Media pounce on Trump-CDC clash

This is a rush transcript from “MediaBuzz" September 20, 2020. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

HOWARD KURTZ, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  This is MEDIA BUZZ. I'm Howard Kurtz. I want to take a moment to recognize that Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whether you agreed with her politically or not, was a legal trailblazer and inspiring figure to generations of women, as we've been hearing since her death Friday night at 87. But the media very quickly turned to the sudden Supreme Court vacancy.

And with President Trump saying yesterday he will move without delay, the Republicans are determined to fill the seat, perhaps in the campaign's final weeks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We said that if for any reason we have a vacancy on the United States Supreme Court, we will fill that vacancy. We're not going to say -- and by the way, we have plenty of time.

JOE BIDEN (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Let me be clear, that the voters should pick the president, and the president should pick the Justice for the Senate to consider.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  The question of whether or not the Republican leader of the Senate, Mitchell McConnell, will act hypocritically here and insist on President Trump's nominee being heard, even though President Obama's nominee could not be heard under Mitchell McConnell. That issue of Senator McConnell's hypocrisy is settled.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  The left and most in the media, they're furious though that the stakes are so high with the passing of Justice Ginsburg.

They're seething, many of them, at the prospect that Donald Trump, at the end of his first term in office, could have put three Justices on the Court.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  If the Republicans jam through a second nominee in a second seat that they -- that many Democrats believe have been stolen, the Democrats, if they control the presidency, the House and the Senate can increase the number of Justices.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The fear for everyone is that the kind of mob violence we've been living through for the past three months will accelerate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ:  Joining us now to analyze the coverage, Ben Domenech, founder and publisher of the Federalist, Susan Ferrechio, chief congressional correspondent of the Washington Examiner, and Ray Suarez, Washington correspondent for Eurovision and host of KQED's WorldAffairs. Ben, it's been nice to see many figures on the right praising Ginsburg's career.

She formed a close friendship, for example, with Anthony Scalia. But it took about 10 seconds for journalists to accuse Mitchell McConnell of hypocrisy for saying he will push through a Trump nominee after declining to give Obama's nominee, Merrick Garland, a Senate vote in 2016. Are the media immediately taking sides here?

BEN DOMENECH, THE FEDERALIST:  Absolutely, the media is taking sides here.

And I think that we should all expect that. You know, this is a situation where whoever is the president's nominee is going to face a media storm that I think was indicated by the quotes that was just given there. I think you're feeling a level of desperation there.

Just this morning, George Stephanopoulos, you know, raising to Nancy Pelosi the prospect of impeaching the president again, impeaching Attorney General Bill Barr in order to try to stop this whole thing. The media frame for the story is going to be that Republicans, even though they are the same party in charge of the Senate and in charge of the White House that they are engaging in hypocrisy here.

That they're pushing someone through who doesn't have the actual backing constitutionally, but I think that that's going to be a difficult argument to make at the same time that so many on the left have been saying that the court needs to be expanded, needs to be packed, because they view these seats, as Jeffrey Toobin just said, as stolen from them and rightfully theirs.

KURTZ:  Yes. Some Democrats are suggesting that. Susan, Mitchell McConnell has never made any pretense about the fact that he would push through a Trump Supreme Court nominee if the opportunity rose, even how -- remember how late in the term. Here he is with Bret Baier back in February.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  If you're asking me a hypothetical about whether this Republican Senate would confirm a member of the Supreme Court to a vacancy they created this year --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Before November.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yeah, we would fill it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ:  Does Senator McConnell care that a bunch of journalists are calling him a hypocrite?

SUSAN FERRECHIO, WASHINGTON EXAMINER CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: 

Well, the larger question is how should the media care? Of course, he's going to try to push through a nominee. The courts are the biggest part of Mitch McConnell's legacy in getting Trump's appointees there and conservative judges on the bench. He's not going pass this up.

But we in the media should also be reporting it accurately, and that there's nothing irregular, unconstitutional, or unprecedented about what Mitchell McConnell is doing. The reporting I see -- and not so much just taking sides but just missing the historical context here, which is that it's the same party president from -- as the Senate.

And that -- in those instances, they do move nominees through even right before an election. So it's nothing unusual about that. But the way the reporting is unfolding makes it look like this is something highly irregular. And I think that's prompting a lot of the outrage. And I think it really is incumbent upon the media right now to add context, accuracy, and historical background to all of this. And I think that would probably cool things off at least a little bit.

