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Obama Quits Trinity Church; McClellan Releases Tell-All Book

Aired June 1, 2008 - 10:00   ET




HOWARD KURTZ, CNN HOST: Damage control. Obama quits his church after the cable networks led by Fox News keep replaying this video of another inflammatory sermon by another Chicago pastor.

Truth teller or turncoat? Liberal pundits embrace Scott McClellan's Bush-bashing book while conservatives denounce the former ally. Did he come clean about the president or cash in on his betrayal?

Tarnished talk show queen. Oprah's endorsement of Obama could be hurting her at the box office.

Sex for sale. The media goes gaga over four actresses and a movie. How did we become glorified publicity agents? Plus when exactly did pundit become a dirty word?

It took 10 tedious and contentious hours as anyone who watched on cable knows all too well. But Democratic Party officials voted yesterday to seek the disputed Florida and Michigan delegations with half the voting power. And if you believe the pundits who are never wrong, right, that removes the last obstacle to Barack Obama's nomination, regardless today's voting in Puerto Rico or two other states on Tuesday.

But there was an equally dramatic development as Obama after defending for a long time his church, Jeremiah Wright's former church, Chicago's Trinity Church resigned the membership. That happened because Fox News played a video again and again Thursday and Friday of another pastor delivering another racially insensitive sermon prompting CNN and MSNBC to give it time as well, prompting the night newscasts to show the video Friday night and "The New York Times" finally did a story yesterday. Here is Father Michael Pfleger in action.


PFLEGER: I'm Bill's wife. I'm white. And this is mine sent out November where came, hey, I'm Barack Obama. I'm white! I'm entitled! There's a black man stealing my show!


KURTZ: Joining us to talk about the developments, the Scott McClellan book and a lot of other things, Marta Raddatz, ABC chief White House correspondent.

And veterans from two administrations, Joe Lockhart who was President Clinton's press secretary. And David Frum, former speechwriter for President Bush who now serves as a contributing editor for "National Review."

Martha Raddatz, on the DNC meeting yesterday, I didn't watch all 10 hours.


KURTZ: The media verdict is this, reasonable compromise, Harold Ickes on behalf of Hillary Clinton, his threat to take this to the Credentials Committee at the end of June, not that likely to happen, Obama got this locked up and Hillary is toast. Fair summary?

RADDATZ: I'd say that is a pretty fair summary if you didn't watch all 10 hours if, you didn't see the protested, if you didn't see the emotion that Harold Ickes exhibited, if you didn't see the aftermath of the protesters. You've never seen anything like that afterwards. It was incredible.

But I think in the end I think people are moving forward, especially after Tuesday. No matter what Hillary Clinton does or tries to do, I think you'll see Barack Obama continue to basically ignore that and move towards the general election. Was that 10 seconds, Howard?

KURTZ: No, I took 10 seconds, you took 20.

David, from Obama, of course closely identified with Trinity Church for 20 years. Jeremiah Wright story, first defended Jeremiah Wright, continued to defended church. Finally yesterday he pulls the plug on the membership. And because of that video that we've seen - that we've all seen now 50 probably times. Do you have the sense that Fox and others were pushing this hard?

DAVID FRUM, "NATIONAL REVIEW": Well, it's an amazing moment of TV. And anyway, you think Obama has already filed his application for membership at St. Johns in Lafayette Square.

KURTZ: Meaning he's moving to Washington.

FRUM: I think that is the plan. Here is what is strange about all this to me. When Hillary Clinton made that slip about Robert Kennedy, we were subjected to hours and hours and hours of media speculation about how evil exactly her intentions were. If the press doesn't like you or made up its mind it now doesn't like you, it just doesn't like you. Barack Obama gives the speech in Philadelphia in what was a month and a half ago. It was an -- a non-answer to a whole series of questions. It was an evasion. We can't talk about the question. We're going to talk about the history of race in America. Now he resigns in the church. He contradicted everything he said in the speech. I won't disown my church, as if he learned something in the last eight weeks he didn't learn in the previous 20 years. It's not plausible. Yet, he'll get a pass on it. Hillary won't get a pass on RFK.

KURTZ: Well, he certainly hasn't gotten a pass so far on Jeremiah Wright or this pastor, Michael Pfleger, whom he has known this guy for 20 years but he hardly had the close relation. My question to you, Joe Lockhart, was Fox pushing this? Or was Fox right? Was fox ahead of the mainstream media? Everyone seems to agree this was a horribly embarrassing moment for that church.

