'Fox News Watch,' February 6, 2010

This is a rush transcript from "Fox News Watch," February 6, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

JON SCOTT, HOST: On "Fox News Watch," President Obama unleashes a new offense, or is it defense? And he thinks his fellow Democrats should stop watching cable news.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: If everybody turned off your CNN, your Fox, your — you know, just turn off the TV, MSNBC.


SCOTT: But can they afford to miss the coverage?

An undercover journalist gets busted in New Orleans and, without the facts, the liberal media take their swipes.


ANDREW BREITBART, BREITBART.COM: You guys slandered him.


SCOTT: The policy of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" over gays in our armed forces gets a full military review, but has the press done a fair job at presenting both sides?

News of a possible terror attempt gets some attention. And the underwear bomber reveals some important details about where to find the terrorists. Or did he? Is the press pushing for the answer?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The nominees are...


SCOTT: Oscar contenders are announced for the year's best films, but when it comes to favorite picks, have the mainstream media played a starring role?

And the White House has a new way of side stepping the press.




SCOTT: On the panel this week, Fox News analyst, Kirsten Powers; syndicated columnist, Cal Thomas; Jim Pinkerton, fellow, New America Foundation; and Newsday columnist, Ellis Henican.

I'm Jon Scott. "Fox News Watch" is on right now.


OBAMA: If everybody here turned off your CNN, your Fox, just turn off the TV, MSNBC, blogs, and just go talk to folks out there, instead of being in this echo chamber where the topic is constantly politics.


SCOTT: The president there telling Senate Democrats to ignore TV news coverage of all the issues facing them in Washington. This advice from a president who, in just this last week, appeared at events up and down the east coast, including a special YouTube interview. He also attended the National Prayer Breakfast, his every step and statement covered by the press, especially cable news. And some think his Q & A session with House Republicans last week was planned as catnip for the press, and that it worked.

I guess, Jim, the question is, does the president expect people to turn off cable TV except when he's on?


JIM PINKERTON, FELLOW, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: I think that's the plan, exactly. So the Democrats won't pay attention to polls and just do what he tells them to.

Look, I think President Obama, more than any politician in America today, proves the power of television, that you use it to your advantage as you can. I think, frankly, that he did extremely well in that debate with the House Republicans last week. I have no doubt that he'll be doing more of that in the future. It goes back to something that Richard Nixon did in the '60s. He called it man in the arena. It was — if you could handle those kind of Q's and A's and handle them well, you should be doing more of it, and he will.

SCOTT: Cal, you were at the National Prayer Breakfast with the president on, what was it, Tuesday.


SCOTT: Thursday. He does seem to be going on the offensive with the press, would you say?

THOMAS: Well, he is, but the presidency is like a woman's virtue. If it's spread around too much it loses its value.

I'm not looking at you.


He's on too much, that's his problem. He's engaging in overkill. and he wants people to turn off the cable news networks, especially this one. He threw in MSNBC as an afterthought. Nobody watches that now anyway so I don't know how much impact that's going to be. Because he doesn't want the other point of view challenging his positions.

SCOTT: Too much President Obama, Ellis?

ELLIS HENICAN, COLUMNIST, NEWSDAY: Apparently not, it serves him well and people want to look at the guy and his numbers are still big.

Jon, I understand and I have a little bit of a conflict of interest since I make a big part of my living in cable news and talk radio. Watch 24 hours a day, fine with me. But there's a bubble that some of us fall into, who watch and play too much of this stuff. And one of the reasons I try to report from my columns, you actually meet some real people once in a while.

SCOTT: Kirsten, one of things the president has been of doing is extending an olive branch to his political opponents, basically Republicans, and then turning around, in the next breath, and hammering them. Is that part of the White House strategy?

KIRSTEN POWERS, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I guess he's trying to have it both ways. The idea that you're not supposed to not get information from news sources, just go speak to somebody on the street, with all due respect to the people that you interview, I don't think that's actually how you should get information. And I don't remember Obama ever complaining during the campaign about people watching too much MSNBC. So, you know, now, it's that now that people are criticizing him, he's saying, oh, don't listen to those people.

