Trump vs. his media 'enemy'; Dan Abrams challenges 'opposition party' label

This is a rush transcript from "MediaBuzz," February 19, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: On a buzz meter this Sunday, Donald Trump says mainstream news organizations aren't the enemy. This, after the harshest, the most sustainable extraordinary attack on the media ever unleashed by the president of the United States.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: It's all fake news. It's all fake news. The New York Times wrote a big long front page story yesterday and it was very much discredited as you know.

The Wall Street Journal did a story that was almost as disgraceful as the failing New York Times story yesterday. I mean, I watch CNN. There's so much anger and hatred and just the hatred. We have to talk to find out what's going on. Because the press honestly, is out of control. The level of dishonesty is out of control.


KURTZ: Did Trump store points against what he call the fake news outlets. Does calling the news organizations the enemy of the people go too far? Is he right about some of the media hating him? And what about the commentators who were accusing him of being unhinged.

Two major newspapers help force the ouster of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn raised questions about the Trump campaign's contact with Russia. And the president, again, firing back at the press.


TRUMP: Michael Flynn, General Flynn is a wonderful man. I think he has been treated very, very unfairly by the media, as I call it the fake media in many cases.


KURTZ: How can Trump complain about fake news when he fired the guy? But doesn't he have a point that a legal leaks from inside the administration fueling these stories?

Charles Krauthammer and Dan Abrams join our discussion. Plus, the New York Times reporter who called the first lady a hooker and got called out by a Hollywood star.

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

If you were watching that 77-minute presidential news conference the other day you could not turn it off. Here's a bit more of Donald Trump.


TRUMP: The press, the public doesn't believe you people anymore. Now maybe I had something to do with that, I don't know. But they will say, Donald Trump Donald Trump rants and raves at the press. But I'm not ranting and raving. I'm just telling you, you've been dishonest people. I'm not ranting and raving. I love this. I'm having a good time doing it.


KURTZ: Joining us now to analyze the coverage, Erin McPike, a White House correspondent for Independent Journal Review, Mollie Hemingway, senior editor at the Federalist, and Ruth Marcus, columnist and deputy editorial page editor at the Washington Post.

So, Trump did predict the headlines about ranting and raving. He was having a good time, but did it work for him, Erin. There's been so much time denouncing and decrying the media.

ERIN MCPIKE, INDEPENDENT JOURNAL REVIEW CORRESPONDENT: Well, what I will say is this. The media are playing right into his hands, because the top of every newscast that night was just about Donald Trump going after the media.

KURTZ: That night? All week, every week is like Media Buzz now.

MCPIKE: Well, that's just it. He's making every single White House correspondents a media reporter. And that means that we're not getting to some of the more important news that's out there. At some point we need to know this is what he's doing and we need to ask questions that are totally unrelated to the media.

RUTH MARCUS, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: But, Erin, doesn't that actually we may be playing into our hands, but isn't he may be hurting himself at war with the media?


MCPIKE: Absolutely.

MARCUS: But what people are worried about is jobs, what people are worried is and safety. What people are worried about is him fixing the mess that he says that he inherited.

KURTZ: Well...

MARCUS: And all he can do is argue with the media. Isn't he hurting himself in that way?

MCPIKE: Absolutely. And I do think that we're seeing that both Donald Trump and some of his top aides don't want to answer questions about anything else. I mean, Sean Spicer, about a week ago deflected a question about sending more troops to Afghanistan and said I defer to the Pentagon on this.

KURTZ: Well.

MCPIKE: Donald Trump is not answering a lot of the other questions.

KURTZ: Let's put the standard when the final decisions have been made. But let's look at the media reviews which I would say were apocalyptic. MSNBC's Mike Barnicle, "Trump losing a grip on reality." David Brooks on the New York Times, "Unhinged, unmoored, unglued." Washington Post's Jean Robertson, "Like a man about who fears he's about to go under."

So, you could say the press took the bait or you could say the press is calling out this president.

MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, SENIOR EDITOR, THE FEDERALIST: Well, what's really interesting is how stale and old these objections are. This is actually what you heard from the media throughout the campaign, a campaign that Donald Trump won by the way. And yes, he goes off on tangents, yes, he lied or exaggerates. Yes, he insults people.

When you keep saying the same things about something and expecting a different result, you know, they say Donald Trump is crazy, but isn't that like the very definition of crazy what the media are doing?

KURTZ: Right. Let me get to the -- put the full tweet up, because in many people's view, including mine, this crossed the line. President Trump. "The fake news media failing New York Times, NBC News, ABC, CBS, CNN, is not my enemy, it's the enemy of the American people. Enemy of the American people. Your thoughts, Ruth.

MARCUS: When he goes enemy, we need to go professional, which is to say what he said was outrages. There is a reason that the Constitution doesn't just talk about freedom of speech, it talks about and of the press. Because the press plays a significant important role in our government and our society. Not that we're perfect, not that we don't make mistakes.

