Media feast on Trump-Cruz feud

War of words in N.H. primary


This is a rush transcript from "MediaBuzz," February 7, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST:  On a buzz meter from Manchester this Sunday, just two days before the New Hampshire primary, the media are awash and attacked and insult as the candidates pummel each other. Although some of them pulled their punches a bit in last night's ABC debate.


DAVID MUIR, ABC NEWS:  To Trump, Senator Cruz has said about you right here in New Hampshire this week, quote, "I don't know anyone who would be comfortable with someone who behaves this way having his finger on the button." Were' liable to wake up one morning and if he were president he would nuke Denmark saying, quote, "that's not the temperament of a leader to keep this country safe."

DONALD TRUMP, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I actually think I have the best temperament.

MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC NEWS:  Senator Cruz, let me tell you this, you have talked tough about the Mideast. You haven't gotten those intelligence briefings about that. Why not tell us whether you would preemptively strike a missile on a launch pad that threatens us?

SEN. TED CRUZ, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Actually, with respect, I have gotten the intelligence briefings on the Mideast.


KURTZ:  Did Marco Rubio really perform as badly as the pundits are saying? Did Ted Cruz unfairly blame CNN for his own stats spreading false rumors that Ben Carson was dropping out? And is there a surplus of spin as the media picked winners and losers out of Iowa.

The Hillary and Bernie race turning ugly as the media feast on what Clinton called artful smears. And the press filing assigning that the Sanders surge is real. And we'll talk to the feisty publisher of New Hampshire's union leader who is backing Chris Christie about his ugly war of words with Trump.

Plus, the woman who quit Bloomberg News because she was barred from covering her boss as Michael Bloomberg explores an independent run for president.

I'm Howard Kurtz and this is "MediaBuzz."

When the media spotlight shifted from Iowa to here in New Hampshire, the pundits were in full spin mode about the caucuses won by Ted Cruz prompting Donald Trump to cry foul.


KIMBERLY GUILFOYLE, THE FIVE SHOW CO-HOST:  Marco Rubio I think was the big surprise, the big win though, of the night. Really outperforming, which I thought was fantastic.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN:  The big story could argue is Marco Rubio. Ted Cruz won but he was always in the calculus. But Marco almost tying Donald Trump. That's a big deal.

MARK HALPERIN, MSNBC ANALYST:  Make no mistake; Trump and Clinton were losers last night. But they are still strong figures in this race.

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN: As for Donald Trump, as much as he hates to lose, that's exactly what happened to him last night in Iowa.

TRUMP:  The headlines were Trump comes in second. He's humiliated. These people are the most dishonest people ever. OK? Ever. Trump, no good. Rubio, unbelievable night. Unbelievable victory.


KURTZ:  Unbelievable. But then Trump accused Cruz of stealing the election, first on Twitter then on the air, taking issue with the senator's campaign over a controversial mailer and for spreading a false rumor about one of their rivals, and Cruz responded with mockery.


TRUMP:  I think what he did is disgusting. He said that Ben Carson who is a fantastic guy had dropped out of the race during the caucus. But I think they should probably throw him out of Iowa because I don't think what he did is a disgrace. And it's a disgrace to the electoral process.

CRUZ:  I wake up every day and laugh at the latest thing Donald has tweeted. Because he's losing it. I mean, we're liable to wake up one morning and Donald, if he were president would have nuked Denmark.


KURTZ:  And in last night's ABC news debate, Trump got boo'd by an audience of mostly donors while mixing it up with Jeb Bush and Chris Christie repeatedly taunting Marco Rubio repeatedly.



TRUMP:  A lot of times.


BUSH:  The property and I'll talk.

TRUMP:  Let me talk. Quiet. A lot of times...


TRUMP:  A lot of times -- a lot of times. That's all of his donors and special interests out there.

RUBIO:  Who is the bottom line? This notion that Barack Obama doesn't know what he's doing is just not true.


RUBIO:  He knows that...


CHRISTIE:  There it is. There it is. The memorized 25-second speech. There it is, everybody.

RUBIO:  Well, that's the -- that's the reason why this campaign is so important.


KURTZ:  Joining us now here in Manchester, Tucker Carlson, editor of The Daily Caller and co-host of Fox & Friends weekend. A.B. Stoddard, columnist and associated editor of The Hill; Molly Ball, political correspondent for The Atlantic. And I'm going to shush with you go on too long.


KURTZ:  I' just warning. Yes. All right. So, I look at the pundits this morning and two headlines on Politico, Rubio chokes. Politico insiders, Rubio crashed and burned. All right. He had some very tough exchanges with Chris Christie. Didn't look great. But does the average voter care as much as the journalist about how Rubio did in those exchanges?

CARLSON:  You could have written these stories ahead of time, probably someone to where. I mean, you knew this was going to happen; of course, Christie had to go after Rubio. There were all kinds of telegraphing that he was going to do it, and Rubio, you know, he didn't do a great job. But did he crash and burn with this -- significantly will it shape the support of the republican establishment for Rubio in the next three weeks? Probably not.

KURTZ:  The Rubio -- the race has really become a slugfest day. You have Trump and Cruz mixing it up. But they didn't decline to repeat the worst things they've said about each other in that ABC debate. But how would you describe the media's enjoyment of this?

