This is a rush transcript from "Media Buzz," July 22, 2018. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: On Buzz Meter from New York this Sunday, President Trump battling back against thundering condemnation from the media on the left, the middle, the right over his press conference with Vladimir Putin even after he tried to clarify his remarks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) ANDERSON COOPER, CNN: You have been watching perhaps one of the most of disgraceful performances by an American president at a summit in front of a Russian leader, certainly that I've ever seen.
DON LEMON, CNN: He has gone from snarling alpha dog in Brussels blasting our allies to Putin's lapdog in Helsinki.
JILL WINE-BANKS, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I would say that his performance today will live in infamy as much as the Pearl Harbor attack or Kristallnacht.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
KURTZ: And plenty of attention paid to a steady stream of criticism though (ph) hardly unanimous on Fox News.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
NEIL CAVUTO, FOX NEWS: And that's what made it disgusting, that's what made his performance disgusting. I'm sorry, it's the only way I feel. It's not a right or left thing to me, it's just wrong.
JACK KEANE, FOX NEWS ANALYST: To stand there on a world stage and appease Russia in disfavor to our intelligence community was a thing that shocked me. SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: And according to the abusively biased press, well, the sky is literally falling. The world as you know it is now over, and the president that you and the American people duly elected is a traitor, in the pocket of Vladimir Putin and Russia.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
KURTZ: Do some of the media attacks go too far? Why does Trump say the press is risking war with Russia? And are the president's own advisers hurting him with damaging leaks after Helsinki? We'll ask his former press secretary in a Sunday exclusive, a conversation with Sean Spicer.
Plus, the president hits back over a New York Times report that Michael Cohen was secretly taping him in one case about a possible payment involving former Playboy model Karen McDougal. Does that justify this latest media explosion?
I'm Howard Kurtz and this is "Media Buzz."
Perhaps the biggest media firestorm of the Trump presidency began as soon as he said these words in Helsinki in response to an AP reporter's question.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JONATHAN LEMIRE, ASSOCIATED PRESS: My first question for you, sir, is who do you believe?
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Dan Coats came to me and some others. They said they think it's Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it's not Russia. I will say this. I don't see any reason why it would be. I have great confidence in my intelligence people. But I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: The next day while the press dubbed a do over, Trump tried to clarify his remarks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I came back and I said, what is going on, what is the big deal? So I got a transcript. I reviewed it. A key sentence in my remarks, I said the word "would" instead of "wouldn't." The sentence should have been, I don't see any reason why I wouldn't or why it wouldn't be Russia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: And most of the media reaction ranged from skepticism to outright mockery.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
ERIN BURNETT, CNN: How stupid does Trump think we Americans are? The president's excuse for his embarrassing press conference where he sided with Vladimir Putin over his own intelligence chief does not add up.
KATY TUR, NBC NEWS: Guys, this is one of those times where the president's denial abut what he said all but confirms what he said.
TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS: So that's the hostage tape. The president buckled to criticism. That's not what they're saying but that's exactly what happened. He buckled. And that happens. This is politics after all.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
KURTZ: Joining us now to analyze the coverage here in New York: Liz Claman of Fox Business, the host of "Countdown to the Closing Bell"; Kat Timpf, National Review writer and Fox News contributor; and Jessica Tarlov, research director at Bustle.com and also a Fox News contributor.
Liz, let's start with this media explosion over Helsinki. It was perhaps the most intense level of moral condemnation I've seen since Charlottesville perhaps in his whole presidency. Do you think it's been fair?
LIZ CLAMAN, FOX BUSINESS: I have to say that initially when you look at all of the attacks, it was a real pile-on. But from every side, Howard, you even showed some of the Fox News journalists here and some of the pundits here, and when you got the friendlies, so-called the friendlies, because, you know, we -- each network picks a didn't perspective on things, that's always been the case even well before President Trump.
When you see that the Fox News journalists were almost to a person coming out and condemning or at least criticizing how the president have handled this, you have got to ask yourself. You know, the president called the other side fake media. Are we now the fake news media? You know, it just did not strike a positive chord, especially considering what happened.
KURTZ: That was exactly the question I was going to ask you because you not only had many people at Fox putting that aside for a moment. Wall Street Journal editorial page, a personal international embarrassment. Weekly Standard said Congress should censure the president. So, it becomes harder for the president as he often does, to paint this as liberal media run amok.
KAT TIMPF, NATIONAL REVIEW: Right. Oftentimes, whatever the president does, there are people who will stand behind him. We had Newt Gingrich coming out and saying that he had -- that this is the worst state (ph) of his presidency.
KURTZ: Most serious mistake.
