This is a rush transcript from "Media Buzz," October 23, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: On the buzz meter this Sunday, the media savaged Donald Trump over one response in the Las Vegas debate, sparking a fierce argument of whether he'll accept the outcome if Hillary Clinton beats him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
DONALD TRUMP, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: First of all, the media is so dishonest and so corrupt and the pile-on is so amazing.
CHRIS WALLACE, DEBATE MODERATOR: ...to that principle.
TRUMP: What I'm saying is that I will tell you at the time. I'll keep you in suspense.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN: One of the most stunning things I've ever heard in a presidential debate, ever.
NICOLLE WALLACE, NBC POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He basically kind of laid in his own coffin with a hammer and a nail and pounded in the lid. I mean, lights out in American politics when you say something like that.
HUGH HEWITT, RADIO SHOW HOST: I thought he won 14 out of 15 rounds but he hit himself in the head and knocked himself out.
BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS: Giving the media yet another hammer to pound Trump into pudding. Talking Points does not understand why Donald Trump does not understand that stuff like that hurts him.
JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC: How many people in Scranton, Pennsylvania care about what he said in that answer compared to people in the newsrooms that are whimpering and whining with their, you know, their soy lattes.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
KURTZ: Are the pundits giving Trump short trip on otherwise solid performance? Are they over playing his quip (ph) yesterday to sue the women accusing him of misconduct? And is Chris Wallace winning plenty of praise for his moderating of the debate on his most uncomfortable question about allegations of sexual assault by Trump and Bill Clinton.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: I will say, asking that in the moment with Melania Trump over this shoulder and Bill and Chelsea over this shoulder was harder than I thought it was going to be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: A behind-the-scenes look with the Fox News Sunday host. Plus, a new trove of hacked e-mails reveals even more coziness between journalist and the Clinton campaign. Where is the line between being a reporter and sycophant? I'm Howard Kurtz and this is "MediaBuzz."
The media narrative began to build this week with Donald Trump making the case that the election is fixed and the press pushing back hard.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
TRUMP: When I talked about a rigged election, when I talk about the press taking people with absolutely no case whatsoever and trying to put it on front pages, that in its form, it's a media rigging of the election.
CARL CAMERON, FOX NEWS: Do you really think we're part of a global conspiracy, really? I mean, honestly? A global conspiracy.
TRUMP: Well, Fox -- Fox hasn't been great, but the others have been really bad.
CHARLES SYKES, RADIO SHOW HOST: This is about delegitimizing the election. This is about rationalizing his defeat because there's nothing gracious about Donald Trump.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Donald Trump, once again without evidence, is questioning the very fundamentals of how we elect people.
GEORGE WILL, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Mr. Trump talks about it being rigged. He sweeps all his grievances into one big puddle.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
KURTZ: Then came the Chris Wallace question in Las Vegas that defined the debate and sparked a nuclear reaction from the press.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Do you make the same commitment (ph) that you will absolutely -- sir, that you will absolutely accept the result of this election?
TRUMP: I will look at it at the time. I'm not looking at anything now. I'll look at it at the time.
HILLARY CLINTON, DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: There was even a time when he didn't get an Emmy for his TV program three years in a row and he started tweeting that the Emmys were rigged.
TRUMP: I should have gotten it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: But is the press overplaying all of this? Joining me to analyze the campaign coverage, Erin McPike, political commentator and former reporter for RealClearPolitics; Kelly Riddell, deputy opinion editor and columnist for the Washington Times, and Joe Trippi, a Democratic strategist and Fox News contributor.
So, Donald Trump went to Gettysburg yesterday to give a policy speech, a contract with America speech. He talked about his female accusers, 11 of them now, and he said that every woman who lied came forward to hurt the campaign. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The events never happened. Never. All of these liars will be sued after the election is over. But a simple phone call placed to the biggest newspapers or television networks gets them wall-to-wall coverage with virtually no fact checking whatsoever.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Erin, that became the story for the media, not the policy prescriptions. Is that the media's fault or Donald Trump's fault?
ERIN MCPIKE, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think its Donald Trump's fault because he made news there, and when there is news, the media has to cover it. And they did here, so I think it was absolutely fair.
KURTZ: Suing the women is catnip for the media and of course, there are also questions about why so many women have come forward in such a short period of time. There is a porn star who came forward yesterday with Gloria Allred talking about Trump kissing her and propositioning her. So, is it fair or unfair on the part of the journalists to overshadow the more substantive part of what Trump said in Gettysburg?
KELLY RIDDELL, WASHINGTON TIMES COLUMNIST: I think this follows a very common pattern. His Gettysburg address, if you will, was very substantive. It hit on his ethics reform policies, kind of draining the swamp of Washington, D.C. Things that the people care about and of course it was overshadowed by what he said about his accusers.
