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CNN RELIABLE SOURCES

CNN Fires Sanchez; Obama Takes Shot at Fox News

Aired October 3, 2010 - 11:00   ET

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


HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: We had to whip up this program at the last minute because a CNN anchor talked himself out of a job.

Rick Sanchez called Jon Stewart a bigot -- and that was bad enough -- and then went off the deep end, suggesting that Jews control the networks and discriminate against Hispanics. That was reckless, but was it a firing offense?

President Obama takes another shot at Fox News, calling the network "destructive" as Fox's parent company makes another $1 million donation, this time to a pro-Republican business group. But the White House loves MSNBC, heaping praise on Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow.

We'll have a full report.

Glenn Beck is one of the most popular broadcasters on the planet and one of the most reviled. Does he really believe what he's saying? Dana Milbank on the rhetoric and the reality.

Plus, there was a time when Jack Anderson was driving the Nixon White House nuts by ferreting out scoops and classified documents. But a new book asks, did the columnist himself engage in Nixonian tactics?

I'm Howard Kurtz, and this is RELIABLE SOURCES.

Anyone who makes his living in front of a microphone is going to say dumb things now and then, but Rick Sanchez delivered a reckless rant in a satellite radio interview that went on and on. And late Friday, CNN issued a terse statement saying, "He is no longer with the company."

Sanchez brought a lot of passion to his job first at MSNBC, and then at CNN, when he was reading messages from his many Twitter followers, or in one strange stunt, getting tased.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: To show you how it works, I'm about to receive 50,000 volts of electricity.

Do it. Oh! Oh! It hurts.

(END VIDEO CLIP) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: I was just asking Chad, how can you get a volcano in Iceland? Isn't it too -- when you think of a volcano, you think of, like, Hawaii and long words like that. You don't think of Iceland. You think it's too cold to have a volcano there. But no, there it is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: I'll be honest with you, I am a naturalized U.S. citizen. I was not born in the United States.

I was born in Cuba, and then later on in my life I became a naturalized U.S. citizen. And I've always been curious about how the naturalization process works.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

I just checked my Twitter board just as I usually do to start the show. I got something like 1,800 tweets coming through.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Sanchez' mixture of animation and antics made him a natural target for comedians, especially Jon Stewart.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: I'm looking over here at the other side of the room now. Switch that camera over there.

Look at all the guys we have over here -- over there. I'm not sure who is directing. I'm --

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You are.

JON STEWART, "THE DAILY SHOW": CNN: the most trusted name in overacaffeinated control freaks.

Rick Sanchez delivers the news like a guy at a party who is doing a lot of coke and traps you in a corner and explains really intensely how an ant is the strongest animal on Earth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Well, Sanchez must have been stewing about such slights. In a radio interview Thursday with Sirius XM host and CNN contributor Pete Dominick, Rick punched back, talking about his Hispanic heritage, and unfortunately went too far.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) SANCHEZ: When they look at a guy like me, they see a guy automatically who belongs in the second tier and not the top tier. I think Jon Stewart's a bigot.

That Rick Sanchez, the little Puerto Rican guy, I'll make fun of him. He's upset that someone of my ilk is at almost his level.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

KURTZ: And then it got worse.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

PETE DOMINICK, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Stewart's a minority as much as you are.

SANCHEZ: He's -- come on. How is he a minority?

DOMINICK: He's Jewish.

SANCHEZ: Yes, very powerless people. I'm telling you that everybody who runs CNN is a lot like Stewart, and a lot of people who run all the other networks are a lot like Stewart. And to imply that somehow they, the people in this country who are Jewish, are an oppressed minority? Yeah.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

KURTZ: In other words, Jews control the media and the banks, too?

Joining us now to talk about Sanchez' firing and the questions it raises about ethnicity and journalistic boundaries, in Boston, Carole Simpson, the long-time former ABC News anchor and correspondent; and here in Washington, Jamie McIntyre, former CNN correspondent and founder of the blog lineofdeparture.com; and Paul Farhi, reporter for "The Washington Post."

Jamie McIntyre, those comments were offensive, we can agree on that. Was this is an overreaction by CNN? Could Sanchez have been suspended or tased?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, FOUNDER, LINEOFDEPARTURE.COM: Well, I think the unfortunate part, actually, is that Sanchez was fired for these intemperate comments and not really for what he did on CNN, which is seen by many people in the industry as kind of a joke. I mean, his delivery where he adlibbed the whole show and therefore had a lot of little slips that Jon Stewart made fun of --

KURTZ: What's wrong with being entertaining?

MCINTYRE: -- combined with his antics --

KURTZ: What's wrong with being entertaining?

MCINTYRE: Well, it's OK to be entertaining, and I think people want that in television news. But what's missing there a lot of times is the context.

And in the course of doing that, he did a lot of sort of things that came off as very silly. His stunts about, you know, where he's out in the middle of the ocean to be rescued, or in a sinking car --

KURTZ: You didn't want him to be rescued, clearly.

MCINTYRE: That point Jon Stewart made fun of him, not because of his ethnic heritage.

KURTZ: OK.

Carole Simpson, look, he's entitled to attack Jon Stewart, who has had a lot of fun slapping him around, but then he went off about Jews controlling the media, that was obviously a bit too far.

