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Media Buzz

Donald Trump punches back

This is a rush transcript from "MediaBuzz," October 11, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: On the Buzz Meter this Sunday, Donald Trump in a wide-ranging interview unloads on the mainstream media.

DONALD TRUMP, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They don't want to cover me accurately. I see such dishonesty. They have a couple of sites, like Politico, it's totally dishonest. They will say things that are unbelievably wrong purposely.

KURTZ: Talks about his Republican rivals.

TRUMP: Marco has had tremendous problems with his credit card. What I'm saying is he's not handled his financial affairs very well.

KURTZ: And key campaign issues as well, but the New York Times insists he's wearing out his welcome with the media. Is that true? Just two days until the first Democratic debate, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders insist they won't attack each other.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I like Hillary Clinton, and I respect her.

HILLARY CLINTON, DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I know Bernie, I respect his enthusiastic and intense advocacy of his ideas.

KURTZ: All that respect drains the drama from the CNN face-off, and lots of breathless media chatter about the Democrat who won't be in there. Is this feverish speculation out of control?

Plus, how virtually all the pundits wrote about Kevin McCarthy becoming House Speaker and somehow started peddling trashy rumors.

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC: Here comes Kevin McCarthy, looks like he'll be the next Speaker.

MANU RAJU, CNN: Kevin McCarthy is in a prime position to lock this up.
He's the heavy favorite right now.

GRETCHEN CARLSON, FOX NEWS: House Majority Leader McCarthy sending shockwaves throughout Washington.

LUKE RUSSERT, NBC NEWS: This is a huge shock, this is a bombshell that nobody saw coming.

DANA BASH, CNN: This is not anything that I ever thought I was going to report to you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Shocking. I'm Howard Kurtz, and this is "MediaBuzz."

It's been three months since I sat down with Donald Trump and he's obviously outlasted the constant gloom and doom predictions by the pundits, and dominated the coverage this race. I spoke to the Republican front- runner at Trump Tower.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KURTZ: Donald Trump, welcome.

TRUMP: Thank you.

KURTZ: You say again and again that most political journalists, not all, most political journalists are dishonest in the way they cover you. Why do you think that is?

TRUMP: There's great dishonesty in the media. And I didn't see it to the same extent with the financial media, you know, I've only been a politician now for three months, but they don't want to cover me accurately. I see such dishonesty. A couple sites like Politico, it's totally dishonest.

KURTZ: In fact, you tweeted about Politico the other way, I wonder why somebody doesn't do something about the clowns at Politico and their totally dishonest reporting. In another tweet you called Politico pure scum.

TRUMP: They are dishonest. They write things that are not true. They never even call us. They very rarely even call. They will say things that are unbelievably wrong, purposely. They'll estimate the size of a crowd as being a tiny fraction because everything I do, I sell out. You know the crowds as well as I do. We had 20,000 the other day in Oklahoma, we had
35,000 people in Alabama.

KURTZ: You think that's deliberate?

TRUMP: Totally. Somebody said they're a liberal site -- is by the way, I know nothing about them. I hear they're losing a lot of money, whether that's true or not -- but the Washington Post is very interesting because they started to really capture my campaign. It's been very interesting.
The Washington Post has been -- Bob -- is really very professional. I find New York Times as very mixed. I have some that are fabulous. Maggie is great and a couple, and then outliers.

KURTZ: Let me ask you about this New York Times story. They generated a lot of Buzz, Donald Trump's -- seems to be wearing out its welcome, says the media are tiring of your outlandish behavior.

TRUMP: You know the funny thing, the reporter wanted an interview. And they've actually apologized for it because it was a wrong story. Look, the reason you're interviewing me is because you're going to be higher ratings, I don't know why, but you're going to be higher ratings, maybe double and triple by interviewing me as opposed to some...

(CROSSTALK)

KURTZ: You're also the front-runner.

TRUMP: Well, maybe, but even maybe without that, O'Reilly the same thing, Greta the same thing, Hannity the same thing. They get much bigger ratings.

KURTZ: You had your go-around with Fox News, you've also ripped on CNN occasionally. A lot of times it seems to have to do with polls. These and other organizations prefer polls that are based on random telephone surveys, which show you ahead. Other online polls which we regard as less scientific -- isn't that a legitimate disagreement as opposed to being unfair to you?

