Media rage over William Barr

This is a rush transcript from "Media Buzz," May 5, 2019. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: On the Buzz Meter this Sunday, a leaked letter from Bob Mueller sparks a media explosion, a Capitol Hill grilling for Bill Barr and a high bipartisan debate over the attorney general.


JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Mueller is right that Barr put out a misleading summary designed to spin it in a much more pro-Trump direction. CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Barr has made it impossible for the public to trust his leadership at Department of Justice.

LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS HOST: People (INAUDIBLE) other networks. They all love Bob Mueller was telling him -- he's mischaracterizing the report. It's so fatly (ph) ridiculous on its face. JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC HOST: To the life of me, I don't know why Democrats would not start gathering evidence to impeach this man. He is actually as dangerous in the position of attorney general as Donald Trump is president of the United States, and he's unfit, non-worthy to be there.

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: Partisans on cable T.V. are pretending otherwise. Let's be clear. Let's be very clear. What they are giving you is opinion. It is not fact. They should be honest about that. The Barr letter means nothing.


KURTZ: Is it all right for news outlets to keep the Mueller investigation alive? The press changes its tune after weeks of denigrating Joe Biden, predicting he (INAUDIBLE), now doing a 180 as he surges in the polls.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It shows a huge opening weekend for former Vice President Joe Biden. Think "Avengers: Endgame."

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Joe Biden is off for a blockbuster start today. He is setting more like a general election candidate skipping over the primaries.

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: We've been talking about Biden as a weak front-runner. He gets a bounce her. Now he's up near 40 percent. Now he's up considerably on the rest of the field.


KURTZ: Why are many pundits so completely and totally wrong about the former vice president? The New York Times is denounced for its horrible handling of an anti-Semitic cartoon by The New York Times, the anatomy (ph) of a disaster. Plus, media mystery 400 as the new "Jeopardy" champion chatters all kinds of record. Why are some commentators attacking James Holzhauer as a menace? I'm Howard Kurtz and this is "Media Buzz."

A night before Senate Committee was going to grill Attorney General Bill Barr, there was a calculated leak to The Washington Post, a letter of complaint that Bob Mueller had privately written Barr in March, saying the A.G.'s famous four-page summary had created public confusion and undermined confidence because it didn't fully capture the context, nature and substance of his probe. Barr testified that Mueller's beef was in large measure about the media.


WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES: I called Bob and said, "What's the issue here?" I asked him if he was suggesting that the March 24th letter was inaccurate, and he said no, but that the press reporting had been inaccurate, and that the press was reading too much into it.


KURTZ: And the firestorm has only gotten hotter since then. Joining us now to analyze the coverage: Mollie Hemingway, senior editor at The Federalist and a Fox News contributor; Beverly Hallberg, president of District Media Group and a former television producer; and Capri Cafaro, former Democratic state senator and Washington Examiner contributor.

Mollie, there is certainly room for debate over what William Barr said in testimony and whether he was too determined to defend the president, but how did we get to the point of this media uproar where some are saying he should be tarred, feathered, run out of town, impeached and so on? MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR, SENIOR EDITOR AT THE FEDERALIST: I think this media coverage is exactly what you would expect given that the media spent years promoting a false conspiracy theory, alleging that the president was a traitor. When the Mueller report came out and that turned out that their conspiracy theory had no basis, I think they are frustrated.

I do find it interesting though that we were told for years that any criticism of Bob Mueller no matter how slight was a threat to rule of law, a threat to the republic itself. And now you have someone who has promised to investigate actually how this crazy conspiracy theory alleging that Donald Trump was guilty of capital crime, treason got going.

Now everybody is just hurling all sorts of invective against him when they told us that any kind of critic of someone who is overseeing an investigation is a threat to the rule of law. It is very funny to see how different that has turned.

KURTZ: Beverly, with Joe Biden and Kamala Harris and some other Democratic candidates calling for Barr's ouster, Nancy Pelosi calling him a liar, is that fueling the press frenzy because these Democrats get interviewed again and again?

BEVERLY HALLBERG, PRESIDENT, DISTRICT MEDIA GROUP: Absolutely. I mean, they are making news that the press has to report on it but I actually don't think it helps them out at all because what the American people I think do see is that, well, you could disagree with how Mueller -- excuse me, Bill Barr released what he released, what we do know is he let the entire report get out there. If you want to have --

KURTZ: With some redactions.

HALLBERG: With some redactions but we are not talking about the redactions because Democrats have been happy with how few redactions there have been. So I think it is turning into a media storm either with what Nancy Pelosi is saying and others, and also some of the high jinks and props (ph) that even see the House when it comes to fried chicken. I think it's turning into a media circus and not actual thorough questioning about took place.

KURTZ: I could have done without KFC.

