This is a rush transcript from "Media Buzz," June 18, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: On our Buzz Meter this Sunday, partisan blame game erupts in the media after a shooting of Republican whip Steve Scalise and four others at a baseball practice.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
MELISSA FRANCIS, FOX NEWS: Does it make it worse, I mean --
NEWT GINGRICH, POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: They want to know the truth.
FRANCIS: -- well, but do you rise above it and say --
FRANCIS: -- we all need to stay calm and focus on the work ahead of us.
GINGRICH: You've had a series of things with some signals that tell people that it's OK to hate Trump, it's OK to think of Trump in violent terms, it's OK to consider assassinating Trump, and then suddenly we're supposed to rise above it.
TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS: Some in the hard left understand this and that's why they supported because political violence could lead to the disillusion of a country they despise.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC: And be sort of exhausting and (INAUDIBLE) and that there's immediately the sort of blaming and there is look for who is the villain and sort of connection from normal politics like Bernie Sanders to ghastly attempted murder.
GREG GUTFELD, FOX NEWS: Radical leftism has always abdicated violent revolution so this BENSON was essentially radicalized by the left- wing media.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN: Do you think that the left has gone too far on its rhetoric if people are using rhetoric like this president is a traitor and the Republicans are treasonous and they're destroying the country and they're going to kill out people through health care and all this stuff, that might give the unhinged among you to an excuse or a target as it were.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
KURTZ: The shooter was an anti-Trump liberal and Bernie Sanders volunteer who loved Rachel Maddow but one (INAUDIBLE) pundits insist on engaging in guilt by association. As "The Washington Post" reports that Bob Mueller is examining obstruction of justice allegations against the president, Trump allies launches a media offensive against the special counsel.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a nightmare for anyone to be investigated by the FBI and the Justice Department and it's particularly a nightmare for the president of the United States.
DAVID FRUM, THE ATLANTIC: If President Trump really does fire Robert Mueller he might as well just hire a sky writer to trace and smoke over the White House "I am super guilty."
SEAN HANNIY, FOX NEWS: A new look and Rod Rosenstein recused himself, resign immediately.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
KURTZ: Is the reporting and the speculation getting way ahead of the facts?
Megyn Kelly and NBC under fire for an interview with radio host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones airing tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MEGYN KELLY, NBC NEWS: They call you the most paranoid man in America. Is that true?
ALEX JONES, RADIO HOST: Absolutely not. A paranoid person would be hiding out in their house not venturing out in public. I go out there on the street battle Black Lives Matter, the communists' in point blank range.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Should she give a platform to a man who has called the Sandy Hook school shooting a hoax or is there a journalist acuity to hold them accountable.
Plus, a mistrial for Bill Cosby as his wife accuses the media of blatantly vicious sensationalism. Just who is guilty here? I'm Howard Kurtz and this is "MediaBuzz."
There have been some calls for unity after the shooting across the river in Alexandria that left Steve Scalise in critical condition now upgraded to serious condition, but the airwaves have been filled with angry finger pointing by pundits and politicians.
Joining us to analyze the coverage is Guy Benson, political editor of Townhall.com and a Fox News contributor, Erin McPike, White House correspondent for Independent Journal Review, and Michael Tomasky, columnist for the Daily Beast. I have a simple question for all of you, despite this calls of unity as we're still sort of reeling from this horrible shooting, is there too much partisan finger pointing in the media, Guy?
BENSON BENSON, TOWNHALL.COM: Yes, definitely especially after a horrible event like this. And I think that people want to associate speech that they don't like with acts of violence. And I think we saw a lot of that in 2011 after Gabby Giffords where there was no evidence. There was more evidence of that here. I still think it's wrong.
ERIN MCPIKE, INDEPENDENT JOURNAL REVIEW: There is guilt on both sides. Partisanship is battling both sides now. Newt Gingrich's point I would say that there was a lot of nasty and hateful rhetoric about President Obama, his entirety of his 8 years in office so this happened on both sides.
MICHAEL TOMASKY, THE DAILY BEAST: Yes, back in 1992 I recall Newt Gingrich trying to blame that woman in South Carolina drowning her two sons on the Democratic Party. But put that aside, I actually think, I'll dissent a little bit, yes, on the airwaves, sure, its ratings. But the politicians themselves by and large I think have been fully responsible this past week and haven't really fanned the flames that much.
KURTZ: Perhaps this past week, but you know, if you look at what they say routinely when they get invited on cable news shows and the more vociferous and vehement they are, the more thy pop and better ratings for the shows, but let's go back to the dead killer here.
So this Hodgkinson guy, and as I said, he's a Trump hater, despises Republicans, doesn't mean that Bernie Sanders is responsible or Rachel Maddow whose show he watches is responsible. But I get the sense that some conservative pundits are suggesting while this is kind of typical of liberals or liberal hate.