TIMPF: Most serious mistake of his presidency. But, yeah, everybody was kind of in agreement on this issue. But the president still blamed it on the fake news media which I thought was very interesting, as you said, what, are we fake news media now?
But I think that it was just a bad day. There was really no way to spin it any other way. The publicity was not good. How could it have been?
KURTZ: At the same time, Jessica, do you think that some of the liberal criticism went a too far? We saw on MSNBC Jill Wine-Banks comparing this to 9/11, to Pearl Harbor, to Kristallnacht. Charles Blow of New York Times declared Trump to be a traitor, even before the press conference, as soon as he got to Helsinki.
JESSICA TARLOV, BUSTLE.COM: Traitor has been thrown around since President Trump assumed office. You have people even --
KURTZ: But really this week.
TARLOV: No, really this week. It is a lot to stomach to see him standing there next to Vladimir Putin who we know is a murderous thug dictator. And not only say I'm not sure what he did but, you know, equivocate on everything and give him far more credit than he do and kind of make him seem like the big guy in the room. We are the big dogs in the room here. We are, you know, the exceptional nation.
KURTZ: I get that you're critical. But the treason and traitor go too far. It was a botched press conference.
TARLOV: Well, there are definitions of this thing. I think it's more than a botched press conference. But this is part of the issue. We have only talked about impeachment as well. You can't just throw that around without grounds for it, like, what are you going to impeach him on? We are the reasons to call him a traitor?
And we have definitions of those. So, yes, I think that we go too far. But as Liz tried to pointed out here, this is both sides of the aisle. Everyone is ashamed of this.
CLAMAN: But what was stacked against President Trump from the get go? The deck was stacked against him. But he was the dealer. I think that was the problem. Two-hour closed door meeting, that was by his choice, no aides present. And then suddenly pictures surfaced of Melania Trump, the first lady, and President Trump greeting Vladimir Putin because the Russian pool somehow got pictures of that greeting.
So if I'm an American president, I am going to look and say, who are these guys? Where are my guys? He didn't seem to be narrative that we got of him sticking up for the American side.
TIMPF: I still think that treason went a lot too far. And I think that when people hear word like treason in a media, a lot of people who are on President Trump's side are less likely to listen to any of it.
KURTZ: Right. He turns them off. And look, at one point, the president said, why didn't you cover the meeting? Because the American side wasn't giving out any information about the closed door meeting.
But when he did the clarification, reading from a script, people said things like hostage tape. Why can't the president say he misspoke without all of this or he didn't really mean it, he wasn't being sincere?
TIMPF: I think it's because he waited so long to do it. After all this firestorm came out, he immediately said, I meant to say --
TIMPF: I meant to say wouldn't, I didn't mean to say would. He gave two interviews on this channel. He did not mention that clarification once. So I think if he had done that, then I think people might have been more likely to believe him. But it seemed like it was kind of a last-ditch effort when he saw that people even on his own side were speaking out against him.
KURTZ: Let me ask you about Dan Coats, the director of National Intelligence. It was an extraordinary spectacle of him being interviewed by NBC's Andrea Mitchell in Aspen. While the cameras were rolling, the president without bothering to tell his DNI had invited Putin to Washington this fall. And then he add some sort of careful criticism. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS: How do you have any idea what happened in that meeting?
DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE DAN COATS: You are right, I don't know what happened in that meeting. If you asked me how that ought to be conducted, I would have suggested a different way, but that's not my role.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Then you have certain administrative officials telling the Washington Post Coats had gone rogue. Does this fuel the media narrative that this president doesn't necessarily consult his top national security advisers?
TARLOV: Of course he does, but that's because it's true. And you can't get a more honest moment than him hearing that in front of -- I'm sorry, what? Which I think is what all of us were thinking --
TARLOV: -- especially with the midterm election coming up. How does that benefit you to have Vladimir Putin here on American soil in the White House right before the elections where the Russia issue -- of course it's not the economy, it's not health care, but it certainly does matter.
And to Kath's point about the clarification, the problem with it is not the 27 hours. The problem with it is that it's a lie. President Trump speaks English. He knows the difference between would and wouldn't. He doesn't think --
KURTZ: Where -- at what basis are you declaring that he is lying when he says he didn't mean to say what he said?
TARLOV: The number of times that he has said before, and I know there are seven times where he accepted that Russian meddles in this election but he had overwhelming come down on the side of --
KURTZ: All right. Speaking of clarification, so Coats then put out a statement, Dan Coats, some press coverage mischaracterized. In no way I meant to be disrespectful or criticize the president.
I'll let you make your point, but I do want to ask you about some of these leaks. Because self-serving leaks, people from behind the curtain are saying things like The Washington Post probably gave him 100 pages of briefings to be tough on Putin but he largely ignored it.
