This is a rush transcript from "Media Buzz," July 23, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: On the Buzz Meter this Sunday, Sean Spicer stepping down as press secretary in a White House shakeup. As the president taps Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci who brings his fresh business style to the world's brightest spotlight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS: The cameras are back. Will you commit now to holding regular on camera briefings, senator?
ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: If she supplies hair and makeup, I will consider it. But I need -- I need a lot of hair and make-up, Jon. But I don't know, maybe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: But can Scaramucci really change the hostile relationship between the president and the press? Donald Trump going after his own attorney general for bowing out of the Russia probe and doing it on the record with reporters for the New York Times.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Sessions gets the job. Right after he gets the job, he recuses himself.
PETER BAKER, NEW YORK TIMES: Was that a mistake?
TRUMP: Well, Sessions should have never recused himself. And if he want - - if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else.
DANA PERINO, FOX NEWS: I don't understand why dumping on Senator Sessions tonight makes sense because he has been a pretty good attorney general.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: The president criticizes his Attorney General Jeff Sessions in such a way that in normal times, we would expect an official criticized this way by the president to resign before the evening is over.
JUDGE ANDREW NAPOLITANO, FOX NEWS: We have one of the biggest investigations that the Justice Department has conducted since Watergate being run by somebody who was not appointed by the president of the United States. So that's President Trump's frustration and I understand that.
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC: How can Jeff Sessions go back to work tomorrow? How can he do that? How could you walk in to the Justice Department?
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
KURTZ: Why would Trump share this with the newspaper he often attacks? And are the media painting him as going to war against Robert Mueller?
The press goes haywire over report that the president and Vladimir Putin had a super secret meeting at the G-20 summit. But how can the conversation be portray as potentially sinister when it's in full view of other world leaders and their spouses. Plus.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O.J. SIMPSON, FORMER NFL RUNNING BACK: (Inaudible) pull a gun on anybody and nobody has ever accused me of pulling a weapon on anyone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOWARD KURTZ: What? The O.J. obsession is back. Twenty-three years after the double murder that led to the infamous televised trial while TV is again going bonkers over Simpson being paroled. I'm Howard Kurtz and this is Media Buzz.
It's been a rocky six months for Sean Spicer who resigned Friday after the president decided to bring in Anthony Scaramucci and putting him in charge of communications strategy. Spicer's tense pension -- tension fill briefings became a hit television show.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I appreciate your agenda here, but the reality is -- no, no, hold on.
SPICER: No, at some point report the facts. The facts are that every single person who has been briefed on this subject just come away with the same conclusion, Republicans and Democrats. So, I'm sorry did that disgusts you. You are shaking your head
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Spicer says the president asked him to stay on because he thought Scaramucci should have his own team.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SPICER: And I said, sir, if I had the opportunity to think about this, I think it's in the best interest of the administration in -- in your presidency that I give these two individuals the opportunity to operate without me in the way. So that they have a fresh start but I'm not lurking over them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Scaramucci made his debut in the briefing room. He was quickly challenged about his past criticism of Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: Does he know what you said about him back in 2015 when you said he was a hack?
SCARAMUCCI: He brings it up -- he brings it up every 15 seconds, one of the biggest mistakes that I made because I was inexperienced person in the world of politics.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Joining now to analyze the big shake-up and the converge, Mollie Hemingway, senior editor at the Federalist, Marie Harf, former spokesman for the State Department in CIA, both are Fox News contributors and Erin McPike, White House correspondent for Independent Journal Review.
Mollie, what do you think of Anthony Scaramucci's debut. He used a lot of humor. He also declared his love for Donald Trump over and over again, and can he have an impact on the difficult relations between the president and the press corps?
MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, FEDERALIST SENIOR EDITOR: It was a tricky job because you are serving the president and you need to be able to represent what he says well. You are also kind of serving the press corps. And so, this was his debut.
I actually think he did a pretty good job of having a good introduction with them. And they had some -- some friendly times. I don't if anyone can withstand the media hostility against this administration and how quickly we'll see that, simply.
KURTZ: Marie Harf, as a former spokeswoman, can you identify with the fact that Sean Spicer had a very tough job because he had to deal with a very aggressive press corps and at the same time, report to a president who wanted him to hammer the media.
MARIE HARF, FORMER SPOKESMAN, CIA: Well in a president who also at times asked him to go out and defend, I would argue the indefensible, either statements that we're true. Look, I actually do have some sympathy for Sean.
He was put in a terrible position, starting on that first day of that first briefing about the inauguration crowd, what a terrible way to start. But the bottom line for me is, this isn't a P.R. problem. I think President Trump thinks that their communications team isn't doing well enough.
They are getting a lot of the coverage, a lot of it -- not all, but a lot of it, because of the underlying behavior including by President Trump.
The tweets, the comments he makes, this isn't something you can just spin away with a new team. Although I do thin Anthony Scaramucci is going to be better than Sean Spicer was certainly.
KURTZ: Eric McPike, you've (Inaudible) Sean Spicer for years, how would you assess his short tenure. And also, what about the kind of sendoff he got from the media?
