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CNN RELIABLE SOURCES
Rush to Judgment; Ann Curry's 'Today' Farewell
Aired July 1, 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 the most hotly anticipated Supreme Court ruling in a dozen years. The news business on full alert for the decision on Obamacare, the president's signature law hanging in the balance. Then the big moment arrived, and we saw this --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It appears as if the Supreme Court justices have struck down the individual mandate, the centerpiece of the health care legislation.
BILL HEMMER, FOX NEWS: We have breaking news here on the FOX News Channel. The individual mandate has been ruled unconstitutional.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
KURTZ: Wrong (AUDIO BREAK) CNN and FOX News blow the story? Why did they rush to judgment? And what about the pundits who have been saying for months that the health care mandate was toast?
It was an extraordinary, an extraordinarily uncomfortable television moment -- Ann Curry bidding farewell to the "Today" show couch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANN CURRY: I love all of our brilliant, brilliant producers. And for all of you who saw me as a groundbreaker -- I'm sorry I couldn't carry the ball over the finish line. But, man, I did try.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Was the veteran correspondent humiliated by NBC?
Plus, a magazine article by a woman who quit the Obama administration because she couldn't juggle the demands of motherhood strikes a very deep chord.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNE-MARIE SLAUGHTER, THE ATLANTIC: No one says any more this is no job for a woman because: (a), that's discrimination. But plenty of people say this is no job for a mother.
(END VIDEO CLIP) KURTZ: But have women in the media trumpeted this because they're all part of a privileged elite?
I'm Howard Kurtz, and this is RELIABLE SOURCES.
KURTZ: Let me say this at the outset, it is not easy to grab a long, dense, legal opinion at the Supreme Court and instantly decipher what the esteemed justices have decided. So, it's understandable that there was confusion when the Obamacare ruling was handed down on Thursday morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
REPORTER: George, we just got the opinion, I'm just taking a quick look. It's very long. And a very brief look at it.
REPORTER: It appears the decision has been affirmed in part --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Invalid --
REPORTER: Reversed in part --
MATT LAUER, NBC NEWS: Excuse me, David, Pete Williams is now ready for us at the Supreme Court.
Pete, good morning. Take us through.
PETE WILLIAMS, REPORTER: OK. The bottom line here is the Supreme Court has upheld the health care case.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
KURTZ: Here's how it played out on CNN, and it wasn't pretty.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: We're still going through the reading -- the opinion, but I want to bring you the breaking news that according to producer Bill Mears, the individual mandate is not a valid -- is not a valid exercise of the Commerce Clause. So it appears as if the Supreme Court justices have struck down the individual mandate, the centerpiece of the health care legislation.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Wow, that's a dramatic moment if, in fact, the Supreme Court has ruled that the individual mandate is, in fact, unconstitutional. That would be history unfolding right now.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The court striking down that mandate is a dramatic blow to the policy and to the president politically.
BOLDUAN: As we're reading through this again, we're reading that the entire law has been upheld, Wolf.
WOLF: If in fact that is the justification, then it's a huge, huge victory for President Obama.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: FOX News also started down the wrong path.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HEMMER: We have breaking news here on the FOX News Channel. The individual mandate has been ruled unconstitutional.
MEGYN KELLY, FOX NEWS: We're getting conflicting information. If you follow SCOTUSBlog.com, which covers the high court --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Correct.
KELLY: They say despite what Shannon just read, that the individual mandate is surviving as a tax.
HEMMER: Be cautious with us, we're trying to do the best we can right now as we sort through it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Joining us to scrutinize the media's performance: in Seattle, Michael Medved, host of the syndicated radio show "The Michael Medved Show." And here in Washington, Margaret Carlson, columnist for "Bloomberg View." And Mark Feldstein, broadcast journalism professor at the University of Maryland, and former correspondent for ABC and CNN.
Mark Feldstein, let's not mince words here -- how big a blunder was this for CNN and FOX News?
MARK FELDSTEIN, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND: Well, it was a pretty big blunder. There's egg on the face. And let's face it, cable news is not known for depth. People turn to it for immediacy and for accuracy. And it was immediate, but it was wrong. So, there's no way to spin it.
And, you know -- but it wasn't deliberate. It wasn't intentional. It wasn't political bias. It was, you know, reading page one, the first few pages and not getting to the end.
And we watched the sausage being made. That's what happens in this hyper warp speed where we live in. The public now sees the sausage being made, and it's not always an appetizing sight.
KURTZ: But what drives me crazy, Michael Medved, is that if these cable news channels had waited an extra two or three minutes for their producers and correspondents to keep reading in the opinion, to see the part where justice -- Chief Justice Roberts actually upheld as a tax the individual health care mandate, then they would have been right. But they don't seem to have the patience to do that.
