting anymore.

And Brian Williams sitting down with Ed Snowden in Russia for a one-hour conversation with the fugitive from justice.


WILLIAMS: Are you looking for clemency or amnesty, would you like to go home?

EDWARD SNOWDEN: I don't think there's ever been any question that I'd like to go home. I mean from day one, I said I'm doing this to serve my country.


KURTZ: Was this a hard-hitting interview or a primetime infomercial? I'm Howard Kurtz and this is "MediaBuzz."

From the moment the veterans administration scandal mushroomed into a national story, the beltway press had one relentless focus: would President Obama dump his V.A. Secretary? And suddenly, all the talk, everybody hour, was about Eric Shinseki.


CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: What you heard today was an invitation for a resignation.


KRAUTHAMMER: And I think he's gone by the weekend.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My expectation is that General Shinseki, a patriot, will voluntarily fall on the sword.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's now a question of when, not if Shinseki will go.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: And a few minutes ago, Secretary Shinseki offered me his own resignation, with considerable regret, I accepted.


KURTZ: Will the media's interest soon fade now that the ritual sacrifice has been made and Shinseki is toast? Joining us now, Lauren Ashburn, Fox News contributor, host of "Social Buzz" on the Fox website. Jonah Goldberg editor at large of "National Review" and a Fox News contributor. And Dana Milbank, columnist for "The Washington Post." Did the media with their constant drum beat, is he gone, is he leaving tomorrow? Why hasn't he been fired yet? Did they leave - they leave President Obama with no choice, but to push Shinseki out.

LAUREN ASHBURN, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I don't know if it was exactly President Obama. I'm going to push back a little bit against your premise, and I'm going to say that Shinseki, a good man, didn't want to be a distraction, which is what the president said.


ASHBURN: Give me awe minute. It is the official line. But this is the (inaudible) in chief we are talking about here. Take a look at Secretary Sebelius, HHS secretary, how long did it take him to finally lop her head off?

KURTZ: But it seems to me the press was writing stories not about Eric Shinseki that - a war hero, but about Obama's failure to show leadership in this scandal.

ASHBURN: There's a little bit of difference here. In that Obamacare was seen as a partisan scandal. And this is - you know, affects every single person.

KURTZ: Jonah, I understand the need for the president to show leadership action by doing something, making the change. But why is the media ...

JONAH GOLDBERG, NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE: A really cool change of pace here.


KURTZ: Why did the media focus so obsessively on this one personnel move?

GOLDBERG: I have to say, it was a little strange to me. Almost by, I think, universal consensus in Washington, everyone understood that this was essentially a pre-written kabuki theater kind of thing. Where the guy's got to fall on the sword. I mean there was almost like everyone had written the copy in advance and they want to get to the beach, so they just kept the dream beat going. And I think everybody basically agrees that it's sort of unfair to Shinseki. I think he was a bad manager, great American, great patriot, bad manager. They knew they had these problems. His lead team lied to him, apparently, according to reports. And - but there was just sort of this expectation, this is how these scandals unfold and the guy's got to do what he's got to do.

KURTZ: Dana, you called for Shinseki to be pushed out in your "Washington Post" column?

DANA MILBANK, "WASHINGTON POST": And he responded to me personally.

KURTZ: He did?


KURTZ: You got your wish. So, what exactly has been accomplished except for the political appearances?

MILBANK: Well, I'm not sure anything has. And now we go into that long question of do we repair something that's been broken for decades and the likely answer to it is no. But Shinseki dug his own grave here. And I think the president made problems for himself by -- up until a week ago saying, well, if things are found to be wrong, guys, this wasn't a question of if. It was very clear. So I think they dragged it out and made themselves look like weak leaders on this. You know, I think there was needless bloodletting there and they could have taken care of this a while ago.

GOLDBERG: I just want to point out. I think Dana is absolutely right, but one thing. Somehow the White House set the standard, that as long as these were isolated incidents, everything - Shinseki had his job. But the second the AIG came out and said, no, it's systemic, the standard was also, and he has to lose his job.

KURTZ: I think it was embarrassing the way that beltway press made this all about Shinseki. Sure, he deserves responsibility, and probably needed to go, but now, will the media essentially declare mission accomplished and move on from this scandal?

ASHBURN: I don't think all media will. But without the personification. You know, we already have the head of Shinseki gone. And without the political flash point, you know, this is really a bipartisan issue. I think that it will fade into the background.

KURTZ: The narrative is easy. Is the secretary going to be kicked out the door or not? But the more complicated issue, and "The New York Times" had a good story on Friday, about doctor - primary care doctor shortage in the V.A. system where the 400 need to be hired. It is more complicated to get into the hospitals and the doctors and the waiting lists.

