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CNN RELIABLE SOURCES

Bob Costas Triggers a Furor; Roger Ailes Petraeus Pitch

Aired December 9, 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: Bob Costas steps outside the white lines to tackle the subject of gun control during a football game. This after a tragic murder-suicide by an NFL player. The uproar is so great that the NBC sportscaster had to hit the airwaves to defend himself.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS: How do you feel about the right to bear arms?

BOB COSTAS, NBC SPORTSCASTER: Obviously, Americans have a right to bear arms. I'm not looking to repeal the Second Amendment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Did Costas go too far by stepping into a political minefield?

A FOX News contributor caught on tape telling David Petraeus that Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch wanted him to run for president and that Ailes might quit the network to help him.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

K.T. MCFARLAND, FOX NEWS: He says that if you're offered chairman, take it. If you're offered anything else, don't take it, resign in six months and run for president. OK? And I know you're not running for president, but at some point when you go to New York next, you may want to just chat with Roger, and Rupert Murdoch, for that matter.

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, U.S. ARMY: Well, Rupert's after me as well.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

KURTZ: Was Ailes crossing the line into politics, or Ailes says, was FOX analyst K.T. McFarland just exaggerating?

White House correspondent Jake Tapper travels to remote outpost in Afghanistan to tell the story of the brave American soldiers who fought and in some cases died there. We'll ask him why this war has vanished from the media's radar screen.

A journalist examines those who don't think of themselves as black even though others may seem that way. Conversation with Soledad O'Brien.

Plus, a veteran reporter struggles to the tell the story of his son's problems takes him to visit Bill Clinton and George Bush and realizes he must dig deeper into his own shortcomings as a father. Ron Fournier on the pain and promise of personal journalism.

I'm Howard Kurtz and this is RELIABLE SOURCES.

(MUSIC)

KURTZ: The most memorable moment on Sunday night football took place during halftime. The game aired one day after that shocking tragedy in which Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher fatally shot himself and his girlfriend. And NBC sportscaster Bob Costas decided to devote his commentary to the issue of guns. Costas quoted a sports columnist for FOX Sports, but his own feelings were quite clear.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB COSTAS, NBC SPORTS: You want some actual perspective on this? Well, a bit of it comes from the Kansas City-based writer Jason Whitlock, with whom I do not always agree, but today said it so well that we may as well just quote or paraphrase from the end of his article.

Our current gun culture, Whitlock wrote, ensures that more and more domestic disputes will end in the ultimate tragedy, but here, wrote Jason Whitlock, is what I believe. If Jovan Belcher didn't possess a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Gun control critics quickly declared war on Costas on Twitter and on the air.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

LARS LARSON, SYNDICATED RADIO HOST: Bob Costas based on the standards of our society today and the standards of our industry, the one you and I worked in, deserves to be fired for these remarks.

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO HOST: How come Costas gets to express his opinion during halftime of Sunday night football? The answer is simple, because that's the opinion of his bosses. He gets to express the opinion because of what NBC thinks.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

KURTZ: The furor was so intense that within 48 hours Costas was back on the air playing defense.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COSTAS: It's not that I'm afraid to go into that zone but if you're going, you need more time and you need to be able to get into some nuance. What I was talking about here and I'm sorry if that wasn't clear to everybody was a gun culture. I never mentioned the Second Amendment. I never used the words "gun control." People inferred that.

Give me one example of a professional athlete who by virtue of his having a gun took a dangerous situation and turned it around for the better.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: So did Bob Costas step too far outside the role of a sports analyst?

Joining us now here in Washington, Christine Brennan, sports columnist for "USA Today", Mike Wise, who writes about sports for "The Washington Post".

Christine, simple question -- was Bob Costas out of bounds in broadcasting his personal political views on gun control during an NFL telecast?

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, USA TODAY: Actually, I do not think he was. What I think should have been done is the term commentary, Howie, should have been put on the screen, the way it is for Mike Wise, the way it is for me in print, and make it crystal clear that this next 90 seconds is an opinion piece.

But I do believe that -- and I know Mike feels this way too about columns and sports -- sports is now a reflection of our society much more than it is the escape, the sports section. And so, with that in mind, I would say that to have these national conversations, whether it'd be about concussions or domestic violence -- which I would make this case, this could have been more about that -- whatever it is, steroids, Penn State. That's where sports is taking us, and I think Bob is one of those leaders in that area.

KURTZ: By his own admission though, he took this polarizing issue and tried to deal with it in 90 seconds and that was a bloodbath.