CAPRI CAFARO, FORMER OHIO SENATE MAJORITY LEADER, WASHINGTON EXAMINER CONTRIBUTOR: They could have at least found somebody from Kentucky to do it, not Tennessee.


KURTZ: Capri, you served in legislation --

CAFARO: Right.

KURTZ: You know how partisan hearings can get.

CAFARO: Absolutely. KURTZ: Are the media basically, most of the media, taking the Democratic side and accusing Barr of perjury and trashing his own reputation? These are really strong words.

CAFARO: Right. Well, there are definitely opinion, you know, opinion reporters so to speak that are out there, for example, a legal analyst at NBC that basically said that, you know, the attorney general has to resign. We heard this from Vox, for example, as well saying that the Democrats have a case for the attorney general to be impeached or to resign.

I think what we are also seeing is a lot of attention to your point as well to these presidential candidates. You talk about hearings when you have so many members of the United States Senate including Kamala Harris in these hearings cross examining Barr. That is getting a ton of media attention and really making her sort of the flavor of the week as well as taking a lot of the headlines from 2020 Democratic candidate. KURTZ: I saw this one story of how much that had helped her. Look, it was Mueller's leak letter to the Washington Post as I mentioned before, criticizing Barr summary that really ignited this whole thing, because it seemed to validate media criticism that he spun the report in the advance. But even if that's true, now that we've all had -- journalists and everybody else in a couple of weeks digested the report, isn't it a lot less relevant? We have seen the report. HEMINGWAY: It was very surprising to see how outraged people were over this letter given what Beverly noted. We have 440 pages or something of a report that lays out in excruciating detail Bob Mueller's kind of bizarre theories about obstruction, how he came -- how there were no indictments --

KURTZ: Why do you say bizarre? HEMINGWAY: His job as a prosecutor was to come up with whether or not to indict --


HEMINGWAY: -- the president. He didn't do that job. KURTZ: That's true. HEMINGWAY: But he did this other job of hundreds of pages that is sort of smearing the person he declined to indict. But point being that report is out there and all of his indictments that were throughout this investigation were out there, there's a lot to work with. So it was a little confusing why we had to be focused on a letter that was, you know, sort of upset about how that rollout happened.

And it also does tell us something about how much Bob -- how much Mueller cares about the narrative and structuring the narrative. We have been told that he's not political. He doesn't leak.

KURTZ: Yeah.

HEMINGWAY: When he doesn't leak, I think he tends to leak to The New York Times and -- or people from his office and they do care about narrative. They do care about how this is going.

HALLBERG: And I think that --

KURTZ: I would just take issue with the word experience because that to me suggests that it is inaccurate. Go ahead.

HALLBERG: I was going say another part of this is even the release of this report, Barr was not legally obligated to do so and he did it in very short passion, about three and a half weeks for him to get this out there.

I think there is reason to say he didn't give out those executive summaries that Mueller wanted, but I think what we should be questioning back to what Mollie was saying is why did Mueller not move forward with a decision on obstruction of justice and moving forward to indict or his clear reasons why he shouldn't? That's what Democrats should actually be upset about.

CAFARO: I think they are and, you know, there is a whole process, I think, right now of them trying to get Mueller to come in, but from a coverage perspective, the absence of Mueller's actual voice, I think, is shaping and coloring -- HALLBERG: He's never said much. The only time we heard during the investigation -- KURTZ: I think that's a fair point. There is a vacuum left by the fact that Mueller hasn't spoken.

CAFARO: So the speculation is --

KURTZ: He is expected to testify before the House Judiciary Committee which is in this struggle with Barr over his refusal because he didn't like the idea of staff questioning him. But just following up with you, is the press holding Barr to unrealistic standard?

I mean, look, there were questions he struggled to answer like, did the White House suggest that you investigate anyone? Oh, I have to think about the word suggest. But, you know, Eric Holder under Barack Obama, I mean, is the press suggesting Barr to go out up and trash the president who appointed him?

CAFARO: I think that a lot of this also has to do with how the Democrats are driving some of these hearings, and so I think that's part of what gets covered. They are trying to present Bill Barr as someone who is a puppet for President Trump. I think that there are media outlets that are choosing to follow that route in their coverage. KURTZ: I want to turn to The New York Times story this week, Mollie, reporting on what happened in 2016, the FBI sending a woman, an undercover operative to meet with Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos in 2016, posing as research assistant trying to find out whether the Trump campaign had any contacts with Russia. Michael Schmidt, one of The New York Times reporters on that story, was asked about it on MSNBC.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me start with a central question on a lot of people's mind last night as they first read it and as they read it this morning, how is this not spying?

MICHAEL SCHMIDT, CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, I guess it depends on your definition of spying.



KURTZ: So, conservatives are saying The New York Times is finally covering the spying story. By the way, the business about this woman is in Papadopoulos's book, so it is not breaking news.

