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CNN RELIABLE SOURCES

Media Get It Wrong; How Did Hillary Win in New Hampshire?

Aired January 13, 2008 - 10:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
HOWARD KURTZ, HOST (voice over): Media meltdown -- Hillary was going to lose New Hampshire big time. Wrong! McCain was dead six months ago. Wrong! Huckabee was going nowhere fast. Wrong!

How have journalists botched the campaign so badly?

Crying game. Did female voters revolt against the male pundits who mocked Hillary Clinton's choked-up moment? And what about Bill Clinton's charge that press coverage of Barack Obama is like a fairy tale?

Plus, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. Without their writers, can they still influence the campaign?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KURTZ: We were wrong, we blew it, we were positive Obama was going to win New Hampshire, everyone knew Hillary was going to lose. That's what the polls said, what the buzz said, what all our friends said. We're sorry.

All right. You're not going to hear that from too many journalists, but the news business has plenty to answer for after a series of blunders that highlighted all of the media's worst flaws.

Here's how it looked on Tuesday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KATIE COURIC, CBS NEWS: Democrat Barack Obama may be heading for his second big victory in less than a week.

CHARLES GIBSON, ABC NEWS: There is talk and evidence of an Obama wave moving through this state on the eve of its primary.

BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS: The Democratic presidential race in New Hampshire is now clearly Barack Obama's to lose.

BILL BENNETT, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: The Clinton are losing, and I think it's almost panic time.

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC NEWS: I think he's surging. I don't see how Hillary can prevent a real crushing defeat up there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Double digit?

BUCHANAN: Double-digit defeat.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: But the anchors, reporters and commentators were stunned when the New Hampshire returns showed what they had regarded as nearly impossible, a Hillary Clinton victory.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS: The rest of us who were saying out loud that this was not going to happen, you know, we've got a lot of explaining to do.

LOU DOBBS, CNN: The savants, the pundits, all of the political experts, need to do a little -- a little seeking of forgiveness.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC: Look, ladies and gentlemen, we got it wrong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Joining us now to talk about the media's tattered record in this campaign, in New York, Kate Snow, co-host of ABC's "Good Morning America Weekend Edition" who's been covering the Hillary Clinton campaign. Here in Washington, John Harris, editor-in-chief of The Politico. And Terence Smith former media correspondent for the "PBS News Hour."

Kate Snow, what explains the overwhelming desire in the DNA of journalists to predict the future, to forecast what's going to happen in these primaries before they actually happen?

KATE SNOW, "GOOD MORNING AMERICA": Oh, I think that's inherent in the news business, Howie, don't you, that we are always trying to look one step ahead? We're always trying to get ahead of the curve.

You know, on a Monday morning, for example, we're not looking backwards at the weekend, we're looking ahead to the stories of the week. That's just sort of what we do. So I think, you know, the impulse of journalists is to try to look forward at what's going to happen.

I will say that, you know, all of the polls got it wrong and all of the internal polls. I mean, everybody that I was talking to within the Clinton campaign, you know, quietly was telling me on Tuesday that they thought they were going to lose.

KURTZ: Right.

SNOW: So I'm not saying that, you know -- we did get it wrong. I'll fall on my sword, we got it wrong, but it's because we were being told by many, many sources that that's the way everyone thought it was going to go.

KURTZ: Terry Smith, was this a media blunder of seismic proportion?

TERENCE SMITH, FMR. MEDIA CORRESPONDENT, "PBS NEWS HOUR": It was a big one. I mean, they violated that night the oldest rule in journalism, which is don't get out ahead of the story, don't create the facts, let the facts come along as they did. And there should have been a signal as the night went on, a little governor on the comments when the networks were unable to call it for the predicted winner Obama, and instead that margin for Hillary kept going.

KURTZ: And they looked so uncomfortable because it wasn't going the way it was scripted.

SMITH: Very uncomfortable, and they were uncomfortable because -- because I think they knew that they had gotten out ahead of the story. And it's a good way to shorten a journalistic career.

KURTZ: John Harris, you write this week that journalists are addicted to polls. There's a new poll every 15 minutes these days, and sometimes, obviously, polls are wrong. And also, we kind of live in this bubble when it comes to politics, don't we?

JOHN HARRIS, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, THE POLITICO: Well, look, I don't think it's just reporters who want to get out ahead of the story. I mean, everybody does. You know, my mother was saying, what's going to happen tonight? You know, my neighbor, what do you think is going to happen? So there's this incredible human desire to do it, but...

KURTZ: But if you're wrong with your mother, that's your private business. If you go on TV and say it...

HARRIS: The problem is that there's no reporters who can say the truth -- I don't know. I don't know.

KURTZ: Why is that so difficult?

HARRIS: I don't know. But Howard, it is.

And you know, the fact is, we just don't have enough respect for the voters. It's their decision, and the voters don't make up their minds based on what a poll tells them they should do. They do it in the polling booth.

