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CNN RELIABLE SOURCES

A Look at GOP Presidential Debates; 'Human Events' Reporter Ambushes Biden; James O'Keefe's New Target

Aired October 30, 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: There are so many presidential debates these days that it sometimes seems they are the campaign. And one candidate at least is pushing back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: These debates are set up for nothing more than to tear down the candidates.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Is Rick Perry right? Are these face-offs more about the networks choreographing conflict, building their brands and chasing ratings?

A "Human Events" reporter ambushes Vice President Biden after asking for a picture.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let's get it straight. Don't screw around with me. Let's get it straight, guys.

REPORTER: You didn't use the rape reference?

BIDEN: No, let me -- listen to me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: What happens when you mix ideology with deception?

And undercover activist James O'Keefe has a new media target.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES O'KEEFE: We discovered something else interesting about "Huffington Post" reporter Sam Stein.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: O'Keefe accuses the reporter of getting his sources drunk. Is this the new face of conservative journalism?

Plus, as Facebook reveals more and more about us, is privacy passe? Why is blogger Jeff Jarvis revealing so much about his personal life? We'll ask him.

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

(MUSIC)

KURTZ: Every week it seems there's another one, and there are at least a dozen more to go -- televised drama featuring Mitt and Rick and Herman and Newt and Michele and the rest of the gang. But these primetime programs, are they really about Chris Wallace and Bret Baier, and Anderson Cooper and Wolf Blitzer and Brian Williams and Charlie Rose?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: It's time now to meet the 2012 Republican presidential contenders.

BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS: Here's the format for our debate tonight.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Let's get right to it and meet the candidates.

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS: Good evening, candidates.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC: We're going to get right to it tonight.

MEGYN KELLY, FOX NEWS: The next question is for you --

CHARLIE ROSE, PBS: We debate this evening about spending and taxes.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

KURTZ: It's no secret that Rick Perry has had a tough time during these debates and his campaign has been hinting that he might just take a pass in the future.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PERRY: These debates are set up for nothing more than to tear down the candidates. It's pretty hard to be able to sit and lay out your ideas and your concepts with a one-minute response. So, you know, if there was -- if there was a mistake made, it's probably ever doing one of the -- ever doing one of the campaigns when all they're interested in is stirring it up between the candidates.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Perry's camp said yesterday he will attend the next few debates, at least.

Joining us to examine television's role in these debates and, I'm afraid, the press coping with the birther issue: here in Washington, Jennifer Rubin, author of the "Right Turn" blog for the "Washington Post"; Roger Simon, chief political correspondent for "Politico"; and John Aravosis, author of Americablog.com. Roger Simon, why are the networks airing so many debates and getting the candidates to show up?

ROGER SIMON, POLITICO: Because the debates are media-driven. They're not driven by the candidates. The candidates do hate them, not just because they're afraid of each other, but because they take over the schedule. You have to go to where the debate is, even if you'd like to go California instead to raise money. You have to study. You can't afford to make any mistakes.

Who really benefit from the debates? The branding of the media on the backdrop behind them. We are pushing these debates.

KURTZ: I would not quarrel that at all. The ratings pretty good this season. CNN got 5.5 million viewers for the most recent debate. FOX News has gotten 6 million.

Jennifer Rubin, Rick Perry says, as we saw in the sound bite, he said, nothing more than to tear down the candidate. Is he right?

JENNIFER RUBIN, "RIGHT TURN" BLOG: Well, that comes from a candidate who's been torn down at the debates.

KURTZ: He has the expertise on the subject.

RUBIN: Exactly. I wouldn't choose anybody else in that department. I think actually these have been some of the more interesting debates that we've had in any recent election. I think they've actually been pretty substantive.

We've heard economic plans. We've heard about a little bit of foreign policy. We'll have a complete foreign policy debate coming up. We've talked about some social issues. We talked a lot about the economy.

I actually think they've been very beneficial. There's a relatively large field. Most of these people were unknown to the vast majority of voters. That's how they got to know them.

And this notion that in retail politicking, that's how you really get to know voters I think is a misnomer. You don't get to see that many people even in Iowa shaking hands one by one.

KURTZ: Looking at the rule of the moderators, John Aravosis -- I mean, these debates are about sowing conflict. When the debates are seemed successful by the rest of the press, it is when they're beating each other up.

JOHN ARAVOSIS, AMERICABLOG.COM: Look, yes. But I mean, the Lincoln-Douglass debate wasn't about the two agreeing with each other. I mean, you've seen Gingrich and I think a couple of the others complaining how -- oh, you're just here to make us argue with each other. And Rick Perry just did in a piece you just showed.

That's sort of the point of the debates is we always complain as voters that debates are never real. The candidates never go after each other. They never have to do point-counterpoint.

I think we've been seeing more in these debates recently. And I agree with Jennifer, I've actually found it kind of interesting.

SIMON: Let me say if I could. One thing that Perry said happens to be correct. Since I get so few moments to say that about what Perry says -- it's ridiculous that the responses are limited to one minute and 30-second follow-ups. I mean, you know, tell us your plans for the future of the Middle East. You have one minute.

KURTZ: Yes.

SIMON: That is totally media-driven because it's a good TV show.

KURTZ: Faster pace.

