President Trump seizes spotlight on guns

This is a rush transcript from "Media Buzz," February 25, 2018. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: On the Buzz Meter this Sunday, President Trump embraces the gun control debate, saying he'll consider a range of measures to stop mass shootings and gets a bit of credit from the media, some of it from his harshest critics.

(START VIDEO CLIPS)

JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC: I haven't said this very often since the president was sworn in, but thank you, Mr. President, for what you did yesterday. And letting these people speak.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC: I thought putting this together today was great. I thought letting all those people talk until he talked was absolutely first rate.

CHRIS STIREWALT, FOX NEWS: The big victory for the White House in this. They took a chance. This could have gone really poorly.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

KURTZ: But guns are a volatile issue and not all the pundits are on board.

(START VIDEO CLIPS)

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN: When you hear the president of the United States say the answer is to give every teacher in America a gun, that is insane. That is an insane idea.

LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC: The president honestly doesn't know what he's talking about. He didn't meet with some survivors and parents of victims of school shootings today to find a solution to America's mass murder epidemic. He went into that room in the White House with simplistic talking points written for him by White House staff.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is amazing to watch this president in 90-minute speech, took conservative audience in getting cheers when talking about changing gun control laws in this country.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

KURTZ: In the wake of the Florida school shooting, is the press too wedded to sweeping gun control to welcome the president's moves? Are journalists exploiting the protesting Florida students as some conservative commentators suggest? And what about the NRA accusing the mainstream media of encouraging -- yes, encouraging mass violence?

After the indictment of those Russians, the pundits pounced on the White House's insistence that Trump has done more to stand up to Moscow than Barack Obama.

(START VIDEO CLIPS)

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS: Here's the thing. Mr. Trump has said that Russia didn't meddle. He said it as a candidate, he said it as president-elect, and he said it as president.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN: He's been tweeting about everything but the actual threat of Russian meddling itself and what to do about it. He's also tweeted a whole lot of lies.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: The White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, schools the media today on how President Trump has been much tougher on Russia than Obama. Liberal media, I know you don't do any work. You may want to pay close attention, maybe learn something.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

KURTZ: And what about all the media speculation after new charges against Paul Manafort and a guilty plea by Rick Gates? Does it go too far? Plus, a Playboy playmate's mysterious handwritten note about Donald Trump, and how they were scribbled a decade after the fact.

I'm Howard Kurtz and this is "Media Buzz."

Whatever your view of President Trump, he has put the issue of gun control at the top of the national agenda. And he did it with the White House with many students, parents, teachers from Parkland and other mass shooting sites that turned into dramatic television bursting with raw emotion.

(START VIDEO CLIP)

SAMUEL ZEIF, PARKLAND SCHOOL SHOOTING SURVIVOR: I lost a best friend who is practically a brother. And I'm here to use my voice because I know he can't. And I know he's with me cheering me on to be strong but it's hard.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: At that meeting and a listening session the next day, the president made it clear he's considering some measures push by gun control commentators and advocates and another one backed by the NRA.

(START VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: It's called concealed carry where a teacher would have a concealed gun on them. They would go for a special training and they would be there and you would no longer have a gun-free zone.

We are going to do strong background checks. We're going to work on getting the age up to 21 instead of 18. We're getting rid of the bump stocks. And we're going to be focusing very strongly on mental health.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Joining us now to analyze the coverage: Jonathan Swan, national political reporter for Axios.com; Emily Jashinsky, contributing writer for The Washington Examiner; and Mo Elleithee, a Fox News contributor and former DNC staff who now runs Georgetown University's Institute of Politics.

Jonathan, President Trump has put himself at the white hot center of this emotional and divisive gun control debate with those meetings. He turned it into a riveting television show. Without him doing that, I think at least the gun control part of the debate would be getting much less coverage.

JONATHAN SWAN, AXIOS.COM: And you and I were talking earlier, he actually has a unique position. He was so strongly endorsed by the NRA. He was such a second amendment absolutist. And does have the capacity to be a Nixon to China figure on guns. He is also showing amazing capacity to change public opinion within that block of Republican voters who follow him. So, it will be interesting to see how he uses that power. I think we have seen --

KURTZ: Is he intentionally driving the coverage? This is guy who knows how to get the stories he wants at the top of every newscast.

