Media mount Supreme crusade

This is a rush transcript from "Media Buzz," July 1, 2018. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: Less than 72 hours ago, five people were killed in the newsroom of the Annapolis' Capital Gazette, victims of a crazed gunman who held a grudge against the paper since losing a defamation suit.

So the attempts to somehow tie this to President Trump or national politics are shameful. But, four of these people were practicing local journalism. They don't have big salaries or TV contracts. But all editors and reporters take risks because they publish things that upset people.

This tragedy reminds us of those very risks. I want to pay tribute to the men and women of Capital Gazette which published the next with this blank editorial page saying "we are speechless."

Also, the media on a war footing over Anthony Kennedy Supreme Court retirement, but many pundits demanding that the Democrats refused to vote this year on a Trump nominee, any Trump nominee as political payback.


CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC: I think the Democrats, as I said a few moments ago, have to fight this tooth and nail. They have to use every process, opportunity they have to stop this until next year when we have a new Senate. This is time for vengeance for what happened two years ago.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You are going to see 20 states pass laws banning abortion outright. Just banning abortion. And because they know that there are now going to be five votes on the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: Democrats, their corrupt media friends, they will do and say anything to malign the president's nomination, block them from fulfilling his constitutional duty, get ready for the lies, the propaganda, the misinformation, the fear-mongering, the character assassination, and yes, the Borking of whoever it ends up being.


KURTZ: While the Republicans block the vote on Obama nominee Merrick Garland, should members of the press be preaching obstruction to the Democrats? While the stakes are huge, is some of the journalistic rhetoric a bit apocalyptic?

An ugly media debate erupts over basic decency as liberal protesters hound Sarah Huckabee Sanders and other White House aides. And some pundits defend such harassment as justified because they can't stand the president.


CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC: The defining feature of a free society is that you can tell one of the most powerful people in the world and your government, "get out of my restaurant."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sarah Sanders was politely apt to leave the Red Hen. We are simply talking about saying that if you are a member of a white nationalist organization, we are going to ostracize you with such.

LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS: Publicly shaming conservatives and targeting them in public. It's become the new tactic of the left. This is all evolving into a type of domestic terrorism and it's only going to get worse.


KURTZ: But the president's critics blame him for the collapse of civility. Are the mainstream media and social media fanning the flames of this vitriolic debate? I'm Howard Kurtz and this is "Media Buzz."

The media have long been enamored of Anthony Kennedy because he often provided the swing vote for the high court's liberal faction on abortion rights, on gay rights, on affirmation action. So, with the 81-year-old justice stepping down, liberal media outlets are openly plotting to stop Donald Trump's eventual nominee while conservative are rejoicing at the president's rare opportunity.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We really have to take our hats off to Justice Kennedy. We have to pick a great one. We have to pick one that is going to be there for 40 years, 45 years.


KURTZ: Joining us now to analyze the coverage: Emily Jashinsky, commentary writer for The Washington Examiner; Sara Fischer, a media reporter for Axios; and Philippe Reines, former State Department official and Hillary Clinton advisor.

Emily, the stakes couldn't be higher. But are you struck how quickly so liberal commentators went to DEFCON 1 and started insisting the Democrats stop a vote, any vote this year on any Trump nominee?

EMILY JASHINSKY, THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER: I wasn't surprised by that at all. I mean, as soon as the rumors started, I assumed that there are already plans, you know, circulating among liberals in the media as to how they are going to discuss those because it became a real possibility.

I mean, there is a difference between acknowledging the drama of the moment and the gravity of the moment and treating it as the apocalypse. And I think we really saw it portrayed as the apocalypse from Chris Matthews to Jeffrey Toobin, I mean, across the board. A lot of Hollywood liberals again rehashing on the entire idea that we are living in a handmaid's tale and so there is a lot of, you know, it won't be on (ph) drama.

KURTZ: Philippe, your one word reaction on Twitter that Kennedy's retiring began with if (ph). Let me ask you, liberal commentators are casting this as pure payback from Eric Garland, what Mitch McConnell did in 2016, and I understand that. But if pundits on your side said that was terrible, why is it now to argue it's OK if we, the Democrats, do it?

PHILIPPE REINES, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL AND HILLARY CLINTON ADVISER: Because that's what Mitch McConnell decided is now the new norm. I mean, you're hearing -- I think with Kennedy, you're hearing two hot button issues. One is abortion. Also that is going to bring out everyone on both sides of the debate to fight like hell.

But it comes on the heels of what he pulled -- McConnell did with Garland. And they are just two years of pent-up, just absolutely crazy frustration about that.

KURTZ: But that's makes me true about people who are in politics. How does that justify some in the media openly saying yeah, let's stop this?

