Media's Trump credibility gap

Pundits downgrade his chances in fall


This is a rush transcript from "MediaBuzz," May 8, 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 defies the media skeptics, essentially clinching the GOP nomination as Ted Cruz and John Kasich drop out and the pundits face a very different Republican reality.


BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS:  As of tonight, with Ted Cruz getting out of this race, Bill, Donald Trump will be the GOP nominee. Barring something cataclysmic. The numbers are just there.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC:  How great that it would end on a tabloid cover that Donald Trump is going to win the nomination of the Republican Party.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN:  You also sent a pithy note to our producers last night, let me read it, it was only four words, "I want to die." Can you expound on that at all this morning?

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC:  This is a cataclysm and the Republican Party today is like Rome on the morning after the night when the barbarians came through the gate, right?


KURTZ:  But what's the impact of many conservative commentators saying they're still in the never, never, never ever Trump camp? With some republicans from Paul Ryan to the Bush family balking at Trump's nomination, should the press be portraying this as a political earthquake?

Plus, as Hillary Clinton ratchets up her criticism of Trump, he hits her with this.


DONALD TRUMP, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Have you ever read what Hillary Clinton did to the women that Bill Clinton had affairs with? And they're going after me with women? Give me a break, folks.


KURTZ:  But hasn't Trump been saying in interviews that he wouldn't go there unless he was provoked? Our all-star lineup includes CBS's Lesley Stahl and Fox's Trish Regan.

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

It was over in a flash, one minute the press was obsessing on whether Donald Trump could somehow win 1,237 delegates. But then, after a smashing victory in Indiana, Ted Cruz abruptly dropped out of the race and the journalists and the pundits who had scoffed at Trump's chances now had to acknowledge he had done what they had once called nearly impossible.


JONATHAN CHAIT, NEW YORK MAGAZINE EDITOR:  I didn't think -- not only did I not think he would win, I didn't think he was really running for president. I thought he was trying to drum up some kind of publicity for himself.

CHRIS STIREWALT, FOX NEWS DIGITAL POLITICS EDITOR:  I remember sitting in this very building on the day that Donald Trump announced and I said, well, you know, it's a fringe situation and, you know, there are these people -- and it's not going to happen.

And that core group of about a third of the Republican Party proved to be enough, it was enough so that Donald Trump could prevail in the end. He could outlast the world.


KURTZ:  Trump became the de facto nominee when John Kasich dropped out the next day, but some conservatives still denouncing him such as syndicated columnist and Fox News contributor George Will, and Trump, not surprisingly, was quick to hit back.


JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC: What do you say about George Will, he wrote a column this morning that it's a conservative's duty to make sure you lose all 50 states. What would you say to George Will?

TRUMP:  Well, George is a major loser, you know, that as to our guy nobody watches him, very few people listen to him, it's over for him. And I never want his support.


KURTZ:  Joining us to analyze the coverage as some top republicans buck at Trump's nomination, Heidi Przybyla, senior political correspondent for USA Today, Gayle Trotter, a commentator who writes for the Daily Caller and the Hill, and Simon Rosenberg, president of the New Democratic Network.

Heidi, as these journalists and pundits who said Trump's nomination wouldn't happen now they're telling us he faces incredibly long odds in the fall. Don't the media face a credibility gap?

HEIDI PRZYZBYLA, USA TODAY SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT:  In short, yes. If you remember, Howie, when he started out we were all comparing him to Herman Cain, Huffington Post said they were only going to cover him in the entertainment section of the newspaper.

So, I think, you know, it wasn't just at the beginning, either, it was all throughout this process. The writing was on the wall after he swept all of those southern states. So, there is a couple things that went wrong here.


KURTZ:  You're saying the denial continues?

PRZYZBYLA:  It's not just the media denial but it's the polling was like all over the place. Because I think fundamentally we have shifted away from as well the more shoe leather reporting that I think is so valuable and could have been so valuable in this election and it just didn't get done.

And secondly, the obsession with these score boards and counting up the points and calculating everything.

KURTZ:  The scenarios.

PRZYZBYLA:  Yes, and the scenarios.

KURTZ:  This happened and that happened.


PRZYZBYLA:  Instead of getting out, and I hope we will learn from that, I really do. And that from here on out as we go forward we will do that shoe leather reporting and we'll actually compare their plans versus just the tit for tat.

KURTZ:  OK. I'll kind to that point. But, Gayle Trotter, what's unprecedented here is so many prominent conservative come to this, George Will, Rich Lowery, Bill Crystal, John Goldberg, and Steve Hayes that we'll talk to a bit later still staunchly opposing the republican nominee. How much does that matter?

GAYLE TROTTER, DAILY CALLER CONTRIBUTOR:  It helps Donald Trump because it confirms his narrative. His rejection, his disavowal, you know, we had this discussion about him disavowing David Duke and it wasn't strong enough, but now he's disavowing these republicans who are part of the conservative establishment and that merely helps his narrative.

And that's where I think Cruz had a stumbling block because he took on Jeb Bush's endorsement, Donald Trump is doing just the opposite. He's saying Jeb Bush refuses to support me despite the pledge. I don't need him.

