Pundits pan Trump shakeup

Dueling spin over Manafort ouster


This is a rush transcript from "Media Buzz," August 21, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: On our buzzmeter from Los Angeles this Sunday, Donald Trump after weeks of being pummeled by the press shakes up his campaign team. A move quickly dismissed by the pundits.


PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: First off, I'm always new for deck chairs on the Trump-tanic, OK, and that's what this is. The problem is Donald Trump. It's never Mr. Corey, it's not Mr. Manafort, it's not these new people. It's the candidate, stupid.

BILL KRISTOL, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I don't think it matters because the problem is Donald Trump, you know.

GREG GUTFELD, FOX NEWS: So did he hire someone who will broaden his appeal or just a mirror that indulges his worst impulses? Given that the Breitbart site of late has embraced conspiracies, I worry.


KURTZ: With Paul Manafort resigning after some damaging stories in New York Times, will hiring the executive chairman of Breitbart, the controversial and fiercely pro-Trump website help the campaign? And the media remains skeptical about Trump's tone.


DONALD TRUMP, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Sometimes in the heat of debate and speaking on a multitude of issues, you don't choose the right words or you say the wrong thing. I have done that and believe it or not I regret it.


KURTZ: As journalists question whether this new approach will last. Hillary Clinton accused by Trump of lacking the mental and physical stamina to fight ISIS -- is the press calling foul on making her health an issue?

Comedy Central cancels Larry Wilmore's late night show. Can the network no longer make comedy gold out of politics?

Plus, should the press have fallen for Ryan Lochte's bogus burglary story?

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

Donald Trump insisted he wasn't going to pivot. He wasn't going to change.
And he seemed to make that clear by hiring Stephen Bannon, the chairman of the vehemently pro-Trump conservative website, Breitbart. But the more immediate impact seemed to come from the topic of a new campaign manager, veteran pollster Kellyanne Conway who is popular with reporters and is touting Trump's speech in which he said he regretted causing anyone personal pain.


DAVID MUIR, ABC NEWS: He mentioned anyone who's been personally offended by what he said, will he reach out to the Khan family personally?

KELYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: He may, but I certainly hope that they heard him last night. And I certainly hope America heard him last night because of all the people, David, who've been saying let's get Trump to pivot, let's get him to be more presidential, that is presidential.


KURTZ: Joining us now from New York, Amy Holmes, political analyst for Rasmussen Reports and former anchor at "The Blaze." In Washington, Heidi Przybyla, senior political correspondent for USA Today. And here in Los Angeles, Leslie Marshall, radio host and Fox News contributor. Heidi, when Manafort stepped down in the wake of the big shakeup, you could see the spin evolve during the day -- talk about spin cycle.

First it was, oh, Manafort volunteered to do this, it was his idea, he brought in Kellyanne. He felt like he couldn't budge the candidate. And then other sources were heard from. Explain what happened.

HEIDI PRZYBYLA, USA TODAY: Howie, this just struck me as just another example of Trump being pressured to use what is really a conventional campaign tactic and by the end saying, the heck with it. The dignified way for campaign managers or anybody else really on a campaign to leave is for everybody to agree it was voluntary, Trump issues the statement saying we accept his resignation and then the media moves on.

Maybe they write some background stories about people who are disgruntled.
But like you said, this was literally evolving minute by minute, and you had Kellyanne, the new campaign manager essentially confirming that he was asked to leave. So, it's not that these things can't be mutually -- it's not that these things are mutually exclusive that both sides could have, you know, agreed mutually to leave, but I think this is an example of what happens when you have really competing interests trying to spin the narrative here.

Clearly, Manafort wanted to, you know, preserve his dignity on the way out the door and Trump didn't want this to be viewed as a hemorrhaging.

KURTZ: You can practically imagine the reporters scrambling to reach more sources on pro-Manafort, some anti-Manafort and get some approximation of the truth. So Amy Holmes, it seems to me that the -- when the shakeup happened, off course it's a bombshell of a story for the campaign, the pundits immediately reacted by kind of being disdainful saying it doesn't really matter because Trump is the problem. Was that a bit dismissive?

AMY HOLMES, RASMUSSEN REPORTS: I think it was and we've seen since Donald Trump hiring Kellyanne Conway that he has been making this presidential pivot. Ironically after firing the guy that said it was going to happen, it's happened under Kellyanne becoming the new campaign manager. We'll see if it lasts. And I, you know, Donald Trump we know has been a very volatile candidate. And of course he deserves media scrutiny, but I think he also deserves credit for at least making these initial attempts.

KURTZ: But mostly I would say the press was either puzzled by this, Leslie Marshall, or negative toward it. I know you're no Trump fan, but how much of the coverage do you think was influenced by the increasingly hostile tone in the press about Donald Trump and his candidacy?

