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CNN RELIABLE SOURCES

Media at Top of Trump's Enemy List; How Trump Tries to "Produce" His Presidency. Aired 11a-12n ET

Aired March 11, 2018 - 11:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[11:00:15] BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST: President Trump's enemies list, that's where we start this hour.

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, comparing "The Apprentice" to Trump's new show, the cabinet room. We'll look behind he scenes.

And, later, I'll talk with a reporter who keeps breaking news about Stormy Daniels and that scandal now hovering over the White House.

Also this hour, "New York Times" gender editor, Jessica Bennett.

But, first, you know, looking back at this wild week of news. I think NBC's Chuck Todd said it best the other day, he said: This may have been the Trumpiest week yet. And all of that was on display at Saturday night's rally in Pennsylvania.

Now, I looked at the rally and I heard an enemy's list. The president ticking off all the people he views as opponents, including the aforementioned Chuck Todd.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Sleepy eyes Chuck Todd, he's a sleeping son of a bitch. CNN, fake as hell, CNN. The worst. That Washington, D.C., you got a lot of evil there, a lot of bad people, a lot of fake media. Llook at them, a lot of fake media.

(BOOS)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: Journalists are still near the top of Trump's enemies list and that attack against Chuck Todd in particular has to be called out. It's offensive, and it's just plain wrong. And if the president doesn't know that, maybe Melania can tell him?

But look, there were many other attacks, many other names on the enemies list. Even though the president was stumping in Pennsylvania, he decided to attack a California congresswoman and a Massachusetts senator.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Can you imagine covering Bernie or Pocahontas? Pocahontas, how about that?

And Maxine Waters, a very low IQ individual. You ever see her?

I'd love to beat Oprah. I know her weakness. No, no, I know her weakness.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: And she knows yours. But hey, that's besides the point.

This rally had it all, a lot of jokes, a lot of playfulness that the crowd loved, but also hatred of his enemies, hostility toward dissent, hints of racial resentment, a lot of anxiety about the future, and a lot of nostalgia about the past, even the 2016 election. Notice what he says here about women voters.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Didn't we surprise them with women during the election? Remember? Women won't like Donald Trump. I said, have I really had that kind of a problem? We got 52 percent, right? Fifty-two, right?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: He's wrong in a way that's really intriguing. Trump actually won 41 percent of female voters. Let me show you why this matters. When he said 52 percent of women, he apparently meant white women. You can see there 52 percent of white women went for President Trump. He was unable to win black and Hispanic women in big numbers.

Look, if other presidents made these errors, the kinds of errors that Trump makes at these rallies, it would be front page news, right? It would be front page news, but not anymore.

We have a lot to get to this hour, including Chuck Todd responding to the president's vulgarities.

But, first, let's go to Salena Zito, she's a columnist with "The New York Post" and "The Washington Examiner", also works with us here at CNN and she was at the rally last night. I'm also joined by April Ryan, White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief for American Urban Radio Networks, and John Avlon, editor-in-chief of "The Daily Beast."

Salena, you were there, I'm describing a pretty dark image, a lot of enemies the president was talking about. But it sounds from your reporting that the people at the rally thought it was very lively, very positive.

SALENA ZITO, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Yes, absolutely. So, the parts that you picked out obviously are not normal, and that's not what presidents say and, you know, when you look in the piecemeal, it's unnerving. But you have to look, for me as a reporter on the ground, I live in

the 18th congressional district as well, this is the first time, you know, this has been the center of attention.

STELTER: Yes.

ZITO: So, you have to look at it sort of from the perspective of the people that are going. So, I go there super early. I mean, there were people that camped out overnight to make sure that they got into the event. There were -- I don't know what the number was, but there were a ton of people turned away so they couldn't attend.

So, these events are very festive. They remind you very much of attending a tailgate party. You know, people are happy. They see their neighbors. They bring their kids. They bring their families, and they're excited about attending.

They're excited about seeing the president, and for them, it's aspirational because they feel like they are a part of something bigger than themselves.

[11:05:08] STELTER: And that's the divide in America today --

ZITO: It is.

STELTER: -- between the folks who attended the rally and the folks who let's take President Trump say in the Maxine Waters he said she has a low IQ.

April Ryan, a lot of other Americans hear that and think it's racist. What was your reaction to the rally, April?

