This is a rush transcript from "Media Buzz," December 3, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
HOWARD KURTZ, MEDIA BUZZ SHOW HOST, FOX NEWS: On "Buzz Media" this Sunday,
saturation coverage as Mike Flynn pleads guilty to lying to the FBI. An
intense spin on both sides by whether the former national security adviser
could point a finger at President Trump.
(START VIDEO CLIP)
JAKE TAPPER, CNN: Why has the White House told you so many lies about this
CHUCK TODD, MTP DAILY SHOW HOST, MSNBC: There aren't many more dots --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
TODD: -- after Mike Flynn, right? Your dots go to your Kushner and then the
LAURA INGRAHAM, THE INGRAHAM ANGLE HOST, FOX NEWS: The hyperbolic response
by the media, these people are completely unhinged. The facts are
irrelevant. Analysis irrelevant. Just jump right to the gallows for Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: And ABC makes a colossal mistake reporting on Flynn and suspends
correspondent Brian Ross.
The president calls for a tough NBC executives to be fired as they dumped
Matt Lauer, their biggest star, over allegations of sexual misconduct.
(START VIDEO CLIP)
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, THE TODAY SHOW CO-ANCHOR, NBC NEWS: I mean, for the
moment, all we can say is that we are heartbroken. I'm heartbroken for
Matt. He is my dear, dear friend and my partner and he beloved by many,
many people here. And I'm heartbroken for the brave colleague who came
forward to tell her story, and any other women who have their own story to
JOE SCARBOROUGH, MORNING JOE CO-HOST, MSNBC: The stories we all heard we
heard was that Matt was a philanderer. I never heard a story that he was a
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Is the president spreading innuendo against others at NBC? Do
network executives know about the appalling conduct with numerous staffers
disclosed by Variety and The New York Times?
One of John Conyer's former aides tells NBC the Democratic congressman
pressed her for sex. And Nancy Pelosi calls for his resignation hours
later. Is that what it takes?
Plus, an important journalism story as The Washington Post exposes a sting.
How an undercover plot to trick the paper into running phoney allegations
of rape and abortion against Roy Moore was foiled.
I'm Howard Kurtz and this is "Media Buzz."
In the explosion of coverage about Mike Flynn's guilty plea in the Russia
investigation, ABC's chief investigative correspondent Brian Ross quoting
an unnamed confidant said this about Flynn.
(START VIDEO CLIP)
BRIAN ROSS, CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT, ABC (voice over): He's
prepared to testify that President Trump as a candidate Donald Trump
ordered him to record him to make contact with the Russians which
contradicts all what Donald Trump has said at this point.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: That was flat wrong. Ross later admitting that the alleged Trump
order came during the transition when he was president-elect and wanted to
consult with Russia about ISIS.
Joining us now to analyze the coverage: Shelby Holliday, senior video
reporter for The Wall Street Journal, here in person; Mollie Hemingway,
senior editor at The Federalist and a Fox News contributor; Marie Harf,
former Obama administration spokeswoman and also a Fox News contributor.
Shelby, award winning correspondent Brian Ross says he holds people
accountable, so he should be held accountable for his mistake, suspended
for four weeks. Eventually, there was a clarification and there was a
correction. ABC had the suspension. How big a mistake was this?
SHELBY HOLLIDAY, SENIOR VIDEO REPORTER, WALL STREET JOURNAL: It was a major
mistake and it moved markets. It created a huge buzz in the media. The
tweet was seen, I believe, 25,000 times before it was deleted from ABC. So,
yes, it was a big mistake. ABC has apologized.
This has actually given the president something to seize on. It's creating
a side show for the president temporarily. But it did not change the
direction of the Flynn investigation or the fact that Flynn is the fourth
Trump associate to be charged in this Russia investigation.
KURTZ: Well, the Dow dropped 350 points. It wasn't only probably because of
this report but President Trump tweeting horrendously and inaccurate and
the sounds report congratulating ABC for suspending Brian Ross.
MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, SENIOR EDITOR FOR THE FEDERALIST, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR:
Yes. Brian Ross might be award winning, but he also has been the source of
many fake news stories and many false reports. He blamed the Tea Party for
the mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado which turned out not to be true.
He claimed that Saddam Hussein was behind the anthrax attacks in Washington
D.C. shortly after 9/11. He was told that was false. He ran with it.
He has a series of problems here. So, it is not just real damage caused to
the markets when you have fake news. It also does real damage to the
credibility of the media.
KURTZ: Let me interrupt you a second, quick thought on Brian Ross before we go to Molly.
MARIE HARF, FORMER OBAMA ADMINISTRATION SPOKESPERSON, FOX NEWS
CONTRIBUTOR: This is actually a place I agree with Mollie. I know that is shocking, but
Brian Ross has a long history of stories that are really on the edge of believability.
He has sources that I do not think coming from the national security world
when I was CIA spokesperson. He routinely ran stories that were not
accurate. This was a very big screw-up. I think he has a long history of
really screwing up.
KURTZ: Well, he also has broken stories that were true. But, we can all
agree, I think, Mike Flynn, former national security adviser, pleading
guilty in this investigation. This is a very big deal for the press. But
there has been a big gap in the interpretation/speculation about what this
means or doesn't mean for the president.
