This is a rush transcript from “Media Buzz,” July 11, 2021. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

HOWARD KURTZ, FOX NEWS HOST (on camera): Donald Trump may or may not have legal success in going after Twitter and Facebook but I’ll tell you this. His continued banishment by the social media giants is an absolute outrage and hurts them far more than the former president.

Why do so many people view Twitter and Facebook as awash in liberal bias and one-sided enforcement? There are lots of reasons. But Trump is exhibit A.

Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook and Jack Dorsey’s Twitter have become the public square and being booted from that square in 2021 amounts to being muted, practically silenced and underscores their unfairness.

Now, if there was ever any case for such action after the Capitol riot when Trump was said to be encouraging violent extremism, it has vanished during his six months out of office.

Legally, it will be hard for Trump to prove that private companies can’t set their own rules, but politically, it’s indefensible and the most appalling part is that most of the mainstream media, the supposed champions of free speech are just fine with the digital cancellation of Trump because he’s Trump.

They keep talking about Donald Trump all the time, including on social media, but are perfectly pleased that his mega phone continues to be confiscated.

I’m Howard Kurtz and this is MEDIA BUZZ.

The 4th of July is a time for patriotism, but in our hyperpolarized media culture, it has now become a time for high decibel arguments over patriotism, especially over the founding fathers and the declaration of independence which obviously included no rights for enslaved Black people. But a century and a half after the civil war, how much should that mar America’s image today? Listen to NPR.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNKNOWN (voice-over): The declaration is a document with flaws and deeply engrained hypocrisies. It also laid the foundation for our collective aspirations, our hopes for what this country could be.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ (voice-over): The New York Times says the flag may no longer be a symbol of unity. Supporters of President Donald J. Trump have embraced the flag so fervently at his rallies, across conservative media and even during the January 6 assault on the Capitol that many liberals worry that the left has all but ceded the national emblem to the right.

And such missives are drawing sharp complaints from media conservatives.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GREG GUTFELD, FOX NEWS HOST: If you want to be accepted in the entertainment industry, in media and academia, you have to trust (ph) this country.

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: How deranged, how crazy have we gotten over our national politics that if you see someone flying an American flag, you run the other direction because you assume that you all don’t agree on politics.

NATASHA ALFORD, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, VICE PRESIDENT OF DIGITAL CONTENT: I know that there’s a history in this country of certain groups using the flag, the American flag to intimidate marginalized groups and people of color.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ (on camera): Joining us now to analyze the coverage in New York, Will Cain, the co-host of “Fox & Friends Weekend.” And in Los Angeles, Leslie Marshall, a radio host and Fox News contributor.

Will, what a do you make of some media organizations turning the July 4th celebrations into attacks on America and what NPR calls its flaws and hypocrisies?

WILL CAIN, FOX & FRIENDS WEEKEND CO-HOST: It’s tragic. It’s tragic not just for their own reputations, which are thoroughly ruined at this point, but it’s tragic for the future of this country.

You know the American flag is a symbol. It is a symbol of principles, unique principles in the course of human events. And aspirations, aspirations that we live up to those principles that we did not always throughout our history, but the principles still remain the same. They still remain pure and aspirational.

If the media and the left for that matter decide those symbols no longer represent them and their ideology, that will be to their own impending doom, because I have to believe, Howard, this media narrative that you laid out, whatever kind of radicalism we see in academia or on social media, it is not representative.

It truly is not representative of this country and even, I think, the majority of those on the left. So if they adopt that radical position, it will be to their own doom.

KURTZ: Leslie, what do you make of the fact that — look, nobody is defending that all men were created equal in 1776, did not include millions of Black slaves, but shouldn’t we celebrating the progress America has made since then?

LESLIE MARSHALL, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, it’s interesting because in 1943, there was a case before the Supreme Court and it was the Virginia Board of Education versus Barnette. Again, 1989, there was another case out of Texas regarding flag burning. So the flag and patriotism have been in question not just in present day.

What I think is wonderful about our country, Howie, and what I think people have the freedom to do is to view and to feel about the flag, about the symbol, about symbolism in general, and patriotism and how you define that individually and uniquely.

I don’t think it’s doom for, you know, a certain group of people to say, hey, this makes me feel uncomfortable, and I don’t think because the flag makes somebody feel uncomfortable that they can’t and don’t see the progress that the nation has made in certain areas, despite perhaps one congressional member’s comments.

KURTZ: Will, I get that we have to grapple with the awful legacy of slavery. But we live in a country where kamala Harris is vice president, where Barack Obama was elected president twice, where Congress just unanimously passed a Juneteenth holiday. Shouldn’t the media report a more balanced picture?

CAIN: Yes. And that progress is undeniable that you just laid out. And to Leslie’s point, I would say this. No one is questioning your right to disrespect the flag. You have the right. The question is, are you right to do so? And I am suggesting you are wrong to desecrate the principles those symbols stand for. They are eternal.

If you no longer stand by them, if the left no longer believes in the principles and the founding of the United States of America, well, and I don’t mean this to be totally jingoistic, but you can find the door because you don’t want to be like a wife who says to your husband I love you but I want to change everything about you.

The obvious question (INAUDIBLE) then what do you love about me, because this country was founded on those principles. I would ask Leslie or anybody on the left at this point. Do you no longer believe in our unifying and foundational principles? Forget the flag. It is a symbol. It is a symbol for those principles. So the question becomes do you not believe in what we were founded upon.

KURTZ: Leslie, I’ll let you respond to that but also look at the way the media have painted this. I agree with you. People have the right to dissent but to some extent it’s about the tone on the nation’s birthday.