APRIL RYAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORKS: Well, I felt watching it, I felt he was in his comfort zone last night and I did hear him say that about Maxine Waters. Maxine Waters, she was a lawyer prior to Congress. So, I mean, she -- I don't understand how she could have a low IQ, but he clearly doesn't like her because she's calling and has called basically since day one of this Trump administration for his impeachment.

If you are against the president or if you stand out saying, look, this is not right, he has a tendency not to like you.

But I really took note of his confidence. He was in his element last night. I mean, he was making fun of presidents. How, you know, he said they want me to be presidential and he was acting like someone who is presidential. He said, you know, if I came out like that, you'd be bored, so he definitely wanted to entertain them.

(CROSSTALK)

STELTER: Yes, John Avlon --

RYAN: It's almost like a preacher.

STELTER: Sorry to cut you off, April. (CROSSTALK)

RYAN: He's almost like a preacher to me on Sunday morning.

(CROSSTALK)

STELTER: Exactly, your entertainment value, I'm seeing all these tweets mostly from liberals or Trump haters, Trump skeptics at least who are saying that we should not even broadcast these rallies.

John Avlon, do you have a reaction to that?

JOHN AVLON, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: Of course you broadcast them. He's the president of the United States. You don't need to keep the open podium on every candidate in every campaign.

STELTER: Yes.

AVLON: But this is inherently newsworthy. That said, he is a showman at heart. This is the part of the presidency he likes the most, it's where he grafts P.T. Barnum on to it.

What's really stunning about these rallies, no question he gives a good rally and it's very entertaining, it demeans the presidency in a way that's actually pretty insidious.

STELTER: It demeans the presidency?

AVLON: It ultimately does because it's not a traveling medicine show. It's not a carnival barker position. This is not a reality show. It is reality with incredible life or death real world responsibility and simply having fun with it, and saying, oh, you know, I'm lonely playfully hating my enemies. It's a dangerous card that's been played throughout history with usually unwelcome results.

And what Salena is describing is also something interesting. The atmosphere sounds like not only a football game but a dead show. It's a tribal meeting at the end of the day. This is tribal politics and that could be affirming if you're in the tribe.

But that's not what presidents are supposed to do. They're supposed to unite the country, not appeal to identity politics. White identity politics being something that he has really exacerbated and successfully surfed off of.

STELTER: Let's look at another moment from the rally that I thought was notable, and, Salena, I love your reaction to this. This is from "Meet the Press", Chuck Todd took two parts, one when the presidents was talking about the media, then when the president was talking about Kim Jong-un, smashed them together, and here's what Todd had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: A lot of bad people, a lot of fake media. Look at them. Lot of fake media.

(BOOS)

Fake, fake media.

South Korea came to my office, after having gone to North Korea and seeing Kim Jong-un, and -

(BOOS)

No, it's very positive. No.

CHUCK TODD, MODERATOR, MEET THE PRESS: So the image of an American president encouraging boos of American press corps and discouraging boos of a dictator from North Korea.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: It is quite a contrast, so I wonder, Salena, when you're there at the rally, is it ever uncomfortable when the fake news media is being booed?

ZITO: It's part of the shtick. I don't think anybody felt unsafe when it happens. I think it's -- I don't -- so it's hard to unpack in that it's part of his deal. It's sort of like the "lock her up." You know, you can't lock her up anymore because he's not running against her.

So, this is a continuation of reminding his voters that people are against him and he is there for them. You know? And also, he speaks in such a stream of consciousness.

STELTER: Right.

ZITO: -- you know, all these things are strung together, you know, people just keep clapping no matter what.

And I was struck by this, and I wanted to make this point -- attending Trump rallies and attending Obama rallies. I wonder what's going to happen after Trump, in that when President Obama spoke, it was aspirational. He was so eloquent. He really was on a platform of his own. And Trump is like the opposite. What are we going to do next?

I don't -- I can't even imagine what fills the gap of these two men in their completely different, but you know, sort of historic way that they approached the presidency.

[11:10:12] STELTER: Right. April, I see you wanting to react.

RYAN: Yes, I'm sorry, Salena, I totally disagree. This is not shtick. It's not comedy. This is real and it's dangerous.

