CIA leak: Russia favored Trump

Wash. Post says hacker spared GOP


This is a rush transcript from "Media Buzz," December 11, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: Bombshell Washington Post report that the CIA believes the Russian government used hackers to deliver to try to have Donald Trump win the White House. But the president-elect in a new interview dismissing that story as partisan.


PRESIDENT-ELECT DONALD TRUMP: I think it's ridiculous. I think it's just another excuse. I don't believe it.


KURTZ: Why Barack Obama, CIA, and some members of Congress leaking this now. Trump riles up the media by tweeting criticism of companies and castigating a union official sparking charges of cyber bullying.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. Trump you tweeted this morning about cancelling the contract for the new Air Force One. Is that something you're serious about trying to do? TRUMP: Well, the plane is totally out of control. It's going to be over $4 billion for Air Force One program, and I think it's ridiculous. I think Boeing is doing a little bit of a number.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Trump is also a master of the spectacle making dramatic announcements. Last week it was a deal to save 1,000 jobs at the Carrier plant out in Indiana. Well, today he tweeted his threat to cancel a deal with Boeing.

JULIE ROGINSKY, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Boy, I got to tell you, if this were a democrat doing, people would be screaming about the president. You know you would about taking winners and losers and going after some companies who are rewarding others.


KURTZ: Is the Beltway press just offended by Trump's street fighting style? Newt Gingrich, a top adviser joins our discussion.

Fake news sees the center stage as critics question some tweets by a Trump appointee and his son who is dropped from the transition team, and an armed man firing shots in a Washington pizzeria at the center of conspiracy theory.


DAVID MUIR, ABC NEWS: The terrifying moment authorities say a man with an AR-15 opening fire after police say he showed up at a family pizza joint after reading a fake news story around the election.

LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC NEWS: Fake news is now on the verge of getting someone killed. That's what almost happened this weekend in Washington at a pizza restaurant.

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS: So what exactly is fake news and who practices it?

BILL MCMORRIS, WASHINGTON FREE BEACON: Fake news is whatever people living in the liberal bubble determine to be believed by the right.


KURTZ: So how dangerous are bogus news stories and is there any way to stop them. Plus, is ESPN biased to the left? Its own internal watchdog cries foul. I'm Howard Kurtz and this is "MediaBuzz."

Here is what's fascinating about the Washington Post scoop on the secret CIA assessment that Obama administration officials quoted anonymously of course said that Russians hacked into RNC as well as the DNC but held back the Republican e-mails so that's a matter of dispute. But the administration waited going public during the campaign but thought it was a blatant attempt to hack Hillary Clinton.

And in a bipartisan briefing on the Hill about fears of hacking at the polls, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell raised doubts about the intelligence and said he would consider any public White House challenge of the Russians and after partisan politics. And as is often the case in (inaudible) ambiguities in what the CIA found.

The Trump camp said in a statement, "These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history.

Joining us now to analyze the coverage of this breaking story and the Trump transition, Erin McPIke, political commentator and former reporter for RealClearPolitics, Amy Holmes, senior political analyst for Rasmussen Reports, and Ruth Marcus, columnist and deputy editorial page editor at the Washington Post.

Erin, the story was leaked to the Washington Post and the New York Times by Obama administration officials and some members of Congress. If this is so important, why not go public rather than using anonymous sources?

ERIN MCPIKE, POLITICAL COMMETNATOR: Well, obviously it was leaked because these administration officials did not want to become big media targets and get the kind of criticism that James Comey did in October when he resurfaced the investigation into the Clinton e-mails.

KURTZ: So they were hiding behind anonymity to protect themselves from criticism?

MCPIKE: Absolutely.

KURTZ: I'm shocked to hear that. Let me play a sound bite for you from a Chris Wallace's interview with Donald Trump that aired this morning on this very subject. Let's roll it out.


CHRSI WALLACE, FOX NEWS: So why would the CIA put out a story that the Russian wanted you to win?

TRUMP: Well, I'm not sure that they put it out. I think the Democrats are putting it out because they suffered one of the greatest defeats in the history of politics in this country.


KURTZ: So it's (inaudible) the coverage are already turning partisan and Democrats want an investigation. Some Republicans are deflecting that. Liberal commentators are saying Trump publicly dissed the CIA and how is he going to look with this intelligence agencies (inaudible).

AMY HOLMES, RASMUSSEN REPORTS: Well, I'd appreciate president-elect Donald Trump's caution in who put it out. Was it the CIA or you know, a disgruntled employee who didn't like the outcome of the election, and I do think that it's important to investigate just exactly what happened here. This have to do with our national security and it also have to do of course with the integrity of our electoral process, of course because it's Washington immediately it becomes partisan.