MICHAEL MEDVED, SYNDICATED RADIO HOST: Well, they don't have the patience, and it's competitive who's going to be up first with the story, because everyone was breathlessly awaiting this. I think the bigger problem is that there was not the proper preparation. In other words, you have said earlier, Howard, and you were exactly right, the general consensus was that the Obamacare was toast. It was going to be overruled, all based on the oral arguments.
And people hadn't read the briefs. In the briefs submitted by the government, they attacked the whole basis on the taxing power which is the way that Chief Justice Roberts ruled.
So I think that the setup for the entire thing, to make it dramatic, to make it huge, to make it confrontational left people open for this kind of mistake.
KURTZ: We'll come back to that important point.
Barbara Carlson, you're a former CNN contributor. You know about the pressures of cable news. This is the kind of mistake that people remember for a long time.
MARGARET CARLSON, BLOOMBERG VIEW: They do. And it's a stain on CNN, unfortunately, your network now. But --
KURTZ: As well as FOX.
CARLSON: Yes, yes. Since we're here at CNN, I thought I would dump particularly on you.
CARLSON: I think there was actually some over-preparation because, Kate, your reporter, quoting Bill Mears, producer said, oh, under the Commerce Clause, the individual mandate has been struck down. She's absolutely right. They've been waiting for that, that the Commerce Clause was the big kahuna of the argument.
And so, 90 percent of it was the Commerce Clause. So they went with it instead of reading down.
If you're a more -- out there more and if, by the way, you've made a mistake in your career, if you've had egg on your face, as Mark says, you'd go to the end because you've made that mistake before. And you don't want to do it again.
KURTZ: We have all made mistakes, but if CNN or FOX or anyone else had waited two or three more minutes, maybe some TV critics would have said, boy, they were slow, other people had it first. I think they'd rather have it right.
Let me make this point, as well, Mark Feldstein. CNN owned up to this pretty quickly. CNN apologized. CNN statement, CNN regrets to that it didn't wait out the full and complete reading of the mandate. We made a correction within a few minutes and apologized for the errors. A long few minutes, I must say.
FOX News, by contrast, says, "We gave our viewers the news as it happened. FOX reported the facts as they came in. No apology, no regret."
That statement sounds Orwellian to me. They got it wrong.
FELDSTEIN: Well, FOX's identity is as -- depicts the bad boy of the broadcast outlets. They have a hard time admitting when they make a mistake. This wasn't ideological like it so often is with FOX.
But, you're right. Everybody makes mistakes. So, the real test is do you own up to them, how do you correct them, do you acknowledge them? And CNN was belated in getting to it, but they got to it. FOX still hasn't gotten to it. That's what's really troubling.
KURTZ: Michael Medved, what do you make of this --
KURTZ: Go ahead, Michael.
MEDVED: What was extraordinary about this thing is there were members of Congress ho responded immediately who also were so unwilling to wait, who responded based upon the erroneous -- the erroneous reports initially about the mandate being overruled.
I do -- I do want to come back to this idea that somehow no one expected until the oral arguments in March that the entire law could be or would be overruled which, of course, four members of the Supreme Court voted to do. But the fact is that expectations coming up to this changed in March during oral arguments where it seemed that the justices had doubts about it.
And everything shifted. The betting was 75 percent --
MEDVED: -- according to Intrade that the mandate would be struck down.
KURTZ: I want to get to that in just a moment. First, this question for Margaret -- what is this whole mentality, the scoop mentality that it's a great exclusive if you get to read a piece of paper that everyone else has 20 seconds before the other guy?
CARLSON: Right. CNN is the breaking news network. And you have a lot riding on being first. That's what you're selling. So, of course --
KURTZ: But as Mark said, you're selling being first and --
CARLSON: And right. You know, of course, they thought they were right given what they read. You know, Pete Williams is a lawyer. And he got it right because he knows to keep going. Now --
KURTZ: Pete Williams, NBC correspondent who covers legal issue. CARLSON: Yes. In the CNN/FOX dichotomy, FOX seemed to be delighted -- you know, there was a certain amount of delight on FOX's part that CNN didn't have -- and I think therefore that's why their apology was so grudging. And CNN's was a full admission.
KURTZ: Well, to clarify, FOX did not apologize because FOX -- FOX's statement was -- reading along with Justice Roberts --
CARLSON: Grudging statement.
KURTZ: Their statement they didn't do anything wrong.
All right. I want to get to the issue that Michael keeps foreshadowing for us, the oral arguments in March. There were pundits and straight news reporters as well who said the mandate looked to be in deep trouble, none more prominent than CNN's Jeffrey Toobin.
Here's what he said back in March.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: It looked like there were five votes to strike down the mandate.
This was a train wreck for the Obama administration.
I think it's a possibility it might be a plane wreck, as well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: So it was a transportation disaster. I told Toobin if he was wrong I was going to play that tape again.
But again, even if you look at the straight news accounts, Mark, you see a lot of leaning toward -- well, this is not going to survive based on the skeptical questions asked by the justices.
FELDSTEIN: Right. It shows an ignorance, with all due respect, to Jeffrey Toobin who's, you know, an excellent constitutional expert --
KURTZ: Former prosecutor.
