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CNN RELIABLE SOURCES

Reports: NBC Dumping Leno; MSNBC: Most Opinionated Network; GOP Admits Critics Were Right; Reporter Reveals Mental Illness

Aired March 24, 2013 - 11:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: NBC has come up with a surefire idea -- let's put out the word way in advance that we're going to dump Jay Leno and replace him with a younger comedian. I mean, what could go wrong? No wonder why Leno doesn't seem too happy with the network suits.

(BEGIN VIDEO LCIP)

JAY LENO, COMEDIAN: Well, you know the whole legend of St. Patrick, right? St. Patrick drove all the snakes out of Ireland and then they came into the United States and became NBC executives. It's a fascinating, fascinating story.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: We'll look at why NBC would replace the guy who still rules late night in favor of Jimmy Fallon, and the reason why the network can't drop Jay just now.

It's official. The most opinionated network in cable news is --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC: Today, the party that says it can no longer survive as the party of the rich acted like the party of the rich.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC: Republican leaders have nothing new to say on gay marriage or abortion rights or anything.

ED SCHULTZ, MSNBC: The Republican Party has a problem with women. It has spread like a virus through the party's politicians.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: MSNBC. A new study documents the differences among the networks.

How does Roger Ailes run FOX News and how much does the network reflect his conservative views? The author of a new biography is here.

The media were announced on the right during the campaign for criticizing the Republican Party for alienating Hispanics and gays and women and younger people. And now, the RNC are saying pretty much the same thing. So, is it time for an apology?

Plus, the New Hampshire reporter who told readers her deepest secret, she suffers from mental illness. We'll ask Annmarie Timmins about the story that triggered an emotional outpouring.

I'm Howard Kurtz and this is RELIABLE SOURCES.

(MUSIC)

KURTZ: It didn't take a PhD to figure out that things were strained between Jay Leno and NBC bosses when he took flack for jokes like this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LENO: The ratings are bad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How bad is it, Jay? How bad?

LENO: The ratings are bad, the biggest loser isn't just a TV show any more. It's our new motto. That's how bad it is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Ouch!

Then, word leaked to the "Hollywood Reporter" and now "The New York Times" that NBC plans to drop Leno towards the end of 2014 and hand "The Tonight Show" to Jimmy Fallon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIMMY FALLON, COMEDIAN: Before we get started I have to talk about the rumors that came out today that says I'll be moving up to 11:30 or as my parents call it, eh, still too late. Actually, the rumors are true. NBC is turning "Tonight Show" into a diving competition.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Now, if this reminds you of when NBC kicked Leno off "The Tonight Show" in favor of Conan O'Brien and then wrestled with bouncing Conan in favor of Jay, ah, those were the days.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONAN O'BRIEN, COMEDIAN: Hosting "The Tonight Show" has been the fulfillment of life-long dream for me and just to say to the kids out there watching, you can do anything you want in life. Yes -- unless Jay Leno wants to do it, too.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: But that, as you recall, turned into a full-fledged debacle. Joining us now to talk about the late-night wars: in New York, Marisa Guthrie, who covers the media for "The Hollywood Reporter"; Joe Concha, a columnist for Mediaite.com.

And in Philadelphia, Gail Shister, columnist for "TV Newser" and a senior fellow at the University of Pennsylvania.

Joe Concha, for the second time in four years, NBC is dropping Leno or the reports are will drop him when he's number one in late night comedy. Why isn't this insane?

JOE CONCHA, COLUMNIST, MEDIAIATE: It is insane, Howie. Absolutely.

KURTZ: I'm glad you agree.

CONCHA: I mean, you have -- the "Today" show is a P.R. mess, OK? You have primetimes. They're in "Wayne's World" territory as far as ratings in concern.

So, of course, the motto on NBC now is, let's get rid of the only guy who is performing well, Jay Leno.

And what I don't get about NBC, they don't burn bridges over there when talent leaves. They napalmed them. You remember Keith Olbermann with MSNBC. You mentioned Conan O'Brien before. Now, Jay Leno. It's all playing out like a Kardashian divorce.

The good news is, that for us, we get to witness the train wreck and it's fun.

KURTZ: Well, it is -- it's hard not to enjoy it, unless you're Jay Leno.

But, Marisa Guthrie, this hasn't been officially announced. This was leaked or allowed to be leaked. Why would NBC let it be known a year and a half in advance that it wants to pass the baton to Jimmy Fallon and take -- deal with all of this tumult?

MARISA GUTHRIE, COLUMNIST, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: Well, they didn't want it to be known, certainly. And they have to be very careful with this transition to get this one right because what they don't want is to cast foul as the young up-star pushing the beloved veteran out of the job.

