Media rate presidential empathy; North Korea test seizes headlines
This is a rush transcript from "Media Buzz," September 3, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: This is a Fox News Alert. Nuclear tensions rising again today as North Korea announces that it has tested a hydrogen bomb that can be mounted on an intercontinental ballistic missile, and President Trump responds with some tough words on twitter. Fox News White House correspondent John Roberts has the reaction at the White House. John.
JOHN ROBERTS, FOX NEWS: Howie, good morning to you. This could really be a game changer. We'll put the pictures up on the screen so you could know what it is that the White House is really, really worried about. The pictures last night released by North Korea, Kim Jong-un inspecting what is said to be a thermonuclear warhead that can be fit on an intercontinental ballistic missile.
Now, there's no way to know whether this in fact is a thermonuclear device or hydrogen bomb or it's simply a tin can mock up made to look like North Korea's got the capability, but certainly the White House is paying a lot of attention to it after that explosion this morning that registered some 6.3 on the Richter Scale in north eastern North Korea.
Sarah Sanders, the press secretary in a statement today saying the national security team is monitoring this closely. The president and his national security team will have a meeting to discuss further later on today. The president currently is across Lafayette Park. He's at church at Saint John's Episcopal. It's national day of prayer for victims of Hurricane Harvey.
The president though before he left tweeting this morning, quote, North Korea has conducted a major nuclear test. Their words and actions continue to be very hostile and dangerous to the United States. North Korea is a rogue nation which has become a great threat and embarrassment to Chine which is trying to help but with little success.
The president also taking in at South Korea saying, South Korea is finding, as I have told them, that their talk of appeasement with North Korea will not work, they understand only one thing.
We do not know what that one thing is whether it's military action or it's more diplomatic and economic action and pressure against the North Korean regime. But Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said this morning he will soon deliver to the president a new package of measures to put the screws to people who are doing business with North Korea. Listen here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE MNUCHIN, SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY: It's clear that this behavior is completely unacceptable. We've already started with sanctions against North Korea but I'm going to draft a sanctions package to send to the president for his strong consideration that anybody that wants to do trade or business with them would be prevented from doing trade or business with us. We are going to work with our allies. We work with China. People need to cut off North Korea economically. This is unacceptable behavior.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: You know, there's been a lot of talk about sanctions over the years, Howie, but a lot of analyst say the sanctions that are on North Korea pale in comparison the sanctions that we've got on a lot of other countries so there's plenty of room to ratchet it up. The thing that the president wants to have happen though, is he wants to get China and Russia on board with very, very strong sanctions. That has so far proven to be problematic, Howie.
KURTZ: John Roberts at the White House. John, thanks very much. Joining us now to analyze the coverage: Mollie Hemingway, senior editor at The Federalist and Fox News contributor; Michael Tomaski, columnist for The Daily Beast, and Erin McPike, White House correspondent for Independent Journal Review.
Mollie, President Trump took plenty of criticism from the media for his earlier threats against Kim Jon-un, fire and fury like the world has never seen and things like that. Do you think the press will recognized or adjust to the fact that he's now responding to a quite deliberate provocation by Kim?
MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I don't know. If we remember back at the earlier things that Trump was saying, those were backed up by the defense secretary who was also using similar rhetoric against North Korea, but I think what's really important right now is for the media remain calm, understand that these are claims that are being made by North Korea that might not be backed up.
I thought that was as good how we saw that in that report, and not make everything about personal animosity toward Donald Trump. When we are talking about the possibility of actual thermonuclear war, everyone should keep their heads above them.
KURTZ: That is very good advice given the context. Michael, the mainstream media consensus, foreign policy establishment, seems the media has let (ph) diplomacy and sanctions are preferable to tough talk and confrontation because of the risk of nuclear war. Could that be changing now in light of what Kim is doing with his hydrogen bomb test?
MICHAEL TOMASKY, THE DAILY BEAST: It could be but, you know, I don't think it's only the media consensus, Howard. I think it's a consensus of foreign policy establishment. I think it's probably the consensus of the military establishment. I don't think the Pentagon wants a war. I think they would prefer diplomacy and (INAUDIBLE) sanctions as well and I think the media is reflecting that consensus view. This is a more --
KURTZ: -- of course, it hasn't worked very well in the past.
TOMASKY: Well, no, it hasn't but you know, it has staved off the situation up to this point and we haven't had direct diplomacy for many, many years with North Korea. So, other people would argue that it hasn't been tried.
KURTZ: And you look at the president's tweets, rogue nation, hostile and dangerous, only understands one thing, is twitter, which the president obviously loves in many context, a good vehicle for these kind of threats?
