This is a rush transcript from "Media Buzz," November 2, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: On the buzzmeter from New York this Sunday, two days until the midterm elections, and the media bursting with analysis and speculation. Will President Obama drag the Democrats down to defeat and Republicans seize control of the Senate? The prognosticators even on the left are all but calling it for the GOP.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the Republicans will probably take the Senate back.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: If the GOP can't win back the Senate in a climate like this, maybe the party ought to look for another country.
JAY CARNEY, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Democrats are, as we talked about before, going to have a bad election, no matter how you slice it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that come election night, there is a path to victory for Democrats, albeit a narrow one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: The media pouncing on Hillary Clinton's latest gaffe, and Chris Christie's latest eruption.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, R-N.J.: But until that time, sit down and shut up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: How the shadow boxing for 2016 is already under way. Decision time, Fox News's digital politics editor on making those difficult calls on election night. Plus, awash in attack ads. Why fact checking all those negative spots is sometimes a frustrating failure. I'm Howard Kurtz and this is a special edition of "MediaBuzz."
There are plenty of tight as a tick races in the battle for control of the Senate. That means lots of anchors and correspondents, some of them standing in front of color coded maps.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID MUIR, ABC WORLD NEWS TONIGHT: President Obama already battling with the Republican House. Will he soon face a Republican Senate?
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: When it's all said and done, we could be looking at a very different balance of power in this country.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If the election was held today, Republicans are poised to pick up Alaska, Montana, South Dakota, Iowa.
JOHN KING, CNN: Control of the Senate hinges on eight or nine Senate races that are, get this, in a dead heat entering the final week.
BILL HEMMER, FOX NEWS: West Virginia looks comfortable for Republicans. So, too, does South Dakota and Montana. Now you're at 48.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Joining us now here in New York to examine the coverage in this home stretch, Andrea Tantaros, co-host of "The Five" and also the host of "Outnumbered." Julie Roginsky, a Democratic strategist and Fox News contributor, and Amy Chozick, correspondent for the New York Times. All right, Andrea, what explains this deep seeded genetic urge to predict North Carolina or New Hampshire or all these other races when no one really knows what is going to happen?
ANDREA TANTAROS, "THE FIVE" CO-HOST: We love competition. It's why we love sports. This is sporting season, it's just politics this time around. I do think they're being more responsible than they were in 2012. Because I feel a lot of analysts and pollsters got burned by bad predictions. They are playing it safe.
KURTZ: (inaudible) you're wrong. We save the video and play it next week.
TANTAROS: That's right. I will say the way this media has handled it this time around is very different than the way they've handled it in past years. In 2006, you remember, that was Mark Foley's scandal, the media was salivating because they knew there was this deep distrust in the GOP, right? I was working on a midterm election and they were covering it incessantly.
This time around, Howie, they haven't really covered it the way they used to cover it, because I think they know a lot of people in the mainstream media, that Democrats are poised for embarrassing losses. Now, the Media Research Center actually studied this. In comparison with 2006, 159 stories in 2006 between the major nightly newscasts, NBC, CBS and ABC, this year alone, a paltry 25. In fact, ABC News didn't even do one story until October 27th.
KURTZ: So do you think, Julia, that is because there is -- there are a lot of depressed journalists who don't like the way this election is going or do you think that perhaps the betting on the part of executives is that public is sick of politics, it's not rating, and, you know, putting up the midterms is not going to move the dial?
JULIE ROGINSKY, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: You've got an entire news network, CNN, that's basically devoted to your concept that people are sick of politics and is now moving to another aspect of it. So I think that is true. And I think part of it is also that people in general hate both parties. Nobody is rooting for anybody. The Republicans I believe are going to take the Senate. But nevertheless, it's not like people are rooting and desperately dying for the Republicans to take over. They can't stand the Republicans, they can't stand the Democrats. We just got through the presidential. Now we're back to the midterms. People are already talking about Hillary Clinton 2016. I think people are just moving on. We have Ebola, we have ISIS, we have other crises to worry about. And people are just -- they are tuning this election out.
KURTZ: So you predicted a Republican Senate so I can't get you to fight with Andrea on that one. Let me come back to you on this whole question of predictions, and let me read you a couple of headlines from this Sunday morning in the New York Times, Obama has braced for a shift in Congress. Washington Post, Republicans appear to be closing in on Senate control. And then you have these poll gurus, the New York Times upshots, 70 percent chance of the GOP takeover. Washington Post says, don't even hold the elections, it's a 94 percent chance. What do you make of these kinds of prognostications?
AMY CHOZICK, NEW YORK TIMES CORRESPONDENT: Well, I always think about the night ahead of the New Hampshire primary 2008, when the entire newspaper has written the story about how Hillary Clinton lost again to Barack Obama. All the polls pointed to her losing again. Women came out in record numbers, and she defeated him by three percentage points in that race. We had to scrap our stories and rewrite it.