KURTZ:  I'm glad you mentioned the pledge because nobody in the media is hardly mentioning the fact that Jeb Bush and Lindsey Graham did sign that pledge which of course didn't mean anything.

TROTTER:  Right.

KURTZ:  So, I mean, the most very liberal commentators are really now ratcheting up against Trump, that's a little less surprising than people on the right going after him. Do they underestimate him? You talked about this during the primaries at your side might be underestimating the Donald.

SIMON ROSENBERG, NEW DEMOCRATIC NETWORK FOUNDER & PRESIDENT:  Yes. Well, listen. We, on this show we discussed this in the first few weeks that Trump was -- you know, got into the race that even the republicans were underestimating him.

And so, look, both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump were heavily underestimated by the media in this cycle. Sanders came very close to winning the democratic nomination, got very little press coverage, was never taken very serious on our side.

So, yes. I think people -- I think it's been hard to cover this election. I think as you pointed out, people haven't been reporting from the ground. The country is changing, there's something in the air this cycle that the national media has been very slow to catch up to.

KURTZ:  You mentioned issues, Heidi. And so, the question of the taxing or raising taxes on the rich and possibly being open to a minimum wage increase, Trump's position is evolving. And the Washington Post did a good job of pointing that out.

And Chuck Todd and George Stephanopoulos this morning pressed Trump on this. But how is the press overall grappling with a Republican Party is now headed by a guy who is a nominee unlike we've ever seen in modern political history.

PRZYZBYLA:  Yes. I actually think that they're doing a great job using words like major division, split, meltdown, words like that just because this is -- this is not merely a family dinner table dispute, this is potentially a bitter divorce where you have the grassroots heart of the Republican Party splitting away.

And now potentially in the position of being themselves the third party candidate versus Donald Trump who has got kind of the soul of what may be the new grassroots of a new party.

KURTZ:  These are the right words, Heidi - excuse, Gayle, Politico calling it a meltdown, incredible division, revolt, Washington Post crisis, possible civil war.

Trump's campaign I can tell you views this as a healing process not a civil war, is confident that Paul Ryan will come around, they're meeting in Washington this week. Do you think some of the words and phrases and headlines that the mainstream media are using kind of overdramatize the situation.

TROTTER:  Now one of the phrases that I liked was that Trump orchestrated a takeover of the GOP and I thought that's reflective, but it shows Cruz's support, too, because he was part of that process with the -- with the effort to oppose ObamaCare even to the point of the shutdown.

KURTZ:  Running against what he called the Washington cartel.

TROTTER:  The Washington cartel.

KURTZ:  Yes.

TROTTER:  So, it shows that that message resonated with the grassroots, with American voters. So, I think that people like hearing those very strong discussions of this divorce or family dispute because it shows that the American voters were very unhappy with the leadership in Congress. And so I don't think...


KURTZ:  You don't have any quarrel with these...

TROTER:  No, I don't think it's overblown.

KURTZ:  ... fiery adjectives.


KURTZ:  All right. Now, Simon, Trump ran against the GOP establishment, the process was rigged and so forth, he also ran against the media establishment by the way.


KURTZ:  And so, the GOP establishment doesn't love him. Should that come as a shock to political reporters?

ROSENBERG:  No. But I do think the words you used, healing, is going to be fascinating to watch her, right?

KURTZ:  That's the Trump view.

ROSENBERG:  Yes, and how -- and how, you know, how this is all going to happen. It's going to test Donald Trump's capacity, right, as a politician to bring people along, not been his strong suit, right?

And so, I think this process of what happens to the Republican Party, it is a big story. We've never seen anything like this in our lifetimes. So, I think this is going to be with us for some time now.

PRZYZBYLA:  The republican analysis so far has been this is happening, Donald Trump is happening because we failed to get our agenda done. The bigger question that I think they really have to do some introspection on, is it because they couldn't get their agenda done or it's because the American voters didn't agree with that agenda as well.


KURTZ:  And I think that...

PRZYZBYLA:  And I think that's the point they have not yet reconciled.

KURTZ:  Do you think that question is being properly pursued by the press or are we more into the sort of the personalities, oh, Paul Ryan dissed him and Trump is danger to me...


PRZYZBYLA:  I don't think we're there yet, Howie.

KURTZ:  Yes.

PRZYZBYLA:  Because I think you're going to see the down ballot, for lack of another word, affect as well on lawmakers in Congress, how are they going to decide to run their election campaigns and what issues.

KURTZ:  Right. But do you think...


PRZYZBYLA:  They are going to have to just sober...

KURTZ:  ... do you think the press is asking the right question or is covering this more as a school yard brawl?

PRZYZBYLA:  I think that they could do a much better job of drilling down on those specific divides and holding some of these lawmakers to account for the votes that they've taken that we've seen in polling for years now was against what a lot of the public believed was right.

KURTZ:  All right. So, Donald Trump having essentially clinched this nomination obviously turning his attention to Hillary Clinton and he used some pretty incendiary rhetoric, particularly at a rally on Friday, this is in Eugene, Oregon.