ERIN MCPIKE, INDEPENDENT JOURNAL REVIEW: Well, I think many people would tell you that it's not. I think there was quite an uproar over some of his initial tweets. But look, I think this is not just about Donald Trump and I think Mollie is right in some respects, but I think the media should probably do a better job of helping the American public understand the threat that the United States actually face.
And I say that in part because I've gone to a couple of Pentagon briefings where they say that the U.S. is three years ahead of North Korea's technology and we come to find out that North Korea's moving a lot faster than many people think so I think what we should really do -- and "Fox and Friends" did actually a really great job of this this morning, of actually showing the differences in the technology the North Korea has and some of the different bombs that they are trying to create. We should probably see more segments like that so the American public can really understand this problem.
KURTZ: All right, the consensus here is that we should have some context and perspective about and educate the public about the situation and not just reduce it to Donald Trump versus Kim Jong-un. We'll have much more on the coverage of the North Korea threat in this program.
But let me turn now to the hurricane situation in Texas. You know, the media when the hurricane struck, set this up as a major test for Donald Trump. And after his first visit on Tuesday, the first visit to Corpus Christi, many in the press accused him of insufficient compassion.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
JEFF ZELENY, CNN: Very little in terms of empathy from this president. Very little in terms of emotion or talking directly to the people of Texas.
CAROL LEE, MSNBC: It was very striking that he didn't mention the number of people who died or even, you know, sort of try to empathize with the fact that people are genuinely suffering.
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC: Today, President Trump visited Texas but he forgot to bring any empathy with him. But he did bring a hat, a hat that is for sale.
GREG GUTFELD, FOX NEWS: It's not about empathy. It's about effectiveness. This is a dangerous thing to be playing when you think feelings are more important than funds. Feelings don't save lives. They don't.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
KURTZ: So Mollie, before the second visit yesterday, we would gaze at this, the press sort of move the yardstick from how are the government or response being -- response to Hurricane Harvey to did the president show enough empathy.
HEMINGWAY: Right. It was an unbelievable emphasis on empathy. And it was something that we didn't see last year, last August, there were deadly floods in Louisiana and President Obama at that time made the decision to stay in Martha's Vineyard rather than to go visit during the crisis. And you saw a lot of media coverage explaining it and saying, oh, it's good not to go down and that would just cause more problems and what not.
And then the flip on this, you know, one year later and make it all about this, I mean, every single person was talking about empathy and it was just bizarre actually.
KURTZ: Michael is it unfair of the media? I mean, I think it's fair, you know, it's sort of a comparison here to Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. But to reduce it or at least put a very intense spotlight on did he hug anybody, do you think that was fair or unfair?
TOMASKY: No, I think that's fair, and I think that Obama deserves some criticism for the Martha's Vineyard --
HEMINGWAY: He didn't get criticism.
TOMASKY: No, I'm saying he deserves some, OK. I think he should have left Martha's Vineyard. And any president in any of these kinds of situations z- - and George Bush handled Katrina horribly until he was way too late on that and it hurt him in the polls. That's when he went down for good.
KURTZ: And he's acknowledge that he made a series of mistakes there.
TOMASKY: And I think Trump, you know, it's not a question of going. Going is good.
TOMASKY: But you know, he started out on the wrong foot with that thing about how great his crowd was.
KURTZ: All right. And so there were no report of FEMA screwing up and the government's response in the face of this overwhelming devastation and the catastrophic flooding seems to be going all right so far so early. This then reinforces Trump's supporters and the media never have anything good to say about the president.
MCPIKE: Well, I do think the president walked into the media's trap on this one and I do think that the media were looking for mistakes. So, Josh Dawsey, who is actually a very good reporter for Politico and very plugged into the White House, topped his story by saying President Trump didn't meet a single victim. He didn't see any floodwaters, but here he is trying to say that he's working on this problem.
And I think he saw that throughout a lot of the coverage and a lot of what you played there. However, I do think the president often steps into it when he shouldn't because he later in the week tweeted that he saw the devastation from Harvey firsthand, and then Andrew Beatty, who is part of the White House foreign press tweeted about that and said I travelled with the president yesterday. Personally, I would not claim to have seen Harvey's horror and devastation firsthand.
