Jon Stewart's last laugh; Obama's media terror hype

This is a rush transcript from "MediaBuzz," February 15, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: On the Buzz Beater from New York this Sunday, a series of bombshells in our business from real news to fake news, Jon Stewart stepping down from the nightly grind at "The Daily Show."


JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW": But this show doesn't deserve an even slightly restless host and neither do you. It's been an absolute privilege, the honor of my professional life.


KURTZ: Brian Williams suspended by NBC for six months for telling a false war story. His name taken off the newscast.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From NBC News World Headquarters in New York, this is "NBC Nightly News." Reporting tonight, Lester Holt.


KURTZ: And the sudden death of Bob Simon, the courageous and globe-trotting CBS correspondent.


SCOTT PELLEY: We have some sad news tonight from within our CBS News family. Our "60 Minutes" colleague Bob Simon was killed this evening.


KURTZ: But it's Jon Stewart who may have had the greatest impact on the actual news business, this after sixteen years of skewering politicians and pundits like well, me.


STEWART: And it's made the president some fierce adversaries, one in particular.

KURTZ: If we've lost Jon Stewart, you're in deep trouble.

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS: You lost Jon Stewart, you're in trouble.

PATTI ANNE BROWN, FOX NEWS: Even Jon Stewart taking shots at ObamaCare. What impact does that have on the whole public dialogue?

STEWART: What impact does -- me have on the public dialogue?


KURTZ: We'll look at all these stories with guests including Piers Morgan and former ABC news president David Westin. President Obama taking flack at saying the media are exaggerating the threat of terrorism.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: What is the famous saying about local newscasts, right? If it bleeds, it leads, right?


KURTZ: The president has a point or is he shifting the blame as he seeks new war powers from congress? Plus, why did MSNBC ask Eric Holder to quack like a duck? I'm Howard Kurtz, and this is "MediaBuzz."

The television world was stunned when Jon Stewart suddenly announced that later this year, he'll be stepping down from his Comedy Central franchise.


STEWART: Seventeen years is the longest I have ever in my life held a job by 16 years and five months. Thank you. The upshot there being I am a terrible employee. But in my heart, I know it is time for someone else to have that opportunity.


KURTZ: The openly liberal comedian rarely criticizes President Obama, but when he does, such as after the Paris rally for press freedom following those error attacks, it stings.


STEWART: How could Obama not be there? Look how many world leaders he could have bowed down to and apologized.


KURTZ: When John McCain told me that Stewart is unfair to Republicans, I got the treatment.


STEWART: From immigration to rogue nations to conflagrations, this past Sunday our nation's leading journalistic lights sought answers to the day's most pressing questions.

KURTZ: You've been the on "The Daily Show." Is Jon Stewart fair to Republicans?



KURTZ: All this in contrast to Stewart's friend and frequent guest Brian Williams out on suspension as the head of NBC universal calls his conduct inexcusable and the sadness of Bob Simon's death. Joining us now to examine all of this, Rich Lowry, editor of National Review and a Fox News contributor, Marisa Guthrie, who covers television for the Hollywood Reporter, and Joe Klein, columnist for Time Magazine. Marisa, Jon Stewart is a comedian who became a cutting edge social, political and media critic. How in the name of Mesopotamia did he do that?

MARISA GUTHRIE, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER TV EDITOR: I think he can along at exactly the right time, the myth of the voice of God anchor had already been exploded and so he could end cable news had ramped and was 24-hour talking headset. So, you know there were always gonna be times when these people put their feet in their mouths and so he had these huge targets in which to expose hypocrisy which really endeared him to his young audience, who was already suspicious of media.

KURTZ: Right, a lot of huge targets Rich you know, Stewart is up front about leaning left, shall we say, mostly skews republicans and Fox News and Bill O'Reilly, but it's all cloaked in comedy.

RICH LOWRY, NATIONAL REVIEW EDITOR: This is one of my big problems with him. He is constantly lecturing us about the tone of our politics. But he was a big time political commentator himself and what he added to the conversation.

KURTZ: No, no, he says I'm just a comedian.

LOWRY: This is the game he would play. He would want to be taken seriously at some level and then if you caught him in something being wrong about something, being silent about something, I'm just a comedian. But what he added to a political discourse was largely sarcasm, insults and dishonest editing. Look, mockery has always been part of politics since time in memorial, so that's his right, but please don't lecture us about the tone of our politics needs to be elevated, when that's what you do.

