Media's shutdown blame game

This is a rush transcript from "Media Buzz," January 21, 2018. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: On the buzz meter this Sunday, the media are consumed by the blame game as President Trump and the Democrats try to frame the coverage of how we got to this ultimate (INAUDIBLE) dysfunction, a government shutdown.


ZELENY: Yes, the White House went to great lengths tonight to call it the Schumer shutdown. Senator Schumer in kind call it the Trump shutdown. It's an American government shutdown. But president Trump of course owns it.

MARIA CARDONA: And guess what happened? Yet again, the big deal maker blows up the deal at the last minute.

RACHEL CAMPOS-DUFFY, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: They threw DACA and it has nothing to do with the budget. It has nothing to do with anything. They agree. And the Democrats agree with everything else in the bill. They just want to shut it down.

HUGH HEWITT, SALEM RADIO NETWORK: Chuck Schumer may think he won because the base is happy with him this morning. But I got to think the Schumer shutdown is really bad news.


KURTZ: With offices closing down and federal workers being furloughed, is the press playing it straight? The shutdown stemming from an impasse on protecting the "DREAMers" and more than week of constant coverage of the president's bold description of certain countries and their immigrants.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: In not a racist. I am the least racist person you have ever interviewed. That I can tell you.

MAEVE RESTON, CNN: The fact that we have a president of the United States that has to come out and say, I am not a racist, over and over again repeatedly after the campaign that he ran over the last year is just a sad moment for our country, I think.

HURT: The idea that (INAUDIBLE) Donald Trump has questioned where some of this immigration comes from makes him a racist is mind blowing.

BARNICLE: You don't find Republicans standing up and saying, no, no, no, Mr. President, that's wrong or stop it.

LISA BOOTHE: People have said similar statement but it seems to only be offensive if it's coming from the mouth of President Trump.


KURTZ: Is it the press or the president turning this into a debate over racism? White House reporters pressing Trump's DACA for nearly an hour as it gives the president a clean bill of health.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: And does this president ask you about how he could follow his predecessors' example to be as fit as Barack Obama was?


KURTZ: Was there something of an unhealthy obsession there? And we'll look at Trump's so-called "Fake News Awards." Plus, the Stormy Daniels story is back as In Touch Weekly publishes a 6-year-old interview which the former porn star says she did have an affair with Donald Trump although she along with the president's lawyer just denied it. Why didn't the magazine run this until now? I'm Howard Kurtz and this is "MediaBuzz."

A TV countdown clock began days ago as journalists realized this wasn't the usual Washington kabuki over the budget after Republicans and Democrats (INAUDIBLE) that they could force a partial government shutdown.

We are in the second day with women's protest marches across the country and no immediate end in sight. Joining us now to analyze the coverage: Guy Benson, political editor of; Mara Liasson, White House correspondent for NPR, both are Fox News contributors; and Juan Williams, co-host of "The Five."

Guy, the media are largely blaming President Trump and Republicans because when you strip everything else away, they say, they control the White House and Congress.

GUY BENSON, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: They do control White House and Congress, but of course, the Senate Democrats have a lot of power and they are using it, mounting a filibuster with 44 votes, they only need 41, and that's what they've done.

I will say typically the dynamics of government shutdown is cut against the Republicans. People see the GOP as the anti-government party. In the past, 2013 comes to mind. It was a Republican-led effort to shut down the government.

In this case, the dynamics really are different and while some in the press are singing the same tune as always, it has been a little bit better this time. I have seen top sort of lefty activists and former White House people under the Obama administration actually lashing out at the New York Times and Associated Press for accurately describing why the Democrats are at fault.

KURTZ: Setting me up for the next question for Juan, New York Times released a story yesterday, Senate Democrats block effort to avert shutdown. There hasn't as much media focus, Juan, on the fact that Republicans weren't willing to do another kick the can short-term funding deal and the Democrats said no because of the issue of immigration.

JUAN WILLIAMS, FOX NEWS: Right, and you even had an AP headline and it was "Democrats Derail." So I think this came as a surprise. Dan Piper, I think, guy was referring to, yes, he is the one who said hey, New York Times, you can do better.

But so what you see is that people on the left are a little surprised that the Times typically put on the left is saying that Democrats are responsible here. The alternative version of course is there have been two continuing resolutions passed in December. The idea that you would have a third is subjected to even by Senator Graham who said, you know, let's make a deal here.

KURTZ: Mara, let me play for you a little bit of sound from a press briefing with Budget Director Mick Mulvaney the other day.


PETER ALEXANDER, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS: The president's comments about S hole countries, what responsibility does he bear for the challenges there have been to try to --

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The Schumer shutdown when Republicans control the White House, the House, and the Senate.

MICK MULVANEY, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET: You know as well as anybody that it takes 60 votes in the Senate to pass an appropriations bill.


KURTZ: Sounds like many of your colleagues believe the White House is primarily to blame.

