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CNN RELIABLE SOURCES

Tiger Woods Apologizes; Evan Bayh Retires

Aired February 21, 2010 - 11:00   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): Tiger's sorry performance. The world's top golfer takes no questions as he apologizes for his cheating ways and rips the media coverage of his tabloid nightmare.

Can this scripted event really make the world forget all those many mistresses?

Two-sided talk. Why are so few journalists pursuing the Republicans, who slammed the president's stimulus bill and then bragged about the money back home?

Bayh bails. How does a senator who walks away from Washington gridlock get so much good press?

Plus, all those breathless media rumors about a terrible, horrible David Paterson scandal, they were bogus. So when does the governor get his apology?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KURTZ: He was hard on himself, but also had harsh words for the media. He took no questions and made clear there were some about the tawdry parade of mistresses and porn stars he would never answer. When Tiger Woods went before the cameras Friday, things were so highly choreographed, that the professional golf writers had boycotted the event. But despite its scripted nature, the world's top golfer, who's been tabloid fodder for nearly three months now, seemed to be a man in pain.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TIGER WOODS, PRO GOLFER: I want to say to each of you, simply and directly, I am deeply sorry for my irresponsible and selfish behavior I engaged in.

I was unfaithful. I had affairs. I cheated. What I did is not acceptable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Tiger scolded the press more than once, particularly over the reporting on his wife and the late-night car crash that caused his legendary career to unravel. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WOODS: Some people have speculated that Elin somehow hurt or attacked me on Thanksgiving night. It angers me that people would fabricate a story like that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: OK. I'm not defending that kind of speculation.

But Tiger, you said nothing about this all these many weeks, so it was hard to set the record straight.

The question now, did Woods hit his way out of the rough with the public and the journalists who cover him?

Joining us now in Las Vegas, Jason Whitlock, sports columnist for "The Kansas City Star" and FoxSports.com. In Vancouver, where she's covering the Olympics, Christine Brennan, sports correspondent for "USA Today' and a contributor to ABC News. And in Los Angeles, Lisa Bloom, legal analyst for CNN.

Christine Brennan, Tiger tells us he realizes he has to play by the same rules as everyone else. Can he really get away with not taking a single question from the media and issuing what amounted to this video press release?

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, SPORTS CORRESPONDENT, "USA TODAY": No, Howie, he cannot. He thinks he can, and his agent, who he probably should have fired a long time ago for his enabling ways, they think they can. But no.

I mean, this was obviously choreographed, scripted. I know I would never have attended, because you're a prop as a journalist in this little sideshow, this dog and pony show. You wouldn't have attended.

But, you know, this is Tiger. This is vintage, controlling Tiger, putting this on a Friday so it can conflict, kind of sticking it at (ph) Accenture, one of the sponsors who is sponsoring a golf tournament right now, going on this week. Tiger wants to get at one of the sponsors who dropped him.

My question throughout this, Howie, has been, so what's changed? What's new about Tiger Woods?

KURTZ: Well, what's changed, obviously, is he finally went before the cameras.

And Jason Whitlock, you described his performance as robotic. He took his whacks, as I said, at the press. Are the journalists now going to let up on Tiger because he said he's really, really sorry?

JASON WHITLOCK, "KANSAS CITY STAR": No, I don't think anyone is going to let up on Tiger because there's money to be made off Tiger. People are interested in Tiger -- newspaper Web sites, TMZ, whatever. They know they can draw clicks, viewers, readers from writing about Tiger Woods. So no one is going to let up.

And his performance didn't really ask us to let up. I think Tiger opened up a door when he ended his speech talking about, we should believe in him again or open our hearts to believe in him again, because that just begs the question, why should we? And that requires an explanation from Tiger Woods.

Why should we believe in you? Why should we have any confidence that you're going to change your ways? That requires an explanation, so there's no reason to let up on Tiger.

KURTZ: All right.

Lisa Bloom, let me play for you another bit from Tiger's performance on Friday, where he again took aim at the fourth estate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WOODS: My behavior doesn't make it right for the media to follow my two-and-a-half-year-old daughter to school and report the school's location. They staked out my wife and they pursued my mom.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Now, I'm not going to defend the crazy paparazzi, but that's a tiny fraction of the news business.

Should Tiger Woods have been using his apology, where he's finally going to atone for his sins, to lash out at the media the way he did?

LISA BLOOM, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You know, I'm going to surprise you. I think I'm the only person on this panel that actually agrees with Tiger to some extent about this.

He talks about his children, his toddler and infant child, who have been stalked by the paparazzi. And that might be to us a small number of people in the press. But to them, they've been staked out since Thanksgiving, and they have been followed wherever they go. And that is wrong.

I mean, we shouldn't be stalking and hounding little children. And that's what he was asking to stop. And I think he's completely right about that.

KURTZ: That is disgusting. And on that point, I completely agree. The question was whether or not that was the right venue, but I guess he felt strongly about it.

Now, Christine Brennan, as you know, ABC, CBS, NBC, ESPN, the cable channels all taking that coverage live -- that event. I won't call it a news conference.

Here is William Rhoden in this morning's "New York Times," calling this whole thing a waste of time, a symbol of our misguided priorities as a nation. But I'm thinking everyone I know, men, women, sports fans, non-sports fans, is talking about Tiger.

BRENNAN: Right, Howie. Well, I was part of ABC's coverage from right here, where all of a sudden, golf crash-landed in the Olympic games. Tiger, of course, did as well.

KURTZ: Exactly.

