Conway defends Trump airstrikes; Media on war footing for Syria

How president's position changed


This is a rush transcript from "MediaBuzz," April 9, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: On the "BuzzMeter" this Sunday, the press rallies around the president as he launches airstrikes against Syria in retaliation for a chemical attack. We'll ask White House Counselor, Kellyanne Conway about the decision, the change in Donald Trump's stance on Syria, and the surprisingly positive media coverage.


LESTER HOLD, NBC NEWS, APRIL 6: Good evening, we're coming on the air because U.S. Military Forces have just waged a launch of cruise missiles that attack on Syria hitting back at the Assad Regime after that horrific chemical attack on children.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS, APRIL 6: Good evening, we are coming on the air right now because President Trump has just ordered a military strike on Syria.

DAVID IGNATIUS, THE WASHINGTON POST, MSNBC, APRIL 7: It has fallen to Donald Trump to enforce the red line that was first enunciated by President Obama but he did not follow-through on. By taking that action, he, Donald Trump has restored the credibility of American powers.

RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT, APRIL 6: But it is not going to get him into any real trouble. It was not a decisive action. It was more symbolic. It was a slap on the wrist actually.

DANA PERINO, CO-HOST, "THE FIVE," APRIL 7: I feel like what President Trump did last night was put America back on the geopolitical map.


KURTZ: But is the press being skeptical enough about the risk of being drawn into another Middle East war. A stark media divide over should balance allegations involving President Trump and his team with somehow slamming Susan Rice for her role and others rushing to defend her.

And did journalist essentially forced Devin Nunes to step down from the House Intel probe. Plus, Senate Republicans go nuclear of ousting the Filibuster for Supreme Court Nominations after the Democrats try plot Neil Gorsuch is coverage drenched in hypocrisy? I'm Howard Kurtz and this is "MediaBuzz."

In the wake of the president's decision to launch Tomahawk Missiles against Syria after a horrifying chemical attack, Kellyanne Conway the White House Counselor joins me now from New York. And Kellyanne, when the president calls on civilized nations of the world to join in stopping the slaughter in Syria, it sounds like he's calling for a long-term military effort against Assad?

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: He's basically saying that attempts to reform the behaviour of who he called the dictator, Mr. Assad have failed. And he also really took the case to both Russia and Syria by noting that Damascus and Moscow had assured the world community that these weapons were gone, these banned gasses for example, we know that both countries have not gone along with U.N. Resolutions.

I think Russia has vetoed them 7 times to really denounce the actions of Mr. Assad against his own people but I thought it was incredibly important to note that the president's address to the nation and indeed the world the other night, Howie was non-partisan.

He, of course, people have noted how emotional it was and how empathetic it was from talking about the beautiful babies and the fact that no human being, no child should ever suffer these horrors and he obviously was very moved by those photos, but he also made this decision based on the information that he had gathered from his national security team and he made that decision in a very decisive, swift way...

KURTZ: Right.

CONWAY: I think to accolades right, left and center.

KURTZ: Yes, and on that point...

CONWAY: But the other thing...


CONWAY: ...that is missing, I just wanted to point out...

KURTZ: Go ahead.

CONWAY: ...because it don't hear it a lot and the panache (ph) this weekend, the only thing that was missing from his statement was any type of partisan rebuke of the previous administration. Everybody knows that Syria was by in large a failure under the previous presidential administration, but this president did not need to note that. He's looking forward and he's calling upon civilized nations everywhere to stand against a dictator gassing his own people including innocent babies.

KURTZ: In the largely positive coverage of which we played at the top, he also had this some of the president's fiercest liberal detractors also applauding this decision, but let me ask you this because as news outlets have pointed out and you just kind of referenced it, I mean President Obama when we has weighing those reaction against Syria in 2013 for crossing the so-called red line and did nothing.

Donald Trump was against any military action at that time tweeting that bad things will happen and the U.S. will get nothing out of it as recently as October, Kellyanne, Trump told Reuters when he was a candidate, you're going to end up in World War III over Syria if we listen to Hillary Clinton. So, this has seems to be a major shift in his thinking. Should he give a speech or otherwise explain to the American people how his position has evolved?

CONWAY: If the president or his cabinet members wish to speak further on this Howie, they certainly will. You see our cabinet members are out in the Sunday shows today talking about this very topic and I'll leave that to our commander-in-chief and president.

But I will say this he's now the commander-in-chief and president. He gathers information from his national security team and the president has done exactly what he promised to do during the campaign, the transition and since he's been swearing as president, he said he would consult with his generals, and by that he means literally his generals but also his entire national security team.

He saw them there in the situation room and he of course gets his daily presidential briefing, his national security briefing. He, of course, confers with his team on a consistent daily basis, a regular basis. So, what somebody says or tweets long before they are commander-in-chief and long before Assad goes and takes what appears to be a banned substance and uses it, weaponizes it against innocent people for all the world to see that is -- that plus the information that he has been given by his national security team, he weighed the consequences and he took swift decisive action.