SCOTT: Why did he say that, then, is he trying to pretend he's above the fray?

POWERS: He’s blaming the media, which is always a popular strategy. Basically, saying that these people are just caught up on the inside Washington game, and I'm not like that, even though he is like that.

HENICAN: Do I have to stand up for street reporting here?


SCOTT: Thank you for that.


THOMAS: I think that you're absolutely right.

HENICAN: All you want to do is just want to talk to the official spokesmen all day?

POWERS: No, I think you should speak to experts and things, and I think you should see how the American people are feeling, but I think...

HENICAN: And some real people who are affected by that. Don't stay in the bubble all day, Kirsten.


POWERS: I don't think you just get your information from cable news, you just get your information from the New York Times, you just get the information from your column. I think you go to all different news sources, but you shouldn't be telling people just to tune out.

SCOTT: Jim, you said you thought the president did well at that appearance. The Republicans, after the polls indicated that his approval ratings ticked up, I think four points.

PINKERTON: Look, it was dramatic television. The wrap on Obama for the last year is he can't open his mouth without a teleprompter telling him what to say and he proved everybody wrong just then. This was television at its most dramatic, which is a live event. I'm actually part of a group in Washington, I guess around the country now, called Demand Question Time, which is a petition where — again, fair and balanced, everybody from David Korn to Grover Norquist are in the same group here. We should be doing this every week just like they do in Britain.

SCOTT: The president, it was pointed out this week, has done 150 interviews with various reporters and, yet, hasn't had a live news conference since this summer. Why?

THOMAS: I don't know why. It gets back to what Jim was saying. The time with the Republicans in Baltimore was tremendous, not only good television, but it's what people do. If you live — if you're in Republican and live next door to a Democrat, you don't throw your window open in the morning and say, what are you doing to ruin America today.


You get along. You accommodate. You seek common ground. And your kids probably go to school with each other. This is his greatest strength. I don't know why he doesn't do it more.

SCOTT: Time for a quick break.

But first, if you want to hear what we talk about when the TV cameras aren't rolling, check out our web site after the show. You can hear what our panelist discuss during the break. And Ellis has something to say right now.


Log on to Foxnews.com/Fox News Watch.

We'll be back in two minutes with a look how some in the mainstream media reacted or maybe overreacted to the arrest of a conservative journalist.

ANNOUNCER: The journalist who exposed scandalous acts at ACORN busted in New Orleans for his undercover efforts to dig up details on a U.S. Senator, and giving the liberal media a target on the right.


DAVID SCHUSTER, MSNBC HOST: You're allowed to say an alleged crime when nobody else will, but that's fine.


ANNOUNCER: Plus, the academy named Oscar hopefuls, and the mainstream media take their picks. But is a liberal agenda at work behind the scenes? Details next, on "News Watch."



JAMES O'KEEFE, JOURNALIST: There was no bugging. There was no wire tapping, no interfering with phones. Not only was there no interfering with phones, we never thought about interfering with phones. It never occurred to us. All of that is completely false. A lot of these reporters just flat-out, I think, slandered me immediately off the gun. They jumped the gun on the story and we're still waiting for corrections from dozens of newspapers.


SCOTT: James O'Keefe telling Sean Hannity how the mainstream media, in his view, got it wrong about his recent arrest. He's the young journalist who broke the story that employees of the left-leaning community group, ACORN, stood ready to help him when he claimed that he wanted to set up a prostitution business.

Well, recently, O'Keefe was arrested in New Orleans, allegedly for attempting to interfere with phones in the office of Senator Mary Landrieu. Now, quite a few media outlets, including MSNBC, pounced on the story of his arrest, some framing it as a modern-day Watergate. One O'Keefe supporter called on MSNBC for a retraction.


SCHUSTER: I did not use the word wire tap. I should have used the word that the federal prosecutors use willfully and interfering with a telephone operating and control by...


