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Media Buzz

Hillary's pundit problem

This is a rush transcript from "MediaBuzz," March 20, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: On the "Buzz Meter" this Sunday, Donald Trump rolling towards the nomination after another Super Tuesday and the pundits start obsessing on delegate math and whether that might stop him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS: Sir, if you don't buy the contested convention or you could go to a second ballot, third ballot and suddenly the person who brings the party together is not one of those two?

NEWT GINGRICH, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I think it's insane.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN: Do you deny the nomination to Donald Trump? I think that's a very difficult case to make at this point.

BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS: I don't think that Trump will have enough to give him the nomination.

HUGH HEWITT, CNN: More than 60% of Republicans don't want him to be their nominee. That's the math. I don't see how he overcomes that when he gets to Cleveland with less than 1,237 delegates.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

KURTZ: But is the contested convention a journalistic fantasy? Is the press making too much of Trump's comments that there might be violence if he's deprived of the prize?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID MUIR, ABC NEWS: Donald Trump fresh off major victories overnight, now warning of riots if the Republicans try to stop him at a contested convention.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: And while he's riding high, why is Trump still picking personal fights with journalists? Marco Rubio drops out. What was it like dealing with reporters during his flameout? We'll ask his husband and wife press team. Another huge week for Hillary Clinton, well news organizations now start ignoring Bernie Sanders and why are some liberal pundits ripping her as a flawed candidate who could lose to Trump. President Obama picks Merrick Garland as his Supreme Court nominee but the GOP senate says no way, no how.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: We chased down the Republican leaders who are refusing to hold hearings or a vote, including Orrin Hatch who once praised Garland.

You said before that he belongs on the court, why not at least consider him now?

SEN. ORRIN HATCH, R-UTAH: I didn't say that he belongs on the Supreme Court. I said he belonged on the D.C. circuit court.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

KURTZ: Is the coverage painting the Republicans as obstructionists? Plus, a jury hits Gawker with a $115 million verdict for posting a Hulk Hogan sex tape. Will this transform the boundaries of online gossip? I'm Howard Kurtz and this is "MediaBuzz."

Donald Trump had more huge victories this week winning Florida, knocking Marco Rubio out of the race. But during his victory speech, at Mar-o-Largo, he challenged one of the key pundits and then he said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

TRUMP: Lies, deceit, viciousness, disgusting reporters, horrible people.

(CROWD CHEERING)

TRUMP: .some are nice -- some are nice, some really disgusting people back there laughing.

(LAUGHTER)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

KURTZ: And during a round of morning show interviews, Trump used the word on CNN that sent the disgusting people of the press to their battle stations.

TRUMP: It's we're, you know, 100 short and we're at 1100 and somebody else is at 500 or 400 because we're way ahead of everybody. I don't think you can say that we don't get it automatically. I think it would be -- I think it would have riots. I think it would have riots.

KURTZ: And that one word was all it took, riots.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

GREG GUTFELD, FOX NEWS: It must be really good knowing these people are there and willing to fight for you and stick by you even if you shoot someone on Fifth Avenue. Suggesting lawlessness, even offhand in response to a lawful but unpopular event isn't very presidential.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC: You don't give me the nomination, but I'll be (ph) the frontrunner, forget the majority. If I'm the frontrunner, you give it to me or I'm going to -- well, it sounds like he would encourage riots.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: It's one thing for other people to predict violence or even riots in a politician's campaign, another thing for the candidate himself to promise/threaten that and then not condemn that as a possibility?

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

KURTZ: Joining us now to analyze the campaign coverage Heidi Przybyla, Senior political correspondent for USA Today; Gayle Trotter, a commentator who writes for the Daily Caller and The Hill; and Joe Trippi, Democratic strategist and Fox News contributor.

Heidi, I was surprised that the media went to death con one over Trump's, riots con, I mean how do you use that phrase? All of the big riots of the Senate happen and I thought it was hyperbole but now some commentators are saying he was threatening violence.

HEIDI PRZYBYLA, USA TODAY: Yes, I had -- well, that's terrible. Because I didn't see the actual comments myself until I went back and read them and honestly I have said something similar earlier in the week that if the race -- in this context, if the race were that close and Trump had just below the number needed to get the delegates and, you know, the Republicans came in and swooped in with some other candidate, there would be mutiny, there would be chaos. I heard Christie spoke (ph) those words, too. But when Donald Trump said it because it came in the context of a week in which there was actual violence going on at his rallies and he is in the spotlight for encouraging violence at his rallies, it took on a life of its own.

KURTZ: What do you think, Gayle and also this comes against the backdrop of many in the conservative media just pushing these endless scenarios about what could, should, might happen in Cleveland because they're in the Trump camp.

GAYLE TROTTER, COMMENTATOR: Yes. And this is nothing new in politics. You might remember that President Obama in 2009 sat down with American CEOs and told them that his administration was the only thing between him and the pitch fork. So, this is nothing new in politics. And yes the conservative media, the far left and the far right are trying to keep anybody but Trump from getting the nomination. So I think they continue to push this narrative as well.

