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CNN RELIABLE SOURCES

The Media's Hillary Lovefest; MSNBC Edits Newtown Video; Will Geraldo Run for U.S. Senate?

Aired February 3, 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: From the moment Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama sat down for that lovefest on "60 Minutes", she has been on an all-out media blitz with some folks practically begging her to run in 2016.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CYNTHIA MCFADDEN, ABC NEWS: If in the course of the next couple of years, it appears, as it does appear right now, that you might be the person who could actually breakthrough that glass ceiling and become the first female president of this country, would you feel a certain obligation to seize that mantle?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Are journalists going way too easy on the former secretary of state?

Geraldo Rivera says he may run for the U.S. Senate. Really? The guy who once had his nose broken in a TV brawl? I'll tell you why I'm not buying it.

The White House takes the unusual step in putting out this photo of Obama skeet shooting at Camp David, just like he said. Did the media mockery miss the target?

Plus, an encore by Bob Costas on this Super Bowl or are network sportscasters part of the hype machine that builds our interest in the big games?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB COSTAS, NBC SPORTS: They might as well start the pregame the week before and just keep it going and then do a week-long post game.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: And --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, NBC NEWS: Coming up next, a first look at the commercials you'll see on Super Bowl Sunday.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: Let's talk about the Super Bowl ad, already stirring up so much controversy and so much debate.

NORAH O'DONNELL, CBS NEWS: And to see the full 30-second commercial, logon to CBSMornings.com.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

KURTZ: Those super expensive Super Bowl commercials coming out in advance. Why are the media providing all this free exposure?

I'm Howard Kurtz and this is RELIABLE SOURCES.

(MUSIC)

KURTZ: It just didn't seem like the usual "60 Minutes" grilling. In fact, when we saw Steve Kroft sitting down with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama last Sunday, things were so much lovey-dovey, it almost sounded like a therapy session.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE KROFT, CBS NEWS: How would you characterize your relationship right now?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I consider Hillary a strong friend.

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Very warm, close. I think there's a sense of understanding that, you know, sometimes doesn't even take words.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: So, are the media going, dare I say it, soft on Hillary?

Joining us now: Terence Smith, former correspondent for "The NewsHour" on PBS, CBS News and "The New York Times"; Dana Milbank, columnist for "The Washington Post". And Amy Holmes, anchor of "Real News" on "The Blaze."

Seems like the media, you know, whether you think Hillary Clinton did a good job or not so god of job as secretary of state, almost portraying her exit as walking on water.

TERENCE SMITH, FORMER CBS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, bit of a love fest, wasn't it?

Not surprising, I suppose. She has done a good job and she got credit for that.

Towards the end of the week, it seemed to me you saw more critical coverage of her four years, what she achieved, what she didn't achieve. How power and foreign policy, anyway is still in the White House and not at Foggy Bottom.

KURTZ: A point made by the "New York Times" this morning.

But, particularly in those TV interviews, did you see any cabinet member getting that kind of treatment?

AMY HOLMES, THE BLAZE: Certainly not. But do remember that the media, had their knives out for Hillary back in 2008 when she was in the way of the other media darling, President Obama. But now that she's been sort of safely put, safely put at Foggy Bottom when I was leaving, we can now discuss her potential for president of the United States.

KURTZ: Setting up my question for Dana Milbank, by the way. "Newsweek", my magazine, calling her the most powerful women in American history. Hillary Clinton had testing relations with the press during 2008 campaign and even going back to her days as first lady.

So, when did this romance blossom?

DANA MILBANK, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, there's one thing that causes change and that is the number of 67 percent. That's her favorable rating and, you know, the media may be bias, I'm sure Amy would say in favor of the liberals and the Democrats. But the truth is, we're bias in favor of people who are successful and we follow the polls and if somebody does well, they do well. We're pouncing on her in 2008 because Obama was beating her up.

Now, she's a possible leading contending. And, you know, we're building up all the possible presidential candidates now. We're building up Marco Rubio, and Bobby Jindal, and Chris Christie --

KURTZ: OK. We're not exactly building up Bobby Jindal to the same level that you seem to building up Hillary Clinton.

MILBANK: But we want to have all these guys be contenders. They will knock them down later on.

HOLMES: But I will also contend that this positive coverage of Hillary Clinton has been going on now for quite a number of years. These profiles of Hillary Clinton, you know, being sort of this lioness or something of foreign policy.

KURTZ: Let's take look at some of the interviews. Now, some of them dealt with a lot of foreign policy questions whether Greta Van Susteren on FOX, or Elise Labott on CNN, or Cynthia McFadden on ABC. But they all eventually circled around to these questions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS: When that phone call rings at 3:00 in the morning, who is best prepared to answer it in 2016?

