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CNN RELIABLE SOURCES
TrumpWorld's Deception is Getting Worse; WAPO: Trump Praised North Korea's T.V. Coverage Of Kim Jong-un Joked That Fox News Isn't As Fawning; AT&T Is New Owner Of CNN's Parent Company; NY Mag Calls Vice A Company Built On Bluff. Aired 11-12p ET
Aired June 17, 2018 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:00:09] BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST: Happy Father's Day. 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.
There's a lot to cover this hour, including AT&T's win in court against Trump's Justice Department. AT&T now owns this channel and many others. So, I'll break down what it means.
Plus, an interview you will want to see with filmmaker and activist Rob Reiner. He is calling the pro-Trump media essentially state-run TV.
But first, the big umbrella story of the week -- the lying, the deception, the anti-media attacks, it is getting worse. Are we actually reaching a boiling point? Because it sure seems that way to me. When the Trump show returned from Singapore, and landed on the White House lawn, the story wasn't so much what he said, it was how dishonest he was being.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I hate the children being taken away. The Democrats have to change their law. That's their law.
REPORTER: Sir, that's your own policy. That's your own policy.
REPORTER: Why do you keep lying about it, sir?
TRUMP: They were -- quiet. That's the Democrats' law. We can change it tonight. We can change it right now.
REPORTER: You're the president, you can change it.
TRUMP: I will leave here -- no, no.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: You can feel the reporters' frustrations. You can hear them trying to correct the president. Now, as you know by now, this policy about separating parents or
adults from children was announced back in a press release in April, then on camera by Jeff Sessions in May. This policy has been in effect now for a couple of months.
And the numbers are now coming in about how many children have been separated from their adult guardians. Now, the numbers came out on Friday and that's partly why this has become the top story in the country. The Department of Homeland Security says about 2,000 children were separated between mid-April and the end of May. You can see the number on screen.
Now, this was getting a small amount of media attention until this week. Now, it's getting a lot of attention. Why? Well, for one thing, Democrats are seizing on the issue, writing bills and visiting the border, holding lots of protests today. Some of those critics are even calling the Trump policy kidnapping.
Meantime for the first time, reporters have been allowed inside in recent days, touring some of the detention centers, although not all of them, giving us a look at some of the living conditions, mostly for the boys, not for girls, not for the babies. There's more reporting that needs to be done.
At the same time, some Trump supporters are defending this new zero tolerance policy and predictably blaming the media for blowing it out of proportion.
So, how did we get here? And what does this tell us about agenda setting?
Joining me now is Brian Karem, White House reporter for "Playboy" and a CNN political analyst. Olivia Nuzzi, Washington correspondent for "New York Magazine", and Doug Heye, a contributor for "The Wall Street Journal" and a CNN political commentator.
Brian Karem, how did we end up here?
BRIAN KAREM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That's a good question, Brian. And I'll tell you, it didn't start with the Trump administration.
KAREM: It began probably 30, 40 years ago when I first started covering the border. This has been an issue that has been buried by both sides, the Democrats and Republicans. It has been glossed over.
But it came full force because of the steps that Donald Trump took, and that is because they have the mistaken belief that this will act as a deterrent, separating parents and children will some way deter those who have nothing and who have already lost everything.
You take a look at the situations that you showed just a few seconds ago with the video showing where these people are being housed and point of fact -- and it's cruel to say this, but those are better living conditions than what they come from. So, anything that you say about deterring immigration by doing this is just flat out wrong.
And the president has made the decision to do it. He's lied to the American people about how it's being done. He could change it if he wanted.
Crossing into the United States can be treated as a civil or a criminal problem. And what this administration has done, has chosen to do is to treat it as a criminal problem and separate the parents and the children in the mistaken belief that it somehow deter people who have absolutely nothing, deter them from coming over here. And that's sad.
STELTER: Yes, what I've seen happen are some journalists standing up for basic American values, family values.
KAREM: That's exactly right.
STELTER: You know, you saw this after the S-hole controversy. There were journalists saying, hey, I'm an immigrant. I think that's happening again now. We're hearing journalists say, I'm a mother, I'm a father.
Olivia, is that what you see happening as well, kind of a form of advocacy?
OLIVIA NUZZI, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: No, I wouldn't say that. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that this administration, this White House are lying about this policy.