ASHBURN: Do we need 10,000 new doctors? What do we do with the federal pay scale? Do we just rejigger the way the VA is right now and move the pots of money around? I mean that takes real digging, even for opinion people -- opinion people -- to have to go through all of that information. It's a lot easier to just report on the top and what's happening.

KURTZ: Now, you touched on this a moment ago. I credit the Arizona Republic and CNN for breaking the story about the secret waiting list at the Phoenix facility, which then mushroomed into our understanding that this is going on in a lot of places across the country. But if this problem has been going on for years, and the GAO reports going back more than a decade, the press for all its outrage right now hasn't exactly been all over it.

GOLDBERG: No, although I think if you go back and you look, you'll find out there are lot of stories, interior pages of a lot of - you know, McClatchy has done a good stuff.

KURTZ: Periodically, absolutely.


GOLDBERG: And one of the reasons why I think this will actually stay in the news longer than it might normally is that this is so politically radioactive in congressional districts, veterans are incredibly well organized, they are incredibly popular. There's no counter-lobby to veterans in the United States, which is one of the reasons why we let the V.A. get so bloated and inefficient. That there was nobody out there who wanted to take on the political task of angering the veterans' lobby. Usually there's a lobby to counterbalance. In this case there wasn't one. And so, I think because Congress really wants more pounds of flesh than just Shinseki and we have got elections coming up, I think it will actually stay in the news a lot longer.

MILBANK: I think you'll have two things going on. One is, you know, sort of the commission looking into it. The important business of government of getting it right, and that will be, you know, buried late in the broadcast. You know, on multiple clicks down on the website. I think some outlets surely not the one we're on now, will try to continue to make this a political scandal. And you saw a little hint of that with Boehner last week saying I don't care about Shinseki, I want to know what the president was doing.

KURTZ: Well, very interesting that you had that little - mild swipe at Fox News. Because you wrote in your column that unlike some other stories which we could debate, that this is not a phony, Republican hyped scandal.

MILBANK: Right. Now, does it become a question of, you know, who destroyed papers or didn't reply to this subpoena. I fear that's probably what's going to happen in the House of Representatives.

KURTZ: And is that boring?

MILBANK: No, that's very exciting because that's a political scandal. But, you know, I mean I think if we're being honest about this, we have to say this is a long-standing problem, Obama said in 2007-2008, he was going to do something about it. He didn't. That's his problem, but it's not a political scandal in that sense, it's a failure of government.

GOLDBERG: He did do one thing - he shoved a hell of a lot more money into it. Funding for the VA has gone up a lot in the recent years, and if you think that's the answer to these problems, great.

KURTZ: There are a lot more veterans who need to be treated because of these two wars.

GOLDBERG: Sure. But you also have a bureaucracy that basically gives away something for free. By definition you're going to end up having rationing in bureaucratic problems.

ASHBURN: We are going to move on to Hillary Clinton and who she's going to be up against.

KURTZ: She's probably responsible for the V.A. problems when you get right down to it.

GOLDBERG: We doubt it.

ASHBURN: And we're going to move on to the congressional races. And this will just by news whole standards fade.

KURTZ: You don't want that to happen?

ASHBURN: No, of course, I don't. And I want to hold the media's feet to the fire on this. I have an uncle who was a veteran, I have a family member who served in World War II and is dependent on the V.A. And this story is important.

KURTZ: The good thing about the coverage in the last few days, I would say, as we're hearing the voices of veterans and their family members and it's putting a human face on this. This has really been a kind of a gut- wrenching scandal. And I hope that that doesn't fade. I want to turn now to our other topic, we kind of expected Shinseki would step down on Friday. We were not expecting Jay Carney to announce his resignation. President Obama coming into briefing to say his press secretary will be leaving soon. Let's take a look, this is a few days ago on the V.A. scandal, ironically enough of Carney, Fox's Ed Henry mixing it up.


ED HENRY, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Why are you still tolerating it? And where is the punishment?


HENRY: Where?

CARNEY: how else to disappoint you, but I'll give you the same answer that I did.

HENRY: It's not me you're disappointing. There's veterans waiting 115 days.

CARNEY: Right. And  


KURTZ: He already turns it back on him.

ASHBURN: Very testy and personal.

KURTZ: I'm sure Jay Carney was burned out after three years. That's a long tenure by modern standards.

ASHBURN: And that was very ham-handed of him to do that.

KURTZ: Well, and this is where's my question, did Carney quit because he reached a point where really he could no longer be effective?

ASHBURN: Well, yes. I think the answer to that is definitely yes. And that tipping point came when the Benghazi e-mail was released about the White House shaping the talking points. And he said that wasn't about Benghazi. And at that moment, he was a dead man walking.

