This is a rush transcript from "FOX News Watch," August 22, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
JON SCOTT, HOST: On "FOX News Watch," what is the president's health care plan? The number-one question, as the press keeps up the pressure. Have we heard the answer?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I can't answer that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: U.S. troops continue their hunt for the bad guys in Afghanistan. But some at home lose interest in the effort. Are the media to blame?
A former Falcon flies with the Eagles, as ex-con Vick goes from jail time to primetime to prove he's not so bad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL VICK, NFL PLAYER: I should have took the initiative to stop it all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: Did it work?
A politician from the right goes dancing and gets tripped up by the media on the left.
Plus, some man who paved the way to how we get our news today, Don Hewitt.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DON HEWITT, TELEVISION PRODUCER: Television is good, not when you see it and not when you hear it, but when you feel it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: On the panel this week, Marisa Guthrie, programming editor for Broadcasting and Cable magazine; syndicated columnist, Cal Thomas; Jim Pinkerton, fellow, New America Foundation, and FOX Forum contributor; and Kirsten Powers, New York Post columnist.
I'm Jon Scott. "FOX News Watch" is on right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What is your response so far to the suggestion that the health care reform might not include a public option? Is it winning any converts, angering quarters?
CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS: On the messaging front, do you guys accept any responsibility on the fact that you haven't — some of these other issues on health care that you had to back track against, whether it's on incorrect interpretations of the bill, other than — do you guys accept any of that responsibility or is it all just the media's fault?
TRACY: Mr. President, thank you for taking my call.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Hi, Tracy.
TRACY: Hi. Until I heard you say that a private option is a sliver of your health care proposal recently, I think myself, as many Americans, thought it pretty much was your principle.
OBAMA: I know.
TRACY: My question is, could you please explain five or six bullet points of what legislation must include for you to be willing to sign it? For instance, employer mandates, tort reform, illegal immigrants, what about them, must include public option.
OBAMA: I'd be happy to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: Well, it wasn't just the media letting President Obama have it this week. It was individuals as well. The president seems to be getting it from all sides, you might say, getting grilled just about every day on the health care plan. His spokesman is fending off reporters right and left.
Jim, are the media finally doing their job here?
JIM PINKERTON, FELLOW, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION & FOX FORUM CONTRIBUTOR: I think, for example, Charles Krauthammer had a fair-minded piece in Friday's Washington Post about the death panels issue. He said, look, Sarah Palin is not correct. This Krauthammer talking about there literally being a death panel in here. But it's true that if you subsidize, as the section of the law proposes to do, doctors, to give death counseling to people, doctor's, surprise, surprise, will do it. They'll do what you pay them to. That's a fair-minded summary of the situation. And I think that helps explain why that provision was removed from the bill, only after, of course, the Obama administration bled heavily in trying to keep it in there.
SCOTT: The feeling among some, Kirsten, in Washington is that the White House lost control of the message. Have they?
KIRSTEN POWERS, NEW YORK POST COLUMNIST: They absolutely lost control of the message. The fact that we spent so much time talking about a death panel proves that. There was a vacuum and people were able to step into it. All due respect to Charles Krauthammer, who I have respect for, I don't believe that is what the Senate legislation says, nor would it lead to that. The media has done a horrific job because you can only get to idea of the death panels if you believe there is nothing wrong with the system now. People keep pointing to, we'll be like Sweden because our system was so great. If the media was doing their job and talking about the people suffering under the current system, I think people might not have a different perspective.
SCOTT: One of the interesting things, Cal, I heard about this week was that the White House, the phrase "public option," which has become a headline really, is something that the White House poll tested to see how it flew with people. People liked it. They hear public option and think that's like public service. That's a good thing.
