FBI searched reporter's records

This is a rush transcript from "MediaBuzz," June 10, 2018. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: This Sunday, the Justice Department secretly obtains the phone and e-mail records of a New York Times reporter in a leak investigation, one that involves the arrest of a former Senate aide who is her ex-boyfriend. That may be why the reporter, Ali Watkins, was able to break the story involving former Trump campaign adviser, Carter Page.


ALI WATKINS, NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: This is the question moving forward, right, is what did the Trump administration know and when did they know it, essentially.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: You cannot leak classified information. At the same time, we need freedom of the press. But you cannot leak like Hillary Clinton did.


KURTZ: Was the reporter compromised? Will does have a chilling impact on investigative reporting? Is DOJ ramping up the effort launched by the Obama administration to go after journalists?

President being hit with very negative coverage of his confrontational approach at the G7 meeting as he just arrived in Singapore for the North Korea summit with some pundits scoffing at his declaration that he doesn't need much preparation.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump thinks that he can just blow it off, like he doesn't have to study for the test or just come in and ace it without having done his homework.

NICHOLAS CONFESSORE, POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: And the problem with not preparing in this case is that you don't know the back story is in the history and don't know what the North Koreans want out of it. They can take you for a ride.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All they have said, this guy, the president, is in over his head. He doesn't know how to negotiate this. And meanwhile, Kim Jong-un is the one who is backed into a corner right now.


KURTZ: Will the criticism affect the coverage of the meeting with Kim Jong-un?

The media throw a penalty flag as Trump disinvites the Philadelphia Eagles from a Super Bowl celebration, but is the press giving most of the Eagles a pass for refusing to visit the White House?

Plus, Rudy Giuliani becomes a press pinata with his loose talk about Stormy Daniels and his view of women.


RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK CITY, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I' sorry, I don't respect a porn star the way I respect a career woman or a woman of substance.


KURTZ: How would have this series of investigation turned into a televised food fight between the former mayor and Stormy's lawyer? I'm Howard Kurtz and this is "MediaBuzz."


James Wolfe, a former top staffer on the Senate Intel Committee, for lying to investigators centers on his conversations with three reporters, one of them his girlfriend at the time, Ali Watkins. The New York Times reporter working for BuzzFeed last year broke this story about Carter Page. "A former Trump adviser met with a Russian spy."

Watkins and Wolfe exchanged 124 electronic messages that day, spoke for seven minutes after the story was posted, and another 15 minutes after her appearance with Rachel Maddow.


RACHEL MADDOW, HOST, MSNBC: Why did Carter Page confirm this to you and what was his affects toward this information and it becoming public?

WATKINS: He was very forthcoming with it. I mean, I have been doing a lot of reporting on it, so knew that it was him in the document.

TRUMP: I'm a big, big believer in freedom of the press, but I'm also a believer in classified information. It has to remain classified. And that includes Comey and his band of thieves who leaked classified information all over the place.


KURTZ: Joining us now to analyze the coverage on this and other subjects: Mollie Hemingway, senior editor at The Federalist and a Fox News contributor; Susan Ferrechio, chief congressional correspondent for The Washington Examiner; and Juan Williams, co-host of "The Five."

Mollie, so this was part of an official investigation by Donald Trump's FBI of The New York Times reporter and the leak. Will the media uproar over the surveillance of a reporter doing her job prompt a reexamination of the FBI tactics in your favorite subject, the Russia, Muller, Trump investigation?

MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, SENIOR EDITOR AT THE FEDERALIST, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Right. It's very understandable that people are concerned when the government comes in and investigates reporter. We do have freedom of the press and that is something that is not as -- you know, it is very well protected but a lot of the way that journalist can work is made possible by the Department of Justice choosing not to go after journalists.

There aren't as many rights there when you are involved in the commission of a crime such as leaking classified information. Yeah, it is interesting that journalists can see, well, we don't want the government surveilling us at all when we are doing our work. They don't seem to provide that same understanding when they are looking at how Donald Trump does not appreciate being surveilled in his campaign and other work.

KURTZ: Susan, so the press is outraged about this. And Jeff Sessions says he is ramping up leak investigation. He says there are three times as many as we are going on at the end of the Obama administration. But it was Eric Holder, Obama's AG, who approved electronic surveillance of 80 staffers and James Rosen and other cases.

SUSAN FERRECHIO, CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER: This is a continuation of what was happening with the Justice Department. Interestingly, The Washington Post had a story out yesterday. Buried in the story, you have a Justice Department aide from the Obama administration talking about how they went too far.

It's buried in the story. They said, yeah, we went too far, we went after the AP, we were surveilling New York Times, surveilling Fox News employees. But now, we put safeguards in place, they said. So that for Trump to be doing this right now is inappropriate. It's the ultimate hypocrisy because this really did ramp up under the Obama administration.

