Transcript: 'FOX News Watch,' October 3, 2009

This is a rush transcript from "FOX News Watch," October 3, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

JON SCOTT, FOX HOST: On "FOX News Watch," health care reform stumbles in Washington; the economy, on the rocks across the nation; the success of our military in Afghanistan, in question; and our president's focus is on Copenhagen, Oprah and his Olympic-sized sales pitch.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We want them in Chicago.


SCOTT: Are the media paying attention?

A fugitive film maker gets nabbed for sins of his past, as some in the spotlight try to dismiss his bad deed.


DEBRA WINGER, ACTRESS: We came to honor Roman Polanski as a great artist.


SCOTT: Michael Moore is back. What more can he say?


MICHAEL MOORE, FILMMAKER: We want our money back.


SCOTT: And a new battle begins on late night.


CONAN O'BRIEN, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW": The mayor of that city has now banned me from flying into Newark Airport.



SCOTT: On the panel this week, Marisa Guthrie, programming editor at "Broadcasting and Cable" magazine; syndicated columnist, Cal Thomas; Jim Pinkerton, fellow, New America Foundation and FOX Forum contributor; and Juan Williams, news analyst with NPR and FOX News contributor.

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

This week, the debate over health care heated up on Capitol Hill with no clear end in sight. A Democratic congressman made headlines with his show-and-tell on the topic. A burning question over U.S. troop deployment in Afghanistan and whether or not we can succeed there. And the possible nuclear threat posed by Iran dominated the world's stage. All this, as the president and Mrs. Obama jetted off to Denmark for a sales pitch to win the Olympics for their hometown of Chicago.


OBAMA: We can make it, if we try. That's not just the American dream, that is the Olympic spirit. It is the essence of the Olympic spirit. That's why we see so much of ourselves in these games. That's why we want them in Chicago.


SCOTT: That presidential plea went nowhere. The International Olympic Committee chose Rio de Janeiro.

We know the result now, Jim. Was the press playing along? Were they supportive of the president's move here?

JIM PINKERTON, FELLOW, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION & FOX FORUM CONTRIBUTOR: I think the press was — Katie Couric said that Oprah and the president were the dream team going there. I think they were drinking their own Kool-Aid and they've now discovered that the rest of the world doesn't idolize President Obama as much as the mainstream media does.

SCOTT: What about it, Juan, pretty unusual to have a president go on a trip like this? In fact, I don't think it has been done before.

JUAN WILLIAMS, NEWS ANALYST, NPR & FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Yeah, but I don't think it's that unusual because, remember, the king of Spain, prime minister of Spain, prime minister of Japan, president of Brazil, they are all there. Don't forget that Tony Blair played a key role for London in getting the Olympics.

SCOTT: And Spain was a super power several hundred years ago.


WILLIAMS: What I'm saying now is like that's what's required. There was lots of questions raised about President Obama going, but the idea that it was distracting him, I thought was a little much.

SCOTT: Cal, does this become something like pardoning the Thanksgiving turkey and receiving the bowl of shamrocks from the Irish prime minister. Is this going to be something that every president has to do every four years?

CAL THOMAS, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: The real story is not the diminished credibility of the president. It's the diminished credibility of Oprah! If Oprah can't deliver, what is the future of the planet?


I think this proves again that the president is over-exposed. When you take the office and the prestige of the presidency of the United States and you take it down to lobbying for a city like Chicago, especially, and you lose, the Iranians are going to be looking at this. The Republicans are going to be looking at this. It's all part of the weakness.


WILLIAMS: Come on, a little over weighing, don't you think?


SCOTT: He would have been criticized if he hadn't gone, as you point out.

WILLIAMS: I don't know that he would have been criticized if he hadn't gone. What the press did point out, there's a lot of cronyism in Chicago.


WILLIAMS: A lot of Obama's buddies were going to benefit from land deals and the like. That was all over the Chicago papers. The national press however did not pay attention to that story.

SCOTT: Let's take a look at some national numbers. President Obama's job approval rating dropped this week. Right now, only half of Americans say they approve of the job he's doing, 50 percent, 42 percent disapprove.

Are those ratings, Marisa, do you think, reflective of the way the press is treating the president?

