Fox News Channel Jumps Ahead Of CNN In Year To Date Ratings Race

House approves independent investigation

This is a rush transcript from "Media Buzz," May 23, 2021. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

HOWARD KURTZ, FOX NEWS HOST (on camera): The media found a hot, new controversy this week after the Liz Cheney melodrama. It's the January 6 commission now not in any way minimizing the importance of the Capitol riot or the sincerity of those who believe we need a thorough probe of the attack on our democracy.

But we can't pretend this thing isn't permeated by politics on both sides. Such a commission would help the Democrats by shining a harsh spotlight on Donald Trump's actions and hurt the Republicans. But most of the media are taking one side. That's dishonestly and cowardly to object to this commission, which happens to be the democratic side.

Yet it's also true the GOP is deflecting by insisting the commission must also examine the important but unrelated issue of left-wing urban violence. There is another story seizing plenty of airtime. New York's attorney general announcing her probe of the Trump Organization is being upgraded from civil to criminal. No new facts but lots of media speculation.

Now, the connecting glue between these stories is, of course, the former president. Turns out the media's Trump addiction, the face of sinking ratings, and a sense of Biden boredom, is unbreakable.

I'm Howard Kurtz and this is MEDIA BUZZ.

Ahead on the "Buzzmeter," we will focus on CNN's Chris Cuomo, who has apologized for privately advising his brother, Andrew Cuomo, on damage control calls. On Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot is drawing flack for refusing to do interviews for now with white reporters. And I'll talk to The Washington Post's Sally Quinn. For so long a symbol of D.C. social scene with her husband, Ben Bradley, she now calls all those glitzy parties a waste of time.

The House passed a bill to create the January 6th commission with 35 Republicans defecting from their leadership as Kevin McCarthy said other investigations would achieve the same goal.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): That it never happens again, that those who participated and caused it should be held accountable, and that we secure this Capitol and we don't play politics with it. I just think a Pelosi commission is a lot of politics.

REP. TIM RYAN (D-OH): We have people scaling the Capitol, hitting the Capitol police with lead pipe across the head, and we can't get bipartisanship. What else has to happen in this country?


KURTZ (on camera): The pundits are at war over the commission and piling on McCarthy.


TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: Why are they against it? Because it's a farce, it's a complete farce. It's partisan, that's how. It's fake. Don't play along with the fraud.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Whatever courage and leadership McCarthy showed that day, now appears gone, overtaken by kind of cynical political calculation. He has never even really tried to hide very much.

JOY REID, MSNBC NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The same guy who was essential to shaking the Benghazi shiny (INAUDIBLE) as a political ruse is the current leader, quote-unquote, of House Republicans, Kevin McCarthy. Only now he is suddenly not so into investigations.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: I will openly admit on this program I was one of the first people to call for a commission. But after watching the Democrats day after day, hour after hour, it's obvious they cannot be trusted in any way shape, manner or form to conduct any fair hearing whatsoever.


KURTZ: Joining us now to analyze the coverage, Jason Chaffetz, former Republican congressman, and Mara Liasson, NPR's chief political correspondent. Both are Fox News contributors.

Jason, the media coverage has been heavily in favor of creating this independent January 6 commission and very rough on people in your party who oppose it. Why is that?

JASON CHAFFETZ, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR, FORMER UTAH REPRESENTATIVE: Well, I do think it is a legitimate story. I think the media has right to cover it. I happen to believe that Kevin McCarthy is right. If I was in Congress and I'm not, I would not have voted for this.

Nevertheless, John Katko, who was leading the negotiation for the Republicans, I think, made the bill better. I think he's a very serious congressman from New York, former U.S. assistant -- U.S. attorney, assistant U.S. attorney there in Syracuse in the crime division.

And I think there are a lot of thoughtful members who voted for it, but there are a lot of thoughtful members who voted against it because of the partisan nature of the way Nancy Pelosi is doing it.

Republicans asked to expand it to look at some of the other violence that's going on around the country namely Portland and that was -- that was just shut off. It wasn't even considered.

KURTZ: Right. We will come back to that. Mara, do you agree with my take that the Liz Cheney ouster being over led to kind of a media vacuum and that the battle over this commission became the new press fixation because it is ultimately about Donald Trump, who by the way called the idea of this panel a democrat trap?

MARA LIASSON, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER FOR NPR: Well, look, you know, the problem with the media is that it has 24 hours to fill in. It often doesn't have enough stuff to fill it. So yes, if you want to talk about a vacuum, Donald Trump has left a kind of vacuum in many ways.

