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Eastwood Makes Media's Day; Obama's Coronation: The Rerun; Yahoo! Fires Staffer Over Swipe

Aired September 2, 2012 - 11:00   ET


HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: We are in Charlotte this morning for the Democratic convention, and the hordes of journalists who just finished covering the Republican extravaganza in Tampa are starting to arrive.

We will look ahead to President Obama's renomination and whether the media will be as sympathetic to him as they were four years ago.

We will scrutinize reporting on Mitt Romney's convention which often seemed to be about everything else but the nominee, from the tropical storm to, yes, Clint Eastwood.

Plus, Yahoo! firing a top executive for a crude anti-Romney joke. Was the punishment too harsh?

I'm Howard Kurtz, and this is a special convention edition of RELIABLE SOURCES.


KURTZ: The challenge for journalists here in North Carolina is how to chronicle a Democratic convention that will never match the excitement of the one four years ago when Barack Obama was a brand new cultural phenomenon.

The challenge in Tampa was very different -- scrutinizing and analyzing a nominee the country doesn't know that well when other storylines kept overshadowing Mitt Romney's moment. When Romney finally gave his big address, he had the unenviable task of trying to match the sky-high expectations set by the pundits.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: You know there's something wrong with the kind of job he's done as president when the best feeling you had was the day you voted for him.

BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS: This was not a speech that -- that was designed to move an audience, although Romney himself was moved. This was a solid speech. This was a good speech. This is not a great speech.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC: But there was stuff at the end that began to be very dark, very jingoistic, very anti-scientific and really know-nothing. JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Romney delivered a well -- competently delivered a well-written speech that was utterly predictable.


KURTZ: But with tropical storm Isaac finally over, Romney faced competition from what I thought was a manmade disaster, the strange spectacle of Clint Eastwood.


CLINT EASTWOOD, ACTOR/DIRECTOR: But what do you want me to tell Romney? I can't tell him to do that. Can't do that to himself.

You're crazy. You're absolutely crazy.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: That was the weirdest thing I've seen at a political convention in my entire life.

ED SCHULTZ, MSNBC: I thought that Clint Eastwood was bizarre, and I thought it was demeaning to the presidency.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN: He was confusing, he was rambling. It was just a big mistake.

MICHELLE MALKIN, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I did think it was a little bit weird. But after dwelling on it and watching the replays a little more, I thought, this was -- this ended up being an unintendedly fantastic performance.


KURTZ: Joining us now here in Charlotte to talk about all this, David Drucker, reporter for "Roll Call"; Christina Bellantoni, political editor for "The PBS NewsHour"; and Lauren Ashburn, editor- in-chief of "Daily-Download", a Web site where I am also a contributor.

Lauren, you were in Tampa. Was Clint Eastwood's performance so, shall we say, unusual, that it warranted this tidal wave of media chatter and analysis?

LAUREN ASHBURN, DAILY-DOWNLOAD: Duh, right? I immediately tweeted out watching this crazy performance, this as some said, bizarro performance, that the RNC is going to regret it. They're going to regret it because you all of the hot air is going to be spent on Clint Eastwood, as it was. It took away from the Romney message.

I remember sitting there in the hall thinking, what? What's going on? Like -- what? Like a chair? You know, and I mean, I -- shocking.

KURTZ: It was incoherent at times. It was hard to follow.

ASHBURN: He was mumbling. I couldn't hear him in the hall. KURTZ: OK. We talked about the media coverage. Yesterday was the final day after the final day of the convention. "Washington Post," front page story, Clint Eastwood. Not the Mitt Romney speech.

OK, "Politico," I'm not making this up, I counted 17 headlines on "Politico's" home page about Clint Eastwood. A bit much?


KURTZ: Take a stand.

BELLANTONI: At the "NewsHour," we have a YouTube feed where we put up all of the videos from the speeches. And the Clint Eastwood speech last I checked had more than 300,000 views. The Romney speech was less than 10,000.

So this is something that people are interested in reading about or watching. They are Googling it. They are trying to sort of guest a sense of what happened. Of course, the media builds that up. That makes people want to go see what everybody's talking about.

But what's interesting about this, whether or not it was a mistake for the RNC isn't really for me to determine. But I will say that even if he had given a really effective speech, there are a lot of people in the younger generation that just don't know who Clint Eastwood is. There were several members of our staff who were trying -- what's that movie again? Didn't know the Dirty Harry line and stuff.

ASHBURN: Interesting.

BELLANTONI: For a party that's trying to connect with the younger audience as the Democrats obviously tended to be a little bit more successful at usually, that may not have been the right messenger.

ASHBURN: At the end, I loved when he said -- all right, everybody, you know, fill it in. Make my day. And they all did that.

KURTZ: Clint Eastwood made the media's day.

And I did talk to Romney advisers, David Drucker, said they didn't know what Clint Eastwood was going to do. Stuart Stevens, top strategist, told me he thought it played on the hall. And there were a lot of people laughing at the mockery of Obama. He thought it played well in America's living room, we don't know. And he doesn't care how it played in the green room, meaning the fact that most people in the press panned it.

