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CNN RELIABLE SOURCES
Are Journalists Denigrating Bonds' Achievement?; Celebrity Addiction
Aired July 29, 2007 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
HOWARD KURTZ, HOST (voice over): Champ or chump? With Barry Bonds on the verge of breaking baseball's all-time home run record, are journalists denigrating his achievement because he's hostile or an accused steroid user? Is race a factor?
And a basketball referee fired for gambling and a football star charged with dog fighting. What's happened to the sports pages?
Celebrity addiction. Lindsay Lohan busted again, and the media can't get enough.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's up?
KURTZ: Power shift. Ordinary people and some not so ordinary ask candidates the questions in the first YouTube debate. Will TV moderators soon be out of a job?
Sam Donaldson joins our discussion.
Plus, plunging necklines and gay sweaters. Can campaign coverage sink any lower?
KURTZ: It's a constitutional crisis, a legal showdown, a battle royale, at least according to the press. The Democrats issuing subpoenas for Karl Rove, Josh Bolten, Harriet Miers. The Bush White House refusing on grounds of executive privilege. A House committee proving contempt of Congress charges. The administration vowing that Alberto Gonzales's Justice Department will block enforcement of these subpoenas.
And to top it off, FBI chief Robert Mueller contradicting the attorney general's testimony. Despite Gonzales's denials, Mueller says there was a hospital room confrontation three years ago in which Gonzales tried to pressure then attorney general John Ashcroft into approving the president's secret domestic surveillance program.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: Democrats in Congress today ratcheted up their showdown with the Bush administration on two major fronts. KATIE COURIC, CBS NEWS: Troubles are mounting for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. FBI Director Robert Mueller is now contradicting Gonzales's testimony.
CHARLES GIBSON, ABC NEWS: Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is facing accusations he lied to Congress under oath.
DAVID GREGORY, NBC NEWS: Why does the president believe that the attorney general does not reflect badly on the Justice Department and on this White House with the way he's handled questions related to this and other matters?
The president believes that Alberto Gonzales' credibility is intact?
TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Yes.
KURTZ: So, does this beltway drama deserve the big headlines, or is it just routine political sniping that goes on in every administration?
Joining us now here in Washington, Sam Donaldson, ABC News correspondent and anchor of "Politics Now" on the ABC News Digital Network. In New York, veteran journalist Jeff Jarvis, founder of buzzmachine.com, who also blogs at presvid.com. And in San Antonio, Blanquita Cullum, radio talk show host and chairwoman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors Talk Radio First Amendment Committee.
Sam Donaldson, you've shouted at a lot of White House press secretaries.
SAM DONALDSON, "POLITICS NOW": You bet.
KURTZ: Are we seeing genuine frustration among reporters about the way the administration defends Gonzales's shaky testimony? Or is a lot of this just theater for the cameras?
DONALDSON: I don't think it's just theater. No. I mean, if you watched the attorney general, as I have, before the committees of Congress and at his press conference last March 12th, he's done it to himself.
He can't remember. I mean, it's gotten to the point where I think if you say, "Is your name Alberto Gonzales?" he would say, "I'm not certain." And that breeds all of the suspicion.
KURTZ: So this is a big story?
DONALDSON: It's a big story, at least from the standpoint of this government. Now, if people out in the country are frying their own fish, doing their own work, more power to them. But for us it's a big story.
KURTZ: Blanquita Cullum, you might say it's a media-driven story. This all began with the firing of the eight U.S. attorneys and so forth. But even Republicans like Arlen Specter are saying that Gonzales has lost his credibility.
BLANQUITA CULLUM, BROADCASTING BOARD OF GOVERNORS: Well, Gonzales hasn't lost his credibility. I mean, I think that Washington suffers from short-term memory syndrome.
They forget about what happened with Janet Reno. They forget about the firing of the 93 attorneys. And they also forget that when the firing of the 93 attorneys happened, it was a political motivation. If you remember what was going on with Dan Rostenkowski, if you remember what was going on with the Congress...
KURTZ: But wait. The fact that there have been scandals in the past and under the Clinton administration doesn't mean this isn't a legitimate and important story.
CULLUM: No, but you have to have -- no. Listen -- but the problem is you have to make this point. And that is that the press didn't cover it the same way.
And you have to remember that, for example, right now when you talk about Mueller and you talked about Alberto Gonzales, Mueller actually said it was his understanding. He was not in the hospital room with Ashcroft and with Gonzales.
KURTZ: All right. Let me get...
CULLUM: So, you know, you've got to make sure that you get all these things right as well.
KURTZ: Let me get Jeff Jarvis in here, because other officials, including the former deputy attorney general, have also contradicted Gonzales on this.
Maybe the story isn't get enough play. Maybe you have the FBI director and the attorney general contradicting each other, and the undercurrent of the press is kind of like, another Bush administration scandal.
JEFF JARVIS, BUZZMACHINE.COM: I think you're right. I think it's turning into a shaggy dog story. We don't know where it's ever going to end or whether it's going to end before the administration does.
I went online this morning to see what was going on, and mostly what I saw -- not most of it -- a lot of what I saw was parody. Gonzales undergoing memory tests at M.I.T. and the idea of having YouTube viewers now quizzing Gonzales so he'll tell the truth to us, not to Congress.
I think we just don't know where the story is going to end. And in a sense, you're right. It's too little and too much.