KURTZ:  Ray, the president by the way saying last night he plans to pick a female Justice or nominee, I should say. Look, there's 16 different ways you can argue this. But the core of the media argument is that in 2016, when Garland was nominated by Obama with nine months to go, he couldn't even get a hearing. And now, now McConnell with six weeks to go is perfectly happy to forge ahead. That's the media argument.

RAY SUAREZ, WORLDAFFAIRS PODCAST HOST:  And why not? I mean, the Garland experience creates this week's firestorm. And we are a lot closer to Election Day. Heck, we are only a little over week away from the first presidential debate. The Garland story didn't happen 20 years ago or 30 years ago. It happened within the service of most sitting members of the Senate.

They are on the record about the propriety of filling a seat during an election year. Of course, reporters are going to hold up the Senators, the quotes that they made to justify stopping Merrick Garland from proceeding back long ago, 2016. That this happens so close to Election Day is, of course, going to set off a firestorm.

KURTZ:  Right. Ben, with 53 Republican senators, the media already focusing on possible defectors, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins have said they don't want to vote, at least during this election. Maybe there will be others. Do you see this is as becoming a media pressure campaign and that possible wavering Senators?

DOMENECH:  It's going to be an absolute frenzy.

(CROSSTALK)

DOMENECH:  It's going to be an absolute frenzy, Howie. And I think that this something that's unavoidable. You're going to see a massive crush of people. You already see the threats on social media and the like of righteousness and things along those lines. I actually think that this creates a real difficulty when it comes to the narrative moving forward.

The Biden campaign has based much of their spin about this election on the idea of a return to normalcy. And yet, when you see this kind of push for, you know, aggressive behavior, riots in the street and the like. That doesn't seem like normalcy to people and neither does getting rid -- you know, packing the court, getting rid of the Electoral College or getting rid of the filibuster or anything like that.

And I think that that's going to create a real problem in terms of the narratives that are taking place within this campaign.

KURTZ:  Right. Susan, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman, Lindsay Graham, will preside over the hearings. Now, here is on tape back in 2018, talking to the editor about The Atlantic about what he would do if there was an election year nomination to the Supreme Court.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I really don't care if an opening comes in the last year of President Trump's term and the primary process has started. We will wait till the next election.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ:  Lindsay Graham says -- in that instance, you have it on tape. He said the similar thing last year. He said use my words against me. Well, the media are. And they are saying he's not standing on principle.

FERRECHIO:  Well, that's because saying that a year ago is much different than saying it right now. When, in fact, he will have to act. He will have to vote. You will have chair the committee. This is an extremely important vote for all Republicans in the Senate. There's probably no more of an important vote in the Senate than for Supreme Court nominee.

So each Senator is going to have to decide for their own legacy, for their own political future. Do they want to be the ones to block another Republican choice to get onto the Supreme Court? And now, don't forget.

Lindsay Graham is also running for re-election in a Republican-lean district. But some polls have shown that race a tossup.

It's absolutely critical for some of these lawmakers how they decide on this. I think that's going to be the overall, overarching theme here when we figure out whether or Mitchell McConnell has those 51 votes. It's going to up to each senator, not based on what they said in the past. Because that kind of hypocrisy is, you know, everybody does that, Republicans and Democrats.

It's all going to be about the individual senator and their own political fortunes. And that's going to help decide whether or not this passes.

KURTZ:  But when you do it on video tape and say use my words against you, of course, that may happen. Ray, we had the odd scene Friday night of President Trump giving an hour long speech at a rally, not knowing that Justice Ginsburg had passed. And reporters told him and he's called her an amazing woman. My question is how much will this change the focus of the presidential campaign?

Will the media be so hyper-focused on this SCOTUS battle that the COVID pandemic, which has now claimed almost 200,000 lives, become secondary?

SUAREZ:  No. I mean, the west is on fire. More than 200,000 people have died from Coronavirus infection. And there's a presidential campaign on.

And some really -- this is going to be a big Washington story, the drama of the Supreme Court, and will interrupt some of the campaigns in some of these very tight states with key senators who are going to be called on the carpet about their vote and about their future.

So the story only gets more intense, more interesting. But I don't think it'll crowd out these other things. They are real and they're really happening. And they will impinge like the western fires on Election Day.

