This is a rush transcript from "Media Buzz," July 27, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: On the Buzzmeter this Sunday, with casualties mounting in the Middle East, the media become a major battlefield. Are they playing into the hands of Hamas by blaming Israel for civilian deaths or tilting too far in favor of Israel?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Palestinians are experts at the PR fight. They specifically put little kids in front of weapons. So when Israel strikes back, they can put those images on the cover of newspaper and say look at how bad Israel is.
CHRIS HAYES, HOST "ALL IN": I think the savvy image that most Americans are seeing from this conflict, by and large, are images of the destruction in Gaza. There's all these people talking about how the Israelis are losing the media war for the first time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: And are social media changing the landscape by spreading gruesome images of war that news organizations won't run?
President Obama skips Jimmy Kimmel while dealing with the crisis over Russia and the downing of the Malaysian plane, but is still getting blamed for fund-raising and golfing and dining out. Are the pundits being fair?
The liberal Democrat, who keeps getting much better press than Hillary Clinton. What explains the media's fixation with Elizabeth Warren?
Plus, Jon Stewart fires back over my interview with Jon McCain by throwing down a challenge.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JON STEWART, "THE DAILY SHOW HOST": My 16 years on this show up against your 132 years of Senate service.
STEWART: What's that? Oh, really? I'm wrong? OK. Point McCain. So, what do you say, senator? Care to put your money where your -- forced smile through jaw clenching anger is?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: But why did the late night comic duck my question about whether he's fair to Republicans? What do you say, Jon? I'm Howard Kurtz and this is "MediaBuzz."
There is no question that Hamas started the latest round of Mid-East violence first with the killing of three Israeli teenagers and then by firing rockets indiscriminately at the Jewish state. And there's no question that Israeli military superiority has led to far more deaths in Gaza, more than 1,000 at latest count compared with 43 on the Israeli side. And despite Israel's efforts to avoid killing civilians. And that has made the media's framing of this story all the more crucial as we see in this description of an Israeli air strike.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: It certainly doesn't seem very pinpoint from where I am in Gaza right now. Just a short while ago, for an example, a building, an apartment building, a large building was attacked by Israeli fire here in Gaza. Several people were killed, including children whose bodies were thrown from the windows. I've seen video of this. We captured it ourselves.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Even Jon Stewart had to defend himself after expressing concern, wrapped in satire, of course, by the rising death toll in Gaza.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
STEWART: Just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel's policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So you're against murdered children?
UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: Free Gaza! Free Gaza!
STEWART: Bibi Netanyahu who appeared on four Sunday shows this morning says Hamas is manipulating the media by putting civilians in harm's way while a Hamas spokesman is accusing the Israelis of genocide.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: And all civilian casualties are unintended by us, but actually contended by Hamas. They want to pile up as many civilian dead as they can because somebody said they use - and it's gruesome, they use telegenically dead Palestinians for their cause. They want the more dead, the better.
OSAMA HAMDAN, HAMAS SPOKESPERSON: They are acting in the same way, killing the Palestinians just because they are Palestinians, like what Hitler was doing in the last century.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
KURTZ: Joining us now to scrutinize the coverage of this war, Lauren Ashburn, Fox News contributor who hosts "Social Buzz" on the Fox website, K.T. McFarland, Fox's national security analyst and a former Defense Department official in the Reagan administration and Fred Francis, former Pentagon correspondent for NBC, now with the firm 15-seconds.com. As news organizations grapple with covering this bloody conflict, how much impact is social media having?
LAUREN ASHBURN, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Social media is the new bloody battlefield of this conflict. Unlike the way it was in 2008, or 2012, it is now taking on this life of propaganda for the Palestinians as they show these disturbing and gruesome images without a filter. And journalists are doing it, too, without having an editor to say, this is too much.
KURTZ: K.T., I've noticed a turn in the last 48 hours especially, a lot of commentators now say Israel easily winning the conflict on the battlefield but losing the media war. True?
K.T. MCFARLAND, FOX NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Sure. Well, Hamas understands that it's never going to beat Israel militarily. So the only place it can fight and win is in the public relations scope. And so, what are they doing? Look at the split screen you see. You see an Israeli official having to defend the deaths of the Palestinian children and then you see the Palestinian children. What you don't see is the media saying to a Hamas spokesman, why are you putting children and women in the places where you know they'll get killed? That's the question nobody asks.
KURTZ: A few journalists have asked it, but there haven't been many Hamas spokesmen on the air.
MCFARLAND: That's why. They don't put Hamas spokesmen on the air. They put the pictures of the tragically, sadly, tragically dead children, and the Israelis, they don't put the pictures of the Israeli casualties on the air.
KURTZ: Fred Francis, you've reported from Gaza in your long television career. Do you see this unfolding as a propaganda war as well as a military war?
