This is a rush transcript from "MediaBuzz," February 2, 2020. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: On the Buzz Meter this Sunday, the media admit that President Trump's impeachment is essentially over, that he'll be acquitted within days. But many liberal commentators now determined to discredit the Senate trial.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's be clear. This means that this trial was a sham.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every one of these Republicans are going to be held accountable for them obstructing justice. They will be the people who will be seen leading this trial.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's really shameful and an episode in our history that will be known for many, many years.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can't accuse this guy of cheating every single time he beats you or else you just look like sore losers.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Democrats are dragging it out and a pathetic attempt to cast appal (ph) over Trump's state of the union address and to gratuitously ruin Super Bowl weekend for the rest of us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: John Bolton gets to the extreme media makeover after his leaked manuscript with liberals now praising him as a courageous truth teller, while conservatives call him a terrible turncoat.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think very little of the man that I once held with high regard because he has turned his back on this president. He turns out to be a petty, snarling guy. Here's the conclusion I can come to and it's a harsh one. He's is a back stopper.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Republicans in Washington tonight seemed shocked to discover that Bolton has turned and betrayed his former boss, Donald Trump. But they should not be shocked. That is who John Bolton is. John Bolton, come on the show. Your country wants to hear from you. I would like to hear from you. If you have a story to tell the country, John, stop playing games.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John Bolton's book manuscript proves the accusations made in the first article of impeachment against Donald Trump.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't like the idea of people making John Bolton out to be a liar. I don't -- people who sat in this couch before -- he is not a liar.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: How is it that so many commentators have flipped on the former national security adviser? As Iowa prepares to vote tomorrow in the caucuses we all cover as make or break, the media suddenly seemed worried that a surging Bernie Sanders could win the nomination. Are the pundits favoring Joe Biden and ganging up on the self-described Democratic socialist.
Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum join us live in analyzing the covering from Des Moines. Plus, it's Super Bowl Sunday, though, the showdown between the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs has been overshadowed by the tragic death of Kobe Bryant, not to mention impeachment. We'll look at the media and the big game.
I am Howard Kurtz, and this is "MediaBuzz." When it became clear that the impeachment trial would be wrapped up after the New York Times got access to John Bolton's manuscript after the pressure grew for Republican senators to allow witnesses after the GOP beat back the effort. Everyone knew it was game over.
The president and the Senate Democratic leader, and you see this reflected in the media coverage, arguing either that impeachment or the trial itself has been a travesty.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: And I just got impeached. Can you believe these people? I got impeached. They want to know if I -- ballots, poison our democracy, and overthrow the entire system of government. That is not happening. I can tell you that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This country is headed towards the greatest cover-up since Watergate. The president's acquittal will be meaningless because it will be the result of a sham trial.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Joining us now to analyze the coverage, Matthew Continetti, founding editor of the Washington Free Beacon, now with the American Enterprise Institute. Susan Ferrechio, chief congressional correspondent for the Washington Examiner, and Capri Cafaro, former Democratic state senator, now executive resident at American University.
Matthew, liberal commentators along with the Democrats are not only calling the president's certain acquittal a tragedy. They are saying it almost doesn't count because the trial had no witnesses. Do you think that the left leaning media outlets are demoralized now?
MATTHEW CONTINETTI, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE FELLOW: Not only demoralized, but they are kind of backed into this double standard which we often see. If the trial was a sham, what was the impeachment? Because the question in the trial was are we going to have witnesses? And the witnessing question that they wanted weren't called by the House. So you see the double standard there. You see the double standard of the treatment of Pelosi versus McConnell.
KURTZ: The Democrats argued that some of the witnesses they want were blocked by the administration.
CONTINETTI: They didn't go to court, right? And you also see the double standard in the treatment of the managers versus, say, the president's lawyers. You know, Philbin is just as good a lawyer as Schiff, but Schiff gets all the positive coverage.
KURTZ: Capri, don't these journalists take the enunciations of a sham trial have a bit of an aroma of sour grapes and highlight how invested the media are in Trump's impeachment and conviction.
CAPRI CAFARO, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think it shows how invested the media is in their particular point of view. If you take a look at how the conservative leaning media, for example, covered the House portion of this impeachment. It was -- you know this is a sham. This is a partisan witch-hunt. And things are, you know, hearings are in the basement of the House, and there's no transparency.
Now that the shoe is on the other foot, the impeachment process has been in the GOP-controlled Senate. And now you're seeing left-leaning media saying the same kind of thing. It's a partisan sham. There's no due process. It's a rigged trial. There's no witnesses. So I think, you know, both aspects of the media are trying to follow a narrative that backs up their own individual partisan leaning.
