Last-minute Kavanaugh charge; Trump's trial by hurricane

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This is a rush transcript from "Media Buzz," September 16, 2018. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: We've got a packed program of media and issues ahead. But first, the latest on what is now tropical depression Florence. The death toll is now at least 13 as the once mighty hurricane remains stalled over the Carolinas. The danger is far from over as the storm dumps record amounts of rain on the region.

Let's go to Fox's Griff Jenkins in Jacksonville, North Carolina with the latest. Griff?

GRIFF JENKINS, FOX NEWS: Howie, it's really pounding us here in Jacksonville with the Marina Cafe in dock, a landmark in Jacksonville. And I am literally standing on the dock. It is under 10-15 feet of water. Behind me, the dock house. You see a boat almost floating near the top of its roof.

Look out. Here you will see the Neuse River. That's the source of all the trouble. Howie, this morning, it may break historical record at 14 feet. The Neuse River will flood. That's the flood state. It recorded at 24.08 this morning. The record is 25.1.

It is causing the rescues that they are having to do here in Onslow County. It's causing the houses here to be destroyed. It's making the recovery in the fixing the power lines and all the other stuff much more difficult as we expect a lot of more rain this afternoon. It's going to expect to be here for a couple of days at least.

The airport here in Jacksonville says they will be closed likely until Tuesday or Wednesday, the earliest day as well. Underwater, so this is what is going on, the sign here is just a reminder, beware of alligators. So, we're going to try to not get eaten as we report this really catastrophic flooding in Jacksonville. Howie?

KURTZ: Yeah, many dangers there including alligators. Thanks very much for that live report. He wades into the water in these storms and you really do get a sense of the flooding, which is often the most deadly part, the aftermath of hurricane.

All right, the mainstream media reacted rather cautiously to the initial report that Senator Dianne Feinstein had forwarded to the FBI a mysterious letter about Brett Kavanaugh with an allegation involving his conduct back in high school.

But that changed dramatically when Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer reported in "The New Yorker" that an unnamed woman is charging that Kavanaugh, who she said had been drinking, and a classmate held her down and he tried to force himself on her but she was able to free herself.


JONAH GOLBERG, NATIONAL REVIEW: This was a slimy -- you know, after the buzzer hit on Kavananaugh and attempt a character assassination --

JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC: This looks like a cheap trick by Democrats whether you're for Kavanaugh or not.

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC: I think it's is very hard for everyone watching this unfold to know what to do with this allegation, which is obviously extremely grave and serious. But, you know, the identity of the woman is being hidden understandably --


KURTZ: Kavanaugh said flatly in a statement, "I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation. I did not do this back in high school or at any time."

Joining us now to analyze the coverage: Emily Jashinsky, commentary writer for The Washington Examiner; Sara Fischer, a media reporter for Axios; and Adrienne Elrod, Democratic strategist and former Hillary Clinton campaign aide.

Emily, should the media be wary, extremely wary of embracing this last- minute allegation from an unnamed woman that has said allegedly to have happened when Brett Kavanaugh was 17 years old?

EMILY JASHINSKY, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Absolutely, and I think that clip we just played of Chris Hayes is very telling in of itself because he said something that I think is accurate. We don't know what we're supposed to do with this, right? This is decades old. It's one allegation. It's anonymous.

This person is not going to come out and stand behind it. So, we can't vet it. We still haven't seen the letter. The public still hasn't seen this letter that Dianne Feinstein has. And so we don't know why it took her months. We don't know for this to come forward. We don't know much about this at all.

KURTZ: Even some liberal commentators like Chris Hayes at MSNBC reacting cautiously. Sara, when Ronan Farrow, who of course is the guy who exposed the misconduct of Harvey Weinstein, exposed the misconduct of Les Moonves and others, reports this in New Yorker, does it -- did it provide cover for the rest of the media to say, OK, it's safe to now jump on this story?

SARA FISCHER, AXIOS: One of the things to consider is now that Ronan Farrow has developed a reputation with this type of reporting, you can imagine more and more people are going to come to him with this story. In that sense, he almost becomes an assailant (ph) editor. It's up to him to determine what meets the public's eye.

KURTZ: He's kind of a gatekeeper, you're saying.

FISCHER: That's right. And if Ronan Farrow is going to come out and say, look, I've seen, you know, some reporting on this, I want to go out with it, yes, his reporting on Les Moonves and others does give him credibility that we should listen because obviously those reports have turned out to bring down some very powerful people.

But it doesn't mean that it should be the end all, be all. Should we really be looking at this and saying, hey, this is true? I think we got to defer to kind of what Emily was saying is we just don't have enough information even from what Ronan Farrow reported.

KURTZ: And in this case, Ronan Farrow didn't talk to the unnamed woman, didn't talk to the source of allegation. So, basically, the details of the letter, we are left with a letter we haven't seen. And even, you know, HBO's liberal Bill Maher says, it makes us look bad. I think us, he means Democrats or liberal side.

