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Media Buzz

Establishment pounds Trump

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

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: On the "Buzz Meter" this Sunday, Ted Cruz wins two out of four states last night just as Donald Trump's huge Super Tuesday and his momentum has his media detractors and Republican leaders trying desperately to derail him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

JOE SCARBOROGH, MSNBC: Donald Trump has commandeered a successful hostile takeover and he owns it. He owns this Republican Party.  

JULIE ROGINSKY, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Donald Trump has essentially taken over the Republican Party and they can't believe it. Well, they created this monster -- they are essentially created Dr. Frankenstein and now they control Frankenstein and they don't know what to do about it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But Ted Cruz though has an argument that this is two person race.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

KURTZ: As the final four clashing a heated debate in Detroit The Fox News team and the other candidates zero in on Trump.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

MEGYN KELLY, FOX NEWS DEBATE MODERATOR: But the point on drawing boards, you change your tune on so many things and that has some people saying what is his core?

DONALD TRUMP, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Megyn, I have a very strong core. I have a very strong core.

(CROWD CHEERING)

TRUMP: But I've never seen a successful person who wasn't flexible, who didn't have a certain degree of flexibility.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

KURTZ: Moderator Chris Wallace will be here.

So, why are the media so focused on Trump's joke on his anatomy? Will conservative pundits fall in line behind Cruz as a way of stopping trump?

And Cruz and Marco Rubio saying the media are in the tank for Trump, what's that about?

Bernie Sanders winning two out of three states yesterday after being buried by Hillary Clinton on Super Tuesday but could she be hurt as federal prosecutors grant immunity to the ex-official who set up her private email server.

Plus, the horrifying testimony of Erin Andrews over a stalker's nude video that shattered her life.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERIN ANDREWS, SPORTSCASTER: I was screaming that I was naked (ph) all over the internet and I didn't know what it was.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: And why it still haunts her many years later. I'm Howard Kurtz and this is "MediaBuzz."

Most politicians give speeches when they went a bunch of states on a big primary night but on Super Tuesday, Donald Trump invited reporters to Mar-A Largo held a news conference and was incredibly pretty nice to the media.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I'm watching your people on CNN and I'm watching The Fox people and I'm watching the MSNBC people too, OK? See? I'm becoming diplomatic.

(LAUGHING)

TRUMP: …and they are certainly being very nice to me tonight.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: His Republican rivals now are complaining that the media are in the Donald's corner:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARCO RUBIO, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The media coverage for Donald Trump has been almost cheerleading over the last couple of weeks and I'm convinced it's because many in the press want him to be the nominee. If Donald Trump would ever become the nominee immediately the hounds of hell will descend on him.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Then came the raucous Fox News debate in Detroit responding to an early Rubio jag about his appearance well Trump went there.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: And I have to say this, I have to say this he hit my hands. Nobody has ever hit my hands. I've never heard of this but look at those hands. Are they small hands? And he referred to my hands if they are small something else must be small. I guarantee you there's no problem. I guarantee you.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Still shaking my head. But a divided decision last night was Trump winning the bigger states of Louisiana and Kentucky but Ted Cruz taking the caucus states of Kansas and Maine, perhaps changing the media narrative.

Joining us now to analyze the campaign coverage Heidi Przybyla, Senior Political Correspondent for USA Today; Gayle Trotter, an attorney and commentator who writes for the Daily Caller and Town Hall; and Mara Liasson of National Public Radio and a Fox News contributor.

Heidi, are the media accurately reflecting with the Washington Post and others call pandemonium, an indemnity crisis possible suicide in the Republican Party, and this last gasp was all up on Donald Trump?

HEIDI PRZYBYLA, USA TODAY SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I was looking at some of those headlines too establishment goes all in, desperate mission. And my reaction to that was not so much. Because if you look at the details it's more like the GOP establishment is waiting and but that's not as sexy as a headline, right?

KURTZ: So, you think these colorful words and the headlines and the conservative crack-up and all that are a tad overhyped?

PRZYBYLA: Yes. Because if you look at what's actually happening, you do have some donors that we now learned about in hindsight got in like the Ricketts' family. There are some ad that the club for growth are doing but this is -- these are half measures and these are coming so late that I don't think that it's really a massive assault like it's being portrayed in the media. It's -- and I think that the donors know that if they do, do that and they somehow succeed in taking Trump down, there would be hell to pay. It will be a massive rebellion of -- a sort that you are already starting to see with this populace.

KURTZ: And that's something we need to talk about in the coming weeks and meanwhile Trump making the cover of time which refers to him as a showman, a bully and a demagogue but let's talk about the Conservative media, Gayle Trotter. I want to play a quick clip from Sean Hannity talking about Marco Rubio on his campaign and I'll ask you a question on the other side, take a look.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST, "HANNITY": I saw Rubio's attack turning into a suicide mission and could it actually ruin his career, destroy and hurt the Republican Party?

KURTZ: So, here you have Hannity for example kind of taking Trump's side and saying -- suggesting Rubio might get out or toning down the attacks. But you have the National Review and the Weekly Standard and many Fox commentators weighing in against Trump, how do you see this shaking out on the Conservative side of the media?

GAYLE TROTTER, DAILY CALLER CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, there certainly a split in the Conservative media. Like you said, National Review is part of the never Trump movement and we see other organizations like Braveheart (ph) which have a lot of say in the Conservative Movement, very influential.

KURTZ: And what are these folks going to do if Trump wins the nomination?

