Journalists decry terror; editor defends Charlie Sheen scoop

Reporters pressuring President Obama


This is a rush transcript from "MediaBuzz," November 22, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: On the Buzz Meter this Sunday, the media showing anger and outrage over the Paris massacre, challenging the administration, and especially President Obama.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN: I guess the question is -- and if you'll forgive the language, why can't we take out these bastards?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Jim, I just spent the last three questions answering that very question. So I don't know what more you want me to add.


KURTZ: Anchors add reporters stepping out of their usual role to speak out about taking on terrorism.


BILL HEMMER, FOX NEWS: President Obama has made it quite clear in that Q&A that lasted more than 45 minutes that he has accepted there are evils in this world and evils in place like Paris, France, and this is something that we all must face today. And if you are waiting for clarification on your feeling through that Q&A, you aren't going to get it.


KURTZ: And how are the Paris attacks transforming coverage of the Presidential campaign?


SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: Give me the specific steps you would tail and how fast you would get it done.

DONALD TRUMP, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would get everybody together and blast the hell out of them. I would blast the hell out of them.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: What do you think the President should be doing right now?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: First, I would ask our allies to invoke article five. This was clearly an act of war, an attack on one of our major allies


KURTZ: Now Donald Trump and Ben Carson getting into dustups with the press over their controversial comments on Muslims and Syrian refugees. Who is right?

Plus, Charlie Sheen takes to the Today Show to reveal the secret he's been hiding.


CHARLIE SHEEN, ACTOR: I am here to admit that I am in fact HIV-positive, and I have to put a stop to this onslaught, this barrage of attacks and of sub-truths.


KURTZ: The editor of the National Enquirer on how the tabloid forced him into that television confession. I'm Howard Kurtz, and this is "MediaBuzz."

When the President met with White House reporters in the wake of Paris attacks, he was hit a barrage of challenging questions, and showed he's annoyance.


MARGARET BRENNAN, CBS NEWS: More than a year-long bombing campaign in Iraq and in Syria has failed to contain the ambition and the ability of ISIS to launch attacks in the west. Have underestimated their abilities?

RON ALLEN, ABC NEWS: And do you think given all that you've learned about ISIS over the past year or so, and given all the criticism about your underestimating them, do you think you really understand this enemy well enough to defeat them and to protect the homeland.

OBAMA: All right, so this is another variation on the same question.


KURTZ: Some journalists meanwhile, not holding back when it comes to their feelings about the heartbreaking mass murder and the Obama administrations response on ISIS and refugees.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN: He said something that was pretty incredible, according to many of the military experts here and around the world who I have spoken to, that our strategy is working. People do not believe that to be the case.

SHEPARD SMITH, FOX NEWS: In the face of terror, will we panic or be calm and deliberative in approach? Confronted with those who want to change our way life, will we abandon our freedoms and the rights granted to us by the creator or we welcome huddled masses yearning to breathe free, and we must not let the rhetoric of potential and political extremism among us lead us to self-destruction.


KURTZ: Joining us now to analyze the media coverage, Mary Katharine Ham, editor at large at Hot Air and a Fox News Contributor, Susan Ferrechio, chief congressional correspondent for the Washington Examiner, and Fred Francis, former NBC News correspondent now with Mary Katharine, we're so happy you're back, especially since you'll be giving birth soon.



KURTZ: The ultimate multi-tasker. So we've seen anchors, reporters, stepping a bit outside their usual role in neutrality in speaking out, your reaction?

HAM: Well, I think all of the folks we saw there are channeling the American people's frustration and confusion with why Obama is not channeling their frustration and confusion about what happened in Paris. He came up and gave this press conference, a little peeve, a little annoyed, and but I wonder also if the American people don't make the distinctions between anger, opinion anchor and reporters that we do in the media world.

KURTZ: Those are important distinctions, but still in a time of tragedy, journalists are robust and sometimes show their emotions.

FRED FRANCIS, FORMER NBC SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: In fact, one of the most unprofessional things I have seen this week. It's incumbent upon journalists to be journalists and not confuse the audience with whether they're commentators or giving their opinion, but give some facts. They're not doing that this week. Sure, everybody is upset about what happened, but giving facts and playing it straight, even when the President is not at his best, and boy, he was not at his best. He was cranky, he was jetlagged, but the repetitive and questioning and the editorial questioning -- I was ashamed as a journalist.

