Flimsy Trump 'spousal rape' story; media rip Huckabee on Holocaust

Daily Beast revives divorce charge


This is a rush transcript from "MediaBuzz," August 2, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: On the Buzz Meter this Sunday, the Daily Beast provides an old allegation from a nasty divorce that Donald Trump "raped" his ex-wife Ivana, though she now says that's not true.


DONALD TRUMP, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's a total false thing put out by a website that's failing and losing a lot of money and it's going down the tubes. I think it's amazing what the press is allowed to get away with nowadays, and actually you shouldn't be asking the question after reading her statement. If you want to ask it, it's fine.


KURTZ: Was this fair game for the Republican front runner, along with a story that he lashed out at a breast pumping lawyer?

Mike Huckabee pilloried by the press for refusing to apologize for opposing the Iran nuclear deal by invoking the holocaust.


NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN: It was despicable and terrible. He should apologize.

MIKA BRZEZINSKI, MSNBC: It's a deal breaker. It should be over for him. You don't say that.


KURTZ: Do incendiary comments like these warrant so much coverage?

Four days until the first Fox debate. How much could it help or hurt, Jeb, Scott, Marco and the others going up against The Donald? Plus, Jon Stewart takes me on over a report on his secret White House meeting with the President.


JON STEWART, COMEDY CENTRAL: I can understand if there are some folks at Fox who are concerned that any meeting that I take with a powerful individual should be disclosed, less it be considered possible collusion.


KURTZ: Come on, Jon, you don't think that's a problem?


STEWART: Was the [resident of the United States trying to influence or intimidate or flatter me? My guess is uh-huh. Did it work? Might have.


KURTZ: And that was precisely my point. I'm Howard Kurtz and this is "MediaBuzz."

I covered the titanic tabloid battle between Donald and Ivana Trump as a reporter in New York back in 1990 and boy did it get ugly, now that bitter divorce has been dragged into the presidential campaign by a Daily Beast story with this inflammatory headline, Ex-wife, Trump made me feel violated during sex. This based on a 1993 book citing a divorce deposition from Ivana Trump that used the word rape which she soon walked back, a story that the first Mrs. Trump now says this week says has no merit.


TRUMP: I think we've been treated very unfairly. I've been treated very unfairly. It never happened obviously. Actually, you shouldn't even be even asking the question after reading her statement. But if you want to ask it, it's fine.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS: It's a fair question since you're a public figure obviously, you're running for President, it's a question that was raised.

TRUMP: It's a semi fair question.


KURTZ: But the story has gotten plenty of media attention, especially after Trump's lawyer made threatening comments to the Daily Beast reporter who stands by the story.


MEGYN KELLY, FOX NEWS: You are under fire for writing a piece about a man's divorce, allegations made in it from three decades ago. Why did you think this was relevant?

TIM MAK, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, I think it's relevant because Donald Trump introduced his presidential campaign by making these accusations against Mexican immigrants, saying that many of the people who crossed the border were rapists.


KURTZ: Joining me now, Mercedes Schlapp, a columnist for U.S. News, political consultant and a former Bush White House official. Susan Ferrechio, chief congressional correspondent for the Washington Examiner, and Fred Francis, a former NBC Correspondent now with All right, Mercedes, my position is clear, the Daily Beast story was unfit to print. Your take?

MERCEDES SCHLAPP, FMR SPOKESPERSON FOR PRES. GEORGE W BUSH: You know I feel that it was a fair. It was a fair analysis of the -- win over the written deposition, that's where they got their source from. They presented both sides of the story. Then the story morphed into Michael Cohen approach which was you really can't rape your spouse. So it really turned into two elements of the story.

KURTZ: Why is it fair to bring up -- and by the way, Trump's personal life, three marriages, affairs, fair, that's all fair game in my view. But why is it fair to bring up something that was said in the heat of a divorce battle in which the woman who would be the victim, Ivana Trump, now says she fully supports Donald and this didn't happen?

SCHLAPP: That's right. And so I think that they did end up -- it was written. It's what she said and why not put it out there to the public for the public to decide. And she came out clearly with her statement which I think in the end benefited Donald Trump, in a sense that look, I support my ex-husband. I think he would be a great President.

KURTZ: Fred, people say things and exaggerate things in the heat of contested divorces, is this relevant in the 2016 Presidential Campaign?

FRED FRANCIS, FORMER NBC ANCHOR SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Half of what is said about Donald Trump in this campaign has not been relevant. As a matter of fact, I think most of it is a black eye for journalism. I disagree with Mercedes. The fact is that they are bringing up stuff that's not really journalism, its editorial. Look at the front page of the Washington Post this morning, the Trump platform, because I said so. Well, that's not journalism. That's an editorial that they put above the fold on the front page, 1,868 words and only one Trump supporter is quoted in an article that long. You see that's my point. My point is many, many reporters have gotten away from journalism in this coverage. I don't think Trump cares, frankly.