SIMON: It's snappy.

KURTZ: I have the impression, Roger, that the candidates this year are doing fewer events and debates have become the campaign. Am I right or wrong?

SIMON: Well, someone did analysis saying that it is the same number of debates this cycle as last cycle. I don't know if that's true. We're certainly paying more attention to the debates. But they are not having the desired effect. They are not shortening the field. Only one candidate has dropped out.

KURTZ: Yes.

RUBIN: But I don't think that's the point of the debates. The point of the debates is to educate the voters.

KURTZ: The point is to get ratings, according to what I'm hearing at this table.

Let me move on some interviews that Perry has been doing. The Texas governor had been staying off the TV interview circuit. It began last week with "Parade" magazine when he was asked it President Obama and the birth certificate -- which I thought was an issue that was dead and buried. He says, I don't know, I don't have a definitive answer. Trump thinks he's not -- wasn't born here.

And then it came much in a sit-down with CNBC's John Harwood.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN HARWOOD, CNBC: Mitt Romney, after the president released his birth certificate earlier this year, said that issue is done and settled, I accept it. You chose to keep it alive in your interview with "Parade" magazine over the weekend. Why did you do that?

PERRY: It's a good issue to keep alive.

I'm really not worried about the president's birth certificate. It's fun to poke at him a little bit and say, hey, how about -- let's see your grades and your birth certificate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: It's fun apparently. Has the press let Perry off the hook for raising this birther nonsense again?

ARAVOSIS: You know, a little bit. But I think Perry did take a hit and legitimately. Either he showed a little bit of a lack of discipline by going there, I think, or he actually maybe believed some of this stuff and is a little bit desperate to get attention. But I think either way, I think Perry did take even more of a hit now by giving a bad answer on the issue.

KURTZ: Chairman of the RNC, Reince Priebus says -- I said on Bloomberg that Perry was badgered about the birther issue 20 times. Well, he could have shut it down in the first question, right?

RUBIN: Absolutely. This was a bad time to do this. This was the week that he was rolling out his economic plan. He has a new team. This was supposed to be turnaround.

And for three days, the media essentially talked about this issue.

It also brought out of the woodwork someone like Jeb Bush who has been really silent and staying back from the race. I spoke to him during the week, and he really was quite perturbed. This is not what the Republican Party should be talking about, he said. And he really did take Perry to task.

KURTZ: There was a piece on you in Roger Simon's publication, "Politico," this week, says you're Rick Perry's worst nightmare. Said you've written 60 blog posts about Perry, using words like hostile, dreadful, provincial, buffoon, know-it-all husband -- I just saw the other day. And that the Perry camp can't persuade you to give their man a break.

RUBIN: I think Perry is his own worst enemy, as we've seen this past week. It sounds like the number they came up was 60. I write about 200 blog posts a month, so that's a small chunk of things.

KURTZ: What about the notion that -- I mean, you seem to have good relations with the Romney camp, Romney gave you an interview. And it seems like you have nothing good to see about Rick Perry.

RUBIN: Well, I think the proof is in the pudding. What I was writing one or two months ago, the entire media is writing now. So, I think I was perhaps just ahead of the curve a bit. He's at 7 percent in Iowa. There are a lot of people who think he's not doing very well right now.

SIMON: Can I just say one thing about the birther issue? It's not a fun issue to poke somebody on. It is more than a little bit racist. It grew -- not everyone who believes it is a racist, but it grew out of the belief that a black man could not be legitimately elected to the president of the United States. Now, why would Perry use that in the primaries instead of saving it for the general when he's running against President Obama? Well, it's because being extreme perhaps and a little bit racist perhaps gives you good bona fides in a Republican primary. It shows him you're on the same side as they are.

KURTZ: So, it's a bit of a dog whistle.

SIMON: Absolutely.

KURTZ: And that's why I wondered why it was just -- I thought it was kind of a one-day story, the fact that he had -- well, he kind of stretched it out when he came back to it with Harwood on CNBC.

But Perry has now been courting the conservative media. He did the O'Reilly interview we showed you on FOX. He was on "FOX News Sunday" this morning. Chris Wallace on that program said, where's Mitt Romney? Romney hasn't done a Sunday show, said Chris Wallace, for a year and a half.

I guess he feels he doesn't have to.

SIMON: Well, he doesn't want to do Sunday shows for the same reason Perry has now decided he doesn't want to do debates. He sees no upside in them. He thinks he's going to get slammed on his flip- flops.

KURTZ: What about the responsibility to deal with the media and share your views on the issues with the American, blah, blah?

ARAVOSIS: Sarah Palin got away with it during the last campaign. I think we on the left --

KURTZ: She was running for vice president.

ARAVOSIS: One might argue that that's still a pretty important position --

KURTZ: It is?

ARAVOSIS: When the presidential candidate was 72 years old or however old he was. She got away with not doing a lot of press. And she got away with it.

KURTZ: How about Herman Cain, who's done a million interviews and keeps digging himself into a hole? Karl Rove at FOX has been hammering Cain. And I wrote about this where, you know, he -- it wasn't clear what his position was on abortion. He said he was joking about an electrified border defense, and then said he wasn't joking, on and on and on and on. And yet, his campaign says he's tired, they're going to slow the pace.