MIKE WISE, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, I wish Bob would have taken out a op-ed editorial in "The Washington Post" or "The New York Times" or "USA Today", and basically articulated his thoughts about it because --

KURTZ: Should he have been doing it during a football game, in your view?

WISE: I don't know if -- maybe it is that, because it's almost like a last bastion of a political thought. You can actually go to a sporting event, watch it on TV and say, you know what? You're not going to get any pro-abortion, anti-abortion, anything, anti-gun, pro -- so the idea that somehow Bob Costas used that vehicle to give his opinion.

The second thought is, it is his monologue. KURTZ: Wait, wait. Christine Brennan says that sports can no longer be this walled off garden where we pretend that terrible things that afflict society, Penn State is the perfect example, don't affect athletes, coaches, players. So you know this was 24 hours after the murder/suicide.

If Costas hadn't brought it up, would he have been doing his job?

BRENNAN: I think he would not have been doing his job. And there were pregame shows that were criticized for yakking it up for the first five or six minutes before they even got to it.

I think -- I think -- I think you can actually be upset that he did it and still agree -- if this makes sense -- with the idea behind it. In other words again, I think NBC needed to put commentary on it. I think they needed to do that.

But for those who want sports to be the escape, they're angry, right? They want the moment get way from all the real -- the real world. But here's news: you cannot get rid of real news in the sports world.

WISE: You're right about that. Sports is a microcosm of society. Now, Bob Costas, people like Christine Brennan, myself, I like to go deeper than the games.

But Sunday night football in America has essentially become Monday night and everybody watches. And Bob Costas has done so much good work on his show, on other shows, he could have -- there could have been a different vehicle for him to get his thoughts across. That's all I thought.

KURTZ: One of the reasons that sports commentators are popular and Costas is doing this a long time and he's won awards, and I would say he earned the right as a journalist to tackle this subject, although I think he mishandled it, is because they have broad appeal, because they can appeal to Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives.

Costas had to know that by stepping outside that role a little bit, even if there had been a neon sign flashing commentary, he was going to tick off a substantial chunk of his fan base and yet he took that risk.

WISE: Sometimes you have to fall -- what was that saying? Either fall for everything or stand for something. And Bob Costas is somebody that stands for something and I applaud that.

I don't want the guy in the booth all the time that says nothing. Nonetheless, I thought it was a bad venue.

BRENNAN: Well, of course, you made the point. Bob has done some great work on these issues and he is with us talking about these things -- the Munich Olympic tragedy, at the opening ceremonies in London, the Penn State situation.

So, Bob doesn't shy away from these things and I think that's terrific. I --

KURTZ: Is it -- people who are angry at Costas, who say he should be fired, is it that they simply don't agree with his views on gun control, or is it they think that he was completely inappropriate using that half time to broadcast those views?

BRENNAN: I guess it would probably be more of the latter, which is to say that -- I'm sure there are some who disagree. But I think the idea that, Bob, you are host of the halftime show and the host of the game, why are you doing this?

WISE: I think it would bring them out on both sides.

BRENNAN: But, Bob -- to your point -- Bob knew that this is going to be the case, just like you know and I know --

KURTZ: Right.

WISE: -- when we write about something controversial. And, frankly, if people all agree with me, I'm nervous, because I'm wondering, what's wrong? The idea is to stir the pot, is to make people think.

Like I said, I think if it was a little clearer to every viewer watching that, that Bob was going go into 90 seconds of a commentary kind of issue, again, I wise it would have been domestic violence, frankly, or the issue of concussions.

But that is part of the problem here. It wasn't labeled well by his network.

WISE: This is where I agree with her. Domestic violence -- the disproportionate number of assaults that happen in sports as opposed to society is wrong and it needs to be talked about more, and that --

KURTZ: The violent culture of football.

WISE: And that could have been -- the violent culture of football and that could have been what it's about.

KURTZ: Does this in some way tarnish NBC, which has not really spoken about what happened with Costas, because Rush Limbaugh who was once a football commentator goes on the air and say, well, the liberals NBC. Someone has to approve this. This was an off-the-cuff remark. He's reading on the prompter. So, somebody on NBC said, OK, Bob, go ahead.

BRENNAN: I think NBC could have handled it better. As I said, I was very critical of NBC during the Olympics for, obviously, all the tape delay. This is the 2012. This isn't the days of Ozzie & Harriet.

So, but in full disclosure, I also work with ABC News and did some work with CNN as well. But I do think that NBC could handle it better.

I totally don't buy the argument that this was all the executives. I mean, that's Rush Limbaugh doing Rush Limbaugh.

