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CNN RELIABLE SOURCES
The Donald's Fifteen Minutes May Be Up; Climate Change is Not Debatable
Aired February 23, 2014 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. It's the top of the hour. RELIABLE SOURCES with Brian Stelter will start in just one minute. I'm Fredricka Whitfield, live at the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta with the check of our top stories right now.
People in Ukraine's captain today are looking at an uncertain future. Less than 24 hours ago, a series of huge shifts in the country ended with a passionate speech from opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko. She was released from jail earlier just by matter of hours and President Viktor Yanukovych was voted out of office, apparently trying to leave Ukraine last night. Now, no one knows where he is.
A restaurant manager is dead after a carbon monoxide leak last night at a Legal Seafood Restaurant in a New York mall. Nearly 30 others were taken to a hospital. Among those treated were four ambulance workers and three police officers. Investigators are looking at the restaurant's heating equipment.
And one of the world's most notorious drug lords is behind bars today. After a nearly 13-year manhunt, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman was captured in a raid at a popular Mexican beach resort. Guzman is the alleged head of the Sinaloa Cartel, a group that has been blamed for the kidnapping and murders of rival drug gangs and police officers.
The Taliban is breaking off talks for a prisoner exchange with the U.S. American officials are negotiating for the release of this man, U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, but a spokesman for the militants say a, quote, "complex political situation is the reason for them freezing the talks." The Taliban wants five prisoners at Guantanamo Bay released.
Coming up in the newsroom at 2:00 Eastern Time, we'll have the final medal count from the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. Can Team USA overtake the Russians on the last day of competition?
I'm Fredricka Whitfield.
RELIABLE SOURCES starts right now.
BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST: Good morning, from New York City. I'm Brian Stelter. And it's time for RELIABLE SOURCES.
We've got a terrific program ahead for you today, a whole lot of stories. Here's what's coming up.
STELTER (voice-over): Why can't journalists call out hate and prejudice when it's staring them in the face?
TED NUGENT, MUSICIAN: Communist nurtured subhuman mongrel.
STELTER: When the news turns ugly, reporters need to grow a backbone.
Then, stories that don't have two sides. Scientists all over the world agree climate change is real and it's here. But on television, you never know it.
And Donald Trump. He pretends to run for office and reporters keep covering him. But when one person calls out his bluff, the Donald goes ballistic. Don't we ever learn? Oh, yes. Sometimes we do.
STELTER: Let's talk about not talking about that guy, Donald Trump. The press rarely passes up a chance to cover the Donald, on "Fox and Friends" every Monday, a standing invitation there. And in my opinion, this network sometimes takes him too seriously also. You know, he's a constant presence on Twitter. He's often getting into fights which then result in even more coverage.
But the real estate mogul and reality TV star and hawker of presidential birth certificate myths was taken down this week. It happened on "BuzzFeed" in a delicious profile by the writer McKay Coppins, who got to hang out with Trump at a political speech in New Hampshire, flew on Trump's plane and spent the night at Trump's mansion in Palm Beach, Florida.
Trump was expecting a glowing profile but got this, the quote, "Trump's political career -- a long con the billionaire has perpetrated on the country for 25 years by repeatedly pretending to consider various runs for office finally appears to be on the brink of collapse. The reason: Nobody seems to believe him anymore."
Trump was livid. He got rid of the aide who talked him into doing the interview, he attacked "BuzzFeed", he even attacked Coppins wife. At the mansion, he showed a picture of his wife and baby he said, "Wow, that's a good looking woman."
Well, Trump took that back and he claimed this on Twitter. That "Coppins was a slob of a reporter who doesn't understand my sarcasm talking about him or his wife who wrote a foolish and boring Trump hit." Boring? I think not. It raises an important question, why have reporters taken Trump's political flirtations so seriously for so long? Will they just finally say no now?
Joining me here are McKay Coppins and Maggie Haberman, a senior political reporter for "Politico". Maggie, since you have written stories about Trump over the years -- as so many reporters have -- I want to start with you. Do you think we're at the point he shouldn't be taken seriously as a political figure?
MAGGIE HABERMAN, POLITICO: I think when he fake ran for president as we would put it in 2011.
STELTER: In 2012?
HABERMAN: 2011, because he never actually ran.
STELTER: Right, right, he gave up on that.
HABERMAN: He never actually declared.
