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Is Press Taking Hillary Clinton's Bait?; Shooter's Video: To Air or Not to Air?

Aired June 1, 2014 - 11:00   ET


BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST: Good morning from Washington. I'm Brian Stelter and it's time for RELIABLE SOURCES.

We have an A-list line-up for you.

So, let's get right to it with this big headline: Hillary Clinton's campaign is about to begin. Now, I'm not talking about that one, I'm talking about the campaign to sell copies of her new book "Hard Choices." But really, aren't these campaigns one and the same as the whole country wonders if she's going to run for president?

At the moment, book sales are a substitute for polls. Book sellers like Amazon have ordered so many copies of Hillary Clinton's book ahead of time that the publisher confirmed to me on Friday that they've initially shipped 1 million copies for release on June 10th, 1 million copies. Like all things Clinton, this campaign seems to be highly choreographed, with leak after leak in the book.

First, there was that section about her mother in time for Mother's Day, and then this Tuesday, her author's note, and on Friday, the chapter about Benghazi. It all looks rather -- well, political. Clinton even came out with comments about her world view, this was in her author's note, one day before Obama was giving a major speech on his world view.

What we're seeing here is a confluence of business and politics. So, I wondered how should the press treat this PR operation?

Let me bring in two experts on that, two authors.

First here in New York, Carl Bernstein -- one half of the famed Woodward and Bernstein pair. He is also author of the Hillary biography, "A Woman in Charge."

And here in D.C. with me, Mark Leibovich of "The New York Times" magazine. He's the author of "This Town."

(AUDIO GAP) both for joining me.


MARK LEIBOVICH, NEW YORK TIMES: Hi, Brian. Good to be here. STELTER: Mark, let me start with you here in the studio. Do you think the press should be treating this book campaign as if this is the start of the presidential campaign?

LEIBOVICH: Oh, yes, because the Clinton people are. This has become a tradition of melding the selling of a book to launch a campaign in many cases, and that's why mid-career memoirs, and you could say this might be a late mid-career memoir, tend to be much more cautiously written and marketed.

STELTER: Hillary Land seems to have this down to a science.

LEIBOVICH: It does. And, look, it's planned like a science, it's planned with a kind of Normandy level precision, and clearly, these leaks -- I don't know if you call them leaks -- but they have been thought out, they've been parceled and we see it sort of developing now a few weeks before publication.

STELTER: Right. Carl, do you agree that the press should treat this as if it's a start of a campaign for the presidency?

BERNSTEIN: Of course, unless the book turns out to be a great memoir that goes deep into self-evaluation and introspection, which the last memoir by Hillary Clinton was decidedly not, and I don't think we can expect this one to be, either.

The word "Normandy" or term is exactly right. The presidential campaign is like a war. It's fought on a huge battlefield with great dangers everywhere and all kinds of strategy required.

STELTER: Mark, you mentioned leaks, whether these are leaks or not, you and I, I used to be at the "The New York Times" with you, my former colleague, your colleague Julia Boozman (ph) was on the publishing for years, she was so good at getting early copies of these books before the publisher wanted them out.

It seems to me in this case, though, they are leaking out the excerpts themselves before reporters can go and buy a book in the bookstore and tell us what's in it.

LEIBOVICH: Yes. No, it's strategic. It is taking control of the narrative, as we say in the smarty pants world. Look, I mean, clearly, they had a Mother's Day leak to "Vogue" and so forth.


LEIBOVICH: I mean, look, I mean, that's fine. I don't think a lot of this stuff has been that interesting, frankly, and, you know, maybe there's this vast bipartisan conspiracy of titillated book buyers who would disagree with me.

STELTER: But you haven't seen those people?

LEIBOVICH: I haven't and I haven't seen the item.

STELTER: You wrote in your column in "New Yorker" magazine last week, "The fundamental paradox of politician' books is that the more interesting they are to read, the more harmful they can be to the author if he wants another job at office." Does that apply to Hillary Clinton as well?

LEIBOVICH: Probably, yes. I mean, I think -- look, I would be thoroughly thrilled and surprised if this were completely unplugged and accurate rendering of the Hillary Clinton in private that we don't normally see when she's as straight-jacketed as a politician should be when she might have big plans in the future.

STELTER: Carl, what would you most like to see from her in this book?

