Conway rips media over Comey

This is a rush transcript from "Media Buzz," May 14, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: On the "BuzzMeter" this Sunday as the media aggressively cover the bombshell news of President Trump firing of James Comey, we'll talk live with Kellyanne Conway about many aspects of the story including some outlets and commentators resulting to loaded and inflammatory language.


JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN: It's a grotesque abuse of power by the president of the United States. This is the kind of thing that goes on in non-democracies.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC: A little whiff of fascism tonight, I think it's fair to say... a little whiff of I don't care about the law, I'm the boss.

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS: This firing was overdue, and everyone in Washington knows it.

KIMBERLY GUILFOYLE, FOX NEWS: Quite honestly, the former prosecutor, I was expecting it to even happen sooner in terms of it's being a problem with the public trust.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN: I think question you also have to ask, was this a coup or a firing or both?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I mean he was responding to a recommendation, and now it's completely undermined when the president said I was going to do it anyway. So, you know, who to believe? Nobody.

JOHN HEILEMANN, MSNBC: I think that Donald Trump's comments yesterday in a strange way blew the lid off of his own cover-up.


KURTZ: Those media accusations of a "cover-up" following shifting White House accounts while Trump lying on his deputy attorney general after this presidential interview on NBC.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: He made a recommendation. But regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey.


KURTZ: And the president now suggesting he may just do away with the White House press briefings.


TRUMP: First of all, you have a level of hostility that's incredible. And it's very unfair.


KURTZ: Well, would that hurt the administration as much as the press corps? Plus, Jimmy Kimmel takes a victory lap over his emotional plea for ObamaCare. Is he now a political partisan? I'm Howard Kurtz, and this is "MediaBuzz."

President Trump is ratcheting up his rhetoric against the press corps over its saturation coverage and highly controversial coverage of the firing of James Comey, telling Judge Jeanine Pirro that he may have a solution for his communications team not being able to keep up with him.


TRUMP: We don't have press conferences, and we do...

JEANINE PIRRO, FOX NEWS: You don't mean that.

TRUMP: Well, we just don't have them or unless I have one every two weeks and I do it myself. We don't have them. I think it's a good idea. First of all, you have a level of hostility that's incredible. And it's very unfair. Sarah Huckabee is a lovely young woman. You know, Sean Spicer, he is a wonderful human being. He's a nice man.


KURTZ: Joining us now from New York to talk about way this explosive story is being covered is Kellyanne Conway, the President's Counselor. Kellyanne, thanks for coming in.


KURTZ: Would you recommend to the president as his counselor that the White House press briefings be abolished?

CONWAY: I'm very happy that the president gave three big interviews this week, I mean it goes with what White House Correspondent Association President, Jeff Mason said at the dinner a couple of weeks ago which is that the press has access to this White House. The president himself gave interviews to NBC, to your own Fox News and to Time Magazine this week.

So, there's not a mystery about what he thinks on everything. But, I would go to the other point of what the president said to your colleague, Judge Jeanine Pirro. He said the level of hostility to the people who work for him is really something. And do you see what some in the media are doing while Sean Spicer or Sarah Huckabee Sanders are delivering their daily press briefings? They're live tweeting at them.

Are they paying attention? Are they trying to get the news? A week ago and all the Sunday news, what was everybody buzzing about? Healthcare reform. How many people are talking about that today? Did it go away as an important issue? No. It's always the, it's the issue du jour, it's the explosive, what they decide is the explosive, myopically obsessive story of the week, and they just - they go on that, and it's presumptively negative.

We're a White House that presents the president himself as the best communicator and the best connector that I've ever seen. And he's given tremendous access including this week.

KURTZ: Well, the unusual firing of the FBI Director is the story du jour, I don't know if that was entirely up to the press corps. But let me ask you this, because I think a lot of the contentiousness in the White House briefing room this week followed what the press portrayed as conflicting White House accounts about the firing of James Comey and whether or not it was done solely at the recommendation of the Deputy General, Rod Rosenstein. Let me play a little bit of what the president had to say about this with NBC's, Lester Holt.



LESTER HOLT, NBC NEWS:'re saying I accepted their recommendation. You would already make the decision.

TRUMP: Oh, I was going to fire regardless of recommendation.


TRUMP: He made a recommendation. He's highly respected, very good guy, very smart guy. The Democrats like him, the Republicans like him, he made a recommendation. But regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey.


KURTZ: So, Kellyanne, this led to a million headlines, White House changing its story, president was going to fire Comey anyway.

CONWAY: Howie, the president said he's been thinking about this for a while and that he watched Mr. Comey testify the week before. He's been thinking about this for a while and then independent of that, his deputy attorney general who oversees the FBI, that's his job, came to this conclusion on his own 14 days or so on the job and made the recommendation.

Now, I would also point out what's really important here is everybody is saying Comey was investigating. No, Comey wasn't investigating. The FBI was investigating and the FBI will continue to investigate. The Acting Director of the FBI, Mr. McCabe, said very clearly these two very important things he said under oath, first, that the investigation is not impeded, and secondly, he has adequate resources, that is the direct opposite of what many people in the media print and electronically were saying about this.

