This is a rush transcript from "Media Buzz," December 10, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: On the buzz meter this Sunday, huge harassment headlines as the fallout topples two leading Democrats. First, John Conyers and now Al Franken, quitting under fire.
(START VIDEO CLIPS)
SEN. AL FRANKEN, D-MINN.: I may be resigning my seat but I am not giving up my voice.
HUGH HEWITT, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: And not even an apology from Al Franken. I am more than a little stunned.
S.E. CUPP, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: If you are a woman who felt violated by Al Franken, you think you're -- that somehow, you know, reassuring to you that makes it better. There was nothing about this that was focused on the victims.
RUTH MARCUS, WASHINGTON POST: We say zero tolerance does that mean that every act deserves the death penalty which what we saw for Senator Franken here is the political death penalty.
LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS: As predicted, Franken was a victim of the PC lynch mob.
This was a crass political ploy. Democrats dumping Franken overboard because now that they can claim the moral high ground for 2018 and pursue allegations against Donald Trump and Roy Moore.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
KURTZ: And President Trump creating a media furor by endorsing Republican candidate Roy Moore.
(START VIDEO CLIPS)
DON LEMON, CNN: The president of the United States would rather have an accused child molester in the senate than a Democrat.
JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC: If you give money to President Trump or you give money to the Republican National Committee, you are giving money to Roy Moore and you are endorsing everything that Roy Moore stands for.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the president is taking political risk as a need to doing the Mitch McConnell thing, let Alabama decide probably would be the best way.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
KURTZ: Are the media taking sides against Trump and Moore in Tuesday's election and tarring the entire Republican Party in the process? Had they helped Franken and Conyers to the same standards?
And the press reveals the real reason GOP Congressman Trent Franks abruptly resigned over an outrageous request to female staffers. We'll talk to two former Trump campaign officials, Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie, about this in the coverage of the president they helped elect.
CNN tells a big explosive about an explosive e-mail to Donald Trump, Jr. which turns out to be wrong. Why have there been so many media screw-ups in the Russia investigation? Plus, new reports on Harvey Weinstein using the press to protect him, and an actress charging Dustin Hoffman with disturbing sexual misconduct.
I'm Howard Kurtz and this is "Media Buzz."
We didn't have to wait for the pundits to throw out a partisan contrast when Al Franken resigned from his senate seat. The former "Saturday Night Live" star did it himself.
(START VIDEO CLIP)
FRANKEN: I of all people am aware that there is some irony in the fact that I am leaving, while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office and a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls campaigns for the senate with the full support of his party.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Joining us now from New Hampshire to talk about this in the coverage of the president, Corey Lewandowski, Donald Trump's former campaign manager and an adviser to a pro-Trump super PAC. And here in Washington, David Bossie, the former deputy campaign manager, president of Citizens United, and a Fox News contributor. Their book is called "Let Trump Be Trump: The Inside Story of His Rise to the Presidency"
Corey, many liberal pundits (INAUDIBLE) AL Franken line. If he has to resign, how can the president endorse Roy Moore who is battling sexual misconduct allegations from nine women which he denies? Is it fair for the media to bring up this obvious discrepancy?
COREY LEWANDOWSKI, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Howie, there is a huge difference between Roy Moore and Al Franken. AL Franken was groping women while they were asleep. He thought it was a game. He had his hand under her breasts. He is taking pictures, sharing them on social media. That's one example.
You know in New Hampshire, Howie, there is something called street justice. You do that to somebody who is asleep, a woman, it's disgusting. He's a pig. He should have resigned. But ultimately, the people of Alabama have to decide if they want to elect a big government liberal or they want to elect --
KURTZ: Wait, you just pivoted from what Al Franken did was bad. No quarrel there. The Democrats helped push him out. And then when it comes to Roy Moore and potentially more serious accusations, you say, oh, it's up to the voters.
LEWANDOWSKI: Well, Howie, look, I am not convinced Al Franken is going to resign from the senate. What day is he leaving? You know, he never gave us a day. This is all -- this is all media-driven. This is to let the story die down. Al Franken has not said which day is he leaving in the coming days, weeks, months. He may be there for another two years.
LEWANDOWSKI: If he does stay, the people of Minnesota will get to decide. But, look, you may not believe this. These guys in D.C. aren't actually true tellers.
KURTZ: Follow-up question for you, David Bossie. Is if fair for the press following the Franken chat there to revive the story from last year in the campaign? You were there. More than a dozen women made accusations against Donald Trump which he denied.
DAVID BOSSIE, FORMER TRUMP DEPUTY CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Sure. Let me just get to the facts of the Franken case. One, there is photographic evidence and an admission, OK, on Al Franken side. And on Judge Moore side, there are accusations but he says that those did not happen.
And the one piece of evidence, the yearbook, we now know has been tainted. So, we don't have any evidence. One is a clear photographic evidence and another is --
KURTZ: Accusation that he denied.