SWAN: Of course. And that's how he uses his Twitter feed as well. That's how he orchestrates all of these events. We often say he is the producer, writer, show runner of his own reality TV show every day from the White House.

KURTZ: Emily, as Jonathan just alluded to, I mean, this is a guy who runs the champion of second amendment strongly supported by the NRA, and he is putting the media and political focus very strongly on gun control. Why with a few exceptions and just briefly are so few in the media giving him credit for that?

EMILY JASHINSKY, THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Yes, it is an interesting question. I think it was Chris Stirewalt in the clip you just played said that this was a risk. The forum that he had at the white house was a risk. But what we saw was him being very restrained, very, I think, sober, curious and compassionate towards people. And he gave them a real forum to air their emotion. I think that --

KURTZ: Those are not words that --

JASHINSKY: Right.

KURTZ: -- the media usually uses to describe this person.

JASHINSKY: Even when -- even when he does exhibit those traits, he doesn't get credit, though I do think there was, and we played it in the clip just now, I do think he got reception that was surprising to me, surprising appreciative of what he did in that forum.

KURTZ: Right. Now, the media consensus after Florida shooting, and I share it, was that there would be a lot of hand wringing and absolutely nothing would happen just like after so many mass shootings.

Now, you know, after eight years which Barack Obama couldn't even get a vote on gun control, President Trump is trying to get something through. I don't know if he will. Will commentators on your side give him credit for that effort?

MO ELLEITHEE, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Look, I think we are in a very unique moment. I got to give -- we haven't really mention them yet, the teens down at Parkland, a lot of credit for forcing this issue because you're right, this has happened time and time and time again.

We don't often see the victims and the survivors step forward. And I think they have been the catalyst. I think the president would have gotten a lot of guff from even more people had he not listened and at least understood that this is a conversation that needs to be had.

And so it is a very unique moment in our politics. The question is, what comes of it?

KURTZ: Right. Now, since you mentioned the students, there have been some criticism on the right that the media is somehow exploiting these students, that they are too emotional, they don't know anything about the issue, that we collectively are putting them on television because they support a position that is sort of the way the mainstream media already leans. But don't they have a right to be heard?

SWAN: I think absolutely they do. It would be inhuman not to allow them to speak and to give them a platform to talk. And it just seems that that is the overwhelming view, particularly among the kids, that this needs to be a gun discussion.

We saw on Chris Wallace's show this morning, you know, he said we had a father of one of the children who was killed and then one of the students at the school, and you could see the difference in opinion. He said this is not a gun issue, this is about school safety. So we are seeing both sides of that debate. But maybe not so much of the other --

KURTZ: It seems to me that the alternative would be to censor them or suppress their views and I don't see how a responsible news organization could do that. Emily, so we have the president about banning bump stocks, became an issue after Las Vegas, tightening background checks, raising the age to 21 for buying these assault-style weapons.

But the media especially liberal commentators seem to be focusing very heavily on his one controversial plan -- (INAUDIBLE) to the states, by the way, to arm trained teachers and others in schools.

JASHINSKY: Yes. And I think to a lot of people, it is always interesting, the gun issue is a great window I think into media bias in a lot of cases and a good way to understand media bias because this is coming from commentators largely concentrated in New York, in Washington D.C., in other urban (INAUDIBLE) where the gun control is very different than it is in the rest of the country.

So suggestions like that to a lot of people and the media, there is a certain amount of squeamishness and I think in other parts of the country, it resonates differently. So I do think this is an interesting window into media bias in general.

And so I think that is where a lot of this coverage comes from that, you know, gun control -- a lot of the coverage I see whether it is from Don Lemon or Chris Cuomo or Stephanie Ruhle is predicated on the idea that gun control is the solution. If you accept that premise, the coverage changes dramatically.

KURTZ: Right. But I am talking about if president is making a number of proposals, some backed by the pro-gun right and some backed by the pro-gun control left, and, you know, the (INAUDIBLE) majority on certain cable news shows is just about the one teacher proposal which is opposed by major teachers, so not by all teachers, it seems like perhaps there should be more balanced coverage because he's suggesting many things, many of which we thought we wouldn't hear from a Republican president.