Let's take a listen.


TRUMP:  She was a total enabler; she would go after these women and destroy their lives. She was an unbelievably nasty, mean, enabler and what she did to a lot of those women is disgraceful.


KURTZ:  Now, if Trump wants to call Hillary an enabler, fine, maybe she knew, maybe she didn't know, but I don't know of any evidence that she personally went after any of her husband's paramours and Trump is just saying and this is true.

PRZYZBYLA:  Yes, Howie, this is one of those accusations that's been out there for decades. And, no, I haven't seen any evidence of it and Ken Star spent many millions of dollars investigating a lot of these things.

And so I think, however, this shows that Donald Trump went there this early in the cycle, that this is going to be something that we've got to get to the bottom of. OK? Let's find out what the facts are, let's put them out there.

KURTZ:  Right. I mean, how much people will care about the sex scandals of the '90s is another question. And everything is fair game in a campaign, Simon, but will the media hold Trump accountable for saying he wasn't going to do it now he's doing it?

Now he can say, look, Hillary is out there saying he doesn't think much of equal pay for women because he doesn't think much of women.

ROSENBERG:  Listen, I think Trump had it both ways, right? He has attacked the media more aggressively than any candidate in the modern era and gotten on TV and gotten coverage by the media more than any candidate in the modern era, right?

He is doing a phenomenal job at playing this. And so, I think that one of the challenges the media is going to have this cycle is he's going to put a lot of stuff on the table that is outside the bounds of normal discourse, right? He's already done it. It's going to continue.

I think the media is really going to struggle for how to cover stories like that, right and accusations like that.


KURTZ:  Let me get Gayle in on this.


TROTTER:  One journalist tweeted on Tuesday night that champagne corks were popping in newsrooms all over America. And I think this gets to the point both of you are making...


KURTZ:  Because?

TROTTER:  ... because of statements like that that Donald Trump makes that they don't have to big into the policy minutia, they can just report on that, they can report on these extreme things that he says time and time again.

He doesn't need to do that, though, he has a strong policy that has resonated with the American people and yet, he continues to make these comments.

KURTZ:  I know Hillary told a friend privately this came out years later that she thought Monica Lewinsky was a narcissistic Looney tune. but it wasn't a charge he made on public.

Now people around her may have gone after the women and they bloom for this. And very quickly, a quick answer, Trump's Taco tweet, he puts up this tweet showing himself showing himself eating a Taco bowl, that's Taco bowl that made at Trump's tower for Cinco de Mayo. A big story? Media has certainly flagged this one.

PRZYZBYLA:  They had to. I mean, it's funny. Come on, after his whole campaign has been built around anti-immigration rhetoric and then, you know...


TROTTER:  Anti-illegal immigration rhetoric.

PRZYZBYLA:  Anti-illegal, whatever. But it was funny.

KURTZ:  It was amusing.

ROSENBERG:  It was amusing because, you know, there is no such thing as a Taco bowl.

KURTZ:  Right.

ROSENBERG:  And it showed how much he actually really didn't understand that Hispanics...


KURTZ:  Don't muddy the waters with your enabling -- your enabling details. All right.


KURTZ:  Let me get a break. When we come back, some journalists say TV news is to blame for Trump's nomination by rolling over on the guy. Trish Regan weighs in on that.

And later, the Obama aid who brags about turning the press into a White House echo chamber.


KURTZ:  The cover of Politico magazine shows Donald Trump facing a media mob with the headline, what have we done? As if the whole thing is our fault. Really?

Joining me now from New York is Trish Regan, who hosts the Intel Report at 2 Eastern on the Fox Business Network. Hey, Trish.


KURTZ:  So, this is an argument being pushed among others by a former NBC and CNN anchor Campbell Brown is no fan of Trump saying, "TV news is to blame for Trump's nomination and basically just rolled over for the guy." Your thoughts?

REGAN:  No. Look, I don't think that anyone rolled over for the guy. I would actually make the point that a lot of members of the media have been extraordinarily critical of him. He's actually gotten it from both sides.

That said, yes, the media has covered him a lot. A lot because he's been making news. I mean, there are some organizations, for example, the Huffington Post, that early came out and said "we're not going to cover Trump because that's just entertainment, we don't consider it politics, we're putting it in the entertainment section of our web site."

And they clearly learned within a few weeks that that strategy was a failed one. The reality is, Howie, we cover the news every day, Donald Trump, like it or not, is making news.

KURTZ:  And of course doing many, many interviews on many, many channels, talks to newspapers.

REGAN:  Yes.

KURTZ:  So, Jeb Bush, for instance, was the media's appointed front-runner at the beginning. How many TV interviews did he do?

REGAN:  You know, that's a great example because I was calling him to get him on my program and he finally came on, but it was extraordinarily challenging.

Donald Trump, on the other hand, as you know, Howie, is much more accessible to the media. And so, when you look and compare and contrast to the number of interviews that some of these other candidates did, the challenge is getting them on the air with what Trump was doing it was a very different strategy.

