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CNN RELIABLE SOURCES
Hillary Bows Out of Presidential Race; 'Vanity Fair' Provokes Bill Clinton's Anger
Aired June 8, 2008 - 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): Chased from the race. Hillary Clinton finally bows out after days of media cat calls. But is the press feeding its fixation with endless chatter about whether she wants the VP slot?
Anti-climax. Barack Obama wins the nomination, but after months of pundit predictions, it feels like old news.
Another eruption. Vanity Fair suggests Bill Clinton may be fooling around again, and he denounces writer Todd Purdum as slimy and sleazy. Was the article unfair, and why is Clinton so angry at the press?
Plus, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt have their twins, at least according to Entertainment Tonight. How did a major television show get such an earth-shattering event so wrong?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: Today, I am standing with Senator Obama to say, yes, we can!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: It was, we heard again and again, history in the making, but it was a bit of history the media have predicted again and again. So when the day of Barack Obama's win finally arrived, it seemed almost predictable. In fact, some journalists couldn't wait even a few more hours to make it official. Here is what happened Tuesday morning and the rapid-fire response from Terry McAuliffe, Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman, just moments later.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HEIDI COLLINS, CNN: According to the Associated Press, Clinton campaign officials say that Hillary Clinton will acknowledge tonight that Senator Barack Obama has the delegates needed for the party's nomination.
TERRY MCAULIFFE, CLINTON CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: They are 100 percent reported incorrectly. I can unequivocally say as chairman of this campaign that until someone is nominated (ph), this nomination fight continues on.
(END VIDEO CLIP) KURTZ: And when superdelegates finally put Obama over the top, the pundits almost had to remind us that no matter how many times they had said it was inevitable, something unprecedented had just happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MORT KONDRACKE, FOX NEWS: Here we have, we're going to have the first African-American nominee of a major party in history. That's a milestone that needs to be observed and observed again.
EUGENE ROBINSON, WASHINGTON POST: Within my memory, I remember a time when I was growing up in South Carolina where people whose skin looked like mine and Barack Obama's were just trying to be able to vote, to vote for anything, much less vote for president.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: And now to become the first African-American to win the nomination, you have to say whatever else happens from here on out, he has changed the course of American history.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: But much of the chatter centered on Hillary after she delivered a nonconcession speech in which she refused to admit the obvious, she lost.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Without the deranged narcissism of the Clintons, I don't understand why this isn't...
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What are you really saying?
TOOBIN: What does that mean, it's her night? He just won.
TUCKER CARLSON, MSNBC: How unbelievably ungracious is it for her to -- a woman that made $100 million in the last 10 years with her husband, to try to raise money on the night that she lost.
FRED BARNES, FOX NEWS: It was a "take that, Barack Obama" speech.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Clinton bowed out, belatedly in the media's view, and enthusiastically endorsed Obama in a speech yesterday.
Joining us now to talk about the campaign coverage in New York, Byron Pitts, national correspondent for CBS News. Here in Washington, Gloria Borger, CNN's senior political analyst. And Jake Tapper, ABC's senior political correspondent.
Byron Pitts, let me play a very brief piece of tape of you covering Obama's victory the day after it happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BYRON PITTS, CBS NEWS: Whether Obama wins or loses in November, one of America's oldest and ugliest color lines has been broken, and there is a new bridge for a new generation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Now, you obviously are paid to be an objective journalist, but some part of you must be excited that Barack Obama won this nomination.
PITTS: Certainly. I mean, as an African-American man, this is significant. I mean, look, for my entire life I've been able to, as a man, dream of doing great things. But a dream I could never have was being president of the United States.
Now, for instance, my sons, my nephew, they can have that dream. And I think those kinds of images are important.
For instance, one reason why I'm a journalist today was because I saw Ed Bradley on television in the 1970s, and that told me that was possible. So I think -- I mean, look, the reality is it's still going to be hard for a black man to get a cab in New York. There is still going to be problems with race in this country. But having Barack Obama as the nominee is significant.
KURTZ: Even if you're not African-American, Jack Tapper, it's a very compelling story line, but maybe a seductive one as well.
JAKE TAPPER, ABC: It is. I think that you've seen actually a problem with McCain campaign's response to this. They haven't really known how to respond.
President Bush just said obviously he is supporting John McCain, but this is a good moment for America. John McCain asked about this by Ron Claiborne on ABC's "Good Morning America," and he wouldn't acknowledge the barrier that had been broken, and I think that is a tonal problem for McCain, just as the media is going to have to deal with the tonal problem we have in the exact opposite way, by making sure nobody gets too excited.
KURTZ: And that is the question, Gloria Borger, is there a danger for journalists of being swept away? I mean, this is a breakthrough in American history. But there also could be a painful downside, which is some people may not vote for a black candidate.