It doesn't seem to hurt him. The media criticism does not -- he seems -- Herman Cain seems impervious. Why is that?

ARAVOSIS: In national polls, he's doing well. It's scaring Romney and Perry.

RUBIN: I actually think he is, for now, simply the receptacle of the not-Romney vote. I think it's more about the reticence of the base to accept Romney as the lead candidate, and it may not be anything he has to do.

And the other candidates have already wiped themselves out. He's a relatively new face. He is a pleasant person. He's a good guy. They don't have a problem telling a pollster, you know, I like Herman Cain.

KURTZ: I agree with all of that. But with the press doing its job of pressing him on taxes, pressing him on foreign policy, maybe people don't think, particularly Republican voters, that the media have much credibility either.

SIMON: Well, I think you're right. And I agree. But I think there's a little bit more.

It's hard to make fun of a candidate who accepts the role of a buffoon. Who puts out --

KURTZ: Buffoon?

SIMON: Who puts out a commercial with a guy smoking and blowing smoke at the camera, who puts out the yellow flowers commercial. Afterwards --

KURTZ: You're saying he's just been an entertainer?

SIMON: He's been an entertainer consciously. He used to do that for a living. He used to be a promotional speaker, an inspirational speaker. That's what he's doing now. And it's hard to --

ARAVOSIS: But he's entertaining, I would argue. I mean, look, I'm not going to vote for the guy. But he is doing better in the polls.

And I have to admit the first time I saw him, I thought this guy's more interesting than I thought. I thought he'd be kind of a nut.

KURTZ: If you said you were going vote, that would have made news.

ARAVOSIS: Yes. I'm sorry.

KURTZ: We'll go to break here.

President Obama hits Jay Leno's couch and challenges an account about Libya that appeared in "The New Yorker." A look at the leak in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: President Obama was on Jay Leno this week, and the talk turned to a famous phrase that popped up on "The New Yorker" during the intervention in Libya.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW": You took some heat for the whole leading from behinds tactic with Libya. Explain that.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, the truth was this was a phrase that the media picked up on.

LENO: OK.

OBAMA: But it's not one that I ever used.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: No one said he said it. "The New Yorker's" Ryan Lizza had attributed those words to an unnamed adviser. Presidential spokesman Tommy Vietor told "USA Today" that no one in the White House ever uttered the phrase that adviser could be one of hundreds of people, maybe someone at a party. But Lizza responded on Twitter that his source was in fact a White House official.

Jennifer Rubin, does the White House have a legitimate beef with that loaded phrase being attributed to an unnamed aide?

RUBIN: I don't think so. I think this has been a criticism, a legitimate criticism of the administration, that they had this idea they that they were going to rely more on multilateral institutions, that they didn't want the United States, quote, "isolated" in the U.N. Security Council. They wanted --

KURTZ: Whether leading from behind -- whether leading from behind is true or not, whether it's a fair characterization, should journalists be quoting unnamed aides as saying, well, this is what we're doing?

RUBIN: Well, any journalist wants somebody on the record, the best is somebody on the background. It's always better to attribute sources. But if it was used as it was in the piece, to describe -- the identity of the source was not as important as the description of what was going on in the rest of the piece, which is a very substantive piece, really detailed this phenomenon. So, I didn't have a particular problem with it.

KURTZ: Roger Simon, you interviewed the White House chief of staff, Bill Daley, this week. And he was contrasting himself with his predecessor, Rahm Emanuel. He said, "I'm not going to be the leaker in chief." But then he also said, "I'm all for leaking when it's organized."

SIMON: Sure. That's what White Houses do, that's why they have giant communications staffs.

And when you have a phrase like Ryan Lizza used, that important, the piece becomes about the credibility of the reporter writing it. Fortunately, Ryan Lizza has impeccable credentials. He's -- you know, I believed it because he wrote it. If it had been some other name on it, I don't know.

KURTZ: What did you take away from that sit down with Daley about his view and the White House's view of the media? I understand you have more of him that you haven't published yet.

SIMON: Yes. It will be -- in Tuesday in "Politico."

What was interesting to me is that this Democratic, progressive White House views the press as a filter it must get around or penetrate exactly the same way conservative White Houses have felt. The press is still not so much the enemy but a burden, a barrier to get their message around so they can get to the people directly.

KURTZ: I wrote a book on the Clinton White House being obsessed with dealing with and communicating through the media filter.

ARAVOSIS: And even during the campaign, we saw that a lot. Remember, this White House or this campaign was going to YouTube to do all of their statements. And they're just trying to get around the media completely.

So, I think that's not unheard of and it's not really very shocking. It's just the way it is.

KURTZ: I've got a lightning round here.

A column caught my eye in "The New York Times" this week by Ross Douthat, who says the following about the 2012 campaign. We can put it on the screen.

"For the next three months, the political press will engage in an extended masquerade designed to persuade credulous readers and excitable viewers that the Republican presidential nomination is actually up for grabs, because barring an unprecedented suspension of the laws of American politics, Mitt Romney has this thing wrapped up."

I don't want you to comment with anything Mitt Romney has this thing wrapped up. But is this right? Is the press engaged in some kind of giant pretense here as a competitive race?