This is a man, the Acting Director of the FBI, who has expressed confidence in the ability of the FBI to continue the investigation, and the president himself has said he wants the investigation to go forward and to conclude. The leader McConnell has said the House and Senate are also looking at this.

So, the idea that any of this is, you know, breaking news, the fact that the president has been watching while others have been watching. And, you know, it's the Democrats who for months were criticizing Director Comey...

KURTZ: Sure.

CONWAY: ...and it is, Director Comey himself had said that he went out and he told, "that was a hard call for me to make, to call the attorney general", at that time, Loretta Lynch, "and tell her I'm going to do a press conference, but I can't tell you what I'm going the say." That wasn't the hard call -- it wasn't a hard call, it was the wrong call.

KURTZ: Right.

CONWAY: And Mr. Rosenstein has mentioned that, you know, it's a usurpation of the powers of the attorney general that they don't do press conferences.

KURTZ: Whenever this question comes up about the Russia investigation, you know, alleged ties between Trump campaign associates in Moscow, I always say let's slow down because not much has been proven yet and it could be nothing there, but when the president again talking to Lester Holt says when I decided to fire Comey, I said to myself, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. It's not a completely made-up story in the sense that there are real serious investigations here and to whether there's anything there.

CONWAY: Howie, this has been going on for months. You basically could have a baby in the time they've been investigating this and on a different network just this morning, Former DNI Head, Mr. Clapper said that based on the information he had when he left his position, he saw no evidence of this.

He said it before, he was asked about it again this morning, he reaffirmed that then based on what he knew at the time, he saw nothing to suggest otherwise. So, you know, and look, I think the best statement that was made this week, ironically about the president's prerogative in firing the FBI Director was by the Outgoing FBI Director.

Jim Comey, himself, in his letter said he has long thought that the president of the United States has the ability -- has the right to fire the FBI director, and that's exactly what the president did.

KURTZ: So, let me ask you about some of the coverage we play, some of the clips at the top, you had the New York Daily News Cover calling it a coup, Clancey (ph) Newspaper used the word dictator, Chris Matthews with fascism, Bob Beckel on Fox called the president a liar and a buffoon. What do you make of some of this language that is really ratcheted of and covering this, you know, admittedly important story?

CONWAY: It's irresponsible in its conjecture and in its opinion. It's people passing themselves off as news reporters when they're expressing their opinions, and they're using a lexicon that's never been used about a president of the United States, one who just this week was very accessible to the press in three major interviews. And I'll let what the president said speak for itself on every single issue.

But, Howie, the media has to decide too, you know, what is its relationship with the White House? How does it want to cover the White House? Where are the editors? I mean, some days I think like along with the FBI Director, a lot of these editors got fired. Twitter is not an assignment editor. It's not - it's not - it's not a source, it's, you know, I was out in the country - I was in five different states at the beginning of this week and nobody there is talking about anything but jobs and healthcare.

People at the end of the week were talking about cyber security attacks or probably continue to talk about it as they get back to their desks in the morning for work. The country is talking about things that matter to them that the president is working dutifully on every single day. There's such a disconnect now between what people hear as noise and what is actually news.

And what they're paying attention to every single day, what they will judge this president on ultimately is if growth improves. If all of these confidence measures you've seen from the manufacturers, the home builders, the small business...

KURTZ: Right.

CONWAY: ...owners, the consumers themselves, the job production, if that actually continues, healthcare will get done.


CONWAY: And there will be tax relief...

KURTZ: And we will cover that.

CONWAY: And he is...

KURTZ: But, you know, some of the people...

CONWAY: ...doing great advances - and he is doing great advances across the world. He has a huge foreign trip coming up with five different stops and three bilateral meetings just this coming week. Who's talking about that this morning? No one.

KURTZ: Well, it's been overshadowed, there's no question about it. And some of the people I quoted earlier...


CONWAY: That's the choice. I'm sorry, that's the choice the media make.

KURTZ: I can hear you.

CONWAY: You know, somebody said to me last night, oh, we'd love to cover X or, you know, I saw them on TV, we'd love to cover X but this overshadowed it. You have a choice to make. You can be part of the sameness or you can go and cover things that actually matter to Americans, and that's the responsibility of everyone to cover the gamut of issues, all the things that the president is working on at any given time.

KURTZ: Some of the people I quoted earlier are opinion people, but here's the Washington Post this morning and, you know, you and I have talked before about anonymous sources. One GOP figure close to the White House mused privately that whether Trump was, "in the grip of some kind of paranoid delusion", no names attached, just that shot, your thoughts.

CONWAY: Well, that's terrible. And, frankly, I would just, again, show that, you said it's somebody "close to the White House", I don't know if that somebody works at the sandwich or the coffee shop across the street, a tourist in Lafayette Park, because I do see that in a lot of these articles.

