This is a rush transcript from "Fox News Watch," February 20, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
JON SCOTT, HOST: On "Fox News Watch," Senator Bayh says bye-bye.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. EVAN BAYH, D-IND.: I do not love Congress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: The Indiana Democrat dropping the bombshell on his party this week. Sick of the dysfunctional Congress caused by brain-dead partisanship. Did the media paint him as a hero or a party-pooping villain?
The president marks the one-year anniversary of his stimulus plan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We have rescued this economy from the worst of this crisis.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: Singing its success as most in the media chime in. But in all of the hoopla, did the media fail to make a fair assessment?
U.S. troops on the offensive in Afghanistan on the push to take out Taliban terrorists. Have the mainstream media helped or hurt the effort?
Plagiarism at The New York Times and another journalist out the door. When it comes to ethics and accuracy has the old gray lady hit a slippery slope?
Robert Gibbs and the media machine have a new way to avoid the press.
A big movie director gets booted off the plane for being too big. And the media weigh in.
And something big in Florida gets full-court attention. What could be the big attraction?
On the panel this week, writer and Fox News contributor, Judy Miller; syndicated columnist, Cal Thomas; Jim Pinkerton, fellow, New America Foundation; and columnist and Fox News analyst, Kirsten Powers.
I'm Jon Scott. "Fox News Watch" is on right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BAYH: ... could understand, I love working for the people of Indiana. I love helping our citizens make the most of their lives, but I do not love Congress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: There you have it, pretty bluntly. Democratic Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana says he's bailing out of the dysfunctional Congress. The bombshell announcement sparking speculation about his party's future, as seen in headlines like these. From The Indianapolis Star, "Game changer, Senator Bayh's decision to retire buoys Republican." The Washington Post says, "Bayh to depart in latest blow to Democrats." The Huffington Post writes, "Bayh minus partisanship equals giving your seat to Republicans."
So what about it, Jim, how did this — how did this get treated in the press?
He's not the first Senator to announce he's not going to run again.
JIM PINKERTON, FELLOW, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: Right, but he's the first who probably was going to get reelected and who is leaving the Senate with $13 million, count them, $13 million dollars in the bank.
I think that the story behind this, as Chuck Kane of The Washington Post said, is he's probably going to run for president somewhere here in the year 2012 or 2016. In polarized media environment, the middle also now is polarized against the extremes, and Bayh is trying to claim that territory.
SCOTT: Judy, I think I saw you shaking your head.
JUDY MILLER, WRITER AND FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: People who watch Evan Bayh, and a number of the commentators said this, said he never felt it in his gut, that he's not presidential material, that he doesn't want to be president. And how much more definitive can you be than he himself was when he said, I'm taking my meds. No, no.
SCOTT: But a lot of media also pointed out that he was a two-term governor, that he liked being a governor and he liked being a chief executive. If you want to be the chief executive?
CAL THOMAS, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, it this doesn't preclude him from being president. But I think it's a trend we should encourage. Let's have more members of Congress resigning. I think that's a good thing.
Here is how the media treats this. It's always the same. It's always, will this hurt the Democrat agenda? And when Republicans are in the White House, it's still, will the Republicans hurt the Democrat agenda? If you look at the front pages of the newspapers, it's all through the filter of the Democratic agenda.
SCOTT: He says, Kirsten, he's ending his Senate career because of dysfunction and infighting. Did the media agree?
KIRSTEN POWERS, COLUMNIST & FOX NEWS ANALYST: It depends which media you're talking about. There was a little bit after rollercoaster that went on of people trying to decide how they want to react to this. On one hand, people agree, it's dysfunctional. On the other hand, I think there was a lot of panic that, oh, my gosh, this Democratic Senator is leaving, and what's going to happen to the Democratic agenda. So I think you saw...
SCOTT: So boosterism, you're saying?
POWERS: Yes, based on where people were coming from, they sort of reacted to it differently, I think.
SCOTT: All right.