CAL THOMAS, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, the problem with the administration is it's like a Broadway show. They have a leading man, no leading lady, no book, no music nor orchestra, but the guy is trying to sell tickets to it. People say, wait a minute, I'm not going to buy something I don't know what it will be. So you have the president out there basically carrying the water for bills that haven't been written yet. That's number one. Number two, you have a press secretary that's inarticulate at best, but in fairness to him, he doesn't know what he's selling either. You have a secretary of Health and Human Services who comes out before the media and says, well, let's see, maybe the public option isn't a mandate. And then she is thrown under the bus by Gibbs and Obama, saying, yes, it is. So what is it?
SCOTT: Marisa was nodding, I think, in agreement when you were talking about the fact that people don't seem to understand what is in the plan. Is that the case? I so, should the media do more to explain it?
MARISA GUTHRIE, PROGRAMMING EDITOR, BROADCASTING AND CABLE MAGAZINE: The problem is it's hypothetical. We don't have a plan. We have several plans. There are parts of each that will go into the final plan. Because it's hypothetical, you get paranoid people making up things about the death panels. The fact is the angry town halls were all over the media. Then it was the death panels. Palliative care has been around for a decade.
POWERS: It's in the Medicare bill.
POWERS: The exact same thing is in the Medicare bill that all the Republicans voted for.
POWERS: It was such a horrific job by the media. If they are going to do that, they should give the same time to people getting rejected for health care in the current system, people who have preexisting conditions, people who are left to die. Where it that coverage?
THOMAS: The media loves the conflict more than they love the solution.
THOMAS: It's August. It's a slow time. Normally, this is a dead news time. The president is out of town. Congress is out of town. This is made for media. It's a food fight.
SCOTT: Is that why the president wanted it all done before everybody pulled out of town?
PINKERTON: He didn't want people reading the bill. As Peggy Noonan said, in her column, look, if people don't trust the government — for some reason, people don't seem to trust the government that much — and they can understand what is in front of them — if it's, say, 1,000 pages of legislatease, then they are in sync just to say, I don't trust you. I can't understand this, but I don't have confidence in you, so I say no. That's what the American people have done.
SCOTT: There has been, Kirsten, all this criticism of the death panel discussion. But why not? Why not write a bill, put it out there, let everybody see what is in it, and then let the media tear into it?
POWERS: It was a political calculation they made. They want to do it different than the Clintons did it. That's what the Clintons did. It was a disaster. So they said let Congress own it. That's a disaster. There's clearly no way to do this that is not going to create a vacuum for people to make things up. I just think that — I mean, I think the administration is to blame and I also think the media is to blame. I think it's both.
GUTHRIE: Yeah. The stories about people caught in the health care mess, the current health care mess, only started popping out in the last few days. The New York Times did one last week about this rise in the medical billing advocates. You need an advocate to decipher the medical bill because the hospital is charging you $200 for mucus recovery system, which is a box of tissues.
We should have more stories like that.
PINKERTON: The mucus recovery — a part of the media, though, doesn't really care whether the bill gets passed or not. They really just want to hit the right hard. Richard Cullen compared Sarah Palin to Joe McCarthy in his column in The Washington Post. That's a big red letter that a liberal can throw at a conservatives, you're another McCarthy-ite.
SCOTT: All right, it's time for a break.
But first, have you checked out our web site. We have lots of extras for you there, including some of the spirited discussions that erupt in here during the breaks when we're not on TV. I can feel one coming on now.
You can hear them after the show, foxnews.com/foxnewswatch.
We'll be back in two minutes to talk about two men who changed journalism.
ANNOUNCER: He helped build the most powerful media and launched a ground-breaking program, Don Hewitt, and how he shaped the news business.
Plus, from jail time to primetime, Michael Vick takes his story, or sales pitch, to the press. Is all forgiven? All next, on "News Watch."
SCOTT: Television lost a legend this week, Don Hewitt, recognized as the father of television news and the creator of the medium's most successful broadcast, "60 Minutes." Hewitt, a guy who left a lasting mark on television, died on Wednesday.
Marissa, a lot of people say he sort of brought entertainment value to television news. Do you agree?
