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Media Buzz

Why are media gorging on impeachment?

This is a rush transcript from "Media Buzz," August 3, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: On the buzzmeter this Sunday, the nation's capital is consumed by talk of impeachment. This is truly bizarre, because nobody, nobody believes that President Obama is going to be impeached, but each side accusing the other of fanning the flames for partisan gains.


ED SCHULTZ, MSNBC ANCHOR: They want to impeach President Obama. Calls for the impeachment of the president of the United States, they're nothing new. Republicans have had impeachment on their minds since day one.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: It seems in recent days, the left has become obsessed with the i word, you know, impeachment. Maybe it's because they're using it as their latest campaign tactic.


KURTZ: Are the media enabling this utterly bogus drama?

The rising death toll in Gaza. The images of dead Palestinian children changing the tone of the war coverage.


JIM SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC: I'm sorry, this is just -- this is asinine. The killing of women and children in a way that appears to be indiscriminate, is asinine.


KURTZ: Is Israel losing support in the American media?

The New York Times launches a crusade to legalize marijuana. Are these editorial writers hallucinating or reflecting public opinion? And what about the warning signs in Colorado? Plus, the Ray Rice controversy. ESPN suspends commentator Stephen A. Smith for saying women who are abused by men have to be careful about provoking them, and then declared he was annoyed at the criticism before finally saying this.


STEPHEN A. SMITH, ESPN COMMENTATOR: Unfortunately, I did an incredibly poor job of asserting my point of view this past Friday. For that, again, I am truly, truly sorry.


KURTZ: Is that apology enough? And was ESPN's punishment way too light? I'm Howard Kurtz and this is "MediaBuzz."

The Republican House voted to sue President Obama this week for exceeding his legal authority. The latest round of political shadow boxing between the two sides. This is following during an equally surreal debate that was renewed when Sarah Palin called for Obama's impeachment, and the president had to joke about it.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You hear some of them. You sue him, impeach him. Really? Really? For what? You're going to sue me for doing my job? Okay.


KURTZ: John Boehner's reaction was, no way. But the House Republican Whip Steve Scalise didn't exactly run away from the i word in an interview with Chris Wallace.


CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS: Will you consider impeaching the president?

REP. STEVE SCALISE, R-LA.: You know, this might be the first White House in history that's trying to start the narrative of impeaching their own president.

WALLACE: But impeachment is off the table?

SCALISE: Well, the White House wants to talk about impeachment, and ironically, they're going out to try and fund-raise off that, too.


KURTZ: With more Democrats warning about impeachment, the House speaker has tried to shift the blame, and the partisan pundits are finger pointing.


JOHN BOEHNER, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We have no plans to impeach the president. We have no future plans. Listen, it's all a scam started by Democrats at the White House.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC: And Republicans in the Congress and those running for office have hyped impeachment. Now the Republican Party basically wants President Obama gone.

ERIC BOLLING, FOX NEWS: The Democrats said this is really working in our favor. Let's blow it up. They blew it up in the White House. The DCCC raised $2.1 million in one weekend on impeachment.


KURTZ: But are the media the ringmasters of this impeachment circus? Joining us now, Lauren Ashburn, Fox News contributor, who hosts "Social Buzz" on the web. Jonah Goldberg, editor at large of National Review and a Fox News contributor, and Keli Goff, special correspondent for

Are the media eating up this impeachment talk?

LAUREN ASHBURN, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely. They're trying to prop up the tent in this big circus. Even President Obama speculated, oh, well, maybe I should be impeached. Come on. When is the last time you saw the Tea Party and the White House agree on anything? These are strange bedfellows and the media cannot get enough.

KURTZ: It's a great story, right? Except it's not going to happen.

JONAH GOLDBERG, NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE: Well, it's a great story, except for the fact that it's not true. I mean, it's flatly not true and I think the media has completely fallen down. I was listening to an NPR piece this week where they just quoted Harry Reid uncritically saying all the Republicans want to do is talk about impeachment, which is just factually not true. And it is a direct attempt at misdirection. You even had Barack Obama aligning the word impeachment with being sued, when in fact, the whole point of the lawsuit is to fend off any attempt to impeach the president. I mean, it's just nonsense and disinformation, and the media is helping it.

KURTZ: So are the media falling prey to disinformation here? It was the Republicans who started this talk. And I would agree the Democrats are being a lot louder about it. Is this disinformation?

