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Uncomfortable Questions About Trump's Fitness; White House Silent After Tuesday's Presser. Aired 11a-12n ET
Aired August 20, 2017 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST: Hey. I'm Brian Stelter. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is RELIABLE SOURCES, our weekly program about the media.
Now, this was not a normal week. So, this is not a normal show.
President Trump's actions and inactions in the wake of Charlottesville are provoking some uncomfortable conversations, mostly off the air if we're being honest. In discussions among friends and family, and debates on social media, people are questioning the president's fitness. But these conversations are happening in news rooms and TV studios as well.
Usually after the microphones are off, or after the stories are filed, after the paper has been put to bed, people's concerns, and fears and questions come out. Questions that feel out of bounds, off limits, too hot for TV. Questions like these.
Is the president of the United States a racist? Is he suffering from some kind of illness? Is he fit for office? And if he's unfit, then what?
These are upsetting, polarizing questions that are uncomfortable to ask. But we in the national news media can't pretend like our readers and viewers aren't already asking. They are asking. This is how deep the country's divide has really become.
My impressions is that since President Trump's inauguration, there's been a lot of tiptoeing going on. His actions have been described as unpresidential, as unhinged and sometimes even crazy. Now, that word crazy can be interpreted several different ways. It gets said a lot more in private than it gets said on TV.
For instance, this next sound bite was never meant to be heard on TV at all. Last month, Republican Senator Susan Collins was overheard on a hot mic saying that Trump's handling of spending was incredibly irresponsible. Democratic Senator Jack Reed responded by saying he thinks Trump is crazy.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
SEN. JACK REED (D), RHODE ISLAND: I think -- I think he's crazy.
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: I'm worried.
REED: I mean, I don't say that --
COLLINS: No. Lightly.
REED: -- lightly and as a kind of a goofy guy.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
STELTER: This week, Republican Senator Bob Corker questioned the president's stability. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: The president has not yet -- has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Now, some Democrats, not surprisingly have gone a lot further. California Democrat Zoe Lofgren asked if Trump has early stage dementia. She said she wants a medical, mental exam conducted.
Another California Dem Jackie Speier called for Trump's removal under the 25th Amendment. And Al Gore said Trump should resign.
We're also hearing this in some liberal corners of the news media and the entertainment world. You saw late night comics got very serious this week. Jimmy Kimmel made jokes about making Trump a powerless king but he meant what he said about getting Trump out of office.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIMMY KIMMEL, LATE NIGHT HOST: Desperate times call for desperate measures, and I'm asking you, the people who supported Donald Trump, to step in and help for the good of this country.
Mike Pence is ready. He's boring. He's relatively sane. He looks a neighbor you might borrow a lawn mower from. Let's get him in there before it's too late. Let's make America Great Britain again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Now, if you've picked up your Sunday paper, you've seen that the papers are filled with cries with change. This is "The Los Angeles Times", the liberal editorial board there saying enough is enough. Trump is, quote, a danger to the Constitution, a threat to our democratic institutions.
Now, all this brings me back to those questions that are tough to ask out loud on national television. Is the president of the United States suffering from some sort of illness? Is he racist? Is he fit to be commander in chief?
And one more, is it time for objective journalists, I don't mean opinion folks, I mean down the middle journalists, to address these questions head on? And if so, how in the world should do they do that?
The famed investigative journalist Carl Bernstein says yes, these questions should be asked. He's joining us along with acclaimed presidential historian Douglas Brinkley, and Alice Stewart, the Emmy- winning former news anchor and former communications director for Ted Cruz's campaign.
Carl, first to you, because you've been asking about the president's stability for quite some time. What is it you think reporters should be doing to tackle this uncomfortable subject?
CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I've been raising questions as a journalist about the fact that Republicans in Congress, the highest of intelligence officials, the highest of military officers in our country, leaders of the business community, all of whom have dealt with the White House and many of them dealt personally with Donald Trump, have come to believe that he is unfit for the presidency.
[11:05:16] That's what I'm learning as a reporter talking to many, many people in Washington who, over the last month or two, have come to that conclusion, and especially among Republicans in Congress. They have been raising the very question of his stability and his mental fitness to be president of the United States.
