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Interview With Bob Schieffer; Interview With Editor of RadarOnline
Aired July 18, 2010 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: It's not hard to tell when Fox News is pushing a story. It shows up hour after hour after hour. And Fox is pushing hard on allegations that the Justice Department dropped the case against the New Black Panther Party because of racial politics.
Now, such Fox hosts as Megyn Kelly are calling out the rest of the media over this story and slamming Bob Schieffer for failing to raise it in an interview with Attorney General Eric Holder.
We'll talk to the host of "Face the Nation" and give you a fair and balanced report.
The transcript, filthy as it is, doesn't do it justice. You have to hear the rage against Mel Gibson and his threatening rants against his girlfriend to understand the hateful nature of these calls. But should RadarOnline have put out the leaked tapes? We'll ask the editor David Perel.
And why are some of our elite news organizations all but ignoring this story?
Will it be "F" bombs away for Bono, Cher and others now that a federal appeals court has struck down the FCC ban on indecency? Or should we even be worried about these cases of fleeting profanity?
I'm Howard Kurtz, and this is RELIABLE SOURCES.
The flap turns on one case of voter intimidation involving two members of the New Black Panther Party in Philadelphia. The Justice Department brought charges at the end of the Bush administration. Most of the case was dropped by the Obama administration. And a former Justice lawyer, a man by the name of J. Christian Adams, says this was done improperly for political and racial reasons.
Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly has been on a tare over this story since interviewing Adams. The case has received a bit of coverage. "The New York Times" and "Washington Post" have each done a belated story, and CNN's NEWSROOM has interviewed Adams.
When the subject didn't come up on last Sunday's "Face the Nation," Fox got on Bob Schieffer's case, especially Megyn Kelly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MEGYN KELLY, FOX NEWS: Attorney General Eric Holder sit downs with CBS' "Face the Nation" host Bob Schieffer for a half hour, a one- on-one interview. And not one question about the now-infamous New Black Panther voter intimidation case.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: More on the media's role ahead. But first, I spoke earlier with CBS' chief Washington correspondent.
KURTZ: Bob Schieffer, welcome.
BOB SCHIEFFER, "FACE THE NATION": Hey.
KURTZ: Let's start with the obvious question. Why did you not ask Eric Holder in that interview about this former Justice official's allegation that a case against the New Black Panther Party was dropped because of racial politics?
SCHIEFFER: Well, it's certainly a question that is a legitimate question to ask. And basically what happened was this all really became a story when the whistleblower came out and testified that he'd had to leave the Justice Department and so on. And, frankly, had I known about that, I would have asked the question.
I was on vacation that week. This happened -- apparently, it got very little publicity. And, you know, I just didn't know about it.
I mean, you know, God knows everything, but I'm not quite that good. Every once in a while, something will slip by me. And in this case, it just slipped by me. If I'd have known it, I would have asked about it.
KURTZ: All right.
Now, other people are offering other explanations. Megyn Kelly, who's been leading the charge on this issue at Fox News, had this to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLY: I'm telling you one of two things happened. You tell me if I'm wrong. Number one, Schieffer doesn't care about the story and just decided to punt on it, even though you can find facts about it on CBS.com. So, the Web site over there is doing its job, but Schieffer apparently isn't interested in the story. Or, number two, the DOJ sent guidelines for this interview and told him you can't ask about that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHIEFFER: Oh, well, that's not true. I mean, we never ever make deals with anybody that's on "Face the Nation," and you know that, Howie. People come on "Face the Nation" and they have to be prepared to ask whatever questions we ask.
Do I care about the story? Of course I care about the story.
It is a legitimate question. Had I known that this person had left the Justice Department and charged that there were things going on that shouldn't be going on, I would have asked the question. That simply --
KURTZ: Did anyone --
SCHIEFFER: -- just got by me. I didn't know about that particular thing.
I mean, this thing -- I know about this lawsuit. This is about something that happened back in 2008. But I think any reasonable person would also answer there hasn't been a lot of news about it until this Justice Department official came forward.
KURTZ: Did anyone from Fox News call you to ask the question I'm asking you now?
SCHIEFFER: No. No, they didn't. I wish they had. I would have been glad to tell them exactly what I'm telling you.
KURTZ: In the interview, you also asked Eric Holder about the new Arizona immigration law. And you said that police, if they think somebody might be in this country illegally, it gives them a right to stop and ask them to produce papers. But that was amended to say that police had to already be in the process of stopping somebody for somebody else and then asking them to produce papers.
So could you have been more clear on that?
SCHIEFFER: Oh, perhaps. But, you know, I have to tell you, Howie, even at the Justice Department, there is an argument about exactly what this law says.
It says, in one section of the law that because you think somebody is an illegal in this country, that is not why -- you don't have the right to stop them and ask them about that law. In the second section of that law, though, it does say that being in this country illegally is a cause for action.
So, nobody knows how this law is going to be enforced because it hasn't gone into effect yet.
SCHIEFFER: I think in this case, this is just a case of semantics. We don't know. You know, you can say that you don't have a right to do it. Another part of the law suggests that you do have a right to do it.
KURTZ: All right.
SCHIEFFER: And until this sorts itself out, we're not going to know what the correct interpretation is of that.
KURTZ: One last point on this Black Panther case. Fox's Bill O'Reilly making the point that none of the network newscasts have covered this story. He says: The network newscasts are not being honest about news because their agenda is to protect President Obama.
