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Media Buzz

CNBC's debate debacle

This is a rush transcript from "MediaBuzz," November 1, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: On the Buzz Meter this Sunday, the Republican Party declares war on NBC after that awful debate on CNBC, with the moderator's sometimes sounding snarky, condescending, even hostile.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN HARWOOD, CNBC: Is this a comic book version of a presidential campaign?

HARWOOD: They said that you have as much cutting taxes that much without increasing the deficit as you would of flying away from that podium by flapping your arms.

HARWOOD: The leading Republican candidate -- when you look at the average of national polls right now is Donald Trump. When you look at him, do you see someone with the moral authority to unite the country?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That's such a nasty question, but thank you, Governor.

CHRIS CHRISTIE, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have got to tell you the truth, even in New Jersey what you're doing is called rude.

TED CRUZ, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The questions that have been asked so far in this debate illustrate why the American people don't truth the media.

MARCO RUBIO, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The Democrats have the ultimate Super PAC, it's called the mainstream media.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Why is the Business Network being so widely panned? Will the RNC really dump the upcoming debate on NBC? Is the press which declared Marco Rubio the winner, launching a death watch for Jeb Bush? And why is Donald Trump after losing his lead in some polls, calling the media scum? And we unveil our exclusive new Media Microscope, using cutting edge technology to examine how the presidential candidates are being covered on Television, and radio, print, and online, which stores are getting traction and how it's impacting the campaign.

Plus, Bob Woodward on Hillary's email mess and the challenge of covering Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB WOODWARD, JOURNALIST: If I were doing Trump, I would do 50,000 words, and do each deal, and look at, you know, how did he get his money. You know, this is a guy who's been in the news for decades.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: And why he's once again investigating Richard Nixon and Watergate. I am Howard Kurtz, this is "MediaBuzz."

The Republican National Committee is going ballistic over that CNBC clash in Colorado, which was panned by critics of all stripes, and didn't play well with the Republican audience.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARL QUINTANILLA, CNBC: Does that the not speak to your vetting process or judgment in any way?

BEN CARSON, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No, it speaks to the fact that I don't...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: The tone of the questions by Washington bureau chief John Harwood, Carl Quintanilla, and Becky Quick prompted plenty of media bashing by the candidates while flurrying and after the debate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CRUZ: And if you look at the questions, Donald Trump, are you a comic book villain, Ben Rubio, can you do math? John Kasich, will you insult two people over here? Marco Rubio, why don't you resign? Jeb Bush, why have your numbers fallen? How about talking about the substantive issue people care about?

MEGYN KELLY, FOX NEWS: So what did you think of the questions and the questioners tonight?

CARSON: Well, I think they obviously had an agenda.

CHRISTIE: Not only were the questions snarky, and divisive, and non- substantive, they were just biased.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Joining us now to analyze CNBC's performance and the RNC's threat to yank the next debate on NBC, Mercedes Schlapp, a U.S. News Columnist, political consultant, and former official in George W. Bush's White House.
Andrea McCarren, a Reporter for Washington's WUSA TV and a former White House Correspondent for NBC and ABC, and Joe Trippi, Democratic Strategist and Fox News Contributor. Mercy, I've made my view clear, the CNBC moderators just seemed to sort of -- but in your view, were they politically biased?

MERCEDES SCHLAPP, POLITICAL CONSULTANT: Absolutely. I think that they were incredibly biased. They asked questions like would you support the budget deal in Washington? Or, for example that exchange between Carl Quintanilla and Ted Cruz -- I wouldn't have a beer with you. This tone, the sense of hostility toward the candidates, and quite frankly they didn't cover any of these important topics like health care which is one sixth of the economy. This is a business channel, we want to see what's happening with these particulars. They missed the ball on that.

KURTZ: That's strong criticism. It is instead a business channel, usually covering the world of Wall Street and stocks and bonds. So in your journalistic opinion, Andrea, were the moderators ready for primetime?

ANDREA MCCARREN, WUSA TV: I thought it was a really disappointing performance. The irony is CNBC has some of the finest business journalists in the world, however, I thought many of the questions were absurd and offensive, the follow ups utterly non-existent, and the respect for those moderators basically slim to none. And I think in the end, the greatest loss was for the American electorate who didn't learn anything about the candidates' policies or ideas.

