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STATE OF THE UNION WITH JOHN KING
State of the Union: Reliable Sources
Aired March 29, 2009 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN KING, HOST: And time this hour, as we do every Sunday, to hand off to my partner, Howie Kurtz and his "RELIABLE SOURCES."
And as I do so, Howie, we've talked almost every week about what a difficult time it is in the print industry. And this is not a laughing matter, but it is a comic book cover, even "Brenda Starr," it appears, facing the pressure on the print side of the business.
HOWARD KURTZ, CNN ANCHOR: Some of my younger producers weren't sure who Brenda Starr is, she's sort of a newspaper version of Lois Lane.
You know, this week, John, The New York Times ordering 100 layoffs, 5 percent pay cuts for everybody else. My newspaper, The Washington Post, offering their second round of early retirement buyouts to those over 50. A very tough time. I sometimes feel like I'm covering the steel industry in the '70s. And the news has not gotten good.
KURTZ: We'll talk to you a little bit later in the program.
KING: Take care, Howie.
KURTZ: All right.
Now we want to go out to North Dakota. You're all aware of the situation there with the flooding. And we want to -- although the levees have held so far, and the Red River seems to have crested, it is still high, but the situation remains serious.
We want talk now to Mike Jacobs. He is the editor and publisher of the "Grand Forks Herald," joining us by phone from North Dakota.
Good morning, Mike Jacobs.
What's been the challenge of covering this fast-moving story that touches just about everyone in your community?
MIKE JACOBS, EDITOR & PUBLISHER, "GRAND FORKS HERALD": This has been extraordinary, of course, because the flood came at us so very rapidly. And the weather has been so very nasty. So we've had -- we've had the unusual combination of flooding and blizzard conditions at the same time, particularly in Fargo, where, as you know, the flood fight has been desperate.
This morning, it looks -- the news is good this morning both in Fargo and Grand Forks. So our level of confidence is going up, but we're still -- confidence is up, but complacency is not. We're watching the river very closely.
KURTZ: This is not the first time you've been through this. Your newspaper won a Pulitzer Prize back in 1997 for covering the devastating flood that year.
How difficult was it to keep the paper afloat, so to speak, when your own building was damaged? We're seeing it right now.
JACOBS: Well, it was a huge challenge. And we're very proud that we were able to do it, but what it really taught us is the incredible importance of information in a time of crisis, and the incredible power of the newspaper to reach out to people and bring them together in ways that we sort of imagined, but had never really experienced. And I think that's the great lesson from the flood of '97 for me, particularly as we look at the state of newspaper business. KURTZ: Right. Now, going through that flood, which hurt so many in the community, where I think 11 downtown buildings, including your newspaper office, were damaged, did that change the nature, the mission of the "Grand Forks Herald" and the way you approach your job?
JACOBS: I think so. We became, I think, more tightly bonded with the community.
You know, The Herald is a community newspaper, and has been for 130 years. But that sort of experience just fuses that in a way that I had never experienced before, and that I actually find a little bit hard to communicate.
I think we have a different appreciation for the challenges of civic leaders, and a different appreciation for the challenges of various businesses, media businesses, of course, but construction businesses, the post office. I mean, everybody is suddenly put into a real state of extremis, and you learn a lot about one another and about yourselves, and it's life changing.
KURTZ: All right. Well, Mike Jacobs, best of luck with battling those floodwaters and covering the story. Appreciate your calling in this morning from North Dakota.
JACOBS: You bet. Thank you for your concern.
KURTZ: All right.
Ahead, we'll talk to Gloria Allred about her role in the never ending Octomom saga, how a confrontation she had at the mother's home became fodder for the "Dr. Phil Show" this week, and whether the media are inflaming an already difficult situation there.
But first, I posed the question several time last year: If Barack Obama won, would the press get tougher on him than it was during the campaign? And this week, we got the answer.
Certainly, the coverage has been turning more skeptical as President Obama has struggled with botched nominations, the banking bailout, the AIG bonus fiasco, and a huge budget plan that even some Democrats are finding hard to swallow. "The Audacity of Hope" has turned to the gritty reality of governing. And when Obama held his second prime-time news conference this week, the assembled reporters had no shortage of targets to fire upon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS: Some of your programs, whether for Main Street or Wall Street, have actually cushioned the blow for those that were irresponsible.
ED HENRY, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Do you worry, though, that your daughters, not to mention the next president, will be inheriting an even bigger fiscal mess if the spending goes out of control?
On AIG, why did you wait days to come out and express that out rage?
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It took us a couple of days because I like to know what I'm talking about before I speak.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: So, is the media honeymoon over? Were the reporters fair? And what was up with Obama stiffing the big national papers?
Joining us, Ann Compton, White House correspondent for ABC News Radio; Kevin Chappell, senior editor for "Ebony" magazine; and Chip Reid, White House correspondent for CBS News.
All right, Chip. Didn't that news conference reflect a sense in the press corps two months in that it is time to start pinning down this president?
CHIP REID, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, CBS NEWS: Yes, I think that over the last week or two, people have started to realize that things are -- have gone awry in some ways. That not everything is on track, and that pleasant conversation that we have in the briefing room with Robert Gibbs every day needs to get stirred up a bit, and people need to hold his feet to the fire a bit more. And I think that that translated to the president in this press conference. And I think people are now in full reporter mode, where there's no honeymoon, it's just get the story.
