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Sarah Palin, Chris Christie Will Not Run for President; 'Monday Night Football' Drops Hank Williams Jr.
Aired October 09, 2011 - 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 was obvious to anyone with a pulse that Sarah Palin wasn't going to run for president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH PALIN (R), FMR. ALASKA GOVERNOR: You don't need a title to make a difference in this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: And yet, the "lamestream" media helped her keep up the pretense. Were journalists her enablers?
It was just as obvious that Chris Christie wasn't running. He kept saying it himself, "I'm not ready to be president." But the pundits kept insisting that he might.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I've seen some really wild report being this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: What explains the media frenzy over the New Jersey governor?
Some media dilemmas to ponder. Hank Williams, Jr.'s offensive comments about President Obama -- should "Monday Night Football" have given the singer the boot?
Those Wall Street protests now spreading across the country. Has the press been too slow to recognize their importance?
Plus, the passing of Steve Jobs, the visionary who was so brilliant at manipulating a news business that served as his cheering section.
I'm Howard Kurtz, and this is RELIABLE SOURCES.
Back in May, I wrote a "Newsweek" headline: "Is Sarah Palin Over?" It seemed clear to me there was no way the Fox commentator was going to mount a White House campaign. And it was just as clear when reporters were chasing those bus trips she took over the summer. But the press somehow kept up the pretense until this week, when Palin pulled the plug with a statement and a radio interview, not like Chris Christie, at a news conference.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PALIN: To tell you the truth, I made my announcement today in the format that I did because that was his seven millionth "no." And I didn't want to go through all of that.
I wanted to, you know, just kind of put the marker down and say, no, I'm not running, not have the big press conference it, not make a big darn deal about it because this isn't about me. And it's not about Chris Christie.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: But it is about you when you run for president, even when you decide against running, unless your goal is to avoid reporters.
Joining us now here in Washington, Nia Malika Henderson, national political reporter for "The Washington Post"; Robert Costa, political reporter for "National Review"; and Bill Press, host of the radio syndicated "Bill Press Show."
Bill, why did so many journalist participate in the pretense that maybe -- maybe Sarah Palin might run for president next year?
BILL PRESS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Because I want to tell you the secret about us. We are not a disinterested party in politics. We want it to be exciting. We want colorful candidates. And we have --
KURTZ: The entertainment value, you're saying?
PRESS: Partly that. But look, we have columns to write. I have three hours of talk radio to fill every day, right? We have TV shows to anchor and to be guests on.
And Sarah Palin keeps it interesting. So we're disappointed.
KURTZ: You get points for candor.
Robert Costa, Palin loves to needle the press, but it is journalists and columnists and pundits and radio talk show hosts that really kept her in the headlines as a potential candidate until now.
ROBERT COSTA, POLITICAL REPORTER, "NATIONAL REVIEW": I disagree that it was reporter-driven. Look, I was one of those reporters following her around for weeks in Iowa. She had a big bus tour, she was making speeches, she was premiering a documentary. She gave a major speech there in September. Look, we are following the --
KURTZ: But who cares if she's not running? Then she doesn't get the big press --
COSTA: But, unlike Chris Christie, who had many on-the-record denials, Palin never did. So we're following a former veep contender who's going around Iowa, making speeches, going to eat fried butter at the state fair. This seemed pretty presidential to me.
KURTZ: Lots of people eat fried butter.
KURTZ: Let me get to Nia Malika.
I remember the day when Mitt Romney announced his candidacy in New Hampshire. She went up there on the bus tour. All the reporter who had been there rushed over to her. The Manchester paper put her on the front page.
How can it not be reporter-driven? It was utterly media-driven.
NIA MALIKA HENDERSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": I mean, it was media-driven, but again, I do sort of agree with Robert here in the sense that she was making moves that looked like she might run for president.
KURTZ: Name one move she made.
HENDERSON: She had the glossy video out of Iowa right around the Ames straw poll that looked very presidential.
KURTZ: Did she hire any campaigning staffers, any pollers? Did she put together any --
HENDERSON: No, she didn't.
COSTA: She had a grassroots organization on the ground, Conservatives for Palin. Peter Singleton, this guy was running an Iowa operation for six months. Look, it wasn't driven by her, but there was an operation on the ground unlike any other candidate.
KURTZ: And you were deluding yourself. You must have been very disappointed.
COSTA: I wasn't disappointed. I'm just a reporter looking for a story.
PRESS: Howard, if you take a look and compare Sarah Palin to what Mitt Romney had put together, or what Rick Perry belatedly is putting together, I mean, she had no organization, she had no national team. She had some grassroots followers, camp followers who followed the bus, bought her books, but that doesn't make a political campaign.
Mitt Romney's been doing this for five years. You have got to look at the infrastructure.
HENDERSON: It's true, but she had -- I was with her in September, at that Labor Day rally. Huge crowds out there urging her to run. Not the kind of crowds that Mitt Romney has gotten, quite frankly, or even Rick Perry.
So I think in some ways, we were covering that. That excitement, that desire for a different candidate among Republicans, we were jumping between Herman Cain and all sorts of candidates.
