This is a rush transcript from "Media Buzz," May 20, 2018. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: On the buzz meter this Sunday, The New York Times says the FBI tried to infiltrate the Trump campaign with a government informant but insists that is not spying. The president says that could be bigger than Watergate. The paper says its 2016 story minimizing the bureau of investigation of any collusion with Russia was, well, wrong.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: For The New York Times to do this a year and a half down the road, to sort of come clean and at least explain what happened around that incredibly consequential, misleading article which may have helped sway the election, because of what turned out to be a pretty wildly inaccurate implication and headline about a presidential candidate. It's just a remarkable thing to see.
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: So what The New York Times is proving is we have been right the entire time, and in the process of trying to cover up for their deep state friends and making excuses, they are actually exposing them.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
KURTZ: The Times and Washington Post describing the informant in great detail but not naming him. While few media outlets have ID'd the man, what's the right call?
And what about The New Yorker's handling of an unnamed official who is claiming credit for leaking Michael Cohen's confidential banking records which by the way is breaking the law?
President Trump calls White House leakers traders and cowards for damaging the administration by ditching anonymously to the press.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE DOOCY, FOX NEWS: What is going on at the White House because it looks like the president can't even trust his own staff?
SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I can tell you there are a couple of bad actors. I think it is disgusting and some of the most shameful behavior that you can ever engage in.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Are journalists carrying water for officials with personal agendas? And can the leaks really be stopped? When Ivanka Trump was representing the country in Jerusalem and violent border protest erupted, New York's Daily News ran this vile cover about the president's daughter and her husband.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC: What is it like to see Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of the president, and his daughter, the daughter of the president, who have no real reason to be at this event other than their blood liens and marriage?
JOY REID, MSNBC: That was Trump's senior adviser and Middle East peace negotiator Jared Kushner earlier today, placing the blame on the Palestinian protesters, some of whom were being killed, children included.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Why is there such media animosity toward Jared and Ivanka? Plus, "Murphy Brown" is making a comeback but is the political show taking on the president? Does every sitcom now need to tackle Trump? I'm Howard Kurtz and this "Media Buzz."
Deep in The New York Times story about the origins of the FBI investigation, there is a bombshell about a government informant providing information on the Trump campaign. And Rudy Giuliani seized on that and more in a testy interview with CNN's Chris Cuomo.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: The FBI came to the conclusion there was no evidence of collusion with Russia and the case.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN: How do we know that?
GIULIANI: It was in The New York Times yesterday. Paragraph 150 (ph).
CUOMO: Let's just go on the record here also. Rudy Giuliani, the president's lawyer, is using The New York Times as a good source.
GIULIANI: Does the president ever get the benefit of the doubt with you, Chris, or ever or on this network, which is disgusting?
CUOMO: Actually, I will tell you something. I I think he gets the benefit of the doubt much more often than you get credit for.
GIULIANI: Do you know that most people think that I'm crazy to come on here?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Joining us now to analyze the coverage: Sara Fischer, media reporter for Axios; Guy Benson, political editor at Townhall.com, a Fox News contributor, and co-host of a new show on Fox News radio; and Adrienne Elrod, a Democratic strategist and former Hillary Clinton staff.
Guy Benson, so The New York Times, now The Washington Post have published all of these leaked details about the FBI informant, an American academic living in London, who tried to get information from those Trump campaign aids, volunteers, Carter Page and George Papadopoulos.
By not naming him, they say well, his safety could be jeopardized. Now he's been ID's by The Daily Caller journalist Glenn Greenwald, NBC, New York Post. And this morning, "Fox & Friends" or Fox News division is not naming him. Should the mainstream media come out and say who this person is?
GUY BENSON, TOWNHALL.COM: I think it's interesting because we are sort of past the point of protecting this man's identity because as you say it has been reported many places, not just a few chat rooms or speculation online, major news organizations or at least quasi (ph) mainstream news organization and some mainstream have (ph).
And so at what point does it become futile for prestige news organizations to say well, we're not going to do it because it doesn't, you know, live up to our journalist tech or ethics (ph) standards in the modern era?
KURTZ: I agree. And I think everyone will do it in the next day or two, but it also means that certain outlets are making the judgment in effect for what used to be the gatekeepers and the mainstream media. All right, Adrienne Elrod, New York Times headline yesterday, FBI used informant to investigate Russia ties to campaign not to spy as Trump claims. This was the news story.
So, the argument here is that the FBI got involved only after receiving evidence of suspicious contacts linked to Russia, but how is that not spying if you talked to somebody who is reporting back to the bureau?