A very major newspaper earlier this week, Howie, reported based on a single source that Mr. - that the deputy attorney general had threatened to resign, that just was not true. The Department Of Justice denied that immediately. I haven't seen a retraction. I heard or everybody talking about it, and it said - and it actually said a, someone "close to the White House."

You know, there are people constantly on TV who have never worked in a White House, let alone this White House, telling the president who he should be, what he should be doing, he's the president of the United States and he will execute on the agenda and continues to.

KURTZ: And there could be...

CONWAY: He gets much more done that people don't cover, but I'm telling the American people who are watching very closely, I didn't run into one person in these five states that are talking about what the media covering in those states.

KURTZ: Right.

CONWAY: They are focused on the things that affect them.

KURTZ: And on this point about what the media focused on, there's been another wave of speculative stories about Sean Spicer and others and what their future is and the website Axios today says there may be a huge reboot, the president is considering he could fire Priebus, Bannon, Spicer and others, do you think the media have a little bit of an obsession with who's going to get canned, but of course a lot of these stories are attributed to White House sources?

CONWAY: Howie, the fact is that as they work on the 20th palace intrigue/personnel story of this young administration, they totally missed the firing of Jim Comey coming. And, you know, the president has put together a team and everybody works very hard there, and he knows it, but he is the ultimate decision maker.

And the fact is, you know, these palace intrigue and personnel stories make my point and make the president's point about the type of coverage he gets. He makes my point completely. What are you actually covering? Are you covering who's up and who's down in the West Wing or, which of course you would know nothing about, or are you covering what impacts Americans? Why they wanted this man to be president as opposed to his political opponent?

KURTZ: Right.

CONWAY: They believe and they already see the fruits of his labor, the job creation. Healthcare is moving on. Somebody just asked me this morning are you, in fact, going to get rid of the ObamaCare penalties, 6.5 million Americans chose to pay it last year because they didn't want to buy ObamaCare, where's that coverage?

KURTZ: No question.

CONWAY: That is important here.

KURTZ: Not so important to our viewers and readers. I also want to ask you about this moment that you have with CNN's, Anderson Cooper. I've got to slip a quick break in, a couple more questions on the other side. Kellyanne thanks.


KURTZ: We're back live with Kellyanne Conway in New York. You had a couple of contentious interviews on CNN this week including this moment which went viral with Anderson Cooper.


CONWAY: ...I was on your show often last fall saying we were going to win Michigan and how we were going to do it, so that was fun.


KURTZ: What did you make of the now-famous eye roll?

CONWAY: Well, first of all, a lot of folks want things to go viral. They think that's the job of the news media now which is not, of course. And you should play the beginning of the clip where he had me sit through President Trump, then-candidate Trump on the stump in many different places praising Jim Comey, and it ended with Grand Rapids, Michigan.

So, I turned it around as I often do and I said, thanks for the trip down memory lane, we loved winning Michigan. And, of course, he rolled his eyes. Passively, sexist, definitely what I call Trumpist, which is many people who are going to be are treated like house guests and then when we go on TV, we're not.

And the fact is that it was, you know, we were watching CNN ahead of time, you've got six to one panels against the president. One of us tries to go out there on his behalf and state the case from the position of the president. But look, the suspicion and the derision just generally toward this White House by members of the media.

I'm not mentioning any network or any paper or any individual specifically -- and the quest to go viral, the quest to say to somebody when there's nothing else to say, "That makes no sense" or "You must be lying." They say it to folks all the time.

It really doesn't help democracy, and it doesn't help the body politic, because people are looking for the news. They're not looking for conjecture. They don't care if something goes viral and late night hosts get a couple laughs out of it.

The idea that people are so presumptively negative towards so much that's going on and it's frankly often why you see people on this network only for a long time - long periods of time because, you know, we're faced with people with the fame, the pain, the look, the fair-rowed brow, the curled lip anytime something -- someone tries to say something, including the president.

I would - I would point out to you the president's own quotes in Time Magazine, I thought it was incredibly revealing, and we've heard this privately and publicly previously. But the president said he's given himself such a great gift, that it's been so liberating for him. It's been great equilibrium to tune out so much of the negative coverage.

KURTZ: Right.

CONWAY: And he's happy to seek in here...


CONWAY: ...because knows it's not true.

KURTZ: Let me jump in because you mentioned the Time Magazine and you also had a contentious interview with CNN morning anchor, Chris Cuomo this week and the president was quoted in Time Magazine in saying that "Cuomo was a chain, lunatic, and full of hatred." CNN said that was a need to (ph) dignity to the office. Now, it's fair to criticize Chris Cuomo, but he's not a lunatic. So, what does the president get out of that kind of personal attack?

CONWAY: I can talk about my interview with Chris Cuomo that morning. He used words again, and I said you probably want that to go viral, so let's just state for the record that you were describing a state of mind or a situation not me, when you use the negative words.

And I pushed back very forcefully on again, which was something that doesn't always feel like someone is trying to get to the news report and the facts. It feels like there's this conclusion in search of evidence.