So I think --
KURTZ: You're saying sometimes the pundits are wrong, sometimes the polls are wrong, because the truth is, and especially in the midterms, you don't know who is going to turn out and that can swing these tight races.
CHOZICK: And turnout especially will help the Democrats. I mean, young people, women, white working class voters who tend to skew Democratic in some of these states are the ones who stay home in the midterms. So I think you see Bill Clinton doing these huge get out of the vote efforts, I think that will be a huge part of how Democrats fare.
KURTZ: Putting aside the horse race for a moment, looking at the substantive coverage of the candidates, (inaudible), do you think the midterm coverage has on balance been fair to Republicans?
TANTAROS: I think it's been fair. I think it's been more stories that haven't existed. I talked about this with Bill O'Reilly. I don't think they've covered these local races the way that they used to cover these races.
Now, look, thank God no Republican has put his foot in his mouth like Todd Akin did. That gave him a reason to cover I think the elections last time. I'm actually happy that they are not covering these local elections as much, because they get it wrong, Howie. They tend to want to paint the Republican as the woman hater or the misogynist. So they haven't been giving the coverage as much as they used to.
I do want to say this, though. They have been covering the fact that women and young people have broken away from the Democratic Party, and that has been a surprise to me. That women voters because of ISIS and Ebola are moving towards Republicans, shockingly, and the same thing with I think these disaffected Millennials. The media has actually covered this year, Democrats are going to have a hard time getting them to the polls.
ROGINSKY: To Andrea's point, the reason there hasn't been as much coverage now as there were in previous years is the media is imploding. More and more print reporters, there are just no papers left. Even your newspapers having buyouts lately, and so you know, unfortunately for all of us --
KURTZ: It costs money to boots on the ground, across the country.
ROGINSKY: Of course. And that's a problem.
KURTZ: But also we don't have the coverage of controversial or some would say (inaudible), but you do have coverage, I think, of the people who -- candidates who have made a lot of news in a negative way this cycle I think have been Democrats. Wendy Davis's wheelchair ad, Alison Grimes not saying she voted for Obama, Mary Landrieu the other day talking about residual racism in the South tying to President Obama's unpopularity.
Is that unfair to Democrats or is that covering the news?
ROGINSKY: No, it's covering the news. They said it so it should be covered. And look, when Mary Landrieu said it, I think it's actually I think smart in terms of getting out her base. She has to appeal to certain demographics to come out. That's why she's saying what she's saying. Alison Grimes is a different story. But the reason people are covering it is because they want them to be covering it.
TANTAROS: You made a good point, Howie. They haven't covered it the way they would if it was a Republican saying it. You basically had a candidate calling Nikki Haley a whore, and that barely got any coverage. Now he said he made a mistake. But if it were a Republican, it would be covered and looped and looped on CNN and other channels. It was not done that way this time around.
KURTZ: What I see in a lot of coverages, in fact I remember a front page story some weeks ago in the New York Times, saying that the Democratic Party had benched Barack Obama, no trespassing signs for a lot of these candidates. But is Obama the central figure in this campaign? Or the media making Obama a central figure because it simplifies the story line in what otherwise would be a collection of state and local races?
CHOZICK: I think there is no denying that there's an insatiable narrative to have this political superstar, won the popular vote twice, defeated the Clinton machine, now be persona non-grata in a lot of these midterm states. But I do not think the media necessarily are pushing this narrative. I think Democrats have been just as pushing this narrative just as much as Republicans. You see Alison Grimes say repeatedly, I'm not an Obama Democrat, I'm a Clinton Democrat. To which Mitch McConnell says, there's not a dime's worth of difference between a Clinton Democrat and an Obama Democrats. I think the Democrats have made this as much about Obama as the media.
KURTZ: Also the question of competing story lines. I've seen more coverage this week of the nurse who was fighting the Maine authorities. She doesn't want to be quarantined, than I have at least on the broadcast networks, and some other places too, of the midterms.
TANTAROS: In fairness, I do think a lot of people are more interested in Ebola and interested in ISIS than these midterm elections. So the media is covering what the people want.
However, I do think a lot of members of the mainstream media know this is going to be bad for Democrats. A lot of the comments, as you mentioned, have been I think pretty inflammatory towards female Republican candidates. They choose to say, look, nothing to see here. We're not going to cover it this time around. So very different with a Republican win.
KURTZ: Even in this final week, the networks newscasts have not a single time led with the midterms. They have led with Ebola, they have led with the spaceship crash. I think that's the perception of the people who run these programs is that's what people are more interested in.
