Obama's 'no strategy' moment: Press pounces after comment on ISIS

Press pounces after comment on ISIS


This is a rush transcript from "MediaBuzz," August 31, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: On the "Buzz Meter" this Sunday, the media plunge into a polarizing debate over whether President Obama should step up military action against the ISIS terrorists in Syria. 


MEGYN KELLY, HOST, "THE KELLY FILE": Why can't we get a straight answer on the threat level to America and/or American interests by ISIS?

MONICA CROWLEY, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: You have to kill their leadership and take out as many rank and file jihaddies as possible. 

ED SCHULTZ, HOST, "THE ED SHOW": I don't buy into all the fear mongering that I'm hearing from the right wing. We are bombing the tar out of them. 

Yeah. I think the president is doing a good job handling it. 


KURTZ: All this prompting President Obama to hold a news conference and say we have no strategy yet against ISIS. We'll examine the coverage of this extraordinary moment.

Reverend Al speaks at Michael Brown's funeral and leads off his cable show with Reverend Al at Michael Brown's funeral. Why does MSNBC continue to allow this charade? 

New evidence from our focus groups on just how deeply Americans mistrust the media. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who believes that all of journalism in one way or another is spin? Raise your hands. Who believes that all of media in one way or another is spin? Oh, my god.



KURTZ: Our media critics grapple with this painful question. How did the news business sink so low? 

Plus, why the media are outraged about Burger King skipping off to Canada and avoiding U.S. taxes. And Stephen Colbert tangled with me again, this time over the coverage of Ferguson. 


STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE COLBERT REPORT": We do know, is the shooting of an unarmed, young black man is a story we've heard far too many times before. And the only way to ensure we never hear it again is for the press to stop reporting it. 


KURTZ: I have a few words for this late night bloviator. I'm Howard Kurtz and this is "MediaBuzz."

First came the leaks, unnamed administration officials telling the press that the American military might strike ISIS in Syria. Then the confirmation that the U.S. is conducting surveillance flights in Syria, and right on cue, the pundits' pounce on the president for not doing enough or threatening to do too much. All that media chatter prompting Obama to hold a news conference and respond to this question from the incoming moderator of "Meet the Press" Chuck Todd.


CHUCK TODD, NBC CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Congress's approval to go into Syria? 

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We don't have a strategy yet. I think what I've seen in some of the news reports suggests that folks are getting a little further ahead of where we're at than we currently are. 


KURTZ: The news reports, those six words unleashing a tidal wave of media criticism. 


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: When the president says we don't have a strategy yet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even saying, quote, "We don't have strategy yet."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President did say he does not yet have a strategy for Syria. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We do not have a strategy to deal with ISIS.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who wrote that? Can just somebody get fired before the end of the week? 


KURTZ: Joining us now to examine the coverage, Lauren Ashburn who host "Social Buzz" on the Fox social website. Jim Pinkerton, contributing editor at "American Conservative Magazine" and Mara Liasson of National Public Radio, all are Fox News contributors. So, presidents are supposed to hold news conferences to make news. Did Barack Obama have any news to make on Syria and ISIS? 

LAUREN ASHBURN, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I don't think he'd called this news conferences to make news, maybe to fill the void left over by his vacation, but the problem comes when you don't have anything to say and you get on the world stage, gaffes happen like no strategy. And it seems to me that it's just -- he would prefer maybe the golf coverage that he was getting instead of this.

KURTZ: And what was the biggest reaction on Twitter to that news conference?

ASHBURN: Tan suit and how the tan suit made him look un-presidential. 

KURTZ: Wearing a jogging suite. All right, Jim, that said and sounded absolutely awful. We don't have a strategy yet. The White House comes back and says he meant something narrow, he was still weighing military options in Syria. So, any chance the media is making a little too much of this?

JIM PINKERTON, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: No, I don't think so. And Aaron Blake wrote for "The Washington Post," just today, the reason that resonated so much was because it sort of fed the narrative of what people think that, obviously, the events in the Middle East have taken America and at least the Obama administration by surprise. The capture of big chunks in Iraq and Syria by ISIS, just this morning we get the news that they overran the embassy in Libya. The administration clearly has been unprepared for this, they're trying to tell everybody, look, we've got al Qaeda on the run. We defeated the mainstream media played along with that for years and years and years, the president said that ISIS was just the junior varsity. The media went along with that, too. So, now they're completely flummoxed to by these events, and so when the president says we have no strategy, people say ah-ha, he admitted it, finally. 

KURTZ: At that news conference, why did no other reporter ask the follow- up question, what do you mean you have no strategy?

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: I think there were a lot of - I was there. There were a lot of - he called on a handful of journalists and there were a lot of questions about what he was going to do, was he going to ask Congress. I think that you can see his remarks and the definition of a gaffe as defined by Michael Kinsley. Which is when somebody says the truth.

KURTZ: Accidentally.