TROTTER: Exactly and they are being asked about that and they can't give a good answer. Because they have been arguing against Hillary being in the oval office for years and so now they are paining themselves into a corner where they're going to have a very difficult time rallying around Trump if he's the essential nominee.

KURTZ: Right. You know, people tell me on Twitter and emails or, you know, Fox is pro-Trump or Fox is pro-Rubio, you know, as if there's one opinion at this channel and that's just simply not the case. You can hear all kinds of opinions, very vociferous, moralizing -- so, Ted Cruz winning the two smaller caucus states last night so he's won six states and Trump has won I think 11 out of the 19 at the voting so far, does that change the media narrative from even a few days ago when all the headlines where is Trump unstoppable?

MARA LIASSON, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I think it changes a tiny bit. Right now, Rubio was only behind Trump by less than 100 delegates, I'm sorry Cruz is only behind Trump by less than 100 delegates, the road ahead -- the states ahead look very good for Trump but not so good for Cruz, they are like Michigan, Ohio, Florida and later it's like New Jersey, New York, and California.

But, I think the media has played this pretty straight. Cruz had some unexpected victories. He won his states' bigger than Trump won his last night. And I think the biggest thing about the media is that everybody were covering has no idea what they should do. That's the problem.

(LAUGHING)

LIASSON: .they are clueless. Sure, some big donors that Mitt Romney says maybe we should try to stop him at the convention. Others are saying no, that's a terrible idea, he'll involve (ph) -- the party -- when you are covering the potential dissolution or crack-up of a major American political party, it's very confusing because nobody knows what's going to happen or what should happen.

PRZYBYLA: That's what we're all listening to the establishment, right? There's no Trump think tank out there. There's no school for that and so we're all assuming.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, there is a school.

PRZYBYLA: .that there's a person's Trump University.

(LAUGHING)

PRZYBYLA: .that there's this other alternative that is going to emerge even though we are officially folks in the 11th hour.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

KURTZ: Well, someone say the media are clueless because after all remember all of the commentators and pundits who said Trump had no chance. I'll talk about that later. But also in terms of the narrative turning, we heard Marco Rubio and Senator Cruz has said the same thing saying the media are pro-Trump, want him to win the nomination, is that because he gets a lot of air time or do they really believe that journalists are rooting for Donald J. Trump?

TROTTER: I think in some circumstances are. We saw with the "New York Times" this week and the conversation that they had with Trump behind closed doors and the release of that information, people voters want to know what Donald Trump told "The New York Times" about immigration.

KURTZ: Right.

TROTTER: .and they are not releasing that maybe because.

(CROSSTALK)

KURTZ: But that story has been covered.

LIASSON: .Donald Trump to release that.

KURTZ: Well, I'm.

PRZYBYLA: .violating a basic journalistic principle of off the record.

KURTZ: We don't know who did it. I'm more saying that later in the program. Let me turn to Detroit spin (ph) I want to kind of take you behind the scenes because after the debate, I went downstairs to the spin room there's maybe you know 200 reporters local, national, cable folks, all getting a chance to interview Donald Trump, I didn't see the other candidates and let me put up a picture of a reporter for "Extra," A.J. Calloway, do you hear me as (ph) I took that picture as he was comparing his hand size with that of Donald Trump and this is all on camera, and about a third of the questions were about Trump's joke about there's no problem with the size of something else, the press couldn't get enough. Here's CNN's Dana Bash asking Donald about that report.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I can't believe I'm going to ask you this question but do you realize that you're probably the first person in American history, maybe even world history, to make a joke about your, you know what, at a debate stage?

TRUMP: No, I only made a joke about my hands. I have very powerful hands.

(LAUGHTER)

BASH: You went a little further than that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: I can't believe I'm asking you this question, but should the media be well into the extent into this one, huge moment.  

PRZYBYLA: No. I mean I think it was let's just say unprecedented and so maybe a follow-up question or two but then if you watch the news conference from last night when Trump came out of Kentucky, they asked him about it again.

(LAUGHTER)

KURTZ: This is the entire front page story in the "New York Times" headline, a national descent into Trump's pants, so it is not just, you know sleazy television reporters.  

PRZYBYLA: To be fair of Rubio said at the debate, let's talk about the issue and Trump immediately thought that the biggest issue to talk about was his anatomy.  

KURTZ: But also to be fair, Rubio start -- Rubio started it by making the joke about Trump's hands, do woman react differently to this because a lot of guys thinks it's funny and yes it's unprecedented and it's easier to talk about than tax plans, but do woman react differently?

TROTTER: I think so, it's an episode of barroom braggadocio and I think that it was too powerful for the media not to report on it but a lot of women and mothers are appal that this was part of our conversation. But it's not a new law in presidential politics, remember the Paula Jones' lawsuit against Hillary Clinton's husband, Bill Clinton when he was in the oval office, Paula Jones alleged that there were distinguishing characteristics about Bill Clinton's male anatomy. So, this is not something new. The Republic is not coming to an end but I think it is off putting to a lot of women.

KURTZ: Right. But, you know, the.

(CROSSTALK)

PRZYBYLA: But I don't think the candidates.

(CROSSTALK)

PRZYBYLA: .talk about it.

(LAUGHTER)

KURTZ: .it was an actual scandal as opposed to a joke on the stage. OK, so Mitt Romney got a lot of attention on the day of the debate. He came out and called Donald Trump a phony, a fraud, burglar, a bad businessman, a mustache (ph) it was like lost track as I was taking notes on all of this. The media cover seems a little sceptical around this media -- do you find that?

