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Reliable Sources

GOP Convention Wrap-Up

Aired September 07, 2008 - 10:00   ET


GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-AK), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Here's a little news flash for those reporters and commentators, I'm not going to Washington to seek their good opinion.

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST (voice-over): Politics, pregnancy and the press. The media pile on Sarah Palin as McCain's running mate sticks it to the pundits. Are journalists viciously trying to destroy Alaska's governor, as the McCain camps charges, or are news outlets doing legitimate digging into Palin's slim record? And have journalists gone too far in chasing Internet rumors about this hockey mom's pregnant teenage daughter?

Plus, meltdown at MSNBC. Keith, Chris, Joe, why can't they all just get along?


KURTZ: It was an extraordinary phone call that amounted to nothing less than a declaration of war. Steve Schmidt, John McCain's top strategist, was on the line with me in St. Paul, and he wasn't just mad, he was furious.

The mainstream media, he said, were being vicious and scurrilous towards Sarah Palin. In fact, he said journalists were on a mission to destroy the Alaska governor, who stole the show at this week's Republican convention. It was a calculated decision for McCain to run not just against Barack Obama, but the news business as well. You heard it when Palin addressed the convention just five days after being unveiled as McCain's vice presidential pick.


PALIN: I've learned quickly these last few days that that if you're not a member in good standing of the Washington elite, then some in the media consider a candidate unqualified for that reason alone.


KURTZ: The story of this moose-hunting hockey mom and her five kids, including her 17-year-old daughter, who we learned on Monday is pregnant, dominated the media coverage, and there were lots of questions and comments like these...


MEREDITH VIEIRA, NBC NEWS: Her youngest child, Down syndrome, and now her oldest daughter is pregnant. And there's some moms out there that are angry, saying that she has put her family unfairly into the spotlight.

LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": Do you think that the -- that the governor is using her children in a way? I mean, she has these five children, one has Down syndrome, one is pregnant, and parading them all on stage.


KURTZ: So are these questions fair? What about the overall tone of the coverage of this newcomer from the north?

Joing us now in Boston, Emily Rooney, host of "Beat the Press" on WGBH. Here in Washington, Sally Quinn, founder and co-author of the "On Faith" blog at and "Newsweek." Roger Simon, chief political correspondent for And Ed Henry, CNN's White House correspondent.

Sally Quinn, about five minutes after Sarah Palin got into this race you questioned her decision to do that because of her family issues. In fact, you said, "I don't see how can you not make your family your first priority." Bill O'Reilly took issue with you the other day.

Let's take a quick look.


BILL O'REILLY, "THE O'REILLY FACTOR": The media is dominated by pinheads who don't know any of the regular folks, who just hang around with each other and spit out this stuff like, how can this little woman have the audacity to run for vice president?


KURTZ: So, looking back, do you think you were a little unfair?

SALLY QUINN, "WASHINGTON POST": No, I was not unfair about that. I went on Bill O'Reilly twice, the second time to say that I had underestimated her, I was wrong about her. I think that she is a formidable candidate.

But I do still have grave doubts about whether a mother of five, soon to be six, with a special needs child and a child who is pregnant, is going to be able to put her country first. I think we heard McCain say 100 times, "I'm going to put my country first."

KURTZ: Right.

QUINN: And I think men and women who go to war, men and women who are in a position of vice president, president, have to assure the voters that they are going to put their country first. KURTZ: And you have some experience with this because you have a learning disabled son.


KURTZ: But isn't this a decision for Governor Palin to make, not for Sally Quinn?

QUINN: I'm not making the decision. What I'm saying is you can't do it all.

KURTZ: All right.

QUINN: Not with this large a family and these problems that she has. So what I need to know as a voter, I need to be reassured that she will put her country first because I need a president and a vice president who will do that.

KURTZ: Emily Rooney, isn't this woman, a governor, getting all kinds of coverage and all kinds of questions that a male politician would never have to put up with?

EMILY ROONEY, HOST, "BEAT THE PRESS": There's a lot of things you wouldn't ask a man that that you ask a woman. I mean, personal questions. But I have to say, I agree with Sally Quinn.

You know, of all the things that she was criticized for, you know, her record as governor, the vetting process itself, this thing about family and career is the thing that people have really focused on, and for good reason. Today in "The Boston Globe," there's a piece looking at her record as governor. They call her a hands-off governor, and one of the reasons cited by the people around her is the fact that she lives in Wasilla, 800 miles from Juneau, and didn't spend a lot of time in Juneau.

Why didn't she spend a lot of time in Juneau? Because she had five children at home, and that was her priority. So how are you going to convince people now that that's not going to be her priority? And there's nothing wrong with that being her priority.

KURTZ: Roger Simon, you have been defending the media. You kind of mocked the idea that the media have done anything wrong here. So basically you think the coverage has been fine?

ROGER SIMON, POLITICO.COM: I think the coverage has been fair, although I happen not to agree with Sally that she can't put her country first. And if she's elected vice president, she's going to be living a few miles from the office in the West Wing of the White House.

My column dealt with our right to ask her questions. I mean, you can't get to -- this is Sunday. Three of the four members of the ticket are out on the Sunday shows; Sarah Palin is not. She hasn't had a single press conference.

