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Media Buzz

Media's Hillary investigations; Sawyer's Bruce Jenner Scoop

This is a rush transcript from "MediaBuzz," April 26, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: On our buzzmeter this Sunday, major news organizations team up with a conservative writer whose book about the Clinton foundation generates an avalanche of critical coverage and denunciations from Hillary's campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

DAVID MUIR, ABC NEWS: And Mrs. Clinton tonight facing something else as well, a firestorm as questions mounts about cash donations to the Clinton Foundation and from whom.

KARL ROVE, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: This author of this, Peter Schweizer, is a very detail-oriented person.

KAREN FINNEY, POLITICAL CONSULTANT: He, a, has admitted he has no proof, and b, makes these insinuations that are a partisan-fueled fiction.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

KURTZ: But can these stories really be dismissed as part of some right-wing conspiracy? And should the New York Times, Washington Post, ABC and Fox News have cut exclusive deals with the publisher?

Diane Sawyer's much-valued interview with Bruce Jenner about changing his gender.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DIANE SAWYER, ABC NEWS: Are you a woman?

BRUCE JENNER, FORMER OLYMPIC ATHLETE: Um, yes. For all intents and purposes, I am a woman.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Was the ABC sit-down sensitive or sensational?

She almost quit the Bush White House before becoming the president's spokeswoman and said she was too nice and polite when she came to Fox, a conversation with Dana Perino.

And Ben Affleck, whose ancestors included a slave owner, apologizes for a PBS cover-up. I'm Howard Kurtz and this is "Media Buzz."

Most journalists and commentators hadn't read the forthcoming book "Clinton Cash," still haven't read it, when The New York Times reported that author Peter Schweizer questioned whether Hillary Clinton as secretary of state did favors for big donors to her husband's global foundations, yet the media turned the book into the week's top political story.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL O'REILLY, THE O'REILLY FACTOR HOST: The appearance of impropriety is staggering and the defense is paltry to say the least.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HARDBALL HOST: Is this a serious story of how top politicians use power, or has the candidate herself argues, merely a distraction?

RACHEL MADDOW, THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW HOST: What is not part for the course, what is surprising, that along with the Fox News channel having some sort of exclusive deal to advance, hype this anti-Clinton book from this conservative activist, who has a history of doing stuff like this, we are also now learning that The New York Times and The Washington Post have also entered into some kind of arrangement with the author.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: The Clinton camp's pushback focused on Schweizer's background, working for the conservative Hoover institution, writing for Breitbart.Com, advising George W. Bush's White House and Sarah Palin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN PODESTA, HILLARY CLINTON FOR AMERICA CHAIRMAN: It's a book that's written by a former Bush operative, who's a reporter for that a gust news institution, Breitbart.Com, or has been in the past.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Fox News aired an hour long special Friday on such issues as foundation donors pushing a Russian uranium deal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PETER SCHWEIZER, CLINTON CASH AUTHOR: For that deal to go through, it needs federal government approval, and one of those people who has to approve that deal, is secretary of state Hillary Clinton.

BRET BAIER, SPECIAL REPORT ANCHOR: Who as Senator Clinton was vigorously opposed to these kinds of buys from countries into US property?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Joining us now to analyze the coverage, Mercedes Schlapp, a columnist for US news political consultant and a former Bush White House official. Bob Cusack, editor in chief of "The Hill" and Joe Trippi, democratic strategist and a Fox News contributor. When you get into the Russian-controlled uranium company that gave millions to the foundation, half a million to Bill Clinton for his speech, need state department approval while Hillary was secretary, are you surprised by the depth of the reporting, just by The New York Times alone?

MERCEDES SCHLAPP, FORMER BUSH WHITE HOUSE SPOKESPERSON: Actually, those of us on the right are surprised that it's The New York Times reporting on this. And really what they did, they're building off of Peter Schweizer's story. So they ended up having additional interviews, looking at public records, and really, what they wrote was -- it almost sounded like a political novel while you were reading it. So we were absolutely surprised about this. That they went so forward and decided to investigate. And what you've seen is that now slate.com, the Atlantic, all these other liberal, on liners basically saying, you know what, there is something fishy here.
What are we doing all this work with like the democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton?

KURTZ: Bob, anything wrong, anything questionable about The New York Times, Washington Post, ABC, and Fox News teaming up with Peter Schweizer to dig into the Clinton administration?

BOB CUSACK, THE HILL EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: No, absolutely not. It is a very good news story, there is no smoking gun. That's a problem for republicans. But the problem for democrats is Howard Dean is going after The New York Times, not the Washington Times.