I mean, again, I think the frustration was in part as a member of the media, you would see some of these candidates buy this air time, so they would have a 30-second commercial in the middle of your show...

KURTZ:  Right.

REGAN:  ... but, you know, God forbid, they actually come on and answer some questions.

KURTZ:  Exactly.

REGAN:  They didn't like that sort of balance of power that they lost, they preferred their bought air time. Trump would go on and answer a lot of questions for the media, sometimes it got him in some hot water but he seemed to be of the mindset that, you know, any news is good news...


KURTZ:  Right, right.

REGAN:  ... as far as he was concerned in terms of getting his name and brand out.

KURTZ:  Now the critics -- the critics do have a point, many, many Trump rallies were covered live, particularly on some other cable news networks and the shows that let him call in when other people didn't have that privilege, and that did give him an advantage and a lot was driven by ratings.

But I'm glad you mentioned the negative aspect of the coverage, because, you know, he was getting it from mainstream pundits, they didn't think that much of a chance. He was getting it from a harsh journalism and conservatives and liberals. And then being attacked as racist, sexist, as xenophobic, misogynist, but it didn't seem to hurt him all of those media attacks. Why is that?

REGAN:  Yes. That's -- it's amazing that phenomenon. I think in part because many Americans hate the media, they see the media as part of the problem.

KURTZ:  Bingo.

REGAN:  As part of the establishment, right?

KURTZ:  Bing, bing, bing.

REGAN:  And here was Trump getting attacked by both the establishment and the media and they said to themselves, OK, he is my guy. He's not getting along with any of these people that I don't like, so, therefore, I think it helped him.

KURTZ:  He had -- he had the right enemies, meaning us. Last question, there is this argument that news organizations could have been more aggressive in digging into his business background, his proposals, his misstatements, his contradictions.

There was a lot of that, we could always do a better job.

REGAN:  Sure.

KURTZ:  And again, it seemed to roll off him, or do you think that we could have done a much better job in investigating Trump?

REGAN:  I think stuff rolls off him. I think that people are responding to what they perceive as a real authenticity. I think they are seeing this on both sides. I mean, Bernie Sanders, the success he has had thus far, that is simply a product of people responding to authenticity. They like who he is.

That's the same thing Donald Trump has going for him. So, it's almost as though whatever happens he's like Teflon, it just rolls off.

KURTZ:  Right.

REGAN:  People aren't willing to hear it because they're saying to themselves, I like the guy. And you know what? Politics is a lot about how much you like a candidate.

KURTZ:  That is true.

REGAN:  That's in part what makes a good candidate.

KURTZ:  I got to go. But Teflon, most politicians which they had that. Trish Regan, great to see you this morning.

REGAN:  Good to see you, Howie.

KURTZ:  Ahead, why are so many conservative pundits still in the never Trump camp? We will ask Steve Hayes who is high on that list.

But first, Hollywood director Rob Reiner goes off on the press over Donald Trump and makes an incendiary charge.


KURTZ:  Once on the left who spent this campaign denouncing Trump are now struggling to explain he manage to win the republican nomination. Take Rob Reiner, the great director and a big time Hollywood liberal activist and Hillary Clinton supporter.

On MSNBC's morning show he got into a heated debate with Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski accusing them and the media in general of not asking Trump about important issues, of not posing tough questions, and of not forcing him to give more detailed answers. The host pushed back hard, but then Reiner pivoted to a different target.


ROB REINER, DIRECTOR & PRODUCER:  If you do your due diligence and you continue to do that he will lose because there's nobody in America that would agree with the idea that all Muslims should be banned from the country.

SCARBOROUGH:  How do you explain the millions and millions of people who do not watch this show who actually like what they hear from Donald Trump and aren't taking messages and orders from us in the media.


SCARBOROUGH:  But they listened to what he says for themselves and vote for them. How do you explain that?

REINER:  There are a lot of people who are racist.


KURTZ:  Wow. Really? Is that the best you can do? Reiner conceded that some Trump voters aren't racist when challenged by Joe and Mika, but Trump is the guy who won 10 million votes in the primaries, who's won 60 percent of the vote in New York and other states to dismiss his supporters as bigots, like Archie Bunker on Reiner's old sitcom is insulting.

And shows no real epithet to understand his appeal to angry and frustrated Americans.

Now, Washington Post columnist, Dana Milbank has also ripped Trump as a liar and misogynist and other things and was so dismissive of his candidacy that he made a vow that is coming back to bite him.


DANA MILBANK, WASHINGTON POST:  Seven months ago, I said I would eat an entire column, news print and ink, if Trump won the nomination. Calculating that Republican voters were better than Trump. The Republican voters let me down.


KURTZ:  I guess Milbank will indeed have to eat crow. Along with the side helping of media attention.

Up next, CNN asks Hillary Clinton if she'll start doing more interviews and she starts complaining about Trump's interviews.

Plus, Ted Cruz rips Fox News and other networks for being in Trump camp, but is that true?


KURTZ:  Things got really nasty in the final days between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz with the senator calling him a serial philanderer, and the billionaire citing a National Inquirer story linking Cruz's father to Lee Harvey Oswald.

