Edition: U.S. | Arabic | Set Pref

 

Return to Transcripts main page

CNN RELIABLE SOURCES

Caroline Kennedy to the Senate?; Interview With Whoopi Goldberg

Aired December 21, 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): Whoopi time. The outspoken moderator of "The View" sounds off on coverage of Obama, McCain, Blagojevich, racial issues, and reveals how her career was badly damaged by a misleading story.

A RELIABLE SOURCES exclusive.

Princess Caroline. The prospect of another Kennedy in the Senate has the press seeing visions of Camelot.

Viral video. Television mostly treated the president's shoe- dodging moment as kind of funny. Was that a mistake?

Plus, three words the media just can't resist: Jennifer Aniston naked.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KURTZ: Our favorite kind of story in this business, all right, besides sex and scandal, involves celebrities. But journalists are also addicted to politics. So if we can sniff out a story that combines the two, we go weak in the knees. That may explain why so many journalists are practically drooling at the prospect of Caroline Kennedy as a United States senator.

Yes, some have had the temerity to point out that she has no experience in the political trenches. But her name is magic, and as the story unfolded, you can practically hear the strains of Camelot.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ELIZABETH VARGAS, ABC NEWS: A decision by the heir to America's political royalty, who says she wants in on the family business.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think she's an extremely qualified person. She's had a very, very impressive career, an impressive education.

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS (voice-over): She's an iconic figure, the last survivor of Camelot, with the name, celebrity and money to carry on her family's legacy.

KURTZ: But not everyone was jumping on the Camelot express. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you ready for this, Mrs. Kennedy?

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Caroline Kennedy is qualified.

BAY BUCHANAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: She wouldn't be in the top 20 for candidates to be appointed to this job if it weren't for her name. That is it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KURTZ: Joining us now to examine the Caroline coverage and Barack Obama fencing with the press over the Blagojevich scandal, here in Washington, Michelle Cottle, senior editor at "The New Republic." In New York, Beth Fouhy, national political reporter for The Associated Press. And commentator S.E. Cupp, co-author of "Why You're Wrong About the Right."

Michelle Cottle, Caroline Kennedy would instantly become the most famous person in the U.S. Senate, and that's like catnip to journalists, is it not?

MICHELLE COTTLE, SR. EDITOR, "THE NEW REPUBLIC": Absolutely. Also, there are a couple of names that just send journalists into the stratosphere. One is Clinton, the other is Kennedy. You know, the family has this long kind of love affair with the press, and she would just be stepping in to kind of take her place in the middle of that.

KURTZ: S.E. Cupp, were the media in something of a swoon over another Senator Kennedy?

S.E. CUPP, CO-AUTHOR, "WHY YOU'RE WRONG ABOUT THE RIGHT": I think that it's clear that they are. You know, I think that they're not doing a particularly good job of asking tough questions. And when they do, it seems she runs away from them. So, I'm hoping that it gets a little tougher for her if she's going to be seriously considered.

KURTZ: Since you brought that up -- Beth Fouhy, I'm going to play some tape from this week in Syracuse, New York, when Caroline Kennedy made an appearance after visiting some local officials in upstate and reporters tried to ask questions.

Let's watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAROLINE KENNEDY, JOHN F. KENNEDY'S DAUGHTER: There's a lot of good people and candidates that the governor is considering. He's laid out a process, and I'm proud to be in that process.

QUESTION: What can you say to New York that says that you're qualified?

QUESTION: Are you ready for this, Mrs. Kennedy?

Mrs. Kennedy, you're not going to answer questions at all? (END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: So, Beth, she's criticized as leading a somewhat sheltered, wealthy person's life on the Upper East Side. She goes out, and this is how she deals with the press, running away?

BETH FOUHY, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: Yes, welcome to New York. You know, I'm going to sort of disagree with you, Howie, because actually, here in New York, where the tabloid media especially kind of runs the show in terms of setting the tone, they're not really in a swoon.

They're definitely intrigued by the celebrity aspect of this candidacy, but they're also saying, who is she? She's never even talked to us before. The fact that she has insisted on privacy all this time, and now suddenly she wants to be a U.S. senator has got a lot of people feeling very skeptical about why she's trying to do what she's doing.

KURTZ: So perhaps there is a split between some of the national shows -- I played those clips where people are talking about the magic of the Kennedy name -- and the way she's viewed in New York, where, look, a lot of people admire Caroline Kennedy, she has done some good things. But does she have any idea of the kind of media scrutiny that a politician, particularly a famous one, gets?

FOUHY: She's lived here her entire life. She should know. But I'm sure being thrust into the middle of it is a very different experience.

She's really not answering questions yet. Politico sent her a list of 10 questions yesterday to answer which her spokesman sent back his answers to the questions representing her. So she has not really yet tipped her toe into the water of the tabloid media here, which kind of makes or breaks everything.

KURTZ: That's a good example.

Michelle, now, obviously, this is going to be decided by one person, New York's accidental governor, David Paterson. But what about all this media coverage that, you know, this will just further the Kennedy dynasty and, therefore, somehow horribly unfair?

COTTLE: I appreciate that a lot of people think this is a threat to the republic. I mean, this is an appointive process. Somebody is going to get this, and I'm sure some people think that it should be somebody who at least doesn't feel entitled, like everyone assumes the Kennedy clan feels entitled.