I mean, what they would like to happen is for Jay to go gracefully at the end of his contract. His contract is up in the fall of 2014. But everybody who knows Jay Leno knows that he's a workaholic and stay on that show forever if they would get him.

KURTZ: You'd have to carry him out of there. This is a guy who does stand-up on his vacations.

Gail Shister, now, everyone knows that "Tonight" show, I guess this is the official rationale, wants to have a younger demo. Jay Leno is 62. But what a lot of people don't realize is Leno is beating Jimmy Kimmel on ABC and David Letterman at CBS in that coveted 18 to 49 age group.

GAIL SHISTER, COLUMNIST, TV NEWSER: Well, I don't know about the rest of the panel, but I need a little nap after Joe's metaphors. There were so many within the same sentence. It was a lot.

CONCHA: Thanks, Gail. I'll get you a pillow.

SHISTER: A lot of heavy lifting. He should think about the "Tonight Show".

But I have to say that I am really in awe of the spirit in which Leno has been handling this. He has always been a master at working the room. Instead of going to the press, he just directly plays it to the audience and he's playing NBC at a strut at this point.

I was at a press conference more than 10 years ago, closer to 15, in L.A., when it was up in the air whether NBC was going to renew Leno's contract. He came to the press conference in a motorcycle. He drove into the room in a motorcycle and proceed to do 10 minutes of stand up about how screwed up NBC was. He said, you know, NBC that stands for no binding contract.

KURTZ: And, by the way for it, NBC executive sent Leno an e-mail saying lay off the network on your monologue jokes. I mean, that's censorship. Johnny Carson was famous of taking on NBC.

Joe Concha, let me come back to you. I think the reason that this is all being portrayed sympathetically in favor of Jimmy Fallon is simply this. Leno gets terrible press because the critics and the bicoastal leaks don't like him. They don't think he's hip.

CONCHA: Well, who cares if they don't like him? He is number one in that time slot.

And I don't think Fallon is the answer here, by the way, guys. I mean, yes, he is a good talent, but is he any better than Kimmel, really? I mean, if you want a game-changer and the pun here is completely intended, I say, forget Jimmy Fallon. Give Tina Fey whatever she wants. She's a proven commodity, "SNL", Golden Globes, she killed. Tina Fey should be in that spot, first female to do a late night show.

(CROSSTALK)

KURTZ: Finally, it wouldn't be just another white guy.

But, Marisa, these critics and I do think this colors the tone of the coverage. They're the same ones, many of them at least, who rooted for Conan O'Brien to take over "The Tonight Show" and it turned out his corky brand of humor wasn't broad enough to appeal to a mass audience the way that Leno has been successful in doing for a couple decades now.

GUTHRIE: Right. I mean, Conan has that sort of snarky frat boy persona. But I actually disagree with Joe. I think that Fallon is much broader than Conan. He's also much nicer. He's a nicer person. So, he's --

KURTZ: Does that count for anything?

(CROSSTALK)

CONCHA: I said Tina Fey.

KURTZ: Does that count for any talent (ph) for being nice?

GUTHRIE: Well, he -- no, it counts when you're interviewing the guests. You know, you're magnanimous, you're nice to the guests, the guest enjoys being there, and the audience enjoys watching it. I mean, that makes a difference.

I think his comedy is broader than Conan's ever was. So, I think he will be more successful in "The Tonight Show."

KURTZ: And, Marisa, "The Hollywood Reporter" has written that the reason that NBC can't or it's a very powerful incentive against the network dumping Jay Leno right now as in tomorrow is that he gets a truck load of money, according to his contract --

GUTHRIE: Huge, yes.

KURTZ: -- if he is forced to leave before his contract expires in the fall of 2014. Is that correct?

GUTHRIE: That's right, that's right. I mean, that all grew out of the debacle last time. So, you know, his representatives were --

SHISTER: I'm sorry, NBC had to pay Conan $45 million when --

KURTZ: Yes, that's a pretty good going away present for giving up "Tonight Show."

And, Gail, it's interesting that there's a drumbeat on the conservative side, saying, well, one of the reasons that NBC is dumping Leno because he made jokes about President Obama and he's less at least openly liberal than David letterman. Anything to the political overtones in this?

SHISTER: Politics in network television? I can't imagine, really.

CONCHA: Howie, it's a ridiculous argument, because, yes, MSNBC obviously has a liberal tilt, but the mother ship, particularly at late night, just because Leno did a couple more jokes at the expense of the president isn't going to give them reason to get rid of their number one guy in that time slot. I think it's a ridiculous argument.

KURTZ: Right.

Now, what about the fact that Jay Leno since he took over for Johnny Carson in 1992, has made zillions of dollars for NBC, you know, went along the first time when he moved to 10:00 in primetime and come back and again built "The Tonight Show" back up to number one. I guess this is a no question so far. There's no gratitude or loyalty in television and it's all about who you think the next big star is, right?