KURTZ: Now, Trump says, you know, these are the same folks that brought you Saddam's WMD though the CIA is on a different management other than the Bush years but shouldn't the press be skeptical about these CIA findings which are not 100 percent solid, sometime conflict the FBI findings?

RUTH MARCUS, THE WASHINGTON POST: Everybody should be skeptical. The president-elect is correct about the folks that brought you WMD. They are also the folks who brought us a lot of intelligence much of which we don't know about that has prevented a lot of terrorists attacks in the future. I mean yes, wonder how exactly they now ask a lot of questions.

We failed to do that in any of us the media about WMD. But I'm very disturbed about the president-elect kind of instinctive reaction, you know, these are the people, I don't trust them, I'm not hearing anything interesting from them so I don't have to go to daily briefing. He needs to work with them and I think it really would (inaudible) to recognize that a lot of these people are incredibly hardworking, non-partisan professionals, not people who are out to get Donald Trump.

KURTZ: Sure. But they also sometimes get things wrong and this is tough.

MARCUS: They do get things wrong but you can't -- I don't think that the president-elect should -- he should say what's your basis for believing that.


MARCUS: He shouldn't just assume it's the fact guy in New Jersey.

KURTZ: In a related story as newscaster say Amy, news organizations reporting that Trump is expected to pay, I guess secretary of state, Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson who's been friendly with Vladimir Putin for two decades and has business experience at least in Russia and other parts around the world. The media reaction has been, what, a business man with no political experience?

HOLMES: Right, a business man who just became elected president of the United States without prior political experience. You know I read one analysis that really struck me which is all of this pile on throughout the entire process of president-elect Donald Trump choosing his cabinet members.

I think the media is, you know, they're using up all their ammo now and the public, and we've see this at Rasmussen Reports, don't trust the media. They could lose a constant barrage of criticism of Donald Trump. They've seen bias throughout this election process.

KURTZ: When you say using up all their ammo, are you suggesting the press should (ph) take a good hard look at the records of people --

HOLMES: Well, certainly -- right, but you know, the focus on he's had dealings with Russia. Well, as the CEO of Exxon Mobil, he had dealings all around the world which is presumably one of the reasons why president-elect Donald Trump is thinking of choosing him.

KURTZ: Politico has a headline this morning, "Lawmakers Alarmed, Exxon Chief Could Empower Putin." John McCain and Lindsey Graham quote, "likely to oppose Tillerson" accord to sources from the way they were thinking. So, it seems like the, again, the political battle lines are being drawn in these media accounts.

MARCUS: Well, but I think that I saw a statement from them to this effect. I maybe wrong about that, but you're clearly seeing not just left-right divisions but right-right divisions and understandably so.

I am not taking anything away from Donald Trump's victory but these reports which strike me as credible and though, you know, as you pointed out, should be questioned and prodded about the Russia interference and what Tillerson's close relationship with Vladimir Putin, at the very least deserve questioning and scrutiny and that's what confirmation hearings are for.

And if there are Republicans senators who concerns about it, good for them for doing their advising consent jobs.

KURTZ: Doing their job. Yes, let me move on --

MCIKE: People in Washington just don't have much of a familiarity with Rex Tillerson and that's going to be really interesting once we finally see him operate.

KURTZ: You know, it's funny because we knew Rudy who, you know, was clear for some time he wasn't going to get it. He said he was (inaudible) no Romney and why was Romney considered, but you know, Tillerson is a not a household name even to political journalists here in Washington.

All right, so let's go to some of Trump's tweets -- it would take about an hour and a half I think to do this. One of them that got a lot of attention had to do is the fallout from the Carriers air condition deal saving some hundreds of jobs that would otherwise have gone to Mexico and essential tax breaks.

And there was some criticism from the local steel workers union president, Chuck Jones, in Indiana who first told the Washington Post Trump was, I guess I can say this, lying his ass off was the quote. And then he went on CNN and said this.


CHUCK JONES, PRESIDENT, UNITED STEELWORKERS LOCAL 1999: So, those folks probably had to think, OK, I'm keeping my job only to find out last Friday, well, no, there's 550 being laid off. Now that never was mentioned by anybody. Trump didn't answer any of them. Never mentioned about 550 and moving them out of Mexico.


KURTZ: So here's the Trump tweet, "Chuck Jones, who is president of United Steelworkers 1999, has done a terrible job representing workers. No wonder companies flee country. And that led to a New York Times headlines there and it said, "Trump as Cyberbully in Chief? Twitter Attack on Union Boss Draws Fire."