BORGER: Yes. And I think journalists have to be careful to cover both. You know, we are, believe it or not, human beings. Whether -- whether there were women who were thinking, gee, this would have been great if Hillary Clinton had been the nominee, African- Americans saying it would be great if Barack Obama were the nominee.
We're reporters. We're professionals. And we have to cover this as we cover all of our campaigns and point out the problems that each -- that each candidate has. And I think, you know, once they start getting into it, quite honestly, we live at the bottom of that food clan. So once they get into it, we'll be covering what they're saying about each other, and that's our way out of it.
KURTZ: And that applies you to as well, Byron Pitts? I mean, even though you talked about importance of role models both for journalists and maybe aspiring presidents, I'm sure if Barack Obama makes mistakes, which is likely, that you won't be hesitant about pointing them out?
PITTS: Oh, absolutely. I mean, CBS News signs my paycheck. I'm a journalist. I've been a journalist for 25 years. And I think, you know, as Gloria and Jake both said, I mean, we are professionals. Our job is to report the news, to seek the truth. And I think all journalists, black, white, male or female, those of us who take our jobs seriously, will go after Barack Obama, will go after John McCain, will make sure that they're credible and what they say in a speech is actually true. So I think that will apply in this race regardless of the race of the candidates.
KURTZ: Now, Senator Obama, right after wrapping up the nomination, did interviews with all the network anchors and with CNN. Let's take a look at some of -- what was perhaps the most asked question.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHARLES GIBSON, ABC: There has to be a yes or no on the issue of Hillary Clinton before you get to the others.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN: Is it the best way to win over her supporters, though? If you put her on the ticket?
KATIE COURIC, CBS: So in the spirit of Kennedy picking Johnson and Reagan choosing Bush, why not pick Senator Clinton? And please don't tell me it's premature to ask that question.
OBAMA: Well, it's not premature to ask. It's premature to answer.
COURIC: I mean, can you see working with her or does it just make you think, eh, no?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Jake, you tell me the media aren't rooting for Hillary to be on that ticket.
TAPPER: I don't think the media are rooting for her to be on the ticket. I think it's a tough question because it puts Obama in a very difficult position. Obviously, you want to give Senator Clinton her due and her almost 18 million supporters their due. But obviously there is no love lost. And it's a good, tough question. And perhaps Obama's real first presidential level decision, what do I do? And so, it's a good awkward moment to force him to be into. I don't think it's because we're rooting for it.
BORGER: Right. I don't think it's about rooting. I think it's about the story. The good story would be for us to cover, honestly, is if he put her on the ticket, right? Because then the Clintons would come back again.
KURTZ: But that's exactly my point. I mean, compare that to, let's say, Evan Bayh is the vice presidential pick.
BORGER: Right. We're not asking about Evan Bayh now, because really, that's not as interesting.
KURTZ: So you agree with me, we don't want Hillary, even though...
BORGER: It's not that we want her on the ticket. It's that we want to talk about whether she would be on the ticket.
TAPPER: Oh, so close to winning. If she picked up two more delegates in all the contests, she would have won pledged delegates, and probably would have ended up being the nominee. You have to give the woman her due. She almost won. You can't just -- I mean, that's the reason people are asking the question. Plus, the fact that Obama and Clinton don't particularly seem to care for each other.
KURTZ: Yes. Well, Byron Pitts, there has been a kind of a Hillary fixation in the media, I would say, for 15 years, going back to the days when she stood by her man during the Gennifer Flowers episode in the 1992 campaign and she said she didn't want to stay home and bake cookies. So it seems to me that she provides a lot of fodder for people in our business.
PITTS: Oh, absolutely. There is plenty to say about the Clintons. You go anywhere in the country and you talk to voters, they talk about the Clintons. I mean, the Republicans in many ways were looking forward to running against a Clinton. That would have gotten their basic excited.
So sure, I mean, the Clintons are a big story. I don't think that we in the media necessarily root for her to be the nominee. As Gloria said, we want to cover this story. We would like it to be as interesting as possible. And certainly if you have the Clintons involved, it's going to be spicy.
KURTZ: That was my point.
Now in retrospect, Jake, do you think the media kind of overreacted? I mean, we have to have something to talk about every day. We all know how it works. But overreacted to Hillary's nonconcession concession speech? I mean, what is the big, huge difference if she bows out three or four days later?
TAPPER: I don't think that the media overreacted to it. I mean, I think it was an opportunity for her to acknowledge the historic achievement that Barack Obama made. It was a lot more people were probably paying attention Tuesday night than they were Saturday afternoon. And I think -- you know, obviously it's a difficult moment for Hillary Clinton. But she's had more gracious moments than she had Tuesday night.
KURTZ: And Byron, some of the pundits who were kicking her around over her speech on Tuesday night, they've been for weeks and weeks have been kind of hectoring her about getting out of the race. It's been an interesting phenomenon to watch.