MOLLY BALL, THE ATLANTIC POLITICS WRITER:  Look, we always like a fight. I mean, I would take issue a little bit with what Tucker is saying just because I spent the last couple of days talking to a lot of New Hampshire voters, a lot of undecided voters. A lot of voters who come to these events are undecided. And they -- that they were telling me I'm going to watch the debate and that's going to help me make up my mind.

So, no. The republican establishment in Washington that has been hoping that everybody can just get behind Rubio and we can get this thing over with, it's not going to change for them and they're getting pretty defensive about this. Some of them are really nervous.

But I think for those rank and file voters, a lot of them gravitating for Rubio because it felt like he was having a moment, he had some momentum. I'd talked to people who say I like Jeb but I'm not going to waste my vote. I'm going to go with Rubio because it looks like what everybody else is doing. Now they're not so sure because the concern that those people had was that he might not be ready.

KURTZ:  Well, and so he said that Barack Obama is ruining the country four times instead of two times and used the same words, you know, not a great moment, clearly, AB.

Rubio interestingly telling George Stephanopoulos on ABC This Week today, that he will pay people to keep running that clip because it shows how passionately he feels. You don't have to pay anybody. It's being run in a loop over and over and over again.

A.B. STODDARD, THE HILL ASSOCIATE EDITOR:  It's going to go down in presidential debate history. I mean, people are going to go back to this and say when they're doing debate prep, do not get on a talking point that you're going to be mocked over and repeated five times.

KURTZ:  So, you think it's a big deal? The press is not overplaying it.

STODDARD:  He was -- listen to what Molly said.

KURTZ:  Yes.

STODDARD:  I talked to two people yesterday, democrats and republicans that are married. They like Jeb. But they're going to vote for -- they are going to vote for Rubio yesterday because they felt that Jeb wasn't going to have a chance. Jeb has a chance after last night.

We have no idea what this is going to do in a state where there are 44 percent undeclared. He went beyond, Rubio did the caricature that Christie painting of him all week, which is, that he can't handle (ph) this, it was that he's not courageous enough to depart from. He -- it was truly bizarre when he did it -- when he went on to the third repetition.

KURTZ:  Well, I could be proven totally wrong. Because look back and say this is a turning point but I think this will be 48 hours of bad press and then I don't match or anyone is really going to remember it.

but speaking of Senator Rubio, the way that -- we played some of this at the top. The way in which the press basically declared him the winner in Iowa despite his third place finish, let's take a look -- we heard from Donald Trump what Ted Cruz had to say on that point.


CRUZ:  I understand that in the media news rooms and in the Washington establishment circles, Marco is the chosen one. Over and over again the reporters' questions in those media interview is. What did you think about the really impressive third place finish of Marco Rubio?


KURTZ:  I have to be.

BALL:  I know.

KURTZ:  So, that's got to be annoying to a candidate who wins the Iowa caucuses and he keeps getting questions about the guy who finished third. So, do Trump and Cruz have a point that the press is in Rubio's corner?

CARLSON:  Oh, they're in Rubio's corner, and I'm not defending the press. Most reporters are stupid, we know that. But I do think they make a solid point.


KURTZ:  Just take that in the given.

CARLSON:  Yes, you can.

KURTZ:  Now we can take to the...

CARLSON:  But I think they're making a solid point that whereas, a candidate may come in first, second or third in the given primary, the macro question revolves more around the money, the endorsement. I mean, it really is a contest between the guys who is trying to remake the Republican Party and the guy who is kind of happy with the Bush years.

And that latter guy looks like Marco Rubio almost despite what happens in the debates or in the first couple contests. That's my view. I think it's legitimate and defenseful (ph) view.

KURTZ:  Well, I understand why the press said that Rubio surged. Because he outperformed by 7, 8, 9 points the final polls. Because the polls have not -- it's very hard to poll a caucus, for one thing. And Trump underperformed the final polls. But what if the polls are wrong? Then all of our analysis is based on a false benchmark.

BALL:  Well, I think what the polls are, and I'm just a stupid reporter, but what the polls are is a snapshot. And so, the polls told you where the race was a few days out. And then people started to move. And as a reporter, we're trying to figure out what is going on in the sort of black box of the republican electorate? Right?

What's in the hearts and minds of these people in Iowa who get to decide and the people in New Hampshire. And so, when it seems like there is a movement in one direction, sort of en masse, and then when you start going to Rubio's events in New Hampshire and they're getting bigger and bigger, more and more people coming to these things whether it's out of curiosity or because the pundits are saying that he's a big deal or whatever.

There is this clear sense of movement in that direction. So, you want to know why, you want to know whether it's sustainable. You want to know whether he can capitalize. He's being tested. And the question is, is he meeting that test?

KURTZ:  AB is not so stupid reporter. Will it be the same thing in New Hampshire? If Donald Trump wins New Hampshire, but let's say by a smaller margin than expected, which means what the prognosticators say based on the reading of the polls and tea leaves, and the crowds and all that, will the press kind of discount that victory and focus on others further down who did a little better than expected?

STODDARD:  The press has given Donald Trump more free air time than any candidate in the history of this country. And he was the dominant front- runner in the polls for six months. And we've been talking about him basically being the runaway default nominee for weeks now before the votes.