KURTZ: Ann Compton, you remember during the campaign, there was that "Saturday Night Live" skit where reporters s were offering Obama a pillow, and then during the transition, the news magazines were dueling over whether he was more like FDR or Lincoln. Are journalists now trying to dispel a perception, unfair or fair, that they're inclined to go a bit easy on Barack Obama?
ANN COMPTON, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, ABC NEWS RADIO: Well, I don't know that we're doing a very good job of it, but it's more, Howie. The president now is facing an economic catastrophe. We are not covering a lot of the side issues that I think we ordinarily would be. There is an absolute mandate that the president do something, and he's now got to defend what he's done in the first 69 days.
KURTZ: Is there also perception, Kevin Chappell, that the African-American press functions as a kind of cheering squad for Obama? I mean, "Ebony" magazine named him the Man of the Year and also one of the 25 Coolest Brothers of the Year.
KEVIN CHAPPELL, SR. EDITOR, "EBONY": No, no. If that is the perception, it's not correct, because we ask the tough questions. And as more issues are on the table, there are more issues to talk about. And the black media, just like the mainstream media, will ask those tough questions.
KURTZ: Well, you got a chance this week to ask the president a question.
Let's roll Kevin Chappell to the president of the United States in the East Room.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHAPPELL: A recent report found that as a result of the economic downturn, one in 50 children are now homeless in America.
What would you say to these families, especially children, who are sleeping under bridges and in tents across the country?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Now, I looked up that report by the National Center for Family Homelessness, which obviously is an advocacy organization, and their definition of homelessness also included kids living in motels and shelters, trailer parks, doubling up with other people.
Do you think in retrospect you should have qualified a little more the way you recited those statistics?
CHAPPELL: Well, I believe that the president answered the question perfectly. If any children are homeless, that's a problem. And the...
KURTZ: But homeless doesn't necessarily mean not having a roof over your head.
CHAPPELL: Right. But if you're in a motel, if you're living in a car, or if you're doubling up in someone's home, I say you're homeless. You need a stable home environment, and that's what the report showed.
KURTZ: Chip Reid, we saw CNN's Ed Henry getting slapped down by the president, as he put it, with that answer about, "I like to know what I'm talking about." You also had a chance to question the president.
Let's take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Some Republicans called your budget, with all the spending on health care, education and environment, the most irresponsible budget in American history. Isn't that kind of debt exactly what you were talking about when you said passing on our problems to the next generation?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Most irresponsible budget in American history, say some Republicans.
Were you trying to provoke him a little bit, maybe get him off the script?
REID: Sure. That's part of what we do. And at one point, during the follow-up question, he did say, look, I'm not going to lie to you, this is going to be really tough. And I think we did get him a little bit off script there, but certainly, you do want to get him away from the talking points, because he is a master of turning whatever question is asked of him into simply a recitation of his talking points, and part of our job is to try to get him off of that.
KURTZ: And that doesn't make news if he repeats the same thing he said seven times before.
REID: Well, exactly. And I'm not trying to provoke him in a way that gets him angry, but I am trying to provoke him in a way to talk about things in a way that he might not have planned when he walked into that room.
KURTZ: And Ann Compton, we're going to roll one from you as well, a question that maybe surprised some people because it's an issue that hasn't quite been at the top of the media radar screen.
Let's take a look at that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COMPTON: Yours is a rather historic presidency, and I'm just wondering whether in any of the policy debates that you've had within the White House, the issue of race has come up, or whether it has in the way you feel you've been perceived by other leaders or by the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: It's interesting, because for all of the hoopla about the historic nature of Barack Obama's election, I think right now people are thinking of him more as a president, they want to see whether he can solve these problems, rather than he's an African-American president.
What prompted you to ask that question? COMPTON: Well, because it was two months into his administration, because we hadn't said anything about race. I thought it might catch him a little off guard, so I started by saying, "May I ask you about race?" figuring if he said no, I'd have an even better question.
KURTZ: He couldn't say no.
COMPTON: But I was prompted somewhat by Kevin. The report on homelessness cuts across all sorts of lines, but a lot of black journalists have come up to me since then and said, look, he didn't go far enough in saying the economy cuts are disproportionately on blacks and minorities. So I wasn't trying to provoke a big debate, but I did think to get him on the record two months into his administration was important.
KURTZ: Kevin Chappell, can this be a colorblind presidency? Will the media allow that?
CHAPPELL: I think so. I think so.
It's going to take some time. This is a New day in America, and I think as far as our readers are concerned, we're looking past race.
We're looking at the issues that affect our community -- the jobless -- unemployment rate. As I mentioned, the homeless situation. So we are looking past race, and I think the country will move toward that.
Chip Reid, it may be that only people inside the beltway bubble care about this, but I couldn't help but notice that the president did not call on "The New York Times" or the "Los Angeles Times" or "The Washington Post," the "L.A. Times," "Chicago Tribune," "Wall Street Journal," "USA Today," while he did call on some other folks, like Kevin, that maybe don't ordinarily get to ask a question.
Was that a bit of a brushback pitch, kind of sending a message?
