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CNN RELIABLE SOURCES

Fox News Drops Glenn Beck's Show; Government Shutdown Coverage

Aired April 10, 2011 - 11:00   ET

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


HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: Glenn Beck has been a white hot cultural phenomenon, one who, in the end, burned too brightly. Even by the opinionated standards of Fox News, Beck became too incendiary, too radioactive, which is why the network is dropping his show.

Did the dark conspiracy theories turn off the audience? And can he retain his influence without the cable platform?

As I watched this week's beltway cable battle, covered almost like a demolition derby, I wondered when the press would get around to the human impact of a government shutdown. Did the importance of these cutbacks get lost in the breathless rush to Friday's late-night deal?

Plus, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks likens sports bloggers to paparazzi and says maybe he'll kick them out of his locker room and provide his own information directly to the fans. We'll go one-on-one with Mark Cuban.

I'm Howard Kurtz. This is RELIABLE SOURCES. .

The ratings were simply remarkable. Nobody draws 2.5, 3 million people on cable news at 5:00 in the afternoon, but Glenn Beck did. Yes, his numbers were down 40 percent, and yes, more than 400 advertisers had fled. But the reason he and Roger Ailes' network are getting a divorce has to do with the question of independence.

Beck's brand was threatening to overshadow Fox, much to the consternation of the journalists there. And Beck increasingly wanted to build his own brand without interference.

Here's how he gave viewers the news.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS: When I took this job, I didn't take it because it was going to be a career for me. Paul Revere did not get up on the horse and say, "I'm going to do this for the rest of my life."

If you've watched this program and you really -- I ask you at times, hear me -- you know what I believe is coming. If you watch tonight's show, I believe you know that I believe we're heading into deep and treacherous waters. I will continue to tell the story, and I'm going to be showing you other ways for us to connect, but I have other things to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: So, what are the lessons of this television breakup?

Joining us now, Amy Holmes, co-host of the radio show "America's Morning News"; David Zurawik, TV and media critic for "The Baltimore Sun"; and Bill Press, host of radio's nationally syndicated "Bill Press Show."

David Zurawik, did Glenn Beck, standing at that blackboard every day, spinning those conspiracy theories, did he do himself in?

DAVID ZURAWIK, TELEVISION CRITIC, "THE BALTIMORE SUN": Oh, I think he absolutely did himself in. And I'll tell you what, in a way, it's interesting to see the marketplace function.

You can have that audience and yet not have advertisers in the way. But here's how he did himself in, Howie. He went too far with -- remember back in October of 2009, when he went on the Van after -- he went after Van Jones?

KURTZ: Van Jones, White House official.

ZURAWIK: When he started saying send me everything you have on members of the Obama White House, and then Keith Olbermann said send me everything you have on Beck, that was a toxic climate for talk radio -- for talk television.

KURTZ: The beginning of the end maybe.

ZURAWIK: And that was too much.

KURTZ: But let me ask Amy Holmes.

Beck had this huge audience, he was very successful. In my view, he became radioactive at times. Did he go too far? How do you attribute this demise?

AMY HOLMES, CO-ANCHOR, "AMERICA'S MORNING NEWS": well, I saw that there was certainly the conspiracy side of "The Glenn Beck Show," but there was also the tutorial side. I mean, Glenn Beck was a person who was putting on scholars and researchers from conservative think tanks, not the media-accepted Brookings Institution. But I think that Glenn Beck was a force of nature, and oftentimes, forces of nature are feared, they have to be explained.

He attracted all of his attention. And all of these viewers, I would have to surmise -- I don't know this, but him not being able to keep that show was in part because he wasn't following orders from Roger Ailes.

KURTZ: Well, clearly, there was tension from the two sides. And a hurricane is also a force of nature, but eventually it goes out to sea.

Bill Press, you said on this program just a few months ago, Glenn Beck was a ticking time bomb. What made him explode?

BILL PRESS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: A couple of things.

First, I've got to say, the first lesson I learned in television, it doesn't matter how big -- I saw it in L.A. when I started -- it doesn't matter how big you are, how popular you are. Your days can be numbered. I mean, you can go and nobody will miss you. And I think that's what happened to Glenn Beck.

What made him explode I think is building on what some of the other stuff -- I think he had this messianic complex. I really think he started to take himself too seriously. He thought he had a God- given mission. He talked -- he became very televangelistic. He talked about this mission. He talked about --

KURTZ: Some people like that.

PRESS: Well, I think it's OK from Rick Warren. I think it's OK from Pat Robertson. I don't think you want -- Roger Ailes didn't want it at 5:00.

HOLMES: But, I mean, if you were to compare Glenn Beck to many of the folks on MSNBC, Ed Schultz, he certainly is activist, he has a message, one that he believes needs to get out there into the public conversation. Lawrence O'Donnell declares himself to be a socialist. Well, a lot of people would say moving America to a social democracy is far more dangerous than going after some low-level functionary at the White House.

PRESS: Wait. There's nothing wrong with having an opinion, but, you know, Howie used the word "incendiary," or toxic, whatever you want to call it, or radioactive. When you say that the Japan earthquake was God punishing the people of Japan, or the Democratic uprisings in Egypt, or some conspiracy between American liberals and Islamic fundamentalists --

(CROSSTALK)

KURTZ: Hold on.

ZURAWIK: What Bill is saying is really -- he's back to, really, Father Coughlin and that brand of extreme right-wing radio talk.