Cruz also ratcheted up his ratcheted up his rhetoric against the media.


SEN. TED CRUZ, FORMER REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  There is a broader dynamic at work which is network executives that made a decision to get behind Donald Trump. Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes at Fox News have turned Fox News into the Donald Trump network, 24/7.


KURTZ:  Heidi Przyzbyla, Cruz had been making this charge about TV news in general and then he brought in Fox just before the Indiana primary. What do you make of what he said?

PRZYZBYLA:  I happen to remember, Howie, that Ted Cruz's very first fundraising e-mail went against the liberal media and that was a tactic for him from beginning to end so I kind of see this as a book end.

KURTZ:  Right.

PRZYZBYLA:  To the substance of it, I mean, it's a little crazy considering you just have to read Megyn Kelly's twitter feed to know that this is not the pro-Trump network. There are some Trump friendly anchors on this network, there is no doubt about it, but at the end of the day this is not, you know, Trump -- a Trump news network.

KURTZ:  There are also a lot of Trump -- a lot of trump critics on this network.

PRZYZBYLA:  That's right.

KURTZ:  And now Megyn Kelly and Donald Trump have made peace.


PRZYZBYLA:  It's biggest.

KURTZ:  All right. So, the coverage of Cruz in the final 10 days, I would say, Gayle, was very rough, he was called desperate, even in news stories, and so real flounder stuff, but he was losing. So, do you think it was fair or unfair the way he was portrayed at the end?

TROTTER:  Oh, unfair. Unfair. It's like the Michael Dukakis line in that famous Saturday Night Live skit where he said I'm losing to this guy?


TROTTER:  And I think that when you saw Cruz erupt with these kind of fabulous things that he said it was out of a sense of frustration of, you know, he embodies the conservative movement, the protection of the Constitution.

And yet, even media that is seen as being friendly towards preserving the Constitution. And, you know, standing against some of the illegal actions that Obama has taken, for Cruz to be portrayed that way in all of these media outlets was very frustrating to him.

PRZYZBYLA:  But it was Donald Trump who called him unhinged and the media just reported on that. I don't know that it was a media pronouncing Ted Cruz...


TROTTER:  OK. Let me give you an example. Let me give you an example. When Cruz pulled out you take The New York Times stories, The New York Times story about Cruz withdrawing was very, very negative. It said he spoke in apocalyptic terms and it just had negative word after negative word.

Same with the description of Kasich, The New York Times which had endorse him talked about Kasich's moderate views and his soothing message. So, you saw this over and over again because they thought Ted Cruz should be one of them.

He had gone to Princeton, he went to Harvard, he was in one of aghast deliberative bodies in the entire world, so it was upsetting to the mainstream media that he was not one of them.


KURTZ:  Well, I will...

PRZYZBYLA:  There's no doubt that, you know, there's many people in the media who maybe didn't like Ted Cruz but Ted Cruz's biggest problem was with the other republicans and the media is just reporting on what those republicans are saying.



KURTZ:  Let me jump in, I will just -- I will just add this. Ted Cruz was losing, he's on the verge of getting out the race and the media do have a bias in losing candidates they kick them around because they know they're not that long.


KURTZ:  All right. So, let me just come back briefly, Simon, to this question of this National Enquirer story which had a photo which supposedly showed the senator's father, Rafael Cruz with Lee Harvey Oswald that bring up the JFK assassination.

So, Trump says, you know, hey, I was just citing in published report, Rafael Cruz called this ludicrous, Ted Cruz said he was nuts. Did the media hold Trump accountable for that.

ROSENBERG:  Did they?

KURTZ:  Yes. Did they?

ROSENBERG:  No. I mean, I think -- I mean, I think that, you know, there is an entertainment factor to Trump and he has acknowledged this publicly, right? I mean, this is part of his appeal. For most Americans politics is boring and he's interesting, right?

And so, I think everyone is a little bit caught up, including the media, in trying to make this business really a little more interesting to people. But look, he has made it clear that he's going to open the boundaries up of what's normal in political discourse, he's really going to challenge the media this cycle about where they draw the lines on exactly this kind of stuff.

KURTZ:  All right. Let me turn to Hillary Clinton because she's given a few television interviews now and she looks forwards the fall campaign. Even though Bernie Sanders I think hasn't given up and still hanging around. Here she is with CNN's Anderson Cooper, and the question was about Donald Trump.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN:  He does run a different kind of campaign than anyone else certainly on the GOP side, he makes himself more available to reporters, he calls in. I mean, is that something you are going to start doing more of?

HILLARY CLINTON, DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Oh, well, look, he did it and it worked for him and I think reporters now have a chance to ask some tougher questions. The man is the presumptive nominee and, you know, being a loose cannon doesn't in any way protect him, I hope, from being asked the hard questions that he should have been asked during the whole primary process.


KURTZ:  Did Hillary Clinton duck the question about whether she's going to do more interviews?

PRZYZBYLA:  Totally.

KURTZ:  Yes.

