Chronicling a midterm massacre; Sharyl Attkisson's indictment of CBS

How media missed Republican wave


This is a rush transcript from "MediaBuzz," November 9, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: On the buzzmeter this Sunday, missing the mark. Republicans with a massive midterm victory. Bigger and broader than most journalists and pundits had expected.


MEGYN KELLY, FOX NEWS: Fox News can now project that Republican Joni Ernst will beat Democrat Bruce Braley, thereby giving Republicans control of the United States Senate. And dealing a major blow to President Obama's agenda.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: NBC News has now been able to make a call in one of the most important Senate races in the country, and this is the enchilada for the Republican Party.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN: CNN projects the Republicans will take control of the United States Senate. They will be in the majority in the next United States Senate.


KURTZ: Are the mainstream media giving the GOP its due or are some journalists minimizing the midterms because they're depressed over the big Democratic losses? And did the prognosticators miss the magnitude of this wave by leaning too heavily on polls, many of which turned out to be wrong?

President Obama now being portrayed as sullen, fed up, resigned and resentful. Is the press now writing him off as a failure?

The former CBS reporter who says the network would not run her investigative pieces, that the Obama administration tried to stonewall her, and that her computers were mysteriously hacked. Sharyl Attkisson on journalism, bias, and coming under attack herself.

Plus, how rare is this?


JON STEWART, HOST, DAILY SHOW: That was stupid. So I apologize and -- yes.


KURTZ: Why Jon Stewart is sorry for an unfunny joke. I'm Howard Kurtz and this is "MediaBuzz."

Election night was not a happy night at MSNBC, especially as the Republican victories piled up and the GOP inched closer to winning control of the Senate. Some liberals held out hope for a goal line stand by the Democrats.


CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC: At the risk of being Baghdad Bob, I know it's tough now, but there is still a route to victory.

BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS: Is this a wave tonight?

JUAN WILLIAMS, FOX NEWS: No. It's not close to a wave.


KURTZ: But it was a Republican wave. And other pundits grappled for explanations. MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell said Democrats were dumb not to concentrate on the economy while the GOP raised other issues.


ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC: It was a scare tactic by the Republican opponents of Democratic incumbents who tried to focus on ISIS and Ebola in the scariest, most nonfactual ways to take the -- you know, the eye off --

MATTHEWS: Where is the debate about ISIS?

MITCHELL: -- real issues.


KURTZ: With the Republicans on their way to winning control of the Senate, it was time for some sweeping judgments.


CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, FOX NEWS: I think it was much less the doing of the Republicans than it was the self-destruction of the Democrats.


KURTZ: And after the dust settled, some liberal commentators made excuses for the president, while others faced reality.


ED SCHULTZ, MSNBC: Last night was a complete rejection of the president of the United States and what he stands for. You can't sugar coat it.


KURTZ: After midnight, the mood at Fox got a little giddy.


KELLY: I'm afraid to look.

BAIER: I am, too.

BAIER: Wow. I mean, this is just --

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS: Howdy partners.

BAIER: Oh, dear.

KELLY: He did it.

BAIER: Really?

WALLACE: Yes. I know I look ridiculous, but I figure by this time of the evening, either you're drunk or you have a sense of humor.


KURTZ: Joining us now to examine the coverage of the midterms and the aftermath, Mary Katharine Ham, editor at large at Hot Air and a Fox News contributor. Ana Marie Cox, contributor at the Daily Beast, and David Zurawik, television and media critic for the Baltimore Sun.

Mary Katharine, given the magnitude of this victory, do you feel like the mainstream media are giving Republicans full credit or are trying to minimize these results?

MARY KATHARINE HAM, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I think there is a tendency to minimize it. I think my bigger problem with the media coverage was before the election. I will never forgive the conventional wisdom for making me stumble through Alison Lundergan Grimes so many times on TV. It was totally unnecessary.

KURTZ: Because she lost by almost 16 points?

HAM: Right. And the margins are what make this really striking. I will say, I think there's a division between local newspapers and local polls who did seem in some races to figure out what was going on. Marquette poll, Des Moines register poll, and then the endorsement of Gardner in Colorado and the endorsement of Brauner in Illinois. There seems to be a division there.

KURTZ: We'll come back to this question of polls. But the attempt at liberal spin, those who said, it's an off year, it's mostly red states, seemed pretty lame.

ANA MARIE COX, DAILY BEAST: Well, but those things are true.

KURTZ: It's true, but --

COX: You get a different electorate in off years.


COX: That is simply true. It's not incorrect to point that out. The fact that whether or not the midterms matter, of course they matter. I would say that any party that loses tends to minimize their loss. These are natural reactions.

KURTZ: Does not mean journalists should buy into that.

