This is a rush transcript from "Media Buzz," May 19, 2019. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: On the Buzz Meter this Sunday, a fierce and emotional media debate over a new Alabama law banning almost all abortions and whether it's part of a grand scheme to overturn Roe v. Wade.
REBECCA TRAISTER, AUTHOR: Under other circumstances, maybe they wouldn't have gone for such a "full frontal" challenge to Roe, but they would have been aiming towards the same thing --
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Right.
TRAISTER: -- anyway which is depriving women of their reproductive autonomy.
KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's incredibly extreme. It's something that has even caused some division in the pro-life community, the idea of not even having exceptions for rape and incest, something that close to 80 percent of Americans support.
LISA BOOTHE, SENIOR FELLOW, INDEPENDENT WOMEN'S VOICE: What I appreciate about the Georgia and Alabama bill is a fact it gives personhood to the unborn, and I think this is an important one, a legal conversation to have.
GREG GUTFELD, FOX NEWS HOST: The rights talk actually keeps us from all-out war because if you think that this is actually murder, you don't say I respect your right to murder, it would be like saying I'm against slavery, but I respect your right to have a slave.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): Right.
KURTZ: With so many pro-choice voices on the air, are journalists covering both sides? Chris Wallace moderates a town hall debate tonight with Pete Buttigieg, and he's here to talk about why more Democrats are coming on Fox while others still slam the network. And why is the 23rd candidate, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio drawing so much media mockery?
Media unload on the president for his refusal to obey congressional subpoenas as his attorney general orders an investigation of whether the FBI's early surveillance of the Trump campaign and Russia was improper.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: This is huge news, a colossal step forward for equal justice and equal application under our laws.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: This whole idea that the president is going to demand investigations of the investigators, demand investigations of his political enemies, it's, you know, not the dystopic future anymore, we're living through it.
HAYES: Now the president is saying, well, I never asked him to do this, but when Barr announces, the president goes out and says I'm so proud of him, like everyone understands exactly what's happening.
JESSE WATTERS, FOX NEWS HOST: So it's a normal question to ask, why was this investigation launched when there was no evidence? What evidence did they base the investigation on?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: And how journalists are reacting to the president calling that early FBI surveillance treason. Plus, if you surveyed the landscape and had to pick the best interviewer in broadcasting --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SUNNY HOSTIN, LAWYER: I was in college in the 80s, and I found your show so offensive --
HOWARD STERN, AMERICAN RADIO PERSONALITY: Thank you.
HOSTIN: I think I may be a convert, Howard.
STERN: You're going to listen, and you're going to be a big fan --
STERN: -- and who knows what's going to happen with us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Would it be Howard Stern, king of all media, a one-time shock jock? Hey, now. I'm Howard Kurtz and this is "Media Buzz."
It wasn't hard to figure out where MSNBC stands on Alabama's new abortion ban which was has almost no exceptions and was signed into law by Republican Governor Kay Ivey. Nine of its guests in the first 24 hours were current and former officials of such groups as Planned Parenthood and NARAL, and Democratic presidential candidates denouncing the law.
Media reports warned of a growing effort in other states to chip away at or overturn Roe v. Wade as even some pro-life advocates expressed concern about the sweeping nature of the Alabama measure.
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 and a former TV producer; and Juan Williams, co-host of "The Five."
Mollie, abortion is an issue in which people of both sides feel very deeply about. Are much of the media giving a fair shake to the pro-life side as they feature -- as I mentioned, liberal hosts, Democratic candidates, pro- choice officials, denouncing this Alabama law as barbaric?
MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR, SENIOR EDITOR AT THE FEDERALIST: The whole reason I became interested in media criticism was watching how the media covered this topic. As you say, people can have different ideas about whether it's OK to take a human life after it has begun or not OK to do that, but the issue is coverage and there is no question that the media are horrifically biased in favor of the pro-choice side.
They don't cover the arguments made by pro-lifers. They react with extreme -- they freak out over a bill like this. You didn't see this freak out when there was a similarly extreme measure from New York that allows children to be left to die if they survive abortion or other extreme measures that are way outside of the mainstream of American thought.
And you just point out that all the people that they host from the pro- choice side of things without ever giving a voice to the pro-life side, even though this is a very contentious topic on which the country is fairly evenly divided.
KURTZ: That was true on that one network. Beverly, as I mentioned, even some pro-life conservatives have reservations about this. In fact, here's Pat Robertson on "The 700 Club."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAT ROBERTSON, HOST, "THE 700 CLUB": I think Alabama has gone too far. They've passed a law that would give a 99-year prison sentence to people who commit abortion. My humble view is that this is not the case we want to bring to the Supreme Court because I think this one will lose.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: So, if you're in the media, it is possible to be pro-life and also not like features of this law.