KURTZ: I think he added more than sarcasm, what do you think?

JOE KLEIN, TIME MAGAZINE COLUMNIST: Yeah, I think that the way you judge comedy is not by whether it's honest or dishonest. It's whether it's funny or not. And the guy is a genius. The guy is a genius, just absolutely brilliant. And he is very, very smart. I was part of a panel with him up in New Hampshire that was not on television that involved the president of MSNBC. This was about 10 years ago with Bill Crystal and several others, and Stewart took us all apart and he was dead serious. This is a very smart guy. This is a real loss, you know, just in terms of fun.

KURTZ: Yeah, I mean I've interviewed him enough times to agree he's not only smart, but he is very cutting. I don't just mean cutting in the sarcastic sense, but in his analysis of what is wrong with the media, what is wrong with politicians. Let me play the classic 10-second Jon Stewart clip, this one occurring a decade ago at CNN.


STEWART: Here's what I wanted to tell you guys. Stop, stop, stop, and stop hurting America.


KURTZ: So he basically single handedly got "Cross Fire" canceled. And I would argue whether you agree with Rich or not that he had a real impact on the business because news anchors and shows began copying the Daily Show technique of using videotape, less selectively than a comedian would to call out hypocrisy and inconsistencies.

GUTHRIE: Well, I think he had a real impact on the political class, too. Because he could use the same videotape to expose them and they all still came on his show because you know, his view was they were just politicians are just inherently narcissistic, so they come on. But I think that the media watched him and there was like a weird pride they took in being skewered by Jon Stewart.


KURTZ: How do you think some kind of prideful to begin excitement about?

KLEIN: Did I look that way?

KURTZ: You hope that he goes after you the same thing with Stephen Colbert and then you're just so outraged and upset and you have this feud going. Although, Megyn Kelly said to me the other night, that she thought he was kind of mean at times in the service of comedy.

LOWRY: Well, comedians usually are mean. Look, I don't disagree with points being made here on how smart he was, but if you're a conservative and you went on one of the reporter interview segments, they would talk to you for an hour and then chop it up to make you look like a crude idiot. Just a little thing, these Washington Redskins fans who agreed to go on to talk about defending the name and they asked are we going to be confronted by Native Americans? And said, No, you're not, don't worry about it. Sure enough, they were ambushed by Native Americans. That's Jerry Springer-like ethics. Again, the two sides of him, one side he's the guy who lectures us about the tone of our politics. On the other side, when you catch him with this sort of stuff, he says oh, I'm just a comedian, don't pay attention.

KURTZ: That was a very big mistake. But to the Daily Shows credit, they did apologize and didn't use some of the footage because the people felt that they've been sandbagged. And yet, we have this situation Joe Klein where every poll shows particularly young people obviously, that Stewart is a trusted figure that he kind of cuts through the BS in a way that many people who practice what we think of as real journalism are not.

KLEIN: Well, that's a problem we have. Especially for younger people who have all of these different sources of information and if it isn't enjoyable, they're not going to watch it. You know, you had the president saying if it bleeds it leads. For younger people, if it's not entertaining, forget about it.

KURTZ: And so all this happening in a week when as I mentioned at the top you have major anchor getting suspended, you have the passing of Bob Simon, you have the death also of New York Time's columnist David Carr which I'll talk about in a couple moments. How does all of this sort out?

GUTHRIE: Well, I think that this is a time when you know as Joe says, what was so also powerful about Jon's show is that these the bits could go viral and it was tailored to how young people consume content. They're not watching the 6:30 broadcast. And so I think that.

KURTZ: Wait a second. About 20 million people watched the three network newscasts. We all say dinosaurs are going away and it's an older audience, but that's why what happened at NBC was a big story.

GUTHRIE: Right. But I think young people, the demographic for the evening news is aging out. And, you know eventually.


KURTZ: All you have to do is look at the ads on those three broadcasts.

GUTHRIE: Eventually, there will be a reckoning and everything will sort of streamed and SPOD.

LOWRY: I cannot remember the last time I sat down and turned on the TV and watched the Daily Show, but I always knew what he was saying because I'd pick it up on liberal blogs. On Bob Simon, I just want to make a point here about the importance, when everything so much shorter and so much faster and there is a premium on across all media on long form journalism, he did these pieces that have stuck with me for years, about the monks on Athos, about this orchestra in Congo playing Beethoven's Ninth that were moving, they were soulful and they almost restored your trust in what journalism can do, your faith in what journalism can do.

