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Media Buzz

2015: A year of erratic coverage; probing Bill Clinton's past

This is a rush transcript from "MediaBuzz," January 3, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: On the buzzmeter this Sunday, with Bill Clinton hitting the trail for his wife tomorrow, some conservative commentators not to mention Donald Trump are trying to make his past sexual misconduct an issue in Hillary's campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

DONALD TRUMP, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There was certainly a lot of abuse of women and you look at whether it's Monica Lewinsky, Paula Jones, or many of them. And that certainly will be fair game, certainly if they play the women's card with respect to me that will be fair game.

LARS LARSON, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Her husband was impeached for lying to the American public, and we worry when there are enablers for those liars, and Hillary Clinton has been an enabler to her husband who's been a serial harasser and he's an un-indicted rapist on top of that.

JOY REID, MSNBC: If you're Donald Trump, if you're the guy with his history with women, with his record, you may not know the Clintons very well if you don't think they're going to remind everybody that will listen to them of everything that Donald Trump has ever done.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

KURTZ: Are the media turning this into a tabloid campaign? And how are they handling President Obama's move toward unilateral gun control?

After accusations by 50 women, Bill Cosby charged with sexual assault in an 11-year-old case.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GLORIA ALLRED, ATTORNEY: For many of my 29 clients who allege they are victims of Bill Cosby, seeing him criminally charged and having to face a trial is the best Christmas present that they have ever received.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: We have the media already convicted Cosby, despite the fact that a Pennsylvania prosecutor decline to bring charges back in this case back in 2004.

Plus, Peyton Manning battles back against Al Jazeera's allegations that he used a banned substance and the networks cheap source retracts the claim. Was this story out of bounds? I am Howard Kurtz, and this is "MediaBuzz."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KURTZ: Donald Trump seized control of the media's agenda again this holiday week, taking aim at Hillary Clinton by repeatedly slamming her husband's history of sexual misconduct, and perhaps this tabloid talk wasn't such a tough sell for the press, which also got a chance to question Trump's colorful past.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. Trump, are you going after former President Bill Clinton for his infidelity. Is your own personal indiscretions fair game in this campaign?

TRUMP: Yes, they would be, and frankly Hillary Clinton brought up the whole sexism thing, and I simply reversed it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Well, with Hillary accusing Trump of sexism, CNN dug up footage showing that the last time she ran for President, Trump dismissed the womanizing and lying charges that led to the former President's impeachment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I mean, look at the trouble Bill Clinton got into with something that was totally unimportant, and they tried to impeach him, which was nonsense. Yet Bush got us into this horrible war with lies by lying, by saying they had weapons of mass destruction?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Joining us now to analyze how this election suddenly became about Bill Clinton: A.B. Stoddard, columnist and associate editor at The Hill; Jim Garrity, contributing editor at National Review and co-author of the new book "Heavy Lifting," and Mara Liasson, national correspondent for NPR and a Fox News contributor.

A.B. Stoddard, with Trump kicking open the door, are the media relishing this opportunity to sort of rehash and relive and re- litigate the Clinton sex scanned of the '90s?

A.B. STODDARD, THE HILL: I actually don't think so. I have seen a lot of people say this old news, we don't need to go down that road, right? I think it's Donald Trump, he's successful at doing -- picks something just electric to make news with every five or ten days.

KURTZ: But do you think they're acting as a passive conduit for Trump's attacks on Bill Clinton...

STODDARD: No one in the media is going to stop him from talking about this. We're going to report on what Donald Trump's line of campaign direction is. Right now he's going after Hillary, not other Republicans. He's going after her and her husband, and going after something which is potent for Republican primary voters, which are the Clintons use their power to cover things up and don't tell the truth. That actually will go a long way with primary voters. He shouldn't have been impeached for -- that's a flip-flop...

(CROSSTALK)

KURTZ: I have seen a lot of cable news segments out of this week. Jim, I covered it all from Jennifer Flowers, to Kathleen (Inaudible) to Paula Joan, to Monica Lewinsky. He was impeached and acquitted, and left office more popular. So should the media focus on this or aggressively pursue this?