KURTZ: Fox took some heat after its debate. I would argue those questions were more on substance than many of the CNBC questions. But Joe, were Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, and Donald Trump justified in complaining about what Trump called nasty questions, and then pivoting to rip the mainstream media?

JOE TRIPPI, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Absolutely. I mean, absolutely. I actually don't even understand some of the criticism. It was so clearly biased, it was like fat pitch just sort of lobbed up there for each one of the candidates to knock out of the park, and look, the GOP field won, CNBC lost. And I do think part of that too was disappointment that people were really looking forward to an economic debate, led by a network that has some standing in that, to ask the right questions. They didn't instead sort of flailed away politically.

SCHLAPP: If you looked at the J.V. debate, they actually asked substantive questions compared to what we saw in the primetime debate. It went from talking about the economy. We got to learn more about Jindal and Santorum's policies on the economy than we did with the primetime candidates.

MCCARREN: I fell like the few times it was legitimate -- it was easy to make the villain at that point. Like Ted Cruz, basically he went on a diatribe.

KURTZ: He had the line of the night. What I have been saying is the moderators had a worse night than the New York Mets in the World Series.
Now John Harwood not expressing any regret for how this was handled. He was interviewed on PBS' Washington Week. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Really the energy and anger within the Republican Party that we saw expressed at us, the moderators in that debate, is very much akin to what was going on in the house.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: So Andrea, Reince Priebus, the Head of the RNC writing letter, saying we are suspending our partnership with NBC, which of course is part of the same company, but not involved in the debate, the debate scheduled for February over what CNBC did, he called it a betrayal, petty, and mean- spirited question. What do you make of this retaliation?

MCCARREN: Well, I think he had no choice, but like you, I believe that will happen. If you read his letter, I didn't realize until I read it was for part of the agreement was for the candidates' first question to be about the economy or financial matters. It was about their weaknesses, which I thought John Kasich...

KURTZ: So lame.

MCCARREN: Very lame, but he set the tone of this entire debate by just absolutely bypassing the question, so that fed into the lack of respect for the moderators, justified, I have to say.

KURTZ: I think it is about the Republican National Committee and Priebus himself being under criticism, basically getting NBC to grovel, and then make up. In the brief note from NBC, what else was mentioned?

SCHLAPP: You know I think one of the things NBC was partnering with Telemundo, the one interview that would have been with the Spanish Language Network. And I can tell you, working with the folks at Telemundo, we have Jose Diaz-Balart, who would have been the likely moderator, it really is a missed opportunity because I know Telemundo would give them a fair shake.

MCCARREN: But don't you think it's highly symbolic.

SCHLAPP: Incredibly symbolic.

(CROSSTALK)

TRIPPI: I think it's absolutely insane to even think about skipping an NBC debate, for a whole bunch of reasons. First of all, let's say they did the same thing again. Again, GOP field is going to win that debate. It's going to be so obvious how the questions are loaded, they'll knock it out of the park, and they are talking to a GOP audience that will decide -- make the decision, so that's going to help them. Second of all, I think, you know, what they missed was, no, we took the biased stuff that we think is bias, we're going to do it again, we're going to let NBC prove to the world what they are, and by the way, challenge the Democratic Party. Why won't you go on Fox? Why don't you have Fox have a debate? It's a Democrat, why not? So you sort of push -- you kind of push it...

(CROSSTALK)

KURTZ: So our viewers no, Fox News asked to host one of the Democratic debates and was turned down by the DNC.

TRIPPI: I think that's a mistake.

KURTZ: After what I call the CNBC train wreck, now I said this hurt everyone in the media, because people say journalists are biased, and then you have Ben Carson coming out and saying maybe these debates shouldn't be on the television, they should be on the internet, which would mean less questioning by many network big shot anchors. And then Ted Cruz saying, well we should have Republicans doing the questions, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh should host the next debate.

SCHLAPP: Let's go. I want that debate. I want the conservatives to have an opportunity, whether its radio talk shows, which we know a lot of these GOP caucus voters, are listening to. This is where they get their news.
Why not?