SCHIEFFER: Well, I think the reason that there hasn't been much coverage on it is there is a question about how significant this really is. I think it is -- you know, the coverage or lack of coverage has to do with editors' news judgment. It doesn't have anything to do with protecting President Obama. And I mean, I think, frankly, that's absurd on the face of it.
KURTZ: All right. Bob Schieffer, thanks very much for taking the time to join us from CBS.
SCHIEFFER: Thanks for the call, Howie.
KURTZ: Fox's Megyn Kelly, as I mentioned, has been pumped up over this story, and this week she really got into it with a liberal Fox News contributor, Kirsten Powers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KIRSTEN POWERS, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I'm actually challenging you on what you're saying and you won't let me talk.
KELLY: Go ahead.
POWERS: And the minute I challenge you, you tell me I don't know what I'm talking about?
KELLY: Because you don't.
POWERS: You just want people to come on and just agree with you?
KELLY: No, I want to inform people.
POWERS: That what you've been doing and the way you've been completely, like, doing the scary black man thing, the man standing outside is so horrible --
KELLY: Do you know anything about this case?
POWERS: Megyn, that's your response?
KELLY: Did you listen to the DOJ whistleblower interview?
POWERS: I mean, that I don't know because I don't agree with you? Because I don't agree with you, I don't know anything?
KELLY: Answer my question. He testified that this was the worst case of voter intimidation.
POWERS: Megyn, I didn't say it wasn't voter intimidation. You are putting words in my mouth.
KELLY: Let me finish.
POWERS: You're putting words in my mouth. I didn't say it was voter intimidation.
KELLY: Let me finish. Don't make me cut your mike.
POWERS: Oh, OK. Go ahead. Cut my mike.
KELLY: Testified that this was the worst case of voter intimidation he had ever seen in his life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Joining us now to talk about the coverage of this controversy, in Miami, Roland Martin, CNN contributor and the host of "Washington Watch" on TV One; and in Philadelphia, Jim Geraghty, contributing editor at "National Review."
Jim Geraghty, are Megyn Kelly and Bill O'Reilly right that this is an important story that the left-leaning press has minimized?
JIM GERAGHTY, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, "NATIONAL REVIEW": I think you can say it's an important story. If somebody wants to argue it's not as big as the Gulf Coast, fine. But not everything has to be an epic story. It's a story which you actually have really good video in which you can actually let people look at what is going on at that polling place in Philadelphia and make their own decisions.
KURTZ: We just played some really good video.
GERAGHTY: You know, I was going to say it's a situation in which the actions of the Black Panthers themselves are a part of this story, but the bigger story now is, what was the DOJ's thinking on it? Why did they suddenly decide, after proceeding after a time period, that there wasn't a case there? And, you know, ,whistleblowers coming forward with some very serious and very ominous allegations.
KURTZ: And Roland Martin, this is a case of two guys, as I mentioned, at one polling place in Philly. One of them had a billy club.
How much coverage, in your view, does it deserve?
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It deserves the minimal amount of coverage that it has received on other networks. It all speaks to motive. OK?
Fox News clearly has a motive here in terms of how they are hyping this story. If you want to show real journalism, you just saw it.
You actually picked the phone up, called Bob Schieffer and said, hey, let me ask you. Megyn Kelly didn't do like a real journalist would do, and that is to call Schieffer and ask, why did you do it?
What does she do? Go on the air and go with the hype.
This is all hype. What Fox wants, they want everyone else to do exactly what we are doing right now, talk about them, so they can get the whole conservative bloggers and radio talk show hosts saying, oh, the liberal media, they won't touch the story. But they also don't want to follow the facts. The biggest interview I saw this week, Howie, with was Juan Williams.
KURTZ: Let me jump in here.
If evidence were to develop to support this former justice lawyer, J. Christian Adams, who could show that there was a policy change under Attorney General Holder about handling these kinds of voter intimidation cases, wouldn't that be news?
MARTIN: Right. You said if there is evidence that is uncovered. Where is the evidence?
You have one man who has made an allegation. He said himself he doesn't have any of the evidence.
You don't have any memo. You don't in any communication. You don't have an e-mail. And so what they have done is they have said, well, this one guy has said it.
OK. Be a reporter, Megyn Kelly. Be a news organization, Fox News. And go get the evidence if it exists.
KURTZ: Let me get to Jim.
GERAGHTY: Well, first of all, two other former DOJ professional prosecutors have said that based on what they could see of this care, it looks like an open and shut, easy decision to go further. I'd also note that "The Washington Post," a paper I think you are familiar with, the ombudsman wrote today that the paper had not been covering this story with the depth and breadth of coverage it deserved.
KURTZ: No. He scolded the paper for being late in running a single news story on the controversy.
MARTIN: But here's the deal, though. Here's the deal, though.
Again, Howie, you just heard in terms of, well, two other officials, this open and shut case. Last time I heard open and shut case, George Tenet was saying that about weapons of mass destruction.
Does the evidence support somebody's allegation? No.
But here's what's also interesting. You have Fox News, who sits here and lambastes the New Black Panther Party, rightfully so, but they, more than any other news organization, have hosted the New Black Panther Party 51 times, according to Media Matters, on their own network prior to this.
So, who has given them more of a platform? They are hyping this for the clear, obvious reasons, and it's not based upon fact. It's nonsense.