JOE LOCKHART, FORMER CLINTON STAFFER: I think fox has the wrong agenda. They have kicked into it's now in their view Obama versus McCain. I think you're going to see a lot of critical coverage of Obama from Fox. I think the interesting thing going on here is, you know, Obama has tried to rewrite the rules a little bit and he has, in many ways, about how you cover and how he's going to run his campaign. But he found out here, you know what? The rules of DC, the press, you know, sort of the gotcha -- sometimes you can't get around. That you just have to say, it may not be right. But if I want to win the presidency, I have to play by the rules. I can't change everything. I think that's what yesterday was about in resigning from the church.

KURTZ: Especially if there's video. This was much more of a TV story than it was a newspaper story. Newspapers were a little slow on it in my view. Let's take a little bit -- a quick look at what Barack Obama had to say, Martha Raddatz in explaining why he was now severing his relationship with Chicago's Trinity Church.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We've had news organizations harassing members and their homes and workplaces. We've had reporters grabbing church bulletins and calling up the sick and the shut-ins in an attempt to get news about the church.


KURTZ: Now that may have happened.

RADDATZ: So he did it for the people.

KURTZ: Was that real reason that he is cutting this cord?

RADDATZ: I think as Joe talks about, I mean Fox may have led the way on this. But this was the second time. This was the second really embarrassing incident in that church. And no matter what Barack Obama said about it before and I'm going to stick behind him, I'll stick with the church, this was the second time. And I think that has to push someone when they see something like that, that sort of inflammatory video, you got to do something.

FRUM: It wasn't the second time. It's the 2,000th time. It is the second time that happened to show up on video clip. RADDATZ: Second person.

FRUM: Well, I mean, there are other, magazines, the Louis Farrakhan tribute issues. There are a lot of embarrassing incidents. When I say Barack Obama will get a pass, he won't get a pass on Michael Pfleger. But he is getting a pass on when confronted about this and he gave the Philadelphia speech, his complete evasion and non-answer answer to the question. How could you sit in the pew for 20 years? What does this tell us about you? He has just refused to do that. That is the part where he gotten a pass whereas Hillary Clinton's unconvincing story about Robert Kennedy that, got no pass.

KURTZ: You didn't like the speech. But is there, by any fair measure, the media giving Barack Obama pass on Jeremiah Wright and Trinity Church?

LOCKHART: I don't think they have. What he tried to do is say I'm not going to play by your gotcha rules. I'm going to tell you -- I'm going to have a different story line here. And because people have cameras and they now catch everything on video that they possibly could, I think he made the correct assumption yesterday that I tried to do it my way. I can't. I've got to do it their way in order to get this behind me.

RADDATZ: Which by no means means it's over. Hello general election.

This was sort of damage control.

LOCKHART: And I think there is -- there's a second part of this story. One of the things that John McCain is walking right now is he needs Christian conservatives. For every whacko like this guy, there is another one on the far right who said just as crazy things, just as inflammatory things. And John McCain stood with them. He'll face all of this, too. They're going to catch -- they're going to get caught on camera soon.

KURTZ: I want to come back. It utterly dominated the news last weekend when Hillary Clinton in an interview with a South Dakota up into made a reference to primaries go on until June. Remember, Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in 1968.

RADDATZ: Just last week? Boy.

KURTZ: Seems like ten years ago -- but every pundit had to weigh n one that was harsh was MSNBC's Keith Olbermann.


KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC HOST: This, Senator, is too much because a senator, a politician, a person who can let hanging in mid-air the prospect that she might just be sticking around in part just in case the other guy gets shot has no business being and no capacity to be the president of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KURTZ: With a benefit of a week's distance, did we all just overreact to that RFK mention?

RADDATZ: Well, I think it was a stunning comment. It really was. And you really do hear something like that and say what was she thinking? How could she not think of the fact that Robert Kennedy's name brings up assassination, not a long fight before -- with diligence (ph)?

KURTZ: So the heavy coverage was deserved in your view?

RADDATZ: I think it was deserved in my view, yes.

KURTZ: Let me turn to the other big story this week. The critique is stinging. George W. Bush is a stubborn isolated president who led the nation into an unnecessary war. The author was surprising, Scott McClellan, a former press secretary who seemed such a loyal member of the white house inner circle. And the media reaction predictable. Liberals paying respect to the tongue tied spokesman they once mocked, at least some liberals, and conservatives ripping their former ally as a traitor.


JAMES CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: He was absolutely a team player. And that probably gives what he has to say in this book some added credibility or credence.

BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS HOST: But insinuating sinister action by the president doesn't hold up even though the far left kooks love.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: I'm fed up with these phonies.


KURTZ: As a great debate raged, did McClellan suffer a belated attack of congress or he is trying to peddle books? The former spokesman hit the talk show circuit.


