This is a rush transcript from "The Kelly File," December 26, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
MEGYN KELLY, HOST: Breaking tonight, new attention on an issue dominating the discussion since Election Day. With America about to see the start of Donald Trump's presidency, an administration that seems ready and willing to rewrite the rules for dealing with the press. The question now, what does this mean for the media and for the country?
Welcome to "The Kelly File," everyone. I'm Megyn Kelly. Since announcing his candidacy in June of 2015, Donald Trump morphed into a national phenomenon, captivating the country, dominating news cycles day in and day out and creating a white hot debate about our national media like nothing we have seen in a long, long time. Tonight we have a candid conversation with some of best known reporters and media critics in the country. Here to reflect on the media's highs, its lows and what lies ahead.
Beginning tonight with "MediaBuzz" host Howie Kurtz. Hi, Howie.
HOWIE KURTZ, HOST, "MEDIABUZZ": Hey, Megyn. You know, from the moment Donald Trump ascended on a Trump Tower escalator, and especially when he attacked Mexican immigrants as rapist, most of the media wrote off his candidacy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, ABC, JULY 26, 2015)
REP. KEITH ELLISON, D-MINN.: We better be ready for the fact that he might be leading the Republican ticket.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR:: I know you don't believe that but I want to go on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: And the cycle kept repeating itself as when Trump criticized former P.O.W. John McCain saying, he preferred military men who weren't captured.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS, "MEDIABUZZ," JULY 19, 2015)
JAMES ROSEN, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, FOX NEWS: I don't know the fitness that Donald Trump possesses to be commenting on other people's heroism. The most lethal foe that he is ever faced in his own life, I think was Rosie O'Donnell.
JULIE ROGINSKY, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: He's not a real legitimate candidate but he is number one and number two -- who gets to cover him.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
KURTZ: And again when he proposed a temporary ban on Muslim immigrants.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS, DEC. 8, 2015)
BARBARA WALTERS, ABC NEWS: Are you a bigot?
THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE DONALD TRUMP: Not at all. Probably the least of anybody you've ever met.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You're increasingly be compared to Hitler. Does that give you any pause at all?
TRUMP: No because what I'm doing is no different than what FDR -- FDR's solution for Germans, Italians, Japanese, you know --
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
KURTZ: Some pundits said that Trump self-destructed when he attacked a Mexican-American judge. Again, when he attacked the Gold Star family. And some said he was toast after the Access Hollywood tape when he talked about how his celebrity status enabled him to kiss and grope women.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS, OCT. 7)
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: I honestly feel like there's a pretty good chance. We don't know who the Republican candidate is for president by the end of this weekend.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN: This will kill his campaign.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, I think this could be it.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
KURTZ: And after the third debate when he wouldn't promise to accept the election outcome --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, NBC, OCT. 20)
NICOLE WALLACE, NBC: He may as well have laid down in his own coffin with the hammer and nail and pounded it in himself. But by saying he won't accept the results of the election, that was just a lights out moment in American politics.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Two days before the election with virtually all of the media staffer saying all signs pointed to a Hillary Clinton victory, I had to ask this question.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "MEDIABUZZ," NOV. 6)
KURTZ: A number of pundits came out to his -- saying this race was over, done, Hillary was going to win, who's going to be in her cabinet, no way Trump could pull this thing off. Was that in retrospect reckless?
ERIN MCPIKE, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It was in a way. Because throughout the primary the media kept saying that Donald Trump couldn't win the primary and then he kept winning state after state and state and became the nominee.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: And now the media are calling him President-elect.
KELLY: I have question for you, Howie though. When you go through those controversies, you know, were people, like all of these media reporters, were they writing him off as a group or were they asking the question is this the end of Trump? Because there's a difference between those two.
KURTZ: It was the real mixture, Megyn. Some of them were writing him off, this guy is never going to win the nomination of the election. Some were saying, wow, he seems to be seriously wounded. Well, he's never going to survive this. All of that that we've rehearsed and talked about over and over and over again. They really never quite grasped the nature of his appeal to working class voters and now scrambling for other answer explanations, hackers, it's a bunch of Yahoo racist who -- him, it's the media's fault, still not fully grasping or accepting Donald Trump won this election.
KELLY: Uh-hm. Howie, good to see you. So as Howie just mentioned, the media not only discounted Donald Trump's chances of winning the White House but many openly laughed at the possibility. Here on "The Kelly File," we kept a close eye on the polls too which suggested he was going to lose but also the trends which wound up serving our audience rather well.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, OCT. 21)
KELLY: Over the past five months, some context now in the polling. Watch this. Even when Hillary Clinton's lead appeared to be getting to the point of insurmountable, Donald Trump has repeatedly, repeatedly been able to bounce back. For example, on early May, he was down 6.5 points only to move ahead just two weeks later. It happened again over the summer. In late June, the businessman was trailing the former secretary of state by nearly seven points.
Four weeks later, just after the Republican National Convention, he was back in the lead. And it was a similar story at the end of August. He trailed by nearly six points. He had attacked the Khan family, all that nonsense. After the Democrats convention, just over two weeks later, it was a dead heat. Today Hillary Clinton is ahead but just over six percent in the Real Clear Politics average of all polls. And the question now is whether Trump can once again be the new comeback kid as we approach Election Day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KELLY: And now we know the answer. Even after Election Day, many reporters have continued to treat Mr. Trump as though he's still campaigning and could somehow possibly lose. Some observers say, it's almost as if they're refusing to come to grips with the death of the Trump support.