ADRIENNE ELROD, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yeah, I'm actually going to disagree with some of these liberal commentators in saying I don't know what to do here, we don't have enough information. I think that considering is the a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land, the media scrutiny is not as much as that should be.

I mean, we should be delaying this nomination until we get more information that comes out. The "Me Too" era has changed everything. So what might not have been as newsworthy or as relevant to essentially getting confirmed to the Supreme Court or any judicial nomination at one point, it's all changed now.

KURTZ: Not troubled by the fact that the accuser is not willing to step forward, that this happened at the very end of the process when it could have been done --

ELROD: Well, I --

KURTZ: Does it give you any pause?

ELROD: It does give me some positive idea I think in order to really delay this. The accuser needs to come forward even if it is speaking anonymously to a Ronan Farrow-type of reporter.

KURTZ: And on that point, Emily, I am a huge -- Ronan Farrow is reporting in this area. But, I think it is fair to point out since this is a Trump Supreme Court nominee that he worked -- Farrow worked for the Obama State Department.

And beyond that, unlike with Anita Hill's harassment allegations against Clarence Thomas, which also came after the hearings has finished, she at least was willing eventually to come forward and testify and be cross- examined. And so far in the case of this unnamed accuser, no.

JASHINSKY: We don't know how much this allegation has been vetted. We don't know what Dianne Feinstein has done wit this. We don't know what Democrats have done with this. We don't know to what extent she has been pressed into answering for this.

I think it is very fair. Ronan Farrow who's reporting has been fantastic is in kind a tricky position here because now he did an interview with NPR where he pressed them to answer process questions about Democrats in the Senate when he was technically in the Democratic administration.

KURTZ: Sara, much of the media criticism on the right has focused on Senator Feinstein and why the fact that she first received this letter in July but didn't say anything about it until now, just making it public after the hearing. She didn't ask Kavanaugh about it.

And The San Francisco Chronicle on its liberal editorial page says today that what Dianne Feinstein did is unfair or unfair to Kavanaugh, unfair to the accuser, and unfair to both Democrats and Republicans on the committee. That is a little surprising coming from the Chronicle.

FISCHER: It is. I mean, unfortunately for her, it seems like a last ditch effort. You're hearing those right-wing commentators saying, look, it just feels like they are just trying to do this to undermine the nomination at the very end.

But even when you have people like Bill Maher coming out and saying it all around, it just looks even it is not the real reason, it looks like Democrats are pulling this out of the end to derail the nomination.

KURTZ: Adrienne, I don't want to minimize the account of a woman who says she is still traumatized by what happened back in high school, back in Georgetown decades ago. But, you are a strategist so you know that the optics is that indeed it looks like the Democrats are so desperate to stop Kavanaugh, that they are willing to do this late hit, having not touched during the hearings.

ELROD: Yeah. Look, it is unfortunate that this letter of Dianne Feinstein was in fact sitting on it for a couple of months. It is unfortunate that it is coming out now. But the bottom line is it has come out. These hearings can be delayed. There is no reason why they shouldn't be. And furthermore - -

KURTZ: Why do you think that you disagree with -- not everybody but some of the liberal commentators? Why do you have a different take on this?

ELROD: Because I think the "Me Too" era again has changed everything.

KURTZ: Yeah.

ELROD: So, what might not have gotten the kind of scrutiny that is now is getting more scrutiny. And furthermore, Grassley knew about this because all of a sudden out of nowhere magically, a letter signed by 65 women who claim that they knew Kavanaugh in high school -- and by the way, he went to all boys high school, Georgetown Prep -- said, we believe in his character. So --

KURTZ: The women who signed that letter denied that they did this because they knew this was coming and Chuck Grassley of course is the Republican chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

Let me move on now to a bombshell in the Russia investigation. That is the Paul Manafort guilty plea. By the way, president tweeting just a short time ago, the illegal Mueller witch hunt continues in search of a crime. So now he is just flatly calling it illegal.

Emily, Paul Manafort of course was convicted in a trial in Virginia of bank fraud and other serious charges. He now has pled guilty in the trial that was supposed to take place, the second trial, in D.C. And more importantly, he signed a cooperation agreement with Robert Mueller.

Is the media speculation -- there has been a lot of it -- about how much of a serious threat to the president this is, is it justified or a bit overblown?

JASHINSKY: You know, I think -- two things on Paul Manafort. It is justified to the extent that he was actually the campaign manager. He wasn't the campaign manager for a long time but he was the manager of Donald Trump's campaign.

KURTZ: Yeah.

JASHINSKY: And he was in regular contact with pro-Russia forces in Ukraine. Now, one thing that always bothered me about the Manafort story land is that it was the bipartisan swamp, right? Like, he had -- he was working with Podesta group and working with public affairs to orchestrate this campaign on behalf of pro-Russian forces --

KURTZ: Right.