BEVERLY HALLBERG, PRESIDENT, DISTRICT MEDIA GROUP: Even when I talk to elected officials who do identify as pro-life but don't support this actual bill, the reason they tell is because they want to save as many babies as possible, and they worry that the liberals are going to use this as a political tool in upcoming elections to potentially block even certain pieces of legislation that don't go as far as this Alabama bill.
So I do think Republicans are in this hard position where personally they're pro-life, but they know some of their constituents -- while may not be as pro-life as they are -- they know that the issue is starting to turn towards a pro-life position. So I understand why some conservatives are a bit fearful of going this far.
KURTZ: Juan, beyond the problems with the Alabama law, you have to acknowledge that most journalists are pro-choice, that they don't make an issue as Mollie says on state laws like in New York allowing third trimester abortions and that that is shaping the coverage.
JUAN WILLIAMS, FOX NEWS HOST: No, I disagree. I think, in fact, when I -- I think of this, Howie, like a language issue. You know how we use pro- life, pro-choice. I think that sets things up. If you not pro-life, that means you're pro-death? I don't think so. And I --
KURTZ: But we say pro-choice and not pro-abortion.
WILLIAMS: No, you can say pro-abortion, but I mean I think that language again circumscribes legitimate honest debate over a very difficult topic. And when we hear about things like the president tweeting about infanticide and the like, I think, my gosh, because they say, oh, in New York you can have a late abortion or remember, the governor of Virginia was accused of talking about what you do post-birth to kill a child was murder but it wasn't --
KURTZ: He did say that, this is Ralph Northam, but then claimed that he had been misunderstood --
WILLIAMS: But he was misunderstood. I think widely viewed as misinterpreted because it's not honest discussion. So to have someone -- and let's just say, Pat Robertson is not pro-choice, he's pro-life.
KURTZ: That's why I played the sound bite.
HEMINGWAY: Pat Robertson had previously supported China's one-child abortion policy. He's held up (INAUDIBLE) like arbiter of pro-life issues, and he actually isn't. But I do agree that we need to be very careful with our language.
We need to be careful with just the science -- again, you can think it's OK to end a human life after it's begun or you can oppose it, but just having that scientific understanding that this is what is happening when you have an abortion, you end a human life after it has begun, there's seriousness to that that we are not seeing reflected in media coverage.
WILLIAMS: I disagree on that point, Mollie, because I don't agree that -- I'm not even sure what the folks in Alabama are talking about because he says chromosomes, hormones, when they're mixing, before a woman even knows she's pregnant, they're saying it's illegal and --
HEMINGWAY: Scientifically --
WILLIAMS: -- you brought to jail a woman for doing this.
HALLBERG: When it comes to coverage, I think one of the things that we're getting to is assigning motive to people who have a certain perspective. When it comes to the media coverage, if you're pro-abortion, you were thought of, well, if you said something about infanticide, you must have misspoke or you're just for a woman and her doctor making a decision.
But when you're pro-life, you're automatically assumed that you're anti- woman, and we have seen that rhetoric ratcheted up quite a bit especially in reference to Alabama.
HEMINGWAY: And it goes to the voices of tens of millions of women who are pro-life and who think that violence shouldn't take place within the womb. I want to make one quick point, though. Those bills in Virginia and New York do allow children to be left to die if they survive abortion. That is a real issue and the media have not done a good job covering --
WILLIAMS: See, I don't think that's true.
HEMINGWAY: What do you call that infanticide --
WILLIAMS: I tell you what I think is the real issue, Mollie. I think that since Kavanaugh and Gorsuch are on the Supreme Court, you see a tremendous political effort by people who are in the anti-abortion movement to say this is our moment and we're going to push this on the media and we're going to force this down the eyes of the Republican Party. And you see Kevin McCarthy and you see other Republicans saying this goes too far.
KURTZ: Some of the Alabama sponsors say, yes, this is the idea, getting this before the Supreme Court to try to overturn or modify Roe, but there's been a lot of speculation about would the court do that, John Roberts wouldn't go for such a sweeping overturning of precedent.
But let me turn this to you, Beverly, which is just about every Democrat presidential candidate -- I don't think there is any exception -- have absolutely denounced the Alabama law, similar laws in Missouri and elsewhere.
The president of the United States had been pretty silent on it and then tweeted yesterday -- not mentioning Alabama by name -- saying that I am -- I am strongly pro-life except I support exceptions for rape and incest, which Alabama doesn't have, and the life of the mother, same as Ronald Reagan.
So even the president is kind of indirectly saying he has a problem with certain provisions here.
HALLBERG: He's lining up with the RNC on this who also made those statements. Again, it's figuring out when it's going to be used as a political tool by Democrats in upcoming elections. But we have to keep in mind, one of the reasons why we're seeing so many laws passed is because Republicans won in past elections. So people are more pro-life, they want these pro-life bills so that's something that can't be ignored.
KURTZ: All right. To be continued. Let me get to the question of the investigations and investigators. So another presidential tweet that made a lot of news, we can just put it up on the screen, talking about the origins of the Russia investigation.