And for the president to say, and I know this hurt some people -- for the president to very clearly say that he doesn't watch the negative anymore, he's tuned it out and he never, "knew he had that in him," "he never knew that that was a skill to not watch all the negatives."..

KURTZ: Right.

CONWAY:'s not because he wants to be surrounded by positive, he's the president of the United States. He knows how much negativism in the world. He gets a daily intelligence briefing.

KURTZ: Right.

CONWAY: But, he - but, at the same time, there's no good comes out of having to hear all the blather and having to hear all the nonsense and the negativity and the falsities. Again, people who have...

KURTZ: Kellyanne?

CONWAY: ...never worked in a White House let alone on this one, telling us constantly what's going on in the White House. He knows better...


CONWAY: ...he is the president and he is rising above it.

KURTZ: I've got less than a minute. You made the point about what the media choose to cover. Now, what is the press supposed to do when the president tweets and says there might be tapes of his conversation with James Comey but then declines to say more about it and declines to say more about it, how do you not cover that as a story?

CONWAY: The president declines to say more about it too. He said he's not going to comment further on it. But the obsession with every tweet and every comment, and again, doing that myopically and not covering the jobs numbers, not covering the amazing trade deal that we just made with China that the president was able to do with China, it's huge. That'll impact many more people.

And it's like, oh, trade deal on beef with China, yawn. That's news. That affects people. That's significant movement. These job numbers, these economic indicators. The fact that healthcare has already -- is on its way to being repealed and replaced, the fact that leader McConnell and the president are working so hard together and others to get a full replacement...

KURTZ: We...

CONWAY: ...that matters to people, I'm telling you. I talk to real people every day, and this is what they discuss in return.

KURTZ: Well, maybe we should talk to more real people as well. Kellyanne Conway thanks very much for coming in on a Sunday.

CONWAY: Thank you.

KURTZ: We really appreciate it.

CONWAY: Thanks.

KURTZ: Up next, our panel on the coverage of the Comey firing and why some pundits are calling it a coup and worse?

And later, we'll do a deep dive on the dynamics of the White House press room with Ed Henry.


KURTZ: As the media firestorm rages over President Trump's firing of James Comey, joining us now to analyze the coverage, Erin McPike, White House Correspondent for Independent Journal Review; Margaret Carlson, Columnist for the Daily Beast; and Mollie Hemingway, Senior Editor at the Federalist and a Fox News Contributor.

So, Erin, it's a big story, it's a huge story. It has been covered aggressively. Does that justify and we put it up on the screen the daily news cover, coup to Trump, and these other words we played at the top, dictator, grotesque abuse of power, whiff of fascism?

ERIN MCPIKE, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Maybe fascism is too strong to start out with, and we should leave a little more time to see how this plays out over the next month or so.

KURTZ: Wait. It's not a -- coup? The president firing his FBI director is a coup...


KURTZ: ...a military coup?

MCPIKE: Well, it was that the daily news that you just showed? I mean...

KURTZ: Other pundits have used it as well.

MCPIKE: OK. Well, I actually think - I want to go to Kellyanne Conway's interview with you when she said the press didn't see this coming. Well, I'm pretty sure a number of reporters asked Sean Spicer and others a number of times if the president still had confidence in James Comey. And every single time they all said that he did.

So, we couldn't have seen this coming, and reporters were asking the questions. I think she's right in some respects that there's too much focus on palace intrigue and, you know, maybe all of those stories are wrong. So, look, I just think that that point was kind of misguided on some level...


MCPIKE: ...kind of right, kind of misguided.

KURTZ: Mollie Hemingway, you used a technical term this week, you said you were gob smacked by the media's coverage of this story. Now, is part of the media, because I don't want to apply this to reporters who are asking legitimate questions about apparently shifting explanations, going off the rails here?

MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. I mean, there's no question that this was a huge story, the firing of an FBI director. What was so fascinating though was how so many people in the media immediately went into a take which required you to basically accept a fairly extreme conspiracy theory about Russia and Trump, and they interpreted everything through that conspiracy theory, that this must be an attempt to thwart an investigation even though there was no evidence that that was the case, even though Trump himself said he believed that this might even extend the investigation, even though the FBI director has nothing to do with the actual investigation. They just immediately went into this very hostile.

KURTZ: Well, he does oversee it as head...

HEMINGWAY: He's the head of the FBI.


HEMINGWAY: Yes, but as far as the actual investigation, this would not be the way you thwart an investigation since he's not the one actually doing it. But more than that, it's just that they did all of this sans evidence.

And instead of thinking about his - and instead of thinking about why Comey did a bad job or why he lost the confidence of the president and just accurately reporting what happened, they immediately went to the most extreme interpretation of events.

And that makes it very hard for a viewer or for a reader to distinguish between legitimate complaints that the media have about Trump, of which there are many, and completely illegitimate almost cartoonishly (ph) hostile ones.

KURTZ: When you get these episodes, Margaret Carlson, like CNN Anchor, John Berman tweeting this has to do with the Trump suggestion he might get rid of the White House briefings, you could cancel briefings, you could do that, another choice would be to cancel lies. So, now, they're just opening - openly accusing the administration of lying.