FELDSTEIN: Former prosecutor. But, you know, and the problem with speculative journalism, horse race journalism, who's ahead, who's behind, who's going to win.
You know, if Jeffrey Toobin had been reading the Supreme Court brief when it was handed down, maybe CNN wouldn't have gotten wrong. By having him focus on predictions that nobody can know, intrinsically unknowable, you're asking for trouble.
KURTZ: The justices apparently hadn't made up their minds yet -- at least based on reports suggesting that John Roberts may have switched his view to the majority opinion. So what about this notion of predictive journalism, Michael Medved? I mean, we all do it in horse race political campaigns. But with complicated legal decisions, it's tricky business.
MEDVED: It's a very tricky business. And that, again, I think shows some of the lack of perspective right now. The truly extraordinary thing about all of this is -- first of all, this had worked its way up. There were appellate court decisions where they had split decisions. It was clearly very closely divided.
And we now have a situation -- and it troubles me, and it should trouble every single American, where this huge change in all of our lives was dependent upon the decision of one individual. There's something inherently undemocratic about that and I think that's probably why Chief Justice Roberts pulled back is the idea of taking that responsibility in your own hands. Of basically you personally overruling the decision made by 535 elected representatives over two years of very bitter debate.
That's an awesome sort of power to confer in one individual, and it should trouble everybody.
KURTZ: Well, our system of government does put a lot of power in the lifetime appointments to these -- these jurists to the high court. But, you know, just to round it out here, Toobin was not the only person staking his reputation on that prediction.
Here back in March is FOX's Bill O'Reilly saying no way that the high court would uphold this health care mandate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS: And it's going to be 5-4. If I'm wrong, I will come on -- I will play your clip, and I will apologize for being an idiot.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: So O'Reilly was --
CARLSON: Where's the clip? Where's the second clip? I'm an idiot.
KURTZ: O'Reilly was off Thursday and Friday, but he did phone in and discussed the Supreme Court decision, no apology.
CARLSON: Well, this provided so many hours of cable TV in the weeks leading up to this that cab drivers knew what -- this decision was coming. So everybody expressed an opinion, and the drama of the court arguments led many of us to believe that it was going to go the other way because the government's argument was not as persuasive, and the justices got hang up on the broccoli mandate. If you cannot be forced to eat broccoli, and that was picked up by pundits in the press. So you end up with this fairly, you know, simple -- simple choice that cable news has made it into.
KURTZ: I am all for informed analysis. I think predictions are not just inherently risky but can make you look very, very silly.
When we come back, very different take on the Obamacare ruling and the role of John Roberts depending on which channel you're watching. The court and the partisan media, next.
KURTZ: Talking about the initial misreporting of the Supreme Court decision on Obamacare, which misled the president of the United States for a few brief moments among others. By the way, Jeff Toobin, we talked about his prediction -- CNN's Jeff Toobin, that the justices would strike down the individual mandate. He was forthright in coming on the air and saying I was wrong.
Meanwhile, one we found out what the ruling was, here's how it played on some of the cable shows.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: Today will be remembered as the day that the Supreme Court of the United States of America upheld the largest tax increase in American history.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC: Today's hero -- Chief Justice John Roberts who walked to the forefront of history and said yes to progress and no to the role prescribed for him by the right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: What's interesting to me, Michael Medved, is the way conservative commentators didn't really grapple with what John Roberts had done but pivoted to the evils of Obamacare -- in other words, going back to the original debate over the health care law.
MEDVED: Well, that's exactly right. I think that's appropriate because one of the things that I think where the media was malfeasant about was actually sketching out before this case. And even before the vote in Congress exactly what this sweeping legislation means to people.
And the president seemed to acknowledge that in his reaction. You'll notice he spent six or seven minutes describing what's in the law.
This is part of the problem, and I think you're so right about this, Howard, is the idea that everything has been reduced to a horse race or does this help Democrats, does this help Republicans, who's ahead, who's behind?
What this really involves is a change in the way that every American is going to live and experience health care. KURTZ: Right. Well, I certainly think we tried during two years through to see illuminate that complicated argument.
KURTZ: But -- go ahead.
CARLSON: There's been no media malfeasance, there's been media feasance. It's been covered to a fare-the-well. And to people because it comes through some partisan networks, FOX, MSNBC, I'm thinking of, your view of the health care law is somewhat warped. But wow has this been covered. And wow has the media laid it out.
KURTZ: But what do you make of not just some liberal commentators but, you know, the front page of "The New York Times," other mainstream press accounts giving John Roberts a halo, this guy who had been portrayed as a conservative ideologue -- boy, he had the wisdom and the stature and the independence to rule with the court's liberal wing on this.
FELDSTEIN: Well, it's premature to say the least. I mean, that's the thing it court decisions. You just don't know what Roberts is doing. And there have been some analytical articles saying that actually Roberts may be running a stealth campaign to gut the Commerce Clause as an engine of liberal reform.