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESONDENT AT NPR, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I think those are my colleagues asking some tough questions as they should, but I think this is one case where the media is really hard to describe because the media is really fractured just like our politics and you hear a lot of different interpretations about this.

What was really interesting about what Mick Mulvaney just said, it takes 60 votes. President Trump totally (INAUDIBLE) this morning and said, hey, Republicans, why don't you change the rules so that you can pass this funding bill with 51 votes?

In other words, just like you did for Neil Gorsuch, just like you did for other thing. And Because Republicans have been able to change the rules when they feel like it in the past, why not now?

KURTZ: The so-called nuclear option. There is so much hypocrisy on both sides here as we go through this different shutdowns over the years. Now the Republicans are saying how terrible this is and just as the Democrats that were absolutely terrible in 2013 and Republicans are doing this because they don't like government as you alluded to earlier and it just seems very transparent to me.

BENSON: Yes, Mulvaney, of all people, right? He was all for the shutdown in 2013.

KURTZ: He was a congressman.

BENSON: In Congress in 2013. But to go back to the media side of this, I do think that the frustration that you are seeing not just from Dan Pfeiffer (ph) but the guy who runs Daily Kos and other people on the left, with the fact that some of the media are playing this more accurately, this go around --

KURTZ: Blamed on both sides, the Democrats --

BENSON: Yes, the Schumer shutdown I think is an accurate moniker here. And the reason that you are seeing this anger, this visceral anger on the left is because so many people on the democratic side are accustom to coverage that ranges from tendentious to obsequious for their talking points.

In this case, the dynamics are so clearly on -- they can't quite line up for what the Democrats typically argue. The press is doing a better job.

WILLIAMS: I disagree. I mean because it seems to that there is established narrative and I think that's why you see this combat right now, at this moment as we are on air. I think what you have is the White House issuing statements, very un-presidential, saying things like Schumer shutdown, because their time to push that --

BENSON: Why is that un-presidential?

WILLIAMS: Well, because I don't think --

KURTZ: Democrats are saying Trump shutdown.

WILLIAMS: No, I don't think the Democrats are saying Trump shutdown.

KURTZ: I say -- they --

LIASSON: Hot topic on Twitter.


LIASSON: Actually.

WILLIAMS: But coming Schumer, Schumer is saying Republicans. Why? Because as you point out earlier, Republicans control the House, the Senate, the White House, and they could have passed a budget and they chose to pass a continuing resolution.

KURTZ: Even though language rich of hypocrisy because in 2013, the Obama administration didn't want a shutdown, the military will be hurt by this.


KURTZ: And now Trump administration says the national security will be hurt by this. Democrats don't care. Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell now saying Democrats are holding the government hostage. Harry Reid used the word hostage in 2013.

LIASSON: Exactly what Democrats said.

KURTZ: But the difference here is the last two major sets of shutdowns under Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, I think the media largely blamed the minority party, who were the Republicans, but the difference is you had divided government.

LIASSON: That's the big difference and Donald Trump controls the whole shebang also because he has chosen media dominance as his modus operandi. He is the main show. And that's why at hashtag Trump shutdown is the top trending topic on Twitter right now.

And I think that because he is the biggest figure in American politics, he is going to end up with some of the blame for anything that happens, good or bad.

KURTZ: Well, you may be right about him dominating the media. He obviously doesn't control what happens in the Senate, but there has also been sort of subtext gears (ph) discontinuing media drumbeat about the S hole countries that Trump was reported to have said in the meeting with Hill leaders.

And it has been tied to the government shutdown. This started the whole collapse of trust in the negotiation. Do you think that's fair in terms of why the press --

BENSON: I think that's an excuse from the Democrats. The immigration issue is an important one. I happened to favor a DREAM Act compromise coupled with border security, but it is --

KURTZ: By the way, President Trump talked about a bill of law the he seemed to want a DREAM Act compromise.

BENSON: Yes, and he is willing to -- he said in that extraordinary meeting at the White House that he will virtually sign anything. So it's a separate issue though. The House of Representatives run by the Republicans voted for a bill to keep the government open.

The Senate, a majority of the U.S. Senate, vote to keep the government open for that same bill and the president is willing to sign it. There is one party that is blocking it in the Senate and that's the Democrats. It's just the facts.

WILLIAMS: Just a second. Here are some facts. The president is the one who said, I am going to stop this DACA deal, this dreamer's deal, and I am going to have a deadline in March.

And then introduce it, I think this is Donald Trump the deal maker, as a chip, that he would say, if you guys, you Democrats want a deal here, you are going to have to come to me with something of an offer, specifically I think it's the wall. And he has made this dynamic the play. It's not --

BENSON: (INAUDIBLE) that makes sense.

WILLIAMS: I'm fine, but I am just saying, this is Donald Trump's manufactured crisis.