KURTZ: Every spokesman, of course, Jonah, has to deny and deflect bad stories. But how much did that and Obamacare and VA, and the battles in the press, how much did it erode Carney's credibility?

GOLDBERG: Some of us didn't think he had all that much credibility going in.

KURTZ: Why do you say that?

GOLDBERG: Well, first of all look, I mean this is a pet peeve of mine. But, you know, as you've written, I think, a couple of times now, this administration has drafted enormous numbers of people from the mainstream media to work in the administration. And I always think it's sort of interesting how these supposedly objective reporters, how did they figure out that they would be incredibly effective left wing spinners and hacks for a Democratic administration? I mean it is like they couldn't figure out from their tax, right?

KURTZ: You have the same complaint when Tony Snow moved from ...

GOLDBERG: Everyone knew what Tony Snow's position was. Tony was never an - He was an opinion journalist, right? But Jay Carney was the "Time" bureau chief, he was a news guy, and yet somehow everyone sort of guessed that he would be an incredibly effective spinner for a Democratic administration. So, with Linda Douglas (ph), you see it with lots of people. At the same time, look, I think he - it was three years is a long time for Jay Carney. It's also a long time for us. There was something about his style that was incredibly grading. There was sort of the best boy at the front of the class style, that I think annoyed a lot of people and the way he ended up eventually, you can't blame him too much because the lies and the spin he had to provide were what the administration wanted him to provide.

KURTZ: But he also made few, if any, high profile mistakes which is a significant accomplishment. But Dana, he did spend his career time, and it seemed to me there was an evolution of his style where he often was challenging reporters, like Ed Henry, Jonathan Carl (ph) and others, challenging their motivation, and almost suggesting they were being partisan in asking certain tough questions.

MILBANK: Well, I think managed to piss off a lot of reporters along the way. I wrote that he resigned amid allegations of extremely long wait times for White House press briefings.


MILBANK: But ...

KURTZ: I had a similar tweet about his backlog of lies. So, we are going to go.

MILBANK: Exactly, but - I think it's sort of the case of like the reformed smoker who's particularly pious about preaching to other smokers. And I think that's what happened with Jay as no longer as a reporter he came to look on the ills of his profession. But he didn't have a whole lot of credibility. I don't think a press secretary has a whole lot of credibility back to Mike McCurry. He wasn't really good for his boss. He was good for the press.

KURTZ: Right. Interesting. Josh Ernest (INAUDIBLE). He's a well-liked figure, a little bit - to touch. We'll see how he does." Send me a tweet about out show during this hour at Howardkurtz. We're going to read as we do every week, some of your tweets at the end of the program.

Next up, why is Hillary Clinton so distrustful of the press that her spokesman says there's no such thing as straight reporting anymore?

And later, did Brian Williams hold Ed Snowden accountable in that hour-long interview?


KURTZ: Hillary Clinton and her camp leaked a chapter of her forthcoming book to politico. And not just any chapter - the 34 pages dealing with Benghazi. The former secretary of state hits back at her critics decrying the "regrettable amount of misinformation, speculation and flat-out deceit by some in politics and the media." Jonah Goldberg, flat out deceit by some of the media. Who would that be aimed at?

GOLDBERG: I'm sure at some of my closest friends are in the crosshairs. Look, I mean Hillary Clinton is sort of has an incredible gift at playing the media. People seem to have forgotten that when her first book - when her last book came out, she went on and played the victim everywhere, talking about how hard it was to be married to Bill and talking about the scandal and all of that sort of thing.

KURTZ: You don't think it was hard to be married to Bill?


GOLDBERG: No, look, I'm sure it is. At the same time, when "The Washington Post" wanted to ask her about some of the really interesting and controversial things she had to say about politics and the role of the Supreme Court and other things, Hillary Clinton refused to talk about the political subjects in her own book. She wanted to stay in the crosshairs as the sort of victim figure.


GOLDBERG: She's doing something very similar. Her strategy throughout her time in public life has always been to take her weaknesses and turn them into strengths. Benghazi is a huge weakness. She's not been honest and she's trying to turn it into a strength, by saying anyone who disagrees with me is unpatriotic and trying to explore the soldiers. And it's disrespectful and disgusting what she's doing.

KURTZ: Well, on that last point Dana, and I'll let you push back, if you want. Hillary Clinton also writes, "I will not be part of a political slugfest on the backs of dead Americans." But doesn't leaking this chapter and some of the other steps that her team is taking amount to a media counteroffensive that is also, you can say, a political offensive?

MILBANK: Well, no, I think it's a defensive. And I think she essentially put up a shield and said, she's drawing this line in the sand, and saying she's not going to do it. I don't know whether she can sustain that. But I do think - I do think it's a good effort on her part, because, you know, once you do get dragged down into that rabbit hole, you never get out of it. So, I mean, I think -- I don't see what ...

