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Media Buzz

Are the media downplaying the IRS scandal?

This is a rush transcript from "Media Buzz," June 29, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: On the buzzmeter this Sunday, the missing IRS e-mails spark confrontation and cover up charges on Capitol Hill.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you please rise to take the oath. To raise your right hand. A little higher.

Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: But in national newspapers, it's not front page news and conservatives are crying foul.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This really is a scam. This is why conservatives don't trust national newspapers. It's why they don't trust broadcast news. It's because you can go back there, or there's a double standard and you can see it on every broadcast news cast.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: With Republicans holding a spade of hearings should the media treat the IRS mess as a partisan slug fest or a major league scandal?

Hillary Clinton and her husband may have made $100 million since leaving the White House, but she tells the newspaper they're not like a lot of people who are truly well off. Really? Are the media starting to obsess on her wealth?

Diane Sawyer stepping down anchor after a remarkable career that included a seemingly endless series of high profile interviews.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DIANE SAWYER, ABC ANCHOR: Does it make you feel clueless? Does it make you feel like, what was wrong with me?

I wonder if people are looking for a sentence that begins when you - I should have. I should have.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: But as George Stephanopoulos and David Muir split up her duties as a network anchor job what it used to be, and why are we back to three white guys?

Plus, the (INAUDIBLE) around the world: media sinks their teeth into the World Cup. What about the folks who just don't like soccer? I'm Howard Kurtz and this is "MediaBuzz."

The IRS scandal is back in the news big time with Republicans roughing up a defiant commissioner in hearings over what happened to Louis Lerner's e- mails.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R ), WISCONSIN: I don't believe you. This is incredible.

JOHN KOSKINEN, IRS COMMISSIONER: I have a long career. That's the first time anybody has said that they do not believe me.

RYAN: I don't believe you.

SCOTT PELLEY, ANCHOR, "CBS EVENING NEWS": Today on Capitol Hill, House Republicans held another fiery hearing on Louis Lerner's missing e-mails, the third hearing in five days.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: But the coverage has varied widely and the pundits have predictably pointed fingers either at the Obama administration or Darrell Issa and his GOP colleagues.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOY REID, HOST, "THE REID REPORT": Tonight at 7 o'clock, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hold its umpteenth hearing on the phony IRS scandal.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC ANCHOR: Lots of House Republicans seem to be very happy anytime they have a reason to be mad at some perceived slight or glitch or failure, or yes, scandal in the executive branch.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: But Obama critics see this as a colossal failure by the press.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL O'REILLY, HOST "THE O'REILLY FACTOR": When the lost IRS email story broke, just three and a half minutes. Combined, on all the network news casts. Unbelievable. That is a news blackout.

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST, "MORNING JOE": This is unbelievable. We talked about - we could talk about the New York Post as well. It is impossible that the New York - I mean the Washington Post and the New York Times are not putting on the front page of their newspapers the fact that an internal investigation has been launched by the IRS on the most shady behavior.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Joining us now to exam the coverage, Lauren Ashburn, Fox News contributor and the former USA Today executive who hosts social buzz on the Fox website, Amy Holmes who anchors "The Hot List" at "The Blaze" and Julie Mason host of the press pool at Sirius XM radio. Conservative commentators as we just heard say the IRS story is being way under played. Should The Washington Post and the New York Times have put the missing e-mails on the front page?

LAUREN ASHBURN, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, it was a big mistake. The New York Times put it on A-19. This is a scandal. And you know the fact that it's not being covered suggests that the liberals think that it's a conservative witch hunt, which it isn't.

KURTZ: Well, the fact that it's not being covered, it is a question of the volume and display and the prominence. But in this digital age, when you can read all the stories online, why does it matter so much what is or isn't in the paper front page?

ASHBURN: Every day between 10 o'clock and 4 o'clock in the afternoon, people go into news rooms all across the country and have meetings and each of the managing editors around the table says what the hot stories are of the day. The front page editor then says I'll take the best one of those. So it is still a barometer at least on the front page of newspaper. And the newspaper wrote of what's important in that news room.

KURTZ: The argument on the right is that the press or some elements of the press are deliberately muffling this story to protect President Obama. Who'd - in his interview with George Stephanopoulos again talked about phony scandals. Would you go that far?

