Howie Kurtz, host of Fox News’s MediaBuzz, sat down for an interview with Special Report anchor Bret Baier, which aired on Sunday. The two discussed the Democratic National Committee’s decision not to allow Fox News to moderate a Democratic primary debate and the New Yorker article that they used as a justification for making that decision.
After Kurtz noted that the “11,000-word” New Yorker piece failed to mention that “Fox has a full-fledged news division of which you and I and many other editors and anchors are a part,” Baier revealed that the relationship with Fox News and President Trump is not as cozy at is seems. Kurtz reminded Baier that “you...complained on the air...about not being able to get an interview with President Trump, the person to which we're all supposedly so close.”
According to Baier, it took 600 days for him to secure an interview with President Trump, which ultimately took place in Singapore. Baier added, “Chris Wallace was even later than that.” Baier proceeded to declare that “there is a bit of Fox derangement syndrome with a section of the left,” although he ultimately gave his colleague Wallace credit for coming up with that phrase.
The rest of the media appears to have Fox derangement syndrome as well, with many anchors on the other networks referring to the network as “state-run TV.” CNN President Jeff Zucker went so far as to say that Fox News has done “tremendous damage to America.”
Kurtz highlighted the hypocrisy of another aspect of the New Yorker article that complained that many people from Fox went to work in the Trump administration without noting that “this revolving door that the article talks about, hardly unique to Fox News.” Kurtz specifically mentioned that Jay Carney of Time magazine went to work as President Obama’s press secretary.
Kurtz also described the New Yorker article as “like writing an article about The New York Times and saying it’s a totally anti-Trump newspaper and then predominant quotes are from the op-ed page or the editorial page, which is the opinion side,” adding “you don’t see long magazine pieces about whether CNN and MSNBC are unfair because their opinion hosts at night, night after night, criticize Trump as crazy, unhinged, racist, misogynist, let’s invoke the 25th Amendment.” Baier agreed: “I think there is a disconnect here between how we’re treated on the news side and how other operations are treated, given how their opinion in the primetime deals with the President.”
The conversation ended with Baier and Kurtz describing the New Yorker article as a “fig leaf” that the Democratic National Committee used as an excuse to prevent Fox News from hosting a debate. According to Baier, “it’s basically what they wanted to have happen. It just got them there.”
Baier concluded the interview by describing the DNC’s decision to bar Fox News from a holding a Democratic primary debate as “unfortunate” after previously saying “I hope they reconsider.” NBC News will host the first Democratic party debate, which will take place in June.
A transcript of the relevant portion of Sunday's edition of MediaBuzz is below. Click “expand” to read more.
HOWIE KURTZ: Let’s take a more in-depth look at the DNC’s decision to bar Fox News from holding a presidential debate and the allegations in that New Yorker piece. I sat down with Bret Baier, Fox’s Chief Political Anchor and of course the anchor of Special Report.
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KURTZ: Bret Baier, welcome.
BAIER: Thanks, Howie.
KURTZ: If the DNC had awarded Fox a debate, you would have moderated with Chris Wallace and Martha MacCallum. How do you feel about the decision?
BRET BAIER: Disappointed. I hope they reconsider. Obviously, we have a long track record of being tough but fair to Republicans, Democrats, independents, whomever. You know, three years ago this week, I was doing a town hall in Michigan with Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders. Both campaigns said they thought it was tough but fair. Sanders went on to win that Michigan primary. Chris Wallace has been touted as a great general election debate moderator.
KURTZ: Yeah, absolutely.
BAIER: He had a lot of praise from all sides.
KURTZ: But let me take you back to 2015. So you asked the first question at the first Republican debate that was really aimed at Donald Trump. Let’s take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: Is there anyone on stage and can I see hands, who is unwilling tonight to pledge your support to the eventual nominee of the Republican party? Mr. Trump?
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KURTZ: So this New Yorker piece says that three unnamed sources believe that that question and the question by Megyn Kelly about remarks disparaging toward women may have been leaked in advance to candidate Trump.
BAIER: I don’t believe that to be true, just looking back. We had a very tight circle on those questions.
KURTZ: And there was backlash.
BAIER: There was a lot of backlash. I mean, we spent the two weeks after that moment defending both outside and inside that we were too tough on Donald Trump. I don’t think, just by that first question, it seemed like a moment that was not, he was not prepared for…
BAIER: …in his answer. I can’t say definitively.
BAIER: But it’s anonymous sources and obviously, the former head our network, you can’t ask.