You know, during the campaign, this president talked about kicking people out, beating them up. People did get beat up, and the problem is now, you know, when you make the press the enemy, which he has, there are people out here who are crazy enough to really feel that, and to act on it. And, you know, some of my dear colleagues, who are going to some of these rallies, some of these rallies have been so tense, they've been fearful for their safety at times, all the president has to say is act on it, and people will turn. This is someone who has the power of life and death in his tongue and in his pen, and also the fact that people will turn on the press in a moment's notice.

So, this is not shtick. This is real for us, and we are covered by the Founding Fathers, these white men, who covered all of us not knowing that there would be social media or people like us covering the White House.

So this is a dangerous game and this president vowed to uphold the Constitution, and the free press is part of that, and he's going against his vow when he was inaugurated. So I take this seriously, and our friend Chuck Todd SOB, that was wrong. Chuck is a stalwart, he's fact-based and he works hard at what he does. This is not right, period.

STELTER: This is the tension that I think we're getting at, is it just comedy or is it very serious?

Let's look at how Chuck Todd addressed this on "Meet the Press" a few minutes ago. He had the Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin on. And Todd, although, Todd didn't reference himself, he brought up this issue of vulgarity.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHUCK TODD, MODERATOR, MEET THE PRESS: Many people, including myself, raised their kids to respect the office of the presidency and the president of the United States. When he used vulgarity to talk about individuals, what are they supposed to tell their kids?

STEVE MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY: Again, I'll be with my kids this morning and I'll be focused on them on what the president is doing to protect the United States, its citizens and more importantly --

TODD: So, he's not a moral -- don't worry about his values, don't worry about him as a role model?

MNUCHIN: I've never said that whatsoever.

Obviously, there were a lot of funny moments on that rally.

TODD: Yes, they were hilarious.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: I mean, there it is in a nutshell, hilarious moments versus Chuck Todd being sarcastic about it.

AVLON: Yes, and this gets to the heart of something that, you know, Salena Zito actually highlighted during the campaign, people taking it seriously but not literally. This is increase (ph) in the riff you hear from Trump, members of the administration and fans and other apologists, which is that, look, don't listen to what he says, watch what he does, and if you get worried about what he says, you don't have a sense of humor.

And that -- the reason that's ultimately insidious is because the words of a president do matter, and if ultimately that riff attacking the press is about undermining institutions that exist to hold power to account, that's dangerous as well, fundamentally.

STELTER: Salena, thank you for being here.

ZITO: Thanks.

STELTER: I recommend people check out Salena's story on "The Washington Examiner" site all about the rally last night.

John and April, stick around.

We'll take a quick break and looking at something I think only RELIABLE SOURCES can get right. It's Donald Trump and the art of the tease.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:17:17] STELTER: Looking at the White House what you see? I see chaos. I see an administration reeling from one crisis to the next.

For example this week, the Stormy Daniels scandal has intensified. We saw top economic adviser Gary Cohn becoming the latest person to exit that revolving door and the most important story of all, the Mueller investigation continues to expand with more and more members of Trump's inner circle seemingly being involved.

So, what do you do? You enter the distractor-in-chief, President Trump using the skill he knows best, to try to shift the conversation to change the media coverage. I mean, look, we all know he understands the power of TV and that's been on display recently in the cabinet room.

You know, the White House set up these events for President Trump, sometimes they are bipartisan meetings, other times, they're cabinet meetings. These are scenes that are incredibly similar to a decade ago, when president then Donald Trump now President Trump was hosting the reality show "The Apprentice." I mean, it's uncanny when you view these side to side.

Remember the way President Trump talked about it?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Welcome back to the studio. Performance, some of them called it a performance, got great reviews.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: You know, he even talks about it that way. He cares deeply about ratings. He talked about the ratings again last night at the rally in Pennsylvania. And when Trump is asked about policy decisions or political appointees, he seems to have perfected the art of the tease.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I don't want to tell you this, because I want to save the suspense.

Stay tuned.

We'll have to see.

I'll tell you about it over a short period of time.

We'll find out. Stay tuned.

So, was that a surprise?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: He's pretty good at that and now he's teasing his upcoming meeting with Kim Jong-un. He reveled in the surprise on Thursday night, even his own aides didn't know what was happening, his press shop was basically kept in the dark, and he's tweeted about how the press was startled and stunned by the North Korea announcement.

So, let's talk about this with media critic at "Baltimore Sun", David Zurawik. John Avlon and April Ryan are also back with me.

