Media's Indiana culture war; 'Daily Show' debacle

Pence blames reckless reporting


This is a rush transcript from "MediaBuzz," April 5, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: On the Buzz Meter this Sunday, Indiana Governor Mike Pence blaming the huge controversy over whether his state's religious freedom law allowed anti-gay discrimination on the media.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, HOST, "THIS WEEK"/ABC: Yes or no, if a florist in Indiana refuses to serve a gay couple at their wedding, is that legal now in Indiana

GOV. MIKE PENCE, R-IND.: George, this is where this debate has gone with misinformation and...

STEPHANOPOULOS: Just a question, sir, yes or no?

PENCE: Some of the reckless reporting by some in the media about what this bill was all about was deeply disappointing.


KURTZ: With Pence quickly retreating and signing a revised law, has the press magnified this whole mess?

The "Today" show asked Elizabeth Warren the question again and again and again.


SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, CO-HOST, "TODAY": Possibly I'm beating a dead horse here, but did you ever even consider, entertain the possibility of running for president?



KURTZ: Why are the media determined to drag the Massachusetts senator into the 2016 race and uproar over Jon Stewart's replacement, Trevor Noah.


TREVOR NOAH, "DAILY SHOW" CONTRIBUTOR: I'd never thought I'd be more afraid of police in America rather than South Africa. It kind of makes me a little nostalgic for the old days back home.


KURTZ: Already under fire for offensive jokes about Jews, Blacks and fat women. Is this south African the right choice for the daily show? Greg Gutfeld weighs in on that.

Plus movie mogul, Harvey Weinstein accused of groping an Italian model ignites a tabloid war against her and the woman fights back. Should the press be getting down in the gutter? I'm Howard Kurtz and this is "MediaBuzz."

When Mike Pence signed Indiana's religious freedom law and critics had to measure with loud discrimination against gays, the national media pounced pretty quickly, some with a more balanced approach than others.


SCOTT PELLEY, "CBS EVENING NEWS" ANCHOR: This evening there is a growing backlash against a law signed yesterday by the governor of Indiana. Supporters of the law say it protects religious freedom. Opponents say it legalizes discrimination.

CECILIA VEGA, "WORLD NEWS TONIGHT" SATURDAY ANCHOR: Some say the Hoosier state's new religious freedom law opens the door to discrimination against gays and lesbians and now the protests are growing louder by the day.


KURTZ: The Indianapolis star used their front page editorial to demand that the law be fixed and the governor unloaded on what he called sloppy reporting. Even as he acknowledged the law needed to be changed.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My first experience was the opposite. My dad and mom took me to "Sound of Music" with my brother, my cousins...


KURTZ: Soon the pundits were waging a full-fledged warfare.


RACHEL MADDOW, HOST, "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW"/MSNBC: That same thing that got vetoed in Arizona, Mike Pence just at that signing ceremony, just signed it. Making Indiana the first state in the country to move overtly wholesale on purpose to legalize and say the state approves of businesses refusing service to people on the basis of sexual orientation. Mike Pence just did it yesterday. And it is landing with a thud in his home state.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST, "HANNITY": Wait a minute. Gay rights not even mentioned and that is the most frequently used analogy and it regards -- in regards to this bill.


KURTZ: Joining us now to analyze the coverage, Sharyl Attkisson the former CBS News correspondent and author of the best-selling book Stonewalled, Matt Lewis senior contributor for the Daily Caller and Richard Fowler, syndicated radio talk show host. Sharyl, massive wave of media coverage, arguing over the interpretation of this one state law, did that help transform this into a culture war?

SHARYL ATTKISSON, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: I think so. Some want it to be. I think by and large, though, I found most of the media coverage that I saw fair. I think Mike Pence certainly had his say if not in the early stages in the later stages. I do think what I would be doing if I was still at CBS News who wanted something a little more in-depth beyond what you saw, I'd be asking questions such as who are the special interests who are pushing these laws through state by state, tell us more about those, who are the special interests who are challenging them. I want to know more about some of the behind the scenes stuff and I think there are many of the questions that could be explored.

KURTZ: Did Mike Pence's mishandling of the controversy in this front of the TV cameras pump this up into a much larger story?