KELI GOFF, THEROOT.COM: Howie, I hope you don't expect me to come on here and accuse the media of covering stories that aren't important at the expense of stories that are, because that's something I obviously never critique the media for, sitting at this table. It seems to be the thing that you and I discuss regularly here, right, which is that we end up covering the Kardashian-type political stories as opposed to the things that really happened--

KURTZ: Are you likening the threat of impeaching the president of the United States to a Kim Kardashian reality show?

GOFF: The fact that it's turned into a three-ring circus when it's not a real story and we have real stories that should be covered, such as the fact that our federal government goes on vacation when we have bills that should be passed. But in terms of saying no Republicans want to talk about it, I'm going to have to respectfully disagree. Because some do. Allen West, for instance, the former congressman mentioned it in a Washington Post op ed. If anything, it's not about Democrats or Republicans wanting to discuss this as a party as a whole; it's about people like Sarah Palin, who frankly is the biggest winner in all of this, because she was sort of the person who got the biggest publicity kick from this, and now it's become a media circus. So much for being irrelevant, Sarah Palin, right? That's the media narrative.

GOLDBERG: But the media narrative, you're exactly right, the media narrative for the last five years is Sarah Palin doesn't matter, except when she says something that we can fund-raise off of. The only two politicians that you mentioned are both not in office any longer. They are part of the sort of Tea Party fund-raising machine. While I respect both of them personally, they do not represent the Republican leadership. They do not represent anyone moving any legislation or articles of impeachment in the House. And the fact that the mainstream media and MSNBC, which doesn't even qualify anymore, are sort of egging all of this on without any fact-squadding or truth-squadding, I think is outrageous.

KURTZ: What about MSNBC's role?

ASHBURN: I think MSNBC is using this as a tool, as we have discussed here, to bash Republicans. And--

KURTZ: Those crazy extremist Republicans who want to--

ASHBURN: Right, those right wing nutjobs, right? So I think if you look at Nate Silver's, and he has done a great job of compiling all of the mentions of the word impeachment over the last year. MSNBC has used the word impeachment 900 times in the last year.

KURTZ: And -- so far this year, right. And Fox? What about Fox?

ASHBURN: A couple hundred. I mean, it just doesn't make any sense, that argument.

KURTZ: But Jonah, you're acting as if when the mainstream media report on this, that nobody ever mentions that the Democrats are kind of encouraging this because it riles up their base. Is that what you're saying?

GOLDBERG: No. I think some people mention it, but they -- they're not exactly particularly critical of the effort, right? I mean, this effort is so unbelievably cynical, particularly when it's actually being used to leverage an actual public policy agenda, insofar as the president actually wants to take more draconian unilateral action on a host of policy areas. And what he's trying to do is he is trying to soften the ground in advance by saying anyone who protests are just like these crazy impeachers. When in fact -- and I think Ross Douthat had a great column about this in today's New York Times, where he's basically saying they are trying to lay the predicate down that any criticism of a wantonly lawless unilateral action on immigration will -- any criticism of it will just seem like another whack job impeachment call.

GOFF: I read his column, and I thought it was an interesting column, but here is the problem where I think Republicans can't have it both ways. He dismissed Sarah Palin as someone who is creatively crying for attention, surprise, surprise, Sarah Palin creatively crying for attention, but as though she is someone who had no major role -- she is not a Rush Limbaugh figure. She was on a major presidential ticket.


KURTZ: Palin aside, let me just get back to this. Palin aside, it's not just sort of figures on the fringe. There have been a number of Republican congressmen over the past year who at least have talked about impeachment. And then I showed the clip at the top of the no 3. Republican in the House, Steve Scalise, could have said to Chris Wallace, oh, that's crazy, we're not going to do that. He kept turning the question and pointing at the White House. So what about that?

GOFF: I think ABC News got the headline right, which is that impeachment talk, Tea Party introduced it, Democrats co-opted it. So there is blame to go around here on this story. I don't think it's fair to just say that one party is having a field day with it. I think both kind of are, and unfortunately so is the media.

KURTZ: So the House this week voted to authorize a lawsuit against President Obama for exceeding his authority on Obamacare. Is this lawsuit, as some people are calling that impeachment-lite, not that it's going to go anywhere, is that taking our focus off the fact that this president, this Congress, basically accomplished nothing?

ASHBURN: Of course we love to cover a big fight like this. It's a clown show, really, going back to the circus analogy. It was covered. All of the -- they passed a VA bill, right, before they left.

KURTZ: I was glad to see that.

ASHBURN: And I was, too. I thought, finally, they're actually doing something before they go on summer break. But that was covered on the inside of newspapers and barely got coverage, compared to impeachment and impeachment lite.

