Media mull Mueller mess

This is a rush transcript from "Media Buzz," July 28, 2019. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: On Buzz Meter this Sunday, for all the media hype, the journalistic consensus is that the Robert Mueller hearings were huge bust for the Democrats given his stumbling performance.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT MUELLER, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL FOR THE UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE: I would have to check on that. I'm not sure. You're going to have to repeat that for me. I'm not going to speak to that. I'm sorry, what was the question? I would have to refer you to the report on that question.

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: I think this has been a disaster for the Democrats. I think it has been a disaster for the reputation of Robert Mueller.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: That's headline out of the hearing so far. Mueller says that his report does not exonerate the president despite the president claiming so.

DAN ABRAMS, ABC NEWS CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: From the Democratic perspective, to me so far, this has been a bit of a bust. They needed this to come to life.

JESSE WATTERS, FOX NEWS HOST: I think everybody agrees, even the Democrats and even the media would agree that this was an absolute catastrophe for them.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: That's the message from today's testimony by special counsel Robert Mueller, a second term for Trump or a prison term for Trump.

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST:  We now know the truth about Robert Mueller, a mysterious prosecutor with unchecked power, revealed at last to be a daft old man blinking in the sunlight once his curtain was thrown away.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Did the press raised expectations for his testimony weigh too high? Are some of the pundits unfair in describing Mueller as confused and befuddle? Sean Spicer, the former White House press secretary, joins our discussion. And President Trump decidedly unhappy with those White House correspondents after the hearings.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let me just tell you, the fact that you even asked that question, you're fake news.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: We will look at the reporter's questions that set him off. Plus, a new racially charged uproar as the president denounces Congressman Elijah Cummings for dirty conditions in his Baltimore area district, but should a CNN news anchor be using the story to trash Trump? I'm Howard Kurtz and this is "Media Buzz."

There is little debate across the media spectrum that Robert Mueller struggled in Capitol Hill and said almost nothing that was new, haltingly answering or deflecting questions from Democrats and Republicans.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): So the report did not conclude that he did not commit obstruction of justice. Is that correct?

MUELLER: That is correct.

NADLER: And what about total exoneration? Did you actually totally exonerate the president?

MUELLER: No.

REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R-TX): What he is doing is not obstructing justice, he is pursuing justice. And the fact that you ran it out two years means you perpetuated injustice.

MUELLER: I take your question.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Your investigation is not a witch hunt --

MUELLER: It's not a witch hunt.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: The president quickly unloaded on the man who spent two years investigating him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I think Robert Mueller did a horrible job, both today and with respect to the investigation, but in all fairness to Robert Mueller, he had nothing to work with.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Mr. Mueller said the other day, confirmed, confirmed in the public mind that the president has obstructed justice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Joining us now to analyze the coverage: Emily Jashinsky, culture editor of The Federalist; Sara Fischer, media reporter for Axios; and Capri Cafaro, host of "The Cloak Room" podcast and a Washington Examiner contributor.

Emily, the media consensus is that Robert Mueller was an awful witness, the hearings were a debacle for the Democrats, and even some liberal commentators and liberal public figures seemed to agree with that.

EMILY JASHINSKY, CULTURE EDITOR, THE FEDERALIST: How often is it that we have a media consensus that is --

KURTZ: Never.

JASHINSKY: -- bad for Democrats?

KURTZ: It never ever happens.

JASHINSKY: And on top of that -- I saw like maybe one or two consenting opinions, just completely objectively a bad performance by Robert Mueller, stumbling over things that not project the authority of his own report that people expected him to have, complete optical disaster for Democrats. There is just really no way around that.

KURTZ: But Capri, there are some media liberals including several hosts on MSNBC who insist this was a bad day for President Trump because Mueller, they say, said things that were damaging to the president.

CAPRI CAFARO, HOST OF "THE CLOAK ROOM" PODCAST, WASHINGTON EXAMINER CONTRIBUTOR: The way that I see Mueller's testimony is exactly how I saw the Mueller report and its coverage as well. There are three sides to every story, yours, mine, and the truth.

And so Democrats and Republicans in these hearings tried to advance their own agendas. And in the same manner, the press on the left and the right were basically trying to advance those agendas as well.

There were some, I think, notable exceptions to that ruling, Stone, for example, had a piece basically saying it was disaster for Democrats, boxed (ph) that there were no winners here. So, I think that, you know, it's definitely not a good day for Democrats, and even we saw Dan Abrams there with NBC saying the same thing as well.

KURTZ: Right. Sarah, Bob Mueller, who did not want to be there, (INAUDIBLE) subpoena, did not want to make news, was a fresh witness for both sides. For Democrats -- the Democrats couldn't get him to read from the report, the whole Robert De Niro thing, he just reads it then people will see in the movie and not read the book.

And for Republicans, they wanted to talk about the origin of the probe, the FISA warrant, the Steele dossier, and he wouldn't go there. That was before he was special counsel. Did the media really pump this thing up just way too high?

