Media expose topples HHS chief; Trump hits hurricane 'fake news'

This is a rush transcript from "Media Buzz," October 1, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: On the buzz meter this Sunday, the plight of hurricane-battered Puerto Rico draws modest television coverage for too long, until the press starts blaming it on President Trump. Is that fair? And why weren't news outlets more aggressive from the start?

More than a week after an expose by Politico, President Trump fires Health Secretary Tom Price for lavish use of private jets -- an outrage that took time to gain traction in the press.


DIAMOND: He didn't realize how much we had when we first report it, Chris. They told the White House this would be a one-day story.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I think he's a very fine person. I certainly don't like the optics. I'm not happy, OK? I can tell you, I'm not happy.

JONATHAN CAPEHART, WASHINGTON POST: President Trump is not upset by what Secretary Price did. He's upset by the negative press caused by what Secretary Price did.

DANA PERINO, FOX NEWS: It wasn't fake news. Politico, the reporters tracked this down. They did the reporting.


KURTZ: Politico reporting that Price charged the taxpayers a million bucks for charter and military flights. What took so long? The press rose a penalty flag on the president for talking about pro-footballs instead of other issues while journalists keep plugging the NFL story over other subjects.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN: A very full program tonight including new reporting from Puerto Rico where the human need is so great in scope and so urgent. We begin though tonight on what the president's latest take on the wave of protests within the NFL.

LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC: We've been looking to the mind of Donald Trump, it's always Twitter. Today, he has five tweets about the NFL and two about Puerto Rico.

JESSE WATTERS, FOX NEWS: Trump is not being divisive. The people who kneel during the anthem, I consider that divisive. Trump is criticizing divisive behavior and ripping people that kneel isn't racist.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN: One of course wonders why in the president's view a black man protesting racial injustice by kneeling during the anthem is a son of a bitch, while whites marching alongside Nazis and the Klan to protest the removal of the statue of the confederate general is a quote, very fine person.


KURTZ? Why are many pundits blaming Trump for their own editorial decisions?

Plus, legacy of Hugh Hefner, playboy of culture revolutionary or just selling sex. I'm Howard Kurtz and this is "Media Buzz."

It was a classic waste interview story when Politico disclosed 10 days ago that HHS Secretary Tom Price has spent at least $400,000 on private jets to visit such places as Aspen Ideas Festival in a Georgia resort where he owns land. And later, another half million bucks on military flights overseas.


BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS: What were you thinking at those moments? I mean, some of these flights clearly were to places that had commercial possibilities. There is one flight in Philadelphia that you drive 45 minutes to Dallas (ph). You get on a private flight to fly to Philadelphia for $25,000. If you take Amtrak here, you would be there in an hour and a half for about $100.

TOM PRICE, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: Yes. That particular trip, we had a meeting that morning on the hurricanes that I needed to be at, and then went on a meeting in the afternoon at the White House. Again, these trips were approved through the normal process.


KURTZ: There were dutiful follow-ups, few columnists and editorials, but with the secretary insisting he had done nothing wrong in the story language, until President Trump had enough on Friday afternoon, an hour after Trump said he decided that night whether to fire the ex-congressman, Price resigned.

Joining us to analyze the coverage: Katie Pavlich, editor of and a Fox News contributor; Juan Williams, co-host of "The Five," and Susan Ferrechio, chief congressional correspondent of the Washington Examiner. Katie, given that this was a classic scandal from the swamp --


KURTZ: -- why wasn't Tom Price gone in 48 hours? Was that just overshadowed by other Trump stories?

PAVLICH: I think the president wanted to make sure he had all the facts surrounding how bad this really was, but the excuses that Tom Price repeatedly gave from the beginning to end were just pathetic.

I mean, he started out by saying as Bret push him on, that while he had these meetings and commercial flights weren't available to get back in time, the Politico actually exposed that there were commercial flights almost at the exact same time as the private flights that he took to places that are not far away.

And then for him to then try and hold himself accountable in some way by saying, I will pay for my seat on the private plane that I took, just looked even worse when it comes to the overall administration message of making sure taxpayers money is taking care of in a way that benefits them, not government Washington, D.C. bureaucrats.

KURTZ: In terms of spin, the fact that Tom Price -- you know, you saw him them with Bret Baier, still seemed not to get it, wasn't paying -- paying (INAUDIBLE) money and I love this none apology, I regret I was not sensitive enough to my concern for the taxpayers. Wasn't that all red meat to the media and keep the story going?

JUAN WILLIAMS, FOX NEWS: You know, it's interesting to me because it should have been red meat for the media. I think once Politico broke the story, I was interested in it because it seemed to me such a contradiction of our populist president's appeal to the grassroots, the people who want to drain the swamp.

