Bill Clinton's media defense; violent assault on free speech

This is a rush transcript from "MediaBuzz," May 10, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: On the BuzzMeter this Sunday, Hillary Clinton stays silent as her aides denounce accusations involving her family foundation while Bill Clinton plays defense with a carefully choreographed NBC interview in Africa.


FORMER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: In a very deliberate attempt to take the foundation down. And there is almost no new fact that's known now that wasn't known when she ran for President for the first time.


KURTZ: But there are plenty of facts and allegations only just emerging about favor-seeking with his wife's department and speaking fees to the former president. How long can Hillary Clinton duck the media?

The Republican presidential field doubles as two former Fox News contributors, Mike Huckabee and Ben Carson, and Carly Fiorina jump into the race.


RON FOURNIER, NATIONAL JOURNAL: All three of these people are once very serious men and women who are selling themselves out for speaking fees and cable contracts.


KURTZ: And the media dismissing them as hopeless long shots.

Two terrorists are killed as they attack an anti-Islamic Muhammad art contest in Texas and some pundits blame the group itself.


CHRIS MATTHEWS, 'HARDBALL' HOST: I wonder whether this group that held this event down there, to basically disparage and make fun of the prophet Muhammad, does it someway cause these events.

THOMAS ROBERTS, 'MSNBC LIVE': Did they get exactly what they want by drawing out people that would incite violence?


KURTZ: But aren't offensive groups, especially offensive groups, entitled to free speech?

Plus, "Deflate Gate" is back. Tom Brady awkwardly ducking questions after the NFL says that he and the New England Patriots weren't telling the truth about tampering with footballs for the A.F.C. Championship. Should the media now brand Brady as a cheater? I'm Howard Kurtz and this is "MediaBuzz."

NBC's Cynthia McFadden accompanied Bill Clinton to Nairobi, where the backdrop for their Today show interview was groups of poor black children being helped by the Clinton foundation. The Former President deflecting her questions about donations from foreign governments and why the organization now accepts cash from only six Western countries.


CLINTON: Absolutely not. It's an acknowledgement that we're going through, come as close as we can during her Presidential campaign to following the rules that we followed when she became Secretary of State.


KURTZ: What about the money going directly into Clinton's pocket?


CYNTHIA MCFADDEN, NBC NEWS: Americans look and say, $500,000 for a speech?

CLINTON: Well, why shouldn't every -- it's the most independence I can get. And I have turned down a lot of them. If I think there's something wrong with them, I don't take it. And I do disclose who gave it to me, so people can make up their own mind.

MCFADDEN: She's now running for President, will you continue to give speeches?

CLINTON: Oh, yeah, I've got to pay our bills.


KURTZ: Joining us now to analyze the coverage, Matt Lewis, Senior Contributor at the Daily Caller, Christina Bellantoni, Editor-in-Chief of Roll Call and Michael Tomasky, columnist for the Daily Beast.

Matt Lewis, Bill Clinton comes out and answers some questions about the foundation. Why are the media beating him up?

MATT LEWIS, THE DAILY CALLER SENIOR CONTRIBUTOR: The guys got to pay his bills, let's be honest. No, look, I think, clearly, this was a public relations effort to talk about the good work that I'm sure the foundation does do. A wellness trip but that's not really point. Nobody holds a gun to your head and tells you to run for president, but when you do it, scrutiny follows and there are a lot of things happening with the Clintons that looks fishy. And I think it would be entirely appropriate to say, look, if my wife is going to run for President, I'm going to step down from the foundation, we're not going to take anymore foreign donations. I think that -- what the media would probably expect as being appropriate for him to do.

KURTZ: What do you make of the way that the interview was carefully staged in Africa with that backdrop and how did Cynthia McFadden do in her questions to the former President?

CHRISTINA BELLANTONI, ROLL CALL EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: Well, you're going to expect an interview like that when you can get such an incredible access? In the television business, pictures tell a thousand words. And it is very important for the Clintons the frame the way that this is shaped. He's also on the cover of some magazine. I thought the airport couple days ago giving philanthropy magazine, this is how they're going to do it. And don't forget a lot of that footage of the people they're helping, when they talked about the children getting hearing aids for the first time, you're going to see that in campaign ads too. They're going to talk about the good things this foundation has been able to do to try and deflect any criticism.

KURTZ: And Cynthia McFadden and her questions?

BELLANTONI: I thought she did all right in the circumstances and standing in the middle of this backdrop. It's a hard interview to do. You're not in a controlled studio environment and the way they set it up, it was also pretty clear that she couldn't ask everything the she could possibly ask.

