Press pounds pardon story; 'Roseanne' reboot strikes chord

This is a rush transcript from "MediaBuzz," April 1, 2018. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: On "MediaBuzz" this Sunday, a media eruption over New York Times's report that President Trump's lawyer, John Dowd, last year raised the prospect of pardons for Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn but the story said (ph) it's unclear whether the president knew about it.


GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: If John Dowd did this in any way, shape, or form, did the president know about it? Did he sanction it? Did he direct him to do it? Was it, in that case, obstruction?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's pretty clear from this report if it's true that the president was not acting with a completely clean conscience because if you have a clean conscience about this, you're not contemplating pardoning people.

DON LEMON, HOST, CNN: Why would there be conversations of pardons if there was no wrongdoing? Shouldn't the president at least want to find that out first?

SEAN HANNITY, HOST, FOX NEWS: One little itsy-bitsy teeny- weeny little problem with the story - it's fake news. And we know because one of Trump's lawyers, Ty Cobb, put out a statement.


KURTZ: And John Dowd strongly denied the report. So should it be portrayed as a major bombshell?

The president fired his VA Secretary, David Shulkin, in favor of his White House doctor. Another move the press calls chaos. But what if Trump had perfectly good reasons for replacing him?

Donald Trump declines to respond to the much hype Story Daniels interview on "60 Minutes". And many media mainstream-types just can't stand it.


MIKA BRZEZINSKI, HOST, MSNBC: He tweets about me bleeding badly from a facelift. Makes a lie that I showed up at Mar-a-Lago bleeding all over the place. The guy punches back on everything. He punches back low, he punches back high, but on Stormy Daniels, absolutely nothing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why isn't the president fighting back? After all, he has had no problem doing it before when it comes to the at least 15 women who have accused him of assault, harassment, and improper advances.


KURTZ: It's all the media keep telling us that Trump talks too much and tweets too many insults. And Mollie Hemingway on how the press going back to Bill Clinton should cover questions of politician's infidelity, harassment, and alleged cover-up.

Plus, Roseanne makes a comeback 30 years later. And now she's a big Trump supporter fighting with her liberal sister.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How could you have voted for him, Roseanne?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He talked about jobs, Jackie. He said he will shake things up. I mean, this might come as a complete shock to you, but we almost lost our house the way things are going.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have you looked at the news, because now things are worse.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not on the real news.




KURTZ: Why Roseanne is connecting with working class viewers. I'm Howard Kurtz and this is "MediaBuzz."

The week began with President Trump expelling a record-breaking 60 Russian diplomats, but the media were soon fixed in on another kind of Russia story. The New York Times based on three unnamed sources reported that his former lawyer, John Dowd, broached the idea of presidential pardons for Paul Manafort now under indictment in the Mueller investigation and Mike Flynn who has pleaded guilty.

The White House is disputing the story and Dowd offered a flat denial, telling the Times, there were no discussions, period. As far as I know, no discussions.

Joining us to analyze the coverage, Gayle Trotter, a columnist for The Hill and Mara Liasson, national political correspondent for NPR and a Fox News contributor. And Jessica Tarlov, senior editor at Bustle and also a Fox News contributor.

Gayle, so The New York Times story would certainly be significant if pardons were potentially being dangled to influence witnesses. It could just be preliminary conversations with lawyers. How does it stack up against the expulsion of all these Russian diplomats from a president who is supposed to be soft on Moscow?

GAYLE TROTTER, COLUMNIST, THE HILL AND TOWNHALL.COM: Right. It's interesting. It's another New York Times article with a lot of anonymous sources and the people who were actually in the room denied that it happened or that those discussions were had. And yet we have actual action by President Trump to expel these diplomats in coordination with a lot of other countries.

And we heard the mainstream media going on offensive for many, many months about President Trump not being strong enough against Russia. And now we have a strong action and may be that hanging. They don't give it very much reporting or not as much as --

KURTZ: It got a lot of coverage for a day and then it was gone. Jessica, you know, this pardon story has wall-to-wall coverage when it broke on CNN and MSNBC. It seems like everything in the Russia probe just jacked up to 11. Is it being overplayed?

JESSICA TARLOV, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR, SENIOR EDITOR AT BUSTLE: I'm not sure. I actually felt like this story wasn't as big as others before. I would say John Dowd was going to deny it. Ty Cobb was going to deny it. That's what everyone does. We will find out in a few months if it is true or not.

I tend to think that the part about pardoning Mike Flynn is true. This is something that President Trump has played with before. We know what he did with Joe Arpaio. He feels like Mike Flynn is --

KURTZ: Wait, do you think it's true? We are talking about how much we can document it.

TARLOV: No. I believe that President Trump would be talking about pardoning Mike Flynn. Paul Manafort, I don't think is as important to him as Mike Flynn personally. But I think in terms of the coverage of the story, I only remember this really for a couple of days.