But what he did tap into was a real sentiment in the Republican Party base -- and I think McKay also saw this -- that the other candidates weren't tapping into. So, there was a reason his numbers went high. There is a reason he was covered. I would argue this gubernatorial flirtation is a mistake. It is hard to take seriously.
STELTER: This is the New York governorship they talk about now.
HABERMAN: This is the New York governorship and the person who seems to be helping the most is Andrew Cuomo, the current governor, because Donald Trump is having this debate with somebody who's thinking of running, Westchester County executive Rob Astorino.
I think that you are going to see diminishing returns on this for Trump. I think you are going to see less and less coverage. But I do think for Trump, the dissonance here is between the New York media and that crucible, which he was used to, first, the national media which he got exposed to in very different way in 2011, and I think he has not quite adjusted to how different there.
STELTER: You are shaking your head. Yes, McKay, do you agree with that, it was worthy of coverage in 2011?
MCKAY COPPINS, BUZZFEED: Oh, I mean, I think so. I mean, the thing that you have to remember is that in 2011, virtually every serious Republican candidate made the trek up to trump tower to kiss his ring, right? They wanted his endorsement. He managed to get, you know, Mitt Romney to go up on stage with him and accept the endorsement in person.
So, there -- he was a real player in 2012. I do think, though, that there was kind of a sharp -- shark jump moment for the end of that cycle. There were many shark jump moments. By I think the end really everyone on all sides of the aisle especially in the press, in punditocracy, were rolling their eyes. And so, I think that by going forward the gubernatorial thing, 2016, I just don't see it getting the same kind of play that it used to?
STELTER: In your piece you acknowledge how meta this is, talking about whether he should be covered. What was your reason for wanting to write a long profile of him?
COPPINS: Yes. I mean, you know, I admit at the top of the story I'm part of the problem and have been part of the problem. I think that actually what drew me to this -- I mean, partly I wanted to call out the long con as I call it. More interesting to me was what is it that makes this billionaire who's already famous, rich, so obsessed with getting the political class to take him seriously, right? Why is he so interested in this?
I think --
STELTER: And you concluded what?
COPPINS: My conclusion was that, you know, at the end of the day, he's already done real estate, he's already done reality TV. He has fame. What he wants is credibility. What he wants is for at least some segment of the population to look at him as a serious person. And the problem and kind of great tragedy of him is that he doesn't know how to do that.
HABERMAN: He is a tremendous manipulator of the media, always has been and I don't say manipulator as pejorative. He knows how to work it.
STELTER: He can teach others how to do it.
HABERMAN: Correct. This has been one of his really impressive characteristics.
I will say to McKay's thing, saying he's part of the problem, we now have a big twitter fight where Trump is attacking McKay and some of these tweets have gone too far.
STELTER: Going on for days.
HABERMAN: It's going on for days. It's getting BuzzFeed attention. It's getting Trump attention.
People do want to read about Trump. That doesn't mean they're going to vote for him. But at the end of the day, people do want to read about him or McKay would not be reading about it, or you would not see tweets be a about how irrelevant the guy is and yet we all can't stop tweeting about him.
COPPINS: I think the key distinction -- I think that's true. And the key distinction he thinks this gets him credibility. The fact is everybody pointing and laughing at him doesn't necessarily make him a more credible political figure.
STELTER: Entertainers are there to be pointed and to be laughed at. Is the press have moral responsibility to almost surround the stories with a warning label that say we know this guy isn't serious?
COPPINS: I tried to do that with my piece. I don't think anyone came away reading that thinking we should take him any more seriously than we have been. But I think that in the future, people are not going to stop writing about him, right? But I think that in the context of a political campaign -- yes, I think the political press could do a little better. This is myself included -- making clear that this is not a real political candidate, not a real political figure, this is a side show.
STELTER: Maggie, you raise a good point about the New York governorship. If he does go further down that road, maybe there's a difference between that and these threats to run for president in the past.
HABERMAN: If he actually does run for governor, then yes, then he is running for something and that all goes away. I mean, it stops becoming this is a fake candidacy which is what everyone is saying on Twitter, and that's been the heart of this issue.
I am skeptical that he's going to run for governor. I think at the end of the day, it's going to be Rob Astorino or some lesser known candidate who challenges Cuomo. But again, some of this is also to be put candidly on the New York Republican Party which is sort of entertaining this in the first place.