BERNSTEIN: Introspection. Her previous memoir as I said had very little of it. My biography, which came out during the previous presidential campaign by Hillary Clinton, talks about her real life, the things that concerned her as a child as a wife, as a politician.

That's what we want to look at, a person's whole life, whole career, what goes deepest? And it would be great if we got this in this memoir.

As I said, I think it's very unlikely that we're going to get that. I would hope that we get glimpses of it, and sometimes inadvertently, we do get that in a politician's memoir, and certainly she's more than a conventional politician.

STELTER: I think it's notable that we learned this week, she's going on FOX News to promote her book. She'll give a joint interview to Bret Baier and Greta Van Susteren about a week after it comes out. So, Diane Sawyer on ABC has the very first interview. She'll do a lot of interviews, but she will go on FOX.

And maybe, Carl, to your point about independent voters, that's her effort to reach out to the people who may need some persuading.

BERNSTEIN: Obviously, it's not just reach out to people who will need some persuading. It's the possibility that will be generated by the FOX interview and the expectation by people in the Clinton retinue that she is going to be able to run some circles around her interviewers and I suspect, you never know, that that might well be the case.

STELTER: Carl, if could ask her one question on this whole book tour, what would ask her?

BERNSTEIN: I would ask her that, if I were your political opponent, where would you be the most vulnerable?

STELTER: What do you think the answer to that is? I --


BERNSTEIN: I do not have an answer to that, so I would ask Hillary Clinton. I would try to go to the personal and the big questions about who she is, and deep now and the art of her life. But threw a question such as I asked or posed on the spur of the moment -- something that might give her pause to think for a second in an unusual way.

STELTER: Let me ask you that same question. If you could pose one question to her, what would it be?

LEIBOVICH: Well, no, I just think -- I mean, if I could be completely Purell, I'm genuinely interested in what she would have thought if she read the Monica Lewinsky piece in "Vanity Fair" this month, which I thought was actually quite compelling and actually sort of goes to the progress of how -- you know, how women are treated in public life. I mean, obviously, she's not going to be terribly psyche to relive that. But I actually would be curious on a purely personal level how she read that.

STELTER: And she has not been asked in a couple of the public forum she's been in before the book comes. So, Diane Sawyer's interview will be the first chance to do that.

LEIBOVICH: I imagine she will.

BERNSTEIN: Also, that question also goes deep into Hillary Clinton's past, when she was the wife of the governor of Arkansas and there were allegations made about bill Clinton and other women, she even went so far as a lawyer at the Rose Law Firm to interview one of the women, that this is relevant to who she is. I keep coming back to that phrase, who she is? Her evolution.

And the question of Lewinsky is a connection that goes all the way back through her marriage, through her career. It's uncomfortable, but the way she has regarded and been the person who, on numerous -- at least four huge occasions that we know of, has saved Bill Clinton's political career by salvaging the women he's been accused -- accused is not a good term -- of having relations with, but this has been an enterprise that has been integral to bill Clinton's survival and to their story.

But again, you know, the Clintons are amazing. We've never seen anything quite like them and we need some context about their whole story which partly is of a great love affair. That's one thing that if you really come to understand, I think, Bill and Hillary Clinton, you come away with all of the messiness of the relationship and in public. This is really a love story as well on a great number of levels.

STELTER: Carl Bernstein, Mark Leibovich, thank you both for joining me.

BERNSTEIN: Good to be here.

LEIBOVICH: Thanks, Brian.

STELTER: Time to squeeze in a break here. But we've got lots in store for you today. Dramatic departures from the White House and Edward Snowden's big TV interview.

Also, this important question for every TV anchor, every blogger, every journalist out there: is the media glorifying a mass murder by showing his self-made YouTube video over and over again? We will tackle that question right after the break.



We could call this next segment "To Air or Not to Air." The chilling YouTube video of Eliot Rodger, which he recorded hours before. He went on a killing spree near Santa Barbara, California, has been wallpapered across the web and TV for almost nine days now.

But there have been some notable exceptions, some journalists who are opposed to showing his face or showing his name.

Anderson Cooper of CNN is one of them.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: As you know, I don't believe in saying the person's name or showing the person's picture, who committed these things. I think history should not remember that person's name, should remember the name of your son and all the others who lost their lives.