BREITBART: Are you going to retract?

SCHUSTER: ... telephone system operated and controlled by the United States of America.

BREITBART: Are you going to retract?


BREITBART: And are you going to retract it? Are you going to retract it?


BREITBART: Are you going to retract it? You retract the wire tap statement?

SCHUSTER: Sure, I retract. I should not have used the word wire tap in a tweet.

BREITBART: Thank you very much, because you tainted the jury of his peers.


SCOTT: MSNBC's David Schuster there.

Cal, James O'Keefe's reporting on ACORN last year made all kinds of news. The Washington Post and the New York Times said they should have done more on that story. And yet, when he got arrested in this most recent flap, the Times puts him on the front cover, along with the other men arrested with him, above the fold in the Sunday edition.

THOMAS: You don't think it had anything to do, Jon, with the politics of it, ACORN being a favored liberal group and O'Keefe who outed them for allegedly trying to do the prostitution ring business? This isn't the first time this happened, of course. Think back to the Jennifer Flowers story, which the National Enquirer broke on Bill Clinton. The mainstream media didn't want to touch that. The New York Times eventually forced to put it on the front page.

Ellis, what about this kind of coverage? Is it deserved?

HENICAN: I think it's a really interesting story. I started at the Kentucky Post and at the Albany Knickerbocker News.

SCOTT: Whoa.


HENICAN: And let me tell you...

SCOTT: Look how far you've come.


HENICAN: Exactly. I learned some lessons there. One is, you don't commit felonies on the way to stories. And you don't run at the behest of zealous political people.

PINKERTON: Ellis, you wouldn't be...

HENICAN: These Internet people don't know that, Jim.

PINKERTON: You weren't insinuating that O'Keefe committed a felony, were you?

HENICAN: Well, he's been charged, hasn't he?

THOMAS: Would you like to retract that statement?


HENICAN: You know what, I think he may have been arrested, as I recall. You don't think we should cover that?

THOMAS: But not guilty. He hasn't been convicted.

HENICAN: Let me tell you. If we waited in the media business until someone was convicted, we wouldn't cover Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Should we cover that maybe?


PINKERTON: Jon and Ellis, suppose that "60 Minutes" had gone into a Republican Senator's office and the Republican Senator's office had called the cops.

HENICAN: And the correspondent was arrested and cuffed.


PINKERTON: And the correspondent was arrested.

HENICAN: I promise you, we'd cover it.

PINKERTON: I guarantee the New York Times would have been saying this is suppression of free speech by this poor "60 Minutes" reporter.


POWERS: Not if they walked in with people wearing hard hats and outfits to get into access to telephone boxes. I mean, this is — we'll wait and see what the court case says, but from all appearances, it looks like a real news story. I mean, it's something that should be covered. And you know, unfortunately...

THOMAS: But should ACORN have, but...

POWERS: Unfortunately — of course, there are lots of stories that don't get covered. And unfortunately, this is the way it's covered. Lots of times...

THOMAS: But does it...

POWERS: ... and it gets covered and then they're exonerated and it's not covered and it's not political. It's just people are more interested when people get caught.

SCOTT: Does it seem like a case of the media trying to kill the messenger, the messenger who broke the ACORN story?

POWERS: Some media. I don't know if that's what the New York Times is doing. Certainly, there are more left wing publications that have been out to prove this guy is just a tool of right wing funding. He's being funded by right wingers. That's a totally separate thing. But I think it's a legitimate news story. Someone goes into...

PINKERTON: It's a legitimate news story. The issue is the framing. And if it had been "60 Minutes" doing it or The Nation magazine, it would have been heroic journalists being squashed by mean Republicans.


POWERS: So what? So we could find out whether the phone lines weren't working because some people said they couldn't get through?


POWERS: That's heroic?

HENICAN: With their own telephone.


SCOTT: We didn't even get to some of the David Schuster tweets.

I'm going to talk about that during the break. You'll have to go to the web site for that.


And if you come across a story that smacks of media bias, e-mail us at newswatch@Foxnews.com.