Joining me now to discuss it all, Mollie Hemingway, senior editor at The Federalist. Jim Rutenberg, columnist at The New York Times. And David Zurawik, media critic at the Baltimore Sun. Great to have you all here.
An esteemed panel. If you don't follow media circles, you can do no better than this panel right here. So, this is great. Let's just pick up on Jim where that left off, about the fact that you had people openly laughing at him, yes he created a lot of controversy but was there an unwillingness in much of the media to even entertain the notion that he could win?
JIM RUTENBERG, COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I think there was. And I think it was sort of became very self-fulfilling. Right? And some of it was people's establishment sources and Republican politics. Because let's face it, most are establishment for mainstream reporters. They're telling it can't happen. They were looking at the polls. And there's also sort of a bubbleitis. Right? In what I wrote, you know, a lot, it has been how the mainstream failed to understand what was going on throughout the country. And they repeatedly made that mistake. Even when it led them astray, they didn't learn the lesson. So --
KELLY: Uh-hm. Why? Why didn't they understand what was happening?
RUTENBERG: I think that they would figure it out after the primaries, like okay, he got the nomination. But then, and we missed this. Right? But somehow, maybe it was the polling, maybe it was the almighty data that took over. You know, sure there's some bias in the mix. Okay, well, he can't win the general election.
RUTENBERG: So, it is the failure to learn from mistakes which has to stop now, yesterday.
KELLY: In defense of the press, Mollie, we've never seen controversies like this with a modern day presidential candidate. Right? And so when you go after a Gold Star family as he did and when you talk about this Miss Universe contestant which was obviously a trap for him, but he ruled around in it, and love this trap, needing to lose weight, she was too big, and all that. It was criticizing John McCain, those were actual controversies that you could see how it would be people based on, you know, a couple hundred years of experience to say, how could he possibly. No? Are we being too tough on the media?
MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, SENIOR EDITOR, THE FEDERALIST: Certainly unlike any other candidate that we had seen in the modern era. At the same time, in addition to these controversies, there were a lot of policy issues that people were resonating with. He spoke to concerns about how we fight wars, how we handle our immigration, what our national security should be like, whether our economic system is benefitting who we want it to benefit.
He also talked about these things at the same time that he was talking about all of these other sort of shinier distractions. And it would have been good for the media to realize what those issues were resonating. Not just because Trump was doing a good job communicating with people on them but that Hillary Clinton was not.
KELLY: Uh-hm. What about the fact that the media, they rely on polls. And I think about four years ago when Mitt Romney was running. And it was a neck in neck, according to lot of these polls. But there were couple of pollsters like Rasmussen, they kept saying he was going to win. You know? And there are some people who were saying, he could still win, he could win. Look at Rasmussen. Look at Rasmussen. All of the other polls showed it tight but weren't really showing him ahead. Mitt Romney ahead.
Let me get to election night and Barack Obama wins easily. So, this time around, all the polls except for really, that LA Times poll which was this unusual experiment and in the last week or so, the Adbede (ph) poll. All of them were showing that Trump was going to lose.
DAVID ZURAWIK, MEDIA CRITIC, THE BALTIMORE SUN: Yes.
KELLY: And so what responsibility did the media have, you know, to contextualize these polls, to accept the polls or to question the polls in their reporting?
ZURAWIK: Megyn, I think we should have questioned those polls repeatedly during that election. But the polls fit the stereotypes in the head of the national media. You know, when Howie said there's a bunch of Yahoo racists out there, which the media -- still some are characterizing, the people in Wisconsin where I come from, that's how they voted for. No other explanation. The mistake that was made is we did not go out into America and get to know who those people were.
ZURAWIK: We relied on somebody in New York or Washington or wherever giving us poll data telling us what they were in a statistical profile instead of really old-fashioned legacy journalism.
ZURAWIK: And God knows, look, as stripped down as the media is today, we have enough resource to go to Wisconsin and talk to people. And by the way, we can do better than going to a diner and talking about how much pancakes they eat and how silly their sweatshirts book. Really engage the people in this country in a conversation. If we had done even a little of that, Megyn, we would not have missed this colossal cultural shift.
ZURAWIK: The story of Trump's victory is one of the greatest cultural stories in decades and we missed it cold. Everybody missed it.
ZURAWIK: It's unbelievable. Actually, I take that back. I don't want to get carried away. Everybody didn't miss it. Some of us were saying, hey, you know what, just what you did, just the segment they ran, you know? He caught up. He caught up. Some people --
KELLY: Don't write him off.
ZURAWIK: Exactly. Exactly. Not everybody hissed it but you know that the major players were saying it was impossible.
ZURAWIK: You know what? I think the irony, God punishing the Clintons was that they believe, the two, that she believed -- she didn't go to Wisconsin.
KELLY: Well, the truth is though, the truth is -- and there are many Trump supporters now, public Trump supporters who are like I told you so, I told you so. But the truth is most Trump supporters, except those on the very, very inner circle, also thought he was going to lose.
