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CNN RELIABLE SOURCES
Interview with Bob Costas; Inaugural Polarization; Palin Ends Fox News Run
Aired January 27, 2013 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: He sparked a furious debate over guns, violence and football -- and this was before Newtown. He is a sportscaster who tackles tough subjects and doesn't view controversy as being out of bounds. A no holds barred interview with Bob Costas.
We will also examine the great girlfriend hoax involving college football star Manti Te'o who has finally come clean or sort of come clean to Katie Couric.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KATIE COURIC, HOST, ABC'S "KATIE": People are looking at this story and thinking you helped perpetuate this story of hardship and pain, which I think was, as you said earlier, legitimate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: How did the press fall for this crazy yarn in the first place?
The David Petraeus scandal back in the news as I conduct the first interview with Jill Kelley who said the media rushed to publish lies and half truths about her. Is she right about her coverage as the other other woman?
Plus, we'll look at the polarized coverage of Barack Obama's inaugural and Sarah Palin leaving her prominent perch at FOX News.
I'm Howard Kurtz and this is RELIABLE SOURCES.
KURTZ: The media swooned over Manti Te'o, the Notre Dame football star, who said he was inspired by the girlfriend he mostly communicated with online.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MANTI TE'O, NOTRE DAME LINEBACKER: You know, when I lost my girlfriend and my grandmother, that was -- that was possibly the hardest time in my life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: But after the supposed death of the girlfriend named Lennay, the sports blog Deadspin revealed she didn't exist.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHIP REID, CBS NEWS: Manti Te'o's inspirational story was reported everywhere, from ESPN to "Sports Illustrated." I reported on the story as well for CBS "This Morning" on the day of the BCS championship game. But it turns out we were all duped by what turned out to be a fictitious story made up online.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Te'o claimed he was the victim of the hoax, as well, but this week, he admitted to Katie Couric that once he found out about it, he covered it up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COURIC: Do you see why people viewed this at worst as a complete lie and at best as incredibly misleading?
TE'O: I can see that. For that, for people feeling that they're misled, that I'm sorry for.
COURIC: This story was working for you. You were being considered for the Heisman trophy. It was a huge, huge deal.
COURIC: So, did you say, this is my story and I'm sticking to it? Was there a part of you saying that?
TE'O: It was a big day for me and I was scared. That's the truth. I was just scared and I didn't know what to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: I sat down in New York with Bob Costas, the veteran NBC sportscaster and commentator, to talk about this and other controversies from the world of sports journalism.
KURTZ: Bob Costas, welcome.
BOB COSTAS, NBC SPORTS: Thanks, Howie.
KURTZ: A lot of sports controversy that have broken into the headlines and the network newscasts. Manti Te'o sits down with Katie Couric this week to talk about the imaginary girlfriend and the hoax and this whole tangled tissue of lies.
Would you have wanted to do that interview?
COSTAS: I would have been at best ambivalent and maybe leery of doing the interview because it seems to me like a tabloid story. KURTZ: It's a great story about a college football hero who said he was inspired to play harder because his girlfriend had died and we learned that his girlfriend who he had this online relationship with never existed.
COSTAS: Yes. To me, there are two aspects that make this a story bigger than Manti Te'o which would legitimize it. One, why is it necessary that we have all the mythology that surrounds sports? Look, I grew up as a sports fan and I bought into a lot of that mythology and I hope that some of it is still true.
KURTZ: Why is it necessary? Because it feeds the media machine.
KURTZ: Plus, the media need a narrative because they have to build up these players into larger than life heroic figures.
COSTAS: Especially in Notre Dame, there's one mythology attached there and other places, yes, I get all that.
KURTZ: We in the press bear a lot of the responsibility for glorifying human beings with flaws who then turn out to be liars, cheats -- not the minority of them to be, sure. Media do that.
COSTAS: You know -- and, yet, wasn't it a good enough story anyway? It seems like a likable young man, Heisman trophy candidates, Notre Dame in the midst of the undefeated season until they got to the national championship game. I don't know why any of this was necessary and, as we speak, we still haven't really unraveled the story.
KURTZ: How do you think Katie Couric did in that interview?
COSTAS: It seems to me the portions that I saw, she did a very good job and she was politely aggressive, just as Oprah was with Lance Armstrong.
There is another part of the story, though, that I don't think people have looked at closely enough. And that is, what is the Internet and technology doing to people? What is it doing to their feelings? Is it diminishing empathy? Does it make it easier for the mean-spirited and dishonest to exploit not only their individual victims, but to exploit the gullible among their readership?
There are recent surveys that say that many people, including young, bright people, make no distinction between the coverage they found online and that found and what still passes for the mainstream media. Now, we know that the mainstream media is flawed. That's what your program is about, holding them to account.