PRZYZBYLA:  Look, I think the one good thing that can come out of this in terms of the media's relationship with our elected leaders is that since the Bush White House things have gotten worse and worse in terms of access for the official media who are with the candidates day in and day out. And hopefully, Trump's accessibility will start to change some of that because it's only gotten worse from what I understand from my colleagues who cover the Obama administration.

KURTZ:  OK. Briefly, what was your reaction to the way Hillary handled that question?

TROTTER:  It was a dodge and she's famous for dodging. But you look at the number of times Donald Trump has been on the Sunday shows or the cable news shows during the week and he's about six times what she's doing.

Now that they're going one-on-one she's got to up her game, she's got to step into the arena.

KURTZ:  Or she may just have a different strategy, Simon Rosenberg, and not want to be on the news quite so constantly. Her interviews don't tend to make as much news as his do. You could argue that either right.

ROSENBERG:  Yes. She's -- look, she's done a lot of interviews. I mean, and she's not getting the people who are covering her day to day are not getting as much access. But, you know, Anderson Cooper making -- there is a whole list...


KURTZ:  People covering her day to day...


KURTZ:  ... are hardly getting any access.

ROSENBERG:  Right. But I mean, she's still out in the media doing interviews.

KURTZ:  Yes.

ROSENBERG:  And to your point, she doesn't make as much news, there's not as much follow on as there is with Trump.

KURTZ:  Right.

ROSENBERG:  I mean, every time Trump speaks there's a million tweets and there is another network.

KURTZ:  Right.

ROSENBERG:  And she is more even killed on this stuff. And so, I think the campaign is going to have to make a big decision, right, about whether they feel this is a problem or an asset and I think it will be interesting to watch.

KURTZ:  All right. On that point, Simon Rosenberg, Gayle Trotter, and Heidi Przybyla, great to see you guys this Sunday.

I had Lesley Stahl on whether the media are applying the same standards to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

But first, many conservative commentators are doubling down on their all- out opposition to Trump, doesn't that help Hillary?


KURTZ:  Some conservative commentators aren't exactly falling in line behind Donald Trump. MSNBC's Joe Scarborough may have talked up Trump's chances of winning the primaries, but now the former congressman says this.


SCARBOROUGH:  Because I can tell you, I'm not -- I'm never going to vote for a guy that is saying he's going to ban somebody just because of the God the worship.


KURTZ:  That's a reference to Trump wanting a temporary ban on Muslim immigrants. Steven Hayes, a Fox News contributor and senior writer at this Weekly Standard just wrote a piece titled "No Trump." We sat down here in studio 1.

Steve Hayes, welcome.


KURTZ:  As an outspoken Trump critic, are you now in an uncomfortable position that Donald Trump is going to be the nominee of what's always been the conservative party?

HAYES:  Well, yes. I mean, I've made arguments against Donald Trump for several months now. And you don't ever like to lose arguments. On the other hand, I think it's important as a journalist that somebody who basically has dedicated my career to try to tell the truth to keep telling those truths whether they're uncomfortable for me or not.

KURTZ:  Now Trump has never tried to be the candidate of the Weekly Standard or National Review, and yet, he out and sold his vision to 10 million republican voters in all kinds of states.

HAYES:  Right.

KURTZ:  Could it be that he is more in touch with what those republican voters want than you are?

HAYES:  Well, certainly those republican voters who voted for him. He didn't win a majority of republican voters.

KURTZ:  There are 17 people in the field to begin with.

HAYES:  Seventeen people in the field to begin with. No question, that's both a blessing and curse for him. I think it's one of the reasons that he won but he doesn't have quite the mandate that he otherwise would have, I think had he won that majority.

KURTZ:  Is your opposition more ideological or more about Trump's personal style?

HAYES:  You know, that's a good question. I think it's a mixture, for me personally, it's a mixture. I don't believe he's philosophically conservative, he's been basically a progressive for most of his life, he doesn't from one day or not next know what his positions on issues are.

I mean, he was, late last week doubting his own tax plan, he's been on both sides of minimum wage, on both sides of ground troops against ISIS, on both sides of single payer, on both sides of the healthcare mandate, on and on and on.

And look, I think it's important to have somebody as a conservative who shares conservative principles if he's going to lead the conservative party.

KURTZ:  So, on the issues where he say he has evolved you are skeptical of his conversion at least on some of it.

HAYES:  Yes. I mean, sometimes his conversions literally don't last a day. I mean, he said during a debate that he was in favor of the ObamaCare mandate and literally said the next day that he's opposed it, I think because somebody got to him.

But on the personal side, I mean, I do have personal objections. I'm far from perfect, I don't hold a presidential candidate or politician out to that standard at all. I would be awfully disappointed all the time if I did.

But there, you know, Trump whether you're talking about his comments about women, whether you're talking about, you know, making fun of POW's, the would-be commander-in-chief making fun of POWs.


KURTZ:  Well, we know the history. But, Steve, how do you grapple with the fact that by continuing to oppose Trump you are making it that much more likely that Hillary Clinton will be the next president?

HAYES:  Yes. I just don't buy the binary choice there. I mean, I think first of all...


