Media pounce as Trump rips judges

This is a rush transcript from "Media Buzz," November 25, 2018. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: On Buzz Meter this Sunday, a clash over the courts between Donald Trump and John Roberts unleashes round-the-clock coverage as the president derides Obama judges, and the chief justice insists all judges are independent.


MOLLY BALL, TIME: Justice Roberts didn't pick this fight, the president did, and this has been literally years of attacks on the legitimacy of the court and on individual judges.

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: We've seen a president really trying to get Americans not to trust the judicial branch of our government. I never thought I would live to see this day, Brian.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN: What really seems to come down to for him is that judges are like everyone else, you are either with him or you are against him.

ANDREW MCCARTHY, NATIONAL REVIEW: I don't want to blame President Trump here because I think it was unseemly for the chief justice to go after the president in the first place, which is clearly what he did.


KURTZ: But should the president admit that most judges usually vote in a partisan way?

The media pounding the president over a New York Times report that he told a top aide he wanted to order the Justice Department to prosecute Hillary Clinton and Jim Comey.


ARI MELBER, MSNBC: This is the president trying to directly order through McGahn as intermediator to DOJ these prosecutions of Comey and Clinton. This is huge banana republic-type territory.

CARL BERNSTEIN, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: This is a defining moment in the history of the Trump presidency because this is a demonstration of his unfitness to be president of the United States, of his abuse of presidential power, of his embrace of authoritarianism.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: Does that sound like breaking news to you? Because it isn't, it shouldn't, and because we know how the president feels about Hillary and Comey, and we know Hillary committed crimes. It is not even in dispute.


KURTZ: But given that the president took no action has the coverage gone overboard.

Thunderous media condemnation of the president for backing Saudi Arabia after his owns CIA found that crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, ordered the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Does Trump ignoring evidence about the brutal killing or following past presidents in cooperating with a murderous regime?

Plus, the featured guest at the next White House Correspondents' Dinner would be an author, not a comedian that caused last year's train wreck.


MICHELLE WOLF, COMEDIAN: If a tree falls in the woods, how do we get Kellyanne under that tree?


WOLF: I'm not suggesting she gets hurt, just stuck.


KURTZ: Could the safe choice get the journalism dinner back on track? I'm Howard Kurtz and this is Media Buzz.

A Thanksgiving tousle began when a federal judge in San Francisco where the decidedly liberal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is based temporarily blocked President Trump from denying asylum appeals to immigrants who crossed the southern border. The president lashed out at the Ninth Circuit.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: You go to the Ninth Circuit and it's a disgrace, and I'm going to put in a major complaint. Because you cannot win, if you're us, a case in the Ninth Circuit. And I think it is a disgrace. This was an Obama judge. And I'll tell you what, it's not going to happen like this anymore.


KURTZ: The Associated Press asked the chief justice for comment. Roberts, a George W. Bush appointee, responded by criticizing the president for the first time. "We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges. What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them."

The coverage reached saturation levels when Trump fired back on Twitter, calling the Ninth Circuit rulings very dangerous and unwise. "Sorry, Chief Justice John Roberts, but you do indeed have Obama judges, and they have a much different point of view than the people who are charged with the safety of our country."

Joining us now to analyze the coverage: Mollie Hemingway, senior editor at The Federalist and a Fox News contributor; Capri Cafaro, a Washington Examiner contributor and former Democratic state senator; and Sara Fischer, media reporter for Axios.

Mollie, the press is playing this as an extraordinary rebuke by the chief justice, who is very publicly telling the president, rather than Obama judges, Trump judges, Clinton judges, that he views judges as independent.

MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, THE FEDERALIST: It was an extraordinary rebuke from the chief justice. It was also a kind of surprising to hear someone say it. The idea that we don't have judges who have one particular viewpoint or another is frankly ludicrous.

It is why we have these big fights when we have Supreme Court nominees. It is why it becomes a major issue when people are running for president. And the Ninth Circuit in particular is one which has a tremendous rate of getting its rulings overturned. It is where people go to. They sort of shop around and they try and get cases there so that they can get overturned because they are known for being so partisan.

So, it was a very surprising thing for him to say. It is like -- I think what he was trying to say was that ideally, we would have a judiciary that was independent, but to not deal with the reality that we have some pretty big problems in the judiciary is something worth commenting.

KURTZ: Well, I just note that there also are conservative circuits and during the Obama administration, a lot of cases like in Texas, for example, tried to get a favorable ruling.

Sara, is the press flying into sort of civics lesson version, a kind of a hope or the idealism of all judges rule case-by-case, which they all say they are going to do at the confirmation hearings and then of course mostly, with some exceptions, they vote in particular ways?

