Media's Kavanaugh spectacle

This is a rush transcript from "Media Buzz," September 23, 2018. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: On the Buzz Meter this Sunday, a white hot media debate over Christine Blasey Ford, the woman accusing Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault back in high school. The president's response and the political feuding as she's reached a tentative deal to testify on the Hill this week.


LAURA INGRAHAM, HOST, FOX NEWS: Has any evidence been produced? Is there any corroborating witness? So far the answer is no. It's not unreasonable to believe that she has a political axe to grind. JOY BEHAR, HOST, ABC: These white men, old by the way, are not protecting women. They are protecting a man who is probably guilty.

TAMMY BRUCE, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: This is not a search for the truth. It is not a desire for justice. This is a political assassination of Judge Kavanaugh. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything you got tells you this woman has no incentive to make it up where Judge Kavanaugh has every incentive to deny it.

ZERLINA MAXWELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Her story is not a misunderstanding. It is not something that's very gray. She's talking about a violent assault. Right?

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS: Because Brett Kavanaugh is a man. Therefore, he is guilty. All men are guilty. It is the "Y" chromosome.


KURTZ: Is the press treating her fairly since Ford told her story to the Washington Post and became the target of online threats and abuse? Are some pundits quick to assume Kavanaugh is lying when the judge says no such assault happened 36 years ago? And are the pundits rushing to judgment based on raw partisanship?

A stunning New York Times report citing unnamed sources says Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein suggested he secretly record President Trump and talked about invoking the 25th amendment. He calls the piece inaccurate. Some sources say his remarks were sarcastic. How solid is the story?

Plus, a reporter catches Google red-handed with executives talking about opposing the president's immigration policy by tampering, tampering with online searches. I'm Howard Kurtz and this is "Media Buzz."

The media explosion began when Christine Blasey Ford told The Washington Post that she was the anonymous accuser charging that Brett Kavanaugh back in high school had sexual assaulted her while drunk at a party, groping her and putting his hand over her mouth when she screamed until she was able to get away.

As Kavanaugh unequivocally denied the allegations and Ford tangled with Senate Judiciary Committee reaching a tentative deal not everything is resolved to testify this Thursday, President Trump for several days refrained from criticizing the accuser.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I really would want to see what she has to say, but I want to give it all the time they need. I think he's an extraordinary man. I think he's a man of great intellect as I've been telling you, and he has an unblemished record.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We are not attacking her. A lot of people are attacking him and his family. It's awful.


KURTZ: But moments later, Trump tweeted, I have no doubt that if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local law enforcement authorities by either her or her loving parents. I ask that those -- that she bring those firings so that we can date, time, and place.

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

Emily, the media were actually giving President Trump a bit of credit for being disciplined in his response to Christine Ford. But then they sharply criticized him for that tweet that I just read, saying why didn't she report it when she was 15. Fair criticism?

EMILY JASHINSKY, THE FEDERALIST: Fair criticism, but it is interesting to see how there was that like initial -- we like what he's doing and then suddenly has put some dime and they're happy to scrutinize him again and be critical of him again.

This is really a tough story. I've seen good restraint from the media. I've seen not so good restraint from the media. But the bottom line is it is just something everyone is working through and there are some mistakes and this is what's going on.

KURTZ: On some of the -- I've seen some women coming out like Patti Davis, Ronald Reagan's daughter, writing an op-ed in The Washington Post saying she never told anyone when she was raped 40 years ago. So, what do you make about that?

And what about the commentators who say that even if Ford's account is true, it was a long time ago, it was high school, maybe he was drunk and are we really going to hold it against Brett Kavanaugh?

CAPRI CAFARO, FORMER DEMOCRATIC SENATE LEADER, CONTRIBUTOR, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Well, I think what we're seeing in the coverage of the Kavanaugh-Ford story right now is this larger sort of picture of the layers that this story touches upon including, you know, when President Trump turned around and started to tweet about this accuser.

Basically all of a sudden that actually prompted the hashtag "why I didn't report," entire sort of social media outlet.

KURTZ: Yeah.

CAFARO: So, you talk about Patti Davis, Alyssa Milano, you know, who is an actress --

KURTZ: And something about --

CAFARO: Exactly -- talked about that. So, you know, but I do think that there is something to be said about the fact that media outlets depending on their individual bias for lack of a better term tend to try to latch upon certain aspects about either Kavanaugh or Ford to be able to advance their own sort of agenda.

KURTZ: Sara, when The New York Times reported there had been death threats against Christine Ford, her e-mail was hacked, she moved her family out of their house, essentially she's in hiding.

By the way, there have been threats against Kavanaugh's wife, too. There are people online who said, so what, she's a liar, she deserves it, an indication not just of partisanship but of ugliness as the story has unfolded.