The other thing I think we have to reckon with is that the media sort of frenzy itself influences the story. I'm just convinced on this based on anecdotal evidence, that a lot of people were reacting to the pile-on, the fact that the press was telling them what the outcome was, and they thought that Hillary Clinton was getting beaten up. So she came in third in Iowa. Big deal, why does that mean the race is over?

KURTZ: I want to come back to that. I first want to put up the cover of "Newsweek." Hillary Clinton on the cover, as Barack Obama was last week. "I found my voice," she says.

And, you know, because we needed an explanation, a lot of people, people in this news business, found the easy explanation to be an emotional moment she had in the New Hampshire coffee shop, which we've all seen 112 times. Look at the way -- it led the network newscasts, all three of them. Look at some of the coverage.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COURIC: All the candies are feeling the pressure, and at a campaign stop today, a rare show of emotion from Senator Clinton.

GIBSON: Senator Clinton today gave indication of just how much fatigue and emotion plays into running for president.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN: Some are wondering if the pressure is actually getting to her.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Kate Snow, you were a few feet away from the former first lady in that coffee shop. Did you immediately think this was a big moment? And what do you think explains the sort of media's obsession with Hillary's mood?

SNOW: Not only did I think it was a big moment, Howie, I was actually sitting down at the moment that she -- her voice sort of choked at one moment, and I shot up out of my seat, because in the room when you were that close to her, you could feel it. You could feel that there was something that had clicked off, something had changed, and she was showing true emotion.

So, for all the pundits out there who won't in the room, who have been speculating about maybe it was fake, maybe she was pretending to cry and choke up, I was in the room. That was not pretend. I mean, there was a real emotion that was starting to come out, so it did catch all of us.

And I looked over at Pat Healy, Patrick Healy, who's a reporter for "The New York Times," and the two of us immediately exchanged glances like, oh, my gosh, are you hearing this? This is something that we're witnessing, because normally Hillary Clinton, I think anyone would tell you, she stops herself if she starts to feel -- if she starts to show a little bit of emotion.

She'll sort of do that thing that women do where we stop ourselves from crying. You k now, we sort of back off a little bit. And she didn't do that.

She went with it. She allowed some of her feelings to show in a way that she hasn't before.

KURTZ: Right.

SNOW: Whether or not that is something that voters responded to I think is a completely different question. Our pollster, Gary Langer, at ABC News, who is in charge of our polling unit and is renowned at this and has been doing this for years and years, tells us that most people had made up their minds well before Monday afternoon, and that he doesn't think that this is that much of a contributing factor. But certainly in the field, talking to voters, they all responded to it.

KURTZ: Terry, go ahead.

SMITH: You know, I think there's a real dispute about that, because a few facts. Fifty-seven percent of the turnout were women. Polls did show, and comments afterwards suggested, that women empathized with this reaction by Hillary Clinton, that certainly seemed legitimate and honest. She's not that good an actress. So I think...

(CROSSTALK)

KURTZ: What about John's point about the media piling on and whether that may have turned off particularly some women?

SMITH: I think it's very possible. I think the media did pile on because of what they saw developing in the polls. And again, it was this kind of rolling ball momentum towards a conclusion that in the end proved not to be the case.

KURTZ: And you write in The Politico, John Harris, that it's something personal here. That Hillary Clinton, in fact, is carrying the burden of 16 years of contentious relationships -- contentious relations between the Clintons and the media. So is there kind of a collective chip on the shoulder of some journalists when it comes to Senator Clinton?

HARRIS: My sense is that there is, Howard. I don't think it's the driving factor behind the coverage, but I do think it's one of those things that at the margins does end up affecting the story lines. A sense of, OK, you've got this highly-controlled operation and, look, they've gotten knock off the fence and they're off their game.

I mean, it was a great story, but again, as Terry said, we got ahead of the story.

Can I say -- do we have time for one quick second?

KURTZ: Yes.

HARRIS: I do think this election, particularly on the Democratic side, is kind of a national Rorschach test, and reporters have to be careful about that. Men and women seen that diner scene, they react differently.

A lot of the male reporters are like, oh, what a disaster. She broke down.

KURTZ: Right.

HARRIS: A lot of women said, wait a minute, I don't see that breaking down. I can empathize with that exactly.

Race -- blacks and whites see the same events, don't always interpret them the same way. So those of us in the business who say, oh, we know how people are going to react to this, we don't.

KURTZ: I want to -- I want to -- excuse me, Terry. I just want to put up an ad, and then we'll let you respond on the other side.

Rudy Giuliani is running this spot in Florida, and it stars a lot of the people you see on television, namely the pundits.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: With pundits handicapping the campaign like the Super Bowl, it's easy to lose sight of what's at stake. The media loves process. Talking heads love chatter. But Florida has a chance to turn down the noise.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Kate Snow, it looks like we're a big, fat targets these days.