RUBIN: I think there is a desire to have a horse race. And on one of the worst weeks of the campaign for the Perry people, journalists were writing columns, comeback time. It wasn't a comeback time.

So, I think there is a desire to have a horse race. They want some competition. On the other hand, they should look at the real competition which arguably might be Newt Gingrich now. And certainly at least in the polls, it's Herman Cain.

KURTZ: It sounds almost corrupt, though. It's almost like creating a fake race so that we can keep this thing alive.

ARAVOSIS: No. We haven't had a single vote yet.

KURTZ: Oh, that's right. ARAVOSIS: No. Usually the criticism is that the media's already decided. To wit, President Hillary Clinton.

I came on this show a lot that year and we always kept hearing about, oh, Hillary's going to win, Hillary's going to win, and all of a sudden, Hillary wasn't going to win. And the media switched and everybody switched. It's a little premature.

SIMON: It was a well-written but dumb column for two reasons. One, how would you do a press conspiracy today?

I mean, I've been in 1,000 press rooms after a debate or after a speech, usually in the basement of a high school gym. And all you hear is the tick, tick, tick of fingers on laptops. You never hear someone standing up and saying, "OK, here's the line for tomorrow. We're going to say that Romney is still not a winner."

(CROSSTALK)

KURTZ: No, but I thought -- you build up one of the other candidates, not that we got in a room and decided this, and say Perry is coming back. And this is a two-man race after all.

SIMON: But that's the opposite. I'm sorry to disagree. I'm taking my life in my hands here.

But, what the press really wants is not a horse race. They want the horse race to be over. They want the field to be narrowed.

They can't cover eight people. They can't write a debate story with eight people in the lead. They don't have the money to cover eight people.

KURTZ: And that would affect your expense account in Iowa and New Hampshire. I know you're dying to spend the winter there.

Roger Simon, John Aravosis, Jennifer Rubin -- thanks for joining us.

Coming up in the second part of RELIABLE SOURCES:

Vice President Biden is ambushed by a "Human Events" newspaper writer.

And activist James O'Keefe's latest undercover scheme targets a "Huffington Post" reporter. Is gotcha journalism helping or hurting the conservative cause?

Plus, blogger Jeff Jarvis on why we should be sharing more, much more about ourselves on line.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: Jason Mattera is a reporter for the conservative publication "Human Events." But on his Web site, Mattera portrays himself as an ambush artist. Here for instance, he initially acts friendly toward Congressman Barney Frank and winds up asking him about a 20-year-old scandal in which the Democrat had a relationship with someone who turned out to be a male prostitute.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JASON MATTERA, HUMAN EVENTS: Congressman Frank, Jason Mattera, pleasure to meet you, sir.

REP. BARNEY FRANK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Where are you from, Jason?

MATTERA: From Brooklyn, New York, actually.

With the bad economy and all -- with the bad economy and all, can you give me advice on how to start my own brothel? I know you have experience in these matters. Maybe I can make some extra cash on the side.

FRANK: No, it's silly (INAUDIBLE).

MATTERA: Too silly? You have one running out of your apartment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: When Joe Biden was in a Senate hallway recently, Mattera started by asking the vice president for a photo.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTERA: Do you regret using a rape reference to describe Republican opposition to the president's bill?

BIDEN: I didn't use it. No, no, no, what I said, let's get it straight, guys. Don't screw around with me. Let's get it straight.

MATTERA: You didn't use the rape reference?

BIDEN: No, let me -- listen to me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: So, was this a case of unethical journalism?

Joining us now to talk about the Biden incident and the latest undercover involving James O'Keefe -- Glynnis MacNicol, media editor at BusinessInsider.com, and Paul Farhi, media reporter for "The Washington Post."

Glynnis, was that outright deception what we just saw by Jason Mattera?

GLYNNIS MACNICOL, BUSINESSINSIDER.COM: It sounds like it. I mean, he did have some sort of a badge that said he was a reporter.

KURTZ: Not clear whether it was visible.

MACNICOL: We're not clear whether it was visible. KURTZ: He says it was.

MACNICOL: Right. He certainly presented himself as somebody who wanted a photo.

But I think we're seeing this as sort of a repeated over and over again. They know they can get a good video clip from it. They know it can go viral on the Internet. They might get a prominent person in an awkward situation. So, yes.

KURTZ: On the other hand, it was in a public hallway in the Senate, Paul Farhi. He asked an aggressive question, certainly. Did he sandbag the vice president?

PAUL FARHI, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, it's kind of hard to sandbag the vice president of the United States. Joe Biden's been around for decades. He's a big boy, he can handle himself.

And in this case, he didn't handle himself particularly well. The confrontation depends on getting a response that's a little outraged, a little angry so that you can make the clip and you can make the viral video that you're seeking in the first place. Biden gave it to him.

KURTZ: Well, I didn't see anything particularly wrong with Biden's response. He got a little testy.

But let's have -- let's hear what Jason Mattera had to say, he was interviewed this week by John King.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTERA: Journalists can't take pictures with the vice president.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: I think it's unethical.

MATTERA: I'm looking to get politicians who are used to spin and their messaging teams. I'm trying to get an honest reaction, a frank answer, a gut reaction.