KURTZ: Sloppy reporting.

CUSACK: Exactly. So obviously they've been dilapidated messenger. The messenger here is a conservative. He's about to go after Jeb Bush though and he's gone after lawmakers on Capitol Hill for alleged insider trading.
Even though he is a conservative, he does have credentials.

KURTZ: The reaction would have been very different, Joe, if it would have just been Fox News and Peter Schweizer as opposed to these other big newspapers that are hardly part of a vast right-wing conspiracy.

JOE TRIPPI, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: That's true, and part of it is because this is self-inflicted stuff. The Clintons should have conducted things -- or I would have advised them to. I actually think it was a lack of depth of coverage on this. One of the things that I don't see anybody reporting on is for any of this to be true, you have to -- who fried the other eight departments in the US Government? Who bribed the Utah regulator?

KURTZ: When you talk about the other eight departments, just to clarify, this is including the state department. You have treasury and all these other -- that had to approve this...

(CROSSTALK)

TRIPPI: Yes, assuming there was something really wrong with this company getting 20 percent of the uranium and getting it to Russia and all this kind of -- assuming that was true, and then -- what, would the Clintons really -- what I mean by this, I didn't see The New York Times or Washington Post anybody, contacting any of those other departments, trying to follow this story in that direction, because if this is true, it's much bigger -- all these people did it so Bill Clinton gets $500,000 speech, could have happened.

(CROSSTALK)

SCHLAPP: Everyday Americans does as well.

KURTZ: Politics is also about appearances.

BOB CUSACK, THE HILL EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: That's something they have to deal with.

KURTZ: Raise that point with Peter Schweizer, about the nine departments among others things, in an interview with Fox News Sunday and he also asked him about criticism from the Clinton camp that this was a right-wing hit job. Here is that exchange.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCHWEIZER: I went to the investigative units at The New York Times, The Washington Post, at Fox News, and ABC, precisely because I wanted this evidence to be evaluated and looked at. To not be seen in partisan terms.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: So the Clinton pushback is, you know, Schweizer is this partisan guy. All of these coming, conspiracy theories, before the book was out, and even people who are for Hillary Clinton had a chance to read it.

SCHLAPP: And it just shows that the Clinton campaign is struggling to answer these questions. And what the media is basically saying, what is your answer? And they're not giving the response. And I think that reflects very poorly on the Clinton campaign, because at the end, what they end up doing is they end up attacking the author. Which as we know, again, The New York Times took it forward and started investigating it further and it became a bigger story.

KURTZ: I just want to mention not all media outlets have gone crazy on this. To their credit, the network morning shows and the NBC and ABC newscasts have done two stories this week, but nothing on the CBS evening news. The whole week at all, I find that inexplicable. My question for you is reporters often get material from people, sources who have strong viewpoints, who have axes to grind. That's not unusual, but how do you deal with that?

CUSACK: Well, I mean, you have to deal, okay, what is the news here? And I think because there was a lack of disclosure here, there was a $2 million loan that was not disclosed. And that ties into the earlier issue about the e-mails that Hillary Clinton -- but, I do think that you have to judge, okay, this source has an axe to grind, but let's take a look at the news, and obviously, that's what Peter Schweizer said, he bought it to these news organizations said yeah, and this is legitimate.

KURTZ: One of your reporters is writing about a democrat and a republican source provides some research, you've got to take that into account, but it doesn't mean the researcher is wrong.

CUSACK: That's right and you've got to check it. You got to make sure it's accurate.

KURTZ: At the same time, Joe, as folks are pointing out, this guy, Peter Schweizer, has worked with George W. Bush, with Sarah Palin, his institute is funded by the billionaire family that is helping to bankroll Ted Cruz's campaign. Does that in your view as a democrat make him less credible as an author?

TRIPPI: There's fishiness on both sides. And that's part of what's going on here. It's actually -- this is the perfect place for this to come from. For the Clintons -- I mean, for the Clinton campaign to push back against, because it is so fishy. And I mean --

(CROSSTALK)

TRIPPI: That a conservative guy who works for the -- I mean, this is why it's not going to hurt her in the democratic primary, because --

KURTZ: At all?

TRIPPI: I don't believe so.

KURTZ: Okay.

TRIPPI: And it's because of where this came from. I think it was smart for him to go to The Post and The New York Times...

