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CNN RELIABLE SOURCES
Hillary Clinton Complains About Media Treatment; McCain Apologizes for Radio Host's Remarks
Aired March 2, 2008 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
HOWARD KURTZ, HOST (voice over): Crying foul. Hillary Clinton goes public with her complaints about media mistreatment, even as the pundits declare her the loser of this week's debate.
Should Tim Russert have pressed Barack Obama about being backed by Louis Farrakhan? And are journalists finally raising questions about the Obama phenomenon?
Static on the trail. A Cincinnati radio host backing John McCain attacks Barack Hussein Obama, prompting the senator to apologize. Did Bill Cunningham go too far?
Talking back. Presidential campaign strategists weigh in on the frustrations of dealing with the press. And Dee Dee Myers on being dissed as the first spokeswoman at the White House.
Plus, royal blackout. Should the British media have suppressed the story of Prince Harry fighting in Afghanistan until his cover was blown by "The Drudge Report"?
KURTZ: We've been talking about in on this program for a year, beginning with the first rumblings of all-out Obamamania. Hillary Clinton's aides have talked about it in whispers, off the record, then on background, then in carefully-phrased comments, and now the candidate herself has gone public. The media, she says, are being rough on her and awfully easy on Barack Obama.
Clinton started brining up last weekend's "Saturday Night Live" skit that showed the anchors fawning over Obama, and last night the "SNL" gang was at it again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE")
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator Clinton, you often allude to Senator Obama's eloquence. And let's be honest, he is really, really eloquent. Amazingly eloquent. Quite astonishingly eloquent. Really.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I get it, Tim. He's elegant.
Can I say something here/ Maybe it's just me, but once again it seems as though, A, I'm getting the tougher questions, and B, with me, the overall tone is more hostile.
(END VIDEO CLIP, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE")
KURTZ: Now it's out in the open and the pundits have been debating. Well, has our business been unfair?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think she's been treated unfairly for the whole campaign, for the most part, and I think you should feel bad about it.
GLENN BECK, CNN HEADLINE NEWS: You know what, Hillary? I am sorry, but there is no time ever on planet Earth that I'm going to feel bad for you being a victim of media bias.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Clintons have had contempt for the media for 16 years. It has been reciprocated.
LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: I have the greatest respect for Brian Williams and Tim Russert, but that was -- there was nothing fair about the way that was constructed.
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: Barack Obama has not had scrutiny. He has not had any scrutiny in terms of where he plans to take the country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Joining us now to dissect the coverage of the presidential race, just two days before the make-or-break primaries in Ohio and Texas, on the campaign trail in Houston, CNN's Jessica Yellin; in Columbus, Ohio, Kate Snow, ABC News correspondent and weekend anchor of "Good Morning America"; and in New York, Mark Halperin, senior political analyst and editor-at-large of "TIME" magazine, and author of the book "The Undecided Voter's Guide to the Next President."
Mark Halperin, when you look at the whole landscape of Hillary coverage and Obama coverage, whether it's, you know, swooning over the Oprah endorsement, the Ted Kennedy endorsement, writing about how wonderful Obama's voice is, have the media tilted toward Obama's side, or, if so, is that starting to change?
MARK HALPERIN, "TIME" MAGAZINE: He does have a great voice, Howie. I concede that.
I think the most important thing now is the press not be defensive. I think what you see in a lot of the debate going on now is people saying, well, you know, Obama sometimes gets tough coverage, or Clinton got some good coverage and points along the way.
I think our business is filled with too many people who are thin- skinned. It's not about being an advocate for one candidate or another. It's about, is the coverage fair? And I know plenty of smart people in politics who are neutral in this race, plenty of smart people in journalism who would tell you that the coverage hasn't been fair. It's great that this analysis is taking place now; it's a little too late.
KURTZ: Kate Snow, have these complaints, led now by Hillary Clinton herself, added to the tensions with the press corps, especially with her having lost 10 straight states?
KATE SNOW, "GOOD MORNING AMERICA": No, I don't think so at all, actually. I think we just continue to do our job as we have been doing for months and months on the trail.
I mean, look, my job is to report every day what Hillary Clinton is doing and what arguments she's making, what she's trying to say to the voters out here on the trail. And that's what I've been doing continually, and I cover her side of this story. I don't cover Barack Obama, so, you know, by nature I'm covering her side every single day for ABC News in a fair and balanced way.
KURTZ: And her side has never complained to you about the coverage?
SNOW: Oh, sure they do, but so does Barack Obama's side. I mean, and I always feel good about a story when I get phone calls, quite frankly, from both teams after my story airs. That's the best day for me, when I get stories -- when I get phone calls -- I get phone calls from both sides of the field -- because then I know I've done a good job.
KURTZ: Jessica Yellin, you are in Texas. Hillary Clinton jetted off to New York last night to make a cameo appearance on "Saturday Night Live." Did you know about that?
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we had an early heads-up, but not because the Clinton campaign told us. They don't really like to tell us much of anything.
I'm going to be the odd man out here, Howie, and say that I do think the press has been tougher on Senator Clinton, and I think there are a lot of reasons for it. And most of them -- or many, I should say, lie with the face that she has had this adversarial relationship with the press for so many years, she is a well-known quantity. So, telling her story isn't as interesting and fresh and new as telling the brand-new story of Barack Obama.
