This is a rush transcript from "Media Buzz," October 13, 2019. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: On the Buzz Meter this Sunday, the media and a war of words over impeachment as President Trump refuses to cooperate with the House investigation and the press digs into a growing pile of allegations.


CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: They are basically saying that Congress has no right to ever investigate the president. This is not a winning legal argument but I guess they're trying to make a political argument.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: This is just the latest attempted coup of a duly elected president by we, the people, over misconduct that does not exist yet again.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: The president of the United States claiming he has no choice but to stonewall into obstruct in the face of lawful inquiry from Congress.

JESSE WATTERS, FOX NEWS HOST: They can't get him. The guy is bulletproof at this point. And if he cooperates, he's guilty. If he doesn't cooperate, he's guilty. He can't win.


KURTZ: And what's the impact of the much (INAUDIBLE) coverage as Rudy Giuliani is reported to be under investigation over Ukraine, and ousted Ambassador Marie Yovanovich said he and the president used false charges to push her out?

Many of Trump's conservative allies in the media are turning on him for abruptly pulling U.S. troops out of Northern Syria, which our Kurdish allies are calling a betrayal and has led to sustained military action by Turkey.


BRIAN KILMEADE, FOX NEWS HOST: What a disaster. I mean the president's statement through Stephanie Grisham is, you know, we defeated the caliphate, the caliphate is destroyed, we would not have done that without the Kurds, who did all of our fighting.

JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC HOST: That's what you get for being an ally with Donald Trump and playing a major role in crushing the caliphate which, of course, the Kurds did.

PAT ROBERTSON, TELEVANGELIST: The president of the United States is in danger of losing the mandate of heaven if he permits this to happen.

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: What exactly do the people on T.V. know about Kurds? Well, nothing really. In fact, it would be shocking if anyone at MSNBC had ever met a Kurd. And yet suddenly today, everyone in Washington seems thoroughly outraged on their behalf.


KURTZ: Why does foreign policy revolt by many on the right, who so strongly back the president on impeachment and just about everything else?

A new book by Ronan Farrow says Harvey Weinstein used allegations against Matt Lauer to pressure NBC into killing his expose, and a former NBC staffer accuses the long-time "Today" anchor of rape, which Lauer vehemently denies.

Plus, Shepard Smith is leaving Fox News 23 years after its launch. Why his departure is drawing so much media attention?

I'm Howard Kurtz and this is MEDIA BUZZ.

The media had been on red alert since President Trump defied the House's request for testimony and documents saying he considers the impeachment inquiry to be illegitimate, highly partisan, and unconstitutional.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Then it turns out that the whistleblower was in cahoots with Schiff. Then it turns out that the whistleblower is a Democrat, strong Democrat, and is working with one of my opponents as a Democrat that I might end up running against. The whole thing is a scam. It's a fix.


KURTZ: Joining us now to analyze the coverage: Mollie Hemingway of The Federalist, a Fox News contributor, and co-author of "Justice on Trial: The Kavanaugh Confirmation and the Future of the Supreme Court"; Gillian Turner, a Fox News correspondent and former White House national security official; and Ray Suarez, co-host of "World Affairs" on KQED and former correspondent for the PBS NewsHour.

Mollie, the media, it's fair to say, I think, are generally appalled by the president refusing to cooperate with the House inquiry. Whatever his complaints about unfair treatment, is it fair for his approach to be cast as stonewalling?

MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think the big problem with media coverage of this issue is that it is focusing on impeachment or alleged impeachment at the expense of the larger story. So for years we have had media reports claiming that there are thousands of people in the bureaucracy and intelligence agencies that are working to oust the president.

We also have years-long issue with Ukraine where Ukraine was shown to have meddled in the 2016 election with the Democratic National Committee, This isn't in dispute. This has been admitted to. There are e-mails and transcripts and all sorts of things that people are actually acknowledging that meddling.

And those larger stories are not put into this discussion. So when people are talking about how Donald Trump is responding to inquiries about a particular phone call, we are not seeing that coverage of the larger issues that needs to be in play.

KURTZ: Ray, some journalists are saying, well, if he doesn't cooperate, the Democrats will just what was done with the Nixon impeachment, make obstruction an article of impeachment. Is there a danger for the press here in covering all the tentacles of the story of looking to pro-impeachment?


There's a danger to the press in part because of the way the news business has changed since 1972 and 1973. It is more possible than it's ever been in the history of the American media to come to a conclusion sitting at home in your living room couch --

KURTZ: Mm-hmm.

SUAREZ: -- and then go out and seek confirmation from the news business for that conclusion. Whether you're pro, whether you're anti, whether Trump makes -- puts your teeth on edge or you just (INAUDIBLE) him to death, you can be convinced of any argument you want to make.

KURTZ: Because of fractured media environment?

SUAREZ: Absolutely. And so this creates real challenge for people who are trying to just play it straight and keep track of a fast-moving, sprawling, and complicated story in a part of the world Americans don't follow closely.