CULLUM: Well, and also, don't you remember when we were going through this with the Clinton administration, it got to be a joke when nobody could remember what they had done, whether it was Whitewater, you know, the Rose Law firm, the zillions of different scandals that were going on from the -- you know, from Travelgate and so forth. The typical line was, "I don't remember."
KURTZ: All right.
San Donaldson, you...
DONALDSON: But you know, that's a good point.
KURTZ: Go ahead.
DONALDSON: I think that's a good point. That's right, the Clinton people did the same thing. But that's what Alberto Gonzales is doing. And if you don't like what the Clinton people did, how can you like what Alberto Gonzales is doing?
KURTZ: But what about -- what about Blanquita's point that the Clinton administration scandals were not covered with the same intensity as the Bush administration?
DONALDSON: Oh, Howard, it goes way back. People still think that somehow we were bad on Nixon but we weren't bad on somebody else.
If you look at all of the coverage, if you put all of the video tapes together, if you put "The Washington Post," "New York Times" and "Washington Times" all together, every time something like this comes along, it gets great extensive coverage. But the people on the other side say it's unfair.
CULLUM: Well, not completely. I mean, let's look at the incredible coverage that it got back with the Clinton administration.
KURTZ: Blanquita, I'm going to get you off the Clinton administration, because I want to talk about the Bush administration. Let me toss you this question, which I think you'll like.
Is the press being hard enough on the Democrats, who are showering subpoenas on the Bush administration? For example, the congressional subpoena of Karl Rove. They know Karl Rove is not going to testify. But it produces some headlines.
CULLUM: Well, you know what I think about that really? I think right now -- have you ever had a bad waiter at a restaurant? Have you ever had a bad waiter at a restaurant that gets nice to you right before you're going to pay the tip? This is what's happening right now with the Congress before the vote.
They're coming around and they're trying to make a lot of waves so that people will actually think that they've done something. And I'm not like really impressed.
I think that you are right. They're going after Rove. It's not going to happen. But they're like the waiter that wants the tip at the end of the meal.
KURTZ: All right.
Let me shift gears here and talk about CNN's YouTube debate this week. This has drawn both praise and criticism. But there's no doubt that many of the questions were different from what journalists would ask, or even think of asking.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you were elected president of the United States, you would allow us to be married? To each other?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is my baby. Purchased under the 1994 gun ban. Please tell me your views.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's been growing concern that global warming, the single-most important issue to the snowmen of this country, is being neglected.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Also, I got a parking ticket last week. Could one of you all pardon me?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Jeff Jarvis, you gave this CNN/YouTube debate kind of a thumbs down review. You said that CNN selected too many obvious, dutiful, silly questions.
JARVIS: I think it was a very important moment. Maybe my hopes were too high, Howard.
I think this is a chance where the voters can talk directly to the candidates and vice versa, where we can get around the spin of campaigns and media just a little bit and see that democracy is in good hands, that we care. My complaint with CNN was that they gave us no voice at all in the selection of the clips. It was unilateral.
That put heavy responsibility on CNN. And I think in some measure they made us look like a bunch of dorks.
There were very clear, wonderful moments. The question from Maryann Gender (ph), who, by the way, are friends of mine, was a moment of great clarity. But the sock puppet was too much.
And I think that the problem is that the two media clashed here. YouTube is a small media. You click on somebody's nose and they talk you to. One on one.
Candidates and TV anchors are used to talking to the whole world at once like this. And it's very, very different. And I think that YouTube is more about a conversation, more about individuals, and TV is more about masses. And they didn't quite work together.
KURTZ: Blanquita Cullum, let's pick up Jeff Jarvis' point about whether the most popular videos should have been the ones selected, as opposed to CNN making an editorial decision. The problem with that is, that the number one most popular, most viewed video of all the more than 2,000 submitted was a question about Arnold Schwarzenegger being a cyborg.
KURTZ: But Howie, let me hold you off there. I didn't say it was popular. I said we need a voice in selection. That doesn't mean...
KURTZ: How would that work?
CULLUM: Well, listen...
JARVIS: Because we could comment on them, we could rate them, we could give some input. That's all.
CULLUM: Well, I've just got to tell you, though, thought it was brilliant of CNN to do it. And I'll tell you why I think it was brilliant of CNN to do it.
I think that first of all, you are going to have to figure out how to work all these things together. And this was at a time where we had so many debates at such an early point in the game that this was OK to try to kind of experiment.
I mean, I agree. I think people said this was almost like a tryout for "American Idol". You try to figure out whether you're watching entertainment, infotainment, or real serious questioning. And you have so many people on there.
And Anderson Cooper, I've got to tell you, did a really great job trying to juggle the ball there. But I think it was a good first attempt.
I think now you know it works, you know what doesn't work. You know where you're going to get criticized. You want to try to get some more credibility on the people who are submitting this.
But YouTube is pretty important. It gets a lot of hits. And I think CNN did well to try it.
KURTZ: OK. Let's get Sam in here.
DONALDSON: Let me tell you something. I was with Jeff up to the point where he said CNN should let us decide who to help participate.
No. Your news organization did the right thing. You make the decision.
I think some of the people you had on, the snowman, important subject. But asked in a trivial way.
You put someone on who said, will you work for the minimum wage if you were president? Or words to that effect.