KURTZ: Right.

CONWAY: Even detractors like Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, other Democrats right, left and center they commended his action because they see that it was -- it was appropriate, it was precise, it was legitimate and justified but it was also very targeted to the incident at hand.

KURTZ: Right. No it is certainly very different when you are commander in- chief and Hillary Clinton who hours before the attack actually said she would be in favor of striking Assad's airfields. Also said this, we can't in one breath speak of protecting Syrian babies and then the next close America's doors to them, so will the president reconsider his decision on Syrian refugees?

CONWAY: Howie, the president believes that there should be a safe space in Syria for them. I mean most Syrians want to live at home and they deserve a safe homeland as all people do, as all American would believe that we do here. The fact is that if you talk to many Syrians even those who are here, they wish to return home.

And when Syrian babies come in, it's -- they come with, as Ambassador Nikki Haley said on a different show this morning, they come with Syrian adults and we can't be sure because the vetting processes are not in place. We can't be sure what their intent is.

And so I know some people who would like to not credit the president and legitimize his actions this weekend are moving on to that issue as well, but the president has made his position on this very clear. And he, of course, was responding to the information that he was given and the images that he saw...

KURTZ: Right.

CONWAY: ...but in terms of the refugee crisis, we want to make sure that they can -- I think the main goal is that they can remain at home safe from gases and all other types of torturing. We've all seen the images, it's tragic that women are choosing suicide over rape, by enlarge we heard that several months ago...


KURTZ: Yes, so tragic but let me get a less question in here. As, you know, Syria has resumed bombing that town when the chemical attack took place from the damaged airfield. The National Review writes if this is a one-off this strike is a very definition of a symbolic pinprick. So, if there's no further military action and how will the president reach his goal of stopping the slaughter in Syria?

CONWAY: But again, I'll leave that to our commander-in-chief and president, his national security team, and cabinet to decide that is not for me to say. But, obviously, this is an evolving conversation and situation and of course as I always like to say sometimes under criticism, the president knows things that no one else does. He and his national security team have information and that's the way it should be for any president and his or her national security team.

So, he will -- the action he took this week, the cabinet secretary's responses since do tell you something, even Secretary Mnuchin, our treasury secretary has been out there talking about possible additional sanctions. You had Secretary Ross on another Fox Network this morning talking about how it commerce, it's his job to enforce those sanctions if in fact they happen...

KURTZ: Right.

CONWAY:, there many different moving parts here and the conversation will continue.

KURTZ: Even as all of this is going on, there have been a flood of stories as you know, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Axios about infighting in the White House stories saying that Steve Bannon has lost influence to Jared Kushner, one story saying that the president might reassign Bannon or even Reince Priebus, other story saying that president had the -- had Kushner and Bannon have a meeting to work out their differences, it's -- you've called it kind of dismisses his palace intrigue but it is at a point where these are high-level leaks which the press is gobbling up which seems to indicate serious friction in the White House.

CONWAY: The president has assembled that he always has a very diverse group of individuals who have really incredible a lot of experience in the private sector and the public sector, people who have strong opinions and the president has never side away from having intense conversations on public policy issues. He has also someone who has people around him who you would not consider to be yes men. He is somebody who has always engaged a number of different opinions but let me...

KURTZ: But do all the leaks bother you? This is a very leaky White House. Is it undermined what you and your colleague are trying to do.

CONWAY: I think none of that helps the president and I'm -- and so I'm always very protective of that. I also think it's a waste of brain space and talk time, to be frank with you because 30 and 40 years from now people may not remember any of our names but they certainly will know who Justice, Neil Gorsuch is and by then he will have made a huge mark on American jurors prudent as somebody who has fidelity to the constitution and is an originalist and at the age of 49 was sworn in as an associate justice of United States Supreme Court.

So, what happened this week, with the confirmation of Judge Gorsuch and the fact that Leader McConnell did a masterful job for over a year in keeping that seat open and shepherding Judge Gorsuch through, I think that's something that will impact generations and it should not be an afterthought, it should not be a footnote...

KURTZ: Right.

CONWAY: ...on what has been an incredibly strong week for presidential leadership.

KURTZ: It's unfortunately got overshadowed by -- certainly by the attack in Syria and Democrats would disagree on Mitch McConnell tactics but he will be sworn in tomorrow.

Finally, on the congressional intelligence probes, President Trump told the "New York Times" this week that he believes that Susan Rice may have committed a crime through her role in unmasking him and some of his aides when they were picked up on foreign intercepts during the Obama Administration, now whether or not she did anything improper it means to be seen but should the president be prejudging the guilt or innocence of a former national security advisor?