"My campaign for president," says Donald Trump, "was conclusively spied on. Nothing like this has ever happened in American politics. A really bad situation. Treason means long jail sentences, and this was treason."
Mollie, leaving aside the treason, it can also mean the death penalty. Many in the media are saying this is way out of balance for a president to be accusing law enforcement not just of an attempted coup but of the crime of treason.
HEMINGWAY: Well, President Trump was falsely accused of treason for years because he was accused of being a traitor who had colluded with the Russians to overthrow our system of government and to steal an election. I don't think the media have handled or responded properly enough to the realization that that was a false accusation.
Treason is a very serious allegation. It was levied against the president for years falsely. He did not collude with Russia. And now we really do need to understand, how was it that this crazy idea didn't just get into the government but got believed by so many people in the media?
KURTZ: Right, but the point here, Beverly, is that if it is true -- actually let me throw this for you, Juan. So people like Jeff Toobin are going on the air and saying this is a grotesque abuse of power but then saying, well, a lot of people are just saying it's just another Trump tweet.
Nobody has been charged with this crime of treason, so you can say it, I can say it, politicians can say it, but the president of the United States to be accusing his political opponents of treason is a pretty amazing thing.
WILLIAMS: To me, it's pretty amazing because, you know, he's the commander in chief, not just of the military, but of our law enforcement. He's everybody's boss.
KURTZ: So is the media criticism justified of that term?
WILLIAMS: You know what, because of what you said, it's true, people -- and I think part of the president's attractiveness is his authenticity, that this is really what his heart feels --
WILLIAMS: He feels like he's someone who is being put upon --
KURTZ: He is not holding back.
WILLIAMS: Right. But I do think that he is the president, and this is not very presidential.
KURTZ: Let me get to this with you, Beverly. New York Times is reporting that House Democrats are having a difficult time getting Bob Mueller to testify, of course, with a televised spectacle. There's a quote in this Times story that says, "Democrats' big fear is that public interest in the Mueller report is ebbing." I would just cross out the first word and say this is also true. The media's big fear is that public interest in the Mueller report is ebbing.
HALLBERG: I think we saw some political theater at its finest on Thursday. You had the House Democrats actually hold a hearing or at least an event where they read for 12 hours the unredacted version of the Mueller report - -
KURTZ: With help from --
HALLBERG: John Cusack, the actor. It was an interesting spectacle, I think, what we are seeing especially with an additional investigation into the origins of the Mueller investigation. You see they're still trying to get that media coverage to maybe get their story in the news.
KURTZ: Right. We will get to that in the next block. When we come back, a new media uproar as Bill Barr orders a probe of possible FBI misconduct at the start of the Trump-Russia investigation. And later, Chris Wallace on why some Democratic candidates are coming on Fox, including Mayor Pete in a town hall tonight.
KURTZ: The debate erupted when Bill Barr tapped the U.S. attorney in Connecticut, John Durham, to investigate whether the FBI acted improperly in launching its surveillance of Trump campaign advisers and Russia. Reporters asked President Trump whether he was behind it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): Did you direct your attorney general to launch a probe into the Russian investigation?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, I didn't ask him.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): Did you know he was going to do it? TRUMP: I am so proud of our attorney general that he is looking into it. I think it's great. I did not know about it, no.
KURTZ: Mollie, the press is widely casting this as a partisan move by Bill Barr, responding to Trump's prodding by giving him investigation which is being framed as kind of payback for the first Mueller investigation.
HEMINGWAY: Right. I just want to say at the outset, the media are not in a position to cover this phase of the investigation because they were complicit in the Russia hoax. They either fell for it or they participated in it. They're not in a good place to actually look at some of the interesting actions that are happening.
KURTZ: What should they do? Recuse? Not talk about it?
HEMINGWAY: I think they should actually come to terms with how poorly they handled things in the previous years, just becoming willful leak receptacles for a Russia collusion story that turned out not to be true.
There were some of us, very few of us who are looking at the same sets of facts and same information and were skeptical that there was treasonous collusion with Russia, but that does not describe the vast majority of reporters and they haven't come to terms with that failure.
KURTZ: There may be serious questions of FBI misconduct here. We'll see. But that is being overshadowed, I think, by the press' portrait of William Barr as Trump's personal lawyer which he told Bill Hemmer in an interview on Friday that it was just tactic that denigrate his reputation.
WILLIAMS: I think he suffered. We have the latest Fox poll. People really have questions about his behavior here.
KURTZ: Since you mentioned that, who do you trust more on Russia, Mueller 40 percent, Barr 22 percent, also Mueller 45 percent, Trump 27 percent.
WILLIAMS: Right. And I think that there is an important point to be made here. Mollie is right. You could say lots of journalists went overboard, but here's my feeling as a journalist. The idea that Russia interfered in our campaign, had more than 100 contacts with the Trump campaign, if I'm a journalist and I'm working the street, I'm working that story. That's the president of the United States. That's a threat to our constitution --
HEMINGWAY: So just by way of example, there was interaction between Russia and the Hillary Clinton campaign. That didn't get into --
WILLIAMS: Not like this. Not like this, Mollie.
