The Mueller firing story uproar

This is a rush transcript from "Media Buzz," January 28, 2018. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: On our Buzz Meter this Sunday, President Trump says he wants to sit down with Robert Mueller. The White House is rocked by a bombshell New York Times report that he ordered Mueller fired last year, but backed off when his White House counsel threatened to resign.

(START VIDEO CLIPS)

ARI MELBER, MSNBC: This is the biggest thing that happened in the Russia Probe since Donald Trump fired Jim Comey.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN: That not only contradicts a narrative that's been consistent coming out of this White House, but gives us the clearest picture to date of what may be an intent to obstruct. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I always had what have been a ridiculous idea. I wouldn't fire Comey when he did.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: So, we have sources tonight just confirming to Ed Henry that, yes, maybe Donald Trump wanted to fire the special counsel for conflict. Does he not have the right to raise those questions?

MARIA CARDONA, CNN: I think that it indicates yet again that there is clearly something that Donald Trump wants us not to see, that he clearly has something to hide.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What we really have here, Trump didn't fire anybody. Not firing someone doesn't sound like obstruction to me.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

KURTZ: Is the press going overboard on what the president (INAUDIBLE) is fake news? A fierce media debate over the Russia probe and loaded texts from rogue FBI agents with some commentators harshly attacking the bureau.

(START VIDEO CLIPS)

LOU DOBBS, FOX BUSINESS: It may be time to declare war outright against the deep state and clear out the rot in the upper levels of the FBI and the Justice Department. Yes, I said the rot.

JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC: When you have Fox News declaring war in their words on the FBI and the Justice Department, the deep state there, when you have people talking about secret societies inside of the FBI, that is out of what Erdogan's playbook.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

KURTZ: Is the media speculation about Mueller out of control? And are some commentators going too far in trashing the FBI? Casino mogul Steve Wynn out as Republican finance chairman after the Wall Street Journal reports serious allegations of sexual misconduct which he denies. Will the press give him the Harvey Weinstein treatment?

My book "Media Madness" is making news about the war between the president and the press and we'll stroll down on that.

Plus, Megyn Kelly long after a dust up over plastic surgery takes on Jane Fonda and her role in the Vietnam war.

(START VIDEO CLIP)

MEGYN KELLY, NBC NEWS: She still says she is not proud of America. So the moral indignation is a little much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: This is no longer a feud about face lifts. I'm Howard Kurtz and this is "Media Buzz."

After media reports that Robert Mueller had asked for a high-stakes interview, President Trump unexpectedly told reporters, well, he's looking forward to it.

(START VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice over): Do you think Robert Mueller will be fair to you in this larger investigation?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We're going to to find out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice over): Are you concerned about it?

TRUMP (voice over): Because here is what we'll say, and everybody says, no collusion. There is no collusion. Now they're saying, oh, well, did he fight back? Did he fight back? You said -- if you fight back -- if you fight back, oh, it's obstruction. So, here's the thing, I hope so.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: And when he was asked at the Davos conference about The New York Times report on him having tried to fire Mueller last June --

(START VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice over): Do you want to fire Robert Mueller?

TRUMP: Fake news. Fake news. Typical New York Times fake story.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Joining us now to analyze the coverage: Mollie Hemingway, senior editor at The Federalist and a Fox News contributor; Shelby Holliday, senior video reporter for the Wall Street Journal; and Capri Cafaro, Washington Examiner contributor and former democratic state senator in Ohio.

Mollie, The New York Times report has been confirmed by the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, NBC, CNN, Fox News and others. That doesn't sound like fake news.

MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, THE FEDERALIST: Well, you have -- it's difficult to say confirmed when you're talking about anonymous sources which is what we always rely on here, but you have anonymous sources saying that Donald Trump thought about firing someone or wanted to fire someone, who is legally allowed to fire but he didn't fire.

And this is a story that was reported in June, in September, in December. So why is this big breaking news that we are reporting it yet again? I get the feeling people are forgetting that this was already reported before.

KURTZ: Well, because of the fresh news, if you believe the sources quoted by all these organizations that Don McGahn, the White House counsel, said I'm resigning if you go through with this plan.

HEMINGWAY: OK, so again, he didn't fire someone who is legally allowed to fire, and this is treated as big news. I think we need to take a step back and look at why it is being treated as big news.

You have the House Intelligence Committee prepared to release a report about FISA and surveillance abuse at the Department of Justice and FBI, that members of Congress say is chilling, criminal, really disturbing.

And he also have no evidence of collusion with Russia, between the Trump administration and Russia, after a year of being told that this is what it is all about. I think what you are seeing in official D.C. is a bit of panic and fear about the lack of substance to the Russia investigation and worry about what is going to come out of this report.

KURTZ: Capri Cafaro, since President Trump denied last summer that he was even thinking --

CAPRI CAFARO, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Right.

KURTZ: -- about firing Robert Mueller and his pal Chris Ruddy of Newsmax went on PBS at the time. He said it was under consideration.

CAFARO: Right.

KURTZ: So journalists, some liberal commentators are now saying he was not telling the truth at the time.