STELTER: Anderson told me that he started during his coverage of the Aurora movie theater shooting in 2012. Now, Megyn Kelly is doing the same thing on her FOX News show. Two anchors taking a stand even against what the rest of their respective networks are doing.

So, this raises a big RELIABLE SOURCES question -- should we as journalists decide you don't have the right to hear or see this guy? Now, for this segment, my producers and I talked about this beforehand and decided we should show Rodger.

But it is a fair question. I think we should talk about it here. Are we doing the right thing? Let me bring in two experts with very different opinions on this -- long-time media politics analyst Jeff Greenfield, who is in Santa Barbara, and Dave Cullen, the author of "Columbine."

Dave, Jeff, thanks for joining me.


STELTER: Dave, in all of your television appearances over the past year or so, you have always avoided saying any of these suspects' names, including this past week, with the shooting in California. Why do you do that and why should the rest of the media should as well?

CULLEN: Well, because I think we've had 15 years of what I'm calling the Columbine effect of this horror that's going on and on and actually seems to be growing. We could stop it tomorrow if we wanted to.

The answer is simple. It's not easy or even desirable, but if we completely stopped covering these, there was a complete blackout that would go away, because these are performances and if there's no one to perform to, if there's no audience, there's no reason to perform. Now, I'm not proposing to do that. I think that would be a terrible thing that would be a huge dereliction of duty by the media.

But if that's sort of the extreme over here of complete blackout and doing nothing on the opposite side, I think we need to find someone in there where we selectively look at ways where we can diminish the killer, we can sort of take away part of the stage and the voice and the reason for doing it without doing significant harm to our duty or to the public understanding.

STELTER: Jeff, what do you make of this?

JEFF GREENFIELD, LONGTIME JOURNALIST: I understand the impulse. I think it's an effort somehow to take away from these killers what we think they might want. I think it is ultimately futile because in this day and age, unlike 40 years ago, there were no gatekeepers. Forty years ago, a couple wire services, television networks, a few newspapers could have effectively shut this out. You can't do this anymore.

If this video as seen, say, by parents of troubled kids or by law enforcement officers can stop future killings, that in and of itself is a very important reason why people have to see this. I understand the point about the pornography of violence and the exploitation of it, and I'm sympathetic to what David says. But the most important thing for me is to realize how many clues were missed here as it often is.

And so, if somebody out there has seen this video and said, you know what? I saw something like this from my own son, you don't want to not have that happen.

STELTER: Dave, what do you make of that gatekeeper's argument? I think the Internet changes the calculus here. I watched all those YouTube videos on my own. No middle man from the media to stop me or encourage me to do so. What do you make of it that the Internet changes the calculus?

CULLEN: I think it changes it for the better. That's why I'm for this, because we don't have gatekeepers. I would have a problem in a world if this were 40 or 50 years ago.

And if you lived in Peoria and the Peoria journal register, I think, is the paper there in town didn't cover it, you would sort of be out of luck. You might be able to get it on TV or something else, but that was sort of your local world. You probably didn't have the "New York Times." It printed in your town. You definitely didn't have the web to go search on it.

Now, it's a completely different world.

So, I'm not asking for or advocating any kind of blackout. I'm with you guys on mostly what you're saying. I think people should be able to study these people in depth to watch the videos.

I wrote a book and spent 10 years on Columbine and getting the motives. I want their basement tapes that played that are still not out. I want those available to the public. But I -- because anyone can Google this guy and look at those videos, that video when I watched it, had already had more than over 2 million views. I think that's great interest of the web.

I think giving him what is sort of viewed by most people as sort of the glamour of television is unnecessary. I don't think the clip played at the beginning of the segment showing clips of his face did any public good. I don't think anyone learned anything from it. I think we've all seen him enough times and there was no audio played with it, so we didn't hear what he was saying. I think that's superfluous and unnecessary and gives him the flam glamour without any kind of value coming from it.

STELTER: Jeff, should there be a period of time after which time we don't show the video, we don't say the name?

GREENFIELD: I don't know. Look, I think David makes a good point and this is one of my problems, if I may be blunt with you, Brian, about cable news in general, which is throwing video up as wallpaper no matter -- just for the sake of filling the camera.