But, and when he did that, you're exactly right, it crossed the line. The important thing is for us to not let him push us into crossing lines. We need to be professionals.

KURTZ: But for half of the country, and I'm looking at my Twitter feed. People are saying, yes, you are the enemy.


KURTZ: I'm not saying everybody thinks that, but there is that part of the country that agrees.

HEMINGWAY: I completely agree that it's an inappropriate and I thought the same one Hillary Clinton was using it during the primary campaign. But there is a reason why it resonates with people.

When big media companies go to small town pizza place -- pizza companies and try to destroy them because they don't have the same sexual doctrines that the media do it can feel threatening to people. When they fail to cover a serial killer like Kermit Gosnell, the abortionist who kept trophies of his victims and have a filthy and they have to be shamed into covering it. It feels like they're doing a propaganda instead of news.

And when they say that any insults or any criticism of Barack Obama no matter how good faith it is racist. It can feel like you have no voice in the media. And so this feeling of the media being an enemy, it's not, it's just something Donald Trump is exploiting. And I agree, the best way we can handle it is by not doing such a bad job.

KURTZ: Let me jump in here because I want to play sound bit for you. Because Trump also went after --he didn't mention his name but everybody knew who's talking about CNN anchor Don Lemon. Let's take a look at that and the response after the news conference from CNN anchor Jake Tapper.


TRUMP: Well, you look at your show that goes on at 10 o'clock in the evening. You just take a look at that show. That is a constant hit. The panel is almost always exclusive anti-Trump. The good news is he doesn't have good ratings. But the panel is almost exclusive anti-Trump and the hatred and venom coming from his mouth, the hatred coming from other people on your network.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: That's the president focused on his bad press. It was unhinged, it was wild. President Trump, if you're watching, you're the president, you legitimately won the presidency. Now get to work and stop whining about it.


KURTZ: Your thoughts.

MCPIKE: Well, on that first part with Donald Trump calling out CNN and not mentioning Don Lemon by name, all he is doing is elevating CNN and giving them a free ratings list.

KURTZ: So this is helping CNN.

MCPIKE: I absolutely think it is.

KURTZ: And what did you make of Jake tapper's response?

HEMINGWAY: Well, I think it's very difficult to go on air immediately after a press conference where the media are being insulted. But we have to be careful, we have to take a breather here, we have to take a moment to just collect our thoughts and think about how we want to respond and whether we want to take the bait.

And also, you know, that's a very intimidated statement to say he's not doing his job. A lot of people think he's doing his job just fine. It's OK to have that opinion, but it really speaks to the need to have diversity of thought in newsrooms. Because I don't think many people in many newsrooms had a positive response to the press conference and that puts them out of touch with that half of the country that loved it.

KURTZ: The more that journalists react by attacking Trump personally the more they may look like the opposition. But Reince Priebus was on the Fox News Sunday now the shows today; among other things he said "the media shouldn't use anonymous sources," which is interesting, because campaign people often and White House people have been on background.

And Trump said in the speech in Florida that the press sometimes makes up anonymous sources which I don't think is most of the time true.

MARCUS: Reporters would prefer if all the time campaign officials and politicians and their aides would speak on the record. But that doesn't happen. And the question that I guess I would ask back to Reince Priebus and the president is where the anonymous sources that helped Woodward and Bernstein during Watergate helpful, were those helpful, were those anonymous helpful to the country or hurtful to the country? I think they were enormously helpful.

KURTZ: Interestingly, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was asked inevitably by Fox News' Jennifer Griffin if he agrees the press is the enemy. And he says, well, if he had some rather contentious times with the press, but no. I think there are constituency that has to be dealt with.

Let's go down on a couple of answers in time we have left. So, when Donald Trump discovers he has the biggest Electoral College since Reagan. NBC's Peter Alexander says now that's not actually true. He also talks about others who have a larger margin. And then the president says it's just some of the information I was given. But that's his style. And the press is, you know, goes crazy over but that's his style.

MCPIKE: Yes, that is style. And look, we can't keep asking him questions like what do you think it's doing when you are damaging your own credibility. We know how he's going to answer this question. So, it's not even worth asking him to his face why are you lying to us. We should ask him other questions that get down to the bottom of it.

MARCUS: But, Erin, I could not disagree with you more. I thought that was actually the single most important and effective moment of the press conference because it was real-time fact checking. It wasn't using words like unhinged. It was just saying you say this is the great, the largest since Reagan, this is not true, he came back and said it was republican, no, that's not true either.

And I thought he seemed somewhere between deflated and rattled. He kept going back to Peter and saying, is that correct, Peter? Is that correct, Peter? I think when you have this real-time fact checking that people can see it is really important and effective.

HEMINGWAY: Well, it should be important except that the media are not in a good position to be holding Trump accountable. We are actually held -- we are believed to be less credible than Donald Trump. There should be a great...


