This is a rush transcript from "Media Buzz," November 19, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: On the buzz meter this Sunday, politicians in both parties facing sexual harassment allegations as a radio talk show host accuses Al Franken of unwanted kissing and groping, and the Democrat senator apologizes for the behavior captured in this cringe inducing picture with Leeann Tweeden.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
LEEANN TWEEDE, AL FRANKEN ACCUSER: And it was a photo of Al doing his, you know, this on my breast like looking at the camera and just kind of smirking and smiling like hey, look at me. And I took that as the, you know, the final leg. Like, I got the last laugh. I mean, is it funny if he does that to your sister or your daughter or your wife?
MOLLIE HEMMINGWAY, THE FEDERALIST: There is absolutely no question that by the standards that was recently set by the political and media establishment, that Al Franken should be expelled.
LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS: Well no one was really getting Al Franken's joke today at all. It wasn't funny. I was really juvenile. It was something you'd see like at a drunken fraternity party maybe or maybe it was too immature for a fraternity party.
PAUL BEGALA: I think he's really trying to apologize and show contrition and remorse and to be accountable to the ethics committee.
BAKARI SELLERS: Look, I think Al Franken should resign. I don't know if that's a Democratic talking point or not but he committed a sexual assault, right?
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
KURTZ: Is the press treating all sex allegations seriously regardless of political party. The conservative media turned on Roy Moore who refuses to quit the Alabama Senate race despite mounting accusations including from Beverly Young Nelson.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
BEVERLY YOUNG NELSON, ROY MOORE ACCUSER: I tried to open my car door to leave but he reached over and he locked it. I was determined that I was not going to allow him to force me to have sex with him. I was terrified. He was also trying to pull my shirt off. I thought that he was going to rape me.
CARPENTER: I just want Roy Moore to stop (INAUDIBLE) this woman by saying that he's going to make all this go away with a lawsuit until he files those papers.
LOU DOBBS, FOX BUSINESS NETWORK: And no one so far has proved it is without question or rush to judgment and abandonment of due process and it reeks just a bit of left-wing hypocrisy.
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: He must immediately and fully come up with a satisfactory explanation for your inconsistencies that I just showed. You must remove any doubt. If he can't do this, the Judge Moore needs to get out of this race.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
KURTZ: Does the criticism by Sean Hannity and the Wall Street Journal editorial helped tip the debate over Moore. Some liberal pundits now say they were too easy on Bill Clinton when he was battling accusations of harassment and assault that ultimately led to his impeachment. Is it time for a media reckoning over the 42nd president?
Plus, Hillary Clinton in the headlines as Jeff Sessions considers a special counsel to investigate her. What about the media criticism that President Trump pushed the Justice Department to go after his former opponent? I'm Howard Kurtz and this is "MediaBuzz."
If there was any doubt that Leeann Tweeden, the L.A. radio host and comedian was upset about what Al Franken did to her 11 years ago. It vanished when she spoke to CNN's Jake Tapper.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TWEEDEN: You know, you always -- I don't want to be a cliche but you know, you talk about trying to leave the world a better place for your kids, you know. Sorry.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: We'll get to that in moments, but the bigger media spotlight remains on Roy Moore who is continuing to deny allegations from nine women and is still blaming the press.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROY MOORE, REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE FOR ALABAMA SENATE: AS you know, The Washington Post has brought some scurrilous false charges -- not charges, allegations which I have emphatically denied time and time again. They're not only untrue but they have no evidence to support them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Joining us now to analyze the coverage: Emily Jashinsky, commentary writer for the Washington Examiner; Michael Tomasky, columnist at the Daily Beast and editor of Democracy: A Journal of Ideas, and Francesca Chambers, White House correspondent for DailyMail.com.
Emily, with more accusers coming forward against Roy Moore talking not just to the Washington Post but to the newspaper group in Alabama that includes The Birmingham News, have most of the media reached a point of saying, well, they can all be lying?
EMILY JASHINSKY, WASHINGTON EXAMINIER: Right. And I think that's sort of what's happening here and what's interesting was Roy Moore's defense. And Senator Tom Cotton had a response. The media has reported specific credible allegations against Roy Moore that he has yet to come back with specific credible defenses.
And so I think that's where the situation gets tough and I think frankly that's where, as a conservative, I find his blaming of the media sort of exploitive of this very understandable skepticism that a lot of people in Alabama and a lot of conservatives had towards the media because he's not really defending himself well enough that we should just take his word of faith out of you.
KURTZ: Is there a critical mass to the coverage, Michael, when various people tell various reporters that Moore hung out at a local mall and went after young girls and woman and Gina Richardson said Moore called her out of her high school trig class, asked her on a date. A woman named Tina Johnson says he grabbed her buttocks in the law office when he was a (INAUDIBLE) attorney. Does all of that reach a critical mess?