KURTZ: You're saying she's justified, Jonah finds it disgusting.

GOLDBERG: I think she's shrewd. I mean agree with - Smart move.

KURTZ: Right. And you don't find it disgusting at all?

MILBANK: Well, what we're talking about as a matter of a media strategy here. I mean, you know, I'm sure Jonah and I disagree on the merits of the whole Benghazi scandal.

KURTZ: Sure, sure.

MILBANK: But, you know.

KURTZ: In which her team, including former White House spokesman Tommy Vietor now are involved in trying to get other Democrats on the page. Because obviously, Benghazi is going to be talked about.


KURTZ: In his book. Let me turn to Lauren. Why did she decide and she entertained to leak this, and it was a leak to Politico?

ASHBURN: She just needs to get it out of the way. I think so that when she goes on a book door, she can drive the conversation and she isn't on the defensive. And I'm sure in the book she's going to lay out reasons why she's going to need what she's going to do in the future. Take a look at these magazine covers, look, "The Spy," magazine, "The Weekly Standard." Look at that face on "The New Republic." I mean, you know, people do take their big shots at Hillary. And she needs to embrace that and engage.

KURTZ: Well, so, you're making two points, one is that by leaking this in advance, this becomes news. We all talk about it. Everybody writes about it, but the book comes out, and June 10th is the publication date, she can kind of dismiss it as old news. ASHBURN: And she can manage it, she can manage to talk about the points she is going to make in the book, which is going to why she's going to run for president.

KURTZ: But your broader point and one of the reasons we showed the magazine covers is, Hillary Clinton has been talked about, kicked around, praised, at odds with the press corps for more than 20 years she's been in public life. And the "New Yorker" article this week says she's adopted a bunker mentality toward the media. My question to you is, is that justified?

ASHBURN: Of course. I think a lot of politicians, you and I definitely disagree on this, but a lot of politicians hate reporters. Bill Clinton aside, John McCain likes reporters.

KURTZ: Right.

ASHBURN: It's an adversarial relationship. It's not supposed to be a good relationship.

KURTZ: I don't think it matters whether politicians hate reporters or not. I think they have to learn -- I got criticized for saying this, to deal with negative press, to deal with reporters. Yes, she has been tied to everything, going back to the conspiracy theories about the death of her friend Vince Foster when she was first lady.

ASHBURN: And being overweight. She gets a lot of what people will call sexist comments, too. She has got to learn how to deal with. I don't think they're sexist as much as they are issues that anybody who's going to run for president is going to have to deal with.

KURTZ: Some of that, Jonah, goes back to the tense relations that Hillary Clinton had in the 2008 campaign, and there was a lot -- I mean, this I think hurt her coverage. She was very aware of reporters, her team I think understandably felt the press was tilting towards Barack Obama in those primaries. Does it matter whether the two sides get along if you're running for president?

GOLDBERG: I think it certainly helps. The press corps is basically like werewolves. Even full moon they must feed. And they're going to feed on somebody.

ASHBURN: And there's a full moon every day, right?

GOLDBERG: With Hillary, it goes back -- remember, you wrote about this when you were at "The Washington Post." Hillary Clinton got her team of lawyers in the White House in the 1990s to drum up a report to attack Susan Schmidt's reporting on Whitewater. They've had this sort of attitude that the press is the enemy for a very, very long time. I don't think at this point you're going to ask her to sort of get rid of that attitude.

KURTZ: In this "New Yorker" piece by Ken Auletta, Hillary's long-time spokesman, Philippe Reines, says the following. I think we can put this up on the screen. "There's no such thing as straight reporting anymore, it's about views, eyeballs, clicks. The Clintons are good for business. With Hillary, more than anyone, there's a premium place for the sensational, the colorful, the inane. And that often comes at the expense of accuracy." What do you make of that?

MILBANK: I don't know if it's Hillary more than anyone, but I mean, it's a fairly accurate diagnosis of all of us in the media. We're interested in things that readers want to read about. You know, Barack Obama has disappointed the media in a way. He's kind of bland to cover.

KURTZ: Is that why we talk about Hillary every single day? More interesting?

MILBANK: I think we're eager to move on to the next thing. Let's talk about Ted Cruz, let's talk about Hillary Clinton.

GOLDBERG: Let's talk about Chris Christie's weight.

MILBANK: They're more interesting, so I don't think it has anything to do with ideology, I don't think it's Clinton personally. She's actually enjoying fairly good coverage.


KURTZ: Of course she's not an official candidate yet, but just briefly, no such thing as straight reporting anymore in the Twitter age?