And I do think the expulsion of our diplomats in Russia, I believe that was actually more of a story, and people were in fact giving him more credit than I assume that they would be for how much their kind of any anti-Trump feel.

KURTZ: What struck you, Mara, is that John Dowd is quoted on the record with a pretty hard denials. You have a story that says he did this.


KURTZ: He says no.

LIASSON: Look, cable news has 24 hours a day to fill and they don't have 24 hours' worth of stuff to fill it with. I think that's pretty much the end of the story for now unless there is more information. The expulsion story was also on the front page of The New York Times. Big. It's all over the world.

KURTZ: Right.

LIASSON: It's all our allies doing the same thing at the same time. It raised questions which I think were duly covered as to whether this means Donald Trump is changing his attitude towards Russia, getting tougher, shedding his reluctance to criticize Vladimir Putin, although it should be pointed out as many of these stories did that it doesn't reduce the overall size of the Russian mission. Those 60 diplomats can be replaced with 60 other ones.

KURTZ: Yes. It is partly symbolic. But let's turn now to the VA story because this has gotten a lot of attention. President firing David Shulkin by Twitter. It has been obvious for weeks, so many leaks about this. And the story is this is chaos. He can't hang with anybody. Everybody is getting fired.

Well, Shulkin as you know got himself in a lot of trouble. There was that IG's report that says $120,000 lavish trip to Europe. It was (INAUDIBLE) to include his wife's airfare. He accepted free Wimbledon tickets. That got reported but it was kind of overshadowed, I say, by the chaos narrative.

TROTTER: Right. That should have been reported more. And many of the stories talking about his replacement don't really go into it. They just call it ethical lapse. And USA today has headline on this. It was saying that he was being replaced by Trump's doctor. That is an astonishing coverage because the prior administration appointed Ronny Jackson as White House physician.

Ronny Jackson is a war veteran. He is also an Admiral. You know, you can't say that a navy admiral does not have credible management experience and that seems to be --

TARLOV: I think that you if you look at the millions of people that he is going to have to manage which he hasn't done before.

KURTZ: Give me just one second. Just to remind people, Ronny Jackson is -- most people remember him for an hour-long White House briefing when he praised the -- stated the president's health. Take a quick look.


RONNY JACKSON, NOMINATED AS SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS: I told the president that if he had healthier over the last 20 years, he might live to be 200 years old, I don't know. I mean, he has incredible -- he has incredible genes, I just assume.


KURTZ: It is certainly fair to say can this guy, a rear admiral medical doctor who has never managed a large organization --


KURTZ: -- can tackle this sprawling 360,000 person dysfunction (INAUDIBLE) that's fair.

TARLOV: It is totally fair. I actually think if you look at the statements that are coming out from people actually in Congress, if you look at the senators who are leading the Veterans Affairs Committee, I think you see where the issue really was. They are saying we need to know more, we need to hear more about his experience, and we look forward to finding out.

Dr. Shulkin was confirmed 100-0. So, if Ronny Jackson is deserving of that, I believe he will get it. The Obama administration has praised him as much as the Trump administration.

KURTZ: Let me go back to Shulkin, Mara, because not only did he have that IG's report, but he was openly at war with some of his aides, and he has been on TV. All kinds of shows. Two more Sunday shows today saying this was about privatization. He was resisting it.

The president wants more VA services privatized so vets can go to their own doctor. Why shouldn't the president -- why is there media assumption that president can fire whoever he wants if he disagrees with the way the guy is doing his job?

LIASSON: And he can. And that goes under the category of normal. In other words, president fires somebody, that's legitimate. Now what's really interesting is in the era of Trump, everyone has a direct line to the media. It is not just the president. He had that -- Shulkin had that op-ed piece we assume written in advance.


LIASSON: Because it came out really fast.

KURTZ: Like four seconds later, yes.

LIASSON: Yes, like four seconds later.

KURTZ: Right.

LIASSON: And the thing that's interesting to me about Ronny Jackson is not just that he hasn't managed anything bigger than the White House medical team, but where does he stand in this big consequential real debate about privatizing the VA?

KURTZ: Let me bring back another coverage. So with all these stories about chaos and dysfunction, Washington Post has a piece today saying Trump is increasingly defiant because the moderating influences of his aides, they've all been fired or resigned or whatever.

So, how is it with all of that that he has gone up to 42 percent in a CNN poll, seven-point jump from the last time the poll was taken, seems to suggest a disconnect between the Beltway coverage and what Americans think of this.

LIASSON: And I will tell you something that if Donald Trump was looking at those numbers, he would say, what I'm doing is working. I'm acting from my gut, from my instincts which is the way I have operated my entire life. It's how I became president. And my numbers are going up. This method of leadership works.