CLINTON: Well, that is to be decided by the American people. But one thing I've learned is that the phone rings day and night.

MCFADDEN: Can you still say with a straight face that you have -- there's no way you would consider running for president?

CLINTON: Sitting here right now, that is certainly what I believe.

ELISE LABOTT, CNN: I'm sorry, Madam Secretary, you know, the party says that the field is clear and open for you until you make your decision. Have you decided that you absolutely will not run?

CLINTON: Well, I have absolutely no plans to run.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

KURTZ: Leaving aside that there was no way she was going to answer that question.

SMITH: Right.

KURTZ: Why is the press collectively so focused on an election four years from now?

SMITH: Well, I mean Dana has got it absolutely right. This is -- this is the best going. It provides more coverage and more fodder than anything else. So they just can't wait to start.

HOLMES: And the prospect of Joe Biden being the shoe in is just too laughable. So --

KURTZ: And it's more fun to talk about that than to reconstruct what happened in Benghazi?

MILBANK: I think if we were actually to say please when interviewing Hillary Clinton -- please run, Madam Secretary, I think we'd have a better shot.

KURTZ: I think maybe the please was implicit, perhaps.

MILBANK: Yes, but we have to beg her.

KURTZ: All right. Now, I want to circle back to that "60 Minutes" interview that got so much attention.

Steve Kroft, the "60 Minutes" correspondent who is a terrific journalist but took a rather soft approach in this one got some heat for that approach. He defended himself in an interview with CNN's Piers Morgan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KROFT: I think he knows that we're not going to play gotcha with him and not go out of our way to make him look bad or stupid and we'll let him answer the answers. And I think we all realized that the value in this, one of the things that the television can do and "New York Times" can't, is to capture the chemistry between the two of them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Terence Smith, Steve Kroft said he only had 30 minutes to interview them. What do you make of that interview? SMITH: I mean, I was really disappointed with this. Steve is an old friend and colleague, but this was a rare opportunity. President of the United States and secretary of state and only what was it, two questions on foreign policy issues. It drove me crazy. I found it to be a real missed opportunity.

HOLMES: And certainly, for those of us who still would like to get to the bottom of Benghazi, an opportunity to ask the president of the United States the timeline of the attack on the embassy and we have the secretary of state sitting next to him and to try to get some answers there.

I'm not so sure if the American people are, you know, biting their fingernails to know about the chemistry between President Obama and Hillary Clinton, but whether or not they're competent at their jobs.

KURTZ: And yet I've got to say this, that focus by Steve Kroft about the two of them, their relationship and all of that, got about 1,000 times more attention than all the other interviews put together.

HOLMES: Is it supposed to be a reality show? I mean, "60 Minutes" is hard-hitting news organization.

MILBANK: The truth is you can sit there and ask them a bunch of hard hitting questions and none of these sort of gauzy, soft focus interviews ever produce anything. He's very good at saying nothing, regardless of the questions being asked.

KURTZ: You're talking about the president?

MILBANK: Yes. Whether it news conference or not.

HOLMES: But even the act of deflecting the questions speaks volumes.

SMITH: Dana, why not say -- why not say, where are you on Afghanistan? Are you where you hope to be after four years? Where are we going in this and half a dozen --

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: And the president said that he saw Egypt as an example of American leadership and he's proud of the results there. And now, Egypt might be on the edge of a military coup. These are important questions.

KURTZ: Well, if he had 31 minutes, maybe he would have gotten to that.

I asked on Twitter, talking about hard-hitting questions, have the media turn Hillary Clinton's final week into a love fest?

Let's put some of the responses, I got it @howardkurtz.

Anthony Bruno, "Of course, she can do no wrong, but there's blinded bias. Too bad you report as if this is a surprise."

Rebecca Phem says, "I like Hillary OK, but it has been a bit ridiculous, I think."

And Kathy Ann, "Well, duh, Howard. What do you think? Are you one of the adoring throng?"

HOLMES: Well --

(LAUGHTER)

SMITH: Well, Howard?

KURTZ: I am not. I ask tough questions.

Let me move on to a photograph that was released by the White House yesterday. He's gotten a lot of plays on the front pages of a lot of papers. We can put it up. President Obama skeet shooting at Camp David. This was back in August.

The reason the White House put up that picture is that the president, in an interview with "The New Republic" said, oh, we do skeet shooting all the time, wanting to show that he's not hostile to guns. There was a lot of skepticism, shall we say.

The picture comes out.

What do you think about the move by the White House and will it quiet the skeptics?

HOLMES: Well, I actually found it ironic that the same person who ridiculed Pennsylvanians for clinging to their guns and their Bibles during a time of economic crisis would put out a picture of himself with a gun --

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: Yes, as we have news the last quarter of last year contracting and jobless claims going up.