SARA FISCHER, AXIOS: Yeah, I actually agree with Mollie on this one. I think that the press is kind of buying into this idea that, OK, Chief Justice Roberts is doing something that's totally unprecedented by calling this out, but in reality, we know that these judges are humans, they are fought over so that they can have their perspectives be represented on the court. So I think that they are kind of going a little bit too far here.

KURTZ: But isn't the press, Capri, pushing back against Trump's rebuttal about, you know, judges and so forth because they view this as his effort to sort of undermine the legitimacy of this ruling?

CAPRI CAFARO, FORMER OHIO SENATE MINORITY LEADER: Right. I think that there is some legitimacy to that argument that, you know, well, I think the overarching issue is one of aspirational about the justice system versus the reality. I think that the way that the media is couching it is in this context that Donald Trump doesn't have respect for the judicial system, tries to intercede in the judicial system.

And one thing that really struck me about what I will loosely call here as coverage is the absolute volume of opinion pieces, whether it is from CNN, The News York Times, The New Yorker, The Hill, basically telling the American public what to think and how to interpret this issue, and how we need to --

KURTZ: Not what opinion writers do?

CAFARO: Yes, my issue here is that the volume of opinion versus just straight coverage on this particular issue to me as I was reviewing was pretty almost like lopsided.

KURTZ: This has come up before, Mollie, during the campaign. Candidate Trump attacked Judge Curiel who was hearing the Trump University lawsuit and saying Mexican-American judge couldn't be fair. So the press indictment is that the president doesn't respect the independence of the judiciary.

HEMINGWAY: There are many things that Trump has said that are worthy of criticism, that being a great example.

The issue though that you can't talk about how we have a judiciary that has political bias, I mean, if it weren't true, why do the media always say when a Republican-nominated judge does something they like, if it wasn't something that was a real issue, they wouldn't have need to point out whether someone was Republican-nominated or Democrat-nominated.

But they do. They do it because we all know it is a significant issue that plays into their rulings.

KURTZ: There have been a striking number of court rulings against President Trump. So I think what some people don't understand is if you're a conservative, it does appear biased as the president often said, it feels partisan. CAFARO: It's going to feel partisan, but I mean, again, I think that, you know, the Ninth Circuit is more liberal I think than most you mentioned, Texas, for example. The Sixth Circuit where Ohio is has consistently ruled more conservatively.

So, you know, I think that there is a feeling there, but I think that, you know, there is also newsworthiness in this in the sense that when you have the chief justice of the United States Supreme Court in a war of words with the president of the United States, that is something that is newsworthy regardless of the actual context of judges being politically-appointed.

KURTZ: And the newsworthiness goes up when it's a day before Thanksgiving and not that much else is going on. There is an above average rate of reversals by the Supreme Court for the Ninth Circuit, but there are some other circuits that have entirely.

The same theme in a different story, the same argument really, Sara, is about the independence of the Justice Department. This is a New York Times story that was treated as a huge bombshell. It said that President Trump, according to two unnamed sources familiar with the conversation, had ordered his then White House counsel Don McGahn -- told his White House counsel, excuse me, that he wanted to order the Justice Department to prosecute Hillary Clinton and former FBI Director James Comey.

CNN went nuts over this. MSNBC went nuts over this. Fox covered it more sparingly. How big a story is this?

FISCHER: It is a big story. The president is not supposed to be meddling in any affairs of an independent branch of government, but this is not completely new, which is why the amount of coverage is interesting.

We saw him did this on the campaign trail, vowing to break up AT&T and Time Warner's merger which is something that goes to the DOJ. He has tried to undermine Amazon through the DOJ.

So, we have seen him try to use this as a political tool. This is different, however, because it is not a specific case, it is looking into two individuals for a crime.

KURTZ: Who are political rivalries of president. So let me set up my question, Mollie, by recalling this greatest hits moment from the second presidential debate in 2016.


TRUMP: If I win, I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation because there has never been so many lies, so much deception.

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: It is just awfully good that someone with the temperament of Donald Trump is not in charge of the law in our country.

TRUMP: Because you would be in jail.


KURTZ: So what Trump defenders in the media are saying, Mollie, is well, the president didn't do it, he didn't take any action, these were just conversations.

HEMINGWAY: First of all, I would point out that the Department of Justice is not independent of the president. The president is the civilian who oversees that department. And it is very important that law enforcement have political accountability because that is what you need whether you're in a city, police force, or whether you're the country at large.

KURTZ: I agree with you.

HEMINGWAY: Donald Trump oversees the Justice Department. KURTZ: Right. He has the power and the authority to set broad goals for the Justice Department. There is a tradition that the president doesn't directly meddle in criminal prosecution.