KURTZ: How about having journalists who try to be fair?

SCHLAPP: Why not down a town hall where the American people can ask the questions?

(CROSSTALK)

KURTZ: All right, let's drill down a bit and look down as some of these questions that everyone's been talking about, and we'll start with John Harwood, again CNBC's Chief Washington Correspondent, and he was mixing it up with Marco Rubio over the Senator's tax plan and he invoked a study by the Tax Foundation, and this is what happened.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HARWOOD: Just to be clear.

RUBIO: You had to go back and correct it.

HARWOOD: No, I did not.

RUBIO: Oh, you did.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: So Harwood says, no, I didn't correct, but in fact there was a tweet two weeks earlier, in a different context, a different question, cited the criticism by the right-leaning tax foundation, Rubio said it is a correction, but on television he said, no, no, I never corrected.

SCHLAPP: Which is again, it was just shocking to watch Harwood take that position, but he never said anything at the debate, which again it makes Harwood look very weak and gave Rubio the upper hand.

MCCARREN: Which he's not. He is a solid journalist. That's why the whole night was baffling that some of these questions were coming out of him.

KURTZ: Right. Well, I know conservatives have had question about John Harwood. And I think unfortunately, he gave them some ammunition. Let's go to another CNBC Moderator Becky Quick. She was talking to Donald Trump, and she was bringing up a statement where she said that Trump in the past had criticized Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook mogul, on immigration. Let's look at what happened.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BECKY QUICK, CNBC: Mr. Trump, let's stay on this issue of immigration.
You've been very critical of Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, who has wanted to increase the number of...

TRUMP: I was not at all critical of him.

QUICK: Where did I come up with this?

TRUMP: Probably, I don't know, you people write this stuff.

QUICK: My apologies, I am sorry.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCCARREN: That was just a heart-stopping, head-slapping moment for me as a journalist. Look, it's not easy to moderate a presidential debate, but Becky Quick, who is a solid journalist in general, not a great moderator we see, should have had that attribution right in front of her. She didn't have that many questions. She had about six questions. She should know every possible question.

KURTZ: You never know ask a question -- you said and here it is, and it turns out it was on Trump's web page, and 20 minutes later, CNBC corrected it, so she apologized and she was right.

MCCARREN: She was correct. That was the irony of all of that.

TRIPPI: But there wasn't the prep. You didn't have the backup there.
That's about preparing for the debate. It's not about the actual -- which makes it go haywire if you don't have that backup sitting there like you said.

MCCARREN: It's that lack of preparation compared to Anderson Cooper's performance, where he asked the follow ups, he listened intently to the answers, and clearly he was superbly prepared.

SCHLAPP: You know that the moderators are in trouble when you become the story. So there you go.

KURTZ: That sums it up. And also the way the debate ended with Donald Trump taking credit for forcing CNBC to have only a two-hour debate, instead of expanding to three, and there were days of stories about how the campaign particularly Trump and Carson were pushing, and by the way, New York Times asked its readers to post online the most ridiculous comment from the Republican debate, got 600 responses. What happened after the Democratic debate? Only for the Republican debate, and I think that's the kind of thing that just makes people skeptical of the MSM.

All right, ahead we'll go to our Media Microscope. Our new technology that zeros in on what's moving, we have got to move this prompter, moving the needle for the candidates.

When we come back, Bob Woodward weighs in on Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and how today's journalists are covering the campaign.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: Bob Woodward will always be renowned for his role in blowing Watergate widen open, but can those reporting methods also be applied to the 2016 campaign? I sat down with the Author of the new book "The Last of the President's Men," here in Studio One.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Bob Woodward, welcome.

BOB WOODWARD, "THE LAST OF THE PRESIDENT'S MEN" AUTHOR: Thank you.

KURTZ: In the coverage of this Presidential campaign, do you feel more than any other that maybe substance and policy is taking a backseat to personality, polls, and insults?