KURTZ: No. I actually would argue that it benefits Donald Trump to be unfairly attacked by the media because a lot of Republicans and a lot of voters don't like them. Mercy mentioned Michael Cohen, the Trump lawyer who dealt with the Daily Beast where I once worked by saying things like I'm going to mess up your life for as long as you're on the frickin' planet and what I'm going to do is going to be blanking disgusting. He later apologized. Did that change the story?

SUSAN FERRECHIO, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: No. But it should have. It's disturbing. Information is out there. Reporters can report it. We can all decide whether it was good judgment or made a good story or fair story, fine. If the information is there and we want to report about it that a lawyer is out there threatening, that's not the right thing. That's against our right to publish articles and be reporters. This is a threat.

KURTZ: This was colorful.

FERRECHIO: That never ends well. But in this case people don't seem to care. Trump seems to have a Teflon coating when it comes to these situations where public saying that's ok, we know that's how it is with the Trump camp and they seem accepting of it.

KURTZ: Let's go to another deposition, this was from 2011 reported on by the New York Times. A legal dispute, Trump was being questioned by a lawyer named Elizabeth Beck, who then asked to take a break so that she could use a breast pump. Let's look at what she says and what he says.


ELIZABETH BECK, ATTORNEY: His face got red. He shook his finger at me and he screamed you're disgusting. You're disgusting. And he ran out of there.

TRUMP: She wanted to pump in front of me during a deposition.

DANA BASH, CNN: The way that she described it is she wanted to take a break so she could take...

TRUMP: I may have said that's disgusting. I may have said something else. I thought it was terrible. She's a horrible person who knows nothing about me.


KURTZ: Who got the better of that exchange?

SCHLAPP: I believe Beck won that argument hands down. You do not want to get between a mother and her breast pump, let me tell you. I think...

KURTZ: That's your sound bite of the day by the way.

SCHLAPP: No. But I think for Trump it's very offensive. It started going through the mommy blogs and they all jumped on this. And I think it's something that actually more than the rape story, this is something that has legs that could if he were to become the presidential nominee, something that could be brought up.

KURTZ: I thought it was a legitimate story. The New York Times went through a decade of depositions involving Trump lawsuits.

FRANCIS: Trump long ago broke the code on how to make news. He doesn't care what he says. You know that, Howie. When was the last time -- the one time I interviewed him I got halfway through the interview and it was something I disagreed with him on and he said I was a kiss ass for the other side and he walked away.

KURTZ: And you're cleaning it up a little bit.

FRANCIS: And I'm cleaning it up a little bit. But the fact is that he knows how to make news. That's what he's doing, and everybody is falling for it.

KURTZ: When something like this happens where he's under fire for comments or something like this deposition, he doesn't go hide in a bunker. He doesn't have his P.R. person put out a statement. He does more interviews and he takes on the person who is criticizing him.

FERRECHIO: I love the way -- says yeah maybe I did say that. The thing is the public is fairly divided I'd say on the public display of breastfeeding and breast pumps, that whole issue, and sort of a visceral reaction on his part. We don't know if she was threatening to do it in front of him. She was the opposing lawyer in a deposition already, that's going to be an acrimonious relationship right there.


FERRECHIO: Well she said that but he said something different and clearly the public doesn't care. Trump is not bombing in the polls.

KURTZ: I have one more sound bite that's not about breast pumps. This is about immigration, Donald Trump's interview with CNN's Dana Bash in which he tried to describe what his approach would be to illegal immigration.


TRUMP: We have a law, right? You're supposed to come in legally. I would get people out and I would have an expedited way of getting them back into the country so they can be legal.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hold on to that point right there. When you say get people out, are you talking like a mass deportation?

TRUMP: We don't even know who these people are. We have to find them.


KURTZ: Does that hurt him?

SCHLAPP: It definitely complicates matters for him. I think that he's giving different answers to different media outlets. He starts with we're building a wall to now we're going to mass deportation and then bring them back in and expedite a process. And I think it does because Ann Coulter came out on Lou Dobbs last weekend, basically said I hope Trump doesn't change his position on immigration. So I think this is raising a red flag among conservatives.

FRANCIS: This doesn't hurt him. We're 15, 16 months away from an election if he's the nominee. This doesn't hurt him. He has struck a nerve in this country.

