Trump's media s---storm

This is a rush transcript from "Media Buzz," January 14, 2018. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: On Buzz Meter this Sunday, President Trump after drawing rare journalistic praise for publicly negotiating an immigration bill is mauled by the media as The Washington Post reports that he made disparaging comments about "s-hole" countries.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN: Let's not kid ourselves. Let's not pretend or dance around it. The sentiment the president expressed today is a racist sentiment. JIM ACOSTA, CNN: The president seems to harbor racist feelings about people of color from other parts of the world.

DON LEMON, CNN: The president of the United States is a racist. All of us already knew that.

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS: President Trump said something that almost every single person in America actually agrees with. An awful lot of the immigrants come to this country from other places that aren't very nice.

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS: These incredible statements coming from this president, there is no question that they're racist.

NICOLLE WALLACE, CNN: This is so abnormal. This is a freak show.

JESSE WATTERS, FOX NEWS: Is it a little offensive? Of course it is. But you know what? This doesn't move the needle at all. This is who Trump is. He doesn't care.


KURTZ: Is it fair for commentators to denounce those crude comments as racist? How are news outlets handling the vulgarity which the president partially disputes?

And we will look at an explosive Wall Street Journal story about the president. An ex-porn star and an alleged six-figure payment that is generating strong denials from those involved.

All it took was one Hollywood speech for the media are swooning over Oprah for president.


NORAH O'DONNELL, NBC NEWS: Oprah's powerful speech is fueling speculation about a possible presidential run.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: I got to ask you, Oprah 2020 is all over Twitter last night after that speech.

BILL KRISTOL, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: She is an impressive woman, it was an impressive speech. You know, I half tongue in cheek encouraged her to run for the democratic nomination.

GAYLE KING, CBS NEWS: I actually don't think that her position has changed. I don't. You know, I was up talking to her very late last night. I do think she is intrigued by the idea.


KURTZ: So, why are the pundits giving so much attention to such a far- fetched scenario?

Steve Bannon leaving Breitbart after his dramatic falling out with Trump. Why he lost his media platform and where does that lead the conservative side.

Plus, I'll be making a personal announcement about my latest project.

I'm Howard Kurtz and this is "MediaBuzz."

The reports that President Trump privately told members of Congress he wanted to limit immigration from such places as Haiti, El Salvador, and some African Nations, quote, why are we having people from all these S-hole countries come here, caused an international media uproar including some criticism on Fox News.


BRIAN KILMEADE, FOX NEWS: Number one, the president made a mistake in making those comments.

ANDREW NAPOLITANO, FOX NEWS: I have known him for 30 years. I know him well and I like him and admire him, but this is a new low.


KURTZ: The White House didn't deny The Washington Post story but the president tweeted the next day that while he used tough language during the meeting about the "Dreamers," this was not the language used. But Democratic Senator Dick Durbin told reporters, president actually had referred to S-hole countries.

Joining us now to analyze the coverage: Mollie Hemingway, senior editor at The Federalist and a Fox News contributor; Susan Ferrechio, chief congressional correspondent of The Washington Examiner; and Marie Harf, former Obama administration spokeswoman and also a Fox News contributor.

Mollie, the "S" has really hit the fan --


KURTZ: -- over these comments reported by the Washington Post. What do you make of the explosive it has been covered?

MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, THE FEDERALIST: Right. I mean, when you use the type of language and the president chooses to be this vulgar with alarming regularity, of course it's going to be news.

At the same time, I am not sure that the media have covered themselves in glory with how they have covered this. It really failed to explain the context of his remarks. They didn't really have any curiosity about why Dick Durbin was leaking this. You know, his goal of sabotaging the supposed deal that they were working on.

And mostly, it seems like they were using this in the way that they have used so many discussions about immigration, which is to silence people who want to change from random immigration policy to a merit-based system where people are judged for their chance to success in this country. And that is very frustrating for people who are interested in this debate.

KURTZ: Marie, this was a slur. No question about it. Even some Republicans have criticized it. But then you look at some of the rhetoric, for example, Jason Johnson of The Root told MSNBC, he said Trump is a white supremacist, a terrorist sympathizer, and a danger to non-whites. So, is some of the reaction over the top?

MARIE HARF, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I'm sure you can find over the top reaction to many things that President Trump does. But that doesn't mean that some of the outrage, in fact most of the outrage, is well placed.

You know, this fits into a pattern of comments he made, whether it's after Charlottesville, whether it's going all the way back to when he took out the full page ad about the Central Park Five.

He has a long history of wading into discussions about race and using racially charged language. That plays a part --

KURTZ: All of that has been reported.

HARF: Exactly. And I think that plays a part and definitely influences how it is being covered today in the charges of racism. And I think that that is a conversation the country needs to be having based on everything he has done over decades.