MARCUS: But when you look at the numbers and facts, it helps you.

HEMINGWAY: No, I agree. I think it's great. I mean, I think it's an important thing to push back on anything that's not true. It's also true for us to do that with our own stories of. And we are having so problems so many stories that fall apart. We need to focus more on that so that we can hold him accountable.

KURTZ: Erin.

MCPIKE: I disagree with you totally that that was the most important moment in the press conference. I think the most important in the press is not about him being a politician. It was Major Garrett asking him about all the different Russian provocations, him saying not good, not good, and then giving a reckless answer, and then saying I'm not going to tell you what I'm going to do.

This is a serious issue, he cannot answer serious foreign policy questions, and that was a much more important moments in that press conference. It's not getting covered...


KURTZ: Well, let us agree to a lot of important moments. A couple that I jotted down was when the president talked about the New York Times story about previous contacts with Russia by campaign aides and other Trump associates and said there is no proof of any wrongdoing.

Trump said that story was discredited. There was an FBI investigation so it remains to be seen. And when the president criticized the Wall Street Journal piece, it says this is right to do about spies allegedly withholding sensitive information from this president, he said, well, they never called me.

Well, it's not easy to pick up the phone and get the hold of the president in the Oval Office. The Wall Street Journal did the fourth paragraph quoted denial from a White House official. And the last point is we're all talking about this all week and we're not talking about firing of Michael Flynn.

We will talk about him in a minute. Or the labor nominee who went down or the fact that they haven't appeal the travel ban, and other things that perhaps the administration would like to deflect attention from.

Ahead, Charles Krauthammer, one of the fiercest Trump critics on the president reportedly quoting him. How about that. But when we come back, we'll break down how Trump can fire Mike Flynn but still say the press treated him unfairly.


KURTZ: After the president fired Michael Flynn following reports in the Washington Post that he lied to the White House about his pre-inaugural contacts with Russia, Trump also said the press had treated the national security adviser very unfairly sparking a fierce media debate.


JOE SCARBOROUGH, CO-HOST, "MORNING JOE"/MSNBC: The Republicans and editorial writers cannot be so stupid as to pretend that they just picked on poor Michael Flynn out of nowhere.

SHEPARD SMITH, HOST, "SHEPARD SMITH REPORTING"/FOX NEWS: When you start blaming the leaks and not the substance, there is a problem.



SMITH: If the leaks were wrong it would be different.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST, "HANNITY"/FOX NEWS: But there is something much bigger and much darker going on. And that's been part of the alt-radical left and then master plan to damage and destroy the President Donald Trump, and frankly, as collateral damage, anyone connected to him.


KURTZ: Mollie Hemingway, if the substance of the Washington Post reports were true, that for example, Flynn did to lied to Mike Pence among others, and then the president fires him, asks for his resignation, how can he then turn around and blame the press for unfair treatment of the general?

HEMINGWAY: Well, I mean, this is one of the things that I thought were so interesting when Trump talked about the leaks being real but the stories being fake. And you had all these media people say, well, hos is that possible.

If you can't understand how that's possible, you shouldn't be in journalism. You can cherry pick any amount of information deliver it to a receptive journalist who will paint exactly the picture you want to paint. It's all real leaks but it's a totally false narrative. And I mean...


KURTZ: Because it's selective?

HEMINGWAY: Well, because it's selective. I mean, Chuck Todd says that this is the worst scandal since Iran-Contra extra. Dan Rather of all people says that this is the worst since Watergate. I mean, we don't have a single named source making a single verifiable claim against Mike Flynn. The only think we have -- the only thing we have on record is Mike Flynn's -- Mike Pence's person saying that he -- that Flynn wasn't totally forthright.

KURTZ: I want to guess you -- I want to guess you with, but Flynn apologized and said he had given incomplete information to...


HEMINGWAY: And Flynn saying the same thing that's not illegal.

KURTZ: the vice president. I'm saying...

MARCUS: I'm sitting here thinking about whether I should get out of journalism. And I know all the tweeters out there are going to tell me it's time.

Look, he gave, Flynn gave through the press spokesman inaccurate information to David Ignatius of the Washington Post and others about the conversations that he had with the Ambassador Kislyak. Then he repeated that in his conversations with Vice President Pence who then went out and inadvertently, I will take that use of inadvertently because he had been misinformed.


MARCUS: And spread that misinformation on Face of the Nation. And if you - - and so, he has two defenses. One is that I was overwhelmed because of by press of events but I inadvertently forgot to mention this despite the fact that it seemed to have been the central aspect of the conversation and the really critical question.

So either he was incompetent or he was deliberately obscuring what he said. And the notion that this is like some kind of failure of the media with -- so, you know, that there were nine sources in the Washington Post story that refuted this.


HEMINGWAY: So we are lead to believe. So we are lead to believe. Not a single one is named, not a single allegation is specific. It's all...