MEREDITH VIEIRA, NBC NEWS: What do you say, Scott, to people who have been harsher than Dan was just now? Believe what you're trying to do is really cash in on your years in this administration?

MCCLELLAN: Well, first of all, you know, again, I'm disappointed that things didn't turn out the way we all hoped they would.

KATIE COURIC, CBS NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Why didn't you come forward with the criticisms earlier?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The question, is it's a blunt one, are you a hypocrite?

MCCLELLAN: No. That was part of our talking points at the time. OLBERMANN: Have you been surprised that most of the criticism is personal as opposed to, say, refuting facts that perhaps you got right and nobody wants to talk about?

MCCLELLAN: I had noticed that.


KURTZ: Joe Lockhart, if Scott McClellan had written a book and said on balance President Bush did a pretty good job. I don't think he'd be getting 45 minutes on Keith Olbermann.

LOCKHART: He wouldn't be and I wouldn't be here this morning.

KURTZ: So that would suggest that media loves defectors, especially, you know, here's somebody turning on his president, his close friend.

RADDATZ: I don't know if it's the media loves defectors. I think it's stunning because Scott McClellan was the face of that presidency and probably part of the media outrage is because a lot of us are still there. A lot of us are still on the front row. And there is this -- why didn't you tell thus before if you thought it? I think there is a wonderful column by Peggy Noonan, however, when she says, let's look at the facts not just who delivered the facts. And she said feed history. He gave them a super sized meal on this one.

KURTZ: If you turn on Fox News, you see O'Reilly, Hannity, Gingrich, Rove denouncing McClellan as a traitor.

FRUM: Yes. First I would say, I did write a book on balance that said President Bush did a pretty good job. And there are -- Scott McClellan this is an important story. Not for what Scott McClellan says but for what this reveals about the workings of the Bush administration. One of the things that President Bush, one of the great failures as a manager is he put loyalty ahead of competence. And Scott McClellan is proof positive. He had no business being press secretary. He was awful at the job. It was painful to watch him. He got the job because he was somebody's deputy. And one of the way the Bush administration works is they promote the deputy then the deputy of the deputy of the deputy and then the deputy of the deputy.

KURTZ: Now he sees the light ...

FRUM: When you put somebody in a position where they can't do the job. They're going to fail. When they fail, they become bitter. When they become bitter, that eventually bubbles up. Worms turn. And this is -- this is ...

RADDATZ: Not to be harsh or anything.

FRUM: This is an example of -- this is not just -- I'm not saying that as an indictment on McClellan. McClellan should not have been on that stage. What lead to this moment is management problems that put him on the stage in the first place and put a lot of other people who should not have been on their jobs in their jobs. RADDATZ: Yet, he seemed like a robot with a new software program on this one. I mean he was on message. It was just a very different message that he was -- he was delivering.

KURTZ: Let me ask Joe Lockhart who worked in the previous White House, is it understandable that Dana Perino and Karl Rove and Ari Fleischer would rip this guy who they thought was a friend? Clinton loyalists didn't like the book that George Stephanopoulos wrote in the middle of Clinton's administration.

LOCKHART: I mean it's become part of the White House warfare playbook. Which is when you don't like the facts are out there, assassinate the character. And now we have derivative assassination. Really, Scott McClellan was just incompetent and shouldn't have been on the job. What is stunning about the book and what is getting lost in this character assassination is what he said. You have someone who was arguably on the inside watching. I don't think he was a participant in many of these decisions. Certainly he watched the decisions being made saying the president led us into war and deceived the country in doing it. And, in fact, he was a terrible president. That -- we're going to get past all of this was Scott McClellan a good guy or bad guy and somebody has to deal with the charges he's making. There is no defense. There is nobody saying he's wrong on this point or he is wrong on that point which means he's right.

KURTZ: Let me play ...

RADDATZ: The White House is coming out ...

KURTZ: Let me play a little bit of McClellan back in the White House days and ask you to react on the other side.


MCCLELLAN: And if you recall, I said that as part of helping the investigators move forward on the investigation, we're not going to get into commenting on that. That was something that I stated back near that time as well.

DAVID GREGROY, NBC NEWS: Scott, I mean just -- this is ridiculous. The notion that you're going to stand before us after having commented with that level of detail and tell people watching this that somehow you decided not to talk?

HELEN THOMAS, HEARST NEWS SERVICE: Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11.

MCCLELLAN: Well, you have a very different view of the war on terrorism and I'm sure you're opposed to the broader war on terrorism.

KURTZ: It was very hard to get information out of this guy when he was the spokesman.

