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CNN RELIABLE SOURCES
Oprah Apologizes; The Selling of Spying
Aired January 29, 2006 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
HOWARD KURTZ, HOST (voice over): Oprah's admission. The talk show queen says she's sorry for backing James Frey's fabricated memoir, even after it was exposed as a fraud. What took her so long, and has she repaired her image?
The selling of spying. Are the media rolling over for President Bush's effort to paint the domestic eavesdropping as a political plus? And are they carrying the White House message to promote this week's State of the Union?
Bad boys, from Kobe Bryant to Bode Miller. Are journalists buffing the image of athletes with off-the-court problems?
Plus, Bill O'Reilly attacks me for fair and balanced reporting.
KURTZ: Welcome to RELIABLE SOURCES, where we turn a critical lens on the media.
Some breaking news this morning out of Iraq. ABC News anchor Bob Woodruff is in surgery in a U.S. military hospital in Iraq after he and a cameraman were seriously injured by an explosive device while embedded with the Army's 4th Infantry Division.
Here's what ABC's Martha Raddatz reported just a short time ago.
MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC NEWS: They were travelling in an Iraqi convoy, but they were both with the 4th Infantry Division. Bob and Doug had been in an armored vehicle, a U.S. armored vehicle, and then transferred into an Iraqi mechanized vehicle.
They were up in the hatch of that vehicle. They were apparently doing a report. I believe Doug was filming Bob at the time when they struck a large IED. It was also followed up with small arms fire after that.
Both have head injuries. They are in the hospital right now. Bob is currently in surgery in Balad, which is a very large base there and has the best medical care possible for both of them. But both in serious condition at this point -- Kate.
KURTZ: We will bring you more details as they become available, but let me tell you a little bit about this man who just took over "World News Tonight" with Elizabeth Vargas earlier this month.
I was with him this past Monday as he zipped up his suitcases and headed for the airport, first to cover the Palestinian elections and then to head to Baghdad. Woodruff is a guy who loves to travel to hotspots, doesn't worry much about the danger. In fact, that's why he got into the business.
He was a lawyer making plenty of money and was spending a year in China when Tianamen Square erupted. He became a translator and a fixer for CBS and later decided that journalism was his true calling, gave up the law firm for a $12,000 a year job at a small California station.
Woodruff eventually became a foreign correspondent in the Peter Jennings mold, spending four months in Pakistan after 9/11, covering the Iraq war in 2003, and constantly jetting off around the world. This is how he and Vargas hoped to distinguish their newscast.
We wish Bob Woodruff all the best, and we will stay on top of this breaking story as more information emerges.
Well, turning now to a somewhat lighter subject, but one that has resonated throughout the publishing world, when Oprah Winfrey called into Larry King's show two weeks ago, she was defending the memoir she had endorsed, "A Million Little Pieces," even though The Smoking Gun Web site had already shredded author James Frey's credibility and exposed his nightmare journey through crime, drugs and rehab as a hoax.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OPRAH WINFREY, TALK SHOW HOST: The underlying message of redemption in James Frey's memoir still resonates with me, and I know that it resonates with millions of other people who have read this book and will continue to read this book.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Frey told King that he had only embellished a few events. But Winfrey was hammered by such critics as Frank Rich in "The New York Times" and Richard Cohen in "The Washington Post," who called Oprah deluded.
Finally, on Thursday, a dramatic apology.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WINFREY: I regret that phone call. I made a mistake, and I left the impression that the truth does not matter. And I am deeply sorry about that, because that is not what I believe. So to everyone who has challenged me on this issue of truth, you are absolutely right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: For one very gripping hour, Oprah Winfrey grilled James Frey, taking his book apart almost page by page.
JAMES FREY, AUTHOR: I think I made a lot of mistakes in writing the book and, you know, promoting the book.
WINFREY: Do you see the mistakes as lies? Because you -- you know, I think I made a mistake. So do you think you lied, or do you think you made a mistake?
FREY: I think probably both.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: But how big was Winfrey's mistake? How badly did it hurt her? And what does all this say about TV book clubs and the publishing business?
Joining me now in New York, Jeff Jarvis, a veteran magazine editor and TV critic who blogs at buzzmachine.com.
Also in New York, Bonnie Fuller, veteran magazine editor, now editorial director of American Media. She oversees almost two dozen magazines, including, "Celebrity Living" and most prominently, "Star."
And in Los Angeles, where he's hanging out with the stars, David Carr, media reporter and columnist for "The New York Times."
Bonnie Fuller, was this a big blunder by Oprah, particularly after the book had been revealed to be a sham? And has she redeemed herself, like so many of her guests over the years, by going after the author?
BONNIE FULLER, EDITORIAL DIRECTOR, AMERICAN MEDIA: It was a huge blunder for Oprah. I know that "Star's" readers were absolutely appalled by what she did. And, in fact, we went on her Web site and we had a hard time finding any comments from her regular fans who adore her in support of Oprah.
However, that has totally turned around since her Thursday show. In fact, there was a poll this morning in "The New York Post" in which 86 percent of New Yorkers say that they now believe that Oprah has, in fact, redeemed herself and they like her better than ever.