MICHAEL TOMASKY, THE DAILY BEAST: Well it does but you know, I think what's -- not necessarily completely unique but what does stand out about these allegations is how airtight they really seem. Lik that first Washington Post story, the one point that everybody I talked to about it made, was it (INAUDIBLE). It really seems airtight.
KURTZ: Well you're saying airtight but it is almost four decades ago.
TOMASKY: Yes, it is four decades ago but, you know, we've all read dozens of these kinds of stories and we all have a pretty decent meter for judging how solid this seems. That one just seemed really solid. And then the Birmingham News and others have come up with other stories. It seems corroborated.
KURTZ: Right. What about Beverly Young Nelson we saw moments ago who said that Roy Moore tried to lock her in a car when she was 16, left bruises on her neck. The fact that she told her story on television, the only one to do so so far unless another woman is going to speak on the Today Show tomorrow. Does that really have far more impact than even these carefully reported print interviews?
FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, DAILYMAIL.COM: Well no. Going back to what you're saying, I think that The Washington Post story sent shock waves through this race and these allegations and talking about blaming the media here. I think the media has a responsibility to find out about allegations like these to report them and whether that is against a conservative, against the liberal, against someone like, you know, Harvey Weinstein. If there is anyone and you're a reporter and you find out about these, I think you have a responsibility to bring them to the public eye.
KURTZ: Right. Well, I just think when someone goes on television that means they're automatically telling the truth and that you can see them and you can see, listen to their voice, you can make a judgment. Now, has the tide turn -- you're a conservative -- conservative commentators and outlets. You have the "wall Street Journal" editorial page saying this is beyond the point of survivability and Roy Moore should quit.
And Sean Hannity after he issued the ultimatum, that 24-hour ultimatum, he didn't call for Moore to get out of the race. He said it's up to the people of Alabama, but certainly you're seeing more criticism from the right.
JASHINSKY: I think there are a few hold outs like Steve Bannon for instance, his camp was refuting I believe was a Daily Beast story that said he was sort of hedging on the issue a little bit, but you know, his camp came out and defended it and said that was true. So there are still some hold outs but I think the conservative media has responded well to this.
I think, you know, we've seen the tide really has turned to conservative press and I think what's really interesting in one comment about Beverly Young Nelson speaking directly to cameras. You have all these people who are understandably skeptical of the media. She cut them out of the equation. She spoke directly to the camera and gave people around the country a reason to believe a person rather than the press. I thought that was an interesting moment.
KURTZ: This is a natural instinct that I think when it's you're a Republican and it's a Republican under fire, Democrats the same thing, to maybe be a little hesitant to pass judgment? But it seems now that the mounting accusations have made even people who are sympathetic to Judge Moore to be least openly skeptical if not critical.
TOMASKY: Yes. I agree. I agree. I think most of the conservative media that I've seen have played this straight and I hope I'm not jumping ahead to Al Franken. I know you want to talk about Al but I think most liberals have treated that well, too. I haven't seen much or any favoritism for him from liberals because he's a Democrat.
KURTZ: All right, we'll get to that. You covered the White House. You were on the foreign trips, so Sarah Huckabee Sanders was very careful not to go beyond President Trump's original statement, written statement, that if the allegations against Moore are true he should get out of the race. He has (INAUDIBLE) at this. But then there was Ivanka Trump tweeting, that there's a special place in hell -- a special place in hell for people who prey on children. She has no reason to doubt the victim's accounts. But the president hasn't gone beyond that.
CHAMBERS: Well the president hasn't spoken out about that part of the issue at all. What happened on the trip is that Sarah Huckabee Sanders delivered a statement on behalf of the president. The president then gets asked about it a day later and says, you know, she already made a statement and he said that he needs to do the right thing if these things are true.
But that was the last time that he talked about it. There have been more accusations since then. And every time he was asked about it this week at the, White House he ducked the questions. And so that is something that's not going to go away. I think as you see heading into this next week even with Thanksgiving for this White House. The fact that the president hasn't taken a side here and he's the leader of the Republican Party.
KURTZ: But the president as you know has weighed in on Al Franken. And here's the tweet, -- we can put it up. You may have seen this. The Al Frankenstein pictures really does speaks a thousand words -- and puts his tweet up, where do his hands go in pictures two, three, four, five and six while she sleeps? Well we don't have the pictures but you saw it earlier.
And so, the question then becomes, Emily, a lot of media including anchors have kind of slammed the president for going after Al Franken but at least not in his voice, speaking out against Roy Moore.
JASHINSKY: Right. And I think that's totally fair because these are true stories that came out in close proximity to each other and he jumped on it. I mean it was -- his response to the Al Franken allegations was really quick and so it almost looked exploitive but it's tough going forward. I mean you have people on both camps, left and the right, who want to believe their own people so they apply more nuance when these things are about people on their own sides. I think we saw it with Al Franken. I think we saw it with Roy Moore. It's tough but hopefully the president will make the right decision when it comes to Moore.