ELLEITHEE: Sure. But I would argue that where we are seeing areas of agreement, potential agreement, things like strengthening background checks, what that means, that we still need to see, is it universal or potentially upping the age or -- that's getting attention. That's getting - - that is jump-starting a conversation.

The president did kind of, you know, throw a pretty big new idea out there with this that seemed almost -- the way he did it seemed almost as sort of a second-hand comment when he announced it. And I think that deserves a certain amount of scrutiny, and rightfully so.

I will say this though. I do want to say this though. Right, it is. I think one of the things that is the most encouraging to me about this moment in our conversation is for the first time, I feel like we actually are talking about the multipronged approach to dealing with this issue.

We are not just talking about guns, but we are talking about guns. We are talking about mental health. We are talking about the role of law enforcement and this really is one of those issues where we have to talk about all of those things.

KURTZ: And it seems like it is the first time in decades. Let me play a clip from the CNN town hall on guns this week. CNN's Jake Tappet got a lot of praise and criticism for this. I will ask you a question, Jonathan, on the other side.

(START VIDEO CLIP)

CAMERON KASKY, MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: In the name of 17 people, you cannot ask the NRA to keep their money out of your campaign?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO, R-FLA.: I think in the name of 17 people, I can pledge to you that I will support any law that will prevent a killer like this --

KASKY: No, but I am talking NRA money.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: What does it say about our television (INAUDIBLE) that a 17-year-old can go toe to toe with a United States senator, Marco Rubio?

SWAN: You know, Marco Rubio went in there. He must have known that it was not going to be a friendly audience. And, you know, that was democracy at work although it did have the feel of a political event.

KURTZ: Right.

JASHINSKY: No, I think that's (INAUDIBLE) as a whole literally in an arena with the crowd reacting in that way. Literally at one point booed and (INAUDIBLE) when she tried to talk about rape survivors. Diverse opinion on guns was really, really hard to watch. I agree with Jonathan, those kids deserve the platform if they want the platform, but it was kind of, you know, gut-wrenching.

KURTZ: Let me ask you, because I have been seeing this and for example, I have a couple of headlines from the New York Post. This is a conservative pro-Trump Rupert Murdoch newspaper. "Hope For Gun Control" with protesting students. "Help Us" the next day. And in addition to that, here is Pat Robertson, Christian Broadcasting Network on his 700 Club.

(START VIDEO CLIP)

PAT ROBERTSON, CBN FOUNDER: I have hunted. I have shot skeet. But for heaven's sake, I don't think that the general population needs to have automatic weapons.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Are we seeing a shift in some conservative media and some conservative commentators on this very sensitive issue of gun control?

JASHINSKY: I think it is hard to deny that that happened after this. I think you can also look at Joe Scarborough, that from Pat Robertson is striking.

And so I think small movement absolutely, but I will also add to what Mo was saying in that I do think this has been -- in the wake of this particular tragedy, there has been more nuance and we are having more conversations about innovative solutions to gun control.

So it's not necessarily the same solutions, but they are different in this case.

KURTZ: But is there any question, Mo, that by and large when we have seen this episode, after previous massacres that the tone of the mainstream media and some journalists in particular are in favor of sweeping gun control measures and it influences for example the way they interview Republicans?

ELLEITHEE: I don't know if I would say sweeping. How do you define sweeping? We are talking about --

KURTZ: More than modest.

ELLEITHEE: But restarting the conversation that we had at various points in our history over assault weapons, I don't think that is an unusual thing to have happened right now, background checks. We saw after Sandy Hook a bipartisan effort to try to strengthen background checks and that didn't -- that didn't make it through. So to restart that, I don't think -- but we are seeing -- what I'm not seeing are a lot of people out there saying, go cease all the guns.

SWAN: It does seem to me that this gun issue perhaps more than any other issue is the one in which media at large most agrees upon. It does seem particularly when you follow the television coverage, I don't think it quite comes through as much in print. It does seem that this is almost the consensus view that there needs to be stronger gun control. And it comes through in the questioning and it comes through in the presentation of the sentence. That's my instinct as a viewer watching all of the coverage.

KURTZ: All right. Let me get a break here. And of course, the coverage of President Trump, I think is changing the way we are talking about this. By the way, for our California viewers, I will be out at the Reagan Library, Monday, March 5th, to talk about my new book, it's "Media Madness: Donald Trump, the Press, and the War Over the Truth."