LESLIE MARSHALL, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think quite frankly any time Trump opens his mouth everybody would cover it because he's good for ratings. I mean, that's the reality and that's a real bottom line. I don't think Trump had any disservice. We have to look historically this is probably the most shakeup we've seen in a presidential campaign, at least in the most current elections in modern day.

And I think there was also -- I mean, there was additional element. It wasn't just that he was taking a nose dive in the polls and making yet another change in his campaign staff, but there were also the connections with Russia and the Ukraine and even the question of legality. I heard some historians say back in the day this would be treason and somebody would be hung for this.

KURTZ: We'll come back to the Manafort question. Let me get Heidi in on this question. So, we played it at the top with Trump giving a scripted speech in which he says he regrets some of his past comments, and I think it would be fair to say most of the press reaction was skeptical, did he really mean it or was he being fed these lines?

PRZYBYLA: There was definitely some skepticism. And some of it even bordered on snark. I saw one story that said, well, it wasn't really an apology because he didn't say the word sorry. But at the same time, there are some legitimate reasons for skepticism here. Most of all this is just not in character for Trump because he's been asked along the way as he's made these controversial comments if he regrets them and each time he said no.

It also coincides almost perfectly with Kellyanne coming in as his new campaign manager knowing that she wanted to give him -- to soften up his image a bit. So, you question whether that's coming legitimately from his heart or from her from a campaign perspective. That said, you know, he did say the words and it was a pretty big deal.

KURTZ: Right. Right. Well, Kellyanne Conway said in one of her many interviews this week that Donald Trump went over the speech with a pen. It wasn't her words. Of course she's going to say that. Amy, what about the fact that the media, look, let's face it, the media were stunned because Trump never apologizes for anything, although he wasn't specific about which comments and to whom he might be expressing regret.

HOLMES: Right and Donald Trump himself has said that, you know, it's a part of his sort of life strategy to always hit back and always retaliate, never let a charge go unanswered. So for him to now be offering what seemed to be an apology of course was newsworthy and news making.

But for the press to immediately dismiss it and psychoanalyze Donald Trump, I don't think that's fair either. And at "Rasmussen Reports" this week, we released a poll that found 52 percent of likely voters think that the media
-- that Hillary Clinton has got the best media coverage so far in this campaign.

KURTZ: So, the related question here is, you know, we've been through the sort of mini pivots before where Trump gives a couple scripted speeches, everyone says, OK, now he's a more disciplined candidate and it doesn't last. So, is the journalistic skepticism on this round justified?

MARSHALL: I think it is absolutely justified. When you have someone who says, you know, and just historically, when you look back somebody just says, you know, I'm concerned if I've hurt anyone. Like you had said, there is, one, no actual specific apology, two, there are no specifics to who he has offended and what he feels remorseful or, you know, has regret about.

And, I mean, this is the man that talked about punching Michael Bloomberg in the face. This is a man who cared about himself after the Orlando terrorist attacks and also felt that a man whose son died for this country was attacking him, and then attacks the mother for...

KURTZ: You can certainly criticize Trump's response (inaudible). Everybody thinks it's a political mistake, but he was denounced by Khizr Khan at the Democratic convention. Let me move on and come back to this question about Paul Manafort who lasted I guess about four months or so as the Trump campaign manager.

The New York Times, Heidi, did this big piece, it was a first of several pieces about his ties, you know, the guy's been a lobbyist for years to Ukraine and how ledgers were discovered that seemed to show $12 million in cash being earmarked for Paul Manafort.

Manafort's vehemently denied that he ever received any of that money. He denounced New York Times. What do you make of that story? Didn't prove he got the payments. Was that story fair?

PRZYBYLA: Yeah, I took a good read over that story again, Howie, and here's my assessment. I think this is a good example where the narrative really kind of makes this story versus the specific facts in this story because, you know, going into this, we all know that Manafort had ties to big Russian money and to Yanukovych in particular who is really as corrupt as they come.

And so going into that, you know, we kind of have that preformed confession. And then you look at the actual facts, well, these are handwritten ledgers -- it's basically an assertion. It's an assertion from a Ukrainian agency that we're not familiar with, and Manafort could easily deny it. So, you know, even lower down in the story, the investigators had said that there was no proof he actually received the money.

So, that kind of brings us back to why is this news? Well, this is news because of what we knew previously which is that there is a relationship between these two men that is troubling in and of itself because of who Yanukovych is.

KURTZ: You know, a lot of people in the press jumped to the conclusion, Amy, that it was these stories about the Russian ties and the Ukrainian relationship that sunk Paul Manafort. I'm told by my sources that Donald Trump while not happy about that distraction, was much more upset with the story we talked about last Sunday which was big leaky New York Times piece headline, "Inside the Failed Mission to Tame Donald Trump's Tongue." His own advisor saying he's not coachable and perhaps he concluded that Manafort's fingerprints were fairly on that piece.