AMY HOLMES, ANCHOR, THE BLAZE TV: I don't know if I would go so far to say that they are protecting President Obama, but I think that they have sympathy for President Obama in the Democratic side of the aisle, and, of course, liberal ideology, and if it's being covered by conservatives or being investigated by Republicans, then, of course, it must be a partisan witch-hunt. But you say that the press it's not a matter of not covering it, it's a matter of volume. In fact, there are issues that they are not covering, like, for example, that the IRS had to settle with the National Organization for Marriage for 50 grand. The judge told them that there was wrongdoing there when the IRS improperly, probably illegally leaked their donor list to a political activist who then published this information. Also, the press isn't reporting I think sufficiently, that the IRS commissioner himself is a huge Democratic donor. He's given nearly $100 grand to the Democratic Party. Why isn't this a part of the story?

KURTZ: Fair enough. But now Lois Lerner's attorney is mounting, I believe, a counteroffensive. He's talked to Politico and CNN and said, she had no idea why her emails are missing, she complained that time, she is angry about it. But look, we talk about the volume coverage. All three network news casts covered the first of the three IRS hearings on Friday night, but then is a hearings Monday night and then is a hearings on Tuesday. At what point has it become less newsworthy?

JULIE MASON, HOST, PRESS POOL SIRIUS XM POTUS CHANNEL: All these hearings, all these investigations, where's the proof of the crime? Howie, this morning, there were 100,000 stories on Google News about this IRS investigation. There's just a welter of coverage, but there's ...

KURTZ: You read every one?

MASON: Every single one. There's no - But there's no proof of a crime. And the coverage reflects that. Every journalist in town would love if there was proof of a scandal. They would be galloping after. They are not trying to protect ...

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: The IRS is mysteriously getting rid of these e-mails ...

MASON: We don't have subpoena power, where - it's up to the lawmakers to find the proof. They have the power ...

HOLMES: But judicial watch, for example, does - is suing to try to get this information, and we know that the IRS has spent $4.4 billion on IT over the last four years. Why isn't that also part of the story that ...

KURTZ: There's no question this doesn't pass the smell test. But it doesn't mean --

MASON: No ....

(CROSSTALK)

MASON: And the White House is so flippant about it, but that doesn't mean crime ...

HOLMES: It's reporters' job to get to the bottom of the truth.

KURTZ: OK. How much has the coverage been affected in your view by the fact that the IRS commissioner John Koskinen, not exactly a humble public servant?

ASHBURN: The optics for him are really bad. He comes across as anything but humble, he comes across as holier than thou. And I think when the media gets someone like that in their clutches, they are going to talk about that. That's something that someone's personality, when they seem to be better than everyone else, is something that gets covered.

KURTZ: Hasn't this become a story as much about IRS arrogance and government incompetence as about the original charge here, which remains unproven about why was there so much unfair tax scrutiny in the Tea Party conservatives. I mean that's not unproven it's the White House involvement that we are still ...

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: Well, it's the original accusations, the original allegations and now the cover up. And I think the cover up is just as big a story. And what is it that they're covering up? We know that the commissioner now was being dishonest in his testimony, too, in those hearings about this whole e-mail situation that he claimed that they were digging for them and now he admits that they had been somehow destroyed on his hard drive, which no I.T. expert believes.

KURTZ: Would the coverage have been different if this had happened in the Bush administration?

HOLMES: Absolutely, absolutely. Charles Krauthammer said right here on Fox News that If it were a Republican administration, there would be calls for impeachment.

MASON: It did happen in the Bush administration. You remember all those emails that were lost in the Attorney General investigation. Exact same thing. It happened in the Clinton administration, too. They got the same kind of coverage. Prove that there was a deliberate attempt to cover it up. And then, it becomes a crime. Until then, it just really looks bad.

KURTZ: It looks really bad, and I can agree on that, but your standard is, how much has this progressed towards proving the underlying allegations, which are - and in fact that this story has been kicking around now, is that effective - the media's judgment ...

MASON: Yeah, sure. Yeah. Yeah. It's absolutely. And there's been tremendous coverage on how crappy and spotty the federal government computer systems are. And ...

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

KURTZ: You just did.

MASON: Yeah.

KURTZ: You just did.

HOLMES: And let's face it, the New York Times even admitted that they were slow to come to the story, that they didn't put it - they didn't give it prominent coverage.

MASON: Yes, they've done more than a dozen stories. How many do we need?

KURTZ: OK, but it was the New York Times (INAUDIBLE) by Margaret Sullivan who said the paper had been somewhat late to the story. By somewhat late, three days late, three days to report something that was on the wires, that was online, the fact that there were all these missing Lois Lerner emails, I think that's inexcusable.

I want to turn now to John Boehner announcing - getting a lot of coverage for announcing that he and the House intend to sue President Obama over excessive use of executive orders, exceeding his constitutional authority. This is not just a right-left argument, here's Fox's Neil Cavuto talking to Congresswoman Michele Bachmann about how in Cavuto's view, this ain't a big deal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEIL CAVUTO, FOX BUSINESS ANCHOR: Where was your rage when Democrats -- when Democrats were going after President Bush on the same use of executive orders? Because I think you knew then that was a waste of time then and I think you know in your heart of hearts this is a waste of time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: So, everybody covers this. But is this lawsuit something of a stunt?