MCPIKE: Yes, he's a private citizen and the point that they're making is that Trump is going after private citizens --

KURTZ: Firs of all, he's not entirely private citizen as a union official. Second of all, and you know, I understand the criticism of Trump singling people out and (inaudible). He was responding to criticism by a guy who called him a liar.

MCPIKE: Well, they are -- they're criticizing each other. They both have the right to free speech so I guess have at it.

HOLMES: Listen, Chuck Jones is not a private citizen. He is a labor Union organizer. He was elected to this position. He and made his remarks in a public forum. And if anything, Trump's tweet about Mr. Jones elevated his issue, elevated his position and he wrote an entire op-ed it for the "Washington Post."

I understand where, you know, having the attention of the president of the United States could be intimidating particularly on Twitter when there are also twitter followers who maybe following up with some very vicious types of attacks.

MARCUS: Yes. I think the Jones tweet was provocative, but then you have the bully pulpit and a huge twitter account that is a big set of ammunition and it needs to be used wisely. I'm not as troubled about its use in this situation, as I am about its use against for example the Washington Post had a story this week about a young woman who spoke up at a Trump rally questioning him pretty strongly, but not inappropriately.

And he went after her and it produced threats and death threats and all sorts of harassments. H needs to be careful about that now that he is in the bully pulpit.

HOLMES: I would say he needs to be careful, but also the media. There is a big spoonful of hypocrisy when it comes to this. When president Obama in 2012 is running against Mitt Romney, his campaign singled out private donors to Mitt Romney, eight of them for public disparagement and accusing them of all sorts of things. You did not hear the media saying that president Obama is now the bully in chief.

KURTZ: Well, I think the press is just simply not accustomed to Trump's street fighting style and this is -- we saw this all during the campaign, we're seeing it again. Just briefly, Wall Street Journal columnist Dan Henninger says, "this is Trump as performance artist." He even compared him to Lady Gaga.


MCPIKE: Yes. You know, I do think that this is going look a lot different once Donald Trump is sworn in as president. We did hear from Kellyanne Conway just last week as we discussed and she said that Trump's tweets will be between him and the Secret Service. This is going to look a lot different.

KURTZ: Well, Donald Trump is now Time's person of the year as you know, let's put that up. The headlines say he is now will be in charge of the divided states of America. But let's look at the last two Time covers before this honor was bestowed, and Time pretty much had to do this.

It was the orange face and then meltdown and then complete meltdown. I guess the news took a little bit of a different turn for the Time magazine editors. All right, let us know what you think,,questions or comments about the media.

Ahead, Chris Wallace on what it's like on his lengthy interview with the president-elect, but when we come back, fake news gets caught up in the media debate over Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.



LESTER HOLT, NBC HOST: Inside of the fake internet news story that led a gunman to to open fire at a pizza shop. How a wild conspiracy theory spread with help even from president-elect Trump's national security adviser.


KURTZ: NBC's Lester Holt after a frightening incident at Comet Ping Pong prompted by an online conspiracy theory that the pizzeria here in Washington is conducting a sex slave operation led by Hillary Clinton. And MSNBC's (inaudible) said, "so, General Flynn truly does not feel guilty tonight. The men, women and children of Washington, D.C. almost got killed because of the kind of stuff he tweets." That was wrong.

It was not the incoming national security adviser General Michael Flynn. It was his son who is also Michael Flynn. Both NBC and MSNBC updated the information but didn't issue any kind of retraction, Amy, saying that we got this wrong and we're sorry about what we said about General Flynn.

HOLMES: Right, ironically in a story about fake news, putting out fake news. This seems to be the current meme that was elevated by Hillary Clinton when she was giving a speech about it here in Washington, D.C. But I would submit that fake news has been spread by humans as long as we're living in groups.

And I remember very vividly in 2008 when a Hillary Clinton operative, very well-known, told me directly that video was going to be coming out of Michelle Obama using a very ugly term to describe white people and wanting me to put that out into the media atmosphere. I didn't take the bait. Fake news has been with us a very long time.

MARCUS: But there's always been fake news and there's always been gossip that people are trying to get out there. But there's a difference here. Now fake news has a business model where people are making money from it and fake news has followers in which people get that information and they're not exposed to other pieces of information.

And just one data point on Mike Flynn, the general. He did tweet out a fake news story about an allegedly different child sex ring that Hillary Clinton was involved in.


KURTZ: -- but not to mix him up on this one. But now, you know, Hillary Clinton did give a speech on the Senate floor when she took on fake news. She didn't say that's why she lost -- some people voted that way, but at the same time, there is fake news a lot of the focus has been on stories that help Trump. There is fake news from the left as well. This is a big problem and people make money off of it on Facebook in particular.