KURTZ: Well here is what Kate Bouldan, a CNN news anchor had to say when the president went after Senator Franken but not Judge Moore.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN: This has officially become a -- the president doesn't get to do this moment. He doesn't get to question Al Franken and stay silent on Roy Moore and no one should allow it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: I don't know how we're not supposed to allow it. The president gets to say whatever he wants but is that a fair media criticism that he is speaking out at least on twitter against the Democrat but not the Republican?
TOMASKY: Well sure it is, sure it is. I mean, you know, that's favoritism, that's open partisan favoritism around charges that are really serious and should transcend it.
KURTZ: But what about news organizations and you're seeing this more in the last 48 hours, Michael, who are now resurrecting the sexual harassment allegations made against Donald Trump as a candidate after the "Access Hollywood" tape came out. Why resurrect that story which was, you know, he's denied it. He's called these women horrible liars. There is certainly debate over whether they should be believed and there was about a dozen of them, but we had an election, after that he won.
TOMASKY: Yes, but he opened the door with that tweet. I didn't see that Trump angle being reintroduced until that tweet widely. And once he did that tweet, he opened the door and he made it fair game.
KURTZ: Why did he open the door?
TOMASKY: Because it's, you know, 5 o'clock in the morning and he can't help himself.
KURTZ: I'm not saying why did he do it. I'm saying why does that open the door.
TOMASKY: It opens the door because he has now weighed in on the topic and so he now gets -- he wants to give some shots, he gets some shots.
KURTZ: You know, talk about Roy Moore who whenever he talks about this he rips the liberal media in Alabama and particularly goes after the Washington Post except that all the allegations are not made to Washington Post reporters. There was a robocall, we don't know who was behind them, in Alabama in which somebody pretended to be, impersonated a Washington Post reporter. Let's listen.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
BERNIE BERNSTEIN, REPORTER (via telephone): Hi, this is Bernie Bernstein. I'm a reporter for the Washington Post calling to find out if anyone at this address is a female between the ages of 54 to 57 years old willing to make damaging remarks about candidate Roy Moore for a reward of between $5,000 and $7,000.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
KURTZ: Bernie Bernstein, I don't think that name has any coincidence, and offering money for (INAUDIBLE) against the rules of Washington Post and just every other major news organization. What does that tell us?
CHAMBERS: Well, I think as Emily has said, you know, you pointed out that's a little -- potentially little exploitive of the position that this is somehow the media's fault that this is now happening to him or that the media is looking to take down Roy Moore somehow here, which wasn't the case. They happen to stumble across these allegations and we've see it from the Washington Post and we've seen it from other local papers as well.
JASHINSKY: I think it's trying to confirm what the Moore camp wants voters to believe.
KURTZ: Well, even if you believe that the Washington Post would love to knock Roy Moore out of this race, that doesn't mean the story isn't true. And there were a lot of interviews with also people that the accusers have told about this. When we come back, Al Franken apologizes for unwanted kissing and groping as we've seen from a woman who is now a radio talk show host. Are the media holding him with the same standard?
And later, some liberal commentators saying the left gave Bill Clinton a pass for his sexual misconduct in the 90s, and that should change.
KURTZ: Leeanne Tweeden, now a KABC radio host in Los Angeles says that on a U.S.O tour back in 2006, Al Franken, despite her objections, insisted on rehearsing a skit that called for them to kiss. Here is a shot of one of the actual shows.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TWEEDEN: He stuck his tongue down my mouth and remember I pushed him off with my hand and I just remember I almost punched him and I just walked out away from him and I walked out and I just wanted to find a bathroom and I just wanted to rinse my mouth out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Franken apologized for that and the groping photo taken while Tweeden was asleep on a place saying he is ashamed, "There is no excuse, I look at it now and I feel disgusted with myself. It isn't funny. It's completely inappropriate. It's obvious how Leeann would feel violates by that picture."
That was actually the second apology on Leeann. So is the explosion of coverage over Al Franken, former "SNL" star, what he did 11 years ago before he was a senator -- that awful photo and we've all just keeps staring at, is it fueled by the photo or how would the story have played if there was no picture because usually you don't have pictures in this cases?
JASHINSKY: Yes, and I think it's very much fueled by the photo, which in some people again, I saw this earlier that, you know, when he's in your camp, you try to apply maybe some more nuance to it. So some people are going so far as to zoom in on the photo and to say well, the touch is so light and it's just like, oh my gosh.
And I mean, I think Kasie Hunt of MSNBC called it mock groping. And I mean even Al Franken hasn't disputed the context of the picture that we've heard about so, when you have photographic evidence and that photo -- you get such a visceral reaction to it. It's huge. It's huge.