TROTTER: I disagree with Mara, because I think it's not that he's operating from his gut, I think President Trump is in office because he threw out the established Washington playbook. And so --

KURTZ: Talk about the disconnect because --

TROTTER: Right. This is --

KURTZ: -- you know, look, this is not a smoothly functioning machine. The president sometimes seems erratic in his decision making but not that 42 percent is so great but it's a significant rise. So is there a disconnect?

TROTTER: But the media want to play by the old rules. They want to measure him against a set playbook. And this is why there is a disconnect because the voters who supported this administration, just like that Roseanne piece, they want things shook up. They want the established playbook thrown away. So they see this as a fulfillment of campaign promises.

KURTZ: I absolutely --

LIASSON: It's his appointed that he's firing. He is not firing the establishment. He is firing the people he chose.

TROTTER: But they are not performing. And like in a business, you will fire people who don't perform --

KURTZ: Absolutely wrong --

TROTTER: Who don't conform to the mission of organization.

KURTZ: I absolutely love that we are now quoting Roseanne as a political prognosticator.


KURTZ: let's put up the cover of Time because it got Jeff Sessions. It just came out the other day. Nobody is above the law. That is the quote. He talks about how he has been humiliated by the president and Sessions just deciding against a second special counsel to investigate such matters as related to Hillary Clinton.

The Clinton Foundation, also that FISA warrant surveillance business involving Carter Page, (INAUDIBLE) U.S. attorney in Utah. We will take a look at it. Jessica, suddenly it seems like some of the mainstream media now does not like or at least respect Jess Sessions --


KURTZ: -- because he stands up to Donald Trump.

TARLOV: Right. We are back in a time when Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation after saying oh, OK, maybe there is a decent fair person somewhere within there. I'm sure if we have a whole bunch of ICE raids, that will fly out the door. For the moment, we have that -- I have been hurting (ph) to see bipartisan praise of this move.

You have people from Ted Lieu to staunch Republican, Jason Chaffetz, for instance, both saying that this was the right move. Having a second special counsel would have not only taken years, millions more dollars, and I am sure that actually even the 24-hour news cycle could have handled that --

KURTZ: It's not entirely bipartisan. The mainstream media kind of praising this as a principled decision by the A.G. But a number of conservative commentators and some conservative politicians are saying this is terrible. There needs to be another independent counsel. So, there is sort of this breakdown.

TROTTER: First, it is a great decision by the attorney general. But secondly, when you get into the media coverage of it, they have never supported Jeff Sessions. So saying that, oh, he is maybe a decent person because he has made some decision that liberal commentators like is kind of--

TARLOV: It's not this liberal commentators --

TROTTER: No, no, but you were saying that, like, that liberal commentators are saying that maybe he's a decent person. I mean, this is someone that the mainstream media has gone against personally and politically the entire time and now that he has come up with this decision, they are saying he is OK --


LIASSON: Jeff Sessions has become a proxy for the rule of law. And it wasn't just decision. It was when he recused himself. He has played by the rules. And that is the --

KURTZ: And so the press which may otherwise not like some of his policies respect that decision.

LIASSON: Yes, respect that. You know, Jeff Sessions is the essence of Trumpism. He was for all those policies before Trump was. You can make that argument.

TARLOV: But Donald Trump doesn't like him.

LIASSON: Well, he doesn't like him because he plays by the rules.

KURTZ: Got to get it right. Got to get it right. We can talk about this all morning. By the way, my book traces the origins of the president's anger with Jeff Sessions and the resentment of the Russia investigation and at the press for its relentlessly negative coverage. It's called "Media Madness: Donald Trump, the Press, and the War over the Truth."

When we come back, the press is up in arms as the president stays quiet for a few days. Imagine staying quiet. And later, President Trump calls Roseanne to congratulate her on a show that is partially about him.


KURTZ: Month after month, the press has pounded the president for making reckless or unsubstantiated comments and slamming people on Twitter, but that suddenly got turned on its head in the wake of that Stormy Daniels interview with complaints about Trump staying quiet.


CECILIA VEGA, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, ABC NEWS: You guys have called him the counter-puncher many times. Why has he not punched back on this one?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I didn't say he punches back on every single topic. If he did, he will probably be addressing a lot of the stories that most of you write every single minute of every single day. He also has a country to run.


KURTZ: He also has a country to run. Mara Liasson, there was a time when the president didn't feel the need to make news every single day. President has been relatively quiet for a few days. He has been in and out of Mar-a- Lago. He was at a church this morning. The media just can't stand it. Why hasn't he tweeted?

LIASSON: First of all, he tweeted a lot this morning. There was a real tweet storm on immigration.