KURTZ: If this was a special election and she was going to run, and she had to put herself out there to the voters, then fine. But obviously, this is a situation where somebody, perhaps Caroline Kennedy, perhaps Andrew Cuomo -- who knows -- is going to be handed this plum.

COTTLE: Absolutely. And I think there's concerns that trends are converging here. I mean, nobody likes -- you know, nobody thinks that somebody should just be handed a Senate seat. As Governor Blagojevich has pointed out, it's worth something, you don't just give it away. But on the other hand, then you have the question of Kennedy entitlement and, for some reason, that name in particular just sends people over the moon when it comes to questions of princessfulness (ph) or whatever.

KURTZ: But S.E. Cupp, is the press ignoring the fact that there are a lot of rich and famous people who have unfair advantages in running for office, say, if your dad was already president, if you're George W. Bush. Say if you're running for the Senate and your husband is president, as in the case of Hillary Clinton, and on and on and on. This is not exactly unknown in American politics.

CUPP: No, and that's a great point to bring up. You know, we heard for eight years that President Bush was sort of a nepotism experiment gone wrong and he had been a governor. So I'm not sure -- Katherine Parker (ph) actually had a great piece in "The Washington Post" where she said that she frankly just hasn't earned it. Entitlement aside and experience aside, she just has really basically said that she'd quite like it a lot.

KURTZ: Beth Fouhy, could this carping by the New York tabloids, which, among other things, discovered that she hadn't -- Caroline Kennedy had not voted in some recent elections -- end up taking her down a few notches to the point where she might not get the job?

FOUHY: Well, what you said before is totally true. David Paterson, the governor of New York, is the only person who matters in all of this. And how he's influenced by this coverage is going to be interesting.

The fact that she's campaigning so hard for it all of a sudden is certainly grabbing a lot of media attention, but he may be starting to feel like he's being pushed in a way that he doesn't want to be pushed. On the other hand, he needs to run again in two years, she would be on the ballot with him.

What he's looking for right now is the person who could help carry Democrats in New York, including himself. He's never been elected to this post. So that's probably the main thing he's thinking about right now. Would...

KURTZ: Go ahead.

FOUHY: Would Caroline Kennedy be the person to help, you know, really take the Democratic Party mantle into 2010? That's probably the thing he really cares most about.

KURTZ: Well, what she should have done from a media point of view, rather than running away from reporters, is gone on a couple of Sunday shows this morning and show that she can answer questions on live television.

Before we move along, I've got to play you this clip. This is so fascinating. 1957, this is NBC, Martin Agronsky interviewing then- Senator Jack Kennedy shortly before his wife was going to have a baby, Caroline was about to be born.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARTIN AGRONSKY, NBC NEWS: If you were to have a son, would you encourage a political career for him?

SEN. JOHN F. KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Yes. And I hope if I had a daughter I might encourage her to play some part. I don't think it should be confined to men only.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Look at the sexism embedded in that question. "If you were to have a son..." Times have changed.

All right. Let's move on to Rod Blagojevich. This is my personal favorite three minutes of political theater of this whole year. The embattled governor has been charged in a criminal complaint for, among other things, allegedly trying to sell Barack Obama's Senate seat.

Comes out, and he has wants to fight, fight, fight. And this is what he has to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ROD BLAGOJEVICH (D), ILLINOIS: I'm not going to do what my accusers and political enemies have been doing. And that is, talk about this case in 30-second sound bites on "Meet the Press" or on the TV news. Now, I'm dying to answer these charges.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Excuse me, Beth Fouhy. This guy is decrying empty sound bites and he comes out and serves up a bunch of empty sound bites, says nothing about the charges, no details. But he did have a nice poem from Rudyard Kipling.

FOUHY: Yes, wasn't that wild? People are starting to question whether the man is sane. And that performance, as you suggest, was kind of the crazy circus experience that nobody had quite seen before.

KURTZ: Well, there he is running for the cameras.

FOUHY: Running.

KURTZ: Michelle Cottle, let's remind people that this Democratic governor, Rod Blagojevich, was also heard on these wiretap conversations saying of Obama's Senate seat, "We've got this thing, it's (EXPLETIVE) golden, and I'm not just giving it up for (EXPLETIVE) nothing."

But after this bizarre performance, I had the impression that some in the press were kind of treating him as a lovable rogue.

COTTLE: Well, the press likes color, and he has great -- he gives great -- the man comes out and he's not doing 30-second sound bites, he's quoting extensively from Kipling's poem "If," about, you know, you're going to be a man and stand up and do all of this. You can't beat that for especially good television.

You know, with that said, he's a little off balance, and they've got to kind of work on his presentation if they don't want to wind up in jail.

KURTZ: He certainly works on the hair.

S.E. Cupp, he talked about sound bites on "Meet the Press." It was Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan who tried unsuccessfully to force him from office this week who went on "Meet the Press" last Sunday. He says he's dying to tell his side of the story, but he's afraid to take questions.

CUPP: Yes, it's curious. And I think Beth is right, there's a little something off about Rod Blagojevich. My favorite revelation so far...

KURTZ: Oh, don't go out on a limb here.

(CROSSTALK)

CUPP: I'm breaking news, right?