PITTS: Oh, I think so. I mean, look, in the reality of 24-hour news cycles, that's a lot of time to fill. And if you can kick Hillary Clinton around, I think that in the world of cable television, especially, why not do it?
I think the fact she wasn't gracious on Tuesday night was sort of symbolic of the kinds of things we heard from the Clinton campaign throughout this election when it got tough. I mean, this was the candidate who was ordained to win, to be the nominee a year ago. And then suddenly at the end, she was falling apart.
So I think the media was fair. I don't think we went over the top. I think it is sort of the notion that in the world of cable, you have got to fill that time. And why not fill it talking about Hillary Clinton? Because it was -- it was significant, I think, that night that she wasn't gracious, that she didn't acknowledge the history -- at the very least the history that Barack Obama had made.
BORGER: You know, I want to just -- Byron, it's not just that it was cable and we have a lot of time to fill, although that is true -- it's -- it's also that earlier in the day, I had spoken with a couple of her advisers who said to me, look, this is going to be a really gracious speech and you're going to actually think it's a concession speech. But it's not. Don't get it confused with a concession speech, whatever you do.
Now that wouldn't have confused any of us. So I think we were all kind of scratching our heads and wondering, what happened? And we still don't know the answer to that. We still don't know the answer.
PITTS: Oh, sure. And certainly, it wasn't boring television at all. I mean, people were captivated. Again, if you talk to -- you know, I talk to cab drivers, I talk to regular folk, and everyone is interested. Everyone was talking about it. And I think -- and a real service was providing in looking at what she did and what she didn't say.
TAPPER: There was a real internal, not just internal in the campaign but I think internal within Senator Clinton debate about what to do. And Terry McAuliffe went on TV I believe Tuesday morning, saying that if Barack Obama achieved the magic number, 2,118, she would call him the nominee and she would concede. He did. He achieved that and she did not.
KURTZ: And she had a history of coming out on primary nights and giving what sounded like victory speeches even when she lost.
But before we go to break, Gloria Borger, I mean, as Jake says, Hillary Clinton came very close to becoming the first woman nominee for president, maybe the first female president. Why did the press not treat that as groundbreaking in a way it treated Obama's candidacy as groundbreaking on the racial front? BORGER: Well, you know, it's interesting. I've given this a lot of thought, not only for Hillary Clinton but also for Barack Obama, because here is the first African-American, here she is the first woman, and neither of them ran an identity-based campaign. So we didn't cover it as an identity-based campaign.
Looking back on it, I would now argue -- and this is just brilliant hindsight -- is that if she focused more on the woman theme, as she did yesterday in getting out, and rallied those women, particularly those older white women around her earlier, she might have had a little bit more success.
KURTZ: Although, some esteemed commentators may have criticized her for that.
BORGER: Yes. Absolutely.
KURTZ: Let me go to break. When we come back (inaudible), now that the Barack-Hillary battle is finally over, will the media start scrutinizing John McCain more fully?
And remember when the pundits were absolutely, positively sure that Hillary was a lock? They probably wish this video had been dumped at the bottom of the ocean.
KURTZ: Barack Obama sat down with all the network anchors, as I mentioned, the day after wrapping up the nomination, but only Charlie Gibson's followed up the next day with another candidate running for president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIBSON: Did you feel at times in the past few months like the forgotten candidate?
MCCAIN: Occasionally. It was a little hard for us to break through with a message.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Byron Pitts, Newsweek has a Q&A with McCain in the coming issue, but by and large, last couple of months, the media have kind of given the Republican nominee a pass, have they not?
PITTS: He'll get his chance to break through now. I mean, the reality is it was a -- he wrapped up the Republican side a while ago. So the story was Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. And I think in many ways -- I mean, the McCain people I guess can complain about not being covered -- but I think in many ways, they benefited by it, because he had slipups along the way that didn't get the kind of scrutiny that Obama and Clinton got.
KURTZ: Sometimes being out of the limelight can help. What did you think, Jake Tapper, of all the chatter about McCain's speech Tuesday night, when he wanted to steal some TV time on the night of the final Democratic primaries, and all the commentators were saying, boy, compared to Obama, he was just very awkward and tentative?
TAPPER: What the commentators say interest me less than what Republicans in Washington I know and respect say. And they were very, very worried about that speech. Not just because of the superficialities of it, the green background and McCain looking very, very white. He needs to put on makeup. That is the unfortunate reality of television, Howard, as you and I well know.
But then also just the fact that he was speaking to a small crowd. He was reading off a Teleprompter. And the contrast with Barack Obama was just devastating to him. And Republican officials I know are very worried about that. And the McCain campaign knows that this is a problem they need to work on.
KURTZ: Just briefly, what about this idea that McCain has to do these town halls with Barack Obama? The networks may not like that, because it cuts out the journalist as moderator.