WOODWARD: Yes, certainly. And the question is who are these people, how might they really do things. In journalism, our main job is to figure out what happened and then why, and we need to drive into the question harder, who are these people. Why are they running? What is their value system?
And I think it will be done, but it's going to take a lot of patience, and as you appointed out each week in the culture of the internet driven at an impatient speed, give it to me in 144 characters, that depth doesn't get you there.

KURTZ: On that point, you were on a rally, you talked about Hillary Clinton and you said this, we were going to find out that my newspaper, your network, all the news organizations and everyone is going to do a 20,000-word biography of every stage of her life. And I must confess as it struck me as an old-fashioned observation, because journalists can write these 30,000-word but what seems to drive the news cycle, the quick hits, the 50 tweets, the viral video.

WOODWARD: Yes, but if you really find something that is new and explains who these people are, that will drive the news cycle. And people will read it, or maybe they won't read all 30,000 words as frequently happens, but they will get the essence of it, because it will become part of the discussion.

KURTZ: But does the culture of journalism still reward that kind of deep digging, which you know as better than anybody takes time, there are dry hauls, you have to cross check things, maybe have it checked by a lawyer.
Does the culture of journalism still reward that?

WOODWARD: Yes, it does. And what are important is the readers and viewers reward it. I mean at heart, people want to look at the President as somebody who is very serious and what are the ideas driving them? And all of these questions that you can only answer with an in-depth excavation and biographical study.

KURTZ: How would you cover Donald Trump, who not only seems to get a lot of attacks in the media, but that criticism from the media in many ways seems to make him stronger?

WOODWARD: Well, but if I were doing Trump, I would do 50,000 words, and do each deal and look at, you know, how did he get his money? This is a guy who's been in the news for decades.

KURTZ: Decades.

WOODWARD: And has a long history -- as Vladimir Putin said, not a stage of our life passes without a trace, right?

KURTZ: Right. And Trump is running on his business success. That's part of what he is selling to the company.

WOODWARD: Sure. So there's a lot of work to be done. In fact, with all of these candidates, in the end, if we talk about this after the election, I think we're going to say that we went back to the character studies, because you're not electing somebody -- a sound bite. You're electing somebody who's a person and we want to know that. So I am sold on the idea particularly after doing -- revisiting the Nixon book.

KURTZ: You have compared Hillary's email mess to Richard Nixon's secret White House tapes, but since on those tapes, we later learned, we now know as part of history, he talked about cover-ups and burglaries, and wiretapping. Are you assuming there's something nefarious in Hillary's...

WOODWARD: No, I am not assuming anything, but it's the volume, 60,000 emails. Give me 60,000 of your emails, and I will learn a lot about you.
Everyone always says something in an email that perhaps they wish they didn't say. So, you know, we're going to see, but again it's the in-depth work, and in this case we have the FBI doing it for us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: More with Woodward later in the program.

Also ahead, is the press burying Jeb Bush prematurely and prodding him to drop out.

But up next, what if you could measure every report on the candidates, from Television to the web, positive and negative, our brad-new Media Microscope, in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: We're unveiling an exclusive new feature on campaign coverage that we're calling our Media Microscope. We're working with a new analytics company which examines tens of thousand of sources, from Television, print, radio, internet, and measures how much coverage the GOP presidential candidates are drawing, whether it's positive or negative, which issues are driving the campaign or fading from the radar, using a model the company calls the Edge, with technology that simply didn't exist a few years ago.

Let's look at who got the most attention before the CNBC debate on Monday and Tuesday. According to new analytics, Trump dominated, look at this, 55 percent of all coverage, wow, that's nearly 50,000 mentions in just two days. Carson getting 22 percent of the coverage, and down are down to 16 percent for Jeb Bush, under 7 percent for Marco Rubio. This pre-debate coverage was mostly negative. We've taken out the small proportion of neutral reports. But look at this, negative in red, positive in green, the company found two thirds negative coverage for Trump, for Bush, for Rubio, and Carson faring the worst of all, 79 percent negative.

