Trump rips 'hit job' on Kelly

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This is a rush transcript from "Media Buzz," April 8, 2018. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: On our Buzz Meter today, President Trump today denounces a Washington Post report on John Kelly's shaky task and the hit job, in the midst of furor over the paper also saying Robert Mueller doesn't now view Trump as a criminal target.


LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC: Any other president of the United States being told you're a subject of special prosecution investigation will just be horrified that this comes to that.

DAGEN MCDOWELL, FOX NEWS: The trap they are trying to lure the president into to get him to sit down and talk with the investigators and special counsel Robert Mueller.

PHIL MUDD, FORMER CIA COUNTERINTELLIGENCE If someone walked in my office and said I was a subject of a multi-year criminal investigation led by former FBI Director Robert Mueller, I'd wet my pants.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: We have media reacting to the president and, by the way, that he is not a target. Oh, it's driving them insane. And he is only a subject in the corrupt Mueller investigation. There is a total freak-out over this.


KURTZ: Is this a bombshell or confirmation of what we already knew?

The president torpedoes Amazon stock with attacks that seem clearly tied to Jeff Bezos and his other company.


ARI FLEISCHER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: If Amazon and Amazon's owner Jeff Bezos own, say, Trump magazine, Donald Trump would not go after him at all. I think this 100 percent because of the coverage of The Washington Post.

STEPHANIE RUHLE, MSNBC: We know the president is lying about what he's saying about the post office and Amazon.

TARA SETMAYER, CNN: It's because Jeff Bezos -- Jeff Bezos is the richest man in the world. Donald Trump envies that.

STUART VARNEY, FOX BUSINESS NETWORK: The Post attacks the president in personal terms: questioning his sanity, his intelligence, his integrity, and his character. Maybe the president takes it personally. Maybe that's why he's gone after Amazon. His tweets are his personal counter-punch. It's the way he is.


KURTZ: An avalanche of media criticism for Sinclair TV after a video shows most of of its local anchors reading a script attacking fake news.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is extremely dangerous to our democracy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is extremely dangerous to our democracy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is extremely dangerous to our democracy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is extremely dangerous to our democracy.


KURTZ: Are the mainstream media calling out propaganda or reflecting their own bias? Plus, Mark Zuckerberg says he made a huge mistake in not protecting your privacy. Is the Facebook chief presiding over a PR debacle? I'm Howard Kurtz and this is "Media Buzz."

The Washington Post reporting this morning on escalating clashes between the president and Chief of Staff John Kelly, with unnamed sources saying the general's authority has been severely diminished and is so frustrated he has several times talked about quitting.

Trump twitting just hours ago, the piece is far more fiction than fact, made of garbage, and a hit job.

Joining us now to analyze the coverage this week: Mollie Hemingway, senior editor at The Federalist and a Fox News contributor; Sarah Westwood, White House correspondent for The Washington Examiner; and Capri Cafaro, former Democratic Senate leader in Ohio who now teaches at American University.

Mollie, this Post story quotes a senior White House official as saying Kelly has regularly talked OR threatened (INAUDIBLE) by quitting. It lays out how (INAUDIBLE) has been reduced. So, don't these high-level leaks undercut the president's effort to say this is all garbage?

MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, THE FEDERALIST: I don't know. I mean I think we've seen so many stories that are based on anonymous leaks. We have a media that is obsessed with palace intrigue. And obviously many of the stories are not true. Some of them are true.

But the standard in journalism isn't that some of what you write will be true. It's that 100 percent of what you write needs to be true. It's very difficult for a reader or a viewer to analyze how much to trust an anonymous source and that's why it's OK to use them, but I think there are some overuse by many in the media.

KURTZ: Capri, the story says that the president still respects General Kelly. But, you know, in recent weeks, we got understatements by the president or his staff, people saying no changes planned for Rex Tillerson or H.R. McMaster --


KURTZ: So are journalists right in being skeptical on this kind of denial?

CAFARO: I do think so. I mean because just as you referenced, Howard, I mean this is something that has been coming up time and time again where on one hand President Trump has said everything is all quite on the western front and then two days later, people get fired via Twitter. So I do think that there is some concern here.

I do want to talk to the issue of anonymous sources. I think that it's very interesting, what has happened -- you know, this has been common practice that people do talk on the case of anonymity to journalists. It's common practice --

KURTZ: But it is overused.

CAFARO: It is, but --

KURTZ: It is clearly overused.

CAFARO: It's been overused but I think what has happened is because Trump has really put a light on this, people have become more skeptical of anonymous sources, which has not happened before.

KURTZ: A lot of media speculation as well about the fate of EPA Chief Scott Pruitt. He had an interview with Fox News's Ed Henry this week that did not go well for him. It started with his renting of $50 a night room in a condo. Take a look.


ED HENRY, FOX NEWS: Is draining the swamp renting an apartment from the wife of a Washington lobbyist?