BENSON: Well, I think the frustration among many on the right is that we remember Tucson very well. I covered that closely. I recall the media coverage. And immediately the left's narrative was Palin is responsible, the Tea Party is responsible, right-wing hate is responsible. There was not one scintilla of evidence for that.
Her shooter was a schizophrenic who was not political and not remotely right wing and yet that big lie took root so deeply that The New York Times editorial board repeated it this week and had to correct themselves.
KURTZ: Yes, I have more to say on that. Michael, you know, I agree with that in sense that I covered that story as well I wrote that day that it was ridiculous to blame Sarah Palin. But here is the thing, it kind of reinforces the point you're all making is that both sides are perfectly willing to engage in extreme rhetoric and particularly after a tragedy when you would think that sort of an instinct is to target that.
TOMASKY: Yes they are and it is unfortunate and you know, at the time of the Gifford shooting, you're right -- you're right -- there was overreaction. There's no question about it. There was that bull's-eye thing which made people jump to conclusions, but they were wrong conclusions. Now, I believe that, you know, there was less of this I thought this time. I just want to say that again. I think there was less of it this time than there usually has been.
BENSON: Because of the partisan angle there, right. I think that the left and the media is much more willing to run with the narrative that right wingers are at fault than in the other direction. We saw a few questions about it and then the media sort of just moved on, let's have a nice time at the congressional baseball game. That's great. But if this was a right- winger shooting a Democratic congress people, we would be having a different conversation. I am confident of that.
KURTZ: In this polarized media universe where we talk about extreme rhetoric and you know, we're talking about not just politicians but people who make their living as spewing opinions online and television. Is this what sells? Is this what gets clicks and ratings?
MCPIKE: I'm not even sure that I want to go down that road. I think in this case obviously because the shooter targeted part of the members of Congress there is an element to that. But in so many mass shootings there are political angles and it's not just about partisanship, but you have shooters trying to make some kind of political statement.
This thing that bothered me about some of the coverage in the days following was that a number of reporters asked about increased security for members of Congress. I think if I were the parent of a student in Newtown or member of that church in Charleston or a teenager in Aurora or a patron of the nightclub in Orlando, I would have been a little bit irritated that the media focused on security for members of Congress and not in these other cases.
I think we went down a different road and we could have done a better job in some of the question that we're asking. Now, we know that there's always after a number of mass shootings on the right at least. There is anger that the press always goes to gun control. But we do need to ask better questions about the intersection between access to guns and mental health and we need to keep on those questions.
KURTZ: All right, let me go to some of the specifics as we're talking about the reactions to. So, right after the shooting I thought that Paul Ryan in the House and joined by Nancy Pelosi, you know, gave very unifying statements. Ryan talking about an attack on one of us is an attack on all of us. But the next day, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi talked about a case in which she had faced a stalker who made death threats and listen to what she said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NANCY PELOSI, HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: I mean, one of the people that went to jail for threats to me eventually when they finally found him because he was very resourceful in hiding. When he was being tried his mother said he just watches too much Fox TV.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: His mother said he watched Fox therefore somehow Fox bears responsibility here.
BENSON: Well, you have to ask Minority Leader Pelosi what her point was there. She also went on to say in this whole context that she thinks that this all got bad and really got worse starting in the 90s when Republicans decided that they would, you know, go down the route of personal destruction. I mean, it will be very interesting to hear what Robert Bourke might have to say about that or Clarence Thomas.
KURTZ: Yes, you can pick a lot of starting points in the past. Michael, Republican congressman Steve King, very conservative, called a radio station and they asked him about the shooting -- "I do want to put some of this at the feet of Barack Obama. He contributed mainly to dividing us. He focused on our differences and this is some of the fruits of that labor. So members (INAUDIBLE) now and I guess this (INAUDIBLE)
TOMASKY: You know, that's kind of a to use a Trump word, sad.
TOMASKY: You know, there is way too much of this and both sides do it at times like this and, you know, it just shouldn't happen.
KURTZ: Here's another example, a writer at the very liberal "Huffington Post" Jesse Benn. We'll put it up on the screen. It says in the wake of the shooting, "what's more harmful, putting millions already on the margins more at risk via draconian policies or shooting a racist lawmaker in the hip?" That seems to me to almost condoned violence, your thoughts.
MCPIKE: Yes, look, again, I think we are getting caught up in some of the same patterns. Another thing that I think the media could do a better job of. The congressman, Mike Bost, who is the Illinois congressman who represents the shooter, his office received 14 messages in the last six months from the shooter saying they were angry messages. But he said he never had any threats.