WISE: I laugh that we actually made this such a huge topic because we come to the point where we accept the major networks in this country taking a political side and yet once it happens in sports, oh, my gosh, you guys went too far. Your main news broadcasters are taking sides.

KURTZ: Different standards you're saying --

WISE: Correct.

KURTZ: Perhaps there shouldn't be.

Well, I must say this -- when Costas went out and did those interviews. He could have hidden in the bunker. He took it head on. He made some tactical errors. But he didn't back off the substance of his comments.

So, I guess he's decided to take his stand on this.

BRENNAN: Well, and also, in his commentary, he did quote another journalist.

KURTZ: That was a fig leaf. He made clear that he made revisions --

BRENNAN: Exactly. But this is the issue of the day. There is nothing the --

(CROSSTALK)

WISE: God bless America that Jason Whitlock and Bob Costas and people of their ilk are actually speaking about their issues instead of Chris Collinsworth (ph) talking about, somebody being tough quarterback for the Bears after he gets a concussion.

KURTZ: I've got to blow the whistle. The fourth quarter is over here.

Mike Wise, Christine Brennan, thanks for joining us this morning.

When we come back, a secret tape recording (INAUDIBLE). Was Roger Ailes privately pushing David Petraeus to run for president?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: The tangled tale of Roger Ailes and David Petraeus had an air of international intrigue. K.T. McFarland, a FOX News contributor on national security, was visiting the general in Afghanistan last year and she said she was carrying a message from the network chairman. A digital recording obtained by "The Washington Post's" Bob Woodward captured the conversation which Ailes was said to be advising Petraeus that unless Barack Obama offered him the job of chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff, he should quit and run for president.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) PETRAEUS: Tell him if I ever ran -- but I won't.

MCFARLAND: OK, I know, I know.

PETRAEUS: But if I ever ran, I would take him up on his offer.

MCFARLAND: OK, all right.

PETRAEUS: He said he would quit FOX.

MCFARLAND: I know, I know. Look, he's not the only one.

PETRAEUS: And bankroll it.

MCFARLAND: Bankroll it?

PETRAEUS: Or maybe I'm confusing that with Rupert. No.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

KURTZ: So, was Ailes, as it sounds, meddling in politics?

Joining me now in Boston, Callie Crossley, host and motivator of Boston Public Radio, WGBH.

And here in Washington, Erik Wemple, who blogs about the media at "The Washington Post."

Erik, does this show Roger Ailes trying to orchestrate presidential politics in a way that's unacceptable for the head of the news organization.

ERIK WEMPLE, THE WASHINGTON POST: I think it shows Roger Ailes can't keep himself out of politics. And who can blame him? That's where he started out, that's what he loves, what's what his network reflects, an obsession with politics.

So, you know, it's hard, you know, to blame him. The problem is what it does for his news network which is it makes it at least appear, I think, in fact, more than just appearance. In this case, you know, a sheen of reality that he's out there trying to get a better Republican field in the primaries.

And, you know, someone say, hey, the primary field was bad. But he's actively out there.

K.T. McFarland wrote later that this was a joke. I don't believe it.

KURTZ: Let come to the general question, Callie Crossley, because when Bob Woodward interviewed Roger Ailes, he said it was kind of true but kind of a joke, and he kind of undermined his own contributor, K.T. McFarland saying she was way out of line, and there's somebody's fantasy to make me a kingmaker.

So, what's your take on hour serious this was? CALLIE CROSSLEY, BOSTON PUBLIC RADIO: Well, I think I agree with Erik that it didn't seem like a joke at the time. Now, maybe they'd like for it to be thought of as a joke now. But I think that the link between politics and presidential politics in particular and FOX News is not a surprise to anybody. And certainly, Roger's interest in this area is not a surprise either.

I take your point about what it means to have that be reflected on the entire news operation. But there's a whole segment of the operation that FOX, which does nothing but pontificate about presidential politics and support those that they think should be in the Oval Office.

So that part of it, you know, is not a surprise to me.

KURTZ: Right.

CROSSLEY: I just wish that -- you know, I think what makes it a little kind of, squelchy is that you're saying just flat out that, you know, should you run, we're going to do everything to support you. You know, I may know that there's evidence of this, but I don't want to hear that.

KURTZ: Let's keep in mind that Ailes' voice is not on this tape. It's somebody describes it.

And you are right to this extent, Erik Wemple, Ailes like to dabble. He met with most Republican presidential contender. He had dinner with Mitt Romney and told him to loosen up on the air.

But does that necessarily affect what's reported on FOX News?

