Transcript: 'FOX News Watch,' May 2, 2009

This is a rush transcript from "FOX News Watch," May 2, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

JON SCOTT, FOX HOST: On FOX "News Watch," the president hits his 100-day marks and invites the press.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think we're off to a good start.


SCOTT: But did the media take the bait or let him off the hook?

A flu pandemic threat makes headlines. But is the press guilty of fanning flames of fear?

A top Republican switches sides and the media give the GOP a dim future.

And a White House photo op gives New Yorkers a scare, and a new meaning to airhead.

On the panel this week, Jane Hall of the American University; Andrea, Tantaros, conservative columnist and contributor; Jim Pinkerton, fellow, New America Foundation and "FOX Forum" contributor; and writer and FOX News contributor, Judith Miller.

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


JEFF ZELENY, NEW YORK TIMES: During his first one 100 days, what has surprised you the most about this office, enchanted you the most about serving in this office, humbled you the most and troubled you the most?

OBAMA: Now, let me write this down.


I've got...

ZELENY: Surprised, troubled.

OBAMA: What was the first one, surprise?

ZELENY: Surprise, troubled.

OBAMA: Troubled.

ZELENY: Enchanted.

OBAMA: Enchanted. Nice.


ZELENY: And humbled.

OBAMA: And what was last one, humbled?

ZELENY: Humbled. thank you, sir.

OBAMA: All right.


SCOTT: That from the president's 100-days news conference.

Jim, you watched it, that question from Jim Zeleny — Jeff Zeleny, New York Times. Got all kinds of attention. What did you think of it?

JIM PINKERTON, FELLOW, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION & "FOX FORUM" CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I mean, you ask your wife or your mother what enchants you about this world not — or your children, not a president of the United States. I think it does speak deeply to the relationship that reporters dream of having with President Obama.

SCOTT: Really?


You're the journalism professor here, Jane. What did you think of that?

JANE HALL, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: I thought it was a little embarrassing. I thought that, you know, the idea of enchanted — the only thing I could think might be that he was seeking to get him to talk about, hey, it's fun to ride on Air Force One, and my daughters are happy and the dog is happy. It was an odd choice of word, particularly enchanted. It gave all kinds of ammo to anybody who thinks the media are in the tank with Obama.

PINKERTON: Not in the tank, in bed.


HALL: Well, would like to be in bed. I thought, from his standpoint, he gave a great answer. He showed humor. He took it and answered about the military, to the question about enchanted. He used it for his on purposes. I thought that there could have been many more questions about Pakistan, about where is the money that we've spent so far going? Where are the green jobs? I don't think people have to be prosecutorial, but there were very few questions about anything that was really, really on people's minds.

SCOTT: There were all kinds of developments in the White House preceding that.

And then, Judy, you have the fact that the White House first tried to downplay this 100-days event as a hall mark holiday. But then they go to the trouble of staging this big, confab in St. Louis— or not St. Louis, in Missouri, and then they have the news conference that night. I mean, did they overplay it and did the media buy into it?

JUDITH MILLER, WRITER AND FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: No, I think they saw this tidal wave of 100-day coverage coming towards them and decided they were going to ride it rather than be crushed by it. They were going to shape it and they did a very good job of doing that, right down to the enchanted, enchantment column. And by the way, this is entirely consistent with the PEW Research Center which found that 2-1 were positive to negative stories in favor of Obama and 38 percent of the stories were neutral.

SCOTT: So, what about press performance, media performance coverage here, Andrea?

ANDREA TANTAROS, CONSERVATIVE COLUMNIST & FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think Jane is right. The question was embarrassing. I think the last couple of press conferences, he's gotten tons of softball questions. I think he's performing and his staff is performing like a campaign and working on a bunch of them is managing expectations. They said they're pleased, but still more work to do. They use it to their favor.

But look, I mean, the line of questions that he's getting, the public should be a bit outraged. You have The New York Times asking about enchantment. I was waiting for the chocolate or vanilla, or boxers or briefs.