This is not me, Carl Bernstein, saying this. This is me, Carl Bernstein, being a reporter. And what I have advocated and said, it is an important, crucial, dangerous story that reporters need to start making their business to do the reporting. To go to all the Republican members of Congress and talk to them in private or on the record, if they will, about what they believe to be the fitness or unfitness of Donald Trump to be president of the United States. Do they believe them --
STELTER: When reporters do that, they usually get a no comment, right? They usually get a no comment? How do they get to this issue if GOP leaders won't talk about it?
BERNSTEIN: First of all, I think that you're not going to get too many people who will do what Bob Corker did on the record and question the president's stability. But let's find out.
But I think the first task is to remember that most of the good reporting, real deep reporting investigative reporting we do does involve anonymity for our sources. And we need to know that people don't have an ax to grind. I don't think we ought to be talking to Democrats about this question. Primarily, we need to go to Republicans in Congress. We need to go to the top intelligence officials, military officials and ask them on background as we call it in our profession, and perhaps off the record, what do they think about the president's stability and fitness to be president of the United States.
Because many of those, for weeks and months, that I've been talking to have openly questioned it and in the last couple of weeks, it's become a cascade, a torrent, a river, a serious questions about whether the president of the United States is fit and stable enough to be president.
STELTER: So, if that's the case, Alice, if what Carl is saying is the case. So, there are these folks, these leaders in private who have questioned the president's fitness, isn't that the biggest story in the world right now?
ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look --
STEWART: -- first of all, this is not the first time this question has come up. If you recall back during the campaign last year, Donald Trump himself, candidate Trump questioned Hillary Clinton's fitness to be president due to her private e-mail. So, we've had this question asked many times before.
However, from -- as a previous journalist before I got into politics --
STEWART: -- if people are raising this question which we're seeing across the aisle, it is a legitimate story to cover. It is a legitimate question to be asking people because elected officials are raising this issue. However, oftentimes, what we're seeing lately is it's a lot of Democrats that are raising this question. And specifically in light to what has happened in the last week with regard to the president's response to Charlottesville, there is a lot of emotion as a result of that and we're having many Democrats questioning his stability. But, of course, as you mentioned, Bob Corker as well.
But I think it's really, really important to consider the fact that while we disagree on the issues, when we're talking about someone being unfit, I view this much more as a political issue than a medical issue. Many people disagree with the president's policies. Many people this week have questioned his moral take on some of these issues that we're having this week with regard to racism and hatred.
While he -- he did denounce it, the moral equivalency he placed on that has raised a lot of questions. But I think it's really important when we're talking about his fitness for office and there's been questions about the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, whether or not he should be removed for medical reasons, we did have Democrat Adam Schiff on Jake earlier saying we're way too far away from even considering the possibility of removing him from office.
I think if people are raising this question, it's a valid topic for journalists to cover but we need to look at this as whether it's a political difference as opposed to a serious medical problem.
STELTER: And, Douglas Brinkley, when we're talking about these issues, if reporters are trying to pursue some really disturbing questions about the president's fitness for office, aren't many conservatives and many Trump voters are going to interpret that as is the press being the opposition, trying to subvert their vote? DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, there's no
question, particularly the Trump Republicans are going to look it that way, but Senator Corker is a real leader among Republicans, and it was very brave of him to step out and really talk about the fact that we have an incompetent president and what does that mean for our country.
[11:10:13] There are things that can be done right now.
I mean, on the medical front, look, we all know he is a neon billboard for, you know, overt narcissism, malignant self-love. We've all known that. And now, we're seeing that we're getting the ramifications as a nation of what having a sick man in the White House means. I think the Senate might need to move --
STELTER: A sick man in the White House.
BRINKLEY: We -- he is. He's not mentally stable. And we need a -- perhaps the Senate needs to do a censure coming up here.
General Kelly is going to have to continue to try to stop him from taking to the mikes and dividing our country like he did at Trump Tower. There's going to be some effort to control his tweets. But we're going -- the government is going to have to run -- the White House has to run almost around the president.
And, you know, we saw Nixon with H.R. Halderman. You know, he would tell Halderman, go bomb Brookings Institute, Nixon, or go bomb Wounded Knee, and people just started disregarding what Nixon said. Henry Kissinger regularly didn't listen to his president.
