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Dueling News Cycles for the Democrats; Did Journalists Drop the Ball on Northam Story?. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired February 3, 2019 - 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.

[11:00:15] BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey. I'm Brian Stelter. And this is RELIABLE SOURCES, our weekly look at the story behind the story, of how the media really works, how the news gets made and how all of us can help make it better.

This hour, breaking news from President Trump's Super Bowl Sunday interview.

Plus, Howard Schultz, his book tour, left a bitter taste. Howard Dean will weigh in on that.

And later, an interview you'll only see here, with Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez's chief of staff.

All of that and much more coming up.

But, first, a weekend of contrasting news cycles for the Democratic Party. On one stream, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam holding on while the entire party practically tells him to let go. On the other stream, more Democrats entering the 2020 race. And the phrase we're hearing over and over again is historically diverse.

And that's accurate. This field of candidates historically diverse, so, race, power, the past, the present, the future all captured in these two stories.

But I want to reverse the order. Let take this chronologically. Think back to Friday morning and the way new cycles work.

It was the start of Black History Month. Purposely, the timing for Cory Booker's campaign launch. With Booker now seen by online video, radio and TV interviews, the field of confirmed and expected candidates now includes five women, two African-Americans, one Hispanic man. There are numerous other historic firsts in this field.

Booker's announcement was Friday's biggest political story until again on the first day of Black History Month, the Northam yearbook photo was revealed and then, suddenly, the news cycle changed and Northam has remained the top story ever since. In fact, Tulsi Gabbard came out. She held her official campaign launch in Hawaii on Saturday evening and yet, I would argue was mostly overshadowed by the news involving Northam. So, let's talk about these contrasting stories and what they mean.

Let me bring in, David Zurawik. He's the media critic for "The Baltimore Sun", Juana Summers, national political reporter for "The Associated Press", and Ruby Cramer, political reporter at "BuzzFeed News".

I want to get into a number of stories involving the Democratic field. But, first, this idea, David Zurawik, that we are talking about a historic -- a number of history-making candidates, it is incredible to see the number of women running, number of people of color running for president already on the Democratic side, and yet I feel this is being taken for granted.

Should we, in the press, be talking more about the historic nature of this early primary season?

DAVID ZURAWIK, MEDIA CRITIC, THE BALTIMORE SUN: Yes. Brian, I think not only should we be talking about it, I think if we feel that way, we should be celebrating it. This diversity, all of these different voices are going to make this conversation of democracy in this election much, much stronger. So, it's really important to do this and listen to all these voices, not just dismiss them and say the poll numbers are down for you, so I'm not going to listen to you.

But here's the thing. I think we can't get lost in that historic part of it. We have to ultimately focus on the policy. It's not enough to have new voices in the mix. Those voices also have to have new ideas and we have to judge those.

We are never very good about dealing with policy in these races. None of us, either on the media side, or on the political side. But in this one, it's legitimate to focus on the diversity, certainly right now, and to applaud it and to explore it culturally.

What does it say about us today as a nation? I think it says very good things.

STELTER: Exactly.

ZURAWIK: Yes.

STELTER: That's what I want to make sure the spotlight remains on this subject. But, look, I agree with you. I'm going to try to spend the next two years, dragging us all back to policy, as I'm sure many editors and newsroom leaders are.

Juana, what's your reaction to what David said?

JUANA SUMMERS, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: Absolutely. One thing I find so interesting about covering this historically diverse group of Democrats, as opposed to past election cycles, you're seeing so many different templates of what an American president, of what a Democratic presidential nominee can look like. There are women, there are people of color, we have representation of LGBTQ people, and that's something we've never seen before. The other thing that jumps out to me, though, is the fact that as we

talk about and cover and discuss this historically diverse class of Democrats that are running for president, a lot of that coverage is being driven by newsrooms that do not necessarily reflect the diversity that we see in this field and that we see in our country.

So, as I'm thinking about my coverage and talking to peers around this field, I think we have to really be deliberate in our work and think critically about how to make sure that we do not make -- that our coverage does not reflect the present of whiteness and that we're talking about what it means and we're understanding these cultures that we are covering and making sure that's reflective of that.

STELTER: And you're absolutely right. National newsrooms, according to survey after survey, are lagging behind the country in terms of representing the country's diversity. And that is in a number of ways, whether it's the number of women in newsroom leadership positions or whether it's a number of people in color in leadership positions, et cetera.