Is that Trump's fault? Yes, but it's also the media's fault because the media is now looking at any little nitpick they can get from Donald Trump and blowing that up over his policies. This has become an election of personalities over platforms on both sides.
KURTZ: So you're saying that the media have give -- Trump has given the media the ammunition and they've used it to blow up his campaign?
RIDDELL: Yes, which is his fault, but they're also against him. There is no question the media is biased this election and they are all in the tank for Hillary Clinton.
JOE TRIPPI, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: You don't go to Gettysburg. You don't prep the press that it's going to be this amazing policy speech about your first 100 days in office.
RIDDELL: And it was that.
TRIPPI: And start the speech off with, by the way, everyone who is accusing me is a liar and I'm going to sue them. That created the moment that the press had to report that.
KURTZ: What about the fact that Donald Trump says that the newspapers and other media outlets just throw this stuff up without fact checking, as if no one else is interviewed in each case, and also try to tie it to the Clinton campaign? He says these women either want fame or her campaign did it. Any evidence of either of those?
TRIPPI: No. There is absolutely no evidence and the campaign says they had nothing to do with it, and until he can prove otherwise, he should stop saying it.
RIDDELL: Just like there's no evidence of quid pro quo with Hillary Clinton and State Department, but yet...
TRUPPI: Well, this got coverage...
RIDDEL: But the press covers Donald Trump's scandals like they're fact but with Hillary Clinton stuff, they won't touch it because it could be rumors, innuendos, we don't have any solid evidence of pay for play. We couldn't cover WikiLeaks because the Russians are dealing with it. There is a double standard here.
TRIPPI: Well, the WikiLeaks didn't dump that video out on the street. That was Donald Trump who said that, and we know that's what it was, and there's a difference.
KURTZ: In some of these cases, Erin, journalists I've interviewed not the just the women making these accusations and we don't know whether they're true or false and some of them are a long time ago, but other people who they told particularly the case of the former People magazine writer. So, is it fair for Trump to say no fact checking? Maybe not adequate but it's hard to prove or disprove.
MCPIKE: I don't think it's -- these are things that I wonder is he's threatening to sue these women after the election. I think implicit in his threat is that he may want to sue these news organizations as he threatened to sue the New York Times, though no lawsuit has come forward yet.
KURTZ: Yes, the New York Times lawsuit which he very explicitly promised has not materialized. So let's turn to the debate, I'm sitting there in Las Vegas in this media filing center, and I am typing that Trump is having a pretty good debate. In fact, this is the best performance of the three that he has had. But halfway through Chris Wallace asked the question.
Trump gives the answer about I'm not looking at it at the time, but he didn't basically promised to accept the results of the election, and I just said to myself and wrote, the other 89 minutes of this debate no longer matter because I knew what the media would do. Is that fair to just pick that one moment?
MCPIKE: Debates are always about moments. That was obviously a huge moment. And then Donald Trump did create a web for himself because he kind of waffled over the next couple days. But when he is making the case this election is rigged, not simply that the media are biased, but that the election is rigged, that is something that the media needs to cover.
And many organizations did, and then they went and they showed studies that show that voter fraud doesn't really have any bearing on the outcome of an election, which is an important thing. They took that case very seriously, which I think shows there is some thought into what Donald Trump says and how the media covers it.
KURTZ: All right, so the next day after the Las Vegas debate, Trump said, "of course I would accept a clear election result but I would also reserve my right to contest or file legal challenge in the case of a questionable result." Having said that, I don't think it would have been this controversy. What about the media making this about moments and there was that moment and for days, I mean, basically that's what we all heard about debated and so in every website in our country.
RIDDELL: Yeah, it was overblown. I mean, Donald Trump was a very reasonable response. If would have said it like he did the day afterwards that he did that night -- the hypocrisy with the media here is just unbelievable. Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine in 2012 wrote, "Yes, Bush v. Gore Did Steal the Election.
The media headline after that debate, "Trump Confirms He's a Threat to Democracy in Third Election." This is so ridiculous the fact that he's rigging this and his talk is bad. And this is just what the Democrats did in 2000 and in 2004in Ohio.
KURTZ: Well, is there a distinction here between Al Gore following a legal challenge over 500 disputed votes in Florida and Donald Trump saying in advance that the election is rigged (inaudible). Is there a distinction?
TRIPPI: Well, there is certainly a distinction, but beyond that, what's really amazing in terms of -- I think the coverage has been crazy on this for a different reason. If you go back and look at that transcript of what Chris Wallace asked, he didn't ask him on the follow-up about rigging.
He asked him about the principle and pride the country takes in the peaceful transfer of power and will you confirm your commitment to that? And that is what Trump said, "I'll leave you in suspense about. That isn't something we should roll our eyes at. That is what I think made that such an alarming statement.