NUZZI: Donald Trump, as we saw, is blaming this on the Democrats. You had Kellyanne Conway today on another network saying that nobody likes this policy. They are kind of acting as though they are hands off with this, when I want to read, in May of this year, Jeff Sessions said, if you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child will be separated as required by law.
[11:05:04] If you don't like that, then don't smuggle children over our border.
There is -- there's just a lack of empathy across the board as it relates to immigrants. And, obviously, that was a part of Donald Trump's campaign yesterday was I think the three-year anniversary of that campaign.
NUZZI: It's been a fixture of his political doctrine since the beginning of his political career.
But I don't think that the reason why this is such a big story this week is because of advocacy. I think it's because of dogged reporting, on the ground reporting. I think it's because people are questioning -- reporters are questioning this White House and following up and making them answer for their lies. STELTER: But this gets to the divide in the country as well, Doug. I
mean, there are journalists talking about this being disgraceful. There are commentators, like Joe Scarborough, bringing up the N-word, Nazi. Doesn't the tone of some of the coverage offend a great deal of Americans who feel that the real scandal is that people are entering the country illegally in the first place?
DOUG HEYE, CONTRIBUTOR, WALL STREET JOURNAL: Look, I think there's no bigger issue that there's a divide within the American public about than immigration. There's a reason why Congress hasn't done anything on immigration in years and years. And it's because we can't reach consensus.
And I can tell you, you know, having worked in Congress as a staffer for a long time, you know, we haven't been able to get there because even within the Republican conference, there's not agreement, which is what we are seeing play out this week. We'll see play out next week as well.
Then you add to the story, real -- the real humanity of it, of parents being separated from children, and it's going to drive emotions. It's not just driving Democrats to talk about this. Our colleague S.E. Cupp, has been not just dogged but fierce in her condemnation of this policy.
And as somebody who is pro-life, I know that you're if pro-life, you can't be pro-separating parents and children. This is a very real story. And there's a reason it's being covered and that's a reason that it's being covered this way.
STELTER: That's a really good point, though. It's not just Democrats versus Republicans. There have been some prominent religious leaders who are supporters of President Trump speaking out against this.
I grew up in Methodist Church. I was struck by how fierce the Methodist Church statement was against this new policy. It is not -- you're right, it's not just black and white here, or red versus blue.
KAREM: It boils down to basic humanity. What do we stand for as a nation? Where is our moral center?
STELTER: Brian, this brings us to your outburst at Thursday's briefing. I don't know if you'd call it an outburst, but I would.
KAREM: What outburst was that?
STELTER: Here's part of what happened there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAREM: Come on, Sarah, you're a parent. Don't you have any empathy for what these people are going through? They have less than you do.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Brian, gosh, settle down.
KAREM: Sarah, come on. Seriously. Seriously.
SANDERS: I'm trying to be serious but I'm not going to have you yell out of turn.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Do you regret losing your cool, Brian?
KAREM: I have an apology to make. I apologize to every human being who has had to suffer, who have less -- who has less than I do, and I did not come to the table sooner. I'm sorry to those people for waiting so long and holding my temper. I am sorry that I am extremely angry with this administration that has lied to me, continues to lie to me.
I'm sorry as a reporter that for so long I thought that the idea was to -- I was struggling so hard to do my job, I forgot my job is to comfort the afflicted, afflict the comfortable and ask questions for those who have no voice. So --
STELTER: I respect what you're saying. I respect what you're saying. But you came across as a caricature for many of the people that are watching who feel journalists are trying to make it all about themselves --
KAREM: Well, that --
STELTER: -- try to get on TV more often, trying to get more attention.
KAREM: That's the pushback from the administration, of course. And as I said to Sarah, it's not about me.
STELTER: You don't think that's legitimate at all?
KAREM: No, I don't. I think -- it's not legitimate.
At some point in time, we have been playing by the old rules for so long that we forgot where we are with this administration. For fact, it was Sarah Huckabee Sanders who brought her family into that press room. She beat us over the head with it.
We have been berated, we've been lied to. We've been called the enemy of the people. We've been insulted. We have been told that we have less credibility than the president of the United States. We've been lectured at.
That office used to be an office of information. It is now an office of disinformation. It is an office of propaganda.