REINES: Because again, they think what was pulled with Garland was nothing but a stunt. And I don't think I ever said this before but I agree with Chris Matthews that everyone should do what they can. Unfortunately, there is not a whole lot procedurally that the Senate can do. But, hey, if someone, you know, find himself pulling a fire alarm, I mean, that is what it is basically coming to.

KURTZ: Sara, I never understood why McConnell didn't allow a vote on Garland or have him (ph) voted then as opposed to refusing even a hearing. But if you look at the mainstream coverage, the Republican argument was that this was happening in 2016, the last year of a lame duck president's term, therefore, we can't allow vote, we should wait for a new election.

So the Democrat argument now is we are in another election, but it's a midterm year and it's the last year of president's term, and yet in some ways that seems to be getting an equally sympathetic hearing.

SARA FISCHER, AXIOS: I mean, everyone is going to always take a look at what it's in their best interest politically when it comes to timing, whether it's the last year of a president's administration or it's going to be midterm, everyone always has something to gain.

By at the end of the day here and we were just talking about this, I mean, you have no idea whether or not whoever it is you put into this seat is going to vote the way you think they are going to vote. So the whole thing could turn out to be completely different thing --

KURTZ: I do want to come back to that. The point is that shouldn't the role of the press be certainly to give a fair hearing to both sides of this argument, but not even in the case of commentators take one side to urge political obstruction?

FISCHER: Absolutely. You want to provide context but you can't necessarily take a position.

REINES: Right.

KURTZ: All right.

REINES: But if you go back to Garland, saying he shouldn't get a vote, that was obstructive. So, somewhere now to do something and call for short act and it be called obstruction, it's not like that came out of a vacuum. To deny a vote that it never happen in history, it was a ridiculous argument.

KURTZ: I understand the argument. Now, you mentioned abortion being the biggest single and most emotional issue here that would be in play. Some news outlets -- I mean, The Huffington Post had a headline that said the end of Roe -- and there was a picture of a coat hanger -- of a coat hanger. Do you see much recognition in the coverage that there are millions of people in America who have pro-life use and are taking what they believe is a principal moral stand?

JASHINSKY: No, and that's what really interesting about this (INAUDIBLE) good point. I think a lot of the frustration is not the right word. That's an understatement what we saw coming from the left this week.

It's a reflection of their take on abortion and reflection on their acknowledgement of the reality that we live in right now in the Roe v. Wade world that that is, you know, the correct ruling and the possibility of the threat of that being overturned is apocalyptic to so much of the pro-choice left.

And I don't think there is an acknowledgement that public opinion really is split on abortion -- well, in urban centers. It may not be the rest of the country. This is not the apocalypse. This not dramatic for a lot in the country. It's probably very good.

KURTZ: Donald Trump campaigned on naming pro-life judges. He won. Elections have consequences, of course. Would you acknowledge that this is being covered by a media establishment that is almost entirely pro-choice?

REINES: I think it's being covered as just shock that someone is about to be put on who is probably in their 40s and will probably stay there until their 80s. It brings home --

KURTZ: If a Democratic president had that opportunity, would there be shock?

REINES: He had that opportunity. I was told he couldn't do it.

KURTZ: Well, but that -- OK.


KURTZ: But you seemed to be buying into the notion that journalists should be shocked that under the constitution, President Trump potentially has this opportunity to name another justice? Shocked?

REINES: I don't think it's any different than conservative media two years ago saying that this is absolutely Mitch McConnell's right to deny Barack Obama pick.

KURTZ: Now, Roe v. Wade has been presidents -- has been the law of the land since 1973. And so as opposed to some of these more dramatic warnings, the fact that they will probably if this goes to be filed pro-life also on Supreme Court, certainly it could lead to a chipping away of access to abortion and abortion rights, but doesn't necessarily mean they will all to get together and overturn this ruling that dates back to the 70s.

FISCHER: Not at all. And history says that may not even be the case. Take a look at what I was just saying with Justice Kennedy who had been voting towards the left in the past few years. You have no idea. And you can take somebody that you want to put them in and have them vote in certain way.

But let's also look at some of the picks that the president is putting in. Yes, they are pro-choice, but a lot of them are more libertarians. So, we don't know necessarily that putting in --

KURTZ: You mean pro-life.

FISCHER: I'm sorry. Yes, pro-life. Not necessarily putting somebody in is going to absolutely overturn Roe v. Wade. We are seeing a lot of pundits on the left kind of take the most far used case that could go.

KURTZ: Well, yeah --

FISCHER: -- so strong on abortion issue.

REINES: They also know it's not going to restraint (INAUDIBLE).