KING: Amen. Amen.

MATTERA: Especially because so much -- so much of the media is made up of drones who gave Biden a pass.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: So, the explanation seems to be that anything goes when it comes to penetrating the bubble that does indeed surround high- ranking public officials.

MACNICOL: Right. I mean, here's the thing -- you want to get a face to face with somebody. He's thinking the media is not questioning the vice president enough. I think it's -- I think the vice president actually handled himself fine. I watched that clip and thought, well, that's typical Joe Biden. We're not seeing a different person than we see every day.

KURTZ: And how did Mattera handle himself?

MACNICOL: I don't find the sort of journalism sheds the greatest light on the reporter who's trying to implement it. You sort of think -- well, why can't you just find a better way to get face-to-face time with the vice president? So I just -- I always think they come off sort of looking unprofessional and silly. But --

KURTZ: Unprofessional and silly. Was there anything wrong with Mattera's question?

FARHI: Not at all. In fact, Biden confirmed the substance of the question. It was a reference to a speech that Biden had made earlier. He asked him if he was using rape as a way to justify passage of the jobs bill.

KURTZ: Basically he's suggesting that if the president's jobs bill did not pass Congress, crime including rape would increase. A number of journalists have asked about that, including Candy Crowley when she interviewed the vice president last week. And I didn't think the question was asked particularly rudely.

FARHI: I didn't think so either. And I thought Biden basically said, yes, you're right, I did use that reference. And I'm now telling you again that I'm using that reference.

KURTZ: This story got a second life when there were a number of news stories that portrayed Biden's office as seeking perhaps to yank the credentials of Jason Mattera.

I misstated something earlier this week based on stories that I saw which left me with the impression the vice president of the office had initiated this. In fact, our reporting shows that the Capitol Hill committee, the credentials reporters, was looking into this matter. Contacted, we actually got a statement saying no formal complaint was submitted by the vice president's office.

But, you know, if the Hill contacts the vice president's office and says what happened, there were security concerns, of course you would answer questions. It was a misimpression, I think, that Biden was looking to retaliate against this reporter.

FARHI: But there were no security concerns. He was in a public place. He was in the Capitol building. There were Secret Service around. He was wearing a press credential.

Would he have gotten the same interview if he had said "I'm Jason Mattera from 'Human Events', I'm here to ask you an obnoxious question" -- probably not.

But the misrepresentation, very, very gray area. KURTZ: An omission. I mean, that's the thing -- you know, I think -- I don't think there are too many reporters who haven't try to sneak in somewhere and get themselves close to somebody where they can ask a question. But you would say "John King, CNN," "Paul Farhi, "Washington Post" -- he didn't say that.

But, of course, as you say, Biden is not exactly new to this game.

FARHI: And in fact, if you look at what Mattera has done, he will walk up to people on the street, just as Michael Moore will, and say, I'm Jason Mattera, and then he will ask his obnoxious question, and he will get a testy answer each time. But it's a public place and it is fair game.

KURTZ: So what is the goal here? Is the goal to get the public official, the target, to say something revealing? Or is the goal to draw attention to yourself so that you get to be interviewed by John King on CNN? You get to do a bunch of interviews with Politico, et cetera? And it is a way of making a name for yourself?

MACNICOL: Right. I think probably more the second than the first. But I think what we see over and over again is they're trying to create these embarrassing moments which then turn into these great viral clips that go everywhere and change what the conversation is about.

KURTZ: When you say they, do you mean certain conservative activist journalists or do you mean journalists of varying political stripes?

MACNICOL: I would say more the activist journalists we've seen recently. But I would say a lot of people are interested in creating viral video clips now. It's sort of the easiest way to promote yourself, promote your argument, to get yourself out there. We're talking about it on a Sunday show right now. Clearly he's changed the conversation.

KURTZ: It used to be you had to go and cover city hall, the state house for years and work your way up. Now you just have to have a viral video clip. This is what I'm hearing this morning.

MACNICOL: But I think (inaudible) -- I think you may remember Mayhill Fowler, who caught Bill Clinton in that off moment, and that turned -- during the 2008 campaign -- and that turned into a huge thing.

KURTZ: She was a blogger for the Huffington Post and she did not (ph) identify herself - she also snuck into an Obama fund-raiser. The rules are clearly changing. Let's talk more about this on the other side. I've got to get a break. Up next, conservative activist James O'Keefe accuses a reporter of getting his sources drunk. I'm serious. The evidence pretty watered down.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KURTZ: James O'Keefe is at it again. The activist famous for his undercover stings against ACORN and NPR has posted some hidden camera footage of a Columbia journalism professor Dale Maharidge talking about one of his former students. That would be Sam Stein, White House correspondent for the Huffington Post.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DALE MAHARIDGE: I stay in touch with Sam. He goes out drinking at night with people. You get some booze into people, and suddenly the stories flow.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: O'Keefe then called Stein to ask about this dastardly charge.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAM STEIN, HUFFINGTON POST: You're asking if I get my sources drunk?

JAMES O'KEEFE: Specifically to get information out of them.

STEIN: No, I don't. I appreciate the question, but I don't even know what you're talking about, to be honest with you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Is this something we should take seriously, this suggestion by a former professor of Sam Stein's that he likes to go out drinking?