Let me ask about Cory Booker's role. He came out Friday morning in an interesting way, Ruby, and you were part of this. A lot of newsrooms, including CNN, and "BuzzFeed" and "The A.P.", they knew about his announcement under the embargo, and the embargo lifted at 7:00 a.m. Eastern Time on Friday.

Tell me how that worked.

RUBY CRAMER, POLITICAL REPORTER, "BUZZFEED NEWS": Sure. I mean, an embargo is basically an agreement between the reporter and the campaign where they say we are going to have some news for you. Will you agree to this embargo? And you make a choice as a newsroom to say yes, we will.

They'll send information over with the understanding that it won't be published until the agreed-upon time. That's a mutual agreement between the reporter and the campaign. And Kirsten Gillibrand also did a similar arrangement with all the national press.

STELTER: It seemed it worked from a campaign strategy perspective because he was able to dominate Friday morning's news cycle.

CRAMER: He was. Although, I think there was a little bit of frustration inside the Booker campaign. Frustration may not be exactly the right word but what happened with Governor Northam certainly stepped on that announcement.

STELTER: Right.

CRAMER: Pretty much from the afternoon on.

STELTER: Right. It absolutely did. And it's dominating the news cycle ever since.

I mean, Juana, is that partly because, look, Ralph Northam I think is a very big story. I'm shocked he hasn't stepped down yet. But is it partly such a big story and leading all the news networks

because there isn't anything else big going on? You know, am I getting at something accurately there?

SUMMERS: I think that's certainly part of it. I think the other part is that this is a story taking place in Virginia, that's a critical state. It's also a story that every one of these potential candidates and declared candidates were forced to respond.

You know, Virginia is a critical state.

STELTER: Right.

SUMMERS: -- in a general map.

As you pointed out, rightly so, this is a historically diverse cast of candidates. So, I think a lot of reporters in my shoes spent our Friday nights saying, OK, how are these candidates going to respond? Julian Castro, the former San Antonio mayor, coming out very quickly, Kamala Harris tweeting out very quickly. Some other folks not having a lot to say until the following day.

So, I think it was one of the first moments were this field was test out how they would answer to these issues of race in this campaign, and I think that the answer was a resounding, he's got to go.

STELTER: Right. Absolutely.

One more question about the 2020 field before we talk more about Northam in the next segment. Ruby, the next big announcement we're expecting is from Elizabeth Warren later this week. It seems she'll be officially entering the race.

What does it tell us about 2019 and about politics that there are so many women running on the Democratic side and, you know, it's just taken for granted in a way? I don't see as many news stories about what it means for women to be running anymore because Hillary Clinton did blaze that particular trail.

CRAMER: Warren was the first major candidate to get in the race. She announced an exploratory committee on December 31st, on New Year's Eve. So, when she made her first trip to Iowa as a potential 2020 candidate and again she's expected to launch her campaign for real, so to speak, next weekend.

So -- but when she first got into the race, her first trip to Iowa, a bunch of reporters asked her what does it mean to you to be running as a woman, and she immediately sort of pivoted back to what was the central message of that trip, which is: I'm not a career politician. I didn't get in this race because, you know, I live in Washington, I'm a sort of part of the Washington establishment that's expected to run. I'm in this fight because I've been fighting for working class families for years before I was even a senator, when I was a bankruptcy expert.

So, she -- I found it interesting the way she answered that question because she didn't engage on it at all. I think she will more and more. Clearly, she wanted to drive that message during her first trip. But even if it doesn't mean something to the candidates necessarily, something they don't want to highlight, it means something to so many people.

STELTER: Exactly.

CRAMER: So, I think it will be very interesting to see how she sort of bridges that going forward.

STELTER: Right. That's what I'm curious about as well. It means so much to so many people who are going to be watching this coverage, both to have so many women running, to have so many African-Americans and Hispanic candidates running. It is -- it is a monumental change in our policy.

And to David's original point, you know, there will be stories that will need to explore that. But policy still has to stay front and center.

Ruby, thank you.

Juana and David, please stick around.

We're going to talk about what the heck happened at that Ralph Northam press conference and why reporters didn't find his yearbook before now.

[11:10:04] Much more coming up in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STELTER: It was a tip from a concerned citizen. That's what led a far right-wing website to go publish this photo from Governor Ralph Northam's 1984 medical school yearbook.

Regardless of the source, regardless of what website published it first, it was important news. Newsrooms scrambling to see if it was legit. And it was. Within hours, the CNN and other outlets had confirmed the photo was real.

And now, fast forward two days, frankly, many journalists figured Northam would resign by now.