KURTZ: Joe, are the media underplaying the explosion of anger, not necessarily violence, but chaos is a good word that would take place if deals are cut and Donald Trump is denied the nomination if he is close to the magic number?

JOE TRIPPI, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely. I mean, absolutely. Look, I've said it. I'll say it clearly. If they do this, it will blow up the party. Now, I wasn't talking about violence.

KURTZ: You were talking about T&T and dynamite, yes.

(LAUGHTER)

TRIPPI: It is a huge mistake to say in all -- and look, regardless of the language he use he spoke the truth. This is one of things about Trump. He speaks something that his followers believe is true and that most of us believe is true which is if they did this, there is going to be chaos and disruption and a lot of anger out there.

And in the media response by saying oh, my gosh, how can he say that, which just reinforces him with his supporters and actually -- and actually encouraged more -- his strength on coming primaries.

KURTZ: It seems to be a pretty deep split in the coverage Heidi between those who say Trump's got this thing wrapped up and those who say he could definitely be stopped at the convention.

PRZYBYLA: I feel like first and foremost, none of us have seen -- a lot of us -- not all of us, but -- not us, have seen a contested convention before. And so there is this not a lot of direction here. But.

KURTZ: All the reporters are dying for this to be a knockdown drag out, four days that really matter.

PRZYBYLA: Right, but.

KURTZ: .some stage coronation.

PRZYBYLA: .but I think there's also some overcompensation going on here. Because what you have is the columnists on the right and the left, who've always been very harsh on Trump, but then you have the herd. And the herd was wrong in the beginning. Everybody rode him off.

KURTZ: Almost everybody.

PRZYBYLA: Almost everybody. Most everybody, okay -- rode him off and was very skeptical about him and then here we are today flash forward and I think there's a lot of overcompensation at this point now to say that you can't deny him what is rightfully his because he's done so well and exceeded our expectations.

KURTZ: But speaking of -- I just want to get the sound bite in, Joe and you can respond on those, speaking of the media coverage, here's Ted Cruz complaining about the extent to which day after day after day Donald Trump seems to soak up most of the media attention, let's look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TED CRUZ, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald trump practically goes to the bathroom and it gets carried live on network television. Every speech he gives, he does a press conference that's like watching the shopping channel. He's up there selling steaks and steak knives and wine. The media desperately wants him to be the nominee.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: The media desperately want Donald Trump to be the nominee?

TRIPPI: No. I think look if Ted Cruz said things that were interesting that everybody wanted to see, he'd be on a lot more. And Trump does say with regards to whether he agrees with him or not, he says things that people find interesting. And I think that's part of the problem here. The other candidates haven't been able to do that.

PRZYBYLA: He makes himself accessible, too.

TROTTER: Oh, holy cow, this is a man bites dog story. Because you have Trump who is not a conventional candidate. It's a game. He goes out there and says things that a conventional candidate would never say. The press goes completely wild. And then we have this ability of Donald Trump to use jiu-jitsu to turn all of those negative media to his advantage.

KURTZ: Well, if Senator Cruz went on to say the reason the media won in his view Donald Trump being the nominee so they can then turn on him that he could be a weak nominee against Hillary Clinton. Senator Cruz in a recent interview with me said virtually all journalists are partisan Democrats. I don't agree with that when it applies to a lot of reporters, but that's his argument there.

TROTTER: The media leans more so. You would have to agree the media.

KURTZ: I'm not arguing that for a minute but the idea that we are orchestrating this in a way so that Trump would be the weakest nominee, but he would win, I mean there's a lot more to why he gets all this credit.

PRZYBYLA: What's the proliferation in the media that I can't believe the American people are still that gullible to believe that somehow we are this monolith. We've gone from, you know, just a few major news organizations to news organizations like Drudge on the right and Huffington Post on the left, so how can the American people still continue to believe this?

TRIPPI: Has there been a nominee, potential nominee that's been as hammered and answered this, you know, pushed off by the media as Donald Trump?

KURTZ: No.

(CROSSTALK)

TRIPPI: That's my point. I mean if, the media had the power to decide things.

KURTZ: Yes.

TRIPPI: .Donald Trump wouldn't be the frontrunner.

KURTZ: One of the bizarre things about this campaign is the negative media attention which Trump's gotten plenty along with some positive. Actually, it helps him in my view. All right, so we saw Donald Trump on Tuesday night talk about disgusting media people that sort of part of a stick (ph), but in recent days, he has renewed his war on Fox News anchor, Megyn Kelly tweeting among other things that she is crazy Megyn Kelly, that she is sick, that her show is unfair, that nobody should watch the show basically calling for a boycott.

