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CNN RELIABLE SOURCES
Attacks, Leaks and Lies Derail White House Message; NBC Clears NBC In Lauer Harassment Report. Aired 11a-12n ET
Aired May 13, 2018 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST, "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS": Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week.
[11:00:25] BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST: Happy Mother's Day, everybody. 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.
Ahead this hour, an exclusive interview with "Daily Show" host Trevor Noah. Is Trump rewriting the art of the punch line?
And we're going to talk about the media's addiction to a certain U.S. president. Yes, Nick Kristof is here. He is calling for an intervention.
And later, the "Washington Post" Jason Rezaian, he spent a year-and-a- half about the Iranian prison. Now, he's here to talk about the Iran story not being covered.
But first, attacks, leaks and lies. The Trump administration has had a lot of good news lately, a lot of good news to tout, but internal leaks and presidential tweets keep sending the White House off-script. There is a lot to address, and we have an all-star panel to do so.
But I want to first look at what one other of the country's leaders is saying about this. Former New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg, who used to be talked about as a possible presidential candidate, he gave a really interesting commencement speech yesterday that I want to show you. He talked about dishonesty a dozen times in his speech at Rice University, saying we're suffering from an epidemic of dishonesty.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: The greatest threat to American democracy isn't communism or jihadism or any other external force or foreign power. It is our own willingness to tolerate dishonesty in service and party, and in pursuit of power. The only thing more dangerous than dishonest politicians who have no respect for the law is a chorus of enablers who defend their every lie.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Now, who is he talking about there? Bloomberg, of course, didn't actually mention Trump by name, couldn't bring himself to say the "T" word, but I think we all know what he was describing. I'll show you more from Bloomberg in a moment.
But I want to take a look at a tweet that revealed a lot this week. Sometimes, lies or insults can accidentally reveal the truth. In this presidential tweet from Trump the other day, he talked about the fake news being negative.
We can -- I think zoom in on that part where he says, if it's fake, it's negative. He essentially showed what he's been saying for a long time there, linking the two. If the story is bad for him, then he says it's fake.
Of course, most people don't believe that. But many of his most loyal fans do. There's a lot to address about the broader implications of the last three words in this tweet. Take away credentials.
But let's begin by looking at this from a broader lens with an all- star panel, beginning with CNN's Christiane Amanpour, CNN's chief international correspondent, who was just promoted the other day. We're going to talk about her new PBS show in a moment. Also here, April Ryan, White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief for American Urban Radio Networks, also a CNN political analyst. And Frank Sesno, director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at the George Washington University.
Great to see you all. Thanks for being here today.
FRANK SESNO, DIRECTOR OF THE SCHOOL OF MEDIA & PUBLIC AFFAIRS, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: Great to be here.
APRIL RYAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT AND WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORKS: Great to be with you.
STELTER: Christiane, when the U.S. president threatens to take away media credentials, how is that heard all around the world? What does that mean?
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, Brian, I have been talking about this ever since the president was elected, even before he was inaugurated, I made a big speech at the Committee to Protect Journalism in November of 2016, warning American journalists that there was now a grave and extensional threat to their work. Hopefully, because the United States has a constitutionally protected journalism, and a constitutionally protected press, by the First Amendment, that the press will keep its spine and refuse to bend over to these kinds of threats, or whether they're jokes or whatever.
I don't think this administration is going to take away journalists' credentials. If they do, I expect the press to fight back in no uncertain terms, or to gather forces outside and continue to be able to report in a very, very strong, unbiased, facts, not fiction kind of way for as long as it takes. But I think one of the great things of the Trump administration is how it has caused a huge rise in necessary activism.
You know, everybody was getting a little lazy, everybody was taking everything for granted, particularly in the United States. And I think women of have come out, you know, black people have come out. The press have come out.
Everybody is coming out to defend their profession and their right to exist under the Constitution, and the laws of the United States.
STELTER: April Ryan, since you worked there at the White House every day, how was this credentials threat interpreted by the press corps?
[11:05:03] I mean, I just view it as the president venting, but I still think it matters even if he's making empty threats.