SARA FISCHER, MEDIA REPORTER, AXIOS: Way too high. We should have known this because there were allies of Robert Mueller going to the Washington Post and other members of the press saying, "Don't expect him to say anything new." He has even said, "Don't expect me to say anything further." So I can't imagine why anyone expected this hearing to be explosive at all.

KURTZ: Perhaps wishful thinking. I mean, I was on record in saying this is going to be a dud, folks, but I underestimated the dudeness (ph) of it.

Look, during the first hearing in Judiciary Committee, there was a question from Democrat Ted Lieu, who said, "The reason again that you did not indict Donald Trump is because of the Office of Legal Counsel opinion, stating that you could not indict a sitting president, correct?" Mueller said that is correct.

I think he thought he was answering hypothetically. He came back on second hearing and said -- that was not the correct way to say it -- "We did not reach a determination as whether the president committed a crime."

The reason I read that to you is that Rachel Maddow and others were like, aha, he said, you know -- Chris Hayes, excuse me. Chris Hayes on MSNBC said, "Well, he did correct it, but it is hard not to see his first answer as revealing." "Yeah, except in the second part," he said.

JASHINSKY: Right, this is a case studying grasping at straws. When you want desperately to find something from this testimony, that's really all you had to work with. That's completely what we saw happened. I think it is an important point that not only did Mueller stumble a little bit, but he would not give Democrats what they wanted which was just a flat out read the script. I think his refusal to do that speaks volumes about how much he wanted to be there.

KURTZ: Let me play a little bit more from the hearings for you Capri, and this was something that was done by MSNBC's Rachel Maddow.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCHIFF: I gather that you believe that knowingly accepting foreign assistance during a presidential campaign is unethical thing to do.

MUELLER: And a crime.

SCHIFF: And a crime.

MUELLER: Circumstances, yes. And given circumstances.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: So, it was like, aha, it's a crime in certain circumstances, but the report itself doesn't say that Trump or his campaign team or his advisers did illegally cooperate with Russian efforts to hack the election.

CAFARO: Well, what you see here is I think a classic case again of Robert Mueller, you know, people trying to have a got-you moment, which was the entire point of this thing for both Democrats and Republicans. I would also argue that Robert Mueller didn't give Republicans in certain circumstances what they want and say, I can't talk about that, I can't --

KURTZ: He said it at the beginning of the hearing. He is not going to talk about A, B, and C.

CAFARO: Exactly. Back to my earlier point, I think that both the left and -- the media on the left and right would take these certain sound bites whether it was saying, you know, you didn't charge President Trump with a crime because he's the president or, you know, X, Y, Z in certain circumstances and tried to grasp at those straws.

KURTZ: Or for example, aha, he said the report didn't exonerate him. Well, it's in the report. That was four months ago, so that wasn't exactly breaking news.

Interestingly, Sara, The Washington Post did fact-check of the hearings, what certain members said, and they only fact-checked statements from Republicans even though Mueller several times disagreed with characterizations by the Democrats. Does that give appearance of one- sidedness?  FISCHER: I think it does. I also think that there is, as you mentioned, the Democrats are coming at it before this hearing, sort of making their own conclusions, and no one was coming out and sort of saying, hey, Chairman Nadler, why are you drawing that conclusion, we haven't heard from Bob Mueller yet.

So I think that was a really good example of the media kind of taking one side here, saying that Republicans are rushing to discredit the Bob Mueller hearing when in reality Democrats have said some things that needed some fact-checking, too.

KURTZ: Ah, needed some fact-checking from both sides. What a concept. There was a New York Times front page story the other day that I thought was a blockbuster and I wrote about it and I talked about it.

It basically said that special counsel Bob Mueller was hands off, that he didn't have as much stamina, that he didn't work long hours as he is used to, that he delegated substantial responsibility, that he didn't lead many of the meetings, he gave that to one of his top aides, and that he was particularly less and less involved with negotiation with Trump lawyers whether the president was going to testify which obviously ultimately he did not.

And when I read that, I said, "Now, they're telling us this?" Should that story -- could that story have been reported sooner?

JASHINSKY: That New York Times story also had specific details about meetings. It is really interesting --

KURTZ: Calendars.

JASHINSKY: Right, calendars. Interesting information from sources clearly, it was followed up by Washington Post story that emphasized these rumors had been circulating for months and months and months, and so I think it is fair to question, we do not know what the reporters know, but we do know that these rumors existed and it is fair to question the motives of people whose job it was to put this into the public.

KURTZ: I don't know if the reporters knew all of this, but of course, 24 hours after the hearing with the substantial detail --

JASHINSKY: Yes, right away.

KURTZ: Could there have been a temptation for any reporters, not just the Times, not to say Mueller is a little bit out of it or very hands off because it might jeopardize your access to that office or potential for any leaks to your organization?