Axios quoting a former senior White House official need a shower. Axios quoting a former national security official. Dude, this is a total blanking disgrace. The president has lost his mind. Should the press be letting people say that without their names attached?
CLAMAN: Howard, you and I have a very comfortable position here as members of the American press where we expect that we are allowed to say or report what we want. In fact, this is our actual duty. But when the president's inner circle are some of the people dropping the dime on the president, do you hide that? Do you choose to hide that?
I can't tell people how often we have gotten calls and dimes dropped by the inner circle. This is coming from people who if we told them who they were, you would be surprised they are very close and supportive of the president. But it goes back to sort of the confusion and cirque du soleil (ph) back flips to try by the president to misstate.
Now, people make mistakes. You know, people are allowed to misspeak. They absolutely are. But why is it so difficult every time he is either talking about one person, Vladimir Putin or standing next to Vladimir Putin, that he suddenly can't do the Reagan, Mr. Gorbachev tear down that wall?
KURTZ: Well, he is a very different president.
CLAMAN: Nobody out there that said, I am not sure what Reagan really meant.
KURTZ: Also, I just want to say that I don't think the press shouldn't report these leaks. I am just saying these are awfully cheap shots by people who are supposed to be on his side. Let me play for you some that became a huge story and involved one word. ABC's Cecilia Vega asking the president a question that was called a (INAUDIBLE). Take a listen:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CECILIA VEGA, ABC NEWS: Mr. President, is Russia still targeting the U.S.? Is Russia still targeting the U.S., Mr. President?
TRUMP: Thank you very much.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right. Let's go. Make your way out.
VEGA: No, you don't believe that to be the case?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: So, Sarah Huckabee Sanders later said he wasn't saying no to the question. He was saying, no, I'm not taking any questions at this meeting. But, for example, Washington Post leaks story, Trump suggests Russia is no longer targeting U.S. Second line in smaller type, White House, words were misconstrued.
TIMPF: I think that the media coverage of this might have been a little bit overblown. When I watched that video, you know, you need to have the subtitles on it. It's very hard to hear. It does look to me like he could have been just saying no, no, no, repeatedly.
TIMPF: He could have simply been saying no to answering questions. Of course something like The Washington Post is going to jump on that and saying he's taking Russia's side again especially --
KURTZ: Everybody jumped on it.
TIMPF: -- given what the news cycle --
KURTZ: Yeah, that was just one headline.
TIMPF: Right. Of course, given what the news cycle was at that time, of course everyone is going to jump on that.
KURTZ: I just thought it was ambiguous. Everybody --
TIMPF: I though it was ambiguous too.
KURTZ: Everybody seemed to just sort of blow it up. I have a tweet for you, Jessica. Let's put this up on the screen. There were many. We picked this one. "The fake news media wants so badly to see a major confrontation with Russia, even a confrontation that could lead to war. They are pushing so recklessly hard and hate the fact that I'll probably have a good relationship with Putin."
Even a confrontation that could to war. I mean, the media like fighting and fist fights and bloody nose but --
TARLOV: But they don't want that.
KURTZ: -- definitely not so much.
TARLOV: Definitely not so much. You see that with the North Korea coverage as well and how everyone I think actually has been giving him his due credit for making progress, but also saying we need to be careful about this. And as the reports continue to roll out about what is really going on in North Korea, that was certainly warranted.
He is over the top. We had our own John Roberts push back and say, am I the fake news media now? Am I the enemy of the people? And that's what this kind of rhetoric does --
CLAMAN: His policy versus his behavior, two totally different things.
CLAMAN: He has been toughest when it comes to sanctions. He has been unbelievably strong -- call it Manuchin from the treasury secretary standpoint. But these sanctions have really hurt Russia.
KURTZ: Right. A real gap between the policies and the rhetoric, the tweets and so forth. I got to get a break. But I do want to put up The New Yorker cover for this week. Let's take a look at this. Every police (ph) magazine (INAUDIBLE) seem to find new ways of killing off the president. They do it almost every week.
Ahead, Sean Spicer on his former boss dealing with the fallout from Helsinki and some striking admissions about his tenure in the White House. When we come back, Michael Cohen secretly taping his former boss Donald Trump about a former Playboy model. Is that a media bombshell or not so much?