COX: No, it does not. I think that my problem with the coverage was that while Democrats lost, a lot of Democratic policies won. We had minimum wage pass in red states, personhood legislation rejected, pot passed in California. So I think that there was a tendency to look at the candidates as nothing but symbols of Democratic policy, when, really, there were actual policies on the ballots that wound up doing pretty well in that same white male electorate that elected Republicans.

KURTZ: Time for a mini review by Zurawik of election night. Let's start with CNN. You wrote that that network had the most reporters on the ground, but --

DAVID ZURAWIK, BALTIMORE SUN: You know, they had Jay Carney and they really had -- and they used the former members of Obama's administration, and they let them constantly deny reality with no one, none of the journalists present, except Jake Tapper occasionally trying to knock them down. So you had this, honestly, Howie, I don't understand why they are still hiring. They think they have somebody on the right, somebody on the left. There were a lot of people on the left there. And Carney is the worst. Liten, I don't care what you say. This guy was the lying liar who lied for the administration. The most repressive, anti-press administrations since Nixon, and this is the guy on CNN on election night telling you what it means? I don't think so.

KURTZ: Since you're pulling your punches, let me move on quickly to MSNBC.  Will you question part of the lineup, as well?

ZURAWIK: Yes. The problem was there, you saw it, actually. Andrea Mitchell sitting next to Al Sharpton. Same thing with Chuck Todd. They make no distinction between an activist like Al Sharpton and a journalist like Chuck Todd. So you have Al Sharpton praising the -- analyzing the race in Pennsylvania, saying how successful people were in getting people out to vote for the Democratic cause, and he's the activist who was getting them out to vote for the Democratic Party. No distinction. That's outrageous. They so compromised their election night journalism.

KURTZ: All right, Fox News, Breit Baier, Megyn Kelly, even beat the broadcast networks in the ratings, with 6.6 million viewers. What did you think?

ZURAWIK: Yes. Really, we have not made enough of those numbers. You and I go -- well, I go back to the late '70s when Dan Rather and CBS and NBC owned election night coverage. And we parsed them like they were covering the Kremlin. How come that person had to sit at the second farthest desk?  They owned it. To see this shift and to see Fox now dominate the networks is astonishing. And also, what was it, only eight years ago, 10, 12 years ago, CNN owned cable election night coverage. To see them swamped by Fox like this was really I think a seismic shift.

COX: Come for the coverage, stay for the cowboy outfit.


HAM: I must say my favorite part of election night coverage is punch drunk election night coverage.

COX: That is true for the entire --


KURTZ: Too bad they didn't go later. They would have even more scenes like that at 4:00 in the morning. You mentioned the polling, and my beef with this is journalists and pundits, who want to sound reasonably informed about all these different races, all these contests that were showing by pre-election polls to be one point, whether it was Kay Hagan in North Carolina, Iowa was said to be tight.

HAM: Arkansas for goodness sake, with 16 points.

KURTZ: Yes. Wasn't that a historic mistake to bet the house on polls that many of which were just utterly wrong?

HAM: Yes. And I was guilty, as well, sort of buying that Kentucky was close or buying that Arkansas was close. Although I was a bit more sanguine than others were for Republicans. But yes, this is a problem, and something the polling industry has to deal with, and I think some Republicans actually and conservatives maybe would have gone further in calling nonsense on those polls had they not been burned by the Romney polling disaster of 2012.

KURTZ: People were cautious, not wanting to get caught on videotape saying something that turned out to be not true, but maybe the polling industry needs to look at itself, but I think journalists who treat these polls as gospel also need to examine, especially in a midterm when you don't really know who's going to turn out.

COX: Pollsters need to work on it. I think media people need to become aware of how polling works. I think they need to educate themselves.  Like, in college, I had to take statistics. I don't know why other people didn't before you do this for a living.

KURTZ: And you're still ticked off about that.


KURTZ: Continue your point.

COX: I also had a problem on election night. Election night is not college football. Early returns are not first quarter scores. You can't really tell what's going to happen early on. You can't keep having this hope, you said goal line stands, I had a lot of trouble with people saying that there was still hope when things started to become really clear.

HAM: There is that division, like I said, of local newspapers and local pollsters seeming to have a better bead on what was going on.

KURTZ: Yes. The Des Moines Register poll nailed the Iowa Senate race, the national polls not so much.

All right, Zurawik, in your state, the Maryland governor's rate race, the data guru, Nate Silver, gave the Democratic lieutenant governor, Anthony Brown, a 94 percent chance of beating Republican Larry Hogan. Hogan won easily. Your paper ran a story, Nate Silver says 94 percent chance.

ZURAWIK: Yes. And by 9.7 percentage points he was going to beat him and he lost by 5 percent. You couldn't be more wrong than that. I've seen interviews where instead of defending it sanely, the answer is, well, you know, the peasants out in Maryland didn't poll enough and they had bad data. They either stopped polling or the data they gave us was bad date, so that's not really our fault. That was the explanation from these political journalists.