TRUMP: Well, I'll give you an example. NBC does a poll and CNN does a poll. I'm leading in both, but NBC poll is better. They say, wait a minute, you people paid for a poll that's an NBC poll...

(CROSSTALK)

KURTZ: But I believe it was an online survey.

TRUMP: I don't know if it was not. I was leading by a lot, and by the way, on CNN I was leading by a lot, but it wasn't quite as good. NBC used the CNN poll. And I said to them during the interview, just out of curiosity why aren't you using the NBC? I think the reporting -- I think at the same time you have been great, O'Reilly is tough as hell every time I do it, but he's great. He's fair. Somebody said thin-skinned or not thin-skinned, I don't mind at all being criticized if I deserve it, but there a couple of people on Fox that are brutal and for no reason, really for no reason.

KURTZ: Conservative commentators may disagree with you logically...

TRUMP: Well, that's different.

KURTZ: Let me ask you -- I was surprised when CNN's Don Lemon asked you are you a homophobe? And some people may perceive you as racist. Are those fair questions?

TRUMP: I was not bothered by it. I said absolutely I'm not a racist. I said you're more racist than I am, ok? And actually it was very fair, I found him to be very fair. I find many of the people to be incredibly talented and generally fair. The people I don't find to be fair, the pundits, anchors tend to like me. The ones that are brutal are the pundits, they come from nowhere, and they have -- another I must say many of them are coming around. When I started, first, nobody thought I was going to do it, and then after I did it, they said he'll never file, and then I filed.

(CROSSTALK)

KURTZ: Last year you were beaten up on sleepy-eyes Chuck Todd, and you've done Meet the Press several times. Does your opinion of journalists rise if they like you?

TRUMP: No, if they're fair.  I didn't think he was fair to me initially.
Now I was a novice. I've never run for office before. It was three months
-- I've only been doing this for three months, but for almost three months I'm at the top which is pretty cool when you think of it. When they compare me with a man like Herman Cain, when they compare with me Michele Bachmann who I also like, they were there for like one week. I've been there from the beginning.

KURTZ: Very, very different.

TRUMP: It's been a long run.

KURTZ: Let's drill down to government spending. It's a long question so bare with me. The Conservative Tax Foundation says your tax cut plan would cost $10 trillion. I know you dispute that. You said you don't want to touch social security, Medicare, Medicaid. Together they're 1.7 trillion.
I know you want to go after waste, fraud and abuse, but if you slash taxes and you put half the budget is sacrosanct, likely blow a hole in the deficit.

TRUMP: But we're going to build a country. We're going to take our jobs back from Chine, we're going to take our jobs back from Japan, and I'm the only one that can do this. Other people have no clue.

KURTZ: But there is math involved. You want to build up the military.

TRUMP: You know how many jobs we have lost to other countries where they have ripped us like we're a bunch of babies? We're going to bring our jobs back, we're going to bring manufacturing back. With -- as an example social security, Medicare, you sign up for social security, that's a lifetime -- that's your contract. You have signed that contract. It's there. If you can't do anything about it, but in my case I can because I'm going to grow the economy to a level that nobody thought possible and I'm going to bring all our jobs back.

KURTZ: To some extent you're saying trust me that I can do these things.
You look at the hard numbers as economists do, it is heart to have it all, cut taxes, increase spending, protect spending for the builder.

TRUMP: Well, I think one of the reasons I'm doing well is I built a tremendous company. I started off actually with a father who was great but he was in Brooklyn, Queens. You grew up in Brooklyn or Queens I think right? A lot of people say my father was this massive real estate guy, it was this beautiful company but it was a different league.

(CROSSTALK)

KURTZ: Automatically translates into...

TRUMP: It does. I took a tiny beautiful little company started by my father and I gained tremendous knowledge from my father, because he was a great negotiator, and I built it into a massive company that is now worldwide. We are here on the best location in the world. Without doing that good job, and as part of it, without such a great job, and you say my financial statements that are then times better than anybody ever thought, but without doing their job, you wouldn't have the same credibility. I'm saying this, Howard. I'm going to take jobs back from China and all these countries that have ripped this country off.

