Transcript: 'Fox News Watch,' January 23, 2010

This is a rush transcript from "Fox News Watch," January 16, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

JON SCOTT, HOST: On Fox News Watch...


SCOTT BROWN, SENATOR-ELECT FOR MASSACHUSETTS: Tonight the independent voice of Massachusetts has spoken!



SCOTT: Democrats failed to keep a blue seat in the Senate. And the liberal press looks to undermine the outcome.


KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC HOST: I wanted to apologize for calling Senator-elect Scott Brown, an irresponsible, homophobic, racist reactionary, ex-nude model, tea bagging supporter of violence against women and against politicians with whom he disagrees.


SCOTT: Have the mainstream media missed the message?

More images of the heart break in Haiti, as the press does its best to bring us the story, but some reporters blur the lines and become the story.


MIKA BRZEZINSKI, MSNBC HOST: The reason why we've got the extremes is a reaction to the objective mainstream media, that is so not objective when you have most of them being Democrats or liberals running it, OK? And that's why we have FOX.


SCOTT: Can mainstream media members come to terms with their left- leaning views.

Americans say they want less government, but is one big paper in Washington keeping that a secret?

Is this who we think it is? How does the National Enquirer get these pictures?


ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Hold on. Hold on. Hold on. Hold on. Hold. Hold. Hold. Hold. Hold.


SCOTT: After a year with President Obama, has his relationship with the press taken a turn?


GIBBS: No, no, no. Hold on. Hold on. Hold on.


SCOTT: On the panel this week, writer and Fox News contributor, Judy Miller; syndicated columnist, Cal Thomas; Jim Pinkerton, fellow, New America Foundation; and Newsday columnist, Ellis Henican.

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


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: My assessment of not just about Massachusetts, but the mood around the country — you know, the same thing that swept Scott Brown into office, swept me into office. People are angry and they're frustrated. Not just because of what's happened in the last year or two years, but what's happened over the last eight years.


SCOTT: President Obama's reaction there on Wednesday to a big Democratic loss the night before, losing former Senator Kennedy's Senate seat to Republican Scott Brown, making big headlines the next morning, from the Boston Globe, The Boston Herald, The Washington Post and The New York Times.

Jim, when you listen to the president's sound bite there, it sounded a bit like he was blaming George Bush for Scott Brown's victory? Why didn't George Stephanopoulos call him out on that?

JIM PINKERTON, FELLOW, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: You mean, the former Clinton White House aide, George Stephanopoulos...



PINKERTON: ... who figures if he asks an antagonistic question he might not get the exclusive next time? I don't know.


SCOTT: But that was kind of an odd statement, wasn't it, for the president?

JUDY MILLER, WRITER & FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, the first part was true, a desire for change sweeps through the capitol and through the country and results in an upset. But the second part, blaming it on Bush, that's getting a little tired. And it's just amazing to me. And I'm surprised.

Come on. He, George Stephanopoulos has evolved. You know that, Jim.

And I'm surprised he didn't pick up on that because it was an obvious question at this point.

SCOTT: Ellis, when you go back to the headlines that we saw at the beginning of the segment, did the media not understand that a Republican might win?

ELLIS HENICAN, COLUMNIST, NEWSDAY: Well, I think the media was in the same place as the politicians were, which is, if you go back a month, Jon, nobody knew this was going to happen. And I think honestly — listen, we blow a lot of things in the media, but I don't think you can expect the media to predict things where there were no polls. Every fact is going in the opposite direction. And when it happened, my god, we covered the heck out of this thing.

SCOTT: But don't you think that there was a tendency to say, oh, Scott Brown is winning? No, that can't be right?

HENICAN: That's what made it a great story, when it swung in that direction, that it's an unexpected political development. I don't remember a Senate race covered more than this one, do you?

SCOTT: Well, no, but it sure has been interesting – that’s for sure.


SCOTT: Especially, especially a special election.

HENICAN: Absolutely, absolutely.

SCOTT: Cal, we played a little bit of this earlier. This is Keith Olbermann. He didn't hold back in his reaction to the fact that Scott Brown — take a listen to what he had to say, and let's talk about it.


KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC HOST: I wanted to apologize for calling Senator-elect Scott Brown an irresponsible, homophobic, racist reactionary, ex-nude model, tea-bagging supporter of violence against women and against politicians with whom he disagrees. I'm sorry. I left out the word sexist.


SCOTT: OK. That's...

CAL THOMAS, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: This is why nobody watches his show, of course.

SCOTT: That's true.

THOMAS: There's a commonalty in that attitude among the media. And Ellis asked why — or you asked why we didn't see all of this coming. We should have seen it coming, most of the big mainstream media, in the tea party movement. It was pretty much ignored last spring. Then the summer in the town hall meetings, and the anger there, bubbling up from the bottom.

Most of the media elites don't hang out where the people do, Rotary Clubs, churches, synagogues, that sort of thing. They don't see this with their own eyes. They’re living in New York, they’re living in Washington, they go to the same parties. They only talk to each other. They probably don't know these people at all. That's why they didn't see it coming.

PINKERTON: Cal, you might be thinking of Meredith Vieira, of The Today Show, who was saying to Scott Brown afterwards, of course, aren't you sort of embarrassed you took away Teddy Kennedy's dream of national health care?


SCOTT: We've got that clip. Let' play that clip. Let's play that to our viewers. In case you missed it, you can hear this.


MEREDITH VIEIRA, THE TODAY SHOW: You know, on a personal note, you said last night, the first call you made after your victory was to Ted Kennedy's widow, Vicky.

BROWN: That's right.

VIEIRA: How comfortable was that for both of you knowing you plan to do everything you can to derail what Ted Kennedy calls — called the cause of his lifetime, which is health care reform?

BROWN: Well, first of all, you're misrepresenting. I never said I was going to do everything I can to stop health care. I believe that everybody should have health care. It's just a question of how we do it.


SCOTT: Interesting.


And you know, you've got to give him — give the lawyer some credit here, he really parsed the language that she used in asking that question.

MILLER: Yes, but I think the question is appropriate in that this had been a kind of legacy seat. In fact, I think it's — one of the reasons the press missed this is that the assumption was, this is a Democratic state. Massachusetts is Democratic, even though they elected Republican governors, and therefore, they really didn't see it coming. I think the question is appropriate.

HENICAN: That's a fair point. But we can't cover things in the media that haven't happened and you don't know they're going to happen. Once this thing became clear, the changes that were made, it got huge coverage.

But don't pretend, Cal, that you knew six months ago this was going to happen.

THOMAS: Come on. We saw the same argument with 9/11. Why didn't we see 9/11 coming, weren't...


SCOTT: To Cal's point — Cal's point is that the media missed the mood of the American populous.

THOMAS: That's right.

HENICAN: You know what, as the mood began to shift, you think those polls, when she was up 30, were totally wrong? I think they were right then and they were right on the day after the election. Those are changing circumstances.

THOMAS: Here's a perfect example why they don't get it.


THOMAS: Howard Fineman of News Week appears on MSNBC and he likens the pickup truck that Scott Brown drives to racism.


That's why they don't get it. Thereby, everybody who drives a pickup truck is a racist.



HENICAN: it's just a cheesy symbol. It wasn't racist.


PINKERTON: Speaking of MSNBC, it's worth noting that Joe Scarborough — as Keith Olbermann was saying those completely insane and inflammatory things — Scarborough, a fellow MSNBC host, was tweeting that this was ridiculous and wrong for Olbermann to be saying that. And it's interesting how that story of the fight between two MSNBC anchors, in public, hasn't gotten as much attention as it should.

SCOTT: So where does the media stand now on health care reform, Judy, now that Scott Brown won the election?

MILLER: I think we've seen a lot of very, very good analysis of the options available now to President Obama. E.J. Dionne had a terrific piece. And Walter Shapiro in Politics Daily said that he has to choose, the president has to choose between what he calls the banana republic strategy, which is trying to shove it through Congress, which they're not going to do now. Or the John Kerry, "I was against it before I was for it moment."



MILLER: And say, you know, look, this thing is dead. I think now, we all — the media have pointed out that this thing looks dead for the moment. For the moment. Politics, I realize, is unpredictable.