HEMINGWAY: They didn't break the story. In fact, The Daily Caller has done excellent work on this person in particular. George Papadopoulos has written about her. But it is something when The New York Times confirms it. The New York Times doesn't like to use the word spying but their reporting has actually been some of the ways that we have learned about how extensive the spying has been.

We learned last year, almost a year ago, that there were national security letters, wiretaps and human informants. Now we know it is not just informants. There was a government operative. They are very cagey about who she is, whether she works for the FBI or not. They ran someone who actually also -- it also looks like it was a honeypot. George Papadopoulos wrote about how she was very suggestive and flirtatious.

KURTZ: Flirting with FBI.

HEMINGWAY: This is a huge story, by the way. The Mueller letter is not such a huge story.

KURTZ: All right.

HEMINGWAY: This is a huge story that requires a lot of coverage.

KURTZ: Finally found The New York Times story he likes, this one. He says this is too hot to avoid, surprised anyone, bigger than Watergate. He says that a lot now. But of course --

CAFARO: But in reverse.

KURTZ: In reverse. But of course the question of spying turns on is spying for political reasons or is spying because the FBI had concerns about contacts with Russia.

CAFARO: That is the difference between the spying and counterintelligence. I think it is important that The New York Times did not use the word spying. They did focus on the counterintelligence. But it was President Trump that chose to shape it in that way. And all of sudden, the failing New York Times is not failing so much because he has now extrapolated from that that they are finally covering the issue of spying.

KURTZ: Not failing for one day. Beverly, another presidential tweet and this comes in the wake of Facebook banning several people including Alex Jones and others on the right as well as Louis Farrakhan. Twitter also -- and the president has been complaining on Twitter repeatedly about unfair censorship of conservatives.

So he tweets this. "When will the radical left media apologize to me for knowingly getting the Russia collusion delusion story so wrong? The real story is about to happen. Why is The New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, MSNBC allowed to be on Twitter and Facebook? Much of what they do is fake news."

So now it is not censorship to keep news organizations off social media?

HALLBERG: Look, I am not in favor of getting rid of CNN being on Twitter and other news organizations unless they are seeing outrageous things. But on this, I think when we talk about the Facebook and the Twitter angle, what I found most interesting about the Louis Farrakhan statement was they were saying he was right wing, which he clearly is not, so that was --

KURTZ: Few people made that --

HALLBERG: Made that huge error. So once again there's that. But we have to remember Twitter is also a private business. This is a business that can put out there, allow people on who they want. I think when it comes to the president critiquing them -- I mean, he helped Twitter stock quite a bit because --

KURTZ: Well, there is that.

CAFARO: This is about more than that. This is basically equating traditional media news outlets with being fake news machines and then -- HEMINGWAY: OK, there is something that needs to be done. The media spent years trafficking in a conspiracy theory that the president was a traitor who had colluded with Russia. And they haven't accepted responsibility for it, they haven't apologized for it, and they're not changing what they're doing. That's a very serious threat. They are their own threat to press freedoms by not being better at their job. KURTZ: This debate will continue. When we come back, both of President Trump's picks with the Federal Reserve are knocked out after the media dig into their backgrounds. Was the press doing the White House's job? And later, The New York Times denounces itself for running a disgustingly anti- Semitic cartoon.


KURTZ: Steve Moore, the former CNN contributor, has vowed out as the president's pick for the Federal Reserve. This after the other potential Fed nominee, Herman Cain, withdrew over the media's focus on past sexual harassment allegations.

Moore was stripped up mainly by his past columns for National Review and elsewhere, once writing that female athletes shouldn't get equal pay for inferior work, female sportscaster shouldn't be on the sidelines except for one who he said should wear a halter top. Moore was on offense on ABC a week ago and still defiant on Fox after the White House withdrew its support.


STEPHEN MOORE, WRITER, FORMER CNN CONTRIBUTOR: What happened, George, was this kind of smear campaign, this character assassination, it began two or three weeks ago.

That is a little awkward for CNN, because every night they trash me, now, when for the last two and a half years I've been their senior economics writer. If I'm such a scoundrel and a sexist, why did they have me on every night?


KURTZ: Mollie, it was obvious to anybody who has lived in Washington for a week, I think, that Steve Moore was not going to make it. Not only did he owe taxes and have contempt of court citation on not paying child support. All these past writings denigrating women jokingly or otherwise, he says a lot of it was jokingly. Did the press do its job here?

HEMINGWAY: Well, the press can cover whatever it wants to. I don't love when they cover divorce proceedings. I do not believe in divorce, but I think that when people are going through those proceedings, the worst caricatures are in play. I think that there should more restrain. I also think that humor writings should be contextualized as what it is. This is a guy who has been out for decades in Washington D.C. He is kind of a creature of Washington.