KURTZ: Since we're all citing examples, let me play a few of his greatest hits for the audience and we'll pick it up on the other side.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BECK: We have a president who apparently loves instability and revolution.

There are three powers that you will see really emerge. One, a Muslim caliphate that controls the Mideast and parts of Europe.

The real answer is the Nazis were using early American progressive tactics. And that's not my opinion. That's historic fact.

Fine the exit closest to you and prepare for a crash-landing, because this plane is coming down because the pilot is intentionally steering it into the trees.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: David Zurawik, let me pick up the metaphor here.

(LAUGHTER)

KURTZ: Get your seatbelts strapped on.

There's little question that he was forced out. Why do you think Fox pulled the plug at this point?

ZURAWIK: Well, you know, Fox has this tension. You know, they're really pushing the Bret Baier image in saying we are a news -- and they behaved really well on midterm election night. But there's this tension between that vision of who they are and what Glenn Beck did. And for all of the good things they tried to do as a journalistic -- presenting themselves as a journalistic institution, he shredded it with that kind of talk every day at 5:00.

Howie, that really is crazy, apocalyptic, extreme right-wing radio talk. It has no place on television. And we've never had that before. That's the scary thing about it.

KURTZ: All right. Well, it may have no place on television, but obviously some people tuned in.

Now, you might say the liberal media targeted Beck. The liberal advocacy group Media Matters certainly had a campaign against him.

HOLMES: Of course.

KURTZ: But Roger Ailes told me some months ago that he asked Beck in a friendly way to tone things down.

HOLMES: Sure. And you know what? Roger Ailes is the boss. And generally, you are supposed to do what the boss says. And if you don't, then you don't get to keep your show. But you can string together sound bite after sound bite from MSNBC of their primetime --

PRESS: Oh, come on. Nothing like that. Nothing like t hat.

HOLMES: -- lineup. Ed Schultz; you have "Worst Person in the World" when Keith Olbermann was on. You have, as I said, Lawrence O'Donnell declaring himself to be a socialist, which he has every right to do, but it is extreme.

PRESS: There's nothing to compare to that.

But look, let's face it -- again, I come back -- look at Bill O'Reilly. OK? Only Glenn Beck could make Bill O'Reilly look like a statesman. Bill O'Reilly knows, Rush Limbaugh knows. Twenty-five years, they know there are some limits. Beck is such a megalomaniac, that he thought he could say anything, and he thought he didn't need Fox. Well, we'll find out.

KURTZ: Let me pick up on Amy's point about MSNBC. Now, I don't put Keith Olbermann in the same category as Beck at all. His MSNBC show, agree with it, disagree with it, was a very well-researched program. But he also became increasingly opinionated. He also clashed with his bosses. And he also left.

ZURAWIK: Howie, he was the guy who said -- right after the episode I cited in October, he did the same thing Beck did. He said, give me all the dirt you have on -- and on Roger Ailes, too. I mean, it was so personal.

This is not what you're doing on cable television. No.

Let me say this in the middle of these two, because it's true. And this is like, which carcinogen do you want in your water? Which one in the public?

Look, Olbermann, all of the others on MSNBC, O'Donnell, they are just as bad in one way. But in another way, Beck was worse. Here's how Beck was worse.

(CROSSTALK)

ZURAWIK: Beck understood the fault lines in our sort of history and moral consciousness. And he went with the Nazi stuff. And when he tried to appropriate the moral authority of Martin Luther King with that rally, he went right out things that are important to groups like African-Americans and Jews, and he would offend you in your face and not care. Olbermann didn't do that. I'll say that for Olbermann.

HOLMES: He had Alveda King at his rally standing by his side, who agrees with his message and is the niece of Martin Luther King.

KURTZ: Hold on. Hold on. Here's Beck talking about --

PRESS: Oh, please. Come on.

KURTZ: Here's Beck talking about -- and he apologized for this -- how liberal Judaism -- excuse me, reform Judaism was like radical Islam.

I have got to push back on this, though. You say that some of the people at MSNBC, just as bad. Now, they may be as opinionated, they may be as strident, they may occasionally be irresponsible. But they are not trafficking conspiracy theories, they're not making things up.

ZURAWIK: No. Howie, I'm saying they didn't go there. That's the difference. They didn't go where he did in the case of Jewish identity. PRESS: They're not calling people Nazis. They don't go in this anti-Semitic rant that he did about George Soros. They don't call the president of the United States a racist.

ZURAWIK: Exactly what I said. But --

PRESS: Let me telling you something -- wait a minute. There are strong opinions on MSNBC, and they're paid to give their strong opinions. But they don't go over the line the way Glenn Beck did with all of the stuff that Howie just said.

ZURAWIK: I agree with that part of it, Bill.

HOLMES: The conspiracy theory about Fox News being some sort of blight on American political discourse, you hear that on MSNBC all the time. And unlike MSNBC, Fox was not presenting Glenn Beck as a journalist. They did not have him moderating political debates as MSNBC. MSNBC has far more of a tension between their opinion and their journalism than Fox does.

PRESS: Wait. I just want to make it clear. OK? Roger Ailes fired Glenn Beck.

You can't blame MSNBC. You can't blame Media Matters. You can't blame Bill Press. We clashed as well.

Roger Ailes knew he was toxic for that network. And you know what else? I'm telling you, I'll bet you that the other hosts went to Roger Ailes and said you've got to get this loon off this air, he's making us all look bad.