HEMINGWAY: In fact, a Russian source dossier was used at the highest levels of our government to secure wiretaps against American citizens.
WILLIAMS: OK, we can go down that road but all I am saying is --
HEMINGWAY: The idea that you would not investigate that is ludicrous. And the idea that you --
WILLIAMS: But I am just saying to you, there is no shortage of coverage of the Steele dossier. But that's not the issue. The issue is Russia threatening our election and our form of government. That's a big story.
KURTZ: I want to get Beverly in here. Is there a parallel universe aspect to this? Conservative commentators have denigrated the Mueller probe and they have -- which of course Trump calls a failed coup and just sort of hungered for this new investigation. On the other hand, liberal commentators remained fixated on the Mueller probe so they can't get Mueller to testify and are dismissing this new probe as, you know, just politics.
HALLBERG: Yeah. Well, I think the American people are looking to all of this and trying to figure out what is what. This is the third investigation now that we're going to -- that's opened to look into what's happened. I think what's funny about it all is this attack on William Barr.
I don't think Barr cares about the attacks on him. He is not doing this as Representative Adam Schiff said the Trumpification of the DOJ. I actually really think he cares about the integrity of the DON and the reason why he is doing this is he wants to restore the public confidence in this institution.
HEMINGWAY: Presumably, spying or surveilling a political campaign should not be done routinely. We already know through some journalism because of The New York Times reporting recently that there were overseas intelligence assets run by domestic surveillance experts against the Trump campaign.
The idea that you will just say, oh, nothing to see here, we don't need to look into this is absurd. Of course, Attorney General Barr needs to look into this, that we all need to be satisfied that protocol was followed.
WILLIAMS: Chris Wray is the head of the FBI. He is a Trump nominee and he says -- he knows nothing of any kind of spying. James Baker, who was the lawyer, says nothing --
KURTZ: You guys are going to have to take this outside.
KURTZ: I have one last question for Juan which is, with the president again saying he's not going to comply with any of the House Democratic subpoenas, they don't get a do-over, Congress has its own responsibilities, for all the media spotlight on impeachment, even Jerry Nadler now seems to be falling into line behind Nancy Pelosi in saying, well, we'll investigate but not impeach. So, was the coverage of the impeachment shatter too much was a wishful thinking?
WILLIAMS: No. Again, I think even whether you're for it or against it, it's so important. The idea that we would impeach a president, we don't do that very often. And the idea that the Democratic base favors impeachment is without argument. It's like 70 percent of Democrats.
WILLIAMS: So this was a very real prospect given that you now have a Democratic majority. If they did this, by the way, it would have been political dynamite because it would have inspired the Republican base as well as the Democratic base.
KURTZ: I'll answer my own question. I think there's a lot of wishful thinking involved in the impeachment coverage, but we shall see. Juan Williams, Beverly Hallberg, Mollie Hemingway, it's great to see you all this Sunday.
Ahead, Howard Stern is making the TV round saying he's matured since his shock jock days. We'll be the judge of that. But up next, the president accusing The Washington Post and The New York Times of fake news but it's complicated.
KURTZ: President Trump invokes the fake news mantra so often that it may have lost some of its punch. He did it twice with reporters just the other day.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Mr. President, did you tell DHS to round up immigrant families? TRUMP: I don't know anything about that. I read that. It's probably fake news.
KURTZ: Probably fake news. The question was based on a Washington Post report citing seven current and former Homeland Security officials in saying former Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and a deputy challenged a White House plan to arrest thousands of migrant parents and children in the 10 major American cities. The story didn't say the president ordered this, but that's what he denied with his fake news comment.
Another correspondent asked about growing tensions with Iran.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): Mr. President, are you planning to send 120,000 troops to the Middle East in response to Iran?
TRUMP: I think it's fake news, OK? Now, would I do that? Absolutely. But we have not planned for that. Hopefully, we're not going to have to plan for that. And if we did that, we'd send a hell of a lot more troops than that. But I think it's just -- where was that story, The New York Times? Well, The New York Times is fake news.
KURTZ: What the Times actually reported is that acting Pentagon Chief Patrick Shanahan at John Bolton's urging presented an updated military plan then envisions sending as many as 120,000 troops the Mid-East if Iran attacked American forces or intensified its work on its nuclear program.
It was in other words, just a contingency plan and one that was later confirmed. But the reporter botched the question by asking Trump whether he would send those troops, which wasn't what the Times reported.
President was back at it on Friday after more New York Times reporting on the internal debate over Iran.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: They never write the names of people anymore. Everything is a source says. There is no source. The person doesn't exist. The person is not alive.
TRUMP: It's bull (beep).
KURTZ: We have to bleep that one. Trump often makes this claim that these stories are fiction. Times reported Maggie Haberman responded. "We can ask the officials in his White House who asked to be quoted anonymously just two days ago how they feel about it."