KURTZ: She is an exciting and charismatic political figure, also a very divisive one, but gave no indication that she was going to run, which I think --
COSTA: Sarah PAC did send out a letter. Her political action committee sent it out this month looking for donations. And that's what made a lot of people --
KURTZ: You know who's not happy with Sarah Palin? A lot of people at Fox News. Fox paying her $1 million a year, and she makes the big announcement on Mark Levin's radio show, not Fox?
PRESS: Yes. You've got to wonder about the relationship with Roger Ailes and that move, because if they were paying her for anything, it seems they would be paying her for an exclusive when she makes the decision not to run.
KURTZ: You would think.
There was a real split in the conservative punditry ranks, Robert Costa, about whether Palin should run. I mean, you had well-known commentators on the right like David Frum, Kathleen Parker, and others who said in '08 that she was unqualified to be vice president, who say now she's unqualified to be president. The polls were certainly not encouraging for her as this year went on.
What explains that very sharp difference of opinion on the right?
COSTA: Well, I think it comes down to when she left her gubernatorial position in Alaska. A lot of conservative pundits just said, look, she should have stayed in there, beefed up on issues, getting ready for 2012. But it's interesting.
Even though we say, oh, she was never going to run, she never gave clear signals, you talk to Mitt Romney's people, Rick Perry's people, they were worried about her getting in because she plays an outsider role now in the party. It doesn't matter what "National Review" or "The Weekly Standard" is thinking. For Sarah Palin, she's an outside figure. She could jump in almost like a third-party candidate in a primary and really shake things up.
But the divide was there because people didn't like that she quit her job and she became a reality TV show star. But still, in a political way, she was a major figure.
KURTZ: I wonder now that she has finally closed the curtain on this speculation -- although you guys sound like you're happy to keep speculating -- maybe she'll change her mind.
KURTZ: But now that she's done that, does she remain an important political figure? Certainly she can raise money for the party, things like that. Or is she really going to become a pretty wealthy cultural figure?
HENDERSON: Well, I mean, it could be both. I mean, she's clearly going to be wealthy. She's clearly going to maintain her celebrity, I think.
You know, in that statement where she said she wasn't going to run, she said she would continue to drive the conversation around, you know, debt and deficit spending, and just taxes and all sorts of thing. What's interesting, though, is she hasn't really been driving that conversation.
She's not in the field. She isn't been running. It's been on the Hill. It's been Obama, it's been Romney and the candidates.
Wouldn't you agree?
PRESS: I couldn't agree more. I mean, the idea, right, that she is going to drive the conversation on any issue in the Republican Party is just pure myth.
I don't know whether Todd even believes that, because she's not driving it today. Let me tell you, Rand Paul does not feel that he has to consult the oracle of Wasilla before he makes a stand on the debt ceiling.
KURTZ: Well, I think had she chosen to give a serious policy speech, she could have influenced the debate, particularly the one that lots of people -- particularly Robert Costa -- thought she might run.
COSTA: Fair enough.
KURTZ: But she took another shot -- I mean, really, the place in society that she was running against and delighted in painting herself as a victim of was the press.
Take a look at her interview with Greta Van Susteren on Fox. She took one more shot at the fourth estate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PALIN: What his strength is, if you can consider this a strength, he's going to have a billion dollars up against the Republican candidates, and he's going to have about 90 percent of the media still there in his back pocket.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Palin, of course, talking about Barack Obama.
Now, you could make an argument that was true in 2008 when Barack Obama got incredibly favorable coverage. But now?
PRESS: I'll tell you another secret about us, right? Boy, this is beat up on the press day, I guess. We love to build people up. And once we get them up, we love to tear them down. KURTZ: Particularly when their polls are down.
PRESS: Exactly. Then you pile on.
KURTZ: Why is it that Palin can't resist taking those slaps at the president? Does she have a point? Ninety percent of the press are in Obama's pocket?
COSTA: I think she's a little too hard on the press. It becomes almost annoying as a reporter to constantly hear the same refrain from her about the media.
But I think going back to Bill's point about what kind of role she's going to play, she sounded like Spiro Agnew. I want to hear (INAUDIBLE) negativity. I mean, she's going -- railing against the press, but that's her schtick. But I think in 2012, you're going to see her play a Jim DeMint-like role. She's not going to be hugely influential, but in Senate races and House races, she'll jump in with an endorsement and shake things up across the country in that way.
KURTZ: For all of Palin's dissatisfaction with the press -- and look, she's gotten some unfair coverage over the years, particularly involving her family. And I've criticized the coverage at times. I'm not saying she never has a legitimate beef there, but she has also largely avoided giving interviews and using her Fox platform, where she's not often challenged. And that makes me wonder how much impact she will have from this point on, except as somebody who is almost more in the entertainment realm.
HENDERSON: Yes. No, it's true.
I mean, she talked about not wanting to do a sort of Chris Christie-style press conference. I mean, because she wanted to do it in her own way. But in some ways, you think she didn't want to do a press conference because she didn't want to do a press conference and answer all of these questions.
KURTZ: You think?
HENDERSON: Surprise, surprise.
So, yes, it will be interesting to see what she does. I mean, again, I think she, in some ways, has an outside view of her power in this party. You noticed when she dropped out, it was only Rick Perry who came out to say, you know, she's a great friend, she's still a major part of this party and very important.
KURTZ: Right. Well, you have set me up for the next segment, so let me tease it right now.