KURTZ: And that sprawling nature, Gillian, leads me to this question. Is the president in part helping to turn this into a processed story, all these pieces about of twists and turns and subpoenas and court battles and new people being drawn into this, and could many in the public view that as just more beltway bickering?

GILLIAN TURNER, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: No, is my simple answer. The president is not doing that. I think in large part, the media is making this a processed story, which I mean every news organization at this moment in time is keeping their own roll call vote on what Democrats are for impeachment, what Democrats are kind of acting -- I mean, everybody is quarterbacking the story.

One element the media is missing in its coverage is the sprawling nature of this impeachment investigation compared with previous investigations by which I mean that of President Clinton and before him, President Nixon, with both of those investigations handled by one congressional committee --

KURTZ: Right.

TURNER: -- the Judiciary Committee. Today, Nancy Pelosi has a six -- three committees officially investigating. But six in total that are looking into wrongdoing by President Trump, and I think the media should be covering that.

HEMINGWAY: Even more than that, there is no impeachment inquiry. There has been no vote to launch an impeachment inquiry. And this is actually very important when we are talking about legal battles and what not. And yet the media seemed to have accepted Democrat spin that there is such an inquiry.

KURTZ: They don't need one. What about the whistleblower? Because The Washington Examiner is reporting that the whistleblower, we still don't kn the identity, had a working relationship with a 2020 democratic candidate, perhaps as part of his job.

Since we have a transcript of the call between the president and Ukraine's leader and since we have the texts between the diplomats talking about Ukraine, how much the media care about the whistleblower at this point?

HEMINGWAY: Well, I think that things really got diverted when President Trump released the transcript of the call. It is pretty clear that there was a whole campaign that was built around this where there would be little drips of information. You would be told we would characterize the call as deeply frightening.

When everybody can just read the transcript themselves and say, I have no problem with this or I do have a problem with this but deal with the actual facts in play, it made that drip, drip, drip stories, the kind that we saw so much in the Russia hoax become much less important.

And so I think the media are kind of struggling with how to handle it. It is significant and important that he talked to Adam Schiff and didn't reveal that when he made his whistleblower complaint. That is something the media should cover.

KURTZ: And it was Adam Schiff --

TURNER: Well, but he didn't speak to Adam Schiff. He spoke to a member of Adam Schiff's staff.

HEMINGWAY: In order to get whistleblower protection, you have to say which committees you spoke with, which members you spoke with. He left that part blank.

KURTZ: Also on the whistleblower, Ray, Fox's Katherine Harris was the first to report, others followed, that the whistleblower had written another memo saying a White House official had told him that that phone call, the July phone call, was crazy and frightening. But we don't know who has said to have said this. So it was just another --

SUAREZ: But there's also reporting and multiple sources of contemporaneous accounts. This person saying crazy and disturbing, didn't keep it to themselves. They didn't sit by themselves and just say I feel crazy and disturbed.

KURTZ: Yeah.

SUAREZ: There were conversations, there were memos, there were text messages, and there were e-mails. They were all coming out. Everybody trying to write the last story of this story is going to be wrong.

KURTZ: Gillian, you worked on the National Security Council under two presidents. Television went nuts when The Washington Post reported, picking up on what Ray is saying, four National Security officials were so alarmed by that call between the two leaders in July, that they raised it with a White House lawyer. Is that significant for what the president cast as a perfect call or is it just another incremental part of the story?

TURNER: Both. I would say it's incremental but it is also significant in the sense that it's not unusual and it's not bad for National Security officials who were privy to the call or who head about the call to talk about it amongst themselves afterwards. That's in large part what the National Security Council is there to do.

It's they're to take what the president said on a phone call with a foreign leader and convert that into foreign policy. So, how people felt about that call and if some people did feel or at least one person felt that it was crazy, that is something that they absolutely should have discussed among themselves.

That doesn't mean that the person's memo to themselves saying this was crazy and frightening then becomes the ground truth and becomes evidence.

KURTZ: Of course not. The New York Times talk about this sprawling investigation, now reports that Rudy Giuliani is under investigation by the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan which he once headed, I covered him at the time, for possibly illegal lobbying, not registering as a lobbyist, he disputes that.

This is after two of Giuliani's associates were arrested. They are helping him dig up dirt in Ukraine. But they were arrested on unrelated campaign finance charges.

Now the media love portraying Rudy as unhinged. Indeed, I had a very heated interview with him last week. There was a lot of shouting and filibustering. But is it clear that Rudy did anything wrong?

HEMINGWAY: Even more than that, I would say this speaks to why it is important to tell the whole story about Ukraine. More than a year ago, in fact two years ago, I think, it was, you had Charles Grassley asked the Department of Justice to look into a FARA violation with a DNC contractor.

KURTZ: That's the Federal Registration Act.