KURTZ: In fairness, the president went to Corpus Christi to not got into Houston because it was still, you know, heavy -- rescue efforts taking place and the flooding was out of control. So yesterday, the president went to Houston. Let's take a look at some pictures. He visited a place where a lot of children were, and we see him there. And then he had this to say and the impromptu session with reporters.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: It's being done very efficiently very well and let's go to work (ph). I'm very happy with the way everything is going. A lot of love. There's a lot of love. It's been well received. Even by you guys it's been well received.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: So, I was watching all the channels yesterday, as CNN, MSNBC now giving the president credit because now he's hugging people and talking about love. It's like you have to do it the way the media want you to do it or you don't get the gold star.
HEMINGWAY: Yes. I saw a chyron on another network. They put something like president gets a second chance --
KURTZ: A do over.
HEMINGWAY: -- doing empathy. But this is what the problem is when we have so much of a focus on optics and this becomes the entire way the media (INAUDIBLE). I mean, one thing we didn't mention was the obsession with Melania Trump's stilettos.
KURTZ: Let me pause (ph) you right there because we want to put up some headlines on this very subject, and that went on for a couple of days as well. As you recall, she wore the five or six-inch heels. Look at this, "Vanity Fair," who wears stilettos to a hurricane? "Slate," what was Melania Trump thinking with her Hurricane Harvey stilettos. You know, by the time they got there, she was wearing sneakers.
TOMASLY: Yes, I mean, that was silly -- heartless but silly.
KURTZ: I mean harmful in a way because it portrayed the first lady as being a sort of --
TOMASKY: Yes, all right, OK. Maybe so, but she's not the first first lady to get that. I mean, Hillary Clinton got pretty picked on when she wore a pink pantsuit to a press conference in this kind of thing. So, I don't see an ideological component to that necessarily, but with Trump, you know, he deserved better marks for what he did and said yesterday.
This thing he said about the media not getting in harm's way and being cowards or whatever it was, was pretty off key.
KURTZ: I took that as a joke. You can say it was an off key joke but I don't think he was serious. A lot of journalists actually did go into very dangerous conditions, Erin.
MCPIKE: Well, look, last thing I would say about this is that when the president was focusing on tax reform later in the week, I saw a number of cable news chyrons that said the president is pivoting to tax reform when the death toll is rising in Texas, and I thought that was way too much to say because we do expect the president to walk and chew gum at the same time.
KURTZ: I'm going to let you finish that answer after we put up some of these. Let me read a couple, Trump making tax push as Beaumont Port Arthur floods. These were all on MSNBC. Trump calls for simplifying tax code as Texas floods. And here's one we can show you from MSNBC, Trump talks taxes as gulf death toll climbs to 19.
MCPIKE: That's exactly the one I saw. I didn't know that you were going to put that up. But I remember seeing that and others like it. On CNN as well, and that was just irresponsible. When I talked earlier about the media setting a trap for the president, they certainly did that with that.
HEMINGWAY: Well, it's kind of funny you talk about how he fell into the trap in the first visit and then it seems like the media fell into his trap with the second visit. They made it all about empathy. And then you have these pictures of kids running up and hugging him and taking pictures. You've got families and you have the family members all talking about how much they love him. So, it was -- they both fell into each other's trap.
KURTZ: Well, that is part of the job but interesting the dual traps as you guys would put it. When we come back we'll go to Houston and check in with a top newspaper editor on the incredible challenge of covering this catastrophe while many journalists are dealing with their own flooded homes.
KURTZ: The Houston Chronicle has every available person covering the monster storm and catastrophic flooding that has wreaked havoc on its hometown. Joining us now from Houston is Vernon Loeb, the paper's managing editor. And Vernon, just on a personal level, what happened earlier on when you tried to walk to your newsroom from your home four and a half miles away?
VERNON LOEB, THE HOUSTON CHRONICLE: Well, I found water up to my waist about two blocks from my apartment. It's Sunday morning and it was -- I knew a big storm was coming, but I was really sort of emotionally unprepared for just how much water was everywhere. And you know, our initial challenge really was just sort of getting a few people into the newsroom and then sort of deploying from there.
We basically told everybody if you can't get in, work from home, start reporting from your community and stand by and we'll send you where we need you to go as the day proceeds.
KURTZ: Interesting that you say you were emotionally unprepared as I'm sure almost everybody was for the sheer magnitude of this hurricane. You've reported from Afghanistan. You've done other kinds of talk reporting but this is very different and people have kept asking you, are you OK?
LOEB: Yes, all week. You know, it's one thing to go to a war and to be embedded with soldiers and, you know, be prepared for such an extraordinary event. It's quite another thing to have that extraordinary event like come to your neighborhood. Not just to your neighborhood but to really, an entire city all of a sudden in one morning.
