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CNN RELIABLE SOURCES

Election Coverage; Interview With Aaron Sorkin

Aired October 17, 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: In a crazy election season, the news business seems stuck on the wild and wacky. Carl Paladino, who fathered a child out of wedlock, keeps accusing his opponent, Andrew Cuomo, of having affairs without a shred of evidence. Christine O'Donnell has said so many eye-opening things that she's now a "Saturday Night Live" character.

Why are these candidates soaking up so much coverage?

Everyone seems to be arguing about the new Facebook movie, but is it a documentary about Mark Zuckerberg's creation or a cinematic concoction of fact and fiction, and nasty to women to boot? We'll ask the Hollywood screenwriter Aaron Sorkin.

Are books becoming an endangered species? Are we all going to be staring at computer tablets and touch-screens? A conversation about technology with the founder of MIT's Media Lab, Nicholas Negroponte.

Plus, a sports blog accuses quarterback Brett Favre of sexting a New York Jets staffer, and the rest of the media tackled the story. Is this a case of cash for trash? We'll ask the editor of "Dead Spin."

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

There are about 1,000 candidates running for the House, the Senate, and for governor this fall, but the media seem obsessively interested in approximately three of them. They're all Republicans who have said some fairly controversial or pretty strange things. You know about Sharron Angle saying, among other things, that she would take out Harry Reid. Christine O'Donnell's pronouncements on everything from evolution to masturbation have become video classics.

And the latest object of journalistic fascination is Paladino, Republican nominee for New York governor. He's a blustery fellow who's acknowledged fathering a child out of wedlock, who hurled utterly unsubstantiated charges of infidelity against his opponent, Andrew Cuomo. And then as we showed you a bit of last night, reacted this way when "New York Post" Fred Dicker asked if he had any evidence --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRED DICKER, "NEW YORK POST": Do you have any evidence that (INAUDIBLE)? CARL PALADINO (R), NEW YORK GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: I'll take you out.

DICKER: You're going to take me out?

PALADINO: Yes.

DICKER: How are you going to do that?

PALADINO: What?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Paladino said he wouldn't bring up Cuomo's personal life again. That didn't last long.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALADINO: For weeks, the media has badgered me about affairs, because unlike a career politician, I was honest enough to acknowledge she was my daughter when I announced my candidacy. What I meant to express in my anger is simply this: does the media ask Andrew such questions? Andrew's prowess is legendary.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: "Andrew's prowess is legendary." Wow. Paladino's next target this past week was gay people.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALADINO: I just think my children and your children would be much better off and much more successful getting married and raising a family. And I don't want them to be brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid and successful option.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: And my question is this: What explains the enormous amount of attention the media is lavishing on candidates like Paul Paladino and Christine O'Donnell?

Joining us now here in Washington, Amy Holmes, co-host of the syndicated radio show "America's Morning News"; Thomas Frank, columnist for "Harper's" magazine; and in Los Angeles, Jonathan Martin, senior political reporter for Politico.com.

Let's start with you, Jonathan. Does Carl Paladino deserve this avalanche of media coverage?

No. (INAUDIBLE). But for some reason we're seeing this avalanche of coverage (INAUDIBLE) little chance of even winning. And it's staggering, and it's not been good for the overall coverage of this campaign pledge.

(INAUDIBLE). You have one in the Colorado Senate race (INAUDIBLE). It's much more competitive and will be pivotal in full (ph) for the U.S. Senate. I just don't get the fixation on sort of cheapening and using sound bites of O'Donnell and Paladino, but it's not good for Republicans (INAUDIBLE).

KURTZ: It's an easy sound bite. I think you've nailed it.

Amy Holmes, is the press (INAUDIBLE) Paladino (INAUDIBLE)?

AMY HOLMES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Part of it is self-inflicted, and Carl Paladino, Christine O'Donnell and Sharron Angle, for that matter, are all unorthodox (INAUDIBLE) candidates. They're also (INAUDIBLE).

So, while I would (INAUDIBLE). We have a woman who's been in a campaign ad that she put out herself, "I am not a witch." And she could have only have gotten more attention (INAUDIBLE).

MARTIN: She's not a viable candidate.