HEMINGWAY: Yes. So looking at whether she was lobbying -- whether she was acting on behalf of Ukraine without being registered. There are all sorts of FARA violations that are not looked at. But when they are done by democratic operatives or other people like that, that's why the media need to cover the story, explain what happened in Ukraine in 2016.

People claim that they care about meddling by foreign countries in our elections. We know that happened with Ukraine. We know it happened with the Democratic National Committee. There is no dispute about this and yet you don't see it when you're hearing stories about this.

Further to that, I would say that it is also true that when you see it only that Republicans get attacked for FARA violations, this speaks to these two standards of justices the people are very frustrated with, where if you're on one side of the aisle, you get let go even if you have false statements or other things. And if you are on the other side of the aisle, you get sent to prison.

KURTZ: Let's go to big picture, Ray. We have the Giuliani story. We have the ousted ambassador, Yovanovich, saying Rudy and Trump helped push her out of the job of representing the U.S. in Ukraine with false claims.

Washington Post lead story today, Gordon Sondland, who is an ambassador, who is on those texts, saying there's no quid pro quo in the phone call. Now, person familiar with testimony says it is only true the president said it, not that it was the truth. In other words, he wants to testify --

SUAREZ: Sondland was backing up to --

KURTZ: Right.

SUAREZ: -- the president said there was no quid pro quo. I'm not saying that.

KURTZ: How much impact does all of this have?

SUAREZ: It's going to be raining shoes in Washington. There are so many left to drop.


SUAREZ: The idea that we can make a conclusion, a final conclusion on what this all means based on one incremental development is crazy.

KURTZ: And just briefly, Gillian, Drudge had a headline, Fox shock. It was a Fox News poll showing that 51 percent say that President Trump should be impeached and removed, 40 percent said not impeached at all, mostly Democrats in favor, 13 percent of Republicans.

The president then tweeted I'd never gotten a good Fox News poll, whoever their pollster is. They suck, according to the president. Why was there so much attention in this poll? Wasn't that out of line with other recent polls?

TURNER: Of course. A poll is a poll and Fox News channel polling unit is one of the strongest in the country. You know, hat tip, hats off to Chris Stirewalt in that whole contingency. Those are some of the most unbiased journalists in the news business today. So the idea that the Fox News polling unit is somehow become corrupted democratic politics is insanity.

HEMINGWAY: I think it is not wrong for people to be skeptical of polling. They have been told for years, you know, a Fox News polled Joe Donnelly.

TURNER: But Mollie, the president is calling out Fox News --

HEMINGWAY: I'm just pointing out Fox News said that Joe Donnelly would win his Senate race by seven points. He lost by six points. It is possible that polls are -- that people have reason to be skeptical.

KURTZ: Polls are --

TURNER: Polls are often wrong. That doesn't mean that you --

HEMINGWAY: They are also used to push certain story ideas and that's a problem.

KURTZ: All right.

SUAREZ: You follow the trend, not the number.

KURTZ: Well, the president actually had given shout-outs this week at his rallies to various Fox News commentators, primetime "Fox & Friends," who he likes, even though he doesn't like these polls.

Let me get a break here. When we come back, some rare criticism on the president from conservative journalism pundits over his military withdrawal from Northern Syria. And later, Sean Spicer weighs in on the coverage of impeachment.


KURTZ: The media criticism of President Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Northern Syria, especially on the right, focused on abandonment of America's Kurdish allies. And with Turkey continuing to bomb the region, dozens of Kurds are reported to have been killed and 130,000 people have been displaced. But the president defends this decision on very different grounds.


TRUMP: I campaigned on ending the endless wars. We're all over the world, fighting wars. Half the places, nobody even knows what they're doing over there.


KURTZ: Mollie, as you know, there is now whole slew of conservative journalists and commentators including some here at Fox, and then you have Lindsey Graham, Nikki Haley and other Republicans who are sharply criticizing the president on Syria. Given the tremendous support they usually give Donald Trump, what do you make of this?

HEMINGWAY: I'm not sure I would agree that this caucus normally gives a tremendous amount of support to President Trump. But I would say -- and I would say there is a grotesque over representation of foreign policy approach in our pundit class, in our newspapers.

Donald Trump did run on a campaign to get out of Syria. He was elected to do that. There is a rejection of this will from the people to not have such entanglements, and you see that so much in the newspapers and in our TV coverage.

You know, President Obama, 16 times, that we would never have boots on the ground in Syria. And Donald Trump gets elected saying he will get us out of that situation. We are three into the presidency. It is finally happening. You don't hear the voices articulating why that's important, why the American people want this.

KURTZ: Ray, it is true that the president talked about endless wars. He talked about it recently. Are the media and the politicos in the foreign policy establishment here much more concerned about Syria and Turkey and the Kurds than let's just say most average voters?

SUAREZ: Absolutely. That's one of the ways that the administration can move ahead with this policy. The president didn't run on green lighting a NATO ally Turkey invading Syria and being perhaps in a direct confrontation with Russia. This is a mess. It is an open question whether the mess got any better in the last 10 days. I don't think it did.