KURTZ: But not on the subject that president --

LIASSON: Not on the subject -- that's right. So, the legitimate news story in this is to point out that Donald Trump tweets a lot on everything but he hasn't tweeted on this. Not that he should or shouldn't. It's not our business to give him advice.

But it is something to point out that he tweets on everything. He doesn't let any punch remain uncountered but he is silent on this, period. Not to give him advice about whether he should or shouldn't.

KURTZ: Oh, boy, some people seem to see their job is giving advice. And Gayle Trotter, if the president had responded to Story Daniels or criticize her in any way, that would magnify the story for days and days.

The pundits know that from political point of view, it is smarter for the president to stay quiet and let Sarah Sanders handle it. But they are acting shocked anyway. How dare Donald Trump not respond. We need copy.

TROTTER: That's right. And the mainstream media has been giving him advice over and over about his statements and his tweeting and I think it is a fair point to note that he hasn't tweeted about Stormy Daniels.

KURTZ: Yes, sure.

TROTTER: And that's a legitimate observation and there certainly instances that can or cannot be drawn from that but as Sarah Sanders said, he doesn't respond to everything. So I disagree with Mara. He does not respond to everything. And it's understandable --

TARLOV: He responds to every woman who is saying that she had sexual encounter with him. Says it didn't happen.

TROTTER: No, that's not correct.

TARLOV: Can you name one who came out --


TARLOV: Right. All of them. All the liars. But Stormy Daniels who had the highest rating from CNN --

TROTTER: No surprise "60 Minutes" wants to cover the space on (INAUDIBLE) and you the ratings when they cover Stormy Daniels, they just go up. But the mainstream media also makes the point over and over again that this is not elevated conversation. How can you tweet about it and yet they are just dying for that --

KURTZ: Wait, this is actually about president's lawyer, Michael Cohen, who gave her $130,000 and what we are all calling hush money. But isn't it true that media people have long said that it will be better -- it will be better for the president, it will be more presidential if you didn't respond to every attack and every slight.

LIASSON: Media people -- pundits are not reporters. That's not their job.

KURTZ: Actually a lot of reporters have played pundits on television. But then, this is like, oh, this is terrible, he hasn't responded.

TARLOV: I'm not really -- I don't believe that they are saying, oh, this is terrible. I believe they are saying this is quite curious. This is a real story about hush money that may have been paid. I mean, the infidelity, I think we are so far past that with Donald Trump. There really is nothing here.

We talked about this before on the show. Oh, the president cheated on his wife. Yes, we know those things kind of happen. But they are saying this is a huge story because of the implications of the hush money and potential threats that this woman received in the parking lot. And the fact that he doesn't say anything about it is the story.

TROTTER: The threat that she wasn't able to back that up.

KURTZ: I think we agree that is news. News for days. Gayle Trotter, Mara Liasson, and Jessica Tarlov, thanks very much. Happy Easter to all of you.

Ahead, are the media covering Donald Trump's accusers the same way they covered Bill Clinton's sex scandal? We will have more on that. Up next, the Roseanne reboot is a huge hit. Is that because her character loves President Trump?


KURTZ: Looking at live pictures from Florida of the Easter Sunday church service. The Episcopal Church of Bethesda-by-the-sea. That is in Palm Beach where the president and the first lady are attending services. The president, first lady, and Tiffany Trump headed to the church just a few moments ago after taking a motorcade from Mar-a-Lago.

ABC brought back "Roseanne" this week, 30 years after its debut with a new twist. She John Goodman are still struggling from paycheck to paycheck, but now Roseanne is a big Trump supporter who fights with Hillary (ph)-loving sister even when they are trying to make up.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I guess I didn't mean to imply that you are some right-wing jackass. I should have tried to understand why you voted the crazy way that you did.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I should have understood that, you know, you want the government to give everybody free health care because you are a goodhearted person who can't do simple math.



KURTZ: It was buffalo at the box office with 18 million people tuning in. I spoke earlier from New York with Carley Shimkus, a reporter for Fox News 24/7 Headlines on Sirius XM. Carley Shimkus, welcome.


KURTZ: It was a bit of marketing genius to have Roseanne as a big fan of President Trump, fighting with her Trump-hating sister. Why do you think that show has struck such a chord?

SHIMKUS: You know, I think it resonated with so man people because we live in a time where every November there are entire articles devoted to how to navigate Thanksgiving without getting into a political argument with your family members.

I think that show just represents what so many people are going through. And ABC after just one episode has renewed the show for a second season. So they clearly have a lot of confidence it in.

KURTZ: Right. Roseanne told Howard Stern in fact that a lot of families like that are fighting over politics. I think the show captured that. What about bringing back this working class family that first debut 30 years ago that struggles from paycheck to paycheck? It seems like that appeals to people who don't often see folks like themselves in entertainment television.