ERIC MCPIKE, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, INDEPENDENT JOURNAL REVIEW: I think Spicer had a totally raw deal for a lot of this time. And look, Reuters TV put up a live feed of his house in Virginia after the news broke that he was going to resign, which -- that was totally uncomfortable.
You stake out someone's house when they might be up for the vice presidential nomination. You don't put a live camera in front of someone's house after they paid announcement. And Spicer was the White House press secretary, he wasn't running for president.
KURTZ: He wasn't hiding.
MCPIKE: And the Wall Street Journal had a little snippet about how he took some mini fridge out of another staffer's office, which belongs in a gossip column after it happened. It didn't -- he didn't need to be hit with that on the way out.
KURTZ: That was the lead of the Journal story.
MCPIKE: Yes, and I thought he got a very raw deal and that was really unfortunate. I have known Sean Spicer for a long time as you said. And I like him a lot and I think he's doing the best job he can. And he sure go take some time off and figure out what he wants to do next.
KURTZ: Do you think, Spicer do that because of the high rating for the televised -- briefings when they were televised, he became a pop culture figure that Lisa Murkowski made fun of him on Saturday Night Live.
And that you know, certain journalist like CNN's Jim Acosta who are always hammering him and accusing him, and the briefings are being useless, and taking him on personally.
HEMINGWAY: well, I'm certain he did become part of the story which is never very good for a communications director. But I do also think the push back on something, Marie, said that there is a communications issue which is the Spicer shop was a very traditional shop. It would worked well with the traditional Republican presidency.
I actually think Spicer did a great job. I don't have -- I know it's not popular to say that in D.C. But I thought he did a good job under difficult circumstance. But this is such a different president. You might -- you might see some progress made with someone who really embraces that.
Scaramucci has no experience in this regard and people were criticizing him for that. That might be the kind of like fresh takes it that would help.
HARF: But sometimes the traditions are there because they often do work and look, I was saying thin morning to some folks, maybe we are overly cautious and we don't want our principles whether it's the president or secretary of state to go out there and do interviews.
But there is a big difference between being overly cautious and having a sit down with the New York Times for an hour with one staffer in the room with no prep.
Well, he talks about all these things, his attorneys have been telling him not to. There's got to be a middle ground here and maybe Scaramucci can walk and maybe he can't.
MCPIKE: And that could be a little bit of a different issue. Look, Scaramucci has hosted his own TV show, and he is a very charming person.
KURTZ: And he talks business.
MCPIKE: Yes, and he is a different kind of person. Trump obviously trusts him and obviously likes him a lot more than he likes Sean Spicer. So he could potentially have a lot more success of at least runway for success.
KURTZ: Well, that's a key point because for those who don't know the internal politics, I mean Sean Spicer was an RNC guy. Reince Priebus brought him in from the Republican National Committee. He didn't have a pre-existing relation with Donald Trump.
He wasn't able to build I think the kind of close personal relationship. Scaramucci has known this guy for years and maybe that there are pluses and minuses to that.
But he's a wealthy former Wall Street, former hedge fund guy and that at least initially might had help him. You have wondered a bit.
HEMINGWAY: Well, just -- one of things that was initially, too, is people kept pointing that Scaramucci had liberal points of view. I think what they're missing there in the past, Donald Trump has liberal points of view, too. Attitudinally, they are more of a match. They kind of have fun as they attack the media and Spicer, I'm not sure how much fun he was having as he was...
KURTZ: Let me -- well, he can spend more time with his family which you know, is not just a clich,. All right. Let me move to this New York Times interview. And Mollie, this was not fake news.
This is Donald Trump on the record sitting down with the New York Times reporters saying, he wouldn't have appointed Jeff Sessions as attorney general if he knew he was going to recuse himself in the Russia investigation.
And the media (Inaudible), says the president not understanding the need for the nations top law enforcement official to be independent. Fair or unfair?
HEMINGWAY: Well, I just feel like so much about the way this story was handled was a good -- good reminder of how the media don't understand how Donald Trump talks or when he's thinking overly the larger contours of the story.
When you go back a few months, you remember that, you know, President Obama changed the order of succession in the Department of Justice. So that one of his like close allies would be in place if Sessions recused, there was a strong push to recuse Sessions.
It's totally understandable that the president would feel when there are all these traps being laid and there are all these games being played in the Intelligence Community but he need Sessions. He needs an attorney general who'll be strong to fight against that.
So that's not been worried about that, it would be surprising if Donald Trump weren't upset about this. But the way that everybody in the media said, oh, is he going to resign now.
And this is so unprecedented and we can't believe he's saying this. I'll bet the very first person that Donald Trump told that he was upset about Sessions was Sessions, and he put it months ago.
HEMINGWAY: And Sessions understands who he is and the fact that so many people still don't understand how Trump acts. How he's -- he kind of is letting us know all his interior thoughts all the time, which I'm not saying is a good media strategy.
HEMINGWAY: That's just who he is.