SCOTT PRUITT, ADMINISTRATOR, ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY: I don't think that that's even remotely fair to ask that question.

HENRY: Why did you go around the president and the White House to give pay raises to two staffers?

PRUITT: I did not. My staff did.

HENRY: Career person or political person?

PRUITT: I'll have to -- I don't know. I don't know who's --

HENRY: You don't know? You run the agency. You don't know who did this?

PRUITT: I found out about this yesterday, and I corrected the action.


KURTZ: Sarah, when you add up the condo and, by the way, the couple who rented it kicked him out after a while and changed the locks. First class travel, unauthorized raises, allegation of a no show job and more. Are the media justified in pursuing these allegations against Scott Pruitt?

SARAH WESTWOOD, THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Absolutely. I mean it seems that the totality of these stories shows that Pruitt potentially exercised some bad judgment in his leadership. We know President Trump really doesn't like it when his aides are generating a lot of headlines, good or bad.

In Steve Bannon's case, for instance, the headlines are about how much influence and clout he had. Trump didn't like those with Tom Price. Now, Pruitt, he really doesn't like it when the headlines are negative. The only thing I think that is keeping Pruitt in place is that President Trump, one, doesn't like to be seen as buckling under media pressure. And two, really appreciates the underlying job Pruitt has done at EPA.

HEMINGWAY: Technically, it was a group of environmental groups that started the campaign last week called Boot Pruitt. There is something kind of unseemly about this media reaction. They seem to be taking this campaign and running with it. Just carrying that water. They --

KURTZ: Do you think it's because of Pruitt's record on scaling back environmental regulations?

HEMINGWAY: Well, I think that it's very true that people don't like Pruitt because he is very effective at his job but just from a media angle. What I'm saying is it's OK for radical environmental leftist groups to run this campaign. There doesn't seem to be any daylight between those groups and the media themselves.

They are not reporting a lot to the story. For instance, they are saying he has high security cost without reporting that he has had four times number of death threats. And this is in an administration where we actually had leftist activists truly tried to kill Republicans.

KURTZ: That's a fair point. President has been defending Pruitt in his statements, the same time there was a story on CNN saying Trump wanted to name Pruitt as replacement for Jeff Sessions, the attorney general. President tweets, that's not true, he is doing a great job, so much of the media is dishonest and corrupt. So a lot of mixed messages here. CAFARO: A lot of mixed messages. And that's the interesting thing about Twitter and President Trump, because it gives you I think a real time insight to what he is thinking and he is processing his thoughts.

You know, I think that the president administration and Sarah mentioned, you know, Tom Price, and we've heard about, for example, Ben Carson who has $31,000 table and things like this where we have seen issue after issue after issue --

KURTZ: A dining set.


CAFARO: Hey, whatever it is, I'm sure he has got great taste. But, you know, we've seen issue after issue after issue --


CAFARO: -- so I do think that because there has been a pattern of conduct, the media does have, you know, I think an obligation to shed light on this and to follow up. And frankly, Fox News's own Ed Henry did an excellent job and other media coverage, his interview, on this issue pushing and holding Pruitt to account.

KURTZ: Let me just get you to a broader point and that is this general picture of chaos being painted by the media. We will go over these examples this week with the president imposing tariffs on China, lots of media talk about a trade war, Larry Kudlow comes out and says well, it is preliminary, they may not take effect, these are negotiations.

President told reporters he wants to pull troops out of Syria then kind of walked it back after talking to Pentagon. He tweeted that DACA is dead. Not clear if it's any deader than it was before. Do these kinds of things, Donald Trump's style, justify the media narrative that he is an erratic president?

HEMINGWAY: Well, I think that what it really shows is that even after the massive journalistic failure of 2016 where pretty much the entire media didn't know what they were covering or the country they were covering --

KURTZ: Pretty much.

HEMINGWAY: Instead of fixing what they were doing, they just continued as they are. And it's not just that the way they cover Trump and it's also the way they didn't cover Obama. And there should be one standard for multiple administrations such as other people in the previous administration spent the the same amount on travel and security as Scott Pruitt.

You didn't get stories. You didn't get obsessive narratives pushed that way. But, yes, they are not trying to understand Trump. And I think that's why a lot of people tune them out or they are not gaining much knowledge about -- yes, he's obviously very different. How many times do you want to say that without seeking to understand why.

KURTZ: I think that's an excellent point. In fairness, I would say that the president has a very different style. So he announces a decision, everybody goes crazy. But often for Donald Trump, the former businessman, it's the first negotiating step in something that is yet to play out.

All right. So, the president sending or beginning to send thousands of national guard troops to the border, took plenty of media criticism. When he actually harken back, he himself said, talked about the first day of his campaign, when he talked about Mexico, sending bad people, some of them are rapists, some of them are bad people.

And then this was a response to this. The media calling it a caravan. Central American migrants making their way towards the U.S. And president said yesterday, it came out where women are raped at levels that nobody has ever seen before.