It's not really just the media's fault when you got members of the state Senate and state assembly and county chairs who all as McKay's said, trek to Trump tower to kiss the ring and do some dance here, we -- are we obligated to cover that or not cover that? So, I think, that's the other question here.
STELTER: He's also still flirting with the idea of president, at least on Twitter. He wrote this the other day -- well, someone wrote to him and say, "Why are you not running for president in 2016?" And he couldn't resist replying and saying, "We'll see what happens."
So, there again, injecting himself into this will he/won't he sort of debate.
COPPINS: Right. Even when I was with him, he tried repeatedly to convince me that this was a real possibility, that he was going to do it this time. I think the moment we can appropriately start taking him seriously as a presidential threat is when he has filed papers and is giving speeches to sweaty crowds in Iowa. I think until that moment, we just treat it like a side show.
STELTER: So, ever since your profile came out, you know, you've been attacked by him and his yes men as you call them. What kind of names have they called you? What has it been like? Because it makes you think about whether this guy can ever be a serious candidate if he treats reporters the way he's treated you.
COPPINS: There's been a long line of politicians especially here in New York who have made their bones picking on reporters. So, I don't know if that --
STELTER: For sure.
COPPINS: -- excludes him from running.
But yes, I mean it's been nasty but as I expected Trump fights dirty and really the whole -- all the blowback and everything he's done, kind of confirms the premise of my story, which is he's a little thin skinned and takes this stuff very, very seriously.
HABERMAN: -- though is great.
STELTER: I'm going to put up -- I want to put up a tweet from David Corn who wrote this. He said, the downside to the Trump/McKay kerfuffle is that Real Donald Trump, Trump's handle on Twitter, may steer clear of the media. And, of course, his hashtag was #ohno.
Do you think that's possible? Will Trump dodge the press for a little bit now?
HABERMAN: I don't think Trump is going to host anyone on his plane again any time soon. But, no, I think at the end of the day, I think that Trump and the media have a symbiotic relationship and I think that will continue.
STELTER: Thank you all for being here and having a very meta conversation with me about not covering Donald Trump.
COPPINS: Thank you.
HABERMAN: Thank you.
STELTER: When I come back, I'll be to talking about what is arguably the biggest story in the world and how some television newscasts keep getting it wrong.
Stick around. You'll want to hear this. I'll be right back.
STELTER: Let's begin with an important journalistic statement and it's something I mentioned in the last segment: some stories don't have two sides. Some stories are simply true. There's no necessity to give equal time to the quote-unquote "other side." One of these is climate change.
Depending on which study or which expert you consult, between 95 percent and 97 percent of scientists agree that climate change is happening now, that it's damaging the planet and that it's manmade.
That seems pretty definitive, right? So why does television news too often feel compelled to stage debate between those who represent the 97 percent and those who represent the fringe?
A case in point last week's "Meet the Press." David Gregory interviewed Bill Nye the Science Guy, who, by the way, is not technology a scientist; and Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn. She's a conservative climate skeptic with no particular expertise in this subject.
Whatever "Meet the Press" was trying to accomplish, I don't think they did it. Joining me to talk about this and the issue of climate change coverage more broadly, Michio Kaku, the famed theoretical physicist. He's a CBS News contributor, the author of many books. The next one is titled "The Future of the Mind," out next week; and Jack Mirkinson, a senior editor at the "Huffington Post" who covers the media world. He wrote a column, titled "'Meet the Press' Shows Us Exactly How Not to Cover Climate Change."
Dr. Kaku, you're the expert here. Tell us before we go any further how definitive is the evidence? Is there any room for debate?
MICHIO KAKU, PHYSICIST: Climate change is the 800-pound gorilla in the living room that the media dances around. But in the scientific community it's a settled question: 95 percent of scientists believe this is happening with 100 percent confidence temperatures are rising.
With 90 percent confidence, we believe it's human activity and not natural cycles that is driving the increase in temperature on the Earth.
STELTER: So when you see a television segment that features a climate skeptic or a climate denier, how do you feel?
Do you feel that network or that newspaper or that website, whatever it is, do you feel they're being irresponsible?
KAKU: Well, it's a free country. However, they should present the facts and that is that the overwhelming majority of scientists in the world who have studied the question believe that the temperatures on the planet are rising.
And if there are skeptics let them present their computer program so that we can pick it apart. Let us understand this, because science is testable, reproducible and falsifiable.
STELTER: And you don't see people who are skeptics presenting those programs?