KURTZ: In fairness to attorney general, I don't think that he have much choice for him to resign because he was part of the campaign. The campaign's conduct with Russia whether these allegations are real or not was under scrutiny. There are rules about this in the DOJ.
HEMINGWAY: No, he absolutely had a choice to resign and when you look at the previous administration -- right to recuse.
MCPIKE: But the problem was he wasn't honest about those contacts and so that...
HEMINGWAY: No, that was -- I mean you had a previous attorney general who was held in contempt of Congress...
MCPIKE: But this isn't about...
HEMINGWAY: And he recused -- it is. When you see the media environment -- when you see this media environment you're going to have to strong and when you have a Department of Justice that's not staying strong against...
KURTZ: At the very least, I'm saying there was a strong case for him to make that decision, so the defense I'm saying to the media as well, Donald Trump wasn't trying to push him out or force him to resign.
He was venting. He's been angry. And this was his style as, Mollie, says and he was letting the New York Time and the world know it.
HARF: She was right that that is his style but the other thing that's true is that this is his style we have never seen before in a president and I think he's supporters would say the same thing. That's why people voted for him.
HARF: So when the media or when commentators, or when people looking at this say, this is unprecedented, it's because it truly is. We've never had a president act this way and to a lot of people, it is disturbing.
KURTZ: OK, so the president is constantly attacking the failing New York Times, the corrupt media, dishonest, fake news. Why would he say these things on the record interview with the Times?
MCPIKE: Well, actually, I think -- Marie and I were talking about this, this morning and why he would go to -- exactly to the news organization that he's always complaining about and that all head to critical, and I agree with that.
However in general, I think the interview was fantastic and we need more of them. And why wouldn't every president go talk and spill out all of their innermost thoughts.
I think it's great and I actually -- one good thing about this is that I think so many other politicians in Washington who generally have a filter and don't want to talk to the press that often are getting more fearless in talking to the media more, and that's a good thing.
HARF: Yes, I agree. I agree. Look, I think that it's good that he does interviews. I don't like what he says often. But I also think he should have a press conference. We have it -- we would only have one I think since he's been president.
KURTZ: And that...
KURTZ: I mean I think a lot of people in the White House think the president is his own best -- messenger. He's also his own communications director.
And that if he has more news conference -- I mean he obviously takes course in the foreign news that he's like one full try (ph) news conference in six months. You know, he's his own best messenger but just finally, he has business about -- you showed the clips at the top.
Sessions must resign, how come he's never work at the Justice Department. Is that the place of even commentators to try to push out the attorney general?
HARF: Well, I think for a commentator, it's not out of bounce -- I mean we have commentator on our network, every network does. I think that given what the president said about Jeff Sessions, look I worked for a secretary, several of them in the Obama administration. If the president said that about my boss, I would be very concerned.
HEMINGWAY: I just think that people were way over hyping it. When you actually listen to the words he was saying -- he was saying, he shouldn't have done it or he should have told me before he did it. That's again quite reasonable.
By the time he gets to talk about it in the media, it's like, oh, she's strongly attacked. He could criticize. He undermined. I mean these -- all these very strong words to describe what was really just pretty normal Trump discussion.
KURTZ: All right, on that note, let me get a break. When we come back, is the president going to war with Robert Mueller or is that just a media narrative that's developing. And later, has the press con overboard and that supposedly super, super secret meeting between the president and Vladimir Putin.
KURTZ: President Trump told the New York Times it would be a violation for Special Counsel Robert Mueller to move beyond Russia and examine his personal finances. Here's part of that interview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL SCHMIDT, NEW YORK TIMES CORRESPONDENT: Mueller was looking at your finances and your family finances, unrelated to Russia, is that a red line?
MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Would that be a breach of what his actual charge is?
TRUMP: I would say yes. I would say yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Mollie, is the president using that interview to send a kind of warning signal to the special counsel?
HEMINGWAY: I think it seems -- and the question was, if they are investigating anything unrelated to Russia, would that be crossing a red line? Well, of course it would be crossing a red line.
I mean the charge was nebulous enough as it was. But it was suppose to be limited to Russia. And this -- we are getting a lot of leaks from the Mueller investigation, which is already not a very good sign. We have CNN reporting that he staffed it entirely with Democratic donors.
He started out with a conflict of interest, plus he's change Comey's best friend in going way back. So there needs to be special care that people can take this investigation seriously and the leaks and the conflicts make it difficult.
HOWARD KURTZ: Oh, the guys are best friend. But, Marie, the president took a shot at the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein.
He went after James Comey, saying Comey was trying to gain leverage with him by telling him about that unsubstantiated Russian dossier. So he had a lot of targets that he was hitting in that Times interview.
HARF: Basically, every senior law enforcement and judicial person except for Judge Gorsuch, he went after in that interview. And I do think that people were concerned about some of the things he said.
I would disagree with, Mollie, said look, Bob Mueller is well respected by Republicans and Democrats. And I do think that you are going to see the Trump administration go after his credibility.