But I would like to make one point and it may seem a little off but it struck me. As I was researching for a book I did about Kennedy, I read a lot about Oswald. And the more I read about Oswald, the more compelling the case for his guilt was -- to understand his background, his propensity to violence, how he was raised, his delusions of grandeur. Historically to me in a country where most people still think there was a conspiracy, this would be information where even decades after you would want to know.

And again, I -- these impulses toward trying to figure out some way to take away from a killer what we think this killer was after is understandable. I just have some skepticism about whether or not a future madman with guns is going to say, you know what, they're not going to show my picture so maybe I will stay my hand.

I don't think that's the point David was making. I think this is an effort that is widespread to try to figure out some rational way, other than the obvious, like keeping guns out of the hands of madmen and telling mental health professionals that privacy doesn't trump the public safety, some way to prevent a killer from getting what we think he wants.

As I say, absolutely a noble gesture. How much will contribute to future safety? To be honest, I'm a bit skeptical.

STELTER: David, I'm stunned by the fact that we gotten through another television segment and you had a pretty easy time no saying the name. It wasn't something that you accidentally almost did, or slip-up or something like that.

CULLEN: Right. And I don't think Jeff said it either. You know, I'm not sure about that. But it's very easy. There's the perpetrator, the suspect, the gunman, anything and we all sort of like know who we're talking about. And I think Jeff agreed on that.

But the name is completely superfluous. Whether somebody is born with the name Smith or McGillicutty (ph), that's kind of an arbitrary piece of information, which reveals nothing about motive or intent, or really background and that's why I say that part is a no brainer, and especially because I don't want it to be 100 percent. I want it to be out there so anyone can Google it and so forth.

But the killer still sees that like he's being dissed by most of the media. He's having most of his voice robbed from him and his identity. A hundred percent is not necessary or even desirable. It's taking away most of it from him that will have the impact of those future killers who are watching right now.

STELTER: I'm glad to have this conversation with both of you, to get us thinking about these issues. Dave Cullen, Jeff Greenfield, thanks both for being here.

CULLEN: Thank you.

STELTER: We're going to stay on this topic. On the other side of the break, the editor in chief of "Cosmopolitan" is here to talk about misogyny and the media. Don't go away.


STELTER: Yes, all women. Those three words dominated social media in the aftermath of the shooting we talked about earlier near Santa Barbara. The misogynistic views of the shooter, Elliot Rodger, prompted this massive outpouring online. From women telling their own stories about harassment and violence by women, and it was all captured in this hashtag movement known as #YesAllWomen.

It started a conversation about an important issue that frankly gets the attention it deserves in the media. Plus, that conversation has also gotten quite a bit of backlash. There are still some people that just don't get it.

I was shocked when I hear this on FOX News early in the week. This is Megyn Kelly reacting to it.


MEGYN KELLY, FOX NEWS: This is an online Twitter this week talking about, "I'm a victim, too". All these women coming out and saying, "I'm a victim, too, I've been a victim of men, too." Six actual dead victims which is not to be equated with women who feel they've suffered discrimination in the workplace.

(END VIDEO CLIP) STELTER: Well, I almost don't know what to say about what Megyn Kelly said. I mean, I wish she would read the Twitter messages from so many people in this past week, men and women. And I wish she would engage rather than just dismiss it, the way she did. But we're not going to do that here.

We're going to talk about it in a serious way. I want to talk about what the hashtag movement means. And more importantly, what the backlash says about our culture.

So, joining me in New York, Joanna Coles, editor of the biggest selling young women's magazine in the world, "Cosmopolitan."

Joanna, thank you for coming on.

JOANNA COLES, COSMOPOLITAN: Oh, my pleasure, Brian.

STELTER: It started over the weekend with a hashtag #NotAllMen. It was men saying, hey, not all men are like this crazy guy that shot up this area near this campus. But then, we had #YesAllWomen emerged. Let me put up one tweet on screen that's representative.

This person wrote, "Not all men harass women. But all women have at some point been harassed by men. Food for thought."

COLES: Well, I think also, for those of us who grew up in '70s, this feels very similar to Let's Reclaim the Night, that there was actually something going on in the culture where women want to feel more empowered that they actually do.

