Media furor over McCabe's FBI firing

This is a rush transcript from "Media Buzz," March 18, 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 celebrates as the FBI's Andrew McCabe is fired hours before his retirement for leaking to a Wall Street Journal reporter. The ousted officials says Trump is trying to discredit him in the Russia probe. Is most of the press taking McCabe side?

The media consumed by chatter about who's getting fired next as the President dumps Rex Tillerson three months after dismissing reports that he would ousts his secretary of state as fake news.


STEVE HAYES, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Rex Tillerson disagreed with the president so many times on so many things the president just stopped listening to him.

GREG GUTFELD, FOX NEWS: I do feel that Rex Tillerson should have been handled better because he's obviously a very good man.

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS: There's a side to Rex Tillerson which is a dignified person. He didn't understand the State Department. He didn't understand the culture here.

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN: I'm sorry. If somebody who works for me called me a moron and then went out and when asked him about it and didn't recant it, I would probably have fired them long before Donald Trump did.

DON LEMON, CNN: The White House turmoil is growing in the wake of McMaster's imminent exit. We have known for a long time that the president wants Mueller out just as he wants Jeff Sessions out. Are they next?


KURTZ: Journalists now are running with leaks predicting a wave of trumping and ousters any minute now. Former White House aide Anthony Scaramucci on the shakeup and Trump's war of words with the press.

President makes his proposals on guns and the press accuses him of abandoning his promise to take on the NRA, but is the press pushing its own agenda on gun control?

Stormy Daniels's war sparks a media frenzy by telling MSNBC the former porn star was physically threatened but refusing to say who did it. The president hires a lawyer who demands million in damages.

Plus, we will talk to the journalist who wrote the stunning news that ESPN's president resigned because of a cocaine shakedown.

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

It was a Friday night media bombshell when Jeff Sessions acting on an internal DOJ report fired Andrew McCabe hours before the deputy FBI director was set to retire. It prompted such joy as presidential tweets as "great day for democracy" and "the fake news is beside themselves that McCabe was caught, called out and fired."


RUTH MARCUS, THE WASHINGTON POST: It's totally clear and it's really upsetting and very disturbing that the president has been gunning for Andrew McCabe since the campaign. He's been gunning to get his pension taken away from him. This kind of Friday night massacre is a little concerning.

LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS: This could be the beginning of something really great for the country. Namely we clean out the underbrush in our intelligence agencies. And if Andrew McCabe lied and misrepresented as the Office of the Inspector General is going to conclude and the Office of Professional Responsibility confirmed, that is a real problem.


KURTZ: McCabe accused Trump of leading an effort to destroy his reputation saying, "articles too numerous to count have leveled every sort of false, defamatory and degrading allegations against us. The president's tweets have amplified and exacerbated it all. He called for my firing."

Joining us now to analyze the coverage of this tumultuous week, Mollie Hemingway, senior editor at The Federalist and a Fox News contributor. Sarah Westwood, White House correspondent for The Washington Examiner. And Juan Williams, co-host of "The Five."

Mollie, on one side, you have Jeff Sessions acting on the finding of career prosecutors and firing McCabe. On the other hand, you have the president of the United States publicly ripping McCabe for months and calling for his ouster.

So, commentators on one side can say, well, he deserved to be canned. On the other side, they can say, well, this is petty and bowing to presidential pressure.

MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, THE FEDERALIST: Right. What's really important, I think, is that the mainstream journalists tell the story accurately. That Andrew McCabe was under investigation before Trump was even taking office. That the Office of Professional Ethics found that he was in need of being fired.

Yes, there are a lot of other issues. I mean, he was clearly involved in quite a few leaks during the Trump administration and I think Trump takes that quite personally. But this is separate from that. This is about the FBI's career personnel and Office of Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility saying this guy should be fired.

KURTZ: Well, McCabe did a number of embargoed interviews along interviews with CNN, Politico, perhaps others, they could run after this happened. And he said every time he spoke to the president privately, president brought up his wife who ran for Virginia state senate seat as a Democrat, had lots of Democratic contributions.


KURTZ: So liberal pundits say, this was all political and it's payback.

WILLIAMS: Well, I take it a little differently, Howie. I mean, I think what the liberal side of the table in terms of media is looking at is a pattern and the pattern is President Trump firing Jim Comey.

President Trump and let's say his people on the House Intelligence Committee saying last week, oh, Russia didn't prefer President Trump in the election, where do you see that? Or attacks on Peter Strzok, the FBI agent who was sending e-mails to his girlfriend and saying negative things about President Trump.