KURTZ: I want to tell you before I ask my last question to Zurawik, I will tell you that a lot of journalists at Fox News feared that Glenn Beck was becoming the face of the network. And a lot of the executives felt he was an unguided missiles. And at the same time, Beck didn't actually work at Fox. In other words, he only showed up to do the show.

He had his own production which is going to continue. He's got his syndicated radio show. He gives speeches. He's got a Web site called "The Blaze," which sets me up for this question: How much more influence will he continue to have without that Fox platform? I mean, he's still got quite a following.

ZURAWIK: Howie, he will have influence. There's no doubt about it. And he has all this source of revenue, and probably the Fox money wasn't that important. But when you go to radio -- and also, his Web site was useful to people on the left for a while with the NPR thing. But he's going to be marginalized in a way.

HOLMES: I disagree with that.

ZURAWIK: He will, because it's a difference of being on television, and we have a history. We have a history of right-wing extreme radio talk.

KURTZ: You disagree because?

HOLMES: Because of Rush Limbaugh. Let's look at Rush Limbaugh and his influence. It is profound on American politics and American discourse. Radio as a medium, as you know, Bill Press, that it's very intimate, you're talking directly to your listener in a way that oftentimes on TV you're not.

PRESS: Fox -- he needs Fox more than Fox needs him.

KURTZ: All right. Got to get a break.

When we come back, Glenn Beck isn't the only big-name broadcaster moving on. What legacy will Katie Couric leave at CBS?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: We talked on this program last week about Katie Couric, very likely to leave the "CBS Evening News" when her contract expires in June. The AP reporting this week that it's definite. It's certainly moving in that direction.

David Zurawik, many of your fellow TV writers reduced it to this: Katie Couric failed because she was paid $15 million a year and the CBS broadcast remained in third place. Is that fair?

ZURAWIK: It's not the total story. I believe she failed. I believe, by any standard, you judge this as a failure. But I believe she failed -- and this is going to sound harsh, but she didn't work hard enough. About three months ago, I wrote a piece saying -- when they changed the morning show -- said, they have got to change the evening news. It's dead in the water, it's a step behind everybody.

Look at how Diane Sawyer energized ABC's evening news. She has her star. She brings --

KURTZ: What about the fact that the "CBS Evening News' won numerous awards? Katie Couric is in Iraq this week. Is that really a fear wrap?

ZURAWIK: Yes, it is fair, because when she took the job, she said, I don't want to be traveling just to stand in front of some foreign backdrop, blah, blah, blah. She was a reluctant traveler at first.

She just simply -- you know, I saw a quote about her and I heard this from somebody at CBS, said that Katie Couric works hardest around contract time. That's a harsh thing to say, but that's what they're saying there, Howie.

KURTZ: I'm going to disagree with that, David. (INAUDIBLE) I'm going to disagree.

But let me ask Amy Holmes.

So much media hype in 2006 about her being the first woman. Now, with Diane Sawyer at ABC, that seems less important. HOLMES: Right. I think it was a real breakthrough, and for a lot of young women to see that they could be up there sitting at that table with the big boys, that it's not just a lineup of older white gentleman. No offense there.

KURTZ: But it also heightened the hype machine.

HOLMES: It did. And I think, too, that CBS made a mistake in putting so much hype behind Katie Couric's move to CBS, bringing her from an outside organization, a morning show, which a lot of people regard as infotainment, putting her on there, that she was sort of set up then to meet such high expectations. ABC did not make that same mistake with Diane Sawyer.

KURTZ: Right.

And Katie, she's acknowledged that she changed too many elements of the broadcast early on, that evening news audiences are very -- they're all creatures of habit. And it's hard to grow that audience, especially since overall network newscast audiences are shrinking.

PRESS: No. Exactly. Look, she didn't get the ratings, so she lost the job.

But let me tell you, I think she's a huge talent. I think she's the best interviewer in television. I will be forever grateful for her interview with Sarah Palin. And I think she'll be bigger outside the evening news than she was on the evening news.

I think that constrained her. I think she'll have maybe an afternoon show, maybe back on the morning show. She's a huge talent. She's not going away.

KURTZ: She will have some kind of syndicated show, and she may still have a role in a news division, whether it's at CBS or elsewhere.

Before we go to the tease, I wanted to mention that "The Atlantic's" Clare Gillis and three other journalists are still being detained in Libya. They were taken into detention by the government on Tuesday. "The Atlantic" editor saying today that no diplomat, no independent journalists have been able to see them, even though the Gadhafi regime has promised they would be released. So I want to keep that our on radar screen as we await hopefully a satisfactory outcome of that situation.

Bill Press, David Zurawik, Amy Holmes, thanks for stopping by this morning.

Coming up in the second part of RELIABLE SOURCES, the shutdown story. Are the media too focused on political maneuvering rather than the human impact of these budget cuts.

Plus, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban on why he's ready to kick sports bloggers out of his locker room.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: Now that the threats have subsided and the countdown clocks have been turned off, the media are trying to assess who won and who lost in the great shutdown scare of 2011. The budget maneuvering was serious business that led to nearly $40 billion in spending cuts, but much of the coverage seemed like ESPN at the Olympics -- all about the games.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC: Shutdown showdown.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shutdown showdown.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a race against the clock right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The clock is ticking towards a government shutdown.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Countdown to shutdown.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I can tell you that a source here at the White House says that they are more optimistic now than they were four hours ago that a deal will get done.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: And the latest news we are hearing from Chuck Todd, NBC's Chuck Todd, that there is a deal on the table right now.