This prompted a very strong statement from Fox News on Friday night we put up on the screen. Part of it says Donald Trump's victory -- all of his (ph) attacks against Megyn Kelly and his extreme, sick obsession with her is beneath the dignity of a presidential candidate who wants to occupy the highest office in the land.

Megyn is an example of a journalist and one of the leading anchors in America. It's especially deplorable for her to be repeatedly abused for just doing her job.

Heidi, what do you make of this back-and-forth?

PRZYBYLA: Let me just say that in my particular position, I'm a young woman in this industry who is watching Megyn Kelly and women like her and are inspired by her success, so to that extent it's been upsetting and that is why I was motivated to get to the bottom of this.

What was it exactly that Megyn Kelly did to invite this latest storm of criticism? And I went back and looked and what I found, check it out people, go online, the tweeting started before Megyn Kelly even went on the air -- the night -- election night, he said, oh Megyn Kelly is on the air. Everybody change their channel.

So, this is, you know, part of a pattern of Trump kind of going off of the handle because he clearly continues to watch and sent out these tweets using loaded words like sick and crazy. And the fact -- fact of the matter is Megyn Kelly was giving the same kind of coverage of that -- of those election results, mostly positive that her male counterparts were on virtually every other network and, yet, there was not that kind of response.

KURTZ: If Donald Trump wants to say journalist bias, unfair, don't watch his or her show. That's fine, politicians can do that. Journalists are not immune from criticism. But do I think words like sick and crazy are over the top, Gayle.

TROTTER: That seems like it's an extreme form of language that he is using. But listening to the back-and-forth between Donald Trump and Megyn Kelly seems like a duet of Carly Simon's song "You're So Vain." Because he tells Megyn Kelly, oh, you're average. Your show can't rate and she responds I'm doing just fine without you.

So I think that she's been good for the last eight months to not respond very much to his attacks. And I think Fox News coming out and making this statement kind of feeds into his victimization complex. And Fox News, the top people would be better served not to get into it and let Megyn Kelly handle it by herself.

(CROSSTALK)

PRZYBYLA: But Fox has to defend her, because she is pushing into a new frontier here and this kind of vitriol is not acceptable targeting her. I think they have to come out and she remains her professionalism, you know, maintains her professionalism by not directly responding and getting into the mud.

KURTZ: What surprised me Joe is there's been a brief truce. In fact, Donald Trump told reporters and he told me after the debate in Detroit that she had been fair to him. But this does seem to flare up and I asked him, are you obsessing too much about what cable pundits say? He didn't think. He looks at it as saying the record straight does this sort of thing hurt Donald Trump potentially with women?

TRIPPI: Absolutely. Look, he's got a huge gender gap. He is running very, very strong with white men but he's got a problem with support among women, Republican women. And I think going after Megyn Kelly doesn't help him. The only explanation I have is he views himself as a ratings bonanza for the networks that's why the coverage of debates has been so high in his mind. Which I think is true. But, so I think he wants to punish Megyn Kelly by trying to drive her ratings lower, to turn the channel.

KURTZ: Right.

TRIPPI: It's just -- it's not working. And it's doing him damage.

KURTZ: Whatever shows Donald Trump appears on, he does choose the ratings but Megyn Kelly still has the second highest rated show in cable news and so his lack of diplomatic relations with her has not hurt the Kelly File.

All right, got to get a break, I know you have to say. Ahead, are the media insulting one way on the battle of the President Obama Supreme Court nominee but when we come back, Ashley Parker of "The New York Times" uncovering this tenth Trump rally and why she was sometimes scared?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: Fighting broke out at a Donald Trump rally in Tucson last night with audience members punching and kicking an anti-Trump protester. Take a look.

(CROWD CHEERING)

KURTZ: Police later led the protester and the African American man who attacked him out of the arena. Joining us now is Ashley Parker, Correspondent from "The New York Times," who has covered a number of the Trump rallies. So, you write a piece saying that you first felt unsafe at a Trump event a couple of weeks ago in New Orleans, was that unnerving?

ASHLEY PARKER, NEW YORK TIMES REPORTER: It was just, you know, covering Trump is not like covering a typical politician. And so at this rally, basically the energy became very sort of tense and very frenetic from the very beginning. And there was -- and there's an almost constant stream of protesters getting marched out and fighting with the crowd and the crowd was turning on them and that's -- you see protesters at other politicians' events.

KURTZ: Right.

PARKER: .but sort of not at that level and not at that intensity, so it's striking to notice.

KURTZ: Was it unnerving for you personally at all?

PARKER: Yes. It was a little unnerving personally. And, you know, as a reporter, you're sort of trying to figure out like where do I want to be when this breaks out and how are we going to cover this and what is the best position?

KURTZ: You warned your editors, sometime after this someone is going to get seriously hurt at one of these rallies or worse, should you have written that story -- could you have written that story?

PARKER: So, we actually -- before Chicago happened, we actually did write a version of that story where we talked about the role of the protesters at Donald Trump rallies and sort of the increasing intensity and just what it's like to be a protester and what it's like to be a member of the crowd. So we didn't sort of know that Chicago was going to happen but we saw things -- we saw things headed that way.