KURTZ:  OK. With a republican nominee and a democratic nominee.

HAYES:  Right.

KURTZ:  Unless there is a third party candidate, which your editor Bill Crystal favors.

HAYES:  Right.

KURTZ:  It is a binary choice.

HAYES:  Well, six months out...


KURTZ:  Going to be one...

HAYES:  ... six months out, I think it's still possible that there could be a third party candidate. You have Ben Sasses, Senator Ben Sasse from Nebraska urging a third party candidate and an independent party -- or an independent candidate to run.

KURTZ:  Let's say that doesn't materialize.

HAYES:  If it doesn't happen...


KURTZ:  Trump versus Hillary, you're still not Trump.

HAYES:  But it's not mandatory.

KURTZ:  Never Trump. Never ever Trump.

HAYES:  There is not mandatory voting in the United States, I'm never Hillary, I'm never Trump, but it's not the case. And it's just logically it doesn't make sense.

Newt Gingrich and others have been making this argument that if you're not for Trump you're functionally for Hillary Clinton. Well, if it makes Newt Gingrich and I are still better, I will say I'm not for Hillary. I'm never voting for Hillary, so then functionally for Donald Trump.

KURTZ:  So, you're kind of abstaining.

HAYES:  No, I will vote. I mean, it's important to say...

KURTZ:  Yes.

HAYES:  I will vote, I will vote down ballot, I may be right in, I will vote third party, I will vote libertarian. I voted libertarian in 1996 when Bob Dole was too establishment for me. So, I voted for the libertarian.

KURTZ:  Brief answer, are you feeling a backlash from Trump fans?

HAYES:  I mean, to put it mildly, yes. I mean, you know, if you go on Twitter your mentions are basically unusable, which is too bad. I liked to go to my Twitter mentions because sometimes people would, you know, give you things to check out as a reporter, to follow up or a news tip or whatever.

KURTZ:  Now you are avoiding it.

HAYES:  No, there's no point. I mean, the abuse we've heard about this, the abuse is over the top and silly.

KURTZ:  To be continued. Steve Hayes, thanks very much for joining us.

HAYES:  Thanks.

KURTZ:  After the break, how much bias is there in the mainstream media's reporting on Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, and why so little coverage on 60 Minutes? CBS veteran Lesley Stahl is up next.


KURTZ:  How are the mainstream media covering a campaign that's now headed for a Trump/Clinton showdown? I sat down in New York with Lesley Stahl, the veteran "60 Minutes" correspondent and author of a new book, "Becoming Grandma, the Joys and Science of the Grand parenting." Lesley Stahl, welcome.


KURTZ:  Now that Donald Trump will be the republican nominee there is this indictment that the media are to blame for this, that the TV coverage hasn't been aggressive enough. Do you buy that?

STAHL:  It's been aggressive, but he has been incredibly wiley, flipping, sliding away from tough questions and, you know, you can follow up only so many times.

KURTZ:  Right. But he does expose himself to questions.

STAHL:  He does.

KURTZ:  Because he does so many interviews.

STAHL:  Exactly. There have been a lot of tough questions and maybe even a good follow-up. But then, you know, you get -- I've been in this position, you get to the point where you're almost badgering someone when they don't answer. And I think the audience does understand when they're not answering a question.

KURTZ:  Right. That's always a fine line for an interviewer.

STAHL:  Exactly.

KURTZ:  Because you don't want to let the politician off the hook but you don't want to seem prosecutorial.

STAHL:  That's right, and then you become the story. So, it is...


KURTZ:  And that has happened and Trump makes it happen because if he doesn't like the interview he will go on Twitter and blast...

STAHL:  Clearly.

KURTZ:  ... whoever he is unhappy with.

STAHL:  Here we are at Fox, obviously. No, but I do think that it's been a little bit of an unfair accusation that the press hasn't pursued. What's really astonishing is that the press has and every time he hasn't told the truth he's been called out.

But the interesting thing is the public doesn't care and they used to with other politicians, but they don't care with him.

KURTZ:  Many people think the media love Hillary Clinton but she's had her own history of testy relations with journalists. Why is that?

STAHL:  Who says the media loves Hillary?

KURTZ:  There is a lot of people out there who think the liberal press wants Hillary Clinton to win.

STAHL:  Yes, I've heard that. But I don't think -- I've never bought that. You know, having covered the White House through a democrat Jimmy Carter and Reagan following, I mean, Reagan got a much softer, easier press than Jimmy Carter did.

So, I mean, when people look behind what they are saying and feeling, they will see that the evidence isn't there. I think that the press is much more biased against power, real power than, you know, against one party or the next.

KURTZ:  OK. I know Trump was on 60 Minutes last fall but the program hasn't done that much on what has been the wildest campaign in modern history.

STAHL:  Well, it's been covered.

KURTZ:  Yes.

STAHL:  It's not as if we're going to get a fresh bite at it. I think we're going to do some stuff now starting in the fall.

KURTZ:  Do you -- do you miss covering politics in a year like this.

STAHL:  I do.

KURTZ:  Does it eat at you? Do you want to get out there?