My favorite revelation so far has been that he requires his aides to carry his favorite Paul Mitchell hair brush around with them at all times. I don't know what's really going on in his head.

KURTZ: Well, I'm at a disadvantage. I just use this thing.

(LAUGHTER)

KURTZ: OK.

Now, Barack Obama has continued to make news this week, holding more news conferences, rounding out his cabinet. But this topic about the Blagojevich scandal keeps coming up. Let's look at how he handled the question when it was posed to him by The Chicago Tribune's John McCormick.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN MCCORMICK, "CHICAGO TRIBUNE": Over the weekend The Tribune reported that Rahm Emanuel, your incoming chief of staff, had presented a list of potential names.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT-ELECT: John, let me just cut you off, because I don't want you to waste your question. As I indicated yesterday, we have done a full review of this. I don't want to get into the details at this point.

So do you have another question?

MCCORMICK: There's no conflict to what you said, your hands-off approach, and the possibility that...

OBAMA: John, I said the U.S. Attorney's Office specifically asked us not to release this until next week.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Beth Fouhy, Obama does have a built-in alibi. The U.S. attorney did ask his office to hold off. But that's not exactly stopping the media from raising the questions.

FOUHY: Yes. And you know, I'm sort of -- of two minds of this. On the one hand, he has been exonerated. Patrick Fitzgerald, the prosecutor, has said no one in his office has been implicated in any wrongdoing. So, if it were a scandal that involves him directly, he really couldn't get away with this, shushing off questions. The fact that the scandal doesn't apparently involve him does give him some clearance.

On the other hand, it's not great to see the president-elect trying to shut down a perfectly legitimate question and say I'm going to cut you off right there. You know, that's doesn't really bode well for how he's going to handle difficult situations with the press in the future.

COTTLE: Well, I'm not sure what he's supposed to do though. I mean, he's been asked not to talk about it, and he's got this nice guy schtick that he does -- "I don't want you to waste your question." I mean, instead of just basically, it's all about you. I care about you.

You know, whether or not it played that well, I mean, it's totally in keeping with his kind of, you know, not jokey, but pally (ph) schtick.

KURTZ: But just briefly, S.E. Cupp, when other presidents and politicians have said, "I can't comment because it's under investigation," they often get pilloried by the media.

CUPP: Yes. I think, you know, Barack Obama is very used to operating under a veil. And for many, many months, I think the media wasn't very interested in lifting up that veil.

If we're doing that now, I'm pleased, I'm impressed, I'm glad. And it's no surprise that he doesn't really know how to deal with tough questions. He wasn't asked many in the past year.

KURTZ: Right. He'll have to get used to it.

At the same time, there is no evidence tying him to any shenanigans in this thing. And, in fact, you hear Blagojevich on the tape say he's mad at Obama and calls him a bunch of unprintable names because he won't play ball.

The media continuing to merchandise President-elect Obama. TIME's "Person of the Year," no surprise, Barack Obama. But "Newsweek" also finding a reason to put Obama on the cover this week, if we can put that up.

I know we've got it. Let's see "Newsweek." There it is.

All right. "The New Global Elite." There's Barack Obama.

Coming up next, the passing of Deep Throat and his impact on the culture of anonymous sources.

And later, Whoopi Goldberg on campaign coverage, racial issues, her role on "The View," and more in an exclusive interview.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARK FELT, "DEEP THROAT": I am not Deep Throat. And the only thing I can say is that I wouldn't be ashamed to be, because I think whoever helped Woodward helped the country. No question about it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Mark Felt on "Face the Nation" in 1976. And he was, of course, lying. He was, of course, Bob Woodward's secret Watergate source, Deep Throat.

Mark Felt died this week at the age of 95.

Beth Fouhy, didn't the glamour of Watergate and anonymous sources encourage a lot of great investigative reporting, but also a lot of excessive reporting?

FOUHY: Well, Watergate set the standard for all of us. I mean, I think we all feel like we should be out there meeting sources in shadowy parking lots. And most of us don't, so we feel like we're not quite up to snuff. But I think it did.

I mean, clearly, Mark Felt had the goods. He knew what he was talking about. And he was giving those two reporters incredibly great information and guidance.

It's one thing to go to someone like that who can actually help you advance a story. It's very different than going to some random schmo just to get a mean quote, slamming a political opponent, and giving them the veil of anonymity. I think it's a very different situation and it's a very different type of reporting.

KURTZ: That is exactly the point.

But, you know, just to remind people what it was like in 1976, when the movie "All the President's Men" came out, and here are suddenly two newspaper reporters being portrayed by Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford, let's take a brief look at a clip from the movie.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN")

ROBERT REDFORD, ACTOR: Did he confirm? What happened?

DUSTIN HOFFMAN, ACTOR: I said, "If I get to 10 and you don't hang up, it's solid."

REDFORD: Did he confirm it?

HOFFMAN: Absolutely.

REDFORD: Bursting yet (ph) another source.

HOFFMAN: The guy just confirmed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: So, Michelle, journalists had a very heroic image at that time. But things look very different when you fast forward to, say, Judith Miller and Matt Cooper, and even Bob Woodward, who were protecting secret Bush administration sources in the outing of Valerie Plame as a CIA operative. So it seems to me the times have really changed.