JIM GARRITY, NATIONAL REVIEW: Trump has already performed his first miracle of the campaign when he got the Washington Post's Ruth Marcus, not a Trump fan but -- left of center, saying come to think of it, Bill Clinton's predatory behaviors toward his subordinates. Separate out the affairs of -- on people who were working for him. It's an abuse of power. That is a legitimate issue. If Hillary Clinton goes around saying all rape victims deserve to be believed, that has an implication when you think about the allegations against her husband.

KURTZ: And Mara, Hillary Clinton is bringing her husband into the campaign, of playing up his role, in that sense its fair game. But the media glossing over the fact that when Bill Clinton did these things, she was kind of the victim here?

MARA LIASSON, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I think that if you go back and look at history, Hillary Clinton has never been more popular when Bill Clinton got into trouble. And there is a kind of backlash, maybe it's sympathy for her, but that's when her numbers have gone up the most. I am not saying it's going to happen again this time, but that is historically what's happened. You heard Donald Trump say sure, its fair game to go after my indiscretions. Whether its media or Donald Trump, in some sense whatever it is that Donald Trump tweets out or says just goes unfiltered right to the public.

KURTZ: Now I also -- when I was in New York 1990, the breakup with Ivana, his relationship with Marla Maples, it turned ugly. Are they good to rehash that?

STODDARD: It's going to depend on timing. I think right now everyone is going after -- the media's focus on this horse race on the Republican side with less than 30 days to go. I think if he goes after Hillary in the general it's probably fair game. I don't know that the media will get into his marriages. They're covering the Republican primary. Once Hillary responds, and if he's the nominee, I think it will all by on the table.

KURTZ: When the Lewinsky story erupted back in 1998, and it was almost the only story covered on TV, Hillary Clinton initially defended her husband, and then later she said she was deceived. When I see commentaries that she enabled him, smeared the women -- I haven't seen the specific examples, but if she divorced him -- but she decided to keep the marriage together. Are we going to have the same debate now?

GARRITY: We're probably are going to have a rerun, but there's a distinction. The sordid behavior in the past, it's a -- I think it will be a shocking response -- Trump likes to say I am going to be terrific for the women, I am the best that women have ever had you know. There is a very difficult connotation to that now, but I don't think he should come out and say Donald Trump is the good buy when it comes to treatment for women.

LIASSON: And only one of them is running for President. Bill Clinton is not running for President.

KURTZ: I made that point, but at the same time Bill Clinton would be a key adviser, as a former President to his wife.

LIASSON: That's right. I think it's going to be an issue, but I think that she has a strong card to play here. Not so much in the sexism card, but she did stick with him. I am sure there will be a narrative about their marriage improving and strengthening.

KURTZ: All right, I am going out on a limb that people would like to hear more about their lives. But it's obviously an amusing topic for the media at least for now.

All right, so President Obama over the weekend saying he's going to look at unilaterally, by executive order imposing a tightening of background checks on gun purchases at gun shows, and private sellers will be affected. Not clear what an impact this would have, but he would be bypassing Congress.
Donald Trump was on "Face the Nation" today. He was asked about it. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN DICKERSON, CBS NEWS: President Obama is expected to expand background checks for purchases at gun shows. What do you think of that?

TRUMP: Well, I don't like it. I don't like anything having to do with changing our second amendment. We have plenty of rules and regulations.
There are plenty of things they can do right now that are already there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: On this issue, Jim, which the President has obviously hit before with no success, does he benefit from a sympathetic media?

GARRITY: Oh, absolutely. I think conservatively, a lot of gripes about issues, in which the media is not fair. I think guns are right up there, right next to abortion. He's supposed to do a town hall with Anderson Cooper. How does this stop any mass shooting? Why would you go after gun sellers who have nothing to do with the past crimes that have horrified us?
It seems like a non sequitur.

KURTZ: Right. But of course, polls do show majority of public support for some tightening of background checks. It depends on the survey and how the question is worded. Now we also have -- (Inaudible) the last Democratic debate, Hillary Clinton said that ISIS was already making terror recruitment videos using Donald Trump. That was false, but now we have word that the Al Shabaab group has included Donald Trump along with Malcolm X a lot of other people in the 51 minute video, Trump said this on Fox and Friends this morning that the coverage of that has been disgusting and didn't explain why.

It doesn't make what Hillary said true in the debate at the time.