When we come back, Chris Christie confirms what most of us knew, that he won't run for president either. We'll look at that frenzy.
And is the press going to pounce again on Mitt Romney for being a Mormon?
KURTZ: It was an exercise in journalistic self-indulgence as the media pushed the tantalizing prospect that Chris Christie might jump into the presidential race despite a year of impassioned denials.
So, when the governor announced the inevitable this week, he couldn't resist poking at the press corps, having some fun with his local correspondents in Trenton. And in his finger-pointing Jersey way, criticizing some of the reporting and the punditry.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIE: Let me dispel that, because I've seen some really wild reporting about this. Mary Pat and the kids were completely behind me running if that's what I wanted to do.
You worry a lot more than I do, Charlie. You -- really, we've got to get you some help. You're obviously overwrought.
I have to point out to all of you who are new here that Lisa is getting very, very good, because she anticipated my answer when I began to interrupt her. And she's now lost the moment for us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Robert Costa, you did a lot of reporting on Christie reconsidering his decision. It seemed very evident to me, given all the statements about not feeling it in his gut, that there was no way he was going jump in.
COSTA: I agree. For many weeks, I couldn't agree more. But I interviewed Tom Kean Sr., the elder statesman of New Jersey politics.
KURTZ: Former governor.
COSTA: Former governor, right before Christie made his Reagan speech. And he told me on the record, as someone as part of Christie's inner circle, it's real, it's closer now than it's ever been. And that just made everything spiral forward that Christie really was seriously reconsidering his suicide pact and all this about not running.
And so I believed it. And I went to Trenton and I spoke to his advisers. And I believed from my reporting that he was closer than he ever led on, even in that press conference.
KURTZ: Although he does say he never got off "no."
KURTZ: But, Nia Malika Henderson, what explains this journalistic fixation with candidates who aren't running, as opposed to those eight or nine perfectly viable candidates who are out there looking for the GOP nomination? HENDERSON: Yes. I mean, I think the perfect example of that was that CNN carried Mitt Romney's foreign policy speech, but none of the other networks really carried it. But they did carry Chris Christie's.
HENDERSON: Everybody carried that, and he was clearly enjoying himself.
KURTZ: And if you ever needed any proof, Bill -- I'll get back to you in a second -- that reporters really wanted Christie to run, just look at them last night talking to Mitt Romney.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE")
Today, Governor Chris Christie announced he would not seek the Republican nomination. Have you considered calling him and trying to convince him to run?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why would I do that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's a great candidate. We were all going to vote for him, right?
(END VIDEO CLIP, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE")
KURTZ: "Saturday Night Live."
PRESS: Yes. I love it. I love it.
I've got to say, I think the Chris Christie announcement overshadows the Sarah Palin announcement. He's the real deal. Right?
He's got a job. He's colorful. He's a good candidate.
KURTZ: But come back to my question about, why is there such a sense of letdown in the press corps?
PRESS: Because we have woven a narrative, true or not, that Mitt Romney is too boring to be the Republican presidential candidate, and, therefore, can't win against -- up against Barack Obama.
KURTZ: That he's too boring?
PRESS: Yes, too boring and too straight. Not a hair out of place. And there's this feeling about Mitt Romney -- so people are looking desperately for anybody else.
KURTZ: But does that reflect dissatisfaction on the part of Republican voters, or boredom on the part of the press corps that doesn't find him to be an exciting storyline?
PRESS: I believe it's some of both, but mostly dissatisfaction on the part of reporters. You know, Jon Stewart said this primary is sort of like "American Idol" in reverse. They keep adding people rather than taking one away.
KURTZ: It was interesting though to see the joking relationship he enjoys with his press corps, although sometimes he be can belittling toward reporters, as well.
COSTA: I was sitting next to Mark Halperin, and he was calling Mark Halperin "Mark," by first name. All these other national reporters were there and knew him like they were cousins. It was pretty amazing.
I think the reporters loved it because he's candid. Mitt Romney would never point his finger at reporters like Christie did in Trenton. And we're going to miss that.
But I think going back to the press, we were covering a story that was real. It's a weak primary field in the polls. There's room for someone to get in it. And most important, we had evidence from behind the scenes that he was reconsidering.
KURTZ: Maybe Christie will change his mind.
As the coverage really swelled about the potential Christie candidacy, there was a lot of columns written about his weight -- was he too fat to be president? And some of this I thought was over the top.
He addressed that in Trenton this past week. Let's take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIE: You know, to say that because you're overweight you are, therefore, undisciplined, you know, I don't think undisciplined people get to achieve great positions in our society. And so that kind of stuff is just ignorant. And the people who wrote it are ignorant people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: He really pushed back hard on that.
HENDERSON: He did push back hard against that. And one of the things I think that reporters were saying when they talked about Chris Christie's weight was that running for president is, in some ways, like trying to run as a movie star.
I mean, we typically elect people who look a certain way, who have a certain weight. In some ways, voting is this aspirational act where you vote for somebody who you think is in some ways better than you. Even though we like to say, oh, we want the regular guy next door, we usually elect the Harvard guy, the Yale guy, the guy who has a great last name.
KURTZ: And good hair.
HENDERSON: And good hair, exactly.
KURTZ: Not too many bald presidents these days.
But -- so you don't think we spend too much time -- it seemed like such a sideshow to me.