KURTZ: Despite the fact that there are nine women --
BOSSIE: So now you let it --
KURTZ: You don't think --
BOSSIE: You let the voters of Alabama make the call for themselves, whether they think it's been adjudicated.
KURTZ: All right. Corey, the president has said repeatedly the Russia investigation is a witch hunt. It is fake news. No hard evidence of Russian collusion to be sure. But doesn't the Mike Flynn guilty plea show that this is a legitimate news story at the very least?
LEWANDOWSKI: Well, it's not a legitimate news story. Mike Flynn pled guilty to his lying to the FBI which had nothing to do with the campaign or Russia. And if Mike Flynn lied to the FBI or anybody else did, then they should be accountable for that, Howie.
But that doesn't mean -- and I was at the campaign from the beginning -- Dave was there at the end. The reason we don't even talk much about the Russia investigation "Let Trump Be Trump" is because it didn't occur during the campaign. There was no collusion.
I never spoke to a Russian. There was no cooperation. And if somebody lied to the FBI about their contact with the foreign government, they should be accountable. They had nothing to do with the outcome of the campaign. That's the difference.
KURTZ: Let me ask, Dave, about a bunch of recent news stories. Some saying the president is out of touch with reality. He creates an alternative universe. He privately questioned the "Access Hollywood" tape. New York Times today says he watches up to eight hours of TV a day, slurring his words in the Jerusalem speech, questioning his mental health. What does all these say to you about the coverage of this president?
BOSSIE: Well, we just have to go back in this past week, Howie, to look at the fake news divisions and what they have tried to do. Whether it is ABC News and Brian Ross who the president said should be fired and never on television again --
BOSSIE: -- for a fake news story. But he drove the markets down 350 points and it set a media narrative based on a lie. That's the problem. Then you have the Deutsche Bank records subpoena, supposed subpoena by the Mueller team which was then obviously said did never happen.
KURTZ: (INAUDIBLE) organizations got that wrong.
BOSSIE: Many. And then we have the Washington Post with Dave Weigel with this story last night of the empty arena in Pensacola which of course was packed to the gills and had people waiting outside. We have story after story after story of fake news.
And that's -- look, the New York Times today, all the fake news (INAUDIBLE), what I say about them, they can't help themselves. They hate this president. They will never let him succeed. That's why he uses Twitter and these speeches to speak directly to the American people.
KURTZ: I don't think it's fair to say that everything in every story is fake and the New York Times story obviously --
BOSSIE: But let's try to --
KURTZ: Interviews --
BOSSIE: Let's make the media just get it right (INAUDIBLE) then the president won't be on them so much. But they continue to feed him.
KURTZ: All right. Let me get to some details in your book, "Let Trump Be Trump." Corey, early in the campaign, president attacks John McCain, not for people who are in shut down, you told him that he need to hold a press conference right away and clean this up.
He held a press conference. He didn't back off. And you thought the campaign was over. That seemed to set a template for the media saying, oh, Trump can't possibly survive this.
LEWANDOWSKI: You are exactly right. What I learned on that campaign and what the American people learned is he's going to fight for everything he believes in. He's going to double down.
And what Donald Trump did on that campaign and particular in this issue is he raised the awareness that veterans need more help in the state of Phoenix, in the state of Arizona, because the Phoenix VA was a disaster. And that became a story.
If you look at this proportionately, the veterans supported Donald Trump. The first responders support Donald Trump. Our military supports Donald Trump. We talked about that in the book because he is willing to talk about issues on the campaign trail and now as the president that no other candidate was willing to.
KURTZ: You have set up my next question for Dave, which is the Supreme Court just cleared enforcement of the travel ban after many months. After the San Bernardino murders, the Trump campaign issued a statement that called for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States.
You guys write, for us the decision was simple, we wanted none of the other candidates to move to the right of us on immigration. But the ban on Muslim was so offensive. It didn't make it into the travel ban. And you deal with this as a cold, political calculation.
BOSSIE: President Trump is somebody who is for border security, for America First national security. So, whether it's build the wall, whether it's the Kate Steinle verdict last week, whether it's the Supreme Court voting seven to two last week to allow his ban to be upheld.
KURTZ: (INAUDIBLE) campaign position that you are defending smart politics. Defending a lot of people.
BOSSIE: This guy has the best political instincts in America. President Trump is a master at understanding having his finger on the pulse of the American people. Corey and I, we talked about it in the book.
When we are wrong, he lets us know we are wrong. But we think as political professionals, oh, we know what to do. And he does. And so Corey and I talked about in the book. When we are wrong, we have to admit it, because he has unbelievable instincts.
KURTZ: Let me get to this. Corey, you tell the story in the book about Donald Trump's reaction when Paul Manafort now under indictment obviously tried to keep him off the Sunday shows, cleaning up a little bit.
Donald Trump said, I will go on TV any time I damned blanking want. And you won't say another blanking word about it. Didn't want to tone it down. I know guys like you with your hair and your skin. Then you say in the book, you think, Manafort who essentially replaced you as a bad guy, a little bit of score settling here?