The White House can only point to an L.A. Times story saying rapes have been common over the years, not on this particular instance. What do you make of that?

WESTWOOD: I think these are the kinds of comments that have been used against President Trump since the beginning. His Mexicans are rapists comments from when he launched his campaign was something that was used as a (INAUDIBLE) against him throughout the campaign and early days of his presidency.

So for him to bring that up again with relatively thin sourcing is kind of baffling. He knows how the media works. He knows that his critics are going to use that kind of language against him and there are other ways to make that point. So you have to wonder if the press shop maybe cringed a little bit when he said that.

KURTZ: Let me go to the Robert Mueller situation. We played the clips at the top. The Washington Post reporting and cable news going haywire. That based on source or what Mueller's team supposedly has told the president's lawyers, he is not now considered a target of this investigation. But he is a subject.

Do you think the media are sort of minimizing this, saying he's not a target? Well, yes, but the could change tomorrow. Well, yes, he can go and commit perjury. Sure, but right now, he's not a target. CAFARO: Right. And I think that, you know, I have seen coverage from everybody, from ABC News to Vox, that basically said, President Trump is not a subject of an FBI investigation. Yes, but, essentially is what all --

KURTZ: Not a target.

CAFARO: Not a target of an investigation but is a subject. But there is this yes, but about it basically saying that anything could happen. Now, to fairness of the coverage, the way that usually these investigations work is that you go in, you can be a subject, and you can move from the category of subject to target or subject to witness.

KURTZ: Yes, it is fair to point that out.

CAFARO: That's true. But I agree that there is a yes, but there. They are really awaiting for the other shoe to drop and they are emphasizing that.

HEMINGWAY: It's very old news that he is a subject. That's literally over a year old. But it is -- what was more interesting is after many months, after all this time trying to find collusion between Trump and Russia, there is still no case there. That's interesting. And also --

KURTZ: There is no case against the president himself.

HEMINGAY: Well, I mean nothing that we heard of at this point and these are high-prized valuable attorneys looking into everything trying to turn over every stone.

What should have happened right now is the media should have started to come to terms with the fact that the narrative they have been pushing, that a lot of people are going to laugh at them when that turns out not to be true, they need to start walking away from that so that they can retain their credibility.

And they also need to cover other things like why the DOJ and FBI are hiding things from Congress such as what must be explosive news about how exactly the investigation into Trump began. Congress has been asking for that information. They are refusing to turn it over. That is something that journalists should also inquire about.

KURTZ: Right. But I agree with the yes, but part. It seemed like they didn't really want to come to grips with it. All right. I got to get a break here. By the way, I'll be in Philadelphia area, week from Monday, that's April 16th at Newtown Theater. You can get a ticket at That includes a copy of my new book, "Media Madness." Here is the cover. "Donald Trump, the Press, and the War over the Truth."

Ahead, is the president fighting with Jeff Bezos's Amazon or his other party, The Washington Post? When we come back, how is Donald Trump rising in the polls despite all the negative coverage? Frank Luntz is on deck.


KURTZ: Mainstream media says President Trump is presiding over a chaos, but he's rising in the polls to 42 percent in recent CNN survey, a seven-point jump.

Joining us now, Frank Luntz, the veteran Republican pollster. Frank, welcome. So the press has been saying -- you know all of this. Erratic, making bad decisions on China tariffs, Kim Jong-un, starting a Chinese trade war, firing cabinet members via tweet, and yet he seems to be beefing up in a number of polls. What explains this disconnect?

FRANK LUNTZ, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER: Just take a look at the numbers of economic satisfaction, expectations about the future, the economy overall. This president is presiding over a clear recovery. And the numbers are better than they were under Barack Obama and yet he is getting no credit for it. I think that they need to look inside the administration --

KURTZ: You're saying the press is not giving credit to this president for the economy despite the recent setback and stock market is doing pretty well?

LUNTZ: Correct. The people that are better off today and they are expecting to be better off in the future. We used to be the most pessimistic nation. For 10 years now, we just thought that the future is really bad off. Not anymore. And this did not just start at his inauguration. It started on his election.

In fact, I if I were advising the Trump administration which I don't, I would say to them, go look at expectations and satisfaction from election day today and you would see a tremendous improvement, but not with Trump's numbers.

KURTZ: Going back to the press, this would seem to suggest to me that the issues that the media obsess on night and day, by and large, especially (INAUDIBLE), don't matter as much to people's daily lives when they look at presidential performance.

LUNTZ: Absolutely, but there is a -- there is a caveat there. It's his own tweets that are causing so much of the trouble. If he would remove about a third of them, still communicates directly with his voters --


LUNTZ: -- because people like to see that. They appreciate it.

KURTZ: Right.

LUNTZ: But he should be focused on the economy and on taxes.

KURTZ: Not on so-called fake news? LUNTZ: None of that stuff.