(CROSSTALK)

TRIPPI: Right. But they can still point and I would point and others would point to this -- you know -- again, he wasn't going to -- he's not doing a book on Bush. It's not a book. As the publisher said, it doesn't exist --

KURTZ: For a second, you're talking about Jeb Bush. He wanted to look into Jeb Bush's finances as well.

SCHLAPP: His books on the capitol -- he targeted this republican congressmen, one was ousted and one had to resign. So I think what he's -- what Peter's trying to do is definitely make sure that he's able to have cover and the fact is that The New York Times has taken it to that next step. They ended up making more of a story of this than...

TRIPPI: This is all, again, about appearances. So if there's something wrong with the appearance of what the Clintons did, it's not, you know, in this debate, in a presidential campaign, there's nothing wrong with them pushing back at what the appearance of why this person and who may have been funding him and how and why this book came out, with the timing that it came out. All of this is legitimate pushback.

KURTZ: But in my view, you have so many examples now of -- whether it's foreign governments or corporate types or shady characters, giving lots of money to the Clinton foundation, not to be altruistic. The Clinton foundation does good work around the world. Also, Bill Clinton's speech fees going up to $400,000, $500,000 at a time when his wife was secretary of state and later a potential president. But I do want to circle back to Joe's point and have you pick pup on it Bob Cusack, is there a weakness at the center of these stories that as of now no one has yet proven that Hillary Clinton personally took an action, reversed a position, pushed a policy to benefit any of these foundation donors?

CUSACK: Yes, that's why I think that this will fade to some degree. I agree with Joe, it's not going to hurt in the democratic primary. We'll hear about it on other side.

KURTZ: Also the stories are very complicated.

CUSACK: The stories are very complicated. Overall, Joe, they're not allowed to give to politicians. And there's a reason for that, and here that's why this story is so juicy. You have all these foreigners not giving just $2,000, but millions of dollars.

KURTZ: What about the fact you alluded to the Clinton campaign in your view not handling this terribly well, that Hillary Clinton is out there campaigning, with groups of voters in Iowa, New Hampshire, and not talking to the press at all, as these questions build up.

SCHLAPP: It's a huge distraction for the campaign and for Hillary Clinton, and for Hillary Clinton, basically, when we saw what happened with the e- mail server, it took her weeks to respond. So they weren't ahead of the story. So I think you're starting to see the same effect happen, especially because I think this story is a lot deeper, a lot more complicated and it's a lot juicier, almost, than that e-mail server story.

KURTZ: I think, eventually, she has to answer these questions. And the problem with the e-mail story is no response essentially for eight days, and then that disastrous press conference, brief comment.

TRIPPI: I think one of the problems with the Clintons; they had success in the 90s with these kinds of press tactics. I don't think they work necessarily with twitter in the age that we're in, where this has craving of information, the demand for immediately, and everybody's deciding the truth before it's possible to find it out.

KURTZ: A funning feeling that our audience has something to say about this.
Send me a message on twitter @Howardkurtz, we'll read some of them a bit later.

Ahead, new lease from NBC says the network has been covered more exaggerations from Brian Williams and can he return to the anchor chair?

But when we come back, pundits asking the republican candidates whether they would attend a same-sex wedding is that a gotcha question?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: We've heard a lot about gotcha questions in this campaign, but is it fair to attach that label to one question about same-sex marriage that has suddenly gone viral?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

JORGE RAMOS, FUSION: But the question is, if you would attend to a gay wedding?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO, R-FLA.: Yeah, if it's somebody in my life that I love and care for, of course I would.

HUGH HEWITT, RADIO SHOW HOST: Would you, Rick Santorum, attend a same-sex wedding of a loved one or a family friend or anyone that you were close to?

RICK SANTORUM: No, I would not.

HEWITT: If you had a loved one or a friend getting married in a same-sex wedding, would you attend it?

SEN. TED CRUZ, R-TEXAS: Well, I will tell you, I haven't faced that circumstance.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: All right, is that a gotcha question, Mercedes Schlapp?

SCHLAPP: I think it is. It's a very personal question. And although someone will decide to attend a same-sex marriage, he might not agree with it from a policy standpoint. So it doesn't get to the answer of what their policy is.

KURTZ: We know what their policy is. This is an attempt to get a different kind of answer.

SCHLAPP: It makes it awkward.

KURTZ: Why is a personal question in your view necessarily a gotcha question?

SCHLAPP: I think when you look at the way they set up the question, it was very much in a way to make them feel either embarrassed, awkward, because they know what their policy position may be, but when it comes to something so personal as to whether you would attend a gay wedding, that might conflict with your religious beliefs, it's just one of those things that I think hits that personal spot for a lot of these politicians.