FARHI: No. As gotcha journalism goes, there's not much journalism and there's no gotcha that I can see. I mean, somebody asks you what someone else said about you, and you say, no, that's not the way it is.

KURTZ: And even if Sam Stein did buy his sources a few drinks, for which I have no evidence by the way, isn't that something that thousands of reporters have done over the years?

MACNICOL: I think it would be something that makes him a good reporter. The face to face, taking you out, we're going to have a conversation. That's the crux of good reporting. And I think a lot of people over the past few years have complained that that sort of reporting doesn't take place enough.

KURTZ: People just e-mailing each other.

MACNICOL: Yes, e-mailing, chatting.

KURTZ: Go to a bar, where the real journalism takes place, in the bar.

MACNICOL: I had to look to see f that was an Onion headline, to be honest, what I first thought.

KURTZ: All right. Now, James O'Keefe spoke with Mediaite's Tommy Christopher about the tactics he used and the wording of his questions. Take a look at that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOMMY CHRISTOPHER, MEDIAITE: My question is, if he didn't say that Sam gets his sources drunk, why would you ask Sam, why would you tell Sam that that's what he said?

O'KEEFE: Well, I mean, it's -- I believe -- I interpreted what the professor said. It was a one-take phone call, and he made that statement, and I said what I said. So that's -- I'm providing you all the facts. I'm showing you the video. So you can draw your own conclusions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Now it is true that when the question was asked to Sam Stein, he didn't -- O'Keefe didn't use the exact wording. Which you know, the former professor never said he got his sources drunk. He just said he likes to go out, have some drinks, and the stories flow. How hard is it to read the exact quote?

FARHI: Yes, you can read the exact quote. But what are we going for here? What are we trying to prove? What is O'Keefe's point? That a reporter uses methods to get some information? Well, yes, that's what reporters do. And I can't see that even if he did get his sources drunk, that that would, you know, blow the cover off the journalism professor.

KURTZ: Nor is there any specific example of a specific person who said I had ten drinks and, therefore, I couldn't help myself. O'Keefe also got footage of two NUY journalism professors, Clay Shirky and Jay Rosen, hidden camera footage. They were talking about the New York Times and the -- one quote was, "Chardonnay-swilling so-called media elite." But then O'Keefe erroneously described Professor Shirky as a New York Times consultant, which is not true.

MACNICOL: Which is not true. And they've denied that he's ever consulted. I think he's written a couple of op-ed pieces for them, but has had no consulting with the New York Times.

KURTZ: And I didn't see what they said was so bad either.

MACNICOLE: No, I didn't say that either. They added -- I think they were trying to show that the New York Times has a bias, so there was something about the 1 percent -- actually it didn't make much sense what they were trying to -

KURTZ: OK. So let's pull back the camera a bit. Are these sort of tactics helping James O'Keefe's cause? You're basically saying this is a nothing-burger. He has a label for the series, "to catch a journalist," and you know, a lot of people out there would say, sure, journalists should be held accountable. But what, on the basis of what evidence.

FARHI: And that's exactly right. What are you getting -- what's the proof in your pudding, and there seems to be no proof or pudding here. You know, James O'Keefe needs an editor. He needs someone to say, you know, you just don't have it here. You don't have the goods. Let's drop this one, move on to something else, whatever something else is. And try to prove whatever point, preconceived notion you have.

KURTZ: Unless, as you suggested in the earlier segment, it's about making a splash, getting your basic side in, raising money, that sort of thing.

MACNICOL: I think he's sort of taking the lazy shortcut. He is trying to get the big scoop and the splashy coverage for what he's doing, but he's not actually, as you say, getting a scoop. There's no pudding there. He's not sort of revealing anything of interest to anybody.

KURTZ: Right. I mean, he did in the case of NPR where the executives had to resign over those very biased comments about the Tea Party.

FARHI: Yes.

KURTZ: But that was different than what we seem to see here.

MACNICOL: Right. And I think -- you know, it's worth pointing out that Clay Shirky and Jay Rosen aren't even journalists. They are -

KURTZ: Well, they teach journalism.

MACNICOL: They teach journalism. But I think he just -- he seems to be more interested in the coverage of himself at this point than really in anything he's investigating.

KURTZ: You two need to fight more next time. Paul Farhi, thanks for joining us. Glynnis, MacNicol, thanks very much.

After the break, with more and more personal information spilling out on Facebook, blogger Jeff Jarvis takes a stand in favor of less privacy.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: After Facebook sparked a new uproar over privacy by tweaking its rules, we turned to a blogger who crusades for letting it all hang out online. Jeff Jarvis, who runs the Entrepreneurial Journalism Center at the City University of New York's Graduate School is a true believer when it comes to reporting, tweeting and sharing on the Web. That's the theme of his new book, "Public Parts: How Sharing in the Digital Age Improves the Way We Work and Live."

We spoke in New York about the passing of Steve Jobs. Here's the second part of our conversation. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KURTZ: Jeff Jarvis, welcome.

JEFF JARVIS, AUTHOR: Thank you.

KURTZ: Facebook again is under assault for eroding people's privacy, starting a timeline of everybody's page so that people can see everything that you've ever done while you've been on Facebook. That makes a lot of people uncomfortable.