JASHINSKY: -- in Ukraine. It is more bipartisan than I think the media has often depicted it (ph).

KURTZ: Yeah, although there have been some stories now about the Democratic consultants, the prominent ones like Podesta. So, I have no idea. Journalists have no idea how much Manafort knows about Russian collusion, is there any Russian collusion. But he was at the infamous Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer in the campaign along with Jared Kushner and Donald Trump, Jr.

FISCHER: Yes. It is sort of uniform knowledge that of all the people that have come forward now working with Robert Mueller, look at Papadopoulos, look at Gates, that he kind of had the closest ties to Russia.

That is what people are looking at Paul Manafort and really are taking it this seriously because if there is anyone that would be able to prove some sort of a collusion, not saying that there was, but if there was someone who could point to that, connect those dots, it would be the person with the closest ties, who is Paul Manafort.

KURTZ: The president had praised Manafort during the first trial for not flipping. So many other people are flipping like Michael Cohen. Now, Rudy Giuliani, the president's lawyer, telling Sean Hannity that he guilty plea here is irrelevant. Is the press buying that?

ELROD: No, I don't think the press is buying it at all. I mean, look, to your point and that is the point I was going to make, this is a big deal and actually interrupted hurricane coverage when the Paul Manafort guilty plea came forward.

KURTZ: That shows you how big it is.

ELROD: That shows you how big it is, right. This is a big deal because there was nobody else on that campaign who had stronger ties to Russia. And even if he was only the campaign manager for a couple months, he was still the campaign manager.

KURTZ: Yeah. Now, it's about five months, and he was the campaign manager through the Republican convention. At the same time, the things that he has now pleaded guilty to or being convicted of, mostly have nothing to do with Donald Trump and the campaign, but we don't know what else he is going to say.

All right, let me get a break here. Hurricane is very much in the news. We will continue to update you on tropical depression Florence. The president's handling of this hurricane and past hurricanes is very much in the news. More on that in a moment.


KURTZ: Even as Hurricane Florence was bearing down on the Carolinas, much of the media began battering the president as a lousy crisis manager with no empathy for hurricane victims, triggered in part by Trump's own words about a previous crisis.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: And the problem with Puerto Rico is their electric grid and their electric generating plant was dead before the storms ever hit. I think that Puerto Rico was an incredible, unsung success.


KURTZ: The president ratcheted up the controversy when he tweeted, 3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico. When I left the island after the storm had hit, they had anywhere from six to 18 deaths.

As time went by, it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers like 3,000. This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible.


LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC: He obviously did not feel a bit of grief for the 3,000 people killed by those hurricanes.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: How stupid, how tone deaf, how surreal, how insensitive, how offensive, how offensive to the relatives of the 3,000 people who died in Puerto Rico.

LOU DOBBS, FBN: The national left-wing media blindly took these numbers. Jumped just as soon as the Puerto Rican governor decided to use it for whatever his political purpose is. But they have no foundation in fact.


KURTZ: The medial absolutely hammered the president, Emily, for challenging the estimate and saying this is -- not Lou Dobbs, obviously -- and saying this was all cooked up by the Democrats. What's your take?

JASHINSKY: Yes. So, the president's frustration, I think, is understandable, because there are factors that were outside of his control perhaps when this happened and there is an eagerness on the left and in the media to depict him as heartless. I mean, the paper towel video from last year where he was throwing paper towels in the crowd --

KURTZ: Yeah, that has been revived.

JASHINSKY: Right. And that is in of itself is a perfect example of, you know, there is nothing that is not compassion about doing that, he was doing it, but his reaction, his frustration is understandable. His reaction is not understandable at all. It kind of disgusts me as American to look at this.

This is not political. This is the deaths of people. This is not Republicans versus Democrats on the Hill. This is serious. These are people's lives. And to push a conspiracy theory with no substantiation or basis from the platform of the president of the United States, I just think is disgusting. I was really disappointed to see it.

KURTZ: Now, there is an argument to be made, Sara, that this isn't a body count. It's a George Washington University study -- by the way, except the Puerto Rican government -- that calculated how many more people died in a period after the hurricane than a comfortable period before the storm.

President Trump didn't initially make that case. A couple of days later, he came back and cited the GW study. I think that's one of the things that triggered a lot of the harsh reaction.

FISCHER: That's exactly right. Look, the number that he got when he was on the ground many months ago is obviously going to be different than the number that you are going to calibrate looking back at all the people who died because they didn't get aid or because they didn't have access to medical professionals.

One of the things that they cited in that study is that the reason that the death toll they estimate is so much higher is because they didn't think medical professionals knew how to fill up the certificates.

There is no reason that Donald Trump is looking to this. It is just making him seem not empathetic. It is making him seem like he is someone who can't lead for no reason.