But here's my take on this, Howie. I think we also have to look at the VA secretary, he has been doing some traveling. You look at Ryan Zinke of the interior, he had been doing some traveling.

Of course, we have the famous case of Mnuchin, the treasury secretary and his wife, who had to explain why they were traveling on private jets. I think that in fact, President Trump is upset at the failure of Tom Price to get rid of Obamacare.

KURTZ: Let's go back to the media focus. I give Politico credit for old- fashioned investigative reporting, going through the records and so forth, but other news organizations, they didn't really join in the digging.

They reported official statements. CBS evening news didn't get those until Wednesday, NBC nightly news until Thursday, when it became clear that Price's job was -- very little on Fox. Why do you think that was?

SUSAN FERRECHIO, THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Well, I think partly because jet travel from administrative officials is not new. It's been going on, you know, for many in the administration.

KURTZ: At this level? A few months, 400,000 bucks?

FERRECHIO: This was sort of an evolving story. The day that Price announced his resignation was the day we learned about the trips to Europe. We didn't know about those the day before. I think that was a real kicker here. But it's really important to point out though that all the emphasis on Trump and the jet travel, where was all this careful examination during the Obama administration?

Leon Panetta used to fly home every weekend to the tune of $800,000, and no one really cared about it. That story never had legs (ph). And so other administrations have done this. I'm glad this is getting a lot of scrutiny now. I never knew about how extensive it was. But again, the radar goes off for the Trump administration. It wasn't there when President Obama --

KURTZ: Is it true that a number of Obama officials used private jets? Eric Holder, Loretta Lynch, Bob Mueller, although they at least weren't law enforcement officials. This guy is running the Health Department.


KURTZ: But it's also true that those earlier examples in the past administration were not as big a story.

PAVLICH: Also, but -- to be fair, the Obama administration didn't have a mantra or a slogan of making sure the taxpayer money was spent in a way that was helpful and not beneficial to the Washington, D.C. swamp so to speak. And so, yes, this has been done by previous administrations. It certainly deserved as much scrutiny as they are giving it now.

I think going forward, the Trump administration is actually going to have to look at the policy as Juan was saying, rather than just letting Tom Price go as if he's the only person taking advantage of this taxpayer- funded flight loopholes. Why is it not OK for Tom Price to do it, but OK for the treasury secretary to do it? And as you said, they are not law enforcement officials, so what is the safety concern?

KURTZ: Juan, Chris Matthews covered this on MSNBC. The second paragraph was, well, you know, President Trump is taking all his jets when he goes off for his golfing weekends. This just strikes as partisan (INAUDIBLE) because when the president, you opposed is going on vacation -- the president is ever really on vacation, playing a lot of golf, then it's an issue when your own president you support does it, you get a pass.

WILLIAMS: And also, it's the president of the United States. You have a lot of apparatus attached to the president of the United States. You can't make excuses. He must be protected. Security is intense. I don't -- I used to fly around with Ronald Reagan, that's how old I am, but anyway, there was a lot.

KURTZ: Issue on Ronald?

WILLIAMS: No, no, no. What I'm saying, that's exactly -- it wasn't just me and Ronald. I mean, it's like you wouldn't believe how many cars are involved. But the difference and I think Susan picked up is, in the cases that we're talking about, even to this day, there are secretaries who get private transportation because of security concerns.

KURTZ: All right. Let me go back to the situation in Puerto Rico because also in the first week after that devastating hurricane caused so much havoc on the island, it wasn't the kind of coverage you saw on previous hurricanes.

I want to talk about the next segment. Susan, now that the narrative has shifted and media is saying, well, is this President Trump's fault. Why hasn't the federal response? Now, it's a bigger story. Is that fair or unfair?

PAVLICH: I would say this. Let's try to imagine an alternative universe where Hillary Clinton is our president right now. What do you think how the narrative would look like? Do you really think it would be the San Juan mayor proclaiming people are dying or not getting any help?

I mean, I feel like this is -- I think that he did well with Texas and Florida, and Democrats were really looking for a way to turn Puerto Rico into same Juan narrative. He did well with Texas and Florida and Democrats were really looking for a way to turn Puerto Rico into a Katrina-like political disaster for Trump. And that's part of what the media narrative has been with this.

KURTZ: Well, it's not just Democrats. The Associated Press story is making comparisons to Katrina where obviously the death toll is so much higher tragically. Washington Post, how Trump's time and his golf club response to Maria, carefully reported the story.

But any administration would be struggling with dealing with an island more than 1,000 miles from Florida just getting in supplies, food and water, is very difficult.

PAVLICH: The administration is hitting back on this. You had Sarah Huckabee Sanders yesterday tweeting out a series of informational tweets with time lines of what the administration had done and when including putting 7,000 federal workers on the ground two days after Maria made landfall.

