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Reliable Sources

Did Media Jump the Gun on Shirley Sherrod Story?; Vast Left- Wing Conspiracy?; Race and the Media

Aired July 25, 2010 - 11:00   ET


HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: Let's face it. Nobody looked good in the firing of Shirley Sherrod. Not Andrew Breitbart. Not the Obama administration. Not the NAACP. And certainly not the media outlets that ran with a misleading story.

A conservative activist posts a video snippet of an Agriculture Department official edited to make her look like a racist, and everyone plays the tape?

Bill O'Reilly has apologized. Did other journalists jump the gun?

A fresh batch of leaked e-mails showed liberal commentators plotting to savage Sarah Palin and play down the Jeremiah Wright controversy during the presidential campaign.

Is there a vast left-wing conspiracy?

It's a sensitive subject for the news business. Why are virtually all the top network anchor jobs and Sunday morning jobs and primetime cable hosting jobs filled by white journalists?

A candid conversation with Carole Simpson and other African- Americans about race and the media.

Plus, the passing of Daniel Schorr. Bob Schieffer helps us remember the man who openly courted controversy for seven decades.

I'm Howard Kurtz, and this is RELIABLE SOURCES.

It wasn't Fox News that cost Shirley Sherrod her job. It was the scary specter of Glenn Beck.

The number two Agriculture Department official telling Sherrod this week that she had to quit because her story, or, more precisely, a maliciously edited tape of her speech to the NAACP, would wind up on Beck's show. That tape snippet posted online by conservative activist Andrew Breitbart.

Once the administration fired Sherrod, much of the media pounced on an absurdly incomplete story. That is, before learning that the full videotape showed that Sherrod was not talking about discriminating against a white farmer, but rising above such racial prejudice. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARTHA MACCALLUM, FOX NEWS: Well, an official in the U.S. Agriculture Department is now responding to a video that shows her making some very controversial comments about a white farmer at an NAACP event back in March.

TAMRON HALL, MSNBC: Well, a USDA official in Georgia has resigned after a YouTube clip shows her admitting that race helped determine how much aid would be given to a white farmer.

KURTZ (voice-over): But the reporting changed as more facts surfaced Tuesday.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN: Developing this morning, racially-charged remarks coming back to haunt an official at the Department of Agriculture.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN: We talked to Sherrod just a few minutes ago. She told us that video does not tell the whole story.

KURTZ: By the time Robert Gibbs and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack apologized to Sherrod, the media narrative had changed.

LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC: That employee, Shirley Sherrod, says that the speech she gave was edited and that the point of her full speech was just the opposite.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN: She was smeared by allegations of racism, lost her job, and is now being redeemed by the truth, it seems. The whole truth.

KURTZ: Bill O'Reilly was among those admitting that he acted too quickly after seeing Breitbart's misleading excerpt.

BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS: Wow. Well, that is simply unacceptable. And Ms. Sherrod must resign immediately.

So, I owe Ms. Sherrod an apology for not doing my homework, for not putting her remarks into the proper context.


KURTZ: Joining us now to sort out the media's role in this tangled and racially-charged tale, Matt Lewis, blogger and political analyst for; Jane Hall, an associate professor at American University and a former Fox News contributor; and in San Francisco, Joan Walsh, the editor-in-chief of

And Joan, obviously the abrupt firing of Shirley Sherrod was a story. But how much responsibility did the TV networks bear for running that misleading video snippet before knowing the full story?

JOAN WALSH, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, SALON.COM: I think they bear a lot of responsibility. You know, I want to give CNN credit, because I believe CNN was among the first to search out Shirley Sherrod and find out that there was a very different story than the one that was being told. "The Atlanta Journal-Constitution" I believe was also very quick to go to Sherrod.

How Fox News or anybody else could run a story and not seek comment from a person that they were calling a racist, it's quite extraordinary. And, you know, a lot has been made about Fox didn't do -- Fox isn't the cause of her firing. I'm going to stipulate that. Let's say that that's true, but Fox played a much bigger role than people want to admit.

That story, the Breitbart version of the story, ran on all day Monday. O'Reilly mentioned it. Sean Hannity went on to mention it. Sean Hannity and Newt Gingrich had a lovely conversation about what a racist this woman was after she had resigned. "Fox & Friends" went crazy the next morning.

It doesn't matter that merely the Obama administration overreacted. It matters that's terrible that they did that. But there was this pouncing on Shirley Sherrod without getting her reaction or her response that I think is unconscionable.

KURTZ: Well, the story did not --

WALSH: She was easy to find.

KURTZ: The story did not run on the Fox Web site until shortly before the firing.

Matt Lewis, you've heard Joan's take on it. I still want to know, because lots of people, including CNN, initially ran that tape, how do you run the tape when it's a two-minute snippet and you don't have the whole tape, you don't have the whole story, Matt?

MATT LEWIS, BLOGGER, POLITICSDAILY.COM: Right. Well, look, I think -- and I thank Joan for actually saying what we know to be true, that Fox News did not air it until after she was fired. Once Shirley Sherrod is --

WALSH: That's not true. That's not what I said, by the way.

LEWIS: I think that is what you said.

WALSH: And it's not true. No. I said --

LEWIS: You disagree with the fact that Fox News did not run the tape until after she was fired?

WALSH: Bill O'Reilly ran the tape before she was fired.

LEWIS: That is not true.

