Bill Clinton's media backlash

This is a rush transcript from "MediaBuzz," July 3, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: On the buzz meter this Sunday, just before the FBI interviews Hillary Clinton, many media outlets down play or ignore Bill Clinton's troubling meeting with Loretta Lynch. Why the Justice Department is investigating his wife. So the issue explodes like 4th of July fireworks.


GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS: You know it is beyond me how tone deaf either one of them is on this.

DANA PERINO, FOX NEWS: I don't think she's actually done anything inappropriate here. I think Bill Clinton is the one that did something exceedingly inappropriate.

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS: This has led to a lot of conspiracy theories that even before Hillary Clinton had been interviewed by the FBI to our knowledge, that somehow this is Bill Clinton talking to Loretta Lynch about clearing Hillary Clinton of the e-mail investigation.


KURTZ: Did the press fumble the story that led to the attorney general's promise not to overrule career prosecutors in the e-mail probe? A deep media divide over Hillary Clinton and Benghazi with conservatives seizing on a new House report and most networks, newspapers and pundits treating it as no big deal.


LESTER HOLT, NBC NEWS: No smoking gun. Republicans released their long- awaited Benghazi report after years of investigations. No bombshells about Hillary Clinton.

CHARLIE ROSE, CBS NEWS: The Republicans long-awaited Benghazi report found no new evidence of wrongdoing by Hillary Clinton.

GEORGE STEPHANOPULOUS, ABC NEWS: The Benghazi report. New details about what happened during the deadly attack, is this the final word? Tonight Clinton says it's time to move on.

ASHLEY BANFIELD, CNN: So, what's the headline? Really?

DANA BASH, CNN: It's hard to actually...

BANFIELD: I can pin it down into this sentence, $7 million to learn this government is big and bulky. How about that?

JEDEDIAH BILA, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: It doesn't bother her that people died and then let's say she had no ill intent. There is no malicious behavior. You would be out there saying, "oh my gosh, we messed up and people lost their lives."


KURTZ: Did the details get lost in all the ideological finger pointing. Donald Trump calls NBC dishonest reporting he that hasn't forgiven the personal loss to his campaign and some pundits proclaiming that deep down Trump doesn't want to be president. Really? The FEC investigates Fox News for putting more candidates on a presidential debate stage and the vote is totally partisan. Plus, Ted Koppel I disagree on whether your opinions on social media really matter compared to the high priest of journalism. I'm Howard and this is "MediaBuzz."


KURTZ: Media speculation kicked into high gear as Hillary Clinton submitted to what her campaign called a voluntary three and a half hour interview at FBI headquarters yesterday. That crucial step in the investigation of her private e-mail server coming just days after an anchor at KNXV in Phoenix broke the story that Bill Clinton had a half-hour meeting with Loretta Lynch aboard her plane prompting the attorney general to defend herself at a news conference.


LORETTA LYNCH, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, I did see the president at the Phoenix airport the other night as I was landing and he was headed out. He did come over and say hello and speak to my husband and myself and talked about his grandchildren and his travels and things like that.


KURTZ: Over the next day and a half, Fox News ran many segments on the private meeting, CNN somewhat fewer, MSNBC carried the least. There was no story initially in the print editions of The New York Times or the The Washington Post the next day but after a Justice Department source leaked word that Lynch would not overrule the FBI and career prosecutors in the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation, the media started playing up the story and the attorney general sat down with The Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart.


JONATHAN CAPEHART, THE WASHINGTON POST: What on earth were you thinking? What happened?


LYNCH: Well, I think that's the question of the day, isn't it?

CAPEHART: So you'd be well within your right to say get off my plane. What are you doing here? Do you regret not telling the former president of the United States to leave the premises?


LUNCH: So well, okay, as I've said, you know, I may have viewed it in a certain light and the fact that the meeting that I had is now casting a shadow over how people are going to view that work is something that I take seriously and deeply and painfully.


KURTZ: Joining us now to analyze the campaign coverage: Ashley Parker, political reporter for The New York Times, Amy Holmes, a television commentator and former anchor at The Blaze and Penny Lee, a Democratic strategist and commentator. Actually before Loretta Lynch let it be known that she will not, she says over rule the career prosecutors in this investigation, as we said, Fox News covered this meeting on the plane a lot, MSNBC least. So, did Fox over play it or did MSNBC under play it?

ASHLEY PARKER, NEW YORK TIMES POLITICAL REPORTER: I mean, I think it's a pretty big story, which is where it ultimately ended up because especially in politics, perception is reality. So, even if you did get on the plane and maybe they did just as they claim talk about grandchildren and golf, the perception looks really, really bad and it gets to very real issues including, you know, Hillary Clinton's problems with trustworthiness, the sense that the Clintons sort of play by a separate set of rules.