KAKU: I see them predict --
STELTER: (INAUDIBLE) models?
KAKU: -- giving no numerical results. We present our computer programs; they're testable, falsifiable. They present, unfortunately mainly ideology, that they're looking at a scientific question through an ideological litmus test, which I think is not responsible journalism.
STELTER: Before we get into "Meet the Press" in particular, Jack, what do you make of the amount of coverage of climate change in general? Because oftentimes I read on sites like yours and others complaints about the lack of climate change coverage in the press.
JACK MIRKINSON, "HUFFINGTON POST": Yes. There is a lack of coverage in the press by and large, especially on television. Media Matters just a few weeks ago did a big study looking at all of the broadcast news coverage of climate change. They found that, on the Sunday shows in all of 2013, there was 27 minutes total combined on the big four shows on NBC, CBS, ABC and FOX, about climate change.
One show in particular, "Meet the Press," did no coverage at all.
"Face the Nation" on CBS had the most. The broadcast evening news shows covered it more probably because they do a lot more coverage of extreme weather events.
And so when you talk about extreme weather often you find yourself talking about climate change. But by and large we're talking about a huge issue that really undercovered on our major outlets.
STELTER: So we would think, as we had last week, three of those Sunday shows covering the topic. You'd think that would be a good thing.
STELTER: You said it wasn't. Why is that?
MIRKINSON: Well, I really focused on "Meet the Press," "Face the Nation" -- and "This Week" also did coverage. But theirs was better. "Face the Nation's" was especially good.
But really what those two shows did that "Meet the Press" didn't do was they talked to scientists. They both talked to either climate scientists or meteorologists. "Meet the Press" had a debate, which the other two shows really didn't in the same way, about whether climate change is happening.
Even though the host, David Gregory, started out by saying that he didn't want to have a debate, he still brought on someone who denied that climate change was happening in the first place.
STELTER: Right. He said he wanted to talk about the policy; he said he wanted to get beyond whether it's happening or not, but by having a skeptic on, they seemed to get muzzled in these issues that have been debated endlessly.
MIRKINSON: Right. And you know, it makes a lot of sense that, if you don't want to have a debate about the facts, you don't bring on people whose primary focus in the segment is going to be to debate the facts about whether climate change exists or not.
And so it was --
(CROSSTALK) STELTER: Why do you think shows are compelled to do this? Why do you think journalism in general are compelled to find this quote- unquote "other side" to create what a lot of people like to call false balance on a topic like this?
MIRKINSON: Well, I think these shows, they usually cover politics and they're usually covering, you know, the clash between Democrats and Republicans.
STELTER: Right. That's a formula that works usually pretty well.
MIRKINSON: Right. You know, but once you get out of certain issues, you know, you can talk about, well, should we raise taxes or should we lower taxes and that's a real ideological battle that you can have.
But when, as you say, you're talking about something that actually doesn't have much debate around it, such as whether climate change is real, then I think these shows struggle to be so definitive about something and really break out of the paradigm that they set themselves up with a lot.
STELTER: Dr. Kaku, what are the risks that are involved in false balance?
What happens when people hear two competing sides of something that doesn't really have two competing sides?
KAKU: There are real consequences for agriculture, for our cities, for the economy. I travel in Europe a lot --
STELTER: You mean because people come away with confusion about the issue?
KAKU: They don't plan for the future.
In Europe it's a settled question. Global warming, climate change is a reality and they prepare for it. If you're in Amsterdam, the question is how do you prepare for the dikes and the levees.
If you're in Venice, what happens if Venice goes underwater? If you're in Switzerland, what's going to happen to the tourist industry? They're looking at concrete consequences.
In this country, we have to worry about agriculture. Summers are getting longer: winters are getting shorter. We have to worry about droughts, potential water wars. We have to worry about potential new hurricanes like Sandy, whether or not we should brace ourselves with new levees and seawalls.
This discussion is not taking place. As a consequence, we're not going to be prepared for the future.
STELTER: You're saying it's not taking place at all.
And, Jack, you're saying, when it does take place, in the case of "Meet the Press," they go about it all wrong.
MIRKINSON: Right. You know, I think there is definitely a debate to be had about what to do about climate change and that's an important debate.
STELTER: Dr. Kaku, do you think there's some room at the table for skeptics?
For example, if I was to write a story about this topic and quote nine scientists who believe it's happening, should I be quoting at least one who is a skeptic?