WALSH: The story was on --

JANE HALL, PROFESSOR OF MEDIA AND POLITICS, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: I think there's a larger point. I mean, I think Howie has written a story that says that the timeline is such that Fox -- Bill O'Reilly taped at 5:00 and it aired at 8:00.

KURTZ: Right. So, just to clarify, when he taped his call for her resignation, no one knew that she'd resigned. By the time it aired at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, she had been fired and that was being reported.

I have a tape for you, Jane Hall, since you did work as a Fox contributor on "Fox & Friends" It seems the media's preferred narrative now is, oh, the Obama administration was so reckless in rushing to judgment here, which was true.

Let's take a look at what was said on "Fox & Friends" about this on Wednesday, and then we'll roll it back and see what the same cast of characters was doing on Tuesday.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, the fallout now is a headache for the White House, because they may have -- well, I don't know. They may have acted without knowing the whole story.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It kind of looks like it. I mean, it's outrageous. And perhaps everybody needs a refresher course on what racism looks like. I mean, that is --



HALL: I think the larger point -- I mean, I'm glad you checked the facts. The larger point, I agree with Joan Walsh.

The larger point is this was what we used to call in journalism too good to check. It was an incomplete video that actually -- I think this is almost like a virtual world McCarthyism where someone is hung out there to dry without the facts, and in fact made to say the opposite of what she said.

And the Obama administration couldn't last through one news cycle, but Fox ran with this without checking. From what I've read, they checked with the USDA.

They ran with it because it fit their narrative of a very anti- Obama situation. Breitbart was trying to prove, while you said that the NAACP said the Tea Party people had racist elements, I'm going to find a racist on the Obama side.

KURTZ: I was trying to make the point that a lot of networks ran with it. And MSNBC found those tapes of "Fox & Friends." Keith Olbermann blaming his own network, as well as others, in what he called the cowering media.

Let's turn to Andrew Breitbart of, well-known conservative activist. We invited him on this program, he could not do it. He said he had scheduling problems.

Here's what he had to say with Fox's Sean Hannity about Shirley Sherrod.


ANDREW BREITBART, BIGGOVERNMENT.COM: I have not asked that she get fired. I have not asked for an investigation into her.

The whole point was to show that for the NAACP to spend five days on national TV saying that the Tea Party is racist without any evidence, when we can prove that the central argument didn't happen, and the mainstream media won't play it --


KURTZ: As you know, Joan Walsh, Breitbart kind of fancies himself as a new media guy taking on the liberal press.

How badly has he been damaged by this whole episode?

WALSH: You know, that depends on how the media treats his garbage in the future, Howie. He should have already been discredited because he did the exact -- or not exact same thing. He did a similar thing to ACORN.

You know, when law enforcement looked into what he did -- he tried to prove that ACORN helped a pimp and a prostitute evade taxes and God knows what else. When law enforcement officials actually looked at what he did, they said he selectively edited, he left out things that would have exonerated the ACORN employees. And, you know, Rupert Murdoch's "New York Post" actually said that he set those people up. You know, the California attorney general said the same thing.

So Breitbart has a history, and yet Fox runs with this crap, and some other news organizations ran with this crap. This is what he does.


Matt Lewis --

WALSH: This is what he does, and he shouldn't get away with it.

KURTZ: You've written for Breitbart's You interviewed him about this whole thing the other day.

LEWIS: I did.

KURTZ: He is refusing to apologize. Should he apologize?

LEWIS: Well, look, I think that Andrew -- everybody here is right that Andrew Breitbart really felt like the Tea Party was given a raw deal, that --

KURTZ: OK. That's his motivation.

LEWIS: Right. KURTZ: But he put out to the media -- it seems to me he was either dishonest and knew that this was misleading or, in fairness, maybe he was duped by the source who provided it.

In your view, should Andrew Breitbart apologize for what he did?

LEWIS: I believe that he was provided with a tape that was edited inaccurately.

KURTZ: Does that --

LEWIS: I don't think it's his fault.


LEWIS: Look, I don't want to speak for him, but I'll say this -- I think the video mischaracterized her. I think it was wrong that -- but look --

KURTZ: So (INAUDIBLE) him accountable, the person who put the video out?

HALL: He's still saying there was racism in the room, for goodness sake. He's not apologizing.

LEWIS: If I said something today that was taken out of context, and somebody put it on a Web site, I would hope that my employer, before they fired me, would look at the video. I think it is the White House --

WALSH: Don't make this about the White House.

LEWIS: Breitbart cannot fire anybody, Howie. It is not Andrew Breitbart that can fire somebody.

KURTZ: But he could -- he can write something on his site and say, you know what? In this instance I screwed up, I should have checked it out more thoroughly. But he absolutely refuses --

LEWIS: If you actually go back and read, as I did -- I interviewed him on Friday -- if you go back and read his original post, it actually says that Shirley Sherrod -- that the larger context was about her having this revelation.

HALL: If you go with something, you know, in the olden days you were supposed to check it out. All the people who ran with this, who did not independently verify it, bear some responsibility. But he should say --

LEWIS: What about the people who fired her, the people who had the tape and fired her and didn't look at it?

HALL: Yes, but Fox and other people are trying to make this about the cowardice of the Obama administration. They should have stood up to Fox. They should have stepped up and said we'll check it out before we fire her. LEWIS: You shouldn't fire -- you should stand by your employees and not fire them before you look at the --


KURTZ: Let me get Joan in here.