GUTHRIE: Right. And, also, they need to -- if Fallon does not get that slot, you know, he'll go somewhere else. He'll go to CBS when Dave retires. So, they're looking at Jay as the guy on the down slope of his career and they're looking at Fallon at the resurgent and the future of the franchise.

CONCHA: Yes, Howie, if you want to use a sports analogy here for a second, it's kind of like Peyton Manning when he was in the twilight of his career with the Colts, and they say, hey, he can still perform, he's still probably the top quarterback in the league, but we've got to go young at some point. Let's bring in Andrew Luck and let's start building for the future now. And in this case, that would be a Jimmy Fallon.

KURTZ: OK. But at the same time, nothing stopping Jay Leno from going to FOX, for example, and competing against NBC if he --

CONCHA: At 11:00, Howie, too. That would be a different timeslot.

GUTHRIE: Yes.

KURTZ: That would be interesting.

So, Joe, in a sentence, has this been something of a P.R. disaster for NBC, in the somewhat ham-handed way it's being handled?

CONCHA: It's consistent with the way the "Today" show has been handled. So, yes, it has been a P.R. disaster. But that could be good for ratings, Howie.

KURTZ: You're saying Leno is being treated like Ann Curry was in the morning?

CONCHA: Yes, I am.

KURTZ: I don't want to put words on your mouth.

All right. Let me get a break. When we come back, one cable network beats the rest when it comes to opinions, pundits spewing almost around the clock. A look at new study on cable news in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: Everyone knows cable news has been more opinionated but the Project for Excellence in Journalism finds substantial differences between the news channels.

The study finds that MSNBC is 85 percent opinion -- an approach is obvious to anyone who watches.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Three months after Newtown and eight months after the Aurora, Colorado, shootings in that theater. It's time to do something I think. And tonight, I'm urging you call to your senators and members of Congress.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Call your member of Congress.

FOX News, by contrast, is 55 percent opinion.

And CNN is the only one of the three, according to this study too, air more reporting, 54 percent, than opinion at 46 percent.

So, Gail Shister, almost all opinion all the time. Is that in part because it's the cheapest form of programming?

SHISTER: Absolutely. There's no question. It's a lot cheaper to just spout off and be a gas bag about anything, than it is to actually report it.

The thing that gave me pause about the study and I have great respect for Pew is how they differentiated between opinion versus reporting because you can argue that reporting informs opinion and where do you draw the line? So, I wasn't sure it was in the content analysis that they did for the study. I was dubious about what was opinion, what was news.

But there's no question about it. It's very cheap to have an opinion, everybody's got one.

KURTZ: So, Joe Concha, you've written that MSNBC, 85 percent opinion, maybe 90 percent liberal opinion. You say the network won't own up to what it is. What do you mean by that?

CONCHA: Well, I mean, when you have their highest rated anchor, who is Rachel Maddow go on Bill Maher show on "Real Time" and say the following, "My job is to cover things, not tell you how I like them or not," or says that, "We have a lot of liberals on MSNBC, but none of them have a political objective."

You know, she is a very intelligent woman. That is a profoundly stupid thing to say to anybody who is paying attention. If you watch Rachel Maddow's show, that is clearly an opinion-based show. However, I will make this point --

KURTZ: But not the same thing as saying she is pushing a Democratic Party agenda.

CONCHA: No, no, I'm saying it's dangerous to say I'm an objective reporter and I'm here to present the news to you, I'm not here to make an opinion. That is dishonest and that needs to stop right away, because that's something her viewers should know and I wouldn't think they could tell the difference. But it's not an opinion show -- that's an opinion show, not a straight news show.

KURTZ: I certainly don't think Rachel Maddow is saying her job is to be an objective reporter.

Marisa Guthrie, CNN has --

CONCHA: I just said the quote, though, Howie.

KURTZ: -- CNN has the reputation of a reporting network. And I think that was borne out by this Project for Excellence in Journalism report. Some people might be surprised to see that FOX News was almost 50/50 in terms of the balance between of reporting opinion.

CONCHA: Oh, yes, I think that, I was surprised by the vast difference in percentages between FOX News, MSNBC and I'm with Gail. I kind of like to know what is reporting, what Pew considers reporting and what Pew considers opinion. I mean, sometimes, it's clearly obvious.

I think that, you know, MSNBC has taken this sort of preaching to the choir news and made and formed a whole business model around it. And that is partly in their effort to be sort of the counterpoint to FOX News. And, you know, the FOX News opinions are so loud in primetime that I think they do overshadow a lot of what goes on on the network during the afternoon.

I mean, Chris Wallace, still, I think, really one of the, you know, very independent voice on FOX News.