HOLMES: Well, I wouldn't be surprised if that was the case, that Donald Trump did not like having these leaks in the press that he can't be tamed.
But I think getting back to the Russia story, part of also what fueled the media coverage of that is that it dovetailed with the Vladimir Putin/Donald Trump seeming bromance and the kind words they've had for each other.

But if you look at these articles too, you notice buried way down in the print was that the Podesta Group, that's Tony Podesta, Hillary Clinton's campaign manager's brother, they're also under scrutiny. But looking at the MSM, the mainstream media, you would think that it was only about Paul Manafort.

KURTZ: Right. I just want to close this segment asking you, Leslie, about just the volume, the gusher of anti-Trump stories and headlines compared to those involving Hillary Clinton -- "Political, Regretful Trump Pivots 107 Days Late." New York Times, "And Trump's Empire Hazy Ties $650 Million in Debt," also, "GOP Worries Falling Trump Tide Will Lower All Boats." But then this "Washington Post" piece today on the front page, "With a Comfortable Lead, Clinton Begins Laying Plans for her White House Agenda," almost as if the race were over.

MARSHALL: Well, I've said it before, I don't think its right for any outlet not to be reporting all the facts. That's what a true journalist or journalistic source should do. But I do think, again, that quite frankly, dirt on Donald, anything about Donald just is more attractive to readers and to viewers and to listeners than information about Hillary Clinton. And so if it bleeds it leads, or if it has Donald Trump's name in it, it leads.

KURTZ: Right, which of course, if that's true, totally unbalances the coverage, and before we go to break, I saw (ph) the New York Daily News cover supposedly Trump saying, "I'm Gonna Lose So Good!" This piece actually says that his shakeup could be an intentional effort to tank the election in spectacular fashion. Talk about a completely unsupported paroxysm of speculation. All right, let me get a break. You can write to us Let me know what you think on Twitter on @HowardKurtz.

And when we come back, a closer look at the controversial Breitbart media operation that produced the Trump campaign's new CEO. And later, the passing of John McLaughlin who influenced much of what you see today on cable news.


KURTZ: Steve Bannon has taken plenty of hits in the press since Donald Trump tapped him as campaign CEO. Bannon is a former Goldman Sachs guy who became chairman at Breitbart, the conservative news site founded by the late Andrew Breitbart.


BILL KRISTOL, WEEKLY STANDARD EDITOR: I mean, the fact that it's called Breitbart news. They changed the name and call it, you know, right wing intolerant, mean-spirited news, that would be fine.

DANA LOESCH, RADIO AND TV HOST: But all I know is that one of the worst people on God's green earth was just instituted as the chairman and CEO of the Trump campaign.

COREY LEWANDOWSKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: If you look at Stephen Bannon and what they've built at Breitbart, its win at all costs, and I think that really makes some people on the left very afraid because they're willing to say and do things that others in the mainstream media wouldn't do.


KURTZ: Amy, it's clear that a lot of people out there don't like -- in journalism -- don't like Steve Bannon. Now, Breitbart has been accused of running a fan site with lots of stories like, "The Ten Most Important Reasons Donald Trump Would Make a Great President." So what does Bannon's hiring say about Breitbart and the Trump campaign?

HOLMES: Well, it says that Donald Trump likes and for many journalists it confirms to them that has been sort of a propaganda vehicle for Donald Trump's candidacy. What I think is more interesting about all of this of course is the internecine warfare on the right that is once again being exposed and believe me, the media, there's nothing they love more than -- other than a sex scandal, which is Republicans fighting each other.

KURTZ: Leslie, Bannon dismisses the notion that his site traffics an ugly rhetoric, but in leaked e-mails to a colleague that were obtained by the "Daily Beast"-- maybe you saw this, he calls the GOP leaders in congress a bunch of C words and says we should all go buck wild. So, he has very strong opinions often expressed through the site.

MARSHALL: Yeah, and Breitbart's site, quite frankly, has been very pro- Trump. As a matter of fact, they even threw one of their own employees in a sense, under the train to defend him, or under the bus, I guess I should say. When we look at that site, I mean, the problem is they defend Trump at all cost and as we know without facts many times.

And we see that most recently just in the state of Louisiana when the governor says, look, if the president came here it would be a disaster and a nightmare for first responders. That we don't hear about, but we do hear about Trump and Pence making a trip there in that state.

KURTZ: By the way we invited Breitbart to make a representative available for the show and the website declined. Heidi, so if Steve Bannon had been advising Trump sort of informally and now he leaves Breitbart to become the campaign CEO but he's on a leave of absence so, he will probably go back to Breitbart, does that mean the site's credibility is taking a hit? I mean, what are people to think when they read Breitbart's coverage now with the former chairman running the Trump campaign?