KURTZ: Right.

FERRECHIO: And we all know, there have been so many leaks coming out of the Trump administration compared to the Obama administration.

KURTZ: It was one of the few issues in which the press turned on President Obama, I think.

FERRECHIO: Hardly. Hardly, I thought.

KURTZ: A lot of journalists --

FERRECHIO: Mostly here.

KURTZ: Oh, not just the Fox. Aren't journalists who rely on confidential sources to do their work, legitimately concerned that this will make sources not want to talk to them?

JUAN WILLIAMS, CO-HOST AT THE FIVE, POLITICAL ANALYST FOR FOX NEWS: It sounds like a cliche, Howie, but it's chilling.

KURTZ: Yeah.

WILLIAMS: It really is because, you know, leaks, and I -- you know, I go back to covering Ronald Reagan, so that's how long I've been around here, but without --

KURTZ: Gotten your share.

WILLIAMS: Yeah. And without leaks, you don't have an operational dynamic between government officials and reporters. You do have official statements. You have dog and pony show-type events and speeches and the like. But you require a certain level of intimacy with the reporter trusting the source and the source trusting the reporter.

Let me tell you, a lot of times, it's official policy coming from an administration in terms of trial balloons and the like that they are putting out to reporters. I'm just saying in terms of the trade craft of reporting, there is a legitimate relationship. And that's why the Obama administration --

KURTZ: Sometimes reporters are used. Sometimes they willingly --

WILLIAMS: Correct. That's what I'm saying.

KURTZ: Let me come back with Mollie to Ali Watkins because as I said at the top, she had this romantic relationship with this top guy at Senate Intel Committee when she was working on this BuzzFeed story about how the Russians were trying to recruit Carter Page.

But Page did confirm to her on the record that he was male number one in this court filing. Does this really warrant offense going after her and getting her records?

HEMINGWAY: Well, again, the -- I think it is interesting to relate it back to how things were handled during the Obama administration where 20 AP reporters had their information taken and where -- what James Rosen was called the co-conspirator.

KURTZ: Unindicted co-conspirator.

HEMINGWAY: Unindicted co-conspirator. That's very aggressive.

FERRECHIO: It seems that records were also --

HEMINGWAY: Right. In this case, it seems that they just took meta data and it's really important for journalists remember to try and encrypt everything and have as many in person conversations or ways that can't be surveilled by the government so they can be good effective watchdogs of the government.

What is interesting here though is this relationship is somewhat scandalous. I am surprised that so many editors allowed her to continue to covering someone she had a personal relationship with. Abe Rosenthal, the famous New York Times editor, said, I don't care if you're having sex with an elephant, you're not going to cover the circus. And that seems --

KURTZ: It cleaned it up (ph) --


HEMINGWAY: It cleaned it up (ph). But it's important to not have too close a relationship.

KURTZ: For the record, Ali Watkins has denied getting confidential or classified information from this person, her source. But there are thousands of texts messages and calls between them. I just gave one example.

But Juan, does this romance, does this sort of muddy the waters and make her a less than an ideal poster child for journalists who are unfairly investigated by the government?

WILLIAMS: No. I think that there are all kinds of relationships. How many times have -- I'm not going to say you, Howie, but I know that I have been out drinking with sources and you develop relationships and sometimes it becomes friendships. And that's all part of it because --

KURTZ: Isn't there a distinction between going to the bar with somebody you gotten friendly with who gives you information and sleeping with somebody?

WILLIAMS: I'm not going to get into that, but I think the key here is, from my perspective, the Justice Department has to make an exhaustive effort to obtain the necessary information before they start grabbing reporters' files, information, and even devices. That to me is over the top.

KURTZ: It's supposed to be a last resort. Mollie.

HEMINGWAY: It's also important though that journalists be forthright about their sources. One of the things that was interesting about Ali Watkins is she publicly stated that Trump attorneys were the ones that were leaking some of this information that was coming out of the community that she was covering when it certainly appears given this man who has been indicted that he was sharing the information with reporters.

KURTZ: She tweeted about the committee's view and how Trump's lawyers were leaking and blaming on the committee. It looks very different.

WILLIAMS: Can I make one last point?

KURTZ: Yeah, quickly.

WILLIAMS: He was not indicted for leaking classified information.

KURTZ: No, for lying to investigators.

WILLIAMS: Correct. So I think it is important for the audience to know that.

KURTZ: Absolutely. But the feds told Ali Watkins back in February that her records have been seized and she did not tell The New York Times. And Mollie makes the point that, you know, she is writing the stories for BuzzFeed. Is there any obligation by the editors to reveal the relationship (ph) or take her off the beat (ph)?