KURTZ: There was a massive media explosion when The New York Times disclosed that Donald Trump's former lawyer, Michael Cohen, was secretly taping him including a discussion of a possible payment to Karen McDougal, a former "Playboy" model, who told CNN she had an affair 12 years ago with Trump and that her story was bought and then killed by The National Enquirer. One of the Times report is Maggie Haberman said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAGGIE HABERMAN, THE NEW YORK TIMES: It does raise questions as to why it is that the Trump campaign in October 2016 when the Wall Street Journal asked about these payments, asked about AMI and Karen McDougal, were told by the campaign, we know nothing about this. The president obviously did know something about it a month earlier.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: There was virtually wall to wall cable news coverage as soon as that New York Times story hit. Does this story deserve that kind of heavy coverage:
TIMPF: Well, it kind of has everything, right? It has sex, it has deceit, it has --
TIMPF: So I'm not surprised that it got so much coverage. But I don't know if it's really going to change anyone's mind. I actually think that most people do believe that Donald Trump cheated on his wife. I don't think that that --
KURTZ: And I think most people don't care.
TIMPF: I think they don't care. Exactly. I think the people that supports the president, they see this as, you know, the fake news media being mean or trying to create problems. They look and they say that they like what the president is doing in this country and they don't really care about these kinds of stories.
KURTZ: And what Rudy Giuliani in confirming the story said, Jessica, was that this was a possible payment and ultimately didn't happen, to reimburse The National Enquirer run by Trump's pal, David Pecker, for buying McDougal's story and killing it for $150,000, and what you said, Trump did nothing wrong.
The problem is that at the end of the campaign, you had Hope Hicks telling The Wall Street Journal that Trump didn't know anything involving Karen McDougal.
TARLOV: That's also how the Stormy Daniels' story went from the beginning where Trump denied that he knew about that and then eventually he had to back down off a bit. And Rudy even said on TV --
KURTZ: He reimbursed.
TARLOV: -- there might be more to come. So, it is a familiar pattern. Kat is absolutely correct. The infidelity of this president is baked in. We all heard the Access Hollywood tapes and 62 million people still said, OK, he seems like a good guy, I'm going to vote for him. And that's the business, and you got Neil Gorsuch.
I think it did deserve the coverage because Michael Cohen's plot line here is important. Obviously this is about the Michael Cohen investigation which is New York based. It has to do with taxi medallion businesses.
TARLOV: And all of that. But he is the keeper of many of Donald Trump's secrets. And if there are more tapes, that matters. And if it was campaign finance violation. I mean, that's where this could legally be a problem for the president, if they were using campaign fund.
KURTZ: Let me share some of my reporting on this, because Michael Cohen and his team are convinced that this tape was preemptively leaked by the Trump side. A lot of journalists believe that as well, to kind of take the sting out of it, to reduce Cohen's value as a witness to Robert Mueller.
And it does make Cohen look bad, secretly taping his boss at the time. But it is also clear that Cohen is trying to work his way through two challenges to figure out how and whether to cooperate with Mueller, perhaps reach some kind of deal.
And at the same time, as he distanced himself from the president in at least one interview to own up to some of the things he did that maybe he's not proud of when he worked for Donald Trump to say that he's now president and he takes a different view of this and get that behind him.
But let me put up for you, Liz, a tweet. You can expect that the next day the president would tweet with about this. Ana the key thing is the second sentence where the president says inconceivable that a lawyer would tape a client, totally unheard of and perhaps illegal. The good news is that your favorite president did nothing wrong.
CLAMAN: Number one, not illegal in the state of New York. It is a one party audio tape system --
CLAMAN: -- or rule where only one person has to know -- I know in Massachusetts where I worked in Boston at a television station, two party at the time that I was there, so both sides had to know. But this can be actually explained in certain cases when you look at the law and Judge Napolitano would probably say the same thing that it's almost like taking notes.
But what's more interesting I think is that both sides are leaking or revealing things to different members of the media to advance their side. The media is being used in many cases. However, once you get it, is it your representation?
Is it important for you to then reveal it? Well, of course if you have have it, you want to give it out there. But the question now becomes Rudy Giuliani saying that it's exculpatory. That's a little surprising.
KURTZ: That kind of thing, that speaks --
KURTZ: Lanny Davis tweeting that Trump's tweet was false. That's also an opinion of an advocate. But at the same time, when you say Michael Cohen is an important player here and it does seem like this is sort of playing out with a lot of leaks. And I think, look, New York Times story was accurate, but what it means is open to media debate.
TIMPF: Right, absolutely. Going back to the tweet, I think that it would be better off if President Trump would just not talk about this stuff at all because the media loves this story and the more he tweets about it, the more that the media is going to keep covering it. And so this isn't over yet. I think that we are going to see more and more of this kind of coverage.
KURTZ: Same thing Stormy. And I get a lot of reaction online, you know, you clowns in (ph) the press, who cares? He was a celebrity businessman at the time. But again, it ultimately goes to veracity because of the past denials and that I think is a political problem for the president.
