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Ukraine P.M.: We're On the Brink of Disaster; Evidence: Media Coverage Favors Gay Rights; Is "Bridgegate" Another Watergate?

Aired March 2, 2014 - 11:00   ET


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. I'm Jim Sciutto in New York. RELIABLE SOURCES with Brian Stelter will begin right after this check of the headlines.

Ukraine's prime minister said today that the country is on the brink of disaster. He said Russia's latest military moves amount to a declaration of war and he called it a red alert.

Ukraine officials say Russian troops have taken up posts at bases in Crimea, a heavily Russian region of Ukraine. Ukraine's military is now getting ready. The country's defense minister says they do not stand a chance against Russian troops.

Moments ago on CNN, Ukraine's opposition leader, Vitali Klitschko, issued this stern warning to Russia.


VITALI KLITSCHKO, OPPOSITION LEADER IN UKRAINE: The main point right now is the Russians have to take away their Russian forces from Crimea. It's the main point. Crimea is Ukraine territory. It's -- we talk independence here of Ukraine. It's all military forces have to remove from Ukrainian territory.


SCIUTTO: And now these very strong words as well from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. He's calling it an invasion, quote, "It is an incredible act of aggression, really a stunning willful choice by President Putin to invade another country. Russia is in violation of the sovereignty of Ukraine, Russia is in violation of its international obligations, Russia is in violation," Kerry says, "of its obligations under the U.N. charter, under the Helsinki Final Act. It's in violation," he says, "as well of its obligations under the 1994 Budapest Agreement."

He goes on to say, Secretary Kerry, "You just don't in the 21st century, behave in a 19th century fashion by," and again he uses this word, "invading another country on completely trumped up pretexts."

NATO ambassadors are expected to hold an urgent meeting today on the situation in Ukraine. Our own Erin McLaughlin is live now in Brussels, outside NATO headquarters. Erin, you have U.S. officials, Secretary Kerry now calling this an invasion. What exactly are NATO officials considering there?


Well, earlier today, the NATO secretary general gave a brief statement to the media in which he called on Russia to deescalate tensions. Take a listen to what he had to say.


ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN, NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: What Russia is doing now in Ukraine violates the principles of the United Nations charter. It threatens peace and security in Europe. Russia must stop its military activities and its threats.

Today, we will discuss their implications for European peace and security and for NATO's relationship with Russia.


MCLAUGHLIN: Now, there are two meetings taking place today here at NATO headquarters. The first meeting, a meeting of the North Atlantic Council. That's the primary decision-making body for NATO. That meeting we understand is still under way.

That will be followed by a meeting by the NATO Ukraine Commission. That meeting taking place at the behest of Ukrainian officials. The commission was formed in 1997 with the aim of strengthening military inside the Ukraine as well as improving ties between Kiev and Western Europe.

Now, many people see the involvement of NATO as inherently provocative. Others saying that NATO cannot afford to idly stand by and watch this unfold without at least exploring options. Rasmussen in calling today's meeting -- Rasmussen in calling today's meeting, at least appearing to agree with the latter sentiment, though whether or not this removes beyond rhetoric remains to be seen.

William Hague moving the United Kingdom beyond rhetoric and at the airport, Heathrow Airport, before taking off for the Ukraine, he announced that the United Kingdom will no longer be taking part in preparations for the G-8 Summit that is scheduled for Sochi in Russia -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Undoubtedly difficult conversations going there the Brussels.

Reminder to our viewers that military options, at least at this point, have been taken off the table.

Thanks very much to Erin McLaughlin.

RELIABLE SOURCES starts in two minutes with a look at how the media is shaping the debate on gay rights issues.


BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST: Good morning from New York City. I'm Brian Stelter. And it is time for RELIABLE SOURCES.

Here's what's coming up on the show:

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has not asked a question in eight years. So, why aren't more reporters asking questions about that? Does race play a role?

Then, when President Obama is on CNN and MSNBC, why does FOX News have Bill Nye the Science guy on?

And watching the Oscars on your phone? It may be a breakthrough. But do movie stars look as good when they're two inches tall?

We've got all of that and a lot more on the show this morning.

But first, a statement and a question. We've seen a dramatic change in America's attitudes towards gay rights in the last few years. Here's the question, how much has the media influenced that change?