KURTZ: You think that's a destruction?

LUNTZ: It doesn't help him. In fact, I argue it hurts him because it allows the media to focus on things that are less important.

KURTZ: All right. Speaking of fake news, a new poll out from Monmouth University, due to media report fake news regularly or occasionally, 77 percent say yes. This is not the graphic we are looking for. Hold off. Take that down, please.

Seventy-seven percent say yes. Those who do it on purpose to push an agenda, 42 percent. By accident or poor fact checking, 26 percent. Those are pretty startling numbers. Has Donald Trump won his campaign to make everyone think that we are awash in fake news?

LUNTZ: Yes. He has. And the impact to that, I think, is significant because how do you hold a president accountable? How do you hold the Congress? How do you hold the Democrats accountable if nobody trusts anyone now? The fact is we get our news to affirm rather than inform. That's one of the greatest threats to the health of this democracy.

KURTZ: By the way, two-thirds of those people say how news outlets make editorial decisions can also be fake news, where the standard dictionary definition would be false stories. All right. Now, let's put up that other graphic from the same poll. Who do you trust more? CNN, MSNBC, Fox News all trusted more according to this poll than the president.

In the case of Fox, 37 percent trusts both equally in smaller numbers in that category for the other. So, how is it that cable news wins despite the constant attacks from the president of the United States at least in this survey?

LUNTZ: Because the fact is nobody trusts anybody anymore.


LUNTZ: Our level of credibility whether it's politics, economics, sports, entertainment. Every institution in America is watching their credibility get shredded. That's a part of the participation, the reason why so many Americans are so pessimistic about their institutions and about the elites.

KURTZ: So -- we got about a minute. What you're saying is that if the president's attacks on the press have contributed to its slow standing and meanwhile all the institutions are not trusted and he takes a hit as well, it helps him in the narrow sense to attack the mainstream media, but you think it hurts democracy.

LUNTZ: It helps him and a primary doesn't help in the general election.

KURTZ: (INAUDIBLE) his base because his base hates the press too.

LUNTZ: So let's go on record. I think the Republicans are in deep trouble in the House and the Senate as well. If the elections were held today, frankly, I think the Republicans would lose both.

And if Donald Trump wants to keep a Republican Congress, he has to differentiate when he's attacking Congress in general versus the Republicans in Congress. Differentiate when he's attacking the press versus when he feels he is not getting a fair shake.

KURTZ: Right. He has every right to beat up on what he sees as unfair coverage but at the same time, you think it is a destruction. Some people would agree with you, some people don't. Frank Luntz.

LUNTZ: He has to focus. He has to focus.

KURTZ: Great to have you here in Washington. Thanks so much. Ahead, the president slammed CNN for example after its reporter shouts question at an Easter egg roll.

But up next, Mark Zuckerberg says he made a huge mistake in not protecting his users' privacy. Is the Facebook chief trying to change his image before this week's grilling on Capital Hill?



COLIN JOST: Are you going to step down?

ALEX MOFFAT AS MARK ZUCKERBERG: No way, homie. Because according to our data sets, I don't have to, and you can't make me.



KURTZ: SNL nailing the t-shirt (ph). Mark Zuckerberg who doesn't like doing interviews by his own account spent an hour in a conference call with reporters after Facebook admitted it wasn't just 50 million users affected by the Cambridge Analytica data breach, it was 87 million or maybe most of its two billion worldwide customers, but some personal information was scraped, in his word.


MARK ZUCKERBERG, FACEBOOK: We didn't take a broad enough view of what our responsibility is, and that was a huge mistake. It was my mistake.


KURTZ: Joining us now, Shana Glenzer, technology analyst and commentator here in Washington. So, Zuckerberg keeps dribbling out the bad news that fuels the story. Oh, it's 50 million, 87 million, maybe two billion. Is he botching his apology?

SHANA GLENZER, TECHNOLOGY ANALYST: There is no question that he stumbled out of the (INAUDIBLE). He was late to apologize by a few days. He initially deferred some of the responsibility. But he of course corrected and his talking points since have been really on point.

The problem is we have been here before. We heard the same apology over and over the last two years. And the apologies aren't frequently followed by major changes at Facebook.

KURTZ: Yes. He always seems to be minimizing the problem first and then coming on too late apologizing. When he did that CNN interview, will you testify, he said, oh, you know, maybe I will send someone else, I don't know. That was wrong. Of course, he has to testify this week.

But this time, he is saying we didn't take a broad enough view of our responsibilities. This is what critics have been saying for years, that Facebook is not just a neutral platform, it's a media company. It has to police its own content. Why is Facebook so behind the curve on this?

GLENZER: I do think that this crisis is different than the rest. It's bigger, it's weightier. The American public is more concerned than it was before. What is unclear is whether Zuckerberg understands the shift and will let change Facebook.