KURTZ: Susan, many presidents, many politicians, many of us use bad language in private. The Obama White House slogan was don't do stupid "S" in foreign policy.


KURTZ: Would the coverage have been different if he expressed the same sentiment but without that word or some version of that word, said, lousy third world countries?

SUSAN FERRECHIO, THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Absolutely. Because in this sense, everybody started to put the "S" word up without the asterisk. You know, not Fox, but other places. And I think they were trying to convey a message here, that they think the president is such degenerate and a racist, that they actually have to put this word on the screen.

These FCC-regulated broadcast stations violating all kinds of rules to put this up there to make the point that this president is just so bad, he used the "S" word.

KURTZ: Since you mentioned the coverage of the word, I mean, New York Times, Washington Post have actually used the word. MSNBC, CNN used it 36 times in one night, according to one report. Fox hasn't been using it. I think it should be used sparingly. I think it's one of those words that is important to understanding even though obviously some people find it offensive.

Now, in the past, you have had liberal commentators, I played the sound, not just questioning Donald Trump's mental health but saying he's a racist. But now you have anchors, Anderson Cooper, correspondents like Jim Acosta and others, Andrea Mitchell, almost stating it as fact.

A serious sense of how we can finally use the report of this word to prove the media narrative that this president has racist tendencies.

HEMINGWAY: I don't know what they were thinking because there were actually so many leaps of logic. There is no question that he used this term or something like it, something very similar. There was some dispute about the precise nature of the term to refer to these countries.

And they said ergo, he's racist. But they didn't explain how that works out. They just asserted it as fact, where they said that his use of the term chain immigration is racist. Well, that's actually just the policy term that you use for people who come after a family member comes. That's just the term.

And so I think people know that and then they just dispute -- they need to make the case. They didn't make the case. And there is no need to go out there and assert as fact when there is plenty to talk about that is fact.

KURTZ: Marie, the media didn't make case?

HARF: I actually think a lot of media organization did, and you saw them going to this long history. You saw them going back to when he was sued for racial discrimination in housing in New York. You saw them talk about when he went after the American judge, calling him Mexican, calling Mexicans rapist.

I actually think good news organizations, some of them, did go to that history. And I do think it is hard to know what is in people's hearts. So I am always cautious, by say, he has feeling of this. You can't know that. But he has undoubtedly made statements that white supremacists have embraced. They think he's on their side, that he has done nothing to --

HEMINGWAY: Again, what we actually are talking about in this country is whether we should continue our immigration policy or change it. There is incoherence to how we talk about this. When President Trump said that he wanted to end temporary status, everyone said, you can't send people back to those hell holes.

It's a barbaric region and it's horrible. And nobody said, that's racist. But then when he refers to these same places as this, then they go, well, that's clearly racist. That doesn't make sense.

KURTZ: Since we are talking now about the underlying substance and obviously as the word that has gotten, you know, (INAUDIBLE) in the thousand or million cable news segments, there were a number of commentators on the right who are unhappy the president appeared willing in that televised session to negotiate some kind of compromise with Democrats on legalizing the DREAMers program essentially in exchange for funding the border wall, chain migration and some other points.

Let's take a brief look at what some of them had to say.


CARLSON: It was a completely different Donald Trump from the one we watched on the campaign trail just two years ago. So what was the point of running for president?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a disaster. It was the lowest day of his presidency. It seems as if Trump thinks he's going to get great press by giving the left everything they want.


KURTZ: Susan, president got a lot of positive coverage from mainstream media for having that session, but then we saw people who usually support the president being very critical.

FERRECHIO: They are worried that he is going to go back on his campaign promise about being tough on border security. And because the president speaks two ways, on the one hand, he wants to make a deal and he wants to work with Democrats, such the businessman in Donald Trump.

But on the other hand, he also wants the tough border security that he promised. He made this major campaign promise. The big beautiful wall. He is kind of stuck, so he goes in and tries to negotiate with Democrats. You got to make a decision, is he going to have a deal or is he going to have, you know, the very things he promised on the campaign trail? It's going to be a hard deal.

KURTZ: What was so striking is that some of the conservative commentators acted like this is a betrayal when in fact he was trying to negotiate for things that he also wants, funding for this wall on the border with Mexico.

HEMINGWAY: I think they felt like it was a betrayal because it was different than his campaign rhetoric. But these are actually much more interesting angles for the media to explore, how his base is extremely worried that he will sell them out, or how Dick Durbin was trying to sabotage the supposed deal. That is actually much more interesting than all of this drama over --

FERRECHIO: And now he actually buys to work out deals. He doesn't just try to --

KURTZ: Right.

FERRECHIO: -- the party line.