KURTZ: Eighty-six percent approval rating. Politicians could only dream about that.
David Carr, do you think that ultimately Oprah Winfrey caved to the pressure of "The New York Times" editorials and these various columnists denouncing her for seeming not to care that The Smoking Gun Web site had exposed this book as an utter fraud?
DAVID CARR, "NEW YORK TIMES": Well, if Oprah caved, I think it would be the first time in her history. I think Oprah manages herself and her brand more carefully than almost anybody in the whole entertainment landscape. And I think it became clear to her that it wasn't just Mr. Frey's reputation that was at risk, but that it was her own.
And so she came straight at it, and I thought it was a tour de force in terms of her ability to take the situation and turn it into a win, as the poll number indicates. Nobody knows that art better than Oprah.
KURTZ: Eighty-six percent.
Jeff Jarvis, I want to play a little bit more of Oprah Winfrey cross-examining James Frey on that program on Thursday and then ask you a question.
Let's take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WINFREY: Was your description of how she died true?
FREY: She committed suicide, yes.
WINFREY: She hung herself?
FREY: I mean, that -- that was one of the details I altered about her. I mean...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Jeff, Oprah essentially created James Frey as a best- selling author. Did she do the right thing by ripping him apart in the end?
JEFF JARVIS, BUZZMACHINE.COM: I think she appalled with holding his body in front of her for the stones that would follow. You know, Oprah's haughty ethicism I think is a little disingenuous.
Let's not forget that Oprah has often forgotten, in fact, that Oprah was the one that trashed daytime TV. She took the Donahue format and then brought on the whiny misfits and losers and screamers and shouters, and then everyone, including Donahue, followed her, until it went overboard. Then finally she came back and recanted and said, no, no, now I'm the queen of quality on TV.
And she does what she needs to do for ratings. She made this book a success. She now saw that her PR was in danger, and so she dealt with that, but she held Frey out to let him dangle.
Yes, he's another liar in print. We've seen others of those lately.
There are two separate issues here. And hers is about the way she apologized. I think if she just apologized I would have taken that at face value, but what she really did was dangle him out there. KURTZ: All right.
Bonnie Fuller, how big a story is this for "Star" magazine? Is Oprah so huge celebrity-wise that anything she does is news?
FULLER: Absolutely everything she does is news. In fact, she just recently bought some Labrador puppies, and that was huge news. And, of course, she puts it -- she put them with herself on the copy of her magazine, "O."
Yes, this is a big story for "Star" readers because they love Oprah, she propels sales for our magazine, as well as propelling ratings. And the fact that she had supported Frey even after he was exposed, you know, really called her into question for them.
I mean, I don't think they had ever questioned Oprah the way that they did after this. They were extremely upset with their idol.
KURTZ: David Carr, you look at the things in this book, "A Million Little Pieces," which originally was peddled as a novel, which, of course, it is, but later was sold to Doubleday as nonfiction, you know, James Frey saying he had two root canals without novocaine, he hit a cop with his car, he was abused in a drug clinic, it sounds very fantastical. And I'm just wondering how Oprah, you know, was willing to put her reputation behind this work.
CARR: Well, I thought when she asked Nan Talese, who was the publisher at Doubleday who pushed this book out into the marketplace, how she could have ever fallen for such a fantastical story, I think Ms. Talese should have said, well, about the same way you did. A lot of people bought into it.
I mean, I think that there -- in retrospect, reading the book in retrospect, it certainly breaks credibility at every -- every turn, and I don't -- I think Oprah did a good job of doing a mea culpa at the top of -- the top of the show. But as Jeff points out, just mopped up the floor with -- with Frey and then Talese. And by the end of it, you forget that Oprah herself was more than a little bit implicated by being bought into this story.
KURTZ: Well, since you mentioned Nan Talese -- and she has her own imprint at Doubleday -- let's take a look at what she had to say on that show, and I'll ask you another question.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NAN TALESE, PUBLISHER, "A MILLION LITTLE PIECES": I thought as a publisher, this is James's memory of the hell he went through. I do not know how you get inside another person's mind.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: David Carr, where's the apology from Doubleday? Where is the pulling of the book? Instead, they say they're going to have a publisher's note and an author's note in future editions. What is it, by the way, everything in here is a lie? CARR: Oh, I thought that was amazingly tone deaf to sit there and dance on the head of a split hair and expect people to understand what you are doing. They should have done what Oprah did, which is an abject apology to open up and then proceed to kind of spread the blame around.
Instead, I think anybody watching that show would have the same reaction you did, Howie, which is, well, they didn't say they were sorry.
KURTZ: All right.
Jeff Jarvis, was this a victory of sorts for online journalism in that it was a very small Web site, The Smoking Gun, that blew the whistle on this book that had been publicized by so many big news organizations?
JARVIS: Well, I'll always wave that flag, Howie. Yes, but I think more important for journalism was this odd scene of Frank Rich and Stanley Crouch and other journalists bowing at the throat of Oprah afterwards, saying, oh, queen, you have done the good thing, you have done the right thing. I found that absolutely amazing that they would allow themselves to be used in this way.