MARGARET CARLSON, DAILY BEAST COLUMNIST: Well, the first explanations of why and how Comey was fired weren't exactly truthful. Lie is still one of those radioactive words. It's a big word to use, and you don't want to use it. And I agree with you, characterizing what's happened as fascism, to go to that length instead of just putting out the facts, and, in fact, the facts are fairly damning, Howie.

And it took, think about it, it took Woodward and Bernstein and the Watergate Committee to deal with the cover-up in the Nixon White House whereas Trump comes out the next day and says that everything that was said the day before wasn't true.

KURTZ: But, wait, the facts are fairly damning, I could see that saying that this was not a polished performance, particularly by communication staff that have one hour's notice here. But, ultimately, what this leads to and whether or not there's something here at the heart of the FBI investigation, we don't know at this point.

MCPIKE: We don't -- look, Sarah Huckabee Sanders in her press briefing the following day actually offered several explanations for it, 24 hours later. So, you know, yes, there was a problem with the communications staff, but Trump didn't give them the real reason for it until he went on TV in an interview himself and gave it.

HEMINGWAY: But can we stop and say there needs to be one reason and only one reason why someone gets fired? There are many reasons why Comey lost the confidence of everyone on both left and right, and it doesn't need to be one reason...


MCPIKE: It's not believable that he was saying -- he was thinking about this overtime and it only happened -- it happened immediately.


KURTZ: ...after the break, sorry.


KURTZ: the tyranny of television.

Ahead, by the way, Jimmy Kimmel milking the publicity surrounding his emotional appeal for ObamaCare.

But, first, the press is pouncing on the shifting accounts we're talking about the Comey firing, does that justify the word cover-up?


KURTZ: President Trump tweeting that he might do away with the White House press briefings, reporters asked Sean Spicer why that would be.


SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think he's a little dismayed as well as a lot of people that we come out here and try to do everything we can to provide you and the American people with what he's doing on their behalf and yet we see time and time again an attempt to parse every little word and make it more of a game of got you as opposed to really figure out what the policies are, why somebody is being pursued.


KURTZ: Mollie Hemingway, would President Trump actually kill the briefings and as I ask Kellyanne Conway is this being driven by their frustration that Sean Spicer and Sarah Huckabee Sanders and others are being hammered after President Trump told Lester Holt why he was going to fire him anyway which the president interpreted as changing the original story?

HEMINGWAY: You know, at the beginning of this administration, we were talking about how they had said they might change certain things about the press briefings. And I could totally see them changing things about the press briefings although these are such good things for them to in general but I don't imagine that they will get rid of them.

At the same time, there is a very good point to be made that the media have still failed to come to terms with the fact that somebody very different has become president and that person communicates differently, that person does not play Washington games the same way people are accustomed to people playing Washington games.

And I think the media should start responding to that reality instead of trying to demand that this president and this administration fit into that box that sort of all previous presidents have fit.

MCPIKE: Can I just say, the president was bluffing. They're not going to get rid of press briefings. And also...

KURTZ: Well, how do you know that?

MCPIKE: Of course, they're not going to. He's just trying to get the reaction and also look...

KURTZ: You're saying he's trying to drive the press crazy?

MCPIKE: Of course, that's what he does. But, look, it is the job of Sean Spicer and Sarah Huckabee Sanders to get hammered as you say by the press. It is their job to dodge punches every single day. So, you know, you can say that...


KURTZ: ...getting unfairly hammered because they're - you know, look, they make mistakes. We all make mistakes.


MCPIKE: ...Sean Spicer...


MCPIKE: day and said, it's my job to speak on behalf of the President of the United States.

KURTZ: Right.

MCPIKE: He said that to the press briefing one day.

KURTZ: But, you know, they are given information on all the issues and sometimes they are not getting the full story. The story changing...


MCPIKE: They're clearly not getting the full story...


MCPIKE: ...from the president, Howie.

KURTZ: So, we have this tweet, let me get you in here, Margaret.

CARLSON: Thank you.

KURTZ: About this, as a very active president, says Mr. Trump, with lots of things happening, it is not possible for my surrogates to stand in that podium with perfect accuracy?

CARLSON: Well, first, let me agree with Erin, he was bluffing about no more press briefings.

KURTZ: You're bouncing (ph) really certain.

CARLSON: It's like - it's like I'm going to take a kid, I'm taking my ball and going home because I didn't get my bat. This is ridiculous thing to say. He's not going to do it. And also, you know...

KURTZ: But what about...


KURTZ: Hold on. Hold on. I think it's unlikely they're going to abolish the briefings. They could cut them back. But what about the larger point that he feels like it's a game of got you and that these spokesmen or spokeswomen are being unfairly hammered...


KURTZ: ...although, this week, I think there were a lot of legitimate questions which makes sense.


CARLSON: Yes. The surrogates exploded a story that Trump and everybody else hoped it would work which was that, you know, Rod Rosenstein wrote a memo and it gave backing for him wanting to get rid of Comey.