And so whether what happens did or did not happen, you know, what they actually talked about we don't know but that perception is sort of very troubling. I think that's why it is a big story.

KURTZ: Amy Holms, it's standard practice for the FBI to interview the subject of an investigation especially a high-profile probe like this. Is this now boosting media speculation particularly on the ride that Hillary Clinton may be indicted?

AMY HOLMES, TELEVISION COMMENTATOR AND FORMER ANCHOR: Well, it's kind of cutting both ways. On the right that they are saying this meeting proves that fixed is in. That Hillary Clinton will not be indicted because of this cozy relationship and the fact Clinton seemed to play by their own rules.

Well, other conservative commentators are saying that Bill Clinton may have actually put his wife in a worse position because now if Loretta Lynch doesn't move forward, it looks like that tarmac summit may have influenced her decision-making.

KURTZ: And that's what Donald Trump has been tweeting or saying sources are saying, I think he's playing off media reports here, "No charges against crooked Hillary, system totally rigged." So, if career prosecutors decide not to bring any charges against Hillary Clinton in this matter, does that mean people on your side will have to defend the notion that this was a rigged outcome or influenced by politics?

PENNY LEE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I don't think there's a -- I think it's a no-win situation for Hillary really. I mean, you're going to have conspiracy theories on both sides. If she is indicted, people will say, you know, that there is a biasness. They'll go into the prosecutors, maybe having biasness or think they'll try to play the piece up a bit.

If she isn't indicted, then you'll be more on the Donald Trump side (ph) that it was rigged, the system rigged against her. So she's in a -- she's kind of in a little bit of a no-win situation here because, you know, there have been some unforced errors and the situation what happened with the meeting with president Clinton and the attorney general does not help this at all.

KURTZ: Unforced error is diplomatic. It was a disaster any way you slice it. But you know, I used to cover the Justice Department. I've covered many hundreds of indictments and it is hard to know what prosecutors are going to do before they decide. They just finished interviewing Hillary Clinton and yet I see Washington Post says with people familiar with the case, say charges against Clinton seemed unlikely.

CNN quoting sources, "the expectation is that no charges in this will be announced in the next couple weeks," how can journalists be so sure when the chief person in this probe was just interviewed yesterday?

PARKER: Yeah, I think with this probe especially we've seen that it is very, very tricky and I don't think we'll officially know anything until we officially know anything, and that's a fair point. And even if there is no charges, no indictment, I still though think -- one thing that's interesting is that it's still a bad issue for her. Every second we spend talking about this, whether there something does happen or does not happen is a bad day for...

KURTZ: Is it a mistake for journalists to speculate or quote sources, you know, it's different if you say I think so and so is going to win this campaign. You're talking about a criminal indictment. Very few people know and those who know generally aren't talking. Is that a mistake?

PARKER: Sure. And making speculation is absolutely a mistake. I think if someone has sources that's a different thing, you know, a credible source but I guess the line, you're just kind of saying between speculation and sources is pretty blurry on something like this.

KURTZ: Right. So, you know, Loretta Lynch says, Bill Clinton says, they're both saying wouldn't do it again, which is their way of saying it's a mistake, that they talked about grandchildren and golf and nothing to do with any pending criminal case. Did journalists actually believe they may have discussed the case or is it just the appearance, the utter appearance of impropriety that is the issue here?

HOLMES: Well, one of my frustrations with the main stream media, sort of my pet peeve is the focus on optics and narrative instead of the facts and the conduct and even in Jonathan Capehart's question, while I think that it was a legitimate question, he said, why didn't you kick him off rather than why did you let him on?

And instead reporting on so, Ms. Lynch, when were you informed that the president decided he's going to bop on by, knock on the door and see if you were home and did you at any point think you ought to tell your intermediaries, please tell Mr. President that it would be inappropriate for me to meet at this time. A second thing the reports weren't pointing out is that there's a second investigation with the Clinton Foundation and possible impropriety there, which Bill Clinton might be a witness too.

KURTZ: Absolutely.

HOLMES: I thought this was very unreported in terms of the facts...

KURTZ: The second probe was overshadowed. By the way, Jonathan Capeheart, liberal columnist, a Washington Post, MSNBC contributor, he could have rolled over Loretta Lynch. I thought he asked a lot of good questions -- questions that we all, any journalist would want to ask. Take Rachel Maddow on MSNBC, I think she's really smart and does a good job.

She did nothing after this story broke on Wednesday. She did nothing after the story broke on Thursday. So, this is all about like viewing this through a partisan lens.