Yes, if he underperforms polling in two states and squeaks by and looks like he has a ceiling, that will -- that will change the perception of whether or not he's actually going to get the nomination.

KURTZ:  A lot of people look at this as the press picking winners and losers. It's like it doesn't matter how many votes you got, it's the postgame analysis that matters.

CARLSON:  Well, I mean, nothing is like Donald Trump. I think there is some probably some truth to that. There are larger forces at work here. I don't give the press credit for strategic thinking on this. And I don't think is a conspiracy in news rooms to put one guy in the White House over another guy. But I think the press has...


KURTZ:  It's a pack mentality.

CARLSON:  Of course, by definition. But I think it's a purely reactive kind of phenomenon you're watching. Once, you know, contest ends, oh, this reshuffles the deck. Here's what we now know. And very few people kind of stand back I think as sort of assess what the long term likelihood is.

KURTZ:  So, this came up again in the ABC debate last night. What Ted Cruz's staff did, spreading those rumors about Ben Carson dropping out. In fact, a senior source within the Cruz camp confirms to me that those voice mails by Cruz people telling other Cruz ground troops and precinct workers Ben Carson suspending his campaign, those are authentic.

First reported by Breibart. But Cruz said in the debate and he apologized to Carson, so let's make that clear. That it was CNN. That CNN had reported it in an inaccurate story. It took few hours to correct in CNN pushed back hard against then.

And I've looked what the CNN reported. CNN reporter Chris Moody the original tweet was "Carson won't go to New Hampshire or South Carolina, but instead he will head home to Florida for R&R. He'll be in D.C. for national prayer breakfast.

A minute later, Ben Carson's campaign tells me his plans to stay in the race beyond Iowa no matter what the results are tonight. So, is it fair to blame this on CNN?

BALL:  No. I don't think so. I mean, a minute later, you saw and it took more than a minute for the voice mails to go out and the messages that Cruz sent out to go out.

I have been surprised by the traction that this little -- this mini scandal is getting. I would be tempted to see it is sort of inside baseball, something voters don't care about. Like, you know, who cares what a few voice mails?

Carson didn't underperform his polls in Iowa. So, you can't really say that there was this massive movement of his voters into Ted Cruz's camp. But I've been surprised. Again, talking to New Hampshire voters how many of them were aware of this and how many of them were leaning towards Cruz and then felt like he did a dirty trick. So, there does seem to be some penetration of this whole idea.

KURTZ:  Well, we could debate whether it's a dirty trick. But even in the original CNN tweet on the discretions on the air, people said things like well, it's very unusual, very significant that he's taking three days off the trail. Because there are only eight days between Iowa and New Hampshire. And I agree with.

That every reporter looks that and said, wow. But nobody reported to CNN that he was dropping out. That was something, you know, the suspension was something added by the Cruz people. And I'm also surprised that we're still talking about it a week later.

STODDARD:  I was actually watching it on CNN as it happened. And you're right, they did not say he's quitting this. So, this would be unusual because this is precious time. If you want to do well in the following contest.

Molly is also right; he did very well in Iowa. But I don't -- but, you know, Trump is out there telling everybody who is in stand that he came in first because Cruz obviously took enough votes away from Carson to win the caucuses. So, he's made it an issue.

KURTZ:  We don't know that.

STODDARD:  The press is very good at following what Donald Trump says. And it got a lot of media. And he ask -- he said he was going to -- he didn't want it to be nullified and he was going to sue.

KURTZ:  Yes. So it got a lot of attention.

STODDARD:  And he drag it into the middle of the week and so he got a lot of attention.

CARLSON:  Why does he keep be mean to Ben Carson? I mean, that's kind of the whole point. No one is mean to Ben Carson. He is a nice guy. Everyone is for president. And Christian voters like him because he's nice.

KURTZ:  We agree he's a nice guy. I got to get out. But, Tucker, thanks very much. We'll see you, ladies, later.

Ahead on this special New Hampshire edition, things also heating up between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. We'll see the coverage of that race.

But when we come back, the publisher of New Hampshire's Union Leader on why Donald Trump is calling him a low life and worse.


KURTZ:  Joe McQuaid, the publisher of New Hampshire Union Leader isn't afraid to mix it up with presidential candidates. So, while his paper has endorse Chris Christie in Tuesday's primary, McQuaid is also been in a war of words, war of words with Donald Trump. And he joins me now in here in Manchester.

So, you've called Donald Trump a crude blow hard, a con man, a schoolyard rich kid bully. Is that role of the newspaper publisher?


KURTZ:  Psycho.

MCQUAID:  Psycho is the latest one. I didn't know until recently that I was just a sleaze bag, a liar, and my paper's got three months max to live.

KURTZ:  So, is it not uncomfortable for you to be mixing it up in this way with a presidential candidate who doesn't seem to like you or your paper? I know you don't seem to respect.

MCQUAID:  It's not uncomfortable at all for me to tell it like it is with a presidential candidate who has no business being a presidential candidate.

KURTZ:  And you don't think Donald Trump should be in the race?

MCQUAID:  No, sir.

KURTZ:  But how can...


MCQUAID:  And the media have done just a terrific job. I thin A.P. Hill said it earlier.