SNOW: We are a big, fat target, aren't we?

No, I was going to comment on what he brought up, that we had a huge discussion in the newsroom after that scene in the coffee shop, men and women discussing the emotion that she showed. And it played so differently to me than it did to some of my male colleagues, and that's all I was going to comment on. But yes, we are a target.

SMITH: Kate, you made a legitimate point earlier, which is that this was out of character for Hillary, for the very controlled, public Hillary Clinton, and so that made it legitimate news, in my view.

SNOW: Well, they will tell you, people who are close to her, will tell you that this is the real Hillary Clinton that she often keeps to herself, she often doesn't show publicly, but she let it show.

SMITH: Right, but we're talking about the public Hillary Clinton. And that's a different character.

SNOW: Right.

KURTZ: Journalists always like to get at the real person, especially if we feel that person is being hidden from us.

Now, of course the other big winner in New Hampshire, on the Republican side, John McCain. This, I guess, must be the same John McCain I read all those stories last summer saying he was dead, he was buried, he was written off.

Let's look at what he said during his victory speech on Tuesday night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: When the pundits declared us finished, I told them I'm going to New Hampshire, where the voters don't let you make their decision for them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: I love reading these stories that say, "John McCain, left for dead last summer." Left for dead by who? Left for dead by our profession.

What explains that premature burial, John Harris?

HARRIS: Well, look, we weren't making up the fact that his campaign was in trouble...

KURTZ: Right.

HARRIS: ... that his fund-raising was far behind, that internally, the campaign was in disarray and a lot of operatives were leaving and so forth. That's true, but that doesn't mean that we can then extrapolate from that there's no chance he's going to come back, he's dead. It's not having enough detachment from polls, fund-raising figures, the kind of data that we live by, that's the problem. Not that we report those and interpret those, but that we over-interpret them.

SMITH: And the danger is the conclusive statement -- dead, not dying. In other words, he was in trouble, John's absolutely right.

The campaign certainly had hit a rocky spot, but it wasn't finished and it wasn't over. And you knew that John McCain did very well in New Hampshire before, and that he would likely do well again. And therefore, it was wrong certainly to say left for dead.

KURTZ: And he came back by carrying his own bags on the plane, without much money, and conducting 100 town meetings in New Hampshire. It kind of reminds me of Mike Huckabee, another guy who the press totally ignored for most of 2007 because he wasn't -- because he didn't have any money.

Kate Snow, do you think that journalists may, in the light of these twin New Hampshire results, exercise a little more caution when it comes to the coming primaries?

SNOW: Well, I also think you need to make a distinction here between reporters and journalist who are covering the races and pundits. I mean, there is a distinction to be drawn, if I may.

I didn't speculate on Tuesday night about what was going to happen. I reported on what people were telling me inside the campaign, and there's a difference there. I mean, the pundits may have been saying that they thought a certain thing was going to happen, but the reporters are just reporting the facts as they know them.

KURTZ: Right, although -- although, when it comes to all those left for dead, written off, in terms of John McCain, I was quoting news stories there. And we saw the anchors at the top. These are not people who are (INAUDIBLE) commentators saying, "Barack Obama headed for a big win."

Let me give you my two cents.

This was, there's no way around it, a humiliating moment that seemed to crystallize what the public doesn't like about the media. And with few exceptions, there's been a lot of blaming others -- oh, it was the pollsters' fault, it was Hillary crying, it was the race factor in all of that.

Nobody forces journalists to make predictions, to forecast the future. Not everybody does it, and people do it to different degrees, to push a kind of conventional wisdom that sometimes evaporates.

I think there is a backlash building against this kind of perpetual punditry, and the people in this business need to be careful about that.

When we come back...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (SINGING): I've got a crush Obama

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Maybe that Obama girl on the Internet wasn't the only one with a crush on Barack. Is the candidate's charisma melting even some hard-bitten journalists?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: The reporters covering Barack Obama in New Hampshire were struck by the huge crowds he was drawing and the emotion he was generating, but did they become star struck?

NBC correspondent Lee Cowan raised the question in a video on the network's Web site.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEE COWAN, NBC NEWS: You know, I think from the reporter's point of view, it's almost hard to remain objective, because it's infectious energy. I think it sort of goes against your core to say that as a reporter, but...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Kate Snow, I give Lee Cowan credit for raising that issue. Is it hard to remain objective in the face of this Obama phenomenon?

SNOW: Well, you know, I don't cover Obama, full disclosure. I cover Clinton. And I've been to a couple of Obama events. And I will say the contrast between his events and hers is striking.

I mean, his events -- he is like a rock star. You go to these events and the crowds are enormous, there's an energy in the room. And I have written about that on our Web site. I wrote a piece once comparing and contrasting just the style and this sort of presentation difference between the two of them, so I can see his point.

