This is a rush transcript from "Media Buzz," February 24, 2019. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: On the Buzz Meter this Sunday, President Trump flat out calls The New York Times the enemy of the people over the investigative piece on the Russia probe which unleashes a tidal wave of coverage.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Is this obstruction?
ELIE HONIG, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: What else could it be? What other reason could the president have for calling Matt Whitaker right as the Cohen investigation was growing and starting to threaten him?
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: The president has undertaken this very public and private assault on the independence of the Department of Justice in every possible way.
ANDREW NAPOLITANO, FOX NEWS SENIOR JUDICIAL ANALYST: Corrupt intent. That is an effort to use the levers of powers of the government for a corrupt purpose: to deflect an investigation into himself or his allies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: The Times' publisher calls Trump's charge false and dangerous and the reporters say, look, the White House refused to comment. The president is also cheering on a $250 million lawsuit against The Washington Post by Nick Sandmann, accusing the paper of bullying the Covington High School student with its initial reporting on knife confrontation with a Native American. The coverage was flawed but isn't libelist.
Chicago police lashed out at Jussie Smollett and scold the media while charging the "Empire" star with staging a racial attack against himself to boost his career.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
EDDIE JOHNSON, SUPERINTENDENT, CHICAGO POLICE DEPARTMENT: The accusations behind this phony attack received national attention for weeks. Celebrities, news commentators, and even presidential candidates weighed in on something that was choreographed by an actor.
TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: I know a B.S. story when I see one. I thought it from day one. Why would reporters fall for this before everyone else?
KEITH BOYKIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's heartbreaking. I'm hoping still in spite of all the overwhelming evidence that is presented, it's not true. He had no reason to do something like this.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
KURTZ: I wonder if many in the media embrace this devastating hoax. Longtime CBS correspondent Lara Logan says the media are mostly liberal and mostly negative in their coverage of Donald Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LARA LOGAN, FORMER CBS CORRESPONDENT: That's not our job. That's a political position. That means we've become political activists in a sense. And some could argue propagandists.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Lara Logan says she may be committing career suicide, is she? Plus, R. Kelly indicted on sexual abuse charges. Why did decades of media expose fail to derail his career? I'm Howard Kurtz and this is "Media Buzz."
The New York Times in a very lengthy story on the Russia investigation reported that President Trump asked his acting attorney general to put an ally in charge of the New York investigation to Michael Cohen, hush money, and the president. But the ally was the U.S. attorney of Manhattan who already recused himself in the case, and Matt Whitaker apparently ignored the request.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you ask Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker to change the leadership of the investigation into your former personal attorney Michael Cohen?
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: No, not at all. I don't know who gave you that. That's' more fake news.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: The president later tweeted, "The New York Times reporting it's false. They are a true enemy of the people."
Joining us now to analyze the coverage: Mollie Hemingway, senior editor at The Federalist and a Fox News contributor; Sara Fischer, media reporter for Axios; and Richard Fowler, radio talk show host and Fox News contributor.
Mollie, what did you think of the Times story and what do you think of the president reviving this enemy charge but this time specifically against the hometown paper he cares most about?
MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, THE FEDERALIST: Speaking of the Times story, I've covered the Russia investigation for two and a half years and even in the sea of poorly written stories, this one stood out. It was riddled with errors. It said for instance that Uranium One deal that was linked to the Clinton Foundation had been debunked.
Well, it was The New York Times that broke that story. They never retracted it. It was actually really good journalism that they did. They claimed that doing congressional oversight is what outed some human informants that they had sent up against the Trump campaign. Again, it was The New York Times and The Washington Post who revealed all the information about those human informants.
It lied about something that Devin Nunes said, the former chair of the House -- they said that he said that he was trying to buttress Trump's claims about wiretapping. In fact, at least three times that I could find specifically it said that Trump's claims about wiretapping had no basis in fact. There were just problems throughout the story and it was almost written like in a panic, it was very sloppy.
KURTZ: Enemy of the people?
HEMINGWAY: Well, this language is very bad. You know, it's very bad to say this about the media, that they are the enemy of the people. At the same time, we do need the media to stand up and start doing a good job so that slur doesn't resonate with people who seem them the way they attack not just the president but average American citizens as well.
KURTZ: Sara, the follow-up tweet the president said, stories are written generally that have absolutely no basis. In fact, the writers don't even call for verification. Maggie Haberman, one of the four Times reporters in this piece, says we repeatedly sent e-mails to White House and Justice Department and got no comment. Mollie obviously has her own critique of the story but that does suggest that the Times at least was willing to include the administration side.
SARA FISCHER, AXIOS: Yeah, Haberman said that they reached out plenty of times and that she didn't hear back until a few days ago. My problem here is that the president tweets at stuff. It's like he wants someone to call everyone on his personal cell phone. It's kind of hard the president. But if they are going through proper communication channels like the communication shop, that's them doing their job.
And also in response to critique of the story, I haven't seen the White House really come out and, you know, debunk it. And so if it is full of lies and errors, you know, why isn't the president taking to Twitter and addressing that? Instead, he seems to just be calling it fake news and enemy of the people but he is not explaining what exactly is wrong.
