This is a rush transcript from "MediaBuzz," November 23, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: On our buzzmeter this Sunday, the speech and the backlash. President Obama takes unilateral action on immigration. Even major media outlets before said he's doing what he once said he didn't have the authority to do and they pundits pound him from the right and pamper him from the left.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: I find the president's audacity here rather remarkable.
AL SHARPTON, "POLITICS NATION" HOST: I think it was a very not only historic first step, but a very moving speech.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Is the media work illuminating or obscuring the issue? And why did the broadcast networks blow off the speech? Here's a hint. It was sweeps week.
Big media companies cutting ties with Bill Cosby as more women come forward in television interviews alleging that he raped or assaulted them years ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL COSBY: There is no comment about that.
JANICE DICKINSON, MODEL: The loss of innocence that I suffered and these women out there suffered is why I'm sitting here today and I don't care about what Cosby or networks or anybody says. I am -- you will hear me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: But why didn't the women speak out earlier? And are the media convicting the comedian over ancient allegations?
And Uber executive threatens to hire Apple researchers to go after critics in the press and target top Silicon Valley editor Sarah Lacy. She will be here.
Plus, newly released e-mails show the administration complained about Sharyl Attkisson being out of control. We'll ask the former CBS reporter about that. I'm Howard Kurtz, and this is "MediaBuzz."
The media debate over illegal immigration has been raging for so long as the president's speech felt like just one more scene in a scripted drama. A moment that ABC, CBS and NBC were all too eager to blow off. Obama certainly didn't change any minds among the commentators who were either outraged by his lawlessness or grateful for his compassion.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I know some of the critics of this action call it amnesty. Well, it's not.
MEGYN KELLY, "THE KELLY FILE" ANCHOR: Tonight there was no explanation for the complete 180 he has done other than his declaration tonight, I have the authority.
JAY CARNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's not just necessary because it's morally the right thing to do. It's necessary because we have a broken system.
JOSE DIAZ-BALART, "THE RUNDOWN" HOST: 5 million families, 5 million people that tonight, tonight see the opportunity of coming out from under the shadows of fear and that have been living here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Joining us now to examine the coverage, Sharyl Attkisson, a former CBS News reporter and author of the bestselling "Stonewalled: My Fight for Truth against the Forces of Instruction, Intimidation and Harassment in Obama's Washington." Amy Holmes who anchors the "Hot List" at the Blaze and Joe Trippi, a Democratic strategist and Fox News contributor.
The morning after the speech, Sharyl, Washington Post, we can put it up, front page, a bunch of pictures. One with the president and the others of immigrants celebrating. Are the media in their framing of this story sympathetic to immigration reform?
SHARYL ATTKISSON, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: I think sometimes. I mean everybody likes a happy story and you like the happy images. I think the media has well covered the deserving immigrants. The ones who've been discriminated against. The illegal immigrants who've served the country well and yet faces possibility being torn and reaped from their families. What I don't think the media has done a good job covering is the other side. I don't mean politically, but the impact that it could have to have all the illegal immigrants that made hall hearing, and the way that the president talks about. Is there no legitimate opposing opinion? Is there no potential downside? That's not been well covered.
KURTZ: Right. But what has been well covered, Amy, is, of course, the politics and the legal battle. But do you think the media have paid enough attention to the argument that President Obama despite his previous statements is flouting the law and the Constitution?
AMY HOLMES, THE BLAZE TV ANCHOR: It might surprise you to know, Howard, I think the mainstream media actually did do that. You look at the Washington Post editorializing against the president's actions. Glenn Kessler giving the president upside down Pinocchios (ph) which I think really sort of sets the terms of debate for this.
KURTZ: These are Washington Post fact checker.
HOLMES: The Washington Post fact checker. Exactly. I think what you're actually seeing the left and the right buying into the White House spin is when they call this protection of illegal immigrants being deported when really it's a suspension of the deportation. So they're buying the White House into that to a certain extent, but I give the mainstream media credit on this one. That they saw that the president was doing a 180, a flip flop and they called him on it.
KURTZ: I think that's true, Joe Trippi. New York Times wrote a big piece on Obama's past statements. There is - everyone can go to the video tape even on the night of the speech CNN random montaged, but that kind of faded and then it became as the White House blitzed the airwaves and did it spin machine thing, it became kind of a he said she said. Well some legal experts say he can and some legal experts say it's just terrible.
JOE TRIPPI, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, that's because some - we have both of those things happening. I mean some legal experts are saying he can't, some are not and obviously the president changed on this. I mean that's just the facts.
