Media challenge Trump on Iran

This is a rush transcript from "Media Buzz," June 23, 2019. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: On the Buzz Meter this Sunday, President Trump calls off retaliatory airstrikes against Iran first revealed by The New York Times, triggering an intense media debate about whether he was being careful about civilian casualties or just backed down.


BRET STEPHENS, CONTRIBUTING COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I think what you're seeing is an indecisive president who likes to speak loudly and carry a small stick.

GREG GUTFELD, FOX NEWS HOST: They're suggesting that there's some kind of weakness by not killing these people, and so what they're basically saying is you should go to war.  JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC HOST: This is a president who loves to insult, he loves to bully, he loves to threaten, but what happens when our adversaries understand that he's never going to follow through?  TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: Last night was a high point in the Trump presidency. Bombing Iran would have ended his political career in a minute. There'd be no chance of reelection after that.


KURTZ: But is the media establishment biased in favor of military action and mid-east intervention? The president kicks off his bid for a second term, and CNN and MSNBC blow off the speech, sparking a debate on whether his attacks on the media, the Democrats, and Hillary Clinton are aimed only at his base.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: This president has gone for such intense us versus them that he has boiled down his base to the most ardent and open to the fear and aggression in his message.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Full-fledged airing of grievances, the president taking aim at some of his favorite targets: the news media, Hillary Clinton, and especially Democrats.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was saying, hey, look, they're not just coming after me. They're trying to invalidate the results of the 2016 election.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: Without a doubt, we are looking at right there, one of the greatest shows on earth.


KURTZ: Is much of the press attacking his re-election strategy right out of the gate? Sean Spicer, the former White House press secretary, will be here live.

Joe Biden whacked by the press for talking about working closely with two long-dead segregationist senators. Why Biden's point about cooperating with lawmakers he disagrees with touched such a raw of racial nerve in the press.

Plus, a showdown between the president and The New York Times's publisher over his charge that the paper virtually committed treason. We'll look at the war of words.

I'm Howard Kurtz and this is "Media Buzz."

In the uproar after Iran shot down an American drone, President Trump seemingly tried to deescalate the situation saying, "I think probably Iran made a mistake. I imagine it was a general or somebody that made a mistake." But late Thursday night, The New York Times reported the president had authorized retaliatory airstrikes against Iran and called them off as the military was gearing up for the attacks.

The president confirmed it on Twitter saying they were cocked and loaded when he gave the stand down order 10 minutes before launch, and in an interview that aired today on "Meet the Press."


CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: Were planes in the air?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Were about ready to go. No, but they would have been pretty soon. And things would have happened to a point where you wouldn't turn back. I said, "How many people are going to be killed?" "Sir, I'd like to get back to you on that." Great people, these generals. They said, "Came Back." Said, "Sir, approximately 150." And I didn't like it. I didn't think it was -- I didn't think it was proportionate.


KURTZ: Joining us to analyze the coverage: Ben Domenech, founder and publisher of The Federalist; Kristina Partsinevelos, a correspondent for Fox Business Network; and Philippe Reines, former State Department official under Hillary Clinton.

Ben, kneejerk media reaction including from some on the right has been Trump caved, he blinked, how could he call off these airstrikes? What did you make of that reaction?

BEN DOMENECH, FOUNDER AND PUBLISHER, THE FEDERALIST: What I made of that is that our media is populated by the same foreign policy elite voices that we've had for a long time, many of whom have learned very little from the last two decades of American activity in the Middle East, and I think are always going to be leaning more toward an active and aggressive response to anything that goes on in the area.

In this context, I found the reaction here to be really over the top. Considering the decision process that the president went through, I think, seems very responsible in saying, "I don't want to get into a situation where we start killing Iranians over a drone that was downed that was unmanned." This is an act of aggression on the part of Iran and there are other ways to deal with that other than going out and killing people.

KURTZ: Philippe, the coverage turned a bit after the president talked about the estimate of 150 Iranians that would killed, but is there in fact a strong bias toward military action by the media establishment, the foreign policy establishment, the TV generals and some of the same pundits who helped bring us the Iraq war?

PHILIPPE REINES, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL UNDER HILLARY CLINTON:  Well, I would separate out the punditry from the actual networks and media outlets. I would say it's hard to call the outlets themselves will have a liberal bias and a pro-war bias. That's a little bit in conflict.

I do think the pundits, the generals do, and I think what we are seeing this week was a little bit more complicated than usual. And while I'm not letting President Trump off the hook, his end result was reasonable. His decision was reasonable. The chaos and confusion that got there is the problem.

And I think what you saw in television was, you know, when we move towards military action, you have a significant amount of resources and people moving into place. We are moving aircraft carries. We are moving destroyers. We are moving thousands of people. The media was feeding off of that. They were, their sources were telling them they were about to go, the White House was telling we're about to go --

KURTZ: Many people in the White House thought we were about to go.

