This is a rush transcript from "Media Buzz," February 26, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: On a Buzz beater this Sunday, President Trump back on the offensive against fake news demanding an end to anonymous sources and accusing the press of publishing fiction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I want you all to know we are fighting the fake news. It's fake, phony, fake. Because they have no sources, they just make them up when there are none. I saw one story recently where they said nine people have confirmed. There are no nine people. I don't believe there was one or two people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: The president and Steve Bannon write that the media establishment is fighting their agenda. Does the public believe anonymous sources are just plain made up and investigative stories depend on them? A huge uproar, Sean Spicer holds an off camera briefing and excludes CNN, Politico, Buzzfeed, and the New York Times.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
JAKE TAPPER, CNN: And the president who seems particularly averse to any criticism and has called the press the enemies of the American people, they are taking the next step in attempting to avoid checks and balances, and accountability. It is not acceptable. In fact, it is petulance.
SHEPARD SMITH, FOX NEWS: The reporting was not fake news. It is journalists follow the same standards to which other organizations including Fox News adhere.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: The White House calls it a misunderstanding, the media overreacting. Our line-up includes Tucker Carlson and Trump's former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski. Plus, the president blowing off the White House correspond dinner. It this is cozy, celebrity-studded affair finally losing its luster. I'm Howard Kurtz. And this is "MediaBuzz."
President Trump wasn't the only one ratcheting up his rhetoric against the press at CPAC, senior strategist Steve Bannon who rarely speaks in public also slammed what he calls the opposition party.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE BANNON, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR STRATEGIST: They are corporatist, globalist media that adamantly opposed to an economic nationalist agenda like Donald Trump has.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: And there is more, the president unloading on his latest target, unnamed sources.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: They shouldn't be allowed to use sources unless they use somebody's name. Let their name be put out there. Let their name be put out. A source says that Donald Trump is a horrible, horrible human being. Let them say it to my face. Let there be no more sources.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: We will get to Corey Lewandowski. But joining to us to analyze the coverage, Erin McPike White House correspondent for Independent Journal Review, Guy Benson, political editor at Townhall.com and a Fox News contributor, and Margaret Carlson, columnist for the Daily Beast. Erin, no more sources as President Trump, when he makes that attack that they are made up, is that an effective attack, do people believe that?
ERIN MCPIKE, INDEPENDENT JOURNAL REVIEW WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: There is a big difference between anonymous sourcing and anonymous quotes. You need to have anonymous sources. His point that journalists are making up anonymous sources is absolutely wrong. If you do that, you will be fired like Stephen Glass in the 1990s, like Jason Blair was for the New York Times when he did it in the early 200s.
MCPIKE: Right. He's right that we should have fewer anonymous quotes. And the New York Times has made a big effort to try to get more of those anonymous quotes out of the story, and try to name more of the people making their commentary.
KURTZ: And on that point, Guy Benson, the sources are way overused for political potshots, but as a guy who did investigative reporting for years, I mean, you can't do some of these stories without relying on people who would be fired, if they were publicly identified. But also, administration officials, campaign officials, don't they speak off-the-record to reporters all the time?
GUY BENSON, TOWNHALL.COM POLITICAL EDITOR: All the time. So there are the whistleblowers and there are the background briefings and comments, and that sort of thing. So I agree with Erin, I think in terms of journalistic best practices, it is good to sort of cut down on our diet of anonymous quotes, but anonymous sources and frankly, some anonymous quotes, they are vital elements of journalism. And Trump knows this. Trump has been an anonymous source many, many times.
KURTZ: All right.
BENSON: In fact, during the whole birth certificate stuff, he was constantly quoting unnamed people who were telling him things supposedly.
BENSON: So he's familiar on this dynamic.
KURTZ: And I thought the person picked a weak example, Tucker Carlson, when he talked about disturbing sources. That's the Washington Post story on Mike Flynn and his earlier contacts with Russia, and not being straight with Vice-President Pence, which led to the president to fire his national security advisor. So I thought he could have picked other stories that were more in dispute as an example.
MARGARET CARLSON, DAILY BEAST COLUMNIST: And the editors of the Washington Post came right back and said yes there were nine sources. You know, the president begins many of the things he says by people tell me. He did that on the Electoral College thing, presented with the facts, he said well, people told me otherwise. You know, this White House just this week has been using sanctioned anonymous sources all week on the Russia story, orchestrated by the White House, saying putting out intelligence sources to bat down the Russia story.