Now check out this sudden shift after the debate on Thursday and Friday.
Carson and Trump still leading in media attention, you see it here with about 30 percent each, that a significant drop for the Donald and a sizable jump for the Doctor. But Rubio's coverage almost tripling to 20 percent and Bush is up slightly to 19 percent after they went toe to toe in the debate over the Senators spotty voting record, a dust-up that nearly everyone says Rubio won. But when you look at the sentiment, negativity still rules. You see it here in red. All four candidates over 70 percent negative, Carson still the highest at 78 percent negative, just a lot of negativity out there when you include so many online sources.

So that CNBC debate really moved the needle especially for Marco Rubio.
And we'll be slicing and dicing the date in different ways when you bring our Media Microscope.

Coming up, are the pundits hailing Marco Rubio and almost writing off Jeb Bush, and is that fair?

What about Donald Trump complaining about the polls?

And later, Bob Woodward diving back into Watergate.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: The media consensus is that Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz were the big winners in CNBC debate, and the pundits kept using a chilling phrase which is ride the plight of Jeb Bush.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH: Let's talk about Jeb and the deathwatch right now.
It's not looking good. The donors are running for the exits now.

GUTHRIE: Is they're kind of lack of a better term, a deathwatch for the Jeb Bush campaign right now.

TODD: Can I tell you last night in Boulder, in that spin room, it felt like a wake.

LEE: There are those that say that decision with that exchange terminal for your campaign.

JEB BUSH, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I knew this was going to be a long journey, but to suggest that the campaign is terminal? Come on, that's pretty funny.

It's not on life support. We have the most money. We have the greatest organization. We're doing fine.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Mercedes Schlapp, Andrea McCarren, and Joe Trippi are back with us.
Andrea, should journalists be using phrases like deathwatch and saying to Jeb Bush should you drop out, are you on life support.

MCCARREN: I think that's terribly unfair and I think it's highly editorial. Look, there are nine candidates with poll numbers lower than Jeb Bush. The voters have a long time to make their decisions. No voter has cast his or her ballot. What I will say though it did not help Jeb Bush at all during the debate, probably one of the most animated moments I have witnessed during the campaign season is his talking about fantasy football.

KURTZ: A question from the CNBC moderator, which he was bragging about his team, and Chris Christie saying why we are talking about fantasy football.

MCCARREN: And are journalists asking Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum if they're dropping out. I don't think so.

KURTZ: Let ate stipulate that Jeb had a pretty lousy debate when he needed to have a good one, he's been struggling, there's no debate about that, but with the media constantly saying to what are you still in this, are you on life support, doesn't that color the coverage too much?

SCHLAPP: Absolutely. The media wrote the obituary already for Jeb Bush.
And we didn't see that with Governor Walker, although Governor Walker's numbers were low, we were caught a bit off-guard when he decided to drop out. So clearly there's been a distinction in the way they've been covering Jeb.

KURTZ: On Meet the Press today, Jeb Bush said one of the challenges was to break through the punditry class, but New York Times editorial demanding that Chris Christie drop out and go back to being just Governor of New Jersey. Who exactly elected the media to decide and demand that candidates should get off the national stage?

TRIPPI: It's crazy, so far this year, anytime the media has ganged up and said something was going to happen, take the other side of the bet. So if everybody is saying Bush is dead, I am going the other way. I don't think he's dead at all.

KURTZ: As a former campaign manager, you know it's not helpful.

TRIPPI: No, it's not, but it's not reality. There are plenty of episodes in the past and even this cycle that have proven that it's not reality.
Everything from Hillary Clinton was finished and collapsing, but it was way overdone. So the media gets on these bandwagons and just overdoes it. It does hurt a campaign, but it's also -- does he come back from that? Does he fight back?
That's something he can do, and in that sense media may actually help him come back into this.

(CROSSTALK)

MCCARREN: He's even been encouraging people to write his comeback narrative.

SCHLAPP: How many times has the media saying Donald Trump is done.

MCCARREN: Or that he's not a real candidate.

(CROSSTALK)

KURTZ: I want to ask Andrea about Marco Rubio, because at that debate, he was asked about the Sun Sentinel, biggest newspaper in Florida, calling on him to resign because he has a spotty record in voting the Senate. Well, of course, whenever you run for President, your voting record suffers. And Rubio and his campaign pointed out that the Sunset -- while urging him to step down -- by the voice, that was the basis for the Jeb Bush attack.
Didn't do that when Florida Senator Bob Graham ran for President in 2003, the paper did not -- 37 percent endorsed Obama in '08, 25 percent missed votes. Does Rubio have a point?