KURTZ: But one of those asking the questions, Hugh Hewitt, a conservative radio talk show host.

TRIPPI: I don't think this is an out of bounds question at all. This is what presidential candidates go through. They're going to get asked questions that make them uncomfortable, and how they handle that is a major
-- not so much did they answer it on the wrong side or constituents in their party, but how do they handle the question, is it something people are interested in seeing.

KURTZ: All of these republican candidates oppose same-sex marriage, and many of them repeated at an event in Iowa yesterday. But this is an interesting journalistic phrasing. It gets you off the talking points and does make it personal. And a number of republicans took the opportunity to say, I would, I have attended a gay representation or marriage.

CUSACK: I think it's a great question. Because any way they answer it, it's news. And everyone can relate to it. Because a lot of people have been to gay weddings, so it's a very personal question. I agree with Joe, is that when you're running for president, it's a circus. You're going to get personal questions. They volunteered to run, and that's why you're going to see those questions asked of anybody on the republican side.

KURTZ: And another reason I think it's not a gotcha question, and I know you disagree --

(CROSSTALK)

KURTZ: You're here, former republican strategist, it actually allows candidates appear to be more tolerant. I personally oppose same-sex marriage, but if a loved one or close friend had a wedding or reception --

SCHLAPP: Or it makes them seem like they're anti-gay. If someone says they don't attend a same-sex marriage or will not attend a same-sex marriage, does it come across that they're anti-gay, because they're not going to the same-sex wedding because of their religious beliefs? That's where there's that fine line between how the question was being asked and how they answered it. And you saw Governor Scott Walker who walked around it, had a very difficult time answering that question.

KURZ: We'll leave it up to the viewers to decide whether it's a gotcha question or not. Mercedes Schlapp, Bob Cusack, Joe Trippi thanks very much for joining us this Sunday. Ahead, Ben Affleck apologizes for covering up his roots on a PBS special. Up next, after months and months of tabloid teasing, Diane Sawyer sits down with Bruce Jenner to talk about his transformation.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURZ: The evolution of Bruce Jenner from Olympic athlete to, well, it wasn't clear what, has been dribbling out in the media for a long time, New York's "daily news" this week touting world-exclusive photos, Jenner seen in a dress, and there has been this huge publicity buildup surrounding his interview with Diane Sawyer, which aired Friday night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAWYER: But this is shameless selling of everything these days.

JENNER: I know. And I get that. But, what I'm doing is going to do some good.

SAWYER: Are you going to tell me your name, by the way, today?

JENNER: No. If I do, the media would go crazy and I would never get rid of them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: The media would go crazy. Joining us now for the ZBlock is David Zurawik, television and media critic for the Baltimore sun. So Bruce Jenner used this ABC special to promote an upcoming EChannel series on the surgery that is going to change him from a man to a woman. Was this about marketing a member of the Kardashian clan?

DAVID ZURAWIK, BALTIMORE SUN MEDIA CRITIC: You know Howie; I'm always ready to attack anything on television, take the basis mode of because after a long time covering the industry, it's usually right. But I have to tell you something about this; I think maybe Jenner did this because he trusted Diane Sawyer. Because she's had a long history -- we've talked about it of coming through and dealing with these kinds of interviews, responsibly. And in fact, I gave them two hours and they did let him tell a really human story that was moving, I think, to a lot of people. So -- but, you know --

KURTZ: That was the question going in, would this be two hours that would illuminate the challenges and obstacles facing transgender people, which recently didn't get any attention in the media, or maybe negative attention, or maybe just another celebrity sit-down?

ZURAWIK: I think it's definitely not just another celebrity sit-down. I think in Jenner's case, he's still in the process of this transition. And he doesn't have all the answers. You know, don't think if you listen to Bruce Jenner, you know everything about transgender identity. You don't.
But I thought it was dealt with sensitively. And look, I don't blame any network for really promoting anything they have. And ABC did promote this really, really hard.

KURTZ: And Jenner, of course, there's a promotional aspect to this for Jenner who, you know, not only sort of enabled this by not saying anything and it became such a tabloid story, but now has a new deal with "E!" for this documentary series. At the same time, it's hard to think of many interviewers who could have done what Diane Sawyer did, in that she didn't, I thought, sensationalize it. She let him tell the story, and she also provided some historical context.

ZURAWIK: Yeah, I'm not surprised at how good she was, but I was kind of amazed that a across the whole span on as complicated a subject, she did as well as she did. Even when she said, when he talked about this eight-part reality series, and come on, reality TV is really a bad world, you know?
But when she asked him, in a way that wasn't offensive, are you promoting -
- is this all about promotion?