So I think both MSNBC and FOX in the clips you played, they're playing to their audience. They're playing to their talking points. The Republicans are pivoting to call this a tax increase, lambastes Obama for the fall. MSNBC is temporarily making John Roberts a hero.
That very much remains to be seen if it will emerge that way in liberal circles.
CARLSON: I think that John Roberts was a statesman here because he did not want the court to be politicized and said let us follow elections. But in the long run, Mark is right. If what he wrote about the Commerce Clause is carried out in other decisions, we'll lose a lot of civil rights laws.
KURTZ: We'll have to see about his other decisions.
Go ahead, Michael.
MEDVED: No, I was going to say, this whole idea of people turning around and saying, yes, this is a tax -- this is perfectly appropriate because you now have a majority of the Supreme Court of the United States, including all four of the so-called liberal justices saying, yes, it was a tax all along. That the president and his associates and his spokespeople have said, no, no, no, there's no tax increase in this. This has nothing to do with taxes.
The entire thing was found constitutional only on the basis that it actually was a tax. The president was wrong. KURTZ: OK. But just to clarify, the tax will be imposed on roughly 1 percent of those who don't go ahead and comply with the mandate by getting health insurance. I want to get one sentence from each of you because we're short on time.
Completely overshadowed on Thursday was, of course, the House voting to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for not turning over documents in the so-called Fast and Furious gun running legislation. Now, it turns out Justice Department isn't going to persecute him.
So, is this whole thing being painted by the media as a Republican vendetta? And did it end up amounting to a hill of beans? Mark?
FELDSTEIN: Again, where you stand depends on where you sit as the old expression goes. So, FOX News is painting it for their constituency as a major slap-down for Obama. MSNBC is portraying it as a partisan witch hunt.
And this is narrow casting as opposed to broadcasting.
KURTZ: Just briefly, Margaret Carlson?
CARLSON: Yes, alternate realities as Mark says. It's a Fast and Furious contempt citation. It's going to mean nothing in the long run.
KURTZ: Michael Medved, just briefly?
MEDVED: Very briefly, 21 Democrats total actually voted with the Republicans on the civil contempt citation, 17 Democrats otherwise -- only two Republicans voted on the other side. That's the undercovered and very important aspect of this dispute.
KURTZ: Right. Some might say they reacted -- under pressure of the National Rifle Association. Has been covered --
MEDVED: The Democrats are more split on this than Republicans. There's no question that the Democrats are surprisingly split when you have 20 members of the House voting on the other side.
KURTZ: All right. I got to leave it there as they say.
Michael Medved, Mark Feldstein, and Margaret Carlson -- thanks very much.
Up next, there was one Web site that nailed the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision, it's called SCOTUS Blog. We'll talk to its founder in just a moment.
KURTZ: And joining us now is Tom Goldstein. He's the founder and publisher of SCOTUS Blog, which covers the high court as the name implies. We heard earlier FOX's Megyn Kelly quoting SCOTUS Blog, correcting its own mistake, how did you get it right and so quickly?
TOM GOLDSTEIN. SCOTUSBLOG.COM: Well, we actually weren't the first and we have decided we were happy not to be the first. I had gone to a senior reporters for the wire services that morning and I said something long and complicated as this will be is the only thing anyone will remember if expletive someone messes this up.
And so, rather than our normal process of having our reporter talking to someone transcribing it, we had a team of seven people. I put in place a rule that our reporter who's covered the court for decades and I had to agree on the outcome and that's what we did. We sort of took the time to go through it --
KURTZ: You took precautions and you made sure you didn't go too quickly and got it right. You also predicted this, by the way.
GOLDSTEIN: We were kind of -- you know, we knew this of a possible outcome. You know, the tick tock is that both --
KURTZ: Let me explain before you say the tick tock. You are going to publish later this afternoon on SCOTUS Blog a long piece, a narrative piece it who did what about this whole events of Thursday morning. You talked to people at the networks. You talked to the White House.
Give us the highlights, and then we'll analyze it.
GOLDSTEIN: Sure. I think when it comes to the media, it turns out there was incredible good faith here. There was -- in both FOX and CNN, an incredible desire to get there right. And both control rooms at the networks were told by people in the court this is the answer.
They weren't told, you know, initially, I need to keep going. Then they were told --
KURTZ: You say --
GOLDSTEIN: Sorry, were struck down.
GOLDSTEIN: Right. And those people kept reading. It did seem from -- the opinion is written strangely with something -- the key issue written ads if the law couldn't be sustained. Based on that, they made a mistake. Then they went on and they were telling the control rooms, look, there's something more to this.
But it became impossible to take back at that point. The networks are so integrated now that the hosts -- your tape actually could have a little bit more in it which in both instances, the hosts and the reporters showed great judgment. They say these are the first reports, first indications --
KURTZ: You're saying even after there was some caution on the part of the producers and reporters who were actually trying to report the story, that didn't make it to air for a few long minutes.