But the president has found a silver lining who asked to be quoted anonymously how they feel about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I was thinking today, I said, gee, what must our adversaries think? And then I look and I say, you know, it's probably a good thing because they're saying, man, I don't know where these people are coming from.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Well, at least journalists are good for something, we confuse people. Ahead, the media tweeting the 2020 contest as a two-man Trump-Biden race. But first, Chris Wallace from New Hampshire on his approach on tonight's town hall with Pete Buttigieg and getting Democrats to come on Fox.
HOWARD KURTZ, FOX NEWS HOST: Pete Buttigieg will join Chris Wallace for a Fox News town hall tonight at 7 Eastern has used a steady stream of media appearances to transform himself from obscure, small town mayor to credible presidential contender. Case in point, the other night, slow jamming the news with Jimmy Fallon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIMMY FALLON, COMEDIAN: While we're getting all jiggly with it, I got to ask, is it true you hooked up with Fox News at the start of your campaign? Because some might say that makes you a naughty boy.
MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D-IN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Actually the, I'm proud to say that I was the first candidate to appear on Fox News Sunday, because I don't believe in leaving out an entire portion of the country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Good answer. For more insight into the media and the Democrats, I spoke to the host of Fox News Sunday just moments ago from the site of this evening's town hall in Claremont, New Hampshire.
KURTZ: Chris Wallace, welcome.
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Good to be with you, Howie.
KURTZ: You have moderated plenty of debates including, of course, the final 2016 debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Is it a very different challenge to moderate a town hall format with Pete Buttigieg?
WALLACE: Well, I don't know, we'll see -- we'll see at 7 o'clock tonight Eastern Time. I will say I've never done a town hall, and I'm a little nervous about it. Part of it is because I haven't done it and, secondly, you know, there is the X factor.
I mean, the main thing here is people asking questions, not me asking questions, and that can take on a life of its own. So, I think you prepare as much as you can, but then you also kind of figure that you're going to be the going on a tight rope without a net.
KURTZ: Without a threat. That's what makes good TV. Yesterday Buttigieg sent an e-mail to supporters defending his appearance saying if we don't show up, meaning on Fox, the conservative media will tell our story for us. But he also said I strongly condemn the voices on Fox and the media that uncritically amplify hate. Does the mayor's rhetoric on this concern you?
WALLACE: Look, when I covered the Reagan White House, we always used to say you don't tell us how to cover the news, we won't tell you how to run the White House. People are going to run their own campaigns. I mean, he's appearing on Fox. There's some people who are saying they're not even going to appear on Fox -- Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris. And both have tried to raise money off of it, which I find interesting. They're going to run their campaign the way they want.
Obviously, we would like all of them to show up here. And, again, this isn't so much me, although I will ask some questions. This is to face the voters of New Hampshire or Iowa or Pennsylvania or wherever the town hall happens to be.
And, you know, I do think it's a mistake for anyone, any candidate -- Republican, Democrat, liberal, conservative -- to voluntarily cut themselves off from millions of potential voters.
KURTZ: Well since you raised Elizabeth Warren, as you said, she's raising money off of her decision not to do a Fox town hall and she's called Fox a hateful profit racket. What do you make of that in light of the fact that Senator Warren appeared twice on Fox last year including on your show?
WALLACE: You know -- as I say, I'm, obviously, I think that there is politics behind this. Some of the candidates are struggling, and they're appealing to the most active part of the left wing of the Democratic Party, and they think this is going to work for them.
They're entitled to do whatever they want. I mean, we don't have subpoena powers, unfortunately, so if they want to boycott us -- again, I don't like it, but that's up to them.
KURTZ: What is it about the previously obscure Mayor Pete that has enabled him to leapfrog all these senators and others into third or fourth in many polls to the point where Fox wants to do a town hall with him?
WALLACE: Well, and let me tell you, we're going to have more people here for this town hall -- I say this, we'll see if they actually show up, but we've gotten more people who have said they're going to show up than for any of the other town halls, including Bernie Sanders, including Howard Schultz.
There is just a real, you know, there's an old joke, and the punchline is they end up, a dog food that doesn't work, they say dogs don't like it. Dogs like Pete Buttigieg.
They just -- voters are interested in this guy. They think he's interesting, he is smart as the Dickens, he's got a fascinating background, Rhodes scholar, veteran of the Afghanistan war, and he has a lot of interesting things to say.
And I, you know, you could argue -- I'm not saying he's going to end up where they did, but it's a little bit like Donald Trump, it's a little bit like Barack Obama. He's different. He breaks the mold. And voters seem to be really intrigued by that at this point.
KURTZ: Right. And you had him on Fox News Sunday when he was still an asterisk. But what I find is the way in which he speaks very candidly, particularly about personal things, being gay as well as small town mayor and all that just seems to attract so much media attention with 23 Democratic candidates. But on the other hand, isn't he to some degree the beneficiary of a media swoon?