ROGINSKY: What's the story? If it bleeds, it leads, right? And that's basically what it is. People, as Andrea pointed out, people are terrified of Ebola. It's something that's very personal to them. Obviously, all the other stuff going on, the space shuttle crash and ISIS and all these things are things that people feel, security moms, other people. This is something they inherently want to know about, because it affects their life. Midterm elections are just another election. It's the same old stuff, it happens every two years. There's nothing new to see here.
KURTZ: But it's not the same old stuff, it happens every two years. There is nothing new to see here.
KURTZ: But it's not the same old stuff, Amy, in the sense that, we do have a situation where it is likely or probably -- choose your adjective -- that Republicans control the United States Senate, which means they control what goes to the floor, nominations, subpoenas, investigations. Maybe when people look at that, and I wonder if this is an issue for newspapers as well, they think yes, but it's Washington, nothing gets done, it's totally dysfunctional. Last two years of Obama's term, nothing is going to happen, regardless of who's in charge. Is that overstating it a bit?
CHOZICK: No, I think that's part of it. I also think that people aren't just as interested in midterms. You don't see that in media, you see that in turnout. You see people not vote in the numbers that they will in the presidential. I also think that there's a sense that on Wednesday, the longest, most expensive presidential campaign starts for the media. And I think there is sort of some preemptive fatigue.
KURTZ: It already started. This past week I've read several -- we'll talk about this in the next segment. I've read several major articles about Hillary Clinton.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, she's all over the place.
KURTZ: But the media is more focused on 2016 than a week out on 2014. That seems a little out of whack.
CHOZICK: I agree, but that seems to be the interest, and it's also what you see in midterm coverage. You see Bill and Hillary Clinton out on the campaign trail in every race that's in the country.
KURTZ: That doesn't mean the cameras have to follow them every single time, but it's good for you because you cover Hillary. Let me just mention before I go to break, we all remember the Washington Post story a few weeks back saying that a convicted felon somehow got on an elevator -- Secret Service allowed him to get on an elevator with President Obama. Well, yesterday, the Washington Post ran a story saying, huh-uh, our sources now say this guy was not a convicted felon. That story ran on the bottom of page 2. That was an embarrassing mistake.
Don't forget to send me a tweet about our show this hour @howardkurtz. We'll read some of your messages a little later. Ahead, a look at why media fact checkers fail to derail misleading attack ads. And when we come back, the pundits hammer Hillary over a gaffe about jobs. Is she getting too much scrutiny or not enough?
KURTZ: OK. What midterms? The media remain fixated on 2016 and especially Hillary Rodham Clinton. Especially after she said this at a rally in Boston this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Don't let anybody tell you that, you know, it's corporations and businesses that create jobs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Amy Chozick, you cover Hillary Clinton. Did this particular gaffe (inaudible) the media coverage or is everything she does magnified?
CHOZICK: Everything she does is definitely magnified, I think for better or worse. I think Martin O'Malley or Ted Cruz would love it if 200 reporters showed up in Iowa every time he went. I thought this was just an example of how uncomfortable she is when she tries to get out of her comfort zone. She was clearly trying to appeal to the progressive side of the Democratic Party and she stumbled, and a few days later she had to say she stumbled.
KURTZ: In fact, she did say a day or two later she had been using shorthand, she was talking about tax breaks for business, but nevertheless, this got a lot of coverage.
TANTAROS: I actually think she was in her comfort zone. She's in Massachusetts. She's trying to outflank Elizabeth Warren on the left. I feel like she truly believes what she said. Hillary Clinton is a progressive at her core. I did think the media coverage was very fair, though. If you look at the Washington Post, Harold Myerson (ph), people were analyzing why she said it and the implications politically of why she said it. So he said this would be her Wall Street problem. Then you have Andrew Ross Sorkin at the New York Times wondering whether or not this was going to hurt her with bankers and how a lot of bankers said, oh, we know she doesn't really believe it.
I actually thought she was very tired, she was speaking from the heart. When she back pedaled, the media did cover it, and they covered it I think not as much as they covered Barack Obama's you didn't build that, but they covered it in a more fair manner, which is trying to examine the motives, whether or not she was tired, she lost her mind. Or what she was doing.
ROGINSKY: It was sort of nonsensical if you read it in context. I think Obama's comment, when you read it in the speech, it makes sense what he was saying.
TANTAROS: She just threw it out there because I think she didn't know what else to say, she was tired.
KURTZ: But because Elizabeth Warren was there and because I think the press is swooning over Elizabeth Warren as the populist champion of the Democratic Party, it almost seems like a lot of pundits want Hillary to be more like Elizabeth.
ROGINSKY: So you know, 2008, Barack Obama was the flavor not the month, the flavor of the campaign for the press.
KURTZ: Two years, I think it was.