ASHBURN: Of course it is. I mean it's ridiculous that it could even go forward potentially. But it is politics and it's so much more interesting to cover politics than it is to cover policy. If he had talked just about executive action and what it means and why it's wrong and why he shouldn't have done this instead of saying I'm suing the president, he wouldn't have had nearly as much coverage.

KURTZ: I'm all for covering political stunts.

(LAUGHTER)

KURTZ: It's a lot of fun. But I mean the House would have to get a court ruling that it has the standing ...

ASHBURN: Right.

KURTZ: To sue a different branch of government. Of course, we are traditionally reluctantly - reluctant to get involved in that.

ASHBURN: Right.

KURTZ: So, do you - are you surprised it's gotten as much media attention as it has?

ASHBURN: I'm surprised that it hasn't gotten more to tell you this ...

KURTZ: Do you think this is underplayed as well?

ASHBURN: I do, but I agree with, you know, also conservative critiques that this isn't the proper way to be trying to address what is essentially a political problem. But I think John Boehner as a political matter is using it as a vehicle to focus attention on this and also media attention that each step of this process will get coverage.

KURTZ: Nor is (INAUDIBLE) was the first president to use executive orders and executive actions trying to get what he couldn't get from Congress. But is it hard for the media, Julie, to resist the sort of easy headline, speaker to sue president?

MASON: Yeah. It's great. The standard used to be go ahead and sue and then we'll do the story. But now the threat to sue becomes a story, but Howie, what I'm hearing from the journalists covering this, is that this move by Boehner is to appease the impeachment enthusiasts in his own caucus.

And it gets the word out there, right? That's what rallies the base is that word, impeachment.

ASHBURN: And it gets the I-word out there, right? I mean that's what - that's what rallies the base, is that word, impeachment.

HOLMES: But there was also a Supreme Court decision this week, unanimous, nine -oh, really slapping at the president not just for executive orders, but overstepping his constitutional authority.

KURTZ: Right. But these are important constitutional issues, no question about it. We'll lead the program when House actually files the suit. It has the standing to do so. Send me a tweet about our show during this hour at Howard Kurtz. We'll read the best messages at the end of the program.

When we come back, Hillary is still talking about her bank account in a PBS interview. Is this becoming a media obsession? And later, the big bite and other absurdities in covering the World Cup.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: As Hillary Clinton makes the media rounds, she has struggled to talk about her personal wealth. On the issue of income inequality, she told "The Guardian" newspaper "People don't see me as part of the problem because we pay ordinary income tax unlike a lot of people who are truly well off. Not to name names and we've done it through dint of hard work." And PBS's Gwen Ifill asked the question again on the NewsHour, why did the former first lady say that upon leaving the White House, she was dead broke and in debt.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, FMR. SECRETARY OF STATE: Let's say I shouldn't have said the I think five or so words that I said, but you know, my - unartful use of those words doesn't change who I am. What I have stood for my entire life, what I stand for today.

GWEN IFILL, PBS CORRESPONDENT: But it sticks sometimes.

CLINTON: Well ...

IFILL: Ask Mitt Romney.

CLINTON: Well, there's - that's a false equivalency.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: I have an unartful question for you, Amy Holmes.

(LAUGHTER)

KURTZ: Hillary has repeatedly stumbled on this issue.

HOLMES: Yeah.

KURTZ: There's no question about it, but now it comes up in every interview, lots of stories. Has her personal wealth become an obsession for the press?

HOLMES: I think it has. And now they're actually looking at how she's earned that wealth from Wall Street that a lot of her speaking fees - and her husband speaking fees have gotten there. I think this is what is called being hoisted on your own petard. That the liberal media - she's running into the liberal media by a buzz saw. She ran into it in 2008 when race trumped gender. She's running into it again, because, remember, this is the same media that hyped the Occupy Wall Street movement. This is the same media who is obsessed with these questions of wealth, that was attacking Mitt Romney. Now Hillary is in the crosshairs and she's finding it a very uncomfortable place to be.

KURTZ: Wait. Just to drill down on this for a second. You're saying the ethos in the journalism business, despite the fact that some anchors make seven-figure salaries, is anti-wealth?

HOLMES: In fact, I do. I think there is a lot of suspicion over that. I would also add, I think there's probably some envy, because a lot of these journalists go on speaking gigs themselves, and they're not earning $225,000 a pop.