KURTZ: In response to the enemy charge, A.G. Sulzberger, the Times publisher who had that 85-minute interview with reporters just two or three weeks ago, put out a statement saying that President Trump is retreating from distinctly American principle. The phrase "enemy of the people" is not just false. It's dangerous. Your thoughts?
RICHARD FOWLER, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Couple things. I think it's very dangerous because we as journalists and television commentators, we are real people, right? We have real lives. When you say these types of things, it can stoke people to do things to us. For example, the Miami bomber who was literally sending fake bombs to CNN and other news networks.
So when you say enemy of the people, people will perceive that to be the wrong thing. And I think if you read -- I read the story. I'm not sure I see the same factual inaccuracy that Mollie saw. But what I did see was the fact that the White House had a chance to comment and they did not. And remember, Maggie Haberman is a journalist who the president has talked to many times.
KURTZ: Called him for years.
FOWLER: She has called him on his cell phone. They talk in the cell phone. The president believed the story was fake news. He had an opportunity to debunk it. He had an opportunity go line by line to say this isn't true, that's not true, and he did not because there is some truth to the story.
HEMINGWAY: The problem, I think, journalists are claiming that their lives are endangered by directing public hatred against them at a time of public -- a political turmoil. At the same time, they are directing public hatred against citizens at a time of political turmoil. They don't seem to have a problem with that. You see this with their stories that they keep following for hoaxes such as the Covington kids, the pro-life children who are here - -
KURTZ: And you set me up for the next segment. We have a sound bite. So, there has been a $250 million suit as I mentioned at the top filed by Nick Sandmann. Everyone has seen his face in that confrontation last month, the Covington high school 16-year-old, who says in the suit, his parents say that he was smeared and bullied by The Washington Post. Here is his attorney, Lin Wood.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LIN WOOD, ATTORNEY: What this young boy having to deal with at age 16 when the entire world saw him the way the media portrayed him as literally the face of evil. It is inexcusable, reprehensible conduct by the media. And The Washington Post led the way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Sara, The Washington Post -- I went back and read the initial story. There are two things. Relied on that one misleading video and secondly, relied on interview with Nathan Phillips, a Native American activist whose account just didn't add up and he changed it many times. Couple days later, the Post went back and Sandmann was talking and other information was available. It was a much more complicated situation. So, it was not the paper's finest hour but it translated into a huge libel judgment.
FISCHER: I don't know if it translates into a $250 million liber charge and --
KURTZ: By the way, that figure is because that is how much Jeff Bezos paid for the paper, not anything have to do with specific damages.
FISCHER: Right. Of that $250 million, $50 million they say is due to the libel. The $200 million they say is kind of teach the Post a lesson and to give some sort of retribution here. I think that the Post, you know, as many news outlets did, sort of rush into the story which skewed the story in the press for weeks, which might have had damaging impact on this kid's life. But do I think it is libel? I think that might be a little bit hard to push for.
KURTZ: Well, the suit makes the argument that this is The Washington Post and the stories were designed to hurt Trump because remember, the kids were wearing the MAGA caps because of the paper's political crusade against him, but the story is written by three Metro (ph) reporters on deadline, not political reporters who cover the administration, so I would make that distinction.
FOWLER: I think that's a good distinction to make, Howie. I think the other point here is that I think journalists really tried their hardest to get it right. And as soon as they got more information, they retracted the story. They made comments --
KURTZ: They didn't retract the story, they updated the story.
FOWLER: They updated the story with more evidence.
KURTZ: You would agree that the initial coverage was --
FOWLER: I would agree that they basically saw 30 seconds of the video and they made a lot of assumptions and had one report. But I think it is very - - we have to make a delineation here, right? To say that these papers are pushing out hate in their stories, reporting on the facts is not pushing out hate. Those facts people do, be upset with the president, that's -- be upset with a group of people (ph), that is not the job of the journalists. That is not the journalists' fault. KURTZ: But on one side, the report is not good. Where was the student side? On that day, the first story, the student's own school and its Catholic diocese in Kentucky said we condemn this behavior and some students may be expelled. They of course later apologized.
HEMINGWAY: But they were doing that based on the false media reporting itself.
KURTZ: And a lot of the stuff on Twitter.
HEMINGWAY: It is not hard to say these children were obviously libelled. They are not public figures. They were people who are coming into town for --
KURTZ: A right to life demonstration.
HEMINGWAY: -- a life rally and they had no expectation that this is what - -
FOWLER: Was it worth $250 million?
HEMINGWAY: It wasn't just that they had the stories written about them. It is also the general culture at the Post. You saw the way that reporters there were tweeting about it. There was clearly this animosity. They ran many stories with animosity. It led to those children being targeted with death threats, attempts to dox them. You know, celebrities were trying to dox them.
HEMINGWAY: This is a very serious thing. It might not be $250 million, but there is a good case here that there was --
KURTZ: We'll see what the courts do. They certainly sort of ruined these kids' lives for now. Let me just move quickly to the Coast Guard lieutenant who was arrested for plotting mass shootings against top Democrats and also TV journalists viewed as anti-Trump. You've probably seen the picture. We put it up, a huge cache of rifles and ammunition.