RYAN: Well, he may be venting, but the problem is that this president has a tendency to vent, and do something. And we understand during the time of his campaigning, he withheld credentials from certain major news organizations.
RYAN: So, it's a problem. And the day that we heard about it, everyone was kind of coming together, tried to talk about it. We were very concerned. It is a real issue. And you have to remember, Brian, if indeed he does pull the credentials, it's not about us, the press. It's about the fact that the American public does not get the information that they're supposed to get from the White House.
STELTER: Now, the issue about credentials, you know, was a one-day story. I think the other day I wanted to bring it back up, because I do think his words have weight. But Frank Sesno, do you think that when we talk about his tweets, he says fake is negative, he's sort of revealing how he really thinks? It was sort of insightful, helpful, that he linked fake and negative in that way? Because it kind of gave up what he has really been talking about all along?
SESNO: Maybe. But I think we've known what he's been talking about all along from the very beginning.
SESNO: He is so vocal about this, he attacks so personally and he's basically said, if I don't like your coverage, that's fake, you're making it up. He's pointed to stories that are fake based on leaks that he says has no substance in truth and they turn out, you know, actually to be the case. Take the firing of his national security adviser, for example. I mean, that was first leaked and it actually happened after a denial.
I think the denial of credentials, though, is something that's very important to focus on for a moment. Because of what Christiane and April just said about the implications for access. But there is something very important pointed out earlier this week, and that was a 1970s court ruling that said the following about the White House press facilities.
Quote: Having been made publicly available as a source of information for newsmen -- that's what they said back in the '70s -- the protection afforded news gathering under the First Amendment guarantee the freedom of the press requires this access not be denied arbitrarily or for less than compelling reasons. So, there are these hurdles, and these are institutional norms, not just venting, that the president is going up against.
STELTER: And there is another version of access we should talk about, as well, the president's lack of interviews. This was a notable weekend, because it's been one full year since Lester Holt's interview with the president. We can show the video from that. Ever since then, well, you see here zero interviews for ABC, CBS, NBC, or CNN.
The president has called into FOX a couple of times this year since beginning of 2018. But it's been 12 full months since we had one of these sit-down, in-depth TV interviews, really a remarkable drought that we're going through.
And, April, I guess the reason is, his aides and lawyers don't trust him not to slip up. And give Robert Mueller more ammunition. Is that the belief there?
RYAN: Yes. Yes. This president definitely hurts his own self. You know, he gets comfortable and just let's loose, for better or for worse.
But not only has he not given a news interview in a year to any other major news organization, other than Fox, he hasn't had a full-blown press conference since that February when he said that his administration was a well-oiled machine. But we're seeing all the dogs fly out. And this is one of the examples of the cogs just flying out.
This president is a president of all America, and one great thing about it is different news organizations may come at stories differently. And I've been asking for an interview myself. And I'm still making that request, no matter what happens, in that White House.
Everyone has a different take on a different issue. And if you just give an interview to Fox, considered conservative, what about if you give -- don't give it to someone else who may be considered another -- has another political view, but yet still people of America watch that network? He is not giving a broad spectrum or broad scope to all of America in just by giving it to Fox. It's one-sided.
STELTER: Right. If he was on NBC, for example, he'd reach a lot more viewers than on Fox. But that's not what he seems to want.
Christiane, if the president was giving interviews, we'd be asking about Iran and North Korea. I wonder if your perch in London how the past week has been covered about the global press. You know, we've heard a lot about the withdrawal from the Iran deal and the arrival of those three Americans from North Korea. How is it playing around the world?
AMANPOUR: Well, you know, in many different places, in different ways. I really think what April said both about Fox and also about, you know, pulling credentials in the past and banning certain people from rallies is really important, because on the one hand, I think it should be one for all and all for one.
[11:10:02] If one of our members is targeted, we should all rise up and stand with those members. That's what gives us strength. That's what not happened during the campaign and should have happened when various news organizations were banned from rallies. Everybody should have gotten together and said, we're all in this together.
Secondly, about just giving interviews to the -- you know, to the channels of choice.