Still ahead on "Media Buzz," why conspiracy theories against some of those Florida students are going viral. When we come back, many in the press chastising the president for insisting he has done more to challenge Russia than Barack Obama. We will have a reality check.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: President drew plenty of media criticism after the indictment of those 13 Russians for election meddling when he slammed such targets as the media, the Democrats and the FBI, and insisted he had been tougher on Moscow than Barack Obama.

So, Jonathan Swan, Washington Post fact checkers gave that three Pinocchios but acknowledged that Obama didn't do much until after the invasion of Crimea and then after the 2016 election and post sanctions over hacking while Trump has closed diplomatic post for Russia and three cities and reluctantly signed that sanctions bill passed by Congress. So, not as much of a slam dunk as some commentators might suggest.

SWAN: So, slam dunk -- I mean, rhetorically, it's absurd to say Trump has been tough on Russia as you point out, but he has given the Ukrainians legal assistance. He (INAUDIBLE) on Syria which was obviously (INAUDIBLE) to Vladimir Putin. And the notion of recasting Barack Obama as some sort of a hawk on Russia is (INAUDIBLE).

I mean, most of -- certainly beyond his first term, they were actually -- the strategic focus was to try to warm relations with Moscow and do a reset. It wasn't until after Crimea that they started to say, oh wait, maybe this reset thing is not really working and, you know, and that -- some of the sanctions they put in was actually even after the election in 2016. so, it is like a wash. Trump hasn't been tough on Russia, but, you know, was Obama some sort of a hawk? No.

KURTZ: You set up my next question, which is, well, certainly a lot of people and journalists say the president should have come out and addressed the widespread choreographed Russian attempt as laid out in these indictments to hack elections as opposed to just interpreting it as well it shows there is no collusion by my campaign.

The (INAUDIBLE) mainly from the president's rhetoric against Russia, which is fairly friendly to Putin.

JASHINSKY: Right.

KURTZ: And that seems to generate a lot of outrage.

JASHINSKY: Right. Yes, there was a lot of coverage of the rhetoric as there should be, but that doesn't mean there can also be coverage of the actions. So I think two parts of this have been under-discussed. A, what Trump has done substantively and rhetoric of course is substance, but on top of that policy wise.

And then we have also not discussed enough of what the failures on the part of the Obama administration. So taken together, maybe we can do better going forward and use this movement to learn.

KURTZ: Right. There hasn't been much spotlight, Mo, on the Obama administration, I would say timidity during the campaign knowing about the cyber hacking and even some former Obama officials say they should have done more. I know they didn't want offset the election card (ph).

And the same time, you know, sure, you can argue that Trump hasn't done as much as Obama and certainly that hasn't been his rhetorical (INAUDIBLE).

ELLEITHEE: Yes, I think in the context of the election meddling, I think there are a lot of Democrats, I'm one of them, that wishes that the Obama administration had done more, had done it sooner. Having said that, it did take action at the end of the administration in a very real way in imposing sanctions and expelling Russian diplomats and seizing Russian compounds here in the United States.

Whereas President Trump as it pertains to this still won't acknowledge in a very real way or at least convincingly and has substantively not done the same -- has done very much. In fact, yes, he signed the near unanimously passed sanctions bill by Congress and then -- and then chose not to enforce it. And so, you know, substantively to say that he has done --

SWAN: (INAUDIBLE) enforcement.

JASHINSKY: It's not as though he's in office and doing everything that Vladimir Putin would want.

KURTZ: Right. I think we established that. Also it remains to be seen what he does from here. Great discussion this morning. Mo Elleithee, Emily Jashinsky, and Jonathan Swan, first time "Media Buzz" appearance.

Ahead, NRA officials say the mainstream media love mass shootings and feast on mass shootings. What explains this kind of rhetoric? Up next, a closer look at the New Yorker story and the president, the Playboy playmate and the mystery of her handwritten notes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: Ronan Farrow has done terrific work at the New Yorker on sexual misconduct, wrote a piece last week on Karen McDougal, who says she had an affair with Donald Trump back in 2006, which the White House has called fake news.