FERRECHIO: I just think the media landscape has transformed and the rules are evolving with it. Long ago, this would have been a fireable thing. Nowadays, everyone is trying to survive with clicks and pay views and it's less valued. No one cares as much when someone acts this way. And I think that she was producing scoops that was more important.

KURTZ: All right. There is more to be told on the story. We will follow it. Meanwhile, the White House press just pounced on Sarah Huckabee Sanders after President Trump's attorneys admitted he had, quote, dictated a statement. This was after the news broke that his son and others had held that Trump Tower meeting with the Russian lawyer promising dirt on Hillary Clinton, in which the press secretary had denied from the podium.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How can we believe what you say from the podium? It's my understanding it's entirely inaccurate.

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Once again, I can't comment on a letter from the president's outside counsel. They answer it. Frankly, I think my credibility is probably higher than the media's. And I think in large part, that's because you guys spend more of your time focused on attacking the president instead of reporting the news.


KURTZ: Mollie, Sarah Huckabee Sanders may have been given bad information last year about the president's role indicating the statement which his lawyers now admit. But she refused to even engage or acknowledge the question. She just kept saying, ask the lawyers, ask the lawyers, ask the lawyers. What was at issue is her answer.

HEMINGWAY: Right. Last year, she specifically said that Trump didn't dictate this letter. The attorney's letter says he did. That is something that needs to be dealt with. No one begrudges her for having had false information and it's not even a big deal whether the president dictated this letter or not.

But something needs to be done to restore credibility when have said something that's not true. I'm surprised that they don't have a better way of clearing that up.

KURTZ: There is a lot of focus on the letter because the feeling was it minimizes what actually happened at that Trump Tower meeting. Juan, so we just heard Sarah Sanders say reporters were trying to tear her down. She used that phrase.

And her credibility is higher than the media's. Is this her way of deflecting the question about why can't you own up to the fact that you have made mistake or given inaccurate information?

WILLIAMS: I think it is very combative. I think it is reflective of her boss, who I think is a huge leaker according to everybody in the press corps himself. And the idea is that she is protecting her boss or somebody very close to her boss who gave her the bad information. So she is being a good soldier for the administration.

But in the context of a combative relationship between the American press and the Trump administration, it takes on a different hue. And that Sarah Sanders is a thing, I want to punch back, just like Donald Trump says I'm a good counter puncher, that was Sarah herself.

KURTZ: Every press secretary faces some version of this dilemma. And Sarah Sanders could have said, look, I was given inaccurate information. I regret that. I try very hard every day to do my job and provide you with the right information. And because she just was seen as refusing to account for her previous false statement.

FERRECHIO: I don't think there was any credible way for her to get out of this. Can you imagine if she said -- can you imagine if she said, oh, I was given bad information. No way. And I think that the press treats this administration with far more scrutiny, more criticism, more gotcha, gotcha, gotcha than we have seen in forever. So, you know, it created a very defensive posture clearly for Sarah and the rest of the crew there. I really can't blame them.

HEMINGWAY: It is also true that when that letter came out from Trump's attorneys, there was so much in it that was interesting that made it seem like Trump had a very strong case against Robert Mueller. The only thing that the media really picked up on out of this was this discrepancy. That is a part of the larger problem with true telling that the media have and they are not in a good position to criticize someone for not telling the truth when they are doing such a bad job.

WILLIAMS: Obstruction of justice. If the president in fact is dictating that letter in order to push the investigators off that course, that could contribute to Mueller's probe.

KURTZ: It could potentially maybe. All right. Let me just throw out this Time magazine cover. We talk about the coverage of this administration being different, portraying Donald Trump as a king, "king me," and the talks about absolute power.

All right. Let me get a break. When we come back, the president is in Singapore today, getting absolutely hammered by the press over the way that G7 meeting ended in acrimony. And later, the media throwing penalty flag over the president versus the Philadelphia Eagles.


KURTZ: The anchors and reporters are in Singapore where President Trump has just arrived for the North Korea summit. But the news coverage heavily focused on the president tough tactics at the G7 meeting perfectly captured by this photo, it's everywhere, tweeted up by John Bolton of Trump looking very unhappy during impromptu meeting with other western leaders.

Mollie, The New York Times news story says today, president had a (INAUDIBLE) tweetstorm after the G7, tweeting from the plain that Canada's Justin Trudeau is very dishonest and weak and made false statements and pushing (ph) to have the U.S. signed a joint communique. This after Trudeau has said the steel and aluminum tariffs were kind insulting. What do you make of the tone of the coverage?

HEMINGWAY: Well, economic policy is something very important to cover. Unfortunately, many people in the media seem to be covering it just as a matter of personality. And then they also don't seem to understand that one thing to upset the status quo is something that is complicated and interesting and people are very much wanting the solid coverage of.