Let's talk about this. This week, the White House celebrated an anniversary. President Obama marked the first year of his stimulus package.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: There has never been a program of this scale, moved at this speed, that has been enacted as effectively and as transparently as the recovery. I'm grateful that Congress agreed to my request that the bill included no earmarks, that all projects received funding based solely on their merits.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: Solely on their merits.
Is it fair to say that most in the media agreed with the president's assessment?
MILLER: I think most in the media were understandably skeptical of that claim, and that this story was treated as an opportunity to go back and look at what has and has not been accomplished under the stimulus package. And most furious of all, the president's claim of two million jobs saved or, you know, how do you measure saved job? I think, initially. Fox News was one of the few networks that challenged that notion. Gretchen was out there saying we don't know how to measure a saved job. She was right. Fox was right. And people need to be skeptical.
PINKERTON: Judy, you might have missed ABC's coverage.
Which had two reports on the stimulus package, talking about creating jobs, not creating jobs and solar power, all this good stuff, and never once mentioned the dominant fact, which is the unemployment rate, 9.7 percent, which has gone way up since the stimulus.
SCOTT: Well, and much of the stimulus money hasn't been spent yet, Kirsten. Does that get mentioned?
POWERS: I think it's been mentioned. Initially, it was. But that's the way the bill was built. It really wasn't supposed to go out in the first year. So you can quibble with that about whether that's the right way to do a stimulus package, but it supposed to go out in trenches of money. That's the way it's set up.
SCOTT: But it comes back to the point that reporters often don't do economic stories, right?
THOMAS: USA Today did have a good story on this in showing that the claims that the administration's making are not measuring up.
Let me say something else that's very important here. When Obama speaks now, there seems to be almost a silence, an echo in the room where the media were major cheerleaders during the campaign and up for the first nine months or so during the administration. They're just kind of overwhelmed. He's on all the time. You can't turn on the television without seeing the president. And there's a moment of quiet. And I think you're going to see — and we'll see it in the elections in November, if the Democrats lose big, as I expect they will — the media will slowly turn on this guy, not because they'll admit that they were wrong about him, but because...
POWERS: They're already turning on him.
THOMAS: They will say...
...Yes, they are. They will he's not living up to our expectations.
SCOTT: Kirsten, we just heard the president talking about how the stimulus bill has been effective and transparent. What about that almost 10 percent unemployment rate when, you know, he said it was going to be held to 8 and so forth? There are a lot of promises that were made that the media aren't really paying much attention to, are they? Are they?
POWERS: No. I do think they pay attention to it. I just think — we've talked about this before. I don't think, for the most part, except for the economic writers, who are not the people on the White House beat. They are not covering politics and don't know how to tease this stuff tout and they believe what they're told. When they're told, OK, oops, sorry, we said that, no big deal, let's move on. They move on.
PINKERTON: They didn't believe Reagan when he said the economy was recovering. They sure were skeptical then.
SCOTT: Time for a break.
But first, if you want to know what our panelists really think, well, during the breaks, we keep the cameras hot and the mics open. Go to our web site after the show, Foxnews.com/Foxnewswatch. You can hear more of those thoughts.
We'll be back in two minutes with a look at how the press is covering the U.S. offensive under way in Afghanistan.
ANNOUNCER: The U.S. Troops on the move in Afghanistan, and the capture of a top Taliban terrorist makes news. But the news was held by The New York Times, why?
And it's mega media mayhem in Florida. Who or what could have caused such a rush for the press? Answers ahead, on "News Watch."
SCOTT: The United States Marines on a massive offensive trying to root out Taliban insurgents in southern Afghanistan. Our troops were pushing through the town of Marjah this week, which is considered a major militant strong hold. Along with the offensive came this from The New York Times on Tuesday: "Secret joint raid captures Taliban's top commander."
Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar is the guy we're talking about, Cal. He apparently had been in custody a week, ten days, before we knew about it. And the Times held that story. Did they do the right thing?
THOMAS: They did. I wish they had done it more consistently in other administrations when requested to do so. Occasionally, they have. But more often than not, they put secrets on the front page. The favorite quote on this, Bill Keller, executive editor of The New York Times appearing on public radio. Listen to this. "There was no obvious public interest reason to rush the story into print and, you know, we are responsible people." I'm going to let that just hang in the air.