KURTZ: Jim Geraghty, Abigail Thernstrom, who's a conservative member of the Civil Rights Commission, writes in your magazine that this is small potatoes involving a lunatic fringe group. That would seem to argue that it doesn't deserve much media attention.
GERAGHTY: She's a nice lady, but I think in this case, she is mistaken. She says that they have not produced any evidence of a person being intimidated, but that is actually not the standard of the law.
Under the law, you don't necessarily have to prove intent and you don't have to produce an intimidated voter. All you have to demonstrate is that the behavior would be considered intimidating to a reasonable voter.
Now, in this case, a lot of cases, it's the he said versus he said. But in this case, we have the videotape. So we can just play the videotape.
MARTIN: Wait. Did she also speak --
GERAGHTY: Notice I'm letting Roland speak. It's a rare occasion on this program.
KURTZ: Roland Martin, let me just pick up a point about Fox. Roland Martin says Fox News is hyping this story. What say you about Fox's role?
GERAGHTY: Every one of the 50-some occasions it's been on, is it worthwhile? I guess it's debatable. But in the end, this is a real -- people say that there's at least some story worth covering there, and every other network has done none. I think Fox is close to what it should be covering --
KURTZ: As I mentioned in the introduction, J. Christian Adams, the whistleblower, has been interviewed on CNN.
GERAGHTY: CNN has done -- you're correct. The other primetime network news have not done items (ph).
MARTIN: But again, first of all, Abigail also has said in the history, you have had three cases successfully prosecuted on voter intimidation. So, you have to meet a higher standard. And again, these are facts that you simply want to dismiss.
The reality is Fox has a clear objective here, and that is to want to drive the agenda. And what happens is, other media outlets are so afraid, like, oh, I'm getting criticized. This is when you say, look, you guys want to hype it, go right ahead. Have fun.
KURTZ: But how do you know, Roland, that Fox has a clear objective? What do you base that on?
MARTIN: Oh, come on. Howie, here is the deal. If you go study the 51 appearances of the New Black Panther Party --
KURTZ: That's over a number of years.
MARTIN: -- a fringe group that has no influence whatsoever, why are you putting them on the air if they are so racist and so vile and so sick and so crazy? Why? Fifty-one times.
"Hannity and Colmes" had them on 39 times; O'Reilly, about 15 or so times. So, it's amazing you have two shows that have hyped these guys before, and now you are saying, well, they're so racist and vile --
KURTZ: OK. Last word, Jim Geraghty.
GERAGHTY: Can I just point an irony of this case? The New Black Panther Party is pretty strongly opposed to Obama, they think he's too moderate, they think he's a sellout. And this was in a majority black ward in north Philadelphia. They were basically intimidating African- American voters who would have voted for Obama.
KURTZ: Interesting point.
KURTZ: I've got to wrap it up, guys.
GERAGHTY: Fox News is coming to the aid of people who wanted to vote for Obama.
MARTIN: Oh, no. Oh, stop. Oh, stop it.
KURTZ: I've got to wrap it up, guys. You can take this outside.
Thanks very much.
MARTIN: That was cute, but so false.
KURTZ: Thanks very much, both of you.
The Justice Department, by the way, reduced the charges to an injunction against the man with the billy club who has to stay away from Philadelphia polling places for a couple of years. We'll see whether the Obama administration appeals the ruling.
When we come back, the words you can't say on television. A court ruling says the government can't fine the networks when guests use profanity.
Isn't that a problem for parents?
KURTZ: It is a government rule that pops into the news mainly when it's blatantly broken, but a federal appeals court this week striking down the Federal Communications Commission's policy on indecency, saying the ban on fleeting expletives on television and radio was unconstitutionally vague.
You have all seen the examples that led to big fines for the offending networks whether it involves celebrities dropping "F" bombs or having a wardrobe malfunction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BONO, MUSICIAN: That's really, really (EXPLETIVE DELETED) brilliant. And really, really great.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHER, ACTRESS AND SINGER: I have also had critics for the last 40 years saying I was on my way out every year. Right. So (EXPLETIVE DELETED).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: But is this is a policy that has become hopelessly outdated in the digital age?
Joining us from New York, Jeff Jarvis, a former editor of "TV Guide" and founder of the blog BuzzMachine.com.
Jeff, I know you don't like this FCC indecency ban, but a lot of parents don't want their kids hearing the "F" word at some music event, and they don't want it in their living rooms.
JEFF JARVIS, FOUNDER, BUZZMACHINE.COM: Well, but that's really up to the networks to decide. And I think the problem here is government interfering with this.
And what the court found, thank goodness at last, was that there was a vague problem here in trying to decide what's indecent and what's not. They used to go with George Carlin's seven dirty words, but we were very clever, the court said, of getting around with new ways to say things.
You know, at some point, the problem becomes that the FCC was censoring political speech. BS in its full form is political speech. It's not sexual. No one in your audience is getting excited when I say it. It's not scatological. There should be a show on this very network called "No More BS," which is the slogan of Howard Stern's news team.
KURTZ: We'll take that under advisement. Let me read to you though a statement about this ruling from the Parents Television Council.
"A three-judge panel in New York has again authorized the broadcast networks' unbridled use of the 'F' word at any time of the day, even in front of children. The court substituted its own opinion for that of the Supreme Court, the Congress of the United States, and the overwhelming majority of the American people. For parents and families around the country, this ruling is nothing less than a slap in the face."
