Media's Michael Cohen frenzy

This is a rush transcript from "Media Buzz," May 13, 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 wins the release of three American prisoners from North Korea. President Trump withdraws from the Iran nuclear deal and the hottest story on some cable news networks, payments to Michael Cohen and accusation by Stormy Daniels' lawyer.


MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY REPRESENTING STORMY DANIELS: Michael Cohen shouldn't be selling access to the President of the United States. I mean, this is a big deal.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC: What is alleged and this is breaking right now from Mr. Avenatti who is familiar to out viewers on this show obviously, is one of the most serious claims you could make in connection with the entire Mueller probe.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC: -- it's from Avenatti, but is a bomb shell because it connects a Russian oligarch paying $500,000 into a bank account basically which Michael Cohen was using to payoff hush money to Stormy Daniels.

LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC: Thanks to Stormy Danielle's lawyer, Michael Avenatti, we now know that Michael Cohen has used Essential Consultants, LLC for much, much more than sex hush money deals.

LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS: There has been quiet a few -- have been quite a few mistruths stated by Michael Avenatti who has brought on to some of these other networks as -- it's almost like an analyst. They almost forget that he's representing a client, and instead he says something and then the chyron, you know, Trump-Cohen bombshell Russian oligarch.


KURTZ: With the disclosures about Trump's lawyer getting big bucks from a Russia-linked firm and major American corporations warrant this constant coverage.

A media flurry (ph) over a leaked comment from a White House aide making fun of John McCain's declining health and a Fox Business guest making disparaging remarks about McCain as a POW. Has our culture come to this? The "New Yorker" forces the resignation of New York's attorney general Eric Schneiderman over a horrifying allegation of beating up four former girlfriends and yet some pundits make the story about Donald Trump.


KAITLIN COLLINS, CNN: The president has also been accused of sexual assault and the White House, some members of the White House are taking glee in this which is discussing.

JESSE WATTERS, FOX NEWS: Everything that Scneiderman accused Donald Trump of being a racist, sexually aggressive and a fraud, he is himself. So richly ironic and he was probably one of the loudest and most effective anti-Trump crusaders.


KURTZ: Why is some of the press deflecting attention from a disgraced Democrat accused on physical abuse? Plus, Melania Trump even draws flak for an initiative aimed at helping children. And why did a top newspaper mentioned a false (inaudible) about her marriage. I'm Howard Kurtz and this is "Media Buzz."

When President Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal it was huge global news, front page headlines everywhere. But on CNN and MSNBC that night, the story got bump down the lineup for the latest on Michael Cohen. The New York Times and other outlets confirming that an American company, with strong ties to a Russian oligarch who's been banned from the U.S., had paid the president's personal lawyer $500,000.

Cohen also took in millions of dollars from such major corporations as AT&T, Novartis and Korean Aerospace Industry. So, just how much media attention does this deserve? Joining us now to analyze the coverage, Gillian Turner, a Fox News correspondent here in Washington. Mollie Hemingway, senior editor of The Federalist and a Fox News contributor. And Capri Cafaro, a Washington Examiner contributor and former Democratic Senate Leader in Ohio.

Julian, these disclosures about Michael Cohen are news, period. But are they more important than the global impact of the president walking away from the Iran nuclear agreement?

GILLIAN TURNER, FOX NEWS: Is that a rhetorical question? And I ask because I think the answer is so obvious, which is no, they are not more important than U.S. nuclear threats -- the nuclear threat against the United States from Iran and North Korea and the fact that the administration saved three American hostages this week. I think that when it comes to the president pulling out of the Iran deal in particular, the widespread panning from the media was really a reflection of what the policy community was saying in this incidence.

And by that I mean, analyst across the board even folks who were initially critical of the deal -- the negotiations as they unfolded said now that we are in the deal it's important we stay in the deal so that the U.S. is perceived as living up to it's word. So I think the media was reflecting that sentiment a expressed by the --

KURTZ: Just to punctuate that point, CNN international correspondent Christiane Amanpoor - I'm just going to read this, possibly the greatest deliberate act of self-harm and self-sabotaging the geo-strategic politics in the modern era. But let's come back to Cohen as other channels seem do a lot.

What does it tell you about the focus of CNN and MSNBC, at least in primetime going wall to wall with the news that the confirmation of the original charges thrown our by Michael Avenatti about Cohen getting $500,000 from this American company with very close ties to this Russian billionaire, Victor Vekselberg, who as it turns out has been questioned by Robert Mueller's office?

MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, it was interesting that this was one of the things that was highlighted. I think it's actually important to point out right away that we know this information because there was a criminal leak from some government agency. Now, whether the was the special counsel or the Treasury Department, this us just the latest in a tremendous series of criminal leaks.

This one lays claim they're going to be investigating. We've had a lot of leaks that haven't been investigated. It's designed to create a narrative and obviously the Russia thing was pulled out. It was an American company actually who paid, the Essential Consulting, and they do have Russian ties and that name that you mentioned has been herd before because that was also the donors of the Clinton Foundation and what not.

But there is clearly an attempt to tie this to Russia conspiracy theory, and I thought what was much more interesting this week was the Department of Justice or some other intelligence agency, leaking to the Washington Post what they were suggesting was that they had a mole on the Trump campaign. That's a massive change in a really big important story that has not been getting a lot of coverage.

KURTZ: On the other hand, on the Cohen business, Fox primetime shows barely mentioned these payments to Michael Cohen and generally it's gotten far less coverage on this network, does it deserve more?

CAPRI CAFARO, WASHINGTON EXAMINER Well, I think that it deserve coverage but I think the question becomes, what do journalist focus on? It seems the, you know, the CNN and the MSNBCs of the world and other mainstream media have focused more on the salacious side, the building the narrative as Mollie mentioned. There are some serious issues here that I think warrant more scrutiny. One being, would it have been necessary for Michael Cohen to for example be registered lobbyist with the federal government if he's going to represent companies like AT&T --

KURTZ: Although, just briefly, nobody (inaudible) any evidence that he actually went to government officials and say change your policy, maybe, yes.

CAFARO: Agreed - agreed, but there was this entire memo on what AT&T for example expected of him so, you know, if you think you're going to engage in that kind of activity, should you not be, you know, that's a question, a registered lobbyist.

KURTZ: OK, yes.

CAFARO: I think the other, you know, aspect is this, you know, Russian oligarch. This man is actually being sanctioned by the United States government and I think that, you know, if you're going to talk about the issue of Russia in this context, I think it's more about, you know, why is someone doing business with somebody who now ultimately has been sanctioned.

HEMINGWAY: OK, but you're right, it's important to note that it was an American company actually who paid the money. There are links with this guy but that doesn't mean that there are sanctions.

KURTZ: But let me take a broader view, Gillian, and that is the media is just shocked -- shock to discover that there is gambling in Casablanca. I'm talking here about these big companies, you know, and so if not - I'm not defending this practice but D.C. is a swampy place. This has gone on for many, many administration. Will you hire someone who is a friend of somebody who is high up in the White House or the president because you were looking for access and somebody that can carry your message?

TURNER: There is nobody, Howie, that the press loathes and is more suspicious of than lobbying firms in Washington, D.C. and I think to certain extent, the national media is even more critical of lobbying in Washington than it is of the Trump administration at large. So there is no surprise that the press has zeroed in on Michael - of this, you know, revelations about Michael Cohen's lobbying firm called Essential Consultants, strange name. But Essential Consultants, and they are mega million dollars deals with big companies.

HEMINGWAY: I'm sorry, but that would be huge news to the American public if the media actually had a problem with this industry. I think the American people have a huge problem with the industry, but I don't think it's well covered. It is really gross, like the Michael Cohen's story is gross. People do trade access for money and that is something that happens all over the place. Have you heard the name Tony Podesta or think about Rahm Emanual who made $18 million after leaving the --

TURNER: OK, but that firm for example, Podesta Group shuttered after speculation from the media in the wake of disclosures about what they were doing in the campaign.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, and let's not forget --

HEMINGWAY: I disagree. I think the media is building (ph) a lot -


KURTZ: Go ahead.

TURNER: I was just saying, I disagree. I think the media keeps a really good watchdog eye on a lot of lobbying --

KURTZ: What if, you know, but there is a certain acceptance of it if you (inaudible). And what if people think all of K Street law firms and lobbying firms do when they hire former White House officials and former congressmen. It's all about access. It's all about influence. I'm not just defending what Michael Cohen did.

CAFARO: And theoretically regulated because they are lobbying fools (ph) that have to disclose. But remember, people -- the American public outside of the swamp voted for President Trump to drain the swamp. So someone so close to him, you know, being embroiled and taking this kind of money in a gross --

HEMINGWAY: I just want to say something. All the millions of dollars of consulting and lobbying firms combined have received less coverage than Michael Cohen has this week, I mean in history, I think.

KURTZ: Right.