KURTZ: Susan, the final vote now is scheduled for Wednesday, which is a day after the state of the union. Are some in the media trying to keep the Ukraine allegations alive? And I don't just mean through Wednesday, even knowing the trial's obvious outcome to keep the story alive to make this an issue throughout the re-election campaign.
SUSAN FERRECHIO, MIAMI HERALD FORMER EDUCATION REPORTER: Well, let's see if they can do that. There are a thousand news cycles between now and the election. And so much can happen.
FERRECHIO: It all depends on the drip, drip, which I think Democrats are talking about. We're going to hear more. More allegations are going to coming out. More evidence is going to come out. And you can be sure the media will promote that stuff and write about it and make it -- maybe paint the picture that the trial was unfair, because, look, more information is coming out.
We're not getting a thorough, you know, airing of all the charges. That's definitely a possibility.
KURTZ: Now, just before the trial on Friday, the New York Times added a second story on the leaked Bolton manuscript, saying that back in May, two months before the perfect phone call with Vladimir Zelensky, that Trump asked him, Bolton, to contact Ukraine's leader and sure that he would meet with Rudy Giuliani and discuss the investigations the president wanted, Bolton says, on the Biden's and Burisma. President and Rudy Giuliani both denying this. Is that a big story?
CONTINETTI: A story. It's worth reporting. And it's going to be another story when Bolton's book drops. But for senators like Lamar Alexander, even if everything Bolton said was true, it doesn't amount to an impeachable offense. And so these -- all of these bombs, they're only blowing up in Washington, D.C. Once you go outside the beltway, people are confused and frankly uninterested in the story.
KURTZ: Were you outside the beltway?
CAFARO: I mean, I -- people are not necessarily talking about this. Yes, they're concerned about the primaries and they're watching things like Iowa and New Hampshire. But they are generally dismissive of this entire process. I think they see the media bias. I think that there is, you know, a lot of legal ease that is making people to now.
And I think that they feel that this is a done deal. We know the verdict and outcome is going to be an acquittal so they just want it done.
KURTZ: We have known the outcome since the beginning, but the media treated this latest poll manuscript as a bombshell. Critics said New York Times is pushing this, but in the manuscript news, wouldn't any journalist publish the manuscript if he or she got a hold of it.
CAFARO: I would think so. I mean, there is no question that this has been a news-worthy topic. And I think that, you know, we will see what happens. I think it's really interesting that John Bolton hasn't come forward. Even folks like Vanity Fair have said, you know, he's basically skirting the issue, not taking the bait to get on TV.
KURTZ: Well, he is welcome on TV. But he obviously doesn't want to take that step. Susan, let me read the president's tweet on this. I never instructed John Bolton to set up a meeting with Rudy Giuliani. That meeting never happened. Now, Bolton says that White House officials, Mick Mulvaney and Pat Cipollone, who is of course, his lead impeachment lawyer in the Senate, were also there.
It seems a little strange that we're all relying on leaked account of a manuscript without any of the exact quotes.
RECHIO: Isn't that -- really bothers me about the coverage of is exactly that. We saw a lot of these in the early Mueller stories where there were - - we really know what's going on. It's an interpretation. News room stories aren't often an interpretation by a reporter, by an editor. And in this case, it can be particularly dangerous.
Because we don't even know what the manuscript says. I don't know if the reporter read the manuscript from what -- my understanding is they're getting translation from somebody who else who has the manuscript.
FERRECHIO: Right. And if you don't know the source, you don't know their agenda. You also don't know the context. You don't know the exact wording. You don't know -- now, I'm not saying this is going to turn out differently than what we already know about what Bolton is saying, sounds logical, right? But we don't know what the full quotes are, the full pages are. We're going to find out in March.
KURTZ: I think yeah. And somebody will sell a lot of books. I should note that the White House which has a copy of the book is reviewing it -- about classified information and has not put out any statements that's not what the book says. How is it that many conservative commentators -- now, we saw this at the top, are denouncing John Bolton as a snake and a turncoat, when he has been such an icon on the right.
And, you know, going back to his days as acting U.N. ambassador and his years as a Fox News contributor. How is it that that flipped -- that turn has been so dramatic?
FELLOW: I think it's a question of timing. I think with the release of this book, Bolton is following the Comey precedent or the precedent set by Richard Clarke, the former Bush counterterrorism advisor who released his tell all in the middle of a presidential election, rather than a precedent of Bob Gates who waited two years after Obama's re-election to come out with a blistering indictment of Obama's presidency.