And I think we should push back harder. I have heard from numerous -- I think the vast majority of Americans are as inflamed by this issue as than any other that has come down the pike. And it is a basic question of humanity. It must be addressed. I addressed --
STELTER: Well, as you know, you became -- yes, well, let's look at what some of the reactions were. This was, of course, reactions on Fox News. They were not fans of your behavior.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These people don't belong there. They're jokes. They start to rip press passes away. If you're going to act like a wild animal, then you don't belong there.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sarah Sanders is not a baby-sitter, OK? This is not a pre-school. And yet we have these individuals acting like toddlers. They should be thrown out.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was waiting for him to throw a shoe. But judging from his apparel, I don't think he wears them. He is the press club hobo.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Throw him the heck out. Get him out of there. There's no reason to put up with that nonsense.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[11:10:02] STELTER: Brian, your reaction?
KAREM: I do wear shoes, even though I am from Kentucky. Look, honestly, I've been called worse from people who love me. I have a pretty thick hide about that sort of thing. I'm there for a reason. I'm there to ask questions and to seek answers.
STELTER: There is --
KAREM: And, look, Brian, that was a very simple and actually softball question. Do you have any empathy for what's --
STELTER: Right, she could have said, yes, I do. My heart goes out to them.
But she was reacting to you interrupting her. I think that's why she refused to answer your question.
KAREM: While I think she refuses to answer any question she feels uncomfortable with. There have been many people who have interrupted her in that press room, including Jim Acosta, April Ryan, Jonathan Karl, those questions she doesn't like to answer because they put her in a position of having to answer honestly. And that's something that this administration is not prepared to do. I will remind you --
STELTER: Let's go to the broader point -- let me just go to the broader that those Fox hosts were talking about because the reason it concerned me was talking about revoking credential, pulling credentials, denying access.
Doug Heye, you used to be the communications director for the Republican National Committee. Was there talk about that in the past? Or is this a new phenomenon to say, ah, kick him out of the White House?
KAREM: I will remind you, Brian, that when -- STELTER: Doug, let me get --
HEYE: I would say it's a bit of both. You know, what we used to do at the RNC, and even in my work at the majority leader's office, we'd put people from time to time, if they were reporting really awful, misleading stories, we'd put them on what I would call the disabled list, somebody on a the disabled list for a week or 30 days if it was really egregious. But that didn't mean they would lose their access to the capitol. It didn't mean that they wouldn't be able to ask questions. It means that some of their access would be limited to us or to us. We wouldn't necessarily respond to them as quickly as we might to others.
But at the same time, we had our jobs to do which was to get information out to all of these journalists so that we could tell our side of the story.
HEYE: And when you are shutting down -- when you're shutting down access, you're also -- you are cutting off your nose to spite your face because you're not telling your story because it's not about the journalist. It's always about their audience.
You know, when I have gone on other networks and talk to other hosts, friends of mine who are conservatives say, well, why would you talk to Rachel Maddow? And I would always tell them, it's not about Rachel. It's about her audience.
And we always forget that. It's not what you say. It's what people hear.
STELTER: Let's take a --
KAREM: We are the conduit through which the -- you now, the information flows. That's correct.
STELTER: Right. Let's take a quick break. Everybody, stick around.
More to discuss after a commercial, including a big question that newsrooms are grappling with. Is the press unwittingly spreading President Trump's lies?
[11:16:04] STELTER: Journalists usually prize access to politicians. What good is access when the person is lying to you all the time? You know who I'm talking about.
President Trump was accessible all week. Lots of access. He held his first real solo formal press conference in 15 months. And he gave interviews not just to Fox, but also to ABC and Voice of America.
He kept it up on Friday, walking outside, hanging out with his "Fox and Friends" friends, and then taking questions from the press corps. And it's little wonder why he went outside. I mean, just look at what
happened at the end of the week. New York state sued the president and his foundation, alleging numerous crimes. Cable newscasts were full of speculation about Michael Cohen possibly flipping on Trump. Oh, and there was a hearing in the Paul Manafort case about his alleged witness tampering and now he is off to jail.
So, Trump talked and talked trying to wrestle control of the narrative. And new outlets turned out fact check after fact check. It's a vicious cycle. He says something bogus. We correct it. He objects to the critical coverage, he says said something else that's bogus and so on and so on.
It leads us to tweets that are absolutely disturbing. Look, I know it feels like this happened months ago but we got to look at this tweet from Wednesday. It has to be scrutinized. The president here saying that America's biggest enemy is fake news, singling out NBC and this network.
That is extreme rhetoric. It's another dose of his poison. But no matter what, his media allies always have his back.