DAVID DRUCKER, ROLL CALL: Right. Well, let's face it, who cares what we think? Because we're not the majority of voters.

What I found interesting is, of course, as journalists covering these conventions, what do we always complain about? Things are so scripted, everything's so predictable.


DRUCKER: The minute something -- the minute something happens that's not scripted and not predictable, oh, my God, how could they allow this to happen? How could they do something so unscripted and not control the message?

Here's what I found interesting, is that while I think they could have done without this, what I think is important is how did it play at home. And for the 50-plus voter in the heartland, out all over the country, I was checking with my family, checking Twitter. They loved it.

And -- and Republicans want to keep the younger vote down. How are they going win this? With the 50-plus voter who's concerned about Medicare, who's concerned about the economy. So again, maybe this was a mistake, but maybe it wasn't.

ASHBURN: After the tweet that I sent out, I got a tweet back from somebody who said, you are so wrong. This played so well in the flyover states. That's exactly the term he used.

KURTZ: Maybe the media elite were out of touch. But I will say this, what you want if you are the nominee of the party is everybody talking about your speech the next day. To the extent that it was Clint, Clint, Clint, make my day, I think it sucked up a lot.

Let me turn to the candidate's wife, Ann Romney, who probably got almost as much attention as Clint Eastwood, much anticipated speech by her on the first night of the convention. Let's play a little bit of how the reaction was and we'll talk about that on the other side.


MATTHEWS: I think she was very witty, obviously attractive. And she obviously loves her husband. It's manifested.

JUAN WILLIAMS, FOX NEWS: Ann Romney, on the other hand, looked to me like a corporate wife. And, you know, the story she told about struggles. It's hard for me to believe. I mean, she's a very rich woman. And I know that in America.


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN: Ann Romney was electric, strong, and stunning.


KURTZ: As we see Carol Costello there, what struck me in talking to journalists, was that I found a gender split between the way male journalists react to this and the way women did.

ASHBURN: Carol Costello nailed it. I mean, for women, not even, you know, just journalists, but everybody -- my mother, for example -- AARP saying, wow, I've never heard her speak -- fabulous, genuine. Remember she got up and went, yea! You know, she was just so real, and really stuck by her husband. He said he will not fail, and I think that the media concurred.

KURTZ: Well, I thought it was an effective speech and her job was to humanize her husband and all of that. When she said, "I love you women," and went on and on about the problems of working women paying the bills, obviously not a problem she had. It struck me as a little bit over the top pandering.

Let me get a male voice that might agree with me.

DRUCKER: I disagree with you because the job of a politician is to communicate to and for the voter. No president, no first lady shares every single experience with the voter. Barack Obama, president of the United States, is a millionaire, as he likes to remind us. Yet, he still speaks to and for people that are hurting.

So to the extent that Ann Romney was successful in talking to women about how they feel, which I thought she did well in doing, I think the coverage that she got from us was well-deserved.

BELLANTONI: And you have to keep in mind, this is somebody that the majority of the American people aren't necessarily tuned in to this election yet. Certainly many aren't paying attention to the candidates -- and they're up against the most popular first lady in a very long time.

KURTZ: Let's talk about that as you as a woman and did other women you talked to whether they like the Romney ticket or not feel a resonance with Ann's message?

BELLANTONI: The best line she gave was, you know, it's not a storybook marriage, what I have is a real marriage. I think that connected with me as a woman. She talked about some of the fights they have.

What was also effective was that biographical video that they played Thursday night, before Clint Eastwood came out. It was either before or after --

KURTZ: Right before.

BELLANTONI: It showed you're in their kitchen, shows the kids.


BELLANTONI: That's exactly what Mitt Romney's team said they wanted to do last week. And they really did it. They showed every facet of his life. They showed a little behind the curtain of him. That's what they're trying to do for the American people to give them a sense of what he's about.

ASHBURN: But where were they, you know, where were they for the last five months? I mean, we've been begging the Romney campaign to do something like that.

DRUCKER: Where were they for the last five years?

KURTZ: Right.

ASHBURN: Right. Trying to make this image, that was a caring father.

BELLANTONI: Stories about what he does through church and what he -- all of those human stories about what he did as governor. Those are the things you're probably going to be seeing in ads from here on out. Didn't do it before but --

ASHBURN: In the last two weeks, there was a front page "New York Times" story that talked about how he -- his -- when he was in France, he was pronounced dead. He was in a car accident -- I thought, I didn't know this story.

KURTZ: Journalists have had to go dig this out instead of the Romney campaign --

ASHBURN: Pushing it out.

KURTZ: Pushing it out. Interesting.

One more thing I want to get to. And that is the way in which tropical storm Isaac really overshadowed, some would say rained out the convention. Obviously the first night was canceled.

But even by midweek, even by Thursday, it was still the lead story on many morning shows. Look at the split screen coverage.


DIANE SAWYER, ABC NEWS: Good evening, as we come on the air, the Republican national convention is finally underway. You can see it right there behind me. But it is still storm watch.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN: I'm Anderson Cooper, live in New Orleans, where all eyes are on the sky waiting for the full force of hurricane Isaac to hit.

