This is a rush transcript from "Media Buzz," March 11, 2018. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: On the Buzz Meter this Sunday, after a year of media scolding and media mockery about his taunting of North Korea, President Trump stuns the world by saying he'll meet with Kim Jong-un, and the press is deeply divided.
(START VIDEO CLIPS)
ERIN BURNETT, CNN: If President Trump can truly solve this problem, that would be going down as a great president, and there's no way around that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just getting Trump and Kim Jong-un in the same room frankly is a big win for North Korea.
LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS: President Trump prove the experts wrong again and scores a stunning diplomatic triumph.
JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC: He's horrible at making deals. That's why the man ended up $9 billion in debt. And so now a deal with North Korea? No, this is again --
MIKA BRZEZINSKI, MSNBC: He can't even make a deal with a porn star.
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: This is what we call peace through strength in action. The president is causing little rocket man to back down.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
KURTZ: The media are split over the planned session with little rocket man. Bold diplomacy or reckless gamble? The press doubling down on the White House in chaos line as the president bucks his party by imposing tariffs. And Gary Cohn becomes the latest adviser to bail while being treated like a hero.
(START VIDEO CLIPS)
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC: Trump is running the place and I don't get it. I mean, this looks like a ship that's sinking and people are jumping.
DANIEL PFEIFFER, CNN: Gary Cohn has had one foot out the door for a long time. He spends most of his time, as far as I can tell, talking to Washington reporters, telling people about how sad he is about working in the White House. TIM O'BRIEN, MSNBC: He really can't afford to have people like Gary Cohn head for the exits because we now have a long list that includes people like Carter Page and Anthony Scaramucci and Sebastian Gorka, and a whole series of other rodeo clowns.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
KURTZ: Are the media choosing sides between the president and the former Goldman Sachs president?
The Stormy Daniels story from a decade ago turns into an alleged hush money story now. The former porn star suing the president and the revelation that Trump's lawyer, Michael Cohen, recently obtained the restraining order to stop her from speaking about the relationship.
(START VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why did she tell you she was paid $130,000? MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY: That could be the end to the details about communications that I've had with my client because that's pretty much of course, but what I will tell you is, that there was obviously a reason for the payment of $130,000, and we assert it was in an effort to silence her.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Michael Cohen pushes back hard in the conversation with me. And are the media pushing aside on most Americans simply don't care about?
Plus, a sit-down with Jennie Willoughby, one of Rob Porter's ex-wives, about how the press covered her ordeal and the importance of separating politics from the scar(ph) of domestic abuse.
I'm Howard Kurtz and this is "Media Buzz."
The State Department told reporters on Thursday the U.S. was not going to talk to the North Korean regime, period, end of story, but then came a shocking announcement that President Trump would accept Kim Jong-un's invitation to talk about Pyongyang's nuclear program. And at Pennsylvania rally last night, the president scoffed at the media reaction.
(START VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: But the press for two hours is going, this is fantastic. This is amazing. A certain anchor on CNN, fake as hell CNN --
TRUMP: -- said, this is really something. He would go down as a truly great president if this happened.
NBC is perhaps worse than CNN, I have to tell you.
Then I get up in the morning, some time goes -- right.
Same people, they are saying, not that big a deal. Anybody could have done it. Obama could have done it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Joining us now to analyze the coverage: Gillian Turner, Fox News correspondent and former national security official in the Bush and Obama administrations; Mollie Hemingway, senior editor at The Federalist and a Fox News contributor; and Adrienne Elrod, a Democratic strategist and former Hillary Clinton campaign official.
Gillian, I've heard lots of criticism from journalists and commentators, the meeting shouldn't take place, it is a bad idea. I haven't heard anybody saying the president said that really is not a big deal.
GILLIAN TURNER, FOX NEWS: I haven't either. I'm very surprised to hear that. And the reason that the media is all over this is because there -- nothing makes for a better story than a good historic nuclear summit, especially when -- it's one between two world or one world leader and one other rogue dictator who are essentially arch nemesis.
TURNER: Nemesis of one another. I mean, they have been treating jabs for the first year. And as you mentioned in your opening, Howie, the administration's tone has changed on North Korea over the last couple of weeks. And the media reaction we are seeing is a reflection of that.
KURTZ: But after so much media disparagement of the president calling him little rocket man, saying I have a bigger nuclear button and all of that, plus the sanctions, does this planned meeting with Kim Jong-un kind of cast it in a different light?
TURNER: It does because the administration has gone from at every available opportunity reminding the north that they have got bigger nuclear -- bigger nuclear button, more military capabilities, and now President Trump is sort of acting as a triangulator-in-chief.
You know, going back and forth between China and the South Koreans. And the media -- the media's response to that has been fairly dramatic and that's because there is a dramatic change in tone.