JASHINSKY: I think it is fair to question the motive in terms of access, and I think it also fair to question the motive in terms of bias. But I do think that it is completely surprising -- not surprising but it is completely offsetting that this stuff -- this rumor circulated because that would have changed the narrative and the end of this investigation.

CAFARO: I would just say that I am not actually really shocked that given how many leaks we have seen in so many aspects here in Washington, whether it's on Capitol Hill or inside the White House or the administration, the fact that Mueller's involvement was, you know, an arm's length did not leak --

JASHINSKY: Is a big deal.

CAFARO: -- is shocking.

KURTZ: In fact, Emily mentioned the front page story today in The Washington Post which says that there were media inquiries last year, reporters were looking into what was described as whispers about Mueller -- not that he wasn't in charge, he made final decisions obviously, but not sort of running it on hands on day-to-day way, and then Mueller's team had to reassure congressional staff on the Hill that he was OK.

But there are a lot of counter spin to the Times story in this Washington Post piece with aides sometimes anonymously saying, oh, he is fine, he is being held in unfair standard because it is hard to -- it is hard to stand up there for seven hours and all these members are throwing this at you in rapid fire, well, page 336 and all that.

So that -- but the fact that journalists were looking into it, maybe they didn't have enough to go with, but it is just -- maybe this is a bit of an open secret in some circles.

JASHINSKY: But they did, like you said, like 24 hours after this testimony, they did find enough to go with.

FISCHER: It could be that people are coming out right now and sort of purposing this narrative in defense of the Democrats who dragged him on Capitol Hill, and now they look a little bit silly because the hearing was a bust. Now, they have something to point to and say, well, the hearing was only a bust because our key witness here was really not able to come to the stand. I mean, that's the defense on their end.

KURTZ: Right, some Democrats apparently regretting the fact that they even forced Mueller to testify clearly --

CAFARO: That was reported in The Hill.

KURTZ: Yes. But so, as well, here now, you have a lot of pundits talking about Robert Mueller, using words like "doddering" and "deaf" (ph). Here is a clip from that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RACHEL CAMPOS-DUFFY, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: We saw what we saw. I thought the lawyer was a visiting angel, not a lawyer. He is an early-stage dementia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Should there be speculation about his mental condition from people who don't really know?  FISCHER: I mean, you mentioned this earlier this week, Howie. Member of Congress knows the exact paragraph they are going to be citing. Let Robert Mueller ask again what page was that on, because he has 448 pages. I think that he did a pretty OK job. I think that these calls that he has dementia are completely outrageous.

And even if he slowed down a little bit, it's a tough hearing. You have so many members of Congress coming at you rapid fire. Don't blame the guy for not knowing the exact paragraph or asking to repeat questions.

KURTZ: It was an impressive performance, the man is 74 years old, but still, when you start getting into suggesting medical conditions and this has come up, people on both sides have done it, your reaction, Capri?

CAFARO: Yeah. We saw this actually with Hillary Clinton as well in the commentary surrounding Hillary Clinton's testimony on Capitol Hill that, you know, somehow that, you know, maybe she had a mini stroke before --

KURTZ: Fall down.

CAFARO: Exactly. There are all these speculations. I mean, to me, that's a bridge too far for anyone in the press, left or right, to speculate on people's medical conditions.

KURTZ: All right. Let me get a break here. When we come back, a pretty heated presser after the hearings, is the president, shall we say, takes strong reception to some of the reporter's question? And later, are some of the talents at MSNBC fixated on Fox?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: President Trump was not pleased with some questions from the White House press corps soon after the Mueller hearings ended, especially about a comment on his legal jeopardy that Bob Mueller himself had corrected in his testimony. Trump mixed it up with NBC correspondent Hallie Jackson and with PBS News Hour correspondent Yamiche Alcindor.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HALLIE JACKSON, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Are you concerned you could be indicted out of office?

TRUMP: When you saw Robert Mueller's statement, the earlier statement and then he did a recap, he did a correction later on in the afternoon. And you know what that correction was and you still asked the question, you know why? Because you're fake news and you're one of the most. And let me just tell you, the fact that you even asked that question, you're fake news. What about -- what about Mueller's end?

YAMICHE ALCINDOR, PBS NEWS HOUR CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He said that White House and campaign aides lied and that your answers were generally untruthful. What do you think of that? He's accusing you and your campaign of lying.

TRUMP: He didn't say that at all. You're untruthful when you ask -- you are untruthful.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: OK. Emily, were those questions from NBC and PBS correspondents out of bounds in the wake of the Mueller hearing?

JASHINSKY: They got sound bites and you can understand why the president after what that hearing was why he would be in that kind of mood, right, because that was a good testimony for the president of the United States. I don't know if the questions were out of bounds so as much as there were a lot of transcripts of the press conferences, there were a lot of repetition.

