This is a rush transcript from "Media Buzz," October 5, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: On our Buzz Meter this Sunday the media exposed stunning security lapses by the Secret Service that helped shove its director out the door. The Washington Post disclosures about how President Obama's life was endangered leading to a constant chorus about why Julia Pierson hadn't been fired.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PETER JOHNSON JR., FOX NEWS LEGAL ANALYST: Director Pierson should resign today. I don't understand why she has not resigned as a matter of honor, and duty, and service to this country. She has got to go.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think she should go?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think so.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Look at why Julia Pierson wound up blaming the media for her ouster. The press pushing back hard against the president for appearing to shift the blame for underestimating ISIS in his intelligence agencies, but did the media also fall short in covering these dire warnings? The nonstop coverage of the Ebola virus dominating the news.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: At this hour health officials casting a wide net in effort to track down everyone who might have been exposed to Ebola here in the United States.
MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: We here at CNN are talking endlessly about Ebola the last few days. Do we need to?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Are we reaching the point where the mainstream media are scaring people?
Plus when The Miami Herald exposed Gary Hart's fling with Donna Rice? Did that usher in a disturbing new era of the media as sex police? A new look at that with the monkey business. I'm Howard Kurtz, and this - it is "MediaBuzz"
It began with a series of Washington Post scoops proving that the Secret Service was misleading the public. The service botched the probe of the White House being hit by high powered bullets three years ago. The knife-wielding fence jumper who actually overpowered an agent, and made it all the way to the East Room and The Washington Examiner reporting that an armed felon was allowed to get on an Atlanta elevator with the president. After Julia Pierson's week in unemotional testimony on the hill the pundits kept asking how can she keep her job?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JULIA PIERSON, FORMER SECRET SERVICE DIRECTOR: The door was unlocked at the time of Mr. Gonzales's entry. That's correct. I do not think the security plan was properly executed and that's why I'm conducting a robust investigation.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think she should lose her job?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, I don't think she can survive this.
BILL O'REILLY, "THE O'REILLY FACTOR" HOST: I have to say that Julia Pierson who testified today in front of the House, she has got to go.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: The White House spokesman defended the embattled director at least briefly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you telling me this morning that the president of the United States and the first lady have confidence in Julia Pierson to run an agency that's supposed to protect their two daughters?
JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Yes, Joe, they have confidence in her.
And the president concluded that new leadership of that agency was required.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: That was just a few hours later. Joining us now to analyze the media's role, Sharyl Attkisson, former CBS News correspondent, who now reports for "Sinclair Television Stations", Steve Hayes, senior writer for The Weekly Standard and the Fox News contributor and Michael Tomasky, columnist for The Daily Beast.
Sharyl, did the pounding media drumbeat over Julia Pierson make it impossible for her to survive in the Secret Service?
SHARYL ATTKISSON, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: Well, clearly, it would have some impact, especially, when it was coming from all sides, but I think I would be naive to think that that alone is what caused the decision. I would say that the media felt it had a green light to go ahead and make that criticism because it was not a criticism of the administration per say. It was more of a defense of President Obama and they felt like that was a criticism that it was fair to make.
KURTZ: And it was a lot of bipartisan unity on, you know, we can't let the president's life be endangered, but see, when every single guests who comes on and says should she go. Why does she still have a job? Does it become impossible for the media political world to talk about anything else?
STEVE HAYES, WEEKLY STANDARD SENIOR WRITER: Well, I think it certainly contributes to the kind of flood of coverage that we saw. But look, the media uncovered so many things that the president and his own advisors didn't know about what the Secret Service had done ...
KURTZ: That's right. That the Secret Service hadn't even leveled with the White House.
HAYES: They didn't even know that, and it was very clear that in the initial story about the fence jumper the Secret Service had misled the American people or at least allowed somebody to mislead the American people without any kind of a correction. I think at that point, you know, the media is going to pile on because journalists like nothing worse than feeling like they were misled and put out, you know, putting out a story that didn't - with the facts.
KURTZ: What about that surreal spectacle we just saw of Joshua Earnest expressing full confidence on MSNBC in Julia Pierson, and then just a few hours later is explaining her resignation and president felt new leadership was needed.
MICHAEL TOMASKY, THE DAILY BEAST SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Really weird. Really strange and the typical ritual that any White House goes through, right, of either party when something like this happens, and the press spokesman holds fire for a little while until the decision is made back behind the scenes, but, you know, Peter Johnson was right in the clip that you played. She should have resigned out of honor long before this was forced on her and the White House, the White House should have, you know, compelled that behavior out of her, let us say, earlier than it did.