HEMINGWAY: You see how much coverage this story got compared to the fact that this is a daily industry, lobbying and consulting. This is what this entire town is made out of. I did see Axios make a point like, obviously this is what this whole town is about, but that has not been the tenor of a lot of the --

KURTZ: I agree with that and you know, AT&T, the CEO now say it was a big mistake to hire Michael Cohen. He was hired in part to help with the proposed merger with Time Warner, which the Trump Justice Department has opposed. And again, this happens all of the time. It doesn't make it right. Not excusing it at all, but some people is acting just so shocked over it. Let's come back to Michael Avenatti. We played at the top, I mean, this is a guy - let's hear from him first and ask a question on the other side.


AVENATTI: There has been some criticism about how our media strategy and how often I'm on CNN and how often I've been on your show and other networks. It's (inaudible), OK. It's all a bunch of nonsense because here's the bottomline, Anderson. It's working, OK. It's networking in spades.


KURTZ: This is a guy who has been on CNN and MSNBC more than 100 times on a couple of months. He's representing his client but how much is he driving the media narrative on all of this?

HEMINGWAY: Well, he is the front man for what is obviously a well-funded and well-coordinated operation that has received next to no criticism or deflection by many people in the media. I thought the (inaudible) showed that he had a $175 million in free coverage on the various networks and I think it is worth asking like who is this guy? How does he have access to special counsel or Treasury Department documents? Who are his connections? Who's paying for this? We know that ostensibly represents Stormy Daniels. She had said she's not paying him. I think it's worth finding out just a little bit more about this thing that is driving so much of the coverage.

KURTZ: Right. And some of the information that he got that came from these leaked records and is now a treasury I.G. investigation of this, were wrong. You know, you have a different Michael Cohen who lives in Canada. He's wrong. Ninety-nine percent of it was right. I mean, don't you think that television anchors and reporters need to question him more aggressively rather than just putting him on show after show after show saying OK, what do you got? Come on, what do you got on Trump? What do you got on Stormy?

CAFARO: Yes, I mean look, I think that the networks have really - most of the network at least have really taken the bait. Michael Avenatti is absolutely a self-promoter and I think that they really just want to continue to again, focus on the more salacious aspects of it and there has not been a counterpoint to, you know, what Mollie and others have said.

There is no questioning of Michael Avenatti. It's just tell us more dirt and there is no checks and balances, and that's not journalism. And I want to make one other interesting point about Avenatti. I just saw it today in Politico. They just reported that Michael Avenatti had dinner just this weekend in New York with Ronan Farrow, who famously just, you know, took down the New York attorney general. So, I'm sure that wasn't just a friendly visit.

KURTZ: Well, there's been a little question with Michael Avenatti. In my view and often not aggressively enough, I mean it is kind of an imbalance because Michael Cohen is basically not talking so reporters chasing him into a taxi and he said this was inaccurate. His attorney is not out there very much. And then you have another lawyer who seems to let's just say enjoy being on television. He speculated by getting his own show one day. I understand why the media cover him, he's a camera ready guy, but does it seem a little imbalanced to you.

TURNER: It seems imbalanced. Laura Ingraham made the point in the opener of the show that -- Avenatti is treated sort of like an analyst or a commentator on these programs when in fact he's the representative representing one specific interest in a case. I would just say then isn't it incumbent upon the Trump team to try to counterpoint to that narrative. If he's the lawyer representing Stormy Daniels, Mr. Trump's the president - - the president's representative should be speaking out more as well.

KURTZ: Oh it is Michael Cohen who is under investigation on these particular points and a lot more (inaudible) about this. Let me get a break here. Ahead, a top newspaper runs an unsubstantiated rumor that Melania Trump isn't even living in the White House. Come on. And when we come back, Fox News bans a guest who attacks John McCain's conduct in captivity and uproar over a White House official who mocks his failing health, that's next.


KURTZ: John McCain is battling brain cancer. The Hill reported that White House official, Kelly Riddell Saddler, once an occasional guest on this program, made a horrendously tasteless crack about him during a meeting on how McCain isn't backing CIA nominee Gina Haspel. Saddler said, it doesn't matter, he's dying anyway.

And Fox has now banned an occasional guest, retired lieutenant general Tom McInerney for saying this on Fox Business about McCain suffering torture as a POW in Vietnam.


RETIRED LIEUTENANT GENERAL TOM MCINERNEY: The fact is that John McCain, it worked on John. That's why they call him Songbird John.


KURTZ: Saddler was said to have apologized on a call with Meghan McCain who said this on "The View."


MEGHAN MCCAIN, "THE VIEW": I don't understand what kind of environment they are working in where that would be acceptable and then you're getting home to work the next day and still have a job. My father's legacy is going to be talked about for hundred and hundreds of years. These people, nothing burgers.



