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CNN RELIABLE SOURCES
NTSB Continues Investigation, Authorizes Bridge Removal; What are Media Priorities Regarding Infrastructure, Disaster?; Blogosphere Hits Political Mainstream
Aired August 5, 2007 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: Thanks very much, T.J. Holmes. Welcome to RELIABLE SOURCES.
While we're waiting on this National Transportation Safety Board briefing in Minneapolis on the bridge collapse, we'll talk a little politics here. And we'll come back on the other side.
And joining us now in that endeavor is Mike Krempasky, a blogger at RedState.com. Oh, the press conference is ready. We'll go now to Minneapolis, where the chairman of the NTSB, Mark Rosenker, is briefing reporters. Let's listen.
MIKE ROSENKER, CHAIRMAN, NTSB: We'll wrap up the briefing as it relates to our daily contact with the press. From now on, all of the updates will be coming out of Washington. And they'll be done in a press release update fashion for you.
Before I begin my opening statement, I would like to make sure that everybody understands that this has been, in our judgment, a textbook effort. Textbook effort of bringing together the federal, state, and local agencies and resources to help the people of Minneapolis get through a very tragic event. It has worked seamlessly at this point, and I hope it continues to work this way. And I congratulate all of the committed men and women that have been part of this incredible effort.
I particularly want to thank the governor, Governor Pawlenty, Mayor Rybak, the state, Minneapolis police, sheriff's office, and the fire department. And also the courageous first responders and volunteers that came out immediately after that horrific collapse of the bridge. Lives were saved because of their courageous and heroic actions. I congratulate them. I thank them, and I ask God for their blessings -- for his blessings.
What we did over the past four days is complete a lot of technical documentation and also observation. We've been bringing in a number of documents that are going to be extremely helpful to us in the coming months to understand what happened here, including a weather history from the time that this bridge was built back in the mid-'60s.
And that's important for us to understand, because when it's cold and when it's hot, you get cycles. They stretch, they condense. This puts stress on the bridge at various times. Yesterday I indicated to you that we were going to do interviews with the construction company and the construction workers. We started with the construction company. We interviewed a number of their employees. The company is PCI, an experienced bridge repaving and deck repair contractor. PCI has worked on this bridge before. And they started working most recently on their new contract dealing in early June. That's when they began working on the bridge.
The interviews provided us an understanding of their construction processes and equipment and materials that were used on the bridge. We received preliminary information regarding quantities of various materials and the specific equipment that they had on the bridge and where they had put the equipment and where they had put the materials.
We're also getting -- when we also got some preliminary weights of the materials, the construction materials and also some preliminary weights of the equipment.
We're waiting to get documentation so that we can put that exact series of weights on all of their equipment and all of the construction materials that they had on the bridge so that we could begin to put that in our finite element analysis. That is that very sophisticated computer program that I continue to come back to that is going to help us understand what happened here and help pinpoint where the failure may have begun.
Remember, I also talked to you about using a helicopter. We're meeting with pilots tonight to map out exactly where we want to fly the helicopter with this high resolution camera. It will be over on the north side, so we can begin to take a look at some of the structure, the steel super structure that collapse.
But there are certain areas we can't even get the helicopter to. We're going to try some other -- other methods to get an opportunity to get up close and see how the metal separated or was cut.
MinnDOT has been given the authority from the NTSB to begin its removal process, and that's good news. That means that this river, in -- as quickly as possible, will be back in operation.
Now with that said, I want to make sure that people understand that this is not a process, even with the authority to begin it, that's going to happen overnight. This is a very difficult effort to do safely, and to do -- at the same time, we want to make sure we preserve as much of the bridge as evidence for us, clues for us to understand what happened.
So as they begin bringing things up, the first thing that's going to happen is the cars are going to get up. Then the deck. And then they'll begin raising the super structure. That is what we're particularly interested in, taking a look at the super structure which, in fact, is in the water.
Now, MinnDOT tells us they plan a press conference today to discuss the removal, their time line and how they'll go about doing it. They have meetings this morning with the crew, with the company that they have let the contract out to. So that's good news to see that this process is moving forward.
Now during our time on scene, we have taken a look at a lot of -- a lot of debris. And unfortunately, we have not come up with an answer. We're not going to come up with an answer overnight. I told you this is going to be a very long and thorough process. That is the only way can you guarantee that we find out exactly what happened and make any type of recommendation to prevent it from happening again.
There will be no short cuts taken. Every single element will be in some way, shape, or form looked at, whether it's done through a plan, taking a look at taking the plans, using the plans to then identify and cross coordinate with, in fact, the inspection plan that was showing some deficiencies.
We will be looking at the specific deficiency notes, taking that -- that description, bringing it to the actual plan of the bridge and then, from that, try to find the actual piece within the debris that we can take a look at to see if there was any failure there.
That is going to take a long time. But we will be here to do that for as long as it takes. Even if I'm gone, and again it's not even if; I'm just here, as I say, to help coordinate that effort and be the preliminary spokesman for the first few days.