REINES: Many people in the White House thought we're about to go. And when it didn't, I think what you saw more than anything was confusion.

KURTZ: The New York Times reported that Tucker Carlson privately advised President Trump not to strike Iran. As we saw, he has made that argument on TV night after night.

But the Times story when he scrubbed the mission included this sentence, Kristina. "No government officials asked The New York Times to withhold the article." We'll get into the back story in the next segment, but was the paper worried in reporting this sensitive information at the time about a backlash?

KRISTINA PARTSINEVELOS, FOX BUSINESS NETWORK CORRESPONDENT: They must have, because they wouldn't have put a quote like that in their paper. But I just want to address, you said that it was reasonable for the president to do so, to not go ahead with this. So why isn't the media focusing on the positive of that? Instead, they're trying to rip apart foreign policy.

For example, yesterday on MSNBC, Chris Hayes, the bottom of the screen read "foreign policy lacking in vision." So that's pretty much alluding to your point that it is constantly arguing why the president has a problem with foreign policy, why he's -- he has to balance two sides: one, to not intervene, but two, to be strong and to show that he's not weak and not caving to Iran.

So I think you brought up a really good point, but I think nobody's focusing on that.

REINES: If he was to wake up Thursday and say, I don't like the casualty estimates, I don't think it's proportionate to an unmanned drone, let's not go forward, that is a reasonable outcome. My point is you don't do it that late in the day.

And I think in this case, the reason I'm not being as hard on President Trump as your viewers might be used to, is because I actually think in this case usually President Trump inserts a certain amount of chaos on to the system. In this case, I think the system played him a little bit in the form of Ambassador Bolton.

PARTSINEVELOS: Not informing him, you mean?  REINES: I think Ambassador Bolton -- the national security adviser is supposed to be an honest broker, giving all opinions. I think Ambassador Bolton wanted to get to this point, and I think probably led him a little bit there.

KURTZ: Let me pick it up with Ben. First, I want to briefly play you the president's own assessment of what happened yesterday.


TRUMP: Everybody was saying I'm a warmonger, and now they say I'm a dove. And I think I'm neither, if you want to know the truth.


KURTZ: So some news out there are saying the Pentagon was warning of the risks, but that John Bolton, national security adviser, former Fox News contributor, Mike Pompeo, secretary of state, and others arguing against the strikes. All these stories that Trump would be led into war and conflict by Bolton. Maybe some of those stories cannot be overstated because in the end, the president overruled those people.

DOMENECH: The president has been very resistant to actually going into any of these situations that he believes could turn into a major conflict. But to circle back to your earlier point about the Iraq war and the representation that we see of foreign policy arguments in the media, it seems to me this is one of those areas where there needed to be a significant change on the part of the media and the voices they were listening to compared to voices that they listened to 15, 18 years ago on a lot of these foreign policy questions.

That change hasn't happened. It hasn't happened for a lot of reasons. So you see the same voices back at the same tables making similar arguments again about the need to use American power in ways that can ultimately lead us down the road toward casualties, toward significant conflict.

That's something that I think needs to change broadly in the media. We need a wider and more representative debate on foreign policy that has voices that agree with the president and with so many other Americans about these subjects.

PARTSINEVELOS: You're just thinking balance on these panels.

DOMENECH: That's an amazing idea.

KURTZ: I think a lot of Americans are so war-weary after Iraq and Afghanistan that regardless of the process, they like what the president ended up. Just briefly, Philippe, didn't Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton grapple with some of the same questions and some of the same media criticism about civilian casualties, for example, from drone attacks?

REINES: Yes. That was a carryover from the Bush administration. The Obama administration did escalate and accelerate the use of unmanned drones, but that was in a conflict zone, and that's arguably to save American lives. I don't think the parallels are the same. Also that was a classified situation.

The more parallel situation might be Syria where on a Friday, the president had moved to a red line and the world was moving towards assuming the United States would do something. On Saturday, that was not. That's probably the biggest gap or fissure among the Obama administration.

KURTZ: Let me just ask you, Kristina, because in another last minute decision, the president called off these ICE raids that were supposed to start today. He said the beginning of deportation of millions of illegal immigrants. He said a two-week delay, negotiating with Democrats.

And the media keep sort of overreacting to these tactics where the president is sort of like a real estate negotiator who takes things to the brink, makes demands, and then ultimately pulls back and tries to find a compromise.

PARTSINEVELOS: I was going through a lot of various outlets, and I found, if anything, everybody's focusing on the fact that here is a moment where there's two weeks, possibly both sides can work across the aisle to get that budget of $4.5 billion. So that was across the board.

I think a very similar message I saw that finally the president is just waiting now two weeks to see if Congress can work together.

KURTZ: Right.