HEMINGWAY: Sure. And I think actually the big story is he promised that he would go after Hillary Clinton. There are things that should be gone after and he in fact backed off from that as soon as he was elected.

And this entire story which was sourced to two anonymous people who were supposedly familiar with the conversation is about how he didn't order any prosecution of Hillary Clinton.

But more than that, I think we also should think about how politicized the Justice Department had gotten. When we currently have a special counsel going after Donald Trump supposedly for the crime of treason like colluding with Russia to steal an election --

KURTZ: Appointed by the deputy attorney general, I would note.

CAFARO: Who was also incited in this whole thing by Rosenstein.

HEMINGWAY: We do have some problems with political prosecutions. Yo saw in the Hillary Clinton investigation that the Justice Department had her and a bunch of other people on false statements. They didn't prosecute those.

Have you seen that with the special counsel where anyone who makes a false statement is charged to the fullest? So you want to make sure you have a Justice Department that is seen as being not political. I don't think they are in that place right now. But this story -- CAFARO: They are actually less political because they are actually following the letter of the law where previously as you just mentioned they weren't.

HEMINGWAY: No, they have -- they actually have widely way, whether they choose to prosecute or not, but they should be consistent in how they do it. KURTZ: Getting back to the Times story, by the way, the White House had no comment from the story, didn't have this outrage denial that this was fake news. It is interesting.

The fact that the president didn't do anything may be, according to the story, because Don McGahn, White House counsel, had White House lawyers write up a memo and presented to the president saying there will be dire political consequences.

If you do this, you will be accused of abuse of power and it could possibly lead to impeachment. So, he did his job as he saw it in sort of protecting the president.

CAFARO: Right. And now Don McGahn is gone. So let's not forget that. I mean, I think that, you know, maybe --

KURTZ: Not suggesting that these --

CAFARO: No, absolutely not. I'm not saying -- I'm just saying that, you know, the absence of that potential check and balance is, you know, is no longer there and I think that that is significant. One thing that I did notice in all this is that, you know, the issue of the acting attorney general also sort of brought into this Matt Whitaker.

And, you know, he actually -- I guess according to these unnamed sources said he was ready to talk about this issue but at the same time wanted to placate Trump but didn't want to cross a line. I'm fascinated that there isn't more coverage on the role of Matt Whitaker in these conversations about political abuse of power.

KURTZ: There has been some critical coverage because of his history of criticizing Mueller investigation. I think some of that will come back. And also, Sara, because the president just submitted written answers to Mueller's questions and has made pretty clear he does not plan to testify in person. There has been a debate about that for about a year.

So, does this story in The New York Times have more resonance now because Mueller seems to be wrapping things up and also because of the acting A.G.?

FISCHER: I think it does a little bit. And sort of going back to Mollie's point, I just want to say that the president has time and time again tried to undermine the judicial -- you know, the DOJ in his own way or form whether it's a tweet, et cetera, when he feels as though they are encroaching upon the Mueller investigation. And so the timing here, I think, is important.

KURTZ: You say undermine. Isn't he entitled to express his opinion?

FISCHER: He is entitled to express his opinion of course, but kind of going after the DOJ which I know he has brought oversight of it, but it really is supposed to be acting independently of him. It is not something most presidents do.

KURTZ: All right. As this is heating up, I got to get a break. Ahead, a media uproar over Ivanka Trump using private e-mail, but are the comparisons to Hillary a little bit off the mark?

And when we come back, the press unloading on President Trump for sticking with the Saudis after new findings in the Jamal Khashoggi murder.


KURTZ: President Trump proclaimed that Saudi Arabia remains a close American ally following the brutal murder of Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi. This after Trump's own CIA concluded the killing was ordered by MBS, Saudi crown prince Mohammmed bin Salman.

The president wrote that the crown prince might have had advance knowledge, maybe he did and maybe he didn't, and was pressed by reporters.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice over): Mr. President, why are you siding with the Saudis over your own intelligence community?

TRUMP: Because it's America first to me. It's all about America first. Saudi Arabia, if we broke with them, I think your oil prices would go through the roof. I have kept them down.

DAVID IGNATIUS, WASHINGTON POST: Jamal was my colleague and my friend. I was shocked to see the president in such a cold-blooded way. But his definition of U.S. national interests ahead of values.

HANNITY: As evil as this kingdom is, as I have said over the years, the president is right, Saudi Arabia has now emerged at an important point in history as a partner in the Middle East.


KURTZ: Mollie Hemingway, you have written that many in the media misinterpreted Donald Trump's policy on this because he has moved away from foreign intervention, for example, particularly those based on morality. But it is still striking for so many in the media to hear him say of the crown prince despite the CIA findings, maybe he did, maybe he didn't.

