updated 9/27/2004 1:22:38 AM ET 2004-09-27T05:22:38

Guests: Chad Clanton, Kevin Madden, Steve Forbes, Mort Zuckerman, Jon Meacham, Bob Kohn

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  Tonight‘s top headlines, CBS insiders weigh in on Rather-gate, and you‘re not going to believe what they are saying.  The “Real Deal,” it‘s looking more and more like a tarnish to the tiffany network may be irreversible. 

Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, where no passport is required and only common sense is allowed. 

It seems like more and more people in high places have something to say about Rather-gate.  Walter Cronkite says it‘s embarrassing for CBS.  Sumner Redstone is voting for George Bush.  And are the words of top CBS brass still helping or hurting the network? 

Then, Bill Clinton could count on the soccer moms.  George Bush has NASCAR dads.  And is John Kerry winning more votes with windsurfing crowds than with a new voting bloc?  We‘re going to take a closer look at America‘s newest voting bloc, the security moms. 

Plus, the straight-talk express makes a stop in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  Senator John McCain talks pork, politics and why you should be writing your congressman a letter. 

That‘s tonight on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. 

ANNOUNCER:  From the press room, to the courtroom, to the halls of Congress, Joe Scarborough has seen it all.  Welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, welcome to the show. 

You know, CBS continues to give new meaning to the term damage control, with everybody from Walter Cronkite to Sumner Redstone adding their 2 cents today, as we still wait to hear from producer Mary Mapes as to the source of the allegedly forged documents?  Allegedly?  Hah.

With me tonight to discuss the ongoing scandal, we have got Lawrence O‘Donnell, MSNBC senior political analyst.  We‘ve got Mort Zuckerman from “U.S. News & World Report,” Jon Meacham.  He‘s the editor manager for “Newsweek” magazine and the author of the best-seller “Franklin and Winston: An Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship,” which comes out in paperback October 12.  We also have Bob Kohn, author of “Journalistic Fraud.”

Bob, let me start with you.You‘re the harshest critic we have here tonight.  What do you make of all the comments that have been made not only Sumner Redstone and Walter Cronkite and Mike Wallace, but I point you directly to comments made by Dan Rather and the insiders already attacking the investigation against him?

BOB KOHN, AUTHOR, “JOURNALISTIC FRAUD”:  Well, I‘m quite surprised that given the investigation has begun that any of these guys are allowed to be speaking to the press, particularly Dan Rather.  I think that‘s a fireable offense in many public corporations. 

But I think the most telling comment was by Mike Wallace.  Mike Wallace expressed concerns about the choice of the panel members because they were not TV producers.  They never put together TV news reports.  And I think that betrayed a concern of his that the investigation might go into how “60 Minutes” puts together its programs.  And that could be quite interesting, because I do think that the investigation, A, should go into how “60 Minutes” puts together its programs, because they have been accused of fraudulent and slanted practices over the years. 

Second, I think that these should be public hearings.  They should be hearings that are televised, just like Watergate, just like the 9/11 Commission.  And, third, I think they should be held before the election.  I mean, basically CBS tried to affect the election.  I think we need to have the answers before the election.  So they should be public hearings, televised.  Let‘s see Dan Rather, whether he can take it as much as he can dish it out. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Mort Zuckerman, I found it very interesting that Dan Rather was complaining to insiders that it wouldn‘t be fair to have a Republican, like Attorney General Thornburgh, actually conducting an investigation against him, when you have Mary Mapes, a self-professed liberal, who has actually been passing judgment on Republicans for years, along with Dan Rather.  Do you think that Dick Thornburgh is going to come to the table with a jaundiced eye and is not going to be fair to Dan Rather and Mary Mapes and CBS? 

MORT ZUCKERMAN, EDITOR IN CHIEF, “U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT”:  No, I think he will be fair and judicious.  That‘s been his entire history. 

I can understand Dan Rather‘s concern because he worked for—that is, Dick Thornburgh worked for a couple of administrations that Dan Rather attacked in various ways.  But I think he‘s over that.  And I think it will be an absolutely above-the-board investigation.  And I think until that investigation is complete, everybody should suspend judgment and see what the facts are. 

SCARBOROUGH:  What do you make of Rather complaining to people and letting it be known, so it gets in papers like “The New York Times” and other media outlets, that he‘s not happy with the choice of who is investigating?  Are we already seeing, as one newspaper suggested, some damage control up front, so no matter which way the investigation comes out, Rather can say it was biased? 

ZUCKERMAN:  Oh, I really don‘t think so. 