LIASSON: He does -- now, what he meant was I don't have a military strategy for ISIS in Syria yet. They have a strategy for ISIS in Iraq.  And they've explained it many times. They wanted to force the Iraqi government to be inclusive, which they actually did, and they started bombing ISIS positions. The problem is that it not only feeds this narrative of the administration caught flat-footed, it's deja vu all over again. Because almost exactly one year ago, the president -- I mean this has a context, which is the president threatens military action or his aides say things that sound like military action is imminent, like saying that ISIS is unlike any other terrorist that we've ever seen, it has to be defeated, you can only defeat it if you go after its safe haven in Syria, but then all of a sudden he pulls back. I think he held this press- conference not because of what the media was saying. It was because his own cabinet secretaries were getting too far out of .

KURTZ: Well, he could have just had a conference call then.


KURTZ: But you know, you knew the White House was cleaning up the damage because Josh Earnest - was all over TV saying here's what he meant.

PINKERTON: In a dark suit. 

KURTZ: In a dark suit. And he defended the tan suit. But clothing aside, is there a gap that you see between the pundits, some of whom are demanding action air strikes and a large chunk of the public which maybe is not so thrilled about perhaps sliding back into war. 

ASHBURN: Sure, I think there's a lot of saber rattling going on inside the battle way, and then the media elite circles that, isn't happening out in the country where I think parents have had sons and daughters and nieces and nephews who have been going back for tour after tour in Afghanistan and Iraq. And the polls do show that, that there is this disparity. It's really easy to sit in a studio and say Obama needs to do more and let's bomb. But, you know, it's harder to live it.

KURTZ: hat about the notion, Jim, that the president gets no credit from people on the right, no matter what he does, even when he has at least started some airstrikes against ISIS and was able to play a role in rescuing some of the ethnic sector (ph) -- Yazidis who were trapped on that mountain? It's always like he's not doing enough. 

PINKERTON: Well, I think that's the issues with results. You know, you get elected as president and the promise to make things better and not just to try hard, and the issues haven't just gotten better. But look, let's take -- of something else the administration is doing. John Kerry had an op-ed in the "New York Times" which said we need a grand alliance against ISIS, which makes perfect sense. It will be nice if the media pointed out that John -- and Kerry cited Bush 41 as the gold standard back in the Kuwait war in 1981 doing this. It would be nice if mainstream media pointed out that Kerry voted against the Bush war resolution back in 1991.  The media does something -- take that - ignored that completely. 

KURTZ: Doesn't the press have the responsibility to point out that airstrikes which sound so antiseptic are risky? 

LIASSON: Yes. And also I think some of the press -- the media isn't the monolithic thing. We say that all the time.

KURTZ: Sure.

LIASSON: Yes. And you know what, bombing, as the president says over and over again, in and of itself is not going to solve the problem. You need to have a political component in Iraq, like getting the -- getting the government to be more inclusive. And in Syria, it's really tough. What are you going to do? You don't want to help Bashar al Assad. 

KURTZ: It's complicated and I do think that we just ought to remind people that when you have airstrikes, you need ground intelligence to know where to target, and sometimes pilots get shot down. I wonder, though, whether there's so much intense White House focus, as there always is on the White House, the president, what's he going to do, what's he not doing? What about Congress? Are the media giving Congress a pass here? 

ASHBURN: No. Where are they again on their five week vacation? And I think, you know, that's part of the problem. There's no human cry from the press saying, Congress, where are you? What do you need to do? They're asking, as we saw in the press conference, the president what he's going to do with Congress. And they're not targeting that. The only person I saw, one of the only people was Rachel Maddow of MSNBC who spent a 20-minute segment imploring Congress to come back and debate this issue. 

KURTZ: Yes. I just would like to see some journalists saying where do you stand on this, John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi, Mitch McConnell, Harry Reid, I think that would - because Congress does have a role to play here. In fact, Jim, on lots of other issues, as you well know, conservative commentators often complain about the president acting unilaterally, let's talk about what he can do on executive action with immigration, whether it's before or after election. But I don't see a lot of people on the right saying, he needs to go to Congress. 

PINKERTON: Right. The hawks in this case want military action, so they want to start bombing somebody and they don't want to slow the president down by having hearings. Rand Paul is one of the .

KURTZ: Any inconsistency there?

LIASSON: That's not why they don't want to have hearings. 

PINKERTON: They don't want to have hearings also, because frankly, they don't want to take a position on it. They don't -- this - nobody thinks this is going to work out well. So, they would rather not just vote on it, let the president do whatever he does and let him take the blame for it, and Congressman .


PINKERTON: Audit (ph).


LIASSON: There are very few voices, Tim Kain is one of them who says you should come to Congress for a vote. Most members of Congress do not want to touch this with the ten football, they want him to decide and he should take the blame or credit. 