KURTZ: But the president himself, in fact, he repeats this in an interview this morning on ABC with George Stephanopoulos, is no, I didn't change before. I was talking about this kinds of deportations. Now I'm talking about this. So you agree that the media should emphasize that this was a reversal.
TRIPPI: No, I don't think it was a reversal. I think - I don't think the media has explained any of this. I mean it's just they take the clip of him saying I'm not an emperor and then they take the other clip and they don't really talk about the context, in which he was saying those two things. I don't think the media has done a good job of that at all.
KURTZ: How much impact does it have when Joshua (INAUDIBLE), John Podesta and Jennifer Palmieri, all these White House officials are now suddenly very available to be on the airwaves making the case both for the policy and the politics and the legal aspect, does it muffle the Republican opposition just because it's such a big megaphone?
ATTKISSON: To some degree, you may know that, we've seen internal documents that show they do try to drain out opposition by putting out positive stories or in this case perhaps experts that are elusive when we have issues we want to talk to them about you can't get an interview with these federal officials, but when they have something to talk about they pick up the phone and they call the media we want to be on your program on Sunday and things go, there they are.
KURTZ: I certainly think that other voices like John Boehner and Ted Cruz have been heard on this, but has this now become a political process story? In other words, how will the Republicans retaliate? Will it be a shutdown? Will it be a show down? And is that overshadowing the issue of immigration itself?
HOLMES: Absolutely. And I think, actually, right wing press has been more effective in the mainstream media. It's drilling down into what does this, you know, executive amnesty really mean? Is it really 5 million illegals and who does it apply to? The Department of Homeland Security now prioritizing different types of crime. You know, this is being reported in the right wing. Where I would say that the mainstream media has, you know, tended to cover this story in a different way. As that the human interest story as you mentioned. You know, the people who are watching and, you know, these watch meetings, the fact that it was only -- his speech was only broadcast really for a Latino audience and now you're seeing the press going out to the right wing to sort of try to find the most inflammatory quotes they can against the President of the United States including Michele Bachmann and the statements that she made. But you know what? She's actually a lame duck, she's out this December. What does it matter?
TRIPPI: The president has done what he has done and the real story now has to be how will the Congress, how will the Republicans react? What will they do.
KURTZ: What about these pieces about inflammatory quotes? I mean Michele Bachmann is quoted all the time.
TRIPPI: Well, I mean the inflammatory quotes, look, there's lots of them on both sides.
HOLMES: But we don't see the other side, Joe. That's the point.
TRIPPI: No, no, no. You see, it depends on where the story is at the time. And so, right now the focus is where's the Republicans and what is their response going to be and unfortunately, for Republicans there's always some people out there who will say inflammatory things, where the focus is, the focus not on the Democrats right now. It was on the president was he going to do this, did he, you know, how dare he. He did it. How dare he and now what's the Republican response going to be.
KURTZ: You mentioned Latino audience. This was carried by Univision, which delayed the Latin Grammies, that probably got president even bigger audience, but I can't let this segment go by without talking about ABC, CBS and NBC not being able to spare 15 minutes, yes, I know, it was slips, of their (INAUDIBLE) primetime lines to carry the president. What do you make of that?
ATTKISSON: It's hard to say. When I worked at CBS, sometimes we would go back and forth all afternoon on whether to carry presidential speech, Democratic or Republican live based on a lot of factors that go beyond the news division. So, you have a news decision, but then you have a corporate decision, and again, that could have gone one way or the other, but I guess once one of them locks in and says we're not going to carry it, it makes it easier for the others to decide the same.
KURTZ: I just think it was - the broadcast networks are almost surrendering. You are saying, you want coverage of big political events, - cable news, because we kind of get mad at that business. You see that on the midterm elections, you see that at conventions (ph) and that kind of thing.
Let me just throw this out, we played a clip of Al Sharpton at the top. So, that day he and a bunch of activists were invited to the White House, he talks to the president and then he goes on MSNBC where he is, of course, a host. And says it was a great moving speech. Am I the last person on earth that thinks this is a kind of a conflict of interest?
HOLMES: No, I think everyone thinks it's a conflict of interest.
KURTZ: It's close, to be sure.
HOLMES: Yeah, of course, but, you know, to get back to the networks refusing to cover this speech, it was the most unwatched speech that should have been because it was a very consequential announcement to the future of our country, the notion of executive actions and unfortunately, the networks thought "Big Bang Theory" was a lot more important.
KURTZ: Probably got better ratings.