TARLOV: It is. Again, it should be. It was anybody else. If it was President Obama or President Bush, it would be a huge problem. It happens to not be with this president. And to Kat's point --
KURTZ: It was the problem with President Clinton. I just got about 20 seconds.
KURTZ: Go ahead.
TARLOV: Yes. President Clinton got in trouble. I just mean that when they were elected, it was not -- there was no Access Hollywood tape when President Clinton got elected. I want to say about this story though, yes, the media loves it, but the Russia story is a lot more important.
And I have seen some media criticism that I think is smart about losing interest in the Helsinki front line for the Playboy line because the Playboy line matters a lot less to voters in the end because --
KURTZ: Right. But it is quote, sexier. And on that note --
TARLOV: By definition, sexier.
KURTZ: Jessica Tarlov, Kat Timpf, Liz Claman, great to see you all here in New York.
Ahead, Sean Spicer on the media environment and what he got wrong and right as press secretary. But up next on "Media Buzz" from New York, one Fox anchor who spoke her mind about what happened in Helsinki. Trish Regan is here.
KURTZ: One of the Fox anchors who spoke out forcefully about President Trump's performance with Vladimir Putin was Trish Regan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRISH REGAN, FOX BUSINESS NETWORK: He should have defended us. He should have defended his own intelligence community. Or just don't take the meeting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: And joining us now here in New York is Trish Regan who hosts "The Intel Report" on Fox Business, 2 p.m. Eastern. Trish, you have often been supportive of President Trump on economic policies, on regulatory policies. You have taken on some of his press coverage. So when you pretty strongly criticize him over the Helsinki press conference, obviously you felt strongly.
REGAN: I did. And, you know, Howie, I think with me, it's pretty much what you see you is what you get. And I wear my heart on my sleeve. And if I like something, you will know it. And if I don't like something, you will know that, too. I did not like what I saw in Helsinki. I was surprised and I reacted in real-time.
It's what we need to do. I think too often journalists especially these days, they come at things with such a bias against this president.
KURTZ: Like a (INAUDIBLE) attitude?
REGAN: And so it's not as though they are reacting in real-time. They have their own agenda. Look, I approach my job every day and my agenda is what's best for the country. So if we have economic policy, it will help create jobs, raise wages, that's good. If we have policies that will make us stronger on the international front, that's good.
But I just call it like I see it. And so when he does well, you know that I do believe that he's doing well. But when he has a misstep like that and that's being kind calling it a misstep, I have to say something.
KURTZ: And as you know, some Trump supporters don't take kindly to any criticism, any circumstance. So, what kind of reaction have you gotten online?
REGAN: Mixed. I think from a lot of his followers, his base, they are upset because perhaps, you know, they wanted to come to me and hear something reassuring. And, you know, look, I have to call it like I see it. I don't know how to do it any other way.
REGAN: So they were not happy.
KURTZ: And so do get hammered by people --
REGAN: Oh, yeah. I think they are --
KURTZ: It comes with the territory.
REGAN: Hundreds of thousands of -- oh, my goodness, Trish, you know, you deserted us. I am like, no, no, no, I am not --
KURTZ: You're not on his side.
REGAN: I'm not on the side.
REGAN: I am not on his side. I am not on anyone's side. I am on the side of our country. What is right for our country. Therefore, I am on our viewers' side. Maybe they -- it becomes sort of a religion, right? I think with people, they want this president to succeed. I want this president to succeed. I want our country to succeed.
KURTZ: Right. You know, what is interesting that CNN and MSNBC several times played montages of Fox people criticizing the president in Helsinki. You were in some of those montages. What is your reaction when people say, oh, even journalists at Fox are criticizing Donald Trump of this?
REGAN: Some people said, that was really courageous of you. I said, how is it courageous? I am just doing my job.
REGAN: I go to work every day and I try to look at things independently enough that, you know, I can call it like I see it. And, you know, it's not as though it takes courage. It just means I am doing what I signed up to do. And that's to be fair and it's to honest. And now, you know when it comes out with a good piece of economic policy.
KURTZ: Let me get you in on the Michael Cohen secretly taping Trump. A media explosion on this as I mentioned earlier, discussion of payoffs involving a former Playboy who alleges an affair. Is that a big story? Is it a story that's now pushing aside other stories?
REGAN: It's certainly pushing aside interestingly enough the whole Helsinki story, right, because when you think of the news cycle these days.
KURTZ: Right. We all go crazy over something and then next you know something else pops and that becomes wall to wall. It doesn't really matter whether as it's as important as our relations with Russian Vladimir Putin. It just became the shiny object, right?
REGAN: Exactly. So when some people had said do you think this story has legs and is this going to be his undoing? And I said that you know the reality is there will be something else tomorrow.
REGAN: And sure enough, the Michael Cohen tapes came out.