KURTZ: So a little bit of a double standard perhaps. I want to get to what happened, we saw some of the sound bytes earlier, when there was a gaggle, an off-camera briefing Sean Spicer held. And there was outrage because CNN, New York Times, and others were not allowed in. You are at the White House every day. Do you think there was a little bit of a media overreaction?
MCPIKE: I do. It's OK for all of these organizations to be upset about it, to put out statements, and to try to fight the White House to make sure it doesn't happen again. But to devote entire hours of cable news coverage to it is not something the public wants to see and it doesn't do any good when the media are trying to restore public faith in what we do.
KURTZ: Based upon my reporting, Sean Spicer seems to think this is overblown. And there is a little surprise by the reaction because he was taking it cool, then his office said all the information will be shared and everybody in the press corps. And he added some people to the pool and then he ran out of room because it was in his office. His contention according to my sources is that it was a coincidence that CNN and New York Times were excluded, but CBS and NBC were included. So, Guy, whether you have an explanation or not, could we be falling into a trap here of getting outraged over everything this White House does?
KURTZ: And by the way, Sean Spicer calls on these outlets all the time in his daily briefing.
BENSON: Right. So there is that trap and I think the media is doing itself a disservice over and over again by chasing its tail on outrage after outrage, and then sort of losing the important stories in the fray. I did see this incident with the gaggle as a potential red flag. I didn't like how it felt. I didn't like how it looked. And it did remind me of 2009 and what the Obama administration tried to do to our organization, Fox News, and the rest of the press did rally around that, so it is more of a wait and see approach.
KURTZ: That's a great point. And by the way, Fox is supporting a complaint by the five-network pool, about the way this particular gaggle was hit. Now, the optics was terrible, because it happened hours after President Trump as we saw was excoriating the press at CPAC. So it did look like payback, but it's not like the White House announced a new policy or they will pick and choose for every briefing.
CARLSON: Right. To your one point, the outrage needs to be tempered, not everything is the end of the world. But this has a different aspect to it, which is it took the place of the White House briefing. If this gaggle hadn't taken the place of that, I don't think it wouldn't have been greeted with that degree of invitation.
CARLSON: But the other point is that it just so happens that those people not invited are the ones on Trump's list, the enemies of the people.
KURTZ: Right. And a number of conservative journalists were invited again whether this is just a coincidence, depends on your point of view. We will come back to you, panel.
But joining us now from Manchester, New Hampshire, is Corey Lewandowski, Donald Trump's former campaign manager and an informal advisor to the president. So, Corey, you have been listening to our discussion. Donald Trump says he attacks the use of anonymous sources, he says news organizations often make them up. Do you believe that?
COREY LEWANDOWSKI, DONALD TRUMP'S FORMER CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Look, Howie, if you look at some of the stories written about this administration in the first 35 days, we know they are factually inaccurate. And when you have a front-page story on major publications, whether it is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, when they know unequivocally because there have been people on the record saying the stories they are writing are factually inaccurate, is irresponsible journalistic to continue to write those stories. And what they do at the very end, two days later, is they say, I guess we made a mistake. But the damage has already been done.
KURTZ: Whether they are factually inaccurate, there is a difference that between that and journalists get things wrong and they should run corrections when they get things wrong, and saying that we say, three, two anonymous sources tell us we made that up. That is accusing the media publishing fiction. And I'm not sure you buy that.
LEWANDOWSKI: Howie, the bigger issue here is that the media is so quick to write a story, which isn't accurate. And they want to get clicks. They want to get stories. Look, it's unfortunate. But a Time Magazine reporter tweeted out the fact that bus in Martin Luther King, Jr., was removed from the Oval Office.
LEWANDOWSKI: He did apologize, but where is the accountability? This happens all the time. Look, we had a story just recently where it was factually inaccurate, with what was reported, some mistakes from the media, and it is factually inaccurate. They say whoops, it's not a big deal. When it is a mistake from the administration, you know, the world has come to an end. The difference is the media has to do a better job reaching out to the administration. They want to have people on the record, who are saying your stories are factually wrong. That needs to be included in the story.
KURTZ: No question about that. Last question on this point, you know, I think lots of top officials in every administration, every campaign, have talked to reporters, has unnamed sources, on background, off-the-record, you name it, correct me if I'm wrong, but I bet you did that a lot during the Trump campaign. So why is that OK, but it's not OK for reporters to dig out information by using people who won't go on the record.