KURTZ: The questions of polling and projections on election night also came up on Bloomberg TV, whose coverage is now led by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann of "Game Change" fame, and you took issue with it.

ZURAWIK: I thought they were awful. I was really upset when they went after Fox for calling the Colorado race at 10:00 for Gardner over Udall.  They went to five people, one of them was Patti Solis Doyle, the other was Bill Burton, an Obama guy. Doyle said they were wrong, the Democrat was going to win. Burton said, oh, this interferes with the electrical process. Got on the high ground, sanctimonious, and it was nuts. 14 minutes later, AP confirmed what Fox had said, and then they said, oh, yes, Gardner won and they acted like nothing happened. Forget the last 15 minutes where we've been trashing Fox.

KURTZ: Let's turn now to President Obama. Interesting, on "Face the Nation," Bob Schieffer asked him, do you like politicians? And Obama had to insist that he does love his job. Why do the press so hammer the president over that 73-minute news conference where he said he'd heard the voters, but actually didn't plan to do much differently?

HAM: I think there is an expectation in the press pool that when something like this happens, there should be an acknowledgment and there should be some order of change. That did not seem like that was forthcoming, and they wanted to get that out of him. There seems to be no shake-up forthcoming, there seems to have been change of gears. So I think that was the expectation, that was what they wanted, and they were not getting it.

KURTZ: Some left leaning columnists saying after that appearance, Ana, that the president seemed in denial over the magnitude of these results.

COX: I don't think he's in denial. I think he doesn't care. He's actually one of the happiest people in the world right now. He's done dealing with elections. I don't think he respects the press at all. I don't think this press has done much to earn his respect. Why should he change? I don't think the Republican Party is going to come in with a lot of change, either. So I think we're going to see basically more of the status quo. Maybe some higher pitched battles, but I don't think the American people asked for compromise, and I don't think they're going to get it.

KURTZ: Do you agree? And do you also agree that Obama basically does not think a lot -- he does critique the media a lot, especially cable news.

HAM: Yes, I would disagree, I think the media has done plenty during his runs to earn his respect and love. And then --


HAM: The way that he is dealing with this, the press is finally going, hey, you're really actually supposed to react to this. But I don't think he actually has a plan for changing or moving differently.

ZURAWIK: Contempt for the press. Don't forget, they called James Rosen a criminal, and his attorney general signed that document.


ZURAWIK: For doing his job as a journalist. This goes beyond a little friction in Washington.

KURTZ: Eric Holder, finally expressed his regrets--


KURTZ: CNN and NPR reported on Thursday night and Friday that Loretta Lynch would be named as the new attorney general nominee. Josh Earnest in the press room said, no, no, decision has been made. A few hours earlier realizing the story was out, said well, yes, we're going to have an announcement tomorrow.

Send me a tweet about the midterm coverage during this show, @howardkurtz.  We'll read some of your messages a bit later in the program.

Ahead, we'll talk to Sharyl Attkisson about the mysterious hacking of her home and office computers. When we come back, the pundits say the midterm losses are good for Hillary.


KURTZ: Rand Paul was quick to declare the midterm for a referendum, not just on the president, but on Hillary Clinton, a point echoed by pundits, as well.


ERIC BOLLING, "THE FIVE" CO-HOST: Hillary and Bill Clinton, they're all over the place. Bill Clinton was campaigning all over for candidates, as well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it didn't work.

MIKE HUCKABEE, BLAMING HILLARY FOR "14 LOSSES": The Clintons couldn't help this Democratic Party, and particularly in states where the margin was supposed to be much closer.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And they can frame it that it's Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton, only because we were out there and Barack Obama wasn't?


KURTZ: All right. So front page story in the "New York Times," as the midterms are actually good for Hillary Clinton, according to her loyalists ...

HAM: Right.

KURTZ: Whether you agree with that or not, I'm sure you'll tell us.  Dedicates to buying the spin?

HAM: Look, it's tough to argue that it's good for her. We will - it sort of remains to be seen what will happen in the next two years. I think for certain the war on women maybe has become more of a problem than it would have been, less easily deployed. And I think Rand Paul to his credit memofied (ph) the - gave a hashtag to this idea that she was part of what was to blame. And the media takes notice of that. And they use it, it's already packaged for them. So I think that was powerful.

KURTZ: Right. I mean it seems to me that you could say yes, now Hillary Clinton can run against a Republican Senate as well as the House. There are things that you can say. But when you're basically have a piece that mostly quotes her loyalists, and you don't say, well, the other side says this, or Rand Paul says this, that feels to me a little unbalanced.

COX: It could be a little unbalanced, whether there's more - sort of more - you feel like what the people have spoken, and what did the Hillary people say in response to the people?

KURTZ: Right.