And I think it's fair for us to ask her a whole variety of questions, including questions about her family. She talks about her son Track, a teenager who enlisted in the Army. She's proud of him, but she doesn't want to talk about her daughter Bristol who got pregnant.

Why can't we ask her if her views on abstinence only have changed since that experience?

KURTZ: I'll come back to that.

But Ed Henry, does any of this make you cringe? I mean, when Joe Biden tragically three decades ago was in a car accident where his wife and one of his kids was killed, nobody said, oh, how could he take his Senate seat because he's got two young kids at home who need a father? I mean, these are questions that seem to be asked of women.

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right. I think you're absolutely right.

I don't think Sally's a pinhead, just for the record, and I have admired her work for a long time.

QUINN: Thank you so much.

HENRY: But I can't believe what I'm hearing from you though, Sally, and I can't believe what Emily said, basically that, you know, how could she be a mother and be vice president? Why are you not saying the same thing about Barack Obama? He's a father of two young daughters who look quite beautiful.

How could he possibly, then, by this standard you're creating, go to Washington and be president, which I assume is more important than vice president, we would all agree or just as important? And why are you not questioning whether he could be a good father?

I just think there's a double standard. And I thought the whole point of women having equal rights was that they could have a family and a career. And secondly, that men, as fathers -- and I'm a father -- should be just as active as the moms are. So I don't understand.

KURTZ: Let me get a brief response from Sally.

QUINN: It ain't going to happen. I mean, men and women are different. Every single one of my friends -- I've been a working mother for 26 years -- every single friend practically that I have is a working mother.

They are constantly in a state of guilt and conflict. They take on the burden of the child rearing, and the husbands do not. Men and women are different, and every mother and every father knows that in his or her heart.

HENRY: I totally understand the guilt issue you're talking about, but I do not think that means that women should not be able to serve. That's my point.

QUINN: I didn't say that. Did you hear me say that? HENRY: But you're questioning whether or not she can be vice president.

QUINN: No, I didn't say not be able to serve. Every woman -- I have women friends who are CEOs, who are senators, who are -- Nancy Pelosi, although she waited until her children were older to take on her job as speaker of the House. I have women friends who are directors.

I have -- all of my friends are working in high-powered jobs, but we're talking about the presidency of the United States. We are talking about the commander in chief here.

KURTZ: Right.

Let me get to another issue here, because as I mentioned at the top, Steve Schmidt had been criticizing the coverage quite vociferously of Sarah Palin. He also did some of this on TV. Here's what he had to say on CBS.


STEVE SCHMIDT, MCCAIN CAMPAIGN SR. ADVISER: I've been asked questions when her amniotic fluid started to leak with regard to her last birth. Members of this campaign went to off-the-record lunches with reporters today, and they were asked if she would do a paternity test to prove paternity for her last child. Smear after smear after smear, and it's disgraceful and it's wrong.


KURTZ: Emily Rooney, are those the kinds of questions journalists should be asking of a vice presidential candidate?

ROONEY: I would like to know who asked that question. He never said who. He said mainstream press. Who?

Is the Daily Kos mainstream press? Who?

KURTZ: I don't know.

ROONEY: Were you at that press conference? I mean...

KURTZ: They told me that reputable journalists from major national news organizations have asked...

ROONEY: I don't know.

KURTZ: ... about these questions. But the distinction here is, unlike some of the liberal blogs, they haven't published this. They're asking the questions. So then it becomes, well, is asking the question in itself unfair?

ROONEY: No. I mean, there was a lot of information that came out, some had been in the tabloids. You have to, you know, source some of these things, too. "US Weekly," various tabloid publications, who said things about the pregnancies. That was one of the questions. I mean, is she willing to take a paternity test -- is she willing to take a maternity test?

I mean, you can ask the question. I didn't see it printed anywhere. I didn't see it on CNN. I didn't see it on "The CBS Evening News." I was shocked I did see what Steve Schmidt said, but I didn't see where it actually appeared anywhere.

KURTZ: Is there an attempt, Roger Simon, by the McCain campaign to lump all of this together, the legitimate questions about her record and background, and who is Sarah Palin -- after all, she was a stranger to most of the country and the other 49 states -- the questions about the daughter's pregnancy, the questions about the Down syndrome baby, the liberal blogs that said she actually faked the pregnancy and she was the grandmother to this baby, and supermarket tabloid stuff?

SIMON: Sure. And the campaign is -- and Mike Huckabee, when he spoke at the convention, let the cat out of the bug. He said, "I would like to thank the elite media for attacking Sarah Palin because it unites the Republican Party." It is uniting the Republican Party. And I'm from the school of...

KURTZ: How did you manage that? You're an elite guy.

SIMON: It comes naturally.

I'm from the school of journalism that says the only dumb question is the one you don't ask. There's nothing wrong with questions. If Steve Schmidt doesn't want to answer them, that's fine. And he also says these were from an off-the-record lunch, so what is he doing talking about them? The press there wasn't allowed to write about it, but Steve Schmidt is allowed to talk about them?