BLITZER: And I'm Wolf Blitzer here in Tampa.


KURTZ: Christina, big storm deserves important coverage. This wasn't even a hurricane. Had it happened the week before, it wouldn't have gotten so much attention because it was intertwined with the storyline of the Republican convention.

BELLANTONI: Sure. And everybody, of course, joked, why would you ever hold the convention in Florida during hurricane season. And then it --

KURTZ: Even if the storm was in Louisiana, it was still overshadowing in television terms, because television loves extreme weather.

BELLANTONI: Exactly. A television story and we remember four years ago when the Republicans were in St. Paul. You know, in both cases, this actually benefited them from a convention perspective. In 2008, you ended up canceling George W. Bush's night to speak. He delivered a speech via video instead because of the storm that was headed toward the Gulf then.

And then this time they were able to truncate things into three days that allowed them to trim up some of the speakers. Make sure that they got Ann Romney on Tuesday night instead of Monday night, which the network said they weren't going cover. So, in a way, it benefited them.

ASHBURN: Can't we just shrink it to maybe two days total?

KURTZ: I mean, I think Mother Nature is telling us that three days is plenty.

ASHBURN: Too much.

KURTZ: Let's move on to Romney's speech, because he was the guy who came after Clint Eastwood, you may recall, because -- I think the media consensus was good speech, solid speech, well-delivered. But there have been so much chatter about how he had to connect with voters and talk about himself more personally and grapple with -- and reveal more of himself. He didn't really try to do that. I think that influenced the way the pundits graded the speech -- David.

DRUCKER: Well, I think that the problem the Romney campaign had was that there was only one campaign telling the Romney story. That was the president's campaign. And that's why I think it was so important for --

KURTZ: You're leaving out the Florida state which keeps describing Romney as awkward, stiff, not a real politician --

DRUCKER: Right, because the Romney campaign was not telling us all of these things that they finally told us during their convention. And I think that's going to change the coverage of Romney going forward. It gives another narrative that's going to go up against the president's narrative. It changes our stock description of who Romney is.

KURTZ: But did this -- let me go to Lauren did. Did this speech change our description for Romney is? Because, again, he got pretty -- he got a B-plus for most of the media, but he didn't -- wasn't seen as hitting it out of the park. He didn't really talk -- no Oprah- esque moments.

ASHBURN: Right. And looking at the media coverage, and the word I kept seeing in coverage was workman-like. It was solid. He did what he had to do. He looked presidential --

KURTZ: Was that a fair assessment? Did we set the bar too high? He had to somehow break through the screen. Most politicians can't do that.

(CROSSTALK) BELLANTONI: It's not for the press to describe, you know, what this guy has to do really, right? He's got to give a message --

KURTZ: Do you know how much airtime has been devoted? You're saying we shouldn't do that.

BELLANTONI: It's not our role. And the man was able to portray over the course of the week being very humble. Not liking to talk about his charitable giving. You know, being cheap. None of those things are accidents. And there are bits and pieces that he let other people tell his story.

DRUCKER: And I think what's important is for us to stop describing or reporting on a speech in terms of what we think but try to interpret what the voters in the states are going to feel about it. And in that regard, that's why I thought he did well.

KURTZ: Good advice. Lots of luck with being found (ph).

I've got to go to see break.

When we come back, the political press was accused of swooning over Barack Obama in 2008. Will the tone in the convention change as this Democratic convention gets underway? The tone of the coverage in Charlotte.


KURTZ: President Obama's convention gets ready to get underway here in Charlotte, North Carolina, I can't help but think back to four years ago the tone of the coverage of candidate Obama. All of which seemed to be encapsulated in one moment on cable television.


MATTHEWS: It's part of reporting this case, this election, the feeling most people get when they hear Barack Obama's speech. My, - I felt this thing up my leg. I don't have that too often.


MATTHEWS: Seriously, it's a dramatic event. He speaks about America in a way that has nothing to do with politics. It has to do with the feel being our country. And that is an objective assessment.


KURTZ: David Drucker, four years later, for the media covering President Obama -- is the thrill gone?

DRUCKER: I think the thrill's gone too a degree. But I think he still gets the benefit of the doubt at times with coverage, as I've watched, for instance, the monthly reporting of the jobs numbers. We've seen sometimes about 100,000 little, under 100,000, maybe 150,000, and where I think for presidents past, both Democrat and Republican, the focus would be on the fact that there are still so many people hurting. The focus at times has been but hey, we're still making progress, and we met analysts' expectations as though that's the whole point of this.

KURTZ: Christina Bellantoni, are the media more aggressive in covering not just the Obama presidency after 3 1/2 years, but his re- election campaign compared to 2008?

BELLANTONI: Probably. You know, I certainly think that I have been the same in my coverage. But it is something that particularly because you've got a lot of people on the right -- saying that people went easy on President Obama, the media then responds to that. And, you know, the way they set up conventions is no accident. They have giant media parties.

By the way, both parties do that. People aren't always necessarily aware when they're watching at home that the press is treated pretty well. They're taken care of. They're given this party with the alcohol and food. And the Republicans invited delegates, too. They limited the number of media who could attend. The Democrats had a party where everyone was invited. They've got cell phone charging stations out there.