KURTZ: You know, the death toll may not be as high as 3,000 but it is certainly not 16, because people in the days couldn't get clean water, they couldn't get medical supplies. And so the media are casting this as the president just turning it into politics. And of course, he sees this as politics as well.

ELROD: Yeah, he is blaming Democrats for this. This is just another, you know, pillar to the fact that he is trying to politicize this. Look, to me this makes no sense. There is certainly no political advantage to him doing this except to try to -- I don't know, keep this in the news a little bit longer. Again, I don't know why.

KURTZ: Because he feels that -- look, this was a devastating storm on impoverish island and any administration would struggle with it. He feels that he has been personally unfairly blamed for the high death toll.

ELROD: But he is not being -- I mean, that is what he doesn't quite understand.

KURTZ: Some commentators have done it.

JASHINSKY: I think that's what is so interesting about this. I do think he probably is getting an undue share of the blame from some people and that what makes him lash out to this degree and that is what is unfortunate, because you're the president of the United States, people did lose their lives, rise above it.

ELROD: Exactly.

KURTZ: But even before the conversation turns to Puerto Rico, the media was bringing back last year's narrative about President Trump. He is not good at this. He's self-absorbed. He lacks empathy. "Politico" headline, "Trump Struggles to Embrace Concealer-in-Chief Role." And that's the narrative and it has been revived.

JASHINSKY: Right. Absolutely. That's what I'm saying. His frustration again is understandable. So many of these case are understandable because he does get an undue share of the blame a lot. I really do understand that. But that does not justify this reaction. That is the bottom line for me.

KURTZ: I get that he is not a polished politician who instinctively wades into crowd and hugs people. He is not Bill Clinton. He is not Barack Obama. He is a businessman.

ELROD: No, he's not.

KURTZ: OK. Well, you would say that in more ways than one. But I also think that the media just don't like his style. The media saying, no, no, this is not the approved way that we think a president should deal with crisis because you got to hug more people.

ELROD: No. Maybe on other issues, that is the case. This one in particular, I think we all three agree on this. I mean, he has turned the story into himself. He has not shown barely any empathy on this issue. And that is why the media is scrutinizing him, the way that he has handled this.

KURTZ: Well, that part about the empathy is a value judgment. Just briefly, Sara, it is true that President Trump didn't focus to sustain the tension on Puerto Rico compared to the two monster hurricanes in Florida and Texas last year.

But the media also didn't give it a fraction of the coverage until it became a Trump story, why didn't Trump do more? Puerto Rico was just not the forefront of media coverage the way the others were.

FISCHER: It absolutely is I think part of that which is why Puerto Rico is lobbying so hard to give representation in Congress is because Puerto Rico quite frankly is a territory, it's not a state. We are not viewing it as being equal to rest of the domestic states.

KURTZ: Right, but these are Americans.

FISCHER: These are Americans, but you're right, the media didn't cover this hurricane the same way that they covered the ones that were making landfall in the mainland.

So it is not just the president that necessarily took some time to acknowledge hurricane although quite frankly now that it has happened after many months, we have new numbers, we should all be, the media and the president, taking it very seriously.

KURTZ: Right. It wasn't even close. Great discussion. Adrienne Elrod, Sara Fischer, Emily Jashinsky, thanks very much for coming by this Sunday.

Stay with us. Next up, New York Times. What do you hear about The New York Times and Nikki Haley? We will also later talk about the mess at CBS.


KURTZ: To mark the day of the 9/11 attacks 17 years ago, MSNBC's Joe Scarborough wrote a Washington Post column titled, "Trump is Harming the Dream of America More Than Any Foreign Adversary Could."


SCARBOROUGH: That is tearing more at the fabric of America than attacks on the Twin Towers did. We rebuilt from that. We became stronger because of that. But this seems to me a far graver, graver threat to the idea of America.

JEDEDIAH BILA: You don't like Trump, fine. You don't like his character, questions about character, fine. You are equating him now of being potentially worse than terrorists? You completely lost your mind.


KURTZ: Now, Scarborough's piece dealt mainly with strategic mistakes by the three presidents since 2001, but it did sound like he was insinuating that this president is a greater threat in terrorists and that came across his tone deaf as Joe came to recognize.

He responded by saying, "I should have shown more care on tweet's wording and the column's conclusion." And that he would "read the column again and think about whether I could have said the same thing in a way less offensive to Trump supporters on September 11th."

This is one of the most unfair headlines I've ever seen in The New York Times or any other paper. "Envoy's View of City is Priceless. The curtain?" Fifty-two thousand dollars with the picture of Nikki Haley. And as the story noted, this was happening just as the department was undergoing deep budget cuts and had frozen hiring.

But the fourth paragraph knocks down the entire premise of the story as folks went for the U.S. ambassador, said plans to buy the curtains were made in 2016, during the Obama administration. And Haley had no say whatsoever in the purchase.