Joe Scarborough, who was one of those on the list and I only mentioned it because he talked about it on "Morning Joe" for two straight days, and others criticized President Trump, Sara, for not tweeting about this even though, you know, federal government carried out thankfully this arrest.
FISCHER: I mean it would make sense that the president might tweet something saying, you know, thank you to a great work from our law enforcement for stopping attack like this.
FISCHER: You would think he would do something like that and other Republicans as well. But when people try to tie something like this to the president creating a culture of, you know, distrust in the media, I think that probably goes a little bit too far. The president shouldn't call the media enemy of the people, but his comments wouldn't say or incite this level of violence.
KURTZ: Richard, when a reporter asked the president about this arrest, he said it was a very sad thing. And then the follow-up question is, do you bear any responsibility for this sort of thing with your language? It is exactly the linkage that you're questioning, Sara. He said, well, my language has been very nice.
FOWLER: Here is the thing. We all bear responsibility for some of this because we live -- we have created a Washington culture where it is us versus them, them versus us, this side versus that side, instead of saying how do we work together to fix problems for the American people?
KURTZ: You're saying those of us in the media who jump on --
FOWLER: I think everybody.
KURTZ: -- are complicit and the right goes after liberal talkers and left goes after conservative talkers.
FOWLER: Yeah, I think we have the shaming and blaming culture now in Washington that created this idea where people who live in other parts of the country think that's how we operate and that's how we should behave, where there should be civility and respect. With that, does it currently exist?
KURTZ: MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace talking about this very case. Trump had permitted a war in this country around race. I think that is a kind of language you're talking about. I am not saying the president bears no responsibility for all this, aren't you responsible thing is this sort of connecting the dots that we're too quick to do.
Let me get a break here. Ahead, how many in the media are talking about exactly this sort of thing? Embrace Jussie Smollett's false narrative. What a horrible mess that turned out to be. When we come back, longtime CBS star Lara Logan unloads on the media's liberal bias and says she is facing a backlash. Charlie Gasparino is on deck.
KURTZ: Lara Logan, the former "60 Minutes" correspondent who has reported from war zones around the world, has taken on another dangerous mission, challenging the press.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LOGAN: The media everywhere is mostly liberal, not just in the U.S. All the coverage on Trump all the time is negative. That's distortion of the way things go in real life. Although the media has always been historically always been left-leaning, we have abandoned our pretense or at least the effort to be objective today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Logan told Sean Hannity that liberal media critics are trying to smear her.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LOGAN: They can't go after the things that matter, so they smear you personally. They go after your integrity. They go after your reputation as a person and as a professional. And they will stop at nothing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Joining us now from Connecticut, Charlie Gasparino, senior business correspondent at Fox Business Network. Charlie, I've interviewed Lara Logan many times. She has risked her life around the world. She was sexually assaulted by a mob in Egypt. She also had apologized for that botched story on Benghazi on "60 Minutes." But when she says the media are one-sidedly liberal, does it carry a certain weight?
CHARLIE GASPARINO, FOX BUSINESS NETWORK: She is saying it. Jill Abramson, the former editor of The New York Times, is saying it. It is interesting that there are voices within what is known as the mainstream media who are making this point now because it is getting, I would say, out of control. Listen, Howie, I have been in the mainstream media my entire career.
GASPARINO: People used to laugh at me as diversity hire because I was right of center. I didn't tow the liberal line. So we've had this problem for years. I think now -- I think what she's saying is true. It is getting out of hand. You see it in the Jussie Smollett coverage. You see it in the Covington High School kids' coverage.
It is particularly when it comes to race and gender issues. There is an immediate sort of knee-jerk reaction to find good guys that fit the certain politically correct motif and bad guys, you know, I don't know, it's always been there. You know and I know --
KURTZ: Right. It seems more egregious in the Trump era.
GASPARINO: It is more egregious, yeah.
KURTZ: Lara Logan says, look, I'm not left or right, but this is coming off as political activism or even political propaganda. So, maybe that is why more voices of the people who have been steeped in the business are feeling compelled to speak out.
GASPARINO: Right. When you see liberals, mainstream liberals say this is getting crazy and it is getting crazy, I am telling you, I wasn't part of the Covington High School coverage but I watched it on CNN and MSNBC. I was on vacation. I am just watching the coverage.
GASPARINO: It was pretty one-sided. And by the way, what I don't understand is why didn't someone try to reach out to the kids and their parents and say what happened? Do you want to come on immediately?
GASPARINO: There was really none of that other side.
KURTZ: They may not -- Nick Sandmann who has filed this may have chosen at least in the first couple of days not to spoke out, then he put out a statement, and then of course he went on television.
KURTZ: I agree with you. It was a real failure there. But, look, so, we saw the clip. Lara Logan says it was a smear campaign. She didn't provide the specifics, but she does say that journalists get hammered for not repeating the same talking points, and I think the implication here is not repeating the same anti-Trump talking points. If you try to be down the middle, you're categorized as being somehow, you know, carrying water for the president.