BENSON: Hang on, it's January. We don't have -- we have what? A month and a half to go until the DACA deadline. Immigration is an important issue but it has nothing to do with government funding.

KURTZ: Washington is big on manufactured questions. Let me just get you in on this question about the S hole controversy because it really has persisted for well over a week now. And some on the media want to move from Trump made racially divisive comments to Trump is a racist to this is the reason for the shutdown, DACA was always going to be an elusive compromise.

WILLIAMS: Right, but the thing is that you had a bipartisan deal apparently. Remember the big show that the president put on in the aftermath of the (INAUDIBLE) to show that he was in charge and comic was on the air, negotiations looked like it was going great.

Subsequent to that thing, you have Republicans and Democrats come to the Oval Office and saying, Mr. President, what about this deal? That is when you have the S hole comments and blows things up.

KURTZ: And a lot of focus on John Kelly, the chief of staff, now derisively called President John Kelly by s National Review columnist because there were medial reports that he told lawmakers that Trump's campaign position on the wall, the border wall, was not informed and evolving.

And then he actually -- Kelly told this to (INAUDIBLE), but then The New York Times said Trump limited Kelly and now Schumer is saying well Kelly called back after he thought he had a --

LIASSON: The coverage of Kelly is so interesting. Either he's undercutting Trump by saying his positions were uninformed or he's the secret bad guy who seems like he's a good guy, but actually he's pulling back Trump from all of these potential compromises with the Democrats. So, the picture of Kelly is extremely confuse right now.

KURTZ: Yes, and based a lot on leaks. All right, let me get a break here. Just a reminder, my book comes out next week. You can pre-order it now at Amazon and elsewhere. It is called "Media Madness: Donald Trump, the Press, and the War Over the Truth." Here we go.

Ahead, Bill Bennett (ph) is here with an assessment of the media coverage of the president's first rocky year in office. When we come back, Donald Trump finally announces his fake news awards and we will grade them for accuracy.


KURTZ: President Trump finally unveiled his so-called fake news awards. Unveil is not quite the right word. These were just posted to an RNC website with CNN walking away with four of the 10 not so coveted prizes. And the prospect of the awards sparked a fiery speech from perhaps his biggest Republican critic in the Senate, Jeff Flake, who made a very controversial historical comparison.


SEN. JEFF FLAKE, R-ARIZ.: It is a testament to the condition of our democracy that our president uses words infamously spoken by Joseph Stalin to describe his enemies.


KURTZ: Guy Beson, did Jeff Flake undermine his own criticism with that Stalin comparison?

BENSON: Yes. I think overall, the speech was to quote a colleague of mine an active civic hygiene. And I supported maybe 90 percent of what he had to say. I thought it was thoughtful and well said.

But when you invoke a mass murderer and compare that person to the president of the United States who is just going on Twitter and mouthing off, I think that did himself a disservice and did undermine the overall message he was trying to convey.

KURTZ: Jeff Flake on "Morning Joe" said, I'm not comparing the two. But when you have that kind of passage, you can have the names in the same paragraph, you know as a politician that every single headline which is what happened was going to be Flake says Trump like Stalin.

WILLIAMS: Yes. In fact, I think the press even previewed it by saying that Jeff Flake is about to give --


WILLIAMS: Right. But I will say this. I think that he was more on target and speaking about authoritarian-type rulers. And he's using Stalin in that regard, not the mass murderer part.

But I will say that when you understand that it's not Flake alone, that John McCain wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post saying essentially the same thing, this is a widespread concern for a man who is tweeting out slamming CNN who is also saying that press is the enemy of the American people, that is pretty strong.

BENSON: He was referring to --

KURTZ: McCain's op-ed I think was more high road. In any event, Mara, I've looked at these kinds of words. They are basically accurate. The most serious are probably ABC's Brian Ross who was suspended for a month for false story on Mike Flynn and CNN Anthony Scaramucci's story which resulted in the firing of three journalists. What is your take on this crisis?

LIASSON: My take is that those awards could have been re-titled. Here is what you do when you make a mistake. When you're an accountable news organization and you make the mistakes that the president listed, every one of those was corrected, some people got fired for some of those mistakes.

KURTZ: Or suspended.

LIASSON: Or suspended.

KURTZ: Right.

LIASSON: And, you know, so I think that you take those awards, coupled with the president calling the press the enemy of the people, he has the tendency to undermine democratic institutions. Now, that does not --

KURTZ: Well, OK, but I --

LIASSON: -- which I put in the same category as talking about Hitler a bad idea.

KURTZ: I agree with you that there were corrections and apologies in which the media should do, but a lot of people out there tweeted at me and saying it doesn't matter that they apologize why they are making these mistakes. Isn't there a lower bar for hurling charges at the president that sometimes --

LIASSON: There shouldn't be. There shouldn't be.

WILLIAMS: I think there is a higher bar when it comes to the president. And I think people are reluctant including all of us to say, oh my God, he lied, or oh my God, he does things repeatedly that are hard to explain, but you know what? We don't want to offend anybody.