KURTZ: But in fairness, the White House was reacting, maybe overreacting, to people who said, it's not true. He doesn't do it, how often does he do it? Even today, I'm --

HOLMES: They were able to unearth one photo of him doing this. We see this a lot actually with Democratic politicians, that they try to present themselves as these sportsman. We have John Kerry and his duck hunting. We had Bill Clinton on the horse with a bull --

MILBANK: I think it was a bit of an overreaction. The White House was calling them skeeter birders as my colleague Karen Tumulty points out. You could combine that and make them skeeters. They could have swatted these skeeters down, but they decided to play that game.

And, of course, people are going to look at that picture and say, ha, that is only one. He says he does it all the time. Is Joe Maricopa in Arizona going to test the president to see if there is gun powder residue on his fingers at this point?

HOLMES: Do you think President Obama is an avid skeet shooter?

MILBANK: I think he does it all the time.

KURTZ: But, you know, I read some conservative blogs this morning which said this was PhotoShopped and look at the position of the gun in his hands. It is true that this White House exists in an environment where almost anything the president says and maybe he overstated the case here, like Mitt Romney and small varmints, is challenged even his birth certificate.

SMITH: Yes. I mean, to me, it was a Sunday with no news. Here comes a photograph that doesn't get the subtly award for the White House. It's pretty obvious.

I want to know what that little white puff is coming out of the top.

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: I think the only real photo-op was Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton dancing in their bathing suits on the beach during impeachment.

MILBANK: Oh!

KURTZ: OK, I want to get one more issue before we go to break. Hardy, if you can get.

Al Gore, clip ready, the former vice president making the TV rounds on a book tour and, of course, at least in some of these interviews, being asked about the sale of his Current TV to Al Jazeera. Here he was on David Letterman.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID LETTERMAN, COMEDIAN/TV HOST: So you're selling this television network to a gas and oil supported or emirate. Isn't that one of the problems with the global warming?

AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: Yes, it is.

LETTERMAN: So, you, Al Gore is doing business with this country that's enabling your ultimate foe, climate change.

GORE: I think I understand what you're getting at, Dave. But I disagree with it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Fareed Zakaria asked him about it. Matt Lauer asked him about it. Jon Stewart asked him about it.

Were the media holding him accountable for something that left taste in a lot of people's mouths?

MILBANK: They were and they should because he's been a big spokesman on global warming, a principled man and now he is this big, fat target. He just sold his network. He's worth $300 million more than Mitt Romney and basically he's seen as a guy now who enriched himself, rather than advancing his cause -- opening up to the criticism of people like this global warming deniers.

HOLMES: Skeptic maybe.

SMITH: This strikes me as nonsense.

He -- I think there's a certain amount of envy here for all the money he's made.

KURTZ: Is the questioning nonsense? Should he get a free pass on interviews on something --

SMITH: Fine. But --

KURTZ: You think the issue is nonsense.

SMITH: I think the idea that he is somehow adding to global warming by handing this over to Al Jazeera.

KURTZ: It's a question of political hypocrisy.

HOLMES: Sure, it's a fair question.

SMITH: A stretch beyond a stretch.

HOLMES: Well, you know, Al Gore, selling his company to Al Jazeera, which is owned by Qatar, the family there. And they are, you know, traders in oil. He's enriching himself.

SMITH: Mostly natural gas.

HOLMES: But he's been telling the rest of the world to, you know, restrain and constrain our spending while he personally is becoming a wealthier man through, you know, his attack on Mother Nature.

KURTZ: Who knew that David --

SMITH: It's an American way.

KURTZ: Who knew that David Letterman was an investigative reporter?

When we come back, major flap over MSNBC's editing over emotional testimony from Newtown. Did the network cross the line into deception?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: MSNBC caused quite a stir this week by reporting that the father of one of the kids in the Newtown massacre had been heckled. But did the network engaged in deceptive editing?

Here's how the tape of a town meeting was played on "Martin Bashir Show".

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

NEIL HESLIN, LOST SON AT NEWTOWN: Why anybody in this room needs to have one of these assault-style weapons or military weapons?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Second Amendment will not be infringed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Please, no comments while Mr. Heslin is speaking or we'll clear the room.

MARTIN BASHIR, MSNBC: A father's grief interrupted by the cries of a heckler.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

KURTZ: But here's part of what the grieving father said that was edited out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HESLIN: I wish I asked if there's anybody in this room could give me a reason or challenge this question why anybody in this room needs to have one of these assault-style weapons or military weapons or high-capacity clips. Not one person can answer that question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Second Amendment will not be infringed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: So, what Neil Heslin said was, can anybody give me one reason or challenge this question and some people did.

