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CNN RELIABLE SOURCES
Trump Publishes Anti-CNN Video on Twitter; TV Hosts: White House Used National Enquirer as Threat; Three CNN Journalists Resign After Retracted Russia Story; White House Reporters Frustrated by Lack of Access. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired July 2, 2017 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:00:10] BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST: Hey. I'm Brian Stelter and this is "RELIABLE SOURCES, our weekly look at the story behind the story, of how the media really works and how the news gets made.
Today, we have a special program for you.
As President Trump's war with the media gets even more personal, the president is grappling with Senate Republicans who missed a self- imposed deadline on health care. He's preparing for a stare-down this week with Russian president Vladimir Putin. But on Twitter, he's wrestling with us.
Look at this video from his Twitter account this morning. This is a WWE Wrestlemania video from years ago when Trump used to show up at WWE events. You can see that the CNN logo has been superimposed onto the other fighter's face.
Now, this showed up on a Reddit message board days ago. Now, it's showing up on the president of the United States' own Twitter feed.
The early reaction in the last 90 minutes have ranged from: this is juvenile, ridiculous, idiotic, or wait, no, it's just funny. He's just having fun. Wait, no, it's actually scary, dangerous. We've heard a wide range of reactions to this. And we have a panel standing by.
But first, CNN's response. The strongest statement I've seen from CNN or any news outlet this year in response to the president's attacks.
Quote: It is a sad day when the president of the United States encourages violence against reporters. Cleary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders lied when she said the president had never done so. Instead of preparing for his overseas trip, his first meeting with Vladimir Putin, dealing with North Korea and working on his health care bill, he is instead involved in juvenile behavior far below the dignity of his office.
The statement from CNN ends by saying: We will keep doing our jobs. He should start doing his.
And, look, this is day six of Trump's anti-media tweet storms. We've been covering this all week long. His offensive tweets about Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski took up days of news coverage and those came after days of attacks against CNN and "The New York Times" and "The Washington Post." Now, his target on Sunday is CNN again. Who knows which outlet will be next?
Who's going to speak up? Are other media outlets going to speak up? I think they will today. We've already seen solidarity from journalists on Twitter.
What about GOP leaders? What about Republican leaders?
I think we should be clear about the Trump strategy here. The president's strategy, let's think about this, he's trying to build up news outlets that promote him while trying to tear down outlets that dare to challenge him. He is promoting his friends in the media, talking with friendly interviewers who won't ask him tough questions while he's demeaning voices who criticize him.
Now, don't take my word for it. Take his. At a private fund-raiser this week, Trump asked the donors if he should sue CNN. And then he called CNN staffers, quote, horrible human beings.
And on Saturday, he continued his campaign against the broader media. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The fake media is trying to silence us. But we will not let them, because the people know the truth. The fake media tried to stop us from going to the White House. But I'm president, and they're not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Is this president trying to impersonate Hugo Chavez, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Vladimir Putin? Because this is exactly the kind of language that leaders use when they're trying to undermine the press.
Of course, the American press is much more free than reporters in places like Russia and Turkey and Venezuela. On this Independence Day weekend, that's something we should all be celebrating.
So, where's Paul Ryan? Where's Mitch McConnell? Are GOP leaders going to speak up about these attacks against the media?
Like I said, right now, it's CNN. Earlier, it was "The Washington Post" and "The New York Times". It's been other networks, it's been other outlets. This president continues to demean the media.
Are GOP leaders going to support him?
I want you to know, we reached out to the White House earlier this week to invite a spokesperson onto the program given all the president's media attacks. Unfortunately, they did not respond to our requests. But joining me now is a panel that can examine this from every angle.
With me for the hour, Carl Bernstein, the legendary investigative reporter who broke the Watergate story wide open along with Bob Woodward. He's now a CNN political analyst.
Also with me, Kelly McBride, media ethicist and vice president for the Poynter Institute, David Zurawik, a media critic with "The Baltimore Sun", Olivia Nuzzi, Washington correspondent for "The New York Magazine", and Ben Ferguson, radio host of "The Ben Ferguson Show" and a CNN political commentator. We're having trouble with Ben's live shot. So, he's on the phone with us. And the whole panel is here for the hour for this special edition.
Carl, we have a lot to get. We're going to address CNN's error this week, the resignation of three reporters.
[11:05:01] That is something the president and his aides are now exploiting, trying to demean this entire network as fake and fraudulent news.
I'd love to hear your reaction, first, Carl, to this anti-CNN video from the president this morning?
CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: First, it's not just anti-CNN. It's anti-freedom of the press. It's anti-freedom of speech. It is a definitive statement by the president of the United States.
I think it also goes to the question that many military leaders in these questions are asked -- questions raised by military leaders in this country now, by the intelligence community, by people in Congress, about the stability of the president of the United States. This is an index of his state of mind, visually.