COX: I mean the thing I want to point out is that the people that turned out for this election, we're not going to vote for Hillary, anyway. When they turned out in 2016, they're not going to be the people that elect Hillary. I mean her problem is the people that didn't vote. Her problem is that she is going to be able to turn out the people that Obama turned out. And that remain to be seen.

KURTZ: We are coming back to the coverage. I mean I think there's this sort of game in journalism where because Hillary was out there campaigning for candidates, I mean what - she was going to save Alison Grimes who lost by 16 points? And the same thing with Chris Christie. A lot of people gave him credit, because he's the head of the Republican Governor Association. I don't think he had much to do with the GOP governors who won. We all pretend that these endorsements of rallies are important. I'm not so sure that voters care.

HAM: I'm not sure the voters care, but I do think it's sort of fair in politics that if you're in charge of the RGA, you get credit for that. If you're out on the trail and you're a giant force, as the Clintons are, then yeah, you get a little bit of blame for that, because you are out there.  Like as Andrea Mitchell said, because Obama is not out there and they are?  Exactly. Exactly.

COX: So, you mean Chris Christie also makes choices about resources and what not. I mean he actually deserves, I think, some credit, whereas Hillary wasn't directing campaign, you know, funds or anything, I mean ...

KURTZ: What about New York City?

ZURAWIK: And I think - Christie - Christie made four trips, I think, to Maryland on behalf of Larry Hogan. I think he did help him to some extent, and I'll tell you, the Obamas were in Maryland continually and he got some help from Clinton. I mean there were cars going up and down my street with the bull horns on the top saying, make history again with Michelle Obama's voice. This is what Lyndon Johnson did in the Hill Country in 1956 to get elected. These guys are serious.

KURTZ: But does - as a journalistic matter, I mean, of course, you want to report on people who are big names who are coming on to your state. But how much does it matter? I mean Anthony Brown is, he has got no national attention, by the way, because of those polls. He got clobbered.

ZURAWIK: Yeah. Well, he was a terrible candidate, number one. He ran a terrible campaign. He wouldn't come and do a debate in Baltimore. You know what - he didn't. He didn't. They had an empty chair in the Democratic primary for him. Terrible candidate. But Larry Hogan was not a politician. He was not very well known. And having Christie there, I think because of his lack of sort of political background, helped him more than it might help someone else.

KURTZ: But you ...

HAM: Brown also was a point man on the spectacularly failed Maryland health care exchange.

ZURAWIK: Yes. Absolutely.

KURTZ: Maryland health care exchange. Right. Well, maybe this year not being a politician was a good thing.


KURTZ: Mary Katharine Ham, Ana Marie Cox, David Zurawik, thanks very much for joining us this Sunday.

Ahead on "MediaBuzz," Jon Stewart apologizes for a pretty dumb joke. Fox News parts company with a probably presidential candidate. And up next, Ed Henry on pressing the president over whether he really got the message of the midterms.


KURTZ: The morning after the midterms that cost his party the Senate, President Obama told reporters he would spend more time with Republican leaders, even joking about having some Kentucky bourbon with Mitch McConnell, but as he kept sounding these bipartisan notes, the president got this question from Fox's chief White House correspondent.


ED HENRY, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: I haven't heard you say a specific thing during this news conference that you would do differently. It's almost like you're doubling down on the same policies and approach you've had for six years. So my question is, why not pull a page from the Clinton playbook and admit you have to make a much more dramatic shift in course for these last two years.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Ed, what I'd like to do is to hear from the Republicans, to find out what it is that they would like to see happen.


KURTZ: I spoke with Ed Henry at the White House.

Ed Henry, that's a pleasure you got there.

HENRY: All right. Welcome.

KURTZ: During the president's news conference, you accused him of doubling down the same approach and policies because you felt at that point that he hadn't eaten sufficient crow?

HENRY: No. It was more that it was the obvious question. First of all, he started by saying I've missed you. And I think he meant the whole press corps, not me. But when I stood up.


HENRY: Well, he missed me a little, maybe, but I think it's just one of those like you haven't been around for a while. It had been a long time since he had a news conference. And in all seriousness, what I do is, I like to go with three, four questions in my pocket. And this time, I ...

KURTZ: And how do you get away with that, by the way?

HENRY: Well, no, I don't mean three or four to ask.

KURTZ: But you asked three or four ...

HENRY: Well, maybe. You try to sneak a couple of extras there.


HENRY: What you do is, so I have three or four in my pocket. And you don't know if you're going to call it on second. If it's second in the news conference, then you're clearly going to ask about the election. If you are called ninth or tenth, you might ask about Ebola, ISIS or some side issue that's very important, but is not the issue of the day with the election. In this case, I think I went sixth, it was right in the middle.  And I had this idea and I'll give Wolf Blitzer credit. Because he once told me when I was covering the beginning of the Obama administration, I believe, he said listen to what all the questions and answers. Because a lot of correspondents actually don't do that. They go there with something on paper. And the president may - may ...