So, naturally, he's going to get that nicer coverage to begin with, while, you know, critiquing her will is going to be the more interesting, informative story at the beginning. Over time it's evened out a bit, and I think to the extent she's still getting negative coverage, it has to do with the fact that she has these abysmal relations with the press. It's a combative, aggressive relationship. You compare it to the way the Obama people relate to the press, much more engaged, pleasant, even easier to deal with, and you're going to end up with, frankly, different kinds of coverage.
KURTZ: Although, Mark Halperin, Obama himself isn't all that available to reporters.
Pick up on that point. You know, the average viewer or reader sitting at home I think says, so what if there's difficult relations between the campaign aides and you reporters? It's your job to rise above that and not to let it influence the tenor of your coverage.
HALPERIN: If that's what the average person thinks, Howie, then call me average. Because that's what I think is the case.
I find there are pleasant people to deal with in both campaigns. I find both candidates not particularly accessible.
I think one of the real failings of this cycle in our business overall is we have not demanded as institutions and individuals the kind of access and accountability out on the campaign trail of the candidates as has existed in years past. But we have to rise above that.
You know, those public opinion polls suggest that the public overwhelmingly thinks President Clinton -- Senator Clinton has not been treated equally. And I think again we have to just ask ourselves, not in a defensive way, not cherry picking examples that run counter the argument, but watch the coverage, read the coverage, listen to the coverage, and say, has it been fair?
And it's not enough to say we don't get our calls returned or the Clintons weren't nice to the press when President Clinton was in the White House. We're supposed to be given voters the tools they need to make the right decision on an equal basis, and, again, I don't think there's any standard by which that's been the case.
KURTZ: Kate, though, hasn't Hillary Clinton been more accessible to reporters in the weeks since she first lost the Iowa caucuses? I remember seeing footage of her just a few days ago on the plane wearing a yellow sweatshirt, and one of the first few times I've seen her out of the pantsuit uniform, and kidding around. And I was thinking, well, gee, this is kind of an appealing side of her that we haven't seen that much of in the past.
SNOW: Yes, she's been very accessible lately. I'd say in the last two months, really, she's been incredibly accessible. And on the plane, it's interesting you mentioned the plane, because she's been using the plane as I think sort of a way to burn off steam and to kind of be herself.
I mean, she comes to the back of the plane, and that is all on the record, by the way. I mean, that's not off the record material. She comes back there, it's on camera, it's fully recordable, but she relaxes a little bit.
In fact, the other night she did a press availability where she answered our questions with a glass of wine in her hand as she answered our questions at the back of the plane. But my point is that she's relaxed quite a bit with the press.
Just one note though to pick up on something that Mark said. In the way that they -- the way that they -- or maybe it was what Jessica said -- the way that they disseminate information, I'll just note one thing that happened this week. Hillary Clinton raised $35 million, right, in the month of February. That's a big deal for her, and they were going to announce it on Thursday on a conference call.
They didn't tell us about it until late in the afternoon. Now, for the news, for the network news, that's a terrible time to make an announcement. Our news is on at 6:30 at night -- to wait until late in the afternoon.
So, my point is that I think the Clinton shop sometimes shoots themselves in the foot in some cases by not telling us about things in the way that the Obama campaign is a little more forward-thinking.
KURTZ: I've certainly heard some similar complaints about putting out information from the Hillary Clinton side.
Now, Jessica Yellin, looking ahead to Tuesday's primaries in Ohio and Texas, I don't have any problems with reporters say this is her last stand, it's do or die, she's a long shot. After all, her own husband, Bill Clinton, has said she needs to win both of those two big primaries. But you have some pundits -- for example, "Newsweek" columnist Jonathan Alter writing a piece saying Hillary Clinton should drop out now, the race is over.
Where do commentators get off saying that kind of thing?
YELLIN: I frankly don't know, Howie. I mean, there is a big divide, in my view, between what reporters who are covering the candidates day to day report and see, and what the analysts say back in New York and the folks who sometimes fly in and fly out.
And those folks who are employed to have an opinion end up saying things like Jonathan Alter, and it's his right to say that. That's his job.
YELLIN: But that's different -- sure, he's an opinion columnist, he can have his opinion.
KURTZ: Yes, absolutely.
YELLIN: It's different from Kate saying it or me saying it on the trail. We're simply reporting what's happening day to day. And so I think sometimes these two jobs and these two media roles get conflated in the public's view, and so the daily reporters getting sort of lobbed in with the folks who are just giving their point of view.
YELLIN: If I can say one other thing...
KURTZ: Quickly. YELLIN: ... in response to what Mark Halperin said. I'm not justifying that the press is being biased against Clinton because of our different -- because the campaigns treat us differently. I'm saying it's a natural and cause and effect, and it's partly the Clinton campaign's fault for treating the press so poorly that they're getting different kind of coverage.
KURTZ: All right.
Let me turn now to this week's debate on the Democratic side. MSNBC carried it. Tim Russert was one of the questioners. He was pretty aggressive.
Let's watch some of what he put to the candidates.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TIM RUSSERT, MODERATOR: You have loaned your campaign $5 million. You and your husband file a joint return. You refuse to release that joint return.
Do you accept the support of Louis Farrakhan? What do you do to assure Jewish-Americans that, whether it's Farrakhan's support or the activities of Reverend Jeremiah Wright, your pastor, you are consistent with issues regarding Israel and not in any way suggesting that Farrakhan epitomizes greatness?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Mark Halperin, was Russert so aggressive in his questioning that he, in effect, became one of the debaters?