KURTZ: Right, that's what's striking here, is President Obama famously doesn't like to fire anyone, and certainly not quickly. In this case I think he didn't have much choice.
Now the Washington Post, Carol Leonnig really drove the story with those exclusives. With your investigative background, talk a little bit about why sources within an agency would go to a reporter rather than, say, complain to their bosses.
ATTKISSON: In my experience, sources within an agency, the last thing they want to do is go to a reporter. Most of them don't much like reporters. Most of them by the time that they're that desperate for whatever they think is the truth to be told, they have rung the bells inside the agency. They've done all they feel they can inside.
KURTZ: It can be risky to go to the press.
ATTKISSON: Absolutely, but they feel like they're at their wit's end and they're at that point willing to put it all out there.
KURTZ: One source quoted an agent by name. She was not quoted directly as saying she was afraid to tell her bosses about the fact that all of these bullets had hit the White House. Secret Service couldn't figure it out, but that made it into the press. What about the gender question? There was some chatter during that time before Julia Pierson stepped down. She got this job because she was a woman after the prostitution and drinking scandals at the Secret Service. Is that fair to introduce gender?
ATTKISSON: Well, it's a natural question. There aren't that many women compared to men that lead federal agencies in the administration, so the question is going to be asked. I don't get wrapped up too much in that. As a woman, I tend to feel like doors have opened for me because I'm a woman, some doors probably shut for me, but overall I think for most of us it kind of evens out.
KURTZ: What about the postgame spin? Julie Pierson alluded to it at the top. She spoke to Bloomberg News briefly and said the media have made it clear this is what they expected.
HAYES: I think she wanted to make herself the victim. She felt like she was basically taking the fall, and doing the honorable thing albeit perhaps a little bit belated, but I don't think that's a very solid argument. And there's not many people who are likely to agree with her. The string of problems that the Secret Service has had, both before she came into office and after, I think is what doomed her. And the fact that she came in suggesting that she was there to change the culture, and plainly the culture didn't change at all.
KURTZ: What was shocking to me is once the door is hitting you on the way out, then the leaks start, and so there was an unnamed official quoted again in the Washington Post as saying she wanted to have a more friendly approach to security, kind of like Disneyworld where she had worked as a costume character in high school. That struck me as not being terribly generous, because she's already leaving, right?
HAYES: You don't know if that's something she pushed throughout her tenure, or was this an offhand comment she made to somebody at one time. But it certainly didn't help her as she tried to shape that narrative on her departure.
ATTKISSON: You ask why whistleblowers come forward. These federal bureaucracies have bureaucrats that persist many times from administration to administration, and cultures that persist, and I doubt this is something that was just raised in the past couple of months or in the incidents we heard about. There's probably a high level of frustration among a lot of officials. Things like this may have been happening for a very long time, and it just finally boiled over.
TOMASKY: As Washington feeding frenzies go, and we've all seen a lot of them, this is one of your more legitimate ones. We would all agree on that. We cannot tolerate these kinds of activities, these kinds of things happening.
KURTZ: If this doesn't get you fired, what would it take to lose your job in the administration. But here is what bothers me. Understandably, legitimately, justifiably, we're all pretty upset to learn this guy not only jumped the fence, he had a knife, he had guns in his car. He didn't make it just inside the door. He made it all the way to the East Room, and of course the incident in the elevator, which is just unfathomable. But now the media -- now we're into Ebola, we've all moved on, but the underlying problems haven't been solved by the resignation, and this is the same thing we saw with the VA scandal, where we have now declared the story to be over.
TOMASKY: I don't think Carol Leonnig has declared the story to be over, and as long as she's on the case, we're going to keep getting these stories. She's done an amazing job.
KURTZ: But there is this tendency to not stick with bureaucratic problems because it's less sexy than is so and so going to lose his or her job.
ATTKISSON: I think interest falls off quickly where as it shouldn't in many cases. The media's appetite goes from hot to cold, and I think there's plenty of air time and web time to cover all the different stories as well as the follow-up on big stories like this. So I hope we keep at it.
KURTZ: Okay. Let's switch now to ISIS because I want to play some sound showing -- this is -- of course what President Obama told Steve Kroft on "60 Minutes," and the reaction to it, particularly in the White House briefing room.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE KROFT, CBS NEWS: How did they end up where they are, in control of so much territory?
KROFT: Was that a complete surprise to you?
OBAMA: Well, I think our head of the intelligence community, Jim Clapper, has acknowledged that I think they underestimated what had been taking place in Syria.
JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS: This is one of your key people on Iraq who was raising this alarm in November of last year. Did this message get to the president? Did he believe it? Did he not hear it? What happened?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: The administration says the president was not blaming James Clapper. The media say of course he was. Who is right?
ATTKISSON: Of course he's blaming James Clapper. It's very unusual for the president to come forward and make such a specific blame -- lay blame at somebody by name like that. I can only think that perhaps fellow Democrats or public pressure polls told him that there has to be a mea culpa of some sort, that this is really a big deal and had to be acknowledged, and either James Clapper agreed to be the punching bag or found himself the punching bag, but one way or another he's it. And a lot of people I speak to on both sides of the political spectrum don't think James Clapper is probably to blame for all of the things that the president seems to be blaming him for.
KURTZ: But there was some punching back, a New York Times story the next day, a number of unnamed intelligence officials quoted, one of them said some of us were pushing the reporting on the chaos in Syria in the past but the White House just didn't pay attention to it. It wasn't a big priority. Is that good reporting or is there an aspect here where the media can be used by unnamed sources trying to get their side--
HAYES: What? The media used? Absolutely that's happening, but I think in this case it had additional validity, in part because you had seen so many public officials make this case beforehand. You had had the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency say in congressional testimony this ISIS problem is a growing problem, we have got to get in front of it, and that didn't happen. So you had sort of on the public record a series of officials over a long period of time saying this is going to be a crisis unless we don't confront it. So when the president said -- and you have the president dismissing it earlier saying this is the junior varsity. They'd already taken Fallujah, this is the junior varsity -- so by the time the president tried to shift blame to James Clapper, it was just much less believable for reporters who had been covering the story on a regular basis.
KURTZ: Michael Tomasky, you personally believe the president should have acted and armed the Syrian rebels two years ago, but is it fair to say that the president ignored these warnings, as opposed to made a decision which maybe wasn't the right decision, to not escalate U.S. military involvement?
TOMASKY: I don't really think we know quite enough to say that, but what we can certainly say fairly is that he really just wanted the Syria problem to go away, and he didn't want anything to do with it, and he saw -- I think he anticipated that it might be his quagmire, as it might yet be, alas, and he just really obviously was very reluctant to get involved with it. Maybe that made him reluctant to pay the kind of attention to the intelligence he should have paid, but--
KURTZ: There's also the question of public opinion, because as everyone remembers it was roughly a year ago that the president was going to bomb Syria because of the use of chemical weapons, and Congress didn't want any part of it, and he backed away, but the public didn't seem to want it either.
TOMASKY: That's right, and that is a fair point to be made in his defense. If 60 or 70 percent of the public is against bombing, as he was considering doing the bombing in August of 2013, when the stories about the chemical gassing Assad was doing on his own people, when those stories were coming out, Congress would not have approved. The public didn't approve. So that's something -- he's paying attention to public opinion.
KURTZ: We can't know what might have happened but it's interesting and I want to talk more about the media's role. Let me get a break. Send me a tweet about our show during this hour, @howardkurtz. As you know, we'll read some of your messages a little later in the program. In a moment, more on the media debate over ISIS and on the saturation coverage of the Ebola virus. And later did the Gary Heart scandal turn the media into the sex police?
KURTZ: Once President Obama appeared to blame intelligence officials for underestimating the terrorists in Iraq and Syria, news outlets began digging out sound bites from the last year of administration officials warning about the terrorists.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: Tonight a paper trail is emerging of warnings about the growing threat of ISIS as far back as last winter.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Earlier this year Baghdadi announced a campaign of terror to include attacks against Iraqi security services, government targets and civilians.
There's no question that ISIL is a group that is growing roots in Syria and Iraq.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's important to focus on where this violence is coming from. It's coming from al Qaeda and its affiliates. They are trying to provoke cycles of sectarian reprisals. But we are confident that they will not succeed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Our "MediaBuzz" research team did some digging and found that those clips when these things were said at the time, got virtually no coverage in major media outlets. Where was the media in all of this?
ATTKISSON: Here is the reason, based on my cynical viewpoint. Increase in terrorism or concerns about terrorism would have been on the front page had the administration ever wanted it to be on the front page, because by and large the media too often waits for the administration to dictate the agenda and the coverage. And if--
KURTZ: Why do they do that? Easier? Safer?
ATTKISSON: A complicated set of reasons, but it has to do with easier, laziness, support for the administration. Support in general for the powers that be. Wanting to toe the line. But I guarantee you that if there had been headlines or if the administration had wanted concerns about terrorism to be on the front burner, quite the opposite happened, and I see this whole question about ISIS as another point in the continuum of the administration apparently wanting to downplay concerns about terrorism by and large.