KURTZ: ...with what having to do with Comey's mishandling of Hillary Clinton email messages.

CARLSON: Right. And, you know, there was so much on the record from Trump about Hillary Clinton that that was so phony you couldn't - you couldn't believe him for a second and Rod Rosenstein wasn't going to back up the president on that he was the motivating force.

KURTZ: Right, but there was still this question because the whole got you game here and then maybe it's unfair to characterize it that way has been we all know this was really about Donald Trump being uncomfortable with the FBI investigation and he thinks this is a hoax and a tax-fare funded charade and that's why he got rid of Comey as opposed to there could be a multiple reasons. As you said, but also, what if this Russian investigation doesn't lead to anywhere, will the press look pretty dumb for making such a big issue?

HEMINGWAY: Will the press look dumb for pushing this conspiracy theory? Absolutely, they better hope that they get the goods that Donald Trump himself is an agent of the Russian Government which is what we've been hearing for six months without any actual evidence and this is something that some media outlets are just putting out there every day with multiple stories using leaks that never seem to quite work out in a way that, you know, we don't actually have the goods. There...

KURTZ: When you say conspiracy theory, you're not saying there shouldn't be an investigation or that other people who are associated with Trump might have had questionable contacts like Mike Flynn for example?

HEMINGWAY: Right, there is the, what we are told about Russia actually meddling in the DNC emails and John Podesta's emails, we know that. We know that Trump has people who he's hired who had some affiliations with Russia. We don't actually have - we don't have evidence of the conspiracy that the media have put forth and hammered day after day.

The only way to make sense of the media hysteria, this week, is if you accept that conspiracy idea. And did -- we don't have the evidence for that and that is a very serious problem and it's going to make the media look foolish unless they really do -- unless somehow it really does come out that Donald Trump is a traitor.

MCPIKE: It is true that the media tends to get hysterical which they have since President Trump was elected and he was President-Elect Trump, but Donald Trump is bringing this on himself and he wants to. When he tweeted about the tapes, he knew immediately that every single journalist in the city was going to go to Nixon. He wanted that.

KURTZ: Let me get in to that...

MCPIKE: He wanted that.

KURTZ: Let me get into that next segment. Let me just close on this. Isn't there, as we cover this, a lot of hypocrisy on both sides, Democrats hated James Comey for what he did in the last two weeks of the campaign and reopening the Hillary Clinton investigation and went nowhere.

Republicans hated James Comey when he didn't bring charges against Hillary Clinton and so it isn't like Comey was such a popular guy on either side as much of the media, but now he is being...

CARLSON: Comey is...

KURTZ: ...portrayed as a person being dictated (ph) by the president.


CARLSON: Yes. Yes. Both sides disliked him maybe he was doing something right. Trump brought all of this on himself because he couldn't control...

KURTZ: What about the coverage? Is the coverage being fair? Has Trump put it all on himself? You have two different people on the opposite side - this hysteria in coverage, do you disagree with that?

CARLSON: The way this was done, the way one story was put out and then the next day it's completely erased by Trump giving an interview, yes, that was a very poor way to do it and it's self destructive. You know, by the way, Trump would have been a perfect coil for Trump.


KURTZ: My question - my question is there a degree of media hysteria as both Erin McPike and Mollie Hemingway have said?

CARLSON: I think there's White House hysteria and some media hysteria.

KURTZ: All right, so hysterical town.


KURTZ: Let us know what you think, is the email.

Coming up, are the media overreacting to the president floating that idea there might be tapes of his conversations with James Comey.

And later Jimmy Kimmel denies that he's an elitist freak.


KURTZ: President Trump was asked about his most eye-catching tweet of the week. James Comey better hope there are no tapes of conversations before he starts leaking to the press.


PIRRO: What about the idea that in a tweet you said that there might be tape recordings?

TRUMP: You know, that I can't talk about. I won't talk about that. All I want is for Comey to be honest and I hope he will be.


KURTZ: So, tapes became the instantly story, everywhere, echos of Watergate parallels to Saturday Night Massacre with Richard Nixon. Overreacting to a single tweet or is that so explosive that we all have to go crazy?

HEMINGWAY: I think it's totally legitimate to cover this and we actually got some good media coverage out of it, meaning good stories about it like learning that, in fact, presidents do tape the conversations in the White House. That's not just or that's not unique to Donald Trump...

KURTZ: Usually foreign leaders now, yes.

HEMINGWAY: ...this usually don't threaten which is what that was. It was a threat to James Comey and that is what of interesting, James Comey did - didn't -- the media didn't do a great job masking James Comey's identity as he was leaking stories after his firing and I think Trump is frustrated with leaks in large part because so many of them are untrue.

I mean we had stories on front pages of newspapers claiming that the deputy AG had threatened to resign. He denied that on the record. We were told that James Comey was fired after asking for more resources in the Russia probe that turned out to be untrue. We did not see corrections on these stories or retractions of this, even though on the record, we had multiple people denying them including sometimes the principals in question.