Take a look at the front page of the newspaper in Richmond. This is "The Richmond Times Dispatch". On the left, you see the Saturday cover saying he was deeply sorry for the photo. Then on right, today's cover, Sunday's cover saying, hey, maybe it wasn't me.

What is going on?

Juan Summers is back with me, and we're joined by Jackie Kucinich, a CNN political analyst and Washington bureau chief for "The Daily Beast", as well as Howard Dean, the former governor of Vermont who ran for president in 2004. Governor Dean, since you've been in this position as a governor of a

state and you were the chair of the DNC, what is your position? What should Northam do?

HOWARD DEAN, FORMER GOVERNOR OF VERMONT: Well, first of all, I've never been in this position.

[11:15:02] I was governor but --

STELTER: I said governor of a state. I apologize. Yes.

DEAN: Look, it's OK.

You know, I don't know Ralph Northam. I believe he's a decent person but I think he has to resign. I don't see -- he just can't be effective as a governor after something like this. The interesting thing about this, there's some parallels between this and Al Franken, who's a very decent, smart senator.

The ground has shifted under people's feet. People do not going to put up with this kind of stuff anymore. And so, maybe they would have put up with it in the past but they're not going to put up with it now.

STELTER: I noticed you retweeted Obama era health care administrator, Andy Slavitt. He wrote this on Twitter.

He said: If you've worn blackface or you've repeatedly said President Obama was born in Africa, you should resign. The point here is clear. It's a remark about President Trump's own racist history.

DEAN: Right.

STELTER: Do you see a double standard at play, Howard?

DEAN: Sure there is, on the Republicans. I mean, you know, they have no morals at all. I mean, Republicans are happy to ask Ralph Northam to resign. They have a much worse guy who's heading their party. It's ridiculous.

(CROSSTALK)

DEAN: I mean, this is not -- this is very similar to the Kavanaugh appointment, who got appointed with nothing but Republican votes. They don't care about this kind of stuff because their base doesn't care about this kind of stuff.

STELTER: I think if there was a photo of Kavanaugh looking like this, it would have been different. But I'll leave it at that.

DEAN: It might have been.

STELTER: Jackie -- might have been.

So, Jackie, the obvious question here, how was this missed -- how was this yearbook missed by the media for decades? JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's a really interesting

question. It's a fair question. I think it's safe to say that it's open season on yearbooks now, no matter what you're running for.

I personally was quite surprised that a med school had a yearbook. Who knew? But it not only, for reporters, you would figure oppo researchers would have turned this up and yet it stayed dormant.

It's a reminder that a lot of the things that we need to go back to the library. We need to go back to these primary sources that may not be on the Internet when you're betting these candidates. It's a good reminder going into 2020, that's for sure.

STELTER: Yes.

And, Juana, this is one of those media stories I don't think really should be a media story. You know, yes, this came from a far right- wing website. Yes, there's a lot of that kind of stuff out there. But the photo is real so it doesn't matter that it came from a tip from a concerned citizen. That's what the website told "The Washington Post".

SUMMERS: No, it absolutely doesn't matter. This is information that is pertinent to Virginia voters that gets to the core question of whether or not Governor Northam is fit to lead his state.

The other thing this highlighted, if you look at that press conference yesterday, you know, the governor also admitted he says now that he's not the person who appeared in that photo. He doesn't know who is. He also admitted that he, at another point, had been in public in blackface for a talent show when he portrayed Michael Jackson.

So, no matter what the source of this information that's coming out, it has taught us a lot. It is giving voters relevant information to report. And I think that's only a good thing.

STELTER: A good thing.

Let's pivot to another big story of the week and, Howard, I want to get your take on this. Howard Schultz, his book tour, this was also a flirtation with a presidential run, look at some of these headlines about Schultz's rollout, a lot of the criticism of him, especially coming from the left.

Howard, what's your view of what Schultz is doing?

DEAN: I think this is a vanity candidacy. You know, I've met Howard Schultz and I think he has done some good things in his life. This is a fool's errand.

And I blame -- one of the guys I like who is working for him, I blame Steven Schmidt a little bit. There's no chance that Howard Schultz is going to win the presidency running as an independent. All he can do is throw the election to Trump by peeling off some people who would otherwise vote for Democrats.

So, the Democrats aren't happy with him.

The other problem is he doesn't have he's running on something that is not going to be successful. I do not believe the next president of the United States is going to be a billionaire. It's just -- you know, it's gone on too long. And so, you know, he has no shot as an independent and this appears to be a vanity candidacy, and he doesn't really have a lot to say either.