Joe, the House Intelligence Committee on Friday issued the results of a two-year investigation on Benghazi and among other things, the committee that's controlled by the Republican, says it was no intelligence failure, there was no stand down order, so cover up by administration officials or at least not intending to deceive. A couple of brief items on Fox. Nothing on the Network Newscast. A little bit in the newspapers. Given all the attention that Benghazi has gotten including - should that have gotten them more coverage?
TRIPPI: Yeah, a ton more coverage. I mean look, as someone who defended the actions of the administration on this network countless times over the last couple of years on Benghazi it deserves - it deserves a reaction and some coverage, but I also think frankly part of this is what time it happened. It happened late Friday night. I think minutes before a lot of news here and ...
KURTZ: Sure, but if it doesn't happen, the dump - as you saw, rather than call it, had happened, and the report had been very critical to the administration it would have been all over the headlines, right?
HOLMES: I'm not so sure. I think that Benghazi a long time ago was deemed by the mainstream media as just a right wing obsession. And ...
TRIPPI: They were right about that.
HOLMES: I disagree. So, I think that this news story sort of fit in, sort of hand and glove into that but listen, Republicans are learning for the White House that that kind of information goes out on a Friday.
KURTZ: It's going to criticize the report as opposed to not covering it. CNN "State of the Union" had Lindsey Graham on today and he called the report garbage. You've covered Benghazi a lot?
ATTKISSON: I absolutely, if that doesn't work, and if CBS would have offered it. I don't think they would have put it on television. So I would have written that for the web, and prepare ...
KURTZ: And with - you would have put it on the evening news.
ATTKISSON: Absolutely. When I was covering - I was trying to cover all the developments that were somewhat relative in Benghazi just to be on the record about it. In this case I would point out to where the findings of this committee differed with witnesses to other committees. Much of the findings were the same as Joe said and also there were no answers really to the great imponderables, which I think maybe why it didn't get more coverage like what was the president doing that night, why can't we see the White House photos. What happened to the surveillance video on Benghazi.
KURTZ: Right. Well, it was a two-year-old investigation. I think it deserved more coverage on all news outlets. Don't forget to tweet at me, at Howard Kurtz. We'd like to read your messages at the end of the program. We'd like to have this done - you can tweet me after the show is over as well.
Now ahead we'll talk to tech journalist Sarah Lacy targeted by an Uber executive who spoke of investigating her personal life when we come back. Tense days in Ferguson. Waiting for some word from the grand jury. Are the media exacerbating the tensions?
KURTZ: Everyone is on edge right now. Ferguson, Missouri and the whole country, really, and of course, the media establishment waiting to see if violence erupts if - if there is no indictment against the police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown. Amy Holmes, is the constant chatter about this and the massing reporters and TV crews in Ferguson. Is it raising the tension level and maybe acting as inducement of violence?
HOLMES: Well, you know, Howie, I've had a chance to talk to residents of St. Louis who are very concerned about this, and they say, there's more media in Ferguson than there are protesters and they say they see on the 6:00 news locally, you know, just wait for the violence to erupt to the point where it seems as if the media is inciting the violence to have a story to cover.
KURTZ: Since you're bringing that up, I have a clip that I want to play from "The Americans with Charlie LeDuff." He works for Fox Television Stations, that program airs on the local stations and here's his take on the media in Ferguson.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHARLIE LEDUFF, "THE AMERICANS WITH CHARLIE LEDUFF" HOST: I think we're fanning the flames. A dozen protesters show up, and three dozen media. Are we goading people on, making movie stars out of (INAUDIBLE)? This is one of ours that went viral.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wow! Wow!
LEDUFF: The boss loved it. It got hundreds of thousands of clicks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: The boss loved ...
TRIPPI: I think this is exactly what's going on. You just see it. Even your intro of everybody's on edge and we're all waiting to see --- I mean there's almost just a language that we're all using in the media I think it's sort of helping to encourage this.
KURTZ: Well, we did a lot of preparation. What if it happened this morning while we were on the air. And how would we handle it at the same - and it's a very important story, and I don't need to minimize it in any way, but I wonder, especially since a lot of outside agitators, blinked violence in Ferguson in the past, whether we're helping to attract them?
ATTKISSON: It's a tough call. When you go on a news story you and your bosses look for superlatives, you look for the biggest, the best, the worst, the most. They're talking about protesters and some of those people I think are no more than thugs that they're calling protesters that you say they are giving a spotlight to and it's an issue. I don't have the answer for it, but it is an issue.