HOLMES: I agree with that.

MARTIN: With many competitive races across the country, why do we talk about one that is not competitive by any standard?

THOMAS FRANK, "HARPER'S" MAGAZINE: In my view (INAUDIBLE). I mean, here we are on cable TV, right? Look at Fox News. They've got personality after personality after personality that play that same sort of character. This is immensely -- whether it's good politics (INAUDIBLE).

I think it's awful. I think that's who we are. That's America. Right?

This is what we find amusing. One other thing, there is something else that both of them are doing that's kind of unusual in American politics, and that is that they talk about (INAUDIBLE). O'Donnell specifically says she's for the working class. This is something -- they're testing a nerve that we don't ordinarily see (INAUDIBLE).

KURTZ: You know, for example, on "Saturday Night Live," it reminds me of Tina Fey doing Sarah Palin. (INAUDIBLE).

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE")

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi. I'm Christine O'Donnell, and I am not a witch. Besides, if I were a witch, why wouldn't I just cast a spell making all of you forget that I'm a witch? It's certainly not the case (INAUDIBLE) and a lack of sufficient number of votes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: (INAUDIBLE) I sense that you are frustrated. (INAUDIBLE)?

MARTIN: (INAUDIBLE).

HOLMES: (INAUDIBLE). KURTZ: (INAUDIBLE).

MARTIN: (INAUDIBLE).

HOLMES: (INAUDIBLE).

KURTZ: (INAUDIBLE).

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: (INAUDIBLE)?

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL (R), DELAWARE SENATE CANDIDATE: (INAUDIBLE).

BLITZER: (INAUDIBLE)?

O'DONNELL: (INAUDIBLE).

BLITZER: (INAUDIBLE)?

O'DONNELL: (INAUDIBLE).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: (INAUDIBLE).

FRANK: (INAUDIBLE).

KURTZ: (INAUDIBLE).

MARTIN: (INAUDIBLE).

KURTZ: (INAUDIBLE).

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: (INAUDIBLE).

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB SCHIEFFER, CBS NEWS: (INAUDIBLE).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: (INAUDIBLE).

FRANK: (INAUDIBLE).

KURTZ: (INAUDIBLE).

HOLMES: (INAUDIBLE) just publishes reports the press released from the other side. But I would say -- you know, this is a very unusual position for me, to be defending the media. But "The New York Times" did say that there appears to be no evidence to the administration's charge. KURTZ: Yes, I've got it right here. "The Democrats have offered no evidence the Chamber is using foreign money to influence the election."

That's the kind of sentence that should be in every news story.

HOLMES: I think it should be in every news story, and on my radio show we interviewed a spokesperson from the Chamber and he pointed out that the AFL-CIO and all of these unions have the word "international" in the names of them.

KURTZ: That's a good point.

HOLMES: This is absurd.

KURTZ: Let me go to Jonathan Martin in L.A.

I love "The New York Times" magazine, this Peter Baker story, doing a pre-postmortem on the midterm elections and reporting Obama saying that you can't -- he realizes looking back on his first two years you can't be neglecting of marketing and PR and public opinion.

Did it surprise you that the president would be saying these things before the election?

MARTIN: Well Peter wrote a great piece, Howie. And I was struck by the fact that it did have that sort of pre-obituary feel, to borrow one of the terms that we now use for sort of looking back after a campaign or just before a campaign is over.

There was some of that past tense language I was really struck by. I do think they are trying to right now, Howie, before the election, get out there, say lessons learned, we get it, we heard the message, so that they can have a sort of smooth pivot after those losses do come here in a couple of weeks.

KURTZ: But the question is whether -- just very briefly, the question is whether the president's buying that.

MARTIN: Yes. I mean, look, I think we all recognize it for what it is, which is they have to say that they've made mistakes so that they can get a fresh start from the media. This is part of that process, in a very prominent venue, with a very respected, Howie, White House correspondent.

KURTZ: We are out of time.

I've got to say, Obama going on MTV didn't have quite the same eye-opening quality as Bill Clinton doing it in '94 in the famous "boxers or briefs" confrontation.

(LAUGHTER)

KURTZ: Amy Holmes, Jonathan Martin, Thomas Frank, thank you.