SARA FISCHER, AXIOS: Yeah, you saw different people, as you were saying, kind of take to this in a way that benefited them. But at the end of the day, anybody that feels like they're in hiding for coming forward for sexual harassment shouldn't be harassed for trying to defend themselves.

So anyone who is trying to latch on to the narrative of, no, she's going too far overboard, why is she in hiding, she made it up anyway, they are going to lose out. We are in the "Me Too" era.

You can't afford to not be taking this stuff seriously, whether media outlet on the right or media outlet on the left. And so if you're going to come out and just get that narrative, you are going to lose no matter what.

KURTZ: So this is taking a toll on the court of public opinion. Fox News poll out this morning says that 50 percent of those surveyed oppose Kavanaugh's nomination, 40 percent support. By slight plurality, more believe Christine Ford than Judge Kavanaugh, many undecided.

So, let's talk about Kavanaugh who flatly denies that anything happened. I mean he's being attacked by some commentators as a predator, as a sex offender, that even if he gets confirmed, this is going to stain his reputation permanently because a woman said this happened 36 years ago and he says it did not.

JASHINSKY: Right, exactly. Not only that, but now we have the four people who were identified by Ford as the people having been at the party saying they don't remember the incident, they don't believe that -- not that they don't believe, but they don't remember the allegations.

And on top of all this, it is not being helped by people like Joe Biden who have very powerful voices and, you know, were coming up to the year mark of the "Me Too" movement are saying when women step forward with stories like this, we should presume that they are telling the truth, that the essence of what they are saying is real.

That's why you see people like Boy Behar saying what she said on the view, that Kavanaugh is probably guilty. In fact, there's mounting evidence that supports his side of this.

KURTZ: Well, so, just to clarify what you said, The New York Times reporting this morning that there's a third person, her name is Leland Keyser, a friend of Ford. She says she doesn't know Kavanaugh and she doesn't have any recollection of being at such a party. She was one of those named at least privately by Ford as having been there.

JASHINSKY: She does say she believes the allegation. To be clear, she said --

KURTZ: Right.

JASHINSKY: -- she has friends before --

KURTZ: But she no first-hand knowledge.

CAFARO: I think the challenge of something like this, I mean, because this did happen 37 years ago and the media I think is struggling trying to identify appropriate sources, what happens when media -- or excuse me, when memories get worn down? It is a very tough issue to cover.

KURTZ: What about the notion that some, perhaps for ideological reasons, are convicting Kavanaugh in advance when in fact beyond Christine Ford's account, there is at the moment no corroborating evidence?

CAFARO: Well, I think that you are seeing it on both sides. I think, you know, we saw in the intro clips that there are obviously more liberal commentators that are saying, you know, this is it, he is guilty. You know, he's a scum bag, whatever.

But you also see drudge and others including actually on the opinion side here, at this network, talking about, you know, certain allegations about her, Dr. Ford being criticized on

Drudge throwing around things like Ford is mad and troubled. And a whole litany of other things that have gone viral including, you know, the fact that she was out there with a not my president sign. So, you know, both sides --

KURTZ: Just to be clear, that is false.

CAFARO: That is false.

KURTZ: And the ratemyprofessor thing was about somebody with a similar name.

CAFARO: Exactly.

KURTZ: All right. Let's talk about Ed Whelan now. He is a friend of Judge Kavanaugh. He is a former Supreme Court clerk to Antonin Scalia. He is the president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center here in Washington.

He posted an extraordinary bizarre conspiracy theory, Sara, in which he suggested that the attacker was another friend from Georgetown Prep where they all went to high school. He said -- he posted pictures of a house. I think this is the house where it took place. This is the guy whose house it was. And he named this guy, and it was an extraordinary reckless thing to do, was it not?

FISCHER: And he had to walk it back. He said it was a complete mistake. But the problem with why these things are so damaging is that it creates a virtuous cycle of misinformation. After he put out that conspiracy, a ton of fringe right websites went with it. And even though he then walked it back, apologized and said it was incorrect --

KURTZ: Polling and inexcusable mistake, said Ed Whelan.

FISCHER: Exactly. And those sites are not going to walk it back. That means it is going to live in the far right ecosystem perpetually which will then drive those false rumors. You know, those false conspiracy theories that just you mentioned, they just keep perpetuating.

KURTZ: When this came up on Fox and Friends before Ed Whelan apology and Henry jumped in and said -- quoted Christine Ford put out a statement and saying there's zero chance that she confuse Brett Kavanaugh with this other guy who obviously nobody else is naming because probably he has nothing to do with it.

And so look, there is -- I don't think it's unfair to Christine Ford to say there is a certain vagueness to her story. Obviously she came forward late. But what about the commentators who go from that to saying she can't prove it to she's an outright liar? Because there's a lot of that from people who would like to see Brett Kavanaugh on the high court.