KURTZ: And that is a prediction that will be always be true, because this is a President who makes a lot of news and the media loves to cover him, Trish Regan, so great to see you in person, thanks for coming by this Sunday morning.
REGAN: Good to see you.
KURTZ: Ahead on "MediaBuzz," why does Mark Zuckerberg think it's OK for Facebook to host holocaust deniers? But first, Sean Spicer on the President's rough week, media bias, and what he learned from the trench warfare in the White House.
KURTZ: One of the most famous figures and only casualties of President Trump's administration is this one time (Inaudible) Sean Spicer. He has now written a book about his battles with the media. It's called The Briefing, Politics, the Press, and the President. I sat with the former White House Press Secretary back in Washington.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Sean Spicer, welcome.
President Trump has drawn criticism across the media landscape for the Putin press conference. Was the press right that it was an egregious mistake?
SEAN SPICER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Thanks for having me.
KURTZ: President Trump is drawing criticism as you know, across the media landscape for the Putin press conference. You're saying you're glad he clarified his (Inaudible) comments. But is the press right that this was an egregious mistake?
SPICER: Well, I mean obviously, even the President acknowledged that he fumbled the words. So I think the issue is that the degree and the intensity in which they go after him. I read a lot about that in my fourth coming book that he acknowledged. He clarified his words. I am glad he did. I think most Republicans. Most Americans are glad that he made it very clear.
I have heard him say before this isn't the first time he's made it clear what Russia's role has been in the election. So I'm glad he clarified it.
KURTZ: I want to talk about the intent here. I just want to make clear. This is not just the liberal media. He has many Republican lawmakers. Conservatives, people of on Fox News, you had Newt Gingrich saying on a serious mistake of his presidency. Are they all wrong?
SPICER: I get it. And I'm glad he clarified this comment. I'm glad that he went on to CBS and made it very clear once again what his position was. But it wasn't like there wasn't any history on this. He has said before that Russia was involved in meddling. And so I get it. But I think that part of the reason a lot of them piled on is because there was this fury from the media that a lot of folks felt like they had to react to.
I think that they probably could have come out a little sooner, made it clear that if that wasn't his intention, clearly the media reacted immediately. And it would probably been better and made this go away a lot easier, if it had been a quicker response.
KURTZ: Yeah, that 24 hours was filled with a lot of criticism, not much defense from the White House. You've gotten it with Megyn Kelly, and she said why can't you just admit that Donald Trump sometimes struggles with the truth. And you would not, now do you dispute the fact that the President sometimes makes statements that.
SPICER: Here is what I think. You, me, and probably everybody have made mistakes, have said things that you know we regret or that turned out to be false, or we just misspeak. It happens. I think that with this President, the desire to constantly you know go after him. I don't remember any of those questions coming up. And we talked about with Megyn.
After Benghazi, there was no questioning of going after -- does President Obama owe us apology. Is he liar? Is Hillary Clinton a liar? They didn't treat those same statements with the same brass (Inaudible) treating some of the statements.
KURTZ: Huge story in.
SPICER: But again, it was the story but it hardly in terms of people leaving that administration, none of whom are held to account the same way that we are.
KURTZ: On Friday, Rudy Giuliani confirmed the New York Times report that Michael Cohen, the President's former personal lawyer, as you know, secretly recorded Donald Trump. And one of those conversations had to do with the payment, which was never made to the former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who alleges she had an affair with Donald Trump 12 years ago. Is the media explosion over this (Inaudible) explosion justified?
SPICER: I don't know. And the reason that I say that is because we don't know all the facts. It's an unconfirmed report. Cohen isn't talking.
KURTZ: Confirmed by Giuliani. We don't have the tape but it was confirmed by Rudy Giuliani.
SPICER: Look. Sorry, I haven't been paying attention to everybody else's news. Think it's problematic. And frankly, I think it's also a betrayal of trust, the idea that you are secretly going around recording people on matters of business like that when you work for them. I think that's the bigger story.
KURTZ: When you were named Press Secretary, you write this in the Briefing. I knew in my heart that I was better suited to take on the role of communications director, but you say that you offer a (Inaudible) was too tempting to turn down. Why were you not better suited for Press Secretary looking back?
SPICER: Well, I think looking I think I don't think I could have anticipated the intensity and the scrutiny of that job involved. I looked at that job in the traditional sense of you know Ari Fleischer, Dana Perino, Mike McCurry, Josh Earnst, Robert (Inaudible) a lot of folks that have had it. I have done hundreds of media hits.
I've sat and briefed people for years. And yet, there was a new found intensity and scrutiny on this candidate, on this President, on this White House that I couldn't have anticipated.