TURNER: I think it's realistic.
TURNER: It's a reflection of reality in a sense --
KURTZ: Well, the press was actually stunned by this, but then pretty quick to say, well, there is a reason that no American president has pretty recently met with a North Korean dictator.
MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, THE FEDERALIST: Yes. I think Donald Trump was being hyperbolic when he said that they had ignored the story after a few hours but it is absolutely true that they are downplaying it to some extent.
And also I think they are not really understanding a lot of the context of this where they are saying you can't legitimize someone like Kim and previous presidents would have never done this. Well, yes, previous presidents did things pretty uniformly going back to Clinton, even, and they did not achieve success from that.
Donald Trump is doing something dramatically different, and I think it would be good to have some hopeful context there and also some fresh foreign policy voices. I think a lot of people on the right who oppose Trump in the never Trump faction are much more interventionist and much more bellicose than the average Republican.
A lot of people on the left are frustrated with failures of the Obama administration, and I think you are hearing those voices, and not a lot of the new principled realism that is dominating current foreign policy.
KURTZ: Adrienne, it is true, Clinton, Bush, Obama, none of them were able to stop North Korea's nuclear program. Some tried negotiations. But few in the press seemed to believe that Donald Trump can do it either and there is this why you are rewarding him without getting anything in return, just by giving him a high-profile meeting. Some even saying well, will this meeting really end up taking place? Is the media's scepticism justified in your view?
ADRIENNE ELROD, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I think it's a little justified, but, you know, you are starting to see people like Erin Burnett, who showed in the opening, who are saying, you know what, if you can actually make this great, then great. That's incredible.
So I think people try to see especially if there is progress on this, the media come around a little bit more to you being more open minded to different tactics and different approaches that he is taking perhaps with North Korea.
KURTZ: Gillian, having worked in two administrations on national security issues, we are already media warnings that North Koreans are very good at long drawn out negotiations with a lot of promises that don't get fulfilled. So, is it the role of the press to point out that history which has not been favorable to the U.S.?
TURNER: Yes. It's interesting you bring up the concept of the media's role to point out history because one thing I don't see the media commenting on, and this is the thing that I thought everybody would jump on at once, is that President Trump ran on a foreign policy platform that was build around opposition to President Obama's around nuclear deal.
I thought the first thing that the critical media would do would be to jump all over him for agreeing to essentially not replicate that scenario but in a way he is. He is agreeing to sit down with a U.S. adversary to negotiate a nuclear deal.
HEMINGWAY: No. The agreement is -- the thing that is on the table is denuclearization. That's what North Korea talked to with South Korea about. The Iran deal is not denuclearization so much as delaying nuclearization, and a lot of people just thought it was a bad deal.
TURNER: But the point is that they are agreeing to sit down to discuss the nuclear issue. Broadly speaking, it is similar parameters and I think that the media has not been pointing that out and it's a contradiction.
KURTZ: It's hard to compare in some ways because North Korea even so much more of a rogue regime than is Iran which is a bad regime. But, Mollie, have we sort of gone to a pendulum swing? Trump is a madman. Trump is crazy. He is taking us to nuclear war with North Korea. We should really try diplomacy to, oh, my God, he is going to have a diplomatic effort and sit down with Kim Jong-un.
HEMINGWAY: Right. And I agree with Gillian like this really is a big switch in what has been happening. Some of that extreme departure is understandable from the media. But they went from being so upset at this bellicosity. So upset at this rhetoric.
And then finally we have peace talks on the table, denuclearization on the table. And they seem to be upset with that as well, like nothing will make them happy no matter what he does.
If North Korea had said that they were willing to talk denuclearization and Trump said forget it or said we're just going to have to keep up the pressure and march to war until they denuclearize, I think he would have received a lot of criticism and rightly so.
HEMINGWAY: It seems like literally no matter what he does, he'll be criticized for it.
KURTZ: The sanctions against North Korea may have helped. But, Adrienne, the press is already convinced that Donald Trump has a lone ranger style. We see this on the tariffs that we will talk about next segment. So is this being framed as president of the United States disregarding the experts and just kind of winging it because he thinks he's such a great deal maker?
ELROD: Well, look, I -- you know, I don't know necessarily about that, but I will say this to your point earlier, I do think that the media is rightfully critical of his tweets in terms of trying to tweet by diplomacy. I mean, that is a legitimate concern because that is something that former presidents have never done.
KURTZ: Well, most presidents didn't have Twitter.
ELROD: And most presidents didn't have Twitter but Obama did that.
KURTZ: I agree with you but maybe it worked. Maybe all the fire and fury convinced Kim that he needed to come to the table.
ELROD: Well, perhaps. Again, I think he knows from a tactical standpoint it's hard to really, you know, decide what makes the most sense because former presidents did not have success.