KURTZ: But Jonah, when we talk about the focus on the president and you say what is he going to do on immigration and whether or not this is all a big distraction. On Thursday and Friday, you had the situation where John Boehner couldn't get his own caucus to approve a bill just to deal with the border crisis and all the undocumented tens of thousands of kids there. And then they passed a more conservative version that has no chance of becoming law because it's so far from the Senate version. Do you think it is fair for the media to be portraying the Republicans, at least on this issue, as being in disarray?

GOLDBERG: No, I think it's perfectly legitimate to say they're in disarray. I do think saying that in absence of pointing out the fact that Harry Reid's Senate has been wantonly partisan, obstructionism hasn't done anything and went home and vacationed without trying to pass any laws, makes it seem as if the real problem is only the Republican House, which is in disarray, when in fact, Harry Reid and the Democrats have been in lockstep basically following the orders of the White House to do nothing for a very long time.

KURTZ: Do you think the media gives Harry Reid and his compatriots a pass while focusing very heavily on--

GOLDBERG: Focusing (inaudible) on the Republicans without saying anything critical of Harry Reid.

KURTZ: Here is a great example, Keli, of media partisanship on this bill that the -- the border bill that the House Republicans did eventually pass through. HuffPost, screaming headline in the Huffington Post, House puts half million at deportation risk. Third paragraph of the story, the measure has no chance of becoming law.

So going back to your point about do we in this business focus too much on the game playing, and less on there are actual problems here well beyond the border that need to be addressed that are not being addressed because of the utter dysfunction in Washington.

GOFF: I'm going to see something I rarely do. One-word answer, yes. I think there's a lot of focus on who is scoring points and who is not. I wrote a column from the Daily Beast specifically about tracking the numbers through Gallup over the last decade on how Americans, not dysfunctional people in Congress, but Americans actually view the issue of immigration. And what you start to see happening was actually a shift, Howard, in that you have people like some of my family members back in Texas who had very strong feelings one way in the opposite direction about immigration reform, and really started to sort of evolve on the issue as they started to see people like my friend Jose Antonio Vargas, who have been great contributors to this country, won a Pulitzer, hadn't gotten a speeding ticket, then they say, OK, that's someone who is a DREAMer I can support staying. You have these children come in, and then you have the political game playing around the kids, and now a lot of people are saying, wait a minute, we have problems in urban Chicago for instance, problems elsewhere and where --


KURTZ: -- all the deaths in Chicago. There's so many issues we could sit here and tick off, and instead we're doing impeachment (ph) stuff (ph). This is why people hate Washington. I think this is increasingly why people don't trust the news business. Because they know, they sense that we are expending all this energy and having a fine time talking about something that's not going to happen.

Send me a tweet about our show during this hour @howardkurtz, and we'll read some of your messages at the end of the program. When we come back, the New York Times pushing to legalize pot. Is that a liberal fantasy?

And later, the ESPN commentator who said women shouldn't provoke domestic abuse, he gets off with a wrist slap.


KURTZ: The New York Times editorial page mounted an unusual crusade this week. Day after day, the paper argued, it is time to legalize marijuana.


ANDREW ROSENTHAL, EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR, NY TIMES: I guess the point is we're not urging people to smoke pot anymore than we are for them to drink alcohol or to smoke cigarettes. It's just that making it illegal was creating a social cost for the country that was absolutely unacceptable.


KURTZ: But the media didn't just fall into line. CBS interviewed a prominent opponent while NBC's Today Show reported on a rise in homelessness in the first state to legalize weed, Colorado.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This summer in Colorado, there's a different type of Rocky Mountain high, a higher number of the homeless.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know a couple of people who were like, yes, I'm from Texas. I'm just here to smoke.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm here because I was able to just smoke pot freely.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But what the New York Times is calling for is a radical move that counters all the major medical associations that have looked at this. And it wouldn't be good for America. Do we really want to encourage a stoned society?


KURTZ: Jonah Goldberg, is the New York Times out of touch on this marijuana crusade? Polls do show that 54 percent of Americans in a couple of recent surveys favor legalization.

GOLDBERG: Yes. Look, I write for a magazine, "National Review," that called for ending the drug war 20 years ago. OK.

KURTZ: Including decriminalizing pot?

GOLDBERG: Including decriminalizing pot. I'm a little more of an outlier- -

KURTZ: So you're saying the Times is late to this?

GOLDBERG: What I'm saying in fact is that the New York Times is pulling a Ferris Buehler, where you jump out in front of the parade and you act like you're leading it. This has been a fad and a fashionable thing in progressive circles and elite circles for years now. In terms of decriminalizing pot. When Colorado, the District of Columbia, Washington state, beat the New York Times to the position, you can't really say the New York Times is out in front of anything.