HOLMES: He's invited people to speak up. I think what you just played. It was clearly deceptively edited and I can tell you, on my show "Real News" at "The Blaze", I want to get that in there. You know, as the host of the show, I do work with my produces to understand the full context of any sound that we use.

So, I don't think Martin Bashir can hide behind it that it was not given to him as a piece of tape that he presented to his audience.

SMITH: The problem for me, yes, it was a distortion. It's a really bad job of editing. It changed the content of the clip, by the editing.

But MSNBC had still not addressed. They said they were reviewing it. They were going to go back and look at it but, in fact, other than running a longer version the next day, they have not really addressed the fact of the distortion. KURTZ: Just to clear. Just to clarify, that's what happened on Martin Bashir's show. After this criticism, he was off. But a substitute anchor said, we're going to play the full clip and make up their own mind. No hint of any misstep, of any apology, of any explanation really for that truncation which you two seem to think was a series of distortion.

Dana?

MILBANK: I think there are two issues here. One is the condensing of the clip. I think people who saw the condensed clip probably didn't get the full picture.

The other question that MSNBC is being attacked for is saying this was heckling. Now -- and I think there is much stronger ground in making that accusation. There were -- "The Connecticut Post" in the room called it heckling, others called it heckling.

I was on MSNBC the next day. They played the full clip for me. I said that looks like heckling to me. Now, you can argue about whether it was heckling or whether he was being shouted at, whatever it was --

SMITH: It was very bad manners.

MILBANK: It was bad manners and it was inappropriate for this guy who lost his son, shot in the head, a month ago to be doing that But in terms of the editing, I think we can agree --

KURTZ: Right. But the argument over heckling, yes, you could say it's a judgment call. The argument over taking something out where the person who is at the microphone is saying, I ask anybody in this room --

HOLMES: Inviting the room to respond and they do.

KURTZ: -- seems to change the meaning in a way that, it's hard for me to understand -- to go to your point, Terry -- why MSNBC has not either offered an explanation or not an apology, but at least an acknowledgement this was not sound journalistic editing.

HOLMES: Well, and this wouldn't be the first time that NBC has gotten to this pickle. We saw with the Trayvon Martin case and 911 call, there was editing there. But, you know, it did change --

KURTZ: George Zimmerman making the call saying his lack of --

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: Which way these edits always seem to go. It's never to the right as opposed to the left.

KURTZ: So, you are suggesting perhaps it was intentional?

HOLMES: They sat at an editing machine and they cut that part out. Why they did that, you know, we can speculate. MILBANK: Everything is edited, because otherwise you just run nothing --

KURTZ: Right. Television --

(CROSSTALK)

MILBANK: This one may not have been done as well as it should have been. But we don't need to get into conspiracies.

SMITH: I can't talk about motivation. But the result was clear.

KURTZ: We're editing this segment by saying we're out of time.

Terry Smith, Dana Milbank, Amy Holmes, thanks for stopping by this Sunday morning.

Up next, Senator Geraldo? The FOX News commentator says he weighing a race, but is he serious?

And later --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COSTAS: Jimmy, Jimmy, come over here. Ladies and gentlemen, there he is.

(END VDIEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Did you know that Bob Costas does impressions? More of my interview with the veteran sportscaster a little later in the program.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: Geraldo, he hardly needs a last name, has had a long, colorful and checkered TV career that seems like he's been around forever. But the other day on his radio show, he said he was thinking of chucking it for a new line of work running for the Senate from New Jersey.

The FOX News commentator talked about that potential candidacy on his network.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GERALDO RIVERA, FOX NEWS: I'm seriously contemplating. My wife, Erica, and I are talking about it. We are exploring it. Very excited as New Jersey residents. We can revive, we think, the moribund GOP in the Garden State.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: So, is this for real? And is Geraldo Rivera a plausible politician? Joining us in New York, Marisa Guthrie, who covers the media for "The Hollywood Reporter". And Pete Dominick, a CNN contributor and host of a political talk show on Sirius XM Radio.

Pete Dominick, do you see Geraldo Rivera as seriously wanting to plunge into a United States Senate race or is this a bit of a stunt?

PETE DOMINICK, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It's hard to know what is in somebody's heart. But it sounds like Trump, you know, he's trying to get attention and more people watching and listening to what he does on the radio and on TV.

I think the question becomes, Howie, can viewers transfer to voters. I think if he actually won a Republican primary and went up against old Frank Lautenberg or Cory Booker, who's busy saving babies and shoveling his constituents out under snow, then I think he'd probably end up finding the voter box is empty as Al Capone's vault.