Well, boy, I hope not. I hope that the next president whether he or she is there is worth every penny of what we pay them. If they want to give it to charity, fine.
KURTZ: Well, let me make it personal. Guys like you have always been picked in the past to moderate TV debates.
DONALDSON: They never picked me and perhaps wisely so.
CULLUM: But Sam...
KURTZ: Hold on. Let me just finish with Sam.
If people can ask equally good or better questions through YouTube, then people like you are obsolete.
DONALDSON: No. I was talking about two or three questions I didn't like.
I think on balance, having real people as it is put out there emotionally ask questions -- two out of the three questions you just showed I thought were terrific. The problem is -- and it's not Anderson Cooper's fault -- you have to follow up. If you have a premise...
KURTZ: Well, hid he follow up a lot of the times.
DONALDSON: Well, from time to time. But with all those people there, if you say health care is important or gun control, and someone gives a little speech, someone needs to say, well, how much will this cost and where are you going to get the money and then pin them down. And we didn't have time to do that.
KURTZ: Blanquita, you wanted to jump in?
CULLUM: Well, yes. I was going to say, the fun thing was that in some of those kind of obviously strange videos, you got to see a reaction from the candidates, where they were so ready to pander to this audience because it was like a town hall. They were ready to say, well, yes, I won't work for minimum wage and -- or I will work for minimum wage because...
DONALDSON: But that's the point, Blanquita. I mean...
CULLUM: I agree with you, Sam. I mean, what does it show you?
KURTZ: All right.
CULLUM: It basically showed you kind of that they were phonies. That they were ready to say anything to pander to the audience.
JARVIS: That's news for politicians? Of course they were.
KURTZ: Jeff Jarvis, there was supposed, or at least was tentatively scheduled, a Republican presidential debate with the CNN/YouTube format for September. Now, a lot of the Republicans are expressing reservations. They have scheduling problems.
Do you think that the Republicans are wary of being questioned by the people who submit their queries through YouTube?
JARVIS: I think they're revealing themselves to be a bunch of fraidy cats, I think, is the official title.
You have Giuliani who is complaining about schedule results. Well, how many fried chicken dinners can he go to? And by the way, his -- Giuliani is scared of the Internet. His MySpace page is still private.
The Republicans for some reason have not done as much on the Internet and with YouTube as the Democrats have. Though, in Europe, it's the conservatives who are ahead on YouTube. So it's not a bias thing, as Rush Limbaugh tried to insist this week.
I think the Republicans were trying to find some way to weasel out of this. And they used scheduling excuses, bias excuses, dignity excuses, but I think it's going to come around. I'm going to bet it's going to happen. And -- because they can't avoid talking to us.
ABC News is now going to have questions in their debates from the people. In this case, though, ABC is having us come in and help them decide which ones they should use.
So you can't avoid the people anymore, candidates. We're here.
CULLUM: Well, yes. But come on. It's not that.
I mean, they don't want to be questioned by snow cones. I mean, they want to have a real debate. They're not fraidy cats. And Giuliani...
JARVIS: You just said it was a real debate and a good debate. You just said it was a real debate and a good debate. And now you're trying to give the Republicans excuses.
CULLUM: No. No. No. No. No.
No. No. No. No. No.
JARVIS: It doesn't wash.
CULLUM: That's not right, Jeff. What I said...
JARVIS: They're fraidy cats.
CULLUM: No, they're not fraidy cats.
JARVIS: Yes, they are.
CULLUM: The funny thing is, I actually have to say that I've been out here in San Antonio talking to a lot of people, and talking to a lot of people from the right and left. And frankly, it's not fraidy cats. Who are the really good candidates?
The bottom line is people are kind sick of the right and they're kind of sick of the left. And when you talk about the real debate, people want to see some meat here.
KURTZ: All right.
CULLUM: Now, what I said about this thing...
KURTZ: Let me jump in. Let me jump in. We're running out of time.
I want to put up -- Risa (ph), put up the picture of the snowman from the debate.
Mitt Romney said that in expressing his reservations about joining the next YouTube debate, "I don't think candidates should have to answer questions from a snowman."
Let me just say this. Let me say this to the former governor.
How are you going to deal with Osama bin Laden if you're afraid of that snowman?
DONALDSON: He wasn't afraid of the snowman, I don't think.
CULLUM: He'll melt the opposition.
DONALDSON: I mean, couldn't you come up with somebody who -- you had 3,000 people e-mail in their videos who said, look, global warming is very important. And I think this -- you tell me what you're going to do and be specific.
Why couldn't we ask the question that way rather than trivialize it and have...
KURTZ: It's television. A little entertainment.
JARVIS: Right, Sam. And that's why we should have had a voice to select it. We would have done a better job than one single editor choosing that question.
DONALDSON: It's television, Howie. But as you know, we are accused constantly of just doing entertainment. And I don't think it's true.
CULLUM: Well, but the thing that is -- I will go back to the idea that they've got to learn how to use this format.
KURTZ: All right.
CULLUM: I think the format will eventually work.
KURTZ: The format here requires us to go to a commercial break. By the way, CNN did not have one editor pick it, it was a whole committee of people, including Anderson Cooper. When we come back, the politics of cleavage. Hillary Clinton's campaign rips the press for poking its nose into a personal area.
