Spinning the great debate

Are media setting Trump's bar low?


This is a rush transcript from "Media Buzz," September 25, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: We're here at Hofstra University at Long Island where Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton will face off tomorrow night before what's expected to be largest television audience in the history of presidential debates. Huge! I'm Howard Kurtz. This first debate follows a week book ended by violence. First the terror bombs in New York and New Jersey and then the fatal police shootings in Tulsa and Charlotte has sparked a riot in North Carolina's largest city, all of which should be prime topics tomorrow.

Most of the media thought Trump would never get here, that he'd never be the Republican nominee and just three weeks ago, the pundits were looking at the polls and writing him off. But today, the Washington Post poll out this morning shows a dead heat, Clinton up by two points and this debate moderated by NBC's Lester Holt could alter the course of the campaign, which is why the media are absorbed by the expectations game.


JUAN WILLIAMS, FOX NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: He's a bully and he's going to be bullying with first woman to appear on this presidential stage.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Hillary Clinton would have done her homework. She will be better prepared on the issues (inaudible) on the fact. She will be A student, a straight A student at that. Donald Trump will be more unpredictable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's prepared for all of those moments. Now, how did you treat Monica Lewinsky 20 years ago? Why did you not respond on e-mails?

ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC HOST: The fact is that he has an easier path in this debate than she does. All he has to do is appear normal.


KURTZ: Joining us here outside of New York City, Julie Roginsky, a Fox News contributor and Democratic strategist, Lisa Boothe, a Washington Examiner contributor and Republican strategist, and Erin McPike, a political analyst and television commentator. So, I have some breaking news, Jennifer Flowers will not be here as Donald Trump's guest tomorrow night. Even though she had tweeted that she would.

I know you're all breathlessly waiting to hear that. This came of course after Donald Trump said he might invite her because Hillary Clinton was inviting Mark Cuban to psych out Donald Trump. This is a really serious matter isn't it? OK, lightning round, 20-second answer each. What is the media framing for what Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton need to do on the stage here tomorrow night? How is the media setting this up? Lisa.

LISA BOOTHE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think the campaigns have the table set the expectations. You look at the Clinton campaign they put out a lot of information about bringing in psychologists, about this mock debates. So I thing the campaigns themselves were the ones who have set -- have table set for the expectations game.

KURTZ: Julie, I've seen 500 political panels on every station imaginable saying, well, here's what the candidates need to do, 20 seconds.

JULIE ROGINSKY, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think the media has been setting his up in the way Andrea Mitchell has described. Donald Trump needs only not to fall down drunk and Hillary Clinton needs to be an A student and then he will be declared the winner if he only shows up and does his job. So I think it's already baked in and that you'll see people declaring Donald Trump the winner of this debate as soon as it's over tomorrow night.

KURTZ: A bold prediction from Julie Roginsky. Erin McPike, how much does this media framing, the expectations, how will it affect the way we all score this debate?

ERIN MCPIKE, POLITICAL ANALYST: The expectations game doesn't matter one lick.

KURTZ: What?

MCOIKE: Because everything that happens during the debate will wipe away the pre-debate chatter. And you have to look only at the very first debate from the last general election in 2012 when Barack Obama bombed that debate to Mitt Romney. And anything that went into the pre-debate chatter didn't matter.

KURTZ: But wait, you're telling me I'm wasting my time?

MCPIKE: No. What are we doing here?


KURTZ: You're saying it doesn't matter.

MCPIKE: Well, we need to look at what they said and how they prepared. But I don't know that the expectations matter that much at all. We will replay moment after moment that's really good in that debate and that's what's going to matter.

KURTZ: It will be two or three moments that we will decide in our infinite wisdom define the debate. Lisa, I know you want to respond to Julie Roginsky. So, are the media placing much greater emphasis on what Trump needs to do because he's the x factor, he's the unconventional candidate, he's predictable. Which Donald Trump is going to show up? Is this media narrative a little out of control from your point of view?

BOOTHE: No, I think it's fair because Hillary Clinton has been in elected office for quite some time. She has probably has more experience in debates than any modern candidate or any candidate in recent history. So, I think the expectations are naturally higher given the fact she has a lot of experience in this. Donald Trump is an outsider and further, Hillary Clinton is somewhat the incumbent in this scenario because she has been the perceived front-runner for a while now.

Donald Trump is the challenger. So I think naturally there is more expectation from Hillary Clinton. Further, her campaign has perpetuated that as well. I mean, they put out all this information about the preparation and work that's going in so naturally that sets the expectation much higher.

KURTZ: I got an e-mail from the RNC which said that Hillary Clinton is such a good debater and she (inaudible) experience that anything less than a flawless performance will be a failure, OK. But is the press setting things up, Julie, you heard this before. So, that Hillary Clinton is expected to have, you know, deep knowledge of every policy that's discussed, that she doesn't get any credit for that, and Donald Trump will be judged mainly on his demeanor.