HARF: And that's I think what some conservative Republicans were worried about during the Republican primary. He is a lifelong Democrat who they were concerned would actually cut deals with Chuck and Nancy.

And so a lot of us saw that meeting in the Oval Office. Open to actually getting a deal which is at the end of the day what governing is actually about. It's much harder to govern than to be a commentator on TV.

KURTZ: I know some people hate -- people on both sides hate compromise, but I think many average Americans would like to see some form of cooperation so that something gets done here in Washington.

The president at one of the press availability this week also had something to say about the state of the nation's libel laws. Roll tape.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Our current libel laws are a sham and a disgrace and do not represent American values or American fairness. You can't say things that are false, knowingly false, and be able to smile as money pours into your bank account.


KURTZ: What's the president really upset about there?

HEMINGWAY: Criticism of the press is perfectly fine. And while technically he didn't say anything specific enough to be totally alarmed by, threatening legal action because you don't like the coverage you are getting, it violates the spirit of the first amendment.

The spirit of press freedom that we have, not to mention that nobody on earth has benefited more from the United States as lax laws on slander and libel against public figures than Donald Trump who has said that Ted Cruz's father assassinated JFK or that Barack Obama wasn't an American.

So, he should know that these laws benefited --

KURTZ: By the way, you can sue right now for people who publish that are knowingly false. Supreme Court ruling say that you can't publish things with reckless disregard for the truth or with malice. It may be hard to win the suit particularly against public figures, but he hasn't made a specific proposal about changing libel laws. He has talked about this before.

HARF: That's right. And Mollie is absolutely right. Donald Trump has told, you know, by some estimate, a record number of falsehoods going all the way back to the Barack Obama birther stuff which I think a lot of people saw as the way he got into politics.

I think it says a lot about Donald Trump's thin skin. When he doesn't like stories, he threatens legal action, he says they're fake news even when they're not. And there's no legal basis for what he is saying. I think he is just trolling the media here.

KURTZ: Well, he's good at trolling the media. As a businessman, look, he did file a couple of suits. He suited the critic author from the The New York Times who are saying he wasn't worth as much money as he claimed. He sued a Chicago Tribune critic for criticizing it is ugly, the proposed design for Trump Tower.


KURTZ: But this president, if you actually file a suit, I mean, you keep the story a libel (ph), you do deposition?

FERRECHIO: This is just the way he engages with the press. This is all bark. He is not going to try to change libel laws. It would be impossible. He engages the press. He's in an adversarial relationship with the media. He's always been in one. But he also needs the media, which I think explains the otherwise battling move of letting Wolff, the author, into the White House.

KURTZ: The adversarial relationship, but also a symbiotic relationship, it seems to me. All right, let me get a break here. I had the Oprah boomlet or the media openly promoting the television icon for 2020. When we come back, the president and the former porn star. A news type of story about an alleged payment before the election generates a spate of strong denial.


KURTZ: The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Donald Trump's lawyer weeks before the election raised $130,000 payment to former porn star Stormy Daniels under an agreement that she not go public with an alleged sexual encounter said to have taken place back in 2006. The New York Times is adding new details to that account.

There have been a spate of denials. The White House says these are old recycled reports which were published and strongly denied prior to the election. Trump lawyer Michael Cohn not addressing the alleged payment specifically, said the journal story was outlandish, adding President Trump once again vehemently denies any such occurrence as has Miss Daniels.

As for Stormy Daniels, she says it's not true, that she had a sexual relationship with Donald Trump, and that, quote, rumors that I have received money from Donald Trump are completely false.

Mollie Hemingway, first of all, your quick take on The Wall Street Journal piece.

HEMINGWAY: The Wall Street Journal asserted something as true but provided zero evidence to support that fact. So I think readers --

KURTZ: Evidence, sources are saying the money went to her through his lawyer.

HEMINGWAY: Single name source and everyone who is on the record denies it. And so I think readers have a right to know why they ran with it? Why are they so certain given that both parties deny it and everybody who is quoted on the record denies it. That is something readers should know.

KURTZ: OK. Then we have the Times yesterday interviewing Jake Weisberg, he's the head of Slate Magazine Group, saying that he got pre-election text messages from Stormy Daniels, her real name is Stephanie Clifford, that, according to these text messages, she had an affair with Donald Trump in 2006. Michael Cohn, lawyer, was late in paying her, the 130K. And now she flatly denies it.


KURTZ: What are readers to think?

HEMINGWAY: The Slate editor actually took the Twitter to clarify some stuff in that New York Times story.

KURTZ: Is it Julia Turner?

HEMINGWAY: Yes. She said that the reason why they didn't run with the story was because they couldn't verify it and that she demanded money and when they refused to pay her, she stopped cooperating. So that's not the best sourcing either for the original claim, not that Donald Trump is a paragon of moral virtue or anything.