KURTZ: Nine days ago, "Washington Post" fashion columnist Robin Givhan was so struck by a somewhat low-cut blouse that Hillary Clinton wore on the Senate floor that she wrote a piece about the candidate's cleavage, calling it a "small acknowledgement of sexuality and femininity."
This became a swelling controversy, and on Friday Clinton adviser Ann Lewis put out a fund-raising letter on this vital national issue which said, "Can you believe that 'The Washington Post' wrote a 746- word article on Hillary's cleavage? I've seen some off-topic press coverage, but talking about body parts? That is grossly inappropriate. Frankly, focusing on women's bodies instead of their ideas is insulting."
Sam Donaldson, the reaction to that piece has started to die down. Now with this outrage fund-raising letter, it made it into "The New York Times," which had been a cleavage-free zone. So didn't Hillary's camp now spend -- guarantee that we'll spend the next few days talking about her cleavage?
DONALDSON: And they want it that way. I mean, Robin's piece was fine. You can talk about anything -- hair, it doesn't matter. But what I think Robin did for Senator Clinton was what Ann Coulter did for Senator Edwards.
A big fund-raising campaign because of Coulter's slam at Edwards. Big fund-raising. Women like Hillary Clinton, according to the polls. More women now may like her because she's been attacked for something that women think is not something she should be attacked for.
KURTZ: Right. Although I would argue it's not an attack.
But Blanquita Cullum, let me read you some comments from Robin Givhan in an interview with me.
She said that "I disagree that there was anything in the column that was course, insulting or belittling. It was a piece about a public person's appearance on the Senate floor that was surprising because of the location and because of the person. It's disingenuous to think that revealing cleavage, any amount of it, in that kind of situation is a non-issue."
CULLUM: Well, the only boobs you have to worry about are the people that write articles like that. I mean, I think we have got to accept the fact that Hillary Clinton is a very intelligent woman.
She is not my candidate. But she's a formidable candidate. And people are going to try to figure out a way to make her less than a brain, OK? And that's just going to backfire. I think that this is kind of insulting to all women. You don't have to be even a supporter of Hillary to say that this was insulting.
You know, she's up there, the first woman that's running for president. And they're going to try to talk about her cleavage. It's kind of a joke. But, you know, it's not her gender, it's her agenda.
KURTZ: Well, we take your comments seriously, because you're the only person of cleavage on this panel.
Jeff Jarvis, it seems to me that people online have a lot of fun with politics. And "The Washington Post" runs a style section piece by a fashion writer who specializes in this sort of thing about Hillary's neckline, and the reaction is, you could have used that space for more columns about her health care proposals.
Should we lighten up here?
JARVIS: It's one matter to have a light, funny moment. Let's remember that Bill Clinton was asked about boxers or briefs in the "Rock the Vote" MTV town hall some years ago. And we now know everything we want to know about the Clintons' underwear. Everything. So there's...
DONALDSON: Everything? Are you sure, Jeff?
JARVIS: I hope so.
It's OK to have light moments, yes. But I think that Givhan is disingenuous about her disingenuousness.
If you back out the double negative of what she said and say it's disingenuous to say that cleavage is a non-issue, she is saying that cleavage is an issue. That is just stupid. That's ridiculous.
It is insulting to Clinton and to the audience. And so I've got to agree here that it's one matter to note fashion and so on. But to make this more important than it really is, which is what she's doing, is the mistake.
DONALDSON: Jeff, I disagree. I disagree.
I mean, I don't think she was saying cleavage is an issue. She was having a light moment about something that she said normally isn't seen. And she thought it was a little too much.
You can disagree with that. And you've already heard what I said about it, it's OK. But she wasn't trying to say cleavage is an issue in this campaign.
JARVIS: I'm just going over the words that were in Howie's column. She said it is disingenuous to call cleavage a non-issue.
Reverse that double negative, Sam.
DONALDSON: All right. JARVIS: And she is saying that cleavage is important. It's not important.
DONALDSON: It's not important.
JARVIS: It's a small observation. That's fine. But I think the Clinton campaign is absolutely right.
DONALDSON: In this case it's not important.
CULLUM: Well, you know, why can't we look at this woman for her brain and for her politics?
You know, I don't like her politics. I don't care about her cleavage. And I think a lot of women are not going to be sitting there -- this is going to tick them off, because they're going to say what it is, it's...
KURTZ: Let me jump in here and put up a picture and I'll ask you a question on the other side.
KURTZ: Robin Givhan has also written about Dick Cheney's overcoat that he wore to an international conference. How ugly it was, frankly. She has written about Condoleezza Rice's boots, her thigh-high boots and whether they were sexy or not. So whether you think this is trivial or not, I mean, this is it what she does.
CULLUM: But it's still -- it's going to more a personal genitalia thing than it is to a fashion sense. And at that point I think it crosses the line.
And at some point here we have to say, look, women are in this game to play. They're in here to be equal when it comes to the arguments on politics. They can certainly take it when it comes to fashion. Women always get it and get it hard. But this is different.
DONALDSON: Condoleezza Rice was in "Vanity Fair" looking like the femme fatale. And I don't think anyone in their right mind would say, well, that detracts from her ability to be national security adviser.
KURTZ: Got to blow the whistle. Got to blow the whistle. We are out of time.
Boy, what a great discussion.
Blanquita Cullum, Jeff Jarvis, Sam Donaldson, thanks very much for joining us.