ADRIENNE ELROD, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think first of all, it is a standard operating procedure from the FBI, to send in an informant, not a spy, when they are investigating potential collusion from a -- with an adversarial government such as Russia which was what happened in this situation.
KURTZ: But The Times is taking on the president saying, this is not spying. If someone is talking to you and you think he is just some guy and he is reporting back to the FBI, wouldn't you feel spied upon?
ELROD: Again, this is part of the FBI's investigation, right? They were looking to the Trump campaign. But I think we are getting into a dangerous precedent if news organizations start naming informant in this situation.
We are putting this man's life in danger. I think The New York Times and The Washington Post have taken a principled stand by saying yes, other outlets have done this, we are not going, and I hope that the day stays the course (ph).
KURTZ: All right. Sara Fischer, this massive New York Times story, you know, two full pages inside, basically said that at the end of the election back in 2016, there was a report in The Times, FBI found no evidence of colluding with Russia. Now, The Times says today, this week, the tone was wrong, the probe (ph) was just getting started, we buried the lead. What do you make of that bit of revision as history?
SARA FISCHER, AXIOS: I mean, it's a case of like choose your news, as you saw with those clips in the beginning with Rachel Maddow and Sean Hannity. I mean, people on the left are going to say look, The New York Times is going back and trying to correct its report. It is recognizing now that that needed because honor (ph) the president before the election.
But then people on the right are going to take this, saying he's spinning for the FBI. He is spinning, saying that, you know, more things -- The New York Times is spinning.
FISCHER: More things are going to come out. This is our way of sort of softening the blow especially ahead of the IG report that supposed to come out later to speak.
KURTZ: So same set of facts, very different interpretations on --
FISCHER: Choose your news.
KURTZ: -- partisan side. Choose your news. I like that phrase. Let me also ask you about a report by Ronan Farrow in The New Yorker who interviewed this unnamed person who says, who admits in the piece, he is the guy or woman, excuse me, who leaked Michael Cohen's confidential banking records.
And he said she or he did it because suspicious activity reports were missing. Later turned out they were restricted, not missing. What do you make of given this person a platform but protecting the person's identity?
FISCHER: That is a big difference between being restricted or missing. And if someone is going to come forward with leaking someone's financial information, that's a very illegal thing to do, even if he is admitting it outright.
I mean, Ronan Farrow is putting a lot of emphasis on that source, some who has done something illegally, and he is getting a lot of backlash for that. So it is hard to look at that report and not take a grain of salt about the fact that he is citing someone who is outright admitted to doing something completely illegal.
KURTZ: And that is exactly the point, Guy, It is a very illegal thing to do. And in discussions of this I am seeing on the air, it's like oh this is fascinating, oh this guy was worried about corruption, this woman was worried about corruption, whistle blower. And it seems to me that many outlets are missing the point. Confidential banking records and that's OK to put out?
BENSON: Well, a lot of leakers engaged in inappropriate or unethical or illegal activity, that is not unusual because leakers generally aren't allow to leak the things that they do. The problem here is, the person who was blowing the whistle was blowing the whistle with ignorance or limited knowledge about the actual facts of the case.
She jumped to a conclusion that because she didn't find these records here where she thought they should be, there must be something nefarious to put, when in fact it was as you say, those records still exist and they have not been deleted or memory hold somewhere, they have just been restricted.
That takes a lot of the (INAUDIBLE) out of that story and it sort of calls into question whether it was worthwhile to broadcast or publish the speculation or concern of this particular leaker, who turned out to be wrong.
KURTZ: Yeah. She or he, we don't know the gender, but nevertheless a big platform. Adrienne, what would the media treatment have been during the Obama administration? If somebody who claimed to be a whistle blower is concerned about the corruption had leaked the confidential banking records of -- I don't know, Valerie Jarrett --
KURTZ: There would have been an uproar about that intrusion and invasion of privacy.
ELROD: Of course. And I think, you know, we certainly are seeing some uproar on the right from this. I think there is still a lot to learn about these banking records. I think this whistle blower came forward and said, you know what, I am concerned that these records are missing, but at the same time gave it to Ronan Farrow who has broken a lot of news on the Michael Cohen situation --
KURTZ: But you are calling the person a whistle blower and yet a person is clearly a law breaker. I mean, there is no dispute about this.
ELROD: Sure. Whistle blower, law breaker --
KURTZ: Is it Daniel Ellsberg, you know, leaking the Pentagon paper, or is it somebody with a political agenda?
ELROD: Right. We don't know. And I think that, to your point, how he does exactly what we are waiting for, to learn more information about that.
KURTZ: All right. I want to touch on several things that mostly old news, but were treated kind of new news in this sort of great cable information echo chamber. So let's start with this, Sara. Trump's financial disclosure form. President filed it this week. Shows he paid Michael Cohen somewhere between $100,000 to $150,000. Wow, everybody said. The money went to Stormy Daniels.