MATT LEWIS, THE DAILY CALLER SENIOR CONTRIBUTOR: I think there are several reasons why the story went awry. The media do not tend to be a lot of orthodox Christians in the media who might care more about religious liberty. I think they're seeing it through a different frame. But I think that Mike Pence very early on botched this. I think he overestimated his ability as a communicator. Prior to this, he was seen as a very affable communicator. I think that he was unprepared. He thought he could go in there and spins Stephanopoulos and fell on his face. And once that happens, the die is cast.

ATTKISSON: He repeatedly asked Mike Pence a yes or no question over and over and over.

KURTZ: And we'll show that a little later in the program. Richard, so as the media, story moved from being about the Indiana legislature and even being about Christian conservatives versus gay rights activist to being about Mike Pence former congressman and possible future presidential candidate.

RICHARD FOWLER, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I think the 2016 fix is in, Howard. And so everybody is like is he running, is he not running. But I agree with the panel, he botched the Stephanopoulos interview which set up what was a horrible week in politics for Indiana. And I think for the Christian conservative right; they don't really have an answer for why they're passing this law in all these respective states. You hear is this the same law Clinton passed, but that's not necessarily true because the law has a provision that corporations, for profit entities have religious -- they can expound religion and therein lies a problem with the law which is why Pence can't answer the question, which is why the gay rights movement is saying we won this battle.

KURTZ: Let me come back to that but first I want to ask Sharyl, so here you have Pence taking the position, he's the governor of Indiana saying, it's media's fault, it's reckless reporting, it's sloppy reporting. And I want the legislation to change the law, this was the press conference two days after the ABC this week, didn't quite add up.

ATTKISSON: Well, he was trying to deal with the changing environment and the push back that he was getting. But I think it's important not to be convinced to follow the story where someone is telling us to make it go. One example is the focus on Christian conservatives. Many Christian conservatives do not oppose gay marriage, so we were lumping them into one position in our news coverage sometimes. Also many do oppose gay marriage. The Muslim population, many of them not only opposes gay marriage but oppose gayness. So are we as news media being allowed to be led into covering things a certain way when we should be fair and broader and looking at ourselves rather than at what people want us to look at.

KURTZ: At first it seemed the media debate was about the legal technicality, was this Indiana law like the federal law passed in the Clinton administration, was it like the 19 other state laws. And then it heated up so much, even in Arkansas, Governor Hutchinson asked for a rework for his legislation. So it became more than the dueling interpretation mess.

LEWIS: And part of it is that Governor Pence missed an opportunity to actually talk about the law. I think he was over coached in a way and he was not being authentic, he was not answering Stephanopoulos' question.

KURTZ: You said a moment ago that you think take there isn't a lot of sensitivity in the mainstream media due to the concerns of religious conservatives. Do you think therefore coverage was either way overblown or biased?


KURTZ: After all, Indiana legislature government did change the law.

LEWIS: I think that there's a couple of things, one, I think that there are a lot of orthodox Christians in the mainstream media. There is this thing that has been talked about a lot this way called Selma envy. A sense that activists want to make this into Jim Crow; it's a horrible flawed analogy. And I even think amongst journalists who want to see the work that we do as important and historic, it's easy to cast villains and victims. And I think that very clearly the media has seen that the folks on the side of gay rights are the victims, the people who are talking about religious liberty -- religious liberty now seen with scare quotes quite often whereas the bill is perceived, the framing of it, as anti-gay bill, not as religious liberty bill.

FOWLER: I think you have to follow the money here and the money here is corporations. Most corporations are trying to figure out how do we penetrate the millennial demographic. A recent poll said 70 percent agree with gay marriage and also should be treated equally. So when these laws happen, corporations get scared as we saw in Arkansas with Walmart.

KURTZ: I want to make the point that this didn't happen in a vacuum. Six months after the federal courts basically cleared the way for same-sex marriage to be legal in Indiana, and three prominent marriage opponents signing similar to Governor Pence. I wanted you to respond to what Matt was saying which is a lack of sympathy, lack of representation in the mainstream media by Christian conservatives you think tilted the coverage of this.

FOWLER: I would think that as a nation we've just changed our views when it comes to LGBT folks.

KURTZ: But everybody hasn't changed their view. Gay marriage is legal now in 37 states. We all see where this is heading legally and politically. But there is still a third of the country...

LEWIS: It's a 50/50 issue nationwide, but in the newsrooms 90/10 issue.

FOWLER: Like I said, we have more young people producing the shows; they're the ones pushing forward the narrative.