GOLDSTEIN: What happened, the hedging of the reporters, right, but what happened is that, you know, the tweets, the instant emails, the banners at the bottom 1/3 of the networks, those can't show judgment. So they had -- their internal wire service says it's been invalidated.
KURTZ: It's struck down or not --
GOLDSTEIN: -- black and white thing.
KURTZ: There's a whole online aspect, as well. And you talked to people at the White House?
GOLDSTEIN: Right. The White House is a fascinating story. They did unbelievably well, to be honest. They were getting conflicting information, as well, from our blog -- I actually had a conference call with most of the networks and newspapers on it, and they were on it, as well. And they say the TV screens.
But where you were in the White House was pretty much determined what it is that you saw. Some people were in rooms that didn't have TV and were on the blog. They were a couple of critical people that were in another room that happened to be tuned to MSNBC and so they didn't see this. And there was the communication shop downstairs.
And so the way they coordinated between the lawyers and communication shop in the critical five or 51/2 minutes to make sure the president got the right information, that the White House reacted is incredibly impressive story.
KURTZ: What about at NBC where veteran Supreme Court watcher Pete Williams, did get the story right. How were they so confident?
GOLDSTEIN: Well, they had a different strategy. Your tape shows that CNN, FOX, MSNBC. But what Pete Williams did was said, I'm not going to try and get this in the first few seconds. He was not on the steps of the court. He was inside the press room, took the copy, and took the time to read as he walked out and then he heard on our conference me say that it had been invalidated. He figured it out from the opinion at the same time.
So where Fox and CNN went at about - 10:07:50, that tape of Pete Williams on the air is at 10:10:37. It's actually 2 1/2 minutes later. And so he's taking the time to walk.
And so he says, that - and they don't go to the steps of the Supreme Court and him until he knows.
KURTZ: OK. Fascinating the developments that I look forward to reading. Just briefly, yours is kind of a specialty Web site read by a lot of lawyers and legal experts and judges. How many more people than usual came to SCOTUSblog on Thursday morning?
GOLDSTEIN: We have an average daily readership of 30,000. It's - on Thursday we had 5.3 million hits from 1.7 million unique people. There are - we think, we have conflicting information - we think, at the moment the decision happened, there were a million people on the blog.
And this is actually - was another sub-story here that the Supreme Court's Web site crashed from all the interest. They couldn't get the opinion up.
And so the people who were trying to figure out what was going didn't have the decision itself, so they were very reliant on us.
KURTZ: You are the rock star of the moment. Tom Goldstein, thank you very much.
GOLDSTEIN: Thank you.
KURTZ: And more RELIABLE SOURCES in just a moment.
KURTZ: As everyone NOW knows, Ann Curry lasted all but one year as co-host of the "Today" show before NBC pushed her out. So it was bound to be a little awkward when Curry broke her silence the other day. But I'm not sure anyone expected this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANN CURRY, CO-HOST, THE "TODAY" SHOW: This is not easy to say, but today is going to be my last morning as a regular co-host of "Today."
I will still be a part of the "Today" show family, but I'm going to have a new title and new role. This is not as I expected to ever leave this couch after 15 years, but I'm so grateful.
And I will keep trying, and I'm so sorry I've turned into a sob sister this morning. Please forgive me, but I hope you'll wish me well.
MATT LAUER, CO-HOST, THE TODAY" SHOW: Can we just say it's not good-bye, not by a long shot? Most importantly, you've made us better. And we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
CURRY: Thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you so much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Joining us now from Philadelphia to talk about this messy breakup, Gail Shister, columnist for TVNewser and writing fellow at the University of Pennsylvania. Gail put everything else aside. Let's just talk about those moments, the emotion that came pouring out of Ann Curry as she bid farewell to the "Today" show audience. .
GAIL SHISTER, COLUMNIST, "TVNEWSER": I think that she was coming off of shock, really. I mean, this went down. You could argue it went down quickly. You could also argue it went down very slowly depending which side you're looking at.
The funny part is, Ann Curry's nickname within the shop is "Curry in a hurry." And she can be very emotional. But the way NBC took so long and had so many leaks before she actually did leave, I think contributed to her stress level.
I think that she kind of had reached her limit, and she was being very open and - and maybe too open. It made some people uncomfortable.
KURTZ: Certainly didn't look like she was anxious to embrace Matt Lauer, who was trying to be gracious, of course. Did NBC end up humiliating Ann Curry as this dragged on, and unconfirmed until finally we saw the tearful exit?
SHISTER: I don't know how you could say anything else, how you could say they did not drag it out. It took what seemed like forever. It took a little more than a week. And Steve Capus, the president of NBC News, said about the source of the leaks.
It was like chasing ghosts trying to chase ghosts. Whether the leaks came from within NBC, we'll never know. But it seemed like every day, there was new gossip on some site of when is she going to be leaving.