KURTZ: I think they were undoubtedly time limits though I don't know that for a fact. I was also struck, Michael Tomasky, by the "I Got to pay our Bills" question. We're talking about speeches, $500,000 a pop, as much as. Did that strike a discordant note in that interview?

MICHAEL TOMASKY, THE DAILY BEAST SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Most definitely. And I don't think we're going to be hearing him use that sentence again. Look, I have written and I think, that they need to be more transparent here and need to be more dramatic about announcing some new sets of rules that they're going to follow during her candidacy and her during her presidency, if she is President. So I think all of that is certainly fair. At the same time, Dylan Byers had a sentence this week in a piece he wrote for Politico, and Dylan Byers is I think a pretty reliable barometer of the thinking of media here in Washington. And his sentence said the media is primed to take the Clintons down. Not primed to investigate or primed to rake over the coals, primed to take down.

KURTZ: You agree with that?

TOMASKY: I sort of do, yes.

KURTZ: All right. We'll come back to that. But Bill Clinton also answered questions about the foundation in an interview with CNN's Christian Amanpour. Let's take a look at that.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN: Did any of those donations ever affect Secretary Clinton's policy?

CLINTON: No. She didn't know about a lot of them, so, there's just no evidence -- even the guy that wrote the book, apparently, had to admit under questioning that he didn't have a shred of evidence for this, he just sort of thought he would throw it out there and see if it would fly.


KURTZ: What do you make to have Bill Clinton saying that the author of "Clinton cash," Peter Schweitzer, admitting he had no evidence. What do you make of that shot?

LEWIS: This is right out of the Clinton playbook, 101. What did James Carville say -- you drag a $100 bill through a trailer park, you never know what you're going to come up with. That's how you handle scandal. It's to attack the attacker, the messenger in this case, the author. I think that Peter Schweitzer has been very clear that there are a lot of things in this book that lead you to believe that something unseemly, untoward is happening. There is no smoking gun and the Clintons are great at not leaving smoking guns behind.

KURTZ: I had Peter Schweitzer on this program last week and he acknowledged that he doesn't have a smoking gun, but he lays out a circumstantial case about big money and donors and speaking fees and then you have to connect the dots. It's not the same thing as saying he has no facts.

BELLANTONI: No it's certainly not. This is going to be a systemic bit of evidence that you're going see used against Hillary Clinton from the beginning of this campaign to whenever it ends. You know, if she ends up in the White House, you're going to continue to see people lay out these facts, talk about different relationships that the Clinton foundation has. It's not just about giving money, it's a about the types of interactions that there are and the Clintons are going to combat that, look at all the great things that we did and look at what she did as secretary of state and these things are very separate. But the point is we all know it's about perceptions. And if you tell a government in Oman or Saudi Arabia or wherever, we're not going to take your donations until eight years after she's in the White House, that doesn't mean that you might not have influence there.

KURTZ: Politico had an interesting piece about the Hillary war room and the way it conducted this plan to campaign woods to combat the book, Clinton cash, knowing it was coming out. According to Politico, the campaign acquired an early copy and leaked chapters to selected journalists so they wouldn't have the whole picture. Is that fair play? Was that effective?

TOMASKY: It was somewhat effective. I think their pushback on this book was reasonably effective. And it's not showing up in the polls. I saw this poll, 10 percent of people think there's a quid pro quo problem here. That even leaves out a lot of Conservatives.

KURTZ: And maybe more interesting polls that I saw was -- because we live in a media bubble to some degree, and because we're talking about this all the time, 52 percent of Democrats, ok, Democrats, are pathetic to Hillary, obviously, know very little or nothing about the Clinton foundation. What do you make of Michael raising the question of whether or not, not just of the media playing an aggressive role, asking questions, that I think we all would agree are legitimate questions about the big money sloshing through the Clinton foundation, and what the people expect in return but trying to take the Clintons down.

TOMASKY: I think there's something to that. Look Barack Obama got a pass from the media for most of his presidency and part of it was the insouciance, the sort of there's no their there. They never got riled up. The Clintons do something opposite. They go on the attack, they actually entice the media because it's a good story to have Clinton scandals. And I've written this before. I don't think it's going to be a big scandal that takes down the Clintons. I think it's the mockery. I think it's the "Saturday Night Live" spoofs. I think it's the thing where she launched her campaign and didn't leave a tip at chipotle. I think it's going to be the fact that the press is essentially going to go after her with these little things making fun of her.

KURTZ: There's a difference between going after, pushing back between needling somebody and taking them down. Taking them down says to me that you won't be able to...


LEWIS: Compare the press Obama got to the press...