KURTZ: Yeah.

HEMINGWAY: So I don't think any of these was particularly surprising, but it was portrayed as such. And I think actually that people -- I think that the real dispute there might have been more political or opposition to his very particular views on the Fed and whether they should target inflation, whether they should target interest rates or how inflation happens, but people were using these other things as a way to fight a proxy war about the real issues of their opposition.

KURTZ: That's absolutely true and often happens when they are oppose on policy grounds by the other party and you look for things that you can use. But in every other administration, potential nominee is vetted first. President Trump -- this is his style. He likes to toss names out there, I'm thinking on nomination this person.

If that that potential nominee can survive the media, then he lets them bow out, but it's kind of like throwing them in shark tank, and even more even said, if he had known that these writings would be dug into, he would never have wanted to go forward with the nomination, but that's the way this works.

HALLBERG: Like celebrity apprentice D.C. style, see how they do when they go on. When it came to smear campaign, the reason why I do agree that this was a smear is it actually didn't start with his personal writings or his background at all. It started with his qualifications.

What you first heard people talking about was whether or not he was qualified because he doesn't have a PhD in economics. It's laughable because even the Fed chair doesn't have a PhD in economics. And also --

KURTZ: Wait, why is that a smear? Wouldn't a debate over --

HALLBERG: I think it is valid. But then it turned to personal, so they started -- they started there when it came to his qualifications and then when that didn't work because it wasn't a valid criticism, it then went to the writings, things from decades past which I think there are some concerning elements.

But I think as Americans, we are asking, is this the style we want to take to that anybody who wants to do anything in public office? I think it's a discussion we need to have. This is the appropriate way to vet people. KURTZ: I think that's a fair question, but I think it's been going on for decades with nominees from both parties and when you have paper trails (ph), inevitably that is going to come up. But all this did overshadow -- there was a debate but it was totally overshadowed by whether or not they were suitable or whether they have economic experience --

CAFARO: Right. The Herman Cain debate, I think, was much more along the lines of, is he qualified to be a member of the Federal Reserve as --

HEMINGWAY: He served on a Fed board in Kansas City.

CAFARO: But you had a number of U.S. senators saying they weren't going to support him which was different, I think, than the Stephen Moore situation. KURTZ: So if you want to portray as either the left-leaning media went after these nominees or you want to portray it as Democrats were unfair to these potential nominees, this all revolved around could either man get enough Republican votes in the Senate to be confirmed and it became increasingly obvious even as both said they would fight, they could not, and that's what happens when the press stirs up these kinds of controversies.

CAFARO: No question. Look, I saw a headline in New York magazine that called Stephen Moore an unqualified misogynist kook. Now I don't know how much people look at New York magazine, but --

KURTZ: A major magazine.

CARARO: I tell you, I mean, that is a really glaring headline about someone even though it's more of an opinion column, but my goodness.

KURTZ: That seems really unfair, a kook? I mean, the guy has a background. He's a Wall Street Journal editorial writer. He's been on Fox. He's been a CNN contributor. Kook?

HEMINGWAY: Right. I think that was extreme language. You saw him being called dangerously would cause a global calamity if he were put in. But that again, I think, is because people actually disagree with his economic policies. And they are different. And I think we are seeing a lot of growth.

CAFARO: And they also disagreed with the political impact of --


KURTZ: Right. Now, we are displaying how it really works.



KURTZ: Mollie Hemingway, Beverly Hallberg, Capri Cafaro, great to see you all this Sunday. Ahead, the pundits who said Joe Biden's candidacy (INAUDIBLE), now call him a really strong frontrunner. What happened? But up next, President Trump versus Judge Napolitano and MSNBC peeps (ph) breaking into the William Barr hearing.


KURTZ: Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham was delivering his opening remarks at the Bill Barr hearing when MSNBC's Brian William with Nicolle Wallace took the highly unusual step of breaking in. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): So no collusion, no coordination, no conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russian government regarding the 2016 election. BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: We are reluctant to do this. We rarely do, but the chairman of the Judiciary Committee just said that Mueller found there was no collusion. That is not correct. NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC AND NBC CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: He is sitting there today not as a chairman of the Judiciary Committee but as a human shield for Donald Trump and William Barr.


KURTZ: An hour later, MSNBC broke in again to interrupt another GOP senator and Nicolle Wallace said this about Barr.


WALLACE: So, I'm not going to dance around this. He's lying. He's lying about what the Mueller report finds.


KURTZ: Maybe it can be justified for veteran anchor to talk over Republican senators for what he views as clarification, but then to allow Nicolle Wallace, a fiercely anti-Trump opinion host, to disparage Barr while the senators were talking, well, that's not exactly straight-news coverage.