The real work is being done by these investigators, these professional engineers that are as skilled and as talented and as committed as anyone in the world. They are the premier investigative agency for the United States within our highway division at the NTSB.
KURTZ: And we've been listening in to Mark Rosenker -- he's the chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board -- in Minneapolis. He says the investigation is proceeding, that it's going to take time. No easy answers. No short cuts, he says.
The super structure of the bridge has not yet been raised. So this is proceeding very carefully with federal, state and local authorities all involved.
And Roger Simon, chief political columnist for "The Politico", let me ask you a question about this. Every news organization in America is now doing stories about their local bridges and what the state is. We now know there are 150,000 structurally deficient bridges in America.
How come before this Minneapolis tragedy that got about one- millionth the media attention of, say, the iPhone?
ROGER SIMON, CHIEF POLITICAL COLUMNIST, "THE POLITICO": Well, because a bridge falling down and killing people tends to focus attention. After it happened, of course, it was a subject of discussion at the presidential debate of Democratic candidates at Yearly Kos in Chicago this Saturday.
And sometimes it just takes a dramatic incident to focus people on what is a continuing problem, America's sagging infrastructure. KURTZ: But one problem is that the whole question of infrastructure is not considered a sexy topic. And so media attention, it's like with plane crashes. You get a lot of focus on air safety after a plane goes down. Then everybody, every reporter in America wants to know.
Let me bring in our other guests. And we can go back to the topics. We are joined also in the studio by Mike Krempasky, who is a founder and blogger at RedState.com. Is that correct, RedState.com?
MIKE KREMPASKY, FOUNDER/BLOGGER, REDSTATE.COM: Yes.
KURTZ: And in Los Angeles, Arianna Huffington, the founder and frequent blogger at The Huffington Post.
Arianna Huffington, we are -- Roger mentioned that in Chicago this weekend the bloggers convention, from the web site Daily Kos, a very popular liberal site, lots of presidential candidates there, lots of journalists there.
How did blogging, your part of this liberal blogging movement, become such a big deal that a convention can attract this kind of attention?
ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, THE HUFFINGTON POST: I think there really are factors, Howie. First of all, the fact that technology means that more and more people get their news and opinion online. Then there is the anti-war movement; the opposition to the war fuels the blogosphere.
And in 2004, when Howard Dean became the sort of darling of the blogosphere, that was very much a marginal position. Now in 2008, you had all the candidates were at Yearly Kos in Chicago, in favor of bringing the troops home.
So there's been a dramatic difference here. The same with universal health care.
HUFFINGTON: And where we were in 2004 is now the mainstream position.
BECK: Hillary Clinton was among the candidates who spoke. She originally was not going to have a separate meeting with bloggers. Then she changed her mind. Let's take a look at some of what she had to say at the Chicago convention.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Don't tell anybody, but I actually read blogs. But please, don't share that with anyone. And I find myself, you know, sometimes saying, "Oh, come on." And sometimes saying, "You know, that's a really good point."
(END VIDEO CLIP) KURTZ: The secret is out, as far as Hillary.
Mike Krempasky, there are popular conservative blogs. But nothing like Daily Kos and some of the others on the liberal side. Why is that?
MIKE KREMPASKY, REDSTATE.COM: Well, I think it's more a function of the timing at which they -- both sides emerged. I mean, the liberal blogs emerged when they were out of power. There was an unpopular war. Conservative blogs were focused on governing policy, far more of an inside game.
And frankly, look, I mean, historically, conservatives have had much more infrastructure at the grassroots level, going back 20, 30 years.
BECK: You're saying there's a bit of catch-up on the part of liberals, who are now seizing on this medium as a way to get their message out?
KREMPASKY: There's no doubt. They're paying, and they have paid really close attention to 30 years of conservative activism. And they're learning a lot of lessons and putting them to, you know, good use on the Web.
KURTZ: Roger Simon, you were one of the 250 journalists who went out to Chicago for this. Why is this such a big deal that it warranted your personal presence?
SIMON: Well, because it attracted not only 1,500 members of the progressive online community, who reach millions of people; it also attracted seven of the eight presidential Democratic candidates.
A lot of comparisons were made to the DLC meeting the week before. DLC is sort of a moderate think-tank that none of the candidates went to. Why the blogosphere? Why not the DLC?
Well, the DLC has a list of three million names. I mean, the blogosphere has a list of three million members. And the DLC doesn't.
KURTZ: And that's why you went?
SIMON: Candidates go where the voters go, and I go where the candidates go.
KURTZ: All right. Let me get a break. We'll be back with more of our panel in a moment, including the question of John Edwards, who now seems to be running his campaign against FOX News? That's in a moment.
KURTZ: Welcome back.
We're talking here about the big blogging convention in Chicago this week which attracted presidential candidates. It was sponsored by the Daily Kos web site, founded five years ago by Markos Moulitsas.
I think it is safe to say that one person who's not a big fan of either the Daily Kos or the convention is FOX's Bill O'Reilly. He's talked about it virtually every night.