He spent the past two years being primarily focused on connecting the world which is great, but (INAUDIBLE) over and over again with us as his unwinning victims. He doesn't seem to care unless it becomes public which is where we are now.

KURTZ: Right. He has an idealistic view of Facebook and there have been a lot of bad actors out there. Sheryl Sandberg also doing a TV blitz. And they did just announce they are going to have tighter vetting and disclosure for ads as a response to the Russia election scandal. But the election was a year and a half ago. Suddenly they are rolling it out right before he goes to the hill.

GLENZER: Yes, I mean, listen, people are really mad at Facebook. We got the whole "delete Facebook" movement. Stock down 15 percent. And, you know, it's not over yet, with this testimony coming this week. He'll get grilled. He'll have no friend on those committees.

KURTZ: On either side.

GLENZER: On either side. And so the larger issue here is whether Facebook can really respect users' privacy and data and flourish as a business. I think that's yet to be seen.

KURTZ: Yes. I don't know how much he's hurt, Facebook is hurt by some of the celebrities deleting their accounts. I mean, it got a lot of customers around the world. But, how much would you say, just take a half a step back at Zuckerberg PR debacle and his late apologies, not just this one, but the previous rounds, have hurt him, his image, and have hurt the Facebook brand?

GLENZER: I think that Facebook -- a lot. More than -- KURTZ: People love this company.

GLENZER: More than before.

KURTZ: People love this company and now a lot of people hate it.

GLENZER: And I see it reflected in my own Facebook feed. There are people that I have never thought would question Facebook or their presence on Facebook that are now pulling back. And I think that that's the reality that they are going to face with and people leaving who they never thought would abandon Facebook.

KURTZ: Yes. I think Zuckerberg is trying to do (INAUDIBLE) boys got his work cut out for him. Shana Glenzer, thanks very much for coming back.

GLEZER: Thank you.

KURTZ: Great to see you. Ahead on "Media Buzz, " why that controversial promo read by so many Sinclair TV anchors has sparked such a backlash?

But first, the president tanks Amazon stock with an assault aimed at Jeff Bezos. Is that a problem?


KURTZ: President Trump's attacks on Jeff Bezos and Amazon helped tank the company's stock by $60 billion and he kept it up in response to a reporter's question.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The Post Office is losing billions of dollars and the taxpayers are paying for that money because it delivers packages for Amazon at a very below cost. And that's not fair to the United States.


KURTZ: The President has made clear he's pretty steamed at Bezos' other high property, the Washington Post. He said that to me and other journalists. Post Executive Editor Marty Baron told the New York Times that Trump has simply made up the notion that Bezos influences his newsroom, "I can't say more emphatically that he's never suggested a story to anyone here. He's never critiqued a story. He's never suppressed a story.

And we're back with Mollie Hemingway. How much of the presidential criticism of Amazon's business practices is really aimed at Bezos and the Washington Post?

HEMINGWAY: I think it is aimed at both companies that Bezos is involved with. And I think there is a real estate angle to Amazon. He's talking about the Post Office, but it is entirely true that Amazon has disrupted a lot of main street business in America. I think he's an old real estate guy who is somewhat sensed in to that. I think he's very upset with how the Washington Post has covered his presidency.

And I think that there is a fine line that you can take between -- people are going to be saying extremely opposite things, neither which seem true. I don't think that Bezos is controlling everything that the Washington Post does or that he bought it for no reason at all. I mean people buy companies for -- media companies for a reason.

KURTZ: Well, yeah for clout. You know the President has linked these -- in some of his public statements, he's done it with me. He thinks the Washington Post is terribly unfair to him. There was another example of that this morning that we (Inaudible). But is this on some level retaliation over news coverage?

CAFARO: Well, as you said, Howard, I mean there is no secret that President Trump does not like the Washington Post, the failing Washington Post, the fake news Washington Post, the Amazon Washington Post. You know, and I think it is retaliation. Obviously, he's a counter puncher, we know that. But I think that what's more important here is the value of President Trump's tweets and how that impacts the markets.

I think that certainly he wants to defend himself against what he feels is unfair news coverage. But when you do link those two things together, which means Amazon and the Washington Post and go after Amazon, it obviously has a direct impact on the market, showing that obviously, you know, President Trump's tweets have direct impact. When the President talks, there are real implications.

KURTZ: There is no question there has been an impact. But you know, as the owner of the Washington Post, Bezos is entitled to influence editorial policy. But Editorial Page Editor Fred Hiatt says he's never asked him to do or modify a particular editorial. And so the President says the Washington Post is being used as a lobbyist for Amazon, but I don't necessarily see the evidence of that.

WESTWOOD: No. I don't think there is much evidence of it at all. And I think you know you can look at the timing of his criticisms of Amazon. They're not tied to anything Amazon is doing. But they are tied to negative stories in the Washington Post. So it really makes you question his motives. Why now are you going after Amazon? Amazon is not doing anything different really at the moment.