I remember thinking as I'm sort of slogging my way into work, where is all this water going to go? I mean, I think the latest count is something like 27 trillion gallons. I think everybody sort of reacted that way and then you know, your sort of instinct as a journalist kick in and you just start reporting.
KURTZ: Yes. We've been showing some pictures of the devastation taken by your "Houston Chronicle" photographers. How much of a strain is it -- not just on you but all of your colleagues including people who don't ordinarily cover this kind of news, working day and night while they have their own flooded homes and their own families to deal with?
LOEB: Yes. I think this is the first time in my career where I put the entire paper on one story because, you know, nothing else mattered at that point. You know, we had numerous staff members lose their houses -- a couple have lost everything. Other people -- almost everybody had some sort of flood damage.
I put a big narrative in play on Monday, the second day of the storm. And we published today a 6,500-word narrative, and two of the writers were sort of telling me, yes, I'd love to do this but I'm watching the water creep up to my front door, and let me get back to you.
LOEB: And luckily they were OK. One of them actually had evacuated his house. He lived in this place called Sienna Plantation which got hit by a tornado on day one. So he had evacuated and was sort of able to work. So I had this team of writers, sort of evacuees, you know, themselves working on this narrative.
KURTZ: You know, it's heartbreaking to hear these details because in a crisis we all want to do our jobs as journalists, and you got to worry about your family and your house and you know, just briefly, journalists take a lot of abuse and some of it is well-deserved but something like this happens, you really see the value of journalism in a crisis.
LEB: Yes, absolutely. It was so inspiring to me to see everybody step up and not only, you know, be available but to say, you know, I want to do more, where can I go? We've had a bunch of people who just won't stop working, you know. You do reach sort of physical and perhaps even more important sort of emotional exhaustion at the end of the week so we're starting to tell people, you know, go home, take a day of, and some of them I just can't get to stop.
KURTZ: Well, that's the problem most editors would like to have, but your (INAUDIBLE) has done a remarkable job. Your online traffic is way up. Vernon Loeb, thanks very much for joining us from Houston.
LOEB: My pleasure, Howie. Thank you.
KURTZ: Ahead. Is the press rooting for President Trump to keep Brack Obama's dreamers program? But first, James Rosen on the White House response to North Korea detonating an H-bomb.
KURTZ: This is a Fox News alert: President Trump reacting with tough talk on twitter as North Korea conducts an underground test of a hydrogen bomb. Joining us now by phone is Fox News chief Washington correspondent James Rosen, also a veteran State Department reporter. And James, it's almost as if Kim Jong-un has his own media manipulation agenda after the earlier round of threats and counter threats.
He was kind of quiet when Charlottesville and the Houston flooding dominated the news and he does this test as the hurricane news is just starting to fade.
JAMES ROSEN, FOX NEWS: Yes, and we've seen this from Kim Jong-un in the past during 2014 when the United States was preoccupied by the threat of ISIS and it spread throughout Iraq and the beheadings American journalists and others. Kim Jong-un laid low during that time.
But this speaks to a rationality that is present on the part of northern Korean government and regime, but isn't very often credited by the American media or western meida in our portrayal of North Korea and I think that that's dangerous.
KURTZ: You're saying that Kim is basically described in the press as a kind of an erratic madman and that is off the mark?
ROSEN: Well, certainly there is some basis for believing that his concepts of rationality differ quite marginally from our own. For example I believe one of the -- in his purges, one of the people he had killed, I think a relative of his, was destroyed by anti-aircraft fire which is not a typical means for execution.
But nonetheless, the North Korean regime over time has displayed a kind of rationality in its pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability, knowing when to seek talks, when perhaps to give a concession here or there. They demonstrated extraordinary strategic patience over time. They're fond of saying that to the Americans, you have the watch, but we have the time.
KURTZ: Right. Well let me jump in here James because it seems a lot of journalistic reports are focusing on our government perhaps not speaking with one voice for example before this test, President Trump said that talking is not the answer. He said that on twitter. James Mattis, the Pentagon chief saying we're never out of diplomatic solutions.
And Rex Tillerson, who keeps an extraordinary low profile, rarely talks to reporters or takes them on trips, is he a factor here or is foreign policy basically being run out of the White House?
ROSEN: He's absolutely a factor. He sees the president weekly. If you talk to other heads of state particularly in the Middle East, they have great respect for Tillerson and they say that he has genuine influence with the president. But there are also reports you hear throughout official Washington that Tillerson is frustrated, that he's probably going to leave after one year.