Heck, before the Singapore summit, they were saying journalists were acting un-American.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why is the media practically rooting for our president to fail?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They want the president to fail.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Rooting for him to fail.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They simply want him to be hurt. They want the nation now to be hurt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: The panel is back with me now, Doug Heye, Olivia Nuzzi and Brian Karem.
I wanted to start on the tweet about the press, parts of the press, CNN and other parts of the press being the country's biggest enemy because those words are so disturbing.
How was it received in the press corps? Is he oblivious to what made America great for 200-plus years?
NUZZI: Well, yes, certainly. I think we know that by now. I think that in the press corps, you know, in America when he is on -- when he is on White House lawn saying these things, I think it sort of just met with a shrug.
But the backdrop of the international stages last week I think kind of brought into sharp relief what the stakes are. You know, to see North Korea -- to see North Korea's leader standing with someone who just called the American press corps, the free press, the biggest -- our country's biggest enemy, I mean, it kind of -- it was a reminder that it's not just a silly thing that our president does sometimes, like he's the drunk uncle character from "SNL".
You know, it's a very serious thing and the stakes are very high. And I think it's easy to kind of get Trump fatigue, as we talked about on this show many times before. But I think the different setting kind of -- it created this juxtaposition that I think was pretty stark.
STELTER: Doug Heye, what was your impression of the Singapore coverage given that the president still this morning on Twitter is complaining he is not being given a fair shake?
HEYE: Well, I thought it was very beneficial not just for President Trump, but obviously for Kim Jong-un as well.
STELTER: For Kim Jong-un, yes.
HEYE: It was wall to wall coverage. Donald Trump, as he always does, dominated all political coverage.
And, ultimately, here's the thing. Donald Trump, one of the main reasons that he was elected was he doesn't care about the rules, which means he sets an agenda in a way Obama or Bush or Clinton or anybody else doesn't. And the press covers him as if he were every other president.
So, I can tell you -- when I talk to folks, you know, outside of the Washington bubble and they hear about these fact checks and the, you know, 22 lies in Trump's latest press conference, or whatever, they disregard it because the media doesn't have any credibility with them.
[11:20:01] And having worked with "PolitiFact", "PolitiFact" doesn't have any credibility with me either because I know how they operate.
NUZZI: But, Doug, what is the alternative? I mean, what are we going to do, not cover what he said?
KAREM: The alternative is to hold him responsible. And the --
STELTER: No, Doug is saying that makes it worse.
KAREM: It's different. It's holding him different on his standard, at his level. You cannot take a bully and allow him to bully you. We cannot do -- the idea of being dried and factual and stoic is not working. And the reason why it doesn't work is because the people he appeals to, it doesn't work.
NUZZI: Brian -- I disagree. STELTER: Olivia?
NUZZI: The press conference on Friday was a really, really good example of how this does work. You saw reporters --
KAREM: Now, that's great. Exactly.
KAREM: -- pushing back in real time. You saw them following up. And he was very agitated. He was telling reporters to be quiet. He couldn't seem to understand why nobody else was agreeing with him about Kim Jong-un, for instance.
STELTER: But let's --
KAREM: The bottom --
STELTER: Let's get Doug to address this. What is the --
NUZZI: But we don't have very much many opportunities for that. It's because of the approximate that the presses had to the president. He was seat away from the press.
NUZZI: He was taking every question for a long period of time.
KAREM: That's why he doesn't do it very much. That's why he controlled it. That's why there's a frustration level.
STELTER: Doug -- so when there's a lack of credibility for the four of us speaking, Doug, what's the alternative?
HEYE: Well, I'll give you a practical example. Let's say Jim Acosta asked a question of Sarah Huckabee Sanders and doesn't get an answer. Let's just say hypothetically, because that obviously never happens. The next reporter then asks a question a completely different topic, they let them off the mat. And then they have won that.
The other example is because Donald Trump tweets something, doesn't mean it needs to dominate coverage all day. When Donald Trump tweets something, he essentially says I'm going to change the agenda. These are not the droids you are looking for. Keep looking for the droids. It's simple.
KAREM: Bottom line is, we do need to do a better job in the White House briefing room of following up on each other without a doubt. But the press is not a uniform, you know, lump of clay. There are competing interests. There are many issues to cover on any given day.
So, they play that to their advantage by making the press briefings short in duration, very few and far between. And the access to the president is limited.
(CROSSTALK) STELTER: Does Press Secretary Sarah Sanders have any credibility left, Brian?