COTTLE: Times have changed in part because government and the administration has figured out how to kind of manipulate this desire to have secret sources telling you things that nobody else knows. I mean, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out journalists love this kind of thing. And if you're a shrewd administration person who wants to get your story out, you're going to figure out a way to exploit it.

KURTZ: And you may well have an agenda, but you know that -- in other words, you're saying that this whole idea of secret sources is kind of like irresistible.

COTTLE: There's a romanticism to it. I mean, Woodward and Bernstein launched a million journalism careers. And everybody thought that were going to be the next one to take down a president.

You know, this is part of what drove the Clinton stuff with all this penny ante Whitewater investigating. You know, everybody thought they were going to find kind of the land deal or the corrupt mood that was going to bring down another president.

KURTZ: And on that point, S.E. Cupp, I mean, look, I've done a lot of investigative reporting where unnamed sources were absolutely crucial, people who might lose their jobs if it was known they were talking to a journalist. But then I see unnamed Hillary aides ripping Obama or unnamed McCain aides calling Sarah Palin a "whack job," and I think this is how we use the principle of confidentiality?

CUPP: Right. It's a double-edged sword. The public relies on anonymous sources because there's information that's, frankly, too sensitive to be disseminated with full transparency. But the role of the investigative journalist is to protect the contract they have with the public.

They're essentially saying to us, you can believe what I'm saying to be true, but I can't tell you how I know it. That's a lot to ask, and there's a reason so few investigative journalists are really good at using anonymous sources well. COTTLE: And in the media, there's an incredibly annoying trend where a bunch of newspapers and magazines decided, oh, well, we're going to be high-minded about this and we're not going to let you use anonymous sources unless you kind of tack on at the end why your source is anonymous. Which sounds like it's a good idea, but what you wind up with is a lot of stories citing someone who says -- who asked to remain anonymous so that somebody wouldn't get mad at them or that so that somebody won't retaliate against them.

And this is ridiculous. There's absolutely no point to that.

KURTZ: Beth, a former Justice Department official named Thomas Tamm came out this week in "Newsweek" magazine as having been "The New York Times" confidential source in breaking that story about President Bush's domestic surveillance program. And that's the kind of story, I think, it's worth giving anonymity for, although it was very controversial at the time.

FOUHY: Oh, because that source is giving real information. That's news that the public deserves to know.

The distinction that I was making earlier and that you made, Howie, is you don't go and let some political operative go and be anonymous and slam a political opponent. That's not reporting. That's just opinion-mongering. Why protect that person?

KURTZ: I'm totally in agreement with that. It's a pet peeve of mine, and I'm glad you brought it up.

Mark Felt -- it's too bad that by the time we learned out that Mark Felt was Deep Throat, that he was in very poor health, in his 90s, and it was hard to have an intelligent discussion with him about all this.

All right.

When we come back, President Bush ducks in Iraq. Are journalists having little too much fun with that disturbing incident?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: In an instant, the video was inescapable. And the truth is, who had ever seen anything like it?

An Iraqi TV journalist -- and I use the term loosely -- firing his shoes at the head of the president of the United States? It was scary at first, and disturbing. How could this have happened?

And before long, it seemed like everyone on the airwaves was having fun with the incident.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN: Tonight, the shoe heard around the world.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS: President Bush has been on the defensive before press conferences, but nothing like this.

KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC: Those are the moves of an ex- cheerleader.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hey, that guy's got a great arm. The Red Sox could really use that guy.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: If I threw a shoe at you, would you be able to do this?

ALAN COLMES, FOX NEWS: I have ACLU lawyers.

HANNITY: Now, you've got to admit, that's a great duck.

COLMES: Look, the president's been ducking for eight years, so this is...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: S.E. Cupp, maybe it's me, but I just didn't find the incident as comical as it was being portrayed on the airwaves.

CUPP: No, I don't think it's funny either. But President Bush came out right after and he, himself, was sort of laughing and smirking about it. I think that gives the media a little bit of license.

Look, if this had happened just after 9/1 1, I think the tone would be much different. But it's the end of his term. He seems to be having an OK time with it. I'm going to laugh right along with him.

KURTZ: So you think he set the tone by making light of it, by dismissing it, by not appearing to be upset? He set the tone for the media coverage, in part?

CUPP: He wasn't at all upset. He was a little befuddled. He said, I have no ill will towards the guy. I don't know what his problem was." Yes, I think if he had been very serious about it, we would have been very serious.

KURTZ: Of course, Beth Fouhy, that video completely eclipsed the upbeat message that Bush was trying to send by making this secret trip to Iraq and later to Afghanistan.

FOUHY: Totally. It's the only thing anybody is going to remember about that entire visit. And it could have otherwise been a really great sendoff for the president to say, look, this country is much safer than it was, we're going to win. The whole message that he wants his presidency to be remembered for, and it's not going to be remembered for that for other reasons, but also because of this incident that happened on his last visit to that country, where he was basically told by a journalist, sorry, we're not buying what you're selling.

KURTZ: Condoleezza Rice was on television this morning saying -- criticizing the coverage as only focusing on that moment. But, of course, it was newsworthy in the sense that it was just so bizarre.

Now, I got flack, Michelle Cottle, during an online chat from some Bush haters who said I shouldn't criticize the Iraqi TV guy as not really being a journalist. I think at that moment he stopped being a journalist.