Let's watch some of that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL O'REILLY, HOST, FOX NEWS CHANNEL'S "THE O'REILLY FACTOR": As you may know, we've exposed the far left Daily Kos web site as being a hate enterprise and have questioned why the Democratic presidential candidates are speaking at its convention, thereby putting a stamp of approval on hate.
There's no question that the most vile stuff imaginable is posted on this hate site and others like it.
Now, remember, the next president of the United States may be speaking before a group that allows and encourages the lowest form of discourse: threats, defamation, rank hatred. Never before in our country has this happened. And the reason it is happening is because much of the media sympathizes with the far left and legitimizes its extreme hatred.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Arianna, what -- part of what O'Reilly is talking about is some offensive comments that were posted on the site, not by the regular contributors but by readers.
What do you make of that sustained assault by Bill O'Reilly?
HUFFINGTON: Well, I would define it as hysterical, absolutely irrational. This is a man who regularly has people like Ann Coulter on his show, who are the real purveyors of hate.
And yes, we're all dealing with the problem of commentators. And we at the Huffington Post delete immediately any comments that appear that are hate filled and would try increasingly to moderate them in advance.
But that has nothing to do with what Daily Kos does or the Huffington Post does or the blogosphere does. It has a lot to do with a completely rational response from Bill O'Reilly, who is not willing to look at the kind of hate mongering that goes on regularly on his show.
KURTZ: Mike Krempasky, does O'Reilly reflect a lot of conservative anger at sites like Daily Kos? Because I would suggest that liberals here are doing what Rush Limbaugh did through talk radio 15 or so years ago, which is trying to seize control and make a connection with their supporters.
KREMPASKY: And look, I don't know a lot of conservatives that want to, you know, associate themselves with Bill O'Reilly, who seems to speak about eight weeks before he starts thinking.
I mean -- and for a guy that sort of regularly screams red-faced at his guests, he seems to have an awfully thin skin for what people say.
KURTZ: Absolutely. Is part of the fact that O'Reilly often is a target of the skewering that goes on, on sites like Daily Kos?
KREMPASKY: I mean, it might be. I mean, I just think was dumb. I mean, it certainly helps Markos and the Daily Kos a lot more than it hurts them to be attacked by the likes of Bill O'Reilly. So I mean, it is what it is.
KURTZ: Roger Simon, does it seem to you that some people are thin-skinned when it comes to the blogosphere? Let's make clear...
SIMON: Some people have no skin.
KURTZ: Let's make clear: I mean, it's a rough neighborhood out there. And people are denounced in the most personal terms.
But, you know, these -- these offensive comments, I mean, really dirty stuff that we can't say on the air, are posted sometimes by just ordinary people. Is it fair to hold a web site -- and we have this on WashingtonPost.com -- accountable for the comments of a few?
SIMON: No. And the Kos, ironically enough, is one of the most vigorous in self-policing. Comments that are considered hate speech you can cast a vote against and say "remove this," and if the votes aggregate enough, they are removed. I mean, this is a community maintaining community standards. And hate speech is really not allowed.
And I must say that, also, the uncivil discourse that sometimes breaks out between the blogosphere and the mainstream media was denounced at the conference, saying, "Let's just make it more civil when we disagree. We don't really have to shout at each other."
KURTZ: That's an interesting point.
Now John Edwards was among the presidential candidates at this convention in Chicago, along with Barack Obama and, as I mentioned, Hillary Clinton. Edwards brought up a name he's mentioning quite a bit lately, Rupert Murdoch. Let's take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I spoke out against this Murdoch buying the Wall Street and Dow Jones, the "Wall Street Journal", because I don't want to see -- me, I don't to see Rupert Murdoch owning every newspaper in America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Arianna Huffington, does it make sense, politically or otherwise, for John Edwards to be running against Rupert Murdoch taking over "The Wall Street Journal", complaining about FOX News? Is that just, you know, red meat for liberal Democratic voters?
HUFFINGTON: Well, it's not just red meat for liberal Democratic bloggers. I mean, definitely John Edwards has adopted the populist stance on many issues.
Rupert Murdoch and FOX is one thing. He got a huge ovation at the convention when he said let's not replace their insiders with our insiders. He railed against the influence of lobbying and big money. These are the big issues of his campaign.
And if he's going to actually break out of the pack, he will have to be really strong about this particular issue.
And, you know, Elizabeth Edwards is a great popular figure in the blogosphere, because she's authentic, because she's outspoken, because she takes on a lot of conservative targets like Ann Coulter.
KURTZ: And because she posts comments on blogs.
But another thing happened this week with Edwards, and that is he called upon the other Democratic candidates to return any money from Murdoch or other executives at Murdoch's News Corporation.
But now it turns out that John Edwards got $800,000 from Harper Collins, which is Murdoch's publishing arm, to publish a book called "Home" last year. Now, $500,000 of that was -- went to Edwards, and he donated it all to charity. The other $300,000 went, in part, to his staff that helped write the book.
Does that subject the senator, the former senator to charges of hypocrisy?