AMANPOUR: All I can say about that is, if becomes an echo chamber as April was saying. And this is not just an academic exercise. If you remember, all the way back to the George W. Bush administration, they just really sort of mostly talked to Fox.
Fox I called the foot soldiers of the George W. Bush administration, leading and helping and beating the drums to a war in Iraq, which was based on specious and false intelligence and manipulation of intelligence and basic lies. As you know -- and we're reaping the very, very bad windfall from that still.
So that's the danger of just keeping your interviews in one sort of line. But around the world, I mean, look --
AMANPOUR: -- we have, for instance, in London, this weekend, the president of Turkey, a U.S. ally, Recep Tayyip Erdogan is coming here. This is one of the key abusers of the press in his own country. I mean, taking them to court, you know, putting them in prison.
I mean, just the worst. If you look at all the journalist groups, and their sort of list of free and unfree press, just the worst.
AMANPOUR: So when the president of the United States of America, you know, says these kinds of things, other leaders are empowered, whether they're quasi-democratic, authoritarian, dictatorial, they're all empowered to beat up against the press. And that's really dangerous around the world.
STELTER: I want to take a look at one more piece of sound from Michael Bloomberg, mentioned him in the beginning, his comments about dishonesty. Here's something he said, again, mentioning Trump without using the word "Trump."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLOOMBERG: So how did we get here? How did we go from a president who could not tell a lie to politicians who could not tell the truth, from a George Washington who embodied honesty to a Washington, D.C. defined by deceit?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Frank Sesno, last word to you on this overall issue. Lies and leaks from the White House. Is it all essentially, you know -- the coverage about leaks lately, press shop seems to be leaking like a sieve? But isn't the tone that comes from the top what allows or enables that to happen?
SESNO: From the tone that comes from the top. You know, it was said in the Reagan White House, the fish rots from the head. Of course, they weren't talking about themselves. They were talking about others.
SESNO: But that applies.
And we have so devalued honesty and credibility, which used to be demanded at the White House. When I covered at the White House, I remember the White House press secretary would walk away and say, by the way, the president just misspoke to set the record straight.
Now, we actually have the "Washington Post" counting the number of falsehoods there are and maintaining a 3,000-plus list. This is very -- this is insidious stuff, as "Bloomberg" pointed out. It devalues and debases the civil discourse across the spectrum. It enables others to follow suit.
It just does what Christiane was talking about. It seems to ratify others who do this apparently successfully in their own countries, but in countries that bear no relation to the sort of free press and democracy that we're supposed to have. My concern in all about this though --
STELTER: So interesting that the Reagan White House would walk around and actually correct what the president said, because this week, you know, Trump said the military pay had not been increased in ten years. That was false. CNN and others corrected. But the White House has always commented.
SESNO: There's also been spin. White Houses spin. That's what they do. That's what press secretaries are paid to do.
But when they misspeak or make a mistake, or get their facts wrong, there has been some degree of accountability for that in the past. That's the big difference here.
STELTER: Let's take a quick break here.
April, thank you so much for being here.
Frank and Christiane, I'm going to keep on the hook if I can. I want to ask you after the break about powerful Me Too claims against a powerful New York politician.
Also, NBC clearing itself in its internal investigation of Matt Lauer.
And later in the hour, a one-on-one on the set of the "Daily Show" with Trevor Noah. We'll be right back after this.
[11:18:15] STELTER: Welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES. I'm Brian Stelter.
Two hours and 59 minutes, that is how much time elapsed between the publication of this "New Yorker" story about New York A.G. Eric Schneiderman and then his resignation from the attorney general office. Under three hours and this powerful Democratic politician was out.
Now, the story's allegations of physical assault were reported by Jane Mayer and Ronan Farrow. It was just the latest in a string of scoops by Farrow, who joined the "New Yorker" last year when NBC tabled his Harvey Weinstein investigation. And it is still a mystery, why did NBC let him walk out the door with one of the biggest stories of the year?
We all know how the Weinstein story has sparked months and months of reporting about other powerful men, including NBC's Matt Lauer. When Lauer was fired last November, NBC pledged to investigate itself, and on Wednesday, the report came out.