HALPERIN: Well, I think you have to be aggressive to get the candidates to respond to questions. So I agree with Lou Dobbs. I have great respect for both Tim Russert and Brian Williams.
I was surprised that their questions focused at least as much, and I would say more, on Senator Clinton than they did on Senator Obama, given that in a one-on-one debate with a clear front-runner who's not faced very tough questioning in a lot of the debates, you might have thought that he would have gotten more of the tough questioning, particularly at the beginning of the debate.
KURTZ: That was certainly my impression in the first hour. In the second hour, in the second half of it, Kate Snow, as we just saw there, Russert pressing Senator Obama about Farrakhan's support. And Obama responded -- we didn't show it, but he thought his past anti- Semitic comments were unacceptable and reprehensible.
Is it therefore fair to keep asking him to, as Hillary Clinton put it, not just to reject but to denounce Louis Farrakhan?
I couldn't hear the last part.
Is it therefore fair to keep asking him to, as Hillary Clinton put it, not just to reject but to denounce Louis Farrakhan? SNOW: I couldn't hear the last part of your question there, Howie. Is it fair to what?
KURTZ: Is it fair to press Senator Obama to denounce and reject Louis Farrakhan, when he's never said anything nice about Farrakhan.
SNOW: Oh, I see. Which is what Clinton actually did then. Remember, she jumped in...
SNOW: ... and basically said you need to be even stronger with your language.
You know, I think that it's a fair point for Tim Russert to be pressing on that, sure. And I also think the first thing that you played there was fair, for Tim Russert to be pressing Hillary Clinton about her tax returns.
That's something that the network news has not really gone after Hillary Clinton on. You know, when you talk about our coverage of her, we haven't really pursued a lot about her tax returns not being open to the public, we haven't pursued the fact that the donors to the presidential library of her husband haven't been made public.
So, I mean, there are a lot of things when you start going down different avenues. There are a lot of things that we could probably be pursuing even further as far as investigative journalism goes.
Just one note on the debate. The question that I found the most interesting, you know, just as far as the questions that they were asking, why did they ask Hillary Clinton about the future leader of Russia and sort of give her a pop quiz about that man, and then -- and not ask Barack Obama about him?
SNOW: They sort of gave Barack Obama a pass. You know what I'm referring to?
KURTZ: And the truth is -- I know exactly what you're referring to. I have trouble pronouncing his name, too. Hillary Clinton stumbled over that.
SNOW: Medvedev. Yes, I can't say his name either.
KURTZ: Yes, very good. Very good, Kate. Let me get a break here.
When we come back, a high-decibel radio talk show host embarrasses John McCain with an inflammatory attack on Barack Obama.
We'll look at the backlash.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KURTZ: Bill Cunningham says his job was to throw the Republican crowd some red meat. The Cincinnati radio host was the warm-up act for John McCain the other day, and he served up a big, thick, sizzling slab of an attack on Barack Obama that forced McCain to respond, and soon had Cunningham making the television rounds with a somewhat changed perspective on the Arizona senator.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CUNNINGHAM, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: At some point in the near future, the media; the stooges from "The New York Times";' CBS, the "Clinton Broadcasting System"; NBC, the "Nobody But Clinton" network; the "All Bill Clinton" channel, ABC' and the "Clinton News Network" at some point is going to peel the bark off Barack Hussein Obama.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I regret any comments that may be made about these two individuals who are honorable Americans.
CUNNINGHAM: I've had it with John McCain. I'm going to endorse Hillary Rodham Clinton for president, because she would do a better job in the Oval Office I think than the liberal John McCain.
ALAN COLMES, FOX NEWS: Yes. Your reaction actually...
CUNNINGHAM: I'm done with him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Jessica Yellin, what made this a big story for the media? Was it the over-the-top nature of Bill Cunningham's attack, or the fact that McCain ran over to reporters and quickly apologized?
YELLIN: Well, the fact that he apologized made it an interesting story, because that's not the style most politicians take these days. And I think that the fact that McCain apologized should make it go away.
I mean, there is a difference between using the word "Barack Hussein Obama," and -- I should say, it's OK to use his middle name. This is the guy's middle name. You're allowed to say it. And there is a weird reticence on the part of the press to acknowledge that.
The problem is, this guy did it in a context that was so over the top that it stirred a lot of concern. John McCain tried to put it to bed. This issue should go away now.
KURTZ: Mark Halperin, it was, after all, some genius in the McCain campaign that thought it was OK for Bill Cunningham to be the warm-up act at that event. But as we were just talking about with Senator Obama and Louis Farrakhan, is it fair for journalists to hang the candidate with intemperate remarks or comments made by their supporters?
HALPERIN: Not in every case, but I think it is true -- it is the case if it's at his event and it's a sanctioned speaker. Howie, I think the more interesting thing as we look towards the general election is, almost every Republican presidential candidate since Richard Nixon has had on his side being able to rally conservatives by attacking the media.
John McCain, of course, has had as close a relationship to the media as any politician in either party for the last several years. So it's going to be interesting to see if he's able to do the kind of things he's naturally inclined to do, and keep people in talk radio, people on the Internet, people who -- in conservative channels and columns and things on his side aggressively supporting him, rather than having the kind of tension you see with Cunningham now.