JASHINSKY: Yeah, I think that's plainly ridiculous. I think it was ridiculous especially early. I think as the evidence continues to come out, which the story changes constantly because this is just playing out in the media, playing out in the court of public opinion, as the story is playing out, I think we are seeing mounting evidence in favor of Kavanaugh.

Partially that is because we're dealing with a 36-year-old allegation, it's just so hard to prove. And partially it's because we have all the people who could provide any corroborating evidence, saying they don't remember this party.

And so, it is just difficult. I don't think anybody on the right -- I think one thing we have learned in "Me Too" is that you take women seriously. You allow them to prove their credibility. You don't assume that they are telling the truth. You don't assume that the men are guilty. But we have to be serious about this. And I hope as this goes through the week, the media will be fair as evidence continues to mount.

KURTZ: Right, because it is going to be such a television spectacle. This is in fact happens on Thursday. Kavanaugh immediately said he will testify, he put out a couple statements.

How can he disprove it when Ford is not able to say for sure what year this happened, where the house was, and so I fear that he -- you know, I don't know whether he's telling the truth or not. I don't know whether she's telling the truth or not.

CAFARO: Right.

KURTZ: But there is this cloud. It can be hard to disprove something when there's not a lot of corroboration. CAFARO: Right. How do you disprove a negative?

KURTZ: Yeah.

CAFARO: And that I think again goes back to the challenge of all of this. This is the court of public opinion. This is basically, you know, who do you want to believe more? And if you want to believe Brett Kavanaugh, you will find ways to believe Brett Kavanaugh. If you want to believe Dr. Ford, you will find ways to believe Dr. Ford.

But back to your point in regard to you hope that the media, you know, is fair, I do believe that they have been very fair in the coverage of Chuck Grassley and the fact that the Senate Judiciary Committee leadership has really tried to accommodate Dr. Ford, recognized that this is a sensitive issue. And I think they have appropriately covered that.

KURTZ: Well, let me get you in on this, because to all the back and forth where she said she wasn't going to testify unless there was an FBI investigation first and she wanted to go first and all of that, you have conservative pundits attacking her for sort of dictating the terms, and you have liberal pundits defending her argument that she's being bullied. Again, straight down the middle partisanship.

FISCHER: Straight down the middle partisanship. But then you have people in the media like Bob Woodward this morning. They are saying, look, Chuck Grassley is somebody who scare (ph) the whistle blower, says this is something that he wants to help work out, but you don't always see everybody on each side taking a look at Chuck Grassley and what this committee is doing.

No matter what, they are going to take his and their actions as well as the actions of her lawyers to the side that is going to make their argument better. So --

KURTZ: One other strange side bar, friend of Christine Ford, Cristina King Miranda, went on Facebook and said, well, you know, I went to that school and this was talked about for days, despite the fact that Ford said she didn't tell anybody for decades.

This became a huge thing. And she took down the post. She said it was a media circus. She wasn't going to participate. But some liberal outlets played that up, saying this had been the talk of the school which contradicts Ford's account.

All right, let me get a break here. When we come back, The New York Times says Rod Rosenstein was secretly scheming the president, even talking of wearing a wire, a story that he's denying.

And later, Google again caught red-handed scheming to oppose the president by fiddling with search results.


KURTZ: The New York Times has sparked an uproar with a story based on unnamed sources saying Rod Rosenstein spoke last year of wearing a wire to secretly tape the president, that he was considering that, and said he might consult with cabinet members about challenging President Trump's fitness for office through the 25th amendment.

The deputy attorney general called the story inaccurate and some media outlets are challenging the Times' reporting but there's no question the piece was a bombshell.


JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANAYLST: Just the incredible idea that the deputy attorney general seriously contemplated "A," taping the president, wearing a wire, and "B," trying to get him removed from office is really extraordinary.

INGRAHAM: Now, let's be clear. If The New York Times reporting is accurate, the president tonight should seriously consider whether Rod Rosenstein should remain on the job.


KURTZ: Emily, bombshell claims, of course. Some of them based on sources who have seen a memo, recounting some of these meetings by Andrew McCabe, the fired former FBI deputy director. And again you are back to the question of unnamed sources and where does the right emphasis on this story?

JASHINSKY: Unnamed sources briefed on a memo who we don't know were in this meeting when these meetings when these statements were made.

KURTZ: We don't know whether anyone was in the room or not, yeah.

JASHINSKY: Right, exactly. And Rosenstein said he was obviously the one doing -- he said that he was sarcastic and he was joking.