STODDARD: No. What she said wasn't true, and they dug up some Arabian television in which it was paraphrased or described. There was never a video. Hillary Clinton makes up stuff all the time. However, now that there's a video, Trump's answer is -- you know I have to say what I have to say. It's no matter what he says. They love it.

LIASSON: Yeah, I think so. Whatever -- I was at that famous Frank Luntz focus group. It doesn't matter what negative thing people who support him hear about Trump, they discount it.

KURTZ: So the media focus on Trump -- I have said this on more than one occasion, no matter how negative it is, it actual helps him because people don't trust the media.

LIASSON: Especially Trump supporters don't trust the media.

KURTZ: Finally, I talked last week about Ben Carson giving an interview to the Washington Post, and saying he's planning a major staff shake-up, then he backed off, went on CNN, and accused of post of sensationalism. Around New Year's Eve, two managers resigned, and it came true, so was there (Inaudible).

GARRITY: No, Howard. He was always part of the plan to be an army of one.
It was all planned to get rid of 20 people -- no, it was perfectly fair game, and typical harping from a guy who's had troubles dealing with the media.

KURTZ: In this particular case, if you invite a reporter to your house and he quotes you, you may not like the way it's phrased but probably fair.

All right, let me know what you think on Twitter @HowardKurtz. When we come back, Bill Cosby finally facing charges in a decade-old case that has the media already found him guilty.

And later, Peyton Manning strongly denying Al Jazeera's charges of illegal doping, do the network's allegations really hold up?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KATE SNOW, NBC NEWS: It was a jarring image, seeing the man who once personified family values on television, now walking past cameras to enter course, facing criminal charges of sexual assault.

DAVID MUIR, ABC NEWS: We begin with Bill Cosby. America has been watching his stunning fall in slow motion.

JIM AXELROD, CBS NEWS: Dozens of women have accused Bill Cosby of sexually assaulting them. But today, for the first time, the comedian and actor and long-time moral crusader was charged criminally.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: After 52 womens have accused Bill Cosby of sexual assault, a Pennsylvania prosecutor this week bringing charges in a 2004 case involving Andrea Constand. She says Cosby drugged her and had sex with her after she passed out. The once beloved comedian admits to giving Constand a little blue pill but says the sexual contact was consensual, and his lawyer took a swipe at the coverage.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MONIQUE PRESSLEY, COSBY ATTORNEY: The court of law doesn't run like the media does, for example, in that any person who has a picture or story or something they'd like to say, if they're saying it about the right person and Bill Cosby is the right person to say something about, then they can air that grievance and having doing so the last year.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: But many counts don't stop to know that all these other women that may not be admitted as evidence.

LIASSON: When you read -- when you just look at the coverage, there has been tremendous of Bill Cosby in all these accusations from women. But the o article 1out of 20, and how hard it's going to be for the prosecutor to prove this, both sides will have trouble, but there was a prosecutor who I think lost his job in Pennsylvania because he didn't press this case.

KURTZ: You set me up for the next question...

LIASSON: Oh, sorry.

KURTZ: No, I am glad you did, because the former prosecutor (Inaudible) didn't bring charges, and the incoming man ran against him, making this is an issue. Framing this as a case of righteous justice, as opposed to politics where a prosecutor ran on this issue and suddenly brings the charges.

STODDARD: What's going on between the campaign pledges by Mr. Steele is going to be lost on the noise. With one empty chair, this is -- this is seen not as a case of Andrea Constand against Bill Cosby, but of all the 52 women against Bill Cosby. But you know, he admitted in a deposition years ago that he gave pills -- almost the stories -- it's been decided what he did was wrong. You have too many victims even if they're not in the courtroom at the same time in the same case, the media has indicted him and his career is done.

(CROSSTALK)

KURTZ: But interesting side light, Jim Garrity, New York Post (Inaudible) writing, Cosby being crucified for being conservative, and it is true that some don't like the fact that in his career, he has lectured blacks on self reliance and proper language and that sort of stuff. But really wasn't it the power of (Inaudible) more important than his ideological views?

GARRITY: Yeah. I have a hard time buying that. This is the equivalent of the left-wing conspiracy claim by Hillary. When this entire process began, you know, yes, he had some gripes about what he said about the black community. By and large, Bill Cosby was a still beloved figure. He was still Cliff Huxtable, so the idea that everyone came into this quick to turn on him.