CONCHA: Yes, Shepard Smith as well, those two hours as well guys.

Hey, Howie, one point --

SHISTER: As opposed to Chris Matthews, who's a quiet -- who's very quiet. His opinions are very quiet.

KURTZ: He's a soft-spoken fellow.

Yes, Joe, quickly.

CONCHA: Opinions are good for business, though, Howie. Let me compare two things here real quick. In 2007, MSNBC had two liberal hosts and two conservative hosts in primetime and otherwise, it is straight news throughout the day, outside of Imus.

In 2013, it's all liberal and mostly opinion on the day side. They doubled their ratings in essence from 2007 to 2013 in the key demo you mentioned before.

So, to do opinion, it's cheaper, as we pointed out before, also invariably, it gives you better ratings.

KURTZ: In fairness to MSNBC, the morning show anchored by Joe Scarborough, former Republican congressman, he does not fall in the liberal category. We got an advance look at the cover story of "The New Republic," which is a profile of Phil Griffin, the president of MSNBC and his network. And in that piece, we could put up the cover, Griffin says he'll beat FOX News by next year, which is kind of a bold boast.

Also the interview for this piece was the FOX News chairman Roger Ailes taking note of the fact that Phil Griffin and Jeff Zucker, now the president of CNN worldwide, were close friends when both worked together at NBC. Ailes is quoted as saying, "I'm found of Griffin, but he built his whole career out of being in Jeff Zucker's wedding party."

Gail Shister, couple of hard shots being thrown there.

SHISTER: I like that. I thought he was going to say bar mitzvah, but wedding party. I mean, there's a reason Ailes is as successful as he is. The guy is a walking headline. He can talk to me any day of the week.

It will be interesting to see whether griffin can do that. I think it's always dangerous whenever you make predictions like that. So --

CONCHA: Howie, I think --

(CROSSTALK)

KURTZ: Too easy for journalists to come out and say, hey, what happened to that prediction that you were going to be in first place?

Now, another fascinating data point in this study is that 31 percent of people question overall say they have abandoned a news outlet that they used to read or watch regularly because less news and information. Obviously, we're in an era of tightening budgets for the news media.

Marisa Guthrie, I found that troubling. What do you think?

GUTHRIE: Well, I think that, you know, news has become so commoditized now. I mean, rarely are you opening the news on your iPad or turning on cable news and hearing something for the first time. I mean, social media has completely upended this. So, I think these networks and these news organizations are reacting to that. I mean, you can argue with it that it's not good for public discourse, but I think that's the cause of it.

KURTZ: In the same study, 19 percent of folks say they get their news from social media, which is the beginning of a sea change and quick data point on local television news. Twenty percent of the stories last longer than a minute, half of them less than 30 seconds. So, a lot of blips and bites there.

Thanks very much for stopping by this morning.

SHISTER: (INAUDIBLE)

CONCHA: Thanks, Howie.

KURTZ: Gail Shister, Joe Concha, and Marisa. After the break, what makes Roger Ailes tick and just how does he run FOX News? A conversation with the author of a new bio, in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: Roger Ailes has built a powerhouse at FOX News, no question about it. But it is probably the most controversial news organization on the air and its chairman has very definite views about political balance.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROGER AILES, FOX NEWS: If you look at other networks and say, well, don't you have too many conservatives on? I say, yes, compared to none on the other channels, we look very much like that. But we have as many liberals as we do conservatives on the FOX News Channel.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Not quite sure about none on the other channels.

But joining us now from New York is Zev Chafets, author of the new book "Roger Ailes: Off Camera."

Welcome.

ZEV CHAFETS, AUTHOR: Hi.

KURTZ: I spoke to Roger Ailes this week and he told me, quote, "I pick Zev to write this book."

So, was this rather a sympathetic portrayal of Roger Ailes authorized biography?

CHAFETS: No, not at all. I had written a book about Rush Limbaugh, which started as a "New York Times" magazine profile actually, and the Roger Ailes book was a logical continuation of that. I pitched the book to him and he said he wanted to do it. So, there we were.

KURTZ: Now, we just heard him say that he has as many liberals on FOX News as he does conservatives, but you write that his liberals are there, by and large, for the same reason, you say, conservatives are at the other networks, as foils and tokens.

So, if that's true, it's not exactly fair and balanced.

CHAFETS: I don't think it is fair and balanced at any of the networks or any of the news organizations, really, at this point. That's kind of a pretense that people who actually understand how media is done don't really believe.

FOX has a lot of very bright and very articulate and very good progressive people on it. But, there's no doubt that, for example, what I was writing about, if there's a group of, let's say, four people discussing, three will be conservative often and one will be liberal.