ROGINSKY: For two years, for about 24 months. And Hillary Clinton was sort of old hat and people were tired of her. And again, now this whole narrative that Hillary Clinton is going to be the nominee for the press is a boring narrative. There is no fight. So you want -- I assume if you're in the press corps, you want some sort of story, you want some sort of narrative.
KURTZ: You need a conflict, you need a struggle. And for a long time, it was like, well, Elizabeth Warren might run, but I'm not running. She left the door open just a little bit.
ROGINSKY: It's ridiculous. This woman cannot make more of a Shermanesque statement. No, no, but secretly, she might run. She's not running. Hillary, if she wants to run is going to be the nominee. But the press does not want it.
KURTZ: Hillary is running. She may decide to stop running, although nobody believes that, and in fact, Politico had a big story in Politico magazine article on Hillary Clinton this week and said she had met privately with former Obama campaign manager David Plouffe, who said stop the coy fiction and just start running now. But if she did that, instead of you and 20 other people covering Hillary, there would be 2,000 people following Hillary and scrutinizing her even more.
CHOZICK: That's true, but I think she is already being scrutinized as if she is the presumptive Democratic nominee. I cannot imagine a scenario in which she's getting more scrutiny. We're already seeing opposition research on the other side digging up things about the Clintons. I think they already see her in that way. If she wants to stop it, she could always say I'm not running. But I see the point -- I also talked to the voters in Iowa who say don't come here and play coy. Ask us for your vote. I think that maybe there's some fatigue among voters of this will she or won't she.
KURTZ: The other (inaudible) everybody will be sick of her and the whole campaign by the time the fall of 2016 rolls around. Got to go. Andrea Tantaros, Julie Roginsky, Amy Chozick, thanks very much for joining us in New York.
Ahead on this special edition of "Media Buzz," Eric Holder finally admits he was wrong to treat Fox's James Rosen like a criminal -- about time. But first, the media used to love Chris Christie when he unloaded on some poor sap. Now, not so much. What changed?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: It's hardly unusual for Chris Christie to tee off on a heckler, but when the New Jersey governor and possible presidential candidate did that just the other day, it was treated as big news and replayed dozens of times on MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIE: It's been 23 months since then when all you've been doing is flapping your mouth and not doing anything. So, listen, if you want to have a conversation later, I'm happy to have it, buddy. But until that time, sit down and shut up.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC: How did Governor Chris Christie mark the two-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy hitting his state? By yelling at one of the victims of the storm.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC: Governor Christie is out spoiling for a fight with anyone in sight.
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC: Chris Christie practiced campaigning for president today by once again insulting a voter in New Jersey. Can't wait to see how that plays in Iowa.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Joining us now, Rich Lowry, editor of National Review and a Fox News contributor, and Mark Hannah, Ph.D. candidate at USC Anneberg who worked for Barack Obama's 2008 campaign. That Christie rant went on for about two minutes. We just played a bit of it. But last year he was on the cover of Time magazine as the boss, very upbeat piece. Now the guy who the media used to celebrate being blunt and effective is being painted very differently.
RICH LOWRY, NATIONAL REVIEW: You saw the media really begin to turn on him in the George Washington bridge controversy. But you are right, this kind of conduct from Christie is nothing new. What's new is the context of an impending presidential campaign, and for a potential presidential candidate, this is something novel. This is not the way we have seen any presidential candidate treat hecklers. So -- and plus it involves entertaining video. So you get those two things together, and you get the media obsessing over it.
KURTZ: If he was a talk show host, he could yell at the guests and get boffo ratings. Now, New York Daily News writing this up, Mark. If we can put this up on the screen, there's actually a picture of Christie morphing into Tony Soprano, and the Tony Soprano reference is in the lead. What do you make of those kind of comparisons?
MARK HANNAH, FORMER AIDE FOR OBAMA AND KERRY CAMPAIGNS: I think it's an easy comparison, but I also think there is some validity to the fact that you're taking someone who has a temperament of a Tony Soprano, who has the temperament of maybe not a presidential candidate. I think Rich was being somewhat polite and somewhat generous in describing his temperament.
KURTZ: But this is comparing him to a mob boss. Which strikes me as a bit of an anti-Italian bias.
HANNAH: Sure. And as somebody who has Italian heritage --
KURTZ: Aren't you offended?
HANNAH: I'm offended. I take umbrage. Yes.
HANNAH: But you've got this stereotypical sort of New Jersey -- when the rest of the country -- New Jersey residents know Chris Christie, and he's actually quite popular among them. The rest of the country, though, when they think of New Jersey, this is what they think of. They think of Tony Soprano. And unfortunately, he's feeding into that stereotype.
The problem becomes, you know, is when you're faced with a heckler, you can't heckle back. You have to respect the voters, even if they don't respect you. And that, when he moves to the national stage, is going to be Chris Christie's biggest challenge.