ROGINSKY: Yes, all Donald Trump needs to do is pass the so-called commander-in-chief test where people are going to say he's not going to set the world on fire if he gets elected.

KURTZ: I agree with that but you said -- the way you said it, all he needs to do.

ROGINSKY: Well, yes, that's a lot he needs to do.

KURTZ: That's a lot. He has to be seen a plausible president.

ROGINSKY: I'll tell you why it's not a lot. It's not a lot because all he has to do is not allude to people having blood come out of their wherever or other previous things that he's done in a debate. All he has to do is show up and be a sober candidate and a boring candidate, and he will be declared the winner because people will say this is a presidential Donald Trump, where she needs to score this a 100 percent. I agree with everything we discussed by the way out of the gate.  

MCPIKE: I'm not sure that's true. Debates are about moments. Think about in 1992, George H.W. Bush looking at his watch and in 2000 Al Gore sighing. What Hillary Clinton needs to not do and I cry a little inside saying this, is she needs not to have one of those condescending cackles. And for all of these strategies that appeases about what she's going to try to do to get under his skin, I think she is just going to try to cut a regal figure because that's the best coverage she has ever gotten after her June 6,2008 concession speech to Barack Obama. Best ever she's ever gotten.

KURTZ: First of all, as the man on this stage, I will not talk about women's cackles or laughs or voice. I will leave that to you ladies but you seem be falling into this trap of saying that Hillary Clinton has a different bar as well. Says who? We're talking here about the presidency of the United States and yet they're going to be judged very differently?

MCPIKE: I think she is -- she obviously has put a lot of pressure on herself and she has prepared extensively. But I think all of these things we're seeing about the psychology, this is just psyching everybody out. You know, I think all of these strategy set up pieces are a colossal waste of time.

KURTZ: Including all the pieces about inside the debate, details of like who is portraying Trump and Hillary camp and everything.

BOOTHE: Well, no, because I think the coverage is a reflection of the expectations that are set up because if you're setting the bar extremely high and saying, I've done all this preparation. We brought in psychologist. I'm going to get into Donald Trump's head and then you don't and you fall short of that. Then realistically, any reporter watching had expectations that you were going to perform at x level and if you don't get there, then naturally you fall short of the expectation.

KURTZ: You know, we go through this...

BOOTHE: It's just common sense.

KURTZ: ...we go through this every four years. This does seem like, you know, a big Super Bowl with 100 million people or more expected to watch. Let's talk about the moderator for a minute, Lester Holt of NBC. How much will he be picked apart by the press as Matt Lauer was by partisans of either candidate or maybe less than happy with the outcome?

ROGINSKY: You know, Lester Holt has a tough job to do. First of all, he's the first out of the gate. Secondly, he does follow Matt Lauer. They're from the same network so he'll be judged by that standard. I think uniformly people had thought Matt Lauer didn't do as good of a job as he could have done at that forum.

KURTZ: Not uniformly. You were saying that that was the view on the left which said that Holt -- excuse me -- that Lauer was too easy on Trump.

ROGINSKY: I've heard from a lot of Republicans who've also thought that Lauer was too tough on Trump, but I don't agree with it. I will say that Lester Holt has a very tough job. He's damn if he is, damn if he isn't if he fact checks either of these two candidates specifically Donald Trump. They'll look to Candy Crowley. If he doesn't fact check a lot of people will say, why are you letting them to go off with these falsehoods. They are pretty (inaudible) falsehood. He's got a very tough job to do and again, he's first so he's breaking ground here.

MCPIKE: Yeah, but I think we should give Lester Holt some credit. He is an individual. He is a different person than Matt Lauer and I think we can say with a lot of confidence that Lester Holt has approached every scenario he's been in the last year and a half with a high degree of humility.

KURTZ: Right. I'm not talking about we'll he do a good job. I think he will do a good job. The question is he's getting hammered. Before we run out of time, I want to get to a lot of the coverage today because in the New York Times and the L.A. Times and the Washington Post and Politico there are pieces basically examining how in view of these reporters, Donald Trump is a liar.

Politico headline, "Donald Trump's Week of Misrepresentation, Exaggerations and Half Truths." New York Times the whole page here, "A Week of Whoppers from Trump." I'll give this to you as you prepare your response. Fine to hold the candidates accountable but most of this seems to be aimed only at the Republican nominee.

MCPIKE: Well, yes because we're not seeing anything like this about Hillary Clinton. I was amazed by the tone of what the New York Times did here. The number two here says, "I was against going into the war in Iraq." Then it says, "This is not getting any truer with repetition." This was a highly snarky display in the New York Times. The Washington Post as you mentioned had when they (inaudible), but it was amazing how the New York Times took Donald Trump out. And the editor-in-chief of the New York Times discussed their approach to Donald Trump this week in a podcast.