You hear for example that he's also staying simply because he believes as a patriot that his time is needed right now and we hear that about other officials surrounding the president. But it is true that the United States have not spoken with one voice on North Korea, but that's also been true for example with respect to our dealings in the mid-east. And for example the rift between our gulf allies, UAE and Saudi Arabia and Qatar. We didn't speak with one voice on that either.
KURTZ: Right. And of course the press does tend to pounce on each little difference. James Rosen, thanks very much for calling in this Labor Day weekend.
ROSEN: Thank you, Howie.
KURTZ: Not exactly a slow Labor Day weekend folks. Up next, as the president decides on the dreamers program, is the press playing it straight? And the Russia story is back, but is it being overplayed?
KURTZ: This is a Fox News Alert: Reaction coming in from the State Department this morning after North Korea boasting about its most of powerful weapons test, a hydrogen bomb that could be mounted on an ICBM for delivery. Fox News correspondent Rich Edson is live with the latest. Rich?
RICH EDSON, FOX NEWS: Howie, the State Department says Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has spoken this morning with South Korea's foreign minister. Spokeswoman Heather Nauert on twitter added, quote, Secretary Tillerson is making calls to counterparts in region following DPRK news. The president's national security team monitoring events closely and will meet.
The State Department is leaving what the Trump administration calls its pressure campaign against North Korea. It's an effort to isolate North Korea diplomatically and economically. The secretary has traveled to the region repeatedly declared all options are on the table to confront North Korea and has tried to convince allies and adversaries to cut off North Korean sources of funding.
The United Nation's Security Council has just passed and enacted additional sanctions against North Korea. South Korea according to its Yonhap news agency says it will seek the most of powerful U.N. sanctions to, quote, completely isolate North Korea. That would require China and Russia to again sign off on additional sanctions on the Security Council -- that seems unlikely.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke last week with Russian foreign ministry Sergei Lavrov. In that call, the Russian foreign ministry says, quote, Sergei Lavrov once again emphasized that there is no alternative t the search for political and diplomatic ways of overcoming tensions on the Korean Peninsula and the need to refrain from any steps of military nature fraught with unpredictable consequences. At the same time, he underscored that Russia regarded any further strengthening of sanctions pressure on the DPRK as counterproductive and dangerous.
Still the United States can act unilaterally. Treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin said on "Fox News Sunday" that he is drafting a sanctions proposal for the president to consider that would cut off trade and all other business to North Korea. The Treasury Department late last month sanctioned several Russian and Chinese firms for conducting business with North Korea, Howie.
KURTZ: So Russia's position is basically do nothing. Rich Edson, thanks very much for that wide report.
Even as much of Houston was first being submerged by the catastrophic flooding, MSNBC among others focused on The Washington Post report about Russia. Speaking of Russia, the story said that during the campaign, Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen had written t Vladimir Putin's spokesman to try to revive a stalled proposal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.
The New York Times obtained an e-mail from Russian-American businessman and Trump associate, Felix Sater telling Cohen, our boy can become president of the U.S.A and we can engineer it. I will get all Putin's team to buy in on this but the effort went nowhere.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: And apparently nobody in the Trump organization or the Trump campaign ever thought to mention that during the presidential campaign, for five months of the presidential campaign. The Trump organization was aggressively pursuing the building of a gigantic real estate project in Moscow that Russian government had agreed to finance.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we now know is that Donald Trump's lawyer was seeking to do and get favors done for him from Putin. That's a big, big part of the puzzle.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
KURTZ: And we're back with the panel, Mollie Hemingway, Trump's personal lawyer involved, the e-mail about helped elect our boy president, legitimate story?
HEMINGWAY: Well, it's a fine story to cover. Again, the question is how much to cover. I saw someone say something like what more proof do we need of a secret Trump and Russia connection. I'm thinking how about any proof, how about anything that actually leads us to anything substantive.
Even this story which is about people making claims about making someone president and getting deals done -- the deal never happened. There is still no evidence of any collusion. And so a lot of these stories and the emphasis and the number of stories that we've seen make it seem more like we have people who are unwilling to accept a legitimate election rather than much meat (ph) to an actual Russia story.
KURTZ: Michael, knowing that the deal never happened but the Trump campaign folks were so non-wired with the Kremlin that Michael Cohen, the personal lawyer, just sent his e-mail to like a general press inbox and got no response. But at the same time, candidate Donald Trump was talking about Russia and Putin on the campaign trial while his people were really trying to do the whole Moscow thing. Your take on the importance of the story.
TOMASKY: It's a very important story. Of course it's an important story. You know, just flip it. I mean, if President Hillary Clinton had fired an FBI director who was conducting a probe into her campaign, I think that on this network and some other conservative media outlets, there'd be a pretty big you wouldn't cry about it. And so, I think it's totally reasonable, but it's a big story.