The fact is she can get up and say yes, no, I don't want to answer that question. That question is disgusting and you shouldn't ask it. All of those are acceptable, but where is Sarah Palin?

KURTZ: As part of the pushback against the president, Ed Henry, John McCain was supposed to be interviewed on "LARRY KING LIVE," and the McCain campaign cancelled that interview because it was upset, they said, about an interview that Campbell Brown did on CNN with the spokesman for the McCain campaign in which she kept pressing him to give one example of a decision that Governor Palin had made as the commander of the Alaska National Guard.

So they are playing hardball here.

HENRY: They are. But, I mean, if you go back -- and anyone can go on the Web and see that interview -- Campbell Brown was tough but fair, and that's what we all strive to do with these questions.

KURTZ: Let me take a second and let's play it if we have that so people can see it for themselves. HENRY: OK.


CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: OK. So tell me -- give me an example of one of those decisions. I'm just curious, just one decision she made in her capacity as commander of chief as the National Guard.

TUCKER BOUNDS, MCCAIN SPOKESMAN: Campbell, certainly you don't mean to belittle every experience, every judgment that she makes as commander of the National Guard.

BROWN: I'm belittling nothing. I just want to know one judgment or one decision.


KURTZ: Based on that, they yanked McCain from Larry King?

HENRY: I never heard an answer. I mean, I know Tucker, I work with him, I respect him. But Tucker never answered that question, as to name one thing. It seems like a pretty simple thing if you're going to hold up Sarah Palin's experience.

So getting beyond that, I think, look, it's obvious, as you've pointed out, Roger's pointed out, there's partly a strategy here by the McCain camp. He's never been -- John McCain has never been the perfect guy for the conservative base, and the oldest trick in the book is to throw out -- you know, throw out some red meat, beat up on the national mainstream media. It gets the conservatives fired up. I was there at the convention, and every time those guys mentioned that, the conventioneers, the Republicans got very excited.

QUINN: Howie, I think the most important thing to recognize here is that we have only eight weeks to find out who Sarah Palin is, and she is running for presumably the most important office in the land.

KURTZ: A heartbeat away, as they say.

QUINN: She could be the president of the United States. And we know nothing about her. And I think for us not to ask these questions is absolutely irresponsible. We're doing our job, and everybody in the country has a right to know. There is no zone of privacy in this particular arena.

KURTZ: And Emily Rooney, Joe Biden was on "Meet the Press" this morning, and he said, "I wonder if Sarah Palin will come on programs like these." But the McCain campaign is saying they are in no rush to put Sarah Palin out before reporters or have her hold a press conference.

They may do it eventually, but what do you make of that tactic?

ROONEY: I think it's brilliant. And I think she snubbed her nose at the mainstream press, and "Meet the Press" specifically, during her acceptance speech.

I think this is going to be her strategy. She may go underground with smaller publications. Maybe she will give you an interview for "The Washington Post," but she's not going to do a big mass press conference. Why should she? This is a brilliant strategy.

KURTZ: Well, they can do whatever they want. It's their campaign. But we have the right, I think, to object and to protest, particularly if this goes on for a while.

My two cents are these: There's a larger point here. Yes, most of these stories about Sarah Palin are legitimate, but what some of you are missing is that to many people, and not just women, to raise these questions about motherhood, to raise these questions about the daughter's pregnancy, sounds to some folks condescending and even sexist. And the pregnancy thing I think can be seen as a low blow. Lots of families have these problems.

It reminds me of what happened during the coverage of Hillary Clinton, when we didn't realize how this sounded to a lot of people. So I think there already is a backlash against the media on the coverage of Governor Palin, and I think the tone is starting to change just a little bit because of that backlash.

When we come back, remember when the pundits and the pontificators said Sarah Palin was an awful choice for VP? That's next.


KURTZ: When John McCain unveiled his running mate nine days ago, the journalist reaction was nearly unanimous -- what was he thinking? Many pundits likened the choice of Sarah Palin to a desperation play in football. But gradually, and especially after the rookie governor's speech at the Republican convention, those snap judgments began to change.


GLORIA BORGER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: I do believe that this is kind of a Hail Mary pass.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A political Hail Mary.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A real Hail Mary pass.

CHARLES GIBSON, ABC NEWS: She's got very little experience as governor of Alaska.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Is Sarah Palin ready, God forbid, to be commander in chief of the United States?

BROWN: Is she really the most qualified person to be commander in chief in a crisis? TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS: And what she did tonight was introduce herself not just to this hall, to the American public in a very engaging and winning way.

BLITZER: What an amazing speech from the Republican vice presidential candidate.

ROBIN ROBERTS, ABC NEWS: Sarah Palin more than proved that she can hold her own there on the big stage.


KURTZ: Talk about a flip-flop, Roger Simon. How could the geniuses of the press change their mind in less than a week?

SIMON: She gave a good speech.

KURTZ: Is that all it takes?

SIMON: Apparently so. I mean, this is the easy part of the campaign.

She gave a good speech which was written by others. All the speeches are written by others. And she rehearsed it had for a couple of days. All the speeches are rehearsed for a couple of days.

And now the media is, totally, wow, she's ready to be vice president. There are two separate issues.

