Media's Obama referendum; Bob Woodward on IRS scandal, Ben Bradlee

Is coverage focusing on 'President Pariah'?


This is a rush transcript from "Media Buzz," October 26, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: On the buzz meter this Sunday, nine days before the midterms, the media are increasingly making these elections about one issue -- Barack Obama.


CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC: It's like Obama has got Ebola. Do you know what I mean?


LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I think in the end, the president really can't get his head wrapped around the fact that he is over.


KURTZ: Will the president really determine whether Republicans can win the Senate or is that just an easy story line for the media?

New leaks in the killing of Michael Brown, describing the struggle for a gun that made the police officer fear for his life. Is the press being fair on Ferguson?

The death of Ben Bradlee -- one of the giants of journalism who led to The Washington Post on the Pentagon Papers and Watergate, and had his shortcomings as well. I talked to Bob Woodward about the role of his former boss and the challenge of investigative reporting, then and now.


BOB WOODWARD, THE WASHINGTON POST ASSOCIATE EDITOR: Publishing these stories, not naming the sources, you believe you've got good sources. But we don't have documents, we don't have tapes, we don't have videos. So, you go home with a lump in your stomach.


KURTZ: Woodward on the lessons for journalists investigating the Obama administration.

Plus, Monica Lewinsky calls for a crusade against shaming women online and gets bashed on Twitter.


MONICA LEWINSKY, FORMER CLINTON WHITE HOUSE INTERN: I would go online, read in a paper or see on TV people referring to me as tramp, slut, whore, tart, bimbo, floozy, even spy.


KURTZ: Will the media let her move on from the Clinton sex scandal?

I'm Howard Kurtz and this is "MediaBuzz."


KURTZ: It seemed at first that the midterm elections might turn on the economy, or health care, and then ISIS, and now, Ebola. But the media narrative this week was all about Barack Obama and the pundits have been piling on, especially after he called into Al Sharpton's radio show and said this about all the Democratic candidates would don't want to be in the same zip code as him.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The bottom line is, though, these are all folks who vote with me, they have supported my agenda in Congress. This isn't about my feelings being hurt.

INGRAHAM: I will tell you this. It is all about his feelings being hurt because I think in the end, the approximately really can't get his head wrapped around the fact that he is over.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: He was a citizen of the world, the most interesting, most sought-after rock star, a political rock star on the planet. And now, he's got to hide under his desk until November. This is a total humiliation for him.

MIKA BRZEZINSKI, MSNBC: We've got so many different candidates, Democrats who are giving, at best, wishy-washy answers as it pertains to their relationship with President Obama.


KURTZ: So, is the press reflecting realty or making these elections about the president?

Joining us now, Jonah Goldberg, editor at large for "National Review," and a Fox News contributor. Christina Bellantoni, editor in chief of Roll Call. And Joe Trippi, Democratic strategist and also a Fox News contributor.

Jonah, are the media, in fact, making these midterm about President Obama? Or is Obama making them about himself?

JONAH GOLDBERG, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, I think this is one of the all- of-the-above kind of things. The media likes talking about Barack Obama. Barack Obama likes talking about Barack Obama.

And I -- in the setup, you said is it supposed to be the economy? I still think this election is largely about things like economy and foreign policy.

KURTZ: But you could not tell if you look at the media coverage.

GOLDBERG: No, I agree with that entirely. But that stuff is hitting -- it's the background radiation for everything about how the election is actually going to play out and I don't know that the media is doing the Democrats or Obama any favorite about making this all about Obama, because the thing we know is that a lot of people are tired of Barack Obama.

KURTZ: Joe Trippi, The New York Times this morning has a bunch of Democrats blaming the president in advance for what might be the lose of the Senate. And even liberal Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank is writing about president pariah.

Fair or unfair?

JOE TRIPPI, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: No, look, it's the reality. Reality is -- and that's what the press is reporting. The reality is in every midterm, it's the president's favorability and approval ratings that have the biggest impact, the one measure that you can count on that will tell you which parties party is going to win or lose is that. And his numbers are low and the rest of the election is how far can I get away from him or how can we tie them to him? And that's all this election is about.

CHRISTINA BELLANTONI, ROLL CALL EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: And it's very easy for the media to point to, for example, a CQ vote study which we release on Friday which really show how often anybody voted with or against the president. That's a very easy line for the Republican campaigns to use against you, if it's 97 percent with Barack Obama or 100 percent with Barack Obama in some cases. And so, the media reports that.