HEMINGWAY: First of all, I want to point out that we have word of what the CIA findings were because there was an anonymous leak. We don't have anything that we can point to.

KURTZ: Right. There is no report we can read.

HEMINGWAY: And then there is also the issue of whether the CIA should be setting foreign policy, whether they have a good track record of trying to dictate foreign policy in the Middle East. We have in recent decade seen where they did not do a very good job.

KURTZ: Slam dunking Iraq, perhaps.

HEMINGWAY: Yes. So the idea that they should be setting it, I think, is one of the errors that we saw in the media coverage. In general though, yes, Donald Trump has a very different foreign policy than what we saw in the Republican Party and in the Democratic Party over the last few decades.

We had this idea, we had sort of an experiment with spreading democracy or spreading American values, that this would be -- we would invade countries and they would greet us as liberators as Dick Cheney said and then it would all go very well. Well, it didn't go very well.

We've had a bunch of failures. We've had a bunch of money and a bunch of lives lost. And I think that the American people were not as elated with that approach --

KURTZ: Yeah.

HEMINGWAY: -- but you're seeing in the media coverage, they are still all in on this, spreading American values as a way -- as being the primary issue in foreign policy. Donald Trump says it is national interest, what is our interest at home at what is our interest abroad? It is very different.

KURTZ: Sara Fischer, I will grant that Jamal Khashoggi, his case got far more coverage than if it had been some dissident because of The Washington Post connection, because he was an opinion journalist. But the Saudis lied repeatedly about his murder.

First, that he walked out of that consulate, then said it was fist fight. I mean, it's a whole litany of lies here. And now, Trump's CIA -- he says these are CIA's feelings, not findings. But (INAUDIBLE) says the guy running Saudi Arabia day today ordered this murder and that has led to the media denunciations.

FISCHER: Yeah, I mean, as a reporter, you can't help but look at the evidence of everything that we have seen so far. First, they say he walked out of the embassy and that he's alive. Then they're saying, well, he died but it was in a fist fight. And then you have people that are now being persecuted by MBS for what they are saying is a gruesome killing.

So I think the problem here is that we know that they have been lying. In other cases, we have seen really gruesome situations, but the president is defending someone who we know has lied to the entire world about the situation. I mean, it looks foolish.

KURTZ: Capri Cafaro, is it fair then for the media to go to the next step? Donald Trump, he always sides with autocrats, or he only cares about Saudi oil dollars. There are other things to consider in the complex relationship between two countries.

CAFARO: Sure. Actually, CNBC made the point that, you know, this may be more, you know, President Trump is more transactional. One of the things that he may get out of this is the Saudis stepping away from Yemen, for example. So he might actually get something out of this.

But there is, I think, undeniably a trend here that warrants coverage and scrutiny. When you saw Trump standing next to Putin, talking about, well, we are not really sure what our intelligence community and our law enforcement says about election interference, and obviously his cozy relationship with the leader of North Korea.

So, there is, I think, an argument to be made there, but is it a step too far? I don't know. Maybe not.

HEMINGWAY: This is an intelligence community that went to war with the president several years ago, has done -- politicized the leaking. You have not seen anyone really held accountable for it yet even though some of these leaks were very bad.

CAFARO: It doesn't take away the fact that the president of the United States --

HEMINGWAY: If you want the president to trust you, you probably should behave in a slightly different way. KURTZ: Quick question, is it fair for the press to say, to jump on Trump over this when previous presidents without the hot spotlight of such a high profile murder, also cooperated with Saudi Arabia despite all kinds of terrible things?

HEMINGWAY: It is not just Saudi Arabia. We have frequently made alliances with people who are very bad, most notably in World War II with the Soviet Union, which committed human atrocities on a scale that's almost unimaginable. Sometimes you do it because you have other interests in mind. It is not good. It is bad. We don't like it.

CAFARO: Arming the Afghans against the Soviets. KURTZ: All right, we got to go. Sara Fischer, Capri Cafaro. Mollie, we will see you later in the program.

Ahead, it is not just Republicans and Democrats, even independents have a big beef with the media as Frank Luntz will demonstrate.

But up next, what if anything, have we learned from CNN's legal fight with the White House over Jim Acosta?


KURTZ: The White House ramp up its efforts to revoke Jim Acosta's press pass after a federal judge in that lawsuit by CNN ordered his credentials temporarily restored. But then officials reversed themselves and agreed to permanently gave the reporter back his hard pass. CNN dropped the lawsuit and basked in the outcome.


DAVID GERGEN, CNN: I must say this has been a significant victory for CNN and the country. We have now reinforced through the courts and through the White House backing down. We reinforced the sanctity of the First Amendment.