REID: It may have been. I don't know. I haven't really reported on that issue. I haven't gone behind the scenes to try to find out why they did that.
But I thought one interesting consequence of it was that you had these fascinating questions from Ann and Kevin. I thought they were just fantastic questions and caught him a little bit off guard.
KURTZ: Questions that weren't about inside the political process, as sometimes we tend to do.
REID: Exactly. And I think we lost some important questions, too. I think because they did not call on the mainstream newspapers, we didn't get a big question about Afghanistan. There wasn't a lot of talk about foreign policy and the coming G-20 and things like that. And I think you would have had more mainstream questions, but you wouldn't have had these breaths of fresh air that you got from Kevin asking about homelessness.
KURTZ: And "The Washington Times" asked about the president's stem-cell decision, which is an issue that's been very controversial, that I was surprised hasn't gotten more coverage. He did call on "Stars and Stripes," Agence France-Presse, Politico.com. At the last news conference, it was Huffington Post.
Is Barack Obama creating a new media pecking order here?
COMPTON: Well, and look at where he sits them in the East Room -- the front row, often populated by people who are not getting questions, but they are getting a front row seat to history. I think it's really, really refreshing to get other voices who are not in that White House briefing room every day. The time may come when he won't call on all five television reporters. I don't know how he's going to make that cut. And by the way, Howie, he does not know our questions in advance.
KURTZ: Sometimes, not at this news conference, reporters are told in advance that they may get a question. But of course...
COMPTON: Not on a major news conference. I want to really make that clear.
I didn't know I was going to get called on. In fact, he said, "Are you surprised?" I was surprised because no newspaper had been called on.
COMPTON: I thought he'll never get to me. But we would never share our questions with the White House in advance either.
KURTZ: And "Ebony" magazine has never been called on before.
Did you go to President Bush's news conferences/ And did you have any hope of being recognized at those?
CHAPPELL: Yes. Yes. I mean, I've been at those press conferences, but never thought that we would get a chance to be in the spotlight, and President Obama gave us that chance.
KURTZ: Right. And certainly it's a welcome spotlight, I think. And as you say, mixing it up a little bit, spreading it around.
When we come back, we will talk about Vice President Biden. Haven't heard a lot from him publicly lately, but this morning he's getting some media attention.
We'll tell you where. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
KURTZ: Vice President Biden playing a rather low-profile role in this Obama administration, but here he is this morning on the front page of "The New York Times," if we can put that up. He doesn't give an interview for this story that says he's finding an influential role, but guess who was trotted out to speak for his vice president? Barack Obama quoted as saying, as a basketball fan -- makes a basketball analogy -- that Biden does a bunch of thing that don't show up in the stat sheet. "He gets that extra rebound, takes the charge, makes that extra pass."
Chuck Reid, you worked for Biden about 20 years ago. This is the kind of story that an administration cooperates with if they want to send a message. True or false?
REID: Absolutely. I think they are trying to send a message that -- you know, he said early on, I want to be the last guy in the room when the big decisions are made. I'm not sure he always is, but he certainly is one of the two or three last people in the room on everything, from the middle class task force to the stimulus, to foreign policy. He has his fingerprints all over...
KURTZ: That's great. But reporters liked him better when he was popping off in front of the cameras.
KURTZ: And he hasn't done much of...
COMPTON: Howie, I would say he's been very, very controlled and predictable, but that won't necessarily last.
KURTZ: Not that easy to get the president to give an interview for your story, unless you're talking about something he wants to talk about, right? In this case it's Biden.
CHAPPELL: Exactly. And the president has full trust in Biden. And I think he shows it.
KURTZ: Well, if he comes on the phone to talk about his vice president, I think it does send a pretty clear message.
Now, we've talked on this program about the 2,000-point slide in the Dow after Obama took office and whether or not the president should be blamed or held accountable for the problems on Wall Street. And there was a lot of chatter, particularly on Fox News, about that.
This week, Tim Geithner, the treasury secretary, on Monday unveiled the details of the bank bailout plan, the market shot up 500 points. Overall, it's gone up about 20 percent since hitting bottom a few weeks ago, but the president hasn't really been getting full credit for that.
Here's what they've been saying over at Fox News.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: Secretary Geithner finally introduced his bank rescue plan today and was greeted with a mixed reaction.
BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS: You took your shot, Mr. President. Now you have to restore confidence before launching into anymore expensive programs. Get the economy right, then we'll talk.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: A mixed reaction? The market went up 500 points that day.
COMPTON: You know, this is the old Ari Fleischer rule. He used to tell us, every time the president went down in the polls, it was banner headlines, and when he went up, nobody paid any attention. The market's something of the same for President Obama.
KURTZ: But is it fair to hold the president accountable over time if the market is doing well or not doing well? Not -- I always object when I see it on any particular day. But over time, doesn't that reflect something about the health of the economy?
CHAPPELL: I think it's fair. It's fair. The daily gyrations of the market, maybe not, but over time, you look to the president and his policies to kind of guide the market. And if the market's up, the president should get credit.
KURTZ: But if the president -- if pundits are going to beat up on President Obama when the market is sliding, don't they have some responsibility to say, hey, it's not doing so badly right now, it's made a bit of a comeback?