KURTZ: I think maybe voters after the last election just want a president who gets angry. Let me turn to Jeb Bush, there's been this will he, won't he question. So Jeb Bush Jr. has talked to the New York Times and says the family is now on board with any potential presidential run, and Bush's other son goes on ABC's This Week. I'll play that for you followed by a brief reaction from the former Florida governor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE P. BUSH, JEB BUSH'S SON: I think it's more than likely that he's giving this a serious thought and moving forward.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: More likely that he will run?
BUSH: That he will run. If you asked me a few years back, I would said it was less likely.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I asked you about what your son said this week on ABC.
JEB BUSH: He has got an opinion. He did not talk to me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: So, my sons were just out there and I had nothing to do with it?
LOWRY: Yeah, right. The obsession with this was it was like a white puff of smoke going up from the Vatican when they're about to have a new pope. Just the media and a huge swath of the Republican establishment are just on the edges of their seat about this decision. Obviously, it would be hugely consequential. It will literally define the Republican presidential field. So every little tea leaf is magnified.
KURTZ: I often criticize when shadowy sources are used, but what do the media use in this instance, when the carefully choreographed campaign involving both sons of Jeb Bush.
HANNAH: No, I don't think George P. Bush is necessarily a political novice. I think he knows exactly what he's doing here. And they're sending a signal. We were talking in the green room about why do people wait so long to announce? The fact is, we can't legitimately criticize a presidential candidate until they are a presidential candidate. So this buys them some time and gets us talking. Will he, won't he? You know.
KURTZ: A lot of people did not think he was running.
Let me wrap up with the midterms here. New Republic, preemptive headline the other day. It won't be Obama's fault when Democrats lose the Senate. Should the press be blaming President Obama for every Democrat who is struggling in these midterms?
LOWRY: Yes. It's the defining factor in these midterms. I just don't understand how desperate so much of the media is to get President Obama off the hook here. The New York Times wrote an editorial saying it's not Obama's fault. It's all the Democrats fault for not defending him enough and trying to run away from him. But they're trying to run away from him for a reason, because they're rational people and they know that's the only route to survival.
KURTZ: (inaudible), dramatically different than the swooning coverage Obama got in '08 when you worked for him, but is it unfair?
HANNAH: I don't -- look, I think it's not unfair if it is accurately reflecting the attitude and the opinions of the voters. And in a lot of these swings states, he's wildly unpopular right now. That is now the trial (ph) for a lot of the Democratic candidates.
KURTZ: And candidates are running away from him.
HANNAH: They are running away from him. I think the Republicans, it's been prognosticated that they'll do really well. I don't think they're going to do quite as well as they could have if they actually weren't just an opposition party that opposed, but instead put forward an alternative vision, an alternative set of public policies that was affirmative, not just necessarily oppositional or negative or critical of the president.
KURTZ: Just a few seconds, do you agree with that part?
LOWRY: I think it would have been better to have a big, national agenda. Now, in these individual races, there are Republican candidates who are running on issues, it is just there is no big defining national issue besides the president and his policies.
KURTZ: Right. Certainly not on terms of the national media coverage. Rich Lowry, Mark Hannah, thanks very much for stopping by.
KURTZ: Next on "Media Buzz" from New York, Frank Luntz on how misleading commercials that work no matter how much Pinocchios they get.
And later, John Roberts in Louisiana uncovering these Senate races from the trenches.
KURTZ: Television loves to play the latest political ads, particularly negative ads. What drives me crazy is when news outlets let candidates make charges without fact checking the allegations. Here are a couple of spots from the Senate races in Georgia and Colorado.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Michelle Nunn's own plan says she funded organizations linked to terrorists.
DAVID PERDUE, CANDIDATE FOR U.S. SENATE: I'm David Perdue. I approved this message.
SEN. MARK UDALL, D-COLORADO: My opponent, Congressman Gardner, led a crusade that would make birth control illegal, and sponsored a bill to make abortion a felony. Even in cases of rape and incest. His record is beyond troubling.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Joining us now here in New York is Frank Luntz, a Republican pollster and Fox News contributor.
So that attack on Michelle Nunn was totally bogus, linking to a group that her Points of Life foundation had funded. Mark Udall in Colorado against Cory Gardner was basically true. Cory Gardner changed his position somewhat. He favors now over the counter of birth control.
You're a political guy. You are involved in some races this cycle as well. When you're with a group making an ad and some media wise guy comes along and says that's B.S., that's misleading, four Pinocchios, does it tick you off?