And look special counsel is often start out looking at one thing. Remember the Clinton special counsel that started out look at Whitewater and ended up with Lewinsky? These things by their destinations...
KURTZ: Yes, yes.
HARF: ... then change.
KURTZ: The classic example. So...
HARF: This is not a partisan issue.
KURTZ: So, Erin, New York Times writes a story there to later I believe, which is President Trump's lawyers and aides are scouring the professional political backgrounds investigators hired by Mueller looking for conflicts of interest.
That they can use to discredit the investigation or build the case to fire Mueller. Does that go too far? And they were titled to push back.
MCPIKE: However, I would pronouns that Nicole Wallace on MSNBC this week said that the Clinton White House did much the same thing in the 1990s.
KURTZ: Against Ken Starr.
MCPIKE: Yes. So -- so, she made that point and I thought it was very smart of her to make that point. Now, on the other hand, I do sometimes wonder what the Trump White House is doing day by day other that just trying to fight back against these investigations like they have some policy that they need to do...
KURTZ: Trying to face at health care though.
HARF: Every time he tweets about Hillary Clinton's emails, he's not tweeting about healthcare.
KURTZ: I mean, I got a whole bunch of stories to go through. Washington Post saying Russia's ambassador to Washington -- Mr. Sergey Kislyak, told his superiors in Moscow, he was picked up on the intercepts.
That Jeff Sessions -- during the 2016 campaign when he was senator and advisor to the campaign, did discuss issues contrary to public assertions having to do with not necessarily the campaign but policy-related matters. That was treated as you draw as revelation.
HEMINGWAY: I was actually shocked this story even ran. So it's based on an anonymous source. We get very little characterization of who the source is and he -- nobody who's writing on the story or editing the story has seen the intercept.
And then this supposedly dramatic claim is that Kislyak tells someone else that he talked about Russia with Sessions. What you thin the ambassador...
MCPIKE: That they've talked about sanctions.
HARF: And Sessions said different under oath before the Senate.
HEMINGWAY: No, Sessions -- actually Sessions said under oath, he never talk to campaign.
HARF: He actually had a worst life.
HEMINGWAY: No, Sessions said under oath that he...
KURTZ: Well, we must be careful about drawing the red line around...
HEMINGWAY: But he never...
KURTZ: You haven't seen this evidence.
HARF: Right, Jeff -- Jeff Sessions went before a Senate confirmation hearing.
HARF: And said, I didn't talk to Kislyak. Turns out...
KURTZ: OK, and Trump said that was a bad answer.
HARF: Then he said, it wasn't about policy, it wasn't about anything...
HEMINGWAY: Who question on the table. It's whether there has been collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. And Sessions said, he never colluded with Russia.
And he never discussed the campaign. And this now is characterized as campaign related, when it's actually policy related. That was exactly what you're talking...
KURTZ: Let me get in -- let me get in one more question, that is, is the Washington Post story says Trump is discussing with his lawyers what his pardon authority is, could he pardon himself, his aides, his family. The White House is saying that that's complete hogwash.
But is this -- are these all another episode where the mainstream media say, wow this incredible. How are they going to supply this and lots of average voters are particularly doesn't support this president thinking it's just not a big deal?
MCPIKE: Yes, and I do think every time something comes out about what the White House is doing, it is reflectively characterized in the media as a negative, bad, nefarious thing and that is a problem, we should -- we should couch things a little bit better.
KURTZ: Take the temperature down a little bit to stiff it all through in this environment. Erin McPike, Marie Harf, thanks very much. Mollie, we'll see you in a moment.
Ahead on Media Buzz, will the briefings be moved back on camera? Now that Sean Spicer is out, but up next, the media hyperventilation on the Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin chatting at the G-20 dinner.
KURTZ: From the moment The Washington Post revealed there had been a secret hour long meeting between President Trump and Vladimir Putin at G-20 summit, some news outlets portrayed that Sessions is mysterious, questionable and potentially sinister.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now you are going to go and have a separate meeting. We should know the United States has been compromised by Vladimir Putin. This president appears to be comprised without Vladimir Putin.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is so nefarious about it that he's not able to have a normal conversation with...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... other people attending this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because what Donald Trump has done in the past, reporters, foreign policy analysts and our allies can safely assume the worst.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean here is a guy sitting next to Trump for an hour who screwed with our electoral process, who tried to influence the campaign in Trump's direction, now he find a little (Inaudible) going on between these two gentlemen and we don't even know anything about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: We don't even know about what they're talking about. Mollie Hemingway, what do you make of that?
HEMINGWAY: Well, it was -- this is great example of the media over promising and under achieving. So the way that this story was presented was that, this was incredibly nefarious, that it was secret, that it was something very problematic that people should be concerned about.
And then when the truth came out, it just turned out there was just a dinner gathering of all the G-20 leaders and their spouses and that there was a chat afterwards like anybody else might have.
KURTZ: Putin was sitting next to Melania and it didn't last an hour -- less than 15 minutes. I mean the original story was fine but then, everybody on cable was like, this is really deeply troubling and breaking news banners everywhere.