So it's a feeling of betrayal among a lot of conservatives. You would note, as you showed, Tucker Carlson hasn't been consistent. He did not like Bolton before. He doesn't like him now.
KURTZ: All right, fair point. Let me put up the president's tweets about John Bolton, because he's finally gone full-throated, let's just say in attacking him. Here we go. A guy who couldn't get approved for the ambassador to the U.N. years ago, that's the Bush administration, could not get approved for anything since, begged me for a non-Senate approved job, gets fired because, frankly, if I listened to him.
We would be in World War Six by now and goes out and immediately writes a nasty and untrue book. Susan, I don't know what happened with the World War III, four, and five, but are the conservative media following the president's lead in now saying Bolton, who the president hired by the way, is some terrible guy.
FERRECHIO: I'm not sure even where he's going to land right now. The wheel is still spinning on whose side is Bolton going to land on. I am hearing criticism from the other side that he needs to go to the microphone and say what he knew since there's no calls for him to testify in the Senate.
KURTZ: So could he be sort of man without a party.
FERRECHIO: That's right. He could be vilified by both sides in the end, because he could've done more in the impeachment trial to show the president the allegations are true. And then the other side, at least he's created this air of suspicion.
KURTZ: Well, let's turn to the pundits on the left, Capri. They reviled Bolton as a warmonger, as sort of a knife-wielding bureaucrat, and now they're praising him as the only man who could save the republic.
CAFARO: Yeah. Going back to my point that whatever is the convenient argument for the point view at the time is what they're going to actually do. So, you know, even publications that are very well known on the left like Mother Jones are now talking about John Bolton sitting there saying, you know, looking to him as someone who has integrity and you can believe his word when, you know, previously in the Bush administration.
He was public enemy number one, Neocon, along with the Carl Rose and Dick Cheney's of the world. So, you know, it is what is convenient for the argument now.
KURTZ: You want in on this?
CONTINETTI: It all has to do with Trump, right? It doesn't really matter where you stood before. It -- all that matters is where you stand in relation to Trump today.
FERRECHIO: I agree with that.
KURTZ: Right. So that you -- a list of people in very different circumstances, whether it -- Rex Tillerson, or Jeff Sessions, or Anthony Scaramucci or Omarosa or others who the president has turned on after they have been acquitted or whatever, then it's a most like the battle lines change.
FERRECHIO: Well, the one thing I found is that the media, the mainstream media always -- they love a crossover, someone who was on the Republican side and now is crossing over against Trump. They become the favorite. And he --
KURTZ: -- strange new respect, strange new respect for somebody who evolves to be a Trump critic, not so much going in the other way.
FERRECHIO: Anthony Scaramucci --
CAFARO: -- did an op-ed today saying welcome to life under the bus about John Bolton for the Washington Post.
KURTZ: Right. But Scaramucci on the other hand who also tried to throw his former boss under the bus in this Washington Post op-ed, saying he's terrible. We should defeat him, and I was wrong about Trump. Real quick, six minutes from now how does this all look. In other words, will the impeachment and the acquittal just recede in history because the winners write history or will it be a remaining issue in this campaign?
CAFARO: When you look at the polls now, it is divided along party lines. So I don't expect that to change. But there's one thing I can say just looking back to the Clinton impeachment. People say that was a net loss for the Republicans. But the next election cycle was Al Gore's time, and he did not let Bill Clinton on the campaign trail with him.
Al Gore lost. Some people, we forget about this. After that election defeat, went back and said, wow, maybe the impeachment really did have a lasting effect.
KURTZ: Although Bill Clinton's popularity ended up going up. All right, let me get a break. When we come back, Alan Dershowitz on a media blitz, as he gets hammered for his impeachment defense in the Senate. And later, Bret Baier, Martha MacCallum from Iowa as the caucuses go down to the wire.
KURTZ: This is a Fox News alert. You're looking at live pictures from London where people say two people have been stabbed. Excuse me, police say that in what they are calling, quote, "terrorism related incident." Police shot and killed the suspect in the attack and say the incident has been fully contained. We'll continue to follow this breaking news, and bring you updates as we get them.
A whole lot of folks in the media are vilifying Alan Dershowitz, the liberal Harvard law professor who joined the Trump legal team and told the Senate there is no impeachable offense if a president has mixed motives.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And if a president does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest. That can't be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's not as nuts as you think it is. There might be lawyers speak that make the sound more normal. But that is cray-cray. That is -- if you're arguing the president wants to get re-elected so anything he does toward that end is cool, that's just nuts.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Here's what Alan Dershowitz was saying. He is saying that you can't impeach a president when there is some sort of mixed national security interest with a political interest, because if you make that argument essentially any president can be impeached.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Alan Dershowitz getting absolutely hammered mainly liberal media ties with some others as well. For what was interpreted as his telling the Senate, the Senate could do virtually anything and not be impeached. If he thinks it justifies his re-election, which he believes to be in the public interest.