KURTZ: Well, I think we can probably agree it is a mess. Now, Gillian, this has been reported by Fox and many other organizations that the Pentagon was blindsided by the president's move, the Kurds certainly were. There was even a heads up to presidential allies like Lindsey Graham.

The press seems almost as concerned by Trump's go it along with style, particularly on foreign policy than on the details of this geopolitical decision.

TURNER: Well, President Trump is right when he says things like the United States has thousands, tens of thousands of troops stationed across the world and at this point, we don't even know what they're doing anymore, particularly in the Middle East. Sometimes, our military presence is actually working at cross purposes with our national security interests.

The rug in this scenario is that the few thousand U.S. troops that were stationed along the Turkish-Syrian border bolstering the Kurds efforts there -- we are not part of that group of troops. We knew precisely what they were doing. They had a very specific mission that had been successful for close to a decade.

So the idea that he would first laser-in on those troops and brings those troops home when we have so many others that deserved to be looked at first doesn't make any sense.

KURTZ: The president tweeted today, let them fight, meaning Turkey and the Kurds. With the airstrikes and the video footage and reports of atrocities and all these refugees, is this breaking through more so than a typical Washington fight over the budget or something like that?

TURNER: Absolutely because there is an emotional pull here. I mean, the Turks killed many civilians on day one of their invasion into Turkey this week including an infant we know died. They have been attacking hospitals. They've actually been hitting close by the U.S. Military installations on the ground.

So the Turks have been disingenuous with President Trump and with everybody about what they're actually trying to achieve in that region which is an ethnic cleansing of the Kurds.

KURTZ: Mollie, NBC's Richard Engel, who is in my view a great reporter who has risked his life for many war zones, but on reporting on this, he said that President Trump's Syria decision is a stain on history. Pure commentary. Nobody blinks.

HEMINGWAY: We are seeing a lot of commentary from a lot of people instead of doing straight news. I think there is an avenue here where (INAUDIBLE). I want to say we don't have good reporting on the ground and that can make it hard when we are getting input. This is something we have seen across many media outlets that we don't have good on the ground reporting on this.

But it is also true that we did have a much better discussion of what our aims are when we get involved in conflicts. We did not have an aim of defending this, you know, this particular group of YPG fighters in their battles with Erdogan. We had --

TURNER: We did.

HEMINGWAY: No, absolutely not.

TURNER: We had an agreement with them --

HEMINGWAY: We had a goal --

TURNER: -- close to a decade and they were helping us wipe out ISIS.

HEMINGWAY: No. We had shared interests to take down the ISIS caliphate military capabilities and we accomplished that. And the American people -- yes, based on shared interests in defeating ISIS. That is what the American people understood, and they weren't even particularly supportive of that.

The idea that we would then change, you know, move the goal post and have all sorts of different agenda items there is not something the American people signed on to. And if people want that, they should say that what they want is to be clear and get the American people to sign on that.

TURNER: But the goal post didn't move is the point.

KURTZ: We got to go. Brief comment.

SUAREZ: One missing word in all of this coverage is again abandoning the Kurds again. We did it in the early 90's in the end of the first Gulf War. That's what's roiling some of the foreign policy circles in Washington right now.

KURTZ: Important historical (ph) point. And on that point, Ray Suarez, Gillian Turner, and Mollie Hemingway, great to see you all this Sunday.

Ahead, The New York Times gets ripped for unfair coverage by Joe Biden. Up next, the media eviscerating the NBA for kowtowing to China and censoring reporter. The president also gets a few (INAUDIBLE).


KURTZ: Media are roughing up the NBA for its apologetic stands towards China which has retaliated over a single tweet by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, backing the pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong.

That may have made more feel virtuous but it ruptured some lucrative business ties between Beijing and pro-basketball, which now included cancelling events and broadcast of preseason games to be played in that country.

But how on earth did it come to this when CNN reporter Christina MacFarlane tried to ask Houston stars James Harden and Russell Westbrook about the controversy?


CHRISTINA MACFARLANE, CNN ANCHOR: I just wonder after to the events of this week and the fallout we've seen whether you would both feel differently about speaking out in that way in the future?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): Excuse me, we're taking basketball questions only.

MACFARLANE: It's a legitimate question.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): It's not. Any other questions?


KURTZ: Are you kidding me? Sensor a reporter to avoid offending China? The NBA later apologized to her, but it's in the same vein as individual teams have been removing fans with pro-Hong Kong signs. The problem, NBA commissioner, Adam Silver, began by essentially apologizing to Beijing for the Rocket's tweets, sparking criticism that he was kowtowing to totalitarian regime. Silver now says he supports freedom of expression.


ADAM SILVER, COMMISSIONER OF THE NBA: I understand that there are consequences from that exercise of in essence his freedom of speech and,, you know, we will have to live with those consequences. We are not apologizing for Daryl exercising his freedom of expression.