I think they are all pretty much grownups at that place.  And they know that they have frankly been involved in one of the great journalistic blunders and miscalculations of our time.  And an investigation, an independent investigates was inevitable.  There was no way that CBS was going to retain and restore its brand as a news agency without going through that kind of investigation.  Rather knows it and so does everybody else at CBS. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Jon Meacham, let me bring in.  Obviously, you heard the

quote earlier today from Walter Cronkite, a guy who has been considered a

God of journalism for years now.  Of course, he called this entire episode

·         quote—“embarrassing.”  How much does that have to sting at CBS News? 

And do you think in the end there is going to be repercussions for people like Dan Rather, and, of course, also Mary Mapes and others down the line? 

JON MEACHAM, “NEWSWEEK”:  Well, there are certainly repercussions, because Dan Rather, like all of us who are serious about what we do, we want to get it right.  And our chief goal, our professional goal is to get it straight and get it right.  And I think Rather has had a long and storied career. 

He‘s broken a lot of stories.  And he really at this point I think should welcome General Thornburgh, anyone who wants to come in and look at this, because at this point there is nothing to be gained from looking as though you don‘t want to let the sunshine in to figure out how this happened, so it doesn‘t happen again. 

Now, CBS is a particularly historically conscious organization.  I mean, this is the network of Edward R. Murrow and Bill Shirer and Cronkite, as you say.  And I think that it‘s important for probably the most fabled network, the people who brought us the Battle of Britain on the radio and Cronkite who so iconically announced the death of President Kennedy, to be as open as possible. 

And I think that Thornburgh is a good choice for this.  It‘s kind of like when Franklin Roosevelt was attacked for putting Joe Kennedy in charge of the SEC because Kennedy was accused of profiteering on Wall Street, FDR said, well, who is going to know where all the tricks are?  Having a Republican do this gives it instant credibility.  It‘s like having a 9/11 Commission with only Republicans on it.  You wouldn‘t have done that. 


Let me bring in Steve Forbes right now.  He is editor in chief of “Forbes” magazine. 

Now, Steve, you just hosted a conference in Hong Kong where Sumner Redstone, chairman and CEO of Viacom, had these comments to make.  On CBS‘ memo-gate, he said—quote—“The investigation is appropriate.  And consequences will be appropriate.”  On the election, he said, “The Democrats are not bad people, but from a Viacom standpoint, we believe the election of a Republican administration...”


SCARBOROUGH:  I‘m sorry.  I didn‘t mean to laugh—“administration is better for our company.”

Steve, you were there.  What did you make of these comments and the fact that Viacom is now leaning right to the Republican Party? 

STEVE FORBES, CEO, FORBES INC.:  Well, it shows that people have a capacity for growth all their lives. 


FORBES:  I thought it was a great turn.  And anyone who heard Sumner Redstone there knew that this investigation was going to be a real one, a thorough one, that there would be consequences for those responsible.  He does not like to see any of his brands tarnished like this. 

And also I think people got a feeling that this man is still very much of an entrepreneur, still buying, shedding companies, going into new businesses, and very dynamic.  And I think his observation that the Republicans create an environment of deregulation I think certainly, it was music to my ears, and I‘m quite delighted. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Did you pick up any anger coming from him when he was talking about the CBS News scandal?  What was it like in the room when he started talking about the pain that obviously he and, of course, Les Moonves and other people who care so much for CBS and CBS News have to be feeling right now? 

FORBES:  He didn‘t have anger in the voice so much, such as a pounding the podium and that kind of thing, but anyone who heard the way he said the word consequences knew that there was not going to be any cover-up, that all the details were going to come out, and that he would stand for nothing less. 

We had had a session beforehand on branding, on the importance of integrity of the brand.  He believed very strongly in the integrity of the CBS brand, and he will do anything that‘s necessary to restore the luster to that brand. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I‘ll tell you what, it‘s going to be an uphill battle for him, because even people inside, reporters that have been respected for years, like Bob Schieffer, very disappointed.  And I‘ll tell you what.  I think they feel betrayed by what‘s been going on.

This is what Bob Schieffer had to say about the sinking credibility of CBS.  He called it—quote—“the worst thing I‘ve ever been through professionally.  I think we made a bad mistake.  We‘ve admitted to it.  We‘re correcting it.  We got lied to.

Let me ask you, Lawrence O‘Donnell, when you have people like Bob Schieffer coming out talking about how horrible this is for CBS, and Walter Cronkite talking about how this is an embarrassment, certainly, they have got to be angry at the people who let them down, be it Mary Mapes, Dan Rather, and possibly even the head of CBS News.  Don‘t you think heads are going to roll here? 

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, MSNBC SR. POLITICAL ANALYST:  I‘m not sure if heads are going to roll.  They probably are.  I actually would expect a resignation even before a firing. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Who would you expect? 


O‘DONNELL:  Well, if Mary Mapes turns out to be as culpable as the most extreme views of this would have her be, then I would expect her actually to step forward and probably resign.