NBC's head lawyer said, quote: We found no evidence indicating that any NBC News or "Today Show" leadership, news HR or others in positions of authority in the news division received any complaints about Lauer's workplace behavior prior to November 27th.
So, they say they didn't know. They also say they're making changes to improve workplace culture, just like CBS, which has been under similar scrutiny after the Charlie Rose scandal. But there is still more to come, because Farrow is now ready to talk about what went wrong at NBC. Why is Weinstein reporting exposing alleged crimes was not broadcast?
NBC says its reporting just wasn't ready. But Farrow disagrees, and he's going to write about it, he's going to write about what happened in a new book titled "Catch and Kill." The book was announced a few days ago and I think it's going to be a doozy.
Let me bring back Christiane Amanpour and Frank Sesno.
[11:20:02] Frank, the idea of a company investigating itself, there's been some skepticism, and one of the women -- the woman who came out accusing Tom Brokaw of harassment, she says there should be an independent investigation. Where do you stand on the idea of these media companies or newsrooms having to look inward and not always being comfortable doing so?
SESNO: It's always difficult. It's always very controversial. I think I generally come down on the side of having an independent, outside set of eyes on it.
After all, these are news organizations, they stand for transparency. They depend on their own credibility and the trust of the audience. And so anything that they can do to reinforce that, also to anticipate where those problems are going to be, they should do.
So when it comes to something like this, they can and should bring in outside eyes, whether they're HR or other types of legal experts who can provide both the creditability to the investigation and the fullness to the scrutiny that is brought internally to media companies that spend, especially in the news business, their full time trying to put scrutiny to everybody else.
STELTER: Right, exactly. You know, in this case, NBC has had two outside law firms helping with the review. But it was still done by corporate.
I wonder, Christiane -- I remember you speaking very earlier on after the Weinstein stories came out, talking about the value and importance of the Me Too movement. It's been more than half a year since. I wonder if you're struck by how many stories have come out, how much momentum this has, you know, because frankly, there's been very few stories in the Trump age that have broken through and demanded attention the way that this movement has.
AMANPOUR: Look, I absolutely agree, and I agree with what Frank said. To have the maximum transparency in a profession, mind you, as Frank said, that is all about maximum transparency --
AMANPOUR: I think absolutely there should be -- just to be sure it's whiter than white and purer than pure, there is no investigations after an investigation that it obviously should be independent, outside investigations. I mean, it's like, yes, of course. That is what everybody would expect.
Why is it having such an impact? You know, again, it's almost a no- brainer. My question is really why has it taken this long? So many women have complained for so long. And have never been listened to. We have never been heard.
And it's as if because of our physique, because of our gender, because of our, you know, particular attributes, that we are open season. That it is open season on us. On our bodies, on our minds, on trying to control us, on trying to, you know, sideline us, on trying to interrupt us.
Look, women have played, you know, second fiddle for way too long. When you have a story that was so me meticulously reported, that was so, you know, well-documented, that caused so many other women to come up and say "me too", that had a tipping point effect. Go back to Malcolm Gladwell's books. Often things happen in the world that don't actually make a change until they do, until there is this tipping point.
And so what -- you know, the "New York Times," Ronan Farrow, the major news breakers have done is create this tipping point. And make it so that it is no longer possible to shut us up, and to disbelieve us. Hence you've seen a retrial in the Bill Cosby, you've see more and more calls for these kinds of investigations. It's really vital now, it's really absolutely vital, that women are
listened to, not to distort the playing field, not just to make specious accusations. We must have a code where we understand where the accusations are, what actually is, you know, something really serious, versus something maybe not so fireable, not so serious. And this should be something everybody takes really seriously, rather than keeping on trying to -- you know, trying to swim and not sink, and still trying fully to grasp the historical dimension of what's happening now.
STELTER: I noticed -- well, I'm trying to think back in November when Charlie Rose was fired, your CNN International program took over temporarily on PBS stations. This week, some big news -- it's becoming permanent. So congratulations on that.
AMANPOUR: Thank you.