They have been portraying Donald Trump as someone who just wants to increase tariffs willy-nilly, not seeing it as some sort of a leveraging point. Yesterday when he was in this meeting with all these people who claim to be free traders, he said, I have a proposal. How about we get rid of all tariffs, all subsidies, all barriers?

They didn't seem to be so keen on that. They like this irregular tariff situation where they can pose very large tariffs while Americans don't. He is trying to change that. I'm not even arguing whether something is good or bad, but just understanding the fundamentals would be a good approach.

KURTZ: Juan, headline in Politico today, typhoon Trump blows G7 off course. That's true. U.S. allies feeling alienated. That is true. But the tone is all about sort of like a bull in a China shop and very few are saying, look, president is fighting for America and this is his style.

WILLIAMS: No. I think everybody says that it's America first, which was the president's campaign pledge. The counter point though, it doesn't come from the press, Howie. I think it comes from people like French President Macron, who says the United States under Donald Trump is increasingly pursuing isolationist policy so the counter to America first is isolation and of course today --

KURTZ: It's not just the question of the press quoting other NATO or leaders or Canadian leader or Mexican leader, this is the tone and the news analysis I am reading. The president is, you know, blowing up -- in fact -- let me go to Susan on this. So this is Washington Post headline. "In Trump, some fear the end of the world order." That's pretty dramatic.

FERRECHIO: The problem with the personality-based coverage of Trump is -- this is echo of what Mollie was saying here.

KURTZ: Yeah.

FERRECHIO: Missing better stories here. One thing I think that's been wholly ignored because we are focusing on his tweets. This is a huge issue. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama both pledged to renegotiate NAFTA. It was a huge part of their campaigns. I know this from covering Congress. Big, big deal in a lot of these states especially places that voted for Trump. He is actually trying to do this.

KURTZ: How do you not do at least in part personality-based coverage when you have the president tweeting about the prime minister of Canada very dishonest, weak, false statements. I mean, he is picking some personal fights for responding to personal attacks.

FERRECHIO: That's fine, but where is the other story I just mentioned? You're not going to see that.

WILLIAMS: I do think you see the story. I think the important point here is again, the United States is disrupting the established world order in terms of trade. And I think to say that --


WILLIAMS: Wait a second. Wait a second. The president and the White House own economic advisers are saying that this disruption could increase the number of jobs lost and hurts us.

FERRECHIO: On the other hand, they have been talking for years about fixing it. When are they going to do it?

KURTZ: I'm going to bring us back to the media coverage. The president was asked by a reporter about his relationships with the other western leaders. Take a look.


TRUMP: Who do you work for?


TRUMP: I figured, fake news CNN. The worst. The relationship that I've had is great. So you can tell that to your fake friends at CNN.


KURTZ: So,, he doesn't like CNN. But also the relationship has not been so great.

HEMINGWAY: Well, that question really was a cartoonish question. Underlying it was a very important point about realigning -- understanding our relationships with our allies and how we are treating them and moving to North Korea and having a summit there. But the way it was phrased was just so over the top.

KURTZ: Right.

HEMINGWAY: That it is a really good reminder that you should do a much better job with posing questions if you want to get a good answer.

KURTZ: Also a lot of negative, talk about president saying Russia should be readmitted to G7. What about his comment about, well, I am prepared but I don't have to be that prepared because it's all about attitude. Kim Jong- un on the summit on Tuesday, the press is really kind of hammering him about that particular comment.

FERRECHIO: That was their classic move where they truncate the whole paragraph. All you heard him saying was, I don't have to prepare. If you listen to wholly what he said there, it was that he has been preparing for a long time for this.

If you listen to it in context, he wasn't just saying, I'm waltzing in there without any preparation. He just said, you know, I have been preparing for a long time and I am not sitting around studying books about --

KURTZ: By the way, on "Fox & Friends" this morning as the president was getting off the plane in Singapore, Abby Huntsman inadvertently referred to meeting Trump and Kim as two dictators. This is the kind of inadvertent stuff that happens when you are doing live coverage, unfortunate in this case, obviously.

Mollie Hemingway, Susan Ferrechio, Juan Williams, there is a lot more to talk about here. Thanks very much for joining us. Ahead, the president said coverage of his wife has been vicious. Is he right? Up next, more on Jeff Sessions' department obtaining a reporter's phony e-mail records and the implications for investigative reporting.


KURTZ: We will keep our dive now on the Justice Department secretly obtaining the phone and e-mail records of a New York Times reporter in a leak investigation.

Let's go Charlottesville and bring in Larry Sabato, who runs the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. Larry, do you think Jeff Sessions and Justice Department went too far in seizing these records?

LARRY SABATO, POLITICAL ANALYST, PROFESSOR OF POLITICS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: We don't have all the facts yet, Howie. But based on what we know, I think they did go too far just as the Obama Justice Department did in somewhat similar circumstance. So, maybe we can take this out of partisan politics and look at whether the government should be undertaking actions like this against reporters.