WALSH: Matt, this is a media show. This is a media show. Let's talk about media culpability.

And if you can't say -- if you're going to sleep tonight after not saying that Breitbart should apologize, I don't know about your conscience. You ran -- you interviewed him and you let him run his mouth saying that this still shows racism in the NAACP.

You didn't challenge him one bit. You gave him --

LEWIS: Well, everybody should go read my PoliticsDaily story and let them --

WALSH: I did.

LEWIS: Because I think I did challenge him. I think you're wrong. But look, you're at Netroots Nation. I would expect you to possibly take that standpoint anyway.

WALSH: Excuse me? I'm not at Netroots Nation. Are you on this planet? I'm in San Francisco. I'm not at Netroots Nation.

LEWIS: OK. Oh, it's San Francisco. I'm sorry.

KURTZ: Let me just talk about Shirley Sherrod --

WALSH: Jesus.

KURTZ: -- who gave about 147 interviews this week. And look, it's impossible not to feel sorry for her.

On Monday, she's pulled over to the side of the road, told to resign. By the end of the week, she's getting a call from President Obama.

Here's what she had to say to Anderson Cooper about this whole matter and about Fox.


SHIRLEY SHERROD, FMR. GEORGIA DIRECTOR, RURAL DEVELOPMENT, USDA: I don't think he's interested in seeing anyone get past it, because I think he'd like to get us stuck back in the times of slavery. That's where I think he'd like to see all black people end up again. And that's why --

COOPER: You think he's a racist?

SHERROD: -- I think he's so vicious. Yes, I do. And I think that's why he's so vicious against a black president.


KURTZ: So, Matt Lewis, she says Breitbart wants to take us back to the times of slavery.

Is that fair? And are the media giving her a pass now for using that kind of language?

LEWIS: I think it's unfair. Look, I don't think it's right.

I think that Andrew Breitbart is a conservative activist. I think he cares very deeply about liberal bias in the media and about attempts to portray -- we're going to talk later, but we know that there are attempts for liberals in journalism to portray conservatives as racists.

I think he's concerned about this. I think this was -- clearly, Shirley Sherrod was misrepresented in that video. We have no doubt about that.

KURTZ: She also talked about Fox News, in effect, being racist.

We're over time, but Joan Walsh, a brief response from you on this point?

WALSH: The woman's father was murdered by a white farmer, and there were witnesses. And the white justice system never found the murderer guilty. She's entitled to talk about race any way she wants to.

LEWIS: Any way she wants to?

WALSH: That's not giving her a pass.

LEWIS: So if you've had a bad experience in your background, you can say just anything you want?

WALSH: Yes, any way she wants to. A bad experience in your background? I'm talking about murder. Murder, Matt.

And the fact of the matter is, the woman turned out to be the antithesis of Andrew Breitbart, who told a story of racial reconciliation and healing and forgiving white people, and going on to help white people --

LEWIS: I just don't think any of us should get --

WALSH: -- and going on to -- the issue in this country --

LEWIS: I just don't think any of us should get a pass to talk about --

WALSH: -- is class as much as race. I'm not giving her a pass. But I think the idea that she shouldn't be able to say Fox or Breitbart is racist preposterous. She gets to say that because it's true, and because from her vantage point it's especially true.

KURTZ: Well, in fairness, it's certainly debatable.

I've got to get a break here.

When we come back, leaked e-mails show liberal commentators trying out their attack lines against John McCain and Sarah Palin. Were they following the same talking points?

And later, Carole Simpson on why so few African-Americans get the biggest jobs in television.


KURTZ: It was created as an off-the-record discussion group maybe for liberal commentators and policy wonks, along with some mainstream reporters. But many of the e-mails from what was called Journolist were leaked to Tucker Carlson's "Daily Caller" Web site, which this weak published a batch in which columnists and bloggers appear to be coordinating as they debated what talking points would be most effective against the Republicans, after, for example, an ABC News debate in which the anchors were very tough on Barack Obama.

Richard Kim of "The Nation" wrote "George (Stephanopoulos) is being a disgusting little rat snake." Michael Tomasky of "The Guardian" wrote, "We all have to do what we can to kill ABC and this idiocy in whatever venues we have." Chris Hayes of "The Nation" writing, "All this hand wringing about just how awful and odious Reverend Wright's remarks are just keeps the hustle going. There is no earthly reason to use our various platforms to discuss what about Wright we find objectionable."

And Spencer Ackerman of "The Washington Independent" wrote, "If the right forces us all to either defend Wright or tear him down, no matter what we choose, we lose the game they put upon us. Instead, take one them, Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares, and call them racists."

And Matt Lewis, that kind of language, although people who were on this thing defend it as not being a conspiracy, not coordinating, just a bull session where people were debating and gossiping -- but that kind of language, it was kind of troubling.

LEWIS: Oh, it is, absolutely. I mean, look, you're talking about journalists conspiring to say let's cover up the Reverend Wright story. And not only that, let's unfairly, in order to change the subject, accuse a conservative of racism.

That is a very serious accusation. And the worst part is it's not just coming from people from, say, left-of-center Web sites, but you have people from mainstream sites like Politico and Bloomberg and "TIME" magazine also taking part in some of these discussions.

KURTZ: Taking part, but not writing the most inflammatory stuff.