MCPIKE: Yes, and to that point and to your point, Ruth, we did see after the election that donations to nonprofits organizations that focus on investigative journalism have really increased. It maybe that there needs to be another foundation that investigates fake news so that we can actually discern between the two.

KURTZ: Well, the challenge here is not just investigating fake news but what social media giants like Facebook are going to do about it without getting into censorship or biased judgments. Let me close out here by talking about "Celebrity Apprentice" because when it was disclosed that Donald Trump will retain the title of executive producer I don't think it was that big a deal. He started the franchise but man, the media went kind of crazy about it.

MCPIKE: Yes, they did because they wondered if it will influence NBC's coverage of him in some way. But what we're seeing is that it's really an issue of royalties for Donald Trump more than anything.

HOLMES: That's right. I think that a lot of this was the media actually not understanding what the title executive producer means. It doesn't mean that he's going to be in an editing suite. It's that he's going to be choosing contestants or any of those. It's collecting royalties. President Obama is still collecting royalties from his --

KURTZ: Trump tweeted that he was spending zero time on this. Not clear whether he'll be paid but obviously still owns a part of that franchise. But then he tweeted this, "Reports by CNN that I'll be working on "The Apprentice" during my presidency even part time are ridiculous and untrue." Fake news is the title of that. I don't know why he blames CNN. The story was broken by "Variety" and then lots of news organization did. I guess he was watching CNN.

MARCUS: Well, this is a trend that I'm watching, which is the conflation of news that you don't like, news reports that might even be inaccurate with deliberately fake news. There is a difference. Journalism is a flawed business. We do the first rough draft of history, sometimes we get it wrong, but we don't deliberately get it wrong. The trolls out there who are generating fake news are deliberately get it wrong for either ideological or financial reasons for him and others to be comparing us is unhealthy for democracy.

KURTZ: I think this is a really important point to close on because there are a lot of flaws in the mainstream media, biased distortion, getting around sensationalism that is just in a different level than people who basically do this knowing it's wrong in order to make money. Ruth Marcus thanks, Amy Holmes and Erin McPike. Great to see you.

Ahead, Newt Gingrich on coverage of the Trump transition and how thinks the new president should beat the press. But first, Chris Wallace and his take away on his exclusive sit down with Donald Trump.


KURTZ: My colleague Chris Wallace secured the exclusive Trump interview on "Fox News Sunday" flying around in a plane and I sat down with him just moments ago.


KURTZ: Chris Wallace, welcome.

WALLACE: Good to be with you.

KURTZ: Donald Trump was dismissive about the CIA finding that Russia hackers tried to help him win the presidency blaming on Democratic partisanship. You did not seem to get a clear answer when you asked him how would he work with the CIA and other intelligence agencies fter being so dismissive.

WALLACE: Well, it was an obvious question because he's going to have to rely on these people to tell him what's going on in the world. He had two answers. One is he said I'm going to have my people in charge and not their people and clearly he thinks a lot of this as partisan. I also thought it was fascinating when I asked him about the presidential daily brief.

It's called the daily brief because he gets it every day. He's getting about one a week. And I said why aren't you getting it every day and he said, "because I don't want to hear the same thing over and over again." That's an interesting answer. I think I was (ph) surprise of that.

KURTZ: You asked about his nominees of EPA, HSS, labor, education being diametrically opposed to what those departments and agencies have been doing for the last eight years. But when you suggested perhaps he's trying to take a wrecking ball to the Obama legacy, he wouldn't embrace that. He didn't take the bait.

WALLACE: No. That was a bit of bait I threw out there. But interestingly, what he's basically saying is that this is not just a wholesale chain. It's a course correction. Best example I thought was the EPA. He had said at one point, look, if there's something that's bad, we still are going to block it from -- if it's going to hurt the environment.

But we don't want all of these regulations, all of this red tape that keeps us going from 10 years and then we end up disapproving it any ways. So, I want to speed up the process.

KURTZ: Right, and he said again he'd be open-minded on climate change. You've interviewed him a number of times especially during this long campaign. Did you find him to be different perhaps a little more cautious than the bombastic Donald Trump we saw during the campaign?

WALLACE: No, I thought he was very much Donald Trump. The thing that impressed me was that, I mean he's always comfortable in his own skin but now he was comfortable being the president-elect. I mean there's no sense at all that he has any doubts about his ability to do the job.