But he isn't hiding under his desk. In fact, he's out there campaigning for gubernatorial candidates and he's been raising money across the country the entire year. So, the Democrats are taking his money, but not necessarily saying, hey, let's show up together.

KURTZ: But does this easy story line miss the fact that these are a collection of state and local races, with state and local issues and personalities, as well as the overriding question of support for or running away from the president?

BELLANTONI: So, I talked to a Democratic pollster this week who said to me that if we can make it about local issues in a place like North Carolina, where Kay Hagan has really attacked Thom Tillis, the House speaker, on education, if she can win on that issue and we know early enough in the night that she's going to be able to win in that issue by a hair, well, maybe we're going to be okay. We can get away from the fact that it's --


KURTZ: Maybe that would be in the local coverage, but I'm not seeing that in the national coverage.

BELLANTONI: Very little.

TRIPPI: Well, that's what's going on. I mean, if you're a Democratic candidate, you're trying to get local coverage and make it a local race. And the national media has a tougher time with that. And so, the easier narrative is Obama.

GOLDBERG: Let's also remember that, you know, what Barack Obama was doing was trying to get out his base. He was talking to Al Sharpton there. And normally, you would do that kind of thing a couple days before the election.

You know, he's trying to tell the black folks, which is the one monolithic -- don't listen to all these guys trashing me. The problem is you can't --

KURTZ: But you can't be under the radar any more.

GOLDBERG: You can't micro-target anymore. And that's the problem.

KURTZ: Everybody knows about that interview on the radio.

OK. Pulling back, a study by the conservative Media Research Center shows that ABC's "World News Tonight" since September 1st -- and we updated these figures -- has not done a single story on the midterm elections. "CBS Evening News," 14 stories. "NBC Nightly News," 11 stories.

And this is versus a combined total of 159 back in 2006 when it was pretty clear when the Democrats were on the verge of taking over both houses of Congress. Your thoughts?

GOLDBERG: Yes, I think it's outrageous and I think it is -- it's a perfectly legitimate -- MRC is conservative, but those numbers aren't conservative or liberal. Those numbers are the numbers.

And I will say, look, I'm sure that -- I know this for a fact, that a lot of people are turned off by politics these days. It doesn't get great ratings. But if you don't have a national news media to cover major national electrics, what do you have them for? And as a matter of their, I don't know if there's an FEC license, or whatever -- SEC license, they should be required to cover political campaigns and they're not doing it because it's a bad story for Obama and Democrats, and they don't like it.

TRIPPI: I don't think it has anything to do with bad story for Obama and the Democrats. It has to do with it doesn't rate. It's just no one care - - I mean, everybody -- when you're going to get this low turnout election where everybody is disinterested or disenchanted with both parties, what you're seeing in the coverage is a reflection of if we did a show, a segment every Monday about the Senate races, who would watch?

And, you know, in the last cycle, on Bret Baier's "Special Report," I was on every week with Karl Rove. I don't remember being on once or twice this year maybe.

KURTZ: Is it about getting more airtime for Joe Trippi?


TRIPPI: No, I'm just saying I think that's legitimate. It's just not as interesting a story.

GOLDBERG: Bret Baier (ph) is reporting a lot of the coverage of the midterm.

TRIPPI: No, no, they are. I'm not saying. I'm not --


KURTZ: Overall, overall, I think media coverage, including I mention, the stories in "New York Times" about Democrats running away from Obama make it perfectly clear, we have an unpopular president and that we have Democratic Party not to be tied to that president.

But zero stories on the midterms. How is that possible?

BELLANTONI: When I read those numbers, that was surprising to me. So I went on the "World News" tonight app and looked under politics. The lead story was three awkward interactions between celebrities and John Kerry.

So, in some part of this is you get the media that you demand. Stories like that are getting clicked on so they're being rewarded.

But this is also a resource issue. You know, I run a news room and there are choices you have to make in every case. We focus incredibly a lot of elections and the campaigns. We've been sending reporters on the trail.

But if you're a newsroom that had a ton of resources in 2006, you have fewer of those now. You're not going out and cover it. Everybody is trying to save for what they know is going to away blockbuster 2016 presidential year which is getting more interested ratings.