LIASSON: Well, I think the media coverage of the reaction to Romney I think was fair because debates reacted with disgust and complete contempt for that. And Donald Trump's supporters says, wait a second who are you telling me how to vote. Don't forget Donald Trump is democratically collecting the delegates he needs to get this.

KURTZ: That's right. He's going out.

LIASSON: He's going out -- this is the way you're supposed to do it. You go and get people to vote for you. But I do think that Mitt Romney thing was covered as a big important moment in the Republican Party history, the former nominee telling the party we have to stop the guy who is on his way.

KURTZ: Right.

LIASSON: .to being the current nominee?

KURTZ: Right.

LIASSON: I mean it was extraordinary.

KURTZ: And then all the cable networks went live when Trump had a rally in which he responded to Romney. And, so it again became a new cycle about Donald Trump, you know, courtesy of Mitt Romney.  

PRZYBYLA: .Mitt Romney. Yes, I think it was a little toned up, right when you are having populous rebellion to send out the prince to try and.

(LAUGHTER)

PRZYBYLA: .call the riot but that said.

KURTZ: But you agree then (ph) it's a big story because of Romney's symbolic place in the GOP?

PRZYBYLA: It is a big story but I think he was probably under pressure to do that because he as well has a picture ahead to (ph) Republican Party, right now.

(CROSSTALK)

LIASSON: Well, because there's no candidate had the stature to do it, the cahoney (ph) to do it.

(LAUGHTER)

LIASSON: .and since we're talking about this but or the -- or this willingness to do it.

PRZYBYLA: But at the same time, I do think the media poured fuel on the fire. If you listen to some of the right wing talks, for example, Rush Limbaugh was like he should be outraged, you are being manipulated. So, you tell people they should be outrageous and they're going to be outrageous.

KURTZ: Everybody is doing the double entendres, nobody can resist.

All right, I got only a few seconds but let's put up the video the Trump press conference with Chris Christie and a million journalist and people on Twitter all making fun of the New Jersey governor and we see him looking they are a little bit awkward, why so much attention for that?

TROTTER: Well, it's really fascinating because it's a question of these pictures went viral. There's a lot of criticism of it. Was it a staging issue that he shouldn't have been standing right behind Trump because if you're standing there for 45 minutes, it's very easy for the cameras to catch comical facial expressions?  

KURTZ: Yes. In fairness, I think if you're not married to the guy, it's hard to stand there for 45 minutes in rapt admiration. All right, let me get a break here. I had Chris Wallace on his role in moderating the very heated Republican debate in Detroit.

But when we come back, the head of the Jeb Bush's Super PAC on the comforts of Donald Trump and the party's effort to derail him.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: What was media chatter about the Republican establishment launching an assault on Donald Trump? We turn to Mike Murphy who ran Jeb Bush's $100 billion Super PAC and he has also been an NBC commentator and Time Magazine columnist. Here's our conversation from Los Angeles in his first television interview since the Bush campaign ended.

Mike Murphy, welcome.

MIKE MURPHY, FMR CHIEF STRATEGIST, RIGHT TO RISE USA PAC: Good to be here Howie.

KURTZ: Do you think that the media have pumped up Donald Trump while being unfairly and unduly negative toward your guy, Jeb?

MURPHY: Well, I think Jeb got a bit of a hard treatment from the media. He had the misfortune of being the kind of quality issues experienced candidate in a year where people seem to be looking for a circus and Jeb doesn't wear clown shoes. But, you know, on we go the voters are always right as they say and now they got to pick somebody.  

KURTZ: Right. But you early on dismissed Donald Trump as a zombie frontrunner using your words and said it was other people's problems, not the Bush campaign's problem.  

MURPHY: Well, I called him the zombie candidate because I don't believe he'll ever be elected president. I think that if he could be nominated definitely he is now the delegate leader. But if nominated, I think he'll lose in a landslide to Hillary Clinton which is one of the tragedies of Trump. But we'll see if I'm right or wrong. He's definitely done better in the primary than I thought.

When I talk about he wasn't our problem, I meant early in the race with so many candidates we had to concentrate on getting the regular Republicans behind us so we can face Trump later. And then it wouldn't eventually be our problem but it wasn't -- we didn't think our problem back in April.

KURTZ: And guess what, you're not the only person who'd underestimated Trump, all the journalist and business did as well but speaking of regular Republicans, this has become a very big story with people from Romney to Ryan to you as Jeb's guy all are piling on Trump trying to stop him, trying to slow this train down but he's running against the establishment, doesn't this in a way help Trump that you're all beating him up?

MURPHY: Well, it's a problem of arithmetic. I mean Jeb was the first to take on Trump but I'm proud of what he did. I'm proud of what Mitt Romney did but let's look at the actual numbers Trump has got about 40% at best of the party that's for him, 55 to 60% that opposes him.

The problem is there's so many candidates, the anti-Trump vote is getting split up. And if you were to pick one candidate who was in the strongest position to be the anti-Trump, right now, is probably Ted Cruz which is equally terrifying to the establishment.

So, it's a real pickle. I think the most qualified guy now running is probably Kasich but I've got some good news and bad news for him. I called my dad in Detroit who told me he's voting for Kasich in the Michigan primary but my dad is a Democrat.

(LAUGHTER)

KURTZ: Oh, OK.

MURPHY: So, it's hard to see a path (ph) for Kasich or Marco Rubio who'd also be a lot better than Trump.

KURTZ: Right. And you've gotten a fair amount of bad press in this cycle, Mike because as the head of Jeb Super PAC, you spent millions and millions of dollars much of it on negative ads against Marco Rubio, only a small fraction against Donald Trump and some people say, well you know, you certainly scuffed up Rubio but you helped the guy who is now the frontrunner.