GUTHRIE: But you can't -- you can't have a career, it's very unlikely to have a career like Bob had and have that training and that seasoning. Because he came up through when the broadcast networks had tons of money and he could go somewhere and spend weeks there reporting a story. You can't do that anymore.

KURTZ: Hasn't the internet become almost like Jon Stewart on steroids, in a sense that -- but not nearly as funny and not necessarily accurate either. And when somebody gets in to trouble, there is a hue and cry and the person is absolutely demonized. And you know what its like to be on that end of a feeding frenzy, we'll talk about that a little bit.

KLEIN: Yeah, well you know, I think that we're living in an era where the ferocity and prosecution is much greater than the severity of most of these crimes. And that's true not only for people like Brian Williams, but also for most of the politicians we cover. I mean.

KURTZ: Why is it not.

KLEIN: I really want to have a president who has messed around. I really want to have -- my idea of a great president.


KLEIN: We had, there's been another who lied to the American people continually on matters of war and peace who messed around, who drank a pitcher of martinis every night. And my grandfather voted for him four times. Franklin Roosevelt.

KURTZ: But let's get back to the treatment of media people and why you think it's unfair.

KLEIN: It's all public people, it is not just media people because.

KURTZ: Media people depend on credibility. They're constantly getting clawed at, pushed at.

KLEIN: And all of us make mistakes. All of us do make mistakes.

KURTZ: You've been talking about a bloodlust and.

KLEIN: And I see that bloodlust, and you know, Rich was saying before Bob Simon almost made you trust journalism again. I trust journalism by and large. When I'm out there in the Middle East having RPG'S shot the -- no. But I see people like Dexter Filkins and other war reporters who really do the lord's work.

KURTZ: Well, that's true, that's well said. But what is so amazing about the Brian Williams incident is if there is anytime you can't be inconsistent or make anything up and you know you're gonna get caught, it's this era with so much attention on the media and social media and all the rest.

KLEIN: But that's why I believe the word conflation was appropriate when the story first happened, he reported it accurately. And I know that over time the stories you tell kind of get.

GUTHRIE: But you can't change it when there is a camera on you and it will live forever online as the smoking gun of your guilt.


KLEIN: It was a very bad mistake. He blew the apology and there will be consequences.

KURTZ: Let me take just a moment to talk about David Carr. He was a media columnist of the New York Times. He collapsed in the Times newsroom and died this week and you know, he was a quirky, funny sometimes prickly character with original voice, he and I tangled at times especially when he wrote a memoir about having been a crack addict as a young man and then wrote the most generous columns ever published about me. So, really lot of journalists have just been outpouring of tributes has been amazing. Let me put up on the screen one thing that Carr wrote, just last week, give you a sense of his voice. We want our anchors to be everywhere, to be impossibly famous globe-trotting hilarious, down to earth and above all trustworthy. It's a job description no one can match. That was very true. David Carr was 58.

And on our show from New York today, Piers Morgan went on the media and online mob keep trying to bring down public figures. When we come back, Barack Obama's BuzzFeed moment, we'll show you the viral video in the main stream media.


KURTZ: President Obama gave a serious interview this week to BuzzFeed, but then he joined the quirky website for a video that was designed to go viral.


OBAMA: Deadline for signing for health insurance is February.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unlike any other Wednesday.

OBAMA: That's not right.



KURTZ: Rich, what do you make if this latest presidential video?

LOWRY: Oh, not a great day obviously for the dignity of the office, but this is one of the things he really excels at as a politician, the performative aspect of it, in a way that puts him in a swing -- swing of popular culture. Other aspects of the presidency, not so great at.

KURTZ: Dignity of the office, it's funny, in MSNBC they were laughing about it and I've heard a lot of people thought it was awful.

KLEIN: Well I think the dignity of the office began to take a serious hit when Bill Clinton played the saxophone on Arsenio Hall.

KURTZ: You're still mad about that?

KLEIN: Well, no, but I think that it's now become inevitable. That you cannot -- what about George W. Bush searching for the weapons of mass destruction under the tables of the Oval Office? That was a really dignified moment for the presidency as well. I mean I think this is just part of the inevitable part of how you sell yourself.


KURTZ: Well, what's striking about this, is that the New York Times said it was a humiliation, the Washington Post said he was acting like a weirdo and these are (inaudible) that reflectively bash President Obama.