KURTZ: -- than Amazon because he believes that it is hurting brick and mortar stores. And these are disputed facts. The fact checkers say that he's wrong that Post Office actually gains from shipping Amazon packages. What would conservative commentators say if Barack Obama attacked Sheldon Adelson's casino company because he didn't like the coverage of his paper in Las Vegas review journal?

HEMINGWAY: That we have that same example. Barack Obama did attack companies, including Fox News, Coke Industries, and conservatives hated it. They don't like it when a President gets involved with personal businesses and for very good reason. It just seems unseemly for a President to do that. And I will out though, that Amazon does a lot of business in China. This week, the editorial page ran a pro-communist China editorial that is disconcerting as well.

I mean I think that people are so upset with Donald Trump that they are not doing as much due diligence as maybe they should with what's happening on the editorial page and on the coverage.

KURTZ: All right. Let me get to a few words the President spoke to reporters this week on Air Force One. He was asked about Stormy Daniels, the $130,000 hush money payment from the President's lawyer Michael Cohen. The President said he didn't know about it. It's the first time he addressed it. CBS, ABC, NBC, on the nightly newscast all led with this. We can put that up just to show, give you a taste of it. Did this deserve to be the lead story on the network news based on the President's one rather brief comment?

WESTWOOD: Well, what the President said is completely consistent with what the White House has been saying all along, that the President had no knowledge of the $130,000 payment.


WESTWOOD: Right. I think of the news worthiness of this story diminished dramatically once Stormy Daniels went on "60 Minutes." She spilled all the notable details about the affair. It's pretty clear the non-disclosure agreement has been violated at this point because she has given a national network interview. President Trump is not saying anything different.

KURTZ: Right. So you think the story was overplayed to some extent?

WESTWOOD: Absolutely. And the fact that it's still in the headlines just shows you that people are trying to ring every drop out of it.


KURTZ: It shows you the media loves Stormy. All right, now there was one other incident involving the President and CNN. It happened at the White House Easter Egg Roll. CNN White House Correspondent Jim Acosta, who has mixed it up with the President and press secretaries on various occasions. Well, let's just show you what he did.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN: What about DACA? What's going to happen?

TRUMP: The Democrats have really let them down. They really let them down. They had this great opportunity. The Democrats have really let them down. It is a shame.

ACOSTA: Didn't you kill DACA?


KURTZ: Didn't you kill DACA says Jim Acosta. So it's not that the question is illegitimate. Was it appropriate, he's sitting with a bunch of children including his son in the Easter Egg Roll, to be shouting those questions?

CAFARO: Well, look, I think that at this point, journalists, no matter whether they're print or you know TV journalists take whatever opportunity they can to get whatever access they have and take it. Now is that right? You know, maybe not, these folks need to learn boundaries. I was saying earlier on our way into the studio, that as a sitting elected official, I was followed into the ladies room more than once by journalists.

Thankfully, they were female journalists. But I think it speaks to the fact that there are no boundaries and that's what they do.

KURTZ: I have generally no problem with shouted questions. It just seems to me no coincidence that it was Jim Acosta who is almost an advocate on the question of the dreamers, your thoughts on the appropriateness or lack thereof.

HEMINGWAY: I think Jim Acosta is very frustrated. I think that CNN is struggling. It botched a lot of stories that have been cartoonishly hostile to the President, and they are facing some pushback from the White House, and they're trying to take every advantage they can. This is one of those things that does not go well for the media because people look at it and say can you just honor this moment? But it's a frustrating moment for CNN.

KURTZ: Right. The President then tweeted you can't get a job at ratings- challenged CNN unless you state you are totally anti-Trump. CNN fired back. That's false. The personal, political beliefs of CNN's employees are of no interest to us and took a shot at the President of the United States for misspelling the name of Jeff Zucker, the CNN President.

Great discussion, Capri Cafaro, Sarah Westwood, Mollie Hemingway, we'll see you in a little bit. Coming up, the securing of those local Sinclair TV promos prompt the company's boss to say it's the rest of the press that has no credibility. And later, a Media Buzz exclusive, a new effort to check up on Facebook's fact checkers.


KURTZ: The story about Sinclair Broadcast Group required its so-called anchors to read a script, denouncing media bias that already broken a while back. But it wasn't until the website Dead Spin made a mash up video that many journalists denounced the company.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unfortunately, their own personal bias was out of control. And it is dangerous to our democracy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is extremely dangerous to our democracy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is extremely dangerous to our democracy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is extremely dangerous to our democracy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, nothing says we value independent media like dozens of reporters repeating forced to repeat the same message over and over again like members of a brainwashed cult.


KURTZ: Sinclair executives said it's ironic the company will be criticized for its commitment for fair and objective reporting. Joining us now, Emily Jashinsky, Commentary Writer for the Washington Examiner and Bill Press, former co-host of CNN's "Cross-Fire" and author of the new book "From the Left." Emily, a lot of journalists found that spectacle kind of disturbing.