GUTHRIE: I think so. But at the core, it wasn't adherence to journalism. What he realized was that personalities told stories, so he assembled a cast — he was a big Broadway buff. He called them his all- star Broadway cast, Mike Wallace, Morley Safer, Ed Bradley. It was a kind of journalism that intertwined the person telling the story with the story. It was imitated ad nauseam. And interestingly, "60 Minutes" stayed the same for 30 years.
SCOTT: Let me ask another Broadway fan. The autobiography was called "Tell Me a Story." Some say, for him, the story mattered more than the facts.
THOMAS: I don't know. Look, the thing about Don Hewitt was, yes, there is inherent show business in television. It's a visual medium. The print people are more cerebral. You have to give people a reason to watch. But the thing I loved about Don Hewitt is that, when he got into show biz, his view of show biz was more Renee Fleming than Paris Hilton. It was a higher class. When he did mixed in entertainment, it made you want to watch it. There is so many stories they did that were fascinating and interesting.
Let's not forget, Hewitt wasn't the only pioneer. We had some good ones when I was at NBC, too, people like Ruben Frank and Bob Ketner (ph) and Bill McAndrew. These were all pioneers, as Ruben wrote in his book, "Out of Thin Air." They were making it up as they went along. Don Hewitt's making it up lasted, as Marisa said, for over three decades. That's not a bad track record.
SCOTT: Another one of the old timers we lost this week, Columnist Robert Novak. Talk about his contribution to journalism.
PINKERTON: Robert Novak made everybody in America who read his column feel like an insider. He was fearless, smart and he was — I had the privilege of knowing him recently well. He was unbelievably hardworking. You'd go to a political event, he'd be there. You'd go into somebody's office, he'd be coming out. I mean, he just — like David Broder, speaking of people who have been around for a long time, they are still doing it at a pretty old age because they really love what they do.
THOMAS: You weren't referring to me in that last part, were you?
THOMAS: No, this is tough. There are very few syndicated columnists who can make it out there. And Bob had, at his peak, I think, 300 papers or so, working with Rolly Evans. These guys were real reporters. They developed forces. They didn't just sit in the office and write commentary about what other people had done. That kind of shoe-leather reporting is becoming an endangered species to the detriment of journalism and to the detriment of the public.
SCOTT: One of the contributors on the FOX Forum this week suggested that Bob Novak was always written up, Kirsten, as a conservative columnist, but no one every applied the liberal label to Don Hewitt when many of his stories tended to lean that way. Do you agree?
POWERS: It's a little harder to probably prove. The difference is that Robert Novak considered himself conservative. You're sort of self- identifying that way, versus a person who says — there are certain journalists I think we all suspect maybe are Democrats but they say, well, I'm a journalist. And unless they self-identify that way, I think it's a little hard to...
PINKERTON: Wait a second. Are you saying that "CBS News" is liberal?
SCOTT: I'm just asking the question.
POWERS: Why did you have to open that can of worms, Jim?
PINKERTON: I mean, the poll, the data shows overwhelmingly that, through most of the last 50 years, CBS is the most liberal network with Dan Rather. "60 Minutes" was a great show but it did more than its share of hit pieces on business and people it didn't like and so on, it definitely pioneered a style of sort of advocacy attacks, but it was entertaining.
POWERS: Hit pieces like what? Like the tobacco business and all the real things they were doing?
PINKERTON: People watching with hidden cameras and fool people and so on. It's become accepted now but, at one point, it was impolite to film somebody without...
GUTHRIE: Gotcha journalism has been around since the beginning of journalism.
PINKERTON: The TV camera brought a new element to it.
GUTHRIE: Mike Wallace brought a new element to it.
SCOTT: There were probably, on balance, more stories about big business, bad, that type of thing on "60 Minutes."
POWERS: When they were doing bad things, I think. I'm just trying to think of a time when it wasn't justified. I mean, they brought out things like, you know, what was going on with the tobacco industry, and nobody had any idea. These are revolutionary stories that changed the way we understand an industry.
GUTHRIE: It completely changed the tobacco industry.