I think we're at that state now when the five generals of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have to go out and enter politics and say, we want nothing to do with what the president is saying. It is a crisis going on in the White House and it's about Donald Trump's fitness for command.
STELTER: I agree with it that this is the White House in crisis.
BERNSTEIN: Brian, can I add something here for a minute?
STELTER: It's not that we're waiting for a crisis to happen.
I'm sorry, Carl. Please go ahead. Yes?
BERNSTEIN: Well, I want to get -- his point about a crisis and a dangerous situation is absolutely right. And that is again what we ought to be reporting only in terms of what Republicans particularly, military leaders are saying in private or publicly.
But this is not a -- I don't think this is a question of removal from office under the 25th Amendment and a highly politicized event such as that which is very unlikely to happen. The national emergency that some of these Republicans are talking about in those kinds of terms are their view that the president is unstable, not competent, also not honest, so that there has been a basic deterioration of the conduct of the president of the United States and how to deal with that. Our job as reporters is to find out what the real story is there.
Maybe what I'm being told is not as pervasive as I believe it is. Let's find out. But we need, as journalists to make this our primary function right now in many regards in terms of covering this presidency.
But doing it very thoughtfully and carefully and this is not about our opinions. This is about what others are saying who know the president and the institution. And incidentally, there are people who have left the White House that I've talked to that say the same thing and are very worried about the stability of the president of the United States.
STELTER: To your point, Carl, it's not our about our opinions. Alice, how is it -- is it possible, Alice, as a conservative commentator, someone who worked on Ted Cruz's campaign, is it possible to cover this subject without further alienating Trump voters?
STEWART: Look, clearly, Trump voters as we've seen over the last week and throughout this entire campaign, they're going to stand by him. They are going to be with him through thick and thin, come heck or high water. And we've seen evidence of that this week.
Look, there have been outrageous stories brought up in this campaign, stories about Ted Cruz's father being involved in the assassination of JFK, and reporters would routinely call me during the campaign and say, I know this is ludicrous but I have to ask this question. And I view a lot of the journalists covering this, that it may seem outlandish to question the president's fitness for office, but it is something that people are talking about it, and people are raising the issue, it's their responsibility.
STELTER: And certainly, many Americans are. Yes.
STEWART: Well, it's their responsibility as journalists to follow up and do the coverage.
Also, to remind everyone what General Petraeus said when he was asked abut this at the Aspen Institute. He said it's immaterial with regard to his fitness because he has surrounded himself with good people, when we're talking about Mattis and certainly, the new Chief of Staff Kelly, and others in the White House. They're looking at that aspect, surrounding himself with good strong people that help him make the right decision and help him stay on track and lead this country.
STELTER: Panel, please stay with us. We're going to bring you back after a quick break.
And also this hour, according to the president, fake news now has a new adversary in Steve Bannon. We'll talk about Bannon's departure from the White House.
Plus, the images of hate across television screens this week. Are reporters really equipped to cover the truth about race relations in America?
[11:15:01] That's coming up.
STELTER: Welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES. I'm Brian Stelter.
Tuesday was supposed to be about infrastructure. That's how Trump began his remarks in the lobby of Trump Tower. His aides were not expecting him to take questions. But he felt unfairly attacked by the news media for his initial responses to Charlottesville. So, he attacked back.
Now, here's what you didn't see at the time. This is what it looked like from CNN correspondent Jim Acosta's perspective.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You had some very bad people in that group. But you also had people that were very fine people on both sides.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: No, sir, the Nazis -- there are no fine people in the Nazis.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Now, you know the rest. Since then, since that impromptu presser, Trump has not answered a single question from the press corps and White House spokespeople have not gone on TV. Relative silence except, of course, for the president's Twitter feed.
But tonight, Trump will return to the White House from vacation, and it's anybody's guess what will happen next.
Our panel is standing by for more on the fate of the Trump presidency. But, first, let me bring in Jonathan Lemire, a White House correspondent for "The Associated Press".
Jon, you were there for all of it this week.
[11:20:02] The Saturday initial response for Charlottesville, Monday's clean up attempt, Tuesday's presser. What did you learn about the president and his approach with the media?
JONATHAN LEMIRE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Yes, it was remarkable how we got to that moment and it's helpful to look back. First, we had a couple days at Bedminster, at his golf club, where we took over 50 questions in two days. He hadn't answered a question to the media in ages. We got him repeatedly. He seemed to be seeking out questions.