And The Smoking Gun stands out there as the most independent voice of journalism, saying, we've got the facts, man.
KURTZ: Why do you say they were used?
JARVIS: Because they -- full disclosure here is that she tried to get me on her show when I was a TV critic to do the same thing, and so I watched through that lens. But I saw -- for Stanley Crouch to say that you are the queen of kindness or some such thing, for Frank Rich to say, you did it before millions of people, good for you, why? What was their point in them appearing there to do that?
I think it would have been better to have a fuller journalistic discussion of this. Instead, they were brought on for a few seconds to praise Oprah, which is Oprah's whole schtick.
KURTZ: All right.
Bonnie Fuller, what about standards in the publishing world? I mean, is it harder to get a story about Jen and Brad and Angelina into "Star" magazine than it is to publish a book in which you say it's a memoir and you make stuff up?
FULLER: That is an excellent point. Yes, it is far harder to get a story about Brad, Angelina or any -- any star into "Star" magazine.
We have a legal department, and quite a large legal department. All stories pass through it. Everything is fact-checked.
When we have a very -- when we have a story that has any legal issues that are quite large, we often have signed up sources, which means they've signed legal documents attesting to the truth of what they are saying. We even polygraph some of our sources.
There's quite a different standard, clearly, in the publishing world. But perhaps they're going to be looking at things -- well, I would assume they will be looking at things quite differently.
FULLER: And one point I just wanted to make about Oprah is that, you know, she sat there and said that the story about the novocaine was fantastical, and how could that not have set off Nan? Now, when she read it, however, it didn't set off Oprah either. So, I mean, she read the book as well. So clearly, fact-checking is a necessity.
KURTZ: All right.
David Carr, Jeff Jarvis has written on his Web site that Oprah maybe just has too much power. She's, of course, the biggest female figure and perhaps the richest figure in the media world, but hasn't she also been a force for good in persuading millions of people to read books?
CARR: I think she's been a civic (ph) good in any number of ways, whether you are talking about New Orleans, South Africa, getting Americans reading. And her durability is due, in part, to her ability to stage manage her image.
I agree with Jeff wholeheartedly that having all those folks come on and bow toward her, I mean, Richard Cohen called her the mensch of the year. There's no one quite as large as her or as good at managing their image as Oprah, and I think she uses her power, in general, to good ends.
KURTZ: All right.
David Carr, Bonnie Fuller, Jeff Jarvis, thanks very much for an interesting discussion.
When we come back, the latest on ABC anchor Bob Woodruff, seriously injured in Iraq today. We'll go to Baghdad.
And, later, bad boy athletes. Are the media aid and abetting them?
Plus, President Bush takes the fight to the press over accusations of illegal spying. And what about those secret Jack Abramoff photos?
Stay with us.
KURTZ: Welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES.
If you're just joining us, some breaking news this morning out of Iraq. ABC News anchor Bob Woodruff is in surgery after sustaining serious head injuries from an explosion in that country.
For more now, we turn to CNN's Michael Holmes in Baghdad.
Michael Holmes, also cameraman Doug Vogt injured in that IED explosion. I'm just wondering, after the kidnapping of Jill Carroll -- we haven't had any word on her fate in the last week -- the average person probably thinks the greater danger for journalists is to be unembedded and roaming the streets on your own, rather than operating within the protection of the U.S. Army. But that isn't necessarily true, is it?
MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, it's not. Howie, I can tell you that personally I feel probably more nervous if I'm driving along in a Humvee, armored or not, because a U.S. convoy or a military convoy of any kind in this country is such a target.
You know, Bob and Doug were with the U.S. Army's 4th Infantry Division. I have been with the 3rd I.D. I've been with several embeds, most recently with the 10th Mountain Division, and we were doing patrols around the Abu Ghraib region in a Humvee. And I feel often more of a target in those situations, Howie.
KURTZ: Woodruff is described as being in serious condition, as I mentioned a moment ago. He is in surgery. He was embedded with the 4th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army.
I understand from you, Michael Holmes, that he was swearing body armor. But nevertheless, that does not provide complete protection against these kind of injuries.
And you yourself, since the time that you have been reporting from Iraq, have had a close brush with terror attacks as well. Tell us about that.
HOLMES: Yes, that's right. It was -- in fact, ironically, it was two years ago last Friday that we were just south of Baghdad and we were ambushed.
We were in two vehicles. We were ambushed by two vehicles. And two of our Iraqi staff, friends of mine, were killed in that incident.
The cameraman sitting next to me, Scott McWhinnie, was wounded. He was shot in the head and survived.
And I can tell you, just the sheer violence -- I mean, like a lot of reporters, I've been around a lot of combat and stuff, but when it happens right on top of you and you are the target, it's very hard to get across the sheer violence of something like that, and terror. You know, I'm not afraid to admit that. It's an intensely personal and horrific experience.
We were wearing body armor as well. I understand that Bob and Doug were wearing body armor and helmets.
They were, we're told, standing out of the hatch of a vehicle when this IED went off. Perhaps Doug was filming Bob. We don't know that yet.