STELTER: And none of this is to take away from the thought that mental issues and guns are major issues. But this extends the conversation beyond that. I saw you on "Morning Joe" earlier on the week talking about this, talking about the issue of victim shaming. I'm talking about how this does not get enough attention in the mainstream media.

Do you think that's something that has been true for a long time and remains true?

COLES: Well, I think what's very interesting is that the incredible power of the social web, and so what happens now is you have victims' names getting out there and people piling on the victims for complaining about having been abused, which is extraordinary. You have this incredible phenomenon of revenge porn, which we (INAUDIBLE) lots at "Cosmo", where ex-boyfriends release naked photos of their girlfriends that were taken in private, intimate moments and they're suddenly available for everybody to see and it's incredibly difficult to get them off the web and extremely distressing for people.

So, there is this sense in which this dis-inhibiting factor of the web, this sort of disconnection that one feels without someone in the room allows people to do something. And technology is so fast, we haven't got laws to keep up with it and people don't know how to react to it.

And I think the sort of mental noise of this is really impacting young women and young men.

STELTER: That's the dark side of the Internet. The Brightside is that people can make their own media. They can tell their own stories in a way that they couldn't before. That's why I was so happy to see this outpouring of people's story this week, as hard as they were to read, at least they were able to get attention in a way that they weren't able to maybe 20 years ago.

COLES: Well, I think that's true. We have a very interesting piece, actually, in our print version. Still got lots of print going on.

STELTER: That's right.

COLES: In our July issue by AnnaLynne McCord, that actor from "Beverly Hills 90210", whatever that ridiculous title was, and also more recently, of "Dallas", which I am a big fan, in which she talks about having been sexually assaulted by a friend that she trusted, she had gone to sleep with him in the apartment and woken up and found him trying to rape her.

And it's a very distressing, extraordinary. It started her downward spiral which ended up with her actually thinking of suicide and having to reach out and get help. And since this story went online, there has been an extraordinary outpouring around it, to people saying, (a), she's fantastically brave to write about it, and (b), a lot of saying, well, how extraordinarily they happen to me, too.

So, I do think the ability to be able to share things that felt very private or scary, or that you were chained (ph) of, is an extraordinary sense of the web, and we've certainly seen that coming out around this very strange and, you know, emotional story of AnnaLynne.

STELTER: Joanna Coles, thank you so much for joining me today.

COLES: My pleasure.

STELTER: By the way, I'd love to hear your feedback about this issue and about the show in general. I'm on Twitter and Facebook. My username is Brian Stelter and I think your feedback makes the show better every week.

Right after the break here, Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, he'll be joining me to say why he thinks Edward Snowden is right, and Secretary of State John Kerry is wrong, actually not just wrong, he uses the word despicable.

Stay tuned.


STELTER: Welcome back.

For "Red News/Blue News" this week, I have a very special guest standing by in Berkeley, California.

But, , let me show you what we're talking about. It's Brian Williams' interview with Edward Snowden. It aired in prime time on Wednesday night on NBC, and it's now available online.

Snowden, as I'm sure you well know, provided all those top-secret NSA documents to reporters like Glenn Greenwald, and got the whole country talking and debating mass surveillance.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ed Snowden, traitor or patriot? He says breaking the law was his only option, and that's not all he said.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's what he said. We will debate it, fair and balanced.


STELTER: So that tease right there, that tease is too often how the story is framed.

Watch this tape with me from FOX News the morning after the interview. This is the segment they were teasing. First, there was Republican voice, radio host Lars Larson.


LARS LARSON, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: He should be put on trial. He should be convicted, because he's a guilty traitor. He deserves to be shot.


There is a lot of talk about whether or not Brian Williams asked him the toughest questions that he could have, Jessica.


STELTER: All right, let's stop right there.

Martha MacCallum, your guest just said a whistle-blower should be shot and killed, and you didn't ask any follow-up question. Instead, you started questioning Brian Williams' questions.

All right, now let's go back to the tape, because now Martha is turning from her Republican to her Democrat, Jessica Ehrlich.


MACCALLUM: There is a lot of talk about whether or not Brian Williams asked him the toughest questions that he could have, Jessica. Congressman Peter King raised that question, saying that he wasn't tough enough on him. What do you think?

JESSICA EHRLICH, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I didn't get to watch the whole interview. I mean, I know...


STELTER: Stop, stop.