I still would tend to believe that the average Web site is not going to be as credible as "The Chicago Tribune" or "The Washington Post." KURTZ: Although, I have to hasten to point out that this Manti Te'o hoax, whether it was a hoax --
COSTAS: It was busted by Deadspin.
KURTZ: It was busted by the sports blog Deadspin.
And the incredible thing to me looking back, with the benefit of hindsight, ESPN, "Sports Illustrated", CBS, all these blue chip names of the mainstream media fell for this story even though when the story came out, the woman had had a car accident, she died of leukemia. No obituary, no mention on LexisNexis, no funeral notice, all these red flags and all these news organizations fell for it. Why? Because it was a feel-good story and I don't think they look very hard.
COSTAS: In my particular case, I think I get a pass here. I didn't cover Notre Dame football. I barely knew who Manti Te'o was. I swear.
COSTAS: He was in a room, I wouldn't have known who it was. But --
KURTZ: But somebody as experienced as you, what do you make of the fact that so many news organizations got duped?
COSTAS: It was a feel-good story and they didn't look beneath the surface, and so they did get duped.
KURTZ: No picture of the two of them together.
COSTAS: Right. Look in every way. On this one, Deadspin deserves a lot of credit. If we look back over the full-body of work, such as it is, of Deadspin, that may suggest a different story.
KURTZ: We've also had the final fall from grace from Lance Armstrong, who, of course, sat down with Oprah Winfrey and said, you know, that 10 years of denials about ever doing any doping, while winning all those cycling championships, never mind, I really did dope. He lied to everybody in journalism, he lied to the public, he lied to the fans, he lied to me in two interviews.
COSTAS: He lied to me three times, at least.
KURTZ: About this very subject?
KURTZ: So, when you found out he was backing off that, that he was going to go to alleged contrition room --
KURTZ: -- on Oprah's couch, having been lied to by Lance Armstrong -- what was your reaction?
COSTAS: Well, my thought was he ran out of other avenues, at least in his own mind, even though some of his advisors said he was opening himself up to further criminal and civil liability. He decided to take this route because there was no longer a plausible story, OK?
He couldn't fight USADA any longer. He had no leg left to stand on, and that was the reason he took this route. So, that makes that even less sympathetic.
And what also separates him from other users of performance- enhancing drugs, most of those others simply never addressed it or gave quick denials and moved on. They didn't vilify, defame, sue and try to ruin all of their accusers --
COSTAS: -- who turned out to be truthful. So, that turns out to be really bad behavior. Then, he acknowledges himself that he bullied and coerced those around him and people dislike that behavior, as well.
Then there's this element: you could make a case for Barry Bonds for the Hall of Fame and you don't have to say that he's man of the year. You could just say he was a great baseball player. But Armstrong's public image was based on a belief in his character.
Most Americans don't care about cycling as a sport. They cared about Lance Armstrong. So, they had more invested in him as a person. So that makes the hill a much steeper hill than anyone he had to climb through the Tour de France to get back into the public's good graces.
KURTZ: Circle back to my question. Were you ticked off that he lied to you three times?
COSTAS: I -- as I remember, I subjected him to some pretty direct questioning.
I'll say this, he was a good liar. He's smart. He's shrewd. He had his story down. He's someone to be reckoned with in that respect.
I don't think I was personally offended. I mean, that was -- that was the route he was taking and I couldn't crack him and no one else could at that point either.
KURTZ: When we come back, more with Bob Costas and his most extensive interview about the furor he sparked over gun control, his first since the week the controversy erupted.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COSTAS: I'm not by nature a mean-spirited or personally combative guy, but I am willing to take a stand and voice an opinion. (END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: It was just a few weeks ago that Bob Costas delivered a commentary on "Sunday Night Football" that sparked a debate echoing far beyond the world of sports. The game was held one day after Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher fatally shot himself and his girlfriend.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COSTAS: 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 John 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: The attacks from the right were fast and furious.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LARS LARSON, SYNDICATED RADIO HOST: Bob Costas, based on the standards of our society today and standards of our industry, the one you and I work in, deserves to be fired for these remarks.
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO HOST: How come Costas gets to express his opinion during half-time of "Sunday Night Football"? The answer is simple because that's the opinion of his bosses. He gets to express the opinion because that's what NBC thinks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Let's go back to early December. Jovan Belcher of the Kansas City Chiefs killed himself and his girlfriend. You have, "Sunday Night Football" the next day, you decide to use your half-time commentary to address it.
Did any part of you say maybe I shouldn't get into this?
COSTAS: Yes, but not because I didn't think it was an appropriate subject. Had it involved, no matter how great the tragedy, had it been Aurora or Newtown and not involved the NFL or an NFL player, then it would not have been appropriate. But this was an entirely proper topic for a football broadcast, to a large audience.