KURTZ: Now this (Inaudible) as you have write, the first day. President Trump saw the coverage about his inaugural crowd and he didn't like and he sent you out.
SPICER: Some members of the media were engaged in deliberately false reporting. These attempts to lessen the enthusiasm of the inauguration are shameful and wrong.
SPICKER: It actually began the night before, which was -- we you know -- the President got sworn in. You know we -- he starts off with a flurry of executive orders and executive actions. He wants to show the American people he's hard at work fulfilling the promises he has. And the media focus instead of focusing, on those actions, on those policies turns out to be whether or not he falsely had taken out a bust of Martin Luther King.
Then he wakes up the next day, he sees another narrative, which is how many people were standing on the mall. I think there is an overall frustration from not just him but from a lot of us that says really? That's what the focus is. We have this historic election of someone who's never been involved in politics and historic campaign, and now we are -- that's what seems to be so much of the focus of the media.
KURTZ: But Sean, as (Inaudible) in the book. You cam out you scolded the press. And you say I should have lowered the temperature and not so broadly questioned the media's motives. I have made a bad first impression, and you go one to say. Looking back, it was the beginning of the end.
KURTZ: Why so?
SPICER: Because I think that the (Inaudible) off the bat. There is a do over I'd take it every day of the week. The President wasn't happy with me. I wasn't happy with me. Clearly, the press core wasn't. I think my mom and my wife probably out of a sense of unconditional love were probably the only two people who were supportive of me that afternoon.
SPICER: And I don't even think either one of them thought I did a good job. I think they just love me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Down to two relatives. More with Sean Spicer in just a moment, including whether he might become a talk show host after his combat tour in the White House.
KURTZ: More now of my conversation in Washington with Sean Spicer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: You say that CNN's Jim Acosta and two CNN contributors were getting ready to report (Inaudible) and (Inaudible) were among those who were trying to become cable stars, in your words, by generating fake controversy and outrage. Why fake?
SPICER: Well, because it's not about a question. It's about creating an antic in the briefing room, right? And it's not trying to delve further in an issue. It's not about -- it's jumping up and down and screaming. And my point was this. And those two cases, two folks have been in the Briefing Room for quite often. Suddenly, they jump up and down, yell, make a spectacle of themselves, get a clip that goes viral on YouTube and then Twitter, and suddenly they find themselves with cable contracts.
Not because of the quality of the reporting, not because they uncovered some unbelievable you know -- or led an investigation. And that's what we have done. We started to reward antics, not good journalism.
KURTZ: You have some nice things to say about Maggie Hayward of the New York Times. You called her a smart and tenacious who had good sources, but you of course, went at it during your tenure and you say a therapist could have made a fortune from the amount of time you spent tangling with her, a therapist?
SPICER: Well, just in the sense that Maggie and I, during those -- during my tenure would often you know -- she would write a story that I didn't think was fair. She didn't think some of our responses were. And so we ended up spend 20 minutes talking about how we were talking to each other, focused on the issues.
But I think like a lot of reporters there, I have a lot of respect for folks that are tenacious and tough, that are really focused on making sure that they are well sourced. And I don't fault journalism for tough stories. I think that that's what it's all about. But the question is, are they trying to get it right or are they be first to get a click.
And with all due respect to Maggie, I think she's (Inaudible) sometimes that I don't agree with every story she writes. But I think her and Jennifer Jacobs, and I name whole bunch in the book, where I go through because there is not just -- I hope that people who read The Briefing walk away from -- and there is some constructive stuff I think on both sides.
I say this is how we could have done a better job. But then there is also times were (Inaudible) about how journalists could do a better job. We need good journalists. We need a healthy and robust press core to make this democracy as great as it can be.
KURTZ: You're working with a major TV syndicator on a potential show Sean Spicer's Common Ground. Now you were you was a dogged Trump defender, (Inaudible) constantly fighting with the media? Aren't you more of a partisan warrior than a common ground guy?
SPICER: I am a huge partisan warrior. But that's the point, is that I know from 25 years in Washington. A lot of the stories that I tell in The Briefing are based on, which is that we can have civil and respectful discussions but totally disagree on policy. That's the idea. You can be fierce partisan and good person.
KURTZ: you were ridiculed of course, on SNL by Melissa McCarthy. You were accosted by a strange person in Apply store.
KURTZ: Is all of this hard on your family?
SPICER: I think so only because I think I have an unbelievable supporter partner of a wife, who has sacrificed tremendously for me to be able to pursue dream. And I think it hurts when you see somebody you love be attacked. In the case of Melissa McCarthy, some of it was funny. And so when you would laugh accordingly, some of it was sort of as we would say like well deserved.