SHIMKUS: Yes, absolutely. Listen, politics aside, at its core, this show is about a working class family struggling to get by. And we really haven't seen a lot of that on TV recently.

Historically, shows like that have done very well in the past. Think about "The Waltons" and "The Honeymooners." And those shows are successful in part because people do like to see themselves represented on television.

KURTZ: Right. I think it is time to show when a little -- try a little too hard to get these modern themes in like pregnancy, surrogacy, and a young boy who likes to dress up in girl's clothing and all that.

But I have to give credit to ABC president Ben Sherwood who told The New York Times that the day after the 2016 election, they sat around saying, we need to understand the country better between the two coasts because so much programming is generated out of New York in L.A. and clearly this was a show that was more popular in markets like Tulsa and Cincinnati.

SHIMKUS: Yes, absolutely. You know what? The show was talked about a lot, too. Not only did it get 18 million viewers. It also generated at its peak 15 tweets per second.


SHIMKUS: It received more viewers than the season finale, the finale in 1997. And it was most successful in markets like Tulsa, Cincinnati, Kansas City, Pittsburgh and Chicago. So I don't really think that it was so much of a political thing that we are seeing here, it's more about location.

Middle America really wanted to see themselves represented on TV and they did in Roseanne when they don't in so many other shows like "The Kardashians."

KURTZ: Right. It catches (ph) few seconds, but it certainly doesn't help when President Trump now calls Roseanne at a rally. He is praising the show. He said, it is about us. So people who identify with Donald Trump are now, you know, he sees as part of the Roseanne family.

SHIMKUS: Yes. And you know, for the show continue to be successful, both Democrats and Republicans need to watch it. In order for that to happen, they either going to need to cut back on the political jokes or at least maintain that agree to disagree atmosphere that they had in the season premiere.

KURTZ: Yes. Maybe some people watch it just for the entertainment.

SHIMKUS: That's right. And it was funny. Let's not forget that.

KURTZ: All right. Carley Shimkus, great to see you. Thanks so much.

SHIMKUS: Thanks a lot. I appreciate it.

KURTZ: Ahead on "Media Buzz," Jonah Goldberg has a unique take on the battle between the president and the press. But first, Mollie Hemingway on the media's role in covering sex scandals and whether there is a double standard.


KURTZ: "Sixty Minutes" may have scored its biggest ratings in a decade with the endlessly promoted Stormy Daniels interview, but there was significant media pushback against the porn star and her lawyer, Michael Avenatti.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She had stated this affair didn't happen. Isn't this the very moment she should come forward, and as you might say, put up or shut up if she has this evidence? Do you have evidence that shows that he either sent someone or he himself that threatened your client?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think people thought there was going to be like a smoking gun here. Did we miss something?


KURTZ: (Inaudible) said she didn't know who pressured her into releasing statements as recently as January, denying the affair.


STORMY DANIELS, ADULT FILM STAR: As a matter of fact, the exact sentence used was they can make your life hell in many different ways.


DANIELS: I am not exactly sure who they were. I believe it to be Michael Cohen.


KURTZ: You don't know who they are but you believe it to be the President's personal lawyer. And what about her account of a man confronting her in a parking lot and telling her to drop the Trump story.


DANIELS: He leaned around and looked at my daughter and said it is a beautiful girl. It would be a shame if something happened to her mom.

COOPER: Did you go to the police?



DANIELS: Because I was scared.


KURTZ: And she said she doesn't know who the man is. I sat down with Mollie Hemingway, the Fox News Contributor and Senior Editor at the Federalist.


KURTZ: Mollie Hemingway, welcome. After so much hype about this 60 Minutes interview, what explains the media backlash against Stormy Daniels and her lawyer?

MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think people were really excited to have this interview go, and obviously a lot of people watched it. But it kind of ended up being something of a dud. And so I think people were hoping for a little bit more. If they are using this story as a way to go after the President, they would like it to be a little bit more substantive.

KURTZ: You're saying journalists were let down.

HEMINGWAY: I think it is no secret that a lot of journalists are not huge fans of the President and they thought this would be a good avenue to pursue their less than happy feelings about him.

KURTZ: I was surprised that some news outlets said Stormy said she was threatened as opposed to Stormy says a man that she can't identify confronted her and threatened her in a parking lot.

HEMINGWAY: Well, I think there are a few reasons for that. One, there is the overarching issue that Donald Trump is someone who has bragged about his infidelity for many decades. This is kind of baked in to what people think about him. And people had to make a decision when they voted in 2016, are you going to with Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. Both had issues surrounding their marriages and infidelity.

And people made that decision for Trump. So that's kind of a donned issue. The threatening thing would be new. Although, it is also reminiscent of what we heard during the previous Clinton scandal, the Bill Clinton scandal about how he or people close to him threatened.