POWERS: I don't think there is anything unfair about it. I think it...
PINKERTON: Unless you think there's a right to smoke. Unless you think it's a personal freedom issue.
POWERS: It's not a right to smoke. It's about knowing — you know, finding secret memos of things that they were intentionally misleading consumers. That's important information.
SCOTT: All right, I feel another argument about to break out.
But it's time for a break.
If you come across a story you think shows media bias, let us know. Send us an e-mail, newswatch@FOXnews.com .
We'll be back with this.
ANNOUNCER: Fallen super star, now ex-con, Vick is back in the game and back in the headlines. Plus, a former political big wig takes his Texas two-step to TV and gets heckled from the liberal left. All next, on "News Watch."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDY REID, PHILADELPHIA EAGLES HEAD COACH: I see and feel close to me that I've had second chances and have taken advantage of those and then people — it's very important that people give them opportunities to prove that they can change. So we're doing that with Michael.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: The big announcement there from the Philadelphia Eagles that Michael Vick will return to football and join their team. This, after he was booted out of the game in disgrace, locked in prison for crimes related to dog fighting. So how did they take the news in the team's hometown? Check out the headline from the "Philadelphia Daily News," "Hide Your Dogs." Ouch!
What do you do when you need an image maker and you want a comeback in public life? You sit down for one-on-one television interview, of course.
Here is what he said last Sunday on "60 Minutes."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VICK: The first day I walked into the prison, and they slammed that door, I knew, you know, the magnitude of the decisions that I made and the poor judgment and what I allowed to happen to the animals. It's no way of explaining the hurt and the guilt that I felt. That was the reason I crashed so many nights. That put it all into perspective.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: Michael Vick there.
Cal, a lot of PR people said, from a PR standpoint, that interview was perfect. Hit the right notes. Will it work?
THOMAS: We'll see. A cynic would say, well, he's just mouthing the words, he didn't really mean it. I though James Brown did a great job and I was glad they had him on there to do the interview, one of the co-anchors on NFL Sports. But he did lose, as James points out, $130 million in promotions and salary and everything else, and he's down now to a paltry $12 million the Eagles are giving him. Well, see. We'll see how it works out. But from a media perspective, this is the new confessional, of course. You don't go to the priest or rabbi or pastor, you go to TV.
PINKERTON: The NFL did a brilliant job, the idea of bringing Tony Dungy, the famous coach, and Wayne Pacelle, from the Humane Society, as sort of an entourage for him on this — who knows if he is really sincere or not. We will find out over time I suppose. But it was a great job of reintroducing this guy to civilized America.
SCOTT: Marisa, you cover broadcasting and cable. Why has that, you know, Cal's comment about the new confessional, why has it become so much part of the American landscape?
GUTHRIE: It's very powerful. If you watch the Vick interview, you felt for him. He spent two years in Leavenworth. He deserved it. But you felt like he was making a genuine attempt as reform and remorse.
And, yeah, I agree. Having Tony Dungy, who recently lost a son, he's a sympathetic figure. He's very well liked in the NFL. The NFL has an amazing public relations apparatus. He had to go through all of this or he would have never gotten another contract.
SCOTT: Let's talk about two countries back in the headlines this week. Wednesday, the deadliest day in Baghdad since U.S. troops withdrew in June. 100 people killed in attacks there. And in Afghanistan, voters were at the polls to pick the next president. It's the first Afghan-led vote in more than 30 years.
At the same time, a new ABC News/Washington Post poll finds support dropping for war in Afghanistan. 47 percent think the war is worth fighting for. 51 percent say they think it is not.
The question, Jim, is this because the media aren't covering that war?
PINKERTON: I think the media, reflecting the general interest of Americans, which have shifted to other issues, like the economy and so on, and the fact they can't afford the bureaus they used to have other there to cover this, are falling away. I think Americans — if I could make a recommendation — should see the movie "Hurt Locker." If you want to know what our soldiers going through over there and what they're doing, see "Hurt Locker."