Even when we were at the Army and Navy game and I pointed out to him, I mean, these are young men and woman you could be sending into war in a year or so, and he was basically saying, look I don't want to do that. It's not what it's about, but I am ready and prepared to be the commander-in- chief.

KURTZ: Very revealing interview. Chris Wallace, thanks very much.

WALLACE: You bet.


KURTZ: And you can see Chris' whole interview here on FNC, 2:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. eastern. It's worth a look.

Ahead on "MediaBuzz", Dan Abrams on the dilemma of really, really fake news. But up next, Newt Gingrich on why Donald Trump should get his message without the White House press corp.


KURTZ: As the covers of the Trump transition turns to more critical, I sat down with one of his outside advisers, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Fox News contributor and author of the new novel "Treason" about terrorist plot against Washington.


KURTZ: Newt Gingrich, welcome.

NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: Good to be here with you.

KURTZ: The press often seemed stunned that Donald Trump is tweeting about the Boeing contract, companies moving jobs to Mexico. He's even been accused of cyberbullying for tweeting about a local steelworker union official who took him on over the Carrier deal. Does the media have a point that Trump is picking too many fights publicly?

GINGRICH: Well, I would think so except it seems to work for him. You know, he is such a unique character that it's a little hard to second guess him because he just continues to evolve in ways that you cannot quite imagine.

KURTZ: I hear you saying I wouldn't do it but.

GINGRICH: Well, I mean, I would probably not do it because I'm more timid than he is. But also I'm not the showman he is. He has something going with about 50 or 55 percent of the American people that is really working. I mean they feel like they know him. They like him. He gives them something to talk about.

KURTZ: He gives the media something to talk about.

GINGRICH: Well, and he also understands the Reagan rule that if you don't give the media ar rabbit to chase, they will invent one. So you're much more after it and if they want to chase arguing over a local steelworker union guy, who took a position that's pretty hard to defend frankly, why not. They need something other day.


GINGRICH: And I think (inaudible) Trump's theory in life is, if he can eat up enough days on his terms, it's called winning.

KURTZ: Interesting. I guess the other 45 percent will see if he can win them over. You said the other day that New York Times is fake news. We got your sound bite but even if in your view, the Times is biased, the Times often gets things wrong, how is it fair to equate it with some of these websites that just make up the conspiratorial BS?

GINGRICH: Well, I think if you look back to their coverage of the Trump campaign and the Clinton campaign, to use your language not mine, they had a fair amount of conspiratorial BS but also --

KURTZ: Anyone that you want to point in particularly?

GINGRICH: No, but just things that they would cover (inaudible) I think the best example was the woman who repudiated the entire article and said that they got -- they took what was a totally positive pro Trump. He was a nice man. He was a gentleman. I enjoyed the date and turned her into Trump hitting on her inappropriately. And she's the one who held the press conference and said this is crazy.

KURTZ: She was one of the number of women --

GINGRICH: But I'd give you -- I'd give you a much deeper and more serious example. Their coverage of Fidel Castro was totally fake. Their coverage of Stalin in the 30's was totally fake.

KURTZ: New York Times also revealed that Hillary Clinton had a private server and Donald Trump gave the paper his first print interview so, he must not think it's totally fake.

GINGRICH: All right, it's not totally -- look, the New York Times was at one time the greatest newspaper in the world. It was a remarkable institution. It still has messages (ph) like that, and the fact is that some of the best talented reporters are among the best reporters in the country. But the underlying -- as a Times reporter said the other day, the copy editors never leave and the copy editors never change.

KURTZ: You have diplomatic relations to the Times. That's good to hear. Now, you have this idea that president Trump doesn't need to allow some major news organization to have seats in the White House press room or maybe doesn't need to hold regular news conference or maybe not deal with the mainstream media all that much. I know he has his own megaphone, wouldn't that be giving up a giant one?

KURTZ: Well, first of all, my share giant megaphone as compared to him, I mean. And second, I don`t oppose the Times or oppose to you know, Fox or NBC having seat. I wonder if you need to have the first two rows fossilized into people, you know, who -- I also think it's unhealthy -- my experience with people I talked to (inaudible) is sitting knowing that you're a very highly paid, very skilled person who was picked because you're really smart.

And so you sit around all day in a gilded cage and people go sour just from the experience, and then they get to feel like they're precious. What I'm trying to think through is if you didn't have the current system and you were trying to invent the best way for the American people to learn about what the president is doing and what the president wants to do, you know, how would you invent it? What would it be like? It might be for example that I think there are a very substantial number. I don't know what the number -- 850 -- well, a substantial number of members of the White House Correspondents' Association.

KURTZ: Right.

GINGRICH: Maybe you'd rotate the seats among all of them.