SCOTT: I think I saw a nod of agreement from Kirsten, I'm not sure.
POWERS: Oh, I wasn't sure which quote were you going to read. There were some good ones in that interview. And he also referred to having basically — I think, it was a less contentious relationship with this White House.
POWERS; I mean, you know, essentially saying, yes, we run, you know, stories that are bad for national security when we're not getting along with the White House, but we'll protect national security when we do. It's just, that's not journalism.
SCOTT: This is sort of the first big test of President Obama's surge plan. Is the media giving it the right amount of scrutiny?
PINKERTON: I think they're paying pretty close attention. I think that the coverage has been pretty good. I think there's a lot of news coming out of there. I think it's clear that Pakistan is kind of moving more in our direction now, and whoever deserves credit for that, will be sorted out soon enough. But, no, I think the press is sort of having wished the whole thing would go away is now kind of realizing they have to send reporters back to in-country.
SCOTT: There are some who have speculated the arrest of this guy, Baradar, is designed sort of as a favor to the Obama administration to make them look good in his war on terror because Baradar was fairly public within Pakistan. Do you have any thoughts on that?
MILLER: There are many questions about him and his role. There are questions about whether or not he may have, in fact, given himself up, in that he was the person arguing for negotiations with the Karzai government. He was the go-to guy if you were an international negotiator who wanted to cut a deal. So I think the press has been skeptical in raising the issue of who he is, when did we get him, why did we get him, which is, after all, our function.
SCOTT: How does the press sort that out though?
MILLER: Well, by digging, digging, digging.
SCOTT: Everybody wants this mission to succeed, but if it doesn't, how is that going to get covered?
POWERS: Oh, it will get covered, I mean, definitely. But I think that, you know, it's a great question to ask just because, you know, now Obama's president and it's his war, and I think it will be covered differently than it would be covered if it was ending under Bush. And so maybe people are a little more invested in seeing it succeed. But I think that, you know, I think that actually, I think Jim is right, I think that actually it gets covered pretty closely and pretty well.
SCOTT: Time for another break.
We are going to be back with the new way the White House is communicating with the public, and...
ANNOUNCER: A New York Times journalist quits, accused of plagiarism, lifting work done by others. Has the mainstream media ignored the crime?
And the media swarm to a major event. Was it the president, the queen, O.J.? What was the draw? Details next, on "News Watch."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I do not know yet if I have tried to type one of those out where the number right next to the box didn't say negative something.
There's a whole language, obviously that I — in typing with numbers and symbols that has evaded me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: Oh, what a learning curve at the White House.
That's White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, talking about starting his own Twitter feed. It's a new tool for him, he says, to monitor how the White House Press Corps is covering him, really, their beat, and a new way to see how the public and the media react to the president.
Gibbs' first couple of tweets appeared nonpartisan. Quote, "Learning about the Twitter..."
"...easing into this with first tweet, any tips?"
And then, "Wow, in less than 30 hours almost 17,000 of you are following. Amazing. Watch out Kim Kardashian. Thanks to all for the smart tips."
Are you jealous of his mastery of Twitter, Jim?
PINKERTON: I've been there, with 140 characters limited, and you realize you're 50 over and you have to turn every word into an abbreviation.
Good for him. You want a government that's responsive, that's in touch, that's keeping up with things. More power to them.
POWERS: You know who Kim Kardashian is? I mean, he's the White House press secretary.
POWERS: I just think he would not have enough time for that. I think he has an intern doing this.
MILLER: Yes, exactly. I mean, come on.
THOMAS: Yes, middle aged man should not try...
THOMAS: ... unless they can be like me and actually bring it off.
SCOTT: Is there a danger though in trying to boil down White House pronouncements into those 140 characters?
MILLER: Look, I think it requires constant imagination to figure out for the White House how they're going to get around us. And this is the latest permutation of that. I wish him well. I just wish he would do his job and do return more of our telephone calls.