KREMPASKY: A politician, a hypocrite, again, I mean, the irony knows no bounds. But look, it shouldn't be surprising. I mean, to hear a trial lawyer talk about populist issues and taking on the big guy and, you know, railing against the influence of money and lobbying is just -- it's a bit of a farce.
KURTZ: Edwards also -- News Corp says Edwards is a hypocrite.
But here's another -- part. Edwards is one -- was one of the first Democratic candidates to say no candidate should appear on FOX News, should be part in any presidential debate sponsored by FOX News.
Well, it turns out that until January, Edwards was on FOX News about 30 times. So why the sudden change in heart against this cable channel that a lot of Democrats see is unfair to their party?
SIMON: Well, I mean, there's a real division over this. You can make the argument both ways. It's made both ways in the blogosphere and by the candidates.
FOX News is a way of reaching people who don't ordinarily tune in and listen to liberals.
KURTZ: So why shouldn't -- right. SIMON: Why shouldn't we go and talk to FOX News people?
On the other hand, some say FOX News is not on the level. It's not a real bipartisan, nonpartisan news organization. The game is fixed. Why should we support the fixed game? You can argue it both ways.
KURTZ: Arianna Huffington, I want to come back to this question about the role that liberal bloggers play and liberal sites like the Huffington Post.
Do you see yourself as on the team? In other words, is part of what you're doing here an effort to make -- put a Democrat in the White House next year?
HUFFINGTON: We actually don't see ourselves on the team.
For example, during the convention in Chicago, there was this whole controversy about Hillary Clinton's scheduling conflict and would she or would she not do the small breakout session. She said she would do it. But she couldn't do it afterwards, as the other candidates did, because she had a scheduling conflict.
Now, I disagreed with those bloggers who simply put that down without asking what is the scheduling conflict? Our own news editor, Katherine Zaleski, was there. And she did some reporting, and she found out the scheduling conflict was a big fundraiser in Ron Perlman's estate in East Hampton. We got the invitation. We printed it.
We think it's very important that the bloggers don't stop questioning and bringing a skeptical light to what Democratic candidates are saying. Otherwise, we're running the same race (ph) that we've been accusing the mainstream media of running, of basically trading our independence for access and being co-opted.
KURTZ: All right. All right, Arianna Huffington, Mike Krempasky, Roger Simon, thanks very much for joining us this morning.
When we come back, Judith Giuliani gets the "Vanity Fair" treatment under the headline "Terror Alert". I'll talk to the author, Judy Bachrach, about a scathing profile of the candidate' wife.
KURTZ: She was first known as the other woman. The mistress of Rudy Giuliani precipitated a very ugly, very messy and public divorce between the New York mayor and his second wife, Donna Hanover. Now Judith Nathan is Judith Giuliani, and her husband is running for president.
"Vanity Fair" weighed in this week with a rather scathing portrait of Rudy's third wife by veteran journalist Judy Bachrach, and she joins me now in the studio.
Why is Rudy Giuliani's wife -- OK, his third wife -- worthy of a full-length, heavily detailed profile by you?
JUDY BACHRACH, "VANITY FAIR": I'm always astonished when people ask that. I mean, that old Hillary Clinton, whatever happened to her? She was once a wife.
The wives of candidates for president now are extremely important, particularly since Mr. Giuliani himself has said his wife would be welcome to sit in on cabinet meetings, help him with the appointment of major aides, campaign aides. And, in the event of an anthrax attack, would cure us all of anthrax or small pox.
KURTZ: As if to underscore your point, "The Washington Post" this morning has a front page piece on Jeri Thompson, Fred Thompson's wife, and her role in his unofficial campaign. And "The New York Times" has a front page piece on Judith Giuliani, with an interview with her.
She talked to the "Times". She would not cooperate with you. Why?
BACHRACH: Well, she wouldn't cooperate with anybody except a fashion magazine at the time I was asking.
But let's face it: Judith Giuliani has been under wraps for a very long time. They have obfuscated and lied about her background, right down to how she met Mr. Giuliani, from the beginning. And they have asked other people to lie about her, most notably, one of Mr. Giuliani's best friends.
So it's been a consistent pattern of not telling us who she is but promising us she'll be very powerful in a Giuliani administration.
KURTZ: You quote a number of people anonymously in this piece saying some pretty harsh things; for example, a Rudy Giuliani loyalist quoted as saying that Judi is worming her way into the campaign so she can push you out.
Why let people take free shots without naming them?
BACHRACH: Well, I think anybody who doesn't allow people to remain anonymous if they so wish is not a journalist. We've all been there. We've all done that. We prefer people to go on the record. But people are worried for their jobs.
And I'd like to say one more thing about that. Most of the people I interview are friends and allies and work for Mr. Giuliani or have worked for Mr. Giuliani. They like him.
They are worried about his wife. He's worried about his wife. They're not letting her out very much. The only time she was allowed to talk was today to "The New York Times". She barely talked at all.
The one thing she told us, and that should give us all pause, is that she was very glad she was a single working woman for a long time, because she had to walk her own kid to school. Well, most of America walks their kids to school or drives them to school. And you have to wonder about a woman who says that.
