This is a rush transcript from "MediaBuzz," June 21, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: On the Buzz Meter this Sunday, the media focusing on gun control after the terrible shooting at that Charleston church. Are they pushing this as a 2016 campaign issue?
Jeb Bush who might be President, and Donald Trump who won't be president competing for media oxygen, and well, it was a contest.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: You view your last name as a liability in some ways? Do you view it as helpful in some ways?
JEB BUSH, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't sit on a couch and get all hung up about this. I'm blessed to be Jeb Bush, but I know if I'm going to be successful, I have to make my own way as a candidate.
DONALD TRUMP, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will be the greatest jobs president that God ever created. I tell you that.
BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS: ISIS, how are you going to defeat ISIS?
TRUMP: I would hit them so hard, I would find out proper general, I would the Patton or the McArthur, I would hit them so hard your head would spin.
TRUMP: There is nobody bigger or better at the military than I am.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Should the press be taking the Donald seriously, and did Jeb's announcement speech help change his media image? Ted Cruz, punching back at the media for treating Republicans unfairly and for portraying him as kind of crazy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TED CRUZ, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Look, the mainstream media is not fair and impartial. They have served, I believe, as the Praetorian Guard protecting Barack Obama, and this presidency. And I think no one is more ready for Hillary than the mainstream media.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: My conversation with the Senator as we continue our sit down with the presidential candidates. Plus, NBC decides against bringing Brian Williams back as Anchor after his Iraq provocation, Lester Holt getting the nod instead. Williams will become Breaking News Anchor for MSNBC and is now asking for forgiveness.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: I was sloppier and I said things that weren't true. Looking back, that's plain.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Can he rehabilitate himself, and how badly has NBC's brand been damaged? I'm Howard Kurtz and this is Media Buzz.
In the wake of the horrible shootings at a black church in Charleston, the media's focus turning to gun control and race and what the presidential candidates are saying. Hillary Clinton warning over the weekend that we must keep guns out of the hands of criminals, and the violently unstable and "Once again racist rhetoric has metastasized into racist violence."
While Ted Cruz, who we'll from later, says Democrats are using Charleston as an excuse to take away the Second Amendment Rights of law abiding citizens. Joining us now, Mercedes Schlapp, Columnist for U.S. News, Republican Strategist, and a Former White House Aide to George W. Bush., AB Stoddard, Associate Editor of the Hill, and Joe Trippi, Democratic Strategist and a Fox News Contributor. Mercy let me read to you, two political headlines in the last day or so. Hillary Clinton calls for common sense gun reforms in the wake of Charleston shooting and Republican candidates struggle to talk about race, guns. Accurate portrayal or media spin?
MERCEDES SCHLAPP, FMR SPOKEPERSON FOR PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH: It's a pretty decent accurate portrayal. But I would like to say, on the Republican side two of these candidates, Ben Carson being one of them, Governor Scott Walker, talking about race relations, talking about the need for the country to unite, talking about fact that the shooter was a racist. Beyond that, I do believe that some of these candidates did struggle. Senator Marco Rubio kind of ignored the topic when he spoke on Friday at one of the conferences, and Jeb Bush started slowly. He said he didn't understand what was in the heart of the shooter but at the same time later on said, it was racially motivated, so again, a little too long on the Republican side.
KURTZ: So fair for the media to point that out.
KURTZ: Now President Obama in the wake of the shootings, talked about gun control. But he got kind of dinged by the media, Joe Trippi, for saying well the politics of D.C. won't allow for any action, this of course after he failed to successfully get any kind of gun control initiative through after Newtown.
JOE TRIPPI, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: He's right. The politics of D.C. will probably make it impossible to get any action done. That's been the case over many of these mass shootings.
TRIPPI: The outcry goes about gun control or race or whatever the issue was and then nothing happens.
KURTZ: And when the media criticized the president for -- as some said waving a white flag, is that because a lot of journalists are sympathetic to the idea of at least some gun control reforms?