But I think there is a larger question here about when you make a mistake on the job, is firing the first thing we‘re supposed to think about?  I would suggest to you that Mary Mapes is now the least likely news producer on Earth to ever get caught using forged documents again, get trapped in something like this kind of mistake.  This is not our attitude toward other professions.  It‘s not our attitude toward physicians, for example.  If they make a mistake, there is malpractice remedies and then they go on. 


SCARBOROUGH:  What about, though—CBS News obviously was proud of their discovery of the prisoner abuse in Abu Ghraib.  We could use that same thing.


O‘DONNELL:  And she did that.  It was the same producer who did that. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I know that.  Well, sure.  And so what you‘re in effect saying is that, you know, well, you know what, these people that abused prisoners in Abu Ghraib will never abuse them again because they have been caught doing it once.  Let‘s put them in charge of the entire prison system for Iraq.  That‘s exactly what you‘re saying, Lawrence. 



What I‘m saying is, for example, just by comparison, if a physician makes a mistake, what do we do?  Do we say you can‘t be a physician ever again?  No.  In fact, the Republican Party and the Congress wants to limit any liabilities that physicians face because they want them to continue to practice, even if they have made malpractice mistakes in the course of their careers. 

Now, the going for the scalp, someone must be fired, someone must be fired, when there is a mistake and what is now an admitted mistake, a mistake apologized for, that‘s a level that I‘m not sure I understand why we need to go to. 


SCARBOROUGH:  Well, let me help you out there.  The reason why we...


SCARBOROUGH:  Mort Zuckerman, help me out here.  My God, I could name 1,000 reasons why somebody has to pay for this. 

ZUCKERMAN:  I think there is one piece of it that you haven‘t brought up yet, although I‘m sure you have discussed it, which is the unilateral informing of Joe Lockhart of the Democratic Kerry committee...


ZUCKERMAN:  That this big story was brewing and who the source was and they ought to go to him for additional advice on how to deal with George Bush as an opponent. 

That, it seems to me, does violate a lot of sort of notions of impartiality we like to ascribe to journalism and to journalists.  And however that particular connection was initiated I think is going to be thoroughly exhumed and examined, and I suspect that there will be serious consequences for that one. 


SCARBOROUGH:  Bob Kohn, what are conservatives going to say?  What are people like you, who believe CBS is unfair, going to say if they get rid of Mary Mapes, but allow Dan Rather to stay?  Isn‘t that a lot like firing—or court-martialing the corporal that was in Abu Ghraib, but letting the general off the hook? 

KOHN:  I think we‘re going to say it‘s a double standard, that there is one standard for a liberal news organization like CBS News and another for tobacco companies and oil companies, computer companies.

You know, anyone—whenever a corporation—think if Halliburton had tried to forge some documents, don‘t you think “The New York Times” editorial page would immediately be calling for the resignation of the head of Halliburton or the head of tobacco companies or any of these corporations?  Why is Viacom any different, OK, from some of these others?  There is a reason why you have these firings, because you have got to cut out the culture, all right, that caused the problem. 

This is why NBC fired its executive editor and why “USA Today” fired its executive editor and why “The New York Times” even had to fire Howell Raines, its managing editor. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Bob, you‘re exactly right.  And that‘s why I‘ve got to tell you, people—I have seen people fired around MSNBC when they did something improper.  You just have to send a message to others that that‘s not going to be tolerated in your corporate culture. 

Anyway, stick around, because when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns, we have got much more with our panel and also with Frank Luntz, who is going to go over some polls that show that Americans trust media less today than ever before. 


SCARBOROUGH:  New polls out this week show less that Americans trust media than ever before.  We‘re going to have Frank Luntz dropping by and telling us why.

That‘s when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns in just a second.


SCARBOROUGH:  We‘re back with our panel. 

I want to go to Jon Meacham. 

Jon Meacham, you‘re greatly respected as a reporter, as an editor.  i want to ask you what you do.  I‘m not buttering you up, baby.  I‘m not. 


SCARBOROUGH:  And a great author.  And the paperback comes out in October. 

MEACHAM:  A distinguished congressman, yes.

SCARBOROUGH:  Exactly.  Exactly.   

And you know how to tie a bow tie.  I always respect men—of course, you can tell he went to a university in the South. 


SCARBOROUGH:  But, Jon, let‘s break this thing down.  If you had somebody working underneath you and they were helping you or Fineman or Evan Thomas or any of your great reporters on a story and they fed them a forged document, and on top of that, you found out that they were calling the Bush campaign, saying, hey, listen, if you really want to hurt John Kerry‘s campaign, give this person a call, they are going to be able to take care of you, what would you do to that person? 

MEACHAM:  Well, it wouldn‘t be a pretty Tuesday morning on the news magazine. 



MEACHAM:  I think everything that could have gone wrong here for CBS went wrong. 