Coming up, "The New Republic's" mysterious Baghdad blogger. And "Redbook" magazine makes Faith Hill look impossibly good.
That is ahead in our "Media Minute".
KURTZ: Time now for the latest from the news business in our "Media Minute".
"The New Republic" called him the Baghdad (INAUDIBLE), saying only that he was an American soldier using the pen name Scott Thomas. He wrote about petty cruelties in Iraq, such as a soldier who used his Bradley fighting vehicle to run over stray dogs, and others who mocked a woman whose face had been disfigured by a bomb.
Conservative Web sites led by "The Weekly Standard" said these charges sounded fabricated. And the military launched an investigation.
Now the soldier has identified himself as Army Private Scott Thomas Beauchamp, who is married to a "New Republic" reporter. Beauchamp calls criticism of his writing "maddening," but the magazine is still trying to verify his allegations.
Oh, and the military is not too pleased. Beauchamp's laptop and cell phone have been confiscated.
Alison Stewart was filling in last week on MSNBC's "Countdown," which aired a segment on Senator David Vitter and the D.C. madam. The focus was on Vitter's wife Wendy, with the not-so-clever headline "Fashion Ho-Pas," as in hos. A guest from "Radar" magazine she Wendy Vitter was dressed a little bit like a prostitute and that this was a complete reversal of the laws of skankery.
Well, this week, regular "Countdown" host Keith Olbermann said he was sorry.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC: Not only was a series of unfortunate and inappropriate terms used, there was no justification for such a segment devoted to analysis of what a woman, a victim of her husband's inappropriate behavior, was wearing in public. The story should not have aired, it should not have been couched in the terms used, it should not have happened, and it won't happen again.
So, to Mrs. Vitter and to you, the viewer, I once again apologize.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Campbell Brown, the co-host of NBC's "Weekend Today," made it official this week she's leaving the network to start a nightly talk show at CNN.
Brown will take over the 8:00 p.m. time slot now occupied by Paula Zahn, who is leaving CNN after six years.
"Redbook" is a nice woman's magazine. And I confess as a non- woman to not scouring it for journalistic infractions. But the Web site Jezebel, after paying a $10,000 reward for evidence of digital chicanery, found the magazine altering a cover photo of Faith Hill. Check it out.
The country music star is made paler, her skin tighter, her arms smaller, and it's angle changed as in some kind of virtual surgery. "Redbook" says the retouching is in line with the industry standards.
Come on! In that case, there is something wrong with the standards.
The Jezebel gals ask, "Is it really necessary to shave 10 to 15 pounds off a woman and erase exactly what it is, the freckles, the moles, the laugh lines about her that makes her human and accessible and interesting in order to sell a bit of (blanking) soap?"
Ahead in the second half hour of RELIABLE SOURCES, Barry Bonds, Michael Vick, cheating in basketball, and bicycling, why the sports pages now resemble a crime blotter.
Plus, Lindsay Lohan's latest DUI. It is a car wreck for the media?
KURTZ: It is the most revered record in major league sports, held for decades by Babe Ruth, broken more than a quarter century ago by Hank Aaron. And on Friday night, Barry Bonds came within one swing of matching Aaron's mark of 755 career home runs.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Power hitter Barry Bonds is on the verge of making baseball history.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Barry Bonds is on the brink of baseball history.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One home run closer to making baseball history.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: But the publicity surrounding Bonds has been anything but positive. In the shadow of allegations that he boosted his power with illegal steroids, Bonds, never the friendliest guy toward reporters, has been treated almost like a pariah.
Joining us now to talk about this and some other sports controversies, Mike Wise, sports columnist for "The Washington Post". And in Boston, Jimmy Myers, sportscaster and radio talk show host at WTTK in Boston.
Mike Wise, is it or is it not a fact that most journalists believe that Barry Bonds doesn't deserve this record? MIKE WISE, "THE WASHINGTON POST": I think if he doesn't deserve this record, Howie, there should be an asterisk next to it. And clearly, the performance-enhancing drugs, the litany of allegations in the "Game of Shadows," and, you know, Hank Aaron's own resistance to even acknowledging this mark, has told a lot of us that there is something suspicious here.
KURTZ: Jimmy Myers, is there possibly a racial aspect to this? Would Mark McGwire, who hit 70 home runs in 1998, get the same treatment even though he has been convincingly accused of steroid use?
JIMMY MYERS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I could have very easily asked you, is there a racial climate in this country, or is there a racial part of your question as to why I'm asked that. But that's OK. I'll go with that.
OK, let's break down what Mr. Wise just said for a moment, my distinguished colleague there.
Let us try to look at history very briefly. I'll try to be as brief as possible.
During Henry Aaron's time, the drug of choice was amphetamines, to a degree. It speeds up your system. It's called speed.
Did Hank Aaron ever take a speed pill? I don't know. I wasn't there.
Barry Bonds was never convicted or never flunked a drug test. So, still, we find ourselves with the question of -- and I read "Shadows," so don't think I didn't -- we find the question of perception.
Bonds is not liked by a lot of people. He is considered arrogant. He is a black man who is considered arrogant, a dangerous combination in America, along with intelligence. And then you find yourself asking these questions about, did he boost himself with steroids and so forth?
We've had steroids since the 16 -- in the Olympics, and further back than that. Why are we jumping on this topic now?