CARL CAMERON, FOX NEWS: Lawmakers have said now that they reached a deal, both on the Democratic and Republican side, to keep the government open.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Joining is now to examine how this budgetary battle was reported, Julie Mason, White House correspondent for Politico; Matt Lewis, senior contributor at "The Daily Caller"; and Ari Berman, contributing writer for "The Nation" magazine and author of "Hurting Donkeys: The Fight to Rebuild the Democratic Party and Reshape American Politics."

Ari Berman, was this covered mainly as a bit of a political circus?

ARI BERMAN, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, "THE NATION": Absolutely. It was really a bizarre world last week with these -- as you said, these countdown clocks and everything.

KURTZ: That was hours ago.

BERMAN: I know. It's hard to forget at this point.

There was all this news about no news, which was really kind of astonishing. And then, it was all about who was up, who was down, who would win politically, who would get blamed for a shutdown, as opposed to what the effect of these cuts would actually be.

KURTZ: There were so many news conferences staged for the cameras, that I wonder when they had time to negotiate.

Wasn't it kind of like the fourth quarter of a basketball game? And did we really need those countdown clocks?

MATT LEWIS, SR. CONTRIBUTOR, "THE DAILY CALLER": Yes. I think this is good news, because you're right, the media hyped this, they played it like, at worst, a sporting event, at best, an election with a deadline. And a deadline did this make story.

KURTZ: Sure.

LEWIS: But that's good. I'll tell you why. Because budget stuff is tedious.

And most Americans would not tune in or be interested in a CR. But what the media did in ginning it up for ratings is actually make it something that people were interested in. Then you delve in deeper, you start to learn about the budget. So, ultimately, I think it's a win.

KURTZ: So Matt Lewis endorses the SportsCenter approach.

But after all the focus on the political maneuvering, Julie Mason, in the last couple of days, when it looked like the government might shut down, at least for a few days, it was almost like journalists woke up and said, hey, soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan are not going to get their paychecks to feed their families, which would have been an outrage.

JULIE MASON, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO: That's really true. But, you know, Howie, the thing is, every veteran journalist in Washington knew exactly how this was going to turn out. We were joking about it at the White House on Wednesday, saying, 11:00 p.m. on Friday, they're going to get a deal. But we all had to cover the story like it was a real thing.

KURTZ: I wonder, you know, Ari, at the end of this, Democrats portrayed the Republicans as making the issue about ideology such as defunding Planned Parenthood. Do you think the press did enough to cover that side of the fight, as opposed to the winners, the losers, the countdown clock, and all of the theatrics surrounding it?

BERMAN: Well, it was hard to cover because we didn't know what were part of these negotiations for so long. I mean, we kept talking about these cuts, these cuts, these agreements, so we didn't actually know it was in the agreement.

And then it comes out at the last minute, well, is it really about Planned Parenthood? Which was just, if you think about it, an absolutely absurd reason not to have a budget deal because of $360 million that goes to family planning services. The Democrats, for one day, did a very good job of making that issue, but, of course, Republicans, in the end, got all the spending cuts pretty much that they wanted, and they changed the subject as a result.

KURTZ: And I was going to make that precise point, Matt Lewis. The Democrats made a lot of concessions here, $38 billion in spending cuts.

Yes, this is just a six-month budget, and the bigger battles lie ahead and all of that. We'll get to that if we have time. But it seemed the coverage didn't reflect, maybe because the Republicans didn't want to declare victory, that John Boehner and his troops really got a lot of what they wanted.

LEWIS: I think they did. I think Republicans are ultimately the winners, and John Boehner comes out looking really good, like a statesman, like someone who got a lot for his base and yet still was able to compromise.

But it could have been, I think, very bad for Republicans if the government did shut down because of the way media narratives were. You talked about the military -- the soldier who wouldn't have been paid, or the family who comes to the zoo from Omaha and can't get in. Those are very emotional and real -- it's easy to have a camera and show those stories.

The stories that are hard to show are stories like about my 3-- month-old son who might have this debt in 30 years. In other words, the Republican story is abstract. The deficits, taxes in the future are abstract. The media narrative would have killed Republicans if it shut down.

KURTZ: Well, I mean, 800,000 federal workers being forced to stay home, and national parks and museums closing, and not getting Social Security checks processed, all that is undeniable. It's not a media stunt.

But I wonder if you think enough attention was paid to -- you know, we often talk about when conservatives say things like "You like," it gets a lot of attention. Here's Democratic Congresswoman Louise Slaughter saying Republicans want to kill woman. And I didn't see a lot of outrage about that. And that's pretty hot rhetoric.

LEWIS: Well, especially if you look at it in the context of where we've been. I was on your show, like, a month ago, and we were talking about the heated rhetoric and about the new tone that we should have in the wake of the Gabby Giffords thing. I mean, so all this talk about toning down the rhetoric, and here you have a Democrat using what I think is unacceptable political rhetoric for politics.

KURTZ: Not necessarily hasn't been hot rhetoric on both sides.

Julie Mason, President Obama, at first, for weeks, seemed rather disengaged, staying on the sidelines. Then, in the last few days, he started briefing reporters at 10:00 at night.

Did the White House make an attempt to convince journalists that the president was really driving this process at the end? MASON: At the end. And really, this shows a real maturing of how the White House handles these political situations, because he got in at the very end and they inoculated him. If they come out with a deal, he gets the credit. If the deal breaks down, and the government shuts down, then it's not Obama's fault because he wasn't really involved. It was Congress' fault.