STELTER: And I was struck by something you said in your statement. You said you're thrilled to be a female filling this role at this time.
What is the significance to you of seeing a woman replace a man on PBS's -- you know, within the famous time slot for a talk show on PBS?
AMANOUR: Yes, well, look, I made that declaration very knowingly and very deliberately. It's not -- you know, it's not an accident that I'm a woman. And it's not an accident that I'm taking this job at this particular time.
I'm not going to get into any ad hominem, you know, sort of personal situations right now.
[11:25:04] I'm just going to say all of this needs to be thoroughly investigated, but -- but, but, but, yes, we can. Yes, we can. We can.
And we will. And we are. And I'm going to be incredibly privileged to be doing this in an expansive hour, with all those magnificent contributors from within the PBS, NPR family. Walter Isaacson, Michelle Martin and the others, Alicia Menendez and Harry, everybody, I'm really looking forward to doing that with them.
But, you know, the idea that we can't or we don't do it as well or whatever it is, is just, you know, it's Neanderthal. And we are in the 21st century.
STELTER: Christiane, Frank, thank you so much for being here. And that program, by the way, "Amanpour and Company" starts in July on PBS.
AMANPOUR: Thank you.
STELTER: Up next here on RELIABLE SOURCES, AT&T's Michael Cohen Fumble.
Plus, Trevor Noah, what he's learned about hosting the "Daily Show" and he's favorite joke about the Trump presidency.
STELTER: Trevor Noah
It's been a swampy week of revelations about Michael Cohen's consulting deals with companies like AT&T.
Now, that's of the things I asked Trevor Noah about when I sat down with him on the set of "The Daily Show." He made a joke about how Cohen was running swamp tours.
Noah and I had a wide-ranging conversation about Trump and comedy and also about what Noah still wants to know.
STELTER: Trevor, thanks for sitting down with me.
TREVOR NOAH, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW": Thank you again, Brian. Good to see you.
STELTER: Is this starting to feel like home for you, now that it's been a few years?
NOAH: I think it's felt like home for a while now.
And I think home has been less defined by the space and more the people. I think, were it not for the Trump presidency, it may have taken me a lot longer to feel like this was home.
STELTER: And in the first few months of the Trump presidency, I know your writers and you all were scrambling to redo the show at the last minute.
Is that still happening 16 months in?
NOAH: Yes, but we don't scramble anymore. Now we expect it.
STELTER: Now you plan for it.
NOAH: Right. So, now we plan for the unplannable.
NOAH: We wait for the moment when Wolf Blitzer goes "Breaking news." We're waiting for that moment, because it happens almost every single day.
It's the 5:30 curse, we call it. And so...
STELTER: The 5:30 curse.
NOAH: Yes, the 5:30 curse. Around 5:30 every single day, that's when the news will break.
STELTER: The news about Michael Cohen getting payments from companies, it did break between 5:00 and 6:00 p.m. this week.
STELTER: You said Cohen is literally swelling swamp tours.
STELTER: Did it surprise you?
NOAH: No, it didn't.
I said from the very beginning that Donald Trump reminds me of an African dictator. And if you know anything about African dictators, the first thing you have to do is follow the money. And you follow the money with the people closest to them, family members, business associates.
All you do is watch for the money. And I would have been disappointed had we not found out or had Michael Cohen not done this. I'm like, yes, this is following the script. This is what you were meant to be doing as the person who rolls with Donald Trump. You are always going to be finding a way to swindle cash.
And now the question really that remains is, did Trump know? And did these companies really not get anything? Because I feel like that's a quick way for the stories to just disappear. Yes, yes, yes, we paid him, we didn't get anything. Let's -- let's move along. Let's move on.
STELTER: When you say follow the money, you sound just like a journalist.
STELTER: It sounds like you bring that idea to this.
NOAH: Well, I think you -- as a person who processes information in the world, good journalists help you think of how to process a story.
I think, as a critical thinker, you should be able to do these things beyond journalism. You know, I think we should be trying to build a population of people that are looking at information, that are reading into information, people who are asking questions that go beyond what they are just told.
STELTER: And where do you see your show fitting into that?