KURTZ: The text messages seem like evidence to me although the Slate editor, Julia Turner, has said that she was demanding money from Slate (INAUDIBLE) stories and that's why it broke down. But otherwise you got this sort (INAUDIBLE) two newspapers in the country reporting these sensational allegations and varying levels of denial from everybody involved.

FERRECHIO: Any other president and this might be a really major story. But this is President Trump. He came with (INAUDIBLE). Everybody knew what he was about. He wasn't Harry Truman. He was a thrice married businessman who had long been in the tabloids. So, I think the news value here really isn't that important, and I also think would point --

KURTZ: Is this a story at all?

FERRECHIO: Well, first of all, the story is not new, it came out November 6, 2016, so this is not a new story. The beginnings of this were a couple years old here. But, sure, you want to report if someone has gotten a pay off from the president over an alleged affair, absolutely.

KURTZ: Given that the Journal did report this just before the election, that Stormy Daniels was to tell her story on "Good Morning, America," but all that obviously fell through, she did not go public, and given the allegations that surrounded Donald Trump, the Access Hollywood tape, how much will people care about this?

HARF: Well, I think this is right. This is kind of big thing with Donald Trump. If 53 percent of white women voted for him after they heard the Access Hollywood tape, I am not sure this moves the needle in terms of public perception of him. That being said, I still think it's a story that the public deserves to see and deserves to hear about. Can you imagine if this was Barack Obama, for example, what the news coverage would be like?

So, yes, she denied it, Stormy Daniels denied it, but it's also been reported that as part of her settlement, she has to deny it. So, we will see what happens from here. I don't think it will move the needle but it is still important.

HEMINGWAY: But from a media angle, you know, these things are going to outlast Donald Trump and the normalization of entirely anonymous sourcing or no verifiable fact that a reader can check, that is not good for the industry and that's something that journalists should care about because Donald Trump won't always be here to excuse.

KURTZ: The fact that there are anonymous sources doesn't mean the story isn't true. The level of distrust in the media is so great that people naturally wondering about that. The Wall Street Journal, by the way, people saying oh, it's a paper (INAUDIBLE) and even this paper is reporting, it's done a good job covering President Trump and --

HEMINGWAY: But readers have a right to know why they were so --

KURTZ: (INAUDIBLE) reveal the sources?

FERRECHIO: The problem with anonymous sourcing, and that's all it has been with Trump-Russia collusion and everything, it's always been anonymous, when you have an anonymous source, you don't know their agenda, and so you don't understand why they are talking to reporters --

KURTZ: The readers and viewers don't know.

FERRECHIO: That's absolutely right. The journalists. You are supposed to trust the journalist's filter. And that's what we are seeing with all of these reporting.

KURTZ: And by the way, Marie, after what Bill Clinton did in office, consensual affair, if it happened in 2006, does not sound like a media bombshell, if it happened.

HARF: Well, I think it's not a media bombshell, but going to an anonymous source for a second, there are a lot of people who believe every anonymous source who criticizes the administration I worked in because it fits into their world view.

So, yes, we need to be careful as readers about anonymous sources. We have to have reporters who do their jobs well and evaluate those anonymous sources. But there also has to be a place for them in our media landscape today and I don't think we should discount everything just because there is not a name attached to it.

KURTZ: Having a lot of good and important stories based on unnamed sources but clearly a lot of public distrust as I said. Marie Harf, Susan Ferrechio, Mollie Hemingway, thanks very much for stopping by this Sunday.

Ahead, actor Michael Douglas is denying sexual harassment allegations even before they are published. Up next, a personal announcement about my latest project.


KURTZ: I have a little news to share. It has been a long time and coming. I have been covering Donald Trump since the day he came down that golden escalator two and a half years ago, but really much longer than that, since I first interviewed the Donald when I was based in New York back in the late 80s.

As we have talked about on this program, the reporting, analysis, commentary and pontification on candidate Trump and now President Trump has been overwhelmingly negative. Some are (INAUDIBLE) to be sure, but some are wrong or slanted or sensationalized and at times outright hostile.

And this president's attacks on the press have been just as harsh and unrelenting, sometimes hitting back against unfair assaults, sometimes stepping over the lines. So, I have spent a very long time reporting and running a book about all this that comes out later this month.

Here is the big reveal on the cover. It is called "Media Madness: Donald Trump, the Press, and the War Over the Truth." You can pre-order it on Amazon and elsewhere now. There is a link on my Facebook and Twitter pages.

It wasn't an easy book for me to write and here is why. I am a life-long journalist, the former newspaper guy with ink in my veins. I criticize the business all the time as you know, but I am not a knee-jerk media basher. My fear and you will see this in the book is that organized journalism has badly lost its way in the Trump era.