McDougal is a former Playboy playmate and the centerpiece of the story is eight pages of her handwritten notes about the alleged relation. I certainly got the impression and so of other journalists who covered it that McDougal's notes were written during the alleged affair, but I confirmed that she wrote them a decade later, even during the 2016 campaign or since then.

First, there was this tale-tell clue that it was written on a notebook created by designer Isaac (INAUDIBLE) that wasn't manufactured until 2016.

A New Yorker spokesperson told me the article does not present Karen McDougal's written account as being made simultaneously with the events themselves, rather the article makes clear that the idea to sell her story to American Media Inc, that's the National Enquirer's parent company, first occurred in 2016. furthermore, her written account is supported by the additional sourcing and documentation referenced in the article.

Well, it sure seemed like these were contemporaneous notes as The Washington Post columnist put it. In summer of 2016, The Enquirer agreed to pay McDougal $150,000 for among other things, the rights to her story about any affair with a married man. The tabloid never ran the story, saying she offered no corroboration for her account.

But there were suspicions because (INAUDIBLE) David Pecker owns American Media and The New Yorker quoted ex-staffer as saying he engages in practice called catch and kill, buying a story in order to bury it.

That deal included a nondisclosure agreement that McDougal uses, barring her from talking about Trump. So, her close friend, John Crawford, gave her scribbled notes to The New Yorker. She quoted in the piece but not about the alleged affair. Here is Ronan Farrow.

(START VIDEO CLIP)

RONAN FARROW, JOURNALIST: She fully admits that she voluntarily signed those agreements and the reason that this written testimony exists is because in the course of selling the story, a friend of hers who coaxed her into selling it said, sit down and write every detail, which she did.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Farrow explained later in the piece that that friend, John Crawford, was living with Karen McDougal in 2016, watching Trump on TV, when he said their alleged relationship could be worth something. McDougal by the way never gave those notes to Enquirer, and said she didn't want to be the next Monica Lewinsky.

American Media has asked The New Yorker for a correction on grounds that the omission involving the timing of the notes is deliberately misleading. New Yorker editor David Remnick stands by the story saying the magazine disclosed Crawford's role and the company's responses were included.

I want to be clear, none of this proves that Karen McDougal isn't telling the truth. But there is a difference between a real time diary and scribbling things down about a presidential candidate or a president a decade later.

Ahead on "Media Buzz," (INAUDIBLE) on the media uproar over the president suggesting his attorney general just might want to investigate the Obama administration. But first, NRA officials denouncing the mainstream media for savoring, even encouraging these mass shootings. Is that slander?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: As the media fills with increasingly loud calls for gun control, the NRA is really escalating its rhetoric, as we've seen with Spokeswoman Dana Loesch at the CPAC gathering. And an NRA TV video that makes incendiary charges against the news business.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANA LOESCH, NRA SPOKESWOMAN: Many in legacy media love mass shootings. You guys love it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mass shootings have become their "Game of Thrones," their "House of Cards," their "Seinfeld," and their "Friends" all wrapped into one. Whenever they get one, they ring out every last episode they can to juice their ratings and push their agenda.

And you, the mainstream media just put out the casting call for the next mass shooter.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Joining us now to analyze the coverage, Gayle Trotter, a Columnist for Town Hall on the Hill, and Richard Fowler, Radio Talk Show Host and Fox News Contributor. Gayle, I get that the NRA detests the media, but that charge, you guys just love it seems really inflammatory.

GAYLE TROTTER, TOWN HALL: Dana Loesch is a hero and she is very brave. But on that charge, the cynically -- why are they saying that? I think it's because they see such biased coverage in the mainstream media, which is based not on ratings, I would say, but because many members in the mainstream media passionately have opinions on this issue, and they are genuinely astonished each time a mass shooting occurs that they haven't been successful in advancing their political aim.

KURTZ: But isn't there a difference between saying biased coverage, unfair coverage and saying you want this. You love this.

TROTTER: Yes, there is definitely a difference on that, but why do they think that the mainstream media has that opinion if it's not when they don't see fair coverage of these types of events?

KURTZ: Richard, I don't use the shooter's names in these massacres because I don't want to encourage anything, but how is it not a massive story when 17 people are gunned down in a Florida high school.

RICHARD FOWLER, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I it's absolutely a massive story. And I think what you see the NRA trying to do here is trying to put two conflicting things that can't be conflated. Here is the truth, most gun owners are responsible sportsmen and they take good care of their weapons and they lock them up and have done everything right to get the right weapons.