Except Rudy Giuliani who had been on TV a lot, announced two weeks ago the president had reimbursed Michael Cohen for the Stormy Daniels hush money payment. And yet it got an avalanche of coverage.
FISCHER: If we had choose (ph) news before, now we had used (ph) news. This is a conversation that has been ongoing for a few weeks. But it's newsy, it's interesting, people like it. So it doesn't surprise me that cable networks are resurfacing saying this just because they have a few new details. It's classic cable these days.
BENSON: It's also just confirmation, right? Because Rudy came out deliberately to set the stage saying, OK, the records are going to come out so let's do it on our own terms which is what he did. There were some fallible (ph) around that announcement but this was just the confirmation that what he indicated was coming did in fact arrive in the report.
KURTZ: That's a fair point. And this one is little more newsworthy. But again, Giuliani making all kinds of news by saying the Mueller investigative team has told them the conclusion is a sitting president cannot be indicted.
Well, that's been the Justice Department policy since Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton. And yet everyone went crazy. But we haven't heard from the Muller's side. So is that new news, meddling (ph) news, repackage news, recycled news?
BENSON: Maybe combination of all of that. I feel like it was newsworthy enough to merit coverage because you have the president's personal lawyer divulging a piece of information supposedly about this conversation that he had with the special counsel's team regarding the potential criminal liability of the president of the United States. That has to be news, right?
Even if it relies on long-standing precedent from OLC memo going back in the 90s, it is still relevant today. And of course, when Rudy came out and said that, the point was to make headlines and he did.
KURTZ: Right. Just to be clear. I think all this should be covered. It is newsworthy. I just think the breaking news banners and the extent of the coverage made it sound like these were huge new bombshells. So last one is Senate document -- Senate Committee releasing transcripts of the Trump Tower meeting in 2016 with the Russian lawyer.
And you know, there were some tidbits like Donald Trump Jr. saying he had not told his father about the meeting even before or afterwards. Some people questioning that. But largely a rehash and yet this dominated for a couple days.
ELROD: Yeah, it dominated for a couple of days. As we were talking about before the show, there is so much information out there right now that sometimes it is hard to exactly decipher what is really newsworthy and what is not. I think there were few tidbits in this 1,800 pages of transcripts that were released but I don't know that they merit the newsworthiness that some of the news media have given. KURTZ: Right. I think sometimes it is just filling a vacuum. You know, you always got have something to put on and you say well, this is new even if it is not so new. And at the same time, we are all -- and journalists in particular talk about this all the time. We are drowning in this kind of information. Imagine people who don't do this for a living, some of these threads would be hard to follow.
BENSON: Even for those of us who do follow it for a living. What is happening? What is the investigation? Which tentacle of the investigation is this? It's tough.
KURTZ: We are just being candid here, folks. Let me get a break. Ahead, lots of news outlets say the president was calling all illegal immigrants "animals." Why that was horribly out of context (ph)? But up next, a New York tabloid savages Ivanka Trump for representing her dad in Jerusalem. Does it get any lower than this?
KURTZ: Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner were in Jerusalem to dedicate the new U.S. embassy there. Palestinian protesters, some with burning tires and explosives, charged a border fence and Israeli military fire left 58 people dead. New York Daily News decides to blame the president's daughter with this headline calling her, "daddy's little ghoul."
Sara, I know tabloid from pages is an editorial statement, but did this go over the line?
FISCHER: It may have gone over the line. Look, this story kind of had nothing to do with the cover. They mentioned Ivanka Trump way down. I think several paragraphs. So to frame this entire story being around Ivanka Trump celebrating this embassy opening when in reality there is a lot death, it kind of misses the whole story and they are seeming to promote.
KURTZ: Guy, The Daily News hates President Trump, probably hates Jared and Ivanka. She was there to celebrate the move of the embassy which is a very controversial decision on the president's part and there was of course the unfortunate violent clashes. And yet so the story said well, she was smiling. She was there representing the U.S. unveiling the embassy.
BENSON: She was smiling in a country that is a dear ally of ours where they were following through on a promise that her father had made, that was U.S. policy since 1995, by the way. And they tried to make it seem like she was smiling because of the debts --
BENSON: Yeah, which I think it was -- look, the New York Daily News is a shrill (ph) resistance tabloid. That is what they have decided to do as a business decision. I don't take them very seriously at all. What I do take more seriously is the media generally basically buying into Hamas propaganda by juxtaposing these two things.