Or is this so settled that there's no room at all for something like that?
KAKU: Well, scientifically speaking, it's a settled question. But the average person out there hears the skeptics and therefore some of their arguments have to be addressed because they're out there anyway.
In the scientific community, it's pretty much settled. In the court of public opinion, it is not yet settled. So it's good to present the balance, but you have to say that, with 95 percent of the scientific community behind this theory, it has more weight than another theory.
STELTER: And language matters here so much.
Do you think the term global warming is one that reporters and anchors should avoid using because it conjures up the idea just of climate, the climate getting warmer as opposed to the idea of extremes?
KAKU: That's right. Global warming is actually a misnomer. It should be global extremes and global swings, because you add -- as you add more energy into the atmosphere, it sloshes around. Energy doesn't simply uniformly warm up the planet.
And that means droughts in one area, enormous snowstorms in another area, 100-year floods here, 100-year forest fires there. It's becoming almost monotonous. We have 100-year X every 10 years.
STELTER: Do you find that journalists in general are the ones that interview, the ones that talk to you, do they have enough knowledge, enough background in order to explain this to their audiences?
Or are they lacking some of the scientific background they should have?
KAKU: I think they're lacking some of the background and they get intimidated. Because the skeptics are not fools, they're not stupid people. They also read a lot but then they put it in in an ideological context and they see everything through this lens and they don't do the homework. They don't do the computer programs. They don't critique the mathematics. And so for us there's nothing to debate. We cannot debate them, because they have no programs, no data, no formulas. There's nothing but ideology.
STELTER: Michio Kaku, Jack Mirkinson, thank you so much for joining me.
MIRKINSON: Thank you.
STELTER: I have to take a quick break.
When we come back an important story I think has been gravely under-covered. Even has been shrouded in mystery. It is one of the mysteries of the Afghan war and we'll share it in a moment.
STELTER: Now to a regular segment on this program, "Undercover", where we look at stories that merit more attention than they're getting in the national media.
Let me start with a name, Bowe Bergdahl. Have you ever heard of him before? I'm sure some of you have. His name came up in the news this week for the first time in a long time.
But many Americans I venture to say most haven't heard of this man. He's a prisoner of war, America's only prisoner of war.
So, why don't we hear more about him? He's 27 years old. He's from Idaho. He deployed to Afghanistan in May 2009. He was captured less than two months later.
Since then, he's been seen in a number of Taliban propaganda videos like this one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOWE BERGDAHL, AMERICAN PRISONER OF WAR: Every day, I want to go home. The pain in my heart to see my family again doesn't get any smaller. Get me -- release me, please. I'm begging you.
Bring me home. Bring us all home. Back to our families.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Very hard to watch. There's a lot more to this story than often told. In many ways, it's a mystery.
My next guest, CNN chief Washington correspondent Jake Tapper has been following this case for years. He's an author of a book on American heroism in Afghanistan titled "The Outpost."
Jake, thank you for being here.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Brian. STELTER: It was a segment on your show "THE LEAD" that got me thinking why we don't hear about Bowe Bergdahl more often. What do you think are the main reasons this POW doesn't gain more attention in the national media?
TAPPER: Well, it's a complicated story to begin with. Probably the main reason that stories of Americans being held captive either by foreign nations or groups like the Taliban, the main reason is because generally speaking, the U.S. government and the families often request that the media not cover it because the more you cover it, the more power you are theoretically giving to those holding the American prisoner or hostage.
Now, that's not always the case. Sometimes families ask the media to cover it because they feel the U.S. government isn't doing enough, but quite often, especially when negotiations are starting to heat up, the media is requested to not cover the story and quite often the media does that because obviously we're Americans, we're human beings, we want the person's end to captivity as well.
STELTER: In this case, it seems that there are maybe other reasons as well. Tell me if I'm wrong -- but the muddied circumstances of this man's capture as outlined by Michael Hastings in "Rolling Stone" a couple years ago seemed like they're not a traditional kind of story you hear about a POW in any war.
He was disillusioned with the war. He apparently walked off the base. That led some people to call him a deserter. Do you think those are -- because the story is muddied, is that one of the reasons why it doesn't get more attention?
TAPPER: Absolutely. Absolutely. The fact is, and you mentioned the late great Michael Hastings, and he got some emails that Bowe Bergdahl sent to his family, emails that suggested that he wasn't just disillusioned with the war, he had become -- he had turned against the war. He didn't think the war was a good idea.