There is a supply and demand issue, not necessarily an issue with not having enough medical supplies or fuel on the island. That's already there. It's a matter of not having enough people to distribute that.

KURTZ: What about the media narrative here that this is --

PAVLICH: I think that they are not really pointing out that in fairness of, you know, yes, the San Juan mayor is saying these things, but the governor is actually praising the president's response and saying, yes, it's a very difficult situation. We need more help obviously. This is not going to be over in the week coming. It's going to be a long-term process.

But they have certainly tried to pin all of this on the president and ignore the timeline of what the Department of Homeland Security has done to try and get those people on the ground to distribute those supplies.

KURTZ: CNN had one banner during the day, I believe over the weekend. Trump attacks San Juan mayor as she begs for help. Now, the mayor of San Juan has a tweet from the president, mayor of San Juan was very complimentary only a few days ago.

Now, we've been told by the (INAUDIBLE) Trump says she is doing a very poor job. The reaction of some of course is, oh, he's attacking a woman, he's attacking a woman of color. Isn't he entitled to criticize her back if she criticizes him?

WILLIAMS: First of all, what is her color? I don't know. But I don't think that's relevant. What I do think is relevant is from what I can see, the mayor is in a desperate situation and is asking for help on behalf of her people which is legitimate political function, represent your people.

I didn't think -- I didn't understand President Trump changing the media narrative by engaging in this kind of aggressive take down of a mayor who is in the midst of a crisis. But, you know, he has done this before.

But it does affect the media narrative because it's so much like catnip for us in the media to say, oh, Trump is tweeting and is in a fight with the mayor. But the mayor actually is in a desperate situation. Let's not mistake that.

KURTZ: Yes. I think we have to have some sympathy for the fact that she is coping with this devastation.


KURTZ: But here's another tweet by the president. Fake news, CNN and NBC going out of their way to disparage our great first responders as a way to quote, get Trump. So now it's about fake news?

FERRECHIO: I think he's absolutely right, to fight against the media narrative here from the get-go. It has been about him not doing enough to help this desperate situation. Meanwhile, the Defense Department and all our resources are pouring in a very difficult situation. I can guarantee you, if it was President Obama or President Hillary Clinton, the media narrative would be different. I think that is --

KURTZ: Hold on, hold on. Is it all fake news when we have reporters who have gone there and I don't think --

FERRECHIO: That's all what he's saying.

KURTZ: -- talking about --

FERRECHIO: That's all what's president is saying.

KURTZ: He's labeling this fake news.

FERRECHIO: No, no. He's not labeling fake news that things are desperate in Puerto Rico. In fact, he has talked about that in person on Twitter.

KURTZ: Right.

FERRECHIO: What he's saying is fake news is the narrative that he's not getting in there and doing everything possible to help the people even though the situation may still be desperate.

KURTZ: Right. Let me get a break here. Coming up on "Media Buzz," why did it take television so long to focus on the devastation" at I'm sure some of you are ready to weigh in. When we come back, more on the hurricane. Why did it take television so long to focus on the devastation in Puerto Rico? Later, critics really unloading on Megyn Kelly's NBC debut.


KURTZ: The degree of devastation in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria is almost unimaginable. But to the first six or seven days, the television coverage was quite modest compared to that for various political controversies and sometimes, it was framed like this.


DAVID MUIR, ABC NEWS: Tonight, the president responds when asked has he done enough for Puerto Rico? The governor there is saying they are facing a humanitarian disaster.

LESTER HOLT, NBC NEWS: Growing fears of a mass exodus from Puerto Rico as President Trump defense his administration's response.

ANTHONY MASON, CBS NEWS: A cry for help from Puerto Rico.

CARMEN YULIN CRUZ, MAYOR OF SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO: We need help now, not tomorrow, not later, now.

MASON: The president says he's on it.


KURTZ: Joining us now from Miami is Antonio Mora, former news anchor at "Good Morning America" and a Latin American affairs analyst. Why was there such a meager or modest coverage in the first few days and what do you make now that there is more coverage of the way, for example, those evening news stories were framed?

ANTONIO MORA, LATIN AMERICAN AFFAIRS ANALYST: The reality is I don't understand why there wasn't more coverage to begin with. You can give all sorts of excuses that there was hurricane fatigue, because we were coming off of Harvey and Irma, the Mexico earthquake was the day before the Puerto Rican earthquake.

But how the networks, no voices were raised and said we got to cover this other hurricane in the same way that we covered Harvey and Irma. This is also U.S. territory. Puerto Rico isn't that far away from New York City. It is about the same distance as Houston is.

So, how there were no voices raised and said we have to send our big guns just like we sent the big guns to Houston and big guns to Florida to cover the story. I don't understand that. Honestly, the only way I can explain it from my network's standpoint is that simply there is not enough, you know, voices at the networks who might have cried out and said, guys, you cannot make this coverage so different.

