This is a rush transcript from "FOX News Watch," May 30, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
JON SCOTT, FOX HOST: On FOX "News Watch," the president shows off his Supreme Court pick. The press swoons over the nominee's life story as details on her record rule get lost.
And North Korea proving it's a nuclear risk. Is the press adding new pressure?
When reporting on terror, should political correctness get flushed?
The media turn attention to a sick little boy. Do they really care?
News cameras lose sight of the president on Memorial Day. Was there something to hide?
And do you think the White House press secretary is having too much fun?
On the panel this week, Jane Hall, of the American University; Andrea Tantaros, conservative columnist and foxnews.com contributor; Jim Pinkerton, fellow, New America Foundation, and "FOX Forum" contributor; and Jonathan Martin, senior political columnist at "The Politico."
I'm Jon Scott. "FOX News Watch" is on right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: As she has accomplished so much in her life, she has never forgotten where she began, never lost touch with the community that supported her. But Sonia will bring to the court is not only the knowledge and experience acquired over a course of a brilliant legal career, but the wisdom accumulated from an inspiring life's journey.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: President Obama introducing his Supreme Court nominee, Judge Sonia Sotomayor, on Tuesday. The press quickly focused on her personal story. Here are headlines from the papers the next day. From "The Washington Post," "First Latina picked for Supreme Court," and this side bar, "Heritage shaped judge's perspective." From "USA Today," "Obama hales life story and record." And then, this side bar piece, "From humble beginnings, a judge in Obama's image, nominee is a symbol of Hispanic success."
Jim, it kind of looks like the media led with the personal story, is that exactly what the White House wanted?
JIM PINKERTON, FELLOW, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION & "FOX FORUM" CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely. They wanted the identity politics card laid down on the table and the media went for it. As Mike Allen, writing for the distinguished journal, "The Politico" said: "The media's left-of- center bias is rarely more apparent than during court fights." And if you add on to that, the Hispanic angle, you have a home run of unanimity that anybody who opposes Sotomayor is a bad person.
SCOTT: He's saying the media took the bait, Jane. Did they?
JANE HALL, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: I think the media did take the bait. I think the personal narrative trumped her record for several days. Although I will say it wasn't the first story in "The New York Times." It's the comments she made — was first reported, and Newt Gingrich and everybody went with it, about the wise Latina woman. She was talking — you can debate what she was talking about, but they had it in their first story. But they had page after page about how she read Nancy Drew, she had diabetes. That story, up from the boot straps Hispanic story, was the story.
SCOTT: Let's get to that specific quote. Here is what she said about — well, let's get Newt Gingrich's take on what she said. He said, "Imagine if judicial nominee said my experience as a white man makes me better than a Latino woman. New racism is no better than old racism. A white man racist nominee would be forced withdraw. A Latina woman racist should also withdraw."
Does he have a point, Andrea?
ANDREA TANTAROS, CONSERVATIVE COLUMNIST & FOXNEWS.COM CONTRIBUTOR: Well, certainly intellectually honest. Absolutely, it's a true statement. But it's a very politically — stupid to make, I think for Republicans to have this fight.
Look, Obama, this was a raw political pick for him. He knew by doing it he would triangulate Republicans. It would be tough for us not to take the bait to go after a Latina, a female. And guess what, some of them did. And I think it boxed us in, and I think it makes us looks harsh. I think we need to go after her for the real credentials of being a judge. Is the woman going to judge based on feelings or should she be working across the street where policy is really an issue?
SCOTT: Is that a job, Jonathan, for the media or a job for Republicans?
JONATHAN MARTIN, SENIOR POLITICAL COLUMNIST, POLITICO.COM: I think it's a job for both. Republicans in the Senate have to examine her credentials. But I think certainly the media, in the watch dog role, will do that as well. And I would say, yes, the first day's stories were very much positive for the Obama White House, focusing on the biography. But since then, you've seen a lot of reporting and digging into her actual opinions and what she's actually done on the bench.
SCOTT: Judge Clarence Thomas had a pretty compelling personal story as well. Did he get the same kind of coverage?
HALL: Well, in about day four, now, he got the coverage — the people who nominated Clarence Thomas also said that he came from humble origins. Sam Alito, we now see at about day four, testimony, people went and looked up the video where he said I will remember the people in my Italian- American family who were discriminated against.
HALL: I think what's interesting is the media — this is one of those things where the media are absolutely salivating. I mean, I see Web sites and tickers on the cable networks. They're endlessly replaying the Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich thing. And the context has been a little lost. I don't think she's benefited from the coverage.
PINKERTON: Jane, she's benefited enormously. But, look, you can flee...
HALL: She's not benefiting from these doubts being raised and not really challenged.