JARVIS: The problem has been that broadcast was an exception the First Amendment. If you want to say the "F" word in "The Washington Post," you can do it. Your editors will stop you, but the paper could.
You could say it right here on cable. There is no legal problem here.
Broadcast was sliced out of the First Amendment, and that's the problem. Now, the truth is that broadcasters don't want it to happen either, and they're going to do their best to stop it. And even if it happens once, what is the big deal? So a kid hears the word once? They hear it on the playground, folks.
KURTZ: OK. You've hit on a point that I agree with you. What struck me as unfair in the fining of these networks, hundreds of thousands of dollars in some cases, is how are they supposed to know in advance that Bono is going to blurt out (blanking) brilliant or that Janet Jackson is going to have her top yanked off?
JARVIS: Right. These are fleeting expletives and body parts, and they happen. And the truth is, what the FCC rule said was that you couldn't have references to sexual organs and activities.
Well, the truth is, Howie, you and I have talked on this very program about my penis in relation so my prostate cancer. That didn't ruin the world, near as I can tell. It was a direct reference, not a fleeting reference or an off-hand reference or a slang reference.
Fine. The world has not changed.
This is an infantilizing of the country by would-be groups like the Parents television Council and the FCC.
KURTZ: But I'm more open to the argument that when it comes to scripted programs, where it's approved in advanced by the networks and where the themes are increasingly sexual, and the language can be pretty rough, why shouldn't the government say we licensed you broadcast network notice public interest and there are boundaries?
JARVIS: But the problem is there that they allowed "Saving Private Ryan," the FCC did, to use dirty words, bus they did not allow a public broadcasting show about the blues to do it, which means that white guys in uniforms could say the "F" word and the "S" word, but black people with instruments couldn't.
That is the kind of enforcement that's existed. And that's the kind of enforcement that a second circuit court said is vague, unconstitutional, inconsistent, and cannot go on.
KURTZ: So, with this stuff all over cable -- certain cable networks, I should say -- all over the Internet, which are not, as you say, bound by these FCC restrictions, do these rules look like an anachronism?
JARVIS: Oh, I think very much so. And the second circuit court also said that broadcast has changed immensely, media have changed immensely since this decision first came out when George Carlin -- in the '70s.
The Internet wasn't even known then. Cable wasn't really as broad as it is now.
Now we have an utterly different view. The reason broadcast was sliced out was because it was intrusive in every home. Well, that is becoming less and less so for broadcast as we have more media choices.
All right. Jeff Jarvis, thanks very much for stopping by.
The Obama administration now must decide whether to appeal this federal appeals court ruling.
Coming up in the second half of RELIABLE SOURCES, Bill O'Reilly takes on Sarah Palin, and a look at whether we were fair to Rush Limbaugh.
Plus, those ugly and horrifying Mel Gibson tapes. Not everyone in the media is treating them as news. The editor of RadarOnline and how he got them and whether any deals were made.
And a top Web editors says journalists should stop pretending they don't have opinions. But how much can they reveal without looking biased?
KURTZ: It is one of the most sickening series of audiotapes you could possibly imagine, filled ready with racial epithets and misogyny and threats and downright rage. RadarOnline obtained the phone calls between Mel Gibson and his girlfriend, Oksana Grigorieva. They have an 8-month-old daughter. And just about everyone is talking about it.
Yet, Gibson's multiple meltdowns have gotten scant attention from such newspapers as "The New York Times" and "The Washington Post," or the network evening newscasts, or most cable news shows. We can't play these tapes without a lot of bleeping, obviously, but this will give you the idea.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You go out in public and it's an (EXPLETIVE DELETED) embarrassment to me. You look like a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) on heat. If you get raped by a pack of (EXPLETIVE DELETED), it'll be your fault. All right? Because you provoked it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You need medication.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I need (EXPLETIVE DELETED) woman. I don't need medication. You need (EXPLETIVE DELETED) bat to the side of your head.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You were hitting a woman with a child in her hands. You! What kind of a man is that, hitting a woman when she's holding a child in her hands?
Breaking her teeth twice. In the face. What kind of man is that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh. You're all angry now! You know what? You (EXPLETIVE DELETED) deserved it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know what? You're going to answer one day, boy.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
KURTZ: One area where the story is getting some attention? The network morning shows.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MEREDITH VIEIRA, NBC NEWS: Another tape reportedly of Oscar winner Mel Gibson verbally lashing out at the mother of his youngest child.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: And they appear to capture Gibson in an ugly and violent conversation with his former girlfriend, Oksana Grigorieva.
HARRY SMITH, CBS NEWS: And a warning: what's in it is quite disturbing.
MATT LAUER, NBC NEWS: Is Mel Gibson's career over?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: So, what explains these huge variations in media attention for the sheer ugliness displayed by one of Hollywood's biggest stars?
Joining us from Riviera Beach, Florida, David Peril, founder of RadarOnline.com. In New York, blogger and author Keli Goff. And in Los Angeles, Lisa Bloom, founder of thebloomfirm.com and a CBS legal analyst.
David Perel, this started when your reporters got a tip that Mel Gibson had filed a restraining order against his girlfriend. Your reporters knocked on her door. And then what happened?
DAVID PEREL, FOUNDER, RADARONLINE.COM: We broke the story that Mel filed a restraining order under seal. We knocked on Oksana's door. We asked her what was going on, and she said now Mel's playing dirty.
