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Are Media Fanning Flames of Extremism?; Interview With David Frum

Aired April 4, 2010 - 11:00   ET



HOWARD KURTZ, HOST (voice-over): Turning ugly. President Obama says the media are fanning the flames of extremism. Fox and MSNBC blame each other. Who's right?

Firing Frum. Did a conservative think tank really dump David Frum because he called the new health care loss the Republican Party's Waterloo? We'll ask him.

Protecting the Pope. The Vatican hits back against "The New York Times" as the scandal deepens over pedophile priests. Are the stories fair?

Plus, holy cow. This is so cool, you've just got to drop everything and get one! Apple polishing. Are media outlets in the tank for the iPad?


KURTZ: All the ugliness out there, the slurs and the taunts, the threats and the vandalism, the right-wing shouts of "Baby killer!" just like the old left-wing shouts of "War criminal!" has given rise to a new round of finger-pointing. And media outlets are both engaging the blame game and being blamed, depending in part on their ideological leanings.

The latest to take on the journalists and the commentators? The president of the United States.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Frankly, Matt, it gets spun up partly because of the way the media covers politics these days in the 24-hour news cycle and the cable chatter and the talk radio and the Internet and the blogs, all of which tend to try to feed the most extreme sides of any issue, instead of trying to narrow differences and solve problems.

KURTZ (voice-over): Obama named no names, but some folks at Fox News viewed it as a slap to their channel, and they, in turn, ripped another channel.

LAURA INGRAHAM, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: The media for years have basically ignored the threats and the vile assertions made from the left. OK?


INGRAHAM: Even when they really do border on inciting violence against individuals, the hateful things said on another cable network about individuals in the conservative movement.

O'REILLY: Well, you're talking about MSNBC --

INGRAHAM: I mean, look, I'm a big girl. I can take it, but -- yes.

O'REILLY: -- and they traffic in hatred from sign on to sign off.

INGRAHAM: Exactly.

O'REILLY: We know that takes place.


KURTZ: At MSNBC, meanwhile, the culprit was Fox. Ed Schultz saying that "Fox & Friends" was dismissing the severity of violent threats aimed at Democrats. Lawrence O'Donnell jumping form threats and vandalism to what he called the Fox noise machine.

So let's cut through the partisan static and examine this question: Are some of the media fanning the flames and being rather selective in the outrages they highlight?

Joining us now here in Washington, Ana Marie Cox, Washington correspondent for "GQ" magazine; Craig Kaufman, columnist for; and David Frum, the founder and editor of

Craig Crawford, is Obama right that the media are fanning the flames here by feeding the most extreme sides of any issue?

CRAIG CRAWFORD, COLUMNIST, CQPOLITICS.COM: Well, that's what they do these days. The two network channels you talked about are building audiences based on fanning the flames of partisans. So he's right, but I don't think it's necessarily wrong.

I think the information out there that both channels put out to their supporters and partisans are things those people want to hear, and so he's in a sense blaming the audiences, not just the channel, because those audiences want that.

KURTZ: So you don't tie it to anything that goes on in the real world? It's just chatter in your view?

CRAWFORD: I think there's a little bit of provocation of some of the, you know, more extreme behavior. I don't really hold, you know, them responsible for death threats and vandalism.


Ana Marie Cox, don't the media reward politicians and others who say inflammatory things, as opposed to mild-mannered moderates?

ANA MARIE COX, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, "GQ": Well, it depends what you mean by reward. I mean, is covering that a reward? Is giving someone air time a reward? What I think is really interesting --

KURTZ: Well, I would say it is a reward. There are 535 members of Congress. When you shout "You lie!" or "Baby killer!" or Alan Grayson said Republicans want old people to die, you get booked on shows.

COX: You do.

KURTZ: You get your profile raised.

COX: But I don't know if that necessarily translates into power, especially power when it comes to this White House.

As you know, I've been doing some research for this long-term project at "GQ" on the D.C. power list. And the interesting thing about talking to the White House about who the powerful journalists are, they don't mention anyone at Fox, they don't mention anyone at MSNBC. They mention a few people at CNN.

But it really is focussed mainly on sort of the big traditional print outlets, as well as some Internet outlets. They don't think of the stuff that goes on at Fox as something that's really harming them. I mean, it may harm them in sort of -- it excites a certain amount of base that's never going to vote for them anyway, but it's not something that they're like, you know --

KURTZ: Is there an alternative, David Frum? Can the media ignore death threats and vandalism and the kind of hot talk that drives ratings?

DAVID FRUM, EDITOR, NEWMAJORITY.COM: Look, the media are trapped by changes in the technology and business of their industry.

KURTZ: Trapped?

FRUM: Trapped. A generation ago, or two, when there were three channels, plus PBS, and when you needed -- when you needed 15 million people to make a living, the media could focus on the broad country. And most people had no choice about getting political information. It was there at 6:30 whether you wanted it or not.

Today it is possible to opt out. And enormous numbers of Americans are opting out and being less -- completely uninformed.