TRIPPI: Yeah, I think that's probably true. A lot of Americans are there as well. I just don't think -- I think the President wasn't throwing in the towel so much as talking in terms of reality. You're not going to see
-- I don't think we'll see a lot of change. You did see that even now over the debate about the flag.
KURTZ: Confederate flag.
TRIPPI: Confederate flag, yeah.
KURTZ: And AB, in that political article, it said that except for Ben Carson, Republicans struggling to characterize the motivation behind the tragic shooting. Is that a fair observation?
AB STODDARD, THE HILL: Yeah. Mercedes points out that it was slow coming for the people who ended up there, but for Ben Carson, Ted Cruz also to his credit said it was a racially motivated crime.
KURTZ: Kind of hard to avoid though.
STODDARD: But it's really not risky. I don't understand why this is difficult. You get right to it. We knew before they found this guy and we knew his name, we knew that he said you rape our women and you're taking over our country and you have to go. We knew that Thursday morning. So what is the political risk for saying this is a racist act by a racist man?
SCHLAPP: And it almost took a page out of Governor Haley's statement. I think that's what the Republican's kind of did. She didn't even mention the word racism or anything like that when she gave her first emotional speech when it did happen. So again, they looked at Governor Haley and I think they kind of took a page out of her...
KURTZ: White supremacist going to a black church with a gun. I think there's any question about it. Let me move to the rest of the campaign.
Jeb Bush, we mentioned at the top, more or less designated as a media's front runner. Got about one day of coverage for his announcement speech in Miami, while Donald Trump more or less designated by the media as a joke, has been driving the punishment debate all week. The tabloid New York Daily News, we see it there, even calls him a clown right on the cover.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC: Bush is running to me for the nomination of a political party that no longer exists. He has a Mexican wife. He is the brother of a president who led us in a ground war in Iraq that his party is totally against.
KIMBERLY GUILFOYLE, FOX NEWS: I don't care what your last name is, if you're qualified you have passion and vision for the country, then you should be able to pay it forward and serve this country.
MARA LIASON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: I think this is Donald Trump's biggest day, and he will be ignored from hence forth.
GEORGE WILL, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: What makes Mr. Trump particularly interesting is A, he's very injurious to the Republican Party because he takes in some ways the most interesting field since the Republicans first fielded a candidate in 1856 and makes it look silly.
TRUMP: I've had a couple people, you know I'm not a fan of Krauthammer, I'm not a fan of George Will, and he's a total dope.
STEVE DOOCY, FOX NEWS: The Daily News today put this picture, "Clown Runs for President."
TRUMP: The Daily News is going to be out of business very soon. It's doing no business whatsoever and they do that for circulation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: We'll break away right now and go to Charleston where church service is under way to remember those nine victims. Let's pick up the live feed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REV. GOFF: To work until not only justice in this case, but for those who are still living in the margin of life, those who are less fortunate than ourselves that we stay on the battlefield until there is no more fight to be fought. And for that we say thank you. Now, for the test, somebody said I thought we heard the test. No, you just heard the pretest. Let me hasten on and draw your attention to Psalm 46. I won't be before you long. But if I see somebody trying to nod and sleep in this warm room, I promise you I will start with Genesis. And I will read very slowly. And you think they're passing out water now, you just wait until I get to them. Psalm 46, the first seven verses. You will find these words recorded in King James' version of the bible. Psalm 46, God is our refuge and strength, a present help in trouble. Therefore, will not repeal, though the earth be removed and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea, though the waters, there are brought and be troubled more. The mountains shake with the swelling thereof, there is a river, the streams are whereof shall be may drive the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most high. God is in the midst of hurt, she shall not be moved. God shall help her.
And that right herb, the heaven rage and the kingdoms were moved, the other heard his voice and the earth melt. The lord of host is with us. The God of Jacob is our refuge. Let us pray. Our father and our God, thank you for blessing the spiritual food for which we are now about to eat in the name of Jesus, we pray. And the people of God shall say amen. God is our refuge. Every now and then, you and I must realize that we've had some difficult days, and some of us have been in one kind of trouble or another.