KURTZ: Mollie, whether people like John McCain or not like John McCain as a politician given his history and the Vietnam War - I'm just giving his history of service to this country, the White House official joke about his dying seems to be beyond repair. Do you think all this outrage coverage is justified?

HEMINGWAY: You know, it's obviously an insensitive comment and one that you would not want to see made public. I think what's interesting is I saw a CNN reporter today claim that this wasn't a leak. Nobody leaks this comment. They were just sharing a private conversation, which I think is another way to define a leak.

KURTZ: Leak, yes.

HEMINGWAY: And it is interesting. It's like when someone says something bad and then someone else goes and tells everybody that someone said something bad. I think that it is worth asking like what was hoped to be gained by this by sharing this comment that is obviously going to hurt a suffering family and also hurt the White House. It's just a very interesting media story as well as a very personal story for a lot of people.

KURTZ: Well, Gillian, I think someone within the White House leaked this rather (inaudible) by Kelly Saddler to The Hill and other outlets. I'm willing to believe this because the person was so offended by this casual cruelty and not somebody was out to get Saddler in a bureaucratic battle. I don't know that but I can certainly don't have difficulty measuring it.

TURNER: It could be that. It could also be a personal vendetta against Kelly Saddler. Highly possible in this kind of environment, but it's pervading not just the White House but all of Washington. I don't know that the media coverage is fair of Kelly Saddler in the sense that calling on the calls for her to resign, which has been getting air time over and over whether journalist are saying it or commentators who say, I think I have to go through the staff and breakdown. But the general calls for her to resign actually holds her to a higher standard than the commander-in-chief, meaning who calls to the president to resign when he made -- pretty much did the exact same thing during the campaign when he mocked John McCain's tenure as a prisoner of war.

KURTZ: I would call out while the - I'm sorry. The White House isn't commenting because it's a leak of internal meeting. Kelly Saddler hasn't said anything. She has a public (inaudible) issued any statement at all. Good for Fox, Capri, for banning Tom McInerney over those comments. I mean, torture eventually breaks everyone.

John McCain was in Hanoi prison for five and half years. He can't lift his arms over his head because of the beatings that he went through. He repeatedly refused early release because he was an admiral's son. He didn't think he should go home out of turn, and I don't think he deserves that kind disparagement.

CAFARO: Absolutely not. I mean the man is an American hero regardless of what you think of his ideology or how he conducts himself in the United States Senate. Obviously he was elected by the people of Arizona. He has a right to represent them at any way that he sees fit. But I think that the issue surrounding this joke coming out of the White House is one of a larger narrative about the lack of civility in Washington and in political discourse at large.

That you know, we have come to the point where it is OK to basically disparage even, you know, a prisoner of war who has severed this country admirably. I mean, we had all these discussions surrounding, you know, the crassness of the White House Correspondent's Dinner. John McCain deserves our outrage too.

HEMINGWAY: But on the civility note, I think there are two different ways that you can engage with other people and I just want to say again, Senator McCain's military and political records speaks for itself. And as Meghan pointed out, his legacy is secure. There is this idea in this town that you can leak information and very passive aggressively share what other people said, and that's considered civil. And it's uncivil to say something privately.

I think a lot of people look at this and see it as a kind of junior high school theatrics where you say, oh you know, Becky says you're not very pretty. I mean that's not -- that's sharing negative information and it comes off very petty and I think it's important that we understand that civility should employed both privately and with the leaks.

KURTZ: By the way, Fox Business anchor Charles Payne apologized to McCain. He conducted that interview but we didn't hear the comment he says and Axios reported that Sarah Huckabee Sanders had a meeting in which she said the remark was unacceptable. Kelly Sanders was in that meeting and she also was reported to have said I'm sure the conversation is going to leak too, and that's just disgusting. And of course (inaudible).

Thank you all. Ahead, "The New Yorker" ends the political career of New York's Democratic attorney general with horrifying allegations of physical abuse, and yet some pundits are deflecting that story. But up next, the first lady steps into the media spotlight and gets singed. All the media a fair from Melania.


KURTZ: Melania Trump took a rare step into the spotlight by unveiling an initiative aimed at children.


MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY: I feel strongly that as adults we can and should be best at educating our children about the importance of a healthy and balanced life.


KURTZ: There was some straightforward coverage and some media mockery, but some journalist also picked up on a Washington Post report saying the first lady and her husband essential lead separate lives.