The question is, why would people make the effort to watch a channel that will give them information? And the answer is because they're driven by very intense information. Sorry, intense antagonisms, intense passions.

KURTZ: Right.

FRUM: And so the industry structure says the way we will get people to watch and give them information is by making them angry. Otherwise, they'll watch "American Idol" or play Xbox.

KURTZ: And we don't want that.

President Obama returned to the subject later in the week, an interview with CBS's Harry Smith.

Let's roll some of that.


HARRY SMITH, CBS NEWS: Are you aware of the level of enmity that crosses the air waves and that people have made their daily conversation about you?

OBAMA: Well, I mean, I think that when you listen to Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck, it's --

SMITH: It's beyond that?

OBAMA: It's pretty apparent. And it's troublesome. But keep in mind that there have been periods in American history where this kind of vitriol comes out.


KURTZ: Craig, does it elevate the stature of Beck and Limbaugh when the president keeps going after them by name?

CRAWFORD: Totally. I don't understand why he did that.

And whenever you talk about those guys, they talk about it themselves. I mean, and then they get all excited about it and they play it all over again. And it does aggrandize it.

COX: I can tell you why they do it.

FRUM: But President Obama would rather run against Rush Limbaugh than even run against Mitt Romney. I mean, there are millions and millions of people who like Mitt Romney. Rush Limbaugh is one of the most unpopular people in the country. The president is choosing his political --


KURTZ: Wait. He's unpopular, but he has a huge and passionate following on the radio.

COX: Because people like anger as entertainment. They tend not to like anger as a motivation in actual real elections.

CRAWFORD: Part of our brain that produces fear is actually more evolved than the reasoning part of our brain. So that's one reason --


FRUM: When you say huge, everything is relevant. Rush Limbaugh has a daily audience of what, three, four, maybe five million people? That's very, very big, and it's made him a rich man.

It would, however, make you -- qualify you to be the Green Party candidate for president. The actual candidates for president --

KURTZ: He's not a politician.

FRUM: He's not a politician.

KURTZ: And he had a response this week which I want to read. He said, "Never in my life have I seen a regime like this governing against the will of the people purposely. I've never seen the media so supportive of a regime amassing so much power."

I want to turn back to this, what I call selective outrage. So, for example, Karl Rove was at a book signing about a week or so ago in Beverly Hills. And you all probably saw what happened.

Let's roll a little bit of that.


KARL ROVE, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: No, no, no. I didn't say go ahead. I said you get away.


KURTZ: That signing was disrupted by Code Pink. And Fox played that up every other hour because obviously it fit the Fox narrative and obviously is an infringement of free speech.

COX: Right. Of whose free speech?

KURTZ: Well, shouldn't an author be able to go and have a book signing without being shouted down?

COX: Well, I mean, I don't know.

KURTZ: You don't care?

COX: I go on either side. I prefer that everyone be sort of civil with each other, but I don't think -- it's not infringing on Karl Rove's right to speak to have someone else interrupt him.

CRAWFORD: But, you know, here's the contradiction.

COX: But I want to get back to this. Code Pink was to Fox News, you know, what the Tea Partiers are to MSNBC now. I mean, Code Pink was the group that the Republicans and the GOP and Fox News wanted to have represent the Democratic Party. CRAWFORD: But the contradiction there, as you pointed out, is that singling out certain people to portray the whole group -- you know, Rove said this is an example of totalitarianism on the entire left. And then they complain about Tea Partiers --


KURTZ: And what MSNBC played up this week, David Frum, with the arrest of some Christian militia members in Michigan, and that became sort of a stand-in for there's a lot of intolerant people on the right.

FRUM: Here's my point. If right and left are competing to be the biggest victim, who is competing to be the government?

The country needs a government. It needs people who are willing to take responsible and to say this is what -- and what excites both sides are narratives of oppression, of silencing, and those things happen, and that was awful what happened to Karl Rove. And I don't care whether you call it a violation of free speech or just being a jerk.

I don't think people have a right to be -- they have a legal right to be a jerk. They have no moral right to be a jerk, and you shouldn't do it. But it is -- it's the wrong thing for television to be focussing on.

CRAWFORD: The mainstream media falls prey to this false equivalency stuff. I mean, comparing the Code Pink, you know, speech interrupter at Rove's book signing to a bunch of militia who planned to kill police officers and blow up their funerals, you know, the media is prone to those false equivalents.

KURTZ: Let me turn to one other issue that got a lot of ink and airtime this week. There was a scoop by Tucker Carlson's new Web site, "The Daily Caller," about Michael Steele and some expenses of the Republican National Committee.

Here's what some of your esteemed media colleagues did with that one.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tonight's club featuring topless women dancers imitating lesbian bondage sex, you say.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, the Republicans finally smack down Steele. And will he like it?

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN: I'm trying to think of all the lists that I would be on with my wife if I blew $1,900 at a West Hollywood topless club.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: And Voyeur West Hollywood is -- it's kind of a naked lady place.

ROVE: Find that pervert and get his card.