BRENNAN: And, you know, this is where we are. I mean, this is the news.

It's Tiger -- you know I would say this -- we're not talking about just your average athlete here. We are talking about a cultural icon.

Tiger Woods has transcended sports in a way that very few athletes do. He's up there, in my mind, anyway, with the Obamas and Oprah, as someone who is so visible around the world and is loved -- hey, Kobe Bryant, other people talked about O.J. over the years, whatever, and the falls from grace. To me, this is the greatest fall from grace in sports we've ever seen. And Howie, I believe it's because he had so far -- well, wait a minute -- he had so far to fall.

(CROSSTALK)

BLOOM: If I may, though, Kobe and O.J. were accused of crimes. Tiger Woods is not accused of committing any crime.

He's accused of adultery. He admits to adultery. Was this really worth braking into every network newscast? I mean, honestly, I think he's right -- our coverage has been overblown of this story.

BRENNAN: Well, there's no doubt about that. But welcome to the 300 or 400 channels that we have. Everything is overblown.

So, with that in mind, I was just going to finish by saying that this guy has staked out a place in our culture, not just sports, where grandmothers from Dubuque on Sundays are changing their lives so they can watch their beloved Tiger Woods play golf. And I think we have to throw that into the equation.

Is it right or wrong? I don't know. It is the reality of our world today.

KURTZ: Well, he certainly is one of the most famous people on the planet. And it hasn't helped him that much.

There's an ESPN poll out -- I was just handed this before we came on the air -- 50 percent, after the news conference, approve of Tiger Woods -- and this is just up a slight tick from where it was before the Friday event. But the people who don't like him went up from 16 percent to 25 percent.

Now, Jason Whitlock, this week you wrote that for-profit journalists have been turning Tiger Woods into Michael Jackson, and that capitalism -- let me just read this here -- "... has perverted journalism to the point that fairness, accuracy and privacy are irrelevant."

Now, there's been a lot of garbage spoken and written about Tiger Woods, but come on. Tiger brought this on himself.

WHITLOCK: Tiger did bring it on himself. But at some point, serious journalism does have to go on. And that's where I will agree with William Rhoden, and I disagree with Christine. Any comparison of Tiger Woods and Obama is laughable. Any comparison between Tiger Woods and anybody of any importance -- the guy is a golfer.

And we've spent the past three months talking about a golfer's sex life. That's a joke. That's just capitalism turning journalism upside down.

It's now a for-profit endeavor. And that's not going to be good, because this is what we'll spend most of our time doing from here on, covering people's sex lives and athletes' sex lives.

This is totally different from Bill Clinton's sex life. You know, that actually had a little bit of importance. But covering Tiger Woods' sex life and letting every bimbo that wants to come on TV and say what she did or didn't do with Tiger Woods, it's a joke. And it's not healthy for our industry.

KURTZ: Well, we'll stipulate that Tiger Woods is not an office holder, but he is a guy who has made a billion dollars over the years my peddling an image of himself as a family man.

WHITLOCK: He's a corporate pitchman.

KURTZ: Let me turn to Lisa, because the people that we're now starting to hear from are some of the women who have slept with Tiger Woods in recent years. And your mother, Gloria Allred, represents a couple of them.

One of them, whose name is Veronica Daniels, spoke at a news conference after Tiger's appearance with your mother. Let's take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VERONICA SIWIK-DANIELS, ALLEGED MISTRESS OF TIGER WOODS: He's so selfish. It's not about anybody but him. It doesn't feel like it was real. It doesn't feel like it was real for Elin, it doesn't feel like it was real for his children, or his mother.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Now, I don't know if this woman is looking for money. Your mother says that she's not going to file a lawsuit. But do each of these women deserve a personal apology, a show up at their doorstep from Tiger Woods? It's interesting that they're coming on the air right afterwards.

BLOOM: Well, Tiger Woods apologized to the entire world -- to his friends, his family, his fans, his foundation, strangers across the world that he's never met. Noticeably absent was the women that he was involved with, apparently more than a dozen of them.

You know, my understanding of the 12-step program that he's going through is you're supposed to make amends to everyone that you have wronged, to all persons. You know, she may be a porn star, but she's still a person. She's somebody who's hurt, as are some of these other women.

WHITLOCK: She's not hurt. She's not hurt.

BLOOM: And they've been excoriated in the press. As I understand it -- look, I don't represent her. My mom does.

WHITLOCK: She's hyping her next video.

BLOOM: But as I understand it, she's not suing. She's not asking for money. She was asking to be part of the apology. I think that's fair.

KURTZ: All right.

WHITLOCK: She's hyping her next video. She's not hurt. That's a joke.

BLOOM: Well, she's not making videos anymore. And the part of the story that's interesting to me --

WHITLOCK: Her next "Playboy" spread.

BLOOM: -- is how these women all get slammed, and they're called skanks and sluts and all these names in the press. They're human beings.

WHITLOCK: What would you call them?

BLOOM: They're human beings, just as Tiger is. He's entitled to redemption, and they are, too.

KURTZ: You're a little skeptical of their motives, Jason Whitlock?

WHITLOCK: They're hyping this stuff for "Playboy" spreads. They're getting paid money by "The National Enquirer" for bikini shots.

BLOOM: Well, she's not.

WHITLOCK: She's looking for something. She's not hurt. I mean, give me a break.

BLOOM: She's not. That's just your assumption. Those are not the facts.

WHITLOCK: This is a women that got paid for sex going on television, and now she's upset because Tiger Woods has ended their affair? That's a joke.