When we were young, we would run to our parents when we got in trouble.
And when we got a little older, we began to confide in our friends, our spouses, and other co-workers. When we got in trouble sometime, we just couldn't tell anybody what had happened. When we got in trouble, have you ever been in trouble? Stayed up all night, trying to figure out the solution, only to have a greater headache than you started out with, but when you and I realized that there are some things we just can't handle by ourselves. I wish I had a witness. There are some problems and issues that we are unable to provide answers to. I want to suggest and recommend to you this morning, if you find a problem or situation too hard for you, I want you to know that it's just right for God.
I wish I had a witness here. When evil is in the world, you and I may not be able to control the evildoers, but I want you to know the day that I know a man who is able to handle all of our problems. Some of us are still trying to seek answers to what happened last week Wednesday. Well, I've been there and done that and spent the night. And I've decided to turn it over -- you all aren't hearing me. I decided to turn it over to Jesus.
Preacher, are you saying right now, you mean we ought to forget what had happened? No, don't forget. But to remember that the God who created our soul, is the God who will make a way out of nowhere. Yes, there are answers that we are still waiting for, but the answers still by leaving our hand in the hand of God. I'm reminded by some news media persons that wonder why the nine families all spoke of forgiveness, and didn't have malice in their hearts. Well, on this Father's Day, you ought to know the nine families guided. Nine families guided, you will know how the children are behaving. After all, our daddy said, we ought to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.
If you knew our daddy, you would know that he sat weeping at night. If you knew our daddy, you would know that some days are up, and some days are down, almost level to the ground. But if you knew our daddy, you would say when I look back over my life and see what the lord has done for us, my soul, my soul cries out hallelujah, thank God for saving me. God is our refuge, and strength. Then the first point you ought to remember from this brief message is that we are to put our hope and trust in God. Stock markets may crash. Friends may leave you. Mom and dad may be called back home to God himself. If you keep your hand in God's hand, he'll make a way somehow. The second point I want you to remember from this sermon that God is our refuge and strength is that praise for the great things for he has already done. God has a track record. God has a track record. I just want to share with you that I have to praise how many of you have praise in their spirit? And I don't go through a whole litany of things early in the morning.
I have got five things I say, and sometimes it gets to ten. Here's what I say, the reason I praise him, and he woke me up this morning. Can I get a witness? And the second reason I say is he woke me up this morning, and the third reason I praise him, I say he woke me up this morning. And the fourth reason I praise him, he woke me up this morning. By the time I get to the fifth one, he woke me up this morning. And he started me on my way, happy in my hand. Give me power to do his will. Sit down. You are worrying me now. The third reason I want you to remember, as I prepare to go to my seat, God is our refuge and strength, he comforts us with the knowledge that God who has always protected us. That's why I was so pleased when the authorities made the phone call to us, to say you can go back to mother Emanuel to worship. Some folks might need more time in order to walk in. But for those who are here this morning, I want you to know because the doors of mother Emanuel is open on this Sunday. It sends a message to every demon in hell and on earth, that no weapon, no weapon shall prosper, no weapon held against us.
Some wanted to divide to raise black and white and brown, but no weapon formed against us shall prosper. All right, sit down now. I'm about to close out. I want to thank you for listening to this message. But I don't want you to leave here without a life application to the message. When times of trouble come into our lives, how do we respond? Do we respond by being afraid and resort to fear, or do we respond in faith? Well, as for me and my household, somebody says for me, for me and Sister Garvin, our boys and our friends, as for me and my household, we will serve the lord.
Because it's by faith that we are standing here and sitting here this morning, faith of our fathers and faith of the mothers and faith of the church in which God has brought us into. Yes, you showed up this morning.
We are serving notice on every evil doer. That just because you think you got the victory, I got an e-mail that was turned into an e-mail that turned into a message to you.