MCCARREN: I think he has a really valid point, and I think he actually handled that question, deflected it very, very well, but that also -- that whole idea gave the media haters a whole lot of ammunition, because it did come across as clearly biased.

KURTZ: All right. Let's talk about Trump, since you mentioned him. He is still making plenty of news. We have some video clips to show you. The first one begins with Trump talking about how journalists are now rated lower than, say, Congress. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: The media is rated -- and you're right, they're scum, they're horrible people. They're horrible people. Will you get your numbers up, please? What the hell are you people doing to me? I am Presbyterian.
That's down the middle of the road, folks in all fairness. Seventh day Adventist, I just don't know about.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: I don't consider you a horrible person or anybody at this table.

SCHLAPP: We don't either, Howard.

KURTZ: Thank you so much. Was it odd that Trump brought up Ben Carson's religion without quite criticizing it?

SCHLAPP: He did put it out there, which was a little strange, but again it's a Donald Trump tactic, to say, look I am kind of middle of the road, but you look at what Ben Carson's religion is. Whether it was fair game or not is a different story.

KURTZ: But I would say it worked.

SCHLAPP: That's exactly it.

(CROSSTALK)

SCHLAPP: And remember when Governor Romney ran, there were so many stories out there about Romney being a Mormon.

KURTZ: But he's a proud Mormon.

SCHLAPP: Exactly. So it was like, let's look into this.

MCCARREN: I didn't feel like it was his place to discuss Ben Carson's religious preference, though.

(CROSSTALK)

TRIPPI: This is what he's going to do it and it works. He's much smart about it than people give him credit for. They kind of think he's just winging it -- he knows what he's doing.

(CROSSTALK)

SCHLAPP: He knows exactly what he's doing.

KURTZ: When he says the pollsters don't like me or unscientific, because suddenly the numbers are -- they're very good for him, but not as good as they were.

TRIPPI: Yeah, I think he definitely knows what he's doing, and you know it's that strength of the challenge that makes it come through. People like that.

KURTZ: Andrea, Trump said to me in an interview, certainly outlets, Politico, they're scum, but now we're all scum. Does that help him in a year when the press is not too popular?

MCCARREN: Absolutely, because there is this swell of media hate. And I will say we may be scum, Howie, but we should all be grateful that in this country we have a free press.

KURTZ: That's a great note to end on.

SCHLAPP: But I think for Republicans, it really is a narrative that plays for GOP primary voter, the fact that it's us versus the media, because so for long we've been demonized by the mainstream media.

KURTZ: All right, Mercedes, I'll see you a little later. Andrea McCarren, Joe Trippi, thanks very much for joining us for these segments.

This Sunday ahead on Media Buzz, how the press made Chris Christie sound like an out-of-control loud mouth.

But first, Bob Woodward tracks down the man who blew the whistle on Richard Nixon's secret taping system and found even more deceptions.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: It was a gripping moment at the height of the Watergate scandal with Richard Nixon fighting for survival, when the Senate Committee questioned an obscure former Presidential aide named Alexander Butterfield.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRED THOMPSON: Mr. Butterfield, are you aware of the installation of any listening devices in the Oval Office of the President?

ALEXANDER BUTTERFIELD: I was aware of listening devices, yes, sir.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Butterfield is the central player in Bob Woodward's new book he Last of the President's Men. Here is more of our interview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: In your book on Alex Butterfield and the secret White House tapes, it reminded me of a time when the country was absolutely consumed by the scandal, and President Nixon went before the cabinet and said let others wallow in Watergate, we're going to do the work of the country. And taking on these more than 40 years after the break in, did you feel like you were once again wallowing in Watergate?

WOODWARD: No, the opposite. In the -- in Butterfield's files, 40 boxes, lots of original documents, some of it quite frankly shocked me because the management of the Vietnam war was done in a way to win reelection, not win the war.