KURTZ: All right, so after the Chicago event with the violence breaking out and with the cancellation of that rally, you wrote a piece in the same piece you say that times both sides have behaved badly. But, you say, the Trump supporters you've interviewed have been almost unfailingly courteous. Protesters made the minorities feel wrong, some have instigated the clashes.

PARKER: Yes, I mean what you see is -- and I'm -- hopefully in that piece I didn't sort of create a false equivalency. To be clear, there's plenty of protesters who are standing peacefully, silently and they are hauled out. They are pushed there, shoved. But you also see protesters getting carried out and they're shouting and they're, you know, flicking off the crowd and they're screaming and the Trump supporters are screaming. And basically, it's sort of like a mosh pit where tensions are high on both side. And that's where you see the kind of clashes and skirmishes occur.

KURTZ: But don't the protesters go there, the ones that are more organized with the purpose of shouting him down or getting the rally cancelled or just being the disruptive force?

PARKER: Sure. I think absolutely. I think at the beginning what you saw was just protesters and at a certain point the protesters realized that the way they could sort of reclaim their voice, which is something you hear them speak a lot about, is to come to these events and interrupt them and force them to stop speaking or in the case of Chicago, to shut it down and that sort of their form of social protest.

KURTZ: I ask that because a lot of the coverage has focused on Donald Trump and his words and punching in the face as if he's responsible and I'm not letting him off the hook but I just want to underscore the point that some people go there for the express -- purpose of disrupting.

So I'm watching television Friday night, there's a Trump rally in Utah and things were seemed like they were going to get tense and I'm thinking there are all these television cameras here and maybe do we give these protesters too much media attention or just the fact this is now a thing, a story, might encourage some people to go and, you know, disrupt the thing and get on television?

PARKER: Sure. I mean I think what you're seeing is both from the side of the protesters who know that if he go and disrupt they'll get attention but also from the side of Donald Trump, right? Like protesters have become a part of his rallies. The way talking about, you know, making America great again as part of his rallies. And sometimes if there aren't protesters, you see him say, where are the protesters? Do we have a disruptor, right? So, he kind of egged them on as part of his showmanship in a way he liked them.

KURTZ: Which adds to the excitement which of course in turn attracts more television cameras, and then Trump is getting all these air-time. Ashley Parker, great to see you.

PARKER: Thanks for having me.

KURTZ: Thanks for stopping by this Sunday. Ahead, President Obama in Cuba today, why so little advance coverage of such a controversial trip? But up next, how the media cover candidates who despise each other but suddenly proclaim their mutual admiration when of course it's time for an endorsement.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: First the candidates savage each other then they find a way to hug each other and the media largely report this as this is just business as usual in presidential politics and maybe it is, so what if these guys actually hate each other?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

EMILY TISCH SUSSMAN, COMMENTATOR: I am not surprised that Graham came after Cruz. I've never seen I think it's in a Twitter surge (ph), I've never seen two words used so much together as Cruz and the test.

S.E. CUPP, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: Hence, Lindsey Graham's, you know, bizarre marriage now with Ted Cruz.

DANA PERINO, FOX NEWS: I actually think that in some ways it felt a little awkward to me watching it because just a couple weeks ago Chris Christie in that last debate said a vote for Trump is a vote for Hillary Clinton.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

KURTZ: Lindsey Graham had a bend over backwards in backing Ted Cruz after once indulging a violent fantasy about his senate colleague.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: If you kill Ted Cruz on the floor of the senate and the trial is in the senate, nobody could convict you.

(LAUHGTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: And where was he equally deadly on the two GOP frontrunners?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRAHAM: If you're a republican and your choice is Donald Trump and Ted Cruz and the general election is the difference between poison or shot, you're still dead.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Chris Christie spent part of his campaign trashing Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I just don't think he's suited to be President of the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why?

CHRISTIE: I don't think his temperament is suited for that. I don't think he's experienced.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Only to wind up looking rather awkward at a Trump news conference and later sounding a tad defensive.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIE: So, no, I wasn't being held hostage. No, I wasn't sitting up there thinking oh, my God what have I done?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Ben Carson is also backing Trump despite the billionaire using his life story to liken him to a child molester.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: He said that he's pathological and that he's got basically pathological disease.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: But the doctor hasn't exactly framed his endorsement with surgical precision insisting there were two Donald Trumps including the off-stage cerebral one.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BEN CARSON, FORMER REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Even if Donald Trump turns out not to be such a great president, which I don't think the case, I think he's going to surround himself with really good people. But even if he didn't, we're only looking at four years as opposed to multiple generations.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Only four years. And then there was the question that seemed to stump Rick Santorum after he backed Marco Rubio.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's been in the senate for four years, can you name his top accomplishments?