The efforts to paint Nikki Haley as just another, you know, free- spending, Scott Pruitt wasting of fortune on luxury stuff just utterly failed.

The Times admitted it and editors know (ph) after the uproar that the article created an unfair impression and should not have focused on Haley. That's for sure. The article shouldn't have published (INAUDIBLE) by editors. You know what else was missing? An apology.

Speaking of headlines, The Huffington Post had one the other day: "Kellyanne Conway: Donald Trump's Anti-Media Attacks 'Are Not Healthy." What? Was the president's counselor turning on him? Nope. This was pure clickbait. Here's what Kellyanne actually said on Christiane Amanpour's new PBS show.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We see things every single day on T.V. and in print that I promise you, I swear to god, are patently false. I do agree that it is not healthy for the body politic on either side. There is no indication we have. And we -- I and others have tried, the president has tried, to turn down the temperature, to give more access.


KURTZ: So, she said it wasn't healthy to either side. So that was more than just clickbait by the liberal website. That was a blatant distortion.

Jeff Fager fired by CBS. The executive producer of "60 Minutes" threatening a reporter. More on the fallout involving the ousted chairman Les Moonves coming up in just a moment. And later, seen that Google video? The executives thrashing Trump? We'll touch on that as well.


KURTZ: Jeff Fager, the long-time executive producer of 60 Minutes, was a former CBS News chairman and a powerful force at the network.


JEFF FAGER, FORMER CBS CHAIRMAN: When we cover a story and report it on Sunday night and it has impact on Monday morning, that's what you hope for.


KURTZ: Fager was caught up in Ronan Farrow's reporting on Les Moonves, who was fired as CBS Chairman last week and hours after a devastating second article in the New Yorker quoted, six more women are accusing Moonves of sexual assault or misconduct.


NORAH O'DONNELL, CBS NEWS: Les has always treated me fairly and with respect. Still, it has been for me -- it has been another sleepless night, thinking about this. There is no excuse for this alleged behavior. It is systematic and it is pervasive in our culture.


KURTZ: Norah O'Donnell. Now, in the New Yorker, Ronan Farrow said Fager allegedly tolerated a culture of misogyny at 60 Minutes, and was once accused of grabbing an intern's butt at a party. But CBS fired Fager after he delivered a harsh warning to CBS reporter, Jericka Duncan, who is covering him as part of the scandal.


JERICKA DUNCAN, CBS NEWS: If you repeat these false accusations without any of your own reporting to back them up, you will be held responsible for harming me. He went on to say, be careful, there are people who lost their jobs trying to harm me. And if you pass on these damaging claims without your own reporting to back them up, that will become a serious problem.

JEFF GLOR, CBS NEWS: It's difficult to not -- without dealing with this. The message was unacceptable.


KURTZ: CBS anchor Jeff Glor. And joining me from Connecticut, Charlie Gasparino, a senior business correspondent at FBN. And, Charlie, I have known Jeff Fager for decades. And I am stunned because as those words resonated, he was essentially threatening the job of a reporter who is doing her job.

CHARLIE GASPARINO, FOX BUSINESS NETWORK: Right. And someone he works with. Listen, when that thing first came out, most of our heads are shaking our heads. Oh, he's getting fired over a text message where he essentially said you know, don't defame me. I mean, remember, when didn't get the full scope of the text message -- the email at first. But when you read that, I mean -- listen, I have been threatened by all sorts of people, never really people I work with or who are in positions of power in the country. And basically, I mean, it's tortuous interference, you know, writ large. Someone is doing their job, they're calling you for comment, you're basically saying don't do your job or else -- or else, I may come after you.

KURTZ: Well, you can use the legal term tortuous interference. I'm just going to say it smells. And it smells bad.

GASPARINO: It smells bad.

KURTZ: It smells bad, yeah. And here is the CBS reporter, Jericka Duncan. She was interviewed by Norah O'Donnell about that experience.


O'DONNELL: What was it like when you received that text?

DUNCAN: This is someone who held an enormous amount of power here, who I respected, and I was shocked.


KURTZ: Now, you know, Fager himself said I don't think one text message is an appropriate reason to terminate someone after 36 years at the network. Do you think this text message controversy was sort of a -- sort of a technicality, a stand-in, if you will, for the larger concern about reporting on the culture at 60 Minutes, where Fager looked the other way, whatever problems Fager may have had in other areas?

GASPARINO: I do. And the reason why I do is not necessarily from my reporting, but from what David Rhodes, I guess the head of CBS News said, remember he said Jeff is leaving because of his text message. I'm paraphrasing somewhat. And it's not directly...

KURTZ: Yeah.

GASPARINO: His departure is not directly related to the allegations in the New Yorker about sexual misconduct. When you say it like that, you know, you must -- you have got to think that there is some other stuff there.

KURTZ: David Rhodes, of course, the CBS News president.