KURTZ: I must say that many liberal outlets have covered the Franken story extensively including some number of MSNBC shows with lead stories in the liberal Huffington Post if not quite with the glee that you're seeing on the right after the story broke.
CHAMBERS: But there are also (INAUDIBLE) Clinton before. I have also seen a lot of media coverage now of this whole idea of Bill Clinton whether or not the behaviour that he had with Monica Lewinsky and the fact that he settled out of court with, you know, another accuser, whether or not that is something the should have been acceptable during that time --
KURTZ: Yes, more on that in a few moments. Would you agree that liberals are not going out of their way to defend Al Franken because the conduct is basically indefensible?
CHAMBERS: But I think that you could say the same thing of conservatives here. You know, you're sort of in a situation where if you defriend him, that doesn't look good for you. But if you don't stand up against what are very troubling allegations, then that also doesn't play well for you and I think you see that play out on both sides here.
JASHINSKY: I think a lot of conservatives have stuck their necks out to say Roy -- the allegations against Roy Moore are serious and look really bad in all fairness.
KURTZ: Not as many in Alabama.
CHAMBERS: But liberals have also said was the stuff against Al Franken is not good. He should be investigated with ethics.
KURTZ: So there's a media consensus and I think at this table that Al Franken's behavior was inexcusable, but would it have been such a huge media story a year ago if we were not in the hot house environment of Roy Moore, Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., Bill O'Reilly, Mark Halperin, you know, and so on, would it have been more of kind of like a than a two-day embarrassment?
TOMASKY: I think it would have been a little bit more than that because of the photo. I mean that photo was lightning at anytime or in any context, but your question is right. It's the point I was about to make before you even asked it. The Weinstein context has changed everything and it's changed the way we talk about these things and the way we write about these things and I think you're going to see will see at least for a while there will inevitably be some backlash of some kind I guess. People are already writing about that. But I think we're going to see for a while the people in the media, liberals and conservative opinion people are going to be very careful to ask themselves now, would I react the same way if this were a Republican? Would I react the same way if this were a Democrat?
KURTZ: You have liberal writers who are (INAUDIBLE), a New York Times op-ed page, Michelle Goldberg, saying Franken should resign. Not all Democrats go that far but it doesn't underscore the point that people on the left who probably like Al Franken's policies, maybe like him personally. Some of them at least, they're not letting him off the hook.
JASHINSKY: No, and it's really -- it completely changed our lens through which we see charges and allegations of sexual harassment because everyone is learning as the reports are put into the press. They're learning what it looks -- what patterns look. What specific credible patterns like, I mean, when you look at the Harvey Weinstein story, when you look at -- I mean there are so many similarities -- Bill Clinton asking women up to their hotel room after setting meetings in different places. So we're all learning what this really looks like and it's positive.
CHAMBERS: It's about also the way we're seeing that this is not a story that's going to go away for this White House so, the president cannot sit back and refuse to get involved because people in America are looking to this president, to the leader of the nation to weigh in on this in some way, shape or form.
Look, he never personally spoke out and said that these allegations are very troubling and deeply troubling if they're true. That is not something that --
KURTZ: He said if the allegations are true, Judge Moore should step aside.
CHAMBERS: He should do the right thing, but this was also on a gaggle in a plane, not on camera.
KURTZ: There's a written statement on that.
CHAMBERS: And the statements that Sarah Huckabee Sanders gave for written statements, I think that as these conversations continue people will be continuing to look to the president to come on camera and say this is not OK.
KURTZ: And with that, Francesca Chambers, Michael Tomasky, Emily Jashinsky, thanks very much for coming by this Sunday. Ahead, Jeff Sessions considers a special counsel for Hillary Clinton, but many in the media slammed that as a potential abuse of power.
But up next, Congress now confronting its own problems with sexual harassment. Why hasn't that and got more coverage over the years.
KURTZ: Congress is beginning to grapple with sexual harassment in its own ranks. A sensitive subject explored at a hearing this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JACKIE SPEIER, D-CALIF.: In fact, there are two members of Congress, Republican and Democrat right now who serve, who have been subject to review or not have been subject to review but have engaged in sexual harassment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Joining us now is Susan Ferrechio, chief congressional correspondent for the Washington Examiner. You know the atmosphere on the Hill. Is it starting to change even though for example Congresswoman Jackie Speier refuse to name the two members she said engaged in sexual harassment.
SUSAN FERRECHIO, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Well I think she hopes it's going to change. I spoke to her before they left town on Thursday and this whole "me too" campaign and the involvement on social media where people are going, you know, on twitter and telling their stories. You know, that could bring about change. We had with Al Franken come into play.
So, all these revelations will I think instead of learning more names will perhaps put on notice lawmakers or staffers who might, you know, otherwise think they can harass a woman and get away with it.