GUTHRIE: Well, but they are not -- they're also aren't the audience for the studio, the reporters and editors writing that. The audiences for the studio are young people.


KURTZ: I should have explained from the top this was designed to get young people interested to sign up for ObamaCare, the deadline this week.

GUTHRIE: Right and so and you have to speak to young people in their language. And that's their language, the between two ferns funny and die, that's their language.

KURTZ: Right, so that's also why the president talked to these whacky YouTube stars like Flowzell Greene, who was in bathtub full of fruit loops. But the problem is, when you're president you speak to all audiences watching you can't just micro-target and the rest of us on some of the stuff go what?

LOWRY: You're right, every ad targeted young people for ObamaCare have been ridiculous, whatever it is. But it doesn't.


GUTHRIE: In your opinion.

LOWRY: But it doesn't that the president has to participate oh you know, pajama boy and as in Oregon, they're all kind of silly because they've pitched that audience and you're right that's where you need to go to get much.


KLEIN: You know what's really undignified, that really bothered me, the constant fund-raising letters that are sent out in his name by the democratic campaign committees. It's disgraceful to have a president begging for money in public on a daily basis.

KURTZ: Well, I just think this comes at a time when we're just bombarded with images of terror and beheadings and people being burned to death and that maybe makes us seem a little off cage. Joe Klein, Rich Lowry, Marisa Guthrie, thanks very much for joining us here in New York.

Ahead, is president Obama trying to shift the blame on ISIS by criticizing how the media covered terrorism?

But up next, former NBC News President David Westin on the era of celebrity anchors and whether you the audience are part of the problem.


KURTZ: After a week of media earthquakes, Bob Simon's death, Brian Williams' suspension, Jon Stewart's retirement, is the era of celebrity anchors and correspondents coming to an end? Joining me now, David Westin, the former president of ABC News. David, you write in time, that the audience is pretty powerfully drawn to celebrity anchors and therefore the mistakes and flaws loom larger. When you were at ABC, you had a pretty famous anchor in Diane Sawyer. Don't networks market people like this, how is it the audience's fault?

DAVID WESTIN, ABC NEWS FORMER PRESIDENT: The era of celebrity anchors is not a new one. I mean, Walter Cronkite was a pretty big celebrity.

KURTZ: Exactly.

WESTIN: David Brinkley as well. Nothing's new at that, Peter Jennings was a big celebrity.

KURTZ: But you say it didn't put himself at the center of every story.

WESTIN: Well, I think -- I think the business has changed in ways that are not good. I think that there was a time when you were famous because you were good. Not you were good because you were famous. And that is a subtle distinction, but I think it's a terribly important one that you need people like Peter was who was a great correspondent, a great reporter, covered a lot of wars, had been around the world and knew what he was talking about, and he became famous for that. But when you sent him in, you sent him into cover the story but to cover the story, and Peter as I've said was the first one to say that, that it's not about us, David, it's about the story.

KURTZ: Right. Now, after his death, you picked Elizabeth Vargas and Bob Woodruff to succeed him and then unfortunately, Bob Woodruff nearly died from an explosive device in Iraq. But again, is it your job to brand them and any anchor that you have in the chair. So I was a little surprised to see you say well, the audience kind of demands that. It's a chicken and egg thing. But are networks in the business of making their front line people big stars?

WESTIN: You don't want to hide your light under a bushel, every, you know, that's makes sense. But there is a fundamental difference. When we sent Bob Woodruff over, he had covered various wars and very experienced. And we sent him over to cover the State of the Union address that year because the subject was going to be Iraq. And that's why he was there. But even after he was injured so gravely with his cameraman, Doug Vogt, and we really feared for his life, and he came back miraculously, we did a special with him and he and I agreed from the very beginning that that special had to be principally about the other men and women who were suffering similar or even worse injuries and their families.

KURTZ: Not the journalists who go and spend a week or two.

WESTIN: Exactly, Bob was in it, but we spent most of that hour on the other people who have problems as bad as or worse than Bob. So it's a difference of attitude about what is the story, are you the story, or is what's going on around you the story?

KURTZ: So is the down side of the celebrity that we have recently been reminded that when an anchor or a famous correspondent gets into trouble, that at that point the audience -- everything is kind of magnified because of their very fame?

WESTIN: I actually have said I'm somewhat sympathetic to Brian. What he did was awful and he admits that because the trust of your audience for you and your credibility really is all you have, that is the coin of the realm so what you did is inexcusable and it's hurt NBC news. To some extent, it hurt everybody else because the audience doesn't necessarily discriminate between networks. They don't think oh, ABC's different from NBC's. They just think oh they must be all doing that.