KURTZ: So these were expenses at a lesbian bondage theme club in L.A. Michael Steele wasn't there, but he sure took the wrap for it in the media.

COX: He did, although I've been saying this is another false equivalency to call him the Joe Biden of the GOP. The only thing they have in common is that he's able to say and do kind of nutty stuff, and people seem to sort of let it slide. Now, of course, it's very different to -- and actually, I'm sure you realize, more people in the GOP were upset about the spending on, you know, limousines and private airplanes than they were about the club.

KURTZ: David?

FRUM: Well, I've been putting -- the reporter on our side, Tim Mak, actually went and looked at the Democratic Party records and found that they have spent as much, or if not more, at not strip joints, because the women were in the same state of undress all throughout the evening, but poll dancing places. And that the Democratic Party has spent $250,000 hiring White House helicopters for Democrats --


KURTZ: Just briefly, why did that not get as much media attention?

FRUM: You know, that's an excellent question. Let's fix that right now.

CRAWFORD: There was a narrative out there that needed examples.

COX: One more thing. One of the reasons why it's not getting more outrage is that the Democratic Party has a better ROI on the expenditures than the Republican Party.

CRAWFORD: And there was a narrative out there about Steele and they need more support for it.

KURTZ: Before we go, Craig Crawford, you recently quit as an MSNBC contributor. You said the following: "I simply could not any longer endure being a cartoon player for their lefty games."

What did you mean?

CRAWFORD: I was getting pigeonholed into a lot of what we're talking about. I didn't get the memo back when MSNBC changed its stripes. And I wish them well and hope they make money, which is what I think they're trying to do. But it just wasn't for me.

KURTZ: You were getting pigeonholed as a left-winger?

CRAWFORD: I felt so. And eight of the last 10 segments I did were bashing Sarah Palin segments. And actually, I'm not that interested in Sarah Palin.

KURTZ: All right.

On that note, Craig Crawford, Ana Marie Cox, thanks very much.

David, stick around.

When we come back, the price of dissent. How David Frum found himself out of a job.

And later, "The New York Times" reporter who broke the pedophile scandal that has raised serious questions about Pope Benedict.


KURTZ: Twelve days ago, "The Wall Street Journal" editorial page denounced David Frum for having written that Republicans had suffered their most crushing defeat since the 1960s by going all out against President Obama's health care bill and winding up with nothing. The next day, the American Enterprise Institute fired him from the job he had held for seven years.

David Frum back with us now to talk about what happened.

And the president of AEI, Arthur Brooks, didn't say anything to you about your political views. So how do you know that that was a factor?

FRUM: There's a timeline, which is I write my "Waterloo" article on Sunday, The Journal denounces it on Monday. I'm summoned midday Monday morning to lunch. On Thursday, I'm packing my bags.

Obviously, I can't go inside people's heads. But, you know, from the conversation we had at lunch, I also understand that, look, it's a difficult time to run a conservative think tank.

KURTZ: And to raise money from donors.

FRUM: This is a very difficult time to raise money. And the donors who are giving money are people with very strong emotions and passions. And after a defeat like the health care bill, Republicans want to believe that they did right, not that they made a mistake.

KURTZ: Charles Murray, another AEI scholar who says he was your friend, did a post in this past week saying that you simply didn't do much for your $100,000 salary at AEI.

FRUM: Well, all I can say is if you'll believe that, you'll believe anything. I think there are very few people at AEI, if any, who wrote more, published more, did more, were cited more. That's what think tank scholars do. We try to bring ideas to bear on the public debate.

KURTZ: Are you supposed to do things also for the institute and not just for your own personal writing?

FRUM: You mean like appearances at AEI panels and delivering lectures? I did all of those things.

And again, in the age of Google, these are readily childishly checkable facts. And I invite anybody who would like to suggest that underproductivity was my problem to go look at the record and you'll see.

KURTZ: That "Wall Street Journal" editorial that ripped you said that you make your living as the media's go-to basher of fellow Republicans. And isn't there a grain in truth of that? "Newsweek" last year ran your cover story criticizing Rush Limbaugh. Would "Newsweek" have run a cover story by David Frum praising Rush Limbaugh?

FRUM: I don't know that they would have. Maybe it wouldn't have been news.

But understand when I wrote -- people need to read these things. When I criticize Rush Limbaugh, it's not because I bash Republicans. I'm criticizing -- as we were saying previously, Rush Limbaugh and Barack Obama have a common set of interests of which the Republican Party is the victim.

If the Republican Party is going to be a national governing party, it has to look responsible, it has to look like it wants to lead, it has to look like it has ideas for everybody. If it -- Rush Limbaugh needs three million listeners, and President Obama would like the Republican Party to have three million voters.

KURTZ: Well, of course, Rush has about 10 million, 12 million, 15 million --

FRUM: Not in any given week.

KURTZ: Well, any given day.

FRUM: On any given day. And there's a lot of deliberate inflation of what the audience is for this kind of talk. It's not that big.