Well, I would like to see those messages that shooter gave to the member of Congress through his office. You know, why -- if they saw these things, didn't they do a better job trying to prevent it before. He might not have any threats, well, he said there were no threats, but if you're getting angry messages --
BENSON: Congress gets angry messages every day.
MCPIKE: I understand but we live in a society where we're promoting if you see something, say something, shouldn't we do a better job of looking into some of these angry messages?
BENSON: I think that if it goes into threat territory, yes, but just angry venting which is what millions of people do all the time.
MCPIKE: Well, but who won't? But we're giving him cover by just saying we should see them -- we should see them.
BENSON: We should have people like full time mind read --
MCPIKE: I'm sorry but --
KURTZ: I have one more I want to get in here and the reason I'm doing this is I think it's important to call out people who politicized the tragedy. This is Joy Reid. She hosts a show on MSNBC. She puts up this tweet that says, "Rep. Scalise was shot by a white man with a violent background and yet and saved by a black lesbian police officer. And yet, and list a couple of his positions which claims oppose gay marriage and ban on semi-automatic weapons."
So, the guy faced an imminent risk of death. He is still in the hospital, and I'm not saying immune from political criticism but isn't this wildly inappropriate and (INAUDIBLE)?
BENSON: Yes, it's disgusting and it's a really bad look for Miss Reid I think in this case. The and yet dot, dot, dot, the police officer, not thinking about her sexual identity or her race did her job with her heroism and she saved a member of Congress, duly elected who holds mainstream positions. That's it. And to go down the route that she was there very clearly I think is really, really unfortunate.
KURTZ: Is there any hope just briefly that this has been such a wake-up call, that there will be a little bit of a lowering of the temperatures or is it (INAUDIBLE) culture here to stay and by next week everybody will be back to --
TOMASKY: I'm afraid you know the answer to that question.
KURTZ: Based on past shootings, you know, we all go crazy for two days and then we move on.
TOMASKY: It was nice to see these bipartisan expressions for a couple of days, but let's not count on anything.
KURTZ: All right, let us know what you think, email@example.com. I'm sure you got a lot of opinions about this. When we come back, the media go to Defcon One over newspaper story and the broadening of the special counsel's probe of the President Trump.
And later, Megyn Kelly facing a storm of protests over her interview with a controversial radio host, Alex Jones.
KURTZ: A Washington Post story is reverberating across the media landscape. The paper is saying that special counsel Robert Mueller will interview Natonal Intelligence director Dan Coats, NSA chief Mike Rogers and his deputy about conversations they reported to have had with the President Trump abut Jim Comey's Russia probe.
The president responding on Twitter, "They made up a phony collusion with the Russians story, found zero proof, so now they go for obstruction of justice on the phony story. Nice." He also said the greatest witch hunt in American history is being led by some very bad and conflicted people.
So Guy Benson, this Washington Post story enable everyone in the media say wow, the president is under criminal investigation, which had not been true ore certainly not confirmed before. Isn't that what Bob Mueller was hired to do to look at all this allegations?
BENSON: Yes, and this is an important story, but since we're talking about the media, I would want to point out and this struck me this week, the swiftness with which the media pivoted back to the top story being Russia, while you had a member of Republican leadership in critical condition, fighting for his life after an act of political terrorism. It was like two days and then back to Russia as the top story. I really question that news judgment
KURTZ: And then this preview, it wasn't two days. It was right away. The very night of the shooting, MSNBC on its primetime shows, you know, put it on some shows near the top even as the breaking news was, you know, that all of these people were shot.
BENSON: And I'm not saying they shouldn't have covered it. It is an important, but it was not the top story.
KURTZ: And I'm not saying that any of the shooting be covered, and it is an important story, the president under investigation, but wasn't it inevitable that Mueller would talk to top intel officials and others about the Trump conversations. Is this just to make this just to make it official or this was just -- the volume too high?
MCPIKE: Look, I think it's very clear that Donald Trump himself made it an even bigger story by going on to twitter. Now, I'm not one who actually thinks he should stop tweeting. He's obviously is speaking his mind. He's speaking towards to the people. He's giving us a lot of material every single day, but Donald Trump made this a bigger story.
KURTZ: Let's talk for a moment Michael about what it seems to be a somewhat orchestrated counter-attack against Robert Mueller by the president's allies and it began with a couple of interviews over the past week. Let's take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: Will the president promise not to interfere, not attempt to any time to order the deputy attorney general to fire Robert Mueller?
JAY SEKULOW, TRUMP LEGAL TEAM: Well, the president of the United States as we all know is a unitary executive.
CHRISTOPHER RUDDY, CEO, NEWSMAX: Well, I think he's considering perhaps terminating the special counsel. I think he's weighing that option.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
KURTZ: That was Christopher Ruddy, the CEO of "Newsmax" and a friend of the president and this started lots of talk about whether the president is going to fire Bob Mueller but a lot of which are just chatter.