KURTZ: Well --

REINES: It's just the degree of how bad it is.

KURTZ: Sure. But then to engage in what I am going call coat hanger politics I think is apocalyptic. So, is there something so real here? We are all having this debate. It is raging to the media. But journalists and politicians gearing up for a battle when we don't know who the president is going to pick. We won't know for another week.

JASHINSKY: Right. He does have a list --

KURTZ: Yeah.

JASHINSKY: -- and so I think to some extent we have an idea --

KURTZ: We know the ring (ph).

JASHINSKY: But at the same time, he has to work with Collins or Murkowski. He actually has to work with probably three Democratic votes, people who voted for Neil Gorsuch. So, yeah, exactly, it is like you said, there is an unknown factor here that makes the coverage a little presumptive.

KURTZ: The New York Times had a fascinating piece the other day about a quiet campaign by the president and his allies to encourage Justice Kennedy to retire. Some liberal analysts (INAUDIBLE) say Kennedy was actually pretty conservative on most issues.

Let's not paint them (ph) as a left winger. But also they're mad at him for stepping down. The guy is about to turn 82, and they are sort of now turning on him for creating this situation.

REINES: Yeah, I don't think that's very fair. You never know what is going on on someone's personal life, health, family. But again, this is just scaring the hell out of people. And I think what's particularly scaring people is there are two Donald -- and I never buy into this, but there are two Donald Trumps.

One, is everything he does that liberals go crazy about. But there is the judicial appointment part where he is being incredibly effective where he's putting so many -- he's getting nominations up to the Hill in terms of federal bench and SCOTUS.

And I think it really scares people. He's going to go down probably as the best Republican president on nominations. And what scares people I think also is that there shouldn't be just an absolute wall. There will be no profiles in courage on their votes.

KURTZ: You say it scares people. I think it scares people in part of the country.


KURTZ: And by the way, this is Trump being some sort of outlier here. If Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush had been like the president, we would be seeing the same kinds of nominees. Just to wrap up this point about people who don't know the history about Supreme Court appointees and don't always agree with the president who appoints them.

I doubt George W. Bush when he named John Roberts that John Roberts would be signing a decision in legalizing same-sex marriage in this country. Kennedy is only on the bench or was because Democrats in the 80s blocked Robert Bork after a very emotional campaign. So there is no guarantees here about what happens over the years.

FISCHER: Absolutely not.

KURTZ: I'm not seeing much of that a little bit --

FISCHER: There is not so much coverage of it. I've seen little inkling of it. You know, people take a look when there are Democrats saying hey, we should wait until after the Mueller investigation to take a look at this.

No one is looking back at the people that Richard Nixon put on the bench before he was pulled out (ph) of presidency and saying wow, that was a huge absolute mistake. I think we could use some of the historical context just to prove the power of the Supreme Court as an institution.

KURTZ: All right, let me get a break here. We will see you guys a bit later in the program. When we come back, we will talk to Terence Smith, contributing columnist for the Annapolis Capital Gazette, where as I mentioned the top five newsroom staffers were murdered just three days ago.

And later, Mollie Hemingway weighs in on the coverage of the tragedy, this time accompanied by her husband.


KURTZ: There was an emotional outpouring in Maryland's capital after the horrific newsroom murders there and reporters who lived through it had to cover.


PHIL DAVIS, CAPITAL GAZETTE: He was going down our newsroom starting from the front and yeah, just continually shooting people.


KURTZ: Veteran journalist Terence Smith writes a column for the Capital Gazette and I spoke to him from outside the newspaper's office in Annapolis.

Terence Smith, welcome.

TERENCE SMITH, CONTRIBUTING COLUMNIST, CAPITAL GAZETTE: Thank you, Howie. Sorry for the summertime getup but it's pretty hot out here.

KURTZ: There was a candlelight vigil for the paper on Friday night. You worked for New York Times, CBS, PBS. You're a part of the Annapolis, Maryland community for a long time. You write a guest column for the paper and you are friends with some of those who lost their lives. What does the Capital Gazette with its editorial staff of about 30 people mean to that community?

SMITH: Well, it was visible on Friday night. Hundreds of people turned out, marched down the main street candlelight vigil, bagpipes. I mean, it was really -- it was very emotional and very genuine. So, the connection between the city and its newspaper really palpable. You could feel it. You know, communities and newspapers don't always get along.

KURTZ: Right.

SMITH: They have arguments. They have differences. But in this case, there was a palpable concern, grief about the killings, and concern about the staff and a feeling of the importance of the newspaper. It was a remarkable event.

KURTZ: And on that point, when you're a local reporter, you know it's not like being in a war zone, but inevitably, you write stories, sometimes those stories tick people off, they get angry, they complain, sometimes there are threats. And so newsroom is now understandably across the country are nervous.