KURTZ: Or trashed, yeah. And I'm glad you bought that up because I spent years covering the Clinton sex scandal. Those were a lot to cover. And anyone who says the press gave Bill Clinton a pass has amnesia, because it was a constant topic and many of the revelations were broken by major news organizations. But do you see any difference in the way Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, the Trump accusers are covered as opposed to the way it was covered in the Clinton era?

HEMINGWAY: I actually -- people definitely loved covering the Bill Clinton sex scandal. But I do think there were some differences, differences in how the women who made accusations were covered. A lot of the things that Stormy Daniels has said were things said by a lot of the women who accused Bill Clinton, whether they said they could identify things about his physique or that they had been threatened.

Or even you know there was one woman, I can't remember, was it Jennifer Flowers, who had an audiotape of Bill Clinton. I don't think you saw the same level of interest in corroborating details that these women had. And again, it is kind of -- when you already have gone through it as a country and you have come to a decision that private sexual infidelity doesn't matter to the people, unfortunately, it is hard to then to make this is a big issue for Donald Trump.

KURTZ: Well, another difference was the reason the Monica Lewinsky story came out because there was a special prosecutor investigation. Donald Trump has his own, independent prosecutor, but it is on that other issue not about Stormy Daniels. So you say that we have come to a decision as a country, having gone through the embarrassment, the graphic star of porn, the Clinton scandals, that private infidelity when it comes to politicians, even though some people still lose their jobs is not something to get everybody all riled up. Is that true?

HEMINGWAY: To some extent, yes. I actually think a lot of the people, including a lot of the people who voted for Donald Trump still believe that it is wrong not to be faithful in your marriage. They do think that -- and particularly bragging about as Donald Trump did for so many decades is not something to emulate. They have that view. At the same time, I think they see this story as just the latest in a long string of attempts to take down a President. And so they're just not falling for it.

But that doesn't mean that they think this behavior is good. It is hard to know exactly what's true about this story. But at the very least, we know this is a man who has not been faithful to his wife. And this is something that I don't think people support, even if they don't think this is the proper thing to get that.

KURTZ: Yeah, and that was the debate during the Clinton impeachment. Was it just sex or was it also lies because he lied to a grand jury. Now I would make a distinction when you have -- because mostly these were consensual affairs. When you have misconduct or harassment, Al Franken, John Conyers both have to resign from Congress, Roy Moore, lost it all about in the Senate race. But I think you're right.

I mean don't care what Donald Trump did 10 or 12 years ago. I am not sure most of the country cares. But then you get into this question of were there threats, was there hush money, what about the $130,000 from his lawyer. Isn't that legitimate subject for news coverage? You don't seem excited.

HEMINGWAY: It might be. But again, it seems like people are trying a little bit too hard to make something out of this story. They are painting this accuser who has been a very inconsistent accuser. She's had stories all over the place, saying it did happen, it didn't happen, it did happen.

KURTZ: She was denying the affair.

HEMINGWAY: And yet, you see a lot of media treatment of her as if she is somehow a credible source. And I don't think that's what we're dealing with here. And I think people, again, kind of see through it. I saw on a different network, a focus group of people being asked what they thought about this story and they immediately said they are trying to impeach our president.

And I think that's what people see, as opposed to some really important tale about how we should be moral, and we should in our marriages.

KURTZ: OK. So basically you think that the country is willing to accept past behavior of this nature. You also think that we don't have any hard proof about threats and things like that. But what you seem to be saying some journalists and commentators are so determined to get the president that they become fans, perhaps uncritical fans of porn stars like Stormy Daniels.

HEMINGWAY: Yeah, describing her as award-winning and so unimpeachable when really this is not a character, which by her own behavior, not just recently but historically, might not be so great. Also true though, that people who are committing infidelity in their marriage with women like this should not be held in high regard.

KURTZ: Fair point, Mollie Hemingway. Great to see you, thanks very much for joining us.


KURTZ: Coming up, Jonah Goldberg weighs in on Donald Trump and so-called fake news. And later, the first lady's office denounces media speculation about her marriage.


KURTZ: In an era where nearly all political debates revolve around Donald Trump, conservative commentators who weren't big boosters of the President face a challenge in talking about him, the GOP, and the press. Joining us now is Jonah Goldberg, Senior Editor at National Review and a Fox News Contributor. So you write, the press exaggerates anti-Trump narratives and is out to get him.

You also say that your sources tell you the things are nutty behind the scenes at the White House. Could that not be tied to your phrase, the press out to get the president?

JONAH GOLDBERG, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Sure. Look, it is nothing new as a conservative. I remember having arguments with you about media coverage 20 years ago. You know the mainstream media historically has always been more antagonistic towards Republicans. I think it is on steroids with Donald Trump. I think Donald Trump invites it and likes it. I think Donald Trump is afraid of confrontation but loves controversy. And he likes to exploit a sense of chaos and the press often falls for it.