CAFARO: Well, I mean, obviously it seems that President Trump and some of his closest allies are maybe saying one thing and then saying another thing. That's certainly not unique, you know, I think, unique.

We have seen President Trump change his mind and change stories, you know, time and again. I do think though that what is happening -- not so much I disagree a little bit as far as the media utilizing this, bringing the story up again to deflect from something else.

But rather I do think that there is a concerted effort to create a narrative across different media channels essentially to say that this is a pattern, this is a pattern that President Trump wanted to fire Mueller. No, he didn't, but, you know, and the reason why he didn't is because Don McGahn said he was going to quit.

We saw the same thing with the FBI director reportedly saying, and there was coverage all around that, saying he was going to quit if he was, you know, further --

KURTZ: Let me jump in --

CAFARO: -- you know, with McGahn.

KURTZ: Let me jump in and get you on this. So New York Times says four unnamed officials. The White House didn't deny it. Don McGahn, the counsel, didn't deny it. President's lawyer Ty Cobb said he wasn't going to comment on it. That's not what we in the business call a hard knockdown.

SHELBY HOLLIDAY, WALL STREET JOURNAL: Capri was saying it's all about patterns. If you talk to legal experts, they say patterns are everything for prosecutors. And so this is just evidence of another attempt by President Trump to knock down the special counsel, to knock down the investigation.

He did not take that step. And so it is worth noting that the patterns are big. From the media perspective, this is big news not just because of the legal aspect, there are parallels to Watergate, but also because the president has been denying this, his team has been denying this.

KURTZ: Mollie, you say it's not that big a deal because parts of it have been reported before, unnamed sources, and he didn't fire Robert Mueller, but would you agree that if he had a month after firing Comey this would have been a political and legal firestorm that would have just actually rock the city?

HEMINGWAY: Well, I guess, I am more interested again in the media takes here and for a year we have had the media monomaniacally claiming that there is collusion between Trump and Russia. We have no evidence of that.

HOLLIDAY: We have now --

HEMINGWAY: We had two people who have lied to the FBI about their contact with Russia.

HOLLIDAY: There is evidence. There is evidence.

CAFARO: Flynn and Papadopoulos.

HEMINGWAY: We have no evidence to this collusion with Trump to steal in an election which is what the stories have said, nonstop, day in and day out for a year. Now, we have news that the Mueller probe is not -- they leaks pretty regularly. They are not leaking anything about Russia collusion, they are leaking about Trump.

And the media are just taking that and running with it as if they are the dutiful servants of the Mueller probe instead of thinking about how --

CAFARO: Right.

HEMINGWAY: -- the story that they have been pitching for a year is --

CAFARO: Well, I think that, you know, that the big problem frankly is that, you know, we are litigating this issue in the court of public opinion. Media is not doing the service, in my opinion, to this investigation because they continue to stir the pot.

We need to let -- if they really care about the outcome of this investigation, they need to let it take its course and not continue to like --

KURTZ: OK, hold on. We live in the 24/7 --

CAFARO: I know, sure.

KURTZ: -- world where everybody must analyze it, everything. And look, the president doesn't have many defenders on this particular story but it is true and in despite all the headlines and all the cable news segments, you can't build an obstruction case by pointing to a firing that never happened.

HOLLIDAY: Right, exactly.

KURTZ: You can talk about intent but that's --

HOLLIDAY: Well, you also can't really build a great obstruction case if there is not -- well, you can, but the bar is very high. There has to be an underlying crime and a lot of legal expert say in order --

KURTZ: All right, I want to go to the legal analysis. What about Mollie's point that after a year in the (INAUDIBLE) investigation and (INAUDIBLE) committee that there is no hard evidence of collusion with Russia and therefore the media have moved the goal post, are now saying, well, but he possibly obstructed (INAUDIBLE) or he is acting like he has something to hide.

HOLLIDAY: I'm not sure the goal post has changed from the beginning since the president fired Comey. There has been two prongs of this investigation, obstruction of justice and collusion. Neither of those --

KURTZ: Would you say the emphasis has changed?

HOLLIDAY: -- have been concluded.

CAFARO: The emphasis is in the coverage of that --

KURTZ: OK.

HOLLIDAY: But collusion is actually not a crime, treason does not apply. There is a lot of collusion in the media anyway.

KURTZ: But collusion is when the subject of millions and millions and millions of words by news organizations.

HEMINGWAY: And also, the entire probe is a result of a campaign to claim treason as collusion with Russia to steal an election and claims that were made by intelligence law enforcement agencies that are now under scrutiny after a year of congressional investigation and we have reports coming out alleging serious wrongdoing by federal employees as it relates to this.

(CROSSTALK)

KURTZ: Let me ask you this, Mollie, because now we have here something Sean Hannity said the other night, talking about Justice Department and FBI, people must be held accountable, investigated, indicted. Probably many of them thrown in jail.

So, Fox has come under attack regularly by some at MSNBC for beating up on the FBI, Justice Department, deep state. Now, it's not Fox News, it is certain commentators at Fox News. Lou Dobbs we showed earlier, Sean Hannity and others, people who are paid for their opinions. Nevertheless, does some of this go too far?