KURTZ: But it doesn't let journalists off the hook when they make these kind of mistakes --

LIASSON: No, not at all.

KURTZ: -- involving the president.


BENSON: I see no such reluctance to call Trump all sorts of things in most (INAUDIBLE) of the press. Maybe certain folks want to hold their fire but I think definitely some of the recipients of those awards, these are networks that really are deeply hostile to this.

LIASSON: And that is maybe what he should have gone after them for, not these mistakes that they responded to.

KURTZ: There was one person on the list -- you know, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman who famously predicted the day after the election the stock markets would never recover from the Trump election. It was spectacularly wrong prediction but it wasn't a new story. It was guy just getting it wrong.


BENSON: That's just the White House taking a shot at a hack. That's all it was. The thing to me about these awards, it was such a letdown. Trump is such a show man. When I saw it was just a press release at the RNC, I stopped paying attention.

KURTZ: And the RNC website crashed. It made me wonder whether there was some debate in the White House that maybe we should have the president on camera. Let's just play this down. Maybe it wasn't such a good idea. Do you think there is something to that?

WILLIAMS: You know, I don't know. But I think that clearly, the president has made his point, that he thinks the press is not fair to him. Once you go beyond that, I think he has gone beyond this regularly, Howie. We discussed this here on "MediaBuzz."

KURTZ: Yes, because he thinks it works for him to attack --

LIASSON: And it does with his base.

WILLIAMS: Yes, it does with the base, but I must say that the contrary point is that he has a right wing sphere that almost is an echo chamber and that he also works the feed.

KURTZ: Although many conservatives in the media who were never Trumpers and not necessarily big fans of the president --

LIASSON: But (INAUDIBLE) could have been on that list.

KURTZ: Got to go.

LIASSON: Breitbart could have been on that list.

KURTZ: Mara Liasson, Juan Williams, Guy Benson, great to see you this Sunday. Ahead, a celebrity magazine runs an interview with an ex porn star who says she did have a relationship with Donald Trump. She now flatly denies it. Is this a big story?

Up next, all those reporters pressing the White House doctor who didn't seem to accept the president's clean bill of health.


KURTZ: President's physician Ronny Jackson told the White House press corps that Donald Trump is in excellent health and had a perfect score on a cognitive test, but the reporters had questions. Lots and lots of questions and at times seemed to be trying to poke holes in the doctor's report.


STEVEN PORTNOY, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, CBC NEWS RADIO: On what basis would you, and this is just a philosophical question, advise the cabinet that the president is unable to discharge his duties?

ACOSTA: Would you analyze this cognitive ability or neurological functions that is not the same thing as a psychiatric exam or psychological --

JONATHAN KARL, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, ABC NEWS: Dr. Jackson, does the president do anything all right now in terms of exercise? Can you explain to me how a guy who eats McDonald's fried chicks and all those diet Cokes and never exercises is in as good a shape as you say he's in?


MARGARET BRENNAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, CBS NEWS: Given that there was scrutiny of what was overlooked at the time with President Reagan in terms of Alzheimer's disease that he was known to suffer from at a later date. Can you say whether the tests that you ran would exclude any of those things?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some of the president's friends have told reporters in the past they think he's a germophobe.

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: He is taking a cholesterol- lowering medication, he has evidence of heart disease, and he's borderline obese. Can yo characterize that as excellent health?


PORTNOY: What is your take of all the doctors and clinicians all across the country who said that in this president, they see symptoms of this, that and the other?


PORTNOY: Symptoms of dementia.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does this president ask you about how he could follow his predecessors' example to be as fit as Barack Obama was?


KURTZ: As fit as Barack Obama? Dementia? Alzheimer's? McDonald's? Of course the pressured question of president's health as the session dragged on for almost an hour. It gave the impression that some journalists (INAUDIBLE) about the 25th Amendment just didn't even like the answers. Dr. Sanjay Gupta even said later he thinks Trump has heart disease, but that do not share by the man who examined him.

As (INAUDIBLE) last night in which Dr. Jackson said Trump (INAUDIBLE), on another day, the press pool was in the Oval Office for a photo-op with the leader of Kazakhstan. The president only occasionally takes the questions on those settings and when CNN's Jim Acosta shouted one, he actually got an answer, but then Trump dismissed him and the reporter complained about it.


ACOSTA: Mr. President -- Mr. President, do you say that you want more people to comment from Norway? Did you say that you wanted more people to come in from Norway?

TRUMP: Thank you very much.

ACOSTA: Is that true, Mr. President?

TRUMP: Thank you very much. I want them to come in from everywhere. Thank you very much, everybody.

ACOSTA: Just Caucasian or white country, sir, or do you want people to come in from other parts of the world whether people of color?


ACOSTA: It reminded me of something that you might see in less democratic countries when people at the White House are officials of a foreign government attempt to get in the way of the press in doing their jobs.