I think the questions that were asked about immigration crisis made all the Mueller questions look particularly ridiculous because it was hammering, hammering, hammering these questions about the Mueller testimony. Those particular questions, I don't think they are necessarily out of bounds, but I can understand how they were kind of designed to poke at the president and to get the kind of response that they did.  KURTZ: Well, that would not be a brand-new invention in journalism. Reporters should question the president aggressively after such a major news event. But do you think the phrasing of some of those questions were unnecessarily adversarial?

FISCHER: I think they were trying, as Emily said, to get a sound bite. And so if you come out adversarial, then you're going to get something fiery back and that makes for great T.V.

KURTZ: Are you worried about --

JASHINSKY: Especially with this president and his press corps.

KURTZ: Yeah. Are you worried about being indicted? Mueller says you are being untruthful. Well, there is something -- there were couple of things Mueller said that could be read that way by his written answers.

FISCHER: When you're asking, are you worried, you're asking him to give an opinion. I mean, what kind of answer are you expecting here that is going to be newsworthy, right? You're not looking for a piece of news, you're not looking for him to get something that's breaking, you're just asking for him to yell at you.  KURTZ: And yet on a day when President Trump was obviously pleased or shouldn't be pleased at the hearing basically fizzled, when he said that even the two most nauseating networks said it was a bad day for the Democrats, their initials are MS and CNN, he was quick to pounce someone he called fake news. In other words, he was on the offense even though it was good day for him.  CAFARO: I think that is just in President Trump's nature. I think, you know, when it comes to these other outlets, I mean, they are looking for ratings for sure. But I think that -- honestly the issue of fake news continues to concern me because there is a difference between media bias and fake news.

And I think that, you know, President Trump takes every opportunity to turn bias into what he calls fake news. This was a prime opportunity for him to feel as if he's been treated unfairly. When he's treated unfairly, all of a sudden it's fake.

JASHINSKY: Any question from the press corps is out of bounds, but were these productive questions that were going to elicit useful answers for the public? I don't think that's the case.

KURTZ: Well, interestingly, the president later tweeted a video mash-up of TV pundits including many from CNN and MSNBC saying awful performance by Mueller, disaster for Democrat, this is it for impeachment, it's over. So, if these are fake news outlets, used the phrase that he has, how does he explain them -- the judgment where they basically for once are saying, agree with him and saying it was a bad day for the Dems?

CAFARO: We have seen him do this before, though. The failing New York Times, it is fakes news, and all of the sudden if it has a decent story that comes out, he flips it.

FISCHER: Yeah, he is only going to do something if it is to his advantage. So it is to his advantage to go after them in a live press conference like that, but it is also to his advantage to highlight when they are backing his point on Twitter.

KURTZ: Yeah.

JASHINSKY: I think that's just how bad the testimony was.

(LAUGHTER)

KURTZ: Well keep it -- you're saying they had to --

JASHINSKY: Yes.

KURTZ: Keep in mind, because there were no daily White House press briefings, the president's interactions often at the helicopter or sometimes in the Oval Office with reporters is how -- is not only how he communicates his message, drives the news cycle, but also he will not be shy about beating up on reporters, which his supporters love because they do not trust the media.

JASHINSKY: Right. It is this dynamic between this president and this press corps in particular that I doubt we'll ever see again where there so much energy on both sides, they know how -- that question about are you worried about indictment? For President Donald Trump, you know what you're doing with that question.

KURTZ: Waving a red flag.

JASHINSKY: And he likes that question because he can come out and say you're fake news.

KURTZ: All right. Well, no fake news, hopefully. Capri Cafaro, Emily Jashinsky, thanks so much. Sara, we will see you later.

Ahead, when is a $5 billion government fine criticized as way too light when it's against Facebook? But up next, MSNBC has a Trump-bashing commentator, co-anchor its coverage, its news coverage of the Mueller hearings, and some guests keep making false claims about Fox.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: (INAUDIBLE) fixated on Fox over at MSNBC these days to the point that guests kept repeating a blatant falsehood before the Mueller hearings began. It started with MSNBC contributor Joyce Vance tweeting, "Fox isn't showing Mueller's testimony Wednesday. Trump is afraid of what will happen if his base gets to hear Mueller's testimony for themselves."

That was quickly knocked down but anti-Trump Republican commentator Rick Wilson repeated the claim.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN POLITICAL STRATEGIST: Fox isn't covering the hearings, which should tell you --

NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC AND NBC NEWS CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): Really?