HEMINGWAY: I think the narrative that if you are critiquing certain bad actions by certain people in the leadership of certain agencies that you are therefore tarnishing everybody in the agency, that's a strong man argument.

It also indicates again that people don't want to deal with the very real issue that congressional committees are coming out with reports alleging serious wrongdoing by federal agencies. That is their constant --

HOLLIDAY: (INAUDIBLE) Devin Nunes.

CAFARO: Well, but I do think though that -- I mean, this issue of the text messages between the two star-crossed lovers at the FBI going back and forth has gotten extensive coverage.

KURTZ: We are going to talk about that later. Let me flip Mollie's argument and see what do you think. The people who are ripping, the commentators including some of these networks who are ripping the FBI and Justice Department, they say they are holding the bureau accountable.

There are liberal detractor people on your side saying, well, no, they are just trying to discredit the Trump administration.

CAFARO: I think there is a valid argument to be made on both sides. I mean, I think that certainly as you mentioned, Howard, I mean, these folks are entitled to their opinion, even though they are part of a news organization, you know, there is some editorial licence that they can take.

But I do think that there is something to be said to potentially speculate that, you know, if you undermine those that are investigating and you say that they are not credible, therefore that investigation becomes uncredible because those people are no longer trustworthy.

KURTZ: Speculation is something I try to avoid but certainly a lot of Democrats during the Bill Clinton impeachment tried to discredit Ken Starr. But, Shelby, even some conservatives like former Fox News contributor Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard say people at Fox are going too far. But then you have to factor in that people like Kristol defies Donald Trump and have since the campaign.

HOLLIDAY: Well, I think you hit the nail on the head with this being a 24/7 not news cycle. There is this obsession with instant gratification. Everyone wants to know everything immediately. We don't have all the facts. We don't have all the texts. We don't know what is in Devin Nunes's memo.

So to light some partisan charcoals on fire and make it this massive wildfire before we even know all of the facts is irresponsible. It does undermine democratic institution.

HEMINGWAY: The idea that after a year of running story after story based on nothing but anonymous sources, and now you have an actual committee putting its name behind --

(CROSSTALK)

HEMINGWAY: -- now say, oh, that is not (INAUDIBLE) after running wild anonymous sources. It's unbelievable.

(CROSSTALK)

KURTZ: -- we will talk about it (INAUDIBLE). When we come back, Las Vegas billionaire Steve Wynn quits the RNC after multiple allegations of sexual misconduct. Will the press demand that the party return his money? And death threats against CNN sparked this question, is President Trump somehow to blame for a crazy caller?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: A 19-year-old Michigan man has been arrested for making threats and repeated calls to CNN headquarter in Atlanta, calling the network fake news and saying, I am coming to kill you, your cast is about to get gunned down in a matter of hours. CNN said it takes any threat seriously and some of its anchors want to step further.

(START VIDEO CLIP)

DON LEMON, ANCHOR, CNN: This is what happens when the president of the United States, Donald Trump, repeatedly attacks members of the press. When you make that baseless and incendiary charge, be aware that people are listening to you. Some very dangerous people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: A Washington Post column by Kathleen Parker was headlined, "Is Trump Inciting Violence?"

Joining us now, Emily Jashinsky, commentary writer at The Washington Examiner. And in New York, Cathy Areu, publisher of Catalina Magazine and a former Washington Post magazine editor.

Emily, so a 19-year-old guy who's dad says he doesn't even own a gun, threatened to shoot up CNN, and that's scary. It's a scary stuff. But Don Lemon and others are blaming it on Donald Trump.

EMILY JASHINSKY, COMMENTARY WRITER, THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Right. Well, no, this is of course scary. Thank God nothing materialized, he was caught. But I don't think there is anything specific you can point to that Donald Trump himself has said or done that is directly inciting violence.

Now, I am happy to look at some things, you know, like Sheriff David Clarke saying he punched the lion with media in the face to make them taste their own blood. I think that's an example of rhetoric that does go too far. I don't love when Trump calls the press the enemy of the people.

But, you know, for the most part, I don't think you can point to anything specifically and say this (INAUDIBLE) violence is responsible for that. That's too far.

KURTZ: Cathy, how are these threats the president's fault somehow?

CATHY AREU, PUBLISHER, CATALINA MAGAZINE: Well, I mean, the president continually calls CNN fake news and he has put out a video showing that he is beating up fake news and wrestling with the fake news of CNN. So, he has called Jim Acosta a fool who is a reporter over at CNN.

He repeatedly mocked CNN and said these horrible things, and he doesn't understand the power of his words and the power of the presidency, and he has a tool unlike any other president to get his message out. He has Twitter and 47 million followers.

JASHINSKY: But how is mockery -- I'm not sure how mockery can be held responsible for violence.

AREU: Well, the president of the United States is saying these horrible things about this organization and some people are interpreting it as, let's take care of the situation.