CONTINETTI: You could tell I think he did not put his point as well as he might have, because he went to Twitter, to social media to kind of elaborate it after the negative coverage happened. What he was trying to say in the absence of a crime, as we've had in past impeachments, it becomes very difficult to disentangle what corrupt motives are of a president when he's trying for pursue public policy.
KURTZ: Right. Now, Capri, Dershowitz has been on this all out media campaign, as I say. He tweeted among other things at CNN, MSNBC and some other media wilfully distorted my answers. But the counter is that what he had to say was ambiguous.
CAFARO: Right. Well, this has been pretty well covered. I mean, the fact that Alan Dershowitz has gone to all these media outlets saying that his words have been wilfully distorted has been covered in publications like the Hill. You know that very well may be the case. However, I think the one problem with that is that many Republican senators are actually referencing Alan Dershowitz's argument as a reason for the stance that they're taking.
So obviously, it was clear enough for members of the United States Senate, they're taking it a certain way, and, you know, and now obviously Dershowitz is trying to clarify that.
KURTZ: Well, Dershowitz told Chris Wallace this morning -- speaking of the media, how dare they not give me a chance to respond. But he has been on every cable news channel. Here for example is the professor on CNN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a total distortion, not misunderstanding, distortion of my point. It is nonsense and your network should never have said that I said it repeatedly.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were only playing the clips from what you actually said on the floor.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FERRECHIO: There is a problem there, the clips. You can't -- I think it was oversimplified. I was there when he presented those arguments. And you can hear how he could pick out little pieces of that. And I immediately saw on Twitter the headlines in the major newspapers saying Dershowitz is now arguing that the president using his own re-election for -- to motivate himself with Ukraine is in the national under national interest.
Because his election is in the national interest that is a real oversimplification of what Dershowitz was saying. But it goes to the fact that it's very hard to present these nuanced arguments. And what they were trying to do in the Senate trial is very carefully tell the senators that you can't say he -- there is a smidgen of personal interest here that would be impeachable.
Because then you have to go back and impeach all presidents, including President Obama, who decided not to bomb Syria maybe because of his own political interest.
KURTZ: There's always a political motive. But I do think if you're going on all these cable networks and tweeting that you're playing defense to put it mildly. And of course, many liberals are angry at Dershowitz for being such a Trump defender and joining the legal team. Less than a minute left. You have a piece in the National Review.
We're going to be talking about Iowa in a few moments, saying that no one's very excited about the Democratic primaries. You write that for four and a half years the main event in politics has been Donald Trump, not policy. He is the issue. And you relate that to a lack of interest or excitement in the Democrats.
CONTINETTI: Days leading up to Iowa, the Democrats weren't even making the front page of the Iowa newspapers, and the caucus is tomorrow. And that's because now brands matters more than parties or campaigns. And there is no more powerful brand than Donald Trump's.
KURTZ: Fifteen second response.
CAFARO: I agree with that. I think we're out of the world of partisanship, and it's about alliance to personalities.
KURTZ: Right. And, of course, the Democrats have somebody who can emerge as a dominant enough personality to go up against a president, and we will find out the first clue on Monday night. Capri Cafaro, we will see you later. Susan, and Matthew Continetti, thanks very much for joining us. Up next, why does Don Lemon of CNN panel they think it's OK to ridicule Trump supporters as morons, and another escalation about Mike Pompeo and NPR.
KURTZ: CNN's Don Lemon, a fierce critic of President Trump, has been taking plenty of media flap for his amused reaction that two of his panelists, never-Trumper GOP strategist Rick Wilson and Wajahat Ali, a CNN and New York Times contributor, absolutely trashing Trump supporters.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And so that is partly him playing to their base and playing to their audience, you know the credulous boomer-rube demo that backs Donald Trump that wants to think that Donald Trump is a smart one and you elitists are dumb. You elitists with your geography and your maps and your spelling. Only them elitists where Ukraine is, sorry I apologize.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Rubes? There are a few things I find more offensive, and liberal pundits who ridicule not the president, who is always fair game, but those who support him as dumb, moronic, bigoted, racist yahoos. By the way, 45 percent now support Trump in recent polls. Are they all idiots? True, Lemon didn't say those things. And he later tried to walk it back by saying he never belittles people for their beliefs. He was laughing at a joke he found funny.