MURPHY: Well, over half our spending was on positive Jeb ads. We spent more than anybody else taking on Trump just like Jeb took him on in every debate while others were in the witness relocation plan seemingly unavailable. So, if you look, we fought our corner hard. We have the quality candidate. I'm proud of everything we did. I make no apologies.

KURTZ: But did you miscalculate.

(CROSSTALK)

KURTZ: .did you miscalculate and go after the wrong guy?

MURPHY: No, because we knew early, early because we wanted to consolidate and then potentially it could come down to Jeb and Trump. But early, we were competing against Scott Walker.

KURTZ: Sure.

MURPHY: .we are competing against Marco Rubio, we are competing against everybody over in our category. So, the problem is this year, the voters are looking at least half of them and unless we consolidate, Trump's plurality we'll see him probably to the nomination.  

KURTZ: Well, let me jump in here because I've got half a minute.

MURPHY: Yes.

KURTZ: If somehow you and the other remnants of the Republican establishment do derail Trump, won't that cause huge anger on the part of all the people who are voting for him?

MURPHY: Well then look one I'm not part of anything. There's an anti establishment-establishment, I'm just a Republican primary voter now. I don't speak for Jeb Bush. I don't think Trump will be good for the party or the country. What will happen if we beat him fair and square, it's great. If we can't beat him fair and square, he's not going to get beaten.

KURTZ: Well, you're maybe just a Republican voter but you're very active on Twitter, Mike Murphy thanks very much for joining us.

MURPHY: It's the future, see you.

KURTZ: And on "MediaBuzz," the ordeal of Erin Andrews, as the trial brings back her horrifying experience of a nude video shot from an adjacent hotel room. But up next, did The New York Times violated off the record promise by leaking a derogatory story of bad Donald Trump?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: Now, is this off the record is sacrosanct, it means you give your word that you won't reveal a source of what a prominent person tells you even if it's means going to jail. So, it was a huge breach for someone as The New York Times to leak word of an off-the-record editorial board meeting with Donald Trump and leakage to Buzz Media editor-in-chief, Ben Smith who has called Trump a mendacious racist. The story said an audiotape of the meeting was flexed "something Trump said about the flexibility of his hard line anti-immigration stance." That prompt to attack his rival and it came up in a debate in Detroit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

SEN. TED CRUZ, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: News broke that The New York Times has a secretly recorded tape of Donald telling The New York Times editorial board that he doesn't believe what he is saying on immigration, he doesn't intend to do it, he doesn't intend to build the wall, he doesn't intend to deport people here illegally.

KELLY: But did you tell them specifically that you are flexible when it comes to your deportation plan?

TRUMP: I did have a meeting with the editorial board of The New York Times, a very nice meeting. Many of those things were off the record. I think that their suggestion and my suggestion and I think being off the record is a very important thing. I think it's a very, very powerful thing.  

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

KURTZ: Well, Trump is right on that point. And I don't want to indict the whole paper, there were 30 people in that meeting but this was an ethical betrayal by someone at the same time. The story is kind of a nothing burger. How likely is that Trump not a huge fan of the media would tell some deep dark secret to The New York Times? And he said before that he's flexible and open to making deals after becoming president just like everyone else whosever sought that high office.

With so many pundits now admitting Donald Trump is rolling to the nomination, is worth looking back at what some of them said many months ago courtesy of "Morning Joe" and what one famous anchor says now on "The O'Reilly Factor."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

DAVID REMNICK, NEW YORKER EDITOR: We've gone to the point where a comical figure -- real comical blowhard like Donald Trump -- is conceivably a frontrunner.

(CROSSTALK)

DANNY SHEA, THE HUFFINGTON POST: We will not participate in this sort of legitimacy of a fringe candidate.  

SCARBOROUGH: Everybody is waking to the fact that he actually could win this thing.  

BILL KRISTOL, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: He can't -- he's not.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH: Well, we don't know whether he is or not.

TED KOPPEL, FORMER ABC NEWS ANCHOR: I don't want to pretend that I've been predicting all along that he's going to win. Quite the contrary, I couldn't imagine that he would win.  

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

KURTZ: Many journalists now acknowledging that what they saw as impossible is now well extremely possible. Ahead on "MediaBuzz" just when the media were saying Hillary Clinton is unstoppable, federal prosecutors granting immunity to obtain witness in the email scandal but first Chris Wallace on preparing for the Fox debate with Megyn Kelly and Bret Baier are using video and graphics to try to pin down Donald Trump.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: From the moment of the Fox debate with Chris Wallace, Megyn Kelly and Bret Baier began in Detroit, the focus was on Donald Trump as we saw with Wallace's first question about Mitt Romney's assault on Trump earlier that day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS DEBATE MODERATOR: He said, your domestic policy will lead to recession, he said your foreign policy will make us less safe and then he listed what he said are your personal qualities, quoting now, "Romney on Trump," "the bullying, the greed, the showing off, the misogyny, the absurd third-grade theatrics," he challenged you to.

(CHEERING)

WALLACE: .he challenged you to answer with substance not insults. How do you answer Mitt Romney's -- what are you views on the Ku Klux Klan and white supremacist?

TRUMP: I totally disavow the Ku Klux Klan. I totally disavow David Duke.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: I sat down with the anchor of "Fox News Sunday" here in Studio One.

Chris Wallace, welcome.

You began this debate with a bang, asking Donald Trump about Mitt Romney's caustic attack and then about David Duke and the KKK, why did you start to debate this way?