KURTZ: Well, OK, some people are interpreting it as. Let me go to Emily and I'll come back to you, Cathy. You can say the president shouldn't call CNN fake news.

JASHINSKY: Right.

KURTZ: You can say that kind of thing preexists, but that's a perfectly normal debate to have.

JASHINSKY: Right.

KURTZ: But how is any politician responsible for nut jobs who threaten or commit violence?

JASHINSKY: Right. No, I almost think it takes away the responsibility of the person who is making these threats in the first place. I mean, especially when we look at the tragedy that unfolded on the baseball field this summer and, you know, that was obviously someone a progressive who went too far, took that rhetoric too far.

I think we all need to bring the rhetoric down, but I think unless you can say it's specifically violent, that's a different thing.

KURTZ: Cathy, I just hate the blood on your hands, sort of guilt by association arguments, and I didn't like it when during the Obama administration, a police officer will be shot and some would blame it on Barack Obama' rhetoric. So, it's scoring political points. Are you edging into that territory now?

AREU: Well, but this man did make these threats and he was quoting the president's words when he was making the threats. He was calling it fake news, which we all know came from the president himself --

JASHINSKY: That has nothing to do with violence.

AREU: Well, he is a violent person who is going to do violent things to CNN based on the words of the president of the United States.

JASHINSKY: Fake. The word "fake." The word "fake" doesn't the term that is used.

AREU: Fake news from Donald Trump.

JASHINSKY: But how does that incite violence? I failed to understand how you can connect that to inciting violence.

AREU: It did. It incites this person. He was motivated by the words that came out of the president of the United States.

JASHINSKY: So why is it Donald Trump's fault?

AREU: Donald Trump told this person that this is a fake news organization.

KURTZ: All right.

AREU: This person interpreted as --

KURTZ: We are going to agree to disagree with the two of you on that point. I want to get to Steve Wynn, the casino mogul. He has resigned as the RNC national finance chairman after Wall Street Journal reported numerous allegations and accusations of sexual misconduct which he denies accusations including that he forced employees to sex over the years.

Will the pundits, Emily, now demand that the RNC return Steve Wynn's donations the same way it was done with Harvey Weinstein and Democrats?

JASHINSKY: Yes, they are and they should. Listen, I am a conservative who put a lot of heat on the DNC after the Weinstein revelations in October. I think that was the appropriate step. I think it is the appropriate step now. This report is disgusting.

And unlike Harvey Weinstein, Steve Wynn had a formal position with the RNC, the finance chair. So, I mean, that makes it even more of a problem.

KURTZ: Right. There was one Washington Post story outlined today saying he is questioning whether he gave the money back. And Cathy, Fox News which had Wynn co-host a network's special recently, announced they will no longer use him as a guest. Will we see a media drumbeat as we did with Harvey Weinstein?

Will the Democrats give the money back? What's Hillary got to say about this now that Steve Wynn is at least accused of this kind of misconduct and has had to -- and actually had the formal of finance -- national finance chairman which he has given up for the RNC?

AREU: Right. We haven't seen it yet, so we don't know if it still unfolding, but I am sure --

KURTZ: Are you willing to say it right now?

AREU: Yes, I am willing to say that the media will do the same with Wynn as they did with Weinstein. We will see the media do it because the media is great at doing its job on covering these problems.

Yes, they have gone after everyone who has been found guilty, so I don't think there's going to be given any different treatment to Wynn that was given to Weinstein, especially it is all unfolding and --

KURTZ: Yes.

AREU: -- it sounds like it's a real story here.

KURTZ: There is one tiny difference from the press point of view which is that Harvey Weinstein's victims, many of them are famous actresses, and so I think that help fill the story. Great debate. Emily Jashinsky and Cathy Areu, thanks very much for joining us this Sunday.

Ahead, behind the scenes in the war between the White House and the press as we look at some of the disclosures in my new book. But up next, a "Media Buzz" exclusive, a major media blunder about Jared Kushner's company blew up but corrections were hard to come by.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: Sensational headlines because it involved Jared Kushner. Here is how the liberal magazine Mother Jones handled the story about the real estate company owned by the president's son-in-law.

Jared Kushner's firm tied to "suspicious transactions" at German bank and it ricochet around the world. New York's daily news, Deutsche Bank looking at "suspicious" Kushner transactions: report. Huffington Post, report: Deutsche Bank flags "suspicious" Kushner company transactions.

These stories and more based on the report by a German publication, Manager Magazin, charging that the giant Deutsche Bank, a major lender of the Kushner's firm as well as Donald Trump's company, had identified "suspicious transactions" related to Kushner family accounts.

And what's more, the company had turned over the information to German bank regulators and was reportedly willing to give it to Robert Mueller. But then, Deutsche Bank called the story wrong and said it is taking legal action.

The bank telling me yesterday, we have not submitted any report concerning suspicious transactions on a written or an oral basis to the regulators as suggested by Manager Magazin. We are confident that this false reporting will be corrected soon.

Mother Jones which had called Jared's personal lawyer for comment but not the Kushner company's including the bank statement as an update at the top of the piece along with the corporate statement that Kushner's company has done nothing wrong. There has been no contact by the special counsel. There is no money laundering and no Russian connection.