LEWANDOWSKI: No, Howie. This is a truthful book. What Dave and I talked about in the books is exactly what he just mentioned, which is Donald Trump has the best instincts. He is the best messenger.
And for anybody who tried to change him, if you remember, that time at the campaign, Paul Manafort was down in Florida telling the Republican National Committee members, I am going to remake Donald Trump. You will see a Donald Trump 2.0.
A presidential Donald Trump, which is what every other political operative in the world want to do because they thought that is what the American people wanted. What we say is let Trump be Trump. He has been a phenomenal success.
He knows what the American people want. He brought that message directly to them. And that in large part is why he was elected. He is authentic. He is the blue collar billionaire. He sees what the people want and he delivers it for them.
KURTZ: All right. I will put you down as a true believer. Dave, in the book and to the campaign at that time when he -- you did have a number of women coming out with the harassment allegations against then candidate Donald Trump.
He said, according to your reporting, you were there, those false accusers are killing us with the women's vote, and then you say Kellyanne Conway responded, it's not that, is that you fat-shamed Miss Universe, women spent billions trying to lose weight.
To those kind of tweets against (INAUDIBLE) at that time, kind of precursor to the tweet insults and (INAUDIBLE) engaged with this president, would you probably wish he would stop? I mean, he may have good instincts, but doesn't he pick unnecessary fights?
BOSSIE: You know what? I am one of those during the campaign, I told him many times not to tweet, and he felt that it was the right thing to do, and he ended up being right. And that's why letting Trump be Trump, the name our book is about him telling the American people, speaking directly to them, so sure, would I want him to not tweet here or there? Absolutely. But he understands what he is doing and he's right. And I like him doing it.
KURTZ: All right. Let me get a break here. More with our guests when we come back. And later, the latest botched story on the Russia investigation as CNN corrects a much touted exclusive.
KURTZ: We are back now with Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie, authors of "Let Trump be Trump." Corey, in the full campaign, you were a CNN commentator. You were about to go on a Trump campaign trip. You were spotted. You got a call from CNN president Jeff Zucker who said what to you?
LEWANDOWSKI: He told me not to make the trip. He said, you know, you can't get on the airplane, that would be a problem for us.
KURTZ: Or you're gone.
LEWANDOWSKI: And so I am going to ask you not to go on the trip. You know what I said? We are already wheels up, baby. We're out.
KURTZ: But then you did something for CNN to try to kind of sort of solidify your position there. Got an interview --
LEWANDOWSKI: Well, obviously, you know, I have great respect for Jeff Zucker. I know your listeners aren't going to like that, but I do think he's a good man. But, look, I think what I tried to help to do there was this was immediately following what was called Billy Bush weekend which we detailed in the book.
And what we did there is Anderson Cooper then had a sit-down one-on-one interview with Melania Trump where she was very candid and set the record straight about she thought about the story surrounding her husband in that Billy Bush weekend.
LEWANDOWSKI: And the day that Dave and I talked about in the book is where Donald Trump won the election. He won that at the Saint Louis debate, following that Billy Bush weekend where he took his message --
KURTZ: We are short on time. So, you say during the campaign in the book that Hope Hicks, now the communication director, had to perform what service for Donald Trump? And by the way, Mr. Lewandowski, were you not covering up your own complicity in that service?
LEWANDOWSKI: Yes, I was actually. Look, I have to go get the (INAUDIBLE). There was nothing on the campaign that I didn't do.
KURTZ: I am talking about, you say -- you say you had to press his pants. Yes?
LEWANDOWSKI: Look, Howie, if I am going to steam the clothes or I (INAUDIBLE) or I get to pull the car around with five people on the presidential campaign, there is nothing you don't do. And I did all. Hope (ph) did it all. Dan (ph) did it all. (INAUDIBLE) did it all. That's what you do. We didn't have the juggernaut of the Clinton (INAUDIBLE) 900 people. There was five of us.
KURTZ: I didn't even know it could be (INAUDIBLE) wearing the pants. Dave - -
KURTZ: You write -- you both write that you went to see the president last May. You thought from the (INAUDIBLE) that you both would be offered senior White House jobs. You were relieved when that offer didn't come. Why? Why wouldn't you wanted jobs to the White House?
BOSSIE: You know, I won't speak for Corey on this, but for me, for my family, for my own health, you know what? I want to serve the president how best I can, whether it's from the outside or from the inside. And Corey and I are kind of soldiers in that movement. We would do whatever he wants.
But, for me, it was a relief that I didn't have to go in and he was protecting us from potentially a staff shakeup that was coming.
KURTZ: Corey, I got half a minute.
LEWANDOWSKI: Same exact thing. Dave and I both have young families. We put a lot of time into the campaign. The families have made the sacrifice. And working inside the White House is like being in the Super Bowl. It's the greatest privilege for political operative. But it also is a massive amount of commitment. It is 18 hours a day, seven days a week. No breaks.
So I think Dave and I had great surrogates on the outside for this president. We can say and do things. You can't do it if you're inside that building.