He left the base on his own. The American military does not refer to him as a POW. They refer to him as missing.
STELTER: That's an interesting detail, that they don't call him a POW. Maybe that's why the country doesn't realize there is a POW.
TAPPER: That's one of the reasons I would think, and the murky circumstances of why he left the base that night definitely makes the story different than other POW stories where a soldier on a mission is captured by the enemy. It's different.
That's not to say that he shouldn't be freed, that the U.S. government shouldn't be doing everything it can. But in terms of how much his cause has taken root among activists, I think that's one of the reasons why you haven't seen, outside of his family and some troops and veterans, a huge push.
I think some of those people who would normally be supporters, normally be calling for the U.S. government to be doing more, they are relatively quiet.
STELTER: Has it been hard to book members of the family, for example, have you tried to reach out for them for interviews? Have they stayed mostly quiet over the years?
TAPPER: The father pops up here and there. He -- but generally is tough to book. He's difficult to book.
And I imagine the reason he is tough to book is because of what we mentioned at the top of the segment, which is just the idea that you don't want to do anything to jeopardize what might be going on if you empower his captors in any way, if they feel like oh, look, the American people are really paying a lot of attention to this, we can demand X, Y, and Z, not just three prisoners from Guantanamo, but 10 prisoners from Guantanamo. That could really scotch things and so that obviously complicates things.
We should also mention, Brian, that negotiating with terrorists, which is what the U.S. would have to do in order to negotiate for Bowe Bergdahl's release, that's something that the U.S. doesn't like to acknowledge that it does, because the fear is it will empower and encourage other terrorists to take Americans hostage.
STELTER: And the last thing the government wants is -- if it is secretly negotiating, is any coverage of that. And we have seen headlines about that in the last few days.
Last question before we go, I wonder if one of the other reasons that -- one of the overarching reasons for the lack of attention on a story like this is the lack of attention toward the war in general.
You just don't see that much coverage of the Afghan War on television or even in the newspapers these days.
TAPPER: Well, you and I have talked about this before. It's something that we try to fix on my show, "THE LEAD," as often as we can, talking about troops, talking about veterans.
But look, the sad fact is that the American people are very weary of war. We have been involved in a war since 2001. It's now 2014. And a lot of these stories are sad stories and the American people have grown weary of them.
That doesn't mean that we in the media don't have an obligation to try to tell them as much as possible, especially in terms of what Americans can do. The most recent story we did about veterans had to do with a new program having to do with service dogs helping out wounded veterans.
But it does make the task more difficult because obviously you want to be telling stories that help you sell newspapers, attract viewers, and right now the American people -- and obviously I think this is not a good thing, the American people have largely tuned this war out.
STELTER: And there are excellent sources for the kind of information you're describing, it just is kind of hard to find sometimes because people have tuned it out.
Well, Jake Tapper, thank you for joining me on this.
TAPPER: Thank you, Brian.
STELTER: Time for a quick break. But when I come back, I want to look at a moral dilemma for journalists. When the news gets ugly, why don't we stand up and call it what it is?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TED NUGENT, MUSICIAN, REPUBLICAN ACTIVIST: ... a Chicago, communist-raised, communist-educated, communist-nurtured subhuman mongrel...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: That's hate speech. We'll dive into it, back in two minutes.
STELTER: Welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES. I'm Brian Stelter.
What is it with Texas politicians and the has-been rock guitarist Ted Nugent? Republican candidate for governor Greg Abbott has been campaigning with Nugent. And Senator Ted Cruz says he'll consider campaigning with him too.
As far as I'm concerned, that's appalling. By now you've probably heard what Nugent said recently about President Obama. But if not, let me play you the clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NUGENT: I have obviously failed to galvanize and prod and not shame enough Americans to be ever-vigilant not to let a Chicago, communist-raised, communist-educated, communist-nurtured subhuman mongrel like the ACORN community organizer, gangster Barack Hussein Obama, to weasel his way into the top office of authority of the United States of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Somehow Nugent managed to stick every paranoid right- wing rant against the president into one sound bite.
But let's put aside politics for a moment and talk about journalists.