FRED FRANCIS, 15-SECONDS.COM: Well, it's always been a propaganda war. When I was there in - the last time in 2006, and it's a propaganda war today. The fact is that it's asymmetrical warfare. The Israelis with cutting edge, heavy weapons, the Palestinians, urban guerilla and it's also asymmetrical journalism. I mean as we just said, you know, the Palestinians are showing these - media showing pictures of dead Palestinian children, but they can't show pictures of the fear of the Israelis being hit by 2,000 rockets over the last 20, 22 days.
KURTZ: So is that -- are you faulting the media for asymmetrical journalism or are you saying that journalists are sort of - in the box here and have little choice?
FRANCIS: No, they have a choice. I mean, first of all, they need to stop tweeting from the battlefield. OK? I mean we are talking about - Lauren talked about social media. You need to stop that. It's hard enough to cover a war. The fear of being in combat is hard enough. But to tweet live while you're covering, you're going to make mistakes. And tweeting live pictures like that without any filter whatsoever is a disservice to journalism, a disservice to viewers and listeners.
KURTZ: Even when journalists aren't making mistakes, this story, this conflict, this enmity between these two peoples, which has gone on for thousands of years, it seems like they get attacked from both sides almost no matter what they say or report.
ASHBURN: Oh, sure. You can have balanced comments. And I think this has happened to all of us at this table and people hear what they want to hear. And then they use your comments as a journalist to fight their own propaganda war and saying, well, this journalist said that the Israelis are terrible. But on the other side, they would have said that the Palestinian are also terrible for engaging in this battle. Yet you hear what you want to hear.
KURTZ: Let's come back to your point about Hamas and its strategy. And you say it has to have a media strategy and Fred calls it asymmetrical warfare and asymmetrical journalism. Do you think aside from where the Hamas people are going before the cameras that journalists are falling down on the job when it comes to pointing out things like where the weapons are deployed from civilian areas, hospitals, schools, mosques?
MCFARLAND: When was the last time you saw a journalist interview a Hamas official and say why have you put children in front of bullets? Why have you put children to protect your missiles? They don't ask that question. And to the extent that there are Hamas officials out there, they're not answering that question. And it's an isolation strategy.
FRANCIS: But you can't show it. Frankly, when you're in Gaza and you're driving around and you want to go to a mosque where you know there are weapons in the courtyard of the mosque, your driver won't take you there. And if somehow you get there .
KURTZ: This has happened to you?
FRANCIS: It has happened to me. I mean the Palestinian gunmen will come out and say, well, it's not safe for you to go there. They don't want you to see the rockets in the courtyard of the school, the courtyard of - so, it's not just asking the questions. The Palestinians won't let you see it. Hamas won't let you see it.
MCFARLAND: And it's very clever. Because they realize that if they can isolate Israel, either isolate Israel from the international community, drive a ledge between Israel and the United States, cause, for example, the Episcopal Church of America, considering should it divest in Israeli, you know, investments. That all that does is really isolates Israel, so Israel then is alone.
KURTZ: But you keep focusing on whether or not we are in ability to - we have the ability ask the questions of the people on the Palestinian side who are prosecuting this war. But there are a lot of countries where we can't - don't have access to people that ask questions. Is there enough balance in your view, in the reporting, in the newspaper stories, in the television reports that point out that, for example, Israel before, you know, clearly Israel has made mistakes, there have been schools and other places that have been hit and those children have died and it's heart wrenching. But they point out that Israel drops leaflets and makes telephone calls in an effort to at least minimize civilian casualties.
MCFARLAND: OK. Let me just - I was watching a YouTube video of a destruction of an apartment building in Gaza. What it showed was the commentary was, isn't this terrible, Israel has just destroyed an apartment building. What the video showed was that prior to - two minutes prior to the destruction, there was a flash bomb. In other words, there was a warning to get out of the building. What you didn't see were Palestinian children running out of the building. But there was no media .
FRANCIS: I don't think that Israel is losing the PR war. I mean, Benjamin Netanyahu has been on television so much you would think he was an anchor or co-anchor of some of these shows, or certainly a contributor. But they have actually no choice to do what they're doing. And I'm not favoring one side or the other. I've been accused as someone of the Lebanese descent when I'm in Israel reporting in Israel, that I favor the Palestinian side and I've been accused on the Palestinian side because I won't take their side of it. So I'm not -- I'm not saying Israel is right or wrong here. But they're certainly not losing the PR.
ASHBURN: I'd have to completely disagree with you, Fred. Because I think that these pictures that you're seeing on social media of the fathers carrying the dead babies and people, as you said, just lying there and -- it is -- they are losing this. They only have the face of Benjamin Netanyahu. You can't compete with dead bodies.