HENRY: For say something else, and then they'll say, oh, OK.

KURTZ: But clearly, you are ...

HENRY: "China Today" said.

KURTZ: You weren't satisfied with his responses, because I haven't heard you say this news conference and essentially you wanted him to give a greater acknowledgment of the fact that his party got shellacked.

HENRY: Yeah. And I think that that has stood the test of time. Because the last few days, it's been widespread commentary, not just among conservatives, that the president basically did not acknowledge that he lost. He was trying to make the case that somehow his policies had won.  Even though he said his policies were on the ballot, and Democrats took a drubbing, which even Democrats acknowledged they took a drubbing. Look at the numbers. It's simple math. But he wouldn't have gotten out. I want to be clear. When you say, and I know you're kind of half joking when you say, he didn't eat sufficient enough crow. He also came back at me and said, well, you just want me to fire people or something like that. No, I think there was a serious question - I was asking about his leadership.  Not - I don't think there should be some ritualistic firing of people.  This is stupid Washington game, I agree with the president about that, just fire someone?


KURTZ: There should be a shakeup?.

HENRY: No, right. And I think that's an easy pundit thing. I think what - if you go back to the sharpest example, 2006, when Donald Rumsfeld got fired, that wasn't just a personnel change. That was a change in direction.

KURTZ: Of the Iraq war.

HENRY: That was - and George W. Bush say, the war is messed up, we've got to fix it. And also, breaking from Vice President Cheney. He went in the news direction.

KURTZ: Let me ask you about some of the leaking. Because the other day, Politico according unnamed White House advisor, says Obama is fed up, that he is resentful, he has a bad mind-set, he is - sense of resignation of being trapped in a system that's broken and that he cannot fix it. What does that say to you that some of these sources are telling reporters this?

HENRY: Because I think they're trying to get his view out there and his view in part is he's taking a beating over recent weeks about - you know, nobody wants him out on the campaign trail. They are keeping him at arm's length, and I think the president - you didn't have to wait for that Politico story. The president himself on the record basically, you know, got on the coach or whatever you want to say, weeks ago when he gave that speech and then he did an Al Sharpton interview where he said well, they've all been running from me, but they've also been big supporters in my (INAUDIBLE). Democrats didn't like that. The president wanted to say, you guys have been with me and you know what, after this election, I'm the one who's going to pick up the pieces.

KURTZ: But is this an orchestrated spin, or is it possible that some of these aides are themselves frustrated? And not - and leaking in the way that is not ...


KURTZ: ... reflecting that well on the boss.

HENRY: Right. Well, some of it has been - it's orchestrated in the sense that I think they're trying to figure out where do we go from here and they're trying to say, look, it wasn't all about him. It was about some really bad candidates in some of these individual races and it was that the math you know, the math was bad. Arkansas, North Carolina are states that, you know, he won North Carolina.

KURTZ: Peter Baker in the "New York Times" says he privately complains, it shouldn't be a judgment on him, he doesn't feel repudiated. One of the aides said, are you getting the same kind of stuff from the people who work in the building?

HENRY: That he is not being ...

KURTZ: That he doesn't feel repudiated? As this really ... HENRY: Yeah. Look, again, I think some of the best reporting we can do is to listen closely to what the president says. And you don't need anonymous people to tell you - the president just stood up there for 73 minutes. I think it was - basically saying, well, I heard the one-third who basically voted against me, but I also heard the two-thirds who didn't vote at all and basically said, they didn't vote because they were protesting the Republicans. And they are with me. Almost as what you say. So, I think he was saying it out loud.

KURTZ: After that, the 73 minutes I needed some Kentucky bourbon.


KURTZ: Ed Henry, thanks very much.

HENRY: Good to see you.

KURTZ: Coming up, former CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson on her clashes with the Obama administration and why her network stopped airing her investigator pieces. And hater (ph), you might want to sit down and shut up for this one. Matt Lauer versus Chris Christie on the subject of heckling.



KURTZ: Sharyl Attkisson spent 20 years at CBS News, going on bombing missions, covering 9-11, winning Emmys and all kinds of other awards. But the network increasingly refused to air her investigative reports, especially on Obama administration scandals. And then she found her office and home computers the target of sophisticated hackers. Her book is called, "Stonewall: My Fight for Truth against the Forces of Obstructions, Intimidation and Harassment at Obama's Washington." And she joins me now here in studio 1. Welcome.


KURTZ: So, CBS initially aired your stories on "Fast and Furious," on Benghazi. And then the appetite dried up. Why do you think that was?