KURTZ: The word "superficial" comes to mind. But some of those early assessments, I mean, let's face it, most of us didn't know anything about Sarah Palin. Some of the pundits couldn't even pronounce her name. It kind of looked like shooting from the lip.

HENRY: Sure. And I think everyone was trying to get a handle of it. But I do think, you know, sometimes the pendulum swings back and forth. I mean, just as easily if in a debate with Joe Biden she doesn't do very well, you're going to be able to play the clips where everybody is like, what were they thinking there?

KURTZ: Emily Rooney, clearly the perceptions could change again as journalists grapple with this question of whether Sarah Palin is a plausible president. But those early reviews, again, there was quite a pullback there after she gave that speech.

ROONEY: I think you're seeing it happening right now as of today. It's going back to some of the original questions. I mean, there's a big difference between likability and capability, and that's what people are going to start looking at again.

I don't think it was just a question of the press saying what was he thinking? I think they went one step further in saying it seems transparent to go out and get a very likable, presentable, very articulate, attractive woman and appeal to, frankly, the Hillary Clinton crowd. That was part of the game plan, and that seemed like a reach. The fact of the matter is, she came off as credible and attractive and articulate, but now I think you're going to see people go back. As I was saying, "The Boston Globe" is in Anchorage today, looking at her record.

KURTZ: There are a lot of reporters in Anchorage today looking at her record.

But, you know, likability, Sally Quinn, is not to be underestimated in politics. But still, I don't know, as a journalist, as a voter, what Sarah Palin thinks about Israel and the Palestinians, or the situation in Pakistan, or Russia and Georgia, or health care or immigration. So there's a lot of blanks to be filled in here.

QUINN: Well, and you may not until the election is over, if we ever hear from her.

KURTZ: What, you really think that we'll never find out what she thinks about anything?

QUINN: No. I think the legitimate questions were, oh, my God, this woman has no experience. She has managed to take two major criticisms of Barack Obama off the table: inexperience and rhetorical ability. Those two things can't -- they can't criticize Obama for anymore.

But Howie, I've been talking to some really high-powered -- when I say high-powered, I mean serious high-powered -- Republicans who are appalled by this choice, because they feel that it is irresponsible. And I think that when people first heard about it, everybody was shocked because they thought this woman has no experience.

She gave a brilliant speech. That was great. As you said, someone else wrote it and other people do it.

KURTZ: She is, after all, a governor.

QUINN: But she still remains inexperienced.

KURTZ: Let me get a very brief response from the remaining three panelists here.

If she continues to do no press conferences and no interviews, and we make an issue out of it, will the public be sympathetic to us, or will they think that we're just pushing for our own access?

SIMON: They will not be sympathetic to Sarah Palin. The public expects her to answer questions.

KURTZ: But do they care if she talks to reporters?

HENRY: I don't think they will care about the reporter part, because we're pretty low down in the polls right now. But Roger is right that, you know, at some point she does have to answer these questions. And I think where it will really come home is in this debate with Joe Biden. If she's seen as ducking from the media, they won't care about us not getting interviews, but then if she goes to that debate and doesn't know what she's talking about, she's going to be in real trouble.

KURTZ: Emily Rooney, brief response. Any sympathy for journalistic complaints about lack of access to the governor?

ROONEY: People aren't going to notice because she's going to be all over the blogs and television and newspapers. They're not really going to notice that she's not doing this one-on-one personal interview unless people like us keep pointing it out.

KURTZ: I think a few of us may call attention to it.

All right. Emily Rooney, Roger Simon, Sally Quinn, Ed Henry, thanks for joining us this morning.

Coming up in the second half of RELIABLE SOURCES, conventional wisdom. Did news organizations apply the same standards to John McCain's Republican gathering as they did for Barack Obama and the Democrats?

Plus, tabloid and tawdry. Even the glossy magazines can't get enough of Sarah Palin.

And MSNBC moves left, and everyone there seems to be yelling at each other.


CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC: I'll wrap it a second. I'll wrap in a second.



KURTZ: For a week in Denver, the media questioned whether the Clintons would disrupt the Democratic convention and whether those fake Greek columns would distract from Barack Obama's football stadium speech. In the end, he got rave reviews.

For a week in St. Paul, the media questioned whether Hurricane Gustav would blow away the Republican convention, whether Hurricane Sarah would rock the convention, and whether John McCain could deliver the big speech. He got fairly lukewarm reviews.

Joining us now to talk about the coverage at the conventions and the continuing controversy over journalists are treating Sarah Palin, in San Francisco, Joan Walsh, editor-in-chief of And here in Washington, Amanda Carpenter, national political reporter for

Amanda, did John McCain and the Republicans get a fair shake from the media other than the fact that their first day of the convention was blown away by the hurricane? AMANDA CARPENTER, TOWNHALL.COM: Well, I think if you look at the number of viewers that ended up watching Sarah Palin's big primetime speech and John McCain's, they beat the Democrats in those two nights. So although...

KURTZ: And particularly amazing that the vice presidential nominee would get such a big audience.

CARPENTER: Right. I mean, so I think they have got to be happy with that, even though they essentially lost the first day of coverage.