Kate Snow, I mean, I wonder what the general election campaign will do to McCain's relationship with the media. After all, we saw the harsh attacks that he made on "The New York Times" after that story about his relationship with a female lobbyist.
But to pick up on Mark Halperin's point in conservative talk radio, which was hardly the biggest cheerleaders for McCain, Rush Limbaugh the other day said that McCain threw Bill Cunningham under the bus and should treat liberal Democrats -- McCain should -- the way he treats conservative Republicans.
So, is this likely to be an area of difficulty for McCain, with people who usually cheer for the Republican nominee?
SNOW: Well, I suppose it could be. I mean, it's certainly red meat for them. But I think it raises an interesting point.
Mark raises an interesting point, which is, in the era that we live in now, with the Internet so accessible, and, you know, so able to spread and disseminate people's language and people's speech, what are these candidates responsible for? Who are they responsible for?
Is it OK if some supporter in some other part of the country says something where it's not at a sanctioned event? That happened the other day to Hillary Clinton. She was doing an interview with a TV station down in Texas, she was here in Ohio, and she's talking to their anchors down there, and they in Dallas mentioned that one of her supporters down there, a Hispanic woman, had said something bad about Barack Obama that Clinton didn't even know about.
SNOW: And she was caught off guard by the comment and had to disavow it sort of on the spot, but didn't even know what the comment had been. So it's just to the point that, you know, how much are they going to be responsible for the language of their supporters?
KURTZ: News does move at the speed of light these days.
And by the way, the Republican race is not over. "The Dallas Morning News" this morning endorsing Mike Huckabee in the Texas primary. Thank you all -- Kate Snow, Jessica Yellin, Mike Halperin. We appreciate your joining us this morning.
Coming up in the second half of RELIABLE SOURCES, Matt Drudge outs Prince Harry's secret military service in Afghanistan. Was that downright irresponsible?
Plus, meet the press people -- presidential campaign advisers Joe Trippi, Dee Dee Myers, and Kevin Madden on shaping the coverage and dealing with ornery reporters.
But first, some thoughts about the passing of William F. Buckley, the founding father of modern conservative journalism.
KURTZ: Even if you agree with nothing that William F. Buckley every wrote or said, the man was a pioneering journalist.
WILLIAM F. BUCKLEY, JOURNALIST: This is William F. Buckley, Jr. in New York.
KURTZ (voice over): There were the 55 books, more than 5,000 newspaper columns, the 33 years of his debate show "Firing Line," and all that he wrote for his magazine, "National Review," whose faithful readers included Ronald Reagan.
Here's Buckley on the Nixon/Humphrey race in 1968.
BUCKLEY: And yet always there is an extreme seriousness, something in the system that warns us, warns us that America had better strike out on a different course rather than face another four years of asphyxiation by liberal (INAUDIBLE). No, Nixon won't bring paradise, but he could bring a little more air to breathe, and that's a lot. That's a lot.
KURTZ: It is nearly impossible to overstate what Buckley accomplished when he founded "National Review" with $100,000 from his father in 1955. It's often said that Buckley was the father of the modern conservative movement. And that's true, although history proved him wrong in some respects -- his support of Joe McCarthy, his opposition to civil rights law. But at a time before cable shows, radio shows, or bombastic blogs, he also helped reinvent opinion journalism, the notion that words matter, ideas matter, and that they can move government and change society itself.
KURTZ: And it's indubitably true he loved using $50 words when the 50 cent version would do.
Bill Buckley was 82. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) * KURTZ: It's no secret that journalists have had testy relations with Hillary Clinton's press aides and that there's been kind of a low-level warfare with MSBNC. Well, things flared up again this week after "The Washington Post" reported that Clinton spokesman Phil Singer sharply criticized reporters at a press breakfast, and described himself as being angry, all which prompted these comments from Tucker Carlson...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TUCKER CARLSON, MSNBC: Should the Hillary Clinton campaign continue to employ an emotional troubled spokesman? Is that wise?
KIKI MCLEAN, CLINTON CAMPAIGN SR. ADVISER: I think you're totally out of line to make a comment like...
CARLSON: Well, he said he's angry.
CARLSON: OK. I just heard that Phil Singer has just called apparently MSNBC. He's upset about what I said -- oh, I'm sorry. I totally misunderstood. I did not mean in any way to imply that Phil Singer was crazy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Phil Singer actually did not call MSNBC, but Phil Griffin, who runs the network, apologized to Singer.
So, how big a role do media strategists and spokesmen play when it comes to coverage of their candidates? We invited three veterans of the presidential campaign wars to tackle the question.
And joining us now, Kevin Madden, who was the spokesman for Mitt Romney's campaign; Joe Trippi, who was a top adviser to John Edwards' campaign and is now a CBS News analyst; and Dee Dee Myers, the White House press secretary under Bill Clinton and author of the new book "Why Women Should Rule the World."
Joe Trippi, you're working for Hillary Clinton. Chris Matthews said you're a bunch of knee cappers. Tucker Carlson slams you by name.
What do you do? How do you react? Do you fight back?
JOE TRIPPI, CBS NEWS ANALYST: I don't think so. I think there -- well, it depends on what you're trying to do. I think part of the strategy now is to incite these kinds of things to get more money, more attention, and to sort of push off that the presses is being unfair. So creating the controversy may work for them, but I think at this stage, you know, this fight is in Texas and Ohio, and you've got to bring this there. I don't think this -- I don't think -- in the end it's starting to sound a little bit like whining. KURTZ: You don't want to run the risk of ticking off an entire network, do you?