KURTZ: Does it invite criticism when journalists speak out to you tipped your hand, we know what you think, and can you really be fair on this issue?

SUSAN FERRECHIO, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: It doesn't seem to me they were editorializing. What you saw right after that was the reaction on live TV was the raw emotion about the attacks and this incongruent emotion from the President. He's always been aloof about big issues. That's part of the way he's been as President, and I think you saw people reacting, ground zero with the President with his bullhorn. People are looking for that, and I think that's the reaction on the ground.

HAM: But the question is do you understand this enemy, and it seems that the strategy is not working to say again, do you understand this enemy...


HAM: Amanpour was actually fact checking him. He said people in the military community don't believe this is working so let's discuss that and his answer doesn't change.

KURTZ: Through the extent that the journalists were asking different versions of the same question, could it have been that they were unsatisfied with the President's answers?

HAM: That's my take on it.

FERRECHIO: Foreign policy questions have always been a problem of the President.

FRANCIS: And in fact -- but if you're going to ask question of the President, and four people in front of you have asked the same question, don't you think you could have a fallback question, something specific that you've actually done some research on?

KURTZ: Such as?

FRANCIS: We dropped 6,000 bombs a day in Iraq. Why haven't you dropped any bombs? Why can't you turn the lights out on ISIS, Mr. President?

HAM: Why can't we go get these bastards?


KURTZ: That's CNN's Jim Acosta. This morning in Malaysia, President Obama took a slightly tougher tone. We're going to get it done, we're going to pursue it, but a lot of people were surprised to see White House correspondents as aggressive as they were with the President, because that hasn't always been the hallmark during this administration.

HAM: And it was refreshing to see a bit of that. I think there's better ways to phrase some of these questions, and I think somehow they are trying to tweak hem a bit, so he reacts, but this again is the central question.

FRANCIS: But to say to the President, why can't we get these bastards? It was a question really to make the highlight reel?

FERRECHIO: No, I think it's a question people are wondering.

FRANCIS: But that's not a question a correspondent shouldn't ask.

KURTZ: So you're accusing Jim Acosta of showmanship, as if that's never happened before, but you're also saying the question was inappropriate or not specific enough?

FRANCIS: I think you should be more specific. If the policy is not working question it why. Don't just ask a showboat question.

KURTZ: Speaking of journalists sharing opinions, CNN's Global Correspondent Elise Labott tweeted this -- house passes bill that could limit Syrian refugees, statues of liberty bows head in anguish. Elise Labott apologized which was the right thing to do for being disrespectful and inappropriate, and CNN suspended her for two weeks. What do you make of that tweet?

HAM: Well, again, in my mind she's a reporter. She has very little leeway on the opinion side and anchor more, and I can say what the heck I want, but again I am not sure that regular people make that distinction. Two weeks was a pretty stiff suspension, I thought, compared to some other things that CNN has doled out in the past.

FERRECHIO: Social media has become this real mix of opinion journalists, and non-opinion journalists and they all get wrapped up in the conversations on social media, and I think some of these journalists forget that they're just journalists, they're Jonah Goldberg opinionating -- this is part of the problem. There are no editors on Twitter.

KURTZ: I got a lot of reaction to this when I criticized it on Twitter, you know, she's right and we can't lose our humanitarian approach to refugees and all of that. This is a debate. Some people say, you know, reporters they should be fair, but if the opinion is one you agree it, then its ok. Now, this seems, this whole question of what to do with the Syrian refugees and house legislation toughens the scrutiny they would get, seems to be an emotional issue for the journalists.

Huffington Post saying it's a disagree, some journalists frame it on being a moral question, therefore the normal rules don't apply?

FRANCIS: Again, I do back to do your research. That started early in the week. It was not until Friday that we learned or from journalists that of the 700,000 refugees that have come into this country since 2001, only a handful involved any investigations. It was just a couple days later that it takes a full two years and four federal agencies to vet these refugees. But that didn't come out.

KURTZ: By the way, conservatives on Fox and elsewhere playing out the 30 governors, one of them a Democrat who were saying we don't want these in our state, but the fact is they don't have anything to say about it legally. It's a federal matter.