And this happens in lots of organizations.  We listed a few of them a minute ago.  And you really have to judge the totality of the situation and look at the whole, all the details.  What I think is very, very interesting about this particular firestorm and the fact that it‘s a firestorm is that it‘s CBS.

You have a good part of the country, when you add up “The Reagans”‘ miniseries questions...


MEACHAM:  Janet Jackson, that fine came down this week.  And you have 15 or more years of a lot of the country thinking that CBS has, fairly or unfairly, a political tilt to it.  I wonder, if it happened to somebody else, if you have would have this level of ferocity around the issue going forward.  And I think that‘s what‘s unfortunate about it, because it can happen to anybody.  It really can. 


SCARBOROUGH:  OK, but let me stop you there, Jon, though.


SCARBOROUGH:  Because I think you‘re right.  We‘re all capable of making mistakes.  I have made some stupid mistakes on this show before.  And I have apologized for them. 

But the difference is here with Mary Mapes, again—again, we all make mistakes, but Mary Mapes calls a political operative at the head of the Kerry campaign, says, this guy has got information that‘s going to help you campaign against Bush.  Give him a call. 

Tell me, has that ever, ever come close to happening at “Newsweek” or any other media outlet that you have ever worked in?  I have never heard of that happening.  And, as a congressman, I never had anybody call me up saying, you can do this to hurt your political opponent. 

MEACHAM:  Not that I know of, no. 

And so this is a very interesting question for them.  I think I know what we would do and I think Mort knows what he would do at “U.S. News” pretty clearly.  But I can‘t speak for CBS. 


MEACHAM:  But what we can talk about, I think, is that what we have to learn from this, I think, is—as journalists, is, you can never ask enough questions. 

And I think one of the things that to me—and I just know what I have read in the papers about this—is the speed with which CBS moved to get this on the air.  Now, to me, that‘s a very troubling fact here, is they moved more quickly than one would have thought they would have moved in similar situations. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And, Jon, compounding that problem also is how slowly they moved after the whole world knew that something was wrong with this document. 

Mort, you wanted to respond.  Go ahead. 

ZUCKERMAN:  Yes.  No, I just want to—I think it‘s important to make one distinction here.  There was no intention on the part of CBS, in my judgment, to deceive.  They were deceived by the information they got.  And the journalistic checking just was not adequate in this. 

So I think it‘s like the difference between murder and manslaughter.  There is no intent here, I think, to deceive.  And, therefore, you have to be very careful about how far you carry this in terms of what‘s a fireable offense or not.  I do think that‘s a very different thing when it comes to this issue that we‘ve talked about, which is contacting the Kerry campaign. 

That‘s a very, very different kind of offense, frankly, because it really does violate a sense of impartiality. 


SCARBOROUGH:  That would be a fireable offense in almost any newsroom across America, wouldn‘t it? 

ZUCKERMAN:  I think it probably would be.  We just I think would have an enormous—unless we could find some really serious explanation for that, I cannot accept it or explain it. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Let me bring in Frank Luntz right now. 

Frank, I want to show you a new Gallup poll.  This time last year, 46 percent of Americans distrusted the media.  A year later, that number is up to 55 percent.

Do you think that this CBS case, this Dan Rather case is going to make it even more difficult for media outlets who want to do the right thing, who want to be fair and impartial, to get news out to the American people? 

FRANK LUNTZ, POLLSTER:  Well, Joe, what you‘re seeing is the balkanization of the media.  And we have seen it in so many other elements of politics. 

Conservatives want to watch one network.  Liberals want to watch another network.  No longer are we being truly informed in an unbiased way.  We want news to confirm out beliefs, rather than inform those beliefs.  And that can‘t be good for democracy.

SCARBOROUGH:  Frank, one of the most hotly debated polls to come out this week was done by the Pew Research Center.  The Pew people asked 547 journalists how they would assess themselves ideologically.  This is what they said:  34 percent consider themselves liberal; 54 percent consider themselves moderate; 7 percent consider themselves conservative.

And, of course, we all were citing polls back in the 1990s that said something like 91 percent of reporters in Washington voted for Bob—or Bill Clinton, and 4 percent voted for Bob Dole.  How difficult is it going to be when you have these statistics out there and also when you have Evan Thomas—and I salute him for this—saying that most of the reporters covering the campaign want John Kerry to win?

LUNTZ:  Well, if you take time on the campaign bus—and one of the things I hope MSNBC will do is let viewers in on what goes on, the conversations. 

I know most of these reporters, and they try, and usually they are effective at keeping their own biases out.  But there is no mistaking that a majority of reporters are on the left and the vast majority of reporters from an ideological standpoint would like to see John Kerry elected, but most Americans know that.  Polling I did for Steve Brill when he had his magazine “Content,” we found that the public‘s perception of journalists was very much to the left of center. 