BELLANTONI: And by the way, the Clinton people made that big argument about Obama just getting all this glowing coverage, but don't forget, this is also the same, if anybody has used the media trying to take a candidate down, they also say the exact same thing about the media trying to take Republican candidates down.

LEWIS: Welcome to the party Hillary. They'll turn on the Republican once Hillary --

BELLANTONI: Journalists are looking to teach the American people and American voters about all of the candidates. And with the Clintons, so much has been known about them, they have been in the public eye for now decades and they are trying to get new information. And this question about donors and the question about what e-mails, you know, did or did not make it through, you know, what she was supposed to say, those are legitimate questions that should be raised, regardless of what party she's with.

KURTZ: Absolutely legitimate questions. It's been nearly a month since Hillary Clinton officially declared her campaign she's been running for a long time in my view. And she has zero interviews. What happened to that media chatter early on that they learned their lessons from 2008 and the candidate was going to be more open with the media this time?

TOMASKY: I don't know. This was the 2000 playbook that I saw firsthand, I covered a lot of that -- her early trips to upstate New York actually in 1999. Very limited press access then. She would come out and maybe answer four questions and go back into her van. She's not even doing that, so far. And in New York, the rhythm was, she started doing interviews, it wasn't really until the spring of the campaign year, of the election career. I think she's going to have to have speed it up a little bit this time.

KURTZ: What happens is on a campaign, is when you -- or have people day after day after day trailing the candidate and get no access at all and no questions answered, there's a resentment that builds up. And by the time you speak, just briefly. You have all told backlog of questions.

BELLANTONI: One thing to point out, the Democratic national committee did say that they would allow for debates, if she has strong primary challengers. That's something that will give the American people a much better window than any question, any picture.

KURTZ: I hope it doesn't -- we don't have to wait until those debates start. Let me get a break. Remember, we launch our media comments and questions on twitter, @howardkurtz. We'll read some of them a bit later.

Ahead some pundits blame an Anti-Islam group for staging a Texas event that's attacked by armed terrorists, blaming the group.

But when we come back, Jeb Bush gives his first interview in two months, the Fox's Megyn Kelly and talks about immigration. We'll have a preview.


KURTZ: Jeb Bush had been running hard for President, but he hadn't given a sit-down interview in two months, until yesterday. The Former Florida Governor sat down with Fox's Megyn Kelly. Bush said, we have to show some respect for people by making it easier for illegal immigrants to obtain legal status, then this happened.


MEGYN KELLY, HOST OF 'THE KELLY FILE': This is another area where folks say, I like Jeb Bush, but how can he ever get through the GOP primary with this position on immigration. You know that there's a core wing of the party for whom this will be a deal breaker.

JEB BUSH, FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: I don't know that. I've been traveling over the last three months and I get a sense that a lot of people can be persuaded, to be honest with you. But here's the deal, Megyn. If I go beyond the consideration of running to be an actual candidate, do you want people to just bend with the wind, to mirror people's sentiment? Whoever's in front of you? Oh, yes, I used to be for that, but now I'm for this. Is that the way we want to elect Presidents?


KURTZ: That was an interesting back and forth. But if Jeb Bush is just now first sitting down for an interview after two months, why isn't the press on him about that?

BELLANTONI: That would've been a question I would have asked. Why aren't you sitting down and talk about it? But it's also -- a very smart strategy on his part. This is something he's gonna have to continue to answer. It will be the question of debates, it will be something that he is targeted on, polled on in advertising against him. You know, he calls it an act of love. This is something you're going to continue to see. As coming to an audience as large as Fox, with someone so popular like Megyn Kelly, and then you get the reasonable, like independent voters who, you know, don't really care about immigration either way. Oh, listen to him, he's not trying to just win a primary that could help him in a general if he ever makes it through.

KURTZ: The difference Michael is that, Jeb does stop and take a few reporters' questions after these events, so you don't have that pressure cooker building up the way you do with the Hillary Clinton campaign.

TOMASKY: I guess that's true. But it's a strategy, Howie that I think we're going to see out of a lot of front-running candidates. They don't have to do that much media anymore, really. They don't have to answer that many questions. They can tweet things out, they can have their supporters tweet things out.

KURTZ: And if we complain about it, who cares, because basically the press isn't very popular?

TOMASKY: And people don't really care because the press isn't very popular. As long as they're going out and talking to voters and taking voters' questions, I think the people are basically satisfied with them.

KURTZ: You agree with that?

LEWIS: I do. And by the way, the voters' questions to Jeb are tough. I've seen him take questions about immigration where a lot of the base doesn't agree with him about things like common core and he doesn't back away from it. And he will aggressively answer those questions and sometimes bring them up himself.