BORGER: I hate when that happens. Don't you? I think, look, I think from their point of view, it's very clever, because as Jake was just pointing out, Howie, if he gives a speech here and Obama gives a speech there, Obama is going to look a lot better. But if they're both on a stage together, McCain's real skill in campaigning is doing those town hall meetings. He has done hundreds of them.
KURTZ: He's very, very good at it.
BORGER: Very comfortable with it. So why not do it with Barack Obama?
Now I don't think -- he's proposed what, 10 or 12? I don't think Obama will do that. But I bet they're going to do a few, and the American public would like it.
PITTS: You know, Howard -- Howard, there is a saying in the Baptist church, be careful what you pray for. I mean, certainly I agree with Gloria that that in many ways is a good format for John McCain. But does he really want to be on the stage side by side with a man who's nearly half his age, who is -- not half his age, but is considerably younger, who is about five or six, seven inches taller? Who while McCain may do better in those environments, I think one of the things we've seen with Obama, that he gets better in different situations the more practice he gets.
So does he want to be on the stage side by side, and the people get to see just the physical differences between those two men?
KURTZ: Well, television will surely love it, because it would liven up the summer.
Now, I mentioned the pundits. Let's roll back the clock about a year, year and a half. And courtesy of the Daily Show, here's what some of the geniuses in our business had to say about Hillary Clinton's chances.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KIRSTEN POWERS, FOX NEWS: She's a meteor hurtling through space towards the White House, John. Get ready. Start right now. President Clinton.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's almost inevitable now that Hillary Clinton will be the nominee.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hillary pretty much seems to have it locked up.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She will be the nominee. It is practically a coronation.
AMY HOLMES, CNN: At this point, Hillary has got it in the bag.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hillary Clinton will be the nominee of the Democratic Party.
JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC: She will crush Barack Obama. She -- Barack, just sit it out. It's going to be ugly, I promise you. You heard it here first.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: They all seemed so sure.
TAPPER: It's too bad there is no accountability for pundits the way that there is for doctors and brokers.
KURTZ: Otherwise what would happen? They would lose their licenses?
TAPPER: No, I'm not saying anything. They're all very smart people.
KURTZ: After watching that, do you want to swear off ever making predictions again?
BORGER: You know what? Here's the deal. I really try not to make predictions. I just try to tell you what I found out and what I know. I really try not to predict too much, because you know you're going to be proven wrong. You are. This was an unbelievable political year.
KURTZ: But don't anchors push you? Gloria Borger, is Hillary going to be on the ticket? Yes or no?
BORGER: Well -- I don't know. Not so much. No, you know, and I think we would be safer -- we would be safer to just tell people what we have reported, what we understand to be true in this very moment of time. It may not be as exciting, but it's just a little more accurate.
KURTZ: All right. I got one more piece of tape and I'm going to save this question for you, Byron. This is a lot of media chatter about something that Barack Obama did with his wife at his speech in Minnesota. Let's watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ, CBS NEWS: All right, everybody, give me a little pound-pound. A simple fist pump between Barack Obama and his wife Michelle.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC: It was a fist pump of victory and of course of love.
BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS: She just gave him a little knuckle, which is -- that's the ultimate congratulation is a little knuckle.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC: Your wife came up on stage with you last night, and in an otherwise private moment, attempted to give her husband a fist pound.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Byron, I'm not cool enough to grasp this, so tell me, is this what all the brothers do?
PITTS: Neither I am. Neither am I. In fact, I had to ask a young intern in our office the name of that, what they did. It's not called the fist pump or the -- what did they call it, a little knuckle. Actually, the kids call it giving the person dat (ph). So Barack Obama gave his wife a little dat.
I think it was a nice moment. And it sort of symbolized that he's different, that they do different things, that perhaps he represents a different generation. There is a generation of Americans, not just black, white, Latino, who are, you know, that's how they greet each other, and that is casual, that's cool. And I thought it was just a nice image, and reflected a way that this is a new time. That perhaps I think sometimes we in the news media don't fully appreciate perhaps where Barack Obama has taken the nation or the kinds of people he has attracted.
BORGER: I think it shows they have young kids, because kids do this.
PITTS: Oh, yeah. Exactly.
BORGER: My kids do.
KURTZ: Not since Al Gore gave Tipper that kiss has so much been said about something so small.
All right, Byron Pitts, Gloria Borger, Jake Tapper. TAPPER: Word.
KURTZ: Thanks for joining us.
Coming up in the second half of Reliable Sources, caught on tape. Bill Clinton blows up over a Vanity Fair piece that includes speculation about his private life. Is the former president losing it, or does he have a legitimate beef?
Plus, Entertainment Tonight delivers the big story, telling the world that Angelina Jolie has given birth to twins. Small problem? It wasn't true.
KURTZ: It's hardly a state secret that Bill Clinton has spent much of the campaign angry at the press. But last week he had the mother of all eruptions. "Vanity Fair" published a piece by Todd Purdum that raised questions about attractive young women that former president was said to be hanging around with.