Usually on the network talk shows, it's been the opposite. There will be a liberal moderator, three liberal guests and a conservative.

KURTZ: Well, that's --

CHAFETS: So, Roger sort of turned the tables on that.

KURTZ: So, you're saying that you buy the notion that most of the news organizations lean to the left, you call it a pretense.

CHAFETS: I don't buy the notion, I see the statistics, all the polls that have been done, the internal polls show that about 80 percent to 90 percent show that the elite national media are Democrats and vote for Democratic candidates. I don't think that that's controversial at all.

KURTZ: Well, I think -- I don't want to belabor the point, but there's a distinction, even if those polls are true, between how you vote in the voting booth and what kind of journalism you present on the air.

Let's talk about some of the news that this book made where Roger Ailes is quoted by you as calling President Obama lazy. He says he was picking up on something Obama said about himself.

CHAFETS: Right.

KURTZ: He called Joe Biden dumb as an ash tray. He did say that he liked the vice personally, and he also used the word about Newt Gingrich that I can't repeat on the air.

My question to you, Zev, is that how the chairman of a news network organization should be speaking?

CHAFETS: Well, far be it for me to tell chairman of, you know, corporations or news networks how they should speak. I think they all choose their style.

Roger has a very blunt style. He likes to speak his mind when he is speaking at all. He rarely speaks in public. But when he speaks -- I mean, you know this, Howie, because you have been covering him for years, but when he speaks, he speaks in a very blunt way and that's just the way he talks.

KURTZ: You say Ailes is a Republican. Many years ago he worked in GOP politics and he is more conservative than FOX News.

How does his -- you had a lot of access and spent a lot of time and you went to meetings -- how do his views affect what's on the air?

CHAFETS: Roger says, I influence, but I don't decide, which I think is a bit of an understatement. I think that he decides quite a lot. He is a divisive voice at FOX News. And his views tend to dominate, but he does leave room for autonomy. There's quite a bit of autonomy. I gave him a test that was developed by a UCLA professor called Tim Groseclose, which measures the slant of -- the ideological slant of news organizations and then individual people. Roger and I both took the test and he came out more conservative than the FOX network as a whole and he agreed that that's probably true.

KURTZ: OK. Now, in my interview with Ailes this week, I asked him about the departure of Sarah Palin as a contributor. He said she made mistakes.

And I asked him about Dick Morris who famously predicted that Romney electoral landslide in the last campaign and Ailes using -- blunt, as always, to use your word, said that Morris looks like a jerk and apologized for some of those predictions.

Why do you think that Ailes chose not to renew Sarah Palin's contract?

CHAFETS: I think that he paid her a lot of money when she was a very hot commodity and I was told that she was pursued at that time by a number of other networks, as well. And I think that as she cools off, her best selling book sold a little less, her appearances became a little bit more -- a little bit less exciting in public, I think that he thought that she was probably worth less money.

KURTZ: Right. I have got about half a minute. Since, to me, it seems like you defend Roger Ailes on almost every issue in this book. Tell me, if it's not an authorized biography, what is the most critical thing that you found about the chairman of Fox News?

CHAFETS: Well, the whole book is one long look behind the scenes at Fox News and at Roger Ailes. I saw "The Daily Beast" had a piece up the other day, I think you write for "The Daily Beast," which says 16 juicy things about Fox News that you will learn from this book --

(CROSSTALK)

KURTZ: OK, I didn't write that piece. Give me one critical thing, one thing that troubles you about Roger Ailes?

CHAFETS: One thing that troubles me about Roger? Nothing troubles me about any of the news organizations. I don't tend to be troubled by things like that. I think that Roger does what he does. I think everybody else does what they do, and all together I think that it creates a beautiful symphony of different voices that give you an idea of what's going on in the world.

KURTZ: All right, Zev Chafets, thanks very much for joining us.

CHAFETS: You're welcome.

KURTZ: Up next, Republicans are a scary party of out of touch white men. That's not media bias, that's the GOP's own autopsy. So was the press right all along?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KURTZ: Anyone who watched television or read a newspaper or went online during the presidential campaign saw the mainstream media's critique. The Republicans were blowing the election with harsh rhetoric that was driving away Hispanic voters and gays, women and younger people.

Now this was widely dismissed as plain old liberal bias, but this week, the Republican National Committee issued an autopsy report that echoed many of these points; party Chairman Reince Priebus leading the chorus of criticism.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REINCE PRIEBUS, RNC CHAIRMAN: We're a little bit too mass focused and not focused in people's hearts so we don't relate to, I think, average Americans more than we should. Stuffy old guys too much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Were the media right after all? Joining us now, Bill Press, host of Current TV's "Full Court Press" and Tim Carney, senior political columnist for the "Washington Examiner."