LEWANDOWSKI: Look, it is OK to get background information from individuals who can't go on the record, maybe they aren't authorized to speak on behalf of the administration. Maybe they don't have all the facts, and they're giving their opinion on things. I understand that perfectly. And I have many of those conversations where they say, hey, this is off-the-record, but if you want to have some guidance on which where you are going, that is perfectly fine. The difference is when you have on the record sources saying that stories are absolutely unequivocally wrong, that the media needs to understand that, and they need to do their due diligence and make sure they aren't perpetuating stories they know to be inaccurate. That's the difference here. And what the president said in his news conference was is he will take bad stories if they're accurate. He is not opposed to a bad story. He just wants them to be accurate. And that's why he has called out the fake news.
KURTZ: Let me get you in on this question, the uproar about this off-camera gaggle that Sean Spicer held, where certain news organizations were excluded, including CNN where you were a contributor last year. Was this a self-inflicted wound or this is an overreaction on the part of the press?
LEWANDOWSKI: Well, just so what your viewers understand, what happens is the media has what is called a pool. And what that means, on a daily basis, they rotate and someone is in charge of the pool both from the print side and from broadcast side. That is on a rotating basis. The pool is allowed into Sean Spicer's office to cover an off-camera gaggle. That gaggle was transcribed and provided to every major outlet in the country. There is no question about that. If the pool person that particular day would have been a CNN pool or CBS pool or an ABC pool, whoever that is, they would have been included. If the print reporter would have been from the New York Times, or the LA Times, or Huffington Post, they would have been included. The difference is in this pool environment, it was a smaller area. They had a few -- they had a limited ability because of space.
LEWANDOWSKI: . to expand that fool and bring some more people in. But every person in the media was given access to the information that was provided there, through a transcription from the pool service. This is not unlikely that the president travels somewhere and can't bring in entire national press media corps
LEWANDOWSKI: So that they can report it.
KURTZ: All right.
LEWANDOWSKI: It's not a big deal.
KURTZ: OK. I'm glad we had a chance to talk to you about that. I know you have a relatively low opinion of the way this president is being covered. And there has been, which is an avalanche of negative stories, which began the day after the elections. I should say this began during the general election campaign. But when President Trump ratchets up rhetoric and talks about a number of news organizations being the enemy of the American people, and that's includes CNN, where you were a contributor, doesn't that go too far? How is that helping them in general?
LEWANDOWSKI: You know, this is the president who probably for the first time since Franklin Roosevelt goes directly to the American people. You know, FDR did it with fireside chats and this president through social media. And what he has an opportunity to do through all the social media activities that he has, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, et cetera, is communicate directly with about 100 million people. That's something that nobody else has done. And he's willing and able to push back. I think the American people love it. And if you look at the Fox News survey, it says who do you believe give you accurate and clear information, the president of the United States 45 percent of the people, the mainstream media 42 percent of the people. The American people believe what the president is saying because he is honest, trustworthy, and authentic. That's the difference here.
KURTZ: Well, you're right about the low reputation of the media. I will put you down, it is not using the word enemy. Corey, stick around. We got to get a break here. Email us at email@example.com with your comments on the media. And we'll have more our conversation after a quick break.
And later, Tucker Carlson on the latest Trump attacks on the press and the president picking up news from his show about Sweden.
KURTZ: Let's continue our conversation with Corey Lewandowski in New Hampshire. Corey, this has been a rocky month in the administration with some accomplishments but also missteps particularly on the immigration rollout, at least. You raised questions about whether the White House staff is adequately supporting the president. Explain.
LEWANDOWSKI: Well, Howie, what I said was, you know, it's very important that you look at the individuals the president surrounds himself with. The top aide officials who have come to the administration have no government experience. A lot of people think it's a detriment, I think it's a positive. That means they put a fresh set of eyes on things. They have a different objective of keeping the status quo. That's not what this president is looking to do. But I also think, if you were to ask them was it their goal that 24 days into the administration, you know, their national advisor would have to resign, of course not.
With that said, look at the executive orders that they have been able to put forth in the first 30 days. Look at the work they have done, they helped the coal miners already. They are putting people back to work there, they are bringing people in. The president is you know reducing the number of government regulations by saying for every one you new regulation, we're going to get rid of two regulations. He has withdrawn us from the TPP. The president is doing things in the right order. He is working on behalf of the American people. I think there is an ability here to continue to build that team, they are continuing to grow.
KURTZ: You seem to be suggesting that perhaps it was a mistake not to put a couple of senior people in the White House who do have government experience or White House experience.