KURTZ: Well, I agree with you that we don't have all the facts. I also agree, as we mentioned earlier, that the Obama Justice Department did a lot of this in terms of seizing records from journalists who are doing their jobs.

But on the other side, isn't the government justified in trying to stop the leaking of classified information? It isn't a crime for a reporter to receive it but certainly is a crime and there now has been a charge against this former Senate Intel Committee official for transmitting this stuff to reporters.

SABATO: Howie, it's easy to say yes, but both of us have been around a long time. You know very well and I know well from working with the government files that the government will classify the telephone directory if they have a chance. They will stamp that classified.

So, the fact that something has a stamp of classified on it does not necessarily mean it relates to national security. If it really is a serious national security concern, then yes, I think the government would be justified in limited cases like that. But often, this is simply a way of chilling the press and most importantly chilling sources.

KURTZ: Yeah. Well, I think it does a chilling impact because, you know, every reporter now who goes to a source and says I'll protect your identity, the fact that encrypted apps were discovered through this guy, James Wolfe, Senate committee guy or Senate committee staffer, also is troubling.

But now the fact is, as we mentioned in the earlier segment, Ali Watkins of the Times, formerly at "BuzzFeed," was dating this Senate aide. Does that muddy the waters? And even more important, declining trust in the media, will that limit the impact of the public caring about this stuff?

SABATO: It certainly isn't a pleasant part of the story.

KURTZ: Yeah.

SABATO: It adds an element that I think causes all of us to back up a little bit. I still go to the heart of the matter which is, do you want government deciding what we, the people, see if it's not directly related to national security? You know, we pay for all of this stuff. We, the people. We, the taxpayers.

And again, I just learned over the years that government will keep as much information as they possibly can to themselves whether it's justified or not. They want the knowledge, they want the information, they want the power that comes from it, and they don't want us to have it.

KURTZ: I think you make the salient point that this did not start with President Trump although Trump administration obviously free press advocates are criticizing the way in which this was handled. Great to see you, Larry. Thanks so much for joining us.

SABATO: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

KURTZ: Ahead on "MediaBuzz," did Samantha Bee's apology to Ivanka Trump of far enough? But first, Rudy Giuliani and Stormy's lawyer are debating porn stars and women's looks. Is this television enabling a mud fight?


KURTZ: Rudy Giuliani keeps making news as he defends the President, but often not in ways he might not have intended, leading to a war of words between Rudy and Stormy Daniels' inescapable lawyer, Michael Avenatti.


GIULIANI: I am sorry. I don't respect a porn star the way I respect a career woman or a woman of substance, or a woman who has great respect for herself as a woman, and as a person and isn't going to sell her body for sexual exploitation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And yet, somehow Rudy Giuliani thinks that my client isn't entitled to be believed because she was in the adult industry. It's disgusting and this guy is an absolute pig.


KURTZ: Wow. Joining us now in San Francisco Emily Jashinsky, Commentary Writer for the Washington Examiner, and here in D.C., Philippe Reines, the former State Department official and Hillary Clinton adviser. Emily, Rudy and Avenatti going at it about who is a pig and what's (Inaudible) of a porn star, I am thinking this has gone totally off the rails. It's like a middle school spit ball contest and television in particular is just eating it up.

EMILY JASHINSKY, WASHINGTON EXAMINER, COMMENTARY WRITER: Yeah. Television in particular, you're right. It's astounding to me that the morning that this was all playing out. It was a crowded news cycle. It's astounding to me that some networks found so much time to cover this. To be fair, one of the comments Giuliani made about you know look at Stormy Daniels, which (Inaudible) was disgusting.

And to hear it from the President's personal lawyer is a little jarring. So I understand why there was an immediate reflex, like wow. I can't believe we just heard that from the President's lawyer. But at the same time, it's a very crowded news cycle. And there is a really telling exchange between Mika Brzezinski and Claire McCaskill on Morning Joe.

Mika Brzezinski was trying to get Claire McCaskill to react to it, and she is saying listen. This is not what I'm hearing from both (Inaudible).


KURTZ: But Philippe, Giuliani exceeded -- he succeeded driving the media coverage when he was mayor, when he -- I covered him as U.S. attorney. And now he's constantly -- he seems to be creating these brushfires that then he has to stamp out.

PHILIPPE REINES, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yeah. Well, I mean I think Emily had a point, is that Giuliani is the President's legal spokesperson. Avenatti is Stormy Daniels -- legal spokesperson. It makes sense that when they go at each other.

KURTZ: Right.