But don't forget, I agree with Jason, this is a legitimate story. John Katko was told by Kevin McCarthy to get certain concessions around this commission at a time when Kevin McCarthy seemed a lot more open to the commission than he is now and Katko got those.

And then all of a sudden, you know, McCarthy changed his mind. The coverage has been, I think, pretty straight when it comes to what McCarthy said on January 6, what he told Trump on January 6, and then how he changed overtime because he has made what I think is a legitimate political calculation that his party can't take the House back if they're divided and the big tent means that Donald Trump has to be inside the tent, and he doesn't want the January 6 commission.

KURTZ: Yeah.

LIASSON: So that part I get and that was covered legitimately. As far as the media vacuum for pundits to fill, of course.

KURTZ: Well, those concessions, just so viewers, now included sharing of power between two parties as far as appointments --


KURTZ: -- and subpoena power.


KURTZ: But let me turn to the gentleman from Utah. You served with Kevin McCarthy. He is maybe the worst media pounding of his career for opposing the commission and pundits are pointing out that such a panel might well subpoena the House minority leader over his conversation with Donald Trump that day during the riot. Are those fair questions for journalists to ask?

CHAFFETZ: I do think if they are moving forward with the commission which did pass, we will see what happens over in the Senate. But I got to tell you that I think it is a legitimate question. And if you're going to get to the heart of it, you're going to have to ask. But they're also going to have to ask questions of Nancy Pelosi.

The media won't pay any attention to that, but she is ultimately in charge of the Capitol Hill police. She is the one who is part of the commission that oversees the Capitol Hill police. There are a lot of questions about the use of the National Guard, the non-use of the National Guard. There are a lot of questions about intelligence failures.

All of that goes to the leader of the House of Representatives and the leader of the Senate, but those questions have to be asked to Nancy Pelosi as well.

KURTZ: Well, my own view is that this thing is absolutely dead in the Senate once Mitch McConnell who said he was going to keep an open mind the next day came out and said he was against it. You need 60 votes. I don't think it's going anywhere, Mara.

But what about the point that Jason made earlier that, you know, is it a deflection or is it a legitimate argument? The press is kind of casting it as a deflection to say, well, we got to look into Portland and Seattle and urban violence and radical liberal roots. I'm not minimizing the importance of that but it is kind of unrelated to January 6th.

LIASSON: The question is whether it should be the same entity as an investigation into January 6th. Sure, look into those things, but January 6th is kind of an event onto itself. There are other ways to investigate January 6th other than a bipartisan commission, which I agree with you is not going to happen because Mitch McConnell doesn't want it to happen.

But Benghazi was not a bipartisan commission and that went on for 11 months. So there are ways that Congress with normal ordinary standing committees can investigate this and that is what I think they're going to have to fall back on because this commission is not going to happen.

KURTZ: You know, the press says, Jason, that -- go ahead.

CHAFFETZ: Well, I was going to say Benghazi started because I was the one that actually signed the letter of preservation to Secretary Clinton and they didn't preserve documents. They destroyed documents. There were subpoena issued that weren't fulfilled. There was communication equipment that was destroyed. We went after the Department of Defense to ask for their after-action reports. They said there was none.

It was only after all of that and all this deception and outright ignoring subpoenas that the commission was actually started.

KURTZ: I don't want to -- Jason, let me jump in.

LIASSON: It wasn't a commission.

KURTZ: Yeah, it was congressional hearings. There were a lot of them. And Jason --


KURTZ: -- I don't want to minimize Benghazi and how awful that was, but there were a lot of hearings and that benefited the Republicans against Hillary Clinton politically. Is the press now ignoring --

LIASSON: As Kevin McCarthy said.

KURTZ: Yes, as Kevin McCarthy said in an interview. Is the press, Jason, ignoring the fact that this commission would, no question about it, be a benefit to the Democrats politically?

CHAFFETZ: Yes. I think that's why there are a lot of Republicans that ultimately voted against it, that they believe it is a political bludgeoning to all, that it was not going to be fair, and there are lots of committees that are already looking at it.

My point with Benghazi is we started at the committee process. It was only after we found subpoenas were ignored, documents were destroyed that it rose to the level of having it going to the next level and having a special committee set up.

KURTZ: Mara, what happened in the building two blocks from here under the dome on January 6th was a horrifying attack on democracy. It was an awful trauma for the county, I would say. But the press mainly seems to skip over the argument that the Justice Department has already brought charges against more than 25 people that the Senate committee has been investigating and the republicans argue who needs another investigation. I don't see that point of view getting a lot of media exposure.