RICK SANTORUM, FORMER SENATOR OF PENNSYLVANIA: If you look at being a minority in the United States Senate in a year where nothing got four years or nothing got done, I guess it's hard to say their accomplishments.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Then the media make a great big fuss over endorsements which don't matter much to ordinary voters and the coverage reflects to Washington Post just smile when you take that knife out of your back and support the winner. Hey, he may just give you a job down the road.

Coming up, Hillary Clinton cruising to the nomination with some Liberal commentators doubting whether she can beat Donald Trump, and later the husband and wife team who defended Marco Rubio to increasingly skeptical reporters.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: Hillary Clinton winning five more states this weekend clearly rolling to the nomination, some people are very excited.

(VIDEO CLIP PLAYING)

KURTZ: That was Hillary on the comedy sexual show "Broad City" but in real life, many pundits still criticizing the former first lady and skeptical of her chances against Donald Trump.

We're back with the panel. So, first of all, Heidi, Hillary winning these five states and piling up this huge delegate lead, will the press cut way back on coverage of Bernie Sanders at this point?

PRZYBYLA: Well, the bus loads and they were bus loads of reporters following him around, probably go away? Yes. But.

KURTZ: So, just being a minivan?

(LAUGHTER)

PRZYBYLA: .but, they're going to continue to cover him because he's going to play a very important role in unifying the party as she goes rolls closer and closer to the nomination. As we all know, there have been some, you know, rough exchanges between the two. And he's actually not a Democrat.

KURTZ: Right.

PRZYBYLA: .you know, so I think he feels a little less loyalty necessarily to do the things that the party is going to expect him to do to bring his people over. And so I think they'll continue to cover him very significantly from that per view.

KURTZ: In fact, Sanders said the other day he wanted to run as a Democrat to see if he can get more media coverage and running as an independent. So, even President Obama according to the "New York Times" privately telling donors this time to unite behind Hillary, even the White House wanted that story out?

TROTTER: Yes, they did -- they wouldn't have let it leak if it hadn't been the case and I would disagree with Heidi, I think that they're going to go back on the coverage of Sanders. I think that in this case it's very clear that Hillary has been supported by the media and President Obama has been closer with Hillary than he has been with Bernie previously.

KURTZ: That second part is true, but you say Hillary has been supported by the media, what about the thousands of stories about her email and her honesty and.

TROTTER: Not enough.

KURTZ: .trustworthy?

TROTTER: You know, Washington Post had an apologia about her emails two weeks ago basically putting forward the defense of the email scandal, so I think that the media, the leftist media is very much in the tank for her and I think that they will ease back on the coverage of Sanders.

KURTZ: I think Hillary Clinton might disagree with that but let me spin this question, you can respond to that too Joe, Liberal pundits, some of them, not terribly excited about his Joe Kline, Time Magazine, a guy who has written sympathetically about the Clinton's for 25 years writing she's our very own quinoa and kale salad, nutritious but bland worse she's the human embodiment of the establishment that Trump has been running against.

TRIPPI: Look, I think what's fascinating to me is how the press, they were sparring for a fight on both sides, they kept at Bernie like tremendous oxygen including calling his win in Michigan a historic offset which it wasn't. You now have a proper -- all these candidates are flawed. They all have flaws. And hers have certainly been out there for the world to look at for a long time. But, again, Trump has his flaws, so does Cruz and in the end.

KURTZ: So you're not surprised just to button this up, you're not surprised that some commentators on your side, the Liberal side are saying, gee, she can lose this thing in the fall.

TRIPPI: No, not at all -- not only that, I'm not one -- I've said, I don't want Trump -- I mean, Trump.

KURTZ: Right.

TRIPPI: .you know, everybody has underestimated him the entire time on the Republican side why would the Democratic Party underestimate him?

KURTZ: Sure.

TRIPPI: .and I, you know, I think that's where the coverage is going to go. I think the coverage is going to become increasingly Trump-Hillary not Trump-Sanders.

KURTZ: Yes. But let me make this turn because President Obama is in Cuba today, first time in 88 years as the sitting president and I was waiting to see all the advance stories about, you know, this very controversial policy, this very historic trip in there, almost nothing there, they are overshadowed by the campaign shore. Do you think the media just moved on this Cuba question?

PRZYBYLA: I don't know if it's so much Cuba as a combination of -- I think there still is a lot of interest in what he's doing and criticism on both sides but I think it's more a function of lame-duckery as well as over coverage of this -- having two contestants.

KURTZ: Right.

PRZYBYLA: .primary battles on both the Republican and Democratic side, so it's also a function of just resources like.

KURTZ: Could it also be, Gayle that many journalists privately agree that after a 50-year boycott it was time to recognize the Castro regime, so they don't think it's controversial?

TROTTER: I would agree with that. The press privately agrees with the Obama administration's policy on this. So you're not seeing the reportage of the human rights violations in Cuba. You can kind of compare it to the Iran deal. There's a lot more coverage of the Iran deal and it's a very similar strategy in foreign policy that President Obama has with regard to Cuba but there's a lot more coverage of the Iran deal and the human rights violations from like the 2009 Green Revolution.