COSTA: Oh, definitely.
KURTZ: All right. Somebody agrees with me.
COSTA: We spent way too much time on this, because, look, this is about ideas and it's about politics. It should not be about weight.
And I think it just reinforces people's ideas that the media focuses on superficialities. And Christie was right, all these serious reporters and commentators, they are clowns for constantly talking about his weight. It should be about ideas and politics, not anything else.
PRESS: It should be about ideas, I agree. But the man is overweight. It's a very strenuous job to run for president. And I would say -- wait, wait.
PRESS: Because I've been around politics a long time and I've seen a lot of people running for president. But I would say this -- I would agree, off the table, except that he talked about it with Diane Sawyer in an interview over a year ago --
KURTZ: He's talked about it a number of times.
PRESS: -- where he said his problem was -- so, if he talks about, it damn it, we can talk about it.
KURTZ: All right. So you're not agreeing that we're clowns? There's a few clowns in the press corps.
I want to sort of throw this in at the last minute, because at the Values Voter Conference this past week, where a number of presidential candidates came to speak, Rick Perry was introduced by a major Baptist leader from Dallas, Robert Jeffress, who proceeded to take a shot at Mitt Romney and Mormonism. And he said, among other things, "Mormonism is a cult and it's not Christianity."
Of course this got a lot of coverage yesterday. Romney spoke. He did not directly address those remarks. He did say that there should be more tolerance in politics, and he talked about poisonous language without particularly talking about being a Mormon.
And of course that's a story and of course it needs to be covered. Is it now like it was in 2007 and 2008 going to be a major theme of the press conference? Politico had a headline this morning; "Mitt's Mormon Issue Returns."
How long is it returning for?
HENDERSON: Well, I mean, I think one of the things in 2007, Romney came out with that speech where he talked about Mormonism, where he talked about his church, and talked about not being beholden to his church. And I think this time he's handling it in a different way.
When he gets questions about his faith, he sort of refers them to his church. He says, I'm not here to speak about my faith or for my faith, and he refers people to his -- the Web site of Mormonism. So I think --
KURTZ: The press, as you know, has the ability to treat something as a one-day story or a five-week story. And I am wondering whether or not we are going to collectively do what we did last time and keep saying -- and it's not that there isn't evidence that X percentage of Evangelicals won't vote for a Mormon. But are we going to start pounding this drum again because Romney's back being the front-runner and now we need something new to talk about?
PRESS: I would hope not. I think not and I would hope not.
You know, 50 years after JFK and some of the -- some Evangelicals questioned his Catholicism. Now Mitt Romney's Mormonism is disgusting, it's un-American. I don't think the media is going to buy into it this time. I really don't.
KURTZ: What do you think?
COSTA: Going back to the JFK point, take Kennedy, one of Romney's great rivals in the 1994 Senate race. He had a quote. He said, "We've moved on as a country. These religion issues died with my brother Jack." And I think that's true.
And I think this is just like Christie's weight. Why are we focusing on religion? It should not be the same focus. Because some nut-job commentator -- I don't care what his religious position is -- makes it an issue --
KURTZ: Well, he's not a commentator. He's a significant pastor --
COSTA: He introduced Perry. And Perry and all these other candidates on the Republican side should be calling this out. It should go back -- just like with Christie's weight, focus on the ideas, focus on the politics.
Again, I hope the media doesn't play it up and put Mormonism on the cover of every magazine, because Romney deserves better. Let's look at his health care plan, whether you agree with it or not, look at his foreign policy and other issues. That's what's important.
It would be unfortunate for the country and the debate if we just continue to follow this religion debate just like we follow other minutia.
HENDERSON: And I think the election of Barack Obama probably told the country, told the press something about diversity, that America is much more diverse and much accepting than we may have been 10 -- four or five years ago.
KURTZ: Right. This would be a first of a different kind.
HENDERSON: Yes, exactly.
KURTZ: Before we go, you mentioned Rick Perry. Is the story about the rock now over?
I'm talking here, of course, about the Texas hunting camp associated with his family. A "Washington Post" story last Sunday saying that a racially offensive name for the camp with the N-word appeared there.
Perry himself said that, A, he didn't have anything to do with it. B, his father painted it over some 30 or 25 years ago. The Post found seven people, most of whom were not on the record, saying they saw it more recently.
How important is a story was that, and is it now over?
HENDERSON: Well, I think it was an important story for much of last week. It will be -- we'll see if it carries on.
He addressed it again, like you said, and said it was something that his family took care of. There's a debate on Tuesday sponsored by "The Washington Post" and Bloomberg.
KURTZ: And Bloomberg.
HENDERSON: And it will be interesting to see if it comes up there. It's about the economy, that debate. But we'll see if it comes up again.
KURTZ: But Rick Perry was never personally tied to. And I thought that perhaps --
PRESS: Well, the stories that I read in The Post, that he was at the ranch and bringing people to the ranch when he was a state legislator, an agricultural commissioner, and governor. And according to some, the word was still there.
Here's the problem -- I don't think it will be a big issue. I think the problem was that so often happens, the way he answered it, the way he responded, saying this was inappropriate, has no place in modern time. It has no place ever. And he should have just, I think, condemned it, said, I'm sorry I was ever associated with those times, and now moved on.