REID: Absolutely, which is why I think it's wrong to do either. I mean, I agree with you, I think it's silly to jump all over a one- day increase or decrease in the market. Don't forget TARP, the first TARP, the first bank bailout plan. The market shot upwards and now look at where we are on that.
KURTZ: And then we all lost money in our 401(k)s.
KURTZ: And on any given day, people attribute, well, the market did this because the White House -- because business leaders went to the White House...
REID: And these guys are not oracles. You know? They are just responding to a million different stimuli here on deciding whether to buy, whether to sell, whether the market goes up or goes down. KURTZ: Right.
REID: It really is -- we criticize the market for having such a short-term outlook, and then we do the same thing when we judge politics by how the market is responding.
KURTZ: You have called us on it.
All right. Chip Reid, Kevin Chappell, Ann Compton, thanks very much for joining us this morning.
Coming up on the second half of RELIABLE SOURCES, Dr. Phil backing away from Octomom. We'll ask Gloria Allred about the role that she and the talk show host are playing in the Nadya Suleman saga, which has become such a media circus.
Plus, former Bush counselor Ed Gillespie on why he thinks media bias has gotten far worse in recent years.
And asked and answered. Why do some high-profile reporters seem so interested in having viewers do their homework?
And in the next hour, from the president to the secretaries and treasuries of defense, they're all on the Sunday talk shows today. What did they say? What does it mean?
John King and CNN's political team will break it all down.
KING: I'm John King, and this is STATE OF THE UNION.
Here are stories breaking this Sunday morning.
More troops to Afghanistan. President Obama's new strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan is getting a vigorous defense this Sunday.
I talked last hour to General David Petraeus and Ambassador Richard Holbrooke. Ambassador Holbrooke says the people U.S. troops will be fighting in Afghanistan pose a direct threat to the United States, and he says they're certain they're planning another attack.
Police on alert across Europe. Tens of thousands of protesters marched in Berlin and other major European cities yesterday. They demanded more jobs, environmental accountability, and an end to poverty and inequality. These are the first of what's expected to be six days of protests and demonstrations all targeting this week's G-20 summit in London on the global economic crisis.
Kansas is digging out from a major snowstorm. More than two feet of snow buried parts of the state this weekend. Thousands of people still without power. Two deaths are being blamed on the storm. The governor has declared disaster emergencies in dozens of counties.
That and more ahead on STATE OF THE UNION.
Want to turn things back over to my partner, Howie Kurtz, of RELIABLE SOURCES.
And Howie, we saw the president with a virtual town hall this week, online from the White House. Maybe he'll Twitter the State of the Union Address.
KURTZ: He took about six questions, two of them on video.
And you know, John, every time I hear pundits say, well, the president is bypassing the mainstream media now, I want to throw something at the television set. I mean, yes, he's using his digital channels.
He has given interviews since the election to "The New York Times," "Washington Post," network anchors, regional reporters, columnists, black and Hispanic journalists, Jay Leno, and, of course, "60 Minutes." And just on Friday, he talked to CBS' Bob Schieffer.
So we can hardly argue that the president is ignoring those of us in the establishment press.
KING: You are dead right, Howie. He is, whether you like his policies or not politically, he's using every tool at his disposal.
KURTZ: And I guess John King was on that list, too, during the transition.
All right. We'll talk to you at the top of the hour, John.
And now, the Octomom saga, which has largely played out on one program. After Nadya Suleman gave birth to those eight babies, she appeared on "Dr. Phil."
Phil McGraw visited her at the hospital with cameras in tow, and he arranged for a group called Angels in Waiting to care for the babies, plus her six older kids, free of charge in Suleman's home. That didn't turn out so well.
One of the volunteers called Child Protective Services over the babies' treatment. Suleman kicked them out of her home. The Angels and their lawyer, Gloria Allred, wound up on Dr. Phil, who at least got a good show out of it, with Octomom calling in.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. PHIL MCGRAW, TALK SHOW HOST: There are a lot of concerns about the babies being exposed to media, as well as other things, which is why I'll just tell you right now, I have instructed my staff to withdraw from the situation at this point.
NADYA SULEMAN, MOTHER OF OCTUPLETS: I did feel like a stranger in my own home. I felt ostracized and I felt excluded.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Allred told Suleman's lawyer that she was appalled by what she saw at the home and the secrecy involved. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GLORIA ALLRED, ATTORNEY: ... who insist that all of the nurses, including Linda, sign a nondisclosure clause. That is what you want, is to shut it up so that the public doesn't know the possible danger to these infants and the other children. And that's wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: So, was Phil just foiled in a kindhearted attempt to help out a struggling mother, or is he exploiting the Octomom tale, like so many in the media?
Joining us now, attorney Gloria Allred, who is representing Angels in Waiting, and Ray Richmond, television writer for "The Hollywood Reporter."
Gloria Allred, I'm sorry I talked over your sound bite there. We had a little technical snafu.
We'll get to your role in just a moment, but what about Dr. Phil? He sort of took up the cause of these babies. He arranged for, as I said, the volunteers from Angels in Waiting to go. He sounded a little sheepish, maybe even a little chastened, about getting caught up into something that turned into such a media circus.
ALLRED: I think Dr. Phil did have an important role. He did arrange for Nadya and for Angels in Waiting, through me, to get together and to work together after we had made an offer without Dr. Phil that she had not yet accepted.