Remind them that I am still God, and beside me, there is no other. And we have some difficulties ahead. But the only way evil can triumph is for good folks to sit down and do nothing. But if we are people of faith, we will join hands and begin to work together to forge a new partnership. Not them against us, but we are the children of God who will be marching onto victory. The Psalm has said that when they were in trouble, they ran and found a place that was a refuge in him. Talking about a refuge in God, some of us when we get in trouble, we run from God but those of us who are people of faith, we run to God.
That's why we can't have enough prayer vigil, we can't have enough worship and singing and praising, because that entire God inhabits our praise. God is our refuge. I'm going to close and go to my seat. God has been mighty good to us. And some folk have called him many names. Some folk have called him Mary's baby. Some folk have called him the bright and morning star. Some have called him my bridge over troubled waters. Some called him my alpha and my omega and my beginning and my end. Some called him the Lilly of the valley. Do we have a witness? Some have called him a leaning post. Some have called him a battle ax in a time of war. Some have called him a leaning post. My mama called him a sure foundation. My daddy called him -- somebody say hallelujah. My daddy called him a way maker, a way maker. But I call him by his name, and his name is above all names, and his name is the bright and morning star, the living water, and I call him Jesus. I call him Jesus. How many call him Jesus? If I get 12 folks to stand up and say Jesus, God is my refuge and my strength.
When I'm weak he makes me strong. When I'm tired he makes me strong. When I'm weary, he makes me strong. When evil doers come upon my track, he makes me strong. But I'm so glad as I sit down at this time, to put it this way. I have seen the lightning flash. I've heard the thunder roll.
I felt trying to conquer my soul, but I heard -- somebody say I head, I heard the master boy to say fight on. Fight on. Because he promised -- somebody say he promised, never.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Reverent. Dr. Norvel Goff, Sr. brings some healing moments to that Charleston church that was visited by evil. Let's go now to Fox News Correspondent, Rich Edson, who is outside the church. And Rich, a lot of people there to hear what the Reverend had to say?
RICH EDSON, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, some 1,200 capacity inside Howie, and there's just about that standing outside. This has been a day and a scene where we have seen hundreds stream by, and for days we have seen mourners leaving flowers, bringing prayers, singing songs, joining in ways to remember the victims here. The Reverend Norvel Goff is who we've just heard from right now. He thanked all of those who have sent e-mails, who have been coming here leaving flowers and cards throughout the day.
And he also mentioned this, there are a lot of folks who expected us to do something strange and break out in a riot. He said they just don't know us. We're people of faith. We work toward a common good. There's nothing we can't accomplish together in the name of Jesus. And Howie, tonight we do expect thousands to span a local bridge here, arm and arm to remember those who were killed here just a few days ago. This is somewhat of a surprise, we weren't sure if they were going to hold regular church services this morning, but we got the announcement yesterday from church leaders at 8:30 this morning, bible study has normally gone on here on Sunday mornings. And prayer services and church services at 9:30 that are still ongoing right now.
KURTZ: Thanks very much, Rich Edson in Charleston. If you want to continue to watch this church service -- I'm so glad that we were able to bring that to you this morning. You can follow the live streaming on foxnews.com. Let's briefly go around the table, some reactions to these moments.
SCHLAPP: Wow, powerful, just powerful. It reminds me of the moments of
9/11 where out of tragedy can come hope and healing. And Reverend Goff did that clearly today with his message.
STODDARD: The coverage of this has been so incredible to watch. Because this killer intent on dividing a community and country united the whole faith filled community in black, white together. Everything has been peaceful. And people are uplifted by it. It's incredible.
KURTZ: I could not agree more. Joe?
TRIPPI: Look, I think his words were well spoken, amazing and moving and it speaks to the unity that's come together across the country, both in denouncing the tragedy but also in mourning the victims. The problem is, I think, moving forward there won't be a whole lot of agreement about what, if anything, to do about it.
KURTZ: Right. The media focused so much attention on the dark side of society, it's nice that we can at least provide some of those moments that you saw there at that church in Charleston. We'll be right back.