Quote, "Four former Clinton aides told me about that 18 months ago one of the president's former assistants who still advises him on political matters had heard so many complaints about such reports from Clinton supporters around the country that he felt compelled to try to conduct what one of the aides called an intervention because the aides believed that Clinton was parentally seeing a lot of women on the road."
Clinton's office issued a statement denouncing the article, denouncing Purdum, who is married to former White House spokeswoman Dee Dee Myers, and for good measure denouncing "Vanity Fair" and its editor Graydon Carter. Purdum, who declined to appear on this program, defended the article and repeated use of anonymous sources in an interview with Wolf Blitzer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TODD PURDUM, "VANITY FAIR": What I'm saying is that some of his own aides are concerned about these reports. I'm not quoting Republican lawyers or private eyes. I'm quoting people who work and used to work and still work for Bill Clinton.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: When Huffington Post blogger Mayhill Fowler caught up with Clinton on the campaign trail, he erupted.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MAYHILL FOWLER, HUFFINGTON POST: Mr. President, what do you think about that hatchet job somebody did on you in "Vanity Fair" at the end of the race?
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: Sleazy. He's a really dishonest reporter. He's a real slimy guy.
FOWLER: But he's married to Dee Dee Myers.
CLINTON: That's all right. He's still a scumbag.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
KURTZ: Joining us now to talk about the media's treatment of Bill Clinton and other aspects of the campaign coverage, Rachael Sklar media editor of huffingtonpost.com and Amanda Carpenter, national political reporter for townhall.com. Rachel Sklar, good to see you in person for a change.
RACHEL SKLAR, HUFFINGTON POST: Nice to be here.
KURTZ: The "Vanity Fair" article filled with comments from an unnamed former aides and adviser. There is an innuendo about Clinton and Gina Gershon, the actress releasing a statement saying she didn't have sexual relations with that man.
SKLAR: And "Vanity Fair" declined to retract.
KURTZ: Was "Vanity" unfair?
SKLAR: It depends on your view of the use of anonymous sources. I think that the type of allegations being made when you actually parse through it which Jack Schaefer at Slate did and he cited 39 anonymous sources there and you cite through all those and find that all the sources are anonymous, what you have to look for is where is there actual grounding in supportable facts? And balance that against the weight of allegations. And here they're pretty severe.
KURTZ: And Todd Purdum was careful to say in the article, there is no evidence that Clinton was engaged in any ex-curricular activities. But he also kind of depicts the president as flying around with supermarket mogul Ron Burkle and a bunch of babes.
AMANDA CARPENTER, HUMAN EVENTS: Yeah. But I think the real and most interesting part of the article is where it talks about what Bill Clinton was doing internationally. If you set aside the tawdry aspects of it, there was a standard set in the "New York Times" about anonymous sourcing with John McCain. I think if you toss all those aspects about the affairs and get down to what Bill Clinton is doing, that is where the real story. I think the media missed that part to really -- there is a story about uranium deals in Kazakhstan. This is not a Borat movie this is Bill Clinton.
KURTZ: Well when you look at the "New York Times," "The New York Times" was widely criticized for sending unnamed names for saying they believed, they suspected that a decade ago Senator McCain might have been having a relationship with a female lobbyist. So isn't that similar to what went on in this speech?
CARPENTER: That's what I'm saying. I think the anonymous sourcing for allegations about actual extramarital affairs that can you not prove shouldn't be put on your front page. But the stuff that was there in this case, with Bill Clinton what he's been doing internationally and the threat that poses to him being a vice president's husband or the president's husband, I mean that's where the real questions are. I wish "Vanity Fair" would have stuck with that.
SKLAR: Amanda is right about the fact that when you focus on the lurid allegations, you miss the other stuff in the story. That was the same thing in the McCain story about all of the ties he had with lobbyists and the fact that those were disturbing as well. But also what I found interesting about the "Vanity Fair" story that I wish had been more explored were the effects of Clinton's medical issues. His open heart surgery and how that inhibits ...
KURTZ: How that might have affected his personality and the way he handles it. But coming back to that Clinton eruption.
SKLAR: Which is what everybody likes to come back to.
KURTZ: Because it's good audio.
CARPENTER: How often is scum bag used in the media? On the record.
KURTZ: Not often.
It was Mayhill Fowler, Huffington Post blogger who asked him that question on a rope line. Didn't identify herself. She said she didn't have a chance on the rope line. You're a Huffington Post blogger, would you have asked a politician without saying who you are?
SKLAR: I think we have to distinguish -- I'm a paid staff member.
KURTZ: She's an unpaid contributor.
