Media fueling war on ISIS? TMZ chief defends checkbook journalism

This is a rush transcript from "Media Buzz," September 14, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: On the BuzzMeter this Sunday, with ISIS releasing another beheading video last night showing the murder of a British aid worker and with President Obama now backing military action against these terrorists, are the media fueling a surge in public support for air strikes in Iraq and in Syria and are many pundits beating the war drums?


BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS HOST: Talking Points can say with certainty that there is deep anger within the U.S. intelligence community because President Obama was, indeed, warned about ISIS. If the terrorism situation gets worse, the president's legacy is doomed.

ED SCHULTZ, "THE ED SHOW" HOST: Are we ever going to say, you know what? He's the commander in chief, he got elected twice, let's give it to him, whatever he wants. Just like Bush.


KURTZ: We'll examine the coverage of the president reluctantly going to war.

TMZ changes the playing field with that chilling footage of Ray Rice decking his fiancee forcing the NFL and the Baltimore Ravens to abandon their shameful leniency. But what if the website paid big bucks for the tape? I asked TMZ's founder Harvey Levin.


HARVEY LEVIN, TMZ FOUNDER: We will pay for video, yes. We will pay for photos. Everybody else does, too. What we will not pay for is an interview because then what you're doing to somebody is you're saying, hey, lie a little bit and I'll pay you a little more. So we don't do that. But absolutely we will pay for video and photos. It's just that we're being a little more honest than you guys.


KURTZ: So, why did it take a gossip site to get this guy booted from the league? And why is Rice's wife now blaming her nightmare on the media?

Plus, a very different view of "60 Minutes."


STEVE KROFT, "60 MINUTES" HOST: There was a backup plan?


KROFT: Is that essentially it?

MITT ROMNEY: Yeah, that essentially it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Old heart and new heart.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Old heart and new heart.


KURTZ: Are the correspondents leading the witness? They're leading the witness. I'm Howard Kurtz and this is "MediaBuzz."

A third gruesome murder video from ISIS, the killing of British hostage David Haines after the earlier beheading of two American journalists burst on to our television screens late yesterday. And the media coverage of these butchers and the way they flunked that is definitely having an impact. The Washington Post/ABC Poll showing more than two-thirds now backing U.S. airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq and nearly two-thirds in Syria. More than two-thirds I should have said in Iraq. A sharp jump from just three weeks ago. The shift in public opinion coming just before President Obama asked the networks to cover a prime time address on ISIS, a speech that scrambled the usual partisanship by the pundits drawing some praise on the right, some criticism on the left.


OBAMA: I can announce that America will lead a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would say, though, the only minor surprise in this speech, he made a pretty bold case for American interventionism at the end there about why it is that America has to be the one to do these fights, to lead these charges around the world.

NEWT GINGRICH: It's probably the most explicitly pro American speech he's ever made.

BRIT HUME: This is what you call leading from behind, in this case he was leading from behind the American public opinion, reversing himself and reversing course on a number of ways and going back, of course, without ever acknowledging it on things that he had claimed to be true there.

BOB BECKEL, "THE FIVE" CO-HOST: And I think here's the problem for the Republicans. You've got to be very careful about criticizing a president in the time like this.


KURTZ: So are much of the media getting their wish? The president going to war in all but name? Joining us now, Lauren Ashburn, Fox News contributor who hosts "Social Buzz" on the Fox website. Jim Garrity, contributing editor at National Review and author of the new novel "The Lead Agency" and Dana Milbank, columnist from The Washington Post.

So, we are not showing the image form this latest beheading video involving David Haines. And I want to ask all of you whether the television, by showing it again and again, is playing into the terrorist hands.

LAUREN ASHBURN, FOX NEWS CO-HOST: Of course it is. It is absolutely playing into the terrorist hands and we shouldn't be running it. I don't even want to see the picture of the executioner and the victim in an orange jumpsuit. I want to see the person who was actively doing their job, just a picture of that person.

KURTZ: Well, let's put out the picture of David Haines and let's celebrate his life and his death. Your thoughts and your thoughts on this question about showing the video?

JIM GARRITY, NATIONAL REVIEW: I would say show it with a content warning. Because it is the truth and the public deserves to know what happened even when what happened is utterly awful and horrible and terrible and turns your stomach.

KURTZ: On Fox News Sunday John Roberts said the White House chief of staff Denis McDonough, one thug with a knife and camera is now terrorizing two nations. Yes, but are we helping by turning this into warfare? Because it' simply going to be out for days, you know.

DANA MILBANK, WASHINGTON POST: I don't think we're helping the terrorists by showing it. And I think we're showing the world, including the Muslim world how barbaric they are. That said, I don't think they should just be offered up there on television while somebody is eating their breakfast. I think they should say look, if you want to see it, you can see it on our website, but here is a description of what they did.