KURTZ: On this question of wealth, you've got counter punching against Marco Rubio. One of the things that you've said about the Senator is that he hasn't got much money. So is being a middle-class guy raising his kids as opposed to having your name on a building a disqualification for the President?

TRUMP: No, it's not, but he's had tremendous credit card problems, he is very weak on immigration, as far as he's concerned the gang of eight was a disaster, friends with Chuck Schumer and...

(CROSSTALK)

KURTZ: And he's not in your league.

TRUMP: I'm not saying it. What I'm saying is he has not handled his financial affairs very well. You look at his credit cards, you look at his problems, and I said he was a lightweight, but you have to remember this, he started with me, and about two weeks ago he started hitting me. I didn't start with him. Everybody who's started hitting me goes down in the polls. I hope that translates into running a country.

KURTZ: On that point, you haven't spoken much lately about Jeb Bush. Is he no longer a threat to you in this race?

TRUMP: No, I think he's a nice person. I went after him at the beginning, because he went after me, but I went -- he's out there pitching. I can't tell you what's going to happen. Don't forget, when I started, I was never going to run according to the pundits, and Jeb Bush had it made, Rand Paul had it made, and if you think about it you're Governor of Wisconsin, Walker who is a very nice guy also.

KURTZ: He's gone.

TRUMP: And he's gone. They were the ones that were going to win, one of those three and it's not looking like that.

KURTZ: A few weeks ago you go into it with Ben Carson, he made what you called a nasty comment questioning your faith, and he later apologized for that. Lately it seems you have a mutual nonaggression pact with Ben Carson.

TRUMP: I like him. He's a nice man.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: That being said, I don't know that he's going to be the guy to negotiate with China, which I do all the time. By the way the largest bank in the world from China is in this building, right above us. They pay me a lot of rent. But I've made great deals with China. I own a big chunk of the Bank of America building in San Francisco, 1290 Avenue -- I have got to from China, I've been there. So, you know, negotiating is a great art and a great talent.

KURTZ: So why are you questioning Carson's ability to be President?

TRUMP: I don't question anything. I tell you, I respect him and I like him a lot. He made a statement about me, and he withdrew it immediately.
He absolutely said the press convinced him to make that statement or talked him into it, and we know the press.

KURTZ: He said it to me.

TRUMP: Was that statement originally made to you?

KURTZ: No, no, when I interviewed him, he said it was a mistake to take the statement and he apologized.

TRUMP: Honestly that shows a great man. I was all set to go wild. Now I can't go wild. I'm actually saying I wish he had hit me.

KURTZ: You sound frustrated.

TRUMP: No, he's very smart. He's got to hit me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Now the New York Times tells me it's not aware of anyone apologizing to Trump over that piece on his supposedly dwindling media appeal, and Editor Dean Bache says it was a good and fair story.

And Politico's CEO Jim VandeHei said this about Trump's criticism, our journalism and business performance are amazing, fabulous, total winners, we're making American journalism great again.

More of the interview in a moment but let me know what you think about the media coverage of Donald Trump and about our interview @HowardKurtz, send me a note on twitter.

When we come back, Donald Trump on Iraq, just how early did he oppose the war? And later, with Kevin McCarthy bowing out of the Speaker's race, some of the media are painting this as a Republican Armageddon. And later in the program we'll show you what the Donald said about the coverage of his is a wife Melania.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: More now of my conversation with Donald Trump, beginning with Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: You've said many times that you opposed George W. Bush's Iraq war, but you said this in 2004 more than a year in, when it was pretty clear the occupation was a mess. Did you oppose the war before the invasion in March of 2003?

TRUMP: Yes, I opposed it all the time. Listen you have to understand, when I opposed it, I was a business guy.

KURTZ: You weren't required to make a public statement.

TRUMP: I wasn't a politician, but it was lucky in a way because I found a big article in Reuters, 2004 in July, headline, Trump opposes the war. I also was about two years before that, I totally opposed the war because I said it's going to destabilize the Middle East, and Iran would take over because they always fought, those two fought for years.

KURTZ: I'm not questioning your feelings on it, but there seems no public record.

TRUMP: It made sense. And by the way, when the World Trade Center was knocked down, they didn't send their families back to Iraq, they sent their families to Saudi Arabia.

KURTZ: But you would agree that it's easier to be publicly critical of the war once the war became a quagmire.