JARVIS: I'll turn it the other way, though, Howie. You don't have to put anything on Facebook. Facebook is not a place where you go hide your secrets. It is a place for sharing. Indeed it's the beginning of an entire industry built on sharing.

KURTZ: What if you shared things five years ago and now you're not sure you want your potential employers to see it? In other words, there's no going back once you have shared.

JARVIS: There is on Facebook, you can't go back, it's rather laborious to go back and trim your lifetime. But I think we have to also look at what this means for society. If you're seen holding a glass of beer once and you're fired for that, do you really want to work at that company?

KURTZ: All right. News organizations obviously are getting more involved with Facebook. The Washington Post and other news organizations now have an app that you can put on so that you automatically share with your friends what you're reading. Some people think it's kind of creepy.

JARVIS: Well, I think it's the opposite. I think it's an important change in the structure of media. We in media made readers come to us. You had to come to our site, buy our paper or a magazine. Now media's going to the people. Washington Post, Guardian, Wall Street Journal are all on Facebook. I think it's very important. Even bigger than that, is that what Mark Zuckerberg sees as a new structure for media.

KURTZ: You talked to him for this book?

JARVIS: Yes. And he saw that -- media used to be all about brands. You had to, again, come buy the paper. Then it became search and Google won. You had to go ask a question. And now it's sharing. Now the notion is that if people are sharing what they're reading, what they like, what they don't like, what they're thinking, that is probably the best recommendation service we're all going to get. And he's in the middle of that.

KURTZ: I heard about an editor at an online site who didn't particularly want to share everything he was reading, because, maybe like a lot of people, he would click on the story about the celebrity's wardrobe malfunction. You want to broadcast that to the world? JARVIS: But Facebook and Google have now shifted to a structure where at the moment you share, you can kind of decide whether or not to. The Washington Post app, yes, it will tell you what you're reading. You can choose as a blanket at the beginning whether to share or not. But what's the big deal if you read stories and show you have interests across? It's not that big a deal. It's not like you're reading a porn site there.

KURTZ: You've been accused of oversharing when you were diagnosed with prostate cancer. Your first instinct was to go blog it. You decided you would tell your family first. Your son was away. And then you provided lots and lots of details. Was that therapeutic for you? Why so much information about the private life of Jeff Jarvis?

JARVIS: It was very therapeutic and very helpful. People gave me information I wouldn't have otherwise gotten. Friends who had the surgery -- I didn't know that -- only knew that I was going to have it because I went public with it. And they gave me incredible advice. I also think that we inspired some people to go get tested for PSA, and I hope you've gotten yours tested, as well. So these are important things.

If you think about it, why is health so secretive? There's a fear that you're not going to get a job or get insurance. That's a problem of society and law. There's the fear of stigma. Well, look what women have done with breast cancer, to break out and put up pink ribbons everywhere and say this is important. Well, why not men with their prostate cancer, their testicular cancer?

KURTZ: Jeff, you went on Howard Stern's radio show, and he said you were being too graphic about your private parts.

JARVIS: Well, I did go into detail about the hosectomy (ph) I got. But I'll spare you that, Howie.

KURTZ: But clearly you've adapted. You've become kind of this pied piper of sharing and living your life online. And I can see where for the news business, there's a lot of information out there now -- for example, you write about Twitter and a lot of journalists are on Twitter. And you say that people on Twitter are more interested or they have a longer attention span than journalists who tend to flip from one thing to another to another. That can be valuable for those of us in the news business?

JARVIS: It really can be. But again, it's even bigger than that. I think if we look at the Arab spring, I'm not going to suggest that Twitter made the revolution, but the revolution occurred through and on Twitter. And what we see is the world was trying to mimic the architecture of the Internet. The Internet we say is end to end. Anyone can talk to anyone. Well, in news now through Twitter, witnesses can talk to the world. And that's a pretty remarkable thing to happen, is that we can see new visions of news as it happens. And everyone's going to have a camera. And everyone's going to have a portal to the whole world. We as journalist then have to ask, how do we add value to that? Andy Carvin at NPR, who's been tweeting the Arab spring under the handle acarvin-

KURTZ: Relentlessly.

JARVIS: Did a brilliant job of seeing what's going on on its own. He doesn't need to do anything. But then he looks and sees who's really good, who's there, who's not.

KURTZ: You are talking about witnesses. There are services like Foursquare, where you can kind of broadcast to the world where you are at any given moment. I never saw the point of that. You make the point in the book that that can be helpful when suddenly there's a crisis somewhere, maybe not in a major media market.

JARVIS: Imagine if the assignment desk at CNN could say who's near this event, start taking film for us.

KURTZ: But how are we all sure - journalists are all into vetting and reviewing and editing. How are we sure we can trust these millions of people with their cell phone cameras?

JARVIS: Nothing will be absolutely sure.

(CROSSTALK)

JARVIS: But there are lots of signals and ways. You can verify whether someone is there or not if you can get past the privacy blockades that you have. You can ask who else knows this person. I'm working with a researcher right now who's researching Twitter to say, is this person really there, because they have a lot of local friends.

Technology gives us incredible tools.