From that point on, RadarOnline started doing some investigative reporting, and we found out that Oksana had actually filed the first restraining order. That opened the door to this huge mess between them which has now resulted in a police investigation, a criminal inquiry into domestic violence, and a DCFS investigation into how the children are treated in the home.
KURTZ: David, did you pay for these tapes, photos or anything related to this story?
PEREL: We have not paid a dime for the tapes. This is all a result of good investigative reporting, and it's been one exclusive after another, as you know if you have been following the story.
KURTZ: Lisa Bloom, why are we not seeing this ugliness -- I just played the merest bit of it and most of it, of course, you can't play on television -- from one of Hollywood's biggest mega-stars? Why aren't we seeing this in the news pages of "The New York Times" or "The Washington Post" or the network evening newscasts?
LISA BLOOM, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, that's a fascinating question, because unlike a lot of other celebrity stories which I think are overblown, this one is legitimate news.
Mel Gibson is one of the richest and most powerful men in Hollywood, and these tapes are so vicious and so ugly, and are resulting in now a criminal investigation, that I think it is news. And by the way, "The New York Times" does have a piece today by Frank Rich about Mel Gibson, talking about his history of conservative activism, anti-Semitism, and now these allegations of domestic violence. So maybe now they are waking up to this story.
KURTZ: Yes. It seems to be more of a story for the opinions pages, as opposed to news pages. And I would agree with you that a lot of celebrity gossip, it's way overblown, who is breaking up with who. This seems to me to fall into a different category.
And Keli Goff, you writing on Loop21.com. You expressed surprise that one word in these Gibson rants got so much media attention. That, of course, the "N" word.
KELI GOFF, BLOGGER, THELOOP21.COM: Yes, which I think, obviously, as an African-American, I feel very strongly about someone using the "N" word. However, I think that the bigger picture here is, as I said in the piece, as our moms taught us growing up -- sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.
But you also have a man on tape, allegedly, since we all have to say that, accused of wanting to hit his partner with a baseball bat, or bury her in a rose garden. And that seemed to be an afterthought in most of the major coverage of this story from small blogs to larger sites, Howard.
And that's what I found really disturbing, between that, Chris Brown, Roman Polanski, that is seems that it's secondary in our culture if you're accused of battering or abusing a woman or female, that that is sort of an afterthought. But if you get caught saying a derogatory expression against a racial group, then that's an immediate killer and you have to go to rehab, you have to apologize to everybody, et cetera, et cetera.
KURTZ: Do you agree that, Lisa? And do you think there is less media sympathy for Oksana in this case because she is the girlfriend who took Mel Gibson away from his wife?
BLOOM: Well, here is what's going on. You know, Radar, every day, has had these exclusives and the photo on Friday. Their competitor, TMZ, seems to be getting links from Mel Gibson's side. So they are constantly leaking stories that the photo was doctored, that the tapes was edited, that she even self-inflicted these injuries, which I think is preposterous and kind of shocking.
I mean, if she didn't have these tapes, who would believe Oksana? And even after the tapes and the photograph, many still don't believe her.
I think that shows how far we have to go in our understanding of domestic violence, and it shows what is she is up against with somebody as rich and powerful as Mel Gibson.
KURTZ: What about that point, David? Go ahead.
PEREL: I think it's an excellent point. And I think that the competitor has been just smashed for this. In fact, today on their site, there is basically a lead story that amounts to a retraction, saying that we shouldn't blame the victim of domestic violence. And that's because of the backlash that they have gotten to try to take a position that's opposite to what the facts are that RadarOnline --
KURTZ: But just to be clear, TMZ quoted law enforcement sources of saying that that picture that RadarOnline posted online on Friday -- we're not able to show it -- that there was no evidence of internal or external damage, or of her being punched in the face.
You find that -- David, you find that to be ludicrous?
PEREL: Yes, they backed off that position. It is ludicrous, and it has been independently examined by various dentists who say there is clearly damage. And then they talk about the damage, the amount of force that is required to knock the veneer off one tooth and chip the other one is a huge amount of force. So that is a ridiculous report, and I don't think law enforcement said it.
KURTZ: What about the suggestion that, you know, I know you can't say where you got these tapes, but you knocked on Oksana Grigorieva's door, and it seems clear that came from -- if not from her but someone associated with her -- that you are kind of taking her side?
Are you asking hard questions about her allegations in this matter?
PEREL: We're not taking anybody's side. In fact, what we are doing is we're just following the facts.
And you're going to see in the next coming week and beyond, that more facts are going to come out. Some are positive toward her, some are positive toward Mel.
So this battle rages. And there are facts that support both points of view.
Now, Mel's people have tried to leak things that she tried to extort him. They say they have evidence. We have some information about what that evidence is. We are going to bring that forward in the coming weeks.
So, what RadarOnline does is we follow the facts. Wherever the facts go, that's where the story goes.
KURTZ: Keli, what is your take on the overall coverage and whether or not it's evenhanded between these two people? Or the fact that -- since we have heard these tapes -- and, you know, we don't know whether they were edited before they got to Radar. Radar certainly says they did not edit them.
Has that kind of skewed our view of who's the villain here?
GOFF: Well, I want to be clear here. I have been following the coverage from TMZ and from Radar, and I don't see them taking a side so much as presenting this is the evidence we were presented with and judge for yourself.
I don't think it takes a rocket scientist to hear these tapes and judge who seems to be the victim in this situation. And yet, what's most disturbing to me is exactly what Lisa commented on.