PARTSINEVELOS: So I may not necessarily think --

KURTZ: I'm reminded he was going to close the Mexican border, and he didn't. I think these are tactics that sometimes work. We're running a little short on time, so let me play a little bit of the president's Orlando speech, the re-election kickoff down in Florida.


TRUMP: We went through the greatest witch hunt in political history. The only collusion was committed by the Democrats, the fake news media, and their operatives.


KURTZ: The media verdict, I would say, Ben, was almost unanimous. This was a speech about anger and grievances including against the press, firing up the base, and will do nothing to expand his base of support.

DOMENECH: I think that he loves this aspect of politics more than any other. He loves going out in front of these crowds and putting on a kind of performance we saw there.

KURTZ: He feeds off of it.

DOMENECH: He feeds off of it, and it was interesting to see sitting in the stands there senators Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, all with their own unique history with the president, all there in support of him. The takeaway I have is this: he's going to have a lot of fun doing these and criticizing Democrats from the crowd that is really going to respond well to them.

KURTZ: Donald Trump did say in the speech that he told voters that the attacks on me are really attacks on you, which I thought was interesting device. It's all about the elites in the swamp. Were you surprised that your former boss was so prominently featured in the speech?  REINES: Not one bit.


REINES: I don't know --

KURTZ: You expected the crooked Hillary?

REINES: I don't know. I mean, it was one step away from him bringing a cardboard cutout.


REINES: But I think you put something in the water, because I agree with Ben again on Donald Trump --

PARTSINEVELOS: Oh, I was expecting --

REINES: Donald Trump -- apparently, you're a good influence.


REINES: Donald Trump just absolutely loves this, and this is what we're going to hear every day for the next 15 months, the same we've heard every day for the last 18 months and the year before that.

KURTZ: As I mentioned at the top, CNN and MSNBC did not carry -- CNN took about five minutes of it then broke away. They said, well, anchor John Berman said, "After about four minutes, it was all about attacks on the media." You were at the Orlando rally --

PARTSINEVELOS: I was there all day.

KURTZ: How did it seem to you and what's your take on to the three cable news networks deciding that a re-election kickoff by the president was not worthy of being aired?

PARTSINEVELOS: I think everybody was shocked at how much media was there. We are on the riser. There were so many people, international media. I was surrounded by everyone. The crowd was very animated. However, several points throughout the night, not just from President Trump, everybody that spoke before him, did call out the media.

And me standing there, I'm not holding any Fox Business anything, the entire crowd turned to boo, one guy was taunting a reporter next to me, and I don't even know what network he was from.

KURTZ: Right.

PARTSINEVELOS: And that environment is just so unfortunate because you need journalists to decipher everything that we're talking about all the time and hopefully, you know, push out some wrongdoings and injustice, and it was unfortunate because it happened.

KURTZ: There were also the chants of CNN sucks from the crowd --


KURTZ: -- which was at the time that CNN happened to break away. I'm not saying that was the reason. But I got people online, Trump haters, they say, why should they give this guy air time when he's constantly attacking the press? We are supposed to cover presidents and presidential candidates fairly even if those people are attacking us. That is part of our job.

Let me get a break here. When we come back, The New York Times's publisher is escalating his rhetoric against President Trump, who accused the paper of virtually committing treason. And later, Sean Spicer is on the state of warfare between his former boss and the press.


KURTZ: The publisher of The New York Times is escalating his rhetoric against Donald Trump after the president accused the paper of virtually committing treason, the story about cyber warfare efforts against Russia.

A.G. Sulzberger said in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, "The president is invoking a crime so great, it is punishable by death," and emphasized that the paper had checked with top national security officials and were told that there was no problem in reporting America's digital incursions against Russia's electric grid.

And then he broadened his indictment. "The president's rhetorical attacks continue to foster a climate in which trust in journalists is eroding and violence against them is growing. Mr. Trump's campaign against journalists should concern every patriotic American."

Kristina, what do you make of this 38-year-old publisher defending the cyber war story to be sure, but also saying denouncing Trump on leak investigations, on trying to block AT&T from taking over CNN and linking him to growing worldwide violence against journalists? It seems like he's rolling out all the ammunition here.  PARTSINEVELOS: Yeah. We know the battle between the two of them has been going on for quite some time, but I think it's also interesting that he chose to publish this in The Wall Street Journal which is geared towards business leaders, conservatives --

KURTZ: Reached a different audience, yeah.

PARTSINEVELOS: According to him, there was a variety article afterwards that followed up with him and it seemed to have worked because business leaders have reached out. I think he did bring up a few good points about journalists as a whole and the importance of that, and the word treason.

KURTZ: Ben, on the cyber war itself, the Times did what it is supposed to do. It went to the government. Do you have a problem with this? In the past, the paper has withheld and other news organizations have withheld or killed stories that could jeopardize Americans' safety.