KURTZ: But with the benefit of hindsight, Steve Hayes, if the situation was so dire and the terrorists were growing in their ability to murder people and to grab land, did the media fall down on the job?
HAYES: I think so. And I think Sharyl points to exactly the problem. What we're seeing now is a manifestation of a debate that has been taking place behind the scenes in the intelligence community in particular for quite some time, for several years now. The administration had made the argument in the lead-up to the 2012 election and in the aftermath that al Qaeda was on the run or it was decimated or destroyed, and you had a contingent of folks in the intelligence community, mostly at the Defense Intelligence Agency but also at the CIA and elsewhere, that were saying precisely the opposite. No, no, no, Mr. President, this threat is growing. Al Qaeda is expanding, and they now control more territory than ever, and what you saw is that rear its head in the form of this debate over ISIS.
ATTKISSON: A personal tory. Two years ago I was being told by military and intelligence officials some of the same things President Obama just said Sunday in the "60 Minutes" interview about how terrorists were using social media to exploit the vulnerabilities where these Arab spring uprisings have happened and so on, and I proposed a story at CBS that would look at the regional impact of what was going on rather than the country by country crisis, to look in the big picture, because my sources were saying these things were connected. And we should look --
KURTZ: And what happened?
ATTKISSON: The CBS managers were not interested. So I firmly believe had the White House put that on the front burner and suggested a story like that or let us --
KURTZ: Then you could do the story.
ATTKISSON: I think we would have.
KURTZ: When the terrorists seized Fallujah back in January. It was widely covered, but it was basically almost a two-day story. ABC Evening News did one story, NBC Nightly News did two, a couple on MSNBC, more on Fox and CNN. Again, that was an opportunity, and it was covered as a kind of an Iraq story as opposed to any potential threat to the United States. Your thoughts.
TOMASKY: Exactly. It was because in degree and kind, it was really different from what ultimately happened in Mosul, and this is not to defend the media from falling down on the job, quite the contrary, but I think it's fair to say the Mosul situation, when the Iraqi army just dropped their weapons and ran, and Mosul being closer to Baghdad as it was, that was the event that made everybody kind of wake up, and until then, as Sharyl rightly says, without the administration putting it on the agenda, it just wasn't going to bubble up to the top.
KURTZ: I think one reason is that Iraq and Syria were seen as distant. Depressing story. Not good for ratings, and so it didn't bubble up until it seemed like it was a threat to the United States of America.
Michael Tomasky, Steve Hayes, Sharyl Attkisson, thank you very much for joining us this Sunday.
Coming up, with Ebola dominating the airways, have the media moved from reporting to fear mongering? And later Ed Henry weighs in on the Secret Service scandal and doing combat at the White House.
KURTZ: The Ebola story has spread across the media with the speed of a frightening virus, and that's often how it is portrayed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WOLF BLITZER, CNN: Happening now, breaking news, Ebola quarantine. Residents locked down in the Texas department where the man with the first case of the disease diagnosed in the United States was staying.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC: Our ABC News medical team is covering it all. We begin in Dallas, where Ebola has the city on edge this morning as we learn more about the man infected with the deadly virus.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS: Another frightening story developing right now. Ebola here in the United States. Tonight there are growing fears that it could spread.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It now touched our extended family. A photojournalist working with Dr. Nancy Snyderman and her team in Liberia has tested positive for Ebola.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Joining us now Frank Sesno, director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at the George Washington University. So is this saturation coverage of Ebola contributing to a sense of fear in the public?
FRANK SESNO, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: Yes, I think it is. To some extent justifiably, to some extent totally unjustifiably. There was a headline that grabbed me out of The Daily Mirror I think it was, out of London, Ebola terror at Gatwick as passenger collapses and dies getting off Sierra Leone flight. It turned out it wasn't about that. But this story is all about fear, and fear sells.
KURTZ: I was watching CNN the other day, and CNN did not come off the Ebola story for one minute, unless maybe when I took a bathroom break I missed it. But they have got plenty of company here, and I do think we should point out that news organizations, most of them are trying to be responsible, but the sheer volume of the coverage, the hour by hour updates and news conferences, can convey a sense that something terrible has happened.
SESNO: There's a real story here. And it's a mystery. The best line I saw was in the Washington Post today. It said, this is a biological as well as psychological plague, and the fear can spread faster than the virus, and that's true.
We don't know what surrounds this. How large the numbers are. How big it's going to get. It's confounded -- and that's a great piece in the Post today. It has confounded the World Health Organization and the CDC. So there's a real journalistic story here. What went wrong? What's happening now? How many are going to die? But it's so easy to take a story like this and go plunging off the deep end, because as I said, fear spreads faster than the virus.