KURTZ: Right. And that's where I think the media scrutiny has fallen down. Of course, President Obama is the commander-in-chief and the responsibility lies mainly on his shoulders, but Congress, which often complains about not being consulted, I don't think that we collectively are holding the -- you mention what happened a year ago, using chemical weapons, it sounded like we are about to bomb in an hour, the president pulled back. At that time, it was widely reported in the press, accurately, I believe, that Congress was not willing to support military action. 

LIASSON: Right, right, and he punted it to Congress. He said he didn't want a humiliating defeat in Congress, so he grabbed on to this lifeline of a Russian diplomatic effort to get rid of its chemical weapons. The president made it very, very clear. And as a matter of fact, Chuck Todd knew the answer to his question before he asked it. The president made it very clear that at that time last year he doesn't need Congress's approval to bomb, but he would like to have congressional buy in. But legally, he has all the authority he needs and his inherent powers as commander in chief to do this. 

KURTZ: Do you think the -- what you see as the resident of we do not have a strategy yet, we'll continue to echo throughout this presidency or is it just sort of this week's flap because he -- it is very bad choice of words. 

PINKERTON: I think if he turns the tide in the Middle East somehow, whether it's through bombing strikes or a grand coalition or something, then sure, it will get better for him. But right now, it's clear, they can't decide what they want to do. In fact, again, I think part of the problem is there's nobody in the White House who can stand up to the president. Dana Perino made a point on Fox a while back, you know, you need strong White House aides to say, Mr. President, don't go out in that stupid white suit, don't go out there and say nothing. Have a message, look serious, have all the trappings of the presidency in order. That's how you communicate not only to America, but to the world.

KURTZ: There was one bit of good news this week after the horrifying depressing and brutal murder of journalist James Foley, terrorist released another journalist named Peter Theo Curtis. And he met with the press outside his family home. And let's take a brief look at that. 


PETER CURTIS, WAS KIDNAPPED IN SYRIA: And my family now and I can't give you an interview. That's all I can say to you, but in the future, I promise I will respond to your emails, and I will be president -- and I will help you guys do your job.


KURTZ: What does that say to you? 

ASHBURN: It says that he's a good journalist, that he knows what journalists need. They need information and he's just asking for some time. And, you know, journalists usually take it easier on other journalists than they do on the public. 

KURTZ: But it's also a reminder of the remarkable risks that people like Jim Foley and Peter Curtis take in going into these war zones. 

ASHBURN: Especially the freelance journalist. And that's what we have seen, you know, there are freelance journalists who are trying to sell stories and sell video and they don't have the protection of the New York Times or USA Today or a big network to help them. 


KURTZ: One of the points on this, I'm begging the networks to stop running this picture over and over again of Jim Foley about to be executed by that ISIS butcher, it's become a video wallpaper. Every time there's any story about ISIS at all, we are showing this brave guy, at the worst moment of his life when it's about to end. I just think it's time to ease up on those images. All right, send me a tweet at this hour, @howardkurtz. We always read some of your messages, as you know, at the end of the program. 

Ahead, we'll unveil new footage from our focus groups and why people think reporting is mostly spin. But when we come back, Reverend al at Michael Brown's funeral shares the spotlight. He plays lots of highlights on his MSNBC show. Is this just getting out of control? 


KURTZ: Al Sharpton has been deeply involved in the Ferguson tragedy as an advocate for Michael Brown's family, leading rallies, serving as a conduit (ph) for the Obama White House and, of course, covering this story on his MSNBC program. But this week, it was almost surreal. As Reverend Al delivered the eulogy at Michael Brown's funeral, let off his cable show with lengthy sound bites featuring the host himself.


AL SHARPTON: You've got to deal with the streets in Ferguson and St. Louis. The Brown family asked me to give the eulogy today and I explained how I first took a call from Michael's grandfather. America, it's time to deal with policing.


SHARPTON: We are not the haters, we're the healers.

We can't ignore what we've seen. That's why we must continue to peacefully protest and get the change this country needs. 


KURTZ: That was just a small bit of it. The question came up, sort of, when Joe Scarborough raised the criticism. 


JOE SCARBOROUGH, CO-HOST, "MORNING JOE": First of all, the question I - Why was Al Sharpton there? He's chasing cameras. If you put a camera there, Al is going to be there. Why were you there?

SHARPTON: Well, you know, first of all, I was called by the family. It's not about chasing the camera. I'm on TV every night here. 


KURTZ: Jim Pinkerton, why is MSNBC so impervious to the criticism that Sharpton is flooding (ph) those basic rules of journalism?

PINKERTON: Well, I mean MSNBC and NBC and Comcast owe him big time because he supported the merger of com - when Comcast bought NBC five years ago. 

KURTZ: Do you think this is a payoff? 

PINKERTON: I do. I do. I think -- I think it's a connection. I think that you supported it, he kept - he didn't go to the FCC and complain like he could have. As often happens, actually see regulatory case. And that's, you know, he's got - the TV show. Meanwhile, MSNBC is perfectly to ignore who Al Sharpton is. I believe in redemption, but I also believe in accountability. If you want to know who Al Sharpton is, you could google the Warner Brawley case. 