David Zurawik, is that what you sense this week, a president as aides leave, as Hope Hicks leaves, and others aides leave, that he's increasingly producing this all himself?

DAVID ZURAWIK, MEDIA CRITIC, THE BALTIMORE SUN: Well, look, he's a master at changing the narrative, because, and this is really important, and actually goes back to the first segment, let me say, god bless what April Ryan said about taking this stuff seriously, because this is where I'm going with this.

My generation, Trump's generation, television became the principal storyteller of American life. He is a creature of television. He understands the rhythms of it. He understands the way you craft narratives for it.

But they are entertainment narratives, television tells entertainment narratives, and Neil Postman wrote a landmark book in 1985 called "Amusing Ourselves to Death" and Donald Trump makes Neil Postman the Marshall McLuhan of this generation because he is the apotheosis in a dark sense what he predicted that we could no longer govern ourselves, we couldn't discern what was serious, and what was citizenship and what was an entertainment narrative. We wanted to see entertainment.

And you know, when -- on your first panel, when they said, oh, it's shtick, or when Mnuchin said, well, it's just funny, it's entertainment, that's what's going on in this country, Brian. He is an entertainer in a television sense.

You know, you said reality. I think it's more like the prime time soap operas of the '80s, like "Dallas" and "Dynasty" --

STELTER: Interesting.

ZURAWIK: -- with the vapid, money-grabbing evil characters. You know, he's J.R. Ewing.

I wrote this piece once, and the response was like, how can you call him that? But it's absolutely true.

If you want proof of that, think of Mnuchin and his wife standing there with the dollar bill and her and the long leather gloves. That's who they are.

STELTER: Right.

ZURAWIK: But we're amusing ourselves to death, Brian, and we lose our ability to function as rationally informed citizens every time we chuckle or smile at something he says. What he did at that rally, April is so right. It's evil and the stuff he said about Chuck Todd is dangerous, but too many people are smiling at it, and even some are applauding. Very dangerous.

STELTER: What you're saying, David, it raises this question how journalists can avoid being part of the act, part of the entertainment?

ZURAWIK: Very much so. Brian, I couldn't -- that's the great point.

We have to stop doing it. You know, just as John and April said, no, no, no. This is not OK. We have to do it, because I think a lot of people in the public, it's like going to the mall on Friday night and seeing a funny movie. Oh, look at what Trump's doing today.

No! Trump is changing our lives for the worse.

STELTER: April, your reaction?

RYAN: Well, you know, David's right.

Here's the bottom line. We had this conversation before, and when the president does this, people think we're the enemy. I mean, and I said this before, a couple of weeks ago, on this show. You know, I was getting death threats because people are considering us the enemy.

We are just doing our job and after that, an administration official goes on Twitter and has a fight with me about the fact that I'm getting death threats, which is serious and calls me Miss Piggy. Whoop-de-doo.

The bottom line is, is that we are doing our job and we are a part of the accountability piece that our Founding Fathers put into this process. We are some of the underpinnings of the nation. Now, are there people out here that are crafting for a certain party? Yes. But unfortunately, now, the onus is on the American public. You have to now look between fact and opinion, and that's the problem today.

But I'm telling you, the vast majority of us that are in there like Chuck Todd, and I worked with him at the White House and those who are in -- the vast majority in the press corps, we are serious about what we do. And it is so sad in a day when the president of the United States, who is sworn to uphold the values of the Constitution to include the free press is undermining the free press.

STELTER: So, I think we should make three points about this producer- in-chief strategy. One is that the president because he's always watching TV and reacting, he's such a part of it. Let's show the tweet he's put up five minutes ago.

What's curious about is you don't know what show he's watching, but he's watching something. He says, hey, look at the polls that, none reliable polls says he's at 50 percent. He says, they know they're lying when they say my approval ratings are low. And then he says, he says, turn off the show, fake news.

So, he's watching and reacting in real time.

RYAN: He's talking about us. He's talking about us. He's watching CNN.

STELTER: I don't know what he's watching but the second tweet --

RYAN: He's watching CNN.

STELTER: -- I want to show is from ABC's Jon Karl. Karl bumped into the president at the White House the other day and here's what Karl said: I ran to the president in the colonnade. I asked him if the South Korea announcement is about negotiations. It's almost beyond that, he told me, hopefully, you will give me credit.