Hamas specifically fomented this violence in order to elicit this type of coverage. And what you get in asterisk that next day is 80 percent of the Palestinians killed were members of Hamas or other terrorist organizations. That is highly relevant but that is not what we got in real time.
KURTZ: Hamas certainly organized those protests knowing there would be violence and casualties.
BENSON: It was the goal.
KURTZ: But the clear message here, you know, I saw Wendy Sherman, former State Department official, on TV saying, what are Jared and Ivanka doing there is just that they are family. But they are the highest ranking Jewish-Americans in the White House and Jared has worked on peace plan.
ELROD: I think Wendy Sherman is probably coming from this more from the standpoint of, is Jared really an effective person to lead this --
KURTZ: No, this was just about -- no, it wasn't just Wendy Sherman. This was just about whether they should be representing the U.S. on that day at that embassy opening?
ELROD: That's ultimately the president's decision. So, you know, it is not for anybody else to decide. I personally don't think they are the best people to be sent by the United States to handle this. But again, that's the White House's decision.
KURTZ: And also White House officials. All right, so the president, you know, often talks about the Amazon, Washington Post owned by Jeff Bezos. Post now reporting that he has repeatedly pushed the postmaster general to double the shipping rates for Amazon and other companies. But she has resisted.
So, let me just go around the table here. Does this have the appearance at least of political payback against the newspaper owner?
FISCHER: Absolutely Jeff Bezos, of course. We don't see Donald Trump tweeting attacks to any of the other competitors of Amazon like Apple or Facebook or Google. He has really focused most of his attacks on Amazon again because they own The Washington Post which has been critical on some of his policies.
KURTZ: Which he thinks has been terribly unfair, Guy?
BENSON: Yeah. The appearance is there because that is what is happening. And it is not a good look for the president. It looks like bullying. It looks like an attempt to attack retribution on a news organization that you are unhappy with the coverage.
And also in the process, if this actually, let's say they doubled the rates, that would really hurt not just Amazon, which is what he is trying to do, it would hurt the American people who love Amazon because it's affordable. And so this will be a collective punishment in a way that would be I think terrible for the economy as well.
KURTZ: We can debate shipping rates, that is fine. But the postal service, the postmaster general said to have told the president that the service actually benefits from Amazon shipping.
KURTZ: So, is this is about Bezos?
ELROD: Of course it is. I like to borrow a phrase from our former campaign manager, Robby Mook, this is captain obvious. This is going after Jeff Bezos. I mean, he owns The Washington Post. The Washington Post has been highly critical of many of Trump's policies. There you have it.
KURTZ: The two companies are separate but we have rare unanimity on this particular one. Great to see you all. Adrienne Elrod, Guy Benson, Sara Fischer, thanks very much for joining us.
Ahead, President Trump rips White House leakers as traitors. Why that is an important shift? But first, president denounces on illegal immigrants in extremely strong language, but some outlets misrepresented his words.
KURTZ: Some news organizations have started making corrections for a pretty egregious error. Look at these headlines as many outlets castigated President Trump for his harsh language during a meeting on sanctuary cities but his words were wrenched out (ph) of context.
USA Today, Trump ramps up rhetoric on undocumented immigrants. 'These aren't people. These are animals.' The AP tweeted, Trump referred to those crossing the U.S. border illegally as animals. Washington Post, the sixth column, in reference to 'animals,' Trump evokes an ugly history of dehumanization. Huffington Post, Trump refers to immigrants as 'animals.' Again. Here is what the president said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: You wouldn't believe how bad these people are. These aren't people. These are animals.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: But what some in the media missed or minimized is that he was responding to California Sheriff Margaret Mims about her difficulties in tracking MS-13 gang members.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Could be an MS-13 gang member I know about. If they don't reach a certain threshold, I cannot tell ICE about them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: The president is calling this fake news. Fox News's John Roberts asked him about the incident.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I am referring to the MS-13 gangs that are coming in. So I'm actually surprised you asking this question because most people got it right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Even now, some journalists aren't quite accepting the president's explanation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS: The White House now says he was referring to the criminal immigrant gang MA-13, not to all immigrants. But he didn't say so. He certainly didn't make that clear.
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC: President Trump defenders immediately claimed that the president was only talking about members of the gang MS- 13, which is not true.
MARIA HINOJOSA, JOURNALIST: As somebody who is not born into this country, and I refuse to allow this president to try to define good immigrant, bad immigrant, because the litmus test at this point is simply that people who were not born in this country are animals.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: The AP for its part deleted its tweet, saying it failed to make clear that Trump was speaking about gang members. And CNN which had tweeted that he was referring to U.S. immigration policy said this on the air.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He appears to be very clearly responding to a comment about members of a violent gang.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: President Trump is open to misinterpretation when he uses sweeping incendiary language but in this case, some news outlets went far beyond his words and the fury keeps growing despite the media's corrections and clarifications.