LEWANDOWSKI: Well, look, it's not just about government experience, Howie. I think the number one thing when you surround any president is making sure you have people who have number one loyalty to him, but number two, who have the ability to tell him the truth on issues. And that's the most important thing for any president. I think that if you ask Barack Obama and his team or George H.W. Bush, or any of them, they would tell you that you need to have people who you can rely on to tell you the truth. And what you see now is you see a team around the president with General Mattis and General Kelly and HR McMaster. All of these people are going to tell the president exactly the truth through their own beliefs. And that's very, very important for the president to be successful.
KURTZ: Right. It's our thing to say sir, you are wrong about this. I know you were very candid when you were the campaign manager. We have about a half minute. With all of this rhetoric about fake news and the enemy of the American people and all that, can you see a lowering of tensions eventually? Are we looking at the next four to eight years of just outright hostility between the president and the press?
LEWANDOWSKI: I don't think so. Look, President Trump is a consensus builder. He's a great individual, with relationships. As you know, he's funny, he's self-deprecating. He's very magnanimous and private. And I think what you will see -- all he has asked for, Howie, he asked for a 77- minute long press conference was just write a story that's fair. You know, it doesn't necessarily have to be positive, but it has to be fair, it has to be accurate, and it has to be truthful. And I think it is a fair thing to do. And if you look at the president and the relationships he has built, he has good relationships with the media. He has been for accessible to the media than probably any other president in the history of our country, both on the campaign side and now as the president. He went out and did a 77-minute.
LEWANDOWSKI: That's something we haven't seen before. And I hope he continues to do that.
KURTZ: He was certainly extraordinarily accessible during the campaign. Corey Lewandowski, great to see you. Thanks for joining us this Sunday.
LEWANDOWSKI: Thank you.
KURTZ: Up next, Steve Bannon says the media support a corporatist and globalist agenda. We will go back to our global-minded panel.
And later, President Trump skipping the White House correspondents' dinner. Does anybody still want to go to this thing?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: They say we can't criticize their dishonest coverage because of the First Amendment. You know, they always bring up the First Amendment. I love the First Amendment. Nobody loves it better than me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: We're back with the panel. Guy, who says the president can't criticize the press? He does it all the time and he gets a lot of coverage.
BENSON: Yeah, on shows like this one. The other thing he said in that speech I think that got little attention on the whole, enemies of the people quote, because that's what he did say about the press generally and then he sort of climbed down from that a little bit during the CPAC address. He clarified that he meant well, fake news is the enemy of the people. And I wasn't totally sure that.
KURTZ: Buy, in the original tweet where he used that phrase for the first time, the fake news organizations quote that he enumerated New York Times, CNN, CBS, ABC, NBC. That's a pretty big chunk of the MSN.
BENSON: Right. So I think the thing that I would like to maybe drill down on him and ask a lot of question is, is he saying when these organizations print or publish fake news.
KURTZ: Or everything they do?
BENSON: Or as a blanket statement, they are all fake news permanently?
CARLSON: I can answer for you. He means it as a blanket statement. And you know, he does get fully covered. Twitter to Trump as where the federalist papers are the founding fathers.
CARLSON: He uses it to get out and clarify what he wants to say. And because it's only 140 characters, he gets pretty much quoted, which a lot of politicians complain about not getting. So he meant what he said because he listed the organizations. Those are his enemies.
KURTZ: He has really weaponized Twitter in a way we have never seen. Erin, in terms of Steve Bannon's criticism of the press, are you or have you ever been part of the corporatist media? What do you think is he driving at?
MCPIKE: Well, I think he's trying to drive a wedge between his audience, CPAC, and their populist theme, and the rest of the media saying that the media are elites and they are not out for the American people. It goes back to his enemy are people that are commentary.
KURTZ: Based on my reporting, I think Steve Bannon, you know, personally he is not giving Trump all his ideas. They have to agree on a lot of things. But he has set-up a war room. He sees it as a daily battle, a daily offensive against the press, and he believes the media have kind of a globalist mindset, wherein individual reporters are part of it or not. For example, in the coverage of illegal immigration, they portray it sympathetically, and therefore kind of opposing Trump's policy. And this one reaches us to our final question which is, are the media which are ticked off by Trump's criticism starting to act a little bit more like an opposition party?
BENSON: I think they have all along with Trump. They really, really, really detest that guy. So it is a two-way street. They need each other, they use each other.
KURTZ: Many in the media.
BENSON: A lot of people. I think it's a daily fight and I don't think it's wrong for the White House to view it that way.
KURTZ: Your response.
CARLSON: You can see Trump's anti-media bias increase in the course of the campaign. Bannon egged him on to now it's the enemy of the people. It used to be a throwaway line at his campaign events. We would back there, and he would point.