KURTZ: Let me read a little bit of your piece so our viewers get a sense of it.
"If Giuliani's third wife became less popular as time went on, it was in part due to the feeling that she had a private list of Rudy loyalists she wanted fired... And her ire is apparently not confined to staff. 'Listen. She can be very, very abrasive. At him!' says a close friend. There have been blowups, say those who have witnessed them, and obtuse demands. Some years ago on a plane to Japan, Judith became so angry at her husband, says a close Giuliani friend, that Rudy, who 'couldn't take it anymore,' moved to the back of the aircraft, switching places with an advance man."
So these people -- but these people may have an agenda. They may not like Mrs. Giuliani because they feel threatened by her, and yet you're allowing, again, them to talk anonymously and to make all kinds of...
BACHRACH: Not all are anonymous, Howie. As you know, some people went right on the record and said so.
People are appalled by Mrs. Giuliani's intervention in her husband's affairs. He is running for president of the United States. Our article has been smeared by his people, never by him. It's "full of inaccuracies and a hatchet job."
KURTZ: In fact, Mike McKeon, the spokesman for the Giuliani campaign, called it was a vile and venomous piece.
BACHRACH: This was the same Mike McKeon, the head of the campaign, who screamed at me for having the temerity to interview Judith Giuliani's father.
I think anybody who's a journalist or who worries about the state of journalism in the United States has to worry about a Giuliani administration when they try to muzzle the press, from the beginning, as they did with me.
And I want to say something else. They said we're full of inaccuracies. And "Vanity Fair" issued a press release asking them to tell us about any of those inaccuracies. They have mentioned none.
They have simply called us left-wing, which is reminiscent of the '50s, you know, red baiting: "Hey, you're a commie. What do you know?"
KURTZ: So you feel smeared by the Giuliani campaign.
KURTZ: And you are challenging the Giuliani campaign to point to a single factual inaccuracy.
BACHRACH: Exactly. And they haven't in the five days we've issued the press release. KURTZ: Is Judith Giuliani always going to be disdained by the press because of the circumstances under which she started the extramarital affair with Rudy Giuliani? In other words, can she ever get to the point where she receives even -- less -- less unflattering coverage, shall we say?
BACHRACH: I think that Mrs. Giuliani has to change her ways. Nobody really, in the press at least -- I'm not talking about the voter, but nobody in the press is going to hold her marital history or his marital history against him.
But we are going to challenge the behavior of the Giuliani campaign and the Giuliani administration, if that comes to pass, if they threaten the press as they threatened me or they try to muzzle very important people, like the wife of a president.
KURTZ: All right. Judy Bachrach, thanks very much for joining us. Her piece appears in the current issue of "Vanity Fair".
Up next, O.J. Simpson takes to the Internet. Why is anyone giving this guy a platform?
KURTZ: Welcome back.
Rupert Murdoch finally gained control of "The Wall Street Journal" this week, four months after he mounted a takeover bid for the parent company, Dow Jones.
I spoke earlier with Norman Pearlstein. He's a former top editor of "The Wall Street Journal" for about a decade, also a former editor- in-chief of TIME Inc. Pearlstein has a new book out called "Off the Record". Here's part of that interview, what he had to say about Murdoch and the "Journal".
KURTZ: Norm Pearlstein, welcome.
NORMAN PEARLSTEIN, AUTHOR, "OFF THE RECORD": Good to be here.
KURTZ; You spent more than 20 years at the "Wall Street Journal". How will Rupert Murdoch's ownership affect the sterling reputation of that newspaper?
PEARLSTEIN: Well, I think it's too soon to know. If all you've done is read "The New York Post" and watched FOX News, I think you would worry about the commitment to editorial independence.
But Murdoch has a lot of properties around the world. Some, like "The Australian", I think have a splendid reputation. And he's certainly smart enough to understand what's at risk if the "Journal", in any way, is perceived as being different from what it has been.
KURTZ: On the other hand, as you know, a long history here of Murdoch meddling, at least, in some of his journalistic properties, sometimes to suit his political or business interests. That could really hurt a newspaper like "The Wall Street Journal", could it not?
PEARLSTEIN: Well, certainly, a business publication plays to an audience that expects that the information that it receives is straight.
My own feeling is that the best thing Murdoch could do is really encourage the "Journal" to cover News Corp and Murdoch himself aggressively. And I think that would set a tone that would give a lot of people comfort.
KURTZ: Could there also be a positive aspect to Murdoch's ownership in that this is a time, as you know, when print publications, especially newspapers, cost cutting, layoffs, all kinds of financial strain. Here's a guy who says he wants to spend more money on "The Wall Street Journal".
PEARLSTEIN: Well, he loves newspapers, and he particularly loves "The Wall Street Journal".
And let's give him credit: he's a visionary. News Corp has -- has done things that many of us thought was not possible. And he may see ways to grow that brand, grow that newspaper, that have been eluding others of us.
KURTZ: And we'll see more coverage of "American Idol" on FOX in "The Wall Street Journal".
KURTZ: And we'll bring you the rest of that interview with Ron Pearlstein on a future program.