MARCUS: But Flynn is gone. Why is Flynn gone?

HEMINGWAY: Because of...

KURTZ: Yes, but...

HEMINGWAY: The interesting thing to notice, Flynn, Pence and Trump all tell the same story about why Flynn is gone. They are on the record. I would like...


MARCUS: Flynn is gone because he gave -- well, Flynn is gone for two reasons. One is that he gave the wrong information to the vice president and the second is that the Washington Post then came out and made that clear.

HEMINGWAY: It's just be on time four people who are claiming all sorts of nefarious things to actually provide some evidence. We're getting breathless headlines; we're not getting a lot of substantiation. Long past time.

KURTZ: Let me get Erin in. So, again, it was considered a firing offense. And I'm not saying the general did anything illegal. But doesn't the President Trump have a problem when he talks about illegal leaks of classified information. It was journalist were happy to take leaks, illegal leaks, and so forth.

But he's got a lot of people in his government leaking against him to undermine him at the same time he loved WikiLeaks when the leaks were going against the DNC and the Clinton campaign.

MCPIKE: Sure. And look, he said in that press conference that he has directed the Justice Department to look into it whatever that means. I do think that we are missing a piece of the story which is that the day before the inauguration Clapper and Brennan and Sally Yates went to Jim Comey, and they said that they wanted to tell the president that day who was not yet the president, that Flynn had misled Spicer and pence.

Who knows and he said the reason Comey...

KURTZ: He didn't.

MCPIKE: Because he didn't want to compromise the investigation. There are a lot of details we don't yet know. You're right. It could -- it could amount to not much or it could be worse than Watergate. But we don't know yet.

KURTZ: It could amount to that much. I will agree on that.

HEMINGWAY: It's a great thing to remember. It is a bunch of former Obama officials who have been participating in a month-long leak campaign to tell a certain narrative. And I wish we got more about that.

I mean, the New York Times has admitted that Obama's...


KURTZ: We'll wrap it.

HEMINGWAY: OK. It's just, it's this something we should be thinking more about how this story is developing and thinking about whether we are being hacked.

KURTZ: I think that's a fair question. Ruth Marcus, Mollie Hemingway, and Erin McPike, thanks very much for joining us.

Up next, a Daily Caller reporter called on by the president sparking complaints from the media establishment. And later, Dan Abrams on whether the journalists covering the president really have become the opposition party.


KURTZ: When President Trump held a news conference with Canada's Justin Trudeau one of the two American reporters he called was Kaitlan Collins of Daily Caller, the conservative web site. That sparks a lot of hand ringing from the media establishment about being bypassed.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: So, in the last three news conferences, Wolf, all of the questions to the American news media have been handled by conservative press. And I think, Wolf, there is no other way to describe it but the fix is in.


KURTZ: And here is the question she asked.


KAITLAN COLLINS, REPORTER, THE DAILY CALLER: President Trump, now that you've been in office and received intelligence briefings for nearly one month what do you see as the most important national security facing us?

TRUMP: OK. Thank you. Many, many problems.


KURTZ: And joining us now here in the studio is Kaitlan Collins of the Daily Caller. Well, first of all that was kind of a weak question because it was so open-ended. You just invite him to recite his priorities, why not try to pin him down on something specific?

COLLINS: I don't see it as a weak question at all, because I asked a big question about national security. Mike Flynn was his national security advisor. And I've been asking a personal question. I basically said, who are we going to war with next.

I don't see anyone on the planet can see that as a soft ball question. Maybe Trump didn't answer it in a way that pleased people.


KURTZ: What was next? That was fast.

COLLINS: Who were are we going to war with next. Who was our greatest national security threat. And what a lot of people didn't hear was the president's answer to my question. You know, they automatically were like wow, another conservative reporter got a question. It wasn't the question we want answered and they weren't pleased with that. But he brought up North Korea in his answer.

KURTZ: Good point. Now you said, you quoted saying you wanted something of substance. To ask question about substance.


KURTZ: But given the huge controversy surrounding the national security advisor that within hours would lead to his firing, why not work bring up Flynn and work Flynn into the question?

COLLINS: Well, he didn't -- he didn't resign until much later that evening. And Kellyanne Conway even went on TV maybe an hour or two after that press conference and said that he enjoyed the full confidence of the president.

KURTZ: My point is that it wasn't that a pretty big story at the big moment.

COLLINS: It became a bigger story later on which is why when we look back at the question I asked. That's why there's so much controversy surrounding it. But I still think that my question was more important to regular American people.

You know, the 300 people who live outside the beltway care like our greatest national security concerns. They don't care about our personal question about Mike Flynn. No one will remember Mike Flynn's name in two years, or that this even happened but you know what they will remember, is that if we get into a war with North Korea.

KURTZ: Right. OK. Let's show now at this marathon presser on Thursday Trump on this just about everybody.


KURTZ: But of the...