KURTZ: On Fred's point about Netanyahu being all over the air waves, there was a commentator on MSNBC named Rula Jebreal who raised this point on one of the programs and then was invited back to talk to MSNBC anchor Chris Hayes about her view. Let me play this out for you. And you count on the other side.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RULA JEBREAL, JOURNALIST: We are ridiculous. We are disgustingly bias when it comes to this issue. Look at how many airtime Netanyahu and his folks have on air on daily basis. Andrea Mitchell and others, I've never seen one Palestinian being interviewed on these same issues.
HAYES: If you appear on a cable news network, you trash that network and one of its host by name on any issue - Gaza, infrastructure spending, sports coverage or funny Internet cat videos, the folks at the network will not take kindly to it, not some grand conspiracy work, fairly predictable case of cause and effect.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ASHBURN: Nobody likes to be criticized, right? And especially media organizations who do all of the criticism. I understand what he's saying. And I also understand what Rula is saying. That there aren't as many - she's good right for criticizing and there aren't as many Palestinians who are on the air. But Chris knows better. There are a lot of organizations that do try to show both sides and present the conflict.
KURTZ: I think you're being generous. I thought his comments were outrageous. Now, Chris Hayes is a smart guy. But basically he's saying you want to come on MSNBC, you better not poke us in the eye. You better not challenge our coverage or maybe you won't get invited back, and by the way, the network suddenly says, well, you know, she was a contributor until last month. She wasn't renewed.
ASHBURN: But she also says that she chose not to renew. So, I mean there's a little bit of discrepancy there. And you have to - you have to agree with me, Howie, that - he's right. People don't want to hear, at certain networks, criticism.
KURTZ: He is right and that doesn't make it right.
ASHBURN: No, it doesn't make it right.
KURTZ: And it really makes me angry because the media love to point fingers at everybody else. And when their own coverage or their own premises are challenged, suddenly it's like, wow, what do you expect? We're not going to use this person any more.
What in the remaining means that we have, what about Rula's point that the voices on the airwaves and maybe in print overwhelmingly Israeli - and therefore she sees this as a Palestinian American, she sees this as being (INAUDIBLE)?
MCFARLAND: But what you're doing is comparing - OK, you have a talking head and Israeli politician and there's an empty chair when it's a Hamas talking head politician. You don't see an empty chair. You see the picture of the civilian destruction and the civilian casualties. So, it's almost an unfair comparison when you see bodies versus talking heads.
FRANCIS: My point is the Hamas and the Palestinians have overdone it so much that we understand. The American people understand. The people in Europe understand and certainly in Israel they understand what Hamas is doing and they're not being taken in by this any more. You say they're losing the PR battle. Let me tell you something. 80 percent approval rating for Netanyahu, the best numbers he's ever had.
KURTZ: All right, there were some Palestinian voices, people like Hanan Ashrawi, not, you know, from the Hamas wing of the party, but at least they were on this morning countering Netanyahu. Send me a tweet about our show during this hour on this subject, at Howard Kurtz. We are going to read some of your messages at the end of the program. When we come back, the tensions over the plane shot down in Ukraine has more pundits taking aim at President Obama. And later, how I somehow started a spat between Jon Stewart and John McCain.
KURTZ: With the Middle East war raging, and a confrontation with Russia intensifying over the shoot-down of that jet over Ukraine, some of President Obama's critics, reporters and pundits alike are focusing on his fund- raising and leisure activities and whether they send the wrong message.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Here he goes again. This time, President Obama taking off for the West Coast for a three-day fund-raiser filled trip. So, what about the big three crises: a border crisis, Ukraine and Israel?
ANDREA MITCHELL, HOST "ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS": Because of politics, this is the optics of leadership. And the golf course is not the best place to be.
BILL O'REILLY, "THE O'REILLY FACTOR" HOST: Look, if an airline is shot out of the sky by a missile .
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.
O'REILLY: I think I would cancel my burger trip.
JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Was it a mistake to have the president continue on his schedule, even going in, you know, before making his first statement about this, going and ordering, you know, cheeseburgers at the charcoal pit up in Delaware, continue on a campaign schedule? What looked like a campaign schedule including fund-raisers in New York? Was that a mistake, in hindsight?
JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It was not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: K.T. McFarland, this constant criticism of President Obama, a lot of it on Fox about cheeseburgers and fund-raising and golfing, is it kind of a metaphor for him not being engaged on issues. Is that fair?
MCFARLAND: Yeah, you know, look, you're almost dammed if you do, damned if you do, damned if you don't. Every president stays this, where there's a crisis, do I cancel my activities, do I cancel my vacation? Maybe do I cancel my fund-raising? But in this case, it reinforces that notion of a disengaged American president. That there are crisis after crisis. He's not making statements about them. He's leading from behind, but in fact he's not really leading. So, I think it just reinforces that sense that he's not in charge.
FRANCIS: listen, I'm not an apologist for the Obama administration --
ASHBURN: Oh, of course.