STEVEN PORTNOY, CBS RADIO: The Washington Post among many things reported that there are persistent rumors. Mrs. Trump does not live in these White House and that she lives with her parents somewhere in the suburbs. What do you make of those rumors?

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I make of the fact that the just when you think the Washington Post can't get things anymore wrong, they do, and that is an outrageous and ridiculous claim.


KURTZ: I spoke earlier with Carly Shimkus, a reporter for Fox News 24/7 Headlines on XiriusXM from New York.


KURTZ: Carly Shimkus, welcome.

CARLY SHIMKUS, FOX NEWS 24/7: Thanks for having me.

KURTZ: In that Washington Post story, there are some positive quotes about Melania Trump and that rumor is reported in the 57th paragraph followed by two White House officials denying it. One said it's a thousand percent false. Still, would you have published that rumor?

SHIMKUS: No, I would not have. To their credit, every time they did have a claim from an unnamed source, they did back it up by talking to the first lady's spokesperson. But still, that was published and it's salacious and sticks with people. The fact that I felt like I was reading a star magazine instead of the Washington Post is a problem. I think this article really crossed the line on several occasions.

The most glaring to me was when it talked about how the president is never photographed with Barron Trump. So, they were clearly trying to portray this fractured image of the first family, and it felt forced at times. I do think that some people will read this article and take it with a grain of salt and maybe say, you know, part of it is true, part of it isn't. The same way you do when you read a tabloid, but the fact of the matter is this is not a tabloid. This is the Washington Post.

KURTZ: Right. Now, it's fair for the press to criticize the first lady's initiative to say it's too ambiguous, even to say, you know, her cyberbullying campaign is undercut by her husband's attacks on twitter. But do you find some pundits when it comes to Melania are just dismissive or mocking.

SHIMKUS: Yes, you know, I really do and it all does usually focus and center around their marriage. And the president and Melania Trump are independent people. She's not the kind of person that's going to go up and hug somebody in public. Now, the interesting thing here is that when she did unveil her initiative, she was very affectionate with the president.

And then you see headlines rolling in that said, oh, that moment was forced, it seemed staged and stitched up. They can't really win no matter what they do. And a lot of that criticism does have to do with the Stormy Daniels situation, and that is legitimate. But I think you should leave that kind of stuff to certain publications and twitter and not serious news sources.

KURTZ: All right. We have a half minute. Now, some media outlet said, oh, Melania was ripping off an FTC booklet that was produced during the Obama administration on childhood tips. But her spokeswoman hit the opposition media for pointing that out saying, hey, it was just one document and we didn't make any secret of the fact that this was something had been out there before. Does this suggest to you, just briefly, that Melania can't catch a break when it comes too much of the press?

SHIMKUS: Yes. And also the fact that they were also criticizing the name of the initiative, "Be Best," saying that she may have copied Michelle Obama because in 2016 during a speech at a women summit, Michelle Obama said the phrase, be better. So, I didn't know that anybody could really stake claim on the word she and the sound be, but apparently I was wrong.

KURTZ: All right. Carly Shinkus, being her best. Stay with us in "Media Buzz." Thanks very much for joining us.

SHIMKUS: Thanks a lot.


KURTZ: Ahead on "Media Buzz," a liberal New York Times columnist says the media are downplaying vital issues because their Trump obsession makes money.

But first, Eric Schneiderman quits as New York's AG for allegedly beating up women. And some of the press want to make it about Donald Trump.


KURTZ: It took less than three hours for Eric Schneiderman, New York's Democratic Attorney General, to resign after the New Yorker published devastating accusations from four former girlfriends, accusing him of physically beating them and in two cases, threatening to kill them.


RONAN FARROW, JOURNALIST: They described really horrific and serious allegations of abuse, of slapping, hitting, choking. Bear in mind this was an individual who was public a very public of champion of women's rights, who in fact, introduced anti-choking legislation.


KURTZ: Well, because Schneiderman has been investigating and suing Donald Trump, some commentators made a story about beating up women, dismissed by Schneiderman as mere role playing into a story about the President.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN: It's interesting to see people in President Trump's orbit gloating about this, given that there are plenty of charges against President Trump as well.

INGRAHAM: But instead of going after Schneiderman for his misdeeds and his abuse of office, today's never Trump media merely used this scandal. It's just another vehicle for trashing conservatives.


KURTZ: Joining us now to analyze the coverage here in Washington, Gayle Trotter, a Contributor to the Hill, and in New York, Cathy Areu, Publisher of Catalina Magazine and a former Washington Post Editor. Gayle, let's start with this chilling New Yorker piece, (Inaudible) and (Inaudible) reporting these terrible allegations.