KURTZ:  A.B. Stoddard, yes.

MCQUAID:  A.B. Stoddard rather of A.P. Hill was a general in the Civil War. The media for six months come Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump. The night after Iowa, Howie, all three cable networks show Trump live for a half hour in New Hampshire. It's all Trump all the time. Free media. He told me once that he didn't have to buy advertising because he was getting it all for free.

KURTZ:  Right. But how can Trump expect fair coverage in the news columns of your paper when you're denouncing him in such personal terms?

MCQUAID:  The same way that Eugene McCarthy in 1968 got fair coverage in The Union Leader William Lobe, my predecessor was calling Gene a skunk and skunk's skunk on the front page. McCarthy wrote a book. You can look it up in this case he would say, and he cited the Union Leader's fair coverage in the news columns of his campaign which was a long shot at the time.

KURTZ:  All right. So, maybe you've toned it down since the days of skunk. Now after your paper endorsed Chris Christie, you also got it into with the Newark Star Ledger editorial page which said your paper knows nothing about his gubernatorial record in New Jersey and he didn't even mentioned the Bridgegate scandal. So, you got into kind of both feud there.

MCQUAID:  Yes. The paper did this with my young editorial page editor, Grant Bosse who took up the coverage for our side on that. I think they were furious in New Jersey that we dared endorse somebody that they don't like.

KURTZ:  Now ABC News dumped the Union Leader from last night's debate. Originally, you're a co-sponsor. This was after you came out for Christie and came out strongly against Trump. You were not happy about that.

MCQUAID:  I was -- I thought ABC was spineless, just based on what Trump was demanding.

KURTZ:  So, you think that ABC is a network was caving to pressure from Donald Trump because you, Joe McQuaid, were criticizing him?

MCQUAID:  Yes. That's what Trump said. I was shocked. ABC called my editor at 3 o'clock on a Sunday afternoon, not to discuss the issue, but to tell us we're out. That's real class. I was amazed at that. And I think they were also upset because we co-sponsored the democratic one with ABC here, the months before.

And they didn't like the fact that we were insisting on having New Hampshire questions and New Hampshire presence. I think Trump was the tipping point. But ABC knew that we would insist on all the major candidates. Anybody but Carly being on that stage.

KURTZ:  Well, Carly Fiorina, of course, unhappy with ABC. The criteria that I didn't think was fair and excluding her from last night's debate. Look, the Union Leader endorsement matters since 1996. Pat Buchanan theme was being held to Union Leader after he won the primary with your paper's endorsement. But in the era of cable and digital news is in the power of the printed press somewhat diminished?

MCQUAID:  Greatly diminished.

KURTZ:  Sure.

MCQUAID:  But in a very crowded field with these many candidates, it can make a difference bigger than it's made some time in the past. The Union Leader hasn't had a great track record over the years. William Loeb endorsed Sam Yorty, what do you do.

KURTZ:  I don't he think he won the nomination.

MCQUAID:  How about John Ashbrook on the republican side.

KURTZ:  You had some clunkers.

MCQUAID:  Oh, we have.

KURTZ:  Honest to a candidate. Joe McQuaid, nice to see you.

MCQUAID:  Very nice to see you.

KURTZ:  Up next, our media microscope and did CNN blow it on that story about Ben Carson taking time off from the trail. And later, Brit Hume among why candidates are spending so much time complaining about the press.


KURTZ:  In our media microscope, how has the coverage changed since Iowa? We had the new analytics company take a look at the top mainstream media outlets for the three days leading up to the Fox News debate in Des Moines. And it's a blowout. Look at that column.

Well, over 21,000 mentions for Donald Trump who was then bailing out on the debate and holding his own event. That's more than triple the coverage of Ted Cruz with more than 6300 mentions, even though the Senator went on to win the caucuses, Marco Rubio who surged in the final days just over 1400.

And Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, John Kasich, all practically obliterated in Iowa, all under 1,000 mentions. Now, check out the coverage for this week. Tuesday through Thursday, once the spotlight shifted to New Hampshire. We have a media horse race. Trump still ahead. More than 80 -- 8700 stories and segments. But that's down by well over half.

Cruz right behind with 7300, well ahead of Rubio with over 4800. But the three governors who are treating New Hampshire as a make or break state, Bush, Christie, Christie, Kasich, still under a thousand mentions apiece. That surprised me. I thought they were getting more attention.

And here is the striking element. Trump's coverage this week, 10 percentage point, less negative now that he's not feuding with Fox. Rubio's coverage, 12 percentage, less negative now that he's getting or was getting upbeat reporting on his momentum at least until last night's debate.

And here's a twist. When we look at the coverage just in the New Hampshire media, Trump, Cruz, Rubio, we're still one, two, and three. But a bump for Jeb Bush here on the local outlets, he trailed the top three but garnered almost twice the local media attention of Christie and Kasich. We'll see if that translates on primary night.

I mention the CNN earlier, I think the bottom line is that CNN didn't report anything inaccurate about Ben Carson taking that break from the campaign trail. They didn't insinuate that he was dropping out.