KURTZ: Excellent point. You do get to spend a little bit more time with your families when you're not promoting the book. David Bossie here. Corey Lewandowski in New Hampshire. Thanks very much for joining us.
BOSSIE: Thanks for having us.
KURTZ: Ahead, a new and damaging account from an actress who says Dustin Hoffman sexually assaulted here several years ago, many years ago. But first, CNN discloses a damaging e-mail involving Donald Trump Jr. and WikiLeaks, but the story falls apart.
KURTZ: After the leaks began, when Donald Trump testified behind closed doors on the Hill, CNN was promoting a major scoop.
(START VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: We have a breaking news this morning. We have to report a CNN exclusive in the Russia investigation.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRRESPONDENT: Donald Trump, his son Donald Trump Jr. and other in the Trump organization, they received an e- mail in September 2016, offering an encryption key in website address for hacked WikiLeaks documents.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: But that as CNN had to acknowledge or not to be wrong the unsolicited e-mail to Don Jr. actually came 10 days later. So, rather than offering secret access to undisclosed information, it simply point of the campaign to hack messages that had already been made public.
Joining us now to analyze the coverage --
(START VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: CNN apologized just a little while ago. They apologized. Oh, thank you, CNN. Thank you so much.
TRUMP: You should have been apologizing for the last two years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: That was the president the other night. Joining us now to analyze the coverage: Mollie Hemingway, senior editor at The Federalist; Jessica Tarlov, senior director at Bustle.com; and Mara Liasson, White House correspondent for NPR. All are Fox News contributors. Mollie, how serious was this blunder by CNN about the president's son?
MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, THE FEDERALIST: Well, it is hard to underestimate or overstate I should say how much they were hyping the story. This was the first evidence of smoking gun of actual collusion between Trump and Russia to steal the election.
And so that was how the news played out. A lot of people sort of fell for it. It turns out that it was like so many other stories that we got on this narrative, a complete nothing burger. I mean, the e-mail was from some random person who was sharing publicly available information.
This is the pattern for so many of these stories. I mean, this is not the first time it happened to CNN. It is not even the first time it happened this week, that a major story --
HEMINGWAY: -- blew like this. At some point, you actually have to start asking, maybe the real scandal is how the media fell for this Russia and Trump collusion narrative and how they have been involved in perpetuating - -
KURTZ: Well, MSNBC and CBS also picked up the stories, saying they had confirmed it. But on this question in this run of media mistakes, ABC's Brian Ross last week as Mollie points out earlier, CNN had to retract (INAUDIBLE) Anthony Scaramucci story.
And the president saying fake news, CNN made a vicious and purposeful mistake. I am not saying purposeful, but it's not looking good for the news business in terms of these Trump stories.
JESSICA TARLOV, BUSTLE.COM: No, absolutely isn't. And I think this is why there are a lot of people on both sides of the aisle who are saying actually maybe there wasn't Russia-Trump collusion story in the first place.
There are certainly things that raised eyebrows. We have seen a number of indictments. Obviously the Mueller investigation is finding things. And characters like Paul Manafort and Carter Page are never going to win Citizen of the Year.
KURTZ: Mike Flynn.
TARLOV: Mike Flynn, absolutely. But I do think it is difficult and we did it also at Fox. We had one on Roy Moore story.
TARLOV: But I do think (INAUDIBLE) it just feeds Donald Trump absolutely and he can make that case.
KURTZ: Gives him plenty of ammunition. And, Mara, CNN's reporter Manu Raju, who we just saw, it won't be just Flynn, because the sources, multiple sources who told them about this e-mail got it wrong. But he thought it was (INAUDIBLE) the air and CNN obviously hadn't seen the e-mail. Does that get him off the hook?
MARA LIASSON, NPR: Well, you know what, what he said in the clip you played was in September. But CNN also had put on this website September fourth, when it actually was September 14th.
LIASSON: (INAUDIBLE), but there is a big difference because at one point it wasn't public, right.
LIASSON: It wasn't. But I think that if the pressure is to come up with scoops especially scoops that are going to show that Donald Trump colluded, smoking gun scoops.
You are going to be held to a very high bar because the president of the United States has an explicit strategy to delegitimize the media and say that everything is fake and the investigation is fake. So, yes, every time the media screws up, it's really bad.
KURTZ: Meanwhile, a number of conservative pundits following the president's lead in criticizing and attacking the FBI, one bit of commentary has gotten a lot of attention. It had been replayed on other cable news channels. It came from Fox News' Gregg Jarrett talking about the FBI on "Hannity."
(START VIDEO CLIP)
GREGG JARRETT, FOX NEWS: Mueller has been using the FBI as a political weapon and the FBI has become America's secret police, secret surveillance, wiretapping, intimidation, harassment and threats. It's like the old KGB that comes for you in the dark of the night banging on your door.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Republican Congressman Mike Rogers said those comments were dangerous, that he go too far.