I mean, there's really serious questions that are — you know, that are to be asked. And you look at the difference between what they asked George Bush. Do you think there was any mistakes, they asked him, implying he had made them? It's completely different.

SCOTT: Right.

But, Jim, I mean, at a time when this president is so personally popular, do reporters run the risk of looking, I don't know, unfriendly or mean if they ask him tough question?

PINKERTON: They were willing to take that risk, when confronting Bush 43 or Bush 41. I mean, Sam Donaldson made his career, and everybody in the mainstream media loved him because he would ask obnoxious questions of the president.

Look, it's not an accident that Robert Gibbs, when he was asked to grade the press, gave them an "A."

MILLER: And the president, his own president, a "B-plus."


HALL: To be fair, you look at the coverage of George W. Bush the first 100 days, very positive. He's a compassionate conservative. He's going to be a great manager.

PINKERTON: Jane, you're dead wrong.

HALL: I'm not dead wrong.

PINKERTON: It was hostile and critical. They killed him over...

HALL: Not when he was first elected.

PINKERTON: They pounded him over Ashcroft. That was a huge fight.

HALL: Yes. No, I don't — I can't remember very many stories that were.

TANTAROS: They did, because they didn't think he won fair and square when he won office. It was his second term, I think, they were easier after 9/11.

HALL: I think there were a lot of positive stories about him.

PINKERTON: There were, but there were a lot of negative stories. And the point about Obama is they're all positive. They don't ask him, why did you send an airplane cruising over Manhattan?

HALL: That I'm agreeing with. I'm just saying that there were other presidents who had positive coverage.

PINKERTON: But according to the data that Judy mentioned, Obama is way at the top of Huffy, borderline bedroom-type press.

SCOTT: We talked about the fact — Jane, you didn't think he liked the press very much at least during the campaign. Has he turned that around?

HALL: I think he's getting better at faking it.


Which I think George W. Bush was also quite good at it.

SCOTT: I think I see you nodding. Is that an agreement, Judith?

MILLER: I think the issue of being raised by some of the more skeptical pundits, be they conservative or liberal, is, is he real? Who is this man? What astonishes me is the extent to which we still don't have a fix on him. and you see reporters and analysts grappling with that, who is this guy?

SCOTT: We have at least four years minus 100 days to figure that out.

We are going to take a short break now.

If you want to hear what we are talking about during the commercials, check it out on our Web site,

Back in two minutes with this.

ANNOUNCER: Threats of a swine flu pandemic bring a global alert, but has the press fueled global fear? And a keystone Republican turns against his party, joining the Democrats. Did he win the media's approval? Answers next, on "News Watch."


The H1N1 flu, formerly known as the swine flu, dominated headlines across America all week. Here is Monday's edition of the Washington Post, "U.S. steps up alert as more swine flu is found." And it keeps going. Tuesday's Chicago Tribune, "Flu fears spread." Wednesday, "U.S., California boost's efforts on swine flu." Thursday, from USA Today, "Alert nears pandemic level." And finally, Friday, from the Aniston Star in Alabama, "Flu fearing frenzy."

Are the media overdoing it here, Judy?

MILLER: It's awkward for me to talk about it only because I'm part of those people who are reporting on this story. But I have been struck by the extent to which the coverage has been calm, and calming. And I think that Tom Rosenstiel, of the Project for Excellence in Journalism says that he, too, agrees that the message has been don't panic.

Now, we have to cover this story a lot because it is a huge story, but almost everyone has said we need to be alert, we should not be unduly alarmed.

SCOTT: And yet, Jim, you've got reports of people going to emergency rooms or going to their doctor's offices even when they're completely healthy and saying, please, check me out.


Now, is the amount of the coverage helping or hurting?

PINKERTON: Well, I think there's a genuine split. On one the hand, reporters, most of them, the ones that haven't been laid off...