Howard, there have been Web sites ranging from "The New York Post" to "The New York Daily News" to "The Huffington Post." And what's really disturbing to me about our culture is it seems like every tenth comment or so is something to the effect of, "I'm not defending him, but she is clearly baiting him." "I'm not defending him, but she is clearly provoking him." "I'm not defending him, but she is a gold digger," which really says lot about where our culture is, and it's incredibly disturbing.
The last thing I want to say about the coverage, though, Howard, is if "The New York Times" and "The Washington Post" want to know why they are losing ground, to blogs and to online news outlets this story is a perfect example why.
Can someone explain to me why it is that "The New York Times" published -- I think it was six stories related to Jade Goody, the reality show star who passed away in England -- they republished them from The Associated Press, and yet this was not a worthy enough story for them to do in-depth coverage on?
KURTZ: I'm totally puzzled by that.
GOFF: It's shocking.
KURTZ: Let me go back to David Perel.
You went through this when you were the editor of "The National Enquirer" and you had the John Edwards story, which, for months, the mainstream media shied away from. But you didn't have evidence that we could see and hear and taste the way do you with these tapes.
So what do you think explains some of the media reticence on this story?
PEREL: I think old media is just slow to pick up on stories like this that are out there, that people want it to know about, and that are relevant. If you take the domestic violence angle, this is a huge story.
You could hear Mel admitting to the tapes that he hit her. So, whatever you want to say about the tapes, he said these words, he said these -- he hurled these terrible things at her. The emotional violence is extremely disturbing.
So, you know, it's really old media's fault that they are not catching up. New media, we move very fast. We can post these tapes, we can follow up in a minute, and we can play it in several different dimensions with photo, with audio, with words. So, it's really a problem for old media.
KURTZ: And Lisa Bloom, Keli made the point about Roman Polanski, who became a free man this week when Swiss authorities decided not to extradite him. And that story seemed -- this is a guy who basically pled guilty to raping a 13-year-old girl. That story seemed to last about six hours. It's kind of like, well, we already went through the outrage of it and we didn't want to go through it again.
I was puzzled by the lack of media coverage on that.
BLOOM: Well, if I can defend my hometown paper, the "Los Angeles Times," they did have extensive coverage of the Roman Polanski story from the very legitimate point of view of, did our local district attorney and the local courts screw up by not providing documents to Switzerland that led ultimately to his release? That is an important story, and it's about local law enforcement. And similarly, the "L.A. Times" has been covering the Mel Gibson's story --
KURTZ: Yes, because it's a local story. But it's been doing a very good job.
BLOOM: Because there are legitimate law enforcement issues here.
KURTZ: Absolutely. So, before we go, I wanted to ask you, Lisa, about the other celebrity story in the news this week, "US Weekly" with that cover story on Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston getting married. "US" won't say whether it paid for that story.
Should the magazine be treating these young people as celebrities when their basic claim to fame is their connection to Sarah Palin?
BLOOM: Well, they are celebrities, whether we like it or not. Being a celebrity doesn't mean that you are talented, it just means that people know who you are. And Bristol certainly is. She's had her abstinence campaign. Levi his done his "Playgirl," another magazine.
So, they are celebrities. And of course "US Weekly" paid for that cover. I mean, come on. Who are we kidding?
Now they want a reality show. And look, I think it's a very believable story --
KURTZ: OK. I've got to go.
BLOOM: -- a couple of 20-year-olds who are hiding their engagement from their powerful mother. That's a very believable story to me.
KURTZ: All right.
David Perel, 10 seconds. More to come this week on this --
PEREL: More to come this week. Explosive stuff Monday. More audio.
KURTZ: You've been holding stuff back and now you're going to put it out. All right.
Thanks very much all of you for joining us.
And up next, the editor of TechCrunch Web site says he doesn't trust reporters because they don't own up to their biases. A conversation about journalism and opinion in a moment.
KURTZ: Every few days, it seems, a journalist is getting in trouble for controversial comments.
KURTZ (voice-over): Dave Weigel resigned under pressure as a "Washington Post" blogger after a leaked e-mail showed him eviscerating conservatives such as Matt Drudge, who Weigel said should set himself on fire.
Helen Thomas quit as a Hearst newspaper columnist after telling a rabbi with a video camera that the Israelis should get the hell out of Palestine and return to such countries as Germany.
Octavia Nasr was fired as CNN's senior editor for the Middle East after a Twitter message praising a Hezbollah leader who had just died.
KURTZ: But have they been unfairly convicted for the sin of having opinions?
Michael Arrington, editor of the Web site TechCrunch, believe there is nothing wrong with journalists expressing strong views. I spoke to him earlier from our other studio. He was in San Francisco.
KURTZ: Michael Arrington, welcome.
MICHAEL ARRINGTON, EDITOR, TECHCRUNCH: Hello, Howard.
KURTZ: So the standard argument is that if journalists are talking about which politicians they like, or whether they favor tax cuts or gay marriage, it will undermine their credibility.
You don't buy that?
ARRINGTON: No. Well, I don't buy that at all. I'm not a trained journalist, so I don't know all the rules.
KURTZ: But, so, you know, take it a half a step further. So Brian Williams or Diane Sawyer or Wolf Blitzer or newspaper reporters, in your view, should just put their cards on the table, share their opinions, and then convince people they can be fair?