So they're a little bit more exposed than if they had been inside this vehicle, which, by the way, was an Iraqi vehicle. They were on a joint patrol with the 4th I.D...
HOLMES: ... and the Iraqi military.
KURTZ: When something like this happens to Bob Woodruff, when something like the experience you just described happens to you, when you hear about "Christian Science Monitor" reporter Jill Carroll being kidnapped, doesn't that increase the pressure on all the Western correspondents there to curtail their activities and take fewer chances? It just would seem like a natural human reaction.
HOLMES: Well, I think most of us here -- I think most of us, certainly we have very, very stringent security measures in place. You know, you take risks, of course. By being in this city you take risks.
There's gunfire behind me at the moment. It's completely normal. We call it the sounds of Baghdad, a boom here and gunfire there. It's ubiquitous.
But no, you have to -- if you're going to come here and report the story, you have to get out and report the story. We rely heavily, as do most media organizations, on Iraqi staff who really take a lot of risks working for us, and they get out there and do a lot of the hard slogging.
But we do go out. I have been out many times since I have been here. I'm hopefully going out tomorrow.
But it's just part of the business. It's a close-knit group here. There's only about 70 or so Western journalists here, and it's a very tight family.
HOLMES: You stick together, especially now.
KURTZ: Boy, when you say there's gunfire behind and you say it so matter of factly, I get a little bit of insight about what it's like to be on duty there.
Michael Holmes, we appreciate your talking to us. We will come back to you again in the next half-hour and keep everyone up to date about the latest information about Bob Woodruff and the situation there.
Thanks very much.
Coming up, ski champion Bode Miller, basketball star Kobe Bryant. Should journalists just forget about their personal problems when they keep on winning? More RELIABLE SOURCES straight ahead.
KURTZ: Welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES.
More later in the program about the condition of ABC journalist Bob Woodruff, injured in Iraq. We are watching that story very carefully for you.
But first, Kobe Bryant's reputation was in tatters after a Colorado hotel worker accused him of sexual assault in 2003. The case was dropped when the woman declined to testify, and she reached a civil settlement with the L.A. Lakers star. But after Bryant scored a spectacular 81 points last week, the biggest NBA total in four and a half decades, sportswriters began celebrating him once again.
Meanwhile, Olympic skiing sensation Bode Miller nearly got buried under an avalanche of publicity, including the covers of "TIME" and "Newsweek," you see there. Not because of his two silver medals at the 2002 winter games, but because he shot off his mouth to Bob Simon at "60 Minutes" about drinking at night and then hitting the slopes "wasted," to use Miller's word. But that only seems to have burnished Bode's wild man image.
Joining us now to talk about it here in the studio, Mike Wise, sports columnist for "The Washington Post."
And in Philadelphia, Jack McCallum, senior writer for "Sports Illustrated," and the co-author of "Foul Lines: A Pro Basketball Novel."
Mike Wise, you wrote a column praising Kobe as a great player after he scored that 81. So the fact that he cheated on his wife with a hotel employee and was accused of sexual assault is now just forgotten?
MIKE WISE, "THE WASHINGTON POST": I wouldn't say that. I do try in my coverage, and some of my peers as well, to separate the player from the person. I do have a problem with what happened with Ray Lewis in 2001, where he became MVP of the Super Bowl and he was instantly a redemptive character.
Wait a minute. He has a past. He was -- he at least obstructed justice in the murder of two men in which his friends were involved.
So now, exactly what's going on in that. What's going on with that? I'm not sure. But I think that we do have to separate the player from the person.
KURTZ: Jack McCallum, here is a column in the "Chicago Tribune" by Mike Downey. He writes, "A seemingly permanent stain on Bryant's name finally may be blotted out. It's as if Kobe just gave every fan an 81 carat rock."
So you score a lot of points, you win the game at the buzzer, and then this other stuff is just consigned to the dustbin of history?
JACK MCCALLUM, "SPORTS ILLUSTRATED": Well, Howard, you know, even talking about these things in the context of the life-and-death issues that have gone on sort of just places us in the essence of sports, which is we basically cover the games. And if I have a 25- paragraph story about Kobe Bryant's 81-point game, in one of those paragraphs I can talk about the rape charge in Colorado, in another one I can talk about he is a selfish player, in another one I can talk about that he is maybe unpopular with his teammates and wonder why he is the leading vote-getter for the all-star game and why he has a Nike endorsement deal.
KURTZ: Well, when you say -- when you say we basically cover the games, I mean, in an era when athletes are often getting into trouble for drugs, for violence, for things of this nature, going back to O.J. Simpson and well before, isn't it true that we cover a lot more of the games these days?
MCCALLUM: Well, we do cover it. What I'm saying is, in that story I have to spend at root -- I have to spend 20 paragraphs of that story talking about the 81 points.
If President Bush goes out and makes an economic speech, you know, you can't have the first paragraph about the economic speech, the next 27 about the weapons of mass destruction.
MCCALLUM: At some point the story has to be about the news peg (ph). And no matter how I might or might remind everybody else of what happened with Kobe, the whole presentation is going to cross -- going to come across as a glorification.