KURTZ: Let me bring back Christine Brennan.

And ask you this question -- since Tiger left the professional golf tour because of these personal problems, the ratings are down more than 50 percent. And so I'm wondering whether you think now that the mostly male golf writers might go a little easier on Tiger because he's their meal ticket? They want him back on the tour because, otherwise, interesting golf drops off tremendously.

BRENNAN: Oh, absolutely. You know, there's not a lot of journalism, Howie, breaking out in those press tents in golf. And I've been in them.

Jason, you've been in them for years.

The Augusta National story, I asked a question, a simple question about membership years ago, and all my buddies and good friends in the golf world are punching me in the shoulder and saying, oh, wow, troublemaker for asking a question that was Journalism 101. So I believe because Tiger is the meal ticket for a lot of these journalists, and because there are golf magazines that are built around this, this has been a really difficult story for them to cover -- obviously the tabloids, all the garbage, all the nonsense of this story.

Which is what, Jason, as you well know, I have not covered that. I've covered the athletic side and the fall from grace, not the tabloid side.

WHITLOCK: Sure.

BRENNAN: But that's been driving this story. You know, 60-year- old golfers who never heard of TMZ now have it book-marked on their computers.

KURTZ: They have to.

BRENNAN: And I think that that's going to be fascinating to watch, how that plays out, because there is a conflict there for this -- a lot of the golf writers -- what do we cover, what do we don't? We want the guy back eventually, and obviously that's going to be a fascinating piece to watch from afar.

KURTZ: All right. Let me jump in here.

Lisa Bloom, before we let you go, you were on television talking about another marriage. That involving the former child actor Gary Coleman. An extraordinary moment on the syndicated program "The Insider." I want to ask you about that.

First, let's play it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLOOM: Did you abuse her? Did you lay your hand on her?

GARY COLEMAN, ACTOR: And you know what? You can go the same place.

BLOOM: Did you lay your hands on your wife, Gary Coleman? Because she says you did.

COLEMAN: You can go walk off the plank and drown yourself in the ocean.

BLOOM: She says you did.

Why don't you want to answer your question about whether you abused your wife?

COLEMAN: You can go (EXPLETIVE DELETED) yourself.

BLOOM: Pardon me?

COLEMAN: You can go (EXPLETIVE DELETED) and quit asking me.

BLOOM: Really? Is that the way you talk to your wife?

COLEMAN: If I have to. If I need to. But I don't. And I don't know you and I don't care about you.

BLOOM: And is this the kind of anger that leads to your physical assault on your wife?

COLEMAN: And your life does not matter to me.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hold on. Hold on. Listen.

COLEMAN: Or get hit by a bus tonight. I'm not going to care, because she's pushing my buttons and I don't like her now. And the next thing I'm going to do is leave.

So (EXPLETIVE DELETED) all of you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Lisa, you looked like you were cross-examining Gary Coleman on the witness stand.

BLOOM: Gary Coleman had pleaded guilty to a domestic violence charge just a couple days before this interview. He came on the show to set the record straight and then refused to answer any questions about it.

And we sat with him for about a half an hour, where he really refused to talk about it. So I thought some tough questions were appropriate.

You know, I think a lot of people are tired of seeing celebrities get away with crimes and bad behavior, and then their spin machine kicks into gear. And people ask them questions like, how hard has this arrest been for you? And I thought he should actually answer questions about domestic violence. That's what he was there for.

KURTZ: OK. All right.

Lisa Bloom, thanks very much. We've got to go.

The other jocks can stick around.

When we come back, the big chill. The Winter Olympics racking up the ratings. Americans taking home plenty of medals. So why are the media taking all these potshots at the Vancouver games?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: NBC has been scoring great ratings for the Winter Olympics as some American athletes become instant superstars with their medal-winning performances. But the media coverage has been rather negative on the Vancouver games, even on NBC News.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: Now the organizers of these games, however, are facing some criticism on a number of fronts, things both within and beyond their control. They're taking heat for the warmth, for the snow, even the flame.

KATIE COURIC, CBS NEWS: The games seem to be plagued by bad luck. Jeff Glor is in Vancouver tonight.

And Jeff, from the weather to some serious accidents, there have been an awful lot of problems there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Jason Whitlock, do you think the media are being a bit overly negative toward these Olympics?

WHITLOCK: Well, I think the Winter Olympics lend themselves to this kind of criticism, because you've got sportswriters that are used to covering traditional sports that are now covering non-traditional sports that they don't have a lot of expertise in. So, when there's complications off the playing field, that's a little bit easier topic to dive into and to criticize Vancouver and the Olympic organizers. So, I just think, if I were there, I would be there complaining about some of the off-the-course problems.

KURTZ: Complaining that it's cold.

Christine Brennan, if you took a poll a month ago, I doubt 99 percent of Americans would have heard of Lindsey Vonn. And now everyone is cheering for her.

So, did the media -- particularly NBC, obviously, which has paid gazillions for the rights to these games -- play a role in kind of building up these athletes as personalities?

BRENNAN: Oh, absolutely. And certainly NBC especially, because they pay so much money for these, that this is their business. They're trying to do that.

Those of us on the print side, or doing other TV work, I look at it, Howie, as covering a story. And if it's Lindsey Vonn at the downhill one day, the next day Evan Lysacek in men's figure skating, I think you move on so quickly from one story the next, that it's kind of like that's over. Next one -- that's over.