Let's back up a moment and look at what happened just this week, another landmark week for gay rights. The governor of Arizona vetoed a bill that would have given businesses the legal grounds to deny services to gay people. In Texas, a federal judge struck down that state's ban on gay marriage and in Kentucky, a district judge said the state must recognize gay marriages that were performed in states where they are legal.

Of course, these battles all across the country are far from over. Look at how much has changed. Republicans Mitt Romney, John McCain and even some FOX News stars, all spoke out against the Arizona bill.

So, how much of a role did we in the media (AUDIO GAP)?

Look at this research conducted by the Pew Research Center last summer around the gay marriage debate. It found that stories emphasizing support for gay marriage were five times as common as stories emphasizing opposition.

So, is the media coverage of this issue shaping America's changing attitudes? Or is it merely reflecting those changes that are happening anyway.

Joining me to hash this out is Ben Shapiro, a conservative columnist and editor at large for, and Thomas Frank, the author of "What's the Matter with Kansas", and brand new columnist for the liberal Web site,

Thank you both for joining me.


BEN SHAPIRO, BREITBART.COM: Thanks so much. STELTER: Thomas, this cuts to the heart of what some people complained about for decades, the idea that media is biased in favor of liberals? Is that the case here? And what else, do you think, accounts for the changing attitudes we've seen in all of the polling in this country in recent years?

FRANK: Well, you know, I've always been a big doubter of the liberal bias critique, although maybe this issue is different. But if you go back and look at the long history of the bias critique goes back to -- we know when it started, Spiro Agnew in 1969 basically invented this as a way of getting back at the news media of the day that was, you know, that he thought was opposing the Vietnam war and that sort of thing. And it's, you know, it's gone on and on over the years and the hilarious thing is that the media is objectively much less liberal today than it was then after years and years of this stuff.

But, you know, this is a very interesting question. Does the media reflect or does it cause, you know? And people debate this all the time in sociology and history, all sorts of other disciplines. I used to argue about it myself.

STELTER: Ben, where do you stand on this? Do you feel that the press either responsibly or irresponsibly encourages acceptance of gay marriage and laws that encourage gay rights?

SHAPIRO: As far as the actual bias of media, whether it's reflective, or whether it's generative, the fact it reflects L.A. and it reflects New York and it generates -- it generates feeling elsewhere. I mean, people tend to reflect the situations in which they live. The media is largely based in coastal large cities, liberal cities, and therefore, their bias is reflective of those cities while changing the rest of the country.

STELTER: Is the press in this case an enemy of religious freedom then? We saw so much criticism of this bill from reporters and from commentators and from corporate interests?

SHAPIRO: Absolutely. Absolutely an opponent to religious freedom. The press believes that essentially religious individuals should be forced to abide by whatever the press's standards of morality are and the press is happy to see government enforced those standards of morality.

You've seen people like Tony Kornheiser on ESPN suggest this law would force people gays in the state of Arizona to wear yellow stars, or that gays and lesbians in the state of Arizona wouldn't be able to attend NFL football games. I mean, this kind of nonsense has nothing to do with the law as written and it's specifically designated to create the perception the American people are a bunch of pitchforks and torch-wielding religious bigots who are looking to crowbar gay people in the streets.

STELTER: It doesn't sound like the America I know. But hyperbole is common in the press, is it not? I mean, we hear hyperbole everyday.

FRANK: Hell, I deal in that stuff. That's what I do, man. Can I just --

SHAPIRO: Well, there's commentary and then there's the news media. And those are two different things.

FRANK: That's right. Can I take a step back here? I'm from Kansas and my -- the thing that got me writing "What's the Matter with Kansas", in fact, when they had the debate over the theory of Evolution in the state of Kansas and the media all over the world went absolutely berserk, right, making fun of Kansas. It's a replay of the monkey trial down in Tennessee, you know, back in the 1920s.

It was a classic media set piece and everybody was laughing at Kansas and then, you know, the local conservatives struck back in saying, yes, they didn't describe what we were doing precisely to the letter. They didn't get it exactly right.

You know, they had a point. But in the grand scheme of things, the media had that story right. I think they have this one right as well.

SHAPIRO: Sorry. Thomas admitted the meeting is biased and skews the story, but in general they have the story right. So, please explain how a law that doesn't mention homosexuality is specifically about allowing restaurants to now have a right that trumps federal law, which this clearly does not and how this law is going to allow restaurants to randomly throw gay people out of their businesses in a way they weren't able to before in the state of Arizona?