KURTZ: Protectively at least it was Sessions who did this firing.

WILLIAMS: Correct, but remember, Sessions is under pressure from the president who feels that he shouldn't have recused himself in the first place in the special prosecutor investigation. And John Dowd, the president's lawyer, yesterday was attacking Robert Mueller.

So, in that context, the liberal side of the table is saying, hey, there is a pattern her of the president trying to undermine anybody investigating.

KURTZ: Right. John Dowd speaking to The Daily Beast, said that the Mueller investigation should be shut down, a kind of a change in tone.

Sarah, as the pundits pick side here, we don't know what is in this report by the nonpartisan Office of Professional Responsibility at the Justice Department. And it's kind of ironic because McCabe was fired for leaking and yet possibly dissembling and yet the gist of this report which is a secret internal report was leaked.

SARAH WESTWOOD, THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Right. And I think, you know, it's a question of context of framing that reporters are putting around the story of McCabe's removal.

We are seeing it through the lens of Trump's tweets about McCabe, the fact that McCabe was used as sort of the symbol of FBI corruption back during the Clinton e-mail investigation. The fact that OPR which is within the FBI, not within the Justice Department, basically his peers recommended his firing.

The fact that Michael Horowitz and Obama appointed inspector general as the one conducting this investigation, which by the way has been the subject of very few leaks relative to other matters that we've seen, that's not really dominating the coverage of McCabe's removal even though Jeff Sessions would have had to have broken protocol to spare McCabe from this action. That simply --


KURTZ: -- he was retiring today anyway so the (INAUDIBLE) is symbolic at least on one level. As you know, Mollie, I wrote in my book, "Media Madness," about Reince Priebus when he was chief of staff believing that Andrew McCabe leaked against him and from a meeting that McCabe initiated to complain about a New York Times story on Russia and then Priebus was made to look like he was pressuring the FBI to exonerate the administration.

Look, McCabe is right (INAUDIBLE) read when he says that it's pretty standard practice for a number two at the FBI to be able to authorize the release of background information as in the case with this Wall Street Journal reporter who has been doing story on whether McCabe and FBI were slow walking an investigation into the Clinton Foundation.

This wasn't about investigating Trump at that time, and he says he authorized it and he has done the same thing with the new director and he consulted legal counsel. So, is that a terrible offense? Well, we also don't know, was he honest about it?

HEMINGWAY: Right. I mean, that's what so interesting. We don't actually know all the details about what led to his firing, but we know that the Office of Professional Responsibility took it seriously enough to recommend his firing.

But these leaks are something that he has been well known for. He was rumored in some of these advanced interviews to say that he was going to take down a bunch of people with him. Already in that first statement he gave, he said that Comey knew about his leaking and suggested that it was authorized by Comey.

He also said that the current director, Wray, knew. So are these two people that he also wants to take down? I think, you know, it is a difficult issue because leaks are journalists' bread and butter and that has been something that they have taken advantaged of for a long time.

KURTZ: And the White House leaks an awful lot.

WESTWOOD: Listen, the leaks were not the offense that he was fired for. He was fired for lying to investigators.

WILLIAMS: He denied that. He says that's not true.

KURTZ: He said it was a misunderstanding.

HEMINGWAY: At the same time, when you think, a year ago, the major story in the media was that our intelligence chief took these claims about PP kompromat (ph) so seriously that they needed to do all this Russia business and that they were a partisan, a political, and total boy scouts. That narrative a year later looks patently ridiculous.

KURTZ: Let me bring you to another firing, of course, Rex Tillerson, secretary of state, and everyone in the media knows president has every right to fire a guy who he doesn't get along with, who disagrees with fundamental issues, and yet it is being portrayed as more chaos. Is that fair or unfair?

HEMINGWAY: I think it is a pretty big thing when you fire your secretary of state. At the same time, so many people in the media cover this just as a palace intrigue story. It's also true that it's very important to have a good relationship between the secretary of state and the president no matter who that president is.

When you look at successful relationships like, you know, under Bush or Reagan or even Barack Obama, he had a much better relationship with John Kerry than he did Hillary Clinton. It's good that those people align. That should be part of the coverage as well.

KURTZ: And speaking of leaks, Juan, so the media are kind of kicking Tillerson on the way out, just gobbling up these White House leaks. For example, Washington Post, well, Trump didn't like this slow southern drawl.

Wall Street Journal, in a dinner with the Chinese, he told Rex, eat the salad. The Chinese will be offended if he didn't eat the salad. And then John Kelly, briefing reporters off the record, according to Axios, which wasn't there, says that Kelly in a phone call gave Tillerson the news while he was on the toilet. So, little bit of piling on here perhaps?