KURTZ: The White House criticized by the judge for a lack of due process issued rules that say every reporter who is called on gets one question with followups at the the president's discretion and must give up the mic afterwards, precisely what Acosta failed to do or refused to do at his press conference confrontation with Trump.

This was largely a symbolic victory for the press because the judge said this wasn't on First Amendment grounds. It doesn't erase the widely criticized grandstanding by Jim Acosta, but there is no denying that CNN suit forced the administration to back down.

The White House sends a strong message that disruptions and news conferences won't be tolerated. And it would be encouraging, in my view, if both the president and the press were a bit more civil at these televised spectacles.

When Facebook's mounting problems are disclosed, Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg often react too slowly in attempt to minimize the misconduct. It was days after a New York Times investigation found the two executives holding back crucial information about Russian infiltration and phony news and hiring a Republican P.R. firm using questionable tactics that Zuckerberg sat down with CNN's Laurie Segall.

She asked him about that company, Definers Public Affairs, linking Facebook's critics to Democratic donor and Jewish philanthropist George Soros, calling that a common tactic among anti-Semitic groups.


LAURIE SEGALL, SENIOR TECHNOLOGY CORRESPONDENT: Does that strike you as stooping low?

MARK ZUCKERBERG, FACEBOOK: Yeah, I wasn't happy about that piece of it, and that's certainly a big part of what -- when I read about this, what made me want to look into this more deeply. The intention was never to attack an individual.


KURTZ: He wasn't particularly happy. But Facebook admitted on the eve of Thanksgiving, asking for the Soros story. And Sheryl Sandberg in direct contradiction of her previous denials knew about the Definers which Facebook fired after the Times report.

"Some of their work was incorporated to materials presented to me and I received a small number of e-mails where Definers was referenced." Sandberg said in a blog post taking full responsibility.

Well, so much for pleading ignorance. In the same post, outgoing Facebook policy chief, Elliot Schrage, defended Definers' tactics and said the firm went too far. "I am sorry I let you all down. I regret my own failure here." You know what? We all regret Facebook's failures.

And on Media Buzz, the next White House Correspondents Dinner won't feature a comedian, and the last comedian is really ticked off. But first, why everyone, even those in the middle, hate the press these days? Frank Luntz is in the house.


KURTZ: Everyone knows that most conservatives and most liberals are fed up with the media, but independents in a New Hampshire focus group assembled by Frank Luntz also see the news business as biased.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think the media treats anything fairly. I think the media is too skewed left and right. And they don't really see anything in the middle.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I will switch channels. I will do CNN, and then I'll go to Fox, and then, I'll go to MSNBC. And you can hear -- you can just sense the slant, but that information is helpful.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the media now has an agenda, whether it is Fox, CNN or whoever.

FRANK LUNTZ, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER: They often do tell the truth.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think they consistently tell the truth.


KURTZ: And joining us now here in Washington is Frank Luntz, the veteran Republican pollster. They don't seem as angry as some of your earlier focus groups, but they seem to share a disdain for what they view as the partisan media.

LUNTZ: There has been a deterioration of confidence, of trust in our institutions. It has been driven by politics. This election cycle is certainly one of the worst in terms of negativity that was put together by one people, the organizations to try to find some common ground. And, Howie, you've had me out here a few times. That is my mission for 2019. That's my New Year's resolution, to find a way that people can disagree without the anger, to find those areas where we still agree, even if we may disagree on the details. We got to do something. We can't live this way anymore.

KURTZ: Listen to these people. And they're talking about Fox, and MSNBC, and CNN, and they say it is biased. But it all occurs to me they are not making any distinction between news and opinion. And they're defining each network in a way by their pundits, at least that's how it seems to me.

LUNTZ: How can they make a distinction when those networks, including this one -- yes, privately, there is a distinction. There is a certain hour.

KURTZ: Private? When you watch Special Report of Bret Baier, we take Fox as an example, you're getting a newscast. When you watch prime time on Fox, or MSNBC, or CNN, you are getting people, who spout opinions...

LUNTZ: But the 11 pm show on Fox is supposed to be news, it's not supposed to be opinion. So it is not clear what you're getting at each specific time. It may be obvious to you.

KURTZ: You say it's confusing?

LUNTZ: It is confusing, but more importantly, there's nothing that has the public. Here's what I have found. And I have done focus groups in all 50 states, and that is my goal. In 2019, to find some way to go to 50 states in 50 weeks, to show the American people what they themselves are thinking and saying and believing.

There are so many shows that have Howard Kurtz on it and have Sean Hannity, and have the people in CNN, in MSNBC. We get all the pundits we need, where we will never have -- never is the voice of the public. And that I think will begin to change the way we speak to each other.