So, this leak issue where the media relies so much on leaks almost to the exclusion of source, people with names, is very frustrating and I think that's also...

KURTZ: The business about the tape came from a leak, it was a New York Times story according to associates of Comey who are saying Comey told associates that Trump had a dinner a week into the administration asking him to pledge loyalty that Comey declined and said he would be honest with him. President Trump told Jeanine Pirro, he saw nothing wrong on the question but he didn't ask it. So, is the press covering a head fake here, we don't know?

CARLSON: Well, I mean in this case, the media hysteria of what you speak is being fed by Donald Trump, by putting out on a tweet which says he better not be saying this, I might have tapes of it. Now, that is a radioactive tweet to put - to put out on top of the bond fire that's already there.

That there is something about Trump in the way all of this was handled -- there was a way to handle it, you know, as you say, Comey was an equal opportunity target. Nobody - maybe, he was doing his job, but nobody liked him.

He could have handled this differently than having one story and another story and then topping it off the cherry on the Sunday is this - is this revelation he's not going to talk about that he could be taping.

KURTZ: Right. When I saw Sean Spicer sort of deflect the questions, say the president has settled he was going to say about that I knew that they were going to leave it out there for the press to...

MCPIKE: Continue to talk about as another distraction, possibly.


CARLSON: Yes. How can you talk about healthcare when you have the president - as Kellyanne said, why aren't we talking about healthcare this week when you have the president putting out this.

KURTZ: Well...


HEMINGWAY: of the ways you can respond to this tweet and I do not deny it's explosive or even problematic, is thinking about how we don't actually have good answers from James Comey about whether he did or did not start an investigation of leaks that came out from the FBI which is really not just bad but criminal in some cases.

He declined to answer whether he even done an investigation. That would be a good line of inquiry for the media to pursue, is there an investigation, what's happening there? Why aren't we getting leaks on that investigation if it's real? That would just have been the example of another way...


KURTZ: I hope everybody is writing this down. By the way, it was sort of a weird situation this week when the president met with the Russian Foreign Minister and the Russian Ambassador, no U.S. press allowed and then these pictures emerge from Russian photographer.

White House later said, they have been kind of deceived, but the U.S. press was barred (ph) this is the only record we have and it came from the Russians. Mollie Hemingway, Margaret Carlson, Erin McPike, great to see you on Sunday.

After the break, has there ever been a more dysfunctional relationship between the president's spokes people and the press? With our White House correspondent, Ed Henry is on deck.


KURTZ: Let's go down now the dynamics between presidential press secretaries and the White House press corps, joining us is Ed Henry, Fox News Chief National Correspondent and the author of 42 Faith, The Rest Of The Jackie Robinson Story.


KURTZ: Same here. All right, so you have New York Times, Washington Post, there is the book, wait on that reporting based on leaks...


KURTZ: ...that President Trump is unhappy with his communications team which was kind of kept in the dark until about an hour...


KURTZ: ...before this broke, is it common to make these spokes people a scapegoat when things go wrong?

HENRY: Yes. I think people when the communication shop can get blamed, that's happened in previous administrations. I think this president has unique challenges because he is a strong communicator when he wants to be, but when it goes bad he sort of doubles down on Twitter and what not and his communication staff bears the brunt of, you know, the tough questions and the accusations that they want to tell them the truth because he changes the narrative.

KURTZ: And then President Trump said, "Well, you know, I'm moving so fast I'm such an activist president, that the president camp can't be expected to reflect my view with 100% accuracy."

HENRY: There's a truth to that and that he is...


HENRY: ...moving faster than other administrations. But where I think saw Judge Jeanine challenged him and I would challenge him is that, so you have the ability to slowdown, you can...

KURTZ: Right.

HENRY: know, and I think...

KURTZ: Just to be clear, we're not talking about slowdown here in terms of policies, I mean...

HENRY: It's a free country. He can do whatever he wants.


KURTZ: ...he - once he decides he's going to fire James Comey, he can...

HENRY: Absolutely.

KURTZ: ...say, let's wait a day, of course, he was afraid it was going to leak, but let's wait a day, let's have a roll out, let's have our, you know, we'll have people...

HENRY: Map it out and figure and it out.

KURTZ: ...on TV - yes.


HENRY: So, that it works to your benefit.

KURTZ: Right.

HENRY: You're the president. And on top of that, when I hear Kellyanne Conway say on the top of your show, I mean you have her exclusively she's saying, you guys aren't covering jobs, you're not covering healthcare, you're not - this China tribute - yes, there's good stuff this president has been doing.

You know who is also not talking about it, the president? Kellyanne Conway, she talks about it when she's complaining to you that all we're talking about is Russia when the president is tweeting about Russia.

KURTZ: Well, he does talk about jobs a lot when he has these road trips...

HENRY: Sometimes.

KURTZ: ...when he has these business executive...

HENRY: He has been on the road in a couple of weeks.

KURTZ: OK, but it is no questioning that in firing the FBI director...


HENRY: the White House talking about Russia.

KURTZ: ...firing the FBI director in this circumstance...