KURTZ: Coming back to this question of living your life online. You write in this book, Jeff Jarvis, about exactly how much money you have made. You write about -- you don't deny having gone to porn sites. You're really letting it hang out there. Is there no part of you who obviously grew up in a predigital area, that feels maybe this is a bit too much information?

JARVIS: I do have my limits. I still have privacy.

(CROSSTALK)

JARVIS: I also don't want to bring my family into my glass house. So I'm very conscious of that. Or my friends.

KURTZ: But you love the glass house?

JARVIS: I recognize the value of the glass house. Right now, we're so maniacal, fear and talk about privacy. But I think we have to look at the other side of the prism, and say what's the benefit of publicness? Because the Internet is an incredible tool of publicness. The greatest we've had since the Guttenberg press. Now we all have it. And if we go too crazy trying to regulate it down because of the worst that could happen, we may miss the best that could happen. KURTZ: But a challenge for journalists who used to, let's face it, have a monopoly on all this stuff. We had TV cameras, we had printing presses, other people could only communicate through us. Now that's no longer the case. That makes our job more challenging.

JARVIS: I think the opposite. I think we can now talk to witnesses everywhere, as news is going on. It also is an economic benefit. We don't have to send out five-people crews everywhere to find out what's going on. Someone with a phone can show the world what's going on through us. And we can add value to that. We can verify the person's there. We can answer questions, add context. Journalists now have to recognize that information will pass through these tools of publicness on its own. We have to add value to that process.

KURTZ: A manifesto for the digital age. Jeff Jarvis, thanks very much for joining us.

JARVIS: Howie, thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KURTZ: "Media Monitor" leads off with the Madoff TV blitz in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: First off, due to a brain freeze last week, we interviewed Jim Lehrer and forgot to mention the title of his book. It's "Tension City: Inside the Presidential Debates From Kennedy-Nixon to Obama-McCain."

Now it's time for our "Media Monitor," a weekly look at the hits and errors in the news business.

I would be perfectly happy if Bernie Madoff and his family would just leave us alone. For nearly three years after the massive Ponzi scheme that cost investors tens of billions of dollars, there were books coming out, and that means the inevitable TV blitz. Bernie's wife Ruth will be on "60 Minutes" tonight to talk about a book on the family by New York Times reporter Diana Henriques. Ruth Madoff says, as you may have heard, there was a suicide attempt.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUTH MADOFF: We decided to kill ourselves, because it was so horrendous, what was happening. We had terrible phone calls, hate mail. Just beyond anything. And I said I can't -- I just can't go on anymore.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Excuse me, we're supposed to feel sorry for a woman who lived an extravagant lifestyle with her husband's stolen millions?

Barbara Walters talked to the Ponzi perpetrator himself in prison.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARBARA WALTERS: Remorse. He has terrible remorse, he says. He knows that he ruined his family. During the day, he doesn't think about it. He's had therapy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: He's had therapy. So glad he's in treatment. But Madoff told the New York Times that his victims had to know what he was doing. Doesn't sound that remorseful to me. And then there's Stephanie Madoff Mack, whose husband, one of Bernie's sons, committed suicide. She's got her own book out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANIE MADOFF MACK: I hate Bernie Madoff. If I saw Bernie Madoff right now, I would tell him that I hold him fully responsible for killing my husband, and I would spit in his face.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: This is news, these are big gets as they say in the TV business, but what a sorry spectacle.

Michelle Norris has co-hosted NPR "All Things Considered" for a nearly a decade, but she's giving up that job until after the election. The reason, she told her colleagues, "My husband Broderick Johnson has just accepted a senior adviser position with the Obama campaign. After careful consideration, we decided Broderick's new role could make it difficult for me to continue hosting ATC." By agreeing to work on other reporting projects and features and recusing herself from political coverage, Norris is doing exactly the right thing. While her radio career is separate from that of her husband, the perception, the host married to an Obama campaign aide, would have been damaging to her and for a radio network that's already had to battle accusations of liberal bias.

Walter Isaacson's new biography contains all sorts of insights about Steve Jobs, but this one caught my eye. In a conversation last year, the late Apple chief let Rupert Murdoch have it about his cable news channel. "You're blowing it with Fox News," Jobs said. "The axis today is not liberal and conservative, the axis is constructive- destructive. And you've cast your lot with the destructive people. Fox has become an incredibly destructive force in our society." He singled out Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck. Murdoch told Isaacson that Jobs, quote, "Has got a sort of left-wing view on this." But despite the blistering critique, the two men kind of hit it off and met a couple of times for dinner.

Speaking of Steve Jobs, the New York Times, like all newspapers, runs a wide variety of corrections, but I never thought I'd see one on the iPhone game Angry Birds. But there it was the other day, saying its review of the Jobs biography was inaccurate, and I quote. "Slingshots are used to launch birds to destroy pigs and their fortresses, not to shoot down the birds." I thought everybody knew that.

Finally a personal note. Today is the last day for senior executive producer Tom Bettag, who's becoming a producer for "Rock Center," the new Brian Williams' news magazine. His long-time Nightline colleague Ted Koppel has already joined the show. Those of us at "Reliable Sources" have learned from Bettag's long experience and wise counsel. Always deliberate, with a gentle touch. Thanks, Tom.

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.