But with that being said when these weapons get into the hands of the wrong people like we saw happen in Stoneman Douglas, 20 minutes from where I grew up. What you see is the media reporting the facts. And the facts are that 17 young people lost their lives because a weapon got into the hands of the wrong person.

KURTZ: Are they doing this gleefully? It's such a great story for us to cover.

FOWLER: No, I mean of course, if you look at all the journalists that have covered it, they are in tears when they're covering this -- it's a sad and disgusting story that somebody got their hands on a weapon that could kill 17 people in 3 minutes.

TROTTER: But here's the problem. When you see MSNBC talking to a supporter of the Second Amendment and saying kids or guns, which do you value more. When who people support the right to self-defense, Richard, you said sportsmen. We are not talking about hunting. We're not talking about men. We are talking about women who want to defend their families, so when you hear Katie Couric say, kids or guns, which do you, value more.

KURTZ: I understand. Look, journalists do rush to cover wars and plane crashes and terror attacks and hurricanes and mass shootings. It's part of our jobs. Ratings do sometimes go up, but sometimes they go down because people turn off the set. They can't take it. But to say we want these things to happen be understood fair.

CNN tweeted out the following. Here are 71 Florida lawmakers, all of them Republicans who refuse to vote for an assault weapons ban along with their NRA ratings. Does that sound like activism to you?

TROTTER: Yes. And that tweet is media coverage and microcosm. So CNN chose to focus on a single issue and talk about the voting records of Republicans, and yet in this situation, we have an appalling failure of local law enforcement, federal law enforcement, and yet CNN in that tweet shows the bias in the mainstream media.

KURTZ: Nothing wrong with pointing out NRA ratings and voting records. But something in the way that it was framed that said to me call your congressman now and demand they support gun control.

FOWLER: I agree with you there. I think there is a little bit of tilt in that particular tweet. But if you also look at CNN's coverage and other networks coverage, and even this network's coverage, they talked about the guns and the pieces that got to it. Yes, there were mental health failures. Yes, there were failures in the system, but that doesn't take away from the fact that this individual who shouldn't have access to an AR- 15 and he used it to kill 17 young people and teachers.

KURTZ: Let me get you both in on this question that we talked about, the charge that the media are exploiting the students, exploiting or covering them.

TROTTER: Americans want to hear the voices of the Parkland students. I think the criticism is you are only hearing from one side of the debate. You are not hearing from other survivors who might have a different view and they're focusing on one solution to the exclusion of other solutions.

FOWLER: I beg to differ. I think what you see from these students is you also see students all across Broward County and all across the state of Florida, even to Iowa. Students are walking out of their classrooms because this is not a question of the NRA versus the Democrats.

This is a question of young people saying we don't feel safe in school.

(CROSSTALK)

FOWLER: No, I think because the press is covering the story. Young people walk out of a school in an entire county, that's a national news story whether you like it or not.

KURTZ: All right. One last thing, CPAC conference this week President said this. I want to get your reaction.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We had a crooked election and a crooked candidate. We have a very, very crooked media.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Lock her up again?

TROTTER: Right. Is the law only for the little people? That's why CPAC cheered him about that, not just for the indictment of Hillary Clinton, but the fact that we see all this coverage of her and there is no accountability.

FOWLER: I think Hillary Clinton lost the election, and the fact that President Trump keeps bringing her up is stymieing his ability to get his agenda done. He beat Hillary Clinton very soundly in the Electoral College. Stop talking about Hillary and fix the problems you were going to fix.

KURTZ: Well, the crowd certainly loved it. Richard Fowler, Gayle Trotter, great debate. Thanks for stopping by. Coming up, Trump Campaigner Rick Gates pleads guilty following new charges against him and Paul Manafort. Is there too much media speculation about the impact?

And later, CNN fights back against a charge that it scripted a town hall question.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: Soon after the news week, the several news outlets on Friday -- Donald Trump's deputy campaign, Chairman Rick Gates pleaded guilty to fraud and lying, this after Bob Mueller filed a new pair of charges against Gates and his former business manager, Paul Manafort. That sent out a wave of media speculation about what this might mean for the President.