Jane? HALL: You know, I think that it's reprehensible to say we should call anybody a racist. And it's just the flip opposite of what we just talked about.

However, I think there's a difference between a site that included mostly commentators that were angry about what they saw as Reverend Wright being the focus of the whole debate that Charlie Gibson and Stephanopoulos did, and saying we should do something. There's no evidence that they did very much except an open letter.

That to me is different from colluding and a conspiracy. "The Daily Caller" said these guys were plotting like it was some cabal. You know, I think they were frustrated that the right is a lot better at coordinating talking points, frankly.

KURTZ: Joan Walsh, did this seem more conspiratorial or coordinated to you?

WALSH: No, it really didn't.

Now, look, first of all, I want to make clear, because Matt doesn't seem to know who I am, I was not on the Journolist. I was never asked to be on the Journolist. And I criticized both Chris Hayes and Spencer Ackerman for their language a few days ago when these e-mails came out.

But the point that I made there is there was a vibrant debate, even in Journolist. People in Journolist were saying no, don't call them racist. You know, do something else.

And people in Journolist were also going on to write critical stories about Reverend Wright. I wrote many myself, because I did think that he was a problem.

So this idea that they were -- I mean, it's sort of hilarious. They're colluding in dark rooms to write an open letter. Ooh. You know, if that's not -- that's open.

And you know, the rest of it, it should have been called "Wonklist," frankly. I would say that the number of non-journalists outnumbered journalists, and the journalists who were on there were mainly liberal opinion pundits, bloggers or columnists, not -- you know, mainstream, not the beat reporters covering McCain and Obama, for sure.

KURTZ: Matt Lewis, you've written for Tucker Carlson's "Daily Caller" site. You tell me that if we had e-mails from conservative pundits, or secret tapes from their dinner parties, that they wouldn't be exchanging ideas and attack lines.

LEWIS: Well, look, I think that it is an interesting point, because clearly you get a couple guys together, no matter who they write for, over a couple of beers, they're going to talk. But when you start to worry me a little bit are things like we should shut down Fox News --


KURTZ: Well, one professor said that. And others disagreed.

LEWIS: Well, but Michael Scherer from "TIME" actually said you make a good point when someone said that, hey, we should look into this. I mean, later on, in fairness to Michael Scherer, he also pushed back against that. But, look, also --

WALSH: Yes, he did.

LEWIS: -- David Weigel, also from "The Washington Post," saying nobody here should link to "The D.C. Examiner" for a while. That is collusion.

KURTZ: Yes. And Dave Weigel, who was on this program, lost his job as a --


LEWIS: Right. But that was a journalist.

HALL: I think there's a lot more coordination between conservative bloggers and conservative --


KURTZ: I have a question for you. When Sarah Palin was picked as VP nominee, Jeff Toobin of CNN said on this list, "What a joke. I always thought some part of McCain doesn't want to be president. This choice proves my point."

Palin then comes out and rips the "sick puppies of the media" and said that she was "faced with hordes of Obama opposition researchers/slash reporters."

So it certainly gave Palin an opening to beat up on the press.

HALL: It gave Palin an opening. And, you know, I think when I read that I was disappointed that Jeffrey Toobin said that, because I think then you're commenting on the air about a candidacy. You've already been on the record -- off the record about that. That's inappropriate. That, to me, was an inappropriate thing to say.

LEWIS: But it also impacts the media because the public already distrusts the media, they already feel that the media is liberally biased, and this story just underscores that stereotype.

KURTZ: But again, these were mostly liberal commentators.

HALL: These were liberals.


KURTZ: I've got to blow the whistle. I've got to blow the whistle.

LEWIS: What about the Politico --

KURTZ: Matt Lewis, Joan Walsh, Jane Hall, sorry. We're out of time. Thanks for joining us.

Coming up in the second half of RELIABLE SOURCES, minorities in the media. Why are all the network evening anchors and the Sunday morning hosts and the primetime cable news hosts white journalists?

Former ABC News anchor Carole Simpson joins a very candid discussion.

Plus, journalism loses a legend. Bob Schieffer on the CBS and NPR newsman Daniel Schorr.

And later, ESPN thrown for a loss in that LeBron James controversy.

And I respond to Bill O'Reilly.



KURTZ: Something really striking happened when I tried to book the segment you're about to see about minorities and the media.

I talked to several very prominent African-American journalists who said they would love to come on the program but the subject was just too sensitive to discuss publicly, or their bosses did not want them speaking out in public.

Look at the people who have gotten the latest primetime hosting jobs in cable news: Lawrence O'Donnell at MSNBC; Eliot Spitzer and Kathleen Parker at CNN. They join people like Sean and Bill and Keith and Rachel and Anderson. They join the Sunday show hosts and the evening news anchors and the principal network morning hosts. Not an African-American face among them except for GMA's Robin Roberts.

There are, of course, some successful black journalists in television -- Lester Holt, Gwen Ifill, Al Roker, Byron Pitts -- but most of the folks aren't in front line jobs.

Joining us now to talk about why this is and whether it might change, in Boston, Carole Simpson, a correspondent and anchor for ABC News for 24 years; in Tampa, Eric Deggans, television and media critic for "The St. Petersburg Times"; and in New York, Amy Holmes, the co- host of "America's Morning News."

Carole Simpson, when you look back at your own pretty successful career, were there times you felt that race was an obstacle?