KURTZ: Are you suggesting that that is reality or that this is a spin that the media happily swallowed?

MASON: Oh, it's a complete spin. And the worst thing about this was -- is that when they did come out with a deal, the media was piling on saying this is great for Boehner, this is great for Obama, they worked it out, when really the entire situation was a failure of leadership. How did it get that far?

KURTZ: Yes. Well, in part, because the Democrats didn't pass the budget last year when they controlled both houses, but also because of all the posturing that goes on. And I think we in the media kind of reward this in the sense that, you know, when somebody's holding out and making demands, and I will not let this pass, it can make for good television.

Speaking of your point about abstract budgets, Republican Congressman Paul Ryan came out with his plan for next year's budget and beyond, $4.5 trillion in cuts over 10 years, changing Medicare into a voucher program. Did the press adequately point out that he would also cut taxes for those at the top of the scale by about $4 billion? You know, in other words, what kind of hearing did this get?

BERMAN: Yes. No, and it's been interesting to me to watch Paul Ryan become the go-to deep thinker in the Republican Party. And really, this figure who's described as brave and courageous and bold and daring, when I think, really, what he's done is introduce a truly radical plan to gut the social safety net, to redistribute income upwards.

I would say that's cruel, it's gimmicky. And the press has not done a good job thus far fact-checking Paul Ryan and looking at what his ideas --

(CROSSTALK)

KURTZ: And most of the cuts come from people on the lower income end of the scale.

But you have to say, the counter to that, Matt Lewis, as you know, is that even if it's journalists who are skeptical of his plan, or think it's never going to pass and never going to go on to tackle Medicare, then at least it's a serious plan. And where is the other side's plan?

LEWIS: Absolutely. There's no easy way to cut $6.2 trillion out of the budget. And so --

KURTZ: Well, I mean, it becomes harder when you cut taxes by $4 trillion.

LEWIS: Well, when you look at where most of the money needs to come from, it's from entitlements and national security or defense. Anyway, putting --

KURTZ: Should he be covered -- I've got a few seconds left.

LEWIS: Sure.

KURTZ: Should he be covered as a serious --

LEWIS: Absolutely.

KURTZ: Yes.

LEWIS: And President Obama will come out with another plan, I'm told, I guess this week. And so then there will be something to compare it to and we'll have that debate.

KURTZ: We'll have an actual debate about the substance and the future and the entitlements in this country. And then you're all going to say that's going to be hard.

MASON: No, I don't believe that.

KURTZ: But it's important for to us cover it.

Let me get a break here. And when we come back, why do the networks keep giving Donald trump a platform to push his birther conspiracy against Barack Obama?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: Donald Trump, who claims to be considering a run for president, was back on TV this week -- CNN, NBC -- talking about his favorite issue. Here is he on "The Today Show."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, CONSIDERING PRESIDENTIAL RUN: You know what? His grandmother in Kenya said he was born in Kenya, and she was there and witnessed the birth. OK?

He doesn't have a birth certificate, or he hasn't shown it. He has what's called a certificate of live birth. That is something that's easy to get. When you want a birth certificate, it's very hard to get.

MEREDITH VIEIRA, "THE TODAY SHOW": But it's consider the equivalent --

TRUMP: Excuse me. Excuse me. It's not the equivalent.

VIEIRA: Wait. Wait. In the state of Hawaii, they said they have seen this document.

TRUMP: Meredith, it's not the equivalent.

VIEIRA: It is evidence that he was born in the United States. That's good enough for them. Scholars have looked at it.

TRUMP: A birth certificate is not even close.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Julie Mason, when it comes to this birther issue, Trump is peddling nonsense. Why do the networks keep putting him on to say the same thing?

MASON: Well, networks have to fill time like everyone else, Howie. They can't always be smart shows like this one. But this is an interesting sideshow. The Republicans haven't gotten in, they're not mixing it up yet. And so this is just something fun to cover. Everyone knows it's crazy.

KURTZ: CNN's Candy Crowley, in an interview that aired on this morning's "STATE OF THE UNION," repeatedly pressed Trump about this. She brought up the birth announcements in the newspapers. She showed that if you listen to the whole transcript of the grandmother, she said he was born in Hawaii. She called it a cynical play to get voters' attention.

She did a good a job as I've seen, and yet I come back to this question, and I'll ask you, when other people have said Obama was not born in Hawaii, the media initially dismissed them others as fringe figures. Not so with Donald Trump.

BERMAN: Well, he should be dismissed as a fringe figure, and they should stop having him on. I mean, he's entirely a media creation at this point.

He's not a serious presidential candidate. He's saying these crazy things to get higher ratings for his reality TV show, "Celebrity Apprentice." They've shown that when the crazier the things he says, the higher the ratings go up for "Celebrity Apprentice."

KURTZ: And are the people who are putting him on also interested in getting higher ratings?

BERMAN: Absolutely.

MASON: Of course.

BERMAN: Absolutely. Both sides are culpable here.

KURTZ: Trump is colorful. He's a big name.

MASON: Sure, yes.

KURTZ: You know, Trump goes up to second place in an NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll among Republicans, presidential preference. And journalists start hyperventilating about the guy. And then, suddenly -- and I don't understand -- I mean, he's an accomplished businessman -- he's had his ups and downs, he had the bankrupt casinos -- but why he's not running as a businessman, why he's running as a birther.