KURTZ: Fred, wouldn't it hurt another kind of candidate who suddenly said we're going to take all of the 11 million or 30 million illegal immigrants and get them out of the country and then bring them back.

FRANCIS: That has been said before. Yes, it would hurt another kind of candidate. He is not another kind of candidate. That's why these poll numbers are as they are. Reporters who look at these poll numbers and say these are sleepy summertime polls, well, that's condescending. They're not sleepy summertime polls. This is a nerve.

KURTZ: There is just a new Wall Street Journal/NBCS poll shows Trump leading the Republican field with 19 percent. Another poll shows him ahead now in Iowa. He's already ahead in New Hampshire and he was on three Sunday shows this morning, ABC, CBS, NBC, and he's sucking up that oxygen.

FERRECHIO: He's on everything but Sesame Street at this point. But here's the problem, we know what he thinks about Mexican immigrants. He's been pretty candid about that. We know what he thinks about breast pumps. What about what he thinks about the debt, how would he reduce federal spending, how would he deal with this trade deficit with China? He keeps talking about China. What's he going to do as President? We are overlooking that.

KURTZ: You say he doesn't give policy specifics but the voters at this point don't seem to care. That was the point of the Washington Post piece.

FERRECHIO: The Washington Post piece is not getting to anything substantive either. They are treating him as a novelty candidate who is out there as a character and not as a real person, a real candidate.

SCHLAPP: I think that he is touching a nerve with these voters. You go across the country just talking to activists and they're very much intrigued by him. But again, the key is going to be that debate and how he studies low expectations and where the bar is. I think that's going to be really where the race might start. I think these polls are still too early on. It's not very indicative of what is going to happen by the end of the year as we head to Iowa.


KURTZ: What's fascinating to me are all these pundits who dismissed him as a joke, a clown, a side show, now finally having to grapple with why is Donald Trump connecting with at least part of the Republican base, and every time he says something or gives an interview where he appears to have a misstep, this is it. He's imploding. The summer fling is over, and it's not happening. In fact, all this criticism helps Donald Trump. You set me up for the debate tease so we'll to that in a moment. But don't forget to send me a tweet on Twitter @HowardKurtz, or you e-mail us, When we come back, this week's Fox News debate and the second forum for those who don't make the cut, will it transform this campaign?

And later, Jon Stewart hits back at me over his secret meetings with the President, our final dust up in moments.


KURTZ: Four days until the first Presidential Debate. The Fox face-Off in Cleveland, and lots of questions swirling about who will be on that stage and how Donald Trump and the other contenders will be covered. Fred Francis, in this enormous media buildup, the only stories is about how other candidates are preparing to what they're going to say about Donald Trump. Is this media treating this as entertainment?

FRANCIS: Well, it is entertainment frankly.

KURTZ: To a degree.

FRANCIS: To a degree. I mean listen, on Thursday night, the party's nominee next year in 2016 when it goes into presidential debate will be how to look presidential. This Thursday night, those candidates will be how to look plausible, ok. And to look plausible, ok, you have to be the number two person talked about on Friday morning. The number one person is Donald Trump no matter what. The number two will be the one that gets off the best line about Donald Trump.

SCHLAPP: Yeah, I think it's going to be a fight over jockeying for that breakout moment for that one liner.

KURTZ: But with ten people on stage, maybe there won't be a breakout moment. There will be a couple sound bites that will get played. So you think the hype is justified basically because it's going to be such a moment?

SCHLAPP: Everyone's going to be looking at Donald Trump and how the candidates respond to Donald Trump. It will be -- what is Governor Jeb Bush's one liner when Donald Trump attacks him? What is going to be Senator Marco Rubio's line? And how can they really stay above the fray? All eyes will be on the questions of how they respond to Donald Trump.

KURTZ: We'll also have to see how much coverage the 5:00 p.m. debate gets, this is a debate for those who don't make the top ten according to an average of certain national polls that will also be televised like Fox from Cleveland. Let me switch now, Susan to a lot of chatter in the last 24 hours. The New York Times' lead story today saying Joe Biden, according to sources and friends, actively considering and actually exploring I should say presidential campaign. Maureen Dowd and the Times had a piece saying that Biden's late son, Beau had urged him to run before his death. Is this basically media chatter at this point?

FERRECHIO: It is media chatter. If you read the substance of the article, a lot of this is based on just people reaching out to the Vice President after his son died, and being a candidate who can compete right now. I think though that reporters would like nothing more than a competitive Democratic primary, which we really haven't seen since 2008. That was an exciting primary, Hillary versus Barack Obama. Hillary versus Joe Biden would be an incredible big fight and reporters love a good fight in the Democratic primary. That's part of this.