Would the reaction have been any different from some liberals, say, if it had been President Obama who was ducking the shoes?

COTTLE: Well, I don't know. I mean, I think part of this is just, it's shoes. And I understand it has a cultural resonance in different places. But here...

KURTZ: It's a huge insult in the Arab world.

COTTLE: Yes. In the Arab world, I understand it has a resonance. Here, it smacks like a domestic dispute, where some woman hurls her bedroom shoe at her husband's head.

So I think it's more that Bush ducked, you know, which everybody could talk about. Ooh, great reflexes. He treated it lightly. It was shoe than anything having to do with actual feelings about one president or the other.

KURTZ: But what if he hadn't completely and successfully ducked? What if it had hit him?

COTTLE: Well, then the coverage would have been different. By the time we knew about this, Bush had done an impressive maneuver. You know, so you can joke about it and he could laugh about it. You know, if he had gotten smacked in the head and we had a nosebleed, it would have been completely different.

KURTZ: I hear some laughing in New York.

But, you know, it was also treated as a metaphor for, you know, criticism of the president and the failure of his Iraq policy, even though obviously under the Saddam regime, anybody who had pulled such a stunt would have already been executed, right?

Beth? S.E.?

FOUHY: Yes, sure. I mean, it was a total metaphor and it was -- again, it's the repudiation in a very culturally significant way of throwing of shoes in the Arab world that he is not being remembered that fondly by many people in this country. And the fact that the shoe thrower was held in jail and became a martyr, and suddenly thousands of people were seen on television screens across the world supporting that guy for what he did, also doesn't help the president's image either.

KURTZ: S.E., do you agree with Condi Rice that, in her view, the media shouldn't have focused on this that much, or that shouldn't have been the headline of the trip?

CUPP: Well, unfortunately, they don't really get to decide what the media focuses on. But I do have to take issue.

I think this is one journalist. Keith Olbermann is not representative, for example, of what the media thinks of President Bush. And what he says is not entirely representative, even if it is maybe a majority opinion.

KURTZ: Right.

CUPP: So I don't think that this one guy...

KURTZ: We have to be cautious about over interpreting.

CUPP: Exactly. I don't think he speaks for everyone.

KURTZ: All right. OK. We've got to go.

S.E. Cupp, Beth Fouhy in New York, Michelle Cottle, thanks very much for joining us this morning.

Coming up in the second half of RELIABLE SOURCES, Whoopi Goldberg on whether "The View" was soft on Obama and tough on McCain, and her contention that erroneous press reports put a big dent in her career.

Plus, why journalists can't stop panting over a certain magazine cover.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: I've always been curious to meet Whoopi Goldberg. Here's an actress who starred in such films as "The Color Purple," "Sister Act," and "Ghost." A controversial figure with no shortage of opinions, and a woman who has reinvented herself over the last year and a half as moderator of "The View."

So, after I chided the daytime show for its campaign coverage last month, Whoopi sent me a note and I sent her a note, and that led to an invitation to appear on this program.

I sat down with her in New York.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KURTZ: Whoopi Goldberg, welcome.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG, "THE VIEW": Welcome. Thank you.

KURTZ: Now, you are a tremendously successful actress. You've won an Oscar, an Emmy, a Grammy, a Tony, but much more important, you've been the center square on "Hollywood Squares."

What made you want to join "The View" and spend part of your time arguing about politics?

GOLDBERG: They asked me. I mean, it was that simple. Someone said, "Would you like to do this?" And I thought, well, this could be fun because I thought it was going to be an interesting couple of years. So I said sure.

KURTZ: Do you like to argue about politics?

GOLDBERG: Well, I don't like to argue. I like to talk about stuff. I like to have lots of great discussions. And better they should pay me well and do it on television.

KURTZ: Is your role as the moderator to stir things up or calm them down?

GOLDBERG: I think it's just to keep everything sort of in some sort of balance. Not whether one is right or wrong, but just to not go off in 40 million different directions, to try to keep it in one area.

KURTZ: Speaking of balance, it often seems like it's much of the gang against Elisabeth Hasselbeck. Should there be another conservative on the show?

GOLDBERG: I don't know. I don't know if there should be -- I think Sheri is sort of leaning -- she leans form side to side, which I think most of us actually do.

KURTZ: Sheri Shepherd.

GOLDBERG: Yes. I don't think most of us are one thing or another, I think we all find ideas in both parties to talk about. But there is no third party to sort of be those people that blend. So, no, I don't think we need another conservative, though I'm sure the conservatives would think so.

KURTZ: I'm sure that a few of them have made that observation.

GOLDBERG: I'm sure.

KURTZ: Let's talk about the presidential campaign. You and I got into it on the air a little bit when I said I thought "The View" had been tougher on John McCain than Barack Obama.

GOLDBERG: Right.

KURTZ: And you made the point that when Obama came on, it was back in the primaries. That's when Barbara Walters called him sexy.

GOLDBERG: Right.

KURTZ: And when McCain got more of a grilling, it was during the general election.

GOLDBERG: Right. We called him sexy, too, actually.

KURTZ: I missed that.

GOLDBERG: "Johnny Mac," I called.

KURTZ: Why didn't Obama come back? Obviously "The View" invited him. Were you miffed by that?