SMITH: Exactly. And they should be. But this is not new. This has always been the case. In fact, in the case of this shooter, this suspect, he had a grievance with the paper about something they wrote about him, went back six years. This was one that got out of control, obviously. But it isn't in its nature all that unusual. It's sort of part of the territory --

KURTZ: Right.

SMITH: -- of local news.

KURTZ: Just to give people the background, the suspect made all kinds of threat over the paper -- over the years. Some of the staffers should cease breathing. This after a story about his conviction for harassing and stalking a woman online who eventually fled the state, lost a defamation suit against the paper.

And the Capital Gazette people met with the local police about five years ago. The county police decided not to make an arrest. So the people there have been worried about this particular individual for a long time.

SMITH: That is correct. He has been on the radar. They tracked him. But they decided that time five years ago, you're mentioning, they decided that to arrest him at the time would exacerbate the situation since I guess they didn't have enough to hold him for any length of time. So, it's a very difficult --

KURTZ: Very difficult situation. There has been a lot of talk about the environment created by attacks on the press. But in this particular case, it seems to be the case of a gunman with a grudge, a very specific grudge against this newspaper. SMITH: It was. This an action of personal vengeance. Now, was he influenced in any way by the hostile attitude surrounding and acrimonious atmosphere surrounding the press on the national level? I don't know. I can't get inside his head. I can't tell you that. But I'm skeptical, frankly. I think this is a very specific local grudge case.

KURTZ: Right. Now, you wrote in a guest column that is going to be appearing that as a life-long journalist, you write, I'm supposed to be detached from the stories I cover, but this one hit my soul and apparently hit the soul of a lot of people in the community.

SMITH: It really has. And, you know, I don't say that very casually or very often. But I was very affected by this and by that vigil on Friday night and by the spirit of the community. I think it's quite remarkable.

You know, this paper has been around for a long time. Its origins go back 300 years. It's been part of the community and part of the fabric. It's a state capital and it covers the county around it and that sort of thing.

KURTZ: Also high school sports and things that touch people's lives.

SMITH: Absolutely.

KURTZ: Yeah.

SMITH: Absolutely. I mean, the local is the name of the game. Anything local takes precedence.

KURTZ: Well, Terence Smith, thank you for the touching tribute to this community you are part. Thank you for joining us from Annapolis.

SMITH: Absolutely, Howie. Thank you.

KURTZ: And the focus should remain on the five staff members who were killed while doing their jobs: Rob Hiaasen, Wendi Winters, Gerald Fischman, Rebecca Smith, John McNamara.

Ahead, more on the Annapolis newsroom shooting and some journalists and commentators who rushed the blaming on President Trump. But up next, a furor over a comment by a Fox News contributor and the president hiring a top aide who used to work at Fox.


KURTZ: There was an unfortunate incident last Sunday on "Fox and Friends" involving Fox News contributor David Bossie, the president's former deputy campaign manager. Things got testy during a debate with Democratic strategist Joel Payne who is an African-American. When Bossie said, you're out of your cotton-picking mind, Payne responded that he has some relatives who picked cotton.

Fox News called the comments deeply offensive and holy inappropriate. Bossie apologized on Twitter. "During a heated segment of 'Fox & Friends' today, I should have chosen my words more carefully and never used the offensive phrase that I did. I apologize to Joel Payne, Fox News and its viewers."

Payne tells me he accepted the apology. Now, I happened to see Bossie just as he was coming out of the studio. And when Payne came over from a separate studio down the hall, Bossie told him in that moment he never heard of him and didn't know he was black. The monitor in Bossie's studio was not tuned to "Fox & Friends."

Still, it doesn't let him off the hook and the network has made clear that such language is unacceptable. Fox hasn't commented on the outcome but sources told The Daily Beast that Bossie was suspended for two weeks.

Bill Shine, the former co-president of the Fox News is President Trump's pick to oversee communications as deputy chief of staff. Shine spent 20 years at Fox. He was a one-time producer for Sean Hannity who is close to the president.

Let's be clear about one thing. Shine who resigned under pressure last year was never accused of sexually harassing anyone. He was accused in some lawsuits involving the late chairman Roger Ailes and Bill O'Reilly, enabling or failing to act on complaints about alleged misconduct which has strenuously denied.

Some critics are already saying this just strengthens the ties between Fox and Trump. But in fairness, Shine has been a private citizen for more than a year. He knows the television business. The White House has lacked a communications director since Hope Hicks resigned.

Ahead, The New York Times and the national media totally missed the rise of a 28-year-old socialist who knocked off a powerful House Democrat. But first, journalists saying that Donald Trump has blood on his hands with the Annapolis newsroom shootings before the police even had a suspect.