STELTER: He seemed to love it.
LEMIRE: Making eye contacts with reporters, saying, come on, bring me another, bring another one.
Then, Charlottesville happens. We're still at Bedminster. He's in his golf club, he gives his statements, he walks off, I and other reporters were shouting questions about his relationship with white nationalists, whether he renounces their support, whether he considered it was terrorism. He didn't answer.
LEMIRE: Monday, of course, in the White House. We know that behind the scenes, he was very happy with his first statement on Saturday. He felt that he had addressed the situation comprehensively. He truly believed there were instigators on both sides of that clash.
But aides convinced him he needed to go the White House and more firmly and explicitly denounce white supremacists, which he did. But then Tuesday morning, we saw it boil out from him in Trump Tower. Even though he had signed off on a plan from aides, that he was just going to come down, talk about infrastructure and nothing else. Instead, he finished his statement and proceeded to combat with the press corp.
And you could see him there. I mean, he got very agitated very quickly. He was denouncing reporters. That video with Jim Acosta is a good example. But it was others. He just repeatedly pressed his point and left many on the sidelines, White House aides, there's the famous already photo of John Kelly with his arms crossed, staring at his eyes.
LEMIRE: But it was more than him. Sarah Sanders, his press secretary, was wildly looking around the room, trying to make eye contact with people. I saw one --
STELTER: Why? Why do you think Sarah was doing that?
LEMIRE: I think because he had gone off -- he had broken from the plan, and she was trying to figure out like is this something that we could try to rein in? Should we stop this? What should we do now?
There was even one young aide who -- her mouth literally dropped as the president kept talking.
STELTER: Dropped at what point? Do you remember?
LEMIRE: It was late, it was when he -- I think it was the third or fourth time suggested back there was responsibility on both sides. That I think there was a sense of some surprise from his staff who had signed off from a statement before in which he made the explicit denunciation of white supremacists. Some surprise he had gone back to this issue publicly.
STELTER: What do you make of the silence from the White House since?
LEMIRE: I think they recognize -- it's two things. First of all, the president spoke from his heart. This is what he believes. And there's a reluctance to contradict him publicly. Secondly, there's also a recognition that this is a tough moment for
this White House. There are aides there who -- this was always seems to happen, right, when the president says something perhaps controversial, aides off the record talk to reporters say they're dismayed or disgruntled. But yet, no one has been willing to publicly say that they disagree with the president and certainly no one has taken a step to resign.
STELTER: Let's go to our panel and bring back them back as well.
To Douglas Brinkley, when we think about a situation like this, are there precedents for it? Have you ever seen a presidential press conference like this?
BRINKLEY: No. There's nothing like it. I mean, there's the famous one when Richard Nixon when he had to say, I'm not a crook. And our Jim Acosta at CNN is a little bit of the goading Dan Rather trying to get at a president.
But for Donald Trump to be backing neo-Nazi and to have Jim Acosta -- he should be in the book of -- Bartlett's book of quotations, there are no fine Nazis. I mean, Trump is seeming to be backing neo-Nazis with no understanding of what we did in World War II and what the horror of fascism and Nazis are. It was a jaw-dropping, stunning moment never seen in American history.
STELTER: Carl, is there a risk of overreaction from the press here, though? You know, the "Access Hollywood" tape came out in October. A lot of journalists wrote off Trump's chances and now, he's in the White House. Is there a risk of an overreaction to this week?
BERNSTEIN: Not if we do our reporting and see that as our real function and not doing opinion pieces as our primary function. Look, there are many commentators who do opinion pieces, I'm talking about reporting.
I'm going to look at a quote right here from one of these Republicans I talked to last week who said, the fundamental problem is we have a president of the United States who does not know right from wrong and who is not stable. That's the kind of thing that we're talking about here.
But also, we keep hearing about these military leaders keeping the president from doing dangerous things. And I would say, as somebody who spent 50 years as a reporter around Washington, that this is an unprecedented situation, a dangerous situation such as we've never seen for an extended period of time, we had Nixon in the last days in the White House. Yes, he was a bit unstable perhaps then, but understandably given the circumstances of him having to leave office.
This is different. It's ongoing. And I would say that if we are dependent on the military leaders of this country, four or five of them, to protect us from the president of the United States, then that too is historic.