WILLIAMS: I don't know who gets to pile on. I mean, I was on the right, I would say, boy, you are attacking the Trump White House here, and the Trump White House is simply saying, as Mollie indicated, this person at the secretary of state level did not have the trust and confidence of the president, didn't represent his administration to the world.

But I would say to you, hey wait a second, it's not just Tillerson, we have rumors and apparently more than rumors. The Washington Post said they have 19 sources indicating that the national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, is about to be fired. It's also Hope Hicks. It's also all -- the highest rate of firing --

KURTZ: But when The Washington Post says the president has decided to fire H.R. McMaster and then president comes out about that and other stories including one from Fox's John Roberts who has had a lot of these chess moves, saying, well, it's false narrative and hasn't happened yet.

But I want to just come back to the last question about Tillerson. We are running a little short on time. So the press never liked him because he barely did interviews, he barely held press conferences. But Trump denounced that NBC story last fall. It said that Tillerson apparently called president a moron. Now we hear the president has never gotten over it.

WESTWOOD: With these palace intrigue stories with Tillerson and reporters, there is no consequences for being wrong really about the departure, and aide Tillerson has been rumored to be on his way out since last spring.

KURTZ: Rumor unreported.

WESTWOOD: Rumor unreported. And that was obviously not the case because here we are in March and he is just now leaving. So there had really been no consequences for reporters predicting these things with a lot of confidence and then never (INAUDIBLE).

KURTZ: One thing that is not a rumor is that the president is bringing in Larry Kudlow, CNBC commentator. A former Wall Street guy, you know, an economist, would be his chief economic advisor, and he did work in the Reagan Budget Office as well. He has been on CNBC for decades, commentating in pro-Trump fashion, formerly consulted with Trump.

So, is the president just attracted to people who are good on TV? Is that the new thing here?

HEMINGWAY: I think not just the president. I think this is a cultural-wide issue.


HEMINGWAY: It's now always for the best. I mean, we just had the media basically launched Oprah Winfrey's campaign for president based on her celebrity. So I don't know if he's unique. And it's a little bit unfair to Kudlow because he really is someone who is a good fit for this job, in addition to being good on TV.

KURTZ: At the same time, we have Fox's Katie Pavlich reporting that president wants "Fox & Friends Weekend" co-host Pete Hegseth to replace the current VA secretary.

We have stories about John Bolton, now Fox News commentator, as a possible McMaster replacement. So, you had an observation the other day about not just the appeal of TV personalities as president of the Fox green room.

WILLIAMS: I think it's a staging area for the administration. The danger is that he surrounds himself with yes people, people who don't contradict his point of view because he is watching them on TV or he has become accustomed to seeing them on TV. Any minute now, Howie Kurtz could be in the Trump administration.

KURTZ: I have not received any --


KURTZ: -- for the record. But, you know, this is becoming the sort of new narrative. He's getting rid of people who stood up to him and he is just hiring loyalists. Is that fair? Doesn't every president have his share of loyalists, particularly in the cabinet around his White House staff?

WESTWOOD: I think the president shouldn't have people within his administration who are actively trying to convince him not to pursue policies that he ran on, like tariffs are tearing up the Iran deal.

KURTZ: Right, but he's --

HEMINGWAY: Right. More than that, I would say that he actually has a reputation for enjoying the fight perhaps a little bit too much. He encourages people to fight with him. It's not a great idea, I don't think, for the secretary of state position to be one of those.

KURTZ: Right.

HEMINGWAY: But I don't think we need to worry about him having people who fight him.

KURTZ: But I think the media wants people to restrain him from the policies that he run on because some in the media don't like those policies. Let me get a break here.

Just a reminder, my book is still making news as we referred to in different outlets. If you would like to check it out, "Media Madness: Donald Trump, the Press, and the War Over the Truth."

Still ahead, Anthony Scaramucci on the war between the president and the aforementioned press corps. But when we come back, many pundits bashing Trump for backing away from his own suggestions on guns and school safety. Is that fair?


KURTZ: During those televised meetings after the Florida school shooting, President Trump embraced certain gun control measures. Take a look.


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

Some of you people are petrified of the NRA. You can't be petrified.


KURTZ: But this week, Trump backed away from his proposal to raise the age limit for buying assault-style weapons to 21 and to tighten background checks, while sticking with the NRA-backed plan to offer to arm specially trained teachers and school officials.

Mollie Hemingway, regardless of your views on this, the president did seem to change his position.