HEMINGWAY: Well, I mean, sure, that's quite an extreme thing to say. At the same time, I think journalists like to think of ourselves as people who hold people of authority accountable. There is so much that has happened for the last few decades with the politicization of the FBI.
This is something we have seen in our history. A highly politicized FBI where people have to come in and kind of reign it in. And there are problems with the Mueller probe.
And I think what makes sense for journalists rather than just uncritically accepting everything that comes out of the Mueller probe, uncritically accepting how it's run, maybe pose some questions.
I mean, even the things that we have seen that come out that concern it, just the hyper-politicization of the people involved, that hasn't come through much media digging, but other --
KURTZ: Just briefly, it is fair to criticize the FBI and Mueller has made mistakes, but comparing to the KGB --
TARLOV: I mean, it is reminiscent of what Donald Trump was saying on the campaign trail where he was talking about intelligence agencies and talking about 1930s Germany. I mean, this is not how we do things. This is not how we are talking -- there is middle ground between what Gregg Jarrett at their end of valuable criticism of the FBI.
I mean, we just had Chris (INAUDIBLE), we heard from (INAUDIBLE) team that the probe is going as expected, that the morale is not where it is, that it is not hyper-politicized.
HEMINGWAY: But we are not getting good information from the FBI. I mean, there are congressional (INAUDIBLE) we are trying to get information namely, was this Russian dossier used to secure a wiretap on an American citizen? If that's true, that's horrifying. And that is something the media should be digging into.
KURTZ: Much more to say about this, but I go to get in another break. Up next, two top Democrats forced from congress. Did the press play a role in Al Franken and John Conyers resigning?
And later, how New York gossip column dug up dirt for Harvey Weinstein.
KURTZ: John Conyers, the 88-year-old dean of the house resigned this week over accusations of sexual assault and harassment after the Detroit Free Press called on him to quit. Within 48 hours, with the Minneapolis Star Tribune demanding his resignation, Al Franken said he'll be giving up his seat, this after eight women accused the former comedian of sexual harassment. And that lead many liberal pundits to make this argument.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC: If the president admits publicly as he has done on tape that he assaulted women as a manner of habit because he's celebrity saying he could get away with doing it and had done so, why shouldn't he resign today like Franken did?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Mollie, by taking those partisan shots at Donald Trump and Roy Moore, which Franken knew would be red meat for the media, did he distract (INAUDIBLE) from the fact that he didn't apologize in that farewell speech.
HEMINGWAY: Well, yes. I mean, there was so much to look at in that Franken speech including the lack of the apology, sort of accusing women of not telling the truth about what they had said about him. At the same time, I just think in general the whole media approach here has been one of mob hysteria and one of trying to score partisan political points as opposed to really thoughtful reason debate about an important moment.
It's really important to hold sexual harassers accountable. It's also important that we don't go overboard and remove all due process from some of these allegations. I mean, some of these stories are really not holding up journalistically to what you would like to see for the cost that they are incurring like the destruction of people's careers.
KURTZ: Right. And after Franken announced that he's going to resign on a specified date, there's been a set of a theme and maybe we went too far because look, certainly it would to Franken it was utterly unacceptable whether you have some pundits saying well, unwanted kissing, a little butt grabbing during photo ops is not in the same category as some of this others. That's what I'm starting to hear from much of the media.
TARLOV: There's hitch problem. There has been from day one with this in blanket statements about sexual harassers. These guys are all bad guys. There are so many varying degrees, the fact that we even talk about Al Franken in the same conversation as a Harvey Weinstein is patently unfair and ridiculous.
And it does society a disservice as well because there are number of people out there who now don't know the difference, they don't know the specifics of these stories. And when you're talking about people's careers, you need to know every single detail. Did he put his arm on her waist or did he rape her?
KURTZ: That's an important distinction. Do you think the media coverage of Franken, because in the beginning with that L.A. radio host, Leeanne Tweeden and the photo which was, you know, cringe worthy, built to the point that the media coverage built a point where he had to resign or is the press more following the lead of Democratic senators like Kirsten Gillibrand?
LIASSON: I think in this case the press was following the lead, and the reason why it's been so complicated and confusing is because the Democrats haven't thought this through. Do they want to say that in every case even when the facts are different, the consequences should be uniformed meaning off with your head, you're out of a job?
Or did they want to set up a process -- some kind of due process where these things are adjudicated and you can tell the difference from a false accusation from a true one and one that's really not career ending and one that is. They haven't figured that out yet. Right now what they're saying is that anyone who has any accusation against them should lose their job and politically that's really risky for Democrats.
KURTZ: On your point, what broke the damn it seemed to me was Politico with the seventh accuser, an unnamed former aide who said that Franken forcibly kissed her back in 2006 and said supposedly it's my right as an entertainer.
LIASSON: -- but failed. He moved in for a kiss but he didn't make it.
KURTZ: And then there's an eighth accuser named Tina Dupuy who wrote a moving piece in the Atlantic, but she just said that during a photo-op, he grabbed her waist. So, your point is that we are treating too much of this as if it's all worthy of a political death penalty?