And yet it is that right-wing news organization, Fox, that seems to get the most attention.  Look, when the public—all that it is asking for is the facts, ma‘am, just the facts.  And yet what they are looking for and what they seem to be rewarding are people who give those facts with a little bit of tint to it. 

MEACHAM:  I would just like to just jump in quickly and say my—if I can.


MEACHAM:  My sense—and I‘d love to hear if Mort agrees with this—is that, whatever the polls may show about individual ideological biases of reporters, my experience in the national press corps is that the chief value is competition, is conflict. 

And if one guy is up, we want to change the storyline to get him down,

so that we keep the narrative flowing.  I think that‘s our greatest single

·         the greatest single thing we have to watch is simply a need to change the story as we go forward and conflict, war, battles, scuffling in the wheelhouse.  That is a much more permeating value, I think, in the national press than left or right.  And I really—I firmly believe that. 



ZUCKERMAN:  In the first place, though, I have to say that the Pew Research Center has a very high standing in my own galaxy because they rank “U.S. News” as the most credible print news media. 


ZUCKERMAN:  So that immediately qualifies


MEACHAM:  One of the things about Pew, Joe, I think we have to discuss is this “U.S. News” problem they have. 



SCARBOROUGH:  Yes.  Exactly. 

ZUCKERMAN:  Look, you know, whatever the bias or the sort of instinct of a lot of members of the press may be—and, frankly, I‘m not sure I accept those numbers in quite the way they are presented—I do think the whole job of a system at any kind of major news media is essentially to distill out the bias of the writer and try and get an objective report going. 

And I think every major news media strives for that.  I‘m not saying everybody succeeds at it all the time.  But I think that is the instinct.  And I think Joe is absolutely right.  I mean Jon is absolutely right.  There is a sense of competition not only amongst the news media, but frankly to keep the narrative going, to keep the story going, to keep the interest in the story going.  And I think that is as much an influence on the way stories are reported as anything else. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Steve Forbes, you ran for president of the United States. 


SCARBOROUGH:  Let me ask Steve really quickly.  Steve Forbes, you ran for president of the United States two times.  Obviously, that‘s a brutalizing process.  The media is after you.

I can tell you, when I was in Congress for almost four terms, not quite so brutalizing.  We were up there, though, during the Contract With America.  I had a lot more focus from the national media than ever before.  Most of the people that reported on me and what we were doing, I could tell they were far left of center, but, at the same time, I can only name one or two times where I was misquoted or where I felt I got treated unfairly. 

Why don‘t you talk about your experiences on the campaign trail, and do you agree with Jon, do you agree with Mort that reporters are more interested in just beating the hell out of candidates than they are in pursuing their own political agenda? 

FORBES:  Well, I think, sure, they want a good story.  They like conflict.  That‘s what gets the interest each evening on the news and the next morning in the daily news. 

But in terms of the coverage, I think you could see a difference.  Yes, they would not misquote you deliberately, but in terms of covering issues, if it was a conservative issue, as the flat tax was perceived at the time, I think they wrote with considerably more skepticism than somebody who came in and said, we need more spending on Social Security.  They might ask, where will you get the money?  But you could tell from the tone of the questioning, they liked the idea. 

So when proposals came on the table, you could see the reaction was often hostile to the conservative ideas, more accepting to the liberal ones. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, gentlemen, stay with us.  We‘re going to have much more.  Plus, we are going to be talking about hostility in the presidential campaign and those windsurfing ads that have the Kerry campaign in a huff. 

That‘s when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.


SCARBOROUGH:  Conservatives smell blood and they are going after Dan Rather.  Is that bad news for CBS and good news for conservative reporters?  We‘ll talk about that in a second. 

But, first, let‘s get the latest headlines from the MSNBC News Desk. 


ANNOUNCER:  From the press room, to the courtroom, to the halls of Congress, Joe Scarborough has seen it all.  Welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, I claim to have seen it all, but I have never seen a hurricane season like the hurricane season that‘s just slamming Florida.  It‘s just unbelievable.  It‘s wiping this state out.  Let‘s hope good news comes from Hurricane Jeanne and it turns around and goes home. 

Let‘s bring our panel back in.  We have got Lawrence O‘Donnell, Jon Meacham, Mort Zuckerman.

And, Mort, I want to—also—oh, we also have Bob Kohn, of course, and Steve Forbes. 

Actually, I want to go back to Bob Kohn for a second. 

Because, Bob, I was thinking last night that conservatives must be thinking, you know, CBS is probably going to be a lot more careful with the next anchor they get, try to get somebody down the middle a little bit more than Dan Rather.  And then you hear, of course, you hear Sumner Redstone saying he is actually supporting George Bush.  And it looks like they are already tacking to the right. 