KELLY: And I know a lot of them very well and they were -- they didn't want him to lose but they were completely convinced all the way up to Election Day that he was going to lose. Even Trump has suggested that he believed that based on the polls. So it's fine for them now to turn around and say we knew, we had our finger on the polls but everybody else was an idiot. The truth is -- there was -- the data were wrong.
RUTENBERG: Right. But you know, you asked the question was, should reporters have been more skeptical of the polls. And the lesson four years ago was, skepticism of the polls could lead people astray.
KELLY: That is right.
RUTENBERG: I think it was the kind of the opposite lesson but --
KELLY: The hidden Romney vote that people were talking about didn't show up and the hidden Trump vote did.
RUTENBERG: And it didn't serve Romney's campaign for people to think he had it in the bag. Supporters aren't going to get out in the same way. So, it's in nobody's interest. It's the opposite lesson. But it goes back to what David said is, I've noticed over the years that political reporting has gotten much more poll focused, it's just taken it over, because of the advent of data, whatever.
RUTENBERG: And less man on the street interviews. It became sort of pass saying in the business. Not entirely. Right? But so, the lesson here is, I don't -- I'm still not in the place where I want to say be skeptical of the polls. Right? Like we know now in the polling industries --
KELLY: I think people are going to be. I think that ship has sailed.
HEMMINGWAY: We shouldn't ignore also that the media had a role to play in the failure of these polls. They made it so unacceptable to publicly admit that you were a Trump voter.
HEMMINGWAY: And you know, one of the few pollsters that actually did a pretty good job with this, his name is Robert Cahaly. He asked people not just who they were voting for but who their neighbors were voting for. And they were much more forthright when talking about who their neighbors were voting for.
KELLY: That's interesting.
RUTENBERG: But here's the interesting thing. I remember about talking to people, is there a hidden Trump vote that's not, you know, out there and speaking to pollsters. And you've got this -- there's an expert thing that comes off of the sort of the pundit class sometimes -- no, no, that doesn't exist. Most people were saying it doesn't exist.
KELLY: Hence the word hidden. That was not the best question you've ever asked. All right. Stay tuned.
We have a lot more to cover including ahead, some of the administration's closest advisers recently raised new questions about how the incoming Trump administration will deal with reporters during his four or eight years in office. What that means for you next.
KELLY: Well, almost from the start of his campaign, Mr. Trump made it clear that he would run against the media. And while he's softened that message, the tiniest bit since Election Day, some of his closest advisers are saying things need to change. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, the former House Speaker suggested that President Trump could just do away with presidential news conferences. Telling USA Today, quote, "The news media so totally disgraced itself in this election. If I were Trump I would just say no. And if the White House correspondents association doesn't like it, I'd say, fine, disband."
Back with us now, Howie Kurtz. How about that, Howie? Just disband.
KURTZ: Just disband. But you know, Megyn, Donald Trump won the presidency in part by doing hundreds of interviews and holding raucous news conferences. And while making himself endlessly available, he constantly castigated the press.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: There's great dishonesty in the media and I didn't see it to the same extent with the financial media. You know, I've only been a politician now for three months but they don't want to cover me accurately. I see such dishonesty. They have a couple of sites like Politico, it's totally dishonest.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: At the same time, Trump has weaponize twitter often to attack news outlets and journalists by name. The messengers who has 17 million followers inevitably amplified by the media. The President-elect recently fired of these tweets. "Has anyone look at the really poor numbers of "Vanity Fair," magazine way down. Big trouble. Dead. Graydon Carter. No talent will be out." And -- "Just watched NBC Nightly News, so biased, inaccurate, and bad, point after point, just can't get much worse although CNN is right up there."
Now some key Trump advisers are suggesting he may rely more on social media as a way of circumventing and dissing the press corps base at the White House. Newt Gingrich would shake up the prime seating for major news organizations.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: I don't know if the numbers, 850 was a substantial number of the members of the White House Correspondents Association.
GINGRICH: Maybe you rotate the seats among all of them.
KURTZ: Interesting academic exercise but you know, we know that you're not a big fan of the media. We saw that when you ran for president four years ago, so it sounds to some people, like, well, you're kind of trying to take some revenge or marginalize the pillars --
GINGRICH: Well, I am trying to marginalize.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Reince Priebus, Trump's incoming chief-of-staff said that Trump team is even reconsidering the daily opportunity for reporters to question the White House spokesman.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REINCE PRIEBUS, TRUMP'S INCOMING CHIEF-OF-STAFF: I think that many things have to change. You know, even looking at things like the daily, you know, the daily White House briefing from the Press Secretary, I mean, there is a lot of different ways that things can be done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Abolishing or curtailing nose briefings would amount to a frontal assault on the media by really limiting access to one person whose job it is to speak for the administration.
KELLY: Howie, thank you.
Joining again now by Mollie Hemmingway, Jim Rutenberg of The New York Times and David Zurawik of the Baltimore Sun. Great to see you. And Mollie of The Federalist.
I don't know if the average American is probably not shaking in his boots over the thought of the White House press corps having a seating arrangement upended potentially or not having as much access to the President. Does the matter?
HEMMINGWAY: It does matter. And the media is in a real quandary here. I mean, they put their entire credibility on the line openly campaigning for Hillary Clinton, openly disdaining Donald Trump, writing that they should throw out the textbook manual that says to be objective and instead to be overtly --
KELLY: Some literally argued for that.