PRZYBYLA: I think what's happening, Howie, is that his audience is basically seeing what the impression has been within the media industry all along, which is that Breitbart is essentially the Trump news network.
What's hurtful are also these stories coming out now saying that basically, you know, staffers are accusing Breitbart of even unproven allegations about taking money for positive coverage where Trump directly overruling editors.

And, yeah, if that comes to a point now where that is not just the impression within the media community but also among Breitbart's audience, I think that that could be problematic for them.

KURTZ: Right.

PRZYBYLA: And to me the big irony here is that the founder of Breitbart, Andrew Breitbart, had such utter disdain for that type of cozy relationship between journalists and the politicians that they cover for now many conservative commentators to now be accusing Breitbart of being essentially Pravda, like the Russian-owned news network.

KURTZ: What Leslie was referring to about an employee being thrown under the bus was the infamous Michelle Fields incident when she was grabbed by former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and Breitbart actually came with the story that took the Trump's side. Whatever you think of that incident, whether it was overblown, and a lot of people quit as a result of that.

And finally, Washington Post story today calls Steve Bannon's hiring by the Trump campaign, "the latest sign for white nationalists, once dismissed as fringe that their world view was gaining popularity." So, I'm sure Breitbart defenders will feel like that is a little bit of overheated rhetoric. All right, Leslie Marshall here in L.A., Amy Holmes in New York, Heidi Przybyla in D.C., thanks very much for joining us this Sunday.

Up next, was the press too quick to fall for Ryan Lochte's claim of being burglarized at gunpoint at the Olympics? And later, bankrupt, auctioned off, shutdown -- the demise of Gawker.


KURTZ: Ryan Lochte is belatedly expressing regret for creating international scandal. The Olympic swimmer made headlines around the world when he gave NBC this account of what happened to him in Rio.


KEIR SIMMONS, NBC NEWS: Ryan Lochte was on today, Friday morning within 48 hours he had a gun put to his head.

RYAN LOCHTE, UNITED STATES OLYMPIC SWIMMER: They pulled us over. They pulled out their guns. They told the other swimmers to get down on the ground -- I'm not kidding. Down on the ground. And then the guy pulled out his gun. He tapped it, put it to my forehead and said get down. I put my hands up, I was like whatever.

SIMMONS: Lochte stood up to these guys. Honestly, that was a brave and dangerous thing to do.


KURTZ: But Lochte changed some crucial details in a follow-up interview with Matt Lauer. And then yesterday in yet another interview, he backed off a bit more.


MATT LAUER, NBC NEWS: The first version of the story you told, Ryan, was much more about the mean streets of Rio.


LAUER: And the version we're hearing now is much more about a negotiated settlement to cover up some dumb behavior.

LOCHTE: And that's why I'm taking full responsibility for it. It is because I over-exaggerated that story.


KURTZ: Joining us now here in Los Angeles, Kim Serafin, a commentator, actress, senior editor for In Touch Weekly magazine and a one-time aide to Rudy Giuliani. All right, so let's start with Lochte. This was not an over exaggeration. This was not being less than candid. This was a lie, a complete and total lie. And now in two successive interviews with NBC, he appears unwilling or unable to admit that.

KIM SERAFIN, IN TOUCH WEEKLY SENIOR EDITOR: Yeah, well, obviously he now had some coaching. He hired a big crisis communication expert and that's why he went and did that sit-down interview with Matt Lauer. More is going to air on the "Today" show on Monday so, we'll hear a little bit more.
Look, this is par for the course.

When you get into trouble, you try to make amends. When you do an interview, you do this apology interview and then you hope you don't lose your endorsement deals, which could be $5 million to $10 million.

KURTZ: Making amends. I'm sorry. I lied. I shouldn't have lied. It was a really bad thing to do. I mean, these weasel words I think are not cutting it, crisis communications or not. This is the classic non-apology apology.

SERAFIN: It's true, and he did say he was immature -- it was immature behavior. He over exaggerated. One thing I think that a lot of people are talking about is when Matt Lauer said, "So, are you willing to now say it wasn't robbery?" because that was really the one point, It was robbery. We were the victims in this whole thing.

And Matt really gave him that opening to say are you willing now to say that it wasn't robbery. And then he kind of said, well, it could be robbery, it could have been making amends and restitution and then...

KURTZ: Well, I kind of felt threatened because the guy had a gun.
Originally, they were in a taxi. They were pulled out by somebody pretending to be a cop. The gun was to his head. I mean, this was not just embellished, this was fiction. But let's go back to the original story. I mean NBC paid billions to the Olympics, airing the interviews.