KURTZ: You were shocked by the memo in which -- this was at the time that President Nixon said the bombing of Vietnam was highly effective. In the memo you uncovered, it said it had done zilch. If it came out at the time, would it have been a bombshell?

WOODWARD: Well, it certainly would have caused us to examine what's going on in the Vietnam War. And we now know from all of the bombing studies done and so forth that Nixon had it right. It accomplished zilch. It was a failure in so many ways, but again, it's -- he said this on a top secret memo to Henry Kissinger. Publicly and always he was saying for years, oh, the bombing is militarily necessary.

KURTZ: When the staff of the Watergate Committee found out that Alex butter field knew of a secret taping system in the White House, which ultimately would bring Nixon down. I think later your co-author Scott Armstrong, you told the late Ben Bradley about the story, and his reaction was?

WOODWARD: I called him on a Saturday night, because I was -- you know, everything was taped, this was all done secretly, it might resolve the conflict between Nixon's denials and the assertions of others, particularly as counsel John Dean. So I woke Bradley up at 9 o'clock, and said -- he taped everything, Nixon taped secretly. What do you think? And Ben said, well, I wouldn't bust one on it to get a story in the paper. What do you think? How would you evaluate it? I asked him. He said, b-plus. And so I took Sunday off the next day, feeling I had broken the chain of command again and got right to Bradley, because it was so, you know -- tapes?

Is this possible? And then when butter field testified on a Monday, you know, it shook the world. It was one of these things. To Bradley's credit, he came by, knocked on my desk and said, ok, it's better than a b- plus.

KURTZ: What jumped out at me in this book was the portrayal of Richard Nixon the person, as told through the eyes of Alex Butterfield who sat outside his office for nearly four years, even how awkward their first meeting was, because Butterfield was brought in by Halderman, the chief of staff. This was a politician who rose to the top of his profession, but seemed uncomfortable around people?

WOODWARD: Was a lonely man. He preferred to be alone. Butterfield tells about how Nixon would work in the Oval Office, instead of going up to the residence, would go back to his office in the Executive Office Building, put his feet up on -- and keep his jacket on and have a drink and have man servant, Manola make dinner for him alone and sit there with his legal tablet, but the story that Butterfield has provided in this book is one about Nixon's obsessions and his deceptions, and there are more and more of them, particularly on Vietnam. I served in the navy.

KURTZ: I know you did.

WOODWARD: And for people who served, for people who care about the military, which I think are most people in this country, I think particularly a lot of conservatives who really believe what the military stands for and does, is a pillar of strength in this country, this is a level of deception and lying and mismanagement of that war.

KURTZ: You are finally on twitter in 2015, but you don't tweet that much.
Are you a reluctant convert?

WOODWARD: No, I am trying to get my feet into it. I want to be careful.
So, you know, at age 72 I am trying to learn.

KURTZ: You've written many books, but the 140-character thing is a whole different world. Bob Woodward thanks very much for joining us.

WOODWARD: Thanks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: After the break, one journalist tries to pin down Donald Trump on why he unloads on polls that show him slipping, and another says Hillary Clinton is making a Trumped up charge of sexism. Our video verdict is straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: Time now for our Video Verdict. When Donald Trump called into Morning Joe, Bloomberg tried to pin him down on one of the billionaire's favorite subjects, the all-important question of polls.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you're ahead in the polls, you act like they're scientific gospel. When you're behind, you'll often will challenge the pollster, the organization, the methodology, the legitimacy of the polls.

TRUMP: I generally believe in polls. The thing with these polls they're all so different, they're coming from all over the lot, where one guy's up here, and somebody else is up here, or you see swings of 10 and 12 points, immediately even the same day. So right now it's not very scientific.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Mercy.

SCHLAPP: It's not scientific when Donald Trump is not winning. So I think he has this incredible fascination with the polls not seen with any of these other candidates. And so when he's made this decision that, look, I am losing right now, so these can't be working for me, but even just today, he tweeted out, he basically said, well, I agree with these polls, I am up top again. We'll see what happens.

KURTZ: It's a challenge to pin Trump down. I can tell you from having interviewed him several times. He got a pretty revealing answer.