WEMPLE: Well, I don't -- you know, that's a good question, but I think before we move on from this tape, you've got -- everybody's got to listen to all these 13 minutes of the tape, in which K.T. McFarland --

KURTZ: Is this a homework assignment for our viewers?

WEMPLE: Yes, exactly. In which she says, you know, General Petraeus, if you have any problems with headlines, call me up because I'm right next to the headline writer.

KURTZ: She says, what should we at FOX do differently and he says --

WEMPLE: She says tell us what to do differently. She asks for a command from the general. She also asks, you know, write our headlines, please. Everybody at FOX loves you. If you sign on to be president -- excuse me, if you wanted to run for president, we'd all sign on.

KURTZ: OK. But this is K.T. McFarland, part-time contributor. This is not Roger Ailes in the network.

WEMPLE: Right. She's reflecting the sentiment of FOX News, though. That's the problem.

KURTZ: How do you know that?

WEMPLE: Because she says we all love you. She's representing -- I mean, do you think that -- do you, Howard Kurtz, think that she's misrepresenting FOX News?

KURTZ: Well, I don't know.

WEMPLE: Well, you don't know, but --

KURTZ: She certainly had a conversation with Ailes. She now says --

WEMPLE: She certainly is representing Roger Ailes, right?

KURTZ: Seems that way.

OK. Also at FOX News --

CROSSLEY: Well, I think --

KURTZ: Go ahead Callie, I'm sorry.

CROSSLEY: Yes. I was going to say, I think it just feeds into the -- you know, there has been this link, whether it's established or not, or behind the scenes, or a dinner, or wherever. I mean, this to me just underscores that. This has been a complaint or an observation by many over the years.

KURTZ: OK. In other Roger Ailes news this week, "New York Magazine" had a piece saying that Ailes or senior management, I should say, now has to give permission when two of the most prominent conservative commentators on FOX are booked for any program. These are Karl Rove and Dick Morris who turned out to be, shall we say, wrong, about the election.

Let's take a look at some of what they had to say before Election Day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

KARL ROVE, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I don't know what the outcome is going to be, but you should -- we've got be careful about calling things when we have like 991 votes separating the two candidates and a quarter of the vote yet to count.

DICK MORRIS, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Romney will win this election by five to 10 points in the popular vote, and will carry more than 300 electoral votes.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

KURTZ: So, Erik, are Rove and Morris being put in the penalty box for being wrong or for being cheerleaders? WEMPLE: Well, I don't know. Karl Rove has two appearances on FOX next week and he put up them just after those on his Web site. He said, I'll be on twice next week on FOX.

It seems as though they might be trying to get a little P.R. effect, like, hey, we're a news network with some degree of accountability. I think that's good.

I don't think Dick Morris really deserves -- we don't need to hear from him anymore. So, I think that's a strong programming --

KURTZ: Well, the question I have, Callie, is whether or not -- because lots of pundits on lots of networks are wrong about a lot of things. But whether or not they are being, you know, being made to adopt a lower profile, because they weren't just wrong but they were both seen as sort of partisan Republicans as opposed to independent analysts.

CROSSLEY: Well, I think there's a couple of things going on here. First of all, he wasn't just wrong. He kind of had a meltdown there. So, that was more than just wrong.

KURTZ: Rove had a meltdown about the calling of Ohio.

CROSSLEY: Yes.

KURTZ: OK.

CROSSLEY: Exactly. So that's -- you know, that's more than wrong. That's a whole event that took place around his being wrong.

I think the second part is this is Karl Rove. This is not just some other pundit. I mean, this is a guy who has some standing however you feel about him --

KURTZ: Which is architect --

CROSSLEY: -- in certain circles. So --

KURTZ: All right.

CROSSLEY: Yes, yes, that's what they say. So, I mean, yes, yes.

KURTZ: Let me move on to MSNBC. You've done a little reporting on this the other night. Rachel Maddow, Ed Schultz, Lawrence O'Donnell, Al Sharpton, basically their whole primetime lineup, with a couple of people including Arianna Huffington, went to a private meeting with President Obama at the White House. Now, lots of presidents have lots of people supported them, over for chats, coffee, donuts.

But does this look like the MSNBC commentary, the people who host those commentary shows, that they're on the team?

WEMPLE: Well, thank is the impression. I just don't see what use it is to go when you can't get anything out of the president. In other words, you're basically -- the problem with this is, it seems to be an act of capitulation. Please spin me and I won't be able to hold you accountable for any way --

KURTZ: But lots of proponents have gone to off the record briefings.

WEMPLE: No, it happens all the time. I don't --

KURTZ: They were not described as journalists in the White House. They've been described as leading progressives.