GASPARINO: I don't know if that's necessarily the case. I mean, listen, we cover all sorts of stuff on Fox News. I am no apologies for the president. I still get on the air. I am not attacked by Michael Calderone or Brian Stelter when I wrote something good or bad about the president.
I think she was on the strongest ground on that general media criticism that the train is now coming off the tracks in the sort of liberal advocacy that we see in the coverage of Trump and these other issues which are just as alarming. I think she is making the same point as Jill Abramson makes --
GASPARINO: This needs to stop now.
KURTZ: OK. Let me move you to a different kind of journalistic uproar, CNN hiring Sarah Isgur, formerly Sarah Flores. She was the top spokesperson for Attorney General Jeff Sessions. She was a top aide for Carly Fiorina's presidential campaign. She is smart. She has been on this program a couple of times.
KURTZ: But she was hired to be political editor at CNN to coordinate its 2020 coverage. All the networks now hire partisans, put them on the air and give them shows. I get that. But CNN is getting hammered because Sarah Isgur doesn't have any experience in journalism and given this title, political editor.
GASPARINO: Yeah. You know, as a journalist, I guess you probably feel the same way. It must be the wrong way. I got to give Jeff Zucker some credit though. At least he's recognizing we need diversity. He's recognizing what Lara Logan pointed out. You need some degree of diversity in t the newsroom and the coverage.
However, I mean, she -- that's not in her wheelhouse when you think about it career-wise. You know, here is where it gets back to the point that the train is coming off the tracks. What you really need is not someone from the right to right the shift (ph). You need someone from left. You need some journalists who take the professional responsibility seriously. We are professionals. We all have opinions. But we strive to be professional and be fair. And I think that's where journalism has to get back to. We're always going to have opinions.
KURTZ: I agree with you that CNN president Jeff Zucker in hiring somebody who worked for the Trump administration maybe brings more balance to that network. However, according to The Wall Street Journal, he told his staff that Sarah will be making decisions about political coverage --
GASPARINO: Then why hire her?
KURTZ: Yeah, what exactly --
GASPARINO: Why hire her?
KURTZ: -- her job is. I don't think it was explained very well. But you do a good job of explaining. Charlie, great to see you, thanks so much.
GASPARINO: Any time, pal. Thank you.
KURTZ: Ahead, Bernie Sanders makes his 2020 debut, but will he get a lot more press scrutiny this time around? And up next, the networks were quick to criticize some public figures were appearing in blackface but when their own entertainment stars are involved, not so much.
KURTZ: Virginia Governor Ralph Northam and his attorney general, both are refusing to resign despite have posed in blackface in the 80s. USA Today decided to examine hundreds of college yearbooks from that time. And there in an Arizona state university yearbook were two white men in black paint. It was edited by Nicole Carroll who is USA Today's editor. She told readers I am sorry for the hurt I caused back then and the hurt it will cause today.
What about the folks in the TV and entertainment world? NBC just signed Julianne Hough for "America's Got Talent" although six years ago, she used blackface, impersonated character from "Orange is the New Black." She apologized and said she hadn't meant to be disrespectful or demeaning. Ted Danson also has a show on NBC, "The Good Place," but he famously used blackface in the 90s "Roast" for his then girlfriend Whoopi Goldberg.
NBC's Tonight show host, Jimmy Fallon, used blackface for a skid on SNL. But when NBC's Megyn Kelly asked a question about blackface -- just a question -- saying it was OK when she was a kid if you're playing character, the network used the issue to force her out and a move that really was about her disappointing ratings. ABC's Jimmy Kimmel used blackface back on "The Man Show" in 2000. Sarah Silverman did it on her Comedy Central show in 2007.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH SILVERMAN, STAND-UP COMEDIAN: I look like the beautiful Queen Latifah.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: But the comedian said last year, I don't stand by the blackface sketch. I am horrified by it, and I can't erase it. And three years ago, "The View" Joy Behar joked about having darkened her skin at a party back in 1971.
Look, cultural standards obviously change over time but people in the media and in entertainment world shouldn't engage in double standards.
How about this news from Linden, Alabama? Goodloe Sutton, publisher of Democrat-Reporter, actually wrote an editorial calling for the Ku Klux Klan to write again. He said the KKK would be welcome to raid the gated communities in Washington going after Democrats and some Republicans and added this, "We'll get the hemp robes out, loop them over a tall limb and hang all of them." What? He was boasting about becoming a celebrity.
But here is the twist. After numerous calls from his resignation, Sutton has just turned over the paper to Elecia Dexter, an African-American woman who has been the office clerk.
Ahead on "Media Buzz," R. Kelly attacked one journalist who repeatedly accused him of misconduct with teenage girls. Now, he is facing a 10-count indictment. But first, Chicago's top cop scolds the press for overplaying what turned out to be a massive racially-charged hoax by "Empire" star Jussie Smollett.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EDDIE JOHNSON, SUPERINTENDENT, CHICAGO POLICE DEPARTMENT: Why would anyone, especially an African-American man, use the symbolism of a noose to make false accusations?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOWARD KURTZ, FOX NEWS HOST: Jussie Smollett's character has been written out of the last two episodes of the Sox Show "Empire," this after he was of course arrested and charged with staging a racial attack against himself. Claiming that two Trump supporters assaulted him on a Chicago street.