KURTZ: Let me stop you there. Let me stop you there because that's an point. I just think some of the major newspaper coverage was better from the start.

MORA: Yes.

KURTZ: I was going to ask you, you know, is this related to the fact that Puerto Rico most of the time just kind (INAUDIBLE) on the American media radar? But now when you say not enough Latino voices, you're sort of suggesting that Puerto Rico is covered differently because it's an island, part of the mainland U.S. territory, Americans citizens of course that is Hispanic and generally impoverished?

MORA: Howie, you saw the poll that showed that half of Americans didn't realize that Puerto Ricans were American citizens. So, there clearly is a difference in the way Puerto Ricans look that. There is the aspect that it is a little further away than Houston or Florida, so maybe that affects it.

But I do believe that there is a lack of Latino representation at the networks in the executive suites and the executive producer ranks, anchor ranks from Monday through Friday, a.m. to midnight. There is not one Latino, zero at CNN, Fox, MSNBC, ABC News, NBC News or CBC News.

I would think that if there had been any significant voices in those newsrooms, somebody would have said hey, guys, we got to cover this the same way. We got to send Anderson Cooper down there before the storm, not more than a week after.

KURTZ: At least many big anchors did not, but why should it take -- I mean, I take your point about representation, why should it take Latino voices to tell the people who make decisions on television networks that Puerto Rico, Americans, three and a half million folks and massive food shortages, water, gas and all that, why should it take Latino voices?

MORA: And Howie, it shouldn't. If you go back --


MORA: I believe it does. And if you go back and look at the newspaper coverage before Puerto Rico, before Maria hit Puerto Rico, it was clear that everybody knew how bad it was going to be. Irma had already knocked out power to a million people in Puerto Rico. So a direct hit from a category four storm -- you should see what Miami looks like two weeks after Irma hit as a category one.


MORA: So you imagine, impoverish island like Puerto Rico, what it would go through if a category made a direct hit? So there were already articles talking about how could this mean power out for most of of the island for three to six months.

KURTZ: Right.

MORA: So this should have been a big story that should have been covered very intensely and I do put some blame on the White House because I do believe that while they -- they probably underestimated the response. They sent in thousands of people. They did preposition --

KURTZ: All right.

MORA: -- some aid, but clearly not enough.

KURTZ: We are going to get into that into the next segment. Antonio Mora, thanks very much for joining us from Miami.

MORA: Thank you, Howard.

KURTZ: Good to see you. Up next, we'll get a response from Puerto Rico's only member of congress as the media increasingly blame the president for the plight of Puerto Rico. Later, Steve Hayes on light of big media question about the Trump tax cut is whether it benefits him.


KURTZ: The moment the coverage of Puerto Rico may have turned came when CNN's Alisyn Camerota asked San Juan's liberal mayor, Carmen Yulin Cruz, to respond to some upbeat comments by acting Homeland Security Chief Elaine Duke.


ELAINE DUKE, ACTING HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: I know it is really a good news story in terms of our ability to reach people. And the limited number of deaths that have taken place in such a devastating hurricane.

CARMEN YULIN CRUZ, MAYOR OF SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO: When you are drinking from a creek, it's not a good news story. When you don't have food for a baby, it's not a good news story. When you have to pull people down from their buildings because -- I'm sorry, but that really upsets me and frustrates me.


KURTZ: Joining us now in studio is Jennifer Gonzalez-Colon, Republican and Puerto Rico's only member of congress. Welcome.


KURTZ: The media coverage now is basically portraying the Trump administration's effort to help your island as too slow, too ineffective, basically a failure. You find that unfair?

GONZALEZ-COLON: Yes, of course it's unfair. I mean, the federal administration has been there before, during, and after all of the hurricanes. We must remember that we were hit by Hurricane Irma first and then by Hurricane Maria. So, it was less than 10 days to recover from the first hurricane when we got hit by the second one.

In the first hurricane, we got 4,000 federal employees on the island, before, during and after. The same thing with Maria. And then the federal government has sent 10,000 persons to work with FEMA and agencies in the island.

I've been in the Air Force with President Trump. He has been amazing, quickly -- I mean, sending his staff, his secretaries, all his cabinet down the island, making sure that the provisions are arriving, that the commodities are being sent. But he also understands the main issue we got is the logistics issue of the supplies.

KURTZ: Let me ask you this. You were just telling me a moment ago that you were down there during the hurricane and holding on to the door of your home. It must have been a very difficult situation. You just heard the mayor of San Juan say that people are dying, she is not going to be polite, the feds should get their ass moving. So what is wrong with her indictment?

GONZALEZ-COLON: I just think that everybody is frustrated here. I mean, we never got this kind of devastation before. So, the governor is frustrated, the mayor is frustrated, I'm with frustrated because we need more help and that is the reality.