GOLDBERG: No. I was a little disappointed, because I thought this is a good place to come. And, you know, for whatever reason, maybe they just -- they haven't had a lot of time to get their act together, so maybe it just wasn't a good time. Because I haven't seen them go on very many shows. I've seen them get satellited in...

KURTZ: Yes.

GOLDBERG: Or satellit (ph). Satellited in, but I haven't seen him appear anywhere.

KURTZ: He went on "Meet the Press," he went on "60 Minutes."

GOLDBERG: Yes, but that's a different kind of -- you know, now you're the president, you've got to look like you have a little more than when you're with us, I guess.

KURTZ: I see. All right.

Now, when McCain did come on, you made some remarks that got widely picked up. I want to play the clip for the audience.

GOLDBERG: Yes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE VIEW")

GOLDBERG: Did you say you wanted strict constitutionalists? Because that...

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) AZ: No, I want people who interpret the Constitution of the United States the way our founding fathers envisioned for them to do.

GOLDBERG: Should I be worried about being a slave, being returned to slavery? Because certain things happened in the Constitution that you had to change.

(END VIDEO CLIP, "THE VIEW")

GOLDBERG: I thought that was reasonable.

KURTZ: But were you surprised that it got so much attention, as if you were saying to John McCain, am I going to be a slave again under your administration?

GOLDBERG: Well, I am used to the fact that people only half hear things. And if they had been listening, they would have heard me say to him, because if you were going to say you wanted strictly by the Constitution, it has to be a fluid thing, because we'd still -- I'd be working for somebody right now.

But a lot of people missed that and say, oh, you don't know anything about the Constitution. I said, "Actually, you should read it. It's got some interesting things in it." But no, it doesn't surprise me anymore. I mean, that's one of the reasons you're doing RELIABLE SOURCES, isn't it? So that there is some way for people to say, actually, if you had listened, this is what was said?

KURTZ: I get this too, sometimes. People say, you accused somebody of doing something, and fortunately we have these things called transcripts and videotape, and you can say, well, it wasn't quite the way I put it.

GOLDBERG: Yes.

KURTZ: All right.

Now, the consensus seems to be that at least during the presidential campaign, the press was somewhere between pretty nice to Barack Obama and getting the pom-pons out. Do you think that is -- the press is still being nice to the president-elect, or is this starting to change with this Rod Blagojevich scandal?

GOLDBERG: Well, I don't think they have been -- I don't think they were nicer to one or the other. I think they were all really rotten to Hillary Clinton. You know, that was pretty much all (INAUDIBLE).

But, you know, when they were going after him about Reverend Wright, it didn't seem very nice. And there were a lot of issues that people didn't like. They were curious about it, they wanted information out, and they dug and they dug and they dug. And you know, after two years, at some point you've got to go, you know what? You're not so bad.

You know, if this had been a shorter amount of time, I don't know.

KURTZ: You don't agree that overall -- I mean, I'm thinking about Barack Obama being repeatedly -- I mean, he was on every entertainment show, he was on every magazine cover, much more than John McCain. You don't think that he got gentler treatment than John McCain?

GOLDBERG: No, I don't think he got gentler treatment.

KURTZ: You really don't?

GOLDBERG: I think that he was more popular. I mean, that's the bottom line. You know, the difference...

KURTZ: But maybe that's because the press helped build him up.

GOLDBERG: No, it's because the people he was appealing to wanted to see him in a different arena than they wanted to see John McCain. You know, I love John McCain. I've liked him for many, many years. But the truth of the matter is, if you're not reaching out to kids and college kids, and you're not talking to them in the way they that recognize, they don't see you. They don't really see you. And I think that Barack Obama did something that Bill Clinton began. And then we saw Joe -- not Joe Biden. Who was the head of the DNC?

KURTZ: Howard Dean.

GOLDBERG: Howard Dean -- what Howard Dean did brilliantly, and Barack Obama took it and took it to the next level. You will remember Howard Dean was everywhere, too, because he was talking to young people.

KURTZ: Right now, are journalists being fair to Obama in raising these questions about Obama and his Chicago inner circle and the governor of Illinois, who obviously likes to talk a lot about bleeps on wiretapped conversations?

GOLDBERG: Right.

Well, I would think that with all the tapes that they have, if you don't hear him calling the man, I don't know why you -- if you don't hear Barack Obama on the phone with the dude, it's possible he did not have the conversation. Now, did other people talk? You know, I'm sure.

People said, oh, so what's he going to do? I don't know, he's probably talking to the guy. I don't know.

KURTZ: Is it fair for journalists to ask these questions?

GOLDBERG: I think they should ask the questions, but I will say that yesterday CNN did a -- not yesterday, but during the week CNN did an interesting thing. It was -- they showed a journalist talking to him after he had talked to some little kids. And again, the journalists brought up the Blagojevich situation and he said, you know, I'm not talking about it.

Now, if Patrick Kennedy (sic) said no discussion about it...

KURTZ: Patrick Fitzgerald, the U.S. attorney.

GOLDBERG: Why do I have Patrick Kennedy in my head?

KURTZ: These Kennedys have been much in the news.

GOLDBERG: Oh my gosh, yes. Patrick Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald, Kennedy -- hello?