WILSON: -- how scared they are on what could happen this morning. It's going to be a very interesting and consequential moment. They are apparently not going to take them live. Everybody else is taking them live.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KURTZ: As did former Democratic Congresswoman Donna Edwards.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONNA EDWARDS, FORMER MARYLAND REPRESENTATIVE: It's notable, I think, that tomorrow, Fox News, for example, is not airing the Mueller testimony.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): I don't believe that's true.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KURTZ: So she was quickly corrected, sort of. MSNBC host Nicolle Wallace later offered this update without so much as, we regret the error.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Fox News called us. They asked us to let you know that they're carrying the hearings. Don't watch them, though. Watch me and Brian. We'll be more fun, I promise.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: More fun or more partisan? Take a look at the teams anchoring the hearings.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARTHA MACCALLUM, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: We will have a live look as you have been getting this morning inside the hearing room at the Rayburn Building here on Capitol Hill.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: See, not only did Fox cover it gavel-to-gavel but its ratings were higher than every other cable or broadcast network for veteran journalists Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum.

At CNN, the anchors were all straight journalists, Wolf Blitzer, Jake Tapper, and Dana Bash.

But the MSNBC anchor team was Brian Williams and Nicolle Wallace, the former Bush White House aide, who makes clear every day she despises Donald Trump, and that showed in her analysis.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: The Democrats were -- considered this as a fact-finding mission. The Republicans were all auditioning for next weekend show on Fox News.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Well, there's the Fox fixation again. No one in the mainstream media questioned her role. That brings me to CNN moderators for this week's democratic presidential debates, Jake Tapper and Dana Bash, two solid choices, and Don Lemon, who constantly denounces Trump as a racist and a horrible president. And the reaction from the MSM? Crickets.

Coming up, President Trump takes a swipe at Fox News over new poll. That and much more with Sean Spicer, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: Joining us from Rhode Island with the president's perspective is Sean Spicer, senior adviser for America First PAC and of course, the former White House press secretary.

So, Sean, new Fox News poll has Joe Biden leading President Trump 49 to 39 percent, the marginal almost identical to polls by ABC and NBC. The president tweeted there's no way he would lose to Biden.

Here's the tweet, put it up. "Fox News is at it again. So different from what they used to be during the 2016 primaries, and before - proud warriors. Now New Fox polls which have always been terrible to me, they had me losing big to crooked Hillary have me down to sleepy Joe."

Now all these polls are way early, Sean. But Fox runs a very professional polling operation, why is the president suggesting that somehow these numbers were deliberate or twisted?

SEAN SPICER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, I think if you look at his experience last cycle which he alludes to in the tweet that poll after poll had him losing, he ends up winning with 306 electoral votes, carrying states like Michigan, Wisconsin, and Iowa that the GOP hadn't in decades.

This is a president who I think is rightly frustrated why the public polling that goes after. I know that the data operation we built at the Republican National Committee that is working hand in hand with the Trump campaign now is giving us a robust ability to understand exactly where all of the voters are that the president needs to talk to, whose on his side who are the gettable ones.

And if you think about it, again, a national poll when you're really talking about an election that's going to come down to handful of swing states.

KURTZ: I understand, you know, it probably come down to a few battleground states, I'm just interested in the attacks on Fox, which is one, the president has every right to criticize the network if he wants but it was noteworthy.

Look, President Trump these days seems very agitated after the Mueller hearings, even after telling the reporters, I mentioned this last segment that the two most nauseating networks, which the other two cable networks said it was bad day for the Democrats. Why does he not just declare a victory and move on?

SPICER: Well, because in one way they go on and talk about how Mueller did a horrible -- had a horrible performance, how the Democrats team get what they want and yet they won't let it die then they find some way to weave it back to President Trump.

So no matter how bad of a day that they have or how good of a day that he has, those networks always find the negative and I think it's frustrating to see it over and over again no matter how well he actually does or the economy does or how poorly the Democrats do on a particular topic, somehow it always comes back to figuring out where the negative is.

KURTZ: Right. Well, one of the reasons that Mueller's testimony was so ineffective in addition to his stumbles and bumbles, is that he didn't want to go beyond the report, he didn't want to be there, that was very clear. So, when the president attacks him for horrible testimony and even, you know, the consensus pretty much in the media as well, was Mueller ultimately fair to him not just in his report but in not, you know, using the forum of the congressional hearings to take some cheap shots?

SPICER: You mean, in terms of the president?

KURTZ: In terms of what Mueller said during those six hours.

SPICER: Yes.

KURTZ: He said he tried to stick to the language of his report as he had said he would do.

SPICER: Right. Now he did largely, but I think it still goes back to the nut of the report, right, this idea. And I think you saw this from the Republican side over and over again where there's presumption of innocence in our country.

And the idea that he says, well, I didn't exonerate him. Well, that's not how our system of justice works, and in other report know where their inquiry, if you're not guilty, you're not guilty. And I think there's a lot of frustration that somehow for this one case we are talking about, well, I didn't exonerate him. Well, in our system of justice you are either guilty or you're not guilty.

KURTZ: Yes. Well, that's a fair point. I think Mueller's point in the report was I'm not saying he did commit any crimes and I'm not saying he didn't.