KURTZ: Focus groups. But let me ask you this. If the media are, as I think you believe, fueling anger, fueling polarization, fueling partisanship, because that's what get clicks and ratings. Then isn't that the market at work, are they in a sense giving people what they want?

LUNTZ: But they have the ability. And I had this back and forth with Chuck Todd from NBC, because he was critical. He said there is a difference between the cable networks and broadcast networks. The broadcast networks they don't care what each of them think, but only pundits and broadcast networks don't view -- don't let people hear what each of them think. They only have the pundits. The broadcast networks put someone on the left and someone on the right.

So it automatically fuels this debate. What the public wants, they want the facts that they need, they want the information they deserve, but they want to know that they're being told the truth. And the problem is they are not getting what they need and they're not getting what they deserve.

KURTZ: You got a wave of positive reaction when you're on this program last time talking about this stuff and anger and loss of faith in the media.

LUNTZ: It gives me a headache. There's yelling and screaming. It's too much.

KURTZ: OK. But then, there was a wave of negative reaction. And people -- some people are saying, isn't this the guy who worked with Newt Gingrich in 1994, in putting together the contract with America and suggested that the Democrats and their policies be described with such words as corrupt...

LUNTZ: OK, hold on, hold on. Those words are not mine. Those words are Joe Gable's words. And I want him -- thank you for doing that.


LUNTZ: I want the world to know I didn't write that. That came out of GOPAC and it came two years before I met Newt Gingrich. It came from -- when Joe Gable was running it. And because of the web and how it works, when one person writes something that is a lie, everyone else assumes it is true.

KURTZ: But the broader...

LUNTZ: I hate that language. That language is wrong. That language is awful.

KURTZ: But the broader point, Frank, is that you come out at a Republican - - Republican background and you suggested ways for Republicans to win elections, that was your job.

LUNTZ: But the contact with America...

KURTZ: Do you now -- do you now. OK, the 10 things that the Republicans want to do...

LUNTZ: And they made a commitment to do it.

KURTZ: And they won both House, the Congress.

LUNTZ: And if they didn't, they invited voters to throw them out. Howie, this thing you need more than anything else. In politics, in justice, in the media is accountability.

KURTZ: Do you -- have you read any of the tactics of your past and are you now moving to a different place when you talk about I want to spend 2019 finding common ground. That is not Frank Luntz, the partisan warrior.

LUNTZ: I'm not -- it's hard to be a partisan warrior when you see the damage that's done. I still have my philosophy. I still believe in a more efficient, more effective government I still believe in accountability.

KURTZ: Do you consider yourself a Republican?

LUNTZ: I don't know. I don't know anymore, because there are some things they don't believe in. I will give you a specific example. In the inner- city today, the programs, the Democratic programs, Howie, they've spent billions of dollars, have failed. And my mentees, people from good projects, good partners, I hope these guys are listening now, they are making a change that Republicans need to support. It is not pull yourself out by your bootstraps. If you have no boots to do it, and have no adults in your life to give you that direction, but it is also not spend billions of dollars trying to make a change because that won't work.

KURTZ: Is it because...

LUNTZ: If you want to repudiate that, absolutely.


LUNTZ: Programs of the left and the right don't work.

KURTZ: Let me ask this important follow-up. Is it because Donald Trump, who you have tangled a couple of times, this president that Frank Luntz consider at this table and say to me, I don't know whether I'm still Republican.

LUNTZ: I don't like the tone and demeanor of either of them. I think they both live to fight against each other. And what they should be is what Trump has said in his convention. It was the best comments Trump made in 2016, I will be your voice. That is what the American people are watching. I want to bring that voice to television in all 50 states. And I'm desperate for politicians who instead of speaking their own words will speak the words of the American people.

KURTZ: It sounds to me like you're becoming an independent without using those words, but I really appreciate the candid conversation. Frank Luntz, thanks very much for being here.

LUNTZ: Thank you.

KURTZ: Coming up, the flap over Ivanka's emails and payback time for the media's Hillary supporters.

Plus, now the featured guest at the next White House press is an actual journalist. Donald Trump says, hey, I might attend.


KURTZ: The Washington Post story on Ivanka Trump carried echoes of the Hillary Clinton email scandal, but even the paper acknowledged some serious differences. The Post said the president's daughter sent hundreds of emails to government officials last year from her private account, not a private server, which she blamed on not being fully briefed. Her team said the email that with official business a few of them, 100 times. Reporters asked her father about the possible House investigation.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you let Ivanka be interviewed?

TRUMP: Oh, Ivanka can handle herself. There was no deletion, whatsoever. Unlike Hillary Clinton who deleted 33,000 emails. Unlike Hillary Clinton who had a server in the basement, Ivanka didn't. This with just early on when she came in. These calls were not classified unlike Hillary Clinton's calls which were classified. And it's all fake news.