LEWIS: Well, he does bring up other stuff like China.

KURTZ: Sure.

LEWIS: But the birther stuff gets focused on. I mean, for good reason.

KURTZ: He spent 10 minutes talking about it with Candy Crowley this morning.

LEWIS: Well, I didn't see the Candy interview, but let me say this -- first of all, I think some of the people who like him like him because we live in a politically correct culture. And that's why people like Charlie Sheen even get credit, even though he says crazy stuff. It's like, at least he's willing to say something. But, look, if you see trump -- I didn't see Candy's interview.

KURTZ: I don't think Charlie Sheen is considering a White House bid.

MASON: Not yet.

LEWIS: I didn't see Candy's, but if you look at Trump, he steam rolls these other interviewers. He really does, because he is so brazen with it. And there's something to be said for that. Later, journalists go back and show that he's a kook in print because they can prove it, but on air, Trump actually usually wins the arguments.

KURTZ: Well, he does make it difficult to get a word in edgewise, but I think Candy, in particular -- and I'm not saying this because she works on CNN -- did it on the air. She was obviously prepared for this.

But again, what is the greater purpose that is served by giving this guy a platform -- it's not like he hasn't said it on "The View" and all these other shows -- for an argument that anybody who examines it says it just falls apart? This is not like an argument about EPA regulations.

LEWIS: Right. Earlier, I talked about how the fact that the media was sort of ginning up the budget talk was good. This is an example of where it's bad. The media is ginning up this story, and it's not good the debate.

BERMAN: And it goes to show you why the public doesn't think so highly of our profession. I mean, this is a case study right here that covers Donald Trump.

KURTZ: There's a shocking assertion..

Matt Lewis, Ari Berman, Julie Mason, thanks for joining us. Up next, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban wants to do an end run around sports bloggers and provide his earn online news to the fans. Plus, we'll ask why he hired Dan Rather.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: Mark Cuban is one of the most provocative bloggers around. He also happens to own a basketball team, the Dallas Mavericks, and a television network, HDNet.

So it caught my eye this week when Cuban wrote that maybe his NBA team should keep folks from ESPN.com, Yahoo.com, and other Web sites out of his locker room. Why? He writes, "I think we have finally reached a point where not only can we communicate any and all factual information from our players and team directly to our fans and customers as effectively as any big sports Web site, but I think we have also reached a point where our interests are no longer aligned."

So, are sports teams now in a position to control more of their own media? To explore that question and talk about Cuban's television operation, I spoke to him earlier from Dallas.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KURTZ: Mark Cuban, welcome.

MARK CUBAN, OWNER, DALLAS MAVERICKS: Thank you. Glad to be here.

KURTZ: Now, you go charging down the court, you go right at these online guys from ESPN.com and Yahoo.com. You're comparing them to paparazzi. Why?

CUBAN: Well, because their goal is not journalism. Their goal is to quickly satisfy the immediate cravings of their reading audience, and sometimes that's not necessarily aligned with the best interests of the Mavericks, my company.

KURTZ: I got a chuckle when I read that you had written that the questions they ask, they do them as traffic-generating opportunities. But come on. Doesn't everybody want to build an audience?

CUBAN: Oh, of course. But look, I'm not denying them the chance to do their business. They have right and opportunity to do that. But I don't have to condone it, I don't have to support it, and I don't have to enable it. You know, I don't want to hand a heroin junkie the needle, and in this particular case, giving them locker room access is pretty much the same thing.

KURTZ: Well, you say they pursue rumors and that they're overly negative when the Mavericks lose. Whenever I'm in New York and the Knicks lose, I look at the New York tabloids and they're pretty negative too. But aren't they positive when your team wins?

CUBAN: Yes. You know, look, I'm not trying to control what they say. You know, it's more a matter of defining credibility and trying to understand what the best moves are for the Mavericks. You know, we're in a transitioning media environment. Just over the past three years with, you know, the explosion of Facebook, the increase in use of Twitter, other real-time media opportunities, there are so many things that are changing, I'd be stupid not to continually survey and evaluate what's best for my business in terms of dealing with the online culture and consumers of media online.

On the flip side, if you look at what has happened with the sports media as they cover sports teams, they've changed as well. You know, the goal is no longer journalism. They've had to respond to all these elements, Twitter and Facebook, and deal with the business impacts on their -- in their world.

And so, they have to respond far more quickly, they do it with fewer filters, they don't look for first and second and third sources. They don't even look for sources. You have this twice-removed headline problem where something starts as a headline or something starts -- something is written as opinion by someone who is a reporter --

KURTZ: Right.

CUBAN: -- but it's picked up as a quote that then turns into fact seven times removed. There's all these elements that I have to take into account because the world has changed. And so, you know, I'm not trying to dismiss them, but I'm trying to understand what the best business move is for me.

KURTZ: Right. And this is true of political coverage as well. Everybody is under pressure to --

CUBAN: Exactly.

KURTZ: -- to pile every 12 minutes. But it sounds a little but like, you know, this is a business, of course, that you want more control. That you would like to be providing the information about the Dallas Mavericks, and perhaps grabbing some of that audience share that otherwise would go to these other Web sites.

CUBAN: Well, there's two elements there. There's control and there's market share.

You know, I know I can't have control. This is the Internet. I mean, in this day and age, anybody can have a Twitter account, everybody has Facebook, everybody can have a blog, everybody can contribute via comments on any Web site whether it's "The Washington Post" or ESPN.

