Furor over White House shakeup
This is a rush transcript from "Media Buzz," July 30, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: On the buzz meter this Sunday, the media all revved up over the big White House shake up as President Trump boots Reince Priebus as chief of staff, replaces him with Homeland Security chief John Kelly and Anthony Scaramucci raises the decibel level.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFPOST: I know there is a word that's out today supposedly that Reince Priebus knew all about this yesterday and they were going through the motions. I don't buy it for a second. I think this was executed gangland style.
AMY WALTER, THE COOK POLITICAL REPORT: The situation in the White House that was seen last week was unsustainable. It could not continue like this. There needed to be a shakeup.
DANA PERINO, FOX NEWS: He was basically not able to function and do his job and the best thing I guess for everybody is for him to move on.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
KURTZ: Is it fair for the press to be calling this chaos, this after Scaramucci vowed to crackdown on leaks to the press and squash Priebus in an X-rated phone call to a journalist.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: You're either going to work inside the culture the way the president wants it or you're going to be on Pennsylvania Avenue out here selling postcards to the tourist. It's one or the other.
When I put out a tweet and I put Reince's name out in a tweet they're all making the assumption that it's him because journalists know who the leakers are. So if Reince wants to explain that he's not a leaker, let him do that. There are people inside the administration that think it is their job to save America from this president. OK, that is not their job.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
KURTZ: Can Scaramucci really stop the leaks or is that a hopeless mission? And what about media criticism of the president castigating his own attorney general on twitter.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
JAKE TAPPER, CNN: How much longer will the attorney general be able to take all this trolling?
JESSE WATTERS, FOX NEWS: And he is thinking this is what it's like being president of the United States. My attorney general should defend me. He will be my protector.
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC: The very first senator who endorsed Donald Trump for president is now apparently Donald Trump's enemy, according to Donald Trump.
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: -- and will destroy Trump media and some of the Washington political elite, they are apoplectic about the president criticizing his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, who is a good man by the way.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
KURTZ: Is the press, which is usually skeptical to Jeff Sessions, taking his side against Donald Trump.
The Senate's last ditch efforts to revamp ObamaCare collapses with John McCain casting the decisive middle of the night vote. Are many of the pundits cheering a Republican failure? Plus, "Rolling Stone" is pining for a new president who happens to govern our neighbor to the north.
I'm Howard Kurtz and this is "MediaBuzz."
It's been one breaking news bombshell after another. The media have lurched from the storm of Anthony Scaramucci, the new communications chief declaring war on Reince Priebus, and the debate over Scaramucci's language to the president accepting Priebus' resignation giving the job to retired General Kelly. A classic shake up here and all kinds of analysis and commentary on how the White House emerges from this tumultuous period.
Joining us to analyze the coverage is Shannon Pettypiece, Washington bureau chief of Bloomberg News, Katie Pavlich, the editor of Townhall.com and a Fox News contributor, and Joe Trippi, the Democratic strategist and also a Fox News contributor. Shannon, given the saturation coverage of these ousters, Reince Priebus, before that it was Sean Spicer, press using word like chaos and dysfunction, is that fair or a bit over the top?
SHANNON PETTYPIECE, BLOOMBERG NEWS: The White House did in a bit acknowledged themselves with the shakeup that things have gotten out of control, that they needed to rein it in, that there is too much freelancing, too much leaking, too much -- I don't know if they used chaos but implying that Kelly was here to restore order.
So, I mean, we've seen it play out in the media, you know, the infighting, the backstabbing, the disorganization. This week really seem to be the White House acknowledging that that is in fact the case by putting Kelly in there to restore order.
KURTZ: Katie, the media have written I think by my count, about 10,000 stories saying Reince is gone. It was (INAUDIBLE) to cut next week and now of course it's finally happened. Are the pundits happy for he has lost that job because he didn't get very god press?
KATIE PAVLICH, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I'm not so sure if they're necessarily happy. I think the prediction that he would actually go was accurate and I think that Reince was put --
KURTZ: Too immature at times.
PAVLICH: Too immature at times but I think that he was out into a very tough position in the sense the president put him into a similar position with Steve Bannon. There wasn't really one chief of staff. Now, they will be under General Kelly. So I think it was difficult for, I mean by to really get the White House under control to make sure there was one person in charge to restore order to make sure that things weren't happening.
I think Scaramucci came in thinking he might be the one to do that. Now, what we have on Friday (INAUDIBLE) no, General Kelly is now in charge and I doubt he has very little patience for the drama and the chaos and hopefully moving forward we'll see more order restored to the White House.