KURTZ: How much heat have you taken personally for being seen as a major dissenter? I mean, you were a speechwriter for President George W. Bush, and now here you are criticizing the tactics of the Republican Party. What kind of e-mail do you get?

FRUM: Well, look, the e-mail tends to be very positive because -- or just recently, since this incident has happened. But it's true.

When I go to Capitol Hill, when I talk to my friends -- and I push back. What I say is I am somebody who cares about conservative ideas. I want to see them implemented in governance. I'd like to win elections for a change.

Conservatives have not been doing very well electorally since the late 1990s. 2000, that was settled on points. 2004 was a near-death experience. 2006 and 2008, disasters.

And our record in government wasn't very good. We didn't deliver real benefits to people, and that's why we're in trouble.

I want to be a part of building a more effective conservatism. And to say we're not succeeding, when you're not succeeding that is not disloyalty. In any private enterprise, if people were insisting they were doing well when they were doing badly, that they were in the black when they were in the red, the people who want to audit that account would not be called enemies of the company.

KURTZ: I've got about 20 seconds. You recently wrote, "The Republicans originally thought that Fox works for us, and now we're discovering we work for Fox."

What does that mean?

FRUM: What that means is that Fox, like Limbaugh, has an interest in pushing the Republicans to the margins, making people angry. When people are angry and alienated, they don't vote. They succumb to feelings of helplessness. What people need right now are feelings of power, that they can make a difference by participating in politics.

KURTZ: David Frum, thanks very much for being here this morning.

FRUM: Howie, thank you.

KURTZ: Coming up in our second half, a RELIABLE SOURCES exclusive, challenging the Pope. We'll talk to "New York Times" reporter Laurie Goodstein who broke the story about the Church's failure to punish a priest who abused deaf boys. The Washington Post's Sally Quinn also joins our discussion.

Plus Apple polishing. Are the media marketing the iPad as the greatest invention since the toaster oven?

And author, author. Big-name journalists churning out behind- the-scenes books about the Obama White House. Who is going to buy them all?


KURTZ: It's an uncomfortable subject for this Easter Sunday, a holy day for millions around the world. But the Vatican has been engulfed by new and scandalous allegations about protecting priests who committed sexual abuse, and in recent days has hit back hard at the media.

After the European press focussed on a pedophile priest three decades ago in Munich, at a time when Pope Benedict was the archbishop there, "The New York Times" published a story whose details were downright chilling. A Milwaukee priest was allowed to remain in his post despite sexually abusing as many as 200 deaf boys. And there was correspondence in the 1990s involving the office of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KATIE COURIC, CBS NEWS: The Catholic Church sex abuse scandal. A new Gallup poll shows Pope Benedict's popularity among American Catholics has dropped 20 points in the past two years.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC: "The New York Times" has spotlighted reports of sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church, including a horrific story about a priest who molested hundreds of deaf boys in Wisconsin. It's becoming a big American story again.

CYNTHIA MCFADDEN, ABC NEWS: No Pope has resigned his position since the 15th century. But if some critics have their way, that's exactly what Pope Benedict would do.


KURTZ: The Church and its allies have responded by singling out "The New York Times" for harsh criticism.

I spoke earlier with The Times reporter who sparked the furor and a columnist who writes about religion issues.


KURTZ: Joining us now, Laurie Goodstein, who covers religion for "The New York Times" and broke the story that we're talking about today. And Sally Quinn, who moderates the "On Faith" Blog at "The Washington Post."

Laurie Goodstein, how did you come to examine this case, this priest in Wisconsin, Father Lawrence Murphy? Did somebody bring the story to you?

LAURIE GOODSTEIN, "NEW YORK TIMES": It came up in the course of looking at this -- the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. That's the office in the Vatican that used to be headed by the man who is now Pope Benedict.

We were looking at how they handled cases from bishops around the world that came to the Vatican. This was one of them. I found this one by -- you know, I was calling many sources and spoke to an attorney who's handled a lot of lawsuits against the Church, and he said to me, "I have some interesting documents I think you might want to look at."

KURTZ: Short answer, old-fashioned reporting.

Sally Quinn, the Church's reaction to these allegations, in a nutshell, seems to be, blame the media. Does that surprise you?

SALLY QUINN, "WASHINGTON POST": Yes. And first of all, let me say -- it pains me to say this, that Laurie has done such a great job seeing that she's with the competition.

But this just has been an amazing story that you have done and you have broken. And the response to me reminds me of the response to Watergate when that story first broke, which is that they just completely attacked the media. And, I mean, when the Pope called what you are reporting "petty gossip," I really thought that that was appalling, because that's exactly the kind of thing that happened with the Nixon administration during Watergate.

KURTZ: And it was Cardinal William Levada, a high-ranking Vatican official, who put out this long rebuttal to the article and said, "I ask the Times to reconsider its attack mode about Pope Benedict XVI and give the world a more balanced view."

Do you see yourself as being in attack mode?

GOODSTEIN: Not at all. We set out to examine the role of the Vatican. And in the course of that found these documents.