And so one of the conditions of the offer was complete transparency. That is, that we would be able to tell the public, through Linda West-Conforti, the founder of Angels in Waiting, a registered nurse, what was really going on.
And in fact, we have a signed consent from Nadya that Linda would be able to speak in order to engender confidence in the public as to what was really going on, so that they would know that if they donated, that there would be accountability and transparency. And then...
KURTZ: We'll get to some of those...
ALLRED: ... of course, her attorney decided not to do that, to withdraw (ph) the transparency. KURTZ: We're going to get to that, but I want to turn now to Ray Richmond and ask you this question -- Dr. Phil says, look, Nadya Suleman called him from the hospital. She wanted his help. She went on the show. He arranged for the nurses, as we've said.
Do you believe that he's concerned mainly with the welfare of the babies, or trying to score some exclusives for his program?
RAY RICHMOND, "THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER": Nobody is concerned here mostly (ph) for the welfare of the babies, Howard. This is -- the three of them together on that show is like a Bermuda Triangle of narcissism. It was this exploitation orgy that should be put out on a porn label.
I was appalled. I mean -- but it's typical. When Gloria gets involved in something, this is what happens. You wind up with a circus.
There's no such thing as the best interest of the children here. And I didn't realize that Gloria Allred was suddenly a baby advocate. You know, it sounds like she's going to start adopting orphans here. If she cares that much about the kids, why doesn't she support them herself, is my question.
KURTZ: Well, I think that is a little unfair.
But Gloria, I'm sure you would like to respond to that.
ALLRED: Well, I guess you're aware of my -- unaware of my advocacy for children and for women for the past 33 years...
RICHMOND: No, I'm aware of your advocacy of yourself, primarily. That appears to be your M.O.
ALLRED: OK. Well, you know, unfortunately, again, you're not aware of the record. I've even won an award from the White House for my work with children. And I'm sorry that you're so misinformed and that, instead of helping babies -- instead of helping women, you choose to take cheap shots at those of us who are trying to help.
RICHMOND: Cheap shots is your M.O.
KURTZ: Ray, I'll come back to you.
ALLRED: Well, in any event, what's important is that Angels in Waiting, my client, they are registered nurses and early intervention specialists. And they have won an award from Kaiser for their work. And they were there strictly to help Nadya succeed, to help her with her 14 children, not just the eight siblings. And it was a great disappointment to them that they were prevented from doing so.
KURTZ: Gloria Allred, I want to give you a chance to respond to something that was said on the programs this week, the Dr. Phil tapings, by the attorney for Nadya Suleman. This is Jeff Czech, and this is about a confrontation that you and he got into when you went to the home when the first two babies were brought home in Los Angeles. There were a lot of media and cameras there.
And let's listen to what he had to say, and you can respond on the other side.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFF CZECH, NADYA SULEMAN'S ATTORNEY: The long answer is, you started this whole thing negatively. And really, as a result of your negativism, as a result of your complaints, as a result of your hogging the media, trying to get in the limelight, quite frankly, Gloria, you are the reason AIW didn't succeed in this situation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: So he's saying you were part of the media problem here.
ALLRED: Well, I mean, Angels in Waiting, again, my client, these wonderful, pediatric intensive care insurances and educational consultants and others. They were very, very happy that I was involved. And their concern, again, was the best interest of these babies.
They've been dealing with medically fragile infants for so many years, especially those in foster care. And they really wanted to help. Because even Nadya said, on television, that she was not capable of caring for 14 children.
Also, her mother said that. And when her mother said that, and it was before Angels in Waiting contacted me, I quietly filed with Child Protective Services, asking them to investigate. And then they -- and that was a big concern, because, after all, who among us could care for 14 children?
KURTZ: Well, of course. But, look, you're a high-profile attorney. You attract cameras wherever you go. You held a news conference after that incident at the home.
You had to know you'd be something of a media magnate here.
ALLRED: Well, actually, I didn't. I went quietly. I didn't tell anyone that I was going to the home.
When I arrived, there were maybe 100 reporters outside. I went inside, I did no interviews inside. I sat at the kitchen table with the nurses.
But, you know what? This is not about me. There are 14 little ones, all under the age of 7 or 8, who now are not going to get the care that they would have gotten from Angels in Waiting. And that's sad.
We're very worried about their protection, about their health, about their safety, about their welfare. You're going to have octuplets at home. You're going to have security issues, which we reported, because there were at least three intruders. And Nadya said she couldn't afford a security guard, at the same time she was having a Jacuzzi installed in her master bedroom.
KURTZ: Right. Let me...
ALLRED: You had nannies there, some of whom had tested positive for TB, and yet they were showing up for a training inside of the home by Kaiser Permanente. That presents an unacceptable risk of harm, as far as we were concerned.
KURTZ: Let me turn back to Ray Richmond. Ray, why are you not willing to accept that Gloria Allred was involved in this case -- and yes, obviously she attracts some publicity -- because she was concerned about the -- it's clearly a difficult situation with these babies.
RICHMOND: Because it's always about Gloria, when she's involved. I don't think she gets up in the morning without a camera present. As soon as she got involved in this case, the chances of this being about the children and them having a normal life ceased to exist. It became a circus in and of itself. Wherever she goes, the camera follows.