LEE: Well, I think if you look at the MSNBC as a whole, I mean, they did cover it and while they might have been a day late or they might have been...

KURTZ: Well, but being a day late is huge because -- everybody had -- everybody -- I said this...

LEE: But no, but at the same time, I mean, we don't know. Were they out there checking the sources? Were they out there confirming what they knew? Were they out there...

KURTZ: No, no, no...

LEE: So there was some coverage, and so whether or not Rachel Maddow has an editorial choice of what she could just, I would say she chose the -- she should have covered it and she should have mentioned it but that's an editorial decision that she has.

KURTZ: It was a bad editorial decision. By Thursday night, it was on -- it was on the evening newscast. Everybody had to cover it once Lynch said she will not over rule the prosecutors but the fact that they were on the plane for half an hour together, that is a story, and if it had been a Republican, I just think it would have been different.

LEE: And there's many questions that Hannity has and I would wish he would bring some issues to life, but you know, that is an editorial choice especially when you get to the evening programs.

KURTZ: All right, they are opinion programs, I grant that. I still think it is bad judgment. Let me move now to the House committee report on Benghazi. The chairman of the House Committee Trey Gowdy sat down with Bret Baier this week. Here is part of that conversation.


BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS: Mr. Chairman, I want to just put up The New York Times assessment of this, the headline reads, "House Benghazi Report Finds No New Evidence of Wrongdoing by Hillary Clinton." It is not alone in the headline and you're getting a lot of people saying there's no new evidence.

TREY GOWDY, HOUSE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Well, The New York Times made up their mind about a year ago when they call for our committee to be disbanded.


KURTZ: So, Congressman Gowdy also said he wouldn't characterize Hillary Clinton lied or not. He said he wasn't investigating. What do you think of the mainstream media consensus that nothing new, old news, no smoking gun?

PARKER: I mean, I think they are sort of reporting the facts. There was no smoking gun. There was nothing new or nothing sort of startlingly striking new but I will say they also wrote in The Times and other places that, you know, while there was no smoking gun, it was a pretty broad indictment or broad rebuke of the Defense Department, the CIA, the State Department which Hillary ran at the time.

So, I think there was certainly coverage of the negative aspects of that 800-page report even if the top line was accurately no smoking gun.

KURTZ: That's a really important point because we had here a very broad indictment of an administration that just (inaudible) this, but the political question was what new could we learn about Hillary Clinton personally. But do you think the fact, I mean, that there have been a half dozen other investigations of Benghazi kind of set a high bar for the price of that (ph).

LEE: And the fact she testified for 13 hours in front of the committee and had many of these questions already asked or at least the opportunity to be asked to the star witness and the person that was supposed to be a subject. You also had the politicization of it from Kevin McCarthy and others dismissing...

KURTZ: Yeah, but now you have an 800-page report.

LEE: Which you have an 800-page report and there wasn't really any new news that there was in, that hadn't already been covered. So, I figured media coverage was appropriate.

KURTZ: Or Amy Holmes, are the media framing it too narrowly around Hillary Clinton personally and what she did or didn't do or what could be tied to her and not looking at the full picture of this House investigation.

HOLMES: Well, I think you could make that argument and certainly many on the right have that this is not only about the events on September 11th of 2012 but also Hillary Clinton's own conduct as Secretary of State in pushing the Libya invasion in the very first place that she had hoped that this would be her crowning glory and unfortunately it's been more of a quagmire.

KURTZ: Yeah, pretty amazing situation with how this week where, the presumptive Democratic nominee, the subject of this House report and then interviewed by the FBI and I'm not going to speculate on what's going to happen, but of course, we're going to focus on this very heavily in the press coming up to the convention.

When we come back, the pundits immerse themselves in the big stake chatter (ph) but is it mostly silly speculations? And later, did the FEC unfairly target Fox News over its handling of a presidential debate?


KURTZ: Journalists are suddenly deep into the orgy of speculation known as the veepstakes, trying to find out for instance who is on Donald Trump's short list?


CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS: Here is my question this time. Are you being vetted? Have you -- you have not submitted any information?

FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE NEWT GINGRICH: No, nobody has called me. Nobody said would you like to be, nobody said would you be willing to be considered? Nobody said anything.


KURTZ: Now, that was a week ago. The chatter took a more serious turn when The Washington Post reported that Newt Gingrich is being vetted as a possible running mate and The New York Times reported that Chris Christie is among those being vetted as a possible running mate for Donald Trump. According to sources New Jersey governor of course, the first big-named Republican to back Trump in a move that brought him some mockery.

Joining us now, Sara Westwood, a reporter for The Washington Examiner and Ashley Parker is still with us. Sarah, so with these reports about these candidates being vetted, that's real reporting. Indiana Governor Mike Pence meeting with Trump, that's real reporting. Are we getting to short list and who's emerging and who's the front runner, reporters don't really know, do they?