KURTZ: OK, so, there's no question Trump was pointing at Acosta, out. He doesn't like the guy, he called him fake news. But come on, even just toss out Acosta, the whole press pool was dismisses, which is pretty standard. And Trump did answer Jim's question, unlike what you might see in less democratic countries.

Next, Bill Bennett on the media and the president one year later. And later on this program, Facebook is fiddling with your news feed and it could become a lot more partisan.


KURTZ: They just hit the one-year mark of the Trump presidency which is also the one-year mark for this continuing war between the president and the press. Joining is now here in the studio, Bill Bennett, host of the Bill Bennett Podcast and a Fox News contributor.

So, one year anniversary, Democrats, Republicans can't agree. Trump gets a government a shutdown. The media consensus -- you tell me if this is fair - - is that Republicans deserve more of the blame because they run everything here in Washington.

BILL BENNETT, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, I think that's fair. I think that's a right assessment though I agree with Guy Benson, what he was saying to you earlier. I think it's been a little fairer than usual. The New York Times lead is Democrats, you know, for a shutdown. I think that's a little better than usual. But it's a surprise and it struck me as interesting and unusual.

KURTZ: Yes. President Trump as everyone knows, has waged an unprecedented rhetorical war at least against the media and has been the subject of an unprecedented barrage of negative media coverage. Is this hurting the president? Is this hurting the media? Is it hurting both sides?

BENNETT: It's hurting him some obviously in the opinion polls we see that. But the thing I think people don't appreciate is just how hard this is for the press to get around. They got to (INAUDIBLE). He is so big, he is such a supernova out there. He dominates -- I said the other day, I said you can go to a bar or restaurant anywhere in America, slap the table and say Trump and the rest of your evening is taken care.

KURTZ: Yes, but nobody wants to engage.

BENNETT: A friend of mine said yes except you can do that anywhere in the world, you know. He probably rivals, you know, Apple, Michael Jackson, and Elvis in terms of world recognition. And there seems to be a story every day.

KURTZ: But the hours (ph) sometimes --

BENNETT: Sometimes (INAUDIBLE). But look, they don't like him. They were very disappointed and we know that they are mostly --

KURTZ: They the media?

BENNETT: The establishment.


BENNETT: Mostly liberal. They don't like him and they have been saying so from the first day he started or when he was elected.

KURTZ: Well, but let me jump in. This media dominance, is this fascinating, someone says oversaturation. I mean, he makes news when he's on vacation. He makes news at 6:00 in the morning. The conventional wisdom would be, you know, give it a rest, give people a time to miss you. Do you wear out your welcome by not only driving the news agenda but by being in the news so much yourself all the time?

BENNETT: A little bad to him but conventional is not a word that's in his vocabulary. He just forgets. The only suggestion I make on the tweets is stay with the tweet but make them humorous like the one he did yesterday about the marches, the woman's march.

KURTZ: The woman's march across the country is pretty heavy turnout. There was saturation coverage on some channels and then the president tweeted a perfect day for all women to march, celebrate unprecedented milestones and economic success. Obviously he knows they are protesting him.

BENNETT: Sure he does. Why aren't they saying thanks a lot president, get out there and do that. By the way, this he has that the press doesn't have. He does have a sense of humor. But if you put on "Morning Joe" or CNN or these press conferences like you just showed with the doctor, it is a morose. It is (INAUDIBLE), you know, what is the charge today?

We start with collusion, we go to obstruction of justice, mental deficiency and incapacity. Does he got heart disease? Is he a racist? Perfect example was a clip you played there earlier. There is something wrong with a president who has to say I'm not racist. But one of the reasons he has to say this is they keep yelling it at him. Are you a racist? Are you a racist?

KURTZ: That was a CNN reporter not a commentator who said that. A lot of this seeps into straight news stories about the 25th amendments (INAUDIBLE). Let me take you to the other side. So the media would say look, we have made mistakes and maybe the tone against the president is too aggressive but we are holding him accountable. We are exposing things that are going on in this government. We are checking him when he makes exaggerated or untruthful statements. So some of the stories are wrong, some of the stories are too hostile. But some of the stories are legitimate.

BENNETT: I will go to Jimmy Carter. I don't often could. He said he's never seen anybody so badly treated by the press as Donald Trump.

KURTZ: Well you worked for Ronald Reagan.

BENNETT: That's right. He was treated badly. I think Quayle held the record in terms of bad treatment in press condescension. But this is a new one. But again, this phenomenon, I still think -- I will forgive the press this much. They are still trying to understand this guy and how it would work. My friend, Steve Wynn (ph) said to me last week, he said, can the mind of man go back to a time that was pre-Trump? What did we do before last year? What did we talk about? Who did we talk about?

KURTZ: I can't remember what my show is about.

BENNETT: I know, I know, but I mean, there is no shortage of things to talk about.