KURTZ: What about Dr. Phil? I mean, you could say, OK, Dr. Phil...
RICHMOND: Oh, I...
KURTZ: But he got her free care, which she has now rejected. But he got her free care, which is something...
RICHMOND: You know what? And good for Dr. Phil. But these people are all out for themselves. And we should simply look at this for what it is.
ALLRED: Well, you know what? I think what you need to do, you need to learn how to deal with facts.
RICHMOND: No, no. I already...
ALLRED: Let me tell you something.
RICHMOND: No, Gloria.
ALLRED: You need to learn and discuss facts rather than...
RICHMOND: The fact is that you are in the Gloria Allred business, period.
KURTZ: All right. One at a time. One at a time.
ALLRED: You're filibustering. Now you're filibustering.
RICHMOND: She interrupted me.
KURTZ: Ray, let me give Gloria -- I'll give you a chance to respond.
ALLRED: It's very typical of men to interrupt women. It's very rude, by the way.
RICHMOND: Oh, right.
KURTZ: I'll give you a chance to respond in a second.
ALLRED: Let me tell you something. You're doing it again, ad hominem attacks, rather than dealing with the facts, rather than dealing with the babies' best interests and the facts about what it is and is not being provided to them to help them in their future. That is what you should be dealing with, that is what we have been dealing with. And I'm very proud of these nurses from Angels in Waiting and what they did to try to help these babies.
KURTZ: What about that, Ray Richmond?
RICHMOND: Gloria, as usual, she always makes this about the issue, the issue. But there's no such thing at the issue.
When she is there, it's about her and the camera. And she can laugh all she wants, but she knows that she is simply a media hog and a camera hog. And here she is. She'll even get up, knowing she's going to get grilled at 7:30 on Sunday morning, simply to be...
KURTZ: Hey, you're here. You're here 7:30 on Sunday morning. All right.
RICHMOND: Just -- I know. Just once, I would like to see her walk by a television set and go, "I don't want to be on that today."
KURTZ: All right. Let me...
ALLRED: You know, when Howie Kurtz asks -- makes an invitation -- gives an invitation to me to appear, you know, I think he's very important and I appear. I'm sorry that you don't think it's important enough to get up so early on the weekend.
RICHMOND: Oh, I did, because I wanted to expose you for what you are.
KURTZ: I have 15 seconds left, Gloria.
Doesn't Nadya Suleman solicit media attention because that's the only way she can hope to get any help and free care?
ALLRED: Well, she is constantly, you know, on the Internet, on television.
ALLRED: And, you know, I have no problem with her getting out there. But, you know, to make a money-making scheme more important than her children, if she does that, that is the concern, because her priority should be the health, the safety, the welfare of the little ones.
KURTZ: All right. I've got to go. I've got to go.
Thank you both for this candid exchange of views this morning. We appreciate it. Up next, mixed message. Most people -- that would include me -- think the press has gotten noticeably tougher on President Obama. But not Ed Gillespie, the former counselor to President Bush, on why he thinks journalists are still favoring Obama and stiffing Republicans.
KURTZ: Republicans have been arguing for decades that the media tilt to the left, but Ed Gillespie has never been a press basher. The former Republican Party chairman and White House counsel to President Bush has, by his own account, enjoyed friendly relations with most Washington reporters.
So it was something of an eye opener to pick up this week's "National Review" and find Gillespie arguing quite forcefully that the mainstream media have changed, that they routinely favor Democrats, and are unfair to the GOP.
Ed Gillespie joins me now here in the studio.
So you write, "The media will play the role of attack dog for Democrats, but not for Republicans."
Why is that? What changed?
ED GILLESPIE, FMR. WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL FOR PRESIDENT BUSH: Why is that? I don't know why it is, but it's just, in my experience in campaigns and politics over the years, when a Republican, you know, says something or gets in a fix, the media stay on them pretty good for a while.
On the Democratic side, they only -- the media will only do that if the Republican opponent kind of forces the issue and presses it, and then they report on it as, you know, the Republican waging this attack and they'll cover it that way. These are all generalizations, by the way.
GILLESPIE: There are exceptions...
GILLESPIE: ... but as a rule, I think that's the case.
KURTZ: And I want to come back to that, but I also wanted to ask you this question. You say in this piece that reporters loathed President Bush, that they loathed him not personally, but politically. I would disagree. I would say you had the misfortune to serve a president who was very unpopular at the time you joined, after Katrina, after Iraq, and that it wasn't personal on the part of journalists.
GILLESPIE: He was unpopular at the time in terms of the polls. And that was...
KURTZ: You know how we pile on...
GILLESPIE: I was going to say, that was driven home time and time again. In fact, I used to joke that I think it was shift/F7, where it would say, you know, President Bush wildly unpopular. Yes. And you know, today announced (ph).
But the fact is that most reporters did not agree with the president on the war, did not agree with him on issues of life, did not agree with many of his environmental policies. And apart from...
KURTZ: But our job, except for the pundits, is to keep our opinions out of it. You think that we have not done that?
GILLESPIE: I think that they creep in. And I think they have increasingly crept in over the years.