KURTZ: So when the Washington Post does a big front page piece on how Bill and Hillary earned this $100 million and who gave the speaking fees, this is jealousy?

MASON: No, I don't think it's based in jealousy. Hillary Clinton has a very prickly relationship with the press, that's always been the case. She hasn't been able to mend that. There's also been some great reporting by Bloomberg, Richard Rubin, who did a great story about their avoidance of the estate tax to help amass their wealth. So there's been all this reporting, but you can't say it's like a liberal media thing. The media just doesn't like Hillary Clinton.

KURTZ: And that's what you think is driving this? Not the fact that she's repeatedly stumbled--

MASON: No, I think it's a good story.

KURTZ: When she says not truly well off, when she says dead broke upon leaving the White House, and then of course they made millions upon millions of dollars? That doesn't sound like--

MASON: I think they all get the scrutiny. It's a paradox. You have to be rich to run for president. Look at it, John McCain didn't know how many houses he had. John Kerry windsurfing off Nantucket. This always becomes a story when these guys run.

HOLMES: But in John Kerry's case, that was bad imagery from his campaign, it wasn't necessarily the press going after him. The press loves Hillary when she focuses on gender. That I think where the liberal media bias actually helps her.

KURTZ: Well, here is a story that I want to bring up, and that is "the Washington Post" doing another big story on the wealth question, granting anonymity to three Obama advisers, quote advisers, who trashed Hillary on this issue. One likening her to Mitt Romney, another one said the Democrats should panic. Does that bother you?

ASHBURN: This is what's wrong with political journalism. It looks like a hit job when that happens. I hate anonymous sources. At USA Today when Jack Kelley was accused of fabricating stories and was fired - getting there, he was fired for that, a policy came out that said no anonymous sources. And I think that makes for better journalism. It's a crutch when you rely on sources like that.

KURTZ: But is this a legitimate vetting of a probable presidential candidate who has amassed a lot of money and seems to talk about it in ways that rubs some people the wrong way, or is this, as some people are suggesting, you know, a certain dislike or disdain for the former first lady?

ASHBURN: I think it's both. I think a lot of people don't like her. A lot of people who watch Fox don't like her. And a lot of people in the media don't like her. However, there are people in the Obama camp who don't like her, either. And that's because of such a contentious political fight that they had.

KURTZ: And the story has stayed in the news because she's continuing even as a book tour, author, probable candidate to give these big money speeches to colleges and also, as you say, to big banking organizations.

HOLMES: Right. And Ruth Marcus in "the Washington Post" actually wrote a column telling her, dear Hillary, please stop. In fact, I think there is another element at work here, and that's the whole Clinton inevitability, that the press builds it up but then also tears it down. We even saw Bill Maher this weekend telling Hillary, please, just go away. We'll see enough of you in 2016.

ASHBURN: The problem is, the arc of a mistake story goes as long and as high as it takes you to apologize, which she did not do.

KURTZ: But until-

HOLMES: She shouldn't have to apologize for being rich.

ASHBURN: But she should apologize for saying it unartfully.

KURTZ: It wasn't until the Gwen Ifill interview, which is about two and a half weeks later where she said I shouldn't have used those words, right?

MASON: Right, exactly, maybe that will put it to rest, but I don't think it's a story about her money, Howie. I think it's a story about her temperament.

KURTZ: Something tells me we'll have to revisit that. Julie Mason, Amy Holmes, thanks very much for coming by this Sunday. Ahead on "Media Buzz," "The View" dumps Shari Shepherd and Jenny McCarthy. Is the franchise in a bit of jeopardy?

But first, Diane Sawyer stepping down, veteran ABC correspondent Lynn Sherr on whether the era of the superstar anchor is ending.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: After a career that took her from "60 Minutes" to "Good Morning America" to the ABC anchor desk, Diane Sawyer is stepping down. She is so important to ABC News that her job is being split into three parts. David Muir will take over World News; George Stephanopoulos will be chief anchor for breaking news and political coverage, and Sawyer herself will handle major newsmaker interviews as she explained on the air.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAWYER: At the end of the summer, I'm going to be moving to a new role at the network. David Muir is going to be anchor, managing editor sitting right here at this desk, David.

DAVID MUIR, ABC NEWS: Diane, you know what a humbling day this is for me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Time for the Z Block. I spoke earlier with Baltimore Sun TV critic David Zurawik in Baltimore, and here in the studio, long-time ABC correspondent Lynn Sherr, author of the new book "Sally Ride: The First Woman in Space."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KURTZ: Lynn, David, welcome.

Great to be here with you, Howie.