NOAH: Well, it's always evolved, you know?
When I started "The Daily Show," I thought our purpose was just to make jokes about what's happening, because that's what the world felt like. It was a benign existence under Barack Obama. I think, as the world comes to change, our purpose in that world
changes. And I think that happens not just because of "The Daily Show," but because of how comedy changes in society, depending on what is happening to that society.
So, when society is experiencing a boon or if it is a wonderful time for people to be alive and there's not much strife, I generally find the comedy will be benign, and it will be, you know, observational and, you know, really light in its touch.
As things become scarier, as the world becomes less secure, as people question, you know, the security that they exist within, that's when comedy becomes more cutting, because, in many ways, it's the release valve to that fear or to that tension.
STELTER: You have some of the same challenges that I have. There might be a dozen stories in a day about Trump or about politics. How do you go about deciding which are worthy of talking about?
NOAH: Well, I break it down into categories.
I go, what's newsworthy? What is interesting? What is entertaining? And what is original? Because I'm going to be on "The Daily Show" every single day of the week, four nights a week, it's nice to vary my material. It's nice to switch things up.
I don't want my audience to tune in every day and feel like they're hearing the exact same story. And so, you know, as much as I can do, I don't talk about Trump. He makes it extremely difficult, as you know...
NOAH: ... you know, because he -- he -- and I have heard from many people that he purposefully wants to be in the news.
So, it's difficult to avoid that when the person is the president of the United States.
STELTER: I think we have had this debate privately. Maybe we should have it publicly.
You think Trump will be reelected if he decides to run, right? You think he's going to be with us for a long time.
NOAH: I think people underestimate how laser-focused Trump and his supporters are.
I think people also underestimate how many people in America are willing to accept the adverse effects of Donald Trump as they pertain to the general discourse in America, vs. the economy and how people actually feel in their daily lives.
So, it's -- it goes back to, you know, what Joe Biden was talking about, where he was saying affected vs. offended. And that's what's happened with Americans.
There are many people who go, I'm offended by Donald Trump, but I'm not actually affected by him.
I think too many people take for granted the ability Democrats have in to step in their own way and trip themselves at the finish line. I don't take any of that for granted.
STELTER: All right, really hard last question.
Do you have a favorite joke about the president?
NOAH: I think my favorite joke that encapsulates how I observe and process the Donald Trump presidency is this.
NOAH: I say, I wake up most days terrified at the notion that Donald Trump is the most powerful president in the world. I also wake up most days acknowledging that he's also going to make me laugh.
And that's what's difficult for me, is that he's an emotional paradox. And I have come to realize it's like this. I think it's almost like there is an asteroid headed towards the Earth, but it's shaped like a penis. I think I'm going to die, but I know I'm going to laugh.
STELTER: You're going to die laughing?
NOAH: Could be both.
STELTER: If you want to hear more from Noah, we're sharing the entire interview on our podcast. You can look it up through Apple Podcasts, Stitcher or TuneIn.
Up next here, "Washington Post" reporter Jason Rezaian.
STELTER: This just in from the Pentagon.
The three American prisoners who arrived home from North Korea on Thursday have just left Walter Reed Medical Center. They are now being reunited with their families.
Their release came as President Trump seeks a nuclear deal with North Korea's Kim Jong-un. At the same time, Trump is withdrawing the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal.
Jason Rezaian has a unique point of view on both these stories. He is a global opinions writer for "The Washington Post" who was imprisoned for a year-and-a-half in Iran while serving as "The Washington Post"'s correspondent in Tehran. He's also CNN's newest global affairs analyst.
Jason, welcome to the network.
JASON REZAIAN, GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Thanks, Brian.
STELTER: I wanted to ask you about that photo-op the other day. It was both a wonderful homecoming and also a photo-op for the president and for the released prisoners.
What were you thinking when you were seeing those three men arriving home from North Korea?
REZAIAN: Well, Brian, I had a lot of mixed emotions.