FRANCIS: …by any means. But this is unfair. I mean, if you would have this president reacting to every crisis, which happens about every three or four days of late, he would be in the bunker of the situation room nonstop and on television nonstop. He cannot - he cannot be there. Listen, his .
KURTZ: Is there a presumption Fred, is there a presumption that if the president is going to fund-raisers or on the golf course that he's not working?
FRANCIS: How --
KURTZ: And it just came up with George W. Bush spent too much time at his corporate ranch. But isn't the President O.?
FRANCIS: The fact is that he doesn't do the work, anyway. He makes a few phone calls. There's staff that does the work. If you don't think he doesn't get an intelligence briefing every morning and during the day as necessary, he does. And I'm not apologizing for him. I'm just saying, hey, listen, his foreign policy is brittle and embattled at the best of times, but this is unfair to say that he ought to stop what he's doing.
KURTZ: Is this the triumph of optics that the media are kind of treating whether a president looks engaged is more important than almost anything else?
ASHBURN: Actually, it is, because that is true. People want to see their president acting presidentially, right? They want to see him out there and leading and giving people information. And, you know, yesterday he went to Congressional country club here in Washington and was playing golf with pardon me, interruption hosts from ESPN, Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon. And so, you keep hearing that enough and you are saying where is this guy, even though his staff is doing the work? Optics are important as he knows.
KURTZ: I think the president is sort of almost rebelling.
ASHBURN: He's covering his nose.
KURTZ: The chattering classes here. I think he should have gone to the border. I think that was an important photo-op. But at the same time, let's be candid, if he does all of these photo-ops, it doesn't mean that the problems at the border or Ukraine or the Middle are getting solved.
ASHBURN: It doesn't, but that's what the media tend to play.
FRANCIS: We have almost no interest, you know, nothing that we can do in the Ukraine after this plane crash. We couldn't prove it came from the Russian side, we couldn't prove anything so he had to step back. He didn't have support. What support does he have with the economic sanctions from Europe? So he sort of -- he's squeezed here. You know? So what is he supposed to do, get in front of the cameras and .
KURTZ: But this is about .
MCFARLAND: No, no. You know, every administration I've been part of, there's only so much oxygen in the Oval Office. And if you are out playing golf, you are not drinking - the - you are not in there engaged. He should have been working the phones when the Ukraine situation happened. He should have been working the phones.
FRANCIS: And he did.
KURTZ: Hold on. Hold on. Hold on. So, now you are saying, you know, he's not doing the things that he could or should have done?
KURTZ: As president. That's fine. That's fair criticism. Is it fair criticism, it's hardly the first person to play golf and jump on it every single time that he hits the links?
FRANCIS: You make my point.
KURTZ: I'm asking K.T.
MCFARLAND: Do you I think it's fair to jump on the criticism?
KURTZ: Do you think -as somebody who has worked in several administrations, do you think we collectively are overdoing this?
MCFARLAND: Not in the least. Not - We've never seen crises like this, one after another, after another and a disengaged president. Not only because he's not physically there, but his administration isn't at all.
ASHBURN: But part of it, too, is politics. I think the fund-raising aspect of it flips the audience, right? You have the Democrats saying, OK, good, because we're going to get somewhere in the midterms, and then you have Republicans saying, hey, wait a minute, you're putting politics and raising money ahead of our world crises? What are you doing?
KURTZ: Yeah, and, of course, every president including this one uses photo ops when you're talking about jobs, you go to a factory, I mean it's part of the modern presidency. K.T. McFarland, Fred Francis, thanks very much for joining us this Sunday.
Before we go to break, this postscript: one of the most sickening moments in the Malaysian plane tragedy took place when Collin Brazier reporting for Sky News, which is part of Rupert Murdoch's empire, showed up at the crash scene.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COLIN BRAZIER, SKY NEWS REPORTER: We shouldn't really be doing this .
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: We should have saved those pictures a little longer. He was going through the belongings of passengers who had been shot out of the sky. Can you imagine anything more degrading than rummaging through their personal effects, somebody who has been killed in a plane crash? Plane being shot down. Frazier later apologized in "The Guardian" writing "Certainly it was a serious error of judgment. I acknowledged that. And so did Sky. Too late, I realized I was crossing the line. I thought aloud, we shouldn't be doing this, this is a mistake. An instant apology that was only selectively quoted by those determined to see what I did as a powerful example of journalistic vulturism." You know, that's the perfect phrase here, journalistic vulturism. At least he had the common sense to stop himself and fully apologize.
Ahead, why are the media suddenly going gaga over Elizabeth Warren? But first, Fox's Leland Vittert on the challenges he faced reporting from the Middle East.
KURTZ: Now for a reporter's perspective on the war between Israel and the Palestinians, I'm joined by Fox's Leland Vittert. He spent four years as a correspondent in the Middle East. Welcome. When you were reporting from Israel or from Gaza, did you get constant complaints from both sides?