MARTIN: They were softballs. KURTZ: Coming up in the second part of RELIABLE SOURCES, Facebook's dark side. The social network pretty much savages founder Mark Zuckerberg. But is that just Hollywood hype? Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin on how he created the controversial film.

Plus, bye-bye books? Sure they lasted a few centuries, but will they really be replaced by electronic devices? Technology guru Nicholas Negroponte says they're history.

And later, sexting. Did the mainstream media fumble their chance to jump on a scandal involving one of the biggest names in the NFL?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: It is easily the most hotly-debated movie of the year. Did Mark Zuckerberg and his Harvard pals really denigrate women like that? Is Facebook a brilliant creation or a pointless (INAUDIBLE) dreamed up by a guy who had no friends? Is Zuckerberg really such a jerk?

(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 capable of doing. Does that adequately answer your condescending question?

(END VIDEO CLIP, "THE SOCIAL NETWORK")

KURTZ: Aaron Sorkin, the creator of "West Wing," is the screenwriter for "The Social Network." I spoke to him earlier from Los Angeles.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KURTZ: Aaron Sorkin, welcome.

AARON SORKIN, SCREENWRITER, "THE SOCIAL NETWORK": Good to be here.

KURTZ: Let's start with the way women are portrayed in this movie. As you know, one woman did a posting on the blog that's run by writer/producer Ken Levine, and she said that in this film, in her opinion, the women are basically sex objects or stupid groupies. And you responded on that blog.

What's your side?

SORKIN: Yes. Well, as I said to you, it was a very smart post that that woman made, and very civil and very polite, and that's why I wanted to respond to it. And I'll tell you what I told her, that I was writing about a very specific group of people who are misogynistic, who do see women as prizes or enemies, or one or the other.

And it's a group of angry people. And one of the reasons why they're angry is because the cheerleader still wants to date the quarterback and doesn't want to date them. The cheerleader doesn't understand they're the ones running the universe right now.

KURTZ: Let me toss you a softball before we get to specifics.

Why has this movie -- and controversy is great for movies, as you know. Why has it sparked so much debate about Zuckerberg, about Facebook?

SORKIN: You know, I don't know. I think that's for other people to say. I'm really glad that people are leaving the theater having these kinds of conversations about it.

KURTZ: Is it in part because there are conflicting accounts that you had to grapple with about just what went down and who was to blame and who was the good guy and bad guy?-

SORKIN: Yes, sure, that's one of the reasons. But that's part of what the movie is about, is that there were two lawsuits brought against Facebook at roughly the same time, that the defendant, the plaintiff, the witnesses, they all went into deposition rooms, they all swore an oath. And we came out with three very different versions of the same story.

So, instead of picking one and deciding, I think that's the truth, or picking another and deciding, I think that's the sexiest, I wanted to tell all three versions like it was a courtroom drama or like it was "Rashomon."

But the movie makes it really clear when a fact is in dispute that that fact is in dispute. Facts are always being challenged in the deposition room scenes.

KURTZ: Right.

Now, this movie is based in part on a book by Ben Mezrich. I interviewed him on this program last year, and I asked him about one scene where Mark Zuckerberg, in the book, goes past a couple who are making out and then steals some computer data from the servers. And this is what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: You didn't talk to anyone who was actually there. Zuckerberg did not cooperate?

BEN MEZRICH, AUTHOR, "THE ACCIDENTAL BILLIONAIRE": Not for that scene. I go back and forth in the book between scenes that are definite, exactly the way they happened, and scenes where I say this is probably what happened. It's conjecture just like in any other form of nonfiction.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: So, if it's conjecture in the book, that doesn't seem to me to be all that reliable. How much of a dilemma was that for you?

SORKIN: Right. Well, Ben's book "The Accidental Billionaire" was one of many sources that were used to write the movie. Obviously, there would be no movie without Ben's book. That scene that you just described isn't in the movie.

We did not in the movie go back and forth between fact and imagined scenes. I dramatized everything that was testified to in the deposition scenes.

So you have to remember also that this movie was vetted by countless lawyers. It was vetted to within an inch of its life.