KURTZ: I think those are good points. I would add that in 2006, it was almost sort of a national debate and referendum on the Iraq war and you had to come to Congressman Mark Foley's scandal.

But these low numbers, particularly zero, it's just inexcusable.

All right. Ebola, I was going to say a few days ago, maybe the media fever had broken, was start to go fade a little bit from the news, and then it's come back in a big way. Let's take a look at a little bit of the coverage.


ERIN BURNETT, CNN: Breaking news, a major scare in New York City tonight with a possible case of Ebola.

MEGYN KELLY, FOX NEWS: He comes back into New York City. He knows he's been handling Ebola patients. And he's here for a week, he doesn't tell anybody and if he starts to feel symptomatic before his 103 fever, he's still out there bowling and taking taxis and not quarantine -- not self- quarantining?


KURTZ: She's talking about Dr. Craig Spencer, a New York doctor who went to Africa to treat Ebola patients and now is hospitalized and the question is, who else did he infect?

You also had the president's photo-op with Nina Pham, the Dallas nurse who is now free of Ebola. How much of this constant coverage of Ebola is partially driving the campaign?

GOLDBERG: I think it feeds into the right track/wrong track feelings that people have for good reasons and for ill. It certainly feeds into the sense of government overpromising and under-delivering and the sense of they're not competent and how to did on deal with all these things.

I have to say, whoever is planning Ebola's PR strategy was brilliant for having the next case show up in New York City. Because all of a sudden, the self-absorbed parochial media centers all of a sudden think it's -- you know, it's a worthy subject again.

KURTZ: I can't resist to put autopsy New York Post cover from the other day, Ebola here, yes, it gets 100,000 times more coverage than it would in Omaha.

But, Joe, I've seen Ebola debated among midterm candidates in debates, it's showing up in ads. So, how much is that coloring this election?

TRIPPI: I think you're starting to see it enter and shape it. You're actually -- you're seeing governors start to do their own bans and things, to show how tough they are against Obama -- against Ebola, excuse me.

And the other thing I think that going on -- but I do think that, too. It's an easy thing to say here is me saying Obama is not doing enough if you're a Democrat.


TRIPPI: So, it's a gimme for the politicians, which I think is a shame given what the subject is.

KURTZ: And should the media be criticizing this, Craig Spencer, you know, he went bowling, took the subway -- these are people who go to Africa and risk their lives, and that kind of gets lost I think in those who unfortunately get infected.


BELLANTONI: This is absolutely ridiculous. It is irresponsible. Like you're freaking out America for no reason.

There are 18 things that are way more risky and things you should be scared about in this country, whether that's the flu virus which kills lots and lots of people every year. It is a sensational, ridiculous story.

KURTZ: Freaking out America, that puts it as colorfully as I heard and it's sometimes hard to avoid that conclusion, not that it's not a serious story, not that we shouldn't cover it. But every time -- I mean, the people who have all gotten it were the people in Africa or the two nurses who treated the first Ebola patient.

BELLANTONI: Right. And how about covering what's happening in Africa as oppose to what's happening here, which is very little.

KURTZ: All right. Let me get a break here. Remember to send me a tweet about our show this hour, @howardkurtz. We always pick out some messages and read them at the end of the program.

Ahead, Bob Woodward on Ben Bradlee's passing, Watergate, and what he would do if he were investigating the IRS scandal right now.

But when we come back, the Michael Brown killing takes a new twist with media outlets getting leaks about the officer's side. Is this changing the Ferguson narrative?


KURTZ: When Michael Brown was killed two months ago and the media descended on Ferguson, there was a missing piece of the story, what was Officer Darren Wilson's side?

This week, The New York Times cited unnamed government officials are saying Wilson told investigators that he was pinned in his police car and feared for his life as Michael Brown reached for his gun and he's fired twice. One of those bullets striking the teenager in the arm.

The St. Louis Dispatch obtained a leaked copy of the autopsy report showing Michael Brown had been shot in the hand at close range.

And some Michael Brown defenders cried foul.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I ironically, it gets leaked. This is all in an attempt to continue to paint Michael Brown in a negative manner, to set up a defense for Officer Wilson.


KURTZ: Christina Bellantoni, journalists love leaks. I certainly would have published these stories. But aren't these sources, and The Washington Post had sources, as well, on this whole narrative, giving this stuff to the press -- aren't they basically subverting the grand jury process?