KURTZ: Joe, General Kelly enjoys a very good reputation as a straight shooter but he's kept a while to be low profile with the press. He's going to get a lot more scrutiny. Is the press setting expectations too high that he's going to come in and bark orders and everyone is going to salute?
JOE TRIPPI, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, absolutely. I think they're setting too high, but the one thing I'd like to remind you that this was heroes' week, this past week. And you had the Boy Scouts, the Pentagon and the police departments because of tweets or things President Trump said in speeches, push back against the president.
It points to the problem here. You can change the chief of staff, but it still gets down to the communications problem. It may not have been Reince Priebus, it may not have been Sean Spicer --
KURTZ: But that's been the circus (ph) of a lot of the stories is because General Kelly might be able to the staff, can he manage the boss who famously does things his own way? I don't think that's going to change all that much. Look, the media have been going absolutely nuts over Anthony Scaramucci sort of coming on like gang busters. Is that in part because it's good TV?
PETTYPIECE: I mean, some it is just remarkable, the things that a communications director, the person in charge of communications and messaging and to just point communication messaging. There were good things that happened this week for the president's agenda. The Foxconn announcement on jobs, heroes week, you know, a Boy Scout, giving the recognition to the police officers who were at the Scalise shooting.
But the communications director took them off of that communications message. And the media, you know, when you have someone that is high profile going out there, the media follows that story and that became the story and Scaramucci became the news rather than other things happening in the White House.
So, to exactly that point, having Kelly to try to get the messaging back on straight, they have to keep to their messaging and I don't know if Kelly will be able to control Scaramucci. I don't know if he'll be control the president's tweets. To that point, it's going to be sort of more of the same of the distractions and the off-topic messaging.
KURTZ: We'll come back to more about what Anthony Scaramucci said in the phone call that I think he believe was off the record, but when he says that we heard this from the scene and that there are people in this White House who think they have to save America from this president and therefore they put out leaks and sometimes make the president look bad or make themselves look good. Is he right?
PAVLICH: Look, there are plenty of people in the White House to give reporters stories off the record who don't want their names to be in the media, but they do that also on purpose so that they can get a sort of narrative out to distract away from the Russia narrative for example. It's not all bad leaking.
And for Scaramucci then to come out to accuse his colleagues of leaking I think lead to the response from some people saying the White House is out of control, I'm actually fearing for my safety to come into work tomorrow. It's not a great environment to walk into when he's trying to build a new team and he himself has said I'm willing to fire anyone and everyone in this White House including you start over if we can't get to the bottom of this.
And so in terms of the leaking, we'll have to see if it stops but I'm not convinced it's not coming from people at the top of the White House to simply get a story right out.
TRIPPI: But this kind of leaking happens in every White House when you have differing factions and that's one of the trademarks of this White House, is there is more factions than anybody can even count. And so how Kelly or anybody can create a White House that, you know, gets the factions gone and gets the leaking stopped.
KURTZ: And look a little bit of the backstory here because Anthony Scaramucci posted a tweet that he later deleted calling the leaking he said, the leaking of his financial information and how much money he had made from his former hedge fund that he is in process of selling, a felony and he tagged Reince.
He put Reince Priebus' name in this tweet. "Politco" says which "Politico" have reported the story got a publicly available financial disclosure form. It didn't have to rely on any leak while, you know, the move (INAUDIBLE) back down and I've seen an interview, but you say leaking in this White House, leaking in every White House, haven't you been in all the campaigns where you have calling the person who shared things you didn't want attributed to you?
TRIPPI: Yes. Those things happen in every campaign and in every White House. Again, it's about the factions. I mean, there are factions in the campaigns that I was in that wanted me out, right. OK, they got a leak on and vice versa. I'm not denying that. I'm just saying that in this White House because of the way President Trump set this thing up with all the different factions, it becomes really impossible for any communications director or the chief of staff to maintain any kind of unanimity because of that.
KURTZ: I just wanted to get that perspective but there is a lot of leaking that goes on some of it out of control, some of it by design, some of to the direction of whoever is the boss in every administration, every campaign. All right, another sort of a spectacular thing that happened this week was having to do with Jeff Sessions, the president continuing his campaign on twitter against his own attorney general.
He's put up a couple tweets. Number one, "Attorney General Jeff Sessions, says the president, has taken a very weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes (where are e-mails and DNC server) and intel leakers!" Another tweet from the president, "So why aren't the committees and investigators and of course our beleaguered A.G., looking into croked Hillary's crimes and Russia relations.