FRANCIS: It was pointed out only occasionally.

HAM: I think the President is comfortable making this a mortgage food fight. All the reporting is an internet means and hash tags, and the White House is partly to blame for that, because they put out first, this is how we're welcoming refugees, instead of explaining this is how we scrutinize refugees.


KURTZ: Both sides are politicizing this issue. The Republican Presidential Candidates are slamming President Obama on this, and he, by the way, has taken to mocking them, are they afraid of 3-year-old orphans?

FERRECHIO: So the orphans and widows comments got a lot of coverage, what didn't get coverage is the FBI director saying we bring in 10,000 refugees, there's no way to fully vet all of them, but I think there's been polls showing that most Americans really don't want Syrian refugees here because of the vetting problem.

KURTZ: Right. The notion that this is a fringe position, I have got to get a break here, Fred. Get you on the other side. Don't forget to send me a message on Twitter @HowardKurtz, let us know what you think.

Ahead, should television networks air ISIS propaganda videos supposedly targeting New York and Washington?

But when we come back, Ben Carson's campaign rips the New York Times for publishing belittling comments from the candidate's foreign policy advisors. That's next.


KURTZ: The media have been challenging Ben Carson on foreign policy since the Paris attacks, especially since he's struggled several times to answer this question on "Fox News Sunday."


CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS: Can you tell us who you would call for us, sir -- on the international incident.

BEN CARSON, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would call for all of the Arab states to be involved. I would call for all of our traditional allies to be involved in this.


KURTZ: That question about Carson assembling a coalition to go to war against ISIS. Then New York Times publishing damaging quotes from a Carson foreign policy adviser, former CIA Operative Dewy Claridge who said the candidate need weekly conference calls "So we can make him smart," he added, nobody has been able to sit down with him and have him get one iota of intelligent information about the Middle East.

A Carson spokesman said this to Business Insider about the 83-year-old Claridge. For the New York Times to take advantage of an elderly gentleman, and use them as their foil in this story is an affront to good journalistic practices.

Susan Ferrechio, was there something underhanded about the New York Times quoting Claridge who is an informal foreign police adviser to Ben Carson?

FERRECHIO: It was strange to see one of his own advisers to talk about him that way in the New York Times. What is this guy doing talking to the New York Times about his own client? But I think New York Times article did even more so was expose the atypical campaign that Ben Carson is running. He does not have a huge stable of foreign policy advisors like Jeb Bush does or like President Obama did when he ran in 2008. He's got a real skeleton crew helping him run for President, and it is atypical.

So far the public is lapping it up. He's number two in the polls. He's doing very well. But foreign policy is a problem for him.

KURTZ: Let me zero in on this question. Is it an affront to good journalistic practices -- the New York Times says that Armstrong Williams, a friend of Ben Carson, speaking for him on TV, referred the paper Claridge, and gave them the number, this was the only foreign policy advisors name given to the newspaper. So is there anything wrong with quoting him, by the way, on the record?

FERRECHIO: No, in fact they went to another adviser, and talked to him and got a lot of positive response about Carson's foreign policy. I thought it was balanced, but it was peculiar this adviser was willing to go on the record and talk to New York Times. I think it expose a broader issue of how his campaign is being run.

KURTZ: You know I think Carson has largely won his battle against news organizations that have been trying to poke holes in his life story -- he told me last week these organizations were deliberately trying to damage him. I don't agree. So perhaps he sees these questions about foreign policy knowledge also as being biased.

FERRECHIO: It depends on what the public thinks. That's what I would say. Right now its terrorism concerns number two right now with voters. Actually scrutiny is going to come, whether he likes it or not, and his answers are going to be really important.

KURTZ: But my question to you particularly in the wake of the Paris attacks, is the media scrutiny with Dr. Carson and what he knows and what he would do, is that unfair?

FERRECHIO: Only if you compare it to the way you look at everybody else. Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State, part of the problem in the Middle East right now rests on her shoulders based on what she did Libya. I don't see New York Times unleashing their stable of reporters to really look at her job as Secretary of State and what happened in Libya, and how it partially led to the advancement of ISIS right now.

KURTZ: Susan thanks very much. By the way, Carson dropping five points in a Fox News poll out just a couple of hours ago, 18 percent, that's second place, Donald Trump 28 percent is up a little bit, and Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio tied for third at 14 percent.