CAROLE SIMPSON, ANCHOR & CORRESPONDENT, ABC NEWS: Absolutely. I was the first African-American female to anchor a news cast on a major television network and I am the last African-American female to anchor a broadcast on a major national newscast.

KURTZ: You retired the trophy.

SIMPSON: I am -- yes -- I'm not happy about it.

I think that our progress -- we had made a lot of progress in the '80s and '90s, but there are fewer African-American correspondents at the networks and at cable news than there were back in the '80s. I don't know what's happening. I don't know if all of the sudden, people are saying we've got a black president, so he's going to be on television. What do we need -- you know, there's one black face for you -- what do we need to hire African-Americans again?

The other point, Howie, is that Hispanics have become the major minority in the country, and there has been great efforts to hire them at the expense of African-Americans. Not demeaning the fact that they're getting progress.

KURTZ: There are a lot of talented African-American journalists out there, in addition to some that I just mentioned.

Have you felt -- and excuse the expression -- that some of them are kind of ghettoized into midlevel jobs? There might be a daytime anchor on cable, but not in the coveted primetime spots?

SIMPSON: I am a guest of CNN, and I'm happy to be here, but I have to criticize your cable network. After Tony Harris goes off at I guess about 1:00 or 2:00 in the afternoon, there are no African- Americans who are hosting any programs on CNN.

I can't believe that the Campbell Brown job came open and Eliot Spitzer, a disgraced public figure, gets a show. And what is -- where is Don Lemon? Where is T.J. Holmes? Where's Fredricka Whitfield? All in the -- on the weekends where I was as well. Lester Holt is on the weekend.

KURTZ: Right.

SIMPSON: Yes, weekends are the ghetto. They used to call it when I worked, because there were black correspondents on and black producers, world news -- black world news tonight Sunday on ABC.

KURTZ: That's pretty cutting. I had not heard that.

Amy Holmes, you obviously have a different career path. You came out of Republican politics. But have you felt it's been harder to compete in television and radio as a black woman?

AMY HOLMES, CO-HOST, "AMERICA'S MORNING NEW": I haven't. And that's because I have a different, you know, sort of job to do, or I have done on television, which is to offer opinion. If anything, I think my politics, being a conservative, is more of an obstacle.

But I would say that CNN in particular has been very good to -- in terms of promoting African-Americans to be in that anchor chair, and even if it's in the afternoon or on the weekends, I mean hey, that is a great job. Frankly, I would take it. So, for me, the African-American angle on this, I also think it's a little bit reductionist that there are other minorities that are not represented nearly as much, actually, as African-Americans. You don't see the same number of Hispanics, say, in the afternoon anchor spots.

You don't see Asian-Americans. You don't see Native Americans. So when we talk about diversity, I think it's also a larger discussion.

KURTZ: But just to clarify, you were a CNN contributor.

SIMPSON: Amy -- Amy --

KURTZ: Go ahead, Carole.

HOLMES: Yes, I was.

KURTZ: And now you're not.

HOLMES: I want her --

KURTZ: OK. Go ahead, Carol.

SIMPSON: I wanted to tell Amy that Rick Sanchez, who is Cuban, is -- does his show in the afternoon. I guess 3:00 to 4:00 or something. And he's doing double duty now that Campbell Brown is leaving, so he's going to be on at 8:00 at night.

But did they need to use Rich Sanchez twice a day instead of picking Don Lemon or T.J. Holmes to do it?

HOLMES: Well, Carol, yes. Sure, they also had Roland Martin sub in when Campbell Brown was out on maternity leave. He's African- American. So he had the same job that Rick Sanchez has right now.

But I would say --

SIMPSON: Substitute. Substitute.

HOLMES: -- CNN, my former employ -- right, as is Rick Sanchez. So I think they were both actually -- I think those are both comparable jobs.

KURTZ: Let me get Eric Deggans in here.

You have written that you are tired of what you call the counting game, but I guess you are continuing to count because the cable networks, perhaps in your view, not making much progress.

ERIC DEGGANS, MEDIA CRITIC, "ST. PETERSBURG TIMES": Well, it's not that hard to count, because if you look at prime time, there's, like, nobody. So it's not that hard to count.

I would -- you know, it's not going to be a surprise that I'm going to disagree with Amy. We tend to disagree, I guess, when we're on the same show. Her politics have helped her get on television. There are way more black conservatives on television than there are actually, proportionally, black conservatives in the black community. And that seems to be one place that cable TV news loves to have us.

One thing, though, that we have to get out of is minorities ghettoized during daytime, sometimes during the morning, and on the weekends. These are the safe places.

I think cable news and network news divisions have decided what their target audience is, and particularly in prime time and in high- profile areas. It 's not people of color. So we're not getting a shot at those jobs.

Lawrence O'Donnell has had a job. Eliot Spitzer and Kathleen Parker have been given jobs. Someone's got to replace Larry King. And we're hearing that it may be Piers Morgan. So what --


DEGGANS: So what happens when these jobs come open and open and open and they are not -- there's not a sense that a person of color --

KURTZ: Right, we're not even hearing --

DEGGANS: -- even has a shot at the job.

KURTZ: -- speculation about a person of color.

Carole Simpson, do you think that this situation -- I see you're shaking your head -- is a reflection of the preferences of the mostly white executives who run the television business, or is it that they feel like they have to please a white audience, a predominantly White audience?

