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CNN RELIABLE SOURCES
Tackling the Penn State Story; The Brain Freeze Beat; Interview With Sarah Ganim
Aired November 20, 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: Have you noticed how much of this campaign has revolved around candidates mangling the facts or not being able to recall the facts?
It was Michele Bachmann's flub on vaccines causing retardation, Rick Perry's famous brain freeze, and now, Herman Cain failing to remember what he thinks about President Obama's handling of Libya.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HERMAN CAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I do not agree with the way he handled it for the following reason -- no, that's a different one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: And why is the press turning up the heat on Newt Gingrich if the pundits are so sure he can't win?
As the Penn State tragedy unfolds, does television letting some of the accused defend themselves in these brief interviews that don't say very much?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JERRY SANDUSKY, ALLEGED CHILD ABUSER (via telephone): In retrospect, I -- you know, I shouldn't have showered with those kids. So --
BOB COSTAS, NBC NEWS: That's it?
SANDUSKY: Yes, that's what hits me the most.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Plus, we'll talk to the young Pennsylvania newspaper reporter who broke the story.
And NBC hires Chelsea Clinton as a correspondent while MSNBC brings Meghan McCain on board.
Is a famous last name now more important than knowing anything about journalism?
I'm Howard Kurtz, and this is RELIABLE SOURCES.
KURTZ: The coverage of the Penn State tragedy now focusing squarely on the cover-up. How much have we really learned from these relatively brief encounters with TV reporters?
Take Jerry Sandusky, the former assistant football coach accused of raping several boys. NBC's Bob Costas says he was about to interview Sandusky's lawyer, Joseph Amendola, when he got an unusual offer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COSTAS: No more than 10, 15 minutes before the cameras were to roll, Amendola says, what if I can get Sandusky on the phone. I'm thinking, I wonder from your standpoint, whether that's the smartest thing to do. But at the same time, sure, if you want to do it, let's get him on the phone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: And that's what happened with Sandusky denying the allegations.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANDUSKY: Well, in retrospect, I -- you know, I shouldn't have showered with those kids. You know.
COSTAS: That's it?
SANDUSKY: Well that -- yes, that's what hits me the most.
COSTAS: Are you a pedophile?
COSTAS: Are you sexually attracted to young boys, to underage boys?
SANDUSKY: Am I sexually attracted to underage boys?
SANDUSKY: Sexually attracted, you know, I enjoy young people. I love to be around them. But no, I'm not sexually attracted to young boys.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: CBS touted its exclusive with Mike McQueary, the graduate student who says he witnessed a 10-year-old boy being raped in the showers. But McQueary didn't have much to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: Describe your emotions right now.
MIKE MCQUEARY, ASSISTANT FOOTBALL COACH, PENN STATE UNIVERSITY: All over the place. Just kind of -- shaken.
MCQUEARY: Crazy. That this process has to play out. I just don't have anything else to say.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Joining us to examine the coverage this gut-wrenching story: in New York, Marisa Guthrie, columnist for "The Hollywood Reporter"; in Tampa, Eric Deggans, television critic for "The St. Petersburg Times"; and here in Washington, David Zurawik, television and media critic for "The Baltimore Sun."
David Zurawik, this is a sensational, sad, and sickening story. But television, it seems to me, is organized around the big get, even if the people who are gotten don't have that much to say.
DAVID ZURAWIK, THE BALTIMORE SUN: Well, you're right, Howie. That's part of the problem. We sort of judge TV journalism by -- and I don't even like the term "get." I mean, really don't.
But I would have to disagree in this respect. I thought Bob Costas' interview was important. I don't agree about the CBS News. I think that was just a couple of words. But Costas did elicit something in there, and he did it with really some superb interviewing. He pushed just enough without sort of hectoring Sandusky.
And the admissions -- at first Sandusky said, no, I'm innocent. And then he said, "innocent of everything" in a real good way. And Sandusky then said, well, I touched a leg, I did this -- it's not what you thought you saw.
That was really good. I really do -- I think Costas' interview was important coming when it is, and it's not just the get. I think he did more than that in his -- in his execution of it.
KURTZ: By contrast, Eric Deggans, CBS hyped this exclusive interview with Mike McQueary, the graduate student who says he now -- later said he went to the police, turned out the police never talked to him. What did we learn from that exchange?
ERIC DEGGANS, ST. PETERSBURG TIMES: We learned that he feels like he's in an emotional maelstrom. We learned stuff that we could easily have guessed.
I think CBS certainly overhyped and overpromised with this interview. It was technically his first words to a news reporter since all of this broke, but he didn't really say anything.
And I agree with David, these are two separate cases here. As this broke, what the public wanted was somebody to go to Sandusky and say, what happened here? What's your side of this story? You know, are you a pedophile?
Costas asked all the questions that we wanted to have asked, and the answers were telling even though he didn't necessarily deliver a lot of details.
He did admit that she showered with boys. He did admit that he touched a leg here and there. And he admitted enough that he might be convicted of crimes based on what he said in that interview.
I think that was an excellent job.
KURTZ: Well, since we're talking about that, Marisa Guthrie. When Sandusky said, yes, I showered with young boys, but we were engaged in horseplay -- that was his word -- horseplay, how does a journalist stop himself from saying, "That's ridiculous"?
MARISA GUTHRIE, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: Yes, it's really -- I think it would be really hard. I think Bob -- David is right, Bob Costas really prosecuted this interview extremely well.
And Bob has said subsequently since doing the interview that, A, he didn't have time to prepare for it. And B, he did not want to let his outrage or his own personal feelings interfere. He wanted the interview to stand for itself. He wanted Sandusky's words to stand for themselves.
And I think he was very, very effective in that.
KURTZ: Overall, David Zurawik, do you think that television news is adding much light to this complicated and tragic story, or basically a lot of heat?
ZURAWIK: You know, Howie, in some ways, there are so many moving parts of it. You know, for example, I watched the Penn State football game, the first game they played without Paterno. And watching those players come out on the field arm in arm, walking instead of running behind Paterno, was an incredibly emotional experience that made me understand part of the emotion in -- at Penn State and I wouldn't have.
So there's different parts of it --
KURTZ: That's not journalism. That's turning the camera on the game.
ZURAWIK: Well, putting the camera on is journalism in a way, Howie, and I think it is.
Also, I think that, you know, for local news tried to cover the "riots" -- if they were riots. I mean, I think it qualifies as a riot.
ZURAWIK: So there's a lot of different parts of it. They did it.
And I think it's too easy to say, oh, it's a sensational story, TV's doing a bad job because we often say that. I think TV is really trying to cover this.
And I'll tell you something about Penn State. There's a terrific documentary called "The Paper," about the campus paper there, Howie. And one of the things about is they can never get the president of the university or anybody connected with the football program to talk to 'em.
And so, I think it's a hard story because of the darkness in the administration and the football program to tell. And we sort of have to peel it back piece by piece.
KURTZ: So much of the early coverage focused on Joe Paterno, the legendary coach, of course, who's now been fired. And now, the spotlight more on Jerry Sandusky.
Let me briefly play a couple of lawyers for alleged victims in this case who have been taking to the airwaves.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
BEN ANDREOZZI, ATTORNEY FOR ALLEGED PENN STATE RAPE VICTIMS: My client was sexually assaulted by Mr. Sandusky in the early '90s. And he was sexually assaulted on the grounds at Penn State University.
JEFF ANDERSON, ATTORNEY: Emotions of the survivors and their families right now are really a retraumatization, a mixture of despair, confusion, and fury.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
KURTZ: Marisa Guthrie, is there any way that Jerry Sandusky can get fair treatment from the media when he is so widely presumed to be guilty?
GUTHRIE: Well, perhaps that was Amendola's strategy, in even having him on television with Bob Costas. I mean, you have to wonder why he let his client do that. That could be part of it.
But, you know, I don't think anyone is presuming that -- I mean, the grand jury report was so graphic and so disturbing that no one is giving this guy a presumption of innocence. And again, maybe that's the strategy in having him make the phone call to Bob Costas. That was certainly damning -- I certainly don't think we're going to see any other interviews from him.
And the other principal players in this scandal, McQueary and Joe Paterno, have certainly been advised by their lawyers not to give interviews.
KURTZ: Right. So, now, you have a story about a cover-up in which the key players don't want to talk.
And that's always challenging for the media, Eric Deggans. But as we saw with those lawyers -- I mean, the problem for the media, it seems to me, is that a number of alleged victims are surfacing, but understandably and appropriately, they don't want to go public with their names. And so, we are left to deal with allegations from anonymous sources, perhaps as channeled through their attorneys.
DEGGANS: Yes. I would say -- distinction I would draw here is not television versus print. The distinction I would draw in terms of coverage is outside national media versus some of the people who are on the ground and have sources inside this very insular, very connected community.
You're going to talk to a reporter from "The Patriot-News" newspaper in Harrisburg who's done a great job of breaking stories and getting behind that wall, and breaking the silence, and getting people to come forward.
She had a great story with a sister of one of the victims. She did not name the sister and did not name the alleged victim. But we got a sense of what it was like to be a family member of someone who may have been assaulted by this person.
So, I think those stories are there, but they're hard to get. And you have to have sources on the ground. It's very hard for someone like Armen Keteyian or Bob Costas to fly into State College and get people to talk to them.
KURTZ: Absolutely. And there are other aspects here, is that there's such a moral outrage about what happened and the fact that the grown-ups in charge didn't do what they should have done. And I think journalists are wrestling with, you know, not letting their opinions overly intrude into coverage, but at the same time not wanting to seem indifferent to that.
Eric, you set me up very nicely to the tease. We will talk later this hour to the reporter who broke the Penn State story, the reporter from Harrisburg.
But, up next, NBC brings on Chelsea Clinton as a correspondent. Anyone got a problem with that?
KURTZ: NBC News has a brand new correspondent, perhaps you've heard of her, by the name of Chelsea Clinton. Now, it's not true the former president's daughter has absolutely no interviewing experience. Here she is at the Clinton Global Initiative talking to the secretary of state.
(BEGIN VDIEO CLIP)
CHELSEA CLINTON, SECRETARY CLINTON'S DAUGHTER: I'd like to go back to technology, partly because as your daughter I remember when I helped you send your first text message. HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: Yes.
C. CLINTON: And --
H. CLINTON: That wasn't very long ago, I have to tell you.
C. CLINTON: My father still refers to the Internet as the World Wide Web.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Eric Deggans, do you se a problem with NBC hiring Chelsea Clinton to do these "Making a Difference" segments for "Nightly News"?
DEGGANS: At the nepotism broadcasting company? No, not at all.
DEGGANS: I do think it sends an odd message when you have a team of great journalists, people who have been in the business for a very long time, and you leapfrog one person ahead of all of those people and give them a prime reporting position essentially because they're related to two of the most famous people in the world.
I -- she may have skills. I think one of the things that NBC should have learned from trying to develop Tiki Barber for the "Today" show, a football player that they tried to turn into a broadcast journalist before our eyes, is that that is very hard.
DEGGANS: And you really need to let people apprentice. You need to let them develop. And I don't think it does --
KURTZ: You're saying Chelsea should start in the minor leagues, at some station in Tampa?
Marisa Guthrie, it's not a partisan --
DEGGANS: No, no, no. But there's a place to put her in the NBC News family where she doesn't have to do high-profile reports in her first time in front of the camera.
KURTZ: Got it.
Let me turn to Marisa.
It's not a partisan thing. NBC's "Today" also hired Jenna Bush a couple of years ago. GUTHRIE: No, no, it's not a partisan thing. And they have Meghan McCain. It's an insider thing. They want to affect that they are inside without actually hiring an insider, a real insider with some baggage. So they hire the children of Washington insiders.
And that's what I think is so cynical about this. Is that this is also the network that, you know, suspended a reporter for accusing Hillary Clinton of pimping out her daughter during a campaign and now, they've hired her. So, I find it a little cynical actually.
ZURAWIK: Howie, there's even another dimension to this. At a time when young people who have played by the rules, who have gone to college, who have worked hard, are camping out in American cities because the system has failed them in some ways, in terms of providing them jobs, to send to another member -- to take another member of the -- of that elite -- that elite, the 1 percent and give them one of those jobs is really a dispiriting message to the people in this country, where we are right now.
In terms of cynicism, I can't think of a more cynical message right now. And it's very upsetting that they would be that insensitive to what's going on in this country with the lack of jobs right now in doing this.
KURTZ: Well, I was perturbed that NBC wouldn't make its latest journalist available for interviews by other journalists. I talked to somebody in Bill Clinton's office, a spokeswoman told me that Chelsea Clinton see this as a vehicle to extend her work about making a difference. She doesn't want to be the next Barbara Walters. And that once her piece is on the air, she may do interviews. And so, I'm giving an open invitation to come on this program and talk to us about her transition, at least part-time journalism.
Let me turn now to the CBS morning show, which has been -- let's face it -- a failure for 30 years. I was at a news conference this week in New York. Marisa, you were there, as well, when the two new -- two of new three hosts were -- excuse me, all three hosts were trotted out. Two of them under the CBS News. Let me check my math there.
But let's take a look at that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHARLIE ROSE, NEW CBS HOST: Just great stories out there. And they're about politics, and they're about culture, and they're about sports. And the boundaries of those stories are not always as we have thought.
GAYLE KING, NEWS CBS HOST: I had a tattoo of 50 Cent on my arm the other day. I thought, I better not do that for this today. My son said, God, mom, you can't do that when you go to CBS. I go, well, I don't know.
They have a great send of humor at CBS. You know, we are not your typical stuffy program. (END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Marisa, can Charlie Rose and Gayle King help make CBS competitive in the morning?
GUTHRIE: Well, CBS certainly thinks they can. I mean, look, this is a sort of odd couple pairing. It is -- totally in line with what the new executive producer of that program did at MSNBC with "Morning Joe."
KURTZ: "Morning Joe."
GUTHRIE: Chris Licht, correct.
I think that they are zigging where everybody is zagging, and that has been what Jeff Fager and David Rhodes, the chairman of the news division since last February have been doing with all of their choices. And they figure why not, they've been in third place for decades, let's try something different.
I mean, Charlie does bring this sort of like intellectual -- intellectually elite, you know, veneer to the whole morning proceedings. And that's something that's been certainly absent in a lot of the morning shows.
KURTZ: And, Eric, we're running a little short on time. But, you know, these are two talented broadcasters. But skeptics say a 69- year-old guy and Oprah's best friend?
DEGGANS: Yes, I got to wonder about this. But Marisa's right, I mean, they have changed the name of the morning show five times since the '80s. They had a huge array of people -- everybody from Mariette Hartley to the latest people they've had on the show, Chris Wragge.
So they might as well try something. It reminds me when MSNBC was in the dumps not very long ago, and they tried a lot of people including Jesse Ventura, until they landed on this guy named Keith Olbermann and found their groove. So, you never know.
KURTZ: David Zurawik, CBS executives say it's going to be smarter, newsier, less tabloid, fewer celebrities, no dressing up in costumes compared to today, say, "Today" and "GMA." Could they be right?
ZURAWIK: They could. But, you know, for all of Charlie Rose's veneer of intellectualism, you know, George Stephanopoulos isn't exactly a schlump. This is pretty a smart guy, you know, and he's over on ABC interviewing Kate Gosselin after a couple months on the job.
So, you know, I don't -- I don't -- you know, morning television pulls you to its own level. And I don't know if Charlie Rose is the right guy. Gayle King has a lot of promise.
KURTZ: She was very entertaining at this news conference. Before we go, this was the final week for Regis Philbin, 80 years old, signing off after 38 years on the air in the mornings. Let's take a brief look at this one of his farewell guests.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID LETTERMAN, COMEDIAN: Regis, we realized, oh, my God, sitting right under our nose, here is the guy. And this man -- how many, is it like 7,000 shows?
REGIS PHILBIN, TV HOST: Seven thousand.
LETTERMAN: Seventeen thousand.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Sealed with a kiss.
Eric Deggans, Marisa Guthrie, David Zurawik, thanks for coming on this morning.
And coming up on the second part of RELIABLE SOURCES: Herman Cain's long moment of confusion. What should journalists do when a candidate seems so uninformed?
Plus, the press ratchets up its scrutiny of Newt Gingrich as he surges in the polls.
And later, the young newspaper reporter who broke the Penn State sexual abuse scandal back in March. Why did it take eight months for the national press to wake up?
KURTZ: There are times, you have to admit, when journalists try to trap presidential candidates into admitting they don't know something. Like who's the president of Uzbecky-becky-becky-stan as Herman Cain famously put it?
But what are those organizations to do when the candidates seem to have sizable gaps in their knowledge?
This exchange between Cain and the "Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's" editorial board did not exactly revolve around a trick question.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
"MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL" EDITORIAL BOARD: Did you agree with President Obama on Libya or not?
CAIN: OK, Libya.
Just want to make sure we're talking about the same thing before I say, yes, I agree, or no, I didn't agree. I do not agree with the way he handled it for the following reasons -- no, that's a different one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Joining us to examine the latest twists in the campaign coverage: here in Washington, Nia-Malika Henderson, national political reporter for "The Washington Post"; David Shuster, chief substitute anchor for Current TV's "Countdown with Keith Olbermann"; and Robert Costa, political reporter for "National Review."
Nia, you write the other day about the anti-intellectual appeal of Herman Cain, Rick Perry. Is it -- is the press reluctant to say, on the case of Cain, on some issues at sometimes, this guy doesn't seem to know what he's talking about?
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, WASHINGTON POST: Well, I think it's always the press doesn't necessarily have to say that because we can see it demonstrated --
KURTZ: In this videotape?
HENDERSON: Yes, in this videotape. And he talks about this in his book, as a matter of fact. He talks about how that was part of his appeal. The fact that he very openly admitted that he didn't have a plan in Afghanistan, that in some ways, it endeared him to Republicans.
I think what we've seen happen over the last couple of days, in fact, or the last couple of weeks, is that it is starting to hurt him. And it clearly hurt Rick Perry when he showed in this debate that he didn't know what his own plan were in terms of --
KURTZ: Couldn't name the three departments.
HENDERSON: He couldn't name the three departments. But -- yes?
KURTZ: David Shuster, any one can get tired and lose their train of thought. But the question for the media, is this a pattern? And do we call them on a pattern of not seeming to know, say, foreign policy?
DAVID SHUSTER, CURRENT TV: Well, it's not just sort of a pattern in foreign policy with Herman Cain. Sometimes, it doesn't seem like he knows his own 9-9-9 plan. I mean, everything's reduced to sound bites. And yet, if it's reduced to sound bites and you're going to win that way by only having to say 9-9-9, and when somebody says, what about Libya, you need to respond quickly.
And remember, we're not talking about some sort of obscure conflict. We're talking about something that taxed NATO, there was a huge debate over presidential powers with Congress, and there was something that divided politicians in both parties.
So, for Herman Cain not to have a ready answer, that's a problem.
KURTZ: Commentators are starting to refer to this GOP crowd as the no-nothing field. Is that a biased view? I mean, some of them -- you know, it almost becomes a point of pride. Well, I'm not a Washington insider. Therefore, I don't know all the jargon and all that.
ROBERT COSTA, NATIONAL JOURNAL: I think the commentators are pretty right. Herman Cain's gaffe here in this editorial board meeting was pretty devastating. He -- ignorance is not a great political play.
But I think reporters are right. This GOP field, every week there's a new gaffe. I thought Rick Perry's stumbling in the debate where he fumbled his entire platform would be the gaffe of the campaign. But, now, we have another new one coming from Herman Cain. And so, I think the Republican field has to sharpen up a bit. And especially Herman Cain may have challenged because it's fun in August to paint ignorance on certain issues, when you get to chuckle up the conservative voters.
But with Newt Gingrich rising, who's a master on many policy issues, Cain is going to have to show that he can compete with them in the GOP primary.
KURTZ: And Cain subsequently canceled an interview with "The Manchester Union Leader" editorial board, which wanted to videotape it, which perhaps makes you think he was afraid of another such moment. But if you want to be competitive in New Hampshire, you don't diss "The Union Leader."
SHUSTER: Right, and that's I think the big difference between Newt Gingrich and all of his sort of shameless, sort of flip-flops on policy and Herman Cain's mistakes. Newt Gingrich is at least willing to say, look, bring on the cameras, bring on the scrutiny. I'll talk in front of the cameras as much as you want, and you can ask me about all the sort of controversies in my past. Well, it does seem like Herman Cain's trying to run from it, and there's a fear that I think is sort of blood in the water for people who are concerned about him.
KURTZ: But there was a long period of time when it seemed that, you know, journalists were puzzled by the fact that Cain was remaining at or even in the lead in the polls, at the top of the polls despite the fact that he didn't have answers on a lot of things, and he even kind of poo-poo'd the notion that you needed to have -- you know, if there was a question about troops, he'd say, "Well, I'd consult my generals." So, maybe it's catching one him, but think the media has not been able to figure out Herman Cain's appeal from the beginning.
COSTA: I think the GOP primary for so long, in the early months, was a contest of likability. Mitt Romney was seen as kind of staid, he was the stable front-runner. And the Republican Party was looking for someone they could get excited about.
KURTZ: Somebody with pizzazz.
KURTZ: Yes. COSTA: So, Bachmann rise, Perry had pizzazz, he's an athletic politician, and then we had Cain, who's one of the most likeable guys in the field. He never stops smiling.
But, now, we're in this crucial period, right before the Iowa caucuses in early January, where I think voters are getting a little more serious and the gaffes may mean more than they did in august and September.
KURTZ: Nia, the thing that happened and I'll get to you in a second, Nia, is that Herman Cain, of course, is still battling the allegations of sexual harassment. And this past week, his wife Gloria finally made available to FOX News for a sit-down with Greta Van Susteren.
Let's take a look at a little bit of that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "ON THE RECORD," COURTESY FOX NEWS)
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: Did you, at any point in the -- the week or two weeks that followed after that, you pull -- pull him aside and cross-examine him and say, OK, you know, Herman, what's the story or what's the real story, did you do this or not do this?
GLORIA CAIN: Yes, of course, because I wanted to know, are there any accusations -- do you remember any of these people?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: That was a tough assignment.
Does Greta Van Susteren adequately press her on these allegations?
HENDERSON: I think she did adequately press Mrs. Cain there. And she had an interview with Herman Cain, one of the first interviews that he sat down for. And she was pretty tough on her. And I actually talked to Greta about it. And she got some pushback from Fox viewers, who thought she was too tough...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
HENDERSON: -- on Herman Cain.
But I think, you know, ultimately, you know, that interview, it was -- it was, in some ways, lost, I think, in the whole week. You know, Gloria Allred had that other press conference where another more corroborating witness came out for...
KURTZ: -- for Sharon Bialek...
HENDERSON: -- for Sharon Bialek...
KURTZ: The woman who held the televised press conference. Yes.
HENDERSON: Yes. Yes. But I think we are soon going to finally see a point where all of this stuff is starting to catch up with Herman Cain. In some of these polls, he's third and fourth in New Hampshire. And, you know, this strategy that he's had so far, which is he's always ducking the press, ducking questions about the allegations and claiming ignorance on some of these issues is starting to catch up with him.
KURTZ: Well, Herman Cain did have a news conference this week, so I don't think he's completely ducking the press as much as Mitt Romney, who was, you know, not very available to the media.
But you've interviewed a lot of people on TV. That's a tough situation when you have a woman who is not accustomed to being on television or in being in the spotlight at all being asked about her husband and other women.
SHUSTER: And it was great television. I mean I give Greta credit. She did a great job with the questions.
But Herman Cain's wife knocked it out of the park. I mean she was terrific. She was likable. She was confident. She was cool. And when you -- in that sort of story, as you know, people are making a judgment.
Do they believe Sharon Bialek?
Do they believe Herman Cain?
Do they believe Herman Cain's wife?
I think anybody watching that would believe Herman Cain's wife. She just seemed credible.
Now, maybe it's possible that there are things about her marriage that maybe she doesn't know. But she is the best thing that Herman Cain has going. And -- and I'm just sort of surprised...
KURTZ: Yes, they should use her more often.
SHUSTER: -- that they're not using her more often.
COSTA: It may have been a little too late, though. During the crisis situation, right when this com -- this controversy broke, she was nowhere to be found. And now, as it continues to unfold two weeks later, she sits down with Fox and that's great.
But I think this hits at a key part of Herman Cain's weakness, that he doesn't have a -- a rapid response operation. He doesn't have a crisis manager within the campaign. It's only a few people on his senior staff. And they weren't able to address this immediately and put her on TV.
KURTZ: You do wonder whether or not it would have been a benefit to the Cain campaign to -- to make his wife available earlier, given that Gloria Cain did very well. And I thought Greta did very well in a tough situation.
Up next, the political press declared his campaign dead, finished, kaput.
Now, are journalist trying to kill off Newt Gingrich's White House run a second time?
KURTZ: The media are suddenly filled with investigative reports about Newt Gingrich. The most damaging, a Bloomberg News exclusive on the former House speaker being paid nearly $2 million by mortgage giant, Freddie Mac.
Here's his explanation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM CNBC/GOP PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE, NOVEMBER 9)
NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Listen, my advice as a historian, when they walked in and said to me, we are now making loans to people who have no credit history and have no record of paying back anything....And this is a bubble. This is insane. This is impossible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Liberal pundits and many journalists, for that matter, dismissed that historian explanation. But Gingrich got a more sympathetic hearing at Fox News when the full total of his Freddie Mac payday wasn't yet known.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "THE ED SHOW," COURTESY MSNBC)
ED SCHULTZ, HOST: Newt Gingrich wants politicians who profited from the mortgage crisis to be held accountable. OK. He can start by looking in the mirror.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "HANNITY," COURTESY FOX NEWS)
SEAN HANNITY, HOST: I wanted you to explain the $300,000 you said you got -- you said you gave to -- uh -- uh -- Freddie Mac that they did not take your advice.
HANNITY: You were not a lobbyist for them?
GINGRICH: I have never been a lobbyist for anybody.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: David Shuster, you're laughing at that question.
SHUSTER: Because it's typical Sean Hannity. I love Sean, but that question was just ridiculous.
KURTZ: But now, "The Washington Post" reported the other day that one of Newt's outfits got $37 million from health care companies for access to Newt.
Does this mean the media are finally taking Gingrich seriously as a presidential candidate by digging into his record?
SHUSTER: Well, some of the media. Obviously, at Fox News, they're giving him the talking points about this -- you're not a lobbyist, right?
But the -- the fact of the matter is I mean there's no evidence that -- that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac actually heard that advice from Newt Gingrich, if, in fact, he offered it. Nobody has been willing to say, oh, yes, he warned us.
The fact of the matter is they don't remember him saying it.
So I don't think he was getting millions of dollars because of, you know, his history about what would he have done if Japan won World War II. I mean he was doing something...
SHUSTER: -- and, clearly, Newt Gingrich is saying I'm, you know, I'm going to create this cloud.
KURTZ: But, you know, Robert, Gingrich famously disdainful of the media. He loves to beat up on the moderators in these debates. But given how much Freddie Mae and Fannie Mac have been targets for conservatives, this is not some gotcha story. It is a legitimate news story, in my view.
COSTA: And you're already seeing some of his conservative challengers -- Michele Bachmann is bringing this up on the trail, saying she doesn't have these kind of bad connects.
I mean Gingrich really does have a problem since he left the speakership.
KURTZ: But what does it tell us about the media climate where -- I mean my put theory about all this is, you know, if the press decides, in our collective wisdom, that you're not going anywhere, we go off and investigate someone else. When you seem like you might be a threat to win the nomination, suddenly investigative reporters are turning over rocks about who paid you money when 10 years ago.
COSTA: I think it -- it speaks a little bit to the resources. At many news organizations, you follow the frontrunner. And I think that's not a -- a great situation. You want to have a spotlight on every candidate.
But Newt Gingrich, a lot of his baggage is public knowledge. We know a lot about Newt Gingrich. There's stuff we don't know, maybe, about Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain. You saw real investigative stories on them.
A lot of this new stuff, it's just going over old territory and old news. KURTZ: Did the media basically laugh off his initial explanation about him being a historian, hired by Freddie Mac as a historian?
HENDERSON: Yes. I think -- well, I think we did, because it seemed like a not so frank explanation. And, you know, the reality is he was speaker of the House and, in some ways, he was trading on that influence and the ties that he made in Washington.
Of course, now, we see from his campaign real pushback against these stories. He's got a new Web site up where he lays out 16 possible problems that he's going to have to answer, whether it's on health care, whether it's on agricultural subsidies...
KURTZ: Or whether it's on his three marriages and the allegations...
HENDERSON: Yes, his three marriages.
KURTZ: -- of infidelity.
HENDERSON: Exactly. Exactly.
SHUSTER: And there is a certain shamelessness to it, Howie. I mean, there he was trying to impeach President Clinton when he was five years into an extramarital affair. There he was trying to get former Democratic Speaker Jim Wright out of office over a book scandal. And Newt Gingrich had his own book scandal. I mean, it goes on and on and on.
KURTZ: But if you look at this through a media prism, David, you see Gingrich trying to find ways to preempt the questions that he knows are coming. This guy's been around a long time. He -- you know, he led the 1994 Republican takeover of Congress. He knows and he seems to turn to his advantage, you know, bashing the media. We all kind of snicker at it, but it's been pretty popular in some Republican circles.
SHUSTER: And I think it's a very effective strategy. There's the media wanting to talk about how I was criticizing President Obama for going to the U.N. on Libya, and then all of a sudden President Obama starts going into Libya and all of a sudden Newt Gingrich says, wait a second, he shouldn't have done that. I mean, a complete 180, but there's a certain shamelessness that Newt Gingrich sort of has a twinkle in his eye when he does it. And because he's a smart guy and because he's attacking the media, I think it's an effective strategy for him.
KURTZ: It's time for me to put you all on defensive. I want to play some brief sound bites that we picked out from last June. This is when, as you may recall, Newt Gingrich's campaign seemed to implode. Sixteen staff members just walked out saying they didn't think he was doing the things that he needed to do to win the Republican nomination. Here's a brief taste.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS: Gingrich's campaign has fallen apart. Most of his staff has quit. The former speaker is pretty much done as a serious candidate.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: So maybe Newt Gingrich's sort of fake campaign is totally dead now.
COSTA: This thing is over for Newt. I think Newt is done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: All right. Does anyone want to apologize collectively on behalf of the media, who said done, kaput, toast, finished?
COSTA: I think the media misplayed this entire cycle. Newt Gingrich had it right. Debates are really the center of this entire campaign. And until they started, the whole thing was really just games and playing around in Iowa and New Hampshire. Gingrich focused on the debates, used them to his advantage. And for the press to think in August and July, if his advisers quit, your campaign's over, that the press misread this cycle. It was about debates and it was about really peaking at the right time late in the game.
KURTZ: You want to defend the mainstream media?
HENDERSON: I think in some ways he still could be done. I mean, there's still so much more that people are going to have to chew over in Iowa and New Hampshire. Some of his stances on health care. And so I think in some ways --
KURTZ: He is certainly competitive at the moment, even in a state like New Hampshire, according to the latest polls, which we all thought Romney had tied up. And it reminds me, David Shuster, of four years ago when McCain had a kind of an implosion, where he couldn't raise any money and certain staff quit or were fired, and everybody was writing his obituary. And he ends up winning the nomination.
SHUSTER: It gets to the cycle of the media. Howard Dean was going to be the nominee. Hillary Clinton, she was going to be the nominee. John Kerry, his campaign was dead. He comes back to be the nominee.
The problem the media has in covering 24/7, there's so much of a focus on a horse race, and you can't judge a horse race when they're going around the first turn. And that's what was going on.
KURTZ: Even the examples you just pointed out, why is it that journalists don't learn that it might be dangerous to write somebody off, you know, six months before there's been a single vote cast? Our track record is pretty lousy.
SHUSTER: Because if you look at some of these pundits, Howard, who are making these predictions, these are people who have not covered campaigns or are relatively new or they just don't have the institutional memory. And they are also --
COSTA: It's also the wrong metrics. Reporters are looking at money, and they say Rick Perry--
KURTZ: And advisers.
COSTA: And advisers. That's the inside baseball game. The real thing is media, it's momentum, it's the debates. That's what matters, not so much how much money you have in the bank.
KURTZ: Bottom line, voters don't care about inside baseball, but journalists most definitely do. David Shuster, Nia-Malika Henderson and Robert Costa, thanks very much for joining us.
After the break, she broke the Penn State sexual abuse story months ago. And some readers weren't too happy about that. Sarah Ganim of the Harrisburg Patriot News in a moment.
KURTZ: The Penn State sexual abuse scandal wasn't broken by ESPN or some other major news organization, but by a 24-year-old reporter named Sarah Ganim, who works for the Harrisburg News Patriot. In fact, it was Ganim who first reported on the grand jury investigation of former football coach Jerry Sandusky back in March, a story that incredibly didn't cause a blip on the national media's radar. She joins me now from Cleveland. Welcome.
SARAH GANIM, HARRISBURG NEWS PATRIOT: Thank you.
KURTZ: When you first broke that story and in the subsequent stories about Jerry Sandusky and these allegations, how did your readers react?
GANIM: Well, actually they reacted pretty well to the fact that we broke the story. We did have some pushback, and that was expected. I actually expected a lot more than we got. You know, there tends to be that fan base, the blue and white, you know, bleed (ph) blue and white, that Penn State can do no wrong.
And my barometer for that was football players would get into trouble, or the Nittany Lion mascot would get into trouble, and we would get tons of hate mail from that. And you know, we really didn't get that much (ph), we didn't see that. I expected a lot more than we saw.
GANIM: For the most part, people were happy that we were bringing this up.
KURTZ: You were on the case. Now, in those first couple stories, you reported Sandusky is the -- is under investigation by a grand jury, and that Joe Paterno, legendary coach, had testified. Why do you think that didn't make national news at the time? GANIM: Well, that's not really fair to say. It did get picked up by a few national news organizations, and they attributed it to us. And I think what happened was we were so well sourced, but we were so well sourced on background, to be honest with you. Many of the people -- almost all of the people that we talked to talked to us on the condition of anonymity. You remember, the grand jury is secret. The proceedings are done in secret. Many people who testified before that grand jury could be charged and go to jail for talking about the fact that they testified.
KURTZ: So it was hard for any other organization to match -- to develop their own sources to match your story?
GANIM: Well, it was hard for them to match, because we were on the ground, correct. We're a local news organization. I think that's a huge testament, that story is a huge testament to local news.
But you know, I think that people were hesitant to say, you know, well, let's -- let's just repeat what the Patriot News reported. And I can see that. There's some risk in that. So the few national organizations that picked it up attributed it to us. They said a few sentences and then they moved on.
KURTZ: Well, good for the Patriot News. How long had you been working on this story and how difficult was it to piece together?
GANIM: I've been working on this story for several years, almost exactly when the grand jury began meeting was when I started hearing rumblings of it, started hearing rumors. Things were popping up on internet message boards that are usually a hotbed for Penn State football chatter.
And I just -- you know, I started talking to people. Like I said, it was all local journalism, going to my sources, you know, digging around, knocking on doors. I spent a lot of time knocking on doors and getting shooed off properties but, you know, a few times we did get through to people and people were able to tell us that these rumors were correct.
KURTZ: Old-fashioned shooing of reporting of the kind we don't see enough of these days. But, you know, we're talking here about these horrifying allegations of young boys being raped in showers and working on this, was it hard to keep your emotions out of it? This is not just some run-of-the-mill story, obviously.
GANIM: Well, you know, I'm a crime reporter. I'm not a football reporter. This is what I do. This is just like every other crime story that I report. You have to -- you can't tell yourself you can't have emotions. I mean, that's unrealistic. We're human beings. All reporters are. What you have to do is keep it out of your reporting, keep it out of your story.
So if that you means that at the end of the day you have got to have 15 minutes where you let it out to your mother, or to a friend or to your boss, you do it. But it has to stays out of your reporting. And that's always been how I've operated KURTZ: What attracts you about crime reporting? Why did you go into that as a specialty?
GANIM: You know, it was kind of an accident. I kind of just fell into it. I was the only reporter at my college paper who had the time to do it one day and I love it. You know, the thing about it is that you're reporting on people on the worst day of their life. I mean, most of day that's really -- their house just burned down, their parent just died, their son just died, their life is forever changed.
But, you know, if you do it correctly, it can have a huge impact on people. You really can change a bad situation into a good one for a lot of people.
KURTZ: I've got about half a minute. But you're 24 years old. You're on national TV now. You're being flooded with calls. You've been made a CNN contributor. What's that experience been like for you personally?
GANIM: Well, it's been a whirlwind, that's for sure. I mean, I've learned a lot in the last two weeks, but I'm trying to stay focused on what I have to do. And my primary job right now is continuing the story for The Patriot News and making sure that my readers, you know, get what they deserve and my sources get what they deserve and those eight victims get what they deserve, which is good reporting from us.
KURTZ: So you are staying on the case, and not being distracted by the bright lights of the national media. Sarah Ganim, thanks very much for stopping by this morning.
GANIM: Thank you.
KURTZ: We'll continue to read your reports.
Still to come on this program, journalists get arrested in the Wall Street protests, a Reuters corresponding doing some unbelievable moonlighting. And Bill O'Reilly bites back at critics of his book on Abraham Lincoln. The media monitor straight ahead.
KURTZ: Time now for the media monitor, our weekly look at the hits and errors many the news business.
Some coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement has been sympathetic, some hostile. But this week journalists became part of the story.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered a post midnight raid to clear the protesters from a lower Manhattan park, some reporters were pushed away and barred from covering the confrontation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Order. Order. Under arrest.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE; I'm a reporter. I am a journalist! I am a journalist! I am a reporter. This is my press credential.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: About two dozen journalists, five of them with credentials from such outlets as the AP and The New York Daily News, were arrested. Bloomberg says the city was trying to, quote, "prevent a situation from getting worse and protect members of the press," except police later shoved and roughed up a number of reporters and photographers.
This is quite simply an outrage that police would haul off journalists trying to do their jobs and push the press corps away from a legitimate news event. That is nothing less than censorship, and the city owes these journalists and the rest of us an apology.
Now it's hard to imagine a more stunning conflict of interest than this one. The Reuters News Agency has a correspondent in Yemen named Mohammed Suddam (ph). It turns out he also had a side job as personal translator for Yemen's president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, even during the country's uprising again the president. Suddam's (ph) dual role emerged in the New York Times reports when he was arrested by opposition forces and held for a week.
Reuters' response was to defended his work as fair and accurate but the wire service now says, quote, "upon reviewing the matter, however, we believe it's not appropriate to use a stringer who is also working for the government."
How long did it take Reuters to figure that out?
Now, you may be aware that Bill O'Reilly wasn't too pleased when The Washington Post ran a story headlined "Ford's Theater Bans O'Reilly's Lincoln Book for Errors" and quoted experts as saying the book "Killing Lincoln" had plenty of mistakes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: In 325 pages there are four minor misstatements, all of which have been corrected. There are also two typeset errors, one involving a date. Now, that's a pretty good record, even for nitpickers who want to hurt the book. We well understand our enemies are full of rage about success. We also know the media lies at will these days with little accountability.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Well, I don't know about the rage and the lies, but the mistakes were pretty minor, and The Post had to run a correction. The book is available in the Ford's Theater gift shop, but not in its basement book shop.
So, I have to side with O'Reilly on this one, he got a bum rap. 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.