KURTZ:  Yeah, good point. Ben, the emerging media debate here is whether or not this helps the Trump campaign. The president got very little press attention when he released a list a couple of weeks ago of possible Supreme Court nominees, because it will -- obviously, sharply shift the High Court to the right. Or does it help the Biden campaign because liberal voters will be motivated and upset?

DOMENECH:  There are two reasons that I think it actually helps President Trump's campaign. One is it doubles down on the idea that the selection presents a choice when it relates to ideology as opposed to a review perhaps of choices that he made early on in March and April regarding the Coronavirus. I think that's important and helps the president.

I also think that to a certain degree, as you look at this, it's very difficult for the media to manage these multiple narratives all once. And I think that -- and whenever we've seen court fights like this play out in the past, in the recent past, they've tended to help the Republican candidates in part, because cultural war issues animate a lot of the folks who are on the right, especially issues of abortion, gun rights and the like to a very intense degree.

KURTZ:  Right. Susan, notorious RBG (ph) was part of the Washington establishment. When NBC's Andrea Mitchell came on after (Inaudible), she said, well, she married me and my husband, Alan Greenspan. She wrote a note

-- Ginsburg wrote a note reported by NPR. My most fervent wish is that I not be replaced until a new president is installed. It's a nice, touching note for the press. But obviously, it hasn't had any impact.

FERRECHIO:  No. And it's not up to the media to play PR for the late Justice. It's up to us to report accurately what the next steps are. I don't -- you know, it is troubling that, you know, some of these main media people seem to really be siding with the Democrats on this. That's not our role. Our role is to look at it very objectively and fairly.

And when you don't do that, I think you contribute to some of the things we are seeing now. It's really kind of scary. You know, we're -- people are talking about burning down Congress if they don't get their way on this.

KURTZ:  OK. I'm fervently opposed to that. Quick final thought, Ray, on Susan saying the media are openly siding with the Democrats on this battle.

SUAREZ:  What is media in 2020? There are reporters with this sort of conventional job of trying to tell an audience what happened and what's happening. And then there's a vast ocean of people giving their opinions and urging one outcome or another. We talk of them easily and fluidly as if they're all one thing. They are not, and we should keep that in mind.

KURTZ:  It's a big ocean, indeed. Ahead, Mike Huckabee joins the program on whole range of campaign controversy, but when we come back, the media eruption over President Trump clashing with the CDC over a COVID vaccine.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ:  Journalists have been hammering President Trump with questions about the Coronavirus, especially since the head of the CDC testified on the Hill about a possibly vaccine. And the president told reporters that Robert Redfield was wrong.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  If you're asking me when is it going to be generally available to the American public so we can begin to take advantage of vaccine to get back to our regular life, I think we are probably looking at third -- late second quarter, third quarter 2021.

TRUMP:  No. I think he made a mistake when he said that. That's just incorrect information. And I called him, and he didn't tell me that. And I think he got the message maybe confused. Maybe it was stated incorrectly.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  What we just saw and heard from the president of the United States was propaganda. He wants things to be a certain way for his own political agenda. And he is saying science be damned.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Make no mistake. The vaccine is not a political ploy by the Trump campaign. There's no ulterior motive here. That Operation Warp Speed was put in place by Donald Trump.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ:  Ben Domenech, the media indictment here is that President Trump is so anxious to announce a vaccine before Election Day and say it will be immediately available that he's contradicting his own top government scientists. Is that coverage unfair?

DOMENECH:  I think it's somewhat unfair. I think that, you know, the idea that what the president has engaged here is propaganda that anti-science is unfair. I do think that scaling up a vaccine of this type to the levels where it would be widely available to Americans, to the level that I think people would like to see is going to take more time than what the president is acknowledging here.

At the same time, I don't think it's propaganda in any way to say, look, we are doing this faster than we've ever done anything like this before.

Scaling it up is an enormous achievement. And we have a lot of different companies and government entities that have worked very hard to make sure that this can be achieved. That's not something that's an election ploy.

I think it's something that we should feel good about and that should be praised by people, you know, of all sides politically in order to have that kind of level of achievement.

KURTZ:  Susan Ferrechio, Dr. Redfield did not back off. But the media pounded this drum before, whether it was the president criticizing Anthony Fauci, or Hydroxychloroquine, or having indoor rallies, or many people don't wear masks. And so the media charge here is he doesn't really care about the science.