REINES: That it's going to be news worthy. And you know I don't remember what else is going on that day. But yes, it got a fair amount. But Rudy is, I think, like you said he's looking at it (Inaudible) I was in New York for his two terms. I actually voted for him three times, including his losing election for mayor.

He's looking for it. And he's getting it. And you know it's to the point where the coverage isn't just what he is saying. You had the secretary of state having to say Rudy doesn't speak for foreign policy.


KURTZ: This was when Giuliani said that Kim Jong-Un was on his hands and knees begging for a summit.


KURTZ: That was not appreciated (Inaudible). Emily, so many women, some men, saying they're offended the President's lawyer would make pronouncements about a woman's profession. And then some are even saying well, look at Melania. She did some racy photo shoots as a model. Avenatti comes back and says he's asking people on Twitter to provide him with proof that Rudy Giuliani watches porn. I mean seriously? I understand we have to cover this, given who they are, but seriously?

JASHINSKY: Yeah. This brings me back kind of to your original point, which is that when you peel back the layers on this story, you have to think about what the relevance is of it. It isn't the national news cycle, right? Like, what is this really telling us, that Michael Avenatti, whose credibility is waning, is trying to wage this war that just keeps them in the press with Rudy Giuliani, who is also waging this little media strategy?

And so when we peel back all the layers, and we get to what the heart of it is, I am not sure that there was a lot of relevance for viewers. And I think it's just seen as two compelling characters in this circus, and that's why the media is so attracted to it. But I think they're both losing sympathy with the American people.


KURTZ: It's a circus-like atmosphere. Let me play one more (Inaudible) from Rudy Giuliani. Here, he brings in the President's wife and as he talks about Stormy Daniels.


GIULIANI: She believes in her husband. She knows it's not true. I don't even (Inaudible) suspicion, (Inaudible) right, beautiful woman, classy women, women of great substance, Stormy Daniels?


KURTZ: And that prompted the first lady's spokeswoman to say Rudy Giuliani never discussed anything with Melania, kind of a wrist slap.

REINES: Yeah. I mean more than a wrist slap, more like a cross the face you know sucker punch. But I think you know there are two things here. First, you have to remember, the reason we are talking about porn stars is because Donald Trump had an affair with one while he was married to Melania.


KURTZ: Which he denies for the record.

REINES: Denies, but I think at this point it's pretty clear that there is a reason why it's on television. It's not just because Avenatti and Giuliani are colorful people.

KURTZ: Like cameras.

REINES: Like cameras. But the second part is you know Melania did strike him down. Pompeo, like I said, had to strike him down. The President said Rudy is Rudy. I mean it's not a media fixation as much its Rudy is just lashing out and he's being criticized from all sides, including from his boss.

KURTZ: So let me (Inaudible) since we're talking about Melania Trump, of course, she re-emerged in the public eye three weeks after having that kidney surgery. She was on the FEMA event with her husband. And let me put up President's tweet, one of them the fake news media have been so unfair and vicious to my wife, our great first lady during her recovery from surgery.

They reported everything from near death to face lift to left the White House and me for New York (Inaudible) to abuse, all fake. She is doing really well. So Emily, doesn't the President have a point here, a political headline about conspiracy theories, NBC, why Melania's vanishing act matters. It became kind of an obsession.

JASHINSKY: Yeah. It was a huge thing. And I would say his tweet has really (Inaudible) but he shouldn't have used the word report, because I didn't see a lot of people reporting you know Melania Trump definitely had a facelift, or sources say Melania Trump is in Virginia. So I think semantics maybe. But at the same time like, what some people in the press did this week was really disgusting.

It's one thing for conspiracy theorists on Twitter to fling these things into the ether. But for members of the media to speculate about domestic violence, to implicate the President in spousal abuse is just stunning. And so it just goes to show how Trump drives people to the point of just, sometimes just total -- they're acting so unreasonable and treating the President in ways they never would anybody else, whether they're Republican or Democrat.

KURTZ: The President also tweeting about how Melania was spotted by four reporters but they didn't really report that because it would hurt the sick narrative. It's almost like the press says none of this counts, because she was reported to be having meetings in the east wing, unless she does what we want and appear before the cameras.

REINES: Now I don't think that's far -- I think we should everybody the benefit of the doubt here. She's the first lady of the United States. She had a health issue. I do think there was legitimate concern about her well being, about her health.


REINES: Next. The President, the conspirator-in-chief cannot wake up one day and say I am upset about conspiracy theories against my family when he spends every day all day throwing that at other.

KURTZ: Philippe, all things can be true.

REINES: It can.

KURTZ: They say things that you don't like (Inaudible) conspiratorial and the press may go too far speculating about the first lady, who is recovering from surgery.

REINES: Well, but what's interesting is that the person who came in on Friday said she is doing great. She just can't travel for a month.

KURTZ: Yeah.

REINES: He said the very thing, that had they said weeks earlier, would have avoided this entire segment.