... have a kind of journalism-school background, they think they're there to enlighten and be responsible and so on. On the other hand, they want to sell paper and gets ratings. They can't decide very well between the two.

I think that, as the philosopher and psychologist Carl Jung said, when facts are few, opinions loom large. You can fill in the spaces of ignorance just with your own viewpoint. And I think that's what we're seeing now when people panic or not.

SCOTT: In any given year, Jane, the garden variety flu that rolls around kills about 30,000 people in America, most of them with weakened immune systems or whatever. But it sometimes seems like we're really overdoing it on this thing.

HALL: I think it has to do with the language. And I think the World Health Organization, calling this a level five, it brings back level terrorism — terrorism levels. I think pandemic sounds like panic, and epidemic. And we don't — I bet if you asked most people, they don't know what a pandemic is. And I think that's part of the problem.

I've seen a few people on this network and Sanjay Gupta, this medical doctor on CNN, try to draw a line between where this is across nations versus the number of people who have actually died. And certainly, the deaths in this country are pretty, pretty low.

SCOTT: Yeah, and talking about that, I mean, even the administration sometimes seems to be putting out a couple of different messages, at least a couple on this point.

Take a listen to what Joe Biden said on the "Today Show" on Thursday.


JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would tell members of my family — and I have — I wouldn't go anywhere in confined places now. It's not just in going to Mexico, you're in a confined aircraft where one person sneezes, it goes all the way through the aircraft. That's me. I would not be at this point, if I — if they had another way of transportation, suggesting they ride the subway. So, from my perspective, what it relates to is mitigation. If you're out in the middle of a field and someone sneezes, that's one thing. If you're in a closed aircraft or closed container, or a closed car, closed classroom, it's a different thing.


SCOTT: What I love about that, Andrea, is that was just the message for his family. He made it clear, that's just for his family. But when you're the vice-president and you say that, and it goes out on the most popular morning news program on television, that's a big cudgel.

TANTAROS: That's right. That's a guy who needs a teleprompter. Get him a script, please.


She should borrow one of Barack Obama's. But I think the administration has handled this, that statement aside, that reckless statement aside, very well. I give them credit. I don't think they've created some kind of false sense of alarm.

The media, I agree with Jim, I think they struggle. They have a hard time giving the public steak without the sizzle.

But I do think that your point was right on. I think that the coverage has been appropriate. I think they need to cover this. I think that for the past few years, you've had — you've heard peripheral chatter about a pandemic and pandemic flu. And I think they're being reasonable about this. A lot of times the media can overdo this. This is one instance where I'm thankful we can get the information so quickly.

PINKERTON: I'm thankful to Jake Tapper, when Robert Gibbs had the thankless task of trying to say what Biden said — actually it wasn't what he said.

HALL: What he meant to say.


PINKERTON: Tapper said, with all due respect, that's not even close to what Biden said. You've totally missed it. Tapper said what we all want to say in a situation like that. They hand out the spin line and it just isn't true. And Tapper was willing to speak truth about it.

MILLER: And one thing that is interesting is that the WHO, the World Health Organization, and the CDC have taken a page out of the Obama book. They're now doing their own media spin. There were 12,000 people who logged on to the Webcast. Six to eight million people are logging on to the WHO Web site. So these organizations are putting out their own message that is unfiltered by the media, and many people are doing it.

SCOTT: Going straight to the recipients.

MILLER: Exactly.

SCOTT: Judy, thanks.

Time for another break.

But first, we'd like to hear — we would like your help. We'd like to hear your ideas. They're always welcome, especially if you come across a story that you think shows media bias. E-mail us,

We will be back with this.

ANNOUNCER: A Republican Senator switches parties, launching a doom and gloom outlook for the GOP in the press. And a White House-approved photo op revised 9/11 nightmares in New York City. All next, on "News Watch."