I have a legal standard to rise to. I can't say something that's not true and defamatory at the same time.

KURTZ: But help me to understand this, Aaron, because I've read that you also invented a couple of characters.

SORKIN: Yes.

KURTZ: So it's not quite a documentary.

SORKIN: It's not a documentary at all. It's a feature film. And, you know, remember that people don't speak in dialogue, life doesn't play itself out in a series of connected scenes that form a narrative. Life isn't lit and scored.

There is -- instead of having seven lawyers asking questions in the deposition room, I have one lawyer asking a question in the deposition room. I invented a lawyer, the character that Rashida Jones plays, to be a stand-in for the audience. I did things like that, that don't at all change our perception of the characters or the events or the trajectory of the story in any way.

KURTZ: Right. But let me pick up --

SORKIN: In three instances I changed people's names.

KURTZ: OK. And I can understand that.

Let me pick up on this business about the depositions, because David Kirkpatrick, who wrote the book "The Facebook Effect," has critiqued the film, and he says that some of the snide putdowns that Zuckerberg delivers to the lawyers were invented, some of them were not from the transcript. But he also says there's no evidence that Mark Zuckerberg had sex in a bathroom stall, which you had some fun with.

SORKIN: Well, I'll take the deposition room scenes first. I have -- first of all, I don't want to be coy or cagey about this, but a lot of the research that I did -- and it falls into three categories -- available research, you can go online and get Mark Zuckerberg's own blog from that night that gets dramatized at the beginning of the movie, then cartons and cartons of legal documents that I had specialists, lawyers and intellectual property lawyers and corporate lawyers walk me through. But finally, and most importantly, the first person research, people I spoke to directly who were there, who were very close to the events, very close to the subject, most of them speaking to me on a condition of anonymity.

KURTZ: Right. So you function as a reporter, and you took this seriously and you gathered facts.

SORKIN: Yes. When we showed that scene that you're talking about in the men's room, it's because somebody or more than one somebody who was there says it happened.

KURTZ: OK. Let me ask you about --

SORKIN: And if that fact is in dispute, then we have a character say no that's not what happened.

KURTZ: OK. But let me ask you about Zuckerberg's character, because a lot of people say this gets into a more subjective area, he comes off as an arrogant jerk in the movie, and people who know him say, well, that's not quite him. And I'm wondering if it was a cinematic challenge for you, because if you have a main character who is kind of boring and doesn't make friends easily, ironically founder of Facebook, do you have to kind of punch it up a little bit so people will go see the movie?

SORKIN: Well, I don't. I think that there are other directors, other studios, and other actors who would be less brave than the ones I got to work with like David Fincher, Jesse Eisenberg, and Sony, who would say, well, you better start this movie off with a flashback of a 10-year-old Mark Zuckerberg being beaten by his father or something --

KURTZ: Right.

SORKIN: -- so it's easier to like him, or can he just be winking at the audience from time to time? And we don't do that.

But what I do have to have as the writer is a great affection and respect for the character that I'm writing. So I find the parts of him that are like me, and what I found is that I'm shy, I'm awkward in social situations. Like a lot of people, I felt like I'm on the outside looking in, that I haven't been invited to the cool kids' table. I'm not as angry as Mark was about it, but Mark invented something that he needed.

KURTZ: Right. Right. But you're definitely cool just by virtue of being on this program.

Now, before we go --

(LAUGHTER)

SORKIN: Anybody who is with Howard Kurtz is cool.

KURTZ: Really. Clearly.

I have a poll that says that people 18 to 34 are more likely to like Facebook after seeing this movie, or at least after the movie came out. They didn't necessarily see it. People over 50 are generally soured on it.

So, you have had an impact on Facebook's reputation. Has this changed your view of Facebook? You were not a Facebook enthusiast before you began this project, were you?

SORKIN: I was indifferent to Facebook. And frankly, I am now, in spite of spending the last two years with it, playing a big part in my life.

I absolutely get why so many people, 500 million people, would want to be on it. If Facebook were a country, it would be the third largest country in the world.

KURTZ: Right.

SORKIN: It's not my cup of tea, but there are a lot of things that aren't my cup of tea that the rest of the world loves. I'm not a huge soccer fan. It's the most popular sport in the world.