KURTZ: Even before the basic facts were known about the awful shooting at the Annapolis Capital Gazette that led five people dead, some pundits just couldn't resist tying the tragedy to President Trump. And the president addressed the killings the next day.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And this rhetoric we'll not directly responsible is really ratcheting threats against journalists.

TRUMP: Journalists, like all Americans should be free from the fear of being violently attacked while doing their job. To the families of the victims, there are no words to express our sorrow for your loss.


KURTZ: To talk about this, I sat down with the Hemingway's. Joining us now, Fox News Contributor, Mollie Hemingway, Senior Editor of the Federalist, and her husband Mark Hemingway, Senior Writer at the Weekly Standard. Mark, you have worked in newspaper news rooms. You know that being a journalist means writing things that sometimes make people upset. It's not without risk, but you don't expect gun fire to erupt in (Inaudible) where you work.

MARK HEMINGWAY, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: No. In fact, nine years ago, they have a -- policeman was shot outside the holocaust museum. In Washington D.C., and shortly afterward, they found the address of my publication, the Weekly Standard, in the shooter's glove compartment.

KURTZ: That's had got to be chilling.

HEMINGWAY: Yeah. No, I understand why journalists would be alarmed. But at the same, I mean I think some perspective is you know required, and (Inaudible) some perspective.

KURTZ: Because right away, before we learned much of anything. Before we knew who the suspect was, (Inaudible) about his motivation. Some journalists and commentators started tweeting and tying President Trump to this. And you wrote about it.

MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, SENIOR EDITOR, THE FEDERALIST: Yeah. It's very difficult when something like this happens. You are desperate for information and speculation runs rampant. I think it's important for journalists to make sure that they are not just speculating without evidence. And it wasn't just bad that people started trying to tie up President Trump to the shooting.

It was that after the news came out showing the shooter had a long standing grudge against the publication, dating back to 2011. Many journalists kept saying that they thought this was somehow the responsibility of President Trump.

KURTZ: Well, let's put up some of the tweets that you covered in your piece. Rob Cox is the Global Editor of Reuters, and he tweeted this is what happens when Donald Trump calls journalists the enemy of the people. Blood is on your hands, Mr. President. He later apologized and Reuters said would take some of appropriate sanction.

Radio host, (Inaudible) also -- is it surprising someone shoots up a newspaper office? Donald Trump has blood on his hands. There is that phrase again. (Inaudible) the shooting can't be recently separated from the President's mission to villainize the press.

HEMINGWAY: Well, the President really has had strong rhetoric against the media, and there are many people who are rightfully concerned about that. And that we don't just have freedom of the press in our laws. We want to have a strong culture of freedom of the press as well. That doesn't mean though that the press is beyond criticism.

And criticizing the press is something that's also important. And as mentioned in that very same first amendment, we have freedom of speech, which enables everybody up to and including the President to have the right to criticize the press. And there actually are a lot of reasons to criticize the press in this environment. So it would be nice for the media to take some of that criticism to heart.


KURTZ: Have a little restraint in this volatile situation. Now Sean Hannity also drew some flack for talking about the environment created by incendiary rhetoric, an example the protesters who confronted Sarah Sanders and Kirstjen Nielsen. But he said look. He said this on his radio show. It's not connected in anyway. I am not equating or comparing.

So again, you have this sort of political crossfire over what was an unquestionable tragedy, journalists gunned down in their workplace.

HEMINGWAY: Yeah. And I think that part of the problem here is this is the way for sort of journalists to deflect a bit, which is to say that Donald Trump is capitalizing here on a preexisting phenomenon. And we have decades of public polling showing significant animus against the press and the fact that people don't like the job they're doing.

So while some of the specific criticism against the press you know might be out of bounds. You know broadly speaking, it's very hard to that the say the media you know haven't earned a lot of distaste from the American people.

KURTZ: And you know after every mass shooting, whether it's Gabby Giffords, whether it's (Inaudible) at the baseball practice last year. I see to many journalists on all sides who are commentators trying to score partisan points by somehow suggesting the shooters motivation was influenced by you know you created the climate that allowed this to happen. And I hate that kind of guilt by association.

HEMINGWAY: It's very frustrating because the actions of the shooter are his actions. It's also true though that you can have climates that are created through incivility and rhetoric. And so I think it's OK to have people encourage others to have good ways of speaking, about their disagreement with other.

I also you know when you look back to last June. It is true the man who shot up the Republican baseball field was motivated by his political views, which were actually not (Inaudible) indication that he had mental health problems.

KURTZ: That was part of the story.