ATTKISSON: Not necessarily reflecting in the news coverage what the reflection of America is. It's not that their job always to make everything 50/50 as it is in America, but too often I think maybe they're not taking into account the reflections of many people.

KURTZ: When you're a network news reporter and you show both sides, but you have one group, in this case its gays, claiming to be victims of insensitive republicans, is there bias?

ATTKISSON: There is and I've talked about this before. And it's not even intentional bias in many cases, but a tendency to see sort of the underdog as the victim. But we should also take care to look at the other viewpoint, the one that is maybe less palatable for some of the people covering the news stories. What about religious freedom. I think there is a big question here, do the rights of lesbians and gays or the rights of those expressing their religious freedom to protect some of the constitution trump one another. Whose rights are more important?

LEWIS: There are potential victims on the other side that could get highlighted more. The grandmother, who's forced, compelled to...

KURTZ: We don't have to be theoretical about it. Very much pushed by social media, the owners of memory speaks of Indiana, Crystal O'Connor who basically answered a hypothetical question saying she'd be happy to serve gays, but not to cater a same sex wedding. There is so much vitriol on yelp that the place had to shut down for a while, and then ended up raising $40,000.

LEWIS: And one high school coach wanted to burn the pizza place down even.

KURTZ: Wasn't that an example of intolerance -- I won't say the left, but certainly intolerance from that side.

FOWLER: But I think there is an interesting battle here. The question I always have, I'm not saying if you were a guy person, why you would go to a place that you wouldn't want to be there. So I understand that argument. They're missing the story because they're so used to having one group versus another group that we're missing the underlying story. I think they realized there is more to the story because you have a lot of younger Christians who are like we're pro-gay marriage; older people have sort of evolved their views.

KURTZ: I do think this was a case of both media pressure and business pressure from companies like Apple and Walmart. All right, write to me on twitter @howardkurtz, we like to read your messages. And you can e-mail us, Ahead, the next host of The Daily Show facing a firestorm of criticism over jokes being attacked as anti-Semitic. Greg Gutfeld brings his comedic expertise to this one. But when we come back, why is the media practically begging Elizabeth Warren to run for president?


KURTZ: Elizabeth Warren was on the Today Show this week to peddle her paperback and Guthrie insisted on pressing the question the Massachusetts senator has been asked over and over. Check out this montage put together by "Late Night's" Seth Myers.


GUTHRIE: You didn't think you'd get away without me asking you point blank, are you going run for president?

WARREN: No. I'm not running and I'm not going to run.

GUTHRIE: Are you categorically saying I'm not running for president in 2016?

WARREN: I'm not running. I'm not running.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So no way you're going to run in 2016?

WARREN: I'm not running for president. You can ask it lots of different ways.

DAVID MUIR, HOST, "ABC WORLD NEWS TONIGHT"/ABC: Are you going to run for president?

WARREN: I'm not running for president.

MUIR: There's nothing that could change your mind?

WARREN: David, like I said, I'm not running for president.


KURTZ: It's like an "SNL" skit. Matt Lewis, why won't the media take no for an answer?

LEWIS: Because she should run. She's 65 years old. So who knows how many other opportunities?

KURTZ: Who gets to decide here? She's not running.

LEWIS: Lightning doesn't strike twice. Barack Obama was in the senate for 15 minutes, a cup of coffee and he made the right decision. You strike when the iron is the hot.

KURTZ: You're like a political consultant.

LEWIS: I'm telling you she should, that is why the media won't give up.

KURTZ: Isn't it embarrassing when Elizabeth Warren is being asked again and again the same question and giving 18 different variations of the same answer?

ATTKISSON: In a way, but Obama's famous last words were he was not going to run for president in 2008. So you don't want to be the reporter that doesn't ask the question in the interview that she might've actually said she was.

KURTZ: How many times do you ask?

ATTKISSON: Once or twice.

KURTZ: Because maybe you could beat her into submission?

ATTKISSON: If you look at her answers beyond the first clip, I thought it was a weird phrasing and they probably thought so, too, when you say are you going to run and she says I'm not running, the answer is, no, I'm not going to run. There was one version of that and the rest of the time, she kept saying I'm not running. Of course you're not running now, but will you in the future?

KURTZ: So trying to find a little loophole so we can say she left the door jar. Is will this about the press desperately wants a competitive race against Hillary on the democratic side or is it something deeper than that?