Moreover, the hypocrisy of the New York Times invoking state rights -- something I care about a great deal --

KURTZ: Let's explain. Saying that once we repeal the federal law, each state can decide on its own, like Colorado, Washington--

GOLDBERG: Which I think is fantastic.

KURTZ: -- to repeal or not. You like it?

GOLDBERG: I am very much -- I would push almost all of these things down to the lowest level possible. But the New York Times doesn't have that position on tobacco, it doesn't have that position on anything else except on policies where it thinks it will advance the ball.

KURTZ: Doesn't have that position on health care, does not have that position on same-sex marriage. Keli, as we saw a little bit in those clips, the rest of the media not falling into line with glowingly positive reports about let's go ahead and legalize pot.

GOFF: It was interesting, because Gawker, which can be awfully snarky sometimes, I thought they actually had a very interesting column by Hamilton Owen (ph), which was titled, endorsing legalized weed doesn't make you a thought leader. Which sounds again like a snarky Gawker type title, but when you read it, he essentially made the same argument, which is when you have the New York Times doing article after article for years on the inherent inequity, racially, in terms of arrests and who was facing larger penalties for marijuana arrests in New York, and then to weigh all of this time, once it sort of becomes popular in polls nationally to say, well, here we are being thought leaders on the issue, you can't really claim that mantle.

KURTZ: Two votes for the Times being too slow. But look, this is a serious effort, multiple editorials, TV appearances, a Facebook chat. Is this issue worth it?

ASHBURN: I think that they could have spent a lot of that ink on something that is more important to the American public. How about the economy and creating jobs? How about the VA scandal? Where did that go? That's fallen off the face of the print media.

It just seems to me like this social issue does advance the cause of the Upper West Side editors who happen to run the paper and not the people across America.

KURTZ: I've described it as the revenge of the baby boomers, who were smoking a fair amount of pot--

ASHBURN: If it feels good, do it, right?

KURTZ: Yes. But the New York Times getting behind this issue, is that having an impact in and of itself?

ASHBURN: I think it's stirring the pot. No pun -- no, actually, the pun was intended. But it is getting people to talk about it. We're talking about it here. You and I talked about it on Bill O'Reilly's show. People are concerned about it in these sort of media circles. But my point still is --

KURTZ: Media circles means that it's -- even if it's -- if the paper is late and it's not a thought leader, it is now driving this conversation, and that's part of what an editorial page is supposed to do, to spur debate.

GOFF: I think they're surprised at how little it's actually driven the conversation. I think ten years ago, this would have really been a major news story. As we've all discussed, it's not. I mean, what happened is I think the New York Times has been caught a little bit off guard by how much social media actually drives conversations in the way editorial pages no longer do in publications.

GOLDBERG: I think that's exactly right. And I think also, this marijuana legalization is a fad and all that, all that stuff I said already, but there's another issue. The New York Times editorial page, not the op-ed page, they got some good columnist and some terrible ones, but the editorial page is awful. They write terrible editorials.

KURTZ: What does that have to do with --

GOLDBERG: That's my point. They lost their credibility. The Washington Post has interesting editorials. The Wall Street Journal, lots of newspapers do. The New York Times is the most boring, uninteresting go with the fad liberal elitist publication.

ASHBURN: Let me guess. You don't write for the New York Times, do you?

GOLDBERG: Nor do I have any intention of trying. No, I can be honest. Otherwise (inaudible)--

KURTZ: I thought you were going to say they were drinking too much alcohol.

GOLDBERG: No, they're just bad.

KURTZ: I'll leave that to your opinion. But I will also say that I do think the Times has influenced the debate here. Jonah Goldberg, Keli Goff, thank you for joining us.

After the break, former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell's corruption trial turns tabloid, but is that the media's fault? And up next is the American press starting to blame Israel for the rising number of civilian casualties in Gaza?


KURTZ: As the war between Israel and Hamas continues to rage, as the death toll in Gaza continues to climb, the tone of the American media coverage is changing. While Israel of course is trying to minimize civilian casualties, some journalists are more skeptical, more challenging of the magnitude of the Israeli assault.


ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS: Ambassador, what do you say to Americans and other people around the world who admire and cherish Israel as the only democracy in the region, yet see the images, uncontested images of Palestinian children -- and what do you say to them that Israel may be losing its soul?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN: If my calculations are right, Israel has in the last three weeks killed more Palestinian children, more than 200, than the total number of Israeli soldiers killed in military operations since 2006. At what point does the Israeli government say, enough, we're killing too many innocent children?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't want to see innocent civilians caught up in the crossfire between us and Hamas.