CAROLE SIMPSON, FMR. ABC NEWS ANCHOR: He went too far.

I think the problem is that all of this was building up. Was he not losing his show because the Eliot Spitzer/Parker show is about to start? It was a day in which maybe everything -- what, the perfect storm came together? And I think what happened was he just exploded with all of these things that had been in the back of his mind, and unfortunately, accusing Jews of being in control of everything and being prejudiced against him was unfortunate.

KURTZ: Sanchez didn't lose his primetime show. He was always a fill-in waiting for the Parker/Spitzer show to start tomorrow.

In fact, Paul Farhi, my favorite part of this is he was out promoting his book "Conventional Idiocy." But he was trying to -- before he got into the Jewish business, he was trying to make a point about what he called the "elite northeastern establishment liberals" who he thinks rule the world, but particularly the (INAUDIBLE) industry.

Is that a fair point for him to make?

PAUL FARHI, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well no, actually. As an anchor, his stock and trade is his credibility. He can't be seen as the guy who's lashing out at Jews, at northeastern liberals, or even his employer.

Your credibility as an anchor depends on your neutrality and your credibility, and he blew it. That was the end of his credibility. No one can watch that guy again and say this is an objective newsman.

KURTZ: What do you think of the fact -- let me just interrupt here -- about the fact that Sanchez is a valuable guy, hasn't had any comment on this? And that CNN, which found this serious enough to get rid of him, which was probably the right decision, didn't make any statement condemning the remarks?

FARHI: Well, I mean, CNN is an employer, and in America, if you criticize your employer the way he did, you're going to lose your job. He went public. It's on satellite radio. Potentially now millions of people have heard Rick Sanchez' criticism of his own company. Not kosher.

MCINTYRE: Well, you know, I just want to say, I'm sure that Rick Sanchez, as a Cuban-American, had to at some point overcome some discrimination. But, you know, everybody in this business at some point -- you probably had the same experience -- somebody has said to you, you know, you don't really have what it takes, you should consider another line of work. It's a very common thing.

And if you're a minority, I'm sure you might wonder whether prejudice might be a factor in that. But to say --

KURTZ: Well, but they seem to be dismissing the fact that prejudice could be a factor.

MCINTYRE: Well, it could be.

KURTZ: This guy came up -- he was born in Cuba, he came up through Miami television. And maybe there were slights that he had to endure.

MCINTYRE: You know, any time I think you're a minority, that's a legitimate question to wonder about, because you don't know what people's motivations are for saying these things. But it happens to everyone.

But to say that he was made uncomfortable at CNN because of his Hispanic heritage, I think it's close to delusional. I mean, I'm not the best person to comment --

FARHI: But it's odd to take on Jon Stewart. I mean, Rick Sanchez doesn't seem to realize that Jon Stewart is a comedian and does a satirical show, and that Rick Sanchez provided the raw material for Jon Stewart to make fun of.

MCINTYRE: Except he's more of a media critic than a comedian, I would say.

KURTZ: Go ahead, Carole.

SIMPSON: What I'm trying to say is that Rick Sanchez, I can appreciate where he's coming from in terms of feeling that his ethnicity may have been a problem for other people. As a minority, I experience that. And you have this sense that people are after you because of who you are.

The fact that he -- I'm not defending what he said at all, but I do understand his exploding with this charge that, it's because I'm Cuban that people don't give me a chance. I talk about that in my own book, of feeling that way.

So he had this subconscious feeling that people thought he wasn't as good as he was supposed to be, and saw the jokes that Jon Stewart made against him as, you know, something about who I am, when he's a comedian, as you have said. And also, I would be happy if Jon Stewart were replaying my takes, as silly as they may be. It's a lot of publicity. I can't understand his being that put off by it.

KURTZ: We'll see if we can arrange it. He does makes fun of a lot of people.

Interesting, Paul Farhi, because this interview went on for some time. This was not just a line that slipped out or a joke gone sour. And Sanchez seemed to me in the interview to be angry, to have a lot of resentment.

Now, anger can work on television. Look at Bill O'Reilly, look at Keith Olbermann. I mean, they get ticked off and the viewers kind of root for them -- their fans at least -- but then there are boundaries.

FARHI: Yes, and again, an odd target to pick on. This is a comedy show. Rick Sanchez is a public figure whether he likes it or not.

KURTZ: You're saying he needs thicker skin.

FARHI: He absolutely needs a thicker skin. If you're going to be on television and if you're going to watch "The Daily Show," you're going to find that they will make fun of you.

Now, for the record, Jon Stewart never made fun of Rick Sanchez' ethnicity.

KURTZ: Right.

FARHI: Never called him out on anything as a result of who he is. He made fun of what he did on television.

KURTZ: Also for the record, Jon Stewart's people would not comment to me, but in a Comedy Central taping yesterday, Stewart had a joke about this. "If Jews run the media," he said, "all Sanchez has to do is apologize to us and we'll hire him back."

But you make a more serious point, Jamie McIntyre, which is you don't think he should have been on the air at CNN at all, particularly the direction that his show involved.

MCINTYRE: Well, my point is that the reason that Jon Stewart was able to mock him so effectively is that Rick did so many mockable things. And he did them over again, so re-mockable.

KURTZ: But does that make him a poor journalist?