I don't feel I do that. I feel I cover the news. But I understand that the whole package kind of comes out that way.
KURTZ: Bode Miller gives this interview to "60 Minutes," says he would drink a lot, he would ski wasted, makes headlines. He then blasts "60 Minutes" for having the temerity to run his comments, and he winds up on the cover of "TIME" and "Newsweek."
What does this tell us about media behavior?
WISE: When the going gets tough, the tough blame the media, Howie. No, I think it's one of those things where he really didn't realize the magnitude of his comments, and he thought he was just being what NBC wants everybody to be now, which is the X games wild guy partier that's going to sell the product a little more. And I thought Bode Miller has been told by a lot of people that's what sells, that whole street cred that you develop gives you that edge.
I'm thinking, to my -- to me, I'm looking at it and going, what are you doing? What are you doing? This isn't a great message to send kids. And I think he realizes that now.
But clearly, you know, we -- that story, you are right, gets bigger ink than his two silver medals.
KURTZ: Jack McCallum, Miller also told "Newsweek," "I don't need the media," he said rather arrogantly. But is that really true? I mean, haven't all of us in the press helped to turn him into a multimillion-dollar superstar?
MCCALLUM: Well, I think, Howard, that athletes really do believe that these days because there is so much attention. I mean, you go to the most average game in the world, because of the -- you know, the online journalism, which you talked about with the James Frey thing, because of the Internet, 24-hour news channels, not to mention the very conventional news stations, athletes personalities do get the idea that this attention will always be there.
What they find out is, you know, when they go away, the attention goes away. And that's what's hard for a lot of them to deal with. But I can understand in the context of the saturation coverage we give everything why they believe that.
WISE: And there's something about us as media people, too, where we tend to celebrate the great player. We find reasons to like somebody when they play well for our teams.
KURTZ: You build them up. You create...
WISE: Well, we do. And I saw this in New York.
I remember in New York, when Latrell Sprewell came to New York, he was America's thug. He was the guy who coached -- I mean, choked his coach, the last bastion of authority in the professional game. And I made him out to be this bad guy when I was working for "The New York Times."
And then he starts playing well, and all of a sudden he is not a Generation X knucklehead anymore, he's a redeeming character. It doesn't mean that he wasn't a lousy person and he choked his coach just because he hit some jump shots, but I caught up in it. I definitely did.
And I thought to myself -- and I look back on it now and I think all of these guys, when they play well for their teams, all of a sudden we create reasons why they're redeeming characters. Kobe may have done some really bad things in his life, but because he scored 81 points, all of a sudden we forget about that.
MCCALLUM: I don't think -- I don't -- I never reported that it does redeem him. I think the 81 point shows he is an unbelievable basketball player.
KURTZ: All right.
MCCALLUM: You have to break that down. I don't feel that I said he was a wonderful person because he scored 81 points or that he deserves expiation because is he an all-star anymore.
KURTZ: OK, Jack. I've got to jump in at the buzzer here. Jack McCallum, Mike Wise, thanks very much.
MCCALLUM: Thanks much, Howie.
KURTZ: We'll continue this discussion another time.
When we come back, more on ABC News anchor Bob Woodruff, who was injured in an explosion in Iraq this morning.
Plus, President Bush tries to get off the defensive with a news conference, a CBS interview, and a talk show blitz by his aides.
Are journalists giving the White House a fair shake in the run-up to the State of the Union? We'll tackle that after a check of the hour's top stories from the CNN Center in Atlanta.
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning, everyone. I'm Tony Harris at the CNN Center in Atlanta.
"Now in the News," ABC co-anchor Bob Woodruff and his cameraman, Doug Vogt, are in serious condition following a roadside bombing outside Baghdad. The journalists were embedded with the U.S. 4th Infantry Division and traveling with Iraqi troops near Taji. ABC says the two suffered head injuries and are undergoing surgery at a U.S. military hospital.
Rescue teams expect to find more bodies today in southern Poland, where a roof collapsed at an exhibition center Saturday. At least 66 bodies have been pulled from the rubble. Hundreds of people had been attending a racing pigeon exhibition when the roof gave way.
Israeli interim prime minister Ehud Olmert says his country will boycott the Hamas-led Palestinian government. Olmert is calling on other nations to do the same.
Hamas won a crushing victory in Palestinian parliamentary elections last week. Its charter calls for the destruction of Israel.
More news at the top of the hour.
RELIABLE SOURCES is back with more on injured ABC News anchor Bob Woodruff.
KURTZ: Welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES.
Some breaking news this morning from Iraq. ABC News anchor Bob Woodruff being treated for serious injuries he sustained in an IED explosion in that country. His cameraman, Doug Vogt, was also injured.
ABC's Martha Raddatz reported the news on her network this morning. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC NEWS: And they were up in the hatch, so they were exposed. They did have all of their body armor on. They had helmets on. They had eye protection.
But the IED went off, the improvised explosive device. They were both immediately injured, taken away. They have shrapnel wounds. Both apparently have shrapnel wounds to the head.
They were first transferred to the Green Zone, the international zone. Their medical condition, they were stabilized, then they were flown by helicopter to Balad.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: For more now, we turn to CNN's Michael Holmes in Baghdad.