If this has happened on Fox, if Bret Baier interrupted Democratic lawmakers and then turned to Sean Hannity, the media would be in an uproar. At least wait until a break in the hearing.

Andrew Napolitano, Fox's senior judicial analyst, has at times been supporter of President Trump but at times critical as he has been in saying the Mueller probe found evidence that Trump may have obstructed justice.

The president struck back on Twitter, ripping Judge Nap's "very dumb" legal argument and saying, "Ever since Andrew came to my office to ask that I appoint him to the U.S. Supreme Court, and I said no, he has been very hostile. Also asked for pardon for his friend."

Is that what happened? Napolitano told a very different story on Fox Business, saying Trump asked his advice on his first high court vacancy.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you ask him to put you on the Supreme Court?

ANDREW NAPOLITANO, FOX NEWS LEGAL ANALYST: No, and the process of my describing that that person and the person I was describing was then Judge Neil Gorsuch. He looked at me and said, "It sounds like you're describing yourself," I said, "No, I'm not describing myself, I'm describing Neil Gorsuch."


KURTZ: Napolitano also said Trump had asked him about a potential pardon for a mutual friend. The judge said he told the president the conviction was fair. But Trump disagreed, asking Napolitano to notify the man that he was being considered for a pardon. The judge calls Trump's swipe at me brilliant.


NAPOLITANO: He wanted to divert attention from what Mueller had said about him and what I had commented about Mueller to his relationship with me. His relationship with me is not the story. He and I have been friends for 30 years and probably will be for the next 30 years.


KURTZ: Well, maybe. The president retweeted someone this morning and saying that Napolitano should be taken off the air. Ahead, NBC's sportscasters are stunned as the Kentucky Derby is thrown into turmoil. But first, the press does a 180 on Biden. Hillary Clinton is back on MSNBC, and guess which previously obscured presidential candidate is on the cover of Time.


HOWARD KURTZ, FOX NEWS HOST: The media spent many weeks, months really, telling us that Joe Biden would be weak candidate, that he was too old, too uninspiring and insufficiently liberal to win the Democratic nomination.

But they changed very quickly, changing their tune when former vice president raised six million in one day and surged in the polls including a CNN survey that had him a 39 percent backing of Democrats, far eclipsing Bernie Sanders at 18 percent.


CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE: One thing Donald Trump is right about when he attacks Joe Biden, he's never really shown the quality of candidate that we expected him to be.

So, Biden is in a place he's never been before, clear, if not favorite, definitely the clear front-runner right now.


KURTZ: Joining us now from New York Ben Domenech, the founder of The Federalist and here in Washington Philippe Reines, former adviser to Hillary Clinton, now cohost of the podcast Unredacted which debuts tomorrow.

Ben, Washington Post says surprisingly strong debut for Biden, surprising to whom I ask, the pundits has to be leave that Biden, seems to me that they just don't think he's liberal enough of the party of Bernie and Elizabeth and Kamala, and then the early polls show that, for now at least that's not true. Are they in something of a Twitter bubble?

BEN DOMENECH, PUBLISHER, THE FEDERALIST: I think they definitely are and I appreciate your selection of Chris Cillizza of CNN for your segment here, given that he's the best arbiter of conventional wisdom in Washington when it comes to these types of things.

The fact is that Biden is enormously popular politician. He has a huge amount of goodwill built up with African-American voters particularly in the south, that's going to be a very strong element for him, I think, in this primary and it gives him an advantage that I think is underappreciated in the Acela corridor and on the Twitter universe.

KURTZ: A lot of things underappreciated in the New York and Washington Acela corridor. Philippe, you know something about a candidate not having a good relationship with the press.

But most journalists personally like Biden, they all know he has been around forever. So why is the coverage, at least until we see the polls, range from skeptical to Joe, please don't run.

PHILIPPE REINES, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO HILLARY CLINTON: Well, before I disagreed. I just covered my mic when I made my Chris Cillizza joke.

You know, I think with Vice President Biden it's interesting, because if you look at the field whether it's Republican 2015 or if you look even the Democratic 2008 field with the exception of Hillary, they all look alike and they all sound alike.

Theirs -- this year wait until you see all 22 and counting Democrats on two stages over two nights debating. And I think with Biden -- first of all, media gets it wrong. We've all got it wrong. I think we've all should be a little, you know, humbled by 2016 but, you know, like you said, 38 percent of the Democratic Party seems to know that Joe Biden is an impressive guy and another number from there.

KURTZ: The key question is why so many journalists got it wrong?

REINES: I think because we are in a time where white is not the ideal candidate, where age is not the ideal candidate, where experience, working for Obama, all this stuff and somehow Joe Biden embodied all of that.

KURTZ: Right, on that point --


REINES: And this could be a problem separating that out. Because let's say, Biden stumbles for some reason. Is the media and frankly the rest of us, going to say well, those things are a problem.