When we come back, lots of great films nominated for the Oscars this year, but is there a force at work when it comes to who makes the list?

ANNOUNCER: The Oscars nominations are in and the list is impressive. But was the list influenced by a liberal-leaning media?

And an attempt to inflict terror is imminent.


LEON PANETTA, CIA DIRECTOR: What keeps me awake at night is that Al Qaeda and their terrorist allies could very well attack the United States.


ANNOUNCER: If the press showing any interest? Answers next, on "News Watch."



ADMIRAL MIKE MULLEN, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: Mr. Chairman, speaking for myself and myself only, it is my personal belief that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do. No matter how I look at this issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens.


SCOTT: The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff there, Admiral Mike Mullen, calling on Congress to reverse the Pentagon's 17-year-old policy against gays serving openly in the military.

Ellis, what about the coverage? Again, it's something that made the front page, upper right-hand corner of the New York Times, the coverage of this particular issue.

HENICAN: Jon, you've put your finger on a couple of interesting issues, and the fact we're going to have a vigorous debate about it here illustrates that. The country is changing on this issue. It's the last bastion of officially sanctioned prejudice in this field. And it's about to change. That's a pretty good story, I think.

THOMAS: I'll tell you...


THOMAS: ... the last bastions of the officially sanctioned president are Roman Catholics and evangelical Christians.

SCOTT: As a Roman Catholic, I may be with you on that.

THOMAS: Yes. OK, there you go. At least we have agreement.


Look, the New York Times is a wholly owned subsidiary of the gay rights movement.

POWERS: Oh, good lord.


THOMAS: The publisher, day after day...


POWERS: Come on.

THOMAS: ... there are stories, columns, editorials on the entertainment page, on the business page, on the front page, pushing a pro-gay rights agenda. That's just a fact. That is an observable, provable fact.

SCOTT: You don't agree.

POWERS: I don't see what's wrong with gay rights.

THOMAS: We're talking about the coverage.

POWERS: The idea that — but the idea that people should be afforded certain rights or actually it's the opposite that the other side is arguing they should be denied rights, because that's what they are. I think that it's an absolute legitimate story. And I think this is a huge story, if we finally are moving in the direction of making "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" — repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and allowing gays to be in the military openly, that's a huge news story. It's huge for the military, huge for the country and it's well overdue.

SCOTT: Doesn't the coverage seem to take a position?

PINKERTON: I think the coverage is overwhelmingly pro this position. But it was overwhelmingly pro for Bill Clinton too 17 years ago, and he failed. I think the difference was, this time, as opposed to the Clinton administration, the Obama administration got the secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs on board, so the picture in the New York Times of Gates and Mullen talking to each other both supporting this policy just shows that, on this issue at least, the Obama administration knew what they were doing in terms of pushing this issue.

SCOTT: Another hearing on Capitol Hill this week made some news — this one dealing with a prospect of a terror attack on our nation.


DIANNE FEINSTEIN, D-CALIF.: What is the likelihood of another terrorist-attempted attack on the U.S. homeland in the next three to six months, high or low?

Director Blair?

DENNIS BLAIR, NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE DIRECTOR: An attempted attack, the priority is certain, I would say.

FEINSTEIN: Mr. Panetta?

PANETTA: I would agree with that.

BLAIR: Mr. Muller?



SCOTT: CIA director, Leon Panetta; National Intelligence director; Dennis Blair, and FBI Director Robert Muller, all agree Al Qaeda will try to attack the United States in the next three to six months.

So, Ellis, what about the job the media have done overall in just trying to keep the country apprised of the terrorist threat?

HENICAN: There's a line we have to walk. We want to keep them apprised and report analyses like we just heard, but we need to remind people, don't panic, nobody really knows for sure. It seems likely, at some point, something will happen, but a lot of this is still guesswork. We need to impart that as well.