Ahead on "MediaBuzz," the National Enquirer's editor on how he broke the Charlie Sheen HIV story, and was the actor telling the truth on the Today Show?

But first, how are the Paris attacks affecting coverage of the candidates, our media microscope is up next.


KURTZ: Today's question for our media microscope, have the Paris attacks changed the way the top Presidential Candidates are covered? Our research comes from the analytics company which examines tens of thousands of sources in television, radio, print, and on the web. Let's start with last week before Paris, Donald Trump dominating the media coverage here with 38 percent. Ben Carson behind with 29 percent, then we have Jeb Bush well behind with 13 percent, Marco Rubio at 12 percent, Ted Cruz way down at 6 percent. Now let's look at this week after the Paris tragedy.

Here we zoomed in on the top networks, newspapers and web sites. Trump nearly unchanged, but Ben Carson dropping down to 20 percent of the stories. That's a decline of one third, Jeb Bush who has done a lot of TV interviews jumping from 14 percent to 18 percent. Marco Rubio essentially unchanged, but Ted Cruz, who's been out there hammering the administration over ISIS and leading the charge, more than doubling his share of media attention to 14 percent. What about a tone of the coverage? Let's go back to last week before Paris, here we have negative in red, positive in green.

Donald Trump 60 percent, negative, Ben Carson with 75 percent negative coverage, Jeb Bush 66 percent, Marco Rubio 64 percent, and Ted Cruz taking a lot of flack, 70 percent negative. Fast forward to this week, the Paris story dominating the news, looking at the top media outlets again, Donald Trump rising to 68 percent, negative up eight points, Ben Carson winning the negativity sweepstakes, that's not a prize you want jumping to 82 percent, more than 4 out of 5 as he battled questions about his knowledge of foreign policy.

Marco Rubio more negative last week, 70 percent, and then we have Jeb Bush no change, 66 percent, and Ted Cruz, you might call him the winner. His coverage was only 61 percent negative, a 9-point improvement. Bottom line, Paris changed the equation, but Trump pretty much impervious to the news of the week, and rising in the latest poll today. Coming up, Donald Trump trying to talk his way out of the trouble, some saying he suggested a database for a Muslims. He says it was a reporter's idea.

And later, should television be airing ISIS propaganda videos?


KURTZ: As the media's campaign focus shifts dramatically to terrorism and refugees, Donald Trump and Ben Carson both having dustups with the press. When a Yahoo news reporter asked Trump if his plans included registering Muslims in a database, Trump he'll have to look at a lot of things very closely, then came this exchange with an NBC reporter.


TRUMP: There could be a lot of systems beyond databases. We should have a lot of systems. Today you can do it, but right now we have to have a border, we have to have strength, we have to have a wall, and we cannot let what's happening to this country happen...

I would certainly implement that, absolutely.


KURTZ: But Trump caused a stir by tweeting on Friday I didn't suggest a database, a reporter did. We're back with the panel, Mary Katherine, there's a total furor now by whether Trump is backtracking and trying to shift it to a reporter who asked the question.

HAM: Well, it did get trumped up by some media to some extent. I pointed out on Friday it hit on Fox News after which Donald Trump decided to come after me for pointing out that the reporter had said it first.

KURTZ: On Twitter.

HAM: Yes. The problem is, as always with Trump, I don't think he's really thinking it through, he as just affirming the question, moving on, and then you get affirmations seemingly from his staff that everything is on the table, so there is some misunderstanding by that.

KURTZ: Trump's campaign manager saying perhaps Trump didn't hear the full question...


FRANCIS: I think that's a problem with what a lot of what Trump does. He may be hard of hearing sometimes, not just with the hoopla of the campaign. Sometimes you see him lean in to hear the whole thing. But again, Donald Trump speaks and then thinks. He doesn't take anything back.

KURTZ: Fred, a lot of people like what he is speaking about.

FRANCIS: But can he execute what he's talking about? He never has any details.

KURTZ: I want to speak with the media. This came after he was at an event and Dr. Carson asked about the Syrian refugees, made this analogy, if there's a rabid dog you probably will not assume something good about that dog, but he wasn't again all dogs.