No asterisk, please. If you don't want to give him the record, don't give it to him. Can Bonds even sit in the same sentence with a -- with an icon like Hank Aaron?
KURTZ: All right. Let me get Mike Wise back in.
MYERS: No. To a degree, it's...
WISE: Jimmy makes some great points. But here's the deal. And it is -- it's disturbing that in a poll, 55 percent of African- American people in this country want Barry Bonds to break the record. Thirty-four percent of white people don't. I find that bothersome. MYERS: OK.
WISE: But let's be clear about something. I don't care about how he treats the media, I don't care how he treats the white, black, Asian, Hispanic media. Barry Bonds' teammates don't like him.
Barry Bonds is a churlish man. He doesn't have the dignity or grace of a Hank Aaron. And that's a lot about -- and I respect Barry Bonds' intelligence.
KURTZ: OK. Let me bring in the press aspect, though, because just the other day you had HBO's Bob Costas saying on his program that he didn't believe that -- he questioned whether Bonds deserved this record. And Bonds had the following reaction.
He said , "I take great offense to those statements, especially coming from someone who is supposed to have journalistic integrity and not make blanket reckless accusations." He also called Bob Costas a little midget man.
Now, let's play a piece of tape from a couple years ago after Bonds had knee surgery and was out for a while. And here's what he said to the press.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARRY BONDS, SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS: They wanted me to jump off the bridge. I finally have jumped.
You wanted to bring me down. You finally brought me and my family down.
You've finally done it from everybody, all of you. You know? So now go pick a different person.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Jim Myers, there are athletes who court the press, or at least put up with the press. Bonds doesn't seem to be one of them.
MYERS: I've never had a problem with Barry. For the times that I've talked with him, he has always treated me well. But then again -- and believe me, it's not a black thing -- it's a respect thing. I respect Barry Bonds for what he has done and how he's gotten there.
As far as the poll of people are concerned, it shows you somewhat the racial divide in our country. Race and money are two of the key factors in our lives on a day-to-day basis. And it plays here as well.
Barry Bonds, Michael Vick and these people, they just happen to be the flavor of the moment. So let's get down and let's get real about this.
No, Barry Bonds is not liked by a lot of his teammates. Babe Ruth wasn't liked by a lot of his teammates. And the drug of his choice was alcohol.
KURTZ: That's a good point.
MYERS: So, basically, you want to take the 714 home runs away -- which a lot of people consider affirmative action, because there were no blacks in baseball at that time.
WISE: No, Jimmy, I'm with you on that. But I would say that alcohol would be a little more detrimental to putting one over the fence than helpful.
KURTZ: Michael Wise...
KURTZ: I want to move on. I'll let you...
MYERS: That's not a medically proven fact. If we medically prove that, then we'll go there. OK? Another topic, another time.
KURTZ: OK. You can talk about that off camera.
Michael Vick, banned from the Atlanta Falcons training camp, indicted for dog fighting. Is this getting a huge amount of press attention? Because dog fighting, I mean, it's pretty disgusting.
MYERS: Well, dog fighting has been with us since just about the beginning of time. Michael Vick did not invent dog fighting. That is not to excuse him from what has gone on.
He is responsible for what goes on around him. I believe to paraphrase Psalm 49:20, a man who has riches without understanding is like the beast that perished. Not saying -- not equating with a beast or anything, but if you look at young people today, and you -- particularly people like Michael Vick, lots of money, young black athletes, they -- they think that they have this sense of privilege.
Young white athletes do the same thing. Because let's take a look at another quarterback named Tom Brady, right up here. One of my favorite people who has impregnated a woman not married. And everybody is talking about Vick and so forth.
OK. We're not going to confuse the. But I'm talking about how the way the media handles both.
KURTZ: OK. Jimmy, I've got to jump in here.
MYERS: Go ahead.
WISE: I mean...
KURTZ: Is this a big story? The guy is under indictment.
WISE: I think when you look at what Tim Donaghy did, the NBA referee did, it's a small story. Tim Donaghy cheated the game. KURTZ: This is a guy who was fired for gambling from the National Basketball Association. There were questions about whether he might have used some calls to change the betting spread on games. That's a big story, too.
But you're saying -- are you making a distinction between that and the Vick case?
WISE: Well, the Vick case doesn't hurt the NFL. The Vick case hurts Michael Vick and the guy that is the face -- one of the faces of the NFL right now. And so this is more of a personal tragedy to me. If, in fact, he goes down, then it is -- then it is an NFL tragedy, so to speak.
KURTZ: Mike, let me ask you a broader question. In this morning's "Washington Post," there is a sports consultant named Allen Goldberg (ph) that is quoted as saying that one of the reasons with all of these sports scandals that all seem to be hitting right now, the media help create images of these players as god. They mythologize them, and so suddenly we learn that some of them are human, they do bad things, they have bad judgment.
Do you agree with that?
WISE: I'll buy that, that we build these guys up, put them on a pedestal, and we don't give -- I remember Allen Iverson, we Allen Iverson like dirt early in his career. And we didn't -- we didn't give him the handicap that we give young kids 21 and 22 to grow up.
If you or I, Howie, or Jimmy, for that matter, if they chronicled our lives at 19 and 20, we might not have the jobs we have today.