MARSHALL: Right but listen to Will’s tone. I mean, you know, all of us on the left don’t speak with one voice nor do everyone on the right nor do all Americans. It makes our nation great but it also causes division, doesn’t it? We are unified under one message as a party, my Democratic Party. We’re also not unified as a nation with one message.

I’m from Massachusetts, 20 minutes from Plymouth Rock, okay, and my real last name you can find on the mayflower, so I know a lot about the history of this country and I love the freedom of religion which our country originally was founded upon. I don’t love what happens when we hit the shores, that many of us have — hello?

KURTZ: Yeah, we got you fine, Leslie.

MARSHALL: I think I’ve been — I think you guys can see me but I think I got disconnected somehow.

KURTZ: We can hear you fine. Keep going. All right. She apparently is not hearing me. So let me pick it up with Will. Let me mention that the author of The New York Times story, Sara Messler Neer (ph), told CNN she was just reporting on the flag becoming a divisive symbol, that she was not advocating it.

But I want to look at two members of Congress that have been attacked by the other side. One of them is Republican Congressman Paul Gosar. Suddenly, liberal pundits are piling on him for associating white nationalists, including one guy, Nick Fuentes. We just kicked out a CPAC over the weekend.

New York Times headline, far-right extremist finds an ally in Arizona congressman. Do these kinds of media attacks work?

CAIN: Well, work to do what? To paint the right as in league with the white supremacist or —

KURTZ: Or to discredit in particular member of Congress based on who he associates with, he or she.

CAIN: That individual member of Congress can be judged based upon his own individual choices and actions and he should not associate with someone who does not represent his views. If he does represent his views, then he should be held to account to explain how those represent his views.

Just I like Leslie to the test just a moment ago about whether or not the principles still something she agrees with, Paul Gosar can answer those questions to you, Howard, or anybody else about what it is he stands for.

KURTZ: Okay. And Leslie, who can now hear me again, which is great, suddenly conservative pundits are piling on Congresswoman Cori Bush for this tweet about July 4th. The freedom they’re referring to is for white people, this land is stolen land and Black people still aren’t free. I don’t get the still aren’t free part, but does the media assault from the right help to discredit her? Is it fair?

MARSHALL: Well, I think it’s fair for her to say how she feels. Look, I’m a white woman. I’m certainly not going to tell a person of color, an African-American woman, an elected official, how to feel. Of course, some would say we were elected to Congress. That wasn’t possible. But we also know history and at the time of independence, as you mentioned, that you’re open, Howie, African-Americans were slaves. They weren’t free. It wasn’t Independence Day for them.

I do want to say one thing because I know I was cut off. You know, Will, I’ve got to say, I’m not an elected official and to put even my name in the same sentence with Gosner (ph), it just blows, you know, my mind, especially as somebody of Jewish ancestry when this guy is hanging around with Nick Fuentes who is a holocaust denier. I just have no time for anybody who denies such a terrible event in our —

KURTZ (on camera): All right. I’m going to jump. I don’t think Will was attempting to do that at all. I do want in our remaining moments talk about former President Trump who held a news conference this week. We will talk about that next segment. Here’s what he said about January 6th.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: That was an unfortunate event. I say, though, however, people are being treated unbelievably unfairly, when you look at people in prison and nothing happens to Antifa, and they burn down cities and kill people. There were no guns in the Capitol.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Will, for the former president to refer to the riot at the Capitol as an unfortunate event, I think, is going further than some on the right who try to say nothing really happened there, it was no big deal. But Trump still pivoted to people who treated unfairly and then bringing up Antifa. Your thoughts?

CAIN: Well, I think you have to talk about January 6th in a very responsible way. You can’t diminish it. You know, I think it was definitely a riot, but I think it also overstate the events of January 6th.

There is nothing that has been in the media to talk about sedition and insurrection. The truth is no one has been charged with either those very legal terms, Howard. There were 500 plus people who have been arrested. Some of them, by the way, have very genuine questions and should be answered about what is due process. They are being held to this day, and I’ve talked about that on Fox News prime time.

The point is if you only engage in rhetoric and hyperbole in describing the events, you set aside principle. And by the way, journalistic ethics and questions about what happened that day. We still have a lot —

KURTZ: Right.

CAIN: — of questions, questions that are not being asked about January 6th. I think we should all be a little more responsible about how we talk about that day.

KURTZ: Let me get Leslie in. Last hour, the former president told Maria Bartiromo that we won this election in a landslide. He continues to say that. But what do you make of him describing January 6th as an unfortunate event, which is phraseology that I haven’t heard him use before?

MARSHALL: Well, it’s a step in the right direction, but sadly, it is that big lie that he keeps perpetrating and he will not let go of that fans the flames of January 6th. He had the ability at the time as president to stop it. You know, I do feel that he is and so in his own party. Even Mitch McConnell felt that he was responsible with some of the words that he said.

So, I’m not hearing personal responsibility from the former president and I’m not hearing the severity of what happened or quite frankly what could have happened. When you watch the footage, it’s just horrific, not only what happened with the police officers, but things we heard about the risk to the lives —

KURTZ: Right.

MARSHALL: — of people like Nancy Pelosi, former president —

KURTZ: Mike Pence, yeah.

MARSHALL: — Vice President Mike Pence, AOC.

KURTZ: It was a traumatic event for our country. There’s a lot more to say about this, but I need to get a break. When we come back, how the press is covering Donald Trump’s lawsuit against Facebook and Twitter, which he says are in cahoots with the mainstream media.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ (on camera): More than six months after Twitter, Facebook, and Google’s YouTube banned Donald Trump in the wake of the Capitol riot, he is fighting back with lawsuits against these big tech companies.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Social media has given extraordinary power to a group of big tech giants that are working with government, the mainstream media, and a large segment of a political party to silence and suppress the views of the American people. Our case will prove this censorship is unlawful, it’s unconstitutional, and it’s completely un-American.