WALLACE: Yes. But, you know, again, I would say Obama and Trump were. Trump's was a little more complicated because some of it was the negative, not a supportive swoon, but it was attention. And he played to that. And the fact that in 2016 I think we will all agree that we probably put his rallies on too much when he was one of 17 candidates.
But, you know, the problem we were all faced within the media was that viewers wanted to watch him, and if we didn't have him on for a rally and CNN did -- and they did it more than anybody -- guess what? People would tune in, you know, turn us off and tune them on, and it's the news business.
So, both of those play in it. I, there's no question that Mayor Pete is interesting, he's different than a lot of the other candidate, he doesn't seem like another politician, and that's to his credit.
WALLACE: You know, he's going to play that for all it's worth.
KURTZ: Now you're also doing a town hall with Kirsten Gillibrand in early June, as you mentioned, Bernie Sanders has been on, Amy Klobuchar, who you had on your program this morning, has done a town hall.
Increasingly, isn't the rationale of DNC Chairman Tom Perez that well Fox can't be fair, and therefore it's banned from the primary debate. Isn't that rationale kind of falling apart.
WALLACE: I don't think that's what it was ever about. I think that what you saw was a -- and, again, they're entitled to do it, but I think it was a cold, calculated decision by the chairman of the DNC that if he were to have a debate on Fox, a Fox News Democratic debate, that it would create a lot of blowback among the left wing of the base, the folks that Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris are appealing to, and he just didn't want to take that on. He had a lot of other places --
WALLACE: -- that we're offering debates, so why have that blowback. I don't think it had anything to do with the merits. He knew, he's been on and says that he likes appearing with me and Bret Baier. He knew that it would be a perfectly fair debate.
WALLACE: I don't think he wanted the political blowback.
KURTZ: All right. Chris, I've got less than a minute. Shortly before your show and other programs came on this morning, President Trump tweeted this, "For all the fake news Sunday political shows whose bias and dishonesty is greater than ever than our country has seen before, please inform your viewers that the economy is setting records." And he lists a series of achievement. Your reaction to being lumped in with the fake news.
WALLACE: Well, I'd like to think maybe I wasn't included in that.
WALLACE: Maybe he meant all the others. I don't know. Look, you know, again, I go back to the Reagan, we don't tell them -- they don't tell us how to cover the news, we won't tell you how to run the White House. We've talked plenty about the Trump economy and often put up stats to show how much it has improved from January 2017 until May of 2019.
KURTZ: Yes. And, of course the president has --
WALLACE: But I'm glad the president watches.
KURTZ: Yes. And he did sit down with you at least once. Chris Wallace, good luck tonight. Great to see you from New Hampshire. Thanks very much.
WALLACE: Thanks, Howie.
KURTZ: I'll be watching tonight. After the break, Beto O'Rourke says that glitzy Vanity Fair cover was a mistake. Why his media honeymoon faded fast.
And later, Howard Stern is trying to change his raunchy image with a new book.
KURTZ: From the campaign trail to his Twitter feed, President Trump has been aiming his fire at just one of the 23 Democratic candidates, and each time reporters ask Joe Biden for his response which in turn kicks off the next news cycle.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't know what the hell happened to Biden. What happened to him? I'm looking, I said that doesn't look like the guy I knew. What happened to him? And Bernie, you know, Bernie's crazy.
FMR. VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not going to get down in the mud wrestling with him. I'm not going to stoop to his level. I'm not going to engage in the name-calling.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Joining us now, Susan Ferrechio, chief congressional correspondent for the Washington Examiner. So, the New York Times reports unnamed Trump advisers are telling the president they wish he'd stop slamming Biden because it just elevates him in the Democratic race. He's not listening, so they leak it. Are the media, though, following Trump's lead in basically treating this as a two-man race?
SUSAN FERRECHIO, CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Well, they see it as a two-man race. Because Biden is ahead not just nationally by double digits but in the key races that lead you to getting the Democratic nomination. So, he's winning on both those fronts.
KURTZ: But it's so early.
FERRECHIO: Well, it is so early, that's true. But it looks pretty good, though, you have to admit. He's the dominant candidate, eight years as vice president from a very popular president, President Obama's administration. He has clear advantages right now.
KURTZ: I do more than admit it, I have been saying this for months, and there was such a drum beat from the media, he's going to be a terrible candidate, he's too old, he's not liberal enough, he gets in the race. And now, three weeks later, Reuters has a lead, it says, can anyone stop Joe Biden.
FERRECHIO: And if you look at the pre-polling, he was ahead all the time.
KURTZ: I know.
FERRECHIO: I mean, I think it looked that way from the beginning, frankly.
KURTZ: But I think the media have trouble dealing with 23 candidates and they kind of want to nail it down to at least a few because fewer characters makes for a better narrative.