KURTZ: Right. You mentioned Al Franken, it didn't seem like reporters had to work very hard to chase Democratic senators to get them to denounce what Franken did including Amy (INAUDIBLE), fellow Democrat from Minnesota. Is that a big change because usually when there is Republican or Democratic problems, lawmakers tend to scurry?
FERRECHIO: You know, actually, I don't think it's a big change. I think what happened was the juxtaposition to the Roy Moore situation forced Democrats to just confront the hypocrisy of it all. There is no way that they couldn't come out and condemn. The other issue here was the photo. These weren't just random, accusations or he said, she said.
FERRECHIO: This was a pretty damning picture.
KURTZ: But on the Hill for years, I mean I remember decades ago hearing women shouldn't get in an elevator with Strom Thurmond. And there's a convoluted long process when you file a complaint and often nothing happens and a lot of times the complainant serves curious snappers. So accepting a few of these high profile cases, Mark Foley, Bob Packwood, and well after he left Congress, Dennis Hastert, why hasn't there been more media coverage of this whole subject all in all?
FERRECHIO: First of all, Congress is not subjected to the same freedom of information laws. You can't just ask for information and expect to get it. A lot of it is cloaked in secrecy. For instance, what Jackie Speier revealed last week, she was able to get from the House Administration Committee the pay outs, the numbers of complaints filed. It is hard to get.
KURTZ: It's always hard to get.
FERRECHIO: Much harder to get because Congress is not subjected to open records law. That's part of the problem. Another issue is, you know, lot of is anecdotal and whispered about and it's not something that is talked about publicly. And people worry about the professional risks of talking about what happened to them. We don't even know the names of these lawmakers.
We asked Congresswoman Speier why can't you tell us who these lawmakers are. And she said the reason was the victims don't want their names revealed because it will expose them, and that's part of the issue as well.
KURTZ: Right. Unlike when you work for a corporation which has a big HR office, you know, you serve at the pleasure of these members and they can get rid of you for some reason.
FERRECHIO: Each office s an individual booth.
KURTZ: Right, exactly.
FERRECHIO: Because it is a professional risk. Once you put your name and then start complaining.
KURTZ: Well, it's not like belatedly now being (INAUDIBLE) on the Hill where you work. Susan Ferrechio, thanks very much for joining us. Coming up, Bill Clinton was impeached and acquitted for lying about his sexual misconduct but now some liberal commentator say their side went too easy on him.
And later, a media uproar as the Justice Department considers a special counsel for Hillary Clinton.
KURTZ: The tide of sexual assault and harassment allegations against Roy Moore, Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K. prominent journalist at Fox, MSNBC, NPR, has prompted some media liberals to look back two decades ago and ask do we need to reconsider our defense of Bill Clinton?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAKE TAPPER, CNN: The accusers of Bill Clinton back in the 90's were never given the credence and treated with the same respect that these women are being treated.
GAIL SHEEHY, JOURNALIST: Bill Clinton had been a great voice for women in public and a great violator of women in private. That's all been adjudicated. He has been impeached and he's paid a price.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Joining us now from New York, Lynn Sherr, the former correspondent for ABC News. And Lynn, having lived through it, the Bill Clinton sex scandals were covered around the clock for more than a year and many of the stories including the Monica Lewinsky investigation were broke in by the Washington Post. But don't some of these liberal writers have a point when say looking back some on the left gave him a pass for accusations that are as bad or worse than what Roy Moore is being accused of.
LYNN SHERR, FORMER CORRESPONDENT, ABC NEWS: Well, I agree with you Howie and I think what we're doing is we are seeing the effects of climate change, political climate change. Here is this flood of outed and self- confessed sexual abusers and you can no longer deny this rising truth. And what's happened is we're now in a climate where women are being believed.
You're quite right. Some of the women who came out against Bill Clinton and told their stories in that day were not believed for a variety of reasons. It may have been politics. It may have been class issues. There were a lot of different issues and now there is a kind of reckoning which I think is very healthy and I think it's about time.
KURTZ: Right. Well put. Now, the Atlantic has a piece saying the feminist movement saved Bill Clinton. That was complicated because the Republicans were impeaching him on party line basis and everyone kind of went to their partisan corners.
But Gloria Steinem wrote this piece in 1998, New York Times op-ed saying well at most, Bill Clinton is a candidate for sex therapy and bringing up some of the accusers, (INAUDIBLE), he made a (INAUDIBLE) reckless pass at her, took no for an answer. Paula Jones, clumsy past. Monica Lewinsky it was consensual. Kind of embarrassing to read today honestly.