Did it give you any pause? And has there been a media overreaction?

EMILY JASHINSKY, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: I do think there has been an overreaction. There are fair concerns about Sinclair to be sure. But we saw here really I think was more of an advertisement, anything for newsrooms that trade on the trust of the viewers. This ad actually said truth is neither politically left or right.

I mean it is hard to dispute anything in the actual script itself. And so I think packaged together -- but that has been, as you showed, that's what elicited the reaction. But to call it Orwellian and extremely dangerous and propaganda I thought was an overreaction.

KURTZ: Bill Press, he said Sinclair is far superior to CNN and even more fake, NBC, which is a total joke, he says. Look, it's a problem. And it says things like sharing a bias and false news all too common on social media and sometimes news outlets pick up these stories. Why is that an outrage?

BILL PRESS, THE BILL PRESS SHOW: I would say for that, hear, hear, right. And then the next thing it said was some people reprint the stuff from social media without checking the facts. Maybe, I don't know of any real concrete examples of that. If they do, it is wrong. If they do, it is wrong. I would say hear, hear.


PRESS: It's the third part that gets me. One that says unfortunately, some members of the media use their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda. That's exactly what Sinclair was doing. So I'm troubled. I worked for five networks, OK. I have never been asked to read anything like that. I never would. I would quit before I would do it. And it troubles me to see these anchors whom we trust as the purveyors of local news all reading the same script word for word.

KURTZ: Well, OK. I think that's a fair point. Now if one commentator had said this, for example, Boris Epstein, he's a former Trump White House aide who now works at Sinclair, and those commentaries that are also must-run. They don't have the liberal counterpart to Epstein. It wouldn't have been as bad. But when you mash it together like that, they look like a bunch of mindless zombies.

JASHINSKY: Yeah, they do. Although at the same time, this actually to me looks just like the advertisements that local news stations run all the time about trust and all of that. And I didn't see anything overtly political about it. I think now we interpret it as being overtly political because in the Trump era we talk so much about false news. We talk so much about trust in the media that it almost has this political implication.

And that maybe there, but disputing the script itself is hard to do, I think.

PRESS: You know what I think they could not have done a story if they said this is an editorial. Editorial for management, here's our point of view or something. But they didn't identify as an editorial.


KURTZ: Wait a minute. I want to flip the script here. Is it really comparable to say, as Sinclair contends, ABC, CBS, NBC affiliates, they may run left-leaning reports from their network news divisions, late night shows, many of which are anti-Trump. In other words, this is not something that's limited to Sinclair Broadcasting.

PRESS: Well, I think that's a phoney charge. I think that -- I've been living my whole life with this -- the media is all left wing cookie liberals. But there is another thing about Sinclair.


PRESS: A badge of honor. But you know there is another thing about Sinclair is they are sort of at stealth broadcaster. I guy just went to WGN in Chicago. They run a lot of CNN stuff. If you look at them, you don't know it is Sinclair. Channel 7 here in Washington, if you look at them you don't know it's -- if you're looking at Fox or CNN or MSNBC, you know what you're looking at. But with Sinclair, you really don't.

KURTZ: Well, Sinclair is in the news in part because it's now trying to buy a bunch of television stations from Tribune Broadcasting, which would increase its scope in local news. All right, so David Smith, the Executive Chairman, here's what he had to say. I have never seen a single article about us that is reflective of reality, especially in today's world with the shameful political environment and genuinely complete lack of integrity.

The print media is so left wing it has to be meaningless dribble, which accounts for why the industry is and will fade away, just no credibility. Now Sinclair is trying to make the argument that it's balanced and others aren't. That seems to me to hurt the cause.

JASHINSKY: If they want to make that argument, they should say that they are the counter-balance, you know. They shouldn't purport to be the center, like the straight down the middle. They should say we are balancing out all this other stuff, which is a fair concern. Realistically, what they are doing is exploiting the real concerns about media bias for advertising purposes, which again, it goes to that last line you read from the script that to pretend to be down the middle. Yeah, that's a little different.

PRESS: Yeah, when he says, David Smith in that same interview, that the print media serves no real purpose, OK. I wonder does that include the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Examiner, the Washington Times, the Weekly Standard, and the National Review. I mean come on. But I think you are touching on something. I mean to me this whole story about the -- forced to read this, it's not the real story.

The real story is that the largest TV broadcaster in the country, they are now on 193 stations are applying to buy 42 more.

KURTZ: Right.

PRESS: Right?


PRESS: -- AT&T and Time-Warner is something we ought to be concerned.


KURTZ: The Tribune wants to unload these stations.

PRESS: Well, the rules say you can only cover 39 percent of the country. This will give them 72 percent.

KURTZ: You're making a media concentration argument.


JASHINSKY: I agree on that.

KURTZ: All right.