CONWAY: The most amazing thing about the Susan Rice story this week though, is it's conspicuous by its absence in most of the network coverage. The idea that the American people don't have an interest in understanding what unmasking even means, that the media have are duty bound to explain what it means when it's appropriate when it's not, is the NSA an investigative agency?

She gave -- Ms. Rice gave interviews on PBS earlier I guess last month where she said that she doesn't know anything about it and now she seems to be reversing course a little bit by saying she didn't do anything for "political reasons", so I think there are many questions that have been raised...

KURTZ: And we will check those up.

CONWAY: ...from a series of answers and non-answers, but that's the key here. If you got people so hyped up about let's go have an investigation about this and that and the other and yet they aren't even willing to suggest that perhaps they need to know more information about unmasking of innocent Americans through incidental collection they do -- they do want to know that and...

KURTZ: We are...

CONWAY: ...especially if it was during the campaign...

KURTZ: We are out of time.

CONWAY: ...of the condition which are -- which was political in nature.

KURTZ: Right. We will pick that up later in the program and the weeks to come. Kellyanne Conway thanks for being here...

CONWAY: Thank you, Howie.

KURTZ: ...from New York in a very important...

CONWAY: Pleasure.

KURTZ: weeks. When we come back our panel weighs in another coverage of president's military strike against Syria and later Senate Republicans as we just spoke about go nuclear and confirmed Neil Gorsuch, does the congress reflect the filibuster history of both parties?



PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Tonight I call on all civilized nations to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria.


KURTZ: As the fallout mounts over President Trump launching airstrikes against Syria, joining us now to analyse the coverage, Erin McPike, White House Correspondent for Independent Journal Review; Mollie Hemingway, Senior Editor of The Federalist and a Fox News Contributor; and Margaret Carlson, Columnist for The Daily Beast.

Erin, the tone of the reports on this airstrike, in the press and all the channels, strikingly positive for Donald Trump, I believe when military action takes place there's a rally around the president effect, do you agree?

ERIN MCPIKE, INDEPENDENT JOURNAL REVIEW: I do and in some cases maybe there should be because he took decisive action which he has not been exactly known to do at least from a commander in chief standpoint, so he deserve the positive coverage that he got.

What I thought was interesting in the days that followed was that you heard some from the White House complain that the coverage then got negative like what's next. Well, that's important to realize. Once you do launch a military strike, tough questions will follow, so the positive coverage is not going to last forever and the White House should realize that.

KURTZ: Mollie, do you believe that much of the praise for the president particularly from Liberals who don't like this president is because he was decisive in the moment that seemed to be a good thing in the eyes of the pundits?

MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, THE FEDERALIST: I think there was a lot of frustration about how things were handled in Syria by the previous administration that was able to be brought out through this action but it's also true and this is particularly true with television media, that people in the media really enjoy war. They really enjoy military action. It's fun to cover. It's exciting to cover. And I think that that is something that people should guard against as we have this discussion about the situation in Syria because there are many problems with -- there are many questions that need to be answered about going to war before you do it.

KURTZ: So, the drama of covering Tomahawk Missiles landing and that sort of thing, I mean it's great cable news fonder and you think the excitement over that might sometimes outweigh the sober judgments?

HEMINGWAY: Well, I thought we had this discussion back in...


HEMINGWAY: ...the previous the war about...

KURTZ: It was, with this.

HEMINGWAY: ...the problems that people have had in rushing...


HEMINGWAY: ...into it and American people know that they don't have much of an appetite for getting involved in another Middle East War.

KURTZ: Well, you have reads (ph) to carry on CNN who has called President Trump a B-esser (ph) except using the actual word twice saying this is, you know, this is when he became president, so coverage also driven by a sense of moral justification, striking out at Assad after gassing his own people.

MARGARET CARLSON, THE DAILY BEAST: This is the pictures where send to affect Donald Trump, I think it affects everybody...

KURTZ: Right.

CARLSON: ...including the media, sometimes we are human beings, as shocking as that might be, and the pentagon gave out a piece of tape on the Tomahawk Missiles which showed in an almost continuous loop because TV loves the pictures of something going bang, so you had that footage and you had people all who feel quite confident to talk about a war when it's drone strikes and so...

KURTZ: You don't...


KURTZ: ...casualties and so forth.

CARLSON: ...put that -- yes.

KURTZ: But are journalists being skeptical enough or at least we're starting to see the beginnings of skepticism about what happens next. Is there a long-term strategy? Where do we go from here in dealing with this 6-year-ol Syrian Civil War?

MCPIKE: Yes, I think you're seeing that dominate the coverage this weekend. What is next? I do think it was smart for the Trump Administration to put out the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson as well as the National Security Adviser, H.R. McMaster who is obviously on Fox News Sunday, but all of these officials spoke to the media from Mar-A-Lago where the president was this weekend and the president actually made himself to reporters a couple of times, the "New York Times" noted that he came to the back of the cabin in Air Force One on the way down there and that was a good move for the administration to make these very senior officials available to press that can answer...