RIDDELL: And so then (inaudible) that. Politico did an article, the New York Times did an article, talking about if Trump loses this election, the riots that are going to happen and how supporters might target the people that he has talked defensively about, the Latinos, the Muslims. This is all hyperbole. This is all kind of the...
KURTZ: No, it's worse -- and I'm glad you brought it up. It is worse than hyperbole. It is inflammatory to start talking about violence breaking out. Nobody can test Donald Trump's right to challenge a close result in one state that might tip the election. I mean, that's not really what we're debating here.
On the other hand, what do you think about arguably what we played at the top, Joe Scarborough saying, "You know, this is a bunch of media leaders up in arms about this issue. The average voter is not going to exercise over what's based or a process question especially when it involves a hypothetical result because we haven't actually voted yet except in early voting.
MCPIKE: I think he's absolutely right and I think the media could do a much better job actually going and surveying real voters about what they want to hear from the media and what they want to hear from the candidates because for the most part, with the exception of most of the last debate, that hasn't come out in the debates. It's been very personal throughout most of this coverage.
KURTZ: And since you raised that, Chris Wallace was widely injecting a lot of substance into this debate. I'll ask you each for one sentence on his performance. We're going to talk about this later in the program as well. I'll start with you, Erin.
MCPIKE: I think he was excellent. I think he showed that he has the most experience of any of these debate moderators. He's been doing this for decades and I think he should get a debate in four years, too.
RIDDELL: A true fair and balanced professional journalist. KURTZ: Joe?
TRIPPI: Usually when both sides complain about you, you know you're doing a good job as a journalist. He had both sides saying he did a good, fair job, which is like unheard of.
KURTZ: Yeah, even Howard Dean, the liberal Democrat praised Chris Wallace's handling of it. Before we go to break, "Saturday Night Live" taking on that third debate, Alec Baldwin again as Trump. Tom Hanks in the role of Chris Wallace, take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ALEC BALDWIN AS DONALD TRUMP: Every day I turn on the news and all of the newscasters are making me look so bad.
TOM HANKS, ACTOR: How are we doing that?
BALDWIN: By taking all of the things I say and all of the things I do and putting them on TV.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Of course, Trump last week saying that Alec Baldwin's portrayal stinks and "SNL" is doing a hit job and there were some funny stuff about Hillary but it was mostly about Trump. All right, don't forget to e-mail me, e-mail the show email@example.com. Ask a question and make a comment about the media, not a political rant. And @HowardKurtz on Twitter.
Ahead, Chris Wallace talks about his strategy in moderating the final presidential debate, but up next Ed Henry on the WikiLeaks disclosures and fresh evidence that some journalists were a little too cozy with the Clinton campaign.
KURTZ: A trickle of hacked e-mails from the Clinton campaign showing cozy relations with some journalist has turned into something of a flood. We spoke last week about John Harwood, CNBC's chief Washington correspondent disparaging Donald Trump and the Republicans in an e-mail to Clinton's campaign chairman John Podesta. A new note disclosed by WikiLeaks again by from Harwood to Podesta was sent the day that NBC's Chuck Todd pressed Hillary Clinton about her e-mail scandal on "Meet The Press."
It's titled simply amazing. "Amazing that some people still think it's worth burning so much interview time with person most likely to be next president on her e-mails." Joining us now is Ed Henry, Fox's chief national correspondent who's been covering the WikiLeaks story. So how much of a problem are those kinds of notes for John Harwood on CNBC?
ED HENRY, FOX NEWS CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Look, I love John Harwood a lot. I've always respected him as a journalist and a person, but this is embarrassing obviously in so much purely you were expecting pom-poms. You know, you guys are doing a great job and went beyond that. He sent them an e-mail of a file he had put together on Mike Huckabee questions.
Not some dirt file, but just, you know, these are the tough questions I prepared for Huckabee. Because remember, John Harwood did a debate, a Republican debate that he moderated as an umpire supposedly. And he's saying here's where Huckabee is vulnerable. He said, watch out for Ben Carson, he's doing pretty good. He might be tough against you guys in the general election.
KURTZ: He sounds like (inaudible) research.
HENRY: That sounds like you're on the team. It doesn't sound like you're a journalist and it shows that Donald Trump has a point. There are a lot of people in the mainstream media who have picked sides in this race. That's just a fact. It doesn't mean the election is rigged but it means there are a lot of people who are not impartial.
KURTZ: Let's got to some other example. Glenn Thrush, a top writer for Politico sent some sections of his story that haven't been published yet to John Podesta. He said he was trying to do some fact checking about Podesta's wealth (ph) in fund raising for the Clinton Campaign. Let's put up the e-mail that came out from Thrush to Podesta. "Because I have become a hack I will send you the whole section that pertains to you. Please don't share or tell anyone I did this. Tell me if f**ed (ph) up anything."
HENRY: Yeah, OK. So, to be fair to Glenn Thrush, I think he's a good reporter as well and I think...