MARISA GUTHRIE, PROGRAMMING EDITOR, BROADCASTING AND CABLE: I think that the argument that he's demythologizing the office of the presidency by being on Letterman and going to Copenhagen, whatever the legitimacy, the substance of that argument is, is probably contributing to a certain amount of over exposure. Maybe that — I think what is reflected in the polls is health care, Afghanistan, ongoing violence in Iraq. I don't think, because went to Copenhagen, his polls are going to plummet. I don't think he's going to be permanently damaged by that.

PINKERTON: I think unemployment also is a variable here. I worked in the Reagan administration when unemployment went to almost 11 percent and Reagan's approval rating went into the low 30s. Obama is at 50. One reason why he's still as high as he is, is according to the Media Research Center, the coverage of President Reagan's unemployment in 1982 versus Obama's unemployment in 2009 is 13-1, more negative for Reagan back then. MRC, Dan Gainer was even cheeky enough to track down Charlie Gibson's coverage of unemployment going so high back 27 years ago and comparing it to what Charlie Gibson did. Then he was at the White House. Now he's obviously anchoring ABC News. Back in 1982, it was all bad news for Reagan. In 2009, it was all good news for Obama, mostly good news.

THOMAS: Here's the problem though. He, who lives by the media, dies by the media. The time for a president to go on television is to advance policy or to persuade the public of something. The president doesn't have a plan for Afghanistan. He has to think about it for the next however long. He doesn't have a health care plan. This is a congressional plan or at least several versions of it. He didn't really have a plan to bring the Olympics to Chicago other than the force of his personality, which didn't work. We are seeing a diminished power right before our eyes, because he doesn't have anything other than his personality.

SCOTT: One other burning issue this week, Iran — take a look at some new numbers from our new poll out this week. 69 percent of Americans do not think the president is being tough enough on Iran. Only 16 percent say they think he's handling the situation right. 6 percent say he's being too tough.

Again, the same question, Juan, is the press coverage he's receiving on Iran, is that reflective of what the American people seem to think?

WILLIAMS: I think this is poll numbers that reflect the American people's impatience with Iran in the sense that Iran has been lying and continues to lie. There's been a shift in this story with Iran making some concessions. The question is, how does that get played? The international community and the international press, at the end of the week, was saying Iran is really taking a step back and coming into the international community. Newspapers in the United States, on the other hand, were much more cautious in their coverage. We'll see where this goes.

When you look at these numbers, one of the things — just going back to our previous story, Jon — that is so interesting to me is that a plurality of Americans said they disapproved of the president going to Copenhagen for the Olympics. I didn't see it as a big deal. Apparently, I was out of step.

SCOTT: Time for a break.

First, you want to be a fly on the wall? During our breaks, we keep the cameras rolling in the studio here. You might catch Cal Thomas breaking out in song or some spirited discussions.


Check it out after the show,

Up next, police bust a CBS News producer trying to extort money from David Letterman. The late-night comic makes a shocking admission.

Also, Fugitive filmmaker, Roman Polanski, back in the news.

ANNOUNCER: Famous director and wanted criminal, Roman Polanski, nabbed for raping a 13-year-old, as celebrities and the liberal media cry foul, ignoring the crime.

And as the charges against ACORN stack up, Congress cuts funding and big business cuts ties. Now some in the press, painting ACORN as the victim. Really? All next, on "News Watch."



WHOOPI GOLDBERG, CO-HOST, "THE VIEW": He was charged — I know it wasn't rape-rape.

UNIDENTIFIED CO-HOST: I think it was statutory rape.

UNIDENTIFIED CO-HOST: Child molest, maybe? I'm not sure what child molestation...

GOLDBERG: I think it was something else but I don't believe it was rape-rape.


SCOTT: OK. Comedienne Whoopi Goldberg on "The View" telling us her view of the charges on director, Roman Polanski, which got some reaction. But it didn't stop there. Other celebrities have come to Polanski's defense.


WINGER: We came to honor Roman Polanski as a great artist. But under these sudden and arcane circumstances, we can only think of him today as a human being. We hope, today, this latest order will be dropped. It is based on a three-decades old case that is all but dead, except for a minor technicality.