KURTZ: Well, that's true. We are in a different technology. President had plenty to say about the media and individual journalists at last night's Pennsylvania rally. Take a look.
(START VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: It's 1999. I'm on "Meet the Press," a show now headed by sleepy eyes Chuck Todd.
TRUMP: He's sleeping son of a bitch, I'll tell you.
TRUMP: So I'm reading Peggy Noonan. And she is a nice woman. I like her. She doesn't like me much, but she is writing like I'm some kind of a Neanderthal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Gillian, what does it get the president to be attacking journalists by name other than red meat for the crowd and also red meat for Trump supporters and the television audience?
TURNER: Aside from that, I don't know what it gets him, but it's incredibly effective with the folks who are supportive of him. And I think that --
KURTZ: Who were convinced the mainstream media are consistently unfair to this president.
TURNER: Right. And you have to keep in mind that I think it works for a lot of -- his criticism of the mainstream media as it is works for a lot of Republicans, too, though you don't see them coming forth and sort of touting that.
This is a president who I think for the Republican Party is representing a sentiment and a feeling about the media that has been bubbling forth for many decades now. And so this is why we also don't see folks like Speaker Paul Ryan and Senator John McCain and others come down on him very hard for that.
KURTZ: So Chuck Todd kind of deflected it on Twitter. He is the moderator of course of "Meet the Press." But Tom Brokaw tweeted, really classy, explain that to your children, at the president. Hugh Hewitt, conservative radio host who also is on MSNBC, said, Donald Trump only slams those he's afraid of. He should sit down with Chuck Todd on camera, not sling insults. Your thoughts.
HEMINGWAY: That's exactly what people have been saying for years. That Donald Trump has insulted people for decades. That there is something really revolutionary about him doing it here.
One of the things it does in addition to making the base feel like he is aligned with them is it makes a lot of people in the media get more and more extreme and show to a wide audience that they still don't understand how Donald Trump speaks.
They don't get his humor. I mean, he is like a stand-up routine out there. And of course people are enjoying it. And the media acts so, you know, prim and proper about it in response.
There is also the issue that's Chuck Todd had this week been very condescending and hostile to Leo Gerard, the president of the Steelworkers Union. And so when Donald Trump attacks Chuck Todd who has just attacked steelworkers, I think a lot of people think that guy is going to bat for me.
KURTZ: Well, I report in my book, "Media Madness," that actually Donald Trump has had a number of off the record meetings with Chuck Todd where they started yelling at each other and then had civil conversations. So that was a little surprising.
Adrienne, let me point to this morning, president tweeting about a "New York Times" story saying he may bring a new lawyer on to his legal team in the Russia investigation. And he called that a fake story and accused the "Times" of saying that he was unhappy with his current lawyer. The story doesn't actually say that.
And he goes after Maggie Haberman, the "New York Times" reporter, who probably knows him better than other journalists having covered him for years, and so she is a Hillary flunky and that she has no access. Your thoughts on that attack.
ELROD: Look, Maggie Haberman is one of the best journalists in the business. That we all know. That is an established fact. This is what Donald Trump does. If he is seeking the approval of a journalist, we feel like he is not quite in their favor, this is what he does. He attacked Chuck. He attacked Maggie. You know, he attacked Katy Tur during the campaign trail. This is what he does.
KURTZ: Right. You know, Maggie Haberman tweeted that people close to Trump had confirmed the story. By the way, the idea she has no access, she has interviewed the vice president a number of times. Let me get a break here.
Let me also say I had a terrific time this week. The Reagan Library talking about my new book, so thanks to the folks there. If you like, check it out. It is "Media Madness: Donald Trump, the Press, and the War over the Truth."
When we come back, press gives Gary Cohn a hero sendoff. Why is the coverage of president's moves on tariffs so heavily negative? And later, Jennie Willoughby on her media ordeal as Rob Porter's ex-wife and whether the issue of domestic abuse is being reduced to political (INAUDIBLE).
KURTZ: Gary Cohn's resignation touch off waves of reporting and commentary on top of officials leaving the White House and how this is chaos, a brain drain, a hemorrhaging of talent. President told reporters, hey, I like conflict. The chaos thing is way overstated.
Mollie, is there a scintilla of doubt that most of members of the mainstream media side with Gary Cohn on not imposing tariffs on aluminum and steel, and think that president will be floundering without him?
HEMINGWAY: Well, it is not just that. I mean, there are actually -- there are no good economic arguments for doing tariffs if you just view it economically. And I think the problem is that narrow prism is the only way that a lot of people in the media are looking at it. That is a well established fact, that tariffs strike the economy. There are taxes on people.
The Trump administration says it's also a national security issue. They think the fundamental issue is whether a country should have steel and aluminum capabilities or not. And they say we should and this is how we make sure that we have a strong national security. So broadening out that discussion would help them not be so biased.