HEMINGWAY: I mean, in a few ways, yes. In a few ways, no. I mean, there was the -- he backtracked on the increasing the age to 21, but he also had suggested that there was no need for due process when you are taking guns away from people who might be a threat. He backed away from that too.

That is a good thing because you should not ever take away due process related to second amendment right. But also he was -- I think the only person at the federal elected level who has actually done anything, I don't actually agree with this personally, but he began the regulation of the bump stocks.

KURTZ: That's right.

HEMINGWAY: And that is -- that's something that probably should be handled legislatively. But he is doing it and there are other things going on about background checks and other things as well

KURTZ: Juan, in front of the cameras, the president kind of taunted the Republicans, saying, you are scared of the NRA. So, the press began to think at least on maybe one issue he would break with the NRA.

WILLIAMS: Yes. I mean, I don't know how you defend this one because the argument that he has made now is subsequently that the polls don't show public support for this increased background check or raising the age limit, but in fact they do. The polls are overwhelming.

So then you could say, well, as derivative, Howie, oh, what about Republicans? What about gun owners? But even there, we have seen increases to historic heights in terms of support. I think the president is the one who is afraid of the NRA.

KURTZ: Sarah, the president -- no one initially expected the president who ran as a second amendment champion to do anything on gun control, but he raised the possibility of the issue with those televised sessions with parents, with students, with lawmakers and teachers.

WESTWOOD: This is the double (INAUDIBLE) of him opening up those meetings to the cameras. On the one hand, he does get Mark Worth (ph) transparency for allowing the public to sort of see how the sausage (ph) gets made.

On the other hand, those are deliberations that would normally take place in private where he could take positions in a cost-free way at the negotiating state of policies. Now, it looks like he has retreated from position even though what we were witnessing were fluid negotiations.

KURTZ: Private meetings often leak but it is not the same thing as having the words on camera which we just replayed. Let me just briefly touch on the student demonstrations across the country earlier this week. Many walkouts at many, many schools in favor of gun control.

MSNBC went virtually wall to wall with this. We see it there, covering it for hours. Fox, in my view, could have covered it more. Briefly, Mollie, is there an argument that the media are promoting gun control by covering these legitimate protests?

HEMINGWAY: Yes. Of course, they are promoting --

KURTZ: What's the alternative?

HEMINGWAY: I think a good thing to do is compare to how you cover other major mass events, like there is "March for Life" every year. That has been going on for more than 40 years. There are marches throughout every state union. How much coverage do you give that? Do you give it any coverage? Do you give it 30 seconds?

Make sure that your gun -- your push for gun control coverage isn't totally overwhelming what you do for another important issue like the pro-life coverage.

KURTZ: OK. We can talk about the coverage. But certainly it was news in the wake of the Florida shooting.

WILLIAMS: Yes. I think MTV and BET though are literally -- almost co- sponsors, encouraging. I think that's a little much. But I got to say, I think that in fact people are restraining the coverage because of fear of being criticized as taking side. Overwhelming, as I said, the American people in the aftermath of the Parkland shooting want something done.

KURTZ: Some people are restraining the coverage. All right, Juan Williams, Sarah Westwood, Mollie Hemingway, thanks very much for joining us.

Ahead, why did Hillary Clinton again go after Trump voters she once called deplorables. We will ask one of her closest confidante.

But first, the media furor over Stormy Daniels's lawyer alleging she was threatened though he refuses to say just who did it.


KURTZ: The Stormy Daniels got another huge media boost as the lawyer for the former porn star made this accusation on "Morning Joe."


MIKA BRZEZINSKI, MSNBC: Was she threatened in any way?


BRZEZINSKI: Was she threatened physical harm?


JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC: Oh, wow. Will you deny that the president of the United States threatened your client?

AVENATTI: I will not confirm or deny it.


KURTZ: That was as far as Michael Avenatti would go. Joining us now from New York, Shelby Holliday, senior video reporter for The Wall Street Journal.

So, Avenatti goes on TV and says Stormy Daniels received a physical threat, wouldn't say from whom, could be anyone from Michael Cohen or some hater on Twitter. Did all the speculative chatter about whether this was somebody from Trump's inner circle or might have been, did it go too far?

SHELBY HOLLIDAY, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: I think that's a great question, Howie, and I just asked Stormy Daniels's lawyer that myself. He said it was not a troll on Twitter. It is somebody serious.

He won't say who. He said it is not his place to say. And that if people watch the "60 Minutes" interview with Stormy Daniels that is tentatively scheduled for next weekend, we will find out.