TRIPPI: The political -- the politics of the day are what drives coverage. And there just isn't that much controversy even on the political side.

KURTZ: Is that.

(CROSSTALK)

KURTZ: .because, you know, one poll I looked at YouGov 51% supporting the President's visit, 55% supporting diplomatic relations with Cuba.

TRIPPI: That's exactly right. And so, you don't see Republicans really using that as the wedges, you know, this election has happened in the past. I'm not saying it isn't one, I'm just saying it's just not as intense and there's no reason for the press to cover it from that perspective.

KURTZ: There's no reason the press to cover it when we can always do another story about Donald Trump, right?

(LAUGHTER)

KURTZ: We always just touch on the story of the day that was a very big story at that time, but now maybe the country has moved on. By the way, President Obama will be interviewed in Cuba by ABC, Anchor David Muir so they've lined up the media coverage there. Joe Trippi, Gayle Trotter, Heidi Przybyla, great to see you all this Sunday.

After the break, President Obama tries to pressure the senate into voting by picking Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court. Does the coverage reflect the hypocrisy on both sides? And later, with Hulk Hogan's legal victory, can Gawker survive a $115 million verdict?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: The Republicans had already warned President Obama not to send up a nominee to replace the late Antonin Scalia. But this week, the President chose veteran judge, Merrick Garland for the high court and the media story line was clear, would he even get a hearing?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TERRY MORAN, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: In Merrick Garland, the President has chosen nominee who has had support from both sides the political aisle over the years who in any normal time would be confirmed. It's not a normal time.

MARGARET BRENNAN, CBS NEWS CORRESPONDENT: This is a political gamble. Republicans want to appear strong but not obstructionists which can ultimately backfire to the benefit of Democrats.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Joining us now in New York, Tamara Holder, an attorney who hosts the Online Fox Show Sports Court and a Fox News Contributor, Guy Benson political editor at Town Hall here in Washington, also a Fox News Contributor.

Guy does the coverage have bestowed (ph) President Obama picked a moderate, a centurist (ph) Merrick Garland, a guy who prosecuted the Oklahoma Shooting Bombing case, but Republicans won't even dame (ph) to give him a hearing.

GUY BENSON, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: It does. Although the thing Howard that strikes me most about the coverage of this story is how muted it is compared to what I think it normally would be in a political cycle like this. I think in any presidential campaign perhaps except for this one, a Supreme Court vacancy and an appointment by the President by a lame-duck president or whoever would be a blockbuster.

KURTZ: It would dominate.

BENSON: .it would dominate, but it's not -- it's like a second or third level story because of the Trump factor certainly and also I think the timing with the NCAA tournament, Americans just aren't tuning into this the way they might in a normal circumstance.

KURTZ: Wow, blown up by march-man (ph). Tamara, do you see much of this tone in the coverage? Democrats and Republicans are both hypocritical on this question they've constantly changed their positions depending on which party controls the White House.

TAMARA HOLDER, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I just want to point out Guy's position that this is muted. It's far from muted. What's going on here, if you compare the Bork nomination July 1st of 1963, the coverage was all about Bork and whether he was too far right, his position on abortion, his position on Watergate and now what we're seeing with the media is strictly a political issue, a political tug of war.

Everybody is fighting over the football. You have the broncos and the patriots. You don't even realize that the football is deflated or not. That's what's going on here and it's really unfortunate because the words that the media is using are war, battle and this is not a political issue. The constitution specifically says that the President shall nominate and the President shall confirm. This isn't about going to war. I don't see any second amendment issues in here.

KURTZ: Guy?

BENSON: That's actually now what the constitution says, it says that the senate has the advice and consent role which can include under the constitution refraining or declining to confirm the nominee and to withhold that consent. But that's the political angle on this. I think you misunderstand, Tamara, my point about the muted coverage. I'm not saying that the language doesn't get punched up occasionally. Of course it does, it's a sensationalized media environment. I'm arguing that compared to what this story would be from a political standpoint, the degree to which it would be covered as a bombshell story is less so in this cycle than it otherwise might be.

KURTZ: Tamara, let me jump in here and ask you, wouldn't the coverage look very different if Republicans had waited, Merrick Garland got nominated and then they came out with whatever they don't like about his record, second amendment you name it, as opposed to Mitch McConnell company declaring in advance that anybody that President Obama sign up would not even get so much as a hearing?

HOLDER: Well, I think that it's -- the media has been derelict on their duties on both sides. You have -- you have NPR for example, a few hours ago, they covered it as what Barack (ph) have -- one of his phone calls to his supporters was that because the senate -- the Republicans won the senate that now Obama doesn't basically have any rights. Like forget that we even have a President. And instead of the media covering it as an issue as to what it is, the face value issue, they're covering this political war of the, you know, the shirts and the skin.