SKLAR: And she's a contributor. So what I think this brings up are the distinctions between classical journalism, on the bus journalism, and off the bus citizen journalism which what Mayhill Fowler is part of, the off the bus project at the Huffington Post. I think that we have to look at what the standard is for public event of a past president at a rope line. Presumably there would be no questions had somebody standing next to Mayhill asked the question, she would have reported it.
You have to assume that everybody is reporting. She said that her recorder was out. She didn't identify herself and Jay Rosen, a co-director said that, you know, that -- the Huffington Post is going to look in terms of guidelines in making sure they identify themselves.
CARPENTER: Another big story in this election is what Barack Obama said at that private fund-raiser also recorded by a blogger.
SKLAR: Also Mayhill.
CARPENTER: OK. SKLAR: She's everywhere. Everyone be careful.
KURTZ: Let me play one more piece of audio from that exchange where Clinton is going on about the press. We'll talk about it on the other side.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
CLINTON: You noticed he didn't use a single name, he didn't cite a single source in all those things he said.
FOWLER: That's what I hear.
CLINTON: It's just slimy. It's part of the national media's attempt to nail Hillary for Obama. It's just the most biased press coverage in modern history. It's another way of helping Obama."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Most biased press coverage in history?
CARPENTER: It is pretty clear that Bill Clinton is a little bit angry at this point. En that is a media line that they're trying to use to beat back what they perceive as unfair press and try to bait reporters into feeling guilty and doing a harder job ...
SKLAR: How do you think they're making them feel guilty?
I do think there will be some reflection and examination on how Hillary Clinton was covered in the campaign. There has been. It's been a very recent phenomenon, but there is discussions about sexism in the campaign and, you know, the question is not are you sexist or not. The question is, is the expression of that just like sexist and has it been?
KURTZ: Let me move on to how Obama is being covered. When he wrapped up the nomination and you saw headlines like this in the "New York Post," "Destiny." Let's roll the other headlines. I'll be quiet for a moment while we take a look at the way the Obama victory is characterized.
So with all this talk about history in the making, "Chicago Tribune" had a great win about Obama was winning primaries in a place where he wouldn't have been able to take a sip from a water fountain 40 or 50 years ago, is there a danger that the right ground-breaking nature of the candidacy, as important as it is in a country troubled by race from his birth is leading to media cheer leading?
CARPENTER: Certainly. There is some media cheerleading throughout this election just for the fact you had the first woman running for president and the first black man running for president. But it's also built this game of expectations which I think is going to be almost impossible for Obama to live up to. To you hear the jokes about him being the next messiah.
SKLAR: Those are jokes? CARPENTER: He even had that line in his speech saying this is a moment the rises of the oceans began to slow and the planet began to heal. I don't know what he can do next except for possibly walk on water.
SKLAR: Or help the environment. That would be a nice step.
KURTZ: But Rachel Sklar, isn't there an inherent tension here between saying this is a good thing for the country that a black man could run and win but at the same time, the press knows it shouldn't take sides. The Huffington Post ...
SKLAR: I don't that I is taking sides. I think that is recognizing a legitimate story. It is a legitimate story.
SKLAR: I want to point out that the same sort of -- the same point was made after he won in Iowa. And then a whole campaign went after that. And, you know, we can argue about the way the press covered him then.
KURTZ: But if Obama winning the democratic nomination is historic in the media's eyes, and clearly it, is wouldn't it be far more historic if he becomes president? Therefore, wouldn't there be ...
SKLAR: I think that is confusing having an agenda to make him the president and make history with recognizing history when it is made. I think that is what has been done here.
KURTZ: But McCain doesn't have anything to counter that. The media doesn't say, wow, he'd be the oldest president elected or first POW.
SKLAR: They do say that, though. Any time ...
KURTZ: They all say it as a compliment?
SKLAR: I have not heard anybody describe John McCain as ...
CARPENTER: When they talk about John McCain's age in a media, it is a slam. They talk about him. You know, we have all the coverage. There is a lime green background that people equated to a Jell-O mold in the retirement homes.
SKLAR: But the speech has been good. Nobody would have noticed that.
CARPENTER: It plays into the narrative that people want to push with Bill Clinton. You have a narrative of past infidelity. When you have a rumor about him having an affair that, means the "Vanity Fair" article. When you put him behind an old looking background, that fits the narrative. So that's what gets pushed in.
KURTZ: Let me give you my two cents. Journalists, as everyone knows, has already been accused of being in the tank for Obama and mesmerized by the oratory and thrown off the wagon and all. That the true mark of racial equality will be if we treat Barack Obama like any other candidate in this campaign which means he's going to get roughed up at times. And, therefore, the press will be doing what it's supposed to do which is not taking sides. And therefore the press would be doing what it's supposed to do, which is not taking sides.
Rachel Sklar, Amanda Carpenter, great to have you both on. Thanks for joining us. When we come back, "Entertainment Tonight" reports that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie had their babies but the story turns out to be a bit premature. Plus, Tatum O'Neal caught buying crack. Why has the press treated this actress with sympathy instead of scorn?
