This is a rush transcript from "MediaBuzz," November 16, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
HOWARD KURTZ, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: On the Buzz Meter this Sunday, the architect of ObamaCare caught on tape saying the law was deceptively designed to pass because of the American public stupidity. And it's ignored for days by the broadcast networks, by the New York Times and much of the main stream media. What gives?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: You don't really get the news if it goes against the liberal orthodox, and this is proof, this is absolute prove.
MIKA BRZEZINSKI, "MORNING JOE" HOST: I do think had it been a Republican ...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: And the anchor who says CNBC silenced her when she dared challenge the selling of ObamaCare.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MELISSA FRANCIS, "MONEY WITH MELISSA FRANCIS": I was called into management and I was told that I was "disrespecting the office of the president" by telling what turned out to be the absolute truth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Melissa Francis will be here. The press makes Valerie Jarrett the scapegoat in chief. And her media ally say those attacks are sexist. Really?
All the pundits who rely on all those midterm polls that were lay off, what about the lost art of reporting, a conversation with Brit Hume. Plus, Glenn Beck makes a tearful video about health problems that he says almost forced him to hang it up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GLENN BECK: I had begun to have a string of health issues that quite honestly made me look crazy and quite honestly I felt crazy because of them."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Where does this leave Beck and his media empire? I'm Howard Kurtz and this is "MediaBuzz."
There's almost nothing the media loves more than secret videotapes and he was the architect of ObamaCare, MIT professor Jonathan Gruber admitting to an academic conference that health care law was deliberately designed to disguise the fact that it contained the tax that would in effect transfer money to poorer patients.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JONATHAN GRUBER, MIT ECONOMICS PROFESSOR: Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage. And basically, you know, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really, really critical to get the thing to pass.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: This was played as a very big story on Fox News.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Caught on camera, a stunning admission from one of the architects of ObamaCare.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In the last 24 hours, a scandal, involving a key White House advisor has blown up.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: New developments on the ObamaCare architect who was caught on video admitting the White House preyed on the quote, "stupidity of the American voter to get the health care law passed."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: But this was a nonstory for days as far as the network news divisions were concerned. Not a word in the New York Times until yesterday. Very little on MSNBC. CNN's Jake Tapper was an exception in his network covering the story several times. Other news organizations, CBS, Washington Post finally catching up days later.
Joining us now to examine this huge gap in coverage, Sharyl Attkisson, former CBS News reporter and author of "Stonewall: My Fight for Truth against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation and Harassment in Obama's Washington," which debuted number five on the New York Times bestseller list. Ellison Barber, staff writer at the Washington Free Beacon and Julie Roginsky, a Democratic strategist and Fox News contributor. Sharyl, the Gruber video was it important news, is it important news and why haven't they gotten more coverage?
SHARYL ATTKISSON, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: I think it was really big news. The first thing that I thought of when I heard that was something came to mind that an equivalent video perhaps, some might say, the Romney 47 percent video that was recorded surreptitiously that was exposed and I know my own network where I worked, CBS jumped on that and aired it night after night. I would say ...
KURTZ: But Romney was the presidential candidate at the time. Gruber hardly has a household name.
ATTKISSON: Well, but the difference that I think makes the Gruber video perhaps arguably more important is Romney is talking about as a candidate of his own sort of political fairy, Gruber's talking about something that was actually imposed on the American people. And think about the magnitude of what he's saying. He's saying this initiative was something that they had to mislead and deceive the public about in order to get it passed. I think that's big news.
KURTZ: Why for days did these major news organizations from the network newscast to The New York Times and others, decide this had zero news value?
ELLISON BARBER, THE WASHINGTON GREE BEACON: I don't think there's a good excuse for it. I think this is something that was actually made for news particularly broadcasting, to pick up on it. It wasn't grainy audio/video, it wasn't a written account, it was actually a very clear, good video. And you say ...
KURTZ: It wasn't some complicated memo that had to be interpreted and explained.
BARBER: It's very clear, and people want videos of something that they can easily digest. And they can take and interpret for themselves, so it's perfect for that, and you mentioned that he's hardly a household name. And in some of this - I think most health policy reporters know who he is. But you also have to remember that this is the guy that had the tape that came out in July that's going to impact the Halbig Supreme Court case. I think that alone makes him a person who is noteworthy and newsworthy, the thing they say - he says now should still be important, particularly when what he has said that is going to play to the Halbig case in the past is going to significantly- potentially have a significant impact on this (INAUDIBLE).
KURTZ: And ABC and NBC, Julie, talked about this a little bit on their Sunday shows today. As far as we can tell, that's the first time on those two network newscasts. Don't the media usually love secret videos were somebody says something at the very least is embarrassing.