FRANK LUNTZ, POLLSTER: But it matters. Accuracy matters. Trust matters. It's one of the reasons why the American people don't trust anybody running for office on the Republican or Democratic side. Why some positive ads have actually cut through because you don't have to challenge them because they're using some factoid to try to prove a point, the most positive ads, the most powerful ads in this campaign, Joni Ernst, castrating pigs to demonstrate she is against pork in Washington. That ad put her on the map. I think that ad is going to elect her for the U.S. Senate. Corey Gardner challenging what you saw there, his position now is in support of over the counter contraceptives. He delivered his response to camera in a positive way. He even referred to Senator Udall as a nice guy. How often do you hear that in politics? I think that's going to get him elected.
KURTZ: But you're talking about the architecture of making ads. And I agree with you, unless you're a pig lover, the ad about castrating pigs is very, very effective. But when Politifact or Washington Post Fact Checker, and I did some ad watches for Fox this week, when they come along and say this is exaggerated, this is misleading, or this is just flat wrong, how much impact does it have when you can play an ad hundreds of times?
LUNTZ: It depends. More often than not, it doesn't have an impact. And the reason why is that so many more people see the ad on television than actually read about it in the newspaper. So what campaigns now do, they take that Politifact or they will take your ad watch and turn that into a commercial. But then it gets too convoluted. It gets too complicated.
KURTZ: He said/she said. However, the documents show.
LUNTZ: And then it becomes undecipherable. You have a responsibility in politics to tell the truth. You have the right to challenge. You have the right to say the incumbent hasn't done their job. But you have the responsibility to be factual and to show those facts when you're on the air. Which is one of the reasons when we do ads, we actually say you have got to put the fact that you are basing the attack on the screen so the voter can read it. No. 1, and No. 2 is you better have three different points of defense for what you just said, or the voter won't believe it.
KURTZ: You're basically confirming my thesis, which is that even the most diligent media fact checkers, except in rare instances when that becomes the focus of a big counterattack ad, can't really lay a glove on what sometimes are pretty close to blatant falsehoods, which people in your business must love.
LUNTZ: But look at Alaska. And I actually believe the Republican candidate and the attorney general, Sullivan, will beat the incumbent, Mark Begich, because Begich ran an ad -- and you and I talked about this -- Begich ran an ad that accused Sullivan of releasing a criminal who then went out and killed somebody. Sullivan wasn't even attorney general when that person was released, and the family said take the ad down. It's not accurate. You're hurting us. How long did it take Begich to bring it down? 96 hours. Four days.
KURTZ: You're saying sometimes ads go too far. Especially on the emotional ones, which is easy to understand. Media scrutiny, and of course political pushback can backfire on the person that puts out the attack ads?
LUNTZ: Mark Begich was going to be reelected. He still could win, but he was definitely going to be re-elected according to what we had seen. Because he did that ad, because it went too far, because the families said enough is enough, we've already suffered enough pain, I believe Begich loses because of that ad.
KURTZ: You have been through it in 2010. Politifact gave you the lie of the year, for saying Obamacare -- then being debated or just being debated -- was a government takeover of health care.
LUNTZ: And now look at it. Let's see. The government says to the insurance companies you may not offer these plans any longer. The government says that people now have to go through the sign-up, through the computer sign-up and they can't. They can't figure it out. 6 million people or 7 or 8, we're not quite sure exactly how many millions of people have lost their care.
KURTZ: All kinds of problems. The administration oversold it. It was deceptive, but the care is still administered by private insurance companies. So it's not a government takeover.
LUNTZ: As determined by the government. And even Nancy Pelosi herself has acknowledged that the government has made these decisions on behalf of the American people. So she says it's a positive. But even she acknowledges that the government is now directly involved. Does Politifact take it back? No. More people will know about it because of this interview, but does Politifact take it back? And one more point.
KURTZ: I've got just a few seconds. Four years later, your message to Politifact is?
LUNTZ: My message is -- don't let -- where are you, which camera, don't let your political bias get in the way of your accountability. You serve an essential purpose in holding candidates and campaigns accountable, but you have to get it right just as you expect the candidates to get it right. How is that? Did I dial (ph) okay?
KURTZ: That was okay. Frank Luntz, thank you very much.
LUNTZ: Thank you.
KURTZ: And just ahead, how did this nutty story about Michelle Obama running for the Senate get any traction at all? And coming up, everyone remembers the blown election calls of the past. Fox News digital politics editor Chris Stirewalt on how the network will make its projections this Tuesday night.
KURTZ: Election night can be a harrowing time for television newsrooms. Who have to make difficult judgment calls under realtime pressure. Plenty of people remember the on-air debate here at Fox on the night of the 2012 election when Karl Rove questioned awarding Ohio to President Obama, which would mean Mitt Romney had lost the race.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KARL ROVE, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: When you see that map of Ohio, it's mostly red, with a couple of big blue blotches in it. The biggest one being of course Cayahoga County, Cleveland. But as for the rest of the vote in these counties and it comes in, my suspicion is we'll see them chip away at that 3 percent lead.