PINKERTON: Well, she's— no, she's benefiting from the media surge on her behalf. You can't conflate the fact that the fact that the Bush 41 White House said that Clarence Thomas was a good guy who came up with the boot straps and the — call that the media coverage. The media coverage was annihilating to Thomas and they didn't like Alito either.
The difference is that Sotomayor is a Democrat and Alito and Thomas are Republicans and that totally explains the fact that the coverage, on one side, was up by the boot straps, and the other side was right wing pick.
SCOTT: Here's another quote on the nominee on experience. She said, "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would, more often than not, reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."
Now, a lot of people, Jonathan, thought that was, you know, I guess a reverse racist comment. Did it get the coverage that it deserved?
MARTIN: I think it certainly is getting the coverage that it is now, in part, because of the comments from folks like the former speaker of the House.
But let me just posit something. I think one of the reasons we're focusing so much on what Gingrich said is because of how quiet much of the Senate has been on the Republican side. They have 40 votes. This is not going to be a real battle. It's so what does the media do to fill the void of the lack of an actual battle or the lack of filibuster. They get comments from the leaks of Gingrich or some other point to try and engage here and create some conflict when, in reality, she's probably going to sail through.
SCOTT: Is there a battle coming down the road? Will the media do any more digging into her record, Andrea?
TANTAROS: I sure hope so. They haven't done as much for conservatives as they said before. But look, I think when it comes to her, she comes from a good judicial pedigree, but when it comes for the media, the media here — this is like Obama 2.0. They got to write about the history and the story. We knew very little about Obama, too. I think this is very typical. They're going to try to protect and guard her. And Republicans shouldn't have taken the bait with the racist comment
PINKERTON: One brave comment was from Tah Nahisi Coates (ph), who writes from the "Atlantic," who said that the arguments she made about the wise Latina woman was "preposterous." That was a brave thing. And I'm sure he'll catch it from his brother and sister MSMers.
But he did make the point that it's just absurd to say that Hispanics have a double identity, both American and Hispanics, whereas white people are just white.
SCOTT: Time for a break. First though, if you want to hear what we're chatting about, and there's plenty more during our commercial break, go to our Web site, foxnews.com/foxnewswatch
We'll be back in two minutes with this question, if the press can't even get into a country, can it still make news?
ANNOUNCER: A nuclear threat grows. The world on alert as a communist menace makes dangerous moves. Has the press missed the details? And did the press ignore the details of the president's Memorial Day moves? Answers next, on "News Watch."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: It continues to act in a provocative and belligerent manner toward its neighbors. There are consequences to such actions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday reacting to North Korea's recent missile tests.
The question, Jonathan, is, is North Korea and its belligerence, is it getting the coverage it deserves? Or is it easier to cover a controversial Supreme Court nominee?
MARTIN: The answer is yes, it is easier to cover the Supreme Court nominee. There's more human interest among readers and among viewers in this country in that story. I think, in this case, the media is in fact guilty. The fact is it's tough to cover the story because of the restrictions to get into North Korea. And until they're seen as an actual threat to this country, you're going to see more sort of this compelling human interest coverage that...
SCOTT: They have nuclear weapons. We're not taking them as a threat?
HALL: Yes, but it's not like fantasy football. And a confirmation hearing in the summertime, it just can't compete for the media. I think that the media really are guilty on this one. I think that it should be pointed out that Joe Biden said he's going to be tested. That he had this policy. We're going to engage with Iran. We're going to engage with North Korea. And they are getting more and more belligerent. There's a lack of history even in the little coverage we're getting.
MARTIN: And attention space too, yes.
PINKERTON: But it's very painful for the media to come to grips with this story because everyone knows why the North Korea were blowing up A- bombs and firing off rockets under Bush because Bush was terrible and he had to be opposed at all times. And who could blame the North Koreans for being against him. But with Obama, who wants to reach out to the world and be friends with everybody, why are the North Koreans still doing it? The cognitive dissidence in their heads is too painful for them to really process.
SCOTT: Well, Andrea, not only are they still doing it, they have launched more missiles and raised more of a ruckus in a very short time of the Obama administration than they did during the entire eight years really of the Bush administration.
TANTAROS: That's absolutely true. And the coverage has been very, very thin and it seems the coverage we've seen thus far is just reporting on it. No one is really pressing Obama even after his impotent response on Monday, what now? They're not demanding answers. And they would have done that of George W. Bush. They're just ignoring the issue. They still aren't challenging him to come up with solutions. It's been very thin, especially on Iran as well.
SCOTT: Should the media, Jane, be taking a more critical look, I guess at the kind of foreign policy that President Obama promised as a candidate, what he's delivered and what the results are?
HALL: Absolutely. He made, you know, a tour of Europe and talked about, we hope the world will lay down its arms. I mean, he should be being asked. The last press conference he did, I was amazed that there was almost no foreign policy question. I think the American people are presumed not to be interested and journalists in Washington — no offense...