KURTZ: He's also a guy, as "The Washington Post" pointed out in a follow-up story, who appointed the first black judge to the Texas Supreme Court judge and made him chief justice. And we are out of time.
PRESS: True. So he can disengage himself from this, but I don't think he did sufficiently.
KURTZ: Bill Press, Robert Costa, Nia Malika Henderson, thanks for joining us this morning.
Coming up in the second part of RELIABLE SOURCES, those Occupy Wall Street protests. Have the media been too slow and too indifferent in covering that story?
Plus, ESPN gets rid of singer Hank Williams, Jr. for his offensive remarks about President Obama. Was that the right call?
And later, we'll look back at Steve Jobs, brilliant visionary and master media manipulator.
KURTZ: We now turn our lens, our critical lens, on a series of media dilemmas. And we'll begin with a story that was barely on the media's radar until the past week or so.
Occupy Wall Street began as a small and rather unfocused protest at the nation's financial center. But the coverage has grown as a number of demonstrators increased and the movement has spread to other cities.
Joining us now to talk about this and some other media issues, in Los Angeles, Sharon Waxman, editor-in-chief of TheWrap.com. And here in Washington, Erik Wemple, online media reporter and critic for "The Washington Post."
And Erik, I got a Facebook message last week saying the reason I didn't talk about this on last week's program was my corporate overlords had prohibited it. I just wasn't sure it was that big a deal.
Were the media to slow to pick up on these protests?
ERIK WEMPLE, ONLINE MEDIA REPORTER AND CRITIC, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Right. Well, I argue that they weren't, that a protest needs to prove itself.
KURTZ: There are protests all the time.
WEMPLE: Right. There are protests all the time. These protesters happened, to their credit, to be very savvy on social networks. They're able to build their own protests. The media then can come in.
I don't see a huge problem the way Keith Olbermann did and some other people did with this media blackout. I didn't see a huge problem with the protests. It proves itself, starts generating some headlines, starts doing some things that turns some heads. Then the media can jump in. I think that's the system working, not a system broken.
KURTZ: Sharon Waxman, I've read various manifestos that purport to describe what the protesters want. They're against corporate greed and corrupt politics, rooting (ph) that policies of the nation -- or setting the policies of the nation. But I think a lot of journalists are confused about who is behind this, how organized is it, and what exactly is the agenda of Occupy Wall Street?
SHARON WAXMAN, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, THEWRAP.COM: Yes. I don't actually get that at all. I've heard that even from our own reporter who feel that way. But this is an organic movement of people who are generally dissatisfied and finally taking to the streets to talk about the issues that are impacting their lives.
Why they came out of the woodwork at this particular time, when we've been dealing with a recession, coming out of a slow emergence from a recession, a possible double-dip recession for years now, is a little bit of a mystery. But, you know, it's almost like you look at the Arab Spring in Tunisia and how it spread to Egypt, those movements didn't have leaders either. It really was a legitimate expression of discontent on the part of the people in those countries.
And I think this is similar in that way. It's not organized, but it's authentic. And for that reason, I think the media needs to pay very close attention to it.
KURTZ: I think that's starting to happen.
But as you mentioned, Erik, Keith Olbermann, at Current TV, and also Ed Schultz at MSNBC, playing up these protests, criticizing the coverage or lack thereof. More contrast to the way Fox News is treating them. Bill O'Reilly, the other night, saying that these are far-left and anarchists. Well, some of them may be anarchists, but still.
WEMPLE: Right. I think that, look, whenever you have -- I believe this is pretty much characteristic of left-wing protests, you see the protesters and they have all the signs. One, "Justice for Moviegoers" and everyone has their own --
KURTZ: "Save the Whales," "World Peace."
WEMPLE: So it's easy, it's low-hanging fruit for people like O'Reilly to start making fun of them. I think that's really disgraceful. I think that, you know, there is something that prompted this, it's very real.
KURTZ: Why disgraceful?
WEMPLE: I think it's disgraceful because, you know, you can always find someone in a crowd of 1,000, 2,000, 3,000, 4,000 people to mutilate. I mean, you can -- and to mock. And so that's really low- hanging fruit. And I think it's crazy.
WAXMAN: I actually find it kind of interesting that Fox has taken the position it has because it could just as easily co-opt these protesters as a symbol of how Obama is failing.
WAXMAN: I don't agree that this is a left-wing issue. These are people who are hurting in an economic -- a long swing of the economic pendulum that has really hurt the middle class. You know, that we've been reporting about for many, many years.
So, the right could just as easily adopt these people and embrace them as their own. But instead, they're sort of looking at them as anarchists -- yes, "anarchists" is such a weird word that I keep hearing.
KURTZ: And it's striking to me that Fox News was so much more sympathetic a couple of years ago to the Tea Party movement -- just two years ago, I should say. And then it was the liberal media that was accused of picking out a few protesters who had crazy signs or were yelling at congressmen at those town hall meetings.
Let me turn now to a flap involving Anderson Cooper's syndicated daytime television show which is carried or distributed by Time Warner, parent company of this network. And there was an incident -- and we're going to play a clip from "The Today Show" -- involving a potential guest, a teenager who wanted to be on, who filmed himself on some sort of skateboard.