But here's the president this week still saying the story is treasonous, the Times should immediately release their sources which, if they exist at all, which I doubt, are phonies. He's still denying the story.  DOMENECH: I mean this is part of a continuing war between the institution and the president. When the president talks about the media, you know, he always gets these critics coming around and going after him on various points. I wish they'd spend as much time looking at the levels of positive assessment from the American people as to media because they would find that they're actually a lot less popular than they maybe think they are in those newsrooms, and that's for a lot of different reasons.

In part, it's because the whole media bears the brunt of stories that are reported by just one entity or by one journalist. Part of it is frustrations that the American people have at seeing their views lacking in a lot of different contexts when it comes to media. And the president plays that to his advantage, pointing out that the media is populated by a lot of people who have elite opinions and removed from the American people.

So this kind of appeal may work when it comes to business interests, but it's not going to actually improve the assessment that the American people have of all these media --

KURTZ: Right, but I think we have to make distinction among stories that are, you know, (INAUDIBLE), based on one (ph) source or this story which appears to be true. Given that this is his hometown paper, Philippe, how much of this is personal?

I mean, Trump sought out A.G. Sulzberger when he took over for his father for an off-the-record meeting which he then later made public and that causes spat. He asked for another one which Sulzberger said no. They did an interview with Sulzberger and his reporters, and Sulzberger complained about his rhetoric against journalists. So, it does seem like there is a history here.

REINES: Yeah. It's a fascinating media story. Katrina stole my point a little bit but I will --


REINES: Sorry. What did I say?

PARTSINEVELOS:  Kristina. I'm not Katrina.


REINES: Because you're like a hurricane --

PARTSINEVELOS: Yeah, hurricane.

REINES: -- in terms of energy, sorry.


REINES: You know, the president calls -- get myself out of trouble. The president, President Trump calls them the "failing New York Times." The worst thing for President Trump would be if the New York Times fails tomorrow, because he loves the foil. He needs the foil.

And to your point about his hometown paper, he is just so frustrated that for 50 years and for the last particularly few years, that they won't just give him what he thinks is his due in terms of finally getting to this office. They're not treating him the way he should.

The flipside to point I was making, Kristina, he chose The Wall Street Journal rather than his own paper, rather than The Washington Post or the L.A. Times because it's owned by the people that pay your salaries, that pay for this chair, that pay for these cameras.

KURTZ: Yeah.

REINES: And it's interesting that The Wall Street Journal accepted it and ran it. They are also making a point --

PARTSINEVELOS: It's an attack against all media in general.

REINES: Rupert Murdoch is making a point that I'm with you on some things, I'm not with you on this.

KURTZ: Don't personally approve this but was good for the journal to do this. Does Sulzberger go too far when he says, you know, Trump is fostering a climate of growing worldwide violence against journalists? Is that all Donald Trump's fault?

DOMENECH: I don't think it is Donald Trump's fault at all. In fact, I think that the level of disgust that exits towards the media within the coalition of the right would be just as strong. He just leans into it a lot more and makes the arguments a lot more personal because these are relationships with journalists who many of whom he's known in the New York media market for years and that makes it a more personal activity.

KURTZ: Just briefly, Kristina, will The New York Times have trouble being perceived as fair when its publisher has issued this scathing indictment of President Trump?  PARTSINEVELOS: I think no matter what I say, people are going to say it's not fair, and they can say the same thing about Fox when we publish off on our web site. Both sides, all newspapers have an opinion section. This was an opinion piece. It was blatantly said, opinion, so --

KURTZ: Yeah.

PARTSINEVELOS: -- you can read into it --

KURTZ: Absolutely.

PARTSINEVELOS: -- as much as you want.

KURTZ: And the publisher is an executive, he's not a reporter, he's not a journalist.  PARTSINEVELOS: Exactly.

KURTZ: I think it is fair to say that this is to be continued when it comes to Donald Trump and this newspaper. Philippe Reines, Ben Domenech, Kristina Partsinevelos, thanks very much for joining us this Sunday.

Ahead, Joe Biden gets pounded by the press for recalling his friendly relations with two segregationist senators.

But up next, the personal and painfulness over Patrick Shanahan quitting as Pentagon chief, and the president denying a new sexual assault allegation that wound up on a magazine cover.


KURTZ: President Trump denounced New York magazine yesterday for carrying a new allegation of sexual assault. This comes from advice columnist and TV personality E. Jean Carroll, who makes the accusation in a new book.

Carroll says the allegiance took place in a New York department store 25 years ago, when she went into a dressing room with Trump at his request to try on lingerie that he was considering buying and she contends. He pulled down her tights and raped her in a three-minute confrontation.  (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I have no idea who this woman is. This is a woman who is also accused other men of things, as you know. It is a totally false accusation. It's a disgrace that a magazine like New York, which is one of the reasons why it's failing, people don't read it anymore. They're trying to get readership by using me. It is not good.