Do you expect that to happen?  And is this the best thing that could happen to people like you that think the media is biased? 

KOHN:  I think this overall situation bodes well for journalism. 

I want to go back to what Mort said earlier and disagree with him, because there may not have been an intent at CBS to forge documents, but only a deep-seated, biased, agenda-driven bias, could explain why they left on the cutting room floor interviews with the widow and son of Colonel Killian, that they rejected the two experts that were questioning the authenticity of the documents.  So...


SCARBOROUGH:  Bob, whose fault is that?  Is that Mary Mapes‘ fault or is that Dan Rather‘s fault? 

KOHN:  I think it‘s the culture.  It‘s Dan Rather, it‘s his boss, and it‘s Mary Mapes‘ fault, absolutely, because that is what they‘ve been doing.  And this is what conservatives have been complaining for years about CBS.  It‘s just that they were caught so spectacularly this time. 

But, you know, it was the Internet blogging community, alternative media, such as talk radio, cable news that unravels the kind of spin, the kind of fraud and the kind of bias that‘s going on at CBS News.  And I think that, if this investigation is truly open, if they do televise it, let the public see how the sausage is made here at “60 Minutes,” I think that that really can go a long way in discouraging the kind of agenda-driven news that—or so-called news that “60 Minutes” practices. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Lawrence O‘Donnell. 

O‘DONNELL:  Joe, the notion that there is this bias at CBS and that the cure is to replace it with another bias doesn‘t seem to me to advance the ball very much. 

And let‘s just remember, this same program, “60 Minutes II”—now they‘ve dropped that “II” part of the title—but this same...

SCARBOROUGH:  I bet they‘re sorry they did.

O‘DONNELL:  Yes.  Well, the main “60 Minutes” is sorry they did.

But “60 Minutes II” examined the Vietnam-era experience of another politician several years ago, Bob Kerrey, a Democrat.  And that account that was presented by Dan Rather to me was not believable.  I didn‘t like the way it was put together.  And, in effect, it alleged that Bob Kerrey was in effect a war criminal.  And they were using the testimony of one soldier who was present with Bob Kerrey, against the testimony of all the other soldiers who were present with Bob Kerrey. 

Now, Bob Kerrey is a Democrat.  Someone needs to explain to me what the bias was that put that story together. 


SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Lawrence, let‘s—hold on a second, Lawrence.


O‘DONNELL:  The viewers have choice. 


SCARBOROUGH:  Are you really telling me that you don‘t think Dan Rather has a 30-year history of leaning left of center?  You don‘t think that‘s the case? 

O‘DONNELL:  I don‘t think Dan Rather has a 30-year history of demonstrating political bias on the air, no, I don‘t. 

And when they show the questions of Dan Rather questioning President Nixon and we pretend that there is something outrageous with Dan Rather saying to him, “Mr. President, how does it feel when people talk to you about resigning and leaving your office?” let‘s remember, the guy did have to leave office.  He was under the threat of impeachment.  He was a proven criminal by the time he left office and had to be pardoned by the next president. 


SCARBOROUGH:  Well, we have got great clips of Dan Rather going after Republican presidents.  I don‘t think I have ever seen him going that aggressively after Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton or anybody else that‘s on the other side. 

O‘DONNELL:  Jimmy Carter wasn‘t getting impeached.  He wasn‘t breaking into offices.  He wasn‘t committing crimes. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, George Bush Sr...

O‘DONNELL:  How was he supposed to handle Richard Nixon, the criminal president? 

SCARBOROUGH:  What about George Bush Sr. when he treated him as shabbily as he did in 1988 in the now-famous Iran-Contra interview?  Did he treat Bill Clinton that way? 

O‘DONNELL:  It‘s a question of on-air etiquette.  Should he have been more delicate?  Should he have not interrupted him?  Dan Rather felt he wasn‘t getting an answer to his question and he pushed it a certain way. 

We can all look at it and say, he went a little too far in that.  He was rude.  But there wasn‘t anything unethical about it. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, I think it‘s about treating people the same, whether they are Republicans or whether they are Democrats, something I tried to do.  It‘s something that certainly Tim Russert on “Meet the Press” does.  He beats up people on both sides. 

Frank Luntz, I want to go to you.  You always do these focus groups.  I‘m curious, what have you found when you do the focus groups about politics, but also about media?  Do most Americans believe that media is down the middle, left of center, right of center?  Or, again, are we talking about this balkanization of medias, and most Americans start to say, well, you know what, if I‘m a conservative, I am going to get my news from Fox; if I‘m a liberal, I am going to go to CNN or I am going to go to CBS News? 

LUNTZ:  Well, it‘s interesting, in listening to this discussion, that Americans who would be watching this, they don‘t look at journalism being for journalists. 