KURTZ: Jimmy Myers, you've got Michael Vick, you have the NBA referee who has been fired, you've got the Tour de France -- some people are calling it the "Tour de Fraud" because the leader was kicked out for drug use, last year's leader -- last year's winner banned for drug use.
All of this is ruining the reputation of sports, or are the media just simply making too much of it?
MYERS: Great question, Howard. The image was forced (ph).
Let's go backwards, OK?
Babe Ruth, and further back, further back, athletes have always felt a sense of privilege. They have always gotten away with things to a degree. And we have -- yes, we put them on this pedestal. Then we have to start chopping the pedestal down when they don't meet up to what we want.
Michael Vick's situation, look at this. The people from PETA -- and believe me, I love pets, but at the same time, some of the same people who are criticizing Michael Vick -- and he may not even be guilty. Let's keep that in mind. Indicted does not mean convicted.
KURTZ: OK. He's now been charged.
MYERS: OK. But hear this...
KURTZ: We've got to wrap it up. We've got to wrap it up.
MYERS: ... those are the same people -- those are the same people who love their pets more and would pass a homeless person on the street and wouldn't even give them a dime. And spend $5...
KURTZ: Brief comment, Mike Wise.
WISE: Great point. There are people in this country that like their dogs more than they like black people, and that's sad. But it doesn't change the fact that these are some pretty heinous and sad allegations.
KURTZ: All right.
MYERS: No question.
KURTZ: Mike Wise, Jimmy Myers, thanks for batting it around this morning.
After the break, the breathless coverage of Lindsay Lohan's latest alcohol and cocaine problem. Should the media go into rehab?
KURTZ: Has there ever been a sadder celebrity trio than Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton and Britney Spears? A few weeks after the frenzy over Hilton going to jail for a suspended driver's license, Lohan checked into rehab, checked out of rehab, and was arrested on charges of driving under the influence and cocaine possession. That started the usual media hyperventilating, with the guests including Lindsay's estranged father.
LISA BLOOM, COURT TV: Do you hold yourself at all responsible for what Lindsay is going through?
MICHAEL LOHAN, FATHER OF LINDSAY LOHAN: Of course I do. If I -- if I didn't, I'd be a liar.
KIMBERLY GUILFOYLE, FOX NEWS: Read my lips. Lindsay Lohan has hit rock bottom.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, maybe not.
WILLIE GEIST, MSNBC: I can't believe she is 21 years old. She lived the life of a 50-year-old. I don't think she's going to be around that much longer.
TUCKER CARLSON, MSNBC: Yes. SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: Where is the parenting?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right. Yes.
HANNITY: It seems like her mother wants to be in more magazines than she does.
KURTZ: Joining us now to examine the media's addiction to Lohan and company, in San Francisco, Julia Allison, editor-at-large for "Star" magazine. And in Los Angeles, Jeanne Wolf, West Coast contributing editor for "Parade" magazine.
Julia Allison, Lindsay is in and out of rehab, keeps getting arrested. What explains the hyperventilating by the media over this troubled young woman?
JULIA ALLISON, "STAR": Are you kidding? It's obviously the sexy B-roll. I mean, come on.
We have had Paris Hilton. We've had Nicole Richie. This is literally the fifth DUI of a young starlet.
And the reason that we continue to be obsessed with it is because we've glamorized the entire experience. We've made it into a fashion segment. What are they wearing to the court date? How is she wearing her ankle bracelet?
I mean, it's really irresponsible on the media's behalf.
KURTZ: All right. We just put up some of the sexy B-roll, which, of course, is video pictures that television programs use when people are talking.
Jeanne Wolf, Harvey Levin and TMZ.com get every scrap of information, every picture about this. It broke several parts of the story.
How is it that all the big media guys keep chasing this little gossip site?
JEANNE WOLF, "PARADE": Well, they have to chase the gossip sites, because it removes them. You know, one degree of separation.
They can't chase the story in quite the same way, even though they know their viewers have always been attracted to beautiful young women and dramatic stories. And these girls keep adding to the chapters.
TMZ is fascinating. But I don't know about you. When I watched those three guys that were -- two of them were supposedly in the car with Lindsay Lohan. One of them supposedly got his foot run over. I was not only fascinated by the so-called facts, I was fascinated by how trained they seemed to be, how careful they seemed to be in their conversation. And then afterwards, of course, we now find that they've hired lawyers and that they're planning not to sue Lindsay Lohan, but, you know, to get some fair and equal treatment, which means to get some big bucks from Lindsay Lohan.
ALLISON: So write a book about it, maybe.
WOLF: They're all exploiting each other.
WOLF: It's L.A. Everybody wants to be a star. But on the other hand, TMZ did actual reporting. This wasn't just gossip.
They interviewed these three young men whose car was commandeered by Lindsay Lohan.
KURTZ: It was really quite amazing.
But Julia Allison, beneath all of this predictable celebrity and trouble stuff -- and you made the point about the pictures -- is there an important angle here in this story the media are missing?
ALLISON: Well, absolutely. I mean, the angle is that we have drunk drivers all over the roads in Los Angeles. Of course, also around the country. And we're ignoring that.
Barbara Walters said on "The View" this week that, oh, of course Lindsay Lohan is a nice girl and a good actress. Are we missing the big story here?
The big story is that she almost killed someone. And I watched those TMZ videos. I've seen -- I've seen the footage of the young men who were in the car with her. They were scared for their lives.