And as you know, Howard, and as you mentioned, I've been dealing with reporters for a long time. And as I said in my book and I said in my piece, like most Republicans, I hate the media. I happen to like reporters and do have good relations with them. But I think I have seen a change over 25 years, and that's what I wrote about in "The National Review," is this change that I've witnessed since I was a 23-year-old press secretary 25 years ago.
KURTZ: Since Barack Obama became president, haven't the media gotten tougher on him than in the campaign? Haven't they been particularly tough on Timothy Geithner, the treasury secretary?
"Newsweek" cover out today, let's put it up on the screen, says "Obama is Wrong." The loyal opposition of Paul Krugman -- he, of course, the liberal "New York Times" columnist who has been taking on the president over economic policies. So that would seem to undercut your thesis a bit.
GILLESPIE: Again, these are general as a rule. But let's take a notice of the fact that they were a little tougher in the press conference the other night. I will grant you that, but that doesn't mean they were even as tough as they were on President Bush in his press conferences. And what I think it highlighted is the fact that, for the first four and a half months, they gave him a pretty easy ride from the election on to this point, and clearly for the year before that, during the campaign, gave him an easy ride. So the fact that it's noticeable now, that they are bringing their standards up to a, you know, toughness that they applied to former President Bush only now, highlights the fact of how easy they were for the past year and a half. KURTZ: You talked about the flap over Rush Limbaugh, who, of course, started it by attacking the president in very vociferous terms. And you say, boy, Robert Gibbs, from the White House podium, he really moved that story along.
Didn't Ari Fleischer, Tony Snow, you, when you worked at the White House, do the same thing, try to get the press to bite on a story line, try to keep a controversy alive when it was in your interest?
GILLESPIE: Well, as I noted in the piece, the way Gibbs did it, I thought was striking, in that he basically gave an assignment to the White House reporter and said, why don't you go out and ask every Republican whether or not they agree. And by the way, in doing so, distorted what Rush Limbaugh had said, and the media picked up on it and they did.
I was struck by that. If Dana Perino had said, you ought to go ask Democrats this, there would have been some eye rolling and there would have been some question as to whether or not that was an appropriate use of taxpayers' dollars. It's the kind of thing that, yes, people do, Howard, but it's generally done kind of done on the sly, and you say, you ought to go ask...
KURTZ: But not always. When you were the White House counselor, you ripped MSNBC as a partisan network, you criticized NBC's Richard Engel for, you said, selectively editing an interview with President Bush. I don't want to re-litigate that, but the whole thing was posted online.
I wrote about it when you did that.
KURTZ: You were picking a fight. You were trying to get some traction on beating up on what you saw as a network that leans to the left. So how is that any different than what Gibbs does?
GILLESPIE: Well, first of all, what maybe MSNBC and NBC News wouldn't say, there's a distinction between them and Rush Limbaugh. Rush Limbaugh is a conservative commentator with a clear point of view that is pronounced and understood by all of his listeners.
I think NBC is supposed to be an objective news outfit that doesn't bring that kind of perspective to bear. So I think there's a pretty clear distinction between the two that NBC, and maybe even MSNBC, would say, well, I don't think they're apples and apples.
KURTZ: In that "National Review" piece, you criticize CNBC's John Harwood -- you didn't mention his name -- for responding to your letter, the one criticizing MSNBC, as completely disingenuous.
KURTZ: Why shouldn't he be able to say what he thinks? GILLESPIE: Well, as I noted in the piece, he hadn't -- he responded to a letter that I wrote to NBC about that, and he never even read the letter, and wasn't even aware that it was going to come up on the segment, as he later said. I didn't use his name.
KURTZ: Right. Well, Harwood told me that he did regret using that particular language.
GILLESPIE: Yes. But my point is, this -- I was using that to illustrate what I think is a problem in journalism today, which is this line between commentary and opinion and news analysis and reporting has really kind of been washed away in the 24/7 news cycle.
KURTZ: I agree with that, but it's not only in the liberal direction. You talk about MSNBC. What about Fox News? What about...
GILLESPIE: And can I finish on that?
GILLESPIE: So this reporter on the air calls me completely disingenuous in response to a setup from Chris Matthews, who's not exactly the most objective newsman in the world.
KURTZ: Nor does he claim to be. But go ahead.
GILLESPIE: Well, but he serves...
KURTZ: He's an opinion guy. He's an MSNBC opinion guy.
GILLESPIE: Who also takes that cap off sometimes and is an NBC newsperson.
KURTZ: Which I've been critical of. But we've got to bring Fox News into the discussion.
KURTZ: How do Fox News pundits, some of whom cheerlead for Republicans -- these are the opinion guys now -- how do they not do the same thing? And you don't seem to have a problem with that, but you certainly do have a problem with MSNBC.
GILLESPIE: Well, I would say that Fox, in their news hours, their news blocks, as opposed to their opinion shows...
GILLESPIE: ... are more balanced than MSNBC and their news programming. And the fact is, I'm not saying that there are not some folks who bring a different perspective as a rule. You know, in the Pew survey, by 4 to 1, reporters identified themselves as liberal versus conservatives. So I'm not saying there aren't some...
KURTZ: Their job is to keep it out of their work.
GILLESPIE: That's my point, Howard. Their job is to keep it out of their work. And increasingly, they're not doing it as much as they used to.