SIMPSON: Let me tell you something I was told when I was doing local news in Chicago. I was anchoring on the weekends. I've always anchored on the weekends. And I was told that it was OK.

I said, "Why can't I fill in on -- during the daytime, during the week?" And I was told that white people don't like to hear news from black people during the week. Weekends were OK.

I mean, literally told me that. And it's like, you know, what study did you come up with to point that out to me?

KURTZ: Somebody just came out and said that? That's really quite a telling moment. Quite a telling moment, yes.

SIMPSON: It's real. Yes, it's ridiculous.

KURTZ: Quite a telling moment.


KURTZ: Amy, what do you think is lost -- SIMPSON: Go ahead.

KURTZ: -- when you don't have many African-Americans or Latinos in the anchor chair or the hosting chair? What do you think is lost in terms of the program?

HOLMES: Well certainly a perspective. Like, for example, on this whole story about Ms. Shirley Sherrod, on my morning radio show one of the things that caught my attention right away was that when Governor Vilsack was offering her a job, he was offering her a civil rights job.

And I said, "Oh, because she's a black woman, that's the type of job you would offer her?" And I think that's the kind of perspective that an African-American person looking at the news, the kind of question they would ask, that I did not hear white news people and pundits asking.

KURTZ: I want to come back to that, but let me ask Eric Deggans -- you know, look, if I called up, or you as a reporter called up news executives at any network, they would say of course, diversity very important to us. But then it doesn't seem to translate on the playing field, so to speak, very much.

DEGGANS: Well I think executives have a range of priorities, and diversity is number 10, and appealing to their target audience is number one. And if they're -- if they don't see their target audience as people of color, then they're not going to consider people of color for key positions. And for MSNBC and CNN especially, these 8:00 p.m., 9:00 p.m., 10:00 p.m. jobs are really important.

I would also say --

KURTZ: Aren't they important for Fox News as well?

DEGGANS: -- that the value of diversity --

KURTZ: Are they important for Fox News as well?

DEGGANS: Well, Fox News is winning. Fox News is winning.

KURTZ: I see.

DEGGANS: And Fox News hasn't changed those timeslots in a long time.

KURTZ: Right.

DEGGANS: But I will say, too, that the value of diversity is that people are shown what's possible. The mostly White audience is seeing a person of color in a position of authority delivering the news, being effective. There's no telling what kind of impact that can have.

And when the Shirley Sherrod case happens, and Breitbart tries to make the case that the NAACP is a racist organization, if you have a track record with a black person having authority and showing that they are capable, maybe people will think twice before they accept us.

KURTZ: And there have been -- go ahead Amy.

HOLMES: But let's underscore the fact that, in fact, on CNN, in particular, you do have African-Americans in the anchor chair delivering straight news to those afternoon audiences. Often, many of them are actually Caucasian women at home, and they're taking that news from African-Americans without blinking or batting an eyelash.

For those night time jobs -- and this network has struggled, MSNBC is falling behind, and Fox -- those are opinion jobs. Those are jobs that a lot of the folks coming out of it are very opinion-related people.

Now, obviously, there are African-American and Hispanic folks who could certainly audition and handle those jobs as well.

KURTZ: Sure. Sure. Let --

HOLMES: -- but I think we need to make a distinction between, say, cable network nighttime lineup and what that job requires, whereas the daytime --

KURTZ: Well, and, you know --

HOLMES: -- where African-Americans are delivering straight news.

KURTZ: And we haven't even touched on the network newscasts, where, you know, there has not been, as Carole says, since she was in the anchor chair.

KURTZ: Let me tie this up by asking you, Carole Simpson -- both of our other guests have mentioned Shirley Sherrod. There was the controversy over the New Black Panther Party, that Justice Department case, ACORN, Skip Gates in your city, nearby Cambridge, being arrested in his own home.

How do you feel the media are covering blacks in the age of Obama?

SIMPSON: Not well. And I think it's because the lack of black input.

I don't know what's happening on the assignment desks. I don't know what's happening in the producer ranks, the people that we don't see that make the decisions. And without input from black producers and from black executives and from black assignment editors, you're going to get a white perspective on the stories, and that's not always an accurate one --

KURTZ: It's good to have multiple perspectives --

SIMPSON: -- especially when it comes to race.

KURTZ: It's good to have multiple.

HOLMES: But I --

KURTZ: We've got to go. It's good to have multiple perspectives, and I appreciate all of yours here today.

Carole Simpson, Amy Holmes, Eric Deggans, thanks very much for joining us.

SIMPSON: Thank you.

DEGGANS: Thank you.


KURTZ: I spoke to them earlier. And best wishes to Amy Holmes today, on her birthday.

Up next, from Nixon's enemies list to NPR, a look at the extraordinary career of the late Daniel Schorr. Bob Schieffer will help us remember his former colleague in a moment.


KURTZ: So much to say about Daniel Schorr. He was a protege of Edward R. Murrow, who opened CBS's Moscow bureau in 1955. He was on Richard Nixon's enemies list and left CBS after the network refused to run a secret report on the CIA, which he then leaked to "The Village Voice."

He was one of the first reporters here at CNN when Ted Turner launched the cable channel in 1980. And he went on to a 25-year career as an analyst for NPR.

Daniel Schorr died this week at the age of 93, and CBS's Bob Schieffer joins us now from the set of "Face the Nation."