CARLSON: And they would turn the cameras around to see how big the crowd is, et cetera.
CARLSON: But now, Bannon I think has jagged that up.
KURTZ: I would just note that including in interviews with me earlier in the campaign, Trump was very hard against the media long before he was associated with Steve Bannon. All right. Coming up, a New York Times columnist says there is no point to reaching out to Donald Trump's supporters because they are bigoted and misogynists. Tucker Carlson weighs in on that.
And later, why the press wasn't satisfied with the president's annunciation of anti-Semitism.
KURTZ: As the battle lines harden between President Trump and the mainstream media, I sat down with the host of Tucker Carlson Tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Tucker Carlson, welcome.
TUCKER CARLSON, TUCKER CARLSON TONIGHT SHOW HOST: Hey, Howie.
KURTZ: Steve Bannon says the opposition party, the mainstream media, is the globalists and corporatists. Do you know any of those?
CARLSON: I live among them. Everybody I know is a globalist and corporatist.
KURTZ: That's right. But do you know reporters, are journalists, and producers, and editors, too?
CARLSON: Well, I don't know subconsciously. I don't know that anybody in the Washington press corps wakes up and thinks I am going to carry the flag of Davos you know into the press conference.
CARLSON: But I think people internalize the values of the tribe they live in. And here in Washington and New York, and Los Angeles, they have a globalist outlook and they tend to work for corporations. It doesn't mean that they're drawing a line precisely, but they have an orientation that is pretty consistent over time. There is very little diversity of background and experience in the press.
KURTZ: That is a fair point. At CPAC, the President Trump really went after the press and he talked about anonymous sources and he thinks that they're made up, and they shouldn't be allowed. And of course, anonymous sources are overused in my opinion. But at the same time, it can be crucial to investigative reporting. Shouldn't it be allowed or what message is the president saying?
CARLSON: Let me just say, I think it's very frustrating, probably if you are Trump. I think Trump consumes more media than any other president, probably ever.
CARLSON: He's very up on what the press is saying about him and it enrages him. And I understand why. And I think he has a right to be mad. I would say that as a journalist, anonymous sources are really helpful. They have been really helpful to me. I mean, the question is not whether the person is anonymous. The question is whether the information is accurate.
CARLSON: And you know, I have used anonymous sources and I will continue to. I have one today. But Trump is saying they are saying things that are untrue and I think you can prove that.
KURTZ: That's a better argument, I think.
KURTZ: Also, there has been a lot of leaking of classified stuff. I can see what the president is being upset about that. There was a huge uproar, just to touch on this, when Sean Spicer held a gaggle on Friday.
KURTZ: The pool event of certain news organizations who have protested, the New York Times, Politico, Buzzfeed and CNN were left out. Is that of interest to people out there or is there a principle at stake about picking and choosing news organizations?
CARLSON: I think if that is of interest. What the Trump people are saying is look, let's drop the pretense. Trump is coming to all of this cold. And so as a lot of his staff, they're not preachers of D.C. or politics. They are basically remaking it along the lines of where they see fit. And they are basically saying let's stop lying about it. The CNN exists, you know, they have decided to be the anti-Trump network, which I think is true, same as the Washington Post and same with the New York Times, and we're just saying what it is.
KURTZ: Do you think that's true for everybody including the New York Times?
CARLSON: Of course not. Not everybody in the building. I think there has obviously been a decision at high levels where we are going to position ourselves. We're the opposition to Trump. That's clearly how they are. And the Trump people just don't want to play of along. The question is, and that's fine, where does it go? I mean, one side says you are the opposition and the other side basically says yes, we are. Where are we a year from now? I don't know actually.
KURTZ: New York Times columnist Charles Blow writes the following. He has no patience for liberal, talking about reaching out to Trump voters. There is no more compromise point with those who accept, promote, and defend bigotry and misogyny, or xenophobia. Trump is a cancer on this country and resistance is the remedy. So this guy doesn't like Trump, that's fine. He's kind of saying to the 60 million people who voted for Trump, well, you are a bunch of bigots and misogynists.
CARLSON: Well, it's an extreme statement. He speaks for the entire left, increasingly when he says that. And let me say, resistance is what Duggal wage to Mitsubishi. I mean, that's what you do when there is a tyrant in charge, and you try to overturn that by any means necessary. So that kind of language is I think not helpful at all. It's extremist language. But based on what they're making is a moral argument, theological argument. They are not bothering -- they don't bother to learn that to rebut the details of the opposing argument. They don't even acknowledge it. They say you're a bad person, I'm a good person, and that's it, stalemate. And it's not a great way to conduct political discourse. It's not even discourse.