Shouldn't journalists call this for what it is? Not some ramblings of a colorful Texas character but hate speech? That's what it is, it's hate speech. One journalist did stand up this week and I found what he said to be pretty inspiring. Here's what CNN's Wolf Blitzer said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: I mean, do they know the history of that phrase, "subhuman mongrel"? That's what the Nazis called Jews leading up and during World War II to justify the genocide of the Jewish community. They called the Jews " Untermensch" or "subhuman mongrels," if you read some of the literature that the Nazis put out.
There's a long history there of that specific phrase the he used involving the President of the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: So why aren't more journalists showing some backbone, saying that this is not the time for objectivity, that there is nothing objective about ugly prejudice?
Joining me now to talk about this, Christy Hoppe, the Austin bureau chief for the "Dallas Morning News."
Christy, thank you for joining me. One of my producers compared this to a television version of click bait. You know, they get people to click the link or, in this case, watch the segment but that it's not appropriate for journalists to be repeating and giving attention to it.
I mean, what do you say to that? Should journalists be calling this what it is?
CHRISTY HOPPE, AUSTIN BUREAU CHIEF, "DALLAS MORNING NEWS": I think it is important, because to judge a politician -- some of it is the company they keep. And I think Greg Abbott made a decision to appear with Ted Nugent for three reasons: guns, guns, guns. He liked Ted Nugent's stance on the Second Amendment and thought it would highlight a difference between him and his opponent, Wendy Davis, who has a more ambivalent feeling about the Second Amendment than Greg Abbott does.
He -- you know, his staff dropped the ball; they didn't look at Google, they didn't see these other statements by Ted Nugent and they thought everybody would just look at the guns and not at the whole picture.
STELTER: So you're saying it is deserving of attention because this leading candidate for governor is making it deserving of attention.
HOPPE: Right. The governor is -- of Texas -- and the next one -- will be a national figure, just like Rick Perry was, just like George Bush was, just like Ann Richards was.
It's they are the leader of a large, economically strong state that has a lot of pull in this nation and they get a spotlight on the things they do. And Greg Abbott didn't expect the spotlight to spread as wide as it did when we're looking at Ted Nugent and who he chooses to appear with. STELTER: Have you seen any journalists in Texas take a stand here and speak out against this kind of language of Ted Nugent? Do you think more should?
HOPPE: I have seen columnists and editorial writers take very fierce stands. I mean, there's no doubt that when you call somebody a subhuman mongrel, that's a dog whistle of racism.
And in a -- in a Republican Party that needs, especially in Texas, to reach out to the minority community and the growing minority community, and also in a -- in a governor's race where the suburban woman will be an important vote, this was a huge misstep. And I think that's one of the reasons that got so much attention. This was -- this was a fail.
STELTER: In one of your stories you quote Greg Abbott, saying, "I don't think there's anyone in the state that is disliked more than Barack Obama." Abbott then shifting attention away from Nugent onto Barack Obama.
Do you see any signs that the campaign regrets the appearance with -- the appearances with Nugent? Are they backtracking at all from this?
HOPPE: Quietly, they feel like that it was a mistake. But at the same time, we're Texas. We like to say that and things happen big here and the truth of the matter is, politics in Texas has always been a contact sport.
So you know, it's -- we have big characters and big races and a lot of fur flying. So yes, we're used to some national attention.
STELTER: Well, thank you so much for joining me and sharing something with us.
HOPPE: Thank you, Brian.
STELTER: We'll be back with more RELIABLE SOURCES in a moment.
STELTER: Welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES.
Now I want to show you a movie clip, it's one that's played on television literally thousands of times, but it really never gets old. In fact, the most chilling thing about it is how current it feels, even though the movie, "Network," was made almost 40 years ago. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "NETWORK")
PETER FINCH, ACTOR, "HOWARD BEALE": So, I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window, open it and stick your head out and yell, I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore.
(END VIDEO CLIP, "NETWORK")
STELTER: That's the actor, Peter Fitch, and his iconic tirade as outraged news anchor Howard Beale. And the 1976 film written by the great Paddy Chayefsky, still resonates today. I think that's what the most remarkable thing about this movie is, that how much that character reminds you of people on television now.
I mean, how much does it remind you of Bill O'Reilly or on the other side of the divide, Chris Matthews? Or to be fair, maybe Piers Morgan on this network?
Now don't get me wrong here, all of them are talented journalists and I don't think any of them are as crazy as the Howard Beale character, but outrageous is a big part of the business of television now.
How did Chayefsky know? How did he know what the future of TV news looked like decades before it even happened?