If you did not watch the whole Snowden interview, you should not be opining about Snowden on television. But she did anyway, and she went on to say that it disturbed her that Snowden was given a chance to tell his side of the story.

Now, that is an extreme example, but all across the cable dial this week, I heard a lot of skepticism about Snowden. I'm sure you did, too, a congressional aide here, a former government official there. I did not hear enough from his supporters.

So let's hear from one right now. I'm sure you know his name, Daniel Ellsberg. He was the Pentagon Papers whistle-blower 40 years ago, and he says Snowden did the right thing.

Daniel, thank you for joining me.

It's remarkable to me that he waited a whole year to give a U.S. TV interview. I talked to his legal adviser, who said, that was on purpose, because they wanted the interview to be about mass surveillance, not about the man himself.

Do you think he accomplished his goal?


I think that he needed to be out of the country in order to do what he has done, which is to guide several reporters that he's dealt with, Bart Gellman, Laura Poitras, and Glenn Greenwald, very carefully by chat logs through the maze of arcane symbols and allusions in the NSA documents.

If he had simply dumped them on the Web, which he could have done without any attribution -- he would be free and clear and he would be back in Hawaii right now if he had done that -- they don't speak for themselves. There's too many symbols and codewords that even I, having had those clearances and been in the government, wouldn't understand without some -- someone informing me.

So he's been able to do that continuously, and the only way he could do that was from outside the country.


STELTER: And yet a lot of the reaction, a lot of the media coverage was about the fact that he is in Russia and that he wants to come home.

We saw Secretary of State John Kerry comment about this. And he was comparing, actually contrasting, your case and Snowden's. Let me play a clip from that.


JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: There are many a patriot -- you can go back to the Pentagon Papers with Dan Ellsberg and others -- who stood and went to the court system of America and made their case.

Edward Snowden is a coward. He is a traitor, and he has betrayed his country. And if he wants to come home tomorrow to face the music, he can do so.


STELTER: Reacting to that, you wrote an op-ed for "The Guardian" calling it slanderous and despicable. Tell me why Secretary of State Kerry is wrong.

ELLSBERG: He's wrong in a number of ways.

First of all, he calls -- he calls Edward Snowden a fugitive from justice. I would say that he's right in regarding himself as a fugitive from injustice. That appeared in my own trial 43 years ago. And that was the very first prosecution of any American for giving information to Americans.

That -- my trial demonstrated that I was not allowed, by the nature of the charges against me under the Espionage Act, to describe my motives, my reasons, the considerations that had led me to break my promise that I had made to the government many times not to reveal their secrets.

I wasn't able to tell the jury that I regarded those secrets as wrongful, unconstitutional, wrongfully withheld. I wasn't able to say anything about that or why I felt that it was reasonable for me to risk my life in this circumstance, as I had done earlier in the Marine Corps and elsewhere and Vietnam, but to risk my life to get these truths to the American people.

Snowden wouldn't have a chance to say any of those things, the sort of things that he said to Brian Williams. He couldn't say those to a jury. The prosecutor would say, objection, irrelevant, as in my case.

And under the current terms of the Espionage Act, the judge would have to agree. That's why the Espionage Act needs to be rescinded as applied to leakers. It was never meant to be applied to whistle- blowers, as President Obama has now done seven times.

It's not designed for that. And it's unconstitutional in that capacity. And, second, Congress should pass laws that guarantee a public defense to anyone accused of breaking secrecy regulations by truth-telling, by whistle-blowing.

STELTER: Edward Snowden has called you an inspiration.

Do you view him as an inspiration as well?

ELLSBERG: I certainly do. I think he's -- I was very pleased to hear that I had been in his mind at all.

When I saw that on the news just yesterday, I called my wife over to look at the computer. She said, "You should take a picture of that."

I'm proud of that, because Edward Snowden is a man who makes me proud to be American, and that doesn't happen every day.

STELTER: Daniel Ellsberg, thank you for sharing your thoughts with us on this morning.

ELLSBERG: Thank you very much.

STELTER: A quick reminder here. We have got lots more media coverage on for you.

This weekend, is re-launching with a brand-new media section, so make sure to check it out.

Now we have to sneak in a quick break here, but, coming up, an old, a controversial and, frankly, kind of obscure idea back in the public discourse, thanks for to "The Atlantic" magazine. They call it the case for reparations, and I will talk with the man making the case next.