HEMINGWAY: Yes. And it's not just that some of these allegations really don't stand up to a fireable (ph) offense even, maybe not even any punishment at all. It's just that the larger scene is just one of mob hysteria and it's not helpful. It's so important for humans to have interaction even in the workplace, and sometimes these are attempts at courtship that fail. Sometimes it's just dirty philandering, you know, things like this. There are differences here that are not being well- discussed in the media.
KURTZ: And Mara, John Conyers looked like nobody was going to tell him what to do and he wasn't going to get out and I wonder what do you think of the media coverage there because I think the turning point was his former deputy chief of staff Marion Brown going on the "Today Show." We can actually see the accusations from somebody who seem credible.
LIASSON: Yes, I think so. There was also a settlement. There had been an actual process in Congress that Nancy Pelosi and others could look into the Ethics Committee. But right now we've got a couple of choices. We've got the Ethics Committee process which people think is inadequate. We've got this kind of mob or pack mentality where colleagues of a member say you're out of here. And then there's what the Republicans are proposing, let the voters decide. You know, Al Franken, if he wanted to could step down and run for his old seat.
KURTZ: He could. All right, so Republican congressman Trent Franks sudden resignation and he said, well, I talked to two female staffers about surrogacy because my wife has been having infertility problems, but then the Associated Press reports he pressured one woman and offered her $5 million to carry his child and Politico said these women, both of them, feared that he wanted to personally impregnate them and (INAUDIBLE). So, did the press do its job here? I mean, this is the weirdest story yet.
TARLOV: It was totally weird and the (INAUDIBLE) tell comparisons were entertaining me to know and on Twitter. It's a confusing story certainly when (INAUDIBLE) statement came out. You kind of thought, oh, this is just a little sad, they had infertility problems. Close to your staff, maybe you'd reach out to them (ph), and then what --
TARLOV: Exactly. And on the next day, it was like, well there's got to be something more because no one resigns right away. And Paul Ryan wrote a scathing letter and you know to get Paul Ryan really fired up its got to be super bad.
KURTZ: Right. $5 million is like Robert Redford movie.
TARLOV: Politicians have so much money, but I just wanted to add to Mara's point, you know, what's different about corporate America is that you have a boss in the private sector that has a discretion to fire you. In the public sector, the voters are your boss and we are taping --
KURTZ: Unless the press gets everyone riled up and your own --
LIASSON: This one it wasn't because of the press.
LIASSON: This is the Democratic Party thinking it needs the moral high ground and needs to get rid of everyone --
TARLOV: But I think the Republican should go for a little more moral high ground with what's going on in Alabama.
KURTZ: More on this in a moment because coming up, the press castigating the president for endorsing Roy Moore in Tuesday's election despite the allegations of sexual misconduct. That election is coming up folks. And later, another sexual assault allegation against Dustin Hoffman, but are the media going up and easy on the acting legend?
KURTZ: While two top Democrats on the Hill were resigning this week over sexual misconduct allegations, President Trump created a media furor by endorsing Alabama's Republican senate candidate and touting him Friday night at a Florida rally.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: And we want jobs, jobs, jobs, so get out and vote for Roy Moore.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Moore has denied sexual harassment and assault allegations from nine different women most of whom say he pursued them when they were teenagers. And Mollie, (INAUDIBLE) implicitly backing Roy Moore by beating up on Doug Jones, his liberal Democrat opponent, but once he made an official endorsement, the media tried to hang those nine female accusers around the president's neck.
HEMINGWAY: Sure. And one of the things that was interesting with the New York Times actually said like a week or two ago, that Trump had endorsed Moore and that wasn't actually true, which kind of made it less impactful when he finally did endorse Moore. It seemed like that had already been the media narrative going forward.
Just in general, this race seems to be a rewrite of 2016 where everybody in D.C. and the political and media establishments agree that Republican voters in Alabama should voluntarily turn over a seat because of serious 40-year-old allegations of sexual misconduct. And I'm not that that's going to match the reality on the ground and I'm not sure we're seeing good media coverage of what issues actually motivates the Alabama voters or how they're making their decisions. It just seems very much like a similar thing of being out of touch with the dynamics --
KURTZ: Right. Nobody saw (INAUDIBLE) to think there are any other issues except this. Even the conservative Wall Street Journal editorial page called on the president to disavow Roy Moore, but the president essentially casting or has this has Trump doesn't believe the women, the nine different women as opposed to the topics that he wants the Republican to win.
TARLOV: Well, I think it's both for Donald Trump because he doesn't believe the 16 women who have said that he sexually harassed them and he doesn't believe the nine who are saying about Roy Moore, and voters in Alabama don't either. The Washington Post poll showed 71 percent of Republican voters in Alabama don't believe the charges and 63 percent of Trump voters in Alabama didn't believe the charges against him.
You know, with the issues, with media reporting, and when you find holes in the story, people are just looking for their hook. Their looking for the moment so they can say the whole thing is made up because there was an added date, right, with Beverly Young Nelson. She added the date and the location so the whole thing is a lie and Roy Moore is innocent.