FERRECHIO: That's true, but I also think this whole thread with President Trump stems from the fact that the president knows that Biden is going to be the candidate he's running against, and those labels worked for him. He did it with that little Marco, lying Ted, and all.
FERRECHIO: But he runs the risk of actually helping Biden win the nomination by defining him as the leading candidate, as the nominee.
FERRECHIO: So, he's really, he's winning and losing by using the labeling.
KURTZ: All right. Candidate number 23, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio got into the race this week. Here he is with George Stephanopoulos.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, CHIEF ANCHOR, ABC NEWS: Quinnipiac poll showed 76 percent of New York voters, 73 percent of New York Democrats say you shouldn't run, so what should the rest of the country think when so many of your fellow New Yorkers saying don't run?
MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDAIDATE: The poll that actually matters is the election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: So, I don't quite get why Bill de Blasio is running. But there's been so much media mockery from the New York Post and others. You would think he was the mayor of South Bend instead of New York.
FERRECHIO: You have to go back and see that the media, local media in New York and Bill de Blasio have never gotten along, especially the New York Post which I believe he said shouldn't exist at some point.
FERRECHIO: Some kind of real insult against the paper. Not surprised to see that adverse relationship. But the general media in New York has not gotten along well with De Blasio. He's not treated him well.
KURTZ: Yes. He doesn't play with them.
FERRECHIO: He's been arrogant. That's right.
KURTZ: He doesn't give them a schedule.
FERRECHIO: But the public has also criticized him for not fixing the transit system in New York, the homeless problem increasing and all these other issues, exaggerating his record. But he is very progressive. He fits the mold of all these candidates who are running, so --
KURTZ: I mean, he did get elected twice but there are all these other candidates. And Beto O'Rourke, I want to play this sound bite where he talks about the launching his campaign with that Vanity Fair cover.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOY BEHAR, HOST, ABC: Would you say those are mistakes, being on the cover of Vanity Fair? This.
FMR. REP. BETO O'ROURKE (D-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes, So --
BEHAR: Yes. It looks elitist, what?
O'ROURKE: Yes. I think it reinforces that perception of privilege. And that the headline that said I was born to be in this, in the article I was attempting to say that I felt that my calling was in public service.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: So, Vanity Fair was a mistake, the Springsteen line born to run, that was a mistake. By the way, the editor says he said it, it was not taken out of context, the editor of Vanity Fair. boy, the media pretty quickly fell out of love with this guy.
FERRECHIO: And I think the simple of reason he was a lot of flash, a lot of style but not a lot of substance, and I think the video, filming himself, you know, getting his dental cleaning and ear hairs, whatever --
KURTZ: There's a new one, let's put up the haircut video, because America wants to see this. Yes, are you excited?
FERRECHIO: There's the haircut, right? So he's doing all these things, he's trying to invite the public in to see his life, but I think the public is looking for a more serious candidate like the one you were just talking about with Chris Wallace, candidate Buttigieg, who's a small town mayor, comes out very earnest, has a campaign platform he can talk about.
FERRECHIO: I think that's the big difference. Not the Vanity Fair cover. He could have used that to launch a very successful campaign, he just didn't have a lot to follow along with it.
KURTZ: Yes. I mean, he's got an interesting personal story, but once you've told that a few times he hasn't seen so far have much to say beyond platitudes. We'll see if that changes.
Susan Ferrechio, great to see you.
KURTZ: Thanks so much.
Still to come, the king of all media now does lengthy, intimate interviews with celebrities. What happened to Howard Stern?
KURTZ: Howard Stern is out with a bestselling book that chronicles his transformation from raunchy shock jock to a Sirius XM host was long, thoughtful, provocative interviews, the likes of Anderson Cooper, Katie Couric, Conan O'Brien, Paul McCartney, and he's on the circuit promoting Howard Stern comes again which includes his old interviews with Donald Trump, celebrity businessman.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOWARD STERN, RADIO HOST: I was quite surprised when they dragged out every single Donald Trump the interview I had done. And in some ways, I felt it was unfair to Trump.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you feel that in some way you helped make him president?
STERN: Absolutely. Because Donald would come on my show -- I mean, look --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Does it make you feel bad or good?
STERN: Well, look, I did not vote for Donald Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Joining us now, Emily Jashinsky, culture editor of The Federalist. And Stern makes no bones about the fact while he loved all the locker room talk and all those interviews with Donald Trump who rated women and did a lot of other things, he was a big Hillary Clinton supporter and wanted to get her on in, and of course, she wouldn't do the show.
EMILY JASHINSKY, CULTURE EDITOR, THE FEDERALIST: There's an entire chapter in his book called "Hillary Clinton, The Interview That Never Happened," where he makes the case that had Hillary Clinton done his show there could have been, you know, contractors, store owners, truck drivers that heard her in swing states, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Pennsylvania and were really impressed and it might have changed the election. He literally says that. He makes the case in this whole chapter. It's very interesting.