But, again, Howie, this story is changing by the day. It's unclear if that interview will actually air. As we saw this week, the president is now going after Stormy Daniels for $20 million because he says she breached her non-disclosure agreement 20 different times.

KURTZ: Right.

HOLLIDAY: Unclear if we will hear from her.

KURTZ: Got to ask you about that. By the way, I think you just advanced the story a little bit with that comment from Michael Avenatti. I think Chris Cuomo on CNN took the right tack saying, you don't have proof of this, so I consider it an allegation. But the president has now hired his own lawyer to adjoin the suit and as you say, $20 million in damages.

Does that undercut the White House's position whether its coming off the briefings or elsewhere that well, this is all having to do with Michael Cohen, the president's personal lawyer, we are not going to answer questions about this, the president is not really involved, when the president just hired a lawyer who has made motion and legal filing?

HOLLLIDAY: Yes. That's a very good question to ask, because all along, we've heard from the White House that the president did not have this affair, the president was not involved. For a long time, the White House is saying he doesn't even have anything to do with this payment.

And now we are seeing the president in this new suit saying Stormy Daniels owes him personally money. So he is now bringing himself into a story that he spent a lot of time trying to deflect from and say he wasn't involved in.

There are few reasons why the story -- besides the salacious allegations about an affair with a porn star. There are few reasons why this story is making so much news. Number one, there are legal questions. We still don't know if the president knew about the payment that was made right before the election or if it constituted an illegal campaign donation.

It also raises this question about Michael Cohen's role as the president's fixer and whether or not the the president and Michael Cohen are susceptible to blackmail, if there are things the president did in his personal life or in his professional life as a businessman that could come back to haunt him.

KURTZ: Right.

HOLLIDAY: And then last but not least, it raises a lot of questions about credibility. When the White House says this is fake news, when Michael Cohen told my colleagues at The Wall Street Journal when they broke the story that this is fake news and it turns out not to be, that does chip away the White House's credibility.

KURTZ: Right. I interviewed Michael Cohen and published some of the results on the show last week. He defends the payment of $130,000. And he said he did it to help his friend and not to influence the campaign.


KURTZ: Great to see you. Thank you very much, Shelby.

HOLLIDAY: Howie, thanks for having me.

KURTZ: Good to see you. Before we go to break here, New York Post had this classic tabloid headline. We can put it up. You can see it on the right. The firing of Tillerson, "worst Rex I ever had." The famous 1990 headline, "best sex I've ever had" attributed to Marla Maples back in that (INAUDIBLE).

Coming up on "Media Buzz," press turns highly critical of Hillary Clinton for disparaging the middle of the country. But straight ahead, Anthony Scaramucci on White House firings. He knows something about that. And cursing out journalists.


KURTZ: With tensions still growing between Donald Trump and the press, I spoke with Anthony Scaramucci who rather briefly served as White House Communications Director.


KURTZ: Anthony Scaramucci, welcome.


KURTZ: As a guy with some experience in White House dismissals, now that we're going through all the shake-up. What do you think of the media chatter over the President firing Rex Tillerson with a tweet?

SCARAMUCCI: Well, you know the President has a certain operating style. And the funny thing about Washington is they were expecting him to adjust to their operating style, and it turns out that Washington is going to have to adjust to the President. And so I think that the firing, the way it took place, that's sort of the President's style.

I didn't get fired by the President. I got fired by John Kelly, and then the President followed up with a very friendly phone call after. He probably doesn't like that sort of conflict. And you know I can't say I blame him. I started out as his friend. He didn't want me in the White House anymore. I didn't want to lose my friendship with him, and I hope he doesn't want to lose his friendship with me.

KURTZ: Very diplomatic, very diplomatic, unlike the Apprentice. But let's now turn to the President's ongoing battles with the press. Last on this show, we talked about him going to a rally and calling NBC's Chuck Todd a sleeping son of a bitch and calling the New York Times' Maggie Haberman a Hillary clunky, because he didn't like the story she had written.

Shouldn't the President, give him a little advice here, be attacking individual journalists like this?

SCARAMUCCI: Well, it's probably not the -- of all of his great strategies that got him into the White House, and the way he's reached to people using Twitter, that's probably not his best strategy. And so I said this to him in the short period of time when I was in the White House, had no problem saying it on television, he probably should dial that back.

Because at the end of the day, if you read the original documents of the Constitution, the free press has been put in there to check people like the President, and that's something that no politician likes from either side. And every politician, even Barack Obama was likely a media darling, or at least characterized by some as a media darling didn't like sort of the press coverage, particularly press coverage from Fox News.