Credit. I want to go back to that word credit, John Avlon. The president is watching these programs hoping that he's going to get the right amount of credit and a lot of these actions come down to that.

AVLON: It does. I mean, there's the sense of victimhood which is so bizarre from the president of the United States. We all know that Donald Trump lives in a Trump-centric universe. The problem is, is that as president, we all do. And that is a really dangerous thing.

The sense of aggrievement that he wants more attention, he wants more credit, the fact that he's viewing his presidency in almost real time through the lens of television, which is sort of the point, is a surreal twist.

We know he's a creature of reality TV. We know he understands that the deeper divisions in media aren't liberal or conservative media but conflict bias. And he consciously plays to that.

STELTER: But you know what's funny about that, John? Reality TV isn't real, right? Reality TV is scripted.

AVLON: Right.

STELTER: When Donald Trump was on "The Apprentice", he had producers perfectly shaping the show, making him look great. And now, he doesn't actually have that producer anymore.

AVLON: No, he's trying to play that role of producer. I mean, he's basically showing his hand, talking about his performance, talking about the studio. And, look, there are elements of it. The open bipartisan policy meetings, as chaotic as they are, actually have civic benefits.

STELTER: Yes.

AVLON: That's a good thing. So, you know, applause on that point.

But the point is, this is not reality TV. This is pure reality, and all those words can't be separated from his actions, because his words have impact.

To April's point, is there a single political journalist who doesn't get threats as a routine matter of course? It's actually part of the job description now. That's a problem. That's a problem that has grown dramatically over the last few years.

RYAN: It's sad, very so sad.

ALVON: It is sad and we need to not normalize that. It's one more thing. And remember, you know, the Constitution doesn't mention political parties. It does mention the free press.

We are here folks and our job is to hold power to account, and that requires -- there's tension but there should also be a degree of mutual respect.

STELTER: Appreciate you all being here.

David, stick around for later.

One more note on this, you can read about it reliablesources.com. While Trump went from TV to the presidency, Barack Obama is going in the on opposite direction, from the president to TV. He's in talks with Netflix, to produce and maybe even appear in multiple shows. That says it all about America and its relationship with television.

We'll be right back here with one of the reporters that broke the Stormy Daniels story wide open. We'll find out what he's reporting next right after a quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:31:18]

STELTER: So many Trump scandals come down to the same four words. Who knew what when? For example, who knew about the Russian campaign to help him win the White House? Whether it's excessive spending by a Cabinet secretary or abuse allegations against a White House aide, the questions are always, who knew about it, who knew what about it, and when did they know?

And now this rubric is being applied to another story. Who knew what about the porn star who was paid hush money by the president's personal attorney?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Did the president approve the payment that his personal lawyer made to Stormy Daniels?

RAJ SHAH, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: Not that I'm aware of, but Michael Cohen, the attorney general in question, has addressed this. The White House has addressed -- Sarah addressed it earlier this week. And I have nothing further to add.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: So, basically, he said, I don't know.

And the president himself ignored a question about this yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Mr. President, did you have a relationship with a woman named Stormy Daniels?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: Now, we may hear more of her side of the story in the weeks to come, because Anderson Cooper recently taped an interview with Stormy Daniels and her lawyer for CBS' "60 Minutes." The interview doesn't have an airdate yet.

But there's a lot we already do know, and that's thanks to my next guest.

Michael Rothfeld is a reporter for "The Wall Street Journal" who's part of the team that broke the Daniels payoff story back in January.

Michael, great to see you..

MICHAEL ROTHFELD, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": Thanks, Brian.

STELTER: So, you had reported before Election Day that "Good Morning America" and other news outlets were pursuing an interview with this morning. Maybe we didn't know quite why. We didn't know there was money involved.

But, in January, you reported the payoff story. How were you able to nail that story down? ROTHFELD: Well, we had initially, before the election, reported that

the American Media, which owns "The National Enquirer," paid Karen McDougal, a Playboy centerfold, to not speak about her alleged affair, and that Stormy Daniels was also considering talking, but didn't.

We continued to pursue who might have paid her after the election. Then, last year, my colleague Joe Palazzolo said we have to find out who paid Stormy. And so we just kept asking around, poking around. And we eventually heard that Michael Cohen had been the one to pay her. And we just needed to nail that down and just kind of scrapped over the last few months to be able to figure it out.