HEMINGWAY: Well, actually that story moved out of the news extremely quickly. And I think that you want to see much more uniformity in how the media approaches these things. If they think rhetoric is always to blame, show that in a uniformed fashion rather than only doing it with one way and not the other.

KURTZ: Mark, I hate to see all the political stuff overshadowed these five victims who showed up for work every day in Annapolis, because they care about their community. This newspaper staff has greatly shrunk.

HEMINGWAY: Right. I mean I think that there is a moment where we can focus on the valuable contributions the journalists, particularly the local level are making. And particularly, on the level people are devaluing you know things like small town papers.

KURTZ: Yeah, exactly.

HEMINGWAY: This is a good moment to be talking about that. Instead, we are distracted by the larger, national political issues that aren't relevant.

KURTZ: Before we go, do you guys ever try your debates at home? Are you sparring partners? All right, let me go -- here is a tweet I'm going to confront you with. You tweeted this. You said to your husband I am so glad we got married. He said yeah, my super romantic husband. You want to respond to this tweet on the air?

HEMINGWAY: I am capable of grander romantic gestures, and I would (Inaudible). I prefer to think of it in my sort of classic -- most famous movie adlib where Carrie Fisher in Star Wars says I love you to Harrison Ford, and he just says I know. I think that I -- my love my wife hopefully is evident.


HEMINGWAY: Yeah, we are very happy. And we even love debating with each other and having differences of opinion even in our own marriage can show us how to be civil in disagreement with other people as well.

KURTZ: Mollie Hemingway, Mark Hemingway, thanks very much for joining us. And journalist Conor Barry of the Springfield Mass Republican resigned and apologized after tweeting falsely that the Annapolis shooter was wearing a Trumpian make America great again hat. Coming up, while some media liberals agree with Maxine Waters and it's perfectly to harass Trump aides. And media conservatives are joining what's become a very ugly debate. And later, Frank Luntz is on deck.


KURTZ: It was pretty stunning when the Red Hen restaurant in Virginia booted Sarah Huckabee Sanders because she works at the White House, and when protesters confronted Homeland Security Chief and Kirstjen Nielsen in another restaurant.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tens of thousands of people are seeking asylum in the United States, shame, shame, shame, shame, shame.


KURTZ: It was equally stunning when Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters encouraged such hounding of Trump cabinet members.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They are not going to be able to go a restaurant. They are not going to be able to stop at a gas station. They are not going to be able to shop at a department store. The people are going to turn on them. They are going to protest. They are going to absolutely harass them.


KURTZ: President Trump fired back, calling Waters a low IQ individual engaging in crazy rants, but the President's detractors blamed the corrosive climate on his threats and personal insults as in these clips played by MSNBC's Morning Joe.


TRUMP: If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you? I'd like to punch them in the face, I will tell you.


KURTZ: We're back with the panel. Emily Jashinsky, I was stunned by the vitriol from anti-Trump commentators. And not only on the left, after the Sarah Sanders incident some of these other incidents, saying yeah, she deserved it, anything to make life miserable for these people.

JASHINSKY: Well, and this is a telling moment for the fact that there was a debate over whether that was the right thing for the Red Hen to do at all. I think that says a lot about where we are right now as a country, that even some people were willing to go and make this argument, and the argument that emerged from some on the left and some never Trump people was that you can justify these personal attacks based on a political belief that you think goes beyond the pale.

And I think that's a really dangerous place to be in. I think if you, you know sat down with people at tables rather kicking them out, we would be able to have a more productive conversation.

KURTZ: That would be nice. Philippe Reines, you worked at the State Department for a controversial secretary. I'm sure you wouldn't appreciate it being kicked out of a restaurant or having protesters, literally protesters outside your home.

REINES: I wouldn't appreciate it. But I wouldn't be surprised by it. I think it's pretty to safe to say I would get it. And I don't think I would say it's uncivil. But this is not about civility. If it's about civility, Donald Trump loses that argument. Last week.


REINES: It could be. But last week was I think the three-year anniversary since he emerged -- he has done more than anyone to erode the discourse in America. I think it's about something else. I think it's about accountability and it's about normalizing. If you look at who was picked, whether it was Nielsen, Sanders, Miller, these are people who have been at the center of the immigration debate, and if there was the (Inaudible) general.


REINES: Well, was Garland.


KURTZ: You are justifying it, but even some liberal pundits and the Democratic leadership said Maxine Waters went too far when she said harass these people.


KURTZ: And you don't like the policies. You don't like Donald Trump. I get it.

REINES: You and I talk about it a lot that I go on Fox a fair amount. I spend a fair amount of time off stage and even on camera with people that I don't agree with. I try to be civil.

KURTZ: Yeah.