And so in cases where it's funny -- when you screw up and you step on it, she is a talented actor and she did some funny stuff. And I can laugh at it. And again, I don't blame her. It's not like she was the writer. She played a part. And she did it well for the most of part. But I don't think that people fully appreciate the impact that it's had on the families and loved ones when you take something.
I had no idea. You know I talk about it from day one. You bring up the Apple store. All of these instances and examples that I -- when I took the job, I didn't realize that you would have this kind of notoriety, (Inaudible) television hits before, and I'll save a few people on Capitol Hill. No one's ever recognized me.
KURTZ: Not the same as being Press Secretary.
SPICER: Well, under this President, I think you know a lot of press secretaries would say that they you know -- political junkies would know who they are, but could probably live a fairly normal life. I think that changed under Donald Trump.
KURTZ: Sean Spicer thanks very much for dropping by.
SPICER: Thanks, Howard.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: After the break, two feisty conservatives get an apology from Facebook. And Mark Zuckerberg tries to clarify his comments about holocaust denials.
KURTZ: Mark Zuckerberg really stepped in it the other day when Kara Swisher of Recode asked him how Facebook handles people who are holocaust deniers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK ZUCKERBERG, FACEBOOK: I find that deeply offensive. But at the end of the day, I don't believe that our platform should take that down, because I think that there are things that different people get wrong either -- I don't think that they are intentionally getting it wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: What? They just happen to believe six million Jews weren't killed by the Nazis. The uproar prompted Zuckerberg, who is Jewish, to issue a clarification that he didn't mean to defend the intent of those who are after all, denying one of history's greatest tragedies. Now, I get that Zuckerberg was trying to make a speech argument that Facebook shouldn't censor on popular unless he says they can incite violence.
But he needs to abandon the fiction that Facebook is a public utility where anyone can post lies and misinformation, and it's not his problem, and recognizes that he runs a media company that has to take responsibility for its content. And it hasn't been a good week for Facebook. Diamond and Silk, the conservative video bloggers have been complaining of unfair treatment by Facebook.
And a VP at the social network, Monika Bickert now says they are right testifying. We apologized to them at the time, and I would like to extend my own personal apology to them again today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And (Inaudible) we're not (Inaudible). Because when we were going through our issues, we were back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. Nobody could give us an answer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Facebook didn't censor Diamond and Silk as they have claimed. But Mark Zuckerberg's company did send a letter describing their page as dangerous. Dangerous, the only danger here is that Facebook reputation for political bias. Holocaust deniers are the dangerous, not Diamond and Silk. Still to come, a high profile departure at Fox News and Roseanne goes off the rails.
KURTZ: The network made it official with a one-sentence statement. Fox News has parted ways with Kimberly Guilfoyle. Now, Guilfoyle, a former prosecutor been conservative voice here at Fox for a dozen years, most have been at "The Five." She's also been considered for a job in the Trump White House. And as I reported on this program weeks ago, the situation became more complicated when she started dating Donald Trump, Jr., which increasingly put Fox in a difficult position.
I can report that Guilfoyle views this move as a rare opportunity. She is about to join America First, the pro-Trump pack as vice chairwoman to be TV spokeswoman and fundraiser for the president. She also plans to hit the campaign trail with Donald, Jr. for the midterms. And the two have told friends that marriage could be in their future.
But behind the scenes, there have been tensions as lawyers on both sides have tried to negotiate the issues surrounding her departure. I wish Kimberly all the best.
USA Today has dropped conservative columnist Cheri Jacobus for an insanely harsh tweet, attacking former Trump adviser Michael Caputo, asking if his daughters are ugly like him and suggesting they party with a convicted sex offender.
What? Jacobus says she was responding to Caputo's attacks, but slamming his kids, please. And Roseanne now says ABC fired her not for her racist tweet about Valerie Jarred, but because I voted for Donald Trump and that is not allowed in Hollywood, except there was well, this she got this show and there was this rant on YouTube.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROSEANNE BARR, COMEDIAN: I thought the (Inaudible) was white! God damn it!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: It's kind of sad. I hope she gets help soon.
Well, that's it for this edition of "MediaBuzz" from New York. I'm Howard Kurtz. Check out my new podcast, "MediaBuzz Meter." We spend the days kind of kicking around the day's five most of important or fascinating and most buzzy stories, with such guests as Mollie Hemingway, Emily Jashinsky, and Jillian Turner. You can subscribe on Apple iTunes or Google Play or FoxNewspodcast.com.
Let's continue the conversation on Twitter @howardkurtz. We hope you will like our Facebook page. We post a lot of original content there, daily columns by me, original videos by me, and we can have what I think is a really good dialogue. We are back in Washington next Sunday morning. We'll you then 11 o'clock Eastern with the latest buzz.
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