KURTZ: There is so much divisiveness on both sides.
KURTZ: Was it kind of a surreal moment when after you did a segment with a filmmaker about Sweden and the influx of immigrants there and rising crime.
KURTZ: President Trump brought up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: You look at what's happening in Germany, you look at what's happening last night in Sweden. Sweden. Who would believe this? Sweden. They took in large numbers, they are having problems like they never thought possible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: And then, there were a lot of questions what did he mean when he said last night Sweden, who would believe this, they took in large numbers, they are having problems like they never thought possible.
CARLSON: I mean, the problem was the phrase last night, suggested that something changed last night.
CARLSON: I'm glad people watch our show, including the president. At its core, he made a totally valid point, which is immigration and the influx of refugees in Sweden, and all northern countries in Western Europe. They have really caused a lot of social turmoil, a lot, not just crime, but political drama. And we should note that and see if we can learn something from it. I think we can. So I'm glad he said that. But the reaction from the press was unbelievable. All these pieces appear in places like Fox and in places that are just purely political, I would say, and partisan to try and convince us that's all a lie. Everything is fine in Sweden. Do you know anyone who lives in Sweden? Have you been paying any attention? Why is that Sweden Democrats all of sudden came from nowhere to be the second biggest party of the country? Because this is real, this actually is happening.
KURTZ: We have half a minute, the broader criticism, Tucker, is this is the president who as you kind of noted earlier, watches a lot of television.
KURTZ: And often fires off tweets or makes comments based on that without going through the normal vetting and fact checking, that most presidents have done before.
CARLSON: Right. It's not the medium he uses to express himself that bothers me, it's the lack of precision. And the president's words are the most valuable currency in the world. It is the most important thing we have, the word of the president. And you know, you use it sparingly and make sure they are accurate. That's the rule. And nobody can violate that rule, anybody.
KURTZ: President Trump seems to set his own rules. But you have a good point in Tucker.
CARLSON: Thank you.
KURTZ: Thanks a lot for being here.
KURTZ: And on the MediaBuzz, the anchor who says the media want to control what you think. But first, President Trump denounces the rise in anti- Semitic vandalism and threats and still gets negative headlines.
KURTZ: President Trump preached a message of tolerance this week at the Museum of African-American History. And in a brief interview with MSNBC, he was asked about a recent spike in anti-Semitic threats and vandalism.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CRAIG MELVIN, MSNBC ANCHOR: Will you denounce anti-Semitism once and for all to clear the confusion?
TRUMP: I do all the time. I do all the time. And I think it's terrible. I think it's horrible, whether it's anti-Semitism, or racism, or anything you want to think about, having to do with the divide. But I'll tell you have anti-Semitism is horrible and it's going to stop, and it has to stop.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: But reporters were skeptical when they questioned Sean Spicer later that day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is the president comfortable with his obligation as the leader of this country, to deliver that forceful message to the Americans? And if so, why didn't he do that sooner?
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Every time there is an instance, it is interesting. I get a question, is he going to denounce this one, is he going to denounce this one, it's ironic that no matter how many times he talks about this it's never good enough.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: When you look at the headlines, here's the lead story, USA Today, Trump too late on hate, critics say. And Guy, so it's not enough for the president to denounce anti-Semitism, he's too late, critics say. And that's the way it started with that.
BENSON: I think this was sort of Trump talking past the press and maybe the press misunderstanding. When Trump was asked a few times about anti- Semitism and some of those events, including at the press conference, I think based on reading what he said, he thought this was a roundabout way of attacking him and suggesting that he was an anti-Semite. And he was so upset and offended by that, that he sort of defended it and deflected in an odd way. And then, when finally had had a moment to sit down and think, they want to you talk about this phenomenon, he couldn't have been anymore forceful. He was very clear. And also sometimes, actions are louder than words. And the vice-president going and helping clean up that desecrated cemetery, I believe in Missouri, that was a powerful gesture from the administration, very, very clear.
KURTZ: The cemetery in St. Louis, yes. Morgan, I understand people saying Trump should have spoken out sooner. That's fine. But those kinds of headlines, and there were a lot of them, after delays, Trump finally says, seem to suggest it doesn't count unless it is on the media's timetable.
CARLSON: Listen, it was forceful, it is welcome, and it is time. This came after a series of things in which you -- he did not stand up. That holocaust memorial remembrance statement.
CARLSON: . which left out Jews. And then, instead of saying oops, you know.