Every single story has a big story. That deal didn't happen. That particular Cohen thing didn't happen but it's not as if the media has t wait until it has a smoking gun in its hand to write news. I mean, if news pops up, write it.
KURTZ: And the other news that popped up, Erin McPike, is the "New York Times" reporting on the Special Counsel Robert Mueller has obtained an early, more detailed draft of President Trump's later firing Jim Comey which had more details in it. It was opposed by the last counsel because it kind of had an angry tone. That's been treated as a pretty big story. Why? Drafts are pretty common in government.
MCPIKE: Well, it is but in part because it changes the White House story a little bit and what we understand from that story is also that Vice President Mike Pence was in that room and knew of that draft as well. So, you just have to go back and look at the timeline and what the White House has been saying and it shows that their story just isn't completely lining up with the many different stories that Donald Trump has given.
HEMINGWAY: Well I mean, on that note, I mean there were many reasons why he gave -- there were many reasons Donald Trump gave for why he fired Comey, among them, his mishandling of his job throughout the previous years. And we just learned this week also that Comey had said -- that he had actually drafted or decided to exonerate Hillary Clinton months before the investigation was actually done, further verifying that this was a person who had problems with his job.
KURTZ: I do want to say and I know we all have to juggle but earlier this week when the Houston flooding was just out of control and people being rescued from those towns, MSNBC in prime time devoted a lot of hours to these Russia-related stories. CNN I must say, Anderson Cooper went to Houston, reported on the flooding and CNN did a lot more on the hurricane, you know, as did Fox in prime time. Now, there has been all this chatter in the press about President Trump making a decision on the future about Barack Obama's Dreamers Program, the younger illegal immigrants brought in by their parents. That decision now expected Tuesday. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, a decision on DACA?
TRUMP: Sometime today or over the weekend we'll have a decision.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE).
TRUMP: We love the Dreamers. We love everybody.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: We love the Dreamers. Michael Tomasky, is there any question in your mind and all the reporting on this, we don't know what the president is going decide but the press by playing up the Dreamers, Paul Ryan and other Republicans saying don't end the program, we'll come up with a fix in Congress, but the press feels like this is a humanitarian program that should continue.
TOMASKY: I guess, you know, I don't know if it's fair to say that as an entire -- a statement about the entire media. I think there are different strains of the media that represent different viewpoints, but overall I suppose there is a consensus here that that is the case. And you know, it's driven by completely legitimate factors in a democracy.
I mean, there are immigrant advocate groups out there who are feeding media organizations these kids who are, you know, who are dreamers who went to Harvard or whatever. What are you, not going to do those stories? Of course you're going to do those stories.
KURTZ: Right, but the media are very god at framing stories in a certain way, and look, the president seems conflicted about this. He's taken a hard stance on immigration but he obviously has sympathy for the dreamers. And when every Republican like Paul Ryan speaks up about it, of course you cover that, but I'm not seeing much coverage of the other side of the argument why this program should not be continued.
HEMINGWAY: There are a lot of failures in how this is covered even including that the reason why this decision has to be made over the weekend is because you have 10 state attorney general who have given the federal government until September 5th to rescind this program.
KURTZ: And they're suing.
HEMINGWAY: They're suing and they will continue. And they successfully sued the federal government on a twin program which is for parents who had American citizens as children. And so this entire thing sort of fails on the rule of law question and that's what I think is interesting. The media don't care about rule of law. They don't encourage stories about rule of law or see how rule of law is also a way -- enforcing rule of law is a way to be charitable, so there is s much emphasis on dreamers and there's not a lot of emphasis on citizens or how immigration law affects people who are immigrants.
KURTZ: Well, let's remember that it was very controversial when President Obama did this in 2012, mostly because he acted unilaterally by (INAUDIBLE) the voting. It couldn't get through Capitol Hill. Even Obama said it was temporary and that I think has been lost in only some in the coverage.
MCPIKE: Yes, and now you're seeing Congress that they want to act and Republicans in Congress say that they want to act. What I would say is this. The media is covering this in such a way that shows that there are points stacking up against Donald Trump. Another Republican Orrin Hatch and then Rick Scott and other Republicans are continuing to come out against the president on this particular thing.
I think the media is generally missing a big shift going on in the business community and I'm sorry to say, you might not agree, but the business community is moving to the left and Republicans are moving along with them.
You're seeing that on tariffs, you're seeing that on this issue, transgender in the military, and what happened after Charlottesville and other things. The business community is definitely moving left in a larger way.