KURTZ: She did ask that question.

ZURAWIK: And his answer was, when he said my god, would I do all of this for promotion? I thought she was really brilliant again.

KURTZ: Well 17 million people watched and I think it became a cultural phenomenon. Let's go to another subject, Brian Williams, still serving that six-month suspension at NBC for embellishing, particularly a story about being in Iraq and allegedly under fire when his helicopter was not. Stories appeared yesterday in The New York Times and then The Washington Post. The New York Times says the NBC's internal investigation expanded to include half dozen new examples of exaggerations, including when he was in Egypt's Tahrir square. He was there, but apparently he said he was on a balcony and in another instance he said he was down there looking somebody in the eye.
The Washington Post then says there are 11 instances of exaggerations, NBC now looking at it. Now, this followed a briefing for top-level NBC officials, including Steve Burke, who runs the place for Comcast. What does it say that these stories were leaked from within NBC?

ZURAWIK: Howie, absolutely -- you and I have done this so long that I have no doubt, those stories are not out unless NBC wants them out. That's a given. The only question is, to what end are they doing it? I can't think of any good end for Brian Williams with those stories being leaked. And, by the way, if you have all of these instances, how in the heck do you bring back -- remember, I was like, the night it happened, I said, if he's your managing editor and he's lying, he's got to be gone by the end of the week.
Well, six months off on the table. And I was accused of being one of the guys with a pitch-forked the peasants coming to the castle. But I think NBC
-- look, how it gets out of that room, Howie, with the top executives --

KURTZ: It was no question it was something of an authorized leak. I was saying, it was 50/50 he would come back. You've got to measure his whole successful career at NBC versus the incidence at Iraq. But now that you have more examples or the alleged examples, the details of which we haven't seen it feels like a tipping point.

ZURAWIK: It absolutely feels like a tipping point. In my head, I tipped right away. But now --

KURTZ: You're hard to tip over.

ZURAWIK: But now, in terms of the larger media universe and I think other analysts are going to say, there's no way this guy comes back because NBC, in essence, damages him when they put this up. I think it's a negotiating thing to see what they're going to buy him out at.

KURTZ: So even Lester Holt in the chair, even though his numbers are down against ABC now in first place that still doesn't make it possible in your view for Brian to come back?

ZURAWIK: That was going on before Lester Holt. That's a continuing pattern and I think Lester Holt is doing very well in that chair. I really do. I would stay with him if I was NBC.

KURTZ: And in fairness to Brian Williams, we don't know all the details.
These are leaks and we need to see what he's accused of, what he said, and what he did. David Zurawik, thank you for joining us as always.

Ahead on Media Buzz, yet another MSNBC host hasn't paid his taxes. Is that a problem?

But first, Hillary still keeping her distance from the media as news organizations raise troubling questions about favors and cash at the Clinton foundation, the editor of the Washington Times and The Washington Post reporter who covers her, in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: As the media scrutiny of the Clinton foundation intensifies, Hillary Clinton still mostly avoiding the press.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, we're back into the political season and therefore, we will be subjected to all kinds of distraction and attacks and I'm ready for that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Joining us now, Anne Gearan who covers Hillary Clinton for The Washington Post, and John Solomon, editor in chief The Washington Times.
John when you were at "Newsweek," you floored a project with author Peter Schweizer, the Clinton Cashbook didn't pan out, but do you have an impression of his work?

JOHN SOLOMON, WASHINGTON TIMES EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: He's brought to light important things that have had a dialogue. Congress reacted to his last book in 2011 with a book that dealt with insider trading. And I've been trained that you listen to everyone and then you sort out the facts and you try to write what is important. I think he's hit on another line this that we've all been very familiar with. Access to cash, that's been a Clinton story line for 20 years.

KURTZ: That's been a story line about a lot of politicians.

Anne Gearan, is there a difference between The Washington Post teaming up with Peter Schweizer or teaming up with groups like Propublica or Keizer family foundation or sources who may have a partisan viewpoint?

ANNE GEARAN, THE WASHINGTON POST: That's a really tough one. What our editors have said is that Schweizer's background is a relevant point, but it isn't one that would necessarily exclude us from considering the fact he has put together, as a basis for reporting. And that's what the paper did; in a piece we published this week, is essentially took a look at what he had put together, and then did our own reporting. I will point out, that was separate from the reporting that I do covering Clinton as a candidate.
It was our investigative team.

KURTZ: Right and that Washington Post story looked at all of the overlap between Clinton donors -- Clinton foundation donors, I should say, and speaking fees to Bill Clinton and things like that.

GEARAN: Right, very complicated.

KURTZ: As somebody deals with a lot of sources, you've worked with organizations like "60 minutes," it's pretty common, is it not, for reporters to cultivate all kinds of sources and some of them are shady characters and some of them are partisan, but it comes down to the solidity of the information.

SOLOMON: It does. When my mom calls me -- I know everyone has a motivation.
When my mom calls me there's a reason she's calling me. Sorry about that, mom. But, motive is important. Is it factual? And the other thing you have to look at, particularly when you're dealing with an author is the constraints that the publisher may put on us; this is one of the areas that came up in Newsweek. Peter wants to control what the story may cover and not cover. You need to have dependence as a journalist. I think if you address those three things, you can work effectively an author, you can work effectively with a partisan and I think those rules work well.

KURTZ: In this case, I don't think it puts any constraints on what they could do in pursuing what he developed. So, you covered Hillary Clinton when she was secretary of state, in a very different kind of press corps, and you cover her campaign now, when I think to put it with a certain understated tone, she hasn't been terribly accessible to the media, particularly as this story has exploded. Talk about the difference there?

GEARAN: It really couldn't be more different. She went from being a presidential candidate with an enormous press corps and a very high-profile to being secretary of state, which, while a high-profile job, comes with a rather small plane compared to air force one or campaign plane. And a small press corps in the back of the plane. And over time, there's a real intimacy that develops between the secretary of state and the secretary of defense --

KURTZ: Do you think these policies mostly in global matters and not the rough and tumble of a campaign.

GEARAN: Right, there are 12 reporters on the plane who only care about the Iran nuclear deal, or North Korean missiles or whatever, and really are most of the time, only going to ask the secretary of state about those relevant issues at hand. And she got comfortable and accustomed to that.
And now it's very different.

KURTZ: And do the Clinton -- the people around Clinton, the aides, the handlers, the spinners, when a story like this breaks about the foundation, donors, and cash, do they talk to you on background? Do they try to guide the story? Obviously, Hillary Clinton, the candidate, didn't say anything.

GEARAN: Only that very small clip you played is the only time she's addressed it, and that was -- right, exactly. It was after a campaign event. It wasn't actually part of what she set out to do that day, as a candidate. I will say that one really big difference between the last time she ran, and also to a degree, when she was secretary of state and now is the media team she's put together, by and large, are people who have a strong and long track record of pretty good relationships with --

KURTZ: But is it frustrating for you as a reporter that you can't get anything out of the --

GEARAN: Oh, absolutely. No, we would love to be able to put some pretty serious and specific questions to her about her own relationship with the foundation. Do you wish, for example, that you had not put your name on the foundation way back when? Would that have been a simpler and cleaner decision? And no, those things are all being handled by intermediaries, both on her campaign and at the foundation.

KURTZ: These questions about access to a candidate and the press always wants more come up in every campaign, every candidate, but do you think in particular that the Hillary Clinton campaign is hurting itself by the way it's dealing with the press corps, because these are legitimate questions.
They're not gotcha questions, they are not personal questions.

SOLOMON: These are questions of policy and government integrity. Mrs.
Clinton has always struggled with being able to come out in front of an issue. She was always behind some of the issues in Whitewater 90s and it sort of created the idea of secrecy. And then, when the story would come out you got a complete accounting it wasn't always what you thought it was.

KURTZ: That e-mail question as well.

SOLOMON: Absolutely.

KURTZ: Do you think those battles of the '90s and those scars on both sides have undoubtedly, are sort of playing a role, and forming the backdrop for her in 2015?

SOLOMON: When I talk to her aids, they struggle. They want her to get out there a little bit more and there's a natural tendency for her to gravitate and wait and wait behind the story and I think that's going to play all to the campaign.

KURTZ: John Solomon and Anne Gearan, former colleagues of the 8th page, thanks very much for stopping by and after the break, why Dana Perino almost quit the Bush White House and her rocky transition to Fox News, and later, the scurrilous case of Iran bringing bogus charges against a Washington Post reporter.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: Quick tweeter out there, Bruce Jenner interview from Scott Roberts:
Leave Bruce alone. He married into the Kardashians, hasn't he suffered enough? I used to deal with Dana Perino when she was White House press secretary, and she was so diligent and measured, I didn't envision her as a cable news star. She just published a memoir for political and media career and the good news is lessons and advice from the bright side. I sat down with her in New York.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Dana Perino, welcome.