KURTZ: Right. And it's a story that's international in scope. If you just look at the United States, four or five confirmed cases. And yet I get the impression -- and again it's not just television. It's websites, it's front pages of newspapers, that it's being covered as a calamity, almost an epidemic, and we're not anywhere close to there yet.
SESNO: We have this gentleman in Dallas, and we all hope he does well and survives.
KURTZ: And mistakes were made there by the Dallas hospital, all part of (inaudible).
SESNO: It's a real story. It's the press' job to look into that. But let's remember that this year in the United States alone, some 36,000 people are expected to die from the flu.
SESNO: So when you keep it in perspective there. That being said, there's just too much we don't know, and that's what feeds the journalism and that's what feeds the public interest.
KURTZ: Is there a positive side to the coverage in the sense that in this kind of situation, strange new virus, we don't know enough about it, that the media can help to educate Americans about Ebola?
SESNO: It is, like with all crises, a teachable moment, and one thing that I think is very important that has to come out of this is for people to understand that in this world where globalization is a reality, borders don't matter on many things. This is one of them. I mean, they matter because this is where we try to stop and we take people's temperatures, but we see that's a fallible process. So can people learn more about the world? Can we learn that what happens to an African is as important as what happens to an American, and they become interchangeable? So does that engage us with the world? I hope so.
KURTZ: There's huge public interest in the story. Everywhere I go, people are talking about it, but come on. If it wasn't good for ratings, it wouldn't be the lead story hour after hour. Isn't that a factor?
SESNO: Probably, but I think the reason that it's good for ratings is because people are concerned. They're afraid. I was talking with a neighbor yesterday here in Washington. He works for the city government. He says people there are asking whether they should hold a blanket or, you know, they're processing. I went on social media. Here's one, "big OU Texas football game in Dallas, should fans be concerned about attending the game?"
KURTZ: So you're saying it's good for ratings in a healthy sense, that people are--
SESNO: It's good for ratings because people care. I'm saying it's good for ratings because people are worried, they're scared, and that's where the media is supposed to be doing their job explaining.
KURTZ: I just think it's a question of volume, and I think the combined decibel level here is getting a little bit too loud.
SESNO: Are we hyperventilating? Because that's bad for your health and it's bad for journalism.
KURTZ: Media is very good at that.
Frank Sesno, thank you very much for joining us.
SESNO: My pleasure.
KURTZ: Ahead on "MediaBuzz," President Obama taking another shot at Fox News, and up next we go to the White House where I asked Ed Henry about covering the Secret Service, ISIS, and are those press briefings really theater?
KURTZ: The Secret Service debacle prompted some aggressive questioning from White House correspondents, including Fox's Ed Henry.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ED HENRY, FOX NEWS: What seems confusing is for three days in a row, you and other White House officials had seemed kind of calm about the idea that a man got into the East Room, and that another man got inches away from the president with a gun? Where's the outrage? Where's the we can't believe this happened?
JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It's true that the president and everyone here at the White House does have full confidence in the men and women of the United States Secret Service.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: For more on the challenges of covering the president, I drop by the White House.
KURTZ: Ed Henry, welcome.
HENRY: Thanks for having me.
KURTZ: When an intruder hopped the fence behind me and the whole Secret Service mess erupted, you kept asking Josh Earnest if the president had full confidence in Julia Pierson.
KURTZ: Is that whole full confidence thing a bit of a dance?
HENRY: Sometimes. I mean, look, I think it's a legitimate question, because I was personally stunned that Josh Earnest for days, at least two days, this week appeared to be not that stunned by the whole thing.
KURTZ: You even said where is the outrage.
HENRY: The third day after she had resigned, because the fence jumper was one thing, we can talk about that, but the incident in Atlanta in the elevator, where a guy with a criminal record and a gun was inches from the president to the United States, and the White House said, well, we're investigating this. Investigating this? Something horrible could have happened.
Now I understand they're also doing a dance we should respect, which is they're trying to keep morale in the Secret Service up, because they're getting pounded, and the last thing you want to do is attack an agency that is protecting the president or trying to. So it's delicate.
KURTZ: Did this hit home not only because the president's life clearly jeopardized but because you guys work there, you see these agents every day.
HENRY: I do, and I know a lot of them and respect them. And I think as part of the story, I always try to say that most of the agents and officers I know are outstanding law enforcement officials. We of course focus on the bad moments, and you should because they're a big deal, big mistakes, but most times they get it right, and we should make that part of the story as well.