It's very disturbing. There's nothing like light-hearted about it whatsoever. It is an incitement. It is definitive, as I say, in the way this president views a free press and its exercise under the First Amendment to the Constitution.
And let me add one thing here about Hillary Clinton and our coverage of Hillary Clinton and her server, that Donald Trump and his people thought at the time was an example of great news by the same news institutions that he is now calling fake news. When it suits him, it's great news. When it doesn't, it's fake news. And the nexus of fake news in America is the Trump White House.
STELTER: I'm glad we have an hour because we're going to unpack everything you just said.
I want to ask about one detail in the CNN statement, Olivia, you are a working reporter in Washington every day, so you see some of the hate mail, some of the threats that reporters get. Did you interpret CNN's statement to say this video encourages violence? Did you agree with that that this video actually encourages violence?
OLIVIA NUZZI, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: Well, I don't know if that was certainly Donald Trump's intention. But it doesn't matter, right? What matters is what the effect is.
And I think there's certainly a chance that someone could look at that tweet, like they saw his statements during the campaign, and say, oh, well, this is what the president wants us to do and we have to be concerned about that.
But I think, you know, this has happened a number of times where it goes from Reddit to one of Donald Trump's aides and then to Donald Trump's Twitter account.
STELTER: Can you tell us about that? For viewers who don't know what Reddit is, tell us about that.
NUZZI: Well, I don't recommend it. But Reddit is, you know, a message board where people can talk and post all sorts of things. And it's sort of very free wheeling.
And Donald Trump is very popular on Reddit during the campaign. There were all sorts of different threads where he was popular on Reddit and this happened repeatedly, where something might go from Info Wars to Reddit, and then go to what is presumably Donald Trump's aides who talk to him, and then it went to Donald Trump's Twitter account.
It's just not something we're used to seeing come from the president of the United States. But it is something that we've seen repeatedly throughout Donald Trump's young political career.
Ben Ferguson, I mentioned he's on the phone with us, conservative talk show host and CNN commentator.
So, Ben, I'm curious for your perspective, do you have a message for the president about sharing a video like this?
BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR (via telephone): Look, I think we got to put it in perspective. This has been going around on Twitter. I think when I saw it, I initially laughed at it because I thought it was actually one of the more humorous moments of the real fighting back and forth that the president has had with the media.
I don't think it incites violence. I think people are stretching when they imply that. Wrestling is fake. Everybody knows that wrestling is fake.
This was something that you just need to have just an ounce of humor, and just kind of look at this and say, this may actually be --
FERGUSON: -- a little bit of a funny moment for this.
STELTER: You could look at it and say it's clever. You can say wrestling is fake. Security threats are real. And, Ben, you suffer from this just like the rest of us do. You get
hate mail that sometimes threatens your life. And that's what's happening to folks at CNN right now.
I've seen some of the trash that's coming to people's inboxes. How can we look at this video and not think that it's actually going to cause even more of those threats more of that hate to fester out there?
FERGUSON: Look, I think you obviously have reached a intense moment between the president, and the media, where he feels like there are people out there in the media that they're entire day is surrounded by trying to go after the president, and turning stories into bigger news than it maybe really is.
And that's one of the things that we saw this last week that he's trying to capitalize on. He's trying to make it abundantly clear that there are people in the media who have made it their personal mission and their job to destroy this president. And when you look at something like that he just tweeted out, and we try to turn this in to a bigger story, as if he's inciting violence, which is just not the reality --
STELTER: Who's turning it into a bigger story, Ben? This is what the president of the United States decided to post today. He could have posted about health care.
[11:10:01] He could have responded to citizen's concerns about ISIS --
FERGUSON: You're playing into the exact point that I'm making here and the point that I'm making is, you're over -- I think everyone's trying to overmake this into too big of a deal, over-exaggerate this. It took me three seconds to retweet that tweet earlier saying we're going to talk about it this morning.
I'm sure the president saw it and thought it was pretty funny and said I'm going to retweet this. It took him seven seconds. It didn't take him 72 hours or 24 hours --
STELTER: No, I agree with you on that. I agree. He's a busy man. He's got a lot to do. He's not just tweeting all day. But what he does for seven seconds with hurt people.
And let me go to David Zurawik on this.
The president's acting strong. I think that's what his supporters on Reddit are saying right now. This is a show of strength. I would argue it's an admission of weakness, that the campaign against the media is sort of all he has. It's his fuel to keep fans on his side.
Zurawik, your reaction?
DAVID ZURAWIK, MEDIA CRITIC, THE BALTIMORE SUN: Well, look, first I want to say I couldn't disagree more with Ben. And I think the most dangerous thing is to say, oh, have a sense of humor, let's just laugh at it.