KURTZ: Another question that came up with Megyn Kelly had to do with the Iraq war, and Jeb Bush said, well, clearly, some version of mistakes were made. And then he said, well, you know who else made a mistake that's George W. Bush. Do you think the press will continue to press him about his brother, because he does have that last name?

LEWIS: I think they will. And I think Jeb Bush has to be very clear. We're going to potentially elect the commander in chief. Would he bring us into another war like Iraq or would he govern differently like his father did. He started the process with Megyn Kelly here of essentially implying that he knows there were problems. The intelligence was bad and a lot of other issues. But you have to be more clear, because that's going to hang over his head, and rightly so.

KURTZ: It's not just Iraq. The press question is basically, are you another George W. Bush or are you going to govern differently.

BELLANTONI: Hillary Clinton will face the exact same questions. She makes it as, are you going to govern the exact same way as your husband and the only difference is George W. Bush left office fairly unpopular nationally. Bill Clinton is considered pretty popular now even though he was very unpopular when he left office as well. People are not their family members.

KURTZ: That's fair, but it's an assumption that the press doesn't always make. Maybe some voters don't as well.

Christina Bellantoni, Michael Tomasky, Matt Lewis, thanks very much for joining us. You can see the entire exclusive interview with Jeb Bush on the Kelly File, that's Monday, 9:00 eastern. I'm looking forward to seeing that as well. Ahead, three new Republican candidates jumping into the 2016 race will much of the media yawn. Is that fair? But up next, "Deflate Gate" is back and the media are piling on Tom Brady and the Patriots. Has everyone else just moved on?


KURTZ: The media frenzy over "Deflate Gate" dominated coverage of the super bowl as Tom Brady and the New England Patriots insisted they knew nothing about game balls being intentionally under-inflated before they trounced Indianapolis in that A.F.C. championship game. Now, an N.F.L. report says it's more probable than not that two Patriot staffers deliberately tampered with the teams' footballs to make them easier to throw and the report said it's more probable than not that Tom Brady was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities. Fox News contributor Jim Gray asked Brady about the report at a previously scheduled event.


TOM BRADY, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS QUARTERBACK: I really don't have any reaction. Our owner commented on it yesterday, it's only been 30 hours, so I haven't had time to digest it full but when I do I'll be sure to let you know how I feel about it.


KURTZ: Only 30 hours. I spoke earlier with "New York Magazine's" Will Leitch from Atlanta. Will Leitch, welcome.

WILL LEITCH, NEW YORK MAGAZINE CONTRIBUTING EDITOR: Of course, thanks for having me, as always.

KURTZ: How did Jim Gray and Tom Brady handle those exchanges, when Brady clearly did not want to be answering the question?

LEITCH: It's funny, Gray, he always tends to get these big interviews. He had the decision interview for Lebron James. This is kind of his bailiwick to be friendly, but interrogator if you have to, but mostly friendly reporter. This was not the intention -- Brady didn't realize this was all going to be happening right then. I think he was surprised by it. But the thing with this is what can Brady say? I think Gray --


KURTZ: He could answer the questions. Here he is, I really don't like the guy. He's too glamorous, he's got the glamorous wife, he's rich, star quarterback, Superbowl Champion and he said he didn't know anything about it, the report says he probably did, and he said he needed to digest the report? Come on!

LEITCH: And I generally agree with that. It's funny, because Brady's general vibe on this, one thing I do kind of agree with him a little bit about, this is the reaction that we are all kind of collectively having to this, as if the Patriots and Tom Brady secretly found a way to make their touchdowns worth ten points and everyone else's touchdowns are worth four. We're talking about air pressure in footballs. And Brady, while sticking to this, maybe a little bit of an advantage, I think it's never really taken all that seriously. And the Patriots, who didn't seem to know anything about this, he definitely never took it seriously. Brady saw it as a very minor thing.

KURTZ: Form what you're saying -- I'm getting the impression perhaps, just perhaps, those of us in the media, who went crazy over this before the Super Bowl, are pumping up this story to perhaps an extraordinary degree?

LEITCH: A story like this, anytime Brady is involved, everyone gets excited and moves around in a corner. I think people want, we talked about this, people, it's Brady. The Patriots, ever since the spygate situation, people have been -- this gets people fired up in a lot of ways. I think the N.F.L. loves this story during the Super Bowl, distracted from some of the more serious stories actually going on with the N.F.L. For now, it's become a Brady thing, you can see this coming when Brady had his press conference during the actual super bowl. Because he was just like, hey, what are you talking about? I'm just here to play football.