And let's take a look at NBC's coverage.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PETER ALEXANDER, NBC NEWS: Matt, good morning to you. The show was supposed to focus on teenage minds and risky behavior, but things went terribly wrong when a teenager on a skateboard was badly injured.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Let me put a statement from the Anderson Cooper daytime show. It says that, "As part of our routine process, we ask guests for video footage and photos. We did not provide the family with a camera." Anderson putting out his own statement saying he was very saddened to hear about this, Erik, and deepest concerns for the teenager.
There were earlier reports he was in a coma. We don't know what the state of his health is now.
My question is, can the show be blamed for this if it wasn't asking for the skateboard stunt and didn't provide the cameras? Is this fair criticism?
WEMPLE: I think that what "The Today Show" did was way over the top. They brought in an ethicist and said, oh, this is crazy do, do no harm thing with "The Today Show." I thought it was insane.
I think what they asked was the kid to do his thing. They didn't ask him to do anything unethical. They didn't ask him to do anything illegal. They basically asked the kid to go out and skateboard.
Now, did he push it because he knew he was going to be on the "Anderson" show? Well, perhaps.
But as David Dobson (ph) and the National Geographic showed, that's the way teens are inclined to be anyway. And there are 26,000 kids that check in to emergency rooms every year over skateboard injuries. I don't want to put this on Anderson Cooper.
KURTZ: My feeling, Sharon, is --
WEMPLE: That's a comfortable (ph) stance to be making --
WAXMAN: I don't actually agree with that.
KURTZ: OK. Go ahead.
WAXMAN: I don't actually agree with that. I mean, I think that you can't discount the impact that the power of television has on people's behavior. And we've seen it throughout reality television, and a talk show is just one more example of that. So whether or not the show provided --
KURTZ: Well, people do all kinds of crazy things in order to get on television. The question has to be --
WAXMAN: Well, that's absolutely true. But --
KURTZ: -- did the producers in some way encourage this?
WAXMAN: Inviting that. Right. Are they inviting that by saying, go do your crazy thing, and you know that you're going to be on a show that's about risky behavior, so you're going to try to fill the bill.
WEMPLE: Do we know that the producer told the kid, go do your crazy thing? We do not.
WAXMAN: That was the quote that I read, that they told him to, "Go do your crazy thing."
WEMPLE: The person who passed along that bit of reporting did not hear the producer's instructions to the kid. Now, those details matter. And I would argue --
KURTZ: I've got to get a break, but we hope that the teenager is OK. I think we can agree on that.
WEMPLE: Yes, we do.
KURTZ: And I will not be doing any skateboarding now that I've heard these statistics.
Up next, "Monday Night Football" dumps Hank Williams, Jr. over those controversial political remarks on Fox News. Was ESPN to kick the singer off the show?
KURTZ: Hank Williams, Jr. doesn't work for ESPN, but for years he's provided the theme music for "Monday Night Football." That, is until this week, when the sports network dropped the song over these comment by the singer on "Fox & Friends." The subject was President Obama playing golf a couple months back with House Speaker John Boehner.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRETCHEN CARLSON, FOX NEWS: What did you not like about it? It seems to be a really pivotal moment for you.
HANK WILLIAMS, JR., SINGER: Come on. Come on. That would be like Hitler playing golf with Netanyahu.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Sharon Waxman, did ESPN overreact here by getting rid of Hank Williams?
WAXMAN: Well, when you invite Attila the Hun over to give you sophisticated political analysis, this is kind of what you get. So, I mean, ESPN had -- you know, they didn't have a whole lot of choice, I don't think, in the matter.
They needed to distance themselves. The thing started to really snowball, and people were making fun of, you know, Hank Williams, and, you know, the thing just kind of started to spin out of control. So I wasn't surprised to see them do. But the whole thing just seems like this is what you're going to get if you invite Hank Williams to give you his political view, and don't be surprised.
KURTZ: ESPN said it was extremely disappointed in the comments. Let me throw up on the screen a statement by Williams.
He said, "Some of us have strong opinions and are often misunderstood. My analogy was extreme" -- you think? -- "but it was to make a point. I was imply trying to explain how stupid it seemed to me how ludicrous that pairing was."
What's your take?
WEMPLE: Right. My take is that, well, once they finally split ways, Hank said he took his song off. But ESPN -- once that all came out, he put a statement up --
KURTZ: He said, "You can't fire me. I quit."
WEMPLE: Right. Exactly.
KURTZ: And "My First Amendment rights" --
WEMPLE: Once that all shook out, he said that this is a First Amendment issue. It once again proved that Hank Williams really shouldn't talk. He should just sing.
He shouldn't write because -- shouldn't post things to the Web. I agree with Sharon that, you know, you deal with Hank Williams, I think ESPN just said, I think -- perhaps they decided that it just wasn't all worth it anymore and the song was tired. And I'm tired of that song.
And I don't know. Sharon, I thought she made a really good point.
KURTZ: Well, ESPN was actually carefully calibrating this, because initially, it just took the song of for last Monday's game. And then, later in the week, as the reaction built, and then Williams said his First Amendment right had been trampled, well, you have no First Amendment right to appear on television if somebody doesn't want to pay you to do that -- then it pulled the plug altogether.
So you feel like this, Sharon, that this was a controversy?
WAXMAN: Well, I mean, what's the cost really?