SHERR: O I think Gloria can speak for herself. I'm not going to do that. I will say thought that I don't think it's helpful to always talk about the liberal media turning around. It was the liberal media, Jackie Judd at ABC News who broke the story about the existence of Monica Lewinsky's blue dress. It was the liberal media, NBC News, Lisa Myer who had that first interview with Juanita Brodrick, and it was the liberal CBS "60 Minutes" that had the interview with Kathleen Willy.
So, I think there has been a lot less uneven (INAUDIBLE) this than you might want to say, but the truth is, I think it was less about politics and more about a class issue. There was a sense that these women, Juanita Brodrick, Kathleen Willy, Paula Jones did not represent what some people thought they were including might I say the current president of the United States who referred to that trio in 1998 as a group of -- an unattractive group.
KURTZ: Wow. You dug up the core. Well, to give you the idea of the atmosphere, I remember interviewing in 1998, the year of impeachment, Nina Burlee (ph), she had been -- because she had covered the White House for Time Magazine, and she said tome on the record how gladly give Bill Clinton oral sex to thank him for keeping abortion legal. So for some women, you know, they like Clinton politically. They thought he was good on women's issues and therefore didn't care about his misconduct.
SHERR: Well, I think what we're learning now -- I'm not disputing anything you're saying, but I think what we're learning now is that sexual abuse, sexual predation is not political. This is something that goes on both sides of the aisle. And might I add, at least Jimmy Carter only had lust in his heart, right.
KURTZ: The famous 1976 "Playboy" interview for those who remember that.
SHERR: Of all places.
KURTZ: Now you have, you talk about a reckoning, Democratic Senator Kristen Gillibrand who holds Hillary Clinton's seat and was helped by both Clintons, telling New York Times he should have resigned in 1998. New York Times liberal columnist Michelle Goldberg, I believe Juanita Broaddrick she says. (INAUDIBLE) conclude Bill Clinton no longer has a place in this and society. But of course some people will say, well, it's easy to do that now because its 20 years later and Bill Clinton of course is out of politics.
SHERR: Well, I don't think there is any lack of hypocrisy or neither the Democrat or the Republican side of the aisle. In fact I think this is one issue where President Trump's both sides argument might hold some water. Both sides are equally guilty in standing up for their own. What we are learning now though is that believing credible stories is the right way to go and I don't think there is -- I think there are going to be more stories like this.
It was a Harvey Weinstein moment, but by the way, I go back even further. Why didn't people believe Anita Hill? And will people now come around and say well, actually we do believe her and perhaps the Supreme Court ought to be changed.
KURTZ: Right. Well, I think we can all agree to the climate is changing -- political climate change as you aptly put it. And when you were on last time you talked about how you was a young woman, you know, sometimes had to fight off sexual harassment with people like Nelson Rockefeller. Final thought in out last 30 seconds about the coverage here?
SHERR: I've been noticing that Time Magazine is putting out to the public who they think their entity or cover should be, you know, the person of the year, and let me just read the criteria -- a person or group, an idea, or an object that for better or worse has done the most to influence the events of the year. Well, I don't think it should be a person. I think it should be, shall we say a group of organs, and I would nominate for 2017 the Time's organ of the year, female genitalia.
KURTZ: I can just imagine that cover. Al right, you make a little news with that one. I'm sure twitters are firing up now. And of course, that used to be called the man of the year because that's who won the magazine award. Lynn Sherr, great to see you, thanks so much for coming in.
SHERR: Thanks Howie.
KURTZ: Ahead, President Trump's media detractors say he pushed DOJ into weighing an independent prosecutor for Hillary Clinton.
And later, Jeff Sessions taking media flak for his testimony on the Russia investigation.
KURTZ: After some public prodding by President Trump, the Justice Department said this week it's considering tapping a special counsel to investigate Hillary Clinton and the so-called Uranium One deal. And the potential target called that an abuse of power.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: You know, I regret deeply that this appears to be the politicization of the Justice Department and our justice system. This Uranium One story has been debunked countless times by members of the press.
(END OF CLIP)
KURTZ: Joining us now to analyze the coverage in New York, Amy Holmes, political analyst for Rasmussen Reports and in Los Angeles, Leslie Marshall, radio talk show host and Fox News contributor. Amy, Jeff Sessions testified this week that he'll name a special counsel only if the facts support it, not on a partisan basis, but most media counsel I've seen question whether President Trump, by speaking out publicly, by tweeting that Hillary Clinton should be investigated kind of pushed DOJ into it.
AMY HOLMES, RASMUSSEN REPORTS: Well, of course because the media loves to focus on President Trump and his tweets because that's a lot easier than digging into -- what happened to the uranium one deal. And if anything I think analyzing the president's tweet, how might that effect Attorney General Jeff Sessions, it could go either way if you're going to play that parlor game.