KURTZ: Except you were initially apologizing and now basically trying to salvage that huge market in China. It was inevitable that the sports fan in chief would weigh in.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Are the Chinese wrong to be putting pressure on the NBA, sir?

TRUMP: Well, the NBA is a different thing. I mean, I watch this guy, Steve Kerr. He was like a little boy. He was so scared to be even answering the question. He couldn't answer the question. He was shaking. Oh, I don't know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Are you OK then with the Chinese government pressuring the NBA over Hong Kong?

TRUMP: They have to work out their own situation.


KURTZ: (INAUDIBLE) that Trump singled out the NBA's Steve Kerr and Gregg Popovich, who have sharply criticized him in the past. Ahead, Matt Lauer is strongly denying an accusation that he raped an NBC staffer and other troubling allegations about the network and Harvey Weinstein. But first, Sean Spicer on impeachment, Syria, and the media.


KURTZ: With things heating up on the impeachment front with many conservatives taking on the president over his decision on Syria.

Joining us now from Los Angeles is Sean Spicer, the former White House press secretary and now senior adviser to the America First PAC.

And, Sean I'm trying to remind you still at the White House podium being asked why Lindsey Graham, Nikki Haley, Mitch McConnell and other Republicans and many media conservatives including Fox and elsewhere are now castigating the president for his decision on Syria with the Kurds under military assault. This isn't one that can be blamed on liberal media, is it?

SEAN SPICER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: No, but I think that there's two different issues here, it's the politics of it and the policy of it. When it comes to the politics of it, I think the president has been very clear that he made a commitment during the campaign trail that he was going to get out of what he calls these endless wars.

And you've seen him not just in Syria but throughout the globe, Afghanistan and elsewhere, talk about pulling back U.S. troops and bringing them home after years of fighting wars that he didn't think were just or appropriately started.

So, this is probably consistent with what the president promised the American people. And you've seen him take that case to the American people, he did it yesterday at speech with Evangelical leaders where he talked about the fact that he is bringing troops homes, he is keeping commitment. That's separate than the policy of it, and I think you see Republican leaders and frankly, leaders on foreign policy elsewhere, they are fighting him on the policy.

The thing that I think is interesting is from a political standpoint as he heads into reelection, he's going to get probably more credit for keeping his word than anything else because most people don't get into the machination of why we are in Syria, who the Kurds are, who the Turks and what's stake.

They understand the fact that we've been doing this intervention and fighting in these interventions in various countries for years on end and have lost focus on why we're there and the president's commitment to bring them home probably resonates more than the policy does.

KURTZ: Well, it's certainly true that he did campaigned against wars and still talks about it on impeachment. It seems to me that many journalists and pundits have sort of ratcheted up their rhetoric since the president a few days ago said he's not cooperating with the White House investigation that he views as illegitimate.

Now I know he says the Democrats are being totally unfair to Republican in terms of process, but doesn't that the press an opening, a sort of prime opportunity to accuse the White House of stonewalling?

SPICER: It does give them an opening, but I don't know that it's fair, because if you look both at the Nixon and the Clinton impeachment, the House did vote and there certain formalities that are afford today that, to the president then in terms of being able to call witnesses having due process.

Pelosi and the Democrats want to have it both ways. They want to talk about an impeachment but they don't want to put the 31 Democrats who are in Trump seats on the record as far as what they're going to vote. And it's really easy to say stuff and to go through the motions without actually having to call a spade a spade and that's where I think that they are playing cute by half.

Pelosi wants to talk about an impeachment but she doesn't actually want to put her members on record of it. If she's so committed to doing this it on the record, vote for it like they did in Clinton and Nixon and then you can move forward and then it's a different game.

But the president is basically calling her bluff and saying, if you want to go through with this put your members on the record --


SPICER: -- because she knows that she's been swaging far left right now but she's trying to have it both ways and walk that tight rope and not put those 31 Democrats at risk --

KURTZ: Speaking --

SPICER: -- and frankly, her majority, her speakership.

KURTZ: I'm sure you mean democrats and moderates there. Speaking of the Democrats --


KURTZ: -- the president says again and again that the press which he now calls the corrupt media is partners with the Democrats in this whole impeachment investigation. Do you buy that, and if you do, do you think it's true of all journalists?

SPICER: Well, I've never -- I've always said that you don't throw the baby with bath water, there's a lot of journalists that I think don't do a good job, a lot of journalists who I think sensationalized and take things to an extreme.

But I don't think that it's smart to cast all of the journalists with the same broad brush because then you can't hold up the ones that I think do - do a good job and there are several. But I think, you know, if you look back to Mollie's point a moment ago with respect to Syria, you've got a lot of journalists even with respect to the Syria policy decision who are coming out and giving their own opinion.

Your Richard Engel example was spot on, where he's talking about it being a stain, that's not reporting, that's commentary. And you're seeing the same thing with impeachment, that they are basically shielding Hunter Biden and Joe Biden from their past while going after the president.