(CROSSTALK)

STELTER: Look at the Amazon rankings. The Amazon rankings for his book, you know, his book comes on Tuesday. Right now, it's barely in the top 100.

There does not seem to be a lot of interest from the public in going out there and buying what Schultz is literally selling. And I wonder if that's an indication for him going forward.

Jackie, there were a lot of great interviews with Schultz this week. I mean, on an individual level, a lot of great interviews. But collectively, did the national news media give him too much attention?

KUCINICH: Perhaps. Perhaps. And he was putting himself out there quite a bit.

The other way to look at this on terms of his seriousness as a candidate is he doesn't seem to have a plan. There was news last week that he's going to start going to the early states. I hope one of these consultants told him he doesn't have a primary as an independent candidate.

[11:20:02] So, it really is -- and who is calling for, to Governor Dean's point, who is his constituency? Who is calling for this candidacy? That's something that, you know, we should look at in terms of coverage as we go forward in this race.

STELTER: Juana, last word to you. Are journalists sometimes infatuated by billionaire candidates for some reason?

SUMMERS: I think that could be a fair point. I was thinking about Howard Schultz considering running, I'm reminded of something that another billionaire, Tom Steyer, told me when he was still considering, jumping in a presidential race himself.

He told me in an interview that the presidential race is where the conversation about future America is having, and so, that's why he could see himself playing a role. And I think that there -- I don't know, I think are many different ways to play a role in that conversation and it's clear that Howard Schultz has something to say that he wants to inject and he's choosing to do it in this manner, it seems.

STELTER: You know, I said last word, I want to ask Howard about that as well. I mean, we're exactly one year to the day from the Iowa caucuses. Do you have a sense, Howard, do you have a prediction about what the field is going to look like a year from now? DEAN: No.

STELTER: I have a feeling that some of the folks saying they're going to run will not actually be there in a year.

DEAN: Oh, sure. That's absolutely true. I mean, the other thing is Howard Schultz has no platform until after the primary is over, this is insane to try to do this.

As far as our field, I fully expect somewhere north of 15 candidates. I don't think most of them will make it to the starting line because you have to raise a lot of money and you can't raise money in the Democratic Party anymore by taking huge amounts of money from a political action committee because you're going to get crushed by the voters because they are furious about the corruption in Trump's administration, so they can't raise money on the Internet. They can't really run.

So I expect after Iowa and Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina, which is the first four states, we'll probably see absolutely no more than five candidates heading into California.

STELTER: And if you have one bit of advice for covering the 2020 field, obviously you come from a position here, a liberal position, what do you want to see the press do to hold these candidates accountable?

DEAN: Do a better job than you did against Hillary Clinton. Don't make up news.

STELTER: Make up news? What are you talking about?

KUCINICH: Come on.

STELTER: What news was made up, Howard?

DEAN: The news, for example, of the Canadian nickel mine that was supposedly being pushed by the Russians when "The Times" inverted the timeframe and never corrected it. There's a long list.

STELTER: I heard Jackie and Juana interrupting. Jackie, what was your reaction to that?

KUCINICH: I just -- I mean, we covered Hillary Clinton fairly and thoroughly. I can only speak for "The Daily Beast" but, you know, I think there's a lot of unfair criticism, frankly, that comes from the left and the right when it comes to the Trump and Hillary Clinton coverage. There's a lot of, you know, introspection that did go on about that race but I think sometimes the criticism is unfair.

STELTER: Hey, there's still a lot of raw feelings, that's for sure.

KUCINICH: Absolutely.

STELTER: Still a lot of raw feelings about how 2016 was covered and that is for real. All right. Everybody, thank you so much for being here. I really

appreciate it.

Quick break and then an exclusive interview with Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez's inside -- her top aide, her chief of staff. You're not going to want to miss this.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:27:51] STELTER: There's no doubt about it -- Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez, or AOC for short, has true online power. She has more Twitter power than pretty much any politician except President Trump, according to this CrowdTangle data published by "Axios". She is even passed Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's number of Twitter followers.

She's all over Instagram as well. She's using Instagram, sometimes live videos on Instagram to chat with voters, to have conversations. They answer questions and she's also using Twitter and other platforms to challenge conservative media critics and to fire back at them.

But does her online power translate to political power? How were her age trying to make sure it does translate?

Let's talk about it with Saikat Chakrabarti. He's the chief of staff to AOC, and he's joining me now from Washington.