KURTZ: Joining me now from Palo Alto, California, is Janine Zacharia, former Jerusalem bureau chief for the Washington Post, who now teaches at Stanford.

Let me start by asking you, is this rising death toll in Gaza, now 1600, 1700, turning some American journalists and commentators more skeptical, even hostile towards Israel?

JANINE ZACHARIA, FORMER JERUSALEM BUREAU CHIEF, WASHINGTON POST: Look, Andrea Mitchell is an outstanding, seasoned journalist. I think that was her voice in my ear there. And she was asking a smart question. There's no way not to at least acknowledge the rising death toll and to ask the Israeli military what they think about this, ask Israeli political figures, what they think, why is this necessary. I don't know how many times Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to the U.S. or Mark Regev, the prime minister's spokesman, have been on TV making their case.

Whether or not the American media is turning quote/unquote against Israel, I don't know if that's the way to frame it. When you had a CNN reporter tweet Israeli scum because she saw them cheering as Israeli missiles were landing in Gaza, she was immediately removed from Israel. When you have --


KURTZ: And she said she felt threatened by that particular group of Israelis. Let me move to my next question, which is what reaction do you and other reporters get when you question Israel's military strategy or whether the casualties are disproportionate to this goal of closing down those secret Hamas tunnels? What's the reaction?

ZACHARIA: Well, look, there's two narratives on what's happening here. This is what we've always known, for years of reporting on this conflict, you have got the Israeli narrative, which is you have the Hamas terrorist organization that is responsible for what's happening here, right? Because they fire rockets into Israel, the way they carried out suicide bombings in the '90s, and they are the ones who should be blamed. Then you have the other narrative, which the Palestinians are locked in an open air prison in the Gaza strip, and they're in a way held hostage. They can't move, they can't do anything, and how can you blame them or their leadership for Israeli military strikes that are killing so many people?

So you try your best as a reporter to report what's going on here. I think what's happening is, with the advent of social media, a lot of reporters in the field unfortunately feel licensed to tweet out personal opinions that frankly they should be scaling back and they shouldn't be doing, right? And so I remember when I was based in Jerusalem and when I was in Gaza, if you recall, Howie, in 2010, when Israel seized a Turkish aid ship, and they killed nine Turkish activists on board. I wrote the story for the Washington Post. I got hammered on the phone by a senior Israeli official for the way I played the story. You know what I told him? I said, pick up the Independent in London, put on the BBC. I just don't believe that the American media is so suddenly anti-Israel. Even now, with enormous casualties they're questioning.

KURTZ: We're a little tight on time. What about the Israeli media? You wrote the following in Slate, you said "in times of war, many if not most Israeli journalists, with some admirable exceptions, hunker down with the rest of the country and are afraid to ask tough questions."

Have you still got me? Okay. Sorry to have to cut short our interview with Janine Zacharia. I guess our satellite went down. I think that she was making the point that when journalists try to steer a middle ground, to ask tough but skeptical questions, they get hammered by both sides. My apologies for losing our contact. Thank you, Janine Zacharia.

In our press picks, this media fail. David Frum, a senior writer for the Atlantic, used Twitter to accuse the New York Times of publishing bogus staged photos of two blood-soaked men at a Gaza hospital whose father had been killed in an Israeli air strike. That's a very serious charge. And similar photos from AP and Reuters show the Times pictures are, in fact, authentic. Frum now says I was wrong, I retract and I apologize.

Coming up, ESPN's Stephen A. Smith says he's really sorry for saying women might provoke their partners to beat them, but does his apology go far enough? And later, a CNN anchor is so furious at Fox, that he drops an f bomb.




RAY RICE, RAVENS RUNNING BACK: I made the biggest mistake of my life and I want to own it.


KURTZ: Baltimore Ravens star Ray Rice apologizing the other day after the NFL suspended him for a measly two games, this following allegations that he knocked out his fiancee and was captured on videotape dragging her unconscious body, as we see right there, out of an elevator. The tawdry episode prompted this rant by ESPN commentator, Stephen A. Smith.


STEPHEN A. SMITH, ESPN: What I've tried to employ the female members of my family, some of whom you all met and talked to and what have you, is that, again, and this is what -- I've done this all my life. Let's make sure we don't do anything to provoke wrong actions. So let's try to make sure that we can do our part in making sure that that doesn't happen.