KURTZ: All right. Now, has the coverage of the earlier killings and the threat from ISIS, has it changed the political climate to the point that President Obama perhaps felt compelled to give that speech on Wednesday?

ASHBURN: Absolutely. He would not be giving the speech without those videos. And this is a marked difference from 2003. When you had the administration, the hawks, wanting to go to war and the press saluting exactly what the president wanted. It was almost un-American to go against that war. Now, in 2014, you have a reluctant pseudo warrior coming out and the press saying, hey, you need to do something. After this video last night that came out, people were already saying we need ground troops.

KURTZ: People meaning - some commentators on television.

ASHBURN: Commentators on television.

GARRITY: I actually think the coverage has been pretty appropriate, meaning it's been serious, it has been in-depth, it focused obviously a lot about the Thursday night speech, be about it, pretty much around the clock. I would say it is skeptical of achieving the objectives without being hostile. There is nothing a lot of demonization, I think has been no - a clear discussion of how evil ISIS is and what they are. But at the same time, not necessarily touting them as being 10 foot tall and monstrous. It's just they are terrible, terrible people causing chaos wherever they go. But no wonder estimation - look, these guys are two war-torn countries. That's not going to be easy to get to them with just airpower.

KURTZ: I'll come back to discussion of skepticism in a bit, but do you say the media here, or much of the media beating the drums for war?

MILBANK: No. I see the media reflecting what's going on in public and in turn reflecting what our leaders are saying. I think it's actually a healthy sign and a rare moment --

KURTZ: You don't see it the other way around where the constant coverage and the demand to do something is actually prompting, forcing, influencing politicians ...

MILBANK: So, maybe ...

KURTZ: to want to get on this bandwagon at the poll change?

MILBANK: There may be something circular about it. But the important thing is, you've got opinion leaders on the left and the right, the left reluctantly saying yes, we're going to have to do something about these guys and on the right saying do even more. So when the American public on both sides, right and left is hearing their opinion leaders, their thought leaders, it shows that we actually still can rally around something, whatever it is. Now, you know, give us a few weeks and we'll fall apart at the disagreement again. But for now, at least, it shows ...

KURTZ: But you've raised the question about whether the media want more because it's in their self-interest.

ASHBURN: I've said that - yes, I've said that. And I think they do. I think that media are hawks when it comes to this. Just look at 1991 with General Schwarzkopf. For the first time, he's in his fatigues, he's showing us these guided missiles on television, and everyone is tuning in. It was the same thing at the beginning of the Iraq war.

KURTZ: At the beginning. War may be good for ratings at the beginning. When it turns into a long slog, as Iraq inevitably did, it actually ends up being bad for ratings and television shies away from you. But I have to push back here because I think that's suggesting that journalists are unpatriotic, they don't care about their country, they don't care of people getting killed because they want good programming.

ASHBURN: I'm not saying that producer sitting out here, is saying, I want war. And let's put all of these images out here. But I think intrinsically people know, if you're putting pictures up there, gruesome, gruesome pictures like this executioner video, which I'm so tired of seeing, you are going to drive ratings.

GARRITY: It's very simple. The alternative to say, well, two Americans got beheaded, but let's not get too upset. This is something worth getting upset about. This is something worth -- a sense of national vengeance over. I saw earlier this morning Tom Harkin had said, well, the Saudis behead people all the time. Why aren't we upset about that? Because they behead Saudis. These guys executed Americans. So we kind of owe it to other Americans to deter future attacks against us.

KURTZ: Of course we should get upset.

GARRITY: Of course, we should get upset. On, of course then the question is always about tactics and can air strikes do the job. But, you know, on this question, Dana, we in the press do thrive on tragedy. Riots, earthquakes, war. That's when reporters make name for themselves.

MILBANK: Yes, and there's always some tragedy, or riot, or something else to cover. So, I don't think it's this particular one. I think it's - You can't really say that any - you know, journalists are doing anything in their financial interests these days because it's not all clear that we have any financial interest these days.


MILBANK: And to the extent we do, we would just be running, you know, lots of photo galleries about kittens and puppies and half naked people. I mean that's what drives traffic. So I don't think this is a financial decision at all. I think we're reflecting more public opinion and public -- and opinion leaders rather than the other way around.

ASHBURN: I think that's dumbing down the American public to say that they just want cat videos and naked people.

MILBANK: And puppies, too.

ASHBURN: And puppies, of course, puppies. Mine is very cute. But I think it is a video, it is a type of video that people want to see. You want to know what is happening and why people are attacking Americans.

KURTZ: So, go online and see it and you can watch the whole thing.

ASHBURN: That's how I feel. I'm not arguing to see it. I'm actually arguing against seeing it because you can go and find it online.