TOMASKY: Well, the basis of it originally was that it seemed that Trump himself was not under investigation. That was the gist for example of Ann Coulter's tweet that said why don't we drop this investigation and why don't we get rid of Mueller.
TOMASKY: But then the Washington Post story confirmed that Trump apparently is under investigation so that justification was cut out.
KURTZ: Is it fair for people to say (INAUDIBLE) for the president to say well, Mueller might be a great former FBI Director and a very outstanding prosecutor but he's a long time associate or a friend of Comey who is sort of the chief witness here and therefore he can't really conduct this investigation?
TOMASKY: Well, it's a fair thing to say. I mean, you know, people with public opinion will decide and people will decide and Congress will decide and everybody who gets to determine these things will decide that. Yes, they can say whatever they want to say, sure.
BENSON: I'm not a big defender all the time reflexively of the president. One thing that I do think that the media could do a better job of in this entire conversation is according to poll and they believe that this obstruction charge has to do with the Russia probe itself. That the president was trying to shut down or impede the Russia investigation.
Based on James Comey's testimony, that is not the case. This was related to a tertiary investigation into Michael Flynn and his actions. That is an important distinction.
KURTZ: Well, we've had presidents attack special prosecutors before. Bill Clinton versus Ken Starr famously in the Monica Lewinsky case, but when this happens, you are saying the president's tweets fuel it and just escalates the story more and then we have new threads to cover in the media
MCPIKE: Absolutely. I think it was probably in poor judgment in this situation for the president to get on twitter as quickly as he did. He might have considered waiting a day or two.
KURTZ: When he's says badly conflicted people, he's surely talking about Mueller and possibly even Rod Rosenstein based on another tweet. The deputy attorney general he appointed and who in turn appointed via Mueller.
MCPIKE: Yes, and the other thing is when he was referring to Rosenstein in that tweet, which was clear, he was the one who asked for the memo from Rosenstein to fire James Comey.
KURTZ: Should he fire James Comey.
MCPIKE: Yes. So he's making this much more confusing than it needs to be.
KURTZ: To be continued, Erin Mcpike, Guy Benson, Michael Tomasky, great to have you all here this Sunday.
Ahead, National Review's Rich Lowry on whether both sides are complicit in the partisan blame game we've been talking about over political violence. But first, what was it like to cover the awful shooting in Alexandria, Virginia?
KURTZ: Let's take a more personal look at covering the tragic shooting at a Virginia baseball field with Susan Ferrechio, chief congressional correspondent for the Washington Examiner. Talk about the day of the shooting and was it hard for you personally to cover this because you know Steve Scalise and these other lawmakers and you see them regularly.
SUSAN FERRECHIO, CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: We see them and we see the agents who follow the lawmakers around. We actually walk along with them in these big scrums of reporters so we get pretty close to them. They hang out in our galleries when there's nothing else going on and they have time to take a break. We know them by their first names. We stand in the hallways with them, I mean, these are people we work with every single day.
KURTZ: Were you upset? Is it hard to sort of separate your emotions and when, you know, you didn't know that any of these people are going to dies?
FERRECHIO: No, it's shocking. It was shocking for all the reporters. What was different about this, you know, if you compare it to the 2011 tragic shooting in Tucson with Gabby Giffords who I sat with at a congressional dinner just weeks earlier.
FERRECHIO: That was very emotional, but here you have the lawmakers returning to the Capitol right from the baseball field. And there we all were with our cameras and our microphones. It was really emotional and dramatic for everybody. We were all just stunned listening to them recount exactly what happened and it was just --
KURTZ: Yes, I listened to (INAUDIBLE) and others and everybody was sort of in a state of shock understandably because, you know, playing baseball on a nice morning in Virginia. How did you get your information in those first hours when everything was sort of a blur and we didn't know and it wasn't even clear how many people had been shot, who the shooter was, et cetera?
FERRECHIO: We really got it straight from the lawmakers which has, again, what made it so fascinating to cover because you've got the first hand stories from them. They talked about what happened. We learned first we thought one member was shot, then we learned actually he only injured his foot and the only member injured was Steve Scalise. It took a while to ferret out who was injured from a bullet and who was injured dodging a bullet. So that was part of the confusion amongst all of us initially. When the lawmakers came in from the field, we got a clearer picture, first-hand account. I mean you don't often get that right away.
KURTZ: Yes, you're waiting for the police press conference whereas somebody else has interviewed --
FERRECHIO: Right, interpreted what happened.