HEMMINGWAY: Some literally argued that here at this table.
RUTENBERG: Well, that is not accurate --
RUTENBERG: But you finish your point and I will get to that.
HEMMINGWAY: And so they put that credibility on the line and then they lost. And so, it's very difficult to know where things go forward. It's very important to have a press that can be trusted to hold people accountable and to ask questions. Those daily briefings are very important way to accomplish that. But the credibility of the media is that at an all-time low, I mean, there was -- only six percent of the Americans have a great deal of trust in the media. Now, we're in the truth telling business. So, if we don't have that trust, that's a major problem for us.
KELLY: We got those six. All right. Jim, give it to her.
RUTENBERG: I want to also talk about the briefing room but I'll make it fast. The column that you referred to actually had --
KELLY: Jim, is a media critic for the "The New York Times" -- so, go ahead.
RUTENBERG: The column you referred to at the beginning, a middle and an end. It was the idea that Donald Trump was challenging the norms and it raised a lot of questions up top including where does the old rule book fit in. And where that column concluded which I think stands now is, journalism shouldn't measure itself against one campaign's definition of fairness. It's journalism's job to be true to the readers and viewers and true to the facts in a way that would stand up to history's judgment.
RUTENBERG: And I think that stands. As for the briefing room, the American public will not care if we lose our seats. I get that. I used to sit in the briefing room. But the reason and maybe David can speak to this too. That seats were left in the press' control, it wouldn't seem that the White House is --
KELLY: Yes. That's right.
RUTENBERG: Mr. Gingrich talked about rotating reporters around. I don't want to speak for the Correspondents' Association, maybe that would be something they would consider.
KELLY: I mean, that's not going to have a whole lot of an effect. But if there aren't daily press briefings or just the general added to, the withdrawal from the press, and the unwillingness to provide access to reporters and going direct to consumer as Donald Trump likes to do, eliminating the questioner, you know, the media, what effect does that have?
ZURAWIK: Well, first of all, let me --
KELLY: You want to mediate?
ZURAWIK: That's the thing. Yes, exactly. That's the word.
RUTENBERG: That's even in my column. Mediator.
ZURAWIK: No, I think, Jim's point is fair about getting all of the way through. But in the media world we live in, I think a lot of people didn't get through. And I think a lot of people on the left took that as a license to say I have a moral obligation as a citizen to bring this man down. He is dangerous.
RUTENBERG: Well, I would love to have that much influence.
ZURAWIK: No. No. I'm not saying it was righteous that they took that but they did. And I saw that license and they ran with it and they became advocacy journalists. And honestly, what was so upsetting to me was to see the legacy values of fairness, proportionality, equal treatment thrown out the window because this guy was considered such a hideous and dangerous guy. Even if you consider him that, even if you believe that, the traditional values that I've been socialized to in journalism says, you go out of your way to be fair to him.
You know, you say to your editor, listen, I find this guy really offensive. Will you push back whenever I write this and you know that's in my head because I can't get it out of my head. We're not objective. We're human beings. That's our job. I'm not saying the times. I'm saying a lot of people took it as license because of the times.
KELLY: Mollie, you have an interesting post now at The Federalist talking about how -- no one at this table. But that you feel some of the handwringing that we're seeing from some in the press about how, you know, we need to be truth tellers and we need to baton down the hatches, and we need, you know, slow and steady straight ahead, you find it basically hypocritical because you didn't see that same determination perhaps under the Obama years.
HEMMINGWAY: Right. It's actually very important that we do our jobs, that we do tell the truth, that we do hold people accountable but that has to be in the context of it being what we've done forever. And in the last eight years, we saw a media that was pretty obsequies to the President. They really liked him. You could see that they liked him. And most media outlets were not in an oppositional stance toward him at all, no matter if it was accepting what he claim about what ObamaCare would do or the Iran deal or any number of things. And so, this call to arms to be brave truth tellers in the face of Trump kind of --
KELLY: Like take Benghazi. Can you imagine if Benghazi happened on the watch of a President Trump? Do you think the mainstream media would be as quick to move on from it or want to dismiss it the way they did, you know, when it actually happened?
HEMMINGWAY: Even more so. Think about how that was used it as an excuse to put our First Amendment values on the table. We had the President and the Secretary of State questioning the First Amendment, whether you should be free to say what you want about a religion. You had videos going out saying in this country, we don't disparage other religions. Actually --
KELLY: We do. All of the time.
HEMMINGWAY: You make it is a point of pride that you're able to do that. And there wasn't a lot of hand wringing about these dangerous threat to free speech and religious freedom that that pose. So, when you now hear people say, oh, Trump is a big danger to free speech, it's like, where were with you for the last eight years?
KELLY: Go ahead.
RUTENBERG: Well, first of all, I think some of this of course is valid, plenty of it is. But some of it I think there's an element at times of where you stand or where you sit. Is that the cliche? You know, you have a certain outlook that you're not hard enough on Trump, you're not hard enough on Hillary. I mean, ask Hillary Clinton voters what they think of the press coverage and not say something different. But you're right. The same standards have to apply all of the time. And in terms of President Obama, look, he was a threat at times to press freedoms, we -- my newspaper editorialized against him about that.
