Transcript: 'FOX News Watch,' August 15, 2009

This is a rush transcript from "FOX News Watch," August 15, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

ERIC SHAWN, FOX GUEST HOST (voice-over): On FOX "News Watch," Health care reform takes center stage.




SHAWN: As the president tries to sell it.


OBAMA: If you have insurance you like, then you will be able to keep that insurance.


SHAWN: Democrats try to back it.


REP. NANCY PELOSI, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We don't want people to be afraid of the facts.

SHAWN: Americans don't want it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're trying to force health care down our throats.


SHAWN: And the press try to keep up.

Hillary loses her cool and the media adds more heat.

Is a comedian really the guy you trust for the news?

And this guy wants to win the ratings so badly, he could kill.

SHAWN (on camera): On the panel this week, New York Post columnist, Kirsten Powers; Andrea Tantaros, conservative columnist; Jim Pinkerton, fellow, New American Foundation; and Judy Miller, writer and FOX News contributor.

I'm Eric Shawn. FOX "News Watch" is on right now.


REP. CLAIRE MCCASKILL, (D), MISSOURI: I don't understand this rudeness. What is this? I don't get it. I honestly don't get it. Do you all think that you're persuading people when you shout out?


MCCASKILL: You don't trust me?



MCCASKILL: OK. You know, I don't know what else I can do.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm a conservative. And what we expect is for you to fight for us. We did not want to this nation to be socialist. Fight for us. Stand up. Don't give an inch. Whoever, Democrat or Republican, for whoever, senators or congressmen, who vote for this bill, we will vote you out.



SEN. ARLEN SPECTER, (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Wait a minute! Wait a minute! Wait a minute! Wait a minute! You want to leave? Leave.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am going to speak my mind before I leave for good. Your people told me I could.


SHAWN: Well, that's just a few of the scenes from town hall meetings across the country this week, including the last one where Senator Arlen Specter got fired up over at health care reform in Pennsylvania. There have been passionate statements like the ones you just heard. They led to this White House reaction.


ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRTARY: Dissent is a part of the American tradition. I think what is unproductive though is if somebody tries to come to a town hall meeting and you can't ask your question or your mother can't ask her question because somebody else is yelling. That's what cable TV and the food fight bring to this.

I think we all have something to lose, Matt, if we let cable television come to town hall meetings and kill health care reform for another year and put the special interests back in charge.


SHAWN: So, I guess it's our fault, cable TV and the food fight.

Andrea, what do you think? Is this the fault of cable television news?

ANDREA TANTAROS, CONSERVATIVE COLUMNIST: No, absolutely not. I think that the Obama administration has made a lot of mistakes when it comes to health care. And they've confused not only the media, but they've confused the American people.

First, they came out with a moral imperative. We need to get everybody covered. And if you pull apart that number of uninsured, it doesn't add up. Then there was the economic imperative. We have to do this to save money. The CBO says this isn't going to save money. Now, they're saying there's a political imperative. It's the big bad bogeyman of the insurance companies. They've been consistently inconsistent with the message.

SHAWN: How did that play with the media coverage, the fact, the cable TV were out there and showing these meetings live?

Kirsten, it's news. It's there.


KIRSTEN POWERS, NEW YORK POST COLUMNIST: Right, exactly. Well, this is what — it's not just cable TV. It's all TV. You intend to cover things where there are conflict. And one could argue, why aren't the Democrats yelling at Republicans saying I want the health care reform, I want to have it covered making their own scene.

The reality is — I don't think there's any problem with dissent. And if they're raising their voice to let it be known that they're unhappy, you know, people do that when they're against the war and I don't hear any Democrats complaining about it.

SHAWN: That's a good point.

Jim, the president became president partly because of the anger over the Iraq war, similar anger that we see now, but here on the other side.

JIM PINKERTON, FELLOW, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: Exactly, when Nancy Pelosi is on YouTube saying, in 2006, "We love these protests, this helps so keep doing it." Senator Grassley of Iowa said that three times as many people are showing up at the town hall meetings these days as were over the last decade, including for such hot things as the Iraq war.


POWERS: I'll just address one thing thought because this keeps being brought up. At the same time conservatives criticize liberals when they protest the war and I've been on TV a million times told by conservatives how unpatriotic it is and how you should let people talk and how you're squashing people's free speech and all this kind of stuff. So it kind of goes both ways. I think both sides are at fault.