BELLANTONI: I don't know that I would go that far with an accusation like that. But they're working the rest, in a way, right? They are trying to paint a different picture. Look what they were up against. All they had was what was on social media which looked real, real bad. And all of the protest every night, like if you had a photo of a kid laying in the street, you know, and an officer standing above him, like this is the only thing they really have to combat that.

So, I don't blame them for leaking it. But, yes, it completely colors the investigation.

KURTZ: For the record, the Justice Department has denounced leaks and the other said says it is not responsible for the leaks. But the commentators who have defended Michael Brown, this as you know a polarizing issue nationally about this Missouri town, are they refusing to seriously grapple with this new evidence?

GOLDBERG: Yes. Look, in the setup, we asked is this undermining the narrative? It's not undermining it. It's completely refuting it and destroying it.

KURTZ: That narrative being unarmed teenager gets shot six times, some witnesses say with his hands up?

GOLDBERG: Yes. The whole -- Barack Obama talked about Ferguson on the floor at the U.N., implicitly conceding that this was a narrative about America's fault and buying into this narrative that, you know -- I mean, we talked earlier about lack of resources complained why network news isn't covering midterm electrics. Lack of resources didn't keep them from flooding the zone in Ferguson for months, putting on base speculation, talking to people in the streets, fuelling this idea that this cop of six years just decided to be racist one day and shoot a black man because he was black.

TRIPPI: The press only had what they had, which was people out there, witnesses saying what they saw. And that was the story that they had at the time.

KURTZ: And it was frustrating to me, to interrupt you for half a second, that the police department didn't put out whatever the officer's side was. We didn't have Darrell Wilson's side. But now it almost seems like no more riots in Ferguson, some of the media have kind of moved on.

TRIPPI: Well, no, but the other thing is, I think I don't mind obviously you get a good leak, you report it. But there's no real look at -- hard look at the motive and why these leaks are happening and questioning what's going on and educating the public about that, as well. You don't see that on the other side. It's just now -- go, now run with the leaks.

BELLANTONI: And you saw a very similar reaction with the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman situation in Florida. You had one side of the story, and then they release it, whatever was in the kid's system. Like it was a terrible circumstance, right? And everybody acknowledges that and the investigation should play out as it is.

And both people are getting information coloring that investigate from the press.

KURTZ: It's true that the media can only report what they had confirmed, but looking back, it may be that we rushed to judgment in this case?

GOLDBERG: No, it's obviously the case that the bulk of the media rushed to judgment. They very much wanted one story line to be true. They very much wanted the protesters in Ferguson to be unalloyed champions of racial justice versus a racist law enforcement system.

KURTZ: Why, because they don't like cops?

GOLDBERG: I think because they like narrative civil rights. A lot of people go into journalism because they see themselves as purveyors of truth and justice on the civil rights agenda and --

TRIPPI: But there were parts of that story that were true. It's a city that's overwhelmingly African-American and there are no African-Americans on the police force.


GOLDBERG: None of that justifies hundred of journalists camping out for weeks on end in Ferguson, Missouri.

BELLANTONI: The town was in fire, right? That's why people go.

GOLDBERG: And partly the media was there attracting all these outside people that set it on fire.

BELLANTONI: And journalists get arrested and, yes, journalists tend to flock to their own. But nobody is wanting for one narrative.

KURTZ: The only cautionary note, we still don't know was going to happen. We'll have to see what the grand jury comes up with.

Joe Trippi, Christina Bellantoni, Jonah Goldberg, thanks very much for stopping by this Sunday.

Up next, Monica Lewinsky trying to rebrand herself as a crusader against online harassment. Are the media buying it?

And in a few moments, Bob Woodward on how he and Ben Bradlee got scooped on Deep Throat's identity, and how they missed a major journalistic fraud.


WOODWARD: I wasn't the stinger (ph). I was the supervising manager. Let's put the blame where it belongs, on me.



KURTZ: It was 1998 all over again. Monica Lewinsky talking about being called a slut and worse, and blaming it on what was called the World Wide Web.


LEWINSKY: Overnight, I went from being a completely private figure to a publicly humiliated one. I was patient zero. But having survived myself, what I want to do now is help other victims of the shame game survive, too.


KURTZ: In other words, Lewinsky wants to use her media notoriety to lead a crusade against online harassment.