KAREM: No, I don't think any -- no. There's no credibility left in that White House press briefing room. What you said about -- they have to pick an enemy. What you saw about wanting the president to fail, that speaks -- that's the umbrella issue that spoke to me in the last segment directly. They would rather make us the enemy and make the story about us.
They are making the story about the press. They are making the story about Jim Acosta. They are making the story about April Ryan.
STELTER: I think we saw a preview of that this week when the 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale said that Acosta's credentials maybe should be revoked.
Olivia, your thought?
NUZZI: Well, look, I mean, the campaign did this in 2016. They revoked my press credentials. They revoked my publication's press credentials. They revoked press credential for various publications.
And that did not result in no coverage, of course. We still covered the campaign fairly and critically. But it made things more difficult logistically.
I think he would saw with the North Korean summit in particular, the importance of the press being given access to these type of things, because the photos that came out from the media, say, were not the same coming out from the government.
NUZZI: But I would say to the point about the press following up on each other's questions, unfortunately, the press is just not this organized group. It's not as though there's a smoke-filled room where everybody hangs out and says, I think we're going to ask Sarah Huckabee Sanders about, you know, the child immigration policy today.
NUZZI: Unfortunately, as Brian said, there are competing interest and there's a lot of news to get to. They have condensed these briefings to the point where they are so short that --
KAREM: They are pointless.
NUZZI: Yes, I wouldn't say they are pointless. I think there's great value to hearing what administration officials have to say on the record, even if we learn later or we know in real time that they are not telling the truth.
KAREM: I'll concede that. STELTER: Let's move to the broader issue about lying and deception.
It's not just in the briefing room. It was happening in the scrum of reporters on Friday.
I have been thinking about the role of fact checking and whether we are unwittingly helping to spread misinformation that's coming from the White House.
I spoke today with renowned linguist and avowed Trump critic George Lakoff about this. Listen to what he said about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE LAKOFF, TRUMP CRITIC: One of the things that journalists are trying to do is to repeat and quote what public figures say. But when the public figures are distorting, lying and trying to reframe things in utterly false way, what the journalists are doing is helping them. You are helping to get them out there.
And not only that, if they deny it, if they go out and quote his words and then say this isn't true, what they've done is quoting his words. It's like when Nixon said, I am not a crook, and everyone thought of him as a crook.
[11:25:03] I wrote a book called don't think of an elephant -- which makes you think of an element. The point is that denying a frame activates the frame.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: And I think we can take this example and play it out through Trump's tweet about the press being the biggest enemy. If we put it in a banner that says Trump says the media is the biggest enemy, that's damaging, right there, that's damaging according to Lakoff.
Now, let's try a different banner. (INAUDIBLE) people lie, we say, Trump criticized for biggest enemy comment, Lakoff would still say that banner is not good enough because we're still identifying the lie.
Let's put up a better banner. Something like, why is Trump lashing out at the press again? This I think is a real time example of how newsrooms or in this case cable news networks have to think about how we're reporting the president's words.
Brian Karem, your reaction?
KAREM: Well, it's a double-edged sword, Brian. I mean, if you -- first of all, his tweets have been determined to be policy. So, you have to in some regard report them.
Number two, not reporting them leads to the argument that we're the fake press and we don't -- we only report stuff that's unfavorable to the president. It's -- you are a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation. And the bottom line is, getting information out to the public is
essential. And whether or not we like or agree with that information, yes, and sometimes you are increasing the ripple affect in the pond. But hopefully, the electorate is informed enough and is educated enough and cares enough about the issues to understand and differentiate between the falsehoods and truth.
And we -- it's our job to pass information. So, to go after us --
STELTER: But again, let me just be clear. Lakoff says that it's not working. I want to be clear, he says what you are describing is a failure because of --
NUZZI: Brian, recent history says that is not working. I don't think you can look at the --
KAREM: You are not -- I hope you are not looking for a disagreement from me.
NUZZI: I was talking to the other Brian. I just think that -- I think we should be trying to get better at this. We should try to improve how we frame these things.
But at the end of the day, I saw there was an argument between I think Jonathan Capehart and a reporter at "The New York Times" because Jonathan Capehart had tweeted what the president said, which was an obvious, obvious falsehood. And it sprung up this debate about whether or not he was perpetuating the lie.