SEN. ARLEN SPECTER, (R), PENNSYLVANIA: I was unwilling to subject my 29-year record in the United States Senate to the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate, but I am pleased to run in the primary on the Democratic ticket, and am ready, willing and anxious to take on all comers.


SCOTT: That Pennsylvania's Senior Senator Arlen Specter on Tuesday, giving way to headlines like these on Wednesday: USA Today wrote, "The Senate's magic number, 60." And from Senator Specter's hometown paper, The Philadelphia Inquirer, "Defectionist critical blow to reeling national GOP."

Of course, there was instant reaction in the cable news world. On "Hard Ball," Host Chris Matthews began his show by telling what Specter's move means.


CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST, "HARD BALL": And it means that the Republican Party continues to be unable to hang on to its moderates, especially in the northeast where it's begun to resemble the 19th century pre-Civil War Whig Party.


SCOTT: All right, Andrea...

TANTAROS: I bet that made his leg tingle, too.


SCOTT: You're a Pennsylvania native, Andrea. What did you think, first of all of the — I guess, rush to put a nail in the GOP coffin as a result of what Arlen Specter did.

TANTAROS: It wasn't the story. I mean, it's not surprising that the mainstream media would do it. The real story he knew he couldn't beat Pat Toomey. So many Republicans switched parties to vote for Barack Obama that now the Republican Party in Pennsylvania is so thoroughly conservative — he knew. I mean, he was trailing almost 20-plus points last week in a primary against Toomey. So rather than focus on that, they wanted to do the doom and gloom of the GOP. And, yes, the party isn't in that great of shape, but that was not the story here.

SCOTT: Why doesn't that get covered if she's right, Jane.

HALL: I think there are several different aspects. Unfortunately, the irresistible story line was the magic number. I've been reading this and ready that he was — I mean he was criticized for supporting Obama on the bailouts, and later, after he switched, he voted against the Obama administration. He's not as predictable as people may think. I also heard the scenario that because of the backing of the whole National Institutes of Health and cancer research that Obama may have wanted this to happen because of a vote on health care. There are a lot of different aspects. But one was more appealing than the other.

SCOTT: Was there too much glee in the media coverage of Specter's switch or was it realistic?

MILLER: No. I think this is a very important story. I mean, it gives them — if Al Franken is seated, which I think he may be in several months, we're not sure yet, but it's looking that way. It gives the Democrats a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. How can you not cover it?

And also, I think that, in a sense, he was very shrewd, the Senator. He said, I'm doing this because I want to win. So, he took the story away from the media and said what we were going to say, which is, this isn't a question of principle. He wants to win.

PINKERTON: Right. So Specter says, I'm doing it because I want to win.

MILLER: Right.

PINKERTON: Fine. The media as you said, Jon, were gleeful. Over at the national bailout corporation, Chuck Todd said, this is, quote, "devastating." You wouldn't know that the Republicans are actually leading in the gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia. The only two races up in calendar year '09. And yet the media are eager to shovel dirt on the Republicans, with the exception of a few noble figures, like David Broder, who said, look, Specter has always been an opportunist going back to when he switched parties in the 1960's.

SCOTT: And...

MILLER: How about independent? How about independent?

SCOTT: Just a month earlier, he had said, I'm not going to switch parties, but that didn't really seem to merit any coverage.

HALL: Well, you know, I think there is a legitimate story here. It got to 60. He did switch. You know, I'm going to disagree with the characterization of — certainly of Chuck Todd. I don't think that he was gleeful. I think people were pointing out — the fact, I think, some of the commentators were gleeful — I mean, Newt Gingrich says they need new ideas.

PINKERTON: That's not the same as going extinct like the Whig Party. There's a little bit...


HALL: OK, I'm not going to...


PINKERTON: And also, they haven't gotten to 60 yet. Get your facts right. There are at 58 right now, with 59 in Specter, and maybe they'll win Minnesota.

HALL: Well, OK.