(LAUGHTER)

KURTZ: Let me read you Guy a news story lead from "Politico," senate Democrats are preparing a national pressure campaign and the blunting Republicans stubborn opposition to Merrick Garland's nomination to the Supreme Court, any thoughts on that and again this question I raise where we have videotape comments from Republicans in the past saying there should be a vote whether Republicans is in the White House and from Democrats in the past.

BENSON: Yes.

KURTZ: .saying there shouldn't be a vote when a Republican is in the White House.

BENSON: So, there is just hackery (ph) and partisanship on both sides on this issue. It's the ultimate partisan fight a lot of the time. I think that there will be a different tone with a Republican in the office. I think we'd be hearing a lot more about.

HOLDER: Wait. What's the hackery (ph) on the left? I don't understand. With all due respect, I don't understand what the hackery (ph)on the left is that we have a sitting President who nominated and did his job where.

BENSON: Okay. I -- I appreciate -- I appreciate.

HOLDER: .a guy that the people on the right have previously supported by the way.

KURTZ: Right.

BENSON: I appreciate the interruption and I will answer your question regardless which is the hackery on the left is Joe Biden making every single Republican point that they're currently making back in 1992. Chuck Schumer, Harry Reid doing the same thing during the Bush administration, Barack Obama in the senate, filibustering Sam Alito. There are plenty of double standards here. There is your answer to that.

KURTZ: And Mitch McConnell the same thing.

BENSON: Right.

KURTZ: Tamara, you've got about a half minute to respond.

HOLDER: Whatever happened in the past, that's like if you wanted me right now to blame Bush for all of this. I'm not go there.

BENSON: No.

HOLDER: Would this is an issue not about '92 and Biden, this is an issue about the fact that we have a President and I don't particularly care if he is a president who is a Republican or a Democrat, he is a sitting president.

KURTZ: Tamara.

HOLDER: .and he has the job to, you know, appoint and nominate or nominate somebody for the Supreme Court who both sides previously liked.

KURTZ: All right, Tamara.

HOLDER: And that's what the media, your question was the media should cover it that way.

KURTZ: One sentence answer, are you disappointed in the media coverage of the Supreme Court nomination?

HOLDER: I disappointed?

KURTZ: Yes.

HOLDER: I always disappoint.

(LAUGHTER)

KURTZ: All right. So, then you have more reason to be disappointed because it's a typical Washington issue, where will be always debates when it looks like the Republicans are not going to budge. Great to see you both, Tamara Holder and Guy Benson, here in Washington.

Next on "MediaBuzz," Alex Conant and Caitlin Conant on defending Marco Rubio as the media soured on the senator and later why NBC pulled the plug on a former Obama operative?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: In the final weeks of Marco Rubio's campaign as reporters constantly demanded to know whether the senator was dropping out, his press team faced the unamiable task of rebutting the rumors.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALEX CONANT, FMR RUBIO CAMPAIGN COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: In Florida specifically there's only one candidate in Florida that can beat Donald Trump and that's Marco Rubio.

UNIDENTIFED FEMALE: Before Marco Rubio was leading that extensively and now Trump has picked up the pace after.

CONANT: Yes.

UNIDENTIFED FEMALE: .after this past weekend, so how do you reason that?

CONANT: Well, the truth is that the polls have been all over the place.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Joining us now are Alex Conant, Rubio's Former Communications Director and his wife, Caitlin Conant also a member of the communication stash. So, Caitlin wasn't it hard as the losses piled up and the polls started sinking in Florida to maintain an optimistic tone?

CAITLIN CONANT, FMR RUBIO CAMPAIGN SURROGATE COMM. DIR: Look, it was very, very fun working at the press. We have a good relationship with the media and we are obviously in the media relations business. So, you know, it's always a give and take but it was very hard.

KURTZ: Another question was why is he doing so badly and is he going to drop out, and aren't you concerned about this poll or that poll?

CONANT: Yes, and it was definitely difficult with some of our surrogates too. Look, part of my job is making sure that we had our top two surrogates at debate to talk about substance and how Marco did the debate and Cory Gardner -- Senator Cory Gardner was a trooper.

And he was there in Michigan after one of the debates and he just kept getting asked, you know, what it's going to be if Trump the nominee, will you support Trump.

KURTZ: Yes.

CONANT: .and then the story written, look they asked him seven times, so it was hard to break above the fray and stay optimistic going into the end but we worked for Marco, I came over for Marco because we believe in him so we are hopeful.

KURTZ: Not doubting that. Alex, you had to insist or deflect whether Rubio would continue if he lost Florida, you had to know that if he lost Florida he'd be toast?

CONANT: Well, I didn't know I mean, I -- to be honest with you, I think Marco made that decision in the hours leading up to the polls closing.

KURTZ: Right.