It wasn't even a question of if at a certain point. There was a line of demarcation had been passed, that when would she leave and who would she be replaced by.
What I found interesting also is Meredith Vieira was host for five years, and they dedicated an entire show on her last day. And Ann Curry, all together on the "Today" show, including her tenure as news anchor, was there 15 years, and they took a total of five minutes.
And it was very, very downplayed. And I think NBC was shocked by the backlash.
KURTZ: Why? Let me just jump in because Alessandra Stanley, a TV critic of "The New York Times" said that there had been a great a highlight reel aired about her exploits. There was an old, year-old thing to line. So that was a mistake. So she didn't get -
KURTZ: She didn't get much of a sendoff. And you know, do you think, in the end, that Ann Curry was treated shabbily, and this will - and we'll get to the new co-host in a minute, and this will affect perceptions of what the "Today" show always tries to sell as a family.
SHISTER: Dewey beats Truman. It was one of those moments on the "Times." I think that she was treated shabbily. I think that she's given an enormous amount to the network, and that was exemplified by the amount of backlash there was.
I think NBC was very surprised by the amount of backlash that was directed at the network because she has a lot of fans out there.
KURTZ: Right. Could this have anything to do with the fact that the new co-host, Savannah Guthrie, who is very smart - I got to know her when she was co-hosting a cable show with Chuck Todd at MSNBC.
She's a lawyer. She had been, I guess, co-hosting the 9:00 hour. This was announced Friday afternoon before the long July 4th weekend.
And NBC trying to play down Savannah Guthrie's appointment to avoid fostering the impression that she was somehow, you know, pushing Ann Curry aside.
SHISTER: Well, when any news organization makes any announcement on a late Friday afternoon, obviously, they're trying to bury it. But Friday afternoon before July 4th weekend, obviously they were.
One interesting thing I notice sudden is that someone within NBC had compared Savannah Guthrie to Mary Tyler Moore. And Steve Capus, president of NBC News, said -
SHISTER: I think he was quoting -
KURTZ: He was endorsing it.
SHISTER: Someone at NBC. He was endorsing that remark. And I thought that was very interesting because no one would ever say that about Ann Curry. She's quite a serious person.
KURTZ: You know, I just want to take a minute to say quite a good journalist, and you know, maybe was not the right fit for the lighter fare of morning television.
But nevertheless, you can't escape the feeling that she was not treated perhaps as well as she should have been.
SHISTER: There's no question. And what is really ironic is that she was almost hit by a camera a couple days before she left on the set.
And in Philadelphia, which is one of the top five TV markets, there was a signal problem at the NBC affiliate. And the "Today" show was off the air for 45 minutes on Thursday, her farewell day. KURTZ: Oh, boy. All right.
SHISTER: She couldn't catch a break.
KURTZ: And (UNINTELLIGIBLE) source could not catch a break. Gail Shister, thanks very much for joining us.
After our break, a former top aide to Hillary Clinton says she quit the administration to spend more time with her teenagers, and the press goes wild. Conversation about work, motherhood, and the media, coming up.
KURTZ: The topic wasn't exactly new - why women can't have it all. Yet the cover story in "Atlanta" drew 800,000 hits online in five days.
The reason is that author Anne Marie Slaughter quit her job working for Hillary Clinton at the State Department to return to her professorship at Princeton and to spend more time with her teenage sons.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANN MARIE SLAUGHTER, PROFESSOR, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: It's really hit a deep emotional chord. There are so many women out there who are struggling and blaming themselves because they think, "I should be able to do this," but they just can't because it's so hard.
KURTZ: Why has this piece struck such a chord with female journalists? I spoke with Lauren Ashburn, the founder and editor-in- chief of "Daily-Download.com" where I'm also contributor, and Michelle Cottle, correspondent for "Newsweek" and "The Daily Beast."
Lauren Ashburn, did this article strike a chord about your own choices with your career and your three kids?
LAUREN ASHBURN, FOUNDER AND EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, "DAILY- DOWNLOAD.COM": Of course, I had written about this topic two years ago when Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor were coming up, and they are childless.
And I wrote, why is it that so many childless women seem to rise to the pinnacle of their career? I think that it does have a lot to do with the fact that they don't have children, and they don't have to balance all of these responsibilities.
KURTZ: Do you feel in some way that your career has been held back by your own choice because you're trying to balance your role as a mom?
ASHBURN: I tried to choose something that would work for both for my family and my profession. I left the Gannett Corporation after 10 years.
My son was 10, daughter, at that time, six, the other one, two. And I was getting to the point where it was unmanageable. Do I think that was a bad career choice? No. It was a different choice that I made so that I could stay home with my children and start my own company.
KURTZ: Our other lady in red, Michelle Cottle, how often have you grappled with these questions and your two kids?
MICHELLE COTTLE, CORRESPONDENT FOR "NEWSWEEK" and "THE DAILY BEAST": I don't know a woman who doesn't grapple with these no matter kind of what business she's in or what field she's in. You always have to kind of work on the balance.