And Bob, the Nixon White House had Dan Schorr investigated during Watergate. The FBI investigated him for leaking that House report on the CIA. CBS suspended him.

How was he at dealing with pressure?

BOB SCHIEFFER, HOST, "FACE THE NATION": He was quite good at it. And when he found out he was on Nixon's enemies list, he was actually on live television, and he had this report, and he started going down through it and saw his own name.

I think he ranked 13 or 14 or something on the list. And my guess is that when they open Dan's will, they'll probably find he has a request that they put that on his tombstone.


SCHIEFFER: He was very proud of being on Nixon's enemies list. He was just indefatigable. And they always say the first rule in journalism, don't let them scare you. None of them, including the bosses at CBS, ever scared Dan Schorr.

KURTZ: And that's a key point.

SCHIEFFER: He was a reporter's reporter. He did his own work. And he loved doing it.

KURTZ: Yes. That's a key point. He took on his own network, as well as various administrations. He seemed to march to his own drummer.

And, you know, it's funny. He really wanted to work for "The New York Times," but as The Times acknowledged in its obit, at the time the editor decided there were already too many Jews in "The New York Times." So, instead, he signed with CNN in 1980, and he made Ted Turner sign an agreement that said, "No demand will be made upon him that would compromise his professional ethics."

He didn't trust the corporate types, did he?

SCHIEFFER: No. And when Dan Schorr wrote out something like that, he really meant it. I mean, we have a lot of showboats around who might make those kind of boasts, but that was the way Dan lived his life.

I can still remember he was in this Washington bureau when I came to work here this 1969, and I remember he came in -- the first time I met him, he was on a cane. He'd hurt his foot in some way or had some foot surgery, and so he was hobbling around on this cane. And then they sent me up to Capitol Hill to cover some news conference.

The next thing I know, here's Dan Schorr with a cane, but just pushing his way through to get up next to the microphone, and kind of using the cane to clear the way. You couldn't stop him -- rain, snow, a bad leg, he would go after that story. And he could always ask the question that would give you something different that nobody else had.

KURTZ: Right. And some of the challenging that Dan Schorr did of government came at a time before -- we all take it for granted now, that there's a very tense, adversarial relationship between the media and people in power, but he seemed to have lived that way in earlier decades, before that became -- before Watergate sort of changed the culture.

SCHIEFFER: Oh, he did, Howie.


SCHIEFFER: You know, he kept CBS News in the game when Watergate happened. We got out to a slow start on that. Dan got into it, and he kept us going on that story. And, you know, people do kind of forget how it was in those days.

This wasn't an administration that was trying to, you know, challenge us at CBS. They were trying to destroy network news because it wouldn't come to heel.

And there were people in the corporation here at CBS who were very worried about that. But it never worried old Dan Schorr. He just kept on keeping on. And he never stopped. That was the amazing thing.

KURTZ: Right. And on that point, Bob --

SCHIEFFER: He was doing reports at NPR, what, two weeks ago?

KURTZ: That's exactly what I was going to say. He was on the program last year after Walter Cronkite's passing. And look, clearly, he had been slowed by age, but his mind was very sharp.

I've got about 20 seconds.

He didn't retire. He didn't go gracefully into that good night. He kept working until the age of 93.

SCHIEFFER: And he'll be remembered for a long, long time, especially by the folks around here.

KURTZ: And Bob, when you turn 93, we'd like to have you back on the program.

SCHIEFFER: I promise.


KURTZ: Thanks very much for making some time for us this Sunday morning.

SCHIEFFER: You bet. Thank you.

KURTZ: And after the break, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner making some news on the coming battle over the fate of the Bush tax cuts.

"The Sound of Sunday" is next.


KURTZ: Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner on two Sunday shows this morning talking about the economy doing better, but not that much better.

That's the challenge, isn't it, Candy Crowley?

CANDY CROWLEY, HOST, "STATE OF THE UNION": It is. And the treasury secretary says look, it's going slowly, but it is getting better. And by the way, the business community agrees with me. But it actually depends on which business community leader you talk to.

Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TIMOTHY GEITHNER, TREASURY SECRETARY: They see an economy that's going to continue to grow, strengthen moderately over the next 18 months or so. And I talk to businesses across the country, and I would say that is the general view, ,an economy that's gradually getting better.



MORT ZUCKERMAN, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, "U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT": My view is that you have consumer spending which is either flat or going down; housing, which is falling off the edge of a cliff; employment, which is still continuing to be a serious problem. And I could give you a whole series of statistics that sort of fit into that general group of either flat or down, and that's what leads me to the conclusion that this economy is getting weak.



STEVE FORBES, PRESIDENT & CEO, FORBES, INC.: There's huge uncertainty out there, Candy, which is why you're not getting job creation. Until the president deals credibly with that uncertainty, it's going to be a very subpar economy. There are very serious headwinds in the face of this economy.


KURTZ: Front page headlines this morning in "The New York Times" and "Washington Post" about the brewing battle on the Hill about the Bush tax cuts and whether they should be allowed to expire for the most affluent Americans.

And Geithner addressed that as well, didn't he?

CROWLEY: Yes, he did, repeating what he said earlier in the week, that what they want to do is make those tax cuts, the Bush tax cuts, expire for those making $250,000 and over.