MCINTYRE: Well, it's a different style of journalists. It's very much a tabloid style of journalism that's more interested in inflaming public opinion than informing public opinion.

I would be encouraged if CNN had decided it wanted to sort of go a little bit away from that and more back toward context. But for whatever reason, I think CNN is probably a little bit better off without Rick Sanchez. KURTZ: But do you think, Carole Simpson, that some minority journalists who experience the inevitable setbacks of trying to climb the ladder in a very tough and competitive business like television, and not only share Sanchez' resentment, but maybe look for scapegoats -- well, that guy got the job, that woman got the job, and I didn't. Why is that?

SIMPSON: Exactly. I think too many minorities fall back on the issue of race and ethnicity to explain all of their setbacks, which I don't think is true.

I agree with Jamie. I mean, I kind of thought of Rick as a blowhard, someone who was very full of himself. And I found him very amusing to watch on TV.

But he thinks that he could have been better and bigger and all of these other things, and he wasn't because of his race, as being a Cuban-American. And then it tickles me, because he looks as white as any white man. I mean, without his name, you probably would not know he was Cuban.

FARHI: It's an odd sort of resentment, though. This is a guy who has got his own show on CNN.

KURTZ: Two hours a day on CNN. He filled in on prime time twice now.

FARHI: Hardly a failure, but of course you take the scars that you've had coming up through the system. And undoubtedly, there are resentments. But to lash out at Jews in the media, that's the oldest kind of prejudice and --

KURTZ: Maybe he's ticked off that Eliot Spitzer is getting the timeslot. He, of course, is Jewish.

MCINTYRE: Let me just say one other thing. I was with CNN for almost 20 years. And I have to say that in the time I was here -- and I know this is just coming from an old white guy -- but I found it to be a place that celebrated diversity, that encouraged diversity, that became more diverse over the time that I was here. And so I just have to say, I don't think that Sanchez' complaint squares with the fact, especially when you look at, as Paul has pointed out, how much CNN supported, promoted him and gave him really high-profile assignments.

KURTZ: Real briefly, Paul Farhi, does he have a future? Can he get hired somewhere else?

FARHI: I don't think so. Maybe at the local level, but I think he's tainted now. I think he's radioactive.

MCINTYRE: I disagree. I think you'll see him again.

KURTZ: All right. We have dueling predictions there. We will see.

MCINTYRE: Good luck, Rick. KURTZ: Carole Simpson in Boston, thanks very much for joining us. Paul Farhi, Jamie McIntyre here.

When we come back, his scoops infuriated the Nixon administration, which plotted to kill him. But did columnist Jack Anderson engage in underhanded tactics of his own? The author of a new book says yes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: In the years leading up to Watergate, Jack Anderson was Washington's most influential and controversial investigative reporter. The syndicated columnist broke all kinds of big scandals, often getting his hands on classified documents and winning a Pulitzer Prize in the process. Anderson drove the Nixon administration nuts to the point that G. Gordon Liddy hatched bizarre plots to kill him and government gumshoes put him under surveillance.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JACK ANDERSON, FMR. INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: They witnessed the birth of my first child, Sherry (ph), and they quickly learned one of my great vices -- that I like to slip into a movie about once a week. Well, my anger at being followed by the FBI, my anger of having a file on me, was tempered a little bit by kind of a perverse pride, that I was important enough for the FBI to keep a watch on

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: As the White House tapes make clear, President Nixon and his former attorney, John Mitchell, were obsessed with the columnist.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

JOHN MITCHELL, NIXON ATTORNEY: I just --

RICHARD M. NIXON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Son of a bitch.

MITCHELL: I would just like to get a hold of this Anderson and hang him.

NIXON: God damn it, yes. So listen, the day after the election win or lose, we've got to do something with this son of a bitch.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

KURTZ: But a new book charges that Anderson was often as devious as Nixon, using underhanded methods to secure his scoops.

Mark Feldstein is the author of "Poisoning the Press." He teaches at The George Washington University, and he joins me now here in studio.

So, a bit of disclosure, you were once an intern for Jack Anderson a long time ago. MARK FELDSTEIN, AUTHOR, "POISONING THE PRESS": Yes, I was.

KURTZ: And I was a reporter in the late '70s for a couple of years for Anderson. So I was particularly interested in your book.

And here's a guy who was widely admired in his heyday for exposing a corrupt administration, and yet you say in some ways his tactics were as bad as Nixon's. Explain.

FELDSTEIN: Well, I wouldn't say as bad as Nixon's. I would say his were misdemeanors, Nixon's were felonies. But he cut some corners. There's no question about it. Nixon's felonies, of course, resulted in thousands of deaths, abuse of power of the state.

KURTZ: And his top aides going to jail.

FELDSTEIN: And his top aides going to prison. And he would have, too, if he weren't pardoned. Anderson cut some corners, didn't do stuff I teach in j. school, but I think his overall legacy was positive despite, you know, some stuff that raises eyebrows.

KURTZ: Let's talk about some of that.

1971, India and Pakistan were at war. Anderson reported -- this was a bombshell at the time -- that the U.S. was secretly tilting toward Pakistan in that war. His source for the documents that proved that story was a Navy yeoman named Charles Radford. And you found out something about his relationship with that confidential source, Radford.

Tell us about that.