SHAWN: Is it fair? Does the yelling and heat to obscure some of the facts that the American public — they needs the facts.

PINKERTON: Probably.


But it's also true, according to the polls, people sympathize more with protesters and with the anti-protesters. And according to a FOX News poll, by 39-34 margin, they're against the Obama health care plan. That's way below, by the way, where Clinton Care was in 1993.

SHAWN: So you think they're getting the message?

PINKERTON: I think that people are in their own ways determining what the health care bill is and not liking it.

SHAWN: Judy, you are, in my mind, one of the top reporters in this country. You went to jail to protect your source. What is the media not doing that investigative reporters should be doing.

JUDY MILLER, WRITER & FOX NEW CONTRIBUTOR: I think it's important that the media are at the town meetings because that's where, as my colleagues have said, where the story is. What you haven't been reading a lot about is the state of health care in America that leads many people to conclude that we must reform the system.

It's amazing. You have all these labels turned being thrown around by both sides, socialists, mob. You'll notice that President Obama backed away from Nancy Pelosi's assertion that people who oppose or criticize the plan, whatever it is, by the way, which version it is this week, are un- American. He says is it unproductive to shout people down at meetings.

But look, we need to know why Americans, despite spending twice the per capita what other nation's spend, wind up being between 30 and 40 in many of the leading health indicators. There's a lot to do here and...


TANTAROS: But the blaming of FOX News, which that's how I took it, and the blaming of cable TV — look, they came out originally and blamed the constituents. They called this manufactured outrage and discounted it. That didn't work. Clearly, insulting people doesn't work. Imagine that. And now they're blaming the read yeah. It's a tactic that doesn't work. It doesn't work in political campaigns and it's not going to work now.

SHAWN: And it's not just blaming the media.

And, Jim, you know, that's your losing in the game you're playing.

PINKERTON: Exactly. That's why the smart ones, like Claire McCaskill, stopped doing it and say, listen, we have to listen to these people out.

MILLER: Right. And the president.

PINKERTON: But listen, Judy, you're quite right that health care is a serious issue. But what the American people are struggling with is that health care policy and health insurance reform as articulated by the Obama administration is not what people are worried about. People are worried about with medicine with illness and cures.

POWERS: And privacy and that's — and privacy.

PINKERTON: Again, where Obama missed the boat is...

POWERS: That's the media side of it. We're getting into a health care debate.

SHAWN: In American, we want answers.

POWERS: I mean, there was also — there was a Pew poll, I think, showing Americans are unhappy with how the media are covering health care. They don't understand what's going on and that's why the vacuum is created and that's where the media is to blame for not articulating, really...

SHAWN: What are the media doing?

POWERS: For just picking up, following whatever is happening. They're not — they're not saying, let's essentially look at this and break this down for people so they can actually...


TANTAROS: There are no details to this plan.

POWERS: That's not true.

TANTAROS: No, there are no details.

POWERS: That is not true.

TANTAROS: At least the Clintons gave us details. This time they've given us no details. So really the media doesn't have that much to go on besides...

POWERS: A perfect example is the death panel thing. There is no death panel. I'm sorry. I hate to break it to people.

MILLER: That's right.

POWERS: And actually what was crafted was crafted by a Republican. It's ridiculous. If this took...


PINKERTON: SHAWN: Hold on. True or false, true or false, within the public health bureaucracy of liberalism in the last 40 or 50 years, a significant euthanasia movement has emerged, in Britain.


PINKERTON: And so in Oregon — Oregon, for example — Oregon, which is...


POWERS: Pick one story.

PINKERTON: OK, can I give one story?

SHAWN: We'll get to that story right after the break.


SHAWN: There is a point — this week — for the first time this week, I saw in the newspapers finally, they did give some sections of the newspapers explaining what the potential plan could be. We will get back to that in just a moment.

And we'll also deal with another issue. Have you heard about this? Is the White House keeping a secret list?

We'll be back in two minutes to talk about that.

ANNOUNCER: The president...


OBAMA: Somehow it's gotten spun into this idea of death panels.


ANNOUNCER: A top Democrat...


PELOSI: I think it's a sign that people who would do that are afraid of the facts.


ANNOUNCER: Are most in the news media speaking the same language? And lost in translation, Hillary makes headlines, but was the coverage fair? Answers next on "News Watch."