Tim Carney, will you now acknowledge that the liberal media were on target and the Republican Party really narrowed its appeal last year?

TIM CARNEY, SENIOR POLITICAL COLUMNIST, "THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER": I do think they narrowed their appeal, but I actually think that the autopsy by the Republicans does almost the opposite of what it should.

I thought that the 47 percent-type problem, the economic issues is where the Republicans were doing more alienating. If you read this autopsy, it basically on the economic issue says, well, we need to change our rhetoric on economics and change our policies on social issues.

KURTZ: The press took a lot of heat for pointing out, take one example, Hispanic voters are being turned off by the rhetoric. Even the chairman of the party now says that that was true.

CARNEY: Sure. I agree with that on the Hispanic issue, that they're right. But the idea that it was social issues, that being prolife was turning them off, well, it's one thing to say Todd Akin with his rape comments is turning off voters. That's right. But I think a lot of the media critiques boiled down to these guys are too pro life, and that's what I don't accept, but maybe --

(CROSSTALK)

KURTZ: I'm not sure I read it that way. But, Bill, I'm sure you got hammered for being a left wing hack when you made some of these points during the campaign. BILL PRESS, HOST, CURRENT TV'S "FULL COURT PRESS": I did, and others did, too. By the way, I have to say, I love the word autopsy, because you don't perform an autopsy on people you expect to come back to life. You perform an autopsy --

KURTZ: From the branding point of view, probably not the best word for GOP.

PRESS: But I do have to say, this report has been called blistering and scathing. I would have another word for it, perceptive. I mean, I could have written this report. I think it's right dead on, on the problems, as pointed out during the campaign and now reflected in this report that the Republican Party has.

KURTZ: Not all conservatives agree with the report, of course, including Rush Limbaugh and others. But some of these problems, the idea that the party is perceived, at the very least, as being out of step with much of the country on these social issues and you say economic issues more important. Does reflect the way the coverage was in 2012.

CARNEY: Yes, but also when you're talking about perception, you can't escape the fact that the media shapes the perception. In other words, some of, Republicans realize that they're playing an away game when they're trying to shape the media perception game.

KURTZ: As an example, I wouldn't disagree with that. But just to cite an example from the report, Reince Priebus himself said Mitt Romney's comment about immigration and self deportation hurt the party with Hispanics, similarly harsh rhetoric. That's not, you know, a media analysis. That's the governor's own words.

CARNEY: That's what he said in the debate.

(CROSSTALK)

CARNEY: If you watch the Republican debates as a centrist moderate voter on some of those issues, like immigration, I think it was easy to be turned off. And then if you watch what Mitt Romney said in his own words, 47 percent that went online, that that was easy to turn off voters, so that's where you can't blame media bias at all.

PRESS: I just want to get to that point on the 47 percent. A lot of people said it looks like the perception is he doesn't care about working class people. The report, flash forward, the report says that the perception is that the Republican Party doesn't care enough about people, and we have to change that.

KURTZ: So, when conservatives last year said not only that the reporting was unfair, too favorable to Barack Obama, too unfair to the Republican candidates, ultimately to Mitt Romney, and also that the polls were skewed and all that. You know, the counter to that was, Republicans were out of touch and now comes this report saying, Republicans were out of touch. Do you feel vindicated?

PRESS: No, not vindicated. But I think even more, as significant as the policy differences, the report is also critical of things that were wrong with the Romney campaign technologically. They didn't have a good --

KURTZ: I don't want to talk about that.

PRESS: Well, I just want to point out that was a criticism of the media that is also reflected in this report. So not vindicated, Howie, but I think the report is right on. The real question is looking forward, will Republicans follow the recommendations in the report?

CARNEY: And it's impossible for Republicans to ever sort of win favorable coverage except by being more like Democrats?

KURTZ: On that point, the subject of gay marriage, polls moving in the direction of favoring gay marriage, particularly with younger people. So when Hillary Clinton comes out and, safe position now for the Democrats, says she's in favor of gay marriage, she got a lot of favorable press.

When Senator Rob Portman came out and said he was now in favor of gay marriage because he has a son who has come out as gay, there was a lot of carping about whether this was a convenient statement or one motivated by the fact that he had somebody in his family. Did you see a double standard?

CARNEY: Yes. Again, it's one of those places where if you're a Republican and if you think maybe if I act more like a Democrat, I'll get more positive coverage, it often doesn't work that way. You'll get called out as cynical. You're darned if you do and you're darned if you don't.

PRESS: Well, this particular reporter praised both of them for their stand on same-sex marriage, but, again, I want to identify it with a report. The report says young people more and more quote/unquote, "rolling their eyes more and more at what the Republican Party stands for."

81 percent of young people support marriage equality. The day after this report came out, Reince Priebus came out and said, we as the Republican Party oppose marriage equality. So do they follow the report or not?