STELTER: So that story and the follow-up stories now, they were partly dependent on anonymous or confidential sources, meaning you knew who they were, but we don't know who they are.

Was that important? Was that vital to the story?

ROTHFELD: It was very important.

And it was something that, when we first published the story, a lot of readers complained about, because they said, oh, it's fake news. You don't have documents.

And we actually had found an LLC that Michael Cohen created. We did not report that in the initial story, but we knew that it existed. But the anonymous sources that we used -- and we had to be confident before, because we don't like to use anonymous sources ideally, but we had a number of them that corroborated each other.

And without them, we wouldn't have been able to find out about this. Just like a lot of big stories, Watergate, people relied on anonymous sources.

STELTER: Yes.

ROTHFELD: And if they don't talk, then we don't find out.

STELTER: It seems to me -- now, your story broke in January. Then you had several more stories -- we are gradually seeing the coverage of this scandal and the interest in this rise and rise and rise.

Why do you think that is? Why has it been a gradual increase?

ROTHFELD: Well, several things have fueled it. One is the introduction of complaints to the Federal Election Commission, and, you know, the possibility of an investigation.

And another thing is the fact that there's been a little bit of stonewalling. The White House has tried to kind of push this on to Michael Cohen, Donald Trump's lawyer.

STELTER: Yes. Right.

ROTHFELD: And so the more they haven't answered questions -- we still don't know whether Cohen was reimbursed -- then it has continued to linger.

[11:35:01]

STELTER: And now the lawsuit has really made this a top story around the world.

You know, you were telling me off-camera, though, for you all, the journalists, it was not about sex, it was about money, right, that this story, although it's salacious and some people are curious about that aspect, it's a financial story.

ROTHFELD: That's right.

I mean, whether Donald Trump slept with a porn star or anybody else isn't something that we would generally consider newsworthy. But trying to cover up an affair, especially right before the election, that is an important story.

And where the money came from, all the facts surrounding that, is definitely what we're interested in.

STELTER: You mentioned Watergate. And this is a classic follow-the- money story. Yes.

Michael, great to see you.

ROTHFELD: Thanks, Brian.

STELTER: Thanks for being here.

ROTHFELD: Good seeing you.

STELTER: After a quick break, this has been described as a TV meltdown.

I'm sure you saw it. But Sam Nunberg says he actually melted down TV. Were the networks right to participate?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:40:28]

STELTER: Hey. Welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES. I'm Brian Stelter.

All I have to say is the name Sam Nunberg, and I know you know exactly what I'm talking about. He seemed to be taking a page out of the Trump playbook earlier this week, yelling loudly about the Mueller probe, suggesting it was a witch-hunt, but then, of course, at the end of the week, he cooperated. And we should get into that.

But, first, let's go back in time, back to earlier in the week, when Nunberg went on that infamous, now notorious TV tour. Let's put on screen just some of the interviews.

He gave more than a dozen, many of them on television, starting with Katy Tur on MSNBC, then with CNN's Gloria Borger and Jake Tapper. It went on and on and on. He at one point got legal advice on Ari Melber's MSNBC show. Then he came on with Erin Burnett. Burnett said she smelled alcohol on his breath.

Now, the next day, he changed his tune. Nunberg said he would cooperate. And that's what he did on Friday. He testified to the grand jury, just the latest former Trump aide to talk with Robert Mueller's investigators.

What's notable now is that he says this is not a witch-hunt.

Here's what he told ABC's Tara Palmeri.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAM NUNBERG, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN AIDE: People say I had a meltdown on TV. I melted TV down that day. I wanted to show what this independent counsel, this independent investigation does to people like me.

TARA PALMERI, ABC NEWS: Do you think it's a witch-hunt?

NUNBERG: No, I don't think it's a witch-hunt. There's a lot there there. And that's the sad truth. I don't believe it leads to the president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: Let's bring back David Zurawik of "The Baltimore Sun."

David, there was a lot of criticism of television networks for putting Nunberg on the air, especially with the suggestion that he might have been drunk or drugged. How did you view this?

ZURAWIK: Brian, I think there's no reason not to put him on TV. I thought TV...

STELTER: If he's drunk?

ZURAWIK: Look, you know what he said to Erin Burnett, which, by the way, was an incredible moment in television. And I thought she handled it really, really well. And it looks like he may have lied there. I don't know. I wasn't there.