I mean, none of that is an accident. Everybody's looking for friendly coverage. It's important for journalists to give fair coverage, no matter what party you're at, no matter what parties you've been to.

ASHBURN: It is important, but you asked about the thrill up the leg. Chris Matthews is in the tank right now for President Obama. And so is the majority of MSNBC.

KURTZ: OK, he's a liberal commentator.

ASHBURN: Of course.

KURTZ: Most of the people who are anchoring the MSNBC coverage are liberal commentators. They don't hide that.

ASHBURN: But it wasn't like this four years ago. I mean, you can just see the transition MSNBC has made between four years ago and now.

KURTZ: OK. MSNBC clearly has moved sharply to the left. I don't think anybody there would deny that.

But when you look at the mainstream -- I don't mean that MSNBC is mainstream. But when you look at the straight reporters, the newspaper writers, not the columnists. When you look at the TV reporters, not the commentators, I had a number of conservatives in Tampa saying they think the press as a whole, not just the opinion monitors, in the tank for Obama.

ASHBURN: No, I think that there are shining examples of people who aren't -- Judy Woodruff, Gwen Ifill, you can go Bret Baier, you can go down the list and find people, Howard Kurtz, who are not in the tank for Obama. And make it a big, big point not to be, as Christina says, as they should.

KURTZ: But there is that perception.

BELLANTONI: And for every person that goes on the air, they might say something, they're going to get an e-mail saying you're in the tank for Romney, or you're in the tank for the president. It's about how people perceive it. If the media environment is so polarized right now, along with the rest of the country, that people want to hear what they want to hear, which is one of the reasons that networks with a side tend to do better right now.

KURTZ: I think leanings aside, the challenge for us here is to make this an interesting story, because the renomination of a president is more predictable than, say, a new nominee who we're still learning about as in the case of Mitt Romney in Tampa.

And when Obama gives his speech, and I'm sure he'll give a terrific speech at the Bank of America stadium, how are the media going to grade that? Are they going to use the same kind of criteria that were applied to Romney?

DRUCKER: Well, I think the media should. And I think what we're supposed to do is not make this interesting. I think we're supposed to report what we see and try and be fair in the context in which we put it.

And I think the way -- the one difference is you grade a challenger based on what they say they're going do. You grade a president in part on what he has already done, as well as what he says he wants to do in the next four years. And that can either work for you or against you. If you're Bill Clinton in 1996, that's a winning campaign. If it's Barack Obama, 2012, it may not.

BELLANTONI: And four years ago, I covered the president's campaign. I was on the trail most of that time. So I'm able to point out in this speech, you know, I imagine he's going to repeat some of the things that he said in 2008. I think it's important to provide that context of things that Barack Obama promised four years ago and maybe wasn't able to deliver.

KURTZ: There's a record we should remind viewers of, David says it's not our job to make things interestingly. But instinctively, reporter don't want to cover dull events. We look for ways to spice things up.

ASHBURN: Well, we have to here. I was watching C-Span last night, total geek thing to do on a Saturday night. Very bad, right?

But they were showing the DNC nominating speeches back through history. You know, it's -- Adelaide Stevenson took three ballots to be nominated. And what I'm saying is there is no news at these conventions.

BELLANTONI: The drama goes away.

ASHBURN: Hence -- the drama has gone, hence, the need for journalists to spice it up.

BELLANTONI: And I will say you're going to see a ton of coverage of the protests here expected here this week. And that certainly doesn't make the Democrats look good. You know, there's obviously all these labor disputes. But many other protests that are coming.

So, journalists, you know, are showing all of that. They're not just making it look like this is a great, big, wonderful party for the president.

KURTZ: What we need in Charlotte is the equivalent of a Clint Eastwood coming out and spicing things up for us. Incidentally, FOX News, at the Republican convention, had the highest ratings of all the broadcast networks, same thing happened four years ago.

Four years ago, CNN had the highest ratings of the Democratic convention. We'll see how the pattern changes when the numbers are in for the coverage here in Charlotte.

Up next, Yahoo! fires a top journalist for an offensive remark. Did he deserve to lose his job?

And whatever happened to Sarah Palin on FOX News this past week?


KURTZ: One morning in Tampa, I watched as David Chalian, the Washington bureau chief for Yahoo, joined in questioning top Romney advisers on the webcast under its partnership with ABC News. The next morning, and this was as tropical storm Isaac was barreling down toward the Louisiana coast, as the webcast was about to begin, he uttered these words about the Romneys which were picked up by a mike.


DAVID CHALIAN, FORMER YAHOO STAFFER: They're concerned at all. They are happy to have a party with black people drowning.


KURTZ: Yahoo! fired Chalian almost immediately, saying, "David Chalian's statement was inappropriate and does not represent the views of Yahoo! He has been terminated effective immediately."

Chalian apologized in a Facebook posting saying, "I am profoundly sorry for making an inappropriate and thoughtless joke. I was commenting on the challenge of staging a convention during a hurricane and about campaign optics. I've apologized to the Romney campaign. I want to take this opportunity to apologize publicly to Governor and Mrs. Romney."