I can't resist this story. I guess all is fair in love, war, and politics. But this one is strange. A couple of women had been kicked off Tinder, the hookup app where if you swipe right of you like somebody's profile picture, seems that they swipe left so to speak, meaning they're failing to burn and they sent dozens of men a message to detect a certain number in support of Bernie Sanders. That's correct.

The men came looking for some action and they got a political appeal. One of the women telling Reuters if they said no or were on the fence, I would try to talk to them and persuade them to vote. But that persuasion apparently didn't include any dates. Or it might have been a bit more effective.

Ahead from New Hampshire, Hillary Clinton now in a tight race with Bernie Sanders. How did MSNBC handle their debate with Rachel Maddow? But first, Brit Hume on whether the campaign coverage is elevating insults over issues.


KURTZ:  Media have been a big fat target in this campaign, under fire from both republican and democratic candidates. But is their coverage significantly worse than another election?

Joining me now is Brit Hume, Fox's senior political analyst and a veteran of a whole bunch of campaigns. So, it was kind of a symbolic moment, Brit, when ABC held the debate last night and just across the campus here in St. Anselm College, they had a little difficulty during the introductions. Take a brief look.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Texas Senator Ted Cruz.


MADDOW:  Businessman, Donald Trump.


KURTZ:  So, nobody quite knew when to come out. What did you make of that?

BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST:  My favorite moment is there is a guy coming around the curtain and giving him the signal to go. I was talking to Joe Ferguson who is one of our floor directors here, senior floor directors here at Fox News, a great guy. And he told me, he said, this is my worst nightmare.

You know, the year that he is the guy responsible for getting everybody in place and everybody positioned properly and so forth. And he looked at that. He said it just made him, you know, just made him wince and it looks to me as if what happened is that they needed somebody standing there the way you have...


KURTZ:  At every high school football game, number 22, left tackle. The right president come up and somebody goes, yes, go!

HUME:  Yes, and someone tells them to go.

KURTZ:  Yes. Ben Carson said afterwards that he couldn't hear anything back there.

HUME:  Well, it was a permanent applause from prior candidates was drowning out the next names from where they were all standing.

KURTZ:  Right. Well, it turned out to be a solid and substantive debate.

HUME:  Yes.

KURTZ: Moderated by David Muir and Martha Raddatz, and our own Mary Katherine Hamm making a contribution.

But let's move on to the 30,000 foot view here. You look at this coverage of this whole campaign. At the beginning you had the press sort of mocking him and demonizing Donald Trump. Declaring Jeb Bush was the obvious front- runner. Scott Walker was the front runner in Iowa for a while.

Bernie Sanders was kind of treating this as a joke. And only belatedly that the media establishment seem to notice, discover, this is almost anger and frustration out there in the electorate. Have you ever seen a worse performance?

HUME:  Well, I must say, we are sailing in unchartered seas. And nothing, you know, in my experience as a reporter going back many years, prepared me for what Donald Trump has been able to do. Now I knew because I'm on Twitter. Twitter is a great early warning system for journalism and anybody else looking for totally major sentiment.

I knew about the level of anger and distrust of the republican establishment, if you will, the senior republicans in Washington and elsewhere. And I never thought, for example, that there was going to be an easy path for Jeb Bush because I didn't know if he could even get a hearing. And I don't think he's ever got a hearing. People say just...


KURTZ:  ... they want to turn the page.

KURTZ:  Right.

HUME:  They would say turn the page and move on. The Trump phenomenon I must say caught me by surprise. I mean, I could sense, you know, the celebrity and the fact that you can't take your eyes off the guy, at least in the early going in particular when we never heard in this field before and he would get up and say what seemed to us to be the most outrageous things and none of them seem to hurt him.


KURTZ:  And everyone they kept predicting his implosion. Well, this is it, he's done.

HUME:  It was highly amusing.

KURTZ:  Yes.

HUME:  But I didn't seem to be the kind of thing we'd ever seem a politician benefit from and behold he has. And I think most everybody missed that.

KURTZ:  OK. So, now you have these prognosticators who missed or minimized Trump and who thought Scott Walker was going to be a serious contender and all of that. But then, you know, they come on TV the next day and they offer more predictions based on polls that are often fluctuating or wrong. It seems to me...


HUME:  One things that we as journalists get all the time when we're commenting on politics, the moderator or the anchor or whoever will say, who's going to win?

KURTZ:  Yes.

HUME:  Or how is this going to turn out?

KURTZ:  Yes.

HUME:  I try not to do it because it's the danger of doing wrong -- of being wrong is so high and I'm always frightened by that. But people do. And, of course, we don't really have the ability to second-guess polls very easily anymore. There are so many of them, right, they never -- there used to be the opponent, two polls.

KURTZ:  Yes. Right.

HUME:  And you really couldn't rely on them because they were space so far apart.

KURTZ:  But is there pressure to do this? Is there culture -- was there this culture a prediction in the pre-Twitter era?

HUME:  I think there was.

KURTZ:  Yes?

HUME:  But I will say this. You used to come into a state to cover a primary. And there would be a poll or two.

KURTZ:  Yes.

HUME:  A lot of them would sum way out of date. So, you go out on the trail and you go to events and you're looking for size of the crowds, crowd reaction. You're looking for the demeanor of the candidates. Candidates can often sense momentum. Sometimes there is internal polling that you don't know about that will give a candidate a certain spring in his or her step.