KURTZ: Is falling in to his trap. But then you say you don't like it when the press reports this or that thing is chaotic or the President made a bad decision and his supporters say fake news.

GOLDBERG: Yeah, because it is chaotic. It is just objectively chaotic. And forget what people behind the scenes say. Forget how many staffers openly or off the record disparage their own boss. You know you had this conversation earlier today about the President firing his VA secretary. And you were absolutely right to point out that he's 100 percent within his rights to do that.

It is outrageous and bizarre that he does these things over Twitter. It is outrageous and bizarre the way the President humiliated his own Secretary of State. It was outrageous and bizarre when he left his Former Chief of Staff, Reince Priebus, on the tarmac so he could learn about being fired on the phone.

KURTZ: So your objection is to the style with which he does things, but not necessarily the substance.

GOLDBERG: Oh, I can point to a whole bunch of policy things that I think I'm very much in favour of. And unlike a lot of the Trump boosters out there, I am capable of praising Trump when he does something right but I'm also capable of criticizing him when he does something wrong.

KURTZ: OK. And when you criticize him, you do so on television. You would do so on your column. But a number of these Republicans you talk to, you say they are critical of the President but they do it off the record or in background. Why is that?

GOLDBERG: Couple of reasons. One, it is a well-established fact that the President responds very well to flattery and responds very poorly to criticism. His hardcore supporters, just wait until you look at my Twitter feed after this appearance, his hardcore supporters will brook no criticism of the President. And whatever the President does, they will defend on Twitter regardless of what it is.

KURTZ: You are suggesting some of these GOP folks are being deplicit, is that they really think they at least have some problems with the President but they are afraid to say so probably?

GOLDBERG: Yeah, one, they are afraid to say so publicly. Two, because the White House itself, and particularly Donald Trump and his biggest supporters, consider any criticism to be proof of disloyalty, which I think is ridiculous. If you go back and you look at you know the fact that Jeff Flake was basically hounded out of government.

You look at Senator Corker, was basically hounded out, until Bannon left.

KURTZ: They were not to run for reelection.

GOLDBERG: For a reason because he dared to criticize the President verbally, even though these senators voted in lock step with Trump's agenda. So when people say that oh, they're just blocking Trump's agenda, that's not it. What they want is everyone to bend their knee and suck up to this guy publicly because that's what Trump demands and that's what Trump's biggest supporters demand.

KURTZ: Let me point to this New York Times op-ed that caused a huge ruckus. John Paul Stevens, a retired Supreme Court Justice saying the Second Amendment should be abolished. And I think that hurt people who want some measure of gun control, lot of liberal pundits. You don't agree with Stevens on the Second Amendment but you like the piece.

GOLDBERG: Yeah, no. Look, first of all, I agree. Politically, if I were an RNC guy, this was a gift to Donald Trump. And Donald Trump is absolutely right to go after Stevens and say look, they want to take your guns. But at the same time, I am one of these guys who don't believe in the living constitution. I don't believe in changing the meaning of the constitution by judicial fiat. Do you want to change the constitution?

There is a process for it, it is called amending it. And at least, it's intellectually honest. And it's not just intellectually honest on the constitutional grounds, it's also intellectually honest because we know for a fact that lots of liberals, lots of Democratic politicians really would like to get rid of the Second Amendment, but they know it is a political disaster to say so. So I welcome honesty anytime.

KURTZ: Not all have that piece.

GOLDBERG: I said lots.

KURTZ: We got like half a minute. You were a major voice in the Monica Lewinsky scandal. You were a player in that drama. Do you see some hypocrisy between Liberals, them with Bill Clinton, Republicans now with the accusations against President Trump?

GOLDBERG: Everywhere I look I see hypocrisy. Yeah, both sides, I have been relatively consistent in the sense that I think scummy behavior by politicians should be condemned. They're not necessarily be disqualified, but it should be condemned. It depends on the specifics. Republicans, Evangelical Christians, Conservative Christians used to condemn this sort of stuff a great deal in politicians. They've changed their position, saying why does it matter. And Liberals used say it doesn't matter, and now they say it matters a lot.

KURTZ: I think you've called out some people here. Jonah Goldberg, I look forward to your Twitter reactions. Thanks very much for joining us.

GOLDBERG: That makes a lot of us.

KURTZ: After the break, a headline news host says Melania Trump should leave her husband. Are the media really going to have this debate?


KURTZ: I am buzzed off about the treatment of Melania Trump who has kept a modest profile as First Lady. Now she's obviously not someone who seeks the limelight. But the media keeps trying to push her there, especially after the CBS and CNN interviews with two of her husband's accusers, Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal. And this has fostered a new parlor game, giving the President's wife free advice.