MILLER: Instead of sending out those tweets.
SCOTT: It really is a way of avoiding the press though, wouldn't you agree?
THOMAS: Yes. I agree with Kirsten. I think that if he's busy tweeting all the time, why isn't he doing his jobs, or maybe the pronouncements from the White House pulpit will be shorter now that he reduces the number of characters on Twitter.
SCOTT: It does take a lot time to do that with the thumb. That's for sure.
SCOTT: From twittering to plagiarizing, we have two stories to talk about. First, chief investigative reporter for thedailybeast.com, Gerald Posner, admits to lifting five sentences from The Miami Herald. Posner says he was horrified and has no idea how it happened. Second, New York Times business reporter, Zachary Kouwe, quit his job after it was learned that he copied several paragraphs from an article previously published in the Wall Street Journal. Kouwe's February 5th article contained identical or nearly identical sentences to an article published in the Journal's online edition. He apparently was called on the carpet and decided to resign that day.
THOMAS: Yes, it's amazing, especially these younger people who are very coherent about what's going on in the Internet era, think they can could away with something like this. I mean, it's not like our college days or something where you might be able to lift a couple of paragraphs for a term paper or a thesis. This stuff is instantaneous. It can be checked instantly. He gets the Jason Blair award.
SCOTT: He certainly — well, at least he did the honorable thing and resigned, I guess.
MILLER: Or was pushed out. I mean, you don't know on something like that. But I think that, given technology today, it's all too simple to take a paragraph, put it in another file, lift it up and assume that it's your own. Accidents like this do happen.
MILLER: They happen more and more the. And it's...
THOMAS: I'm sorry. It never happened to me. I'm sorry.
PINKERTON: I'm not sure they're accidents, Judy.
POWERS: I don't think it would be an accident.
SCOTT: Let me tell you — the devil made me do it.
SCOTT: Let me tell you what is all too simple. Sometimes in the control room, you rack up video of a Sarah Palin event and say, it's her book signing, and it turns out it was her campaign appearances from a year ago. We did that on Fox one day and got raked over the coals by the liberal media.
SCOTT: Why is this not making much of a splash?
POWERS: Well, it is funny, depending on who is doing it. Different groups get angry. And I have people, my liberal friends forwarding me, when someone gets mislabeled, a Republican or, you know, a Democrat on Fox, and they think it's this big — people are sitting in the control room planning and plotting. And it's a mistake.
And it's just — and I think that, you know — and I'm kind of with Judy. I actually think that probably this was a mistake. I doubt the person thought, oh, I'm going to take this and, oh, I'm pulling one over, because it is so easy to search. I think it is — you just — I mean, it's my greatest fear. It's why I comb through my columns and constantly, you know, looking at things that, when you're in a hurry, you know, and you're pulling together information, that something isn't going to get attributed to the right source.
THOMAS: Well, I'm sorry, I've been writing a column for 26 years. It's never happened to me. I have a great editor. When I pull something out, I quote it, I cite the source. If I put it in a file, I put the source on there. That's just what good journalists do.
SCOTT: All right...
Let's move on to another weighty topic. Southwest Airlines asked portly film director, Kevin Smith, to get off one of its flights. Apparently, his width exceeded the space he had to fit and they considered a safety risk. Southwest did apologize for the less-than-sympathetic treatment, but the man behind the new flick “Cop Out” and cult classics like "Clerks," "Dogma" and "Mall Rats," took his case to the social media. Then he posted this picture of himself, puffing his cheeks, after he boarded a later flight without a problem.
I guess — is it dangerous to be taking on a guy who has that many Twitter followers if you're Southwest Airlines?
PINKERTON: It probably is, but I'll give Southwest some credit for trying to keep their passengers safe. We all may remember the singer, Alia, who was killed in a plane crash and it turned out that she had stuffed her airplane full of these body guards. Body guards aren't 150 pounds. They're 300 pounds. And it was just more weight than the plane could carry. We have got an issue with obesity. And it is a danger sometimes, in the case of airplanes, to people's safety. Good for Southwest.