SCOTT: Yeah, and there's more. Hollywood big shots joined in, including Woody Allen — there's a role model for you.


And Martin Scorsese, among others, showing their support for the filmmaker.

Juan, if Roman Polanski were a gym teacher or truck driver, would he be getting the same kind of treatment from these Hollywood big shots?

WILLIAMS: Obviously, not. I think what's behind this is an argument that his brilliance somehow excuses the crime.

SCOTT: Which he pled guilty to.

WILLIAMS: But here's the thing. There have been documentaries saying there was improper behavior by prosecutors in the case trying to influence the judge. I think there's a great deal of credit to be given to the American newspaper reporters this week, Los Angeles times, New York Times, who went out and actually said, here's what happened, Roman Polanski, under wrong assumptions, got this 13-year-old away from her parents, saying he was simply going to take photos. The girl wanted a career in acting. Then gave her champagne, alcohol and Quaaludes and persisted in his sexual attempts to engage her, before raping her.

So what you just heard from Whoopi Goldberg is someone who hasn't looking at what happened. She says it wasn't rape-rape. There is no way to interpret this, once you see the facts, as anything but, not only rape, but rape of an adolescent.

PINKERTON: Or, Juan, maybe she looked back and doesn't care, because she thinks people of a certain Hollywood pay grade are just...


WILLIAMS: That's what I said, Jim. The argument is, you are brilliant artist. You are excused from standards.


GUTHRIE: Well, the backlash on this, since the petition in favor of supporting Polanski circulated by Harvey Weinstein and all of this, the backlash against all of that, that Hollywood circling the wagons, has been swift and loud. Juan is right. The New York Times, the L.A. Times, every one has pointed out and recounted the facts of the case. That speaks for itself.

THOMAS: You wouldn't want any of these people as a character witness at your trial. You have, Woody Allen, as you pointed out, not a paragon of virtue. He married his adopted daughter that he adopted with Mia Farrow.

You got Whoopi Goldberg, who I wish would define the difference between rape-rape and just rape — I don't get that — who, according to her publicist, has had six abortions. These are not the kind of people you want to show up and make good statements about yourself.

SCOTT: She did issue some kind of a clarification...

THOMAS: Oh, well.

SCOTT: ... on "The View" the next day about her — it wasn't rape-rape statement. We should point that out.

GUTHRIE: The fact that these are women saying this is most disappointing thing of all. I mean, you are on a national television show, and you know this is going to be a topic, find out the facts before you shoot your mouth off.

SCOTT: The press also — you know, there were some in the press who went the other way, Jim, and pointed out that Roman Polanski has had such a tough life. His mother died in a concentration camp. His wife and unborn child were murdered by the Manson family.

Does that excuse any of this behavior?

PINKERTON: It is interesting context for sure. It doesn't excuse the crime at all. He's had a — an intense life, including winning an Oscar a few years ago for a movie about the holocaust. I mean, he's — but again, Debra Winger saying the whole art world will suffer if somebody goes to jail for committing a crime. That says a lot about the art world.

SCOTT: And then there was this story this week involving both the news and entertainment media. On Thursday night, comedian, David Letterman, admitted to affairs with women on his own staff. Here's what he said in a weird monologue.


DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, THE LATE SHOW: I have had sex with women who work for me on this show. I feel like I need to protect these people. I need to certainly protect my family. I need to protect myself, hope to protect my job, and the friends, everybody that has been very supportive through this. And I don't plan to say much more about this on this particular topic. So thank you for letting me bend your ear.


SCOTT: Yeah, after that, we found out that this producer for the CBS News program "48 Hours" had been arrested and charged with trying to extort $2 million from Letterman for having done some of the things that he admitted.

Have you ever seen a weirder wearer moment in television than that, Jim?


PINKERTON: I'm sure half the audience thought this was some elaborate...

SCOTT: Yeah, they were laughing as he's talking about this extortion attempt.

PINKERTON: Again, it just goes to show the difference between the elites and the public on these things. This is an unbelievable soap opera to come here. Obviously, every one of these women is going to get tracked down and interviewed and maybe sell their story to some tabloid.

SCOTT: Marisa, if you are on Letterman's staff and the big guy comes and says, hey, how about it? It just...