But here's why it was -- here's why it belonged on TV, Brian, because ultimately this is about the rule of law and the contempt many members of the Trump administration, the people he surrounds himself seem to have for this.

Look, this guy is subpoenaed. Grand jury, special prosecutor say -- think he has some relevant information. What's his response? Screw that.

That deserves to be on television and be exposed. Also, this guy is praising Roger Stone as his mentor. Roger Stone, you go back to Roy Cohn, Joe McCarthy, Richard Nixon to Donald Trump. That's the line of this kind of politics. It's the Roy Cohn school of politics. It's not gaming system, as

sometimes the Obama people talked about. This is flaunting the system. And we needed to see it. We also needed to see the kind of pitiful people he has around him.

STELTER: I did think we learned some things about the Mueller probe through Nunberg's claims. Not all of his claims may check out, but we did learn, again, Mueller knows a lot more than we do. And he's interviewing a lot of people.

But, anyway, let me move on to that magazine, that "Science" magazine cover story which got a lot of attention. It's a fake news study. What these researchers at the MIT did was that they looked at stories that have been fact-checked.

And they found that the stories that have been fact-checked and proven false spread virally a lot more quickly on Twitter than the stories that have been fact-checked and proven to be true, essentially, the idea of fake news traveling faster than real news.

What do you think newsrooms should be doing to cope with this problem?

ZURAWIK: Well, I think one of the big responsibilities are these social media platforms. They have to do something, for one thing.

I think, as newsrooms, Brian, the responsible newsrooms are doing everything we can do to deal with it. I think media critics like us have to make it a major part of our agenda to deal with.

You know, I'm always a little suspicious, as a researcher myself, of studies that find something that confirms conventional wisdom so cleanly. A lie can get halfway around the world before truth put its boots on or whatever.

But I looked at this, and I read the full report. And I think they did a really good job, and I think we need to take this seriously, because this is only going to get worse. We also need -- they did quantitative research. We need some qualitative research to get into why people are following this.

They have a theory, a hypothesis, but they didn't really go there. That was just their conclusion. Important study. We know, all of us here in the media, this is one of the most important stories of our times, and in 2018 and 2020, it's going to be huge, partially because our government is doing nothing about people using social media to influence our politics.

[11:45:10]

STELTER: Yes, right, because the president keeps using the term fake news the wrong way.

ZURAWIK: Yes.

STELTER: He just used it against Maggie Haberman this morning, which made no sense. One more point, David. Let's give a shout-out to Sunshine Week. For

viewers who haven't heard of this, it's a nationwide effort by organizations and newsrooms to encourage transparency in government, to encourage open access to information.

And, David, you said this is one of the most important weeks. Why?

ZURAWIK: Brian, you know, I think many in the public, many people in public don't even know how much information is kept from them. In my career, the most astonishing thing to me is how hard it is to get information, how hard you have to push, and how much the forces of secrecy and darkness, in government especially, are always at work.

We had a case in Baltimore just last week where names of police officers, arresting police officers and law enforcement people, were taken out of a case search file by the state judiciary, so you couldn't track how police officers behave, which was an incredibly important thing, given this Gun Trace Task Force, elite squad scandal we had in Baltimore, where you could trace it by that.

STELTER: Right. Right.

ZURAWIK: Well, one reporter at "The Baltimore Sun" and then, of course, the whole "Sun" newsroom, we pushed. And within a week, those names were back.

But the judiciary, the state judiciary, took it upon themselves to take those names out. Unbelievable. That goes on constantly.

Look at the school boards that operate in secrecy. And then you find out the school superintendent was taking bribes and he's pleading guilty to perjury, as we just found out in Baltimore County.

Secrecy is everywhere. And I will tell you what. With this Trump administration model, I think it's getting worse. And we have to push harder. And we have fewer resources in a lot of newsrooms to do it, Brian. You know that.

STELTER: And that's what Sunshine Week is about.

ZURAWIK: Yes.

STELTER: All these different markets trying to encourage more access to information.

David, it's great to see you. Thanks for being here.

ZURAWIK: Thank you, Brian.

STELTER: After the break: Why is Tucker Carlson counterprogramming Women's History Month?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:51:24]

STELTER: Hey. Welcome back.