Every other NFL show the entire weekend. It happened on Saturday, the day before, had discussed it. They just took a different tact than I took.
What gave me pause and in retrospect what made it flawed is that I had less time than I usually have. I usually have about 2 1/2 minutes. That's pretty tight. But you can craft something that has a beginning, middle and end.
KURTZ: But you had 90 seconds.
COSTAS: In this case, I had 90 seconds because they had such interesting sound bites from the Chief players and the coach Romeo Crennel and Tony Dungy and company had handled that back in New York.
So, when it got to me, I had 90 seconds.
KURTZ: OK. Before we go into the timeline, I want to ask you this broader question.
KURTZ: Because sports is an arena that a lot of people think kind of sacrosanct, brings people together, it's not an arena where you talk about politics or ideological differences. So, some people, as you got beat up over this, said, why is Bob Costas taking a very volatile political issue and putting it on on a football game?
COSTAS: I would think that 90 percent of those who said simply didn't agree with my point of view or what they perceived my point of view to be. Had I said something that they agreed with, they would have said that's just fine.
And there are times when inevitably, if Tommy Smith and John Carlos give it this at give it this at the '68 Olympics, if Muhammad Ali politicizes his career, steroids, whatever it may be --
KURTZ: There's no separating the two, you say.
COSTAS: There are times when, when sports becomes not only a place, but at times the place to talk about certain social issues.
KURTZ: When you deliver that commentary, within the 90-second constraint that you had, you chose largely to quote someone else, Jason Whitlock.
KURTZ: Why did you do that as opposed to saying here is what I, Bob Costas, think?
COSTAS: Well, I have, on other occasions, quoted other people if I thought what they said was worthwhile. In this case, because I had so little time, I thought what Whitlock said was worthy, plus, he's from Kansas City -- although this is not entirely a problem as it relates to football that is connected to African-American players, the large majority of players in the NFL are African-American. Jason Whitlock is an Africa African-American columnist and Jovan Belcher was African-American. I thought that he had perhaps better insight or greater credibility than I might have had.
But also, the time element was important here. And I said this and it was lost on a lot of people. I said that in the aftermath of tragedies in sports, you always hear the mindless cliche -- well, this really puts it all in perspective. But, obviously, no one gains any perspective because they're right back to their same view of sports immediately thereafter.
So, I said, if we're really looking for perspective, a bit of it can be found. And I was trying to imply there that an aspect of this, a bit of perspective on a larger and more complex problem --
COSTAS: -- can be found in what Whitlock said.
KURTZ: But the way it was read was, OK, you're quoting someone else and you're kind of making a plea for gun control, but not in your own name and you only had 90 seconds. So, looking back -- you had a lot of time to think about this -- was it a bit of a busted play? Could you have handled it better?
COSTAS: I could have handled it better and I think given the amount of time that I had, I probably would have been better off just crafting my own short statement and kind of realizing that it could not have been as complete as what I wanted it to be.
There's also, a little bit of inside baseball or football inside this case, too.
COSTAS: But I tried three times to contact Jason Whitlock. There are any number of witnesses, producers and whatnot. I tried three times to contact him to ask for permission to paraphrase or put in qualifiers. I couldn't reach him. I never heard from him until the next day.
I wanted to say, for example, while certainly Second Amendment rights should be respected and certainly there are occasions when guns are used legitimately for self-defense, more often than not, as Jason Whitlock said, they exacerbate our flaws, they caused petty arguments to escalate into tragedies. And then I would have said at the end, Whitlock said and I quoted him directly and said three times in the 90 seconds, "As Whitlock wrote, as Whitlock said," he said this is what I, Jason Whitlock believe. If Jovan Belcher did not possess a gun, then, his fiancee would be alive today.
What I would have preferred to have said would have been, in all likelihood, or it's entirely possible.
Look, unlike what some people said, I live on this planet, I realize that you can kill someone by other means. I knew O.J. Simpson. We've all played clue. Professor Plum could have killed someone in the conservatory with the lead pipe. But we also understand that far more homicides happen by gun. It's far easier to do it with a gun. Although I never used the words "Second Amendment" or "gun control", I used the words "gun culture" because that's what Whitlock was referring to.
KURTZ: And do you believe there is a gun culture in the NFL?
COSTAS: Absolutely, absolutely I do. I believe there is a gun culture in the country. I also believe there is a gun culture in the NFL and else where in professional sports, which has to do with an attitude toward guns, which even if those guns are legally obtained would still more often than not lead to heartache and tragedy than to any legitimate sporting use or use by self-defense.
But let me jump in with this, as well. Some people said, well, why would he quote Jason Whitlock? I quoted Whitlock because I thought what Whitlock said -- at least that fragment -- had credibility.