But as the host, Don Lemon should have challenged his guests on why they thought it was fine and dandy to mock and denigrate so many Americans. And that's where he fell short.
President Trump attacked Fox News again this week, tweeting that it's really pathetic that the network is trying to be politically correct by loading the airwaves with Democrats like Chris Van Hollen. After swiping at some host, Trump said watch. This will be the beginning of the end for Fox just like the other two which are dying in the ratings.
I'll just make two points. Interviewing Democrats during the impeachment trial or any other time isn't being PC. It's fair journalism. As for the future, Fox just finished the 18th straight year as the top-rated cable news network by far. So odds are we will be around for a while. Now, an update on the bitter feud between Mike Pompeo and NPR.
The Secretary of State berated All Things Considered co-host, Mary Louise Kelly, after she asked him about Ukraine and said she lied in setting up the interview. But new emails show Kelly didn't violate any ground rules when Pompeo's press aid wrote we would like to stick to Iran as the topic, as opposed to jumping around.
Kelly responded I am indeed just back from Tehran and planned to start there. Also, Ukraine, and who knows what the news gods will serve up overnight. I never agreed to take anything off the table. So Kelly who disputes that there's a subsequent argument was off the record as Pompeo claimed was right about the interview. Still, Pompeo got a pat on his back from his boss.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: That reporter couldn't have done too good of a job -- you think you did a good job than her actually.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Meanwhile, Pompeo escalated things by kicking another NPR reporter, veteran diplomatic correspondent off the plane on his trip Ukraine, and that in my view about unfair bit of retaliation against a news organization. Ahead today, Super Bowl will honor the late Kobe Bryant and feature a Fox interview with President Trump.
But first, is the press finally treating Bernie Sanders as the front runner at least in Iowa? Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum, there they are, on deck in Des Moines.
KURTZ: Today is the last day before the Iowa caucuses, and suddenly, most of the media chatter is about a man who few in the press thought was a real threat for the nomination, Bernie Sanders.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The party better wake up. Because if they think the faces of the party that's going to beat Donald Trump is Bernie Sanders and AOC, they are smoking something.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They keep crapping on Bernie Sanders, the Democratic establishment, the more you talk down Bernie Sanders, the more you give a lift to his campaign.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They are so colluding against Bernie Sanders. They did that in 2016.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Something actually newsworthy and remarkable really is happening in the rest of America. Bernie Sanders became a Democratic front runner. I bet you think that was going to happen. He just had a heart attack.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Joining us now from Des Moines, two Fox all-stars, Bret Baier, chief political anchor, and anchor and "Special Report," and Martha MacCallum, host of "The Story," who has been anchoring the network's special impeachment coverage with Bret. And Bret, I will start with you, front page headline in today's Washington Post. Sanders and the spectre of socialism, are the media finally training Bernie Sanders as ahead in several recent Iowa polls, and virtually tied nationally with Joe Biden.
And a Wall Street Journal NBC survey as a potential nominee, meaning that he's finally getting some tougher scrutiny.
BRET BAIER, Fox NEWS ANCHOR: I think so. And in part because I think the Democratic Party establishment is saying wait a second. You know the sirens are going off. The flares are shooting up. And they are realizing that he very well could win here in Iowa and in New Hampshire. I was at a Bernie rally yesterday, 400 people, a lot of young people.
He has not changed his stump speech. He's had a little bit about impeachment but not much. But it's the same authentic Bernie. And as he says, I'm the original. And you know -- that's his deal. And that -- he still has some cred here in Iowa from 2016 -- they believe that he was -- it was taken away from him.
KURTZ: That was a good Larry David impersonation. Martha, I think most of the press until has been giving Bernie a pass. For example, Elizabeth Warren got hammered over her support for Medicare for All, which would abolish private insurance, but hasn't hurt Bernie who wrote the damn bill.
MARTHA MACCALLUM, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Yeah, it's true. And, you know, I think one of the interesting sort of orchestrations as Senator Wray (ph) right now with the press in everybody covering this story is that there this battle over how to read the outcome tomorrow night and whether or not, you know, the Sanders folks are going to try to make it look like he wins on the first-round or whether or not the early reporting in that first-round will sort of swamp the rest of the story and guide people away from their caucus sites.
Because they think it's over. I mean, there is such a battle going on right now in terms of the reporting and the coverage of this in the way it should be covered. And all of these candidates are sort of putting out their spin pre-tomorrow night in order to make sure that the door stays open through the very end of this process.
And I think that is fascinating. It's amazing to me how a -- how much energy there is sort of and fear you can feel on the Democratic side about what the outcome is going to be here. Four years later, the Bernie Sanders issue is front and center once again just like it was in 2016. It's going to be really fascinating to watch this tomorrow night.