HEMINGWAY: Right. And so we frequently see with stories like this, the
media will make a huge claim, then we'll see a little bit of backtracking
to the point where it might even be meaningless. And there is the cycle
that has been repeated.
It is big news that Mike Flynn pled guilty particularly because the FBI had
previously said that they weren't even going to prosecute this. They didn't
think that he really lied, so much has misremembered. That's a big deal
that something happened here.
But in general, we have a story that we are supposed to believe that there
was treasonous collusion with Russia to steal an election and what we
actually get is learning that there was diplomatic ground work being laid
by an incoming administration. That's a big difference from what we were
promised when this investigation --
KURTZ: But is there a sense of indication for news organizations who have
insisted all these months that the Russia investigation was not fake news
as the president has repeatedly labeled as well as calling it a witch hunt.
HARF: Absolutely. And, look, a lot of the reasons the public knows about
what Mike Flynn has done is because reporters have broken the story. They
broke the news that he had talked with Ambassador Kislyak about sanction.
That was The Washington Post.
KURTZ: That was The Washington Post back in February or March.
HARF: Exactly. So, a lot of these stories, every time they come out, the
Trump White House says these are fake news. This vindicates a lot of that.
And I think it is fair for experts and commentators in the media to be
analyzing the Flynn guilty plea and what that might means for President
KURTZ: Yes, right.
HARF: -- and for the investigation.
HEMINGWAY: I have to disagree here. I think what it shows is that the media
had been too frequently willful vessel of an intelligence apparatus. That
was an illegal leak about Mike Flynn. He was doing something completely
legal. Having a completely good conversation --
HARF: Well --
HEMINGWAY: He lied to the FBI. That was the story. Lying to the FBI was not
HARF: And I am not sure he was doing something completely appropriate in
HEMINGWAY: This is a big part of the of the story, is whether the
intelligence apparatus under the Obama administration was doing things
properly or not. In fact, they have been doing thing very improperly and
that continues. That story that the media have not done a good job covering
in part because they are just willfully receiving these leaks without
thinking critically about what they signify.
HOLLIDAY: Here is the thing with Mike Flynn. I think some -- I don't even
want to say liberals and conservatives. Some Trump haters have acted like
Flynn guilty plea, boom, investigation is over.
HOLLIDAY: This is the end. Trump is on his way to impeachment.
HOLLIDAY: Conservatives, Trump lovers on the other hand have said this
proves nothing. This vindicates Trump investigation over everything is fine
here. The reality, neither of those things are true.
KURTZ: I can tell you the White House --
HOLLIDAY: Significant step in a significant conflict and very sensitive --
KURTZ: I can tell you the White House view which is based on my own
reporting which is the president feels sorry for Mike Flynn and know he is
They think that what he is accused of doing, not the lying part, that in of
itself having contact during transition with Russia when they are trying to
fill out new foreign policy, that there is nothing wrong with that in
On the other hand, the president on a tweet storm continuing this morning
saying -- we just find it here -- that --
HOLLIDAY: Which tweet? There are so many.
KURTZ: Yes, there are so many. I got blue cards.
KURTZ: Flynn lies to the FBI. His life is destroyed. Not crooked Hillary
because of rigged system. Double standard. Critics say we focus too much on
presidential tweets. But how do you not report when he's again bringing up
his defeated opponent?
HEMINGWAY: Well, not just that, but the substance of what he is saying is
also worth covering. We have an FBI that let go their chief investigator on
this Russia probe because he was proven to be biased. He was tweeting out
insults or tweeting out hatred towards Trump.
He was also the chief investigator on the Hillary Clinton email probe. We
know that she broke the law. We know she obstructed justice, and she got
away with it. Everyone around her was granted immunity.
So the FBI's credibility really is in play here. Mike Flynn has said during
the campaign, he would go to jail if he did one-tenth of what Hillary Clinton
did. And that looks like it might be true. That speaks the FBI credibility.
KURTZ: OK. Robert Mueller did the right thing by taking this agent off the
HEMINGWAY: No, he did not do the right thing because actually congressional
investigators have been asking for months what happened there.
HEMINGWAY: They stonewalled and obstructed what actually happened there.
They weren't telling House investigators.
HEMINGWAY: And in fact, they leaked this to the media, which suggests they
are not being very good about their congressional oversight.
KURTZ: Other administrations have reached out to foreign governments during
KURTZ: So this would have to be connected to other dots. Otherwise, it's a
simple perjury plea.
HARF: Exactly. They're not going to let him plead guilty here without him
giving them something. I think most legal analysts agree on that. This is
not normal behavior. I was in the administration. We put the sanctions on
Russia in December over their election interference.
And if Mike Flynn -- I know you want to get in here, Mollie, let me finish.
If Mike Flynn reached out to the Russians about those sanctions on election
KURTZ: Which the White House denies.
HOLLIDAY: Which is true, now we know.