FOWLER: I think the press wants a race against Hillary Clinton. Let's peel back the layers, just like you see why people are so excited about Ted Cruz running because of the populous method. Elizabeth Warren has captured the progressive base and that I think for her, Hillary Clinton we're not sure if she can do it or not.

KURTZ: And Elizabeth Warren has been able to capture the populous base of the journalist party.

LEWIS: That can win you an election. I mean Barack Obama.

KURTZ: I'm not denying that, but I will tell you this, it's like a romance. The unattainable is more attractive. If she flipped tomorrow, we'd start to point out all her weaknesses.

ATTKISSON: That's true.

FOWLER: I disagree. When Barack Obama ran, nobody pointed out the weaknesses. The romance existed and he was able to transcend -- they became fans.

ATTKISSON: The reason most of these journalists I think were probably so interested in Elizabeth Warren, she might be a candidate.

KURTZ: We're not going to find out because she's not running.

LEWIS: Right now.

KURTZ: All right, Matt Lewis, Richard Fowler, who knows. Ahead on the "MediaBuzz," Democratic Senator Robert Menendez indicted for bribery and some pundits claim the Obama administration is engaging in political pay back. But first, movie mogul Harvey Weinstein accused in a groping incident and the New York tabloid go to war.


KURTZ: Movie mogul Harvey Weinstein was interviewed by police last week after a woman named Amber Battilana accused him of groping her breasts and putting his hand up her skirt during a meeting. And then the New York post went after the Italian model with the story secret life of Harvey she accepted tickets to attend a show and she once filed a suit against a, quote, sugar daddy. Her camp striking back in the daily news saying she's not afraid of Harvey. Joining us now from New York, Amy Holmes who anchors the Hotlist at the Blaze, Amy, and Big spread in the daily post. Did the New York post in your view trash the Italian model on Harvey Weinstein's behalf?

AMY HOLMES, "THE BLAZE TV" ANCHOR: I think there is no doubt that the New York post has been running with the story of attacking the accuser, oh, and by the way, also exploiting those photos of her for their own gain. It seems to be saying look at this lying hussy. No, really, you can't take your eyes off of her. I'm sure it sold many copies for the New York post.

KURTZ: Why would the post want to side with a movie titan who is pre presumed innocent of course, but accused of alleged harassment?

HOLMES: I think your question answered itself. Why would they want to side with a movie titan, someone who is enormously successful and powerful and provides a lot of ink for that newspaper when it comes to the entertainment industry. And this is a 22-year-old formerly nobody, now apparently very well-known. And I think the New York post has a long standing relationship with lots of people in the entertainment industry and why you don't read more about the bad behavior in Hollywood is because of that.

KURZ: So you're suggesting that if you're somebody like Weinstein has connections you can produce movie stars for profiles and news organizations may not want to disturb that arrangement?

HOLMES: The word powerful has a meaning, it means having power. But I would point out the daily news did use the picture and I think are just as guilty as exploiting using that photo, their reporting had more to do with the actual police case and going step by step procedurally, this woman did go to the police immediately. Apparently there was a phone call set up by police where they were listening in and the New York daily news has -- that's the angle they have been taking.

KURTZ: And they often take different sides on these stories. Daily news reporting a source saying she's not afraid of Harvey Weinstein. But are the points in the original story fair game, the fact that she is said to have accepted the tickets and she had a past sexual harassment suit? Are those things that we should know about, this very important matter?

HOLMES: Well, I think once these accusations do get out in to the public square, yes, both sides, you know if it's true they get to make their case. This is obviously being tried in the court of public opinion. We'll see if it ever actually gets to an actual court. But these are really serious accusations against someone and we don't even know if they're true. So of course it's fair for the other team to come out guns blazing.

KURTZ: And these are serious accusations and I have to commend you on your restraint and not going for any of the obvious puns.

HOLMES: But I will point out that this segment has also been using those photos I'm sure the viewers have enjoyed them.

KURTZ: Only with some restraint. Amy Holmes thanks for joining us, up next, Jon Stewart's replacement under fire for history of offensive jokes, Greg Gutfeld on whether this will ruin his debut at the Daily Show.

And later, the Obama justice department brings charges against Democrat Robert Menendez. Why some pundits are saying this is political payback. Shannon Bream weighs in.


KURTZ: I think I speak for all Americans when I say my reaction to Trevor Noah being picked as the post of "The Daily Show" was who? The South African comedian doesn't have much of a profile here in this country, a grand total of three appearances on Jon Stewart's program where he has taken some swipes at America.