And there is just compromise in life. In any field if you're going to climb to the absolute tippy top, you're going to have to push aside other things. And women just have got to - kind of determine what level of balance they're going to do.
KURTZ: So let's talk about this as a piece of journalism. As Anne Marie Slaughter acknowledges in this "Atlantic" article, we're talking here about a privileged elite here.
Most women have to work, they don't get to - they don't have the luxury of making these decisions. They need a job. So I wonder if that kind of limits the appeal or the impact of this piece.
ASHBURN: I don't think so at all. I think that what we need to talk about is the way that corporate America, which is run mostly by men, needs to change.
I think that this voice that Anne Marie has brought to this and the voice of other women who have written about this is extremely important. There has to be a change.
We have to stop writing about this, and men who are leaders, need to open their eyes and figure out, help us and everyone figure out a way to do this better.
KURTZ: Does the media culture perpetuate the myth of the superwoman who can have it all, who can do it all, who can be on the Blackberry while she has the young kid on the knee?
ASHBURN: Well -
COTTLE: I mean, I don't know that it's the media culture. I mean -
KURTZ: Well, you know, images are projected about, you know, the most successful women in our society. And the sense that people may have is that you don't have to make these tradeoffs which is ridiculous.
ASHBURN: It's the wrong question, Howie. It's not about that. What it's about is that women - Washington is a perfect example, are littered.
The streets are littered with really talented women who can't do it all. You know, there aren't that many pictures of women who can do it all because it's really difficult.
KURTZ: When "The New York Times" takes Anne Marie Slaughter's article and puts it on page one, and it starts other articles, people commenting, isn't this a case of professional media women going wild over one of their own?
COTTLE: Well, what it is, is that it's a topic that really hits home. I think one of the things that's fascinating -
KURTZ: Hits home for whom?
COTTLE: For half the population. And it's not just professional.
KURTZ: You're not buying the idea that it's just the six-figure salary.
COTTLE: I feel this is a - this is not a conflict. If you want to help women on the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum, you'd do well to get women in positions of policymaking both in the corporate and the public sector on the upper end of this.
ASHBURN: And you can't do that, Howie. You can't do that if women who are successful don't stay in the corporate culture. They leave and do other things because the corporate culture cannot bend to what they need it to be.
KURTZ: You say the corporate culture. Here, Slaughter was working for Hillary Clinton. She's working in the government.
ASHBURN: Government, media and corporate.
KURTZ: High-level job. And she points out that a lot of the high-level appointees who left after the first couple of years were women and that many of their jobs were taken by men.
So it wasn't that she didn't work in a family-friendly environment. It's just that she found the juggling to be too much.
COTTLE: Well, any time that you are at a level that Anne Marie climbed to, you have harder choices to make. You have to be really committed and you have to make more sacrifices. It may be that at that level, there's just no good answer.
KURTZ: But part of me says, what was she expecting? You know, she was teaching at Princeton and she takes a job at another city. The kids are at home.
And even now, she says, "OK, in order to be with my kids" - I admire her for her candor in writing this and I admire her for the decision that she made. But she's cut back to 50 hours a week, being a professor at Princeton, giving speeches around the country. I mean, she's just not typical.
COTTLE: No, and that's kind of what women are doing increasingly. They're finding more flexible ways to succeed. They start their own business.
You know, that they work in contract basis. They work when they can. They telecommute from home. It's a more creative way to succeed.
Now, that does not mean that you don't need women in the traditional power positions, but that's why you find women doing them.
ASHBURN: Right. But I think in those traditional power positions, unless there is a way to get these powerful women to stick around in positions of leadership, we're going to continue to see the same problem perpetuated because men are not driving or going to be driving the decisions. Women aren't even at the table.
KURTZ: Well, I would briefly say that to a say to a much, much lesser extent, you know, dads wrestle with some of this. I was renowned at the "Washington Post" for going home at 5:00 so I can have dinner with my kids. And I, of course, continued to work.
But you know, to me, my favorite part of the article is where she says that wherever an official resigns, politicians, officer holders, to spend more time with the family, it's an excuse.
ASHBURN: It's a euphemism.
KURTZ: But is the culture such, and you know, I think some of this is perpetuated by the media, but some of it concurs within the four walls of these giant companies and not-so-giant companies, that when you work for big corporations, for example, and you had to take off to take the kids to the doctor or to take somebody to soccer practice, that maybe you didn't advertise that, maybe you made up an excuse because it was seen as less dedication to the job.
ASHBURN: No. I was very lucky. I had a very flexible boss when I was working at "USA Today." And he understood that if I was going to be good at my job, he had to give me the leash, you know. Don't hang yourself with it, basically.
COTTLE: These things take time though. And what you have found in recent election cycles, as you found male political consultants who used to - would just leave their families and go off on the road and not look back for months and months and months.
KURTZ: I know some journalistic correspondents who have done the same thing.