HARF: Which is true, now we know. Then, that is a problem. And it may not
be criminal, but any other administration that did that, you would be
HEMINGWAY: This is not the way to look at the problem though. You have the
media willfully receiving this opposition research campaign talking point
that Russia interfered with the election with the help of the incoming
And the intelligence apparatus was part of that. Even imposing sanctions
can be part of that. To hype this claim of Russian interference. Our
media are not able to think like take a step back and think a little bit
critically about what they are seeing. They are just too willing to accept
what Obama era --
HARF: The media will always report significant intelligence.
KURTZ: I got a job in here. I did want to mention New York Times report
that President Trump had called the Republican leaders. Some of them are on
the record. He asked them to shut down or wrap up their probe because that
is rather unusual.
All right. So, Matt Lauer, we are going to talk later about he was fired by
NBC for allegations of sexual misconduct.
The president on the Twitter talking about, wow, Lauer was fired for
inappropriate sexual workplace behavior, but when will top executives at
NBC and Comcast be fired for putting out fake news. Check out Andy Lack's
Andy Lack is the president and the chairman, excuse me, of NBC News. Trump
taking a shot at him without explaining.
HOLLIDAY: This shows you have personal -- the media -- his --Trump's
relationship with the media, it is for the president -- the president also
spent this week tweeting about TIME asking him to be the cover man of the
year. He called for a ban on CNN. He trashed "Morning Joe" ratings. He
actually called NBC fake news practitioners.
The entire week, most of his tweets have been about the media and slamming
the media. So, not talking -- not The Wall Street Journal.
HEMINGWAY: He is going after former colleagues. He used to be at one of
these -- at these outlets. But that's also that --
KURTZ: Well, he did ‘The Apprentice’ for 14 years at NBC.
HEMINGWAY: Right. I think -- I think he feels a really certain level of
hypocrisy on how they covered his "Access Hollywood" tape all while like
now we find out that there were many dense of inequities throughout the
media establishment that was covering him. I think he likes to highlight
KURTZ: It is interesting. You feel like not only he does have this sort of
resentment at NBC from having worked there, and now feels the NBC is one of
the most critical networks against him, but you feel he is suggesting,
implying that there is a double standard on allegations against him in the
sexual arena. But on the other hand, NBC fired Matt Lauer pretty quickly.
HARF: Donald Trump became president. He should not be tweeting about
allegations of sexual misconduct. I'm sorry. I just think -- talk about
KURTZ: You think he should just stay silent?
HARF: On this issue? Absolutely.
KURTZ: All right. Let me put up this one other tweet related to Lauer from
the President of the United States. "So now that Matt Lauer is gone, when
will the fake news practitioners at NBC be terminating the contract of Phil
Griffin?" He is the president of MSNBC. "And will they terminate low
ratings Joe Scarborough based on the "unsolved mystery" that took place in
Florida years ago? Investigate!"
You want to explain that?
HOLLIDAY: Well, I'll try. He's calling for an investigation of something
that actually we do have the facts on. It is an unfortunate situation.
There was a woman working in Joe Scarborough's office. She had a heart
condition. She fell. She hit her head. She passed away.
HOLLIDAY: Trump is spinning this unsolved mystery and suggesting in some
way that Joe Scarborough murdered this young woman.
KURTZ: He is suggesting that. But it was investigated.
HOLLIDAY: Well, he's calling for an investigation. It is not a mystery.
KURTZ: This is 2001 when Joe Scarborough was a congressman. It was in
investigated. It was natural causes. Mika Brzezinski, his partner, said the
president crossed another deeply disturbing line in advancing a false
conspiracy theory to intimidate the press. I was surprised he went there.
HEMINGWAY: Yes. That is exactly right. we have a responsibility as
Americans not to be passing on fake news. If you are the president, that is
even more incumbent upon you, to check your facts. And also think about
whether you are adding heat or light to a conversation. He did not do that
to this case.
You know, it's sad because it kind of works. We just talked about the
KURTZ: Yes. Right. It was out there even though it is total lying stories.
HOLLIDAY: It seems surprising that he tweeted this, but in the scheme of
what happened this week, when Kushner was interviewed by Bob Mueller, we
knew that --
KURTZ: I understand. We are trying to focus on the media as they say --
HOLLIDAY: Looking back, it makes sense that the president --
KURTZ: Let me get a break. When we come back, a flood of leak stories as
the pundits are challenging the president's mental health. Is that insane?
And later, was NBC engaging in damage control when the network fired Matt
KURTZ: The top newspapers quoting unnamed sources saying President Trump is
privately suggesting that the infamous "Access Hollywood" tape may have
been doctored. The pundits are plunging into crazy talk.
(START VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS HAYES, ALL IN HOST, MSNBC: The president of the United States
genuinely appears to be losing his grip on reality.
EUGENE ROBINSON, COLUMNIST, WASHINGTON POST: Did he at some point lose that
awareness? Did he at some point start believing in the fake reality that he
INGRAHAM: Questioning President Trump's mental fitness for office is
becoming a vicious relentless obsession of the left.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Mollie Hemingway, this is based on reports in The New York Times and
Washington Post also saying that privately, president still questions
Barack Obama's birth certificate. And then you have Washington Post, Trump
simply rejects back as he spins a new reality. What do you make of this
sort of intensified media chatter?