KURTZ: We've just gone seemingly overnight from two female network anchors, Diane, Katie Couric, to three white men again. Is that a problem?

LYNN SHERR, ABC NEWS: I don't think it is. I think what's happened in the two generations since those of us who were kicking in a lot of doors got there back in the '70s is that women have been trusted, accepted, they're serious reporters.

KURTZ: Nothing left to prove?

SHERR: I won't say there's nothing left to prove. I will say that it's taken that long, but we have really gone from being seen as belonging in the kitchen and the bedroom to being in the boardrooms and the anchor booths. So no, it's not over, but this part of it is over. This phase of it is definitely over.

KURTZ: David, Diane Sawyer obviously is going to continue to do big interviews at ABC News. But given her celebrity star power and her award winning career, is this a loss, a setback for the network?

DAVID ZURAWIK, BALTIMORE SUN: You know, I don't know, Howie. I think it totally depends on what Diane Sawyer and ABC choose to do with this. If they just make it a kind of emeritus position, it will be a setback. But I think Diane Sawyer is one of the smartest people in TV news. And I think the way it was described when you cut through all the PR stuff, it sounded like they wanted her to think big thoughts and come up with big ideas and new ways to get at stories.

I think she could be really terrific at that, and she could give ABC a kind of intellectual ballast that neither of the networks can come close to touching. So I think it could be great. Based on her career, she's not going to sit there and do nothing.

KURTZ: Let's talk about that career for a second. There are a lot of good TV interviewers out there. What qualities does Diane Sawyer have that makes people ranging from Michael Jackson to Hillary Clinton comfortable enough to sometimes commit candor?

SHERR: I think what David said, is what's most important is that she's smart. It's important also to listen in an interview.

KURTZ: A lot of people don't know that.

SHERR: Right. It's the number one quality. And Diane does that. What she's done is what so many other first females have done, which is not to mess up. Not to do it wrong. Sally Ride, when she was about to fly, become the first American woman in space, said she felt under pressure not to mess up, and she knew that if she did, no other woman could be an astronaut, because it reflects on other women. Diane, Katie, Barbara, all of us who were there at some level of firstness said we have got to do it well for the next group that comes along. That's what Diane has done.

KURTZ: And what about the strange way ABC is carving up her job? As we just noted, she will continue to be a presence at the network, but you have David Muir, solid citizen, solid journalist, becoming the evening news anchor, but George Stephanopoulos staying at GMA, becoming chief news anchor, which means disasters, breaking news, political conventions, election night, it will be Stephanopoulos and not the technical lead anchor, David Muir?

ZURAWIK: I think there's two ways to read that. When I wrote about it, I said I don't know if that says more about Muir or about Stephanopoulos or about what ABC thinks of them. Here is what I think. I mean, in one sense, in one real sense, they're not sure yet what Muir is going to do in a big, big story. Think back to the Boston bombing, when they found the second brother in that boat where he was finally arrested. Remember the brilliant interview that Diane Sawyer did with the next door neighbor on the very old tech (ph) telephone. It was a brilliant interview.

(CROSSTALK)

KURTZ: Can you imagine if Dan Rather had been told by the CBS brass, Dan, you can sit here and read the news at 6:30, but we're going to have, I don't know, Bob Schieffer go off whenever there is a breaking story?

SHERR: It's a different paradigm, it's a different model today. Kids whose eyeballs they want, are not watching the evening news. They've got to figure out a way to parcel all of this so they get the next generation. This is clearly an attempt to start changing that model.

KURTZ: So Lynn - go ahead, Z.

ZURAWIK: No, not to totally disagree with that, Lynn, but I think there is an element of what Howie is suggesting here, of the shrinking of the evening -- network evening news anchor. This is not the stature of the generation, of your generation of anchors and network news people. And it isn't just audience erosion. I think it's the way the networks themselves have compromised their news divisions, and the way they ceded territory, particularly in political coverage, to cable channels and other platforms.

KURTZ: I happen to believe the evening newscasts, even though people ridicule them as being dinosaurs, are still an important franchise with a lot of eyeballs. But what this says to me, because clearly this is sort of a way of making George Stephanopoulos the top dog there without giving him the evening news chair, is that the morning is more important. The two- hour "Good Morning America" we hope will continue to be a player. It's now number one in the ratings.

SHERR: It's more important in terms of money. It is not necessarily more important in terms of how people get the news, and that's clearly a financial decision that's being made. This is what the networks are all dealing with right now. In terms of getting the news, I think by giving Diane the ability to go out and do big, long think pieces, and by giving George the liveness and getting to do all these breaking stories, that, to me, is the big deal.

KURTZ: Right. The financial considerations - Go ahead.