KURTZ: What's the cost? Well, a lot of people like --
WAXMAN: Well, really, what's the cost to ESPN? In other words, they feel like they need to distance themselves from somebody who's becoming -- who's casting the wrong kind of energy and attention on their show. They have that association.
So the cost to them is very low. I don't think that there is a million -- millions of fans out there waiting to defend Hank Williams and Obama-Hitler.
KURTZ: In the half-minute we have left, I mean, I wish everybody would just get rid of these Hitler analogies. But the Fox anchors didn't exactly say, how could you say that? That's outrageous.
Let me get from Erik?
WEMPLE: The Fox anchors didn't say --
KURTZ: Didn't react very --
WEMPLE: No, they didn't react very -- they didn't seem to register the outrage to begin with. But that's the way these things often go.
You think about it a little bit and say, boy, that was really dumb. So, no, I think that ESPN behaved perfectly fine here.
KURTZ: All right. So we've reached consensus that the remarks at least were really dumb.
Erik Wemple, Sharon Waxman, thanks very much for talking with us this morning.
After the break, Jeff Jarvis on the overwhelming media reaction to the death of Steve Jobs, who always managed to get his company gushing press coverage.
KURTZ: I cannot think of another business leader in the last century whose passing triggered this kind of outpouring. When word arrived that Steve Jobs had died, the media world exploded, including lots of reports on iPhones and iPads, I'm sure. And networks carried special bulletins.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT PELLEY, CBS NEWS: We are interrupting programming this evening because an American Edison has died.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS (voice-over): Good morning, America. And this morning, American genius. An outpouring of emotional tributes from every corner of the planet for Steve Jobs. He changed our world.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN: This is a man who really stood for American exceptionalism, was the man who created the Mac, the iPod, the iPhone, the iPad, all of that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: I was in New York when the Apple co-founder died.
To examine his sometimes tense relationship with the media, I sat down with journalist and blogger Jeff Jarvis, author of the new book "Public Parts: How Sharing in the Digital Age Improves the Way We Work and Live."
KURTZ: Jeff Jarvis, welcome.
JEFF JARVIS, AUTHOR, "PUBLIC PARTS": Thank you, Howie.
KURTZ: The incredible outpouring of tributes about the passing of Steve Jobs, around-the-clock coverage, the newspaper stories, the special news magazine editions, is there any level on which this is a little over the top?
JARVIS: It's hard to be too hyperbolic about Steve Jobs --
KURTZ: Because? JARVIS: -- when you consider that he is our Gutenberg, our Galileo, our da Vinci, our Einstein, our Edison. And we can find in so many ways these over-the-top metaphors work for him, because he changed technology, he made it accessible to so many people. He enabled everyone to create things.
He changed business and how it operates. Not just technology, but music and media.
He changed retail, he changed entertainment, he enabled a culture -- he didn't invent computers, he didn't invent the Internet, but he did make them so easy to use, that we are all now creators. He's a big deal.
KURTZ: Now, of course, it's Apple that did these things, but Steve Jobs is Apple, or the creative force behind Apple, to a large extent.
You know, when the media -- we just went through this not that long ago when he stepped down as chairman. We knew he was sick. Obviously, we didn't know quite how ill he was.
But he was not the world's most pleasant guy to work for. In fact, he was something of a tyrant. So it's interesting that as we bid farewell to Steve Jobs -- and there were all those incredible tributes, and you just delivered a pretty fulsome one -- it doesn't mean that he was necessarily the world's most pleasant human being.
JARVIS: No, not at all. And we do need to have at some point the full picture of the man. Walter Isaacson has a biography coming out next month which I hope -- he had cooperated with, and I hope it will be that full picture.
You know, we have a traditional in America. I was on "This WEEK in TECH" last night with Leo Laporte talking about this with somebody from England. And he was struggling with this and saying, well, he was also difficult, and he was also a problem, and he also did difficult things.
And that's kind of the British view of an obituary, where you try to give an honest appraisal. Here in the U.S., I think we're more about, this is a moment for tribute. And so do we go over the top --
KURTZ: Wait, wait, wait. American journalism isn't about giving an honest appraisal even when somebody dies?
JARVIS: I think in obituaries, we tend to go with kid gloves for a while and try to say at first, look at all the good things. Then we come back and rethink about it.
KURTZ: Is that a mistake? JARVIS: No, I don't think it is. I really don't think it is, because -- but it is highly cultural, right? It is very much about, oh, that feels like it was in bad taste.
Last night I tweeted that Isaacson's book about Jobs was up to 93 on Amazon. And someone yelled at me on Twitter that was poor taste. Well, it was just a fact, it was no big deal. But that's how attuned we are to this moment of sanctity after someone dies.
KURTZ: Now, Jobs was very difficult for the press to deal with. For example, during the years when he was battling cancer, he didn't want to talk about it. The company was very secretive about it. And yet, he was the CEO of this major international corporation.
That always bothered me.
JARVIS: I wrote another book -- not to plug it -- called "What Would Google Do?" And in there, I argued that Apple was the grand exception to every rule that Google does. Right?
It's closed, it's secretive, it's not collaborative and all these things. There's one reason it could get away with being the exception of all the rules of business today: Steve Jobs.