KELLY: We'll get to him in a minute. We'll get to him in a minute.
RUTENBERG: But one thing is that you had Mr. Trump who had a blacklist against reporters. There were things --
KELLY: May I submit to you that Barack Obama had a blacklist against reporters who happened to work at this news channel as well. I mean, you tell me --
RUTENBERG: Either, I'm on the list.
KELLY: Never ones. Never ones. All right. And take Hillary Clinton, all of her time out there saying what a fantastic journalist I am, which she was using because she knew Trump had attacked me. She was using to try to curry favor with certain voting blocks. I asked her 50 ways from Sunday to come on this program, to everyone I could possibly ask her. She wouldn't do it. And the reason I think was she was scared. But also her team didn't want to legitimize Fox News. And yet, you know, people who didn't call her out at all are now shocked and horrified that Donald Trump might not sit with certain news reporters or organizations.
ZURAWIK: I love that you called her out. Can I say one thing about Trump and dealing with the press?
ZURAWIK: It's not going to be pretty.
KELLY: He told "The New York Times" are going to be happy. I've been saying all along, no they're not.
ZURAWIK: He has a model between television and social media. He found this sweet spot in this era of transition. He can use TV great when he does live TV and he cast this voice, a 70-year-old man with a perfect voice on twitter. It's snarky, it's nasty, it's ugly and it resonates. He doesn't need the media. Until the media somehow convinces him, he needs us, he's not going to use it, he's going to run it.
ZURAWIK: Because it's double pleasure. He gets his message directly to people and he gets to check The New York Times and CNN and whoever he's mad at in the teeth.
KELLY: I still have final word on this because I did have most of that presidential election without access to Donald Trump. And glad, he wasn't the president. But in a way it was a gift. Because I'd never needed access. And I could just cover him fairly without having to worry about any blowback. I mean, I was going to get blowback but it didn't matter. And our viewers rewarded us. You know, our ratings stays high the whole year. I think people still respond to fair journalism. I understand what's really going on. I think the press still has an opportunity to cover him fairly even if he does cut off access to them.
All right. Coming up, ABC News' Dan Abrams faced fierce online backlash after speaking out against the problem of fake news. Why? He's here next.
KELLY WRIGHT, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Live from America's News Headquarters, I'm Kelly Wright. Good evening. Here's what's happening.
Post-Christmas words of differences between President Obama and his successor Donald Trump. The President says in a podcast hosted by his former adviser David Axelrod that he's confident he would have won a third term if he had run against Mr. Trump. Mr. Obama thinks he would have been able to sell Middle America on the vision he is pursue for the past eight years. Mr. Trump responded, on Twitter in all caps, quote, no way. Mr. Trump is also turning his twitter attacks toward the U.N. following its vote to condemn Israeli settlement. Trump today tweeted that the U.N. is quote, just a club for people to have a good time. Washington's abstention from Friday's Security Council vote as infuriated Israeli leaders. Mr. Trump tweeted things will be different come January 20th. That is a look at News, I am Kelly Wright. Now back to The Kelly Special.
KELLY: Well as we've already seen this year, fake news can have some very real and even violent consequences. Like when Edgar Welch allegedly fired shots inside of a D.C. pizza place. The suspect was there allegedly investigating, what comes to be known as PizzaGate, a conspiracy theory that was circulating online about a child sex slavery ring, involving Democrats run out of the restaurant of Comet Ping-Pong. It is a pizza shop. Joining me now, Dan Abrams, who is chief legal affairs for ABC News and was attacked online after calling out the pizza gate story as 100 percent false, Dan, good to see you.
DAN ABRAMS, ABC NEWS CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS: Gook to see you.
KELLY: You can't do that anymore, because they are like my internet tells me it's so.
ABRAMS: Or they say my internet tells me it hasn't been investigated enough, right? So the burden now is on disproving conspiracy theory. So conspiracy theory gets thrown out there with this no actual evidence and then the people who want to believe it say to people who say, look there's no evidence, this isn't true, the response is, that is because you haven't investigated it and you create a sort of circular nonsense which puts you in a position where there is no such things and what's true and what is not true. That is a dangerous place to be.
KELLY: Right, but is it more dangerous right now than it was in the past?
KELLY: You feel like it is getting worst?
ABRAMS: No questions.
ABRAMS: Social media, because the bottom line is that now anyone is a media organization. Anyone who wants to share an item can and does do that, which is generally a good thing. The problem with that is that there's not a filter. Now some people would say that the filter used to be terrible. The mainstream media filter was garbage. It was better than this. And when I say this, I mean no filter at all, which is anything that is thrown out there, anything -- people on Facebook. I mean, you watch some people and you say where did you get this information? Well I saw it on Facebook.
KELLY: There was a fake article about my getting fired, a couple of months ago. I got fired? Thought I would find out about my security card not working, not on Facebook.
KELLY: Facebook had to come out and apologize for it, but this happens all of the time.
ABRAMS: All the time, it's not that Facebook is writing the articles, right? It is just the people who are using Facebook are distributing it. The one thing that should give some hope to those of us who care and like the media as a whole, is that when people are polled it still shows that 60-something percent of them view mainstream media organizations as either credible or very credible. Now, 60-something percent isn't where you would hope it would be. You would hope to be in the 80s and the 90s. But high 60s which says that there's only a minority of people who say I can't believe anything that comes from the mainstream media. The mainstream media has problems, real issues, but it's not that you can equate mainstream media coverage with fake news.