KURTZ: Interesting of them having an exercise, but you know, we know that you're not a big fan of mainstream media. We saw the when you were up for president four years ago. So, it sounds to some people like, well, he kind of trying to take some revenge or marginalize the pillars of --

GINGRICH: Well, I'm not trying to marginalize it.


GINGRICH: Let me be quiet clear.


GINGRICH: When you're told that among political donations in the news media, it was 96 percent for Hillary and four percent for Trump.

KURTZ: Mostly are not political reporters.

GINGRICH: Right, of course.

KURTZ: All right.

GINGRICH: But they're in newsrooms. I'm just saying, go out and look at their editorial endorsements. I mean, take whatever indicator that you'd like to take. Look at the reporters who were shattered on election night. Martha Raddatz getting emotional.

KURTZ: Most of us did our job. But let me ask you this because we're short on time. Donald Trump met with Al Gore. They talked about climate change. You know, Leonardo diCaprio talked about climate change. The press has kind of treated that as a curiosity as opposed to I would say, giving him credit for reaching out to the other side.

GINGRICH: I think it's -- I just think it's somewhere between curiosity and credit. I would love to have heard Leonardo Di Caprio explaining science to Donald Trump. The experience must have been just fabulous. And you'll notice by the way that they moved him so deeply that he was very cautious of who he picked to be the head of EPA. Picking the attorney general of Oklahoma who's career is made of (inaudible) the EPA.

KURTZ: We'll close on that (inaudible) new book is "Treason." I wonder if you stay up at night worrying about a terror attack on Washington Mr. Speaker.

GINGRICH: I do and it's great to be with you.

KURTZ: Mr. Speaker, thanks very much for joining us.

GINGRICH: Thank you.


KURTZ: Got a tweet here on out previous segment from Carl Alpine (ph), "Hillary's real complain is that the left no longer controls fake news." I don't like fake news from either side. Coming up, Dan Abrams on social media and bogus news in the wake of that gunman being arrested at a D.C. pizzeria that was the target of conspiracy theory.

And later, why are some media outlets is saying that the president-elect is hiring too many generals.


KURTZ: In the wake of the story that's being dubbed the Pizzagate about the owner and Democrats supposedly keeping child sex slaves in underground tunnels at this Washington restaurant, news organizations searched out people who admit that they deliberately spread bogus stories to generate advertising revenue on such sites as Facebook.


JACOB SOBOROFF, MSNBC: This is your biggest election clicker, FBI agent suspected in Hillary e-mail leaks found dead in apparent murder suicide. Read that one.

JESTIN COLER: The motive behind the killing is still being investigated by police. They say Brown was a highly respected agent with the FBI and very well liked in the community.

SOBOROFF: Is any of the true?

COLER: Not a single thing.

SOBOROFF: Not a single thing.

COLER: Totally fiction.


KURTZ: How hard is it to stop these popular but utterly false stories? I spoke early with Dan Abrams the founder of Media Hype (ph) and chief legal affairs anchor for ABC News.


KURTZ: Dan Abrams, welcome.

DAN ABRAMS, ABC NEWS: Good to be here.

KURTZ: When I talk about fake news I mean the made up, bogus, BS conspiracy stuff. I get some people pushing back and say, yes well, the New York Times, CBS, ABC, NBC and CNN, they run fake news too.

ABRAMS: Yes, there really isn't a comparison there. I mean, I know people want to make that comparison particularly people who are angry at places like the New York Times then you can understand why they get angry. But it's not the same as the fake news that we're talking about.

What we're talking about, at least I'm talking about, when I say fake news, what I mean is someone who's literally writing something, knowing it's false or clearly should know that it's 100 percent nonsense with nothing to back it up. I mean I've seen stuff on the internet show up really high on Google search suggesting definitively that Hillary Clinton lost the popular vote.

It's just not true. It's not a matter of opinion. That's a fake story that someone is trying to peddle in an effort to make some sort of point.

KURTZ: Yes, it can be and also to make some money because it can be lucrative. The New York Times had a fast (inaudible) interview with conservative a guy who says he makes fake news for entertainment. He says each side has its goons and quote, "there's no way for me to know what is objectively true so we'll stick to our guns and our own evidence.

Do you think that a lot of people feel that way and maybe it's tied to being let down in their view by the mainstream media?

ABRAMS: Yes, and I think that's a real problem, as if we just throw up the arms and we say, you know what, none of it is true. We can't rely on any of this. You know what, the mainstream media isn't telling us the truth and neither are these fake news sites.