LELAND VITTERT, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: I think if you get constant complaints from both sides, you're probably doing your job right. And that's I remember my old professor in college used to say to me, so long as the stats of complaints are about the same size, you're probably doing something right.
KURTZ: Right, but it seems to me that in this particular conflict, the complaints are not just about some detail wrong, they tend to be pretty vociferous, correct?
VITTERT: Absolutely. You know, the one thing about the Middle East, is that - is the old saying goes that both - anyone is entitled to their own opinion, not their own facts. Every - over there, everyone has their own version of their facts and their own narrative. And obviously, as we are seeing, this war is played out as much in the battlefield as it is in the media and around the world. And that battle for public opinion is so important. And that really drives the fuel and the anger.
KURTZ: So, trying to get the facts when you're there and the Israelis say in some previous - Hamas is firing rockets from civilian areas, hiding them in schools, etcetera, in order to increase civilian casualties on their side, how do you determine whether that's true?
VITTERT: Well, a lot of times you're able to determine it on the ground. You know, you're in that those scenes, you're going there. And obviously, it has gotten increasingly dangerous now inside of Gaza to be able to do those kinds of stories. But the one thing you have to be very careful of is the fog of war that exists in any of these situations because you're one person and you're on the ground. And what you see is one thing. But the larger picture is what you have to be careful not to lose scope of, in other words, and to sort of lose sight of that larger picture of what's going on. Because if you're in Gaza, you're not seeing what's happening on the other side of the border. If you're on the Israeli side of the border, you're not seeing what the folks in Gaza are going through. And that's a really hard line to walk.
KURTZ: What about this charge that we hear from Israeli leaders and some of their supporters in the media that the Palestinians deliberately display dead bodies to score propaganda points, is that a fair allegation?
VITTERT: There's no question that both sides fight this out in the media as much as they do on the battlefield. The charge that the Palestinians make access for the media very easy is true. They want their story to be told in the media. And it's one of the real challenges of a reporter is to see the emotion. And I don't care what side someone's on. When there's a young child who's dead and their mother is holding them in their arms and crying, you cannot be helped but be overwhelmed by emotion. The question is how to make sure that emotion doesn't color your reporting.
KURTZ: And that's what I was going to ask you. I mean how do you even deal with it not just as a journalist, but as a human being? I mean there's so much misery when these break out, and this is not some distant war, you kind of up close, Israel is a small country, Gaza Strip is incredibly small. How do you deal with it personally being supposed to so much of it?
VITTERT: I think you have to sort of take some time and take a step back sometimes at night and really thank whatever providence you believe in that you have a safe place to come home to at some level. I realize that a lot of people don't. I think the one thing that you have to keep in mind is that so often in television news, in a 90-second piece or a two-minute piece, you're looking for an absolute right and an absolute wrong. And in the Middle East and a lot of times in times of war, it's really a thousand or 3,000 shades of gray. And that's hard to put into two minutes. Because you're looking for an answer at the end. And most of the time in a story in a conflict that's going on for 2,000 plus years, you can't just put a bow on it and go OK, that's it.
KURTZ: So, is that frustrating that you couldn't get - didn't have time or it's just harder to deal with some of the nuances, like, yes, Israel bombed this building and unfortunately this family was killed, but the Israelis did drop leaflets or make phone calls or at least warn people to evacuate?
VITTERT: Right. And then you do go a step further. But the reason that there's so many civilians in this building and it's overcrowded is because of the poverty is there. Well, it's because the poverty that the blockade exists. And you think about most of the issues that you deal with today, the immigration debate, it's been going on for a decade, a couple of decades. This has been a problem that's been going on for thousands of years. And to be able to put all of that history into a piece is impossible.
KURTZ: You talked about Palestinians, obviously, using television cameras to try to get their side out and show the human misery of this conflict. Did the Israelis aggressively spin the press as well? Was that your experience when you were there?
VITTERT: Both sides fight this out as a public relations war. I mean it's no secret that Prime Minister Netanyahu is out doing every Sunday show now. When the peace process is going on and you want to try to get him on camera, he's not too keen to talk to you.
So it's - both sides .
KURTZ: But he uses his availability. And look, he speaks perfect English. And he's a very good spokesman for his country. He uses his availability selectively, you are saying, when he wants to score points in the middle of a war when Israel is getting a lot of international criticism .
VITTERT: Any politician does. Look at President Obama. There's times he gives interviews when he has a message he wants to put out and there's times that he doesn't give interviews when he doesn't talk about things. The Israelis are the same way, the Palestinians are the same way, as well. It' a public relation. The difference, I think, that the Israelis have is the Palestinians. If you go talk to almost any Palestinian on the street, they have a very simple narrative that they tell the story. The Israelis, it's a little bit more nuanced.