ASHBURN: Come on. I disagree with that. Many people may not. But there are straight stories, the AP, there's a fire here. This is how many people died, these are the firefighters. Yes, there is straight reporting, but in politics it's mostly opinionated.

KURTZ: I have got a hard break. Thanks to you, Jonah Goldberg, Dana Milbank. Ahead on "MediaBuzz," how are the media covering Michelle Obama in the battle over school lunches?

But first, the anchor and the fugitive. What did Brian Williams get out of Ed Snowden?  


KURTZ: Ed Snowden's first American television interview made quite a splash. NBC giving the fugitive from justice an hour in primetime as he sat down with the top rated network anchor, Brian Williams.


BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC: In your mind, though, are you blameless? Have you done, as you look at this, just a good thing? Have you performed, as you see it, a public service? A lot of people would say you have badly damaged your country.

SNOWDEN: Sometimes to do the right thing, you have to break a law.


KURTZ: Even when NBC just aired snippets, John Kerry made the morning show rounds and denounced Snowden.


JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, for a supposedly smart guy, that's a pretty dumb answer, frankly.


KURTZ: So how did Williams and NBC handle this exclusive sitdown? Joining me now from New York is Mediaite columnist Joe Concha. Looking at the entire hour, Joe, would you say this was a tough interview?

JOE CONCHA, MEDIAITE.COM: I think, Howie, it depends on what your perspective is of Edward Snowden. If you felt he is a hero in what he's doing, then you felt it was a wide-ranging interview that talked about what he did with the NSA but also showed his human side. If you felt he was a traitor, then you're probably screaming at your television screen, begging Brian Williams not to treat a follow-up question as if it's a foreign concept. For instance, when he said he was trained to be a CIA operative, a spy, that deserves some follow-up. When he said he's not been in any communication with the Russian government, that certainly deserved a follow-up. And when he said most importantly, that he went to his bosses to complain about the way they were doing business, okay, Mr. Snowden, can you show us some e-mails that indicate that? The NSA say they don't exist. It was a five-hour interview, Howie. It wasn't like there were time restraints. Follow-up questions could have happened. Again, it depends on your perspective of Edward Snowden.

KURTZ: No, no. Whether you love Snowden or hate Snowden, this was a rare opportunity for an American journalist to try to pin him down. And while Brian Williams certainly asked about why was he in Russia, and was he breaking the law, and under what circumstances would he come back, the follow-up thing is key, because it just seemed like he let Snowden go on and on, didn't interrupt him, and then we just simply would move on to the next question.

CONCHA: I think that Brian Williams, let's not confuse him with Mike Wallace. This wasn't a grilling, the kind you'd see on "60 Minutes." I think Brian Williams is more of an infotainer first. We've seen that when he goes on all these other shows. No, he doesn't do these kind of interviews very often.

KURTZ: That sounds a bit harsh. Yes, he's great on "Saturday Night Live" and "The Daily Show," but he's (inaudible) he's a top rated network anchor.

CONCHA: But he's more about giving the human element of the story, I think, than actually grilling and doing the hard questions. If he can produce an interview where he's done that before, please feel free to show it. The bottom line is, NBC needed a win. This was a very good get for Mr. Williams, however, from a ratings perspective, this finished second in its time slot behind one of the CSI's, I think it was like "CSI: Fargo." It finished second to it. So I was surprised it did not rate higher, considering all the hype, Howie.

KURTZ: What about the angle of NBC working with, having a relationship with Glenn Greenwald, who of course helped put this interview together, and was on camera for part of it? Greenwald as you know, had some harsh words for Brian Williams when he did an hour special on the one-year anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden. Writing, "this bin Laden show was hagiography at its purest, most propagandistic and most subservient form. This is typically the role Williams plays. He cleanses and glorifies American government actions, especially military actions with his reverent, soothing, self-important baritone, but he really outdid himself here." I think that criticism is way over the top. But now they're kind of teammates.

CONCHA: Yes. And Greenwald actually went to Moscow and was part of this whole interview as well. It is kind of ironic that Greenwald intimidates NBC News in general. "Meet the Press" just a couple of weeks ago, Greenwald came back on after he attacked David Gregory a couple of months ago, and Gregory didn't even do the interview, they handed it off to Chuck Todd. So Glenn Greenwald certainly is not a fan of NBC, yet he probably recommended to Snowden that he should go to Brian Williams, perhaps because he saw it as being an easier interview, as one that might be a little less harsh than, say, again, Mike Wallace isn't around anymore, but somebody who is a little bit more hard-hitting. It should be also noted that NBC doesn't really have an investigative unit anymore, the type of people that could do those interviews, because of Isikoff and Lisa Myers no longer being there. So maybe Brian Williams was the only option in this case.