SARA WESTWOOD, WASHINGTON EXAMINER REPORTER: No, I mean, veepstakes has become sort of a spectator sport for reporters. On Clinton's side, I think those conversations are taking place within a little bit more structure. You see her potential V.P. doing events with her, doing media heads, doing the rounds of the Sunday shows.

On Trump's side, we don't have a ton of insight into his thinking because his potential candidates, people who want to get on the ticket, they're not doing things that typically give a little window of insight for reporters into his thinking.

KURTZ: Well, a little bit. I mean, Newt Gingrich for example did an interview where he kind of adopted Donald Trump's position on free trade in the past. Newt has always been very much for free trade without the reservation that Trump has. So, don't campaigns during this process float trial balloons, try to gauge the reaction, try to piece constituency groups, stroke people who everyone knows are not going to get it. Is the press used to some extent during this craziness?

PARKER: I mean, I would like to think that the press is not used because to some extent, these people, if they are actually getting vetted, right, and they are turning over their materials to a lawyer. I mean, they actually are on the short list and they very well could be a running mate and could be the vice president of the United States and that deserves some careful consideration and scrutiny.

KURTZ: Absolutely.

PARKER: But you are certainly right that, you know, Hillary Clinton may very well choose a white man to be her running mate, right. But in the process, she will certainly release a short list that includes a woman, an African-American, a Hispanic, and that is a message to this core constituent and groups, you know, that I'm with you, and by the way, you need to turn out and vote for me and she does that through the media, right?

KURTZ: All that is by design. So, on the Democratic side, junior Senator Tim Kaine is said to have been emerging as a front runner. And so, all of a sudden Politico reports that when he was governor, a lieutenant governor, he legally accepted $18,000 Caribbean vacation, $5,000 I clothes, various gifts. This is part of media vetting or it could be some (inaudible) that somebody doesn't want Tim Kaine to get it to news outlets.

WESTWOOD: I think the media is actually an important part of the vetting process for these campaigns. They use the media reaction as a tool to some degree to gauge how receptive the public will be to these choices. I mean, for some aspects of a V.P. pick is to fill and address deficits in a candidate that the media identifies that maybe Donald Trump needs someone who brings policy heft to the table. That's something that maybe the media has pointed out. And so to a certain extent, the media shapes the eventual choice of the candidates.

KURTZ: The press is still swooning over Elizabeth Warren. We talked you about tryouts. The two of them were wearing this blue panel suits and campaign together. I'd have to think that she's a long shot but it's kind of an irresistible story when the two of them are hugging and out there for what would be an all-female ticket.

PARKER: Sure, and you know, if you talk to Hillary Clinton aides, one thing she cares about other than filling the deficits, which is an important role is that sort of intangible of chemistry, right? And I think that's what you saw with Elizabeth Warren what they were trying to try. What are these two women like together on the stump? How do they get along?

KURTZ: Or it could be what you just said a moment earlier, which is she represents the Bernie Sanders progressive wing and maybe this makes them happy and Hillary Clinton might have no intention of choosing somebody else.

PARKER: I think there is certainly that calculations, but I remember in 2012, I covered Mitt Romney and he basically did trials. Each week he'd bring a different V.P. short list out on the trail with him and anyone who's covering him in Washington closely could have predicted that he was going to choose Paul Ryan because they just have sort a great bro buddy comedy going together.

KURTZ: Well, it reminds me of "The Apprentice." In just a few seconds, so why do pundits insist on making predictions whether who it's going to be when they're going to find out in a week or two anyway?

WESTWOOD: Well, I think its all part of the process. It's important for the media to kind of have that input because for so many reasons, the V.P. is a pick to satisfy the media.

KURTZ: Wow. Okay. Got to make the media happy. Sarah Westwood, thanks very much. Ashley, we'll see you later. I did participate in the V.P. candidate casino on special report so I placed some bets as well. Ahead, Ted Koppel and I debate whether the opinions of millions on social media account for anything. But up next, the pundits putting Donald Trump on the couch and questioning his desire to be president. Really.


KURTZ: It's the kind of thing I always hear and only in whispers from journalists and political types about Donald Trump's real hidden deeply embedded motivation, but now, some pundits are saying it out in the open such as New Yorker writer Marc Singer.


MARC SINGER, NEW YORKER WRITER: Donald Trump does not want to be the president of the United States.


KURTZ: On CNBC, Wall Street Journal columnist Holman Jenkins offered a similar analysis.