It was like what on earth are we supposed to make on this story other than the fact that competing camps in the DOJ are laundering their perspectives through the media, through The Washington Post, and NBC on one side and Rosenstein, you know, the people who are spreading this about Rosenstein in the Times, it's crazy.

KURTZ: Just to clarify, Rosenstein is not directly saying he's being sarcastic but certainly sources making sympathetic to him are saying that. So, Rosenstein's original denial, I said this on the air, had plenty of wiggle room.

He said it was inaccurate and factually incorrect story. OK. Sources biased against DOJ, advancing their own personal agenda. That's probably true.

And he said there is no basis for invoking the 25th amendment. So apparently the report said he got called into John Kelly's office and that produced denial number two which was more specific.

I never pursued or authorized recording the president and any suggestion that I would ever advance for the removal of the president -- advocate, excuse me, for the removal of the president is absolutely false. So, that's evolved.

FISCHER: It has evolved a lot. I think at the end of the day, you have New York Times now coming out and saying, look, even though you denied this and we put your denial in the piece, be it a few paragraphs down, we stand by our reporting.

Mike Smith (ph) did a lengthy interview with Slate (ph), walking through exactly what he meant by background sources. So if Rod Rosenstein is trying to come out and saying this report is false and that we can't necessarily trust it, The New York Times is coming back and fighting that hand and tooth.

KURTZ: By the way, even in the second denial, I never authorized, I never advocated doesn't mean it wasn't talked about. A senior Justice Department official tells Fox that Rosenstein was in a heated argument with Andrew McCabe about whether he was impeding an FBI investigation of Trump and that he sarcastically said, what do you want me to do, wear a blanking wire?


KURTZ: Washington Post also gives some credence to sources, saying this was sarcasm. And MSNBC has been challenging the story because its own sources are sort of in the sarcasm camp. But as you say, New York Times standing by the story. Adam Goldman says this was a serious, not a flippant remark. So it brings us back to the question of sources and agenda.

CAFARO: Right. Well, look, you mentioned MSNBC, for example, on somebody's other more left-leaning sources, they want to say the whole concept of the fact that this could be sarcasm plays into maybe what they want to do because they want to protect Rod Rosenstein theoretically, right?

KURTZ: Because they don't want him fired.

CAFARO: Because they don't want him fired. And so this is my huge take on this issue. I really see this as sort of the perils of talking about fake news. Right now this is a story that actually helps bolster what President Trump has been trying to say as far as individuals undermining him within the Justice system, but it is coming from the failing New York Times

How can you say that this is legitimate if you have illegitimized this particular news outlet and you also said that, you know, leaks and anonymous sources are bad, and so they're good.

KURTZ: You stole my next question which is the president often beating up on The New York Times, but now some people in the administration are seizing on it. There's a split. Sean Hannity said Rosenstein should not be fired. This is a trap.

Laura Ingraham said he should go. And so the Times credibility, it all depends on whether the story is helping you or hurting you in terms of whether you cite it.

FISCHER: Yes, going back to what you were saying about calling The New York Times the failing New York Times, we have seen this time and time again. When it comes to President Trump, he's going to use whatever rhetoric makes sense for him at the time to support his position at the time. And it seems his base doesn't really worry about it. So he doesn't have to be worried about it.

KURTZ: By the way, he is not the only politician who says, oh, the story in The Washington Post is absolutely chosen by opponents to be an absolute clown, when it's again seems like, who can believe The Washington Post or The New York Times or anybody else. Capri Cafaro, Sara Fischer, Emily Jashinsky, thanks very much for joining us this Sunday.

Ahead, more fallout from the Les Moonves scandal, this time affecting his wife. But up next, billionaire basketball owner Mark Cuban chokes up and apologizes for presiding over a culture of sexual harassment, and an overdue apology from Jane Fonda as well.


KURTZ: Mark Cuban, a tech executive who owns the Dallas Mavericks, wants you to know he is sorry. Cuban, you may recall, is a one-time pal of Donald Trump who wound up campaigning against him and then made noises about he might -- how he might run for president in 2020.

But that seems rather unlikely after Cuban agreed to donate $10 million to women's groups following an internal investigation sparked by a Sports Illustrated story that found two decades of sexual harassment and improper conduct in the Mavericks basketball organization. Cuban was contrite in an interview with ESPN's Rachel Nichols.


MARK CUBAN, OWNER, DALLAS MAVERICKS: First, just an apology to the women involved, the women that in a couple of cases were assaulted. And not jut to them but their families. I'm just sorry I didn't see it. I'm just sorry I didn't recognize it. In hindsight, it was staring me right in the face and I missed it.

You know, I think -- you know, I wasn't as focused on the business as I should have been. The pain that people went through, the pain that people shared with me that this happened, the tears that I saw, it just -- it hurt. And the way I felt is nothing compared the way they felt.