And, you know, you look for a sense of it sort of or reporter's gut sense of it. It's almost by osmosis you pick it.

KURTZ:  Right.

HUME:  I think that kind of shoe leather reporting is diminished and it's diminished in some measure because of the difficulty of doing it when you got seven or eight candidates.

KURTZ:  Right.

HUME:  So, it's in some ways harder to do.

KURTZ:  And the candidates can go on Instagram or Twitter and have the wrong broadcasting channels.

HUME:  Right.

KURTZ:  But when Trump and Cruz are just pounding each other, I mean, it really got nasty this week.

HUME:  Right.

KURTZ:  And when Christie is taunting Rubio and so forth, do you have any sense that this just kind of sucks up the oxygen away from the issues that people care about? You go out and talk to voters. That's the economy, jobs, terrorism.

HUME:  Right.

KURTZ:  And we hear not necessarily in last night's debate, but we hear less and less of that as it becomes this sort of slugfest.

HUME:  Well, there is absolutely nothing new about that. I mean, look, we're news people, first of all. We want people to be serious about the issues as citizens. But there is nothing that makes -- I mean, conflicts strikes sparks. Sparks make news. That's what we're looking for.

So, if a couple of candidates get into a brawl the way Christie and Rubio did in the debate last night, that -- I'm sorry, it's irresistible. That's news.

KURTZ:  It's irresistible. A lot of people would say its chasing ratings.

HUME:  But because of discussion...


KURTZ:  Who wants a discussion of immigration, isn't maybe not going to particular take you completely to the set.

HUME:  But this has always been the case. That horse race and brawling is going to beat out serious as they come in.

Roger Ailes said it better than almost anybody when he said, look, you have two candidates on the stage. One of them announces a great plan for solving problems in the Middle East. And the other falls into the orchestra pit. Who is going to make some news?

KURTZ:  I can't...


HUME:  It's the guy in the orchestra pit.

KURTZ:  ... argue with that. All right. Brit, stick around.

HUME:  Right.

KURTZ:  Next on "MediaBuzz" here in New Hampshire, we're having a great time. The Hillary coronation now on hold after Bernie kind of sort almost won Iowa. But is he getting the scrutiny he deserves?

And later, the woman who quit Bloomberg News after she tried to report on Michael Bloomberg and was muzzled.


KURTZ:  Bernie Sanders who is way ahead here in New Hampshire keeps saying the media constantly urged him to attack Hillary Clinton. He doesn't like to do that. But neither of them had any problem slamming the other this weekend. A heated MSNBC debate or deflecting the questions from Chuck Todd and Rachael Maddow.


MADDOW:  Last night, when you were asked about speaking fees and the amount of speaking fees you got from Goldman Sachs speeches, you said that's what they offered. Have you been too dismissive of voter's concerns about this issue in your own campaign in your career?

HILLARY CLINTON, (D) U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Well, you know, Rachel, I think I may not have done the job I should in explaining my record.

CHICK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR:  So, can you reassure these democrats that somehow the e-mail issue isn't going to blow up your candidacy if you're the nominee?

CLINTON:  Absolutely I can. You know, before I was e-mailed, it was Benghazi.

MADDOW:  Could you work with them?


MADDOW:  Have you made enemies of big business in this country with the way you've approached them in this campaign?

SANDERS:  No. Of course I can work with them.


KURTZ:  We're back with the panel. Molly Ball and Anderson Cooper in that CNN town hall had brought up the $675,000 that Goldman Sachs paid Hillary Clinton that came up again in MSNBC. Does this become her ties to Wall Street, has become a defining issue of this campaign or is it a kind of a media obsession when it comes to the former First Lady?

BALL:  It's interesting that the media is giving her a harder time over it than her opponent. That, you know, Bernie Sanders has certainly attacked her for the ties to Wall Street.

KURTZ:  He brings it up all the time.

BALL:  He brings that up all the time.

KURTZ:  Yes.

BALL:  But on some of these other personal issues, the e-mails in particular, he doesn't want to go there quite so much. And he didn't call on her to release the transcripts in that debate this week. And so, you know, I do think it's a real issue.

I think it's something that democratic voters care a lot about, something you hear a lot about from Bernie Sanders supporters that this is the reason they don't trust her. It's because she's too close to big business, because she's in bed with Wall Street and she hasn't come up with a good answer to this question. Over and over, you hear her struggling to respond and that maybe because there isn't a good answer.

KURTZ:  A.B. Stoddard, that debate also made clear that Bernie Sanders is pushing free college for everybody, free health care, raising taxes on the middle class. He says that will be more than offset by not having to pay insurance premiums.

Where is the media scrutiny of all this? It seems to me if a candidate that everybody in press thought would win came out with all this big government programs, there would be stories day after day about how are we going to pay for it and all that?

STODDARD:  Well, actually, I've seen him ask this in interviews several times. And what are you going to do? And he says, that if he gets a big enough coalition of new voters and changes the electorate, he does -- he always says, it has to be a movement, it has to be a huge revolution that he would get enough people in the Congress agreeing with him. That he could actually try eventually to make this change, affect this change.

And as you describe, people would ultimately pay less for more than they are now because health care costs of the down of things. I'm not advocating for Bernie Sanders.