KURTZ: Right. There has been a lot of turnover in this White House. I can go through the list of names. But, you know, if Gary Cohn left because of a policy disagreement or this was a final straw, well, he wasn't elected. But, man, the press seems to love Gary Cohn suddenly.
ELROD: Well, I think the press have actually liked Gary Cohn for a long time because he is one of the most stable figures, if you will, in the west wing. He has been with Trump for a long time. They have deep ties going back to New York. And I think also a lot of journalists have relationships with Gary as well.
KURTZ: So if you talk to reporters and you feed the beast, then that helps with your public image?
ELROD: Well, I don't know about that. But, again, he is one of the more stable figures who have been in the administration. He is somebody who has lot of credibility on economic issues. And I think that they are coming from the standpoint that perhaps he is actually leaving because they truly did have this fundamental disagreement.
KURTZ: Yes, well, which, you know, that's how politics works. But, you know, the political headline, Gillian, was -- had the word "disaster" in it. And that was a blind quoted -- unnamed White House official quoted in the piece as saying with Gary gone, I just think from a policy perspective, it means disaster.
That is unnamed White House official. So leaks from within the White House, people who favor Gary Cohn, also fueling this narrative.
TURNER: Yes. I think that part of the reason -- I don't know that I agree with you guys so much though that he has been a beloved figure in the media up until now. I see this turn as more of a departure for the media.
And I think the reason that they are sort of showering him with this love is because this is really the first time we have seen someone leaves the administration because they have an actual policy difference. Disagreement with the president. And that's the best kind of red meat that the press can hope for.
I think it's better to chew over than when somebody leaves after a scandal even, like Scaramucci or Tom Price. This is the first time --
TURNER: -- that somebody is really saying, I don't think the president is moving in a direction that is good for the country, that I agree we throw him out.
TURNER: That's what the media --
KURTZ: It may also be personal. Gary Cohn wanted a bigger job, apparently didn't get it. Cohn did take some heat from the press for -- he criticized the president's remarks after Charlottesville but didn't leave them. But right now, I think if it's Trump versus Cohn, it seems like which way.
And just briefly, Mollie, tariffs may be a good or bad idea. You said probably a bad idea, but the media often forgets, this is what he promised during the campaign.
HEMINGWAY: What I'm saying is economically speaking.
HEMINGWAY: That issue is settled. But you have to look at it a little bit bigger than that as well. And I think that the Trump administration is viewing this as a bargaining chip. It is way of re-positioning ourselves with China.
And China is able to get steel into the U.S. even in a way that is hurting -- that is helping them and hurting us. So these are bigger issues and we need to have that bigger picture and discussion as well.
KURTZ: And politically it appeals to folks in the Rust Belt states. Great to see you all. Adrienne Elrod, Mollie Hemingway, Gillian Turner, thanks very much.
Ahead, the Stormy Daniels saga is back on the front pages. Is the porn star getting traction now that lawsuits are being filed? But, up next, the on- air humiliation of former Trump aide Sam Nunberg. Was he exploited by the cable news anchors?
KURTZ: If you took a very long nap on Monday, you missed the Sam Nunberg show which went and on and on. It prompted some sharp criticism of cable news. Nunberg is a former Trump campaign aide who was fired, got him with a subpoena in the Bob Mueller investigation, and promptly decided to tell the world again and again on CNN, MSNBC and elsewhere that he had no intention of cooperating.
(START VIDEO CLIPS)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice over): If you are going to defy a grand jury, are you worried about being held in contempt of court? SAM NUNBERG, FORMER TRUMP ADVISER: Let's see what Mr. Mueller does. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice over): Are you worried about getting arrested?
NUNBERG (voice over): I think it would be funny if they arrested me. Do you think should I cooperate with -- should I spend 80 hours going over my e- mails, Jake?
JAKE TAPPER, CNN: If it were me, I would. I mean, if you're just asking my opinion, just because, it sounds like a pain, but he is the special counsel and he does have the long arm of the law.
NUNMBEG (voice over): But why do I have to --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: And why is Nunberg saying this? He didn't even attempt to hide his motivation.
(START VIDEO CLIP)
NUNBERG (voice over): Because I am not a fan of Donald Trump. He treated me like crap.
NUNBERG (voice over): OK?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: As the day wore on, Nunberg grew increasingly outlandish, tossing out unsubstantiated charges with reckless abandon.
(START VIDEO CLIP)
NUNBERG: They probably have something on Trump. Trump did something pretty bad, if I had to assume --
ARI MELBER, MSNBC (voice over): What do they have?
NUNBERG: I don't know.
MELBER: I think some people are worried about you. And they are worried about what you are doing. I think other people are upset because we just showed the White House which doesn't want to comment on this --
NUNBERG: Sarah should shut up, frankly.