Many news organizations decided during the campaign that Trump had to be held to a different standard and that has meant taking an oppositional stand that has been good for ratings, good for clicks, but has too often meant a biased approach that alienated many conservatives and independents.

There is lot of exclusive reporting here about some outrageous media conduct but also about the president and his White House team, how they deal with the press, fight with each other, make mistakes, play the leaking game, and sometimes undermine their boss and each other.

It's a very candid examination of this all out war between the president and the press that is further dividing a very polarized country. I will have more to say about "Media Madness" in the coming weeks.

Coming up, the pundits are all pumped up over Oprah for president, except she doesn't really seem to be running.

Later, we will look at the fallout as Steve Bannon leaves Breitbart.


KURTZ: Oprah Winfrey didn't just talk about female victims of sexual misconduct in that Golden Globes speech, she praised the media.


OPRAH WINFREY, ACTRRESS: We all know that the press is under siege these days, but we also know that it is the insatiable dedication to uncovering the absolute truth that keeps us from turning a blind eye to corruption and to injustice.


KURTZ: And the press awarded the favor by practically drafting her into the 2020 presidential campaign.


MEGYN KELLY, HOST, MEGYN KELLY TODAY: My head is going to explode. It's going to explode right here. So will Oprah Winfrey actually run for president?


KURTZ: Joining us now to analyze the coverage, in New York, Lynn Sherr, a former correspondent for ABC News. And in L.A., Christina Bellantoni, assistant managing editor of the Los Angeles Times. Lynn, what explains this absolute explosion, not just the punditry but of news coverage, front page of the New York Times and Washington Post for example, that Oprah Winfrey based on one speech on award show is practically the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination?

LYNN SHERR, FORMER CORRESPONDENT, ABC NEWS: This will totally shock you, Howie, but celebrity sells and famous names. People buy papers, eyeballs. And by the way, she is not the first famous media star to be thought of as running for president. Tom Brokaw was asked by some powerful friends to run. Walter Cronkite, former CBS anchor was actually floated as a possible vice presidential candidate with George McGovern in 1972.

KURTZ: I remember.

SHERR: Many years later Cronkite said yes, he would have done it. And a bunch of other journalists have actually run and some won -- run for seats in Congress. And some of them have actually served reasonably well. This is about the nexus of fame and power. So, the most powerful office in the land and the people who cover it and hover around it, of course, they are going to be considered.

KURTZ: And I don't want to spoil the fun but Christina, Oprah told Bloomberg News backstage that she had no plans to run. One of her closest friends, Gail King, we showed earlier on TV as saying essentially she is going to run, maybe she will think about it. So, for the media, it really didn't matter if it was true or not.

CHRISTINA BELLANTONI, ASSISTANT MANAGING EDITOR, L.A. TIMES: Well, and one of the problems with some of the coverage, not everybody, but the majority of the coverage didn't really get into the data or substance. For example, looking at Oprah Winfrey's campaign donations, which is something we did at the L.A. Times. You know, she had gave to Arnold Schwarzenegger, former Republican governor here in California.

She has given money to Cory Booker in the past who could run himself in 2020. So some of those things, she has given a lot of money to the DNC and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee over the years and obviously to the Obama campaign. So having sort of substantive look at this could be more interesting. You know, has she voted in every election? What did the polls say?

There actually was a new poll that came out on Friday that said that she would defeat President Trump in 2020, 50 to 39. But you know, that's obviously at a very, very early stage. And the talking which is probably not even --

KURTZ: But it's meaningless because nobody has been attacking her as what happened the first day she announced if this ever happened. There haven't been any stories about what's her position on arming the Syrian rebels or dealing with foreign policy or immigrations so I think those early polls are just like cotton candy.

Let me bring you back Lynn. I get it, celebrity sells. Fine, we all like talking about it here, we are talking about it but, also a history of celebrities encouraging or at least acquiescing in such speculation because it's great. It builds the brand without actually having to dirty your hands and get into the arena.

SHERR: Well, I think that's true. And let me just say that in Oprah's case, I think there was something slightly different going on from previous media stars who get invited to run. And I think in her speech it was a reminder of the elegance and eloquence that we're missing in the national discourse. And I think there was a kind of a yearning for some moral leadership.

Now, having said that, I don't believe that she is actually thinking of running. I want to read you something from an interview I did with Oprah back in 2010 for a cover story for Parade Magazine. I said to her, Oprah, would you ever run for office? She said nope. I said because? And she said because I know my lane and I can drive very well in it and I don't want to get in that lane.

Now, I haven't the clue when the last time was Oprah actually took the wheel but I do know she knows how to put on the brakes.