KELLY: So what do you think? We were just talking with the panel, but what do you think in the era of Trump a journalist's challenge is going to be? How do you cover him? That is what everyone asks.
ABRAMS: Look, you cover them the way, you cover anyone else. The problem is two-fold. Number one he has such disdain for the media and when I say for the media, for anyone who criticizes. If you criticize Donald Trump, you're the enemy.
KELLY: That is why I keep saying the "The New York Times" is not going to be happy and Donald Trump is not going to be happy with them either.
ABRAMS: That is right. But this is great for the The New York Times, by the way. It's going to make them sort of the voice to take on Donald Trump. He is going to keep giving them publicity. What Donald Trump did for Vanity Fair, by talking about this failing magazine? Oh yeah, suddenly what's Vanity Fair up to these days.
KELLY: Right, right. Yes.
ABRAMS: Right, right, yes, it's not a bad thing when Donald Trump blasts you, because he blasts everybody. But from a journalistic point of view, you've got to call him out when she is saying things that aren't true. And you know what, if he attacks you and if he insults you, I don't think it's the journalist's responsibility to just sort of just sit there and go. Well, Donald Trump is attacking me and I am not going to respond. I think the way you handle the attacks was ideal, I think you sort of service the model. I don't say that because we are here, I say this to someone else who would ask me. And the reason for that is because you've got to walk a line between not letting it impact you. And saying I am still going, still going to attack him and I am still going to challenge him by I'm not going to do it any more than I would have.
KELLY: That is right. I am going to be fair, but I will say for the record, as much as he came after me, that causes a real danger in people's lives. It did in mine. I work for a news organization that had a lot of money and hired me guards and I was safe. If he did this for somebody who wasn't in such a fortunate position, it would have real first amendment implications. And we as media people, nee to keep an eye on that are not fair to the individual reporters.
ABRAMS: And just as important as that is this idea that suddenly you're going to start punishing certain media organizations, because they publish things you don't like. I mean, the Washington post getting banned from covering the Trump campaign. What? I mean that is complete.
KELLY: But it happened time and time again starting with the DeWine register and down the line it went without many people complaining. Now it's a slippery slope.
ABRAMS: That is a constitutional violation that is not right.
KELLY: And he is the son of (inaudible) who is the first amendment expert of them all, he will be here on this room, talking about his new book, great to see you, Dan.
ABRAMS: Good to see you.
KELLY: So even before President-elect Donald Trump takes office, we're hearing warnings that he represents an unprecedented threat to the freedom of the press. But some of these voices were silent when President Obama was going after Fox News. We'll take a little trip down memory lane when we come back.
KELLY: Well every the course of the 2016 election and in the days that followed, top journalists and major media organizations issued dire warnings that President-Elect Donald Trump represents an unprecedented threat to the freedom of the press. But president Trump would not be the first to find himself at odds with the media, as Howie Kurtz reports. Eight years we've had President Obama seeming to have a whole lot of trouble with one network in particular.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Look, if I watched Fox News I wouldn't vote for me either, right?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Now he is taking a parting swipe at Fox, implementing why white working class voters turn out heavily for Donald Trump. He told a sympathetic publisher Rolling Stone Anthony Weiner part of it is Fox News in every bar and restaurant in big chunks of the country. But part of it is also Democrats not working at a grass roots level. Obama did partially blame his own party. But here is what's striking, the president has the world's biggest bully pulpit but he often portrays fogs as all but drowning him out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: First of all, I've got one television station that is entirely devoted to attacking my administration. I mean, that is a pretty --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm assumed you're talking about Fox.
OBAMA: That is a pretty big megaphone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: That view promoted by former Communication Director Anita Dunn, who once told me Fox was a wing of the Republican Party made no distinction between the network's news and opinion programming, her boss, (inaudible) Fox in defending Obamacare.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: But you don't have to take my word for it. If you talk to somebody who said I don't know, I was watching Fox News and they said it's horrible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Fox journalists would push back when they were excluded from a media blitz.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS WALLACE, HOST, "FOX NEWS SUNDAY": These guys, everything is personal.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything?
WALLACE: They are the biggest bunch of crybabies I have dealt with in my 30 years in Washington.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Justice Department also battled with the press, seizing phone records from the A.P. and Fox's Chief Washington Correspondent James Rosen in leaked investigations and even branding Rosen a criminal called conspirator. Sometimes Obama uses the channel to argue that the right and the left prefer sympathetic outlets, but lately his Fox fixation seemed to fade.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: In a while.
OBAMA: Better late than never.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Megyn, President Obama is entitled to challenge what he you views as unfair criticism. But in time, he has use Fox as escape goat, but compared to Trump, Donald Trump is way harsher with the press as it draws far more negative media coverage in the outgoing president. Trump as you know has repeatedly attack CNN and the New York Times and sometimes criticized Fox as well, Megyn.