(CROSSTALK)

SPICER: But Howie, look --

KURTZ: And of course, you can't prove a negative. I get it. Let me --

(CROSSTALK)

SPICER: But also, look, there's two important things, number one, he did do that on the first one and if the underlying issue is that there was no collusion, there was never collusion which is now been proven over and over and over again, then you cannot cover up that which didn't occur.

KURTZ: All right. I hear you. Let me move on to what is sort of dominating in the weekend news. From the beginning of the week the president renewed his attacks and of course he got lot of criticism from the media last week on the four freshmen Democratic members of Congress, all of them are women of color.

And he had some new tweets about AOC and company. He said, he referred to Ilhan Omar as America-hating anti-Semite, Rep. Omar, the squad, as they call themselves, he tweeted, is a very racist group of troublemakers who are young, inexperienced and not very smart. And then he said I don't believe the four congresswomen are capable of loving our country. Why does he want the media to keep covering this, why is he not moving on past these initial attacks?

SPICER: Well, look, I mean, go back to his time as a candidate, he was able to define each of his opponents and draw a contrast, so, you know --

(CROSSTALK)

KURTZ: But he's not running against them, they're all freshmen.

SPICER: No. But, look, we are all talking about them and what we are talking about is their extreme left-wing socialistic policies, so he has made them the leaders of the Democratic Party de facto.

So while you have 20 people running around to be president of the United States on the Democratic side, the fact of the matter is that we are spending all of our time talking about the policies and actions of four freshmen members of Congress, we are now having those Democratic candidates running for president answering and trying to suck up to these four freshmen and see how far to the left they can go.

He has clearly say, if you will, about everything else, but there's no question that we have now made this election a binary choice about freedom and capitalism versus socialism and progressivism.

KURTZ: Right, but now we have yesterday and again today the president going after the fifth member of Congress who happens to be black, Elijah Cummings, sort of in retaliation for his very tough criticism on the border and then tweeting that -- I will get into this in the next segment, his Baltimore area district is dirty, and disgusting, calling for an investigation of federal aid to his district.

And the president knew that if he did this the media would be attacking against him, aha, you're going after another minority lawmaker and so why does he want this fight? I mean, this is a little different that you're saying making these left-wing congresswomen the face of the party?

SPICER: I think you answered at the beginning of your question that, you know, when attacked, he hits back. He's made that clear since he was a candidate, in fact, well before that we know that when he received bad press or people attack him, he has fought back.

He sort of, made that a guiding principle, so I don't think it should be shocking. He's attacked Bill de Blasio, he's attacked the mayor of London, he has gone after people. When they attack him, he punch back. So, it's a consistent pattern that we've seen over and over again.

KURTZ: Sean, can you --

(CROSSTALK)

SPICER: I mean, the shock factor is worn off.

KURTZ: Can you -- can you deny that it's just a coincidence that these five Democrats he's gone after all happen to be people of color because that's the thrust of the media indictment right now against the president.

SPICER: I understand that, and as I just pointed out you can talk about Bill de Blasio, the governor of California, all white men as well. I mean, he has gone after -- he has an equal opportunity offender when it comes to going after people.

I know the voice but at the end of the day Elijah Cummings is the chair of the committee that was going after the president in this particular case, so he couldn't go after anybody else.

KURTZ: Right.

SPICER: But you name it, he's gone after Chuck Schumer ad nauseum.

KURTZ: That's right.

SPICER: So, I get it in this particular case --

KURTZ: All right.

SPICER: -- that we are trying to put a banner on it, but at the end of the day he has gone after everybody. And if you -- I've seen some of the list that other shows have done. It's ad nauseum, so --

KURTZ: I got to go, Sean.

SPICER: Look -- all right.

KURTZ: Thank you so much for being here. I really appreciate it.

SPICER: You bet.

KURTZ: And coming up --

SPICER: You bet.

KURTZ: -- more on the president going after Elijah Cummings and his district. The controversial attack that followed a segment on Fox & Friends, that's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: President Trump as we just noticed launched a Twitter attack yesterday on a fifth House member of color after a Fox & Friends segment featuring a local Republican who took video of some garbage strewn, abandoned row houses in Cummings Baltimore area district.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KIMBERLY KLACIK, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Congressman Cummings represents the most dangerous district in America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Trump called the Oversight chairman a brutal bully, called his Maryland district a disgusting, rat and rodent-infested mess. And ask without evidence whether federal aid there is being stolen. Quote, "Investigate this corrupt mess immediately."

Joining us now from Los Angeles, Leslie Marshall, a radio talk show host and Fox News contributor. Leslie, Elijah Cummings responded that he fights for his constituents every day. The president, I'm sure same question that I just asked Sean Spicer, knew that the media would say he's again targeting a minority lawmaker. Why do you think he wants -- do you think he wants this fight despite what he knows will be the racially charged criticism?

LESLIE MARSHALL, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I don't think he thinks before he talks, I really don't. I just think he lets it rip and I think later either the ratings go up for him, his approval ratings or apologies are made, and I think there are people behind the scenes in his administration, you know, who are cringing.