KURTZ: I agree with that.
HENRY: ... we make phone calls, e-mails, reach out to people like John Podesta. He was doing his job, Glenn Thrush. Is this true? And by the way, it was not a puff piece by Hillary Clinton in this case. It was Hillary Clinton is doing a lot worse than Bernie Sanders months ago.
KURTZ: So he's fact checking.
HENRY: He's fact checking. However, then when you start -- you don't send your story. You do it over the phone maybe or characterize it to them in writing, but to say here's the story and I'm a hack, that raises eyebrows. By the way, I took a quick look, his five takeaways from the final debate - - Glenn Thrush, he does this all the time -- number one, Trump, worst mistake of his life.
Number two, Hillary Clinton, best debate of her career. Number three, Chris Wallace, so that's you know, in the middle. Four, Trump failed to have sustained attack. Five, self-delusion is not a strategy. Four out of five takeaways from the last debate, Donald Trump is awful. Donald Trump has a point. People are pounding him. He makes mistakes, yes, but are they fair?
KURTZ: Let me put up on the screen something that Glenn Thrush put on his Facebook page defending himself or saying, "I'm being trolled by Breitbart, Trump, alt-right mouth-breathers. It doesn't bug me, but these are angry gnomes who live in their parents' basements and can't get girls or boys to answer their 2 a.m. text. They don't really bother me but I have a high tolerance for" -- well I'm not going to read the message.
HENRY: I think Glenn had a point. I think some of the trolling of him was awful. People went overboard, but my point is when you look at his five takeaways from the last debate, did Hillary Clinton win the debate? Probably, but 90 to 1? No.
KURTZ: Let's move on to Mark Leibovich of the New York Times. A very respected reporter here in town. He reports on both sides. He got an off- the-record interview with Hillary Clinton, in fact, not easy to get any kind of interview with Hillary Clinton.
He then went back to the Clinton campaign and say can we put this on the record, which talks about Sarah Palin and moose stew or whatever. He has gotten hammered because some people are saying he gave the Clinton campaign veto power over what he was going to write.
HENRY: I don't know what all the particulars, but from that what you say, I think it was fair for Mark Leibovich to say, first of all, taken off the record session with Hillary Clinton. I've done that with President Obama and Hillary Clinton by the way because you get information from them. You learn more about them. Does it conflict you? Yes, sometimes.
I admit that you hear something off the record. You wish you could put it on the record. But he was doing his job. He was saying, could you put that on the record? He wasn't just lying down. And by the way, Juan Williams has been trolled from Fox for sending an e-mail to John Podesta saying, hey, I'd like to meet with you. And people are saying, you're on the Clinton camp.
KURTZ: No, it's called reporting.
HENRY: He's doing his job. He's reaching out to the campaign too. KURTZ: Well, Leibovich says that anytime a journalist meets with an off the record politician, you're giving them some veto power because you're promising not to use it and he says Trump for his part goes off the record with reporters all the time. Finally, Katie Couric, now with Yahoo was trying to get an interview with Hillary Clinton.
She sent a pitch about Yahoo's audience and he added, "I'd like to do a separate piece of business through social media along the lines of 10 things you don't know about Hillary Clinton that would showcase her personality and has a lot of viral potential.
HENRY: I would say for the most part, I would say, look, I'd be embarrassed too at reaching out to candidates and say, I really want an interview because look, you say positive things. You're not going to say, I hate the candidate, please give me an interview.
KURTZ: Yeah, and I'm going to make her look bad.
HENRY: Where she stepped, you know, wrong there though is to say, here's how I can showcase her personality. That's where this looks very cozy overall and in a lot of these cases, as a journalist, you're not there to showcase Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton's personality. You're there to ask to both tough questions, period.
KURTZ: I think the other one was OK. But good discussion with a guy that actually does report it. Thanks. Up next, Ivanka Trump and Melania Trump joining the campaign's complaints on media biased. And later, Chris Wallace reveals how he privately prepared for the Las Vegas debate.