Joining us now from San Francisco is Sarah Lacy, founder and editor-in- chief of the tech site, PandoDaily.

So, I have some sympathy for Monica Lewinsky, 16 years later, after those events.

But is she -- to put it mildly -- a flawed messenger here?

SARAH LACY, PANDODAILY EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: Well, look, I have a lot of sympathy for Monica Lewinsky, too. And when I heard about this story, I was totally anticipating fist-bumping and being like, take your story back, do it. No one should have to pay for the rest of their lives for a mistake they made between consenting adults when they're 24 years old.

But, you know, a lot of people are just going to hate her no matter what. She's got to get the message just right and she really didn't, in my opinion. I think if she had said slut-shaming, I think if she had said, fat shaming, I think if she had misogyny, I think all of it would have worked.

She erred to me in saying cyberbullying, because cyberbullying is to me a kid who's gay in Middle America, who can't come out. Someone who is driven to suicide or those feelings of suicide because of who they are and they've done nothing to cause it. And this wasn't cyberbullying.

KURTZ: No. Not by any means. But, you know, with Bill Clinton traveling around the world for his foundation and much in demand by Democrats as a campaigner, should the media let Monica Lewinsky move on? Or is she using in a way what happened to her to in a way extend, you know, the indelible brand about what happened with her and that Oval Office?

LACY: I mean, look, I don't think it's totally fair, everyone who says, oh, she just wants to be in the spotlight. She's making all this money off of it. I mean, as she detailed in her "Vanity Fair" post, she has turned down a lot of opportunities to make money off what happened. And she was very silent for 10 years.

She is at least trying to do this for a good cause. But I think everybody in the media feels like the time is more than a little suspicious with Hillary potentially running for president. Part of me thinks, you know, good for her. If she should have to live with this for the rest of her life, shouldn't the Clintons?

KURTZ: Well, should -- could Lewinsky be kind of like an ex-felon who suddenly takes up the cause of prison reform? Could she bring a lot of attention to the abrasive and misogynistic comments that often mar the neighborhood of online social media?

LACY: I mean, yes and no. I mean, again, I think her messaging was off here. The thing that irritated me in her speech was saying, I was just a young girl in my 20s who fell in love with my boss. Like come on, this is not Olivia Pope in "Scandal." You were not three people on a team working shoulder by shoulder, long nights for 18 months. You were an intern in the White House working for the president.

And to try to say that was an everyday situation -- again, people just don't buy it. And I think the more she pushes it too far, she isn't a good spokesperson for it.

That said, I think what is interesting is if I was looking at the replies to your tweet this morning that we were going to talk about this and how many horrible sexist things that were written about her -- you know, things similar to the comments that were made that she wrote about being calling her the blow job queen.

I mean, just as she pushes it a little too far on trying to get -- garner more sympathy than maybe she deserves, every time she opens her mouth.

KURTZ: That's a colorful way of putting it.

LACY: There are misogynists who pushed it too far, and kind of keep proving her point. So, in that respect, I don't know.

KURTZ: I've got half a minute, Sarah. You know shrinking violence, do you get a lot of abuse and sexism and misogynistic online?

LACY: A get a lot of abuse. I think, frankly, any woman whether it is internationally known and locally known, you know, they're reading these and are like, yes, welcome to being a woman. It's kind of like when Gwyneth Paltrow was saying she felt like -- you know, war victim, being on. It's like, yes, you're celebrity.

I mean, I think most women, unfortunately, just get numb to this as they get older.

KURTZ: Right. All right. Well, you should certainly know.

Sarah Lacy, thanks very much for getting up early and help us talk about this.

LACY: Thanks. Thanks, Howie.

KURTZ: Go check her Twitter feed.

Ahead on "MediaBuzz," a CNN anchor thinks that audio of Bristol Palin getting roughed up during a brawl in Alaska is just hysterical.

But first, Bob Woodward on the challenges of investigation reporting in the Nixon administration and the Obama administration.



KURTZ: Ben Bradlee died this week at the age of 93. And as somebody who once worked for him, I couldn't help but remember his swaggering style, the larger-than-life personality, that gravelly voice that was often teasing or swearing or both. And he was deeply skeptical of politicians.


BEN BRADLEE, FORMER EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, THE WASHINGTON POST: People don't tell the truth. They don't tell the truth in a hundred different ways. I now do not believe, I just do not believe the first version of events in this city. I don't believe it.