WEMPLE: Influential progressives.

KURTZ: So, does this bother you?

WEMPLE: It bothers --

KURTZ: They went talk to you about it?

WEMPLE: What bothers me is that they view it with such a degree of compliance in sort of lockstep silence on this. But they won't even talk about what they -- what they asked the president because they're not bound to off the record. They can tell me what they said. They can tell me how they viewed this thing.

But I called every one -- almost every one of these people, oh, I'm sorry, I can't say a word. I can't say a word about this. I can't -- you know, this is like drone targets or something.

KURTZ: All right.

WEMPLE: You know what I mean? So, I found that a little bit much.

KURTZ: At least you called them. Let me get a break.

Coming up next, a death in the subways and a "New York Post" photo that has sparked a very emotional debate.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: It was senseless and horrifying murder captured on camera. And "The New York Post" position to carry the picture on the front page sparked a huge controversy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: Now the story behind this controversial picture on the front of "The New York post." A photographer snapped the shot just before a train killed a man pushed on the tracks.

GAYLE KING, CBS NEWS: It's a heartbreaking story and the photographer says, listen, he was just clicking his camera trying to warn the conductor.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

KURTZ: Callie Crossley, the consensus seems to be that this was a terrible and horribly insensitive picture for "The New York Post" to publish. Do you agree with that?

CROSSLEY: I do agree with that. Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should do something. Where is judgment in this?

That's the point of having editors. I know it wasn't graphic or bloody, and that was a lot of people saying, it wasn't graphic. It just showed a picture.

I tried to think, was there another headline one could have put there? Because the headline was over the top as well. But it didn't matter. It was the picture in that moment is horrifying enough and I just think that it did not have to be on the cover.

KURTZ: Erik Wemple, it was cheap. It was sensationalistic. It was gut-wrenching and it was also news, every New Yorker's nightmare.

WEMPLE: Yes, I've listened to all the arguments against the tasteless, commercializing, you know, a tragic event and so on and so forth. I haven't' been able to generate that same sort of outrage within-about it because it's extremely newsworthy.

And the other thing is this is an event that would have been newsworthy with or without the photo. The photo helps answer a lot of questions not only about what happened but also about the story of the photographer and how he was approaching and so on and so forth

KURTZ: The photographer is Umar Abbasi. And he's taken a lot of abuse. He says that in 22 seconds it took him to -- before the subway hit Mr. Han, that he was simply to far away to help.

WEMPLE: Yes. I mean, I don't want to get into second-guessing his actions.

KURTZ: Right.

WEMPLE: And whether this photo resulted from some willy-nilly wild, you know, crazy attempt to flash at the subway driver but, you know, whatever he says.

KURTZ: Callie, let me get back do you. If this picture is so horrible, I've talked about this on television a lot this week, why have so many networks, television stations, Web sites, run it again and again and again? Just because "New York Post" went first, it seems like everybody else is now cashing in on the drama of this moment.

CROSSLEY: Listen. All those people you just cited would run pictures of people leaping out of the World Trade Centers, too, if they weren't prevented. I mean I am not taking away the crass popularity or just people being drawn to it. I mean, it's a compelling photo for that reason. My question is: did it have to be on the cover? I don't think so. If you really think you need to show your consumers this -- put it somewhere on the Web and make me work for it if I want to see it. And I even have a problem with that but I'll go there.

I just did not think it had to be on the cover. That is a judgment call that I think they erred on, that it didn't have to be on the cover.

KURTZ: Just briefly, this is what tabloids do. They sell newspapers on the newsstands.

WEMPLE: I have no problem with the placement. The judgment is once you decide that the photo is noteworthy and worth running, it goes everywhere. Front cover, everywhere. If it's now worth it, if it's too tasteless, then don't run it at all.

KURTZ: Right, I'm still looking at it and still shaking my head.

CROSSLEY: I can go with that, too.

KURTZ: You're clearly in the don't run it at all category. Callie Crossley and Erik Wemple, thanks very much for stopping by this morning.

After the break, ABC's Jake Tapper strays far from his White House beat to report from the trenches of the war in Afghanistan.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: Jake Tapper usually holds down the fort not far from here at ABC's senior White House correspondent. He has also spent two years investigating what happened thousands of miles away at combat outpost Keating (ph) in Afghanistan where American soldiers suffered heavy casualties during an ambush.

The result is the book "The Outpost, The Untold Story of American Valor." He joins me now here in the studio. Jake Tapper, welcome.

JAKE TAPPER, AUTHOR OF "THE OUTPOST": Thanks, Howie.