COLLINS: Jim Acosta never said the fix was out by the way after he got, you know, third or fourth question.

KURTZ: But let's focus on where we were at that time. Of the eight American reporters called on at the four pressers with foreign leaders, one was with Reuters, one was from a local D.C. station, three were from the news organizations owned by Rupert Murdoch, Fox News, Fox Business, and the New York Post. And then there were three from the right leaning outlets, David Brody of Christian Broadcasting, Katy Pavlich of Town Hall and you.

What do you make of all this grumbling that people said, well, the president is trying to avoid tough questions by not calling out the major nationals since newspapers or broadcast network?

COLLINS: Right. That was another question that I got a lot after my question was "did the White House tell you what to ask?" Which is, I can't think if it's offensive or laughable. Because they probably are talking to the White House more than I am.

And you know what I don't think he should only call on conservative outlets. I think he should call on the whole room. But I don't think there was this hand wringing over who the president was calling on when Barack Obama refuse to call on Fox News and only called, you know, on left-leaning outlets. So, why is it now that it's more conservative.

KURTZ: Well, hold on. That President Obama didn't only call on left leaning outlets.


COLLINS: But there were certain times he completely bypassed Fox News.

KURTZ: But certainly he -- or he called on the Huffington Post or MSNBC or MSNBC, yes.

COLLINS: Right. And no one was going on TV saying the fix was in then.

KURTZ: So, what do you make of...


COLLINS: It's just because it's a conservative outlet and they deal it, they're like not used to the Daily Caller getting a question. So, they're offended that the question that they wanted answered didn't get out.

But I wasn't aware that we were all supposed to go in there and ask the same question. What's the point of me being there if I'm going to ask what Jim Acosta is going to ask, you know, Hallie Jackson? That's not my point. My point is to ask a question that's different.

You know, during the first week that Trump was in office, I was the only one to ask about the Muslim immigration ban and when they were going to sign it. And then that Friday they signed it. No one else in the room was asking about that.

KURTZ: All right.

COLLINS: It was one of his major campaign promises.

KURTZ: All right. Glad to have a chance to talk to you. Kaitlan Collins, thanks for stopping by.

Ahead, some brand-new Fox poll numbers on trust on the media and this president. The numbers may surprise you. But first, the founder of Mediaite, Dan Abrams is on deck.


KURTZ: The media are in a self-congratulatory mood these days. The New York Times boasting to thanks to Donald Trump where journalist anxious about they say their professionalism were in renewed sense of mission. But is that fueled by opposition to Trump? I spoke with Dan Abrams, the founder of Mediaite from New York.


KURTZ: Dan Abrams, welcome.

DAN ABRAMS, MEDIAITE FOUNDER: Good to see you, Howie.

KURTZ: Did Donald Trump help himself or hurt himself at that marathon news conference like spent the better part of an hour slamming the press, and is this toxic cycle going to go on indefinitely?

ABRAMS: Well, look, if you want to ask the, let's say 25 percent or so of people who are big Donald Trump supporters they would say Donald Trump helped his case. He stuck it to the media. Good for him. And yet, you've got, let's say the 30 percent to 40 percent of people who really don't like Donald Trump, and that reinforced their view of him.

The question is, what about everyone else, the people, for example, who voted for Obama and then switched to Trump. I don't think he's helping himself with those people. I don't think constantly obsessing over the minutia of media coverage is helping him in any way, shape or form. It's not going to help him get any of his policies passed; it's not going to help reinforce any sense of stability. It's not going to help him with I think republican senators who are having questions.

KURTZ: Right.

ABRAMS: So, I think point it doesn't help him.


KURTZ: But from his point of view...


KURTZ: From his point of view encounters what he sees as a negative media negative. But let me ask you this, you said this week the media don' like Trump because he insults them all the time. Isn't the distaste much deeper than that? Don't many journalists not particularly like this president because they think some of his policy positions like immigration are extreme?

ABRAMS: You know, maybe. But I would it this way. Let's agree that the mainstream media tend to lean left, right. When George Bush was elected and started in 2001, lost the popular vote and won the electoral vote.

KURTZ: Right.

ABRAMS: We didn't have anything like this sort of acrimony between the media and Bush. Could you say that they were tougher on Bush than they were on Obama? Sure.


ABRAMS: Maybe they were. But nothing like what we are talking about now. This is a whole different level and it's created by Donald Trump. He did...


KURTZ: It's created by Donald Trump. But you don't see it as a two-way street that there is animosity and negativity on both sides?

ABRAMS: There is absolutely animosity towards Donald Trump, but why? Why? Because the media likes facts, and they don't like to be told things that aren't true. For Donald Trump to be in that press conference this week and to state that the Electoral College win.

KURTZ: Right.

ABRAMS: Things that are simply factually inaccurate. And then to say, well, I don't know, somebody told me that.