But to be fair, 30 million people did watch that so many years ago. Would those people vote for Geraldo in New York City? Who knows?

KURTZ: You win, you get the first reference to Al Capone's vault into this segment.

When we look at the things he has done on the air over the years, he does have political baggage where he get into this race?

MARISA GUTHRIE, HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: Is Erica his fourth or fifth wife?

KURTZ: It is his fifth wife, for the record. He also wrote a book called "Exposing Myself", which has to do with other women he's been with. But --

GUTHRIE: Yes. But look, so, yes, he also blamed Trayvon Martin's hoodie for getting him shot. He promised to spit on conservative pundit Michelle Malkin. He got in a brawl with white supremacists.

He probably nudged a rescue worker out of the way so he could be filmed lifting an elderly woman in a wheelchair during hurricane Katrina.

KURTZ: He denies that last one.

GUTHRIE: He knows no shame. But, listen, he -- so the fact that he knows no shame, he's all churning ego might actually make him good for the Senate.

KURTZ: Well, I know a lot of journalists who would like to see him run because a great race to cover.

GUTHRIE: Exactly.

KURTZ: But, Pete, he is also going to run, he says, if he runs, as a Republican. This is a guy who is pro-immigration reform, pro- choice, pro-gay rights, pro-gay marriage, how plausible is that?

DOMINICK: Well, it's not that implausible when you think about New Jersey's Republican Party. To be honest, I mean, if Chris Christie took him under his wing, he might actually have a chance.

The only kind of conservative ideas he has really come on national security issues and I guess debt and deficit, apparently. But New Jersey's Republican Party is much different. Think Scott Brown, Massachusetts, to some extent.

So, he might be able to win in New Jersey, but certainly doesn't fit in in the U.S. Senate. But maybe he'll be the first senator to have a chair thrown at him on the floor because the climate relationships are going in that direction, Howie.

KURTZ: Yes, Senator Geraldo would be fun to cover, where he to win the election. What is it --

DOMINICK: He's a great guy, by the way. I love -- I love Geraldo.

KURTZ: I like Geraldo, too. I've been on his radio show. The question is, is he a plausible politician?

On that point, Marisa, what it with talk show hosts because he's hardly the first one who have pretty successful careers and then they get the bug and they muse on the air about wanting to run for high political office?

GUTHRIE: Well, I think that they see, you know, how easy it is and how sort of akin it is to actually doing a talk show. You show up, you know, you recite talking points and you yell at your colleagues, you yell at the audience, and that's it.

And so, they figure, you know, they need a bigger stage for this, and that maybe there's an easier way to actually make a living than to actually, you know, have to show up --

KURTZ: No, no. It's much easier making a living in front of the television camera than having to go and raise money --

DOMINICK: I agree.

KURTZ: But before you go, Pete, you know, Ed Schultz at MSNBC, Chris Matthews at MSNBC, they said they might run. They didn't run - Lawrence O'Donnell - so they did not run. And that's why I think, Pete, in the end, Geraldo will decide to spend more time with his microphone. Your thoughts?

DOMINICK: I think you're right. But remember, Jesse Ventura, Al Franken had a radio show. There is a guy named Reagan who was an actor. If you can convert viewers to voters, you know, from entertainment to electoral politics, maybe the guy has got a shot, especially in New Jersey.

KURTZ: About half a minute, Marissa, how long can Fox News allow Geraldo to stay on the air while he at least explores, even if he's not doing it legally, a potential candidacy?

GUTHRIE: Yes, he can dance around exploring it. But, you know, as soon as he is actually serious and goes in, you know, they have to get him off.

KURTZ: They have to get him off because you can't be giving a free platform to --

DOMINICK: Will he have to shave that mustache, Howie, I think that's a big question?

KURTZ: Then we'll know he's serious.

DOMINICK: What is under that mustache? We don't trust it.

KURTZ: I asked Geraldo Rivera if he could come on, but he has a contract with Fox and he declined. Thanks very much. Pete Dominick, Marissa Guthrie, good to see you.

Ahead on "RELIABLE SOURCES" a conversation with veteran sportscaster Bob Costas on the super media hype surrounding today's Super Bowl.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: Today, as you know, Super Bowl Sunday, once a mere football game, it's now the culmination of a two-week build-up by the mighty media machine. When I sat down last week with NBC's Bob Costas, we talked about the spectacle and the symbiotic relationship between major league sports and television.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KURTZ: The whole question about the role of the media in covering professional sports. Television televises the games and sports writers write the columns and people are heroes or (inaudible) depending on how the games came out. So much of it, as we grew up, was what happened on the court, on the field, between the lines.