FERRECHIO:  Yeah, it's unfortunate. I think the media could do just a much better job of breaking down these controversies when they come up. I was a little bit confused by what Dr. Redfield said. I got the sense really he was talking about how quickly the vaccine could be available to everybody, which is different than when it becomes available and available to the most vulnerable populations.

We've already heard Dr. Fauci. We've already heard the vaccine developers talk about a much earlier release date for the vaccine, certainly not third quarter 2021. So that's not, you know -- I think the media could be more careful about talking about what President Trump meant, what Dr. Redfield meant, instead of always jumping to the conclusion that the president is a cynical, uncaring, politically motivated head of state who that does not care about the American people.

That's the whole narrative behind this Coronavirus crisis. Like, he's just done a terrible job because he doesn't care. That just doesn't seem accurate to me. And I think it's unfortunate that the press has just followed that narrative without doing a more careful job of trying to break down what the nuances of what each person was trying to say in this instance.

KURTZ:  Ray Suarez, Redfield wasn't going out on a limb here. He was kind of reflecting the consensus of scientists. The president says, look, I'm the one who got elected. I'm in charge. Scientists are sometimes wrong. Is the press giving fairway to his side of the argument?

SUAREZ:  His side of the argument gets broadcast and quoted in print. What his side of the argument is based on is hard to say, simply says his own expert is wrong. This is not the first time the president has been messaging very differently from his own experts over the course of the Coronavirus pandemic. He's been at odds with Anthony Fauci over the timing of a vaccine and the wide availability of a vaccine earlier in this whole experience.

This is not a new story. There have been many times when the president's messaging has been different from that of government scientists and experts in the field. Dr. Redfield knows a lot more about this than the president does. The president -- I wish we had asked him another question, why he knows Dr. Redfield was wrong. Maybe he was asked that. I wasn't there.

KURTZ:  All right. Ben, the president has drawn a lot of media flak for saying this about the U.S. death rate from COVID-19. Take a quick look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  If you take the blue states out, we are at a level that I don't think anybody in the world would be at. We are really at a very low level.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ:  Now, the president is entitled to criticize states with Democratic governors for their handling of the pandemic. But the media interpretation is he doesn't seem to care as much about people who die in blue states?

DOMENECH:  I think it's a fair critique to say that that type of phrase indicates a bit of callousness. At the same time, I do think that the media has done such a poor job of holding to account the leaders of many of these states whose graph, frankly, resembles exactly the kind of thing we were worried about in the country.

The level to which, particularly CNN, has engaged in this behavior as it relates to Governor Cuomo in New York is just absurd. At the same time, that they are saying things like the president's speech, outside accepting the Republican nomination, was going to be a super-spreader event, you know, covering the Abraham accords, and saying that was a going to be a super-spreader event.

It's absolutely ridiculous, the degree to which they have pretended, like, these results are not something that we can question.

KURTZ:  OK. Ray, final thought here, USA Today did a fact check, saying that the red states of Florida and Texas among the highest death rates, your reaction to the controversy over the president's remarks about blue states?

SUAREZ:  Well, it's an odd thing to be breaking down the country that way, for any president. And I doubt you can look the annals of American epidemiology and find another president whose drawing political differences between states where the suffering was greater and lesser. It just happens to be a chronology thing. A lot of blue states got this first and had to manage it first.

And if you get it today, if you catch it today, you have a better chance of living than if you did in March. It's simple as that.

KURTZ:  I have got a hard break here, thank you, all, for a great discussion. Up next, the maneuvering over a Supreme Court vacancy all under way after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's passing. We will get a Capitol Hill perspective in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ:  In Washington, we're looking here at a live picture outside of the Supreme Court, with Washington reeling over the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Joining us now for the Capitol Hill perspective is Mike Emanuel, Fox News chief congressional correspondent. And Mike, as the media spotlight turns on dissenting voices in the Republican camp, Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins.

My question is are the -- Senators relishing this coming court fight or are some of them kind of dreading it?

MIKE EMANUEL, FOX NEWS CHIEF CONGRESIONAL CORRESPONDENT:  Great, question, Howie, and good morning to you. I think there are a number of folks who just say, look, this is why, from the Republican perspective, why they feel like Republicans were given the majority to get Supreme Court Justices confirmed to the High Court.