SCOTT: If only it had health insurance, they could resuscitate it.


SCOTT: It's time for a quick break.

First, if you want to hear what our panelists really think — and I'm cutting Jim off. He has something he wants to say.


You can go to our web site after the show to hear some of the things we don't say on TV. Check out

Back in two minutes to talk about reporters doing double duty in Haiti. Are they crossing the line?

ANNOUNCER: Images of the aftermath and trauma in Haiti increase as the press settle in. But some reporters blur the line as they become the story rather than cover the story.

And Tiger's tale takes a turn as these pictures hit the press. Is he fair game? Details next, on News Watch.


SCOTT: The news media working very hard to try to bring the latest images and information from Haiti this week, showing the trauma, the heart break, and the ongoing rescue and recovery efforts there.

Some other images from that region, doctors who are also reporters or medical correspondents for other networks telling the story or are they becoming the story?


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: What I need to make sure is she doesn't have a skull fracture underneath. The good news is I don't think she does. So that's good.


SCOTT: All right. Judy, you've been in some pretty tough situations. When you see reporting like that, is that crossing the line?

MILLER: You know, I think with almost any other profession it may be, but with doctors, they get a pass. Because they take an oath first and foremost, you know, do no harm and help — we're human beings first. When you see disaster on that scale, I think it was justified.

However, what's not justified is to use those shots to promote ratings and your own standing as a news network.

SCOTT: Yes...

MILLER: It is a slippery slope. I mean, if I'm a lawyer and I am covering a trial, I don't jump up and rush to help the prosecution or the defense make a better case.


On the other hand, this is human suffering, and I think it was appropriate.

SCOTT: Yes, I don't know. I mean, are those victims of the earthquake or are they props for CNN or somebody?

PINKERTON: Well, they are props, but every victim of a disaster has always been a prop for the reporter. This time around, for the first time in my memory, the reporters, doctor reporters are actually helping.


PINKERTON: I'm not quite sure I see Judy's distinction between the networks doing it for the ratings and reporters doing it to help. The networks paid for the reporter to go there, and they paid for the camera to be running, doing it.

However, I will say, I basically agree with Judy, and that is that Jennifer Ashton, Sanjay Gupta, Richard Besser, Nancy Snyderman — and I'm leaving some out — for various networks, were doing their Hippocratic duty, and it's a good thing, repeat, a good thing that they went there and helped. And if they get ratings, fine.

HENICAN: I'm a little more cynical than Jim and Judy in this one. I think it's good theater and gets ratings. It makes us care about stories that we're not so inclined to always care about. But let's remember, there's nothing to be apologized for in our role. Let's go there, tell the story as well as we can, convince people to act as they may be reluctant to otherwise. Let's do our jobs. He can't be an absolutist. If somebody is dying in your arms, you've got to help them. But don't go down there...


MILLER: But that's what happened and pretty much happened.

THOMAS: You're exactly right. I agree with Judy on this. I would like to see the reporters go a little further. Take it to where the troops are. Remember, some years ago, they — some people — there was a panel at some university or something, with Mike Wallace, the late Peter Jennings and others. The question was, if you knew that attack was coming on American troops, would you tell them to spare them?

SCOTT: And Jennings said no.

THOMAS: No, that's exactly right. So let's have some consistency here. If you're on the side of humanity when it comes to Haiti, let's have the reporters on the side of American soldiers when they're fighting to defend your freedoms to make all that money.

SCOTT: I mentioned CNN earlier. Anderson Cooper has been a part of the fundraiser the other night, the fundraiser for Haiti. Is that appropriate?

HENICAN: I don't think you should do political fundraisers. But I don't think anybody is on the other side of this. And if he wants to help raise money for the suffering earthquake victims, I'm OK with it.

SCOTT: You're OK with that, Judy?

MILLER: I'm OK with it too. A number of news publications really examined this issue and they talked about the issue and the inherent potential conflict. So I think, pretty much, I think the media did OK on this one in raising the questions inherent in the dual roles.