KURTZ: When you talk about skepticism and the coverage here, I'm seeing a bit more skepticism than I did, for example, in 2003 when the Bush administration and the threat of the nonexistence WMDs did galvanize the press and I think everybody in the media acknowledges that the tough questions were. And I'm seeing a number of them particularly in the "New York Times," a number of pieces about where the coalition partners and are there moderate Syrian rebels that we could harm. But not so much on TV and I'm wondering whether or not there's a little bit of cheerleading going on.

GARRITY: There is - generals are always fighting the last war, journalists are always covering the last one. Think back to say, 2007 or so. Bush announces the surge. And the coverage of that was this was a disaster, it was never going to work, this was just adding more troops into the fire. And lo and behold, the surge actually improved things in Iraq for a while.


GARRITY: Then along comes Libya, in, say 2009-2010. President Obama says we are going to lead from behind, we are going to provide air support.

KURTZ: But he ...



GARRITY: OK, some administration official says that and Libya seems fine for a while until September 11th 2012, when our ambassador gets killed. And so Libya is now a mess and they are jumping - the - over the consulate over there. So, now we have a situation in which we've gone from being kind of confident to kind of being more skeptical, to being more confident and pretty more face on the administration. Now, in fact, more skeptical again. And I kind of feel like look, I think that the coverage will always kind of acknowledge the possibility, look, maybe this is necessary. Life requires us to do things that are hard and difficult and all that stuff. But not - the same - you sugarcoat it, you don't say how easy it's going to be. But you also don't say, this is just, you know, warmongering neocons out for blood, for oil and all the usual crap we've heard.

KURTZ: Second paragraph of The New York Times, stated the other day, some officials and terrorism experts believe that the actual danger posed by ISIS has been distorted in hours of television punditry and alarmist statements by politicians. Fair point?

MILBANK: Well, I suppose, that's always a fair point? But I think that's largely peripheral to what's going on here. I think ..

KURTZ: What ...

MILBANK: We're having this reaction because you had in the run up to this, you had a lot of people on the right, but even some people on the left saying that president is disengaged, he's not interested, he's weak. He gave that speech and I think it threw people off balance a little because, wait a second, he sounded pretty strong there. So I think that muted some of the criticism on the right because after that it was kind of confused. It was at one saying well, he's still not being strong enough, and yet he's asking for too much money for it. So, I think - I think it's sort of blunted the criticism there and that's why you're not getting a lot of pushback.

KURTZ: I'm just saying that things go wrong in wartime. And airstrikes are not an antiseptic solution to everything. And pilots can get shot down and civilians can be killed accidentally and inadvertently, and I just think that we ought to be sober in the coverage here of talking about why we need to go after these terrorists and at the same time this is not a risk-free enterprise. Send me a tweet about our show this hour. I'm Howard Kurtz. We always like to get your messages and read some of them at the end of the program. Ahead, TMZ's Harvey Levin on how he got ahold of the devastating Ray Rice tape while the SNL was slapping the guy on the wrist.

But when we come back, shouldn't Congress after - on military strikes against ISIS? Why isn't the press pounding that questions?


KURTZ: For weeks now, the media has had a white hot focus on U.S. military action against ISIS. But what about our elected leaders on Capitol Hill?


CHRIS MATTHEWS, "HARDBALL" HOST: Does the Congress, Democrats or Republicans back this air war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria? Does it believe in this new war or not? And if it does, why won't it put its word to it? Or are there members waiting to see how it turns out?


KURTZ: Jim Garrity, why aren't more people like we just saw Chris Matthews there, demanding to know why leaders of both parties won't insist on a vote on what amounts to war?

GARRITY: Yes, you're seeing some folks who are not usually used to the spot like, like Tim Cain, Senator of Virginia, a Democrat saying I want a resolution for this.

KURTZ: Yeah.

GARRITY: We are in an upside down place, in which the president wants this authority and wants to define the war making authority as broadly as possible and insist that technically the action against al Qaeda --

KURTZ: OK, but I don't want to talk about legalities. I want to get into why the media are not pressing this point.

GARRITY: Probably because they're distracted by midterm elections and other stuff. It seems like, OK, the media has concluded this is a minor aspect of the story. Where those of us who actually care about the division of powers in the Constitution, actually, a very major part of the story because we have a president who's asserting powers that simply don't exit.

KURTZ: But even beyond this sort of constitutional debate, Dana, about whether the president should ask for such a declaration. As a matter of political accountability, why aren't - am I hearing more of these questions?

MILBANK: Well, in my writing, I'm not emphasizing the point simply because Congress is broken and would have difficulty passing a resolution saying good morning. So that even if there's widespread support for this, it could very easily get all bottled up in parliamentary problems just like it did with Syria the last time the president tried to leave it in their lap, and that created an awful mess. So I think there's a good reason not to do it, but that may not be the overall media reason. It may just be a distraction.

KURTZ: You are grading on a low curve.


KURTZ: Why does the media shine a thousand spotlights on the White House and a few flashings on Capitol Hill?