It's not like the Super Bowl, where you have two weeks of nothing and then a game. You have five, six, seven Super Bowls going on every day.

And also, as far as the negative coverage, I think the one thing to make a point about, if I may, is that the death in luge just a few hours before the opening ceremonies certainly was unprecedented.

KURTZ: Of course.

BRENNAN: And that, I think, was really driving the bad weekend coverage. The first weekend for Vancouver's games.

KURTZ: And let me ask you this as well, Christine. Lindsey Vonn and some of the other American women who were competing in skiing and snowboarding, well, they're usually dressed in winter garb. But they've posed in these very skimpy bathing suits for "Sports Illustrated," and I'm wondering -- we're just showing a picture of this now -- is this the new sports marketing for women? Is it no longer enough to be a great athlete? You have to show your bod?

BRENNAN: You know, I wish they'd keep their clothes on. But they didn't ask me for advice, Howie.

I guess I can say this is the one positive I can find in it -- that Lindsey Vonn and the others were invited to be in that issue not because of being waif-like models, but because they're great athletes. Their athletic resumes got them there. Lindsey Vonn is 5'10" and 160 pounds, so I wish she'd keep her clothes on, but at least she's there for the right reason, I guess.

KURTZ: Jason Whitlock, I've got about 15 seconds.

Do you wish she'd keep her clothes on?

WHITLOCK: Sex has always sold in sports, even in male sports. And so it's just a product of sports being taken over by television. Sex sells, and the women obviously have a lot of sex appeal to sell.

KURTZ: All right. I can't argue with that.

Jason Whitlock, Christine Brennan, up in Vancouver, thanks very much for joining us.

Coming up in the second half of RELIABLE SOURCES, the Bayh bombshell. The Indiana senator's retirement triggers a wave of Washington out-of-whack stories. Are we taking one guy's retirement a bit too far? Double standard. Why aren't more journalists scrutinizing the Republicans who said one thing and did another on the president's stimulus bill?

Plus, a dozen newsmakers out there this morning on the Sunday talk shows. Candy Crowley joins us with the best of the SOUND OF SUNDAY.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: It's Sunday morning. That means that political figures are out making news or trying to make news on all the networks.

Let's bring in Candy Crowley to talk about who is saying what on the Sunday shows -- Candy.

CANDY CROWLEY, HOST, "STATE OF THE UNION": Howie, you know, we think we may have heard the sound of bipartisanship this morning. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says he'll go along with the jobs bill, though clearly not the version proposed by Democratic Leader Harry Reid.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MINORITY LEADER: We were going to do it as quickly as we were going to do the skinnied-down version. I mean, the point is, he needs to bring up the bill, we need to have amendments and vote on it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: There will be another shot at bipartisanship this week when the president and Congress sit down in front of cameras for a much ballyhooed bipartisan effort to craft a health care bill.

McConnell sounded less than enthusiastic.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCONNELL: In all likelihood, I'll be there. We're discussing sort of the makeup of the room and that sort of thing. But yes, I intend to be. And my members will be there and ready to participate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Democratic Senator Evan Bayh, retiring from the Senate in frustration, thinks the Thursday health care summit offers some real opportunity for both sides to act like adults.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. EVAN BAYH (D), INDIANA: The Republicans need to check their short-term political advantage at the door. They're probably tempted to say, you know what? Nothing works pretty well for us between now and November. Just having gridlock, that's not in the best interest of the country. The Democrats need to check some of their ideology at the door and say, you know what? We may not be able to get everything we want, but perhaps we can agree with these folks on some things. Let's get that done and argue about the rest.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: But former Secretary of State Colin Powell expressed some concern that that health care bill has taken the president's eye off the first priority -- the economy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLIN POWELL, FMR. SECRETARY OF STATE: As I go around the country and talk to people, they know that health care has to be fixed. They know we need more in education. They know we need to do more with energy. But they don't see that as their main priorities.

And as the president went into these areas, all of which were important -- it's a disgrace we have millions of people who are uninsured. But at the same time, in the eyes of the American people, in my judgment, it looked as if that somehow had become more important than the main attack, which was to fix the economy and get Americans working again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: And as the National Governors Association meets in Washington, the nation's state leaders were well represented on the Sunday shows, including California Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger, who veered off Republican talking points to insist the president's stimulus plan did create jobs in California.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: I find it interesting that you have a lot of the Republicans running around and pushing back on the stimulus money, and saying this doesn't create any new jobs. And then they go out and they do the photo-ops and they're posing with the big check and they say, isn't this great?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: So my question to you, Howie, is if a Republican criticizes a Republican, is that bipartisanship? It's a little like two negatives equal a positive?

KURTZ: Well, California is broke. And it's the governors who need the money from Washington, whether they're Republican or Democratic. When Washington doesn't work, they pay the price.

What did you think of Mitch McConnell at least saying the Republicans are going to attend this White House summit meeting on health care? It sounds like they don't want to be accused of not playing along. CROWLEY: Well, precisely. I think it's why you have them telling people we think this might be a trap, this is obviously the president's kind of forum. He excels at this sort of back and forth.

Republicans feel as though because the House looks as though it's already putting together a bill in case bipartisanship breaks down, that that sends a pretty huge signal. But they have to show up. I mean, let's face it, it's a political thing, and if they don't show up they get branded as the "party of no," which Democrats have been really successful at doing.

KURTZ: You've set us up nicely for this next segment. We'll see you at the top of the hour.

Thanks, Candy Crowley.