Michael, you know, this story really hit home for me because I was with Bob Woodruff on Monday as he set off on this trip. I spent a lot of time talking to him in the last two weeks for a profile that ran in this morning's "Washington Post."
Last hour, CNN had an interview with Bobby Ghosh, "TIME" correspondent who has spent a lot of time in Iraq. He said, "You live in a certain state of denial," denial, of course, about the danger.
Has that been your experience as well?
HOLMES: Yes. You know, actually, it's a funny thing. I read just the other day something that a colleague at NBC, Richard Engel wrote, and he said -- he actually said that there are four stages.
He said you don't think it will happen to you. Then you think, well, I have been here long enough that it might happen to me. And then the third stage, he said, was, I have been here too long, it's going to happen. And the fourth stage is leaving.
I don't know that I agree entirely, but it rings true in a way.
You do -- I certainly personally feel, yes, it could happen. It has happened to me. And I'm very aware of my surroundings in this place.
But, you know, it's a story that needs telling, and we're journalists, and so you come here and do it.
KURTZ: You know, there's obviously a lot of focus in the United States when somebody like Bob Woodruff is injured or Jill Carroll, of the "Christian Science Monitor," is kidnapped. We still have no word on her fate for more than a week. Or back during 2003, David Bloom and Michael Kelly both tragically killed in Iraq.
What about Iraqi journalists? Are they in any danger? I know a lot of Western organizations use them to do a lot of their street reporting. HOLMES: That's a -- that's a great point, Howie, and I'm glad you brought it up. We do talk a lot about us, of course, and that's understandable. But, you know, dozens of journalists have been killed in this war. The vast majority of them are Iraqi. And not just reporters, but people who work with us.
The two that were killed with -- in the convoy I was in, Dureid and Yasser, one was my translator. One was a driver.
They don't go down as journalists, KIA, but they are. And I think we do forget the Iraqi side of it.
And look, I mean, I know that this is a media show and everything. Let me tell you this. In the last 24 hours, 20 Iraqis have been killed, dozens wounded in a whole variety of incidents around this country, and because there's so much going on here, it barely rates a mention. So I think it's good to have mentioned that -- Howie.
KURTZ: Right, exactly.
And in terms of the impact on the small community of Western correspondents, they are 70 or something. We've now had 60 journalists killed since this war began in 2003. Do rivalries tend to get put aside when someone from another news organization, whether it's Bob Woodruff or somebody else, is suddenly in danger or injured or even killed?
HOLMES: Absolutely. Yes, it's funny. Your fiercest competitor becomes just your friend.
Yes, we bond together just by being here, and then when something like this happens, it's true. The media becomes a very tight-knit family in a place like this.
I remember being in Ramallah in 2002 when the Israelis had the major incursion there and surrounded Yasser Arafat. And I won't mention who, but one of our major competitors and I helped each other out. They did something for me. I did something for them.
And it's just how you work. It does cease to be as fiercely competitive when your lives are on the line.
KURTZ: All right. Michael Holmes in Baghdad. We appreciate it. We'll be checking back with you throughout the day for an update on this unfortunate situation.
Well, joining us now here in Washington, Craig Crawford, columnist for "Congressional Quarterly" and the author of "Attack the Messenger: How Politicians Turn You Against the Media."
Karen Tumulty, national political correspondent for "TIME" magazine.
And John Fund, columnist for "The Wall Street Journal." Joining us from New York. Welcome.
Let me talk a little bit more about Bob Woodruff, Karen Tumulty. You have had colleagues go there, and Michael Weisskopf -- I was trying to think of his name -- wounded, lost a hand in that.
This is awfully dangerous work, even by the standards of war reporting for people in our business, is it not?
KAREN TUMULTY, "TIME": Absolutely. And every news magazine and newspaper and news organization has to make then a calculation of how much they really want to put their journalists in danger and how much of the reporting then is done from within the Green Zone. And there is really attention there, and it's made it, you know, both physically and journalistically very difficult to report this war. I think probably more so than any other conflict in the past.
CRAIG CRAWFORD, CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY: You go back to former wars. We're approaching the same levels of journalists killed. In World War II, it was in the high 60s, as it was in Vietnam. The first Persian Gulf War, only four.
This war is taking quite a toll on journalists.
John Fund, a quick thought on your reaction to the news this morning?
JOHN FUND, OPINIONJOURNAL.COM: We have sent my colleague Rob Pollack (ph) to Iraq many times. We're always concerned about him when he goes. And I personally -- my nephew Michael is with the 7th Marine Division. He was trapped in a bombing incident very similar to that and injured, so I certainly sympathize with Bob and the others.
KURTZ: It takes on a whole different dimension when you know something personally. And I, of course, just said good-bye to Bob Woodruff on Monday when he went off on his trip, not really concerned about the danger.
And of course our hopes and thoughts are with him and his family, his wife, Lee, their four children. And we will stay on top of this story here at CNN.
Well, turning now to domestic politics, when "The New York Times" disclosed that the administration was eavesdropping without court warrants on conversations between overseas suspects and people in this country, President Bush at first refused to comment. Then he called the story shameful.