But then when I was asked on programs I went on the following week, I didn't dodge the question. When I was asked my feelings about gun control, I said this country needs responsible gun control. There's no reason why you need high capacity magazines. There's no reason why any citizen needs an assault weapon, that their attitudes towards guns in this country that in my view have little to do with any reasonable interpretation of the Second Amendment.
So, in no sense did I hide behind Jason Whitlock. It was just that I had 90 seconds that night.
KURTZ: All right. But now that you had -- we're out from the time constraints and able to say that in a couple of initial interviews. You were taking a political stand on a political issue, which is your First Amendment right.
KURTZ: But, you know, a lot of people, as you know, tune in to watch Bob Costas because you're an authority on sports, because you have such long experience and you must have known and you must know now that you are alienating some of your fans who don't agree with you.
KURTZ: In fact, vigorously disagree with you on this issue. But you're willing to do that.
COSTAS: Well, I think most people know that I'm willing to either ask questions that most sportscasters do not ask and take positions, sometimes critical of the leagues which I cover.
KURTZ: Is that hard for you to do?
COSTAS: No, it's not hard for me to do. It's my national inclination. I believe it's my responsibility. But not every sportscaster does. And, in fact, very few, especially on the national level, do it.
KURTZ: Why -- let me stop you right there. Why do very few sportscasters do it? Anything to do with the fact that they work -- at least in the television -- with networks that have these multi- million dollar deals with the sports leagues and that perhaps they don't want to offend those that are generating the cash for their employees?
COSTAS: Yes, I think it has a lot to do with that. I think, also, it has a lot to do with the personalities of some of the people who do this. And some of them are very, very talented at what they do.
Everyone is different. I favor kind of a textured approach. A good edition of "Sports Illustrated" has a celebration of a great game, beautiful photography that shows you the artistry of sports, it has humor and quirkiness, but it also has journalism. And it also has commentary.
In my ideal world, that's the way sports coverage would be. We know that that world is never really coming on network television because what pays the bills is the games themselves. I don't have any problem with that.
KURTZ: But if you're doing the Olympics, which NBC has paid huge sums --
COSTAS: Yes, yes.
KURTZ: -- aren't there some constraints on how far you think you can go in criticizing the games or handling of the games or the security, whatever it is, because you are there as a representative of the network or have you think you were able to blow by that?
COSTAS: You know what I'm constrained more by and despite the fact it is a thrill and an honor, the most frustrating thing about hosting the Olympics -- the formats. The formats are very constraining, especially in prime time, which is where I'm seen. They're trying to get to the stuff that people want to se that moves the ratings needle and it's been a very, very successful approach.
However, I would say if people wanted to take a look at the times when I've sat down with Jacques Rogge and interviewed the head of the IOC, or when some nation or some individual was accused of malfeasance or drug use, or when the IOC would not acknowledge the 40th anniversary of the Munich tragedy with the Israeli athletes and the Palestinian terrorists. I've spoken out about that and I've asked, I think, tough, direct questions of Jacques Rogge and other Olympic officials or the same kind of questions you would ask, or would be asked on "Meet on the Press." I think that's the way it should be done.
KURTZ: Last question on this subject. Do you think that in the wake of the horrifying Newtown tragedy, the country is having the debate about guns, that perhaps you hope to stimulate a little bit with what you did on Sunday night football. COSTAS: Yes, although the two are not related at all.
KURTZ: I'm not relating the tragedies. I'm talking about the debate.
COSTAS: It has changed -- it has changed the tone. And if I could just backtrack a little bit when you asked about alienating fans, you know, you're never the best judge of yourself. I'm not, by nature, a mean-spirited or personally combative guy, but I am willing to take a stand and voice an opinion.
And it's always been my hope that people can make that distinction and they could say even if I don't agree with him, he seems like a thoughtful guy who tries to put things in context and understands nuance. In this particular case, I think I made an error in thinking I could get as much nuance as was necessary in, in that short period of time, and it's such a volatile subject that I think some people came after me, personally, in a way I wasn't used to. There were a lot of ad hominem attacks.
You know, whenever someone says something someone disagrees with, it's characterized as a rant. Very infrequently would I probably be seen as ranting, even if you don't agree with me. A rant or a tirade or he hijacked half-time to make a political statement, that kind of stuff is over the top.
Rush Limbaugh said that I was merely echoing what my NBC bosses wanted me to say because of the MSNBC connection. It's perceived as a liberal network. The problem with that is, it's 100 percent false and was based on no knowledge that he had of any kind. In fact, the president of NBC Sports, Mark Lazarus, is a gun owner and a hunter.
I wrote what I wrote. They knew it was going to go on the air because they had to know what it was for time. They had not so much as a comma's input to what I had to say, nor did they encourage me to say it.