It was treated as big breaking news on Presidents Day. The pundits agreed it was huge. Evan Bayh, giving up his Senate seat in Indiana, rocking the political world by pronouncing Congress a dysfunctional place, blaming just not the Republicans, but his own Democratic Party.

Bayh's decision fed a media narrative about Washington gridlock, the frustrating plight of moderates, and the mounting woes of President Obama's party.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BAYH: I love helping our citizens make the most of our lives, but I do not love Congress.

JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS: Well, this is obviously a major blow to Democrats.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: Evan Bayh pulled out because he did some private polling and Evan Bayh determined he might lose.

KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC: Conservative Democrat Evan Bayh of Indiana surprising many with his decision not to run for re-election, a decision for which he received overwhelmingly favorable media about how he no longer had the stomach for politics.

STEPHEN HAYES, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Evan Bayh didn't leave only because things are broken. He left because he's hung out to dry by the Obama agenda.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: So, was Bayh's move a bombshell, or just more ammunition for the journalistic handicappers?

Joining us now, Jonathan Karl, senior congressional correspondent for ABC News. And Julie Mason, White House correspondent for "The Washington Examiner."

You look good in that shot. (LAUGHTER)

KARL: That surprised me there.

JULIE MASON, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER": Looked good.

KURTZ: So let's leave aside the pundits. Mainstream journalists have heaped a lot of praise on Evan Bayh. Is that because they like the guy? Is that because what he's saying mirrors what reporters really think, ,which is Washington is simply not working?

KARL: Well, I think there's a healthy dose of the latter. And look, this fits right into the story that everybody wants to tell, which is that there is complete gridlock.

Washington, in many ways, does seem broken. The partisan divide is as deep as it has been, at least in my lifetime. And here you have Evan Bayh.

Now, there were plenty of other reasons to talk about why Evan Bayh didn't run. He was going to face a tough race. OK? His wife was going to come under attack for her corporate board memberships. This was going to be a nasty campaign.

He's never particularly liked the Senate. He has dreamed of higher office. He said he wants to be an executive. If you want a path to national office, get out of Congress, kick an institution that's 71 percent disapproval in the polls, and go out and do something in the private sector.

KURTZ: Well, Julie Mason, Evan Bayh is a very nice guy. I was just talking to him in the green room. But the stories just easily could have said he's abandoning his president in his hour of need, he waited until the last moment so it makes it difficult for another Democrat to raise money to replace him on the ticket. And yet, he got a lot of favorable press.

MASON: He really did. Reporters really do like him. He's a good source, he's a good moderate, he's an endangered moderate.

And also, there's a subtext here Howard, is that everyone wants him to run for president. They want him to run for president because that's a great story.

KURTZ: Everyone? Do you mean everyone in the country or everyone in the press corps?

MASON: Everyone in the press corps.

KARL: And as an Independent would be even better.

MASON: Oh, exactly, because an incumbent running for re-election and winning is not a good story. And we need a better story in 2012.

KURTZ: Oh, I see. I see. You don't want Obama to cruise to renomination.

Now, you know, dysfunction in Washington is really the story, and what has Congress accomplished in recent years. CNN doing this broken government series this week.

But it's funny when you listen to the commentators on the left and the right. I mean, pundits on the left can't seem to stand Evan Bayh, even though they realize the Democrats will now likely lose his seat. They're still happy he's going.

KARL: Yes. I mean, well, first of all, he is the Democrat that voted against the president more than any other Democrat last year. He is somebody who is -- you know, who plays that moderate role, and they, frankly -- they can't stand the guy.

So, there's no question. But look, you are exactly right, that now this moves from a seat that Democrats had a very good chance of keeping, maybe even more likely to keep, to one that's going to be very hard for them to get back.

KURTZ: Which is exactly why conservative commentators were happy with Bayh stepping down, because it helps the GOP.

MASON: Right, exactly. And in a midterm election year, Howie, as you know, the people who vote are not the general election voters. They're the diehard party stalwarts who come out for their caucuses and they're primaries, and they're the ones who end up picking who goes to Congress.

KURTZ: Well, Bayh said to me that he was surprised how much attention this got. Of course, Congress not in session this week.

Let's take a look at some of what was said on the airwaves, and we'll talk about it on the other side.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: There is a growing possibility that goes beyond mathematics now that the Republicans could actually pull off a huge upset and take back the Senate.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC: And not long ago the prospect of the Republicans winning the Senate seemed impossible. No longer.

FRED BARNES, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: What this means is that capturing the Senate is a realistic possibility.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Now, Jon, you said in your piece for "World News' this is a major blow to Democrats. Is it a bit soon to be speculating about Republicans picking up, what, 10 seats and taking back the Senate?

KARL: It's never too early to speculate in politics.

(LAUGHTER) KURTZ: What about the media and the sense of responsibility?

KARL: Look, there's no question that it is an incredible long shot to think of the Democrats -- the Republicans taking back the Senate. I mean, they would have to basically run the table.

KURTZ: Every close race --

KARL: Every close race. They would have to hang on to all their vulnerable seats. They'd have to do it all. But It is a great story. I mean, I have to say, I mean, how --

KURTZ: The fact that it's even conceivable?

KARL: Yes, it's even conceivable. And there is -- you know, if you look at 538.com, there's a great analysis of all the numbers. They put it about 15 percent chance that the Republicans could get to 50.

KURTZ: Although I'm struck, Julie Mason. When a Republican retires, it's not that big a deal. When a Democrat retires, it's like, this is another blow to President Obama. The storyline seems to be Democrats in trouble.