ATTKISSON: It's hard to know what conversations and decisions are made at the higher level, but yes, I didn't seek out Benghazi. I wasn't covering that story initially. Neither was I covering Those were assigned to me by CBS. And initially, they were very receptive. They really wanted me to go after whatever I could find out, actual good information. And then, as I describe in the book, at some point it seems the light switch goes off. When you're getting a lot of pushbacks from the White House, and a lot of the surrogate media kind of jumps in and starts to criticize --

KURTZ: Could it be, and I've been there as an investigative reporter, that you got really wrapped up with these stories and executives felt the audience was tired of them?

ATTKISSON: I suppose that would be one way to look at it. But I was constantly told that when I would post the stories, if they weren't make a broadcast and I posted them on the web, that they were wildly popular. And I think we were serving viewers that would - were looking for that sort of reporting. And I can't coincide a loss of viewer interest with their lack of interest in wanting to run this story. As that happened rather suddenly while I still the sensed the great deal of your interest in the stories.

KURTZ: You're very explicit in saying that when Scott Pelley became the anchor, he would initially praise some of your stories and then?

ATTKISSON: Well, they would never run. You know, it was a very difficult phenomenon to get ahold of. Because the first story I offered them, which had nothing to do with political figures, or politics. Just I thought a great investigation approved by the legal department and the producer I had worked on it. We thought it was a terrific piece.

KURTZ: Then you go through this rewriting process?

ATTKISSON: Right. I mean in the beginning so - there was - I call it death by a thousand cuts, a lot of rewriting and softening and changing.  And this story did go after some important powers that be. So you're left to wonder why in the end it was rescheduled and then never aired. I don't know why. I can only tell you that that is what happened.

KURTZ: And you say some other veteran reporters began to ask not to appear on the CBS EVENING NEWS.

ATTKISSON: Yes. So, you know, there was pretty well known disagreements with this new air when Scott Pelley came in as managing editor and his executive producer. There was a lot of discontent and sort of a consensus of a variety of different problems, not just the idea of ideological bias, which has been reported a lot in the press, but there were a lot of issues going on. And yes, at least two reporters that I know of actually tried to negotiate contracts where they wouldn't have to appear on the evening news because it was so disruptive and disconcerting to try to deal with their script ideas and what they were doing with the stories.

KURTZ: Let's talk about what happened with "60 Minutes." Steve Kroft had an interview, which happened to be the day after the Benghazi attacks with the President Obama. And that sounded like -- or some of that interview ended up not being used. And then after the 20 - second 2012 debate, it became a big issue whether or not the president had or had not referred to the Benghazi attacks as the terrorist attack. Let's take a quick look at the sound bites that didn't initially make air.


STEVE KROFT, CBS HOST: Do you believe that this was a terrorist attack?

OBAMA: Well, it's too early to know exactly how this came about, what group was involved. But, obviously, it was an attack on Americans.


KURTZ: What did you do when you found out about that exchange after the debate and everybody in America and journalism at least, was debating what president had or hadn't said?

ATTKISSON: Let me say that that exchange I believe should have been pulled out immediately after the debate, which would have been very newsy at the time. It was exclusive to CBS. It would have - It appears to me proven Romney's point against Obama. But that clip was kept secret. I was covering Benghazi, and nobody told me that we had it and fact-directed me the evening news to use a different clip from the same interview to give the missed impression that the president had done the opposite. And it was only right before the election that somebody kind of leaked out the transcript to others of us as CBS and we were really shocked. I mean we saw that that had been something very unethical done to have kept that covered up.

KURTZ: You say that top people at the network were misleading the public.  Were they in this instance and perhaps others protecting President Obama?

ATTKISSON: The evening news people who had access to that transcript, according to the e-mails that I saw when it was sent from "60 Minutes" to "Evening News" the very day that it was taken. They, in my view, skipped over it, passed it up, kept it secret throughout the whole time when it wouldn't been relevant to the news. And I think that was because they were trying to defend the president and they thought that would be harmful to him.

KURTZ: Now, since you have written this book and it's gotten a lot of publicity, there has been an effort - going - some of your ex-colleagues including certain elements in the media to peg you as some kind of right winger who is ideologically opposed to the Obama administration and that's what's motivating you. Your thoughts?

ATTKISSON: I think if you look at the factual record rather than the propaganda being put at, you see a very even divided stories, many non- political and many of that have been going after Republican targets, I guess if you would say, including several that won national Emmy awards that went after Republicans or looked at issues under the Bush administration. So I'll just say briefly, if anybody actually looks at the factual record rather than reading second and third-hand information, it be lies that sort of narrative.

KURTZ: Given that you've done this in different kinds of administrations, on different kinds of stories and for a two decade career, award winning career in CBS, does this tick you off?

ATTKISSON: It doesn't make me happy. It's not pleasant, but it's expected and discussed in the book. In fact, the kind of reaction that the usual suspects are giving him, a narrative that they are putting out is well foretold. You can go to page 343 on the book and I start a discussion of what would come when I was say these things publicly and how it be narrated and what the narrative would be.

KURTZ: So, you expect that some of this backlash ...