ARRINGTON: Well, yes. I mean, as a consumer of news, which I was most of my life until a few years ago, when I started writing news, you know, I was always under the impression that journalists are sort of a priesthood, and that, you know, you have this -- you know, they're non-biased and they didn't even have opinions on things, necessarily.
And I've learned over the last few years that they have very strong opinions. And I think the general public is starting to see that as well with their -- with the journalists talking on Twitter and Facebook and other social networks. And why not just let them say what they think?
I don't see what the problem is with that. In fact, I think it's a service to the consumers of their news.
KURTZ: Well, I think it's a good thing to be on Twitter and to show more of yourself, and to interact more with the audience. But let's talk about how you deal with it at TechCrunch.
If I thought that you and your writers were strongly pro-Apple or anti-Microsoft --
KURTZ: -- I might not trust your Web site.
ARRINGTON: Well, some of us are pro-Apple. You know, some of my writers -- just a little bit of background.
We started TechCrunch five years ago, and I'm not a trained journalist. I'm a trained lawyer and an entrepreneur. And so I just started writing what I wanted to write. And I've learned over time the way to gain reader trust is to aim for the truth instead of objectivity. And --
KURTZ: The truth as interpreted by you, of course.
ARRINGTON: Of course. But all truth is interpreted.
I mean, I don't know how to write something that's objective because I'm not a computer. So, we tend to write what we think.
Again, we aren't trained, but we make it very clear up front what our opinions are. And I -- for instance, I'm not a big Apple fan when it comes to their phones. But some of our writers are, and we write about -- you know, I think our readers tend to know very quickly by reading us what we think about things.
KURTZ: You don't see a distinction between that and a journalist who's covering the war in Afghanistan, or a debate about health care and financial regulation, where if you are seen as a partisan of one side or another, people are going to look at you in a very different light and question your reporting?
ARRINGTON: I think -- well, I think there's two issues here that need to be looked at.
One is sort of the opinionated writing where you're mixing fact and opinion. In that case, most of the time I think readers are pretty intelligent, or viewers are pretty intelligent, and can figure things out. Now, "The Economist" is one of my favorite magazines, and it's a solid mixture of fact and opinion. And I think they do a really good job of covering international news and politics pretty well with that.
But the other issue is that over the last couple of years, these journalists, ,top journalists, usually political journalists, "Washington Post," CNN, other places, getting fired over expressing, not in their articles or in their content, but off on the site, on Twitter and other places, just expressing their opinions on the things that they cover. And in some cases, they've said, you know, pretty atrocious things. I think the things that Helen Thomas said about Jews were, you know, very controversial
ARRINGTON: But were they fired because the views were controversial, or were they fired because they had views at all and they expressed them? KURTZ: Yes. Well some, of them are bloggers who occupy kind of a gray zone between --
KURTZ: -- straight reporting and analysis. But you wrote that you avoid -- that you personally avoid doing interviews with journalists who you don't know or don't trust.
KURTZ: Why is that?
ARRINGTON: Well, I've seen -- it's happened to me first hand.
You know, I wrote about this issue a couple of weeks ago and we talked about it on e-mail now. I saw, a couple of years ago, "The New York Times" misquoted me. And they didn't interview me, they misquoted one of my own posts. So I can actually point back to the post and say they didn't misquote me in the sense that they used an actual quote, but they didn't take the second sentence that was right after, which basically negated the first one.
KURTZ: So you feel -- I'm short on time. You feel like you've been burned in the past
ARRINGTON: Well, I have been
KURTZ: -- and you are very wary --
ARRINGTON: And I think others have been.
KURTZ: Even though you're in the news business yourself now, you're very wary of the way journalists do business.
ARRINGTON: I'm a little bit wary of it, but I think that part of that isn't that journalists are bad people. I think that journalists are under pressure to don't get -- don't say something, get some -- get a source to say it and then quote them.
And I think that's hard sometimes. And if you have an idea for a story, they have to go out and interview people, and then maybe massage the quotes a little bit to get to where they want to go. I just don't think that's good for anyone.
KURTZ: All right. Well, for all the flaws the news business has, I have a slightly more optimistic view than you do. But we appreciate your coming on to share your views.
Michael Arrington, thanks very much for joining us.
ARRINGTON: Thanks, Howard. Thanks very much.
KURTZ: After the break, Vice President Biden with a rare Sunday appearance. Republicans still blame President Obama for the oil spill even after that well has been capped.
The "Sound of Sunday" is next.
KURTZ: One week after Robert Gibbs committed the sin of saying on "Meet the Press" that the Democrats could lose the House -- in other words, admitting the obvious -- the White House puts out Vice President Biden.
And Candy Crowley, as we've discussed, that is no accident.
CANDY CROWLEY, HOST, "STATE OF THE UNION": No. It's no accident. It was like the Gibbs antidote. All the Democrats -- you know, if they had a meeting and said, OK, let's go out and undo this, and it began with Vice President Biden.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't think the loss can be bad at all. I think we're going to shock the heck out of everybody. I am absolutely confident when people take a look at what has happened since we've taken office in November, and comparing it to the alternative, we're going to be very -- we're going to be in great shape.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. STENY HOYER (D), MAJORITY LEADER: I don't think we're talking about a big loss, Candy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D), SOUTH CAROLINA: We are very poised in carrying out our campaigns this year. We believe that we are going to have a very strong showing at the polls come November.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: And Candy, at least one Democrat says that this election is about Barack Obama, even though he's not on the ballot.