KURTZ: Leland Vittert, thanks very much for giving us the expertise that you acquired during those years in the Middle East. I appreciate it. Up next, Elizabeth Warren says she's not running for president, but that hasn't dimmed her growing media coverage. And later, Jon Stewart watched my interview with John McCain. And let's just say he did not like being called unfair to Republicans.
KURTZ: All Elizabeth Warren has to do is make a speech or show up at the conference, and the media - over how beloved she is by the left on like a certain former first lady.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CAROL COSTELLO, HOST "CNN NEWSROOM": While Hillary continues to dance around the issue, calls are growing for another Democrat, Senator Elizabeth Warren, to jump into the race.
STEVE KORNACKI, HOST UP WITH STEVE KORNACKI: Waiving Warren for President signs, senior senator from Massachusetts Elizabeth Warren brought an exuberant crowd to its feet yesterday with her trademark populist message. But there was one Democrat who was conspicuously absent, Hillary Clinton.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Should she be worried about Elizabeth Warren?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
JEDEDIAH BILA, CO-HOST, "OUTNUMBERED": And Elizabeth Warren also has the appeal of a regular person who can go out there and talk to people.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, great.
BILA: I always think she doesn't have that D.C. establishment edge.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Joining us now from New York, Joe Concha, a columnist for Mediaiate and here in Washington, Jackie Kucinich, political reporter for The Washington Post. Jackie, these stories say the left has a love affair with Elizabeth Warren, but it seems like the media are swooning over here. Why?
JACKIE KUCINICH, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, she is doing some things that candidates do. She is going and she's campaigning for Democratic candidates. So, and she's speaking at networks, she's doing the sort of things that are so shiny that we can't help but cover it as someone who might be making inroads for a presidential bid. That said, lately in a lot of reports, I've seen it, instead of her challenging Hillary, it's her making, I guess, inroads so if Hillary doesn't run, that she'll be there waiting. So, there is a shifting a little bit in that. It's not Warren versus Hillary, it's Warren versus question mark.
KURTZ: I think you're being beaten on this joke.
KURTZ: Warren says again and again, she told it to Boston in -- no wiggle room, I'm not running. And then segment says, well, she says she's not running, but how would she do against Hillary Clinton?
JOE CONCHA, MEDIAITE.COM TV COLUMNIST: Well, if we look at the polls, she probably wouldn't do that well. Mrs. Clinton leads, Joe Biden is her closest competitor by 50 points in Iowa, 54 points in New Hampshire. But let's look at what we're really talking about here, which is what does the media do these days? It reports, obviously, the facts. But also it's all about info-tainment, as well. And Hillary going unchallenged to the nomination, gives you two themes, it gives you risk aversion and it gives you repetition. And as we saw during the book tour, that doesn't rate very well. That doesn't generate a lot of page views, that doesn't sell a lot of newspapers. Now, what would happen if we had an unchallenged Hillary? We would have seven or eight guys on the GOP side or even a woman that would be battling it out over there. And what would the media coverage be of the GOP? Rhetorical question, Howie. It would be overwhelmingly negative. So, if you just want one example .
KURTZ: It must be a rhetorical question because you just answered your own question. Jackie.
CONCHA: I did, didn't it?
KURTZ: Slate has a piece headlined "Run, Elizabeth, Run." John Dickerson saying that she would energize the base and spark it a wave. But I think it's the media that want a debate.
KUCINICH: I mean just covering one campaign on the Democratic side, Hillary's march to Washington, yeah, it would get boring. It would get repetitious. But I do, again, I do think there is that feeling what if Hillary doesn't run? This book tour .
KURTZ: So, but if she doesn't run, we can all go crazy for the next year. And yet it seems to me this is not just - I mean the media is almost promoting her as a challenger when she herself says I ain't doing it.
KUCINICH: But if the media didn't cover the - some of the things Warren and Biden were doing, then we would be accused of being too ready for Hillary.
KURTZ: Cover it, yes. But the tone has been so overwhelmingly positive. I'm wondering, Joe Concha, how much of this is because at least some journalists like her attacks on Wall Street and the one percent elite. This kind of resonates with those who might lean a little left in the news business.
CONCHA: To give Diane Sawyer credit. Because what she - exposed Hillary Clinton for what she is, and she is the prominent member of the richest one percent. She's not an underdog like Barack Obama was portrayed in 2008. You know, Howie, Gallop had a very interesting poll about a month ago, and they asked what would be the most positive thing about Hillary's presidency. And the number one answer was, well, because we would have a female president. Way down the list, at only five percent, was because she's the top choice. So, if you take Hillary out of that equation, she doesn't run, and you want a plan B, female president, check off a box, Elizabeth Warren can fill that void. And, you know, one great example that I saw, ABC News David Muir, future ABC roll news anchor as of September described Elizabeth Warren in an interview. This was the intro, "The woman on the front lines fighting to save the middle class." Again, rhetorical question. Does Paul Ryan, Rand Paul, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, would they ever get that kind of distinction? I don't think so.