But strangely, Mother Jones kept the same headline about Kushner firm tied to suspicious transactions. Mother Jones didn't address the headline question but told me that since we accurately reported the contents of the Manager Magazin story, which it is standing by, and included prominenntly, and in full, the Deutsche Bank and Kushner company denials, we see no need for a correction.

Some other outlets didn't do stories on the bank's strong denial. By the way, Kushner tried to distribute its press release through PR Newswire and was turned down. PR Newswire telling me that's because the release threatened legal action which could move markets.

The Kushner firm told me the German report another totally incorrect stories are destruction, quote, this is just one example of some of the media's distortion of reality and lack of basic rules of professionalism, sometimes not even bothering to contact us before running with a story or waiting for our response. The media's obsession with attacking the company because Jared Kushner works for the president is outrageous.

And the German Magazin now in discussions with Deutsche Bank has abruptly deleted its piece.

Ahead on "Media Buzz," Jane Fonda keeps complaining about Megyn Kelly's plastic surgery questions. Now, Megyn is fighting back. But first, are both sides damaged by the relentless battles between the president and the media? Look at my book "Media Madness" in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOWARD KURTZ, FOX NEWS MEDIA BUZZ SHOW HOST: From the "Washington Post" to Axios to Politico, from the Hollywood Reporter to the Drudge Report, I have to modestly report that my new book out tomorrow, already they have started printing, is making some news. It's called "Media Madness: Donald Trump, the Press, and the War over the Truth." And Mollie Hemingway is back with us.

So, I tried to tell the inside story the Trump White House based on exclusive reporting without an agenda, examine why the coverage of the president is so overwhelmingly negative. One of the things I do is look at what reporters say privately or pals on twitter. So when the president pulled out of the Paris Climate Deal, "Wall Street Journal's" Eli Stokols tweeted, upending the global order and threatening the planet entirely to appease your own base after four months in office. He did delete the tweet after Sean Spicer complained.

MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, it's funny, he talks to a lot of people in the media who are upset that they are portrayed as hostile to the president as if they don't realize that we can read these tweets that they are putting out or see how they frame their stories and what not. But I just want to commend you. This was such a fun book to read and it has so much salacious detail. It has really good intrigue about what is happening at the White House.

And yet because you've played it down the middle and you don't take sides on who is right and who his wrong, who is good and who's bad, you just can really enjoy and trust this read. And whether you like Trump or whether you dislike Trump, there is plenty in there and it's just so rare that you can actually do that, that you can find a writer who does that so I just want to --

KURTZ: Thank you. That means a lot to me coming from you. One of the figures in the book is Ivanka Trump who always got good press until the campaign and she was sort of stunned to realize when she came here to Washington that her liberal friends wanted her to ease their pain and when she was supposed to contradict her father's public positions on issue after issue even though he was elected, she was not, and every time it was a decision on conservative social issue, somehow she got blamed.

So for example, columnist (INAUDIBLE) wrote, this is one of many, Ivanka's unwavering loyalty to a self-admitted sexual serial abuser and crude-mouth misogynist. So she is getting a lot of press for decisions that she either had a little input in or don't either have to do with it.

HEMINGWAY: Right. And also, you know, a common theme is how Donald Trump breaks norms, which is undoubtedly true, but people don't think about how the media have just thrown away so many norms that were important. We didn't ask Chelsea Clinton some of these things about her father. We don't talk about it to Ivanka Trump this way about her father or we shouldn't. But now that these norms have been thrown out, what happens in the future.

KURTZ: I think its fine to question her. She's a White House official, but the notion that she is going to turn her father around on issues that he ran on something else, she doesn't thinks that that's realistic and I don't think it's fair for the media interestingly, you know, I report about the leaks and the warfare between Ivanka and Jared and Steve Bannon.

And there is a scene where in the Oval Office in front of the president she accuses Steve Bannon of leaking against them and then he turns right around and accuses her of planting leaks.

HEMINGWAY: And it's what Donald Trump says after that that is most interesting in the book suggesting that she did leak, suggesting that he thinks that she did leak.

KURTZ: That's in dispute by the president --

HEMINGWAY: But, yes.

KURTZ: -- yes, this was of course before Steve Bannon left. You know, some of the stories as I write in this book are perfectly legitimate. Aggressive reporting on the president is good and sometimes the president creates his own distraction so for example, I didn't think he should have punched down and attacked Mika Brzezinski of MSNBC over her supposed facelift, but right after that he was talking to an adviser and he said, what do you think? I know what you are going to say, unpresidential. And then he said, is North Korea off the TV? Yes, the guy said. Is healthcare off the TV? Yes, you have to say that. Sounds good to me.

HEMINGWAY: Yes, well, a lot of people like to think that there is some grand strategy with the way Trump acts. Your book suggests that it's more just who he is that is behind this, but that did suggest some strategy in that. Also what's interesting is how much he talks about loyalty affecting some of his attacks on certain media people. He clearly thought Joe and Mika were friends who betrayed him.