I mean, it's easy to kind of get swept up in that, but, you know, I think we're all -- we're trying to be good journalists here and we're trying to cover these stories with fairness. And, you know, we have to do due diligence and be just as critical, look at them with just as critical eye as we would at any candidate, no matter how large their crowds are.

KURTZ: Obama was riding a huge media wave out of Iowa. Comparisons to JFK. He is an inspiring speaker, a man who can heal racial divisions. "Newsweek" this week says "Was he a media-created savior?"

So, my question is, is he benefiting, at least at the margins, from sympathetic coverage?

SMITH: Oh, absolutely. I mean, he is a charismatic figure, there's no question about it, as Kate suggests. And so people are somewhat swept up in that. There is a feel good emotion around the Obama campaign that -- as though it's bringing out the best in us, the very idea that an African-American could be created equally, and well, and even be a promising candidate for president. So...

KURTZ: And I've heard some conservatives say that, people who ordinarily would not be a sympathetic...

(CROSSTALK)

SMITH: David Brooks has written to that effect. So people want to -- want this to work, and yet I hope and believe they are asking questions not about how he's saying things, but about what he's saying as well.

KURTZ: Hillary has been on the national stage for 16 years. Obama is a new and exciting, and, as Terry says, inspirational figure. But to some degree, are journalists rooting for the Obama story?

HARRIS: It wouldn't surprise me that there's some of that. You know, even when we were colleagues, when I was at "The Washington Post," Howie, this is when I first noticed this. Almost a couple years ago, you would send a reporter out with Obama, and it was like they needed to go through detox when they came back -- "Oh, he's so impressive, he's so charismatic," and we're kind of like, "Down Boy."

And so...

KURTZ: You're going to talk reporters down?

HARRIS: I felt that I did. And I didn't quite get what they were saying. Like, well, what's so great about it?

In any event, what Lee Cowan said, is it's hard. OK, it's hard. Do it. Detach yourself. Nobody cares about our opinions. KURTZ: Right.

Well -- but Kate Snow, you mentioned the point that everybody -- all candidates ought to be held to the same standard. The Hillary camp has complained, as you know -- I bet you've gotten this once or twice yourself -- that the press doesn't hold Obama to the same kind of scrutiny, particularly once he became at least a front-runner or a co-front-runner.

SNOW: Yes, and I was just going to say, what you're -- what you're talking about right now is almost precisely what Bill Clinton had been saying, particularly in the last few days on talk radio. He's been bringing this up again and again.

He thinks that the press is giving essentially a free ride to Barack Obama. He thinks that we haven't been scrutinizing his record, particularly when it comes to some of the statements he's made about Iraq and the Iraq war.

Bill Clinton has been saying, you know, until he's blue in the face that we're not looking hard enough for inconsistencies in statements that Barack Obama has made. Now, the Obama camp has a full and ready response to that as well. They say he's not inconsistent.

KURTZ: Just briefly, do you want to challenge that?

SMITH: Yes. I've heard a lot of reporting on his limited experience, about he has no great depth in some of these issues. So it's not fair to suggest -- not that Kate is -- that it's been all one-sided.

KURTZ: Well, you've nicely...

SNOW: No, I'm not suggesting. I'm repeating what Bill Clinton has been saying.

KURTZ: All right. Well, you've nicely cued up what's ahead in our program.

But first, let me thank Kate Snow in New York, John Harris, Terry Smith, for joining us this morning.

And coming up in the second half of RELIABLE SOURCES, Bill Clinton blasts the press for perpetuating what he calls a fairy tale. Is he right in saying that reporters have gone easy on Barack Obama?

Plus, Stewart and Colbert are back on the air, but without their writers. Can they still make waves in the presidential campaign?

And as we go to break, in case you missed it, "The Simpsons" had their own take on the primaries this week, and in the process got in a little shot at a certainly newspaper I know pretty well.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE SIMPSONS")

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With me here to comment on today's Democratic debate is Andrea Crowley of CNN, Demon Evans of slate.com, and Ron Mahar, a print journalists from "The Washington Post."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ha-ha!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your medium is dying!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nelson!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But it is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's being right and there's being nice.

(END VIDEO CLIP, "THE SIMPSONS")

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: Bill Clinton has had a testy relationship with the media ever since his first run for president, when stories about Gennifer Flowers, the draft, pot smoking and Whitewater nearly derailed his campaign. To this day, he is steamed about the way the press covered the Ken Starr investigation that wound up probing his relationship with Monica Lewinsky.

It was against that backdrop that the former president, who is, after all, trying to get his wife elected to his old job, chided the press this week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is wrong that Senator Obama got to go through 15 debates trumpeting his superior judgment and how he had been against the war in every year, enumerating the years, and never got asked one time, not once, well, how could you say that when you said in 2004, you didn't know how you would have voted on the resolution?