And this week he had a PR offensive, using the media to reframe the story from possible illegality to a justifiable weapon against terrorism. He did it at a news conference.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The terrorist surveillance program is necessary to protect America from attack.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: And he did it in a CBS interview with anchor Bob Schieffer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOB SCHIEFFER, CBS NEWS: Do you believe that there is anything that a president cannot do if he considers it necessary in an emergency like this?
BUSH: That's a -- that's a great question. I made the decision to listen to phone calls of al Qaeda or suspected al Qaeda from outside the country coming in or inside the country going out because the people, our operators, told me that this is one of the best ways to protect the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: He sent out his attorney general to blitz the talk shows.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALBERTO GONZALES, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: This is about surveilling al Qaeda.
Thanks for that question because I disagree with the characterization of this being a domestic spying program.
I think most Americans expect the president of the United States to do what he lawfully can do in order to protect this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIPS: The pundits, as usual, disagreed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Day two of the Bush administration's massive effort to sell that spying program to a wary public.
SEAN HANNITY, HANNITY & COLMES: Bill Clinton, Al Gore, every past administration did exactly the same thing.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is going on here is a fundamental assault on American security in the false guise of providing more security.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: So has the Bush message machine overwhelmed the media?
Well, Craig Crawford, you write in your book about politicians beating up on the media. What do you make of Bush aides attacking the press coverage as wrong but also saying "The New York Times" story breaking all this was damaging, which means it must be right?
CRAWFORD: It usually works. That's why they do it.
I went back 20 years in this book looking at examples of how politicians do this. Media has done plenty wrong. We know that. Less discussed is how politicians aggravate that, use that to turn the public, distract the public from the things they don't want us talking about.
President Bush in that press conference showed what Stephen Colbert showed, a lot of truthiness, I think. I think we need a new word, liarishness.
KURTZ: Karen Tumulty, when the White House mounts this kind of media blitz with press conferences and interviews, is it awfully hard for journalists to get in front of that and say, hey, wait a minute, this may still be a legal, this may still violate the Constitution?
TUMULTY: It is. And the White House, I think, however, very quickly decided, I think within 36 hours of this story breaking, that this was something that actually worked for them politically. And suddenly, you did see the president rushing to the stage, not just in that news conference, not just in those interviews, but also in, you know, his trip to the NSA, which was -- it was something like the set of "24."
It was the perfect backdrop for this kind of message. They've even rebranded it. It's gone from being called domestic surveillance to -- or domestic spying to terrorist surveillance.
CRAWFORD: And if it's just terrorist surveillance, then why not get a warrant? You know, they're trying to make the issue whether or not to conduct surveillance.
CRAWFORD: The critics aren't saying we shouldn't conduct surveillance. They're saying we should get warrants, which, of course, the president in April 2004 said he was getting warrants.
TUMULTY: But I...
KURTZ: I want to get back to the press -- I want to get John Fund in here.
Do you think that the White House has just kind of rolled over journalists, who are now seen as sort of raising technical or legal objections to a program that's supposed to combat terrorism?
FUND: Well, let's take the Abu Ghraib story, where there were compelling pictures which you really couldn't argue against. The administration was set back on its heels.
Here, what they have do deal with are lawyers discussing arcane arguments. If there was a recording of a little old grandmother in Des Moines who had been wiretapped and she was, you know, talking to her daughter, that would be news. But in this kind of context, they're going to win an argument on national security.
KURTZ: The president, Craig Crawford, spoke in Kansas for an hour and 40 minutes. All the cable networks took it live. He took a lot of questions.
Are the media -- we heard the same thing during the Clinton administration -- being unfair and unbalanced to the minority? I mean, Harry Reid doesn't get an hour and 40 minutes when he speaks. He doesn't get a minute and 40 in terms of live coverage.
CRAWFORD: I think that's a fair point that, you know, many of the alternative voices in our politics get drowned out, get covered up by the media. But I also think the blog community, we're seeing a lot of the alternative voices emerging now on the Internet in ways that are, I think, changing some of the politics of the Internet from the conservative dominance of it years before.
KURTZ: Another way the White House, any White House really, Karen, manipulates the press is by days before the State of the Union, which is coming up on Tuesday, they leak little tidbits, the president's going to propose health savings accounts. And we all lap them up.
So do you ever feel used by that sort of thing? Not personally.
TUMULTY: Well, no. I mean, it's news when you get a policy, you know, leak out of the White House. It's news.
They know it's news. They know it's going to be eaten up. And so it's an exercise that you often see before the State of the Union.
But I do think that this, you know, almost Fidel Castro-like appearance of the president, where he was out there for that marathon of over an hour, that's in and of itself is news as well. It comes right down to the definition of what we do.
CRAWFORD: You know, I heard some of the White House aides were getting apoplectic at that point. They actually -- they actually wanted him to stop talking after a while.
KURTZ: John Fund, what also came up at the news conference was the president saying he is not going to release those pictures. Apparently, there's five of him smiling and shaking hands with Jack Abramoff, the indicted -- or convicted, I should say, lobbyist.