KURTZ: In this book, as the president noted, E. Jean Carroll also accuses other powerful men of sexual harassment. When NBC reported more than a week ago that President Trump was having second thoughts about the nomination of acting Pentagon Chief Patrick Shanahan, he deflected the question.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): Why haven't you nominated a DHS and defense secretary?

TRUMP: Well, I have defense secretary.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): When is that going to happen, though?

TRUMP: I have. It's done. I put it out. I put it out officially. No, now he has to go through the process.


KURTZ: But the other day, the president announced that Shanahan was withdrawing over serious family problems.



TRUMP: I heard about it yesterday and it's very unfortunate, very unfortunate.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): You just heard about it yesterday?

TRUMP: No, we have a very good vetting process.


KURTZ: The White House betting operation has come under heavy journalist scrutiny after Shanahan acknowledged to The Washington Post that there was a domestic violence incident with his wife that led to her arrest and chilling details.

He described how eight years ago, his son, then 17, brutally attacked his mother with a baseball bat, leaving her bloodied and unconscious. Shanahan said he regrets defending his son and wrongly claiming that that attack was in self-defense.

It is really sad. Almost no one in the media is defending this mess, hardly the first a nominee has had to withdraw after damaging information emerged.


BYRON YORK, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: When the president says they have a great vetting process, it does not appear to be the case.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president came and said he only learned for the first time yesterday? That is either a huge lie or it represents gross mismanagement in the White House or perhaps both.


KURTZ: But one man should have anticipated the media firestorm. Shanahan said bad things can happen to good families and that dredging up the episode will run my son's life. I understand. Perhaps, he should have thought of that before accepting the Pentagon nomination.

Ahead, the media siding with those who say Joe Biden should apologize for his comments about working with long-dead segregationists. But first, Sean Spicer on the increasingly negative coverage of his boss as Trump launches his campaign for a second term.


KURTZ: A heated battle between the press and the President as he deals with escalating tensions with Iran and launches his bid for a second term, a well known to our next guest. Joining us is Sean Spicer, the former White House Press Secretary, author of The Briefing, and now senior advisor to the America First Pac. Sean, let's start with the aborted air strikes.


KURTZ: Some critics in the media saying the President backed down, he backed off, he failed to deliver on his tough talk against Iran, what do you of that reaction?

SPICER: I think it's a no-win situation, right. Either he is a hawk rushing to go to war or he is a dove that doesn't get it. But I think the President was very clear and he explained his rationale. It was measured. It wasn't proportional to shooting down an unmanned drone.

And let's keep in mind he hasn't taken anything off the table, right. I mean, there is still the ability for him to retaliate proportionately.

KURTZ: He's doing to it so far.

SPICER: Correct.

KURTZ: Yeah.

SPICER: But I think the President was very clear that the loss of civilian life was not proportional to striking down an unmanned drone. That being said, all of the options still remain on the table.

At the end of the day, he has also explained very clearly that the ultimate goal is not them, it's to keep them from nuclear rising, which is prevent a threat to the region and ideally to us.

KURTZ: Right. And that is a very difficult, treacherous situation right now. But how does the President stance against endless wars, especially in the Middle East, which he has pushed since the campaign? How does that play overall with the press?

SPICER: Well, I think to your point, I mean, he has been very clear about wanting to get out and draw down of Afghanistan and Iraq and other places around the world. This is something he was very clear on the campaign. And when you look at this President, he has been very consistent with following through whether it's pulling out of the Iran agreement, moving the embassy to Jerusalem or tax cuts, regulations, all of those things he said he is going to do.

So, I mean, this is consistent with what he said as a candidate in terms of not getting involved in additional overseas conflict.

KURTZ: Right. I think as we talked about at the top of the show, there are a lot of elements within the media and the foreign policy establishment that is almost always favors military reaction.

Let's move to the kickoff speech in Orlando with a couple of minutes, he's attacking fake news. It was kind of a ready made speech. Are things now worse between Donald Trump and the media than when you were in the White House?

SPICER: Probably the same. I don't think it's improved. I don't think it's devolved.

KURTZ: Now, we hear a lot more of almost treasonous, we hear enemy of America people.

SPICER: We hear a lot of that before, too.

KURTZ: And certainly, the coverage of the President.

SPICER: Again, I think it's proportionately gotten equally bad.

KURTZ: Right.

SPICER: So you have the President ramping up a little bit of it, I think the coverage of it, the personal attacks by a lot of these folks, the ability for them to show that they're not neutral has gotten even more exacerbated.

KURTZ: OK. Let me talk to you about the campaign and the polls, in particular, because the President claimed the media were reporting on fake internal White House polls that showed him losing to Joe Biden in a lot of key states. The campaign later said those poles were real, but they were all outdated. So, they weren't phony as the President claimed. But the public polls obviously showing Biden leading nationally by about 10 points than other Democrats by lesser mounts. The media geniuses say, how can Trump possibly win reelection by firing up his base?