KURTZ: Some of the women in Donald Trump's family have hopped on the bias bandwagon. Ivanka Trump, the candidate's usually unflappable daughter weighed in during a Fortune Women's forum saying the New York Times refused to use the campaign's information while pointing various random folks as saying they're boycotting Trump's properties and products.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
IVANKA TRUMP, DONALD TRUMP'S DAUGHTER: I think that the bias is very, very real, and I don't think I would have said this to you even a year ago. I've seen it too many times. It's tremendous. I think from a media perspective, it's very hard to get an accurate portrayal of who he is as a person. It's borderline impossible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Melania Trump spoke out on Fox and CNN this week saying that her husband's talk about groping women on that "Access Hollywood" tape was wrong, but that Billy Bush, now officially fired by NBC, egged him on.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MELANIA TRUMP, DONALD TRUMP'S WIFE: In one way it's hard because the press is very dishonest and it's a lot of lies that they have written also about me and my husband. And you need to defend yourself all the time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: The candidate's wife challenged the account of former People magazine writer Natasha Stoynoff who alleges that Trump accosted her after she interviewed the couple.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
M. TRUMP: Even the story that came out in People magazine. The writer, she said that my husband took her to the room and started kissing her. She wrote in the same story about me, that she saw me on Fifth Avenue and I said to her, Natasha, how come we don't see you anymore? I was never friends with her. I would not recognize her.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: But People this week quoted six people who said Stoynoff long ago confided in them about the alleged incident with Trump -- Donald Trump including one who said she was with the journalist during the chance encounter with Melania. This underscores the risk of a spouse getting drawn into the political fray. And speaking of bias, I'm not sure I've seen a more loathing example and when Trump campaign chief Kellyanne Conway was interviewed by MSNBC news anchor Stephanie Ruhle.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANIE RUHLE, MSNBC ANCHOR: How do you look at your kids when you go home at night?
KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I think that's unfair. I mean, I think that...
RUHLE: How is that unfair?
CONWAY: I get that from a lot of (inaudible).
RUHLE: I'm not going to let my kids watch the debate tonight. I don't let my kids watch Donald Trump in fear...
CONWAY: But then you watch Hillary Clinton.
RUHLE: ...in fear that he will say to women in the audience "you're fat."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Really, a news anchor is so disdainful to one of the nominee that she asked his campaign manager how do you face your kids. Wow. I had one reporter says reports of Donald Trump bombing at the Al Smith dinner were off the mark. But first, Fox's Chris Wallace on how he prepared for fight night in Las Vegas and whether he'd do it again.
KURTZ: Chris Wallace has been drawing rave reviews for his handling of the Las Vegas debate. Politico: "Chris Wallace did Fox proud." AP: "worked hard to keep the final presidential debate substantive with tough questions." USA Today: "Wallace put on a clinic on how to run a debate."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
WALLACE: Do you want to see the court overturn Roe v. Wade?
You also voted against a ban on late-term partial birth abortions. Why?
In a speech you gave to a Brazilian bank for which you were paid $225,000, we've learned from the WikiLeaks that you said this, and I want to quote, "my dream is a hemispheric common market with open trade and open borders.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
KURTZ: I sat then earlier with the host of "Fox News Sunday."
KURTZ: Chris Wallace, welcome.
WALLACE: Good to be back.
KURTZ: You could have started the debate with a hot cable news story, nine women making accusations against Donald Trump, WikiLeaks' disclosures against Hillary Clinton. You chose to start with the Supreme Court, you moved on to gun control and abortion. Why?
WALLACE: Absolutely consciously. I thought that this campaign and the previous debates had become so mired in all the muck, which those are legitimate issues if I knew I was going to have to discuss them, but I felt hungry and I thought the country was hungry to discuss the issues that a president has to deal with after a campaign is over.
Appointing Supreme Court justices, immigration, how you get the economy growing again, and so I very consciously decided let's start with serious stuff and you know, I didn't want to spend the first 10 or 15 minutes talking about scandal.
KURTZ: Well, it certainly set a substantive tone. When you asked what turned out to be the question of the debate, were you -- would Donald Trump promise to abide by the election results -- were you prepared for him to say he might not? Did you have a follow-up ready to go?
WALLACE: I didn't have a follow-up ready to go, but I certainly was prepared for that possibility, you know, having covered Trump and this campaign for 15 months or whatever it is now, there's nothing he can say or do that surprises me. So, look, it was an obvious question to ask. He had been saying for weeks that the election was rigged, that...
KURTZ: You had to ask it.
WALLACE: Yes -- that it was in the process of being stolen and his campaign -- his running mate, Mike Pence, had said on Sunday that Trump and he would absolutely respect the results of the election, but Trump hadn't said that so it was an obvious question to ask. I will say even though I was prepared for the possibility he would not, you know, he would say he wouldn't respect it, I was still a little stunned, as I think the audience was at the moment, and that wasn't a prepared follow-up. That was just, this is a big moment.
Here is a candidate -- we're not talking about Gore and 500 votes in Florida. We're talking about a candidate weeks before the election saying, I'm not prepared to accept the results. I'm not committing to accept the results, and I wanted to put that in the historical context of saying, this is one of the tenets and the strengths of our democracy and you're willing to go against that, and it had a resonance.
KURTZ: It seemed at times you were struggling to maintain control in Las Vegas including your declaration that you were not a potted plant and on other times you broke in, you interrupted Hillary Clinton when she was reciting the virtues of the Clinton Foundation and not answering your question about conflicts at the family foundation. So, how would you make those judgments -- how did it feel?