TRUMP: You saw my statements when the war was a big hot thing, and everybody was for it, including Hillary Clinton, including the Bush's and everybody else. I'm the only one that was opposed to it, and by the way I'm more militaristic, but you have to know when to use it, and you have to build a military that's strong so you don't have to use it. Right now we don't know what we're doing. Our military is in shambles, the general who just retired was a very good man, said we are the least prepared in the history of our country militarily. That was a pretty big statement. It didn't get much coverage, which is amazing. He said we are the least prepared. That's a terrible statement, especially now, because I think we have just about bigger problems than ever before.

If I get the opportunity to serve, we will do a great job. I told somebody, you want the money, I said absolutely not. Aside from funding my own campaign, this is not a profitable situation. I'm funding my own campaign and I want nothing when I win.

KURTZ: The press went kind of haywire when you told Chuck Todd if my numbers go south, I'll go back to my business. Now I agree that you were kind of stating the obvious, but there were a lot of commentaries that show he's not in it for the long term. What was your reaction to that kind of commentary?

TRUMP: It's just dishonest press. He asked me a very good question. He said is there any time you would maybe get out? So instead of saying it like, if you asked Rand Paul who will get out, if you asked one of these guys, they would is absolutely not. I believe in being honest. I said Chuck, if for any reason I start doing terribly in the polls, you don't call me, Howie doesn't call me, nobody calls me, I'm dying here and I'm not going to make it, I would get out. It ends up being a headline -- Trump maybe -- that's so unfair. My wife actually thought it was an amazing answer, so I gave a truthful answer.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: You know what else? I'm going to win it and I'm not getting out, ok? That can't be any dispute.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: I also asked Donald Trump a more personal question. We'll have that later in the program.

Up next, Carly Fiorina accuses the Washington Post of being out to get her.

And later, the press pounces on a report that Joe Biden leaked a heart- wrenching story about himself.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: Joining us now with some thoughts on the Trump interview and the coverage of his Republican rivals is molly ball, a reporter for the Atlantic. So you watched the interview, anything jumped out at you about what Donald Trump said about his treatment by the media.

MOLLY BALL, THE ATLANTIC: Well, it's interesting that he now feels like he's a victim of the media, because there have also been a lot of critiques that the media is what has kept Trump's campaign afloat. He hasn't -- he's right when he says he hasn't been treated like a regular candidate. I think the media correctly perceived he isn't a regular candidate and has treated him as more of a celebrity, but that's a double-edged sword. You don't have to buy any TV ads, but when people start to bet bored and move on, you have to create a spectacle to get yourself back into the news. And I think that's a little bit of what he's done.

KURTZ: Right, but that New York Times piece essentially saying the media are starting to get bored and move on, I'm not seeing that. He's been everywhere this week. And it is a double-edged sword in the sense that all of this coverage of people who don't like Trump -- on the other hand he seems to feel that a lot of the coverage of him is dishonest, and then you press him on the specifics, and he talks about polls, and crowds, and things like that.

BALL: He doesn't seem to like it when he gets covered like a regular candidate. When he gets tough questions on substantive issues, that's when he always diverts the discussion. And so there have been attempts to really cover him the way you would cover a regular candidate. Look at his background, dig into his record, look at conflicting statements he's made in the past, do what you did on Iraq and really press him on, can he prove that he was where he says he was. And he doesn't really like that. He would much rather be talking about his poll numbers, picking fights with people, starting these feuds saying Politico, they're the worst, they're terrible, the people at Politico don't even know what they did to make him so angry but he just has to be in this mode of constantly fighting with people I think.

KURTZ: I don't think he minds tough questions, but he does feel very deeply that he's not getting a fair shake from the media. Most politicians are used to taking knocks from the media and as he points out, he's been a politician for three months.

Let me ask you about the Washington Post front-page story this week on Carly Fiorina. Did her 2010 California Senate race and it say that she did not pay off a lot of debt until some years later. She took exception to that. Here she is with Megyn Kelly.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MEGYN KELLY, FOX NEWS: Is it true you did not pay off the debt?

CARLY FIORINA, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No, the debt has been paid off, which of course the Washington Post fails to mention entirely. Facts aren't really what the Washington Post is into anymore. And no, they never did write that article Hillary Clinton's debt 40 times the amount carried over many years. I don't recall Rachel Maddow being outraged about that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Does Carly Fiorina have a legitimate beef?