KURTZ: The quadrennial post game spin. Now, Bret since you and Martha, as I mentioned, anchored the network's special impeachment coverage, the two week Senate trial. Do you believe that that saturation level of coverage has an effect blotted out most of the Iowa campaign coverage at least until this weekend?
BAIER: I do. I think it really sucked a lot of the oxygen out of the room. Obviously, a lot of networks took a lot of the coverage, and that was the talk of the day. And now as you -- as it drags on to what looks like an acquittal vote, obviously on Wednesday, you still have days of coverage even in the middle of this. I do think the Iowa caucus will make a comeback as far as coverage.
Because this story in it of itself is really fascinating, even one, two, or three how they finish here is really going to affect this field.
KURTZ: Martha, you not only had endless hours, as Bret alludes to, of the televised trial itself and all the punditry about it. But you had, of course, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Amy Klobuchar stuck back here in Washington at the trial not to able to speak, although the polls suggested it didn't hurt Bernie all that much to be out of Iowa for that time.
MACCALLUM: I mean that's incredible, right? So while they were stuck in Washington to handling the impeachment trial, their numbers actually improved. And the interesting thing is that Joe Biden was here in Iowa campaigning all that time, which was -- everyone just assumed that was going to give him an advantage.
He is -- he appears to have, you know, weakened over the course of that time. And even if you look into the South Carolina polls this morning, his numbers are slipping in South Carolina as well. So what is happening to Joe Biden and whether or not even that's South Carolina firewall is going to hold for him. I think, you know, we won't know until people actually cast their vote and caucus. But it is a big storyline to follow in all of this, Howie.
KURTZ: You nicely set up my next question. So Joe Biden, Bret as you know, have reported on special report. He has kind of defied a year of negative press and punditry. Many people predicting he would collapse just when he got in the race and every time he had a stumbling debate and all that. And yet, here he is in a strong position in Iowa.
We don't know how it'll come out, and still along in the hunt or a top the national polls along with Sanders. Why do you think the press has largely misjudged, in my view, Biden and his staying power.
BAIER: Well, I think that they wanted to make a storyline, and it was an easy story to tell. If you looked at his crowds, his debate performances, and obviously he is under attack by the president and the administration and in this impeachment hearing and trials. So it kind of fit, but the fact that he's had this staying power suggest that, you know, this thing if he wins here in Iowa.
He is likely then going to bounce to New Hampshire and firm up that South Carolina firewall. And this could be all over but the singing before Milwaukee.
KURTZ: Indeed if that happens. I mean, I just think that Biden was kind of denigrated. He's too old, too out of touch, and not liberal enough for the party. But it turns out the party might be a little more moderate than many of the pundits on Twitter think. But Martha, also we have got people to judge, and Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar who has kind of put most of her chips on Iowa.
They all need a solid showing. So how -- a lot of this will depend on how the all-knowing pundits interpret the different percentages and how many delegates you win. The rules are actually a little more complicated this year.
MACCALLUM: Yeah. So the new rules that govern the caucus reporting tomorrow night. There is a lot more transparency along the way. So in the first-round, we're going to some results from the first-round, than you have the realignment round where people look at, you know, if your candidate is below 15 percent. You're going to look around the room and join with another group.
And then the delegate round, which is the third round. So you could end up potentially with three different people sort of claiming that they won the caucus. So the -- and all of that was part of the battle that happened after the 2016 election. And Bernie Sanders, you know, was razor thin in Iowa, between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.
And the party doesn't want that to happen again, although now that they're confronted with the surge by Bernie Sanders that I think there are some in the Democratic Party who are thinking we need to put in some kind of bumper rails here so that he doesn't get the nominee.
BAIER: You know I just talked to Chris Stirewalt in a podcast. And he said he would like three different winners and a contested convention. So I'm not sure if he's going to get that.
KURTZ: Right. But of course, if the Democratic Party, those who do not want Democratic socialist nominee goes to aggressively against Sanders, that could cause a backlash among his passionate supporters. But finally, you know, we do this every four years, which is the media always give a big boost to the Iowa winner. If you win by 10 or 12 votes, and that gives you a head of steam going to New Hampshire.
And then the numbers may or may not start to change. But the criticism is grown a lot of this year, I think, which is why do we in this business put so much emphasis on the first caucus day in a place that is rural, largely white, and not representative of the country.
BAIER: Well, there is obviously arguments both ways. The people here in Iowa would say that they really value this privilege to be able to screen these candidates, and a lot of them have had them in their living room. A lot of them have been to coffee shops where there are 10 and 12 people. They really screen these candidates along the way.