NOAH: Not a single head of state went to Nigeria after the attacks. Not even Obama and he's African.

JON STEWART, HOST, "DAILY SHOW": Well, African-American. He was not born in Africa, born in Hawaii.

NOAH: Yeah, right.


KURTZ: Now Noah is being smacked around for a series of insensitive jokes he posted on twitter. Almost bumped a Jewish kid crossing the road, he didn't look before crossing, but I still would have felt bad in my German car. People will get drunk and think I'm sexy, fat chicks everywhere. To reduce my views to a handful of jokes that didn't land is not a true reflection of my character or my evolution as a comedian. I spoke earlier with Greg Gutfeld, co-host of "The Five" and author of "The Joy of Hate: How to Triumph Over Whiners in the Age of Phony Outrage."


KURTZ: Greg Gutfeld, Welcome.

GREG GUTFELD, "THE FIVE" CO-HOST: Thanks for having me.

KURTZ: As an aspiring comedian Greg, do you have sympathy for a comic who is suddenly under fire for offending this or that group based on jokes from years past?

GUTFELD: Well, I'm neither a comedian nor aspiring comedian. I take offense to that.

KURTZ: You play one on TV.

GUTFELD: No, a comedian actually gets up on stage and tells jokes. I don't do that.

KURTZ: So do you think the outrage is a little over the top?

GUTFELD: It always is. It's always over the top. The interesting thing about it is the left had assumed the people that were going to get angry with about his jokes or his tweets would be from the right. However, it's the left that were most outraged over what they perceived to be sexist and racist jokes. They missed the fact that they're actual jokes. But it reads as too disturbing elements about twitter. One, it's a great place for manufactured outrage. It's a place to go if you're bored and you want to get angry about something.

KURTZ: Or you've been drinking.

GUTFELD: Exactly. I think that was directed at me. But it only lasts 48 hours. People get really angry, they demand contrition and then they you've on to somebody else. And it will happen to you. It's happened to me. It happens to everybody. And that is why we got to say enough. We have to declare a truce on phony manufactured outrage. I wrote a book on it a couple years ago. I thought it was reaching its peak back then. Now it's actually worse. The cycle has accelerated so that it's almost every two to three days there is a new outrage.

KURTZ: This is now broader than twitter I'd say. And I give comedians a lot of leeway because all comedy is going to offend somebody. But just to read you one of the tweets, Trevor Noah re-tweeted somebody who said blue eyed people have a higher alcohol tolerance and he wrote lower Jew tolerance. Some of this just smells like Anti-Semitism...

GUTFELD: I don't even think that's the worst one. These are -- they're not just unfunny, they're kind of mean. But again, I go back to the fact that I have to give everybody a pass. If it's a joke, I have to give them a pass even if it's a bad joke. This is it the other disturbing thing about twitter. Trevor on twitter, Trevor on twitter is not likeable. I mean when you read those tweets it's like who is this guy? Then you watch his actual performances and he's very funny. He's a funny guy and he makes fun of everybody. But there is a weird thing that is focused on Jews in his tweets.

KURTZ: Jews, on fat women. And let me read you another one. Flying over the middle of America, turbulence is so bad, like all the Ignorance is raising through the air, here's a guy, he's from South African, and he's an outsider, risky to be taking all these shots at the USA?

GUTFELD: I don't care if you're an outsider. However the problem with that joke isn't that he's from South Africa, it's because he's so predictable. Like he was checking off the litmus box of what makes a successful comedian on comedy central make the assumption that Americans are ignorant racists and basically make jokes about Israel. He does that. Those are acceptable in the people that watch The Daily Show.

KURTZ: And Trevor Noah has put out sort of a defensive statement to say shouldn't this guy come out, do a couple big TV interviews, try to diffuse it with a little humor, put on his big boy pants and face the music?

GUTFELD: Here is the irony. I'm defending this guy because he made some really bad jokes. When he's in his new job, I doubt he will ever return the favor to me because I worked at Fox News. The moment I screw up or I say something that can be taken out of context; he's step on my drowning head. So I'd like to think that I'm doing the nice thing by saying give this guy a break, he's young, and he's made some stupid tweets. By the way, twitter is really dumb. You're not even being paid for it. I do it. I come home after work, I have three glasses of wine, and I get on twitter. The next day I wake up and go what did I do? I'm defending his right to condemn me.

KURTZ: Thanks very much for joining us.