WALLACE: I -- it was the news of the day and look think about this for a second, you have the nominee of the party last cycle 2012, basically doing everything he can to blow up the candidacy of the clear frontrunner for the Republican nomination, this time I can't think of a time that has happened before. It was quite extraordinary and we always like to kind of go with something fresh, something that hasn't been discussed in a prior debate. It happened a few hours before.

KURTZ: Yes.

WALLACE: It was a no brainer.

KURTZ: No brainer. When you got into how much Donald Trump could actually cut the budget and you had the graphic to show that there were shortfalls in his proposals, to what extent had you anticipated what he would come back with and then you decided to come back with other numbers?

WALLACE: Oh, absolutely.

KURTZ: Yes.

WALLACE: One of the problems with Trump as he throws around a lot of numbers, he throws around a lot of rhetoric and nobody kind of fact checks on him or maybe they'll fact check him in the newspaper the next day and a little thing in the "Washington Post" and I thought it would be really interesting to do that in a debate, in real-time.

KURTZ: Real life.

WALLACE: Yes, a fact-check in live time. So, I -- and I read a lot and I thought a lot, and we've done a lot of research, I have a great researcher, Lori Martin here at Fox and I wanted to ask him the question of waste fraud (ph) abuse because and I've heard what he said before and it didn't add up so I had had four different full screens, as we call up those graphics made up and we were just going to do it depending on what he said and I have to tell you the producers were a little nervous because I had full screen one, which was about one.

KURTZ: Too wonky?

WALLACE: No, they weren't worried about that. They were worried about what if he doesn't say one of your things.

KURTZ: Oh, OK well.

(LAUGHTER)

WALLACE: .it sounds like, well then we're screwed.

(LAUGHTER)

WALLACE: .but fortunately he did.

KURTZ: As you know, Cruz and Rubio went at Trump hard, as expected and there were plenty of insults. After the CNN debate, which kind of viewed (ph) out of control, you said you thought it was an embarrassing spectacle for the candidates so to what extent were all of you trying to keep this under control while still letting the candidates go out of it?

WALLACE: We were trying. And I think you'll see.

KURTZ: He succeeds (ph).

WALLACE: No, and as I also said after that debate -- I said but at a certain point if they want to act like damn fools, you can't stop them from acting like damn fools. I thought there were a lot parts of the debate that were substantive on taxes, on immigration, on foreign policy, variety of issues and I thought there were points I mean it was really interesting with Trump because I felt very strongly that he came into that debate, you can just tell in his demeanour that he was trying to be more presidential.

He was trying to pivot from the blustery Donald Trump who had gotten all this attention in the first place to a potential and legitimate, someone that you could envision as a president. And as the debate went on, of course, there was that one moment early on when he had to make the joke about his manhood that was -- I could have done without that, but there were a lot of good moments. I thought he went out of his way not to get into a confrontation with Megyn to be, you know, nice to see you, all of that.

KURTZ: On that point, you know, a lot of the press coverage before the "Fox News Debate" billed this as a rematch between Donald Trump and Megyn Kelly because of the criticism that he unleashed on her in the first place and because he skipped the Iowa debate citing her as a reason so were you also conscious of that going in?

WALLACE: Sure. But I think all of us felt the three moderators, this isn't about Trump versus Megyn or any of the other moderators. This is about the four candidates and the voters and we want to be as invisible as possible. The thing I was going to say though is, you know, Trump started out by his standards at least kind of high brow and by the end it was a little Marco Rubio.

KURTZ: .little Marco Rubio, yes.

WALLACE: .and lying Ted.

(LAUGHTER)

WALLACE: .and, you know, he had been sucked into it.  

KURTZ: A lot of praise for the moderators from "Washington Post" political, media and others nearly 17 million people watch, I thought the most interesting moment here was the video montage you've done this to the other candidates in Iowa and Megyn Kelly following up and saying what is your core and Trump then trying that, you know, he has a core but you also need to be flexible. Do you think that was infected moment?

WALLACE: I thought that was a very good moment for Trump. I thought that was one of his strong moments when he was in fact he didn't get nasty about it. He didn't get resentful about it. He said, "Yes. I have changed" and that's what a leader needs to do. If the facts change or if you learn more about it, your opinion changes, that's a strength not a weakness. I thought that was one of his high points.

KURTZ: For all of your hard work and preparation, the moment that went viral was when he joked about his hands and his anatomy and that got a lot coverage and twitter exploded, what were you thinking on the stage at that moment?

WALLACE: Oh, Lord. I mean, you just have to shake your head and listen that happened early on, that was 10-15 minutes.

KURTZ: Yes.

WALLACE: .and, we have another hour and 45 minutes, so it's -- I mean you are focused on what you're got to do, and I typically had a lot in the beginning because I had the initial questions to Trump and then I also had that whole first round about the economy, so you are tending to go your knitting. I mean you got to make sure that you're on top of your material, you are listening to what they're saying but you are also thinking about where you want to take the debate.  

KURTZ: Everything about debate, you'll never know what's going to happen. Chris Wallace thanks very much for joining us.

WALLACE: You bet my pleasure.

KURTZ: Coming up, the media now treating Hillary Clinton as the nominee in- waiting but could the latest email story change that narrative?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: This is the "Fox News Alert," we have some sad news to report. Nancy Reagan has died. The former First Lady was 94 years old. We've just gotten confirmation of her death. She of course was married to Ronald Reagan beginning in 1952 until his death in 2004. She was an iconic figure in her own right, one of more glamorous first ladies in American History, Nancy Reagan, dying at the age of 94.