Christina Bellantoni, David Chalian was your predecessor as the political director of PBS "NewsHour." He talked about while black people are drowning.

Can such a racially charged joke be dismissed as just a mistake? BELLANTONI: Well, first, I want to say, you know, I really disagree with the sentiment and the statement. But I also -- I consider David a friend and someone who I've always had professional respect for. He is a good journalist.

And I think what this event shines a spotlight on is how important it is for us in the media to demonstrate why we should be trusted. There are people who look to us and trust us to explain to them not just what's going on but to give them a real sense of what these people want to do for the country. And that's where you have to just come back to that.

It's unfortunate, we tell all of our staff, you have to remember that particularly in this day and age, everything that you put out there is a reflection on your organization. And that there can be microphones everywhere, and you have to be careful of that, particularly in television. But it's about building trust with the people.

ASHBURN: I'd have to debate the trust piece of it, Christina, because I think media professionals are below lawyers in terms of people --


ASHBURN: -- you would want to trust.

DRUCKER: We may be below Congress.

BELLANTONI: We need to rebuild. Absolutely.

ASHBURN: So, I think that when people -- people are so jaded in looking to people in the media to trust that an incident like this just, you know, stirs the pot, and makes it so that people who are good in our profession become tainted by association.

KURTZ: Now one hour about -- after this was picked up by the conservative site "NewsBusters," Yahoo! canned Chalian, and some people said, well, it moved too quickly. But on other hand, those words, you know, unconcerned that black people are drowning, were out there.

ASHBURN: Well, I think Yahoo!, which recently partnered with ABC News --

KURTZ: Still partners, yes.

ASHBURN: Yes, right, which recently partnered, had to make a strong statement. I mean, Yahoo! News has been no ABC News. And if you're affiliated now with a network as respected as ABC News, you better make sure you are making decisions like that.

KURTZ: And David Drucker, I've heard a lot of people who know David Chalian well say that he is not just a terrific journalist, but a very fair-minded journalist, that this joke did not reflect, you know, the way he approaches his job. He's worked at ABC, he's worked for PBS, as I said, and worked for Yahoo!. But I wonder whether or not we're kind of cutting a little slack for somebody who is one of our colleagues.

DRUCKER: I think everybody that knows him -- and I don't know him well. But everybody that knows him that I've talked to has said what a nice guy he is, what a nice person he is. Whenever I would pass him in the hall, I don't know even know we know each other, and he was always -- hey, how are you doing, with a smile.

But when you have the kind of position he had, and you're representing a news organization, what he said cannot be tolerated on a professional level.

I don't know how many times per week I write up an e-mail with a snarky joke to somebody or a tweet that's snarky or sarcastic. And then I delete it. Because you have to be careful how your words are going to be interpreted and represented. And had he simply made a joke or just discussed on the open mic about, gee, I wonder what the political optics are like, I don't think it would have been an issue. But what he said was horrible.

ASHBURN: This happens all the time. Local news. I mean, off- mic comments about horrible, you know, how people look. Like apes or, you know, something like that, gets people fired.

KURTZ: Don't do it near a microphone.

ASHBURN: Or don't do it at all.


KURTZ: Even better advice. Let me briefly touch on an incident involving a CNN camerawoman, whose name is Patricia Carroll. There was an incident at the Republican convention where two delegates threw peanuts at her and said, this is how we feed the animals. She's African-American. She gave a couple of interviews about it. She said people think we've gone further than we have in terms of race relations. Horrifying incident. Some people were saying, CNN and the press in general should have done more about it. Do you think so?

BELLANTONI: Should have done more? That's a difficult question. I don't work for CNN.

KURTZ: How about any other news organization?

BELLANTONI: You don't want to see this happen. It's a reflection poorly on everyone. And particularly when many in the media try to paint the Republicans a certain way. It's just giving ammunition. But it could happen anywhere. And I have seen awful things happen at political rallies, at protests. It does happen. Two people go out of line --

KURTZ: Yes. CNN did cover it and report on it in "THE SITUATION ROOM." It's a couple of delegate. I don't think it should be blown out of proportion, but it was something where everybody kind of raised their eyebrows. Before we go, Sarah Palin did phone in to Fox News this morning, but during the Republican convention, she was not on the air, and she actually put up a statement on Facebook saying she was disappointed not to be on the air, especially during the Romney speech, or the VP speech. She wanted to talk about John McCain, her former running mate. What happened between the relationship between Sarah Palin and Fox News?

ASHBURN: For someone who despised mainstream media, I'm surprised that she was ever on Fox, right? I mean --

KURTZ: She would see Fox as an alternate to mainstream media.

ASHBURN: She would, but it still is mainstream media. You still are in the mainstream covering things. Anyway, it's a contract dispute, right? I don't know what's going on behind the scenes. Her contract's up, and maybe they don't like her anymore.

BELLANTONI: And if she weren't in a contract -- you know, she is a newsmaker, I would like to hear what she thinks of this convention, what she thinks of Paul Ryan, you know, compared to her convention four years ago. So if she weren't in a contract, she could come on all of our air and discuss that in an interview.