And there's a fair question to ask why did Hunter Biden get $50,000 a month from a Ukrainian energy company when he had no experience in the energy field whatsoever, the only experience he had was being the son of a sitting vice president that was leading on Ukrainian issues.


KURTZ: That is absolutely --

SPICER: That's a fair question. And I --

KURTZ: Absolutely a fair question to ask. Absolutely, I agree with you.

SPICER: But Howie, here is the thing. Here's the difference. Not just asking the question but I read commentary over and over again in some of these news stories where it'll say Biden did nothing wrong. Well, that's not their job. We don't know if Biden did or didn't do anything, we don't know why Hunter Biden got that job.

And for journalists to make that assertion in stories is basically them coming to the defense of the Democrats and Biden without knowing the facts, and it's amazing the way --

KURTZ: Right.

SPICER: -- that they rush to defend Biden and immediately crucify the president.

KURTZ: Well, there is a distinction between the appearance of getting all that money with no experience which stinks and the question of criminal wrongdoing. But before we go, you're out there in L.A., you're still on Dancing with the Stars, but in a post-show interview with Erin Andrews you dropped some curse words that you had to be bleeped, what were you thinking?

SPICER: No, that's not accurate. If you go back --


KURTZ: It's fake news?

SPICER: -- -- I've got the live version of it and I didn't --

KURTZ: What? It's fake news?

SPICER: Well, I did not, no, I was excited but I did not.


SPICER: No. I'm -- I am definitely excited to go out every week but I've heard the live version of this.

KURTZ: All right. Sean Spicer, very great to see you as always, thanks so much.

SPICER: Thanks, Howie.

KURTZ: And we'll watch him dancing. Coming up, Joe Biden calls for impeachment, slams the New York Times really. And why conservative journalists are so divided over the Trump presidency. Jonah Goldberg is up next.


KURTZ: Joe Biden who just came out for impeachment the other day is really unhappy with the New York Times as deputy campaign chief firing up a letter to Times editor Dean Baquet over its coverage of the allegations about Hunter Biden profiting from the family name in Ukraine and elsewhere.

The letter says the paper played an outside role in a smear campaign, this has been a baseless conspiracy theory spread by the likes of Breitbart and Russia propaganda before stories by Times reporter Ken Vogel.

Joining us Jonah Goldberg, Fox News contributor and long-time National View columnist who's just launched the conservative news site called The Dispatch with former Weekly Standard editor Steve Hayes.

So, what explains the Biden campaign is so outraged the New York Times would actually report on the allegations of profiteering by Hunter Biden.

JONAH GOLDBERG, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, my understanding is from the letter is that the thing that actually set the off was this op-ed by Peter Schweizer who is, you know, he builds himself as investigative conservative reporter, he's associated with Breitbart and he is one of the guys who has really pushed a lot of the Ukraine stuff into the media bloodstream.

KURTZ: So, they published an op-ed, by the way.

GOLDBERG: Right. I agree.


GOLDBERG: They published an op-ed. Op-ed pages are different than news pages. They seem to have confused that, but it seems that there's a lot of pinned up sort of kindling in their raged from the coverage that the Times had in the past.

KURTZ: Right. Now the president is tweeting today where is Hunter? He has totally disappeared. But several organizations are reporting on the statement where Hunter Biden's lawyer is saying he has now quit the board of the Chinese backed investment firm and then he won't do any foreign business if his dad wins the presidency.

OK. So, I mentioned earlier, Biden on impeachment, he's kind of one of the last ones, take a look at it.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe he should be impeached. But we have to remember that impeachment isn't the only about what the president has done, it's about a president and the threat of president composing the nation.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: So, Biden is dropping like a rock, I don't think he is going to make it.


KURTZ: So, Biden saying this is obviously a pretty big story. Should the press also be focusing the fact that he's not doing any interviews, he just says these things in speeches.

GOLDBERG: Yes. Well, it's funny. I actually wrote a comment saying he would be smart to run a front porch campaign a long time ago because he doesn't give good interviews and he doesn't give good speeches very much. You know. He does seem to have lost the step.

I think one of the reasons why he had to come out for impeachment is first of all, the base just demands it.

KURTZ: Right.

GOLDBERG: But second of all, his experience is basic -- the Biden name is at the center of the case for impeachment and it's very difficult for him to sort of tap into that excitement among Democrats unless he's actually for impeachment. So, it's a political buy in for him whether or not impeachment itself makes sense, it makes sense for him to call for it.

KURTZ: Well, I would say take it on in interviews, but maybe you're right. What is your view of the president's abrupt decision to pull U.S. troops out of northern Syria and what is it that so many conservatives in the media have felt really free to pounce him on this issue unlike so many others?