Look, I was live on air with Bret Baier a couple of weeks ago, a week before this latest fence jumper, and on the air a guy jumped over the fence behind me and he had a Pokemon hat on. Everybody sort of laughed about it later, but it was scary at the time, and why it was significant was because I turned around and I saw dogs on this guy. I saw men with large weapons, and they snuffed it out quickly.
The fact that the next time they failed catastrophically is a big problem, and they sort of at first (inaudible) it off as well, the president wasn't here. This White House is a target 24/7, and there are reporters, there are staffers, and there are tourists from all around America outside. Everyone is a target.
KURTZ: This can be a hazardous assignment, Ed. You also asked at one of the briefings about the president appearing to push off responsibility for the underestimating of the ISIS threat.
HENRY: He didn't appear to. He did. Josh Earnest blew it off and said he wasn't blaming James Clapper and was not throwing him under the bus, and sometimes I think the White House forgets the president is on tape. There's a transcript. You and I were talking about this a minute ago. The bottom line is, we heard what the president said on "60 Minutes." He got a question, and that's why, when I followed, I said let's go back to the question. Which Steve Kroft from CBS asked, were you surprised, Mr. President, by the rise of ISIL? He shifted it over to Clapper.
KURTZ: It's common that the press secretary will try to play some word games and try to say, well, the president --
HENRY: But it's our job to pin him down. Sure, they want to play games, but in that case, the president, asked a question about himself, said, well, James Clapper and they and the intelligence community. Not me or we. And that's why I asked him, isn't this a team? Isn't this the president's director of national intelligence, and he finally said yes. But that's not the way the president said it in "60 Minutes."
KURTZ: Isn't part of what goes on in these televised briefings a bit of theater? You want to get a clip of yourself asking a tough question that you can show on Fox later?
HENRY: There is no doubt that you use those clips. I think it's important to show that we're pressing them. Are all of your questions fair? No. Every moment? We're not perfect.
KURTZ: Are all your questions fair meaning sometimes you're trying to prod them into provocative movements?
HENRY: You're always trying to prod them into something provocative. I make no apologies for that. If you are going to in a sense of -- if you just sit there and ask a non-provocative question, of course you're going to get a non-provocative answer, and you're going to let them stay on the talking points. The key to get them off those talking points -- and I'm not just talking -- I'm not picking on Josh Earnest. Dana Perino calls me an equal opportunity blank, it starts with an a. That's because she didn't like the questions I was asking her when she was in the Bush administration. So no matter who is in power, take them on.
KURTZ: And on that point, you were then at CNN. You're now a Fox News correspondent, obviously. Does the White House treat you differently since you have come to Fox?
HENRY: I think sometimes they're going to be a little tougher. The president takes some pokes publicly at Fox. I feel it would be disingenuous of me to pretend that the relationship isn't different. But I will say in the sense of that he comes after Fox, and they certainly feel like we're pressing him hard, but I make no apologies, whether I was at CNN or Fox.
You know, I have on my phone a screen grab of a woman went on my Facebook page and saw me on O'Reilly or something and thought I was too nice to the president. And I brought it to you -- go back to CNN or wherever the hell you came from. I keep that because it reminds me sometimes there are people in the Fox audience who think I'm too nice to the president. You know what, if you come down and you have got some people mad at you on the left, some people mad at you on the right that you're not too tough, hopefully you're getting it somewhere in the middle there where you're being fair.
KURTZ: An equal opportunity blank. I like that. Ed Henry, thanks for joining us.
HENRY: Good to see you.
KURTZ: And Ed Henry was at the Washington Nationals playoff game last night, the one they lost to the Giants in 18 heartbreaking innings. I was depressed until this morning, I ran into one of the team's presidential mascots right here in the green room with Fox. There I am with Teddy. Never know who you're going to meet in the green room. Ahead on "MediaBuzz," is it unethical for a British paper to create a fake Twitter account to lure a politician into sexting? But first, Gary Hart there, the media followed him around. Is that why he got caught with Donna Rice? An author now blames that episode for the rise of gotcha journalism.
KURTZ: Gary Hart's presidential campaign imploded back in 1987 after Miami Herald reporters staked out his Washington townhouse and disclosed his relationship with Donna Rice, an actress with whom he had also sailed on a boat called Monkey Business. There is the picture. As we enter the wayback machine, you may recognize this anchor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS WALLACE, FORMER NBC ANCHOR: Presidential candidate Gary Hart has dismissed allegations he's a womanizer, challenging reporters to follow him around.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The editorial says Hart lied publicly on three occasions by verbally attacking the Herald reporters.