FERRECHIO: We heard it straight from them. And the sense -- the overwhelming sense from them when they came in and which has what it made it so incredibly raw was that they felt as though they had just dodged death because they were sitting on a field, you know, they talked about if the gunman, if Hodgkinson had turned a corner into the dugout, then many more of them would have been shot because they were cornered, you know, things -- stories like that, very compelling.
KURTZ: Except for the brave Capitol police officers who were there because this places a member of a leadership and I remember listening to one of the lawmakers say, you know, a guy had come up (INAUDIBLE) Republican or Democratic baseball practice. So, a couple of nights later they carried on with the charity baseball game for which they have been practicing -- 25, 000 people showed up in Nationals Park. How much have you detected a tone from these members that they want to lower the temperature and how long do you think that will last or is it just an --
FERECHIO: I think particularly the people who were there on the field, bullets coming at them, they really feel the urge, the need to lower the tone to create a more civil tone in Congress. You know, people who weren't there, the Democrats who were in the minority, you know, they don't have any legislative control. There always going to be the ones right now to be the most vocal, the most critical. I know that that's not going to change because they're too far apart politically on what they want to accomplish.
KURTZ: Right. We'll have the political fights but maybe in a slightly more civil way.
FERRECHIO: I'm not sure about that. I haven't heard that immediately.
KURTZ: OK. All right, well, you would know. Susan Ferrechio, thanks so much for that first-hand account. Coming up, Rich Lowry on the media fallout from the shootings of Steve Scalise and the coverage of the widening investigation of President Trump.
And later, Bill Cosby gets a mistrial and his wife eviscerates the media. Was he convicted by the press?
KURTZ: Let's take a deeper dive on these emotional questions of media coverage, partisan rhetoric and the shooting at a Virginia baseball field. Joining us now from New York is Rich Rowley, editor of National Review and Fox News contributor, which some conservative voices in the media and politics are saying that because the shooter hated Republicans and targeted Republicans, that the violence is somehow linked to harsh or hateful liberal rhetoric. Does that go too far?
RICH LOWRY, NATIONAL REVIEW: Yes, I don't really buy that. I don't like it when the left does that to conservatives when there are shootings. I don't think we should do it to them. There's nothing that Bernie Sanders has said that would possibly lead any rational person to go and massacre Republican congressmen.
So look, I think everyone should be civil, just because being civil is a good in its own right. We should always treat people with respect and recognize every individual has decency. We're all Americans. But the idea that any political rhetoric beyond saying go and shoot these people incites violence, I really reject.
KURTZ: I totally agree with you and the whole guilt by association efforts by more extreme partisans on both sides just drives me crazy especially at a time of tragedy. But why do you think that we have reached a tone now where so many political partisans say such inflammatory things, not necessarily up and coming violence of course but do you think the media culture in part rewards that?
LOWRY: Well, in part, you know, we have small Democratic media now where pretty much anyone can have a soap box so that means there are fewer guard rails than there've ever been before. But also with a little perspective, you know, you look back just recent history. The Democrats considered George W. Bush a budding tyrant. The Republicans considered Barack Obama a budding tyrant. Democrats now consider Donald Trump a budding tyrant. And this is nothing new.
This goes back literally to the beginning of our history where both Jefferson and Hamilton considered each other dangerous and potential budding tyrant. So this is just kind of the idiom of American politics. I think it's part of having a robust and open constant argument about how we should run our country and I don't think any of that necessarily leads anyone to go out and shoot people. It just doesn't.
KURTZ: Right. I agree with you again there but the idea that these are all potential tyrants seems to me to that it sort of fall into the, you know, media/political warfare techniques of demonizing the opponents there not just people you are totally wrong (INAUDIBLE) policies, you don't like them personally, that they are evil. They are a threat to democracy and it would be nice if we could tone that down.
But as you say, you know, in the age of twitter, anybody can say that and then it gets picked up and cable news does segments about it and that sort of thing.
LOWRY: Yes. I have to say how one thing that's really bothered me about the coverage. It's hard to prove but I think it's fairly obvious -- if this had been a Trump supporter who committed such an act of violence, there wouldn't have been anything Donald Trump could have said that would convince anyone in the media that he wasn't responsible. And every Republican in the country would have to answer for it.
Now, there's been and lot of conversation and discussion driven by this perpetrator's political views, but it hasn't been as thermonuclear as if he had been someone on the right side of the political spectrum. And then also you still have folks in the media attached to this ridiculous narrative that somehow the shooting of Gabby Giffords perpetrated by a young man who's a paranoid schizophrenic literally out of his mind had something to do with Sarah Palin, a political rhetoric on the right.
KURTZ: Absolutely. Absurd at the time, equally absurd looking back six years later. Let's switch to the special counsel's investigation. So, Washington Post reports this week that Bob Mueller is looking at Jared Kushner's business dealings. Big breaking news, everybody picks it up. Well, wouldn't any competent prosecutor be looking at a real estate guy who has had some contacts with the Russians? In other words, is this a, you know, routine part of an investigation? Jared Kushner's lawyer says its standard practice that somehow, you know, makes these screaming headlines.