LAURENCE TRIBE, PROFESSOR, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL: It’s an “Alice in Wonderland” lawsuit. Its purpose is obviously to get attention to distract attention from investigations into the insurrection and his own responsibility.

JESSE WATTERS, FOX NEWS HOST: They just ripped this guy’s vocal cords out of his throat at a very critical time in our nation’s history. The point is that the president is trying to do something to correct an injustice for the American people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ (on camera): All right. Will Cain, does Donald Trump who had been saying he didn’t care about being off Twitter, he was going to start his own social media platform, does he have a case against unfair treatment by the likes of Twitter and Facebook, and also, does have a legal case?

CAIN: Okay, you distinguished it. So does he have a case? Is it a legal case versus a moral case? I listened to you at the top of the show, Howard. I think you got it just right.

I don’t know about the legal prospects of the suite that he has filed, but I think any American can look at this and say something is not right, something is not right in American culture, much less in big tech, where even a sitting president, much less a former president, can be banned from the biggest technological platforms in the country.

It’s certainly not in the spirit of free speech. I don’t care if it’s a private company. That’s not the point. They control the public sphere. When you see not just this issue, but the origins of COVID-19, therapeutics on dealing with COVID-19, the Hunter Biden story, the truth is not allowed to be discussed and increasingly and alarmingly increased frequency.

And Donald Trump, if he is the wrecking ball that continues to expose and tear that down, great. He has proven to be a very effective wrecking ball that exposes the rot in American culture.

KURTZ: Leslie, Trump told Maria Bartiromo moments ago that Twitter allows dictators around the globe on but not him. You can weigh in on the legal argument if you like. We will get to that. But doesn’t this action, his continued action show the absolute liberal bias of the likes of Facebook and Twitter?

MARSHALL: Well, first of all, Howie, and I’ve said this before, they’re a company and the former president also said it’s un-American, right, what they’re doing to him. And it’s actually very American. It’s called capitalism because make no mistake, if these companies could make more money having him on, they would do it.

You have to remember these platforms are not national. They’re international. As you just mentioned, people that are on their platform from around the world, not just the United States, we don’t live in this microcosm here.

Constitutionally, it’s very clear they’re a private company. Free speech does not apply to them. He’ll lose the lawsuit. But in the court of public opinion, what people do, I’m old enough to remember if you don’t like the company, you can go do one of three things. One, go somewhere else. Two, just get out of all the platforms altogether. Three, start your own. That’s what they did with Parler.

And again, Twitter and Facebook, if Donald Trump helped them, he would be on there. So it’s not just about their political bent. And I would imagine there are people working at those companies that are both democrat and republican like most companies throughout the world in most areas of business.

KURTZ: The is that Twitter and Facebook have become so powerful, I use the phrase public square, it’s not realistic to just go out and pitch your own tent.

CAIN: No.

KURTZ: But also, in his news conference, the former president said that the mainstream media are working with Zuckerberg and Dorsey and their companies to silence him, and I’m not sure I understand that complicity, Will.

CAIN: Well, I would say, first of all, to Leslie’s point, and you touched on this, Howard, it’s not so easy to say, if you don’t like it, you can start your own, because you brought Parler, Leslie, and Parler was specifically kicked off Amazon web services.

So it is not like we are dealing with a completely free environment to go innovate and compete as you want, because what we’re dealing with now is almost anti-trust monopolistic corporations that have complete control over if not the legality of free speech, the culture of free speech in this country. Those are both very important to America.

It’s not just the constitutional right to free speech, but the culture of it, that we believe in this country. We should hear from all points of view. I mean, this is what’s being lost as much as any constitutional principle. The idea that you and I can sit here and share an exchange of ideas and should, that’s being lost.

KURTZ: And Leslie, you know, there is a very vigorous debate on the hill about whether these companies should continue to get legal immunity, the so-called Section 230 that Trump tried to eliminate. But at the same time, you touched on this earlier, I mean, it’s what they’re doing censorship since it’s not an arm of the government and the question here is does the First Amendment apply to these private outfits.

MARSHALL: It doesn’t. The Constitution is very clear. Unless somebody wants to amend the Constitution, which we all know is extremely difficult, although it’s been done 27 times.

Look, there are going to be arguments and if you’re going to put it forth, whether in a courtroom or the court of public opinion. People will say, well, if it’s really hurting, then why are Republicans, governors in the state, why are Republicans the majority in certain state legislatures, how did Donald Trump win in — not the last election, the election prior.

KURTZ: Yeah.

MARSHALL: You know the list goes on.

KURTZ: Right.

MARSHALL: So, where is — people might say you may perceive this as being against conservatives, but at the same time, the proof is in the details and are those elections based on those opinions.

KURTZ: All right. You now, it is not like if you don’t like a hamburger company, you go buy somebody else’s hamburgers. They’ve become that dominant. That is the real question. Will Cain, Leslie Marshall, great discussion today. Thanks so much.

CAIN: Thank you.