GARY HART, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Who, after publishing a false story, now concede they may have gotten it wrong.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We made no such concession. We did not and do not.
HART: And who most outrageously refused to interview the very people who could have given them the facts.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our reporters, one of whom had known Hart well from the 1984 campaign, entreated him to please make this woman available. He wouldn't.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Isn't that a dark turning point for the media? I sat down with Matt Bai, of Yahoo! News, author of the new book "All The Truth Is Out: The Week Politics Went Tabloid."
Matt Bai, welcome.
MATT BAI, YAHOO! NEWS: Hey, thanks, Howard, nice to be with you again.
KURTZ: You suggested when Gary Hart was knocked out of the race that that week was the week the American press jumped the shark, became the sex police, cared more about the character perhaps than the issues.
BAI: I think that week marked a turning point. I think that point was coming regardless. I think it was in the ether, for all the reasons I go into in the book, I think someone was going to walk into it, but I think that moment was sort of a tipping point where from that period on, you can measure a very different kind of process.
KURTZ: Why is that a bad thing or a sleazy thing? Because character, we later learned, is pretty crucial as we saw in Bill Clinton's presidency, and you can argue that the press was now no longer in cahoots with philandering politicians.
BAI: Oh, yes, you could. It's not like the gold old days were all so great or none of these issues ever should come up. Just to be clear, you know this, you read the book. It's great to have these debates, but the book is not a manifesto about privacy. The book is not we should do these 10 things, or it's not -- it's a not a theoretical -- the book is a story. It's a story I became completely obsessed with over time, because here, it's the story of this man who was the Hillary Clinton of his moment. The presumed nominee of the Democratic Party, who as you know, finds himself bizarrely, literally backed up against a brick wall in an oil-stained alley wearing a white hoodie in the back of his townhouse, surrounded or pinned in by four reporters from the Miami Herald who are asking him, who is that woman in your house and did you have sex with her and are you cheating on your wife? Questions that had never been asked, and this kind of thing is unprecedented. And in that ally, I think, is the shifting ground. The ground actually shifts in politics and journalism.
KURTZ: Now we have a sex scandal every other week.
BAI: But it reverberates through the years after, and it reverberates in his life. And that's the story I tell, is about not just about how it affected politics and political journalism, but it's this very human, gripping story of a man coming to terms with this.
KURTZ: I think you ask all the right questions in this book, but I think you and I differ on where you seem to come down when you suggest that, well, did the Miami Herald sort of abdicate its role in deciding what's most important? And I would say the Herald had solid information and acted on it. You suggest that the Washington Post's Paul Taylor, who famously asked the question at the news conference, have you ever committed adultery, that maybe he went too far. I would say he says it was distasteful but justified, and I would say how do you not ask that question in this situation?
BAI: It's one of the great things about a story like this. Right? It's going to create -- people are going to look at it all different ways. I don't say, I don't know what decisions I would have made in that moment, I don't know what decisions you would have made in that moment. These reporters were -- they were and are excellent journalists, and they were doing this long before I got on the scene. So in no way do I say I couldn't have made that decision.
KURTZ: Are you torn about what the right path is? We're living with the echoes of that today. Questions of privacy. How much do you ask about who is sleeping with who?
BAI: I think in the book, I deal with those conflicts very openly on some of the issues, and where I do think is problematic, regardless of the decisions you would have made in the moment, is that so much of that episode was then misremembered. What we remember of it is almost entirely wrong.
KURTZ: For example, the immortal quote, everybody knows this, that Gary Hart gave to EJ Dionne, then with the New York Times about follow me around, people don't remember it at the time.
BAI: And the quote followed Hart around for the rest of his life. And the assumption is a really important point, Howard, because the assumption that everyone has is, well, he said follow me around, come into my bedroom. And the press did and the press never left the bedroom of politicians, then Hart changed the rules and he set a new standard and everybody had to follow. And it's not what happened. He did say that as a kind of a frustrated, throw-away line. He was talking to EJ Dionne, then of the New York Times magazine, my old publication.
KURTZ: But when was it published?
BAI: But the quote sat as they do in magazine queues, and when the Herald decides to undertake the surveillance, stake out the townhouse, confront him, that quote is completely unknown. By the time they publish the quote, they have an advanced copy of the quote, it's still not out, but they take that and they reference it in their story, and from then on, people think first the challenge, then the following. It's not true.
KURTZ: There's a great moment where you have Gary Hart being pummeled at this press conference, and you obviously interviewed him many times, and he looked around the room and you say he knew that many of the reporters had been having affairs. So a little bit of hypocrisy there?