Well, I've got exactly the right person to ask that question. My next guest, Dave Itzkoff, he's the culture reporter at "The New York Times," my former colleague. And he's the author of the new book, "Mad as Hell: The Making of 'Network' and the Fateful Vision of the Angriest Man in Movies."
Dave, thanks for being here.
DAVE ITZKOFF, CULTURE REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TMES: Reunited, and it feels so good.
STELTER: That's right. I remember you wrote about the making of the movie "Network" in The Times a couple of years ago. This book is the result of that. How did Paddy Chayefsky know? How did he foresee all of television news the way he did?
ITZKOFF: Right. It comes from a couple things in his career. I mean, certainly he got his start as a TV writer in what we consider the golden age. So in the 1950s he's writing teleplays like "Marty," which became the Academy Award-winning film.
Then he spends a lot of years kind of wandering in the desert, whether he is working in theater, motion pictures, trying to get back into TV, but never being satisfied with the work that he was doing.
Then in the mid-'70s, he's actually using his entertainment clout to get access to go behind the scenes at the news divisions of all the major networks.
STELTER: So NBC, ABC, CBS...
ITZKOFF: Exactly. They're letting him just kind of walk around and observe and see how they do business. They don't know what kind of script he is going to write. He doesn't even really know what kind of script he is going to write. But he turns it into something that's deeply satirical and really does kind of -- you know, it's the story that we know of, a crazy anchorman at a fourth-place network that just wants to do anything it can to get people's attention.
STELTER: You interviewed a bunch of current anchors for the book, Bill O'Reilly, Anderson Cooper, Aaron Sorkin, even Stephen Colbert. Did any of them see Howard Beale in themselves? What did they say to you?
ITZKOFF: Well, all the broadcasters will tell you that their competitors are Howard Beale, not them.
ITZKOFF: But the idea that, you know, they do to some extent embrace the idea that something about television news itself clearly changed in the era after "Network." Very helpful source for the book, actually, was Keith Olbermann, who was a huge fan of the film. It came out, I believe, when he was in college.
Something happened in the 1980s, again, even really before cable came to dominate. But something that the film did anticipate was that news could not be a kind of loss-leader for the networks anymore. It was not sacrosanct.
STELTER: That it had to make a profit, just like everything else on the network.
ITZKOFF: Exactly. And that's when news became part of entertainment. And that's exactly what happens in the film. You have the William Holden character, who is the old-school newsman. Faye Dunaway is the new-school entertainment executive, and she wins in the end.
STELTER: We see time and time again in surveys and in anecdotes that we can get all over that people want more straight news, serious news, the kind that gets harder and harder to find. Is that one of the messages of the movie?
ITZKOFF: I think the film is, in some ways -- I mean, it's very vividly a commentary on media, but it's also a larger story about alienation. And, I mean, the media has a vehicle for that. I mean, there is also the love story between Holden and Faye Dunaway and how they're, you know, driven apart and corrupted.
You know, I mean, it is -- you know, Paddy Chayefsky, who is sort of the central character of this book, I mean, he was just a very deeply feeling man. He was very attuned to a lot of things that were going wrong in the country. A little bit of a paranoid person as well. I think he tried to basically...
STELTER: Which caused him drama during the making of the film.
ITZKOFF: Exactly. I mean, he was literally on-set every single day, unheard of for a screenwriter. And in some ways he even had more authority than the director, Sidney Lumet, to really say, you know, this is how I want each scene shot.
And, you know, if you said even one word of a line of dialogue wrong, he was there to make sure that you said it the way he wrote it.
STELTER: Dave, thanks so much for being here.
ITZKOFF: It was great to see you again.
STELTER: We'll be back with more RELIABLE SOURCES in a moment.
STELTER: Now that's it for this week's RELIABLE SOURCES on television. Make sure you check out all of the stories we have on cnn.com, including complete coverage of Facebook's jaw-dropping $19 billion acquisition of WhatsApp this week.
And my interview with Dave Itzkoff, author of the new book "Mad as Hell," about the making of the movie "Network."
We've also got a recap of Jimmy Fallon's debut on "The Tonight Show."
And my story about how the Olympics helped "The Today Show" finally win a week in the ratings, but why NBC should not be celebrating that. ABC's "Good Morning America" is clearly still the country's top-rated morning show.
You can find all that on the RELIABLE SOURCES blog on cnn.com. Thanks for watching. Now stay tuned for a news update at CNN headquarters in Atlanta.