KURTZ: You say right at the top, one of the most difficult choices you face is how honest to be about the horrors of war. Explain.

TAPPER: Well, journalistically we don't cover that very much in the American media, taking our cues from the American public that doesn't really want to hear about the grisly details, but in --

KURTZ: Do we sanitize the war by doing that?

TAPPER: We do. Absolutely, we sanitize the war. We don't show a lot of the injuries, a lot of the wounds, a lot of the carnage. We don't describe it in very much detail when we write about it and show it on TV. So this was a very difficult decision because one of the things, one of the goals of the book was to make the public understand what these brave troops and their families are going through for us.

And ultimately I opted to withhold some details and to write about it respectfully and not credulously, but I did want to be honest and frank about what this troops withstand.

KURTZ: Is one of things that drew you to spending a chunk of your life on this book. The fact that you've covered the debate over the war in Afghanistan as a White House correspondent, you talked to the Pentagon. Does it seem to you that that debate sometimes feels little bloodless, a little detached from the political environment in Washington?

TAPPER: Yes, exactly. I mean, that's one of the things. I had been covering the war from the comfort of the north lawn of the White House. Covering President Obama's war council meetings, how many troops are we going to send there, 10,000, 40,000?

Numbers that could be jobs numbers, they could be GDP numbers and the obviously the fight between the White House and the pentagon and the fight between President Obama and General McChrystal.

But that wasn't the war as it actually was going on. And when I felt called to do this book that's what I wanted to understand, what actually is going on, on the level of private, specialists, sergeant, not general and president.

KURTZ: And getting down that level you do tell the story in great moving detail how these men lives and in some cases died. But you also examined why they were there in the first place in this remote outpost as it turned out it was very vulnerable to a Taliban assault.

TAPPER: That's right. It was built at the bottom of three steep mountains. The high ground had been completely surrendered to the enemy and it was 14 miles to the Pakistan border. It was set up during a time in the war where they were setting up a lot of outposts on the eastern area of Afghanistan when they were trying to monitor the flow of insurgents from Pakistan.

There were a lot of reasons why they put it in that location, one of them was to bond with the location population. One of them was they had to be near a road because that was the only way to resupply the outpost because all the helicopters were in Iraq.

So there's way in which you could see the direct relationship between the decision made in Washington, D.C., or across the river in the Pentagon that ends up putting troops in a more dangerous place than they should have been put.

KURTZ: Why do you think that the media coverage overall this war even the partial withdraw we still have tens of thousands of American troops --

TAPPER: More than 60,000, yes.

KURTZ: More than 60,000. Why is it that this war barely existed in the presidential campaign and media coverage? Is it because executives have decided the public is sick of it and we don't want to inflict it on them?

TAPPER: The public has decided they're weary of it and in a way you can't blame them. It's been America's longest war.

KURTZ: Well, it's the responsibility of journalist in that regard.

TAPPER: Right, of course, but in America's longest war, amazingly you have a war that the American people, for the most part, 98 percent, 99 percent of us are completely disconnected from the war, have absolutely no relationship to the war, don't know people serving.

KURTZ: Outsourced you say.

TAPPER: Completely. In fact, the general in the book towards the end compares our modern military to the Romans hiring legionaries. We have no skin in the game, the 98 percent of us.

The 99 percent of us who don't serve or who don't have family members serving and that's one of the reasons I wrote the book. Look, I'm part of that 98 percent, 99 percent that has no connection. And I wanted to understand and I hope some readers understand what it is these other brave Americans sacrificed for us.

KURTZ: Taking yourself out of the bubble that most of us live in and talking to the survivors of the brutal attack and families of the deceased, what was the impact on you?

TAPPER: That's a whole therapy session. I would I say just shortly it makes me realize the -- how selfless a lot of Americans are in a very unsung way and how brave a lot of them are. I mean, I try to tell some stories of these people and their family members.

I mean, it makes you realize what you know intellectually and what politicians say as throw away cliche lines here in this town, brave troop, valor, but it makes me feel it in a real way. I mean, not a day goes by that I don't have contact with these people. I suspect that will be true for the rest of my life.

KURTZ: You're done with the book, but these people are a part of your life.

TAPPER: They're now my friends. They're now my family members. Not literally. I don't want anyone thinking I have married them or adopted them.

KURTZ: I want to close on a somewhat lighter note. You questioned you ask at the White House briefing having to do with the reports I should say that President Obama is considering appointing, "Vogue" editor, Anna Wintour.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I will not engage in any speculation about personal announcements.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: I just want was a throwaway line when he was trying to get away from answering my questions. My larger questions were how much Anna Wintour as one of the most legendarily undiplomatic people, even cruel and this is based on reporting not just based on the book and the movie.