KURTZ: But is that, you know, it's a good thing, I guess, that everybody is, you know, plugged into democracy and politics. But is that -- does it add to the polarization?

BENNETT: Yes, of course. But the polarization is there and the polarization has been there -- and the polarization has been there because of the media and I think in large part because of the media. It drives this opposition. We have always had differences in American politics but now with the 24-hour media in all fronts, you are getting it in your face -- you're getting it in your face all the time.

KURTZ: Was the president's s-hole comments about a certain country and their immigrants, was it overplayed by the press?

BENNETT: That's way overplayed. It was a private meeting. I was with an Uber driver from Nigeria yesterday who said, you know, we're pretty successful here in America but he's absolutely right about Nigeria and other places. They are (INAUDIBLE) this guy said 11 times. Sorry, but this is the way men talk. It really is especially in private meetings.

And for the charge to come out, by the way, the point this Uber driver was making is the place is terrible and as he described the s-hole because of mismanagement of government, because the police aren't there to protect you. They are to steal from you and other things. You can't have the argument that you should save people in America on a refugee status and say if you don't they are going to go back to some god-forsaken place and then deny that it's a god forsaken place.

KURTZ: Right. I need a brief answer. When the president is constantly beating up on the press and his base loves it, but is he not winning over new converts of people who were skeptical or opposed to his election?

BENNETT: You know, I don't know, but it does seem that he's rising up a little bit in the polls and it looks like he's getting some independents. And if the prognosticators, the Republican Party, the economist types, the Kudlows, the Steve Moore's are right about this economy and if it's economy stupid, things are going to get better.

KURTZ: Well, this are going to get better if we get the government back open. Bill Bennett, thanks very much for stopping by.

BENNETT: Thank you Howie. Thank you.

KURTZ: Great to see you.

BENNETT: Great to see you.

KURTZ: Coming up. Stormy Daniels on the cover of In Touch Weekly claiming she once hooked up with Donald Trump, but why is the six-year old interview being published now. And later, the Aziz Ansari controversy. Can the media call it sexual misconduct if a woman regrets having sex after a date?


KURTZ: The cover of In Touch Weekly features a splashy interview with Stormiy Daniels although the magazine actually spoke to the former porn star back in 2011. Daniels told In Touch he had a sexual relation with Donald Trump that began in Nevada back in 2006 and she provided details of what he allegedly did and said. But Daniels last week denied any such past relationship with the president, this after the Wall Street Journal reported that the president's lawyer had arranged a $130,000 payment to her at the end of the campaign through a private Delaware company to keep her from going public.

Lawyer Michael Cohen has also denied that the two had an intimate relationship. So what do we make of this? Joining us now from New York, Shelby Holliday, senior video reporter for the Wall Street Journal. And here in D.C., Emily Jashinsky, a commentary writer for The Washington Examiner. Shelby, so after your newspaper, the Wall Street Journal, published the story about the $130,000 payment, and the statement of denial came out in Stormy Daniel's name, and now we have this 2011 interview in which she appears to admit this, what do you make of the contradiction?

SHELBY HOLLIDAY, WALL STREET JOURNAL: Well it's interesting and right now it is sort of a bit of a mystery because we know that In Touch had this interview six years prior to when they actually run it which was this week. And former employees have told the Associated Press they didn't run it at the time because Trump's attorney, Michael Cohen threatened aggressive legal action if they did publish the interview.

And at the time the magazine said Trump wasn't really this huge star. They weren't sure it would move enough copies. It's unclear though why they didn't publish it during the 2016 election when voters may have wanted to know this information. So at this point, why they are publishing it now? They want to sell magazines. The story has come out. She is relevant again. But it's unclear why this wasn't published prior to the Iowa caucuses or prior to the election when voters really did want all the information they could possibly get on both candidates.

KURTZ: And I think we can agree that the In Touch is trying to sell magazine.


KURTZ: I think it's pretty fair. But the editor told the Washington Post, well, it hadn't been that long. I don't know why this wasn't done in the past. It seems kind of lame since like he'd have a responsibility to find out. It seems like the magazine needs to make a statement about whether it's legal threats or whatever, why it's only been published now.

EMILY JASHINSKY, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: It's strange that this didn't come out in 2015 or 2016. I absolutely agree with that. I think what's also interesting is that there were several outlets who had this tip roughly before the election but Stormy Daniels stopped cooperating with them around --

KURTZ: Probably Slate magazine which had some of the text involved, yes.

JASHINSKY: Exactly. I mean, that's a very liberal outlet that have this and backed out of it because, you know, Stormy Daniels stopped cooperating with them. So, this is a complicated story. There is a lot to unpack and it would be helpful to get In Touch's perspective on why this did not -- because it's an interview. It's not even a report. It's an interview. It's her words.

KURTZ: Right. Well Shelby, In Touch -- let me just jump in -- says that Stormy Daniels passed a polygraph test and the magazine talked to friends of here. But in light of her new denial, was it responsible to put out the whole transcript including all these graphic details including sexual details despite her more recent denial?