KURTZ: Joan Walsh, McCain's speech got nothing like the advanced hoopla surrounding Obama addressing 75,000 people at Mile High Stadium. So was there a little bit of a discrepancy there?

JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM: Well, I think it was the novelty of what Obama was doing, taking it out of the Pepsi Center. Howie, I think that accounted for it. And then, you know, there is this kind of double standard which in some ways benefits McCain, because the bar is so high for Obama, he's incredible.

When McCain just performs adequately, that's OK. He's not a rock star; he's not a speaker. So, you know, in the end I think it benefited McCain.

I think the Clinton storyline that you alluded to was also kind of a faux storyline. Anybody with a brain knew the Clintons would do what they had to do. So a lot of the coverage in Denver I thought was driven by kind of gossip and, this person isn't talking to that person, which was in a way unfair to the Democrats, although it did give the convention a crescendo when they performed.

KURTZ: Well, you know the media love conflict, and if it's not there, we'll try to sniff it out anyway.

WALSH: Yes. We'll find it.

KURTZ: All right. Let me play for you some of the chatter on the airwaves, which was also reflected in the newspaper magazine coverage, about, naturally enough, Governor Palin.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Can she balance being a vice president, raising five kids, including a 4-month-old who has special needs, has Down syndrome?

ED SCHULTZ, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: What kind of mother is she? Is she prepared to be the vice president? Is she going to be totally focused on the issues?



GLENN BECK, HEADLINE NEWS: Many in the media just have this vitriolic hate for Sarah Palin.

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ, CBS NEWS: We've talked this morning about whether a mother of five can handle being the vice president. Who looks after the kids when she's working?

MARK HALPERIN, "TIME" MAGAZINE: I think there is sexism here. Some of these issues clearly relate to the fact that she's a woman.


KURTZ: Amanda Carpenter, aside from the comments of individual commentators, has the overall tone of the coverage about Sarah Palin and her family and whether she can do the job, has it been somewhat sexist?

CARPENTER: I think it has, because there's been a number of people, you know, mainly her opponents, trying to use her motherhood as a way to disqualify her accepting the job as VP. They're asking the question, how could she be a good mother and have this job at the same time? So it's like they're treating those as if they're mutually exclusive.

On the same token, nobody has ever asked Joe Biden if he did the right thing by accepting a Senate job after he had the situation with his family, because that would be the wrong thing to do.

KURTZ: When his wife died and he had two young kids at home.


KURTZ: Joan Walsh, you have described Sarah Palin as Rudy Giuliani in drag, as Dick Cheney in lipstick. What about this notion that, you know, we're asking these questions and making these comments and assumptions, and sitting in judgment of a woman who wants to be both a working professional and a mother, that we would never ask of a man?

WALSH: Well, I agree with Amanda on this one. I think there's a lot to criticize about Sarah Palin, and I think the Republicans are pushing back with the sexism charge a little bit too hard.

However, I was shocked to hear Sally Quinn say what she just said on your show. You know, I...

KURTZ: As far as what? Remind viewers what she said.

WALSH: As far as -- as far as, you know, there's a different standard for mothers. There is, but let's -- I would be very proud if Sarah Palin redefined parenthood and if Todd Palin stepped up and stepped into that primary care giver role.

If Republicans are going to show us the way to do that, more power to them. So I definitely think that the questions about, you know, should a mother be doing this and, you know, raising questions about how did her daughter get pregnant and all these awful things that you're hearing, you know, from both sides, but especially, I have to say, I'm shocked to hear it from liberals, I think they are off base. I think they are wrong.

Now, asking about, did she cut funding for teen pregnancy? That's fine.

CARPENTER: You know, one of the reasons I think we saw her being attacked as a mother from the get-go is because many members of the media were blindsided by this choice. They kind of didn't get the head's up on it like they did with Mitt Romney. They didn't see her coming.

KURTZ: There was no leak, there was no trial balloon. We were totally cut out of the action.

CARPENTER: Right. They didn't -- so they said, what do we go with? Well, we know she's a mom, so let's ask questions about that. That's what I think is part of the reason why this happened.

KURTZ: An ABC News poll found that two-thirds of Republicans have found the coverage of Sarah Palin to be unfair, and only one- third of Democrats. So it breaks down along partisan lines. And those who found the coverage unfair, most of them don't blame sexism, they blame political bias.

But Joan Walsh, you're a mother. Should we all sit in judgment of how she's handling her kids, about the baby, about the daughter who got pregnant? I mean, don't lots of working women make these choices every day out of the media spotlight?

WALSH: We do, and we balance it differently. And we all make different calls, and our partners and husbands do different amounts of childcare. And it really is -- I mean, this is where I would hope liberals and conservatives and people who care about liberty could make some common cause and give this family a break on this issue.

Now, we've never seen a woman with such young children in the spotlight like this, but she has every right to do it. This is what feminism has fought for. So, you know, I am appalled by some of the level of snarkiness, and I do think, to some extent, it's political opportunism.

On the other hand, you know, there's a lot of conservatives who rail against women working who are supporting Sarah Palin. So there's definitely a double standard there, Howie.

KURTZ: You want to respond to that?