Some journalist took Smollett original count as fact and link it to President Trump before his story began to crumble.
Washington Post global opinion editor, Karen Attiah "regarding the heinous attack on Jussie Smollett, yet another reminder that Trump's ascendance and the resulting climate of hate has meant that lives have been increasingly at stake since 2015."
Actress Ellen Page said we can connect the dots from Trump and Mike Pence to the purportedly homophobic attack.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELLEN PAGE, ACTRESS: What just happened on Jussie Smollett is a hate crime. It's absurd. There (muted) a debate.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I agree. I agree.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Even when Smollett was charged with an outrages hoax, his supporters were rather restrained in their remarks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: And if Jussie's story isn't true, he's squandered the goodwill of a whole lot of people. He even lied to a lot of people if it's not true, including me. And that's not cool.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: And we're back with the panel. Mollie Hemingway, did some in the media embrace this far-fetched narrative and kind of promote it as we saw because if it the notion of pro-Trump of thugs roaming the streets looking for a prominent day black man to beat up.
MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, of course, and do think it's important to remember that the local media actually did a fantastic job on this story. They broke details, they immediately kind of understood that this wasn't something you should just accept out of whole cloth.
At the same time, the national media did a very bad job. I'm actually kind of happy to see some of what was just shown because it shows that for them it was about the narrative. It was about being able to say that people who voted for Trump are bad people.
What's important is now that everyone realizes what they probably should've realized right at the outset they need to make sure that they understand the harm that was done to Trump voters that they are, you know, they are victims of fake hate crimes and the group that he said committees this, which didn't commit this --
HEMINGWAY -- deserves apologies, not just from the person who lied about them but the people who write about it.
KURTZ: Right. And a complete waste of police resources in Chicago. So, Richard, so we just saw CNN's Don Lemon who says he privately called Smollett every day to see if he's all right. And then he said there's nothing -- I didn't say anything about the veracity of the story because that's not my concern. So, and then he said you know, well now that it's been exposed Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity will eat (Ph) Smollett for lunch.
Why are Smollett's supporters reluctant to harshly criticize him even now?
RICHARD FOWLER, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: And the reason why Smollett's supporters are harsh to -- or they are having a tough time criticizing him is because of this, each and every day LGBTQ folks, especially those of color, they are -- there's actual hate crimes really happening. I could name actual friends who have been -- who have been victims of these types of crimes, and so --
KURTZ: And nobody is disputing that.
FOWLER: No. Nobody is disputing that so --
KURTZ: By these hurts they are caused.
FOWLER: So, when you hear --
KURTZ: Doesn't it undermine the credibility when actually --
FOWLER: Howie, when you hear a crime like this --
FOWLER: -- as part of the LGBTQ community we have an obligation to defend and support our own and so when that happens, it's very hard --
KURTZ: Defend and support your own without all the facts --
FOWLER: Well, it's very -- because a lot of times were not believed. So, what happens is you support your own and so when this happens it's heartbreaking ---
FOWLER: -- when you find out that it was actually if this is a hoax and I think Jussie deserves due process, right, that it's heartbreaking to see that happen because you know that everyday real people, trans women of color there is one murdered every single day. And nobody is talking about it. It's not on the top of the headlines. When you see cases like this, we have an obligation to stand for our community. And that's why people responded the way that they did.
KURTZ: Sara, most journalist (Inaudible) they smell better from the start. But I in fact turned down a chance to talk about this on Fox because I said it's too murky. I don't know all the facts.
But many news organizations attributed the allegations to Smollett. They said the Chicago police were taking this seriously and investigating. And they also reported some of the red flags. Why didn't he call the cops immediately, why he hesitate to turn over his phone.
Then he goes and repeats the charges on Good Morning America with Robin Roberts. So how do you not cover that. You cover it cautiously but how do you cover it?
SARA FISCHER, MEDIA REPORTER, AXIOS: I mean, it should be covered. It's a police investigation and I mean, it does have high profile implications if it were true. But at the end of the day, as you said, the media has to look at every single detail and hedge and provide enough information so that no one is going to rush to judgment.
I also think towards what you were saying, you know, the media is not an activist. Journalist have to be unbiased here. And so even if you feel a certain story isn't getting enough coverage or a certain population isn't being represented well, it's not necessary your role to be calling someone every day involved in the story.
KURTZ: Right. On that point, another tweet was from a BuzzFeed writer named Kevin Fallon. He said "Anyone who thinks supporting you know who," meaning Trump, "isn't tantamount to providing artillery for weaponized bigotry needs to take a hard look in the mirror." He later deleted and retracted that.
HEMINGWAY: Right. There really is bigotry in the stories. This is the second fake news story related to MAGA hat wearers as supposedly attacking people. This is the second fake one we're seen in a month.