But I think what's more interesting here, Howie, is that it seems that a lot of high ranking Democrats are actually more interested in investigating uranium one than the mainstream media. You have Senator Diane Feinstein who's on both the Senate Intelligence Committee and the Judiciary Committee who is saying she wants to look into what do the FBI know about criminal activity by a this, you know, Russian firm trying to gain influence in the American uranium market. Elijah Cummings who is a very, very liberal Democrat from Maryland, he wants to look into it.
KURTZ: All right, let me get Leslie in here. So the White House says just for the record that the president had no contact with the Justice Department on this matter. And while he certainly has made his feeling clear that there should be a special independent prosecutor, are the media connecting dots that aren't there in terms of the president's involvement?
LESLIE MARSHALL, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: No. You don't need him to make a phone call or have a meeting. I think his, you know, constant comments to the press and certainly his tweets have made it clear that Jeff Sessions is going to have to make a decision in my opinion, which is does he uphold the rule of law and justice in his position or does he save his job? And I think that's a very real question that's coming down. The president with his tweets has made it known his disdain if you will for the Justice Department and though things are --
KURTZ: Wait, wait. Leslie when you say does he uphold the rule of law, you are prejudging the notion that there isn't any circumstances under which a special prosecutor should be warranted.
MARSHALLL: Well, if the facts are there, and even Sessions himself said that Howie. You know, you have to have evidence. You have to have evidence. You can't just waste taxpayers' money or the time in that position. That would be an abuse of the power by Sessions and certainly breach of power between the branches by the president.
Since Watergate, you know, this has been an independent office and has run that way. Do we want to change that now in 2017 and should we? Absolutely not. So Sessions is -- I don't think in a tough position. I think it's very clear. What is your job? What mountain do you want to die on?
KURTZ: All right, now Shepard Smith took a detailed look at this whole uranium one case, a report that some Fox viewers didn't like. Let's just take a brief look at what the Fox anchor had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHEPARD SMITH, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: The accusation is predicated on the charge that Secretary Clinton approved the sale. She did not. A committee of nine evaluated the sale, the president approved the sale.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Amy, Shepard went on to say that most of the Clinton Foundation donations there are an issue here. It came from a Canadian uranium company owner who sold his stake three years before the deal and before Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State. So that's the argument against them I think.
HOLMES: Well, I think that Shep is making his arguments and from what he's read, but I think we do need an investigation and those investigation are under way to understand better how this all went down. And in fact, the more you read about it the thornier it gets. SO for example the Washington Post erroneously reported that no uranium left the United States of America. Now, we have the Nuclear Regulatory Commission saying, well, in fact it did. Some went to Canada and some ended up in Europe and Asia. So I don't think we even know all the facts here. A lot of the media are getting ahead of the facts.
KURTZ: It's a complicated matter. Leslie, MSNBC like that (INAUDIBLE) so much it replayed it for several minutes, but even if it's not a potentially criminal manner and I'm certainly not pre-judging here, it doesn't mean it didn't smell bad, all of this money flowing to the Clinton Foundation, Bill Clinton getting high dollars (INAUDIBLE) and that sort of thing.
MARSHALL: If you look at the timeline it doesn't, and I think that's one thing that Shep Smith put out. It was interesting because about a week before Shep did his piece here on the network, I had experts on my radio show who pretty much broke it down almost 100 percent in the way that he did because I wanted to understand it.
And if you look at the timeline and the fact that Hillary Clinton was not seated at the table of nine, that Russia does not have the license to export uranium, where the uranium has gone, you know, look, I know some people say if it walks like a duck, I have said that. But I just don't see the duck here, Howie. And if you want to have an investigation like we did with Benghazi, what, 17 to waste taxpayer time and money to find out there is no smoking gun, there was no there there, then so be it, but there's no there there.
KURTZ: Just 20 seconds Amy, how much of this is driven by media suspicion of Jeff Sessions himself and the attorney general also under fire in the Russia investigation, which we'll talk about next block.
HOLMES: Right. I think it's driven in part by that also because he was a long-serving Republican senator and a conservative one and I think the media doesn't like a lot of the political positions he had when he held elective office. But I would like to get back to Leslie already prejudging this case.
KURTZ: All right, just briefly.
HOLMES: A lot of conservatives including myself said and when it comes to is there any collusion within the Trump campaign and Russia, let's investigate. Let's get the facts. I don't hear that same open mindedness and curiosity coming from the left.
KURTZ: All right, got to go. I'm sure Leslie has more thoughts on that. Leslie Marshall, Amy Holmes, thanks for joining us this Sunday. After the break, the House passes tax reform but the press says it will hurt the middle class. Could that argument derail the bill?
KURTZ: Jeff Sessions has been hammered by the press this week after telling a House panel that yes, he does now remember talking to campaign adviser George Papadopoulos who has pleaded guilty in the special counsel's probe, about his request to set up a Trump-Putin meeting.