STAHL:  When I watch the interviews what we were just talking about, I'm shouting at the television, ask him this, ask him that. Get in there. But I do sympathize because as I said you can be -- you can budge on and the public just going to turn against you and make you the object of their -- their viewing and instead of the candidate.

KURTZ:  Just to be clear. You don't think there's any tilt in the press to the left or to the democrats or away from the republicans? You think it's the way...


KURTZ:  Well, I don't want to go on the record saying that I know everybody how everybody votes.

KURTZ:  Just between you and me.

STAHL:  Just between you and me. I don't think you see it in the coverage. I think Hillary's getting a pretty tough press, and I think she will continue to get a pretty tough press because she is powerful now.

She's pretty much almost certainly the candidate, and the focus and the high beams will be on her more than they have been, and the same with him, Trump.

KURTZ:  Before we talk about your being a grandmother. Let's talk about you being a mother. We all balance work and family. And you write in your book about covering the Reagan White House and you asked your daughter Taylor how much of her childhood that she thinks you missed?

STAHL:  Yes. She didn't seem to notice that very much. It was eating away at me.

KURTZ:  Yes.

STAHL:  But I'm an unbelievable list maker and I have compulsive list disorder and I had lists to keep her busy, as busy as she could be so she wouldn't notice I wasn't there.

STAHL:  Then you went to 60 Minutes and down with Donohue, the legendary executive produce, he warned you that you'd be on the road most of the time. And you wrote the first year 18 cities, 9 countries and you write what kind of mother was I?

STAHL:  I know. I think I had more guilt than I should, and my daughter has told me that many times. She said if you had been home, and this is true, I know this is true, if you had been home more, you would have been on my case. We wouldn't be as friendly as we are. We have a great relationship and I do think my energy needed to be siphon off somehow.

KURTZ:  But perhaps it's made you relish grand motherhood more than otherwise?

STAHL:  Absolutely. I've gone off the deep end as a grandmother, and I wrote the book because I was so surprised at the depth of my loving, at the intensity of it, and I wanted to find out why.

And if I was like all the other grandmothers, and I am, where a society, a sorority of women who have fallen madly in love with their own grandchildren, and grandfathers, too, by the way, same thing.

KURTZ:  One more from the book. You were interviewed for a documentary after joining 60 Minutes and you were asked what it's like working alongside these giants.

STAHL:  Yes.

KURTZ:  Your reaction to that question?

STAHL:  Yes. I didn't like that question too much.

KURTZ:  Because?

STAHL:  Because I thought I earned my place there. I had been the White House correspondent, I anchored Face of the Nation and it had the tinge of sexism to it, so I didn't like it. I didn't show it because the camera was on my face. That's the other thing. If you ever get angry or frustrated.

KURTZ:  Yes. It's a viral moment.

STAHL:  Exactly.

KURTZ:  Yes.

STAHL:  With the cameras on and you're sitting there trying to hold it down but it didn't leave my head. Even as I wrote the book, and that was 25 years ago. It's still kind of churning in me.

KURTZ:  I got that impression. Lesley Stahl, thanks very much for joining us.

STAHL:  Thank you.

KURTZ:  That was fun.

Still to come, a top CNN executive said it's true the network had a problem with the liberal bias, and the Obama White House aide who openly boasts about manipulating the media.


KURTZ:  CNN has battled the left leading label for years and now network president Jeff Zucker has fessed up, quote, "I think it was a legitimate criticism of CNN that it was a little too liberal." He told The Wall Street Journal for a piece on how the campaign is helping its ratings.

Hey, I give Zucker a point for candor and he says we've added many more middle of the road conservative voices to now already strong stable of liberal voices. Now that would seem to leave out conservative to warrant, quote "middle of the road but a step in the right direction."

Every White House spins the press, but Ben Rhodes, President Obama's deputy national security adviser comes off as rather smug in bragging about it. Rhodes tells New York Times magazine in an embarrassingly puffy profile, quote, "The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old and their only reporting experience consistently being around political campaign. That's a sea changes. They literally know nothing."

Well, Rhodes has a point and saying that newspapers cut backs and closing as far viewers have sidelined many experience journalist, but still end. When he talks about creating, a quote, "eco chamber of what his aides called 'compadres' in the media who go online and on Twitter and repeat the administration messages they are being spoon fed." For example, misleading details on the narrative of just when the Iran nuclear negotiations began.

It gives ammunition to those who think the media's Obama coverage is too soft. Now, every administration fervently spins the press. There's a reason why my book about the Clinton White House is called "Spin Cycle" but few officials have the audacity to boast about it on the record.

Well, that's it for this edition of Media Buzz. I'm Howard Kurtz. Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there. We hope you check out our Facebook page and give us a likely post a lot of original content there including your buzz, responding to your questions. Just e-mail, keep it on the media,

You can also catch the media minute on Sirius XM, the new 24/7headline Sirius XM Channel and continue the conversation on Twitter. I'm Howard Kurtz. I read the messages and I try to respond when I can. We're back here Sunday at 11 and 5 Eastern. See you then with the latest buzz.

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