KURTZ: Dean Baquet.

MCPIKE: Yes, in saying we've never really used the term lie in a headline before but they are doing it with Donald Trump. These media organizations are really taking him on right now.

KURTZ: If Trump says things that aren't true, absolutely the pressure of fact checking but a lot of these things are sort of -- they're nuance or argumentative. Doesn't it seem unbalanced to you?

ROGINSKY: You know, I think there's a sense that a lot of reporters feel the need to perpetuate falsehood prevalence (ph) that she's liar, he's liar. But the reality is one of them does lie for the greater facility and much more often than the other. I'm not suggesting she always tells the truth but I think the Daily Show have the best columnist. She lies like a politician and he lies like an alcoholic, and that's a great way to describe it

KURTZ: Liberal New York Times columnist Nick Kristof this morning, "How should we report on a duplicitous demagogue to expose charlatans is not partisan but good journalism."

BOOTHE: Oh, it's clear bias. And I wish that the New York Times would indicate or ensure all the lies she has told just in regards to her private e-mail server. It would cover her just as much information as they have there. And what I really hope from this debate is that the fact checking is equally applied to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump because Hillary Clinton -- there's a reason why her distrust numbers, the majority -- so many Americans distrust her the degree that they do is because she has given so many different iterations particularly just with the e-mail situation as well as the Clinton Foundation.

KURTZ: That's an important issue as well. By the way, Sean Hannity made no secret of backing Donald Trump's candidacy would up in a Trump campaign video. It was something he had taped plus put out a statement about it.  We are -- we were not aware of Sean Hannity participating in a promotional video and he will not be doing anything along these lines for the remainder of the election season.

Let us know what you think. Ahead on our special edition from Hofstra University, Bill Hemmer and Martha MacCallum break down the challenge for Lester Holt based on their experience in moderating presidential debates. But when we come, back more on the fatal police shootings, the riot in Charlotte and how they will impact tomorrow's debate.


KURTZ: Police shootings and rioting dominated the media's coverage this weekend, will undoubtedly be a key topic in tomorrow's debate here at Hofstra University. Terence Crutcher, a black Oklahoma resident was shot by a Tulsa police officer responding to a stalled car even though Crutcher was not carrying a gun.


TIFFANY CRUTCHER, TERENCE CRUTCHER'S TWIN SISTER: I get angry because an officer of the law who is paid to protect and serve pre-judged my brother -- pre-judged him. He didn't have a chance to live.


KURTZ: Another black man, Keith Scott was killed by a police officer in Charlotte while waiting for his son in school. In that case, authorities say he had a gun but that's in dispute. The shooting led to protest, rioting, and looting in that North Carolina city with journalists on the front lines.


STEVE HARRIGAN, FOX NEWS Does anyone know or see did anyone see who did the shooting or are you concerned that we're not sure exactly what happened.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, you want it on video so you can put it on the news, right?

HARRIGAN: No, we're on live actually.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's what we're trying to find out, if we got a video so you can elaborate on this and make up (Bleep) fabricated story, right. You want a video...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: make (ph) some fabrication, right?


KURTZ: Last night, Charlotte police releasing a video of the fatal shooting. Joining us now to analyze the coverage, Amy Holmes, senior political analyst for Rasmussen Reports and a former anchor of TheBlaze and Joe Trippi, Fox News contributor and a Democratic strategist. Amy, as we put up a little bit of this video, I have to warn people this is disturbing even though we're not playing any of the sound and it's inconclusive.

Two part question, did the Charlotte police which said was not -- they were not going release this, cave to media and public pressure in putting this out last night and what do you think overall of the coverage of the Tulsa and Charlotte shootings?

AMY HOLMES, RASMUSSEN REPORTS SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it certainly seems so, and you saw the police chief they were not going release this video because there were other facts that come in to play in trying adjudicate these situations. So, clearly it seems to me that and also, frankly, the protests and the demands of protesters and the family that was shown the video privately and then they came out and said we want to see this publicly.

But what we've seen in both of these cases is that video is so powerful. When I watched the Tulsa video in particular, I don't know what happened before, but I do know what happened after and it seemed to me just from watching the video but, again, you do need larger context. I think in the case of Charlotte, that larger context, there's been a rush in terms of media and we're still trying to learn the facts.

KURTZ: My sense, Joe, and tell me if you disagree, is that in both of these cases media had been somewhat restrained rather than reckless in concluding the police officer who acted responsibly or irresponsibly. Having been so badly burned in Ferguson with so many in our profession about the hands up, don't shoot narrative were sure not to be wrong in the case of Michael Brown.

JOE TRIPPI, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I think that's right but I also think it's, you know, a growing process for the media to figure out you can't just jump into these things. And I think it's still happening there on the street and I mean on both sides. And it's hard for them, the media, to not to get sucked into that because that's, you know...

HOLMES: Right. And there's another...