HALL: ... we're all — the enemy is us. We're fascinated with the personal story. In Kim Jong-Il had that come-up-from-the-boot-straps story, maybe we would be covering it.
I mean, when you think about it, Iran is misbehaving. North Korea is certainly misbehaving. The Lebanese, Hezbollah may be about to win a bunch of elections.
MARTIN: It's like a buffet. We can't get them all down.
HALL: It's speculative. It's also — it's also like we don't know.
PINKERTON: But just a point of privilege, Jane, I wrote a piece for "U.S. News and World Report" on missile defense and how, if the Iranians and the North Koreans and Hezbollah and Hamas are going to be firing off rockets at everybody, we ought to have a way to shoot them down. That strikes me as sort of axiomatic. And nobody is talking about that.
TANTAROS: And the excuse that this is not a sexy topic, it's a pretty darn important topic and they're doing an injustice to media by not covering this more. Look, last week Obama said we're out of money. This country has no money. No one is putting together the link between our economic security and national security. And if China is the only key to get to North Korea, why aren't they making the connection there that's China is holding our debt.
SCOTT: Wasn't there a president named Ron Reagan who was pilloried in the press for this idea that you could shoot down missiles?
HALL: Yes, Star Wars.
SCOTT: Star Wars, yes.
HALL: I think that Andrea is right, also. I've seen some coverage. It's not that that there's been none. But "USA Today" had a piece about, gee, maybe they might sell to rogue nations. What happens if Japan gets worried and then China gets worried about Japan? It's scary. And I think part of it is it's scary and then what do you say. It's scary and speculative.
MARTIN: Well, it's a direct impact on everyday Americans. And that's the challenge.
HALL: Yes. Until something happens, god forbid.
PINKERTON: Only one thing to do, says "The New York Times," go to the U.N.
SCOTT: OK, and we know how that often turns out.
SCOTT: There are two U.S. journalists are held in North Korea right now. Why aren't journalists, I don't know, more critical or more upset?
TANTAROS: Well, great question. They should be. I mean, this is the real story that they need to be following. And you know, I think one of the big s stories, here, too, is, just this week, the same day that North Korea launched a missile, Ahmadinejad — there's an election in Iran. He's watching North Korea. Nobody is reporting the implications of what if he gets his hands on these weapons, as Jane pointed out? The ramifications of what's going on in North Korea have direct implications on every other aspect of foreign policy. And instead, we're covering all these other crazy topics, I mean, it's just — it's double standard.
SCOTT: All right.
A reminder, we would like your help. Story ideas are always welcome, especially if you come across something that you think smacks of media bias. E-mail us, firstname.lastname@example.org.
We'll be back to talk about the Memorial Day moves.
ANNOUNCER: Faltering economy, nuclear threats, car biz bailouts? All that, but this sick little boy captures media attention. Does the press really care? And President Obama shuts out the press on Memorial Day. Why? Details next, on "News Watch."
SCOTT: Memorial Day 2009, the president lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns and pays tribute to those who died defending our freedoms. He reminds Americans to remember our fallen heroes with a moment of silence at 3 p.m. local time. And when that moment came, where was the commander-in- chief? Still on the hallowed grounds of Arlington National Cemetery? The Vietnam Memorial? Maybe even the Oval Office? No, Mr. Obama was playing golf. A bit of presidential recreation that, as the White House Press Office noticed, was closed to the media.
So, these are not the pictures of the president's Memorial Day golf outing because, as we understand it, no photographs were allowed that day. Although we are assured the president did pause for a silent prayer at 3 p.m.
All right. So, Jim, the commander-in-chief goes golfing on Memorial Day. No pictures allowed. Why is that? Because maybe it's politically tone deaf?
PINKERTON: I think obviously that was a concern they had. They realized the picture would look terrible if he was playing golf and it would have blanked out the good pictures of him at Arlington Cemetery. The issue here is the White House knew they had a problem and they did their best at sort of preemptive damage control.
SCOTT: Jane, we have talked about this issue before. When the president wants to be seen as athlete in chief, I mean, he's got a White House television team there to cover his every move. We saw it when he was playing with the women's basketball championship team. And lo and behold, he made every shot.
Because the White House shot the footage and edited the footage. Why not show him golfing?
HALL: You know, I think that the pictures are more powerful than anything else. And I don't know why he went golfing because they are a very savvy White House. They have a tendency to keep the media out. I believe it was Jake Tapper from ABC who broke the story that this happened. He was there. He gave a moving speech, but it does seem like, if you know this, why is he on the links? Somebody was going to get the story.
SCOTT: Yes, I mean, it seems like if you're going to golf, golf on Saturday or golf on Sunday, but golfing on Memorial Day when you're the commander-in-chief?