GASPARINO: Yes. And someone I know very well, a full disclosure, a friend of mine. I have not spoken with him about this. But you know, I will just say this, Howie, I have never been threatened like that. I have written a lot of tough stories, stepped on a lot of toes in my career, and so have you. Have you ever been threatened by someone internally? I mean, even if you have to do a story about your own company?

KURTZ: Well, as a media reporter, I have had to do that many times.


KURTZ: I have people say you better be careful and I have people be mad after the fact. But not -- you know, others have gotten fired for taking me on.

But let's go to Les Moonves because it was hours after our show last Sunday that this New Yorker fees came out. Six women, two of them saying he forced them to perform oral sex. One said he threw the woman against the wall. There was talk of retaliation and ruined careers. This was really chilling stuff. And you're the one who broke some of the news over last weekend, CBS made a point of saying that Moonves is out and the $100 million or the $120 million in severance payments that have been speculated about, Moonves won't get any of that until the outside investigations commissioned by CBS are complete. Do you think at this point he'll ever see any of that money?

GASPARINO: The other condition was that the $120 million or how much he is going to get, he may get less, is contingent on the facts in that investigation. So listen, I don't have any sources on the committee that's investigating it. I do have sources inside CBS. And people inside CBS doubt that he's going to get the full amount. A lot of them doubt he's going to get any of it. And the reason why is because if you read some of the coverage that came out of this, you know, there was some point where apparently this led the board about getting someone a job that was making statements about his alleged sexual misconduct.

KURTZ: Yeah.

GASPARINO: When you mislead the board like that, you got a real problem, man.

KURTZ: That's a key point. That is a key point. And, Charlie, there was a terrific piece in the New York Times by James Stewart, in which it was said the board -- the CBS board initially brushed off the allegations by the women in the first New Yorker piece. And this is so striking, Aaron Kopelson, an 83-year-old producer. He won the Best Picture at Oscar for Platoon, was quoted as saying earlier, I don't care if 30 more women come forward to allege this kind of stuff. Les is our leader and it wouldn't change my opinion of him, except the board did change its collective opinion again after...

GASPARINO: By the way, that's a damaging statement in itself. I mean, think about it, someone who is on the board of directors of CBS, doesn't care if more women come forward.

KURTZ: Yeah.

GASPARINO: I mean, it just -- it seems like that place, you know, it's in need of a corporate makeover. It will probably get one. My guess is -- again, this is just from speaking with a lot of people in CBS. Les Moonves is not going to get much of that money, if any. And they're going to have to revamp that board of directors, if they have attitudes like that.

KURTZ: Yeah. Well, they already have added some new members. Charlie Gasparino, great to see you. And it was a stunning quote. And CBS, the first place broadcast network is going to have to kind of dig out from this mess and change the culture. All right.

Ahead on Media Buzz, new flack for the Bob Woodward book. We'll talk about that.

And Google executives say they're not biased at all, their product is perfectly fair. Now, we've got this video, what they said about Donald Trump right after the election.


KURTZ: Just days after the election, Google's top executives including cofounder Sergey Brin and Larry Page delivered an incredible rant about how upset they were about Donald Trump's victory and how extreme his voters are. All this was recorded. And this week, the video was leaked to Breitbart.


SERGEY BRIN, GOOGLE COFOUNDER: Most people here are very upset and pretty sad. Myself as an immigrant and a refugee, I certainly find this election deeply offensive. And I know many of you do, too. And I think that's a very stressful time. And it conflicts with many of our values.

KENT WALKER, GOOGLE SENIOR VICE-PRESIDENT FOR GLOBAL AFFAIRS: Fear, I think, not just in the United States, but around the world, is what's fueling concerns, xenophobia, hatred, and a desire for answers that may or may not be there.


KURTZ: Joining us now from New York, Kat Timpf, National Review writer and Fox News contributor, and Cathy Areu, political columnist for Bold Global and a former Washington Post magazine editor. Kat, what's amazing here is that the Google leaders are doing this all for the video cameras. The videos are rolling. And they assume that absolutely everybody agrees with them, that the Trump selection was a no-good, horrible, terrible, depressing event. There's even talk of helping employees move to Canada.

KAT TIMPF, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Yeah, absolutely. There was serious talk of helping employees leave the country. This was seriously some raw emotions. People were very, very upset in the video. And I understand the workplace being a place where you also have friends and you talk to your friends about issues that you're facing. And the election was an issue and a very emotional issue for a lot of people.

I don't understand though why it was videotaped, that seems like an interesting choice, especially when you see the way that this videotape has been used in the conservative media this week to kind of say hey, look, Google is biased and there might be something to the idea that their bias impacts the way they do business.

KURTZ: We'll come back to that. But, Cathy, you know, they are entitled not to like the president. But they also went after Donald Trump's voters as dumb, extreme, and have a tendency toward fascism or communism. We're talking about 63 million Americans.