But I have to say, this isn't the only story that has come to the doorstep of the Pope. I mean, in Germany, they have overturned the story about how the Pope handled a priest who they were aware was abusing children while he was bishop. So the European media and "The New York Times" as well has been all over that story.

KURTZ: How does it feel to have the full weight of the Catholic Church taking aim at you personally and your reporting?

GOODSTEIN: Well, it's very painful. For one, because I have been reporting religion for 17 years. I have had very good relationships with bishops in the United States, with priests, and for a long time I admired the Church.

I have no desire to hurt or wound the Church in any way, because they are on the front lines of doing good work around the world -- priests, nuns, lay people. I have a deep love actually for those people.

So when the -- this is though the hierarchy of the Church. If you will, the bureaucracy, the politicians of the Church coming after "The New York Times," and trying to impugn our credibility, I think because there is a sense of kind of a defensive mode. It's not just coming from "The New York Times." I mean, this is coming from papers and media in Ireland, Germany, Italy --

KURTZ: Yes. Right.

GOODSTEIN: It's breaking out all over.

KURTZ: You're the target du jour. And, of course, you covered religion at my newspaper before you joined The Times.

In that rebuttal -- in these rebuttals, Sally Quinn, they not only going after Laurie Goodstein's reporting, but "The New York Times" editorial on the subject, Maureen Dowd column in which she said, "The church gave up its credibility for Lent."

So it seems to me there's a mixing of news reporting and paying (ph) in, in a way that serves the Church's purposes as if to say that they're all against us in the media. QUINN: Well I think one of the problems -- and actually, Maureen brought this up -- is that they are not very good at public relations. And I feel very sorry for the guy, Lombardi, who is head of the Pope's PR, because this is probably the worst job anybody could have today in this world. But I -- the whole idea of blaming the media is just a very shortsighted way to go.

The main thing they've got to do is to open up the books to let the light in, because its story is not going to end. Laurie is going to go at it. "The Washington Post" is on it right now. Everybody is going to go at it.

KURTZ: And newspapers (ph) in New York as well.

QUINN: More stories are going to coming out. And it would behoove them to say we're going to put this story out and let it -- and let the process, the legal process, go ahead, rather than cover up and stonewall and lie and try to hide and live behind --


KURTZ: And change the subject --

QUINN: Yes, and change the subject.

KURTZ: -- which of course is something that politicians are very good at doing in this country at least.

QUINN: And also this is about -- this isn't about -- as Laurie said, this is about the hierarchy. I have so many Catholic friends who are in anguish over this story, who are just dying. I just was -- somebody just sent me a piece today saying, "I've given up the Church." And she's in tears.

KURTZ: Right.

QUINN: So it's the organization --

KURTZ: It touches in a personal way.

QUINN: -- the bureaucratic institution that has really let down so many billions of decent people.

KURTZ: Let's go through some of the details of your reporting briefly for those who have not been able intimately following it.

You found documents showing that the Archbishop in Milwaukee had sent two letters -- this is 1996 -- to the office of Cardinal Ratzinger, the future Pope, asking whether there should be a church trial of this fellow, Father Lawrence Murphy, who, by the way, nobody disputes that he abused as many as 200 deaf boys. I mean, it's just such a chilling and shocking and outrageous allegation.

What was the response of Cardinal Ratzinger's office?

GOODSTEIN: Well, initially, there was no response for -- our Tricia Weekland (ph) sent two letters, got no response, then sent a third letter to a different office in the Vatican, and then heard back from Cardinal Ratzinger's number two in that office who was Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, who is now the secretary of state of the Vatican. Also a very high official at the Vatican.

So he is who handled this from here on out. There is no correspondence back from Cardinal Ratzinger, now the Pope.

KURTZ: And the same thing happened two years later, when Father Murphy wrote to Ratzinger and asked him to stop the trial. He was 72. He had a stroke. He felt he has repented.

Ultimately, the trial was stopped. But again, there's no evidence that the future Pope personally intervened.

GOODSTEIN: We don't know. And we never said in our stories that we know who made the decisions.

But what was so interesting about these documents, and the reason the story was so compelling, is that we are seeing for the first time the back and forth between American bishops. And two of them in this case from two different diocese and the Vatican, in which the bishops are saying, what should we do about this guy?

There are a lot of pained people in the deaf community because this priest abused deaf boys. And we think it will be the best for the healing of these people and for the Church if we defrock him, we remove him from the priesthood.

And initially, the response from the Vatican was, yes, go ahead. But that changes, and you can see by following--

KURTZ: Right.

GOODSTEIN: -- the correspondence after the priest, the accused priest himself, writes to Cardinal Ratzinger and says, "I'm old. Have pity on me. I have never done anything bad again, and I've repented." And then that's when you see the change in the document.

KURTZ: And that's the thing about your reporting, is that it's built on these documents.

Now, Bill Donohue of the Catholic League took out an ad in which he said, "The Times continues to editorialize about the pedophilia crisis, when all along its been a homosexual crisis. Most of the molesters have been gay."

He was asked about this on CNN a couple days ago. Let's take a look.