You can kill somebody in seven seconds. That's part of the problem with social media, is people don't think about what they say. And they put out hateful, nasty stuff like this.
Listen, I wrote this this week. I really believe this. Twitter was a great tool for somebody outside of the power, somebody campaigning. It's great for people who are protesting, people outside the castle. It's a great attack vehicle.
But now that he's inside the castle, and he's the guy running it, he doesn't know how to control that voice anymore. It's like the gods gave him the gift of fire to vanquish all his opponents in the Republican primary. It was a 24/7 kind of attack ad that costs you nothing. It will revolutionize campaigning I'm sure.
But now, what it's giving us is exactly what you said at the top. It's giving us a glimpse into his mind with these tweets like the ones against Mika Brzezinski and this, and it's a really disturbing look at the man running the country.
Look, you take somebody. You slam them physically to the ground. You put a logo on identifying them. That's what fascists did in the '30s to people. This is not something, Ben, that you laugh about and say, oh, ho, ho, it's only seven seconds, what a funny thing, get a sense of humor, yuck it up --
STELTER: You're not saying anywhere near fascism, are you?
FERGUSON: David, with all due respect, as a media critic, have you ever had this type of intensity towards people that, great example, "Saturday Night Live", or would you say that that's humor and funny?
ZURAWIK: Listen, I denounced Barack Obama when he cut -- tried to cut Fox from the herd and say, I'm going to define what a legitimate news organization is. Ask Brian, I was on this show with the same intensity.
This is about what Carl Bernstein's talking about. This is about our constitutional government. It's about the high end of the press, which Trump doesn't understand.
He knows the bottom feeders in the tabloid world. That's the kind of people he knows -- people who can be bought and sold, people who can be scared.
If he thinks "The New York Times" or "The Washington Post" or CNN is going to be scared by him, he is in for the rudest awakening of his life.
FERGUSON: So, let's be clear about this. What you're saying is that anyone else out there that wants to be funny, "Saturday Night Live," comedians, people that mock him on TV, that is acceptable, but for the president to have a little bit of a sense of humor this morning -- ZURAWIK: No.
FERGUSON: -- and to actually put out a video that he was in with fake wrestling, you're now saying it's fascism. Are you kidding me?
ZURAWIK: No, not true. Ben, when Kathy Griffin did something physically that would possibly incite violence against the president, we all denounced her. This is the same --
STELTER: It's a good point. There was widespread condemnation of the Kathy Griffin photo.
BERNSTEIN: Can I interject for one second?
STELTER: Carl, go ahead.
BERNSTEIN: Excuse me. I want to interject here. This is about the president of the United States rejecting what reporters do, which is to report and try to get the best obtainable version of the truth.
This is that function that has terrified this president from the beginning. It is that function that has turned him into this kind of bully as other people have noted. He is -- he is going to the question of what we do at the heart of our business, which is to report.
He does not want us to report. He wants us to be lap dogs. He wants us to be, as he had early in this campaign, very pliant toward what he is saying and toward his sensationalism and toward his manufactured controversy, instead of the best obtainable version of the truth.
That's what all of this is about. And we need to return to our reporting --
FERGUSON: Carl, with all due respect --
BERNSTEIN: Can I finish please? Can I just finish?
FERGUSON: We have to be intellectually honest here and look at the reality that there is a significant percentage of the media, especially in Washington, D.C., that have a genuine disdain and hatred for the president of the United States of America.
[11:15:00] And what you're saying is that you --
STELTER: All right.
FERGUSON: -- the president does not expect them to be his lap dogs. He just is asking for them to at least be fair in their coverage. And there are a lot of people in the media that are not. They go out there with the intent to do everything they can to undermine and take down this White House.
STELTER: All right, Ben -- BERNSTEIN: Let me say one thing --
STELTER: We're way past the break, but I'm going to blow through the break. But let me add this thing and get Kelly McBride in here. We're talking about the media very broadly. It includes reporters and it also includes commentators.
STELTER: And I think there's a lot of commentators who are very disturbed by the president, some of whom may go overboard sometimes. But I think, Carl, your point is on the reporting front, we need to continue to do the reporting jobs. Yes, commentators might go overboard.
Kelly, I really want to hear from you, Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute, how do you think journalists should be covering this kind of anti-CNN tweet if at all?
KELLY MCBRIDE, MEDIA ETHICIST, POYNTER INSTITUTE: Well, I honestly think that we're probably spending a little too much time on it here.
MCBRIDE: No offense.
STELTER: That's why I asked.
MCBRIDGE: And, frankly, it just came out, and so, right, this has like in the last 30 minutes or 45 minutes. So, it's not completely inappropriate.
But, I mean, yes, if a reporter did this, a reporter would be fired, right? And so, I don't think we have to debate whether it's appropriate or what the president's state of mind was, whether he was trying to make a joke, or whether he's trying to be intentional.