KURTZ: These actual text messages involving a couple of equipment guys for the New England Patriots. One called himself the deflator. Another one talked about talking to Tom. Look at the New York daily news coverage, great ball of liar if we can put that up on the screen. No secret the national media doesn't like the Patriots or doesn't like Tom Brady. Is he ever going to be forever branded by the national media as a cheater?

LEITCH: I think so. I think -- I would argue, if not unfairly, I would say, oh, maybe a little over the top. But it's worth -- even those his text messages were all after -- they weren't really hiding this until all of a sudden this story exploded. This is not something they felt was really, that they were really terrified about, if anyone could find out, until the story exploded and they realized, the media is really freaking out about this.

KURTZ: In 20 seconds, why do you think the media are going too far into making this a huge scandal?

LEITCH: Because, it's a -- as I said before, touchdowns are still worth seven points. The amount of advantage it gave him, if it actually did, is so minuscule, that you would think that they were putting air other than -- that put helium in one team's ball and air in another team's ball. It seems maybe a bit much to add, certainly not decisive.

KURTZ: The Patriots did win that game by a large margin. Will Leitch, thank you very much. Thanks very much for joining us.

LEITCH: Of course.

KURTZ: And Jim Gray says he gleaned what information he could from a reluctant Tom Brady in a situation that wasn't supposed to be a news interview. Media reports said Brady might be suspended in the coming week, but nothing definitive.

Ahead on MediaBuzz, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, and Mike Huckabee all jump into the Republican race. Are they being marginalized by the media?

But first, two terrorists in Texas are dead after an armed assault on a Muhammad cartoon contest. And some commentators are blaming the group under attack?


KURTZ: It could have been a bloody massacre in Texas. Pamela Geller's Anti-Islam group, the American Freedom Defense Initiative was staging a contest for the best drawing of the prophet Muhammad, which obviously would be offensive and blasphemous to many Muslims. Two apparent jihadis were killed in a shoot-out with a police officer guarding the event. And, with rising criticism of her tactics, Geller has been all over the air waves, fighting back.


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN: So what people are saying is that there's always this fine line, you know, between freedom of speech and being intentionally incendiary and provocative.

PAMELA GELLER, AMERICAN FREEDOM DEFENSE INITIATIVE: "Intentionally incendiary and provocative" by drawing a cartoon. This is the low state of freedom of speech in this country.

GELLER: What would you have said about Rosa Parks? Rosa parks should never have gone to the front of the bus. She's taunting people.

MARTHA MACCALLUM, FOX NEWS: No, no, no. How do you make the Rosa Parks comparison?


KURTZ: Joining us now in Palm Springs, California, Rick Grenell, Fox News Contributor and a former foreign policy spokesman for the Bush Administration.

And here in Washington, Radio Talk Show Host Richard Fowler. Rick Grenell, I liken these media attacks on Pam Geller's group for inviting these attacks as blaming a rape victim for dressing provocatively, your thoughts?

RICK GRENELL, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Yeah, I think so. I mean, by this same liberal narrative that told us that a youtube video was to blame for our ambassador and three other killings. If you take that same philosophy, then the Mormons should be burning down Broadway and Christians should be burning down Hollywood. I think we've got a real problem with the liberal media and the left right now, because they really are telling us they've lost all their senses. They're telling us that somehow, a word, a cartoon or youtube video is justification for killing and violence. It's really gotten way off-base from the left.

KURTZ: Is that what the, "liberal media" is saying, Richard Fowler?

RICHARD FOWLER, RADIO TALKSHOW HOST: That is not what the liberal media is saying at all, Howard. I think what the liberal media is saying, these attacks should not have happened, number one.

KURTZ: But you have said, it's fair to focus on Pam Geller and her provocative actions and you believe she's acted irresponsibly? Is that your message?

FOWLER: No I agree. I believe she's acted completely irresponsibly. The fact that you would do an event -- she's not fighting for more rights, she's clearly had her freedom of speech. Martha McCollum said on Friday, you've been on pretty much every station talking about it. She's had her fair share of freedom of speech. But there comes a point in time where common sense has to come in and say, this is not necessarily a good idea. If we are truly promoting freedom and we're truly standing up for what America is, a place where you have the freedom of religion, making fun of one religious group is, especially in that particular manner, is just inappropriate, just like it's inappropriate to have Jesus in a jar of piss, and people were upset about that as well.

GRENELL: Can I jump in here for a second?

KURTZ: Yes jump in.

GRENELL: If you really look at what Richard just said, and I can appreciate the fact that we're supposed to be civil, but if you really go back and look at what Richard said, he said, this isn't helpful, this whole cartoon thing. I actually think that it was helpful. It draws the line to show that we have Islamic radicalism that is really -- they need to put on their big boy pants. This is the real world. You get criticized. Everyone gets criticized. You don't go to violence because somebody criticizes your religion. Again, I go back to the fact, if that were the standard, we would see a whole bunch of violence from a whole bunch of different groups. But we have an administration that keeps protecting this idea...