Saikat, I'm really curious about what your last month has been, working with her as a freshman congresswoman. How would you describe the first month?

SAIKAT CHAKRABARTI, CHIEF OF STAFF TO REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: Oh, I mean, it's a whirlwind, I guess. We didn't expect to show up into a government shutdown. So, that sort of threw everything off the rails, right?

But it's been exciting. You know, like Alexandria and a lot of the team that came in with her, we worked on the campaign. We work to try to get stuff done. So, it's been great to actually be here and try to put forth a lot of big ideas that she campaigned on into the halls of power.

STELTER: As you know, as you know better than most, Fox News and other right wing outlets talk about AOC more than they talk about practically anyone on Planet Earth. There was a headline the other day from one of the Fox talking heads saying she doesn't think AOC is accessible in real life, you know, maybe online life but not real life.

What's your reaction to that? How are you trying to translate her Twitter audience, for example, into policy and to actually making change?

CHAKRABARTI: Well, I think the thing that's exciting about the way Alexandria uses Twitter is she does make it about policy, right? Like she turned -- she changed the entire debate on tax on this country in a matter of days. She made green New Deal at the forefront of every single presidential candidate's brains, right? Everyone is trying to response to this stuff.

It trying to say that Twitter power is not -- real life power is like trying to say that -- you know, someone going on T.V. and making a case or putting out -- you know, Bernie Sander thought a Medicare for all is not real power. Something that not translate into real life.

These are real policies that she's put -- she is pushing on Twitter. And she's using Twitter on social media.

(CROSSTALK)

BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: You mention the taxes.

CHAKRABARTI: Sorry? Yes.

STELTER: You mentioned taxes. That's the "60 MINUTES INTERVIEW", right? Anderson Cooper sits down with her in early January.

CHAKRABARTI: Exactly, yes.

STELTER: She talks about a 70 percent tax on the $10th million.

CHAKRABARTI: Right.

STELTER: And I agree with you, she has changed the tax debate. How strategic was that on your all's part?

CHAKRABARTI: So, the way that Alexandria uses social media and the one of the things she's able to do is she's able to do things very quickly because she has a pulse on where the people are. Uses as a way to basically pierce the veil on things that everybody agrees on and things that a lot of people already -- you know, the people are already there on taxes. The polls show that it was -- you know, overwhelming number of Americans want to have taxes on the rich.

And then, what she does with social media, she just says these things that other people too afraid to say. And all of a sudden, it creates a moment because she's not actually -- you know, having 70 percent tax rates isn't a new idea. We had it back in the 60s, people have been sort of wanting to have this as has been bubbling at the surface.

And she's able to use her platform to suddenly give it voice and give it power and turn into an actual policy and political debate. And the thing that she really does, I think, is incredible on social media. She educates, right?

The reason Democrats have been scared about talking about raising taxes on the rich is they're afraid that they're not actually going to be able to educate the public on what marginal tax rates are.

Well, Alexandria just did that and she -- you know, took the Republicans to task, she basically showed how the Republicans have been making a kind of a bad faith argument on taxes for years by trying to claim that somehow, a 70 percent marginal tax rate will affect the working class here. And she said, "No, that's not true. We're just talking about your $10 millionth here, right?

And so, that's I think the real piece -- you know, everyone talks about she's good at social media, she's not good to social media, it's not about social media, she's good at communicating, and she's good at taking a message and actually educating people and getting people to realize how these very complex policies work.

STELTER: I've noticed that some Trump fans have compared him in favorable terms to Ocasio-Cortez. Complimenting her social media prowess and his social media prowess.

CHAKRABARTI: Right.

STELTER: But when I brought this up on last week's show, I asked if there was anything Trumpian about her use of social media. She replied on Twitter, she said, "I think we use social media very differently." She, comparing to Trump. What's your view? How do you see it?

CHAKRABARTI: Yes, I think that's absolutely true. I think -- I think Trump uses social media as a way to get to people's lowest common denominator. He used it to incite fear. He talks about simplistic ideas. He starts rhyming wall with fall, you know, and becomes a Dr.Seuss of social media.

Alexandria is actually using social media to explain complex policy ideas and try to build a movement around real solutions, right? And she engages in discourse with the people that are talking to her on social media.

So, just because -- you know, I'll grant that Trump has been effective on social media and she's been effective on social media, that's like saying just because Twitter feel have been affected on T.V., they have the same tactics, and that's not true.