I think what we have to do as journalists is focus on the stories that need our attention. What's going on with the health care act? What's going on with our taxes? What's going on with trade? What's going on with climate change? And how are federal policies that the president is enacting or not enacting affecting those issues?
And I worry that when we get -- I'm completely offended by this clip. And I also think it's kind of ironic, because I believe that this clip or one very similar to it is part of the documentary that just came out last week called "Nobody Speak" which is about the threat to the free press --
STELTER: Great Netflix doc, yes.
MCBRIDE: -- that many forces -- yes. And so, I think that there's a certain amount of irony here. But when we get distracted by this, and we get too emotional, and we take our eye off our jobs, then we're not serving our audience, either. And so --
STELTER: Is it part of our job to explain why we do what we do? And these kinds of messages have a corrosive effect on a big portion of the country.
MCBRIDE: Absolutely. Absolutely. And we can do that. We can do that in a way that we can be heard now. And I worry that the way you guys are yelling at each other, nobody's listening to you.
STELTER: Then let's make sure we don't speak over each other. Let's get Ben's video up. We're trying to get Ben on camera.
We're going to keep everybody around here. Take a break and reset, because there's a lot more to discuss, including CNN's retraction and resignations of three staffers. Is the press giving the president ammunition for his war?
We're also going to discuss Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski, and "The National Enquirer". What is that about?
New answers right after the break.
[11:21:56] STELTER: President Trump seems to think he has a lot of enemies in the media. But he also has a lot of powerful friends. Most of America is familiar with one of them, Steve Bannon. He ran "Breitbart" and now, of course, he's one of the president's top strategists.
But Trump's powerful media network is much bigger than Bannon. Let's take a look at the pro-Trump media universe. It includes Rupert Murdoch and Fox News, not to mention pro-Trump host like Sean Hannity and the cast of "Fox and Friends", then there's "Newsmax" and "Info Wars", radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh, sites like "Breitbart" and the "Drudge Report", and then, "The National Enquirer".
Yes, if you look at "The Enquirer" recently, you can tell when you're checking out at the supermarket that it's become pretty pro-Trump. In fact, "The Enquirer" made news this week -- that's David Pecker, the head of the brand -- when Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski claimed that the White House used the threat of a damaging "National Enquirer" story to try to affect and influence their coverage.
Now, Trump denied this, but Scarborough said he has receipts. He says he has text messages proving that there were communications between Trump aides and Scarborough. Essentially, what Scarborough says happened is they keep reaching out to him and saying, if you just call up the president and apologize what you've said that's so mean, "The Enquirer" won't be mean to you. We'll get the piece to go away.
Some analysts said that sounds a lot like blackmail. Now, Trump said, actually, it was Scarborough calling me trying to stop the story and I said no. Either way, both men seem to be confirming that Trump has weaponized
"The National Enquirer".
Back with me now the panel: Carl Bernstein, Kelly McBride, David Zurawik, Olivia Nuzzi and Ben Ferguson.
Now, I have some reporting on this, this morning, Zurawik. I'm told Scarborough by a person close to Scarborough, he doesn't want to show these text messages because he views these people as sources, anonymous sources. And he doesn't want to burn them. We'll see if that changes. I think it would help to have some evidence to back up his assertion.
What do you make of this idea that the president could be using his friends in the media to try to silence his opponents?
ZURAWIK: Yes, when -- when Scarborough and Mika talked about that on Friday -- first of all, I thought they responded with restraint and kind of power and authority to those horrible tweets that Trump wrote about Mika Brzezinski. And you know, when we say we should all be covering the stories that are important, we shouldn't be focusing on this.
Listen, we should be focusing on a president who says such things about women. It's a role model that's destructive to this country and we should be passionate about it. We should not just say, oh, calm down. So that's part of it.
The power of their Friday morning statement and I watched it twice. I watched it live and I watched the replay. It was so compelling to me, was this thing about "The National Enquirer".
And you know what? Really, that's what I was saying earlier about the bottom feeding end of journalism, if you even want to call it journalism. I think this is the tabloid world Donald Trump knew from his disco days and from getting in the celebrity columns. It's like Walter Winchell era.
I think, unfortunately, that's what he thinks the press is.
[11:25:00] He doesn't know about the high end of the press that Carl Bernstein represents. And I think, listen, if Joe Scarborough did put his hand in this, and say, we've got it, I think at some point, there's some pressure on him to show some evidence, because Trump will keep saying, lying fake news, blah, blah, blah.
I believe -- I mean, you know, give me between Mika and Joe and Trump, I'm going with Mika and Joe. But, this is a case now where if that's true, that's horrible. And, Brian, you know -- everybody on this panel knows how this stuff is done. It's a kind of wink and nod and an informal thing. Maybe Jared Kushner or somebody said, hey, just call -- just call the president up and make this thing go away --
STELTER: Hey, we have a better idea for a story for you. Yes.