KURTZ: All right. I guess we can't be friends online, but thanks very much for coming in, Aaron Sorkin.

SORKIN: No, we can be friends in real life.

KURTZ: Excellent. We appreciate it.

SORKIN: Thanks so much for having me.

KURTZ: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KURTZ: Up next, page-turner Nicholas Negroponte says paper publications are on the way out, and hyper-personalized media on the way in. A candid conversation with a digital pioneer straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: These are books. They are made of paper. You can buy them in a store. They've been around more than 500 years. But now there are predictions that the digital culture is going to swallow these old-fashioned artifacts, along with much of the media world as we know it.

Nicholas Negroponte has been studying technology and helping to shape technology for a long time, as an investor, thinker, writer, and founder of the MIT Media Lab in Boston. I spoke to him earlier here in the studio.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KURTZ: Nicholas Negroponte, welcome.

Let's start with books. I really like books. I like the weight, the feel. I like to read them. I like to write them. You say the physical book is gone.

NICHOLAS NEGROPONTE, CO-FOUNDER, MIT MEDIA LAB: It will be in five years.

KURTZ: In five years?

NEGROPONTE: Yes.

KURTZ: What makes you so confident?

NEGROPONTE: Because the physical medium cannot be distributed to enough people. Think of the fact that --

KURTZ: It's worked pretty well for 500 years.

NEGROPONTE: But for a very limited number of people. When you go to Africa, and let's say half a million people want books, you can't send the physical thing. When we ship with our laptop books to a village, we put 100 books on a laptop, but we also send 100 laptops in, each with 100 different books.

So that village now has 10,000 books. This is an African village without electricity. So that's the future.

KURTZ: So here is the Amazon Kindle -- I'll hold it up -- and it can hold a couple thousand books, 3,000 books, depending on the model. And recently, more books were sold for the Kindle than other paper variety.

NEGROPONTE: Yes.

KURTZ: So you see this train leaving the station as far as the Gutenberg variety?

NEGROPONTE: What's interesting, it's leaving the station the same way the cell phones did. Cell phones were popular in Cambodia, Uganda and so on, because they didn't have phones. We had phones in this country and we're very late to the table.

The developing world is going to do exactly the same thing with ebooks. They are going to adopt the ebooks much faster than we do because they don't have anything else.

KURTZ: Do you have any whiff of nostalgia for the eventual, you say, passing of the hardback era?

NEGROPONTE: In fact, no. In fact, I find it more pleasant to read certainly newspapers.

I travel actually with both the hard copy of "The Wall Street Journal" and the iPad version, and on takeoff and landing they don't let me use the iPad, so I'm using the paper one. And when I get down I put the paper one down.

And you know what? The iPad experience is much, much better. I don't want to read the paper.

KURTZ: Except that when you read a newspaper, and you leaf through the sections, you sometimes see stories that you didn't know you were interested in that you might not search for on the screen.

NEGROPONTE: It turns out -- they happen to have done an extremely good job. Your peripheral vision, which is what a big sheet of paper engages, which does indeed have the serendipity and does indeed attract you sometimes to the stories, that peripheral vision is missing. But they've done a reasonably good job to list the concurrent stories, and you get attracted by the headline.

It's not as good, but it's still a better experience because I can go deeper, I can get the pictures in a much richer color, I can turn them into videos. I can do lots of things.

KURTZ: As long as your battery doesn't run out.

Now, you've seen the evolution of a personalized news product which you call "The Daily Me." What is "The Daily Me" going to look like?

NEGROPONTE: Well, first of all, "The Daily Me" was 30 years ago, we proposed it. And it was going to look different at 7:00 on a weekday than it would look, let's say, at 3:00 in the afternoon on a Sunday, for the same reason you just brought up.

On a Sunday afternoon, you want serendipity. 7:00 in the morning, you know, serendipity doesn't play quite as much of a role, at least in my life. I'd like to know the news, I'd like to know the headline news. I'd like to maybe the news about some of the people I'm going to see that day.

KURTZ: But the point is you can tailor your news diet and I can do the same to what, to things that interest us?