KURTZ: Now Bradlee was far from perfect. He was too close to JFK in his Newsweek days, using their friendship to get scoops, although he wound up writing a tell-all book that prompted Jackie Kennedy never to speak to him again.

Bradlee and Katharine Graham first took on the Nixon administration by publishing the Pentagon Papers. But he'll always be remembered, of course, mostly for Watergate.

So when I saw down with Bob Woodward at his Georgetown home, that seemed like the place to start.


KURTZ: Bob Woodward, welcome.


KURTZ: When you and Carl Bernstein were deep into Watergate, when the Nixon administration was putting so much pressure on the paper, when most of the media were ignoring those stories, what role did Ben Bradlee play?

WOODWARD: He was the general. We've often said that he, in fact, had the courage of a whole army. And the idea was, let's get to the bottom of this. A great believer in the truth, no sense of -- you know, he didn't approach journalism as a way of making moral judgments. It was a way of finding out what happened. And then let that unfold.

KURTZ: Given the enormous stakes, and you two were a couple of young pups, we can now say at this advanced age, did you worry about keeping his confidence or what was he like to deal with personally when you were deciding on difficult stories?

WOODWARD: He never suggested he was going to take us off the story. And he said subsequently that we were getting new information. And he knew this was coming from the Nixon campaign treasurer or the bookkeeper or people who witnessed the massive housecleaning and destruction of documents after the Watergate burglars were arrested.

That we had somebody in the Justice Department, as we now know, Mark Felt, the number two in the FBI, giving us guidance and assistance about what directions to look in and what the consequences might be.

So at the same time, as Ben said, you -- publishing these stories, you're not naming the sources, you believe you've got good sources, but we don't have documents, we don't have tapes, we don't have videos.

So you go home with a lump in your stomach and it's a kind of -- it's not doubt. It's, as Katharine Graham said, well, when is the whole story going to come out? And we kind of thought maybe never.

KURTZ: Right. It's easy to look back and say Nixon's resignation was inevitable at the time. You were doing it piece by piece, knocking on people's doors. But how did Ben Bradlee react when you made the one significant error in your Watergate reporting, saying that a witness had named H.R. Haldeman, Nixon's chief of staff, to the grand jury? That must have been a tough moment.

WOODWARD: Yes, that was a very tough moment. And he said why? How did it happen? What's really important about that moment, I mean, here, we had a lead story in The Post accusing the president's top aide of being involved in all of this and controlling a secret Watergate fund, which turned out to be true.

But we said there had been grand jury testimony to that effect. There had not because no one had asked the witness about Haldeman. The witness would have said, oh, yes, Haldeman controlled that fund.

There was no anger. There was no rancor on the part of Ben. It was, let's get this straightened out. Let's untangle it. Let's be calm. He was always kind of -- you know, there was never a thrown book or a fist on the table.

It was, OK, more reporting. More reporting is always the solution. I think there is a great lesson in all of this for older reporters, like you and myself, and for younger reporters.

The facts, you know, who are the witnesses? How do they know this? Do they have an axe to grind? It is a reality now, in my view, that in the Obama administration, there are lots of unanswered questions about the IRS, particularly.

If I were young, I would take Carl Bernstein and move to Cincinnati where that IRS office is and set up headquarters, and go talk to everyone.

Now, there has been political spin put on it by lots of people, including FOX News, including the White House. The question is, what are the facts? What really happened?

And that was the Bradlee method. Get the facts. Listen to everyone. See what the official version is. But always doubt and be skeptical of that official version.

KURTZ: Are you suggesting that FOX News is not trying to get the facts or just that the opinion people -- on both sides, you could say, are turning some of these issues into a political football?

WOODWARD: Yes, I think there have been -- there has been a lot of fast fact-based reporting, and there has been a lot of political spin on all sides on this.

And, Bradlee, were he the editor or if he were Roger Ailes at FOX News, would be saying, what exactly did you ask these people? What did they say? What evidence is there? Who else can we talk to? How do we verify this?

He had a whole litany of questions and that's how you do good journalism.

KURTZ: You mentioned Mark Felt, known for 33 years to the rest of us only as Deep Throat. And in 2005, you faced a situation where a very elderly Mark Felt and his family seemed to disclose his identity to Vanity Fair.