LOWRY: I think it's more alarming than that and I think it's a bad sign that Mueller's investigation is spreading well beyond what should be its writ, which is basically finding if the Trump campaign collude with the Russians. But we're sort of far beyond that even, you know, just a month into his appointment, and I kind of believe -- I can't prove it -- but I believe that people will end up being indicted for financial wrongdoing that has almost zero connection to what was supposed to be the purpose of this investigation.
KURTZ: Right. I mean I would say the same thing with all the headlines about Mike Pence has hired a lawyer. Well, any top official who is going to ever have to talk to the FBI is going to hire an attorney and so each thing I think is getting legitimate stories but the volume has cranked up to 11.
You know, special prosecutors often expand their mandate, but once James Comey made those allegations at the Senate hearing, doesn't Mueller in order to be credible, if he decides to bring no charges against anybody have to look into some of these things and is that the way it's being portrayed by the press.
LOWRY: Yes, it's just always tempting for the special counsels have nothing else to do. This is all they focus on to go until they find something, even if there is nothing on the original charge. And the big problem I have with the media coverage is focused so much on the so-called smoke, you know, but when there's a story that creates a lot of smoke like this New York Times story a couple of months ago about Trump campaign officials allegedly having routine communications with Russian officials and Russian intelligence.
You have James Comey Saying that story is flat-out false. All the outlets that repeated that in print, on cable TV, none of them go back and say, oh, we're very sorry we ever, you know, said this or repeated the story, and some smoke just left the room. We want everyone in America in the know. They never do that.
KURTZ: My only caveat there is that Comey didn't say precisely what was false. I think that would have been helpful but Rich Lowry, thanks for a great conversation on this Sunday.
KURTZ: Ahead, why the New York Times is still funding that appalling Julius Ceasar production, you know, the one with the Trump character gets stabbed to death. But next on "Media Buzz," a strange twist as Alex Jones tries to pre-empt Megyn Kelly's "In View" tonight by releasing their private phone calls. Dan Abrams is on deck.
KURTZ: NBC has come under sharp pressure to cancel a segment on tonight's magazine show in which Megyn Kelly interviewed radio host Alex Jones pressing him on why he has called the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting a hoax. Family members of those killed in the Connecticut school have harshly criticized her for giving Jones a platform. One major advertiser has bailed out, but Megyn, my former Fox News colleague has strongly defended the segment to shine a needed light on a popular and controversial media figure.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLY: Sandy Hook.
JONES: Well Sandy Hook got (INAUDIBLE) because I've had debates where devil's advocates of the whole story is true and then I had to base what I've said that none of it is true.
KELLY: When you say parents faked their children's death people get very angry.
JONES: Well, that's all I know, but they don't get angry about the half million (INAUDIBLE) Iraqis from the sanctions or they don't get angry about all the illegal --
KELLY: That's a dodge.
JONES: No, no, it's not a dodge. I looked at all the angles of their town and I made my statements long before the media even picked up on it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: I spoke earlier with Dan Abrams, the founder of Mediaite and ABC's chief legal analyst from New York.
KURTZ: Dan Abrams, welcome.
DAN ABRAMS, ABC NEWS: Hi Howie.
KURTZ: So here's the argument, that Alex Jones is a conspiracy theorist who's called 9/11 an inside job and led to apologize for the pizzagate child sex trafficking fabrication and who's called the Sandy Hook elementary shootings a hoax. Why should NBC and Megyn Kelly give him a big platform?
ABRAMS: Because he already has a platform and because the president of the United States has given him a platform. And as a result he is a significant player. You may dislike him and I think a lot of people do and rightly so. But that doesn't mean that you shouldn't as a journalist want to question him and ask tough questions. And the thing that I'm kind of amazed about is everyone is judging the Megyn Kelly interview before they've seen the interview.
Have we seen a clip? Sure. But we haven't actually seen what they're putting on the air and yet everyone is going bananas about this from both sides.
KURTZ: I think that's a fair point and we should reserve judgment but Alex Jones now with a bizarre twist on Friday kind of taking control a little bit of the narrative by releasing some of the phone calls that he had with Megyn Kelly when she was trying to book him for this interview. Let's take a listen.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
KELLY: All I can do is give you my word and you -- if there's one thing about me, I do what I say I'm going to do, and I don't double cross. It's not going to be some gotcha hit piece. I promise you that.
JONES: I knew it was fraud, I knew it was a lie. God, she was like, "I want to get steaks with you, I'm obsessed with you."