KURTZ: Right.

MCPIKE: ...for those...

KURTZ: And Nikki Haley as well. I still think though the commander in chief might think about addressing the country after ordering the Tomahawk Missiles, Kellyanne Conway did make a -- give a tip a hand on that, but Mollie Hemingway, you write that Trump's decision to attack Syria is at odds with his rhetoric over the last four years. Now, the media have certainly pointed this out, but it hasn't become a major issue why do you think that is?

HEMINGWAY: Well, I don't know. I think that has been part of the discussion and it's appropriately part of the discussion. There actually is a case to be made for doing this type of strike against Syria that is not in contrast with the president's rhetoric during the campaign or all the way back to 2013, but he really did speak about making sure that we don't get involved unless there is a strong national interest. And I think this was something that his voters very much appreciated.

You're going to have Washington, D.C. pushing for much more military action and this will be something where it would be helpful for news rooms to have more -- be more in touch with -- again, that American attitude that doesn't really feel ready to go into a war that we're not ready to win or not having the strike...

KURTZ: Right. But some of the dissenting voices have come from Trump supporters who felt that he campaign for non-intervention to the Middle East, America First. We were not going to get drawn in the way that Hillary Clinton might have, so that's interesting. I think that the press is very quick to cry flip-flop except when somebody is flipping in the direction of a position that they support which I think it was happening with the strike.

CARLSON: I think this has gotten some coverage especially since there was...

KURTZ: Sure.

CARLSON: ...some contrast with Donald Trump, these are the Obama's actions and now and we're going to hear more from Trump's base because this is a readily understood and something that the base is going to feel because no more foreign war is something that his base really -- they may not understand the budget going against them, they may not understand some other things, but this war they do understand.

KURTZ: All right, let me get a break and let us know what you think, Ahead the president says Susan Rice, as I mentioned, may have committed a crime, we'll examine that coverage. But up next, Neil Gorsuch is in, the Supreme Court Filibuster is out and were journalists quite as concerned when Senate Democrats did something similar?


KURTZ: Neil Gorsuch will be sworn in tomorrow as the Supreme Court justice, this is after the Senate Republicans detonated the "Nuclear Option" once the Democrats try to kill the nomination by Filibuster.

Mollie Hemingway, let me read you a little bit from 2013 when Harry Reid abolished the Senate Filibuster for lower court nominees New York Times Editorial, Democracy returns to the senate. Times (ph) said the only logical thing because of Republicans obstructionism; Rachel Maddow, Republicans don't think a president named Barrack Obama should be allowed to have his nominees on the Federal batch, so do you see a little bit of a shift here depending on whose in the White House?

HEMINGWAY: Well, you see that both in Democrats and Republicans switch sides on their thoughts on...


HEMINGWAY: ...ending the Filibuster, but the media seems to as well and that is, you know, it's pretty obvious that they have completely changed their mind on it.

KURTZ: Yes, hypocrisy seems pretty thick to me and in this both sides Margaret Carlson Sean Hannity in 2013 called Reid's Move, one of the most lawless power grabs in the history of the U.S. Senate. Now, of course, most Republicans and Conservatives are saying well, the Republicans and Mitch McConnell had to do this because it was unfair because Democrats were trying to Filibuster a Supreme Court nominee.


KURTZ: A little bit of a shift again in the congress.

CARLSON: I mean it's so -- that shift is so complete and so obvious that, you know...

KURTZ: Right.

CARLSON: ...we almost don't even and is factored in anymore.


KURTZ: ...politicians doing it.

CARLSON: know, the press -- yes, yes.

KURTZ: ...but commentators maybe should be a little more consistent or?

CARLSON: Yes. Well, you know, the press...


CARLSON: ...the press is actually -- if the -- if the press has a bias here, it's towards romanticizing "Mr. Smith goes to Washington" and the Filibuster, "Oh, wooh, we can't let that go and anybody who does that is totally a strong arm and it's -- and it's anti-democratic and so on. But, as far as, the actual parties themselves, they're going to do what's in their interest at the time and going to be criticized Sean Hannity or Rachel Maddow depending on where they sit.

KURTZ: The senate -- go ahead.

MCPIKE: The reality is a Supreme Court confirmation is a much bigger story than any kind of lower court confirmation and the press always act like this when something comes to fruition like they did...


MCPIKE: ...this week, that's when they finally start to cover it. So, I thought all of the coverage get interesting because you had so many reporters saying things like this is the death of the senate. It's not going to be the same thing anymore.

KURTZ: A little hyperbolic.


KURTZ: Right. And senate tactic aside, do you think overruled the press especially after the confirmation hearings generally depicted Neil Gorsuch as a qualified candidate for the United States of inquest.

MCPIKE: I think generally, yes.