But joining us now to talk about Murdoch's impact, a bizarre online interview with O.J. Simpson and some other media issues, from St. Petersburg, Florida, Eric Deggans, media critic for the "St. Petersburg Times".
In Springfield, Massachusetts, Rachel Maddow, host of "The Rachael Maddow Show" on Air America Radio.
And in Seattle, Michael Medved, host of "The Michael Medved Show" on Salem Radio Network.
Michael Medved, the press conference, let's face it, has basically trashed Murdoch as a man who is expected to tarnish the jewel of financial journalism in this country, "The Wall Street Journal", because of his history at meddling in newsrooms. Fair or unfair?
MICHAEL MEDVED, HOST, SALEM RADIO NETWORK'S "THE MICHAEL MEDVED SHOW": Completely unfair.
Now, first of all let me say, in the interest of full disclosure, I worked for Rupert Murdoch for many years. I was chief film critic for "The New York Post".
And look what Rupert Murdoch did for "The New York Post". He took a failing, moribund newspaper and made it competitive and viable. Now, you may not like the "Post", but this is a guy who is absolutely committed to a format, old-fashioned news print, newspapers that matter, and a format that's dying in many ways.
And I think the people at the "Journal", generally, the ones that I've spoken to, are thrilled about the idea of somebody coming on and getting ready to put new resources in keeping this newspaper alive and dynamic.
KURTZ: Rachael Maddow, Murdoch certainly revitalized "The New York Post". But he also turned it into a tabloid that, in the past, has gone after political enemies and kind of been cozy with political friends.
Do you see Murdoch as taking a different approach with the "Wall Street Journal", which, of course, is a very different kind of newspaper than "The New York Post"?
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST, AIR AMERICA'S "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW": Well, I think it should be noted that his brand of revitalization with "The New York Post" includes it losing tens of millions of dollars.
So News Corp is big enough to absorb the losses that he has with "The New York Post" and the losses he had for many years with FOX News Corporation.
I mean, what we've seen from Murdoch's news properties, for example, just watching FOX News in the last year, we've learned that Mark Foley is a Democrat, Barack Obama went to a madrasah and there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
I think he has a broader agenda to try to really degrade the idea of news, degrade reporting and degrade journalism so that journalism stands at the same level as the kind of political message, political propaganda he likes to push through his properties.
KURTZ: Well, the thing about Mark Foley being a Democrat was a mistake. And we all make mistakes in television.
Eric Deggans, as I asked Norm Pearlstein in that taped interview, is there a positive side to Murdoch taking over "The Wall Street Journal"? Because he's going to pour money into it. He's talking about doing more political coverage, competing with "The New York Times".
This at a time when virtually every newspaper in America is cutting back, buying out or laying off employees.
ERIC DEGGANS, MEDIA CRITIC, "ST. PETERSBURG TIMES": Well, I think the hope is that Rupert Murdoch not only will put more money into the "Journal" but that he'll also leverage that brand across online properties and figure out a way to take "The Wall Street Journal" into other platforms in the way that other media companies have done.
I think there's a sense that the Dow Jones, the previous owners of Dow Jones didn't do such a great job of running the business and didn't do such a great job of taking that "Wall Street Journal" brand and turning it into a real premier brand across different media platforms. And that's something that Rupert Murdoch seems to be able to do.
KURTZ: Michael Medved, do you want to respond to Rachael's observation that "The New York Post", while it attracts a lot of attention and circulation up, still loses lots of money?
MEDVED: Yes, but...
KURTZ: And -- and, you know, has been accused of -- accurately, in my view, of playing favorites on the political scene.
MEDVED: Well, again, I think "The New York Times" does the same thing. It also plays favorites.
The point about -- not to compare "The New York Times" to "The New York Post". The point about this is that circulation is up. Nobody has really figured out how to make a newspaper, an old- fashioned newspaper, a money-winning proposition now.
The important thing about News Corp is that there are enough deep pockets, which are generated not by FOX News but by FOX Entertainment Network.
And if you look at FOX Entertainment Network, which I don't particularly like, by the way, it's very tough to discern a political agenda in FOX Motion Pictures or the FOX entertainment channel, as opposed to the news channel.
So the idea that somehow Rupert Murdoch is always, in all of his properties, like the "Sunday Times of London", going to impose his heavy editorial hand, I think that's a canard and it's not fair. And if you look at the total range, for instance, his $800,000 that Harper Collins paid to John Edwards, which is another Rupert Murdoch operation, it's an unfair charge against Mr. Murdoch.
KURTZ: We mentioned that earlier in the show. Edwards, of course, says he donated his share to charity.
All right. So Murdoch didn't screw up "The Simpsons". But he was going to put on, a few months ago, O.J. Simpson in a prime time special on FOX broadcast network about this ridiculous book that never got published, "If I Did It", about the murders.
So now this week O.J. Simpson surfaces on a web site that I never heard of -- indeed, it didn't seem to exist until a few days ago -- called Market News 1. Does an interview, a series of interviews with host Kate Delaney.