And I don't know, I think it's very difficult to cover politics in real time without quoting people verbatim and then coming back to it later and explaining why what they said was not true, or why what they said was unfair. But I think we need to try to prove all the time on that and I think, you know, now is as good as time as ever to --
STELTER: When I was talking to Lakoff about this, you know, he says start with the truth. Then describe briefly what the lie was. Then get back to the truth.
I told him, it's like a truth sandwich. I think that might be the best possible answer to this, if we can frame --
NUZZI: But who is America's biggest enemy, though? How do you even do that? That's subjective, is it not?
STELTER: That's a great point.
Doug Heye, last point to you.
KAREM: Truth is subjective. Facts are not. Facts are not -- I mean, facts -- truth is subjective. Facts are not. We have to get back to the facts and we have to trust the American people. Now, you are going to have voices on the right and the left. But
right now, what we should be doing is asking very basic questions. That's it.
STELTER: We are every day.
Doug Heye, last word to you.
HEYE: What I'd say is yes, you have to cover what the president says because he's the president. But you don't have to cover it exhaustively. If Trump tweets something at 8:00 a.m., we don't need to talk about it for 24 hours. When we do, Trump wins and the media doesn't understand that. You play into his hands every day.
STELTER: Doug, Olivia, Brian, thank you all for being here.
KAREM: Happy Father's Day, Brian.
NUZZI: Happy Father's Day, Brian.
STELTER: Thank you very much.
Coming up, "Vice's" Shane Smith. He wanted to reshape the news industry, but a new article says it was a big bluff.
And next, film maker and activist Rob Reiner, he joins me to discuss why he thinks conservative media coverage of the president is essentially state-run. That's right after this.
[11:30:00] STELTER: Fox News, better watch out or something like that. President Trump apparently doesn't think the network is praising him enough. According to the Washington Post, while Trump was in Singapore, he watched a little bit of North Korean state-run T.V. and he joked with some of his aides that this female North Korean anchor was so positive toward Kim Jong-un and he wondered near joked, why isn't Fox News as lavish in its praise for me? Now, again he was joking but it's an interesting little bit of reporting from the Post given Fox's pro-Trump talk shows. This topic actually came up when I sat down with famed Director Rob Reiner. His latest film "Shock And Awe" is about the journalists who bravely questioned George W. Bush's WMD claims in the rump to the Iraq war 2003. Reiner is fired up about Trump these days. He calls Fox and Breitbart and Sinclair's commentaries essentially state-run media that prop up the President.
ROB REINER, DIRECTOR: It is more difficult now than it has ever been because first, to hold people in power accountable to risk access and all of that but also you have a big chunk of mainstream media that is feeding the base of Donald Trump. And they're only getting information more in one way and it's much easier to say fake news, witch-hunt, no collusion and repeat that over and over than to explain to people what actually happened, how the democracy was attacked, what the connections to the Trump campaign are, were there any obstructions of justice. These are things that are very complicated to explain but in order for our democracy to survive we have to explain it and we have to be vigilant.
[11:35:07] STELTER: You're saying the pro-Trump media tells a very simple story right, no collusion, the media is out to get them.
STELTER: Well, what is the simple story you think you should be telling them? What should Trump critics be saying to counter that?
REINER: What they should be saying is and by the way, I think we're in a place right now where it's almost impossible to reach those people. They are set in cement in a way and they keep getting reinforced. But that doesn't mean that the mainstream media who reaches the other 60 percent or 65 percent, whatever that number is shouldn't keep act explaining to them -- to those people what the truth is.
STELTER: And what's going on.
REINER: Because at some point, at some point right now you don't see the Republicans in Congress willing to step up and say anything. You see people like Jeff Flake and even now Trey Gowdy but they're on their way out. You don't see anybody who is now in Congress and wants to stay in Congress saying anything of any real value in terms of the truth. But at some point, if the press does their job and if that drumbeat stays there, eventually we'll see little cracks like the (INAUDIBLE) that bust up through the cement. It can happen.
STELTER: But hold on. Aren't you just as set in your ways, set in your views, set in cement as the Trump supporters you're critiquing?
REINER: No you know why, and this is an interesting thing? What I've discovered in this whole effort to try to get the truth out about this invasion of our country by the Russians is I've gotten really close with some good Republican friends. Principled, thoughtful Republicans like David Frum was a good friend and I talked to them. And we may disagree and we do disagree on policy issues but the one thing we agree on is loving this country and standing up for democracy and the rule of law and then that we can -- we can exchange ideas. And to me, we will not have a healthy democracy unless we have a healthy strong Republican Party and a healthy strong Democratic Party.