BALL: She's not telling the truth. If you read the Washington Post article, it does say that she paid off her campaign debt. It said she paid it off right about when she was getting ready to launch her presidential campaign. The Post article also mentioned Hillary Clinton's debt. The difference is that when Carly Fiorina had this campaign debt, she paid herself back first and left all these vendors high and dry for years and years, one of them is a grieving widow who is in the -- if you know anything about politics, you should pay back the grieving widow.

KURTZ: Right. But at the same time many losing campaigns have debt for years. And I do think the tone of the piece was pretty negative. It's fair game, absolutely, but at the same time I think there wasn't a front page story about Hillary Clinton not paying off her debt.

So let me go to Ben Carson because he is getting hammered by the media this week, and this is not the first that that's happened for saying on Fox and Friends that if he faced a mass shooter like the situation in Oregon, he would try to get everybody to attack the gunman and not just stand there and let him shoot me, are the media making too much of that answer?

BALL: I think it's that and the comparisons to Nazi Germany. I don't think too much -- he's got every right to have these inflammatory views, but then people have a right to be upset about those.

KURTZ: But is it inflammatory for Ben Carson to say here's what I would have done in that situation? Is that inflammatory?

BALL: There's an obvious implication that that's what he thinking the victims should have done.

KURTZ: Some people take it as he was denigrating those who died.

BALL: People are grieving for their children and friends and parents who died in the shooting, and he's saying it could have been prevented had he just attacked the guy. That's pretty rough stuff.

KURTZ: He didn't quite say that. I take your point. I will say this.
Every time the media beat up on some controversial statement of Ben Carson, he seems to go up in the polls. It is starting to be a bit of a pattern.

Coming up on the House Republican suffering a meltdown or is the media coverage just makes it look that way?

And later, Hillary Clinton pounded by the press over the latest developments in the email investigation, will that affect this week's CNN debate?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: Kevin McCarthy's stunning decision to drop out of the election for Speaker has thrown the house into an uproar, a very big story, no question about it. But some liberal commentators seem to be taking a certain glee in the GOP's troubles.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC: History was made today as one of the country's two main political parties came apart.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: It was just stunning and amazing. Who runs the Republican Party? Nobody knows. Who gets to decide who gets to run the Republican Party? Say it with me now -- nobody knows.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Joining us now to examine the coverage of the House revolt in the Democratic race, here in Washington, Betsy Woodruff, and a Reporter for the Daily Beast and with the National Review. The Atlantic's Molly Ball is still with us, and in Los Angeles, Fred Francis, a former NBC News Senior Correspondent now with the Firm 15seconds.com.

Betsy, virtually all the pundits said Kevin McCarthy was a shoe-in, are the media in general and some liberal commentators in particular turning in this into Armageddon?

BETSY WOODRUFF, DAILY BEAST: I can kind of go both ways on that, one the one hand -- I think a little bit. That said they're not totally wrong. It is chaotic. People were floored, even McCarthy's biggest foes, members of the freedom caucus, so the fact that the media sees this as something crazy, wild and unprecedented makes sense, because in a little way, it sort of is.

KURTZ: It is chaotic. Fred Francis, great story, great political intrigue, we don't know who's going to run, who's going to be the Speaker, but for the media to treat a beltway leadership fight as some kind of GOP civil war?

FRED FRANCIS, 15-SECONDS.COM: Well, it is a political civil war indeed.
And this is like a political IED that went off in the Capital this week.
It's stunning to me that so many reporters covering this story, hundreds of reporters. This is the best of times if you're a Hill reporter, and then to miss it, to get waylaid by it? It was so startling, I saw one report grabbing somebody from the GOP, Dana Bash from CNN, coming out of a caucus, and she didn't even know who the congressman was, that's how stunned people were, so this is a stunning development, it is political civil war, and I think it's just the first battle.