JULIE ROGINSKY, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: They do. And look, this is a legitimate story. As the Democrat may not be thrilled with it, but it's definitely something that's legitimate, something to talk about. And I think part of it is that he's not a household name, but part of it has to be that I think there's a media buzz towards ObamaCare being an old story. It's implemented. It's not going anywhere, I think the media pretty acknowledged that Supreme Court aside. And so therefore, people feel ...
KURTZ: So, it feels like - let's just move on.
ROGINSKY: Let's move on. By look, I don't think that's a legitimate belief, because ...
ATTKISSON: How are you in the news, if ...
ATTKISSON: You are changing a story, and maybe three to four to five days later reporting on something that everybody has already been able to hear and learn about.
KURTZ: When Jonathan Gruber was doing damage control, he did go on MSNBC, he went on Ronan Farrow's afternoon show. Let's play a little bit of that. And I'll ask you back on the other side.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JONATHAN GRUBER: I was speaking off the cuff and I basically spoke inappropriately and I regret having made those comments.
RONAN FARROW, MSNBC HOST: But your point that you were making underneath the choice of words, was actually quite nuanced, you were saying essentially, correct me if I'm wrong that due to political pressures, the language of ObamaCare had to be somewhat opaque?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ATTKISSON: I think the most notable, I'll let your other guests comment more on that. The most notable thing about that clip is part you didn't see. They narrowly (INAUDIBLE) what the discussion about the video. And then the interviewer went on to ask him current questions about healthcare.gov, from the guy who just admitted everything I say all right, said before was perhaps, you know, a party to misleading the public with a certain intent. Why would you even use him as an expert now?
KURTZ: Gruber comes out and says I spoke inappropriately, kind of crying out for a fall of questions what was inappropriate, do you still believe this, are you taking it back?
ATTKISSON: And they just moved on.
KURTZ: Now, I'm not one to cry bias every 12 minutes. But I do think - it's hard to come with another explanation on the cluelessness on this one, and sometimes I said, well, you know, other stories were dominating the news and I sucked up the oxygen, but there's nobody in America who has Ebola anymore, it's hard to point that has a potential alibi.
BARBER: Right. I think Julie is right in that there's a bunch of - I guess it's ironic, that's ironic particularly when Republicans bring up ObamaCare that I think people naturally kind of looked at and a lot of people in the media think this has been covered enough, it's been beat to death, we have a lot of these talking points that we feel like we're getting so we kind of want to ignore it. And I think that's a wrong approach to take. This is an incredibly important legislation that changed an entire industry. It's something that people should be watching like a hawk. And they don't do it very often, and I think that the bias may not necessarily be electorate bias - but just what Julie said as the kind of people or maybe for whatever reason feel like they're tired of it and they don't want to go back on it.
ROGINSKY: It's almost like a rock, right? I mean people are so exhausted by this particular narrative, it's been going on for year after year after year. Again, I'm not legitimizing the fact that people have been ignoring the story. I think Gruber story is very legitimate. But I think part of it is this - that's been - throughout the press corps and among viewers. We - can we move on to something else, something a little bit more ...
KURTZ: Right. In fact, it's not like this is something in the history books, so the open enrollment period, the second one, started yesterday for ObamaCare. But let me flip the question: this has generated dozens of segments on Fox, do you think Fox News has overplayed it?
ROGINSKY: Well, I - do I think Fox News has overplayed it? I think Fox News has traditionally been the network that has taken a much heavier view of ObamaCare than others, I think that having worked in a different network before Fox, when ObamaCare was being implemented, actually CNBC, we should be talking about right here. Fox News has always been much more in the ObamaCare story than other places and so I think a lot of this, this is just part of the chorus for Fox News.
KURTZ: Yeah, and I would just say the fact that belatedly, for example, the Associated Press ran its first story and this - remember, this program ran on Monday, first story on Friday, late Friday afternoon, belatedly other organizations, yeah, I guess we ought to talk about (INAUDIBLE) were they for days. Now, Julie kind of set me up for this question. Melissa Francis, we'll have her own in a few minutes, former CNBC anchor says on her show on Friday, I happened to be on with her, that when she criticized the math of ObamaCare, saying the numbers didn't add up in her view, she was called on the carpet by management and silenced, as she says, what do you make of that?
ATTKISSON: Well, I'm not terribly surprised if she's giving an accurate account, because I've never been called, and the management told that, you know, you are being a bad American or anything like that, but I certainly have gotten signals when I've been doing stories, particularly ones that they perceived to be critical of this administration.
KURTZ: They mean CBS where you worked for so many years.
ATTKISSON: Yeah, I definitely got signals, especially in the last couple of years that that was something that they did not want. And I think that I have heard stories from other reporters and some of them are in my book and some have spoken by name. But maybe we'll be hearing more people come forward and actually give these accounts publicly.