KURTZ: But the pundits especially on MSNBC and CNN were highly critical.


BRET STEPHENS, NEW YORK TIMES COLUMNIST: Maybe Ivanka Trump was asleep during her father's entire campaign or never believed he was going to win because what's really incredible about the story isn't what sounds to me like something like a misdemeanor offense. It's that her father having made this the central or a central issue of his campaign for president.

ALAN DERSHOWITZ, HARVARD LAW PROFESSOR EMERITUS: Ivanka Trump used the emails only for scheduling purposes. There was no classified material. The emails were all preserved. It is a nonissue, it's just partisan bickering.


KURTZ: Joining us from Chicago is Carley Shimkus, a reporter for Fox News Headlines 24/7 on Sirius XM. So, Carley, it seems clear that Ivanka Trump made a mistake and the press at the same time is being highly skeptical of her explanation that well, she hadn't been fully briefed and she didn't know this was a problem.

CARLEY SHIMKUS, FOX NEWS HEADLINES 24/7: Yeah, critics are definitely going to call the president a hypocrite on this one. And I know when I saw the headline initially, I was thinking how -- out of all the things, how could Ivanka Trump go down this road and make this mistake? But the president I thought did a good job pointing out some major differences.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should have known better, Ivanka Trump had no prior government experience. None of the emails were deleted, none were classified and all have apparently been officially recorded. At the same time, because this was such a major focus of President Trump's 2016 campaign would think that Ivanka Trump would have known better. So, is this embarrassing? Yeah, yeah, it is. Is it a major national security scandal? I don't think it rises to that level.

KURTZ: Right. I just want to remind people that Hillary Clinton did this for four years as Secretary of State, but did the Washington Post and then the rest of the media make clear that there were huge, really significant differences as you just enumerated, between Ivanka's situation and the self-inflicted mess that plagued Hillary Clinton's campaign?

SHIMKUS: Yeah. If you read the entire Washington Post article, who initially reported it, it is -- all the information is in there. But the headline is what really catches people's eye. And that makes it seem a little bit more similar. I think it was a fair and honest headline, but just the nature of the headline is very shocking in itself, which is why it became a top trending topic on Twitter and all the mockery came rolling in online. Was it deserving of that level of attention? Maybe because of how focused President Trump was on this issue. But like you said, they're not entirely similar or the same thing.

KURTZ: All right. Let's turn to the much criticized White House correspondents' dinner. The association announcing that -- I'm going to play a clip here, the speaker for the dinner is going to be a journalist and author -- an acclaimed author actually of the Hamilton biography, which I have just read. And it is absolutely fabulous, which actually then sprung the play. Ron Chernow. Here's Ron.


RON CHERNOW, ALEXANDER HAMILTON AUTHOR: I think that Hamilton would fit uncomfortably into an era of tweets and sound bytes. He was very rational, deeply intellectual in principle.


KURTZ: OK. And here is the featured guest last year, comedian, Michelle Wolf, taking a shot at Sarah Sanders.


WOLF: I actually really like Sarah. I think she is very resourceful. Like she burns facts, and then, she uses that ash to create a perfect smoking eye.


KURTZ: So now, Michelle Wolf comes out on Twitter and says, the White House Correspondents Association, a bunch of cowards. What do you make of that?

SHIMKUS: Yeah. Well, you know, just because, the comedian is not going to be performing during next year's dinner doesn't mean that it is going to be a walk in the park for the president. When the White House Correspondents Association President came out and said that Ron Chernow would be speaking, he said, I look forward to hearing Ron place us usual moment in the context of American history.

The initial moment he is referring to is the president's ongoing war with the media. So, Ron Chernow's speech is going to focus exclusively on the important of the First Amendment. I think it's going to be potentially highly critical of the president...

KURTZ: But even if it is -- even if it is, you're not going to have -- you know, Michelle Wolf is not the only one. You know, comedians making these bitingly personal jokes about people's looks and so forth. And the president referenced that and saying so-called comedian Michelle Wolf bombed so badly last year.


KURTZ: And then he says, maybe I will go to the dinner.

SHIMKUS: That's right. And having Ron Chernow there is definitely the purpose of it. And I think it will regardless of how his speech turns out. It is going to lower the temperature in the room, because it isn't going to be so highly critical in terms of mocking people. And I think that is the point. It might not be as fun for the guests to attend. But I think for the sake of civility, it was the right call to have somebody like Ron Chernow speak.

KURTZ: Right. And the ratings may go down, but at the same time, it becomes a celebrified , self-indulgent affair, almost like a parody of itself. So I think it's a good move towards restoring the dinner. We are out of time. Carley Shimkus, it's great to see you. Thanks so much.