KURTZ: Costas has a lot to say on this subject. After we turned the cameras off, he added this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COSTAS: What I was trying to get at was this idea of gun culture attitudes towards guns quite apart from whether those guns are legally obtained and quite apart from people's legitimate Second Amendment rights.
We have been able to change the culture in many areas without outlawing things. There are certain remarks that used to be common place, racist remarks, homophobic attitudes that have been marginalized without rescinding the First Amendment.
McDonald's offers salads, as well as Big Macs. We didn't outlaw Big Macs we changed some people's attitudes. Cigarettes remain a legal product, but the culture has changed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Some other comments from Costas on Super Bowl Sunday.
Up next, a presidential inauguration is supposed to bring people together, but very polarizing coverage on FOX and MSNBC. We'll look at that in just a minute.
KURTZ: Barack Obama's second inaugural not surprisingly didn't generate the interest or the ratings of his first swearing in. But the president's staunchly liberal speech played differently on the partisan cable channels with Chris Matthews calling the address Lincolnesque and some on Fox News simply appalled.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN HANNITY, ANCHOR, FOX NEWS "HANNITY": But yesterday while covering his second inauguration, the so-called journalist in the main stream media could hardly contain their giddiness and excitement. The main stream media is now officially an extension of the Obama press office and it's so evident in how they let him get away with everything.
KATRINA VANDEM HEUVEL, EDITOR, "THE NATION": I think it's important to note that Rush Limbaugh who very happily has been put into the dust pan of history here that MSNBC is a rising force and Fox is in a delusional time warp and trending downwards.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Joining us now to talk about this, Clarence Page, columnist for the "Chicago Tribune" and David Frum, a CNN contributor and a contributing editor for "Newsweek" and "Daily Beast," where I also work. So is Hannity right? Is the media swooning over this crazy left wing speech by the president?
DAVID FRUM, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: The speech was not crazy, but it was a much more fighting speech than we heard from an inaugurated president in a long time. You know, in the 20th Century, the trend was for inaugurals to be very big and dramatic. This was a 19th Century speech where presidents didn't deliver the states of the union in person. They sent them in writing --
KURTZ: The coverage, in your view, adequately reflects the liberal tone of the speech.
FRUM: Everybody got it. This was the most liberal speech. We have heard from a president at this occasion.
KURTZ: Did some conservative commentators seem to you, Clarence, angry, about the speech that the re-elected president chose to give? CLARENCE PAGE, COLUMNIST, "CHICAGO TRIBUNE": But rational reason and all those acquaint all the virtues. You know, let's face it. President Obama won't say it up front, but he is acknowledging there are red states and blue states and there are swing states and this is the reality of today.
He is now in his legacy forming period. I thought it was a very Roosevelt, FDResque speech that he was. He didn't go right after the (inaudible) on Wall Street, but he was, his language in terms of a collective response to our problems bringing people together.
FRUM: And the first -- it didn't strike that word out of the speech --
PAGE: He wanted that word in there.
HURTZ: And the first inaugural where I heard a president talk about our gay brothers and sisters. An ideological speech like that should be debated and argued about on television and in the newspaper columns. Was it as divisive a speech as for example, some on Fox News made it sound?
FRUM: It is a pretty divisive speech and I think the president would say constructively so, but the president is saying the theme of his second term -- in his first inaugural theme was I don't believe conflict is real. It's a mistake.
People have false ideas about politics. In this speech, he is saying. OK, conflict is real. You want to fight, here is the fight. We're going to fight on climate change and immigration. That fight is coming up very fast. I am ready to fight. People reported that way were reporting it accurately.
KURTZ: MSNBC act as a bit of a cheerleading squad for this fighting speech as David Frum puts it.
PAGE: I'm shocked. Shocked at the very notion, Howard, this would happen just as Sean Hannity is a journalist. I love the way he attacks journalists, he doesn't talk about himself. He has always been a radio talk show host brought to TV.
This has become the position now in cable TV like it or not. That MSNBC gives you the left response to Fox and CNN somewhere in that wobbly middle trying to stick with some old-fashioned notion objectivity. I don't know what you all up to over here.
FRUM: Well, CNN did win the ratings on inauguration day, which was a good win for the network.
PAGE: You have a hard news story like an inauguration or hurricane.
KURTZ: But I got to say, the thing that got the most attention on inauguration day is not what you guys talked about, it was Michelle's bangs. Let's be honest about that. Now the president is not done with his second-term roll out. He did a taped interview tonight, which will air on CBS' "60 Minutes" with the secretary of state. Let's take a look at a little bit of that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why did you want to do this together, a joint interview?