But in this modern age of celebrity and marketing and athletes having Twitter followers and all of that, do you think that there has been a subtle shift or maybe not so subtle shift in - to the extent to which we build up these athletes because it is good for the collective ratings and clicks of our business?

BOB COSTAS, NBC SPORTS: You know, it operates on two tracks. There's the build-up and the romanticizing --

HURTZ: And then --

COSTAS: And then there is the tearing down. You know, I believe in the drama and theater of sports up to a point. But, if everything is that, then it begins to lose its credibility. That's always been my argument within NBC for years and years, where they've treated me great. Now, when I was at HBO, I could do all the journalism I wanted, and at the MLB Network, I get to do long form stuff. My career at NBC has been wonderful for me, but if I've had one kind of ongoing dispute, it's always been this.

Look, we don't want to turn this into PBS or "Nightline." But if you would acknowledge, and I'll do it for you, acknowledge the controversies, ask the tough questions, 10 percent of the time, it actually increases the credibility when the 90 percent of the time you want to say, isn't this exciting? Isn't it great? Isn't it a wonderful shared experience?

Because there's still a kid in me, I still buy into a good portion of that. But I think the presentation of that drama needs to be leavened with a realistic understanding that there are flaws and issues out there, maybe now more than ever before.

And the interesting thing is that on network TV, there's a lot of hearts and flowers. On talk radio, on the Internet and in parts of the press, it's turning out not just critical, it's snarky as can be, you know, it's --

KURTZ: Let's come back to NBC. What is the reaction of your bosses when you make this case? Is there push back, is there institutional resistance to the kind of hard-hitting questions you're talking about?

COSTAS: You know, in fairness, because I have been there for more than 30 years, and I hope, although imperfectly, a few things you would like to have back or do differently, but overall, I've done a good job and established credibility.

I think they give me leeway that some other broadcasters wouldn't have and they try to create circumstances for me. I don't want to in the middle of a ball game that's close all of a sudden go off on an issue, no matter how legitimate that issue is. That's not the right place to do it.

I remind you that the Jovan Belcher thing was half-time. The ball was not in play.

But they will try to create at least occasional spaces for me. They might not for others, and now with the advent of the new NBC Sports Network, there is a monthly program that is very much like the programs I used to do on HBO, and they're issue-oriented.

For example, there is one that is all about with the Super Bowl coming up, all about the issues and controversies surrounding the NFL. It's certainly not the NFL's approved story. Let's put it that way.

KURTZ: Speaking of a Super Bowl. Isn't there a week in the two- week run between the elite championships and the big game, which of course, everybody tunes in for the commercials? It becomes this big -- isn't that a time, maybe liken it to the Olympics, when those of us in the media, you know, really, not just build up the big game, but the personalities involved, two coaches who are brothers and there's always a narrative story line, isn't that a time when we become pitch men for the big game?

COSTAS: To a certain extent. I don't think there's anything wrong with people enjoying the game, the anticipation of the game. We know that there's a kind of silly excess, especially all the pregame stuff. Do you need a six-hour pregame? You might as well just start a week before and just keep it going and do a week-long post-game.

KURTZ: Just turn the camera on and never turn it off.

COSTAS: It's like a national holiday. Then usually when you get to the game, Jim Nantz and Phil Simms will do a good job on the game. Al Michaels and Chris Collins, Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, they're going to call it like a football game.

They'll do a good job, the production team will do a good job, it is going to be exciting, it's going to be dramatic, and I don't think there is any contradiction between enjoying that, and then when the moment is right, also being willing to take a journalistic look at sports and to hold commissioners and leagues to account.

KURTZ: After all the games you've called, after all the stories you've done, after all the big events you've covered, are you still a kid? Are you still a fan?

COSTAS: I don't know that I'm a fan. I don't root really hard for one team or another. I root for good games, close games, dramatic outcomes, and interesting story lines.

KURTZ: It's like political reporters rooting for conflicts and a story to cover rather than a lopsided vote.

COSTAS: That kind of thing, but I hope I have developed a lopsided sense of history so that you can put performances and career and circumstances into some kind of perspective and context. And I hope that I convey excitement and interest in a reasonably thoughtful way.

I mean, this is not masterpiece theater. On the other hand, it doesn't have to be the dopiest frat house party you've ever been at either, where middle-aged men are fawning over nothing and everybody is worked into the state of high dudgeon about who the Seahawks will take with their second round choice. That is not me. The people I grew up admiring, the Jim McKays, the Vince Scullys, the Jack Whitakers, that's closer to where I'd like to be.

KURTZ: So, you're somewhere with between high PBS drama and "Animal House." I think that sums it up.

COSTAS: I like them both and I can quote "Animal House" at length, but you probably don't want that. Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, Mr. Kurtz.

KURTZ: Bob Costas, thanks very much for sitting down with us.