SPICER: Those are the same geniuses that didn't think he could win. Look, he went...

KURTZ: I guess it's for that.

SPICER: He did, but I mean, it's true. Because if you look at the New York Times and other outlets and pundits, they all had him losing and losing big. And they talked about the fact that he cannot win Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. We hadn't won since 1988.

KURTZ: Right.

SPICER: He pulled out a victory in all three of them. Look, at the end of the day, you have a great President with a message that resonates. But then, you also got an RNC and a campaign that are working together, hand and glove, and building on probably the most sophisticated data operation that exists.

So the point that I think needs to be made more than anything else is polling serves a purpose.


SPICER: It gives you an idea of the mood of the electorate, where things are headed.

KURTZ: He looks great, he's up 42 percent.

SPICER: But here's the thing. When you have a state -- one of those public polls, number one, they're using registered voters, which is ridiculous.


SPICER: Two is that when it's showing Florida, a 9-point up for Biden...

KURTZ: Yeah.

SPICER: That's ridiculous.

KURTZ: Right.

SPICER: Florida since 2000, Bush v. Gore has been within a couple points, not just presidentially, when you look at the race for governor, you look at the Scott race for the senate.

KURTZ: Right.

SPICER: All within a couple of points. The idea that Joe Biden has a 9- point lead when it's always tilted in a Republican direction for the last decade is insane.

KURTZ: That is -- that is ridiculous. And also, it's ridiculous because it's early.

You were in MSNBC recently, talking about the resignation of your former deputy, Sarah Huckabee-Sanders and Hallie Jackson, who was a news anchor and reporter said, Sarah Sanders did not always tell the truth. Do you regret setting the President for dishonesty when you were at the podium? What was your reaction to that question?

SPICER: Well, I think it's very rich that Hallie Jackson sits in a chair in MSNBC when you've got Brian Williams, Al Sharpton, Chris Matthews, Rachel Maddow, and talks about truth. I mean, if Hallie wants to talk about truth, she should look about her own network and look at the fact that they've had to suspend or question a lot of what her own colleagues have said.

KURTZ: Right.

SPICER: So for her to sit there and take this, lead us higher with a mighty attitude is a bit ridiculous.

KURTZ: Have you've also expressed regret for some of the things you've said as Press Secretary?

SPICER: Sure. Right. And the point that I made during that interview, Howie, is I think as a Christian, I've always said that I make mistakes, I ask for forgiveness whether it is personally or professionally. I've been clear about that.

As you know, I wrote a book called The Briefing. I'm clear in the book. I've talked to you about it.

KURTZ: Yes, you did.

SPICER: I talked to other reporters. And I said it to Hallie at the time. But the insistence on going further, just shows you how -- I mean, they have an agenda. I get it, MSNBC has an audience, but the problem that NBC has is they continue to decouple themselves. They were NBC, we're not MSNBC.

You see people like Hallie sitting one seat one day, and then go on MSNBC the next day to continue to further the left-wing ideological agenda of MSNBC. And they cannot discern the difference anymore.

So, whether it's her or anyone else there, they cannot say that they're different.

KURTZ: Just briefly, in the past week, we've seen the President do an interview with Chuck Todd, for Meet The Press, ABC, CNBC and Time Magazine where he said I'm sure this is will be the 20th horrible story I have in Time Magazine. Is this a return of a 2016 strategy of talking to news organizations that he believes are unfair to him?

SPICER: Two things. One is I think he believes that he understands messaging better than anybody that I've ever seen in politics. So, I think as the campaign ramps up, he wants to talk to more and more folks. He believes in that sort of old-school legacy, Time Magazine, NBC, ABC, the big networks.

I think what's really telling to me, though, if you look at two of the hosts, George Stephanopoulos and Chuck Todd, right. So you have Fox being banned by the DNC. And here, you have a President. And this was a subtle note that I don't know many picked up on was the hearing sitting with two former Democratic staffers, he is willing to go where so many others have not.

KURTZ: Chuck Todd is not in the same category as Stephanopoulos who worked in a Clinton White House.

SPICER: He was a Democratic staffer.

KURTZ: Well, nevertheless...

SPICER: The point is I think that it was an interesting tell that this President is willing to go anywhere to communicate his message and his accomplishments where you have the DNC banning it out like Fox.

KURTZ: All right. Sean Spicer also willing to go just about anywhere, and we are glad you're here. Thanks very much, Sean.

Ahead on MEDIA BUZZ, OJ on social media, can he just stay out of sight now that he is out of jail?

But coming up, many pundits turn on Joe Biden for reminiscing about too racist Democrats. Is this a minor gap or major media blunder?


KURTZ: Joe Biden was trying to make a point about cooperating with ideological opponents when he brought up his dealings with two segregation senators. He said James Eastland never called me boy. He always called me son. He said that Herman Talmadge was one of the meanest guys I've ever knew. And yet, he said at least, there was some stability. We've got things done. The press jumped on the former Vice President.