GEITHNER: We also see it as responsible to let the tax cuts expire that just go to two to three percent of Americans, the highest- earning Americans. We think that's the responsible thing to do because we need to make sure we can show the world that we're willing as a country now to start to make some progress bringing down our long-term deficits.


KURTZ: And Barack Obama campaigned on that during the presidential campaign of 2008, but of course Republicans now trying to paint this as a tax increase on the more affluent. CROWLEY: Absolutely. And frankly, if your taxes have been low, and now they're going to go high, you feel like it's a tax increase. But the Democrats feel as though they have a really good issue here, that by getting the Republicans to oppose a tax -- slight tax hike for the rich, they can paint them as, see, they favor rich people, they favor big corporations, but we're for you.

KURTZ: And the Democrats using that against the Republicans on the deficit, because there's been so much talk on the GOP side about how spending is out of control. But when it comes to tax cuts, which also add to red ink, they have a different philosophy.

All right. We spent time on this program talking about the Shirley Sherrod firing and the controversy, who is to blame.

Newt Gingrich weighing in.

CROWLEY: I absolutely had to bring you this sound bite, because the fact of the matter is, who's more colorful than Newt Gingrich doing something like this?


NEWT GINGRICH, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: What you see is one more example of the Obama administration's continuing incompetence. Apparently, she didn't even get the courtesy of a chance to talk to the secretary of Agriculture, who I suspect fired her under pressure from the White House. If the Obama administration is this afraid of Glenn Beck, how do they deal with the Iranians?


CROWLEY: There you go. I guess it's a talking point.

KURTZ: If Glenn Beck is too scary, what about all the other threats in the world?

CROWLEY: There he is.

KURTZ: And the irony, of course, is that Glenn Beck didn't do anything that first day when Shirley Sherrod lost her job, and he ended up defending her.


KURTZ: So thanks very much for stopping by, Candy Crowley.

CROWLEY: Thanks.

KURTZ: And still to come on this program, a blogger catches a bonehead move by BP, ESPN gets a spanking on the LeBron James hike fest, and Bill O'Reilly takes on this program.

All that ahead on "Media Monitor."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KURTZ: Time now for our "Media Monitor."

And here's what I liked.

John Aravosis, the founder of America Blog, discovering that BP altered photos of its oil spill crisis center, filling in blank screens with Photoshopped images. Nice catch and another brilliant PR move by the company.

And I made clear two weeks ago that I didn't like ESPN's relentlessly-hyped special on LeBron James picking a new team. Well, the network's ombudsman agrees.

Don Ohlmeyer saying that ESPN gave up editorial control, should never have allowed LeBron's folks to pick Jim Gray as the interviewer. And here's the Sam dunk: "No matter how convoluted the intellectual gymnastics, ESPN paid for exclusive access to a news story."

Well, we got 15 minutes of free publicity on "The O'Reilly Factor" this week.

Thanks, Bill.

And I'm moved to make a couple of observations.


O'REILLY: Pushing the story, well, here's a memo to Howard Kurtz.


KURTZ: O'Reilly teed off on yours truly for saying that Fox News was pushing the controversy over the Obama administration, all but dropping that voter intimidation case involving the New Black Panther Party. I said that because the story was on Fox on many programs day after day.

But Bill then jumps to the conclusion -- can you imagine that -- that I think the story is bogus or phony or illegitimate. Not true.

I think it's an actual news story, and I said "The New York Times" and "Washington Post" had each published a belated article on the controversy. Belated. They were too slow.

The question isn't whether there should be any coverage of a former Justice Department official's charge that the case was tainted by racial politics. It's how much coverage is too much or too overheated. In fact, I haven't been shy about saying the mainstream media have avoided and made mistakes in avoiding some stories unearthed by Fox.

When Glenn Beck was pounding away last fall at inflammatory statements by White House official Van Jones, I wrote in my "Washington Post" column that there was little question the traditional media had botched the story. By the time they caught up, Jones had resigned. And last week there was O'Reilly bringing up a column published that Sunday morning by "The Washington Post" ombudsman.


O'REILLY: Does Howard not read his own newspaper, or do you think he disagrees with the ombudsman?


KURTZ: Maybe we lost your interest, Bill, but a few minutes into the segment I said that the ombudsman, Andy Alexander, "scolded the paper for being late in running a single news story on the controversy," and he was right.

O'Reilly and his colleague Bernie Goldberg also criticized Bob Schieffer for telling me he had been on vacation and had missed the latest developments in the case, which is why he didn't raise the issue with Attorney General Eric Holder on "Face the Nation." That's fair game, but at east I called the CBS anchor and asked for his explanation, rather than speculating darkly about his motives. And Schieffer was a standup guy to come on the program.

Bernie Goldberg offered a theory on why Schieffer had missed the story.


BERNIE GOLDBERG, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: And reason he doesn't know anything about the story -- and this goes to your question about yesterday versus today in the media -- is because the story wasn't in "The New York Times."


KURTZ: Actually, it was in The Times, belatedly, on July 7th. "Racial Motive Alleged in Justice Department Decision." You can look it up. Goldberg did say that compared to another media writers I "wasn't a total bozo."

Thanks, Bernie.

O'Reilly closed by saying he was appointing himself the new sheriff in town and plans to arrest me. Now, that's scary stuff. Do I get to hire a lawyer before Bill tosses me in the slammer?

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

I'm Howard Kurtz.

Join us again 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.