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Well, the main thing is, I just want to have a chance to publicly say thank you because I think Hillary will go down as one of the finest secretary of states we've had.
HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: A few years ago would have been seen as improbable because we had that very long, hard primary campaign.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Hillary Clinton, of course, went through some very rough hearings this week on the Benghazi attack and CBS had asked for the president and the White House said we'll give you Hillary Clinton, too. Buff up her image a little bit.
FRUM: I think something much bigger is going on here. What this interview is about is the president saying, I am neutral in the forth coming Biden/Clinton contest for 2016.
KURTZ: I'm neutral even though I'm sitting down with Hillary Clinton?
FRUM: Joe Biden is telling everything who will listen that he won't be too old in 2016. By sitting there alongside the secretary of state and saying such complimentary things. I think he is sending a message. I also like this person. Those of you who are planning a race, leave me out of this. It's between those two.
KURTZ: Why is "60 Minutes" the go-to program for the White House and President Obama has -- I've lost count of how many times he sat down with Steve (inaudible).
PAGE: It started with Bill and Hillary Clinton back in '92, you know --
FRUM: Problems in our marriage.
PAGE: For one thing, yes. Back then "60 Minutes" was the highest rated, it still is of the magazine shows. That's where you go. Just like "Nightline" with Ted Koppel used to be the national confessional and now it's Oprah.
KURTZ: And do you think, you know, we saw the split you talked about where Hillary Clinton sometimes emotional testimony on Benghazi was ripped on Fox, defended on MSNBC, but do you think 2016 will decide this joint interview on "60 Minutes" is part of an effort to give her a nice send off by the president.
PAGE: You know, this is to show that Obama is neutral because until you mentioned that, I was thinking this is some kind of an endorsement by Obama. But, you know, he's still going to have Joe Biden by his side for the next four years. And they have plenty of opportunity for Biden to get exposure. I personally think Hillary Clinton will be in that race, even if she doesn't realize it yet.
KURTZ: She hasn't made up her mind, but you have. All right, let me go to break. She was a political superstar when Fox news hired her and now not so much. The cable network parting ways with Sarah Palin that's next.
KURTZ: For three years now the former governor of Alaska has been one of the most prominent voices on Fox News.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH PALIN, FORMER GOVERNOR OF ALASKA: Barack Obama is a socialist. He believes in socialism, in redistributing wealth and confiscating hard-earned dollars of our small business men and women.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: On Friday we learned that Sarah Palin's contract will not be renewed. Sarah Palin was a very hot property when Fox hired in her 2009. What happened?
PAGE: That's showbiz. You know, she has really kind of played out now I guess as far as is Fox is concerned and her appeal. But it's been said Roger Ailes was not happy with the Palin arrangement. He wants to get away from that sort of showbiz punditry on the right, unless she's going to it clear her candidacy, I suppose.
KURTZ: Is it the political climate has changed since Palin's VP run, rise in the Tea Party or is it Sarah Palin's star has simply faded?
FRUM: I think both are true. Watch this in tandem when Glenn Beck was taken off the air. There was this period from 2009 to 2011 where there was nothing to wild too put on Fox News. Beck began to frighten his programmers. This man was capable of saying anything, including things that could wreck his show, damage the network.
And as they backed away from him, as they have backed away from other characters who went, the whole exercise is, the whole network is an exercise in going too far, but as they retreated from those who went farthest, I think this is a milestone, as well.
KURTZ: My reporting shows that Fox News did offer Sarah Palin a new contract, but what I would call low ball offer, significantly less, a fraction of the million dollars a year she had been paid.
One other news item, President Obama gave an interview to the "New Republic," which is re-launching its magazine, excerpts out today. One of the biggest factors is going to be, says the president, how the media shapes debates. If a Republican member of Congress is not punished on Fox News or by Rush Limbaugh for working with a Democrat on a bill or a common interest, then you'll see more of them doing it.
Is there any possibility that President Obama thinks that Fox News and Rush Limbaugh have more influence than they actually have? He brings them up a lot.
PAGE: Objective reasons how much today's media not just cable TV, but blogging and tweeters, almost sound like an old foggy. The politicians don't know how to deal with it yet. That's why people like Saxby Chambliss and other responsible old school compromise dealmakers are just leaving.
KURTZ: Look what Obama is saying. He is saying I could probably get a deal of these Republicans, if they're not punished, punished by Limbaugh or Fox.
FRUM: What the president is reflecting there, especially his experience in the House where the incentives on the House members, they are very frightened about primary measures and the overwhelming majority of the House caucus, Republican caucus come live in districts where their greatest danger is --
KURTZ: Conservative media.
FRUM: What it means is there are very few things that the House leadership can do to punish these members. It's hard for them to get them off committees. They can't offer them any more of the, sorry, the earmarks --
KURTZ: Just briefly. What can Fox News do?