Please explain that to me and how that's accurate.

FRANK: It's not a law. It got vetoed. I don't know if you heard about this.

SHAPIRO: A bill, correct.

FRANK: Yes. So I didn't read that one but I did read the bill in Kansas, you know. The actual law itself, the proposal itself, the bill that got vetoed the other day and they had one in Kansas and they had them in a bunch of other states, that's, you know, the really interesting thing. Where did this come from? Who -- you know, who developed it? That sort of thing.

You know, it was sort of my opinion is that it was all sort of ginned up as a kind of culture war set piece to rally the troops, get something for people to feel persecuted about, get the voters worked up about the onslaught of, you know, liberals and the trial lawyers and the outside judges and that kind of thing. And then falling back on liberal bias is salvage a game that's been lost basically in my opinion.

STELTER: Ben, when you come on television, when you write columns, do you feel that you are being persecuted or do you feel you are being, you know, put in an uncomfortable position because everybody else seems to believe the opposite of what you believe?

SHAPIRO: Listen, I'm happy to be in liberal areas. I spent my life in Los Angeles and Cambridge, Massachusetts. I like being in liberal areas. I like duking it out.

But there's no question that the media is bias to the left and there's also no question that the media is very much in favor of fascistic government that gets to control what religious people do with their private businesses.

I mean, and do I feel persecuted in that way? Well, let's see. If the government decides that it can tell me to violate my own religious presets because the government has a greater good and that it is attempting to pursue without evidence that greater good is actually a necessity, I mean, anybody who compares the plight of 2014 gays to 1960s blacks is absurd.

Then, certainly, I feel prosecuted. But that's as a religious citizen, not as a commentator. Thank God we still have freedom of speech. And listen, I'm happy for you to be on the air, for you to be on the air Thomas. I just think there are more people like you than there are people like me.

FRANK: Awesome.

STELTER: You mean in the press?

FRANK: That would be the craziest thing in the world. I'm always the odd man out. I mean, if you know the day that --

SHAPIRO: Yes, right --

FRANK: I shouldn't go down this road but I have spent my entire life having extremely unpopular views, unpopular opinions, and I agree, thank God for the freedom of the press. I mean, this is, you know, that's -- it's a wonderful thing.

SHAPIRO: I'm actually not even, you know, on the side that you probably think I'm on but as far as being on the defense, being from the right on a left network like CNN, sure, of course, I'm on the defensive, and I go in with game planning for it. I mean, it's not the same thing as going on FOX News which, obviously, leans to the right. I mean --

STELTER: Tell me about how you plan for it? I'm curious. We're on the most meta show on CNN. How do you plan for it?


SHAPIRO: Well, what I do is I assume that I'm going to get a certain set of questions from folks like you, Brian, I generally do get, and with all the veiled implications there in. Don't you feel persecuted going on a leftist network? The implication, of course, being that I see myself as a victim. Don't you feel when you come on a leftist network and you're being attacked that maybe it's because, you know, you're just a little intolerant?

These are usually the way these conversations go. So, you know, I'm glad, Brian, that you haven't done all of those things. You've done some of them. But, you know, of course, when I go in I would be foolish not to think about the questions I'm going to be asked before doing so.

STELTER: And, of course, I've got to say here, CNN does strive to be nonpartisan. I understand you feel it doesn't succeed at that all the time, but at least it tries.

Ben Shapiro and Thomas Frank, thank you both for joining me for this one.

FRANK: Yes, sure thing.

SHAPIRO: Thanks so much.

STELTER: I have to take a quick break here but I want you to think about something during the break. Do you ever notice how often TV anchors say this could be another Watergate? They say it a lot, right?

We've called in the expert, the guy one half of the team that uncovered the real deal. Carl Bernstein will tell us if there is another Watergate out there.

Back in two minutes.



Let's talk about something we hear all the time on TV news programs. Could this scandal be the next Watergate? It happens a lot especially with the big stories that dominate coverage on our competitor, on FOX, the right leaning network of choice, there seems to be an obsession with Benghazi.

You know, we were trying to count the number of times they compared it to Watergate and ran out of time. Let's just say they do it a lot.

On the left, on MSNBC, it's Chris Christie all the time. Listen to HBO's Bill Maher give Rachel Maddow a hard time with that.