FELDSTEIN: Well, yes. I mean, one of the things that Anderson, you know, confided in me, and not off the record, but was that he ended up paying Radford indirectly, buying some land.

KURTZ: Buying some land that Radford was selling through an intermediary.

FELDSTEIN: Through an intermediary to disguise it. But he did buy it at the going rate, and he did it because he felt sorry for the guy after his career was torpedoed when it became known he was his source. But, you know, it certainly -- it hadn't been known at the time and would have opened him up to criminal prosecution.

KURTZ: You asked him whether this was a payoff. And he said?

FELDSTEIN: I didn't even ask him. He said it was basically a payoff. I could argue it wasn't, but it really was.

KURTZ: Now, journalists make promises to their confidential sources. Anderson had a lot of them.

Explain how he got hold of the private tax records of George Wallace, the Alabama governor who was going to run for president against Nixon in '72, and what he ultimately did to the source. FELDSTEIN: Well, that was a really bizarre story, and it led to an article -- a proposed article of impeachment against Nixon because he actually -- for a time, Anderson managed to cultivate Nixon as a source, and Nixon, through his --

KURTZ: Nixon, or his top people?

FELDSTEIN: Well, through his top aide, Murray Chotiner, but with Nixon's go-ahead, clearly, with the green light from the president, illegally leaked the confidential tax records of a Nixon rival, George Wallace, the governor of Alabama.

KURTZ: These are IRS documents?

FELDSTEIN: Secret IRS documents. And the IRS went berserk when they discovered what the White House this done. But Anderson and Nixon both benefited. Anderson, because he got this great scoop; Nixon, because he helped sideline a rival for his re-election.

KURTZ: And then after that story exploded, Anderson revealed where he got the documents, didn't he?

FELDSTEIN: He did. He bit the hand that leaked to him. And Jack Anderson, in his own way, had a certain integrity. He would take dirt from anybody, but if he found something bigger on you, he'd burn you, too, because his view was the most important thing was what the public should know, and the biggest crimes the publics should know.

KURTZ: Now, one of the things I found absolutely chilling in your book was -- and both sides did this and we'll talk about it in a moment -- was the strain of homophobia that ran through that era.

Here. Let's go back to those White House tapes. Here's Richard Nixon and two of his top aides, H.R. Haldeman and Chuck Colson, discussing their suspicions about Anderson and a member of his staff who later became a Fox News anchor.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

H.R. HALDEMAN, TOP AIDE: Do we have anything on Hume? I thought there was some taint on him.

CHUCK COLSON, TOP AIDE: We're doing a check on him. We don't have it yet.

HALDEMAN: It would be great if we could get him on a homosexual thing.

NIXON: Is he married? Not married?

COLSON: There's no reason not to be sure. He sure looks it.

NIXON: Anderson, I remember from years ago. He's got a strange, strange habit out of -- I think Pearson was homosexual, too. I think he and Anderson were.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

KURTZ: "It would be great if we could get him on a homosexual thing."

FELDSTEIN: The chief of staff of the White House saying that with the president in the room and everybody concurring.

KURTZ: And the president saying, "Is he married?" And "He looks strange," and what about Anderson, and what about Drew Pearson?

FELDSTEIN: He's too pretty.

KURTZ: Yes.

FELDSTEIN: Bizarre, but not. I mean, that's one of the things I found in my research, was that homophobia was this prevailing theme throughout the mid 20th century, both by Nixon and by Anderson. Anderson did these gay outings way before it was fashionable, starting with Joe McCarthy and his aide, Ronald Reagan's staff, Nixon's own staff, who was a bogus --

KURTZ: Anderson was looking into whether the two top aides, H.R. Haldeman and (INAUDIBLE), had some kind of gay relationship. And obviously --

FELDSTEIN: And J. Edgar Hoover, the same thing.

KURTZ: Even a whiff of that could cause you to lose your job.

FELDSTEIN: Oh, absolute career disruption. But Nixon believed that subversion, going back to Whittaker Chambers, his case, was also related to homosexuality. Homosexuality poisons these things he said on these tapes I found.

He talked about Aristotle and Socrates were homos, and it led to the decline of the Greek empire. I mean, bizarre stuff, but it was an extension of communism was the enemy without to Nixon. Homosexuality was the enemy within.

KURTZ: We don't have time to go through some of the other instances, but you found an instance involving the late Senator Robert Byrd, that you considered Anderson was kind of blackmailing him.

But bottom line, when you add up what he was able to reveal in holding Nixon accountable -- and of course throughout his career -- and some of these tactics that he used, as a guy who worked for him, were you ultimately disillusioned and disappointed in Jack Anderson?

FELDSTEIN: I wasn't all that surprised because I knew some of his -- he cut corners. And I think overall, he did more good than bad by far.

And I wish we had more reporters digging out the stuff, not being stenographers for those in power. I never had the stomach to cut corners the way he did, but he was overall a force for good, despite the unprincipled things that he sometimes did. KURTZ: Despite these blemishes.

Mark Feldstein, thanks very much for joining us.

Coming up in the second part of RELIABLE SOURCES, President Obama rips Fox News again while the White House just swoons over MSNBC.