KURTZ: They used, just briefly, was it subtle signals or pretty unmistakable?
ATTKISSON: A mix. A mix. Sometimes it was unmistakable. My producer and I understood at least we thought we understood what was being implied to us.
KURTZ: And it's the stories that are not getting on the air, that's the strongest signal of all.
KURTZ: Let me turn to a story that I think is going to dominate the news next week. And that, of course, as President Obama preparing to issue an executive order on immigration, and I went too "The Huffington Post," Julie, a liberal website, better huge Word War III type. Krauthammer impeach. Well, this was in reference to Charles Krauthammer saying on Fox that he thought that if Obama did this it would be an impeachable offense. But he went on to say, he wasn't pushing for that at this point in the presidency. Are they going to gin this up by throwing the I word around?
ROGINSKY: If the media won't, I think part of the Tea Party cock is probably will, I mean you can count on Wednesday and you will always find somebody in the Tea Party caucus that come out there and want to impeach the president for something, which will then give the media the excuse to say Republicans want to impeach the president and the Republicans fall into this trap every time in that they give the media this huge story which is really not ...
KURTZ: You're making the media sound like just sort of passive recipient. I mean the journalists make a decision whether to play up that - or not?
ROGINSKY: But it's a sexy story, look, you know, you've got somebody wanting to impeach the president of the States. First, they wanted to do it for sex, now they want to do it for immigration. I mean, you know, nothing the media loves more, the media, to be perfectly critical is not exactly something that's nuanced or in any other way not living. I mean the media will always follow the readings. And the ..
KURTZ: You want something - to assure headline.
ROGINSKY: Yeah. Right. Exactly.
KURTZ: Ellison, The Washington Post says some Republicans want to shut down strategy, in other words challenging President Obama with brinkmanship on the budget next month and some don't. And what - (INAUDIBLE) the next year. Don't the pundits love this kind of showdown?
BARBER: They do, and I think part of why you are seeing a lot of the news stories focus on this, is because the White House has been incredibly tight-lipped on what they are planning to do with immigration. We don't actually know if they're going to announce something next week or if it's going to be at the end of this year. And because there have been so many instances where the administration has brought up. Immigration then kind of moved on it or moved it down the road to do later, I think it makes sense that you see the media focusing on these different angles. That may be more attractive right now, but I also think they are kind of limited in what they can cover, and in terms of the actual details that they have, I think most print outlets have done a fine job of covering that.
KURTZ: Yes, actual details were leaked, and extraordinary - in The New York Times of well before the president's announcement.
ATTKISSON: Common strategy, the White House or any administration will go to a favored print outlet, usually print outlets, not always and try to get their version of the story out in the least critical way that they can first. And they know who use the word lemmings, they know that especially in the broadcast press, if the New York Times has it. We will go after that and suddenly that will be out on the front pages. And the front headlines and everywhere else too.
KURTZ: Just to button up our ObamaCare discussion -- the president was asked about this early Sunday, at a news conference in Australia, and he said he didn't agree with Jonathan Gruber's remarks that Gruber wasn't on the staff, which is true. He was only paid $400,000 as an administration consultant. And he - and president also said, I would advise every president I let here pull up every clip in story - I think it's fair to say this was fully debated and fully transparent. So, the president now playing defense on this story.
I want to hear from you on Twitter. I want you to get - go down and write to me about what you think about this segment, what you think about this show. We can also interact after the program, at Howard Kurtz is the handle - a head of Fox Business anchor as I mentioned, Melissa Francis who says CNBC management once chastised her for criticizing Obama. She'll be here. But when we come back, the press piles on Valerie Jarrett and her pal Nika calls the attacks sexist. We'll take a look at that.
KURTZ: The press has suddenly made Valerie Jarrett the scapegoat in chief of the White House saying, she helps keep her longtime pal Barack Obama in a protective bubble.
The blunt headline on a political column fire Valerie Jarrett. The New Republic says some unnamed officials consider her role pretty toxic and regard her as a spy. MSNBC's Joy Reid raised this with the White House aid, but couldn't quite bring herself to say what the criticism was.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOY REID, MSNBC ANCHOR: And I wouldn't be remiss about if I didn't give you the opportunity to respond, there's been a lot of reports to talk about your own influence in the White House that had been circulating around sort of in the Beltway, do you have any response to those reports?
VALERIE JARRETT, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISOR: Well, Joy, I guess I would tell you when you break glass ceilings, you are going to get scraped or minor scraped by a chart or two from the glass.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: That glass ceiling reference was no accident. The argue was that the criticism is sexist, is being pushed by among others. MSNBC Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski who has moderated White House forums with Jarrett.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Here with us now White House senior advisor Valerie Jarrett on set.
BRZEZINSKI: Oh my god. You are looking great.
(LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)
JARRETT: Now is she my dear friend, but she keeps me calm each morning when Joe tries to raise my blood pressure.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Mika says in an online comment, yes, she and Valerie Jarrett are friends, but that "Valerie Jarrett" deserves credit, not sexist attacks. So, Mika Brzezinski puts it out there. They have a friendship. Do you have any hesitation about her than rushing to her defense after these critical articles?
ATTKISSON: Well, I expect she might do that and she acknowledged that they were friends, so people can weigh that, as far as whether it's a sexist attack. I read the article - that main article, the primary one. And it called her, you know, shrill and emotional and tearful.
KURTZ: She cries a lot. Yeah.
ATTKISSON: But I didn't see anything like that - and I would point out that people like Karl Rove and Dick Cheney were vilified in the press, I think, you could say as much as not more so than Valerie Jarrett, and I don't think necessarily there's any sexist to play.
KURTZ: I mean Valerie Jarrett is fair game for criticism, no question about it, and these articles are often written when the press is seeking a scalp after a midterm wipeout as the Democrats suffered. So, I was a little surprised that Jarrett and the White House itself, one official would be tweeting the comments, by Mika Brzezinski, were going - were playing the gender card, basically.
BARBER: Right, and it's just not - it's not a sexist article, I read the article as well, and I think you can look back and you see examples in the past administration, but you also go all the way back to H.W. Bush. And you look at his chief of staff in the 1991 before Johnson - he was completely - he received similar attacks and was ...
BARBER: pinpointed as the point of why they were having their entire administration or domestic policies were in disarray, I don't think it's unlike other criticisms that previous male administration officials have received, so I think you can maybe say that some of it is scapegoating, sure, but I don't think you can say that it's sexist.
ROGINSKY: It's not sexist and it's professional jealousy. It's all these people who work their way up the ladder in D.C. who resent the fact that somebody came in from Chicago who's got ear of the president, the ear of the first lady, has access that they never have. And it's as typical - somebody is working politics, political undermining where you just go and try to undermine somebody who you think is more powerful than him. Not sexism, goes with men and women.
KURTZ: A lot of unnamed sources.
KURTZ: ... current and former administration officials.
ROGINSKY: Yes. And you say they would do it if somebody ...
ROGINSKY: It's his favorite pastime.
KURTZ: I cannot disagree with you on that. Before we go, Nancy Pelosi had a news conference the other day and reporter asked her whether she had given any thought of stepping down after the midterm debacle as House minority leader. Here's what she said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NANCY PELOSI: When was a day that any of you said to Mitch McConnell when they lost the Senate three times in a row, lost making progress and taking back the Senate three times in a row. Aren't you getting a little old, Mitch, shouldn't you step aside? Have you ever asked him that question?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ATTKISSON: Well, in fact, I think that was asked of Mitch McConnell. I think it's been asked of Harry Reid, and I'm pretty sure it's been asked, maybe not in an age sense, but the - was he qualified sense of John Boehner. So, I don't think she's the first person and being a woman is the reason the question was asked.
KURTZ: The questioned was just asked by a woman, it did not mention age at all. But Pelosi went on to say that she didn't feel she'd been treated equally by Time magazine. We can put it out there. The weak that she became House Speaker when the Democrats won, she didn't get her face on the cover of Time, - put off the graphic, we have it. Mitch McConnell the other day was on the cover of Time. There we go. But it seems like she's still steamed about that.
BARBER: I think the age question for me, I don't mind it so much in presidential elections, but I feel like for the most part it's the superficial and lazy question. You look at previous - there's a Pew poll back in May were 55 percent have responded when they were asked, do you care if your elected officials are over the age of 70? They said they don't matter.
ROGINSKY: Most people don't care.
ROGINSKY: Look, she says it before of her caucus, she'll be there as long as they want here there, and it's nothing to do with age.
KURTZ: Superficial and lazy, I've never heard that before about the media.
KURTZ: Julie Roginsky and Ellison Barber, thanks very much, and we'll see you later. Ahead, Brit Hume and where the pundits and polls fell short during the midterms. But first, Fox Business anchor Melissa Francis warned four years ago that ObamaCare's numbers didn't add up - and charges that she was silenced by CNBC. She'll be here in just a moment.
KURTZ: I was on the Fox Business Network on Friday with Melissa Francis when she suddenly made some news about her former employer.
And joining me now from New York is the host of "Money with Melissa Francis."
So four years ago, you were on the set of CNBC when you were anchor. What did you say about ObamaCare and what was management's reaction?
MELISSA FRANCIS, FBN ANCHOR: You know, it was at the time that the president and his surrogates were out arguing for the passage of ObamaCare, and they kept saying again and again that it wasn't going to cost a dime, that you could add all these people to the system and it wouldn't cost anything. And I was questioning repeatedly -- you know, I'm a trained economist and I was asking repeatedly of our guests how is that possible? You know, if you add millions of people to the system, it's going to cost something.