But one thing is saying that and another one is saying that there is no help, that there is no provisions, that there is no military persons there, I mean the coast guard army, engineers, you got all federal agencies in the island doing their job as we speak. Rescue missions, more than 800 people were rescued, and continue to do so. As we speak, there are ongoing operations for rescue.

One thing is ventilating your frustration and another one is diverting that to take action and to promote coordination with agencies. That's what the governor is doing. That's what I'm doing. And and the mayor -- remember, we have 78 mayors.

KURTZ: Right. This one is getting a lot of television attention to be sure. The president is tweeting and he says that some of the coverage of Puerto Rico is fake news. I guess that means to the extent to which the administration is being blamed. Would you agree with that fake news?

GONZALEZ-COLON: You know what? There's a lot of media covering the disaster, the devastation. That devastation is true. But saying that the federal government is not there, that is false. I mean, you can go to the streets and you will see national --

KURTZ: Nobody is saying the federal government is not there. It's the question of whether it move quickly enough to mobilize the military.

GONZALEZ-COLON: I mean, in less than eight days, you got a lot of military.


GONZALEZ-COLON: We got three generals there. The generals asked for more resources there, arriving right now. Main issue is still logistics, from the ports to the --

KURTZ: I got half a minute. When the hurricane first hit, there weren't that many journalists who went there, didn't get all --

GONZALEZ-COLON: There was nobody.

KURTZ: Why do you think that was?

GONZALEZ-COLON: I mean, it's so easy to take a hit on somebody when they are doing the job and convert this issue in a political one. This is not politics. I mean, this is real thing. This is a real devastation we got in the island. If some people want to play to hit the administration because they aren't doing the job, that's the wrong thing. We need to be united, Republicans and Democrats, and be a leader of people --

KURTZ: Right.

GONZALEZ-COLON: -- to work with the administration to help solve the situation.

KURTZ: Right. I thought there should have been a brighter media spotlight from the beginning. Congresswoman, thank you very much --

GONZALEZ-COLON: Thank you. My pleasure.

KURTZ: -- for coming here at this difficult time. We appreciate it. Ahead on "Media Buzz," Megyn versus the critics after her rough debut on "The Today Show." But first, the press says that after that Alabama contest, they say Republican civil war is going on. Is that (INAUDIBLE)? Steve Hayes is on next.


KURTZ: President Trump's tax plan is coming under sharp media scrutiny and many journalists are focusing not on whether it helps the wealthy, but on whether it helps one wealthy person in particular.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you guarantee that President Trump won't get a tax cut under this plan?

GARY COHN, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: When we looked at the tax plan and we looked what it does for Americans, we are very confident that Americans are getting a great deal here.


KURTZ: Joining us now is Steve Hayes, editor of The Weekly Standard and a Fox News contributor. Let me put up on the screen the USA Today banner headline after the plan was announced: Trump could reap millions in tax plan. Why is it a huge deal? Didn't Bush, JFK who was rich benefit from tax cuts?

STEVE HAYES, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Yes, no question about it. I think it's the focus of the media because it's Donald Trump. It's a way to hit Donald Trump. Now, in fairness to the media, we don't have his tax returns, so we don't have a real understanding of how he may or may not benefit. But there's been a lot of speculative coverage of the kind that you're describing.

KURTZ: Right. We don't have all the details of the tax plan itself. It is understandable I think that the media would focus on how this would explode the deficit. Will this tax cut be paid for? "New York Rimes" saying Republican deficit (INAUDIBLE), but what do you make of that focus on this question of how much it will cost?

HAYES: Look, you're right. It's a perfectly legitimate question to talk about the effects on the deficit. My question for the media is where was this focused for the last eight years? I mean, Barack Obama introduced a new entitlement.

We know entitlements are driving our debt -- $20 trillion now. Barack Obama introduced a new one. We've seen the debt number go from basically $11 trillion to $20 trillion under Barack Obama, and there was virtually not a peep from the mainstream establishment media on debt and deficit.

And now, Donald Trump is president, Republicans push a tax reform plan that -- to be fair, Trump has come up through the Republican congress. Many of these ideas done Republican plans for years. And all of a sudden, the media is obsessed with deficits?


HAYES: This is -- if you ever wanted an example of how the media biased on these issues, this is a pretty good one.

KURTZ: The deficit is a classic example of hypocrisy on both sides. You make an issue on one and it's the other party's responsibility. OK, so the Obamacare replacement bill failed this week, basically collapsed for the third time. The president is out there saying he has the votes and he will get in a few months.

He talks about one senator being hostile. A lot of journalists jump in and say he doesn't have the votes, what's he talking about?