KURTZ: I can count on the former pentagon correspondent to go with the war metaphor. Molly Ball, Kevin McCarthy also didn't help himself with those comments he made on Hannity, where he talked about the House Benghazi Committee knocking down Hillary Clinton's poll numbers, making it look all political. Lurking in the background of all this have been these rumors, these started on a little known conservative and then picked up on Red State, Daily Caller mentioned it, Kevin McCarthy is supposedly having an affair with a Congresswoman, Rene Ellmers who said this absolutely positively not true, and before I knew it it's the lead story in the liberal Huffington Post, and everybody is running with it. Is it fair to report this?

BALL: I think that's a really tough question for news organizations, because first of all it's our job to tell people what the story is, so if we think these rumors, and we do, were a part of what led to this very surprising decision to step down from the Speaker-ship race, then how do we report that story accurately while ignoring the elephant in the room.

(CROSSTALK)

KURTZ: Also, just makes me really uneasy that it's become part of the political discourse when in fact, there is no proof, there are denials, there are no documents, and there are no photos to show that these two people had an affair, and yet it's become -- journalism has run with it.

BALL: It's not just journalism though, because this rumor was getting to Republican congressmen in their email inboxes. They were talking about it.
I agree with you, it makes me uncomfortable, we have to make it clear that there's no proof that this is the case, but when it's part of the story and when the information is available to readers, because they can get it on the internet on these blogs, do we ignore it and pretend it's not there, when people know about it?

KURTZ: Or do we use our megaphone to blast it out to people who maybe haven't seen it, when again these are unproven allegations.

WOODRUFF: I think the appropriate way to handle this is explaining, as Fred said, that everyone was waylaid by this decision, including the house Republican caucus, so as reporters when we're approaching this story, we don't exactly know how McCarthy's decision came together. We can't read his mind. So putting this rumor in context as one possible motivation among others I think is the appropriate and responsible way to do it. I think deliberately ignoring something whether or not it's true mattered and probably had some sort of impact, at least in Republicans' inboxes from a powerful Republican donor, ignoring that I think would have been unfair.

KURTZ: Fred, a brief comment on this?

FRANCIS: Yeah, I think when it's a question of character, with the leader of the Republican Party, I think you're compelled to report it, even if there is no real evidence, because everybody is reading it. In this day and age, when everything is a public record almost instantly, you have to comment on it.

KURTZ: Unfortunately, in my few that's also a formula for smearing people without facts, and I feel like the media here were complicit.

All right, let me move to the Democratic race, and we're still going through this chatter about the Vice President of the United States and whether he is going to run for the top job. Take a look at what some people are saying.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS: Sources close to Vice President Biden tell me that he is likely to clearly signal his intentions by early next week whether or not he is going to be in this race.

JULIANNA GOLDMAN, CBS NEWS: Sources tell CBS News that Biden is likely to make a decision within the next week, and is leaning toward running.

BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS: OK, now, Joe Biden may announce as early as this weekend if he's running for President.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Are you a little tired of all this restlessness? He's in, he's out. Some say they're not. He'll decide by this week, now its next month.

BALL: For everybody who wants to know if Joe Biden's going to run, I would advise them to go to sleep, take a nap, wake up in two weeks or so, and we will know. Patience is a cure for all of this. But the fact is that I don't think Joe Biden knows and so you have media grasping at straws, looking for clues, reading the twitch of an eyebrow, and when the man himself doesn't know, it's hard to read him because there isn't an answer.

KURTZ: We'll call that eyebrow journalism. All right, now Politico got a lot of buzz going -- with the story saying that Joe Biden himself was the source of a Maureen Dowd column in the New York Times in August that talked about his late son Beau and while he was dying, he urged his dad to run for President. I think anybody reading that at the time could see it was pretty obvious that the Vice President was behind that, what do you think?

WOODRUFF: We talked about it on the show. Who else is going to be the source for that? Nobody else was in the room for that conversation. Of course it came from Joe Biden. It would be totally bizarre and insane for Maureen Dowd to report that if it hadn't come from Joe Biden.

KURTZ: And yet Fred Francis, the reaction was -- at least among Biden detractors, this was cold and calculating for him to leak this story to Maureen Dowd, as opposed to he's known her for a long time and he was just grieving, which he has been doing quite publicly.

FRANCIS: Howie, the leak in Washington is the coin of the realm. And Shocking that the Vice President would leak his own story, the back side of this story is, quite frankly, was it a calculated move? And what has he been doing in the last two months, very calculating. History may show that this was all part of a plan to slowly get into the race. The cynic in me could believe that story. I'd like not to believe it...