KURTZ: I'm going to give a brief response since Erin pointed at you.
HEMINGWAY: No, actually I may think that's actually true but the important thing is for the media not to just be beholden to what corporate interests are but to understand that the American people might be at odds with the establishment including corporations.
KURTZ: All right, we'll have to --
TOMASKY: The America people opposed to be doing away with this from every poll I've seen.
KURTZ: Right. Well, we'll have to see what the president decides or if there's some sort of compromise here and we have a rare note of agreement so we'll end it there. Erin McPike, Michael Tomasky, Mollie Hemingway, thanks very much for joining us this Sunday.
After North Korea's new N-bomb test, how is the latest tough talk between President Trump and Kim Jong-un playing in the press. More on that in a moment.
KURTZ: This is a Fox News Alert. We've just gotten word that President Trump attending church near the White House, Saint John's Episcopal Church, on what he's called a national day of prayer for the victims of the flooding and the hurricane in Texas. He was asked by a reporter, will you attack North Korea. The president's response, we'll see.
With that, joining us now by phone is Fox News national security correspondent Jennifer Griffin. Jen, the generals have a lot of influence in this administration, Jim Mattis at the Pentagon that you covered, John Kelly, H.R. McMaster in the White House, do you think that would make them more prone to a military option or perhaps more weary of the cost of war in this confrontation with North Korea.
JENNIFER GRIFFIN, FOXE NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Well Howie, based on the conversations I've had with senior military officials and commanders and those who are doing the planning for any sort of military strike, I would say that these military commanders know the cost of what a military plan -- how the potential for it to go wrong, in this case, and what the down side is in terms of the realities of the Korean Peninsula right now.
You have a situation where -- let me just paint a picture -- where across the North Korean border to South Korea, there are tens of thousands of artillery units with their eyes set 30 miles south on South Korea's capital, Seoul where there are 25 million people living. I'm told within 4 minutes 800,000 rounds of artillery could land on Seoul. So, this is not -- there are very few clean military options.
GRIFFIN: Now, there are military options but I think you have to look at what Secretary Mattis said this week sitting side by side with his South Korean counterpart at the Pentagon. He said, we are not out of diplomatic options.
KURTZ: Right. That was noteworthy because it came not that long after President Trump had tweeted about talking is not the answer, and then now a new tweet today from the president, Jennifer, South Korea is finding (ph) as I've told them that their talk of appeasement with North Korea will not work. They only understand one thing.
I noted earlier that the mainstream media consensus, the foreign policy establishment consensus seems to be that sanctions and diplomacy are better than confrontational talk because of the risk of war, but Kim posing with the hydrogen bomb, I mean, that might change that consensus because it's been so provocative.
GRIFFIN: Well, that's absolutely true. But I just want to take you back to that Wednesday appearance that Mattis had with his South Korean counterpart. The media that night made a lot out of the fact the President Trump had tweeted that morning that the time for talking was over with North Korea and Jim Mattis, the Defense Secretary said that we are not out of diplomatic options.
And so, many in the media took that to mean that Mattis was standing up to the president, he was contradicting the president. Mattis came back and spoke to us reporters in the Pentagon the day after and he was really hot under the collar for having been what he's called misinterpreted. He said, just because I said we are not out of diplomatic options didn't mean that I was saying that we should talk to Kim Jong-un --
GRIFIN: -- or that we don't have military options. There are military options but they are messy and the potential for miscalculation given the very unpredictable nature of the Kim Jong-un regime is very high and the military knows it better than anyone.
KURTZ: So Mad Dog Mattis was mad about the stories and it's great to have that clarification of what he said later because that got a lot less attention in the apparent split with the president just a day or so. Jennifer Griffin, our national security correspondent. Thanks very much for calling in.
GRIFFIN: Thank you.
KURTZ: And after the break we'll go back to Houston and talk to Fox's Griff Jenkins about the the personal challenges of covering a disaster of this magnitude.
KURTZ: What's the personal impact on journalists covering this devastating hurricane and flooding in Texas. Joining us now from Houston, Fox News Correspondent, Griff Jenkins. And Griff, what's been the toughest obstacle, I mean, you parachute in -- is it hard just to get from one place to another because of all the flooded roads? Is it a little intimidating?
GRIFF JENKINS, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Howie. The biggest challenge out here since this began over a week ago has been mobility. The magnitude is more than a week, 51 inches of rain. It's flooded out as everyone has seen the photos. The roads, the highways and so, you know, getting from one place to another has been very difficult. We've had to commandeer boats and paddle ourselves and negotiate currents.