JOHN KING, INSIDE POLITICS ANCHOR: I'm going to call it insensitive. It's much worse than that. I don't know what to call except stupid.

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: This is part of the age problem that we keep hearing, that he keeps trying to cover up. Somehow in his mind, he keeps forgetting don't quote the segregationists.

JOE SCARBOROUGH, GOOD MORNING JOE HOST: Joe Biden didn't coddle any segregationists and anything. And he said in fact people are the most repugnant who he disagreed with the most.


KURTZ: Reporters pressed Biden on the controversy after one 2020 rival Cory Booker demanding an apology.


JOE BIDEN, FOR VICE-PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Cory should apologize. He knows better. There is not a racist bone in my body. I've been involved in civil rights my whole career period, period, period.


KURTZ: Joining us now to analyze the coverage in New York Kat Timpf, a National Review writer and Fox News contributor, and here in Washington, Francesca Chambers, White House correspondent for

Kat, the media have taken these clumsy and political dumb remarks by Biden and turned them into a racially charged campaign crisis. Is that an overreaction in your view?

KAT TIMPF, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I think it just kind of shows how experience can be kind of a double-edged sword. If you think about it, oh, experience is a good thing. You have more time in the field to learn and whatnot.

But the way the media has been painting Biden is being from a different time because of all of his experience. And they certainly went after his comments. There was even a piece in the New York Times saying is this going to affect his standing with black voters, because black voters overwhelmingly have supported Biden, about half of them said they support Biden. And I don't know the answer to that, but I know that the media is certainly taking that angle.

KURTZ: Right. Was the press right to pounce, Francesca, when Biden was talking about people like James Eastland who believed that the blacks were an inferior race. And he's making the point about cooperation, but it certainly came out as tone deaf.

FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT FOR DAILYMAIL.COM: Well, Joe Biden has this problem. His foot in the mouth disease is as you could call it, for a long time. If you remember back the last time he ran for president, he made some remarks about Barack Obama in the context of race and how articulate that he was. And that became a problem for him then. So, this is really reminiscent of past comments that he has made. And I think that that is going to continue to be a problem for him in this race.

KURTZ: Right. But overblown by the press or not?

CHAMBERS: This speaks to -- but this speaks to the larger problem that Joe Biden has as a candidate to what Kat was saying, is that it speaks to what his opponents, Howard, which is that he's a blast from the past, that the Democratic Party needs fresh new leadership, and he's not the right person to go up against Donald Trump. And that is what his opponents are saying.

KURTZ: And, Kat, certainly, the media narrative against Biden is, you know, his too willing to work with the Republicans, he's too old, he's out of touch with the party, too prone to gaps. So, he gave them some ammunition. But is there an element of I told you so among some of these pundits, who particularly that Biden would basically implode when he declared, and meanwhile, he still got a double-digit lead?

TIMPF: I think it's a mix, because as you mentioned, he still does have a double-digit lead. But we don't see him out there actually quite as much as the other candidates. So there's not as much opportunity for him to say things that the press can pounce on. And it seems like when he does go out there, what he is going to talk about is brag about his relationship with segregationists.

I understand that the point he was trying to make was about getting things done. But if you're going to use one of your appearances to talk about that, it is seems quite stupid. And obviously, the press is going to jump on that. So, the good thing about being a frontrunner is obviously you're the frontrunner. But the bad thing about it is you're going to get the most media coverage, which includes scrutiny.

KURTZ: Right. And, Francesca, the Washington Post found letters in which includes the young senator Joe Biden was clearly courting James Eastland in working with him on school busing, where he had a different position. He was against it as a Delaware senator.

So, again, as with the changing his position on the abortion and Hyde Amendment, is the media subtext here that Joe Biden unlike Cory Booker, unlike Kamala Harris, isn't liberal enough for his party, do you see it as sort of an underlying theme?

CHAMBERS: I see the underlying theme being that Joe Biden keeps changing his positions on issues depending on where the Democratic Party is now and the way that he's getting ahead. That's going to be much more difficult for him to do, by the way, Howard, after Thursday night when he is on the debate stage. He can claim now that the media is taking things out of contexts, which is what he is saying, about his most recent comments.


CHAMBERS: But that is not going to be easy to do when he's on a debate stage and everybody gets to see what he has to say.

KURTZ: Is the press pressing aside, Francesca, the fact that Biden in fact does have a long history for fighting for civil rights?

CHAMBERS: No, I don't think that the press is brushing that aside at all. I don't think -- that's what I'm saying. I don't think...

KURTZ: But there's shocking and horror with segregationist, who actually had a lot of power in that era.