SCOTT: Should the president speak out more about this, Kirsten? He used to say in the campaign Afghanistan is where we ought to be.
POWERS: Health care is his Iraq. George Bush made Iraq the central thing and he went out and he tried to sell it. He tried to sell the surge. He really campaigned for it to a certain extent. For Obama, you know, you can't do more than one major push at a time. It's health care. Americans are far more focused on the domestic issues now than they were sort of post-9/11 and those kind of years.
THOMAS: The difference, of course, is that you won't have the doctors and nurses flying planes into buildings. The president is not speaking on this issue. He's not selling the war as he did in the campaign. George Bush was out there almost every day talking about the terrorist threat. That's why, along with a lack of media coverage, the subject is off the radar for a lot of people.
SCOTT: Here's another story we couldn't help but notice, a big announcement for "Dancing With the Stars."
ABC's Chris Cuomo now:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS CUOMO, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Tom DeLay, the former House majority leader, is a new member of the cast of "Dancing With the Stars." The question is, will tiptoeing around partisan factions and pirouetting on policy points lead to a winning ballroom bounce? That is the question.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: Well, then the mocking began, some of it funny, some of it snide.
Here is how the news played on a channel called MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The Hammer, the former House majority leader will shake his groove thing on "Dancing With the Stars." Torre, educated, as such, our own contestant, Brewer, showing off her own dancing.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Hold, hold on. Hold on. Hold on. They are so upset at the dance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: All right.
Marisa, is it about time that a politician showed a lighter side here?
GUTHRIE: Yeah. I mean, look, "Dancing With the Stars" always has one or two people that you kind of are — you scratch your head and say, hmm, Jerry Springer, but, you know, I think that the media went just as hard on Rod Blagojevich. I mean — and he was a Democrat. So and he — when he wanted to be on, "I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here," before the judge quashed it. So I don't think anything partisan in the sneering here.
THOMAS: Dale Collins had a good column on the subject in The New York Times this week where she bemoaned the lack of quality of celebrities anymore. We have to reach out to former politicians.
But here is a show that will get the ratings, "Dancing With Your Mistress." We could have Mark Sanford and Bill Clinton on there. It'll be over the top, make millions.
SCOTT: It sure would. Cal, thanks.
When we come back — we're going to take one more break — here is what's up.
ANNOUNCER: When it comes to the media, new college freshmen may be clueless. Details next, on "News Watch."
SCOTT: Summer is coming to an end as incoming freshmen arrive at college campuses, among them, my oldest daughter, the class of 2013. Most of this new class, born in the year 1991, a year which had headlines similar to the headlines of today, starting with the economy. Time magazine from February 1991, "Unshackling the troubled banks." Then, March 2009, from the U.S. Times, "U.S. expands plans to buy bank's troubled assets."
This group has always known war in Iraq. "Troops move north. Prepare for down-and-dirty fight," from The Post. And now Odierno seeks to move troops to northern Iraq,"
In entertainment, the "Tonight Show's" new host. The headline from 1991, "NBC appoints Jay Leno to replace Johnny Carson. And in 2009, "Conan O'Brien making his 'Tonight Show' debut."
Boyd College produced its annual mind-set list, giving us interesting facts about this new class. For instance, this group has always watched wars, coups, police arrests and even car chases unfold on television in real time. To them, the Green Giant has always been Shrek, not some big guy on a can of vegetables. They've never had to use a card catalog to try to find a book at the library. There has always been a "Cartoon Network." Ozzie Osbourne has always been coming back. There has always been flat screen TVs and blue Jell-O.
No one has responded to the line, "I've fallen and I can't get up." They have never seen that memorable commercial.
We wish the class of 2013 the best of luck.
That's a wrap on "News Watch" for this week.
Thanks to Marisa Guthrie, Jim Pinkerton, Cal Thomas and Kirsten Powers.
I'm Jon Scott. Thanks for watching. Keep it right here on FOX News Channel. See you next week.
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