HEMINGWAY: Right. It does almost like a sick cycle to this. We heard this
in January and we heard it again a few months later. It seems to be part of
the campaign to undermine the president as opposed to well-reasoned
analysis. These are frequently --
KURTZ: Based on leaks by the way. Somebody is telling reporters this.
HEMINGWAY: Right. Well, it is a campaign based on anonymous leaks. So it is
very difficult to determine how much to take seriously this conversation.
But, in general, it's people who haven't accepted the reality of Donald
Trump winning the election who are making this claim. Nobody should be
really be evaluation other people's mental health, particularly not people
who are still struggling to accept reality a year after it happened.
KURTZ: Well, I agree that some of this goes too far. But on the other hand,
if the president is saying things privately that contradict, for example,
everybody know it's his voice.
KURTZ: He apologized for the "Access Hollywood" tape. Billy Bush got fired,
said it was him. So, what do you make of the commentary part of this?
HARF: So I think these are some fair questions to ask, particularly if it
is about something like if he is fully aware or coming to grips with how
serious the Russia investigation is. Things like that.
The question of if he really understands the severity of things. It needs
to be done very carefully though because it is a very sensitive issue. We
can't evaluate someone's mental health from far away on television.
KURTZ: That hasn't stopped a lot of people.
HARF: Well, that hasn't stopped people. But it is a fair -- I think there
are fair questions to ask. How the president sees what is happening in this
country. How he sees policy issue? How he looks at certain things? That is
fair, but it needs to be done very carefully.
KURTZ: One of those is questioning the media's coverage on this very point
of Republican senator Lindsey Graham. Let us take a look at that and also
what he had to say as presidential candidate Lindsey Graham in 2016.
(START VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-SOUTH CAROLINA: You know, what concerns me about
the American press is this endless, endless attempt to label the guy as
some kind of kook, not fit to be president. He did win, by the way.
I am not going to try to get into the mind of Donald Trump because I don't
thin there is a whole lot of space there. I think he's a kook. I think he's
crazy. I think he's unfit for office.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLLIDAY: I think those back-to-back clips just say it all. I think
generally, there is a lot of hypocrisy not just in the media, but on
Capitol Hill. People have questioned Donald Trump's mental state since the
beginning of the campaign.
I don't necessarily think it is productive. We know that Donald Trump likes
to crack his own narratives, cracks his own reality, tries to convince
other people that what he said is true even if it is not.
But we also know Donald Trump likes to joke around. It is hard -- I think
the big nugget of this story is the leaks. Are the people inside of the
White House leaking this information because they are genuinely worried
about his mental state?
KURTZ: Yes --
HOLLIDAY: Or is he just joking around --
KURTZ: -- for their own agendas and also --
HOLLIDAY: Not that those jokes would be appropriate, but it's hard to know.
KURTZ: Right. The president also takes a lot of it, for re-tweeting his
anti-Muslim videos from a British far-right party that upset Prime Minister
Theresa May. We will have to stop talking at this point, Marie Harf, Mollie
Hemingway. Shelby, we will see you a little later.
KURTZ: Thanks for joining us this Sunday. Ahead, Matt Lauer apologizes as
stunning details emerge of sexual misconduct by the former "Today" show
star. But up next, harassment on the Hill. John Conyers losing democratic
support as one of his accusers goes before the cameras.
KURTZ: Very few liberal pundits or democratic polls have been pushing for
the resignation of John Conyers, the 88-year-old dean of the House despite
multiple accusations of sexual harassment. But then his former deputy chief
of staff, Marion Brown, went on the "Today" show.
(START VIDEO CLIP)
MARION BROWN, ACCUSER OF JOHN CONYER: It was sexual harassment, violating -
- violating my body. Propositioning me, inviting me to hotels with the guys
discussing business. And propositioning me to, you know, for sex. He has
touched me in different ways, and it was very uncomfortable and very
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Within hours, the House democratic leader dropped her support for
her embattled colleague.
(START VIDEO CLIP)
NANCY PELOSI, MINORITY LEADER OF THE UNITED STATES HOUSE OF
REPRESENTATIVES: I pray for Congressman Conyers and his family and wish him
well. However, Congressman Conyers should resign.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Joining us now, Susan Ferrechio, chief congressional correspondent
for The Washington Examiner. So, how important was Marion Brown? She is the
one who got this previously secret $27,000 settlement of a sue with
taxpayer money. How important was it for her to go on the "Today" show and
then suddenly we see Nancy Pelosi changed her position?
SUSAN FERRECHIO, CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: I think that's part of the reason that Pelosi changed her story, but I think the real reason behind it was that this was Washington politics colliding with the national outcry and demand for us to deal with sexual harassment issues.
What Pelosi called for initially which was that's waited out to see what the ethic committee does, that probably would have worked a couple of years ago.
FERRECHIO: But things are different now. So it was pushed forward of course by Marion Brown and her very compelling story that she told to few media outlets.
KURTZ: Right. And you can see her on television as opposed to print. I always think that that can be a game changer.
FERRECHIO: We found it credible. We did.
KURTZ: Yes. Do you think the media has been as aggressive with John Conyers as they have been? Let's say with the allegations against Roy Moore, especially given the fact that he has been around forever. He is the co-founder of Black Caucus and so forth.