And them Margaret Taleve of Bloomberg asked the president a question in a news conference saying do you actually want Jeff Sessions to resign. Why are you letting him twist in the wind? The president disputed that and then he said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: But I am disappointed in the attorney general. He should not have recused himself almost immediately after he took office. And if he was going to recuse himself he should have told me prior to taking office.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: And says the president he wouldn't have given him the job. Now, the media have described this campaign if you want to call that everything from humiliation to cyber bullying. Is that a bit rough? I mean, the guy works for him and he's expressing his displeasure.
PETTYPIECE: And you read the tweet. I don't think we've ever seen a president publicly attacking their attorney general, maybe privately, maybe behind close doors, but publicly to your 30 something million followers attacking your attorney general, and not even over policy but over a decision that was made to recuse yourself to make sure an investigation is seen as open and, you know, it's an ethical decision he made.
So, that's what -- I think that's sort of what the media was responding to. And also then seeing the Republicans on the Hill come to a very concerted defense of him, there is also response to that.
KURTZ: Not just the Republicans, also many conservative pundits and commentators criticizing President Trump for going after Sessions who they view as carrying out the Trump agenda, being very aggressive at the Justice Department and so many of them have rallied to Session' defense.
PAVLICH: Yes, a former Secretary of State, Ken Blackwell from Ohio, who is also on the president's voter fraud commission came out in defense of Jeff Sessions. Many groups like the Tea Party Patriots came out and said, look, the Obama administration destroyed the Justice Department, made it corrupt. Jeff Sessions is coming in, cleaning it out and making sure the rule of law is restored.
And if you look at the things that happened last week in terms of that MS- 13 announcement, there were hundreds of members charged in El Salvador as Jeff Sessions visited. He's getting results and it was baffling to people from across the board, from conservatives to liberals why the president would be attacking Jeff Sessions for a number of reasons, not just on the recusal.
KURTZ: Right. Sessions in a conversation with Tucker Carlson defended the recusal from the Russia investigation as he'd been part of the campaign, and he said the president tweets were hurtful but he didn't go much farther and that he clearly wants to get some peace. Joe, on your side, liberal commentators, a number of them saying very nice things about the very conservative former senator from Alabama, telling him not to resign, so suddenly he's worthy of defending because President Trump who they probably dislike even more wants him out?
TRIPPI: No, I think he did get a lot of support from liberals.
KURTZ: Why is that?
TRIPPI: Look, there is a different between not agreeing with him on a lot of the policies he's implemented and his being an independent attorney general that the president should not be trying to force out in the wake of an investigation into the president. So there is a difference there. It's about the rule of law and about protecting that institution of the attorney general.
KURTZ: So much that they wouldn't give me a break, firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to weigh in. When we come back President Trump now dealing with Anthony Scaramucci and we're going to drill down on that as well as he has made some news.
And later, Trump adviser Dave Bossie on the coverage of all this turmoil swirling around the White House.
KURTZ: And Anthony Scaramucci called The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza with that bleeping rant. He demands to know who have leaked him the certain story. Scaramucci said, and I'm cleaning this up here, "Priebus is a blanking paranoid schizophrenic." He will be asked to resign soon. He said he wanted to effing kill all the lawyers and that senior strategist Bannon was blanking his own blank, pleasuring himself in an anatomically difficult way. Now all this fueled a debate over his crude talk and his effort to find out whether Priebus was leaking against him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I never had someone at that level, a communications director for the White House so unsolicited call up and start in one, on demanding to know who my sources are. It was just not done the way it would be. Nobody would do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Katie, having all the X-rated language out there from that phone call doesn't look good. Some people find it offensive but it had the effect of bringing about a thousand times more attention to Scaramucci's attacks on just Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon but the leakers in the White House.
PAVLICH: Look, I don't believe for a second that this was not a planned and executed phone call from Anthony Scaramucci. When you look at the lineup of events, when you look at Sean Spicer resigning last Friday, this phone call comes in, he talks about Reince getting fired soon or being forced to resign. He resigns on Thursday night.
It's forced out on Friday and he's forced to drive home alone away from the motorcade and then awkwardly does interviews from the White House Friday night. I think that this was planned and I think that Scaramucci was sent out by someone in the White House to make this phone call.
KURTZ: My reporting suggests that's not the case and, you know, while he certainly maybe wanted to get the message out to the call tonight unless he did not want all of those words to be quoted, and by the way, speaking of these words that we can't say on television, all these fainting going on over the Mooch's very rough language and I'm sorry, have these people ever worked in news rooms?
KURTZ: A guy who sends dead fish to his opponents.
PETTYPIECE: I did not. I mean, I very, very, rarely if ever had someone and especially a spokesperson, a communications person. Maybe a lawyer for someone or and M&A banker, but never someone who is in the role as a spokesperson for an organization curse at me on the phone.
KURTZ: Do you ever do?