KURTZ: has come. In a moment, stay put, what really happened with the computer hacking and why that has become so controversial. Stay with us.


KURTZ: We're back with former CBS News correspondent Sharyl Attkisson, the author of "Stonewall". On the hacking of your home and office computers.  A lot of headlines saying that you are accusing the government of being behind this. Are you explicitly saying that?

ATTKISSON: What I've said is that a forensics exam actually, two forensics exams have indicated that there is software used in - government connections, the software being proprietary to a federal government agency, the NSA, the CIA, the FBI or the DIA. So, that's what the forensics reports show.

KURTZ: You also say in the book that classified documents were found on your computer by one of these consultants and you certainly didn't put them there. Your detractors saying, oh, she started to sound a little paranoid.

ATTKISSON: Well, if people want to disregard anything they hear because it couldn't possibly be true. Especially if they think in light of what we do know about the public, what's happened to the public was surveillance of private citizens ...

KURTZ: And journalists.

ATTKISSON: And journalists. They're free to disregard all of that evidence. I certainly can't convince people otherwise if their minds are made up. But the forensics exams do show what they show. That's irrefutable. Some of that has already been confirmed in the press because CBS News issued a statement about the remote intrusions.

KURTZ: CBS had - its own consultant ....

ATTKISSON: Right. So, that's one of the forensic exams. For those who wish all that didn't happen, and want to say none of that happened, there's really nothing I can do about that.

KURTZ: As long as - you've gotten some media flack for posting of video, we can put that up, of computer dilations that took place while you were on your computer, in real time. Critics saying, well, that's a malfunction, it's not an actual hacking.

ATTKISSON: I can't see why people that don't have the forensic exams or the expertise and we just see this partial video would conclude something like that. But what I think is interesting is people don't ask the same questions or the same skepticism of the experts who are willing to go on the record with conclusions based on almost no information that they're aiming at me with the same kind of skepticism. I will tell you that that was what I call - there's been a lot of misreporting, about date and so on, a visual anecdote. That occurred in many months after we had confirmed to the three computer forensics exams, the remote intrusions had happened.  And I became aware of some of the capabilities they have. I didn't know someone could sit - could operate your computer almost as if they were sitting there, they could do this remotely and that they had installed that capability in my computer. So, I guess with that in mind, when this happened, and knowing from my experts the wiping, not what what's constantly showing on the screen ...

KURTZ: Right.

ATTKISSON: But the hyper speed wiping that occurred in the first couple of seconds that you can see cannot be duplicated by a back space key being held down.

KURTZ: Right. And some of the files were deleted. So, basically, we have got a lot of experts who haven't seen these computers. It's like this psychoanalyst ...

ATTKISSON: Arm chair experts who I don't think know more than my own forensics team.

KURTZ: Now, you told "The Huffington Post" you do not know who was on the other end of this effort: organization or person, a rogue person, someone interpreting this as you're backing off.

ATTKISSON: No. What I've said is I do have a human source that's told me who in the macro sense is responsible and I believe that to be true. I'm not using that name because I have a human source I'm protecting and I'm taking my attorney's advice. Separately, the computer forensics exam, which indicates a government connection do not tell me who is sitting at the computer, if such a thing occurs, who is the actual guy or guys typing in and hacking. And I've never claimed to know that. So those are I think, separate issues but they're related.

KURTZ: As being in the spotlight and being the subject of some of these attacks change your view of the media, and basically your - has been reporting on public events and digging into investigative stories, and now you're the story. Does that change your way of the way that all this operates?

ATTKISSON: Not much. This is what is discussed in the book. Some of this had already occurred, even though I had fully and well reported on Republican controversies and Bush administration controversies. As soon as I did start getting assigned to and digging into Obama controversies, the media already, even when I was at CBS, was sort of turning against that.  There were surrogates operating in the press and it's highly effective in some of these propaganda campaigns. And that's what I talk about in "Stonewall."

KURTZ: We got half a minutes. Does it seem to suggest that you think that in media - much of the media have - wires or susceptible to criticisms from the left more so than from the right?

ATTKISSON: And I think we've seen that in the way they pick up second and third-hand information and reports without verifying them. As if they can possibly be wrong. And yet he kind of unwarranted skepticism on anywhere that comes out of the mouth of those who question authority. I think that's backwards. I think that we should be questioning authority instead of all the effort being put into questioning those who question the authority, which I think is going on now.

KURTZ: All right, Sharyl Attkisson, thanks very much for being here.

ATTKISSON: Thank you.

KURTZ: Next on MediaBuzz," Jon Stewart goes too far, makes a rare apology. Plus, Chris Christie makes the television rounds and gets heckled himself. Video verdict is up next.


KURTZ: Chris Christie who heads the Republican Governor's Association was on the TV circuit after election night. Reveling in a number of victories, including Scott Walker in Wisconsin and Rick Scott beating Charlie - in Florida. But on the "Today Show," Matt Lauer also asked about his smack down of a Jersey hecklers.