KURTZ: The Washington Post notes this morning, Fred Francis that Biden hasn't taken any steps toward a candidacy and isn't making a decision. At the same time, people around him are not shutting down this talk.

FRANCIS: They're not shutting it down but it's just talk. The fact is the money has gone elsewhere. I say its 16 months away but it's almost too late to raise that kind of money. So talk of Joe Biden being in the race is hopeful talk on a lot of people's side.

KURTZ: And part of the 72-year-old Vice President.

SCHLAPP: I think they would prefer talking about Joe Biden than Bernie Sanders quite frankly.

KURTZ: Why so?

SCHLAPP: Well, I think because they would view Joe Biden as a more formidable candidate than a Bernie Sanders, someone who can win a broader coalition.

KURTZ: So from a point of view, it would be a real race but a race that we probably won't see. Fred Francis, Mercedes Schlapp, Susan Ferrechio, thanks very much for stopping by this Sunday. Ahead, Jon Stewart's secret meetings with President Obama. Why he can't just joke this was an unfair shot by Fox, but up next, the media are still pumping up Deflategate. Is it all about animosity toward Tom Brady?


KURTZ: You might think all of the air is out the Deflategate trauma, but when the NFL upheld Tom Brady's four-game suspension this week, the media were again pumping it up. The Patriots' Quarterback saying he just had happened to have his phone destroyed for innocent reasons. He ripped the decision of Facebook saying, there is no smoking gun and this controversy is manufactured through distracting the fact that they have zero evidence of wrongdoing. The team's owner also denouncing the NFL, and then Coach Bill Belichick who treats press conferences like root canals met with reporters.


BILL BELICHICK, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: We're going to take it day-to-day. Just like we always do. It's already been addressed. It's already been addressed. I talk to the team every day. I talk to the team every day.


KURTZ: He was so emotional. Joining us now from New York is Tamara Holder, a Fox News Contributor and Host of Fox's online show "Sports Court." So the AFC championship game was last winter. Now it's August. We're all sweating. Why are the media still fixated by Deflategate?

TAMARA HOLDER, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it's Tom Brady. We just can't get enough of the Patriots and their lies. This hasn't just been eight months of lying. This has been a pattern and practice by the Patriots for years now. This isn't their first go around with Goodell and with being punished for their behaviors. They're always stretching the rules, and it's just a never ending cheating scandal after cheating scandal, whether we're talking about the team cheating or Brady cheating on his girlfriend and then leaving her for Giselle.

KURTZ: You're bringing in the personal life.

HOLDER: I know.

KURTZ: It's inadmissible in this court.

HOLDER: Everything is admissible in the NFL.

KURTZ: Ok, so did Tom Brady fuel this and give it more media oxygen with that absurd explanation about the trashed cell phone and the way he fought back?

HOLDER: I think so. I think the one thing that needs to be deflated is the egos here. Because you have Tom Brady who went to Facebook as you said, and within moments there were hundreds of thousands of likes and there were thousands of comments, and it was interesting to see because a lot of people were beating him up on his Facebook page. Then you have the press conference says that he regrets putting his faith in the league which was really bizarre because he and Goodell are apparently buddy-buddies.

KURTZ: He and the NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

HOLDER: Yes. And it seemed like there was possibly this undertone of a quid pro quo agreement that Kraft expected from Roger Goodell, being if we accepted your $1 million fine and the loss of draft picks, then you wouldn't continue to punish our quarterback who we need to win games.

KURTZ: It's just amazing to me that the St. Louis Cardinals hacking to Houston Astros data base and the media yawn largely. Tom Brady puts up an angry Facebook post and they go crazy. You basically put it out here on the table that the press doesn't like Tom Brady, but does that lead to unfair coverage just because it's a personal hostility?

HOLDER: Well, I think there are people in the press that like Tom Brady and don't like Tom Brady just like fans. If we talk about it on your Facebook page or on Twitter after this segment, people are going to go one way or another. They drive so much emotion or Tom Brady drives so much emotion. Whereas the Astros and the Cardinals and the Cubs and whatever, it's tiring. It's baseball. Who watches baseball?

KURTZ: We haven't even gotten to the controversy about Brady's wife Giselle and the plastic surgery and wearing the burqa but we're unfortunately are out of time. The court will be adjourned. Tamara Holder, thanks very much for joining us this Sunday.

HOLDER: Thank you.

KURTZ: Good to see you.

Ahead, Mike Huckabee gets hammered by the media for invoking the holocaust in the Iran nuclear debate. But first, I pop up on the Daily Show again, as Jon Stewart tries to explain why his bromance with Barack Obama.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was the President of the United States trying to influence or intimidate or flatter me? My guess is uh-huh. Did it work, might have.