KURTZ: After the break, ESPN benches a star host from the NBA finals over racially charged comments on a leaked video. But are the media unfairly dunking on her?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ (voice-over): You are looking at a live picture of the Virgin Galactic aircraft, which is about in the process of separating. This is part of the final stage of (INAUDIBLE) into the edge of outer space. We are going to keep an eye on that. We will come back to it shortly.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Forty seconds.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ (on camera): ESPN host Rachel Nichols has had a rough time since The New York Times obtained audio of a private conversation in which she complained about the sport network giving a coveted NBA assignment which was part of her contract to a Black colleague, Maria Taylor.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RACHEL NICHOLS, ESPN HOST (voice-over): I wish Maria Taylor all the success in the world. She covers football. She covers basketball. If you need to give her more things to do because you are feeling pressure about your crappy longtime record on diversity, which, by the way, I know personally from the female side of it, like go for it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ (on camera): Once this exploded in the press, Nichols, who has tried repeatedly and unsuccessfully to personally apologize to Taylor, was painted as the villain. This week, ESPN, punished her further, booting Nichols from the premier event on her bid, the NBA finals.

Joining us now from Dallas is Steve Krakauer, who writes the Fourth Watch newsletter. You wrote and talked about this. This may seem like inside baseball or basketball, but is what Rachel Nichols said in that private leaked conversation, not saying anything racist, but complaining about being unfairly penalized to boost a Black colleague, enough to warrant her being bounced by her network from the NBA finals?

STEVE KRAKAUER, EDITOR AND HOST, FOURTH WATCH: No, it’s totally incongruous. I think that it actually gets to really interesting thing in the piece, which is that it is really a story as much about the state of ESPN and this sort of HR hunger games that are happening there. This reactive nature that is happening and how things are being done there as much about the state of the media, because no, Rachel was almost being critical of ESPN as a whole for their lack of diversity efforts.

All of a sudden, they have one seat for a female colleague or a female journalist. It’s between Rachel and Maria. That is not an attack on Maria so much as an attack on ESPN and its diverse measures. But this shows the state of the media because this story has no real timely resonance right now.

This is a story that is a hit piece that was orchestrated by Maria Taylor’s camp precisely at the right time for maximum impact to impact ESPN and to impact Rachel Nichols. It hits as just as NBA finals are starting, just as Maria Taylor’s contract is up in just several weeks. And as a result, you get this punishment of Rachel Nichols not really for what she said a year ago, but for what just is a PR kind of nightmare for ESPN.

KURTZ (on camera): Well, I take your point on the contract. There are reports that she had been offered $3 million deal. We don’t know for a fact. I just want to clarify that this was orchestrated by Maria Taylor’s camp. But certainly, you can draw that inference if you like.

Just the other day, however, this shows you how things have gotten. Rachel Nichols went on the air on ESPN and offered this apology.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NICHOLS: I also don’t want to let this moment pass without saying how much I respect, how much I value our colleagues here at ESPN, how deeply, deeply sorry I am for disappointing those I hurt, particularly Maria Taylor.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ (on camera): So Steve, should she have had to apologize like that when her colleague won’t even respond to her texts and she’s trying to say, hey, I’m sorry, it wasn’t really aimed at you?

KRAKAUER: Won’t respond to her texts and will not interact with her on the air. If you’ve been watching ESPN’s NBA coverage and it looks like Maria Taylor is talking to Rachel Nichols over the last year, it is not actually happening. Rachel is on tape. Maria refuses to engage with her on the air.

No, it’s not an apology that is based on trying to come to some sort of an agreement. It’s performative in a lot of ways. It is kind of what you have to do. It should also be noted, that happened on Monday. On Tuesday, the decision was made to take her off of the NBA finals. It’s not like the apology ended up leading to any sort of great kumbaya moment.

KURTZ: Yeah.

KRAKAUER: It didn’t have resonance at all.

KURTZ: Right. In a half minute that we have left, you’re exactly right. She was criticizing ESPN’s approach to diversity. So maybe the network felt stung and that’s the reason for this retaliation. I’m going to call it what it is.

KRAKAUER: Yeah. I think it’s really just trying to get some sort of PR win out of this. ESPN did not look good in that piece. I think it was by design in that New York Times article. It was really losing the battle on Twitter which as we know has so much relevance these days. I think undue relevance for big organizations like ESPN. So you take Rachel off the NBA finals, you try to take some of the heat off of it.

But really what is coming up, again, this may happen during the NBA finals, game six, game seven, Maria Taylors’ contract is up. I would say that this was a huge win for Maria Taylor and she is going to be leading to a probably a contract from ESPN, it looks a lot better even than the three million number that she was offered up back in earlier this year.

(CROSSTALK)

KURTZ (on camera): We shall see. Steve Krakauer, thanks very much. I appreciate your insights. And now I want to go back to this —

KRAKAUER: Thanks, Howie.

KURTZ: — historic space flight, Virgin Galactic, Richard Branson, the billionaire founder of that company, on-board. And I want to bring in Fox News correspondent Jeff Paul to give us an update. What are we — tell us what we’re looking at right now.

UNKNOWN: There we go. Now we can see that —

JEFF PAUL, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is a historic moment, that’s exactly what you’re looking at right now, Howie. An incredible moment for not only space, but for space tourism, as Sir Richard Branson takes this giant leap forward for many people who have hopes and dreams to reach the very edges of space.

You know, a few moments ago there was sort of a gasp out here and you could hear cheers now, when the rocket, the space plane decoupled and was released from the plane that took it up to 50,000 feet and that rocket shot straight up in the air and you could see the stream as it went up into the air and it’s just hard not to be excited and hard not to smile when you see something like that.

The live feed of what exactly happened didn’t go quite as planned. It was hard to kind of see the crew in there once they reached the moment where they were kind of weightless and floating around. We saw a brief moment of that but now we do know that they are getting back in their seats and that they are heading back down-to-earth, so this is one of the most critical moments when we wait and see if Unity 22 will make a nice, save, smooth landing that we have seen Virgin Galactic do in previous missions to the edges of space here.