KURTZ: But the debate and the media seem, I mean it's obviously there was a lot of that in the...

MCPIKE: It's all about process.

KURTZ: ...but it moved to process, it moved to tactics, it moved to the Filibuster and then as even Kellyanne said they kind of became a footnote, you know, this is going to have an impact for at least the next 30 years because of Syria and other big stories.

HEMINGWAY: Yes, they -- the media did present Gorsuch as he was very qualified legal mind, a choir boy almost, but there wasn't a lot of pressure put on Democrats for their decision to vote against him and push this Filibuster issue and I think that that would have been something they could have provoked a little bit more.

KURTZ: It's so much easier being in the minority when you can just say no and Republicans now learning those, they try to govern.

All right, ahead on MEDIA BUZZ, what's driving all these stories about Steve Bannon losing cloud at the White House, we touched on it earlier, but first Devin Nunes recuses himself from House Intel probe was all the negative press a factor?


KURTZ: In Fox News and Bloomberg columnist, Eli Lake reported that Susan Rice had unmasked the identities of Donald Trump and his aides picked up on foreign intercepts during the Obama administration, many news organizations played down the story or just disparage it.


DON LEMON, CNN, APRIL 3: There is no evidence whatsoever that the Trump team surveyed are spied on -- was spied on illegally... and on this program tonight, we will not insult your intelligence by pretending otherwise nor we aid and abet the people who are trying to misinform you, the American people by creating a diversion.

JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNC, APRIL 4: What if Dick Cheney had asked for the unmasking of names for Barack Obama's incoming administration? I mean it's a very simple question to ask the next time anybody says this has much to do about nothing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE, CNN, APRIL 3: This appears to be a story largely ginned up partly as a distraction from this larger investigation.

STEVE HAYES, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR, "SPECIAL REPORT," APRIL 4: What I think is so striking about this is Susan Rice is a well-known serial prevaricator and how is it that reporters are going nuts asking her questions about this one?


KURTZ: Mollie, CNN's Don Lemon says he's not going to aid and abet people trying to creating this Susan Rice diversion, how about aiding and abetting journalism at least asking legitimate questions about it?

HEMINGWAY: Right. They should actually cover the story rather than cover it up and this is a significant story. I mean, we know that there has been a leaked campaign that has gone on since at least -- since Trump was elected if not before of associates, you had information appearing in all the major media that that information was sourced to anonymous people but they were -- we were told they were high-level Obama officials.

In order for that campaign to work, you have to be collecting information. You have to be unmasking it. You have to be leaking it. Different people might have played different roles, but here we get -- we get major news. I thought the unmasking would have happened from someone much more low level.


HEMINGWAY: That it was Susan Rice in the White House so close to Obama, I mean she's known as right-hand woman that...

KURTZ: Right.

HEMINGWAY: ...the NSA, I mean that is something that a normal journalist would think to dig into.

KURTZ: And we still have Jim Sciutto, CNN's National Security Correspondent saying this was ginned up. No mentioned that he worked for the Obama State Department as recently as 2013, Margaret what did you make of these other outlets New York Times, Washington Post, ABC, NBC either initially ignoring it or playing it down look it's an open question whether she did improper let alone legal but isn't it a story?

CARLSON: It's a story and it was covered. I think it can -- it cannot be covered...

KURTZ: It wasn't covered on two of the three major newscasts initially.

CARLSON: At all?

KURTZ: Not the...

CARLSON: I mean, Don Lemon...


CARLSON: ...Don Lemon brushed it off...


CARLSON: ...but I don't call him, you know, you know, he's not a news person. He's an opinion person.

HEMINGWAY: Jim Sciutto is the reporter who is supposed to be covering it though.

CARLSON: But the idea of having Susan Rice back out there is for those on the right in the media can -- she can never be dismissed or disparaged enough. And it brings up Benghazi again, I mean...

KURTZ: Right.

CARLSON: ...Susan rice is a radioactive target in which you don't have to explain anything more and if you don't - if you don't kill her off with your commentary, then you are not doing your job.

KURTZ: All right, let me play for you two interviews that Susan Rice did. One of them was with PBS with Judy Woodruff on March 22nd and then after the story broke, she spoke to NBCs, Andrea Mitchell on April 4th.


SUSAN RICE, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER FOR PRESIDENT OBAMA: I know nothing about this. I must say Judy, is one of the most Senior White House Officials and the most senior responsible for national security, I found that report a bit perplexing. I was not aware of any orders given to disseminate that kind of information.

The allegation is that somehow Obama Administration Officials utilized the intelligence for political purposes, that's absolutely false.

ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC HOST: Let me leak (ph) the name of Mike Flynn...

RICE: I leaked nothing to nobody and never have and never would.


KURTZ: So, she went from saying I know nothing to saying yes I did this but it was proper.