KELLY: Howie, thank you. Back with us again Mollie Hemmingway, Jim Rosenberg and David Zurawik and we were just talking about some of the stay attacks he is had on the reporters. And to your point earlier David, you know when we was coming after me at the height of his anger after that debate, and many of his supporters were angry about that question I asked him at the debate, I did what you said. I said to my colleague on "The Kelly File" you check me. I have to have an armed security guard now. I'm under threat. My kids are under threat and I don't want to go too hard on him to punish him and I don't want to go too easy on him out of a desire to get him to back off either. You need somebody to have your back
ZURAWIK: Yes your team came through for you too, because I was watching at that time and I thought, ok, this could come, how is she going to react? Let's see. And you did. I thought you were remarkably fair in that. As a matter of fact when you went and did the interview with him in prime time, people said you were too nice to him. But that was the way you covered him. Down the middle and look, you saw what he was doing on twitter. The other day I said maybe we should have twitter mops for truth when he lies on twitter, because he seems to like mobs so much.
KELLY: You have to be -- you were in a similar situation, Mollie. As a journalist covering Donald Trump, you are going to have to understand storms will come and figure out a way to weather them.
HEMMINGWAY: Right. There were times when I covered Trump and I was more favorable than other journalists were and there were times I was critical of him. And when you're critical of Donald Trump you do get an army of people coming after you. And you have to think about on how to handle that where it doesn't affect how much you respond. That is something I do not think a lot of journalists are excelling at right now. It seems to be, well just in general, they seem to be getting whipped up in the frenzy when Donald Trump goes after them and clearly showing no signs that he is going to back down. So maybe, think about our strategy and how we handle it.
KELLY: What did you make of Barack Obama? If we didn't have Fox News on in the bars we would have had a different result?
HEMMINGWAY: I'm really wondering what his understanding of bars are. Because I love going to bars and there's never a lot of cabling news on in those.
KELLY: It's an untapped market for us. We're going to look into that in our ad sales. But it is a bit hypocritical of Barack Obama now to be taking this, like, I've got the vapors over Donald Trump and the first amendment when he is spent eight years blowing off this network and attacking us relentlessly.
RUTENBERG: Well I think sometimes there are personalities on this network that could give us good as they got with him, right?
HEMMINGWAY: That is fine.
KELLY: So our editorial page doesn't like him.
KELLY: That is fine. Sean Hannity does not need to like him. That shouldn't make him refuse to speak to the journalists of Fox News, which he did. And as you well know, that is what Donald Trump gets in trouble for doing. He doesn't like the editorial page so he punishes the reporters.
RUTENBERG: I will tell you something that happen in that history of that, in 2009 when he cut Fox -- he didn't do it, some staffers.
ZURAWIK: Anita Dunn.
RUTENBERG: Cut Fox out of (inaudible).
KELLY: And the other networks stood shoulder to shoulder with us and said no.
RUTENBERG: And the AP on James Rosen again, several newspapers including mine gave editorials against it. And I think, you know the question now what happens. I think that the press is never going to act like that because we all want to beat each other every day. But hopefully there will be times when the reporters in the pressroom when they think that something is, you know not being answered, or whatever, people are getting cut out they stand together.
ZURAWIK: Megyn, I believe President Obama was the biggest enemy of the press since Richard Nixon. In 2009 when he went after Fox and said Fox is not a legitimate news organization. And he tried to round up, he tried to get ABC and other people to go in on it, I wrote about it. And here's this guy at the Baltimore sun -- politico called me up and said you're the only mainstream journalist who says Fox is legitimate. Are you a true believer? I said yeah I'm a true believer in democracy and the fact that the executive branch of the government does not get to say who the hell is a legitimate member of the press. You've got to stop this. He was going full tilt on that thing. And it was finally when the Treasury Department Press session, when they didn't let him in.
KELLY: They were giving interviews to all of the networks except for Fox. And the other networks said you can't do that.
ZURAWIK: And in fairness Jake Tapper who was at ABC was one of the first to break and call him out on that. To give him credit. I was so happy to get the cover of somebody from a network. They were saying you should be really worried, they interrupt out there with Fox. It was outrageous, I'm serious. Obama and what he did to James Rosen, the Times and Fox, outrageous. They criminalized it.
KELLY: Donald Trump is going to take tight a new level. Barack Obama tried to delegitimize Fox. That didn't work out very well for him. Donald Trump is going to try to delegitimizing the entire media. But Mollie, your point is the media has helped him. They helped him delegitimized themselves and there's a reason why the country doesn't trust them.
HEMMINGWAY: Right. This is the problem with how we handled ourselves throughout the last year. So many of us were so extreme and so overt in our partisanship that people don't really necessarily feel like that Donald Trump needs to be particularly differential to the media and in fact it is always important to have the media being able to investigate and hold someone accountable. So this is somewhat treacherous time and Donald Trump being able to communicate.
KELLY: It's like the boy who cried wolf.
HEMMINGWAY: It is nothing but the boy who cried wolf.
KELLY: They were apoplectic over every little thing he did over the past 16 months. No one is listening to him anymore.
HEMMINGWAY: Right, and also the breakup of the media environment when where Donald Trump kind of go by the gate keepers and just communicate with people directly through twitter also decreases that public outcry for transparency and press conferences. And I think it's harder for the public to see how it is important to have those when you're directly getting to ask questions and having a sit down interview when he is constantly talking to us for this other means.