KURTZ: This was a huge failure by Mark Cuban who refused twice to fire an employee arrested for domestic violence. But I got to give him credit for going on television with that emotional apology.

And speaking of apology, Jane Fonda in a sit down with Stephen Colbert offered her strongest regrets yet for what she did during the Vietnam War that earned her the nickname "Hanoi Jane."


JANE FONDA, ACTRESS: From the moment that I did the bad thing I did which was I sat on anti-aircraft gun in North Vietnam, I wasn't even thinking what I was doing and photographs were taken. And that image went out, and the image makes it looks like I was against our soldiers which was never the case. But that image is there, and I will go to my grave regretting that.


KURTZ: Jane Fonda made a horrible mistake in becoming a propaganda tool for North Vietnam and I'm glad decades later that she fully recognizes that.

Ahead on "Media Buzz," Katrina Pierson joins us with the president's point of view on the Kavanaugh nomination fight and the Russia investigation. But first, a deeper look at how the media culture has changed with the Kavanaugh accusations from the Anita Hill allegations against Clarence Thomas nearly three decades ago.


KURTZ: The searing media spotlight on Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh has inevitably prompted plenty of journalistic comparisons to what happened 27 years ago with Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas.


ANITA HILL, LAW PROFESSOR: On several occasions, Thomas told me graphically of his own sexual prowess. He said that if I ever told anyone of his behavior that it would ruin his career.

CLARENCE THOMAS, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a circus. It is a national disgrace. And for my standpoint, as a black American, as far as I'm concerned, it is a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks.


KURTZ: Is today's media and political culture really so different? Joining us is Susan Ferrechio, chief congressional correspondent for the Washington Examiner, and Mara Liasson, national political reporter for NPR. Susan, has the media culture changed to the point that Christine Blasey Ford is being taken more seriously in the press perhaps than Anita Hill was?

SUSAN FERRECHIO, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: It's changed a lot. And it's because there's more media, there's so many ways for people to communicate and talk about this.

KURTZ: Also perhaps more women in media?

FERRECHIO: There's a lot more women in media now covering. If you look at the pictures of the old press conferences, you see a lot of -- you know, you see a lot of white males doing the coverage. And now, if you look in congressional hearings, you see a lot of young women covering these events, which is extremely important to have that kind of balance and coverage. And also a balance in understanding what it's like to come forward and talk about something like this publicly. One of the most remarkable things about all of this is the way it provoked this outpouring on social media, on the internet, of people say well, something like this happened to me when I was 9, when I was 15, when I was at a party.

And so, you've got this sort of connection where people are talking about this. And I think that, you know, it changes the discussion about what's been going on in our history where women have been going through these experiences and not talking about it.

KURTZ: I'm reading this every hour, it seems, journalists who have I have known for decades talking about bad sexual experiences, assault, abuse, that they underwent. And so, that probably is healthy, but at the same time, is that overshadowing or is it suggesting that Christine Blasey Ford must be telling the truth, because bad things have happened to so many women?

MARA LIASSON, NPR: Those are two separate issues. Now, of course, everything gets mashed together.

KURTZ: Right.

LIASSON: But the question about should Kavanaugh be confirmed, should Blasey Ford be believed, and then there's the cultural moment that we're all in. And the thing is this is so different from 27 years ago. You couldn't have filled two panels with all female journalists or commentators back then. But look at the reaction to Donald Trump's tweet where he said I'm sure if this happened, they would have reported it -- dripping with sarcasm, they would have reported it, I want to see the filings, show me where you filed a report.

And the reaction to that was hashtag why I didn't report. And you not only saw the outpouring of women saying about incidents that happened to them, but explaining why they didn't come forward at the time, and men who were abused by priests saying why I didn't come forward at the time.

KURTZ: You certainly have a lot of that in the Catholic Church scandal, which is very depressing and unfolding before our eyes. So here's the sentence in the New York Times story this morning, calling this probable testimony on the Hill this week, a wrenching apex in the decades' long struggle over legal and social status of American women, unfolding in the shadow of a presidency that has alienated many women. That's in a news story. Is that conflating the moment Me Too, the desire for women to be taken seriously, to be heard with this core question of should BRETT KAVANAUGH be denied a seat on the Supreme Court because of what Christine Blasey says happened in high school?

FERRECHIO: Or because of what everybody who doesn't like Donald Trump thinks of Donald Trump. I mean, the way that we're connecting the dots here is kind of a little strange in my opinion. And I feel like the New York Times and the Washington Post, in particular, have tried to create this story line where the -- in fact, I think I saw this headline, is the president responsible for this hashtag why I didn't tell? I mean, come on. You know, we're really -- we're really stretching it here.

LIASSON: Well, that was a reaction to his saying to her why didn't she tell?