KURTZ: She knows how to stay in the lane. Now, there was a tweet from NBC on its corporate account, Christina, that said nothing but respect for our future president -- picture of Oprah Winfrey. It took 12 hours to delete and then NBC had this lame explanation about it was a shadowy third party. I think that kind of underscore even if it was a mistake, you know, the media would love to see Oprah Winfrey run for president.

BELLANTONI: Well, look, I mean we talked about at the beginning of the show, our readers were very interested in this story. She is one of the most of globally known people in America. So, you know, getting into the details is interesting and just to Lynn's point, you know, I covered her in three different states when she was campaigning for Barack Obama's candidacy in 2007 and 2008 and she's got some political talent.

She tailored her message. She went from Iowa to South Carolina to New Hampshire, here in California and she had different messages in each and really made clear she is not interested in politics. And even Obama made this joke, you know, somebody shouted from the crowd, you know, she should be your running mate or he said, you know, you realized that would be a demotion, and that's part of it.

KURTZ: Right, right.

BELLANTONI: Yes, we're at this moment where we could say celebrities, you know, could make a president because look at President Trump and that's the world he came from, but at the same time --

KURTZ: Right. You know, there has already been a couple of stories --

BELLANTONI: --if you're popular, why do it?

KURTZ: -- where about the questionable medical treatment she's backed in the past and she has a mixed business record with the OWN Network and other things. So that's just a taste of what actually would happen.

SHERR: I think, Howie, I think the bottom line on her is she is a way too smart to run.

KURTZ: All right, I like that. All right, let me just get to another topic. First of all we're talking our coverage of President Trump. Let me put up the Time Magazine cover this week, hair on fire. You see that. This is why people think the media do not like Donald Trump. Let me get a brief response from each of you, Christina first. What do you make of all the incredible coverage of the s-hole comment and do you think it's the right amount or is somewhat overdone?

BELLANTONI: I mean, it was an extraordinary moment and I mean, not to quote Dick Durbin, but he noted that probably those words haven't been said in that context from the White House before and that's probably accurate. And you know, for us representing the west and California, those comments hit home for people in a negative way and people wanted to read about them in context and learn more about a lot if the things the president has said. Now, of course, it's just safe now --

KURTZ: Lynn Sherr? We're running out of time. I'm running out of time. Lynn Sherr?

SHERR: I think what's interesting Howie, is here has been almost universal agreement on the part of journalists, to print the word as it was. The executive editor of the Peoria newspaper, their group immediately decided yes, print it, put it on the front page but don't put it in 36 point half- inch high headlines. That was too much for readers. Donald Trump wants a legacy. You can't let your kids read the papers or watch television news any more.

KURTZ: Wow, that problem, long three days this president in terms of the culture. Lynn Sherr, Christina Bellantoni, thanks very much. Appreciate it. Ahead on "Media Buzz," those Hollywood harassment cases keep on playing out in the press, but first, Steve Bannon, out at Breitbart after his war of words with President Trump. Where does that leave the conservative side?


KURTZ: President Trump and top White House officials constantly attacking sloppy Steve over his harsh criticism of the White House. Steve Bannon is gone from Breitbart.


JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Well, the groveling didn't work. Steve Bannon is out of a job tonight, two jobs in fact.

LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, HOST, MSNBC THE LAST WORD: The evil genius of the Trump White House no longer works in the Trump White House and no longer works anywhere.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Steve Bannon's problem is he believed all his own press. It was insane.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And now he is a man who still views himself as a revolutionary as this great historic figure, but he finds himself without a media vehicle, without a platform without any major donors funding his political activity.


KURTZ: Breitbart is of course the conservative website that he turned into a real force on the right both before and after his stint on the Trump campaign and at the White House. Bannon's resignation came after one of his top financial backers, Rebecca Mercer, of the billionaire Mercer family issued a statement distancing herself from Bannon's views.

Joining us now from New York is Noah Rothman, associate editor of Commentary Magazine. And Noah, does it seem to you that it was inevitable that Breitbart and also SiriusXM Radio would part company with Steve Bannon after those repeated denunciations by President Trump?

NOAH ROTHMAN, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, COMMENTARY MAGAZINE: Yes, it was inevitable that Steve Bannon would be the (INAUDIBLE) by that organization because that organization has positioned itself almost explicitly as a vehicle for Donald Trump's message. Once Steve Bannon became an obstacle to getting Donald Trump's message out whatever that happens to be, he was inevitably going to be removed.

The problem is Steve Bannon actually does believe in certain things. He believes that there should be a trade war with China. He believes that we should be replacing Republican establishment figures with more insurgents. And Donald Trump has been persuaded I believe of the view that it's more expedient to do things that are a little bit easier to achieve like legislative achievements with establishment tearing and Republican figures and persuading China to help us isolate North Korea and things like that.