And the bigotry is that the media actually think really bad things about Trump voters and they feel file to say it about them which is why their attacks on Trump, I think are a lot of people hear them as attacks on them as people, and it's why he's able to get away with saying some of what he says against the media because you see how the media feel about people who voted for Trump.
FOWLER: I want to push back just a little bit. Because I think in the Jussie Smollett case in particular, Jussie is somebody who's ben trusted in the community, somebody who's fought for the community. So, when he came out and he talked about his allegation, especially after he sat to Good Morning America's Robin Roberts, it seems very clear that there is some truth to this. His passion and his conviction --
KURTZ: How do we view?
FOWLER: Yes, how we display the facts. And then as we found out that some of these things might not be true --
FOWLER: -- that's very hurtful. So, I think it's one thing to blame the journalists but if you have the first account of what his narrative was, I think we have an obligation to believe him as a survivor and I think when those facts didn't --
KURTZ: I want to push -- I want to push back on that. But first, I want to remind people that he said that the two assailants turned out to be these two Nigerian brothers who he had hired and paid to stage the attack according to police were shouting "this is MAGA country. "
You say we an obligation and you also talk about the privilege of hate crimes in this country to believe, not to report, but to believe somebody when they come out and say that. But isn't that going to lead to more and more of these incidences if other people are making face -- false claims.
Why -- he deserves the presumption of legal innocence but we should automatically believe that claim?
FOWLER: Once again, I think I said I think Jussie's case is also an exception not the norm, right? In the norm there are actually --
KURTZ: Well, it should certainly hope so.
FOWLER: Of course, it is.
FOWLER: And I think there is tons and tons of cases where there's LGBTQ people of color who are assaulted and they are, there are hate crimes upon them by people of different races.
But I think that what we have to say here and I think what's very important to understand here, is in this particular case, given the circumstances, given the parameters, given that we have the Chicago Police Department investigating it after their record is also murky after the Laquan McDonald case.
People were looking at this case and saying there's a lot of reasons why you should believe Jussie and the fact seem to work out.
HEMINGWAY: There have been dozens of attacks on people who are Trump voters that don't get this type of coverage. You know we see them on video and they don't get this type of coverage. It is true that hate attacks happen all the time but that is -- they happen against all people and they need to be more evenly covered.
FOWLER: I agree. I agree, Mollie. But there's dozens of attacks against people of -- gay people of color that uncovered like the fact that a Dem -- a mega DNC donor Ed Brooks -- Buck killed two African -- two African- Americans were found dead in his home. He is still walking there as a free person.
KURTZ: Well, just about at a time. But Sara, the night that Smollett was charged MSNBC's prime time shows didn't do anything at all. They didn't cover the case that much and I find that to be unbelievable. It was on the front-page story everywhere and maybe they just didn't like the scenario.
FISCHER: I think the media has to respond to the media's coverage of this story which is, look, we might have gone one way, we might have gone another. Here's what happened. We apologize if we didn't necessarily cover this from the get-go with all of the facts and moving forward, we're going to do better.
And I think to both of your point I think that a lot of populations in the United States feel like their crimes are not being covered. But it's the media's role to do its best fact checking as it can before making assumptions.
KURTZ: I apologize the word you don't hear very often when it comes to the press. Richard Fowler, Sara Fischer, and Mollie Hemingway, thanks so much for a great discussion.
After the break, Bernie Sanders once had the Uber liberal feel to himself. Is his press coverage changing now that he's got plenty of company on the left? And later, the R. Kelly fiasco.
KURTZ: Bernie Sanders kicked off his second presidential bid this week running into widespread media skepticism that he can generate the same excitement as in 2016.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's going to be different this time?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, (D) VERMONT: We are going to win.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you doing things differently this time?
SANDERS: Absolutely. And we take those criticisms to heart when people said that our campaign was too white and too male oriented, they are right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ADAM NAGOURNEY, LOS ANGELES BUREAU CHIEF, NEW YORK TIMES: I think people just thinking he is not going to go the distance like he had his moment, he had his moment four years ago and he didn't it, right?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Joining us now from New York, Kat Timpf, writer for National Review, and Jessica Tarlov of Bustle.com. Both are fox News contributors.
Kat, my view is that Bernie prospered last times as the anti-Hillary candidate. He never got tough media scrutiny because the pundits figured well, he's never going to win the nomination. Is that changing?
KAT TIMPF, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely. Last time around he was definitely seen as the underdog. And the great thing about being the underdog is America loves an underdog. The media loves an underdog. He didn't have to face the kind of scrutiny that he's going to have to face this time around.
His campaign raising $6 million in 24 hours has people looking at him a little bit more seriously. He is going to have to face frontrunners scrutiny now. The media is not going to be as nice as they were last time around --
TIMPF: -- when he was facing Hillary Clinton who everyone assumed would always get the nomination.
KURTZ: Right. Jessica, do you agree the media are starting to be tougher on Bernie Sanders. And what about is it fair to mention hey, he'd 79 on inauguration day and therefore age is a factor?
JESSICA TARLOV, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I'm not into the ageism argument. I think let the best man or women -- woman win.