KURTZ: Jon Stewart and your "MediaBuzz" host are tangling one last time. Here's the back story, I criticized the comedian for not disclosing two secret White House meeting with President Obama as first reported by Politico. One of them when Obama was about to warn Russia against further military intervention in Ukraine and Stewart mocked a shirtless Vladimir Putin, so I became fodder of course, for "The Daily Show."


STEWART: I assume that the insinuation here is I was summoned to the White House so Obama and I could coordinate on his agenda.

KURTZ: The next "Daily Show" was Jon Stewart making fun of Vladimir Putin and so it worked from the White House's point of view.

JENNA LEE, FOX NEWS: Interesting.

STEWART: Interesting. So you believe as Russian troops gathered at the border of the Ukraine, Obama summoned me just in case he needed help turning young Americans against Putin.


KURTZ: After a long segment mocking the criticism, Stewart said he's often summoned to meetings by various big shots and got around to what happened at the White House.


STEWART: We spent about five to seven minutes with Obama kind of scolding me not to turn young Americans cynical. And then I spent about five to seven minutes explaining to him I'm actually skeptically idealistic, and the general thrust of all of those meetings or phone conversations are the same. Basically it's this. Jon, why are you such a [Bleep]?


KURTZ: Joining us now for the ZBlock, David Zurawik, Television and media critic for the Baltimore Sun. So these secret meetings with Obama, does this dent his halo a bit?

DAVID ZURAWIK, BALTIMORE SUN MEDIA CRITIC: I think it absolutely does. I've been writing for a long time about Jon Stewart serving an ideology. At first when he came out -- and even in 2004 when he attacked Crossfire for polarizing the American electorate, he was doing real media criticism in his own way. Since President Obama came in, he's become more and more and more a tool really of the Obama administration. Look, I don't care if you're an actor, you're a writer, you're a poet, you're a songwriter, if you serve a politician's ideological agenda, you are a propagandist. And that's what he's doing, so meetings matter tremendously.

KURTZ: Wouldn't it have been that big of deal had he disclosed the meetings, but keeping it secret and having it come out as he's about to hang it up this week. So he goes after me and Fox for raising critical questions about this. As we saw at the top and before the break, he himself says Obama was trying to influence or flatter or intimidate him and it may have worked, which was my point. He positions himself as truth teller against pundits while he himself in this case I think was -- at least it looks like he's getting spun like everyone else.

ZURAWIK: Howie not only that, he immediately makes this into him against Fox. He loves this kind of -- polarizing dialectic. He knows now he doesn't have to have an intellectually satisfying argument. He wins it with many of his viewers just on the shape of that. But the New York Times was just as hard on him in his own way, they use the word secretive, they drew the connection between what was going on in the President's agenda and his visit, he didn't attack them.

KURTZ: And why is that?

ZURAWIK: Oh because he doesn't want Times coming at him and the Times and him share a base and that worries him. That's in a way how shifty -- shifty is probably the nicest word I can use for Stewart because he's so smart, he gets away with it. By the way...

KURTZ: That's the nicest word you can use without us having to bleep you like we did Jon Stewart. Let me get in another point at which Jon Stewart took a little swipe at me.


STEWART: There was one particular meeting that was actually secret until an intrepid pre-Fox Howard Kurtz blew the whistle on it.


KURTZ: Ok, to the insinuation here is that I am reporting differently on Jon Stewart than I was before I came to Fox News, which is completely bogus. I may have tangled with him over the years, I've praised him for changing the nature of television news, and I have criticized him at times for being too much of out liberal. We've been on each other's shows. We both benefit from it. That's the game. But you know how I found out about this other secret meeting he flashed there up there which was a meeting between Jon Stewart and Fox News Chairman, Roger Ailes. It came from an "On the Record" interview with Roger Ailes which I said in the piece.

ZURAWIK: Howie, honestly, again, I've said the same thing. Culturally a hugely enormous figure is Jon Stewart. But really this taints him because more and more he's become an operative and this shows there was a link. He let himself be used by Obama just as you said. He should have disclosed. And to get into Fox and all of this stuff is just a dodge because he doesn't have an intellectually defensible defense for what he did.

KURTZ: Well, for Jon Stewart to say -- a few others have picked this up, these weren't secret meetings because his name was among tens of thousands in the White House visitor log. Come on. Nobody else knew about it. But at the same time, anchors on state of the union day, journalists and reporters go to off the record sessions with President Obama, they did with President Bush, they did President Clinton, and there's a debate about that but usually it's in groups. So what makes this different? I mean Jon Stewart says I'm just a comic.