[11:25:06] And part of that story is, is it time then for the president to be urged to leave the office by those in his party and perhaps those same military leaders who understand the dynamic at work here. And there's also the question of these people in the White House, when do they become collaborators, as opposed -- particularly with what the president has been advocating, collaborators rather than people who simply are trying to push him in a good direction.
STELTER: Alice, all this talk about military leaders, some foreign correspondents writing about the United States from other countries would bring up the word coup, a soft coup, with all this talk of military leaders intervening.
STEWART: Well, that has been discussed and some people wonder what happened at Camp David over the last few days and whether or not that was sort of an intervention.
But let me say this. While yes, there has been nonstop coverage on what happened in Charlottesville and the president's response to this, and so many in the media are focused on what he said in the first and third response where he placed -- saying there's blame on both sides and moral equivalency by those protesting and the ones standing up to them.
But what his base and Republicans are hearing is he did denounce the Ku Klux Klan. He did denounce neo Nazism.
STELTER: That's right.
STEWART: And white supremacists. And that is what his base and that is what Republicans, more conservative news outlets are stressing the fact he denounced these hate actions and he went out of his way to make sure and fact check exactly what happened before he went out there and made a statement. So, while I think so much focus is put on with what he said with regard to sharing the blame, many in his base and more conservative journalists are covering the fact that he denounced it and that is the only takeaway that his supporters are having from this coverage.
STELTER: Yes, the takeaway is that the press, the media is never satisfied.
To our panel, thank you very much for being here.
After the break, Steve Bannon gone but not forgotten. He's out of the Oval Office but says he still has the president's back. So, what does that mean for the conservative media landscape? Bannon biographer Joshua Green joins me next.
BRIAN STELTER, RELIABLE SOURCES, HOST: Welcome back to Reliable Sources.
President Trump's Chief Strategist Steve Bannon was always something of a mystery. Which is probably why SNL was able to depict him as, I'm sure you remember, the Grim Reaper. Bannon loves that. He wanted that evil, Dark Vader kind of persona out there. But he's actually chummy with reporters and that's continued even now he's forced out of the White House.
He's back at the home of Breitbart News. And President Trump has twitted on that this weekend, saying, "It's great because fake news needs the competition."
In one of his recent interviews Bannon told "The Weekly Standard", "I feel jacked up, now I'm free. I've got my hands back on my weapons. Someone said, "it's Bannon the Barbarian".
So think about that when he says his hands back on his weapons, he's talking about Breitbart. He's talking about his media company as being his weapons. Not just as journalistic force for good but as his weapons.
Well joining me now to discuss all these, Jonathan Lemire is back, our AP's White House Correspondent and Joshua Green is here, CNN Political Analyst. Also the author of the best times book of the year, "Devil's Bargain", all about Steve Bannon and Donald Trump in the campaign.
So Joshua, what do you think -- what is Bannon talking about when he says his hands back on his weapons? What does that tell us about him?
JOSHUA GREEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it tells us that he thinks he can use Breitbart News, that outlet as a weapon in the political wars. In the same way that Frank did before he went to the Trump administration.
Brietbart is an outlet with a distinct political world view that it pushes and its story choice and who attends to go after and the kind of stories it reports about.
GREEN: It has a real effect on the culture. We know that there are certain things that Bannon wants to do in the world. That he wasn't able to do from inside the White House. Now he can try and push those same policy arguments from the outside from Breitbart.
STELTER: Is Breitbart, big enough for him or do you believe some of the reports out there that he's interested in launching some sort of television network?
GREEN: This is something that had been discussed in the closing days of campaign. The fact that Trump had this lists of 12 to 14 million small donors who are intensely loyal to him, and could be built into an audience.
I certainly think it's a possibility. The interesting to me though is Bannon has always said that, you know, T.V. is not where it's at. These rising generation, populist Republicans --
STELTER: Wait, wait, wait. Hey, we're on CNN here.
GREEN: -- this is what he said. That they are internet based and, you know, that Fox News is for old geriatric conservatives. And that the rising generation of populists conservatives were more web focused.
Now maybe that he's been -- now that he's been in and out of the White House, he does have a broader vision that could encapsulate some sort of T.V. presence. But he told me when we did an interview just after he was fired or removed on Friday that he is looking to go global.