So, let me turn to our panel, we will not talk about Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders right now. She was a singular figure in the sense that she had her own identity. She certainly was always very supportive of her husband. Some people used to gently make fun of the way she looked at him when he was president, but she also is the woman who has sort of kept the Reagan legacy alive since Ronald Reagan's death more than a decade ago.  

PRZYBYLA: Incoming at this time, you know, it's ironic this should happened at this time, you know, because just the other day I was thinking, gee I wonder what Ronald Reagan is thinking looking down over what's become of the party today because he was really -- it's like benchmark.

Someone who reinvented the party and brought together so many diverse factions of the Republican Party and fast-forward to where we are today, the other end of the book end is a party in complete disarray.

LIASSON: Spinning in his grave is what he probably would be doing because he did it -- he broadened the coalition in a genial way then pit people against each other.

KURTZ: Let's talk a little bit about Nancy Reagan's role both as first lady and since then because, you know, it's interesting in this campaign even though Ronald Reagan has not been president since 1989 and he's still routinely invoke by every Republican candidate shining city on a hill, and Nancy Reagan was part of that, you know, that.

LIASSON: I think she can take credit for a lot of the fact that Ronald Reagan has become the number one patron saint of the Republican Party and that every single Republican says they are the true inheritor of the Reagan legacy that she had tended for all these years. That's, you know, that's -- Marco Rubio -- I'm the new generation that's going to continue the Reagan legacy.

(CROSSTALK)

LIASSON: .you know, everybody wants to be Reagan. He seems like the JFK for the Democrats.

KURTZ: Right. And, you know, Nancy Reagan to her work with the Reagan library, through increasingly rare public appearances as she got older and more frail, certainly has not let the world forget about her husband's presidency which even Democrats say who are imposing at that time saying was just that -- was a very significance presidency that changed the direction of this country in a way that it was still felt today.

TROTTER: Absolutely, and this is heartbreaking news and to have this come so soon on the heels of Justice Antonin Scalia's death and you remember President Reagan appointed Justice Scalia to have that generation passing away and have such controversy in the Republican Party right now. I think it will leave people very unsettled to have another icon of the Reagan administration and the birth -- rebirth of the Conservative Movement, I think it will cause people to be very introspective on what the future of our nation will be.

KURTZ: Let me pause now and read a statement we've just gotten in the Fox News from the Reagan Family, this is a statement by Joanne Drake, she is the spokeswoman about the death of former First Lady Nancy Reagan's state and coming out of Los Angeles, Nancy Davis Reagan, former First Lady of the United States died this morning at her home in Los Angeles at the age of 94.

The cause of death was congestive heart failure. Mrs. Reagan will be buried at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley California next to her husband, Ronald Wilson Reagan who died on June 5th, 2004.

Now, prior to the funeral service, there will be an opportunity for members of the public to pay their respects at the Library. The details will be announced shortly. And rural flowers, the statement continues, Mrs. Reagan requested that contributions be made to the Reagan Presidential Library and Foundation at www.reaganlibrary.com.

You know, Nancy Reagan unlike many first ladies had her own career. She was an actress, she was a public figure, and there was something about the two of them that she call him Ronnie and even when there were controversies about Nancy Reagan, for example there was that story that came out about how she would rely on astrologists and maybe give her husband the presidential advice, it was kind of endearing. I mean she was a very colorful figure on her own right.

TROTTER: Yes, she was -- there was this book that I read many years ago of letters from Ronald Reagan to Nancy. And if you go and read that and you see the conversation they had over many, many years it's very genuine. It's was very loving relationship that even their children said that there was Ronnie and Nancy and we were kind of the satellites outside of that, and to have that kind of in contrast to some of the relationships that we see going on in Washington, DC right now is a little surprising, a big contrast.  

LIASSON: And you know, last night some of us went to the Gridiron, and of course, the Gridiron was kind of a singular moment in Nancy Reagan's career because she spoofed herself on stage with second-hand rose.

KURTZ: Right. Because, there's some people who don't know that Gridiron is an annual Washington Dinner where journalists and politicians get together off the record, so there's no videotape of it but the details always leaked.

LIASSON: Yes, but she actually performed second-hand clothes with a spoof done to the tune of second-hand rose because she had gotten in trouble for her I guess.

KURTZ: Borrowing some designer.

LIASSON: .lavish spending.

(CROSSTALK)

LIASSON: .or borrowing something and not reimbursing them, anyway she spoofed herself and she sang and danced because she was a former hoofer.

KURTZ: That raises a logic question that I like to explore with all of you and that is just as the -- as history's view of Ronald Reagan has changed. Remembering when he ran in 1976 and when he ran in 1980, he was considered just an actor, ill-informed because he had been governor of California for two terms, a dangerous potential president who might lead us into nuclear war well obviously those things didn't happen but, you know, he did a lot of combat with Democrats, even though he would famously drink with Tip O'Neill and in reigning in the size of government and pursuing Conservative principle, to what extent in the intervening, you know, court essentially has the image of Nancy Reagan who wants controversial change in the media and with the public?

LIASSON: Yes, I think that the years passing have put her in a more glowing light. The controversies have fallen away and especially as he developed Alzheimer's and, you know, she was his caretaker I think she became a more beloved figure.

TROTTER: And who can forget the scene of the funeral in California? The statement read that she's going to be buried next to him and at Ronald Reagan's funeral they have the service and then the sun went down and it was this very iconic image of the sun going down on him.