ZURAWIK: Yes, yes, yes. And that's really -- that's sick. That's everything that I am against as a journalist, that you could have those kind of conversations. But I think that's the world Trump knows. And I think, you know --
STELTER: Kelly, I want to get your sense, as an ethical expert on this sort of thing. You're here in Florida. "The Enquirer" is based in Florida. What is your sense of this allegation from Scarborough and Brzezinski?
MCBRIDGE: Well, I think it shows us something about the president. That if this is true, that he was trying to basically manipulate Joe Scarborough into calling up the president and begging for forgiveness, and saying that he didn't mean it, that's -- it's interesting that the president or that his representatives would spend time and energy on this issue.
I get why the president attacks "The New York Times" and CNN and "BuzzFeed", because those are all organizations that produce real reporting that counters the president's narrative. Now, Joe and Mika, they don't actually do any original reporting. They facilitate a political conversation, and they used to be friends, or supporters of the president, or certainly more friendly to him, than they are now.
And it's sort of gives us an insight into the president and what he is spending his time and energy on. And that's what I find most alarming about it.
STELTER: I think that's a key point. I think it raises the other question, what would happen if he didn't have all these media allies? What if he didn't have Fox News to constantly support his point of view? It's interesting to imagine what that role would be like without "The Enquirer" and those outlets.
Let's take a break here. Much more to discuss on the other side.
We're going to have a great conversation about CNN's error. It's self-inflicted wound this week and the resignation of three veteran journalists. Stay tuned.
STELTER: Welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES.
It's been a difficult and embarrassing week for CNN. Three journalists resigned from this organization after the publication of a Russia-related article was retracted. It was retracted because the story did not go through the proper review channels.
Normally, a story that has anonymous sources, that's sensitive like that, is read by multiple units within the company, including legal experts and standards experts, before it's published. This story was not ready for publication. So, it was taken down, and there was an apology to the Trump ally Anthony Scaramucci, who was named in the story.
Now, we saw the resignations on Monday. They were a shock. And they saddened many journalists inside CNN, including some people who think the network went too far, actually did too much.
But the bottom line is that news outlets like CNN have very high standards for journalism.
Now, as the head of this network, Jeff Zucker, oftentimes says, on editorial cause, we have to play error-free ball.
Now, in this case, we saw the Trump administration make the most out of this error and try to exploit it, if we're being frank about it. The president's sons and the president himself weighed in on Twitter.
Also this week, another news outlet had to retract a story. That was VICE News. It was a story about Trump and Disney World, not a big story, not a bombshell, but one that had errors and had to be retracted.
Let's discuss this with our panel and examine what went wrong here and what can be learned from it, beginning with Carl Bernstein.
Carl, of course, you work with CNN now, but I would love your honest sense of what happened here. What went wrong?
BERNSTEIN: Well, first, institutions that are enemies of the people do not make a priority of correcting their mistakes, calling attention to their mistakes, and leaving from their ranks by order of the management those who made the mistakes.
That's what CNN did in this instance, because there is a protocol in place to make sure that such mistakes don't happen. And, instead of welcoming this, the president of the United States ridiculed, attacked CNN, said this was evidence of fake news, when, in fact, it is evidence...
STELTER: Well, you're making -- Carl -- Carl, you're making this -- this about Trump, though.
STELTER: CNN reporters made a big mistake, didn't they?
BERNSTEIN: Yes. They -- CNN made a mistake...
BERNSTEIN: ... acknowledged it, corrected it, made a prominent correction...
BERNSTEIN: ... and also said, we have a protocol, in which we expect our reporters and editors to follow this procedure. They were not followed in this instance.
And that is a statement of commitment to the best obtainable version of the truth, which ought to be welcomed by all in the business and by those in the White House, is what I'm saying here.
Let me ask Olivia, Washington correspondent for "New York Magazine," was the White House trying to use this honest mistake to try to smear all real Russia reporting?
NUZZI: Oh, certainly.
And that was evident in the briefing with Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the deputy press secretary, this week.
I think what the White House is hoping is that, because of this one honest mistake, which was obviously responded to in a professional manner, they -- overreacted to, according to some people, they're hoping that they can dismiss all Russia reporting.
But this is very obviously not about being truthful or being accurate, because, if it were, why would the president still be citing FOX News all the time, when FOX News recently had to retract their own story about the Seth Rich scandal -- or the Seth Rich conspiracy?
I think, if that were the case, if this really was about how they valued truth and they value accurate reporting, the president wouldn't be tweeting FOX News reports at all hours of the day.