KURTZ: Absolutely. And you know the media for so many years with few exceptions, really let Cosby get away with this. These allegations have been out there from some of the women. Others came forward after this became a big issue, and no one wanted to take on the beloved comedian, Cliff Huxtable as you say that was not the media's finest hour. All right, Mara Liasson, Jim Garrity, A.B. Stoddard, thanks for an interesting conversation this Sunday.

Ahead, the media played an inflammatory role in Baltimore and other cities where the police have clashed with minorities, but first, casino mogul Sheldon Adelson secretly buys a Las Vegas newspaper, and that's just the start of a bizarre tale that's averting the paper's credibility.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: Sheldon Adelson is a big-time casino owner and major league donor.
He's given millions of dollars to Republican Presidential candidates. He is also the new owner of the Las Vegas Review Journal, which we know only because the newspaper itself had to conduct an investigation to find out who had mysteriously purchased it. That's the beginning of a very bizarre tale. Three reporters were told to drop everything and monitor the activities of three local judges, one of whom was hearing a major lawsuit against Adelson's Las Vegas sands. It was an order from the corporation and no expectation that the article would be used, and then it gets complicated. Michael Schroeder heads the Adelson Shell Company used to buy the paper, and also -- the Adelson family said in a front-page statement it would run the paper fairly and use themselves as a steward of an institution. Sheldon Adelson has every right to buy the paper, but the shadowy nature of these events suggests that he doesn't care much for journalistic values.

Up next, why did the press lose its focus on terrorism for most of this past year? Our panel looks back at a year of mistakes and misjudgments.
And later, why are so many candidates on Twitter so lame?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: As we look back at the media's performance in 2015, no journalist had a greater and more humiliating fall than Brian Williams, who lost his job as NBC Anchor for telling his false story about coming under fire in Iraq a dozen years ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATT LAUER, NBC NEWS: Did you know it was not true?

BRIAN WILLIAMS, FORMER NBC NIGHTLY NEWS ANCHOR: I told the story correctly for years before I told it incorrectly. I was not trying to mislead people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: ISIS faded from the radar for much of the year until the attacks in Paris, and then San Bernardino prompted the media to demand answers in the war against terror.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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. I don't know what more you want me to add.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: These organizations faced a real challenge in covering allegations of police misconduct and urban violence, which was vividly on display when Baltimore exploded.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LELAND VITTERT, FOX NEWS: If you look over here, you can get a sense of how the police are still very -- we saw that yesterday (AUDIO GAP). The question is whether the police -- all right. We're going to go, send it back to you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Joining us now, Mercedes Schlapp, a U.S. News columnist, political consultant, and former aide in the Bush White House. And Michelle Cottle, a contributing editor to The Atlantic. Looking back at the year of tension between the police and the black community, urban violence, racial tension, which exploded in Baltimore, you think the media have played a divisive role in the whole area?

MERCEDES SCHLAPP, U.S. NEWS COLUMNIST: You know, I think to a certain degree they have played a divisive role. It's almost like they have pitted the cops against the African-American community. Obviously, we saw the very -- very difficult images in Ferguson and Baltimore, but at the same time I think these are incredible issues, important issues to be able to talk about and have the dialogue because of the fact that there is so much going on in the African-American community, and also in law enforcement trying to figure out their role.

KURTZ: When you turn on cable TV -- it's almost like a lot of commentators have to pick sides. Well, no, the police are being treated unfairly, and of course the narrative in the Michael Brown story turned out to be wrong, but Baltimore was -- and suddenly reporters are on the front lines and it's dangerous.

MICHELLE COTTLE, THE ATLANTIC: Absolutely. These issues had been brewing for a long time. The imagery with them is often very dramatic. You have people out in the strides, you have cops and dead bodies, all of these things made for a story that's inherently overheated.

KURTZ: Due to the presence of television cameras just maybe adds to the potential violence.

COTTLE: Oh, sure. This is everybody's opportunity to get their sides heard, but you also have people looking to cause trouble or just inflammatory rhetoric when a situation is so delicate to begin with.

SCHLAPP: A lot of time the law enforcement doesn't get to have their sides heard. It becomes a one sided story.

KURTZ: It does bother when there is an assumption -- when police are at fault in these shootings, and then we find that it was excessive force, sometimes cold-blooded murder. You wonder how the story would play differently if there wasn't a cell phone video.