But she's known as mean person, and yet in this society we have, political society ambassadorships go to people who raise a lots of money for candidates, Democrat of Republican. So I was challenging him on her qualifications to be a diplomat when she is not particularly known for being diplomatic.

KURTZ: I understand. Thank you, Jake Tapper for stopping by and thank you for writing this book.

TAPPER: Thank you, Howie

KURTZ: After the break, CNN Soledad O'Brien steps into the racial minefield of who is being black in America.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: The media are quick to classify people. You're white, black, Hispanic, gay, but what about those who don't want to be put into neat little boxes. In the latest installment of "Black In America" airing Sunday night on CNN, Soledad O'Brien, the host of "STARTING POINT" examines this question.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, ANCHOR, CNN'S "STARTING POINT": Why are you reluctant to say, I'm black, deal with it. I'm spiky little black hair, I have brown skin.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Personally I don't feel black, you know? I feel like it's a part of me, but it's not everything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: I spoke to the CNN anchor earlier in New York.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KURTZ: Soledad O'Brien, welcome.

O'BRIEN: Thank you.

KURTZ: In this documentary you talked to two young women. We just saw one of them who don't consider themselves black. They don't check black, Hispanic, other. Is a difficult position to be in a society that is so racially conscious?

O'BRIEN: They're very tortured. You heard from Nayo. She says, well, I don't feel like I'm black. I don't know how to identify and it's obviously painful for her. Her mom is black, her dad is white, lives with her dad and that's shaped a lot of her identity.

Rebecca who's a brown-skinned girl whose parents are from after, she likes to say I'm African-American, but she's Egyptian. Many people around her say you're not black, you're Egyptian, you're Middle Eastern.

It really led us to a conversation, about who is black and what does it mean to be black in America today and for these young women who represent the generation, more young people born in a multicultural race.

KURTZ: I'll throw back at you.

O'BRIEN: My mom is black, my dad is white. My dad is white, my mom is Cuban.

KURTZ: So is one of the reasons you wanted to tackle this because these questions resonate for you. How do you think of yourself in racial ethnic terms.

O'BRIEN: We didn't go into the dock because it was my story at all. But I found it always -- yes. I thought it was interesting and I also was heartbroken by her interview. I said, you and I are the same racial makeup but you're tortured and I'm not. My mom and dad had a different approach.

You're black. You are not white. You live in a community that's black. It helped navigate me much more of McNile who's really, really struggling. But I think what we wanted to do is take a look at the practical impact of color, skin color, in how you have opportunity in America, you know, why what you are matters.

KURTZ: Did media focused too much on this question of race when we cover stories where we try to put people into boxes?

O'BRIEN: You know, I don't know if it's about putting people into boxes. People ask me all the time, what are you? One of the reasons I find that a very annoying question is they're trying to make themselves comfortable by putting me in a box. I don't feel comfortable being in a box I know what I feel I am. They're trying to figure me out.

They're like let me figure you out policy, gender-wise, let me figure you out racial lay because that will make me more comfortable. I never felt like it was my problem. Think what we try to do people used to be black or white and now there are many more options. Of course, dollars follow the census.

KURTZ: There are government programs. If you're a minority you -- O'BRIEN: One of the young women in our documentary is figuring out what she should check when she goes off to college. She says I see myself as African-American, but what happens if I check a box and I get there.

And they say, we took an African-American girl, you're Egyptian. She's also trying to figure out, how she feels and self-identifies and how she thinks society will identify her.

KURTZ: Briefly in your own life experience, there he's no one answer. Everybody's going to find what they're comfortable with.

O'BRIEN: You can tell by the nasty debate we're having on Twitter. It's very painful. It can get nasty at times. For me personally I can debate until the cows come home because I'm comfortable. Nayo is not so comfortable. Becca is sort of confident.

KURTZ: I'm going go twitter and see what people are saying.

O'BRIEN: Yes, join me.

KURTZ: Soledad O'Brien, thanks very much for joining me.

O'BRIEN: My pleasure. Thanks for having me.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KURTZ: Soledad's document "Who Is Black In America" airs on CNN tonight at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

Up next, veteran journalist, story about his son, two presidents and the most intense reaction of his career.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: It was remarkably personal essay by a veteran political reporter. Ron foreign yeah of "National Journal" described the difficulties of raising his son Tyler who suffers from Asperger's Syndrome and could be self absorbed and socially awkward.