Why is that so important? We all know presidents have their pictures taken with lots of people they don't know. But, on the other hand, television would certainly use that image a lot, wouldn't it?
FUND: A picture would lead to a thousand stories. And I think the administration will do anything it can to keep those pictures out. And to be fair to them, I think that from all we know, they basically are grip-and-grin photographs, and they don't prove any great connection between Mr. Bush and Mr. Abramoff.
KURTZ: They prove nothing at all, but, of course, pictures mean a lot in television. I'm sure it will be on a lot of front pages as well.
John Fund, Craig Crawford, Karen Tumulty, thanks very much for joining us on this busy news morning.
Up next, we'll have the latest on ABC anchor Bob Woodruff's condition. We'll go back to Michael Holmes in Baghdad.
Please stay with us.
KURTZ: Welcome back.
If you are just joining us, ABC News anchor Bob Woodruff and a cameraman seriously injured today in Iraq. Woodruff reported to be in surgery.
They were embedded with an Army unit when an explosive device went off. Woodruff is said to have sustained head injuries.
Our thoughts, of course, are with him. We will keep you updated on this.
We want to go back now to CNN's Michael Holmes in Baghdad.
Michael, CNN and the other cable networks cover this story all the time, but is it important for the big broadcast anchors to parachute into Iraq, even if it's only for a few days, at some risk to themselves, I might add, as a way of keeping the national spotlight on this Iraq story?
HOLMES: Well, I'm not sure what the motivation is for that happening. It certainly does happen.
I will say that, as you know, Howie, Bob has been around. I mean, he has been in Afghanistan. He has been in the Middle East many times. It's not like he didn't know what he was doing and didn't know what the risks were.
But on a corporate level, I don't know. That's really for the bosses to decide.
I will say that this is the first war, though, where journalists are not seen as necessarily unbiased observers. We're targets now by the insurgents, and that's what's different.
KURTZ: Right. Woodruff absolutely knows the dangers of going to places. He covered the Iraq war in 2003. He knew what he was going getting into.
As a result of this, would you think twice as spending time as an embedded correspondent? On the one hand, you've got the military all around you. On the other hand, you're even more of a target if you are with the troops.
Would you think twice about that? HOLMES: No. I'm planning one now, Howie.
KURTZ: And this has not changed your mind?
HOLMES: No. No, it would not. I think if are you going to be here, if you want to go sit in the basement, then you are not doing your job.
KURTZ: So you are going to continue to go out there and report the story. Obviously all the journalists in Iraq are well aware of the dangers that have been dramatically underscored by the injuries to Bob Woodruff. We hope he pulls through.
Michael Holmes, thanks for joining us repeatedly during this hour.
Still to come on RELIABLE SOURCES, FOX's Bill O'Reilly aims a very loaded word at one of his critics, me.
KURTZ: Straight now to our e-mail bag. Reaction was overwhelmingly negative to my interview last week with Mark Morano of the conservative Cybercast News Service. His article questioned the Vietnam medals of Congressman Jack Murtha.
Brian Hartzog of Fort Mill, South Carolina, "Your inclusion of the Murtha swift boating theme and interview shows how embarrassingly tabloid you've become. You call your show 'Reliable Sources,' and you spent a whole segment with a right-wing partisan hack who is being paid to discredit a military hero."
Paul Pollitt of Honolulu, "By interviewing Morano, you are basically giving credibility to a blogger who is a Republican operative and who created a Web site which is obviously carrying out a political attack as a surrogate for the Republican National Committee."
Jeff Harris of New London, Connecticut, "Giving time to the creep going after Murtha is a bad idea. As a life long conservative and a veteran, I find this kind of witch hunt disgusting."
Just to be clear, I was in no way endorsing what Morano wrote. I was questioning him on why he dredged up a 40-year-old matter and whether his attack on Murtha was in retaliation for the congressman's opposition to the Iraq war.
Meanwhile, Bill O'Reilly, it turns out, is still rankled over something I wrote a year and a half ago when the FOX host stopped a taping and cut out a sound bite.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL O'REILLY, THE O'REILLY FACTOR: A couple of years ago I made the mistake of booking far-left Georgetown University law professor David Cole on this program. After the segment, Cole ran to Howard Kurtz of "The Washington Post," completely misstated his experience on "The Factor." Of course the liberal Kurtz printed the attack even though we thoroughly explained to Kurtz that the professor was wrong in his assertions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: So, what exactly did the "liberal Kurtz" write? Well, here's the third paragraph.
"O'Reilly says a left-wing academic is using a minor staff mistake to try to discredit the program. 'We're trying to be fair,' he says."
And here's another paragraph.
"O'Reilly calls 'totally absurd" the suggestion that he cut the sound bite 'because it didn't fit my thesis.'"
And here's another one.
"O'Reilly sees this as part of 'a pretty well organized campaign' on the left to monitor his television and radio shows."
Well, that sounds like fair and balanced reporting to me. So why does O'Reilly insist on hurling the "L" word at anyone who gives equal time to him and his critics?
That's it for this edition of RELIABLE SOURCES.
I'm Howard Kurtz.
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