COTTLE: You have an immediate reaction. You don't have time for the full story to come out. You don't have time for people to review exactly what happened or if there was excessive force or if the stories being told were exactly as they were rumored to be. You have 24-hour cable going all the time.

SCHLAPP: And they're going to grab the emotional individuals, the parents, the family members. It really tugs at your heart.

KURTZ: Everybody is tuning in when it happens. Similar questions about terrorism. The press really turned on President Obama in my view after the Paris attacks, and of course San Bernardino, but for most of this year until those attacks, terrorism had slipped off the media radar to a large degree.

SCHLAPP: Well, I think there was a lot of coverage when you saw the beheadings of Americans or Europeans.

KURTZ: Saturation coverage, yes.

SCHLAPP: And then all of a sudden the conversation just changed, and it did change to what was happening in Ferguson, the local situations.

(CROSSTALK)

KURTZ: The campaigns, Donald Trump, so I just wonder if -- journalists then ask the question, what -- why hasn't there shall been a more sustained effort?

COTTLE: Oh, absolutely. And unless there's immediacy, foreign policy tends to fall off the radar especially because that's not what really gets viewers worked up a lot of the times. Then of course, it becomes the most important thing.

SCHLAPP: Right. But I would also argue that the White House has failed to deliver a strong message and basically pushed the media to say we're fighting against terrorism in a strong way. We saw what that with the press conference, where it was very much about -- he came across defensive, complaining about the question....

(CROSSTALK)

KURTZ: Whether the administration has not been able to drive any kind of coherent message on terrorism, isn't the media's responsibility to stay on the case about ISIS and national security, whether or not politicians are talking about it?

COTTLE: Some do.

KURTZ: The beat reporters, absolutely.

COTTLE: This is always the issue. Are the reporters going to tell people what they said to hear or reporters going to tell people what they need to know?

KURTZ: The biggest media meltdown of course, was Brian Williams losing his job as NBC Anchor. Do you ever feel you got an adequate explanation from him as to why he told the lies and engaged in the exaggerations he did about being on the helicopter in Iraq and other stories he's covered.

SCHLAPP: You know I don't feel I did. Partly is looking at the Today interview he did following having to resign, he basically said, it was torture, like he -- he was trying to get the sympathy card from the viewers. It's like wait a second, you fabricated these stories, why, why, why? And we never really got to the bottom of it.

KURTZ: Never fully able to understand a guy absolutely on top of his career, number one nightly news anchor, why would he do this? But I am glad he got the chance, and his career wasn't ended by this.

COTTLE: You don't want somebody's work too completely -- there was a lot of talk about some people thinking he got too big for his britches.

KURTZ: Within NBC there were a lot of leaking, and people not that unhappy to see him lose the anchor perch, but he tried to do an apology and get back to work. That didn't fly. It can't anymore, can it?

COTTLE: No. I think you really have to kind of do some public soul searching. Everybody wants you to do your public mea culpa, and then maybe if you do it sufficiently you can go back and get your redemption. People love a good redemption story.

SCHLAPP: They do, except for politicians. They never get the redemption story.

KURTZ: Do you think they're treated more harshly?

SCHLAPP: I would say so. I think it's harder for them to come back and have the redemption story.

KURTZ: On that note, Michelle Cottle, Mercedes Schlapp, thanks very much for joining us.

After the break, eight Presidential candidates appeared on "MediaBuzz" this past year. We'll see how the campaign has gone, by looking at the conversations with Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Carly and the rest.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: It took eight Presidential candidates on this program during the twists and turns of this strange and unpredictable campaign, pressing them on politics, policy, and of course the media. Here's a look back, starting with my first interview with Donald Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

KURTZ: You are constantly denouncing some journalist who write about you and talk about you, Martha Raddatz, unprofessional and biased you say, and Chuck Todd, Jonah Goldberg, dumb as a rock. I don't think you really believe that. I think that they criticize you and your instinct, like a boxer is to punch back.

TRUMP: I do punch back. I believe in punching back, but those are people I didn't think have treated me fairly. A lot of people said he's never going to run, and now they don't know what to say, and all of a sudden I get these big poll numbers, and they're really good.

KURTZ: Do you need to develop a thicker skin?