KURTZ: Yeah. And then there's a magnification question, which is - and you see, you know, of ten people show up, but you have the zoom lens on them, they can look like the whole town is ready to rumble and, of course, we still don't know what the grand jury will do. We should make note of that. And perhaps we'll find out in the coming days. All right, Joe Trippi, Amy Holmes, thanks very much. We'll seal you in a bit. Ahead, are the media convicting Bill Cosby over sexual assault allegations that are 20 or 30 years old? But first a senior Uber executive talks about hiring Apple researchers to investigate critical journalists? His top target Sarah Lacy is up next.
KURTZ: Uber, the innovative car service doesn't much like the present fact as reported by Buzz Feed, a top Uber executive named Emil Michael, said at a dinner that the company might spend a million bucks to hire four upper researchers to dig up dirt on its media detractors, including their personal lives and he said, the effort would particularly target one critic, Sarah Lacy. She is the founder and editor-in-chief of the Silicon Valley site PandoDaily, and she joins me now from San Francisco. Hi, Sarah.
SARAH LACY, PANDODAILY.COM: Hi Howie.
KURTZ: Let's put aside the details for one minute. When you were in London and you got this phone call asking you for comment on Emil Michael saying he was thinking of hiring someone to investigate your personal life, how did you feel?
LACY: Well, it's pretty horrifying. I mean, you know, I heard a bit more of the conversation than BuzzFeed chose to report because BuzzFeed is obviously not going to basically enact his plans and, you know, put more ideas in people's heads, but it was pretty horrifying and, you know, I honestly, we have been very critical of Uber for a long time and I believed that there's a real escalation of just fundamental bad behavior particularly against women at this company. And we certainly - you know, I watched Travis Kalanick sit on the stage in May and say ...
KURTZ: He is the CEO.
LACY: This is a political campaign and we're going to throw mud. And yeah, the CEO. And at the same time, I was still shocked. I mean I just - I have - look, I've covered companies in Silicon Valley for 15 years. I have written many things about them they didn't like. I've had a lot of people be furious at me, trash me in the Valley. Say they're going to run me out of the valley. Call up editors and try to get me fired before I worked for myself. I mean I thought I had sort of seen everything, but I had never heard a detailed plan that had a budget, a head count and claimed it would go after my family because that was my weak part. It was just shocking.
KURTZ: Right, and this is not some shadowy source saying this, this is Emil Michael himself at a dinner with a bunch of journalists, which was supposed to be off the record, but it was a mix up about that. But just to ...
KURTZ: So, he is going to understand the back story here? You had already ripped Uber for sexism and misogyny. And, of course, they are hearing - one person singled out by name is you and you were a woman. Explain what that story was about and why you went after Uber.
LACY: Well, we have been critical of Uber since about 2012. We were one of the first tech publications to really point out what we thought were some really deep concerns with this company. You know, I see this over and over again in the Valley. Sometimes there are these intense qualities that make these companies break out successes and I think in the case of Uber and the CEO Travis Kalanick, that was - the fact that he views everyone as an enemy and he will take them out at any cost and I think you needed that to pioneer a service like this. Given the taxi lobbies, given that there were real barriers to this being done in every city. And like I think every - I'm a huge fan of ride sharing. That said I think he carries that to an extreme. He carries that to where he is aggressive and treats journalists the same way. Treats writers the same way when they claim to have been attacked in cars. Treats drivers the same way when they questioned the company or had issues and, you know, I think one real -- one of the most disturbing things to me about how this story played out this week is that the board and investors will not act. I think they're terrified of him as well because he is retaliatory and he will cut them out of future rounds. And right now ...
KURTZ: So, clearly ...
LACY: This is one of if not the most highly valued private companies in Silicon Valley in a crazy boom time. I mean look at valuations.
KURTZ: Clearly, you have decided - you've decided, you're not toning down your criticism but now Emil Michael has apologized to you by email, he also tried to call you and talk to you off the record. What did you make of that, and do you in anyway accept his apology?
LACY: No, he called me off the record after the story ran, which they had known about it for several days. No one reached out to me before. He asked if we could talk off the record. I said no. I think frankly this is an incredibly important issue for the First Amendment not to mention, you know, their issues, attitudes towards women and the fact that women are, you know, kind of trusting them with their lives when they get in an Uber car and I felt like my readers and their writers and journalists covering Uber deserved an explanation on the record and I wasn't going to be part of some backroom games.
LACY: So he hung up the phone and then about 40 minutes later he tweeted and emailed an apology. Now, I'm not sure, why that apology couldn't have been on the record when he called me. And then we saw Travis Kalanick sort of - you know, bizarre 13 tweet apology and the very next day they have their celebrity spokesperson investor Ashton Kutcher come out and say what's so wrong with what they propose ...