NEGROPONTE: A combination. More, it's not so much just things that interest us. So, if we're Republicans, we're going to get Republican information, or whatever. It's more relating it to where we're going.

So, for instance, in my "Daily Me," if you had been in the news this morning for something, it would have come up in my edition this morning, not because of anything other than the fact that I'm seeing you right now, and it would have been interesting to know that.

KURTZ: But is there any danger that as we all become -- have more and more news feeds tailored to our BlackBerrys, our smartphones, our iPads, that we limit what we consume to -- we weed out contrary opinions, we weed out things we don't think we're interested in, but we might be interested in if somebody wrote something interesting about it?

NEGROPONTE: The risk is much lower than the gain that you get by being more attracted to -- you have like -- think of your screen as having a knob that is to change the point of view. I want a different point of view than mine. I can actually do that.

KURTZ: "Wired" magazine, you've seen the cover, "The Web is Dead." Do you agree with that?

NEGROPONTE: I've heard about that issue. I have not -- no, the Web is not dead.

KURTZ: How much technology do you consume? I'm talking about e- mail, blogs, news alerts in your daily life? And is it overwhelming?

NEGROPONTE: No, it's not overwhelming, partly because I've gotten very good at ignoring a certain amount of it.

KURTZ: What do you mean ignoring? People send you an e-mail, they want a response in 10 minutes.

NEGROPONTE: Well, they may not get one. OK?

You have to be able to sort of modulate these things. And I think of the technology more as, you know, liberating. Let me give you a specific example.

People say, oh, I want to go off for one week on my summer vacation and be completely disconnected. And I say, yes, but what if you could go for two weeks and be connected? And it's only sort of 30 minutes a day, or looking at headlines, maybe it's an hour a day.

KURTZ: So you have to control your diet or else, I mean, you can be swallowed by this stuff. You can spend hours and hours and hours swimming in it.

NEGROPONTE: Absolutely.

KURTZ: So there's times when even you disconnect, at least briefly?

NEGROPONTE: Almost none at all.

KURTZ: I've gone a little too far.

NEGROPONTE: Almost.

KURTZ: Nicholas Negroponte, thanks very much for joining us.

NEGROPONTE: You're very welcome.

(END VIDEOTAPE) KURTZ: Coming up, indecent exposure. The Web site Deadspin says it caught a star quarterback throwing passes at a team employee. Should the mainstream media have tackled Brett Favre's sexting scandal? The editor of Deadspin will be here.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: The story of what Brett Favre did or didn't do to a New York Jets staffer when he was the team's quarterback started on a sports blog. Deadspin reported in clinical detail that Favre had sent what I'll euphemistically call racy text and X-rated photos of himself to an in-house sideline reporter named Jenn Sterger, who, by the way, has appeared in "Playboy" and "Maxim."

The story moved from the Web to the front page of "The New York Post." And then the allegations quickly spread to "The New York Times," to ESPN, and the network morning shows.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATT LAUER, "THE TODAY SHOW": Did the married quarterback make unwanted advances toward women when he played for the Jets, and in one case send a female employee of the team lewd photos of himself?

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN: Still ahead, did Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre send naked pictures, leave racy voicemails to a woman not his wife? These are the allegations that are out there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: And joining us now from Philadelphia is the editor of Deadspin, A.J. Daulerio.

Let me ask you your reaction to this. "New York Times" columnist Richard Sandomir writing about Deadspin, "Snarky, mean-spirited and unbound by more rigorous principles of old line journalism."

A lot of mainstream media criticism of you over the Favre story. What's your reaction?

A.J. DAULERIO, DEADSPIN: Well, I don't take that as a criticism. I mean, Richard's always been very, very good about the adjectives describing me, so I think that's kind of a backhanded compliment in some way.

KURTZ: All right. You'll declare victory on that one.

You first wrote about this -- for people who don't know the back- story -- in August after conversations you had with Jenn Sterger. She said she didn't want her name attached to this. She certainly wanted the Favre story out.

DAULERIO: Right.

KURTZ: You did attach her name to it and you published some private e-mail correspondence between you and her. Why? Was that unfair to her?

DAULERIO: I would say that in some ways it probably was unfair to her looking back on it. But you have to kind of remember that this conversation did go on for a long period of time.