SCOTT: When you've got, you know, OK there he is, George Clooney on one side and you've got Anderson Cooper on the other, anybody going to mistake Anderson Cooper for an entertainer?

PINKERTON: Oh, probably.


But I would say this. This lends itself to scrutiny. In other words, the old media culture, the "Columbia Journalism School" culture has been pretty hostile to the phenomenon of doctors helping patients, and Anderson Cooper doing telethons and stuff like that, there's a fair amount of criticism. Let's see them prove, if they can or if they want to, some sneaky footsy relationship that makes it into a scandal. Right now, in terms of this helping devastated people, who can be against that?

THOMAS: The last time George Clooney did something like this, I believe, was after 9/11. Bill O'Reilly, on this network, did a very good follow-up on where the money went. I'm all for this touchy feely telethon stuff. But let's find out where the money went. It is going to be another rat hole in Haiti?

SCOTT: All right, time for another break.

But first, if you come across a story that you believe shows media bias, e-mail us at

We'll be back with the latest big gaffe from the National Enquirer, and this.

ANNOUNCER: An MSNBC anchor makes an admission about the mainstream media.


BRZEZINSKI: Yes, the balance is not there, within the objective mainstream media, it's not.


ANNOUNCER: Is this a wakeup call to her liberal cohorts?

And Americans want less government and The Washington Post has the proof. But are they hiding the details? Answers next, on News Watch.


SCOTT: All right. So is this Tiger Woods, or just someone who looks an awful like the golf great, outside a sex rehab center in Mississippi?

The first image seen on the pages of the National Enquirer and here reprinted in The New York Post.

What about that? I mean, first of all, the media pretty much took this story and ran with it. I don't know, can you tell that that's Tiger Woods?

PINKERTON: I'm not sure. I suspect if it's not Tiger Woods somebody's got a pretty good lawsuit on their hands.


But, look, let's give them hats off again to the National Enquirer, which consistently gets scoop after scoop after scoop. And if there were any justice, somebody will give them a Pulitzer Prize.


SCOTT: Yes, I mean, they broke the John Edwards story a long time ago. Should they get the Pulitzer, Ellis?

HENICAN: Maybe they should. Jim is right about that. They've done a terrific stream of good reporting. It's held up at least as well as some other organizations. Sometimes it's on trashy subjects. Let's quit being snobs about it and give credit where it's due.

SCOTT: I don't think Judy agrees with you.

MILLER: I want to know how much information they get they pay for. We don't pay for news. It is a sacred rule in many responsible news organizations. And while I applaud their innovation, their determination to get to the, quote, "bottom of the story," I want to know if they got to the bottom of their checkbooks.

THOMAS: Am I the only one to suggest that since Tiger Woods got in trouble, or at least has been outed, that he seems to have gotten darker in the media, in his complexion? The same thing with O.J. Simpson. You may recall the controversy of the Time magazine cover, after he was arrested for, you know, killing his wife and Ron Goldman. He got darker. And there was a big brouhaha whether that was done deliberately.

Look at that picture, if it really is him. But look at other pictures as well. The one on the golf course with the Nike hat and the — you know, the shirt, has him far lighter complected.

SCOTT: He is under a hood and a ball cap there or a golf cap.

PINKERTON: Jon, I'm not touching that one. And those of you...


THOMAS: You heard it first.

HENICAN: Let me say, I like the hood.


SCOTT: Going from uncovering details to burying them, a new Washington Post/ABC News poll says that most Americans would like a smaller government. Fifty-eight percent responding said they favor a smaller government with fewer services. Thirty-eight percent said they favor a larger government with more services. The Washington Post did a big story about the poll, but basically didn't make much of a mention of those results.

Why? Jim?

PINKERTON: Well, to be honest, Jon, I'm not sure I agree with your premise. It was in the story. Dan Balz wrote it. It's a — the basic...

SCOTT: The numbers were in the story, but they didn't dissect them.

PINKERTON: The basic 3 to 2 split on exactly this question, of bigger government versus smaller government, is a familiar number. It's been around for a long time. You know, let somebody else knock this one out of the park, but I kind of agree with The Post.