HOLLIDAY: Her most recent denial is believed to be connected to nondisclosure agreement so she has to deny this, that's what she agreed to do in writing for a six-figure payment. I think what's really important about all of this reports and I know people are focused on sort of the salacious details. But it really shows you the extent to which Trump's inner circle goes to cover-up bad decisions and bad behaviour the president engaged in the past.

Not just six-figure payments but the setting up of LLC's which my colleague at the Journal reported, the use of pseudonyms to hide the names and the identities of these people. Trump's inner circle went to great lengths to hide this story and possibly others.

KURTZ: Well, you know, this has gotten clearly some TV coverage, some print coverage, certain channels like putting up pictures of a former porn star, let's put it that way. But hardly the level, Emily, that you would expect for a story about a president and a porn star and I wonder if media outlets are being cautious about this since she have the conflicting accounts and you don't have her saying anything now.

JASHINSKY: Yes. I think its two things. I do think the story is more complicated than it sounds given the denials, given the strength or timeline there. And then at the other hand, this does sort of elicit a giant shrug from media consumers because it's not something that bucks the narrative about Donald Trump and one that he's actually really created around himself purposely.

You know, it's not something -- this is a man who is on the cover of Playboy. You know, it's not something that we're shocked to learn if it's true about Donald Trump. So, it's definitely newsworthy. I would never say it's not newsworthy especially that it's in her own words, but you know, the sort of crowded news cycle these days.

KURTZ: Would you agree, Shelby, that a lot of people just don't care that much, that when Donald Trump was on "The Apprentice" when he was a businessman that he may or may not have had this kind of relationship.

HOLLIDAY: I don't think people don't care, but it's interesting when you talk to voters now as some said, these are details, these are things we had hints about prior to the election and they made a choice to vote for Donald Trump anyway. But some people we certainly hear some voters say I cannot believe this story is not getting more attention. I can't believe people don't care as much.

So, it is really footing (ph) the electorate and it's just sort of shows you how President Trump is not only teflon in a sense, but stories like this would take down any other president. For him they roll right off, but also I do think Trump supporters are saying you are making it tough for us to get behind you. You know, we had your back for a year and it's getting increasingly difficult.

KURTZ: We do have some other things going on including the fierce immigration debate, the government shutdown and other matters. By the way, an intrepid piece of reporting by the New York Times which send a reporter to an airport strip club in South Carolina to see Stormy Daniels act the other day --

HOLLIDAY: What an assignment, yes.

KURTZ: -- reported that the cover charge was doubled to $20. After the break, Ashleigh Banfield excoriates the unnamed woman who attacked actor Aziz Ansari for a very uncomfortable date, and the author of the article hits back with some very cheap shots.


KURTZ: The article on the website tells a tale of an unnamed 23- year-old woman who described her date with actor Aziz Ansari. The woman said she engaged in plenty of sexual behavior with Ansari but then he failed to read her, quote, verbal and non-verbal cues that she didn't want to continue when she finally left before having full sexual relations. Ansari says it was consensual but apologized to the woman the next day when she texted him that she had been uncomfortable. The piece through this emotional response from HLN anchor Ashleigh Banfield.


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, HLN: What you have done in my opinion is appalling. You went to the press with a story of a bad date and you have potentially destroyed this man's career over it. Right after he received an award for which he was worthy. And now here is where I am going to claim victim. You have chiseled a way at a movement that I, along with all my sisters in the workplace have been dreaming of for decades. A movement that has finally changed an oversexed professional environment that I too have struggled through at times over the last 30 years in broadcasting.


KURTZ: And it went on, Emily. What's your take on Ashleigh Banfield just lambasting this unnamed female accuser?

JASHINSKY: Well, it was great TV and the sentiments of what she said I thought were excellent and much needed because you know, the people are always tentative to weigh in on these things, and Ashleigh Banfield just came out swinging. It needed to be done. The author's response to Ashley Banfield's initial remarks was even more interesting I think.

KURTZ: Well let's get to that, and I'll toss this to you Shelby. So Katie Way, she is the woman who interviewed the source, who wrote the article for, sent this long e-mail saying shame on Ashleigh Banfield. I hope the ratings were worth it. I hope the fewer than 500 retweets on the single news write-up made that burgundy lipstick, bad highlights, second-wave feminist has been feel really relevant for a little while. She disgusts me.

HOLLIDAY: I personally am saddened by that. I hate to see this evolved into a female versus female battle when in reality the movement and what we're seeing on the streets, across the country, around the world this weekend is a really powerful #metoo times up movement. And in order to affect change, women need to have each other's backs and need to encourage each other to come forward.