BILL DONOHUE, CATHOLIC LEAGUE: If your group is over represented in a particular problem area, you ought to explore it. Yes, there's a connection between the Irish and alcoholism. And yes, there's a connection between homosexuality and sexual abuse of minors. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Homosexuality is the problem?

QUINN: Well, that's a whole different issue. And I don't think this has anything to do with homosexuality. I mean, this has to do with abuse of children regardless of what sex you are.

KURTZ: I've got about half a minute. Let me ask you about one thing where I think the critics may have a point. And that is, are the media collectively trying to impose a kind of a retroactive justice here using the standards of 2010 to judge misconduct that routinely was swept under the rug in a lot of institutions in the '50s, '60s, and '70s?

GOODSTEIN: It's not just '50s, '60s and '70s.

By the 1980s, you had a very big scandal. It began in Louisiana with a priest in Louisiana. From that point, the American bishops, and also the Vatican, began reconsidering how to confront priest abusers. So they have had an awfully long time at which they said at several points, now we have it under control, no need to worry.

And so its been an awfully long time for them to figure out how to manage it in a responsible way.

QUINN: Howie, this is 2010, and the Vatican is living in another century. They need to learn how to operate in this century.

KURTZ: Sally Quinn, Laurie Goodstein, thanks very much for joining us.


KURTZ: And the AP reported yesterday on two other cases in Arizona where the future Pope failed to act against abusive priests after receiving complaints about their misconduct. The Vatican blamed unrelated bureaucratic delays.

Up next, gadget fever. I've got it right here, the latest, the greatest, the fastest, the coolest. Are journalists getting utterly carried away by the iPad?


KURTZ: The iPad finally hit the stores yesterday. And if the media hype is to be believed, the world has already changed.

Apple has sold about 700,000 of these tablets so far. And Newsweek's cover story says it is indeed a very big deal. "The very simplicity of the iPad masks its transformational power," writes Daniel Lyons. Some say the iPad heralds a new era of computing, and I'm inclined to believe them.


MCFADDEN: And we turn now to technology and what some people say is the smartest, coolest company in America.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: It's the hottest tablet since Moses carried a couple down off the mountain. I'm talking about the iPad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE, "MODERN FAMILY": His last wish was an iPad.

JOHN BLACKSTONE, CBS NEWS (voice-over): In an ambitious act of product placement, last night's episode of ABC's "Modern Family" was all about the iPad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE, "MODERN FAMILY": Oh, my God. You got it! All this time I thought I didn't care, but I do care. I care so much!


KURTZ: From the moment that Steve Jobs rolled out his new gizmo back in January, many in the media have treated it as the second coming. And there's been chatter that the device could breathe new life into the struggling newspaper and magazine business by providing a hot new platform.

But is the iPad really as important as some of the breathless coverage suggests?

Joining us now here in Washington, veteran journalist Mark Potts, now chief executive of Growth Spur, an online technology company. And in Boston, Daniel Lyons, senior editor for "Newsweek" and the author of this week's cover story.

Dan Lyons, "Newsweek" cover, "TIME" cover, "New York Times" front page, all over TV.

Is the iPad, this thing that I didn't realize that I needed, that awe-inspiring?

DANIEL LYONS, SR. EDITOR, "NEWSWEEK": Well, I think it is a really important device. It's really cool. But I think, you know, the other thing to consider is, if you're a tech writer like me, you cover technology, you never get a chance to shine.

Technology's pretty boring stuff. And so these things are like the Super Bowl for us. You know?

I mean, once a year, I have to sit through all that Super Bowl coverage even though I don't care about football. In our world, in the world of tech geeks, yes, this is our Super Bowl. This is a really big deal for us, I think. And that's why we all kind of hyperventilate about it.

KURTZ: I don't know, it seems like the Super Bowl, the World Series and the Final Four rolled into one.

Mark, you've got your hands on one. You can hold it up if you like.

How is it, Mark, that Apple always seems to get the media in a total lather about its latest product?

MARK POTTS, "RECOVERING JOURNALIST" BLOG: You know, I'm not sure. It really is amazing. It's been going on for years.

I remember going to the announcement -- they were going to announce the Newton a year beforehand and getting a huge crowd. There's something about Apple that seems to get this kind of attention that no other product seems to get. You know, three years ago, the Netbook computers came out and no one really said anything. It wasn't an Apple product, but they're just as revolutionary as the iPad is in their way.

KURTZ: Dan, you blog as fake Steve Jobs. How does the real Steve Jobs do it? For example, here, giving your competitor, "TIME," an exclusive interview and he gets his face on the cover?

LYONS: Well, you know, Apple has been very, very good in terms of playing the media for a long, long time. For decades, right? And the game they always used to play was to play time off of "Newsweek," for example, and to get them both to sort of compete to see who would get the access to Steve, who would get the exclusive interview.

"Newsweek" sort of opted out of that game when they hired me a couple years ago. Apple doesn't like me at all because of the blog I write. And Apple actually made it clear to "Newsweek" before they hired me -- or they got wind that I was going to get hired -- that they didn't want "Newsweek" to hire me, they weren't going to like this.