KURTZ: They had a friendly relationship about one time.

HEMINGWAY: Clearly thought that also about some NBC affiliates, and that does come through and it does kind of help explain contextualize some of what we've seen in some these attacks on the media.

KURTZ: What people don't understand, I'd like your thoughts on this and I hit the steam on the book, is that negative coverage and there has been, you know, just tidal wave of negative coverage, helps Donald Trump. This was also true during the campaign. For one thing, he drives the media agenda because we love to talk and write about ourselves.

Secondly, his supporters think the media don't like him. They also think much of the media disdain them. So I think about people, you know, the 38 percent, the still 40 percent rock solid for Donald Trump. I took examples of "Huffington Post" had a headline, a vote for Trump was a hate crime. And there is long column wrote about this culturally backward voters who supported Donald Trump, let them lose their healthcare, maybe they will learn something this time around.

HEMINGWAY: Right. This is a common thing that you see among media, but also some people on the right, they don't understand that people identify with Trump so that when you attack Trump it feels like an attack on the voter or whatnot, and that is true for a lot of writers and of voters who have dealt with that for decades that attacks on Republicans feel as if the media are hostile to them and this is certainly an example.

KURTZ: Right. I have no doubt watching this day to day and then working on this book that this constant warfare and it gets so personal at times does hurt both sides, but certainly it has hurt the media's credibility which was already sinking before Donald Trump ever came on the political scene.

And one of my concerns and I know some of my friends in the press don't like this is that there is lasting damage. I fear that there will be lasting damage to the Trump presidency, to the media long after Donald Trump is no longer president.

HEMINGWAY: Yes, there is a line from someone in your book talking about how Donald Trump might not be crazy but he certainly makes people crazy.

KURTZ: It was actually I Jared Kushner who told people the way it was unhinged.

HEMINGWAY: Yes.

KURTZ: People say he's unhinged but he makes his critics unhinged.

HEMINGWAY: Donald Trump will only be president for another three to seven years. The media need credibility during that time but also long after that time. And so the decisions that we make and how we cover people is so important so people do feel they can trust media people to hold people accountable.

KURTZ: Yes, it was painful in some ways for me to write this book, but I do sort of feel like I would like many of our colleagues in the business, you know, some of who are very fair to this president but many of whom don't realize how negative this all is to sort of re-examine the question of whether Trump is held to a different standard.

HEMINGWAY: It's very important for everyone to think that through.

KURTZ: Yes, because the justification is well, he's a different kind of president therefore we can -- have to treat him so differently than any other else who has ever worked in the White House. Mollie, stick around for the panel coming up. And when we come back, even liberal commentators beating up on Chuck Schumer over the government shutdown, is that fair? And later, remember the breathless coverage over Oprah 2020? Well, it turned out to be so much hot air.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: When Senate Democrats voted to reopen the government after a three- day shutdown over a stalemate on immigration, Chuck Schumer and his party were hit by a wave of bad press.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

MICHELLE GOLDBERG, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK TIMES: It showed that Chuck Schumer could take a position and it showed that Chuck Schumer could hold it for two days. He couldn't hold the position GREG GUTFELD, CO-HOST, FOX NEWS THE FIVE: I think the Dems are in shock because they didn't get the assist from the media that they had expected. They were Abbott without their Costello and it was sad.

(END VIDEO CLIP)S

KURTZ: We're back with the panel, Capri Cafaro, liberals on your side not happy with the Senate Democratic leader. Michelle Goldberg's "New York Times" column, Schumer sells out the resistance. Talking points meddled (ph), called Schumer the face of retreat and a punching bag. It sounds like he has suddenly lost his media allies.

CAPRI CAFARO, CONTRIBUTOR, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Yes. I mean look, at least for once so to speak, the media really has been very fair on this. I mean the Democrats are upset, progressives are upset, and frankly, Chuck Schumer did not do a good job by tying DACA to the spending bill. So, I think that the coverage has been very accurate.

KURTZ: Mollie Hemingway, Schumer's overreach on the Dreamers I think resulted in a rare media win for President Trump after most pundits went in saying well, he's going to bear the blame for any shutdown because he is president and they control both houses.

HEMINGWAY: Right. It was an interesting to see. A lot of people going into this thought that no matter what happened Republicans would be blamed. They weren't. It's also true that initial losses aren't the same as ultimate losses and this is a long ballgame and there is a lot left to be seen. And also, I didn't see quite enough coverage of just how interesting the situation is on the left between the base and its leadership that is (INAUDIBLE) the problems and we could really explore that more.

KURTZ: Right. And you're right. This fight isn't over and what's been overshadowed Shelby is the latest negotiations on the very issue that led to the brief shutdown, which is that President Trump offered to double the number of Dreamers to 1.8 million who would have a pass to citizenship in exchange for $25 billion in funding the border wall and other immigration tightening measures. Whether that's a good deal or not, I haven't seen anybody in the media saying well, you know what, President Trump is very serious about helping out the Dreamers and at least he is serious about these negotiations.