BILL MAHER, HBO: I said I have been in love with MSNBC, which I am still actually in love with MSNBC, but I tongue in cheek said, you know, I'm going to have to break up with you because you've become obsessed with another man, Chris Christie.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: I am obsessed with Christie story unapologetically and will continue while amazing things in that story continue to happen.

MAHER: This is an actual scandal. It's not Watergate. He's not the president. He's not even a guy who ever himself said he was going to be running for president.


STELTER: You heard that word, Watergate. So, is the Chris Christie as big as Rachel Maddow seems to think it is?

I brought in the best possible to ask, one half of the team that broke Watergate wide open, Carl Bernstein of Woodward and Bernstein, now a CNN commentator.

Carl, welcome.


STELTER: I was curious whether you agree more with Bill Maher on that one or with Rachel Maddow?

BERNSTEIN: I'm probably in the middle for a number of reasons, not least of which is that we're dealing here with ideologically driven cable networks. And that is not about reportorial decisions. And it's about a lack of context.

The Christie story is great and important story. Should it be the lead every night on a real news broadcast? Of course not. Is Rachel Maddow's broadcast a news broadcast? No. It's a commentary broadcast by and large --

STELTER: And a point of view --

BERNSTEIN: -- and a point of view.

I think that we've got much too much ratings driven by story rather than by actual content of the whole report over the course of a week or a month or a year, but rather, we're moving in cable news toward what story will drive the ratings on a given day and that exaggerates and makes it impossible to have a context.

STELTER: Cable news was not invented during the actual Watergate era. Do you think if there had been cable news, that it would have lessened the stories in people's minds? Would it have heightened people's interests?

BERNSTEIN: I'm going to cut you off. I think history almost never works. So, I'm not going to go there.

STELTER: Well, I'm sure when you hear, for example, in that case, Bill Maher and Rachel Maddow use the word Watergate you probably stiffen your back a little bit.

BERNSTEIN: As you know, I said on this broadcast before, I think calling what happened in New Jersey bridgegate is unfair to the governor of New Jersey. At the same time, I think he's in a hell of a mess. That he has not been as open and forthcoming as he has claimed to be, that there's ongoing investigations.

And at the same time he could open up his files the same things his lawyers are deciding to turn over to the investigations, he could open it up to the press.

And also, Bill Maher's point about this is just about a little bridge closing is wrong, because this is about the governor of a state who was the frontrunner for the presidential nomination, just as Hillary Clinton is the presumed frontrunner for the presidential nomination, and should be scrutinized.

And what's happened here is that the allegations here are about the governor of a state and those closest to him putting people's lives in danger. People who had the ambulances, people's livelihoods, this kind of use for vengeance of a governor's office is a big story and ought to be. It is not some kind of minor prank.

STELTER: We did hear him criticize the media again this week. Let's play the tape of Governor Christie speaking about that.


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: You folks are the only people at the moment who are asking me about this. I've been to two town hall meetings in the last two weeks, with 28 questions, and there hasn't been one question on this. I will be damned if I let any of this stuff get in the way of doing my real job.


STELTER: So, Carl, the governor there is implying the public doesn't care about this case. Only the press does.

BERNSTEIN: Either the governor is being totally disingenuous or worse, he's totally out of touch with his constituents. I was in Montclair, New Jersey, the other night and that's all people there wanted to talk about, what's happening with Chris Christie and the bridge.

Look, trying to make the conduct of the press the issue is an old tactic. It's not going to work here. The problem is the conduct of the people around the governor and perhaps the governor himself.

STELTER: We're continuing to see more of these --

BERNSTEIN: We'll find out what the answers are going to be.

STELTER: Seeing more of these dribs and drabs, not huge developments but dribs and drabs. New text messages from the governor's aides making jokes about causing traffic problems outside a rabbi's house and then they joked about all flights to Tel Aviv being mysteriously delayed. It's just a joke, but it does speak to a pattern of behavior, doesn't it?

BERNSTEIN: Well, first of all, I don't think it is a joke. I think there's no question about the awful aura of Governor Christie's office and the way his aides operated. That's a matter of fact. It's not a matter of opinion at this point. They're despicable in the way any they acted.

STELTER: Despicable, that's a strong word.

BERNSTEIN: Well, they are -- in the way they acted and in the way that they talk, and have talked. There's no question about that. The question is, what does that have to do with Governor Christie? Why did he allow people like this to work for him and were they authorized to do the things they did and when did he learn about what was done?