Next on Media Buzz, we will get the White House's view on the president's coverage of the leaks, the immigration controversy and more with Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley.
And later, Twitter says it is going to retaliate against jerks. How will it decide who they are?
KURTZ: So many media controversy swirling around the president. We are joined now by Hogan Gidley, deputy press secretary at the White House. Welcome.
HOGAN GIDLEY, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: Glad to be here.
KURTZ: This latest New York Times story says the FBI had at least one informant in the Trump campaign. Rudy Giuliani has been taunting this. He has been around a bit, as you may have noticed. So the White House is perfectly willing to cite the failing New York Times when it has some information that benefits the administration?
GIDLEY: Look, The New York Times obviously is a failing publication as we all know, but it's for reasons just like this. I mean, they can't get out of their own way. The coverage on this president has been completely negative. We are entering now into the second year of this investigation.
We have given over millions of pieces of paper, countless hours from our own folks in the administration from the campaign for conversations with the investigation. We have no collusion, no corruption, no obstruction. None of those things exist and yet it still leads a lot of newscasts.
KURTZ: On that point, the president just the other day called the Mueller probe illegal and disgusting. He has had a lot to say about it. Journalists say it's news (ph). Do you believe the media in general, not just The New York Times, are overly fixated on this investigation?
GIDLEY: Oh, without question. Think about last week, what we in the last couple of weeks, actually. We had our secretary of state go to a foreign country and take three people, our citizens, who are being detained, bring them back to this country. We got out of an Iran deal that we now know didn't prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon but actually paved the way for them to get one.
GIDLEY: They were covered but not nearly the way in which these salacious things are covered. If given the choice, the media has policy or palace intrigue, they take palace intrigue nine times out of 10.
KURTZ: Yeah, I did note that the day of the freeing of the prisoners in North Korea, MSNBC and CNN prime time was heavily Russia investigation again.
GIDLEY: In a time it takes to say the word "returnees" back to American soil. They were back on Russia.
KURTZ: Does the president -- does the White House have a position on whether the name of this FBI informant, which the New York Times and Washington Post withholding with each other, have not -- should be made public?
GIDLEY: Look, I can't get into this investigation stuff obviously. I will refer you to outside counsel over those types of things. But I just can't say. Again, this has been two years now and we've got nothing to show for it.
We wasted taxpayer dollars. We wasted time. And in the face of all this, the president still had record-setting accomplishments and record-setting time. It's incredible what he has been able to do.
KURTZ: Well, he often puts these things out on Twitter that we then talk about. Let's put one up right now. The so-called leaks coming out of the White House are a massive over-exaggeration put out by the fake news media in order to make us look as bad as possible.
With that being said, the president adds, leakers are traitors and cowards, and we will find out who they are. So, he has every right to be upset about leaks that damage him and the administration. But he has often said in the past the media makes up some of these anonymous sources. Does he now accept that some of these leakers are real?
GIDLEY: Well, what the president is trying to articulate here and he did so beautifully in fact is that people are selfish. They are cowardly when they do leak information. He knows there are leaks. Absolutely. But so much of these leaks are made up.
I get calls all the time from reporters who try to double source things that are completely false that I am in the meeting and I said it didn't happen that way. And they said, we are going to run the story anyway. And I said, but I am on the record, I'll tell you on the record. They said, but we have sources that say that are close to the meeting with knowledge of, and they still run the story.
It's egregious, what they are doing. Think about how many things have leaked in the past couple of days too. The first lady's surgery, the president was mocked and derided because we couldn't find our secretary of state when in actuality he was in North Korea. We knew where he was.
KURTZ: Yeah, sure.
GIDLEY: The New York Times said we didn't know where he was. We knew exactly where he was. He was bringing people that are citizens of this country back to this country.
KURTZ: But is it difficult for you to -- and by the way, I try to check everything and sometimes I have been told something happens in a meeting and someone who was there says, no, I don't run with it. But isn't it difficult for you to go to work knowing that there are among you, people who for whatever reason will whisper stuff to reporters that hurts the White House, maybe about you?
GIDLEY: Look, that kind of stuff happens in various businesses and work environment all over the country. I have been in the media now for about 20 years. That's part of the job. But predominantly, we have an amazing team that works in tandem to get things accomplish for this president, to taut all the accomplishments he has been able to do in such a short amount of time.
But inevitably, you will have some people who are selfish who want to be self-aggrandizing or will go out to the press and try to make a name for themselves and that's a shame.