COSTAS: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KURTZ: By the way, I couldn't resist asking Bob Costas about an earlier appearance on this program by Darrell Hammond, the comedian and "Saturday Night Live" veteran, who had this to say about the NBC sportscaster.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DARRELL HAMMOND, COMEDIAN: You've got the great Koppel, you've got the great Clinton, you've got the great Gore, but you can't do me. You try to do me and you fail utterly.

KURTZ: A while back, I had Darrell Hammond on RELIABLE SOURCES and he did Bob Costas. He says you don't think he can really do you.

COSTAS: And Darrell Hammond is brilliant and he has got dozens and dozens of guys he has nailed, and every time I see him. I just saw him last week at a Knicks game. The conversation is the same. You still don't have me, Darrell, and he always says that's because you don't have any extreme quirk. He has a thing. Apparently, I do a hand gesture like this when I'm making a point. And he has the cadence, but he doesn't have the voice, and so --

KURTZ: You can't quite do Costas.

COSTAS: That's his thing. Apparently, the first time I met him I said, I've seen your attempts to do me on "Saturday Night Live," and you have failed utterly.

KURTZ: See, now you sound like Bob Costas doing Darrell Hammond doing Costas.

COSTAS: With a little Howard Cosell thrown in.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KURTZ: Coming up, Bob Costas can do impressions, as well. Stay tuned for a little Howard Cosell.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: As a footnote to my conversation with Bob Costas, he talked about having once met the legendary sportscaster Howard Cosell.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOWARD COSELL, ABC SPORTS: Hello, again, everyone. I'm Howard Cosell. Glad to have you aboard for NFL Monday night football here on ABC.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: And it turns out that Costas does a pretty good Cosell as he tells the story of a run in between Cosell and ABC's Jim McKay.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) COSTAS: Jimmy, Jimmy, come over here. Ladies and gentlemen, there he is. The diminutive, yet esteemed host of the Olympics and ABC's "Wide World of Sports." Jimmy, I ask you. Look at this scene.

A scene which plays itself out in hotel lobbies across this nation, airport terminals, restaurants everywhere I go, people seeking not just my thoughts on sports, that's far too mundane, then my thoughts on the larger issues of the day, an autograph, a photograph, a moment of my time.

I ask you, Jimmy, is there anywhere I can go for a bit of sanctuary, for a moment's peace?

To which McKay replied. Howard, may I suggest your room.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: You can see Costas' full impersonation of Cosell on our website, cnn.com/reliablesources.

After the break, advertisers spend millions to get those Super Bowl commercials on TV. So why are the media giving them so much free publicity beforehand?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: As the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers face of in tonight's Super Bowl one of the big attractions should be the razzle-dazzle commercials except most of them have already been released. Like this one.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You missed a spot.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: You can tell that's a commercial for Mercedes, right? So why are they spoiling the suspense with these events' leaks and why are the media playing along? Joining us now in New York, Barbara Lippert, columnist for "Media Post." Welcome.

BARBARA LIPPERT, COLUMNIST, "MEDIA POST": Thank you.

KURTZ: You're the advertising maiden, what is the point of a company paying nearly $4 million for a 30-second spot in tonight's Super Bowl and then giving it away beforehand?

LIPPERT: Well, I, you know, some people are bummed that they've seen all the commercials already, but it's not Christmas morning on the Super Bowl. This is a business and they can increase the viewership by millions of people, if they release it early.

All the advertisers are so afraid they're not going to get in on what's trending. As for the TV shows running it, they're always looking for Internet content, because that's what younger viewers are seeing. This so beats a cat on a Roomba, and by the way, I don't know why you chose Kate Upton. You know, there are so many other --

KURTZ: That was my staff. I had nothing to do with it.

LIPPERT: Exactly. Everybody hates looking at that. So these commercials are multi-million dollar productions. They are helmed by brilliant directors, they have celebrity content or cute babies or guys getting hit in the groin or elderly sex or something that will get your attention. So it's fantastic content for these shows. They don't see it as giving free advertising. They see it bolstering their own content and their own Internet ratings.

KURT: Right, but from the point of view of the company, you know, a lot of these now get played on YouTube, and I understand that's a very valuable resource. But you're not going to get the 100 million people tuning in you do during the game itself and doesn't it take away the suspense?

LIPPERT: Well, even -- you know, the ad freaky people are the ones who are assessing it and watching it and seeing what's being released. I would say --

KURTZ: Is that a technical term, ad freaky people?

LIPPERT: Yes. That's what they call them. You know, it's a scientific term.

KURTZ: Just checking.

LIPPERT: But they are the ones watching. At least 90 million of those viewers have no idea what's been going on with all of the -- you know, the scandals and talk of it and the assessing which commercial is better.