KURTZ: I don't have to go google is.

PINKERTON: You covered it.

KURTZ: Covered it. 

PINKERTON: You can keep the Google -- Google -- Freddie's fashion market in Harlem. These are all cases that Sharpton was intermittently responsible for - There was injustice and violence, even death in some of those cases.  And Sharpton has walked away from all of it and now has he emerged as the pundit on television?

KURTZ: But even leaving his past aside, the rest of the press is going to be yawning about this conflict question. What does a conservative doing?  Doesn't this cross a bright red line? 

LIASSON: I don't think Al Sharpton is a journalist.

KURTZ: Well, he's a commentator.

LIASSON: He's a commentator with his own show and he has the high self- regard that a lot of commentators with their own shows have for their own selves. And he has become a story in and of himself and there has been some coverage of that. Glenn Thrush wrote a really good piece for Politico where he kind of chronicled the transformation of Al Sharpton from kind of, you know, a fringe troublemaking, civil rights activist to somebody who has the White House's ear and is a conduit for them.

ASHBURN: Right. But there was also another piece in the New York Times, which was this fawning profile of Al Sharpton that didn't really address --

KURTZ: He raised it. 

ASHBURN: it didn't raise the racially incisive or --

KURTZ: Charged. 

ASBURN: Charged. Yeah, racially charged way that he has gone about his life. It was almost as if this was a new person and he wasn't this track suit medallion wearing, you know, big guy who was throwing his weight around. This was a problem.

KURTZ: Right. But even you except that, you know, Sharpton is moderated - - it was a long time ago, and he look, he has every right to speak at the funeral. But when he leads his show with clips of himself at the funeral - - I mean is this --

ASHBURN: This is talk about hutzpah, right? To lead your own show with four sound bites -- I mean the first seven minutes were all sound bites of Al Sharpton at the funeral.

KURTZ: Here's the story. He's covering himself.

ASHBURN: He's covering himself. He's become the story. 

PINKERTON: MSNBC made a major ratings bid -- Ferguson, Missouri, straight ahead, hour after hour of coverage -- so, Sharpton fit right in. It really traces back, though, to what Fred Siegel, as the distinguished New York City academic called it, the right ideology, which is to say if you don't give us what we want, we'll riot. And MSNBC is now part of the process. 

KURTZ: I've got the time for brief -- from everyone. New York Times got criticized for pretty balanced Michael Brown profile that said he had done the robbery that we saw on video, he had done the drugs, he got -- into wrap, and he was, quote, "no angel." The public editor Margaret Sullivan said that was a regrettable mistake, that choice of words. Was it? 

LIASSON: You know what? Because he's dead, yes. That was a regrettable choice of words. I know exactly what they meant and I think it was a totally fair description of him, but now there are a lot of people who think he is an angel in heaven. 

PINKERTON: The reporter who wrote that story, John Eligon for The New York Times, African-American and if you want to watch Michael Brown at that video at the convenience store, you can reasonably at a minimum conclude he is no angel. 

ASHBURN: But the problem with that was is that article appeared on the day of his funeral. And it's a characterization, it wasn't a fact. 

KURTZ: Right. I thought that this was a very balanced, but those two words brought out a lot of criticism. All right, Mara Liasson and Jim Pinkerton, thanks very much for joining us this Sunday. 

Ahead, Stephen Colbert takes on my critique of the coverage of Ferguson.  I'll have a few choice words for him. 

But up next, the fast food fury over Burger King relocating to Canada and avoiding U.S. taxes. Charlie Gasparino will be here.


KURTZ: It's not a new issue, but it's suddenly become a whooper of a story. Burger King heading north, moving its headquarters out of the country exploring a major loophole in U.S. tax law.


ANA CABRERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is a whopper of a deal. Miami-based Burger King is buying Canadian donut chain Tim Hortons. 

ED SCHULTZ, HOST "THE ED SHOW": This news instantly sparked outrage in the United States. Burger King would have joined the growing list of U.S. companies moving overseas to do what? Avoid paying taxes. 

KIMBERLY GUILFOYLE, CO-HOST" THE FIVE": But you know what? We've got to do something in this country to keep businesses here and not have punitive taxes that prohibit people from having businesses here. 


KURTZ: But why haven't news organizations cared much about this issue before? Joining us now from New York is Charlie Gasparino, senior correspondent for the Fox Business Network. So, dozens of companies have done something like this, Charlie. Why did it take Burger King to put this on the front page? 