KURTZ: When he says traitors and cowards, obviously I am going to ask you about it. Last question. I spoke earlier on the program about some news organizations and some commentators said the president was referring to all illegal immigrants. In that meeting on sanctuary cities when he talked about animals, he was referring or responding to a question by MS-13 gang members. Do you believe that was sloppiness or intentional on part of this organization?
GIDLEY: Well, you know, they never mess up in favor of the president. Every misreported fact is always bad to the president. It never helps us out. This is a gang whose motto is rape, control, and kill.
And for whatever reason, Democrats have decided to come to the defense of this gang and they are all too quick to publish stories in the media as well that somehow this president was talking about all immigrants.
KURTZ: I don't think the president is defensing MS-13, but I do think --
GIDLEY: Democrats have on multiple occasions. Chuck Schumer just did.
KURTZ: But I do think that the president's words were very clear in context.
GIDLEY: Very clear. Very clear.
KURTZ: And that was unfortunate. Gives you no (ph) reason to beat up on the president. Hogan Gidley, great to see you. Thanks for coming by.
GIDLEY: Thanks for the time.
KURTZ: Coming up, Michael Avenatti is starting to make threats against reporters. Is this media honeymoon finally over? And later, Murphy Brown is coming back and Candice Bergen show looks a lot more political.
KURTZ: Michael Avenatti is finally enduring (ph) some journalistic scrutiny after an essentially free ride with the media after the conservative daily caller ran a piece on Stormy Daniels's lawyer and his business history including a dispute over an unpaid $160,000 bill at a coffee company he owed.
Avenatti sent the author a threatening letter. "If you and your colleagues do not stop with the hit pieces that are full of lies and defamatory statements, I will have no choice but to sue each of you and your publication for defamation. So if I were you, I would tell Mr. Trump to find someone else to fabricate things about me."
CNN's Don Lemon asked him about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DON LEMON, CNN: Do you think that behavior is similar? That you're threatening a reporter?
MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY FOR STORMY DANIELS: No, I think you are talking apples and oranges. If we encounter journalists that don't get their facts straight by design, don't follow basic standards of journalism, purposely skew stories to fit their own political dialogue and what they want the message to be, we are going to continue to call them out on that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: And when the Hollywood reporter was working on the column examining whether Avenatti was helping his career more than the cost of his porn star client, the author says, "he called me up and became somewhat menacing. At one point, he called me an "A" hole with an agenda and accused the lawyers I had spoken to of being jealous of his success."
Joining us now to analyze the coverage in Houston, Kristin Tate, a columnist for The Hill and author of "How Do I Tax Thee?" And in New York, Jessica Tarlov, senior editor at Bustle and a Fox News contributor.
Kristin, what's your take on Michael Avenatti who has been constantly on CNN and MSNBC, now making these threats against journalists?
KRISTIN TATE, THE HILL: It's despicable. Avenatti is a part of a hack who has just become completely addicted to TV like a drug and these networks continue to give him shameless coverage even though he often doesn't even have anything new to say. CNN put him on their network 74 times in recent weeks. He is now that network's most ubiquitous guest in its history that speaks volumes about CNN's priority.
TATE: He has been on MSNBC 54 times. I mean, this media circus is really a distraction. And I don't think it does any justice for Stormy Daniels or the law. This is really about Avenatti getting as much media coverage as he can --
KURTZ: Well, he is certainly getting that. Think about the TV show. Just briefly, New York Times reported that a show had been pitched to CNN and MSNBC starring Avenatti and Scaramucci but both of them have indicated that is not happening.
So Jessica, Avenatti, you know, is doing a job for a client, but he acts offended that journalists would look into his own background, his own business record when he has made himself such a front and center player.
JESSICA TARLOV, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Yeah, he shouldn't be surprised by this at all and that is completely within their rights and what journalists should be doing at this point, looking into a major news story here. I think obviously he's getting himself press, but he is right when he says every time I'm on TV, I am talking about Stormy Daniels, his client.
And he is raising an incredibly important issue here with the hush money and then whether there was intimidation. He has now said that there could be two other women who may come forward. He is continuing to vet them.
KURTZ: OK, on that point -- let me jump in. On that point, when he just makes one of these unsubstantiated claims, there may be two more women who allege that they had affairs with President Trump, instead of the anchor saying, yeah, what proof do you have, they say, oh, tell us more.
TARLOV: Yeah. No, I think that he should. I assume that he will get to that point. I personally would not have led with that but for people to say that he is just on TV to promote himself, he does have a very specific agenda which relates directly back to his client and what President Trump did.