KURTZ: Smith spent days defending himself on Twitter, saying he was annoyed by the criticism of his remarks, and that enough was enough, before finally telling viewers this was, quote, the most egregious error of my career.


SMITH: I ventured beyond the scope of our discussion by alluding to a woman's role in such heinous matters, going so far as to use the word provoke in my diatribe. My words came across that it is somehow a woman's fault. This was not my intent. To apologize, to say I'm sorry doesn't do the matter its proper justice, to be quite honest, but I do sincerely apologize.


KURTZ: Espn has now suspended Smith for one week. Does that punishment fit the crime? I sat down with Christine Brennan, sports columnist for USA Today.


KURTZ: Chris Brennan, welcome.


KURTZ: Were you offended by what Stephen Smith said about women sometimes provoking violence?

BRENNAN: Yes, I was. I did not see it live. I saw the firestorm on Twitter. Which of course we see with almost everything these days, right. And immediately just started to read up on it. And yes, I thought that was just a -- it was an awful thing to say. It was clearly ill advised. Stephen A. Smith is a smart man. A veteran. He knows better. I don't know what he was trying to get it, but obviously whatever he was saying was so muddled, but the words did just scream out and -- absolutely inappropriate and wrong.

KURTZ: On that point, was his apology enough, and did ESPN do enough by taking him off the air for a week? And not even calling it a suspension?

BRENNAN: I wish they had done more. Stephen A. Smith is a colleague and a friend. We've worked together on radio shows over the years. I've probably known him for 20, 25 years. He is lucky to have his job, let's just say that.

KURTZ: Because?

BRENNAN: Because if he had -- well, he certainly could have been fired, anyway, for what he said. I'm wondering if he had said something about other groups of people, obviously, you know, talked about women this way, if you say this in a racial sense -- obviously he's an African-American man so that kind of takes that out of the equation. But I wonder if he had said other things about other people, if he would have lost his job.

KURTZ: There is a bit of a history here. Two years ago in the NFL, Chad Johnson was arrested in a domestic incident with his wife. Stephen Smith said this. "There are plenty of instances where provocation comes into consideration. Instigation comes into consideration. I will be on the record right here on national television and say I am sick and tired of men constantly being vilified." Is there a pattern here?

BRENNAN: Yes, there is. I think ESPN could have taken that into consideration, Howie, and levied a much stronger suspension. Obviously it's not my job to say what it should have been.

KURTZ: But that's your opinion.

BRENNAN: But a week? As you said, kind of a stealth suspension where we didn't even know. All of a sudden, he's just off the air for a week. As I said, Stephen A. is very lucky to be working, and it makes me sad to say this, because I wish he had never opened this can of worms, wish he had never gone there, wish he'd never said these words to begin with.

But yes, really, Stephen A.? From a few years ago, now this? And I think that, you know, a suspension of several months, I think, again, just throwing it out there, would have seemed much more appropriate considering the severity of this issue in this country at this time. A week and you're back, that just seems wrong to me.

KURTZ: Slap on the wrist territory.

BRENNAN: Absolutely.

KURTZ: Some folks say, look, these sports pundits are hired provocative and then when they get a little too provocative, they get whacked. Is there something to that? Or is this in a different category?

BRENNAN: Well, I think there is -- making people think. I know that over the years in our business, you and I, we have wanted to say things, but you believe it, whatever, and you say it and you know there's going to be a reaction. But there's right and there's wrong, Howie. At the end of the day, there's things you can say and there is things you cannot say.

KURTZ: What bothered me is that it took him several days to realize the severity of his remarks, and he was defending himself on Twitter, and that I thought showed the classic not getting it. But another recent instance, former NFL coach Tony Dungy got hammered for saying he would not have drafted Michael Sam because of what he saw as the media distraction over his being the first openly gay player in the league. Was that a terrible thing to say or is sports commentary in part becoming a game of gotcha?

BRENNAN: Well, in this case, with Tony Dungy, it was kind of talking around an issue. And when he said I wouldn't want to have to deal with all of that, I think, as you know, of course Dungy was criticized, as you said, greatly, and then he came back and basically blamed the reporter for not asking more questions, and not leading him to a point where he could have explained himself better.

KURTZ: Interesting defense.

BRENNAN: Exactly. And for a man who has been interviewed thousands of times, Tony Dungy obviously, he's a talking head now on television, that he needs to be led to this place by a journalist? It's just laughable. I mean, Tony Dungy is looking for any excuse possible to explain what I believe were words that did sound inappropriate and anti-gay. And he is a man, of course, who has that history, working for anti-gay marriage law in Indiana a few years ago. On that side of his issue. And that's his right, of course. But then -- well, back it up. If you really say that and you don't want to have all that, whatever all of that means, then the reality is, of course, don't try to blame it on the reporter, stand by your words, or say what you mean and obviously make it clearer.