WALLACE: Well, that was the real revelation and I'll take you back behind the scenes a little bit. We had done run-throughs on Tuesday and Wednesday before the Wednesday night debate with a couple of students -- young woman as Hillary Clinton, a young man, a student, as Trump -- and one of the questions on Tuesday was favorite pizza.
One of the questions on Wednesday was favorite movie, but the point was -- and they had clearly been instructed to come at me, to interrupt each other. I understood that a lot of this was going to be me having to make decisions on the fly, instinctual decisions on the fly. Do you jump in or do you let it play, and that that was going to be very challenging.
KURTZ: On that point -- on that point, did you struggle, first of all, with how to phrase the question to Donald Trump about the nine accusers talking about groping and unwanted sexual attention, not to get too salacious and also, when he kind of dismissed it by saying the stories had been largely debunked, did you think about challenging that?
WALLACE: Well, in terms of the phrasing of the question, no, I didn't struggle with that at all. It was a straightforward question and there was a right way to ask it. I also thought because this was the beginning of a segment, so this is where each one is going to get two minutes, that, one, I couldn't interrupt there. That was their two minutes. And two, I needed to have a part of that question for Hillary Clinton so that she wouldn't just have two minutes to bash Trump.
And so I put in the thing about, and he says that what you and your husband have done is worse. I will say asking that in the moment with Melania Trump over this shoulder and Bill and Chelsea over this shoulder was harder than I thought it was going to be. It was like, oh, my gosh, I'm asking this in front of these people, you know, we're pretty tough and grizzled, but there are moments when you sit there and go, I didn't quite know this was going to play out this way.
KURTZ: There is a human element to this. Let me ask you about that sequence.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Why would so many different women from so many different circumstances over so many different years, why would they all in the last couple weeks make up -- you deny this -- why would they all make up these stories, and since this is a question for both of you, Secretary Clinton, Mr. Trump says what your husband did and that you defended was even worse. Mr. Trump, you go first.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: So, Hillary came back and used her time to talk about Donald Trump and women and never answered the part of the question about Bill Clinton's misconduct or in her defense of his handling. Do you think in retrospect that you dropped the ball by not going back to that?
WALLACE: In asking Trump more about it?
KURTZ: No, asking Hillary Clinton to respond to the other part of the question.
WALLACE: No, no. I thought, you know, that was -- this gets to the whole question of what the moderator's role is. You know, you ask a question, and they handle it. And if Trump wanted to go back on her, it would have been very easy for him to do. I also had a lot of material. They throw a lot of scandal, I mean, I wanted to get to the Clinton Foundation.
I wanted to get to the question in that same segment about whether he would honor the results, respect the results of the election. I wanted to talk about e-mails and didn't even get to that. So I was -- if Trump wanted to do it, he could do it, and if he didn't, I was ready to move on. I had more ammo.
KURTZ: You have gotten a lot of praise for this debate in Las Vegas, well deserved, in my view.
WALLACE: Thank you.
KURTZ: Do you think you changed some minds about the new side of Fox News, especially among those who thought it would be a conservative approach to this debate?
WALLACE: Look, I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel I had a lot at stake and that certainly added to the pressure or started the pressure, but I also very much felt all along that I was not just representing myself, but I was representing this news organization. The fact that I was the first Fox moderator was a big deal, and a statement by something like the Commission on Presidential Debates, a blue ribbon panel, that they thought Fox was a legitimate news organization.
I was a legitimate journalist and I very much -- and I felt this keenly wanted to represent the organization well and to say to any doubters, forget about it. We covered the news. It is strong and I know this will drive you nuts, as fair and balanced the way as anybody else does.
KURTZ: We're out of time, but want to do it again in four years?
WALLACE: Well, if you'd ask me -- it's funny. I've thought about it. If you'd asked me about two hours before, I would have said, lose my telephone number. Now, yeah, you bet. It was fun.
KURTZ: Chris Wallace, thank you for sitting down with us.
WALLACE: You bet.
KURTZ: He didn't duck that question. Coming up, did Hillary Clinton's weaker moments at the Las Vegas debate draw much coverage? And later, CNN's new owner could be a phone company. A look at AT&T's planned takeover of Time Warner.
KURTZ: Did Donald Trump's big problem with the Las Vegas debate blot out some of Hillary Clinton's weaker moments. We're back with the panel. Kelly Riddell, Chris Wallace asked Hillary Clinton about her support for late- term abortions, a question you always never get from the mainstream media.
RIDDELL: Yeah, I mean, and it was -- some crowds don't like to defend their position on partial birth abortions for the big point that 80 percent of Americans do not believe in late-term abortions and partial birth abortions are either legal. It's something that the mainstream media never asks. It's an important difference between the Republican and Democratic platform, and I thought it was an excellent question.
KURTZ: Joe Trippi, Wallace also pressed the former secretary of state about the Clinton Foundation and the WikiLeaks disclosures and particularly her speech where she talked about open borders. And then she pivoted as she has done many times on the trail to saying, well, we shouldn't let Russians hackers we presume to be behind these WikiLeaks hacked e-mails influence our elections. Where are the stories saying that she and her team are dodging these questions by always turning it into a story about the Russians?