ABRAMS: From a media perspective where the mainstream media, in particular, focus a lot on what's true and what's not. And you can say that there is some bias in that, fine. Let's agree to that.


ABRAMS: But we can all agree that the president of the United States cannot be holding a press forensic and just spewing facts that aren't true.

KURTZ: Well, that's where the press.

ABRAMS: That's going to lead -- that's going to lead to major derision by the media.

KURTZ: That's where the press says to play the corrected function. But look, after Mike Flynn resigned there seemed to me there's been a lot of journalistic back slapping, New York Times says, this is greater time emergency (Ph) for the media, comparing it to Watergate and the Clinton impeachment scandal. Look, Donald Trump is a great story. We all get that. Is there a danger the media is applying a different tougher standard to Donald Trump?

ABRAMS: Look, they are being tougher on Donald Trump. I don't know that they are playing a different standard. I think Donald Trump is creating a situation for himself and his administration that is much tougher than it needs to be.

If it was just about -- like let's talk about Neil Gorsuch for a minute, right. A conservative Supreme Court Justice who would one should expect from any conservative president of the United States.

KURTZ: Exactly.

ABRAMS: To appoint, meaning the type of appointment you'd expect. Has the media gone bananas, saying oh, my goodness? Sure. There are some very far, you know, some left-wing outlets who were saying, you know, no way, no how. This is -- but the reality is...


KURTZ: Yes, why largely it was well-received?

ABRAMS: Exactly. Exactly. So my point is, if the claim is about policies, Gorsuch is a great example of, you know, appoint someone who is within the norm, yes, he's very conservative. But you are not going to get a major media attack. You may get some lawyers, or whatever, different groups attacking him. But you're not going to get the kind of media attack that you get from Trump.

KURTZ: Right. I take your point. I take your point. Jim VandeHei, the Politico co-founder writes on his news site actually owes that, "Steve Bannon is right." He says, "The media are the opposition party. He needs to assess a good thing because the democrats have no power in Washington. Republicans have no interest in investigating Donald Trump." Your thoughts?

ABRAMS: Yes. Look, I think that may be a sound strategy. I think it sort of a pathetic way to view the media. But look, I think that Steve Bannon is always viewed the media that way, right? He's always viewed Breitbart as the place where you can go to take on the corrupt mainstream media. And now he's taking that to the White House.

KURTZ: Right. But here is a leading journalist saying, yes, we are kind of the opposition party. And my question to you is, are we falling into a trap if many of us come to view ourselves that way. We have to save the republic from Donald Trump's excesses because that's not really the role of journalism.

ABRAMS: Well, I don't know. Really? It's not the role of journalists when someone, when the president of the United States, if you're right, his excesses and isn't telling the truth? Telling the truth is not the media's job?

KURTZ: Opposition party suggests we are against him no matter what he does and he can't get it right.

ABRAMS: Well, no. The media shouldn't be the quote, unquote "opposition party." But Trump has made it clear that's how he's going to view it. I don't think that the media then has to view itself as the opposition party but I also don't think that it should shy away in any way, shape or form from being incredibly tough.

What they want to do is they are trying to undermine everyone's faith in the media. Why? So when they get called out on things, when untruths are pointed out, they can just say it's fake news.

KURTZ: To be continued. Dan Abrams, thanks very much for joining us.

ABRAMS: All right, Howie. Good to be with you.


KURTZ: Dan Abrams is also ABC's chief legal anchor. Coming up, Charles Krauthammer gets a presidential shout-out. Is he softening his view of Donald Trump? And later, the New York Times reporter who thought it was just fine to call the first lady a hooker.


KURTZ: Charles Krauthammer has been one of Donald Trump's fiercest critics from the beginning but he broke with much of the journalistic pack in the case of Michael Flynn.


CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: This is a cover-up without a crime. The idea that one should be all aghast because the incoming national security advisor spoke with the Russian ambassador and spoke about sanctions, it seems to me to be perfectly reasonable. And the idea that it was illegal is preposterous.


KURTZ: Still after Flynn was fired it was a bit surprising to see the president himself invoking our colleague.


TRUMP: And in all fairness, I watched Dr. Charles Krauthammer the other night saying, he was doing his job. And I agreed with him.


KURTZ: So, it seemed like a good time to call in the indicated columnist and Fox News contributor.


KURTZ: Charles Krauthammer, welcome.

KRAUTHAMMER: My pleasure.

KURTZ: Well, hell has frozen over. How did you feel, you, who have been such a fierce Trump critic went first Kellyanne Conway, and then Sean Spicer, and then the president quoted you favorably?

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, I was amused but I was gratified when Trump referred to me as Dr. Charles Krauthammer. When I left medicine to be a journalist my father was supportive with skeptical that few years in I did my first TV appearance. I go on night line, I come home around midnight. Phone rings it's my dad say you were great on right line but why did you let him call you mister.

KURTZ: All right.

KRAUTHAMMER: So, it's vindicated.