RADDATZ: Very hard to get information out of Scott. And I know the first one which is about Valerie Plame, I know that Scott McClellan was very tortured about that at the time, felt misled probably at the time. But this broad indictment of the Bush administration, after his defense of the Iraq War in particular and that is at the core of this book, the criticism about the Iraq War, you just have to say, what was going on those seven years? What's going on now? You have to talk about what the job of the press secretary really is.

KURTZ: Here is my two cents. Obviously a press secretary has to serve the president as you know, Joe, well as the public. For McClellan to turn on Bush is clearly a ticket for him to be embraced by the media. I watched all the interviews and I've read all the interviews. He's not fully been able to answer these questions. Why didn't he speak up before even in private? Why didn't he resign if he was so troubled by the questions? Is he doing this for money? I think we'll hear more in the days ahead. Let me get a break.

When we come back, Scott McClellan's criticism of the media particularly in the run-up to the Iraq War. We'll take a look at that.


KURTZ: Scott McClellan blames himself in part for peddling what he calls propaganda in the run-up of the Iraq War but he also blames the so-called media for falling down on the job. Here are reactions from Katie Couric about her time at ABC and CNN correspondent Jessica Yellin about her time at MSNBC.


KATIE COURIC, CBS NEWS: I think it's one of the most embarrassing chapters in American journalism. And I think there was a sense of pressure from corporations who own where we work and from the government itself to really squash any kind of dissent.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN: The press corps was under enormous pressure to make sure this is a war presented in a way consistent with the patriotic fever in the nation. My own experience at the White House was that the higher the president's approval ratings, the more pressure I had from news executives, and I was not at this network at the time, but the more pressure I had to put on positive stories about the president.


KURTZ: MSNBC spokesman says that Jessica Yellin was a disgruntled employee who was not directly involved in editorial decisions. She stands by her comment but says she wasn't suggesting that corporate executives were directly telling her what to say. Now you were a Pentagon reporter at this time.

RADDATZ: State Department, Pentagon, national security, all that.

KURTZ: Do you agree that looking back that the media fell short during this march to war? RADDATZ: First of all, we're not a monolithic thing here. But my own experience, and I say this from the bottom of my heart, I was never pressured at all. Now Peter Jennings, if you will remember, didn't - and David Weston, president of ABC has said this since, Peter Jennings did not think there were weapons of mass destruction. So Peter on all occasions would question his reporters and push us. And say are you sure about this? Are you sure about that? Now as reporters, we cover. We covered Congress. We covered reaction there. We did not have access to that intelligence. Wish we had.

But in the end, and I think Scott McClellan writes this, George Bush decided to take the country to war even though most people believe there were weapons of mass destruction. It was his decision that sent us to war. But I got absolutely no pressure.

KURTZ: But I wonder if there was self-imposed pressure, Joe Lockhart. The Bush administration did subtly convey a sense that if you were challenging this rationale too aggressively, maybe there was a whiff of being unpatriotic.

LOCKHART: I think there was. I think a lot of people were caught up in the post 9/11 reaction of, you know, how are things different now? As you remember, everybody thought things are different now. Journalists were no different. And there were members -- Democratic members of Congress, particularly in the Senate -- did not speak up in a way they should and ask the questions they should. But I do think there was a sense that -- and almost an excitement, I thought, among many journalists about this is going to be a war. This is going to be our answer. And some of the skepticism that should have been there wasn't. And it came across as almost enthusiasm for going to war.

KURTZ: Do you agree with that?

FRUM: I agree with that. I completely disagree with the explanation of why it happened. I think it was this -- remember that famous "Saturday Night Live" sketch in 1990 about reporters asking what we can possibly do that is the most damaging to Operation Desert Storm? And then Afghanistan, the dreaded Afghan winter. Reporters reported very skeptically on the last two wars. Reported them as ending disasters. And they were horrifically wrong both times. Going into Iraq that when the generals said 130,000 troops will be sufficient, they believed them because they had disbelieved them twice and been wrong.

And this time they believed them and they were again wrong. But it was the memory of those previous experiences, much more than these vague, you can never quite put your finger, I felt under pressure. And frankly, that's a disgraceful answer. If you felt under pressure, you should buck the pressure.

KURTZ: I think there's no question that many news organizations were not as aggressive and skeptical as they should have been. It was a time after 9/11 when there was a very different tenor in the country. We have to leave it there. David Frum, Joe Lockhart, Martha Raddatz, thank you very much for joining us this morning. Up next, Rupert Murdoch shows the love for a presidential candidate. It's not who you might expect. Matt Lauer reunited with Katie Couric. What's up with that? And joking about assassinations on Fox. Our media minute straight ahead.