FRUM: They can insight a primary challenge.
KURTZ: Just by sheer intensity of the coverage.
FRUM: By presenting people in a negative light and by wrapping up issues that are going to be awkward if that member has negative.
PAGE: Also fund-raising is rewarded by the more polarizing you are as a candidate, the more donations you can get, right or left.
KURTZ: We are wrapping up issues right here. Clarence Page, David Frum, thanks for stopping by this Sunday morning.
After the break, I conducted the first interview this week with Jill Kelley, the other, other woman so-called in the David Petraeus and she ripped the media. We'll talk about that, next.
KURTZ: When the scandal erupted over David Petraeus' affair with Paula Broadwell, the other woman dragged into the media vortex was Jill Kelley. She is the Tampa socialite who was friend with both Petraeus and General John Allen and who got those anonymous, threatening e-mails from Paula Broadwell.
After nearly three months of silence I sat down with Jill Kelley for what turned into an emotional 2-hour interview. She had plenty to say about the media and my story for the "Daily Beast" was picked up just about everywhere.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two of the top military men of their generation have been brought low by their acquaintance with Jill Kelley.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Exchanged thousands of e-mail with General John Allen. The official called them the equivalent of phone sex over e-mail.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Known by some detractors as name droppers and social climbers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's go to Jill Kelley.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: What did she tell you about the impact to all that media, much of it negative, has had on her and how she feels about it?
KURTZ: Jill Kelley told me this wrenching story of having a birthday party for her 7-year-old daughter, which is a couple days after this story exploded, Soledad, in the media and how, you know, 70 paparazzi on her front lawn.
And she felt like her entire family life has been disrupted. She called this a nightmare. She had been living a nightmare and blames the media for reporting a lot of half truths.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jill Kelley has remained silent until now.
KURTZ: Jill Kelley seemed to me to be someone who doesn't know what hit her. She doesn't think she did anything wrong. Her life has been totally turned upside down.
KURTZ: Joining us now to talk about the media and Jill Kelly is Amy Argetsinger, co-author of the gossip column at the "Washington Post" and in New York, Lola Ogunnaike, a cultural commentator and former "New York Times" reporter. Amy, Jill Kelley said the media rushed to publish lies or half truths about her in retrospect was she right?
AMY ARGETSINGER, CO-AUTHOR, GOSSIP COLUMN, "WASHINGTON POST": I don't know if it's lies or half truths, but I was very uncomfortable from nearly the start with the focus on her. It seems that she was the person who originally called authorities to say, hey, I'm getting these threatening e-mails.
KURTZ: She told me she was terrified. ARGETSINGER: She was the victim in many ways and then began the speculation that she is having an affair with General Allen and even though there is no direct evidence presented to the media of this, all of a sudden people were investigating Jill Kelley's finances and investigating her life.
Investigating the custody battle that her sister was in and I began thinking, why are we paying attention -- what does this have to do with anything? It seems as though -- the story was a little bit out of control.
KURTZ: Lola, on some of the points that Jill Kelley she said there was 30,000 e-mails as was widely reported between her and General Allen in Kabul, turns out there was just a few hundred according to a Pentagon investigation. She said they weren't flirtatious.
We haven't seen them. I haven't seen them, but General Allen was cleared the Pentagon investigators in fact that the e-mails were sent by a joint account. We didn't know this. That Jill Kelly shares with her husband. So was this an embarrassing performance on the part of the press?
LOLA OGUNNAIKE, FORMER "NEW YORK TIMES" REPORTER: It was -- there was a rush to judgment and I do think that Jill Kelley was vilified. But not to blame the victim and I want to preface it by saying not to blame the victim, but she could have saved herself a lot of heart ache and a lot of humiliation.
It still boggles my mind that she didn't grant you this interview several months ago. In the absence of her side of the story, the media's going to run with the juicier, more salacious story because that's what sells papers.
KURTZ: That is a crucial point because -- and she now recognizes, Jill Kelly now recognizes that the advice that she got from a publicist who said just stay quiet. This one will blow over a couple of days, boy, that didn't happen.
OGUNNAIKE: That is terrible advice. We're living in an era where the story will not disappear. So it's in your best interest to get your version of events out as quickly and as succinctly as possible.
KURTZ: And on that point, Amy, it was hard for reporters who wanted to be fair to both sides. Not only they couldn't speak to her, but they couldn't really get any facts on her behalf such as the fact that she had to joint e-mail account with her husband.
ARGETSINGER: Yes. Not to distract from the media here, but I do have to wonder about the investigative officials who let her name leak out in the first place. They had no know what was going to happen here. I mean, once someone's name gets out there, it's a juicy story, people are going to jump all over this.