KURTZ: Plus, she's getting paid $1 million a year by Fox. The contract's up at the end of the year. I wonder if it's going to be renewed.

DRUCKER: There's a saying that my sister taught my nephew. It's called no more whining. She's getting paid a lot of money. They didn't want her on. They didn't think it was useful. It's not a big deal. And frankly, I'm not concerned. If she's not happy at Fox, she can leave. Somebody will sign her.

KURTZ: Fox claimed it was a scheduling matter because the convention got truncated to three days.

All right, David Drucker, Christina Bellantoni, Lauren Ashburn, thanks for joining us here in Charlotte.

Ahead here at the Democratic Convention, the Romney campaign versus the media fact checkers as news organizations point to exaggerations and distortions in Paul Ryan's VP speech in Tampa. And did Chris Matthews go too far with a rant against the Republican chairman?


KURTZ: We're here at the arena, where the Democratic convention will unfold beginning in just a couple of days here in Charlotte, North Carolina. Joining me now to continue our conversation about last week's Republican convention, this week's upcoming Democratic gathering in Washington, Jennifer Rubin, author of the Rightturn blog for the Washington Post. And in Chicago, John Aravosis, the founder of Americablog. I want to start by playing for you some pretty heated sound, exchange that took place on MSNBC between HARDBALL host Chris Matthews and the Republican chairman, Reince Priebus.


REINCE PRIEBUS, RNC CHAIRMAN: He's looking to -- to Europe for guidance.


PRIEBUS: That's -- that's the problem.

MATTHEWS: Where did you get this from? This is insane.

PRIEBUS: Where you've got a government --

MATTHEWS: You mean that (ph) a change in fiscal policy is somehow--

PRIEBUS: -- that is so far out of control --


MATTHEWS: You mean the fact that every president we've had is trying to offset the economic cycle with stimulus going the other direction is somehow European?

PRIEBUS: (inaudible) get the debt under control. Where are we at with this president?

MATTHEWS: What's this got to do with Europe and this foreignization of the guy? You're doing it now.


MATTHEWS: -- Obama is influenced by foreign influences? You are playing that card again.


KURTZ: Jennifer, Chris Matthews accused the chairman of engaging in the foreignization of Barack Obama. Did that go too far?

JENNIFER RUBIN: Yes. The whole thing went too far. He was out of control, and I think MSNBC has to decide whether they want to be liberal or whether they want to be unhinged. He also went after a group of --

KURTZ: That's the choice?

RUBIN: Yes. Well, they're obviously not trying to be mainstream anymore, and that's fine. And they don't pretend to be. I'm absolutely fine with that. They are who they advertise themselves to be. But there's a level of rudeness, there is a level of unprofessionality. And I don't know what he's accomplishing for the network other than to get the people who are similarly unhinged to watch even harder. I don't know how big a market there is for that.

KURTZ: John Aravosis, wasn't Al Gore anchoring on Current TV, which a little unusual for a former vice president, but MSNBC, unlike four years ago, went with an all-liberal lineup for covering these conventions rather than having -- you know, a Chuck Todd or David Gregory serve as the anchor.

JOHN ARAVOSIS: Look, I mean, maybe MSNBC has tried to follow the Fox model and pick a side as far as where they're leaning their coverage. I don't know.

But I do think that what you saw Chris Matthews do is what Chris Matthews does. I've been on HARDBALL, his show, a few times. He yells at you, he interrupts, he pushes you really hard questions. Chris Matthews is not a polite interviewer that asks you once and you get away with it. And I and I would say if you really think the RNC chairman is basically race baiting, or foreignizing, as you put it, Howie, what are you supposed to do? Not call him out on it? I think that the --


RUBIN: You're supposed to let him answer the question. You're supposed to make your point and then let the man answer the question. Now --

ARAVOSIS: But not if you're doing Chris Matthews style, which is what O'Reilly does and Hannity -- I've been on with Hannity. Hannity, I don't know if I got two words in.

RUBIN: There's a difference there, John. And that is Fox has real newspeople reporting. MSNBC has these people anchoring the coverage. There's a difference. MSNBC (sic) has Bret Baier and absolutely fair news people, and they put out Chris Matthews as their news person?

ARAVOSIS: First of all, this wasn't anchoring -- this was not anchoring right now --

RUBIN: He is anchoring later on --


ARAVOSIS: -- but did he do it during the anchoring? I mean, because then we are saying that Hannity can't make outrageous statements when he's on the radio.

RUBIN: No, but it's the same thing. He has completely diminished his own credibility as any kind of --


KURTZ: One at a time.

ARAVOSIS: What if the RNC chairman was race baiting? We're supposed to say that the media is supposed to sit back and say, well, I disagree with you race baiting, sir. And then you still--

John, I think it's a question of tone. Nobody's saying he shouldn't push back hard. And just in the interests of equal time, Reince Priebus was later quoted as saying that Matthews was the biggest jerk in the room.

Let me ask you about the Democratic convention that's going to unfold in the arena behind me. Jennifer Rubin, do you expect a different tone to the media coverage than that which surrounded the Republican convention in Tampa?