Plus, Dana Milbank on radio-deejay-turned-conservative-crusader Glenn Beck.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: You might see "Rolling Stone" as an unusual venue for Barack Obama's midterm message, not because it doesn't have a big readership, but because the magazine recently prompted the firing of Stanley McChrystal by reporting the general's disparaging comments.

But Rolling Stone's founder, Jann Wenner, who conducted the White House interview, was a big Obama backer in 2008. And this sit-down gave the president a chance to defend his record, even if he did have to field questions about what kind of rap music is on his iPod.

When it came to Wenner's question about Fox News, Obama didn't hold back, saying the network pushes a point of view -- "It's a point of view that I think is ultimately destructive for the long-term growth of a country that has a vibrant middle class and is competitive in the world. But as an economic enterprise, it's been wildly successful."

That, of course, was an engraved invitation for Fox News hosts to punch back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: Once again we are seeing that if you dare to disagree with the president's left-wing agenda, you do so at your own risk.

Mr. President, this network did not put into place policies that are going to result in higher taxes, higher health care premiums, and fewer jobs. Nor did this network go around the world apologizing for America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: But another cable network got a big wet kiss. Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton talking about MSNBC: "If you're on the left, if you're somebody like Keith Olbermann or Rachel Maddow, or one of the folks who helps keeps our government honest and pushes and prods to make sure that folks are true to progressive values, then he (the president) thinks that those folks provide an invaluable service."

Rachel Maddow expressed her thanks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: That was very nice. A nice personal -- very flattering, but it's also nice in the sense that in an election year, it is nice for liberals to hear someone from the Democratic- controlled White House talk about liberals without swearing at them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: So is this an attempt by the White House to make up with the so-called "professional left," and will attacks on Fox backfire?

Joining us now, Dana Milbank, columnist for "The Washington Post"; Julie Mason, White House correspondent for "The Washington Examiner"; and Matt Lewis, columnist for PoliticsDaily.com at AOL.

Matt Lewis, does Obama's trash-talking about Fox News help or hurt Fox?

MATT LEWIS, COLUMNIST, POLITICSDAILY.COM: Well, I think it helps Fox, clearly. You know, in fact, there was a recent survey that came out that I think showed that Fox is most trusted in certain terms of people getting their news, 42 percent, I think, compared to, I think, 22 percent for CNN and 12 percent for MSNBC.

(CROSSTALK)

KURTZ: -- primary election news.

LEWIS: Right. And presumably, it's because maybe they trust it, or maybe they find it entertaining. But yes, clearly this is going to be good for Fox. I think it's good for Obama, too, if your goal is to rev up the liberal base, and that's clearly the strategy they've employed.

KURTZ: Dana Milbank, every time Obama talks about Hannity or Fox, it seems like he kind of elevates them.

DANA MILBANK, COLUMNIST, "THE WASHINGTON POST": I think that Fox News should be sending him flowers each time he does that and encouraging him to do it over and over again. The Obama administration has been terrific for Fox News, less great for others. But you always want to be in the opposition, particularly when it's an ideological network or outlet. So he's been a magnificent gift for them, and he makes it very difficult for MSNBC.

KURTZ: And Julie Mason, why would the spokesman, Bill Burton, single out Olbermann and Maddow for praise? What's the thought there?

Yes. It was very strange.

JULIE MASON, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER": I think Burton does MSNBC no favors by basically declaring it the network of the White House --

KURTZ: Because?

MASON: -- of the Obama administration, because, you know, Rachel Maddow holds herself down as a journalist. And there are journalists at MSNBC just like Fox News.

It's not all pundits, it's not all O'Reilly. There's actual journalists there trying to do their job. And to give a stamp of approval -- for the White House to give a stamp of approval undermines the credibility of the journalism that's going on there just like it does when he criticizes Fox.

KURTZ: I mean, Maddow is a liberal commentator, to be sure.

MASON: She's a liberal commentator, but --

KURTZ: Actually recent got an interview with Vice President Biden.

MASON: Sure, she definitely has a viewpoint, but she does consider herself a journalist.

KURTZ: All right.

Now, Fox's parent company, News Corp, just -- I mentioned this at the top of the program -- gave $1 million to the Chamber of Commerce, not necessarily for political activities, but the Chamber is spending a lot of money trying to elect Republicans this fall. And this follows the $1 million News Corp donation to the Republican Governors Association.

Now, I know other major media companies make these donations, ,but not in this magnitude, and not only to one side. So, does this make it look, Matt Lewis, like News Corp is in bed with the conservative Republican side?

LEWIS: Well, I mean, look, you're right. I mean, we can talk about General Electric and NBC and other networks, but also, let's keep in mind --

KURTZ: But one million bucks.

LEWIS: Right, but Rupert Murdoch also in favor of more immigration, testifying the other day. A lot of conservatives see that as wanting illegal immigration. So, it's not always in terms of being on the talking points, but I think it is an interesting topic to bring up.

Clearly, it's like a newspaper. There has to be separation between the, you know, editorial page and the news page.

And I think in terms of ownership, if Rupert Murdoch is going in there and saying you guys need to talk about this, that's a serious issue. Otherwise, I think we could say that about other networks.

KURTZ: All right.