KURTZ: Well, to have an interview in Moscow at that level, you're going to go with your top guy, you're going to go with your anchor. Interesting to me that Snowden tried to put off some of what he did on newspapers, saying, well, I didn't just put everything out there, I gave it to newspapers with the suggestion that they should vet and not publish anything that really truly would damage national security. Let me switch gears here in the minute that we have remaining. We just talked about Hillary Clinton and her book last segment. Her first cable news interview after she does Diane Sawyer and Robin Roberts is going to be with Fox News, Bret Baier and Greta Van Susteren. What do you make of the choice of Fox as opposed to, I don't know, MSNBC, which gives her a lot of love on most programs?

CONCHA: That's the thing, MSNBC must be saying, what have we got to do to get a little love around here? I mean, back in February, President Obama sits down with Bill O'Reilly. Hillary Clinton now chooses over, say, a Rachel Maddow or Chris Matthews, Greta Van Susteren and Bret Baier. The only answer I can come up with is that she's trying to sell books for starters, so if you want to go to a large audience - not even talking demo but overall audience in that time slot, three, four times the audience - so that makes sense. And maybe she's looking ahead to the general election where she knows she has the MSNBC audience pretty much sewn up, and you're going more to independents and conservatives. Best place to do that is Fox.

KURTZ: Joe, she's doing more than selling books here. She's trying to reach voters. Joe Concha, thanks for joining us this Sunday.

CONCHA: Howie, have a good Sunday.

KURTZ: Up next, Michelle Obama picks a fight with Republicans over school nutrition. Has the press gone a bit easy on her? And later, Megyn Kelly has a little fun with "Morning Joe."



KURTZ: Keep those tweets coming. Here's one from Keith Bergen. I think that contributing to Jay Carney's resignation was that he had become a one- dimensional punch line. That has to be tough.

Michelle Obama's campaign against childhood obesity took a sharply political turn this week when she took on the Republicans, this over a House bill that would allow school lunch programs to opt out of federal nutrition standards for a year.


MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: We're now seeing efforts in Congress to roll back these new standards. And you know, this is unacceptable. It's unacceptable to me, not just as first lady, but as a mother.


KURTZ: The first lady's effort continued on "The New York Times" op-ed page, where she wrote, "some members of the House of Representatives are now threatening to roll back these new standards and lower the quality of food our kids get in school."

Joining me now is Jackie Kucinich, reporter for the Washington Post and PostTV. So Michelle openly taking on the GOP, should that have gotten more coverage?

JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON POST: I thought it got a lot of coverage. I read some of the headlines. They're all full of puns, "Michelle bites back on school lunches." You saw "GOP rejects (inaudible) school lunch battle." This is a highly political issue because Michelle Obama is involved, and in general, particularly because of all the money we're talking about when we're talking about school lunches. All these companies that have been - that are in charge of feeding our school children.

KURTZ: Now I'm embarrassed to tell you what our banner says, "Michelle Obama's food fight."


KURTZ: Originally "The Washington Post" put this story on the back page and then later did a front page story, which I thought was good because it quoted industry officials and other critics of the program. By and large, though, it seemed to me that the press kind of went soft on her, maybe because she's first lady and maybe because childhood obesity is kind of a motherhood issue?

KUCINICH: When it comes to Michelle Obama, I think the biggest part of the story as you looked at the press conference is the fact that she did speak out and took on Congress. She hasn't done this. She does this very rarely. So I think that piece of it was -- maybe that's why you saw a little bit of a softer coverage. We don't see her do this very often.

KURTZ: But it seems to me, I would draw the opposite conclusion, which is it's the first lady who usually plays it safe, talks about military families and getting exercise.

KUCINICH: She's not alone there, a lot of first ladies--

KURTZ: Yes, she has. But if she's going to act more like Hillary Clinton - and I'm not comparing this to the health care initiative.

KUCINICH: I was going to say.

KURTZ: But doesn't the press then have a responsibility not to criticize her, but to be more aggressive in treating her as an activist within the administration rather than just a kind of a popular fashion plate first lady?

KUCINICH: Two things. I think there was coverage of the fact that schools were saying they can't afford this. The coverage of the other side was fairly well done, I thought, in certain outlets, particularly "The Washington Post."

I think a lot of first ladies have to walk this line. And it's difficult, because you're either a housewife or you're a policymaker. What are you? You're not an elected official. But you're someone who had a job before. Was your own individual person. And this is something that she's put her name behind and felt like she needed to defend it. Of course with the public, it is, being a first lady is a difficult position to be in. Because where do you fall?

KURTZ: Well, look, one of the reasons she's most popular is because she's not down in the legislative trenches on those. Until this one, which was interesting. But does this House bill have any chance of going anywhere? And you think -- It did pass a committee, I guess. Do you think that may have influenced the coverage? It's not like the Senate will adopt this tomorrow.