I was so happy for them that they have been released, for them and their families. But, as you just said right now, they're just being released from Walter Reed Hospital. You know, they have already seen the president of the United States and had cameras thrust into their faces in an apparent photo-op, that I just wish that they had had this opportunity to sort of process over time their experience, spend some time with their family, reintegrate little by little, before they were thrust out into the public like that.
And I was so thankful that I had had the opportunity to spend some time alone and with my family before that happened to me.
STELTER: Yes, I was wondering if there was pressure that you experienced or your family experienced from the Obama administration for a similar moment like that.
REZAIAN: Never. Never.
We had the opportunity to meet with the president later on down the road. He checked in with my family right away after I was released. But there was never any pressure like that.
STELTER: You have been talking this week about what it means for the U.S. to be withdrawing from the Iran deal.
There is a story that I think has been undercovered, and that is the Americans who remain in prison in the country. Tell us about that.
REZAIAN: Well, that's right, Brian.
There's -- there's currently five U.S. citizens imprisoned in Iran, we believe. And I'm certain, in fact, that all of them are in there on trumped-up charges, and two permanent residents as well. We also have Bob Levinson, a former FBI agent, who has been missing since 2007.
And, you know, the opportunity to bring those people home was sort of abandoned in the process of leaving the nuclear deal, because the main channel, the only channel of direct communication between Washington and Tehran was around the nuclear deal and the implementation of it.
And now that the U.S. has pulled out of it, there aren't those opportunities to speak directly with Tehran. STELTER: And I know, in the past, you haven't shared much about your
time being held in prison.
You're working on a book about that, though. Has that been cathartic?
REZAIAN: It's been -- it's been a long road.
And, you know, it's almost two-and-a-half years since I was released. I just returned to work at "The Washington Post" in January. I'm finishing up the book now. It will be out next year.
But it's been -- it's been a good process for me to kind of put together what happened and also process and talk to people, other people who have been through similar situations.
STELTER: Yes. What a remarkable experience.
Jason, thank you so much for being here.
REZAIAN: Thanks, Brian.
STELTER: Welcome to CNN.
REZAIAN: Thank you.
STELTER: Up next here, "New York Times" columnist Nick Kristof, he says we in the news media have an addiction to Trump. Do you agree?
STELTER: Is the news media addicted to Trump news? Is it time for an intervention?
STELTER: Joining me now, Nick Kristof, an op-ed columnist for "The New York Times."
Great to see you in person here.
NICHOLAS KRISTOF, COLUMNIST, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Good to be with you.
STELTER: I am a Trump addict. I think I'm willing to admit that. I think all roads lead to Trump right now.
But you pointed out in a recent column that that can be a problem. How so?
KRISTOF: So, I mean -- and let me express my own addiction as well.
KRISTOF: You know, my wife and I, we find ourselves, our pillow talk is sometimes about Trump.
STELTER: Oh, terrible.
KRISTOF: But I do think that we have to acknowledge that there is so much more happening in the world than Donald Trump.
And we in the media are essentially all Trump all the time. And, frankly, it's a little rude to say, this, but I think cable television is -- it's particularly true of cable TV.
STELTER: It is. Yes. Yes.
KRISTOF: And the upshot is that we risk not covering a lot of really important things at home and around the world.
And we complain that President Trump is, you know, parochial, isn't paying attention to important things around the world, and we're absolutely right. But that can also be said about us.
STELTER: Well, there's always been a critique of the American press that it's too focused on politics, Washington inside baseball, and not focused enough on real world issues that affect communities.
And I guess the point is, that's even more true now, because Trump sucks up all the oxygen.
KRISTOF: I think that's part of it.
And, also, I think, frankly, that there is obviously a crisis in journalism, and our old business model has been collapsing. And then along came Trump, and he's a bit of the solution to our business model. As long as we have cameras focused on him, then audiences will follow.
STELTER: Now, that's interesting that you said that. He brought up something similar at his rally a few days ago. Here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So I said, unless they give me an extension for the presidency...
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
TRUMP: ... which I don't think the fake news media would be too happy about.
TRUMP: Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. Actually, they would be happy, because, when I'm not here, their ratings are going to sink.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Now, I don't think that's entirely true, but there is a Trump bump that we have seen in television ratings, in "New York Times" subscriptions, et cetera.