KURTZ: And Lochte makes these charges. We saw the reporter say and this was a very brave thing for him to do to defy the gunmen. Should the press have fallen for this? I mean, this always seems like the story -- always seemed to me something wrong with the story but I didn't think he was making it up. Should the press have been less gullible here?

SERAFIN: Well, I think it played into that. As Matt Lauer said, it played into that whole narrative of the mean streets of Rio. And I think, so people were quick to accept it because of that, plus you know, it has that aspect of the Olympics, the salacious, the kind tabloidy aspect that we didn't really get. There's the Gabby Douglas issue that came up that people were talking about, but then you had ratings were down with the Olympics.

The seats were empty in the Olympics so, this kind of fit into another kind of way to talk about something when maybe some of the events weren't getting the kind of buzz. So, I don't think it made sense that the press accepted it because the way that Billy Bush kind of grabbed him, saw him in the store and then grabbed him to the (inaudible).

KURTZ: Right. Well, I do think NBC did a good job having been fed the initial lie. It is a lie.

SERAFIN: Which Al Roker said many times -- it was a lie, it was a lie.

KURTZ: In aggressively covering the aftermath and trying to hold Lochte accountable. Kim, we'll see you a bit later in the show. Up next, Hillary Clinton fighting conservative media reports about her health that her campaign says are wild rumors. And later, so many Hollywood celebs out here smacking Donald Trump around, should we care what they think?


KURTZ: Donald Trump with help from some in the conservative media including Breitbart and the Drudge Report is increasingly raising questions about Hillary Clinton's health.


TRUMP: Importantly, she also lacks the mental and physical stamina to take on ISIS and all of the many adversaries we face.


KURTZ: Sean Hannity focused on one image that's gotten some attention on the right.


SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: ...sure, which shows Hillary Clinton apparently needing assistance to climb a flight of stairs at a campaign stop back in February, was picked up by the "Drudge Report" which posted this headline over the weekend detailing Hillary Clinton's history with falls and speculating that the former Secretary of State could be experiencing a serious undisclosed medical condition.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: But your conservative news consuming uncle who e-mails you a lot in all caps, what he thinks the most important story in the country right now is this conspiracy theory that Hillary Clinton is in the mix of a secret grave health crisis.


KURTZ: Joining us now from Washington, Sarah Flores, a Republican strategist who worked for Carly Fiorina's presidential campaign. In Louisville, Krystal Ball, commentator and senior fellow at the New Leaders Council, and here in L.A., Christina Bellantoni, assistant managing editor for politics at "Los Angeles Times."

Sarah, that photo we just saw of Hillary Clinton being helped up the stairs that was taken in February after she had stumbled so people were helping her. Whether it's Drudge or Breitbart or Hannity, does it make sense for some conservatives in the media to be pushing this Hillary health issue?

SARAH FLORES, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I mean it's a great click bait issue that I think it's probably driving a lot of traffic on their websites, but if anyone's actually been on the trail in Iowa or New Hampshire in January or February, I need help going up the stairs. It is icy, you are in heels, you are not prepared for what's going on there unless it is like the most salted road ever. So, I think it's a little bit of a distraction, but I don't doubt its driving traffic.

KURTZ: I missed the crucial high heels aspect of it. So glad you pointed that out. Crystal, perhaps there are lingering suspicions about Hillary Clinton after that fainting incident where she suffered a concussion back in 2012. What should the press do here on these health-related questions?

KRYSTAL BALL, NEW LEADERS COUNCIL SENIOR FELLOW: I think it's absolutely irresponsible for outlets to be pushing this when there's absolutely no proof that there's any issue here. She's actually released more documentation on her medical status than Donald Trump has. The pictures are taken out of context, as you pointed out. There's also another video that's going around that's also been taken out of context.

There's just no there there (ph) and you know, Howard, I'm no Hillary Clinton lover, I will support her in this election. I think there are legitimate issues to be pushing her on including the Clinton Foundation stuff, but this just doesn't make any sense. There's nothing to it and I think it's disgusting that outlets would mislead their viewers in implying that there's anything really going on here.

KURTZ: Well, I think both candidates should release their medical records and hopefully that will be happening. You mentioned this video, so let me come to you, Christina Bellantoni, with this one. This is a two-month-old video, Hillary Clinton is being questioned by reporters and they were attempting to question her in Washington. Conservative site, "Gateway Pundit" headline, "Wow! Did Hillary Clinton Just Suffer a Seizure on Camera?" Let's take a look at the video here.


KURTZ: They're shouting questions at her. Okay. Now, the A.P.'s Lisa Lerer who is one of the reporters there, Christina, wrote a piece about this and said that clearly Clinton was making an exaggerated motion with her head shaking her head vigorously as kind of like, chic (ph) and that she was laughing and she wasn't scared as some people were saying. What do you think about that piece of video?