KURTZ: Bill Press, Emily Jashinsky, thank you. After our break, exclusive look at how Facebook decides whether disputed stories are true or false, a new site that fact checks the fact checkers.


KURTZ: Time now for a "MediaBuzz" exclusive. Real Clear Politics is launching a new page today designed to fact check the fact checkers used by Facebook in deciding which disputed stories to brand true or false, which obviously can have a big impact on their traffic now. Do these media fact checkers lean to one side? Do they pick the wrong targets? Real Clear's David DesRosiers told me we think there is a need for someone to guard the guardian.

And we are back with Mollie Hemingway. So Facebook obviously has global clout, and it is relying on these outside fact checkers for media organizations. We'll get to that. Why is it important for Real Clear Politics to be truth-squatting the fact checking?

HEMINGWAY: We've had this epidemic of problems with fake news, people intentionally writing false stories that get shared and what not. So there is more in part placed on fact checkers who can determine whether a story is true or false. There is this air of objectivity that goes with the fact check. You see a picture of a politician, the statement in question, and then some visual metric of whether they are telling the truth or not.

KURTZ: (Inaudible)

HEMINGWAY: And very few people actually read the underlying pieces, which can tell us a lot about whether to take that fact check seriously or not. So it is interesting that people are paying more attention to it, looking to see how these fact checks compare with each other, whether people are judging opinions or facts, how they are determining whether something is true or not. These are things that will be helpful to the news consumer.

KURTZ: So on that point, if the story is a hoax or a Russian propaganda or whatever, and if it can be proven untrue, great. But sometimes you get into opinion and sometimes the fact checkers have kind of a tin ear, example?

HEMINGWAY: Not just opinion, but recently you had a situation where the Christian satire site Babylon Bee had a story where they said that CNN was literally washing their news with a spin cycle, and they had put like a picture of a washing machine in there. And Snopes judged this like it was something really worthy of being fact checked, and then Facebook then alerted readers.

They said this is not real news, and it throttled traffic to the Babylon Bee by like 80 percent.

KURTZ: This is a satire site, and it says CNN's spinning news. And there is a picture of a washing machine. It is obviously designed to get laughs, and yet that was rated false.

HEMINGWAY: And it can really affect traffic. Now I do believe Facebook and Snopes figured out the problem there, and they took off the thing that made it so people couldn't really share that.


HEMINGWAY: But the damage is done. It is so important. And again, a lot of these fact checks, you have university studies showing that they are 3 times as likely to call a Republican politician a liar as a Democrat, or you had the 2013 PolitiFact lie of the year was if you like your health insurance you can keep your health insurance. Well, six times prior to naming that their lie of the year, they said that that was true in some form or another.

So we do need some kind of accountability for some of these fact checks.

KURTZ: Just to wrap this up. So you have six news outlets that Facebook is using for fact checking. It doesn't have its own. Eighty eight people total. And they are from the New York Times, the Washington Post, Poynter Institute,, Snopes, which you mentioned, and one person from the Weekly Standard. Do you worry about a tilt here?

HEMINGWAY: Well, I do think there are some problems that we have seen in the past, and it's not just in the partisan bias that you see in a lot of the media anyway. There are problems that happen when you are evaluating opinions instead of facts. A lot of people say they rate something false because they say that you didn't provide enough contexts.

Well, rates are totally true statement like that the Bible is shorter than the U.S. tax code as false because they say well, that didn't provide enough contexts. That's not what a fact check should do.

KURTZ: Right.

HEMINGWAY: We would like to see some tightening up probably of these things. And comparing them to each other, hopefully they will uphold better standards.


KURTZ: (Inaudible) is sometimes crucial, sometimes (Inaudible), things can be very valuable too. Mollie Hemingway thanks so much. Still to come, that big Washington bash, the White House correspondent's dinner will again be missing a major guest.


KURTZ: President Trump is blowing off the White House Correspondent's Dinner for the second straight year, and I am not shocked. He did go to the gridiron, but there are no cameras at the gridiron. Now it is too bad that the relationship has gotten hot, so hostile on both sides. I get it. Hanging out with a couple thousand journalists and being mocked by a comedian is not Donald Trump's idea of a good time.

But the President also gets to deliver a funny speech where he can skewer his political and media adversaries, so he's giving that up. Now without his star presence and all the celebrity hangers on, D.C.'s nerd prom should focus on its original purpose, giving out journalism awards and raising money for scholarships.

That's it for this edition of "MediaBuzz." I'm Howard Kurtz. Thanks for watching. Let's continue the conversation on Twitter @howardkurtz. Check out our Facebook page. Give us a like. We post a lot of original content there, videos, my daily columns. I respond to your comments, keep the conversation going. And if you missed any part of the show, you can always DVR it and watch at your convenience.

I think that would be a good thing to do. Maybe some of you have an opinion if you're not always sitting there at Sunday, at 11 Eastern. We'll be back here nevertheless at that time next week. See you then with the latest buzz.

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