SHAWN: Emotions rage at town hall meetings across the country. Supporters and opponents of health care reform aggressively seek answers from our leaders.


PELOSI: If you need any further proof that they can't take the competition, that the campaign that they have out there against the public option. If you want to know who is financing the anti-public option campaign, you need look no further than the insurance industry. They can't take the competition. Their glory days are over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can I see a show of hands of people who believe we have the right to share our views with our elected officials? OK. Take that to Nancy Pelosi.

OBAMA: If you have a question, just raise your hand. If I hear only from people who agree with me, I'm going to actively ask some folks who are concerned about health care, give them a chance to ask their questions, because I think we've got to make sure that we get out, surface some of the debates and concerns that people have. Some of them are legitimate.


SHAWN: There's so much anger out there, sometimes the facts seem to get lost.

Jim, you mentioned the fact of one situation, I mean, it took until this week for us to find out there were no death panels.

PINKERTON: Well, right, but there has a context that Sarah Palin tapped into. State of Oregon has pioneered assisted suicide death and the state insurance plan in Oregon told a woman, who had terminal cancer, we won't pay for your cancer drugs, but we will pay for your suicide pills. Case closed.

SHAWN: Do you think that the media is getting to that sufficiently enough?


POWERS: It's one story. And it had nothing to do with Obama.


I can give you ten stories of people who are suffering under the current — I mean, ten, off the top of my head, and probably thousands of people who are suffering under the current health care system. There's a woman who had acne and was denied coverage for her cancer because it was a pre-existing condition.

SHAWN: As these stories get out, do you think the...

POWERS: I don't think they are. I really don't think they are. I think what — these town hall meetings just have to do exactly what the media wants. They want people shouting and people being disruptive. They don't want to talk about policy.

And I think what Jim brought up is a fair thing to talk about. I mean, you should have a debate about this.


TANTAROS: But if Barack Obama had his way, this bill would already be law. I think really the ones who don't want the debate and they don't want the media covering this is the left. Barack Obama doesn't want the media to cover any of this stuff. He just wants his way and he wants it to be law.

SHAWN: One reporter who does want some of the answers is our Major Garrett. Did you see what happened this past week? He and Robert Gibbs got into it because there had been e-mails from the White House that have reached people who haven't even asked for them.

Let's take a look what happened when Major took on Robert Gibbs.


GIBBS: I'd be interested in seeing who you got that e-mail from and whether or not they're on the list. I don't...

MAJOR GARRETT, FOX NEWS CORRESPODNENT: What I'm telling you is I need to give you these people's e-mails so you can check them on a list?

GIBBS: Well...

GARRETT: I'm just asking.

GIBBS: Well, you're asking me if they're on a list. And if you can figure out a different way checking without asking me to double-check the names I'm happy to...


GARRETT: They're telling me that they can't be on a list because they never asked for an e-mail from the White House.

GIBBS: What I'm saying is I don't — I don't— I'd have to look and see.

GARRETT: So you don't have an explanation for how someone who never signed up and never asked for anything from the White House would get an e- mail from David Axelrod?

GIBBS: Well, I hesitate to give you an answer because you might impugn the motives of the answer.


SHAWN: You know what they're saying, Andrea, enemies lists, that old thing is coming back now.

TANTAROS: Yeah. Well, look, anytime you talk about health care, you talk about privacy issues. And the Obama administration started this when they came out and said report anything fishy. Then they started to say that they're going to put cookies on people's computers, which is a type of software used to trace which web sites they visit.

They're the ones creating their own problems. And now the most transparent government is essentially stonewalling the media. You saw Bill Burton on this week with Megan Kelly stuttering and stammering. Just answer the question. And that's not what they're doing.

SHAWN: Judy, do you think they're stonewalling the media?

MILLER: I think they made a mistake in the formulation of this. What they actually asked for was for people to send in e-mails that contains misinformation about the health care program.


MILLER: That was been twisted.

PINKERTON: The new question is whether the government has mixed up government property with private political action on behalf of this health care plan. I worked in the White House for six years and I can tell you there are a lot of laws — it's a felony to mix-up stuff that comes in an official capacity and use it for politics.

SHAWN: Are you saying that could happen...


PINKERTON: I'm saying that's got to be the answer. I'm kind of curious now.

POWERS: ... the accusation. I don't understand that.

PINKERTON: The accusation is that they took stuff from the government and gave it to the political operatives inside the — inside the Obama...