TRIPPI: ...that's part of the coverage.

HOLMES: Certainly. And there's another form of media which is social media, and that's all of us self-publishing whether it's posting video on Facebook or tweeting or commenting, quite apart from the MSM.

KURTZ: The Charlotte officer who shot Keith Scott, Brentley Vinson, he's black. On Thursday after this officer was identified, New York Times lead story in the paper put that in the 30th paragraph. The Washington Post put it in the 31st paragraph. The Wall Street Journal put it in the 11th paragraph of a 12-paragraph story. Isn't that a highly relevant part of the story?

HOLMES: I'm not sure that it's relevant because the story has been about police violence against the African-American community and there are certainly African-American analysts who would say, you know, it's the culture of the police not necessarily the individual police officer. I don't think that's a fair criticism. I do think that obviously that fact should be higher up in the story, but do I think if that's necessarily relevant? I'm not sure. We need to learn more.

KURTZ: Well, it has nothing to do with whether or not Officer Vinson acted properly or recklessly but a lot of people I found -- and MSNBC didn't mention it at all on the night of the riots. CNN and Fox mentioned it somewhat seen and the most. They thought it was another case of a white cop and a black...

TRIPPI: Bit of it is not getting the facts right and that fact did...

KURTZ: Or by omission or by...

TRIPPI: And that fact should have been not buried but way up more at the top of the story.

HOLMES: And I think it is fair to say that it doesn't fit the narrative of white racist cops attacking African-Americans.

TRIPPI: But I also do agree that that's not -- I'm not sure it's relevant to the real debate and the real lack of trust between police.

KURTZ: All right, getting a little short on time. Do the media portray Donald Trump as being the law and order, pro-police candidate and is that accurate and is that how it will play out in the debate?

TRIPPI: Well, that certainly how he...

KURTZ: How he markets himself.

TRIPPI: he markets himself.

KURTZ: Although he's talked more about African-American communities now, in other words not just talking about the police and same question about Hillary Clinton who was going to go to Charlotte today cancelled at the request of the mayor, is she portrayed as more being on the side of the African-American community and fairly or unfairly less concerned with law enforcement?

HOLMES: I think that's exactly right. And both have, you know, fostered those impressions of their candidacy. I hope tomorrow night during the debate that they are asked about this because where our commander-in-chief leads us when it comes to these thorny issues is really important to us coast to coast.

TRIPPI: Yeah, I think look, again, everybody seems to push in those two directions and it's not that simple. You can be for both things.

KURTZ: You're right, they're not usually exclusive.

TRIPPI: And I think that's where you'd like to see both of them get right.

KURTZ: By the way, USA Today suspended for a month columnist Glenn Reynolds. He is the Instapundit blogger, a highly respected law professor, because when Charlotte protesters were blocking roads, he tweeted "Run them down. He said that was misinterpreted but he apologized. All right, Amy Holmes, Joe Trippi, great to see you here at Hofstra.

Ahead from the Long Island site of the first debate, the coverage of what will certainly be a prime topic, the bombings in New York and New Jersey. We'll get into that. But up next, the late night comments are more opinionated than ever and virtually united against Donald Trump.


KURTZ: Time's cover story is on the politics of late night comics. But here's the thing, with a couple of exception like Jimmy Fallon who keeps things light by say bling (ph) Donald Trump's hair, most of them have become intensely partisan and they are all fiercely denouncing Trump. We're not just talking about the usual political jokes. Steven Colbert, Seth Myers, Samantha Bee, John oliver, Trevor Noah, are on a mission.


SETH MYERS, LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MYERS HOST: He was still saying the birth certificate could be fake last year. And by the way, I'm not sure the guy who holds fake press conferences has a fake university, a fake foundation, fake hair and a fake tan should be the one in charge of deciding what's real.

SAMANTHA BEE, FULL FRONTAL WITH SAMANTHA BEE HOST: Only one thing scares us, the thought of people voting for a crazy person who exploits their fear of terrorism. New Yorkers are used to this kind of dumpster fire. Please don't use it as an excuse to elect this kind of dumpster fire.

STEPHEN COLBERT, THE LATE SHOW HOST: By the way, now that you've admitted the president was born here, a lot of people are saying you owe Obama a $5 million donation. You know, he's probably waiting on that check right now. You know, like most of your contractors.


KURTZ: Jimmy Kimmel told Time he'd want to ease up but the Trump makes it impossible by saying more outrageous things than the candidates of the last 20 years combined. Now, these comics have every right to speak out to go beyond monologue jokes, but what does it say that they're all catering to a liberal audience that use Trump with disdain and not one of them has any sympathy for Trump's appeal or is taking on Hillary Clinton.

Even Jon Stewart would occasionally skewer the Democrats. This is an echo of what's happened in parts of the mainstream media where some straight journalists believe that Trump is so dangerous and stopping him is more important than following the old journalistic rules. Late nigh folks believe their political opinions as channeled through mocking denunciations are more important than mere comedy.