KEVIN MADDEN, FMR. ROMNEY SPOKESMAN: No, I agree with Joe. I mean, I think that -- we were talking about this in the green room. I said, you know, in baseball there's no crying. Well, in politics there's really no complaining.
I mean, if you make this about the process and you're not focusing on the results that are going to be -- either the results you're trying to effect on Tuesday in Ohio and Texas, then you're just becoming a distraction to the campaign. And you have to focus on the -- it should be about the candidate and the candidate's message.
KURTZ: But there's been a lot of complaining, Dee Dee Myers, from the Hillary Clinton side, particularly about MSNBC.
DEE DEE MYERS, FMR. WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Right. And I think there's ample reason for them to be upset about it. And I think -- I mean, I feel Phil Singer's pain, because, you know, we've all been in campaigns and felt like it, especially when you're down a little bit and you're losing. But I think it's interesting that it took pop culture to make the country focus on the question of whether Hillary Clinton is being treated unfairly, and that was "Saturday Night Live."
Until the "Saturday Night Live" episode a week ago, I don't think they could have -- you know, you would have gotten arrested talking about this. And now I think people are talking about it, which is interesting.
KURTZ: And thank you for setting me up, because Hillary Clinton, as I mentioned earlier, made a trip to New York, and was on "SNL" last night. Let's look at a little bit of that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE")
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I love your outfit.
AMY POEHLER, ACTRESS: Why, thank you.
CLINTON: But I do want the earrings back.
POEHLER: Oh, OK.
CLINTON: Do I really laugh like that?
POEHLER: So, how is the campaign going?
CLINTON: Oh, the campaign is going very well. Very, very well. Why, what have you heard?
(END VIDEO CLIP, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE")
KURTZ: Given how important Ohio and Texas are, would you have pulled her off the trail to go to New York to do that skit?
MYERS: Absolutely, because I think one of her big weaknesses is that people don't see her as human, they don't see her as being able to laugh at herself. I think this puts her -- I think we've seen a sea change in this election where politicians of all stripes are willing to go on talk shows or shows like "Saturday Night Live" and actually go along with the joke and be the butt of the joke. And I think that helps her tremendously. I think she probably got more viewers watching "Saturday Night Live" in Texas and Ohio than she would from a couple TV ads.
KURTZ: And all the Amy Poehler fans.
KURTZ: Joe Trippi, you were fairly recently running against Hillary Clinton in the John Edwards campaign. And you made no secret that you were frustrated at the lack of media attention for Edwards, and the tsunami of coverage for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
TRIPPI: Yes. I mean, it's like, she's complaining about it now, but, I mean, we couldn't get a word in edgewise with the press because they were so fixated on the Clinton/Obama fight, that we could get nowhere. In fact, you know, at one point John Edwards turned to me and said, "How do we get attention? Do I have to set myself on fire?"
And, I mean, when you're in that kind of a -- that's not a way to get into the mix. And so now, you know, what really...
KURTZ: Did that influence the outcome? Was that fundamentally unfair on the part of the media?
TRIPPI: I think it was, yes, because I think we led on a lot -- John Edwards led on a lot of issues, and he was first on a lot of things that had much, much better positions. But we couldn't get those positions covered because of where the press was on Clinton and Obama. Now she's -- I mean, she was literally helping -- her campaign was helping shove us off the table with the press, and now as sort of she gets shoved off, or it looks like that may be what happened, she's now complaining exactly about what was happening to us.
KURTZ: And Kevin Madden, did you feel during the Romney campaign -- you see footage every day of how chummy they seem to be with John McCain on his bus. Did you feel they just basically weren't cutting Mitt Romney a break?
MADDEN: Well, I think that that was something that we knew that was baking the case. I mean, when you get into this campaign, you know that John McCain has an extraordinary relationship with the press, and that that is essentially an institutional challenge that you have when you're trying to drive your own narrative about what your campaign is about and what your candidate is saying that day. So I do think that it was something that we had to try extra hard on. We had to be -- we had to be much more precise in what we were saying in order to break through and pass that institutional advantage that the McCain campaign seemed to have.
KURTZ: But beyond any favoritism toward Senator McCain, I mean, I just keep flashing back in my mind to that day when Governor Romney was arguing with Glen Johnson of the AP...
KURTZ: ... who was sitting on the floor of that Staples, and it just seemed to symbolize not a particularly warm relationship with the media.
MADDEN: Well, I think there were a lot of -- there were a lot of episodes where the press actually didn't exactly cut us a break, but it had largely to do with the fact that Governor Romney was going through an introduction to the national press corps, as well as the national electorate at the very same time. So every time something that happened that was not part of the message that we were trying to drive, it became new and unique, and the press seemed to kind of harp on that.
It was silly little things like, you know, the dog on the roof, or, you know, what his favorite book was when he said "Battlefield Earth." And it caused these little mini controversies...
MADDEN: ... that doesn't have anything to do with politics, didn't have anything to do with the issues that people care about and what they were going to decide their vote upon.
KURTZ: Romney had put the family dog on the roof of his station wagon for a vacation.
MADDEN: And not only that, it was in 1978. So here we are...
KURTZ: There's no statute of limitations, Kevin. Anything is fair game. You know that.