STELTER: Kelly McBride, Poynter Institute, our ethics expert on the panel, what needs to be learned from this error by CNN?
MCBRIDE: Well, you know, one thing that CNN didn't do -- and we criticized FOX also in the same way around the Seth Rich story -- is they didn't say exactly what was wrong with the story. They didn't provide details.
They took it down. And they said, "We can't stand by the reporting, because it didn't hold up to our standards," which is exactly the same thing Fox did around the Seth Rich story.
But then they also said what those standards were. So, CNN went a little bit further.
Now, the consequence of this is that everybody who read that story now or any other journalists who might report on that story is going to run into the same thing that you're running into right now at CNN, which is the president and all of his supporters will just dismiss it as already proven to be a false story, when we don't know that the story itself was false.
What we know, based on the retraction, is that the methods of reporting the story, relying on a single anonymous source, didn't stand up to CNN's standards.
And so, really, CNN now has the obligation to advance the story and get what is accurate on the record. And if there was something that was truly inaccurate in that story, rather than just not up to the reporting standards, you got to come out and say that.
STELTER: You're saying that the solution, the antidote to bad reporting is more reporting.
My mentor, David Carr, used to say that: Do more reporting if there's an error.
Let me ask Ben Ferguson, who is on the phone with us, the conservative radio host.
We're trying to get his camera working there in Dallas.
But, Ben, I think you're still on the phone with me, right?
FERGUSON: Yes. Yes, I'm here.
STELTER: Good. OK.
So, this week, as you know, there's this conservative provocateur who has been posting these anti-CNN videos, maybe trying to take advantage of the retraction. I don't know. But he's been posting these anti- CNN videos showing CNN staffers, like a producer in Atlanta, raising doubts about Russia-related reporting at the network.
These are the opinions of personnel. It's the opinions of personnel, of staffers of the network.
What do you -- do you think it's appropriate for a guy to be with an undercover camera walking up to staffers, trying to take advantage of them and get them to embarrass a network that you work for?
FERGUSON: Look, I don't -- I don't think it's taking advantage of anybody.
If you walk up to somebody and you get their honest opinion, and then they give you something else when they're doing their job, I think that's actually showing somebody that's being dishonest.
I think you should say the same thing that you would say on air that you would say off the air. I think that this also plays into the president...
STELTER: But if it's a company that has 4,000 employees, does it matter what one junior staffer says?
FERGUSON: Well, I think the argument could be the junior staffer obviously has a lot of control over what's going to be put on the air. And so the argument that would be made...
STELTER: No, I said junior staffer, Ben, junior.
FERGUSON: Well, I mean, a junior staffer that works on a show, does he have a say-so? Does he have something to say on that show? Does he help with the planning of that show?
That all plays into the narrative that the president has made it very clear that he feels like that there is an attack on him consistently and constantly.
Now, do I think that those staffers should have said what they said? Look, that's their decision. They're grown adults. And they shouldn't have put it out there in that way, I don't think. I think it makes it look like that it's some sort of dog-and-pony show for some of them.
And that's something that I do think is an issue. But, ultimately, I don't think that that should indict every single person in a newsroom at the same time.
I do think that when you are -- feel like you're under attack, you're going to use that and make it as an example of, this is what I'm having to deal with. That's obviously the point that the White House and the president is trying to make.
Do I think that that's indicative of everyone that I work with at CNN? Of course not. There are some people that genuinely just want to get a solid, hard news story out there.
But when you combine that and the story that was being retracted, it plays exactly in to, I think the -- what makes the president upset and what he says, and he says finally, here is the proof, I told you that they're out to get me, look at what these people are saying.
STELTER: I just think it's dishonest to cherry-pick like that, when you have got this giant tree, and you pick off three little pieces and try to smear an entire industry with those pieces.
FERGUSON: But, look, I don't think it's cherry-picking.
I think when you go out there and you talk to people and you get these things...
STELTER: But it absolutely is cherry-picking. We know it's cherry- picking. It's clearly cherry-picking.
FERGUSON: Hold on.
(CROSSTALK) FERGUSON: But the only person that you can blame for the people that said these things are the people that said these things. I don't think that is cherry-picking.
People need to be responsible, no matter where they work. And I agree with you on that.
Bottom line, journalists have to play error-free ball, as I was quoting the head of CNN saying that.
Let's take a break again. Everybody is staying with us.
After this commercial break, the conversation about press access, the White House briefings and more. We will discuss the issues of cameras at the briefings, broader accessibility of the president and his aides, including -- and also other branches of government.
We will be back in just a moment.
STELTER: Hey. Welcome back.
If you look at the dwindling number of on-camera briefings at the White House, it's no wonder why reporters are feeling frustrated.
Here are the stats from June, the month just ended. Mark Knoller of CBS says there were seven on-camera briefings, 12 off-camera. And then, on weekdays, there were three weekdays without any briefings at all.