KURTZ: Welcome back. Due to breaking news out of Charleston, we'll bring you that interview with Senator Ted Cruz. There's a lot of interesting things to say on next week's program. Let me go back to our panel. Before we broke away to the church service, we were playing some clips and more clips about Donald Trump getting all this attention. And my question is with Jeb Bush announcing on Monday and Trump announcing on Tuesday, how is it that Donald Trump got a week's worth of coverage? A guy who many people think is mostly providing entertainment.
SCHLAPP: Sure. He's incredibly provocative and controversial figure with these outrageous one-liners that seem to somehow make the news. And the media loves that. It drives what the media is looking for which is sort of entertainment.
KURTZ: Let's seize the oil from ISIS. Let's build the wall on Mexico paper.
SCHLAPP: What's been fascinating to watch is that the conservative media has been split on Trump. So you've got (Inaudible) George Will basically saying, he shouldn't be running, etcetera, and then on the other hand, you've got a Rush Limbaugh or Mark Levin. Rush Limbaugh saying that Trump's message is going to resonate, so you've actually even created division amongst the conservative party.
KURTZ: I've covered Trump for a long time, Joe. And most of the pundits, who are making fun of him, are also lavishing coverage on him. And he knows that, he knows how to play this game. And he knows that making these bombastic statements will draw more coverage. And plus, he went on a lot of shows.
TRIPPI: And I would not underestimate him. I think people who sort of write him off as a joke are making a big mistake. Some particular styles testing on the air earlier today, where his comments, these blunt statements are actually making the numbers go off the charts for a while.
He takes it too far and then drops off. But I think in a race where everybody is around 10 percent, it's unclear that he can't get into the top...
KURTZ: If what you're saying is correct, then a lot of the pundits are just flat wrong. Because you have New York Daily News putting him on the cover as s a clown, he has a lot of money to spend obviously. But I see a certain amount of hypocrisy here by the media. Because they claim this is a clown. A cartoonish figure, and ego maniac, and yet journalists are secretly thrilled because Donald Trump, because of the reasons that Joe just enumerated, drives a lot of ratings and clinics.
STODDARD: Right. But also they are treating him like a legitimate candidate by covering the announcement, and then covering everything he said or tweeted since. There's a whole bunch the panels all across mainstream media, was a conservative this week and discussions about how much of a chance he has, how much do these statements resonate, how much of an effect will it have on the whole race and debates especially, that's treating him like a legitimate and credible candidate.
KURTZ: And he unites the left and right -- so here, National Review Headlines, witless ape rides escalator, referring to Trump. Salon, the liberal side says, a blowhard reality show hack, so he's a candidate the media loves to hate but loves to cover.
SCHLAPP: Right and actually MSNBC's Ed Schultz for example, loves Donald Trump. He's made positive comments about Donald Trump. So it becomes an issue with him whether he's able -- what he's going to do is create a lot of noise and is that effectively going, and the media is going to follow it.
KURTZ: Meanwhile, Jeb Bush, a very serious candidate, who answers a lot of questions from the press. He doesn't get that much coverage or at least didn't this week which should have been his week.
TRIPPI: That's the problem for the rest of the field that Trump creates.
There's a bunch of people we haven't heard of and we're not going to, because media coverage of Trump is so overbearing that they get lost in the weeds. Even Jeb Bush is having trouble getting some oxygen. He'll get it eventually I think. But Trump is going to preempt that.
KURTZ: I think our priorities are upside down.
TRIPPI: Well, you know what, there are 17 people in the race, and they all have to be covered. So if there were only three people, they would get more attention. Every candidate is treated -- Jeb Bush I think admittedly is quite dull. I think he's earnest and smart and I think people think he's really capable and that's why he's collected the most money.
KURTZ: All right. Sorry our time got truncated here. But thanks very much, Mercy Schlapp, AB Stoddard, and Joe Trippi. When we come back, NBC agrees to keep Brian Williams, but bars him from returning to the anchor chair. Does that plan make any sense?