So he's going to grow "Breitbart News" in some way shape reform. It's just not clear yet what that medium is going to be.
STELTER: And Jonathan why is Bannon's removed from the White House mean for White House and the press core? I don't think I'm giving away any secrets by saying he was a source for a lot reporters.
You didn't see him quartered in record very often but he would talk to reporter on background. Are we going to see less leaks out of the White House?
JONATHAN LEMIRE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, ASSOCIATED PRESS: It's possible certainly the president in recent day was he came in to the belief that Steve Bannon was among the leakers in the White House. Certainly yes, until this rash of on the record interviews, in recent days including one that may or may not be intentional.
[11:35:03] You know, he would rarely be quoted by name but his would had his fingerprints on certain stories. He would contribute to them. I think in the White House right now, there's a little bit of -- in certain course of the White House some nervousness as to how this will play out.
I mean it's not just Steve Bannon is going to go after Democrats and establishing Republicans like Paul Ryan like he always has and so the head of Breitbart. There is a suggestion that there were (ph) some of his enemies in the White House could come under scrutiny from the Breitbart forces. This could be Jared Kushner or Gary Cohn.
We are -- there's a belief that he will be reluctant to take on the president by name, at least for a while. But he said that he is going to push the White House to fulfill the campaign promises.
STELTER: But do we make too much of Bannon's power? I mean if he had been that successful, Josh, wouldn't he still be at the White House?
GREEN: That's a fair point. And it is just a fact that you have more power working inside the White House to affect policy directly than you do outside the White House.
However Breitbart really was a powerful force in politics while Steve Bannon was at the helm. They did drive the debate in the Republican Party not just through Breitbart but because there's a whole infrastructure conservative talk radio and websites that seemed to move in the same direction.
That stopped more or less when Bannon went into the White House because the association with Breitbart was actually problematic for him. When they would attack Kushner or somebody in the White house, Bannon came under attacked from Trump himself. And so now that he is uninhibited and can push whatever arguments he wants publicly, it could well be that he has more influence in shaping the public debate and putting pressure on the administration than he did when he was in the room with Trump and other advisers.
STELTER: That's interesting. And Jonathan briefly on Hope Hicks, now the interim Communications Director has been guessing game about who would take that job. What is that mean that there's now an interim Communications Director? Does that matter?
LEMIRE: Well, first of all, that means that Hope Hicks is pretty much full proof. At least to this point in this Trump right now. She is been one of the original member. She has been there smartly stayed out of the spotlight.
STELTER: Never done in T.V. interview.
LEMIRE: That's right. She is -- she used to work for Ivanka Trump. She was one of the original core with the President. She has been extremely loyal, the president respects her.
STELTER: But does it mean he can't find an outsider who's willing to come on board in one of his Comms?
LEMIRE: They had certainly had a lot trouble finding people in the past. I think their suggestion there is they're going to look for a permanent person.
Hope Hicks will certainly still wheeled influence in that White House. She is often at the president side. There have been moments in his all below office (ph) interview with the Times a few weeks back. She was the only aide in the room.
So she is going to be someone. She is going -- whether she holds this title of Communications Director or not, it's unclear whether she wants it full time. She is going to have influence in this White House.
STELTER: Jonathan, Joshua, thank you so much for being here.
GREEN: Thank you.
STELTER: And up next, the aftermath of Charlottesville, is cable news coverage missing the mark?
[11:41:52] STELTER: What does it take tragic events like Charlottesville to get the national news media to focus on issues of racism, the rise of hate groups and white rage?
What do you think of this video from vice? Vice got right in the faces of the white national Neo-Nazi, the KKK members on the campus of UVA back nine days ago, that Friday night. This video, so vivid, you heard the hateful chants up close and personally. Became a viral sensation on you tube, on facebook attracting million of viewers that was all over television because vices cameras went there and got right in the center of it of all.
When is that harmful and when is that helpful? Let's talk to these issues with two people who think a lot of about these topics. Nikole Hannah-Jones, the staff writer of the New York Times magazine who covers race in the United States, and Tanzina Vega, CNN National Report for Race and Inequality.
I wanted to start Nikole with the Vice video because it was so raw and shocking. We thought we had seen everything from Charlottesville but then we saw that vice documentary. Is it ever harmful you think to be giving these racists a platform like that or is it helpful in the case of it like Vice?