Joining United States now, Steve Hayes, Editor In Chief of the Weekly Standard and a Fox News Contributor, Steve, all the pundits are saying this Rick Gates plea puts pressure on Manafort, to incriminate Trump, and maybe it does. But how would any journalist know whether Gates or Manafort have any evidence about Donald Trump and Russia?

STEVE HAYES, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: They don't. Nobody knows. That's what's so interesting about this. Bob Mueller has surprised us again and again and again. None of us saw the George Papadopoulos indictment coming. But you see journalists going on the cable networks and writing opinion networks purporting to tell people exactly what's going too come next.

We don't know what's going to come next. It's much better to wait and see what Bob Mueller is doing and then evaluate what he's presenting.

KURTZ: They have air time to fill.

HAYES: That's part of it, right? I think people -- the indictment itself is news, but then there is not much to say about the fact of the indictment.

KURTZ: I mean the day before the Gates plea, Axio said the latest charges against him could kill any potential deal, then the next say he pleads. So let me put up this tweet from the President on the subject of Russia, question it says, if all the Russian meddling took place during the Obama administration right up to January 20th, why didn't Obama do something about the meddling?

Why aren't Democratic crimes under investigation? Ask Jeff Sessions. Trump asks his Attorney General to investigate Obama. Well, he certainly floated the idea.

HAYES: Yeah. The President does this all the time. This is not the first time the President.

(CROSSTALK)

HAYES: One of the reasons this is news worthy is because it appears when the President makes these kinds of arguments that they are coming from a political place rather than a deep concern for law enforcement. That's a problem. If you think that law enforcement was biased or selective or political under Democrats, as a conservative you don't want the answer to that to be we should have our people go after their people. That's not the way it works in the United States.

When the President makes a suggestion publicly to the Attorney General that he ought to investigate, that's what it looks like. If the evidence is there, it should come from career folks at the FBI and the Justice Department to investigate.

KURTZ: Right. And of course, if the President could -- but he could -- ask Jeff Sessions about this. Here is CNN Reporter, Jim Sciutto responding about this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN: When you compare the Trump administration's response to the President's response and the Obama administration's response, Sarah Sanders is entering delusional territory there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Using the Press Secretary of entering delusional territory by defending the President's record on Russia and the question of this investigation. This is a guy who used to work for the Obama administration, by the way.

HAYES: Right, right. Look, I don't think as a general right's not helpful to make those kinds of claims. One of the things the President did with one of his tweets. He said he had been tougher on Russia than President Obama had. He changed the debate. The public debate here in Washington became a contest. Who was tougher on Russia?

(CROSSTALK)

KURTZ: We had the Republican house Intel memo on Carter Page and the FISA warrant. The Democratic memo released with redactions. The bureau interviewed him months before on this request to the FISA court. Are most of people following the details?

HAYES: It's hard. I am following the details and I have to read these things four or five times to understand what's happening here. I think what you are seeing politicians on both sides of this issue use classifications and redactions to make political points. Then you see politicians on the other side using classification and redactions to either undo those political points or make additional political points.

I don't think there is any way to handle this debate but to have the FISA applications totally released. If you need to have them redacted, you have to have them redacted. But you should see what's in them.

KURTZ: By delaying it in this battle over what to be released, I think he delayed it to the point where the news cycle moved on and there just wasn't public interest in it the way there was the huge bill around the Republican memo.

HAYES: Yeah, I think that's right. Although, I don't think it looked like the President and the Republicans were playing fair on this because we did see their memo. I think we ought to have seen the Democratic memo earlier. Even if you believe the Republican charges and I do, that the Democrats deliberately loaded their memo with information that they knew would need to be redacted.

KURTZ: They could charge the President with.

(CROSSTALK)

KURTZ: All right. A lot more to talk about but we're done here. Steve Hayes thanks very much for joining us this Sunday. After the break, a bogus conspiracy video about one student who survived the Parkland massacre, it's number one on YouTube. What is going on?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: Some of the Florida students who survived the Parkland shooting are being slammed by conspiracy theorists and some cases, these attacks are going viral. One person said we posted a video of one of the students last year on local TV for having witnessed a dispute at a California beach, with the caption, David Hogg, the Actor.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is absolutely disturbing. I am not an actor in any sense, way, shape, or form. I was a witness to this. I am not a crisis actor. I am somebody who had to witness this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Joining us now from New York is Shana Glenzer, Technology Analyst and Commentator. So how does a completely bogus video like this, falsely accusing David Hogg of being an actor wind up of having 200,000 views on YouTube before the Google-owned company apologized, took it down on grounds of bullying and harassment.