CHARLIE GASPARINO, SR. CORRESPONDENT, FOX BUSINESS NETWORK: Well, I mean, corporate inversions have been going on for a while. I think there's a conflict of factors. Number one, it's the latest one, but also the Obama administration has been stepping up its rhetoric, essentially, saying that it wants to kill these things, basically make a massive penalty if you do one of these corporate inversions. I will say this. This was a fascinating story from the media standpoint for two reasons. Number one, it was the outrage leading up to it, but then there was a weird justification for it right after the news broke because Warren Buffett, you know, everybody -- every reporter's favorite limousine liberal fat cat was involved in the financing. Once that happened, I noticed an interesting, more than subtle change. That was a justification. You saw it in "The Times," you saw it in usually this sort of left of center news outlets basically saying, here is why Warren Buffett is doing it. He isn't dodging taxes, unlike everybody else that was dodging the taxes. So I think this is kind of a fascinating story from that standpoint. I will say one other thing, there's a political element here. The fact that Warren Buffett, who was essentially President Obama's chief spokesman for higher taxes during the 2012 election cycle is now part of this whole effort, you know, of Burger King to do a corporate inversion, really throws, I believe, a monkey wrench into his public relations attack on this stuff. And essentially, the attack he's trying to .

KURTZ: Let me jump in.

GASPARINO: He's trying to - the efforts he's trying to get these sort of penalties passed on inversions.

KURTZ: Right. Well, I agree with you on the Buffett angle, his Berkshire Hathaway is financing part of the deal and he has been -- he would say, a spokesman, I think, for more tax fairness. On the other hand, I don't think it's realistic to say that he should play by a different set of rules until the rules are changed. 

GASPARINO: If you're going to be the spokesman for higher taxes, you get the criticism that you deserve on this.

KURTZ: Right. What about the fact that it's Burger King and everybody has had the fries and the onion rings and just kind of an iconic brand, buying Tim Hortons in Canada and then using that as a reason to move the headquarters up to Ontario.

GASPARINO: Well, if you are asking me from a purely business standpoint, it makes complete sense. The tax rates are lower there. And by the way, we should point out that Burger King isn't the Burger King of 30 years ago.  This is a declining franchise. As a matter of fact, all the sort of fast food, McDonald's, all these chains are declining, particularly with new generation, of the younger demographics. So this makes complete sense from a financing standpoint, not just a tax standpoint. I mean yeah, Tim Hortons apparently is a very good company overseas. But what I find more fascinating, the reason why we're reading about this stuff on the front pages is the political economic story here, which involves the president of the United States against these things.

KURTZ: Right.

GASPARINO: And his biggest tax -- his biggest proponent for higher taxes, Warren Buffett being for something that he's against. 

KURTZ: I have half a minute. I think one of the things that takes the juice out of this story is the fact that Washington like on every other issue, isn't going to do anything about this. The Democrats want to close this loophole in terms of companies reincorporating abroad. And the Republicans say we just need to lower corporate taxes. They both may be right, but no prospect of compromise. 

GASPARINO: Well, yes, no prospect of compromise, but the president through some sort of executive action could go out there and impose a penalty as Jack Lew has threatened. I think -- but the plane is forward, the fact that Warren Buffett is involved is going to make it that much harder for Jack Lew and President Obama to do that. 

KURTZ: You've got it. All right. Charlie Gasparino. Thanks very much for the weighing in.

GASPARINO: Any time.

KURTZ: Go have lunch.


KURTZ: Coming up, our Fox News focus groups deliver a verdict on media credibility and it isn't pretty. 

And later, we'll call foul on ESPN for reporting on the showering habits of the NFL's first openly gay draft pick.



ERIC SHAWN, FOX NEWS: This is the Fox News alert from America's news headquarters. I'm Eric Shawn. An Islamist militia group in Libya claims it has now "secured the U.S. embassy compound in Tripoli. That one month after all American personnel were evacuated there. This according to the Associated Press. The group calls itself the Dawn of Libya and has been in control of the residential compound for a week. After seizing control of the capital and the Tripoli airport. A video posted online purportedly shows men swimming in the pool of the complex. We'll have much more on this developing story at the top of the hour.

The U.S. launching three new airstrikes against ISIS in northeastern Iraq.  The attacks are part of humanitarian mission to get food and supplies to Shia Turkmen. It would've been trapped by the terrorists in one town for months. 

Meanwhile, Australia says it will arm Kurdish fighters as they push back against the Islamic state joining an international coalition. See you at the top of the hour. Now back to "MediaBuzz."


KURTZ: You know -- at Los Angeles. Frank Luntz asked two focus groups what they thought about the credibility of the news business. The responses were revealing. So, we'd like to show you a bit more.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that, you know, without something like cook biz of huge liberal media bias, they sort of want to protect people on the left and want to assault people on the right and the truth never gets out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They all have the spin. It doesn't matter, if it's spin to the left. To the right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No matter what all journalists are human beings, so as moderate or fair as someone says they are, they are always going to have their own personal spin on things.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Max will talk badly about Republicans and Democrats.  Most other stations will not talk badly -- the Democrat, it's just say.