SHAWN: To send out Axelrod-tainted e-mails.

POWERS: But how did the government — the e-mails?

PINKERTON: Since the government — the White House can't lobby.

POWERS: But it still doesn't make any sense. I don't know what you're talking about.

SHAWN: That sounds like something — that sounds like...

POWERS: Tell me exactly what happened. Somebody...


TANTAROS: They have to fight the smears with that. You know the White House isn't doing well when they have to have a web site that shows that they're not for euthanasia.


POWERS: ... operation just to have gotten the e-mails...


SHAWN: But Jim's saying that's against the law. Jim's saying it's against the law.

POWERS: No, no, no. Not for an operation to do it. It's not.

PINKERTON: It is against the law for the White House to lobby. The White House curious enough cannot lobby anyone.

SHAWN: Here is the media point. Who is investigating that to see if that's true and that's exactly what's going on?

MILLER: I think maybe Major Garrett asked the question.



MILLER: But that's — I think that that is a side show to the real issue here of trying to get underneath and behind the issue of who is doing what, who is encouraging people to come out, how much of this rage, which I believe is lot of it is genuine, is real. How much is manufactured? That's the White House's effort to reach out to its base to mobilize them. And you can't say it's OK for the Republicans to mobilize their base and not OK for the Democrats to try and do it, even though they may have misstepped.

SHAWN: But my — my media question — I don't mean to interrupt you, but my media question is, why is Major the only one in that gaggle of White House reporters going after this question?

PINKERTON: See, that's — that's a hard question.



PINKERTON: Maybe because they're all puppy dogs for the White House, with the exception of Major Garrett and Jake Tapper — are the two that I would say are willing to speak truth to power.

TANTAROS: That's right. And just look at FOX News' coverage. They are the only ones actually providing a fair and balanced look at what's going on here in the media today.

SHAWN: Well, they...

POWERS: Well, I don't know. It's kind of funny. I flip around during the day to the different channels and the people that were covering the town halls the most, originally, were actually MSNBC, because I think they thought it was going to make the Republicans look bad.


Their image. And I mean, there was this kind of mocking thing going on, you know, all day. I mean, and I think it kind of back fired because even Charles Krauthammer said last night that he thought they were going to work against the conservatives. I think a lot of people thought that. And we're seeing these polls now that people are saying — in a USA Today poll, they're saying, no, it actually made them sympathetic, which I don't think many people expected.

MILLER: And we have such a polarized media now that everybody knows where to turn to have his own or her own perceptions reinforced.

SHAWN: I still think Americans and viewers, no matter where you turn to, we all want answers. So we hope Major Garrett gets them.

TANTAROS: God bless Major Garrett.

MILLER: I hope he does too.

SHAWN: Time now for another break.

But first, if you come across a story about media bias yourself, we want to know about it. Just e-mail us at Maybe we just had one. Let us know.


And we will be back in a moment with this.

ANNOUNCER: Our secretary of state makes headlines with this.


CLINTON: My husband is not the secretary of state, I am.


ANNOUNCER: Becoming there for the media.

Plus, why do people trust this guy. All next, on "News Watch."



CLINTON: Wait, you want me to tell you what my husband thinks? My husband is not the secretary of state. I am. You ask my opinion. I will tell you my opinion. I'm not going to be channeling my husband.


SHAWN: Wow, talk about a tense moment that happened on Monday. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, well, she reminded everybody who is boss during her trip to the Congo. You just saw a student, through a translator, ask her what she thought her husband, President Bill Clinton, thought about the international issue. We're told that the student meant to ask what President Obama thought of the issue.

Take a look at the headlines. Here's the New York Post, "I'm the boss"; and from the New York Daily News, "Hey, I'm the boss, not Bill."

Jim, I mean, we've heard about Bill Clinton's anger for few years his temper, but look at this?

PINKERTON: I think Maureen Dowd put it well, this was language and body language straight out of the HBO show, "The Sopranos."


SHAWN: Kristin is shaking her head.

POWERS: That's just — I don't know why people are so mean to Hillary. You know, I don't understand that. I voted for Obama, but I still don't know why people have to be — this was hardly a rage. This is somebody who is annoyed, understandably so. There's no way for her to know that that's what the person asking meant. If I was asked that question, I hope I would keep my composure. But you know, she wasn't like throwing furniture.


MILLER: Because she's logged in 100,000 miles in 200 days, the lady is tired...