TRIPPI: The press went way over the top on this. I mean the fact the following on all the salacious, you know, and salty language missed really important things in that interview. It didn't get very much attention. The fact that he was talking about digital fingerprints, having digital fingerprints on people in the White House.
KURTZ: As he's investigating who may be among the leakers.
TRIPPI: Right. He had contacted the FBI to have them go after these petty leaks, not the national security leaks that are going on.
TRIPPI: So what I mean is the press didn't follow up on those very much. You didn't hear very much about that. I think they would have been more important to investigate that or they ask those questions than --
TRIPPI: To get all tangled up in the language.
KURTZ: Now some of these deals with tones so for example Ryan Lizza said that Saramucci had told him, you know, as a patriotic American he should tell him his source, the reason he thought it was Priebus. Priebus didn't have to leak that particular story. I'll get to that in a second, but I'm told it was a joke, you know, well, it's so unpatriotic of you not to tell me.
What this was about was a single tweet by The New Yorker's Ryan Liza about a White House dinner that Scaramucci attended with the president with Sean Hannity, with Kimberly Guilfoyle, with former Fox Ness co-president Bill Shine and obviously Scaramucci didn't want that to become public.
So, all of this suggest that you got to use really -- you got to not drop any F-bombs when you talk to the press? I mean, didn't the whole message get muddled here by all of this?
PETTYPIECE: Well, I mean I think Joe pointed out some very god points. I mean, I would encourage everyone to talk in respectful language to each other because we all are professionals trying to do a job an I don't think it's ever respectful to, you know, use that type of language for me personally. But you now, you are now -- I think the message will be you are now the communications director. You are the spokesperson for the White House, for the president.
KURTZ: Don't become the story.
PETTYPIECE: Don't become the story and think before you open your mouth.
KURTZ: Did you ever call anybody up and leave a message less than (INAUDIBLE)?
TRIPPI: Absolutely, but I'm not the White House communications director.
KURTZ: And you were a campaign manager. You're looking for the guy. He worked for Howard Dean.
TRIPPI: And I was smart enough to say Howie, when I did it with you I was smart that the call to Howie, we have an off the record conversation. And when you said yes, we are bund.
PAVLICH: The issue was the content of the conversation, him going after Reince Priebus with so much veracity and the tension within the White House, the rumors about the shake up. It's not about the language. It's about the content and who he was going after and calling him a schizophrenic. I mean, come on.
KURTZ: But I think with the president's (INAUDIBLE) permission because Reince Priebus ended up getting forced out. Got to go, Joe Trippi and Katie Pavlich, thanks very much and we'll see you a bit later.
Ahead on "MediaBuzz," the president facing a media firestorm over his plans to bar transgender people from the military. Why did he announce it on twitter? And up next, Senate Republicans fail once again to pass the healthcare bill and John McCain calls out the pundits.
KURTZ: The Republicans last ditch effort to pass some kind of ObamaCare repeal collapsed in a middle of a night drama involving John McCain who returned to the Senate while battling a brain tumor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
KRISTEN WELKER, NBC NEWS: After campaigning for seven years on a promise to repeal and replace ObamaCare in this critical moment, they couldn't get it done, and it was Senator John McCain, the self-proclaimed maverick who delivered the final blow.
MARY BRUCE, ABC NEWS: This was a massive blow to Republicans, the president and their defining pledge to the American people. In a very early morning hours in their latest push to overhaul ObamaCare came crashing down.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
KURTZ: Joining us now is a reporter who's covered the story, Susan Ferrechio, chief congressional correspondent for the Washington Examiner. So, the media fall in and out of love with John McCain over the years, but now when he cast this decisive vote, New York Times a stunning moment, a flash of the maverick. John McCain was unafraid of going his own way. Is that because many in the press are relieved that he essentially saved ObamaCare for now?
SUSAN FERRECHIO, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Yes, and I think it's really interesting, you know, he's endeared himself to reporters over the years from the time he ran for president in 2000 to now in the hallways. He's a talkative lawmaker. We flock to him like moths to the flame because he's willing to tell us what's going on and he's endeared himself to reporters. No question about it.
It was more like what he did than what he said though. If he had gotten on the floor and moved this product forward to conference and kept healthcare alive, you know, you wouldn't have seen this narrative that he's a maverick and some kind of a hero. That's not what the media is supposed to be doing anyway. We're supposed to be just covering a story.
KURTZ: We're supposed to be just covering a story but he did get some flack from some in the media when he cast the initial vote, which is a procedural vote just to let the debate go forward and hoping that they could reach some kind of compromise and when he returned to the Senate John McCain also took a shot at this business, take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: Stop listening to the bombastic loudmouths on the radio and television and the internet. To hell with them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Speaking on behalf of loudmouths, was he talking about bombastic commentators on the right as well as the left?