FERRECHIO: Oh, yes. On Capitol Hill, they were really chasing down Democrats to try to find out why there is this different standard between what goes on in private sector where people getting fired immediately or in the media where we saw big media people go down fairly quickly.
FERRECHIO: But on Capitol Hill, they stick around. And they, you know, takes a while or gets referred to the ethics committee. We got several cases turning around right now. There has been no immediate exodus of those who are accused. And I think the press has done a really good job pointing out that there is a different standard.
KURTZ: OK. And now we also, speaking of standards, have Democratic Senator Al Franken, who has now half a dozen accusers. One woman says he groped her breasts during a photo op. Another accusation is like that. Another says he aggressively gave her a wet kiss. He certainly is drawing critical coverage. But do you think the press has been a little more restrained with the former SNL star?
FERRECHIO: I think the press is paying attention to the different levels of accusations here. The Detroit news has a great story that parses out the difference between why Al Franken and why not John Conyers being allowed to stick around in congress. You know, he is being accused of groping. Certainly, this is terrible.
KURTZ: Right. I am not going to defend him for a second.
FERRECHIO: Of course not. Now, Conyers is a different thing though, because this is a pattern of harassment.
FERRECHIO: You had one thing that Marion Brown said I thought was really compelling is that she believes that he enjoyed creating a really negative atmosphere for women in his office. And that this was long-term pattern.
KURTZ: Just briefly, the media are making those distinctions, but people who support John Conyers may see a racial aspect here as compared to Franken?
FERRECHIO: Yes. They were talking about that last week about, you know, who is accusing Conyers and also hat he is being asked to leave and Franken is not being asked to leave. You know, I don't think that argument works as well in this case, but there are other people being accused right now, Blake Farenthold of Texas.
FERRECHIO: Let's see how quickly he is forced out. I suspect it won't be long.
KURTZ: All right. Susan Ferrechio, thanks very much for coming by this Sunday. Ahead on "Media Buzz," a conservative actress peddles false charges about Roy Moore to The Washington Post and gets busted. But first, is MSNBC telling the full story about Matt Lauer and sexual harassment at the "Today" show?
HOWARD KURTZ, FOX NEWS MEDIA BUZZ SHOW HOST: Matt Lauer is the face of NBC News and has been a franchise player for two decades.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATT LAUER, HOST, NBC NEWS: You have said I understand to some close friends that this is the last great battle and that one side or the other is going down here.
HILLARY CLINTON., FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The great story here for anybody willing to find it and write about it and explain it is this vast right-wing conspiracy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Savannah Guthrie and the "Today" show team looked stunned as they
reported the news that NBC had fired their colleague for sexual misconduct.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, TODAY SHOW HOST, NBC NEWS: And we are grappling with a
dilemma that so many people have faith in these past few weeks. How do you
reconcile your love for someone with the revelation they have behaved
AL ROKER, TODAY SHOW HOST, NBC NEWS: Yes, we are still dealing with the
news of a friend of 30 years and we're all trying to process it. I will
deal with it and along with you folks as well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: And some past "Today Show" skits looking rather creepy in
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAUER: Drink it in, ladies.
JENNA BUSH, NBC CO-HOST: Again, Matt, really? It's the third time this week.
TAMRON HALL, FORMER NBC CO-HOST: Did your mommy give you that?
NBC CO-HOST: Stop it. You're making me lactate.
LAUER: Get it while it lasts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: After Lauer was ousted Variety reported that Lauer gave one woman a sex toy with an explicit note and exposed himself to another woman scolding her when she did not respond.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAMIN SETOODEH, NEW YORK BUEAU CHIEF, VARIETY: Our sources say it wasn't
even considered a secret. It was known my many employees at the "Today
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: And the New York Times reporting that Lauer pressured an unnamed
NBC staffer having sex with him in his office back in 2001 and that she
passed out with Lauer's assistant taking her to a nurse. Joining us now
from New York, Lynn Sherrer, former correspondent for ABC News who once
dealt with sexual harassment complaints and in Los Angeles, Matt Belloni,
editor of "The Hollywood Reporter."
Matt Belloni, NBC News chairman Andy Lack shoved Lauer out the door rather
quickly, said very little about what actually happened. Was the network
trying to control the narrative before the "New York Times" and "Variety"
came out with a devastating details of alleged sexual assault and
harassment by Lauer?
MATT BELLONI, EDITORIAL DIRECTOR, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: Well, it depends
on who you believe at this point. NBC is adamant saying that on Monday
night they got word of an accuser and that is what prompted the swift
action. Now, in media circles a number of outlets have been looking into
Lauer's behavior over the last, you know, two months. So, it's hard to
believe they didn't know this was out there.
But, you know, they claim that it wasn't until they were presented with a
hard evidence accuser coming forward they were able to go to Lauer and say
hey, is there truth here and then they acted .
KURTZ: Right. I'm going to contradict that in just a moment. First, let me
put up Matt Lauer's statement of apology, there are no words to express my
sorrow and regret for the pain I have caused others by words and actions.
To the people I have hurt, I am truly sorry. Some of what is being said
about me is untrue or mischaracterized but there is enough truth in these
stories to make me feel embarrassed and ashamed.