HEMINGWAY: And it also -- it was last contacts. I mean, in the media right now, we are just in the full throes of a red scare. People should remember that this country is an adversary.
We do know that they meddled or attempted to meddle in -- you know, by attacking the DNC emails and getting John Podesta to click a link he shouldn't have.
But at the same time, this is a nuclear super power, this is the only country in the world that can annihilate ours in 30 minutes. We need to be cautious about them but we also need to have good relations with them.
KURTZ: You know, President Trump told the New York Times in that interview that so much adoption came up. Adoptions are sort of short hand for U.S. sanctions against Moscow that led Putin to end an adoption program with America.
So it was an all small talk but it -- I'm just so kept by -- there's just and automatic almost presumption of bad faith like they were discussing something, you know, was so terrible, and there was no U.S. translator there.
And the president just doesn't get the benefit of the doubt. That maybe he was just trying to establish normal relation with the leader of Russia.
HEMINGWAY: Right and there are -- did you have -- we have sanctions and they have their retaliation against that.
HEMINGWAY: At the same time, I feel like the media haven't done a good job representing the overall picture with regard to Russia.
You have -- in the Trump administration, you've seen as an increase in liquid natural, gas exports, which is something Russia really doesn't like.
Or putting missile defense in Poland, which is something Russia really doesn't like. We attacked Syria when they used chemical weapons, which is something Russia really didn't like.
And so, when you pretend that there is all these stuff going on, that there is something really bad here about this relationship. You need to put it in context of the actually policies that are happening and to point out also how different that is from the previous eight years which was friendlier by their friends.
KURTZ: And speaking of that, President Obama spoke privately with Putin and with Medvedev, and there was no U.S. translator and just people thought that was diplomacy, right?
But do you think that this is another instance of journalists getting super excited, pundits on TV, wringing their hands and maybe this doesn't really resonate with a lot of voters particularly Trump supporters?
HEMINGWAY: Right, when you think about the actual amount of media coverage spent on Russia, scare stories, and again, frequently how often they are -- they're over hyped relative to what's actually happening...
KURTZ: Not all the time, yes.
HEMINGWAY: Almost always, they are over hyped. And you have the actual interest from news consumers. It's a stark disparity. And you've seen some polls coming out, showing that people aren't that interested in Russia.
And even some journalist in themselves are saying to him, fatigue about Russia, and the danger is -- you know, there was something that came out a couple of weeks ago, about the email between Don Jr.
HEMINGWAY: No, that's a legitimate thing to cover. But by the time you have six months of stories...
HEMINGWAY: ... and it all fell apart, you are not interested in it.
KURTZ: We all get this sensitize. Mollie Hemingway, great to see you, thanks for coming by this Sunday. I had deja vu all over again as O.J. Simpson gets paroled.
Why television can't kick the addiction. But first, comes reporter Katrina Pierson on the president's rough week and the White House, shake up.
HOWARD KURTZ, MEDIA BUZZ SHOW HOST: Joining us now to look at this tumultuous week for the White House is Katrina Pierson, former spokeswoman for the Trump campaign, now with a group America First Policy. Has Sean Spicer reached a point where he was so battered and bruised that it was hard for him to continue to be effective?
KATRINA PIERSON, FORMER SPOKESWOMAN TRUMOP CAMPAIGN: No. I think Sean explained this very clearly. He felt like it was better for the president and the administration to offer up a clean slate. I mean you have someone like Anthony Scaramucci coming in as communications director. Obviously there's going to be some changes there and so Sean being a standup guy and a professional knew that that was probably in the best interest.
KURTZ: I'm just trying to make a point that he took a lot of arrows on behalf of the president. You might know a little bit something about that. Some critics say, look, the communications office for whatever set of reasons wasn't doing a great job and one of those critics seems to be the president.
PEIRSON: Well, absolutely, but again, this communications team is against the entire media so it's not going to be an easy job for anyone and I think Sean Spicer did a fine job over the time period that he was in there. When you are constantly being attacked by the media, no one is really interested in what's really happening with the administration, only just creating fallacious stories. I think he did a fine job.
KURTZ: Right, you're saying the press only wants to cover scandals and salacious stuff and isn't interested in NAFTA, healthcare and tax cuts and immigration? Certainly it's taken a backseat.
PIERSON: It absolutely taken a back seat. And if the press, the mainstream media were interested in any of those things we'd be asking those types of questions. But instead it's a daily barrage of this hoax of Russia. All this fake stuff is about process. There's really no questions about, you know, the tax reform. They focus on healthcare every now and again. But that is not their main focus today.
KURTZ: All right, well I just, one of the question -- I've seen some questions about these other issues and this doesn't necessarily mean it's on the front page here --
PIERSON: Well they have to ask the question to say they ask and it's checking a box.
KURTZ: So Anthony Scaramucci obviously got a big pile of personalities obviously close to the president. He's kind of Trumpian kind of guy.
KURTZ: But can he turn this around when the White House is plagued by these leaks, many of which comes from the White House and all this in- fighting?