(BEGI VIDEO CLIP)
JEFF SESSION, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES: Frankly, I had no recollection of this meeting until I saw these news reports, but I will not accept and reject accusations that I have ever lied. That is a lie.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Joining us now, Mara Liasson, national political correspondent for NPR and a Fox News contributor. So, Sessions previously said he never remembered talking to Papadopoulos who was kind of a low-level campaign advisor. Is this a big story or media nitpicking of the attorney general?
MARA LIASSON, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I think this is actually neither. I think of all the other stuff wasn't happening this week, this might be a bigger story than it is. But in fact, this is what happens in the grinding process of these kinds of investigations, a lot of which are happening in public in front of a Senate hearing and people's memories get refreshed. As he just said, I wasn't lying, I just didn't remember. And that happens a lot. But when you're covering this kind of investigation every little twist and turn, every refreshed memory becomes aha!, but in the end, does it add up to something bigger? We don't know. Bob Mueller is going to tell us that/
KURTZ: That's a good point, that we don't know. Similarly, so you have a bunch of stories about Senate Judiciary Committee complaining that Jared Kushner hadn't turned over all relevant documents, his lawyer says yes we have. Some of this was e-mails between WikiLeaks and Donald Trump, Jr. that Jared was just involved in.
KURTZ: Yes, and then there was this one about Russian back door overture and dinner invite from a senior Russian official, also wanted to set up a Trump-Putin. That was rejected by Kushner.
LIASSON: That was rejected, but what a header. I mean, how can you possibly not put that in your report.
KURTZ: Got the right headline, right. But that has gotten a lot of play. Is this a case of as you were saying, the white hot media focus on the Russian investigation or is it not that big a deal?
LIASSON: I think that the media is no longer one thing. In some places, this is a big deal. Jared Kushner who's forgotten to disclose certain things on his forms, has forgotten to turn this one over. (INAUDIBLE), his lawyers said, well, this didn't seem relevant to the investigation. I think that it's both a big deal and a nitpicky thing, but that's what happens when these investigations. We only hear one little tidbit at a time and at the end hopefully somebody is going to put this altogether into some kind of big package that tells us what they mean if anything. KURTZ: There really is a drip, drip, drip elements there.
LIASSON: Drip, drip, drip.
KURTZ: All right, so the House passed this tax reform (INAUDIBLE) party line this week. It's a big win for President Trump.
KURTZ: largely overshadows and of course has --
LIASSON: Yes, because of all the facts.
KURTZ: -- uphill battle for the Senate, but does it have an impact on the debate, Mara, when "New York Times," Washington Post and other outlets keep running stories saying that contrary to the president, this would raise taxes for many middle class families?
LIASSON: I think that two things can be true at the same time. This is a huge win not just for the president but for Republicans who have all said in one loud voice, if we don't do this, we're toast with our voters and our donors. But it's also true that this is a tax bill. This is math.
You can look at the distribution charts. You can see whose taxes go up, whose go down, whose tax cuts are permanent, whose are temporary. So it's not untrue that the middle class -- many middle class people are going to pay more. Corporations will get permanent tax cuts.
KURTZ: Tax reform is always very complicated and depends on assumptions. Mara Liasson, thanks for coming and great to see you.
LIASSON: Thank you.
KURTZ: Still to come, Russia's R.T. Network forced to register as a foreign agent for peddling propaganda and Vladimir Putin doesn't like it.
KURTZ: Several media giants are trying to buy a major chunk of 21st Century Fox, that according to the Wall Street Journal and CNBC. Now Fox News, Fox Business, the Fox broadcast network and Fox Sports would not be part of any deal. But NBC's owner, Comcast has approached the Murdoch family's company about buying the 21st Century Fox movie studio, some other cable networks and assets overseas.
Verizon and Sony area also exploring bids and 21st Century Fox earlier had talks with Disney which now appears dormant. Now, sometimes these negotiations fizzle and the Feds could raise anti-trust concerns, but at the moment, 21st Century Fox is in play.
R.T., the network formerly known as Russia Today has registered with the Justice Department as a foreign agent. Now, R.T. is forced to do that because U.S. officials consider the network a Kremlin propaganda outfit that has spread misinformation. Among those who happen to have shows on R.T., former CNN star Larry King and former MSNBC host Ed Schultz.
Vladimir Putin denied any election meddling by R.T. He said there'd be a tit for tat response and declare "an attack on our media is an attack on freedom speech. Well that's rather rich since there is very, very limited free speech in Russia.
That's it for this edition of "Media Buzz." I'm Howard Kurtz. You can write to us, firstname.lastname@example.org. We hope you like our Facebook page. We post a lot of your comments there, a lot of responses by me, @HowardKurtz on twitter, let us know what you thinik, and we're back here next Sunday, 11 o'clock Eastern -- same time, same place, with the latest buzz.
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