KURTZ: Well, I've got a few seconds, what I'm hearing here is this is really more about Hillary and the fact that the media wants some kind of contest to cover, at least a debate on the liberal side.
KUCINICH: It's all about Hillary until she makes up her mind.
KURTZ: OK, a good answer to a non-rhetorical question. Joe Concha, Jackie Kucinich, thanks very much for joining us.
CONCHA: Thanks, Howie.
KURTZ: Ahead on "MediaBuzz," Is it just a rumor that David Gregory could be out at "Meet the Press?" But first Jon Stewart calls out Jon McCain over what he said on this program. Did my questions produce some kind of blood feud?
KURTZ: Well, my diabolical plot worked. We finally got Jon Stewart to acknowledge the question of whether he's way softer on Democrats as with his really friendly Hillary interview than on Republicans. And don't give me that he's just a comedian stuff. Jon Stewart is an important media commentator who uses humor to make his points. Anyway, here is how Stewart handled the question that I put to John McCain on last Sunday's program.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JON STEWART: From immigration to world nations to conflagrations, this past Sunday, our nation's leading journalistic lights sought answers to today's most pressing questions.
KURTZ: You've been on "The Daily Show" with Jon Stewart fair to Republicans?
STEWART: Obviously, it's a question we're all waiting for, Senator.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R) ARIZONA: No, but he -- you know, it doesn't matter, really.
STEWART: Why, Senator, why? Why don't I matter?
MCCAIN: When he says things -- which he's entitled to. After all, he's a late night comic -- that are absolutely wrong and he gets away with it.
STEWART: No? He's right. Those late night comics do get away with mistake after mistake.
STEWART: Some with catastrophic consequence. But I would be willing to bet, McCain, that if we went wrongo-e-wrongo, you would come out on bottom. My record of absolute wrongness against your record of absolute wrongness for a good old fashioned wrong-off.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: That's pretty funny stuff. By the way, I did ask the senator about one such moment, why he never apologized for his misjudgment in backing the Iraq war based on Saddam's non-existent weapons of mass destruction. And he blamed it on the case made by then Secretary of State Colin Powell. The host of "Daily Show" include my rather positive observation that he's not just a late night comic, but important social critic with a strong following among young people, but did you notice how he did something very clever there? He turned the debate into a credibility clash between him and McCain. But what about this question?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEWART: Is Jon Stewart fair to Republicans?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: On that, Jon Stewart sidestepped, ducked, dodged, evaded, changed the subject. But if you'd ever like to take it on, Jon, I'm available, just have your people call my people.
Still to come, CNN's Chris Cuomo calls out to Russia Today pundit over the plane shoot-down and what do Snoop Dogg and Bob Beckel have in common? Our video verdict in a moment.
KURTZ: Time now for our video verdict where we rate TV clips on whether they are good journalism and good television.
Tina and Chris Cuomo had been covering the wreckage for the Malaysian plane in Ukraine and then brought on a guest from "Russia Today."
ASHBURN: Peter Lavelle, a host at the Kremlin-funded channel insisted there was no evidence of Russian involvement in the shoot-down. And things got a little heated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS CUOMO: Peter, Peter, calm down. Take a breath. We've already have something bad happen. There's no reason to compound it.
PETER LAVELLE, ANCHOR, RUSSIA TODAY: Ask me an intelligent question.
CUOMO: I don't represent the U.S. government. You are speaking...
LAVELLE: Ask me an intelligent question.
CUOMO: Here -- I think I've asked you several. Your answer is, I don't know about the intelligence of it, but the questions are pretty spot on. Let me ask you again, because I'm not a representative of the U.S. You seem to be acting like a representative of Russia. And what I ask you is, why hasn't Russia come forward and came down --
LAVELLE: Character assassination.
LAVELLE: So, we went to --
CUOMO: France has done it.
LAVELLE: That's what you did.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Well, good for Chris Cuomo for exposing this guy as a propagandist. By the way, another anchor for "Russia Today" resigned --
KURTZ: …in protest.
ASHBURN: Two of them.
KURTZ: Yeah. He wouldn't let Peter Lavelle making that absurd statements about Russia (INAUDIBLE).
ASHBURN: OK, as much as I like Chris, he was a little condescending, a little bit of a character assassination when saying Peter, Peter what are you afraid of.
KURTZ: Character assassination?
ASHBURN: Well, a little bit, come on.
KURTZ: You saying that when he told him to take a breath and when he told him that there wasn't that much intelligence of this, he went a little too far?
ASHBURN: I think so. I think so. But I think it was good television. I loved how he asked the questions. I think that he really got at the heart of the matter so I'm giving the segment an eight.