GUTFELD: Thank you.


KURTZ: Coming up, Shannon Bream on the bribery case against Senator Robert Menendez, why are some commentators saying it's politically motivated? And later, Harry Reid tells CNN he doesn't regret peddling false information about Mitt Romney and much of the media yawns.


KURTZ: Robert Menendez was indicted on bribery charges, allegedly trading favors for luxury vacations and campaign donations. And some commentators say politics was at work.


SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ, R-N.J.: I'm outraged that prosecutors at the justice department were tricked into starting this investigation three years ago with false allegations by those who have a political motive to silence me.

ANDREA TANTAROS, "OUTNUMBERED" CO-HOST: We've known about these allegations for a while. So it is questionable and you do have to ask is the DOJ using the law to be absolutely punitive to even political scores.

NEIL CAVUTO, "YOUR WORLD" HOST: Some of the terms of those political statements for friends were raised a few years ago. At the time, Senator Menendez was not criticizing the administration as he is now. Do you think there is a connection?

JUDGE ANDREW NAPOLITANO: Yes, I think there's a connection.


KURTZ: Joining us now, Shannon Bream Fox News correspondent and weekend anchor for America's news headquarters, nice to have on you "MediaBuzz."

SHANNON BREAM, HOST, "AMERICA'S NEWS HQ": Great to be with you.

KURTZ: So what do you think about this media chatter, the Justice department has charged Senator Menendez who is the most outspoken democrat against the president's Iran nuclear negotiations as a matter of political payback?

BREAM: And he's really pushed back on Cuba as well. So they have been at odds and the White House has strenuously pushed back at him a number of times. But as several people mentioned, a lot of these things were in the works years ago. Early 2013, there were reports that there was a grand jury already looking at some of this relationship between Menendez and this eye doctor in South Florida. They say they're longtime friends, but the 68 page indictment accuses them of something much different.

KURTZ: As an old Justice Department reporter, I know and I know you know that there's something in justice called the public integrity section. It has botched certain cases, I think it's a group of career prosecutors who basically good reputation for independence. What about the Obama-DOJ had dropped charges against Democratic Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey?

BREAM: Right. And that's one of the things that happened this will week; also, they did decide not to pursue charges against Lois Lerner. She was the IRS official. It doesn't drop all of the investigations, but it does drop the criminal charges. Remember she took the 5th. House held her in contempt, referred the charges to the US attorney. And he sent an extensive letter to the speaker of the house and said I'm not sending it to the grand jury. So the decision not to go after her for contempt charges on the same day essentially we hear of the about the Menendez charges, the appearance isn't good.

KURTZ: So even if this indictment of Menendez is completely -- nothing to do with politics, the timing of the announcement...

BREAM: Because it's been going on for the past couple of years...

KURTZ: Why now. We all kind of knew this was coming. And I don't detect that much outrage in the media over this. Everybody's reported the details of the luxury vacations and five star hotels, got about $700,000 toward his re-election campaign from this guy. Is there a feeling in the press that politics as usual, they all trade favors and why...

BREAM: We don't want to be cynical, although you and I live here in Washington and have covered Capitol Hill. But there is a lot of this that you see that goes on. And certainly people are friends with some of their biggest donors. Bribery charges saying Menendez knowingly took things of value in exchange of acting on behalf of Melgen. And will here are many cases where he did intercede with CMS, with border patrol, all kinds of ways that he or his staff are allegedly stepping in to intervene for Melgen as the money and the private flights and those things are flowing his way.

KURTZ: It reminds me of the commission of Robert McDonnell and his wife who said he was helping a friend but taking lots of favors and money and did not get off the hook. Last point is that the liberal New York Times surprising people by saying Menendez should step down.

BREAM: Saying essentially he can't represent the people of New Jersey and that he should step down and let someone else take the job.

KURTZ: Shannon Bream, nice to see you on this Sunday. After the break, the contentious conversation with Indiana Governor Mike Pence over the religious freedom law, and the CNN reporter who got Harry Reid to admit he doesn't regret lying about Mitt Romney. Video verdict is next.


KURTZ: Time now for our video verdict. Indiana Governor Mike Pence was determined to defend his state's new religious freedom law when he appeared this week and George Stephanopoulos kept asking again and again does this law allow discrimination against gays. Here's what happens.


STEPHANOPOULOS: This is a yes or no question. Is advanced America right when they say a florist in Indiana can now refuse to serve a gay couple without fear of punishment.