MELBER (voice over): Really, you are in the eye of the storm.
NUNBERG: Sarah should shut up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Nunberg apologized for that and for criticizing Sarah Huckabee Sanders for her physical appearance. And having over it all, this question, was he sloshed?
(START VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: I have smelled alcohol on your breath.
NUNBERG: Well, I have not had a drink.
BURNETT: You haven't had a drink. That's not --
BURNETT: I just -- because it is the talk out there. Again, I know it's awkward.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: If he was, the hangover came the next morning and Nunberg showed up to testify on Friday. So some critics are saying the networks exploited the guy who was melting down. And look, after a while, it did seem like like a bloody price tag (ph) that should have been stopped. But cable hosts focus on getting the best bookings for their hour.
Sam Nunberg who has firsthand information about the Muller probe and wanted to deliver a message was news. And what pressured him to going on TV. And there was nothing wrong with interviewing him as long as you remind viewers that he couldn't corroborate most of the wild stuff he was throwing out. And by the way, Nunberg is happy. He said it was good TV. He enjoyed the exposure.
Still ahead, she was known to the press as Rob Porter's ex-wife. Now, Jennie Willoughby will be here to talk about the backlash over a scandal she never sought.
But first, is the Stormy Daniels story a tabloid trash or far more serious now that the president's lawyer is being accused of trying to buy her silence?
KURTZ: I spoke to Michael Cohen, President Trump's personal lawyer about his role in the Stormy Daniels saga, which has burst back into news with her lawsuit against the President, trying to overturn a non-disclosure agreement so she can talk about what she says was an affair more than a decade ago. It was Cohen who made a $130,000 thousand payment to the former porn star shortly before the election, and Stormy's lawyer, well, he's been making the television rounds:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think the [resident knew about it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is no question the President knew about it at the time. The idea an attorney would go off on his own without his client's knowledge and engage in this type of negotiation and enter in this type of agreement, quite honestly, I think is ludicrous.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The storyline is a porn star was paid $130,000 by the President's personal lawyer in order to keep her mouth shut about an affair that took place just shortly around the time that his son was being born. This is not a good storyline for the president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Michael Cohen, who went to arbitration last week and got a temporary restraining order against Daniels speaking out, told me a number of things in an interview starting with this. I have committed no crime in the production of the agreement or the payment to Miss Clifford. Her real name is Stephanie Clifford. The sole purpose of these negative attacks is nothing more than an attempt to malign our President and distract the American people from his historic achievements over this past year.
Joining us now from Washington, Emily Jashinsky, a Commentary Writer for the Washington Examiner, and in Austin, Texas, Jessica Tarlov, Fox News Contributor and a Senior Editor at bustle.com. Emily, many people dismiss this story as tabloid gossip. Does the hush money aspect and Michael Cohen getting this restraining order against Stormy Daniels, does that make it into front-page news?
EMILY JASHINSKY, THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER: So I think -- and we've talked about this before that Donald Trump, the narrative that Donald Trump is kind of created for himself. This is a man who's on the cover of Playboy. When the allegations first surfaced, when we saw that in touch and review I think it was last month for the first time, people blinked, you know, it was just kind of a blink, because it doesn't buck that narrative.
And so, I think when you're adding legal ramifications that could actually -- I mean the President himself was basically named a lawsuit this week. That's going to create problems for and I do think we are talking about front page news here.
KURTZ: All right. Jessica, let me read you another comment from my interview with Michael Cohen. The President's lawyer says where I have been mistreated is by the talking heads on the various news programs, making determinations that are not based upon face but based upon their opinion and limited knowledge of the events. Of course, the Trump White House hasn't exactly been answering a lot of questions about this, Jessica.
JESSICA TARLOV, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Yeah, absolutely. And the key point there is limited knowledge. Michael Cohen could help us out and make it clear what actually happened here. This story has gone through so many iterations and now, we finally ended up at a place where Trump's personal lawyer paid the money and even used his official Trump email account to do it. It was broken by NBC News over the weekend, which is completely ludicrous.
And I know that this point has been made a number of times before. If this had happened with President Obama, the country would be on fire. Because it's President Trump and he was on the cover of Playboy and he used to talk to Howard Stern about all sorts of inappropriate things, it's supposed to be OK. And it's our fault that we're horrified of the idea that, A, he would do this while his wife was four months before her due date, but B, would pay hush money right before the election in November.
TARLOV: It is insane and it is front page news and there may be legal ramifications, and that's why Congress is paying attention to it.
KURTZ: Right. Well, these are allegations, and by the way, Michael Cohen told me he used his Trump organization email to talk to family and friends and order things on Amazon like some people do.
TARLOV: And pay hush money to porn stars.