KURTZ: Yes, that’s what I want to ask you about.

PAUL: And that’s what everyone here is waiting for.

KURTZ: Right. But there’s enormous public interest in this. But isn’t that in part because Richard Branson himself at the age of 71, this guy who had death defying episodes in the past, is on board and it’s been by the media as kind of this battle of the billionaires because nine days from now Jeff Bezos, the Amazon founder will go up on his own Blue Origin rocket. Isn’t that what’s driving in part the enormous public opinion?

PAUL: There’s part of that the race to space, certainly there’s an interest in the billionaire race to space. But to tell you from the people who are out here, we just heard a big boom, which we’re assuming is the sonic boom, as they re-enter the earth’s atmosphere. I think it’s just excitement right now. And I think for people who are into space it’s good to see the competition between people like Branson and Bezos who is going to be taking a similar flight nine days from now in west Texas.

So that’s certainly a big part of it. But you need eye balls and you need interest in order to keep this going. And Howie, if you’re wondering, Sir Richard Branson has sold 600 tickets to do this experience, this very experience at a tune of a quarter million dollars a seat. So, there is definitely a lot of interest. Someone like me obviously can’t afford that. But you can tell that people want to experience this.

KURTZ: Well, maybe they’ll let journalists ride along at some point. And Bezos sold a ticket for $28 million for a tourist on his. This particular flight, I think other than the pilots, has, you know, Virgin employees on- board.

But this instance, the spacecraft has successfully done this a handful of times. Is there something other than Branson’s out-sized presence and of course we’re all interested in that, he’s a very colorful entrepreneur, that makes this particular flight that we’re watching now different from the previous events?

PAUL: I think part of it is that you’ve got someone who is a billionaire, who is obviously funding —

(CROSSTALK)

KURTZ: Let me jump in. Let me jump in. Richard Branson is talking right now so we’ll catch off and we’re going to listen.

RICHARD BRANSON, FOUNDER, VIRGIN GROUP: It’s a complete experience of a lifetime. And now I’m looking down to our beautiful space Earth, congratulations to everybody for creating such a beautiful, beautiful thing. Congratulations to our wonderful team at Virgin Galactic, for 17 years of hard, hard work to get us this far.

KURTZ: Well, I didn’t realize that we were actually going to be able to hear from Mr. Branson in mid-flight. That is amazing and also makes my point about it being a bit of a television show. Jeff, let’s pick it up, please. I’m not sure if we still have audio contact.

PAUL: Yes. Howie, yes, and I think, you know, the point you were making before we heard from Richard Branson, I think is that someone is paying and funding sort of an adventure to space, and now he’s sort of putting his money where his mouth is and he’s actually experiencing it to sort of to give the confidence to other people who are wondering if this is safe or if this is something viable when he is up there. And I guess it would be the first time an owner of a privately run rocket company is taking the ride himself.

KURTZ: Right, just to give our viewers an update. The Virgin Galactic flight is now at 22,000 feet and descending. It doesn’t look like a dramatic descent but obviously the thing is moving very quickly.

And look, I think I got — you got to give credit to these entrepreneurs, Bezos who wished Branson lots of luck this morning before the launch. And Branson himself for being pioneer. Both of them made their fortunes in other businesses didn’t have to do this.

But there is a strain of thought. I mean, I like everybody else are wondering, you know, private companies doing what NASA used to do exclusively, it feels like a new era but is it kind of a diversion for rich people who can afford to buy these tickets, is it going to lead, we don’t know obviously fully the answers here, but is it going to be more of a fun thing for people who have a lot of money as opposed to leading to a more deeper exploration of space and the planets?

PAUL: I mean, I think, you know, if you go back in history and you look at aircraft, commercial aircraft, I’m sure there were similar conversations about that happening too that it’s —

KURTZ: Yes.

PAUL: — for the rich and the affluent and, you know, here we have people now like me, flying for work trips to come here to witness this historic moment. So, I think the competition is good because it obviously will make the companies better, and you know, of course things are expensive when they first start out. An iPhone was very expensive when it first starts out but a lot more people have iPhones now, same with laptops or any technology.

So very historic moment. It’s hard to put into words, being out here and hearing the excitement and knowing what could be next for the future.

KURTZ: Yes. You know, as somebody who grew up during the U.S./Soviet space race and the great American moment in 1969 when man first walked on the Moon and then of course all the subsequent Apollo flights, I’m used to the sort of choreography of seeing a capsule separate from the main craft and then splash down into water.

One of the things, and perhaps you can walk our viewers through it, is the way in which this is actually going to make a landing, and I think this landing will get much more attention than the previous ones simply because of Branson’s presence on that spacecraft.

PAUL: Yes. So, this is — it’s sort of almost two aircraft, if you will. You know, it took off like an airplane would and that space rocket that ended up going to space was in the middle of a twin fuselage airplane. So, it took off as an airplane. And you know, some people remark of, you know, that wasn’t an excitement site as they thought it would be. But once it hit that 50,000-foot mark, then the rocket was released and took off to space.

So now it’s coming back in and it’s supposed to this kind of be coming into the atmosphere sort of like with the underbelly taking the brunt of the gravity and the pull and the burn that’s coming in back to the atmosphere and then it will land like a plane or a space shuttle, it’s just obviously a much smaller. So, it’s sort of a mixture between a rocket and an airplane they’re calling it a space plane.