KURTZ: Well, you know, it's got a long way to go, but how much of this is reporters and most of them far younger than the 76-year-old Joe Biden wanting to cover somebody new and exciting, somebody they see as savvier and hipper, Ben.

DOMENECH: I think that's a significant part of this. I mean, we have to keep in mind in America there are more Americans who are over the age of 65 than there are under the age of 5.

This is a country that's a lot older than it used to be. It has a significant level of the population, particularly the voting popular that went along with the baby-boomer experience that both the current president and Joe Biden went through.

I think that that means that this age factor is while significant for the media, less significant for the cohort that's actually going to be deciding who takes on the president next fall.

KURTZ: Right. All right. Philippe, Pete Buttigieg on the cover of Time, with is husband, the story says that some Americans Buttigieg may just be the man to vanquish America's demons.

Now, look, he's done a good job, he's given a lot of interviews, he's come out of nowhere, and obviously he has appeals as the first major gay candidate. But cover of Time?

REINES: You know, I think there's legitimate energy with Pete and, you know, back to -- it seems like Joe Biden would be the last person to compare to but in a way he's not. Because you have these people that embody their sort of the self-contained pack of so many interesting things.

I think if Pete Buttigieg was not gay or if he was a woman or if he was an Africa-American he would still be on the cover of Time because of his rise over the last few months. And I don't think his rise over the last few months is because he's gay.

KURTZ: Right, the Washington Post also has a rather puffy profile of Chasten Buttigieg, his husband, talking about he used to be a homeless community college student and now could be first gentleman.

All right. Let me play some sound of Hillary Clinton reemerging into the spotlight with Rachel Maddow. Here we go.

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: China, if you're listening, why don't you get Trump's tax returns, I'm sure our media would richly reward you. I'm living rent free inside of Donald Trump's brain, and it's not a very nice place to be I can tell you that. Because I guess it is one of their tools to fire up their hard-core base. When in doubt, go after me.


KURTZ: Ben, the media's conventional wisdom when Hillary Clinton does one these interviews or gives a speech, is that it takes oxygen away from the other 21 or 22 Democratic candidates.

DOMENECH: Yes, I just think that America's whining grandma should stay away from this whole experience. The more that Hillary Clinton is out there, the more people are reminded about all the factors that they dislike about her.

I don't think that she is one of these characters that the Democratic Party should be embracing as someone who is anything more than a bitter former candidate who lost to one of the most unpopular candidates in history.

It is, I think, a very strong argument to be made that this is the only person who could not have beaten Donald Trump in 2016 and I think that the more that she's out there, the more that she's in the media landscape, the more it hurts and takes away oxygen from this other 2020 candidates who want to move on from the Clinton era.

KURTZ: Philippe, you not only worked for Hillary Clinton at the State Department but were with her at the night out show, your reaction to that and to criticism from people like A.B. Stoddard of the (Inaudible) who said, "If Hillary Clinton doesn't shut up, she'll reelect Trump."

REINES: Well, I mean, I think it's legitimate and it's OK for Republicans and people on the right to have an issue with Hillary Clinton and not want to hear from her. I think whining grandmother is a little out of balance and not necessary.

Beyond that, you know, pundits don't get to decide who gets to speak to the American people and who don't. Rachel Maddow has a few million listeners and they want to hear her. Even Democrats that don't agree on many things want to hear perspective on a number of things.

And if she bothers Republicans, I mean, I bet there are people in the audience who watched these clips and their head exploded and they don't realize her point was that she was mimicking what Donald Trump had said word for word --


KURTZ: About Russia.

REINES: -- but when they watch her do it, they are going to say she should be arrested, she should be locked up, but it's OK when Trump said it because he was just joking. I think the notion --


DOMONECH: Let me correct --

KURTZ: Ben, go ahead.

DOMENECH: Philippe, I said whine grandma not whining grandma.

REINES: I don't know how much better that is, but OK.

KURTZ: All right. I think on that point I'm going to have to get to a break. Thank you, gentlemen. Stay tuned. Next on Media Buzz, how the New York Times utterly botched an anti-Semitic cartoon on Israel and even the paper says it was awful.

And later, why everyone in the press isn't cheering on the new jeopardy champ.


KURTZ: First, the New York Times issued a rather bland statement about the blatantly anti-Semitic cartoon published in its international edition showing Bibi Netanyahu as a dog with a Star of David collar being led by President Trump in a yarmulke, then came a second statement that the paper was deeply sorry.

Next was Times' columnist Bret Stephens calling out his paper for an astonishing act of ignorance of anti-Semitism. And finally, this New York Times editorial, the Times has published an appalling political cartoon in the opinion pages of international print edition late last week.

"The appearance of such an obviously bigoted cartoon in a mainstream publication is evidence of a profound danger not only of anti-Semitism but of numbness too its creep."