ZURAWIK: That's his big dodge. You should also disclose. If he wants to be treated -- and he does, he says them better than the press. Remember how he mocked Politico for getting the name of his executive director wrong, that doesn't stop the truth of what they wrote. If he wants to be seen as a press critic, then behave by the same rules. Listen, when I go and talk to Sean McMahon as the President of CBS Sports on the phone, I disclose it in a piece when I write about CBS Sports for god's sakes. You go see the President, all he has to say is I saw the President today. That's it, simple, million ways to do it.

KURTZ: And we have really good sound (AUDIO GAP) and it was terrific. Because look, as much as he says he's just a comedian, the White House took Jon Stewart very seriously. They talked about him. He had an hour with the President on at least one of these occasions. That's taking somebody pretty seriously. All right, I think somebody -- I was asked on Friday who's going to miss Jon Stewart more, you or President Obama? I think the President with his seven appearances. I was only on the Daily Show once. But this has been fun but it's always good to have you on, David. Thanks very much.

ZURAWIK: Ok, thanks, Howie.

KURTZ: And to update a story that we have been covering intensively, Rolling Stone Managing Editor, Will Dana is resigning after eight months after that utterly bogus story charging gang rape at the University of Virginia, the announcement coming as three fraternity members there suing the magazine for defamation.

After the break, Mike Huckabee invited on lots of TV shows after his holocaust remarks. Was that the idea? And MSNBC blows up its liberal lineup and wants to go back to news. Will that work?


KURTZ: Any politician who invokes the holocaust can count on an incendiary reaction, and that's what happened to Former Governor and Fox News Host Mike Huckabee when he said this.


GOV. MIKE HUCKABEE, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This president's foreign policy is the most feckless in American history. He is so naive he would trust the Iranians and he would take the Israelis and basically march them to the door of the oven.


KURTZ: Huckabee got plenty of attention. President Obama called the comment sad and ridiculous and media the reaction pretty intense as well.


GERALDO RIVERA, FOX NEWS: You cannot compare the slaughter of 6 million Jews to anything other than maybe the slaughter of the Armenians or something else in history, and I'm begging you to apologize and to retract.

HUCKABEE: I will not apologize and I will not recant. Because the word Holocaust was invoked by the Iranian government, they used that very word.

RIVERA: Are we going to go there then?


KURTZ: So was all this media criticism fair or over the top? Joining us now here in Washington, Betsy Woodruff, a Reporter for the Daily Beast, and in New York, Julie Roginsky, a Democratic Strategist, and Fox News Contributor. Betsy, were most of the media right in saying that what Huckabee said was offensive and went too far?

BETSY WOODRUFF, THE DAILY BEAST: I think without a doubt. It's really indefensible to make any sort of comparison to the holocaust. And look, Israel's Ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, who is probably one of the most energetic foes of the Iran deal, came out promptly and said Huckabee, was out of bounds. When Israel's ambassador says you need to cool it, you should probably cool it.

KURTZ: Julie, when a politician invokes the holocaust for anything other than discussing the murder of six million Jews during World War II, it tends to overshadow anything else that's said.

ROGINSKY: Well, that's exactly what Mike Huckabee wanted. He got all the attention that Donald Trump was getting before for a brief shining moment there. People were also talking about Mike Huckabee -- sheer coincidence we're a week out from the debates and he is one of the people trying to get into the debate. So it served Huckabee's very cynical agenda I believe, which is to get the press talking about him and to get the same kind of attention that all Republicans, except for Donald Trump have been clamoring to get from the media.

KURTZ: Let me just jump in and say the traffic to Huckabee's website went up 100 percent. He got on a bunch of TV shows to talk about this. So you believe this is in a way part of the Trump effect for the fact that he had to use something that he knew would be inflammatory?

ROGINSKY: There's no question. I'm so sorry and I'm disgusted by the fact that he used the murder of six million Jews to do it, but nevertheless he accomplished his very cynical, political goals. Donald Trump has really raised the bar for people now. He's now allowed other candidates to try to compete with him in saying outrageous things like Mexicans who rape and pillage, and other things in order to get attention. They have seen what it does for Trump and they want to get part of the same effect, and Huckabee is very effective in doing it. Geraldo was 1,000 percent right, there's never an excuse to use the holocaust unless you're talking about the slaughter of six million Jews or other genocide but he did, and he got the attention he wants.

KURTZ: In fairness, Huckabee has been an opponent of the Iran nuclear deal which a lot of people have said could endanger Israel. But the wording was that he said Barack Obama personally if this deal goes through would be leading the Israelis to the ovens.