(END AUDIO CLIP)
KURTZ: So Dan, whatever the value of the interview itself, this thing has become a full-blown spectacle. Hasn't NBC lost control of the narrative here?
ABRAMS: Well, look, they should have expected this. When you are interviewing Alex Jones you should expect that every call you do with him, anything you say with him, he's going to be recording, so I don't think it should come as a surprise, and not to say that upon listening to what he released of Megyn Kelly's comments, I think she came across fine, meaning, you know, we all know how the booking process works, right. And people end up trying to sweet talk people, convince them to come on, et cetera. And a lot of people say some pretty embarrassing stuff. I didn't hear that from Megyn Kelly.
ABRAMS: So, I think in that sense it's kind of a win for her.
KURTZ: Well, sweet talking guest is not a journalistic felony. But, you know, what's more serious and what I find heartbreaking is, you know, the families of the Sandy Hook victims saying that Alex Jones has made their lives a living hell, that he's caused them pain and he's accused them of being actors, some now threatening to sue NBC.
And just for example the family of Victorio Soto, the teacher killed at the school writes, "this is incessant need foro ratings at the cost of the emotional well-being of our family. It's disgusting and disappointing." So you have to stop and ask, given that impact on that community in Connecticut, is this really worth doing?
ABRAMS: Yes, look, I get it. I hear them and as someone who has covered legal stories and crime story for most of my career, I know how those families feel. And yet I've interviewed murderers for network television and it hasn't had this kind of response. That doesn't necessarily male it right but it means that for some reason we're treating the Alex Jones interview as a more sort of journalistic minefield than when we interview murderers or suspected murders. And that's the part that I don't quite get from a journalistic point of view.
KURTZ: You make a good point. There's a long tradition here, you know, Saddam Hussein or O.J. Simpson --
KURTZ: -- or Charles Manson, I mean --
KURTZ: And that's always controversial. But do you think it's something about Megyn, about NBC, about the passion following Alex Jones has that has (INAUDIBLE) made this whole thing radioactive?
ABRAMS: Look, I think Alex Jones is helping to stoke the fire here, right.
KURTZ: But he doesn't want NBC to air the interview --
ABRAMS: Oh, come on, you really believe that? I mean, I think that Alex Jones just wants to get more attention for this. I think he's using every piece of the cow that he can and part of that involves him demanding that NBC not air the interview. I mean, he hasn't seen the interview. What is he talking about? I mean, this notion -- I mean, she even makes clear in the pre-interview she does with him, yes, I'm going to have to ask you the tough questions.
He's making it seem like he had no idea that there would be hard questions. Look, this is great. The only true winner from this is Alex Jones no matter what the interview is, no matter what part they air. Megyn Kelly is getting beaten up from both sides on this. Alex Jones' supporters saying, oh, look how unfair you are already. People on the left saying how can you give Alex Jones any time, and then of course most importantly as you point out, those families which I'm sure is the hardest part for someone like Megyn Kelly to hear.
KURTZ: Absolutely. So we have a little bit of time left, you know, Megyn Kelly makes the point that President Trump went on Alex Jones' radio show called (INAUDIBLE) the election. That makes Jones more newsworthy, but ultimately is this about NBC and Megyn confronting Alex Jones about alleged falsehoods or is it also about generating buzz and ratings for her new NBC magazine show?
ABRAMS: Well, every magazine show is about both those things. I mean the notion that NBC's magazine show can't focus on ratings. Of course, they're focused on ratings. Of course they did this in part because they thought Alex Jones would be a good rating worthy interview. But I think that it's also a good interview for them to do depending on -- look, if she asks softball questions, criticize her. If they air an interview where she is letting him get away with some of this nonsense, then let's criticize her. But until we see that interview, until we see what she's done, I just think that the criticism here has been incredibly unfair before you see it.
KURTZ: Well, we'll all get to weigh in Monday morning. Dan Abrams, great to see you.
ABRAMS: Good to see you Howie.
KURTZ: NBC News says that while Alex Jones is trying to distract from and even block the segment, the network (INAUDIBLE) for context and inside into a controversial and polarizing figure. But the NBC station in Connecticut where the school shooting took place not airing the interview tonight.
After the break, many in the media stunned that Bill Cosby wasn't convicted yesterday in his sexual assault trial. But, should they really be surprised?
KURTZ: The media's interest in Bill Cosby's sexual assault trial surged yesterday as the case based on 13-year-old allegations ended with a hung jury. And the comedian's wife, Camille, put out a statement denouncing the D.A., the lawyers and especially the media.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do I describe many but not all, general media blatantly vicious entities that continually disseminated intentional omissions of truth for the primary purpose of greedily selling, sensationalism at the expense of a human life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Joining us now from New York is Carley Shimkus, a reporter for Fox News 24/7 Headlines on Sirius/XM. Carley, I said to you on last week's show that the jury might fail to convict Bill Cosby even though he had essentially been convicted by the media. What do you make of Camille Cosby's statement going to coverage of vicious and so forth?