FOWLER: Now you're -- I think you're convoluting two things. Let's leave the administration out of this. This has nothing to do with the administration --

GRENELL: I don't think you can.

FOWLER: This is a debate around free speech and common sense. I think, while I agree she has the freedom of speech to have this type of event, if we truly as a nation want to end terrorism, we've got to invoke moderate Muslims to stand up and say, hey, and tell those -- the radicalized to sit down.

KURTZ: Richard, you got into it with Megyn Kelly the other night in saying, there's have to be limits on free speech. There are no legal limits on free speech beyond shouting "fire" in a crowded theater. Is that what you meant to say?

FOWLER: I think what I was calling for and I think it was misconstrued. I got a lot of flack for that on twitter, but I am calling for common sense. And I'm not the only person calling for common sense. Greta van Susteren did it this week, Martha McCollum, Bill O'Reilly, Donald Trump.

GRENELL: I don't think you can put yourself in that crowd, though.

FOWLER: Why is that?

GRENELL: Common sense means you can draw a cartoon, you can produce a youtube video and that no one with common sense is going to jump to violence. You have to say free speech, full stop.

FOWLER: No, there's a big there's a distinction here. It's not like -- she's tried to -- what Geller has tried to do unsuccessfully is compare herself to "Charlie Hebdo." In Charlie Hebdo, they were making satirical argument. She was clearly making fun of a religion and that's completely two different...

GRENELL: It's her right, full stop, free speech.

FOWLER: It is her right, but it doesn't make it right.

GRENELL: I'm not hearing you say that. I'm hearing you say a bunch of other things. We got CNN -- this is a show on media, Howie, and we had CNN really making fun of freedom of speech. Chris Cuomo said that there are no protections for hate speech. Then you have the associated press...

KURTZ: He acknowledged that he misspoke. He made a mistake. Cuomo said he had been...


GRENELL: But it got reaction as a -- his family is a leading liberal family and his gut reaction --

KURTZ: I'm almost out of time. I'm more worried about a "Washington Post" headline that says, "Event organizer offers no apology after thwarted attack in Texas." Think about what that means in terms of free speech.

FOWLER: Here's the thing, Howie. And I think -- here's the thing. This was a bad event to begin with. The Garland Police were like, this is so bad, and you need to hire your own private security. This was a bad event, it wasn't thought through, there was no common sense here, and common sense should have outweighed the freedom of speech in this particular...

KURTZ: To me, nothing outweighs freedom of speech. Good debate, Richard Fowler, Rick Grenell thanks very much.

Are the mainstream media basically writing off Mike Huckabee, Ben Carson, and Carly Fiorina in the 2016 race? And later, a reporter who covered the killing in the Freddie Gray case, while in a personal relationship with the prosecutor.


KURTZ: For Carly Fiorina, it was "Good Morning America" and Megyn Kelly. For Mike Huckabee, it was "Hope Arkansas", and Megyn Kelly. For Ben Carson, it was a Detroit stage, and Megyn Kelly, CNN, CNBC, Chris Wallace, all three Republicans with back-to-back announcements competing for media attention.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN: How do you think you can distinguish and differentiate yourself from all these other candidates competing for those conservative Christians?

MIKE HUCKABEE, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, first of all, I think that among evangelical Christians, I'm not somebody who just started talking about the message. This is who I am.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: How do you convince voters you have the relevant experience?

CARLY FIORINA, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Our nation was intended to be a citizen government. And somehow we've come to this place in our nation's history where we think we need a professional political class. I don't believe that.

KELLY: So why should the country in this day and age entrust foreign policy to a self-admitted novice on the issue?

DR. BEN CARSON, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I've learned an enormous amount about foreign policy in the last few months.


KURTZ: Joining us now, Susan Ferrechio, Chief Congressional Correspondent for the Washington Examiner and in New York, Betsy Woodruff, and Political Reporter for the Daily Beast. Susan, these three announcements got a few sentences at most on the network evening news. None of them made the front page of the New York Times, the other media basically dismissing them as marginal candidates.

SUSAN FERRECHIO, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: The media tends to cull the Presidential candidates, we talked to pollsters, the pollsters tier the candidates, first tier, second tier, third tier. Some of the candidates that announce are considered second or third tier. It doesn't always make sense though, if you get Carly Fiorina, for instance second paragraph in the New York Times story about her announcement calls her a long shot candidate with a sliver of support. What about Martin O'Malley, I'll be curious to see how they portray him. He has about 1 percent in the poll. He's polling same as Carly Fiorina. I think it doesn't always make sense about the way the media decides to dismiss the non-conventional candidates.