RUBIN: I think so. But I also think -- and I was very pleasantly surprised. My conservative friends, I think, should watch and read a little bit more of the mainstream media. The coverage there I thought was actually fairly accurate except for one incident, which was the Clint Eastwood episode. I think what they did was that they looked at the challenges that Mitt Romney had, and they kind of measured the speeches, and measured what he did.

The coverage of Romney's speech insofar as they had any was fairly, I think, balanced. I think many of the speakers got good reviews.

I think the challenge in Charlotte is whether they use the same standard of measurement, here or there in Tampa, back out in Washington, they were very interested in getting specifics from Mitt Romney. What exactly are you going to do? Are they going to be that exacting with the president? I think that there is a standard that they've set for Mitt Romney, which is fine so long as the same standard is then applied to the president.

KURTZ: That's an interesting point, John Aravosis. Because while clearly, you know, we have to talk about the president's record over the last three and a half years, that's the difference in covering an incumbent, I wonder when he gives his big speech -- and I'm sure it will be a terrific oration -- whether or not the media will demand specifics about how his second term might differ from his first.

ARAVOSIS: I think they will. I think the media should apply the same standard, which is, A, is he telling the truth and, B, did he give any specifics.

I mean, from what we've heard from the Obama team, I talked to them yesterday, they are absolutely planning on their convention, A, being positive, and B, being about the details. Their biggest critique is that Romney didn't give any details about what he's planning on doing on fixing the economy. What he's really planning on doing anything differently other than putting out these sort of platitudes and -- and subtle or unsubtle digs they did during the whole convention. So I think it will be different. And I think the media will reflect that, because it's the truth.

KURTZ: Let me jump in and talk about Paul Ryan's V.P. speech, because the media fact-checkers really got on him. Let's take a look a little bit at the vice presidential nominee and the coverage that followed.


RYAN: When he talked about change, many people liked the sound of it. Especially in Janesville, where we are about to lose a major factory. A lot of guys I went to high school with worked at that GM plant.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN: But they announced that plant was shutting down in June, 2008. That was during the Bush administration.

RYAN: Well, it's still idle. The point is, this is the story of the Obama economy. A man running for president in 2008 making all these grand promises. And then none of them occurring.


KURTZ: Jennifer, on Medicare, on that GM plant where the decision was made to close even before Barack Obama became president, the fact-checkers really went at Ryan's speech. Is that good journalism? It is in my view.

RUBIN: No, I think the entire industry of fact-checkers needs to be rethought. First of all, they don't deal in facts. And secondly, they don't check very well. They went off that --

KURTZ: They don't? Tell us what do you mean by that? They don't deal in facts?

RUBIN: No, they don't. When you say something is true but it left a funny impression, when you say something is an inference, but yes, technically it's true, then you're not dealing with jobs.

They did a very poor job that night. I would commend a front page story by the regular media, that is the Washington Post reporter there the next day, after she had had an opportunity to do what good journalists should be, talk to both sides, research the issue fairly. And you had a much more balanced, much more accurate account of what Ryan said, of what the president said when he went there, and promised to keep that plant open --

KURTZ: Let me get John in.

ARAVOSIS: I think that's unfair. I think that's unfair. I think what's going on is Ryan did get lambasted by the media and by the fact-checkers because his speech was full of lies. You can absolutely, positively lie through insinuation. Paul Ryan wanted you to believe that President Obama shut down that plant, or let it shut down in his term.

RUBIN: He never said it. That's wrong, John.

ARAVOSIS: Excuse me -- let me finish.

RUBIN: He never said, no, that's false. ARAVOSIS: He wanted -- let me finish. Let me finish. He wanted the readers, he wanted the listeners to believe that President Obama let that plant shut down. And what happened was that plant got shut down during George Bush. And I'm sorry, I'm from the Midwest, that's a lie.


RUBIN: I don't know how you read Paul Ryan's mind. It's not what he said. The entire theme, if you've been following --


ARAVOSIS: I didn't read his mind, I read -- I watched that --

RUBIN: -- primary and election is that --


KURTZ: You two are going to have to take this outside. I've got to go. I've got to go. We ended on a dramatic note of disagreement. Jennifer Rubin, John Aravosis, thanks for stopping by.

After the break, we'll talk to a Twitter executive about how social media are fundamentally changing the coverage of political conventions.


KURTZ: Joining us now here in Charlotte is Adam Sharp. He is the head of government, news, and social innovation for Twitter. I was looking at the numbers. The surge in tweets at the Republican convention compared to four years ago, these are monster numbers.

ADAM SHARP, TWITTER: Absolutely. Over the week-long convention period, there were over 4 million tweets about the convention. Compare that to 360,000 for the two conventions combined in 2008.

KURTZ: What accounts for all this tweeting?

SHARP: Well, conventions are a collection of moments. They are a collection of reactions. And what Twitter does is bring you closer. It brings you back to that experience of watching these events on the couch and being able to react to them with your friends and with other people watching.