STELTER: Well, this headline might have made you smile from POLITICO. This was a piece titled, Why Trump's super fans dig AOC? Representative Matt Gaetz was quoted saying, "I aspire to be the conservative AOC." What's your reaction, you got any advice for him?

CHAKRABARTI: I mean, you know, same advice that she would probably give his like -- be yourself and try to -- try to stay above the fray. Like, she actually talked about policy, actually try to have a real debate.

And that's what she's trying to do, she's just taking big ideas really bold ideas, things that are sweeping ideas and putting at the forefront. So, if you don't have the content, social media is not going to help you.

STELTER: I noticed my colleague, Oliver Darcy, making the point the other day that AOC has a symbiotic relationship with her critics, you know. They dunk on her, she dunks back on them. So, what is your all's Fox strategy? Do you and her talk about how to handle Fox News, whether to go on Fox News, for example?

CHAKRABARTI: Look, so she's got in an incredible -- I think ability to figure out when to engage with kind of conservative critics. And she does it every time that she can advance the conversation on some sort of topic, right?

So, what she'll often do and we saw this for the 70 percent marginal tax rate, right? We also saw it with the way that Fox and a lot of these conservative media outlets were trying to focus on her looks and focus on her style and clothing. And she uses those moments to try to reveal a larger bias and a larger systemic problem in conservative media.

So, she doesn't just -- you know, dunk for the sake of dunking. Every time she dunks, she'll take it to try to bring the conversation of about something that's systemically wrong or systemically a problem.

STELTER: So, there is a strategy.

CHAKRABARTI: Yes.

STELTER: That's what I've seen but I was curious for your perspective. Thanks so much for being on. Appreciate it.

CHAKRABARTI: Sure. Thank you.

[11:34:58] STELTER: Coming up here on RELIABLE SOURCES, President Trump says, he's a defender of the free press. Really? He said that. We're going to talk about his recent interviews and why they've gone into overtime right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STELTER: President Trump not ruling out another government shutdown. That's one of the headlines from his Super Bowl Sunday interview with CBS. Trump has been letting his recent interviews go into overtime. Talking to the New York Times for nearly 90 minutes, for example.

Times' publisher, A.G. Sulzberger was there. He tried to reason with Trump. Saying, you're making conditions more dangerous for journalists all around the world by claiming fake news all the time.

And Trump has talked right past in saying, "I'm treated badly, I'm treated badly." But look at this particular exchange.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

A.G. SULZBERGER, PUBLISHER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: The United States and the occupants of your office historically have been the greatest defenders of the free press and --

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I think I am, too. I want to be. I want to be.

(END VIDEO CLIP) [11:39:59] STELTER: Well, every day is a new day. Every day is a new chance, I guess for the president to be a defender of the free press. His media critiques are predictable at this point. You can read some of them here from The Times interview. Notably, he says, local T.V. is really great to him, while the national networks are terrible.

But, the point in The Times interview, over and over again, as he says, he's doing a great job, that he deserves better coverage. That comes through in the CBS interview, as well.

So, let's talk about it with David Zurawik of the Baltimore Sun. He is back with me now. This relationship between Trump and The Times, we know it's twisted. But it is remarkable to see The Times' publisher trying to get through to Trump about these media dangers.

DAVID ZURAWIK, MEDIA CRITIC, THE BALTIMORE SUN: Yes, Brian. That's the most important thing about this interview. I mean, the questions were very good. These reposted fairly good reporters. Trump was the great reflector as I think, Chris Cuomo once called them. It doesn't matter if you pin him -- you can't pin him down.

As a matter of fact, The Times ran a piece the next day that interview ran on the 31st, on February 1st, they had a piece that near the end said, "It's very hard to pin him down," which admitted they had a problem. But the important thing you put your finger on about this interview, I think is the actions of the publisher, Sulzberger.

First, when Trump -- as I read it, Trump wanted to go to dinner with him off the record to talk about the relationship. And he said, "No, let's do an interview with --

(CROSSTALK)

STELTER: He said, "No."

ZURAWIK: Yes.

STELTER: Exactly.

ZURAWIK: With two reporters. Brian, this is a great model for every publisher in America. Because you know, every night of the week, somebody who doesn't like something in a newspaper is asking a publisher to go to dinner with them and talk off the record.

This says, "No, let's do it publicly." And it's a really smart business. Because Sulzberger gets all the traffic for the web site by having this interview that day. But more importantly, in a moral sense for the press, we get to see him publicly, confronting, and he did it in a polite respectful way for the office of the presidency, confronting Trump about what he's been saying about the press, and the problems it is causing for a free press, and for democracy.