SHANA GLENZER, TECHNOLOGY ANALYST: It's astonishing. And YouTube isn't completely innocent here. They inadvertently recommended it to users. But still, you got 200,000 people willing to watch something blatantly false and conspiratory. And that's just really sad and cruel, given what these students have been through.

KURTZ: Right. It was posted by a 51-year-old guy in Idaho, named Mike M, who has fewer than 1,000 followers. He said he'll continue to do it despite being be penalized. It was kind of promoted on Twitter and Facebook and Reddit. But I have to come back to the central question. Why do so many people watch something like that?

GLENZER: He really struck a chord with folks. I think some people feel so strongly about gun control that they are willing to believe something that's false and conspiratorial. People are just hungry for someone to validate their views and I think it really resonated with them.

KURTZ: Now another cycle, Gateway Pundit floated a theory without any evidence that Florida students from that high school were coached to criticize the President's response to the shooting. Another example of something being put out there and then of course, a lot of people pick it up, re-tweet it and so on.

GLENZER: It's amazing. Anyone can create a narrative, and within 20 minutes a video that supports that narrative. I think from the left and the right, some people have a hunger for information, propaganda that validates their views rather than considering another side. And you know the factual backing of that doesn't seem to matter things going viral in an hour? That is really dangerous. These people have been through hell with these tragedies and it's so sad.

KURTZ: Yeah, and that's the point. Public figures and politicians are used to this back and forth and sometimes false charges being hurled. These high school students who have shown up on a typical day, they didn't ask to go through this and be public figures. So why can't these tech giants stop the bullying, stop harassment and the fraudulent video. What would it take?

GLENZER: I think the first thing it would take is a lot of money. I'm not sure that they're willing to spend it, but there are people worried about stomping on free speech. These tech giants, they don't want people fleeing their network because they are policing content. But there will be a tipping point coming up where people are coming to sites because they are disgusted by the content that's there, and that will insight more change more quickly.

KURTZ: Right. It will ultimately hurt their business. Shana Glenzer thanks very much. Good to see you. Still to come, CNN pushing back against an apparently doctored email, and Kiley Jenner, does she really have the power to sink a major stock?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: CNN is pushing back against a claim by a Florida student, Colton Hobb, in which he repeated on Tucker Carlson's show that the network tried to script his question at this weeks Town Hall on mass shootings. The network says Hobb wanted to give a three page speech, and a producer insisted he shorten his questions about the benefit of arming some teachers in schools.

CNN provided emails to me and other journalists, showing a producer told Hobbs' father, this is what Colton and I discussed on the phone that he submit it. He needs to stick to this. But the family gave a version of the email to Fox News and the Huffington Post, which CNN says it is doctored.

And that's said, this is what Colton and I discussed on the phone. He needs to stick to phase. The phrase that he submitted was deleted. Hobbs' dad pulled him from the CNN event that day. CBS's Margaret Brennan has been named host of Face the Nation. She'll remain the network's top foreign affairs correspondent and she hopes to use that expertise on the show.

The Huffington Post ran this headline about SnapChat the other day. In one tweet, Kiley Jenner wiped out $1.3 million of SnapChat's market value. And the devastating tweet from this famous for being famous family member, so does anyone else not open SnapChat anymore or is it just me. Oh, this is so sad.

Well, here is what's sad, when you read into the story on the six percent stock decline, it says, to be fair, the timing of Jenner's tweet and SnapChat's decline in value may just be a coincidence. That's how it's done, that's how you get the clicks. It turns out to be a disappointment.

That's it for this edition of "MediaBuzz." I'm Howard Kurtz. Thanks for watching. I think we have important debates today about the gun control issue and the shooting. It's been the dominant story this week. We hope you continue the conversation on Twitter, @HowardKurtz. Check out our Facebook page. We put everything up from the show there. You can let us know what you think at MediaBuzz@foxnews.com if you got the email.

We're back here next Sunday. We'll see you then with the latest Buzz.

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