Ben Domenech, I still look at this cartoon and say how on earth that this piece of filth gets published? Even if only editor who's now being disciplined look at in the events.

DOMENECH: It's not just a bigoted cartoon, it's a bigoted columnist who has continued in comments after this whole thing happened to blame, you know, sort of the Jewish conspiracy for coming after him. It's disgusting. And I can't believe.

I mean, the New York Times has a serious problem when it comes to dealing with these types of issues, we saw after the 2016 election when Dean Baquet came out and said we need more people in our newsroom who understand religion because we didn't see the factors that were going on there.

And yet, here we are, you know, two -- more than two years later and we still continue to see them having problems when it comes to their coverage of deeply important issues, religious and ethnic issues that they should be more careful about.

KURTZ: And by the way, Philippe, the Times admitted has at least a perceived Jewish problem even though it's owned by the Sulzberger family, this goes back to World War II when it played down news of the Holocaust. So, it says, the papers says, it stopped using syndicated cartoons and will start unconscious bias training for staffers. How much of a blow is this in your view to the paper's prestige?

REINES: Well, I can't other side this, what they did was horrendous, people should more than just be chastised, they should be more than admonished. Someone should be fired and there should be obviously greater controls.

I don't think the paper is inherently anti-Semitic, I know enough of their reporters including Jewish reporters, that doesn't make sense. But the paper in a lot of ways has lost its way for some time first under its previous editor and now under Dean Baquet.

And while it's common for the right to call the New York Times an instrument of the left, Donald Trump can look to 200 years old like his doctors says and he will not have suffered as much as Hillary Clinton has for their missteps.

So, we're all on the same page about them getting a lot wrong and they're not trying and they need to do a lot better and this was unacceptable.

KURTZ: The New York Times is not popular in either side in some political circles. Ben, the self-flagellating Times editorial then pivot to the dangers of anti-Semitism mentions the shooter who opened fire in a San Diego County synagogue and then says that Trump who criticized the paper over the cartoon has done too little to rouse the national conscious against it. Then it talks about Charlottesville.

But President Trump explicitly condemned the synagogue attack, called the rabbi who was injured in the attack and then later have him to the White House.

DOMENECH: You know, I just think this is a ridiculous example of what aboutism. I mean, the president is clearly not anti-Semitic.

You know, Norman Podhoretz has actually given a very good defense of him recently in an interview. And I think this is an example where the Times has just sort of looking around for someone else to blame.

This is a situation that has to be corrected within our media broadly, which is a lack of understanding of religious belief and of these ethic issues that are associated with it. And it isn't just confined to anti- Semitism.

I mean, the Times, you know, coverage most recently when it came to a number of different Catholic issues surrounding the air coverage of the burning of Notre Dame --


REINES: -- you know, had run a number of corrections for them getting basic facts wrong and --


KURTZ: I got to --

REINES: -- understood if they just had a Catholic in the building.

KURTZ: I got had to jump in. Times editorial page editor James Bennet has had to recuse himself from anything to with the 2020 campaign because his brother, Colorado Senator Michael Bennet is now running for president. He did the right thing but that's an awkward position to be in.

REINES: That happens a lot. I mean, I don't think when somebody runs for any office their whole family has to suddenly be unemployed. I mean, --


KURTZ: No, absolutely not.

REINES: But I think just to go back a second.


REINES: Bret Stephens who you are quoting, that's actually not the Times editorial, that was the conservative columnist.


REINES: He's the one who said that Trump has done too little and he was referencing also not condemning Charlottesville and the area after that, and saying Jews will not replace us and that Donald Trump has a higher responsibility and a greater opportunity. He tweets more about SNL and about the Kentucky derby than he does anti-Semitism. He is not --


KURTZ: I got to break in.

REINES: He could just tweet a little bit more.

KURTZ: They're coming up -- all right, gentlemen, thank you both for an entertaining --


REINES: Thank you, Howie.

KURTZ: -- and enlightening discussion. After the break, is James Holzhauer somehow ruining Jeopardy, some pundits say he's winning too much. Isn't that the point of the game?


KURTZ: Answer? It's a game show that probably is at the center of the heated media debate. The question, what is Jeopardy?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is -- salt?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's the rock we eat. One million six hundred eight thousand six hundred twenty-seven.


KURTZ: James Holzhauer, a Las Vegas sports gambler is an unbelievable hat trick winning $1.7 million and blowing away the competition. Long-time host Alex Trebek who is battling stage four pancreatic cancer talked about his illness on GMA, as well as his super star contestant.


ALEX TREBEK, HOST, JEOPARDY: When you look at his performance, he is -- he has no weaknesses. He's only missed one final Jeopardy, I believe he's missed four daily doubles, he's all in so often, he knows how to play the game.