KURTZ: Time now for the latest in the news business in our "Media Minute." It was a tantalizing tease. Katie Couric, NBC's one time queen of morning television, now the CBS anchor going back to her old show?


MATT LAUER, NBC NEWS: Tomorrow morning here on "Today," remember Katie Couric?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I heard about her.

LAUER: Katie is coming back here for the first time tomorrow.


LAUER: No. No.


KURTZ: Well, Couric did return to "Today" and went on "Good Morning America" and the "Early Show" as well. And she had company. Brian Williams and Charlie Gibson joining forces to publicize a fund- raising telethon, Stand Up to Cancer, that will air Labor Day on NBC, CBS and ABC.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We all want to say together, one, two, three ...

CROWD: Good morning, America.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You watched her in the news.

UNIDENTIFED MALE: And cable news.

COURIC: TiVo the other guy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One evening broadcast.

COURIC: We're going to be a troika of anchors every night. That will solve a lot of problems.


KURTZ: So what was it like for Katie to return 30 Rock? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COURIC: It is really fun. Honestly, I'm so happy to see everyone. I miss everyone. I don't want to be like a weird stalker outside. I don't want to have a sign that says hi Matt and Meredith, how are you.


KURTZ: She sure looked comfortable.

Journalists are as capable of anyone of making utterly tasteless jokes. But this one by Fox News contributor Liz Trotta set some kind of record.


LIZ TROTTA, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: And now we have, what, some are reading as a suggestion that somebody knock off Osama. Obama. Well, both, if we could.


KURTZ: Wow. Confusing a presidential candidate with a terrorist leader and then imaging, well, at least she had the good sense to apologize for what she called a lame attempt at humor. Very lame.

Which big time media figure has been gushing over Barack Obama with these words. "He is a rock star. It's fantastic. I love what he's saying about education. He will win in Ohio in Ohio and the election. I am anxious to meet him."

The answer -- Rupert Murdoch. Yes, the owner of Fox News, "The New York Post," "The Weekly Standard" and "The Wall Street Journal" says Obama rocks. Murdoch likes John McCain but says he doesn't seem to know much about the economy and what does he really stand for?

I wonder if Fox will be getting a Rupert memo on this? Meanwhile Murdoch weighed in on the feud between Bill O'Reilly and Keith Olbermann. He boasted having fired Olbermann as a Fox sportscaster and not surprisingly he blames the vitriol on MSNBC.


RUPERT MURDOCH, NEWSCORP: It is out of control. He started it. And we've had bitter personal attacks on some of our people in trying to destroy our credibility as a network. Thankfully, the public is not interested.


KURTZ: Not interested? I find it endlessly fascinating. Coming up in the second half of RELIABLE SOURCES, Oprah's ratings are slipping. She endorsed Barack Obama. Is the press ginning up a story line connecting those two dots? Sarah Jessica Parker and the gang on the big screen. Has any movie ever gotten so much media hype? Plus the wrong recipe for Rachael Ray. How did conservative bloggers convince Dunkin Donuts she looked like a terrorist sympathizer?



KURTZ: Thanks, Rob.

Oprah is a cultural phenomenon. An icon, a brand. Syndicated talk show, "O Magazine," book club czar, XM satellite programmer, Fortune 500 executive, founder of the South African girls' school and this year for the first time Miss Winfrey also got involved in politics.


OPRAH WINFREY, TALK SHOW HOST: South Carolina, I do believe he's the one to bring us the audacity of hope, Barack Obama!


KURTZ: So does that have anything to do with a dip in her ratings? "The New York Times" the latest report on Nielsen numbers showing a seven percent drop this year for her day time show which still averages more than 7 million viewers. So are some Oprah fans turned off by her backing of Barack?

Joining us to talk about this and some other cultural news from Los Angeles, Sharon Waxman, former "New York Times" correspondent whose Web site is called Waxword. And Ray Richmond, media and entertainment columnist for "The Hollywood Reporter." we'll get to your garb there in a moment, but do you buy that Oprah's dip in the ratings and "O Magazine" circulation is linked to embrace of Barack Obama?

RAY RICHMOND, "HOLLYWOOD REPORTER": I think her dip in ratings is based on the endorsement in the embrace of Oprah Winfrey. You know, for some reason she gets a pass on overexposure. But, you know, the woman is everywhere constantly. Her own picture is on the cover of her magazine every month. She's got this OWN, Oprah Winfrey Network coming up later this year. I mean I think she's copyrighted the vowel O. So now you have to pay a fee every time you use one in a sentence.

KURTZ: All right.

RICHMOND: I mean the woman -- she's basically a money machine. And she's -- she's pervasive and omnipotent. She's all over the place.