KURTZ: Every big media mistake hurts all those who try to practice journalism.

WESTIN: So it's a terrible thing, but at the same time, I'm a bit sympathetic, because I think as things have become so much more competitive and these institutions are really fighting for their lives that are not an exaggeration, the business plan is really challenged at this point. There is more and more of an emphasis on marketing and branding. And if you don't watch out, it can be about marketing and branding and not actually covering the story. And I think that the forces behind Brian without my being there would have been all encouraging him to be a bigger presence rather than checking him.

KURTZ: I got less than a minute, but at CBS, Scott Pelley succeeded Katie Couric at your old network, David Muir succeeded Diane Sawyer in the anchor chair. Are we now maybe moving away from the $15 million a year superstar anchor to people who are very good at reporting and looking into the camera, but are not transcendent stars?

WESTIN: I think the important point here, Howie, in this week when we lost Bob Simon and David Carr is to remember that there are some really fine journalists doing really great work out there, even today. We have a tendency to point out the foibles while people roll with us and to focus on how wonderful they were after they've left us. I mean, I'll go back to my old job because I know it's the best, Martha Raddatz is terrific foreign correspondent in the tradition of a Bob Simon and I think what we can do as an audience is find those people, seek them out and spend time with them to encourage them and people to come behind them and do the same thing.

KURTZ: Spoken like somebody who spent years finding talent on television, David Westin, great to see you here in New York.

Coming up, President Obama says the media -- the media are over-dramatizing the threat of terrorism because violence equals ratings. Is that true?

And later, the passing of CBS' Bob Simon, a journalist who took all kinds of risks in all kinds of war zones.


KURTZ: With ISIS brutally murdering hostages and after the Charlie Hebdo killings, terrorism has become a front-burner issue on TV, online and on the front pages. An interview with the liberal website, President Obama was asked about the coverage.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think the media sometimes overstates this sort of level of alarm people should have about terrorism and this kind of chaos?

OBAMA: I don't blame the media for that. What is the famous saying about local newscasts, right? If it bleeds, it leads, right? You show crime stories and you show fires because that's what folks watch.


KURTZ: But are the media the problem? Joining us now, Amy Holmes who anchors the Hotlist at The Blaze, and Mark Hannah, PhD fellow at USC Annenberg who worked for Barack Obama's 2008 campaign. Amy is the president if not blaming the media, is he at least faulting the media for terror coverage or is he acknowledging reality?

AMY HOLMES, THE BLAZE TV ANCHOR: Well, he's actually blaming the viewer, in saying that you know, he we have this attraction to fires and mayhem and blood and gore. I was really shocked by the statement because the president gets his daily briefing of the terrorist threat assessment and if what he is reading is less concerning than what we're seeing on the television, he should tell us.

KURTZ: Conservative pundits really jumped on the president over that one line.

MARK HANNAH, FORMER AIDE TO OBAMA FOR 2008 CAMPAIGN: No kidding. They're not acknowledging the fact that he said I don't blame the media. But this saying that if it bleeds, it leads, it didn't come from the president. It didn't come from politicians. This comes there news executives themselves and there a certain logic in it. In a commercial media environment, there is a competitive pressure to try to show things that people actually care about, and people actually care about terrorism. They don't care about some obscure arcane esoteric issue. They care about things that are of a general interest, they care about -- we've experienced terrorism in this country communally. So this is something that everybody has an interest in and frankly.

HOLMES: So basically the president -- what you're saying is that the president is understating the case. He's saying there an overemphasis on what is.

HANNAH: No, I think the president says terrorism is something where there are clear good guys and clear bad guys. It fits the media narrative really well, it's designed to be spectacular, it's designed to be this visual experience of violence that people are going to you know fear and so what the media does is of course it's going to play things that are.


KURTZ: If it bleeds, it leads is about local news. But when ISIS is beheading hostages, and setting them on fire how could that not get a lot of coverage? Another point the president went on to make, we don't have time to show it saying what doesn't get a lot of coverage are incremental show stories like climate change because they're not considered sexy.

HANNAH: Sure. Yeah, it's absolutely fair. People have a hard time making sense of it. I just wanna point out though, that this isn't necessarily a bad thing when extremism, whether Islamic extremism or extremely polarized or extremely partisan sound bites get covered, when anything extreme gets covered this has a moderating influence, this has a moderating effect so that extreme acts of heroism, extreme acts of valor are covered as well.