MASON: Well, look, President Obama has majorities in the House and Senate. He still hasn't been able to get anything done. So, if he keeps losing Democrats, it's going to be really bad for him, which is another good story, unfortunately. I mean, these are the things that fuel journalists' interests, is upsets and conflict and trouble.

KURTZ: And if there are no upsets and conflicts and trouble, we'll just speculate that they might happen.

I want to talk also about the stimulus bill. It was the one-year anniversary, so a lot of news was made about it this week.

Let's take a look at CBS's Chip Reid talking about a poll by that network about what people think of the effect of the stimulus package.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHIP REID, CBS NEWS(voice-over): But to the great frustration of the White House, most Americans simply refuse to believe it. In a recent CBS News/"New York Times" poll, a mere six percent said the stimulus has created jobs, 41 percent said it will create jobs, 48 percent said it will never create jobs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Now, most mainstream economists say the stimulus bill, for all its flaws, created somewhere between 1.6 million and 1.8 million jobs. The Congressional Budget Office, non partisan, says about the same thing.

What does that say about journalism, all the stories we've done on this, that people don't believe it? That six percent says that it created any jobs at all?

KARL: Well, I think we do have some fault in this. You know, I mean, it's much easier to do a story about stimulus program that is are not working, that have waste, or that are going in the wrong direction, than it is to talk about the airplanes that land safely.

You know, when a program works as planned, it's not the same kind of story. And in many ways, our job is to go out there and not report the things that are running smoothly, but talk about the things that aren't.

KURTZ: Well, you did one this week which was a good story. You said that a program funded by the stimulus, 22,000 homes ended up being weatherized. The projection had been 593,000.

KARL: Right.

KURTZ: But do those kinds of stories, when they accumulate, give the impression that the stimulus isn't working at all?

KARL: Well, I think it does. And I think that it is incumbent upon us to try to tell the other story. But it's a much harder story to tell.

MASON: Well, and part of the problem is that the administration came in with all kinds of promises about what effect the stimulus would have. And the stimulus really hasn't lived up to some of those projections, like on unemployment.

KURTZ: Well, I understand all that. I mean, unemployment they said would be eight percent. Instead it broke 10 percent. You could argue that it's wasteful, you could argue a whole lot of things about this legislation.

But you can't really argue against the facts that it hasn't created any jobs at all. And so, again, I think people don't trust the media on something like this.

MASON: Well, that's not exactly news. They don't trust us at all.

KURTZ: Does it bother you?

MASON: And then you factor in Republicans. Yes, of course. It's always bothered me. It's always bothered me, because we are the watchdogs and we try to be the truth-tellers. So, sure.

KARL: But the White House did go through a big deal of talking about the jobs, and even for a while on Recovery.gov, keeping track of all the jobs saved or created.

KURTZ: Right.

KARL: It's a very hard thing to put an exact number on it. And the fact that they tried to --

KURTZ: Because who know if a school district would have laid off 10 more teachers had it not been for this additional federal money.

MASON: It's very speculative.

KARL: Right. And I think the fact that they tried to gave us the challenge of trying to see if what they were doing was accurate. And there were some problems. Let's face it -- there were some real problems on how they were defining this, and that undermines credibility.

KURTZ: I thought that was a stunning poll number.

Jonathan Karl, Julie Mason, thanks for talking us through it this morning.

Up next, over-stimulated. Republicans denounce that stimulus at every turn, except when some of them were cutting ribbons at the projects the bill funded. Where was the mainstream media on this one?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: Every day, every week the media -- and that includes this program -- focus on President Obama. How is he doing? Is he tough enough? Is he too cerebral? Is he overexposed?

Is he down in the polls? Why hasn't he accomplished what he said he would?

Fair enough. But what about the Republicans? Do they largely get a pass because they're in the minority?

Take as Exhibit A the White House stimulus bill that was opposed by almost every GOP member of Congress.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R), ALABAMA: We're going down a road to disaster. There's got to be some other way better than what we're doing, not the socialist way.

KURTZ (voice-over): But some of those Republican lawmakers have turned around and asked for stimulus money, or taken credit for it in their home states. A few news organizations have focused on this. "The Wall Street Journal," for instance, reporting that Senator Shelby joined the rest of the Alabama delegation in asking the Forest Service for $15 million in stimulus funds.

For the most part, though, it's liberal commentators who have pounced on the GOP.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: Just this week, you were at a community college touting a $350,000 green technology education program, talking about how great that was going to be for your district. You voted against the bill that created that grant.

I mean, you seem like a very nice person, but that's a very hypocritical stance to take. REP. AARON SCHOCK (R), ILLINOIS: Well, Rachel, with all do respect, I can assure you Republicans were not consulted on the stimulus bill.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KURTZ: So, are the mainstream media failing to hold Republicans to the same standard as the president?

Joining us now, John Aravosis, the founder and editor of AmericaBlog.com, and Amy Holmes, guest co-host of the syndicated radio show "America's Morning News."

John Aravosis, you're a liberal, so I'm sure you love it. But should the mainstream press have jumped on this question earlier about Republicans who opposed the stimulus and helped take credit for some of the money in their districts?

JOHN ARAVOSIS, FOUNDER & EDITOR, AMERICABLOG.COM: I think so. I think the problem the media has -- and it's Democrat and Republican -- is, in interest in being fair, they often don't want to jump on a story unless the other party alleges it first. So, in this case, if the media knows the stimulus created jobs because CBO and all the major studies said it did, they don't want to call a Republican on it and say, well, no, it didn't create no jobs, we know it did. They want to wait for a Democrat to allege it first.