MEGYN KELLY, FOX NEWS: Is this just math that you do as a Republican to make yourself feel better or is this real and you genuinely think --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Joining us now is Chris Stirewalt, Fox News digital politics editor, remembering that moment when you were on the decision desk. Broadly speaking, if you get the call right, nobody remembers it. If you blow it, nobody forgets it.
CHRIS STIREWALT, FOX NEWS DIGITAL POLITICS EDITOR: Look, a call, and we were very happy to be right. And we always like to be first. But it is a low value news item, right? There is an internal -- there is internal competition among the networks to call first, right? We always want to be first.
KURTZ: Why is that?
STIREWALT: Because we're human beings.
KURTZ: Yes, but the risk, if you go too quickly, you remember 2000 and the recount that followed, is that you wind up with egg on your face.
STIREWALT: There is that, but there is also the fact that we want our viewers to not need to go some place else. We don't them -- we don't want to be spinning our wheels, we want to call -- and on Tuesday, it's not just to call individual races. It's about control of the Senate. So we have the narrative that is laying out across the country and across time zones. So we want to stay in the space so that people don't say, oh, these guys, there's nothing going on here. I'm going to flip around and see what's going on.
KURTZ: That seems to me to create pressure to maybe pull the trigger too soon. But are you --
STIREWALT: But we don't.
KURTZ: -- conscious that CBS or CNN or NBC has called a state race and you haven't? Does that make you feel uneasy?
STIREWALT: We don't pay attention to that. I know that other people do, but we, as much as is possible, try to have each decision be the decision. Now, will I confess that after election night, do I ever go back and see who called what when? Maybe I do. But what we want to do is as you rightly point out, the downside to being wrong is so bad, and the upside for being right is marginal and minimal. So what we do is you have to be right first. And then being first is good, too.
KURTZ: So when you're on the decision desk Tuesday night and you're looking at the polling and races close, but it seems to be polling one way but some of the counties have not reported, what factors go into making that call?
STIREWALT: We are very blessed because we have an excellent team of statisticians and the data people. We have Aaron Mitchken (ph), we have Darryn Shah (ph), we have Chris Anderson (ph).
KURTZ: These are the unsung heroes?
STIREWALT: These are the people inside the nerd tank. It takes a lot to make me look good. But inside the nerve tank, these are the people driving the data.
Then what I think I bring to the process is something human intelligence. How did the county go? What have the ads been? What's the spend here? What do we expect? What are the historical priors? And knowing about races and knowing about states and bringing them together. And then we have the great William D. "Bill" Salmon (ph), who is there to screen and filter and everything and apply judgment at the end to make the right call.
KURTZ: He's Fox's Washington bureau chief.
KURTZ: So I just got a tweet from Jim Laney (ph) after our last segment saying really tired of hearing about the midterm elections. I do, however, tune in when you are on the air. Let me look at the second part --
STIREWALT: Which is great.
KURTZ: (inaudible) do you sense a lot of political fatigue out there among viewers?
STIREWALT: No. What's great about the media climate and environment is self-select. People that don't want it don't have to have it any more. It's not like the old days where you got three networks blaring the same story over and over.
KURTZ: Right now, you have three networks that are barely covering the midterms because they don't think it matters.
STIREWALT: What midterms? Yes, I'm sure it's just the ratings.
KURTZ: You think it's a big Republican year and the networks are shying away?
STIREWALT: I think if you have a bunch of Democratic viewers and the news is uniformly bad for Democrats -- I'm not making a specific accusation, I'm just saying human nature being what it is, a programming choice might cause somebody to say people hate this story, let's not show it as much.
KURTZ: All right. Chris Stirewalt, we will be watching you in a long evening on Tuesday night. Thanks for joining us.
After the break, how much access do the candidates give correspondents in these midterms? John Roberts is live in Louisiana in just a moment.
KURTZ: Joining us now from New Orleans to talk about what it's like to cover these races from the trenches is John Roberts. Fox News senior national correspondent. You seem to be at some kind of fair. So John, you've been traveling, you have been hitting the road. When you pop into a state like Louisiana for a day or two, how much of a feel for that race can you get?
JOHN ROBERTS, FOX NEWS: First of all, fortunately, Howie, we're actually here for a grand total of 5, maybe even 6 days, and the reason for that is we're going to be spending election night here, and there's no place to be like the Big Easy if you're going to spend five or six days somewhere. But some of the other races, Arkansas, North Carolina, Georgia, even though I live in Georgia, you pop in for a couple of days, you get a feel for the race, and then you're onto the next place.
But I think we've been able to because we have been following these races for so long. Got a really good feel for the lay of the land in each individual state. And in terms of access, most of the campaigns have been pretty good in allowing us both on the Democratic and Republican side to get close to the candidates.
KURTZ: That was my next question, which is when you come in from out of town, with a national television crew, are there some instances where candidates don't want to talk to you?