LIASSON: Yeah, that may be the most legitimate argument against it, meaning that it's going to be investigated by many different entities and it's not going to be swept under the rug. I think, you know, the desire of Republicans to kind of move on, to kind of get focused on the 2022 election, to get focused on their argument against the Democrats, I understand that politically.

But January 6th was something that I don't think you can just ignore or pretend it was some kind of tourist event that got out of hand. I mean, this was a violent mob, you know, of Trump supporters.

You can argue whether it was egged on by the president or not, but there has never been an attack on our democracy like this. So I don't think it's something that you can just ignore, but, yes, I agree there are a lot of other ways to investigate.

KURTZ: All right. Brief response from each of you. Jason Chaffetz, have the media, especially cable news, blanketed the story because they need a Trump narrative to get their numbers up?

CHAFFETZ: Yes. I think the media desperately misses Donald Trump. He drives ratings, he drives clicks, and they need Donald Trump in order to get their ratings up for some of these stations.

KURTZ: You know, Donald Trump, Mara, every day puts out these releases that are sent to reporters. He ripped the 35 House defectors as weak. Now, President Biden is doing all kinds of things. He helped prod Benjamin Netanyahu into a ceasefire in the Middle East. He signed the Asian-American hate crimes bill. Mostly, it seems like slog of governing and when you talk Trump, everybody gets excited, polarized, and television liked that.

LIASSON: Well, if you live in front of a television set, sure. But if you read the newspapers, it seems like the Middle East was the main story this week. Donald Trump and his statements were not on the front page. So, I think, you know, there are a lot of different media worlds and one of them needs to fill up the vacuum with a lot of punditry --

KURTZ: Right.

LIASSON: -- but there are a lot of other important things that are happening.

KURTZ: Right. I've seen a lot newspaper stories about this in our next topic but newspaper have more space for other things. Ahead, Chris Cuomo apologizing for privately advising his brother in that sexual harassment probe. When we come back, are the media hyping a change in status for the New York investigation of the Trump Organization?


KURTZ (on camera): It was a brief press release from New York's Democratic Attorney General Letitia James saying she is changing her probe of the Trump Organization from civil to criminal, and cable news went haywire.


RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: News of an escalating criminal probe of the former is a dramatic thing, right? We've never had a former president under criminal investigation before ever.

JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC HOST: I'm not sure about why you announced we are now investigating him for criminal -- to your investigation bring the charges or don't bring the charges.

COOPER: The president was wailing today like a man who just saw the New York civil investigation of him sprout a criminal aspect as well.

ANDY MCCARTHY, FORMER SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY: It is not a new criminal investigation. It is somebody who is a very ambitious Democratic politician who sees an opportunity here to get on to something that might be helpful to her.


KURTZ (on camera): The former president called this as an investigation that is in desperate search of a crime, saying the AG literally campaigned on prosecuting Donald Trump before she knew anything about me.

Jason, the Manhattan district attorney was already conducting a criminal probe involving the Trump Organization having to do with bank loans and tax matters. State attorney general was conducting the civil probe on many of the same things. Now, they are joining forces. Is that a big enough deal hour after hour of dramatic coverage on certain cable news networks?

CHAFFETZ: This is a path we've been down before. I mean, Donald Trump probably had more political animus than anybody you can possibly imagine. You would think going in the year five, they haven't been able to find anything. So, I don't -- I think it's a story about nothing.

I think Donald Trump is exactly right. It's an investigation in search of a crime. I don't think -- it hasn't led to anything in the last four and a half years, five years. I don't think it's going to go anywhere. But I think it's just somebody saying, hey, give me attention, give me attention.

KURTZ: All right. I'm not going to touch that medical analogy. But Mara, it is obviously not good news for Donald Trump. It is potentially significant. But the press has no new evidence here. There are no reports of new subpoenas, for example. Some of the pundits and legal analysts on other cable news channels seemed so excited.

LIASSON: Look, I agree with you. Look, there's no doubt that cable news has a Trump obsession syndrome and he was great for ratings and he was kind of like a train wreck or car wreck that you had to slow down and watch all of the time. We don't know whether this criminal probe, what it will result in. I agree with Joe Scarborough. Charge the guy if you're going to do that.

But criminal investigations of powerful political figures are always politicized. I mean, Rudy Giuliani used to kind of arrest people and put them in handcuffs, and then it turns out the charges were dropped or there were no charges.