FERRECHIO: But -- you know what, there's a whole other story line and it starts on college campuses where young men have been accused of things without due process.


FERRECHIO: Their lives have been ruined. There are two sides to these stories, and that's getting drowned out. Again, that's the problem here with all of this.

KURTZ: Speaking of two sides, is it harder for a man, in this case, Brett Kavanaugh, but there have been many other cases to defend himself in this Me Too climate when Kavanaugh says flatly nothing like this ever happened. Is there too much of a media presumption that oh, he must be covering it up?

LIASSON: Well, this is the problem. What we're going through is not a court of law. It's not a kind of hunt for the truth. This is a political exercise. That's why you have Mitch McConnell standing up and saying don't worry about everything you hear. We're going to plow through this and confirm Kavanaugh. That's one big fight.

Then there's the fallout that might or might not affect the midterm elections. Will the way that the all-male Republican senators treat her, make women even madder in November than they already are? I mean, there are a lot of layers to this. And I agree. Everything is getting conflated and it should be teased apart, but we're in a highly fraught political moment.

KURTZ: Right. And I'm glad that she was able to come forward and she will be heard. That doesn't mean she is telling the truth. But is there a presumption in the media that a man who is accused, in this case, Kavanaugh may well be guilty because so many other men, Bill Cosby is about to be sentenced, Harvey Weinstein, Les Moonves and the list goes on and on and on have been charged to be guilty?

FERRECHIO: Well, it depends which media you're talking about. I mean, there's some media who have ignored the story I just mentioned about the due process on campuses where men have their lives ruined by false accusations or accusations unproven. And that's an important part of the story here. And you are right. I think Democrats want to conflate this because it makes it easier for them to make the case that Kavanaugh doesn't belong on the high court.

This is a fight over the direction of the Supreme Court, not just one nominee, but the direction heading in a conservative direction for the first time in almost 70 years. So now, fighting for politics and then trying to conflate with the emotion of everything. It is all going do boil down to the testimony this week, how she sounds on camera, how she sounds in public, and then what the public says in response to that.

KURTZ: A lot of threads to untangle here. Great discussion. Mara Liasson, Susan Ferrechio, thanks very much for joining us.

Coming up, how is the Trump camp pushing back against an avalanche of negative stories including this one. Katrina Pierson is on deck.

And later, a bombshell story raises the question, can we really trust Google?


KURTZ: Joining us now in response to the tidal wave of stories about the Kavanaugh nomination and Rod Rosenstein in this very intense week is Katrina Pierson, senior advisor to President Trump's 2020 reelection campaign. So, New York Times reporting as we have been discussing that Rod Rosenstein last year spoke to the FBI's Andrew McCabe and others about the idea of secretly recording President Trump, consulting with cabinet members about invoking the 25th Amendment, the deputy attorney general absolutely disputes the Time story. What should happen to Rosenstein?

KATRINA PIERSON, SENIOR ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP'S 2020 REELECTION CAMPAIGN: Well, look, I have been an advocate for months now for firing Rod Rosenstein. We didn't need this New York Times bombshell report, you know, outlining memos from 2017 to let us know that this guy probably didn't have the best intentions when he took the post. We can look at the DOJ inspector general's report, we can look at what the house intelligence committee has been reporting, with his obstruction and their own investigation with the whole Russia hoax. We already know that this guy is compromised in a sense, not to mention the number of conflicts of interest that he's had going into the Mueller probe. The problem is, it's not President Trump's responsibility to fire him today.

KURTZ: Wait, wait, wait, hold on.

PIERSON: Hold on, Howard.

KURTZ: The president appointed Rosenstein.

PIERSON: He absolutely appointed Rod Rosenstein.

KURTZ: He could fire him tomorrow.

PIERSON: He could fire him whenever he's good and ready.

KURTZ: Right.

PIERSON: This is a question for his boss, his immediate superior, Jeff Sessions.


PIERSON: Jeff Sessions is the one, because it is Jeff Sessions' department. It occurred under his watch with his senior staff. He's the one that needs to address this issue.

KURTZ: Well, the president -- it is no secret he is not a fan of the New York Times, has criticized the failing New York Times, has challenged the credibility of the paper, so in saying this, I know you've had this position before, this latest bombshell story, but it sounds like you believe the New York Times story in this instance and should that be the basis for Rosenstein getting booted out?

PIERSON: Well, look, I think that there are many journalists over at the New York Times, and not all of them are happy to push out fake news and that's true, probably with all media outlets. But in this case, this is something extremely explosive because Jeff Sessions has an employee that now is apparently articulating the exact same thing that was recently outlined the anonymous op-ed just a couple of weeks ago. This is very serious. And this is occurring under Jeff Sessions' nose. And he's the one that should address it.