KURTZ: Brian Williams apologized on Friday and accepted a demotion after NBC barred had him from returning to the anchor chair. He spoke to his colleague, Matt Lauer, about a downward spiral that began with a false war story about Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS Two of our four helicopters were hit by ground fire, including the one I was in, RPG and AK-47.
Looking back, it had to have been ego that made me think I had to be sharper, funnier, and quicker then anybody else. Put myself closer to the action.
You say I was not trying to mislead people, but I need to make sure we understand each other here.
MATT LAUER, NBC NEWS: Did you know when you went on "Nightly News" that you were telling a story that was not true?
WILLIAMS: No. I -- it came from a bad place.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: NBC awarding the Nightly News job to Lester Holt, while Williams will be relegated to Anchor for breaking news at MSNBC. This after a network review found, Williams had made a number of inaccurate statements and not just about Iraq. Joining us now from the ZBlock is David Zurawik, Television and Media Critic for The Baltimore Sun. Now you called for Brian Williams to be banished from Nightly News at the very beginning of this mess, what about those who say the punishment is too harsh?
DAVID ZURAWIK, BALTIMORE SUN MEDIA CRITIC: You know, Howie, if credibility is what you base a news division on, it's what you sell, how cannot banishing him be a good idea? Why do you move him from -- he's not trustworthy enough to be the anchor for NBC news but he is for MSNBC.
KURTZ: That's my next question, if the credibility is the issue, what about credibility of MSNBC?
ZURAWIK: It says -- what would a potential viewer to MSNBC say? It's like you run an accounting firm and one of the accountants stole from one of your clients, and you say rather than firing him, we're going to move him from the a-list of clients down to b-list of clients. Nobody is going to be happy. He stole. That's the point, Howie. A lie is a lie and a liar is a liar. That's why I said banish him. All this other stuff of that statement from NBC saying well most of it, he didn't say on the air on NBC platforms. No, it's still a lie. The moral reasoning here is so tortured that you have to wonder why NBC would not just end its relationship with him.
KURTZ: It was obviously a compromised decision. I have to say he was contrite interview. I felt some sympathy for him as a guy who basically imploded his career by not telling the truth. It was very noteworthy and Matt Lauer called him on it, said he wouldn't say I lied. It was also note worthy, was that he was given two opportunities to say what else did you not tell the truth about, and he deflected the question, and NBC not putting out its internal report, its internal investigation of these problems. What would NBC reporters say if the government said we looked at this and its bad, but we're not going to tell you details.
ZURAWIK: They had trouble even in their statement, even in their release they were calling it one point -- they started out calling it an investigation back in February. Now they're calling it a review. They can't even get their story straight about what they do. I would disagree with you about that interview. Al Tompkins said -- Poynter Institute had a piece. And he said he thought it was a disaster. He said Brian Williams did what some children and criminals do. All of this happened to him. He wasn't the active agent. And he really is. If you look at it, there is a lot of that. He couldn't admit he lied. Something inside of him made him do this.
KURTZ: He said it was a dark place.
ZURAWIK: You know why that dark place isn't going to rear up when he's doing a plane crash into the world trade center live on TV.
KURTZ: Well it's an effort to give him a chance after a 20 or 22-year career at the network to rehabilitate himself. Even though MSNBC wants to move toward straight news in the daytime, Brian Williams is still going to be on the network Rachel Maddow, Ed Schultz, Chris Matthews, and Al Sharpton.
ZURAWIK: In terms of second chances, Howie let me just say this. You know Jason Blair didn't get a second chance. Steven Blast didn't get a second chance. People who dissemble, people who lie in the news business, if you give everybody a second chance, we're going to have no standards. Nobody wants to see somebody go through really bad stuff like he went through.
But you have to have standards. That's all I'm saying about this. So when people say to me everybody deserves a second chance. Americans are forgiving. No. They're forgiving to some of the people connected who are elites. You reported the Jason Blair Story. Do you hear anybody say let's give Jason a second chance?