CHRISTINA BELLANTONI, LOS ANGELES TIMES: I think -- it's dangerous to diagnose anyone from a photograph or a piece of video, or even really what they are saying, right? I am pregnant, four months into it I hadn't told anybody, you know, you really don't know what's going on.

KURTZ: Is this breaking news?

BELLANTONI: No, but you know, this is where -- it's just dangerous. Yes, medical records are helpful, but particularly when you have a female candidate, these issues are not what we should be talking about, right? We should be talking about what each of these candidates would do for the country because you never know whether somebody is mentally capable or physically capable really until they're out there doing the job.

KURTZ: Right. A lot of these TV doctors, Dr. Drew, you know, giving their opinions. They've never analyzed, I mean, they've never examined her. It's all done from afar. All right, you say we should be talking about other issues so, let's talk about the Clinton Foundation, which now announced that if indeed Hillary Clinton wins the presidency, the foundation, the family foundation, will no longer accept corporate contributions or contributions from foreign donors, which makes up about half of it.

So, Sarah, that raises the obvious question, well, that's the standard now, what about when Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State?

FLORES: It's incredible. Reporters enjoy talking about Donald Trump because it's easy. It's, you know, a sugar high, but this is where the meat is and you have to dig into it a little. Absolutely why in the world would it not be okay for them to take foreign donations when she's president, but it was okay when she was secretary of state? And no one's been able to answer that.

At the same time you'll note that the Clinton global health initiative, which is part of the Clinton Foundation, actually hasn't agreed to this.
So, yes, this one part of their foundation that said they won't take foreign donations, but another huge part actually won't commit to that.

So, it's a bundle of mess for Hillary Clinton and they are just enjoying the fact that the media for the most part is still concentrating on Paul Manafort's resignation and Kellyanne Conway, Steve Bannon and these very easy stories instead of digging into the hard stuff where you got to look at the numbers.

KURTZ: Right. Krystal, "Boston Globe" editorial, "Shut It Down If She Wins.
The uber liberal "Huffington Post" just says, "Just Shut It Down." So, not a lot of defense here for the way the Clinton Foundation is taking particularly the foreign money.

BALL: I mean, I think it's very hard given the fact that the Clinton Foundation was built up around Bill and Hillary and Chelsea and their global prestige, and that was really what made this foundation work. I think it's very hard if when she becomes president to really effectively put up the wall that they would need to so I agree with that assessment.
And look, you know...

KURTZ: All right.

BALL: To what Sarah is saying here, I think that there has been a lot of digging into the meat of this issue. Unfortunately, we have public records here so that we can have some transparency. With Donald Trump on the other hand, he has no record of public service and we have very little insight into his business dealings since he won't release his tax returns. So it's very hard to know what's going on with him.

KURTZ: Let me jump in because we're short on time. I don't mean to cut you off. We're short on time. So, quick one for you, Christina, the Washington Post headline underscoring the point you made a week ago, "A Turbulent Week for Trump Overshadows Clinton's Vulnerabilities."

BELLANTONI: You know, she has really been under the radar this entire campaign, right? The campaign is about him and her reactions to him. It allows her to go out and campaign in swing states and do things that people aren't necessarily paying attention to, but the foundation issue raises a lot of really legitimate questions about what would Bill Clinton's role in a Clinton White House would be?

Those are questions we all should be asking, and you know, who knows. I mean, they could completely shut the foundation down if she is elected, we don't know that, but looking into the records is important.

KURTZ: I'm still stunned by the one you just uttered. The Democratic presidential nominee is under the radar because of Donald Trump.

All right, coming up, The Wall Street Journal editorial page slams Donald Trump. Why is so much of the conservative media against this guy? And later, with Larry Wilmore now gone, how did "Comedy Central" screw up its late-night franchise?


KURTZ: The Wall Street Journal editorial page, a conservative bible to many on the right ratcheted up its criticism of Donald Trump this week saying of Republicans, "If they can't get Mr. Trump to change his act by Labor Day, the GOP will have no choice but to write off the nominee as hopeless and focus on salvaging the Senate and House and other down-ballot races.

As for Mr. Trump, he needs to stop blaming everyone else and decide if he wants to behave like someone who wants to be President -- or turn the nomination over to Mike Pence." Sarah, that was written before the shakeup, but what explains The Wall Street Journal not just opposing Donald Trump but actually suggesting he might have to drop out of this race?

FLORES: Well, if you look at the polls right now, it is the case that a lot of our down-ballot senate candidates are over performing where Trump is in their states, Toomey, Ayotte, Portman, these are all swing states for Trump and he's underperforming the senate candidates. That being said, it's also the case of Donald Trump has not really cared that he's not winning over the conservative vote.