SHELBY HOLLIDAY, COLUMNIST, WALL STREET JOURNAL: Right and it is a bit of a whirlwind when you want to keep track of this debate because the terms keep changing and we saw Schumer after the shutdown come back and say I'm taking the wall off the table. It is so confusing. It is a long game and we have no idea where it will end up. But I will tell you who is not winning. The American people because there is no resolution on DACA --

KURTZ: Right. And some conservatives very happy with --

HOLLIDAY: We could have another shutdown --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A shutdown is coming again.

KURTZ: Some conservatives very unhappy with the president's compromise move on the Dreamers Act. Let's get back to Mollie's favorite subject. So, the FBI texts by these two agents who are having an affair, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, they not only ripped Trump, but now that somehow the FBI found the other 50,000 text. We learned there are things as they said that can't go in loaded for bear in the investigation of Hillary Clinton because she is going to be our next president. But the wrap is that some conservatives in the media are making this one giant distraction, you thoughts.

HEMINGWAY: Well, I mean, this is a huge issue. The FBI and the Department of Justice have only turned over a small percentage of the overall text. Now only one is supposedly related to the Clinton probe. It's 15 percent of the text. But what we have seen already, there are a lot of things that just require more explanation, you know, and they were already -- the texts were so troubling that Strzok was removed from the Mueller probe. So we know that the agency itself --

KURTZ: Right, but in fairness to Bob Mueller, Strzok has been off this for months after it would came to Mueller's attention.

HEMINGWAY: Right. And so what is interesting though, we have that they call the Russia investigation an insurance policy that we can't afford to take the risk of the Trump presidency. We have that they didn't turn over some documents to Congress because they were so inflammatory related to the Clinton probe of some kind.

We have that Loretta Lynch only agreed to let Comey make the decision about Clinton because she knew that he was going to let her go. And we have some of this stuff that really contradicts what James Comey said in his sworn testimony under oath. So this is -- there is a lot here to probe and it's not just one or two texts.

KURTZ: I knew that Mollie would read every text and would give us the best one. Now, even if you think --

CAFARO: She missed the one about the Putin calendar thought.

KURTZ: Even if you think these texts are not as big a deal because these are not the final decision makers. The coverage does say that this does not look good for two senior members of the FBI.

CAFARO: Right. There is no question about that. I mean, I think that, you know, there are many people I would think in the United States, myself included, that these two individuals are bad apples, bad actors, no question about it. They were removed and the coverage really is focused on these two individuals.

So basically, you know, in my view it should not reflect on the entire operation of the FBI or the Department of Justice where you have a lot of people that are, you know, working hard every day to insure in an unbiased manner that law is actually occurring.

KURTZ: Right. It shouldn't tar everybody who works for the bureau, but Shelby Holliday, what got overheated for a couple of days was a reference to a secret society at the FBI and a couple of Republican lawmakers are pushing this as (INAUDIBLE) like a smoking gun when we actually saw that text. It turned out to be a sarcastic reference and there is no secret society.

HOLLIDAY: Well, we need to see the rest of the text because it's really hard to understand all of these comments without the full context of what they were saying and what they were referring to. I have heard former members of the FBI come out and say, yes, it's pretty typical that we have offsite meetings I mean, senior leaders need to make decisions about emotions and --

KURTZ: So in one sentence, is the story about the continuing disclosures of the texts are overplayed or not?

HOLLIDAY: I think the American people deserve to know if the FBI is tainted, but I don't -- I think it's overplayed, it's overhyped at this point because we really don't have all the information and we want it, I get it, but we don't have it yet.

CAFARO: More information.

KURTZ: All right. And we need to get some more. All right, Shelby Holliday, Capri Cafaro, Mollie Hemingway, thanks very much for a great couple of segments. After the break, Megyn Kelly escalates her feud with Jane Fonda ripping her for supporting the communist in North Vietnam, and some of her fellow pundits don't like it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: One of Megyn Kelly's first interviews when she joined the "Today Show" was with Jane Fonda, and while the actress had talked openly about her plastic surgery, she sounded offended when Megyn asked her about it and has continued to take pot shots. Now Megyn is pushing back hard.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MEGYN KELLY, HOST, MEGYN KELLY TODAY: I have no regrets about that question nor am I in the market for a lesson from Jane Fonda on what is and is not appropriate. After all, this is a woman whose name is synonymous with outrage. Look at her treatment of our military during the Vietnam War. Many of our veterans still call her Hanoi Jane.

Thanks to her radio broadcast which attempted to shame American troops. She posed on an anti-aircraft gun used to shoot down our American pilots. She called our POW's hypocrites and liars and referred to their torture as understandable.

JOY BEHAR, CO-HOST, THE VIEW: Who bragged the Vietnam War into a plastic surgery conversation is a real stretch, Megyn, OK, and should have just said to her and how much work have you had, bitch?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Whoa is right. Joining us from new York, Carley Shimkus, a reporter for Fox News 24/7 Headlines on SiriusXM. Jane Fonda deserves an Academy award for best performance for manufactured outrage. And after four months now, these pot shots, Megyn Kelly brought out the heavy artillery and went after her on Vietnam. Was that a good moment for her or not?