And those who say he hasn't accomplished anything, he got the president to admit that he had been lying. Remember when Donald Trump said, this didn't happen, I didn't pay, I don't know this person. Now, the president has to admit it, had to admit it to us last week after Rudy Giuliani kind of led (ph) up there and said it is coming. And Rudy Giuliani in fact even said there could be other women.
So, we'll see what happens there. But he should not be attacking journalists like this. He sounds trumpian when he does it. He can go on TV and talk about his client, talk about the real issue here, but don't attack journalists for doing their job.
KURTZ: Kristin, quick thought.
TATE: It's completely irresponsible for this man to go on TV and make this unproven claim. But if you want to talk about real issue, the networks busied themselves covering this Avenatti character. They are completely glossing over the issues that actually do matter to the American people like immigration and the economy.
Only 23 percent of Americans are interested in the Stormy Daniels story. I think this is really a story about the media and the narrative that they are trying to push in their anti-Trump resistance movement.
KURTZ: Well, you know, one of the reasons it seems so one side (ph) is that Michael Cohen isn't talking and lawyer from Michael Cohen isn't saying any much either. So, there has been a whole lot of Avenatti. Let me come back to this question about the president's tweet calling White House leakers traitors and cowards.
Now, this all started with a leak about White House communications aide Kelly Sadler making the joke about or the crack about John McCain dying. And I can report exclusively that in the Oval Office meeting with the president, he asked her what happened and he asked her, are you done apologizing? She already apologized to Meghan McCain, the senator's daughter. Do you want to apologize more? And she said she did not want to apologize more and the president agreed with that.
But the president who so often talks about fake news is now acknowledging that White House leakers are a real problem for him. Jessica?
TARLOV: He's actually been acknowledging this for quite some time. It's one of his favorite narratives in fact, that people are taking private information about him and his administration, exposing it and also getting it wrong.
KURTZ: Right but he talks about made-up sources. And some of these sources are not made up. They are real people who work at 6300 (ph) Pennsylvania.
TARLOV: Right. That doesn't make them official traders. Obviously, that could mean something very specific but we know that this is just Trump language where he uses the first accessible word to describe them. I think the leaks are dangerous especially when they relate to national security.
But he needs to think about the fact that people who work for him are so disgusted with what's going on, are so disturbed by the contents for their meetings and the content of the policies and what this administration is doing that they are going to the press.
KURTZ: You know, I wrote a lot about the self-destructive leaks in my book, "Media Madness" and I do think the president has every right to feel betrayed by people who are in his payroll or in his orbit, Kristin. And of course, journalists are going to gobble up these leaks when they either advance a story or often they make either White House officials or their boss look bad.
TATE: Absolutely. The leaks are infuriating. However, Howie, I think that when Trump talks about the fake news media, he's misdirecting his anger in this case. The leaks are not the fault of the media. They represent a major problem inside the White House. It is very easy for Trump and his supporters to scream fake news when there is an inconvenient leak.
However, a lot of these supporters need to acknowledge that the leaks are coming from Trump's own hand-picked team. You know, I love Trump's unconventional governing style, but there is something to be said for some discipline. I think the White House needs that right now.
TATE: And Trump needs to incentivize his own team to be loyal to him and stop the leaking.
KURTZ: White House officials have tried to impose that sense of discipline. Great discussion.
TATE: Yes, that's what left.
KURTZ: Jessica Tarlov and Kristin Tate, thanks very much for being here this Sunday.
TATE: Thanks, Howie.
TARLOV: Thanks, Howie.
KURTZ: After the break, "Murphy Brown" is making a comeback and retooling for the Trump era. Are all TV shows now having to react to the Donald (ph)?
KURTZ: You know, I always loved "Murphy Brown" and her mad cap TV newsroom.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: With television basically running out of ideas, CBS is bringing the show back except this time, Candice Bergen will be hosting a morning cable talk show and competing with a conservative morning show anchored by her son.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So we had to do something. Get the old gang together. Take on this crazy new world of alternative facts and fake news. It's our civic duty.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Can't miss those (INAUDIBLE). This kind of sounds like MSNBC versus Fox. Joining us now, Emily Jashinsky of The Washington Examiner. So, is CBS pivoting off "Roseanne" and bringing back a show from the 90s and making it a politically-charged cable show that clearly is going to take aim at President Trump?
EMILY JASHINSKY, COMMENTARY WRITER, THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Yeah, I think that's exactly what's going on here. And what's really interesting is they weren't looking at the numbers. So trust the mass media. When "Murphy Brown" went off the air in 1998, more than half of Americans had a fair amount or a great deal trust in the mass media.
KURTZ: How long ago that was?