You and Ben had a discussion about, should you go first? Should The Washington Post acknowledge that he was, in fact, your source? Talk about his role in that.


WOODWARD: Well, it wasn't that he seemed. He said he was Deep Throat and made it very clear to his family and lawyer, Mark Felt did.

The question was, that was an older Mark Felt who had dementia to a certain extent. And the deal I made of nondisclosure of the identity was made with a Mark Felt who was a senior executive in the FBI.

And the question Ben asked, which is a good one, you made the deal with that person, do you have -- can you kind of change the rules now, even though he has acknowledged it?

And I was hesitant -- and both Carl and I, Carl Bernstein and I were worried that somebody was taking advantage of Mark Felt. And then we saw that picture of him with his walker, in his pajamas, with a smile of liberation on his face that I had never seen before.

And Ben said, look, you have got to acknowledge it. It's over. And, you know, once again, we listened to him.


KURTZ: In a moment, Woodward on the impact of the Watergate movie and the biggest blunder he and Bradlee made, Janet Cooke.

And later, a New York Times columnist apologizing for speaking at a fundraiser.



JASON ROBARDS, ACTOR, "BEN BRADLEE": (EXPLETIVE DELETED) when is somebody going to go on the record in this story?

You guys are about to write a story that says the former attorney general, the highest-ranking law enforcement officer in this country, is a crook. Just be sure you're right.


KURTZ: Jason Robards as Ben Bradlee in "All the President's Men." I asked Bob Woodward whether the film had been good for journalists or overly glamorized what they did.


WOODWARD: First of all, Jason Robards and Bradlee, it's almost as if they were brothers. You know. You worked at The Post. And you saw the movie. I mean, it is stunning, the mannerisms, the confidence, the kind of, hey, what's going on here, you know?

It was a style that he captured and it was real. And I think if you look at "All the President's Men," you talk to journalists, you say, you know, that's the way it is, and it's not about -- it's about the hard work.

One of the things in seeing that movie, it's all at night. You have to go out in the night and you have to go to people's homes. You have to go into the underground garage. You have to do -- you know, we almost came up with the cliche, "lies during the day, the truth at night."

KURTZ: You were an editor at The Washington Post during probably the biggest embarrassment of Bradlee's career, the Janet Cooke fiasco, the fabricated tale of an 8-year-old heroin addict. The Post having to give back the Pulitzer.

How did Ben deal with that?

WOODWARD: Well, I wasn't just there. I was the supervising editor of Janet Cooke. Let's put the blame where it belongs, on me. And I wasn't skeptical enough.

And when it turned out that it was a fraud and she won the Pulitzer Prize, and we gave the Pulitzer Prize back, Ben's solution was a typical Bradlee solution. He said, we've got an ombudsman, called him in, Bill Green, and said, you are going to investigate this.

You are going to talk to everyone. You are going to go as deep as you can. And he published this voluminous article in The Post. I mean, it went on page after page. And it was tough on Bradlee, tough on me, tough on the culture of The Post.

And what Ben said afterwards, there's nothing about the Janet Cooke affair that wasn't in that article. No one found out anything more about it because he turned the ombudsman loose like he turned his reporters loose.

And he had to take the punishment. I remember The New Republic wrote a very mean article about Ben and The Post and the whole culture and so forth. And Ben ran into the editor of The New Republic.

And this is the Bradlee we knew. He looked at him and he covered his privates and smiled.


KURTZ: Now, Bradlee stepped down as executive editor of the paper in 1991. I remember because I wrote the story. But the next two decades he was a vice president of the company. He still came to work almost every day.

WOODWARD: Yes. And he would go into the cafeteria. He would -- look, he's a presence. He's a symbol. And people think of the glamorous Bradlee, which was there. They think of the persona, the charm, the laughter, the, hey, you know, we're going to have -- life is great, his memoir was called "A Good Life." And it was a good life.

But it's the nitty-gritty of journalism. I mean, I lived it with him.

KURTZ: He was an editor who rolled up his sleeves. Bob Woodward, thanks very much for helping us remember Ben Bradlee.

WOODWARD: Thank you.


KURTZ: I conducted the last interview that Ben Bradlee did at the end of 2012, when he was struggling with Alzheimer's and kept losing his train of thought. But he was still sarcastic and funny, and hadn't lost what a friend called his "essential Ben-ness." They don't make them like Bradlee any wore.