KELLY: On top of all of this, you get to decide that he is a master communicator. He is a master communicator and very effective at, you know, penetrating the lens, connecting with the audience. So, it's going to be an interesting ride. Stay tuned, because it's not unusual for the President-Elect to call out the media for being biased, crooked and even untruthful. And up next, we'll show you how the media is returning to favor.
KELLY: And we continue our conversation now with Trump in the media with a look at how some outlets are now reacting to the attacks from the President-Elect, Huffington Post writing about quote, why Trump's war on the media is a danger to our democracy, the Denver Post writing quote, Trump's disregard for the press like Clinton's is dangerous. And the website Box, declaring quote, we have 100 day to stop Donald Trump from systematically corrupting our institutions. Joining me again, Dan Abrams, Chief Legal Affairs of ABC news and founder of the Abrams Media network and one of their websites the media in which we like a lot, also law news which I really like, sorry. I'm off on a tangent.
ABRAMS: No this is good. Promotion is good.
KELLY: I don't remember all of those people defending Fox when Barack Obama spent eight years coming after us. I don't remember talking about first amendments implications.
ABRAMS: Yes, look, I think you can argue there's a difference between Obama going after Fox and Trump talking about changing the entire way the media covers the president. Criticizing Fox, you know, you can disagree with Obama. You can say it wasn't helpful to him. Donald Trump criticizing the "The New York Times" or whoever, I think those two are equivalents, right? But my greater concern is what Donald Trump is talking about doing in terms of marginalizing the media as a whole.
KELLY: It's already happened, hasn't it?
KELLY: Already done it.
ABRAMS: Yes. Basically saying, you know I'm not going to let the media be the check on me. And you know, in a situation where the media has historically been the place that represents people in asking hard questions, in getting answers from political leaders, from putting people in power their feet to the fire. I think if you do it from a macro perspective that is scary. If they start tinkering with do they give a daily briefing, or not a daily briefing at the White House, that is not that big of a deal.
KELLY: Do you think some of how this goes is wrapped up in how well he does as president? Because, if the economy doesn't, you know start roaring and these folks in particular in manufacturing and so on in Middle America, the Rustbelt, don't get the jobs they were promised, maybe they do start listening more with an open ear. Maybe they can hear skeptical coverage in a different way.
ABRAMS: Yes, look, I think that right now Donald Trump is in his honeymoon period as much as it's going to be which is that he is got a group of fierce supporters who are thrilled for what his election represents. And part of what that represents is anti-media.
ABRAMS: It represents putting the media in its place. These people who think they can tell us, who they think they know better than us. Ok, fair enough, the message has been heard. With that said to fundamentally change what the media does vis-a-vis the president is scary stuff to me. When you start saying, you know what, I'm not going to hold press conferences. Again pick and choose when you want to hold them. We've got to have regular press conferences. We got to have a regular way.
KELLY: I don't know if we've got to.
ABRAMS: I think we've got to.
KELLY: I don't know if we're going to get them. If you look at the past year when we was running for the office, you almost had some journalist who had access who had to be a little softer on him, because he would cut off access if you were tough on him. There were some exceptions but for the most part, that was the rule. And then you would have people who were free to cover him skeptically when he deserved it, not when he didn't. And it is almost like we are seeing a bifurcation of the media that have access and don't and a difference in the coverage. I mean, can that system possibly sustain?
ABRAMS: Yes. It's not a system that I particularly want to see, but I think it's where we're going. The one thing I'll say for Donald Trump is that he'll change his mind about people.
ABRAMS: Like he won't -- he'll say this is the worst most awful person media entity in the world. And then there will be a nice article about him, someone will approach him --
KELLY: He was saying that about CNN and then I saw Melania on Anderson Cooper that night.
ABRAMS: Right. He is willing to forgive. But we don't want this to be all about did you say nice things or not about Donald Trump and therefore that is going to determine the coverage
KELLY: Do you think it is because, he generally gets mad at these media organizations or because he wants to delegitimize them because he knows that critical coverage is coming and it is easier to paint with a wide brush saying, they all suck. You can't believe a thing they say.
ABRAMS: Yes. I think it was. I think the effect is definitely what you're saying there which is delegitimizing the media as a whole. I don't think it's as plotted as that. I think that Trump just tends to respond and react and say what's on his mind and what's on his mind has typically been to be able to do what he wants, right? He is been a very powerful rich person for a long time who has been able to not worry about what anyone thinks about him and as president of the United States.
KELLY: Isn't that great?
ABRAMS: But as president of the United States, you have to care. It matters what the people who you represent think about what you are doing. It matters how congress and the senate view -- I mean these things matter. And as a result I think it's really important that we not accept this idea of completely delegitimizing the media and just sort of throwing everyone in to a bucket saying we can't trust anything. Forget it all.
KELLY: Most reporters make very little money. They do it because they love the first amendment. They love being responsible to their readers, their viewers or listeners. And there heart is at a right place, there are some who are in a different kind of the business, but I hope people will keep that in mind. Dan Abrams, a pleasure, sir.
ABRAMS: Megyn, great to be with you.
KELLY: we will be right back.
KELLY: That last segment Dan was so heated I had to change my outfit. Now I will so much better. I wanted to say thank you to all of you for watching, for bearing with us, the disgusting media. We appreciate your attention this past year and this election and you're open mindedness this year as you listen to some of the greatest minds in media circles walk you through what we're looking at next. All the best, take care.
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