KURTZ: Let's talk with this. So Beverly Young Nelson is one of the nine accusers. She is the one who is represented by Gloria Allred and it turns out she has acknowledge that in this signing of her high school yearbook, which showed she had some relation with Roy Moore at least she added the date and place, and that does mud why it waters. Is that a big deal?
LIASSON: I don't think it's that big a deal. I also think this whole thing about when did the president endorse Roy Moore. The minute the primary was over he said Roy Moore was going to make a great senator.
KURTZ: Bu no, the first statement was if these allegations are true, Judge Moore should step aside.
LIASSON: Yes, but before the allegations, he had already talked about Roy Moore being great. In other words, he made it very clear he was going to endorse whoever won the primary.
KURTZ: Just let me mention it on this Beverly Young Nelson business, Fox News' website made a significant error by posting this, Roy Moore accuser admits she forged part of the yearbook inscription contributed to Alabama senate candidate. And that was corrected with an editor's note. But you're right that, you know, people cease on it.
But at the same time CNN aired an interview with a friend of Leigh Corfman. She's the one who says that she was sexually accosted by Roy when she was 14. A friend who told her at the time seemed like a very credible interview and so the question is what's fair and what's not fair for journalists trying to sort through this?
HEMIONGWAY: Also, I mean, part of the definition of forgery is altering a legitimate document and presenting it as original. And, you know, I did watch her statement where she read what he wrote and she included the parts that she added. So that's -- it's a tricky situation but its why, you know, we just list the numbers of accusers, like happens with Franken. Oh, he this many accuser.
HEMINGWAY: And some of them are putting a hand on a waist and some are leaning in and not getting a kiss, you know, this is why it would be better to have a little bit more discipline about how we talk about these. I mean, they're very serious allegations with Moore, namely, involving a 14-year- old. And then there are other things that are a little bit muddier. So, we should be careful as media people to be accurate and not overstate what's going on and not hype it up because it is easy to discredit things when there are holes in some people's story.
LIASSON: And I'll tell you what the big problem is. There is no such thing as the media. There is conservative media, there is liberal media, and there is media that has a partisan agenda. And so everybody is approaching this in a different way.
KURTZ: Right. On this Roy Moore race, the Washington Post has published many of these allegations and has been investigated and we talked to people and friends. Alabama news organizations have done it as well. So, you're right though, and then there was an attempt to have false allegation pedaled to the Washington Post when Roy Mo wished The Post exposed.
But as far as the press bring you back to the story about the accusers of Donald Trump, which he denies and has called them liars. Sarah Huckabee Sanders says nothing to see here because the president addressed that during the campaign and the voters addressed that she said. So because he won the election the press should no longer press on it?
TARLOV: Absolutely not. The press should continue until, you know, our last dying day, investigating as much as they possibly can, but they need to be fair. And you're right, I mean, people we go to a specific outlet for effects and the issue of language which you bring up is so important here because I make sure that every time I discuss Roy Moore to say an alleged child molester --
TARLOV: -- but I still get maligned for calling him a child molester.
HEMINGWAY: There is an issue here which is --
KURTZ: Half a minute.
HEMINGWAY: Well, we know we wouldn't be having this conversation if Hillary Clinton had put Bill Clinton back in the White House. We know we wouldn't be having Al Franken leave because it would be too close to home for the Clinton presidency so I think there is an aspect here where people kind of see through it. They see this is partly a partisan motivation and that it wouldn't be happening and didn't happen all last year in part because Hillary Clinton's husband is Bill Clinton who is a credibly alleged rapist.
TARLOV: I think Bill Clinton was less of a factor in what happened last year.
KURTZ: All right, but in fairness there has been some revisiting including among some liberal commentators who said, you know, I went easy on Bill Clinton in 1998. I was wrong. He was wrong and --
LIASSON: Yes. He wouldn't get a pass today by --
KURTZ: All right. Fair point. Mollie Hemingway, Mara Liasson, Jessica Tarlov, thanks very much for joining us this Sunday. After the break, the Hollywood harassment scandal continue with new revelations about Harvey Weinstein and Dustin Hoffman.
And later, President Trump demands the firing of a Washington Post reporter over a bad mistake.
KURTZ: In a remarkable piece on Harvey Weinstein's complicity machine, the New York Times reveals how former daily news gossip columnist, A.J. Benza, secretly helped the disgraced movie mogul by digging up dirt that he could trade to suppress critical stories by reporters. Benza says he told Weinstein, "I could supply your P.R. girls with a lot of gossip, a lot of stories and if people come at them with the Harvey's having an affair story, they can barter.
Joining us now from New York, Brent Lang, Variety senior film and media editor. What do you make of a gossip columnist taking payments from Harvey Weinstein to dig up dirt on people so that Weinstein can trade it and suppress scandalous stories about himself?