KURTZ: So when Rosenstein says that the story is false, it is inaccurate, you don't believe him?

PIERSON: I don't believe him at all. As I said before, for months, we have been hearing a number of disturbing things that have come out of the inspector general's report, as well as the house intelligence committee, that shine a big light on Rod Rosenstein and his behavior as well as his intentions. And I do think he should be investigated.

KURTZ: All right. Well, several White House aides reported to be urging president not to fire Rosenstein, at least not now.

Let's go to the Kavanaugh nomination. As I mentioned earlier, some in the media were praising the president for handling this in an even-handed way, for not attacking Christine Blasey Ford, and then came the tweet in which he questioned why she hasn't reported a sexual assault when she was 15 years old. Susan Collins said she was appalled, lots of media criticism. Your reaction.

PIERSON: Well, look, I think that after a few days, and more and more we find out that there is no evidence and there is no corroboration. What we know is that the Democrats didn't deem these allegations to be credible because they had them two months ago. There was no report to the authorities at that time, not even to the committee or to Judge Kavanaugh himself. And you could argue, Howard, that the Democrats never believed these allegations because they didn't adopt them until after they were leaked. It's truly unfortunate that this woman trusted the Democrats with clearly a tragedy in her life. And not only did they betray her confidence, but they thrust her tragedy into the public sphere. I will tell you, as a woman, I believe her story should be heard. As a parent, I insist that her story be told. But it should be told to the Maryland Police Department. The United States' Senate...

KURTZ: Shouldn't be told to the senate judiciary committee?

PIERSON: They can listen to it, if they would like to listen.

KURTZ: Well, the Republican leadership under Chuck Grassley has said she can testify.

PIERSON: My point -- my point is there are criminal allegations here and the authorities are nowhere involved. The police should investigate this. What Republicans should be doing moving forward is getting on with the business of confirming Kavanaugh and the reason I say this...

KURTZ: Let me jump in. I understand you are pro-Kavanaugh. But I asked you about the president's tweet. And wouldn't you agree that many women for various reasons don't report rape and sexual allegations, and that especially in a case where they will be thrown into a media maelstrom. She was 15 years old, why should the president challenge her on this when so many women reach this very personal decision?

PIERSON: Many women do reach that personal decision. But I believe this is the broader context whereas Democrats had received this accusation, these criminal accusations.

KURTZ: You keep going to the Democrats.

PIERSON: And they didn't even report it.

KURTZ: I'm asking you -- I'm asking you about the president's tweet. I will give you one more opportunity. Do you want to disagree with his challenging her not reporting it when she was a teenager?

PIERSON: No, I'm not going to disagree with that simply because the Democrats themselves didn't believe the allegations. And now, suddenly, everyone else is supposed to. And I believe if they continue to delay the vote on Judge Kavanaugh, they are sending a message to every husband and to every son in this country that an accusation from high school alone without corroboration or evidence is enough to destroy your character and your legacy.

KURTZ: We have a minute left. You mentioned Jeff Sessions earlier. The president in an interview with Hill TV said this week I don't have an attorney general. It's sad. Now, he later clarified the reports, he didn't mean literally there was no attorney general. But did he mean that Jeff Sessions -- he doesn't have an attorney general who protects him? Is that why he's mad at Jeff Sessions?

PIERSON: I think he's mad at Jeff Sessions because he had an attorney general that wasn't upfront with him when he recused himself. I mean, we're sitting here talking about this bombshell report from the New York Times about Rod Rosenstein who only has the ability to abuse the power that Jeff Sessions himself himself has...

KURTZ: It is a year later. Should the president fire Jeff Sessions, if he's so unhappy that he keeps taunting him?

PIERSON: I think the president should really clean house. I know a lot of people say he shouldn't do it now. He should wait. And I understand that. But politically, the American people elected Donald Trump because he's not political. He does what's right, and not what's political. But I also think we should also let the president make that decision and put the onerous on Jeff Sessions when it comes to Rosenstein.

KURTZ: All right. Katrina Pierson, I really appreciate your coming by this Sunday.

PIERSON: Thank you.

KURTZ: Thank you very much. Good to see you.

PIERSON: Thank you.

KURTZ: After the break, Google says it doesn't let politics affect the product, but that's a little harder to believe after the Wall Street Journal exposes a plan to use searches up to show opposition to the president's immigration policy. That's next.


KURTZ: A remarkable piece in the Wall Street Journal revealed that some Google executives reacted to President Trump's travel ban by discussing how to tamper with the company's searches to show users, for example, how to contribute to pro-immigration groups and contact lawmakers. In internal e- mails, they talked about leveraging search functions and other steps to counter what they viewed as Islamophobic results from the search terms Islam, Muslim and Iran. And what they viewed as biased results from searches of Mexico, Hispanic and Latino. One official saying I think this is sort of super timely and imperative information that we need as we know this country and Google would not exist without immigration.