HAYES: He didn't have the votes. What he said was not true. He said repeatedly -- what's interesting is he made the claim once. (INAUDIBLE) people said we're not in the hospital, what are you talking about? There is no hospital --

KURTZ: But he's not in Washington to vote?

HAYES: He wasn't doing well. He was going to come back. So what Donald Trump did was make up an excuse. It wasn't true. I think journalists are absolutely right to fact check him on it and to be aggressive in their fact checking on it, say what he said was not true.

KURTZ: All right. Let me get to the Alabama senate primary because President Trump appointed an incumbent, Luther Strange. He lost to Roy Moore. The president campaigned for him.

Our colleague Rich Lowry writes that the Republicans are now locked in mortal combat between the establishment that is ineffectual and unimaginative and a populist wing that is ineffectual and inflamed.

It sounds like picking size on the Iran-Iraq war. Where does that leave you?

HAYES: In the middle, actually. I think my problem with this whole discussion, first of all, there has been a civil war, if you want to call that, inside the Republican Party now for a couple years. I mean, you can really go back to the 2016 presidential election. I think that --

KURTZ: (INAUDIBLE) Republican Party.

HAYES: Precisely. My problem with the coverage broadly is that there is this sort of binary framing where at the establishment on one hand and Trumpists on the other, there are heck a lot of Republicans, conservatives in the middle of that who are neither Trumpists nor establishment (INAUDIBLE) Republicans, but are movement conservatives who believe in the kind of things that conservatives have believed in for years.

Look, you can make an argument that they have been aggressive enough in making their case, that they haven't responded correctly to Donald Trump's takeover of the Republican Party, but that doesn't mean that they don't exist and certainly that reporter should write them out of the story.

KURTZ: You know, media reduce everything to binary (INAUDIBLE).

HAYES: It's true.

KURTZ: But as far as you and the "Weekly Standard," who opposed Donald Trump during the election, he criticized you during the campaign, you don't feel like you have to choose sides, but it seems like you're in this almost no man's land on the right.

HAYES: Yes, there is no question this is a very strange moment. I think for traditional movement conservatives and most of us at the "Weekly Standard" are movement conservatives, so what we are doing in response is returning to reporting. We are going back to old school journalism. We believe that the debates that we are having as a country inside the conservative movement should be based on facts, logic, and reason.

We are going back to that. We are doubling down on reporting. We are making our arguments based on empirical facts. We are trying to gather original commentary by basing it on what we're seeing rather than hot takes.

KURTZ: I got about half a minute. Is it hard to move the needle with that approach when such passions for or against President Trump or the GOP leadership?

HAYES: Yes, it is. We could fail. It might not work. But if it fails, if going back to facts, logic and reason fails in this current moment in this debate, we're going to have bigger problems than just for the "Weekly Standard," Donald Trump for the country.

KURTZ: Good point. Steve Hayes, thanks very much up --

HAYES: Thanks, Howard.

KURTZ: -- for coming in this Sunday. Good to see you. Coming up, a rocky start as Megyn Kelly tries to make a transition from Fox News anchor to NBC morning show personality. Later, the media still keep tackling the NFL protests even as they blame Donald Trump.


KURTZ: News outlets are still pounding away of the controversy over protesting NFL players and reporters keep raising the issue with the president.


STEVE HOLLAND, REUTERS: There's some concern that you were preoccupied with the NFL instead of dealing with Puerto Rico. Why isn't that a fair assessment?

TRUMP: Well, I wasn't preoccupied with the NFL. I was ashamed of what was taking place.


KURTZ: We're back with the panel. Katie Pavlich, Donald Trump absolutely created and promoted this (INAUDIBLE) cultural issue, but the media love this controversy even more than he doesn't won't let go.

PAVLICH: I might disagree with the assertion that he created the cultural problem.


PAVLICH: It was Colin Kaepernick who started it. President Trump brought it back up and made it a magnified issue.

KURTZ: People surely acknowledged that. We're all worried and sitting around talking about Colin Kaepernick who started this protest --

PAVLICH: No, but I think that Americans were talking about how during football season with the NFL people were not standing for the national anthem, so that like he did magnify it. So I would say that, you know, the accusation that he brought it up isn't necessarily true, but the reason we keep talking about this is A, because the president is talking about it.

KURTZ: Sure.

PAVLICH: B, because reporters keep asking about it.


PAVLICH: And C, because Americans are interested in seeing how this moves forward and whether they are are actually going to keep watching football on Sunday and Monday --

KURTZ: Oh, it's a fascinating story, but it's so striking, every time this week, the president got questions, including a Fox interview, there has been a question about the NFL and then it's like, so he is still talking about it.

WILLIAMS: Wait a second. He's still tweeting about it, too.

KURTZ: That's true.