KURTZ: And some commentaries just don't like that.

Joining us now from New York Kat Timpf for National Review writer and Fox News contributor. And here's Chuck Lane writing in a column in a Washington Post, "Do you not see that this guy is a menace. The only more troubling than his grinning relentless march to victory is that millions celebrated." A menace?

KAT TIMPF, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Why is it a menace to win a game where the objective is to win, I really don't understand this. This columnist, maybe he had dreams of always succeeding in Jeopardy and he didn't. In fact, he wrote that he tried and didn't. But I --


KURTZ: Yes. He was on the show years ago.


KURTZ: He said he might be a little bit the sore loser.

TIMPF: Yes, I think that this is sore loser syndrome here and I think where you see so much of this in the media these days, rather than celebrating success. So many people want to poke holes in success. As soon as you start winning you just don't get media coverage, you get media scrutiny.

And I've never seen an example so blatant as this where they're literally attacking him for doing a good job.

KURTZ: Right. And you know, my nine-year-old daughter maybe watch this. And I went thinking Holzhauer is an SOB. In reality he's a little bit awkward, he's a dad, and he's worked really hard to be good at this one thing. And he's quick on the buzzer. And the thing is, he knows most of the answers. As you say, doing the job, that's the game, right?

TIMPF: Right. Well, the point of this call, I mean, a lot of the criticism has been his strategy that he seems to have beaten the system by doing things like going for the higher money, questions first --


TIMPF: -- rather than working his way up. But, so what? He still knows the answers; you still have to know the answers. There's some intelligence there. There are some skills there. It's not like he's cheating, it's not like he's not breaking the rules and the tone of some of the coverage is acting like that is what he's doing. I feel like there's a lot of people who are jealous.

KURTZ: Well, you anticipated my last question. Holzhauer is not breaking any rules. And I guess, you know, the media we love to criticize rather than saying, hey, this guys came out of nowhere and he's made a couple of million dollars and it's really ignited interest in the show of Jeopardy, it's like, you know, he's ruining the game because he's taking this expense out of it. I mean, somebody will beat him eventually, right?

TIMPF: Someone will beat him eventually. It's fond to watch a winning streak for anyone who is a normal person and has secure enough in themselves in their own ability and talents that they don't need to get mad when they see someone else succeed.

I've seen so many columns criticizing him. There's one in the Hollywood Reporter that was saying, yes, but his ratings aren't as good as Ken Jennings, the guy who has the record for the most wins.

KURTZ: Right.

TIMPF: Yes, well, now he's up against Netflix and whatnot, he has brought an interest back interest in the game.


TIMPF: Why are you trying so hard to take someone down who's just doing a good job?

KURTZ: I'm with you, Kat, and thanks very much.

Still to come, that wild finish at the Kentucky derby, we'll be right back.


KURTZ: Or not. It turns out instant replay isn't just for human beings. NBC sportscaster at the Kentucky derby were stunned last night when the apparent win by maximum security was challenged.

That sends the races three stewards, almost never talk to the press scrambling to the instant replay cameras, something we've certainly become accustomed to in other sports and interviewing writers before ruling 20 minutes later that maximum security improperly interfered with other horses.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For the first time in the history of Kentucky derby, the horse that crossed the line first has been disqualified.


KURTZ: The officials gave the crown to a 65 to one long shot country house, but chief steward Barbara Borden just read statement refusing to take questions from reporters.

A big shake-upcoming at CBS, one that would move Norah O'Donnell from The Morning show to the anchor chair to CBS Evening News, replacing Jeff Glor but it's not quite announced yet.


NORAH O'DONNELL, CO-ANCHOR, CBS: We are reading lots of things with great interest and I just want you to know we will address them on Monday when Gayle is back here and John as well.


KURTZ: The expected move confirmed by the Hollywood Reporter and other outlets would make Gayle King the reigning queen at CBS this morning with a much bigger contract. And she'd be joined by Anthony Mason and Tony Dokoupil.

Veteran political reporter John Dickerson will move from Morning to 60 Minutes, all this an effort by new CBS president Susan Zirinsky to boost two third place programs especially the Morning show which has struggled in the ratings after Charlie Rose was ousted as I'm sure you remember in a sexual harassment scandal.

That's it for this edition of Media Buzz. I bet we could get that a little bit of horse racing excitement in. I'm Howard Kurtz. Hey, check out my new podcast. A lot of -- everyone has got a podcast now. Media Buzz Meter, we rift on the day's five hottest stories. You can subscribe at Apple iTunes, at Google Play or at

We hope you'll check out Facebook page, we post my daily columns there, original videos and we talk to you back and forth. Same thing on Twitter at Howard Kurtz. Keep the dialogue going. I love getting the feedback and maybe you enjoy hearing from me. I would like for this to be a dialogue not just us talking at you.

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