TARLOV: But I think that it is fair certainly to be taking a harder look at his policies which largely weren't under the microscope like Hillary Clinton's were. Bernie Sanders kind of left into the main stage on his unicorn that was the big mean that everyone loves there and said free college, free healthcare, all of that.
And the problem now is there are a bunch of other candidates running who are also saying the same things but have put out more thorough plans like Elizabeth Warren who is the wonk here of the far-left progressives here.
I think he says that his campaign is learning from the mistakes of 2016. Though I've seen some of the same ones already made. But I think the media is also learning from their mistakes and how their cover these candidates. And they want to be as accurate as possible at the policies --
TARLOV: -- that are being put out and who can actually win the nomination.
KURTZ: I agree with you but the proverbial ultra-liberal lane being crowded with free healthcare and free college and all of that.
Kat, what the media also playing up the recent developments that Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren are saying they are in favor of reparations for slavery which maybe an aspiration position.
Obviously, Kamala Harris trying to get traction the African-American community. That doesn't leave as much oxygen, it seems to me for Bernie Sanders who was actually against that last time when he was asked.
TIMPF: Right. Absolutely. And one of the main problems with Bernie is that he doesn't do as well with non-white voters as he does with white voters. This is only --
KURTZ: That's an understatement.
TIMPF: It's a huge understatement. He does -- and this is going to not help that in terms of having Warren and Harris coming out and saying they are in favor of reparations. They, even if they hadn't said that they would already be doing better with non-white voters than Bernie. So, this is just going to add to that.
And some of the advantages that Bernie had saying he's the only one who is saying free healthcare. He was the only one who is saying free college. He's not the only one anymore. He's also not the one -- only one drawing these huge passionate crowds anymore. Kamala Harris had drawn a huge crowd.
TIMPF: So, a lot of the advantages that he had, he does -- they're not unique to him anymore. And the problems that he's had are still there.
KURTZ: All right. Now there was a New York Times in the last couple of days. It was building on similar pieces in Huff Post and BuzzFeed about Amy Klobuchar who is also as you know running for president. And very similar in this in that unnamed staffers behind any curtain of anonymity are saying she is a very tough boss, she is abusive to the staff. The staff didn't like her and all of that.
There is one killer anecdote its got which is about how getting on a plane. An aide forgot her fork and she had to eat her salad with a comb and she told the aide to wash the comb.
My problem with all of these stories including the one in the Times, Jessica, is that nobody is on the record.
KURTZ: There are all people who used to work for her and everybody is taking punch as in not one person will have their names used.
TARLOV: Yes, absolutely. And you would think with the fact that it's a huge part of the story that she has such high turnover that there would be someone who would be willing to use their names.
No, I'm not doubting the veracity of the fact that Amy Klobuchar is a tough boss. She dealt with this directly in her interview with Bret Baier and she talks about it in her CNN town hall. And said she demands a lot and she gives a lot back to her staff and to her constituents in Minnesota which is why she is so popular there.
But a story like this it's great fodder for Twitter, certainly it's entertaining. And I think actually in such a crowded field it can work to her advantage to at least have her name continue to come out because she doesn't have the role that Kamala Harris had as Kat pointed out there and she didn't pack an Oakland arena, for instance.
KURTZ: Right. Right. And the --
TARLOV: And so, I don't know if it hurts her.
KURTZ: Yes. The Times did get some internal e-mails of making this point and now everybody is doing stories about which is the best comb to use if you want to eat something, Kat.
KURTZ: But again, the aide spoke anonymously because of fear of reprisal according to the times. And that's B.S. They don't work for her anymore. What is she going to do?
TIMPF: I don't know. Maybe she's so tough that even if you work for her before she's going to show up at your house and say, hey, wash this egg salad off my comb. No, I don't know. I would also think that someone would be able to go on the record.
But I disagree with Jessica. I think the fact that this is probably been the most media coverage that she's gotten since she announced --
KURTZ: In this snowstorm.
TIMPF: -- it's not really a good thing.
TIMPF: It's not so much the fact that she used the comb to eat the egg salad because I guess, you know, you got to live your life when you need egg salad. You need egg salad. It was the problem that she allegedly rudely forced her aide to clean the eggs off her comb.
KURTZ: Well --
TIMPF: And nobody wants to do that.
TIMPF: You should probably clean your own mail (Ph) off your comb if you're going to go down that road.
KURTZ: By the way, she did tell her the comb story on herself than I think we've just probably given it more air time than it deserves. But great to see both of you.
TARLOV: Yes. Thanks a lot.
KURTZ: Jessica Tarlov, Kat Timpf, thanks for spending Sunday with us.
Still to come, R. Kelly indicted on sexual abuse charges. Why did the music industry look the other way during years of journalistic expose? That's next.
KURTZ: R. Kelly was indicted Friday on 10 counts of aggravated sexual abuse involving what prosecutors say with four girls, at least three of whom were under the age of 17.
Nobody has been more a dog (Ph) in pursuit than Jim DeRogatis, a Chicago music journalist who's been chasing such rumors and allegations for nearly two decades. In fact, he did a disturbing expose' for BuzzFeed in 2017.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM DEROGATIS, CO-HOST, SOUND OPINIONS: What is different here from the many allegations dating back to the mid-90s against R. Kelly is that these women are being held against their will is what the parents and other sources are saying.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: And that led to a lifetime documentary "Surviving R. Kelly" that aired last month prompting RCA Records to drop Kelly.