And after my show one day, I was called upstairs to our manager's office and told that, you know, my comments were inappropriate. And I said, look, this is math, not politics, I'm talking about the dollars and cents. You know, we're a money channel. And I was told that I was, quote, disrespecting the office of the president by questioning the math of ObamaCare.
KURTZ: I asked CNBC for a response to your account. And I got a one word comment: laughable.
You know, I thought that the response -- they responded immediately to the New York Post and what they said was more baffling than anything else. I mean, they said they were always on the lookout to hire actresses. And it was so glib, I don't even know what point they were trying to make, if they're doing scripted programming now and that was what that was about. It's hard to understand.
KURTZ: This of course, in reference to your previous career as an actress.
FRANCIS: I don't know about that, because it says we're always on the lookout for actresses -- they said we're growing in prime time, and we're always on the lookout for actresses and comedy writers. I'm not a comedy writer.
KURTZ: Let me go back to this manager meeting. Let me -- I don't think anyone would accuse you of that, at least I would not.
Did the managers who had called you on the carpet say your tone was too harsh, or did they say you couldn't question ObamaCare at all?
FRANCIS: No. They said that my tone was inappropriate, that I was being disrespectful to the office of the president were the exact words and the exact language. And I have to say, you know, I was called in more than once.
On another occasion I was told that I was being too political. And I pointed out that there are other folks -- I mean, there are many great journalists at CNBC, and this, make no mistake, is about the management. And at the time, you know, I said there are other people who are vocal and political -- you look at Larry Kudlow, you look at Joe Kernen -- and their response to me was these are specific people with specific roles, and everybody knows that they're out there representing a certain point of view.
KURTZ: Right. We don't want to tar all of CNBC. I mean, Rick Santelli is often very tough on the administration and some people think he gave rise to the Tea Party movement.
FRANCIS: That's right.
KURTZ: But, shouldn't -- if you're going to tell the story now, shouldn't you name the executives involved? Why protect them?
FRANCIS: Because I think it's -- I thought about that a lot, I think it was pervasive across the network and there was actually more than one person who told me to stop. So depending on an individual, would allow them to scapegoat one or two people in particular. And I think it was pervasive across the network, and that it's -- you know, people should know about it.
And especially now, you know, when Jonathan Gruber comes to light and he says that the administration relied on the voters' economic ignorance, their lack of economic understanding. The point of business journalism is to illuminate the economic facts. And I had to scream at the television when I saw the Gruber video, because I thought...
KURTZ: Let me jump in. Let me jump in, because...
FRANCIS: I was a part of this.
KURTZ: It's been four years now. Did you think of going public earlier? Why now?
FRANCIS: You know, I mentioned the incident and the exact words to many people in the past. I mean, at the time I told people -- and I even told Roger Ailes when I came to work here. The reason why I'm doing it now is watching the Gruber videos. I felt like I was in part complicit in the very cover-up that he's talking about, because I tried to illuminate the math, exactly what he's saying, that they had to hide the costs. I specifically tried to illuminate the cost and was stopped from doing that, and I think the American public deserves to know that the reason why Jonathan Gruber and others like him are able to get away with this, is because there are networks out there and management at CNBC who are complicit in this cover-up and keeping people ignorant.
You know, you may decide -- I mean, you may decide that ObamaCare makes sense, but you need to do it based on the facts. You need to understand the real math, and then decide. And that's certainly what we try to do on Fox Business.
KURTZ: We're up against a break. I know you understand that.
Melissa Francis, thanks for speaking out.
Coming up in a world awash in media polls, what happened to old-fashioned campaign reporting? Brit Hume is on deck. And later, why the media are suddenly paying attention to a woman's 30-year-old allegation against Bill Cosby?
KURTZ: Political analysis is an art, not a science. Despite all those polls predicting the Senate outcome right down to the decimal point. But is the art now becoming an anachronism? I sat down with Brit Hume, Fox's senior political analyst, here in Studio One.
KURTZ: Brit Hume, welcome.
BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Hi, Howie, nice to see you.
KURTZ: It's no secret that many of the polls that you and everybody else in the media relied on during the midterms were flat-out wrong. But with obvious exceptions. What happened to reporters gleaning information from being out on the trail?