Patrick Fitzgerald says this is not to be discussed, you kind of have to give the guy a little props and say, OK, I'm not going to do it until you tell me it's OK. But I could be wrong.

KURTZ: You seem to have a talent for attracting controversy. But your first day on "The View," if I'm correct, last year, when you talked about Michael Vick and the dogfighting charges, and you said that this was not unusual in the Deep South... GOLDBERG: Well, I said it wasn't unusual in the dogfighting culture. They thought because I said there are places in the country like in the Deep South, in Brooklyn, there are a lot of places where dogfighting happens. But it's not culture of what color your skin is, it's the mentality.

It's like racism is a culture, dogfighting is a culture. Sexism oftentimes is a culture if you've just been raised and you're supposed to be a woman who does nothing but subservient. It's a culture.

KURTZ: Did you feel you got unfairly pilloried on that whole Michael Vick episode?

GOLDBERG: No. You know, it's like a lot of things.

I think a little bit differently, and I saw a brilliant thing on HBO about this very thing. And I thought, oh, you know what? I didn't know that dogfighting was as prevalent in the United States as it is. And if you are someone who grew up in this mindset, it would not be unusual and you would not be somebody who thought, oh, cute little puppy. That's not the way he was raised.

KURTZ: Is there room in the media culture for somebody who thinks a little bit differently, or do you find that the media kind of pounce on these incidents and pump them up and distort them, and the original meaning of what you tried to say sometimes is lost?

GOLDBERG: Well, I mean, that's been -- for the last, you know, 10 years that's been happening. And specifically the last eight, where you couldn't say anything without getting a lot of garbage for it. You know, people got very mad when a lot of folks spoke out whether they were speaking out about Cuba or they were speaking out about things that were going on in Iraq. You know, people didn't want to hear that.

And so it's like, oh, who are you are as an entertainer to speak about these things? And the bottom line is we're Americans and citizens.

KURTZ: Do you feel pressure to tone it down a little?

GOLDBERG: Me?

KURTZ: Yes.

GOLDBERG: No. No. I got into a lot of trouble, unnecessarily, for something I supposedly said but nobody could ever find.

KURTZ: And that is?

GOLDBERG: Well, you know, I did a benefit and got into a lot of trouble.

KURTZ: Was this the 2004 John Kerry fund-raiser?

GOLDBERG: Mm-hmm. KURTZ: OK. And it was widely reported that you told a joke about Bush, it was a play on his name.

GOLDBERG: Right. But did you ever see the joke right after?

KURTZ: No. I've read 50 articles about it.

GOLDBERG: Right. But you never saw what I said.

KURTZ: Right.

GOLDBERG: Yes.

KURTZ: Is that because you said something different or you didn't tell this joke?

GOLDBERG: I don't know what joke they're talking about.

KURTZ: It's a play on Bush's name that supposedly made a reference to genitalia.

GOLDBERG: And I'm the first person who ever made that reference?

KURTZ: Probably not.

GOLDBERG: So why suddenly during an election year would it take on this meaning and why wouldn't you, if there was something to really write about, why wouldn't you do dots and dashes like they do when there's a bad word said? Why couldn't you refer to what it was? Because nobody knew what it was because it didn't happen the way they said it.

KURTZ: But supposedly, allegedly, reportedly, as a result you lost a contract.

(CROSSTALK)

GOLDBERG: Yes. I lost quite a few gigs.

KURTZ: Go ahead.

GOLDBERG: People didn't care whether it was true or not. That's one of the reasons I like your show.

KURTZ: Well, I'm glad to hear that.

When you say people, do you mean the general public, do you mean journalists who write about this?

GOLDBERG: Yes. I think journalists and the general public for a while there didn't care if it was true. All you had to do was...

KURTZ: Because it was so juicy?

GOLDBERG: Yes. You just had to put it out. And no one ever fact-checked, no one ever saw it, nobody ever said... KURTZ: We'll call you, or call your spokesman and say, by the way, is this the way it went it down?

GOLDBERG: No. They already did it. After everything was taken, then they wanted to know what it was.

KURTZ: Ah. I see. All right.

GOLDBERG: And it cost me a good three, four years of work.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KURTZ: After the break, more of my sit-down with Whoopi Goldberg on the sensitive subject of race and the media.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: More now of my interview in New York with Whoopi Goldberg.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KURTZ: Earlier this year, as you'll recall, Jesse Jackson was caught on a microphone off camera making some disparaging remarks about Obama. He wanted to slice a certain part of his anatomy off, and using the "N" word.

Now, you talked about this on "The View." And let me play that for the viewers and we'll talk about it on the other side.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE VIEW")

GOLDBERG: I need you to understand there's the frustration that goes along when you say we live in the same world. It isn't balanced, and we would like it to be, but you have to understand, you have to listen to the fact that we're telling you there are issues, there are huge problems that still affect us. And you've got to know this if you want...

ELISABETH HASSELBECK, CO-HOST: I understand that. In the pop culture, when that word is used, when -- this is upsetting to me.

(END VIDEO CLIP, "THE VIEW")

KURTZ: Were you saying that it is OK in some contexts to use that word, or that the word has become radioactive because we all treat it that way?