KURTZ: And the Democrat -- I'll come to you in a second, Amy -- the Democrat who alleged it and gave the story momentum was President Obama. Let's roll some of the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There are those, let's face it, across the aisle who have tried to score political points by attacking what we did, even as many of them show up at ribbon-cutting ceremonies for projects in their districts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Now, Amy Holmes, you can say the stimulus was dumb, it was wasteful, it was big government run amuck. But --

AMY HOLMES, GUEST CO-HOST, "AMERICA'S MORNING NEWS": I say all of those things.

KURTZ: OK. But if you were a lawmaker -- you worked on the Hill -- as you did, John -- aren't you fair game for the press if you vote against a bill and denounce it and then take credit for or try to get money for your district?

HOLMES: Certainly. And I think opponents to Republicans, particularly in primaries up against conservatives, that they will hear this criticism.

But, Howie, I really think this is sort of dog bites man story. I mean, there aren't a lot of headlines out of this.

Republicans voted against it, but I think they fairly say to their constituents, look, the pie was baked, you're federal taxpayers, you deserve a slice of it. However, they wouldn't have voted for it in the first place.

In terms of the media, if you're trying to convince me that they're hypocritical, you had me at "Good morning."

(LAUGHTER)

KURTZ: But why does it take Rachel Maddow to bring this up on "Meet the Press?" And there have been some good stories, and now some local papers are looking at their local members of Congress.

Why aren't we all over this? You seem to think that we need permission of partisan attack so that we can cover it --

ARAVOSIS: I don't think you need it. I do think the media tries too hard to be fair, so they feel if they do their own reporting and say, well, I'm Howie Kurtz, and I know that this study said it's a lie, Congressman, what do you say to that, they feel like you have to quote the White House saying it.

Even the White House -- the clip you showed of Obama, he didn't call out individual members. He didn't say, Congressman Cantor, you said this, that's a lie. Come to the White House tomorrow at noon and tell the American people in front of the camera why you're right. That would shut them up.

HOLMES: But it's also not news for a congressman to release press releases and tout the projects that they bring home to their districts.

ARAVOSIS: Oh, I think it is.

KURTZ: Even when the same congressman who voted against the bill, called it socialism and some of the rhetoric we've heard, it's not news? I think it's news.

HOLMES: I don't think it's necessarily news to the press who see this every day.

(CROSSTALK)

KURTZ: So we're jaded?

HOLMES: I think that's part of it. They're jaded. But, again, I make the argument that the Republican congressmen can fairly say, I did not vote to spend this money, but since it's been spent, and you're a federal taxpayer, you certainly should get your fair share, as compared to, say, Democratic constituents of Democratic congressmen and senators who (INAUDIBLE) to get this money.

KURTZ: Well, OK. So let's go to another issue, because the downside of being in the minority is you get much less media attention.

HOLMES: That is true.

KURTZ: But the plus side is you get less scrutiny.

Seven Republican senators, including the Senate leader, Mitch McConnell, voted against what really was their own proposal to create a deficit commission once President Obama embraced it. That got a little bit of attention, but it wasn't much of a media issue.

HOLMES: It didn't get a lot of attention, a little bit because Democrats raised that issue. But again, I think, Howie, you put your finger on it, that with Republican in the minority position, that deficit commission could have been voted into existence by a Democratically-controlled Senate. They have 60 votes. And Republicans, even if they put up a filibuster, Democrats have 60 votes to overcome it.

So, was Mitch McConnell hypocritical? I think there's a case that could be made for that. But in terms of it being a news story, I don't think that it's huge.

ARAVOSIS: I think getting back to the main issue of, why is the media not reporting these stories, I would put some of the fault on the White House and on the Democrats in that I don't think they create news. I think -- and it's way too much to talk about in a short show, but you can't just put out a press release and say the Republicans lied, OK, go make this a story.

You have to get the president out there saying the right things. You've got to coordinate with Congress. You've got to have events.

KURTZ: Wait a minute. But why isn't it our job as journalists to say -- remember the whole thing about John Kerry, and he was for the bill before he was against it?

ARAVOSIS: Oh, it is. Yes.

No, no. It is your job as media to do this. But I realize as a political professional that the media will not always do its job. And I've got to help them by creating a story for them.

HOLMES: But what you're saying, John --

ARAVOSIS: And I don't think Democrats create the story for them.

HOLMES: -- that activists should be writing the agenda for the press. I think the press should be writing their own.

ARAVOSIS: But -- no, but I'm talking about the way it is, not the way it should be. The way it works is that you have to feed the media a story, ,and the White House isn't doing it.

KURTZ: We get pushed and lobbied activists of all sides, and that's fine. You were at the White House this week.

ARAVOSIS: I'm not saying it's right.

KURTZ: You were at the White House this week. Liberal bloggers got a briefing, and you raised the question of whether they were doing -- they blamed you.

ARAVOSIS: Oh, no, they blamed us. They said a big part of the reason for the stimulus -- for people not knowing it created jobs is because the bloggers didn't fight hard enough.

KURTZ: This was Vice President Biden's economic adviser.

ARAVOSIS: Correct.

KURTZ: The other big story in Washington here this week that's gotten a lot of attention is the CPAC conference. And the keynote speaker, or at least the most ballyhooed speaker, was Glenn Beck. This was carried live on Fox News. It was not carried on CNN or MSNBC.