This got widely reported to say the least, and then Carson said this.


CARSON: So what does the news media do? Carson says the Syrians are like rabid dogs. This is the kind of thing they do. Fortunately, it only works on gullible people, but the problem is there are a lot of gullible people.


KURTZ: Did the press misrepresent Ben Carson's analogy?

HAM: I think anytime you go with the word dog and rabid dog, you're going to see some backlash for that. I do think -- as I said earlier that the President is happy to make this just about are you racist and un-American? When a lot of American people are saying, hey, I am concerned about this. Carson is trying to tap into that.

KURTZ: Carson is a great target in this campaign, isn't he?

FRANCIS: The only target for some -- and reporters need to -- when they ask a question of a candidate, reporters have to get -- when they get an answer and it's a news-making answer, reporters should say, would you repeat that again? Make sure they get the candidate on the record. So the candidate can't then go back and say I was...


KURTZ: It was ambiguous and all of that.

FRANCIS: Exactly.

KURTZ: Now the foreign policy focus I think is very evident from all the interviews. Hillary Clinton in one way perhaps has an advantage as a former Secretary of State. In another way are the media doing enough as her record on terror, on Libya, and all that?

FERRECHIO: I would, of course, love to see more aggressive questioning of Secretary Clinton on the trail. She doesn't allow for that very often. Bernie Sanders could take a shot, but he's not been willing to do that.

KURTZ: He doesn't want to make it personal.

FERRECHIO: Yes. I do think the change the coverage of the race and you will see more asking specifics. I am not sure it changed much, whereas Donald Trump, people like there's no specifics. They like we're going to gather and bomb them.

KURTZ: Well, he projects strength with those things and that can be appealing when you have 120, 130 people dead in Paris.

FRANCIS: I don't think reporters are asking enough specific questions about this, and I don't think the candidates have specific answers.

KURTZ: And one of the reasons for that, Fred Francis, is that when you get into questions of should we send ground troops, and -- says, well, if you just sent ground troops, what do we end up with? What he was really saying is we don't want a rerun of the Iraq war. We all want to be strong, I not necessarily without cost.

FRANCIS: There's a cost involved here, but nobody has mentioned -- nobody at this table wants to see just the Americans go at it. But what if the French President comes here this week and asks for American support, with the French, with the Germans, with the NATO allies, what if he does that what will reporters and candidates -- how will an invasion takes place?

KURTZ: And conservative commentators and mainstream media, generally faulting President Obama's handling of this. Some are saying he seems tone-deaf to the fear and concern.

HAM: When you look at the polling, obviously people are concerned. He's not willing to acknowledge those concerns. He's talking about this is un- American, before he talks about this is how we're vetting the concern.

KURTZ: What is the media's role here in terms of holding the President accountable?

HAM: One is to drill down how we do this vetting and how he expects people to...

FRANCIS: How about a question to the President or to the candidates? Is the President just marking time until the next, you know, to the next administration?

KURTZ: You know the answer is going to be there, no, he's fully engaged.

HAM: And on foreign policy, there isn't an easy answer that is true. Once you commit ground troops, will you staying there no nation building? But it's the job of the President and national figures running for President to navigate the schizophrenia of the American public.

KURTZ: That's what I was going to say. Fred Francis, Mary Katharine Ham, great to see you this Sunday.

Up next, why did the media slack off on the war against ISIS until the horror of the carnage in Paris?

And later, Charlie Sheen says he paid millions to cover up the fact he was HIV-positive. Why he was compelled to admit that to Matt Lauer.


KURTZ: The latest ISIS videos conveying a threat against New York City and also Washington composed a familiar challenge. On MSNBC, Chuck Todd made a point of explaining why he wouldn't air it.


CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS: We're not showing the video, because we have had no credible evidence there's anything to this other than ISIS looking for a propaganda score.


KURTZ: But minutes later, Todd's program did show an ISIS video as did other MSNBC programs. Joining us now, Gillian Turner, a Fox News contributor and national security consultant who worked on such issues for the Bush and Obama administration, welcome.


KURTZ: In your ideal world, what would you do when these videos come out, authorities say no credible evidence. Do you show these videos?