Give me a break. This whole thing is the biggest fairy tale I've ever seen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: So, does Clinton have a point about the Obama coverage?

Joining us now to talk about the media and the campaign, and pundits behaving badly, in Springfield, Massachusetts, Rachel Maddow, who hosts "The Rachel Maddow Show" on Air America Radio. And in Seattle, Michael Medved, host of "The Michael Medved Show" on the Salem Radio Network.

Michael Medved, what about Bill Clinton's point that the press hasn't really scrutinized Obama's record on Iraq or, some would say, on much of anything else?

MICHAEL MEDVED, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, I think that's probably a valid point, because Obama has been such an "exotic new face," fresh. And I remember when Joe Biden said that he was clean and articulate. People don't really know what to make of him entirely, and then there was that whole rock star factor that you were talking about before.

But frankly, I truly don't know if the Clinton campaign should welcome the idea of going back and looking at people's positions on the war in the past, because however ambiguous Obama's position has been -- and it has been -- it was not in favor of the war as Hillary Clinton's was. So, if you're going to argue about who was against the war first and how much were they against the war, this is something that actually hurts Democrats, both Obama and Clinton.

KURTZ: Just to provide some context, Rachel Maddow, the former president referring to two interviews that Obama gave in 200. One, he told "The New York Times" he didn't think the case for war had been made, but he didn't know how he would have voted had he had access to classified information at the time, because he was not in the United States Senate. And one with the "Chicago Tribune" which he said there wasn't much difference between his position and George Bush's position on the war.

Now, the press has covered this a bit, but, you know, about 1,000th of the attention devoted to Hillary Clinton choking up.

RACHEL MADDOW, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: It's true, they haven't covered this as much. But also consider the context that I think Barack Obama's appeal, certainly his bipartisan appeal, his sort of general election appeal that he's been making, is not necessarily fundamentally about his record.

I mean, he hasn't been in public office that long. He's not necessarily running on his record.

He's running on -- trying to make the case that he represents a clean break from the politics of the past. That's the contrast that he's tried to set up in terms of his campaign, that he's not Hillary Clinton, that he doesn't represent the past, he doesn't represent the battles of the '90s. And so, because he hasn't necessarily been running so much on his record, I think that in part explains why that hasn't been not the grounds on which he's been covered.

KURTZ: Now, Hillary Clinton was asked about her husband's comments this morning on "Meet the Press," and Tim Russert played just the last part of the tape that I just played for you, the part where Bill Clinton talks about the whole thing being a fairy tale, but not the previous part in which he made clear that he's talking about Barack Obama's record of statements or history of statements on the war.

Let's take a look at Senator Clinton's reaction.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And let me just stop you right there.

TIM RUSSERT, HOST, "MEET THE PRESS": But let me...

H. CLINTON: You did not. No, wait a minute. RUSSERT: No, I didn't stop you.

H. CLINTON: No, but you did not give the entire quote, and so...

RUSSERT: No, but you...

H. CLINTON: And so the entire quote was clearly about the position on Iraq.

RUSSERT: But I'm...

H. CLINTON: It was not about the entire candidacy. Tim, I can't let you getting away with that mischaracterization and those snippets.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Michael Medved, what do you make of that exchange?

MEDVED: Terrific. I mean, she's -- she's found her voice as a candidate. And I think that for her to call Tim Russert on that is appropriate and it's right, and it makes her look good and tough without looking unfeminine.

KURTZ: But I wonder, Rachel Maddow, whether Bill Clinton comes out and complains about the coverage, whether he and his wife's campaign are really asking the press to do its dirty work for them. In other words, until now, I haven't heard Hillary Clinton say -- she's been doing it in recent days, talking about Obama's allegedly -- history of allegedly conflicting statements on Iraq.

So is it the press's job to make that argument?

MADDOW: Well, she has been doing it a little bit. One of the things that I've heard -- one of the arguments I've heard her make against Barack Obama is that he said that he would vote against funding the war, and then he voted for funding the war.

So she's been -- she's been advancing the story a little bit on her own. It's not just Bill Clinton.

But I have to say, even though the context in which you played that clip makes it very clear that Bill Clinton's talking specifically about Obama on Iraq, and the coverage of that being a fairy tale, using that phrase "a fairy tale," I mean, that's a deliberate phrase. He's trying to puncture the sort of Camelot era that's been created in the coverage of Obama.

And I think that Obama has advanced himself. I mean, hearing him speak in New Hampshire before the primary, I very much felt like his speech and his case for himself was about the idea of what it would mean for America for him to be elected. I mean, he's advancing that himself, the rock star idea, the cult of personality idea, something that he's pushing himself because he knows it's resonating.