CARLSON: Oh, we didn't name gypsies and the disabled either, instead of just correct it. When the Jewish reporter asked a very benign question at the press conference.
CARLSON: He said sit down.
CARLSON: . like a first grader. That didn't come across. So indeed, he needed to do this. It's really welcome and it's time. And thank you.
KURTZ: Quick thought.
MCPIKE: The press is expecting him to sound like President Obama, and he's never going to sound like President Obama. We have to cover him for what he's speaking and what he's doing.
KURTZ: What do you mean sound like President Obama?
MCPIKE: I think we saw that President Obama for all of his faults was an extraordinary speaker and called himself the healer-in-chief. President Trump won't be the same.
KURTZ: So he is criticized for having a different style.
KURTZ: All right. So, look, the story that everyone here is really buzzing about inside the beltway, and if you probably could care less is a tweet, another news-making tweet over the weekend, President Trump will not be attending the White House correspondents' dinner which is in April. And you know, I wasn't that surprised, I mean, given the war between this president and the mainstream media. Why would he want to spend hours in the Washington Hilton being mocked by a comedian, hanging out with people who he doesn't particularly like? But it's big news because this has become such -- the whole weekend has become such a spectacle here.
BENSON: Yes, the ultimate D.C. story.
BENSON: I think most people watching right now are like either what is that dinner exactly, what is that? And it's viewed as the sort of self- congratulatory D.C. event. If Donald Trump somehow manages to take down the White House correspondents' dinner, it will be his number one drain the swamp accomplishment.
KURTZ: So you are all for.
BENSON: I just don't care at all. Have the dinner, have a nice time, he's not going to be there, fine.
CARLSON: It has been in decline since the successful New York Times stopped going.
KURTZ: We talked about, you know, it became which celebrity could you get to come in from Hollywood to stay at your table. Then also during the Obama years, a lot of celebrities wanted to come. Even before we knew whether President Trump was coming, there was a lot of well, I am not sure we should go and honor this president. And of course, the big parties, Bloomberg just pulled out, the Vanity Fair which also pulled out, the New Yorkers ended his party. They were happy to celebrate Obama. So it has been very controversial.
CARLSON: Right. It has been going downhill. The nerd prom is really the nerd prom. Also, it's filled with advertisers and underwriters. Most press people can't get in.
KURTZ: But now, will reporters and others want to come if there is no presidential star?
MCPIKE: I assume that they still will. It's a big event in Washington. There is going to be another wrinkle in the story and it will be what President Trump does that weekend. I assume he will go to Mar-A-Lago, who knows, maybe he will invite a head of state. And the White House press corps instead of going to dinner will have to go to Florida and cover President Trump.
KURTZ: That is a great point.
KURTZ: We should make the point that this dinner raises money for scholarships, but this has been overshadowed by the celebrity aspect. All right. So we may have competing the dinner which is usually on TV. Samantha B having a counter event in D.C. I think we will all be working that weekend. All right. Erin McPike, Guy Benson, Margaret Carlson, great to see you this Sunday.
After the break, big play for the boisterous town halls challenging Republican members of Congress, coverage is a little bit different than eight years ago. And the Democrats picked a new leader.
KURTZ: Republican members of Congress faced off with voters in a series of raucous town hall meetings the past week or so, the loud voices amplified by media coverage.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Members of congress returned home to anger across this country, frustration boiling over. Some calling out President Trump, others fed up with congress.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now, these people don't have the insurance they need.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In rural Virginia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Joining us now, Susan Ferrechio, chief congressional correspondent for the Washington Examiner. So the media loved this story, Republican lawmakers are getting yelled over Obamacare and some other issues. Do you sense a more positive tone?
KURTZ: And then when the Democrats the correspondent.
SUSAN FERRECHIO, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: What a great question, yes, yes. Let's think back to 2012 when the tea party was reported on.
KURTZ: And 2009 as well.
FERRECHIO: And 2009 when it first came out. What we saw was the portrayal of the tea party as this sort of fringe group with an angry agenda. And when there lots of outrage, when they held up signs saying impeach Obama, if you can recall. Because I can't believe it, they're just trying to undermine this president. And now, they are being portrayed as a group that sort of fighting for the truth and fighting you know to bring Trump around on his agenda. And I guess you are seeing sympathetic headlines that you didn't see with the tea party.
KURTZ: Right. I still think it is a public sentiment. And conservatives try to dismiss it by saying this is all being organized by a group of legislators.
FERRECHIO: Well, it's probably organized.
KURTZ: I don't know what the extent is. But whatever the extent, does that neutralize its news value because real people do show up.