So you can't control anything. And so, you have to first recognize that you have no control.

Knowing that, on the other side of the coin, you also have to recognize all those tools that other people use to create commentary and opinion. I have access to those tools as well, but I have the additional benefit of having deeper access to the information because it's my company. So, depending on how I approach it, then I have unique opportunities. If I approach it like a traditional sports team, and really have heavy filters, then I'm at a disadvantage and it's probably not the right move. If I reduce or eliminate the filters, there's nothing that ESPN or any other venue can create, or Web site can create that I can't create.

You know, particularly now, in this media environment, where there's so much turnover among reporters and journalists or headline mongers, however you want to define each individual person, you know, I have great opportunities to go out and hire them as well. So --

KURTZ: Right, but --

CUBAN: -- it's really a fundamental decision.

KURTZ: But you're not extending this to the local newspapers and local television stations. You want them in your locker room. I'm sure there are times when you don't like what they report.

CUBAN: Oh, of course.

KURTZ: Why are they in a different category? Why are they in a different category?

CUBAN: Well, of course. There's plenty of times that they're going to report negative things. And again, let me say very clearly, it's not that I don't like negative things, it's just, that's just part of the game.

But the reason why television and print, in particular, are very different, is because their consumers may not consume online information. There's a segment of the population that, you know, they're not hardcore sports fans, they're not hardcore political junkies. They get -- you know, they're happy just to watch the evening news, just to read the morning newspaper to get the information they need to satisfy whatever desires they have about sports or politics, or whatever it may be.

They only way I'm going to reach them is by dealing with the newspapers and television and, to a certain extent, radio folks as well. That's just the reality.

Will that change over time? Probably, but today it is what it is.

KURTZ: So, you know, you're not saying that when you, for example, get fined for saying things about referees, or the NBA takes issue with what you said, that that shouldn't be covered. You know that's going to be covered.

CUBAN: Well, of course.

KURTZ: Yes.

CUBAN: Of course. Look, more often than not, I announce the fines before the league does.

(LAUGHTER)

KURTZ: Get out in front of the story. That works in every situation.

CUBAN: No, it's great -- you know, I got fined one time for complaining via Twitter. Right? I complained about the refs, I knew I was going to get fined. But I didn't do it because I had a problem with the refs, I did it because I knew it would jack up the number of Twitter followers that I had.

KURTZ: Wait, you're saying --

CUBAN: It was purely a business decision.

KURTZ: How much did that -- was the fine? How much did that tweet cost you?

CUBAN: The tweet cost me $25,000, and I added a good --

KURTZ: And you're saying that was a good investment?

(LAUGHTER)

CUBAN: Exactly.

KURTZ: All right.

CUBAN: Exactly.

KURTZ: Now, are you just venting about, you know, what these online writers and columnists do, or are you really seriously considering muscling them out of your locker room?

CUBAN: No, I'm -- you know, I wouldn't call it muscling. I think that's a little pejorative. But I'm certainly evaluating what my alternatives are, like any good business would.

I mean, it really has been surprising to me that, because I wanted to make a change in how I interact with Internet reporting, that there's been such a big response to it. Because the media is changing so quickly.

You know, people are basically saying, Mark, you ought to keep things the way it's always been during this Internet -- you know, during the last 15 years of the Internet generation, when, in reality, so much has changed it's literally crazy not to adapt to what's happening in the media and Internet landscape. And so, it's not that I'm trying to control, it's not that I'm trying to kick people out or muscle them out.

What I'm trying to do is figure out the best model for communicating with our consumers, our fans, our customers, our prospects, like any good business would.

KURTZ: I'm sure other teams will be watching your example as well if you make some progress on that front.

Let me switch to one of your other companies, your television network, HDNet.

CUBAN: Sure.

KURTZ: Several years ago, you hired Dan Rather. This, of course, was after he had left or had been forced out of the CBS anchor chair after that story about President Bush and the National Guard, and a whole lot of -- you know, which CBS had to retract. Not a lot of people were looking to hire Dan Rather at that time.

Why did you take him on, create a weekly show for him?

CUBAN: Well, first, I'm a big Dan Rather fan. I mean, I love the work he had done.

You know, I got to sit and talk to him. He's a walking encyclopedia. He, you know, personifies journalism. You know, his goal is always to try to do his best to get the story right, even, you know, as in the case of CBS, even if it cost him dearly. And those are the types of things I wanted to support.

You know, whether it's "Dan Rather Reports," Tuesday night on HDNet, "World Report" both Emmy-awarding winning, I just -- it's a guilty pleasure of mine and probably, you know, a bias of mine that I want to see somebody go out there and really try to get the story right. You know, there's no filters on Dan in any of the stories he does. I watch them on TV just like everybody else.

I don't ask to see them before he does them. You know, I don't ask what the topics are. I don't look to see if they impact our advertisers. I just want him to go out and do the story right. And there's other -- you know, I look at it as doing the right thing --

KURTZ: Right.

CUBAN: -- and supporting journalism, and there's other projects that I'm doing as well.

KURTZ: One thing that's happened is that media writers aren't reporting that much on Dan Rather, in part because they're not seeing many of these reports. You know, HDNet is in about 23 million homes, so he doesn't have the audience that he had before.

CUBAN: Right.

KURTZ: Is that a big disadvantage, even for as big a star as Dan Rather, to be in a somewhat limited, niche network?