ZURAWIK: And Howie, that's the other half of the story is that they had to take care of George. He's making money for them. And this title, in a way, in many ways, he totally deserves it. He is the big gun. So I think there's two things. One, they're not so sure about Muir yet. They are not going to pitch him at the top of the rotation yet. And second, they had to take care of George. I think it's, from a management point of view, it's not a bad strategy. They have a backup here.

KURTZ: All right, we'll get to see when we tune in and both in the morning and the evening. Lynn Sherr, David Zurawik, thanks very much for joining us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Now, I don't know anything about the personal life of Apple chief Tim Cook and I don't care. But CNBC anchor Simon Hobbs made a breathtaking comment after columnist James Stewart said on the air there are lots of gay CEOs, other than one who recently published a book, but a number of them wouldn't talk to him about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES STEWART, COLUMNIST: Not one would allow to be named in the column.

SIMON HOBBS, CNBC: Well, I think Tim Cook is pretty open about the fact that he's gay as the head of Apple, isn't he?

STEWART: Umm, no.

HOBBS: Oh, dear, was that an error? I don't know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: An error? Try mind-numbingly stupid. You cannot speculate about someone's sexuality on national television, period.

Coming up, are Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert losing influence in the age of Obama? But first, the U.S. soccer team loses at the end when no one even knows how much time is left. Fox's Jim Gray on the oddities of the World Cup.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

KURTZ: America, let's face it, has never exactly been soccer country, but there's been a huge surge of interest and ratings during the World Cup as the U.S. team has advanced to the second round. And the media coverage exploded when Uruguay's Luis Suarez bit a player from the Italian team and was suspended. Joining us now from Los Angeles is Jim Gray, veteran sportscaster and Fox News contributor. Jim, this bite definitely disgusting. I think we can agree on that. But it's not like the first time it's happened. Is the coverage been a little overboard?

JIM GRAY, FOX SPORTS: No, I don't think so. I think it's been accurately portrayed. I was in the ring when Mike Tyson bit Evander Holyfield's ear and did the fight that night on Showtime pay-per-view, and chased him around. And boy, it's never lived him down. And we're how many years later? That was 1997. It is 17 years later. No, I don't think it was overboard. We're not used to seeing people in competition bite other players, and this guy did it on a world stage. I don't think it's overboard at all, no.

KURTZ: Baring their fangs. So Ann Coulter has gotten a lot of attention for what I think is a tongue in cheek column she wrote about soccer saying it's the sign of America's moral decay that individual achievement is not a big factor and almost no one scores, anyway. What do you make of the soccer detractors out there during this World Cup period?

GRAY: Get a life. This has been fun. For all the people who are casual fans or don't really know what they're watching, it's been a great time, it's finally America has joined the world. What's wrong with it? We don't want to be left out. Soccer now has become, at least in this country, like the Olympics. Everybody is watching it. They're having viewing parties. People are getting into it. They're cheering for the country, they're cheering for other countries. It's really been a great time. So I see no problem with this. What is the problem with it? It's in a time zone where you can watch it now. It's not in South Africa or Europe where you have to get up in the middle of the night. People grow up in this country, the kids grow up playing soccer. They end up watching football, well now guess what? They're watching soccer. It's great.

KURTZ: Get a life. I love it. But here's my beef. So in the famous game where the U.S. and Portugal, where Portugal scored in the last minute to tie the game, to deprive the U.S. team of a victory, it happened in something called stoppage time. And the New York Times had to run a front page piece for neophytes like me, explaining that in any game, the referee can add as much time as he wants, four minutes, five minutes, 5.5 minutes, and doesn't have to tell anybody. What kind of weird rule is that?

GRAY: Well, they don't stop the clock for injuries and they don't stop the clock when the ball goes out of bounds, unlike football or basketball or other things. So I guess somebody is keeping track or the referee is keeping track in his mind, and then he adds the time. But there are some oddities. You have to get used to it. The whole country--

KURTZ: The players don't know, the coaches don't know. Yes. The whole country was upset.

GRAY: The whole country was upset when we tied Portugal. Well, a tie is usually all right. Then the whole country was happy when we lost to Germany. There are some things to get used to in this qualifying round. Fans don't really know a whole lot, people I talk to, they don't know a whole lot about it, but they're just enjoying it.

KURTZ: Right, a scoreless tie. So finally, ESPN for that game we just talked about with the U.S., drew 18 million viewers. That was the most watched soccer game in the United States, ever. So I guess you're right that people are getting into it.

GRAY: ESPN has done a great job. They've brought the casual fan along. They've explained it well. They've made it fun. It looks like a great time in Brazil. The water looks pretty. The stadiums look happy, the viewing parties. If you're going to find a problem with this, something is wrong with you.