KURTZ: Not always, but perp walks, yes, he did it in New York. Perp walks.



LIASSON: But the point is that we should wait. This is a prosecution. The criminal justice system is a grinding process. Let's see if there are charges and what the charges are.

KURTZ: Jason, I will let you respond to Mara's car wreck analogy, but also, this reminds me of media's endless anticipation during the Russia investigation. It is always like a wait till next week or next month, more stuff is going to come out. Look, he's a private citizen now so the rules are different. But so many pundits seem to want to see Donald Trump dragged into a courtroom.

CHAFFETZ: Well, this is why half of the country, the republican side, the more conservative side of the country feels like it is totally unfair that the Department of Justice doesn't play on equal playing field and certainly not at the state level.

I mean, think about Roger Stone, CNN cameras rolling (INAUDIBLE) with all their guns and helicopters. I guess Roger Stone, like, seriously, really? But that just doesn't seem fair. There's no balance to it. I think America is tired with the idea that, oh, we are investigating Donald Trump. He's been investigated for nearly five years and they haven't come up with anything.

KURTZ: Well, I do have to add that Roger Stone got a presidential pardon. But Mara, finally, there was one potentially significant report. This one was in The New York Times saying there's a criminal probe of the CFO of the Trump Organization, Allen Weisselberg, over tax allegation because if he were to flip as a witness, that would not be good news for the former president.

LIASSON: Yeah, and that's what criminal defense attorneys say is important and something to batch. But as I said, this is a grinding process and to make a huge deal out of every twist and turn, I think, can distort it. But let's see if Weisselberg does flip and what he provides and if charges against Donald Trump come out of that.

KURTZ: Yeah. Of course, remember, criminal investigations are supposed to be conducted in secret. So we are not supposed to know about --


KURTZ: -- but, of course, there are the inevitable leaks. Jason Chaffetz and Mara Liasson, thanks very much for joining us. Up next, the mayor of Chicago is only talking to Black and Latino reporters right now. A look at the backlash against Lori Lightfoot.


KURTZ: Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is no longer talking to white reporters at least for the moment. In launching a series of interviews for her second anniversary in office, the mayor released a letter calling out the overwhelming whiteness and maleness of Chicago media outlets and the press corps and for now is only talking to Black and Latino reporters.

Joining us on this subject is Clarence Page, columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Clarence, Wall Street Journal editorial calls this overracism. What do you think of Lori Lightfoot picking this fight even if it is symbolic, saying, I'm not giving interviews right now to anybody who is not a minority journalist?

CLARENCE PAGE, COLUMNIST, CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Well, I appreciate her concern about the media practices but frankly, I thought it was oddly timed and seemed to bear all the signs of a stunt at a time when we got a lot more urgent news of concern in Chicago like our violent crime rate, our -- her relations with the unions, our schools, et cetera.

And so it's -- I do want to clarify, though, for folks out there, this was a one-day policy on her part coinciding with her second anniversary in office that she decided to do this and, in fact, our own city hall reporter Greg Pratt, who is also a head of the Tribune Guild and is the child of a Mexican immigrant --

KURTZ: Mm-hmm

PAGE: -- refused to vow to those conditions and just withdrew his own imitation after had been accepted by state hall.

KURTZ (on camera): Right. He cancelled in solidarity with his white colleagues. Now, this came up in unrelated news conference the other day with Mayor Lightfoot. Let us take a look.


UNKNOWN (voice-over): Are you implying that white reporters cannot do a fair job of covering you?

MAYOR LORI LIGHTFOOT, CHICAGO, ILLINOIS: The fact that the city hall press corps is overwhelmingly white has very little in the way of diversity is an embarrassment.


KURTZ (voice-over): Clarence, you seem to agree with the Democratic mayor that there's a diversity problem in the Chicago press corps, press companies excluded, but couldn't she criticize that without doing what you called the stunt, without doing this divisive declaration that on this day, I'm doing this round of interviews, I'm only going to talk to journalists of color?

PAGE: Well, yeah, and I'm not going to take any exclusion. I've been a Tribune staffer off and on for 50 years now, and boy, we have always had challenge not just in Chicago but across the country with media hiring. You know that --

KURTZ: Sure.

PAGE: -- more than anybody else. The newspaper associations, other media associations still frustrated that our newsrooms are less diverse than the general working population. That's a good issue. But, as I said, it sounds like a distraction right now.