CUBAN: Well, yes and no. I mean, on one hand, you know, HDNet is the largest independently-owned network in the country.

Well, let me qualify it -- with Bloomberg. The largest independently-owned that charges a subscriber fee. Bloomberg is actually the largest. And it's about that independence -- KURTZ: So you don't worry about ratings? You don't worry about ratings?

CUBAN: Well, I mean, I care about people watching, but I get to make my own decision. I get to make all the programming decisions, you know. And, you know, Dan isn't going to get millions of people watching, he's getting hundreds of thousands of people watching every show.

But, at the same time, because of digital media, because a lot of the shows get posted, at least segments get posted online, the audience grows and grows. And good work attracts an audience and good work attracts respect.

KURTZ: As a basketball guy, you'll understand this. The clock is winding down. Let me sneak in one more question.

CUBAN: Sure.

KURTZ: You've criticized news in general, the news media, as too corporate and too ratings-driven. What do you mean by that?

CUBAN: Well, you know, there's different ways to evaluate it, and really, defining it as "too ratings-driven" it really depends which medium we're talking about. But, you know, I think, you know, newspapers, as an example, I think they're really leaving a lot of money on the table by not recognizing that they're in a digital environment.

You know, I'll -- let's look at the paywall example at "The New York Times." You know, that has a chance to be very, very successful if they go beyond just news and start incorporating movies, documentaries, video, and really adding value to their subscribers and what they paid, a la a Netflix.

KURTZ: But does "too corporate" mean "too timid," in your view?

CUBAN: I think too stayed. You know, I think -- yes, you know what? I think timid is a good word, Howard, because I think right now, there's so many -- all these companies, it's kind of like the HDNet thing.

HDNet is me, right? I make all the decisions.

If you go to look at Time Warner and their news departments, you know, NBC Universal, Comcast, CBS, all these -- Disney -- all these corporate news departments, people are afraid of whether or not they're going to be able to keep their jobs, and that impacts their decision making.

KURTZ: Right.

CUBAN: That impacts how they view things, which drives them to look at ratings first and quality second.

KURTZ: There's the final horn. Our time has expired. Mark Cuban, thanks very much for joining us.

CUBAN: Thank you, Howard. I really enjoyed it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KURTZ: I was probably a little overdressed during that conversation.

Still to come, a network journalist gets too cozy with the FBI. And what happened after a radio host admitted that he slept with interns?

The "Media Monitor," straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: Time now for our "Media Monitor."

This would be hard to believe, but it's in a government document. It turns out the FBI had a mole at ABC News, a journalist who not only provided information, but gave up a confidential source.

According to FBI records obtained by the Center for Public Integrity -- and I edited this story for "The Daily Beast" -- a veteran ABC reporter gave the bureau information right after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1985. That information, involving rumors that Iraq might have played a role in the bombing, which of course turned out to be untrue.

A year later, the journalist who was listed in FBI files as a confidential informant, sat down with bureau officials and revealed that his information had come from a former CIA officer named Vince Cannistraro, who had become an ABC consultant. Cannistraro says he himself provided the uncorroborated information directly to the FBI.

Now, there's a real danger when journalists get too close to law enforcement. I'll quote ABC spokesman Jeffrey Schneider on this subject.

"It can create a perception of collusion between the government and the news organization. It would put journalists everywhere at risk if people believe that journalists are acting as government agents."

Now, we were cautious and didn't identify the journalist, but one who fit the description and didn't return calls was producer Chris Isham, now the Washington bureau chief for CBS. After Gawker named Isham as the FBI mole, he said in a statement, "The suggestion that I was an informant for the FBI is outrageous and untrue. In the heat of the Oklahoma City bombing, it would not be unusual for me or any other journalist to run information by a source within the FBI for conformation or to notify authorities about a pending terrorist attack."

"But at no time did I compromise a confidence source with the FBI or anyone else. Mr. Cannistraro was not a confidential source, but rather a colleague -- a paid consultant to ABC News."

That statement leaves a number of questions unanswered. It sounds like Isham is saying he may well have cooperated with the FBI, but didn't do anything wrong.

He is welcome on this program if he'd like to try to clear this up.

Controversial radio hosts have a way of talking themselves out of a job. The latest example, Jay Severin, who was fired this week by Boston's WTTK.

He was talking about a sexual harassment case against the chairman of the company American Apparel and called the two former female employees who brought the suit "whores" and "liars." OK. That's pretty bad.

Then Severin announced that he had sex with interns. Then he said this: "Those girls that got to sleep with me got to know their boss better. They got to go on trips. I don't think of myself as a monster or strange in any way because of that. All I was was a young man who was the boss and I did it because I could."

The odd thing is Severin had said much worse. He was suspended a couple of years ago for calling Mexican immigrants "primitives" and "leeches." And sleeping with interns you supervise is pretty pathetic. But talking about it years later, didn't David Letterman do the same thing, not to mention Bill Clinton?

Talk radio stations hire hosts to build an audience by saying outrageous things. Then they act shocked when they go too far.

Maybe Severin was canned because his ratings were down.

Finally, Rupert Murdoch's British tabloid "News of the World" has admitted wrongdoing in that phone-hacking scandal and offered to settle with actress Sienna Miller and other victims in the case. The paper today calling its conduct unacceptable.

Maybe now the tabloid can apologize to "The New York Times" for saying its investigation of this outrage was meant only to tarnish its corporate rival, Murdoch.

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

I'm Howard Kurtz.

Join us 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.