We've had to tuck our way into law enforcement and volunteer (INAUDIBLE) so, mobility certainly the biggest challenge. But I got to tell you, I want to take this opportunity, my cameraman David Williams, my producer, A.J. Hall. I could not have been with a better team that was more fearless and more willing to go everywhere we went to safely bring you the story as it unfolded.
KURTZ: Yes, the crews are often the unsung heroes here and you're the one who's on camera. I'm seeing you on this boat, I didn't know you had such boating skills. But on another sense, is it a bit overwhelming? I mean, you're in a situation where people are dying, tens of thousands of people have lost their homes. You get to see that. You get to see that , you get to talk to someone. Is there an emotional impact on you as you tell these stories?
JENKINS: Well, you know, I think any reporter's job is really to try and harness and bring the viewers here and harness some of that emotion and certainly this was a story in the nation's fourth largest city. The impact emotionally, in fact, I'm going to continue telling that story today, Howie, because in this one area that has new mandatory evacuation, the residents furious that they couldn't be evacuated or told to get out earlier.
And so while it feels like most of the area is under recovery, moving forward process, one part is still flooding and they're going to be under water for weeks. But you know, I would also just add one of the differences in covering this because I was in Katrina for Fox News radio guys, and that is twitter was created a year after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
And so when this was unfolding in the early days, when I was talking to you last weekend, when it was really hitting hard, we were seeing people tweeting directly Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, help me, I'm at 112 such and such lane told me I'm at such and such 12th lane.
And so it was playing out in real time, and so the social media aspect allowed us to try and be on the tip of the spear if you will for as fast as we could so, you know, we were trying to overcome the mobility challenges, but we had a better sense of where this story was hitting the hardest as it unfolded and in terms of overwhelming - it certainly was overwhelming when on social media it just blew up and we realized, oh my goodness, it's literally everywhere.
KURTZ: It's just fascinating that twitter is now a way for victims to reach out to first responders but journalists can use it as a way to know and get the story. And that story is not over by a long shot even though some of the floodwaters have receded. Griff Jenkins doing a terrific job for us in Houston. Griff, thanks very much.
JENKINS: Thank you.
KURTZ: Great to see you. Still to come, Sarah Palin loses a lawsuit and a look at journalists in Houston who've actually help rescue people. That video, next.
KURTZ: This is a Fox News Alert. We've just gotten a video of a pool reporter having a brief chance to question President Trump as he came out of church near the White House about the escalating tensions with North Korea. Let's take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, will you attack North Korea?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: We'll see, said the president. The whole world waiting to see what happens next after that H-bomb test. You know, for all the criticism heat on journalists these days, much of it well deserved. Some of them show tenacity and courage when disaster strikes. These qualities were on display when much of Houston was under water and reporters turned into rescuers. Here's Brandy Smith of KHOU-TV, who's station had been flooded when she spotted a driver who's truck had skidded into the water.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRANDY SMITH, REPORTER, KHOU-TV: Here we go, we have a boat coming. We have a boat coming. I'm going to flag these guys down and see. There is now water filling his cab. I'm trying not to break your ear drums as I scream, I cannot imagine how terrifying it would be to be stuck right there right now. Put yourself in that place, you're car is filling with water, help is on the way. He is incredibly lucky.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: That driver was rescued. KHOU was knocked off the air for hours.
CNN correspondent Drew Griffin was getting ready for a live shot when this happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN: Look at this. Get out, dude! All right buddy, come on. Get out of that water. Don't fall backwards. No, ma'am, we got a car in a ditch. We just pulled a fellow out. Lord have mercy. Are you all right now?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. I want to thank these guys for saving my life.
GRIFFIN: If no one was here, if nobody was out doing a live shot, that fellow would -- he'd be gone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: When lives are at stake, sometimes reporters just should have to drop the mic or the pen and try to help and it's an important reminder that however divided we are in the media world and the political world, we're all in this together. We're out of time but I wanted to mention that a federal judge has thrown out that Sarah Palin lawsuit against the New York Times as having to do with wrongly tying her to the 2011 mass shooting that included Gabby Giffords who was badly wounded.
The judge saying that the paper -- that Palin failed to prove actual malice on the whole path of the New York Times because she is a public figure.
That's it for our jam-packed edition of "Media Buzz." I'm Howard Kurtz. We'll continue to follow the North Korea story and we'd like to bring you some hurricane news from Houston as well. Check out our Facebook page. Give us a like. We will be back on Sunday. This is Labor Day weekend and look at all the breaking news we have to deal with. See you next Sunday, 11 a.m. Eastern with the latest buzz.
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