KURTZ: He was an intentional serial fabricator. Look, Brian Williams obviously by NBC's own reporting, didn't tell the truth on a number of instances. We don't know what those other instances are. The other thing is the news division at rank and file really revolted against him coming back to nightly news. That's why Lester Holt now has the job.
ZURAWIK: Good for them, and good for Lester Holt. Lester Holt deserves this, Howie.
KURTZ: He's a class act. David Zurawik thanks very much.
We'll have more on the coverage of the Charleston shootings in just a moment.
KURTZ: We'll get back to the coverage of Charleston in just a moment.
First, I want to touch on this freakish family feud became a television obsession this week. Rachel Dolezal appearing on the Today Show, after stepping down as the head of the NAACP Spokane office, this after her parents revealed that she was not African-American as she had claimed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAUER: Let me just ask you the question in simple terms again, because you've sent mixed signals over the years. Are you an African-American woman?
RACHEL DOLEZAL: Identify as black.
LAUER: Why point out an African-American man and say that is my father when you know that your father is a Caucasian man?
DOLEZAL: (Inaudible) Wilkinson is my dad. Any man can be a father. Not every man can be a dad.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: And Dolezal's parents in series of TV interviews, hitting back against their daughter.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is that true? Did she identify as black since the age of five?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, that is a fabrication. That's false. That did not happen.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And did you call her up and say what are you doing?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, she did not want to communicate with us about anything. She didn't want to communicate with us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Joining us from New York is Lowell Ogunnaike, a Former New York Times Reporter and now an Anchor at Arise TV. So Lola, this is such a train wreck of a story involving obviously a dysfunctional family. Why did television become so addicted to it?
LOLA OGUNNAIKE, ARISE TV ANCHOR: Because of what you said, Howie, it's a train wreck, and the media loves a good train wreck and especially if that train wreck involves something as instrumental in the founding of this country as race. So you mix the train wreck fascination and race, and you've got a perfect story.
KURTZ: I know there's a debate about whether -- whatever your ethnicity you can simply say I identify as black. But some of the media seem to forget that Rachel Dolezal lied again and again, that she sued Howard University of discrimination because she was white, that she claimed this other black guy was her father, then she says now there's no proof that her parents who actually are her parents, that she's their daughter. Have we lost the focus here?
OGUNNAIKE: Well, I was just wondering why she was allowed to consistently perpetuate these lies. She claims thee was important in a teepee, she was not born in a teepee. She claimed that she was physically abused in South Africa. She's never been to South Africa. She claimed that one of her adopted brothers was her son, not her son, it's her adopted brother. The list goes on and on. She's either seriously troubled woman or a pathological liar or a combination of both, but the fact that this woman was allowed to be given this big of a forum on so many different platforms is deeply, deeply troubling.
KURTZ: Let's touch now on Charleston. What has struck you about the coverage of this shooter who killed nine people in that church?
OGUNNAIKE: Well I just find it very curious how the perpetrator is painted in the media. Some of the portrayals of this gentleman are just simply -- gentleman is not even the proper word, excuse me, the portrayal of this deviant person, just far too sympathetic for my liking, Howie. The fact that they refer to his past, refer to him as troubled, deranged, a lone crazy person. His actions are not emblematic of his entire culture, and I find that when the media tends to talk about black perpetrators, their
actions are emblematic of an entire culture. This person is portrayed as
almost a sympathetic character and I find that deeply troubling. I worry -
- I pray for his family. I pray for the victims of South Carolina. This is a huge tragedy, but this person here clearly has deep rooted problems, but we cannot allow that to then allow us to portray him in a sympathetic manner. He is not a sympathetic character at all. He's evil, he's a murderer and he deserves whatever reckoning is coming his way.