So for me, one of the reasons why I thought it was incumbent to put the cameras and lights back on in the press room, is that the Fourth Estate needs to be there, Howie, to hand check people. And the President should let it go and not take it personally.

KURTZ: To that the advice, when you offered him while you were in the White House?

SCARAMUCCI: I actually -- he was open to it. I mean we had some open conversations about why the Steve Bannon war declaration on the media was not appropriate. I think what ends up happening are you've got so much stuff going on. He's a counter puncher. He feels like these are shots coming into him, so he wants to hit back. And he'd be better served by using Twitter a little bit more strategically.

And that's my opinion. The President listens to your show. I know he likes watching so he'll probably disagree with me. But you know that's what makes friends, right? We have got to, once in a while a disagreement among friends.

KURTZ: But on that point, given the overwhelmingly negative coverage of this President, doesn't he have any right to denounce media coverage that he sees as unfair.

SCARAMUCCI: I do think that in a broad, general sense, him being upset with the media, some of the inaccurate stories. I know people don't like the word fake news. So let's call it inaccurate information or misguided, misinterpreted information, whatever you want to call it. It has been unduly unfair to this President. And so he has to fight back at it. If he didn't fight back, he wouldn't have won the Presidency.

But I think the personal fight, I think he can lay that sword down, because you know he's the President and they are not. So he has already won, put the sword down in that instance, the personal attack instance.

KURTZ: Do you think when he does go after news organizations or individual journalists or talk about fake news and all of that that it's strategic or that he resents the coverage, or that the unpopular President makes a big fat target.

SCARAMUCCI: I think it's a combination of those things. I think some of it is strategic. Some of it is reactive. I will say this. I have found, in my experience, observing the President and working for him, not just in the White House, but during the transition and on the campaign. When he's well-defended with proper media advocacy, I think you find some of those reactions on Twitter go by the wayside and his Twitter -- programming his Twitter information becomes a lot more strategic.

And so whoever the next Communications Director is, my recommendation to he or she is build a very well fortified media advocacy program, both internal people that are working inside the West Wing and the agencies, but also his external friends in the business community and elsewhere. There are a ton of leaders in the business community, both large and small businesses that will be happier, but happily out there to advocate on behalf of the President because they believe in his policies.

KURTZ: When it comes to harsh language, I mean you said the other day that Rachel Maddow should probably take a suppository because she suffers from Trump derangement because she disagreed with the Kim Jong-Un meeting.

SCARAMUCCI: OK, so one of the things that happened as you know, if you 10,000 hours of live television you get slightly better at television. And once in a while you are prone to a malapropos or saying something inappropriate. And so I apologize to her, on MSNBC's air. I am happy to apologize to her on your air. That was an inappropriate comment by me. By the way, it was funny, but if I said it in a bar without a camera and all these lights on, it would have been funny.

But it was inappropriate to say and I apologized. She accepted my apology.

KURTZ: We should be doing this interview in a bar. I got about half a minute. You seem to be suggesting that others around the President did a better job of defending him. But he wouldn't have to do as much of the punching when it comes to the press. Am I reading you right?

SCARAMUCCI: A hundred percent. I absolutely believe that. And one of the things I put in my nine-point communications plan before I was fired, is let's build a broad based intersectional, interdisciplinary media advocacy program for the President and his policies. And I think we can really combat a lot of the misinformation that's out there.

KURTZ: All right, Anthony Scaramucci, great to see you.

SCARAMUCCI: Happy Sunday.

KURTZ: Thanks for joining us.


KURTZ: Should have done it in a bar. Next on "MediaBuzz," the press roughing up Hillary Clinton over on her comments on Trump voters, blacks and women, we'll take a closer look. And later, should ESPN and its former President disclose that he quit because of cocaine extortion?


KURTZ: Hillary Clinton still seems to be re-litigating the last election. At a conference in India, she again seemed to disparage the people who live in the regions of the country won by Donald Trump.


HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL NOMIEE: I won the places that are optimistic, diverse, dynamic, moving forward, and his whole campaign, Make America Great Again was looking backwards. You know you didn't like black people getting rights, you don't like women you know getting jobs, you don't want to see that Indian-American succeeding more than you are.

Whatever your problem is, I am going to solve it.


KURTZ: Joining us now, Philippe Reines, long-time Hillary Clinton Advisor and Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State. So Hillary Clinton sounds like she is slamming Trump voters as anti-black and anti-women, almost as deplorables. You might the press is overplaying this but a number Democrat lawmakers criticized her and distanced themselves.