KURTZ: All right. I think we need to send you to Rio, Jim. Sounds like you're really getting into it. Thanks very much for joining us today.

GRAY: I wouldn't go that far. I'm enjoying it on television. Thanks.

KURTZ: OK. Up next, a mixed verdict in the British phone hacking scandal with a conviction of a former tabloid editor who became the prime minister's spin doctor.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: The New York Times and Washington Post gave front page play, as I told you last week, to a special prosecutor's court filing saying Wisconsin's Republican Governor Scott Walker is under investigation. So did lots of other media folks including MSNBC's Chris Matthews and Al Sharpton.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AL SHARPTON, MSNBC: Tonight's lead, Governor Scott Walker under fire. He's a top presidential hopeful, but today he's denying allegations by prosecutors that he was part of a quote, criminal scheme to violate election laws.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: But late this week, the prosecutors said that Walker was not a target, and that the documents did not prove that any crime was committed, only that further investigation was needed. Now, the Times, the Post and most of the other outlets that trumpeted the original charges against the possible 2016 candidates, did run follow-up stories, though often not as prominently. But "Hardball" and Al Sharpton just could not find the time to report that Walker is not a criminal target.

The phone hacking trial involving London's "News of the World" tabloid dragged on for eight long months, but this week, Rebekah Brooks, who was a top lieutenant to Rupert Murdoch, whose media empire, of course, includes Fox News, was cleared of all charges.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REBEKAH BROOKS, FORMER EDITOR, NEWS OF THE WORLD: I am innocent of the crimes that I was charged with, and I feel indicated by the unanimous verdict. When I was arrested, it was in the middle of a maelstrom of controversy, of politics and of comment. Some of that was fair, but much of it was not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: But the London court convicted Andy Coulson of conspiracy to hack the phones of celebrities, royal family members and others, a political bombshell because Coulson had moved from running "News of the World" to the post of communications director for David Cameron. That prompted the prime minister to apologize for his bad judgment. This was an embarrassing episode for the company controlled by Murdoch who shut down "The News of the World," and it showed the London press that there are limits to the sleazy behavior the public will tolerate.

The Egyptian charges against three journalists from Al Jazeera always had a trumped up quality, and that's painfully evident this week after a Cairo court convicted the three of conspiring with the Muslim Brotherhood, jeopardizing national security, and this one is telling, spreading fake news. One journalist was sentenced to 10 years, another to seven years with no real evidence to support the charges. What this is really about is Egypt's military government cracking down on independent reporting. The White House has demanded that the journalists be released. And whatever your view of Al Jazeera, this is a terrible and chilling outcome.

Ahead, can "The View" survive with a whole new cast joining Whoopi Goldberg? But first, President Obama calls in three female anchors to push his family agenda. We'll have the video verdict.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: Time now for our "Video Verdict." President Obama invited three female anchors to the White House for interviews, and let's stipulate at the top they all did a good job of pressing him on the chaos in Iraq.

ASHBURN: But the women were also there because the White House was staging a conference on working families. Let's take a look at how each of them handled that subject, beginning with MSNBC'S Mika Brzezinski.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKA BRZEZINSKI, MSNBC: It's funny you talk about dads who want to spend time with their kids. When they leave work, I wish you could do something about this, and it's to be with their kids. Everyone's, like, oh, look at that great dad! He's amazing. Meanwhile, we're sneaking out, hoping that no one notices that we're doing what we're supposed to do.

OBAMA: No, I think you're right. I think there's a little bit of a double standard there.

BRZEZINSKI: Totally.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ASHBURN: All right, her bias is showing there, right? She's obviously for whatever the White House is doing here, but I have to say as a -- that's what I say as a journalist, but as a working mom, I get it. I get what she's saying. I think there is -- and I get what he's saying. I think there is a double standard.

KURTZ: I can see why you would identify with that. At the same time, she's there at the White House to interview the president of the United States about something that he's pushing. And she and a couple of other journalists later went to this conference and moderated panels. Doesn't that make -- isn't there an appearance problem?

ASHBURN: Well, there is, but I think as I've made this point before, Howie, that we know where she's coming from. It's not a surprise. She is there as the Democratic -- on her show as the Democratic token.

KURTZ: What's your score?

ASHBURN: I give her a 5.

KURTZ: I'm giving her a 3. Next up, CBS's Norah O'Donnell.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NORAH O'DONNELL, CBS: I mean, you look at even as, you know, your oldest daughter does an internship. Do you look and say, wow! Much hasn't changed. And this is kind of a problem, and I don't want my daughter to have to go through this.