KURTZ: You sound like you've ODed. But Sharon Waxman, doesn't it stand to reason that Hillary Clinton fans or Republicans who like her show could be a little turned off by the political campaigning? SHARON WAXMAN, WAXWORD: Yeah. I mean I agree with ray. I don't know that it directly relates to a dip in ratings. There have been dips in her ratings, minor ones and then she comes back over the years. And don't forget, media landscape is continual fragmenting. She is still this huge presence and draws a huge audience.

But if you look at the people who blog on her Web site and who've spoken out, there is a lot of dissatisfaction among the core viewers who are supporting Hillary. That is exactly the reason why celebrities and media personalities tend not to take political positions because it does affect part of their audience. It does alienate part of the audience.

You're talking right in her sweet spot. So I think that you can look and you can hear the voices of her viewers who are not happy about her having done that. She took a risk and she took it for a reason. Because she believes in something. I think it is affecting her.

KURTZ: I think you're right. I should also point out that ratings for television generally are down after the strike and all that.

But Ray Richmond, just briefly, you wrote a column in 2004 saying "Oprah should get involved with the presidential campaign, do some interviews with candidates" and that sort of the thing. What was the response?

RICHMOND: Back when it was Kerry-Bush, I did actually kind of call her out and say she was the one person who could make a difference and have people debate the issues on her show. And then I get a phone call from her that day. And suddenly she's got four producers on the line with her self. I mean I'm in the middle of a story meeting. She is saying OK, Mr. Smarty-pants, how would you do it for my show? So for 15 minutes I'm giving her advice and saying here's what you should do. You're Oprah, you can do this. You know, she actually took it all very well and, you know, the point was well taken. And I just thought, wow, I'm really a hypocrite. Here I'm saying she thinks she's God-like and, you know, deified by the populace and I'm like, oh my gosh, I was touched by Oprah, she called me. So I felt like a hypocrite myself. I also now believe that I am partly responsible for her endorsement of Obama through the back door.

KURTZ: All right. Well, that's an interesting view of it. You're of course the only person that actually got a call from Oprah. Let me broaden the discussion slightly, Sharon Waxman. You made the point that talk show hosts try to appeal to a mass audience. We also have Ellen DeGeneres, very popular talk show. Everybody knows that she's gay. Now she says she's going to get married because of this California Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage. Let's take a brief look at her with Senator McCain on a recent program.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We just have a disagreement and I along with many, many others who wish you every happiness.

ELLEN DEGENERES, TALK SHOW HOST: Thank you. So you'll walk me down the aisle? Is that what you're saying?


KURTZ: So, Sharon, could that turn off some viewers in a country where a majority are still against gay marriage?

WAXMAN: I don't know. I think that Ellen has really branded herself as somebody who is going to take a stand for gay and lesbian rights. And she has managed to make a huge success of that talk show after she came out. So there's no secrets there. In fact, she kind of brandishes it as a part of her identity. I don't -- I don't know -- that's -- I see that as a different thing. I can see that was an extremely uncomfortable moment for John McCain there, my God.

KURTZ: There is no question about that.

Now the world may have noticed, unless you've been living in a cave without electricity that, new movie debuted this weekend, "Sex and the City." Boy has this thing got a lot of publicity. Just take a brief look at some of what's been chattered about on the airwaves.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is a moment we've been waiting for for years, "Sex and the City" movie.

JULIE CHEN, CBS NEWS: It is "Sex and the City" week here at the "Early Show." We're counting down to the big premier.

ROBIN ROBERTS, ABC NEWS: They're playing the song. The movie women across America have been waiting four years to see.


KURTZ: Now Ray Richmond, "Sex and the City" is a cultural phenomenon. I like the show. The media is totally in the tank with this movie, haven't they?

RICHMOND: Completely. I mean, you know, female members of the media are like, hey this is a female happening. This is a phenomenon. You know, this is, you know, a female empowerment event, not a movie. And men are like, you know, men have always been kind of, you know, I think on the sidelines kind of quietly envious of the whole thing and think that the women on the show are, you know, are attractive or whatever.

And, you know, I think it's -- it's smart canny marketing. They marketed, to you know, to the fans of the show of which there are tens of millions. And poured a lot of money into it and it worked. It is still basically a glorified episode. My girlfriend and daughter went to saw it over the weekend. She came back to me and started ordering me around the house. I'm not sure what that is about. KURTZ: If it primarily appeals to women we need to get Sharon Waxman in here. I'm not an expert on Manolo Blahniks, but everyone says this is about the shoes and clothes and shopping and the stuff.