MILLER: And I agree with Jim on this, absolutely. I think that there was so much in that story that was more news worthy, and the numbers were there in the story. So I really don't think that they buried it.

SCOTT: Am I making a mountain out of a mole hill?


HENICAN: I'm sorry, Jon.

The other point in there was that 100 percent of the people want the government to do what they want the government to do. That number stays the same, Jim.

THOMAS: Look, the Washington Post editorial page in the city of Washington D.C., where the federal government is the biggest employer, likes big government. It gives them plenty to write about. They sell newspapers to an awful lot of government people. Of course, they're going to be for big government and bury the lead.

SCOTT: All right.

Now from ignoring some aspect of the story.


Or so it seemed to me anyway, to spinning the facts. MSNBC anchor, Mika Brzezinski, who is out trying to sell a book, gave us this little gem.


BRZEZINSKI: I've worked in the mainstream media for all the networks and I will say what people aren't saying, it's got a liberal world view.

There are great people working at the networks, and they're mostly Democrats, OK? And they try really hard to be objective, really hard, and they do a great job at it. But the balance is not there within the objective mainstream media, it's not. It is not.


SCOTT: Ellis?


What do you think about that? A member of the media says there's no balance.

HENICAN: Well, she's trying to sell a book. I'm glad you pointed that out. I'm a print guy. And I think there's a distinction between reporters and opinion people. Reporters have to strive to be fair. And I don't frankly think they ought to be declaring how they vote. Opinion people, you know what, let it all hang out, say whatever you want and be as open as you like.

PINKERTON: I don't think that Ellis answered your question.


HENICAN: No, it's an important distinction that few traditionalists, Jim, still hold on to.

MILLER: It is an important distinction, but don't you think she had a point? In other words, having a quiet identification that is not announced to readers is not a good thing. And claiming that you're objective because you don't tell readers that you're actually an avid Democrat or Republican, and you give money to the party, and you do all these things, while you're supposedly giving a fair, neutral assessment of — I think there ought to be more disclosure. And I think Mika was right on this.

HENICAN: Those are high standards?

THOMAS: I think it's irrelevant. Everybody knows what they know. You've got Google. You can find out what they believe. These studies have been going on over 30 years. Of course, they're liberal. Of course, they're mostly Democrats. And Mika Brzezinski had a contradiction. She said, oh, I think they're really objective, but they're also not fair.


SCOTT: OK, we have to take one more break.

When we come back, how has the relationship between the president and the press changed over the last year?

ANNOUNCER: We've gone from this to this. And when the press asks questions, this.


GIBBS: Well, hold on. Hold on. Hold. Hold. Hold. Hold. Hold. Hold. Hold. Hold on.


ANNOUNCER: What lies ahead? All next, on News Watch.



GIBBS: Hold on. Hold on. Hold. Hold. Hold. Hold. Hold. Hold. Hold. Hold. Hold on.

I'm happy to send out a read-out of the meeting prior to it ending. If you'd like me to — no, no, no. Hold on, hold on. Hold on.


SCOTT: When I grow up I want to be press secretary.


That's Robert Gibbs trying to control the message, holding back reporters from asking questions about transparency or lack thereof. It's an issue that has been dogging the administration for most of the year.

So what about it? Has there been a change in relations between the press and the president?

MILLER: Well, hallelujah, the honeymoon is long over, as you can see from that. If we are doing our jobs right, by next year, he is going to be even more frustrated with us than he is today.

SCOTT: Yet, in the same week that saw – well, new week that saw, I guess, Scott Brown elected, Gibbs is going to be on Fox News Sunday.

What's going on there?

PINKERTON: I think, obviously, Gibbs is on offensive. But other parts of the White House, including the new communication director, who replaced Anita Dunn, are still carrying on the war.

SCOTT: Next thing you know, Ellis Henican will be on...

HENICAN: Hold on, hold on, hold on.


SCOTT: Be sure to join us Wednesday night right here on FOX News Channel for complete coverage of the president's State of the Union address. We'll take it apart next week on News Watch.

That's a wrap for this week's edition.

Thanks to Judy, Jim, Cal and Ellis.

See you next week.

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