The Republican vote is the same level that Hillary Clinton is winning the Democrat vote. We'll see if the shakeup makes a difference. I think Kellyanne Conway will put emphasis on winning over those harder to reach Republicans that Donald Trump has alienated, but you know, yet to be seen.

KURTZ: Krystal Ball, it's not just the Journal, National Review which never liked Trump writes this week that Trump blames the media for making him look nuts by reporting the things he says, which are nuts. I mean, it's really caustic and personal this criticism from the conservative press.

BALL: Well, I mean, they didn't like him to start with and now he's losing and he's losing badly. He's down in every swing state. Every important battleground state across the country is going to have to put resources into places like Georgia and Arizona and Utah that no Republican should have to, and he probably is going to bring the senate down with him.

So, I think it's justified for The Wall Street Journal and for other outlets to be looking at this and say, "Hey, buddy, right now you're losing and you're losing worse than Mitt Romney was ever down in the polls."

KURTZ: Yeah, but to suggest that he's not going to be on the ballot in November is just fantasy land. All right, so I'm constantly sort of struck by how some reporters, not commentators, not bloviators, people who are reporters, the ways in which they describe Donald Trump. Take a look at this soundbite from Politico reporter Eli Stokols.


ELI STOKOLS, POLITICO REPORTER: Why is the information flow on Donald Trump so negative? Well, it's because the press -- the country has never really seen somebody so mendacious and so...

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC: What's that mean?

STOKOLS: Telling lies.


KURTZ: Christina, so mendacious and so willing to tell lies. If you were still the editor Roll Call, would you allow your reporters to talk about the nominee like that?

BELLANTONI: This is a difficult position because our point is to trick squad (ph), right, as journalists, and you should be able to say someone said something that is not true and that is something that media is often criticized for. You know, you allow someone to say something and then you don't counter attack it.

So, it's something that really reporters should be doing to all candidates.
Hillary Clinton says things that are not 100 percent factual. Donald Trump says things that are not 100 percent factual...

BALL: OK, but 70 percent of his statements have been rated false. So that is a very different level than any other politician we've seen. He just makes stuff up. It's not normal run of the mill exaggeration, but I think it's an inaccurate statement.

BELLANTONI: Rated false by journalism institutions. Exactly.

KURTZ: Well, but you know, I'm fine with saying candidates said this, it's not true, it's a lie, that's fine. When you use words like mendacious, you are signaling you do not like the guy, Christina, and I'm wondering you're out here in California, do you think New York and D.C. pundits who think that Trump is going to lose are just sort of over the line sometimes?

BELLANTONI: It's not just New York and D.C., right. The idea that there's an entire segment of America, at least 39 percent in some cases, you know,
45 percent that really likes Donald Trump.


BELLANTONI: And you can't forget that. You have to recognize that you are writing for everyone and not necessarily one specific audience.

KURTZ: Journalists obviously forgot that during the primaries when they all thought Donald Trump would lose. All right, Christina Bellantoni here in L.A., Krystal Ball in Louisville and Sarah Flores back in D.C, thanks very much.

After the break, why are so many celebrities here in L.A. savaging Trump, and does it matter? Plus, Comedy Central struggling in late nights, dropping Larry Wilmore, what's behind this debacle?


KURTZ: Comedy Central had a powerhouse late night lineup for years -- John Stewart and Stephen Colbert. Well, the L.A. show replaced with Trevor Noah is drawing little attention, his daily show down about 40 percent in the ratings. Larry Wilmore's nightly show was drawing less than half of Colbert's ratings, and this week, the network pulled the plug.


LARRY WILMORE, "THE NIGHTLY SHOW" HOST: I'm Larry Wilmore your next host for the next well, 29:31.


KURTZ: And Kim Serafin is back with us. Can we now just come out and say that Comedy Central picking Larry Wilmore and Trevor Noah to replace Colbert and Steward was -- what's the right word, a failure?

SERAFIN: Well, clearly it is very hard to replace John Stewart, and how do you replace John Stewart? And Stephen Colbert? I mean, such a high bar he set you know, again, whether you like him from the left or the right or you don't like him, the fact is he had good ratings and when...

KURTZ: But forget about the ratings. One of the reasons I think it's not working is that either of these guys, they're not talked about, they're not quoted, their clips don't get much traction online. It just seems like they're not part of the conversation.

So, Wilmore after he got the bad news told Fast Company that, "race, not the easiest subject to make jokes about. I mad commentary about them. We tried our best. But if you're going to do a lot of jokes that are racially tinged, you got to find ways to be funny.

SERAFIN: Right, and it was so much was about race and that's really what his show is about. And I think, you know, for John Stewart for example, even if you were on the right and you didn't like some of the criticism he had towards the right, he did kind of take aim at some other people as well.

KURTZ: Occasionally.