WOODRUFF: He's saying Obama is Hitler. That's totally out of bounds and ridiculous over the top. The important thing to remember too is that Huckabee's fund-raising numbers are not good. He's hurting for cash. He can't afford TV...


KURTZ: Isn't the place of journalist to turn to him and say why don't you apologize?

ROGINSKY: I think it's fair. Given that so many other people are calling on him to apologize. Major National Jewish organizations, we have RNC, and Major Republicans distancing them from comments. That's certainly an open question without a doubt.

KURTZ: Julie, let me turn to Joe Biden. Spade of reports including the lead story in today's the New York Times saying the 72-year-old Vice President actively exploring a campaign although there's no sort of hard evidence that he's going to launch one. Do you think that all of these sources being quoted by the press are basically fueling a lot of speculation?

WOODRUFF: Well look, Maureen Down kicked it off over the weekend by writing a pretty detailed column about what was going on in Joe Biden's head. I assume she didn't invent that whole sale, I think somebody probably leaked to her a play by play of what the considerations have been. And notably the Vice President's office isn't refuting this. So partially I think it's based on something substantive, and secondly the press is dying for a real Democratic primary. You're getting a huge one on the Republican side, and right now I think the press thinks Hillary's is getting somewhat of a coronation on the Democratic side and Biden would absolutely shake that up, which sells newspapers, gets clicks on the web, and gets people to tune in.

KURTZ: Is the Biden camp in a way responsible for this by not forcefully knocking it down, Betsy, but at the same time like any politician you see Hillary struggling a bit with the trust issue, maybe he's just keeping his options open.

WOODRUFF: I think without a doubt the Biden camp is behind this. Look, in that column, the big question she describes a conversation between Beau Biden, who recently passed away and Joe Biden. Where is she getting that from? There's no way she would have the Gaul to include that information in a column unless her sourcing was good, and the only place that can come from is the Biden family, which makes me think the Biden's are totally fine with this, and they're testing the waters.

KURTZ: Well, using the press to test the waters, Julie is not exactly an unknown tactic. Although I know that the Washington Post today says he's taking no serious steps toward candidacy, and it's far from a decision. So are the media allowing themselves to be used for this potential, maybe possibly, Biden candidacy, or is this good reporting by trying to penetrate the bubble around the Vice President?

ROGINSKY: Well, color me cynical but people in my business have used the media to get their agenda out many times, and the media allows themselves to be used time and again. As you said, this is not the first time. It serves both purposes. It allows Joe Biden to test the waters and float this child balloon, it allows the media to break some stories, and Maureen Dowd got more attention for her column today than she probably has gotten in a long time. And so it serves both sides. It's the same old dance we always had.

KURTZ: A symbiotic relationship and Julie is in the politics business part time. Julie Roginsky, Betsy Woodruff, thanks very much. Next on "MediaBuzz," how are the Fox anchors preparing for Thursday's huge debate? Chris Stirewalt gives us a behind the scenes peek.


KURTZ: For all the focus on which 19 Republicans will make the primetime Fox debate in Cleveland this Thursday, the toll will be set by the questioners, Megyn Kelly, Bret Baier and Chris Wallace, a team that has worked the debate circuit before.


BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS: If you were president and you got a call at 3:00 a.m. telling you that Pakistan had lost control of its nuclear weapons at the hands of the Taliban, what would be your first move?

MEGYN KELLY, FOX NEWS: They used words like dangerous, outrageous and totally irresponsible. Are they wrong?

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS: Are you suggesting that heroin and prostitution is an exercise of liberty?


KURTZ: I spoke with Chris Stirewalt, Fox's Digital Politics Editor, and a key member of that team.


KURTZ: Chris Stirewalt, welcome.


KURTZ: You've been to this rodeo before. How do you and Megyn Kelly, and Bret Baier and Chris Wallace go about formulating your questions, knowing that the candidates are going to try to pivot to their talking points?

STIREWALT: Well, the first thing is we have a secret weapon and that is Bill Salmon, who is the best at not only team cohesion and keeping everybody on point about what the point is, but in crafting the questions.

KURTZ: Washington Bureau Chief.

STIREWALT: Absolutely. He's Managing Editor and a great mind and a great journalist and that's a big help. But the idea is this, people forget about what we do and in the discussion of this debate we hear well, what will Trump say to Bush and what will Walker say to Rubio, and what will they say? They are forgetting what this is, and if you go back and look what we did, and you remember you covered it -- what we did in 2012. We have built some diabolically tough questions that are difficult to answer. You're not going to hear Megyn Kelly or Bret Baier or Chris Wallace go out and ask -- remember the question from CNN in 2012 to Newt Gingrich about his swinger wife allegation and oh, just awful, that stuff. You're not going to hear that. You're going to hear questions about what matters to Republican primary voters as they try to make their choice.