CONANT: .I mean we honestly believed that there was a shot that we would win Florida, obviously, it didn't worked out that way it was a -- it was a very strange year. And to be honest, Howie I think that the negative drumbeat in the media was really damaging to the campaign especially after the Super Tuesday losses, all everyone heard about was how Marco was losing and just the Trump force, that only you can (ph) underestimate them.

KURTZ: So, do you think that that negative drumbeat was unfair, overplayed, because after all it began with -- when your campaign was hitting a lot of rough patches and there was bad news.

CONANT: Yes, I mean -- I think it was unfair in retrospect was that Donald Trump got about 20 times as much media as the rest of the candidates campaigned. The day of the Florida -- of the Florida Primary, there was a report that there has been $2 billion worth of free media surrounding Donald Trump's campaign.

KURTZ: Right.

CONANT: .which is more than any other campaign in history and we're not even into the general election yet so I think that, you know, I think that the media, you know, has to look at that.

KURTZ: But almost until the end a lot of your rivals certainly believed that Senator Rubio who was on the cover of Time, The Republican Savoir, was a media darling and was getting a lot of positive press.

CONANT: Yes, but all of the questions ended up being about Trump towards the end. And a prime example we did a ton of national TV leading up to it but it turned in almost an advertisement for Trump every time he went on, so by the end.

KURTZ: And that was frustrating?

CONANT: It was frustrating and by the end, we started doing a bunch of regional satellite tours and -- but even there was the local press, regional press it was all Trump, Trump, Trump so Marco was obviously a very excellent communicator and he did his best to trying.

KURTZ: Yes.

CONANT: .rise above the fray.

KURTZ: Well, speaking of Trump, by the way, it's funny when you run over the CNN bureau to go on air and rebut report that there was an internal debate about why did senator drop out, you had to defend Marco Rubio, your boss, when he started -- he went through that spade of insulting Donald Trump over a small hands, spray tan, wetting his pants until he admitted it was a mistake.

CONANT: Yes, well I mean look, I think you mentioned I didn't go over the CNN, I think CNN found their missing airplane with Donald Trump. I mean Donald Trump was the equivalent of a missing airplane for CNNs ratings and that's all they talked about, that's all that they reported at and so in order to break in to some of that coverage, you know, Marco started engaging Trump in ways that he later regretted.

KURTZ: Just briefly, you guys working around the clock, sometimes travelling together, a little bit strain on the marriage?

CONANT: It was so much fun.

KURTZ: Fun.

CONANT: We've done this before. We've worked for 10 polls (ph) together and.

CONANT: Johnny Aarons (ph).

CONANT: Johnny Aarons (ph), you know, different roles.

KURTZ: Okay.

CONANT: .but some people think it's crazy, we do it together but we think it would be crazy not to because we pour everything into these jobs, we got very passionate. We both believed in Marco a lot.

KURTZ: There is the sound bite, some people think it's crazy but we're not crazy. Alex Conant and Caitlin Conant, thank you for stopping by this Sunday.

Still to come, what happened when NBC briefly hired a former Obama operative and Hulk Hogan's legal victory over Gawker in that sex tape case, why that style journalism could become extinct?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: NBC and MSNBC have just confirmed that Stephanie Cutter, a former top campaign aide to President Obama, had been hired as an analyst. But there was a big, fat conflict, the White House they just announced that Cutter wouldn't be part of a group of ex-officials working to confirm the Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland. A major story for NBC to cover, in the blink of an eye, the network told the Washington Post that Cutter was now just be on as a guest not an paid analyst, really the only decision possible.

It was to be sure a salacious case, Hulk Hogan suing the gossip site Gawker for posting a tape of him having sex with the wife of a close friend, radio host, Bubba the Love Sponge with Bubba's encouragement. And it ended Friday with a devastating blow a $115 million verdict against Gawker. Sure it was hard to feel sorry for Hulk who had talked up the sex escapade with Howard Stern and others, but the trial did turn on journalistic standards.

Hogan's team now boasting a public disgust with the invasion of privacy being disguised as journalism. It was cringeworthy when a Gawker editor said this was constitutionally protected speech simply because it was a celebrity having sex and that Gawker would draw the line, this was said sarcastically at a 4-year-old having sex.

So, was this news or exploiting and embarrassing a famous person just for the sake of clicks? Gawker says key evidence was excluded and it will appeal. But if the huge damages are upheld it could put the site out of business and redefine the boundaries of what's acceptable in online journalism.

Story we'll continue to follow.

That's it for this edition of "MediaBuzz." I'm Howard Kurtz. Thank you for watching, don't forget to DVR us if you can't be home to watch on Sunday. We hope you like our Facebook page, post a lot of original content there, we'll respond to your emails.

The video feature we call "Your Buzz," if you want to email us, stick to the media, ask a good question mediabuzz@foxnews.com -- mediabuzz@foxnews.com. Niice to have you along for the ride.

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We're back here next Sunday 11 and 5 Eastern with the latest buzz.

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