I want to play some sound here involving Fox News. Two of the most prominent commentators, of course, Karl Rove, late of the Bush White House, and Dick Morris. Here's some of their analysis of these midterm races. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KARL ROVE, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Now is the time to lay it on strong. The Republicans have come this far because of very strong convictions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK MORRIS, FOX NEWS COMMENTATOR: I think we can win. The Republicans will win a huge number of them, as well as state legislative chambers.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROVE: I'm helping raise $50 million, $3 million of which we've already spent on behalf of Sharron Angle in Nevada.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: So, "The New York Times" reports that Rove, as he just said, raising a lot of money for Republican candidates this fall. And Morris told Politico that he's, for the first time now, endorsing candidates, he's out there campaigning. He said, "I'm outraged by the Obama agenda."

Should they be on as analysts when they are so actively helping one side?

MILBANK: Well, and three of the leading Republican presidential contenders are actually on the Fox News payroll, so --

KURTZ: For those that don't watch much Fox, we're talking about Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, and, of course, Newt Gingrich.

MILBANK: And others who are on there regularly as well.

KURTZ: But we know they're ex-politicians.

MILBANK: Here is the distinction. There's nothing wrong with being an ideological network. A conservative network is one thing, a Republican network is something very different.

So Fox doesn't want to look like they're shilling for the Republican Party, just like MSNBC doesn't want to look like they're shilling for the Democrats. Nothing wrong with being liberal or conservative, but you lose credibility when it appears that you are an actual partisan.

KURTZ: To me, raising money is the dividing line. Now, CNN's contributors include James Carville an Paul Begala, who sign fund- raising letters for Democratic groups. And I don't think anybody who does that ought to be on as a commentator, but cable networks disagree.

MASON: No, you're absolutely right. And again, it undermines the credibility of the message, and it increases that sort of apathy and cynicism about what's going on in the news media and in politics. So it's a difficult marriage. It's unfortunate. It undermines us all, I think.

KURTZ: And MSNBC had three guys -- Chris Matthews, Ed Schultz and Harold Ford -- who all considered running for the Senate as Democrats, although they did not.

So, does any of that -- do you think I'm splitting hairs here, or should -- you know, Karl Rove did criticize Christine O'Donnell for about five minutes.

(CROSSTALK)

MASON: But he did it with force.

LEWIS: Well, then, my question would be to Karl Rove, he's raising money. Was he invested in Mike Castle, the Republican, winning? Did that influence his analysis, where he was very critical of Christine O'Donnell, as was I, I should add. But I had no, you know, financial interest in that. I'm not accusing him of that, but once you start to allow money to enter into it, we start to ask these questions, that should be disclosed.

KURTZ: Before I go to break, Julie Mason, we saw on Friday Rahm Emanuel in an emotional ceremony leaving the White House. Aren't the journalists really going to miss Rahm?

MASON: Yes.

KURTZ: He spent a lot of time talking to reporters, yelling at reporters, on the record, off the record.

MASON: Yes. You know, but the Obama administration, let's just say it can be a little boring sometimes. And Rahm really brought the entertainment value right up there. He was fun to cover.

MILBANK: He was one of the great press secretaries we've ever had.

(LAUGHTER)

KURTZ: And what about Pete Rouse? He's such a strong silent type that he didn't even speak at the ceremony in which he was introduced as the interim chief of staff.

All right. Let me get in some commercials here.

Up next, should journalists jump on every flimsy allegation that pops up whether it's against Meg Whitman or other candidates?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: Turning now to the midterm races.

And Julie Mason, in that California governor's race where Meg Whitman is the Republican nominee, former eBay chief, when Gloria Allred announced that she was going to hold a news conference with Whitman's former undocumented nanny, before we even knew any of the details, people were writing about it, people were blogging about it.

What happened to waiting for the facts? Seriously?

(LAUGHTER)

MASON: Well, the Internet happens. And I know there's a lot of hand-wringing over this and the rush to judgment and the trivialization of politics. I don't think that it comes at the expense of good, serious, substantive reporting. So I don't think we can get too upset about it. I mean, you'll remember after --

KURTZ: Well, I am upset about it, because I don't think -- I'm not saying it's not a serious allegation if she employed somebody and she knew that the person was here illegally. That's a serious allegation. I'm just saying we pulled the trigger without knowing whether there was any evidence.

MASON: That's true, and we rushed to it.

And no offense, Matt, but a lot of it is blogger-driven.

MILBANK: It's your fault.

LEWIS: And Twitter-driven as well.

MASON: And Twitter-driven, exactly. But there's such a rush to be first and have the best development and everything.

KURTZ: OK. That's a better answer.

MASON: And that's how we all make money now. OK.

KURTZ: I have some tape I want to play for you, Dana Milbank. And this is a tape that has absolutely gone viral. It's in the New York governor's race, Republican nominee Carl Paladino. And I'll explain on the back end what's at stake here, but here he is confronting Fred Dicker of "The New York Post" of what he considered to be an unfair reporting tactic.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARL PALADINO (R), NEW YORK GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: I'll take you out, buddy.

FRED DICKER, "NEW YORK POST": You're going to take me out?

PALADINO: Yes.

DICKER: How are you going to do that?

PALADINO: Watch.

DICKER: So what are you threatening me?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: "I'll take you out, buddy."

All right. Now, Paladino --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You talking to me?