But they also need to call each other out, and Ashleigh Banfield has every right to speak up about this woman's experience. Her point was that you should have gone to the cops if you were sexually harassed or something illegal happened. You should have gone to the cops. What you did was go to the press and it was a bad date. Actually Banfield's point was that --

KURTZ: But Shelby, I want to press you on this. What do you make of a journalist, a young journalist writing, you know, burgundy lipstick, bad highlights?

HOLLIDAY: I think that's disgusting. I think that's the absolute wrong response and that chisels away at the movement even more. I don't think these needs to become a fight between two females in the media. That's not appropriate. That is not helpful for this #metoo movement.

But I also want to bring up one more point. Samantha Bee also said, just because this wasn't sexual harassment, because this was a bad date doesn't mean we shouldn't talk about that. And I think that some of these experiences are certainly worth discussing. It's the way in which this was published that may have been inappropriate.

KURTZ: Now, the media backlash, Emily, against the #metoo movement has been building and there has been even some women arguing in op-eds and elsewhere that there are too many cases of an unwanted kiss or grope, terrible as that might be, being sort of lumped in with Harvey Weinstein's style, sexual assault or even rape, and now I'm sorry is exhibit A over this consensual or not so consensual behavior.

JASHINSKY: Right. And I argued this week in the Washington Examiner that I'm sorry shows where this conversation really needs to be happening in terms of, you know, the Harvey Weinstein case and then the cases where we're having a conversations about what constitutes sexual assault. And that's why the story was handled so poorly.

And that the office response, the reporter's response actually confirmed what a lot of us suspected that her reporting was informed by inexperience and that, you know, for the magazine, which I can barely say with a straight face, to be talking about that they have no editorial staff over the age of 25. Listen, I'm around the same age of those people and for me to publish a story like this without anyone over the age of 25 looking at it, would terrify me. I would be ashamed to do it. I wouldn't be bragging about it.

KURTZ: Without anybody going on the record. Shelby, just -- I have 20 seconds, do you think that this kind of thing does undermine the case, the cause against serious sexual misconduct?

HOLLIDAY: I do and I would prep this up by saying I don't think it's something we shouldn't be talking about. I think this is a perfectly fair discussion to have but I think the way in which it came out, and Emily is right, it wasn't vetted, it wasn't approved legally. That is not something any major media outlet would publish from one source who won't even give her name. She won't even put her name behind this article. I think it does hurt the movement.

KURTZ: Fair discussion having you say Ashleigh Banfield certainly weighed in (INAUDIBLE) of her view --

HOLLIDAY: Unfair of her to weigh in.

KURTZ: All right. Shelby Holliday, Emily Jashinsky, thanks so much. Good to see you guys.

HOLLIDAY: Thanks Howie. No problem.

KURTZ: Still to come, a Daily Beast reporter let go for plagiarism and how Facebook may be about to tilt your news feeds in a partisan direction.


KURTZ: The Daily Beast has forced out reporter for Lizzie Crocker for blatant plagiarism. She was allowed to resign after essentially lifting several paragraphs about sexual harassment in the media from a piece in the Weekly Standard. Editor-in-chief John Avlon said we take plagiarism seriously and will not allow the hard-earned trust we have built our millions of loyal readers to be compromised.

Well, it didn't take long for the (INAUDIBLE) to find another instance in which Crocker plagiarized an NBC opinion piece. Even the first sentence was almost identical. "No one wants to think of someone they love or anyone they admire or respect as a monster." Exactly one-word change. The Beast have deleted that article as well. You know, having covered plagiarism for decades, I never understand why journalists do it when it's so easy to get caught in this digital age.

I am buzzed off at Facebook right now, first, Mark Zuckerberg announces that everyone's newsfeed will favor post from friends and families. He wants it to be a more meaningful experience, more engagement, at the expense of stories from news organizations. Now, this not only sticks it to media organizations that Facebook has spent years luring into partnerships that have left them pretty dependent on the social network's traffic.

It shrinks the news available to you without bothering to ask you what you want. But here's the worst part, Zuckerberg will now let the remaining news in the newsfeed be shaped by which are the most trusted sources and he's putting that up for a vote. So let's say just for the sake of argument that two-thirds of Facebook users lean left.

If their favorite outlets are MSNBC, NPR, the New York Times, that would shift the balance, in Zuckerberg's words, the users on the right and the center unless you specifically request other sources. This is as surrender to the crowd that could further damage Facebook's tattered reputation for fairness.

That's it for this edition of "MediaBuzz." I'm Howard Kurtz. By the way, a new documentary series called "Scandalous" starting with the Bill Clinton investigations and impeachment premieres on FNC tonight 8:00 eastern and I'm one of those interviewed so check it out. Hope you'll like our Facebook page. I post my daily columns and videos there and try to interact with you.

Let me know what you think on Twitter @HowardKurtz. And you can e-mail us always, DVR the show if you don't have a chance to see it live because we welcome that as well and then you can let us know what you think. See you next Sunday. We are back here at 11:00 eastern with the latest buzz.

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