KURTZ: So, what's behind this growing laws of trust, you are earning us now from New York, Joe Concha, columnist for "Mediate and here in Washington David Zurawik, a television and a media critic for "The Baltimore Sun Media Critic." So, let's talk without this question of spin.  Has cable news and certainly Fox and MSNBC have their detractors?  Contributed to public perception that it was just no longer delivered straight. 

DAVID ZURAWIK, "BALTIMORE SUN MEDIA CRITIC": I think that -- I think it has, Howie, but I think they have because of the counter-attacks and attacks on each other and saying, one is bias, then the other isn't. But here's the main problem with this, Howie. We've been battered, the entire media -- and again, media is a big term. So, you know .

KURTZ: Sure.

ZURAWIK: But we've been battered by so many forces, technology, economics, all of -- lifestyle, all the things we know about. I think we've lost our sense of purpose. Our sense of high purpose sort of serving Democracy and we've lost our nerve and our confidence, which is even more troubling to us, and we've let the technology overtake us. When around a big story, especially on cable TV there are 10,000 errors and nobody apologizes for them. We just move on.

KURTZ: A lot of self-inflicted wounds there, but Joe Concha, do you think that people are seeking out media outlets that agree with their point of view and therefore we combining it to the notion everybody else is lying?

JOE CONCHA, MEDIAITE.COM TV COLUMNIST: Yeah. Look, I think these numbers, a lot of it has to do with how we -- the explosion of opinion journalism.  There is -- search study last year, MSNBC's programming. 85 percent of it is opinion. 54 percent for Fox, CNN. 46 percent I would argue CNN has moved since last year, decidedly more in the opinion realm if we see in the Malaysian Air coverage, or Ferguson certainly.

KURTZ: Ferguson.

CONCHA: Yeah, Ferguson, they've certainly gotten more in that direction.  So, how does opinion lead to mistrust? Well, we are never more polarized than we are now. Audiences, therefore, are polarized as well. And if the messenger, host, anchor is giving an opinion and half the audience may disagree with that, well, that's where the distrust comes in, Howie.

KURTZ: Right. Well, see, what about you mentioned mistakes? I mean I think about whether it's CNN on the Boston bombing -- it didn't happen, or CBS's Lara Logan retracting "60 Minutes" report in Benghazi, and just all people rushing on the air with -- news that turns out to be incomplete or inaccurate. As all this just eroded, notion that -- year, journalists have always made mistakes, but that now we are almost reckless.

ZURAWIK: Howie, there is no sense of consequences for it anymore. I remember being on this show with somebody runs a journalism school said well, it's the fog of war, we can't really be responsible. We just move on. My head exploded. No, we do have to have consequences for this, but we don't anymore. We don't have a sense of shame. You know, you used to make a mistake like that in a newspaper, you were right in one paragraph items on (INAUDIBLE), you know, that was what you were doing.

KURTZ: And it seems to me that Twitter has made this worse because there's now a whole long list of examples of journalists who tweet first, ask questions later and either get suspended, lose their jobs or have to apologize for it. Not just getting something wrong, but insulting other people. Joe, what about excess? I mean, think about the coverage of Ferguson as the latest example. It seems to me that cable TV in part turns it into kind of a nightly reality show and may have exacerbated racial tensions there. And I don't think that that helps the media's reputation, either. 

CONCHA: Absolutely, Howie. And it's supersonic social media. David brought it up before. That is -- and I've used this analogy before, it's like a blitzing linebacker on a quarterback, the quarterback team regular news organizations releasing the ball too soon because they're afraid they're going to get beat to the punch. And we saw that with CNN this week. They put out audio that wasn't authenticated. 36 hours later, they put their own experts on who basically called it CNN getting punk'd, aghast. Maybe -- maybe not -- is the audio real -- we are not sure, but they should have at least checked with the FBI first, checked with their own experts first, held off on it, but they were afraid they were going to get beat with some other news organization putting that information out there. So yes, social media is having a big effect on this. But one more point, Howie, for those people at home that are saying, well, the public has always been mistrusting of the media, not true. Not true. Gallup did this same poll 40 years ago asking how many people mistrust the media.  Three in four Americans trusted their media. Why is that? There was less opinion and it was just straight news at that time. 

ZURAWIK: You know what, Joe is so right about that. I'll tell you something else we've done. We've lost our sense of being a watchdog for the people. People are really suffering in this country and they don't see us as on their side trying to get them information. 

KURTZ: Well, it's a really good point because, you know, while the world is falling apart and certainly that's been covered, there's also what I would call like the Miley Cyrus factor. This week I've seen 50 segments on should the Emmys put Sofia Vergara on a rotating pedestal even though she didn't have any problems with it. 

So, the entertainment aspects may be overwhelming, just watch dog mission that you referred to.

ZURAWIK: That's it. Well, that's losing our confidence. Doing whatever get us page use or viewers. But I think this goes even deeper in losing our sense of mission.

KURTZ: Wait, wait, we've done almost five minutes and you've not brought up Chelsea Clinton leaving NBC News. 