Those are the questions he hasn't produced satisfactory answers yet. But at the same time, he deserves fairness in the media and he deserves fairness in the prosecutorial inquiry and we'll see where this story goes. We don't know the answers yet.

It does not make people in the media happy to say we don't -- do not know the answers yet. We ought to be saying that a lot more in our coverage of all kinds of things.

STELTER: One of the most honest things we can say is that we don't know --

BERNSTEIN: Well, exactly. I mean, come on. We don't have crystal balls and we also don't do enough reporting.

So, this is a story -- there has been good reporting on the story by the local newspapers, weeklies as well as dailies in northern New Jersey and that actually is what Rachel Maddow has been basing a lot of her commentary on, on these stories produced by local media.

STELTER: One thing you can tell, a few other scandals (ph), is one of the signs that a scandal is something that a politician can't recover from? What signs do you look for --

BERNSTEIN: I tell you --

STELTER: -- to something like this?

BERNSTEIN: -- I'm not -- I'm not very good on how the citizenry responds to, quote, "scandals." What happened in Watergate is that as evidence became more and more undeniable that Richard Nixon had really presided over a criminal presidency and that it not only was about Watergate but it was about a basic unconstitutional means of behavior, vengeance at his enemies, ordering break ins, fire bombings, saying terrible things on his tape recordings, as it became apparent especially to Republicans that his conduct was indefensible, then this started to move and change and citizens along with it.

To what extent I can tell how things work, that's part of the process. We've got a new equation, though, in our politics today that's very disturbing. And that is that more and more people are not open in this country to the best obtainable version of the truth, which really is what reporting is about, what good journalism is about, and instead --

STELTER: Do you mean close themselves off?

BERNSTEIN: Let me finish. Instead they're looking to cable news, they're looking to the web, to find information that under, you know, the girds and that supports their already preconceived notions and ideologies and prejudices.

That's different than at the time of Watergate. Many more people I believe were open to the best obtainable version of the truth then and we now have a kind of a two-way process in which we have these media outlets online, in cable news, feeding these prejudices, feeding these ideologies, without interest in truth.

And we don't know the extent to which the citizens are responsible, the media is responsible, and the political system is responsible, but they're all irresponsible in this unwillingness to make truth and truth is hard to determine. But to make the best obtainable version of the truth the object of what they're doing.

STELTER: Carl, thank you so much for being here.

BERNSTEIN: Good to be here.

STELTER: Time for a quick break.

When I come back, a Supreme Court controversy. Some call it an outrage. Is Justice Clarence Thomas doing his job? You'll want to hear this. So, don't go away.


STELTER: Welcome back to "Reliable Sources."

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas "is an embarrassment and he demeans the court." Those strong words are from CNN's senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin. Jeff also writes for the New Yorker magazine and his latest piece is about this.

It has been exactly eight years since Clarence Thomas last posed a question during oral arguments. The other eight justices ask questions all the time of the lawyers who are presenting their cases to the court. It's how they figure out what the holes in the legal arguments might be. According to Jeff, this means Thomas is simply tuned out.

So why do we hear so little about this in the press?

Well, joining me now in Washington is Jeffrey Toobin, and here in New York, Jamal Greene, a professor at Columbia Law School.

Jeff, let me start with you. Why do you think we don't hear more in the press from reporters other than you about this lack of questioning from Clarence Thomas?

TOOBIN: Well, I think the people who cover the court take it for granted, and it is true that Justice Thomas -- he votes like the other justices; he writes opinions in the way the other justices do. He writes the same number, give or take. And the oral argument is certainly not the most important part of being a Supreme Court justice, but it is an important part. And, to me, not asking questions for eight years is simply a dereliction of his job, dereliction of his duties.

STELTER: In your column here, you've called it "a disgrace."

TOOBIN: Well, because the only public thing that Supreme Court justices do, other than render their opinions, is hear argument. And, you know, there's a reason why the phrase "your day in court" resonates for so many of us, because, you know, when you're in court, you expect that the judge will hear you out; the judge will engage with your lawyer.

And if you think about nine justices behaving the way Thomas does -- if you had nine justices who never asked questions, people would be outraged. And I think the fact that Thomas doesn't do it is something worthy of comment, and that's why I talked about it.

STELTER: Jamal, do you agree that, if all nine acted this way, it would be newsworthy, but not in this case?