She comes late to this. She should even have her own date straight. She said there were no women, minority women covering city hall. In fact, public radio station WBEZ has three city hall reporters. Two of them happened to be women of color.

Also just the whole idea of this really puts pressure. Not so much pressure out there but it gets people talking about the issue, and that's the most positive thing I can say about it.

KURTZ: All right. Well, it does seem to me that she's unhappy overall with coverage and it's not unusual of a mayor in a local press corps, and she cancelled her subscription to the Chicago Tribune about a week earlier, as you know, over leaked stories. So I don't understand why she felt the need to drag race into this particular context.

We very much appreciate you coming on and sharing your thoughts, Clarence.

PAGE: Always a pleasure, Howie.

KURTZ: Next on MEDIA BUZZ, why CNN isn't defending Chris Cuomo after new disclosures about him doing damage control for his brother. And later, Sally Quinn on the device of Washington's party circuit.


KURTZ (on camera): CNN's Chris Cuomo has apologized for privately advising his brother on dealing with a spate of sexual harassment allegations by joining in conference calls that included top members of the New York governor's staff, lawyers and outside strategists.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: My family means everything to me and I am fiercely loyal to them, being looped into calls with other friends of his and advisers that did include some of his staff. I understand why that was a problem for CNN. It was a mistake because I put my colleagues here who I believe are the best in the business in a bad spot. I never intended for that. I would never intend for that and I am sorry for that.


KURTZ (on camera): Joining us now from Connecticut is Charlie Gasparino, senior correspondent on Fox Business Network.

And Charlie, anyone who knows the family as I do, I know you know Chris well, knows these brothers are very closed. Of course. They talk every day.


KURTZ: Of course, Chris Cuomo is going to give private advice to his brother. But is there a distinct between that and hopping on a bunch of damage control calls with the governor's top aides, his P.R. people, his lawyers, outside folks and even CNN in a statement said that was inappropriate.

GASPARINO: Yes. I mean, yes. And let's just back up a minute. I think at some point you have to say was the viewer harmed in this whole controversy, I mean, did Chris Cuomo hide something from the viewer while he was doing a report about his brother or reporting on his brother? Was the viewers sort of damaged by the conflict of interest?

Let's be really clear here. The viewer wasn't. I mean, there's full disclosure by the very fact that his last name is Cuomo. Chris Cuomo wasn't covering the story at all. The viewer really wasn't harmed in this. So, it's hard for me to like put this into scandal category.

That being said, I think he made a huge mistake by being on that call. I mean, it's just -- you just don't want to be part of the official apparatus of the governor of New York's office, it's just -- it's just not -- it's not koshers from a journalism standpoint.

KURTZ: Yes. It was --

GASPARINO: By the way, he wouldn't be the first person to make that mistake, we should point out.

KURTZ: Right. It was a series of calls. And by the way, --


KURTZ: -- likelihood with a bunch of people on the line is that, it's going to leak out.

GASPARINO: I know, I know.

KURTZ: I give Chris Cuomo credit for apologizing. It was the right thing to do. But what do you make of the rather narrow wording of that apology which was mainly by putting his CNN colleagues in a bad spot as opposed to the substance of what he did on those calls?

GASPARINO: Well, because that's really what he did if you think about it. The substance of this scandal is pretty new. Again, you got to ask yourself, listen, I have every incentive to bash them, they are the competitors but I'm just trying to think rationally here and objectively. If I'm the viewer, did I get harmed in any way because Chris Cuomo was on those calls and I don't think you can say that.

I think what it did was it put his colleagues, as he said, in the bad place because he's part of the official apparatus of a significant government official. I know it's his brother and know, I know, let's be really clear. As you said earlier, he's going to give his brother advice, he just shouldn't have been on the call. It puts him way too close to part of the official line, putting CNN in essentially way too close of the governor's official line on a pretty significant scandal that may cost him his job. I mean, who knows. There's an investigation going on.

KURTZ: Well, on that point, I mean, there's no official investigation. CNN wants to move on.


KURTZ: When the Washington Post broke the story, it said there were series of calls and CNN gave him a little wrist lap because he did not defend what he did, and of course he goes on and apologized. And so, you keep saying it's nil, one women's group is calling for suspension. Is there a different standard? People are saying what if it was a low-level employee when it's one of your network's biggest multi-dollar stars?

GASPARINO: I think the real question is, would the liberal mainstream media be cutting him the break, cutting me a break if I did that for my brother since I work at Fox as opposed to what I'm saying here trying to be objective about it.