SERAFIN: Occasionally, he did -- he did that famous thing when he went after CNN about their coverage of the plane for example. So he didn't just go after the right. You could find something you liked about John Stewart.
Even Bill O'Reilly would appear with Stewart.

KURTZ: Right. Wilmore had that incident at the White House Correspondent's Dinner right.

SERAFIN: Exactly. So I think, you know, when you hit for now...

KURTZ: When he used the "N" word...


KURTZ: And that didn't go over well and that didn't even make him any more famous.

SERAFIN: No, and you're looking nowadays, you need to have that viral moment to do late night TV. That's what Jimmy Fallon does, that's what Jimmy Kimmel does -- he never really had any of it. The only thing that went viral kind of was that moment at the Correspondent's Dinner and that did not gain him an audience.

KURTZ: I understand some people think he was an important voice, but it's all box office in this business, now...

SERAFIN: Ratings were low, and he did not have an either viral...

KURTZ: Sinc we're out here in the outskirts of Hollywood, so many celebrities have really denounced Trump. You know, very few are on his side. This is the latest, Robert de Niro said Trump is totally nuts. Martin Sheen, who played the president on TV, right, called him scary and an empty-headed moron. Why should anyone care what these celebrities think?

SERAFIN: This happens every year that there's a presidential election. The celebrities come out. They usually support the Democratic candidate but it's not really...

KURTZ: Usually as in always?

SERAFIN: Always, so it's not really a surprise but...

KURTZ: But it's so personal. I mean, not just he's not qualified, you know, you're using words like moron and nuts.

SERAFIN: It is personal except, you know, celebrities don't really matter in terms of vote. I don't think if somebody hears a celebrity say this they're going to change their vote. I think celebrities matter in getting attention for a candidate. The matter is fund raising.

Hillary is out there this week, she has always fund raisers with celebrities this week. That's where celebrities really come into play, and Trump himself is such a celebrity, he doesn't need a celebrity to give him attention.

KURTZ: Right.

SERAFIN: He gets that attention on his own.

KURTZ: Right. Just briefly, I sometimes wondered, don't the celebrities hurt their own careers because they are alienating potentially half the audience who may like the Republican candidate and whatever the race is?

SERAFIN: Except you say this every year. If people say this, and then still if you like the movie, you're going to still go see the movie. So, people may hold a grudge for a little while but if you really want to see the movie, you're going to go see the movie.

KURTZ: There it is, the Hollywood (inaudible) -- as long as they buy the tickets, everything is good.

SERAFIN: Exactly. If they put people in seats then, you know, you're going to go see the movie.

KURTZ: Kim Serafin, great to see you. Thanks very much. Still to come, Gawker is paying a price for the losing a lawsuit over that sex tape. Plus, the legacy John McLaughlin.



Issue one, let's make a deal.

Issue one, Democrats debate.



KURTZ: This is the end of the line for Gawker, the gossiping website whose tone range from snarky to downright mean-spirited. The site is bankrupt, founder Nick Denton has declared personal bankruptcy and Univision, which bought Gawker for $135 million after Hulk Hogan's successful lawsuit over that sex tape of the former wrestler, is shutting it down this week. Univision apparently plans to operate some of the company's other site like Deadspin and Jezebel, Gawker is history.

John McLaughlin who died this week at 89 once told me why he pushed his panelists to answer his questions in a split second. He wanted them to blurt. Blurting was good. He loved blurting because it got out the truth.


MCLAUGHLIN: And your question. One-word answer. We're out of time. Who won the Democratic debate? Pat Buchanan.

PAT BUCHANAN: I think it was a draw -- slightly to Obama.

MCLAUGHLIN: Wrong. Come on, Pat.

ELEANOR CLIFT: I think it was a draw. They both did well making Democrats agonize.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At least Obama on parts (ph).

MCLAUGHLIN: Hillary won the debate.


KURTZ: Issue one, I went to a taping of the McLaughlin Group for my book "Hot Air", and he was the maestro for framing the issues in an entertaining way, jousting with the likes of Fred Barnes, Jack Germond and Pat Buchanan, and Eleanor Clift. McLaughlin invented the modern political talk show back in 1982, the left and right combat, the heated rhetoric, the predictions, the interruptions, wrong! -- that you've seen in roughly millions of cable segments.

Issue two, McLaughlin was an unlikely television star. A Jesuit priest who worked in the Nixon White House during Watergate and yet created his raucous program that also aired on PBS station. When you agreed or disagreed with his sharp tongue, he was good TV. So, in the signoff he made famous, bye-bye, John.

That's it for this L.A. edition of "MediaBuzz." I'm Howard Kutz. Thanks for watching. We hope you like our Facebook page. We post a lot of original content there. We responds to your questions, We're back in Washington next Sunday where I won't have to get up quite so early before the sun's come up. Check us out then for the latest buzz.

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