KURTZ: We can’t ask him but a Fox executive who was with Roger Ailes the next day tells me he was furious at the questions that he hadn’t known in advance. Let’s move on, look. The New Yorker makes some fair points and I’ve been covering this and many others have as well. Fox’s primetime hosts and the hosts of Fox and Friends are largely supportive of President Trump, but not always. They break with him on occasion. Trump does watch a lot of Fox and if you look at his Twitter feed, it seems to influence some of what he says and does. But here is what wasn’t included in this 11,000 words. Fox has a full-fledged news division of which you and I and many other editors and reporters and anchors are a part. Do you feel that’s often overlooked when critics say, oh, Fox is in the tank for Donald Trump?
BAIER: Yes. I mean, this has been happening since I’ve been here, 22 years. I mean, defending Fox. It’s two sides. There’s the news side and the opinion side and, you know, the loudest critics of Fox are often people who don’t watch. And I say watch my show three times, then drop me an email, drop me a post, drop me a Twitter…a tweet. And the people who do say that they, you know, they get it, they think it’s fair.
KURTZ: And you, for example, complained on the air, I remember this vividly, about not being able to get an interview with President Trump; the person to which we’re all supposedly so close.
BAIER: Right. I mean, it took me 600 days. I had to chase him down in Singapore to go on Air Force One to get my…
KURTZ: That’s a long way to go.
BAIER: …my first interview. Chris Wallace was even later than that. And I think…listen. There’s a, a disconnect here. There is a bit and Chris said this, I think, on the radio earlier this week. There is a bit of Fox derangement syndrome with a section of the left. There are a lot of candidates and a lot of people on the Democratic Party who realize the power of the viewership and the power of the fairness of the news operation. But often they are drowned out by the loud voices on the left side of the party.
KURTZ: Another example. The New Yorker suggests that Fox killed the Stormy Daniels hush money story before the election when an online entertainment reporter was pursuing it for the website. Her boss is quoted as saying he made that decision because she didn’t have the facts nailed down, not to protect Donald Trump.
BAIER: Right. Now this, I didn’t even know about. I didn’t know that story had, had bubbled up; never got to the news side of the cable operation.
KURTZ: A lot of people were chasing it.
BAIER: A lot of people were chasing it. There were all kinds of rumors. And it actually was The Wall Street Journal, also owned by Rupert Murdoch, that broke this story on the Stormy Daniels connection; which we then covered and cited The Wall Street Journal. So the whole thing is a little disconnected. I know there were other organizations that didn’t run with it either, but I was not even aware that we had anything prior to that.
KURTZ: Now, a number of people who have had roles at Fox, this is no secret, have joined the administration. Bill Shine, former co-president here, now deputy Chief of Staff but Time’s Jay Carney became Barack Obama’s press secretary, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, of course, worked in the Clinton White House; so this revolving door that the article talks about, hardly unique to Fox News.
BAIER: No, I mean, listen. Let’s not sugarcoat it. The, the opinion folks, a lot of them are very pro-Trump. They have a lot of communications. I don’t know how, when they talk, you know, what they talk about.
BAIER: I’m disconnected from that. I like to think that we have horse blinders on and we are letting the news bubble up on our programs and the Democrats who come on leave and say that was fair. Tough but fair. And I, I think that’s what you would get if you had a debate on Fox.
KURTZ: Right. Now, I don’t defend everything that is done on Fox. Indeed, it’s often my job to criticize what happens on Fox. But to me this was like writing an article about The New York Times and saying it’s a totally anti-Trump newspaper and then predominant quotes are from the op-ed page or the editorial page, which is the opinion side. So let me ask you this. You don’t see long magazine pieces about whether CNN and MSNBC are unfair because their opinion hosts at night, night after night, criticize Trump as crazy, unhinged, racist, misogynist, dangerous, let’s invoke the 25th Amendment. Should the DNC consider that as a standard for awarding debates?
BAIER: Yeah, I mean I’ll leave that to them. I agree with you. I think that there’s a, there is a disconnect here between how we’re treated on the news side and how other operations are treated, given how their opinion in the primetime deals with the President. Now, the President tweeted out that he may not do general election debates with other networks. I mean, I don’t think that helps us either.
KURTZ: I do not.
BAIER: But there is a point here at which you have to look at fairness. And I understand what the DNC is saying. But it’s really disappointing that they came to this conclusion considering the fact that after three years, three cycles rather of really trying to get back a Democratic debate, we have done them before, I thought this was the year. I’m not surprised at this decision. I do feel like the New Yorker is just a…
KURTZ: I’ve called it a fig leaf.
BAIER: …a fig leaf. I mean, it’s, it’s basically what they wanted to have happen. It just got them there. And it’s unfortunate.
KURTZ: We’ll see what happens. Bret Baier, thanks very much for sitting down with us.
BAIER: Thanks, Howie.