DONALD STERLING, OWNER, LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS: It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you're associating with black people.


STELTER: There's Donald Sterling in that now infamous audiotape, which was widely covered and widely condemned as racist and just plain stupid.

There was lots of news coverage about him again this week, because it looks like his NBA team, the L.A. Clippers, now has a buyer. But my next guest says the spotlight on that kind of racism is misplaced, that it's a distraction from systemic injustices.

His name is Ta-Nehisi Coates. And he recently grabbed that spotlight and shined it on this, a cover story for "The Atlantic" titled "The Case for Reparations."

This is the concept of paying damages for past wrongs, in this case, paying African-American to compensate for the damage done, really the wealth stolen, by slavery, Jim Crow laws, racist housing policies, and so forth.

"The Atlantic" rolled this magazine article out like it was a blockbuster movie, which really impressed me, to be honest. And it impressed Coates too. I met up with him at the magazine's offices in New York earlier this week. Check out what he told me.


STELTER: I was amazed by the way "The Atlantic" rolled this article out. How did that start?


TA-NEHISI COATES, "THE ATLANTIC": I would love to say that it was totally intentional. It was not totally intentional.

It's very interesting how things work today. We had the piece done. We had it boxed up. And everybody was very happy, very pleased and very proud of it.

And I was talking to James Bennet, you know, who is editor, now co-president of "The Atlantic," and I suggested, hey, should we -- can we just tweet the cover out, maybe get a little hype, not say anything else?

And he said, no, you know what? We have been experimenting with doing these trailers for the entire issue.

STELTER: Movie trailer.

COATES: Movie trailers, yes, for the entire issue.

And we have done a few. He said, what if we did one for just this story, just this story?

And I said, OK, well, that sounds interesting. And I saw it -- I saw it probably about two days before it was tweeted out. It blew me away.

STELTER: Maybe this is what publishers have to do now in this digital age.

COATES: Yes, yes, yes. But if I may be a little bit arrogant, I think it really, really matters that you have a great story behind it.

I think, if you got the product, you can do all the hyping that you want.


STELTER: ... a movie. You have got to have character development.

COATES: That's right.

STELTER: You got to have a payoff, all of those things we associate with movies.

COATES: That's right. That's right. That's right. You got to have something to advertise.

And beyond whatever work I put into it, "The Atlantic" put quite a bit of resources behind that piece and making sure to tell it with all the thickness that it deserved.

STELTER: And "The Atlantic" set a single-day traffic record with the article the day it went online. It's been read days and days and days since.

What has been the reaction that you have heard? Have you succeeded in kicking off a debate about this topic?

COATES: I think so. I don't know where that goes, but, yes, yes, I would say so. It has been shocking.

STELTER: Donald Sterling has been in the news for his racist rant that was on audio, but he was accused of housing discrimination for years before, and that didn't get nearly as much press attention.

COATES: No, no, no.

And not -- again, that's a challenge of storytelling, because it's nowhere near as sexy as, say, some young girl catching you on audiotape and then releasing it to the world. People like that. There's something sexy about that.

But housing really gets at the core of our very identity as Americans, our sense of what it means to be a citizen, the idea that I have purchased a piece of the country. And for people to see, I think, a whole class of people cut out of that, really, people can get the basic injustice of that, I think.

STELTER: What is your overall impression of the way race is usually covered in the media? Because this article -- this article is in a league of its own. We don't see 16,000 words oftentimes dedicated to an issue like this.

COATES: Well, I think race is covered in a way that we cover most things in the media, and that is that there is a bias towards spectacle.

And so, as -- like, when Donald Sterling says something, that means something. When Cliven Bundy, this spectacle, say something, that means something. And this presents great difficulty for those of us who are concerned about the force of racism in American life, because much of it is not spectacle.

STELTER: Your character's experience is not the stuff of headlines?

COATES: No, no, not at all, not at all, not at all.

And even the stuff -- we talk about race that does get attention -- for instance, we see those old -- that old footage of Bull Connor, we see kids being hit by the high-pressure water, that sort of imagery is not evoked with the sort of things I was talking about in that story.

STELTER: Right. What you're talking about is in color, not in black and white.