This is a huge legacy item for President Trump potentially, for Senate Majority Leader, Mitchell McConnell, and even for the Judiciary Chairman, Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina. It's interesting to note that all three of those men are also on the ballot themselves. So will voters get energized by it, or perhaps will they think that they have overreached?

That's something we will be watching in the coming weeks.

KURTZ:  Right. The math is that, as you know, the Democrats would need four Republican defectors to block a vote on Trump's pick, which will probably come this week. Based on your long experience on the Hill, does Mitchell McConnell care that there's a bunch of columns and commentators and reporters accusing him of hypocrisy? When I've talked with him, he seems pretty immune to the elite media opinion.

EMANUEL:  Yeah. I think, Howie, he doesn't really care so much about the press coverage. And I think he's looking at his role in history, his legacy going, you know, well beyond his years in the United States Senate. He feels like he's here to basically carry out a conservative agenda. He has got a president from the same party who is going to nominate a woman Justice to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

And so he sees it as his role to do the -- what the Senate does, advice, and consent, and so to get the process rolling, it's not entirely clear when there would be a vote on a new nominee. But that's all to be worked out in the coming days. We should get a better sense on Tuesday when all the Republicans have lunch together and have a chance to speak with one another to get a sense of -- 

You know, even if some are not totally comfortable with getting the ball started now, whether they still support the person if they are a highly qualified nominee.

KURTZ:  Yeah, or it could be pushed into a lame-duck session, which would be very interesting depending on whether the president wins or loses. The journalists are always saying, you know, senator so and so, you said this last year. And now, you're doing that. Isn't it a flip-flop? I get the impression that it when it comes to exercising raw power in Capitol Hill.

Most lawmakers don't care that much about consistency. They deal with the politics of the moment.

EMANUEL:  Well, you can see them, like, basically pulling up each other's statements from four years ago, you know? Chuck Schumer four years ago argued it is critical to have nine on the bench during these critical arguments that are going on. And so four years later, Republicans say, well, you have to have nine on the bench.

And so, yeah, it basically goes based on where you are in terms of whether your party is in power or not and it's obviously very frustrating on Capitol Hill to be the minority party. It's terrible, in fact. And so you have limited opportunities to stop something from happening. So bottom line, they are making their arguments, they're going to make their case to the voters and to the America people.

We will see if this person gets across the finish line before or after --

KURTZ:  Yup.

EMANUEL:  -- Election Day.

KURTZ:  Politicians are known for their flexibility.

EMANUEL:  You're right.

KURTZ:  Mike Emanuel, great to see you this Sunday.

EMANUEL:  Thank you, Howie.

KURTZ:  Next on MEDIA BUZZ, Mike Huckabee weighs in on the media debate over Ruth Bader Ginsburg's passing and other controversies. And later, Joe Biden does a CNN town hall and mostly gets softballs.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ:  With the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg causing a media explosion over a sudden Supreme Court vacancy, joining us now from Florida is Mike Huckabee, the one-time Arkansas governor, former presidential candidate, and Fox News contributor.

Governor, with President Trump and Mitch McConnell making clear they are going to move very quickly on the Supreme Court vacancy, much of the press is saying this is blatant hypocrisy on McConnell's part after he refused to give a vote to Obama's nominee, Merrick Garland, during the last election.

Your thoughts?

MIKE HUCKABEE, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR, FORMER ARKANSAS GOVERNOR, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  First of all, let us go back to Harry Reid, because if anybody is in the middle of this, it is Harry Reid, who blew up the filibuster and the Republicans warned him, senator, if you blow up the filibuster, it will come back to haunt you. And the Republicans tried to tell the Democrats that. Well, now, the filibuster is blown up. Thanks to the Democrats of Harry Reid.

So, when the Republicans have an opportunity to put a Supreme Court justice on, they're going to do it because they have the Senate and they got the White House.

I think there's plenty of sort of double talking to go around. Let me give you a good example. Four years ago, the Democrats said, we must go ahead and do this. Now, they're saying, we can't do this. OK, so, people are saying the Republicans said that they shouldn't do it. And today, they're going to do it.

Both parties have taken the position that they're going to do what they can do if they're in power. Guess what, Howie, that's politics, it's how it works, and that's what we are going to see take place right before our very eyes.

KURTZ:  I think it's fair to point out that Joe Biden in 2016 said we should have a vote on Obama's nominee. I think both parties have exhibited a lot of flexibility, shall we say, depending on the change in circumstances and who is in power.