KURTZ: Why shouldn't everybody be that?

REINES: But I have had uncivil moments. You know I was on with Sebastian Gorka and I was uncivil. It was intentional because I do not think someone like that should be comfortable in his role in what is happening in America. And I was not going to be part of normalizing that.

KURTZ: Well, Sarah (Inaudible) it's all become so tribal. We talk about normalizing. It means that you know it is a different standard for the Trump administration because some critics on the left think it's a horrible administration. I don't think (Inaudible) to say that if these tactics were used against Barack Obama's aides, justifying it by people who hated that administration, that you would see a flip that some of the people who are now criticizing it would justify it, and some of the people who are saying this is not so bad would be outraged.


FISCHER: Yeah. They would be absolutely outraged. But I think the point you made earlier about the fact that it really comes down to how far are you taking it. When you go on television and you call for harassment and then people from your own party are saying that you have gone over the line. That's when you can tell that you might have gone into some sort of dangerous waters here.

KURTZ: You know I write in my book, Media Madness about the double standard in the coverage of Donald Trump. And do you see a different standard for liberals in the media and some of the anti-Trumpers on the right who saying, and I'll let you in on this in a minute, that you know that (Inaudible) the President. He's such an erratic President. He's such a destructive President in their view, that people can't possibly observe the normal rules of decorum toward White House officials.

JASHINSKY: Right. It's an argument actually that a lot of the feminists make toward conservative women. The rules are suspended because this person is particularly awful. Asking about the double standard is great because you need no look further than the tea party when the left was suddenly very concerned about civility. We saw that all the time that the poisonous instability of the tea party movement. There is a lot of concern on the left, and in the mainstream media from reporters and journalists about instability when the tea party was doing it.

KURTZ: I understand -- pushing it back and saying the President also often doesn't deserve decorum, and we've talked on this show endlessly about the tweets, the personal attacks, and the insults and the nicknames and all that. But it seems to me that then he almost baits people to use the same tactics and that leads to something that I just think is corrosive for society.

REINES: Oh, it's absolutely corrosive and terrible. But if the reality is Democrats fighting with one hand behind their back or fighting fire with fire, I think it is naive to say that we are better than that. Yeah, I do think we are better than that. But I think it's more important to beat them and then be better in how we govern than just some pie in the sky singing we are the world. I mean look at Maxine Waters. The President didn't call her low IQ for the first time after that clip. He has been calling her low IQ for months and months and months.

JASHINSKY: She's been calling for his impeachment.

REINES: Well, but so what? That's a legitimate -- she didn't say he's the orange blob.


JASHINSKY: It's coming from both directions.

REINES: It is. But I think again, if the President were to say we need to tone this down, I'm going to tone it down. It would take a lot. Do you think Donald Trump is not going to attack the media now because of what happened?

KURTZ: Well, you know that's a whole separate argument. Just very briefly, some critics jumped on Sarah Sanders for leading (Inaudible) for tweeting about the restaurant. And she said it was news.

FISCHER: I mean there are.


KURTZ: She didn't call for a boycott.

FISCHER: She didn't call for a boycott. I mean there are some people that are saying that she might have broken some rules by attacking an establishment with her professional government account. At the end of the day, I think she handled it pretty professionally given the situation. She tweeted about it. There are some people who said she shouldn't have tweeted about it at all. But she wasn't going out and attacking the restaurant necessarily.

KURTZ: All right. We'll agree with that. You two will have to agree to disagree because we are trying to be civil. Philippe Reines, Sarah Fischer, Emily Jashinsky, good to see you this Sunday. After the break, Frank Luntz is here for the battle for public opinion in this Supreme Court brawl. And the other brawl, on civility in politics.


KURTZ: With the media up in arms over the harassment of Trump aides and the next Presidential pick for the high court, let's bring in Frank Luntz, a veteran Republican pollster and public opinion maven. You heard the last segment. It got pretty heated both on and off the set whether it's cool to harass Trump aides in restaurants and stores, whether or not it's a response to Donald Trump's sometimes very aggressive language. What's your view and how does this play out in public opinion.

FRANK LUNTZ, LUNTZ GLOBAL, CEO: You know that I live in focus groups. I live in America. And I've already been to 20 states so far. In 2018 and all I hear is people who can't wait to get their point told and don't care about listening. It's all one-sided. It's not what you can teach me. It's what I want you to know. I demand that you know it. And I'm telling you, Howie, the shooting of congressmen, the shooting and killing of these journalists.

It's getting worse. It's going to get worse unless someone stands up and says enough is enough. And I'm going to give you a solution. I'm going to name names here. You have a couple of Democrats that are beyond this and have said I am not going to play that game. Now Mitch Landrieu of Louisiana, Governor John Hickenlooper, Senator Michael Bennett of Colorado, these are Democrats who said I am not playing that.