And regardless of what the journalists try to do, the public looks at it as what they actually get from it.  Am I getting the news?  Am I getting the information?  Am I getting the straight facts?  That‘s all they want.  And they feel like they are not getting enough information. 

Now, Joe, that hasn‘t changed.  The public has been frustrated with the media for 20 or 30 years.  And they have felt that there was a bias.  But the difference is, in the end, they always thought that they were getting the truth.  The problem comes in when you actually don‘t start to believe what you are reading or what you are seeing on television. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And, Steve Forbes, as a publisher, how do you make sure that doesn‘t happen to your magazine? 

FORBES:  Well, in terms of biases in terms of the stories we write, we do come to conclusions.  But we try to base them on facts and sound analysis. 

And, in our editorial pages, I make it very clear where I stand, because I sign it and it‘s opinion page.  But if somebody comes in with an agenda that goes against the facts, they don‘t last very long.  Now, occasionally, bad things get through in any system, but you always try to improve the system and try to preserve the integrity, because, if you don‘t have the integrity, you lose your business.  And without that, then we‘re all up the creek. 

SCARBOROUGH:  If Dan Rather and Mary Mapes had put this together for “Forbes” magazine, would they be fired? 

FORBES:  Certainly they would have been, absolutely, because the system broke down.  They did not do the proper checking.  They did not vet the thing.  They did not look to see if there was a counterargument on this thing. 

So we have had instances in the past where we felt that there were serious lapses and the people involved paid the ultimate price. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Steve Forbes, thanks so much. 

Mort Zuckerman, as always, we thank you. 

Lawrence O‘Donnell, Jon Meacham, Bob Kohn, and Frank Luntz, great to see all of you here tonight.  Look forward to seeing you again sometime next week. 

Now, we‘re going to be talking in a minute to representatives from Kerry‘s campaign and Bush‘s campaign about where they‘re standing right now and whether John Kerry is in a losing battle once again. 

That‘s when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.

ANNOUNCER:  Tonight‘s SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY challenge:  Who was the first anchor of “The CBS Evening News”?  Was it, A, Douglas Brinkley, B, Walter Cronkite, or, C, Douglas Edwards?  The answer coming up.


ANNOUNCER:  In tonight‘s SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY challenge, we asked:  Who was the first anchor of “The CBS Evening News”?  The answer is C.  “The Everything News” began as a 15-minute broadcast back on May 3, 1948, with Douglas Edwards as anchor. 

Now back to Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Certainly not Douglas Brinkley. 

Of course, “The New York Times” reported that Doug Brinkley came out today saying that we have all found out that John Kerry wasn‘t the war hero that we thought he was.  And it‘s sort of shocking.  I‘m going to ask one of my next guests what his take is on that. 

But we want to turn our attention now to the battle for the White House.  I‘ll tell you what.  This thing is heating up.  There‘s 39 days left until the election, and the fight is really taking off. 

I want you to take a look at the latest ad from the Bush camp. 


NARRATOR:  In which direction would John Kerry lead?  Kerry voted for the Iraq war, opposed it, supported it, and now opposes it again.  He bragged about voting for the $87 billion to support our troops before he voted against it. 


SCARBOROUGH:  And here‘s part of the response from the Kerry campaign. 


NARRATOR:  One thousand U.S. casualties, two Americans beheaded just this week.  The Pentagon admits terrorists are pouring into Iraq.  In the face of the Iraq quagmire, George Bush‘s answer is to run a juvenile and tasteless attack ad. 


SCARBOROUGH:  And we‘re now joined by representatives of each campaign.  We have Chad Clanton.  He is a senior Kerry adviser.  And we have Kevin Madden.  He‘s a spokesman for the Bush campaign. 

Kevin, the windsurfing ad, kind of tough.  Do you have any regrets. 

Do you think that‘s too mean and may turn off voters? 

KEVIN MADDEN, BUSH-CHENEY CAMPAIGN SPOKESMAN:  No, I think it‘s a very effective ad. 

And one of the reasons why it‘s an effective ad is, it makes a compelling case about one of the most important parts of this election.  And that‘s decisive leadership.  And when Americans look at John Kerry, they see somebody who is a waffler and a waver—somebody who waffles and wavers on all the important issues during this election. 

And I think that when you see the criticism from the Kerry campaign and you hear the criticism from the Kerry campaign about this ad, you have to notice that they don‘t make one mention of the content of the ad.  They may say that it‘s too juvenile, but they never dispute the content of the ad, which is that John Kerry can never make up his mind on all the important issues during this campaign. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Kevin, I have never seen a president running for reelection attack his opponent as much as George W. Bush and you guys have attacked John Kerry.  I think it‘s almost unprecedented.  Why can‘t George W. Bush just run on his record and have this campaign be about a referendum on his first four years? 