KURTZ: Well, I think Chris Cuomo was hobbled by the satellite till it was made it hard to interrupt the spew or propaganda. I'm giving it a 9.
ASHBURN: OK, well, now we are going to turn to Snoop Dogg. Yes, you heard that right. We don't often talk about Snoop Dogg here. It wasn't exactly a huge shock when the rap star disclosed he was doing something at the White House he should not have been doing.
KURTZ: Well, when "The Five" got the whiff of this it brought a surprising admission from Bob Beckel.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you ever smoked at the White House?
SNOOP DOGG: In the bathroom.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You did. In the White House?
SNOOP DOGG: In the bathroom. In the White House, but in the bathroom.
When I'm doing number two, I use, you know, have a cigarette - give the aroma .
BOB BECKEL, FOX NEWS: And I can't - because I just got - because I've done that dope in the White House myself.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, god.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you breaking news, Bob?
BECKEL: No, I'm serious.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was a lot of dope in that white house.
BECKEL: That's in my book. It said - I did. Yeah.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You did dope in the White House. All right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ASHBURN: Poor Eric Bolling. All right. All right. I mean what do you say to that? And actually that is a little bit of my criticism of this. Is that I wanted to hear more. I wanted to hear more about Bob Beckel and his drug addiction, which he talks about in his book.
KURTZ: On that point I agree with you. First of all, good for Bob Beckel for being candid and giving the honest answer. He acknowledged years ago that he struggled with cocaine and alcohol addiction and has kicked it. But, you know, he wasn't - He didn't have enough time or didn't take enough time to explain that so all we got was yeah I once did dope at the White House.
ASHBURN: Right. And so, I think the better television would have been if he had gone and explained all that. I completely agree with you. I'm giving it a five.
KURTZ: I'm giving it a seven.
Still to come your best tweets. A big online plagiarism scandal. And much of the media now say David Gregory is not - for "Meet the Press." Based on what? Tabloid gossip?
KURTZ: Here are a few of your top tweets. Whether war coverage has been fair to Israel and the Palestinians. Peace says "The U.S. media has been predictably on the side of Israel. So sad journalists are not journalists. Ignorance is bliss." Travis Beck, "In a word "No." If fairness was the objective then the truth would be told, not the Hamas propaganda." Steve says "Mainstream media - hell, no. They keep trying to compare the death tolls, which is stupid. Israel tries to save all life, Hamas wants to take all life." And Glen weighs in, "Can you imagine how many dead Israelis there would be without the Iron Dome? Would the media show Israeli deaths?"
ASHBURN: Well, it definitely should show Israeli deaths. I mean that's the point of journalism to be fair and balanced.
KURTZ: And to show both sides in the war, but, of course, the death toll has been very imbalanced in this conflict. In our press picks this media fail. Buzz Feed fired its politics editor, Benny Johnson, on Friday, for blatant word for word plagiarism in more than 40 pieces. Now, critics say these big aggregation sites like Buzz Feed borrow too much material from elsewhere, but this was different. And old-fashioned scam. Editor Ben Smith did the right thing by moving quickly saying he's deeply embarrassed and apologizing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From NBC News in Washington this is "Meet the Press" with David Gregory.
DAVID GREGORY, "MEET THE PRESS" HOST: And good Sunday morning.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: It's no secret that David Gregory is struggling as moderator of "Meet the Press" having lost 43 percent of his audience and succeeding Tim Russert. But an item on the "New York Post" gossip, he paid six, as the media writing him off as toast even though it's based on a single unnamed NBC source saying Gregory could lose his job after the mid-terms. Perhaps, giving way to Chuck Todd and the network dismissed it a false rumor. "Huffington Post," David Gregory could reportedly be yanked from "Meet the Press." "The Daily Beast" went with "dead head talking" and adding that MSNBC's Joe Scarborough and Mica Brzezinski are aggressively angling for the Sunday show, prompting Scarborough to deny any aggressive angling on Twitter. All this standing from a tabloid gossiper.
ASHBURN: This is the way it works, though. You have agents behind the scenes, planting information in gossip sites, and then what bothers me, is that you have everybody in the mainstream media picking up on it and acting as if it's truth.
KURTZ: Right, now, it may be true, but at the same time, all of these other news organizations are just playing off this one item.
ASHBURN: One leak.
KURTZ: And finally NBC ought to either get rid of David Gregory if that's what - wants to do, or give him a full at the vote of confidence. This is cruel and unusual.
ASHBURN: It certainly is.
KURTZ: We agree on something. That's it for this edition of "MediaBuzz." I'm Howard Kurtz, check out my Facebook page, give us a like. We post original video there. We respond to your questions. Or you can e-mail us firstname.lastname@example.org. We're back here next Sunday morning 11 and 5 o'clock Eastern with the latest buzz.
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