PHILIPPE REINES, DEPUTY ASSISTANT OF STATE FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS: I wouldn't say there were playing it. I think if you listen to what she said, she is no way backing off from that, or I'm not backing off from what she said. I would encourage people to read something she wrote on Facebook that really puts it in context. Her point is pretty clear. And I think Donald Trump made the point.

He, throughout the campaign, said we are in terrible straits. We have to make America great again. America is not great. His inaugural day speech was American carnage.

KURTZ: I am getting a mixed message here because you're kind of defending the substance of what the former first lady said. In another network, you said it was an outburst. She should have kept that in her head.

REINESS: From a media perspective, I understand how a hard truth does not equate well to a 30 second sound bite. I understand.

KURTZ: It was not helpful, meaning not helpful to Hillary Clinton.

REINESS: Just politically. Just to people running. And I can understand what someone like Democrats would prefer no one makes any stray voltage, but she is not looking backwards. She is looking forward.

KURTZ: I understand. But I don't have any problem with her criticizing Donald Trump.

REINESS: Unless you agree she was right.

KURTZ: I think it is a misstep to criticize some of the 63 millions Americans who voted for Donald Trump. Let me play another sound bite because this had to do with a question why didn't win among white women and here's what Hillary Clinton said.


CLINTON: It is a sort of ongoing pressure to vote the way that your husband, your boss, your son, whoever believes you should.


KURTZ: Really in the 21st century? You think there are many women like that?

REINESS: I think there is more than zero like that. You and I probably aren't the best to talk about it, but I doubt there are too many women in your life that have made you change your vote as opposed to you can be influential on other people.


REINESS: It's a reality because she is not running again.


KURTZ: The reality suggests that is true. More women would have voted for Hillary Clinton if not for their domineering husbands.

REINESS: Well, but no, because what she is saying, and this ought to be applicable in 2020. The Democrats have been losing white women for some time, and she is explaining why that happened. Yes, she is talking about herself. She could have also been talking about Barack Obama, John Kerry or Al Gore. And in 2020 that could be someone else.

KURTZ: Speaking of 2020, so you said you understood why Donald Trump won in 2016. You couldn't see him win in 2020. You don't want that obviously. So in an op-ed in the Washington Post offering advice to Democratic candidates, you said don't seed Fox News.


KURTZ: Explain.

REINESS: Well, I mean, Fox is the highest rated, most profitable network. I don't see the point in just letting this battlefield go uncontested.

KURTZ: I think Hillary Clinton came on twice during the campaign.


REINESS: I am not criticizing her campaign. I have you know been with her and been in politics for long. This is a Democratic-wide problem. I think there are a very few members of Congress that come on. I see Adam Schiff. It's difficult coming on Fox. But it's important. If I am not sitting here, I don't know who would be. And they would maybe not be giving as strong of a defense of a point of view as I am trying to give. And I don't see how that helps anyone.

KURTZ: You get to say whatever you want.

REINESS: If even one person watches me and says he's not crazy and maybe has got a point. It's better than nothing.

KURTZ: Somebody who is related to you might have that reaction.


KURTZ: Look, you also say work the refs. You write the media is going to mess with you. Don't rely on them. Call them out. You are running for President, not President of the National Press Club. You think Democrats are too much worried about the approval of, you know, the New York Times editorial page?

REINESS: No. I meant that more in President Trump is a master at literally working the refs that he gets in their face. He tells them that, oh, you're in the pocket for the Democrats. You gave money. I saw you at their wedding. And it really gets in their head. And I think no one should think that the media is going to do their bidding for them, on either side.

You know He got in their heads for the debates for the Republican primaries. I mean his Republican opponents suffered for it the same way.

KURTZ: You are saying actually is that Donald Trump, wherein he has a lot of media experience before he got to politics is just better at this television game and a lot of Democrats, they need to up their game.

REINESS: No. I am saying his instinct is to bully. And he doesn't only confine that to Democrats. He bullies Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan and he bullies his staff. He bullies the press and it's no different. And the press in you know look, I spent years, and you know this, criticizing the press. But they have a part to play and they have to really kind of man up.

KURTZ: You didn't take Hillary Clinton on unfair coverage. I'm glad you decided to come on Fox to talk about it.

REINESS: Anytime.

KURTZ: Philippe Reines, thanks very much for being here. Still ahead on MediaBuzz, ESPN's John Skipper abruptly resigning as President because of a shakedown by his coke dealer. We'll talk to the generalist who broke that story after the break.



JOHN SKIPPER, FORMER ESPN PRESIDENT: Everybody understands that sports, and live sports right now is the sweet spot of media.