But you have some liberal pundits saying, well, if Trump gets another justice, we should add seats, we should pack the court next year.

Congressman Joe Kennedy says that. Chuck Schumer says nothing is off the table.

Do you think are serious threats and why isn't that part of the equation getting more media coverage, governor?

HUCKABEE:  I think they're serious bets because the Democrats will do anything to try to grab power. That's what the impeachment was all about.

That's what everything they're doing is all about. That's why they walked away from everything the president has laid on the table that they said they wanted. Whether it was DACA, infrastructure, tax reform, dealing with COVID, it doesn't matter.

The president puts something on the table. Even if he puts more on the table than they ever said they wanted, they still get up and walk away because that's not what they're wanting. They don't want solutions, they want control.

And I hope people understand that's really the battle of D.C. That's one of the reasons they hate Donald Trump. He didn't come to play their game. And to be honest, look, Republicans have been just as guilty of playing this insider game as the Democrats have.

The president came and he didn't owe them anything. He was not obligated to the donor class, not obligated to the lobbyists. He is only obligated to the American people and really the people who felt disenfranchised.

KURTZ:  Let us turn now to the pandemic. The media had been hammering President Trump for contradicting CDC Chief Robert Redfield over the timing of vaccine, how quickly it becomes available. And so given his past battles with Anthony Fauci, what do you make of the charge when we hear this constantly in the media that the president is downplaying science for his political benefit?

HUCKABEE:  It's going to be the dumbest thing they try to say about this president. This is a president that shut down his own red hot economy in order to appease the scientists and to do what they were recommending. He shut it down for several months. Do you think that was something he wanted to do? Of course, it wasn't. He took an economy that was on fire and personally got the fire extinguisher throughout and hosed it down. He never gets credit for that.

He listened to Fauci. He listened to Deborah Birx. He listened to the scientists. But then the scientists don't always agree. These same scientists, including Fauci, came out early and said, do not wear a mask.

If you wear a mask, you're going to die because it's dangerous. You're not a professional. You don't know to wear a mask so don't wear one. Few months later, if you don't wear a mask, you're going to die.

So people are not stupid. They see through this stuff. That is why I think that the media needs to start acting like responsible journalists and not like cheerleaders for the Biden campaign.

KURTZ:  I would just note that the governors played a role in these lockdowns, as well. A few more questions that I want to get to, Mike.

Olivia Troye. She is the former Mike Pence aid who was on the Coronavirus Task Force until recently. She has come out against the president's handling of the pandemic. She spoke to The Washington Post and made an ad which we are going to play a little bit for Republican voters against Trump. Roll it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OLIVIA TROYE, FORMER PENCE AIDE:  The president didn't want to hear that because his biggest concern was that we were in election year. The truth is he doesn't actually care about anyone else but himself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ:  Vice President Pence says she's a disgruntled ex-employee. But since she is not peddling a book and was on the task force, why shouldn't we take her seriously?

HUCKABEE:  Well, I think because she is a disgruntled person that honestly wasn't in the room for most of the intense discussions. You know, most of the people who come out --

KURTZ:  She's in all the meetings.

HUCKABEE:  -- and say this kind of things -- not all the meetings. She is certainly wasn't in the meetings with the president. She was with the task force, so first hand inside information in the Oval Office, very doubtful.

But, look, she's entitled to her opinion. She can say the president is doing this strictly for his own personal political advantage.

But one thing I don't think the president gets some credit for, he didn't try to make all of the decisions, he let governors of states decide how they were going to handle the pandemic in their own states.

He actually did something that's pretty remarkable for the federal government. He applied the Tenth Amendment. Some of us would be celebrating that and happy that he didn't try to say from up on high, we make one-size- fits-all-type of policy.

KURTZ:  Yeah.

HUCKABEE:  That was --

KURTZ:  Let me jump in because I have one more question.

HUCKABEE: -- ought to be praised for that.

KURTZ:  OK. At a rally the other night, President Trump talked about MSNBC anchor Ali Velshi, who was covering one of the protests. The president said, I remember this guy Velshi, he got hit in the knee with a canister of teargas, it was actually a rubber bullet and went down, nobody cared, it was the most beautiful thing. Let me show our viewers what happened.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALI VELSHI, NBC NEWS SENIOR ECONOMIC AND BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT:  All right, guys, I got hit. I got hit. Hold on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ:  Just briefly, the campaign disputes that it was a beautiful thing applied to Velshi. But why criticize or make fun of a reporter doing his job who got injured on the job?

