from MSNBC transcripts

"Scarborough Country"

for November 18, 2004

transcript of 10pm ET show segment

Guests: Bob Kohn, Paul Levinson

PAT BUCHANAN (GUEST HOST): Was the CIA working clandestinely to oust George Bush from the White House?

Senator John McCain thinks the agency tried its best.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA: The leaks that came out of the CIA damaged the president‘s reelection. You can only view them as such, and there were several. And I have never seen anything quite like it.


BUCHANAN: I am joined now by Bob Kohn. He‘s the author of "Journalistic Fraud: How The New York Times Distorts the News and Why It Can No Longer Be Trusted." Paul Levinson is also here. He‘s the director of media studies at Fordham University.

Bob Kohn, to oust the president, the CIA would have needed help from the media. Do you think the agency got that help?

BOB KOHN, AUTHOR, "JOURNALISTIC FRAUD": Well, you know, I am not privy to the conversations between The New York Times and the people who leaked this information from the CIA.

But looking at it forensically, that is, taking a look at the front page and the pages -- and the editorial page -- of The New York Times, a case can be made that they were colluding to go after President Bush. This is an organization, the CIA, that its very foundation is secrecy. And when it leaks information, it‘s just undermining its own mission.

And the mission right now is, we are in a war, OK? Its mission is to fight a war. So if this were occurring during World War II, and if the War Department was leaking information to The New York Times to embarrass for political reasons the Roosevelt administration, I would think The New York Times would be reporting this to the administration and there would be firing squads.


BUCHANAN: All right, Paul Levinson, it‘s not only John McCain, who, of course, was strongly for the war. Robert Novak, the columnist, who was an opponent of going into Iraq, is saying the same thing.

His sources are telling him CIA people are out everywhere going after the president during the campaign. And I want you to look now right now at the front page of yesterday‘s New York Times The headline read "Chief of CIA Tells His Staff to Back Bush." But Porter Goss‘ memo tells employees to stay out of politics and tells them their mission is to -- quote -- "provide the intelligence as we see it and let the facts speak to the policy-makers." He does also add, "I also intend to clarify beyond doubt the rules of the road. We support the administration and its policies in our work as agency employees. We do not identify with, support or champion opposition to the administration or its policies."

Now, do you think what The New York Times did, the way they represented that, as though Porter Goss was saying, you know, we are basically, virtually an arm of the Bush campaign, do you think that was fair?

PAUL LEVINSON, DIRECTOR OF MEDIA STUDIES, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY: Well, you know, I am getting tired of people beating up The New York Times because it‘s too liberal. In fact, there are some examples of The New York Times making mistakes on the other side of the issue.

For example, in the past election, there was a huge discrepancy between the exit polls right up until the actual votes were counted and then the votes that were counted. And with the exception of Keith Olbermann on MSNBC‘s own "COUNTDOWN" show, there‘s been almost nothing about that in the media, including almost nothing in The New York Times.

So, does that mean The New York Times is biased in favor of the Bush administration?

I think what we have in reality is media like The New York Times, all media, make decisions on a daily basis about what they think the most important stories are to cover.

KOHN: Well, let‘s take a look at one of those...


BUCHANAN: Bob Kohn, go ahead.

KOHN: Let‘s take a look at one of those decisions.

The very day, yesterday, on the front pages of The Times, they made a decision to place the story about this memo that Porter Goss sent to the staff of the CIA, and then slanted it to make him look like he was politicizing the CIA. Well, what story was on page four of yesterday‘s New York Times? It was the story about Iran secretly developing a nuclear weapon, in opposition to the negotiations that the European countries are doing right now.

Which is more important, OK?


LEVINSON: Well, I don‘t know.

If the CIA is in disarray, and if our Central Intelligence Agency is not working the way it‘s supposed to, and if there‘s a political aspect of it, in which it‘s feeding the president and the American people incorrect information, in many ways, that‘s just as important as what is reported to be going on in Iran.

KOHN: That‘s right. That‘s right. And if you take...

LEVINSON: So, The New York Times was right to have a front-page story about the CIA.

KOHN: But why don‘t we see a front-page story about the Clinton administration? Here...


LEVINSON: The Clinton administration? Why should they...


LEVINSON: ... print that story? That‘s yesterday‘s news.

KOHN: No, it isn‘t yesterday. Well, it‘s today‘s news.

In the Clinton Library, there is no exhibit saying how I screwed up the CIA during my eight years in office, OK? That‘s what the story is.

LEVINSON: You perhaps have some agents in the CIA who you are talking to and giving you that information. There‘s no evidence whatsoever that Clinton screwed up the CIA.


LEVINSON: In fact, under the Clinton administration, we had no September 11, and we didn‘t have the kind of intelligence failures we had, which have put us in this situation we‘re in right now.

BUCHANAN: But, Paul, come on. Paul, come on. We had the first World Trade Center hit. You had the Cole bombing. You had the embassy bombings, and you had eight years. And you went up until about nine months before 9/11.

LEVINSON: Bush was on watch on 9/11.


BUCHANAN: Wouldn‘t you agree that even Clinton, I think would say, we really didn‘t do as much as we should have done, we really didn‘t think something like this was going to hit, we really weren‘t prepared, would he not?

LEVINSON: Well, yes, I am sure Clinton would say that.

But Bob Kohn was saying that, why doesn‘t The Times have front-page stories now about the failure of the Clinton administration and the CIA?


LEVINSON: ... but the story should be about the current president and the CIA.

BUCHANAN: Hold it, gentlemen.

Final thoughts with my guests in just a minute.


BUCHANAN: Comments or questions about tonight‘s show? Just send us an e-mail to

SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY will be right back.


BUCHANAN: Bob Kohn, Paul Levinson, 15 seconds each.

Do you believe The New York Times was using its news columns to influence the outcome of the election and defeat George Bush?

Go ahead, Paul.

LEVINSON: Absolutely not. They were reporting the facts as they saw them. That‘s what all the media were doing in their news columns.

KOHN: Pat.


KOHN: Yes, Pat, The Times admitted they were doing it.

In today‘s New York Times, on the corrections page, it said that it misconstrued that article. And if you take a look at the editorial page today, they didn‘t even read their own correction.

BUCHANAN: OK. Bob, Paul, thank you very much.

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