COTTLE: And I - you know, I increasingly found in the recent years that they can't do that so much without taking a great deal of heat from their wives. KURTZ: So just briefly, did this article point the way toward solutions or at least ways to change the culture? Or is it just kind of a primal scream that many women are nodding to say, "Yes, I recognize myself"?
ASHBURN: What I love is that it wasn't just a rant. It was, here's what needs to be done. You don't see many articles like that written from women who have been on the inside saying, "Corporate America or men in power, you have to wake up. You're losing your brain trust."
KURTZ: But this is an awfully entrenched culture that Anne Marie Slaughter is taking on. She has found at the State Department, as many women have found in equally demanding jobs and also less high- profile, high-stress jobs, unless you're expected to be on the job and you've got kids who need to be tended to.
COTTLE: Yes. And I do think as you get more women and men more equally balancing the role of caregiver, it will get better. I mean, one of the things -
KURTZ: You sound more optimistic.
COTTLE: One of the things you face in Washington is that it's a status symbol to always be on clock, to have two Blackberries and no life and whatever. But as more men have to play a more involved role, that will change. So I think they have a big role to play as well.
KURTZ: I'm firmly in favor of having a life -
ASHBURN: And going on vacation.
KURTZ: Outside of the office. Lauren Ashburn, Michelle Cottle, thanks very much for joining us.
KURTZ: I have rarely seen a magazine article that struck such a deep chord, deep among women. Still to come, a big story in the media didn't get wrong.
The latest journalistic fabrication of a breakup in Rupert Murdoch media empire, and your response to our segment last week about Twitter. The "Media Monitor" is straight ahead.
KURTZ: Time now for the "Media Monitor," our weekly look at the hits and errors in the news business. Last week, I talked to "The New Yorker's" Ryan Lizza about his theory that Twitter is ruining political journalism.
I later asked for other opinions, naturally, on Twitter. Here's what some of you said.
Kathleen McKinley, "Twitter isn't ruining political journalism. It's calling them out and keeping them honest."
Kate Kelly says, "No, the MSM is ruining political journalist. Corporate fascism is ruining it, not Twitter. What a joke."
Jose Pastor, "Correct thesis is that Twitter is keeping journalists MSM honest. MSM can't get away with their leftward bias anymore unchallenged. I thought it was corporate fascism."
Suzy Pearlstein says, "Twitter doesn't ruin anything. The tweets tweet and the discussion goes where it goes."
We were actually talking about journalists on Twitter and whether the constant short blitz were making politicians more wary about talking to the media.
But if the open platform that is Twitter is helping keep the news business honest, that's great.
The "Wall Street Journal" has dismissed an intern named Liane Membis after learning that many of the names in her story about the reopening of the Manhattan Bridge were made up and the quotes could not be independently verified.
The journal has taken down the article and removed unconfirmed quotes from two other pieces she worked on. Membis had previously been an intern at CNN for a year. The network said it's conducting an extensive review of her byline articles including fact checks and calls to sources.
So far, a network statement said, we have found nothing to cause us to doubt the work she prepared for CNN.
"Politico" is parting ways with White House correspondent, Joe Williams. AS we noted last week, Williams was suspended for such loaded comments as suggesting Mitt Romney was only comfortable around white people.
Editor-in-chief John Harris portrayed the departure as a mutual decision, but Williams said he was disappointed by the outcome.
Rupert Murdoch is splitting his corporation into two. That means he's breaking off the less attractive of News Corp, the newspapers like the "Wall Street Journal" and "New York Post," the British newspapers, and Harper Collins Publishing from such lucrative divisions as Fox News and 20th Century Fox.
The media mogul denied this was promoted by the terrible phone hacking sandal at his London tabloids.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEIL CAVUTO, HOST, "CAVUTO": Cynically, one could look at this and say, "Well, he wouldn't be doing this if not for the hacking scandal." And that prompted -
RUPERT MURDOCH, MEDIA MOGUL: No, it's got nothing to do with it at all. At all. This is not in reaction to - this is looking forward to what is best for our companies and what's best for our shareholders.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: The move has already boosted Newscorp's stock. But Murdoch knows his newspapers will be more vulnerable without being propped up by, say, money making movies.
Finally, it was a breaking story of an enormous magnitude, a legal case with sky high stakes. The pressure to get it first and get it right, truly enormous. In this case, one news organization rose to the occasion.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The giant headline out of California, a dramatic Hollywood ending for Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC: Big news out of Hollywood tonight. Celebrity couple Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes are splitting up.
KURTZ: "People" magazine broke the news about their divorce. Not exactly a Supreme Court ruling on health care, but then, a heck of a lot easier to follow the action.
That's it for this edition of RELIABLE SOURCES. I'm Howard Kurtz. If you miss a program, you can now go to iTunes on Mondays and download a free audio podcast or buy the video version. We'll be back here next Sunday morning for another critical look at media.
"STATE OF THE UNION" with Candy Crowley begins right now.