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R) NEW JERSEY: But until that time, sit down and shut up.

MATT LAUER: Are you going to have to control that side of your personality to be seen as presidential outside the rough and tumble world of New Jersey politics?

CHRISTIE: First of all, you're assuming I wasn't controlled. And, you know, I sat and took it for a while. And then other people, the hundreds of people that were there, deserved to hear what we had to say that day.  That person had had their say. I'd sat and listened to it. It was time for him to sit down. And I'm not going to change that. This is who I am.

LAUER: Maybe I should have instead said, controlling that side - do you have to hide that side of your personality outside of New Jersey?

CHRISTIE: There's no hope in that.


KURTZ: What I like about that, is that Matt Lauer wasn't confrontational.  He said, some of your supporters love what you said, it makes other people quizzy, gave Christie plenty of chance to respond. Now, maybe the media are making too much of this one exchange. But it's a legitimate story on a legitimate issue.

All right. Jon Stewart is out promoting a movie he just directed. And the "Late Night" comic said something on CNN that well, he wished he could have back. Watch.


JON STEWART: I was on Christiane Amanpour show on CNN and I said this ...





STEWART: No, I just moved. I don't even know where my thing is now.


STEWART: Let me explain something, but just at the very - I did vote today. I did know where my - I was being flip and it kind of took off.  And you know what, I want to apologize because I shouldn't have been flip about that. Because I think I wasn't clear enough that I was kidding and it sent a message that I didn't think voting was important. Or that I didn't think it was a big issue. That was stupid.


KURTZ: I'm going to agree with Jon Stewart. Now, I don't understand why he thought it was a good idea to joke about not voting, but he was a standup guy. He didn't issue some statement of apology if anyone was offended, he didn't just do it on Twitter. He went on his show, he said he was sorry right in front of his fans. That's the way to do it when you screw up. As we all eventually do.

Still to come, your top tweets. A likely presidential candidate leaves the Fox payroll and the mocking of Megan Kelly. Buzzworthy is up next.


KURTZ: Dr. Ben Carson has had a very good platform as a Fox News contributor. Even when taking questions like this:


KURTZ: Wouldn't putting Ben Carson in the Oval Office be akin to putting a politician in an operating room and having him perform one of your brain surgeries?

BEN CARSON: I don't think so. I think what is required for leadership is wisdom.


KURTZ: And Fox News ended Carson's contract on Friday just as he was about to air a paid hour-long bio. That is obviously the opening salvo in a likely presidential campaign. This was a smart move by Fox. Because a guy who is more or less running for president shouldn't be on a network payroll. Which means Fox also faces a decision about former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee who is openly weighing a White House run as well.

FBI chief James Comey has admitted that one of his agents impersonated an Associate Press reporter. This was back in 2007 when the bureau also forged a fake AP story that was sent to a teenager suspected of making bomb threats as a way of tracking him down. The AP calls this unacceptable and I have to agree. I think it's outrageous. And the problem is that it creates distrust and possible risks for actual reporters doing the actual job.

Well, here are a few of your top tweets. If the media missed the magnitude of the Republican wave in this elections. George A. Mitchell, "A form of confirmation bias. Most reporters loathe the outcome and thus look past signs." Moira Fitzgerald, "Did they miss it? No, they tried to influence against it and then denied it when it became inevitable." Swatter 555, I think everyone was caught off guard. The media fell too much in love with statistical modelers who use faulty poll data. I agree with that one. And "National Review", Jim Garry tweeted us, "Because humans choose to not see what they don't want to see."

Now, if you are in the TV business, just perhaps no greater kick than being made fun of by "Saturday Night Live." So, when the comedy show tried it out of character named Megyn Kelly, the real Fox anchor was quick to offer her take.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Here now with her side of the story, the woman who lived through this quarantine, Hicksy Hickups live by a satellite from her home in Maine.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, Megyn. By the way that name is Caci with an I, as in I don't care if I have Ebola. I'm riding the damn bike.


MEGYN KELLY, FOX NEWS: Well, it's crazy to see yourself parodied in these show opener of "Saturday Night Live" after growing up watching that program in my - living room. My take is Cecily Strong (ph) was pretty good although I think her voice needs to be a little deeper and something else on her should probably be a little smaller.


KURTZ: How do you like that one? Only Megyn would make that observation.  Now, this actress, Cecily Strong did come over as a bit of a floozy, but once you've ascended into the pantheon of SNL sketchers, you've got to be able to laugh it off.

That's it for this edition of "MediaBuzz." I'm Howard Kurtz. Thanks for joining us. We hope you'll like our Facebook page where we post a lot of original content where we answer your questions, we post videos that you don't see on this program. We're back here next Sunday 11 and 5 Eastern with the latest buzz.

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