WAXMAN: Yeah. It is. I think what we're going to see -- first of all, it's a chance for women to finally have a movie for them, Hollywood has ignored women for years. So maybe we can say that over 40 will be the new 12 to 14 after this weekend. Considering this film is probably going to take in something like $60 to $70 million just this weekend which is absolutely precedent setting for a movie of this kind starring all these women.

And it may actually be a one off. But that won't stop Hollywood from trying to go off and make, you know, a whole bunch of knockoffs.

KURTZ: Ray ...

WAXMAN: No disrespect intended to Manolo Blahnik.

KURTZ: I have to move on. You dressed up for us, Ray. As always for this question about the Dunkin Donuts commercial, put up the picture.

RICHMOND: I'm not sure what you're talking about, Howard.

KURTZ: She was wearing a scarf at least that some conservative Web site, Michelle Malkin, Little Green Footballs said look very much like a Kaffiyeh, an Arab scarf that has come to symbolize jihad. Pulled the ad. Does that seem plausible to you?

RICHMOND: I think it's proof that some among us are completely losing our minds. This, of course, is my subliminal message to the sweater loomers of Belfast.

But she -- let me get this straight. She's wearing a scarf and supposedly this is a message that she's with the Palestinians? And through a Dunkin Donuts ad? What's next? Is -- are George Will's bow ties emitting a death threat to Democrats? Actually, that's true. So it's a bad example.

KURTZ: I have 30 seconds. Let me get to Sharon ...


KURTZ: Bloggers must be very influential if they convinced a major company to yank this ad.

WAXMAN: Very influential. Yeah. What does that tell you about how sensitive Dunkin Donuts is? I thought the carbohydrates were the big enemy for them as opposed to politics. But, you know, that's not good for Rachael Ray. It's not good for Dunkin Donuts. I think the whole thing is definitely way over the top. But there have been political messages kind of pandering to the student population like at Urban Outfitters. They had a t-shirt on the Web site that had a Palestinian kid with a victimized splashed in front of it and carrying an AK-47. That did launch a whole campaign on Urban outfitters to take it down.

RICHMOND: I'm offended by the donuts.

KURTZ: I got to go. Sorry. We're out of time. Ray, love the outfit. Sharon Waxman, thanks for ..

WAXMAN: Don't love the outfit? What?

KURTZ: I love your outfit too.

WAXMAN: Thanks.

KURTZ: Selling international news to a domestic audience is no easy task. "Newsweek's" Fareed Zakaria hoping we can make the sale to CNN viewers. He's up next.


KURTZ: The conventional wisdom in television is that viewers are not interested in international news. Fareed Zakaria is about to test that proposition. The author, columnist and editor of "Newsweek International" has joined CNN as a contributor and his new weekly program debuts at 1:00 p.m. Eastern this afternoon. Just so there is no confusion over the host, it is called FAREED ZAKARIA GPS, or "Global Public Square."

And he joins me now from New York. Here is what I want to know. Let's put a picture of Barack Obama walking somewhere on the campaign trail and carrying a book. And the book happens to be "The Post- American World" by Fareed Zakaria. How did you get that into his hands?

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: I did not get it into his hands. Subsequently, I gather, he sent a message when I sort of just said I'm glad you are reading it. I'd like you to know that I bought it and I'm therefore contributing to your kids' college fund.

KURTZ: All right. Now let's talk about your news show. You would agree this is a challenge in that the average American viewer may have only a passing interest in China or Russia or Japan or even Africa?

ZAKARIA: I think it's a challenge as the conventional wisdom goes. But I'll tell you this, Howie. I think that we've got ourselves into a bad circular discussion here where we think Americans aren't interested in foreign news. So we show them so little of it that they know very little about it. And so stay uninterested in it. You see what I mean? At some point you have to test the proposition. What I found at "Newsweek" is that when we have put foreign subjects on the cover, if we do it right, if we make it compelling and if we kind of convey our passion for it, it actually works pretty well.

KURTZ: Most of the time when I see international news on an American TV, it generally involves wars, famines or natural disasters like the recent and tragic earthquake in China. So that would seem to suggest that programmers, producers, executives, think there is a limited window of interest.

ZAKARIA: I think that the feeling is that, you know, if it's bad news, if it's dramatic, if it's breaking, it can sell. But I actually think what is really interesting about what's going on around the world is often the longer term trends. So for instance, take the earthquake in China. The really interesting question is what's going to happen to the Communist Party and its control of China? You see the fascinating thing where you see protests and demonstrations and Communist Party officials apologizing for what they've done. And these are the guy who's used to run that and arrest protesters.