THOMAS: So it's more like a "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy for the media. I want to know if there's going to be an attack, a likelihood, where's it going to come from, an invading Army or is it going to come from the madrassas already in the United States from some of the mosques? Who are the people? If they think there's going to be an attack, they must know where it's likely to come from. Why aren't we getting reports on that? Why don't we get O'Keefe or somebody like him to invade some of these places...

HENICAN: Oh, great.

THOMAS: ... and record what's going on there?


PINKERTON: Cal, we're getting all sorts of reports. We got, for example, the report about the underwear bomber, who is now happily talking now that he's been mirandized. And he is, in fact, talking. Hats off to Mark Finkelstein, of News Busters, who I think was the first to make the point that it was jeopardizing national security to have this report out about him talking now.

SCOTT: And Senator Kit Bond got into a fight with the White House about that, which maybe didn't get the coverage that it deserved as well.

The lists of Oscar nominees are out this week. 10 films on the list for best picture this year, and some think the top-two to win the Oscar are "Avatar" and "The Hurt Locker."


ACTOR: We have an indigenous population called the Nobi.


SCOTT: So what about it? When it comes to how these things get chosen, Cal, is that a media campaign? Is there a certain kind of film that's going to...

THOMAS: Oh, sure. I subscribe to Variety. You see the for-your- consideration ads, full-page ads, best actor, best actress, supporting, best picture and all that. There's a real campaign, and members of the academy, several hundred of them who get the films, they watch them at home or go to a particular theater at a particular time. But look, they all have their particular biases. Not just Oliver Stone, who is the far furthest left maybe of anybody in Hollywood. And these are reflected in the films, like "Up in the Air," for example, anti-business.

POWERS: "Up in the Air"? What are you talking about? How is that liberal?

THOMAS: I didn't say it was liberal. I said anti-business.



THOMAS: Anti-business, anti-religion, anti-everything.

POWERS: Cal, that was pro-marriage.


POWERS: That was pro-marriage.

HENICAN: Yes, family values.

POWERS: At the end of it, here he is, he realizes he's all alone, and he has nobody, and he should have gotten married. Pro-marriage, family values.


PINKERTON: Let me make a prediction. I think that "Hurt Locker" will probably win for best picture. It's a conservative movie. It is a pro-Iraq war movie, and it reminds me a lot of "Deer Hunter," back in the late '70s, which was also a sort of a weirdly pro-Vietnam movie. Hollywood, during a war, hates the war. After the war, they swing around — I wrote this in the Fox Forum last week — they swing around and say, look, we've got to get back in touch with the American people and do a pro-troops movie, which is what "Hurt Locker" was.

SCOTT: All right, we have to take one more break. When we come back, we will talk about the White House and the iPhone.

ANNOUNCER: The White House has a new app, but what's it really good for? Find out next, on "News Watch."


SCOTT: Continuing with the effort to sidestep the press and get the message out unfiltered, the White House launched its first iPhone app.


GIBBS: The new official White House app for the iPhone puts the latest news from the administration in the palm of your hand. You can read the blog, watch videos, check out the latest photos and you can even get live video right on your phone. Watch our frequent Web chats or the president's speeches like the State of the Union. In fact, if you want to see me set the White House Press Corps straight every day live, now there an app for that.


GIBBS: Good afternoon...


SCOTT: Robert Gibbs there, the White House spokesman.

ABC's Jimmy Kimmel took a few minutes on his late-night show to do a little demo of the new White House app. Take a look.


JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, 'JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE': The White House just launched its own iPhone app. It's free and you can download it at iTunes, and it's pretty cool. Here is how it works. You get two iPhones and you just ...


... you put it right up here and, voila, you have Obama ears.


See that? I feel smarter already.


SCOTT: Here is one of the postings to the White House.gov iPod app: "Another day, another disappointing political ploy obstructing progress."



SCOTT: Fair and balanced, I'm sure.

That is a wrap on "News Watch" this week.

I want to thank Kirsten Powers, Jim Pinkerton, Cal Thomas and Ellis Henican.

I'm Jon Scott. We'll see you again next week for another edition of "Fox News Watch."

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