(CROSSTALK)

KURTZ: Whether it was calculating or not, we don't know at this point.
Historical irony, is in 1987, Maureen Dowd helped knocked Joe Biden out of that years Presidential race by reporting the truth that he had plagiarized material from a British politician that would been leaked to Dowd by somebody on Michael Dukakis' campaign who got fired as a result.

All right, let me get a break. Ahead on MediaBuzz, Donald Trump on the snarky coverage of his wife Melania, but first Hillary and Bernie say they won't attack each other at Tuesday's first debate. Will it turn into a tepid affair?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: With Hillary Clinton preparing for the first Democratic debate on Tuesday, it's been a week of increasingly negative headlines about her email fiasco. A prime topic when she did a Today Show town shall with savannah Guthrie.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, NBC NEWS: If you're blaming the Republicans, some might wonder how genuine is that a policy?

HILLARY CLINTON, DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, actually it's both.
I'm sorry I made a choice that has resulted in this kind of -- you know, situation, and I've said I made a mistake.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Fred Francis in Los Angeles, just when you think the media might be stretching out this email story comes the feds are seizing four computers at the State Department as part of their investigation, three foreign countries tried to hack into Hillary's private email, and someone at the server company warned this whole thing seems shady, all fueling the narrative that this is a big problem for the former first lady.

FRANCIS: It's a problem for several months, it would get worst, compounded by the upcoming September 21st Benghazi hearings, where she's going really have to come in with a flak jacket, but she actually had a pretty good week. I want to throw a dart at my former company. That was a one hour infomercial with the exception of one or two hard questions. It was a really big fat sloppy wet kiss for Hillary. With that and Saturday Night Live, she actually had a pretty good week considering, you know, there's still incoming with the email server situation. She didn't have a bad week.

KURTZ: There were a lot of softball questions from the audience. Nobody has gotten a town hall from NBC, so the Today Show now says it will do Donald Trump next. At the same time there was a question -- let me quickly play this. What would have been your reaction, Hillary Clinton if this had involved a Republican like Dick Cheney and private email as what she says?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: I never would have done that. Look at the situation they chose to exploit, to go after me for political reasons, the death of four Americans in Benghazi.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Do you agree with Fred today that Hillary had a good week and this was a wet kiss.

WOODRUFF: I think she definitely had a good week, absolutely. As far as this townhall, it's kind of funny that Savannah Guthrie asked that question, because as written in the Washington Post we know what Hillary Clinton would do. During the Bush White House, there were members of his administration who sent emails to an RNC server. Hillary said they were shredding the constitution, so the fact that NBC poses a hypothetical, when it's very much not hypothetical is you know just another added bonus for Hillary here.

KURTZ: Well, to my ear, Molly, whatever good week she had, was at least neutralized if not overshadowed by the email investigation going in all kinds of directions, but with CNN having the first Democratic debate on Tuesday, do you expect this to carry over -- Anderson Cooper says he's one of the two main moderators, but the email has to come up, right?

BALL: I think it has to. I think it's become the biggest issue for her campaign and she continues to have trouble addressing is in a forthright and comprehensible way. And there continue to be these new revelations, new things that are not explained. I do think she had a good week largely because of Kevin McCarthy.

KURTZ: That was a gift.

BALL: That was a gift to her and she rode it as hard as she could...

(CROSSTALK)

BALL: And this is really helping her make her case. I think the best-case scenario that you hear from the Clinton people is this constant drip, drip becomes background noise to people and they start shutting out the new revelations because it's just so much, and because Republicans are piling.

KURTZ: Fred, Hillary Clinton has made clear and Bernie Sanders has made clear that they're not going to personally attack each other at this debate. They haven't done it on the trail, it sounds like the kind of high-minded debate that Americans say they want, but if that is the way it goes, could it draw an audience of 23 or 24 millions as the Fox and CNN debates did on the Republican side?

FRANCIS: No, this is going to be half that. There are three others on that debate stage, who will try to make the most of it, raise their profile, but it really is still about Hillary and Bernie Sanders, and it's going to be a love fest. If they're not going to attack each other, there's going to be a lot of clicking of channels in America.

KURTZ: Very briefly, do you agree with that, Betsy?