KURTZ: Yes. I mean, it’s one of the — there’s so many unique things about this that makes it so fascinating, beyond what you described as the battle of the billionaires. We should point out even though there’s been success with this particular spacecraft, I mean, this is not without risk. I mean, you talked about somebody putting their money or their many billions of dollars where their mouth is.

It’s not exactly a routine thing yet. The technology has not been tested for years. I mean, it has been in terms of if they had to feel ready to launch. And NASA does not regulate this, right? Other than the risk to people on the ground if something were to go wrong, anybody who gets on this spacecraft, whether it’s Branson, Bezos or space tourists who buy a ticket know full well that this is not like getting on a cross country flight from New York to L.A.

PAUL: No, it’s certainly not but I think what separates Virgin Galactic from some of the other rocket companies we’re hearing about is that they have already, as you mentioned earlier, have taken people on a similar ride and brought them back down —

(CROSSTALK)

KURTZ: Five hundred feet.

PAUL: — safely as we await Sir Richard Branson landing here.

KURTZ: Well, we’re waiting now, 500 feet above the landing zone. Let’s be quiet for a moment and watch.

UNKNOWN: Main gear touchdown. And we’re going to hold it just like this for a minute before bringing the nose down. We can see they’re already celebrating inside there. And the nose is coming down now. Nose gear touchdown. And braking.

KURTZ: Well, it looks like a picture-perfect landing, a smashing success. I’ve been on plane landings that were a lot bumpier than that.

UNKNOWN: It’s incredible drone footage here as we come in and there is full stop.

KURTZ: The crowd there I’m sure very happy. Jeff Paul. We did get to see that shot of Richard Branson kind of clapping his hands together, knowing that he’s just completed this historic flight and just watching those pictures was something when you consider all the technology and the hard work and the risks involved and now we’re looking at the plane having successfully completed its landing. Your thoughts?

PAUL: Yes, a 90-minute flight, a very historic one and he’s back down on the ground. It’s pretty surreal to think that, you know, in an hour and-a- half ago we watched him walked out of here get into the SUV and head out to space and now he’s back down on Earth in the matter of an hour and-a-half what would be a typical movie.

So it’s incredible just to see this experience, to see, you know, the technology, how far it’s come and as you mentioned, Sir Richard Branson has been working on this for years and years and finally he gets a chance to experience something that he has invested countless dollars in and now other people soon as they have booked tickets will get to experience something similar.

KURTZ: Yes, it’s got to be an absolutely thrilling way to spend some time even though it’s described as being on the edge of space. I mean, we’re talking about 50 miles up and of course the effects of gravity and then the effects of feeling weightless even though you’re not weightless is really something, and I think, I think everybody was cheering for Branson and that flight and I think there will be a similar reaction when Jeff Bezos goes up in his rocket. It’s really something to watch these historic pictures.

PAUL: Yes.

KURTZ: Jeff Paul, I appreciate you’re doing the duty there and keeping us posted. Would you like me to keep going? OK. Sorry, I thought we were.

PAUL: I was just going to say, just an incredible view from space, from the windows that you get to see, I’m sure that’s part of it too, the weightlessness, but also the view.

KURTZ: Yes. And live and in color. In the early days of the Mercury program, the Apollo program, I remember a lot of it was in black and white. I imagine over the next 24 hours we’ll hear a lot more from Richard Branson about what it was like, his feelings about the successful launch and I think the press will have a lot to feast on here about, you know, is this a kind of a Wright Brothers moment that is going to lead as you were saying earlier to kind of a new era, in which private companies, in which capitalism is going to play a much bigger role.

And NASA, you know, which have also, you know, which kind of laid the foundation for this over the decades and is still is going to be exploring places like Mars, will have some competition and competition in America is a good thing.

PAUL: Yes, we’ll see what happens next and, you know, we’re nine days away from Jeff Bezos doing something similar. Obviously, his experience will be a little different, it’s a fully automated rocket that will then, you know, sort of land itself back down-to-earth and it’s going to go a little higher and there has been back and forth between Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin about what’s considered space.

You know, the U.S. government defines it as 50 miles above. International market, 62 miles above. I think most experts say that the feeling there really isn’t much of a difference between the 12 miles once you’re up that far.

KURTZ: Well, it goes to show you, you’ve got to win the battle for space and then you’ve got to win the P.R. battle to tout your accomplishments but that’s the world that we live in. And we also live in a world where billionaires, you know, with the right amount of drive, determination, money and of course very talented engineers and scientists, people like that, can make something like this happen.

And you know, again, the fact that we watched that very slow, smooth dissent onto a landing made it seem routine. But we’ve been having a very different conversations right now, there could have been complications, if something could have gone wrong, there was of course about an hour and half delay for weather related reasons.

But you can’t really say anything other than this was a triumph, a success for Branson, for Virgin Atlantic, for America and for those who really care about space exploration.

PAUL: Yes, and I think the other part of it, if you talked to people who have watched, you know, space launches in the past, is the fact that they brought back down the ship that’s going to likely be reused again. And so, I think that’s part of it is bringing the cost point down, the reusable aspect of this space flight.

KURTZ: Let me now turn — we have on the phone John Crassidis, he’s an aeronautic engineer who understand these things far better than I ever will. And John, give me your take on the landing and the magnitude of what was accomplished here today.

JOHN CRASSIDIS, SUNY PROFESSOR, DEPARTMENT OF MECHANICAL & AEROSPACE ENGINEER: It’s tremendous. This really sets us apart and gives us the ability to have space tourism and I’m ready to go, too. So, I think it’s an amazing thank thing that happened today.

KURTZ: You’re raising your hand, you’re ready to sign up.

CRASSIDIS: I’m ready to sign up, yes.