And Eric Schneiderman, despite his lame denial, quitting almost immediately. That's pretty powerful journalism.

GAYLE TROTTER, TOWNHALL.COM: It's great journalism. It is so powerful. It shows the advantages of a press that's not afraid to challenge people in power. And it's something that should be commended (Inaudible) work on this.

KURTZ: And on many other subjects. And Cathy, a lot of left-leaning journalists and people like Samantha (Inaudible) who had him on as a guest, I mean cursed him out last week, felt betrayed because he was a Democrat who did put himself forward as a champion of women's rights and even sued Harvey Weinstein. So I think there was sense of disappointment on the left.

CATHY AREU, CATALINA MAGAZINE: Right. He betrayed women. He's humanity. It is awful. The story is awful, but as Gayle said, it's beautiful journalism. I mean this is a free press and this is what the press is supposed to do. They uncovered something that was horrific and horrible, and look at what happened at the results. So this is journalism at its best.

KURTZ: You know I think we have a consensus on that. So some of the media then kind of deflecting this to be about President Trump, what about the sexual allegations against him, what did do you make the way that story started to turn?

TROTTER: Right. Well, it's a classic case about what about-ism or the media -- that people couldn't feel like they wanted to pursue the real story. These are shocking and appalling allegations. There are many questions that remain unanswered, especially who knew what and when they knew it, and we see this shift to this Washington Post article that headline is Trump, Schneiderman, (Inaudible) and the changing shape of sex scandal.

So it completely changed from the important investigation that had been done, that needed to be continued and followed up onto try and to tie in Republicans and particularly President Trump.

KURTZ: Cathy, some of this was because Donald Trump, Jr. and Kellyanne Conway seemed to be enjoying Schneiderman's downfall. But it was surprising since he had kind of positioned himself as the champion of the anti-Trump and suing the President.

AREU: Right. But still, this is the way journalism works now. So we had the story come out and now come the analysis, and you do have a President in the White House that has his own allegations going on, sexual allegations from different women. The Stormy Daniels is every day in the news. So we hear now that this man, this Democrat resigned because he couldn't lead because of what was going on in his personal life.

So people are turning around and saying can our President lead at this critical time given what's going on with these allegations. So it only makes sense that the news cycle is going to start turning and turning. This is the way journalism is.

KURTZ: Well, it also reflects, I think, some partisanship in the media, so two very different.


KURTZ: By the way.

AREU: Maybe.

KURTZ: NBC has conducted, completed I should say, an internal review of the Matt Lauer firing and has decided that senior management was unaware of the sexual harassment allegations against the former Today Show Anchor. That probe drew a lot of criticism because it was conducted in-house, no outside law investigation, no outside law firm, and also (Inaudible) for example, Lauer's former co-host on Today, said that she went to management a couple of times about women who came to her to complain about Lauer.

She was never even interviewed. Let me get you two on one other thing, which is the President tweeting. This is after a study by a conservative media group, reflecting other studies as well that network news coverage of the President has been 90 percent negative, but the President tacked onto that tweet. Why do we work so hard in working with the media when it's corrupt? Take away credentials, question mark. Gayle, does that go too far?

TROTTER: No, it's the equivalent of Trump's bigger button tweet to Kim Jong-Un.

KURTZ: You're saying he's going nuclear with the press.

TROTTER: He is. He's telling them that he has the capacity. And I think the key part of the story is the media do not understand that President Trump is not tied to the playbook. The media thinks that the President should not be able to criticize the press and should not suggest for reprisals for fake news and bad reporting. President Trump just wants the press to play fair.

KURTZ: OK, when you bring up credentials, first of all, it's one thing to do it as candidate, as he did in some cases. It's different when you're President. You've got the White House. You've got rules and procedures. And Cathy, I don't think Donald Trump would really do this. I think it's taking a little slap at the press. But does it give ammunition to those who believe the President would trample on the First Amendment.

AREU: It is. (Inaudible) freedom of the press, this is horrible. Is this a dictator? Are we in Cuba, China, and Russia? We don't have state-run newspapers.

KURTZ: Hold on. It's just a tweet. He hasn't actually done this. Let's make clear.

AREU: Just a tweet. These are his thoughts. And I had my White House press credentials, and you work hard to get those credentials. They don't just hand them out to anyone. To say they're going to take away credentials, I mean we need the media. We need every man to sit inside that White House and ask those tough questions.


AREU: It's not easy to get credentials. To say you're going to take away our credentials, we worked hard to get them. Just anyone from the street cannot just walk in.