So it is a lot of retail politics. And I talked to somebody who has been studying and along and still undecided between Biden and Warren and says he will make up his mind Monday night.
KURTZ: I love how seriously the people of Iowa take it, Martha.
MACCALLUM: I agree. And, you know, when you look at the outcome down the road, I don't think that Iowa ends up holding a disproportionate say in the matter. Because only Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama, the Democrat side, went on -- went to win on Iowa and then to actually win the White House as well. But it does give you a playing field where you kind of get to see all of these players really go all in.
And I think the rest of the country gets to witness that as well. I was at Andrew Yang event last night and talked to people who voted for Trump last time around, talked to people who are undecided between Joe Biden and Andrew Yang. I mean, these folks are paying very close attention. And they love the part that they place in this process. So I think it makes it really interesting to watch where they go here tomorrow night.
KURTZ: Yeah. It does give a shot to candidates who don't have a lot of money or necessarily a lot of name recognition. But this has been fascinating. Bret Baier, Martha MacCallum, we'll look forward to your coverage from Iowa. Thanks very much.
BAIER: We'll see you.
KURTZ: Good to see you. After the break, what's it like covering the craziness on the Hill during a president's trial, a behind the scene look right after this.
KURTZ: What's it like for reporters in the trenches on Capitol Hill trying to cover the endless hours of impeachment? We are back with Susan Ferrechio. And you have been part of that daily grind. What's life like especially you have to surrender your phone and your laptop?
SUSAN FERRECHIO, MIAMI HERALD FORMER EDUCATION REPORTER: Well, that's not new now. Those rules are not new. You could never bring your phone and laptop into the Senate gallery. In the House side, you can pray. So there's a big difference there.
KURTZ: Doesn't make it so hard to be in touch with the rest of the world.
FERRECHIO: It sure does because if you want to watch this trial, it is nice to sit in there and listen. See what the senators' expressions are on their faces. Otherwise, you really don't -- you can't gauge where people are as the arguments progress, especially during the question and answer period where there was some dramatic questions and there was some moments were senators would mouth things to each other.
And it was, of course, the color in the room, who was doing what, where they paying attention. Sometimes the room was a third empty. You know things like that you don't -- you miss if the cameras aren't showing it which they were not.
KURTZ: The rest of us did not see any of that.
FERRECHIO: And you can't live tweet it. So you have to -- but then again, you can just step out of the room and get your phone and tweet it. That's what a lot of people do.
KURTZ: Or get some coffee and food.
FERRECHIO: Or that.
KURTZ: There have been a lot of complaints from journalists about the special restrictions that were set up by Mitch McConnell, sergeant at arms, just recovering the trial. How did that affect you?
FERRECHIO: First of all, as a reporter, a long time reporter there. I've been up there for several decades. It's never in the public interest, never, to restrict access. The Capital is one of the best political listening posts in America, if not the world. And only because we have pretty much unfettered access. So we push back hard against these restrictions.
Having lived through it now, I can say I was limited. There were times where we did miss out on conversations.
FERRECHIO: -- rather than being to walk wherever we wanted on the second floor of the Capital, which is where the senators meet in the chamber. We were penned off behind ropes in two or three areas. And what that did is it allowed the senators to control the message. We had to be spoon-fed the information. And -- talking to particular people to find out what's going on.
They sent their messengers out. And both parties did this. And we were spoon-fed what they said what they had to say at that moment.
KURTZ: Now on that point, Chuck Schumer it seemed was out there every few hours --
KURTZ: -- a lot of it was taken live. Some of the Republican senators especially Lamar Alexander, Mitt Romney, Susan Collins, who were on the fence for all the witnesses, were they more reluctant to talk to reporters like you.
FERRECHIO: Well, we would catch them down in the basement. The strange thing about this is these restrictions were only put in place during certain hours. And the rest of the time we were still able to walk around. So we actually did end up talking to Mitt Romney a lot and Susan Collins. And we would find them at different hours.
A lot of us regulars know where they are. Early in the morning and later in the day -- so we were able to catch them. But yes, it did allow them to escape a lot of the coverage and a lot of the mob coverage that normally happens during these big news events on the Hill.
KURTZ: Yeah. And you showed up in that video right behind Lindsey Graham sticking your tape recorder trying to get --
FERRECHIO: That's how it's done.
KURTZ: All right. Susan Ferrechio, thanks for doing double duty today.
KURTZ: Still to come, forget impeachment in Iowa at least for the moment. We are counting down to the Super Bowl, a look at the media coverage next.