TURNER: In Jillian Turner's universe, you never show the videos, even if there is credible evidence, because doing so really always will undermine American national security interests. There's always going to be people who watch ISIS videos, no matter how gruesome, no matter how poorly produced and feel attracted to the organization. These videos are tremendously powerful recruitment videos for them.

KURTZ: Fox's policy is to show one still frame. I would have to agree. I don't know if I would show them at all. But leads to the second question, which is when you're covering the carnage of terrorist attacks, which of course we have to do, are you also inadvertently doing what the terrorists want?

TURNER: You are. And that's part of the catch-22. Western media, of course, is going to cover terrorism as it unfolds sometimes like we saw last week. That footage subsequently becomes some of ISIS' most powerful material. Don't think for a second that coverage is not going to appear in their subsequent videos.

KURTZ: Let's go back to the past year before Paris, before Mali. And it seems that the coverage of ISIS and the terror threat as we became consumed really faded. Do you agree, and if so why.

TURNER: Absolutely. There's relative non-coverage in the west, then a terrorist attack, and suddenly there's a huge spike, sometimes wall-to-wall coverage, and then we go back to kind of reverting to non-interests. I think a big part of the problem is that western media really only cares about terrorism that hits close to home.

KURTZ: If you were to pitch stories about terrorism in Africa, which may or may not feel close by, what's the reception?

TURNER: It's generally not that great until unfortunately something like last Friday happened. The stuff in Mali, the attacks in Bamako really only god covered here at home, because they're in the aftermath of Paris, and it's an American casualty, it's not for a lack of stories.

KURTZ: Of course, it was saturations coverage, and rightly so, Americans, including American journalists, and then as you say, it did kind of fade. So why do you think it is that -- I mean, everybody cares about terrorism. The poll today jumped up to the first issue in the campaign, economy second. Why do you think it is a mistake for journalists -- or is it a question of what sells?

TURNER: Coverage of terrorism is generally very events-based, which I mean during the down times when we're not grappling, I think the media in general could play a really constructive role in terms of delivering people nuance and context. So explaining who these people are, what their regional goals are, because you can't reasonably be expected to make a good judgment.

KURTZ: When people are buying by the hundreds. We have about a half minute. Do you think part of it is -- kind of a depressing subject and many Americans and the media don't want to focus on it, almost except when they have to?

TURNER: Yeah, it's a very kind of death and destruction subject. There's no good news coming out of terrorism, right? Especially since 9/11, we've seen that people are hesitant to give it more attention than is completely necessary, because it absorbs so much of their energy and attention in the aftermath of these attacks, so if there was a way to universally even the cover coverage that will be better for everyone.

KURTZ: That will be better for everyone. Gillian Turner, so glad you're here, thanks very joining us.

TURNER: Thank you.

KURTZ: After the break, the National Enquirer's editor on the 18-month investigation that pushed Charlie Sheen to coming clean about having HIV.


KURTZ: It began with this National Enquirer headline, Hollywood superstar's desperate battle with AIDS. And while the tabloid didn't name the star, Charlie Sheen soon appeared on the Today Show to acknowledge he is HIV-positive, and he says paid hush money to various women to keep them from going public.


CHARLIE SHEEN, ACTOR: Geez, I don't know to guess wrong, but I want to bring it into the millions. What people forget is that's money they're taking from my children, you know?


KURTZ: Joining us now from New York with the behind-the-scenes story is Dylan Howard, Editor in Chief of the National Enquirer. So you've been investigating Charlie Sheen for a long time. Why did you publish last week's story saying Hollywood star has HIV not naming him, is it because Charlie Sheen initially denied to you he had HIV?

DYLAN HOWARD, EDITOR IN CHIEF OF THE NATIONAL ENQUIRER: Howie, thanks for having us. Let me tell you that Charlie Sheen threatened us with a $150 million lawsuit some 18 months ago. Despite that, we continued to investigate this story and we informed him that we were going to publish a blind item. At the time, he continued to maintain that he was not HIV positive. That was a deliberate decision on our behalf. We had been investigating this and turned up enough information, following a money trail to indicate that he was covering this up. And that deliberate was decision was indeed designed to try and find additional sources that would provide further information.

KURTZ: So was it then frustrating for you having made the decision to publish a second story, which did name Sheen and which did have a lot of the details of both him having HIV and the payoffs and all of that, that during that time before you hit the newsstands, he decides to go talk to Matt Lauer in the Today Show and give his own preemptive spin.