Let's take a look at that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KATE DELANEY, HOST, MN1.COM: Do you feel media has the power?
O.J. SIMPSON, FORMER NFL STAR: We have this trial by media now. You're guilty; then they're going to give you a fair trial.
I mean, just look at every major case in recent years, and you see they have people guilty who turns -- as I said, the runaway bride. The polls thought the boyfriend had something to do with it. You know? Myself, from Kobe Bryant to Robert Blake, the media had us all convicted before we even got to court.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Eric Deggans, why give a platform to a guy who much of America thinks is a murderer?
DEGGANS: Well, there's always somebody who thinks they can make a buck off of giving a voice to O.J.
And O.J., for some reason, seems compelled to constantly try to convince America that he's not guilty of the crimes he's been accused of.
And, as he referred to the book at one time as blood money, you really get the sense that these interviews have some blood on them, as well. People presenting him in mostly friendly interview forms so they can make money and so he can get out his message, relatively unfiltered. It's all sort of distasteful.
KURTZ: Friendly interview forms. Let's take a look at one of the questions asked by the interviewer, Kate Delaney.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DELANEY: This was something you said after the -- the criminal trial when you were found not guilty. You said that you were going to try to find the real killers. So instead of trying to prove the innocence, which you know is so tough, what about the whole thing with the real killers?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Rachel Maddow? What about the whole thing with finding the real killers?
MADDOW: I have to say it gives me so much hope for American journalism to know that where O.J. Simpson is being interviewed is on MN1.com. I mean, let him put his own interviews out on YouTube. Let him self-publish whatever he wants to self-publish.
It makes me happy that those are the kinds of forums that he has to go to in order to get his voice across. I think it's hopeful.
KURTZ: Michael Medved, has he successfully been marginalized by the media? Or what did you make of this whole spectacle? MEDVED: Well, first of all, let's go back to Rupert Murdoch. He fired Judith Regan because of her involvement with this O.J. "If I Did It" book.
KURTZ: Oh, come on. He fired her after there was a huge uproar...
MEDVED: Correct, correct.
KURTZ: ... that was so -- that even involved FOX News commentators, that people were revulsed at the fact that the project had been -- the book and television project had been green-lighted in the first place.
MEDVED: No, correct. And green-lighted by somebody who'd been -- so the point being that even, if you will, on FOX News and the world of "The New York Post" and the world of what people would see the unseemly side of News Corp, there are some standards. And I think that O.J. exemplifies them. I mean, the point about this is that...
MADDOW: Michael -- Michael, come on. There are standards. But picking Rupert Murdoch out as the gatekeeper of those standards?
MEDVED: Oh, no, no, no. I'm not. No, no...
MADDOW: Rupert Murdoch, the naked ladies in the paper every day guy? Come on, Michael.
MEDVED: OK. Not in the "Sunday Times of London", usually. But...
MADDOW: He's getting close to it. It used to be a great paper.
MEDVED: It won't be in "The Wall Street Journal" either.
But the point about O.J. and this interview is that I think some of the questions that came in were -- were actually hilarious. I mean, people asking about how he played for all those years for the San Francisco 49ers, and did he kill Bill Walsh? I mean, it was very, very distasteful.
But this is a freak show. And one of the things about Internet broadcasting, such as it is, a lot of it's freak show stuff.
KURTZ: Let me get a brief answer from each of you, because it's amazing to me. I pick up the papers this morning, and there are front-page pieces on Judith Giuliani, Jeri Thompson, Fred Thompson's wife. We talked earlier to Judy Bachrach, who profiled Judith Giuliani for "Vanity Fair".
What do you make of all of the coverage the media's lavishing on these women who are married to the candidates? Rachel Maddow.
MADDOW: I think that being first lady or first spouse or first man friend, whatever we'll call Bill, I think it is actually a very public position. It's an important position. They sent Laura Bush to Minneapolis this week to say that there were happy points within that tragedy. It's a role that we need to know something about the person who's going to play it.
I feel differently about presidential kids.
MADDOW: But presidential spouses, it's an important job.
KURTZ: Eric Deggans.
DEGGANS: Well, you know, one thing that we've seen, too, is that the campaign is so long that journalists have to find some new ways to tell stories. And if you want to expose different sides of these candidates in a coverage season that's stretching into two years, you know, at some point you've got to talk about the people who surround these folks, and who's closer to the candidate than their spouse?
KURTZ: You've hit the nail on the head. I think we're seeing media fatigue and the constant search for new angles as much as anything else.
MEDVED: I think it's lamentable. I mean, it's tabloidization of American politics.
Look, Betty Ford had a previous history. She was married before. People didn't focus on that.
The "Vanity Fair" article, the way it focuses on Judi Giuliani's history in the bedroom with her previous relationships, previous to Rudy, seems to me insulting, inappropriate. Now it's going to have to be applied to other candidates' wives, and I think it's a shame in terms of American politics.
KURTZ: All right. Got to go. Boy, you guys hit the mark. Michael Medved, Rachael Maddow, Eric Deggans, thanks for joining us.