KURTZ: Let's put up a graphic that shows how the traffic surges at certain moments. For example, this is Thursday night at the Republican convention, and when Clint Eastwood came on, more than 6,000 tweets per minute. You see that graph climb. Marco Rubio's speech, almost 9,000 tweets per minute. Mitt Romney speaks, over 14,000 tweets per minute. So what do these numbers tell us?

SHARP: Well, these are those moments that are prompting reaction. These are the moments where a generation ago we would have turned to the person next to us on the couch and say, let me tell you about this. But instead, people are reaching for that device in their hand, reaching for that laptop, because they have something to say.

Now these numbers are massive, particularly for a political event. Romney's peak was larger than the peak for President Obama during his State of the Union earlier this year. You can also see the build-up over the course of the evening. Staying at that low simmer of about 1,000, 2,000 tweets per minute, or messages every minute of the night, leading up to Clint Eastwood. We saw that big jump to more than 6,000 when he started speaking, and then Rubio built on top of that, and then it built up with Mitt Romney a little bit later. So it had that intended crescendo that the event is designed to create.

KURTZ: In addition to the conversation that takes place on Twitter, because everybody is on Twitter, but many journalists are, how much do you think the chatter drives the broader media political conversation?

SHARP: Well, I think it goes back and forth. I think the conversation is coming on Twitter, and I think Twitter influences the conversation. Because these are not new conversations. They are ones that a cycle ago would have been in coffee shops and water coolers, but have now been brought out into a public space that people can see.

KURTZ: But now any person who can attract a following, whether it's among friends, family, or just people who think the person is clever, can in effect broadcast to lots of other people. You don't need to work for a television station or a newspaper.

SHARP: Absolutely. We think back to 1980 and that Ronald Reagan moment, sir, I paid for this microphone. No one needs to pay for this microphone anymore. If you have a quality message, you can find an audience for it, and it can spread very quickly. We look for example at the final night of the convention, Clint Eastwood's speech, the president a few minutes later tweeted a picture of the president in the -- I think it was the cabinet room, where he said, this seat's taken. That tweet went on to be the second most re-tweeted tweet from the president in history.

KURTZ: Let me ask you this, you have a team here at the convention, Facebook has the same thing. Google is running these hangouts. I did one for the Daily Beast in Tampa, and we'll (ph) do it again, where it is basically a webcast for people who are tuning in. And the New York Times, PBS, others also doing these live- streaming webcasts. Is that becoming an alternative to television coverage, which after all the ratings are down significantly from past years?

SHARP: It goes where the audience is. 60 percent of our users use Twitter on a mobile device. People are not sitting in front of the TV the way they used to, but now they can follow the conventions, standing in line at the supermarket or waiting for a bus. And can actually engage in the convention and participate and have those messages be brought back into the home and experience the convention through the eyes of their community members on the floor.

KURTZ: So these live streamings are still relatively modest in numbers. It is not going to put up numbers like CNN, or NBC or CBS, but do you see it as growing? Are more people, because they are tethered to their devices, particularly their smart phones, are going to be consuming news and political information through things like Twitter, Facebook and livestreaming?

SHARP: Absolutely. As we said at the top, 4 million tweets during the last convention. We'll probably see similar volume if not more during this one.

KURTZ: Tweets are one thing. Essentially we are asking people to watch talking heads on their screens, whether it is a laptop or an iPhone.

SHARP: Yes, but they are also participating in a conversation, and they are exchanging back and forth.

KURTZ: It's all (ph) the two-way exchange.

SHARP: Yes. It is bringing them closer to the other people who are experiencing these events with them.

KURTZ: And that I think is the secret of why social media has become so big, is that you have a sense of the two-way conversation, it is not just me talking to you. You can talk back, and many of you do on Twitter. Adam Sharp, thank you for stopping by here at the convention.

And still to come here in Charlotte, a look at Robin Roberts' very emotional day on "Good Morning America."


KURTZ: Finally, an emotional couple of days at "Good Morning America," where Robin Roberts said good-bye as she takes a leave for a bone marrow transplant. She has survived breast cancer and now is battling the disease called MDS.


ROBIN ROBERTS, GOOD MORNING AMERICA: I was hoping to be able to wait until tomorrow, but this morning will now be my last show for a while, before I begin my treatment next week. I'm having to move up my schedule so that I can go home to Mississippi to be with my ailing mother and family that are there in the hurricane zone.

I don't want to be sick again. I don't want to be bald again. I don't want to be throwing up again. I don't want to -- and then I get, very, like, listen to you, I don't want to, I don't want to, I don't want to. Do you want to live? Yes, I want to live.


KURTZ: So Robin made it home to see her 88-year-old mother during the tropical storm that hit the Gulf. And that night her mom died.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: You talked about Robin's (inaudible), instinct, she knew where she had to be yesterday.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She did. And she was there to hold hands where she should be.


KURTZ: An amazing story. We wish Robin Roberts all the best in regaining her health.

That's it for this special convention edition of RELIABLE SOURCES from Charlotte. I'm Howard Kurtz. If you miss a program, check us out every Monday on iTunes. That's it for us here at the Democratic convention. "State of the Union" with Candy Crowley begins right now.