GUTHRIE: Well, you know, I don't that men having sex with subordinates or having affairs with subordinates is something unusual. We see it all the time in politics. But I do think that there's a question of the — you know, he's in a position of power over these women. Was there some sort of quid pro quo or there a hostile work environment?

WILLIAMS: Here's the thing though. The story is not a sexual harassment story so far.


WILLIAMS: Now, you can imagine that there will be questions raised by aggressive reporters in this regard. But what we know about it so far is there was a crime against David Letterman. I haven't heard any complaints from the women. Apparently, this producer was going out with a woman who had had sex with Letterman.

SCOTT: Right.

WILLIAMS: That's the triangle that we are aware of.

SCOTT: Apparently, we will never know, because Letterman said he has said the last he's going to say on this topic.

THOMAS: I doubt it.

PINKERTON: Oh, we'll know.


SCOTT: It is a weird, weird story.

There is much more ahead on "FOX News Watch."

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

Up next, ACORN scandals and why some think the organization is the victim.

ANNOUNCER: With scandals building and allies falling, ACORN's future looks dim. But wait, the liberal media have a plan.


MOORE: We want our money back.


ANNOUNCER: And he's back. Michael Moore's love story. Is the media afraid of this movie menace? Answers next, on "News Watch."



UNIDENTIFIED ACORN WORKER: Your business is a performing artist, which you are, OK?


UNIDENTIFIED ACORN WORKER: So you're not lying. A little play on words.

UNIDENTIFIED JOURNALIST: That's kind of good for my ego.

UNIDENTIFIED ACORN WORKER: You're a performing artist, OK? So stop saying "prostitute."



SCOTT: Just one of the many clips there from a couple of freelance journalists who exposed problems at ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. Since these first aired, ACORN has lost all kinds of funding, backing and support from government and private sectors.

Now some in the media are defending ACORN. Take a look at this from a recent USA Today front page story titled: "For ACORN, Controversy Now a Matter of Survival." That was the headline. And in the body of the piece, "ACORN, which has received about $53 million in federal funds since 1994, has long been a target of conservatives because of ties to Democrats. Attacks increased after its aggressive voter-registration and get-out-the-vote efforts for President Obama last year."

I might point out that attacks increased, Juan, after a couple of ACORN employees were seen in what seemed to be promoting prostitution in those undercover videos.

WILLIAMS: What USA Today said was exactly right, that the attacks increased once it was seen or thought to be seen that they were engaged in fraudulently registering voters all to the benefit of the Democrats. It has escalated, I would say, Jon, in recent days, given these videos. What you've seen not only has the U.S. Congress voted to end their connection, the Census Bureau, everybody is running in the other direction.

SCOTT: And they got, Cal, $53 million in federal funds for various arms of ACORN. It's a little murky. Juan was talking about this during the break.

THOMAS: More like tentacles. There are more than a couple of arms.

SCOTT: A little murky as to where the money goes and where in comes from in that organization.

THOMAS: Yeah. There's a double standard with the way the media covers liberal groups promoting policies that they agree with and conservative groups that are promoting policies they disagree with. In the 1080s, there was an outfit called the Legal Services Corporation — I'm sure it is still around — that supposedly was styled to help poor people. Conservatives tried to get them to get them to fund it because they were — a lot of money was going out to a lot of places that the conservatives thought the federal government had no business in helping to promote. That didn't go anywhere. So the media was very supportive of Legal Services Corporation, just as they are of the goals and objectives of ACORN. But if it's a conservative group, then the whole media approach is something totally different.

SCOTT: Why do some think ACORN has been a victim of media coverage, Jim?


PINKERTON: For exactly the reason Cal said, they sympathize with ACORN. They think ACORN does good work. And they think these conservatives are being mean, picking on them. One of those people doing the picking, and he's — if there's any justice, he would win a Pulitzer Prize — would be John Fund with the "Wall Street Journal," who was all over ACORN for years on — he wrote a book on voter fraud. He told me the other day, there's a lot more coming.

SCOTT: All right.