MCPIKE: Right. So, what we know about the story right now is that she may have been well within her authority to unmask the names. She is saying that she didn't leak. It is a story to go back on all of this point. Susan Rice's involvement here is news. What I think is important here is you have Richard Burr who chairs the senate intelligence committee as well as John McCain and Lindsey Graham saying that she may be of interest and they might want to question her. That makes it a story that should be covered. We - well, we live in a country where you are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty...

KURTZ: Right.

MCPIKE:, we have to give her some benefit of the doubt but we have to question her continuously.


CARLSON: But, Howie, you also have to separate unmasking and leaking...

MCPIKE: Right.

CARLSON: ...she denied leaking.

KURTZ: I understand although but if she spread it more widely Obama Administration maybe that's why it leaked. I was also really struck by MSNBCs David Corn saying, "Well, maybe this isn't part because she is a black woman. I don't see what race or gender has to do with these questions about Susan Rice as well.

HEMINGWAY: It has absolutely nothing to do with it and it is actually completely inappropriate and should be - should be condemned such statements like that but more than that I think it's also true that the media have a little bit of a conflict of interest here. We have been participants in this leak campaign and we do need to protect our sources, that's a very important function. There is a difference between protecting sources and then running interference. Obviously, the investigation is going to get pretty close to some media people since they were the recipients of the leaks...


HEMINGWAY: ...but shouldn't affect our journalistic responsibility to just cover the story fairly.

KURTZ: That's a great point. All right, Devin Nunes, there was so much controversy around him we talked about it. Everyone has talked about it for a couple of weeks now. The House Intel Chairman recusing himself from this whole Russia surveillance, Trump investigation after and we have that whole spectacle where he went to White House grounds, got classified information, it turns from White House aides and went back to the White House the next day to brief the president and what the president's aides had slipped him or let him look at. Do you think all the negative headlines contributed to Congressman Nunes deciding that he needed to get out of this thing?

MCPIKE: I'm sure they did but he partly did that to himself by rushing to camera so many times, but look this is an investigation on top of an investigation because now you have the House Ethics Committee investigating Nunes. So, he can't possibly lead this...

KURTZ: But, on that point, Nunes blames that, the Ethics for awhile (ph) and left-wing activist groups who filed complaints with congress and he calls the allegations totally false, but the media narrative is this was sort of a self-inflicted wound on his part in terms of how the information dribble that about what seemed to be his cooperation of nothing else with the White House.

CARLSON: Yes, I mean -- I mean it's obvious that he kind of did it to himself and as Erin says, we now have a play within a play which is now we have the side story about Nunes and even though we have Paul Ryan support, because he is an agreeable guy and I think it's his agreeableness that led him to do this rather unfortunate thing which is try to please the White House.

HEMINGWAY: I think he didn't do it to himself, I think it was pretty obvious that as soon as he came out with this amazing information, the media instead of digging into it decided to look into where he had dinner in, you know, go after him in a way that they weren't going after Adam Schiff who is also a very partisan person. I mean everyone in congress is political, that's not the most interesting thing about it. But...

KURTZ: Just in five seconds, you are saying that the media chose to minimize the substance of what Nunes was saying which we didn't have access to obviously the documents and that make him the target.

HEMINGWAY: Yes, they downplayed, they integrated, and they distracted and the thing is he will still be in charge or he's still in-charge with the committee, and he'll still be digging into this leaking issue. He's just stepping aside...


KURTZ: have note, Mollie Hemingway, Erin McPike, and Margaret Carlson thanks very much for joining us this Sunday. Coming up, Ed Henry contrasts the coverage of President Trump's missile strike and President Obama's refusal to bomb Syria. What about all these leaks about Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner and White House infightings? Stay with us.


KURTZ: President Trump's decision to strike Syria was a sharp contrast to President Obama's avoidance of military action after clearing that Bashar Assad had crossed a red line back in 2013. Joining us now is Ed Henry, Fox's National Correspondent who covered that story at the White House and is the author of the new book, "42 Faith", the rest of the Jackie Robinson Story, Ed.


KURTZ: You're at -- good to see you as well. You're at the White House when President Obama declared that red line and famously did not enforce it.


KURTZ: He got cream in the press and Donald Trump right now enjoying an unusual level of praise, how do you see this contrast between what happening right now?

HENRY: ...the contrast because President Obama deserved it. He is the one who drew the red line and then did not follow-through and even sent his Secretary of State, John Kerry out there if you'll remember right before what was anticipated to be military action and then something happened overseas.

Remember the British Parliament voted down military actions there and President Obama walked right up to the line and said, "Oh, public opinion, maybe I can be worried here." And then you remember, pulled back on military action and said, "Democracy, let's send it to the congress." He was ready to go without the congress but then all of a sudden back...

KURTZ: Right, but maybe the media also liked military action...

HENRY: Sure.