PIERSON: I do for a couple of reasons. One of the things that I thought was exciting about this announcement is the fact that Anthony Scaramucci is not a product of the swamp. When you have particularly on both sides of the aisle, there is this cookie cutter way to approach communications, and you can't do that with this administration.
Scaramucci is an innovator. He's entrepreneur which means he thinks outside the box. I think that's what it's going to take. I also think that because he is loyal to the president he doesn't want something that's going to just check a box for a resume or to go out and make money afterwards. He's actually committed to this president being successful and I think to those on the inside, that gives him a lot more motivation.
KURTZ: Yes. Scaramucci already made a lot of money on Wall Street so that's not his motivation, right. That "New York Times" interview with the president when he said Jeff Sessions gave some bad answers to the Senate when he didn't remember his previous contacts with the Russian ambassador and he wouldn't have nominated Sessions had he known the attorney general is going to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. Doesn't that put Jeff Sessions on kind of a (INAUDIBLE) position?
PIERSON: No, I don't think so. Jeff Sessions and the president are friends. They know each other well and Attorney General Sessions knows that the president was very disappointed with him recusing himself. But it wasn't just about the recusal. If you listen to the president, he's also frustrated that he didn't tell him first.
And I think if Attorney General Sessions had gone to the president and said, you know, I think I should recuse ant to recuse myself for X, Y and Z reasons, it would have been very different. But the president had to find out like everyone else did, and that's just really unacceptable considering the relationship that they have.
KURTZ: So you're saying the fact that the attorney general blindsided the president when he thought he had to make this decision on his own whether to recuse or not recuse. Do you think that, to use your word, unacceptable?
PIERSON: Yes, I do. I do think that was unacceptable considering the relationship and the fact that this whole Russia nonsense is a hoax. We still to this day have not seen the DNC server that they claim was hacked and those e-mails were released in that way. So, why are we still having these investigations? These are all things that should have been discussed prior to that even happening.
KURTZ: Since you used the word hoax, do you think that the meeting between Donald Trump, Jr. and a couple other top campaign officials and those Russian was a hoax? I mean it's all laid out in the e-mails, correct?
PIERSON: I don't think that the meetings were a hoax but I do think the circumstances around it and the narrative that's being driven is a hoax. You're going to run into all kinds of people that may or may not have worked around a Russian, it doesn't necessarily mean it's collusion to throw at a campaign.
KURTZ: OK. The media narrative, I mentioned this early on the program, seems to be that the White House, the president's lawyers and so forth are gearing up for something of a war against Robert Mueller. A "New York Times" report saying they are investigating his prosecutors for possible conflicts, for possible bias. Do you think that is overstated or is that what the situation calls for?
PIERSON: I do think it's overstated. I don't think the White House is preparing for war with anyone other than against terrorism. But I do think that there are questions around this particular investigation and the way it occurred with the FBI director leaking information to the media to launch it more into this hoax of a Russian story.
And I do think that we should be asking questions about either the investigator and those that he's hiring because it does give this idea that the system is still rigged. We are looking at the deep state that has been blocking this president in so many areas. Not only that, but we're now looking at a situation where we can't even get on with doing the people's business because of this hoax.
KURTZ: Right. Well, James Comey did acknowledge in his testimony that he had might leaked (INAUDIBLE). Katrina Pierson, great to see you. Thanks very much for joining us.
PIERSON: Thank you.
KURTZ: Coming up, the media birth (ph) on the latest Republican healthcare failure. We'll talk about substance here and whether the White House might now bring back the on-camera briefing.
KURTZ: There's a media autopsy underway after the implosion of the Senate health care bill diagnosed in blame for the Republicans even as the president tries to resuscitate the effort.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We'll just let Obamacare fail. We're not going to own it. I'm not going to own it. I can tell you the Republicans are not going to own it.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: He says he's not going to own it which is strange because when the House version passed this spring the president was eager to own that one. He threw a big victory celebration there on the Rose Garden.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Trump-care appears dead and the fingerprints on the murder weapon are Republican.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMER, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: This is an epic fail. This is historic. This is seven years of argument going down the drain.
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: Enough is enough when it comes to congressional Republicans breaking their word and failing to deliver. No more excuses. It's time. The GO, you either step up and get the job done or get out of Washington.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
KURTZ: Joining us now to look at the coverage Emily Jashinsky, a commentator writer for the "Washington Examiner" and Margaret Carlson, columnist for "The Daily Beast." So Emily, massive wave of bad press for Trump, Mitch McConnell, the Republicans after seven years of promises to come up with a new healthcare system, but even some conservative pundits and conservative outlets, any quarrel with that?
EMILY JASHINSKY, WRITER, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: No, I mean actually I think you can peel all the blame on the Republicans. This has been a clear failure when you promise things for seven years. There's obviously an issue with bringing consensus together. You've had seven years to figure this out, but at the same time, you can also say it's an issue of selection bias. Where were the stories when the Democrats had no substance and effort to fix to problems with their own bill?