ASHBURN: Well, if you look, that's always historically happened. I Mean the White House beat is much more prestigious than having the beat where you're covering Congress, number one. Number two, the president is at an all-time low in terms of his approval ratings. And so, you're going to get more coverage of that. Congress, however, is even lower in its approval rating than people have given up. I mean what is Congress going to do?

KURTZ: People may have given up and I don't think journalists should give up, I think. Every day we should be asking where is Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner and Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid on this, even though Congress is dysfunctional as we all know. Interesting point before we go. The day that the President Obama gave his speech to the country on ISIS, the same - that's what, about a dozen journalists and this included a bunch of people from The New York Times, including Tom Friedman and David Brooks, Washington Post David Ignatius, Jeanne Robertson, Jerry Seib of the Wall Street Journal, Jeffrey Goldberg in the "Atlantic." Is this part of the strategy as to convince journalists privately? At least these commentators to get on board.

GARRITY: I would very much prefer that this on the record, but I understand the value of conversations being off the record. As long as you're getting enough, you know, on camera Q&A and enough on the record interaction with the press, I don't have a particular problem with that.

MILBANK: I think it's a terrible idea. He's been doing this for years and he never invites me.


ASHBURN: It's all about you, Dana.

MILBANK: I think he just thinks I'm too off message and I think he should just quit the whole thing.


KURTZ: All right, Dana. Dana Milbank and Jim Garrity. Thanks for stopping by. Ahead on "MediaBuzz", Jay Carney already defending his ex- boss in his new job at CNN. But up next, how does TMZ keeps getting these scoops from Donald Sterling's racist audiotape to the bombshell Ray Rice video? Founder Harvey Levin in a moment.


KURTZ: TMZ, there got to be website based in L.A. has beaten the mainstream media on a whole series of scoops. There was Mel Gibson's anti- Semitic rant against the cops, Michael Richard's racist monologue in a comedy club, the first word of Michael Jackson and sudden death by drug, the racist audio tape that forced Donald Sterling to sell the Los Angeles Clippers. And now the video of Ray Rice slugging his fiancee in a casino elevator that this week prompted the Baltimore Ravens to drop him and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to suspend him indefinitely.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How is it that the NFL couldn't get their hands on this second tape, but a website called TMZ could?

ROGER GOODELL, NFL COMMISSIONER: Well, I don't know how TMZ or any other website gets their information. And we don't seek to get that information from sources that are not credible.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it means that he is just full of BS.


KURTZ: What better time to talk to Harvey Levin, the founder of TMZ, from Los Angeles?

Harvey Levin, welcome.

LEVIN: Hi, Howie, how are you doing?

KURTZ: Doing great. So, people look at these stories from Ray Rice going all the way back to Mel Gibson and they ask, how does TMZ get this stuff?

LEVIN: You know, it's so funny to me that people ask that question. We're a news operation. I mean, that's what you're supposed to do with the news operation is chase down stories. And it always kind of amuses me when people ask that question. Isn't that what we're supposed to be doing? I mean that is the job.

KURTZ: Right. But when you get these exclusives, do you think that it's helping to change the image that some people have of TMZ as kind of being a raunchy tabloid operation?

LEVIN: Well, look, I mean, we've been around for nine years. And if you look at all the stories we've broken, there are stories literally that every newscast in America has put on their air. So I would take issue with the way you're describing it because, if that's the case, you guys have been -- you guys have been spoon fed this stuff over at Fox News as well as everywhere else for nine years and you've been taking all of our stories. So I guess I'll just rest on that.

KURTZ: We all live in TMZ's world now. I had a Fox anchor ask me on the air, so, how much do you think TMZ paid for those Ray Rice videos? Now, I don't know if you paid in this case or not, but you've acknowledged the general practice. Does that tarnish TMZ at all? Are some sources primarily motivated by money?

LEVIN: Yeah, let's just get down to it. Howie, you work for a news operation that pays for video, OK? Let's just acknowledge that right now. Fox News Channel pays for video. And so does ABC and so does NBC and so does CNN and so does every news operation in America. Newspapers, too. When you use pictures and you use get images, you pay for it. When you use splash video, you pay for it. When a stringer comes along and says they have got a picture of this ...


KURTZ: Right. But those are professionals.

LEVIN: You pay for it. No, they're not. No, they're not.


LEVIN: What about when the guy - in fact, there's a guy in my office, that's funny enough, are you telling me - do you want to actually tell me that Fox News Channel and all the others haven't paid for people who come along and say I've got this great piece of video? You really don't say that?

KURTZ: They don't - they don't - but Fox and Others don't pay for information. And I know you have a different --

LEVIN: Oh, Howie, Howie, you're changing the subject. I agree with you on information. I'm talking about video. You're not really arguing that you guys don't pay for video, right? You know you do.

KURTZ: Well, it's not --

LEVIN: And everybody - and by the way, and Howie, let me just say, there's nothing wrong with it. You're in a business. Fox News Channel makes money. It's a profitable operation. TMZ is a profitable operation. ABC and NBC and CBS. The fact is, they're all - they are not charitable organizations. They make money.