(Inaudible) met with Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. But the piece is really coming to grips with the challenges of parenthood. Quote, if Tyler felt alienate and alone, it's because we failed to acknowledge and accept his difference. I was so focused on the conceit that my son would be like Kevin Costner's. Good answer.

RON FOURNIER, FORMER WASHINGTON BUREA CHIEF FOR THE "ASSOCIATED PRESS": Once realized that Tyler was dealing with something bigger than ourselves, Asperger's Syndrome. We were exploring one of the historical sites. The idea was to give him a place where he could practice what he had been learning in school about social clues and we were apt to spend more time with him.

KURTZ: You must have wrestled with what to put in, what to take out. FOURNEIR: Yes, remarkably. Before I visit with the president, we traveled a lot. I was back from these two very remarkable trips with two very gracious men, by the way.

My first draft was what you would expect out of me, it was a very political story. What I had learned from the presidents I had covered. I had a really good publisher, who sat me down in his office and said how did it make you feel when Tyler looked at you at the White House and said I hope I don't let you down, dad? I said it felt wretched, he said go ahead write that story.

KURTZ: It was to pull the emotion out of you.

FOURNIER: Yes, he was a better psychologist than he was an editor. He's a great editor.

KURTZ: Was it a difficult decision for you and your wife, I imagine, to broadcast this to the world, this problem or series of problems that you had lived with as a family, your friends knew, now it was everybody.

FOURNIER: The folks that were working with Tyler, to make sure that we weren't exploitive. It was something he was okay with. And we're being very careful now.

KURTZ: He's 13 now?

FOURNIER: Tyler had just turned 15.

KURTZ: Some of this takes place when he was younger.

FOURNIER: Exactly, the reaction has been amazing. We're not alone, like a lot of people who have kids that are dealing with this issue, but now they're all coming to us.

KURTZ: What do they say?

FOURNIER: Kind of three different categories. Some are saying, wow, I see myself in Tyler. And some are saying I don't have a child with special needs and -- others have been saying that they, like me, they struggle with the idea, whether or not the kids have special needs or not, they're trying to put their beautiful round pegs in a square hole. Not to force your kids to be something other than what they want to be.

KURTZ: And as you write, you said you have felt some guilt because as a political reporter you were on the road a lot covering campaigns and you had expectations for your son, like playing sports. Whatever shortcomings you may have committed, learning to be a dad.

FOURNIER: Yes, it was -- it was a much different writing process than usual. I'm very detached as a political reporter. I really don't care who wins elections, but I would literally sit down.

And I would be choking up as I was writing it as the process forced me to realize that I had been feeling guilty about feeling guilty about my son, that I had mixed up the idealized version with my son. And that really didn't come out until I was writing.

KURTZ: And in the half-minute we have, what in addition to finding yourself, in a way finding Tyler, is what had you hoped to accomplish by sharing this as a piece of journalism?

FOURNIER: Well, we wanted to have something that he would have durable in his hands, that long after we're gone that he would remember what we thought of him and we wanted to force myself to spend more time with him and give him an avenue to learn some of the social skills that he's been given in the real world.

KURTZ: So it's been a structure to spend for more time with your son.

Still to come, an apology from "The Huffington Post" and those crazy Australian deejays getting into trouble over that tragic incident.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: Time now for the media monitor, our weekly look at the hits and errors in the news business. A pair of Australian radio deejays are off the air after their mindless and juvenile stunt in calling a British hospital and impersonating Queen Elizabeth to get an update on Kate Middleton's pregnancy.

As you might know, the nurse who unknowingly gave them the information committed suicide the next day. I don't think we can blame the shock jocks for her death, but what we can find them guilty of gross stupidity, one of unbelievable tragedy. "The Huffington Host" Howard Fineman got a little carried away playing hardball at least when the --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOWARD FINEMAN: Grover Norquist, the famous anti-tax lobbyist in Washington was running around beginning to enforce Ayatollah style his edict about taxes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Ayatollah finally took to Twitter to apologize. Norquist's wife is a Palestinian Muslim. It was with great fanfare that Rupert Murdoch launched "The Daily." A magazine designed for the iPad.

Tens of millions of dollars later, he folded it this week. "The Daily's" problem was the content wasn't that much different than what you can get across the web, and it was published once a day, which is absurdly slow on the lightning fast web. In the end, people just didn't think it was worth paying for.

That's it for this edition of RELIABLE SOURCES. I'm Howard Kurtz. You can check us out on iTunes every Monday just search for RELIABLE SOURCES ON THE iTunes store. We're back here next Sunday morning, 11:00 a.m. Eastern for another critical look at the media. "STATE OF UNION" with Candy Crowley is right now.