HOLMES: You are saying different from what the president said. What the president said is that the media is exaggerating these stories because of its visual impact and because viewers have this morbid obsession with violence.

KURTZ: He didn't say morbid obsession.


KURTZ: But he did use the word ratings. Let me move you to 2016 because Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin and an obvious possible presidential contender was in London this week. Question and answer got a lot of play here. Let's roll it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you contractible with the idea of evolution, do you believe in it, do you accept it?

GOV. SCOTT WALKER, R-WIS.: For me, I'm gonna punt on that one, as well.


WALKER: That's a question politician shouldn't be involved in one way or the other.


KURTZ: Is that big news that Scott Walker ducked a question on evolution?

HOLMES: I don't think its news when.


HOLMES: We are talking about it but I would say because of media bias and it's getting close to the point that the media seems to be suggesting that if you have a biblical view of man being created in God's image that this should somehow be news worthy when in fact lots of Americans agree with that.

KURTZ: He didn't say that, he didn't answer the question.


HOLMES: But my point is why he is being asked the question.

HANNAH: Right. He's being asked the question because I think the rest of the world sees American politicians specifically those on the right as denying basic sort of scientific precepts like global warming, climate change, like evolution and they see it as this kind of embarrassing thing. The BBC interviewer.

HOLMES: Why should a person be embarrassed to be a creationist?

HANNAH: What the BBC Interviewer said after that is if we ask that question of politicians in England whether they're conservative or very liberal, they would laugh at that.

KURTZ: Another bit of Scott Walker news, I didn't mean to cut you off, is that the Washington Post ran a long piece on his college years which tried to solve the mystery of why Scott Walker didn't get a college degree, which is not a secret and widely reported and he's talked about it in Wisconsin. Should we care?

HOLMES: I think we see this vetting of all presidential candidates in terms of looking at their college, the courses they took, the grades they're willing to release, President Obama of course is not willing to release his transcript. I think this is normal and certainly, Scott Walker dropping out of college is news worthy. People would be interested to know and interested as an up by boot strap story as well.

KURTZ: And I think any profile would obviously include that, but professors are saying he wasn't interested in school, he was interested in school politics. And I just wonder whether or not it was too adversarial.

HANNAH: Look, every presidential candidate that presents as a credible candidacy is going in the modern era will face these questions.


KURTZ: So you guys well take it as a fact of life.

HANNAH: Yeah. President Obama was asked about drugs and Romney asked about being a bully. All these facts came up.

KURTZ: And the Boston Globe does a piece saying Jeb Bush was a bully in Andover. This is 40 years ago. I say the statute of limitations expired.


HANNAH: Because people have the curiosity. I will say this, I have a lot of respect for the viewers and a lot of respect for news consumers to take these stories with a grain of salt. So you're not the same person you are as an adult that you were in high school or college. Everybody makes mistakes that they don't want.

HOLMES: The viewer may be willing to be forgiving, but apparently the media is not.

KURTZ: Amy Holmes, Mark Hanna, thanks very much for joining us.

Ahead with "60 Minutes" in mourning, former CBS Correspondent John Roberts helps us remember Bob Simon.

But after the break, Piers Morgan who knows something about being under fire scorches the critics who try to take down media and political big shots.


KURTZ: Piers Morgan may have left CNN, but he's still got plenty of strong opinions. Writing in London's Daily Mail, he takes on the toxic online culture that turns on one embattled public figure after another and insists off with his head. And Piers Morgan joins me now from Los Angeles. Let me start by quoting your Daily Mail column. You write that politicians, celebrities, sportsmen, news anchors are all tossed on to the furnace of righteous indignant fury at the just the suggestion they may not be as perfect as we like them to be, why is that?

PIERS MORGAN, THE DAILY MAIL COLUMNIST: I think we're in a new, medieval phase where social media has empowered everyone to be as vicious as they want to be and I'm not sure how helpful that is to the democratic process, whether you're a politician or you're in the media whatever it may be. Watch what happened to Brian Williams this week. Yes, he made a big mistake, but the way that people went on you would've thought he had been a mass serial killer. I just think there has to be some kind of restraint sometimes where yes, you acknowledge the mistake, yes you criticize, yes you can berate Brian Williams but the kind of gleeful vilification of him as a human being, the mockery, the general consensus that you have to be smashed to pieces I found pretty unedifying.