LEVIN: And if somebody comes along and they say, look, I've got this video, I'd like you to pay for it, by paying for it, the video is still the video. So, who cares whether you pay money for it. You guys do it. So, this is ...

KURTZ: But Fox doesn't pay six figures for a source.

LEVIN: Oh, come on, Howie.

KURTZ: For something we are not supposed to get.

LEVIN: Who said we did?

KURTZ: I'm just throwing it out there. You can knock it down if you want.

LEVIN: Well, I'm just - I'm throwing it right back at you. And by the way, you know the oldest joke in the book is once you pay, then it's just establishing your price, right? You know that.


LEVIN: I mean, you know the specious argument this is. Here is the deal. Yes, we will pay for video. Yes, we will pay for photos. Everybody else does, too. What we will not pay for is an interview. Anything we do -- and if you look at our record, I mean look, I mean we're right most of the time. And so we're not going to pay for interviews because then what you're doing to somebody is you're saying, hey, I'll lie a little bit and I'll pay you a little more. So, we don't do that. But absolutely we will pay for video and photos, it's just we're being a little more honest than you guys.

KURTZ: OK. When Roger Goodell, the NFL commissioner was asked initially about the second Ray Rice video, and as you know, AP has reported now the league got this months ago, he kind of described your organization as not credible and that ticked you off, didn't it?

LEVIN: Oh, it didn't tick me off at all. I thought it was amusing. He didn't - what he said was, that we wanted to get this from credible sources and he was talking about, you know, that presumably we got this from -- it was casino video as opposed to from the police department. What he was doing, he was covering his butt and I'll tell you why. Because he never went to the casino to get the video. He never even asked for it. And he came up with a bogus reason that he wasn't allowed to get it because of an investigation, which is not true. But the reality is, why do you think the commissioner changed his opinion and then decided to indefinitely suspend Rice? Why do you think that happened?

KURTZ: Because your video was accurate. There is no dispute about it.

LEVIN: Because we put our video - yeah, we put our video on the site and he used our video to suspend Ray Rice. So the whole argument is bogus.

KURTZ: Do you think TMZ sports has been successful in part because the sports media, perhaps, are not aggressive enough or are a little too cozy with the professional leagues they cover?

LEVIN: I think it's -- you know, look, I will say there is a real parallel between sports and celebrity, that the same thing happened when we covered celebrity news, that all of the shows and magazines were so in bed with publicists that they weren't really doing an honest job. And I'm not saying that the sports people are not because I think the sports people have always been more aggressive than the celebrity -- the traditional celebrity media. But I think there are alliances that were formed, especially when games are shown on various networks and they have real business relationships. And it's difficult to maneuver a business relationship around journalism. When you're trying to do both at the same time.

KURTZ: Right.

LEVIN: And I think that's the problem in the sports area and I think there was an opening. L

KURTZ: Harvey Levin, thanks very much for joining us.

LEVIN: OK, Howie.

KURTZ: More on the Ray Rice controversy just ahead. Did the media initially go too easy on the Baltimore Ravens? And are they too quick to gloss over domestic violence in professional sports? Christine Brennan and David Zurawik when we come back.


ERIC SHAWN, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Right from America's news headquarters, I'm Eric Shawn. The civilized world this morning denouncing ISIS for its latest beheading. The Islamic terrorists released that video yesterday apparently showing the horrible execution of British citizen David Haines. He was an aide worker abducted in Syria last year. British Prime Minister David Cameron condemning the killing on Twitter as, quote, "a pure act of evil." President Obama also calling the beheading a barbaric murder. Saying the U.S. stands shoulder to shoulder with Britain.

Meanwhile, back here in our country, in Southern California, hundreds of firefighters now battling flames and triple digit temperatures. The wildfire in the Cleveland National Forest in San Diego burning through more than two square miles of dry brush. 30 homes have been evacuated. That fire only ten percent contained. I'm Eric Shawn. I'll seal you at the top of the hour with Arthur Neville. For all the breaking news. Now back to MediaBuzz and Howard Kurtz.

KURTZ: We already knew, thanks to the first video obtained by TMZ, that Ray Rice had dragged his wife's unconscious body out of an elevator. Yet that led to a measly two-game NFL suspension for the Baltimore Ravens running back and this tepid reaction from Coach John Harbaugh.


JOHN HARBAUGH, COACH: I stand behind Ray. He's a heck of a guy. He's done everything right since. He makes mistakes, all right?