KURTZ: I hope you have a big bank account, at least initially. Well, you know, what is amazing about it, because the thing that strikes me — again, I made an earlier reference to the fact that I’m used to seeing the big booster rocket take off, you know, from Kennedy and then later the splashdown of the capsule. I mean, here we have a different kind of takeoff, Jeff Paul said it took off just kind of like a regular airplane, and a very different kind of landing. So, talk a little about that, if you would.

CRASSIDIS: Sure, this is more like a space shuttle, right, that would land like a regular plane. And what sets this apart from what Bezos is doing and Musk is that this is a plane that the astronauts actually control. Versus an automatic system where everything is done automatic. But when Bezos goes up, it’s going to be fully automatic.

KURTZ: Why the different approaches? It would seem like fully automatic might be safer. On the other hand, you know, if things go wrong you do want experienced pilots on-board, I would imagine.

CRASSIDIS: Right. You hit it right on the head. You do want pilots on board in case something goes wrong. But I’m an aerospace engineer that does automatic controls. So, I’m perfectly content with an automatic system too as well.

KURTZ: We see the press gathering now, maybe some of these folks will come out. In the meantime, if I had asked you five years ago whether this was likely, whether this was feasible and whether this could become routine, what would you have said?

CRASSIDIS: I would have said, I would have given it a 50/50 honestly. But we’re here today. It’s a great day. Just look forward to the future.

KURTZ: So, we’re looking at live pictures of Branson and the crew and the employees inside the capsule. They must be breathing a little easier now. You can have all the drawings and scheme schematics and studies but it actually takes place, I’m sure it’s quite a relief to be on the ground.

But I think your suggestion of you would think that 50/50 odds, underscores that, you know, we’ve been used to in this country a lot of success with the space program, with obviously a couple of tragedies as well, thinking of the challenger for one terrible moment during the Reagan administration, that this was not a foregone conclusion and that the risk factor is still substantially high when you’re talking about all the things that have to go right for this to be successful.

CRASSIDIS: Exactly. John F. Kennedy said it right. We do this because this is hard. We’re building satellites at the University of Buffalo right now we’re building three of them, one of them we’re about to give to the air force. It’s been six years in the making, and this is a group study, it’s about the size of a shoe box. It takes a lot of work to ensure that the satellite is going to work safely. And obviously when you have humans involved, that goes up by an order of magnitude.

So, a lot of planning needs to go in place. I like to think about it. I mean, this was a short launch but when you launch things into space, where you don’t get a chance to — you only get one chance. So, think about flying a car for millions of miles and not being able to service it, you’ve got to get everything correct and make sure it’s going to work the first time.

KURTZ: I’m particularly interested in hearing about what you’re working on since I’m a graduate of the State University of New York at Buffalo and obviously a lot of private companies, contractors will be trying to get in on this.

Do you, where do you see this going? I mean, do you think it will reach the point where space travel is relatively routine or for now is the most that we can say is that, you know, there will be this occasional flights with relatively rich people on-board to get the excitement of going 50 miles into the atmosphere.

CRASSIDIS: It will definitely be routine I think in 20 years, just like right now we’re at the beginning of air travel, right. Who would have thought how fast air travel would have become routine. That’s what exactly what’s going on right now.

So, I think within 20 years it will be fairly routine with space tourism and hopefully with these private companies and these billionaires behind this and making the transition from government to more industry and I think there’s going to be — space tourism is going to be big.

Maybe someday one of these billionaires will build a space station up there and have a permanent presence for tourists to go up there. I think that would be very exciting. Who knows where it’s going to go right now?

KURTZ: Right. Let me bring back Jeff Paul. You know, the justification for the original NASA space program was that it would be greatly aiding research for things here on Earth. Obviously, there’s natural drive and inclination to try to go to the planets, landings on the moon and all of that. I hear less about that now, but perhaps if this does become more frequent, more companies involved, more people experiencing it, there will be some scientific benefits as well?

CRASSIDIS: Yes. Well, I’m thinking more in terms of the moon and asteroids because there’s a lot of rare minerals on there, water that we can use, and other things that can be brought back to Earth. And help solve some of the problems we currently have on earth.

So, obviously, we’re a long way away from that but I think it’s something we should be planning for.

KURTZ: Yes. I’m sure that that will be the case. I guess we at least briefly have lost our connection with Jeff Paul. So, let me say a couple things and bring you in, John. That I think, you know, there were times during the U.S. space program when there was a great debate here on Earth about was it worth the money. And couldn’t we take all these hundreds of millions or billions of dollars and a spend it on needs here at home and the people.

And starting when JFK when he launched the space race, LBJ was very interested in space and every successive president have argued that it is worth it, that it’s almost mankind’s destiny to explore and also that there would be benefits, you know, well beyond the creation of Gatorade for people here at home.

And so, I think that the media play a pretty crucial role here, not just in, you know, we all get very interested in showing these launches and these landings, but I think it helps drum up public support the more attention we pay to what people like Branson and Bezos are trying to accomplish.

CRASSIDIS: Exactly. And I think that’s a very good point. Because when shuttle launches became routine, this happened with Apollo as well, too, when it became routine there was less media coverage and people didn’t tune in as much. But I think as more and more of this happens, people are going to become a lot more aware of it.

So, I got into my area, became an aerospace engineer because I wanted to be an astronaut. And I think, I truly think that the more we do this, the more we’re going to get excitement and so we’re going to mind to explore to get into the stem field and I think that’s really important. I think a lot of people don’t look at that aspect and say do we want to spend more money on education, that’s great, but they kind of think, I think do a lot more to inspire kids like Apollo did for me to get into the stem field of aerospace engineering.