STODDARD:  All I'm just saying I've actually seen him answer these questions. But what's interesting with what Molly said is Bernie Sanders' point is punches right now. What the media is not covering this weekend is the Des Moines Register has reported on Friday night those votes in Iowa are still being counted. And Bernie has been silent on this. And the reason is then the media is not paying attention to this. If they were recounting Ted Cruz and Carson's votes in Iowa, we would be all over it. So, the reason is...


KURTZ:  OK. I think that's because -- I think that's because the media have already given Iowa to Bernie Sanders. Whether he's finished, you know, .3 percent and Hillary not, I think that matters.

STODDARD:  Well, I think actually that would affect Hillary Clinton here. I do.

KURTZ:  Just the fact that that is...


HUME:  Instead of winning by, you know, .2 percentage, he lost by .1 percentage point?

STODDARD:  I think if the state parties show him as been driving around in Iowa with a license plate which is HRC2016 for years, there is a bone for Bernie Sanders supporters to pick and we'll see what happen.

BALL:  I think about what happened to Rick Santorum when he...


KURTZ:  Right, that's true.


BALL:  ... he was declared a winner by that.

KURTZ:  That's true.

HUME:  And he got screwed. But look, here's the point. If you -- if you spend your time fighting...


KURTZ:  And less war.

HUME:  ... fighting about the outcome in the previous which is so close that it could be a virtually a tie... KURTZ:  Yes, it was.

HUME:  ... any way you count it.

KURTZ:  And Sanders is not been...


HUME:  I think you have to be getting to the people in the next state and giving them reasons to vote for you rather than looking back.

KURTZ:  Exactly. Now let me come back to the MSNBC debates. Because just as ABC had a solid and substantive debate, I thought, everybody was buzzing about the botch introductions. That created a lot of the talk in social media. In fact, you commented on Twitter, was that Rachael Maddow who co- moderated with Chuck Todd, doing the following after the debate was over. Play that tape.

Well, trying to hug her and to hug everybody but here she is embracing the democrats. Your thoughts?

HUME:  My thought about that was first thing is I've never seen a moderator do that before as far as I can remember. And people say about her that she's an extremely warm personable person and this is the kind of thing she does.

But when we are involved in a debate, we journalists, we are acting a bit like the players in a trial before the court of public opinion. And, you know, advocates play a certain role, whatever the relationship with each other and with the judge outside the courtroom is set aside and their professional discipline comes into play.

You maintain a certain proper distance as a journalist from the people you're covering, especially in the crucible of a debate. And when she runs up and hugs these people afterwards, it conveys the impression whether fairly or not that she loves them both and thinks the democrats are wonderful.

KURTZ:  Right. Well, I will not be hugging you after this segment based on that special.

HUME:  Well, I wouldn't mind if you did.

KURTZ:  All right. Look, I thought Rachel had actually did a pretty decent job. But I thought it was a mistake for MSNBC who was trying to brand itself as a news network to move away from the left wing label to pair her with Chuck Todd, who is the moderator of Meet the Press.

Let me come back to the e-mail we play the clip Chuck Todd was pressing Hillary Clinton about that, a couple of different questions. And she said, you know, she could 100 percent guarantee this is not going to cause an implosion in her campaign.

I guess I have a version of the same question which is, of course this is a story. But has it reached a point where the media seems to be pushing this beyond the extent that voters care about, particularly democratic voters?

BALL:  I think for two reasons now. First of all, there are still revelations coming out about the e-mails. In the last week, we've had new information about the extent of the issues here. And second of all, she gets asked about this. And democratic voters bring it up.

And in her events, here she's been asked about it. I've spoken to democratic voters at her events. People support her who say I'm nervous about this. I still worry that this is the ticking time bomb for her candidacy.

So, this is not the kind of thing that democratic voters are on the defensive about saying, oh, we don't care, we wish the media would move past it. No, what you hear from them is that they are worried about it.

KURTZ:  I thought...


HUME:  That they are worried about it for the political reasons that they don't want a nominee...

BALL:  Yes.

KURTZ:  ... with a stink bomb that's about to go off.

KURTZ:  Last point, AB, I thought the media would jump on this. It kind of slid by. Hillary's denying being part of the establishment as Sanders is attacking. She says, well, I can't be part of the establishment because I would be first female president. And that sounded to me like a kind of a clumsy way of bringing up gender. Have we come so accustomed to this now that nobody cares that she keeps saying that? Obviously she will...


STODDARD:  Well, I think -- I think her passionate female supporters and they're -- most of them are much older, as you know.

KURTZ:  Yes.

STODDARD:  Want her to -- so important to them that they want -- they think that that's going to be a really good weapon in her arsenal. They want her to talk that way. And she's really pulling out all the stops as we know to try to shave Bernie Sanders' lead here on Tuesday...

KURTZ:  Yes.

STODDARD:  ... and close up the gap. So, she's trying to find ways to insert the, you know, the historic nature of her nomination.

KURTZ:  Probably fair to bring it up. I just thought it was the wrong spot to bring it up. But yes, no one thinks she's going to win New Hampshire, but we'll look at the point spread and media will deliver their analysis as they always do.