More RELIABLE SOURCES after the break.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
Coming up at the top of the hour on "LATE EDITION", the latest on the Minnesota bridge collapse investigation from the National Transportation Safety Board chairman, Mark Rosenker. He'll join us live.
Defense secretary Robert Gates on the U.S. War strategy in Iraq. He's just back from the Middle East.
And Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai, in a CNN exclusive, discusses his government's fight against a resurgent Taliban. All that and much more coming up on "LATE EDITION".
KURTZ: Time now for the latest in the news business in our "Media Minute".
It was an execution-style slaying on a downtown Oakland street. Chauncey Bailey, editor of the "Oakland Post", an African-American weekly, was shot at close range by a masked man Thursday.
Police in riot gear arrested seven men Friday who worked at an Oakland bakery associated with a black Muslim organization. Authorities have now confirmed that a 19-year-old handyman at the bakery has confessed to killing Bailey because of anger about stories the journalist had written about the bakery.
What a tragedy. Killed for doing his job. Chauncey Bailey was 57.
"The New Republic" says it has now confirmed most of the incidents of petty cruelty reported by its Baghdad diarist, Army Private Scott Thomas Beauchamp.
After checking with other members of his military unit, editor Franklin Foer says he has confirmed such controversial claims as one soldier getting his kicks by running over stray dogs in a Bradley fighting vehicle.
But the magazine found one mistake, and it was a serious one. An incident in which soldiers supposedly mocked a woman whose face had been disfigured by an injury took place not at Beauchamp's Iraq base, but in Kuwait before the unit was dispatched to the war zone.
"The New Republic" expressed regret. The military is still investigating.
Very few people are natural on TV right out of the box. And after watching ABC's Mary Miller conduct an interview with actress Holly Hunter, I can safely say she needs a little bit of work on her delivery.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARY MILLER, ABC: Holly, thanks so much for joining us.
HOLLY HUNTER, ACTRESS: Thank you.
MILLER: All right. Holly, thanks so much for joining us. Oh. You can catch -- and can you catch more Holly on "Saving Grace".
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: A YouTube instant classic.
In fairness, ABC says Miller's earpiece wasn't working, and she was just pretending to hear Hunter's answers. This was the producer's first time in front of a camera, so Miller has no place to go but up. Mirthala Salinas, the Telemundo anchor in L.A. who managed the feat of covering Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa while also having an affair with him, has gotten her punishment. It is a two-month suspension.
Her bosses, who knew about the romance, didn't get off scot-free. KVEA's general manager, Manuel Abud, was bounced to another job. And the news director also got a two-month suspension.
Salinas isn't talking, but the modest punishment sends a very clear message. You can have sex with a politician you're covering and, if you're attractive enough, we'll still put on the air.
Still to come, a look at the increasingly personal world of network stars coping with illness and injury. That's next.
KURTZ: I interviewed Robin Roberts for this program a couple months ago, and I was struck by how open and candid she was and, as a former college basketball player, the picture of health. So I was taken aback this week when she delivered this news on "Good Morning America".
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBIN ROBERTS, ANCHOR, ABC'S "GOOD MORNING AMERICA": And it's the early stages. I will have surgery on Friday, begin treatment. And move forward, as millions of people do when they hear this. But still, hearing the words and saying it and saying -- it's surreal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Roberts had the surgery Friday. The cancer was caught early, and we hope the prognosis is good.
But what was striking was the way Roberts broadened the focus of the story to the fact that it was a sonogram, not a mammogram that found her cancer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: My doctor not only wanted a mammogram, but he put down ultrasound. And the cancer was not detected in the mammogram. But it was detected in the ultrasound. And I had the biopsy, and it confirmed it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Look, it's a fact of life that, when media celebrities are touched by tragedy, they get more attention than your neighbor down the street. The challenge is it whether they can make such episodes about more than themselves.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) KURTZ (voice-over): When Katie Couric lost her husband, Jay, to colon cancer nine years ago, she launched a crusade against the disease and had an on-air colonoscopy that prompted a surge in tests.
When Peter Jennings was diagnosed with lung cancer, he made a point of telling viewers that he had been weak and gone back to smoking a few years earlier. The message was clear.
When Bob Woodruff suffered brain damage from a roadside bomb in Iraq, he came back with a program about how many soldiers with such injuries were getting inadequate care.
When Kimberly Dozier's legs were shattered by another bomb in Iraq, her prime time special devoted equal time to the servicemen and women who, like Dozier, had to learn to walk again.
And so it is with Robin Roberts. As Charlie Gibson noted on "World News", fewer women are getting mammograms, which of course, are vital to diagnosing breast cancer early.
And letters of support have poured in to ABC.
KURTZ: That says a lot about Robin, that she framed her unwelcome news as a public lesson in the importance of early detection. We hope she'll be saying, "Good morning, America" for many years to come.
Well, that's it for this edition of RELIABLE SOURCES. I'm Howard Kurtz. Join us again next Sunday morning, 10 a.m. Eastern, for another critical look at the media.
"LATE EDITION" with Wolf Blitzer begins right now.
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