KUCINICH: I don't really think this waiver that the House Republicans have put in this bill is going to make it into the final bill. It does set up an interesting battle between the House and the Senate, because you know this is something the Senate will try to strip out, because if the White House doesn't like it, most likely the Senate will not take it.

KURTZ: Right. So do you agree or disagree that if this is the new Michelle Obama in the second term, that she's going to be a little bit more politically active and taking on the GOP at times, on her issues of course, that the press needs to no longer just cover her as a kind of a feature beat, but cover her as a player, which also means covering her critics.

KUCINICH: Well, if she starts to go more Hillary Clintonesque, I think you will see that. But this is the first time she's done this. This is her signature issue that she's really taken a stand on. We'll see if that extends out more as we go along in the second term.

KURTZ: Another reason to cover her more is she's just really interesting.

KUCINICH: Really, absolutely.

KURTZ: People click on those stories. All right, Jackie Kucinich, thank you very much for joining us.

Coming up, "The New York Times" ombudsman rips her paper for what she calls an unfair review of Glenn Greenwald's book. Who's right on that one?

And later, a reporter who got in a mayor's face and refused to leave. You've got to see this.


KURTZ: Michael Kinsley, a former co-host of CNN'S "Crossfire" got whacked this week by New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan for a piece she said was, quote, "unworthy of the book review's high standards." In reviewing Glenn Greenwald's book "No Place to Hide," Kinsley did more than say Greenwald comes off as a self-righteous sourpuss, he wrote that "when it comes to leaks," such as the ones that Greenwald got from Ed Snowden, "newspapers," again quoting, "should not have the final say over the release of government secrets and a free pass to make them public with no legal consequences. Someone gets to decide and that someone cannot be Glenn Greenwald." Really, the government should get to decide? The Guardian shouldn't get to decide? Mike Kinsley just came out against the fundamental mission of journalism, which is uncovering government abuses and excesses and deciding when to publish. Now, in my view, Margaret Sullivan went too far in saying "Time's" editor shouldn't have Kinsley to make that argument. Book reviews are supposed to be opinionated. But besides, news organizations have a pretty good track record of holding back information that would in fact harm national security. Kinsley now claims he's not saying the newspapers should always defer to the government, but I have to say, his lack of faith in journalism is pretty troubling.

In our press picks, this is way over the line. Any journalist can post something dumb on Twitter. But look at what we heard from Toure, the MSNBC commentator, he was responding to a tweet which said "my family survived a concentration camp, came to the U.S. with nothing, legally, and made it work." Toure's comments, "the power of whiteness." Really? The power of whiteness? You're trying to score a racial point against people who survived Nazi captivity? Days later, Toure apologized on Twitter, without addressing the substance. "In an attempt to comment on racism in post World War II America, I used a shorthand that was insensitive and wrong. I am very sorry and will make sure this doesn't happen again." I hope that's the case.

Next on "MediaBuzz," Megyn Kelly takes on Joe Scarborough, and a reporter takes on a mayor who gets physical with her. Our "Video Verdict" in just a moment.     


KURTZ: Time now for our "Video Verdict." It happens every day, a reporter asking a public official for a comment, but Sarah Dorn (ph) of the Northeast Ohio Media Group got a rather unexpected response.

ASHBURN: She approached the mayor of Richland Heights, Ohio, Misha Hidden (ph), and let's just say the mayor didn't like it one bit.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Were you aware that Randy had those charges? Excuse me, ma'am, do not attack me. Do not attack me, please. I just want to ask you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sarah, it's not fair. Are you recording right now?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm going to let Chris know that I'm not giving you permission to take my picture.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don't have to give me permission to take your picture. This is public property.


ASHBURN: All I have to say is go Sarah, go, Sarah. It was fabulous. And it didn't just end there. You know what she did? She went after her and continued to ask her about her assistant, who had attempted forgery charges against her. She just did not let up.

KURTZ: The mayor looked arrogant and clueless and completely unfamiliar with the notion of press freedom.

ASHBURN: How does she not know that she has a right to take her picture?

KURTZ: I'm going to tell them that you didn't schedule this. It's an interesting confrontation. Good for the reporter for standing her ground.

ASHBURN: Sarah, fabulous, fabulous job. And the only thing that's a problem is that the photographer didn't get a picture of Sarah. That was what I wanted to see. Sarah asking the question. I'm giving this a complete 10. Great job.

KURTZ: I'll give it a 9. Great for hanging in there. Your turn.

ASHBURN: Okay. My turn. It isn't every day that an MSNBC host ventures on to a Fox news set and has to put up with some hazing.