CATHY AREU, POLITICAL COLUMNIST FOR BOLD GLOBAL: Yeah, yeah. That's exactly what they did. And I think one of the executives cried on video. And this is a part of TGIF Friday meetings, I think.

KURTZ: Really?

AREU: So it's interesting that a conservative media outlet put this out with a company -- about a company that doesn't hide the fact that it is liberal. So a conservative outlet put out this statement from a liberal company, but it's now an era of buyer beware and reader beware. We really need to know who is telling us what. And we need to be more educated as readers and as consumers, and know where we are getting our information from.

KURTZ: Right.

AREU: Yeah.

KURTZ: Right. The only problem with that is that Google is not a website that you can believe or not believe. It's a service that almost everybody uses.

AREU: Yeah.

KURTZ: And Google put out a statement -- let me jump ahead here, saying well, this is a meeting where everyone is free to express their opinions and our products are built for every one. But Kat, when Sergey Brin -- we saw on the video says Trump's election is at odds with our values and he finds it deeply offensive, then we are asked to believe that this doesn't affect how they run the company at all. Your thoughts.

TIMPF: I think it's impossible to know because I don't work at Google and nobody really knows. But you know, as humans, that your biases do affect the way you do things, especially when you are this emotional about something. So that's why we see a lot of conservatives pick up on this. There was also of course this week that email that Fox News obtained showing that they were trying to turn out the Latino vote in the 2016 election, which Breitbart and other conservative sites also pointed as more evidence that Google was trying to help Hillary Clinton. And that it is continuing to be biased in the way that it operates.

KURTZ: Right. Now, Cathy, the president a week or so said Google was rigged against him. He used the word rigged against him and the right. I don't believe that executives tinker with every search, or even have the power to do that, although they have been accused of pushing some conservative voices down in the all-important rankings. And these algorithms are written by humans.

AREU: Right.

KURTZ: So what should we think about whether or not they're obviously left- leaning political views, anti-Trump views, taint the actual product?

AREU: Well, yeah, the algorithms are written by humans. And this proves if humans were not happy and they were actually crying about the outcome, which meant Romney's campaign -- many Romney supporters were crying four years prior to that. So this is something that does happen. It's not unusual. But yeah, now, we have to question algorithms. We do really have to wonder was the president right on this one because they are coming out. The executives did come out and say they were upset about this election and what could they do to change this Trump era. So they are human. They're human. But at the end of the day, it's a company.

KURTZ: Yeah.

AREU: So they're going to tinker with a bottom-line over this.

KURTZ: They are opinionated humans. And remember, last year, Google -- a conservative Google engineer was fired over a memo entitled Google Ideological Echo Camber. A quick question for you, Kat. A New York Times' reporter showed us this Google video a few months ago, thought it was no big deal, used a few of the more benign quotes in the anecdotal lead of a story about Silicon Valley was warming to the president. It didn't use the most explosive comments. That really surprised me.

TIMPF: That doesn't surprise me at all because that doesn't fit the editorial narrative of the New York Times. The editorial narrative of the New York Times would definitely be that Google is completely unbiased and they wouldn't want this to come to light. Because it does make Google look biased, which hasn't really been secretive about. But it provides a pretty clear-cut evidence of it in the city.

KURTZ: All right, guys. Let me get a break.

still to come, new criticism from a former Trump confidant about that Bob Woodward book, as he makes the TV rounds and the thing seems to be a runaway best seller. Stay with us.


KURTZ: One million copies of Bob Woodward's book, Fear, have been printed, as President Trump dismisses the book as fiction, the veteran reporter has been hitting the TV circuit.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is mostly anonymous sources in here. Why should people trust you?

BOB WOODWARD, AUTHOR: Because the incidents are not anonymous. It gives a date, it gives a time, who participates.


KURTZ: What's striking is how a number of interviews have tried to get Woodward to say that the president is well, kind of crazy.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any concern about Donald Trump's well being mentally or do they just believe that he just -- he has got a deficient personality that can't handle the truth?

WOODWARD: I'm not a psychiatrist and I don't dig into that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I worry particularly about the emotionally overwrought part of it. Do you mean by that that he's out of control?



KURTZ: Kat Timpf, are you struck as I am by how some of these anchors kept trying to get Woodward to say that Trump is unhinged and Woodward wouldn't go there.

TIMPF: I'm a little shocked that he wouldn't go there. I am not shocked by the question. Because the same thing happened every time one of these books is released. The media reaction is always the same. It is the same as it was with Wolfe's book. There is almost breathless coverage of it on the left, some sort of huge bombshell. It is so unsubstantiated.


TIMPF: So, of course, they are seeing this as a bombshell, they are going to try to get the bombshell headline saying that yes, indeed, the author of this book says that he's unhinged.