BRENT LANG, VARIETY: Well I thnk what you see in the Times report is that Harvey Weinstein was able to effectively weaponize the press to do his bidding. And he was able to do that in a very Machiavellian way. He understood the currency that media needs to operate, and that is exclusives. We are hungry, we're always thirsty for a big story and he was able to use people like Benza to provide him with exclusives to barter with so that he wouldn't have negative stories written about him.
KURTZ: Good point. And Weinstein understood the currency in a different way which is according to this Times piece, A.J. Benza got a book contract, Weinstein had media and production deals or book deals with the National Inquirer or Radar Online, book and movie deals with people of Vanity Fair, New York Post, Fox, Variety, Premier Magazine and others. So, a lot of these companies that might otherwise be reporting on Weinstein were in some form in business them.
LANG: Absolutely. He was compromising them. He was enriching people. Now, I would just say that as a reporter, I experienced the cudgel more than the carrot (ph) and when you wrote a story about Harvey Weinstein, a negative story, he would call you up and lambast you and then he would have other people call you up and he would waste hours of your life threatening you at different points, also engaging in flattery. He was a very, very clever and very, very scary man.
KURTZ: Right. And that would make you think, well, is this next story worth it? Do I really want to spend, you know, five hours listening to Harvey and his people yell at me. Now, Dustin Hoffman, there had been an earlier allegation from a woman, an actress who was 17 at the time, that he had groped her. And now an actress named Kathryn Rossetter, and we see a picture here. This is neo (ph) Post version, if you can zero in there you see what Dustin Hoffman's hands is doing.
She writes in a 1983, in a "Death of a Salesman" remake that Hoffman repeatedly put his hand under dress when they were off stage and he repeatedly grabbed her breasts during photo-ops, that she screamed, that she cried, and she begged and he wouldn't stop. No comment from Hoffman. He's kind of a beloved figure in the movie business. Is the press going a little easy on him?
LANG: Well, I think you have a case here of so many different people accused of harassment and varying degrees of severity. I think these latest allegation are so extreme that you're going to see, you know, a toughening up of coverage on Hoffman. But just a few days ago, you know, he is beloved in the industry. He just received a standing ovation at the Gotham Awards.
KURTZ: Right, and was HBO John Oliver on a panel about a film that actually pressed him on the earlier allegation. So I think you're right. There are different levels seriously but you read this latest piece in the Hollywood Reporter by Kathryn Rossetter with that photo and it's pretty chilling. Brief comment.
LANG: Absolutely. But you know, if you go back, you have people like Meryl Streep years ago saying that the first time she met him on the set of "Kramer versus Kramer" he groped her. So it's not exactly like this was a secret and it probably shouldn't have been a surprise.
KURTZ: Right. But a different cultural moment to be sure. Brent Lang, thanks very much for stopping by this Sunday.
LANG: Thanks for having me.
KURTZ: Still to come, a Washington Post reporter apologizes for a terrible tweet involving the president, and Joy Behar celebrating Donald Trump's downfall a tad too soon.
KURTZ: Washington Post reporter David Weigel screwed up when he tweeted out this picture of a less than fully crowded venue for President Trump's Friday night speech in Pensacola with a satiric line packed to the rafters. Weigel soon deleted the tweet after a reporter told him it was taken well before the speech. But President Trump called for his dismissal, "@daveweigel of the Washington Post just admitted that his picture was a fake (fraud?) Showing an almost empty arena last night for my speech in Pensacola when in fact he knew the arena was packed (as shown also on T.V.). Fake news, he should be fired."
Weigel responded by saying, "Sure thing, I apologiz and it was a bad tweet and very fair to call me out." Not necessarily a firing offense but all these twitter taunts give the president ammunition against the press just for the sake of a snarky moment.
When ABC's Brian Ross aired a false report on Donald Trump and Mike Flynn that would lead to his suspension, the "View's" Joy Behar literally broke into cheers, and later had to eat crow.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOY BEHAR, THE VIEW: Breaking news, ABC News Brian Ross is reporting Michael Flynn promised full cooperation to the Mueller team and is prepared to testify that as candidate, Donald Trump directed him to make contact with the Russians. He goes to jail! He goes to jail! He goes to jail. Lock him up. Lock him up.
On Friday's show apparently I was guilty of premature evaluation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Yes. Look, I get that Joy is a liberal comedian who can't stay on Donald Trump but isn't there something unseemly about not just rooting for a president to fail, but rooting for his team to go to jail. I'm sure Behar didn't like the lock her up chants against Hillary. But with Trump and his team, it's somehow OK?
That's it for this edition of "Media Buzz." I'm Howard Kurtz. Glad to have you along this Sunday. We hope you like our Facebook page. Check it out. I post my daily columns and videos there. I interact with your comments and do the same on twitter @HowardKurtz. Don't forget to DVR the show if you miss it. You can replay it whenever you are -- it is convenient for to you watch. And if you can check out the SiriusXM 24/7 headlines on that radio station, I got a daily commentary there as well. Back here next Sunday 11:00 eastern. See you then with the latest buzz.
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