Well, when we have nothing, all right, then we have no barometer to use to say when things are true and when they're not true. So, I for one and I hope that people will take what the media does seriously even if they don't like it, will not just say, oh, whatever, none of it is true. And say you know what I'm going to be critically evaluating what's true and what's not true and its going matter if it's not true.

Meaning, if my friends on social media are sending out things which are clearly false, I'm going to call them out on it. I'm not just going to sort of laugh it off. It matters. It's a big deal and social media has fundamentally changed the way that we consume information and news.

KURTZ: Yes, and in many ways healthy but to some ways not so much and a lot more attention now after this North Carolina man brought in a weapon into a local pizza place here in Washington, Comet Ping Pong, fired off a couple of rounds and he said he was responding to these conspiratory reports that have been circulating and really hot on social media that the place was, you know, a center for child sex trafficking ring. Will the shock over that help to change this debate or not really?

ABRAMS: I don't know. I mean look, first let's call it what it is. It's not just conspiratorial. It's totally nonsense, right. It's 100 percent false. I think it's important that we say that because some people will say, look, you haven't proved -- you haven't disproven it.

And my response is, what does that mean? Imagine if I say to you I've a cure for arthritis in two days and you say, really, what evidence do you have? And I say to you, well, disprove it. I mean, that's just not way we can function.

KURTZ: I think the people who said that is Michael Flynn, Jr., the son of the incoming White House national security adviser, who wrote after this incident at the D.C. pizzeria, "until Pizzagate proven to be false, it will remain a story."

ABRAMS: Right, right. Because people like him are continuing to peddle it. I mean when you think about how crazy that is that every time someone makes an assertion that's not true, that the only way to get rid of it is to be able to disprove as opposed to making the person who's making the allegation actually back it up with some evidence is a bizarre world.

KURTZ: So, if millions of people are willing to re-tweet or repost this stuff, how can places like Facebook and Twitter and other social media networks stop it particularly where if they crack down, they're going to be accused of bias and censorship?

ABRAMS: Well, look, I think that they have to figure out something with their algorithms in particular not to reward it. I think that's a real danger there. I think another thing that's going to start happening is, I think people who are sharing things which end up specifically maligning individuals are going to get sued.

I think we're going see more lawsuits where people who are sharing false information about other people are going to end up getting sued. And I think that when that starts happening, I think that's going to be a bigger wake up call for a lot of people. Let's say it wasn't about Hillary Clinton, right, involved in a child sex ring. Let's say it was someone else who's not quite -- wasn't running for president who says, wait a sec, it's not the -- I'm not going to go after the person who wrote it because I don't even know who that person is.

But you know what, Bill Jones over here who's got a lot of Facebook, you know, Twitter followers shared it. I'm going to go after Bill Jones for sharing it because he should have known that it's not true and didn't do any reasonable investigation. So I think that stuff is going to start coming back to haunt people the way that it haunts media organizations that get things wrong.

KURTX: Dan Abrams, keeping it real. Thanks very much for joining us.

ANRAMS: Good to be with you, Howie.


KURTZ: I just checked Twitter and this topic is really on fire. After the break, why all the media chatter about a military takeover of the Trump administration. And later, a devastating critique of ESPN and political bias.


KURTZ: Is Donald Trump naming retired generals for the Pentagon, Homeland Security, and National Security adviser. The Washington Post is worried that policy, quote, "may be shaped disproportionately by military commanders." The New York Times says this quote, "runs counter to the credo of civilian control of the military," but is this a serious issue.

Joining us now, Gillian Turner, a Fox News contributor who worked on national security issues under presidents Obama and Bush. So, is there a culture clash here between this big news organizations warning about the grave dangers of appointing generals who are after all retired.

GILLIAN TURNER, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: There's definitely a culture clash, but in this case my bottom line up front is I don't think that there's too many generals. There's no way to figure out whether one, two, three, four generals in a cabinet, you know, inclines any administration towards, you know, being very militant.

But I think that it's also important to have this national dialogue. So I do think the media's contribution here is to encourage people to think about that military civilian concept.

KURTZ: Interesting, but I think it's fair to question why is Donald Trump drawn to these generals as he clearly is. What about where he differs on policy from some of them. He certainly has more of an aversion to military intervention around the globe.

So that's all what the press should be doing. But this whole, you know, threatens civilian control of the military seems over heated to me, but you're an expert in this subject. What's behind this media drum beat?

TURNER: I think what you said at the opening that there is somewhat of a culture crash built into the situation but I think that in defense of the generals here, having worked with generals, among generals, with former generals who are in policy positions over the last 10 years, there are some really big misconceptions here.