FERRECHIO: No. He was talking about -- I cold name them but, you know, the people who are conservative heroes on conservative radio, Mark Levin, Rush Limbaugh who often come out against some of the leadership in the Republican Party for being too moderate.
KURTZ: That's what it should on the right.
FERRECHIO: So exactly, that's what he was saying.
KURTZ: Because they criticize him as being a rhino or not being in line with the party.
FERRECHIO: Absolutely. They're very sensitive to that on Capitol Hill, to Mark Levin and Rush and their sort of back and forth there and I think they wish that he would be quite, you know.
KURTZ: So, some Republicans like McCain think some of these folks who have, you know, big followings and are very influential on the right have too much power to make them look bad.
FERRECHIO: Oh, absolutely. And they do have power, you know. The talk radio on the right has spurred so many important things in politics. Dave Brat, the Virginia congressman who defeated Eric Cantor, then the majority leader, you know, he came really out of conservative talk radio. They really bolstered his candidacy. They have the power to do that so, there's reason for these Republican leaders to be fearful of them.
KURTZ: Last question, the media tried to fight both sides as supposed to fight (ph) both sides. Is there any way to spin this other than a total failure by Republicans, President Trump by extension, on a signature issues that the GOP on the Hill we're talking about for seven years?
FERRECHIO: Well, first of all it's not over. They're still talking about moving this thing along and I don't think -- and you can look at is as a total failure with what they're trying to do is undo an entitlement, which has been nearly impossible for either party to try to reform over the years.
KURTZ: Are you saying they may have just aimed too high?
FERRECHI: No, I just think the process, the politics, the entitlement, the way it became entrenched over the years made this really difficult to do. They tried to do two things at once. It's not over though. I do think that they're going to try to do something. Watch the next couple of weeks when the Congressional Budget Office scores this thing. You may see something happen.
KURTZ: Well sometimes these bills come back to life. It happened with the ObamaCare bill.
FERRECHIO: It certainly did.
KURTZ: It certainly happened with the House bill which failed and then passed. Susan Ferrechio, grat to see you.
KURTZ: Thanks very much for stopping by. Ahead, what is the role of journalists when sensitive leaks, leaks to them become a front burner issue? But up next, Dave Bossie, President Trump's former deputy campaign chief weighing in on the coverage of this tumultuous week.
KURTZ: In the White House point of view, we turn to Dave Bossie, a Trump advisor and president of Citizens United and a Fox News contributor. We sat down shortly before we came on the air.
KURTZ: Dave Bosssie, welcome.
DAVID BOSSIE, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks for having me.
KURTZ: New York Times this morning on the shakeup, "dysfunctional White House." Washington Post, "floundering administration." The media narrative now is that this has been a mess.
BOSSIE: It's always, well, it's The New York Times. It's the fake news divisions across America.
KURTZ: The shakeup is not fake news.
BOSSIE: Yes, the shakeup is not but dysfunctional and a mess is just over the top and it is the sensationalism, you know, in order to try to disparage this president. That really is part of the element that got him elected in the first place. The American people don't believe it. The American people believe that it is fake news. They believe that the American media now, four stories on this and tell it the way they want to try to control --
KURTZ: But when --
BOSSIE: -- and the president of the United States takes them on every day using his social media platform, Twitter on the right, to tell the American people directly without the media, directly what he believes.
KURTZ: But when a president six months into his term replaces the Reince Priebus, brings in John Kelly (INAUDIBLE) his press secretary, it would certainly suggest there are some problems he is trying to fix.
BOSSIE: Barack Obama did it. George Bush did it. Bill Clinton did it. Every president makes changes but it doesn't mean it is dysfunction. It means people serve at the discretion of the president of the United States and when he wants to make a change --
KURTZ: He's entitled to do it.
BOSSIE: -- it doesn't require catastrophe. It requires the president wanting to go in a different direction. Those are two different things.
KURTZ: OK, but here's one of the problems. Reince Priebus, other White House officials were constantly leaking to the press that he was struggling in his job, that he wasn't able to excise any authority, that he was on his way out. He got little respect. Do you think he was treated unfairly?
BOSSIE: No. What I think is that Reince with all the disparate factions that we've all read about within the White House was not set up to succeed if you will. He wasn't set up to fail, but he wasn't set up to succeed from the get-go.
And I think that gave him a difficult set of circumstances to try to navigate and I think General Kelly will now come in and be a commander of that White House. He will --
KURTZ: But there will still be the no-nonsense --
BOSSIE: But they all are saying they report to the new chief of staff.