LACY: And then you've seen since then a friend of Emil Michael's write in "The Huffington Post" that's not what was said at dinner at all. In fact he was saying we should have a coalition of journalists. It's like, well, if that's what he said, then why did he apologize for his comments? I mean what you've seen Uber doing ...
KURTZ: There was also - we have just a half a minute.
LACY: It's a low version of exactly what they said.
KURTZ: It was also a spin that well, he was venting, he didn't really mean it. Obviously you don't buy that.
LACY: I mean - No, because on one level he's saying he's sorry and he's venting and then later on he has friends of his coming out and saying that's not what he said. And it's like OK, Uber, which story is it? Did you say it and is it inhumane and horrible and doesn't represent your views as you said on Tuesday or now as you have said on Friday is that not what happened and I'm being hysterical and overreacting.
KURTZ: All right. Sarah Lacy, thanks very much for getting up early in California to talk about this important story. We appreciate it.
LACY: Thanks Howie.
KURTZ: Ahead on "MediaBuzz" new emails in the "Fast and Furious" investigation show the White House and Justice Department kind of trashing Sharyl Attkisson. Is that how they do business? But up next, NBC and other media companies now dumping Bill Cosby over sexual assault allegations. But why are these women's stories suddenly drawing so much coverage?
KURTZ: First, Bill Cosby made us laugh. Now he's making us cringe. NBC has canceled a comedy series it was developing with Cosby. Netflix has delayed a Cosby special and TV-Land has dropped reruns of the "Cosby Show". This as more women including Janice Dickinson stepped in front of television cameras to allege that he did terrible things to them long ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOAN TARSHIS, ACCUSES COSBY OF ASSULTING HER: We went up to his bungalo afterwards. He made me a drink and very shortly after that I just -- I passed out. I woke up or came to very groggily with him removing my underwear.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Why wouldn't you just say something to someone?
TARSHIS: It's the guilt and the shame of the victim.
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: I like everybody else. I thought Bill Cosby is hilarious. Great standup comedian. Mr. Huxtable. He was supposed to be a mentor to you. What happened?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was America's favorite dad. Everyone wanted him to be their dad. I wanted him to be my dad.
After dinner, in my room, he had given me wine and a pill and the next morning I woke up and I wasn't wearing my pajamas and I remember before I passed out that I had been sexually assaulted by this man.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you ever tell anybody about this?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't remember that. I don't want to implicate anyone because Bill Cosby is a very powerful man.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: But given that some of these incidents are alleged to have happened three decades ago is the coverage fair? Joining us now from New York Lola Ogunnaike, an anchor for Arise TV. And here in Washington David Zurawik, television and media critic for The Baltimore Sun. Well, Washington Post this morning has four full pages on all of the women who have come out including a new interview with an accuser that was a former Playboy playmate. As these women come out with remarkably similar stories why is this suddenly getting so much media traction even though many of these incidents are alleged to have taken place long ago?
LOLA OGUNNAIKE, ANCHOR "ARISE": Well, I think we have to circle back to the comedienne Hannibal Buress who actually referenced Bill Cosby and referred to him as a racist in a recent standup act. And I think that's what triggered renewed interest in this case. I'm not sure had Hannibal Buress not made this a part of his standup act we would be talking about this today, but he did indeed, which spurred people to not only go on to the Internet and research Bill Cosby and his history as allegedly being a serial rapist and one that drugs women, but it I think it also started the conversation surrounding rape and rape survivors in the culture and we have seen a seismic shift in the culture at large. I think more and more rape survivors actually feel more comfortable with the idea of telling their stories because they found community on the Internet.
KURTZ: Right. Right. David Zurawik, Cosby's lawyer coming out with a new statement calling these allegations increasingly ridiculous, past the point of absurdity and talking about the media vilification of Cosby. Since he hasn't been convicted in anything, is it fair for NBC and Netflix and TV Land to be throwing him overboard?
DAVID ZURAWIK, BALTIMORE SUN MEDIA CRITIC: Absolutely. They have an absolute right to do it. They're corporate entities. And that's, really, Howie, I think, that's another reason - I totally agree with Lola, but that's another sort of business reason why you're now getting this critical mass and the momentum of this story. Look, he made more money for NBC than anybody in the history of the world. In corporate America that is a scholarship to life. For them to pull out said the media, whoa, Netflix, smarter savviest marketers in the industry right now when they pull out on him, don't want to do any business with him and now you have TV-land essentially starting the process where he's being erased from TV history. That's profound. I think that momentum in midweek -- that happened Wednesday of last week, this story kicked in another gear. It really did and that drove it.