And Lynn Sherrer, we saw Savannah Guthrie and other Matt friends and
colleagues saying how heartbroken they were and they had no idea about
this. Jeff Zucker, a friend of Lauer's for 25 years, once produced the
"Today" show who became the president of NBC said I didn't know this Matt.
Your thoughts about that.
LYNN SHERRER, FORMER CORRESPONDET, ABC NEWS: You know, there is no doubt
that this kind of upheaval is very, very painful and I sympathize with
that. But Howie, the real shock is that they didn't know. The real shock is
that they didn't expose him sooner. This is a man who was treating the
workplace like a brothel and it was known.
There were people out there who knew things were going on. I heard the buzz
for a long time just as I heard it about Charlie Rose before he was outed,
just as I've heard it about so many other people. And I think the shock is
that they didn't know sooner. Really, it's a news organization.
KURTZ: Right. Look, this happened at Fox with Roger Ailes. This happened
at CBS with Charlie Rose. Many people said they didn't know. I think
everybody knew, but coming back to the point we were discussing Matt
Belloni, I had said look, NBC at least knew for weeks based on my reporting
that the news organizations were pursuing these allegations instead acting
all shocked to hear about this complaint just this past Monday night.
Now, the New York Times reporting that NBC News president, Noah
Oppenheimer told staffers that he and Chairman Andy Lack repeatedly asked
Lauer for weeks about whether he engaged in inappropriate conduct with
staffers and Lauer denied it. That's kind of at odds with the original
BELLONI: A little bit yes. I mean, they are saying that you know, it
depends on what they ask because when you hear that somebody is reporting
around a star like Matt Lauer you might say to him, hey, what's going on
here? Is there something we should know about? And if he dismisses it maybe
you give your $20 million a year star the benefit of the doubt. But I think
the difference that they are saying is that they were presented on Monday
with hard evidence from an actual accuser not buzz in media circles.
BELLONI: And that maybe a key distinction.
KURTZ: Well, interesting point -- go ahead Lynn.
SHERRER: But it wouldn't have been just buzz in media circles if somebody
had set up an atmosphere where these women could have come forward sooner.
I really think that's part of what we're dealing with here. You need to be
proactive in these cases. The pain that these women have gone through.
And you know, by the way, Howie, I worked for a guy, Ed Joyce at Channel 2
News WCBS TV in New York who had one of those buttons that shut the door.
It didn't lock it. It shut it. It's the creepiest thing in the world. And
this is about power and privilege. The bar you're (INAUDIBLE) works here.
KURTZ: Yes, and especially with a $25 million a year anchor as opposed to
maybe some mid-level staffer, but Lynn, this business of open secrets, so
Mika Brzezinski said on the air she had heard all these rumors about Matt
Lauer. She was sort of scolding herself for not doing more, but Joe
Scarborough said, well, that was just about philandering not something far
worse, you know, you've been in positions -- ABC Marc Halperin, where you
hear things or you things after the fact?
SHERRER: Absolutely. And there is a difference. The point here is not to
say there will never be romance and sex in the workplace I mean unless like
the vice president that you're going to or a married man always has his
wife with him, of course things are going to happen. It's ridiculous to
pretend it won't.
The difference is what's appropriate, what's inappropriate and what's
repeated and what is not reciprocated. Reciprocal is a very big word here
and you know, Howie, the law hasn't changed much. Sexual harassment has
been against the law since the 1970s. The only thing that's changed is our
willingness to tolerate this behavior.
KURTZ: Yes. I guess that's why you wrote a piece that was titled "All Men
Are Not Pigs" and all men are not guilty of sexual assault but certainly
we've seen a lot of high profile cases now. And Matt Belloni, last point
here. We now have had two of the three network morning shows fire their
star anchors for sexual misconduct.
Jonah Goldberg had an interesting piece in the National Review saying
when this all happened at Fox, the reaction of much in the mainstream media
was it's all about the Fox culture, Fox is terrible. And now that it's
happened at ABC, CBS, NBC and elsewhere, it's being described as a societal
problem or male problem. Do you think there is some validity on it?
BELLONI: Perhaps, but I think the culture itself has changed over the past
few months in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal and so many other
scandals and so many different industries. I mean, this is a complete re-
alignment of the morning news programs. But it's coming at a time when
there is upheaval everywhere.
Fox News was out on its own, and let's be honest, there was a culture that
Roger Ailes created that permeated a lot and no one is saying that Andy
Lack at NBC is perpetuating some kind of a culture there.
KURTZ: Wait a second, let me just get Lynn on this last point. I mean,
couldn't it be said that NBC did have a culture of looking the other way or
tolerance given what went on over two decades.
SHERRER: And Howie, not just NBC. As you know, I worked at ABC News for a
lon time. I worked at the Associated Press. I've worked at a few places.
The number of e-mails I have gotten over the past few weeks from women
saying, oh, imagine the sigh of relief that some of the guys we worked with
are having now that they are retired.
KURTZ: Fascinating point. Let me just quickly mention that other media
icons falling, Minnesota Public Radio firing Garrison Keillor, a radio
legend over what he says was just touching a woman's back and ended up
touching her bare skin. He apologized for that.