BOSSIE: That's a different characterization for them to put themselves in. I think to be subordinate to General Kelly I think is an important first step to get this White House back on track.
KURTZ: Are you saying they will all salute?
BOSSIE: I think they'll tip their hat.
KURTZ: A lot of unusual sympathy in the media in the last week or so for Jeff Sessions who's been the target of a number of negative tweets and comments by his boss, the president. I think the media's assumption is that President Trump would like his attorney general to quit. Unfair?
BOSSIE: I think the president has made very clear and I think that Attorney General Sessions full understands that the president is disappointed in him recusing himself and making that initial decision which has cascaded into a major distraction for the White House.
KURTZ: In the Russia investigation.
BOSSIE: In which is a complete non-story. It is a fabricated story. I worked on the campaign. This is an outrage to me. There are people almost one year later talking about this story wherein multiple congressional investigation, Department of Justice independent investigation, millions of dollars in taxpayer money being wasted on these investigation, not one shred of evidence. Not one scintilla of evidence that there has been any collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign. It's an outrage that this continues.
KURTZ: Let's turn to the Senate Republicans failing to get a healthcare bill. You've called this an embarrassment. The president obviously not happy about it. In fairness, the coverage has mostly been on Mitch McConnell and company, but does the president who promised that sure in the campaign bear some responsibility for the fact that this bill has not gotten through.
BOSSIE: Well, I think it really lies and I think the American people understand that the responsibility lies for those who had seven years of planning to get to this point. It's not a surprise actually, nine months ago when the president won. So even if you want to give them that, Congress has had nine months to get it right on top of the seven years that they ran election cycle after election cycle of repeal and replace ObamaCare.
We won the House. We won the Senate. We won dozens and dozens of seats over that issue, raised money on that issue, to get those people elected. And now they can't do anything. It is, you know, Senators --
KURTZ: You sound frustrated. You sound frustrated.
BOSSIE: I am. It's Senators Collins, Murkowski and McCain. It is really a failure of character on their part.
KURTZ: Trump aides, advisers, you yourself have said that the media focus way too much on the Russia investigation, the palace intrigue at the expense of substantive issues.
KURTZ: We have a week like this past week with the changing of the guard like the chief of staff, last week with Sean Spicer resigning, that kind of forces its way to the top of the media agenda. In other words, do we really not have a choice but to focus on all of this turmoil?
BOSSIE: Look, it is to me obviously the news at the White House is a big deal. Any news at the White House is a big deal. So, a change in chief of staff is an honest story but cover it honestly. Don't cover it -- not you Howie, but the others, the media, the "New York Times," the "Washington Post," and the media entities that are after this president. That's the frustration that I have, that they don't give him a chance because they don't honestly depict the stories as they are happening.
KURTZ: Dave Bossie, thanks very much for joining us.
BOSSIE: Thanks for having me.
KURTZ: Next, on "MediaBuzz," the president facing another media firestorm this one over his plan to bar transgender people from the military. And why did he announce it on twitter.
KURTZ: There was no shortage of media criticism after President Trump tweeted a new policy that would bar transgender people from serving the military, and that was evident at the White House briefing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS: Why did you decide to do this given that during the campaign he has declared that he would protect the rights of transgender individuals. He said he would be better on this issue than Hillary Clinton. Now, he's turned the clock back.
APRIL RYAN, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO: What do you say to transgender in America who wants to continue with the change?
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
KURTZ: Joining us now, Emily Jashinsky, commentator and writer for the Washington Examiner and Francesca Chambers, White House correspondent for DailyMail.com. Emily, whether you agree with the transgender ban or not, when Trump tweeted this, he had to know there would be a thunderous media condemnation and with clips of him talking during the campaign about fighting for the rights of LGBTQ people.
EMILY JASHINSKY, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Right, and that makes you think that it must have been strategic because this president understands media so he must have had a reason that he did it. But it's interesting that he did it without having a fresh strategy from the Department of Defense and from the Pentagon.
KURTZ: Some of whom complained that they were out of the loop on this.
JASHINSKY: Exactly, which I think exacerbated the fact that it blew up into a massive story on a day frankly where healthcare was probably at foremost on the minds of most voters around the country. This impacted a lot of people and that's probably what they were wondering about that day.
KURTZ: Francesca, you also have the spectacle of reporters asking Sarah Huckabee-Sanders at the briefing whether this meant for example that the thousands of transgender people already serving in the military would be expelled and she hadn't been given the information to answer these questions.
FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, DAILYMAIL.COM: Well that's right, and that's what makes this so fascinating with the fact that the Department of Defense didn't seem to know about this or whether it was happening. Then you have Sarah Huckabee-Sanders who was unable to say when this policy would take place. How long we could expect for it to be implemented. And I think that was what made this such a media interest story, was once again, the disconnect between the president and one of his cabinet secretaries.
KURTZ: So, there seemed to be a lot more energy in the media on this on the left. So by our count, CNN on days it was announced in 36 segments. MSNBC to 29 segments. Fox News did eight. So, there's just a lot of outrage that the president would even go there, reversing this Obama administration rule or attempting to on twitter.
JASHINSKY: Yes. I think a lot of these mainstream newsrooms are dominated by people in social progressive cities who have some more background and for them this is a priority and a way that it's not and they don't think they understand that and the rest of the country.
People are so very deeply hesitant about transgenderism and people are still, you know, in some areas just plain ambivalent and probably more concerned about healthcare that they are about this issue which of course is very important to the people it affects, but healthcare was affecting a lot of people, too, on a different scale.
KURTZ: Do you agree with that about reasons mostly being staffed by progressive people who would naturally feel that this is the wrong move?
CHAMBERS: Well, I think that part of the reason that people are asking a out it and covering it was because there was a lot of interest in it. There was a lot of interest in it from people in America in this particular story and whether they are on the left or whether you're on the right.
But also on that day, another thing that was happening in there and what I asked about in that same press briefing, was what in the heck was going on with Jeff Sessions in this very public fight between Jeff Sessions. So it's not necessarily that they would have just been talking about healthcare if he hadn't done that that day. They would have also had to take more questions on Jared Kushners testimony before lawmakers on the Russia collusions story.
There would have been additional questions probably on Jeff Sessions. There was also Rex Tillerson and his little break that he was taking.
KURTZ: We had a lot to cover.
CHAMBERS: Right now, there was a lot of other things -- there was a lot of other things that were going on at that time so it's not necessarily true that there would have been a conversation about healthcare and some legal policies.
JASHINSKY: Agree but that's what's interesting to me, is that when you're going to different news websites on that day, this was the headline. So, this headline --
KURTZ: This was the news story until that day.
JASHINSKY: Exactly, and that's why it's interesting to me because all of it were very substantive news that impacted I think a wider swath of people.
KURTZ: The policy not yet taking effect according to the Pentagon until there's a formal order. So meanwhile, you know, there has been -- this is a good example, lots' of media criticism about the, let's just say unorthodox way that the president makes and announces decisions or announces a new chief of staff, tweets, speeches, sometimes seemingly out of hand, because he's throwing off a traditional (INAUDIBLE) as we saw in the campaign, that the media keep acting shocked that this president does things differently.
JASHINSKY: Right. I mean, that Trump sending a tweet is I think is no surprise. He's done this time and again with policies. I think it's wrong but it shouldn't be probably at this point.
KURTZ: Why is it wrong?
JASHINSKY: Well, I think especially to do it when this impact -- this policy had basically invited people in the military to make very personal psychological decisions over the course of the past year which you can agree with or not but they're very personal and psychological and to tweet it I think sort of down plays that.
KURTZ: So you're saying that he shouldn't have twitted it because there wasn't enough information or that he shouldn't use twitter to announce presidential decisions. I mean, why not?
JASHINSKY: I think in this instance when you have people who made the decision to come out in the military, these are people who are serving their country, putting their lives on the line. You can agree with the decision or not that they've made personally, but either way, it is very personal, and to do it abruptly on twitter with little information I think was wrong.
KURTZ: We have less than a minute, I mean, this even extends to the staff shakeup that we've all been talking about. Ordinarily, you would have a nice photo-op at the White House. The president would thank Reince Priebus. He would welcome General Kelly. Each man would say a few words, same thing with Sean Spicer leaving. Instead, it's a late Friday tweet and the media don't like that. They have a grudge about this.
CHAMBERS: Well constantly in this administration if you want to know what the president is thinking, you can just go directly to the president or you can go directly to his twitter and find out exactly that because often he's moving so fast, as he said that the staff just can't keep up with what is going on. And so the power is very concentrated with the executive in this administration.
KURTZ: Yes, it's a social media presidency. He's a 21st century presidency. Francesca Chambers and Emily Jashisnsky, thanks very much for stopping by this Sunday.
After the break, more on the Scaramucci storm. If a White House official delivers an x-rated rant that he assumes is off the record, so journalists have any obligation to clarify that.
KURTZ: Anthony Scaramucci's rather crude tirade to the "New Yorker's" Ryan Lizza raises some basic journalistic questions. We're back with White House correspondent Shannon Pettypiece. So, Lizza says Scaramucci never explicitly put the call off the record so he's entitled to publish it. Fair point. Scaramucci believed there was an implicit understanding in the way he was talking and the language that he used that it was off the record. He later tweeted, "I made a mistake in trusting a reporter. It won't happen again."