(LAUGHTER)

KURTZ: -- has acknowledged fathering a 10-year-old daughter out of wedlock. He's still married. And he threw out this charge that Andrew Cuomo, who is his Democratic opponent, well, why don't you look at his affairs? And then he had no evidence, and then that all got reported.

MILBANK: It's the same thing, and it is this notion of our new media culture. And there's not much we can do about it, that it's almost like there are different rules for the Internet, particularly for Twitter. Who cares if that's true, right? We'll just figure it out in the end.

But I think that there's going to be a backlash against this. I hope there will be a backlash against this and people will ultimately decide, OK, we're actually going to have to figure out what's really going on. And there will be a return to real news, as opposed to this instantaneous reaction of here's what I think about something that may or may not be true.

KURTZ: Well, there's always been mud-slinging campaigns, and I'm not saying that shouldn't be covered.

But Matt Lewis, here we have two respected establishment journalist figures saying it's the Internet. But, of course, the Internet is not some sort of segregated swamp over here. You know, "The Washington Post," "New York Times," "L.A. Times," "Wall Street Journal," they all have Web sites. They're all blogging, too, and often repeating these things in real time.

LEWIS: They are. Look, but I do think as someone who is a blogger and got started on the Internet, not in print, that there's truth to it.

The rules have changed. And it's my incentive to be first, but I think that the way you do it, if you do it responsibly, if you say these allegations are being made, that is actually factual, and then you develop the story, if people follow on Twitter or read online real reliable sources, they'll be fine. Because we're going to present it, this is being talked about, this is developing, and then ultimately you will get to a thorough analysis.

MILBANK: Right. The problem is not the Internet. The problem is the way people are doing it. You Google a bit of news that you're looking for, well, and if you find it from "Politics Daily" or "The Washington Post," you're more likely to click on that than on some of these other sites. That's where I think there will be a backlash.

MASON: But I think we should make the point that it was the "New York Post" reporter who was holding him accountable, saying prove your allegations.

KURTZ: And who was going to try to interview or take a picture of the 10-year-old love child in tabloid papers (ph)?

Got to leave it there.

Matt Lewis, Julie Mason, thanks for joining us.

Dana Milbank, stick around.

Just ahead, what makes Glenn Beck so popular? And does he really believe his own rhetoric? Dana Milbank on his new book in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: He has a huge number of fans, as we saw at that Lincoln Memorial rally. He seems to tick off the left on a daily basis. But no one can deny that Glenn Beck is something of a cultural phenomenon and a lightning rod.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS: We have the most radicalized president this nation has ever seen.

I'm sorry. I just love my country and I fear for it.

Thomas Jefferson said yes -- yes. But if they lose freedom -- he's speaking of us -- future generations, if they lose freedom, there will be rivers of blood. Boy, I hope that's not true, but I can tell you there will be rivers of blood if we don't have values and principles.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Beck is also the subject of a new book, "Tears of a Clown," by Dana Milbank.

And you really take a hatchet to Beck in this book. Is there anything you like about the guy?

MILBANK: I think there's many things to respect about the man. He is -- love him or hate him, he is a brilliant entertainer. I think he is one of the great opportunists in our culture.

He sees where things are going. He reinvents himself to get out in front of that and lead the parade. KURTZ: Now, Beck says in a "New York Times" magazine piece that happens to be out today that he is a recovering dirtbag. Everyone knows he's a former alcoholic -- there he is.

He found God. He became a Mormon. He developed this message.

You're saying or suggesting that he's a charlatan and he doesn't believe some of what he says?

MILBANK: Look, I don't think anybody can get in his head and know how deeply he holds true the things he says, ,but we do have certain facts. We know that a dozen years ago, he was pro-choice, pro-abortion rights, and wearing a ponytail.

We know that when George W. Bush was president, he came out in favor of the TARP bailout for banks. And then -- and now rails against it.

So we do know that he's changed his views at convenient times. Very difficult to know what he actually believes of what comes out of his mouth.

KURTZ: Beck says a lot of inflammatory things. That's part of his style. You see him as peddling conspiracy theories and talking about Nazis a lot.

KURTZ: Yes. I think over his first 18 months, "Nazis" came up in his show 200 times, "fascists" another 200 times. Poor Goebbels only got two dozen mentions.

But that's a constant them, but it's also the floating of the fringe conspiracies. Even Bill O'Reilly has said he believes that Beck is successful because he's willing to take it about five steps further than O'Reilly is. And that is by going on "Fox & Friends" and saying, "I can't debunk the idea that our federal government, through FEMA, is operating concentration camps in Wyoming."

KURTZ: But he didn't endorse that, but you're saying he raised it.

MILBANK: He said, "I can't disprove it." Then a month later, he gets on the show and said, oh, actually, it turns out those were doctored photos from a North Korean prison.

KURTZ: So he corrected.

MILBANK: He corrected it a month later, after a rather violent incident related to that.

KURTZ: OK. Well, you talk about going too far, and maybe this is related to this.

There was a 2009 murder in Pittsburgh, and allegedly committed by a guy who believes that the New World Order and government are plotting against our citizens. You say in the book, "It goes a bit too far to blame Glenn Beck for this, but Beck's words are inspiring the fringe."

Now, isn't that guilt by association?

MILBANK: Well, except that the people who are committing these acts often mentioned Glenn Beck themselves. We had another case of a guy shooting at the cops out in San Francisco, attempted to blow up the Tides Foundation, which was mentioned on Beck's show.