KURTZ: Right.

CRASSIDIS: And we’re kind of advertising it as if they would do it for us. So, I think it’s exciting and add (Inaudible) as an educator from my point of view.

KURTZ: We’re looking at footage from earlier this morning of the Virgin Galactic aircraft. And if you’re just joining us, there you see a shot of the crew inside. But again, this is earlier videotaped footage. It has been a tremendous success. Richard Branson at the age of 71 putting his billions of dollars into this and bringing it in for a safe landing after a roughly hour and-a-half flight.

Jeff Paul, let me ask you the same question I was just exploring which is how important is the media coverage in terms of raising people’s awareness of not just the flashy parts of this, Branson versus Bezos, but the benefits and the allure of what might someday be more routine space travel.

PAUL: I mean, obviously, we play a huge role in bringing what’s happening to us and keeping the company honest, to our viewers at home about what’s going on and the challenges they face up to this point and about what the experience was truly like.

But I tell you what, you know, there is all sorts of different media here, internationally, probably more international media here than domestic. You’ve got local reporters from New Mexico and El Paso area but we also got people from London, Australia, France, different parts of Asia, all over the world here to view this moment and I think share it with viewers who they think have an interest in it and find value in this huge step towards space tourism is what they’re calling it.

And one of the other things I want to point to, is just you can kind of see the crowd of people who have showed up here, some of them Virgin employees, and people who have gotten a chance to come here and witness it and they’re all waiting to get a glimpse of Richard Branson and to cheer him back as they get back from space.

KURTZ: Yes. You know, Richard Branson has had a career where he’s done some wild things, where he’s been injured and bloodied in some of the things that he’s attempted to do, bungie jumping and other stunts, all of which has made Richard Branson very famous, very rich, but he’s also had to run this company.

And so, I just want to provide some perspective as we continue to look at live pictures of the touchdown site. And that is, you know, it’s just shy of 120 years ago that the Wright Brothers were able to achieve flight, get an actual now primitive looking aircraft off the air and look at how much has happened, how much the world has changed, how much the world has shrunk because of airline travel and of course then the explorations and recently the unmanned craft on Mars and the explorations of the moon and all of that.

The point is, you know, from all of human history, this was unthinkable, this was not possible. And now we’re looking at something that is all too possible financed by private companies that could have a great future.

PAUL: Yes. And judging by the looks of it, you know, the atmosphere that someone like Richard Branson brings along with something like this is pure excitement. You know, you can probably hear the music behind me and that’s what it’s sort of been this entire time we’ve been out here since the early morning hours, around 4 a.m.

They’ve been pumping music out here, getting people ramp up to get excited about this step, not only just for Richard Branson but also as you mentioned for the future of, you know, what’s next for space tourism, space flight, people getting up and experiencing that weightlessness.

And maybe beyond that, you know, and other billionaires was here today. Elon Musk has set his sights on going beyond just that weightlessness feeling and getting to the outer edges of space and giving (Ph). So, yes, it is a huge step. But it it’s also kind of an exciting one, even for the people down on the ground, just seeing that trail that the rocket left as it shot up. You know, you can kind of remember where you were at that moment, I think for a lot of people who were out here in the New Mexico desert to witness this moment.

KURTZ: Yes. Jeff Paul, thanks very much for your reporting and your insights. We appreciate it. It is exciting. I mean, sitting here, and it’s my job as an anchor to help narrate and to provide some perspective and information but, you know, just on a basic level and this went back to the, you know, first time that people like John Glenn, the future senator went up into space, it’s just exciting.

I mean, it’s riveting to watch this when you give it, when you take a second to realize, John, let me get you back, how much of a technological challenge this was. I’m sure there were many nay-sayers telling Branson, telling Bezos that you will never be able to pull this off and today at least has been a huge success.

CRASSIDIS: Yes. I agree with you a 100 percent. And going back to the point about the international community in a sense, I look at space as the unifier for the world. Because we all share space. And the more we cooperate in going into space, hopefully it’s going to be a part of the thing that unifies us in the future. So, it’s a great day. And for all the nay-sayers, I’ve got to admit I was a little bit in that sense too, but, yes, I mean they’ve all been proven wrong and keep going.

KURTZ: Yes, you know, on that point, I mean, the original space race of the 1960s was born out of a competition between the United States and the Soviet Union. It was, you know, as kind of a proxy for the Cold War. But then the two countries now with Russia ended up cooperating on the International Space Station, China now trying the to become a player in international space as well.

But the biggest thing here I think is that, you know, private industry, which takes a lot of criticism, has shown that there are visionaries there, there are a lot of companies that have not as well run, and Branson, you know, who as I said has been controversial, who has been colorful, really gets to do the victory lap if I may use that phrase for what he has pulled off. A quick final thought from you, John.

CRASSIDIS: Well, competition breeds technology. Right. So, competition is good in that sense. It can also have a downside but by and large I think competition is a very good thing and if China were to say we’re going to Mars, what would we do? We would immediately say we’re going to Mars, we want to beat them, right. So, I think it’s a good thing in a lot of ways.

KURTZ: John Crassidis, we appreciate you joining us by phone. Thanks very much. And I’m just going to look at the pictures here now for a moment as we kind of take it all in. I keep trying to reset the scene because the magnitude of what has gone on here today and the possibility of many flights to come, whether it’s Branson, whether it’s Bezos, whether it’s other companies really could change space commerce and the way we think about it.

I’m delighted to have had a chance to share this historic moment with all of you. We’re coming to the end of Media B. Thank you for watching. We’ll be back here next Sunday.

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