Molly Ball, AB Stoddard, and Brit Hume, thanks very much for stopping by here in New Hampshire.

After the break, a veteran reporter on why she had no choice but to quit Michael Bloomberg's news service. And later, what happened to this year's Super Bowl hype?


KURTZ:  Kathy Kiely caused a huge stir when she quit her job as Washington new director for Bloomberg politics. The reason? Michael Bloomberg is quite openly exploring an independent run for president and she and her team were blocked from reporting on it.

I sat down with the veteran journalist back in D.C.


KURTZ:  Kathy Kiely, welcome.


KURTZ:  Why did you feel compelled to leave what was a good job at Bloomberg?

KYLIE:  Because I didn't feel like I could do my job as a political editor. An so, I just thought it was time to -- as Chuck Noll of the Pittsburgh Steelers used to say, find my life's work.

KURTZ:  Well, he had a situation where the New York Times and MSNBC and other outlets were reporting on Michael Bloomberg actively considering an independent presidential run, this was clearly leaked by his aides, it wasn't some scandal butt, and you wanted to cover it, correct?

KIELY:  That's correct.

KURTZ:  And what happened?

KYLIE:  Well, there's always been a policy at Bloomberg which I discovered when I got there to not write about ourselves as they like to say. And so, every time the mayor's name would come up, that would be a bit of an issue. And, of course...


KURTZ:  A giant red flag?

KYLIE:  Exactly. And I mean, in some sense that's understandable, at a big company, you'd do the same thing at any company, you would want to check it out with bosses. But when it became clear that we wouldn't be able to pursue this to the extent that I thought we needed to, or should, with a sorry of this magnitude, I got very uncomfortable.

KURTZ:  Now the company says, well, we covered the speculation about Mayor Bloomberg by aggregating stories from other outlets, but you felt that wasn't enough?

KYLIE:  I did not feel that was enough. I think that when you're running a political operation as we were that you should follow every story aggressively, and I felt that we weren't able to follow this story aggressively. And that I thought compromised us as an organization. I certainly --- I certainly felt it compromised me as an editor.

KURTZ:  You write "Good journalism is easy. You just need to be willing to bite the hand that feeds you. But that of course can be risky."

KYLIE:  Yes, it can. Actions have consequences and I'm paying a price.

KURTZ:  Did you wrestle with whether or not you should take this step? Because obviously you joined last year, I'm sure enjoyed it there, it's a name brand organization and here you are walking out the door?

KYLIE:  I did wrestle with it. I have great colleagues, who I still think are doing great work, I cared a lot about the reporters, I still do, who worked for me. And I had great editorial colleagues.

KURTZ:  But media companies sometimes have to cover themselves as Fox did when Donald Trump blew up the Fox News debate? Why does Bloomberg News try to insulate the former mayor?

KYLIE:  I do not know the answer to that question. I was puzzled about it myself. Michael Bloomberg certainly knows what it's like to be covered. He's been covered in the toughest medium market in the world. His organization, both his company and his philanthropy make transparency of prime value.

So, to me, it's puzzling. I never got a straight answer. And I think a mark of maturity for the company will be being able to do that. And I hope they get there.

KURTZ:  Kathy Kiely, thanks very much for joining us.

KYLIE:  You're welcome.


KURTZ:  Still to come, a national official's truly offensive response to a female reporter. And why Super Bowl 50 is missing all the hoopla.  


KURTZ:  Sometimes, it's painfully apparently that female journalists are treated differently. Check this out. Alanna Autler, a reporter from national WSMV-TV was digging into questionable spending on fancy restaurants and luxurious decorations out a county election commission.

The panel chairman, Ron Buchanan decided to resign and agreed on on-camera meeting with Autler. She asked him about one of the costly decorations.


ALANNA AUTLEY, WSMV-TV REPORTER:  Can you explain the picture frame that is $600.


AUTLEY:  That's it?

BUCHANAN:  That's exactly the pitch I thought she would be.


KURTZ:  Wow, that's right, when asked a legitimate journalist get question about involving public funds, this clown insulted Alanna Autler with a word that disparages women. She was a total pro and good for the Tennessee station for running that.

Now, today, of course, Super Bowl Sunday, number 50 to be precise. And I have to say I can't remember another one that has had less media hype. I mean, you've got Denver's versus Carolina. Maybe Peyton Manning's last game. Cam Newton complaining that reporters have keeps asking him about being a black quarterback.

But still no streaming headlines. No trash talk. No controversial sexy ad, no deflated footballs.

Here's my theory, with the game sandwich between Iowa and New Hampshire, this crazy campaign is overshadowing even the Super Bowl. That is until the camp -- game comes on tonight and draws another monster audience.

That's it for this special New Hampshire edition of "MediaBuzz." I'm Howard Kurtz. Hope you like our Facebook page. We post a lot of original content there and resign -- respond to your questions.

You know, it's been great being here on the campus of St. Anselm College talking to folks in Manchester, getting a feel for what the voters actually think, being in the spin room after the ABC debate.

There is no substitute if you're a journalist for being on the road. That's why we have done the show in Iowa last week, New Hampshire this week, and nice to have you along. We're back in Washington next Sunday. Don't miss it, 11 and 5 Eastern will be there with the latest buzz.

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