Coming up, will tomorrow's debate become mainly for a few signature moments and one liners? Our morning team, Bill and Martha on that. And later, why Donald Trump is calling the debate monitors unfair in advance.


KURTZ: Back here at New York's Hofstra University and the Trump-Clinton debate taking place here tomorrow night in some ways reminds me of a famous face off back in 1980.


JIMMY CARTER, 39TH UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: Governor Reagan as a matter of fact began his political career, campaigning around this nation against Medicare. These are the kind of elements of a national health insurance important to the American people. Governor Reagan again typically is against such a proposal.




KURTZ: Joining us now are two people with experience in moderating presidential debates, Bill Hemmer and Martha MacCallum, the co-hosts of "America's Newsroom."

BILL HEMMER, FOX NEWS: How are you Howie?


HEMMER: Doing great.

KURTZ: Beautiful morning here on Long Island. For all the policy arguments and fact check that surrounded these debates, don't the media tend to cover them when they are over as a couple of signature moments like that one with Ronald Reagan?

HEMMER: I think so and especially based on history and over time. I was making the point earlier today don't underestimate the value of just a really good one liner that actually is done in a way that's filled with humor. You can really leave a lasting impression that way.

MACCALLUM: Well, from what we hear, Donald Trump is hoping that that's the case and that he'll have a couple of those that people are talking about after this debate is over. The Trump campaign has put out the message that in some ways they hope that Hillary sort of rambles on about policy for a long time, you know, that she's been hitting the books hard. But that is not his strength. It never has been.

And he has made it very clear that as president he would plan to sort of deal with things as they come. So, whether or not he's going to get stumped on a foreign policy question and be out of his depth in any way in that could also create that kind of moment, Howie, and that's what the Trump campaign is trying to avoid.

KURTZ: Well, it was fascinating for me to go back and look at -- nobody remembers that president Carter was hammering then former governor Reagan about Medicare. Everybody remembers there you go again. Now, you both moderated presidential debates including the cycle during the primaries, how far -- you know, this is great debate raging (ph) in our profession -- How far should Lester Holt go in trying to hold the candidates to the facts or fact check them in real-time? In a general election debate is that really the moderator's role?

HEMMER: I think Lester Holt has to make that decision. What our intention was in Cleveland a year ago and then Des Moines last January was to ask the question and get out of the way. Unless there was some sort of glaring absence that we noted in the answer, that was our intent. I was reading an article earlier today, Jim Lehrer, who has done his fair share of these presidential debates.

He said, "Go to the mirror, look at yourself in the mirror and repeat three times, it's not about me, it's not about me, it's not about me." And I think if you live by that rule, I think you're -- as a moderator, once it's over you're going to be viewed in a better light. That's my sense.

MACCALLUM: But it's difficult because as a journalist when there is something that's glaringly inaccurate there is that need to clarify it for the people at home who are watching on TV so that -- you know, he's obviously a very experienced journalist and reporter. So, that's the line that you have to walk. I think it can it be walked well by people who do it well and I expect Lester Holt will probably do that.

KURTZ: I mean, is it different Martha when you're doing a primary debate and there are ten candidates on the stage and you have a little more leeway to say well you said that Mr. Trump, Governor Bush, you know and so forth, but here's what you said six months ago. Here, we have the two nominees who frankly ought to fact check each other if they think falsehoods have been uttered.


HEMMER: I agree with that.

MACCALLUM: Exactly. And I expect they will. I mean, you know, they've obviously been practicing. Donald Trump has said that he's not really doing the kind of actual run through where you stand behind podiums and do that. We know Mitt Romney did a ton of it when he was getting ready for the debate. But you know, I mean, they will -- they'll go at each other and they will fact check each other and it's easier now, there's only two of them up there. It makes it even easier.

HEMMER: I've been thinking about this a lot too and I really don't have a sense for how this is going to go Monday night. I mean, he could lay back. She could lay back. She could go after him. He could go after her. They could go after each other. I imagine over the course of 90 minutes we'll probably see all five sides of that and maybe ultimately Howie...

KURTZ: Fact checking is...

HEMMER: know, it comes back to your original point about, you know, the lasting impression, what will that be? Look, Martha and I have been -- we've been previewing this debate for it seems like forever. I really think that you just circle October 1st on the calendar next week because you'll get four days to get over the initial impression and let the lasting impression marinate and sink in and that's where you're going to find out next Saturday after four days of polling, you'll get a sense as to where this race really is. That's my feeling.

MACCALLUM: And you've got eight out of ten people saying that it won't change their mind either way so, but those two could be the difference in a very tight election. So, it works out for them. They have to perform at a very, very high level tomorrow night here.

KURTZ: Ninety straight minutes, and another key difference people forget, the general election, the audience is admonished to be quiet. No hooting and hollering. All right, Bill Hemmer and Martha MacCallum, thanks so much. We'll see you later today actually.