KURTZ: The danger with relying on polls is there's always somebody that breaks out of the pack whether it was Huckabee in 2008 or Rick Santorum in 2012, who was hardly getting any coverage, and suddenly they get hot even though they were down in the polls and don't have much money.

Betsy, you wonder how the liberal media view these three candidates and others on the G.O.P. slide? New York Times Columnist Timothy Egan this morning calling it a fringe festival and saying the Republican clown car has turned into a clown bus.

BETSY WOODRUFF, THE DAILY BEAST: Carly Fiorina certainly isn't a fringe candidate. Most of the stances she is staked out are very much in the middle of how Republicans feel about national policy issues. Huckabee is a little further to the right. I can maybe understand using that particular adjective but referring to a clown bus, come on, that's certainly not fair. As a reporter, I would much rather prefer covering a bus full of characters than just having a sprint after a Hillary Clinton's Scooby Doo Van.

KURTZ: There is point where the bus becomes so crowded, it's hard for those of us in the media. You only have an hour for a newscast, so many inches in the newspaper story.

Susan, Ben Carson, surgeon, world-renowned surgeon, a non-politician, who's established himself as a real force in places like Iowa, but much of the coverage focuses on his gaffes. Chris Wallace today asked him about likening Obamacare to slavery and things like that. Is that fair? I mean, if a novice candidate makes those kinds of remarks?

FERRECHIO: It's fair. It's fair, but I think those questions should also be more directed at the mainstream candidates, too, who have their share of mistakes. How much attention is going to be paid to Hillary Clinton's tenure as secretary of state? You think it's going to be a lot? I think it's going to be less than we might expect. It needs to be balanced out here, too. Let's look at Huckabee, he has gotten more executive experience than Jeb Bush. He polls far better than him in Iowa, and he's not going to get a quarter of the attention. And I think that's pretty interesting, because it shuts out those who aren't in the top tier and voters aren't getting a better look at them. And that's not great coverage.

KURTZ: That's a great point. Mike Huckabee was a Governor of Arkansas for ten years, and of course, he became more nationally known when he hosted a show here at Fox News, but the media wrap on him is, even though he won the Iowa caucuses seven years ago, hard to break out of narrow evangelical voters and can't raise enough money, but how do we know how it's going to play out?

WOODRUFF: That's a totally fair point. He certainly did do well at his previous Presidential bid. I think part of the reason that reporters are looking at him in such a way that's so askance because of what he's done since he was governor of Arkansas. One thing that Jake Tapper really pressed him on at CNN was the fact that he rented out his e-mail list to some very questionable actors. There were people sending out e-mails about biblical cancer cures under the banner of Mike Huckabee. That's very, very questionable and I think that makes national reporters take him less seriously. But even though those things might set off warning lights for people at New York Times or Beltway Media, they don't rally seem to register with Republican primary voters in places like Iowa and South Carolina. So what gets us in a tizzy here in New York and D.C. might not necessarily be such a problem in the heartlands.

KURTZ: But certainly a fair question. Ok, so very quickly, Susan, Betsy mentioned Carly Fiorina, and she ran a major company, also was dismissed from that company, but the media, I think, considered her such a long shot, because she's never held elected office.

FERRECHIO: Well, her executive experience, Mitt Romney he's that not his 10 years Governor he's the executive experience more to tout his candidacy for President. So I think the fact she can bring that to the table, she shouldn't be dismissed and the media, really, I think, has been not -- I think it's more in defense of Hillary Clinton. She is a real threat, I think to Hillary Clinton and I think that's part of the reason why you see the mainstream media going after her as hard as they are.

KURTZ: The real question for the media, with so many candidates, I'll close by saying this, is that how many of them, nine, and ten, and can't do more than that on a debate stage. How many will get the media oxygen. And is it fair for us, the unelected journalists to make those decisions so early in the process. Betsey Woodruff, and Susan Ferrechio, thanks very much for stopping by this Sunday.

FERRECHIO: Sure thing, thanks.

KURTZ: After the break, the media keep on making mistakes in Baltimore. And later, debate over a couple of frozen embryos. Is that an excuse for television to keep running pictures of Sofia Vergara?


KURTZ: It was a bad mistake, no question about it. Fox News correspondent Mike Tobin reported that he and his crew had seen Baltimore police shoot a black man in the back. But the network retracted the report minutes later with an apology from Shepard Smith.