KURTZ: But some black leaders in South Carolina and elsewhere, Michael Medved, have taken offense at Bill Clinton's comments as if he was talking about Barack Obama's civil rights record or his whole candidacy. And it seems that's very different from what Clinton said and what the press reported that he said.

MEDVED: Well, yes, but there is that element. I mean, when you say "fairy tale," the question is, which fairy tale you have in mind. Rachel mentions Camelot. I think it's more Cinderella, which is the idea that the clock strikes midnight, which who knows which primary that's going to be in, and then all of a sudden the coach turns into a pumpkin and the footmen turn back into mice, and Barack Obama goes back to the -- God forbid -- the kitchen. And in that context, "fairy tale" is probably the kind of loaded language that Republicans in particular would get slammed on given the fact that Obama himself is what he calls a hope monger.

KURTZ: All right.

I want to go back now to this moment in the New Hampshire coffee shop. It's been played on television I think as often as the Dean scream. And I want to follow that with what some of the pundits had to say about that. And we'll get your opinion on the other side.

Let's watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

H. CLINTON: This is very personal for me. It's not just political, it's not just public. I see what's happening.

We have to reverse it. And some people think elections are a game, they think it's like who's up or who's down. It's about our country, it's about our kids' futures.

JUAN WILLIAMS, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Hillary Clinton shows a little emotion and people say, hey, wait a minute, the ice queen is melting, there's a real person inside.

WILLIAM KRISTOL, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: She's crying for herself, and I don't even believe it's genuine. I think it's entirely calculated.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: A lot of Republicans said, oh, she's faking it. I think it was an example of how much Clinton hatred there is out there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Rachel Maddow, has there been something of a revolt against the male pundits and the way they kick Hillary around on this and other incidents?

MADDOW: Yes, absolutely. I think that it's -- this is politics, and so it is, you know, above board to question whether or not somebody's effecting show of emotion was put on, sure. That's above- board questions.

But the pile-on, the glee with which that -- with which that incident was taken apart by the pundits, by supposedly -- by people who are supposedly news anchors, I think was gross. And I think that people who saw the tape were personally affected by it.

It was an emotional moment. And then to see the kind of "blood dripping from the fangs" glee from mostly male pundits, I think made people feel like they wanted to rush to Clinton's defense in a way they wouldn't if there weren't that media pile-on.

KURTZ: Michael Medved, you want to defend mostly male pundits?

MEDVED: Well, no, because I do think there's overreaction in all regards concerning Clinton and this campaign. But the point about this is it didn't make the difference in the New Hampshire vote, contrary to popular belief.

All of the exit polling shows that in the last three days, the people who said we decided who to support in the last three days, split evenly between Clinton and Obama. So, look, the pollsters have egg on their faces, there was a swing of about 11 points between what the polls said and what happened in the ballot box. But it wasn't that, because the indication is very clearly, if you believe the exit polls at all, that there wasn't a huge turning to Clinton at the last minute.

MADDOW: But you know, Michael, I will say, I've looked at those same polls, looking for some of that same explanation myself, and I don't necessarily see that. Because one of the things we saw is that Barack Obama got essentially exactly what the pollsters said that he was going to get.

Hillary Clinton got more support than was predicted, but most of the people who were supporting Hillary Clinton say they had decided to support her a long time ago. What we may have seen -- the effect that we may have seen is that she got a bigger turnout than she would have otherwise gotten because people decided they needed to get out to the polls and defend her based on -- from the media scrub against her.

KURTZ: All right. I'm going to leave that to political analysts, because I want to come back to this question of the pundits. One of those pundits who's had a lot to say about Hillary Clinton is MSNBC's Chris Matthews. He went to a Hillary Clinton even in New Hampshire.

Let's look at what happened.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: What's the difference between the two of you?

H. CLINTON: Well, you'll have to draw the difference. But let me tell you...

MATTHEWS: You have to draw the difference.

H. CLINTON: No, let me tell you what I've done. I'm not on your show. I'm answering your question. MATTHEWS: Please come on the show.

H. CLINTON: Yes. Well, right.

MATTHEWS: Is that an answer?

H. CLINTON: You know, I don't know what to do with men who are obsessed with me. Honestly, I've never understood it.

(APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS: Obsessed? I'm not obsessed.

H. CLINTON: Oh. Christopher, baby.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: So Michael Medved, Chris Matthews gets in her face with those questions, she comes back with the "obsession" line, and then he pinches her cheek afterwards.

Is this just a classic case of making yourself the story?

MEDVED: Well, I think it's more than that. I think this was a very good moment for Senator Clinton again, where all of a sudden she looks surprisingly -- you'll pardon the expression -- kittenish, and she delivers a line with a little bit of sexual edge. And Chris Matthews looks insecure.

But, yes, there's a big problem, and it involves Chris Matthews and Bill O'Reilly, who I know you're going to talk about, and lots and lots of people, probably to some extent Rachel and me, too. This is the only sport, if politics really is a blood sport, where the referees and the commentators and the color commentators regularly upstage the players on the field.