Joining us now Britt McHenry, co-host of Un-PC on Fox Nation. So, you wrote about the "Lifetime" documentary --
BRITT MCHENRY, FOX NEWS CO-HOST: I did.
KURTZ: -- which seems to revive interest in all of this. And you said a lot of celebrities were asked to be interviewed and only John Legend, the singer who had the guts you say to speak on camera.
MCHENRY: And I didn't usually agree with much John Legend says politically but kudos to him because he was the only one and he said it's no issue to address a serial child rapist. And he had the courage to come forward when Jay-Z did a collaborative album with him while he had charges back in 2002. And people about this. It was ongoing. He was acquitted of 14 counts in 2008. I mean, this has been going on --
KURTZ: Of 14 counts on a child case.
MCHENRY: Yes. This has been going on for two decades --
MCHENRY: -- that the industry knew about this.
KURTZ: And then, you know, Spotify comes along and bans R. Kelly. And then three weeks later, just last year, it says, well, we're changing our artist conduct policy and that's the end of that.
KURTZ: Do you think given the fact that there were certain journalists and organizations that were staying with this for two decades, that much of the mainstream media shied away from this story, and there were years when it didn't really get much talked because either they got bored with the R. Kelly story or they just found the whole thing with underage girls and sex videos as distasteful.
MCHENRY: Yes, I think we're at a point now and credit to the Me Too movement where there is a harsher light on any man who's violating women, especially underaged children. One of which met him and wanted an autograph at the 2008 hearing for these girls.
Now in these charges, three of the four women that they're looking at in this case are underage. One of which met him and wanted an autographed at the 2008 hearing for these charges. So I think that it's absolutely it need -- it's good that it's being taken care of but it's --
KURTZ: Right. But often in this case is I say, well, you know, how come no reporters knew about this and where was the press. There actually were people and Jim DeRogatis is not the only one --
KURTZ: -- who stayed on the R. Kelly case and yet, it just didn't seem to get much traction.
MCHENRY: Because he was a --
KURTZ: Obviously, that will change now.
MCHENRY: He was a star and he was raking in money. And I think that's what people wanted.
KURTZ: You're ringing the cash register.
MCHENRY: Yes. You know, Damon Dash was with Aaliyah who was also, you know, rumored to have been married to him underage. There was a lot of confusion about that, but he said, you know, I won't, that's what separated me in Jay-Z. I won't work with someone who is going to be associated with R. Kelly. And then I found out he was in one of his music videos.
MCHENRY: At the same time these people knew that he made money. He made good news like he had talent so they excused his just despicable behavior and we're seeing that now.
KURTZ: Yes. That's a good point.
MCHENRY: But that journalist did not.
KURTZ: Let me move you to New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft who you probably heard has been charged with a misdemeanor for soliciting sex in a Florida massage parlor along with about 150 other guys including a couple of executives. OK. Dumb move for a multi-billionaire.
KURTZ: He's 77, his wife has died. Is it really worth all this round the clock coverage? There were headlines everywhere. It's on TV constantly. Because people hate the Patriots, they don't like Kraft.
MCHENRY: I actually do. I think this could be much more expansive. We need to wait for more details to come out and how involved the sex trafficking is.
KURTZ: The larger story, absolutely.
MCHENRY: Yes, the larger story.
KURTZ: But let's face it. This is driven by the fact that Kraft has got, you know, seven Super Bowl rings.
KURTZ: Or whatever it is. And he's got a lot of money and he's a famous guy and a lot of people are enjoying this. And you don't think it's overplayed?
MCHENRY: I don't. This is where I get, I don't. Because he went twice. He allegedly went twice to this --
MCHENRY: They have video footage of him.
MCHENRY: And I think we need to remind ourselves of that bigger picture when we start to think, this is towards the hate of Patriots.
KURTZ: So is it because -- so unlike the other 150 guys. Is it because and I'm not diminishing the crime --
KURTZ: -- but is it because he's an NFL owner there could be repercussions in the league? Is that part of what you think --
MCHENRY: yes. And he's an owner of the most of winning team right now in this current era.
MCHENRY: So, they got six Super Bowls and then he goes to every home in a way game. So, it would be interesting to see if Roger Goodell ends up punishment as well.
KURTZ: All right. Too sensitive issues here. Britt McHenry, great to see you. Thanks so much. That's it for this edition of Media Buzz. I'm Howard Kurtz.
But the way, did you about Vanity Fair disinviting. There is a Media Buzz Meter podcast tease and you can subscribe there to an Apple iTunes or at Foxnewspodcast.com. Vanity Fair disinviting the New York Times from tonight's big Oscars bash because the Times wrote a story saying the party, you know, is pretty hot but used to be much hotter. Wow.
Check us out on Facebook and twitter. Check out the Media Buzz Meter podcast. We got to go. See you next Sunday with the latest buzz.
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