I mean, I look at this, Howie, very simply, I look at it was the viewer harmed in any way and the viewer really wasn't. It does harm the reputation of CNN in some degree.

KURTZ: Well, let's go back a little bit and look at this in a broader way.


KURTZ: Because CNN made the first blunder here more than a year ago when it lifted a ban on Chris Cuomo interviewing his brother at all and suddenly there's like a dozen appearances, the schtick that they did --


KURTZ: -- with the giant nasal swab and allowing Chris to repeatedly praise his brother in the pandemic and when things turned rougher for the New York governor, when he was under scrutiny for undercounting the number of home deaths in New York state and then the whole spade of sexual harassment allegations, --

GASPARINO: Absolutely.

KURTZ: -- OK, we are putting the ban back on, he can't about him, he can't do anything. So, is there an optics problem especially when Chris is now an opinion guy, you know, he's routinely bashing Donald Trump and Republicans on his Primetime show?

GASPARINO: Listen, I don't think that cover -- CNN does a good job covering Andrew Cuomo's controversies right now. Because I think you -- it's pretty clear that they are kind of staying away from it. You know, obviously we are covering it. I just look at this narrowly on this once instance. OK? Is this instance the scandal of the century, this one thing that he did getting on that call and I would say because the viewer really wasn't harmed by this, it's not.

KURTZ: All right.

GASPARINO: And he deserves a wrist strap -- wrist slap, no doubt.

KURTZ: All right. Let me move you to the broader question of AT&T spinning off CNN just three years after buying it and the rest of Warner Media. The networks in a kind of a new company being formed and the merger with Discovery networks. Was that acquisition a mistake and what does it mean for Jeff Zucker who had said he's leaving at CNN president, but he's pal of Discovery chief David Zaslav, is he more likely to say?

GASPARINO: When I first reported that they could be for sale, CNN, people thought I was nuts. So, I just want to take that victory lap. I will say this. I think Jeff Zucker if he wants to stay could stay. I think David Zaslav and he are close. I think David Zaslav has a lot of respect for him. The question is does Mr. Zucker want to say.

And the question is does -- and I think this is the forward-looking way of looking at this. CNN is a hot button. There is no doubt. Do they want to be -- does any company want to be really associated with something this hot button, something that if Republicans get into office, you know, they are going to be, this is -- the whole controversy of CNN's bias -- alleged bias against Republicans and conservatives is going to come out and how does that work in a corporate setting.

We should point out that this is a new company. AT&T owned 70 percent of it, so AT&T theoretically still associated with something that a lot of Republicans in Washington thinks -- think considers a Democratic, you know, agitprop.


GASPARINO: So, remember when you have -- when you have something that this hot button, you know, I can see CNN being spun off. I mean, and I can see all of this being spun off.


KURTZ: This is kind of spin off. CNN has a lot of corporate owner since Ted Turner founded it back in the day.


KURTZ: Charlie, great to see you. Thanks very much for coming on.

GASPARINO: You got it.

KURTZ: And not a good week for CNN. The network yesterday dropped Rick Santorum as the contributor. The former senator insulted a whole community by saying there isn't much Native American culture in American culture. There was nothing here when the settlers arrived. Then he insisted he misspoke but would not apologize.

And CNN fired Middle East freelance writer Adeel Raja for tweeting the world needs another Hitler. This after the writer made similar pro-Hitler comments seven years ago. Incredible.

After the break, the Washington Post Sally Quinn, known in part for her fabulous Georgetown parties. And why she no longer cares about D.C. social scene.


KURTZ (on camera): If there's anyone who symbolized the Washington social circuit a journalist who threw parties in her Georgetown home and attracted the powerful and the plugged in parties that sometimes generated news conference, it's Sally Quinn, but the long time reporter and columnist who hosted the D.C. bashes with her late husband Ben Bradlee left town during the pandemic and is now renouncing that life, quote, "I didn't want to be part of the Washington social scene as I had known it. Somehow, it all felt superficial and unimportant and a waste of time. What I once thought was a glamorous and exciting life filled with power and celebrity no longer had any appeal to me."

And Washington Post contributor Sally Quinn joins us now. You're now saying the D.C. social circuit wasn't all that glamorous, superficial waste of time, did that thought ever occur to you during those years when you were throwing these A-list bashes and making the rounds?