CROWLEY: Yes. And this is -- you remember there was this tension, let's say, between House Democrats and the White House. House Democrats feeling that the president wasn't invested in their re-election, they wanted him to be more involved.
So it was interesting when the Democrat in charge of trying to keep the House Democratic talked about the duality of interests that House Democrats and the White House have.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D-MD), DCCC CHAIRMAN: The fact of the matter is the president and the White House know that they need a strong majority in the House and in the Senate in order to complete their agenda, to keep working on that agenda. They also know that the day after the elections, it will be interpreted as a referendum on the president's policies in the press, whether they like it or not. So we are on the same page.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: And, Candy, BP has finally, finally capped that oil well. And yet, Republicans still using the issue against the president.
CROWLEY: Yes. It was interesting to me. We had Mitch McConnell on our air, the Senate Republican leader, Senator Vitter, who is, of course, from Louisiana, as well as Mike Pence, who is a Republican, all talking about how the president's lack of leadership is hurting him because they're not cleaning up the Gulf quickly enough.
And it just struck me as really interesting. It was almost as though this has become a talking point with Republicans, that three Republicans on three different shows would bring up the same issue not having been asked.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DAVID VITTER (R), LOUISIANA: He hasn't been to Louisiana since June 4th. I'm afraid he's decided to deal with this issue, at least politically, by not coming back here and trying to move it off the front page, rather than dealing with the situation forcefully.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MIKE PENCE (R), INDIANA: The American people are frustrated with a lack of leadership out of this administration. Whether it be the people of the Gulf Coast, Governor Bobby Jindal, who's been clamoring now for months for energetic leadership --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MINORITY LEADER: This is mainly a failure of the administration. BP caused the spill. It's BP's responsibility is to plug the leak. The federal government is in charge of trying to keep that oil off of the shores.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Just like the oil, that issue is not going away.
Candy Crowley --
CROWLEY: You can plug the leak, but you can't stop the politics. KURTZ: -- thanks very much.
Still to come, Sarah Palin gets grilled on Fox. Really. Mort Zuckerman says he's secretly helped Barack Obama. And a conservative group comes after us.
Our "Media Monitor" straight ahead.
KURTZ: Time now for our "Media Monitor," a weekly look at the hits and errors in the news business.
Here's what I like. Bill O'Reilly, just about the only Fox News host who aggressively questioned Sarah Palin rather than just have her in for a friendly chat. The subject? Illegal immigrants.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS: Now we have 12 million people staring at you, and you say to those people you're in here illegally, you broke civil law by coming in here. Now, are you going to deport them? What are you going to do?
SARAH PALIN (R), FMR. ALASKA GOVERNOR: Well, again, first let me go back to the importance of securing the border. If you're talking about amnesty --
O'REILLY: No. But we've got that, Governor. All "Factor" people --
PALIN: No, we don't.
O'REILLY: Yes. The people watching this program have it. We have it.
What are you going to have them do?
PALIN: You're not going to give them a free pass.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: O'Reilly can be overbearing, to say the least, but give him this -- he didn't give his Fox colleague a pass.
Here's what I didn't like: Mort Zuckerman making this admission on Fox News --
MORT ZUCKERMAN, "NEW YORK DAILY NEWS" PUBLISHER: I voted for Obama. In fact, I helped write one of his speeches.
KURTZ (voice-over): I suppose he gets credit for acknowledging this, but the owner of "The "New York Daily News" and "U.S. News & World Report" should not be helping politicians, period. Zuckerman later offered a clarification that didn't exactly clarify, saying he often gives public officials his perspectives and views on numerous issues. Maybe he was just boasting.
KURTZ: The conservative Media Research Center has challenged us over a segment on last week's program. In an interview with Roger Simon, I asked him about what Rush Limbaugh had recently said about President Obama.
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: That's exactly the same thing you could say about Obama. He wouldn't have been voted president if he weren't black.
Somebody asked me over the weekend, "Why does somebody earn a lot of money, have a lot of money because he's black?" If Obama weren't black, he'd be a tour guide in Honolulu, or he'd be teaching Saul Alinsky constitutional law or lecturing on it in Chicago.
KURTZ (voice-over): Roger Simon said that was racist. I challenged him on that point, saying a case could be made that a white freshman senator would never have beaten Hillary Clinton for the nomination.
KURTZ: The centers NewsBusters site said, "We went astray by not playing what Rush had said earlier. He was reacting to comments on ABC's 'This Week' by Cynthia Tucker of 'The "Atlanta Journal- Constitution.'"
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CYNTHIA TUCKER, "ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION": Michael Steele is a self-aggrandizing, gaffe-prone incompetent who would have been fired a long time ago were he not black. Of course, the irony is that he never would have been voted in as chairman of the Republican Party were he not black.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Now, that's an interesting point, but we also didn't play the part where Limbaugh attributed Oprah Winfrey's success to white people's desire "to show we're not racists."
Now, sound bites are compressed on television every day. The question is whether it's done fairly. I feel strongly in this case that it was.
Even though Limbaugh was reacting to someone else's comments, we offered an honest excerpt of what he said about Obama, a Honolulu tour guide, which stands on its own. Now, I could be wrong, which is why we've just given you the other side.
Well, that's it for this edition of RELIABLE SOURCES.
I'm Howard Kurtz.
Join us next Sunday morning, 11:00 a.m. Eastern, for another critical look at the media.
"STATE OF THE UNION" with Candy Crowley begins right now.