KURTZ: Well, you know, when you see the pain in some of these women's faces. And I can't say that everyone is true, but it's hard to imagine that they're all making up some of these remarkably similar stories about being drugged and assaulted or raped by Bill Cosby. Then again, they're always subject to this question why did you wait so long. Why didn't you first talk in 2006 when this got a little bit of attention, or in 2014?
OGUNNAIKE: I think a number of the women have said they felt a shame, they felt fear, and also, just like David said, this person was at one time the most powerful man in Hollywood and if you're a 19-year-old girl who's been victimized it's not in your best interest, especially if you want to have a career in the entertainment industry to go up against a giant and again let's be clear, he's not been found guilty of anything, but it's still if you're a 19-year-old young girl who claims to have been raped and drugged by one of the most powerful men in Hollywood, chances are society is going to believe America's favorite father and America's most powerful man in Hollywood over you. And that's it.
KURTZ: Very hard to take on a showbiz giant like Cosby.
OGUNNAIKE: Yeah. A juggernaut.
ZURAWIK: One case I want to mention, Amanda Constand I mean that was investigated and the prosecutor said I didn't have enough evidence to bring it and then there was a suit that was settled out of court, but, you know, until recently David, Cosby was almost never asked about these allegations. He's been interviewed a million times. Were the media on some level preserving access to him and really protecting him?
ZURAWIK: Oh, Howie, you know what? That AP interview we saw how access, you know, it's called cultural affairs or cultural reporting now. When I started it was showbiz or entertainment reporting and that's the game they played. I fought this for 30 years the kind of kiss up interviews you do for access. My access is now zero thanks to that.
ZURAWIK: Yes, because of that, but that's part of it. There's another thing here. During the '70s, during the '80s and I was covering all of this - him all this time and he was - I mean he was a real role model to me, even. I had that kind of respect for him.
KURTZ: I grew up with some of his comedy albums.
KURTZ: So, you know, basically America loves Bill Cosby and that's one of the reasons this whole thing, whoever you believe in this mess is so painful.
ZURAWIK: Yes, and Howie there would be no appetite and reasonably so at any mainstream American newspaper, you know, when you were at The Post -- I was at The Baltimore Sun, if we brought facts they would say yeah but when you have a guy of this stature you have to have a lock down story. And that's one of the reasons I think it was hard also for these women. I would never try to figure out the psychology of being assaulted is horrible, but beyond that I think they reasonably understood there was an establishment and media establishment that didn't want to hear this.
KURTZ: Right. And I think somebody made the observation that Cosby made us feel good about race relations, especially with the show where he was Cliff Huxtable. You know, he is 77, he was attempting a comeback. Does this change forever the way most Americans will view Bill Cosby?
OGUNNAIKE: Well, I think this may have done irreparable damage to his legacy, but he just performed in Florida recently.
OGUNNAIKE: Sold out crowd. 2,000 people showed up to see him and he received a standing ovation. So there's clearly a number of people who either don't believe these allegations are or not going to allow these allegations to keep them from seeing Bill Cosby perform. They still appreciate him as a performer. Appreciate the man's work. They may not appreciate the man as much anymore but they still appreciate that he is a phenomenal comedian.
ZURAWIK: Howie I think it's already happened. If I were writing his obit (ph) prior to this week, this is mentioned pretty far down in the story.
OGUNNAIKE: It's not been mentioned at all.
ZURAWIK: Now, it's right after.
KURTZ: Right. It might not have been mentioned at all.
ZURAWIK: Yes. Thank you, Lola. Now it's Bill Cosby, comma, whose ground breaking fabulous career was damaged at the end by these allegations, comma, that's in the lead and it's not going away and the television industry is not going back with him. I don't care what happened.
KURTZ: That's the sea change, right, they are talking about the obituary and also, you know, the damage control effort with Cosby steadfastly refusing to address these allegations. I don't think it's helping him at all. We have got to go. David Zurawik and Lola Ogunnaike. A lot more to say on this.
OGUNNAIKE: Thank you.
KURTZ: Coming up, new emails show a White House official -- excuse me, a Justice Department official promising to complain to Sharyl Attkisson's bosses over her "Fast & Furious" reporting. We'll get her response. And later, my interview with the guy who uncovered the Jonathan Gruber pharmacare video. Stay with us.