KURTZ: opposed to quiet, join out diplomacy...

HENRY: I've seen...

KURTZ: ...ultimately didn't work because Assad...


HENRY: Yes, and by the way, to be fair, President Trump is going to find the deeper that gets into Syria. There are no easy solutions and I think to be fair to President Obama he didn't cause the civil war in Syria...

KURTZ: Right.

HENRY: ...getting used to that, but many out there seem to think that but he made it worse by drawing the red line and not following-through. Here's what I think about President Trump though is yet another example, I heard you say earlier in the show, now that he started some military action, will the skepticism come in after the...


HENRY: ...fine. Yes and it should, but you know what, I think it's inflected (ph) this administration because much of the mainstream media has been so anti-Trump...

KURTZ: Right.

HENRY: ...the skepticism came before the military action. The skepticism was -- he's not even a legitimate president. I'll give you three...


HENRY: know, it's the narrative...

KURTZ: Right.

HENRY: ...that he's crazy and out of control and then meanwhile he does very calm, strategic...

KURTZ: Right.

HENRY: ...strike here and number two what about all those stories about Rex Tillerson? He is a nobody. He can't do anything. He's going to Moscow in a couple of days to stick it to the Russians.

KURTZ: Let me get you to all these White House infightings as...


KURTZ: ...somebody has covered that before long time, Steve Bannon, Jared Kushner who is in and out and Reince Priebus is safe and all of that, how seriously do you take these stories? It seems if you take them seriously like it's a pretty dysfunctional place?

HENRY: It's real. I spoke to two of the president's advisors who told me, we'd already heard that the president in Mar-A-Lago on Friday said you guys work this out. OK, that has already been out there. And then there was this little sit down with Bannon and Priebus and Kushner to try to work it out but I heard something else which is the -- these two advisors telling the president said, "You guys work it out or I'm going to." That tells me this is real.

KURTZ: But how is it -- but how is it...


HENRY: He's not happy with all these infightings.

KURTZ: I think that point is clear, but how is it that we know all the details if he's unhappy, there is a meeting, and Bannon and Kushner...


HENRY: ...on the west-wing is talking about.

KURTZ: this -- is this the leakiest White House you've ever seen?

HENRY: It seems like it in that respect, but frankly I will say this I'm trying to report out from the facts of what I'm hearing that it's real, that there is real strike behind the scenes, and there are going to be some moves but I think it's far less moves, far less crisis than it's being portrayed. Part of the portrayal in the media, it's not all the media's fault for crisis sake (ph)...


HENRY: you say, all leaks are feeding...

KURTZ: Right.

HENRY: ...the crisis.

KURTZ: And at the same time, the journalist love...


KURTZ: ...have love the game of film (ph), they love the soap opera. In our remaining minute, you've got this new book out, "Jackie Robinson, 42 Faith" one journalistic question, you had to grapple with in writing this book given the racial abuse that he took when he broke the baseball color line, the 40's is but then he used the N-Word.

HENRY: Yes and initially I will -- to be honest that when I wrote the first draft, I use it as the N-word and I didn't say the word and other words. And then some people close to me read the draft and said, "What are you doing? You're kind of -- you're sanitizing...

KURTZ: Sanitizing, yes.

HENRY: ...the history and I thought about it." I thought this could be offensive and then I thought and I actually spoke to an African-American journalist recently who after seeing all of this said, "You -- it would have been more offensive if you didn't use the word."

Because the whole point of my book is that I think there's another dimension here which is that Jackie Robinson overcame a lot of that abuse, not just verbal, but death threats because of his strong faith in God. If I had not shown how nasty it was I think I would have sanitized it.

KURTZ: So, fascinating dilemma. I think you've made the right decision. Good luck with the book, Ed Henry, great to see you.

HENRY: See you.

KURTZ: After the break, Former White House Official, Gillian Turner, whether journalists are asking the right questions about Syria?



GEN. JACK KEANE (RET.), FOX NEWS MILITARY ANALYST: This is an incredible message and it should have been sent many years ago by the Obama Administration.

ADMIRAL JAMES STAVRIDIS (RET.), FORMER NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER: Well, I think they made the right call in terms of doing something proportional, something relatively immediate, something that connects very much with the chemical strike itself.


KURTZ: So, generals bleaching the air waves and generally praising President Trump's strike against Syria. Joining us now is Gillian Turner, a Fox News contributor who worked on national security issues for President's Bush and Obama.

When all these retired generals come on the air and say this is a great move and then maybe a great move, it makes me nervous because they and so many others sold the press on how the invasion of Iraq would essentially be a cakewalk.

GILLIAN TURNER, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Yes and it's good for the media in general to have a healthy dose of skepticism when we get into these kinds of kinetic operations. What I would say in this instance, however, is I think the administration has been 100% clear about the fact that this again was a very limited engagement.