GOLDBERG: Well, I was simply saying -- well, that wasn't in reference to the word, that was -- that whole exchange was in reference to you have to know why we're talking about -- I think Jeremiah Wright -- why he is angry. You have to understand the history from his point of view. Here is a man that comes -- you know, who is born here and until '68 doesn't have the right to vote all over the country.

You know, people are still angry. You know, there is a certain generation that's pissed off.

There's a certain generation of folks who don't recognize that word the same way Jeremiah Wright's age group does. And they've taken that word and made it into something totally different. And my point has always been, if it can stop you, if it's a word that can stop you if you ever thought you were one or you think you might be one or you know one, maybe that is a word that's going to stop you, stop you in your tracks and put you off what you're going to do. But if you take that word and you take the crap out of it, then you can move on because it doesn't have any meaning.

KURTZ: In that taping did you use the "N" word?

GOLDBERG: Oh, probably.

KURTZ: Was it cut out?

GOLDBERG: Probably.

KURTZ: Did that bother you?

GOLDBERG: Well, I found it interesting, because suddenly now, when you watch "Roots," "beep, beep, beep," that's all you hear. Anything that has the word in it, whether it's...

KURTZ: Even in a historical context.

GOLDBERG: ... in a historical context, it's ridiculous.

KURTZ: So that is a whitewashing of history, in your view?

GOLDBERG: I think so. You know.

KURTZ: The number of African-Americans hosting primetime cable shows right now, zero. The number of African-Americans hosting Sunday morning talk shows, zero. Number covering the White House, a few.

How can that be justified?

GOLDBERG: That's a question for CNN and all the cable folks. You know?

KURTZ: Do you think it is a sad state of affairs?

GOLDBERG: No, it seems quite status quo to me.

KURTZ: It's kind of the way it's always been done.

GOLDBERG: Yes.

KURTZ: I mean, clearly, there are more blacks in journalism now. And some of whom are in impressive positions.

GOLDBERG: Yes, absolutely. But look at how freaked out people get when Obama is picking a lot of folks of different ethnic backgrounds that he's been surrounded with. The cabinet that he's picking, the folks that he's picking, when you put them all in one picture, that's the way it's supposed to look. It's supposed to be white people and Asian people and Spanish people and people who are good at basketball and people who are not.

There is supposed to be a whole group. Maybe he will inspire somebody to say, you know what? I'm looking around and we could use some more folks in this room.

KURTZ: He made a joke this week about picking the best basketball-playing cabinet in the history of America.

I've got a few seconds left here. I read an interview in which you said that you, Whoopi Goldberg, are shy.

GOLDBERG: Yes.

KURTZ: Come on. You don't seem shy to me.

GOLDBERG: I know, but I'm on TV and I know I have a job to do.

KURTZ: And in your private life?

GOLDBERG: I don't go out, I'm not a big party person. I don't -- I'm just kind of boring.

KURTZ: Well, you have not been boring here today.

GOLDBERG: I'm glad.

KURTZ: Thank you so much for coming on.

GOLDBERG: It's a pleasure. I really do love this show.

KURTZ: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KURTZ: Still to come, the naked truth. Some thoughts on Jennifer Aniston.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: One thing clear at the outset, I am not trying to get ratings by talking about Jennifer Aniston naked. I am trying to make a serious point.

OK. I'm going to show you this picture once and that's it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KURTZ (voice-over): But there are shows that simply love to take about Jennifer Aniston naked. So, when the one-time "Friends" star with the girl next door image posed for "GQ" wearing nothing but a tie, they got their wish. A.J. HAMMER, HEADLINE NEWS: Tonight, there is a great debate over what Aniston did. Should she have done it? Did she go too far? Or is this thing just a homerun?

WILLIE GEIST, MSNBC: This is the new issue of "Gentlemen's Quarterly."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK.

JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC: It's 7:00, top of the hour. Welcome to "Morning Joe."

GEIST: It gets better inside, friends.

MATT LAUER, NBC: Check out these new pictures of Jennifer Aniston in the latest issue of "GQ" magazine. She's wearing a tie.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's beautiful.

LAUER: She is. She's 39 years old, going to turn 40 in February. But the pictures are -- can we show the pictures again? I was kidding.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's got nothing to hide. There we go.

LAUER: The other one is what I meant. No, I'm kidding.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let's just move on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Matt says he was kidding, but I'm not going to play the game of constantly showing Jennifer's naked pictures so you'll keep watching, though it's hard to resist.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS: Number one, I don't care about this. It don't matter to me. But is that a smart thing to do in our culture? Is that going to help Jennifer Aniston?

MONICA CROWLEY, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: She's gorgeous. She looks fabulous. This is also not the first time she's taken it off for a magazine cover.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: So I've made my point. You don't need to perpetually pander to discuss this issue. Was this a desperate bid for attention by a fading star, or an active liberation for a woman who is -- hey, cut that out! Come on! Come on! Bring me back!

I mean, enough already. So it's Jennifer Aniston naked. It's time to move on, right? Right?

That's it for this edition of RELIABLE SOURCES. I'm Howard Kurtz.

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

Home  |  Asia  |  Europe  |  U.S.  |  World  |  World Business  |  Technology  |  Entertainment  |  World Sport  |  Travel
Podcasts  |  Blogs  |  CNN Mobile  |  RSS Feeds  |  Email Alerts  |  CNN Radio  |  Site Map
© 2009 Cable News Network. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.