KURTZ: Well, Sharyl Attkisson was investigating the botched "Fast & Furious" operation three years ago. The Obama administration wasn't happy. Documents obtained by judicial watch show that a top spokeswoman for Attorney General Eric Holder emailed the senior White House press official to say this about the CBS reported story. "I'm also calling Sharryl's (sic) editor and reaching out to Bob Schieffer. She is out of control." And the response from the White House official, "Good. Her piece was really bad for the AG. (the Attorney General.)" Sharyl, you were out of control with these things the administrations did?
ATTKISSON: And the irony is, they weren't upset that the Attorney General had given contradictory testimony before Congress. They weren't upset the documents revealed that his story appeared to be inconsistent. They were mad at me for reporting the facts.
KURTZ: And that story just to clarify for those - was based on internal Justice Department documents.
ATTKISSON: Right. These weren't Republican documents, these were their own documents that showed the Attorney General had at least briefings on "Fast and Furious" much, much sooner than he testified to Congress.
KURTZ: So doesn't every administration vent about journalists they don't like or journalists they think are out to get them? I mean how unusual is this and how troubled are you by this?
ATTKISSON: It's not unusual at all. This is least of it, quite frankly, but I guess it's because it's something in black and white that's been presented. I discussed that link in the book, that corporations, politicians, and special interest use very aggressive tactics to try to stop stories. To go after reporters to call their bosses and so on. To me, I think, one of the biggest outrage is about this is, these are documents withheld by the president of the United States under executive privilege, so that we wouldn't know about these emails exchanges, but it happened. And there appears to be no legitimate reason for executive privilege to have been used. These were forced to be released by a lawsuit.
KURTZ: So, executive privilege is not supposed to cover things that are merely embarrassing ...
KURTZ: ... to an administration. And it doesn't seem like it was appropriately applied in this case. Now some of those other e-mails talked about well, we could give this reporter this story and this reporter - we'll load somebody else up with leaks.
Again, I have seen another administrations do this, but they are ...
ATTKISSON: Well, just because we understand that goes on, I still think the public is kind of surprised at the extent, to which they discuss very specific reporters who they think will put up the friendly story of their side of the story of reporters that they can run into as they say and leak certain information to them ...
KURTZ: Well, it said, that the Attorney General Eric Holder, he just happened to run into a couple of reporters.
ATTKISSON: Right. And they said, and that can be managed. In other words, we can arrange future run into these friendly reporters.
KURTZ: Yeah, administration spent a lot of time plotting press relations. It seems to be a big part of this job. I'm glad these e-mails came out. After the break, we talked about this earlier, Bill Cosby tries to bully an AP reporter into killing footage of him refusing to address those assault allegations and the man who dug up the Jonathan Gruber videos tells me he couldn't get anyone in the media to call him back.
KURTZ: The Associated Press has released footage of a two-week-old interview with Bill Cosby which reported Brett Zongker very reluctantly asked about the sexual assault allegations, and Cosby not only deflects the question, he ratchets up the pressure.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRETT ZONGKER: On a separate note, I did want to - I have to ask about your name coming up in the news recently regarding this comedian.
BILL COSBY: No, no, we don't answer that.
ZONGKER: OK. I just wanted to ask if you wanted to respond at all about whether any of that was true.
COSBY: There's no response. Now can I get something from you?
ZONGKER: What's that?
COSBY: That none of that will be shown?
ZONGKER: I can't promise that myself. But you didn't say anything.
COSBY: I know I didn't say anything, but I'm asking your integrity that since I didn't want to say anything, but I did answer you in terms of I don't want to say anything of what value will it have.
ZONGKER: I hear you. I will tell that to my editors.
COSBY: If you will just tell your boss the reason why we didn't say that upfront was because we thought that AP had the integrity to not ask.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Cosby questioning the reporter's integrity for asking the question.
ATTKISSON: So awkward. To me, that just reminds me of there's similar pressures that come upon reporters in the entertainment industry or reporters in sports. And also who report the news, there's an effort by the newsmakers and the powerful to get us to not ask certain questions, not report certain things. The poor reporters have an apologetic - asking the question.
KURTZ: Right. But the question had to be asked if you're in the news business. And it just was amazing to watch Cosby try to guilt trip him. And he's told not more - just tell your boss not to do this. And to make it seem like it was something wrong with asking that question.
ATTKISSON: And that's followed many times by a phone call to the boss or to the editors and pretty soon, you know, maybe if the story there airs at all, and the segment never airs.
KURTZ: Right. The game here is that Cosby didn't want it sound like being endlessly replayed, saying, I'm not going to comment on those questions. But in the end, AP did the right thing and he did not get his way.