WOODRUFF: I disagree on viewership. I think people underestimate how much Bernie Sanders supporters love him, how many parties they're going to have, and the extent to which they're going to tune in. I think the ratings are going to be better than half.

KURTZ: And love fest though?

BALL: I've interviewed Bernie Sanders, when you ask about Hillary, he's not afraid to go there, he's not going to dodge that some politician is doing, he will go after her on policy and he will highlight the areas where they disagree.

KURTZ: But he complains the media are always trying to get him to attack her personally.

Molly Ball, Betsy Woodruff, and Fred Francis out in L.A., thanks very much for joining us this Sunday.

After the break, New York Times describes Melania Trump as a trophy spouse.
I asked the Donald for his reaction. That's coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: Before I left Trump Tower in New York, I had a final question for the Donald about his wife.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: I've written and spoken about the coverage of your wife Melania.
New York Times profile says her twitter feed reflects a seemingly isolated life of beauty rituals, private jet rides, and bikini body, and if she wasn't married to you say the Times her life might resemble that of any number of trophy spouses in New York, Palm Beach, and Paris. How do you feel about that?

TRUMP: She's a great woman, she has a tremendous heart. She's great outer beauty but a great inner beauty. She's been on the cover of Vogue, she was a very, very successful model. She did really well before she met me.

KURTZ: Was the article unfair?

TRUMP: I don't know. I don't know what to think anymore. I get so much press it's unfair, it's like dancing.

KURTZ: Are you worried that as she plays a greater role she gave an interview to People Magazine, some of the press will denigrate her, writer her off as a...

TRUMP: People Magazine was so respectful of her and me. She's got tremendous warmth and a tremendous heart. And I think when it comes to women's health issues and other things, I think she's going to a standout.
I will say somebody wrote on a tweet, I don't care if you're President, but she's got to be the first lady, which was pretty cool. Maybe I shouldn't be telling you that.

KURTZ: She's more popular than you are.

TRUMP: She's going to be great and a great representative of the country, that I can tell you.

KURTZ: Donald Trump thanks very much.

TRUMP: Thank you very much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Still to come, our Twitter feed blowing up over that Trump interview, and Dan Rather claims the new Robert Redford movie about his biggest fiasco vindicates him, but CBS pushing back hard.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: A murky development today in the outrageous case of Jason Rezaian, the Washington Post reporter jailed by Iran for more than a year for the crime of doing his job. Iranian state media quoting the judiciary spokesman as saying there is a verdict in Rezaian's closed trial, not saying what it is, saying it could be an appeal, the Post calling the statement vague and puzzling. We can only hope this is a prelude to a deal or a decision that sends this reporter back to his family here in America and ends what amounts to a hostage taking.

All right, here are some of your many tweets about the Trump sit-down. S.
Elliot, it's a good interview and very fair. Thank you. Love from above, really you asked him about how mainstream media means to him? The Violin strings needs to be replaced. Rounds says, Trump hates any criticism but also attacks opponents on a personal basis. Bryan, good interview, its well known the establishment runs media and is fixated on breaking Trump.
He is great. We'll send the establishment your best.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT REDFORD AS DAN RATHER: Tonight, we have new information on the military service.

Here's to a great story.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: We told you last week about the new Robert Redford movie called "Truth" that attempts to rehabilitate Dan Rather on his greatest debacle, the discredited story on George W. Bush supposedly going AWOL from the International Guard. The film based on a book by Rather's fired producer and Rather at a New York Times forum just the other night still defending the segment that prompted a humiliating retraction.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAN RATHER, FORMER CBS NEWS ANCHOR: The fact that we made mistakes, we didn't do things perfectly, shouldn't have skewed the fact that we reported the truth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: The problem Rather never came close to proving that, and CBS is now responding telling the Hollywood Reporter, its astounding how little truth there is in Truth. There are in fact, too many distortions, evasions, and baseless conspiracy theories to enumerate them all. The film tries to turn gross errors of journalism and judgment into acts of heroism and martyrdom.

That's it for this edition "MediaBuzz." I'm Howard Kurtz. Thanks for joining us. Check out our Facebook page. Give us a like. We post a lot of original content there. We're responding to your questions. And we're back here next Sunday 11:00 and 5:00 Eastern with the latest Buzz.

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