SEN. RAND PAUL, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Calm down a bit here, Kelly.

PAUL: I did learn you're not supposed to shush people. We're doing this in the same room, but 95 percent of my interviews I don't see the interviewer, so it's hard sometimes. I can see when you're getting ready to talk and we try to be polite enough to let each other talk.

KURTZ: I'll interrupt sometimes.

PAUL: But on TV, when you're looking at a camera, it gets frustrating not to butt in.

KURTZ: National Review says you're running a vanity campaign, it doesn't like the fact that you talked about entitlement programs, and you sound like a liberal.

MIKE HUCKABEE, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't think Huckabee is serious. I think he's doing this because he wants a television show, he wants a book deal, and he wants to help the speeches. I am thinking, are you people nuts? I had a television show. I had a book deal, and I was doing all the speeches I could special squeeze into my calendar.

KURTZ: I heard you say that the media stereotypes as stupid or evil, or a new category of crazy. Are you saying this true of all journalists, most journalists?

SEN. TED CRUZ , REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's true of an awful lot.
The mainstream media is not fair and impartial. They have served, I believe, as the Praetorian Guard.

KURTZ: Your campaign sent an email to supporters that said the mainstream media is doing everything they can to keep Carly out of the debate because they know Carly is Hillary's fiercest and most effective critic.

CARLY FIORINA, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When you looked at the rules and there was only one candidate that was so severely -- and you looked at the situation, and knew there was -- indeed the top three, it's hard to walk away from a conclusion that somehow I was being disadvantaged.

KURTZ: You used words like garbage, and lies and smears to describe the recent wave of stories about your past. Are you saying organizations like Politico, CNN, and the Wall Street Journal are deliberately trying to damage you?

DR. BEN CARSON, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Uh, yes.

KURTZ: Why?

CARSON: To put it simply, that's exactly what I am saying.

KURTZ: Why?

CARSON: Because when you deliberately lie and you put that out as a story or you do shabby investigation, and you say we have investigated and can't find anything, is that an acceptable standard? I mean, you're the media.
Is that acceptable?

KURTZ: There's been a lot of focus on your finances. There was a business about repaying a few personal charges, which you settled years ago in Florida. Do you sometimes feel like you're penalized for not being wealthy?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, absolutely. In fact, I thought about penalized. I think it's absurd. Mitt Romney was too rich to be President, but I am not rich enough? The truth is the first 10 or 15 years of my marriage, and the only debt I have in my home in Miami, four blocks from the house I grew up in. That's the true analysis. The media is also driven by conflict. They want there to be a scandal or story.

KURTZ: It seems to me that you're going out of your way not to criticize your Republican rivals. But I wonder if it's because you feel like, well, I have got an outside shot at winning the nomination, and I don't want to rough anybody up in the process.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No, it's because I want to beat Hillary Clinton. And I want to focus on the adversary we have to beat to get to the White House.

KURTZ: For you to have a chance to face off against Hillary Clinton, you have a lot of other people on your race, and it seems to some people like you're -- you're a bit of a political brawler -- like you're pulling your punches.

CHRISTIE: No. I'm not pulling my punches. You know sometimes in politics you need a driver, sometimes you need a pitching wedge. That's called strategy. It's not called pulling your punches.

TRUMP: It wouldn't matter if I were Abe Lincoln during the debate.
Krauthammer was saying negative. It wouldn't matter if I was William Jennings Bryant, because they say he was great. It wouldn't matter who I was.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: It's dishonest people.

KURTZ: Dishonest because they disagree with you.

TRUMP: First of all, it makes me feels good. Second of all, it takes away credibility. You have to fight for yourself.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

KURTZ: Quite a range of political personalities there. We hope to bring you more of these interviews in 2016.

Coming up, Donald Trump uses Twitter as a weapon, the other candidates, not so much. How 140 characters can say almost nothing, next in our digital download.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: We read all the candidates' tweets so you don't have to. But do the people running for president really get Twitter? It seemed like a good assignment for Shana Glenzer, a tech analyst here in Washington.

Shana Glenzer, welcome.

SHANA GLENZER, TECH EXPERT: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

KURTZ: So the Presidential candidates are all on Twitter. And Donald Trump is in his own category. Highly untalented Washington Post -- a real dummy, but that gives you the flavor. How are the other candidates doing on 140 character messages?