Now, the man - of those damaging Jonathan Gruber videos is a Philadelphia investment by the name Rich Weinstein who was ticked off because his own insurance policy was canceled. He spent nearly a year trying to interest the media in these videos about ObamaCare, including Fox News, National Review, Forbes, Glenn Beck and a network affiliate in Philly and could not get a call back. Let's watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: When you had some of these videos, not all of them, and you were trying to get the media's attention to Facebook, to phone calls, how frustrating was it?
RICH WEINSTEIN: It was very frustrating. Because I'm trying to run my company and do what I have to do. And you find this stuff, holy smokes, I think I got something here that's important for the American people to see. I was going to give them everything I had for nothing, no money. All I wanted were autographs from the people. I just worked through it, so I could put them on my office wall and have it - the media has got to open up a gateway so that they can receive this. Or somebody has got to open up a gateway so that it can be received.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: He couldn't get anyone to call him back.
ATTKISSON: Let me begin by saying, I think the videos are news worthy and significant and that I'm embarrassed as a journalist that I didn't find them first. I think all of us should be - I don't think CBS would have put them on the air if I had found those. They were not of the mindset to do that at that time, but we should be asking the question why haven't we been digging on this story. There's certainly enough time in the day to poke around and we could have found those ...
KURTZ: These is the place for citizen journalist, and here's one guy who was very motivated. He spent hours and hours going over these tedious interview videotapes. You met him in Philadelphia, and he didn't want to come on camera, I was going to get the audio interview with him, and he didn't - he doesn't want his picture shown.
ATTKISSON: Yeah, and I think he reached out to me at some point. I didn't see the message to call him back. We're flooded by hundreds, if not thousands of e-mails and requests. Each of ...
KURTZ: Why a lot of people say, oh, I got the next Watergate here, and once in a while it might be true. But most of the time it's not.
KURTZ: So, but you think, you feel like we, the media should have found it.
ATTKISSON: We should have found it. There's enough of us. We should have found those ourselves as well.
KURTZ: All right. Well, good for Rich. Still to come, your top tweets. Al Sharpton rips the New York Times for daring to report he hasn't paid his taxes and a mail anchor who suddenly becomes very famous when he's retired. "Buzz Worthy" is up next.
KURTZ: Al Sharpton and his for-profit businesses face federal and state tax liens of more than $4.5 million. That according to the New York Times, but instead of expressing regret, the MSNBC host challenged the newspaper.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AL SHARPTON, MSNBC: I think that first of all, the story is at best misleading and totally out of context. National Action Network and I owe no current taxes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Misleading? The Times quoted Sharpton as saying he's in the process of paying off the tax debts, then Reverend Al charging he was being targeted because of his alliances with President Obama and New York's Mayor de Blasio. That's ridiculous, Rev. That story was about journalism, not politics.
Time now for some of your top tweets. Have the media given too much or too little weight to President Obama's reversal on the immigration order? S.E. Bailey, "too little. Regardless of issues, such an enormous reversal should be covered if for no other sake than that fact." Mark W. Shuman, "Compared to the issue of the legality itself, way too much. Facts come before opinions and meta facts." Flight Trucker (ph), "Haven't heard mainstream media talk about Obama's flip-flop on flushing the Constitution that much." Laurie D (ph), "when a Democrat reverses himself, it's evolving. When a Republican does it, it's flip-flopping. Media carries water for Obama."
I try to dress nicely when I'm on the air, but let's face it, who really cares what I'm wearing, other than my mom. You're all looking at what the women are wearing. So this exchange on Channel 9's "Today Show" in Australia caught my eye.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Internet went just a little bit crazy over the fact that it was revealed that Carl (ph) has been wearing exactly the same suit every single day on this show at this desk in that chair for one whole year. Now, the reason that this all started, this was a show of support for me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, actually it started with me wearing the same suit for about a month before I even told you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: There is a great point. She didn't notice. Nobody noticed. Nobody cared what Carl had on. Carl Stepanovic (ph) was backing up Lisa Wilkinson (ph), who has been criticized those who were ragging on some of her outfits. The worn-out suit now listed on eBay as a little bit stanky. I guess I could probably get away with this one next Sunday. If we come out to a wide shot, I heard people on Twitter are already talking about what you're wearing.
ATTKISSON: Truer words were never spoken. The hair and the clothing of the women, but never, it seems, the men.
KURTZ: We get off easy. Maybe somebody likes my tie. All right, that's it for this edition of "MediaBuzz." I'm Howard Kurtz. We hope you like our Facebook page. We post a lot of original content there and respond to your questions. We post some video. Posted some video today, in fact.
We'll be back here next Sunday morning, 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. Eastern, with the latest buzz.
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