GOLDBERG: Yes. I think it's indefensible on two levels, first of all, I think the policy is indefensible. President Trump is right to brag about how he helped defeat ISIS and clear out ISIS but one of the prices that we paid for clearing out ISIS was making a commitment to the Kurds that we were going to honor commitments to the Kurds.

And so, I think just on a policy level, literally betraying the Kurds is outrageous and indefensible but also the way the policies was implemented, if this is your end goal, if this is the policy that you want to pursue, build support for it, make the case to congress, work within the bureaucracy and within the Pentagon, don't blind side them all including the Kurds that you basically throw them on a wood ship at the last minute.

KURTZ: Right. So, what explains the fact that so many commentators, journalists on the right as well, as a whole number of Republicans feel that it's OK to criticize the president on this really sharply --


KURTZ: -- whereas on many other issues they are pretty much supporting him?

GOLDBERG: Well, I think first of all, I think on the actual policy itself there's just legitimate concern about it but beyond that politically, this also gives you an excuse to say, hey, look, I'm not in the tank for the president, I criticized him on this stuff but I also think impeachment is unwarranted.

And you actually saw this week on Twitter the president give permission in an effect to his supporters to disagree with him on this. He is not attacking them in a way that you would think he would on some other issues.

KURTZ: Right. Now in The Dispatch, your venture with Steve Hayes, you say that you'll report news and commentary, that doesn't come through the filter of the mainstream media or the increasingly boost towards media on the right. Do you mean that many of your conservative colleagues have become cheerleaders for this president?

GOLDBERG: I think that there's a lot of cheerleading going on particularly on the opinion side of things, particularly on the sort of punditocracy side of things.

One of the things that we have seen in the last 40 years is that as the parties have gotten much weaker, a lot of people in the media have taken up party functions in effect and they carry water for a party or a president or a politician.

KURTZ: Oppo research, for example?

GOLDBERG: Yes. And some of that oppo research is fine and legitimate.


GOLDBERG: An important function of journalism to sort of look into what the other side is doing. And so that kind of stuff doesn't offend me in any way, I'm not some sort of journalistic sold. But I also think that there's a place for committed conservatives like Steve and I and the people who are hiring to hold our own side accountable from time to time.

KURTZ: All right. We will be watching with interest, Jonah Goldberg, thanks for dropping by this Sunday.

GOLDBERG: I appreciate it.

KURTZ: After the break, a new Ronan Farrow book with damaging evidence about NBC's botching of the Harvey Weinstein scandal and the bombshell accusation against Matt Lauer that he is strongly disputing.


KURTZ: Ronan Farrow's new book is stirring anger and resentment at NBC, his former network, in part because of a new on the record allegation by ex-staffer Brooke Nevils that Matt Lauer raped her five years ago which he strongly denies and drawing this response from his Today Show colleagues.


SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, CO-HOST, NBC NEWS: You know, this is shocking and appalling, and I honestly don't even know what to say about it.

HODA KOTB, CO-HOST, NBC NEWS: Or their allegations of a crime and I think that's shocking to all of us here who've sat with Matt for many, many years.


KURTZ: Farrow's book "Catch and Kill" says top NBC executives knew about Lauer's alleged misconduct well before they fired him the elite two years ago.


RONAN FARROW, AUTHOR, CATCH AND KILL: There were multiple secret settlements and nondisclosures being struck with women at NBC --



FARROW: -- years before, over a period of six to seven years, a period on which NBC had previously denied --



FARROW: -- any settlements. There were seven nondisclosure agreements, multiple ones of those were with Matt Lauer accusers. This is years before this incident with Brooke Nevils and the firing.


FARROW: And I spoke to senior executives who were told about those earlier incidents.


FARROW: Indeed.


KURTZ: Joining us now is Emily Jashinsky, culture editor at Federalist. And NBC News chairman Andy Lack had said all along Lauer was fired 24 hours after this (Inaudible) about this rape accusation.

But if Ronan Farrow's reporting is right and there were confidential settlements over the years and Harvey Weinstein was trying to spike Farrow's story about him by essentially threatening to reveal some allegations about Lauer. How badly does it all damage the network's credibility?

EMILY JASHINSKY, CULTURE EDITOR, THE FEDERALIST: It damages their credibility immensely. NBC has yet to advance, I think a credible defense of itself. They may be deploying some really careful legal language but to reconcile the very specific reporting from Ronan Farrow which based on what he's told us about his book and what has come out about his book from other news outlets who have obtained copies, it is very specific, it is well sourced, it is based on documentation.

To say that he has seen evidence of other settlements that predate Lauer's firing by years and multiple ones is almost impossible to reconcile with NBC's story, and NBC did not, by the way, do an independent review, they did not hire an outside group to examine what happened with the Matt Lauer case. And that, which a lot of other news outlets said when some of the stuff came out back in the height of Me Too, NBC did not do that. So, we still I don't think have a lot of credible information about what happened.