MARTIN: I think they believe that he had hit homage that morning at Arlington and had some veterans into the White House beforehand, and that he had — you know, therefore satisfied sort of the traditional presidential activities on Memorial Day. I think that they may want to get this one back. It will be interesting to see next Memorial Day, where the president is and what he does in his afternoon.
SCOTT: Although the press did not give it a lot of coverage, you've got to admit.
One story that did receive a lot of media attention, Daniel Hauser, a 13-year-old boy with cancer under court order to undergo chemo treatments. But then he and his mother took off, sparking intense media coverage and a nationwide manhunt.
When they finally did return home, his mother had this to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COLLEEN HAUSER, MOTHER OF DANIEL HAUSER: He was going to run away. Danny was going to run away. Then what do I have? I mean, he was going to run. And that just broke my heart. I can't have one of my children running away from something that he should face.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: All right, well, he did get the first chemo treatment on Wednesday of this past week.
You teach journalism. You're an easy target with one like this.
What do you tell your students? I mean, why did this story receive so much attention?
HALL: I think it'll go back to Sotomayor, compelling personal story, people in trouble, mother, son, dramatic, you know, attractive family.
SCOTT: Life and death.
HALL: Life and death. It's got all the elements. You know, people who work in television are looking for dial-stopping personalities. And it has been discovered that these kind of stories are compelling. But I will say one story I read said that the police and the court officers thanked the media because they said that helped bring the kid home.
SCOTT: Well, that's a question. I mean, did the media save his life, perhaps?
PINKERTON: They sure would love to take credit for that.
I agree with everything that Jane said. I would just add, we don't know the outcome. It's like a sports event. There's a little bit of drama here of who's going to win. It just — not to be morbid about it, but is the young man going to survive or not. That's an open question. Tune in tomorrow.
SCOTT: All right, last week on this program we discussed coverage of the debate over our national security policy. On one day, we witnessed a sitting president and a former vice-president expressing almost opposite views about how we should fight the terrorists who want to harm us.
The speeches delivered on the same day that the FBI and New York police announced they had foiled a home grown terror plot. Coverage of the stories in "The New York Times" seemed to gloss over the groups' openly express desire to commit jihad, even though the police commissioner mentioned it at a news conference.
Why did "The New York Times" decide to shy away from mentioning the suspect's extreme Muslim beliefs? Do you have a thought on that, Andrea?
TANTAROS: Absolutely, this is a move that the country is going in. And the Obama is setting the tone. It's we're more concerned with being sensitive than actually reporting the facts here. And I think it's particularly when you're talking about radical Islamic Jihadism. They're afraid to call it what it is. We've seen terrorist attacks are now man- made disasters. We can't talk about the war on terror. We can't call things out for what they really are for fear of blowback or we might upset somebody's feeling.
SCOTT: Jane, the White House has officially stopped using war on terror.
HALL: I think this criticism of the "New York Times" is valid. They did this once before. It's not that they didn't mention it, but it's not the lead. The "New York Post" was like, jailhouse jihad, maybe.
I don't know if that's the headline, but it read something like that, that they have been converted. That is also a scary thing, and an important part of the story. And it's considered, we don't want to — most Muslims are not terrorists. And you can just see the logic of the story.
MARTIN: Yeah, I was struck by the fact that President Obama did not incorporate this foiled plot into his speech last week. I think it's a reminder of the threat that's still out there even to this day.
SCOTT: All right.
We have to take one more break. When come back...
ANNOUNCER: With the tough topics he has to deal with, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs has taken the briefings to a new high. Find out what that is, next on "News Watch."
SCOTT: We found something interesting on politico.com, where Jonathan works, this week. It seems that in the White House press briefing room, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs has reached a new high, a record number of laughs, giving his daily briefing.
Politico took a look at the transcripts created by the official White House stenographer who notates laughter in the transcripts each and every time a giggle comes from Gibbs or anybody else in the press corps.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: Oh, the West Wing is a happy place. In his first four months, Gibbs' briefings have been interrupted by laughter more than 600 times. That's about 10 laughs per day. It's more than previous press secretaries, like the late Tony Snow, a very clever and funny man. So funny during his briefings in fact, some referred to them as the Tony Snow show. But he only collected 217 laughs on the job. That is still more than Scott McClellan who served under George Bush. He only got 66. And Dana Perino, the final press secretary of the last Bush administration, with a total of 57.
We're not here to make you laugh, but we have fun on this show anyway. We hope you do.
That is a wrap on "FOX News Watch" this week. I want to thank Jane Hall, Jim Pinkerton, Jonathan Martin and Andrea Tantaros.
I'm Jon Scott. Thanks for joining us. We'll see you back here next week.
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