WILLIAMS: Well, let me say quickly before you go, I think that a number of people, in terms of journalistic effort, if they ever wanted to focus on fraud, should go after Blackwater, should go after these Wall Street bankers. When you look at ACORN — I think that's why people think, wait a minute, these folks are trying to help poor people get a house. Are we putting enough journalistic resources into scandal that pays off in large measure, $53 million over like 14 years? That is a margin of error for the federal government.

PINKERTON: Stealing the elections is a more consequential thing than the money.

SCOTT: All right. It is the weekend. Are you ready for some slanted cinema? First, we had Al Gore giving us his "Inconvenient Truth" and the media couldn't get enough of that. Comedian-turned-political observer, Bill Mayer, blessed us with "Religiosity," I think it was called.

PINKERTON: "Religilous."

SCOTT: "Religilous," I'm sorry. His polling on religion, another film getting high marks from the left. And the same from Michael Moore's latest.


MICHAEL MOORE, FILMMAKER: We are here to get the money back for the American people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I understand, sir, but you can't come in here.

MOORE: Can you just take the bag, take it up there, fill it up?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. Absolutely, not.

MOORE: I got more bags. $10 billion probably won't fit in here.

We want our money back!


SCOTT: Michael Moore is back. His latest film, "Capitalism, a Love Story," in theaters now.

What about the reviews, Jim? Do you think that he will be kindly reviewed by most of the press?

PINKERTON: According to Rotten Tomatoes, they've been positive. I've got to tell you, on this particular issue, I'm with Michael Moore.

SCOTT: You're in agreement with Michael Moore?

PINKERTON: I think the bailout was an atrocity. I think that it's a scandal that they gave themselves more in bonuses than they earned in profits. And all their profits came from the bailout, from us, taxpayers. Michael Moore trying to get money out of Goldman Sachs, however, jokingly, I'm all for it.

THOMAS: I agree with that. I want to be a two-fer on that. But I do think it is rather hypocritical for him to say that he hates capitalism while pocketing the profits on it, and apparently a good number of hamburgers and popcorn from the concession stands.

GUTHRIE: But this — yeah, I'm with Jim. This polemic, of all of them, you would think most people would be in agreement with. But Michael Moore has not been — his reviews are always mixed.

SCOTT: All right, we have to take another break.

Newark, New Jersey, gets some unwanted national attention.

ANNOUNCER: A new battle on late night as Conan fires a shot.


CONAN O'BRIEN, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW": The health care program would consist of a bus ticket out of Newark.


ANNOUNCER: And a big city mayor fires back.


CORY BOOKER, MAYOR OF NEWARK, NEW JERSEY: I'm officially putting you on the Newark, New Jersey, airport no-fly list.


ANNOUNCER: That's next, on "News Watch."


SCOTT: A new battle began on late night television. It all started when Conan O'Brien took a shot at the city of Newark, New Jersey.


O'BRIEN: The mayor of Newark, New Jersey, wants to set up a city-wide program to improve Newark residents' health. That's good. Maybe the health care program would consist of a bus ticket out of Newark.

BOOKER: Conan, not only am I mayor of New Jersey's largest city, but I'm also mayor of a city with one of the largest airports in the United States. So now, according to the powers invested in me, by the people of the city of Newark, I'm officially putting you on the Newark, New Jersey, airport no-fly list. Try JFK, buddy.

O'BRIEN: Banned from flying into Newark Airport. So, Mayor Booker, I apologize. I really do. The truth is I love Newark, New Jersey. It is one of America's great cities. Yes, Newark has it all, a beautiful waterfront — (LAUGHTER) — a thriving art scene — (LAUGHTER) — exciting regional cuisine — (LAUGHTER) — four-star lodging — (LAUGHTER) — and world-class live theater.


You see — now, Mayor Booker, you think you can keep me out of Newark by banning me from Newark airport? Nice try. There are other ways for me to get to your city. For example, I can navigate the nation's sewer system because everyone knows that all sewer pipes lead to Newark.



SCOTT: We can't top that.


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

We want to thank Marisa Guthrie, Jim Pinkerton, Cal Thomas and Juan Williams.

Come back from Washington. It is fun up here, Juan.

WILLIAMS: Hey, this is a good show.

SCOTT: I'm Jon Scott. Thanks for joining us. Keep it right here on "FOX News" channel. We'll see you again next week.

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