KURTZ: Heck of a guy. It wasn't until this week when TMZ obtained the second security video of Rice punching his wife Janay in the face that the NFL was shamed into acting. The Ravens dropping Rice, Commissioner Roger Goodell suspending him indefinitely. And new details emerged the AP reporting that league got the elevator video months ago, and ESPN saying Rice told Goodell months ago that he had hit his fiancee. Joining us now, Christine Brennan, sports columnist for USA today and David Zurawik, television and media critic for "The Baltimore Sun." Chris, you had a chance to sit down with Roger Goodell and you asked him about the second video. He said the NFL had asked for it repeatedly. How do you feel about that answer now?

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, USA TODAY SPORTS COLUMNIST: Well, I guess I'll stick with it as what he told me until completely proven otherwise. I mean we still don't know, for sure, what that AP report is. It sounds very damming to the NFL, Howie. But, you know, we don't know that Roger Goodell saw the video. My point always has been, and I asked him four different times in the interview I had with him, well, why did it take a second video? The first video should have been enough. So that's ...

KURTZ: That's exactly what I have written down for the question for you. We already had seen Ray Rice dragging his fiancee - wife out of that elevator. Should there have been more of a media uproar then over the two game suspension? Me and a few columnists took it on, but it wasn't huge the way it is now.

BRENNAN: Right. When the two-game suspension was announced, there was quite a ton of criticism. That was the end of July. It took a month for the NFL then Roger Goodell came up with that six-game suspension. But your question is about the media. That video has been available for months. So, I think for a lot of people covering the league, and frankly, I think for a lot - all of us, we thought that the six-game suspension at the end of August sounded tough. There were a lot of columnists saying that. Well, now that we've seen the second video, six-game sentence don't sound like anywhere near enough. So, I think it's evolving, I'm not letting NFL off the hook, I'm not letting Goodell off the hook, but I also think all of us - the word domestic violence, Howie, I think the adjective is bad. It's wrong. Because it makes it sounds like it's between a husband and a wife in the kitchen and we don't belong in the conversation. Clearly, now we do.

KURTZ: TMZ's role, I read your column this morning, and it sounds like you've moved from being a sceptic and even a critic of the TMZ website to a supporter and whether or not Harvey Levin paid for the Rice video. You're not sure you care anymore.

DAVID ZURAWIK, MEDIA CRITIC FOR THE BALTIMORE SUN: Howie, I do care. I mean there are qualifications to this. But I think House - when you look at how we think of the landscape today, if TMZ had not published that video, Ray Rice would be back in the NFL, he'd be back in Ravens. He'd be out at their practice facility, call the castle, and somebody would be holding a microphone -- because this is the way the press reported it. How great is it, Ray, to be back? John Harbaugh, how great is it? TMZ changed the world with that video. We would not have had this conversation, Howie, about domestic violence that led the evening news two nights in a row this week.

KURTZ: Absolutely. Yes.

ZURAWIK: They did it. No. And here is what I'll say. If you pay for a video today, first of all, understand the world we're in. Everybody needs to monetize their digital space. They need their websites. Video drives traffic. You are going to pay for video, everybody is doing it. The networks do it, the cable channels do it, they just ...

KURTZ: OK, I just want to make a distinction between paying a licensing fee to a photo agency and paying 50, 100, whatever thousand dollars it is to somebody who is a source of slipping of something.

But leave that aside, I'll take your point.

How did the media, especially in your city of Baltimore, deal with Rice and the Ravens after that first video came out and he was - looked like he was coming back?

ZURAWIK: I wrote back in February, God bless TMZ. I got my head taken off.

KURTZ: Forget TMZ. How did the media deal with the team and the league?

ZURAWIK: They were - they were - they let the team drive their coverage. I think you have to understand they need the city, and this isn't unique to Baltimore. They are such powerful institutions, these NFL teams economically, that the local media to a large extent is involved. One of the sports directors at a local affiliate is the public address announcer at the Ravens game. Another one does the radio broadcasting, got a Super Bowl ring. They are part of this operation. They are almost extensions of the PR operation.

KURTZ: On this Ray Rice controversy, do you feel that some in the media are treating it as entertainment?

BRENNAN: Certainly, yes, talking about driving ratings and clicks. I mean I have to say it, we're here at Fox, but "Fox & Friends," the other day the banter about - well, this proves he should take the stairs.

KURTZ: That was an unfortunate misstep. And I was glad that they came back the next day and said we didn't mean to give the impression that we take this lightly.

BRENNAN: Yeah, but boy, they did. You could say the next day, but how do those words come out of your mouth after you've seen the videos? Both videos. You know, I think if there's anything good from this, and of course, journalistically, we're covering this story. And it's big - it's huge. I think you can make the case, Howie, that this is the biggest controversy ever to hit a U.S. pro sports league.

KURTZ: But now we're starting to focus, belatedly, I would say, on other professional athletes who had other and similar incidents, I won't use domestic violence. I'm talking about men beating up women. And you wrote the other day about Greg Hardy of the Carolina Panthers going to play on Sunday. And explain a little bit about his case and would you have written about that if we weren't all focused on this topic because of Ray Rice?