KURTZ: So, president paid you that respect. But didn't he also selectively quote part of your argument in about the Michael Flynn case. You said it was fine to be aghast at Flynn's contacts with Russia. You just didn't believe that it is in any way illegal.

KRAUTHAMMER: No, I went beyond that. I thought it was perfectly normal, perfectly reasonable. The case I made and it was in my Washington Post column this morning is that he's the national security advisor. He's coming into office. But three weeks to go, I would expect him to have contacts with ambassadors of every sort.

The Logan Act which is, you know, private citizens are not supposed to deal with foreign ambassadors.

KURTZ: Seventeen ninety nine.

KRAUTHAMMER: Seventeen -- nobody has ever been prosecuted.


KRAUTHAMMER: So, he was doing his job. It wasn't just that it was not illegal, it was perfectly reasonable. But my question is, if it was, why did he lie about it.


KRAUTHAMMER: This is the case of a cover-up in search of a crime.

KURTZ: Now, president trump in the campaign with me often brought you up. Let's remind people of some of the things that the candidate said.


TRUMP: I think Krauthammer is just absolutely a disgrace when it comes to me. Don't forget, he was a big war hawk going to Iraq, going to Iraq. I mean, he was wrong on so many subjects. It wouldn't matter if I were Abe Lincoln during the debate, Krauthammer was s negative.


KURTZ: So, you were rough on him, he was rough on you. Maybe now you're thinking he's not so bad.

KRAUTHAMMER: No. Look, it's very simple. I call them like I see them. I had a view of Trump when he was campaigning. I don't make any secret of the fact that I think didn't think he shouldn't have been president. But that doesn't matter on the day he's sworn in. He is president.

At this point whatever I thought about him in a sentence irrelevant. I want the country to succeed. I want him to succeed. I'm a patriotic American and I simply call them like I see them. Some things he'll do right, and some things he'll do wrong and it will not change my opinion of him. He can flatter me, praise me all he wants. It will not change a bit.

KURTZ: All right.

KRAUTHAMMER: I would like him to, but it won't alter what I say.

KURTZ: Now, as a conservative you also often said and probably continue to say that Trump didn't come into this election with a conservative agenda. I mean, here he is pushing a billion-dollar infrastructure program or more moderate approach replacing Obamacare. Have you changed your mind about his credentials on that score or is he redefining conservatism?

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, the answer to that will be given by history. If he has a successful presidency he will redefine conservatism. Well, it certainly redefine the Republican Party. Reagan came into a party that was fairly it was so right of center. He turned into a conservative party. He turned conservatism into the ascendant ideology of the country for 30 years.

Obama instead had the ambition to do the same thing for liberalism but he failed. So, it will depend on what happens with Trump. How did the economy do, how did the jobs issue work, and is the country stronger when he leaves.

KURTZ: The media had been describing this first four weeks as chaotic. Trump actually brought this up at the news conference and kind of made fun of it. Do you think it has been chaotic and is it now what you expected of Donald Trump?

KRAUTHAMMER: I didn't know what to expect because the man is sui generis. But of course it's chaotic. And the leaks of that been chaos coming from his own people inside his own White House. This isn't stuff coming out of a, you know, a leak from inside the NSA.

People are obviously talking to the press about the chaos inside. He's lost his national security advisor. He offers it to somebody else who turns him down. That's pretty unusual. It's a very important job. There's conflict between the cabinet and the White House, within the White House.

And I think one of the reasons...


KURTZ: So, let me jump in here. In 20 seconds, do you think that the press portrayal of an administration in chaos is largely on target?


KURTZ: You gave me a short answer.

KRAUTHAMMER: I'm leaving you have hanging with 17 seconds of dead air time. I want to see how you handle it.

KURTZ: All right. Well, we'll have to watch on special award to see what else you have to say. Charles Krauthammer, great to see. Thanks for dropping by.


KURTZ: Thanks for the extra time. And I meant President Trump's trillion- dollar infrastructure plan. After the break, will do Americans trust more to tell the truth, reporters or Donald Trump. We've got brand new poll numbers right here.


KURTZ: We've got some fascinating numbers on a brand new Fox News poll. Who do voters trust more to tell the truth. The president by a nose. Trump, 45 percent, reporters, 42 percent, statistical tie but sobering finding for the press.

Are the media tougher on Trump compared to Barack Obama? Sixty eight percent say yes, 18 percent say the media are easier on Trump, 12 percent say the same. Would it be better for the country if journalists cover the president aggressively? Fifty five percent agree, 38 percent say it's better to give the president a benefit of the doubt.

So, we're back with Erin McPike. And so, journalists who think they are far more credible than this president need to think about this again.

MCPIKE: Yes. As you mentioned it is statistically insignificant. There is a tie. So for who is the enemy we're going to go back and forth, back and forth for a long time on this one.