DANA PERINO, THE FIVE CO-HOST: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

KURTZ: When you worked at the Bush White House, on the day that you were going to be told that you were going to become White House press secretary, you were actually prepared to quit. Why?

PERINO: Well, I had been working in the White House for several years; I'd been with the administration since right after 9/11. I had been a deputy press secretary, which was a great job, but around that time, the Chief Of Staff, Josh Bolten, had asked senior staff, if you feel like you can't make it through 'til the end, the president needs some fresh energy, and I was tired. And I also thought do I have anymore to learn here? I was challenged every day, but I started getting these ideas of having some personal time and my husband was certainly looking forward to that.

KURTZ: You wanted your life back? Instead you became press secretary.

PERINO: I said, I kind of want my life back, and he said I want my wife back. And that affected me. We've gone on a short trip and we were on our way home, and I said to my husband, I think I'm ready. But I was really nervous about telling the president. Because I don't think I was quite actually as ready to leave as I thought I was. I went in to tell Ed Gillespie that I was resigning, and he said, I have something for you first, and he offered me the job as a press secretary.

KURTZ: And the rest is history. You became concerned when Scot McClellan, one of your predecessors wrote a book that was highly critical of President Bush and you called him and things did not go well?

PERINO: Correct. Scott McClellan was not only my boss, he was press secretary and hired me as his deputy, but we were also very good personal friends. I knew that he was writing a book, the way he described it to me that it was not going to be negative about President Bush, but certainly was portrayed that way by an editor early on in the process when he announced the actual formal book. I contacted Scott, and it was very clear that that was the book that he intended to write. I didn't try to talk him out of writing the book, but I did have an immense amount of concern for him, because I thought that his future would be harmed, but also for the president. And I also had a sense of personal betrayal from a friend, so I was very upset about that book.

KURTZ: And you say that you were angry when the book came out, and then you wound up talking to George W. Bush about it and he told you what?

PERINO: The president asked me to try to forgive Scott. And I said, well, can I throw him under bus first? And he said, no. That he didn't want me to live bitterly and asked me to try to forgive him. And I said, yes, sir. And as I was walking out of the oval office, he said, by the way, I don't think you'd ever do this to me -- and that's when I realized he knew me better than I knew myself. Because I was very worried that Scott betraying the president would then spill over into the very good relationship I had with president bush. And it never did.

KURTZ: And another conversation you had with the president came after -- this was during the 2008 campaign, and you had pushed back against Hillary Clinton, then a candidate, saying that George W. Bush didn't care about the elderly, and Hillary ended up using that in a fund-raising pitch, and the president was not pleased.

PERINO: The president had very explicit instructions for all of us that we were not to get involved in the campaign. And everybody was running against the incumbent at that time, even the republican. So his advice to us was just, leave it alone. I did that for the most part, but it always bothered me, because we're just leaving some things on the table here and it's hurting the president's reputation and it bothered me. There was one day, I knew the facts, so I hit back, and 45 minutes later, Hillary Clinton's campaign was off to the races with a fund-raising appeal. And I got a call from the president who was at his ranch and I was in Waco, and he said, I know what you're trying to do, and you're trying to protect me, but I'm going to be fine. And the best thing that we can do is focus on the work we need to do and leave the politics to everybody else.

KURTZ: What I found fascinating here is what you describe as a pretty rocky transition to Fox News. You say in the early days, weeks, months, you pulled your punches about the Obama administration and someone that spelled out H-E-L-L and S-E-X.

PERINO: I was nervous because I had never spoken my own opinion. For several years as head of my career I spoke for other people including the President of the United States.

KURTZ: Right. And now is what Dana Perino thinks.

PERINO: Yeah and sometimes I didn't know what I thought.

KURTZ: And then you're up against these really strong personalities. And you say that you liked civility, but you work for a very aggressive cable news network and people, you say, think you're too nice, too reserved, too vanilla and they want more spunk and outrage from you, so how you doing in the spunk and outrage department?

PERINO: Every once in a while, I let someone get my goat, but one of the things I write about in the book is the importance of grace and dignity.
And the way I think about that, when I was press secretary, I would always imagine when I was at the podium, if President Bush was watching the press briefing, if I thought that he wasn't going to be proud of something that I was saying, then I didn't say it. And conducting myself with that kind of grace, dignity, and humility and strength, I always felt that I had to have more facts than everybody else.