KURTZ: Well, they do need to be responsible in their coverage, but I don't think that that should -- the penalty should be pulling away credentials. And by the way, if President Obama had said let's take away Fox's credentials because he didn't like the coverage, I think the reaction of some who might be cheering this would be very different, great debate, Cathy Areu, Gayle Trotter, great to see you both this Sunday.

Coming up nick, Nick Kristof of the New York Times says smart liberals like him have become as insular as the President they mock. And later, the MSNBC attack on Sarah Huckabee Sanders that went too far.


KURTZ: A number of White House officials have said on this program that the media are so fixated on President Trump's pugilistic style that they give short (Inaudible) to what ordinary cared about. Now, Nick Kristof, the liberal New York Times Columnist writes, that the press is locked in this symbiotic with Trump, and that he so dominates the round the clock coverage that media attention to serious issues is utterly overshadowed. I spoke with Kristof, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner from New York.


KURTZ: Nick Kristof, welcome.


KURTZ: You're a strong critic of the President. Now his supporters have long said that the media's Trump obsession distracts from coverage of serious issues. Now here you are saying that you and some fellow liberals and some fellow journalists are infected with the same fever, explain.

KRISTOF: So I think that it's very important to have accountability journalism at this time. And from my point of view, that means rigorous investigative reporting about President Trump. But I also think that there is a danger that he sucks all the oxygen out of the room. And there is so much more happening besides President Trump, besides what he's saying, and besides what he's doing.

You look around the world. You have a (Inaudible) genocide unfolding in Myanmar. You 65,000 people dying of drug overdoses this year. You have enormous problems in American education and healthcare and so and so on. And so I think we in journalism have to figure out how to do a better job of absolutely holding the President accountable, absolutely covering the White House, cover the Washington story.

But not losing sight of all the rest that is going on around the country, and.


KURTZ: If all Trump all of the time, is the media's business model for 2018, as you say, then it seems like it's driven by more about ringing cash registers than doing solid journalism that doesn't focus obsessively on Donald Trump.

KRISTOF: I think it is a lot about business models. And I think that in 2016, we made that mistake. We found that as long as cameras were pointed at then candidate Trump, then audiences followed. And now I think that is so long, especially in cable television frankly, that as long as the topic is President Trump and the things he's doing, then audiences follow.

And there was some concern, as you know, Howie, and some anxiety in news rooms back in 2016 that we had a lot of audiences, a lot of clicks, and then that Hillary Clinton was going to win the election, and that then government be boring and audiences would flee.

KURTZ: OK, that turned out not to be a problem.


KRISTOF: There is not a problem.

KURTZ: Very candid paragraph that you write. Progressives snobs like me, (Inaudible) to these global issues, but the truth is we don't pay attention At cocktail parties, cable television at the dinner table, or the water cooler, all we talk about these days is Trump. So we complain about Trump (Inaudible) but we have become (Inaudible) as well, we caught the contagion that we mock, some interesting confession.

KRISTOF: I think it's exactly true. I think it's especially true if you look around the world, that the issues that we cover are those that are politically controversial, that where President Trump has some involvement. But issues, you know, Myanmar is a good example. This is genocide. And yet, we in the media, in many ways, I think have dropped the ball on it, or global humanitarian crisis, Sudan, or even these various domestic issues that don't have a strong political connection, like the deaths of 65,000 Americans from opioids and other drug overdoses.

KURTZ: In fairness, the President has made that an issue and has talked about it, but just finally, it sounds like you agree with the Trump White House that the coverage is often not terribly substantive?

KRISTOF: Yeah. I mean, I would hesitate to say that that's the essence of the Trump White House media criticism.

KURTZ: Part of it. They tell me this all of the time.

KRISTOF: Well, I do think that there is, indeed -- yeah, valid point that we tend to cover kind of the debates, about the political side of President Trump. We don't adequately cover the actions that he takes especially from the field. But above all, we essentially cover the political agenda and President Trump's agenda. And I think progressives, like myself too often let him drive that.

KURTZ: Well, you say you even talked about Trump on date nights with your wife, so enjoy your next date. Nick Kristof, thanks very much for joining us.

KRISTOF: Good to be with you, Howie.

KURTZ: After the break, the New York Times disses Mike Pompeo and winds up with egg on its face.


KURTZ: After President Trump pulled out of the Iran deal, the New York Times ran piece on Mike Pompeo headline, at a key moment, Trump's diplomat is again thousands of miles away. That's true. He was winning the release of three American prisoners from Pyongyang.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I think our secretary of state, despite the fact that the New York Times said he was missing, he was in North Korea. But I think our secretary of state has done a fantastic job. Mike, did you know that you were missing?