One -- one company though last year really had the tough constitution to wait it out and shock everybody and that was Chrysler with Clint Eastwood, giving us like a gravely pep talk for America, and that really stole the show. But no other brand, you know, has that resolve.

KURTZ: Right. Barbara Lippert, is it also an advantage to have your commercial banned from the Super Bowl, for example, the site "Porn Hub" produced an ad that's pretty inoffensive even though it's a porn-related site. CBS is refusing to air it. I've read at least six stories online about that, which of course --

LIPPERT: We're giving it time now. Yes, it's a very clever PR stunt. They were never going to pony up the $4.8 million, and here they got on without being on.

KURTZ: I am shocked, clever PR stunt. So basically you think it's a win for both sides. On the one hand lots of people, it's getting the surprise of not having seen it before. On the other hand, morning shows and others get to play these ads and get the content that will get people buzzing.

LIPPERT: And there's really no downside for advertisers because YouTube claims that you get nine times the viewership if you release it early than if you wait until the game.

KURTZ: And in the minute or so we have left, these commercials, whether they are doing the Super Bowl or on YouTube are they about in the old-fashioned sense moving product, getting people to buy Mercedes because they like Kate Upton or more about brand awareness and getting the name out there?

LIPPERT: They're more about brand awareness and more about going through all of the cliches of the Super Bowl. You know, having a commercial that fits into the entertainment. Every now and then something knocks your socks off like Chrysler, like the 1984 McIntosh commercial.

The problem in following the McIntosh commercial is that it really did revolutionize the world. It was a product that revolutionized the world. Very few brands of soda or sneakers or beer can do that. So it's really tough to get a brand message and get attention and make it entertaining.

KURTZ: Well, after talking to you, I'm going to be paying attention to more than just the scoring on the field when the big game opens tonight.

LIPPERT: Maybe they'll be some great surprises.

KURTZ: Maybe and maybe they'll be some bombs as well. Barbara Lippert, thanks very much for stopping.

LIPPERT: Thank you.

KURTZ: Good to talk to you.

Still to come, big changes at CNN, "The New York Times" computer system under cyber attack and getting the goat of a Florida reporter, the "Media Monitor" is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: Time now for the "Media Monitor," our weekly look at the hits and errors in the news business. First some changes at this network as Jeff Zucker, the new president of CNN Worldwide hits the ground running.

Chris Cuomo the ABC News anchor now at "20/20" was tapped this week to co-host what will be a new morning show on CNN. Cuomo, you may have heard of his brother the governor of New York, has been on this program a couple times and the guy has a lot of energy.

A couple well-known contributors who live in New Orleans are leaving CNN, James Carville and Mary Matalin. Sure we haven't heard the last of them.

What a challenge for "The New York Times." The paper spent the last four months battling Chinese hackers who penetrated its computer system after an expose of how the family of premier Wen Jiabao made billions of dollars. The hackers using the same techniques as the Chinese military gained access to e-mail accounts of the story's author and its former Beijing bureau chief. The "Times" went public this week, which of course, could tick off the hackers and the Chinese government blocked CNN International briefly while it was reporting on the story.

"The Wall Street Journal" and "The Washington Post" say Chinese hackers have also infiltrated their computer systems. It's kind of intimidating for a reporter to have his or her e-mail hacked while covering a story.

Dan Abrams the owner of Media, found blatant hypocrisy after a judge ruled against President Obama's power to make recess appointments while the Senate is out of session. "The Wall Street Journal"'s page fully supported President Bush's right to make such appointments.

But says Obama is doing the constitutional equivalent of sticking a thumb in the eye and hitting below the belt. The "New York Times" liberal editorial page ripped Bush for his recess appointments saying it was disturbing that W. had exhibited a grandiose vision of executive power.

But the paper hailed Obama for his appointments without Senate approval saying Republican obstructionism was far worse. Good for Dan Abrams for spotlighting these rather flexible standards.

Now it was a little typical local news hit with Linda Carson of WWSB in Sarasota reporting from a Florida county fair on kids who raise goats and then things went slightly off script.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The judging is complete so come on out and meet the winners. The goats will be here through Saturday and they're very friendly. From the Manatee County Fair, Linda Carson, ABC 7. Would you not eat my pants?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Talk about the subject budding in. Good for Linda Carson for handling the knockdown with good humor.

Well, that's it for this edition of RELIABLE SOURCES. I'm Howard Kurtz. If you missed a program get our podcast on iTunes, just search for RELIABLE SOURCES on the iTunes store.

We're back here next Sunday morning 11:00 Eastern for another critical look at the media. "STATE OF THE UNION" with Candy Crowley begins right now.