Now, let's keep in mind the president had his first RNC fund-raiser earlier this week. The press was not allowed inside. However, the audiotape leaked pretty quickly.
Back with the panel now.
And, Olivia Nuzzi in Washington covering this world for "New York Magazine," what's the big fuss here? Is this the new normal, this idea that the briefings are only going to be held on camera when the White House thinks it's in its advantage to do so?
NUZZI: Well, I mean, that seems to be the case, right?
This week, one of the only on-camera briefings was when Sarah Huckabee Sanders used it as an excuse to attack CNN, attack the media more broadly, and specifically Russia reporting.
I think there was a reason why we were all assembled there and why the cameras were there. It was very transparent at the time.
And you're right. There was -- we were not allowed to watch Donald Trump's fund-raiser at his hotel this week. I had to assemble with a bunch of other reporters outside in the lobby of the hotel.
I hope it's not the new normal. I think we need an opportunity to question the White House officials on the record, on camera, to hold them accountable, even -- a lot of people saying the briefing is useless. We don't get any answers from it.
I completely disagree. I think any opportunity to question this White House on the record, on camera, we need to take.
But I will say, you know, there have been a lot of people saying, well, just turn the cameras on or just release the audio.
STELTER: Right. Right.
NUZZI: I don't know that I think that's necessarily the right way to go.
I don't think that we should respond to the White House's lack of rules -- or remaking of the rules and ordering us around and breaking with protocol by breaking our own protocol.
STELTER: David Zurawik, what do you think, to the...
NUZZI: I don't..
STELTER: Sorry. Go ahead, Olivia. Yes.
NUZZI: I just don't know if that would result in more transparency in the end, which is, I think, what we need to be doing in the long term.
We need to be trying to have more transparency. But I would also point out -- somebody said on this panel earlier that we need to be focusing less on this kind of stuff, we need to be focusing on the big-picture stuff, on health care.
This is the biggest story in the world. The fact that the White House is attacking the media like this in these terms, in these terms, in violent terms, it may seem silly when you watch that GIF that Trump tweeted earlier, that video that he tweeted earlier, but that's always the case with Trump. It's a little bit silly, but it's also potentially really damaging.
And I think we need to take it very seriously, and I think we need to pay as much attention to it as possible.
STELTER: Right, anti-media attacks and lack of press access are related. It's part of the same story.
STELTER: So, Zurawik, we see the door being closed oftentimes on the press. For example, the secretary of defense traveled this week without the usual contingent of reporters.
Should the press be fighting back?
ZURAWIK: Yes, Brian, that's absolutely it. That's the largest story here is secrecy, government behind closed doors.
The White House press briefings are part of that. But that's what's really alarmed me in the last few weeks. You know, we had this Senate version of a health care bill come out of this secret -- this little secret group. It wasn't even all Republican senators, just these few.
When Sessions was testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee, all of a sudden, that day, you couldn't interview senators over in the hall. That kind of stuff is a creeping kind of secrecy, secret government that Trump -- and that's what this fight in the press room is about.
Look, the -- and Olivia's right. The one day that they do let the cameras in this week, it goes from a Breitbart question to set up Huckabee Sanders on CNN. She takes it, and then she uses the pulpit of the White House press room to tell people to go look at a tape by James O'Keefe, a propagandist, a guy who pled guilty to coming in to Landrieu's office in New Orleans to get information illegally, a person who misrepresents himself in these kind of run-and-gun, secret, hidden-camera interviews.
And she says, I don't know if it's true or not.
STELTER: I don't know if it's true or not, but the president still shared it on Instagram.
We will have final thoughts from our panel right after this quick commercial break.
STELTER: We're back now.
Final thoughts with our panel, beginning with Carl Bernstein.
Carl, we're talking about media mistakes, high standards vs. low standards.
I think one of the points of this hour is that, even if the president has low standards, journalists must keep high, high standards.
BERNSTEIN: I think that's right.
And our job is to do the reporting.
What we saw from the president of the United States today is a definitive statement of his sensibility and mind-set that should be disturbing to every American, Democrat, Republican, liberal, conservative, people who supported him, people who voted against him. It is a very disturbing statement, that tweet and video today. And at
the same time, we in the press, we can't do too much navel-gazing here. And I don't think that's what we're engaged in most...
STELTER: Except on this show, Carl.
BERNSTEIN: Wait. No, no, I'm saying, I don't think that is what we're doing.
But I think, in terms of getting into what we do in the press room, in the White House...
BERNSTEIN: ... and whether the cameras are turned off for this or that is not the important thing.