HUME: Well, back in the day, when I was covering races and going to a state to cover a congressional district race or a Senate race or even a primary, there weren't that many polls, so a reporter who would go to a state, there might be some poll out there that you heard about, that might give you some sense of the race, but very often they were out of date, or by some polling organization you never heard of, and you didn't -- so you go to events and you watch the candidates perform and you pick up some sense of the candidate, how the audience was responding, was there enthusiasm or not. You talked to the campaign workers and see the managers and so on, and they would tell you stuff and you would be able to from experience, you could kind of filter out the spin and pick the things that kind of made sense to you. You talk to other political figures around the state or congressional district and you would get a feel for the race. And, you know, you didn't have a poll to go on, and -
KURTZ: But now you have the Real Clear Politics average of polls and the era when a David Broder would go knocking on doors or talk to people in a shopping mall, I think it's kind of seen as old-fashioned.
HUME: The problem is that while we had some polls this cycle that were sort of spectacularly off and failed to catch things like the Virginia Senate race being so close and the Maryland governor's race going to the Republican. Most polls over time have been nearly correct or nearly correct. So when there's so many of them, you know, the first thing you see, the first thing you know about is the poll, and there's a tendency not to be able to see past the poll. So what happens is you know the poll says, you believe it's probably right.
KURTZ: So a one-point race in North Carolina.
HUME: Right, or whatever, and then you kind of go out looking for why the poll shows what it shows. And so you end up working back from the poll instead of sort of relying on your own instincts. And I think what happens over time is your instincts atrophy, so you might go out and cover that Maryland Senate race and just not pick up some of the things that you would tip you off in the old days that something was happening that you weren't expecting.
KURTZ: So the plethora of polls kind of shapes the mind-set, it's hard to escape them. Of course even in the old days, you were telling me about covering the colorful New Jersey congressman named Millicent Fenwick.
HUME: There was a New Jersey congresswoman named Millicent Fenwick. She was an older woman, and she was such a character that she was even represented in the Doonesbury comic strip. I can't remember the name she had was, Lacy something as I recall. She was a total character, and she was kind of popular because she was such a colorful figure. And the early polling in the race, such as it was, had her way ahead in the Senate race, she was a House member, and I went up there to do a story on her race, and I thought her crowd seemed a little flat, she didn't seem that great on the stump, and Frank Lautenberg, who was a businessman, a Democrat businessman, a political newcomer, he seemed to be pretty good on the stump and his crowds were enthusiastic. And there was a sense that something was happening on the race.
KURTZ: Did you report--
HUME: I reported this to the producers at ABC News where I worked, and they were dubious about my thinking about it. So I ended up doing a piece that was quite fair to both sides, but I didn't fully state my sense that the race was moving in his direction. He won and I felt like a fool.
KURTZ: So does that underscore that it might be difficult to break from the pack? You have so many polls, you turn on every channel and everyone is saying this race is close or this race is a blowout, so say, hey, I was just in the state, and I have sources and they're telling me that so-and-so is surging or so and so is slipping. It's a little risky--
HUME: It is. Most people who don't -- you know your sources and you develop over time an ability to sense when they're giving you the straight stuff and when they're just saying what you have to say that you think your guy is going to win.
KURTZ: A BS detector.
HUME: Exactly, a BS detector. And when you relate that to somebody else who doesn't know what you know, they're going to say, well, that's what you would expect them to say, that they're doing well now. Every now and then, somebody would tell you, well, this race is a little tighter than the polls are showing and my guy is not doing that well -- that happens about once a century. So you know, skepticism with that kind of thing is understandable, and you have to know from experience when somebody is giving it to you straight or not.
KURTZ: We live in the age of spin. In our final minute, I have talked a lot in recent weeks about the network newscasts and how they covered the midterms very little, shockingly little compared to past years. You spent many years at ABC News. What's going on?
HUME: I think, look, the way bias works, and it does affect these networks, believe me, it's insidious. It's not that men and women sit together in a room and say, jeez, looks like the Republicans are doing well, we don't want to do that story. Not, that doesn't happen that way. It genuinely looks to them less interesting.
KURTZ: And therefore they think it's less interesting to the audience?
HUME: They just tend not to emphasize it. They just don't think - the story doesn't hit them in the same way. And that's why the solution to bias begins with a recognition of bias. If you know every day that you go to work, and you would rather see one side win than the other, and that's in your mind, it's not that hard to screen that out and make neutral calls.
KURTZ: So if you feel like if 2014 were shaping up to be a big Democratic year, the network newscasts would have mustered more enthusiasm for the coverage?
HUME: I think so. I think inevitably that would have been the case, no question about it in my mind.
KURTZ: Brit Hume, thanks very much.
HUME: You bet, Howie, nice to see you.
KURTZ: We'll look at an extraordinary and emotional video by Glenn Beck in just a moment.
KURTZ: Glenn Beck has made an amazing video describing the mysterious ailments that he has long kept hidden from public view. It began, he said, back when he worked for Fox News and continued as he built a radio and web company called The Blaze.