KURTZ: Rachel, Chris Matthews has also taken some heat for saying on "Hardball" that Hillary Clinton would never have become a senator and, therefore, would never have become a presidential candidate, had she not been humiliated by her husband over the Monica Lewinsky affair. So -- which some people say is a factual statement.

But what did you make of that whole moment and the whole role of people like Matthews are playing?

MADDOW: I think it was hard to see Chris say that the morning after he had so emphatically stated that he was never going to underestimate Hillary Clinton again and to attribute her whole political career to something the person she's married to did.

I mean, I will say, there's something going on here, which is that, on the Democratic side, the two front-runners right now are an African-American man and a white woman. And we have never had that situation before in politics. And there's something going on with both the coverage of Obama and Clinton, which is pundits feel like, I feel, treat them in a way that is weirdly patronizing. Whether it's the metaphors, whether it's Chris Matthews actually reaching out and grabbing Hillary Clinton's cheek, whether -- I mean, even just today, while we have been discussing this, Michael, you described -- you used terms likes Barack Obama getting back in the kitchen or him being exotic.

I mean, there's stuff that is -- there's the language that is used, there are techniques that are used to describe and talk about these candidates that I think is -- looks uncomfortably like patronizing them. And it feels racist and gendered (ph) to me in a way that I think a lot of people, potential voters, react to.

MEDVED: Well, it seems to me that, first of all, I'm doing those phrases, obviously, in quotes to deal with the fact that people do recognize that this is a history-making campaign. Either way the Democrats vote, they're going to be making history, which is one of the reasons, it seems to me, that one of the problems in everything that we've been talking about is that if Democrats do what Republicans have done to Republicans' detriment, and start going back and arguing "about the past," who took this position on the war five years ago and three years ago, that's going to hurt them.

KURTZ: OK, let me...

MEDVED: The whole (INAUDIBLE) for Democrats is the future.

KURTZ: Let me jump in, Michael. I want to play this Bill O'Reilly clip. He was at the Obama campaign. You've heard or read about this.

Let's watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS: Don't block the shot! Got it? Don't block the shot!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm just working.

O'REILLY: No, you're not. You're blocking the shot. Get over there.

Get him out of there. We have a right to be here to shoot the shot.

Son of a (EXPLETIVE DELETED). Fine.

Senator, we came all the way up to see you. Senator, a word.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let me shake your hand.

O'REILLY: Thank you.

OBAMA: Good to see you.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KURTZ: So, just briefly, all of that was about trying to book Obama on O'Reilly's show.

What did you make of that?

MADDOW: Yes, like you'd would want to go on that guy's show now. You just beat up your staffer and swore at them. Sure, I'd love to go on your program. You seem like a completely relevant guy.

KURTZ: All right.

MADDOW: He just made himself look insane.

KURTZ: It sounds like Rachel Maddow will not be going on "The O'Reilly Factor," but we're glad to have her on RELIABLE SOURCES.

Michael Medved, Rachel Maddow, thanks for being here.

Up next, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, they're masters of political satire. But just how sharp can they be without writers? Colbert in particular was looking a little tongue-tied the other day. Check if out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDY CENTRAL: Tonight -- then plus hey (ph). This is "The Colbert Report."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert love to make fun of politics and the people who cover politics. The Comedy Central duo returned to the air this week without their writers after a two-month absence forced by the Hollywood union strike. They wasted no time pouncing on the presidential campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDY CENTRAL: Did the pundits not make ourselves clear? Four years ago, we told you it was going to be McCain in '08. Four months ago we were very clear it was going to be Clinton and Giuliani in '08. Then four days ago, we were just as clear that it was going to be Obama and Huckabee in '08, and then you go ahead and vote for Clinton?

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: To stand up and say that we are one nation...

JON STEWARD, "COMEDY CENTRAL": So thanks a lot, guys. Thanks for calling it for Obama two days ago and we spent all our budget on that. Now the crew guys have no lunch.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Joining us now is Eric Deggans, media critic for "The St. Petersburg Times."

Eric, are Stewart and Colbert going to be a satiric force in this campaign, or are they really kind of crippled by their lack of writers?

ERIC DEGGANS, "ST. PETERSBURG TIMES": I think anybody who's watched the new shows that they've done, I mean, they've barely missed a step, as far as I can tell. They seem to be doing a great job of skewering what's going on right now, as you showed in the clips, and right away they came back with putting their finger on how absurd the media has been during this election campaign.

The question is, are they violating union rules by doing so? Because they're still preparing material. It's obvious they're not improvising what they're doing.

KURTZ: Right. And so, clearly, I had thought there would be a lot more ad-libbing and a lot more interviews, but, I mean, somebody is writing some of this stuff.