CARPENTER: Well, I'm curious for her to name the conservatives that do that, because out of all the conservatives I've talked to, especially at the Republican convention, have been overwhelmingly supportive of Sarah Palin.

WALSH: They have been. They absolutely have been.

CARPENTER: This is part of the reason why it was good that all this broke during the convention. We had that day off, so to speak, on Monday because of the hurricanes, because everybody could talk about these negative sexist attacks being leveraged against her, and it gave us an opportunity to sort of get on message and say we're not standing for this.

KURTZ: Joan, I'll give you a chance to respond in a second, but let me put up the cover of "The New York Post" the other day. And it's got a picture of 17-year-old Bristol Palin, and the headline was -- have we got that? -- "Palin Teen Baby Shock." There we see it.

And I want to ask you if there is a class aspect to this. They've been reporting on Bristol's boyfriend, who said on his MySpace page, "I'm a (blanking) red neck."

WALSH: Right.

KURTZ: There's the trooper who's divorced from Sarah Palin's sister that she either did or did not allegedly apply pressure, try to get fired.

Are some journalists just kind of looking down their nose at this clan?

WALSH: Sure, and they did it to Bill Clinton, too. I mean, there's often a class aspect. When you have somebody from a different background, you know, people, the elite media, tends to savage them in that particular way. And I think there has been a piling on about the family.

On the other hand, you know, it's somewhat what Amanda said. She's so new, people really don't know where to look. And, you know, to some extent she brought it on herself by issuing that statement...

CARPENTER: Oh, come on, Joan.

WALSH: Well, by issuing that statement...

CARPENTER: Brought it on herself?

WALSH: Amanda, there is a double standard here.

CARPENTER: Sarah Palin deserved these attacks?

WALSH: No. But there's a double standard here, Amanda, where suddenly "The New York Times" is being savaged for reporting on the pregnancy -- you know, why would "The New York Times," the august "New York Times" do this? Well, she issued a statement. Were people supposed to walk away and not print the statement?

CARPENTER: There are fair questions.

KURTZ: Let me get an answer from Amanda because we're short on time.

WALSH: Sure.

CARPENTER: Yes, there are fair questions about her family's situation and there are unfair questions. It is unfair to put Bristol Palin on the cover that you should showed there.

KURTZ: Even after the campaign, as Joan just said, put out a statement announcing that her 17-year-old daughter is pregnant?

CARPENTER: You can talk to the mother about how it might impact her as a policymaker. I think that's fair to do. But to put the children in the spotlight in that fashion I believe is unfair.

KURTZ: So much more to say...

WALSH: I would not have put her on the cover.

KURTZ: All right.

WALSH: I would not have put her on the cover that way.

KURTZ: I think we have a rare moment of consensus on that.

WALSH: We do.

KURTZ: So much more to say, but we've got to go.

Amanda Carpenter, Joan Walsh, thanks for joining us this morning.

After the break, hooked on the hockey mom. Sarah Palin becomes an overnight celebrity.


KURTZ: Sarah Palin is more than just the first woman to run on a Republican presidential ticket. In just nine days, she's become a cover girl, a crossover hit, a cultural phenomenon.

Here she is on the cover of "People," on the cover of "US Weekly," on the cover of "OK!" magazine. John McCain has never gotten this kind of treatment, but then he's not an ice-fishing, caribou- hunting hockey mom from Alaska with a snowmobile champion husband.

Joining us now to talk about Palin's sudden celebrity status, in New York, Lola Ogunnaike, who reports on entertainment for CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING." And here in Washington, Matthew Felling, who's heading out to the newsworthy state of Alaska to be an anchor at the CBS affiliate KTVA.

Lola, "People," "US Weekly," "OK!" not all usually all that concerned with presidential politics. Why are they going haywire over Sarah Palin?

LOLOA OGUNNAIKE, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Because she's got the most compelling political story that's come along in decades. I mean, not to mention the fact that she's extremely attractive.

She's got this pregnant daughter. The daughter has a boyfriend who confesses to being a (bleeping) red neck on his MySpace page. There's all sorts of allegations swirling around this family. And I think it's just too juicy a story to ignore. It's something that is ripped from the script of a "Desperate Housewives" plot line. And there you have it. Of course the tabloids are going to go hog wild over this story. And I expect more to come. They are not going to let this go at all.

KURTZ: Matthew Felling, this story really has gone tabloid.

MATTHEW FELLING, TO BE ANCHOR OF CBS AFFILIATE KTVA: Oh, it absolutely has. And I think when we were talking about earlier with Sarah Palin's criticism of the mainstream media, if she has any criticism it's mostly towards the tabloid media. It's mostly towards the TMZ.coms of the world and the "OK!" magazines of the world.

And I think in that, she's absolutely correct, because they were reporting all these rumors and reporting all this innuendo about maybe she had faked her pregnancy and maybe -- I mean, there was a whole lot of...

KURTZ: That's what led to the announcement from the McCain campaign that her daughter was pregnant.

FELLING: Yes, precisely, because there was all this online scuttlebutt. And I think the McCain/Palin ticket has an opportunity here.