FERRECHIO: Absolutely. And what power will they have in the next election, that's the real question. If they can mobilize these folks to get them to vote, but of course, it's an incredible story, just as the tea party was an incredible story that resulted in overturning the Democratic majority in the house and eventually, the senate. And I think led up to President Trump's election. So, yeah, it's an important story. But I think getting at the root of what's behind it and looking at the coverage by comparison from the tea party to now is really important for journalists to think about.
KURTZ: All right. So speaking of the Democrats, the DNC had its election yesterday, the new chairman is Tom Perez. He is the former labor secretary. There is a picture of him on the screen. He has beaten out Congressman Keife Ellison. No mark on Perez, and oftentimes, the candidates are not that well known. But there has been very little, in my view, media attention to this race. Why is that?
FERRECHIO: Well, because there is a new dynamic outside the president who is hogging up all the media oxygen. That's the big reason. Think back in 2012, we were all focused on divisiveness in the Republican Party. That was Obama's presidency part 2, more interesting to look at the party that is on the outside. That's generally the way the media works. But I also think there is always more interest on the part of the media and I have said this before, to focus on divisions within the Republican Party than the very serious divisions right now, within the Democratic Party. There really is a big split there. It is going persist after yesterday's election. People said they weren't sure they would get behind Perez because they wanted Ellison to win. The division still exists, it's a party without a leader, it's a party without a message, and it's a party quite marginalized in majority right now.
KURTZ: I also think that a lot of coverage where driven by personality. And even when he was helping 95 percent of the country knew who Tom Perez was.
KURTZ: So I think that has -- I will cut the interest because these are not larger than life.
FERRECHIO: Well, these party chiefs, they never are very dynamic individuals who get a lot of attention.
KURTZ: You look at Ed Rendell or Howard Dean, yes.
FERRECHIO: Sure, yes. And really, what they need now, as you say, a charismatic leader, somebody who is -- who can lead them to win in the next election. And right now, he's leading a divided party. So what he can do there would be a great news interest.
KURTZ: Right. And Perez will have to get some media attention because he is now the leading spokesman for his party that doesn't control anything here in D.C. Susan Ferrechio, great to see you. Thanks for coming in.
Still to come, an unfair knock on Kellyanne, and the MSNBC anchor who says the media and Donald Trump are competing to control what you think.
KURTZ: It's no secret the MSNBC's morning host Mika Brzezinski, is a critic of President Trump, even though she and Joe Scarborough met practice with him a number of times. But she kind of went off the rails in her latest broadside.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKA BRZEZINSKI, MSNBC HOST: Well, I think that the dangerous edges here are that he's trying to undermine the media, trying to make up his own facts. And it could be while unemployment and the economy worsens, he could have undermined the messaging so much that he can actually control exactly what people think. And that is our job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Now, I'm sorry. It's not our job to control what people think. It's our job to report the facts, provide analysis, and commentary, and let people can make up their own minds. I'm hoping that media just misspoke.
Alan Colmes, the Fox News contributor and sparring partner for Sean Hannity when they shared a primetime show died this week. Colmes was an unabashed liberal, his views were not that popular with much of the Fox audience, but who also drew flack from the left for not being tougher in take on Hannity.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: They are so afraid of being labeled mean spirited, after the two years of most vicious personal attacks, lies, distortions, propaganda, by the Democratic Party.
ALAN COLMES, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: The vicious personal attacks have been against Bill Clinton.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Wow, they look young. Alan was a lovely guy who livened his strong views with a great sense of humor dating back to his roots as a standup comic.
Now, Fox also lost Brenda Buttner the business journalist who was the host of "Bulls & Bears" after a battle with cancer. Tough week here at the company.
A bogus CNN story this week claimed that White House sidelined Kellyanne Conway, funny though that she appeared on "Hannity" and "Fox & Friends," and did a kick-off speech at CPAC, and did more interviews in 24 hours. So a lot more to Conway's job than going on TV. And by the way, she is also busy looking at houses and schools for her four children, when they move to Washington. You know, even top government officials have lives. Kellyanne faced a lot of from her boss, but let's stick to the facts.
And that's it for this edition of "MediaBuzz." I'm Howard Kurtz. We hope you like our Facebook page. Check it out. We post a lot of original content there, like talking to you back and forth on Twitter. I'm Howard Kurtz. Continue the conversation. Remember to DVR the show if you happen to be doing things, especially if it gets warmer on Sunday mornings, so you don't miss a minute. We'll see you back here next Sunday with the latest buzz. Thanks for joining us.
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