HLMAN JENKINS, WALL STREET JOURNAL COLUMNIST: He's not taking this seriously. He's not started spending his money like he promised to. He has not broadened his appeal like he said he was going to. Does he really want to be president? I ask myself...


KURTZ: And MSNBC's Rachel Maddow questioning how some of the campaign spending is going to Trump businesses said this.


RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: I mean, the expenses when you look at what the Trump campaign is actually spending its money on, what they're actually spending their time doing, it's more like a concert tour. So, the polite way to say this is it's a rocket. It's not designed to necessarily win the election.


KURTZ: Washington Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt says maybe the Republicans could declare Trump the winner in Cleveland then persuade him to go home, "It could work, though, if, as many have believed all along Trump does not really want to be president. He wants to be elected sure, but does he want to be serve?

He wants to be respected as the champion but does he want the prize? Another Washington Post piece floating the theory that Trump is a Democratic plant whose goal is to elect Hillary Clinton. Okay. This is mostly speculative nonsense, mostly from fierce Trump critics. I've known Trump a long time and he's an extremely competitive guy who believes what he says and Trump himself dismissed the idea.


KATY TUR, NBC NEWS: You face a lot of criticism out there from people saying that your motivations are really about your brand.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESUMPTIVE REPUBLICAN PRESUMPTIVE NOMINEE: No, I don't care. I don't care about it. If it's about my brand, I wouldn't have done this.


KURTZ: Well, did he originally think he'd get to the white House? Well, he told me in our first "Media Buzz" interview last year that his chances of winning the GOP were 15 to 20 percent. Is he making mistakes that cause people to doubt his strategy? Sure. But the idea this is all a branding exercise that Trump is secretly trying to lose, well, the armchair shrinks need to come up with a better theory.

On our "MediaBuzz," CNN's hiring of Corey Lewandowski is so controversial there but the network has to grapple with it on the air. But first, press tries to figure out whether Donald Trump has changed his position on a temporary ban on Muslim immigrants.


KURTZ: It was hands down the most controversial proposal of Donald  Trump's campaign.


TRUMP: Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what the hell is going on?


KURTZ: In an interview in Scotland, Trump told The Daily Mail that intensified vetting would apply only to "terror countries." They're pretty well decided he said, "All you have to do is look." He didn't say anything about whether they would have to be Muslim. The London paper quoted a campaign aide as saying Trump no longer supports a temporary ban on Muslim immigrants.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN: There is this reporting that we have of a change to Donald Trump's proposed Muslim ban. How does this work?

KATRINA PIERSON, TRUMP CAMPAIGN NATIONAL SPOKESPERSON: I know the news media has been reporting that the initial ban was against all Muslims and that simply was not the case. It was simply for Muslim immigration and Mr. Trump is simply adding specifics to clarify what his position is as opposed to what the media has been reporting what it is.


KURTZ: And we're back with the panel. Ashley Parker, you were on that Scotland trip with Donald Trump. Did it seem to you that his position was being clarified or was evolving on that trip?

PARKER: I mean, his position at some point seemed to be evolving from hole to hole. He took us kind of on a slow speed chase across his golf course and on the 13th and 14th hole he was asked some questions and he said one thing and on the 18th hole he did that interview that you just played.

KURTZ: The Daily Mail.

PARKER:  Yes, The Daily Mail where he said this other thing and I remember we all got back to the clubhouse and the reporters were kind of trying to puzzle out. He already had a kind of murky evolving position and it seemed to have evolved even further kind of between what would have been putts.


KURTZ: Do they train you to do this in journalism school, do you play golf?

PARKER: Yes, yeas, we practice our drive and our putts so.

KURTZ: Okay, it's an isolating little scene there. Is the press right to be somewhat confused on whether Donald Trump has backed off or recalibrated a temporary ban on Muslim immigrants or not?

HOLMES: The president is completely right, of course. When you played the clip back in December when he said it was a total and complete shut down and he seems to be clarifying evolving his position. I think that the press criticism is there.

KURTZ: And Penny Lee, is this a pattern for the media where Trump will slowly sort of change or modify position but never actually come out and say he has changed the original position?

LEE: In fact, when he was evolving in between holes on the golf course, his own campaign site still had the absolute ban language on his website. So, you were having a contrast within his own campaign documents.

KURTZ: What is the press to do in that instance? Report what everyone says?

LEE:  Well, they would report the full story, that there are still questions about whether or not this new position, that he's now -- the last statements are actually what really believes or were it actually so, I think it's fair to talk about the whole murkiness of where his position is.

KURTZ: I'm sorry to clarify through the segment and I'm just giving you what we know at this time. All right, so people say they want more -- some people say they want more substance from Donald Trump and from the media. He gives a major speech where essentially breaking with a long-standing Republican Party position on free trade and there were some good pieces on this but it was kind of one or two-day story and most of the press were gone. Is it a more important story than that?