TANTAROS: And how about the story that so many of us in the Republican Party said, OK, Benedict Arlen, good riddance. You haven't been with us in a long time. So let's now at least let somebody run who represents our values.

SCOTT: Jim, one of your friends wrote in the press — the headline essentially was now Specter becomes a Democrat's problem.


Not exactly.

PINKERTON: Peter Robb, a very smart fellow, used to write for UPI, said, look, whoever gets Specter's account needs an aspirin bottle right next to them.

SCOTT: But, Andrea, one of the problems the GOP does seem to face is who speaks for them? Who becomes their Ronald Reagan? Who is out there in the press delivering the Republican message?

TANTAROS: I think that's true. And I think internally the fault lines are drawn in so many ways. There's so many cross cuts. There's the old guard versus the new guards, moderates and the conservatives. But the issue here there were two things that are Republican principles that are indisputable, and that's fiscal conservativism and a strong national defense. And Arlen Specter bucked those when he voted for the Wall Street bailouts, the auto bailouts and the stimulus. So when people say that the party abandoned him, that's not exactly true. I think as far as the spokesperson for the GOP, time will tell. I don't think we've seen him yet.

SCOTT: All right.

Time now for our "Caught in the Web Segment."

The so-called Craigslist killer may have a copy cat. A Web site found an ad titled "A strange desire" with details they forwarded to Seattle police who tracked down a man they say wanted to kill. The cops contacted him, staked out a motel where he planned to meet his victim and then busted him. Identified as 24-year-old Sean Skelton, charged with conspiracy to commit second degree murder.

And here's what's hot on the " Why does NBC attack average Americans? MSNBC anchor, David Shuster has allegedly gone on an attack campaign against Miss California, Carrie Prejean, for her position on the same sex marriage, and her new alliance with NOM, the National Organization on Marriage. Shuster made the following posts on Twitter, "I'm not sure Perez Hilton has ever been featured in a political ad. In any case, I think his assessment of Miss USA's logic was accurate." cameras found Paris Hilton on the street corner and asked her about the swine flu.


UNIDENTIFIED TMZ REPROTER: Are you worried about the swine flu, Paris? Have you heard of the swine flu? It's a new flu killing a lot of people in Mexico and everything. Concerned about that?



SCOTT: She said I don't eat that.

On that note, we have to take one more break. And when we come back...

ANNOUNCER: The Scare Force One photo op causes fear in the streets.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was there at 9/11. I don't need this twice in one life time. My hands are still shaking.


ANNOUNCER: And strong reaction from the New York press. Details next, on "News Watch."


SCOTT: 9/11 nightmares resurfaced this week when a low-flying jet and two F-16 fighters buzzed lower Manhattan, terrifying New Yorkers, sending them running for cover. Turns out it was all just for White House-approved photo ops to get shots of Air Force One with Lady Liberty. Of course, the stunt made the tabloids in the Big Apple. The New York Daily News, "How dumb was this"? The New York Post, "Scare Force One."

Then, an apology from the president.


OBAMA: It was mistake as was — as was stated. It was something we found out about along with all of you. And it will not happen again.


SCOTT: He wasn't on board, of course. But one New York paper had some frank advice for the White House: Next time, fake it. Photo Shop your own pictures, like these, flying over the St. Paddy's parade with Mayor Michael Bloomberg, so the sleek jet is heading to the mayor's hand. Or how about blue and white beauty inside a whirling hula-hoop in Central Park. And finally, you can see it over groups of kids and a giraffe during a trip to the Bronx Zoo. That's what you can do.

And that's a wrap on "News Watch" this week.

Thanks to Jane Hall, Jim Pinkerton, Andrea Tantaros and Judy Miller.

I'm Jon Scott. And we'll see you here next week.

Content and Programming Copyright 2009 FOX News Network, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2009 ASC LLC (, which takes sole responsibility for the accuracy of the transcription. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material except for the user's personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon FOX News Network, LLC'S and ASC LLC's copyrights or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation