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CNN RELIABLE SOURCES
Immigration Move Splits Media; Rodney King Dead; Post-Watergate Press Ailing; The Aftermath of War
Aired June 17, 2012 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: It was a campaign bombshell, a re-election gambit and a heartfelt stance on a divisive social issue. And while the media were galvanized by President Obama's decision to stop deporting hundreds of thousands of younger illegal immigrants and liberal commentators were cheering, even FOX News was split by the wisdom of the move.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS: How can you blame kids when they're dragged to the USA from wherever? If you're a fair person, you can't.
KARL ROVE, FOR NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: This is nothing but a politically motivated and cynical act.
MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: What the president did today was bold and imaginative and certainly goes a long way.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
KURTZ: And the president gets interrupted, I would say heckled, by a conservative reporter.
Jose Antonio Vargas, the journalist and illegal immigrant who's on the cover of this week's "TIME" joins our discussion.
It was the high watermark for modern journalism. Forty years ago today when police found a group of unusually well-dressed burglars at the Watergate. A story covered by two local metro reporters.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARL BERNSTEIN, WASHINGTON POST: We would have coffee every morning off the newsroom floor. Put a dime, which it cost in those days, for a cup of coffee in the machine. And I felt this chill go down my back. I said to Woodward, oh, my God, this president is going to be impeached.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: But now, newspapers everywhere are slashing their staffs, and journalists are far more unpopular. Is investigative reporting fading in the post-Watergate era? We've seen it in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Egypt, in Libya, and now, Syria. The toughest job in journalism: covering the horrors of war. Former correspondent Michael Ware was kidnapped by terrorists.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL WARE, FORMER CNN CORRESPONDENT: When I was grabbed by al Qaeda and pulled from my car, I mean, they were just going to cut my head off.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: But what about the human toll when the correspondent comes home?
I'm Howard Kurtz and this is RELIABLE SOURCES.
KURTZ: The headline on the "TIME" cover says "We are Americans, Just Not Legally." The story is by Jose Antonio Vargas, who did not disclose his illegal status when he worked at "The Washington Post" and "The Huffington Post." It was apparently a coincidence, but on Friday, a day after "TIME" hit the newsstands, President Obama announced he is suspending deportations for many younger illegal immigrants.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They are Americans in their heart, in their minds, in every single way but one -- on paper.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Joining us to talk about the role of journalists and covering this politically sensitive story from New York is Jose Antonio Vargas, the founder of Define American.
Jose, welcome and let me start with this. In the last couple of years, has the media coverage of illegal immigrants in your view got more sympathetic, and could that have helped move President Obama on this issue?
JOSE ANTONIO VARGAS, FOUNDER, DEFINE AMERICAN: Well, thanks for having me, first, Howard.
I'm not sure if sympathetic is the right word. I just think it's gotten more and more human. I mean, I think -- I think journalists in general in the country have written about the human stories and the struggles that people like me -- you know, 11.5 million undocumented people in this country -- face every day.
KURTZ: But making it more human sounds like -- if you don't agree with the word sympathetic, certainly more real, that this is not some abstract political problem but a problem involving real people like yourself.
Well, I mean, you know, we can -- I mean, we can relate that is on so many issues. I think so often -- too often, you know, policies in this country are covered from a purely political he said/she said, what the Republicans think/what the Democrats think.
I mean, this is to me -- I mean, what's interesting even reading the cover like yesterday of what happened on Friday, you know, as far as I'm concerned, for people like me, right, like this is not -- this shouldn't be a political issue. This shouldn't be about what Romney thinks or really even what Obama thinks. This should be about doing the right thing.
KURTZ: Well, the right thing, of course, has to be -- the right thing has to be adjudicated by a political system and not everybody agrees on what the right thing is.
VARGAS: Yes, of course.
KURTZ: But let me ask you -- when you came out about your status in "The New York Times" essay a year ago, you said -- you were on this program -- you said that you hoped to continue to work as a journalist.
VARGAS: And this --
KURTZ: Have you become a full-fledged activist instead?
VARGAS: Well, I think what I've become is somebody who's trying to dig up as many facts as I possibly can. And as somebody who's advocating for people like me, right? Like we are not -- my goal from the very beginning last summer in writing that story for "The New York Times" is saying we are not who you think we are.
And also, by the way, my goal was to tell my fellow journalists -- you know, I've been a journalist since I was, you know, 18 years old. This was my only identity. My goal was to say that, look, this is not -- immigration is not purely a Latino issue. Immigration is about kind of connecting these dots, you know, in our kind of social system and talking about it in a much more holistic way.
KURTZ: When you say dig up facts, and I certainly would not dispute that you marshal a lot of facts in this "TIME" piece.
KURTZ: But you're also presenting a case. You're minimizing the law breaking involved and focusing on a way to generate sympathy for people in this situation.
VARGAS: I am just trying to make it as real as possible, and I'm trying to provide as much context as possible. I mean, to me, the fact that the biggest -- the most -- the biggest question that I get asked all year as I've traveled around the country is the question of: why don't you just make yourself legal? I mean, to me, that speaks to kind of the ignorance and the misinformation that's out there.
You know, when Romney says that people like me should get in the back of the line, the fact that there's not a lot of follow-up that happens sometimes, in kind of explain, wait up, there is no process for most people like me to come forward and say, all right, this is how we actually adjust our status. This is how we become legal.
KURTZ: Right. Another question --
VARGAS: That's what I'm talking about.
KURTZ: Another question, Jose, that you're frequently asked as you write about is, why haven't you been so deported since you've been so public now in talking about this?
KURTZ: And the answer in my view is that would make you a cause celebre and make the feds look like they're retaliating again somebody who spoke out. Your thoughts?
VARGAS: I mean, that was something that I realized as I kind of moved forward. I mean, I got to tell you, though, when I wrote that piece, you know, for "The New York Times," I had to prepare myself for whatever the consequences were. And the questions kind of got bigger and bigger. Like, for example, you know, the Obama administration deported about, what, nearly 400,000 people in fiscal year 2011. And I would get emails from kids who have been here since they were three or eight saying, hey, my uncle is about to get deported or I'm about to get deported.
There I am sitting down thinking, wait, like why hasn't anybody contacted me? So, to me, that was interesting. And I --
KURTZ: OK. Last question, even though it appear that federal immigration authorities are not targeting you and are not --
KURTZ: -- having plan at the moment to send you packing, do you still worry about it? Do you still wake up in the morning and say, gee, what if today's the day?
VARGAS: I do worry about it, but I worry more about -- I mean, the question that kind of motivates me now, you know, is how do I tell this story as fully and as well as I possibly can. How do I use al the skills that I have as a storyteller to kind of as much as I can tell the story. I worry I think more about that.
KURTZ: All right. Jose Antonio Vargas, thanks very much for joining this morning. VARGAS: Thank you so much for having me.
KURTZ: We will continue the conversation now in Los Angeles with Cenk Uygur, who's the host of "The Young Turks" on Current TV and the web as well. And here in Washington, Matt Lewis, senior contributor for "The Daily Caller."
And, Cenk, while some conservative commentators have attacked what President Obama did as amnesty, the reaction at FOX News and elsewhere, conservative blogs, has been milder than I expected. Does that surprise you?
CENK UYGUR, YOUNG TURKS: Not really. And I'll tell you why. I knew that they couldn't -- especially Mitt Romney and, hence, FOX News, couldn't really engage on this issue full-throated because they're getting destroyed by the Latino vote. They're really, really worried that they're going to lose it entirely.
That's why Mitt Romney will say over and over, "Well, I'm worried about the process and the manner in which he did it." But Bob Schieffer asked him eight times this morning if he's going to change his policy -- if he would reverse President Obama's policy on this, and in the end he basically said no, he wouldn't.
KURTZ: Well, Cenk --
UYGUR: They don't want to lose any more Latinos than they have.
KURTZ: Since you brought that up, I want to play for our viewers a portion of that "Face the Nation" interview this morning. The first non-FOX Sunday morning program that Romney has done in this campaign. You watch host Bob Schieffer as he comes back at Romney again and again in this clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
BOB SCHIEFFER, CBS NEWS: Would you repeal this order if you became president?
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, let's step back and look at the issue --
SCHIEFFER: What would you do about it?
ROMNEY: Well, as you know, he was the president for the past 3 1/2 years, did nothing on immigration.
SCHIEFFER: But would you repeal this?
ROMNEY: Well, it would be overtaken by events if you will, by virtue of my putting in place a long-term solution --
SCHIEFFER: I won't keep on about this. But just to make sure I understand, would you leave this in place while you worked out a long- term solution, or would you just repeal it?
ROMNEY: We'll look at that setting as we reach that.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
KURTZ: Matt Lewis, kudos to Schieffer for asking the question again and again. And Romney would not answer on the substance. He just talked about the politics of it.
MATT LEWIS, THE DAILY CALLER: Right. First of all, Howard, I was booked before we knew that we were going to be talking about this. And I support Marco Rubio's version of the DREAM Act. I actually -- what President Obama has implemented, I actually agree with in terms of policy. But that's why I think it's incredibly destructive. And that's why --
KURTZ: Before you get into the policy argument, I want to talk about this interview.
KURTZ: Bob Schieffer repeatedly tried to get Mitt Romney to answer the question, and he wouldn't answer. Good journalism on Bob's part. But we have a candidate who seems to be ducking this.
LEWIS: Well, the truth is that Mitt Romney may not uphold this. And that I will lay at the feet of President Obama. Let me sort of put it in context and explain why I'm saying that.
Marco Rubio has been pushing the DREAM Act which is essentially the same thing. He's trying to do it legislatively through our democracy. The hardest people to persuade to support this are going to be some Republicans and some conservatives. For this to last, big legislation, comprehensive immigration reform requires bipartisan consensus and a national conversation.
Barack Obama has now ensured that conversation won't take place --
KURTZ: OK, you're giving me the policy -- I want to come back to the focus on the media. So, let me turn to Cenk.
What do we in journalism do when a candidate -- you know, it's one thing if Romney want to say I would repeal this tomorrow as he does, for example, with Obamacare. When a candidate is dancing around a question, it's a pretty central question not just to Hispanic voters, but to people who care about this issue in the United States?
UYGUR: You know, I criticize the media all the time as you know, and that's why I was actually really encouraged to see Bob Schieffer do a terrific job this morning when he did follow-up after follow-up. You've got to do follow-ups. You've got to press them on this.
And he did. The reason that Romney won't answer it is exactly what, you know, Matt's talking about. He knows that his base would hate it if he continued Obama's policy. He has to oppose every one of those policies. At the same time he's going to lose Latino voters. He's in the tough spot.
That's why he wants to dance and run. It should be the job of the media to really hold his feet to the fire.
You know, at the end of the interview, Mitt Romney says, you know, I'm not interested in politics. I don't have a political career.
Oh, come on, come on! You're running for president! And those answers in the beginning were the most political answers I've ever seen.
And God bless Schieffer for pressing him further on it.
KURTZ: I think Romney was trying to make the point that he spent most of his life as a businessman, which, of course, is one of his key selling points.
I look at the coverage of this, Matt, regardless of what you think and support Rubio's version of the DREAM Act, seems supportive. I don't see a lot of mentions of the fact that, for example, the president is choosing not to enforce law. You could say prosecutorial discretion, but it's a pretty significant thing. I don't see much mention of the fact that some of these illegal immigrants would be allowed to stay here would be competing for jobs with Americans who were born here.
Not saying I agree with that. But here's the "Los Angeles Times," a piece interviewing immigrant rights activists. And the sub- headline is "The Obama administration's decision to halt deportations is a significant victory. But opposition in Congress is a major obstacle to further gain."
So, it seems e seems that there's cheerleading going on here.
LEWIS: Yes. I do think the one criticism that you're hearing on the media, and I heard David Gregory said this on NBC News, is that what Barack Obama did was transparently political.
KURTZ: OK. It's a reelection year.
LEWIS: Right. Everyone was sort of acknowledging that this wasn't, that President Obama didn't do this based on a desire to help people as much as it was smart politics.
But having said that, I think you're right. There's not a lot of criticism.
Look, the people who are going to oppose this are not conservatives in New York or D.C. and they're not liberals. They're going to be union workers in the middle of the country and conservatives in the middle of the country. I actually -- again, I think this is good policy personally.
LEWIS: But the people who would naturally oppose this are not in New York or D.C.
KURTZ: OK. Bottom line, Cenk, is I would have expected when this happened on Friday that this would have caused an explosion in the campaign, an explosion in the media, and yet -- and yet it seems that because Romney's not -- declining to engage directly that that hasn't quite happened.
UYGUR: Yes. I hear you. You know, just to address whether the political did this -- the president did this for political reason -- of course! Of course he did! I love it when people complain that politicians act political.
It's like complaining that Derek Jeter, all he's doing is playing baseball. Yes, that's what he's paid to do. He's a baseball player. And the president's a politician. He did it for that reason.
Look, the media's job here is to cover whether -- politics of it, and the substance of it. And I think they did a fine job here. You know --
KURTZ: OK. I've got to interrupt you because I got to toss it to Candy Crowley who has breaking news for us this morning -- Candy.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Our breaking news here out of California.
We want to go directly to Captain Randy Deanda. He is in Rialto, California.
Captain, we understand that Rodney King, a name familiar to so many of us, has died. Can you confirm that for us?
CAPT. RANDY DEANDA, RIALTO, CALIFORNIA POLICE DEPARTMENT (via telephone): Yes. Good morning.
The Rialto Police Department received a 911 call from the fiancee of Rodney King this morning, about 5:25 a.m. Rialto police officers responded to the scene. They arrived, and they found Rodney King at the bottom of his swimming pool.
The officers jumped to the pool and removed him and began CPR with Mr. King. Mr. King was unresponsive.
The Rialto Fire Department, paramedics arrived on scene and immediately transported him to the Arrowhead Regional Medical Center where he was later pronounced dead at about 6:11 this morning.
CROWLEY: OK. Let me, Captain, if I could, did you know at the time it was Rodney King, first of all? And second of all, is there any sign of foul play, or does this look like an accident?
DEANDA: Yes. It was definitely Mr. King, by the statements. And he was recognized at the location. And the Rialto Police Department is conducting a drowning investigation. And preliminarily, there is no signs of foul play at this time.
CROWLEY: And was there any indication as to how long he had been in the pool? This was fairly early California time, correct?
DEANDA: That's correct. And apparently at the time of the call, the fiancee had heard him in the rear yard, and when she went outside to see him, she found him inside the pool.
CROWLEY: So was there any evidence of injury, can you tell us? Had he hit his head? I'm assuming if he had a pool, you may not know this, that he could swim. I'm trying to construct this as you might construct it.
DEANDA: Yes. There was no obvious signs of any injuries to Mr. King.
CROWLEY: So what next for this investigation? Is this a fairly pro forma thing? Are you looking into foul play, or is this paperwork now?
DEANDA: No. We will conduct a thorough investigation. We do have our detectives on scene conducting their investigation. And then what will occur now is that Mr. King will be sent to the San Bernardino County coroner's office where they will conduct a full autopsy.
CROWLEY: Captain Randy Deanda with the Rialto, California police -- thank you so much for your time, confirming again for our viewers, this out of California, Rodney King -- whose beating case by the Los Angeles police sparked one of the worst riots in American history when the police were found not guilty of wrongdoing in the case -- has been found dead at the bottom of his swimming pool. He was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.
Details, of course, are coming up as we learn them.
Right now, though, we want to go back to Howie Kurtz and RELIABLESOURCES.
KURTZ: Thanks, Candy. Let's talk about this breaking news.
Cenk, you're in Los Angeles. Rodney King became an instantly recognized name. Had a sad life because of the role that his trial played in sparking that awful riot in '92.
UYGUR: You know, I just interviewed Rodney King a couple of weeks ago on "The Young Turks." And he was actually such a decent guy. He grew up in a religious background that advocated nonviolence and he was so moved by that. He didn't read the statements that his lawyers wanted him to read after the riots broke out. He personally went on script and said the famous line, you know, can't we all get along?
KURTZ: Can't we get along, indeed.
UYGUR: He had just -- yes, he had an addiction problem for a large part of his life. I don't know if it had anything to do with what happened here, but he's fighting it sometimes, not successfully.
And we have on the phone, CNN's Don Lemon who also recently interviewed Rodney King.
Don, what can you tell us about your last encounter with Mr. King?
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR (via telephone): I spent a lot of time with him and his fiancee, Cynthia Kelly, whom she met during the civil role trial. She was one of the jurors.
And they were to be married and home that the police officers and the person Candy spoke to talked to, I spent time with him. He loved that swimming pool. He'd go out and swim every morning, every day. Cynthia would say that's his life and also skateboarding.
And, you know, he's right. He did have an addiction problem for most of his life. And part of that addiction problem showed up when he was running from police officers. It was actually 21 years ago that that happened, the riots broke out a year later.
And it was, you know, almost on the anniversary -- not long after the anniversary now of that beating. And of those riots, I should say, that we are now having this conversation. I think the name of the documentary that I did on Rodney King, which aired a few weeks ago and then last year on the 20th anniversary of him being arrested was -- happened not long ago.
KURTZ: All right.
LEMON: And, you know, we just did it. It's called "The Beating of Rodney King." So this -- you know, this is someone who had a tumultuous life growing as a child and even as an adult. Even after the beating, he was arrested.
And, Howie, I asked him pointblank during our conversation, I said, why after all this time, people are going to ask, especially black people, why are you still getting in trouble? He said, you know, I don't know, I just -- I have a problem with addiction. I'm trying to get a handle on it.
LEMON: And now this.
KURTZ: Don Lemon, thanks very much.
LEMON: All right.
KURTZ: We'll continue our coverage after this break.
KURTZ: Once again, the breaking news at this hour is that Rodney King is dead at 47. He was found at the bottom of his swimming pool at his home. Rodney King, of course, the man who's beating and subsequent trial and acquittal of those police officers sparked the worst riot in Los Angeles history, or one of the worst riots back in 1992.
CNN's Roland Martin joins me by now phone.
Roland, what are your thoughts on the sad end to a difficult life on behalf of Rodney King?
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR (via telephone): Well, Howie, obviously, it's stunning. You think about beyond the beating and subsequent arrest that came after that, substance abuse, all those different things -- just a very, very difficult 47 years of his life.
But I think clearly when you talk about his place in history, you think about that flash -- really what came out of that beyond just -- I mean, look, obviously the riots and of course all of the different conversation that led to it in terms of what happened in inner cities throughout this country, but also the enormous spotlight that was put on police brutality and what happens in this country, what happens to African-American men in particular when it comes to the police.
And so, Rodney King really for years and years, any time we have any kind of conversation on police brutality, on of course, you know, to capture those thing, Rodney King is going to live on in that way because he is going to be always brought up when those things are compared. Any kind of beating caught on tape, it is going to be compared to Rodney King.
KURTZ: That's a terrific point. CNN's Roland Martin -- thanks very much for calling in. Rodney King didn't ask to be a symbol of racial intolerance and racial violence in this country, but certainly that's how he'll be remembered.
I want to turn back to the immigration story because on Friday when President Obama was making his statement, he was interrupted not once but twice by Neil Munro of "The Daily Caller."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: It is the right thing to do -- excuse me, sir. It's not time for questions, sir.
NEIL MUNRO, THE DAILY CALLER: Are you going to take that --
OBAMA: Not while I'm speaking.
And the answer to your question, sir, and the next time I prefer you let me finish my statements before you ask that question, is this is the right thing to do for the American people. I -- I didn't ask for an argument. I'm answering your question.
OBAMA: It is the right thing for the American people and here's why --
MUNRO: -- high unemployment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Cenk Uygur, he seemed to not only be interrupting the president but arguing with the president, seemed to me to be a monumental act of rude not. Your thoughts?
UYGUR: Well, you know, there's two sides. First of all, when he was speaking, the president was speaking, and Neil Munro started interrupting by asking questions, it is completely and utterly unacceptable.
Look, we have to have some sense of decorum. We have to let people speak in this country. It drives me crazy when somebody's speaking and students or activists throw a pie in their face or even the glitter bombs I don't like.
Let people say their piece. But the second part of this is that I think our media actually is not aggressive enough in questioning whether it's the president, whether it was President Bush or President Obama. So when he gets to the question-and-answer portion, I think it should be a lot more aggressive.
KURTZ: All right. Matt, he's your colleague at "The Daily Caller."
KURTZ: But a lot of conservatives have criticized what he did. He claimed -- Neil Munro says he believed the president was closing his remarks, he had no intention of interrupting him. But he kept on talking while the president was trying to speak.
LEWIS: Well, first of all -- a little about Neil Munro. He's an Irish immigrant himself. He was with "The National Journal" for a decade.
So, he's a seasoned reporter. If you put it in context, President Obama, first of all, the policy bypasses Congress --
KURTZ: No, no, no, I've only got a few seconds.
LEWIS: The speech --
KURTZ: Would you have done what he did? Was he wrong?
LEWIS: Cenk just said that we should be aggressive when asking questions. There was going to be no question and answer. This was the only chance he had to ask a question.
KURTZ: It happens all the time. He had no business interrupting the president.
LEWIS: The press corps should be a little less deferential to authority.
KURTZ: This is not a question of being differential. You can ask all the questions you want. You can challenge the president. Come on!
LEWIS: Where in the Constitution does it say you can not ask questions? This is protocol. It is etiquette. But it's not constitutional. He did the right thing.
KURTZ: I understand. I understand that you have to defend your guy, but that's --
LEWIS: That's not defending my guy. It's defending the right for reporters to ask questions.
KURTZ: I have got to take a break. We'll be back right after this.
KURTZ: Breaking news this hour is that Rodney King has died. The man whose beating and subsequent trial became a symbol of racial intolerance and racial violence in Los Angeles 20 years ago today, found dead at the bottom of a swimming pool at his home.
I'm joined by Jane Hall, who is journalism professor at American University. And Jane, you were a reporter for the "Los Angeles Times" in 1992 when this happened.
Rodney King didn't ask to be famous, but he became a symbol because of the violence that happened after that incident.
JANE HALL, JOURNALISM PROFESSOR, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: Yes, you know, the city was practically burning and people had no idea how it was going to play out. It was a tremendously difficult time for everyone in the city.
And I think that, unfortunately, people become symbols and they are imperfect human beings. I mean, his poignant statement, "Why can't we all get along?" is a symbol of tolerance, not of intolerance. And yet, as you all said, he had a very sad life despite this.
KURTZ: We're taking a look at video that we all saw many times, but have not seen in two decades, probably most of us. That is when he was beaten and then rescued, pulled out of a truck with such a dramatic incident when the officers when were involved in that incident were acquitted. That sparked the riots.
And I guess Rodney King, who has battled addiction his whole life - we don't know all the circumstances surrounding his death, apparently by drowning.
But he will always be remembered as a symbol of that - not just that moment, it happened to be captured on videotape. Unusual (UNINTELLIGIBLE) cell phones, but because of the violence that followed in L.A.
HALL: Yes, and also the power of that visual. I think a lot of people who had not ever seen that kind of violence had heard about it, the endless replaying of that probably had a tremendous impact on a lot of people's view.
KURTZ: That is an excellent point, because, you know, there are a lot of instances of police violence that you might read about. It doesn't have the impact.
Even now, 20 years later, looking at that somewhat grainy nighttime video, it can't help but spark a sense of outrage that he was beaten for no reason other than his race.
And so this was the beginning, I think, of many incidents being captured on video. But what a sad life Rodney King never really kind of regained his footing.
HALL: Yes, it is very sad. It really is. It says that people can be valuable symbols and yet not be able to get their lives together.
I mean, there are many other instances like that of people who get into the media spotlight. This is a profound instance of getting into the spotlight though.
KURTZ: And that very simple statement that he made about "Can't we all get along?" It's funny that we remember that even 20 years later. More after the break.
KURTZ: As I mentioned at the top of the program, today is the had 40th anniversary of the Watergate break-in, that third-grade burglary.
Along with Jane Hall, I'm joined now from Boston by Leonard Downie, former executive editor of the "Washington Post," now vice- president-at-large for the paper. And in Agora Hills, California, Phil Bronstein, former editor of "The San Francisco Chronicle."
Len Downie, you were an editor on the metro desk at the time of Watergate, when Woodward and Bernstein were assembling that story piece by piece. Did you imagine that it would change reporting, that we'd still be talking about it 40 years later?
LEONARD DOWNIE, FORMER EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "WASHINGTON POST": No, no. It was, you know, one step at a time, very long days. We were always afraid of making a mistake.
We were inside a tunnel. And we did not even - we did not even imagine it would lead to the resignation of the president, of course, nor to the immense impact it's had on American journalism ever since.
KURTZ: Phil Bronstein, given all the problems that newspapers have today, slashing staffs, shrinking circulation, less reporting by almost any measure, do we all spend too much time wallowing in Watergate?
PHIL BRONSTEIN, FORMER EDITOR, "SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE": I don't think we wallow in it, Howie. But I think it created extraordinary goals and unreasonable expectations. I heard Woodward and Bernstein last week talking about this in an interview saying, "Fortunately, you know, the government was responsive to this. The judiciary was responsive during the time of Watergate."
I don't think we have that now. I think one of the great threats to journalism, unfortunately, as we're shrinking, as you pointed out, is that the Obama administration is every bit as aggressive going after the press and the tools that we have at our disposal like the use of confidential sources than the Bush administration did.
KURTZ: Right. Len Downie, "Washington Post" is among the papers that have had a shrinking staff, several rounds of buyouts. I remember some when I worked for you at the paper.
You write in the newspaper that investigative reporting is declining and that others have had to fill the gap. Explain.
BRONSTEIN: Right. Two things to say here. First of all, Watergate - "All The President's Men, the book and movie, institutionalized investigative reporting throughout the American media.
And even as media changed, investigative reporting remains an important objective of most news organizations. However, as they shrink, there are fewer and fewer resources to devote to it.
And what's happened is that there have started up around the country a number of nonprofit investigative reporting organizations like the Center for Investigative Reporting in California that Phil Bronstein is the chairman of the board of.
Some of them are bigger like the Center for Investigative Reporting. Some are as small as a couple of people in a town or could be a few people that have gone to work for a university or using students for investigative reporting.
There's a lot of this nonprofit work going on. And these organizations collaborate with the commercial news organizations to fill some of the gap in their investigative reporting.
So "California Watch" has done major investigative stories in California, for example, under the Center for Investigative Reporting, that are picked up by newspapers and television stations throughout the state.
This is good. My worry, though, is that there's no set economic model for this. As the economic model keeps eroding for commercial news organizations, and as these nonprofit startups have to keep scrounging for money from foundations and donors and philanthropists, we need to find a ways to make certain that they're going to be around five to 10 years from now.
KURTZ: I admire what some of these nonprofit groups have done. But Jane Hall, let's not underestimate the size of the void here.
Just this week the Newhouse Papers cut 600 jobs, some of them at the New Orleans "Times-Picayune" whose newsroom is shrinking by half, the rest of the three Alabama papers including "The Birmingham News."
Doesn't that devastate the level of reporting? We talk about going digital, if you're going digital with so many fewer bodies, that's a problem.
HALL: Well, I don't see how cutting half your reporting staff in a town that loves its newspaper, still - the people still pass around the "Times-Picayune" won a bunch of Pulitzer Prize, laying off Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists, which is what they've just done, with no real strong Web site from what I can see, doesn't sound like a business plan.
I mean, it's not digital versus reporting. You need people to produce the content. And I think this looks very precipitous. And I love the nonprofit model. We have one at American University. That doesn't fill the void for having sources the way the Watergate story was reported.
KURTZ: And Phil Bronstein, since you're involved in such efforts, can the nonprofit groups, which rely on foundation and other money, really fill the void here? Or is it just putting a finger in the dike?
BRONSTEIN: Well, I think there's a lot between putting a finger in the dike and filling the void. I think we haven't yet figured out how to fill the void, Howie.
What I do think, however, is that organizations like CIR - and thank you, Len, who's on our advisory board, for that great comment about CIR is collaboration.
Len talked about collaboration. We don't just collaborate with other media organizations and legacy media organizations and other nonprofits.
We're collaborating with tech organizations, with GOOGLE. CIR is curating the iTunes - the YouTube channel, I-Files(ph), which is investigative operation that YouTube has started. There are a variety of things that we're doing, I think, to try and fill that void.
KURTZ: Well, that's -
BRONSTEIN: But your guests are right. I mean, it's a difficult thing to do.
KURTZ: That is encouraging news. Tough times for newspapers. We're short on time here. I want to thank you all, Jane Hall, Len Downie, and Phil Bronstein, because of the breaking news that Rodney King has been found dead in his swimming pool.
Rodney King dying at 47. Let me get another break. We'll come back with more on RELIABLE SOURCES. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
KURTZ: CNN is reporting this hour that Rodney King has died. The man whose beating and subsequent trial sparked the 1992 Los Angeles riots found dead at the bottom of his swimming pool, a sad ending to a very troubled life.
Want to go to Los Angeles where we're going to talk to Michael Ware, former correspondent for "Time" magazine and for CNN who covered a lot of war in his time, Iraq, Afghanistan, elsewhere.
And Michael, you wrote the following in "Newsweek" a couple weeks ago, "I should be dead, I wish I was." Sounds like you're having a lot of difficulty adjusting to your post-war life.
MICHAEL WARE, FMR. CORRESPONDENT, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Well, it certainly was, Howard. Like any of the soldiers, the 2.4 million American vets now coming home, who spent at least one tour in combat in Iraq or Afghanistan, it really is a transition.
It's an extraordinary thing. It's - it really is something that you must consciously tackle to reclaim your life. And obviously, it's something that plays upon your families. It plays upon your friends.
And when there's a complete lack of support for you to do that, then that obviously, I think, only compounds things. Thankfully, I'm through the eye of my needle.
But I know that there are a lot of other journalists and a lot of other veterans out there who couldn't yet say the same.
KURTZ: You say you've had violent nightmares, one of which left you injured. It sounds like a pretty difficult period. Tell us about that.
WARE: Yes, I guess you could say that. I've had obviously sleep trouble, which is a very common thing with PTSD. When I woke one Sunday morning, I heard someone screaming until I realized it was me.
And my left arm was completely down and out of its rotator cuff and torn and facing the other way. Now, that meant that I then had to go and have surgery, which I had to pay for within three days, four days of that surgery,
I'm back on the front line with the Pakistani Taliban. And I subsequently have had to have other surgeries. I've had a perforated ulcer from the stress. I've had all sorts of things with absolutely no support whatsoever.
These things come out of your pocket. And in fact, these are the things that, you know, a lot of journalists end up losing their jobs over when, in fact, they should be getting supported for it.
KURTZ: Nobody, of course, forced you to be a war correspondent. You spent six or seven years in Iraq. Why did you do it for so long? Are you an adrenaline junkie? WARE: Yes, that gets thrown around a lot, which is really quite a pure old misnomer, to be perfectly frank. I mean, how long does the adrenaline last? How long can one be addicted to something like that?
For me, it always had to be something greater than just adrenaline. And for me, that was the fact that, you know, it just wasn't otherwise being done, particularly in Iraq.
I mean, Iraq was not a simple environment to work in. And it gets to a certain point where, you know, you're a bit of an old hand. And if it's not going to be you, then they're throwing these young kids into a meat grinder, not just of war but of everything that comes with it when they come home. So it's almost if not you, then who? Also -
KURTZ: I can certainly understand being a difficult adjustment and obviously you spent many years on the front lines reporting important stories.
We appreciate your joining us this morning. We're a little short on time because of the breaking news. Michael Ware, thanks very much.
And still to come, "Media Monitor" which is straight ahead.
KURTZ: Time now for the "Media Monitor," our weekly look at the hits and errors in the news business.
Here's what I liked. "The Washington Post" had a behind-the- scenes look at how liberal interest groups have privately pressured President Obama, especially gay rights activists and Hispanics who said he hadn't delivered on immigration reform.
Reporter Peter Wallsten described how Obama has bristled at the blunt criticism, at one point telling a group of Hispanic lawmakers, "Look at who I am."
The piece sort of foreshadowed the president's Friday shift on immigration reform.
I mentioned last week that reporter Gina Chon had taken a leave from "The Wall Street Journal." A series of embarrassing E-mails revealed she was mixing business with romance with a U.S. official in Iraq, Brett McGurk, now President Obama's nominee as ambassador to Baghdad.
Chon, who is now married to McGurk, resigned this week. "The Journal" said in its statement that she violated the company's standards by sharing unpublished articles with McGurk four years ago, the paper said.
"Ms. Chon entered into a personal relationship with Mr. McGurk which she failed to disclose to her editor. At this time 'The Journal' has found no evidence that her coverage was tainted by her relationship with Mr. McGurk." In an E-mail to friends, Chon says she is truly sorry for quote, "stupid mistakes," but adds that while she was working in Iraq, "Brett never gave me sensitive or classified information, nor did he trade his knowledge for my affection."
NBC seems to have cornered the market on presidential offspring like Chelsea Clinton. So when the "Today" show had an opportunity to interview the 41st president of the United States, the call went out to his granddaughter.
And it seemed like Jenna Bush Hager was having a leisurely chat at a family reunion.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JENNA BUSH HAGER, NBC NEWS: There were waterworks. Full disclosure, I tried as hard as I possibly could not to cry, but we are the family cryers. Sometimes I know you can hear me, but you pretend you can't.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FMR. UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: Right.
J. BUSH: Why do you do that?
G. BUSH: It keeps you on the ball.
J. BUSH: What about the role of husband? What's it been like being married to Ganny(ph)?
G. BUSH: It's been a challenge and a reward.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: I don't want to be too hard on Jenna, but whatever this was, it wasn't journalism. Would NBC have gotten the interview without sending a close relative?
There's just something like "Fox and friends." We all know the gang doesn't think much of the president. Remember that harshly anti- Obama video a couple weeks back?
But they keep making factual mistakes that just happen to make him look bad. Take this Mitt Romney interview with host Steve Doocy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE DOOCY, HOST, "FOX AND FRIENDS": The Federal Reserve has figured out that over the last three years, the net worth of the average American family has fallen 40 percent over three years.
MITT ROMNEY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I know that that's why the American people are having such a hard time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Romney may not have known it, but Doocy's figures were wrong. The study found that falling income, not in the last three years but from 2007 to 2010, meaning half under President Bush and half under Obama.
Did the program air a correction? No, it just used the right figure the next day.
And by the way, a couple of Fox shows reported the EPA is using spy drones to fly over Midwestern farms, this after the story spread from Twitter to the conservative Web site, "PJ Media."
It's totally bogus, as the "Washington Post" reports this morning. There are no EPA drones. Whatever happened to making a phone call to check?
That's it for this edition of RELIABLE SOURCES. I'm Howard Kurtz. Happy Father's Day. And here's some breaking news. If you missed our program, you can now go to iTunes on Mondays and download a free audio podcast or buy the video version.
We'll see you here next Sunday. "STATE OF THE UNION" with Candy Crowley begins right now.