MYERS: Absolutely. But I think it's interesting, because Barack Obama has had any dog on the roof kind of moments. You know? I mean, so I do think that there -- to expect that the press -- that the campaigns are all going to feel at the end that they were treated fairly is...
MYERS: But I don't think it's fair. MADDEN: Well, I think on that -- just on that one point, I think we were forced into a daily scrum with the press that Obama hasn't been forced into.
MADDEN: He has been afforded this kind of infomercial by the press.
TRIPPI: It's just a matter of time thought until that happens.
TRIPPI: The Edwards campaign went through it, the Clinton campaign for sure has gone through it. And at some point the Obama...
KURTZ: The Howard Dean campaign...
TRIPPI: Howard Dean went through it.
KURTZ: You worked for that campaign.
TRIPPI: And Obama will sooner or later.
KURTZ: But I remember, Dee Dee Myers, when you were working for Bill Clinton in 1992, and there was that period of months in the primaries when he was just hammered over Gennifer Flowers...
KURTZ: ... the draft, whether he avoided the draft, didn't inhale, you know, because he was doing well, or seemed to be doing well in the contest.
How can it be that Barack Obama has become the front-runner in this contest and has not been subjected to that kind of media hammering?
MYERS: I think it's a great question, and I think we'll look back at this and have a long debate about why that is. Partly, he's better than any candidate I've ever seen at the parry. You know, he gets attacked and he just, you know, hits it right back completely effortless...
KURTZ: Doesn't seem overly defensive.
MYERS: ... effortlessly, right.
MYERS: He's not defensive. His campaign has great relationships with reporters. And while that shouldn't matter, I can't tell you how many reporters have said to me, oh, they're so accommodating. You know, they're great to work with, and that's not been true of the Clinton campaign. So part of it is personal relationships, part of it is -- and part of is it's a great story, who is this guy and where did he come from? And what is this movement all about? And look how great he looks up there on the stump.
As Joe said, though, it's all coming. When he becomes the nominee, the tests will completely change.
KURTZ: But usually it sparks a counter-reaction to me like, oh, my god, this guy could be president, what do we not know about him?
KURTZ: Let me come back to you, Kevin Madden, because I've said a number of times, including on this program, that while it was certainly part of the story of covering the Romney campaign, the press, I thought, made too much of Mitt Romney being a Mormon.
Do you agree with that?
MADDEN: I absolutely agree. I think that a lot of -- again, we were going through again a very robust introduction where other candidates were very widely known. And the introduction came via this prism of the governor's faith. And I think that was a definite challenge that we had from day one.
They did made a great deal about it, because -- and I think what you do is you compare it with what you hear in town halls versus what you hear from the press. Every town hall that we went to, the issues of immigration, education...
MADDEN: ... taxes, the economy, that's what people wanted to talk about. We would go to a press avail immediately after these town halls, and the first few questions would be about the governor's faith and whether or not that was a challenge.
Joe Trippi, have you in your political careers sometimes had to deliver spin that you didn't believe? I'm talking about, "Oh, we did better than expected last night. "He's in it until the convention"?.
KURTZ: Did that make you a little uncomfortable?
TRIPPI: There were a couple of them right there that you just mentioned that I've done.
I mean, (INAUDIBLE) in it through the convention.
TRIPPI: So it's not -- it's not quite... KURTZ: You brainwash yourself.
KURTZ: But is there a danger that you erode your credibility with journalists who know that you're not in it until the convention?
MYERS: Yes. But, I mean, I think that journalists expect you to do some of that, and on some points it keeps the campaign alive through the down dips, so that you can come back. I mean, I certainly lived through that in the Clinton campaign, which was -- you know, it was pretty much Mr. Toad's Wild Ride of, you know, good months and bad months. And in the good months we talked about how well we were doing and in the bad months we looked forward and talked about how well we hoped we would do the next time around.
TRIPPI: My feeling is the press knows exactly what you're doing when you do that. They're pretty smart.
TRIPPI: And they actually respect you for it, that you're sitting there soldiering on, doing the best job you can for your candidate. That's -- I've always found that. I mean, you can cross the line and just go way over the edge and start, you know, spinning something that's just not believable, and I think sometimes that happens. But very rarely.
KURTZ: How about access to the candidate? Is that something you have to carefully control? And, of course, nothing sparks resentment among journalists more than the sense of not getting at the candidate.
Hillary Clinton originally was pretty inaccessible to the press. After she lost Iowa she became a lot more accessible.
MADDEN: Well, it's entirely underrated. And I think Dee Dee makes a good point, that the care and feeling of the press is something that -- it really does build up a residual good will during the campaign, so that way when the bad day comes -- and it will come -- you do have a better chance of managing that.
And I think that's exactly what happened with "The New York Times" story, if you look at what happened with the McCain campaign.
MADDEN: I mean, the care and feeding, the accessibility that they have to the candidate, helped them control that story. I think that was something that you see with the Hillary Clinton campaign, is that they're tending to seeing the chickens come home to roost now from not having that access.
KURTZ: You all make it sound like it's like tending and being in charge of a daycare center.
All right. Joe Trippi, Kevin Madden, thanks very much for joining us.
After the break, are women treated differently in the workplace, even when that workplace is the White House?
More with Dee Dee Myers in a moment.
And later, Prince Harry pulled from the front lines in Afghanistan after "The Drudge Report" blows the lid off a media blackout. Were British journalists right to agree to keep this whole thing under wraps?