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Coming up at the top of the hour on LATE EDITION. Republican Senator Jon Kyl and Democratic Senator Bob Casey, they size up the Obama-McCain general election match-up.
Clinton advisor Howard Wolfson discusses Hillary Clinton's exit from the campaign and her political future. And Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kay Bailey Hutchison, they give us their take about what to do about the current economic crisis and its impact on the campaign trail. And that and a lot more coming up on LATE EDITION. Now back to Howard Kurtz and RELIABLE SOURCES.
KURTZ: Thanks, Wolf. Forget about Hillary and Obama. "Entertainment Tonight" had the scoop of the year, maybe the century.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did Angelina Jolie just give birth? What a source just told us that today. It's a story making headlines around the world tonight. Outlets from France to Hollywood reporting that Angelina's twin girls are here. Just this morning a source says she was inside the delivery room tells us yes, the babies were born and, yes, mother and babies are fine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: But unfortunately for "E.T.", Brad Pitt's manager quickly knocked the story down. "People" magazine and "U.S. Weekly" frantically trying to match the exclusive soon reported that it wasn't true.
Joining us is Matthew Felling, media commentator and contributor to National Public Radio. Now there's no gray area here. Angelina either had the twins or didn't. It appears she didn't. How big a mistake was this?
MATTHEW FELLING, NPR: Just like you can't be kind of pregnant you also can't kind of give birth. And I guess Todd Purdum has good company because "E.T." went forward with an anonymous source of their own and got into hot water. KURTZ: That is a little unfair.
FELLING: But whether it comes to what they did and tick tock of this, they got word from who they thought via Blackberry, the levels of -- the level of problems here are a legion. They got confirmation from an e-mail address they thought was linked to Angelina Jolie's assistant saying, yes, was in the delivery room, mom, kids, everything is fine and great. And then they tried to do a little bit of confirmation and they couldn't get anybody to say the story was right. They would actually say the story was absolutely false. But according to David Bodder (ph) of the AP I spoke to yesterday about this, et was a little bit suspicious that the Jolie camp had brokered out breaking this story for a sum who knows how many million dollars. That they signed a deal for somebody else to break the story. Even if there had been truth to the story, they wouldn't have come forward and confirmed it because they already had an outside deal.
KURTZ: The AP also reports that they reported this story despite being told repeatedly that source was an imposter. "E.T." denies that. We invited somebody from et to be on the program and they declined. Let me read a statement from the program.
"'Entertainment Tonight' takes this very seriously and is of course concerned that the show may have been victimized by someone allegedly posing as a member of Ms. Jolie's team. We are actively investigating the matter and are reaching out to law enforcement agencies."
Now the Angelina Jolie assistant is a woman named Holly Goline. We have a picture of her with Angelina. She is in the background. The AP also reports that according to some producer at "E.T." that that producer got the e-mail address for the supposed imposter from an unnamed friend at CNN. So it's hard to untangle this. But even -- this is more than a week old now. "Entertainment Tonight" has not gone on the air and retracted the story or said there is a problem. They said she had the babies and it's apparently not true.
FELLING: And there is another level of intrigue. Because the Jolie camp said the assistant never had a Blackberry. But in that very picture toy showed, she is holding one. So there is all this blog commentary ...
KURTZ: So for all this time Angelina Jolie has had somebody impersonating her assistant and we never heard about this until now?
FELLING: That's another thing. Apparently the Jolie camp had been saying that there is a person out there pretending to be Holly Goline for a while. But it took something like this to catch fire. "Entertainment Tonight" I guess they're sticking to their guns because they think there might have been an outside arrangement. But if there had been an outside arrangement, the story would have broken already.
KURTZ: So you're saying that they're saying that she actually did have the babies but they won't confirm it because they sold the rights to some magazine.
FELLING: That seems to be their backwards justification.
KURTZ: If that's the case, we'll talk about it on next week's show.
KURTZ: Also this week, Tatum O'Neal arrested for buying crack cocaine from a street dealer. Originally she told the police she was researching a part. So here's the fascinating part. She calls Andrea Peyser, the New York Post columnist, and says the cops came and saved me from my life of addiction, and her dog died, and she gets a sympathetic column out of it. Why?
FELLING: Oh, this was a master stroke when it comes to damage control. And I think in a world of celebrities saying "no comment" or, you know, issuing some sort of a mea culpa through a publicist, with extremely measured language, the fact that she -- she gave Andrea Peyser a call and said "thank God they caught me, thank God they saved me from myself." And she had this tone of humility to it, which really won over a lot of hearts and minds out there.
As a matter of fact, she not only said thank God they caught me, thank God I had to spend the night in jail sleeping with normal people, because New York is great like that. She also added, "I'm also going to see if I can get some legal help for the person who sold me these drugs, because I don't think that they are a bad dealer, I think it was another unfortunate soul." I think she was completely turning into Mother Teresa.