I'm not going to do that anymore. On the Republican side, look at Tim Scott and look at Ben Sass. These are individuals who are already beyond this meanness.

KURTZ: OK. So you're naming politicians.

LUNTZ: Good politicians.

KURTZ: How much do the media inflame this, exacerbate this in the search for ratings and circulation. And what sells on the right and the left to also be angry and to indulge into debate the politics of rage.

LUNTZ: All you have to do is look at the headlines in the newspapers, which aren't that bad. But then look at the clicks, you look at the headlines online. They are awful. Everyone is always "slamming" or "damning". The language that they use in the headlines to get people to click on it is causing much of the problem.

So I could disagree with you. And you read the headline on And just them (Inaudible) and it will be once Kurtz goes to blows over coverage in the media.


LUNTZ: That's not helpful.

KURTZ: So can that change or is it all just baked into the cake, the media are part of this increasingly intense, increasingly angry, increasingly uncivil debate as you've pointed to some politicians, but if you try to be polite, then people are going to tune out. Is that where we are now?

LUNTZ: The media puts on quotes to people who say the most extreme items, the most extreme language. And it's the same thing on television that you put on conflict because conflict sells. Well, you succeeded. America is in conflict. It is in a conflict that I think jeopardizes democracy as we know it. And I'm afraid that people are going to get killed. And that's why what you do is so important because you hold everybody accountable. That doesn't happen.

KURTZ: We try do that, and we try to do that in a civil way. And I think of it in the spirit of the late Charles Krauthammer who you know took his shots and was a conservative but did it in a civil way. But you -- it sounds like you are resigned to the tone and tenor and sometimes unforeseen consequences of this angry country.

LUNTZ: I don't see that I am resigned. I am screaming about it. I'm hoping that the next leader of the Republican Party in the House, whoever that is, will reach across the aisle and shake hands with whomever his minority leader and her minority leader and say enough is enough. If we continue to sink down this rabbit hole, there will be no climbing out.

KURTZ: Stop (Inaudible) each other is the way I would put it. I have about a minute left. You are involved in a project involving civility, taking (Inaudible) to talk about it.

LUNTZ: It's called One People (Inaudible). Initially, I wouldn't to do it. And I only agreed to do it because I realized how bad it was out there. We've been to three cities now, Los Angeles, Orlando, and Cleveland. And the level of angry vitriol by people against each other is so high. So we are looking for language.

And the best part of this project is we're testing speeches from the last 60 years, the best politicians, the best language. And who's number one, Bobby Kennedy. Remember (Inaudible) speech in 1976, brilliant. Ronald Reagan's speech in 1964, we are finding the best language and there are words and people who can bring us together. The question, Howie, is are we going to listen to them.

KURTZ: How about we have you back to talk about it some more?

LUNTZ: I'd love to show the video.

KURTZ: All right. Good to see you, Frank Luntz, thanks very much for coming in. Still to come, a 28-year-old socialist who beat a high-ranking Democrat is now front page news in the New York Times, which never ran a news story devoted to her campaign. That's next.


KURTZ: The media world went haywire this week when New York City Congressman Joe Crowley, a member of the House leadership was clobbered by a 28-year-old self proclaimed socialist named Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How are you feeling? Can you put it into words?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nope. I cannot put this into words.


KURTZ: Whatever the implications of this political unknown winning a low turnout Democratic primary, the local media were blindsided. The race was right there in Queens and the Bronx, but New York Times never ran a separate news story on Ocasio-Cortez. A Times editorial shouted at Crowley for (Inaudible) to debate her, and she was one of several Democratic challengers mentioned in a roundup piece, described as a (Inaudible) for some in the left who seem set to put a scare in Mr. Crowley.

Well, Mr. Crowley got more than a scare. He got creamed, so much for the gray lady and other media outlets knowing which candidates to take seriously. Former Times Editor Joe Abramson says she ticked off that the paper then had to ask one (Inaudible) who is this woman, why (Inaudible) failure to missing Donald Trump's victory in 2016.

Well, that's it for this edition of "Media Buzz." I'm Howard Kurtz. Come at me on Facebook @howardkurtz. Keep it civil if you can. We also have a debate on Facebook and on Twitter. On Facebook, I post a lot of original content, columns, and videos on Facebook. I monitor those debates. We've had a fascinating conversation here today about passion and politics on both sides, but also the corrosive debate.

And I am trying to be a positive force here on allowing all sides to be heard. We will do that again next Sunday. See you then here 11:00 a.m. Eastern with the latest Buzz.

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