KURTZ: Well we'll see how that plays out. Le me share some of my own reporting. Sources close to Bannon telling me it's not that Breitbart booted him, but that the Breitbart website insisted and that Bannon's own lawyer insisted that he had to chose between media and politics because with him out there giving speeches and raising money for candidates, it's possible that every article on Breitbart could be deemed an in-kind contribution and there could be FEC fines and so forth.

But now of course Bannon was a real force after he left the White House, using Breitbart as a platform. And in politics, do you think he can regain that status?

ROTHMAN: I'm not sure I would count Steve Bannon out. If you ever had a one on one conversation with the guy, he has an infectious personality. He really does believe his own hype as was said in the earlier stages of this segment. And the Wall Street Journal suggest that the president, who told the Journal reporters that he's not ruling out rehabilitation for Steve Bannon. I would be surprised if he works his way back into the president's good graces.

The people around the president are probably more protective of Donald Trump and his relationship with Steve Bannon which they view as a problem. But I wouldn't count him out. I'm sure he's going to work on something to get his views out there and he will be an insurgent force until he decides to retire and that's not any time soon.

KURTZ: Yes. It would be a mistake to count him out. Again, my sources telling me that he's out there still doing political meetings and that the war of words with President Trump is not, for the most part, hurt his ability to raise money. We'll have to see how that plays out for 2018. So where does all this leave Breitbart because Breitbart hasn't made any substantive comment on Bannon's departure. He declined to put anybody on this program, but it's been committed to the Bannon agenda of backing President Trump particularly on the populous and nationalist issues like immigration and attacking the Republican establishments so, where does that leave the website?

ROTHMAN: Yes, I'm not sure. But Bannon's removal from the website really confirmed what we already knew about the website's mission, which was to defend Donald Trump whatever Donald Trump's position happens to be in the moment. Editor-in-chief Alex Marlow --

KURTZ: Well, unless Donald Trump did something that Breitbart or Bannon didn't like, like say overly compromising with Democrats on issues like immigration.

ROTHMAN: Well, Bannon -- Donald Trump has been doing that for quite some time and Steve Bannon's attempts to help Donald Trump get back on the Bannon agenda is what resulted in his defenestration from the White House. He went rogue and started talking to liberal reporters about how we should be isolating China and not working with China. That's what removed him. Steve Bannon's idea of helping lost a Senate seat in Alabama.

KURTZ: Well he wasn't solely responsible for Roy Moore's loss but just in the --

ROTHMAN: Not solely.

KURTZ: -- seconds that we have left, do you see Breitbart having a future post Bannon?

ROTHMAN: Yes, it will be a voice for Donald Trump, but to the extent that Donald Trump won't be president forever, it seems like a very bad bet.

KURTZ: All right, Noah Rothman, great to see you. Thank you so much for joining us this Sunday.

ROTHMAN: Thank you.

KURTZ: We appreciate it. After the break, actor James Franco hits the late-night circuit to deny mounting allegations of sexual harassment. And later, MSNBC's Chris Matthews apologizes for a truly awful and sexually offensive joke about a former presidential candidate.


KURTZ: Five women have told the Los Angeles Times that actor James Franco has engaged inappropriate or sexually exploitative behavior such as filming of a sex scene without protective guards or asking women to take off their tops. Franco was denying allegations by actress Violet Paley that he wants to expose themselves in a care and try to push her head down. Actress Ally Sheedy also tweeted and deleted during the Golden Globes, why is James Franco allowed in with the hashtag metoo.


JAMES FRANCO, ACTOR: OK, first of all I have no idea what I did to Ally Sheedy. I directed her in a play off Broadway. I had nothing but a great time with her. Total respect for her. I have no idea why she was upset. She took the tweet down.


KURTZ: Joining us now from New York is Brent Lang, senior film and media editor at Variety. And Bret, James Franco goes on Colbert and Seth Meyers. He knows he's going to be asked about this mounting allegations and he obviously sort of vague denials, I don't get the strategy, but also could the host have pressed him a bit more firmly?

BRENT LANG, SENIOR FILM AND MEDIA EDITOR, VARIETY: Well, that's not exactly what, you know, Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers do so it's a little bit of a change, you know, to go from kind of a host, an MC to an interrogator. That's a bit of a jump for them. I think they did a relatively good job but Franco is in a delicate place because he's walking a tightrope. He needs to be respectful of the Times Up, the metoo moment that we're in.

He did need to sort of from a PR perspective address these issues and he has to be in the public face right now because he is campaigning for an Oscar. It's award season. His film, "The Disaster Artist" is out and he's going to be asked these questions time and again.