KURTZ: That's the point. All right, we'll keep you two over the break. Coming up, the press pounds the President for disinviting the Super Bowl champs. But didn't Eagles diss him first? And later, (Inaudible) mockery Kim Kardashian actually got something done at the White House.


KURTZ: The media cried unnecessary roughness when President Trump disinvited the Philadelphia Eagles for a White House celebration. This, after almost all the players on the Super Bowl champs decided against attending the meeting. Many pundits throwing the penalty flag because of this Trumpian tweet. Unfortunately, only a small amount of our players decided to come and we canceled the event. Staying in the locker room during for play of our national anthem is as disrespectful to our country as kneeling. Sorry. And media figures from Philly were quick to react.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was the Steelers, Pittsburgh Steelers who stayed in the locker room during the anthem, Mr. President. It was not the Philadelphia Eagles, so again, the suggestion that it was the Eagles who did that, false, deceptive, a lie.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From the Philly guy, I'm going to have to side with Trump. It's like the Eagles tried a trick play. Trump sniffed it out and shut it down.


KURTZ: Emily Jashinsky, President taking enormous heat from the media over this move, canceling the Eagles visit. But didn't the press downplay the fact that all but a few, perhaps only one of the Eagles players had agreed to come to what is normally a sort of a non-partisan you know sports event at the White House.

JASHINSKY: So I think that's the key. And I actually think that the media sort of latched on to this narrative, which is easy, and I think because to some extent true, that Trump saw this as an opportunity to sort of gin up a culture war. Like the more the press is covering national anthem controversies, the more the press is defending anthem kneelers, the more you know people are favorable of Donald Trump.

So -- but I also think really what you are saying is that -- what you just said, there is a lot of Eagles players that seem to have backed out of the agreement. And it was kind of a logistical problem and a PR problem for the White House that they were sort of trying to put on a quick band aid over.

KURTZ: Yeah.

JASHINSKY: So I think there was maybe a narrative that was overly simplistic.

KURTZ: Well, what really fueled the media criticism, Philippe is that the tweet about not staying in the locker room during the anthem because no Eagles player took a knee during the anthem in this past season. The President does like this culture war against the NFL that he started to some good political (Inaudible) I would say last year.

REINES: It's a tremendous political effect. And I think that's an important point, because the President is looking for every opportunity he can to fight that culture war. And first it was during the regular season, now it's every time someone comes. Like you said, the Eagles, not a single player took a knee during the regular season except to pray, which you're network had to.

KURTZ: We'll get that in just a moment.

REINES: But it's you know, it's unfortunate. Sports should be the last vestige where even people disagree. Emily and I should be able to sit watch a game and not kill each other. And now, if we watch a game we'd be talking about.

KURTZ: Essentially, the press goes crazy over this sort of thing Emily, because the press also likes the culture war. It is fun and it is sports. It's like a lot easier than you know combing through healthcare policy.

JASHINSKY: Right. And Trump knows that and I think that's why again, it's just like we were just talking about, how it's like overly simplistic. Look, I actually don't think this was a big culture war strategy on the White House's part. I think they were going to be kind of embarrassed with only one Eagles player showed up.

And they had to come up with sort of a creative, innovative way to slap a band aid on it. Make it look like you know this was somehow different than what it was. And so I think that was really more of what was going on. And yet, what we heard was different than that.

KURTZ: So I think most pundits said the President was being divisive here, and to some extent that's true. But aren't they playing the role of the Eagles, who maybe the players don't like this President but couldn't they have showed up at White House out of respect for the office and the tradition of sports teams going there?

REINES: Well, no. I mean first of all.


REINES: You had a Fox Sports -- I mean Terry Bradshaw, I think today, said that he believed the Eagles said the right thing. And you had Eagles players saying look. Find us someone who is sexist or misogynistic. I am not going to go to their party, and that's how they see it. I think at this point though, this is not just the Eagles.

This is about -- it happened with the Warriors. It happened last year with the Warriors. It's about to happen with the Washington Capitals. Just stop with these events. Let's just stop making them. They become political. Forget about who to blame for it. Let's just stop with the -- you know.

KURTZ: Well, somebody (Inaudible) that the President should invite the horse Justify. It was just (Inaudible) the Triple Crown, probably show up for the event.


KURTZ: The NBA, just briefly, Emily. Before the championship ended between LeBron James' Cleveland Cavaliers and Steph Curry's Golden State Warriors, both LeBron and Steph said we're not going to the White House if our team wins. Now it's moot because the Cavaliers are never going to win. Probably won't be invitation to the Warriors. Isn't it (Inaudible) -- I know it's a great media (Inaudible) shame because sports of course, do get affected by politics.


REINES: Now, Howie is taking (Inaudible) shots at the.