KURTZ: Television can be a dangerous business, and standing by your words is important and explaining your words is equally important. Christine Brennan, thank you very much for joining us.

BRENNAN: Howie, thank you.


KURTZ: Just got a tweet on this subject from Mike Sangawalt (ph) who says Stephen A. Smith was hired for his opinions. ESPN's suspension of him was gutless and hypocritical.

Up next, a former governor says his marriage was broken and his wife had a crush on a favor seeking businessman. Are the media falling for a ruse in Bob McDonnell's trial? And later, the dating site that deliberately set up lousy matches for its customers.


KURTZ: The corruption charges against former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell never caused much of a national splash when the Washington Post disclosed the relationship between the governor, his wife Maureen, the former Redskins cheerleader, and businessman Johnny Williams, who got their help promoting a nutritional supplement and who gave the couple $165,000 in cash, loans and lavish gifts like designer dresses and a Rolex watch. Then came the indictment.


FORMER GOV. BOB MCDONNELL, R-VA.: I have apologized for my poor judgment and I accept full responsibility for accepting these legal gifts and loans.


KURTZ: But the McDonnell mess remained largely a local story until this week's trial turned tabloid. The couple's defense is that, oh, their marriage was broken. They were barely speaking to each other. Maureen McDonnell had a crush on Johnny Williams, who was constantly calling and texting this poor ignored wife. But MSNBC's Rachel Maddow has an objection.


RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: What does not make sense is the media helping them with it. To the extent that this trial is being covered nationally so far, it is being covered purely in a tabloid way, right? Purely through the lens of catty, frankly sexist gossip about the first lady and how she liked expensive shoes and fancy shopping sprees, while Bob McDonnell is cool, calm and collected. The press is bending over backwards to help the McDonnell legal defense.


KURTZ: Bending over backwards, how is that, Rachel?


MADDOW: That makes sense as a legal strategy. But attention, news media. This is an overt strategy, and you are helping one side of this legal case by advancing this strategic storyline for them, because you can't resist a tabloid soap opera tale. You're being played.


KURTZ: Hold on. How did this become our fault when the former governor of Virginia tries to save his neck with a weird love trial defense? That's the story. It's news, we have to report it. And the media should be openly skeptical, of course. But it's not our job to prosecute Bob McDonnell.

Ahead in our video verdict, did David Gregory blunder by confronting a "Meet the Press" guest with an unverified Israeli video?

And Rand Paul accuses MSNBC of not telling the truth. Did the network sandbag the senator?


KURTZ: Time now for our "Video Verdict." Where we rate TV clips based on whether they're good journalism and good television. On last week's "Meet the Press," David Gregory played some video from the war between Israel and Hamas for U.N. spokesman Chris Gunness.


DAVID GREGORY, NBC: Mr. Gunness, the Israeli government has released videotape within the past hour, which was posted on Youtube. NBC News has not independently verified. The Israelis say, and I realize you cannot see this video, but our audience can and I'm going to describe it to you, that purports to show rockets being fired from a U.N. school. Is this accurate?

CHRIS GUNNESS, U.N. SPOKESMAN: To be fair to me, to bring me on a live program and expect me to comment live on air on pictures I haven't actually seen, I think anyone looking at this program would agree that that's really unfair.


ASHBURN: But by the end of the program, Gregory came back and offered viewers this postscript about the Israeli claim that the video showed Hamas opening fire from a U.N. school in Gaza.


GREGORY: The U.N. has reviewed it. Tells us that they have confirmed, in their view, the video does not show rockets being fired from a U.N. administrated school in Gaza, so this is a back and forth we are not able to settle at this point.


KURTZ: For David Gregory to show an unverified video that has just been released on live television is an enormous error, and to ask for a comment from a guest who can't even see it on the monitor is idiotic.

ASHBURN: I don't understand it. This is a venerable news program, and I happen to think that playing into this are the attacks that he had received earlier about maybe losing his job. Also it's a news program that's acting like cable, something was coming in at the last minute and we had to get reaction to it, even though we hadn't seen it. And that is not what this is about. I'm giving this a one.

KURTZ: I also think this is a producing error on the part of the staff and I'm also giving it a one.

ASHBURN: OK. Rand Paul was on MSNBC the other day, along with fellow senator Cory Booker, to tout a bipartisan bill on criminal justice.