HEMMER: Thank you.

MACCALLUM: Thanks Howie.

KURTZ: Next on this special "MediaBuzz" from Hofstra University, how the New York-New Jersey bombing suspect is being covered as well as the candidates responses. And later, can cable networks really fact check Donald Trump with a few words at the bottom of the screen?


KURTZ: The candidates are engaging in some tough terror talks after bombings in New York and New Jersey this weekend. It's highly likely this will be a topic at tomorrow's Trump-Clinton debate here at Hofstra. How much will the heavy coverage of those attacks shape this race? We're back with the panel. And Erin, these bombings, were not the worst of terrorist attacks we've suffered. Thankfully nobody was killed. But given the heavy media coverage, does it change the race and the debate?

MCPIKE: I don't think it does at all. I think...

KURTZ: At all?

MCPIKE: I don't. I think if it were worse it would, but we've been through a number of these. I actually think the shooting in Charlotte does have the ability to change the debate and the race in part because that's going on in a swing state in North Carolina where both of these candidates are spending and in ordinate amount of time right now.

KURTZ: Right. But there was an intense level of interest. Of course, the suspect was caught in a shoot out so quickly because of the fear that people had and could this happen in their city.

MCPIKE: I think that is really true. But what we do see with a lot of these attacks, if they happen in this region, in New York, in New Jersey, the media will spend a lot more time and people sometimes believe that that's because media is here in New York and I think it's the center of the universe. It's because they have the resources to deploy very easily, and the networks should think a little bit harder about that because it kind of skews the news judgment a little bit.

KURTZ: Well CNN put up a graphic, Lisa Boothe, said the bombings were a win for Trump. Now, 29 people were injured, it seems kind of callous to reduce it to that but I guess we do whenever we get around to the political impacts of these events.

BOOTHE: Well, I think of course it shapes the trajectory of the race in just the sense that you don't have to have a bombing in Washington, D.C. to be afraid that there could be a terrorist attack in Washington, D.C. We've seen either ISIS inspired or directed attacks throughout the country.

KURTZ: San Bernardino. It doesn't have to be...

BOOTHE: San Bernardino, Orlando, Florida, Minnesota. So, of course, it doesn't have to happen in New York City to have a fear of terrorism. It's a top two issue and essentially every poll whether it's a nationwide poll or a state specific poll. But the funny thing about CNN is the fact that Hillary Clinton had actually said that initially that it was a bombing and then proceed to attack Donald Trump on leading with saying that it was a bombing but they cut that coverage out and the "Washington Post" had also reported going after Donald Trump about asserting that it was a bombing without mentioning the fact that Hillary Clinton had actually done so as well.

KURTZ: So the media's conventional wisdom, Julie Roginsky is that terror attacks by placing an emphasis on a tough response helps Donald Trump, but some commentators say well, Hillary Clinton also benefits because she's a former Secretary of State who also has been in the situation room when, you know, plans were made to fight terrorists. How do you see -- do you think the conventional wisdom on how (inaudible) helps Trump is maybe a little too simple?

ROGINSKY: You know, I think it is a little simple. I think this is not a simple topic in general but it's what I said in the earlier segment, which is that you have ultimately a commander-in-chief test that both these people need to pass. And when you have a terror bombing as you did last week, and in fact when you have something that you have going on in Charlotte and going on in Tulsa as we had last week, it focuses people's attention on who they want as their leader.

To who has the temperament and who has the commander-in-chief abilities to lead us both abroad to prevent this kind of systemic terrorism from coming here and also who's got the temperament to lead us here at home to cure racial divides? And I think that's what people will be looking at tomorrow night in light of the events of the last week.

KURTZ: It kind of elevate the campaign above the, you know, Jennifer Flowers level and the twitter shots and all that. But, you know, there is such an intense media focus on Donald Trump's rhetoric, whether he goes too far. We can all rattle off 20 things he said at the press -- let me play something that didn't get much media attention that Hillary Clinton said having to do with this subject. Let's roll it out.


HILLARY CLINTON, DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: We know that Donald Trump's comments have been used online for recruitment of terrorists. We also know from the former head of our counterterrorism center, Matt Olsen, that the kinds of rhetoric and language that Mr. Trump has used is giving aid and comfort to our adversaries.


KURTZ: Well, aid and comfort is from the constitution, it's the treason charge, and I didn't see virtually any news organization say well,  should Hillary Clinton had done them, and imagine if Donald Trump had said that Hillary Clinton was giving aid and comfort to terrorists. So, is there a double standard there?

BOOTHE: Well, there is and plus, that statement is just laughable. Bill Clinton himself has been featured in ISIS videos as well so it's a little bit hypocritical for her to be driving that statement. Further, ISIS hates the United States and the west because of what we believe in, because we are a democracy, because of the ideology that we share and hold as a country. So they're going to attack us regardless of what our presidential candidate and/or president says. So, it's just ridiculous.