This is a direct response and retaliation for those chemical attacks. This is not, you know, the launch of a new ground war. This is not even a launch of a new wave of airstrikes in the country.


KURTZ: Having worked for two presidents, you know how the initial media praise after military action Bush in Iraq, Obama in Afghanistan and Libya and maybe elsewhere can quickly turn critical.

TURNER: Absolutely. And I think that I would say to the president now this morning, look he launched these air strikes Thursday night, Sunday morning, the honeymoon is already over. I mean, that's how long...

KURTZ: That's right.

TURNER: lasted. Now, already today the attention is, well, there seems to be a consensus that this was the right tactical move to take. But what's the strategy -- what's the strategy for the country of Syria? What's the strategy to fight ISIS and then the civil war? What's the strategy for the broader region? And I think this is good. This is where the...

KURTZ: Those are the kind of questions that journalist should be asking but...

TURNER: should be going.

KURTZ: ...maybe they waited a day or two...

TURNER: Absolutely.

KURTZ: ...because, I mean there was, first of all, the shock of this happening...

TURNER: Right.

KURTZ: ...covering it as Breaking News and also as I said generally positive coverage. But if nothing else happens and so the talk -- with Obama there was a lot of dismissive talk of pinprick strikes, could this line up being largely symbolic if nothing else happens in the next six months?

TURNER: Yes, I mean it will end up then being sort of entirely symbolic. But, the way that the coverage of Syria has gone over the course of the civil war over the last five years is generally we focus on what the United States and the international community's military role is.

And then every once in a while when something gets particularly egregious, we comment on the civilian humanitarian situation inside the country. Remember, a few months ago, everybody was talking about Aleppo for like a day and a half. And then, we moved on we forget that people are dying and suffering and we start talking about well, what should the U.S.' role be?

I worry here sometimes the media really does lose sight of the forest for the trees. The real story is the degree of human suffering on the ground inside the country...

KURTZ: Right.

TURNER: ...that half a million people have died.

KURTZ: Half a million people have died, a six-year-old civil war, it's hard to cover that every day for six years.

TURNER: Right.

KURTZ: What you are saying that once the smoke clears so to speak from the missile strikes and if there's no more chemical attacks, it doesn't minimize the size of the tragedy but you think it may slip off the media radar again just briefly?

TURNER: Yes, but and the American media in particular needs to constantly and periodically return to that, ground themselves in that reality, and then we can adapt whatever posture we think we need to adapt based on that.

KURTZ: Gillian Turner thanks for that reality check, great to see you. Thanks for coming in. Still to come, a week of controversy for Fox News, and one of the greatest newspaper corrections ever.


KURTZ: We all make mistakes, but this is a head-snapping one. Checkout this correction at the end of a "New York Times" story, because of an editing error an earlier version of this article misidentified Ivanka Trump as President Trump's wife. His wife is Melania. Ivanka is one of his daughters. Ivanka is one of his daughters, editing error made by someone unfamiliar with the Trump Family or who hasn't heard of this thing called Google?

It's been a rough week of media coverage for Fox News with problems have been covered by all the network newscast and the major newspapers and have even drawn in the President of the United States. Much of the criticism follows that "New York Times" report on Bill O'Reilly or the network paying out $13 million to settle five cases against him alleging sexual harassment or inappropriate conduct.

This week more than 50 companies have pulled their advertising from O'Reilly top-rated cable news program. Fox said in a statement, we value our partners and are working with them to address their current concerns about "The O'Reilly Factor." At this time, the ad byes of those clients have been re-expressed into other FNC programs.

President Trump made news and drew some criticism of his own. When he told the "Times" that he doesn't believe O'Reilly did anything wrong and shouldn't have settled the cases. O'Reilly says he is vulnerable to lawsuits as a high profile figure and wanted to "put to rest any controversies that spare my children."

In a lawsuit this week, Julie Roginsky, a Fox News contributor alleged that she was being denied -- that she had been denied a permanent spot on "The Five" and outnumbers because she refused efforts by Former Chairman Roger Ailes to draw her into a sexual relationship. And the suit says Fox management did not act on her complaints.

Ailes resigned on the pressure last summer after numerous arrests and allegations against him, all of which he denied and his lawyer dismissed Roginsky's claims and this new lawsuit as a total nonsense. This has been a difficult and uncomfortable period for the people who work here, no question about it.

The network has been trying to move on to change the culture and to make clear that any kind of harassment is unacceptable. Now, most of these allegations date from the Roger Ailes era, but the echos of that era are still making news.

That's it for this edition of "MediaBuzz" I'm Howard Kurtz. Thanks for watching. We hope you'll check out our Facebook page and give us a like. We post a lot of original content there and I try to respond and have a dialogue with people who post comments. Same thing on Twitter, let us know what you think of the Kellyanne Conway interview, other aspects of the show, weigh-in on the media @howardkurtz.

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