DEGGANS: Yes. You know, we saw a lot of the late-night shows come back over the last couple of weeks, and it seems that Conan O'Brien and maybe Jimmy Kimmel tried the hardest to stick to the letter of the idea of what they were supposed to be doing, which was improvising most of their material. And I think their shows suffered for it.

It's obvious. I mean, there's graphics prepared for both "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report." Colbert had a gag where he had a fake beard on and then he pulled it off. He had a strike beard on, and then he pulled it off at an opportune moment.

So it's obviously that these guys are preparing jokes. And they're writers union members, and that's a violation of what the union has requested of its members, which is not to prepare material for TV shows.

KURTZ: On the other hand, Mike Huckabee, the winner in Iowa, went on Colbert's show this week, and it didn't get that much attention. I just wonder whether people have gotten a little bit out of the habit of looking to these two guys -- and it may well come back -- as the arbiters of what's funny and what's cool and what should be ridiculed in the presidential campaign.

DEGGANS: Well, it's a really odd sort of TV landscape right now. You know, you've got a lot of shows that are running out of new episodes. I think people are finding other things to do with their time, but I think mostly the bounce that these candidates have gotten from being on "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report" has been from the media. You know, these guys go on and they say something great, and then it's recycled endlessly through the other talk shows and columns. And right now, people are busy covering actual voting.

KURTZ: Right.

DEGGANS: So I think that maybe... (CROSSTALK)

KURTZ: Actual voting. All right.

Just briefly -- just briefly, Eric, the Golden Globes was going to be an NBC show, then NBC News was going to televise it. Now it's a press conference that everyone, including CNN at 9:00 tonight, is going to carry.

Was this a big loss or an embarrassment for NBC?

DEGGANS: Yes, it's a really tough situation because the Writers Guild wouldn't allow a waiver for the Golden Globes. So, not only would they not have prepared material, but actors are reluctant to cross the picket lines.

They've been asked by their own unions not to cross the picket lines. And it raises this question of, how do you make something like the Golden Globes a news event covered by the news department of NBC News?

KURTZ: Right.

DEGGANS: And then they, you know, offer sort of this two-hour extravaganza that they're doing.

KURTZ: We've got to go.

DEGGANS: It seems very odd.

KURTZ: We'll check it out tonight.

Eric Deggans, thank you very much.

A lot more to come, including a sports anchor using some pretty awful language about Tiger Woods.

Our "Media Minute" straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: Time now for the latest from the news business in our "Media Minute."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KURTZ (voice over): Alycia Lane is the Philadelphia anchor who was accused of cursing and punching a police officer during a scuffle in New York. Now Lane is a former Philadelphia anchor.

KYW fired her this week, saying, "After assessing the overall impact of a series of incidents resulting from judgments she has made, we have concluded that it would be impossible for Alycia to continue to report the news as she, herself, has become the focus of so many news stories. We wish to make clear that we are not prejudging the outcome of the criminal case against Alycia that is pending in New York."

It was one of the great double bogeys in sports talk history. Kelly Tilghman, the first anchor at the Golf Channel, has been suspended for two weeks for saying that young players who wanted to challenge Tiger Woods should "lynch him in a black alley." Great choice of words for talking about a black athlete.

The language was "... hurtful and grossly inappropriate," the Golf Channel says. Tilghman has apologized to Woods.

What does it take to mount an independent campaign for president? Robert Novak and The Wall Street Journal's John Fund have been talking up a rather well-known name with plenty of experience before the cameras. But Lou Dobbs tells The Journal he's not running -- "I haven't got the personality or nature to be a politician," the CNN anchor says, but he hasn't ruled out the idea. "I cannot say never."

That sparked a bit of jealousy, real or otherwise, from the man who used to run MSNBC.

DAN ABRAMS, MSNBC: I am ready to announce that if Dobbs throws his hat in the ring, then I will launch my own candidacy, simply to dilute his tiny constituency of disenchanted cable news viewers. If the public is ready for someone who just voices opinions on TV for a living, then I believe I am more qualified and electable than Lou Dobbs.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KURTZ: I can't wait until they square off in a televised debate. I hereby volunteer to do the color commentary.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KURTZ (voice over): Dr. Phil is the latest to be tarnished by the never-ending Britney saga. Phil McGraw had to cancel a planned interview with Britney Spears' parents this week after shooting off his mouth about the troubled pop tart.

The TV doc told "Entertainment Tonight" he had a heart-to-heart chat with Spears at an L.A. psych ward after she is was taken into police custody, but TMZ.com says he ambushed Spears and that she stalked out of the room. The planned show collapsed when Britney's parents accused Dr. Phil of exploiting the situation.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KURTZ: Exploiting the Britney situation, imagine that.

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

I'm Howard Kurtz.

Join us again next Sunday morning at 10:00 a.m. Eastern for another critical look at the media.

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