So, did Ryan Lizza, who is a good reporter, also a liberal voice in The New Yorker and CNN, burn him?
PETTYPIECE: I don't know really the details of how that conversation took place. Traditionally, the way I operate as a reporter, if someone calls me, they're not used to dealing with reporters. They're not familiar with on the record, off the record. They're sort of the layman in this area. I give people the benefit of the doubt that they're talking to me something personally one-on-one.
I think what makes it different here though is that this is the communications director, someone in charge of communications and again, I mean, they've talked to the media for years, even has his own TV program. He knows how the media works. When you call up, if you got something to say that you don't want on the record as a spokesman, you got to make that clear. You got to say that.
KURTZ: That was a misstep. No question about that, but I've gotten dozens of calls over the years from politicians and operatives who have ranted and raved and cursed in a way they wouldn't want published and I would jump in. I will say, OK, are we talking here, we're on the record here.
Do you want this attributed to you because otherwise it feels to me like a bit of gotcha, like they're trusting me enough to unload and not carefully weigh every word and I say, oh, you didn't say the magic words, off the record. I'm going to now use this, but it's a judgment call.
PETTYPIECE: Yes, and I would imagine there is a lot of discussion and debate about this in the newsroom. You know, the question too, is there news value to this. What news value do we have? You know, how does this help advance the story if we use this on the record even if they didn't say off the record. I don't know if they went back to him and try to discuss any of this at all.
KURTZ: There was a follow-up call in which was it says Scaramucci conceded that he didn't take it any further off the record. But again, he clearly was disappointed. And there was news value in that conversation beyond --
PETTYPIECE: Great. It was very clear he was thinking about a lot of these issues.
KURTZ: Beyond the F bombs and so forth. Last question, so, with reporters covering Scaramucci's crusade against White House leakers is what this is all about, many reporters are also the recipient of these leaks. So, is there too much self-interest here to treat this issue fairly?
PETTYPIECE: Once this leak story or once leaks really became a priority of the president and the attorney general, that's when, I mean, our felt our organization really started following this leak story and it became a news story because it was a priority of the president. It was an issue about the president. We write about what's important to the president and what the president is doing and --
KURTZ: But you all are leaks like any journalists.
PETTYPIECE: Well, regardless of how we feel about leaks, if it's a priority of the president, that's what we're going to write about. And you know, it's sort of fair to our readers to let them know that this has become a major focus of the president and his administration.
KURTZ: All right, Shannon Pettypiece, thanks for doing extra duty here. Great to see you this Sunday.
Still to come, "Rolling Stone" swoons over Justin Trudeau, but as another job in (INAUDIBLE). Stay with us.
KURTZ: We in the TV business have all struggled with how to report Anthony Scaramucci's rather explicit phone call to a reporter you saw me kind of dancing around it earlier. Here's a mash up from Vice Media.
(BEGIN VIDEO CIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anthony Scaramucci went off at profanity filled expletive laden interview. We're talking about F bombs.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't read all the words.
CHUCK TODD, NBC HOST: We can at least give you an idea.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Scaramucci said he wanted to --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- expletive.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- deleted.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: --effing, effing, effing, kill all the leakers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Scaramucci referred to Priebus as a quote --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- again expletive.
PERINO: -- expletive.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: -- blank.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- blanking.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- blanking.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- bleeping.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- bleeping.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- effing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- effing paranoid schizophrenic.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Holy blank. For the media, a kind of WTF moment.
All right, the Rolling Stone is out with funny cover story on Justin Trudeau as just possibly the free world's best hope. And the cover headline "Why Can't He Be Our President?" Now we know "Rolling Stone" despises Donald Trump and we know Jann Wenner loves Barack Obama, endorsed Obama, has interviewed Obama.
In fact, the author of this piece, Stephen Roderick, whose wife is Canadian says the prime minister reminds him of Obama. I'm sure Obama. So, let's look at the last sentence. "Justin Trudeau's Canada looks like a beautiful place to ride out an American storm." Well, I'm sure "Rolling Stone" could find a very nice office there. Don't you think?
That's it for edition of "MediaBuzz." I'm Howard Kurtz. Check out our Facebook page, give us a like. We post a lot of original content there. You can also continue the debate here on Twitter @HowardKurtz. Let us know what you think by e-mail, email@example.com. Stick to the media. We try to read all the e-mails. Appreciate you joining us. There is so much news here. Every week we try to jam it all in. Back here next Sunday, 11 o'clock Eastern with the latest buzz.
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