GREENE: Well, I think it would be newsworthy if all nine acted this way. But that's, in some ways, exactly the point, is you've got 30 minutes to make oral argument at the court, for each side gets about 30 minutes. And you've got eight other justices who are very active, who are asking questions, who are, in fact, in some ways asking too many questions. The lawyers can barely get a word in edgewise.

And so I think there's actually something quite defensible about one of the justices simply saying, "Look, I'm going to listen to hear what the lawyers have to say."

STELTER: This is always a sensitive thing to bring up, but I wonder, do you think this has anything to do with the fact that he's the only African-American on the Supreme Court?

Is that -- is there some element of political correctness that leads this not to be talked about?

Because, when I read Jeff's New Yorker piece, I was shocked that it had been eight years since a question had been asked.

GREENE: So I don't really see it as being any kind of political correctness. You know, I think the people who cover the court, as Jeff says, are aware of this and in some ways take it for granted.

STELTER: Right, right.

GREENE: So it would be more of a story if he actually said something.

TOOBIN: What's interesting -- it's something I didn't expect -- this piece got a lot of attention, especially on social media. And a lot of conservatives, who, of course, like Justice Thomas, accused me of racism in singling out Justice Thomas.

I, of course, don't buy that, but I thought it was interesting about the sensitivity of these issues. I assure you, if there was some other justice, man, woman, white, black, who didn't ask questions for eight years, I would be talking about that justice, too.

But, you know, I was really struck by how that theme of how I was racially insensitive came up in social media among people who were criticizing me. I thought it was crazy, but, you know, everybody is entitled. GREENE: You know, I do think that there's, as Jeff suggests, a bit of a racial subtext in the criticism of Justice Thomas for not speaking. I don't think Jeff does this, but I've certainly heard, in talking to other law professors and the blogosphere and so forth, that people think that the reason he doesn't speak is because he's not bright enough to, sort of, engage in the colloquy with the other justices. And I think that's just not true. I mean, I have met the man. He's a very bright man.

STELTER: And he has said that others should take a cue from him, talk less and listen more.

GREENE: I think there's something to be said for that. You know, the -- the modern Supreme Court, where everyone is talking all the time and is extremely active -- it's actually a fairly recent phenomenon. Really, not until about the 1980s did we start to see the court get this active.

You look back to the Warren court; you look back to the 19th century, and you see benches that are totally silent, letting the lawyers say what they want. I'm not suggesting that that's the ideal, but the notion that there's something that's not being said on this Supreme Court strikes me as not very likely.

TOOBIN: I think Jamal really makes an excellent point there, and, you know, one of the reasons it's so outrageous, frankly, that Justice Thomas doesn't say anything, is that he has such a distinctive and important point of view on the law.

He is by far the most conservative member of this court. He unfairly is criticized for just following along with Justice Scalia. That's not true at all. He's well more conservative than Justice Scalia. And it is worth -- it would be worth letting the public hear that in the court arguments as well as in the written opinions.

STELTER: We're in the midst of one of these renewed pushes for cameras in the courtroom at the Supreme Court. Do you think that would affect any of the dynamics we're describing here involving Justice Thomas?

TOOBIN: I think it might, actually. Because it's one thing to have a reporter like me write a column every once in a while saying Justice Thomas doesn't speak, but if you had cameras showing day after day, month after month, year after year all the other justices talking and Thomas not talking, I think it would add to the pressure on him to talk and add to the embarrassment.

That's yet another reason why unfortunately I don't think there are going to be cameras in the courtroom any time soon.

STELTER: Jeffrey Toobin, Jamal Greene, thank you so much for joining me.

GREENE: Thank you.

STELTER: And before we go to break, one timely note about the Supreme Court. We were just talking about why there are no cameras in the highest court. Well, it turns out there was one very briefly.

Look at this video taken on the sly and unloaded to YouTube this week. No electronic devices are supposed to be allowed in the court, but a group that supports campaign finance reform snuck one in as a form of protest.

All spectators are screened with magnetometers before entering, so it's not clear how they got away with it. But I, for one, am glad they did because it's interesting to see even a very short glimpse inside that room.

A whole lot more RELIABLE SOURCES ahead. We'll be right back.


STELTER: Welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES. It's not often that we hear President Obama talk about his childhood, you know, talk about what it was really like. But on Thursday when he kicked off a program called "My Brother's Keeper," he said things like, "I got high" and "I made bad choices," and the line that stood out to me the most was, "sometimes I sold myself short."