And entertainment mogul Russell Simmons after a piece, Matt Belloni, in the
"Hollywood Reporter" by screen writer Jenny Lumet saying he raped her in
1991, stepping down from his companies. Thanks a lot. Great to see you
both. Appreciate it.
BELLONI: Thank you.
SHERRER: Thanks Howie
KURTZ: Coming up, how the Washington Post exposed a scam involving
utterly false charges of rape and abortion against Roy Moore. And later,
the mainstream media still fighting the Trump tax cut.
KURTZ: The Washington Post was approached by a woman named Jamie Phillips
who made inflammatory charges against Roy Moore saying the Alabama senate
candidate impregnated her when she was 15 and drove her to have an
abortion. But the paper started digging and suspected it was sting
especially after seeing a GoFundMe page and Ms. Phillips talked about
taking a new job. Post reporter Stephanie McCrummen confronted her.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANIE MCCRUMMEN, WASHINTON POST REPORTER: It says that you're moving
to New York and that you've accepted a job to work in the conservative
media movement to combat the lies and deceit of the liberal MSN.
JAMIE PHILLIPS, ROY MOORE'S ACCUSER: I was looking to take a job last
summer in New York but it fell through.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: That wasn't true. A Post reporter later saw Phillips going into the
offices of Project Veritas run by conservative activist James O'Keefe who
specializes in stings designed to embarrass mainstream news outlets.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES O' KEEFE, PRESIDDENT, PROJECT VERITAS: I have to run to this meeting
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Did Jamie Phillips work for Project Veritas? Did
you guys send her to speak to -- pose as a victim of Roy Moore to the
KEEFE: I'm 14 minutes late.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: They did later speak. Joining us now from New York, Noah Rothman,
associate editor of "Commentary" magazine. So, how did the "Washington
Post" in your view handle these explosive and fake allegations from an
undercover conservative activist who is trying to trap the "Post" reporters
into saying incriminating things about Roy Moore that could be captured on
NOAH ROTHMAN, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, COMMENTARY: They handled it very well.
They have been transparent about the process that they used to uncover this
individual. It's kind of a sloppy operation to begin with but they
demonstrated how they uncovered her identity and how they pursued this
story and had a bunch of other reporters on and not just the interviewer
but a variety of other print reporters.
And then when Mr. O'Keefe is exposed, he put out these videos of other
Post reporters in candid settings describing being very professional, not
getting ahead of the Russia investigation for example and being a little
critical of their editorials side for being overly critical of the
president. If this was an attempt to show bias on the part of the
"Washington Post," it backfired spectacularly.
KURTZ: Yes. Let me just mention that because he thought it was a great got
you. National Security reporter Dan Lamothe said the news side is trying to
critically call bull when there is some bull of only Donald Trump and also
give him credit when there is credit, which sounds like a good approach to
You say that James O'Keefe, controversial guy, he's got one criminal
conviction for this sort of thing, based this whole undercover sting on an
assumption -- you call it an ignorant assumption of how the mainstream
media work and whether a paper like "The Post" would rush into print with
this half-baked allegation.
ROTHMAN: Yes. I can only imagine that the assumption of ignorance and
malice on the part of Mr. O'Keefe and his colleagues drove them to send
this compromised actress to play a role for which they advertised online to
a bunch of professional back-checkers and assumed that it would get
through. You can only assume that that would work based on your notion that
these people are acting in very bad faith.
Similarly, these face saving efforts, these videos of "The Post" reporters
undercover were only on the assumption of ignorance in the part of the
audience because an audience might not know that reporters and editorial
side of a newspaper have a kind of a conflicting relationship at times.
And it's sort of your job to explain to an audience that there's a
distinction between a reporters and an editorial side of a newspaper.
KURTZ: Yes. I know a lot of people is skeptical about that but I can tell
you that that is true. Now, this was an effort obviously to use lies and
deception. Jamie Phillips had a phony name, phony job, trying to really
help the Moore campaign if it had been successful. And it was originally
off the record but executive editor of the Post, Marty Baron said, you
know, if you lie to us, if you deceive, then the off-the-record agreement
goes out the window.
You wrote something in"Commentary that really caught my eye. You said
that tragically, conservative media activists are becoming the debased
partisan creatures they once resolve to combat. What did you mean?
ROTHMAN: It was the assumption on the part of many who got into this
business including myself, that your effort is to make -- create a more
literate media consuming audience, an audience of media consumers who
cannot be fooled by omissions and bias on the part of mainstream outlets.
When activists operate like Mr. O'Keefe did in a way to exploit ignorance,
not educating the audience about what the difference is between editorial
side or reporting side. When you are actively trying to court that
ignorance in order to advance an agenda, you become the partisan creature
you once resolved to combat and that's corrupt.
KURTZ: And you're saying this obviously as a conservative. And look, I'm
not saying that it made it through media arm bias or that the coverage is
always fair or perfect or not sensationalized, but in this case the "Post"
did the right thing, looked into it and found out that it just wasn't true.
Noah Rothman, thanks very much for joining us from New York this morning.
Great to see you.
ROTHMAN: Thank you.