Joining us now to sort through this Shana Glenzer, a technology executive and commentator here in Washington. So, Google always swears that it is liberal, anti-Trump views of the top people doesn't affect the search product. But here is documented proof of some Google executives wanting to tamper with searches as a form of political activism. What do you think?

SHANA GLENZER, TECHNOLOGY ANALYST: Yeah, these e-mails are preposterous. Google controls the way that we see the world's information. And that as a group of employees based on political beliefs would manipulate that or mess with that is absurd and dangerous.

KURTZ: I will put you down as absurd and dangerous. Now, Google as a company tried to dismiss this journal story by saying well, these were only musings of junior officials and had to walk that back and admit some senior executives were involved. And the company is sort of trying to minimize this as a harmless exercise. How do you think Google is handling this?

GLENZER: Google can't brush this off, you know. But that said and this might be a hard pill to swallow, if these changes weren't implemented, you know, Google has checks and balances in place to make sure that these things, you know, can't easily happen. They understand the power that they wield, and they make sure that their technology is protected from political, you know, viewpoints, because of people. Now, do their employees understand that? Clearly not, clearly not.

KURTZ: Well, this strikes me -- this strikes me as an argument about well, you know, it was only an attempted bank robbery. It turns out the bank wasn't really robbed, and so, therefore, nothing to see here because in the end, it didn't happen. It is true in the end it didn't happen, but these are serious people plotting to change the searches, which is what Google sells to us as being fair and unbiased.

GLENZER: Look, I understand that people are suspicious because of the video, because Google execs have the leaked e-mails this week, but, you know, I'm going to argue possibly unpopular perspective, which is that, you know, if nothing happened, isn't this sort of the idea -- you know, exchange of ideas and free speech that so many people, you know, argue for when it comes to, you know, social media. Google is not responsible for controlling its employees, but it is making sure that they can't implement changes that reflect their belief.

KURTZ: Hold on, free speech is fine. Google executives can go march and protest. They can donate money. They can do whatever they want. I don't think it's free speech. And the video you referred to the top Google executives, the founders, after Trump's election, you know, ranting about how awful it was. I don't think it's free speech when they are talking about tampering with the product that they sell to Americans. Why should people still believe this tech giant? Is it losing credibility?

GLENZER: Google needs to continue to show increased transparency around these issues and respond. That said, these are smart people that are in a time of millennials taking action and doing something. And so, they are responding in a way they know how and they are familiar with, and that was -- you know, what you're seeing in these e-mails. It is not Google making changes reflective of these behaviors.

KURTZ: All right. Shana Glenzer, good debate. By the way, Google reporting the White House has drafted an executive order that a police online platforms in both anticompetitive conduct and political bias.

Still to come, Julie Chen is leaving her CBS talk show, hint, it is about her husband.

And Time Magazine being sold again, can only the super wealthy now own print publications?


KURTZ: Julie Chen is leaving The Talk after almost a decade of co-hosting the CBS daytime show and the reason is no mystery. Her husband Les Moonves was just ousted as CBS chairman after serious allegations of sexual misconduct.


JULIE CHEN, FORMER THE TALK HOST: Right now, I need to spend more time at home with my husband and our young son. So I've decided to leave The Talk. I want to thank everyone at the show for the wonderful years together.


KURTZ: No comment obviously on the allegations. And it would have been awkward for her to stay on as a commentator at the network that just fired her husband, but I feel some sympathy for Julie Chen since she did nothing wrong.

Time Magazine has been sold again. The tech billionaire Marc Benioff, co- founder of the company sales force, personally bought the once dominant news weekly with his wife from Meredith Corporation, which had bought it from Time, Inc. And he says he doesn't plan to impose his political views. The good news, Time was able to fetch $190 million. The not-so-good news, print magazines are struggling obviously, which is why it seems that only zillionaires like Jeff Bezos and the Washington Post can afford to run them anymore.

Well, that's it for this edition of Media Buzz. I'm Howard Kurtz. Hey, check out my Podcast, Media Buzzmeter. We kick around the day's five most important or fascinating or buzzy stories, you can subscribe on Apple iTunes, Google Play, Android, What a show today because we had so many levels and layers of the Kavanaugh nomination. It looks like we will get more of it this week, if indeed this hearing comes up on Thursday. It's going to be an incredible media spectacular.

We hope you like our Facebook page. I post my daily columns and original videos there. Check it out. And also, continue the conversation on Twitter @HowardKurtz. I like the fact that there was a dialogue here when it comes to the show. So come at me on those platforms, and we'll at you next Sunday. See you at 11 Eastern with the latest buzz.

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