That's a personal subject for Barack Obama, how tough it is to beat the odds if you're a young black man in America. At the event he got a big laugh when he pointed out the two members of the media over my shoulder who were in attendance.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If I can persuade, you know, Sharpton and O'Reilly to be in the same meeting...



OBAMA: ... then it means that -- then it means that there are people of good faith who want to get some stuff done, even if we don't agree on everything.


STELTER: He's talking, of course, about Al Sharpton of MSNBC and Bill O'Reilly of FOX News. If you were watching MSNBC or CNN at that hour, you heard Obama's joke live. But if you were watching FOX News, you did not. FOX chose not to carry the president's deeply personal comments live, despite the fact that O'Reilly thought it was important enough to attend the event and FOX owner Rupert Murdoch thought it was important enough to tweet about it on Thursday.

Later in the day O'Reilly devoted a big chunk of his primetime show to the initiative, and although he did praise it, he also spent a lot of that time describing what he would do differently.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BILL O'REILLY, HOST, "THE O'REILLY FACTOR": You're going to have to get people like Jay-Z, all right, Kanye West, all of these gangsta rappers to knock it off. That's number one. They idolize these guys with the hats on backwards and the terrible rap lyrics and the drug and all of that. You got to get these guys.


STELTER: Bill O'Reilly, Obama adviser, who would have thought? And I love how he stretches Jay-Z's name out to like four syllables long. Ja-ay-Ze-ee.

But back to the speech for a second. You know, this is something of a pattern at FOX News. They sometimes skip presidential events while other television networks are showing them live. Sometimes FOX says that's because the speeches are predictable political events.

In this case, I reached out to FOX, and Michael Clemente, the executive vice president of news, said the following: "Decisions are made all day long about what should be on the screen at any given time. As with every other event, we stream live news on our Web site to back up the top story."

So does this famously right-leaning network avoid giving air time to a left-leaning president? My next guest, Dylan Byers, monitors the cable news channels constantly. It's his job to do so. He's the media reporter for Politico, and he joined me earlier from Washington.


STELTER: Dylan, thanks for being here.

DYLAN BYERS, POLITICO: Such a pleasure. Thanks for having me, Brian.

STELTER: Let me ask the obvious question, if Mitt Romney was the president, do you think FOX News would be broadcasting more of his speeches?

BYERS: Oh, yes, absolutely. I think if you go back and you look at when FOX News broadcast speeches by George W. Bush, you'll see that they did so a lot more often than they've done for President Obama.

Now does FOX News need to broadcast every single speech or address or press conference that the president gives? No, probably not. And I think it's also fair to say that MSNBC probably overdoes it.

I mean, you know, if you turn on your television and you want to see if Obama is speaking, you can probably go to MSNBC, and if he's not there then he's probably not giving a public speech.

STELTER: But, of course, the average age of the FOX News viewer is over the age of 65.

BYERS: Right.

STELTER: The vast majority of the audience is white. I think the data from earlier in the year shows that in the demo, the 25 to 54 demo that matters so much to all of these cable news channels, only 2 percent of the audience is African-American.

Do you think that plays a role in the decisions about what to cover and when to cover the president's speeches?

BYERS: Sure. I absolutely -- I do. I think the key issue is that FOX News trusts that their viewership doesn't really care about Obama. Now sometimes FOX News will cover an Obama speech and, in fact, give it even more coverage than the other networks if Obama has to come out and say -- defend bad jobs numbers, you know, account for something he has received a lot of pressure for.

I will say in terms of why O'Reilly chose to cover this, I don't want to question O'Reilly's intentions, I don't want to, you know, suggest that I know what his motive was, I certainly don't.

I do think for the FOX News viewership, they do sort of -- you know, FOX News does sort of love to address this issue of race in America and they do love to address it towards I think that older white audience and maybe trump up these, you know, causes for concern regarding, you know, the so-called "gangsta" culture.

And so I think that that was sort of in a way to talk about those problems was a strange sort of appeal to that old white audience, and sort of a very perverse and maybe troubling way.

STELTER: I want to take a turn here to some big media news involving CNN that happened this week. Piers Morgan said that he'll be ending his nightly show, "PIERS MORGAN LIVE." CNN confirmed that it's going to ending sometime in the coming weeks; there's no end date yet.

Let me read something that Piers said to "The New York Times'" David Carr, who broke the news.