KURTZ: But what if somebody committed a violent act and said, you know, I read Dana Milbank's columns and I really think -- I'm --

(CROSSTALK)

MILBANK: That's why I say it goes too far to hold him responsible for that. But when you have a guy who's taking, as the Anti-Defamation League says, these fringe conspiracy theories and giving them an audience of, I don't know, 10 million people a week on the radio, nearly three million a night on Fox News, you're elevating something that has always been on the fringe in American politics and putting it front and center. So while you can't be blamed for any individual act, it is evidence that he is disseminating a very dangerous doctrine.

KURTZ: You think he's dangerous?

MILBANK: Well, I think it's been manifestly true that he's dangerous, but he's very powerful as well.

KURTZ: You haven't proven that he's dangerous. You've proven that -- you've argued that he says a lot of things that you don't like.

MILBANK: Well, and when a man is frequently talking about Hitler and Nazis, and then you see the Tea Party rally with the same quotations of Tea Parties and Nazis, the one-world government, the United Nations taking over civilization, posters of Dachau, you have to say, where does all this come from and why is it suddenly out in the open?

So, yes, that's why I think it's dangerous.

KURTZ: So you mentioned his big audience. I mean, he gets a huge number in the afternoon on Fox, radio audience. So what makes him so popular? What do you make of the people who tune in for inspiration?

MILBANK: I think it is just that. I mean, in a country of 310 million people, two million watching him is not a huge number. But it's a huge number -- a small number of very passionate followers.

Now, I mean, I think some of this is he very cleverly speaks to -- he's a Mormon, very cleverly speaks in terms of Mormon prophesy and conspiracy theories. I think that generates some of his audience. And some of it is also out of fear.

He talks about the world is ending. People advertise for vegetable seeds on his show so you can keep it in a locked box, and when the apocalypse comes, you can plant it and grow vegetables in your back yard. He's pushing gold coins. So, his audience is very frightened people who really think the end is coming.

KURTZ: All right. I'll tune in to see whether he talks about Dana Milbank on his show this week.

(LAUGHTER)

KURTZ: Dana, thanks very much for joining us.

Still to come, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg can't buy good press even with $100 million. And the latest media stunt by that fake pimp, James O'Keefe.

Our "Media Monitor," straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: Time now for the "Media Monitor," our weekly look at the hits and errors in the news business.

Here's what I liked.

CNN's Abbie Boudreau, reporting a documentary on conservative activists, tried to arrange an interview with James O'Keefe. He, of course, the guy who dressed up as a pimp to run that undercover sting against ACORN, and then was arrested for infiltrating Senator Mary Landrieu's office.

Boudreau discovered from a woman working with O'Keefe that he was planning a hidden camera sting against her and CNN. The setting? A boat filled with sexual props such as dildos and fuzzy handcuffs.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ABBIE BOUDREAU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: "Why is his goal to get me on the boat?" She said, "Because on the boat he's going to be there, dressed up, and he's going to have strawberries and champagne waiting for you. And he was going to hit on you the whole time."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: That is a new low. Even O'Keefe's biggest backer, conservative crusader Andrew Breitbart, demanding an explanation, calling O'Keefe's plan patently gross and offensive.

Also on CNN, Anderson Cooper announced a deal this week to launch a syndicated daytime program with the parent company of Time Warner, while also continuing to host his nighttime newscast, "AC 360."

Good for him. The guy has a lot of energy. But depending on what direction he goes in, the new Oprah, Ellen DeGeneres, Dr. Phil, it could cast out on his credibility as a news anchor.

And here's an example of knee-jerk cynicism. Mark Zuckerberg, as you may have heard, is the subject of a new movie that paints an unflattering portrait of Facebook's founder.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE SOCIAL NETWORK")

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't think I deserve your attention?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But there's no requirement that I enjoy sitting here listening to people lie. You have part of my attention. You have the minimum amount.

The rest of my attention is back at the offices of Facebook, where my colleagues and I are doing things that no one in this room, including and especially your clients, are intellectually or creatively capable of doing. Did I adequately answer your condescending question?

(END VIDEO CLIP, "THE SOCIAL NETWORK")

KURTZ: The 26-year-old CEO also gave a huge gift this week to the struggling Newark school system, unveiling it on Oprah.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK ZUCKERBERG, FACEBOOK FOUNDER: I've committed to starting the Startup: Education Foundation, whose first project will be a $100 million challenge grant.

OPRAH WINFREY, TALK SHOW HOST: One hundred million dollars.

ZUCKERBERG: A hundred million dollars.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: And the predominant media reaction, oh, Zuckerberg is just trying to repair his image to deflect attention from the movie, to get himself some good publicity.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOY BEHAR, "THE JOY BEHAR SHOW": Do you think he's doing this to save face? Because they make him look nasty.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the question is, how much of this is to counterbalance some of the negative PR from this movie, "The Social Network"?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Well, maybe. But what about the fact that a failing school system that's been taken over by the state of New Jersey is getting money that could improve students' lives? That, for much of the media, was an afterthought. And I give that a failing grade.

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

I'm Howard Kurtz.

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

"STATE OF THE UNION" with Candy Crowley begins right now.