The reality here is that whenever he uses the term infestation, when you look at all the times he has used the word infestation, it does refer either to a country, a district, a state or an individual that is under the umbrella of a minority whether it's a brown person, a black person, African-American, Mexican- American, Hispanic, Latino, that is the fact.

KURTZ: Yes.

MARSHALL: And therefore, when people start to say, you know, this is racist, this is one of the reasons why.

KURTZ: Now, Baltimore has a lot of problems like a lot of inner cities, though, that's not the entire district, it also includes a suburban county for Elijah Cummings, do you think the video footage that aired on Fox is enough to justify the president -- the tone of the president's attack?

MARSHALL: Absolutely not. Because when you look at the facts, I mean, the 53 percent of Congressman Cummings district is African-American, they are the second most educated African-American district in the United States, they also the second highest-income earners among African-Americans in the United States.

I don't consider John Hopkins University, John Hopkins hospital, the University of Maryland or headquarters for the NAACP, rat, or rodent, infested organizations.

KURTZ: Al right.

MARSHALL: So, no, I think that's very unfair. If you show picture here in L.A. and I know you know L.A. really well, if you show a picture of skid row, that's not Beverly Hills and all the other areas in between.

(CROSSTALK)

KURTZ: That's not the entire area, of course. Let me show you how, let me show you the audience how Victor Blackwell, a CNN weekend news anchor handled the story.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: The president says about Congressman Cummings district -- that no human would want to live there. You know who did, Mr. President? I did.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Now, I understand why Blackwell is emotional, he's a Baltimore native. He's being held as a hero by the media. But I got to ask this question. He is a news anchor when he accused the president of targeting black and brown people, whether you agree that or not, is that the role of a news anchor?

MARSHALL: You're not supposed to become the news and you're supposed to report the news. But I do think sometimes there is a mountain to die on and I think this was his mountain to dies on.

Look, I'm a white woman, I certainly don't know what it's like to walk in the skin of an individual such as Victor who is an African-American male, and all too often to have words like this hurled at them and their community, I don't know that pain. And I think the pain overcame the title and I don't think it takes away from his ability to be a journalist and have journalistic integrity going forward.

KURTZ: OK.

MARSHALL: And I understand -- I understand -- I thought it was touching, I thought it was real.

KURTZ: All right.

MARSHALL: That was real.

KURTZ: Not disputing that, I think if a Fox News anchor had a mountain of emotional attack on Nancy Pelosi it would be a lot of media criticism. By the way, now Fox News poll says that Trump's tweets about the four congresswomen crossed the line 63 percent, 27 percent says acceptable political attack.

Let me turn you briefly to the Mueller hearings. Now in the wake of the hearings, Jerry Nadler, the judiciary chairman says he's conducting an impeachment inquiry in effect by asking for Mueller's grand jury material and this is a way of getting around Nancy Pelosi who does want an impeachment inquiry. I see zero media criticism of this maneuver by Nadler, maybe because much of the media agree with the maneuver?

MARSHALL: I don't know if they agree with him, I don't know if they are just tired of it and they just want it to play out or it's kind of expected, isn't it? It's a bit predictable but at the end of the day, regardless of what comes forth Speaker Pelosi has been very, very clear, she said she has to have iron clad evidence to go forward with impeachment and she needs bipartisan support.

And even Congressman Schiff who said, look, even if we vote to impeach it's dead on arrival in the Senate, there's an acquittal and Democrats know all too well what happened in the Clinton administration.

KURTZ: Right.

MARSHALL: His ratings went up, he was president and it was Newt Gingrich, the speaker who resigned and at that time Republicans lost seats in both the House and the Senate.

KURTZ: I got to go. I think you're being a little generous. I think the media would love to see an impeachment investigation. Great story among other things and the feelings about Donald Trump I think in many quarters is well known.

Leslie Marshall, great to have you back. Good to see you. Take the rest of the day off.

MARSHALL: Thank you. Good to be here.

KURTZ: After the break, Mark Zuckerberg playing defense again as the government hits Facebook with a $5 billion fine and launches an antitrust poll with big tech. Are the Silicon Valley giants in some trouble?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: It sounds like a pretty whopping penalty. The Federal Trade Commission imposing a $5 billion fine for privacy violations. And many critics are calling the fine a mere slap on the corporate wrist. Mark Zuckerberg figuring with upbeat take at a staff meeting.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK ZUCKERBERG, CEO, FACEBOOK: Privacy is more central than ever to our vision for the future and we are going to change the way that we operate across the whole company. I believe that companies should be held accountable on privacy. And this is what accountability looks like?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: And Sara Fischer is back with us. So, $5 billion fine for a company that's worth about $570 billion, also Facebook has to create an independent committee on its board to monitor this stuff, Zuckerberg has to certify he's in compliance privacy rules every quarter, many critics are saying, wow, this is just not enough?