HUCKABEE:  Yeah, I'm not sure that that's how it went down. I'm not sure that the president was making fun of him specifically. But if he was, he shouldn't have. Let's be honest. That's not something he should do.

Should he take on the press generally because of the way they treat him, which is absolutely embarrassing and disgraceful for the press? Yes, he should because somebody has got to take him on. But no, he shouldn't call out individual reporters and he never should act like it's a good thing when one of them gets hurt. That I agree with.

KURTZ:  Got to go. I know you are going to take the press on. Mike Huckabee, thanks very much.

(LAUGHTER)

KURTZ:  And after the break, that CNN town hall, did the number go absurdly easy on Joe Biden? Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ:  Anderson Cooper moderated the CNN town hall with Joe Biden. Let us just say he didn't exactly grill the former vice president.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR:  How are you preparing for debate? I'm wondering what you expect the days and weeks after the election to look like. There are a lot of people who worry about a breakdown of law and order in this country. Are you one of them? Do you think it's still possible to reach across the aisle?

JOE BIDEN (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Yes, I do.

COOPER:  The line is so divided.

BIDEN:  In case you haven't seen, a group of Republicans said they are prepared to work with Joe Biden if he's elected.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ:  Joining us now, Jane Harman, president of the Wilson Center here in Washington and a former Democratic congresswoman. Jane, Anderson Cooper asked only a couple of skeptical questions by my count. Given the way that President Trump is aggressively questioned in interviews, at press conferences at the ABC town hall with George Stephanopoulos, doesn't this reinforce the impression that the media kind of go easy on Joe Biden?

JANE HARMAN, PRESIDENT AND CEO OF THE WILSON CENTER, FORMER DEMOCRATIC

CONGRESSWOMAN:  Well, what I thought was interesting about that town hall, which I watched, was the interaction between Biden and the audience sitting in front of their cars in a sort of outdoor format where it was social distanced and complying with health guidance, which I think is a good thing, I thought Cooper was not really (INAUDIBLE) to ask the tough questions.

It was interesting that they were quite friendly even those who voted for Trump in 2016 in contrast to a town hall that Trump did a couple of nights earlier where he got very hostile questions.

So I thought Biden was treated fairly and I thought it was his best performance that I've seen. He was really passionate. He really connected with the audience. And on issues like Scranton versus Wall Street, he was just superb.

KURTZ:  But in part because of the questions selected by CNN, three were Republicans, 13 were Democrats. So, I wonder if the softer interviews really help Biden prepare for what are going to be the tough fall debates beginning with Chris Wallace in a couple of weeks.

HARMAN:  Well, I'm a member of the presidential debates commission and I'm likely to be in Cleveland. The moderator, in case you missed it, is Fox's own Chris Wallace and I think that will be a very interesting faceoff.

I don't know how it's going to go. Their styles couldn't be more different.

Trump is all a swagger and Biden is all compassion character and substance.

It's very different. And we will see what voters want.

It's pretty clear to me that we need someone focused on issues for our future because it's a very tough world and we need someone with a good idea about how to deal with the pandemic. And Biden's ad on that, I think, is absolutely excellent.

KURTZ:  All right. New York Times had a story the other day saying that Joe Biden needs to ramp up campaign, that he needs to travel more, that the campaign needs to have a higher profile and a better ground. I was really struck by this because you don't have that many critical articles of the Biden campaign in major media outlets.

From what you know, do you think this Times story was on target? Many Democrats reported in the piece.

HARMAN:  Well, you know, I think both candidates should get praise and criticism where it's earned. I think the media has been more partisan than in the past years, so I think that's a fair hit on both sides. It's very hard to find anybody who is reporting free from spin. Don't we miss Walter Cronkite?

And that's, by the way, why the Wilson Center is so important, because we are nonpartisan in the center on reflecting both points of view.

But I think Biden is traveling more. I don't know how well that's being covered but (INAUDIBLE) health guidance, with masks, social distance, and it's a very different appearance from the Trump rallies which are possibly spreaders, especially the ones inside where most of the people are packed in and don't wear masks.

I don't think that's -- at least to me, as somebody with grandkids who are going to school, that's not exactly what I want to be seeing on my television set.