PENCE: Let me explain to you, the purpose of this bill is to empower and has been for more than 20 years. The government overreached.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Your supporters say it would. Yes or no. If a florist in Indiana refuses to serve a gay couple at their wedding, is that legal now in Indiana?

PENCE: George, this is where this debate has gone with miss information and...

STEPHANOPOULOS: It's just a question, sir, yes or no.

PENCE: There's been shameless rhetoric about my state and the law and its intention all over the Internet. Some of the media coverage of this has been shameless and reckless.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Final yes or no question, Governor. Do you think it should be legal in the state of Indiana to discriminate against gays or lesbians?

PENCE: George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: It's a yes or no question.

PENCE: Come on, Hoosiers don't believe in discrimination.


KURTZ: What do you think, George?

ATTKISSON: There's nothing that peeks your interest more than when someone won't give an answer to a simple question like that. That makes you think you need to poke around. Judging from what I've seen since then, Pence might have been well served to say that's not true. This will be decided on a case by case basis by a court. Someone will arbitrate that. Instead by deflecting the question, it was evasive sounding.

KURTZ: It was a fascinating 11 minutes because politicians count on the reporter giving up. George Stephanopoulos went the entire 11 minutes and stuck to it. He did it in a way where he wasn't badgering Pence or interrupting him. He let him give long answers. That's why I think it was very effective and Pence couldn't get out of his own way. Harry Reid once ripped the coke brothers as un-American and said Mitt Romney hadn't paid any taxes for ten years. It was false. We asked the minority leader about that.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No regrets about Mitt Romney, about the Coke brothers, some people called it McCarthy-like?

SEN. HARRY REID, D-NEV.: No. They can call it whatever they want. Romney didn't win did he?


ATTKISSON: Kudos to Dana Bash for asking the questions but this would be big news if you were to play the substitution game and put a prominent republican in his place of Harry Reid. Let's say Romney did that. It would have made big headlines.

KURTZ: Especially giving the lack of regret by Harry Reid. Dana Bash asked the right question. I was stunned that The New York Times didn't do a story on this. I fail to understand how when you have a guy who is a senate majority leader and says a lie and doesn't even say I regret it.

ATTKISSON: Why should he regret it? He's there's no reason for him to apologize. He sounded fairly proud of the fact that he thought that was part of why Romney didn't get elected.

KURTZ: Good for CNN.

Still to come, I'm buzzed about a hotel worker who lost her job because she talked to a reporter, plus your top tweets on a columnist under attack because people don't like her hair.


KURTZ: I'm buzzed off at a Days Inn manager in Arkansas who fired a minimum wage employee for the sin of talking to a Washington Post reporter. The staffer was asked about a $0.25 bump in the statement and wage to minimum wage. She said it would be easier to buy better diapers for her grandson. The manager introduced her to the reporter as somebody to be interviewed. Day's Inn ought to decide if they want to be in business with this guy. Time for your top tweets as the religious freedom law, has it been fair to both sides?

BRUCE CHRISTIAN: I don't think the media has done a good job deciding this religion choice should have more sway than orientation.

JEFFREY MCLAUGHLIN: Facts only lead to one conclusion. I disagree. I think there are strong personal feelings.

KURTZ: Heidi Stevens is a columnist who has been given hate mail for a picture in which her hair is on the untamed side.

Anyone who thinks the hair style you have is attractive likely is overflowing with too much narcissism to grasp the ideal of personal insight.


HEIDI STEVENS, CHICAGO TRIBUNE COLUMNIST: I think people think you're making a statement in with your hair even when you're not. You don't spend a whole bunch; you do spend a bunch of time. People think they can read into your personality by your hair.


KURTZ: A newspaper columnist has no credibility unless she has perfect hair. At least for men the only requirement is that we have hair.

ATTKISSON: So many hair stories. At my first job, I had been anchoring a couple of weeks and my news director called me in. There's a tape machine. He played clips on different days and he said your hair looked different every single day.

KURTZ: It wasn't about the journalism but the hair. Thanks Sharyl. That's it for this edition of "MediaBuzz"; I'm Howard Kurtz, Happy Easter and happy Passover as well. Check out after the buzz where I'll be analyzing the tentative nuclear deal with Iran. We'll also talk next week about the review of the Rolling Stone article by Columbia journalism review, back next Sunday, 11:00 and 5:00 eastern with the latest buzz.

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