Frankly, if I were one of the reporters who are the first line journalist on this story who were getting this name, I would be going back to my sources and saying what were you doing with this? Why didn't you let me go with this?
For journalist too often there's a mentality, where there's smoke, there's fire. If the police tell you some of the suspects, you're going to run with that.
KURTZ: Well, since Paula Broadwell sent -- we now know sent those e-mails that Jill Kelly described to me, at least, as being threatening, and containing blackmail. There was assumption made that she must been flirting with David Petraeus, otherwise, why was Paula Broadwell going after her, assumptions can be dangerous in journalism.
ARGETSINGER: If she were having an illicit affair, why would she be going to the media with this? That's what I was wondering from the start. I had a feeling from early on that there is going to be nothing here.
KURTZ: Now Lola, a few people criticizes me over this interview saying this was a tabloid story, why was it news, why waste your time? My feeling was after all this time and all this publicity, Jill Kelley deserves a chance to tell her side of the story. Am I wrong?
OGUNNAIKE: No, you're absolutely not wrong. First of all, it's a great scoop, kudos to you. Second of all, she didn't deserve to get her side of the story out there. Again, I wish she had gotten it out there earlier because she could have saved her family and herself a whole lot of heartache.
She got terrible advice from whoever was handling -- whoever her crisis manager was. If you're not guilt, say you're not guilty. I would have called a press conference and the minute I saw the other woman on the cover a tabloid, that would have sprung me into action quickly.
KURTZ: You wrote about Jill Kelley, I'm sure.
ARGETSINGER: A couple of times, yes.
KURTZ: Did you feel uneasy doing it?
ARGETSINGER: We were not -- the reporters who are getting into the matters of her financial difficulties things like that.
KURTZ: She hasn't -- just to digress a little bit. She hasn't lived a perfect life. So when people start looking at her, but none of this would have mattered had there not been in suspicion fed by the media that she had done something wrong, she had this affair, which does not.
ARGETSINGER: It reminds me of the Richard Jewel situation frankly where someone -- the man who was suspected of being the Olympic bomber --
KURTZ: In Atlanta in 1996. ARGETSINGER: Yes, and where all of a sudden, he was the suspect. Everyone was scouring ever inch of his life, not particularly flattering. Turned out the guy didn't do anything.
KURTZ: Last point, Lola, I happen to know that basically every television show on the planet now going after Jill Kelly, the morning anchors, Barbara Walter, Oprah Winfrey, should she do more or should she now try to get her life back?
OGUNNAIKE: I think she should do at least one more interview and then disappear quietly into the night.
KURTZ: Well, she is welcome here on RELIABLE SOURCES. I appreciated that she sat down with me. I can't vouch for everything that she said. I didn't see the e-mails from Paula Broadwell.
By the way, there's no prosecution against Paula Broadwell over those e-mail at least in part Jill Kelley telling me she has decided not to press charges, to move on with her life.
Lola Ogunnaike, Amy Argetsinger, thanks very much for joining us this morning. Still to come, the "New York Post" channels Hillary's anger, Robin Roberts pops up at GMA and the reporter who almost exposed a great Beyonce caper. "Media Monitor" straight ahead.
KURTZ: Time now for our "Media Monitor," our weekly look at the hits and errors in the news business. It was perhaps the most resonant scoop of the inauguration. A "Washingtonian" magazine wound up with a case of laryngitis.
Reporter Sophie Gilbert figured out that when Beyonce sang the national anthem, you know where this is going, the Marine Corps band wasn't actually playing the song. So she did the responsible thing by e-mailing a spokesman for the band.
And when Gilbert didn't hear back, she held off and didn't call the next morning, which allowed the "Times of London" to land the story that Beyonce had lip synced her way through the anthem.
But Gilbert did kind of get there first by blogging her theory about Beyonce though it was not confirmed. Next time when you don't get an e-mail response, try the phone.
You might think the story at the congressional hearings on Benghazi this week was how Hillary Clinton passionately defended her department's performance against her Republican critics.
Not for the "New York Post," which ran this screaming headline, no wonder bill's afraid, with the former secretary of state looking very angry indeed. But why drag Bill Clinton into it? Because that's what tabloids do. It was kind of funny.
It was a comeback of sorts from Robin Roberts who has been battling back from bone marrow transplant. She visited the set of "Good Morning America" this week, the latest step on her road to get back to the anchor chair and good for her for not showing up with a wig, not being afraid to show what a recovery really looks like.
That's it for this edition of RELIABLE SOURCES. I'm Howard Kurtz. If you missed a program, go to iTunes on Monday and search for RELIABLE SOURCES. We'll back here next Sunday morning, 11 a.m. Eastern for another critical look at the media. "STATE OF THE UNION" with Candy Crowley begins right now.