KURTZ:  All right. Let's go back to the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, with the cowering battle over the Supreme Court vacancy, Mitch McConnell and the president moving full steam ahead to fill that seat. You know how the hill works. There have been so much -- there have been so many accusations of hypocrisy against Leader McConnell.

Do you think the media criticism -- the media pressure will affect what the senators do at all?

HARMAN:  No, I think that -- I disagree with most of what Mike Huckabee said in the last segment, but I agree with him that Harry Reid made a big mistake to give up the filibuster. If the filibuster were in place, we wouldn't be having this conversation.

The good news for the Trump side is that this changes the subject from the pandemic. Everyone is now covering this. The bad news for the Trump side is that, as I recall in 1992 when I first ran for Congress and the searing image was Anita Hill, Clarence Thomas, and the choice issue, this could mobilize a lot of suburban women to vote for Biden.

So, I doubt there's going to be a vote before the election. I'm sure -- at least I enthusiastically agree with Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski that there should not be a vote. I don't know what happens in the lame duck session.

I think if Trump loses, there will be a lot of pressure not to have a vote.

If he wins, I don't know how it comes out and there may be a new senator that could change it. But we will see.

KURTZ:  I got to go.

HARMAN:  It's -- sadly, confirmations have become circuses. Got it.

KURTZ:  Jane Harman, good to see you this Sunday. Thank you so much for joining us.

HARMAN:  You too, Howie.

KURTZ:  Still to come -- thank you. CNBC's Jim Cramer apologizes, The Washington Post falls for a crude hoax, and is the anti-Trump rhetoric at CNN going too far?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ:  CNBC's "Mad Money" man Jim Cramer really stepped in when he called the speaker of the House by her trumpian nickname while interviewing Nancy Pelosi.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM CRAMER, CNBC HOST:  What deal can we have, Crazy Nancy -- I'm sorry, that was the president. I have such reference for the office. I would never use that term --

NANCY PELOSI, SPEAKER OF THE UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES:  But you just did.

CRAMER:  But it is hard --

PELOSI:  You just did.

CRAMER:  You know what I mean. You know what I mean.

PELOSI:  I know. I do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ:  Cramer later apologized for what he called his stupid comment. I agree with that. But President Trump said that was pandering because Cramer didn't make a mistake about Pelosi.

The Washington Post fell for a big time hoax, a bogus FBI raid staged by conservative conspiracy theorists Jacob Wall and associate, who according to Daily Beast, offered to pay actors to impersonate agents at a Virginia home.

The Post admitted in an editor's note that it ran the story after failing to obtain appropriate confirmation. That is after the FBI declined to confirm the supposed raid. Very embarrassing.

There is just no question that President Trump's handling of the coronavirus needs serious journalist scrutiny. But look at some of the language being used on CNN. Here is CNN's Carl Bernstein who regularly denounces the Trump administration as worse than Watergate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, JOURNALIST AND AUTHOR:  We are witnessing a homicidal president convening, purposely, a homicidal assembly to help him get re-elected as president of the United States instead of protecting the health and welfare of the people of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ:  A homicidal president. OK. But Bernstein is a commentator. How about CNN medical analyst Jonathan Reiner?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  So of holding an indoor rally in June was criminal endangerment, what is it now?

JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST, DIRECTOR OF CARDIAC CATHETERIZATION PROGRAM AT GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL:  Negligent homicide. What else could you call an act that because of its negligence results in the deaths of others?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ:  There is that word again, homicide. I mean, people do make their own decisions about whether to attend these rallies. And here is CNN's veteran medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen after the president made a joking reference to Joe Biden wearing a mask.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT:  So when we hear our president make fun of someone for wearing a mark, our president has blood on his hands. Wearing masks saves lives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ:  Blood on his hands. Wow! Look, I think President Trump should be more forcefully urging the use of mask, but there was a time when consistently using that kind of language against the president would be unacceptable on cable news shows.

That's it for this edition of MEDIA BUZZ. I am Howard Kurts. Check out our Facebook book. Let's talk on Twitter. We hope you also listen to my podcast. It is called "Media Buzzmeter." We rift on the day's hottest stories. You can get it on Apple iTunes, on your Amazon device, many other places.

We had to rift up the show on Friday night, as you might imagined, the deal with the Supreme Court news. We will see you back here next Sunday with the latest BUZZ.

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