CHAMBERS: I think that the point again is broader about Joe Biden and the type of candidate that he is and whether or not again he is for the Democratic Party at least, the right person to go against Donald Trump, because part of his thing -- part of the Democratic argument against Donald Trump is that he's a racist, and here's someone who has problem with women.

KURTZ: Right.

CHAMBERS: So, it's a long pattern that of things that is going to make it hard for him to be the nominee against Donald Trump effectively.

KURTZ: And, Kat, I have got about half a minute. Here we are debating the 1970s, long dead senators that nobody remembers, does this help the press portray Biden as kind of a guy that's stuck in the past?

TIMPF: Yes, it absolutely does. He should know -- and I'm sure he does know that one of his issues is that he is older. And it's not just an age thing, it's a time thing. People see him as being from a different time, as I mentioned earlier. And so, you know that the narrative that the press is going with and that your competitors are going with.


TIMPF: Why are you bringing it up yourself...

KURTZ: That's the thing.

TIMPF: In one of the few public appearances you actually make?


TIMPF: I do not understand.

KURTZ: Why play into it? Elections are always about the future. Kat Timpf, Francesca Chambers, thanks so much for joining us for joining us.

After the break, OJ Simpson is now on Twitter and already getting into trouble. Does America really need to hear from this guy?


KURTZ: It has been a quarter-century since the racially charged double murder trial that became a television obsession. A quarter-century since OJ Simpson was somehow acquitted of killing his ex-wife and her friend, then held liable in a civil trial, then convicted in a burglary to steal what was his own stuff and sent to prison for nine years.

Now, OJ is on Twitter promising to share his opinions and get even. And that predictably has triggered a media debate. Joining us now is Griff Jenkins, the Fox News correspondent. So, OJ goes on Twitter, and he quickly gets a half million followers including you. Why are you interested in what this man has to say?

GRIFF JENKINS, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: You know, Howie, for all of us who covered the years of the trial and of course, his later trial. Remember it was a decade or more later that he gets his own personal sting operation.


JENKINS: He spent nine years in jail. But look, I signed up. Right away, there's 740,000 followers now. One of which -- I'm looking at who the followers are, Jeb Bush. Former Governor Jeb Bush follows him. People are interested in this because he puts a week ago today a video on their -- presumably, he's in Nevada. We don't actually know.

KURTZ: Yeah.

JENKINS: Where he says, he's got some getting even to do. In the first video he posted of course, I'm not Khloe Kardashian's father.

KURTZ: OK. Well, the world certainly needed to know that. Now, OJ was breaking football records when I -- for the Buffalo Bills, when I went to college in Buffalo. I feel, you know, it's just such a tragedy what happened. And yet, there is a parody account that says that OJ sent a series of knife emojis -- do you believe this? With the warning, I will find your butt and cut you. Unconfirmed. But it seems like he just can't stay out of trouble or maybe he wants to be in trouble?

JENKINS: you know, we'll see. You know, it's interesting. Ron Goldman's sister, right, Kim, who posted that she thinks that this could be because she launched a Podcast, she's unhappy with it.

But the issue is that OJ has such a larger fine. If you look at all the players, Goldman sisters, Mark Furman, these other folks out there on Twitter, they have 25- or 30000. OJ already has almost on the way towards a million. It's only been one week.

KURTZ: Now, look, everybody has a right to be on Twitter. I don't think it's in the constitution, but nevertheless. But the guy is 71, he's finally able to retire, after nine years behind bars. And he wants to spew opinions and rattle things up. Is he an attention junkie?

JENKINS: Maybe, it's a stroke of genius. And I say that carefully only because here is an attempt to revise history. But he also says he's going to talk about Fantasy Football. And that's a lucrative market. I still follow Fantasy Football. In one of his five tweets that he has done basically since he launched this a week ago is about what quarterback you should have going into next year. He likes by the way Patrick Mahomes.

KURTZ: OK. People are tweeting he was a stroke of genius. This is a guy who just everyone thinks is responsible for two deaths. So, how is it a stroke of genius, because it changes the subject, because a lot of people don't remember the trial in 1984?

JENKINS: Because one of the legacies of President Trump will be his ability to harness Twitter to reach millions of his core base followers, and go against any narrative, whether it's facts or rumors. He's speaking right to them. In this case, OJ is creating an audience all into himself.

KURTZ: Well, you follow him and I don't. So, let me know if he says anything interesting. Griff Jenkins, great to see you today.

That is it for this edition of "Media Buzz." I'm Howard Kurtz. Hey, check out my Podcast, Media Buzz Meter. We rip on the day's five hottest stories. And you can subscribe at Apple iTunes, Google Play, or

I hope you like our Facebook pace. You can read my daily columns there. We do original videos for the web. And I have a feeling we're already going to continue the conversation on Twitter @HowardKurtz. Let me know what you think. I love the dialogue.

We are back. We are back here next Sunday morning at 11 Eastern. We will see you then with the latest buzz.

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