KURTZ: But are you worried that the more you mix it up, the more that you throw elbows, the more you leave behind the sort of let's all get along persona when you first came to Fox, you become more of the --

PERINO: I'll let the viewers decide that. One of the things I enjoy is that I'm called the voice of reason on the Five, for better or worse, and I also let my personality shine through and I write about how I've actually found a good balance and taken some of the things I've learned, provided some advice to other people, and also realized that it's okay to be myself.
That's been a great thing for me in my transition to Fox and to being on television, speaking for myself, not for somebody else.

KURTZ: Well, you can go up against those other guys and gals; you're obviously doing something right. Dana Perino thanks very much for sitting down with us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

Coming up, PBS is investigating why Ben Affleck was allowed to whitewash his family's history.

And some at MSNBC like talking about the importance of taxes, but paying them, not so much.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: You would think that television pundits make enough money to pay their taxes but now comes word that Toray who co-hosts the cycle at MSNBC owes $59,000 thousand in back taxes according to national review and he has companied MSNBC. Melissa Harris Perry and her husband owe $70,000 thousand, Joy Reed $5,000, and Al Sharpton and his organizations owe $4.5 millions, though the Reverend disputes that figure. These are the same hosts, some of them who talk about the importance of taxes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Taxes are how we all do our part.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's part of the problem. Not everyone does seem to be paying their dues.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're all afraid to vote for even a moderate tax increase of people who can totally afford it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: There's been no comment with the hosts or MSNBC. I don't like to pile on people when they're having financial problems. Let me say I hope they get their act together and pay what they owe. And in our press picks.
This media fail, PBS investigating whether a show is violating editorial standards for the way the program covered Ben Affleck's family history without acknowledging one of his ancestors was a slave owner. Here's what did air.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ben traces the roots of his social consciousness to his mother.

Teacher and activist, Christopher Ann Bolt, she always told me the character of a person is defined by adversity rather than when everything is going well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: We now know thanks to those "Hack Sony" e-mails that the actor lobbied the show's host and produce to edit out material about his family's slave history. Gates wrote that 4 or 5 of his guests this season descended from slave owners and "We've never anyone try to censor or edit what we've found. He's a mega star. What do we do?" The megastar has apologized on Facebook. Affleck writing "We deserve neither credit nor blame for our ancestors, and the degree of interest in this story suggests that we as a nation, still grappling with the legacy of slavery I didn't want any Television show to include a guy who owned slaves. I was embarrassed."

Affleck should be embarrassed by his heavy handed conduct, not long ago ancestors and of course he can't do anything about. And PBS for its own creditability needs to get to the roots of this. I'm buzzed off by Iran's outrageous treatment of journalist, and what a shock, President Obama takes a whack at the press at last night's black tie media dinner.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: I am buzzed off about the way Iran is continuing to hold a Washington Post reporter on ludicrous charges of paper reporting this week that he is being charged with espionage with collaborating with hostile governments and propaganda against the establishment. Post Editor, Marty Baron calling those allegations absurd and despicable. And the White House spokesperson Josh Earnest had this to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: If the reports are true, these charges are absurd, should be immediately dismissed and Jason should be freed immediately so he could return home to his family.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Iran has been held for nine months essentially for being a reporter.
No civilized country should act like this. The administration needs to keep the pressure on.

Time for your top tweets, how are the mainstream media covering Hillary and the Clinton foundation controversy.

DONALD DENTONO: Much better than I thought they would. The real question is will they continue to investigate.

ESPINOSAS ROSE: Joe Scarborough handled it with principle, decisiveness.
CNN downplays it. Fox indulges in shroud and froidish noise.

MARIE: The only one that is obsessed with this are you and your cohorts at Fox. Let's ask the same about Republicans secret donors.

GARY R: The media have been fair but that will change if she wins the nominations, and has a Republican opponent just as it did in 2008.

When I was at last night's White House correspondence dinner, I knew President Obama would take his customary swipes at cable news.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On Saturday night live, Sicily impersonates CNN anchor Brook Baldwin, which is surprising because usually the only people impersonating journalists on CNN, are journalists on CNN.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: And there were jokes about Fox News scaring white people and MSNBC's abysmally low ratings. Not as many celebrities at this nerd prom which at least kept the focus on the famous for Washington celebrities in chatting with Katie Couric and Justice Scalia.

That's it for this edition of "Media Buzz," I'm Howard Kurtz. We hope you like our Facebook page. You can e-mail us: mediabuzz@Foxnews.com those features, media questions, we're back here next Sunday morning 11 and 5 Eastern with the latest buzz.

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