He said, "Look, I'm a British guy debating American cultural issues, including guns, which has been very polarizing, and there is no doubt that there are many in the audience who are tired of me banging on about it."

I asked Piers Morgan to come on this show and talk about the reasons of why the show is ending. He declined and he told me that one of the reasons why is because, quote, "I'm still negotiating with Jeff Zucker, the head of CNN, over a new show, one that plays much more to my strengths, big interviews."

But it's clear that sometime in the coming weeks "PIERS MORGAN LIVE" will be ending and, Dylan, as you know, because you've been writing about this this week, there are all sorts of reasons, people's speculation about why the show is ending.

What's your take on why it's going away?

BYERS: Well, a number of things are at play. I mean, what Piers said, there's probably some truth to that. I certainly think Americans don't like being -- certainly Americans who support or who are against gun control don't like being talked down to by a dismissive Brit.

Now, there might be a bigger problem as well, which is just the nature of the television industry in general. You know, Piers Morgan's ratings weren't all that much worse than Larry King's when he left.

I think is there still a place in cable news for this sort of one-on- one interview on a nightly basis when there isn't always major news and sort of major bookings for these interviews?

And, you know, the other question that I think CNN has to think about is, you know, the age in which the bookings define the show, that -- we might be seeing that coming to an end. Right?

I mean, if you look at the two most popular shows on FOX and on MSNBC, those are shows with the least bookings because they have outsized personalities sitting behind the desk. You have Bill O'Reilly at FOX News; you have Rachel Maddow at MSNBC. Of course Piers Morgan is an outsized personality, nobody's doubting that. He just might not be the right outsized personality or the sort of outsized personality that American viewers wanted to see in that chair.

STELTER: Dylan Byers, thanks so much for joining me.

BYERS: My pleasure. Thanks, Brian.

STELTER: Now taking a quick break here. But when I come back, something will happen tonight with the Oscars that has never happened before. I'll tell you about it on the other side of this break.




STELTER: Finally this morning, a media note about tonight's Academy Awards. You might be able to watch the Oscars on your phone. If you're not near a TV but you want to watch the red carpet coverage and all the speeches, you're in luck, because this is the first year ABC's going to let some people at least watch a live stream on computers, tablets and phones.

In the past, it's had streams of backstage cameras and stuff like that, but this year, the actual telecast will be webcast. Of course there is a catch. There always is. The Oscars will be part of that same TV everywhere scheme that many media companies have adopted.

You'll have to log in through a cable or a satellite provider that ABC has a deal with, and it will only work in the specific big cities where ABC owns TV stations.

It's taking far too long for this TV everywhere idea to actually live up to the name. All of the cable providers and channels are partly to blame for the delays.

But this is progress. You know, the Oscars are the second biggest TV show every year behind the Super Bowl. And now at least some people don't have to watch it on TV if they don't want to.

Well, that's all for this televised edition of RELIABLE SOURCES. Of course, you can always watch all of our segments on And we've got so much more on the Web, including my own Oscar ballot for tonight and the ballots for many other CNN anchors and reporters.

I hope to see you back here next Sunday at 11:00 am Eastern. Stay tuned for a news update from CNN Headquarters in Atlanta and then "STATE OF THE UNION" with Candy Crowley.


ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. I'm Erin McPike in Washington with a check of our top stories.

Ukraine's prime minister says the country is on the brink of disaster. He said Russia's latest military moves amount to a declaration of war and he called it a red alert. Officials in Ukraine say Russian troops have taken up posts at bases in Crimea, a heavily Russian region of Ukraine. Secretary of State John Kerry said today on CBS' "Face the Nation," this is an invasion.


JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: It's an incredible act of aggression. It is really a stunning, willful choice by President Putin to invade another country. Russia is in violation of the sovereignty of Ukraine. Russia is in violation of its international obligations.


MCPIKE: And President Obama spoke to Russian President Putin about the situation for 90 minutes yesterday.

More than 100 million people could be at the mercy of a major winter storm pushing east right now. It already has proven deadly in parts of the U.S. this weekend. At least one person died Saturday and 20 more were injured after accidents on a major Denver interstate.

The storm now threatens to dump more snow in cities across the Midwest, Southeast, and Northeast through Monday.

And we're hours away from the Oscars, but will the storm affect the show? Our meteorologist tells us just ahead. "STATE OF THE UNION" with Candy Crowley starts now.