S.E. CUPP, HLN HOST: Melania may not have a political career to consider. But as First Lady, she is an inherently important figure in American politics. And women are watching, particularly young women. Melania should do for this generation of girls what Hillary Clinton did not do for mine, and leave her jerk of a husband.


KURTZ: Now, I think S.E. Cupp and Headliners is a smart conservative voice, but this just bothered me. Is it really any of our business to offer marital advice? Isn't Melania Trump, who was once an accomplished model, capable of making her own family decisions? Should any us in the pundershy world be urging her to get a divorce because we think it would send a good political message? I don't think so.

But that touched off the kind of personal debate that television loves best.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So they're dying. First of all, you have all the money in the world, you have your kid, you have your parents have come over from one of the SSRs and you don't have to sleep with him, it is a win-win.


KURTZ: And here is the cover of US Weekly, Melania's agony, I am tired of the lies. And will she stay in the marriage? Stephanie Grisham, the First Lady's Communications Director told me for people to be calling for her to leave her husband over something that happened, allegedly, 10 or 12 years ago, is a sin. I would challenge all these anonymous people to say things on the record.

Unfortunately, the mainstream media, even though I keep telling them things on the record, choose to keep using anonymous sources. We went through the same thing in the Clinton era as some commentators demanded that Hillary leave her husband after the Monica Lewinsky embarrassment. But no one really knows what goes on inside a marriage since Hillary Clinton went on to a political and book-writing career.

She chose to address her pain over her husband's affairs. Melania Trump has a very different approach. I chatted with her a couple of times during the campaign. She was very gracious. Clearly, she prefers a largely behind-the-scenes role. Now, what she does as First Lady, her issues, her speeches, her cyber bullying campaign, all fair game for media criticism. But her marriage, say whatever you want about the President, but Melania doesn't deserve all this vicious gossip.

Still to come, President Trump goes after Amazon and Jeff Bezos, the Laura Ingraham controversy and a whopper of a newspaper collection.


KURTZ: President Trump knocked Amazon stocks out by $30 billion after tweeting that the online giant doesn't pay enough taxes and is putting many local retailers out of business. Now, I don't have to rely on unnamed sources to say the President has a bit of fixation with Amazon and Founder Jeff Bezos, who separately owns The Washington Post, which Trump tweeted yesterday, should register as a lobbyist.

He's raised it with me on occasion, including in 2015.


DONALD TRUMP, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: You talk about Jeff Bezos, he bought The Washington Post and he bought it as a thing to buy influence so he doesn't have to pay tax on Amazon, that's my opinion. He bought it privately so he can influence people not to tax Amazon. Come on. I thought you were smart. OK. And the only reason I say this is because The Washington Post treats me terribly.


KURTZ: Amazon does pay sales taxes, although, the details about it are debatable. And so is the post coverage of Trump, but Bezos, by all accounts takes a hands-off approach to the paper's newsroom.

Laura Ingraham has apologized for taking a swipe at David Hogg, one of the survivors of the Parkland School shooting. The Fox Primetime Host had said on Twitter he was whining in an interview about four colleges rejecting his application. After Hogg urged people to contact the show's advertisers, Ingraham tweeted that he, like any student, should be proud of his 4.2 grade point average.

On reflection, in the spirit of holy week, I apologize for any upset or hurt my tweet caused him or any of the brave victims of Parkland. Ingraham also invited Hogg back on her show, which she was the first to interview him on TV after the massacre.


LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS HOST: David, incredibly poised delivery of information tonight and our emotion.


DAVID HOGG, PARKLAND SCHOOL SHOOTING, SURVIVOR: I don't want this to be another mass shooting. I don't want this just to be something people forget.


KURTZ: Hogg is refusing to accept the apology. And at least 15 companies, with a push from the Liberal advocacy group, Media Matters, have pulled their ads from the Ingraham angle. I thought the original comments were unfortunate, but Laura handled the apology well, even though some of Fox's critics would rather keep stoking the controversy and accepting words of regret. And CNN Contributor has backed away from his on air comments, instead of pushing for gun control, student protesters should just take CPR classes.

The former Senator said he misspoke. Santorum said today Laura Ingraham but criticized the demonization on both sides. Finally, this embarrassing correction at the Wall Street Journal, an earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Benjamin Netanyahu said Moses brought water from Iraq. He said the water was brought from a rock. Couldn't have been Iraq because that country didn't exist thousands of years ago, that reminds mo to say Happy Easter Sunday, Happy Passover as well.

That's it for this edition of Media Buzz. I'm Howard Kurtz. Continue the conversation on Twitter, @HowardKurtz. Check out our Facebook page. We post my columns there, original videos. We do viewer comments. You can also catch me on SiriusXM 24/7 every day, every media minute. Back here next Sunday. See you then with the latest Buzz.


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