PARKER: Well, the one thing I will say about that speech is it was a major speech on trade but trade since sort of the day he got into this race has been one of, you know, along with immigration, has been one of the major sort of pillars and tenants of his candidacy.

KURTZ: Sure.

PARKER: So, he didn't necessarily -- his break generally kind of on a macro level is new but that has been going on for several months so...

KURTZ: Except now he's the presumptive nominee and you have the Chamber of Commerce usually a reliable supporter of Republican nominees sharply criticizing him.

PARKER: The one thing I will say is I think because in that speech you remember he sort of got distracted by a plane that flew overhead and kind of made a joke about, "oh, that might be a Mexican plane attacking us," and to me it's not even bias of substance versus not substance but it's almost a very good bias of script versus off script and one thing that Donald Trump does all the time is he goes off script and that's kind of exciting and interesting and that does generate some attention that steps on his own message.

KURTZ: So, journalist will quote every single Republican and they're plenty of them who come and criticize Trump, but in my view undercover degree which here he is blowing off party orthodox on a very important issue and it's not the first time he's done this.

HOLMES: I would agree with that, but you know, the press they like to go with the shining object, which Donald Trump provides a lot of including his remarks about the plane flying overhead, than the hard work of digging into these policy issues in terms of trade. And actually Donald Trump's position on that has evolved, as well, and it's evolved away from as you say, sort of a free trade position -- typical free trade position with the Republican Party. But I think we see this in election after election that the press just doesn't get into the policy white papers.

KURTZ: But the flip side for the press, it was Trump having these big problems with GOP leaders, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, people in the convention in Cleveland. Is that he takes some moderate liberal positions that appeal to Democrats and I that's been, I've been saying this, but I think it's an under-covered story.

LEE: Well, I think you have seen it covered as what's up is down and down is up. And that you're seeing that his candidacy does not follow normal constituencies and so you are starting to see, you know, whether it be a story about it -- he's expanding that. Whether or not can he play in states...

KURTZ: Traditionally blue states.

LEE: Traditionally blue states. So those are kind of the ways in which they're covering it. It is based on the trade issue. That is one which is kind of taking it in a different way and can he build and bring. So, this is being covered but in a different way.

KURTZ: So, after NBC reported that FEC has no record of Trump converting his personal loans to the campaign to donations he tweeted, "the very dishonest NBC refuses to accept the fact that I have forgiven my $50 million loan to my campaign done deal." Fair for NBC to report this and what do you make of Trump once again fighting with a news organization?

PARKER: Yeah, it's absolutely fair for NBC to report this, right. Even that sort of is what journalism is. Someone says something and then you check it out, right? You go to the source and...

KURTZ: It doesn't mean he's not going to do it. It's just not official yet.

PARKER: Sure, they were just saying so far -- he said that so far there's not paperwork. He could file the paperwork up until that day. That's what they were saying, which is sort of how you would report out story and what he's doing is also exactly typical of what he would do.

He's shown that he can very effectively go to war with the media whether to banning "The Washington Post" without no real repercussions so far from all of his events, even just calling us, you know, disgusting slime in rallies to rev his credit up. This is one end (ph) message for him.

KURTZ: Disgusting slime boys. It's been a tough campaign surely (ph) not including those of us in the media. Penny Lee, Amy Holmes, and Ashley Parker, thanks very much for stopping by this Sunday.

Coming up, Democratic members of the FEC say Fox News broke the law in allowing more presidential candidates into a debate night. Does the commission have a case? And later, Judy Woodruff and I disagree on whether the media "created Donald Trump."


KURTZ: The Federal Election Commission deadlocks 3-3 along partisan lines on whether Fox News broke the law by adding an under card session to that first presidential debate in Cleveland last August. Republican members blocked an effort by the Democrats to punish Fox for supposedly making an illegal corporate contribution to the seven candidates in that early evening debate. I sat down with GOP Commissioner Lee Goodman.


KURTZ: What disturbed you about these acquisitions against Fox News?

LEE GOODMAN, FEC COMMISSIONER: Howie, I think it's dangerous. Any time someone tries to use the power of the federal government to second guess, regulate and even punish newsroom editorial decisions about what news to cover and how to cover it. And that's the essence of this case at the FEC.

KURTZ: Do you believe that your Democratic colleagues were targeting Fox News for perhaps political reasons?

GOODMAN: I don't make that allegation. I think the more profound issue here, Howie, is that all newsrooms now have to look over their shoulder to engage in editorial decisions about how many candidates they want to cover and in what format.