STELTER: So I suppose, on an individual and an institutional basis, we have to reckon with this.
And I think we have to acknowledge it. You know, in 2016, frankly, I think we in the media to some extent blew a historic election because we were so relieved that there was somebody we could cover that would generate these subscriptions.
And then, as you remember, there was some anxiety in newsrooms that Hillary Clinton was going to be elected and government would be boring again, and our audiences would desert us. Well, I mean, that did not happen.
STELTER: Isn't this really about proportionality?
Here is part of the column you wrote. "I'm not arguing that we avert our eyes from Trump or mute our criticism. Far from it. But we have to figure out how to spare bandwidth for the genocide in Myanmar, opioids in America, and so on."
KRISTOF: Yes, absolutely.
I mean, we're focused on one conflict, which is basically the Washington conflict. And that's important. And we have got to cover that. But there are all these others out there as well, and that I don't think we're adequately covering those, and, you know, for very understandable reasons.
If -- it's easy for me to write this as a columnist, because, you know, I don't -- I'm far enough out of the game, I can write columns that only my mother will read, and that's fine.
KRISTOF: But if I were executive producer of a TV show, I can understand that if I sent a camera crew off to Myanmar to write about the genocide against the Rohingya, then my audience is going to drop compared to a rival network that puts a Democrat and a Republican in a studio together and has them yell at each other.
And that's a real problem. And I don't really have a solution to that.
STELTER: You also wrote in the column -- quote -- "The biggest Trump scandals aren't those unfolding in Washington, but those devastating the lives of poor and vulnerable people in distant American towns." Again, that's harder to cover, and the resources are not always there. But I really like the way you framed the scandal, the real scandal, being outside Washington.
KRISTOF: That's right.
I mean, I come from a part of Oregon that has -- that is indeed pro- Trump in part because it did get neglected and because there has been a real crisis.
You know, American life expectancy has gone down two years in a row, whereas, in the rest of the industrialized world, it's gone up. And this -- if this were happening because of terrorism, we would be all over it.
But it's happening in really boring, nondramatic ways, through suicide, alcohol abuse, through drugs, because of a crisis in work, a crisis in self-esteem, a crisis in employment, in living standards.
And I think we have kind of dropped the ball on that. And it helped elect President Trump, I believe. And I think, in turn, his policies are going to magnify that problem.
STELTER: What a thought, that if these people were dying from terrorism, there would be wall-to-wall coverage right here. But because it happens in the shadows, one at a time, it's almost invisible to us.
And that invisible America, if you will, I think, is one that, because we don't cover it adequately, because we don't talk about it, we don't develop good policies to address it.
I think that, as a nation, we tend to have our worst policies towards issues that are difficult to talk about or that are invisible. We can be part of the solution. We can help leverage these issues and put them on the agenda.
And it's hard, and we have to figure out how to build a business model for that kind of thing. But maybe a starting point is to have a conversation about that.
STELTER: Yes, indeed.
And a quick plug here for our nightly newsletter, all the day's media news, not just Trump, but everything else as well, delivered to your inbox every evening. You can sign up for free at RELIABLESOURCES.com, and I will e-mail you tonight with all the news.
We will be back right here in just a moment.
STELTER: Finally this morning, happy Mother's Day to all the moms watching and all the moms of the RELIABLE SOURCES team, Julia's (ph) mom, Ann (ph), Daniella's (ph) mom, Leslie (ph), Shawnta's (ph) mom, Olivia (ph), David's mom, Jeannie (ph), Lee's (ph) mom, Ellen, my mom, Donna, my mom-in-law, Helen.
I got to say, as a new dad, I am feeling more grateful for moms than ever before.
E.P. Jon Auerbach's wife, Vicki (ph), is at home right now with their kids, as is our director David Marshal's (ph) wife, Ana (ph), and my wife, Jamie, too. This is her very first Mother's Day as a mom. Sunny is just about to turn 1.
There she is taking a selfie the other day.
STELTER: In a divided world, this day is something that really brings everyone together. So, call your mom.
And we will see you right back here this time next week.