She was at first willing to kind of release the information to us, and just like -- but without her name attached to it. And then as time went on, I basically said to her, "Look, there are other people that do know about the story, and you've told other people about the story. I want to push ahead with this story, and here's your warning. It's coming out. Do you want to participate or not?"

I got what I thought was basically, you know, her approval on the fact of going ahead with that. And then we did, and here we are right now.

KURTZ: It sounds like you feel a little guilty though.

DAULERIO: Well, look, I mean, I had said to a couple people at the end of this, if there are two scumbags out if this situation, and it's myself and Brett Favre, I'd be OK with that. I mean, I understand that Jenn, I kind of forced her hand on this situation, but I thought it was a big enough story that we needed to pursue it.

KURTZ: When you got these texts and the pictures allegedly from Favre to Jenn Sterger, did you pay for that material?

DAULERIO: Yes, I did. Yes, we did. We paid for -- this is the third thing we've ever paid for on our site, and I had no problem paying for this whatsoever.

KURTZ: And just to clarify, you didn't pay Jenn Sterger. You paid somebody else who provided this to you?

DAULERIO: We paid a third party, yes. Jenn Sterger had nothing to do with this.

KURTZ: A fair amount of money, would you say?

DAULERIO: I would say it's more than we've ever paid for anything, but it was not a ridiculous amount of money.

KURTZ: Not a ridiculous amount of money.

DAULERIO: No.

KURTZ: Now, once you had these pictures of the male organ that may or may not belong to Brett Favre, why did you publish that? Why was that necessary, to get your traffic up?

DAULERIO: I don't think necessarily if you publish pictures of a male organ it automatically indicates that it's going to have more traffic to it. What I was thinking about was just, like, if this does exist and these -- we had talked about it, we kind of have to show it. And we did do it in a video form where it flashes on the screen very, very quickly. But, you know, we are a Web site that has published pictures that are kind of considered indecent before, and I just thought that this was kind of adding to the story, and at least adding to the evidence that was out there.

KURTZ: Now, come on, you knew that that would attract a lot more attention for Deadspin.

DAULERIO: Who? Who would it attract? I mean --

KURTZ: You're not shocked to hear me say that.

DAULERIO: Well, I mean, the thing is, I don't know if there's actually that big a market in terms of publishing pictures of male genitalia out there. I mean, we've kind of done it before in the past with -- like an eye-rolling approach to it.

And in this case, I really just think it was kind of important to the story. But it was done very, very quickly. We do have an uncensored version of the video available as well.

KURTZ: Yes, you do.

DAULERIO: So it is part of the story, but at the same time, it's not the whole thing that drove this story and made it completely -- made popular.

KURTZ: All right. Let me point out that Brett Favre has not commented directly on these allegations. He has apologized to his current team, the Minnesota Vikings, for creating this distraction.

The NFL is investigating it, and that enabled a lot of other media organizations to jump on the story because they had that as news peg (ph).

Were you 100 percent sure at the time you published this that that was, in fact, Brett Favre?

DAULERIO: I was 100 percent confident that his involvement was in it in some ways. I mean, the thing that gave me pause were the MySpace messages, because they seemed just completely out of character for Brett Favre. But, I mean, we did do our own --

KURTZ: These are MySpace messages he sent to Jenn Sterger?

(CROSSTALK)

DAULERIO: He sent to Jenn Sterger that were part of -- yes. And -- but we did get kind of independent verification from people who do know Brett Favre a lot better than you or I do that that was, in fact, his voice. And there are some people who have seen Brett Favre in the locker room and did tell us that, you know, that was Brett Favre.

KURTZ: So I wasn't going to go there, but you just went there.

A.J. Daulerio, thank you very much for joining us.

DAULERIO: Sure.

KURTZ: Obviously a controversial story, and we appreciate it.

DAULERIO: You're quite welcome.

KURTZ: Still to come, Helen Thomas breaks her silence about those remarks about Israel. Reporters salivate over a strange twist in the Chilean mining rescue. And Bill O'Reilly sparks a television walkout.