BRENNAN: No and to David's point, yes, we wouldn't be talking about this at all. So I guess thank you TMZ, as bizarre as that sounds. But Greg Hardy, with the Carolina Panthers playing has been found guilty by a judge on a bench trial, North Carolina in July, basically slinging his ex- girlfriend around, hands around the throat trying to choke her. She said just kill me now. There are 911 tapes. It's horrible.

KURTZ: It's horrible.

BRENNAN: It is absolutely horrible. He has got the loophole that allows him to play for the Panthers today ...

KURTZ: because he's appealing.

RENNAN: It's because he's appealing. Of course, here the question, where is Roger Goodell on this? Where the Carolina Panthers?

KURTZ: But where was the media maybe outside the state of North Carolina? I had not even heard of this case until this week, one of this more to focus. I want to move to Janay Rice because she's obviously been defending her now husband. Part of a statement, in Instagram, let's put it up on the screen, "No one knows the pain that the media and unwanted opinions from the public have caused my family to take something away from the man I love. He has worked his butt off all his life just to gain ratings is horrific. This is our life, what don't you all get? If your intention were to hurt us, embarrass us, make us feel alone, take all happiness away, you have succeed on so many levels. So, she's blaming the media.

ZURAWIK: Well, you know, look, this is victim, and I have nothing but empathy for Janay Rice.

KURTZ: Right.

ZURAWIK: This isn't about her statement blaming the media, you know, or criticizing her for that. This is how the media didn't cover this story. Howie, look. Society, professional journalists, every ethics coach says try to do no harm and doubly try to do no harm to victims. Be careful with them. I think if you had suppressed this tape and kept it in the darkness ..

KURTZ: Right.

ZURAWIK: That is what the powers that be wanted. So sometimes people do get hurt in the process of bringing this out.

BRENNAN: No surprise that she did that. I understand. My question is will this actually now be a deterrent for others to report it because, of course, now there goes the livelihood. It'd be a very interesting thing, but I feel only sympathy for her, as well.

KURTZ: We've run the video so many times, a half dozen networks are saying that they will stop running it or at least use it very sparingly. Because it has become like wallpaper. Christine Brennan and David Zurawik, thanks very much. We'll have more on the Ray Rice uproar. A bit later when we look at female journalists speaking out on domestic violence.

But coming up, Jay Carney, CNN commentator and his dustup with John McCain. And has John Oliver discovered a dirty little secret at "60 Minutes?"


KURTZ: The parade of former Obama aides landing plum media jobs isn't letting up. Three months after stepping down as White House press secretary, Jay Carney has joined CNN as a commentator. And after his boss delivered that speech on ISIS, Carney got into it with John McCain.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R) ARIZONA: You don't have the facts, Mr. Carney. That's the problem.

JAY CARNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Senator, I understand that you present the facts that you believe are true based on the arguments that you've made wrong ...

MCCAIN: No. I believe that.

CARNEY: For a long time that we should lead troops in perpetuity. And that's just not what this president believes.


KURTZ: Carney was a long time correspondent for Time magazine before joining the administration. But the question he'll face like David Axelrod, and Robert Gibbs at MSNBC, like Stephanie Cutter at CNN and like Dana Perino who joined Fox after George W. Bush left office, is whether he can be an independent voice or simply a surrogate for the president?

Well, John Oliver is becoming quite the media critic and his latest target is a big one, "60 Minutes." The HBO got to wondering how the venerable CBS News magazine often seems to get the perfect sound bites. Could the journalists be leading the witness?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have got to hand it to him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, yes, you do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was off and running.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was off and running.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When we were dealing with anxiety.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a laugh at it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a laugh at it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, it drives the price up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, it drives the price up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You did everything together.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We did everything together.

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He is sort of the father of hot sauce.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is the father of hot sauce.

STEVE PELLEY, CNN ANCHOR: All of them banned.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of them banned.

PELLEY: With the crowd there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With the crowd right there.

PELLEY: It's quite an image.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Quite an image.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was almost a cake walk, actually.

PELLEY: A cake walk?


PELLEY: To beat the system.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To beat the system.

PELLEY: To cheat?



KURTZ: Now, TV correspondents often try to get interview subjects to speak in complete sentences and sharpen their sound bites a bit. But is it John Oliver's coming and getting, or do the folks at "60 Minutes" really do it that often?

After the break, our "Video Verdict" is up next.


KURTZ: Time now for our video verdict. The day after Ray Rice was indicted for knocking out his girlfriend, Janay, she married him. And that has sparked a media debate about her conduct with The New York Post columnist demanding, "Wake up Janay."

ASHBURN: Some female journalists are starting to speak out about their own experience with domestic violence. And one of those who is gone public is CNN's Carol Costello.


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: One day, we were in an argument and he took me and he violently threw me against the wall. And it knocked me out. And he dragged me much like he drag - much like Ray Rice dragged Janay, so I could relate to that. When I told some of my friends about this incident, they couldn't believe that it happened because he was such a charming man. Charming, and handsome and nice.