Let's look a little bit at what Mr. Beck had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS: Progressivism is the cancer in America, and it is eating our Constitution. It was designed to eat the Constitution, to progress past the Constitution.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: So here's my question. Glenn Beck has a very popular show on Fox. Some of the others who spoke at the conference -- Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Tucker Carlson, John Bolton, they're all Fox News contributors.

Is this what Fox News contributors and hosts should be doing?

HOLMES: Well, I think it is a fine line between reporting the news, but then showcasing one of your own stars who gets all of these ratings.

I listened to Glenn Back, actually, on C-SPAN, which broadcasts all these things for listeners. I think it's certainly fair for Fox viewers and listeners who want to hear this. But if CNN only takes a clip of whatever the sound bite was out of Glenn Beck's entire speech, I think that's appropriate as well.

KURTZ: Well, last year, Rush Limbaugh was the keynote speaker on CNN, and I think everybody covered that.

Contributors maybe are in a different category, because they're also political activists. But Glenn Beck is full time. Sean Hannity, of Fox, is headlining a Republican congressional committee fundraiser next month.

Is that over the line? ARAVOSIS: Well, I mean, it's over the line, but it's not atypical for Fox. I think a lot of us on the left have been arguing for a long time that Fox is a little too closely associated with the Republican Party, to put it nicely. You have got all their folks doing these shows, you've got almost all the Republican presidential candidates working for Fox right now. It's a little too unseemly, I think, the connection.

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: Well, Sean Hannity says very clearly that he is a partisan and that he is there to promote the Republican Party.

ARAVOSIS: Yes, but even Brit Hume --

HOLMES: So, if Fox wants to pay -- he's not being paid to be a journalist, he's being paid to be a personality.

ARAVOSIS: -- back in '96 had supported Dole publicly. You had way too much of a crossing the line of the news and the opinion on Fox.

KURTZ: We've got to go. But in fairness, CPAC is not a Republican event.

ARAVOSIS: It's partisan.

KURTZ: And Glenn Beck also criticized the Republican Party, as well as the Democrats. But maybe not so --

(CROSSTALK)

KURTZ: Amy Holmes, John Aravosis, thanks for coming by this morning.

After the break, briefings in brief. Very brief. Robert Gibbs finds a new way to push the Obama message to the press.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: It doesn't quite rank up there with the first transatlantic telephone call, but a senior White House official has stumbled on to a new technology a couple of years after most journalists.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're on Twitter. Are you sending out all these tweets yourself?

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Inexplicably, yes. It seemed, as I've said to some of you, an avenue that our voice would be important.

It's been fascinating to watch just over the few days that I've -- since I've joined it. I have enjoyed watching you all comment on women's figure skating and ski jumping.

KURTZ (voice-over): So what pearls of official wisdom is Robert Gibbs dispensing as @PressSec? Well, he's enjoying the attention.

"Wow. In a less than 30 hours, almost 17,000 of you are following. Amazing. Watch out Kim Kardashian. Thanks to all for the smart tips."

And he's oh so helpful in telling reporters what news they may have missed. "Lost during the snow days in D.C., perceptions of U.S. leadership improved significantly from '08 to '09."

"But that whole 140-character limit thing has been challenging."

GIBBS: I do not know yet if I have tried to type one of those out where the number right next to the box didn't say negative something, and then I'm trying to figure out how to shorten.

KURTZ: And who does the president's spokesman follow? Well, there's Candy Crowley, John King, Wolf Blitzer, Dana Bash and Ed Henry, lots of other journalists and news sites. Liberal bloggers such as Josh Marshall, Markos Moulitsas, and Ana Marie Cox.

But Gibbs is also checking out the opposition -- Karl Rove, John Boehner, and his White House predecessor, Dana Perino. Plus, Jon Stewart's "Daily Show."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KURTZ: Sadly, I didn't make the cut.

Gibbs now has more than 29,000 people following him on Twitter after a few days. Not bad for a newcomer. Maybe he'll learn how to give shorter answers, too.

Still to come, sliming a governor, why all the rumor-mongering about David Paterson belongs in the Media Hall of Shame.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: It may have been the most egregious case of media rumor- mongering I have ever seen. And to make things worse, it was completely and utterly wrong.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KURTZ (voice-over): We talked last week about the New York tabloids and lots of Web sites going wild with unsubstantiated accusations about David Paterson. The frenzy was tied to what was described as a bombshell "New York Times" report that was going to explode any minute with devastating revelations about infidelity or drug use that might force the governor to step down.

GOV. DAVID PATERSON (D), NEW YORK: Three different media outlets were contacted in the first quarter of the Super Bowl, and they called us before the first quarter could end to confirm that the governor's resigning over a scandal. And there was no such conversation about resigning because none of this is true. It's a flat-out lie.

KURTZ: Well, The Times' story came out on Friday, and it says the governor has a hands-off management style, sometimes cancels meetings with people, spends a lot of campaign money on high-end restaurants, and, oh, yes, appointed an old girlfriend, Gabrielle Turner, to the state's Washington office.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KURTZ: And that was it. All the other unsubstantiated garbage never got published. The Times, as it should, stuck to the facts that they could verify.

This was a truly shameful episode of media misconduct. And every outlet that repeated those rumors based on nothing but malicious gossip owes David Paterson an apology.

I wouldn't hold my breath.

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

I'm Howard Kurtz.

Join us again next Sunday morning at our new time, 11:00 a.m. Eastern, for another critical look at the media.

STATE OF THE UNION with Candy Crowley begins right now.