CARLEY SHIMKUS, REPORTER, FOX NEWS 27/7 HEADLINES: Well we didn't really see a lot of Camille Cosby during the trial which could have been a strategic position by the defense. I don't think the defense team really wanted to remind jurors that she was also a victim in this thing, in Bill Cosby's extramarital activities. But now we're learning that she was very, very angry when this trial went down.
Like you said, she called the district attorney exploitively ambitious, the judge arrogant and she called the media blatantly vicious entities that lie for the purpose of selling sensationalism. Listen, I feel for Camille Cosby but the media was just reporting the facts and the facts maybe that the facts were sensational and shocking, but that's not the media's fault.
KURTZ: Well that might be true -- that might be true in this particular case, and one of the reasons the jury maybe deadlocked was because Amanda Constand, the accuser in the case, you know, had made conflicting statements to police early on. But you know, more than 60 women have accused Bill Cosby of sexual misconduct, on very chilling degrees and certainly the coverage has been very negative, but you know, his wife is only addressing this and not addressing the fact that, you know, even if some of these women are exaggerating and even making it up, the vast majority can't be in my view.
SHIMKUS: Yes, and you know what, the Cosby team is claiming this a victory after the spokesperson even says that his legacy is completely restored. I'd probably pump the brakes on that a little bit if I were his spokesperson because this was not an acquittal. This was just a mistrial and the district attorney has said that they are going to retry the case. The bottom line here is that his legacy is not going to be the Cosby Show or any of his comedy. It is this disturbing chapter of his life.
KURTZ: Yes, much of his life. It is going to be a re-trial, and by the way, it's hard to get Cosby's side because he hasn't talked to the press about this during all this time. Let's switch to this Julius Caesar production, I mean, this in my view was a kind of an outrage. New York's public theater putting a Trump character with the red tie and the orange hair on the stage, stabbed to death. We see the scene there.
And so two major corporations, Delta and Bank of America have pulled their funding from this production in New York, but the "New York Times" is continuing to fund this play saying the company is doing so in the grounds of free speech for the arts. Your thoughts.
SHIMKUS: Yes, the "New York Times" coverage of the story has absolutely blown my mind. They've covered -- they've written several articles detailing the growing outrage over this Julius Caesar play, and then at the very end, Howie, the very final paragraph, they squeak in a line about how the "Times" has sponsored the public theater for 20 years and they will continue to do so.
Listen, they can sponsor whoever they want. That's completely fine. It makes sense. I'm sure their audiences overlap. But they need to tell the audience that in advance. That has to be their opening line so that the reader knows that what they are going to read is biased and that the publication has taken a side.
KURTZ: Well, the report is not necessarily biased, but what stunned me on that very day was the front page story on this including the other corporations bailing out, no mention in the "Times" and then the sidebar, inside the paper piece that you mentioned is in the 27th paragraph of a 28 paragraph story, the very controversy that was being covered as you pointed out.
SHIKUS: Absolutely, yes, it is pretty crazy.
KURTZ: OK, we got it all in and we'll be happy to have you back to talk more about the next Cosby trial. Carley Shimkus, thanks very much.
SHIMKUS: Thanks a lot. I appreciate it.
KURTZ: Still to come, my thoughts on the different "New York Times" story, the paper reviving a discredited theory about the shooting of a Democratic congresswoman six years ago and getting it wrong.
KURTZ: The New York Times ran a truly disgraceful editorial after the shooting of Republican Steve Scalise and four other people. It having voices on both sides urging that we lower the temperature and the paper revived a discredited theory from six years ago when Democratic congresswoman Gabby Giffords was shot and six other people killed. The Times said the shooter had been incited by a Sarah Palin political map with crosshairs on 20 targeted Democratic districts including Gabby Giffords' district. There is no evidence the killer even saw that map and plus he was mentally ill.
The Times has ran an embarrassing correction that's good, but even worse than the alt-right falsehood was how tone deaf the editors were. They tried to blame right-wing rhetoric for political violence to deflect from some conservatives blaming left-wing rhetoric for the Trump haters shooting spree in Virginia. Both are wring and the Times should never have published that creed (ph).
That's it for this edition of "Media Buzz." I'm Howard Kurtz. Let us know what you think, weigh in by e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org. We hope you got to our Facebook page and like, check it out. We post a lot of content there and let us know what you think as well on twitter @HowardKurtz. Continue the conversation and by the way you can download our podcasts. Just got to our homepage and you can listen to it if you missed the show.
Happy Father's Day, folks. Back here next Sunday with the latest buzz.
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