GLENZER: I think Trump is not afraid to voice his opinion. The others seem a little more conservative and structured in what they share. They share a statement and a link. Quite frankly, it's not as engaging as Trump because of that.

KURTZ: What is wrong with the approach? They're trying to get information out, but I sometimes wonder whether these are just short of press releases.
What do you need to be successful on Twitter if you're a politician?

GLENZER: I think -- sharing opinions, sharing thoughts, they're sharing something that sounds like your P.R. person wrote. It's about having a conversation with the public, and it's not just your place to share your next public opinion. It's really perspective and sort of personality out there.

KURTZ: Here's Marco Rubio, Congress trying to add export/import bank.

GLENZER: I almost just fell asleep there while we were talking.

KURTZ: I lost you.

GLENZER: I think what you're seeing and when you're reading this, it's not generally the way that people like to read news first and foremost. It's not the way they like to engage in Twitter which is to have a conversation, understand what people are actually thinking and feeling. And yes, sure, share here and there a link to your latest platform but it can't be the only thing that comes out from your account on Twitter.

KURTZ: How about Hillary Clinton, do you think she has much of a personality on Twitter?

GLENZER: You know it's funny. She goes back and forth. Sometimes she actually assigns her tweets with Hillary, which means she wrote that which means a lot of the other ones she's not writing. Then it makes you feel like the whole thing might be disingenuous. She's at least a little more entertaining than some of the other folks.

KURTZ: Do you think some of these candidates are trying to be on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram but have a sort of old-fashioned view and don't particularly use humor or something really personally? Every once in a while you'll see a personal tweet?

GLENZER: I think it's new to them, and therefore it can be kind of scary, right? You don't know what your -- then they're out there. People know what you're thinking and feeling exactly at that moment. I think it's a little bit of hesitancy, it's knowing that they should do it not knowing what they should do. It's also prioritizing how much time or energy or money is you spending on managing your account or writing tweets that feel like something you've written. That may indicate a lower priority for the candidates as well.

KURTZ: One reason it's important is journalists read these tweets and can rebroadcast it to their fans. Shana thanks very much.

GLENZER: Thanks so much for having me.

KURTZ: Carly Fiorina getting pounded for pandering to Iowa on Twitter.
She tweeted of course, she went to Stanford which was facing off against Iowa's Hawkeye's in the Rose Bowl. Love my alma mater but rooting for a Hawkeye's wins today Rose Bowl. Twitter was not pleased and let Fiorina know it.

Still to come, Al Jazeera accuses several pro athletes of illegal doping, but its main course recanting the allegations. Is that story just falling apart?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: Al Jazeera scored some worldwide publicity with a documentary accusing Denver Broncos Quarterback Peyton Manning and other pro athletes of taking human growth hormone, which is banned by many sports leagues.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHARLIE SLY, PHARMACIST: All the time we're going to be sending Ashley Manning drugs like growth hormone. It's always under her name.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: But there is one huge problem, the network's key source has recanted, Charlie Sly, briefly a former intern at the medical facility in Indiana that supposedly supplied the drugs says he didn't know he was being secretly recorded by a British athlete working with the network, and was making stuff up about Manning and the others.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SLY: The recordings of me were made without my knowledge or consent. The statements on any recordings and communications that Al Jazeera claims to air are absolutely false and incorrect.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Manning says these are lies and he's furious and disgusted at the Al Jazeera report.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PEYTON MANNING, DENVER BRONCOS QUARTERBACK: Well, I think I rotate at least being angry, furious, but disgusted is really how I feel, sickened by it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Despite these denials, Al Jazeera's Deborah Davies defends her undercover story.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AYMAN MOHYELDIN, MSNBC: Do you still stick by your reporting?

DEBORAH DAVIES, AL JAZEERA: Absolutely. What we did is we spent six days recording Charlie Sly, hour upon hour, more than 20 hours of recordings.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: I can't be sure Manning is telling the truth, a lot of athletes have lied about doping, but Al Jazeera's credibility took a huge hit when its chief source disavowed recanted the story.

That's it for the first "MediaBuzz" of 2016. I'm Howard Kurtz. Happy New Year to all of you, thanks for watching. Here's to a great year. Check out our Facebook page, give us a like. We're back here next Sunday with the latest buzz.

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