KURTZ: There certainly was a focus on Trump when he said that both Barack Obama, excuse me, and Hillary Clinton could be seen as a founder of ISIS. But aid and comfort, it just kind of went past.

MCPIKE: Yeah. I think that probably needed to get more attention than it got, but she also could have spent a little bit more time on it. We're still seeing her really talk about Donald Trump's temperament and not go into further detail about that. So, I think the campaign could push it further.

KURTZ: Brief comment Julie.

ROGINSKY: Well, the only thing I would say is the person who's probably equally frustrated, it didn't get as much coverage is Hillary Clinton herself. She clearly said it so it would get attention and think there's probably frustration in her camp, but the full press does focus on some of the things Donald Trump says and in this case, she clearly wanted to get attention for it and did not get attention that she felt she deserved for it.

KURTZ: I think a lot of the media reported it and replayed but I didn't see any of the, oh, is this going too far? It just seems to me that it's perfectly fair to ask that of both candidates when they engage in this sort of really pointed rhetoric about their opponents. We'll probably see some of that tomorrow night and we can ask those questions again. Julie Roginsky, Lisa Boothe, Erin McPike, thanks very much for joining us here on Long Island.

After the break, Donald Trump has already called out NBC's Lester Holt, who will share the spotlight here Hofstra tomorrow night. Will he get hammered by the TV critics no matter how it goes?


KURTZ: NBC's Lester Holt moderating the debate here at Hofstra University tomorrow night followed by CNN's Anderson Cooper and ABC's Martha Raddatz in the second debate, and Fox's Chris Wallace in the third debate, Donald Trump has ratcheted up his attacks on the anchors. Trump told me last week that all the moderators will be unfair in his view to avoid the kind of media bashing that Mat Lauer endured for being portrayed as too soft on Trump. And here's what Trump and Bill O'Reilly said this week.


BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS: The next debate is Martha Raddatz of ABC who I worked with in Boston, brilliant journalist, but she's a Democrat. And then Anderson Cooper, I think he does a decent job over there but he's a Democrat, OK. So you have two Democrats and you don't -- are you showing up for that or what are you going to do?

DONALD TRUMP, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: And by the way, Lester is a Democrat. It's a phony system. Lester is a Democrat. I mean, they're all Democrats, OK. It's a very unfair system. I'm not okay with Anderson Cooper because I think he treats me very unfairly at CNN.


KURTZ: Joining us now is Joe Concha, media reporter for The Hill. So, all right, Lester Holt is a registered Republican. What does Trump gain by accusing all the moderators in advance of being unfair?

JOE CONCHA, THE HILL: I think he's been listening to his friend, Bobby Knight, the legendary basketball coach gaining (ph) the refs. I think that's all a matter of...

KURTZ: He brought up Bobby Knight to me.

CONCHA: He did, didn't he.


CONCHA: Yes, I believe it. I think Lester Holt's going to call a fair game, Howie. Obviously his body of work proves that. Here's the thing though, if you asked me that question in 2012 about Candy Crowley, I would have said her body of work is great and I don't see and anticipate her causing ang problems or being the story afterwards either.

And remember what happened, she fact checked on the fly. Mitt Romney was neutered basically. He changed dynamics, you can argue, for that debate and the election going forward. And as a result, Crowley goes on an interview afterwards and says, oh no, actually Mitt Romney was right in the main, I made a mistake. So, we have to watch out for that tomorrow night.

KURTZ: These are all experienced professional anchors but are they under some pressure to avoid the kind of skewering that Lauer got in the wake of that NBC forum where a lot of critics on the left said he was hard on Hillary, easy on Donald?

CONCHA: It would have to depend on if Lester Holt is going to be intimidated by outside forces, which I don't think he will be. You know, Matt Lauer called I thought a very good form then.

KURTZ: But as we have seen...

CONCHA: Yes, we do. But as you've seen with Megyn Kelly during her network interview with Donald Trump or with Lauer during that commander-in-chief forum, anything short of throwing a pie in Donald Trump's face while causing him a lying, racist, xenophobe is seen as a softball interview. And the bottom line is...

KURTZ: As seen by journalists or as seen by commentators who don't like Donald? That's a fascinating observation. Some of them, it is clear, think that you should, you know, tackle him in a way that they wouldn't necessarily advocate for Hillary Clinton.

CONCHA: Howie, it's the new rules of journalism set forth by Jorge Ramos. Neutrality is not an option. He said, "Judgment day is coming for any journalist that don't go after Donald Trump," and he was applauded for that commentary by many commentators in the media especially those in the left say, yeah, that's how it's seen if you're not hard on Trump and easy on Clinton. It's seen as an unfair interview (ph).