OBAMA: It's important for us not to deny the progress that's been made.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ASHBURN: Well, she seems to have bought into it as well. I mean, this seemed to be a question that was saying I kind of agree with what's happening and let's hear your story about it.

KURTZ: Right. I didn't think it was as blatant as earlier with Mika, but it does seem like they were kind of validating working families' agenda, which is of course what the White House wanted. Your score is?

ASHBURN: A 7.

KURTZ: I'll give Norah O'Donnell a four.

ASHBURN: OK. There's the president's interview with CNN's Kate Bolduan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN: It's no secret that Democrats' midterm election strategy is to pitch to women, to get the women to come out to vote. They've said that.

OBAMA: Yeah.

BOLDUAN: Is this all politics?

OBAMA: I was raised by a single mom.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Now, that's exactly what a journalist should be doing. You can be sympathetic to it as a woman, but you ought to ask at least a couple of skeptical questions. And she did there with the president.

ASHBURN: She nailed it. She definitely nailed it. Although I do have to ding her a little bit for the end of the interview, asking for advice about her baby. So I'm giving her a 9.

KURTZ: Yes. She patted her tummy. I'm giving her a 10 because at least I think she asked whether it was all politics, and that's important.

Still to come, your best tweets, and Lauren and I do battle on "The O'Reilly Factor" over the political predilections of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: Here are a few of your top tweets on whether the media has devoted enough attention to the IRS scandal. Steve says no, because one, they are happy when the IRS went after the Tea Party. Two, they are afraid it's true and will destroy Obama. Elizabeth Evans, Why not put this scandal in context of total recordkeeping mess at IRS and federal agencies in general. The blame game easier.

A lot of you weighed in on Diane Sawyer stepping down at ABC. Sara Mabe, "Sawyer, I think wanted more creative control and more time doing pieces she wanted without the format and restriction of nightly show." Rich Ungar, it was her time to leave. David Muir is an excellent, fresh, new millennial anchor that will grow ratings with new demographics.

ASHBURN: Howie, did you notice it's going to take two men to do Diane Sawyer's job?

KURTZ: You know, you're right.

ASHBURN: I am.

KURTZ: "The View" is suddenly imploding. Just weeks after Barbara Walters' retirement, ABC is tearing up the show by axing Jenny McCarthy and Shari Shepherd, leaving Whoopi Goldberg as the only surviving panelist. The daytime program really floundered this season, steering away from politics and garnering little attention. ABC is calling this an exciting new direction, talk about spin, but it will take some high-profile hires to salvage this franchise. We have more to say online in our weekly feature, "After the Buzz."

Finally, do Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert have a bit less influence these days because they go easy on President Obama? Lauren and I disagreed on that, not surprisingly, on "The O'Reilly Factor."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS: They prop up the Democratic Party and the liberal line, President Obama, by denigrating their opposition.

KURTZ: Jon Stewart's peak of influence was really when Iraq was out of control during the Bush administration.

ASHBURN: Look at all the scandals that have happened under the Obama administration. You have the IRS scandal, the VA scandal, Iraq in chaos, and let's not forget about Obamacare, and they went really hard on Obama about that.

KURTZ: Really hard?

O'REILLY: No, I didn't see it, Lauren. Maybe you're watching the closed- circuit broadcast.

KURTZ: First of all, Lauren, you should throw Colbert under the bus because he took you said about Hillary Clinton becoming a grandmother and took it out of context and made you sound like a conspiracy theorist.

ASHBURN: Well, I showed him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: I'm not messing with you.

ASHBURN: Don't, right? I have a couple more weeks of this.

KURTZ: Right. You've had time to think about it. Don't you think Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert--

ASHBURN: No.

KURTZ: Who are very talented guys.

ASHBURN: No.

KURTZ: Who changed comedy and I believe changed journalism.

ASHBURN: They have.

KURTZ: Are very gentle in their humor toward the president?

ASHBURN: They cover him, and it's funny. Remember the whole skit about glitches, where they talked about everybody is saying glitch, glitch, glitch, glitch. Yes, they hit hard. No.

KURTZ: Closed-circuit TV?

(LAUGHTER)

ASHBURN: Bill doesn't think so.

KURTZ: I just think they've kind of taken themselves a little bit out of the conversation because they've gone easy.

ASHBURN: You're crazy. You're crazy.

KURTZ: Okay, we've established that I'm crazy. That's it for this edition of "MediaBuzz." I'm Howard Kurtz. Give us a like on Facebook, where we take your questions and we post video exclusives. And we're on Twitter at mediabuzzfnc. We're back here next Sunday morning, 11 o'clock and 5 o'clock Eastern with the latest "Buzz."

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