Coming up, Meredith Vieira and her producer get mammograms, and it doesn't go according to script.

And Bristol Palin gets hurt in a brawl in Alaska. That became the subject of mockery on CNN. Our "Video Verdict" is next.


KURTZ: That brawl in Alaska involving Sarah Palin's family has gotten a lot of media attention. And when police audio was released, CNN anchor Carol Costello played it. And, boy, did she think it was a hoot.


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: OK. I'm just going to come right out and say it. This is quite possibly the best minute-and-a-half of audio we've ever come across.

Here now is Bristol' recollection of how that night unfolded. So sit back and enjoy.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tell me what happened.

BRISTOL PALIN, DAUGHTER OF SARAH PALIN: My little sister comes over to me and says, some old lady just (EXPLETIVE DELETED) pushed me, she just hit me. I walk back up, did you push my sister? And some guy gets in my face, pushes me down in the grass. Drags me across the grass.


I get back up and he pushes me back down on the ground again and pulls me by my (EXPLETIVE DELETED) feet.



KURTZ: How on earth is that funny? Would Carol Costello have said enjoy if, let's say, Chelsea Clinton was getting roughed up? Now Sarah Palin is a FOX News contributor. Her daughter Palin -- excuse me, Bristol Palin, have both said this is an example of media hypocrisy, and they're right.

Carol is a good journalist, but to make fun of the woman in this episode, no matter who started that brawl, is horribly insensitive. The good news, Carol Costello has apologized. But she needs to do that on-air.

Meredith Vieira went for a mammogram exam with cameras in tow, along with her producer, Angela LaGreca. And while this sort of thing has become common TV fare, the visit took an unexpected turn.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Part of this is being able to open up the breast tissue and see all the areas clearly.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now I have to have a biopsy on the right side. And an aspiration on the other.

Yes, I was a little stunned, because I thought, this is crazy. And the Dr. Joffman (ph) said, let's stop, which I thought was the right thing. But then I thought, we can't do this and not do it.

HODA KOTB, HOST, CO-HOST, "THE TODAY SHOW": I didn't go for years and years. And then my mom had breast cancer, my grandmother died of breast cancer.

VIEIRA: Well, I think I thought if I didn't go, no harm could happen to me. I mean, it's total illogic.


KURTZ: Good for Meredith Vieira for admitting she had stupidly not gone for a mammogram for years. But, boy, that had to be hard for Angela LaGreca to not only cope with a diagnosis of breast cancer and facing chemo or surgery, but to do it on television, and not to spike the story. A tip of the hat. And we wish her the best.

Still to come, your "Top Tweets." And a New York Times columnist's apology.


KURTZ: In our "Press Picks," this media fail. Ross Douthat, the conservative New York Times columnist, appeared at an event for the Alliance Defending Freedom, an organization with an aggressively anti-gay agenda.

Now merely speaking, it wouldn't be a problem, except the group's event was a fundraiser. Douthat has now apologized, saying: "I was not aware in advance this event was a fundraiser, and had I know, I would not have agreed to participate. I was invited by an events organizing group. This is my fault for not doing due diligence. And I will be declining the honorarium."

Glad that he came to that conclusion.

All right. Time for your tweets. Let's start with Gene Baker. The question, first of all, why were the media so respected in the Ben Bradlee, Bob Woodward, Watergate era, and so unpopular now? Gene Baker.

"Because most of the media would not cover the same story today. Especially with Obama in office."

Really? A break-in at the RNC?

Dave Robertson: "Not a serious question. Big three network news, a few major newspapers, TIME and Newsweek, control the narrative no longer."

Robocop: "Media is split into two camps, political correctness versus hate Obama. Most people in the middle."

Greg Principato: "Two things, they drew attention to the story and not themselves, that came later, and they didn't traffic in rumor and speculation."

Quick Ben Bradlee story. Years ago, I was working on the Jayson Blair fabrication story. I ended up working my wedding weekend and my honeymoon. Bradlee went on the radio and said, I wonder how long that marriage is going to last. But he later sent my wife a very charming note of apology.

That's it for this edition of "MediaBuzz." I'm Howard Kurtz. We hope you'll like our Facebook page where we post a lot of original content and videos. We are back here next Sunday, 11:00 and 5:00 Eastern, with the latest buzz.

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