KURTZ: Right.

LANG: So he can't just have a sort of in a dying statement and leave it at that.

KURTZ: Yes, that's a tough campaign. All right, so Michael Douglas the other day went public with the Hollywood website Deadline with an emotional denial of allegations he says were made by a former employee that he masturbated in front of her 32 years ago. He says this is extremely painful. This is a complete lie, a fabrication, no truth to whatsoever.

And he says he was preempting --he was speaking out before anything was published, preempting a possible story by the Hollywood reporter who says it can't comment on stories it may or may not be doing. And that Variety was poking around as well. What do you make of the Michael Douglas move here?

LANG: Well, it's a very risky move. It's risky because if he did in fact engage in inappropriate behavior and misconduct with other women, having a statement like this, this kind of strong denial could actually inspire them to speak out. He did, you know, seem to want to get ahead of the story. He picked an outlet that I would assume he perceived would be friendly to him, that he had some kind of relationship with, and tried to kind of -- I think as the outlet itself said, control the narrative. Control his destiny in the situation.

KURTZ: Right. And the other risk is the story might never come out but now of course he's made it public. All right, border (ph) question here because there has been so many of these Hollywood cases. Are the media having a bit of burnout with these stories and not getting as much coverage or after Weinstein, after Kevin Spacey, after Louis C.K., or is it that the latest allegations are just not on the same level?

LANG: Well I would definitely say that right now, the Franco allegations do not rise to the level that the Weinstein allegations do, a criminal level. I am not sure there is necessarily a bit of burnout, I mean, if you watched the Golden Globes, clearly women in this industry, in the film and television industry feel motivated to speak out. They feel that this is an important moment and they seem to be certain that this won't just be talk. This will actually lead to substantive change.

KURTZ: Right. All right, Brent Lang, thanks very much for catching us up on these latest allegations from Hollywood. Appreciate it.

LANG: Thanks for having me.

KURTZ: James Rosen, Fox's chief Washington correspondent left the network just before Christmas. Now NPR is reporting based on unnamed former colleagues that Rosen had made sexual advances towards three female Fox News journalists. One alleged incident is said to have occurred 17 years ago, another involving a producer allegedly occurred a few years later.

The most recent allegation according to NPR took place last year when Rosen is said to have twice kissed a reporter in an elevator. None of the women is quoted , not even on background. Rosen is contractually bound not to comment and Fox News has said nothing beyond confirming his departure.

The Washington Post has suspended veteran reporter Joel Achenbach for 90 days for improper work place conduct with current and former female employees. Now Achenbach did not contest the findings saying, I'm very sorry to say that I have behaved badly and have been suspended by the Post for three months for inappropriate work place conduct. I've said and done things that were unprofessional, and I apologize to the women affected by this and acknowledge their courage in speaking out.

Still to come, Chris Matthews and a truly horrible joke about Hillary Clinton caught on tape.


KURTZ: Chris Matthews was getting ready to interview Hillary Clinton during the fall campaign when, according to footage leaked to "New York Magazine," the MSNBC host said this.


CHRIS MATTHES, MSNBC HOST: Where is that Bill Cosby pill I brought with me.


KURTZ: Bill Cosby pill? That's right. Matthews thought it was funny to joke about drugging and sexually assaulting the Democratic presidential nominee. Now to his credit, the Hardball host apologized, this was a terrible comment I made in poor taste during the height of the Bill Cosby headline. I realize that's no excuse. I deeply regret it and I'm sorry.

Veteran political reporter John Dickerson is joining CBS this morning to replace Charlie Rose who was fired by the network over allegations of sexual misconduct.


NORAH O'DONNELL, HOST, CBS THIS MORNING: I am Norah O'Donnell with Gail King and look who else is here. What's your name?


JOHN DICKERSON, HOST CBS THIS MORNING: I'm a transfer student here.

KING: Welcome to the new school, John Dickerson.


KURTZ: Dickerson who'll be leaving as host of Face the Nation is a natural choice especially since his mother was CBS' first female correspondent.


KING: We've had a picture of your mom here since the show began. Your mom of course is Nancy Dickerson who was a legend in this business.


KURTZ: John wrote a book about his fraught relationship with his mother. The former Time correspondent will have to switch to his morning personality while others at CBS fight it out for the coveted Face the Nation job. Watch that space.

That's it for this edition of "MediaBuzz." I'm Howard Kurtz. Let's continue the conversation @HowardKurtz. You can come at me on Twitter. Give us a like on our Facebook page. We post a lot of content there including my daily columns and daily videos, and I try to respond as much as I can, if you want to e-mail us. We're back next Sunday. Don't miss it. See you then with the latest buzz.

Content and Programming Copyright 2018 Fox News Network, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2018 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.