KURTZ: All right. Ed Gillespie, thanks for stopping by.
GILLESPIE: Thank you.
KURTZ: We'll have a Democratic strategist on in a future program to talk about this subject. And coming up in the next hour, John King and CNN's political team breaking down those Sunday morning appearances by President Obama and his treasury chief, Tim Geithner.
And after the break, take my questions, please. Why big-name reporters keep begging for your advice before facing off with the president.
KURTZ: A curious ritual unfolded in the days before President Obama met reporters in the East Room this week. I mean, it's not like we can't figure out how to question the guy, but this time, media outlets seem fixated on this proposition: What would you ask?
KURTZ (voice-over): "USA Today" solicited questions for the president. ABC's Jake Tapper wrote on his Twitter page, "Please send actual suggestions for questions (No: 'Why are you so awesome?' or: 'Please produce birth certificate.')"
The conservative "Washington Times" and the liberal "Nation" magazine teamed up to create an "Ask the president" site.
(UNKNOWN): What do you think we should do to increase voter participation in America?
KURTZ: NBC's Chuck Todd said he wanted to reach beyond the Washington/New York bubble.
CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS: Just started hearing questions from my mom and some friends out there who aren't very politically attuned, asking various things about the president's housing plan to me, or asking about various things about the economic bailout, and saying, well, what about this, and what about that?
KURTZ: CNN was also big on finding out what voters wanted to hear from Obama.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: So, here's the question: What would you like to ask President Obama tonight if you were sitting in that news conference?
KURTZ: And plenty of people posted videotaped questions on CNN's iReport.
(UNKNOWN): When is someone going to help out the American taxpayer from failing?
(UNKNOWN): During the campaign, you courageously promised to end the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, which prevents gay and lesbian Americans from serving openly in the United States military. Can you tell us if and when you plan to honor that campaign promise? KURTZ: Fortunately, there's one guy we didn't hear from. (UNKNOWN): Hello, Democratic candidates. I've been growing concerned that global warming, the single-most important issue to the snowmen of this country, is being neglected.
KURTZ: Obama did take questions from ordinary people at a town hall meeting this week, including some video queries submitted to the White House Web site.
(UNKNOWN): Hi, Mr. President!
KURTZ: Now, I'm all for a dialogue between news organizations and you folks out there, but let's face it, this was something of a marketing gimmick. The chance of a White House correspondent actually asking your question was infinitesimal. It was basically a way to generate Internet traffic by creating the illusion of participation.
When it comes to presidential press conferences, journalists still have a monopoly.
Still to come, oh dear. Matt Lauer makes news after an unfortunate wildlife encounter on Long Island.
Plus, extra innings. Bill O'Reilly now tells you what he thinks about what he just said on the air. Our "Media Minute," straight ahead.
KURTZ: Time now for latest from the news business in our "Media Minute."
The big bike accident this week was the one involving Lance Armstrong on the comeback trail. And then there was this other guy who fell off a bike.
ANN CURRY, NBC NEWS: Did you catch this headline?
LESTER HOLT, NBC NEWS: I actually did. It says "Matt Goes Splat as 'Today' Host Avoids L.I. Deer."
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh dear.
KURTZ (voice-over): On ESPN, Tony Kornheiser was, shall we say, rather skeptical.
TONY KORNHEISER, ESPN: I never heard of a deer attacking someone on a bicycle. Or a moose, or a panda. I never heard of this. I don't believe it.
KURTZ: Now, we would never doubt Lauer's word, and I'm glad he was wearing a helmet. Of course, that didn't protect him from some ribbing from his colleagues. BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: I cannot imagine how scary that must have been. They say these things are so...
LARRY KUDLOW, CNBC: Let's talk stocks.
KURTZ: Larry Kudlow, the CNBC host, was considering a run for the Senate from Connecticut. But with his network being pressed by the liberal advocacy group Media Matters to say whether he was a pundit or a pol, Kudlow made his decision.
KUDLOW: To me, it was never really a serious proposition. I'm letting the world know that I am not running for the U.S. Senate.
KURTZ: Kudlow also canceled plans this week to speak at a Republican Party fund-raiser in Washington, which is a good thing since he wouldn't be very credible on CNBC if he were openly shilling for one party.
BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS: You are about to enter the No Spin Zone.
KURTZ: And Bill O'Reilly has launched a new post-game show on his Web site. The feature guest to assess the program that just aired on Fox is -- himself.
O'REILLY: On a scale of A to F, that program gets a B-plus. I think it flowed, I think you got a lot of good information, and I was happy with it.
KURTZ: That kind of insight doesn't come free. Starting tomorrow, "The Factor" self-analysis will be available only to premium members.
And John King, this opens up all kinds of possibilities. I think we had a pretty good hour. I'm going to go out on a limb and say we had an A-plus.
How's your program going this morning?
KING: So far this morning, you know, one thing I've learned, Howie, is I'm a very tough critic of myself. I'm not going to grade myself publicly, number one. The viewer might disagree. Number two, suppose I say C-minus? How am I going to get a raise next time?
KURTZ: That's right. Great inflation there.
All right, John. Good to see you again.
KING: Howie, good to see you. And we'll see you again next Sunday.