If they can keep it sounding like a "Lifetime Movie of the Week" where there's this woman, this governor who is being abused and criticized by the tabloid media, then they can make some hay with it. But if they treat it as a political journalism story where they are cowering from the likes of Roger Simon and Ed Henry and the people that we had on before, well then I think that the tide is going to turn.

KURTZ: But if it's a "Lifetime Movie of the Week," Lola, then it seems to me that it's a very mixed picture from the point of view of a ticket that is trying to get, you know, John McCain and Sarah Palin elected president and vice president of the United States. In other words, it's great to be a celebrity, and she'll get a book deal out of it and maybe her own television show, but does it undercut the effort to paint her as a serious, reform-minded governor?

OGUNNAIKE: And that's what she is going to have to guard against. I mean, McCain has been really good about painting Obama as this lightweight, using the word "celebrity" as a pejorative. They don't want to have a boomerang effect. They don't want that to come back on Sarah Palin, and people say, yes, she looks good in a bikini clutching an AK-47, but is she equipped to run the country?

FELLING: Well, you're acting like the media can actually have two conflicting thoughts and actually vet those two thoughts. I mean, we had Sarah Palin on one night saying all these horrible things and all these criticisms about Obama and about Biden and about Michelle Obama as well.

KURTZ: What do you mean horrible? She is entitled to take her shots. FELLING: I know. But then the very next night, her meal ticket, John McCain, is saying, I'm going to end the partisan rancor, and everybody could report it sequentially, Palin levies criticisms, and then the next night McCain is going to end all this stuff. So, I mean, you could always have two different narratives.

KURTZ: Well, I think some of us can walk and chew gum at the same time, but I don't think "People" or "US Weekly" or "OK!" magazine have any interest in this question of whether Sarah Palin is qualified to be vice president. They're interested in the soap opera.

FELLING: No, and I think when you get to the US Weeklys of the world, I mean, this was an application of Bush league journalism with a Yankee Stadium story. I mean, you do not talk about a baby bump of a veep contender or of a veep daughter the same way you do Nicole Richie. And I think that what we saw this week was a little bit beyond the pale. And I think that "US Weekly" just stick to the sandbox and cover the Hollywood scuttlebutt.

KURTZ: Hey, but this is the hottest story in America. Are you saying they shouldn't cover it?

FELLING: It is the hottest -- but it doesn't mean you should have lower standards when it comes to reporting on rumor on innuendo. I think this is a serious -- this is a serious...

KURTZ: Go ahead, Lola.

OGUNNAIKE: I have to say, I read the "US Weekly" story, and they were actually pretty good. They actually did some pretty good journalism there.

And yes, you don't expect it to come from "US Weekly," but it did. And this is a bigger story here.

The tabloids are recognizing that politics are just as sexy to their reader as the Paris Hiltons of the world or the Britney Spears of the world. They can't afford to ignore this story because this story drives magazine sales. And that's the bottom line, that's what they care about. So if you throw Palin on the cover and you have the words "Baby Scandal," they know that's going to sell magazines.

KURTZ: Well, we'll come back to this. But I want to play a piece of tape -- this is one of those off-camera incidents in which the mikes were still hot at MSNBC. "Wall Street Journal" columnist Peggy Noonan, former Republican speechwriter, and Mike Murphy, Republican strategist-turned-NBC-analyst, were talking about the Palin pick once they thought nobody was listening.

Let's listen.


PEGGY NOONAN, "WALL STREET JOURNAL" COLUMNIST: The most qualified? No. I think they went for this -- excuse me -- political bull (EXPLETIVE DELETED) about narratives and the picture. CHUCK TODD, MSNBC: Yes, they went to a narrative.

NOONAN: Every time the Republicans do that, because that's not where they live and it's not what they're good at, they blow it.

MIKE MURPHY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: You know what's really the worst thing about it? The greatest of McCain is no cynicism, and this is cynical.


KURTZ: Matthew Felling, does this reinforce the perception that pundits don't say what they really think when the cameras are going on?

FELLING: Yes. Peggy Noonan, I have Jesse Jackson on line five. You always assume the mike is hot. You always have to assume that you're being taped somewhere in this multimedia universe.

Yes, I think that there's a level of candor that Americans are -- see lacking when it comes to the talking heads on TV, where they say one thing, they get their talking points across, and they maybe -- they reel it in a little bit, but then off screen they will be like, yes, I think it's BS. I think it's...


KURTZ: Although, in fairness, Murphy, who used to work for McCain, has criticized him on the air a number of times, and Peggy Noonan has not been a McCain cheerleader as well.

Let me come back t this tabloid issue, Lola Ogunnaike, and as you this: Does all of this coverage of the baby and all of that, does it help drag the mainstream press, those of us who think of ourselves as above that, down a few notches lower because then it becomes such a topic of conversation, Leno and Letterman joking about it, and we feel like we have to cover it as well?

OGUNNAIKE: Well, I don't think it drags the mainstream down. We can't afford to ignore to ignore those stories, but I don't think it drags the mainstream down at all.

I remember somebody telling me that gossip is just news dressed up in a sexy red dress. So we can have news still dressed up in a navy blue suit and the gossip still dressed up in a red dress. And we can all exist at the same party looking fabulous in our own right. So I wouldn't worry about that.