The "Media Monitor" is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

We talked last week about the frat house atmosphere at Tribune Company, with lots of disturbing examples unearthed by "The New York Times." Well, Tribune's chief innovation officer, Lee Abrams, did not exactly dispel that image. He sent an e-mail to everyone in the company with links to satirical videos, one of which was labeled -- I am not making this up -- "Sluts."

The video shows a gyrating woman appearing to pour liquor on her bare breasts. "Chicago Tribune" editor Gerald Kern called it offensive and Abrams apologized -- well, at least to everyone who was offended. Abrams was suspended indefinitely without pay, and on Friday he resigned.

The company said shortly before he quit that this is the kind of serious mistake that can't be tolerated. And I would agree. But it seems like there was an atmosphere at this bankrupt corporation that led some executives to believe such sexist garbage would be tolerated.

Here's an interesting case study in the seemingly sincere apology. It was nearly five months ago that Helen Thomas resigned from Hearst Newspapers after delivering a blunt message to the Israelis while being videotaped by a rabbi.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HELEN THOMAS, FMR. HEARST COLUMNIST: Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine.

RABBI DAVID NESENOFF: Ooh. Any better comments than that?

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Helen is blunt.

THOMAS: Remember, these people are occupied, and it's their land. It's not Germany and it's not Poland.

NESENOFF: So where should they go? What should they do?

THOMAS: Go home.

NESENOFF: Where's home?

THOMAS: Poland, Germany.

NESENOFF: So you're saying Jews should go back to Poland and Germany?

THOMAS: And America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Thomas said she was sorry, and pretty much disappeared. This week she broke her silence with Scott Spears of Ohio station WMRN.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

THOMAS: I hit the third rail. You cannot criticize Israel in this country and survive.

(END AUDIO CLIP

KURTZ: Now, hold on. Plenty of people in this country, from administration officials to, yes, Jewish leaders, criticize Israel. What they don't do is tell them to abandon their own country.

There was more.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

SCOTT SPEARS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I want people to understand why you made this comment.

THOMAS: Because it's the truth.

SPEARS: OK. Tell me why it's the truth.

THOMAS: Because the Israelis are very aggressive. They have refused to enforce or go along with some 65 U.N. resolutions condemning their cruelty to the Palestinians. Jewish-only roads, can you believe, in the West Bank? You think any American would tolerate that?

(END AUDIO CLIP)

KURTZ: So if Helen Thomas believes she was right, why did she apologize? She said in the interview that, "I had to because everyone was so upset."

Now, I guess, she's taking it back.

The saturation coverage of the Chilean mining rescue was captivating, ,a disaster with a happy ending, even if some cable correspondents kept yammering on rather than letting the pictures tell the story. The whole world seemed buoyed by the outcome.

But there was one plot twist that got little attention from most of the media and huge headlines in the New York tabloids. "He's All Mine!" The Post screamed. This was Yonni Barrios, emerging after 69 days and looking surprised on live television as he was embraced by his mistress while his clearly miffed wife stayed home. Now the mistress tells "The London Sun" that she's chased away a second girlfriend.

I mean, talk about un-scripted moments. Can the movie version be far behind?

And here is one in which almost no one looked good.

First, I found Bill O'Reilly's comment on "The View" offensive because he did appear to be blaming all people who follow a religion for the actions of a few extremists. But then, watch what happened next.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WHOOPI GOLDBERG, CO-HOST, "THE VIEW": What are you talking about?

BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS: Muslims killed us on 9/11.

GOLDBERG: No!

JOY BEHAR, CO-HOST, "THE VIEW": I don't want to sit here now. I don't want to sit here now. I don't.

(CROSSTALK)

O'REILLY: You're outraged about Muslims killing us on 9/11?

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: So Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar took a hike and Barbara Walters was the only voice of reason.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARBARA WALTERS, CO-HOST, "THE VIEW": I want to say something to all of you. You have just seen what should not happen.

We should be able to have discussions without washing our hands and screaming and walking off stage. I love my colleagues, but that should not have happened.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Good for her. O'Reilly apologized if anyone felt he was demeaning all Muslims, which he insists he was not. Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar came back. This was an argument worth having, but walking off in a huff doesn't really solve anything, does it?

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.