KURTZ: Have you felt at times like you've been on the receiving end of just that kind of fury?

MORGAN: I have. I was fired from the Daily Mirror in London after 10 years of editing a daily newspaper, in pretty contentious circumstances. We published pictures which were allegedly fake British troops abusing Iraqi civilians and what it taught was quite interesting because it was like a huge news story in England, big scandal. I was fired, I've always not been too short of what those pictures really were and some of the soldiers were later jailed. So it's a kind of moot point about the original argument. But what I did believe was that the whole process of what I went through, had I survived it; I would have been a better journalist and a better editor. And I don't think anyone can doubt that Brian Williams if he's allowed to have a second chance, and I believe he should have that second chance, that he wouldn't be a better anchor for this experience, that he wouldn't take even more care to be completely accurate, that he wouldn't perhaps put himself at the center of stories in the way that he has before, so maybe he would dial down his celebrification aspect of that job even though I would have encouraged him to do that. So America is a land of second chances right?

KURTZ: As you just said, were a London tabloid you went after people with that paper, you went after people at CNN, you went after people who disagreed with your crusade for gun control, so aren't you part of this culture, aren't you part of the problem?

MORGAN: Yes, I am.

KURTZ: You're pleading guilty.

MORGAN: And I acknowledged that in my column, particularly when it comes to my sporting allegiances, whether it's the England cricket team or Arsenal beloved Football club who are currently winning. And by the way I've never missed an arsenal game before to work Howie. But, yes, I have been intemperate and emotional on social media, and on the guns debate, (Inaudible) which I thought was pertinent. Jeff Zucker, the president of CNN sat me down at the height of all that gun mayhem when it was petitioned to have me deported and everyone was screaming at each other and I was screaming at people, they were screaming at me and he said look Piers, here's my view of this. I've got no problem with you running this campaign and I understand but you feel passionately about it, he said. But rather than call the gun lobby people to come on your show idiots, why don't you phrase it as I find your position idiotic. And it did strike me as an extremely sensible comment to make. It's the kind of personal abuse that gets wrapped around all this driven by social media which I think often takes away from the central argument and also makes it very difficult to reach any fair balanced judgment or have any kind of consensus of opinion.

KURTZ: I think we all need to watch our language especially in this incendiary environment in which we live. We got about a minute left, we talked earlier in the program about the death this week of New York Times' media columnist, David Carr. You tweeted that it was an e-mail from David Carr that led to your departure from CNN, because he was going to write about you, explain.

MORGAN: Well, it was actually more that the announcement that I was coming off my daily show because of David Carr emailing me and saying I'm gonna do a piece about your show, I don't think it has worked, even though it's been on the air for three and a half years, I think now he's struggling a bit and he invited me to talk to him. What I liked about the e-mail was, he didn't sugarcoat this, he gave me his opinion. I didn't necessarily agree with it all, but he gave me his opinion and he said I want to talk to you about this so I can be fair and balanced. And I decided to talk to him and he actually wrote a very fair and balanced column about me. He had written before very negative columns about me, he'd also been extremely supportive of me actually over the phone hacking scandal when I gave evidence over that back in England. And so he was a guy that I always felt gave you a fair crack at the whip. But it's quite interesting, you know, you talk Brian Williams getting second chances. David Carr's life is surely the absolutely perfect template for somebody who if we judged him on the first half of his life when he was very negative, if we judge him -- We'll see what happens.


KURTZ: All right. Piers Morgan, thanks very much for joining us. I like that phrase, fair and balanced.

After the break, remembering Bob Simon, a correspondent who spent decades reporting from war zones with his former CBS colleague, John Roberts.


KURTZ: Bob Simon had just finished a piece for "60 Minutes" on the quest to cure Ebola when he was killed in a car crash here in Manhattan. There were plenty of tears in his 60 minutes staff meeting as they remembered the CBS newsman who reported from Vietnam to Haiti to the Middle East and once spent 40 days in an Iraqi prison.


BOB SIMON, "60 MINUTES" ANCHOR: As you can see, we've lost a little weight. We've aged a little bit. We're fine. This is a story that could have ended another way but it's had a happy ending.

There's a big war going on in Vietnam and the people of Anjing Province know all about it.

Eight months ago, this might have been the happiest place in the world, a traffic circle Tahrir Square, where people overthrew a dictator in 18 days. Well, the people are back again, but the happiness is gone.