KURTZ: One sports shot, quick reaction, Emily.

JASHINSKY: You know what, I think you're -- there is sympathy among the press for one side of this debate, and I think it shows up every time. And I think what we don't talk enough about is what effect this is going to have on the post-Trump presidency. Or is the White House forever you know going to be damaged because all these traditions, these sports traditions were overlooked in the Trump.


JASHINSKY: That's a serious question.

KURTZ: And on that note, Emily Jashinsky, Philippe Reines, thanks very much for joining us. Now, we should note that "Fox News @ Night," in covering this controversy, did show some unrelated footage that left the wrong impression. I want to play for you (Inaudible) apology.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: During our report about the President canceling the Philadelphia Eagles' trip to the White House to celebrate their Super Bowl win, we showed unrelated footage of players kneeling in prayer. To clarify, no members of the team knelt in protest during the national anthem throughout the regular or post season last year. We sincerely apologize for the error.


KURTZ: And that's the way a mistake should be handled. After the break, Samantha Bee is sorry. Kim Kardashian takes care of business, and the leak that cost a White House aide her job.


KURTZ: Kelly Riddell Sadler, the presidential aide who caused a furor last month after the leak of her crack about John McCain dying, she never publicly apologized, has been pushed out of the White House, which was probably inevitable, the administration not saying much more than that. The New York tabloids went nuts, remember this, when Kim Kardashian lobbied the President to commute the life sentence of a 63-year-old grandmother in prison on drug charges.

Well, they can all stop snickering since now Trump has commuted (Inaudible) sentence. Samantha Bee who was widely condemned for calling Ivanka Trump a feckless c-word, this because she hasn't magically changed her father's immigration policy on breaking up families, says she is sorry.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is a word I have used on the show many times, hoping to reclaim it. This time, I used it as an insult. I crossed the line. I regret it and I do apologize for that. The problem is that many women have heard that word at the worst moments of their lives. A lot of them don't want that word reclaimed. They want it gone. And I don't blame them.


KURTZ: Now I give her credit for that, but she should have addressed the rest of her offensive remarks that Ivanka should have persuaded the President by wearing something tight and low cut, essentially a down in the gutter incest joke. And Samantha Bee had to do something to limit the damage to her TBS show, which was losing advertisers. But at least the apology was a good first step.

Still to come, my thoughts on the tragic news about two top television stars, public fame versus private agony.


KURTZ: Anthony Bourdain had the dream job, right? The food critic, author, and (Inaudible) host got to travel around the world, got to have these grand feasts. So the news on Friday that he killed himself in a French hotel room while on assignment was especially shocking and disturbing. His mother Gladys said he had everything, success beyond his wildest dreams, money beyond his wildest dreams. And that is precisely the point.

It was equally painful this week when Kate Spade, the fabulously successful clothing designer committed suicide. Both had young kids. And both were battling severe depression, and utterly insidious disease. We think we know people, including those in the public eye, but many are waging private battles that we know nothing about.

Bourdain once wrestled with drug abuse. And in the end for people like Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade, those struggles can be untouched by the trappings of success. Friday also brought tragic news about my friend and our Fox colleague, Charles Krauthammer. He has been battling cancer and now says he has weeks to live. Charles has been such a towering presence at this network, including this program.


KURTZ: How did you feel when you, who have been such a fierce Trump critic, when first Kellyanne Conway and then Sean Spicer, and then the President courted you favorably.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, I was (Inaudible) gratified when Trump referred to me as Dr. Charles Krauthammer. When I left medicine to be a journalist, my dad was supportive but skeptical. A few years he and I (Inaudible) I come home around midnight. Phone rings it's my dad. He said you were great on "Night Line," but why did you let him call you mister?


KURTZ: This man is not just a brilliant thinker, author, columnist, and a psychiatrist. He is a force of nature, fiercely independent in his opinions. He's an inspiration who refused to be hindered by the swimming accident that confined him to a wheelchair, a great pro stylist, unable to type his own pieces.

He was also warm, generous, wickedly funny, a baseball fanatic who made it his business to befriend even the rookies around here. And his letter is classic Krauthammer." I leave this life with no regrets. It was a wonderful life, fully complete with the great love as in great endeavors that make it worth living. I am sad to leave, but I leave with the knowledge that I lived the life I intended." Our love and prayers to Charles and his family, as he nears the end of what has been a wonderful life.

And that's it for this edition of "MediaBuzz." I am Howard Kurtz. Thanks for watching. Let's continue the conversation. Let me know what you think on Twitter @howardkurtz. Check out our Facebook page. We post my original columns there, web exclusive video. We hope you'll appreciate that. Go to the home page. You can watch the whole episode on Monday if you missed it. And on that note, we'll be back here as every week, 11:00 eastern. See you then with the latest buzz.

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