WILLIAMS: That's his own volition. But this is a culture war issue. This is something that everybody is interested. Everybody wants to know what's going to happen in the next game. I remember everybody anticipating the Thursday night game much the way we are anticipating the Sunday game today. What's going to happen? How the players handling it?

The commission meeting with players and owners to try to find a way around it. Everybody looking for a way out.

KURTZ: In the game (INAUDIBLE) this morning, what's striking to me is that the real focus now is on the first two minutes before the play starts to see what the players do. Susan Ferrechio, let me play for you something that MSNBC's Rachel Maddow had to say the other night on Jimmy Fallon.


RACHEL MADDOW, THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW HOST: Three and a half million Americans in Puerto Rico and the president was really preoccupied with trying to make a racial issue out of the NFL while he wasn't doing anything about that.


KURTZ: It's not true that he wasn't doing anything about Puerto Rico.

FERRECHIO: What a thing to say. OK, first of all, NFL, 16 million viewers. Puerto Rico, three million, 2,000 miles away from the average Americans. People -- as Antonio Mora just said in the previous segment, don't even know that Puerto Rico is part of the United States. That's part of the reason there is a disconnect between what Americans are thinking about.

The NFL is arguably the most populist sport in America combined with the president of the United States who's tweets generate so much interest. We have this perfect combination, really.

KURTZ: I'll say what a perfect combination is. CNN did a prime time special on NFL a few days ago. It's a perfect cable news story. It got Trump, politics, sports, race, and people -- two sides denouncing each other.

PAVLICH: Yes, I think that's true. I think that people really are interested in looking at this. There are results that are happening as a product of this. The NFL, there was a morning political poll that came out this week showing the NFL's brand favorability is lower than it's ever been and it has gone down by 13 percent just in the last week.

You have a bunch of angry fans being open about the facts. They don't want (INAUDIBLE). They're burning their jersey. They want this to be resolved not by the president, but by the NFL.

KURTZ: A "New York Times" news story says President Trump is being divisive by pushing the kneeling players as a wedge issue. Isn't there another side which is some say that protesters are being divisive by doing this on national TV and make it obviously protest --

WILLIAMS: Oh, I disagree. I mean, I think that they are using a platform that's available to them. Athletes in much the way that we as media personalities were actors and actresses and we often, especially here at Fox, are very critical of the Hollywood elite when they use their platform.

KURTZ: Can you not see how some people would see that as abusing their platform?

WILLIAMS: No, I don't. I fact, what's interesting to me is that as Katie just said, when Kaepernick was doing this, there was some attention to Kaepernick and then some attention to the fact that Kaepernick couldn't get a job this season. What has happened now is like it's combusted. It has become a conflagration given the combination to how we just pointed out, the sports, the media, and Donald Trump.

KURTZ: All right. I guess some of us will have to make a decision whether to watch football later today.


PAVLICH: I'll be watching baseball after playing today.

KURTZ: All right. Katie Pavlich will be watching baseball. Thanks very much. After the break, Megyn Kelly says on "The Today Show," she's done with politics. Can that approach succeed in the morning?


KURTZ: Megyn Kelly made her debut on the third hour of "The Today Show" this week and the reviews have been pretty harsh. NBC going to great lengths at the pick of former Fox News anchor as part of its family.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello. Good morning.

MEGYN KELLY, JOURNALIST: We go in the work together.


KELLY: You left some key information out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a little bit more like you're part of the family. And I think that's going to be great because you're going to be perfect.

KELLY: That truth is I am kind of done with politics for now, right?


KELLY: You've been an example to everyone in how to age beautifully and with strength and --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You said you felt --

KELLY: You're not proud to admit that you've had work done, why not?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We really want to talk about that?


KURTZ: Joining us now from New York you really is Marisa Guthrie, television editor of the Hollywood Reporter. So, Marisa, was it a mistake for Megyn Kelly known as a top political interrogator and for her battles with Donald Trump, to announce that she's kind of done with politics?

MARISA GUTHRIE, TELEVISION EDITOR, HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: Well, I think at the heart of it, it's a misreading of the cultural moment because Megyn was so good at doing politics at combative, incisive interviews and we saw with that Jane Fonda that her instinct is to ask the controversial probing question. That's a good thing if you're a TV journalist.

And so -- and now, everybody is talking about politics at their breakfast table and on TV, she's done with it. I mean, Oprah, her daytime role model is talking about politics on "60 Minutes." And suddenly the person who who rose to prominence because of her political interviews is done with politics. It's a weird kind of whiplash I think for people who have watched Megyn all these years.

KURTZ: Right. "The Today Show" is a new show, obviously has a lot of feature stuff. Now, the critics, some of them are pretty mean and they are saying things like she seems awkward and uncomfortable. She is not the confident anchor that she was when she was here at Fox. She is not connecting with the celebrities. By and large, fair or unfair?