One of them being that generals are by nature going to be hawkish and want, you know, kind of advocate for kinetic operations around the world putting boots on the ground.

KURTZ: More trigger happy.

TURNER: Exactly. I actually think the reverse is true and you can make that argument that these people have seen firsthand and know intimately the costs involved in military action and as a result are going to be more reticent about using military force or kinetic, you know, human people around the world to do this.

KURTZ: They've been alongside people who have died for this country.

TURNER: Exactly.

KURTZ: So when you talk about the three we're talking about here -- and there might be one or two more when Trump wishes the top appointments -- "Mad Dog" Mattis, Michael Flynn in the White House, and John Kelly. Do you think the media are being a little overheated? Is it on some level unfair to these three, you know, it's fine to criticize them but is it unfair to these particular former generals?

TURNER: I don't know that it's unfair. Again, I think that it's the media's job, you know, at large here to hammer on the drum beat about are these good appointments in general? Are they the right people for the job? What I would say is that they should focus more on the individual qualifications of these people rather than the fact that they have tremendous, you know, military service in their backgrounds.

KURTZ: So you think the media are actually sparking a useful debate --


KURTZ: -- but at the same time -- and you just had this quick answer -- you know, how they play in a little bit into military stereotypes?

TURNER: Yes, absolutely. And that's what we need to dismantle. The reality is that all these gentlemen have just as much political acumen, diplomatic experience, and interagency experience with the government as they do military.

KURTZ: Or they wouldn't get to be four stars.

TURNER: Exactly.

KURTZ: Gillian Turner, thanks very much for joining us. Still to come, an MSNBC anchor makes up stuff up about Fox News and ESPN a called out for liberal bias.


KURTZ: MSNBC anchor Stephanie Ruhle is now making stuff up about Donald Trump and about Fox. Here's what she said about Trump's new Pennsylvania Avenue hotel.


STEPHANIE RUHLE, MSBC HOST: Think about the hotel in Washington right now. The RNC is having their Christmas party there. Fox News had their Christmas party there. That doesn't --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can tell you.


KURTZ: Except our Fox bureau hasn't had its Christmas party yet. It will be at another hotel. What's seriously hanky (ph) is airing such fiction.


RUHLE: I apologize for the error. I am truly, truly sorry. The mistake, entirely my fault.


KURTZ: Now, ESPN's ratings have plunged by 9 million subscribers in 3 years and this may be part of the problem -- an increasingly liberal bias. That at least is the conclusion of its own public editor, Jim Brady, former Washington Post executive who says many staffers at sports network share that view.

He quoted one as saying, "If you're a Republican or conservative, you feel the need to talk in whispers. There's even a fear of putting Fox News on a TV in the office."

Some examples, ESPN awarded Caitlyn Jenner the Arthur Ashe Courage Award even though she hasn't been a pro athlete for decades. Former football coach Mike Ditka was (inaudible) from Sunday Night Football after saying he preferred Donald Trump and ripped the current president.


MIKE DITKA, FORMER FOOTBALL COACH: Obama is the worst president we've ever had.


KURTZ: ESPN moved the golf tournament away from a club owned by Donald Trump saying diversity and inclusion are core values at the network says Brady, "when a company as influential as ESPN they pick up and move an event because of statements by a president candidate, it's hard to see how it can be read by anyone as anything other than a political statement."

ESPN president John Skipper deny any bias telling Brady, "We do not think tolerance is the domain of a particular philosophy." There was also ESPN's treatment of former all-star pitcher Curt Schilling, an outspoken conservative after he jumped into the transgender bathroom controversy with a Facebook posting that many found offensive.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You heard by now that Curt Schilling is out at ESPN. What a lot of folks are asking now, why now and why with this latest transgression?


KURTZ: Schilling was fired from posting an image of an overweight man and a wig and women's clothing and the caption, "Let him in! To the restroom with your daughter or else you're a narrow minded judgmental unloving racist bigot who needs to die," or was that a firing offense says Brady, "Many ESPN employees I talked -- including liberals and conservatives most of whom preferred to speak on background -- worry that the company's politics have become a little too obvious."

Now, sports and politics have obviously become intertwined these days, but ESPN is trying to appeal to all fans, liberal and conservative, and on that score it seems to be striking out.

That's it for this edition of "MediaBuzz". I'm Howard Kurtz. We appreciate you watching. Check out our Facebook page. Give us a like. We post a lot ever original content there including videos responding to your questions. Send us question at Stick to the media, comments, questions, I'll try to respond. Let's continue the conversation on twitter @HowardKurtz and we'll keep the dialogue going. We are back here next Sunday as we are every Sunday. See you then with the latest buzz.

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