KURTZ: Right. Now obviously many media organizations including Fox, CBS and others who have problems with these kinds of accusations and settlements. but former NBC staffers, I mentioned Brooke Nevils she went on the record with Farrow saying that while she was very drunk Matt Lauer anally raped her in his hotel room at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. And she essentially accused him of victim blaming.

But Lauer says in a lengthy open letter that this is categorically false that she was a willing participant and that they had sex numerous times after that disputed incident. Is it too late for Matt Lauer who says it was a mistake to remain silent all this time to redeem his reputation?

JASHINSKY: I don't know if there's ever going to be a real opportunity for Matt Lauer to redeem his reputation because what's come out is so damning. And I think we're on an uncomfortable place where Matt Lauer has every right to defend himself but it may not be a persuasive to anyone and I doubt actually frankly that it would have been persuasive to anybody at the time.

KURTZ: By the way, there's a Hillary angle to this story. Hillary -- Harvey Weinstein was a big Democratic donor including to Hillary Clinton. Ronan Farrow worked for Hillary at the State Department and was seeking her cooperation or interview on foreign policy book. And according to Ronan Farrow Hillary spokesman called him, Farrow, and said this big story that you're working on is a concern to us. So, it just shows the tentacles of Harvey Weinstein.

Meanwhile, let me play another clip from Farrow's interview on Good Morning America about NBC's decision to pull the plug on his reporting.


FARROW: The point is that they order to hire staff to reporting. They told me and the producer working on this that we should not take a single call, they told us to cancel interviews. The question for years has been why.


KURTZ: Now Farrow says not only did NBC spiked the story, what happened was he left, he went to the New Yorker. He says about a month later he published a piece that of course won a Pulitzer Prize, he said while he was on NBC, he had women on the record despite what NBC says. He said he had a tape confession from Weinstein in a groping incident but Andy Lack says the story was lacking insufficient evidence. Who is winning this argument right now?

JASHINSKY: I think Ronan Farrow is winning this argument, his producer by the way, his former producer at NBC backs him up on this. And there's a key piece of this puzzle which is that Ronan Farrow had that famous audiotape of Harvey Weinstein when he was working on the story for NBC, he had an audio clip, a taped confession, and NBC was, you know, by its own admissions didn't think the story was worth pursuing in certain -- in a certain time frame.

KURTZ: This is when Weinstein was trying to get into the hotel of an Italian model.


KURTZ: Right.


KURTZ: So that in on itself would seem to be a story.

JASHINSKY: Exactly. And the fact that they were sort of pulling back and, you know, that's huge. I mean, you don't have that audio clip and not go, I think peddle to the metal on a story like that.

KURTZ: Right.

JASHINSKY: I mean, and Harvey Weinstein is an important piece of this Ronan Farrow puzzle because and his producer backs him up on this that Weinstein had some stuff on Matt Lauer, that he tried to leverage to kill the story at NBC.

KURTZ: Right. There's a lot more to unpack here.


KURTZ: Emily Jashinsky, thank you so much for joining us.

Still to come, Shep Smith is leaving Fox News, we'll look at his surprise announcement.


KURTZ: Shephard Smith was been an anchor at this network since its launched stunned the media world and most of us here with his announcement on Friday.


SHEPARD SMITH, ANCHOR, FOX NEWS: So recently I asked the company to allow me to leave Fox News after requesting that I stay they obliged. Even in our currently polarized nation it's my hope that the facts will win the day, that the truth will always matter, that journalism and journalists will thrive.

I'm Shephard Smith, Fox News, New York.


KURTZ: Tributes poured in from the daytime anchors, colleagues from Brit Hume to Sean Hannity. Fox News president Jay Wallace called him one of the premier newscasters of his generation.


NEIL CAVUTO, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: A better newsman you probably cannot find, again, a bigger more emotionally connected to humankind you cannot find.


KURTZ: And there were praise from somewhat rival networks, especially those who saw Shep has consistently challenging the administration. Now it's no secret that President Trump was no fan of Shep's, sometimes jabbing him on Twitter and on Friday he made a sarcastic comment about his departure questioning his ratings even though Smith was number one in his time slot before saying I wish Shepard Smith well.

You can forget about the wild conspiracy theories out there that the Trump team wanted him out that this means a new direction for Fox, when it was Shep who approached management last month and said he we wanted to step down and he was asked to reconsider. That's a fact.

Whether or not you like Shep Smith outspoken approach to fact-checking the White House, this is an extraordinary newsman, one who loves spending hours on the air when a hurricane struck and he left his mark.

That's it for this edition of "Media Buzz." I'm Howard Kurtz. I think you'll enjoy my daily podcast "Media Buzz Meter" and you can subscribe at Apple iTunes, Google Play, or on your Amazon Alexa device. We also hope you'll like our Facebook page. We post my daily columns there and original videos. And let's continue the conversation on Twitter with so much to talk about in this crazy news environment.

We're back here next Sunday morning, 11 Eastern, you know the time. We'll see you then with the latest Buzz.

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