SHIMKUS: Good to see you. Thanks so much.

KURTZ: After the break, there are a vast number of Democrats, a huge number of Democrats thinking of a White House run in 2020. And they all seem to generate headlines just for pondering a campaign. That's next.


KURTZ: Well, vast battalions of Democrats thinking of running for president, or hinting that they might, or just not denying get. They all seem to get favorable press with their flirtations. We are back with Mollie Hemingway. So, some of these Democrats will definitely run, some won't run. They all seem to get that you can buy headlines simply by maybe possibly considering the race. Why is that?

HEMINGWAY: Well, it has always been an easy way to get headlines. This year, it is even easier than it has been in previous years because there has kind of been disarray in the Democratic Party. We don't know if the moderates are going to beat out of the progressives. And so, you're seeing all these internal battles being waged in all sorts of different ways, including trying to generate excitement about possible presidential.

KURTZ: And some were lying before the midterms. I never would even occur to me to think about this. And then, two days later, yeah, I'm seriously considering it. So, it is often favorable. As you say, New York Times, on Senator Sherrod Brown, says he's rumpled and unvarnished with a fondness for sweatshirts. And he's uniquely positioned to possibly win back the Midwest for the Democrats. Boston Globe column says after Ted Cruz won the reelections in Texas, Beto O'Rourke lost the election, but he is getting the most presidential buzz. I guess he is like Abe Lincoln, he'll just run after losing the Senate race.

HEMINGWAY: Right. This is actually where I do think people need to be careful. You see, sometimes the media putting their thumbs on the scale in favor of different candidates rather than just reporting about what is actually happening, which is you know Sherrod Brown is getting excitement from out there in the donor world and among people. That's OK.

KURTZ: Ohio is an important state among other things.

HEMINGWAY: You know, in 2008, you saw how much they favored Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton. Even in the 2016 primary for the Republicans, it was clear they were very excited to cover Donald Trump. You just want to cover things fairly down the middle, and not route for one particular candidate.

KURTZ: What about the coverage of ridiculous long shots? The one piece I saw was by Politico, Marianne Williamson, pal of Oprah, spirituality guru, and a picture of Hollywood new age community is visiting Iowa. And she may run for president.

HEMINGWAY: So I think partly recognized that they didn't understand what was happening with the Trump movement or the possibility that he would win the presidency, so they think, well, we can't count anything out.

KURTZ: Right. She's a celebrity.

HEMINGWAY: Yeah. But it shows also that they don't quite understand what Trump's appeal was, if they're just thinking that literally, anybody might be able to...

KURTZ: Yeah.

HEMINGWAY: ... win the nomination.

KURTZ: I don't even have time in this segment to list all the names of Democrats who are eying. I mean, just curious, Corey and of course, more established people like Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. Oh by the way, John Hickenlooper, Gil Garcetti, Mike Bloomberg, every four years, he tries to run, hasn't so far. And then of course, Michael Avenatti who has got legal problems and Hillary to sort out first. And Hillary is even sort of leaving the door slightly ajar.

So, is it the fact that Trump won and nobody thought he was going to win, so anybody thinks they can run and win? And the media also are -- you know, have so many political reporters, this is the off-season for them now.

HEMINGWAY: The easy way to get in with the candidate is do favorable coverage for them. And I think it is not just that you have that crowded primary feel that resulted in Donald Trump winning the nomination of the Republican side, it is the Democratic field is so constrained last time. And it was clear that the party was sort of trying to force Hillary Clinton over the other people running...

KURTZ: Yeah.

HEMINGWAY: And I think there is a realistic understanding that that wasn't healthy either on the media side or the political side.

KURTZ: In other words, we love wide-open races because more candidates to cover, more profiles, more expense account, travels, and so forth.

HEMINGWAY: It's win-win.

KURTZ: It's win-win. Everybody is happy. All right. Thanks, Mollie Hemingway.

That is it for this edition of Media Buzz. I am Howard Kurtz. Check out my new Podcast, Media Buzz Meter. Mollie is on sometimes. We kick around the most important, fascinating, buzzy stories.

You can subscribe at Apple iTunes, Google Play, And we hope you will like our Facebook page. I post my columns everyday, original video just for you. And let's continue the conversation on Twitter @HowardKurtz. We can do that as well.

I really enjoyed the chance today to talk about some of these hot issues Thanksgiving. It is not slow when it is a holiday weekend, not in the Trump era, and a chance to talk to Frank Luntz who increasingly sounds like he's not really a Republican. And why go that far?

All right. We are out of plugs. See you back here next Sunday morning. Remember the time 11:00 Eastern with the latest buzz.

Content and Programming Copyright 2018 Fox News Network, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2018 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.