KURTZ: What makes this case quite unusual is that the FEC operates under a legal press exception that is supposed to protect journalists from government meddling.


GOODMAN: So here we have a statute that tells us we have no regulatory jurisdiction over news and news coverage and yet, the FEC persists in trying to regulate and in this case, there were votes that came very close to punishing Fox News for engaging in news coverage. This is very troubling. Free press rights are on thin ice at the Federal Election Commission.


KURTZ: Joining us is Susan Ferrechio, chief congressional correspondent for The Washington Examiner. So, big picture question, why should the federal government be involved at all in reviewing a network's journalistic position about which candidates should appear on the presidential debate stage?

SUSAN FERRECHIO, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Well, the commissioner said there is an exception from the press for a reason, because they are supposed to use editorial judgment as Fox News did and has always done, have all the broadcast networks have done to decide who gets to be on that debate stage. Often they use polling information or they just use, you know, what's practical.

You can't have 20 people up on the stage. So, this time Fox News made the editorial decision to have this under card table and expand the number of candidates who voters could watch on TV and make a decision about. Purely editorial decision, and now you have the federal government looking at it saying hey, we may levee a fine on you. We may punish you because this is an election issue that you're aiding the candidates in some way that's unfair.

KURTZ: Fine for people to criticize that decision but a government investigation with the 3-3 deadlock it seems partisan. The lawyer for Fox says it's partisan. What's your take?

FERRECHIO: Well, I've also heard Lee Goodman talk about partisanship on the FEC and about how -- let's face it, this is a bigger picture story. This is not the only time they tried to kind of stick their hand in what the editorial of the world is doing. They've talked about regulating the internet. They've talked about doing things that would, you know, regulate campaign ads that are free, not even paid for -- they were just out there in the internet for people to see.

They want to get their hand in this and I'm think it has something to do with the fact that conservative media has broken through on the overall, you know, control of the media by the left. And now conservatives are getting their say and i think it's making the democrats who are on these boards not just the FEC but the FCC as well.  It's making them uncomfortable and they are trying to find ways to regulate it.

KURTZ: Right. And by the way, CNN also changed its own debate criteria categories to allow Carly Fiorina into a primetime day when she was the 11th candidate. I didn't see that during the raft (ph) of the FEC, but I'm with you on this press exemption, I mean, it didn't seem like it was a compelling reason to cast aside that press exemption and say there is some kind of contribution. Of course, people should hear from all 17 at that time candidates running for president on the GOP.

FERRECHIO: You would think it would be a benefit for all voters to be able to see more of the candidates instead of shutting out seven additional candidates. And I think in this case with CNN, there was no complaint and that's why they didn't look at CNN, but they should have at least examined the whole and that had seen that others have done this, too, not just Fox News.

KURTZ: Yes, this started with a complaint from a rather obscure Republican candidate who felt that he should be included. Quick -- last question, Fox face a potentially massive fine considering the cost of the production and the value of the air time. So, does this send a chilling message to news organizations as far as future debates?

FERRECHIO: I think it sends a freezing message. In other words, next time - - I've been in the room when Fox is planning debates because I've participated in them with Fox News and if you know you're going to incur the raft of a big government organization, who wouldn't think twice about how you decide on what's going to be -- I mean, I'm not saying that's what Fox News would do but these are, you know, there are smaller institutions that are never going to be able to afford to take on the federal government the way Fox News probably could have done.

KURTZ: Right. Case ending in a deadlock as we reported. Susan Ferrechio, thanks very much for joining us.

After the break, should the media ignore the voices of the masses who now have a megaphone on Facebook and Twitter? Part of my conversation with Ted Koppel and Judy Woodruff, that's next.


KURTZ: Ted Koppel has earned the right to his strong opinions after a half century career with ABC news, and one of those opinions is that he cavalierly dismisses social media. (Inaudible)of that not being on Twitter but not being particularly interested in what the mass think and he clearly misses what he thinks is a golden age of television journalism.

Now, I have a great respect for Ted, but my views are very different and this week we had a chance to debate along with Judy Woodruff, the co-anchor of "PBS NewsHour" at the Panetta Institute of Public Policy at California State University. Former Defense Secretary, CIA Chief, and Congressman Leon Panetta served as our moderator.

Koppel picked up on something I said about polarization (ph) on social media. The former Nightline anchor saying the proliferation of media outlets had hurt ABC, CBS, and NBC and then he broadened his indictment.


TED KOPPEL, FORMER ABC NEWS ANCHOR: That kind of constitution has led to the diminution of network news divisions long before Twitter came along, long before Facebook came along. long before snapshots? Snapchats? They keep throwing around the word democracy. There has been a democratization of communication in this country.