KURTZ: This drives me crazy, and I've made it a policy not to mention the names of these mass murderers because that's what they want. They crave that infamy. But I guess there's a natural tendency on the part of the media to try to understand why somebody would snap, or what makes them tick. I don't really care. They're obviously sick psychopaths and in this case, this is a guy who is a white supremacist, who targeted a black church deliberately. But you say sympathetic, and I don't know that I would go that far.
OGUNNAIKE: Well, why isn't he being called a thug, why isn't he being called a terrorist? Why isn't he being referred to in the ways that many black perpetrators are often referred to as? I find that very curious.
KURTZ: That's a fair point, and so you say when you look at these tragedies and we've been through too many of them.
KURTZ: Too many evil people visiting death on innocent folks, in this case going to a bible study in a church. You think that when the perpetrator is black, the coverage is different in tone than when the perpetrator is white?
OGUNNAIKE: I absolutely do. And I also find it very interesting that some news outlets were reluctant to call this what this is which is a race crime. Some people were trying to argue that this was about Christianity.
This is not about Christianity at all. This person was targeting black people specifically. He wanted to start a race war. He used the N word repeatedly. If you look at his manifesto online, it was clear that he hated black people, and this was a hate crime. This was a terrorist attack, and people need to call it out for what it is.
KURTZ: It was a terrorist attack. I don't think you can say it's not about Christianity at all because it did take place in a church.
OGUNNAIKE: It took place in a church but he was motivated by race primarily and not Christianity. Because he could have attacked a white Christian church, there were many in South Carolina as well. He specifically targeted a black church.
KURTZ: Got to go. Lola Ogunnaike thanks very much. And I want to give you my two cents on this issue. Less than 24 hours after the horrifying shooting at this church that left nine people dead, South Carolina Lawmaker, Todd Rutherford decided to blame this awful tragedy in part on Fox News. Now, I understand Rutherford was grieving after losing a friend in that church, but this was reprehensible. Here's what he told CNN's Jake Tapper.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TODD RUTHERFORD, SC STATE HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: He hears that because he watches the news, and he watches things like Fox News, where they talk about things that they call news but they are really not. They use that coded language, they use hate speech, they talk about the President as if he's not the President, they talk about church-goers as if they are not really church-goers, and that's what this young man acted on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: And then Rutherford doubled down in an appearance with Bill O'Reilly. And I shouldn't even have to say this but we don't even know if the shooter watched Fox. When people on Fox News criticize President Obama, they don't talk about him as if he's not President. No clue what this guy means talking about church-goers as if they are not really church- goers. The shooter was a psychopath, and as I said a white supremacist.
And I would say this whether we learned the shooter watched MSNBC or Al Jazeera for anything else. For this kind of blame goes well beyond Fox.
President Clinton said Rush Limbaugh helped foster a climate of hate that in part led to the Oklahoma City bombing, some Liberals blamed the shooting of Gabby Gifford on Sarah Palin and a political map that contained crosshairs. I spoke out about that then and I say this now, this politicizing of tragedy, blaming violence on some media outlet, or some political figure is ugly, and appalling, and has no place in civil discourse.
Still to come, a few words about the Pope.
KURTZ: Pope Francis plunged into political controversy this week by urging action against climate change, but and his cyclical, also included some bracing media criticism. When media and digital world become omnipresent he said they can stop people from learning how to live wisely, to think deeply and love generously. The pope dismissing the mere accumulation of data is leading to overload and confusion, sort of mental pollution. He worries that real relationships between actual people tend to be replaced by a kind of internet communication which enable to choose or eliminate relationships at whim, shield us from pain, fear and joy and collects a melancholy in harmful isolation. Now who among us hasn't spent too much time staring at a laptop, screen or e-mailing on the iPhone and doesn't get what the pontiff is saying.
That's it for this edition of "MediaBuzz." I'm Howard Kurtz, Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there. We hope you'll check out our Facebook page and give us a like and be part of your buzz, by e-mailing us some questions. We are back here next Sunday morning, 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. Eastern. We'll have my exclusive interview with Ted Cruz talking about the media and, and of course, we'll have the latest buzz.
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