KURTZ: And continuing our conversation with Dee Dee Myers, former Clinton White House press secretary.
You've just written a book, "Why Women Should Rule the World."
You write about taking the job as White House spokeswoman.
KURTZ: You didn't have the same responsibilities as your predecessors. You later learned you were making $10,000 less...
KURTZ: ... than a male official with comparable duties, who made $110,000.
You asked the chief of staff, Leon Panetta, for a raise. What happened?
MYERS: He denied me. He said -- first of all, he said -- I found out that a male colleague, who I liked and worked with, but who had I think less responsibility than I did was making more money. So I went to see him, and I said, "Look, he's (sic) making less money." And he said, "Well, he took pay cut to come here. He was a partner at a law firm."
And I said, "Well, I'm not asking you to cut his pay. I just think I should be at the top of the pay scale. I have a lot of responsibility."
And he said, you know, "Look, I don't have the money, and besides, he's got a family." And I was flabbergasted.
I mean, I thought here it was in 1994, I thought we were past that idea that men, because they are the breadwinners, should make more money. I didn't have a family at that point, but I had more responsibilities. So, it was frustrating, even in a Democratic White House that I think was committed to bringing women and people who had traditionally been left out of the power structure in.
KURTZ: There was a lot of chatter about your hair, your leather coat, the snow boots you wore at one event.
KURTZ: Did that bother you?
MYERS: It did bother me. I mean, I didn't really quite know how to handle it.
You know, I wish looking back on it that I had paid more attention to it, that I had gotten help. I mean, fashion is not my thing. But I think women are judged by appearance. And there's not much -- maybe someday that will change, maybe not.
But in the meantime, I think women have to just accept that people are going to judge you by how you look. And I believe that if people don't -- can't get over your hair, they can't hear a word you say. So it's a virtual mute button to have a bad hair day.
It's just the way it is. So deal with it.
KURTZ: Clearly you've upgraded the wardrobe...
MYERS: Well, you know. I mean, we all grow up.
KURTZ: ... in the ensuing years.
You write as well about the disastrous raid at Waco...
KURTZ: ... which left so many people dead. And you argue that President Clinton had to go out there and face the country...
KURTZ: ... and instead, they sent Attorney General Janet Reno out, and the White House put out a statement.
So, was that one of many instances when you felt your advice was being ignored?
MYERS: It happened. Everybody -- sure, everybody loses some inside the White House.
MYERS: But that was one where I felt really strongly about it, and I felt like I wasn't able to win the argument, I wasn't able to get the president to do what I thought was in his interest and in the country's interest, which was to go out and say, you know, the buck stops here, and I'm responsible for this, even if not directly. And it was of the incidents that, you know, sort of undermined my -- I was -- you know, I was constantly fighting, you know, as a lot of people do in the White House, but I thought because my position had been compromised, I was given a lower rank and a lesser salary and a smaller office than my now predecessors...
MYERS: ... it said this job is less important. And that made me a little less important. And it's what I think happens to women. You have more responsibility than you do authority, and so I struggled, and other women struggle.
KURTZ: And then there were leaks in the summer of 1994 that Mike McCurry, who was...
KURTZ: ... was in line for your job. Did you feel like you were being shoved aside for a guy?
MYERS: Yes. I mean, I think that, you know, the Clinton White House struggled in the early years with the idea that everyone in there was young and inexperienced.
MYERS: I think having a young woman kind of put an underline on the "young and inexperienced" thing. So, on one hand I understood it, but I felt like I deserved an opportunity to have the job with the full, you know, authority that should come with it, because it was in the president's interest, and it certainly was in my interest. But I really thought it was serving the president poorly.
And so I -- you know, I fought to restore what I thought was the full authority of the job. But in order to get that, I had to agree to leave. So I said to the -- I went to see the president and I said...
KURTZ: That's quite a bargain.
MYERS: Yes, it's kind of Faustian deal on some level, right?
KURTZ: Let me just slip in this last question here.
KURTZ: We talked earlier on the show about Hillary Clinton facing criticism about her laugh, her cleavage, she's too hard, she's too soft...
KURTZ: ... she should cry more, she shouldn't cry.
Do you think Katie Couric has similarly been judged by a double standard?
MYERS: I think there's no question about it. I think it's been really tough for her, beginning with, you know, the CBS publicity department puts out a picture of her and they Photoshop it to make her look a little thinner. I think most people look at Katie Couric and think she looks great, and yet she still, from the very beginning, the questions are, is she serious enough, does she have the gravitas to sit in that chair? And in some ways, the question is, is she male enough?
So she struggled. I struggled. A lot of women have struggled.
I think things are getting better for women, but I think there's plenty of room for women to rule alongside men. Not in place of men, but alongside men.
KURTZ: A good not to end on.
Dee Dee Myers, thanks for coming in this morning.
MYERS: Thanks, Howie. Thanks for having me.
KURTZ: Still to come, it was the ultimate embargo. Did British news organizations hold their fire on Prince Harry's deployment to Afghanistan in exchange for exclusive access? The Washington bureau for "The Sunday Times of London" joins us next.
KURTZ: It was the best kept secret in Britain. All the major media outlets new that Prince Harry had been dispatched to the front lines in Afghanistan. In fact, many newspapers and networks were given exclusive access to the prince on condition that they sit on the story until he was out of the war zone. And they did, until Thursday afternoon, when "The Drudge Report" broke the news and the U.K. was flooded with favorable stories and footage about the royal volunteer.