SCOTT: Whose side did the media take on this story, Cal?
THOMAS: Something that hasn't been mentioned, I think it's a great publicity stunt for his upcoming film. Nobody has talked about that.
THOMAS: But the media are caught in the middle on this because they love to play the victim class. Everybody is a victim, people crying, people who can't help stuffing themselves with double burgers. But on the other hand, we have serious safety and security issues. So I think they're caught in the middle of it.
SCOTT: All right.
We have to take one more break.
When we come back, why are the media flocking to the Sunshine State?
ANNOUNCER: The media circus lands in Florida for something really, really big. What could be so important? That's next, on "News Watch."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TIGER WOODS, PRO GOLFER: The issue involved here was my repeated irresponsible behavior. I was unfaithful. I had affairs, I cheated. What I did is not acceptable. And I am the only person to blame.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: Tiger Woods on Friday, if you haven't heard it enough, his first public appearance in nearly three months and his first public apology for his sexual escapades. The event shown on all the major TV networks, all the cable news networks, ESPN, the Golf Channel, channels around the world. We are still counting.
THOMAS: I wonder if Animal Planet ranks?
SCOTT: Some of the reaction. George Stephanopoulos at ABC called the speech one of most remarkable public apologies ever by a public figure. Former New York Yankees P.R. director called it a staged infomercial.
POWERS: Yes, a little closer.
SCOTT: What did you think?
POWERS: Completely. Let's do it again with a little more emotion, Tiger.
POWERS: You know, it was just so — it was so completely staged. But what was better than this, in terms of TV, was watching Megyn Kelly interview Gloria Allred, who is representing one of the mistresses, who wants an apology because she wasn't the only mistress.
POWERS: She said she thought she was the only one, except for the wife.
POWERS: It's incredible this idea — this victim mentality goes with the Kevin Smith thing we were just talking about. People are treating it like this is serious. You know, and...
SCOTT: And it raises the question, how do some of these people get media attention in the first place?
MILLER: Well, they absolutely race to the cameras to announce that these women, that they have had affairs with a married man.
MILLER: I'm sorry, I may be old-fashioned, but I thought this was supposed to be a private matter. And all — what I did was watch the business news channel. And I think the business news channels of Fox and CNBC called it right, which is it's all about the endorsements and the money. It's all about Tiger Woods coming back because that's what this is about.
PINKERTON: Speaking of business, Gawker, which actually is a pretty good place to go to for news on these things, made the point that trading fell down during the speech because all the traders were stopping to watch their golf hero.
SCOTT: The American economy has been slowed by Tiger Woods.
THOMAS: Look, all of you cynics. What if he actually was sincere? Has anybody thought about that possibility?
MILLER: Oh, right. Oh, no.
THOMAS: That's a rhetorical question.
PINKERTON: I DID think — I did think about it, Cal, until I heard him say, I did a bad thing, one Mississippi, two Mississippi.
THOMAS: Oh, come on.
PINKERTON: And then continued.
THOMAS: He could have been sincere. Look sexual addictions, the media is so hypocritical about this. They pump nothing but sex into our living room every night of the week.
POWERS: Oh, yes. Poor Tiger. Oh.
THOMAS: And then, all of a sudden, oh, the puritan ethic kicks in. Oh, no, you'll...
PINKERTON: Jon, I think Cal wants to get an exclusive interview with Tiger.
SCOTT: What about it though? Governor Mark Sanford made his big apology.
POWERS: Oh, yes.
SCOTT: Bill Clinton made his apology. Kobe Bryant — do these things work?
MILLER: Yes, well, it usually precedes the second book contract.
MILLER: Then a new set of endorsements.
THOMAS: Boy, you people are tough.
MILLER: I mean, come on. You can't be too cynical about a performance like this.
MILLER: And the only thing I can say that I really did admire is that his wife had the good grace not to sit in that room and be part of the media show.
SCOTT: We'll talk about his mother next time.
That is a wrap on "News Watch" this week.
Thanks to Judy, Jim, Cal and Kirsten.
I'm Jon Scott. We'll see you next week.
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