BAI: Paul Taylor from the Washington Post runs him through these series of questions. Is adultery immoral? I do think you're a moral person. Have you ever committed adultery? And if you talk to the people in that room, they remember it like it was yesterday. They gasped, because no one had ever heard a question like that in politics, and Hart does look out and he is looking at reporters who he knew in 1984 in his campaign bus had been having adulterous affairs, and he is thinking about what's the definition of adultery again, and he goes through this whole process in his head. And that -- that moment is -- 24 hours later he's back home in Colorado.
KURTZ: Matt Bai, thank you for joining us.
BAI: Thank you.
KURTZ: We'll put more of that conversation on our homepage this week. Our "Video Verdict" is up next.
KURTZ: President Obama returned to a familiar campaign theme, taking a swipe at Fox News. This was a hot topic of conversation on "Fox & Friends."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: While good affordable health care might seem like a fanged threat to the freedom of the American people on Fox News, it turns out it is working pretty well in the real world.
WALLACE: Listen, I don't know why anybody would be upset about that. It is kind of a badge of honor. First of all, I think it is fair game, we are big boys. We have been very critical of the president and Obamacare, and I think rightly so. It's not like we think there's anything wrong with our reporting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: I am with Chris Wallace on this. We in the punditry business dish it out, we ought to be able to take it. Obviously the president trying to gin up his base and portray Obamacare as a success, but I don't think it helps him much, but journalists need to have a thick skin.
CNN anchor John Berman had just interviewed a guest about that awful murder in Oklahoma, in which a fired worker who converted to Islam beheaded an employee at a food plant, and then he said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: It's a sick fascination, any way you slice it, and there's a woman dead, any way you slice it. And this man faces the death penalty likely, any way you slice it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Ouch. Berman quickly took to Twitter to apologize, saying I wish I hadn't. I feel horribly. I made a terrible mistake, incredibly poor choice of words. I am sorry." I am not going to pile on here. Obviously he wishes -- he had used this unconsciously, didn't realize it. But did you have to say it three times, John?
All right. Here is what I am buzzed off about. New York Post gossip columnist Cindy Adams writing, "if NBC doesn't remove Chuck Todd from "Meet the Press," at least make him remove that hideous goatee." Really? I like Cindy Adams, but Chuck just got the job. He wears the beard because it reminds him of his dad. And why do we need to critique his facial hair anyway? Come on, welcome to our new feature in which I'll sound off about my pet peeves. Still to come, your top tweets. A British tabloid creates a fake woman to entrap a real lawmaker, and the administration's crazy scheme to get involved in the Redskins controversy. Stay with us.
KURTZ: In our Press Picks, this media fail. London Sunday Mirror, so determined to expose philandering politicians, it created a fictitious woman to entice them on Twitter, using a bikini photo of a real woman with a fake account of a quote "20-something Tory named Sophie." Now, Brooks Newmark resigned as one of David Cameron's ministers after sending explicit photos to the account, saying in one message, "you must swear on a stack of Bibles you won't show picks as I promise not to show pics of you."
Newmark says this has been a complete fool, but this is entrapment. Pure and simple. Turns out two other Sunday papers, the Mail and the Sun have rejected a scheme from the freelancer along these lines. The Mirror is defending its fakery by saying it had a clear public interest -- other than selling papers you mean?
Now for top tweets. Are the media mainly scaring people about Ebola or educating the public? Nicole Peckumn, "Fueling. I wish they cared as much about seasonal influenza since thousands in the U.S. die every year." As Frank Sesno pointed out. Thomas Gordon. "You had an Ebola sufferer walking around Dallas, how many other sufferers so far? None. Believe the experts, not media idiots." Matt Johnson, "some educate, some do both, most are contributing to the frenzy. Still a lot of the unknown." And Ken Myers, "the story is being hyped for ratings. Why educate the public when stupidity brings eyeballs to the screen." But it is an important story.
This is an idea way out of bounds. The FCC may start fining stations that use the name Redskins. Petition to the agency prompting Chairman Tom Wheeler to tell reporters, "there are a lot of names and descriptions that were used over time that are inappropriate today. And I think the name that is attributed to the Washington football club is one of those." Whether or not you find the Redskins name offensive, this is none of the government's business, period. The fact that we trample on a free press by forcing media outlets to toe a politically correct line. The FCC should spike this dumb idea.
That's it for this edition of "MediaBuzz." I'm Howard Kurtz. We hope you like our Facebook page. Post a lot of original content there. We have videos, we respond to your questions, and check out our home page as well, Foxnews.com/mediabuzz. We're back here next Sunday 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. Eastern with the latest buzz.
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