Prince Harry talked about the media embargo yesterday in London.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRINCE HARRY, BLUES AND ROYALS REGIMENT: I was surprised by the way the British media kept to their side of the bargain. I hate to say it, but I am very grateful for that. And thank you to all the British media for keeping their mouths shut. And I know for a fact that there was stuff they did behind the scenes to stop stuff from coming out, which was most kind of them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Joining me now to talk about this is Sarah Baxter, Washington bureau chief of "The Sunday Times of London."
All right. It's 10 weeks ago, I've just made you the editor of "The Sunday Times of London."
Do you sit on the story?
SARAH BAXTER, "SUNDAY TIMES OF LONDON": Yes, you do. We're all feeling rather proud of ourselves that we actually managed to keep a secret for 10 weeks. That's pretty rare in our business. KURTZ: Doesn't happen all that often.
KURTZ: Not a close call?
BAXTER: No, it wasn't that close, because in the end, national security was at stake. Not Harry so much as everybody around him as well. We didn't want everybody to do with Prince Harry to become a target. And Harry, himself, of course, he was doing his duty. Why single him out and put a great target on his back?
So I think people felt it was the right call. What there's unease about is the fact that there are now all these wonderful PR pictures of Harry, you know, looking great in his suit, looking topless and (INAUDIBLE) and sitting on his bike -- motorbike in the desert. You know, not too many kind of action shots of him taking on the Taliban. More just looking cool, and that looks a more PR stunt- like.
KURTZ: Yes. Well, since you brought that up, I mean, I've really been struck by -- and look, I give him all the credit in the world for going, it's not something he had to do. But headlines like "Your Mother Would be Proud" and calling him a hero, and The Sun, "The London Sun" even getting rid of its page 3 girl, the topless page 3 girl for a day so they can run more Harry pictures and stories.
BAXTER: Well, he looked even better topless than a page 3 girl. So why not?
But yes, the editors were approached way back in August to say, look, it was a big mess when Harry was going to go to Iraq. It all fell apart. If we send him to Afghanistan, can you keep a secret? And they said yes.
KURTZ: But some critics, as you know, in Britain and elsewhere are saying that this was a bit of collusion between the media and the government, which obviously it was, and that you journalists get access to him in exchange for suppressing a big story.
BAXTER: We wouldn't have agreed to do it if we didn't think that there were bigger issues of whether or not we got access to him. I mean, I think that's slightly trivializing it, because, in the end, we wanted him to be able to serve with his mates and do his duty.
And if we had blown the lid on it, he would have been airlifted home after a day instead of after 10 weeks. At the same time, we're kind of grateful to Matt Drudge and the Internet for sticking it out there so we could all run out with our, "Quick, look at Harry" and aren't we the good guys for keeping it a secret? But here he is, you can read page one, page two, page three, page 22 and see the full picture spreads. We love all that.
KURTZ: So you're not angry at Matt Drudge for breaking this story, and you don't feel like this was some terribly irresponsible thing for him as a blogger to have done? BAXTER: Well, Harry got away with 10 weeks. That's not bad going. And so secretly we're kind of grateful to Drudge.
KURTZ: And Drudge, of course, picked it up on an Australian magazine that published this on January 7th. I don't know how that didn't get distributed more widely.
BAXTER: Yes. Yes -- no, well, I think it could have come out and people kept it quiet. And then (INAUDIBLE) magazine started to notice that Harry was absent from the London nightclub scene.
KURTZ: That's a German magazine.
KURTZ: And so that was the clue there.
KURTZ: Now, look, I agree. I mean, U.S. media organizations all the time, we don't report troop movements in Iraq in advance. I don't think anybody here would report the precise whereabouts of John McCain's son Jimmy, who is supposed to be fighting in Iraq. But you talked about the favorable coverage.
I mean, it has been glowing. It has been gushing. Any slight embarrassment over that?
BAXTER: Yes. Now we are a bit embarrassed. And these gushing bits of coverage never last for long, in my experience with the British media. So the first time he's out on the razzle in a British nightclub, he'll be back in trouble again and it will be -- you know, Harry the hero stuff will fall.
KURTZ: So in the past he has not always gotten the best press.
BAXTER: No. No, he's been the irresponsible brother, you know, that we've delighted in portraying his antics.
KURTZ: But now why...
BAXTER: So we wanted to give him a fair shot at being a hero, just for a bit, anyway.
KURTZ: Why is he more of a hero than all of the other British soldiers who are serving in places like Afghanistan?
BAXTER: Well, he isn't. He isn't. He just happens to be a royal, and we happen to love royal coverage. And that's a staple of British journalism.
KURTZ: I've got half a minute. You kind of pooh-poohed the notion that the access to him and the interviews and the pictures were a part of t. But wasn't that the carrot as well as along with the stick? BAXTER: Oh, absolutely. It was an essential part of the deal. If he hadn't appeared at all, I think the temptation to be the first to reveal he was there would have been too much.
KURTZ: But instead you knew you had some good stuff, and it was just a matter of when you could share it with your countrymen?
BAXTER: Yes. And then we could pat ourselves on the back afterwards.
KURTZ: All right.
Sarah Baxter, thanks very much for joining us this morning.
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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