STELTER: Yes.

ZURAWIK: I mean -- you know, I -- I'm not -- God blessed Sulzberger for what he did. That's the most important thing about this interview.

STELTER: And four times in the interview, Trump says, "I'm sort of entitled to one good story in the New York Times because I grew up in New York." That was revealing also. And at the very end, he tells his aides, "When they call" -- Maggie Haberman and Peter Baker, "let me speak to them." Also really interesting.

Let's look at this morning's interview. This is President Trump sitting down with CBS's Margaret Brennan. Watch how Trump says, "Excuse me," when he feels like he's being challenged by Brennan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARGARET BRENNAN, SENIOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT, CBS NEWS: What surprised you about some of the questions that Robert Mueller asked you?

TRUMP: Well, look, the Russia thing is a hoax. I have been tougher on Russia than any president, maybe ever, but than any president. With --

(CROSSTALK)

BRENNAN: But when it comes to the investigation that the Special Counsel is conducting. I mean, 34 people have been charged here. Seven guilty pleas.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Excuse me, OK, you ready? OK, you ready? Of the 34 people, many of them were bloggers from Moscow, or they were people that had nothing to do with me, had nothing to do with what they're talking about. Or there were people that got caught telling the fib or telling a lie.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: I always loved seeing the president faced with the facts. You know, when a journalist tells him the truth, makes him wrestle with the truth. And you see his response there, "Excuse me. Excuse me".

ZURAWIK: Yes.

STELTER: He doesn't want to have to hear it. Let's look ahead David, to the State of the Union. Because it is finally on Tuesday night. And fact-checking is going to be a real issue here. The president has been much more deceptive in year two than in year one. His lying is getting a lot worse.

ZURAWIK: Yes.

STELTER: So, do you think broadcasters have to get a lot better about fact-checking in exchanges or after speeches?

ZURAWIK: Brian, I think cables ahead of broadcaster -- broadcast news not surprisingly. And I think the fact-checking has been better. And I know from talking to people who are involved in it, they're busting their behinds trying to do it. They're busting their brains trying to figure out better ways.

And you can see it on the screen it is getting better. But here is the thing about the State of the Union that I think is going to be great. The -- you know -- you and I both know, visuals matter more than anything else on television. More than anything he's going to say unless he calls a national emergency or something like that.

The image of Nancy Pelosi standing behind him over him literally with that gavel.

STELTER: Right.

ZURAWIK: I don't know how he's going to deal with that. And you know, you got to believe he's not going to stand there after she denied him and made him only come on her terms to that chamber. That visual is going to speak volumes.

As I think, especially to women in this country who felt -- who feel rightfully, I think that President Trump has not been especially sensitive to women's issues.

STELTER: Right.

ZURAWIK: Having her in that position of power that was very be great.

STELTER: That was very generous of you to say it that way. And look, there's a lot more to get to, including the Intel Chiefs, how unsettling it is to know that the Intel Chiefs are contracting Trump on everything.

ZURAWIK: Yes.

STELTER: But I want to ask you about something positive before you go. You reviewed the new Mr. Rogers' documentary. It is premiering on television this coming week on HBO and PBS. What is the lesson from Mr. Rogers' in this day and age?

[11:45:10] ZURAWIK: Brian, I did it for an escape from politics for one week. But -- it -- what right -- I swear, when I talk to my editors, saying let's take a break.

But this is when I watched it, I realized how incredibly unneighborly this country had been -- had become. And I realized that Mr. Rogers was in many ways the antithesis of President Trump. He is modest, he is spiritual, he is quiet, he is empathetic. I won't give you the adjectives for Trump, we all know what those are. But it's a different version of masculinity that he offers to America.

You know and on a Super Bowl Sunday where it's all F-150 trucks and alcohol, and big guys. It's really -- I think, I'm not saying Mr. Rogers is the only version of masculinity, but I think it's time in this country for seeing it. And that's why I think this documentary that air Saturday night is so important and why it did $22 million at the box office in release last year in theaters.

(CROSSTALK)

STELTER: That's huge for documentaries. Yes.

ZURAWIK: That's unbelievable. You know it.

STELTER: That's huge for documentaries, it's called, Won't You Be My Neighbor? It is wonderful if you all haven't seen it, yet, it is premiering next Saturday. David, thanks so much for giving us a preview.

ZURAWIK: Thank you, Brian.

STELTER: And as we mentioned, State of the Union, it's finally here. It's this Tuesday. It is President Trump's biggest audience of the year. It will be his biggest ratings event of the year. Special live coverage starts here Tuesday night. 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time on CNN.