There weren't stories. You know, there weren't stories until Republicans tried to fix it in the first place. So we had a massive issue I think of selection bias to begin with.
KURTZ: There hasn't been a lot of focus on the existing promise of the Obamacare exchanges and I think there's an underlying sense even in the straight news coverage that the Republican bill is not just unpopular but kind of a mess and kind of rooting for Obamacare to survive, would you quarrel with that?
MARGARET CARLSON, COLUMNIST, THE DAILY BEAST: You know, every story had the obligatory line in it that Obamacare had problems that needed to be fixed.
KURTZ: The obligatory line is not exactly the whole narrative.
CARLSON: But this turned into a win or lose story, the perfect storm for the press and for President Trump so that neither had to get into much substance. It was just push it on through for the White House. And the president said this much. I mean he switched sides when he celebrated the House bill and then to the house bill was mean. And then we move on to the Senate bill and the discussions of the merits of that, nobody wanted to get into it to press on whether deductibles were the thing, health saving care accounts. It just lost all that -- KURTZ: We spent a lot of stories --
CARLSON: -- win or lose.
KURTZ: OK, so when the president says as we just saw it, well, we'll just have to let Obamacare collapse. I mean now he just wants a clean repeal bill out of (INAUDIBLE) he's got the 50 votes in the Senate. Let Obamacare collapse, I don't own it. If that were to happen, is there any way the media would make him own it?
JASHINSKY: Absolutely. I mean, he's going to own it no matter what. I mean that's just how the media sort of sees policy discussions in the era of Trump. Everything is tied to Trump. Everything is tied to Trump, even if he distances himself with this, which he did on the Senate bill in fairness, so that's accurate. But yes, that's the problem going to be for him going forward.
CARLSON: Well that's no different. I mean, we call it Obamacare because that's how it happens, that the person owns it who is president at the time.
CARLSON: So, the president at the time is Trump and so the failure is his. He wants to put it on Republicans and he wants to go after Senator Dean Heller and Jeff Flake and primary them. But it's really a White House as much as a congressional Republican. And when you own both the White House and the Congress --
KURTZ: I was going to say, when you control all --
CARLSON: You know --
KURTZ: -- all three power centers, it's hard to say it's somebody else's fault even if you inherited the problem. Every president tries to blame it on the predecessor. Let's look at the White House upheaval. How do you see Sarah Huckabee-Sanders doing as the new press secretary? Very different personality than Sean Spicer but uses more humor and likes to mix it up.
JASHINSKY: Yes, I think that's key actually, the personality because I think Sean Spicer's personality really channeled what I see is the id of the average Trump voter, not necessarily the average American. So, very combative and, you know, willing to get into it with reporters. And Sarah Huckabee --
KURTZ: Too combative you're saying?
JASHINSKY: Absolutely. He was too combative. You know, if I were the average Trump supporter I would love that. I would understand where it's coming from but at the same time it doesn't do much to convince the media, to persuade the media, you know, members of the media who he's actually trying to give the right information to. Sarah Huckabee-Sanders is hilarious. I think she does a great job so, I'm excited to what she does.
KURTZ: We don't know what exactly what Anthony Scaramucci is going to do. He kind of dodged this question because he's got to talk to his boss, but you know, do you think not just -- will the White House bring back most briefings being on camera, which has been traditional now for over 20 years? But should the White House bring back briefings back on camera even if it means reporters ask grandstanding questions?
CARLSON: So, breaking with the tradition of on-camera press briefings didn't really get anything for the White House.
KURTZ: Everybody ran the audio.
CARLSON: Why not bring them back. And as Emily says, Sanders is a more appealing personality. And Scaramucci is a very appealing personality. But I think we do know where he's headed. I mean, he said I love Donald Trump. He said that about five times in his first --
KURTZ: Is that a bad thing if you're working for Donald Trump?
CARLSON: -- in his first appearance, but I think it overcomes you and he erased all his tweets where he didn't love Donald Trump and he was on the opposite side of every issue.
KURTZ: Yes, well, is that a big deal? I mean, it's been the first shock the press has taken at Scaramucci, but he said yes, you know, I used to have some different thing as my opinions don't matter (INAUDIBLE) to this president.
JASHINSKY: Wait, he's signaling (INAUDIBLE). He'll be loyal to the president moving forward and he will be that soldier who goes out there a lot like Sean Spicer even when it's tough. Even when the president doesn't give you much to work with, and he will defend him. I think Scaramucci is in a better position to do that. He's also --
CARLSON: He's a loveable guy, but he did go back to the beginning and saying by the way, that inaugural crowd was, you know, the largest.
KURTZ: The first fight of the Trump administration. All right, we will wrap it there. Margaret Carlson, Emily Jashinsky, thanks very much for joining us. Good to see you.
After the break, O.J. Simpson is getting out of prison soon in a robbery case. Why that hearing was live on every single network.