COATES: That's right. That's right. That's very, very true.

But I think that is the challenger of any storyteller. You have to find some way to bring that to life and get across to people what's actually happening.

STELTER: You argued in your recent blog post that Sterling, that Bundy, these are examples that make people feel good because they can easily condemn them, and then ignore the systemic issues.

COATES: Yes. Yes. Yes.

No, it's a lot harder when you get to things that are at the core of us. And, again, I feel like that's really a storytelling challenge, to get people to look away from the spectacle, to get people to look away from the loud, sort of histrionics and pyrotechnics and look at the really, really quiet, systemic things, you know, that damage many people's lives in this country.

STELTER: You have been out promoting the article, talking about the article for days now. I saw you at an event that BuzzFeed had the other day.

And you talked about political reporting and how they miss the racial context of the country when they write about politics.


STELTER: Tell me what you wish political reporters would do differently.

COATES: Well, I think part of this is, the racial context suffers from a bigger problem. And that is -- and this has been one of my great frustrations for a long time -- the ahistorical nature of political punditry and political analysts.

I just think that we could understand our history better, and we CNN could integrate that into our actual storytelling, and into our coverage, and into our analysis just a little bit better.

And, again, like, not to take it back to the thing I just said, but that was one of the challenges of this particular story. You know, how do you make history interesting? We know that history has a weight on our lives, but the bias towards the immediate, I think the challenge is to connect the immediate to the past.

STELTER: Thank you so much for joining me and telling me about it.

COATES: Brian, thanks so much for having me.

(END VIDEOTAPE) STELTER: When we come back here on RELIABLE SOURCES: two dramatic departures at the White House. I will talk to the reporter at the center of the VA scandal that ultimately led to the downfall of a Cabinet secretary.

Don't go away.


STELTER: Reporters call them Friday news dumps, when the White House releases some news it wants to bury at the beginning of the weekend.

Well, this Friday, the man who did the dumping for years, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, made some news himself.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In April, Jay came to me in the Oval Office and said he was thinking about moving on, and I was not thrilled, to say the least. But Jay's had to wrestle with this decision for quite some time.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It's been a privilege, and it continues to be a privilege, and every day in here with you has been a privilege. People...


CARNEY: More often than not.


STELTER: Carney will officially be stepping down late they are month.

He's the longest-serving White House press secretary in about 20 years.

Now, his announcement briefly, but only briefly, distracted the White House press corps from the much bigger departure of the day. And that was the VA secretary, Eric Shinseki, who resigned under pressure on Friday morning.

This VA story has been building for months. So after Shinseki stepped aside, I went down to the eighth floor of the CNN bureau here in D.C., and found CNN correspondent Drew Griffin.

It was his reporting about VA health care delays that forced this issue onto the national news agenda.


STELTER: I wanted to start by asking, when you started looking into the VA health care delays, because this is not something that started a month or two ago. DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: No, it was last fall, Brian, early last fall.

And we put our first story on the air in November, when we were actually identifying and talking about patients who had died waiting for care. There were actual dead veterans because they got delays in care, basically colonoscopies down in South Carolina and Georgia.

That was our first story. And that was our first attempt to reach General Shinseki and ask him if he knew about this and what was being done about it. That was a long time ago.

Basically, they have tried to shut down our reporting by refusing to talk to us.

STELTER: We talked here on the program last week about Dr. Sam Foote in Phoenix, how he came through as an on-the-record source. The story seemed to grow even bigger once he came on camera.

GRIFFIN: That's right.

And he was the spark behind it, because -- because the secret list is what came out of Phoenix. And for whatever reason, who knows what, that's what the media really just took their -- sunk their teeth into.

STELTER: I wonder what it feels like now for you to have seen him resign on Friday, what that's like, because, for a reporter, so many reporters maybe in journalism school think about having an impact on that scale.

GRIFFIN: It's -- I feel sorry for him.

It's bizarre. I don't want to gloat at all or think that's any kind of a trophy. I'm glad that the veterans are now getting some attention to this problem that many people knew about or should have known about.

STELTER: Drew, thanks for letting me talk to you in between live shots today. You're a very busy man, thanks to this story.

GRIFFIN: Thank you. Good to be with you.

STELTER: Thank you.

And that's all for RELIABLE SOURCES this week.