KURTZ: How did we get to the point where that is at least in some quarters of our profession the accepted media wisdom, that Trump is a dangerous demagogue and it's our mission to stop him as opposed to let's be really hard and tough but fair to both nominees?

CONCHA: Because many in the media led by the New York Times and their editor say that, you know what, will say that they have to -- we have to take out Trump for the good of the country. That they believe that neutrality is no longer an option because Donald Trump is a danger, and as a journalist they feel that's their duty.

They haven't read their job description if that's the results. And even Jimmy Fallon gets criticized, Howie. He's an entertainer. He beat Kimmel and Colbert combined last week because he understands that it's all about entertainment, but because he wasn't hard on Trump. He's not a journalist. He got killed as well.

KURTZ: What I mentioned earlier in the program, Joe that, you know, Samantha Bee and Kimmel a little bit and Trevor Noah and others -- Seth Meyers, are acting like journalist. They are infusing their comedy with a lot of anti-Trump serious stuff. Could they be alienating part of their audience.

CONCHA: They're alienating at least half their audience you would argue. And again, if Fallon is such a success at that he is because he's adopted the Johnny Carson rule, which is to be apolitical, go talk on both sides, and this way, no one has a preconceived notion about your show before they watch it, that you're going to just be like Stephen Colbert which his show was in a loop in terms of vitriol against Donald Trump on a daily basis. No longer funny, it's more like preaching, Howie.

KURTZ: Better to singe but not burn. Briefly before we go, NBC's airing (inaudible) of the hacked Collin Powell e-mails, talking about Trumps nomination, how it would be awful. That's a private conversation, does it raise any questions about Andrea Mitchell?

CONCHA: Well, obviously she's in the Hillary Clinton camp and MSNBC...

KURTZ: Oh, why do you say that?

CONCHA: Why do I say that?


CONCHA: Because if you watch her reporting on a daily basis, it seems to be very pro-Clinton and the fact that Andrea Mitchell...

KURTZ: She's also asked tough questions on Hillary Clinton...


KURTZ: ...and this is a private e-mail that shouldn't have been hacked, right.

CONCHA: Yes, of course. But Howie, she needs to speak up when MSNBC, the network, runs a promo with Hillary Clinton pointing at her in a press conference saying, Andrea, you're my kind of girl. Andrea Mitchell should be stepping up and saying, don't portray me that way. I'm an objective journalist. You're making me look like I'm partisan.

KURTZ: No shortage of opinions here, Joe Concha, good to see you.

CONCHA: Good to see you in person, Howie.

KURTZ: In person indeed. Still to come, the cable networks are using their onscreen banners to fact check, well, one of the candidates. Now we'll fact check them.


KURTZ: The other two cable news networks are using a new weapon against Donald Trump, the chyron. Those are the banners you see at the bottom of the screen, they're now use them for fact checking and sometimes for snark. CNN may have been there first. There is this one, "Trump calls Obama founder of ISIS, he's not." And this one, "Trump's son, father apologizes to Khan's, he hasn't."

And this one, "Trump never said Japan should have nukes, he did." MSNBC has gotten into the act with this chyron after Trump acknowledged President Obama was born in the U.S., "Birther-in-chief Reborn." And this one, "Trump falsely claims Clinton started birther controversy." And there are others on MSNBC -- "Trump says he watched nonexistent video of Iran receiving cash." "Trump, Clinton is in hiding. Clinton is in hiding speaking next hour."

Now, it isn't that all of these are wrong, but sometimes the situation is a bit more complicated. Trump wasn't arguing that President Obama was literally the founder of ISIS, just that his policies helped fuel its growth. It's hard to make those distinctions in five or six words. In the other day, Donald Trump called for profiling of terrorists.


TRUMP: They profile. They see somebody that's suspicious, they will profile, they will take that person and then they'll check out. Do we have a choice? Look what's going on. Do we really have a choice?


KURTZ: CNN ran this banner, "Trump says, "Racial profiling" will stop terror." Trump never said the word racial. We can debate whether or not that would be the net effect, but that chyron was factually inaccurate. If CNN or MSNBC has ever used this approach with Hillary Clinton and her various controversies, well, I must have missed that.

That's it for this, but let me say this, final word, there's nothing the media love more than a presidential debate, and pregame chatter, you can bloviate and speculate and pontificate like a football fan before the Super Bowl and Donald Trump versus Hillary Clinton is a Super Bowl level event. And everybody in America gets to watch the showdown and join in the postgame punditry. That's when the media's instant replays and Olympic scoring will help shape the argument over who won and who lost, but guess what, you're free to ignore all that and make up your own mind.

Now that is it for this special edition of "MediaBuzz." I'm Howard Kurtz. We hope you like our Facebook page. We post a lot of content there. Give us a like, let me know what you think on twitter @howardkurtz. E-mail us, stick to the media I'll be here tomorrow after the debate and we're back in Washington next Sunday with the latest buzz.

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