SALLY QUINN, CONTRIBUTOR, WASHINGTON POST: Well, not at my bashes but I didn't consider them a-list. No, you know, there's a lot of going out in Washington that is superficial and, you know, it's a power grab in some way and, you know, there were lots of nights when I would get dressed up and put on my makeup and curl my eyelashes and put high-heel shoes and just moan all the way to the party I was going to and then come home and still think, what was that, why did I do that? I could have stayed home and read a book or watched a series. And I --


KURTZ: You're saying it was work.

QUINN: But I didn't --

KURTZ: You're saying it was hard work?

QUINN: It was work. No, no, it was work. I mean, yes, it was a job. It was a job. And I think a lot of people who go to these things think it's a job and I think that's one reason why so many people in the past couple of administrations haven't gone. And one of the things I was saying in this administration particularly after Trump and particularly after COVID in the Biden administration. Most of the people in his administration have been in the White House before. They've worked for the presidents. They've seen the pomp and circumstance.

KURTZ: Right. They don't need to impress anybody?

QUINN: And they, you know, they don't need to impress anybody. They don't need to go out, they don't need to. And not only that but they are working 24/7 because they probably got two years that they can count on --

KURTZ: Right.

QUINN: -- to get things done.

KURTZ: But let me ask you. Let me --

QUINN: And then it may be Republicans coming in.

KURTZ: Let me bring you back. Because I went to a couple of parties thrown by you and Ben back in the day and they were great parties, but what do you say to those who might scuff that all those glittering gatherings, you know, help your career, your profile, you got to hobnob with top politicians and diplomats and television anchors and now you're kind of turning up your nose at it?

QUINN: I'm not really turning up any nose at things that are fun and I think that's a big difference. I mean, a lot of these things are just -- they're like official events and you just go and I used to run around the room and see people and you leave. I mean, the parties that Ben and I used to have and I had before COVID, I always invited people I liked, people who are my friends and people who were fun.

And, yes, I mean, a lot of them were in the administration because those are people -- in administrations because they were people that I knew and liked. And people had a good time. And so, I think that's part of what socializing is. It should be in Washington.

KURTZ: It makes sense.

QUINN: So, I'm not turning up any nose at getting together because I think it's important for people in Washington to get together and to get to know each other.


QUINN: That part of it is part of the ritual that I think should continue.

KURTZ: Sally --

QUINN: And I just think that there's an awful lot -- yes.

KURTZ: let me just jump in. You write that in one article about you and Ben Bradlee, you were referred to as a hostess and a socialite and you found that demeaning?

QUINN: Well, I once said that I did -- I did -- I didn't mind being a hostess because I thought that was a good thing but being described as a hostess today, I think is demeaning because it confers a sort of notion of frivolity. And it's always about the women.

One thing that I said in this piece is that in the 43 years that Ben and I were together and entertained all the time I was called a socialite and hostess, never mind that I've been a journalist for 30 years or 40 years and Ben never once was called a host.

So, I think that idea of women being hostesses is really sort of archaic at the moment and I think that people who entertain are host and you should call them both host and I think being a host is not a bad thing. I mean, anybody who has somebody over for a cup of coffee to their house is a host.

KURTZ: Right, but sometimes --


QUINN: So how did people really care about --

KURTZ: -- there is a certain scale to these things having the nice catering and all that.


KURTZ: Look, you, I understand your point that started to fade, Donald Trump also socialize at his own hotel and came the pandemic, we're all hunkered down in our houses, I did the show from my basement. And then the changing role of women. So, is this now a relic? But also, we were always told that important businesses got done in these parties. Journalist smooching sources, political deal making. Is the beltway culture now too polarized for that sort of thing?

QUINN: I think it's terribly polarized. I mean, I, you know, particularly during the Trump administration, there was just no inner mingling, almost none at all and people just didn't want to go out and Washington is very democratic town and people just didn't want to go out with the Trump people and they didn't want to be with the liberals.

So, there was -- there wasn't that kind of congeniality that there used to be where people could disagree on policy but they could still be friends.

KURTZ: Right.

QUINN: That just didn't exist and doesn't exist anymore. And I think that's really sad but I think it's not going to come back anytime soon.

KURTZ: Right.

QUINN: But I do think that it's important for people to get together and to get to know each other. I just think it's going to be done on a smaller and a more intimate scale.

KURTZ: Showing it wouldn't be a bad thing. Your piece did kind of read as an obituary for a bygone era. Sally Quinn, great to see you. Thanks very much for coming on.

QUINN: Thank you.

KURTZ: Still to come, a scathing report on the BBC over a longer interview with Princess Diana sparking fierce criticism for her sons.