KURTZ: But when host Ari Melber began asking Paul about a four-year-old interview he'd done with Rachel Maddow on the Civil Rights Act, the senator wasn't exactly pleased.


ARI MELBER, MSNBC: Part of what you said at the time, Senator, was that you had concerns about the rules for private business while you support most of the Civil Rights Act. Why did you evolve on rules for private business?

SEN. RAND PAUL, R-KY.: What I would say is that, to be fair to myself, because I like to be fair to myself is that I have always been in favor of the Civil Rights Act, so people need to get over themselves, writing all this stuff that I have changed my mind on the Civil Rights Act.

MELBER: I think the honest discussion is, you've said that some title of it, Title 2 and Title 7, that relate to businesses.

PAUL: The honest discussion would be that I never was opposed to the Civil Rights Act. And when your network does 24 hour news telling the truth, then maybe we can get somewhere with the discussion.


ASHBURN: We talk about rating these video clips on good journalism and good television. This I think was good journalism. He asked respectful questions instead of shouting over him.

KURTZ: Ari Melber's tone was fine, but I think he totally sandbagged Rand Paul. He has the two senators on to talk about something else, and then by the way, let's now spend three minutes on something you said four years ago. It looked like MSNBC was out to get the senator.

ASHBURN: I can't say that part of that isn't true, because in that interview, one of the things they did was they put a full screen of his words from 2010 over what he was saying right there. You couldn't really understand it or pay attention to him. So I'm giving it a six.

KURTZ: That is generous, I am giving it a three.

Still to come, your best tweets. And OK Cupid lying to people trying to find love, and it's not sorry in the slightest.


KURTZ: Here are a few of your top tweets. I asked, should the media take impeachment seriously? Robert Cowling, "only in the context of a self- inflicted head wound." Charlie Moses, "not until serious members of the House of Representatives start discussing the subject." Keith Burgin says, "yes, but the focus should be on who's doing the talking. Impeachment, while fanciful, is being used by both sides." And Kurt Malz, "only from the angle of inside Washington and the destructive politics as usual by our elected elite."

ASHBURN: Charlie's right. Elect an impeachment Congress in 2014, and then the media can start talking about it seriously.

KURTZ: Right. It's just not a serious subject, but everybody's talking about it, including the media.

In our press picks, this is over the line. CNN anchor Bill Weir seems like a smart guy, but boy did he do something stupid. He didn't like a post about climate change debate on FoxNation, a conservative blog ran by Fox, so he tweeted, "weather is not climate, you willfully ignorant f." It was a variation, a creative one, of the f bomb. So the anchor's idea of cleverness is calling people deliberately idiotic and cursing? Weir later tweeted an apology to Fox Nation for name calling, saying dumb move, my bad.

Very bad, indeed.

First, Facebook secretly manipulated the mood of its users by feeding them either positive or negative information. Now the dating site OK Cupid has been screwing around with people trying to find partners. Men and women who were deemed bad matches, for instance, were told that they would be good matches, and sent each other more messages as a result, and OK Cupid ran some profiles with pictures and no text and vice versa, and found shockingly that people looking for mates care more about the pictures.

Did the website apologize for lying to its subscribes? No way. OK Cupid president Christian Rudder said that if you use the Internet, you're the subject of hundreds of experiments at any given time, on every site, that's how websites work.

ASHBURN: And does that make it right? No. Facebook messed with feelings, and they're doing this with OK Cupid without users knowing about it. And I have a problem with that. This company is treating people like they're customers, not clients, and without their information, they would not have anything.

KURTZ: I have a problem with being sent on a really bad date with somebody you're told is a 90 percent match, and it's actually only 30 percent.

ASHBURN: And then having to pay for it? You're out money, right?

KURTZ: Right.

ASHBURN: Come on. We all live on the Internet, we all know that things like this are going on, and you click that, do you agree with all of the terms from this website and you don't even look at the terms from the website.


ASHBURN: I'm being a realist, Howie, I'm being a realist, because this does happen. I don't like it, but of course this is going to happen.

KURTZ: Well, I think OK Cupid will probably end up losing a few customers.

ASHBURN: I would vote with my mouse and go to something else. I'm not dating, so I don't know what would be. But I would go someplace.

KURTZ: Just to make that clear. All right. That's it for this edition of "MediaBuzz," I'm Howard Kurtz. Check out our Facebook page. We give it to you straight. Give us a like. We post exclusive video there and we respond to your questions. And you can e-mail us, We're back here next Sunday morning, 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET for the latest buzz.

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