NIKOLE HANNAH JONES, REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: It's an interesting question. I think that it is important for us to see what is actually happening. What's out there? And that ignoring it allows us to pretend that there hasn't always been large numbers of people who believe in the things that were exposed in that video.
STELTER: But there's a lot of denialism you think going on until you see it in that kind of footage?
HANNAH-JONES: Absolutely. I think that -- while I work in print, print can be very powerful but to actually see people, to hear them in their own words, to see kind of how sinister it all was. I think that there's nothing like that particularly for people like myself and Tanzina who have been working for years to say that this undercurrent of racism has never gone away.
There's no way that you can deny it when you see something like the Vice documentary.
STELTER: When you see it (INAUDIBLE) going to use to work at The Times. Now you're here at CNN. The -- you've spoken a lot about media diversity and how it exhausting to have the same conversations over and over again about diversity in Newsroom without seeing measurable change.
Was this week an example of that to you that all of sudden there were conversations all over T.V. about race?
TANZINA VEGA, CNNMONEY RACE AND INEQUALITY NATIONAL REPROTER: Yes, absolutely.
STELTER: When they're not usually happening?
VEGA: Yes absolutely. And I think to the point that you made that Nikole was making earlier. Ignoring this type of hate and ignoring this type bigotry isn't something that people of color and marginalized communities have the luxury to do.
You know, even the morning of Charlottesville, I think we were seeing people saying, oh let's just ignore this. This is, you know, these are hate-filled people. When you're the victim or when you're the intended targets of groups like that. It's not something that you can say, you know, I'm not going to pay any mind to that.
So I think as individuals, we don't have the luxury do that and as journalists we shouldn't either.
And I think what we're seeing is that race is often treated as something as a trend. It's something where you see journalist in newsrooms, and editors saying, oh my god, you know, it's got a Nazi rally, we've got, you know, black lives matter, we've got to jump on this now, when it's not a trend. Or it's something people live every day and we have to treat it as a part of fabric of our society.
[11:45:03] STELTER: So they call, if Newsrooms were appropriately diverse. If there were proportional numbers of minorities working in television and print newsrooms, would that be case? Would it be treated like a trends?
HANNAH-JONES: Well maybe, maybe not, right?
STELTER: I suspect race would be -- I suspect the race would be covered more fully if there were more Newsrooms led by black or the black women for example really upholds without the imposed?
HANNAH-JONES: So that's a different question right?
HANNAH-JONES: So, you have the issues of staffing and do staffs represent the demographics of the country. And absolutely, they do not. And if you have a more diverse staff, you have greater potential that these stories will be covered.
We also know working in Newsrooms were often you have journalists of color who are pushing the stories and are not allowed to tell them. So what's also important is that the leadership --
STELTER: What do you mean not allowed to tell them? Because the top bosses in the newsroom don't want to hear it? What do you mean?
HANNAH-JONES: Right, often the talk that this is a niche story. That this is a story that only affects small numbers of Americans or even a disbelief that there actually is a story.
I mean you think about all of a sudden, the reporting that you saw in police violence where journalists of color who live in black and brown communities have long known the police violence with the issue. But often time they're not able to tell those stories because white editors don't think that these are actual stories.
So I think diversity has to also be at the top. Who's running the newsrooms? Who are actually approving stories? And then where those stories being placed either on television or in mini newspaper.
VEGA: And there's also the question of the assumption of bias where they think a lot times when I get interviewed about what I covered, and I'm sure Nikole you deal with this too. It's like, can you be objective covering race, you know, as a woman of color?
And the question here is not -- this is journalism that we do, right. But, we also have standards for what in this country we consider rights or wrong. And I think the society of professional journalists might have released some guidance this week on that.
It's OK to call out discrimination. That's part of what we do as journalists, right. So, this idea that if we're calling out racism that makes us bias. It makes our reporting even less valid. I think that's something newsroom managers really have to pay attention to.
STELTER: I didn't think I was bias when I was doing a podcast about white Christian America?
STELTER: But you're saying that sometimes blacks or Hispanics in newsrooms feel like they're being questioned about their biases.
VEGA: Right. And that actually I have been asked that question.