ZURAWIK: No, this -- thank you, Howie, because I'll tell you something, if you look at NBC News, and you see Chelsea Clinton making $600,000 a year and you think you're going to trust them as a news organization and your eyes tell you she's terrible, and the NBC executives telling you she's great, you don't think you're not going to trust them and say, you know what? The media is in bed with the one percenters, the media is part of that same game, the Clintons, Wall Street, the media. No, they're not on my side. I'm not going to pay attention to the media. I'm not going to trust them. That's what wrong with Chelsea Clinton being on TV. 

KURTZ: Joe, Joe, very quick final thought. 

CONCHA: How could I follow that? My very -- final thought. Gallop, 60 percent of Democrats have the fair or greater amount of trust with the media. Only 31 percent of independents, 26 percent of Republicans. 

So, that goes back to the Charles Krauthammer quip about Fox News and its success, its ability to reach or to appeal to a niche audience, half the country. That's because Republicans and independents, the liberal bias - Democrats maybe not because they like what they're hearing, Howie. 

KURTZ: All right, I'm too depressed to do the rest of the show. 


KURTZ: Thank you, guys.

CONCHA: Smiley.

KURTZ: After the break, ESPN goes there with the story on openly gay football player Michael Sam. Diane sawyer says she's not slowing down as she gives up the NBC anchor chair and Stephen Colbert claims to be worried about me. He's the guy who should be worried. That is next.


KURTZ: Time now for our "Buzz Brief." In our press picks, this one is way over the line. Michael Sam, first openly gay player picked by the NFL has been trying out for the St. Louis Rams. And this week, ESPN's Josina Anderson went way out of bounds. 


JOSINA ANDERSON, ESPN REPORTER: Another Rams defensive player told me, that, quote, "Sam is respecting our space" and that from his perspective, he seems to think that Michael Sam is waiting to kind of take a shower as not to make his teammates feel uncomfortable. 


KURTZ: What? Reporting on Michael Sam's shower habits? Really? Rams coach Jeff Fisher ripped the report calling it unprofessional and unethical. Now, ESPN defended it at first, but after an explosion on social media, the network came to its senses and apologized. 

"ESPN regrets the manner, in which we presented our report. Clearly, yesterday we collectively failed to meet the standards we have set for reporting on LGBT- related topics in sports. A personal foul, no questions. Sam, meanwhile, was cut by the Rams yesterday. 

KURTZ: Rick Perry's indictment for using his veto to try to force a district attorney out who is convicted of drunk driving has drawn plenty of media criticism. But one key point has been lost: some national news organizations have mentioned that prosecutors were acting on a complaint filed by a liberal watchdog group called Texans for public justice.  Politico even ran a piece by the group's director attacking Perry. But there has been almost no mention that the group receives substantial funding from billionaire liberal crusader George Soros. Fueling the notion that the charges are political. 


DIANE SAWYER: For sure. 


KURTZ: Diane Sawyer was a big time television celebrity before she took over ABC's World News five years ago. What I liked about her farewell as anchor the other night is that she made it about her staff, not herself. 


SAWYER: I just want you to know what a deep privilege it has been to sit in the anchor chair at World News these year, the flagship broadcast of ABC where Peter Jennings created a signature of such curiosity and courage. 


KURTZ: Sawyer, who staying in ABC is handing the anchor reins at second place world news to David Muir.

Well, Stephen Colbert is sticking to his personal mission to publicize "Media Buzz." This time the issue was whether the media invasion of Ferguson exacerbated the violence there.


KURTZ: I wrote a column for Fox this week saying just theoretically floating the idea what if all the journalists in this Missouri town just packed up the equipment and left? Would that have had an impact on the violence? A lot of people responded and said yes. 

COLBERT: Yes, I respond. It's true, the presence of a camera clearly makes people behave recklessly because I don't believe for a minute that Howie Kurtz would have floated the idea that journalists are to blame for the Ferguson violence if a camera wasn't pointed at him.


COLBERT: For his own safety, get this man off of television. 


KURTZ: Stephen, I am so touched by your concern by my wellbeing, and I'm going to respond in kind. I hope you will be safe when you have to get in front of a camera at the late show and survive as yourself after dropping your protective cloak as a pampas blow hard. 

All right, ahead, the college football hero who've bamboozled the media. 

But first, our sexual -- and verbal abuse on Twitter meant to intimidate female journalists. Our digital download is straight ahead.


KURTZ: Time now for our "Digital Download." Twitter can be a rough neighborhood, in a new study for London Sunday Times by the think tank, Demos it says that one group draws unusually high level of abuse. And that's female journalist.