STELTER: You know what happens every time you give T.V. interviews?
STELTER: Conservative websites write all about you. You go viral.
REINER: Yes, libtard.
STELTER: Do you like that? Is that part of the point? REINER: You know, I don't even follow any of that stuff because yes -- no, they're going to -- listen, as we're talking here they hate my guts. I've lost half my audience because of that. That's fine.
STELTER: Is that what they saying?
REINER: Well, I'm sure. You know, half the people hate my guts. They don't want to watch -- they don't want to watch what I have to say or the movies that I make that talk about any of this. But you know I'm at this point in my life where I just have to speak out. I have to say what I believe. And I don't really -- I know -- I know what's true. We know that propaganda works. Every single administration Republican, Democrat all traffic and propaganda, either to sell a policy or to sell a rationale to go to war. The difference is we got a president now that was backed up by essentially state-run media with Fox, and Breitbart, and Sinclair, Alex Jones, and so on.
STELTER: Not literally state-run but you say it's --
REINER: No, I said -- I said essentially, yes, essentially which is supportive. I mean, you know, they've got people like Shepard Smith over at Fox who is not you know, running the company line but essentially. And that's a big, big difference. And I spent a lot of time talking to intelligence experts who tell me it's not even so much as spreading the line getting to believe the lie, it's getting them to be confused, to throw up a lot of smoke and get them to confuse --
STELTER: Well, that, sir, is happening.
REINTER: And by the way -- yes, and the autocrat comes to the rescue. Don't worry, daddy we'll take care of you.
STELTER: Interesting conversation with Reiner there. Now, when we come back, what does it mean to own the news? Highlights from my interview with the AT&T executive who's now in charge of CNN's parent company.
[11:40:00] STELTER: What does it mean to own the news? I asked because as of this week AT&T owns CNN. It's a first of its kind marriage, a wireless phone and internet provider owning this news network in all of these assets, HBO, Warner Brothers, TNT, TBS, HLN, Bleacher Report etcetera. It's a deal that's been 20 months in the making and a deal that was opposed by then-Candidate Donald Trump when it was announced.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: AT&T is buying Time Warner and thus CNN a deal we will not approve in my administration because it's too much concentration of power in the hands of too few.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Now, fast-forward a year as you probably know Trump's Justice Department sued to block the deal on antitrust grounds. AT&T suspected Trump was playing politics. Time Warner thought he was trying to penalize CNN. Now, the government denied that. Now fast forward to Tuesday, Judge Richard Leon shredded the government's case handing AT&T a decisive win. Time Warner came out and said the suit was baseless to begin with, political in its nature and never should have been brought. And now as of Thursday, the deal is finally done. Time Warner is being renamed WarnerMedia and CEO Jeff Bewkes is retiring. Now, John Stankey has taken over as CEO. So I had some questions for Stankey about CNN and editorial independence.
After all, AT&T has never really been in the news business until now and delivering the news is different from delivering phone calls. Both are important but news divisions have a special place in people's lives. In this bitterly divided world, people need information and context. That means newsrooms need investment and support. And reporters in those newsrooms need to trust that their employers have their back whether in a war zone or a court of law or nowadays even in a press conference. At the same time, viewers need to trust that the parent company is not interfering in the coverage, that the company is supporting the newsroom without second-guessing. It's easy to lose trust when it seems like the parent company is meddling. And to see what this looks like when it goes wrong, look no further than Pittsburgh we're community leaders are outraged by the firing of cartoonist Rob Rogers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[11:46:08] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Fired for being anti-Trump? Rob Rogers, the award-winning political cartoonist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette was fired today. He had been on the job for a quarter century. Roger says his editor turned down 19 of his political cartoons since March.
ROB ROGERS, CARTOONIST: They were trying to sort of tamp down the voice that I was having about, you know, being critical of Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Now, the paper and its ownership is under a lot of scrutiny. And the same is true out west in Denver where the hedge fund in control of the Denver Post has been cutting and cutting staff while reaping big profits. The newsroom rose up in protests earlier this year. And today there's some breaking news. Eight former staffers are launching a brand new Web site called the Colorado's Sun to take on the Post. Competition, criticism, accountability, holding a news outlet sometimes means there are protests outside your office but it also means providing a valuable public service. So do the AT&T bosses know what they're buying? They say they do.