KURTZ: Yes. He's still stunned, I think, that he became a kind of a factor in the campaign because everybody was going to the archives we're playing. Now here he is with Stephanopoulos on GMA having a little fun at George's expense.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STERN: Inevitably, Ali will go, George and I have sex every night. I'm like -- and George sits there, George doesn't laugh. I never think of you as a sex thing, but I'm like -- I said did you -- I said can you picture George and Ali every night?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Completely hijacked, right here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Ali Wentworth is George's wife. Any sympathy for George there?
JASHINSKY: Well, look how uncomfortable he made Stephanopoulos, and that's where like, this book does chronicle a gradual transformation and significant transformation, but that's not to say that the old Howard Stern is totally gone forever.
KURTZ: Yes. Yes, sex comes up now and then.
KURTZ: But you know, people who knew only the old Howard Stern from trustable radio would be stunned because, you know, he will spend an hour, an hour and a half with these celebrities.
KURTZ: And they have this sort of dinner party conversations and he has of drawing that. For example, I remember listening to Anderson Cooper with Howard, very revealing talk about when he was closeted for all those the years as a television anchor, coming out, how he got out of the teenage modeling business at the age of 13 because a man had propositioned him and stuff, you wouldn't get in a traditional interview.
JASHINSKY: No, absolutely not. And partially, the long form helps that, but this book really is a vindication in some ways, in a weird way of all the people for years spent said Howard Stern is needlessly crass, because he kind of agrees with them and said he learned to be, you know, after a health scare, after settling into the Sirius format to be more purposeful, and to spend these long form interviews drawing information out of people like Anderson Cooper.
One of the best celebrity interviewers in the business. Hands down. And that's very apparent in this book.
KURTZ: Well, I'm glad you mentioned that. Because he also talks about therapy.
KURTZ: And going to therapy like four times a week and how that made him less angry since he was always angry, made everything about himself. And now he has more empathy for other people now.
But he also says he's embarrassed by some of his earlier antics when he's constantly fighting with the FCC and you mentioned the (Inaudible). So, was this like a political relaunch, that he wants to think Howard Stern wants people to think of him differently?
JASHINSKY: It's a relaunch in a way but it's also just very honest, and people can make up their own minds as to whether he's still needlessly crass, because he's definitely still crass.
JASHINSKY: It's just that he sort of, tries to do it with purpose now. And, again, you can make up your own mind as to whether he's accomplishing that.
JASHINSKY: But it's definitely his goal, and the book is very self- reflective. I mean, pointedly self-reflective. He actually tongue-in-cheek encourages people to burn his first two books in this book.
KURTZ: That's right. He's not proud of them.
KURTZ: Well, for those who haven't heard of these interviews, reading the excerpts might be interesting.
KURTZ: So, if it is a political relaunch or branding, I think it's working.
KURTZ: At least with you.
JASHINSKY: It's a great book. I mean, really. His interviews, Conan, great stuff. Its transcript so it's an easy read, I highly recommend it.
KURTZ: Put that on the back of the book. Right here. Emily Jashinsky, thanks so much. Great to see you.
Coming up, a major retirement on 60 Minutes. And a newspaper using loaded language to dramatize climate change. Stay with us.
KURTZ: Steve Kroft is retiring tonight as the 60 Minutes correspondent after nearly four decades at CBS, and high stakes interviews like this one back in 1992.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE KROFT, CORRESPONDENT, CBS: You've said that your marriage has had problems, that you've had difficulties. What do you mean by that? Are you prepared tonight to say that you've never had an extra marital affair?
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not prepared tonight to say that any married couple should ever discuss that with anyone but themselves.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Kroft who I interviewed many times is a workhorse who's done some terrific investigative reporting over the years winning five Peabody Awards, but why is he stepping down when he's just a spry 73? Morley Safer step down until he was 84, Mike Wallace until he was almost 90.
The Guardian, the left-leaning British newspaper, is changing its language on environmental issues under the new style guide, global warming is out. Global heating is in. And climate change is being tossed aside as way too mild, it's now climate emergency, climate crisis or climate breakdown.
Editor-in-chief Catherine Viner says terms like climate change sound rather passive and gentle when what scientists are talking about is the catastrophe for humanity. I happen to think this is an important issue, but make no mistake, words matter, and the Guardian is mandating loaded language that tilts its coverage in one direction.
That's it for this edition of Media Buzz. I'm Howard Kurtz. Nice to have you along. Hey, my Media podcast, Media Buzz Meter, it's out there, it's new, it's getting a lot of attention, 4.7 stars on Apple iTunes, you can subscribe there on Google Play or on Foxnewspodcast.com. We have a great time doing it.
We hope you like the Facebook page, we put up my daily columns, original videos and let me know what you think on Twitter at Howard Kurtz whether it's about abortion, the abortion debate, or about the investigations, or about Pete Buttigieg or Howard Stern or any of the things that we talk about or whatever is on your mind. And we are back here next Sunday morning. We'll see you then at 11 Eastern.
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