KURTZ: ...was going to be the dominant story.


HENRY:'s his choice and there are a lot of reasons why James Comey should have been fired. But, you're right, there was no real roadmap or plan to implement it.

KURTZ: What about all of these speculative stories about who's going to get fired? And it is ratcheting up now this Axios report, it could be Spicer, it could be Priebus, it could be Bannon, you know, and most of the time nothing happens but also the president is saying the press is unfair to Sean Spicer and Sarah Huckabee Sanders. I mean, you gone through a million briefings...


KURTZ: a White House correspondent, it can often be contentious?

HENRY: Yes. I mean look, do you think Scott McClellan had it easy or Ari Fleischer, they have contentious briefings. They have Dana Perino on. There were plenty of rough days...


KURTZ: ...Mike McCurry, during impeachment.

HENRY: ...Mike McCurry on the Democratic side...


HENRY: Do I think Republicans often get tougher questions? A lot of times they do. Where the people in the mainstream media want to admit that or not? Look at the front page of the New York Times today. OK, I'll give you a concrete example, there's a story about how the president is all angry, you see the cover of the New Yorker...


HENRY: ...that sort of humorous, but it says that all of the root of this according to New York Times story is that the president feels grievance, that he's not gotten credit for winning the election and they say on the jump and unpredictable presidency shaped by deep resentment.

Where is the front page story about the deep resentment on the left and how months later they don't feel credit on why they should have won? Hillary Clinton talked about this a week or so ago and she was aggrieved and the leftist is marching the streets with anger and yet "The New York Times" is focusing on the president's anger.

This president has not gotten a fair shake...

KURTZ: That's unbalance.

HENRY: ...that's true.


HENRY: But, my point to be absolutely clear is that he is not getting a fair shake but he sometimes makes it worse by engaging in these citing. Maybe there are tapes, for example, of course, the White House Press Corps will and should follow up on that.

KURTZ: All right, we're hearing - I've been hearing from a lot of Trump supporters say, yes, we should abolish briefings. Kick those reporters out. They're not fair. Now, what would your reaction be if Barack Obama fires up PR Director or someone and then halt the press briefings?

HENRY: ...I was in the briefing for that...


HENRY: ...we would have been pushing the president. We've been pushing Josh Earnest or Jay Carney. It gets back to my other point. You want to cancel the briefings? Fine. You're free. You can run this administration however you want. But then guess what, Kellyanne Conway you're not get your message out about jobs and healthcare. Yes, you can put...


KURTZ: ...the briefings aren't just for reporters.


KURTZ: ...reporters can't play god.


KURTZ: ...the same time, it lets the administration's live every day on cable to get the message out.

HENRY: They have 25 minutes to an hour to talk about whatever they want. Yes, there is some got you questions. Deal with those and then talk about your message.

KURTZ: All right, Ed Henry, bringing us the wisdom and experience. Thanks very much you for joining us.

HENRY: Good to see you.

KURTZ: Still to come, Jimmy Kimmel responding to critics who said he shouldn't have used the personal ordeal to go after President Trump, is he now another late-night partisan?


00334 KURTZ: Jimmy Kimmel has gotten a whole lot of publicity since an emotional monologue about his baby's lifesaving surgery which included a swipe for President Trump and an appeal for saving ObamaCare. Not all the coverage has been favorable which has given him more comedic father.


JIMMY KIMMEL, AMERICAN TELEVISION HOST: This is from something called, "The Washington Times", I don't think it's a real newspaper but, "Shut up, Jimmy Kimmel, you elitist creep." I would like to apologize for saying that children in America should have healthcare. It was insensitive.


KIMMEL: It was offensive and I hope you can find in your heart to forgive me.


KURTZ: It is a real newspaper and with lawmakers citing Kimmel standard for bringing health insurance, the ABC comments have been milking as he did hear while interviewing Republican Senator, Bill Cassidy.


KIMMEL: Since I am Jimmy Kimmel, I would like to make a suggestion as to what the Jimmy Kimmel Test should be. I'll keep it simple. The Jimmy Kimmel Test I think should be no family should be denied medical care or emergency or otherwise because they can't afford it. Can that be, the Jimmy Kimmel Test...


BILL CASSIDY, REPUBLICAN SENATOR: All right, man you're on the right track.


KURTZ: I still think Kimmel's objective politic and at (ph) heartfelt moment about his newborn son. Now, of course, he's entitled to speak about his (ph) healthcare but pretty clear from the anti-Trump drugs (ph) which side he is on.

Hey, let's put that New Yorker cover-up, whatever you think of the Comey firing, this is very funny. We had it up a moment ago as you see, Jeff Sessions dragging James Comey off the plane, Donald Trump is in the corner looking on.

That's it for this edition of "MediaBuzz", I'm Howard Kurtz. We hope you'll checkout our Facebook page, give us a like, follow me on Twitter on howardkurtz and let me know what you think of the show, weigh in and we'll continue the conversation.

And we're back here next Sunday. See you then 11 o'clock Eastern with the latest buzz.

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