Up next here, a writer and an editor who boasts say, their publication has been dented by demand for pro-Trump coverage. Why they quit RedState? Next

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:50:57] STELTER: Is there any room left for critical coverage of President Trump on the right? As you know, the Weekly Standard recently shut down on Friday. There were reports about two Washington Examiner reporters leaving for apparently unsavory anti-Trump sentiments.

And also, this week, a RedState writer and a RedState editor issued a call for consistency. Saying, they were quitting because they felt well, actually let's have them explain it in their own words. That Kimberly Ross is the former RedState senior contributor. And Andrea Ruth is a former contributing editor.

We're working on Andrea's signal, so, Kimberly, let me go to you first. What happened? What went wrong at RedState?

KIMBERLY ROSS, FORMER SENIOR CONTRIBUTOR, REDSTATE: Well, we had been -- both of us have been there for a while. And it had just been declining since Trump -- I guess ascended to the White House thrown in 2016. But more specifically, in April of last year, there was what we call a purge. And one of the editors and many of the writers who were Trump critics were let go without any warning. And while Salem did say it was a financial decision, I believe, in Andrea does as well, that it was ideological in nature.

And especially since then, we've noticed even more of a decline toward pushing back against those who are critical of Trump in any way and we decided to leave and we wanted to make a clear statement and that's why we wrote this piece. STELTER: And Andrea you described this as a purge that happened, of voices that were more skeptical or critical of Trump. Is there room left on the right for tough accountability journalism about the president?

ANDREA RUTH, FORMER CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, RED STATE: I think that that's exactly what people are kind of wanting and needing. You know, conservative media's role is to -- you know, call out the other side's bad ideas and keep our own side honest. And when you're dealing with a side, and especially Trump, who has definite issues with the truth, I think you absolutely do have a place in conservative media for being critical of Republicans.

STELTER: But is there an audience for that? If there was more of an audience, wouldn't there be more of a vibrant -- you know, media ecosystem for that?

RUTH: I guess, I honestly don't -- you know, can't go into like details of -- you know, numbers and things like that. I think, what RedState fell into particularly is -- you know, clickbait journalism.

So, on in my experience, at least, I think there seems to be room for that. But of course, with Facebook and Twitter, and things like that, we're still dealing it with this landscape and trying to figure it out.

STELTER: And Kimberly, Salem Media is the owner of RedState, as well as a number of other conservative media brands. Have you heard anything from them since resigning publicly?

ROSS: I haven't heard anything from Salem or any of its other brands. I've seen some blowback on, I guess, social media about how we shouldn't have maybe done what we did, and that were traitors and sellouts because we did. But again, I have no regrets, and I don't think Andrea does either.

I think it's a statement that needs to be made. And we need to push for more consistency in, especially conservative media.

STELTER: And you're all's pieces up on the Bulwark.com. That's where you can read the full open letter. Kimberly, Andrea, thank you both for being here. I appreciate it.

ROSS: Thank you.

RUTH: Thank you so much.

STELTER: It's an ongoing issue, a really interesting issue about the state of conservative media. A little break here, and then, a preview of tonight's big game and why it's such an important moment for the news business and for the media business. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:58:46] STELTER: There are a couple of reasons why Super Bowl Sunday is one of the biggest days of the year for the media business. This year, the game happens to be in Atlanta, right across from CNN world headquarters.

This is actually the view from our roof. You know, in the age of streaming T.V. and digital disruption, the big game proves that T.V. is still king. Nothing else in America gets 100 million plus viewers altogether for the same thing at the same time.

Nothing else even comes close. So, it's the biggest T.V. ratings day of the year, and huge for advertisers too. This year, for the first time, The Washington Post is running an ad. It's narrated by Tom Hanks, airing sometime in the fourth quarter. Let's all be looking out for that.

We get into all of this and much more in this week's RELIABLE SOURCES' podcast. Check it out through Apple or Spotify, your favorite app. And we'll have a complete recap of the media headlines in a postgame edition of the RELIABLE SOURCES newsletter.

I'll bore out of time here on T.V. We'll see you right back here this time next week.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Not stepping down. Virginia's Democratic Governor Ralph Northam defies calls to resign. Saying a racist yearbook photo is not of him after all.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RALPH NORTHAM, (D), VIRGINIA: I am not the person in that photo.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Can he keep his job? Former Virginia Governor, Terry McAuliffe joins us exclusively.