KURTZ: The Hollywood Reporter has uncovered the real reason that John Skipper abruptly resigned as ESPN's President in December by saying he had a substance abuse problem. Skipper told reporter James Andrew Miller what he was forced to admit to his boss, Disney CEO, Bob Iger. Someone from whom I bought cocaine attempted to extort me. They've threatened me. And I understood immediately that threat put me and my family at risk, and this exposure would put my professional life at risk as well.

I spoke to Jim Miller, co-author of a book on ESPN, Those Guys Have All The Fun, from New York.


KURTZ: Jim Miller, welcome.


KURTZ: John Skipper was clearly reluctant to tell you about the coke dealer and the extortion. You had to keep pressing him. How hard was it to get him to confess to what actually happened?

I think the whole thing was hard for him. He said he has been embarrassed by this. It's been a tough saga for him. But I think getting to that level detailing the story was particularly tough and I don't think he planned on doing so. KURTZ: how did skipper describe the weekend when he was writing up his resignation.

MILLER: Look, I think the whole thing was hard for him. Nobody wants to talk about this. I think he has said that he's embarrassed by this. It's been a very tough saga for him. But I think that getting to that level of detail of the story was particularly tough. And I don't think he planned on doing so.

KURTZ: He thought he was going to get through the interview without completely coming clean. Obviously, you kept coming back at him. How did Skipper describe the weekend when he was writing up his resignation statement?

MILLER: It was agonizing for him. He didn't eat. He didn't sleep. He was very miserable. He was very distraught. And I remember this was a complete surprise. So When John Skipper woke up Friday morning, he had been at Disney for 27 years, he had been President of ESPN for 6 years, and he had no reason to believe that day was going to be unlike any other.

KURTZ: Right. I can see why obviously why he would be reluctant to talk about it. So Skipper said he used poor judgment, obviously, kind of an understatement. He kept repeating and you picked up on this, that this had no impact on his job, that he kept everything compartmentalized, that he was careful. But what level of coke addiction would it take, obviously it did affect his job and ultimately cost him his job.

MILLER: Well, I'm not so sure that it did affect his job because if you go back to December when he did retire, one of the amazing things that happened was you know a lot of his colleagues said they were completely shocked. People who had traveled with him, people who had been around him all hours of a day, they saw no indications of this. And so I think what he had done was he constructed a very powerful duality to his life where this was something that he didn't use at work.

KURTZ: Yeah, but in the end, obviously he was not careful. Now, do you feel it was a mistake for ESPN and for John Skipper himself to hide the truth at the time that he stepped down?

MILLER: I think they were honest. I think the problem it created, particularly in a post-Weinstein world, was that people first of all, because they didn't see him as an addict, and also because of the climate that we are dealing with, I think that it conflates a lot of different issues. And people really believed that he was leaving for another reason, because there were no indications that any kind of substance abuse was affecting him on his job, let alone being known.

So I think that that was probably the real take away after they went through. And remember something, this happened really quickly. This happened on a Friday. He had to write a statement over the weekend and he was gone on Monday.

KURTZ: Jim Miller, it was a great interview and very skillful and done in a very humane way to get the full story here. Thanks very much for joining us.

MILLER: Thanks, Howie.


KURTZ: Still to come, a lawsuit against Fox News and Joy Behar apologizes finally on the air.


KURTZ: The parents of Seth Rich, the young DNC staffer killed in 2016 in what police call a botched robbery attempt has filed a lawsuit against Fox News, as realized Republican donors and occasional Fox News guest had we reported at the time. Fox retracted an online story, saying investigators had evidence that Rich leaked thousands of DNC emails to Wikileaks. Joel and Mary Rich seeking damages for emotional distress that their son's life has been reduced to a mere political football.

Fox says it cannot comment on pending litigation. The network said at the time that the web story "was not initially subjected to the high degree of editorial scrutiny we require for all our reporting." Joy Behar has now publicly apologized publicly after privately telling Mike Pence she was sorry for how her offensive crack about how people like him who communicate with Jesus are hearing voices and suffering from mental illness.


JOY BEHAR, THE VIEW HOST: Well, I think Vice President Pence is right. I was raised to respect everyone's religious faith and I fell short of that. I sincerely apologize for what I said.


KURTZ: Good for her for doing eventually doing the right thing on The View. Religious intolerance is no joke. That's it for this edition of "MediaBuzz." I'm Howard Kurtz. Continue the conversation on Twitter @howardkurtz and on our Facebook Page. We post my columns and original videos there during the week. And you can email us at And check out our new home page, just redesigned for you. We're back here next Sunday, our usual time 11 Eastern with the latest Buzz.

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