He was a genius. He was a visionary. He was a generous genius, but a controlling genius. If his stuff hadn't been good, it wouldn't have worked.
KURTZ: Jeff, there's another reason that Steve Jobs and Apple could get away with this. And clearly, one of the great visionaries of our time, one of the great businessmen of our time. I don't want to take anything away from him.
But Apple and Jobs had this huge cheering section in the press. And so, another company would have gotten absolutely barbecued for this kind of secrecy, for not putting out material information about the health of the chief executive officer, for cloaking every product launch in secrecy, which, of course, built up the mystique and we all got to then celebrate what a great new thing had just come out.
There was an exception in the media to the way this company among all other companies was treated. You can disagree with that if you want.
JARVIS: No, you're absolutely right about that. It's the fan boy. Right? If you criticize Apple, the fan boys will come after you.
There is a cult there. But again, it only works because things are so good.
When Jobs left Apple -- my son last night SMS'd me that he remembered going through my closet and finding an old black PowerBook laptop and how much I hated it. At the time Jobs wasn't there. And I went over to windows, but I came back when he came back. And they really are just that good. But you're absolutely right, there's the paradox of Apple. They're loved for every reason that would be attacked for any other company.
KURTZ: But let me come back to the standards that journalists apply. And I think part of it was the journalists in the tech field who cover this kind of thing, and who are enthused over every gadget, they wanted access.
And Jobs did build up relationships with certain journalists. And "TIME" magazine, as I recall, got the first advanced look at the iPad. And of course that ended up on the cover.
So they were very good at playing the press. They were pretty shrewd about this.
JARVIS: He was a master manipulator. And the irony here is that we're in an age of scarcity, where anything can be said by anyone anywhere. And he held to a scarcity of information that made it more precious.
And we all kind of want to be that way today, but we can't pull it off.
KURTZ: Right. But the irony, as we saw this week, the big buildup, as there always is when Apple even upgrades a product, about the new iPhone. It was supposed to be called the iPhone 5. Instead, it became the iPhone 4s. And there was a great sense of letdown as the product launch after Jobs had stepped down from CEO, of course, one day before his death, a great sense of letdown that it wasn't, gee whiz, a revolutionary new product.
JARVIS: Well, it was also revealing I think that there was kind of a pall over this presentation, and I think now we understand better why. What I think the press will be doing now is probably going over board the other way -- oh, my God, without Jobs, the company can be nothing. And we'll see how that is.
KURTZ: So, if Steve Jobs and his company were treated differently than any other company on the planet that I can think of by the media, by journalists who are usually cynical about these things, basically because of, A, the manipulation and the secrecy we just talked about, and, B, because he made incredible products in the iPad and the iPod and the iPhone and going back to the Mac computer, you find of feel like it's OK for us to have -- collectively, not talking about every single journalist in the country -- to have given him that break because he deserved it, because he succeeded in the marketplace?
JARVIS: Yes. Well, what did he do wrong? Right?
We're at a point now -- I think Occupy Wall Street, the demonstrations going on downtown in New York, are about a lack of institutional trust in government, in banks, in media, in all kinds of things. And so you see an institution that is all in all trusted. It's a really rare entity right now. And Apple is all in all trusted. And it has not violated that trust since he's been back in a bad way.
So I think the proof in the pudding about journalism in a company is, did we miss all the bad things they did at banks? Yes, we did. What have we missed at Apple? I don't think there's anything awful that we missed there as reporters.
KURTZ: Did the media contribute to Jobs' success and Apple's success by providing endless free publicity and hype for each new product or product improvement?
JARVIS: You bet they did. But the irony is, he could have been like Google and spent nothing on marketing. But instead, he spent a fortune on marketing building up this brand and this mystique. He's a paradox to his death.
KURTZ: To his death.
Jeff Jarvis, thanks very much for joining us.
JARVIS: Thank you, Howie.
KURTZ: Still to come, some final thoughts on Steve Jobs, the towering media figure we only thought we knew.
KURTZ: The gushing, often emotional coverage that followed his death prompted the Web site Gawker to run a piece titled "Steve Jobs is Not God," suggesting that while he was a tech genius, those who didn't know him personally should just calm down. But here's what's so strange.
We feel like we knew Jobs because he was on so many magazine covers and we carried around his products in our pockets. But the reality is we knew so little about this secretive man, the fact that he was adopted, his struggles with his health, what he thought about the world beyond Apple.
In an Oprahfied age of too much information, Jobs tightly controlled his image by sharing almost nothing. And reporters so enamored of all things Apple let him get away with it.
Walter Isaacson, the former CNN president and "TIME" managing editor, conducted close to 50 interviews with Jobs for a biography that is now being rushed out. Jobs explained why he pulled back the curtain during Isaacson's last visit to his California home a few weeks back.
"I wanted my kids to know me. I wasn't always there for them, and I wanted them to know why and to understand what I did."
Perhaps the rest of us will also find out now that Steve Jobs is gone.
Well, that's it for this edition of RELIABLE SOURCE.
I'm Howard Kurtz.
We're off next Sunday, when CNN will have live coverage of the dedication of the Martin Luther King memorial in Washington that was preempted by the hurricane a few weeks ago.
We'll be back the following week with another critical look at the media.
"STATE OF THE UNION" with Candy Crowley begins right now.