GLENN BECK, THE BLAZE: We didn't know at the time what was causing me to feel as though out of nowhere, my hands or feet or arms or legs would feel like someone had just crushed them or set them on fire. If we had met before, I couldn't tell you if it was a month ago, a year ago, when we were in high school. I didn't remember. Most afternoons--
KURTZ: Joining us now from New York is Joe Concha, a columnist for Mediaite. I found this very moving, but what do you make of Beck going public in this dramatic fashion?
JOE CONCHA, MEDIAITE: I think it's a pattern that we see here with talk radio now these days, Howie, where it's not just about making an argument, but guys like Levin and Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, they are humanizing this whole process as well. Think about what Glenn said when he first made that statement. He said you know what, this isn't meant for the press, this is between you and me. And what we see more in talk radio, particularly the right wing is an us versus them undercurrent, where guys like Beck are speaking directly, it seems privately, to each audience member. It's the humanization of opinion journalism. And Glenn Beck is certainly a good performer. I'm not saying he's performing here in any capacity. But he humanized this, and certainly was speaking directly to his most loyal audience members in this case, Howie.
KURTZ: Beck now says he has a clean bill of health, recovering from adrenal fatigue, an auto-immune syndrome. But there have been some skeptical voices wondering whether he's kind of overdramatizing this at all.
CONCHA: Yes. This mainly came from liberal media. Most times when a public figure, a media figure comes forth with a revelation like this, it's usually universal applause, saying oh good, I'm glad you're feeling better. But in some cases, particularly with one former MSNBC host, somebody screaming to be relevant again, he said Glenn Beck is making this whole thing up because he's going bankrupt. Now, let me break down for you how Glenn Beck makes his money and where he ranks in terms of the media. Glenn Beck last year or two years ago signed a $100 million contract for his syndicated radio show with Premier Networks. He also generates $45 million according to Forbes each year from The Blaze. That is his media network. He also has four New York Times best sellers to his credit. Overall, Glenn Beck earned $90 million last year, Howie. That's more than Oprah. That's more than Ellen. That's 25 million more than Rush Limbaugh. Anybody who says that he's going bankrupt and made up this whole thing because he doesn't have a couple of dollars in his pocket doesn't live in a reality that has Google, a calculator, and basic logic.
KURTZ: All right, I think you've settled that question. Beck is a guy who in his career has said some incendiary things. And in recent months, he's been more conciliatory. He's regretted some of his statements, like calling President Obama a racist. I wonder, looking at this, what he's been going through privately, whether it's connected, whether maybe this has changed his political outlook at all.
CONCHA: I think any time, Howie, you go through a health issue like this, you have a different perspective on life. Certainly he was one of the most polarizing figures out there, continues to say some things that obviously create a reaction. But now he's 50 years old. He went through this ordeal over the last couple years with neuropathy and all the pain that goes along with it. Maybe he says, you know what, maybe I have a different perspective now and maybe I've got to cool my jets a little bit, and try some different things, like he's doing now, which is creating a full-length feature film, wants to be the next Walt Disney. So Glenn Beck certainly has the talent, and again, we wish him well and glad he's doing okay again.
KURTZ: I will second that. The fact that he's improving and he credited in this video his faith in God I think is going to make his fans love him even more. And his detractors, well, they can say what they want to say. Joe Concha, thanks very much for joining us from New York.
CONCHA: Thank you.
KURTZ: Coming up after the break, our video verdict. An interesting one. Stick around.
KURTZ: Time now for our video verdict where we examine what's good television and good journalism. George W. Bush is out with the book on his father, George H.W. Bush. And NBC picked one of its contributors to interview them for "The Today Show," W's daughter, Jenna Bush Hager.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JENNA BUSH HAGER: Dad, growing up what type of father was gampy?
GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, he set the boundaries. But he never was one to try to impose his will on us.
BUSH HAGER: Dad, as you watched as he was a president, you would turn on the television to hear critics talk about him.
GEORGE W. BUSH: Yeah, it made me angry.
BUSH HAGER: What about you, though, Gamps, when you heard people?
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Same thing, I did not like it.
BUSH HAGER: My grandfather considers serving his country his greatest privilege.
You guys, obviously my dad's biased, I'm biased, I am weepy over here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: I was weepy too.
ATTKISSON: Well, I think that's just a matter of taste. It was a little awkward for me to watch. It didn't seem terribly natural. But NBC was not holding that out as an investigative interview with top notch great journalism. It was something different they could offer viewers because of the relationship they had with Jenna Bush.
KURTZ: I think it would have been (inaudible) and fine to have Jenna Bush Hager as a guest, but doing the interview made me uncomfortable too, Sharyl. I wonder whether it had anything to do with NBC and the "Today Show" getting this interview.