KURTZ: All right, finally, I want to turn to the subject of gun control. Back in the news this week because Senate Democrats decided not to include an assault weapons' ban, which some in the party were pushing for on the theory it won't be able to pass Congress.

Let's put up a cover of the "New York Daily News," a rather emotional cover showing the victims, their shame on U.S. could mean shame on us. Is that acceptable editorializing on the part of the paper?

CARNEY: I think it's rare honesty on part of the paper. I think gun control is one of the issues, along with gay marriage, where you have almost media unanimity. Where because it is such -- it's not as much of a right versus left as it is an elite versus grassroots, blue state versus red state, so almost everybody in the media wants more gun control and "The Daily News" is being honest about it.

KURTZ: At the same time, are the media now losing interest in the aftermath of Newtown because doesn't most of these measures are not going anywhere on Capitol Hill?

PRESS: I believe so, sadly. I think they are, the media is more so than the American people are, but I don't think they are really on their job, and the only problem I have with that cover is I think it should have said shame on Harry Reid.

KURTZ: Because he is the guy who decided -

PRESS: Because he's the guy who decided not to--

KURTZ: (inaudible) could not pass. Bill Press, Tim Carney, thanks very much for joining us this Sunday morning.

Coming up, the striking tale of a newspaper reporter who announced to the world that she suffers from mental illness. Why did Annmarie Timmins go public? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: Annmarie Timmins is a reporter for the "Concord Monitor" who collaborated on the series on the problems facing the 26 percent of New Hampshire residents who have a mental health disorder.

Based on the reaction to those stories, Timmins decided to write a more personal peace revealing that she is one of the 26 percent. That she struggles with depression and breakdowns and has been hospitalized.

I picked up the phone and called her as soon as I read this and spoke to her earlier from Manchester.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KURTZ: Annmarie Timmins, welcome.

ANNMARIE TIMMINS, REPORTER, "CONCORD MONITOR": Thank you.

KURTZ: Was it a difficult decision in the wake of this series to go public with this secret of yours about suffering from mental illness?

TIMMINS: It was. Not necessarily because I was embarrassed to say that I have this, but because it's just not -- I'm not a reporter who tends to write first-person stories. My readers, well, they know me, they don't know much about me. I don't do columns like this. So, to be so public in an area that people know me but don't know much about me, that is what I was nervous about.

(CROSSTALK) KURTZ: Well, they know more about you now. You were -- you didn't spare the details. You described, for example, in 2009, how you were hospitalized in a psychiatric unit. You wrote about thinking about writing a suicide note. When you sat down to write this, was it an emotional process to dredge up some of your difficulties?

TIMMINS: It was. I think for most of the piece I felt like I was writing about somebody else. But at the end, I was quoting from a card that my editor had sent me when I was in the hospital, and that is when I became emotional and it -- I started crying and I started feeling things I hadn't felt writing the rest of the piece.

KURTZ: Now, journalism is no secret, it's kind of a high- pressure business. You think at times that aggravates your own struggles with depression?

TIMMINS: Yes, I do. I think the stress of deadlines and the stress of trying to get people to call you back when they're not calling you back in time, hearing difficult stories, covering difficult crimes. I think all of that does aggravate it sometimes. On the other hand, it also can distract me from my own stress or my own sadness or my own doubts about my own personal life. So, it works both ways, I think.

KURTZ: Now, when this piece was published in your paper and you were sharing with the world, really, your struggles with depression, your hospitalization, your suicidal thoughts, your medication, your counseling. What were the reactions of the people you work with, people who you see every day, your friends and colleagues?

TIMMINS: They were surprised. Most of the folks I am working with now, reporters weren't at the paper when this happened. They were surprised. I've heard from lots of reporters I did work with who are now on other papers, they were very surprised. Very supportive, but had no idea that there is this other side of me that is not always as happy as I seem on the surface. They were, I think, surprised was mostly what they felt.

KURTZ: Surprised, maybe shock in some cases.

TIMMINS: I'm a good actress.

KURTZ: In other words, you --

TIMMINS: I think some were shocked.

KURTZ: So in other words, if I was not a close personal friend of yours, but I worked a couple desks down in the "Monitor" newsroom and saw you every day, I would not know that this was, you were struggling with these private demons.

TIMMINS: No. No. I'm sort of, my reputation at "The Monitor" is I will do the harder stories and ask the harder questions and knock on the doors where it's the scariest to do that. So to think that I'm also inside a very fragile person sometimes it doesn't connect at all. Not even my mother-in-law knew the story until I wrote the piece and most of my -- no one except my husband, and my parents and my brother knew, and I was able to keep it from all of them.