KURTZ: Well, on that point, here is perhaps the most of newsworthy thing he told me, because I asked him about these payments and Michael Cohen said, we can put it up on the screen, Miss Clifford, Stormy Daniels has denied the allegations on multiple occasions between 2006 and 2017. Mr. Trump denied the allegation as well. Just because something isn't true doesn't mean it can't cause you harm and damage.
It has always been my role to protect Mr. Trump and the family, despite claims by the liberal media. This was not done for the benefit of the campaign, but rather for Mr. Trump personally. So, Emily, Cohen is saying he did this for his friend and client and not to influence the campaign, which happened just before the election.
JASHINSKY: And this is why the story is ongoing and it's going to persist in the news cycles because there are all these legal details now we have to hash out. We have to talk about this in the larger context of the news cycle, obviously. And Bernie Sanders actually had an interesting comment to Jake Tapper yesterday, where he says you know CNN is talking about this, but the American people are suffering in a number of ways.
We had terrorists in the news this week. We had and shootings in the news. We have all these things going on. So it's a crowded news cycle.
KURTZ: Well, Cohen also, my understanding is he may seek millions of dollars in damages over the breaking of this agreement. But, Jessica isn't Stormy Daniels' credibility open to questions? I mean first she claimed they had an affair in that 2011 In Touch interview which wasn't published at the time, and then she let a statement to be issued in her name, saying no affair, no hush money, and the interview came out. And now she is having her lawyer say the opposite as she sues the President.
TARLOV: Yeah, sure. Everybody's credibility is in question here, Michael Cohen, the President of the United States of America, and a porn star involved. So I would like all of it could be looked into. Let's be fair to each member of the cast of characters here. So of course, credibility is a question here, but she has the email. She has documentation. We know the money transfer was made. And I get it, sometimes people pay people off because it could be damaging, not because it happened. But it's frustrating.
KURTZ: So far we haven't seen the emails and the documentation because of the non-disclosure agreement, which is being battled over now. To give you a sense of the media appetite here, Stormy Daniels taped and interview with "60 Minutes" with Anderson Cooper. But I don't think CBS can run this unless the none disclosure business is resolved.
But let's also remember, Emily, liberal pundits should remember this is not Bill Clinton having sex with an intern while he's in office and lying about it. If this happened, there is a question of -- it was a long time ago consensual affair. I think people get that and I think the media have to point that out as well.
JASHINSKY: Sure, absolutely. As a conservative, I've written about this. I don't think it's something that we should ignore. If we do ignore it, it's passive acceptance of it. But there are key distinctions. And this is a different time. There is so much happening in the news right now. I think the media does need to keep perspective of their viewers in mind as they're going through the story.
KURTZ: Right. I have gotten a lot of flack, people saying don't even touch this story, but because there are lawsuits, because they did interview the President's lawyer I think we have tried to advance the story responsibly. Jessica Tarlov, Emily Jashinsky, thanks very much for coming by this Sunday.
Coming up, her husband was fired from the White House based in part on her account of abuse. But she says the media missed the larger point. Jennie Willoughby is on deck. And later, calling out the press for silly little tales of whipped up outrage.
KURTZ: Rob Porter was fired as a top Presidential aide. It was based on the account of two ex-wives. The infamous photo of one of them became the symbol of the scandal over Porter's security clearance. But it was his own former wife, Jennie Willoughby who said in television interviews how he had been physically and emotionally abusive, how he once yanked her out of the shower to continue yelling at her, how he punched the glass on the door to their house, and she got a protective order against him, all of which she shared when approached by the FBI.
Jennie Willoughby joins me now here in the studio, welcome.
JENNIE WILLOUGHBY, EX-WIFE OF ROB PORTER: Thank you.
KURTZ: What was it like for you to be in that media maelstrom and these media wants to talk to you about, with what you say is his abusive treatment by your ex-husband. He has denied it. It's a period of your life you thought you left behind.
WILLOUGHBY: Yeah, thank you. It was a period of my life that I thought I left behind. It was a year ago. And I wrote a blog post that initiated this.
KURTZ: Without naming him.
WILLOUGHBY: No, without naming him. It was my therapy and my attempts to help other people who might be in that situation. And so of course, when the media caught wind of that and they started investigating Rob, that's when I got pulled into this.
KURTZ: Which is important because you didn't volunteer to be the public face of it, but you just wrote a Washington Post op-ed, saying the White House hasn't acknowledged your name and hasn't apologized for mishandling the situation. What would you like the President to say?
WILLOUGHBY: I feel not just for me and for Colby, for anyone who is suffering from domestic violence in the nation. It would be really impactful. This is a moment for the White House to draw a line in the sand and say this is not OK. After other national crises, that's what the President is for. Rather than doing that, he missed the opportunity we don't stand for domestic violence. As a matter of fact, Jennie and Colby, we're really sorry you had to endure that.