KURTZ (on camera): It was way back in 1995 that the BBC's Martin Bashir scored an exclusive sit-down with Princess Diana and now an independent investigation says he used fake bank statements and, quote, "deceitful behavior in a serious breach of ethics to get that infamous interview."


DIANA, PRINCESS OF WALES: Well, there were three of us in this marriage so it was a bit crowded.


KURTZ (on camera): The BBC's chief offered a full and unconditional apology saying the network is very sorry for falling short of its standards.

Joining us now from Los Angeles, Jonathan Hunt, Fox News chief correspondent. And Jonathan, how serious are these journalistic breaches by Martin Bashir who resigned from the BBC shortly before this report came out, and why did it take so bloody long to uncover this misconduct?

JONATHAN HUNT, FOX NEWS CHIEF CORRESPONDENT: Both very good questions, Howie. First of all, to the seriousness of the breaches. I think it's hard to find a more serious breach of journalistic ethics than faking documents to try to persuade the subject of an interview to grant you that interview.

Martin Bashir's behavior was absolutely, utterly completely despicable. And let's not forget, he builds a career off of this. He went from the BBC to ABC's nightline to MSNBC. And remember, he was fired from MSNBC for equally despicable comments he made regarding Sarah Palin. He's just a terrible human.

KURTZ: OK, I'm glad you're not -- I'm glad you are telling us what you really think. Now this has sparked all kinds of global reaction including from Prince William and Prince Harry. Prince William is on video reacting this way.


PRINCE WILLIAM, DUKE OF CAMBRIDGE: It brings indescribable sadness that the BBC's failure contributed significantly to her fear, paranoia and isolation that I remember from these final years with her.


KURTZ (on camera): Talking about his mother's death in that paparazzi chase, you know, of course two years later. William also said this was not just a rogue reporter but it was the leaders to have BBC.

HUNT: Right.

KURTZ: But Martin Bashir just told the Sunday Times as you may know, he was wrong to forge the bank statements, but he's deeply sorry to the sons but he loved Princess Diana and he actually defended the interview.

HUNT: Sure. And Martin Bashir would say that, wouldn't he? I mean, it was a terrible behavior on this part. On the other hand, having hold Martin Bashir across the calls as I just did, I would say perhaps it's a little bit of a stretch as some people have done to blame Martin Bashir for bringing about the events that led to Diana's tragic death.

Yes, that interview may have made her relationship with her husband Prince Charles even more difficult but was Martin Bashir responsible for what happened in 1997 in Paris, no, of course, he wasn't. But he's certainly never getting anywhere near the royal family again. And it is right that he has resigned. It's extensively for health reasons but he obviously, he had no future with the BBC. And the BBC knew this a long time ago, Howie. They should have acted a heck of a lot sooner than they did.

KURTZ: Yes. Why wait for that independent investigation?

HUNT: Right.

KURTZ: A related question for our program is this, why is there so much media fascination here in the states and of course in the U.K. about interview that took place so long ago with the beloved princess who has not been with us for all those decades?

HUNT: Well, she was and always will be an icon for the British people and I think for everybody around the world. She was somebody who truly came in and shook up the change forever the royal family which let's face it, is the most famous, most influential royal family in the world. So, I think everybody will always be fascinated. She was a fascinating character. She did wonderful charity work. She was obviously a beautiful woman. All of those things --


HUNT: -- led into the world's fascination with her. I don't think that will ever change, Howie.

KURTZ: And the media's fascination as well. Jonathan Hunt for us today from L.A., thanks so much.

HUNT: Pleasure.

KURTZ: One other note. The Trump Justice Department secretly obtained phone and e-mail records from CNN's Barbara Starr in a leaked investigation involving Russia back in 2017, the same time that DOJ obtained such records from three Washington Post reporters.

Now the Obama DOJ used similar tactics, I've criticized both but President Biden said Friday such actions are simply wrong and he's changing the policy about getting such confidential records from journalists without them even knowing it.

By the way, Fox's Peter Doocy actually got a question into Biden at a Friday presser. He asked him about UFO's. The president deflected this. What could he be hiding?

That's it for this edition of MEDIA BUZZ. I'm Howard Kurtz. I hope you like our Facebook page and our Twitter account or check those out. As well, check out my podcast called Media Buzz Meter. We look at the top five buzzy stories every day. You can subscribe at Apple iTunes, Google podcast or on your Amazon device. Packed a lot in today, we're back here next Sunday. We'll see you then with the latest buzz.

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