TRIPPI: Well, first of all, she did it in front of everybody in a nationally televised debate with millions of people watching.
KURTZ: So it's no secret.
TRIPPI: Right. And I think the second thing is something Chris Wallace said in your interview. Trump should have come back and challenged her on these things, and he just doesn't do it. He goes back into defending himself and actually starts to create the news stories that we're talking about today. I understand the reality, but Trump kind of helps it happen.
KURTZ: Erin McPike, Hillary Clinton has kind of disappeared for days before the debates and in other times when there is a huge Trump controversy raging, I'm sure that is a strategy, but it doesn't really draw much press good news (ph) because the press would rather be reporting on Donald Trump because they think he's a juicier story and many don't like him very much?
MCPIKE: Well, sure, and the media certainly has moved on to Trump in large part because he is a hotter story. Now, I would point out that she and Tim Kaine did take questions on her campaign plane last night, but again, when she was asked about WikiLeaks and asked about the Clinton Foundation, she dodged that again. Now, I will say if she does become president, questions about the Clinton Foundation are going to dog her at every decision her administration makes with respect to any foreign government or any foreign entanglement that she has.
KURTZ: All the prognosticator I mean, just move on to this in the time remaining, they say look at the map and they say Hillary Clinton could win well over 270 electoral votes, maybe over 350. And Kellyanne Conway, the Trump campaign manager said on "Fox News Sunday" this morning, "well, this is the same chattering classes that's been wrong about Donald Trump for the last year and a half." Is that a fair point even when the polls seem to indicate she has a substantial lead.
RIDDELL: Reporting on the polls in a horse race is always going to happen, and so that's a reporter's job. However, there might be this boomerang effect. Things have been so over the top with Trump and now there are stories about Clinton and who she's going to name in her cabinet and if she expects a blowup race. It could come back and hit them in the face...
RIDDELL: ...in the fact that they're over confident and it looks arrogant.
KURTZ: Candid answer from you. Are we at the point where the press doesn't want to be too aggressive with Hillary Clinton because journalist expect her to win and don't want to antagonize the possible next president and her aides?
TRIPPI: I think -- I don't think that. I think they're still trying -- your question is a good one because I think people are sort of conflicted with trying to report what accurately that this thing looks like it could be a blowout. And at the other tide (ph) do not want voters out there and want to not shut off that there is some kind of race going on.
KURTZ: We have to be really careful, polls or no polls, about declaring a race to be over. Final thought, Erin?
MCPIKE: Look, I don't think that we know what's going on in the down ballot races at all. The only coverage that we're seeing is Republicans facing this litmus test of will they support Donald Trump or are they going to write in Mike Pence instead? Otherwise, we have no idea what any of these candidates are campaigning on and that's a problem because voters still need to go to the ballots to choose their senators, to choose their mayors, to choose their governors in addition to the president.
KURTZ: The hell raisers (ph) need some attention too and the journalist ought to be a little careful since given our track record in this campaign. Erin McPike, Kelly Riddell, Joe Trippy, thanks very much for stopping by this Sunday.
After the break, Donald Trump got booed by the press as well as the audience at the Al Smith dinner. One journalist in the crowd says there is more to the story.
KURTZ: The media got another opportunity to bash Donald Trump at New York's Al Smith dinner when he and Hillary Clinton was supposed to tell self- deprecating jokes and some of his didn't go over that well.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
D. TRUMP: Hillary believes that it's vital to deceive the people by having one public policy and a totally different policy in private. That's okay. I don't know who they're angrier at, Hillary, you or I. For example, here she is tonight in public pretending not to hate Catholics.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Well, Hillary Clinton drew some boos as well. One reporter who's there has a different take on the mainstream media. Joe Concha, media reporter for "The Hill" joins us from New York. So, the media just actually creamed Trump for telling overly harsh jokes in their view at the Al Smith dinner, how did you see it?
JOE CONCHA, THE HILL MEDIA REPORTER: I saw it a little bit differently, Howie. I was on the ground there and look, Donald Trump got booed and it was no question. You just saw it on that clip. You can't deny the vitriol and the volume was much higher, but Hillary Clinton according to my notes was booed on two occasions. The Guardian reported the same thing. USA Today did as well. They are the lone exceptions.
The media myopia over Trump the next day was over how he got booed out of the room and Hillary Clinton did a fine job. No, not the case at all. She was just as personal and nasty on some occasions. The difference is that Trump is polling at 18 percent in New York City. I would imagine that's 0.8 percent among the New York elites and therefore it was a hostile room from the beginning. As we saw, he couldn't even get off the punch line in that last joke because obviously it probably wasn't very well received going in.