ROBERTS: For the most part, they do want to talk to us. For example, here in Louisiana, yesterday, we spent some time with Senator Mary Landrieu. We got some time to talk with her one on one. Spent some time with Bill Cassidy, the Republican candidate, as well. Same thing in Arkansas the day before. Mark Pryor's campaign, very happy to talk with us and spend some time with the candidate one on one. And as well we spent some good time with Tom Cotton. The only problem we've run into really is the state of Georgia, which for some reason the Nunn campaign just does not want to talk to Fox News, even though we have been reaching out to them in various ways since April. We even went to the campaign headquarters once in person to talk to their communications team, but they would not come down to see us. So that's the way they've decided to run their campaign. For the most part, Democrats in other campaigns have been happy to spend time with us.
KURTZ: Weren't you supposed to moderate a Georgia debate between Michelle Nunn and David Perdue?
ROBERTS: I was, on the 26th of October, Georgia Public Broadcasting held the final debate. It was an Atlanta (inaudible) event. I had asked to be the moderator. The Nunn campaign complained about it, so I was removed as the moderator. They went with someone from the local Fox channel, but the idea that someone from the Fox News Channel was going to moderate that final debate did not sit well with the Nunn campaign. Despite my long track record, Howie, of having worked for Fox, CNN prior to that and CBS news before that for 14 years, they didn't like the idea that somebody from Fox would be moderating that debate, so out I went.
KURTZ: I got about 20 seconds. Maybe candidates these days, with Youtube and other social media, don't television quite as much and don't need to campaign on the street quite as much.
ROBERTS: Social media obviously is a great source of outreach for these campaigns, but traditional television is also still pretty big. When it comes to viewers, voters in particular, and in states where you've got to get independent Republican votes, doing something with the Fox News Channel is something they really need to do.
KURTZ: All right, John Roberts on the hardship assignment in New Orleans, thanks for joining us.
ROBERTS: Definitely hardship. Thanks, Howie, good to see you.
KURTZ: Still to come, your top tweets. The attorney general finally admits bungling the surreptitious surveillance of James Rosen. And the story of a nonstory about Michelle Obama running for Senate.
KURTZ: Well, turns out Attorney General Eric Holder has some second thoughts about the administration's assault on the press.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's the one decision you made that you wish you could do over again?
ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I think about the subpoena to the Fox reporter, Rosen. I think that I could have been a little more careful in looking at the language that was contained in the filing we made with the court. He was labeled as a co-conspirator.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: But it wasn't a subpoena. This was secret surveillance that involved reading James Rosen's e-mail and that of his family without his knowledge. A subpoena you can go to court and oppose.
Look, I'm glad Holder is finally admitting this was a flat-out mistake to go after our James Rosen, and the same applies to the surveillance of Associated Press reporter. Slapping that label, co-conspirator, on a journalist who is doing his job, was an atrocious lack of judgment. I for one hope never happens again.
Here are a few of your top tweets. Is the coverage of the midterms substantive or superficial, and is it fair? Smooth Kriminal. I love that handle. "Would definitely say superficial in my opinion, due to the Ebola coverage." Stevie, "Fox reports on the right and ABC, CBS, NBC, CNBC and CNN report on the left. Fox has lots to say, the others not so much."
Greg Hartman, "Seems the media wants to pen the story instead of the electorate." I love that, we don't use pens anymore, we use computers.
Ever wonder how a nonstory gets started? Michelle Obama has made it pretty clear she doesn't particularly love politics, but an obscure online site called Orb magazine ran an item saying Michelle Obama is being urged to move to California and pursue the Senate seat that will almost certainly be vacated by Dianne Feinstein in 2018. Urged by who? That was outside Orb's orbit, as Politico noted, this was then picked up by the New York Post's gossipy Page 6, and from there, to CNN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN: And I cannot let you go, Senator, without asking about an article I read that posited that Michelle Obama would like to run for the Senate in California.
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN, D-CALIF.: Somehow, I do not believe it is true, but I would be flattered if it were.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Attention, media people. The first lady is not, repeat not running for office, like Hillary Clinton did. That would be a very juicy story if it had the additional virtue of being true.
That's it for this special edition of Media Buzz from New York. Glad you could join us. I'm Howard Kurtz. We hope you like our Facebook page. We post a lot of original content there. We have a lot of dialogue with you. We also take questions by e-mail and make videos in response. You want to be part of our Your Buzz segment, just write to us @firstname.lastname@example.org.
And of course, I'll see you on Twitter as well. Now, we're back in Washington next Sunday at 11 and 5 o'clock Eastern with former CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson, who'll talk about her bombshell book that's gotten a lot of attention. She will be our special guest. And of course, when we are back in DC, we'll bring you the latest "MediaBuzz."
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