SARA FISCHER, MEDIA REPORTER, AXIOS: Yes. And those critics include mostly Democrats that are actually with the FTC and what they are saying here is that you want these penalties to be punitive, you want this but to feel threatened by them that something like Cambridge Analytica could never happen again.

And when you're bringing in $63 billion of revenue a year and you're going to be taxing them $5 billion, critics are saying this is not enough to deter them from actually changing, fundamentally changing their business model.

KURTZ: I'm seeing a lot of the criticism from tech writers and columnist who would agree with what you just said, at least that's the argument.

Facebook has had so many private -- privacy breaches including the mess with Cambridge Analytica. So many time Mark Zuckerberg has had to apologize and promised to do better, and it's almost like a broken record. With this lousy track record has he kind of opened the door to more government regulation?

FISCHER: I think so. And it's not just the FTC that's calling for his. The DOJ says they are going to call into question FTC -- anti-competitive practices of all tech companies. So, what Mark Zuckerberg has done, what Facebook has done is they created this landslide of regulatory threats for every database company out there, whether you're Amazon and its e-commerce, you're Google and its search, everyone should be threatened because of what Facebook's track has created.

KURTZ: Well, I would say there may be some other culprits here beside Facebook. So, as you mentioned, the Justice Department probe, this is a new investigation, Facebook, Google, and Amazon anticompetitive practices and there may be some anticompetitive practices. Amazon, by the way, President Trump's least favorite company.

But the idea of these companies broke major laws and should be broken up when millions and millions of people willingly use their services for free by the way, seems a little far-fetch to me.

FISCHER: I mean, it's difficult to prove that there's anti-competitive practices when consumers are happy, remember, anticompetitive practice are when consumers are harmed. So, this is really hard for them to be able to prove and it's why we've left these tech giants grow so big.

How do you say that Google is a monopoly and anti-competitive when their ad rates are the lowest of anyone out there? The big question here is, do you have so much data any of these companies, it's almost like insider trading, that you have access to information about what other companies you should acquire or other trends are really good for business that other people don't. And that's what they are going to be looking into here, it's not just privacy practices.

KURTZ: Right.

FISCHER: It's really merges and acquisitions.

KURTZ: Well, it's essentially a version of whether they've gotten too big and too powerful.

Just briefly, $5 billion fine not many people unhappy about that for Facebook, if it had been 10 billion, if it had been 20 billion, wouldn't there a counterargument that this is too punitive?

FISCHER: I mean, if you take a look at what they're doing in Europe, that was more around the realm of where they would be charging. They actually charge for a 4 percent of your global turnover for every day that you don't comply with this fine.

So, if people think that it can get too punitive, I'd look over to our friends across the Atlantic and say other people don't think so, regulators.

KURTZ: All right. Sara Fischer, thanks very much. Still to come, an update on that Covington Catholic student lawsuit and a former MSNBC host rips her former network over the Mueller probe.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: A judge has thrown the $250 million lawsuit by Covington Catholic High School student Nick Sandmann against the Washington Post, saying that while the paper quoted what may have been false accusations from the Indian activist who confronted here on the Washington Mall, such opinions are protected speech under the First Amendment.

Now Sandmann was clearly maligned by an irresponsible rush to judgment by several outlets, but winning the libel suit as I've been saying is hard without showing deliberate falsehood.

Krystal Ball who used to work for MSNBC has just unloaded on her former network. Ball whose panel show was canceled in 2015 is a liberal commentator and former Democratic congressional candidate, but on her show on Hill TV she said MSNBC has damaged the left.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KRYSTAL BALL, NEWS TALK ANCHOR, THE HILL: Some talent did drink more deeply of the Russia conspiracy waters than others. Rachel Maddow, you've got some explaining to do.

For months, MSNBC built segment after segment, show after show on building anticipation for a big reveal in some of the most fevered speculation prime time shows actually invited Jonathan Chait on to lay out his wild theory that Trump had actually been a Russian asset since 1987. MSNBC, seriously, this is not journalism. It is Infowars conspiracy theory.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Look, comparing MSNBC to Infowars is a bit out there for me. And many outlets covered the Mueller investigation, it was a big story and many over covered it and overhyped it. But Krystal Ball deserves credit for taking on a place where she says she still has many friends.

That's it for this edition of "Media Buzz." I'm Howard Kurtz. Check out my podcast if you get a chance "Media Buzz Meter." We rift on the day's hottest stories, and this is politics, sports, entertainment, culture, you can name it. You can subscribe at Apple iTunes, Google Play or foxnewspodcast.com.

We hope you like our Facebook page. We post my daily columns there and original videos we make just for you Web people. Come at me on Twitter @HowardKurtz. We'll see a lot of that I think with the Mueller hearing coverage that we just did. Back here next Sunday at 11 Eastern. We'll see you then with the latest buzz.

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