PRZYBYLA: To be fair with, also the era that the Reagan's were and in terms of the media as well there was -- there was like a code of conduct that does not exist today. And so I think, you know, that the Reagan's also created this precedent, though of Republicans being -- created this kind of expectation that Republican candidates are not angry, they're happy because people are trying to draw parallel.

LIASSON: Yes.

KURTZ: Right.

PRZYBYLA: .between Trump and Reagan.

(CROSSTALK)

PRZYBYLA: .the outsiders.

LIASSON: Yes. But Reagan was fundamentally the happy warrior.

KURTZ: Let me go to New York now. I want to bring in Ed Rollins, he was of course the former assistant to President Ronald Reagan matters, his re- election campaign `84, also a "Fox News Contributor."

Ed, what do you make of this sad news of Nancy Reagan passing away? We just received it this morning and talk a little bit about the person that you knew both a woman and a wife and first lady.

ED ROLLINS, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: She was an extraordinary woman and I have often said this, Ronald Reagan probably wouldn't have been president without her. In 1976 after he ran and lost to Ford, I think the president himself and he told me this that he wasn't sure he wanted to run again.

Mrs. Reagan was convinced that he was the right man for the country and she encouraged him and supported him. She was an extraordinary first lady. She brought great glamour and style to the White House. She had two major programs that she undertook herself, one is AIDS which is an absolute disaster catastrophe in the country and the drug program, we're just saying no program was very significant.

But she was by far and away the closest adviser to the president. She basically was his confidant. They had an extraordinary marriage, they were very, very close friends as well as lovers and been a long, long period of time there was never any friction. She tried to re-glamour -- bring glamour back to the White House.

KURTZ: Right.

ROLLINS: And obviously it did and that's some of the things you are just talking about but I think that she was just a very classy human being and a great, great adviser to the president and as beloved in most circles as he was, so my sense is it's a real tragic loss. He was a great president. She was a great first lady.

KURTZ: So interesting you bring up the "Just Say No" program the crusade against drugs and I thought even though it was made fun of in some quarters that that was the beginning of Nancy Reagan starting to have a more serious image as First Lady, pursuing an important cause rather than just being seen as somebody who was glamorous on closed doors and like to preside over very fancy parties, but it's nice that you bring up that Ronald Reagan himself had doubts about running in 1981 and he ultimately run. So, is Nancy someone kind of pushed her husband to go for the ultimate prize?

ROLLINS: She did. She encouraged him and equally as important after he was severely wounded, you know, the first three months of the administration. She wasn't anxious for him to run for re-election. She thought that Sadat had been murdered, the pope had been shot, her husband almost died and, you know, it was a very hard discussion of whether he should run for election and obviously it a campaign I'm in, so I was very involved in a lot of that.

KURTZ: Sure.

ROLLINS: At the end of the day, she made up her mind it was the right thing for the country. He wanted to do it. Watching them right there getting off the helicopter brings back lots of memories. The interesting thing was the ranch that Reagan loved so much in California was not this big glamorous Texas ranch.

It's a beautiful scenery looking over the Pacific Ocean, but a very small little place, had lots of snakes and mosquitoes and what have you but she would let him go there whenever he wanted to. She was always worried about and concerned about his health as any great wife does, and I think to a certain extent that she was the reinforcer to him.

She didn't play around in public policy. She was -- she always thought he was the man to make those kinds of decisions. She cared about staff in the sense that she wanted to make sure the staff was loyal to him and the staff basically was serving him well. She had a great sense of PR and I think the team, meaning her and the president, were inseparable and extraordinary.

KURTZ: Yes, you know, I covered that assassination attempt March 30th, 1981. I remember being outside the hospital and getting updates on President Reagan's condition and just to think how awful it was for Nancy Reagan both as the first lady and as a wife who almost her husband when there was a bullet strung out and so we should remember her role there. So, I'm really you brought that up.

I want to go to the phone now bringing KT McFarland, she is the Fox News National Security Analyst, who worked at the Pentagon in the Reagan administration who she served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence for Public Affairs under President Reagan from 1982 to 1985.

So KT, what were your memories of that time of Nancy Reagan, I don't know of how much you dealt with her directly but as a person, as a persona, as the president's wife and as an important presence in that administration?

KT MCFARLAND, FOX NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, I think it was that Nancy Reagan's influence with the president, as Ed has just said as President Reagan's closest confidant, I'm not sure that we would have ended the cold war the way we did.

President Reagan's first team was the defence build-up but we were not negotiating with the Soviet Union and once the United States was in a position of military power, once we have repaired our relations with our allies, Nancy Reagan more than anybody, told President Reagan "it's now time to do the deal, it is now time to end the cold war."

And she was very closely aligned with the Secretary of State, George Shultz, and the two of them really helped President Reagan do what President Reagan wanted to do, which was to end the cold war without firing a shot and also to find a way for missile defence system, a way that the United States would no longer be held hostage to the nuclear weapon of the Soviet Union in all sides.

So, I would say in addition to the things she had accomplished on her own, the "Just Say No" drug program, the way she revitalized and reenergized the White House as the greatest house in the land, she also plays a major role in getting peace in our time.

KURTZ: If you're just joining us, we've just received the sad news is out that Nancy Reagan has died the former first lady passing away in Los Angeles at the age of 94. We are recalling now her as a person, as a first lady, and as an important influence on her husband and KT McFarland this goes beyond the image that Nancy Reagan had as a very glamorous first lady and that certainly was true as well.