KURTZ: Since you mentioned Donald Trump, enormous attention to him going into this debate. Bret Baier told Time Magazine that he's woken up in cold sweat thinking about how to deal with Donald Trump who will be on that stage and not listening. Is this in danger of becoming the Trump show?

STIREWALT: No, because that's why there's a system. The system is the candidates have a minute to answer the questions. They have 30 seconds to rebut roughly speaking, obviously this is our telecast so we'll do with our telecast what's necessary. I'm not worried about Donald Trump now. I'm not concerned that he's going to do something reckless. I take him at his word.

KURTZ: Maybe you want him to nominate -- because it will be better for ratings and the whole buzz thing.

STIREWALT: Do you know the great thing about being a nerd is I don't have to worry about all that other stuff and it turns out Fox News is a pretty profitable enterprise whatever Donald Trump does.

KURTZ: Ok. There's been enormous attention and some criticism to Fox using national polling averages to limit the primetime debate, not the first one, to the top ten, but isn't even having ten people on a stage going to be somewhat un-wielding for a debate that's a television show in terms of how much time everyone can get?

STIREWALT: Well, sure obviously. Ten is more than eight, eight is more than four and four is up with two and you end up with two next year, next fall as the people choose between the candidates of two parties.

KURTZ: Is it more of a challenge now?

STIREWALT: Well, of course it's more of a challenge to do ten than it is do eight. But I would say this, we've heard a lot of complaints, we've heard a lot of suggestions, some of them offered constructively, oh you want to do these polls, state polls, people on the ground, different things. Our job isn't to decide who is on the stage. Our job was at the beginning and remains to be setting up the criteria that let people's opinions be heard and get ourselves out of the way.

KURTZ: We'll be watching. Chris Stirewalt thanks very much for joining us.



KURTZ: Fox News channel is partnering with Facebook for a full night of debate coverage that starts at 5:00 p.m. Eastern with the first debate, and the primetime debate coverage begins at 8:50 p.m. Eastern hosted as I said by Bret, Chris and Megyn. And you can send your questions for the candidates to News.

Still to come, your top tweets, MSNBC gets out the wrecking ball and the New York Times spanked over the Hillary e-mail story.


KURTZ: In our press picks, a tip of the hat to Margaret Sullivan, the New York Times Ombudsman for being tough on her own paper. She called the Times' story of a possible criminal probe of Hillary Clinton's e-mail which warranted two corrections and an editor's note a mess. Too much speed and not enough caution, plus a failure to explain the changes and mistakes to readers damaged the paper's reputation for accuracy, Sullivan says. Times Editor, Dean Baquet took the blame saying they should have explained what happened right away but instead the readers got whipsawed. That's what a tough ombudswoman can accomplish.

Time for your top tweets, was Ivana Trump's now retracted charge of marital rape against her husband fair game for the media?

Katherine J. Hernandez, everything is fair game in politics, Howard Kurtz, same as war, all is fair. Let the best candidate win.

Ben the Golfer, it's the pattern every time a powerful Republican takes lead in the polls, dems and media attack, get rid of them, now so Hillary Clinton won't have to face.

Benjamin Corb, allegations were in court documents and a book, not dug out of a trash can, also reporter did everything right, contacted the campaign for comment before going to press, not blindside.

Citizen Campbell, no, that story should not have been written. I think Trump is outrageous but that was an attempt to smear him.

MSNBC has just axed the rest of its afternoon lineup of liberal talkers, Ed Schultz, Alex Wagner and the Cycle.


KRYSTAL BALL, MSNBC: And you may or may not know that this is the actually the very last Cycle.

ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC: This is the last now with Alex Wagner.


KURTZ: The problem with such shows is that things got kind of dull because almost everyone agreed with each other. The ratings so disastrous that the channel is trying to pivot back toward news, giving a show to Chuck Todd of "Meet the Press," and this month welcoming a chastened Brian Williams to the cable channel. The problem is MSNBC has almost no reporters except what it borrows from NBC and will find it hard, for example, to compete with CNN's global resources, but good luck because it's good for the country I think to have three healthy news channels.

That's it for this edition of "MediaBuzz." I'm Howard Kurtz. Thanks for watching. We hope you like our Facebook page. We post a lot of original content and videos there. We respond to your questions. You can check out our homepage as well, and send us an e-mail, And stick to the media, no political speeches. We're back here next Sunday at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. Eastern with the latest Buzz.

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