On this Women's History Month, "The New York Times" is trying to make a change with a project called Overlooked. It's a project that highlights influential women who never got an obit in the paper when they passed away.

You can see this in print today. It's also on the Web site.

I want to talk about it and also some of the other reactions to Women's History Month with Jessica Bennett. She's the gender editor for "The New York Times."

Jessica, how did this project come about?

JESSICA BENNETT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": So, we decided to look back at our 167-year history to see how many women actually received obituaries in "The New York Times."

And so we pulled all the data. And what we found was that it was actually between 15 and 20 percent female over time. And even in the past few years, only about one in five of our obituaries have featured women.

STELTER: Wow.

BENNETT: So, essentially, what we wanted to do was correct the record.

We wanted to write obituaries for some of these women who didn't get them, but should have. And so the list spans people that you have heard of, like Ida B. Wells, the suffragist and a leading voice of the anti-lynching moment, Charlotte Bronte, who wrote "Jane Eyre," Sylvia Plath.

STELTER: Amazing that they weren't...

BENNETT: Amazing that these people didn't get obituaries.

And then some women that you may not have heard of, Emily Warren Roebling, who helped complete construction of the Brooklyn Bridge when -- it was an 11-year process -- when her engineer husband fell ill.

And so, by focusing attention on this, we want to really highlight these women who didn't get credit at the time and try to make a commitment to doing better going forward.

STELTER: Two other storylines this month stand out to me, given that it's Women's History Month.

I don't think this was a coincidentally timed project. Right? You all wanted to launch it during this month.

BENNETT: Of course.

STELTER: At the same time, we're seeing more attention on the systemic inequities in newsrooms for women. You look at many of the stories about this MeToo movement in the last

six months have been about newsrooms, about harassment in newsrooms. There's even more stories to come on that.

And then there's this reaction from conservative media that I have to ask you about. Tucker Carlson over on FOX is doing a special series this month called "Men in America."

And, look, I think that would be great in April, but don't you think he's just trying to troll people by doing it in March?

BENNETT: I did have to ask myself, when your producers called me for this, whether they were, in fact, trolling me.

STELTER: We're not joking. It's real.

BENNETT: You're not joking. You're not joking.

STELTER: He's doing it all month.

BENNETT: And the thing is, Tucker Carlson is not wrong that men are, to some extent, in crisis. They do have higher rates of suicide.

Women are graduating in higher numbers from college. We are going on to receive more degrees. But the fact of the matter is, men then go on to enter their first jobs out of college and they make 20 percent more salary, on average, something that Tucker has completely dismissed.

And they're entering into a world where men still run things. They probably don't have to face sexual harassment. They don't have to claim #MeToo.

And so the idea that, you know, men need more attention, I think, maybe misses the point.

STELTER: I think it would be wonderful if he did men in America, and then women in America too.

BENNETT: Right.

STELTER: And my issue is with these media silos, where we only hear one side of these stories.

BENNETT: I mean, the reality is, this is not a zero sum equation. We can talk about women and men.

(LAUGHTER)

BENNETT: And, in fact, talking about men and masculinity in the larger context of the MeToo movement is really important.

Like, how do we think about masculinity? How are men responding? How are men reacting?

But, you know, to do it during Women's History Month, and then not acknowledge it as such, you know, a little bit trolling.

STELTER: I think he knows what he was doing. Yes.

Jessica, great to see you.

BENNETT: Thanks for having me.

STELTER: Thanks for being here.

Quick break. More RELIABLE SOURCES in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:59:18]

STELTER: Thanks for tuning in today to RELIABLE SOURCES.

Quick plug for our weekly podcast. The latest episode is with media mogul David Zaslav. He's the CEO of Discovery. He just bought Scripps Networks, which means the Food Network and HDTV and other channels.

So, we met up at the Food Network Kitchen for a conversation about the future of TV. You can find it through Apple Podcasts, TuneIn, Stitcher, however you download podcasts.

Also, a quick reminder about our newsletter at RELIABLESOURCES.com. It's our nightly newsletter with all the day's media news delivered to you. There's a lot going on right now. I mentioned Obama's talks with Netflix, "American Idol" back tonight, Oprah on Van Jones' show tonight, a lot of news.

You can get it all at RELIABLESOURCES.com.

Thanks for tuning in. And I will see you right back here this time next week.