KURTZ: And we are back with Gillian Turner. I bumped into Mike Pompeo this morning. He said he hadn't seen the story. He'd been traveling. So I was breaking news to him. Where do you think that the Times story and the broader way that the media covered the freeing of these American prisoners.

TURNER: The media missed the mark on the North Korea, across the board. I felt by criticizing the Secretary of State, for not being in the United States while he was actually, you know.

KURTZ: Doing his job.

TURNER: Doing his job. And then also for the way that they covered President Trump's travel in the middle of the night to the tarmac where the plane was landing to personally greet the hostages, missed the mark, showed up all of the biases the President accuses the media having every single day.

KURTZ: He does something good. He goes there three in the morning. People say it was a stunt. Very different one though, Bill Clinton won the release in 2009 of three female -- two female journalists in North Korea and then of course, he was hailed for that. All right, you're leaving for London tomorrow. You're going to cover the Royal Wedding, Prince Harry, Meghan Markle.

The Palace seems to be choking off all media coverage, only one reporting in the chapel. One journalist told the New York Times that Harry actually hates the press. Do you feel like you might be on the outside looking in here?

TURNER: I might be, but that's OK. I am just happy to be there.


KURTZ: It's not North Korea.


TURNER: I spoke to a British source yesterday who told me that this is common knowledge in the U.K. Prince Harry and now Meghan Markle, since she has become his girlfriend, are very disappointed with the press coverage that they have received as a couple, not just the tabloid press in the U.K., which can be bitter and vicious, even more so than our own.

But the actual mainstream media in Europe has been very unkind to her, making derogatory comments about her race, making derogatory comments about their coupling. It's been really brutal for them.

KURTZ: It's quite a fish bowl.


KURTZ: And I'm sure in Harry's case, it's not unrelated to the fact that his mother Diana died being chased by paparazzi.


TURNER: Aside from that.


KURTZ: But look, Americans love royal weddings, sure that's why you're going. There's a whole lot more interest on this one because of Meghan Markle, I mean American, an actress, biracial, divorced, not exactly your typical Kensington Palace bride.

TURNER: No. And she's also 37 year's old, meaning she's an adult. She's not a young -- you know Princess Diana was I think 21 or something. But everything about her is different, and this is why the mainstream media has rightly pointed out just the fact of who she is modernizing the monarchy. In one fell swoop, she's changing the face of things, and I think that's good for everybody.

KURTZ: I love that you talked to a British source about these feelings because it lets us know what it looks like from a journalist point of view. I mean we all think it's a great but I guess if you're Meghan Markle and suddenly you're suddenly you're so scrutinized, it's got to be difficult.

TURNER: Well, if you'll remember at the beginning of their courtship, Harry's press team had to put out a statement defending her and telling the media to lay off, because it was so bitter and ugly. From the beginning, this has been a problem.

KURTZ: All right. Have a great trip, Gillian Turner, great to see you. Still to come, an apology from MSNBC's Nicole Wallace, and a New York Time's story that turned out not to be fake news.


KURTZ: Nicole Wallace, the Bush White House official and John McCain campaign aide, turned MSNBC host, was skewering Sarah Huckabee Sanders, (Inaudible) Baghdad or with the administration's refusal to apologize to McCain over a sick joke when she said this about the press secretary.


NICOLE WALLACE, MSNBC: How do you resist the temptation to run up and wring her neck? Why can’t she just say, "If a staffer said that, we’re going to get to the bottom of it and she’ll be fired"?


KURTZ: Ring her neck? Well, Wallace has tweeted an apology: I used poorly chosen words and I'm sorry. That was the right move. Can we all just dispense with the violent imagery?

New York Times reported that Homeland Security Secretary, Kristin Nielson was so upset after President Trump had berated her in a cabinet meeting for not securing the border that she came close to resigning, but a DHS spokesperson called the story false, except the Chief of Staff John Kelly later told Fox's John Roberts that he had called Nielson, his former deputy to implore her not to quit, which means that despite the denials, the Time's piece was essentially right.

That's it for this edition of "Media Buzz." I am Howard Kurtz, Happy Mother's Day for all of you moms out there. We hope you like our Facebook page. Give us a like. We hope you will continue the conversation with me on Twitter. We post a lot of original content on Facebook. DVR the show when you can't be here to watch because you're out celebrating Mother's Day, and we are back here next Sunday 11 Eastern as always with the latest buzz.

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