KURTZ: Let's face it. The Kansas City Chiefs appearing in today's Super Bowl for the first time in 50 years and San Francisco 49ers have not made a whole lot of news. But so what? The game will be carried on the Fox broadcast network will still draw a mammoth 100 million or so. I spoke moments ago from Miami with Jim Gray, the veteran sportscaster and Fox News contributor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Jim Gray, welcome.
JIM GRAY, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Howie, thanks. Martin Leavy (ph) said it best. There would you rather be right here right now?
KURTZ: That's how I feel.
KURTZ: Look, the Super Bowl is always huge, the commercials, the parties. But since the two week media run coincided with the impeachment trial, and there's no Tom Brady or other big celebrity star. Is there less excitement about the game itself between the 49ers and the Chiefs?
GRAY: Well, I think there has been less of a buzz and less excitement. I don't know if it's due to impeachment. That could be part of it. It's Kobe Bryant and sports fans obviously very depressed over that news and what has transpired across the country. And maybe just the whole thing that's going on across the nation of, you know, America needs right now the Super Bowl, Howie.
They need to see the joy of Patrick Mahomes. They want to hug Andy Reid who has dedicated his life to football. They have got to love the approach of Jimmy Garoppolo and the young Kyle Shanahan. So I really think America can sit back. And let's have some enjoy. Let's make this a joyous occasion. Hopefully, we'll have a great game. And everybody will be smiling tomorrow because the country could really use it.
KURTZ: I am with you on that, a rest from all the polarizing politics. Now, I scoured the coverage for some hint of controversy. None of them -- some people being upset about the Chief fans tomahawk chop. It seems like both teams were not trying to make much news or stirring anything up in the media interviews.
GRAY: Well, sometimes those things just happen naturally and sometimes they don't. I mean, Richard Sherman is a guy who plays for the 49ers, speaks his mind. But he's relatively quiet this week. And there just really haven't been many issues. And I want to go back to Kobe Bryant. And I know you want to talk about that. But a lot of these guys, in fact, all of them look up to Kobe Bryant.
He was the be-like-Mike guy for this generation. So they all wanted to be like Kobe, even it's a different sport. They saw his attitude and his approach and how he wanted to win, his motivation, and just the mamba mentality that he built, and that's what all these guys have been around for the past two decades. So, you know, that was a tremendous loss that happened Sunday night.
And then that's when the teams came in, and it really never got to the fever pitch. But I suspect there will be a huge audience today. And America's going to sit back and enjoy this. And the league is going honor Kobe Bryant in the pre-game.
KURTZ: Yeah. Well, it's more than the league. I mean, obviously he should be honored. He will be honored. And I know he was a friend of yours, and it's so hard for all of us after that after that horrifying helicopter crash last weekend. But it seems to me that Kobe Bryant, you know, all these tributes to what a great athlete and a competitor he was, and somebody who's transcended basketball and transcended pro-sports, your thoughts?
GRAY: Well, he did. And I had the opportunity to travel with him on a few occasions overseas. And you just couldn't believe the amount of people in Hong Kong or in China who just wanted to take a picture of this guy from 200 yards away, who did anything they could, getting out of cars, jumping off bicycles to try and touch this guy. He was a worldwide superstar.
And he had global appeal. And his work ethic and his dedication really is unsurpassed. I'm sure there are other guys that have equal, Floyd Mayweather, for example, Tom Brady, numerous others, Michael Phelps. But he was kind of in a category all of his own. And he helps so many and he touched so many people. And he wanted no recognition for it, Howie, because it went against the mamba mentality. But he had thousands of acts of kindness and --
GRAY: Particularly amongst the youth across the world.
KURTZ: Yeah. And he was a guy who stayed out of politics unlike many of today's athletes. Jim Gray at the Super Bowl, thanks very much for joining us.
GRAY: Howie, thanks for having me on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: That's it for "MediaBuzz" on this Super Bowl Sunday. I'm Howard Kurtz. Check out my podcast, "Media Buzz" Meter. We riff on the day's hottest stories. You can subscribe at Apple Itunes, Google Play, or FoxNewspodcast.com, or on your Amazon device. I hope you'll also like our Facebook page. And continue the conversation on Twitter @howardkurtz.
We will be back here next Sunday, as always, 11 Eastern with the latest buzz. I checked in earlier with Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum in Des Moines to talk about the Iowa caucuses which are now tomorrow, finally getting a little bit of media coverage despite the political environment with the impeachment trial and everything else.
Two hour special with Bret and Martha coming up, live from Iowa. Hope you'll stay tuned for that top of the hour.
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