KURTZ: Appreciate it. After the break, a big victory for the Republicans
as the Senate passes a huge tax cut bill and the president accuses the "New
York Times" of out and out lobbying against it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is going to cost me a
fortune this thing, believe me. This is not good for me.
CHUCK TODD, HOST, MSNBC MTP DAILY: No matter how you slice this thing, the
GOP tax plan is going to be a big boom for the wealthy and specifically the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: As the Senate was moving toward passing that major tax cut, a big
victory for the president -- Donald Trump tweeted this, "The failing New
York Times, the pipe organ for the Democrat Party has become a virtual
lobbyist for them with regard to our massive Tax Cut Bill." And we're back
with the "Wall Street Journal" Shelby Holliday.
So, a 51-49 vote, passed at 2:00 in the morning, which is one of the
reasons it's been kind of overshadowed, but "New York Times" and
"Washington Post," I mean a whole bunch of news stories say this tax cut is
tilted towards the wealthy and corporations. Some middle class families
will pay more. Do you see that as reporting based on experts and CBO or is
there an underlying feeling of opposition to the contours of this bill?
SHELBY HOLLIDAY, REPORTER, WALL STREET JOURNBAL: Well, reporting is
obviously different from editorial boards but the editorial board at the
New York Times did oppose this tax bill and has a matter of fact tweeted
out the numbers of senators so people could call them and oppose the tax
KURTZ: Right. And that's what prompted the president's tweet, let me just
jump in --
KURTZ: -- because editorial, you know, it's the opinion side. They can
oppose the tax bill all they want. But basically coming -- suggesting call
your senator, you know, they take positions on everything but it's a little
unseemly isn't it?
HOLLIDAY: And this happened too before there was a final bill before this
mad dash to pass it. And now the bills have to be reconciled. So it is a
little too early to say how exactly this stands out.
KURTZ: With conference committes…, but talk about the news
coverage because here has been -- I've read every one of these stories, a
pretty steady drum beat that this either doesn't help the middle class or
increase taxes on some middle class people, which is at odds with the
administration's argument that --
HOLLIDAY: That it does.
KURTZ: -- that it does.
HOLLIDAY: Right. And I do think there is an argument to say that it does
help the middle class. But it also helps wealthier Americans. There was
favorable treatment of pass through taxes that usually benefits wealthier
KURTZ: And small business owners.
HOLLIDAY: Corporations, yes. So, there are a number of arguments to be
made and again, it's too early. We don't have the final bill reconciled by
both the House and Senate.
KURTZ: The problem is nobody has the bill. 500-page bill until a few
hours before the Senate voted, but is the reporting on, you know,
legitimate reporting of raising questions about who benefits and who
doesn't, which always happens with this big messy tax bills, as if
imbalanced by a look at what the positive economic impact might be of
cutting taxes for individuals and for big companies?
HOLLIDAY: There is not much positive news coverage, but that tends to be
the case with huge bills. We saw this with health care as well. There was a
lot of negative coverage, a lot of discussing how things would be changed
negatively. I mean of course people reading news want to know how these
bills impact to them.
I would say Wall Street Journal has covered it fairly. People should read
mu colleague's article but back to the editorial board page, this did cause
a lot of uproar because -- and I'll also give both sides. It's up to the
viewer to decide if it was appropriate. But when the "New York Times"
started tweeting out the phone numbers of senators, a lot of people said
hey, that you're moving into the realm of activism and to the realm of
As the president noted, they're effectively lobbying people to oppose the
bill, and that's different from what most of editorial boards do. The
editorial board did say the job of the editorial board is to advocate for
policies we agree with and against proposals we don't.
HOLLIDAY: The "Times" also said they were trying out this new type if
social media and that is what a lot of companies are doing these days.
KURTZ: Right. I do think it's fair to raise questions about how this adds
a $1 trillion to the debt. It wasn't as much focused on that during the
Obama administration which doubled the nation's debt. And too much focus on
whether this helps Donald Trump. He's a rich businessman. If he cut taxes,
he's going to benefit. I don't think that's the main point. Shelby
Holliday, great to see you. Thanks for coming down --
HOLLIDAY: Thanks for having me. Super fun to be here.
KURTZ: Glad you feel that way. Still to come, Sean Hannity makes the cover
of the "New York Times" magazine but not exactly in the way he wanted.
KURTZ: Sean Hannity is on the cover of today's "New York Times" magazine,
which is kind of amazing, but well, he was less than pleased with the cover
shot after a 3-hour photo shoot.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN HANNITY, HOST, FOX NEWS HANNITY: Here is what the New York Times
magazine chose as a profile cover of me. How far will Sean Hannity go? It
doesn't end there. Look at that. I mean, could you pick a worse picture? At
the very top of the article's online version, here are three of the images.
They all suck.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: I actually thought the article was pretty fair, but come on, look
at that. Those unflattering photos give ammunition to those who say a left-
leaning newspaper wants to create a caricature of a Fox News conservative.
I think it works for me. Maybe Hannity can pull it off. That's it for this
edition of Media Buzz. I'm Howard Kurtz. Thanks for watching. We
appreciate it. I hope you like our Facebook page. I post my daily columns
every week, original videos that we make. I try to respond to your
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We like to hear from you even to those of you who kind of raise your
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you then with the latest buzz.
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