VEGA: Repeatedly, whenever I'm being interviewed about my vid. You know, Tanzina, can you cover this, you know, without bias. And I asked people exactly that, you know.
Do we ask -- do we question, you know, white men perhaps who are covering issues related to white men.
STELTER: That's right.
VEGA: I mean we need to think about that.
HANNAH-JONES: We'll risks at all, right?
HANNAH-JONES: I mean the notion that the only people who experience race in this country are people of color. And who report through the length of race of people of color, is of course, absurd.
I mean why these Americans to experience race as well. And the reporting, what they choose to cover or not to cover is heavily influenced by how they have experience race in this country.
STELTER: I was looking at spj.org, that Society of Professional Journalist's guidance is really interesting on spj.org. Nikole, Tanzina stick around, more after a quick break here on Reliable Sources.
[11:52:13] STELTER: Was there a P.R. move by James Murdoch? He's the CEO of 21st century Fox. He's a son of Rupert Murdoch. You heard a letter this week that Southern Park, "What we watched in Charlottesville and the reaction to it by the president of the United States concerns all of us, as Americans and free people."
James Murdoch didn't stops there. He kept going, he said, "To further demonstrate our commitment, my wife Kathryn and I donated million dollars to the anti-defamation league. And I encourage you that he said to colleague to give what you think is right as well."
Now James Murdoch said that in his business 21st century Fox has tried to contribute to a diverse and tolerant society. Some folks who think Fox News has an adverse effect on society cracked up with that symptoms.
And what does James Murdoch mean when he's donating a millions dollars at the ADL. Did they tell us anything about Fox News? Back with me Tanzina Vega and Nikole Hannah-Jones.
I wonder Tanzina, your interpretation of this. I mean what viewers of Fox new, loyal viewers of Fox. They're hearing about Charlottesville and about the President's reaction is very different than what's been heard in the rest of the press.
VEGA: So I think there's two things to think about here. Number one, we're seeing a lot more corporate involvement and corporate condemnation of the president and everything that the comments that he made and the lack of.
STELTER: Right. This was James Murdoch way of doing that, right.
VEGA: That's right. That's right.
VEGA: So we've seen companies pulling out. We've seen all of this. So this is another, you know, step in that equation. I think what's interesting is that obviously Fox is underneath that.
I think what's interesting would be to ask journalists of color working at Fox, how they take this. You know Journalists that are from, you know, different groups that are working at this organization. What's happening behind the scenes there?
I think it sends a very strong message, but obviously what we want to see is that trickles down to the content.
STELTER: There is a significant discrimination suit against Fox, is pending (ph) right now. We also heard from the CEO of Univision this week another media company. In this case, Randy Falco, the head of Univision making a pretty big stand against the President.
I think in that case, speaking on behalf of Hispanic viewers of Univision Spanish, speaking viewers United States. Nikole, do you think that it's appropriate to see media CEOs weighing in like that?
We've seen a lot of CEOs speaking up. But media CEOs takes it to a different place.
HANNAH-JONES: Yes. I don't know that I have an opinion on that that I'm going to express. I think that --
STELTER: That's an unusual answer on cable news and I actually really appreciate that.
HANNAH-JONES: You know, I think in general we are brought up not to -- as journalists not to tell our viewers or readers our opinions. And I think in general, that's a good practice, but I'm not going to comment on that.
STELTER: But when does that change? I mean Jake Tapper has said something recently that, said out to me. He said, yes, you know, we keep our opinions in many cases to ourselves. But on issues of decency and facts, that's when journalist have to speak out.
VEGA: Well and I think and I agree. And I think that's the difference. You know, when we're talking about what this president has said and done. That's exactly the reporting that Carl Bernstein was referring to earlier in the show, right?
[11:55:05] We're doing reporting based on what he says and we're doing reporting based on what doesn't say and we're doing reporting based on his policies.
So anybody that's been following the policies of the administration can tell you not just the rhetoric, but the actual policies that are being implemented or that are attempting to be implemented, the Muslim band, language about Mexican immigrants, the language around criminal aliens.
So like all of this is leading up to actual reporting and taking away what does president means.
STELTER: More stories to tell, right.
STELTER: Thank you both for being here. We're out of time on T.V., but we continue on ReliableSources.com. Sign up for our nightly newsletter there.
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