And "Newsweek" hired me anyway, but sure enough, we didn't get any access, we didn't get -- I don't have an iPad. I didn't get a device from Apple.

KURTZ: You don't have an iPad? You're admitting that on national television?


KURTZ: Well, let me make sure I understand this.

LYONS: And yesterday -- I was going to buy one yesterday, but then I was busy and I have kids. And, you know --

KURTZ: You had a life.

LYONS: -- I like to wait anyway and see --

KURTZ: I just want to follow up on something you said. Apple executives went to "Newsweek" and said don't hire this guy, Dan Lyons? We don't like he writes this fake Steve Jobs -- they tried to block you from being hired?

LYONS: Their head of PR told my predecessor, Steven Levy, to password word to the powers that be at "Newsweek" that Apple wasn't happy with the idea that they were going to hire me. Yes, that happened. And apple plays this game. I mean, notice who got iPads and who didn't get iPads. Notice who got access and who didn't.

And the other interesting thing here when you're talking about the media and Apple is that, you know, the media -- "The New York Times" was on stage with Apple, with Steve Jobs, at the announcement of the iPad, right? "TIME" had to have Stephen Frey, an actor, write about the iPad because their tech editor is running their iPad, their iPad development team.

So, the media in this case has really gotten in bed with Apple. And yes, it does raise questions about, how do you cover something when it's your own business, in a sense, you're covering?

KURTZ: That's an interesting point, Mark Potts, which is that every media organization -- and I've been flooded with e-mails -- is touting its own app for the iPad. And so they are both covering the story, they're part of the story, they're hoping to profit from this new device, and hoping that it -- particularly for print, hoping that it revives a business that's clearly battered and struggling.

So, does that put everyone in a little bit of a conflict situation?

POTTS: Yes, I think it does. There certainly is a lot of wishful thinking attached to the industry right now -- can this be our savior? The traditional industry is falling apart.

On the other hand, a lot of that's going on in the business side of the publications. The editorial side theoretically is separate. I think there's probably some of the same -- some of the same wishful thinking.

But I think there's also the fact that a lot of tech writers, a lot of people who cover technology, are Apple fans to begin with and they're inclined to like things from the company. And they don't -- you know, they don't get as excited about something from Dell.

KURTZ: Interesting.

I wonder since you say -- go ahead, Dan. Go ahead.

LYONS: Well, for good reason. I mean, when is the last time anything came out of Dell that was anything to get excited about?

I mean, it's not really -- I agree with you, most of us in the media, I like Apple products, most of us use Apple products. And so because of that, we're kind of fan boys anyway.

But really, honestly, I mean, when was the last time Microsoft came out with anything that you really wanted to ooh and ah about, that you really wanted to see? And it's not just that we don't like Microsoft or we don't like Dell. They just don't come out with things that are very interesting or very beautiful.

I mean, I like to look at the Pontiac Aztec. You know, it had four wheels and an engine and everything, but it was an ugly car. Nobody wanted it. Well, most of the tech industry is making Pontiac Aztecs. You know?

POTTS: Well, actually, Microsoft had a tablet six or seven years ago they did with HP and others that was interesting in its way at the time as the iPad is, but it didn't get anywhere near this kind of coverage.

KURTZ: I've got half a minute here for you, Mark Potts.

Do tech writers have a tendency to get swept away by all the cool features and not focussed on ordinary people who are asking, why shouldn't I pay $500 or $800 for something that doesn't have a camera and doesn't have a physical keyboard and so on?

POTTS: You know, I think that's a really good question. And I think -- I'd almost go a different way with it, which is tech writers tend to focus on the cool tech things it doesn't do and say, well, it doesn't multitask and doesn't use flash.

Most people watching this have no idea what that means. And tech writers think it's very important. For most people, they want to know, does it turn on, can I type on it, can I use it, can I read the Web on it, can I do my e-mail on it? That's what they care about.

KURTZ: And while you were answering that question I borrowed your iPad and I'm holding it up right here. I don't know if you can see, but it's got "USA Today" on it, and you can move it around. It's cool.

Can I play with this after --

POTTS: Absolutely.

KURTZ: All right. Mark Potts, Dan Lyons, thanks very much for joining us.

Coming up, Candy Crowley joins us to take a look at what's going on, on the other talk shows.

"SOUND OF SUNDAY" straight ahead.


KURTZ: In case you're wondering what's been going on, on the other Sunday shows, here's Candy Crowley.

CANDY CROWLEY, HOST, "STATE OF THE UNION": You know, Howie, the administration puts out people that are going to talk about the subject they want to talk about. So today they put out their economic advisers, including Larry Summers and Christina Romer, both on the president's Council of Economic Advisers. And they wanted to talk about the good news, that the economy did gain some jobs as of Friday, one of the best showings in two years.