What I'm hearing from you is that even when it came to geopolitics, she was an important influence on her husband would you say as important informal adviser as, you know, the defence secretary and the secretary of state?

MCFARLAND: In a different way.

KURTZ: Sure.

MCFARLAND: .because she understood the role that her husband could play in history. And I think, Ed you would -- you would agree with this, that Nancy Reagan was one of the people whispering in President Reagan's ear that it was time to have a new relationship, reach out, have an overture Mr. Gorbachev tear down as well. You know, the joke was always around the White House that when President Reagan met with Soviet leaders for the first time that Gorbachev had said, "Well, Mrs. Reagan, whisper in the President's ear every night when you go to bed, peace, peace, peace. And she said, "I'm whispering in your ear,."

(LAUGHTER)

MCFARLAND: ."it's time for peace, peace, peace." So she has a role not as a political adviser, not as a you know, nuclear weapon advisor but is someone who said President, you know my dear husband, this is your time, this is your moment, you can do this, no one else can, and she was the woman behind the man.

KURTZ: Ed and KT standby. I want to come back to our Washington panel. You know, the job of first lady is undefined and a difficult one at times because the first lady doesn't want to overshadow her husband. This was controversial when Hillary Clinton was first lady and she was given the health care portfolio and testified on Capitol Hill.

Nancy Reagan, although we're hearing from people who worked in that administration, she was not seen publicly as somebody who was immersed in policy but, you know, the most important person in the presidency is the woman who the guy talks to the last thing at night.

PRZYBYLA: Yes and we're seeing that with all of the first ladies, I mean Laura Bush might have been a little bit less.

KURTZ: More of a traditional first lady.

PRZYBYLA: .more of a traditional first lady and the first ladies all kind of take on more traditional official portfolios, but given the pedigree as well, like with Michelle Obama and her professional background.

KURTZ: Right.

PRZYBYLA: .and just their levels of education, you know that there is a lot of that kind of advising at night-time or whatever and a lot of the back- and-forth as well with the first lady having the ear of the president.

KURTZ: Right, and of course Michelle Obama has by her own design been a first lady who doesn't work full-time because she's got two children to raise and Nancy Reagan and Ronald Reagan didn't have that situation. What are you thinking when you're hearing people who with Reagan's talk about her influence, because I guess it had been known at the time, you know, the little astrology plot that she was advising on the cold war, especially in the context of the 1980s when women were not in as many leadership positions both government and private as they are now, that might have been a little bit controversial.

TROTTER: It might have been controversial but what they were saying she wasn't advising him policy, she was advising for the benefit of the American people. And I think when you brought up the assassination attempt, who can forget that famous line when Reagan was about to go under the knife for, you know, removal of the bullet and he said to Nancy, "Honey, I forgot to duck."

And I think that was a real insight into the type of relationship that they had, even in the most extreme pressure of trying to protect the United States from the cold war, they could joke about things like that.

KURTZ: What a reassuring line that was to see the old Reagan humor and charm and grace after, you know, coming pretty close to dying after John Hinckley fired those bullets at him and his Press Secretary Jim Brady -- all right, I've got Chris Wallace on the phone now, Chris.

WALLACE: I want to wait till noon.

KURTZ: Well, we were happy to take you now if you're available. One of the reasons that we're happy to have a chance to talk to you is that as a reporter, you covered the Reagan White House, you were there every day and so you certainly have a sense not only of the President but of Nancy Reagan, what are your reflections on that time?

WALLACE: You know, I was actually pretty close to Nancy Reagan. There's a family connection which can go at some point but I also did an hour of documentary on her in the -- his second term, she was an enormously influential person in the Reagan -- the entire Reagan story, his political career.

The fact that he became president, how he staffed his presidency as it have been mentioned, his decision particularly the second term become much more aggressive in seeking accommodation with the Russians -- negotiating with the Russians, she was a key player in all of that.

KURTZ: Well, talking a little bit about Nancy Reagan, the person, did you have a chance to get to know her and you say you have a family connections in her because I think a lot of Americans at the time admired Nancy Reagan, some were critical at times as she took some hits in the press particularly in the early years before she became involved and some of these more serious references "Just Say No" to drugs program, tell us a little bit about what she was like as a human being?

WALLACE: Well, she was great fun. I mean I'm completely biased about her.

KURTZ: Fair enough.

WALLACE: I thought she was just terrific. When you sat and talked with her, you were the only person in the room and that famous gaze that she looked at the president with when he spoke, she'd focus that on you and she was gossiping. She liked, you know, to chat about things that were going on, very approachable.

Once you were kind of in the circle of trust, the family connection was the fact that my father back in the 40s has been a good friend of her mother, Eddie Davis. Nancy Reagan was several years younger and I think she had kind of a crush on my father, in any case.

When I got there the relationship not the crush but the relationship transferred to me and we used to chat on the phone frequently when she was first lady very pleasant, very approachable, very practical, fiercely protective of her husband. And she said in the interview, the hour documentary I did on her for NBC back in '85 that she felt she had better antenna about people than her husband did.

That they were -- that he was too trusting and that she knows would have to tell him who had his best interest at heart and who didn't. And I got to say, most of the judgment she made, at least in my way of thinking, were pretty darn good.

KURTZ: Right. I remember her being involved in some decisions to use some people out of the Reagan White House which maybe the president was reluctant to do because he was a nice guy. It's interesting to know about the friendship between Mike Wallace, your dad and Nancy Reagan.

Talk a little bit about the post presidency because not only even before Ronald Reagan died we had the sad long period where the effects of Alzheimer's kicked in and he couldn't really communicate publicly.

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