KURTZ: So many decades of reporting, joining us now from Atlanta, former CBS News Anchor and Fox News senior national correspondent, John Roberts. And John, what made Bob Simon special?

JOHN ROBERTS, FOX NEWS NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Howie. Let me say first of all, such a tragic loss, particularly the way he went after traveling the world and facing danger so many times the way he did. What made Bob special was he was simply a master at his craft. You could hear in the way that he reports whether it's an on camera piece, piece to camera or whether it's in his writing, that straight matter of fact type of both sides get equal airing type of reporting, an innate curiosity, I think Howie, where you know Bob Simon would take us along on a ride whether it was a short news piece for the evening news or long foreign piece for "60 Minutes" or any of the other fine CBS programs, where he was actually discovering something along the way, and that sense of -- I don't want to say wonderment but definitely curiosity he had in his reporting was different from so many other people that we have seen come up both at CBS and some of the other networks. He was simply was, a master at his craft.

KURTZ: Absolutely, in contrast to some of the other people we have talked about, he did not make the story about him except of course when it had to be on him when he was held captive in that Iraqi prison.

ROBERTS: It was always about what he had discovered which I think made him such a great reporter. He never talked about himself except as you said, when he came out of Iraq and that was only briefly. He talked about what he discovered when he talked to other people, and that was another fine point about Bob.

KURTZ: I understand you went to Haiti with him at one time, what was it like to work alongside this guy?

ROBERTS: I didn't actually go with him. He was there when I got there. I was working -- I was an anchor at WCBS, the New York CBS station and Bob was obviously a fine correspondent for CBS news at that time. We both ended up at the same bureau at the Hotel Villa Creole in Port-Au-Prince Haiti. And I got a chance to observe him very closely; I was still relatively new in the CBS family, only been with CBS a couple years. I just thought, let me take this opportunity to watch this guy who was so amazing at what he did and how he did it. I remember he used to sit in the edit room for hours at a time, and some of the other correspondents wouldn't do that, they'd leave it to the producer or the editor's to do it. Bob would sit there going through literally every frame of video tape and every once in a while I'd hear him explain, Aha! So I went in the edit booth to see what he was doing, and he was going through the video to find that little moment that he can use as a starting point of his piece or he could use it to turn a phrase on that interesting little piece of video that would hook people. Bob never used video wall paper like so many people do. Every picture that was in his story he was writing to it specifically. I had the amazing opportunity to learn from somebody like him simply through watching him. It was an incredible opportunity.

KURTZ: Storytelling, and narration so important to the art of television news. Absolutely, so striking Bob Simon was doing this up until the time of his death, 73, working on that Ebola story -- nice to have a chance for you to remember this great journalist, Bob Simon.

ROBERTS: Let me tell you one other quick thing, if I could, Howie everyone talks about the time he spent in Iraq but he said that the time that he was most frightened he was in Bosnia when he was stopped at a checkpoint, these were not the normal guys, the were Muj, Mujahideen, these were bad people and for half an hour Bob thought he was within a hair's breath of being executed. He escaped that like he has so many other situations and that's the time he really was afraid for his life.

KURTZ: John Roberts, thanks very much.

Still to come, your top tweets, and was it quackery for an MSNBC host to ask Eric Holder a rather weird question?


KURTZ: Time for your top tweets, do you just Jon Stewart more than a real anchors? Jay Paul yes. The rest are robots with stiffly stark shirts, reading off a teleprompter and play very loud commercials, no diversions. Joe Paille, I'm certainly not a liberal but because he's more genuine and personal in contrast to robotic commentators, I'd say yes.

Now, Melissa Harris-Perry was winding up an interview on her MSNBC show when she put this question to Eric Holder.


MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC: You know that we call you the duck in nerd land?


HARRIS-PERRY: We call you the duck. In nerd land, you have a very sort of placid and even way of presenting but you are just working for justice underneath. Would you quack for us?

HOLDER: I'm not sure I'm going to do that. But I like the analogy.


KURTZ: This is a smart lady. I know she was trying to end on a light note. But that made me cringe, just working for justice underneath. This is the attorney general of the United States. I guess she just got that thrown out the leg. That's if for this edition of "MediaBuzz" from New York City. I'm Howard Kurtz. I hope you like our Facebook page, we post a lot of original content there, and we are going back to Washington where it's just as cold as it is here in the city. Next Sunday morning, 11 and 5 eastern, with the latest buzz.

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