KURTZ: It was 1994 all over again. The broadcast networks, the cable channels all covering O.J. Simpson live as a Nevada parole board decide to let the convicted robber, the world's most famous acquitted murder suspect out of prison.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GERALDO RIVERA, FOX NEWS SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: He has been miraculously from his point of view granted yet another chance at living a respectable, law-abiding peaceful life. I have my doubts personally, but it's not up to me.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's not normal is O.J. Simpson because in the court of public opinion he is guilty as charged.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: I took this up with Carley Shimkus, reporter for Fox News 24/7 Headlines on Sirius XM.
KURTZ: Carley Shimkus, welcome.
CARLEY SHIMKUS, REPORTER, FOX NEWS HEADLINES 24-7: Good to be here.
KURTZ: Is there something irresistible about this O.J. saga dating back to 1994, the white Bronco chase, the trial that generated all this television coverage for a parole hearing?
SHIMKUS: Yes, unbelievable, and I completely agree with the way you're starting things off. Instead of the trial of the century you could actually call this the parole hearing of the century because this guy bottom line is a ratings magnet. It's sad to say but it is true.
In 19994, 95 million people tuned in to that white Bronco chase and then a year later, a 140 million people watched the not guilty verdict come down. Twenty years later, people still have a morbid fascination with O.J. Simpson and it's just proven by how many people tuned in to watch this parole hearing. When people didn't knew what was really going to happen in the end. A lot of legal analysts were speculating that he was going to be let out, and that's exactly what happened.
KURTZ: More with fascination (INAUDIBLE) of course with such a racially charged trial at the time. But wasn't he, let's be honest here, the worst witness of all time. I mean, he sat there and he said things like well, nobody ever accused me of threatening anybody with a weapon when there was of course the knife he used to kill Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman.
SHIMKUS: And I think that's exactly why it was so important that networks covered the parole hearing and the way that they did, meaning so extensively, because it just goes to show that this guy is still a jaw droppingly horrible person and a stone cold liar for him to sit there and say that he's led a conflict-free life when everybody knows that his life has been filled with conflict.
It's actually really important for people to know especially if you live in the great state of Florida where he's headed. This guy is mentally unhinged and I still think pretty dangerous.
KURTZ: I put you down as not an O.J. fan, but look, if you just look at the contours of this case, serving nine years -- almost nine years for an armed robbery case is not that outlandish. But let's face it, the country viewed this as a proxy case for the double murder trial in which most Americans thought he was a killer but nevertheless acquitted.
SHIMKUS: Yes, and you know what, I completely agree with most people on this, that it stinks that he's out of prison. I think that most people would rather him be in prison. But in this particular case, I mean, you got to let him go after he served for nine years because he was fairly over sentenced.
KURTZ: Just briefly, was all the television and web and newspaper coverage justified given the intense public fascination with O.J. Simpson?
SHIMKUS: Yes, absolutely. It was justified. And like I said, I think it was important for people to know where he stands mentally right now even though this is a much lesser charge and a much lesser case that he went to prison for. People need to know where he stands today and there is that public fascination with him. He's a ratings magnet and he will continue to draw a crowd.
KURTZ: Carley Shimkus, thanks very much for joining us.
SHIMKUS: Thanks a lot.
KURTZ: The O.J. case launched the TV careers of a lot of legal pundits.
Still to come, praising Donald Trump while taking money from his campaign.
KURTZ: The old guy Mark Serrano has been a fierce Trump defender for two years often appearing on Fox Business Network. Here's what he said in May.
(BEGI VIDEO CLIP)
MARK SERRANO, GOP STRATEGIST: The president turns to twitter for a very good reason. You know, it's because he knows the majority of the American people don't believe this fake news story about Russian collusion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: But "The Washington Post" said that was after the president's re- election committee started paying Serrano's firm $30,000 for consulting services which the paper says he failed to disclose for nearly two months. Fox Business said in a statement, it is the policy of the network to disclose all ties our guests have to any subject matter, and in the case of Mark Serrano, as soon as we were made aware of his new title last month, he made sure to disclose his role during his on-air appearances.
Serrano says he notified Fox of the conflict though he doesn't say when adding, let's be clear who the real targets of this "Washington Post" fake news hit piece are, President Donald Trump and Fox News. But Serrano didn't respond to the paper's repeated request for comment. He's certainly responding now.
Anyway, there's breaking news involving the Simpsons. I just happen to see this morning, the executive producer says in an interview that there was somebody the a cartoon show turned down to voice one of the characters, and that person was Donald Trump. Donald Trump wanted to voice -- be a voice on the Simpsons.
I guess he later found a way to be on TV a lot even without that gig. I wonder what the Simpsons would take him now. He's got a pretty recognizable voice where he could be Moe the bartender or hurt somebody.
That's it for this edition of "Media Buzz." I'm Howard Kurtz. Thanks for joining us. We hope you like our Facebook page. We post a lot of original content there, check it out. Let us know what you think, firstname.lastname@example.org on the e-mail. Come at me at Twitter. You have no problem doing that @HowardKurtz. And we we'll see you back here next Sunday 11:00 eastern. See you then with the latest buzz.
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