KURTZ: Got it. Now in that same feature, that John Kelly the Chief Of Staff added insult to injury by describing it as just accusation of a messy divorce. Now he would say he didn't have all the facts then, but obviously it still bothers you.
WILLOUGHBY: Yeah. So what bothers me about that again, is a larger societal issue that and we can put a hierarchy to a view. But for some reason emotional abuse may be is something you can overlook but the physical abuse is where you draw the line. And that to me is really damaging to the conversation of domestic violence because.
KURTZ: You did have the punching of the glass and so forth, but emotional abuse is what you feel you went through.
WILLOUGHBY: The emotional abuse is where it starts. Anyone who suffers the physical abuse has had the verbal and emotional manipulation first.
KURTZ: What kind of backlash have you gotten? I understand there has been a lot of hate mail.
WILLOUGHBY: You know the media is interesting. I have a lot of people concerned that I am out for revenge, that I did this to tear down Rob's career and to tear down the White House. But again, as you mentioned, why would I want to do this? I didn't. I don't.
KURTZ: And while you did the interviews, you made a point you weren't calling him for him to lose his job when that was in question.
WILLOUGHBY: No, I trusted the Federal Bureau of Investigation to do their job and to determine if he was allowed to stay in that position. It was not my desire to make that decision.
KURTZ: Right. But in addition to some folks saying that you were trying to tear somebody down. Was there a lot of vitriol directed at you personally?
WILLOUGHBY: Yes, a lot of people who are questioning my credibility. Why am I coming out now, am I getting paid, has my alimony stopped? In reality, I have put that marriage behind me years ago and done the healing I need to do to be able to move forward with strength. And the reason I chose to speak out is because I wanted people to not be able to mischaracterize my words from my blog post and to see what it's like on the other side of that type of situation.
KURTZ: Right. So there was a sense that you were pushing a hidden agenda. But first of all, what do you when the FBI and background checks you, obviously you cooperate. How much of a problem is it when you go farther, when a man's colleagues say -- it's true more generally. He's such a terrific guy at work. He's so talented, he would never do that. These claims must be exaggerated.
WILLOUGHBY: Yeah. Look, if somebody has the same behaviors that they had at home in private, in these vulnerable and intimate situations, if they are that same way in public they wouldn't have the job that they have. People wouldn't want to work with them and people wouldn't be friends with them. So it is the duality they are able to maintain, which makes it so difficult for victims to come forward and which it makes it next to impossible for co-workers to believe they could be that different at home.
KURTZ: Right. Were you reluctant or are you reluctant to be labeled a victim forever and branded that way?
WILLOUGHBY: I don't consider myself a victim. Because I don't want that to be my label, and I also cringe that my label right now is Rob Porter's ex- wife because I am so much more than that. And I always have been. I really hope that people suffering an abusive situation right now can see this is not something that will define you forever.
KURTZ: Right. And I struggled with that in writing the introduction because I wanted to tell people who you are, and obviously you're known for this. But obviously, it's not the only thing that you have done or are doing. Do you want to get out of the spotlight now or do you feel compelled to speak out?
WILLOUGHBY: I originally wanted to get out of the spotlight. Now that I have had time to dissect it and read the comments and the feedback and the support that I've gotten from the domestic violence community, I do feel compelled to continue to speak. Because I want to elevate domestic violence to a national stage, this is the opportunity to do it. We have the highest office in the land and the way they handled it, that is emblematic of how the rest of the nation is going to handle it and how that conversation is going to continue. I want to make sure I speak on that.
KURTZ: This was white hot -- do you think journalists were generally were fair to you despite the public backlash?
WILLOUGHBY: I feel the media was fair in reporting my words. They were reporting, generally, but the initiation of this scandal was. But I feel the media really missed out on an opportunity because what they did is they took the security clearance issue, the potential cover-up or whatever the White House may have been doing. They told a story the people wanted to hear.
KURTZ: There was obviously a political question surrounding the White House officials.
WILLOUGHBY: And missed the opportunity to tell the story the public needs to hear. And that's how we as a society address and shy away from.
KURTZ: Very briefly, many women who suffer domestic abuse are reluctant to speak out. If they are not connected to somebody famous, it's hard.
WILLOUGHBY: Well, this is why, right? Even after my blog post has gone public, even after I have done interviews, having to relive this experience, people still question and doubt and not want to believe me. So what hope does that give someone who is not in the public eye?
KURTZ: Well, we appreciate you having the conversation today on camera, Jennie Willoughby, thanks very much.
WILLOUGHBY: Thank you, Howie.
KURTZ: Good to see you.
After the break, Bill Maher calls out the media for these phoney outrage stories based on minor Twitter turbulence. And you know what, he's right.