KURTZ: Although unemployment is still 9.7 percent. CROWLEY: Yes. Yes. So we -- but they were ready for that as well. But what they wanted to talk about, both of them -- this is a very talking points Sunday for them -- they both wanted to talk about the extended unemployment benefits that were not approved by Congress because the Republicans objected that they weren't paid for.

Hang on.


CHRISTINA ROMER, CHAIR, WHITE HOUSE COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS: Before Congress left, they failed to extend the unemployment insurance provisions of the Recovery Act. That absolutely has to get done. The numbers we see, the 9.7 unemployment, we've got to be supporting those workers.



LARRY SUMMERS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: Unemployment insurance, a basic protection for people who have been laid off through no fault of their own, cut off because our politicians are not able to agree on a formula for extending it, that's not how our government should be working.


CROWLEY: And such a thing as non-talking points. That is what these two didn't want to talk about.

The Treasury Department decided that it will not put out a report that might have stated that China is manipulating its currency, an open secret to everyone, that they are to keep their goods cheaper. But when you ask directly, do you think China is manipulating its currency, it's not something either one of them wanted to talk about it.


DAVID GREGORY, "MEET THE PRESS": Is China manipulating its currency?

ROMER: You know, I think that's going to be something that the secretary of the treasury would speak on. But we're going to absolutely --

GREGORY: But as a matter of substance, can't you just say yes or no? Why can't you say whether -- I mean, it either is or it's not.

ROMER: We think needs to be more influenced by market forces.



SUMMERS: No one can be satisfied with where we are. This is going to be a continued focus for us going forward.

CROWLEY: So it's not a good thing to say out loud, is what I take from you?

SUMMERS: It's not good -- we're focussing on increasing our exports.


CROWLEY: The other issue, Justice Stevens has given a round of interviews saying basically he's going to retire.

KURTZ: "New York Times," "Washington Post," and --


KURTZ: -- justices almost never give interviews.

CROWLEY: Right, exactly.

KURTZ: And he's openly talking about whether he's going to step down.

CROWLEY: About he's going to retire, and when's he going to do it, and he'll decide sooner or later. So, of course, let the Senate begin talking.

And the question is, who -- what sort of leader, what sort of justice the president might try to nominate, and what Republicans might want to do.

First, Democratic Senator Specter.


CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS: Do you have thoughts about the specific person he should nominate?

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (D), PENNSYLVANIA: I hope to begin a little earlier that Justice Stevens does not retire this year. I think the gridlock in the Senate might well produce a filibuster which would tie up the Senate on a Supreme Court nominee. I think if a year passes, there's a much better chance we could come to a consensus.


CROWLEY: On the same show that Republican Senator Kyl said he didn't think that there would be a filibuster as long as the president picked the right choice.

KURTZ: How about that? Sending a little warning message. And meanwhile, Stevens has even stepped down yet.

Candy Crowley, thanks.

Still to come, book blitz. Some of the biggest names in journalism want the president and his aides to spill their secrets. Could they get too cozy with their sources?


KURTZ: I tried this week to add up all the books being written about the Obama White House and, well, I practically lost count. But who exactly is playing Deep Throat for all these authors?


KURTZ (voice-over): It's no secret that the media see Barack Obama as big box office. The guy even played hoops this week with CBS' Clark Kellogg.

George Bush didn't draw all that many chroniclers, in part because he wasn't all that cooperative with the press. But this president has been talking, ,and lots of big-named journalists want a piece of the publishing action.

There are the biographers. "New Yorker" editor David Remnick out this week with his bio, and Pulitzer Prize winner David Maraniss still working on his version of the rise of Obama.

There are the behind-the-scenes books: Newsweek's Jonathan Alter; MSNBC's Richard Wolffe; The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza, all in hot pursuit.

The bombshell book, Bob Woodward's effort, due out this fall. Woodward always gets his hands on secret documents and makes news. He's been doing this since "All the President's Men" in the Nixon days. Word is Obama is talking to him.

The book about one-time rivals: NBC's Chuck Todd writing about Obama and Hillary Clinton.

The campaign book: TIME's Mark Halperin and New York Magazine's John Heilemann, who topped the bestseller list with "Game Change," have signed up to do the 2012 contest for a reported $5 million.

But to do these "What really happened?" books, you need access. If not to Obama and Joe Biden, then to Rahm, Axelrod, Gibbs, and the like. And some of the authors tell me that's getting difficult because top officials are incredibly busy and there are so many journalists pounding on the White House gates.

This isn't even counting the spate of Michelle books. Reporter Jodi Kantor turned her "New York Times" magazine piece on the Obamas' marriage into a seven-figure book deal. Just one problem, the first lady's office tells me she isn't cooperating with any books.


KURTZ: Now, you might think there's a temptation to go easy on your White House coverage to help sweet talk your sources. I doubt most of these journalists would do that, but as an author, I know this -- without cooperation from the insiders, it's impossible to write an inside account, which is why all these authors are still angling for all the access they can get.

That's it for this edition of RELIABLE SOURCES.

I'm Howard Kurtz.

Join us again next Sunday for another critical look at the media.