GUTHRIE: Well, I don't -- I think you have to give shows more time than a week even though -- and sort of reserve judgment even though we're not reserving judgment.

KURTZ: In today's culture, you get one day. Everybody makes pronouncement.

GUTHRIE: You get one day, exactly. Everybody wrote their reviews on day one. (INAUDIBLE) reporter wrote hours after the first week. But I do think that there is an awkwardness. You saw it with the Jane Fonda interview. You've seen it in some of the other light fluffy segments. And so the question is, you know, not that Megyn -- I can understand being tired of this sort of nightly cable news combat and especially everything she went through with Trump.

But is she really kind of the celebrity stand girl? I don't know. Is she ever going be better at doing those interviews than say Kelly Ripa or Ellen Degeneres? I mean, that's the question.

KURTZ: Which is now her competition.


KURTZ: Let's go back to the Jane Fonda moment because it got so much attention. Jane Fonda has talked openly about plastic surgery in the past.


KURTZ: Megy began by saying, you know, you look great and so forth. So is the morning show host only supposed to ask celebs, you know, questions about tell us how great your new movie is?

GUTHRIE: Well, I think Jane's response -- and she has talked about it as Megyn pointed out, so her response was a little bit surprising. And she just wasn't decided she wasn't going kind of roll with it --


GUTHRIE: -- and answer the question nicely. I mean, we don't know what went on before the interview. I think Megyn maybe is a little intimidating and can put people back on their heels. That's what makes her a good interviewer.

KURTZ: Right. Some of these critics like "The Washington Post" saying Megyn Kelly was the bride of Frankenstein who just seemed to really have it in for her, but ultimately just 20 seconds is about whether she can connect with the morning audience, right?

GUTHRIE: Well, she is -- it's a different audience that's watching her on "The Today Show" than watching her on Fox. So, that will ultimately be the people who are judging her. And what do they want? I do think they want a little more about what's going on in the world than we saw on that first week.

KURTZ: Good place to stop and a fair assessment. Everybody should get at least a week to figure out what they're doing on television.


KURTZ: Marisa Guthrie, thanks very much for joining us. Still to come, some ruminations on the cultural meaning of Hugh Hefner's "Playboy" magazine by one of its contributors. His initials are James Rosen.


KURTZ: The death of Hugh Hefner reminded me of when I interviewed him seven years ago at the "Playboy" mansion. Tough assignment, I know. He told me that the endless availability of x-rated fare on the net had not been good for "Playboy" or society because it destroyed the mystique of sex. I spoke about Hefner's legacy with James Rosen, Fox's chief Washington correspondent.


KURTZ: James Rosen, welcome.


KURTZ: Hefner certainly built an iconic brand and he gets much of the credit or blame for spurring on the sexual revolution.

ROSEN: True. There is no question this man had a profound impact on western civilization. The question that's debated in the wake of his death is good or bad.

I come down on the side that it was mostly positive not just because I think he threw open the doors of sex in a way that was necessary after the conformity of the 1950s, but also the extraordinary literary caliber of the "Playboy" archive, all of the "Playboy" interviews.

There are some major figures in there. Martin Luther King, The Beatles, the founders of Google. It's an extraordinary archive.

KURTZ: Also at least four articles by James Rosen. I'm told this magazine served to provide anatomy lessons for millions of teenage boys whether that's true or not. But what is Hefner's legacy, you know, everybody jokes about what was all written for the articles, in terms of creating this controversial magazine?

ROSEN: The indictment against Hugh Hefner in the wake of his death is that all of the internet pornography and (INAUDIBLE) culture that we see around this today is in some way directly attributable to him. It seems to me the question we have to entertain alongside that kind of point of view is, what would have become the case if Hugh Hefner have never come along?

And I think honestly he portrayed sexuality in mostly a classy way as distinct from his competitors and what later came after him on the internet.

KURTZ: Yes, it seems tame by comparison. James, people out there are saying right now, yes, this was a guy who was basically selling pictures of airbrushed naked women.

ROSEN: He was also selling interviews with extraordinary figures. William F. Buckley, Jr. wrote for "Playboy" magazine for about 35 years and when he was asked why, he said, very simply because I decided to communicate with my 17-year-old son.


KURTZA: James Rosen, great line.

Another passing to report, Si Newhouse, the reclusive button, incredibly influential owner of Conde Nast which includes The New Yorker and Vanity Fair died this morning at the age of 89.

That's it for this edition of "Media Buzz." I'm Howard Kutz. I hope you like our Facebook page, a lot of content there. Let me know what you think. On Twitter, @howardkurtz. You can e-mail us at

We had a lot together into the show today. Everything is up to the last moment to keep it fresh for you. Check you out next Sunday. We will be here 11 o'clock Eastern with the last buzz.

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