CARLEY SHIMKUS, REPORTER, FOX NEWS 24/7 HEADLINES: I think it was an understandable moment for Megyn Kelly. Usually I don't think it's a good idea to use your TV show as a platform to settle personal scores. You're not supposed to be the story. You're supposed to be above it all. But all of that changed when Jane Fonda went back on the "Today Show" and criticized Megyn Kelly's co-workers. At that point, she probably said, all right, enough is enough. I have a reputation to uphold and I am going to defend it.

KURTZ: Right. But it was a followup to a segment on her same show and Jane Fonda, look, you know, I like her movies but she's going to keep jabbing Megyn about this, perhaps to get attention at the age of 80. Isn't it fair game for the host to bring up really the most shameful episode of her career and one for which she had partially apologized posing with that anti-aircraft gun or in Hanoi?

SHIMKUS: Yes, you know, listen, nobody forced Jane Fonda to take that picture. I think that that moment is always going to be fair game when you're talking about her life and her career. But interestingly enough, the media coverage was really sort of anti-Megyn Kelly. You played that moment from the "View," Joy Behar not only called Megyn Kelly the "B" word, she also defended Jane Fonda's "Hanoi Jane" moment. So I think that a lot of the reasons the ladies on the "View" defended Jane Fonda were strictly political, but it has been a very, very rough year for Megyn Kelly in terms of media coverage.

KURTZ: Right. Well, I have noticed that when Megyn Kelly when she was here at Fox (INAUDIBLE) she goes after Dick Cheney then the liberal press loves her. If she goes after somebody who is more of a liberal icon like Jane Fonda, she gets a lot of bad press and also damaging leaks so, why do you think -- do you think this also maybe a jealousy factor because of the way she went to NBC that some of her fellow pundits are taking shots at her now for daring to ask a celebrity a real question?

SHIMKUS: Yes, possibly. I mean, some of the headlines surrounding Megyn Kelly I think have been fair, others I think sometimes the media is just trying to continue the narrative of drama surrounding her career at NBC. But I do have to say Megyn Kelly's show is supposed to be sort of a light- hearted daytime talk show. And so the moment where she did criticize Jane Fonda to that extent wasn't really what her show was suppose to be all about.

KURTZ: Well you know what I think that's too narrow. You can have a show and you can do serious stuff and you can have lighter moments, too. I sometimes try to do that here. Let me ask you about Oprah Winfrey because she has now told "In Style" magazine she is not running for president. It's not in her DNA she says. I shouldn't say this but I said all along this was just a lot of media speculation overheated to be sure, your thoughts. What does it say about the press?

SHIMKUS: What are we going to do? Oprah is not going to run for president. How are we going to survive this? I'm not surprised at all that Oprah isn't running for president. When you are that popular, why would you ever ruin it by running for office? Everybody already loves you and if you, you know, run for a political position, half the country is going to hate you. I think that she is doing just fine without having politics on her Wikipedia page if you --

KURTZ: Yes, and journalists all knew this but they couldn't resist. They love to fuel the speculation. They'd love to have Oprah versus the Donald, that's not happening. It was never happening and now we know for sure. Carley Shimkus, great to see you.

SHIMKUS: Good to see you too.

KURTZ: Thanks very much. Still to come, President Trump's harshest critic at ESPN is off the air, and why "Vanity Fair" booted James Franco from its cover.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: Jemele Hill who trashed President Trump on twitter has been demoted at ESPN. The network said it was, well, inappropriate when Hill called Trump a white supremacist and the most ignorant president of my lifetime, and later suspend her for urging a boycott of Dallas Cowboys advertisers over the anthem protest. Now Hill, who says this is voluntary, is losing her high-profile purchase co-host of ESPN SportsCenter. It was broken by Sports Illustrated and will be writing for one of the network's website out of the TV spotlight.

CNN has brought back Ryan Lizza as a contributor, this after he was fired by the "New Yorker" for what the magazine called improper sexual misconduct which Lizza called a terrible mistake involving a respectful relationship. After an extensive investigation, the network says CNN has found no reason to continue to keep Mr. Lizza off the air.

And James Franco is paying a price for the mounting sexual misconduct accusations against him. "Vanity Fair" has digitally erased the actor from the cover of its Hollywood issue. Boom, you're gone, you're airbrushed, you don't exist anymore. By the way, kind of a sloppy photoshop job by "Vanity Fair" because in another picture you can see that Reese Witherspoon somehow has three legs and Oprah Winfrey had three hands, but more important from the "Vanity Fair's" point of view, Franco is out.

That's it for this edition of "Media Buzz." I'm Howard Kurtz. Let's continue the conversation on Twitter @HoawardKurtz. We hope you will check out our Facebook page, give us a like. We post my daily columns and videos there and I like to comment on your comments as well. And if you want to write to us, mediabuzz@foxnews.com is the e-mail address. Don't forget to DVR the show if you happen to be doing something different on Sundays. We are back here next Sunday. See you then, 11:00 eastern, with the latest buzz.

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