HOWARD: Well, I do believe that Charlie Sheen had to attempt to control the narrative, Howard, because he was facing quite an explosive expose from the National Enquirer, one which indicated that this was a systematic cover up over a period of 18 -- 4 years paying off a number of victims. But it begs the question, an attempt to control the narrative was he indeed telling the truth when he spoke to Matt Lauer. He said that the only reason he was indeed coming forward was because he has to stop the onslaught of blackmail.

But as part of our investigation, we actually established that there was a conspiracy of silence, Sheen in many ways would help these women and sexual partners sign non-disclosure agreements that prevented from being able to litigate. He would settle these cases, but continued to have sex with sexual partners and indeed potentially exposed him to HIV. So it really begs the question, was Charlie Sheen indeed coming forward to get in front of his story, was he trying to spin his own narrative, or was he attempting to deflect what was drawn to come out in the National Enquirer.

KURTZ: Right. And since story was published and since the Matt Lauer interview, a couple of Charlie Sheen's ex-girlfriends -- and said he never told them that he was HIV positive and they felt insulted, endangered and all of that. So do you feel that Sheen came clean on the Today Show?

HOWARD: I don't. Personally, no, I think that he told his version of events. What we've seen in the past 72 hours since he spoke to Matt Lauer is indeed a very different version of events from his sexual partners. Sheen says he was honest and upfront with everyone, at least three women have indicated that wasn't the case, many more behind the scenes I understand are positioning themselves to file lawsuits against Charlie Sheen in the wake of that interview.

No, I don't believe he's being honest, and I think that this is going to have far-reaching effects for him moving forward.

KURTZ: The National Enquirer some years ago exposed John Edwards and his affair and his child out of wedlock, but he was running for President. Why is it worth -- a salacious story sure, we all get it, but why is it worth all this time and energy on your part to expose an actor who has had public meltdowns before, why is this an important journalistic story in your view?

HOWARD: This is not just the plot of one individual. This is a systematic cover-up of the highest order in Hollywood, and one where we decided that the individual medical condition of one individual was far outweighed by the potentially hundreds of other victims that he recklessly exposed to HIV without disclosing his condition. It was a matter of public concern, that's why we made the decision to publish.

KURTZ: Dylan Howard thanks very much for joining us from New York.

Still to come, your top tweets of course. How Stephen Colbert's CBS show is turning off Republican viewers and another maddening setback for the Washington Post reporter being held by Iran.


KURTZ: The outrage over Iran holding a Washington Post reporter hostage for more than a year on trumped up charges just got more appalling. Iranian state TV reporting that Jason Rezaian has been sentenced to prison but authorities won't say how long he'll serve. They say the sentence isn't final meaning technically he can appeal. I haven't given up hope there's some kind of pardon or release potentially in the works after the nuclear Iran/U.S. nuclear agreement. What I can't understand is why the administration isn't making more of a public outcry of Tehran persecuting a journalist for doing his job.

All right, time for your top tweets. Are the media being fair to both sides in the Syrian refugee debate? Media divided into two polar camps. No questions asked, acceptance of refugees versus mean people with doubts, black and white. That can be a mistake. Mark Hoover, what hasn't been cover bid anyone I have seen, vetting procedure, step by step, not to say it hasn't been covered at all. No, at usual, they don't present all the facts and make Obama look like a prince and Republicans evil. The media couldn't even manage to cover a Mets versus Royals series fairly.

The question when Stephen Colbert took over CBS' Late Show was whether he'd bring his liberal shtick. The audience sees the guy as someone who begged Joe Biden to run for the President as leaning left. NBC's Jimmy Fallon almost even, 36 percent Democratic, 31 percent Republican, and Colbert? 47 percent Democratic, only 17 percent Republican, now, Colbert does more politics than his rivals and I kind of like that, but he does seem to be driving away conservatives.

That's it for this edition of "MediaBuzz." I am Howard Kurtz. We hope you'll like our Facebook page. We post a lot of original content there. We post your buzz videos. And you can always email us at Ask a media question and I'll try to respond. We are back next Sunday 11:00 and 5:00 Eastern. Be with us then for the latest Buzz.

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