So if we can convey that this is a big moment in China and, you know, we wonder what is happening. It's in some ways also true, I think, Howie, that people after a while are going to get tired of, you know, the 97th discussion of Hillary versus Barack and who is going to drop out and what the super delegates are doing. And there are going to be people that watch television news who want to look up and say what else is going on around the world? And my advantage is I have the other 95 percent of humanity to talk about. And, you know, there's a lot of stuff happening.

KURTZ: Everybody else in the world. Let me ask you this. You think part of the reason we see less international news particularly in the broadcast networks is cutbacks? They don't have the series of bureaus around the globe that they once paid for.

ZAKARIA: I think that is absolutely true. That a lot of the -- for instance the networks believe in kind of a proprietary exclusivity. It has to be their footage, it has to be their correspondents but they can't afford it. Basically none of the networks have any foreign bureaus left outside of London and Iraq. The advantage at CNN is we've got, I don't know, 60, 70 people around the world. And we have fantastic correspondents. They have all kinds of interesting stories to tell. \ So in some ways CNN may be -- I mean I'm obviously -- I have a vested interest in saying this but CNN may the ideal place to do something like this. The show will broadcast in America. It will broadcast worldwide. I can draw in from all the people that CNN has all over the world. If anyone can make this work, it's CNN.

KURTZ: All right. I've got about a minute here. Obviously the biggest international story remains the Iraq War. And the coverage particularly on TV has shrunk dramatically. Maybe that's in part because of the presidential campaign. Do you think it's also in part because the surge is having minor success and journalists consider it big news only when Americans are dying in large numbers.

ZAKARIA: Absolutely. The surge has basically moved it from a kind of urgent story to an important story. And an important tends to always get crowded out by urgent. I think on the other hand, there are ways to tell the Iraq story that are more interesting because if you get in and you start talking to Iraqis, I mean that's part of what we're not doing enough of. I was once interviewing the deputy prime minister of Iraq. I asked him at the end, are you doing any TV here? He said, no, nobody wants me on. I turn on the television and I hear the anchors telling me what's happening in Iraq. But here I am in Washington, nobody wants to talk to me about it probably because I have an accent he said.

KURTZ: All right. Well, I'd be interested in more stories about how people live in foreign culture as opposed to the cabinet shakeups and as I say natural disasters we often cover.

ZAKARIA: I've got one viewer right from the start.

KURTZ: Fareed Zakaria, we'll look for you later today. In fact, the premier today as I said. FAREED ZAKARIA GPS, 1:00 p.m. Eastern. Former Prime Minister Tony Blair will be Zakaria's guest.

Still to come, everybody's taking shots at the pundits these days. How do they become such laughingstocks?


KURTZ: It used to be something to aspire to if you were a lowly scribe, a dogged reporter, someone accumulating wisdom about the art and science of politics. If you worked hard and got really lucky, you could grow up to be a pundit.


KURTZ: In the beginning, they were writers. Authors like Teddy White, newspapermen like James Reston, columnists like Stewart Alsop and Joseph Craft. And they were virtually all white men.

Network television brought us the likes of Eric Sevareid and Howard K. Smith. David Brinkley and George Will. And John McLaughlin and later Russert and Schieffer and Stephanopoulos.

The birth of CNN fueled the rise of Pat Buchanan and Tom Braden and Bob Novak. And the proliferation of cable network brought us today's A-list, O'Reilly, Olbermann, Dobbs, Hannity, Matthews, Beck, and the B list and the C list and the hacks who happen to be available when no one else was around.

But then things began to change. The pundits began making predictions. Bill Clinton will have to resign. Of course Bush will find the WMD. McCain is toast. Hillary can't win New Hampshire. And many of the predictions turn out to be wrong. And then the pundits bake a punching bag, useful foil for politician who want to cast themselves as defying conventional wisdom. Look who Hillary Clinton is running against in this ad and then how she and Barack Obama used the same formulation after their split decision in Kentucky and Oregon.


ANNOUNCER: In Washington, they talk about who's up and who's down. In Oregon, we care about what's right and what's wrong. SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) NY: Why do millions keep turning out to vote in the face of naysayers and skeptics? Because you know that our political process is more than candidates running or the pundits chattering.

OBAMA: When we were in the darkest days of this campaign. When we were dismissed by all the polls and all the pundits, I would come to Iowa and see that there was something happening here that the world did not yet understand.


KURTZ: So now pundits have become synonymous with gas bags, blowhards, know it all pretenders who recklessly rush to judgment and are out of touch with the American people. What a sad face for this once exclusive club. I wonder which idiots ruined it for the rest of us. That's it for this edition of RELIABLE SOURCES.

I'm Howard Kurtz. Join us again next Sunday morning 10:00 a.m. Eastern for another critical look at the media. LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER begins right now.