All right. Now, Bill Cosby refused to respond in an interview airing yesterday when NPR's Scott Simon asked him about the resurfacing of allegations that he sexually assaulted several women. A woman named Barbara Bowman alleged in a Washington Post comment Cosby drugged and raped her three decades ago, when she was 17, and she chided the media for protecting Cosby in a sit-down the other day with CNN's Michaela Pereira.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARBARA BOWMAN: The mainstream media does not want to deal with it. It's just now becoming important enough for worldwide attention. And because of the situation with the fame and the celebrity-ism and the power and the media, the media doesn't want to make enemies, and the media has to really kind of follow some jurisdiction, and he does a lot of really great damage control.
MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN: And for that reason, I'm so glad that you are speaking up, Barbara.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: What do you make of that moment where Michaela grabs her hand and says she's glad she's speaking out?
ATTKISSON: That's difficult. That crossed a little bit. I can see where you're talking to somebody who seems heart-felt, may be telling the truth and have come forward, yes, that's a difficult situation. But of course you have to also keep in mind the idea that there's been no conviction, there has been no admission, and of course Cosby should be presumed innocent in the eyes of the laws unless otherwise.
KURTZ: Right. Now, obviously Cosby has faced these allegations before, and it is -- part of me says I'm glad this woman is speaking out, this must be very difficult, but she never brought a lawsuit or anything like that. And at the same time, it is true that most of the media despite what someone say is a pattern give Bill Cosby a pass, because he's such a father figure and an entertainer and a person whom America loves.
ATTKISSON: We know that that can be true. So you look at her allegations and as a viewer, seeing in the past that perhaps things have been covered up before because of someone's power, it's believable that perhaps that's happened. But as an interviewer and a journalist, again, you have to be careful not crossing over the line looking as though you formed a conclusion and that you're sympathizing with one side only.
KURTZ: Exactly. And Cosby's lawyer put out a statement just this morning saying that Cosby does not intend to dignify these allegations with any comment, and he got canceled on Letterman, or he canceled on Letterman, I guess, because he does not want to talk about this.
Still to come, your best tweets. The Washington Post acts on allegations against Fareed Zakaria, and Fox News facing a major decision on Mike Huckabee. Buzzworthy is up next.
KURTZ: In our press picks, more on the media fail involving Fareed Zakaria. The Washington Post has finished reviewing allegations of plagiarism against the CNN host. Editorial page editor Fred Hyatt sayings this was not plagiarism but that five of the six columns criticized by an anonymous web site, quote, "strike me as problematic in their absence of full attribution to the authors." This is quote, again, "unfair to the readers and the original sources." The paper has posted notes of apology on the online version for these columns. In fairness, these mistakes took place before Zakaria promised to be more careful in 2012, when CNN and Time suspended him, and he acknowledged one instance of not fully giving credit.
Another media fail, the conservative site Breitbart.com, an embarrassing mistake when President Obama announced his attorney general nominee. The site declared that Loretta Lynch had represented the Clintons during the Whitewater investigation. The problem, this was another Loretta Lynch, not the U.S. attorney picked by the president. Breitbart ran a correction strangely with the same Whitewater headline with the word "corrected," and a note at the bottom of the story before doing the right thing and deleting it entirely.
Now to your tweets. Question is why some media outlets ignore Jonathan Gruber's ObamaCare videos and others overplay it? Waffle721, "The biggest change to American health care was based on a lie. How do you overplay that?" Christian Bell, "because it's a nonstory, as if it wasn't understood that costs were being shifted to insurance companies." Greg Roach, "Of course it's been underplayed. The architect was barely that. And Congress completely changed his framework with compromises." Jim Watson, "Gruber's comments were silly, move on. The Affordable Care Act is a huge success. Uninsured rate dropped."
Now when Fox News announced last week that it was dropping Dr. Ben Carson as a contributor, as he gears up for a possible presidential run, I said the network faces the same decision on Mike Huckabee. Well, that got plenty of pickup, and days later, Bill Shine, Fox's executive vice president for programming, said in a statement, "we are taking a serious look at Governor Huckabee's recent activity in the political arena and are evaluating his current status. We plan on meeting with him when he returns from his trip overseas." Huckabee is a likable guy, but right now, he is straddling two worlds. The Washington Post reported this week Huckabee is reconnecting with activists and is enlisting staff for a possible (inaudible). Former Arkansas governor has a big decision to make, and so does Fox.
That's it for this edition of "MediaBuzz." We got through that. I'm Howard Kurtz. Thanks for joining us. We hope you like our Facebook page. We post a lot of original content there. We respond to your questions. We post videos you do not see on this program. We're posting one about Bill Cosby and more on that controversy as well.
Once again, we're back here every Sunday morning. You know the drill by now, 11 and 5 p.m. Eastern. You can DVR us if you don't get up that early. Back here with the latest buzz.
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