ASHBURN: Yeah, tell me about it, men have it worse among public figures overall, the study says. But in the media business, female journalists and anchors are three times as likely as men to be on the receiving end of abusive messages. And Howie, we've talked about this before. I have been called vapid, stupid, I've had a death threat and many other names that I cannot bring up here on television. And you know, you have to learn to take it in stride, it's sort of the neighborhood. As you said, a very rough neighborhood. But it is - it does give you pause and it makes you not want to go on Twitter. I would much rather go on Facebook where I choose the friends that I can have on my page, as opposed to Twitter where it's just -- this thing free for all of people attacking anonymously.

KURTZ: Well, I've got to say, I'm appalled, and what I see with some female commentators retweet what said about themselves, I mean the sexual taunts, you're fat, you're ugly, and nobody wants to sleep with you.  Here's what I want to do to you. It's gross. It is pathetic, and it's misogynistic. But I also wonder whether it is designed to intimidate.

ASHBURN: Well, I think, of course it's designed to intimidate. But intimidate by getting journalists -- female journalists not to be journalists, I don't know if that's the case, I think that it's just to get journalists to stop -- or female journalists to stop, I don't know, being uppity and saying what they think.

KURTZ: There's another study by Demos that sound -So-called slut shaming by other women happens almost as much as by men. 

ASHBURN: I take that word. 

KURTZ: And women using words against other women like rape, slut and whore. What do you think of that, you wench?


ASHBURN: Are you creep? What am I - I can't even saying anything bad enough. But it's horrible. You know, there are mean people everywhere, and women need to stick together as opposed to attacking each other for things like this. And you just have -- you just - It's part of the media landscape now and that's really sad. 

KURTZ: Yeah. A permanent feature, unfortunately. Still to come, your best tweets, the feel-good college football story that crashed and burned and the pounding sound not heard in newsrooms in a very long time.


KURTZ: Time for your top tweets on the media overplaying the president's no strategy line about ISIS or holding him accountable.

Jack Gover, "Some MSM are still trying to explain what he really meant. I heard what he said I'm not stupid, I know what he said. George A. Mitchell, it's an oxymoron to think the media could overplay on Obama gaffe. The coverage proofs how much of a gaffe it was.

C.G. "His statement was taken out of context and the ringleader is Fox News' own Ed Henry whom I saw explaining half a dozen times on the air what the White House view is on this. And Steve says, it's next to impossible to underplay the most powerful man of the world telling the world I have no strategy for ISIS.

ASHBURN: Well, and the press -- the spin right away was well, it's not no strategy, as if there is no strategy that would be good. He's going to have to live with this for a very long time. This is one of those gaffes that's going to stick. 

KURTZ: No question about it. 

The media just loves stories about heroes. The other day, a USC football player appeared to fit the bill.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A life saving act is keeping a college football player off the field just days before the start of the season. But Josh Shaw says he'll do it again. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Josh Shaw of the USC Trojans saw his seven-year-old nephew struggling in a pool, so he jumped from a second story balcony, he landed on concrete and badly injured his ankles to reach the pool and then he saved his nephew from drowning. What an incredible guy.


KURTZ: Not so incredible as it turns out Josh Shaw was, well, the technical term is lying. He fabricated the rescue story. Police are looking into an incident report in that apartment complex, the team has suspended Shaw who has apologized. 

Way back in the Stone Age, journalists use a machine called the typewriter.  You can take that off, I'm going to show that to you. 


KURTZ: You put in the paper. And you pound on the keys. I don't even remember how to do this. 

ASHBURN: It's not going in. 

KURTZ: And you use something called whiteout, you had to make carbon paper to make copies for editors. Rupert Murdoch's "Time" - trying to inject a little engine into the newsroom is using a speaker to broadcast the sound of reporters pounding away on typewriters. How quaint. 

ASHBURN: Well, I think generationally it might work as a motivational tool for those who have been in the business for a very long time. However the younger generations with their iPods. I think it's going to be really annoying. 

KURTZ: But it is interesting because I remember, you know, being excited about getting an electric typewriter and I told some of our producers about this, they're, like what? Electric typewriter? 

ASHBURN: No, this is Chris Wallace is, right? 

KURTZ: Yeah.

ASHBURN: He keeps in his office.

KURTZ: Right.

ASHBURN: So, I think that some people -- oh, and it actually says ABC on it.


KURTZ: Really?

ASHBURN: It does back here. ABC corporate headquarters. 

ASHBURN: Well, there's something that's resonant about all the -- but also to give you a headache. And also, I don't miss those old newsrooms with all the smoke filled desks and all that. 

ASHBURN: No, me neither?

KURTZ: All right. You prefer this, I think.

ASHBURN: That's right. I do, the BlackBerry. 

KURTZ: It's called an iPhone.

ASHBURN: Oh, right, that's it. 

KURTZ: All right, thank you for watching this Labor Day weekend, I'm Howard Kurtz, hope you're having a good holiday. Send us an email at Media Buzz at And we hope you'll like our Facebook page, we post original videos like after the buzz and we respond to your comments. You know what I'm going to say -- now, we are back here next Sunday, every Sunday. 11 and 5 Eastern with the latest buzz.

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