KURTZ: I've got to check my wardrobe.

Matt Felling, there's been a lot of sex scandal stories about, you know, you name it, Bill Clinton, Rudy Giuliani, Eliot Spitzer and the prostitutes, Jim McGreevey, Larry Craig. But somehow it seems to be different when a woman is involved. The tone seems to be in the media just a little different. FELLING: Yes. And I think what you -- I mean, like I said, it was a Lifetime movie network. It's a softer lens and it's a more critical lens, and there is a double standard. I mean, here we have Eliot Spitzer, the circular route of the guy who's law and order...

KURTZ: But how about Sarah Palin?

FELLING: Sarah Palin, when it comes to the mainstream media and when it comes to "The New York Times," she was covered and vetted by the media this week. But when it comes to "US Weekly," I think -- and I understand that she was saying babies and scandals, but to say the words "Babies, Lies and Scandals" on the cover of "US Weekly" is unfair, it's pushing it too far.

KURTZ: OK. All right. Well, come back from Alaska and give us a firsthand report on the culture there.

FELLING: All right.

KURTZ: Thank you, Matthew Felling.

Thank you, Lola Ogunnaike.

Still to come, forget the virtual fireworks at the convention. Things really exploded at MSNBC. We'll assess the damage next.


KURTZ: In the great echo chamber that is cable television, raw opinion can really move that rating's needle. That's part of the formula at FOX News, which attracts lots of viewers who root for Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity. But what happens when a news network is virtually taken over by anchors and commentators on the liberal side of the spectrum who don't always work and play well those who disagree?

Well, we found out these last two weeks at MSNBC.


KURTZ (voice-over): Keith Olbermann is the cable channel's biggest star, and he's become a full-throated liberal crusader who regularly bashes President Bush and John McCain. He got into it at the Democratic convention with one of MSNBC' few conservative voices, former Republican congressman Joe Scarborough, who tried to argue that McCain was becoming more competitive with Barack Obama.

JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC: ... with one message, and there are plenty of problems with that message.

KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC: Joe, why don't you get a shovel.

SCARBOROUGH: A shovel? I'm sorry, somebody asked why...

OLBERMANN: I mean, seriously, Joe. The man just lost -- I did. The man just lost seven points in the likely voter poll. SCARBOROUGH: Get a shovel, Keith? My God.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC: Well, are we done?

SCARBOROUGH: Well, if you want to be done.


SCARBOROUGH: Let me thank you very much. Would you like me to get another shovel?

KURTZ: It sounds like they wanted to hit each other with a shovel.

Scarborough also clashed with correspondent David Shuster, who argued that the McCain campaign was denigrating critics pushing for an American withdrawal from Iraq. Scarborough dripped with contempt when Shuster (INAUDIBLE) Republicans.

SCARBOROUGH: You said -- OK. What about -- what about your party?

DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Joe, (INAUDIBLE). They are the ones who have repeatedly suggested, they have ridiculed...

SCARBOROUGH: What's your party? Hold on a second, David.

SHUSTER: Look, I'm making the point...

SCARBOROUGH: David, what's your party?

I bet everybody at MSNBC has independent on their voting cards. Oh, we're down the middle now.

MIKA BRZEZINSKI, MSNBC: OK. No, no, no, no. Let him talk.

SCARBOROUGH: Go ahead, David. No, no, David, go ahead. I'm about as down the middle as anybody on television on any network.

SHUSTER: Then Joe, why don't you call up the McCain campaign on that?

SCARBOROUGH: You come in with a cheap shot calling up (ph) your party.

KURTZ: Scarborough later apologized.

Republican strategist Mike Murphy, an NBC contributor, had a tough time getting on in primetime. And when he did, Olbermann was overheard asking that Murphy be hustled off the stage.

MATTHEWS: I really believe -- let me get back to the question.

OLBERMANN: Let's wrap him up. All right?

MATTHEWS: I want to ask you this question, Mike. KURTZ: All this has greatly embarrassed some of the stalwarts at NBC News, the home of Brian Williams, Tom Brokaw, Andrea Mitchell, Chuck Todd and David Gregory.

JON STEWART, "THE DAILY SHOW: Is there no control? Is it "Lord of the Flies"? Does anyone have the conch? Can anybody be the leader over there? Could you go in there, or is it all just Piggy? What's going on?

BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: We're doing this, aren't we?


STEWART: Can you gain control over these people?

WILLIAMS: Jon, I think every family has a dynamic -- is this working? Has a dynamic all its own, and you -- sometimes it takes a figure to come in and...

STEWART: Right. But does MSNBC have to be the Lohans, I guess is what I'm saying?

KURTZ: Brokaw has finally gone public with his criticism, saying that at times, Olbermann and Chris Matthews have gone too far.


KURTZ: The upside, MSNBC can be rather entertaining to watch. You never know when these guys are going to get into a fight. The downside is the growing reputation as a liberal bastion that doesn't particularly welcome other viewpoints.

Well, that's it for this edition of RELIABLE SOURCES.

I'm Howard Kurtz.

Join us again next Sunday morning, 10:00 a.m. Eastern, for another critical look at the media.