MILLER: However, the next time, I urge her to take a hair and makeup person from FOX along with her as she did during the campaign.


SHAWN: Sleep deprivation.

TANTAROS: But we have all had those days. I thought it was interesting, the way that the media covered this, especially the difference in the man, the men and the women covering it. There were women in the media saying that she react this had way because she had a bad hair day. I look at this and say, yeah, we've all had them, but Hillary is not a diplomatic person. It's like sending me overseas. Some of us just shouldn't be diplomats.

SHAWN: But you're not secretary of state.

TANTAROS: Exactly.

SHAWN: But we'll say it was sleep deprivation.

We have another issue, and I don't if you heard about this one, with the passing of Walter Cronkite in July. Time magazine conducted a poll and asked who was the most trusted newscasters in America and, guess who? "Daily Show's" Jon Stewart topped the list, 44 percent, beating out Brian Williams, Charlie Gibson, Katie Couric. Man, she's only down to 7 percent. And since President Obama took office, conservative pundits, like Bill Crystal, well, they've been regular guests on that liberal show. Surprisingly, they love going on Jon Stewart's show.

Jim, you've been a part of that show. Why do the conservatives love to go on Jon Stewart?

PINKERTON: Because it's funny and people watch. And Stewart has a degree of incite frankly which makes him special. By 10:00 at night, people know the news. They know what happened in Iraq yesterday with the elections and things like that. They want commentary and insight, and Stewart, as the ratings show, is up there with the best.

SHAWN: I was a guest on the show because I wrote a book and he was respectful. I didn't know what to expect. He was funny because he's not mean. Is at the point where you know that he's...

MILLER: He's nice, that's why people like him. But what's interesting is that people are talking about him as a news person, confusing him with Walter Cronkite.

Jon Stewart was the first who used to say, I'm not a news person, this is not a news show. And I think that line is being blurred. And we all ought to worry about that.

SHAWN: I agree with that. But what if he — he had an incredible interview with Jim Cramer, of "Mad Money."


He nailed Cramer like Mike Wallace would have nailed Cramer.


SHAWN: It was incredible.

MILLER: Like the financial press should have nailed him.

SHAWN: Yeah. Like CNBC should of and didn't. It took Jon Stewart to do that. What does that say about Stewart's ability even though he is a comedian?

MILLER: I think it says more about the flattest of the earth around him than his particular presence.

POWERS: I think he's very smart. He knows this is not just a blue nation across the country, coast to coast, that there are conservatives. And frankly, it's more interesting to interview a conservative when you lean to the left. You can't have a bunch of yes men. Look at Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow. They're not true pros. Why? Because they can't handle having anyone who might have an opposing view point.

SHAWN: Jim, last words.

PINKERTON: He works hard. The juxtaposition of editing, the way he does videotape is brilliant. And other people ought to do it.

SHAWN: If was fun for me and he was funny. I wasn't, but he was funny.


We have to take a break. When we come back...

ANNOUNCER: TV ratings are important for the business, but one TV host may have gone too far to be number one. Details next, on "News Watch."


SHAWN: Last week's overall cable ranker, FOX News Channel cracked the top five for the 31st week in a row. That was in prime time. Here are the network news highlights from last week, FOX News pulled in number three for primetime. Dropping all the way down to 22 was MSNBC, and they beat out CNN, which was number 23.

It seems some people do anything for ratings. Have you heard about this? This guy. He is a politician and a TV show host and now a murder suspect. He's the popular host of a Brazilian TV crime show and now under arrest, charged with murder. The crime show, "Crime Libre" (ph), had an unusual way, they say, for being the first crew on the scene and getting the footage of the crime. Brazilian police say William Soso and his son ordered the killings to — get this — boost the ratings for the show. And that is not all. Police say the victim's were rival drug traffickers.

You may wonder how they figured it all out? Well, the cameramen for that show, they would arrive on the crime scene before the police would, so they could get the exclusive video. These are the chilling crimes allegedly committed to beat out the competition. But I can assure you, here at the FOX News Channel, we report the news fair and balanced the old-fashioned way. We report the news fair and balanced.

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

Our thanks to Kirsten Powers, Jim Pinkerton, Andrea Tantaros and Judy Miller.

I'm Eric Shawn. I thank you for watching. Keeping it right here on the network America trusts for fair and balanced news always, the FOX News Channel.

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