KURTZ: Now, I hadn't realized this, because Tatum O'Neal frankly kind of dropped off my radar screen, but she has spent years battling coke addiction and alcoholism. Now, every time that Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears gets into trouble, journalists savage them, even if it's just some little incident in a club. Why the kid gloves for Tatum O'Neal?
FELLING: Well, Tatum O'Neal, first of all, got ahead of this story. I mean, she's not a serial offender as Lindsay Lohan or Britney Spears or any of these people would be characterized as. And I think that she just controlled it. She got in touch with Peyser and said, listen, it's been a tough couple of years. I had family issues, and then I had to put down my dog, and I was just in a really bad place.
And I mean, if a publicist says that, it sounds very, you know, hackneyed, that's just kind of like an excuse. But when it comes from the source herself, who everybody still remembers as a cute little girl, a cute little tyke, which probably plays into this, too, then I think people are more likely to give her a sympathetic ear.
KURTZ: So just briefly, you're saying it's spin. I mean, after all, she was arrested buying crack on the street, but because she delivered it herself and knew how to pick her media outlet, she pulled it off?
FELLING: Yes. And I think -- yes, my paragraph welled (ph) into one word is of course, spin, but I think there is lessons to be learned. Maybe not for, like, political handlers, because I don't think Eliot Spitzer could have gotten away with saying, oh, man, did I ever blow it with those people. But I think that, you know, damage control people when it comes to showbiz can really find some lessons in this story of how to deal with it.
KURTZ: All right, Matthew Felling finds lessons in anything. Thanks very much for joining us.
Now as we head to break, I want to acknowledge the passing of Jim McKay. McKay, who died yesterday, was a remarkable ABC sportscaster, longtime host of Wide World of Sports and a very comfortable presence in our living rooms. But he was also a journalist who turned in an extraordinary performance for days on end when Israeli athletes were kidnapped and killed at the 1972 Olympics in Munich. Jim McKay was 86.
KURTZ: The nightly cable gab fests were already in full swing Thursday night when something happened to throw everyone off script.
KURTZ: It was the night of mystery, a night of history, a night where journalists scrambled for the story and wound up with bupkus. The challenge -- where in the world was Barack Obama?
Imagine the horror when reporters on Obama's plane realized that the doors had closed and the man who had just wrapped up the Democratic presidential nomination was not on it. He had stayed behind in Washington. BlackBerries buzzed, sources were hunted down, and finally -- breaking news.
DAN ABRAMS, MSNBC: NBC's political director Chuck Todd confirming that Barack Obama is meeting with Hillary Clinton tonight at her home -- at a home in D.C.? At Hillary's home in Washington, D.C.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN: Sources now tell CNN that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, after one of the toughest primary campaigns in memory, are sitting down behind closed doors at Clinton's home in Washington.
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: This is a Fox News alert. A senior Democratic source has now confirmed to Fox News that at this very hour, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and Senator Barack Obama are meeting at an undisclosed Washington, D.C. location.
KURTZ: This wasn't just any meeting. It was a secret meeting. A secret meeting at an undisclosed location. But this was television, and television need pictures. Otherwise, it's just a bunch of people sitting around yukking. Yukking about things like, what were they talking about? Would it, could it be the vice presidency?
And so the camera crews converged on Clinton's Washington home. The two of them were in there, weren't they? They had to be in there. And that meant at some point, they had to come out. And the crews would get their money shot.
COOPER: First, CNN's Tom Foreman is outside Senator Clinton's house right now. He joins us on the phone. Tom, what are you seeing?
TOM FOREMAN, CNN: Well, we're not seeing a whole lot, except several Suburbans outside the house, as you would expect, the Secret Service. A fair amount of Secret Service activity sort of walking back and forth.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS: Clinton and Senator Barack Obama are meeting at this moment. Major Garrett is live in Washington with all the details -- Major.
MAJOR GARRETT, FOX NEWS: Greta, we know less than we would like to know about this meeting.
KURTZ: But as the night wore on, the awful truth emerged. The meeting wasn't at Hillary Clinton's house after all. It was somewhere else.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN: I had two sources. Our Suzanne Malveaux had another, so we had three sources, two of them saying it's at her house. But what we got wrong and what they got wrong -- and sometimes this happens -- is that it's not -- the location is not right. It was not taking place at her house.
KURTZ: Not until Friday morning did we learn that Obama and Clinton held their rendezvous a couple of miles away at Senator Dianne Feinstein's house. It lasted an hour. They drank water. And they outfoxed all the journalists who tried so hard to track them down.
This is Howard Kurtz, at an undisclosed location in Washington.
KURTZ: I guess it's safe to come out now. And to think Hillary slipped out of her house hiding in the back of an SUV, just like in the movies.
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. Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer begins right now.