KURTZ: Not even your mother-in-law. Now, there's been tremendous reaction from the outside world, people sending you e-mails and also sharing their stories. Talk a little about that.

TIMMINS: The stories are -- they are difficult. I think I've received around 400 e-mails or Facebook messages and letters to the newsroom. Most of them from people I don't know. They begin by thanking me mostly for putting a name and a face to this issue that is hard to talk about.

But then the bulk of their letters are their own personal struggles to help their children, to help their spouses. They said that the article has helped them to start conversations with family members that they found hard to do.

A lot of people have seen me maybe as a resource that I can provide them some answer to their own problems or maybe my remedies would be helpful to them and be the fix that they need.

KURTZ: People seeking advice.

TIMMINS: That's what's been hard, seeking advice. And I'm not a counselor. I don't know what to say.

(CROSSTALK)

KURTZ: Let me get to this last question. That is, is this an ongoing struggle for you? You described yourself as a fragile person. Is this something you will be battling against for the rest of your life?

TIMMINS: Yes. I had a little slip last night. I got overwhelmed by the letters and the feeling that I need to respond to everybody soon and that people are seeking advice and I can't get advice to them and I -- I had a hard night last night.

KURTZ: It was a remarkably courageous and personal piece that obviously touched a nerve. And appreciate you sharing it, and coming out and sharing it with us. Annmarie Timmins, thanks very much for joining us.

TIMMINS: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KURTZ: Still to come, Bill O'Reilly takes on Michele Bachmann. That "Daily Caller" story about Senator Bob Menendez and prostitutes continues to crumble and I cancelled my subscription call with a bit of a holy twist. The "Media Monitor" is straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: Time now for the "Media Monitor," our weekly look at the hits and errors in the news business.

Congresswoman Michele Bachmann can be a difficult figure for journalist to cover because she sometimes says things that are, well, factually challenged, such as her comments the other day that Barack Obama lives in regal style in the White House, spends more money on its operations than George W. Bush and has his own presidential dog walker.

None of which is true. CNN's Dana Bash who has made a habit of chasing lawmakers tried to catch up with Bachmann.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What I want to ask about the fact that you said that he had -- you talked about the excesses that he's engaged in. The fact he has a dog walker, which is not true.

REPRESENTATIVE MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: The big point of my speech was about Benghazi.

BASH: But if you want to focus on --

BACHMAN: There are four Americans killed.

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: But Congresswoman, you are the one who brought it up.

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: You are the one that brought it up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Good thing, Dana is in good shape. Then Bill O'Reilly surprised some folks by going after the Republican lawmaker.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: This is a trivial pursuit, and Michele Bachmann made a mistake pursuing it. Michele Bachmann is playing small ball with the president. Can't back up her criticism and actually trivializes a huge problem, irresponsible spending by the federal government. Two words, not good.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: O'Reilly to be sure devotes plenty of air time criticizing Obama. The Fox News host deserves credit for taking on an icon of the right.

I think it is fair to say that the unsubstantiated story by "The Daily Caller" accusing Senator Robert Menendez of patronizing prostitutes in the Dominican Republic has now been discredited, but the conservative web site still hasn't retracted the claim.

When the "Washington Post" reported that one prostitute admitted taking money to lie about the senator, the "Daily Caller" scuffed that the paper had the wrong hooker. Now Dominican police say three women have acknowledged being paid to lie about having sex for money with Menendez whose office now says again, this was a smear job.

Let's leave aside the charge by a top Dominican law enforcement official also reported by "The Post" that a local lawyer said someone claiming to be from "The Daily Caller" offered him $5,000 to find women willing to lie about Menendez.

"The Caller" says that is absolutely not true and I find it hard to imagine, but as for the prostitutes, the web site founded by Tucker Carlson says it is, quote, "not independently verified the identities of the women involved in the Dominican probe" and quoting again, "remains unclear" whether one of the prostitutes now retracting her claim was interviewed by a "Caller" reporter.

At this point, if the "Daily Caller" cannot prove the story was true, it owes the senator and its readers an apology.

Finally, imagine running a newspaper kiosk in Buenos Aires and getting a call from a long time customer who wants to cancel his subscription and if the call begins, "Hi, Daniel." It's Cardinal Jorge.

Yes, Pope Francis made that phone call because he has relocated to the Rome office. Daniel Del Reno told the Argentine paper "La Nation (ph)" said that the call prompted him to break down in tears. What a moment.

That's it for this edition of RELIABLE SOURCES. I'm Howard Kurtz. If you missed our program, check us out on iTunes, every Monday, just search for RELIABLE SOURCES in the iTunes store.

We are back here next Sunday morning, 11 a.m. Eastern, for a critical look at the media. "STATE OF THE UNION" with Candy Crowley begins right now.