KURTZ: Right. But I think a lot of reporters feel like, well, you know, our job is to deal with facts. And he sometimes gets on more from the facts. But it's also I have to say, classic part is in break down on this true -- who tells the truth question. Eighty one percent of republicans favor in Trump, 79 percent of democrats favoring the media.

MCPIKE: Right.

KURTZ: Independents, 52-26 in favor of Trump, though.

MCPIKE: Fifty two percent of independents favor Trump over the media.

KURTZ: On this question, yes.

MCPIKE: That is, you know, that's not a good thing. We haven't gotten a chance to do the introspection that we need to do after the election. But when I said earlier that the media are playing into Trump's hands, he's not allowing that introspection to go on.

KURTZ: Well, he wants to have a strong voice on that. Also fascinating is this 18 percent were easier on Trump than Back Obama. Even democrats, 42-34 polled they say the coverage of Trump is tougher. I don't think there is any question about that.

MCPIKE: Right.

KURTZ: So you keep saying introspection, you know, I have to be really honest. I don't think the media really do a lot of introspection, maybe a little bit after we blew this election, but basically not a strong suit, we kind of keep doing the same thing and maybe expecting a different result?

MCPIKE: I think we do. And I think, you know, we've seen so many news organizations say now we are going to bring on the investigative journalists.


MCPIKE: We really have to go after this administration. And I don't think that that's the message the public wanted to hear. Its cover the president fairly.

KURTZ: Right. So, the more that journalists ram up special teams, have lots of stories on the front page that are anti-Trump, do you think they are playing into the president's hands and his narrative against the media?

MCPIKE: Absolutely. You know, we do need to ask the president tough questions.


MCPIKE: We need to do that all of the time. But we need to stop asking him about being mean to the media.

KURTZ: OK. No one cares to him being mean but he sends it anyway.

MCPIKE: Right.

KURTZ: OK. Now, the labor nominee withdrew, Andy Puzder. There's a lot of allegations about his business practices and undocumented nanny. But he withdrew a day after Politico post of a 1990 Oprah video involving his ex-wife Linda Fierstein saying this.


LISA FIERSTEIN, ANDY PUZDER'S EX-WIFE: Once I made that public, he vowed revenge. He said I will see you in the gutter. This will never be over, you will pay for this.


KURTZ: Is that fair, 27 years ago, ugly divorce. He later retracted those words. Is that fair to have thrown it up?

MCPIKE: It had to do with him. It is not that he once worked for a law firm that prior to him joining the law firm that particular firm represented some company that did business in China...

KURTZ: Right.

MCPIKE: ... and there were human rights abuses. Which when you cover politicians and you cover Senate campaigns you will all kinds of very random piece of opposition research. This concerned him and that's why it was fair game.

And here is a clich, for you. If you can't stand the heat get out of the kitchen, and that's what I did.

KURTZ: All right. I still think it was a bit unfair. That was so long ago and an ugly divorce. Erin McPike, great to see you, as always.

Still to come, the New York times reporter who utter that terrible slur about Melania Trump and was quoted by a Hollywood actress.


KURTZ: Twentieth Century Fox has apologized for spreading fake news who wrote a movie a cure for wellness that features a fake cure. The promotion people created bogus web sites and some people shared the phony headlines about the likes of Donald Trump and Lady Gaga on Facebook. Twentieth Century Fox called the campaign inappropriate on every level especially given the trust we work to build every day with our consumers. I totally agree. This was a blunder.

I am buzzed off about this after a New York fashion event last weekend actress Emily Ratajkowski tweeted this. "I sat next to a journalist from the New York Times last night who told me Melania Trump is a hooker. Whatever your politics is crucial to call this up for one of this. Slut shaming. I don't care about her nude or sexual history and no one should."

The Times editors -- the Times said editors have spoken to the reporter about his inappropriate comment. The reporter is Jacob Bernstein who said on twitter he had made a mistake. "Speaking at a party in what I thought was a personal conversation I nevertheless made a stupid remark about the first lady. My editors made it clear my behavior was not in keeping with the standards of the Times, and I agree. Bernstein said he's been referring to unfounded rumors and I apologized profusely."

Bernstein's apology was welcomed after that gossipy bit of slander about the first lady.

Well, the new era at Playboy getting rid of the nude pictures hailed at the time it was about the ex-rated web culture lasted one year, to be precise. The naked women are back with a new issue. I guess too many people didn't want to read it just for the articles.

That's it for this edition of "MediaBuzz." I'm Howard Kurtz. Thanks for joining us. We always enjoy having you along for the ride. We hope you will like our Facebook page. Check it out. We post a lot of original content there. I understand our Twitter has been blowing up this past hour.

So, let me know what you think about this show, the media, the coverage of the presidency @howardkurtz. And we will continue the conversation. And if you miss our program just DVR it, you can watch whenever you want, and then you can get on Twitter and let us know what you think.

We're back here next Sunday. See you then with the latest buzz.

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