On Stankey's first day, Friday, he gave his very first interview to me and my colleague Hadas Gold. When we asked about CNN, he said, quoting him here. "It is not lost on me that this particular part of the business is unique and different than every other part of the business. It has a special social responsibility." And thus he said, he has a new responsibility. He said, he doesn't see CNN's leadership or editorial processes changing. CNN President Jeff Zucker will remain in charge. And more broadly, Stankey said, the only way democracy functions well is with a very well informed and educated electorate. He said, he sees his role as taking what you all do and getting it in front of more people to better inform that electorate.
Now, those are welcome words to staffers here. On the business side, there are a lot of opportunities for new mobile products, more customizable Web sites. On the editorial side, well, staffers just want to be sure that the new bosses can withstand the heat, that they can shrug off on advertiser's complaints or the President's attacks, that's the challenge for AT&T. That is what it means to own the news. And a quick note here, Stankey will be joining us on CNN's "NEW DAY" tomorrow morning. We'll be talking with him about the new job. And up next, here on RELIABLE SOURCES, another angle about the media business. It's about Vice, Vice Media. Co-Founder Shane Smith has enjoyed unmatched height but a new article says the bubble is bursting. The author of the piece joins me next.
[11:50:00] STELTER: Now at digital media reality-check, Vice Media thought it was cooler than everybody else. It got lots of major media companies to invest in the dream it was selling. But now reality is intruded. The company missed its profit targets last year, harassment scandals engulf the company, and now a new CEO is taking over. All of that the subject of this news story in New York Magazine titled Vice was built on a bluff. I spoke with the writer Reeves Wiedeman about the real Vice.
STELTER: Reeves, Vice gets lots and lots of good press but your article is something of a reality check about one of these -- one of the best-known brands and media. What did you find that's been overlooked by others when it comes to Vice?
REEVES WIEDEMAN, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: Well, I think you know, Vice was a brand of magazine for a while that was kind of built on cool and at this moment that it became cool a lot of other big media organizations, investors sort of thought you know, maybe this is something we can scale into something much bigger. Maybe you can scale cool into a big multi-national, global media organization. It was a company kind of built on height for a long time and I think more recently they've discovered that they kind of have to deal with a lot of the realities that many other media organizations are dealing with. How much of this has to do with Shane Smith, the company's co- founder, a larger-than-life presence who really promised the world but then a couple months ago surprised everybody by stepping down as CEO.
WIEDEMAN: Yes. I mean, I think Shane gets the certainly the bulk of the credit. He's by all accounts a remarkable pitchman or remarkable salesman. And you know, a lot of even his critics will give him credit. You know Disney and A&E offered Vice a cable channel. Is Shane Smith is supposed to say no to that?
STELTER: I thought it was interesting in your piece there was a comparison between Shane Smith and Donald Trump, that both of them love to make huge promises and make big deals. Tell me about that comparison.
WIEDEMAN: I think someone else told me that Vice was the media equivalent of putting gold lettering on crummy condos which I think was -- is a little too critical of it but Shane is -- has been out there kind of selling something. And I think to a certain degree he believes it. Like -- and there's in some way at which -- in which Vice has produced great things and has fulfilled what it is set out to do in certain ways but ultimately you have to kind of deliver on the promises that you make and it has to be more than just a story you're telling.
[11:55:19] STELTER: So I guess the point is that selling this hard- partying edgy brand, getting advertisers to come on board, helping advertisers reach young people, all that works for a while and to some extent you can produce great journalism on the back of that ad agency but there are limits to the growth and Vice is experiencing those limits.
WIEDEMAN: They're definitely experiencing the limits and I think that sales pitch doesn't work anymore. You know, for one thing, Shane himself is in his late 40s. He doesn't necessarily want to go out and party with marketing executives anymore and that's not -- that's not the pitch. The pitch is not we're the cool edgy brand, we are the brand that is speaking to the woke generation. We are you know -- they're now claiming a much broader audience and so it's going to be a tricky sort of path for them to go down of maintaining that while also you know, trying to expand.
STELTER: Vice Media's view is that it feels Reeve's story is all about the past. Two weeks ago, cable T.V. veteran Nancy Dubuc took charge of Vice to help turn things around. One more note here as we sign off, CNN has decided to broadcast the last two episodes of this Season's "PARTS UNKNOWN" featuring Anthony Bourdain. The first of those two episodes is tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern time here on CNN. We'll see you right back here this time next week for more RELIABLE SOURCES.