SHEPARD SMITH, SHEPARD SMITH REPORTING ANCHOR: It sounds to me that what's happened is we screwed up. That's what it sounds like. I can tell you one thing. Mike Tobin would never -- I've been through this. Mike Tobin thought he saw somebody get shot, and there was a gun, and there was a patient on the stretcher and there was a woman who said she saw the cops gun him down and there's going to be violence and all the rest of that and what we have is nothing. Nobody has been shot, no police officer has pulled a trigger, and on behalf of Mike Tobin and to the rest of our crew there, and the rest of us at Fox News, I am very sorry for the error and glad we were able to correct it quickly.


KURTZ: That is a way to correct a mistake. Tobin says the situation was confused with the gun going off and a man going down. "It would be very hard to duplicate a situation that looked more like a guy being shot. Still, I don't think the report should have been aired unless the reporter saw the shot being fired or had it confirmed." The Washington Post has also made a mistake in its coverage of Freddy Gray's death. Its story on a police document originally carried the headline, "Prisoner in van Gray was trying to injure himself and described that person was 38 years old". After a report in Politico, the post changed the headline to say prisoner in van heard banging against walls, corrected his age to 22 and quoted that prisoner Dante Allen as disputing the account. And Jane Miller a veteran reporter for Baltimore's BALTV is stepping back from her coverage of the Freddie Gray case. She was frequently analyzing the story for MSNBC as well. Move comes after the Sun's David Zurawik ripped Miller for not telling viewers she was in a relationship with Janice Bledsoe, the lead prosecutor on the case.


JAYNE MILLER, WBAL-TV: I'm actually going to be covering less of the court case because I have a personal connection to one of the prosecutors and now that it's in that arena, I'm going to be backing away from coverage of that.


KURTZ: Miller should have disclosed that earlier. She wouldn't say what she means by stepping back the best course would be not to cover this story at all. Still to come, your top tweets. ESPN parting company with big time sports writer Bill Simmons and should the media be obsessing on Sofia Vergara's frozen embryos?


KURTZ: ESPN has dumped Bill Simmons, a sports writer with a huge personal following. He built a successful site Grandland for the sports network. You can see the dysfunctional relationship Simmons called N.F.L. commissioner Roger Goodell a liar, dared ESPN today he wasn't in trouble. The network retaliated with a three week suspension. ESPN President John Skipper isn't even hiding the attention saying the firing was "about more than money". As technology transforms the media business, we're launching our digital download segment online. This week we look at how younger people are increasingly getting their news on their phone, how does that shape what they see?


DAVID RODRIGUEZ: My first thing when I wake up is to typically check my e-mail, go into Instagram, go into Facebook, the average things and that's pretty much how I consume media.

NATALIE ANDREWS, WSJ SOCIAL MEDIA EDITOR: I think that because we create our news more than we ever have before, we are only seeing things we like.


KURTZ: You can check it out soon on our home page or Facebook page which we hope you'll like. Here are the top tweets. Are the media justified in kicking Tom Brady around over the N.F.L.'s deflate-gate report?

Derek Hunter: Is it the media's job to kick around or is it their job to report?

Thomas Gordon: To me it shows insularity of U.S. Media. Big stories around the world and our sports star may be cheating gets this much attention, yeah, America. The golden boy's true character is showing, great quarterback but willing to cheat and lie. Can't hate Hillary yet ignore Brady lies?

KURTZ: All right. It's the kind of show down TV loves, Sofia Vergara on Good Morning, America pleading for her privacy while her ex-fiancee was on the Today Show at the same time having dragged their private life into the spotlight with the New York Times demanding access to two frozen embryos they had created together.


NICK LOEB, SOFIA VERGARA'S EX-FIANCE: It has nothing to do with whether her baby or a baby. Lives were already created. A lot of the question is why don't you move on and meet somebody else. No doubt I would love to do that but it doesn't matter that two lives have already been created. I wouldn't toss them aside.

SOFIA VERGARA, ACTRESS: Why is the press allowing somebody to invent things and create press for himself? He's not an actor, he's not a celebrity. It's like why?


KURTZ: Why? I'll tell you why. The media don't care about this embryo issue. The couple signed an agreement requiring mutual consent to bring them to term. They care about a juicy spat involving the start ABC's "Modern Family". They are trampling Sofia's privacy and should just ignore her publicity hungry ex. But I'm not holding my breath.

That's it for this edition of MediaBuzz, I'm Howard Kurtz. Glad you could join us. You can write to us at to become part of your buzz online where we respond to your questions. No political rants. Ask us a media question and I'll try to answer it. Don't forget to DVR our program. We'll see you on Facebook, we'll see you on twitter @howardkurtz. We are back here next Sunday morning, 11 and then again at 5 eastern with the latest buzz.

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