KURTZ: HBO's Bill Maher just went off on manufactured controversies, such as supposed outrage that actress Jennifer Lawrence was photographed in a film promo where all the men are wearing coats and she isn't, and there was more.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL MAHER, HBO: No wonder fake news resonates so much with Trump fans. So much of it is fake. Just nonsense made to keep you perpetually offended with an endless stream of controversies that aren't controversial, and outrages that aren't outrageous. Because places like the Huffington Post and Buzzfeed make their money by how many clicks they get.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Mollie Hemingway is back with us. So Maher's hyper-liberal, but he's kind of called out both sides here. Aren't you tired of these stories saying Twitter is outraged about X, and when you look into it, it's a bunch of people who have 11 followers, as he says.
HEMINGWAY: Right, that's how so many of these stories go. You look at the actual underlying outrage and it's literally someone with two followers. So I think that's a basic good rule of thumb. If you are going to write about outrage, make sure it's somewhat genuine. There is a difference between a bunch of media figures ginning up outrage over something.
HEMINGWAY: Right and versus actual outrage.
KURTZ: This is a promo shoot for the movie Red Sparrow with Jennifer Lawrence, which she chose to do. Maher says it was reported in the New York Times, Washington Post, New York Post, Fox News, BBC, the Guardian, National Review and the Federalist.
HEMINGWAY: Well, we had a good piece saying that she handled the controversy well. So she got pushback. She had an Instagram post in response to it. So it's OK to cover. I think one of the things you see here is that a lot of people in the media don't know how to write about pretty women basically. So they know that people like to look at pictures of Jennifer Lawrence and they don't want to objectify them, so they come up with other scenarios so that they can get an excuse to cover them. And I think that that what happens a lot.
KURTZ: Like the woman in the hamburger ad?
HEMINGWAY: Right. We are simple people.
KURTZ: So they do like to write about attractive women but they don't want to seem sexist and they need a fig leaf. And the fig leaf is oh, people are outraged about whatever it is. And often, whatever it is is not very much. You are giving away the secret here.
HEMINGWAY: But it's not just that. I think also there is a responsibility on people. When we talk about things going viral, they go viral because average viewers and readers like to click on it. So if you have a problem with it, think about your own consumption habits. And think about whether you are choosing the most edifying content or whether you're just clicking for.
KURTZ: As you say, well, we're just giving the audience what it wants. Now this happens on serious political stories as well. We always talk about that. But on the frivolous stuff, is there such a hunger for clicks that no one can resist, or does this boomerang against websites that do it too often.
HEMINGWAY: I don't know, because it's one thing to see some random blog trying to get clicks. But major publications who have parts of their website devoted linking to anything. And it's not just about giving the audience what they want. If we are going to hold ourselves up as being very important for the civility and good discussions, we have a responsibility to do what's right, not just what get hits.
KURTZ: You know there is an echo chamber effect where even if you're the New York Times or whatever, saying it's really hot, it's going viral. I guess we have to cover it because everyone is talking about it. Everyone is talking about it because somebody ginned it up.
HEMINGWAY: Right. And not always though to still advance the discussion and think about ways to elevate it just from a couple of people who are outraged. But also just in general, it seems like we have this tyranny of outrage. Think about ways to cover other things other than shows outraged.
KURTZ: Mollie Hemingway thanks as always.
Still to come, it looks like Barack Obama is getting his own show and Joy Behar finally sorry for mocking Christians.
KURTZ: Here's an embarrassing correction. The New York Times, which was highly skeptical of the Trump Tax Cut, created a hypothetical family and used the Turbo Tax Program to say these taxes will probably soar by $3,896 dollars. It turns out the paper made a mistake and the taxes for Mr. and Mrs. Hypothetical will probably decline by $43. Barack Obama is in advance talks with Netflix with a series of shows which will focus on inspirational stories.
It makes perfect sense. The New York Times says Obama and Michelle Obama won't be using the platform to take on President Trump. Interesting the paper felt compelled to note that this is not a direct answer to Fox News or Breitbart.com.
And Joy Behar has personally called Mike Pence to apologize for an outrageous crack she said on the View, that it's one thing to talk to Jesus, it's another thing when Jesus talks to you. That's called mental illness. I'm not correct hearing voices. Behar's manager telling the Washington Post the VP was very understanding, very gracious. Joy, you're a television person. You said it on the air. Better apologize on the air as well. I'm glad you did.
Thanks for this edition of "Media Buzz." Thanks for watching, I mean to say. I'm Howard Kurtz. Continue the conversation on Twitter @howardkurtz. Check out my Facebook page and give us a like. I post my daily columns there and videos and have a little interaction there. If you want to email us, come at us, firstname.lastname@example.org. Set your DVR if you missed the show because you've got a life on Sunday morning. But we'll be back here next Sunday, 11 Eastern, with the latest Buzz.
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