KURTZ: Probably not the most representative crowd of New York media elite. All right, so we've talked earlier on the program about Chris Wallace as the moderator of the third and final debate. How would you assess his performance when you have seen all the debates and the other moderators as well?
CONCHA: I'm usually not a big fan of conformity, Howie, but in this case, from the Washington Times to the New York Times, from the Huffington Post to the Washington Post and, of course, The Hill, we saw that Chris Wallace did easily the best job as a debate moderator. And let me tell you why, I saw it five minutes in. He didn't fact check the way we saw fact checking done in the past.
Instead, he did something called pivoting. Donald Trump was talking about immigration and Hillary Clinton having basically the same platform as far as building a wall on the southern border and he said, all right Mr. Trump, let me stop you there for a second and let me get Secretary Clinton in. Secretary Clinton, is that how you saw it? That's how you fact check Howie.
And finally, he brought up topics that were relevant to this election season that we didn't hear in the first 270 minutes of debate in the presidential debates and the vice presidential debate. We saw the first question on the Supreme Court. We saw questions on immigration. We saw questions on abortion and late-term abortion...
KURTZ: Let me jump in for just a second.
CONCHA: ... where you can't find a bigger contrast between the two candidates and then obviously fiscal policy.
KURTZ: Some of the reactions were like, hey, the Fox guy was fair. Should people have been surprised? He's moderated other debates with his fox colleagues.
CONCHA: If the saw the primary debates, you would see that he was just as tough on Donald Trump than anybody. He was the one that used graphics to fact check him in one of the primary debates, remember. So he's got 50 years in this business and they weren't paying attention if they thought he would be biased going in.
KURTZ: All right, so over the weekend breaking news, AT&T agreeing to buy Time Warner for $85 billion. The federal regulators approved. CNN, part of Time Warner, how would it change CNN to be owned by a giant phone company? This is an organization that spends a lot of money on international news gathering.
CONCHA: Absolutely. Well, AT&T -- they're my service provider for instance, and what they have are the pipes to get to the end point. This is an end point. An you could stream content -- exclusive content now. That's not what AT&T had. Not just CNN but Warner Brothers, HBO, TBS, TNT. But here is the thing about this where I think if Donald Trump is elected they're going to run into a lot of trouble because he opposes it and maybe this is why.
The FCC commissioner that approved the NBC -- I'm sorry -- the Comcast acquisition of NBC Universal was Meredith Baker. She then four months later went to work for Comcast as a lobbyist. So, when we hear about a narrative around a rigged system, I have a feeling Donald Trump -- if this story gets bigger will bring up that exact point that the FCC commissioner that approved an NBC Universe Comcast deal then went to work for Comcast four months later, a whole bowl of wrong.
KURTZ: Yeah, all right. News gathering is expensive so we'll see if this deal goes through whether there are changes a CNN. Joe Concha, good to see you.
CONCHA: Go Cubs.
KURTZ: And still to come -- a little Cubs reference in there -- what some anti-Trump pundits are saying about the GOP nominee is, well, crazy.
KURTZ: Donald Trump has had a rough couple weeks but some of the rhetoric from the anti-Trump pundits is getting out of control. Here is CNN contributor and one-time Watergate sleuth, Carl Bernstein.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It means, I think, that he is setting himself up as the head of, again I'm going to go back to that neo-fascist term of a real neo-fascist movement and media empire with the people from Breitbart.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Neo-fascist, really? He's the next Mussolini? And we don't even know he's planning this media empire. Michael Moore is a liberal bomb thrower, sure, but even by his standards this is low. The filmmaker told "Rolling Stone" that Trump voters -- that's tens of millions if people -- amount to legal terrorists and added this, "You have to protect the population from Trump like you do with a pedophile."
I'm sorry. That is pathetic. And Slate's William Saletan plunges (ph) into psychiatric diagnosis, "Donald Trump is mentally ill. After 16 months of campaigning and three general election debates, that has become all too clear. Trump sees himself as the victim of a web of conspiracies encompassing House Speaker Paul Ryan, the FBI, the CIA, and the Iraqi military."
OK, they can't stand Trump, fine, I get it. But some of this over the top plot is making some of the pundit's lool like they've taken leave of their senses.
That's it for this edition of "MediaBuzz." I'm Howard Kurtz. We hope you will like our Facebook page. Check it out. We post a lot of original content there. We respond to your questions on video. It's calle "Your Buzz," the firstname.lastname@example.org. Stick to the media. Continue the conversation on twitter @HowardKurtz.
You know, just back from Las Vegas and four debates total and a lot of journalists are saying to me, when is this thing going to be over? We are so tired. But on the other hand, this is the most fascinating and craziest campaign any of us have ever covered. So that gives us the energy to go and keep on doing it. We hope you'll keep on coming back here. We are back here next Sunday 11:00 eastern with the latest buzz.
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