ASHBURN: You know, kudos to Carol for speaking out about this. She has a platform at the network and she's able to use that for good. And I think this was a heroic thing for her to do.

KURTZ: I'm not usually a fan of journalists personalizing things after a big celebrity incident. Like after Robin Williams's suicide a number of journalists come out and say, they have been depressed. But in this instance, I think it was a good thing. I think it's helping to educate the public and showcasing that this can happen to anybody. So, let's give it a score.

ASHBURN: I'm giving that a nine.

KURTZ: And I'll go with an eight.

ASHBURN: You know, Howie, I think that what she did was very brave.

KURTZ: It's hard to talk about it, isn't it?

ASHBURN: It is very hard to talk about it. You know, it happened to me 25 years ago. A boyfriend hit me in the face and I promptly left him and I've never spoken about it until right now because I didn't want to be perceived as a victim. As someone who had something done to her that she couldn't control. The ...

KURTZ: But you're talking about it now.

ASHBURN: Well, I'm talking about it now because I think it is very important to have an open and honest discussion about domestic violence and the women it happens to. Even the women who don't report it. And especially, you know, when there's not a salacious video.

KURTZ: Right. Of course that's a distinction with a lot of these athletes. If there's no video, it doesn't become as big a story. I'm glad that we're talking openly about it. And it's hard. I'm glad people like you are speaking up. Too often I fear that the media are treating these things as entertainment. For example, the whole Rihanna and Chris Brown story was horrifying at first and then just became a kind of a gossip story. I'm glad that CBS took Rihanna off the entertainment bill on Thursday night's NFL game because of what you just said - a discussion about domestic violence.

ASHBURN: And part of that was also social media. Social media went crazy when this story happened and the hash tag, you know, whyileft became viral. And then there are also hashtags that said, you know, wait, these women should be saying why I didn't leave, and why I like to be a battered woman, which is just so unfair, but it really touched a nerve in society.

KURTZ: Right. The debate no longer just on television. But also on social media, websites as well. Still to come, your best tweets and MSNBC presses Kirsten Gillibrand on why the senator won't name the lawmakers she's accusing of sexist behavior.


KURTZ: Here's some of your top tweets. I asked if it bother you if TMZ paid for the video of Ray Rice slugging his fiancee. John Slokin, "TMZ has the right to pay and it's up front. If it were NBC, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, CNN or Fox, they should not pay for anything." Steve_G, "What bothers me even more is they released the video in sections. I assume in order to prolong TMZ's time in the spotlight." I don't think TMZ had the second video right away. Tom Walsh, "Yes, it bothers me. That's evidence if criminal charges were filed. Running it would ruin any chance of a fair trial." Except that's already been for the jury. David Robertson, "What bothers me more is that the media have played the video a million times while ignoring far more serious crime stories."

ASHBURN: Absolutely. And just at the middle of the week, the networks and cable networks came out and said we are going to stop or slow down the use of this. And I think that's a great idea.

KURTZ: Yeah, we've all seen it.

KURTZ: When Senator Kirsten Gillibrand charged in a new book that several members of Congress had made sexist comments there, I wrote a column saying that she had a responsibility to identify them.

New York Senator said, one had called her Porky, another had squeezed her stomach and said don't lose too much weight, because I like my girls chubby.

MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski pressed her on this on just who these men are.


MIKA BRZEZINSKI, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Why wouldn't you name names here?

KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D) NEW YORK SENATOR: Because it's - the reason why I use these examples is to illustrate the broader point.

BRZEZINSKI: But this is harassment. Somebody grabbed you.

GILLIBRAND: Not for me. They're not my bosses. They didn't affect me.

BRZEZINSKI: Wouldn't you elevate the debate by naming names?

GILLIBRAND: No, because then it's all about that individual.


ASHBURN: No, I think Mika's wrong in this instance because she's not a journalist and she doesn't have to reveal her sources to anybody.

KURTZ: These are not sources. These are men who were touching her and making comments.

ASHBURN: Well, they are.

KURTZ: Mika.


KURTZ: Don't put it in the book then.

ASHBURN: No, why? She said exactly why she put it in the book, which was to raise awareness.

KURTZ: Because these lawmakers have constituents who ought to know that this is a way they are conducting - you can't - you don't agree with that?

ASHBURN: I don't agree with that. She's got to have her own fight with them and discussions with them in Congress. It is not her place.

KURTZ: All right, well, she's certainly taking your advice because she's not doing it.


KURTZ: That's it for this edition of "MediaBuzz." I'm Howard Kurtz. We hope you like our Facebook page. We are posting a lot of original content. And you can e-mail us all the time at "MediaBuzz" at

We are back here next Sunday, every Sunday, 11 o'clock and 5 o'clock with the latest buzz.

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