MADDEN:  Well, I would have to disagree with the premise of your question.  I think we have run a very positive campaign. 

We‘ve talked about the issues.  We‘ve talked about growing the economy.  We‘ve talked about making this country safer.  I think, if you look at the Kerry campaign and the way that they have put the focus away from the issues—and they have focused on personal attacks.  Pessimism, negativity, that‘s all you really hear from the Kerry campaign. 

We want this campaign to be about the issues, because when it‘s about the issues, we win.  When we‘re talking about growing the economy, when we‘re talking about making this country safer, the hard choices, the decisive leadership that the president has provided, that‘s what resonates with the American voters. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Chad, I have got to tell you, if I were working on the Kerry campaign, I would be banging my head against the wall, because the Bush campaign has been running attack ads against you guys.  And they have been issue attack ads.  I don‘t think they have been overly personal, but they have been attack ads over the past six months while you guys have been trying to define John Kerry as a war hero and as a senior statesman. 

And yet you look at the polls that are out there and most Americans believe that actually John Kerry is being too negative and running a more negative campaign.  What is causing that perception? 

CHAD CLANTON, SENIOR KERRY CAMPAIGN ADVISER:  Well, the president is running the most negative campaign in American history for an incumbent president. 

This windsurfing ad is the latest example of that.  Literally, while the Bush campaign was high-fiving and towel-snapping over this snarky little ad, the situation in Iraq was deteriorating.  They don‘t mention any of the facts in the present reality in Iraq because they don‘t want the American people to know the truth. 

The facts are, we‘ve lost 1,000 troops.  American soldiers are being attacked in increasing rates.  And terrorists are flooding into Iraqi borders like never before.  The fact is, George W. Bush is covering up.  He‘s living in a fantasy land to try to cover up for his wrong choices. 


SCARBOROUGH:  OK, but, Chad, you know what?  I agree with you.  It may be a snarky little ad.  I think it may be one of the most effective ads of this campaign. 

But, again, I want you to answer the question I asked having to do with this perception that actually your candidate—and, again, look at the—I‘m supporting your premise here.  If you look at the money that John Kerry spent on his campaign ads and the Bush campaign negative vs.  positive, I don‘t think it‘s any close—but what I‘m asking you is, why do voters still think, though, that John Kerry is being more negative than George W. Bush? 

CLANTON:  Well, I think as Mark Twain once said, a lie can travel halfway across the world before the truth catches up to rip its boots off. 

And I think that‘s what John Kerry is doing.  We‘re getting the facts out on how George Bush has misled people about his economic record.  We‘ve lost two million jobs since he took office, about health care.  Costs are up 64 percent and five million people have lost their health insurance since he took office, and particularly Iraq. 

I think what you will be hearing John Kerry say over the course of the next 40 days is that George Bush‘s most catastrophic choice was going into Iraq alone.  As a result, U.S. taxpayers are on the hook for over $200 billion with no end in sight.  And that‘s $200 billion that we can‘t invest here at home.  It‘s hurting us here at home in health care and education.  And we‘ve got the largest deficit in American history. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, yes, and read my book.  I write all about that. 

Kevin, OK, the Kerry campaign, as you know, this week pulled out of—or at least cut back in Missouri, Arizona.  It looks like your campaign is pulling ahead in Wisconsin for good.  You guys have to be feeling like you‘re in the catbird seat, that everything is breaking your way.  Do you think that‘s the case?  Do you think John Kerry is done for? 

MADDEN:  Well, I think that we have had a lot of success because we‘re talking about the issues.  And I would disagree with Chad. 

I think one of the reasons that the American public thinks that John

Kerry is running a negative campaign is because he hasn‘t given the

American public a reason to vote for him, because all he has been doing is

talking about the past.  The president has spent this entire campaign

imploring the Kerry campaign to talk about the issues.  We‘re talking about

the economy.  We‘re talking about the important issues that the American

public is going to make their—decide their vote on this


SCARBOROUGH:  I‘m sorry.  We‘ve got to go.  We‘re up against a hard break.  I appreciate both of you guys being here.  And don‘t believe this race is over.  It‘s going to go down to the last second. 

Thanks a lot, Chad Clanton and Kevin Madden, for joining us. 

We‘ll be right back. 


SCARBOROUGH:  Now, make sure you turn in to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY on Monday.  I‘m going to be talking to “Bias” and “Arrogance” author and former CBS correspondent Bernie Goldberg for the entire hour.  We‘re going to be taking your calls. 

Also, be sure to stay with MSNBC this weekend for the latest on Hurricane Jeanne.  I‘m going to be reporting on that.  And also go to our Web site, Joe.MSNBC.com, and vote on whether Dan Rather should resign. 

We‘ll see you Monday.  And I‘ll see you in the middle of Hurricane Jeanne. 


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