And we are ignoring that and talking about, you know, oh, is she OK? How is her career? Her career? Completely irrelevant.
KURTZ: Completely irrelevant, Jeanne Wolf?
WOLF: No, her career isn't irrelevant because she stands as a role model.
The real big story here is that all over the country and all over the world there are people with substance abuse problems. And sometimes some glamorous young women can highlight those problems and can remind us that in families all over the world there are people -- there are young women, young men out of control. And that those families can't -- the solution isn't always easy.
We have all these words now where we understand the language of drug addiction and we understand the language of substance abuse, but truly it's an enigma how to help people.
KURTZ: But hold on. Hold on. So you're suggesting...
WOLF: And by reinforcing their behavior isn't a good way to help.
KURTZ: You're suggesting that the media are or should turn this into some kind of morality play because Lindsay Lohan is such a big star for whatever reason. And her...
WOLF: Oh, the media has already turned night a morality play. Everybody talking about this acts like they're either her drug counselor or their parent or their aunt. They know -- they know how to make this right.
And, you know, Howard, it's understandable, because the general news, can we solve the issues of the war, can we solve the issues in the Middle East? Probably not. But we all feel comfortable commenting on parenting, commenting on family situations. And commenting on the terrible waste of someone with talent and the terrible dangers of drunk driving.
ALLISON: But you're missing a very important point here. This is not about Lindsay being an alcoholic or a drug addict. This is about her driving drunk.
And I think that the media has a responsibility to focus on that point. And that point alone.
We look at, you know, Michael Lohan getting up there talking on television about what he should have done as a parent. It's honestly -- it's really not relevant whether her career is in jeopardy. Why should we care about that?
KURTZ: OK. Let me jump in here.
ALLISON: What we should care about is the drunk driving.
KURTZ: Julia Allison, let me -- you made the point about the pictures. Let's put up pictures I've seen 417 times this week -- Lindsay Lohan in a bathing suit -- have we got that -- and wearing that ankle bracelet that is supposed to detect alcohol, and apparently didn't do a good job of it.
So is it these pictures that makes television just, you know, salivate and jump all over this?
ALLISON: Yes. Oh, absolutely.
Actually, I got a press release that was talking about the outfit that Nicole Richie wore to her court date. That's not what we should be talking about.
KURTZ: All right.
Jeanne Wolf, let's talk about Britney Spears, who had this photo shoot with "OK!" magazine that apparently went totally out of control. Can you briefly tell us what happened?
WOLF: Well, from what "OK!" is saying, Britney Spears had agreed for a feed to do a photo spread with "OK!" magazine. And "OK!" magazine has been pretty up front about the fact that they pay celebrities.
But what they pay celebrities to do is to do -- is because they do nice stories. Britney Spears, according to them, had some chicken for lunch, wiped her hands on a designer dress, went several times visiting the bathroom, didn't even shut the door. And the allegations there are some suspicion of substance abuse.
KURTZ: And then stormed out.
WOLF: ... on a dress.
Look, the main thing is that there is also a mixture here. "OK!" magazine pays stars, and stars feel comfortable taking the money because they're doing nice stories.
KURTZ: All right. Well, you know what? You know what?
WOLF: "OK!" is now in America, and they realize scandal sells.
KURTZ: They didn't get their money's worth.
Julian Allison, Jeanne Wolf, thanks for joining us.
Still to come, the latest twist in presidential campaign coverage, the press as fashion police.
KURTZ: The press loves to scrutinize everything, I mean everything, about presidential candidates. And Hillary Clinton has been poked, probed and psychoanalyzed more than anyone, from her policies, to her personality, to her marriage. But now the media's gaze has reached new territory.
KURTZ (voice over): We are, yes, debating Hillary's cleavage. The merest flash of it on C-SPAN2 prompted a mound of analysis from "Washington Post" fashion writer Robin Givhan, who said the senator had abandoned her "desexualized pants suits," and now "... there was the sense you were catching a surreptitious glimpse at something private." The former first lady must be "utterly at ease in her skin, coolly confident about her appearance, unflinching about her sense of style."
But Givhan's sense of style has come under attack, with "Boston Globe" columnist Ellen Goodman saying she has made a media mountain out of a half-inch valley. A Clinton fund-raising letter attacked the column as "grossly inappropriate" and "insulting to women." Givhan says it was about a candidate's public appearance and not offensive at all.
"The New York Times" still sees Hillary Clinton as wearing androgynous beige pant suits beloved of policy wonks. The Times also critiques the men -- Barack Obama with his jackets nonchalantly slung over his shoulder, short sleeves in the heartland, neatly tailored suits that somehow don't sacrifice authority.
John Edwards on the cover of "Men's Vogue," "looking model handsome and yet sufficient populist." But John McCain is derided for wearing a so-called "gay sweater," a V-neck worn over a T-shirt.
KURTZ: Now, you're probably thinking, why are we in the media wasting our time on such sartorial nonsense? Maybe because we care so much about how we look, so we assume politicians must have the same obsession.
And look, we're trying to protect you, the voters, from electing a president who might embarrass the country by committing a fashion faux pas.
But enough about them. How do I look?
Well, that's it for this edition of RELIABLE SOURCES.
I'm Howard Kurtz.
Join us again next Sunday morning, 10:00 a.m. Eastern, for another critical look at the media.
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