All right, so after Bernie Sanders said in the Democratic debate that shouting wouldn't solve the problem of gun violence, Hillary Clinton responded with this jab. And MSNBC was rather appalled.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now, I have been told to stop shouting about ending gun violence. Well, I haven't been shouting, but sometimes when a woman speaks out, some people think its shouting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that sexist, what Bernie Sanders said?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. That was -- don't make me say it, Joe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Say it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please don't make me say it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me say that's pathetic.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That was pathetic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's pathetic.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHLAPP: Say it, Mika, say it like it is, it is pathetic. I think about my family, whenever Matt tells me, we were talking to your mother, and we're Cuban, and I am talking to my mom and he'll be like, are you shouting at your mother? I said, no, we're just Cuban, we just speak loud, that's the way we talk. For Hillary Clinton to basically be saying, well, I am shouting, so I am a woman, I mean, come on. It's such a weak play for her.

KURTZ: Well, it is an attempt to try to cast Bernie Sanders as being sexist. Her campaign has. But I have to give credit to Mika Braginsky, I mean she is a liberal, she would like to support Hillary Clinton, but she could not hide her disdain, even though Joe had to pull it out of her.

SCHLAPP: It's great to see women journalists come out and basically say it like it is. In this case it was absolutely pathetic. This is a narrative that Hillary Clinton wants to push, which is I am a woman and I am running and the media's buying into it.

KURTZ: Thanks, Mercy.

Still to come, your top tweets, Joe Biden's -- made his big decision. And have you heard about Chris Christie and the quiet car? It's a bogus story.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: It was an unedifying spectacle, all these journalists and pundits breathlessly reporting that Joe Biden was on the verge of running or actually about to declare for President, turns one of those who were annoyed was Joe Biden.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How often did the two of you talk about this decision, every night?

JOE BIDEN, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: What's driving me crazy, you guys, we love you. But, you know, serious press people would say, well, we have on good authority from a very close friend of Joe Biden's that he's going to announce tomorrow. Or we have on good authority that he's not going to run. That used to drive me crazy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Even the Vice President was fed up. By the way, he challenged the reporting that his late son Beau was supposedly on his deathbed urging his father to run. That's not how Maureen Dowd reported it. She just said they had a conversation. But a follow-up news story in the Times left that impression and the paper has belatedly run a correction. Time for your top tweets, would the RNC be justified in yanking the next debate from NBC after the CNBC debate debacle.

Gary, the dems aren't allowing Fox for the debates. Fox has asked for a Democratic debate. Robert K. Feldman, the left-wing loons, they should be fired for that crap they threw out there the other night, and mainstream media is no better. Ouch. It's better off holding its own debate. I wouldn't think so, RNC a bunch of cry babies. It's ok to actually to respond to questions.

What a delicious story about Chris Christie. The gossip site Gawker, reporting an Amtrak conductor kicked the loud-mouthed New Jersey Governor out of the car for yakking away on his phone.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Governor Christie, not exactly known for his inside voice, was returning from Washington when he was kicked out of the quiet car for talking on his phone -- Chris Christie ejected from the quiet car and had to go to the cafe car to finish his strawberry smoothie.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The New Jersey Governor and Republican Presidential Candidate, was sipping a smoothie, talking on his cell phone when apparently somebody complained. That is a no-no on the quiet car.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was sipping a smoothie, talking on his cell phone when somebody complained. That is a no-no on the quiet car.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Chris Christie got on the quiet car and started talking.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: But hold on, a journalist named Katie (Inaudible) was right there, and she says the Gawker piece was way hyped, Christie was running late, he didn't realize he got in the wrong car, he was super courteous she says, told he was on the quiet car and left, and didn't cause a scene. So kind of a non-story, which is why it's written on twitter, this stuff is why people don't believe anything they hear or read. That's it for this edition of Media Buzz. I'm Howard Kurtz. We hope you'll check out our Facebook page. Give us a like. We post a lot of original contents and videos there, responding to your questions. You can also hear my media minutes on the new Sirius XM Fox Radio Station. And don't forget to DVR us, or better yet, watch us live. We're back here next Sunday at 11 and 5 Eastern, with the latest Buzz.

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