More people, more individuals are able to get into the dialogue. And we look upon that as though because the word democracy is somehow attached to it, that it were necessarily a good thing. I think it's a disaster. We do not live in a democracy. We live in a republic.

KURTZ: It sounds like you would prefer the days when the megaphones were largely limited to these media organizations and that you feel like a lot of people out there aren't particularly informed and maybe they are -- shouldn't carry much weight.

KOPPEL: Well, to a certain extent, that's correct.


KURTZ: I tried to counter the notion that card-carrying journalist always know best.


KURTZ: Everybody in America now gets to be their own editor of the raw video, of what the politicians said and the reports, and PDF files are now available to everybody. You can compile your own magazine online.


KURTZ: We turn to the campaign and Judy Woodruff and I disagreed when Panetta asked whether the media had created Donald Trump. I said his rallies had gotten too much free air time, but...


KURTZ: A lot of this was Trump doing interviews, and yes, he should not have been able to call into the Sunday shows. He should have had to show up on camera. But, in those interviews, some of them, certainly not all of them, he was subjected to real journalistic questioning. I am very much in favor of that. I was able to interview him in his campaign five times and I did not give him an easy time.

JUDY WOODRUFF, PBS NEWSHOUR CO-ANCHOR: I have a different view. I think when you get almost $2 billion worth of free media coverage, it makes a difference. Donald Trump started out not being taken very seriously as a candidate.

KURTZ: Which was a mistake.

WOODRUFF: That's true, in retrospect. But at the time, he was not taken seriously. He was a reality TV star, who had strong opinions.


KURTZ: I'll give Koppel the last word on why he tries (ph) real journalists as opposed to many millions of citizen journalists to deliver the facts.


KOPPEL: It's not that we are smarter than you are. We're not. When I say, "we," I mean journalists. It's just that you're engaged in being lawyers and doctors and carpenters and plumbers. You have work that occupies 10, 12, 18 hours of your day, every day. And what we as journalists used to do in this country, was spend our 10, 12, 16 hours a day covering the news and trying to do it in as objective a fashion as we could.


KURTZ: The problem is that so many people have lost confidence in our ability to be objective, and thanks to social media, they can now be heard. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Still to come, CNN now dogged by internal criticism for hiring Donald Trump's fired campaign manager and humiliation for acclaimed author Gay Talese as he now disavowing his new book.


KURTZ: The criticism continues to build over CNN hiring Corey Lewandowski right after Donald Trump fired him as campaign manager. This is also unpopular among some journalists at CNN, as morning co-host Alisyn Camerota acknowledged in an interview with the network's newest contributor.


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN NEWS DAY CO-ANCHOR: It turns out not everybody is a fan of the decision and I think that the crux of that criticism is that you never seemed to be a big fan of the press, or to have much respect for the press.

COREY LEWANDOWSKI, TRUMP FORMER CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I don't think that's true. I think what you have is if you look at the individuals I worked closely with on a day-to-day basis, we had great relationship. I had great relationship with the media. Look, I love everybody. I love you, right?


KURTZ: But not a lot of love from columnists ripping CNN over the move. I certainly don't blame Lewandowski for seizing the opportunity, but especially in light of his nondisclosure agreement with Trump, what kind of commentary is CNN getting for its money? Here is Lewandowski after Trump's address on trade.


LEWANDOWSKI: I think this is Mr. Trump's best speech of the presidential cycle, candidly.


KURTZ: I think you get the idea, candidly. The Supreme Court threw out the corruption conviction of former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell. The Fredericksburg "The Freelance Star" ran this headline, "McConnell's Bribery Convictions Tossed. Terry McAuliffe is the current governor of Virginia. On a scale of 1 to 10, naming the wrong guy, that's 11. Editor Phil Jenkins apologized for a massive and embarrassing error.

Legendary author Gay Talese has disavowed his own book telling "The Washington Post" how can I promote it when its credibility is down the toilet. The forthcoming book "The Voyeur's Motel" relies heavily on the owner of a Colorado hotel who says he secretly spied on guests for decades. That owner insists his tales are true but after property records showed an eight-year period where he didn't own the motel, the 84-year-old Talese who had already sold the film rights to Steven Spielberg is calling him certifiably unreliable and totally dishonorable.

Talese later said in a statement from his publisher he's not totally disavowing the book. Sad. Must have been some heated phone calls there with the publisher. That is it for this edition of "Media Buzz." I'm Howard Kurtz. Hope you enjoy the holiday weekend as we celebrate our country's birthday on the 4th of July. We also hope you like our Facebook page, become part of the conversation. You can also talk at me on Twitter @howardkurtz or write to us, We're back here next Sunday. You know where to find us with the latest buzz.

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