We need to get out there and do the reporting on the president's policies, on Russia, on these investigations, on his character, on his sensibility, on his stability. All of these things are part of the same story, the character, abilities, capabilities, policies of this presidency of the United States, and a presidency that seems, as I said the other day, to be a malignant presidency, which raises questions of, how do we cover this unique character and this unique presidency, with everything he is throwing at the best obtainable version of the truth, in terms of bombs, trying to make it impossible to do that?
STELTER: Kelly, who have you -- who have seen in the press doing this right? And how are you concerned about being done wrong, especially with regards to conversations about the president's emotional stability?
Because that gets thrown around a lot on talk shows, not by reporters always, but definitely by commentators.
BERNSTEIN: You're asking me?
I'm seeing if Kelly McBride could weigh in there. Is Kelly there?
BERNSTEIN: Go. Please, let somebody else.
MCBRIDE: So the tone is the tone, right?
STELTER: There she is, yes, OK.
MCBRIDE: Like, we have this -- we have a cartoonish president, and we have the press reacting to his behavior. And if we're waiting for someone to take the moral high ground here,
that's not going to happen in this current media ecosystem, because what we have created, where we used to have a media ecosystem that was based on more facts and fewer opinions, we have reversed that in the last 10 years.
We have way more opinions out there. And the more bombastic the president becomes, the more bombastic the press is going to become. And I don't think that's going to change.
STELTER: So you're saying it's a dysfunctional relationship or a vicious cycle?
MCBRIDE: I'm sorry. I didn't catch that.
STELTER: You're describing a dysfunctional relationship, where both sides are making things worse.
As we wrap up here, the last four minutes we have, Zurawik, how do you react to that? Is this a vicious cycle between Trump and the press, a war on both sides?
ZURAWIK: No, I think that's too broad a generalization, Brian.
And I think some people are doing exceptional work and fighting this battle every day. You have reported it on this show. "The New York Times"-"Washington Post" slugfest on who can do the best work is wonderful for journalism.
It's a blessing to be able to watch journalism operate at that level in this. CNN has been really fighting it. MSNBC now is doing more reporting. That's good.
Even -- even Jim Acosta, the chief White House correspondent for you guys, every day, he battles in that press room for access. And I will tell you what. It's not fun. I watch him on -- you all know it's nice when the beat goes nice. And when you're fighting this way for every inch, it's brutal.
ZURAWIK: I mean, I really admire what he's trying to do, saying, don't let this secrecy be the new normal, push back.
As Olivia said, it's very complicated, how you push back. I give her that.
STELTER: It definitely is complicated. And we see journalists trying different methods.
Olivia, let's go back to what we started this hour with, this new video from the president. Again, this is the president of the United States posting a world wrestling video showing him knocking down and punching a guy with a CNN logo on his face.
So, he's talking about violence against CNN. He's not saying go out and beat someone up, but he's publishing this video that models the behavior.
I asked Twitter P.R. about an hour ago, what is this? Is this a violation of Twitter's terms of service?
We have reporters asking that question. We have not heard back from Twitter. But keep in mind, terms of service, they do forbid violent -- incitement to violence or harassment.
Olivia, are you ever surprised anymore by some of the president's anti-media tweets. Is it possible to still be shocked?
NUZZI: I was a little surprised this morning.
NUZZI: But I just would point out that Donald Trump is being held to a much lower standard, for some reason, than the media is.
I disagree that there are fewer facts now and more opinion. I think people are doing the best reporting that we have seen in years. I think that we just have more people in general talking on television that we may have in the past. And I think reporting is great right now in general.
But I think we have never been in a time like this in American history before, where the press is being held to such a higher standard for their own behavior and for their own rhetoric than the president of the United States is.
And I think that that is the biggest story in the world right now, and I think we need to talk about it as much as possible. And I think it's very serious.
The thing about Donald Trump is, so much of what he says seems so silly, and you want to laugh at it. You see this video, and you want to laugh at it, because it's ridiculous and it's absurd that the president of the United States would share something like this.
But it's also very serious. And I think we need to be able to hold those two thoughts in our hands at once, and be able to admit that, yes, it's really funny on the one hand, and, on the other hand, it's very disturbing, and it says really disturbing things about where we are headed in terms of our First Amendment protections and what the president thinks about it.
STELTER: Indeed, there are staffers here at CNN that had concerns about threats, death threats, violence before today.
I think those concerns are now magnified by this new video. Even if -- even if some people think it was just funny, it is being taken very seriously.
We're going to keep asking Twitter that question, whether they believe it violates their terms of service. If you read the terms of service, you might think it does.
To the panel, thank you all for being here.
Ben, I'm sorry we couldn't get you on camera.
But we appreciate everybody being here this morning for this special edition of this program.
You can ready my story on CNN.com all about this new anti-CNN video from the president and the rest of our media coverage, including a threat against Al-Jazeera from several Arab countries.
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Have great July 4 weekend, and we will see you right back here next week.