KURTZ: Joe Scarborough showed up to plug his new book, and Megyn Kelly was happy to sort of take on the role of his co-host.


MEGYN KELLY, FOX: You want to be in the White House?

JOE SCARBOROUGH, FORMER GOP CONGRESSMAN/MSNBC TALK SHOW HOST: No. I'm happy where I am right here. This is a great studio.

KELLY: Isn't this nice?

SCARBOROUGH: This is fantastic.

KELLY: Beautiful, isn't it?

SCARBOROUGH: The thing is, again --

KELLY: There's still a blond woman on that set interrupting you at every turn.

SCARBOROUGH: I swear to God, whether it's like 6:00 in the morning or 9:00 at night.

KELLY: Yeah.

SCARBOROUGH: Come on. Somebody, help me out here.

KELLY: Only if you snapped your fingers at me you'd have eight fingers instead of ten.

SCARBOROUGH: There you go. Really, you did your research, didn't you? You take my low point over the past five years, you're just like, boom, boom, so I'll be ready for Mika tomorrow morning.


ASHBURN: Now, Howie, what do you think? I'm going to take --

KURTZ: I think you need to move a little faster.

ASHBURN: You need to watch those fingers and I'm taking the position of the Fox feisty female. Megyn rocks.

KURTZ: There were a lot of headlines about this, like Politico Megyn Kelly rips Joe Scarborough. No, she didn't. She was tweaking him.

ASHBURN: There were some tough questions. She (inaudible) earlier, don't take that away from her, but yes, it was mostly playful, and she said he had four viewers, and then she said, well, maybe he has five viewers.

KURTZ: He was clearly enjoying it.

ASHBURN: And he kept filibustering. She kept saying I have to go, I have to go to break.

KURTZ: He knows how to stretch out the segment. All right, time for the scores.

ASHBURN: I'll give it a 9.

KURTZ: Well, she didn't get him to confess that (inaudible) 2016 ambitions, so I'll give it an 8, good segment.

Still to come, your best tweets, and the newspaper that sunk to the bottom by running a picture of Kate Middleton's bottom.    


KURTZ: Here are a few of your top tweets. I wonder if the V.A. coverage will fade now that Eric Shinseki is out. Robert Lohaus (ph), "covering Shinseki's demise was right in the media's wheelhouse. Covering whether it gets fixed is a different matter." Or as Mary Wilkerson tweets, "I don't think so, that the coverage will continue. It's an emotional issue that has fired up Americans on both sides of the aisle." She thinks it will continue, will be a better reading of that. And on Jay Carney stepping down as press secretary. Joe Remy (ph) tweets, "they all say a lot without saying anything, but gravitas and humor can cover a multitude of sins. Carney had neither." And D. Baptiste (ph), "tough, because he was once on the other side of those questions, but he did a good job under very difficult circumstances."

ASHBURN: He brings up a great point, Howie, because that job is 24/7, you have to be monitoring the news at all times, and that gets tiring.

KURTZ: Right. And you're trying to do work for the president who employs you but at the same time keep the press corps happy, which, of course, is impossible. Finally, an Australian newspaper has published a photo of Kate Middleton's bare bum a day after a German magazine did the same thing. Now, British papers refused to publish the shot of her skirt being blown up by a helicopter, which we can't show you, but it isn't' hard to find online. Sydney's Daily Telegraph, part of Rupert Murdoch's media empire, along with Fox News, ran the picture with this cheeky question, "why should the media stick to an antiquated code of etiquette when Kate doesn't bother to protect her own modesty?" Perhaps the question should be, why should the media exploit a glimpse of royal flesh for circulation and clicks?

ASHBURN: Let's go back to the wonderful '80s. We need to have hem weights. Remember the royalty said they had to have hem weights when they go out?

KURTZ: Do you wear hem weights?

ASHBURN: Do you know what a hem weight is?

KURTZ: Kind of.

ASHBURN: You put weights at the bottom of the hem so that that doesn't happen. But really, I think it was good that they didn't run it. Fleet Street wants to run everything, and good for them, what would this do to covering the monarchy? Doesn't really show you anything about how they operate, does it?

KURTZ: It adds to our own understanding of Kate's bottom line.

ASHBURN: Here we go. I knew it. I knew it. You couldn't resist.

KURTZ: The British papers did the right thing. I think this was pathetic and makes you wonder why people hate the press, or certainly why the royal family hates the press.

That's it for this edition of "MediaBuzz." I'm Howard Kurtz. Thanks for watching. We hope you'll like our Facebook page. We post videos in response to your questions, and we comment on your comments. Also check out our home page, You can read all of our columns and videos and other things that we have to say. We're back here next Sunday morning at 11:00 and again at 5:00 Eastern with the latest buzz.

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