KURTZ: Right. Well, I'm not surprised because Woodward has always been kind of just this just-the-facts approach. And he's not a TV sound byte thrower. Cathy, Woodward telling the Guardian, I think too many people have last their perspective and become emotionally unhinged about Trump. The media should respond with what really happened in other words as opposed to characterizations and name calling.

AREU: Yeah. And Woodward is one of those old school journalists. I mean, Nixon experienced that firsthand. And he has written about seven presidents since. And so, yeah, Woodward -- being from the Washington Post, I wrote from the Washington Post, you wrote for the Washington Post, so Washington Post writers and reporters and editors, there is a strict guideline. He's not going to come out and say unhinged. He's not going to use these words. He's going to stick to the facts. That's how we were trained, that's how we wrote. And this book just gives the facts, it puts it out there for the reader.

KURTZ: Right.

AREU: And those who support Trump are not going to like it. Those who do not like Trump are going to love it. And there you have it.

KURTZ: Some of the facts in dispute. It's not a Washington Post project.

AREU: Right, right.

KURTZ: But on the Today Show -- on the Today Show, Savannah Guthrie pressed Woodward about some of the denials coming out. Take a look.


SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, TODAY SHOW HOST: John Kelly now says that never happened, I didn't say it. Jim Mattis, another person, quoted as saying the president's understanding is like a 5th or 6th grader. He comes subsequently and says I didn't say it. Are they lying?

WOODWARD: They are not telling the truth.


KURTZ: And, Kat, this week, Gary Cohn, former economic advisor, put out a statement saying this book does not accurately portray my experience in the White House. Rob Porter, the former staff secretary, often misleading portrait, but they didn't deny any of the specifics in the book.

TIMPF: Right, absolutely. But the fact that a lot of these sources are anonymous makes it kind of easy to issue these sorts of denials. And books like this, in general, I think -- I don't understand the point of them because just as Cathy said, they just reiterate what people already think.

KURTZ: Wait, wait, wait. You don't understand the point of them. I mean, Woodward has spent many months going behind the scenes, you can accept of not accept the portrait.

TIMPF: Right.

KURTZ: But you don't think there is any value in a book like this?

TIMPF: I understand the point of it, but I don't understand if he thinks he is going to change any minds here. He's not going to change any minds. Anybody who thinks that Trump is not a great guy looks at this as further evidence that Trump is not a great guy, that the White House is in complete chaos. And people who support Trump, they look at this and they say oh, it's all anonymous, I don't believe it, this is just more of left-wing people trying to smear the president. And quite frankly, a lot of them might say even if it were true, they would care because they like the results coming out of the White House.

KURTZ: Right. Well, you might be right about not changing minds in this polarized society, but on the other hand, it has generated an enormous amount of media coverage and that may have an impact. So, Cathy, by attacking Bob Woodward, as the president has been doing...

AREU: Right.

KURTZ: He's a fiction writer, he's an idiot, he's a Democratic operative. You know, obviously, this is a journalist who has been around since he and Carl Bernstein broke the Watergate scandal. Didn't Donald Trump give this book a tidal wave of publicity?

AREU: Right, right. But to question Woodward and to say these things about Woodward, he's going to fight every Rosie O'Donnell -- I mean, Arnold Schwarzenegger. But Woodward, he's one of the country's best journalists, investigative reporters. I have great sources within the White House and from the last three administrations, I can't imagine his sources. So I don't think I would question Woodward's sources. I'm a little jealous.


AREU: I'm sure he can pick up the phone and talk to anyone in there.

KURTZ: He also -- he also knocked on people's doors at night. Let me just say to close this out that you know, you can criticize Woodward's background reporting techniques, you can question the accuracy of the book. But now, that I'm actually reading it, there is so much about what people thought and these long scenes and meetings, not always criticizing Donald Trump that it's impossible not to believe they spent a lot of time with Trump confidants and with Trump associates and former White House officials.

Great discussion on both topics. Cathy Areu and Kathy Timpf, thanks so much for joining us this Sunday.

AREU: Thank you.

TIMPF: Thank you.

KURTZ: That's it for this edition of Media Buzz. I'm Howard Kurtz. By the way, Andrew Cuomo, the Democratic primary for New York governor who was running against actress Cynthia Nixon, this got so much publicity, he trounced her by 30 points. It was a landslide. So why was there so much attention on something that was never going to be a competitive race? I would say one, it's New York. And two, it was Sex and The City. Celebrity candidates always get a lot of attention.

Hey, check out my new Podcast, "Media Buzz Meter." We kick around the day's five most important or intriguing, buzzy, or fascinating stories, not just on politics, entertainment, sports, you name it. Hey, you can subscribe at Apple iTunes, or Google Play, or We hope you will check our Facebook page, give us a like. I post a lot of my columns there. I interact on Twitter as well @howardkurtz. I guess we got it all in.

Continuing coverage on Fox of Tropical Depression Florence, the death toll now up to 14 since I have been sitting here. We'll be back here next Sunday. See you then with the latest buzz.

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