JASHINSKY: Right. And now, that number is much lower. So I don't actually think there is a great appetite for a show that is lauding it. I don't think a lot of Americans really see the Murphy Browns of the world as the protagonist and the great drama that is American politics right now. And so I don't think there is going to be a huge appetite for his reboot.
KURTZ: We will see. Ironically, it got tangled up in politics when Vice President Dan Quayle went after the show because the "Murphy Brown" character became a single mom who gave birth. But is this -- is the president now affecting every form of entertainment? Is every sitcom and every, you know, docudrama now have a take on Donald Trump and be kind of plunged on (ph) to polarizing politics? It didn't use to be this way.
JASHINSKY: No, it didn't use to be this way. And I think whats really interesting is we are seeing so many people in corners. So "Roseanne" is a show for a lot of people who are in the president's corner and one interesting thing about those numbers about mass media is that trust to mass media spiked in 2017 among Democrats.
And so CBS might see that as a huge opening to bring "Murphy Brown" back on the air with all these Democrats who are looking for heroes in the press --
JASHINSKY: -- in the era of Trump. And so with people in their corners, the Hollywood sees a lot of openings on either side.
KURTZ: Right. There maybe of course this conservative character, the one who is going to play Murphy Brown's son. So, it may be a kind of a debate or maybe it is just a gimmick to get us to talk about it.
KURTZ: One other topic here, Twitter -- you know, we always spend a lot of time on Twitter -- CEO Jack Dorsey says the company is going to limit the visibility of your tweets if you game the system or this is the quote, simply act like a jerk. So, Emily, how exactly is Twitter going to determine who qualifies for a jerk (ph)?
JASHINSKY: One other way, they are using an algorithm. Silicon Valley is trying to apply all the algorithms to police human behavior. It's really not a perfect science. It is really difficult science. But obviously they have to find a way to disincentivize the bad behavior on Twitter because it is becoming more and more --
KURTZ: And I will add more for that. And it can be a real (INAUDIBLE) and there is a lot of abusive behavior and it is fine to go after those people. When you say jerk, it seems so subjective because somebody who might seem like a jerk to people to certain point of view might seem like a satirist or good attack dog for a lot of other Twitter followers.
JASHINSKY: And they use key words and without the human element, using an algorithm, you can't interpret sarcasm. You can't interpret certain things in different ways or copy and paste and quoting. It just makes it so hard to do. It's not a perfect science. I'm not sure how well it is going to work our for Jack (ph).
KURTZ: Remember to sure look (ph) at Emojis.
JASHINSKY: Yeah, look at that too (ph).
KURTZ: Emily Jashinsky, great to see you, thanks so much. Still to come, big changes at Fox News. Plus, Tom Wolfe was a journalist in giant ways you may not realize in final thoughts.
KURTZ: The Murdoch family has named Suzanne Scott the CEO of Fox News and Fox Business. She has been at the network since its launch back in 1996 in a variety of programming and production jobs most recently running all Fox opinion shows.
Suzanne Scott also happens to be the only woman in charge of a major cable news network or network news division. And she takes the job that belonged to Roger Ailes before he was forced out with mounting sexual harassment allegations. And that message isn't lost on anyone. Rupert Murdoch and Lachlan Murdoch, his son, praised her vision and innovation.
Jay Wallace has also been promoted to president of Fox News and executive editor. He had been running the news division and is a career newsman who has also been at the channel since its first day.
You may have known Tom Wolfe who died this week mainly as a novelist or a dapper dresser in those white suits. But he had a huge impact on the news business.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As a writer, I'm perfectly delighted for things to remain the way they are. The human comedy has never been richer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: The one-time reporter for The Washington Post and New York Herald Tribune and writer for New York magazine and Esquire helped create what was dubbed the new journalism, marrying reporting in novelistic narrative.
It was Wolfe who coined the phrase "radical chic" and running about (INAUDIBLE) liberals throwing a celebrity-filled party for the Black Panthers. Wolfe who explode (ph) the drug culture in, "The Electric Kool- Aid Acid Test." Wolfe who dubbed the 1970s The "Me" Decade. Wolfe who coined "The Right Stuff" for his book which later became a movie on America's seven original astronauts.
And Wolfe who called Wall Street traders "Masters of the Universe" in his brilliant novel "Bonfire of the Vanities" which like most of his writing was a fictional look at the rich and poor divide in the Bronx based on actual deep dive reporting. That's what gave it its power.
He was a dazzling writer. Every essay, every article, every book in all their rich and absorbing (ph) detail was ultimately about him. Tom Wolfe was 88.
That's it for this edition of "Media Buzz." I'm Howard Kurtz. Thanks for watching. Comment me (ph) on Twitter. We just talked about Twitter trying to weed out jerks, don't be a jerk, but that's OK, I like the combat.
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