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Middle East Propaganda War

Aired July 27, 2014 - 11:15   ET



Our top story on RELIABLE SOURCES this morning is what you just saw -- the battle line of ideas in the Middle East. I'll be talking with a Palestinian woman who had a very public blow-up with MSNBC about the network's coverage of Gaza.

"NEW DAY" co-anchor Chris Cuomo will also join me. He's talking about the coverage of the other huge story this week, the investigation into that downed Malaysian Airlines flight. He was there at crash site last weekend and has quite a story to tell.

And there is a "Washington Post" reporter you should know about. He is sitting in an Iranian jail cell detained for no apparent reason. We have an update from "The Washington Post" on his status.

All that and more after the break.


STELTER: If you're a journalist and you cover the Middle East, you're going to be accused of bias. It's as simple as that. But it's also very, very complicated. But in a moment, I'll talk with Jeffrey Goldberg about why that is.

He's been writing about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict for decades and has been called a self-hating Jew many times. And that's actually one of the nicer e-mails he's gotten.

Let's start though by bringing up one of the elephants in this crowded room. Which voices get to be heard? And which ones don't? Because if you want to hear the whole story, you've got to hear everybody.

Now, you've probably heard Rula Jebreal's voice before. She's a regular on cable news. She is Palestinian. She has Israeli citizenship and her husband is Jewish.

She was on MSNBC earlier this week and she started a heated conversation when she brought up what she thinks is a severe imbalance in the American media, an imbalance that favors Israel.

Take a look at what she said.


are disgustingly biased when it comes to this issue. Look at how many air time Netanyahu and his folks have on air on daily basis. Andrea Mitchell and others. I never see one Palestinian.


STELTER: And after that, her other MSNBC appearances were canceled. So what happened?

Well, let's ask her. She's here with me on set.

Thank you for joining me.

JEBREAL: Thank you for having me.

STELTER: So, Rula, do have you any regrets about speaking up while on MSNBC's air?

JEBREAL: No. Sometimes you need to do what is right, not what is popular. I know that what is popular is to follow the narrative that one side of the conflict is right and the other side is wrong.

And I think coming from the region, coming from that area exactly and having covered so many other conflicts, I can tell you that the reality is much more complex.

STELER: Every night on "THE SITUATION ROOM," I've been watching here on CNN, you'll see their Hamas official or a Palestinian official interviewed. You've also seen people like Benjamin Netanyahu interviewed on the Israeli side.

You're not just referring in that sound bite to MSNBC. You feel the American press in general is biased in favor of Israel and against the Palestinians?

JEBREAL: Absolutely, yes. This is a narrative that's been for the last, I would say, three, four decades has been a narrative that is very biased.

STELTER: You've been in news rooms for years. You must have some theories about why there is this imbalance that you see.

JEBREAL: Look, I just came from a business trip from Europe where I was on air and I saw how the coverage of the conflict in Gaza. I was also in Israel recently and I saw how the coverage. I think here, there is fear, intimidation, a campaign of intimidation and fear of, if are you not aligned, your motives are questions. You are questions if you're anti-Semitic, or anti-Israeli --

STELTER: It comes from where?

JEBREAL: It comes from multiple sources. Even if you are questioned that, you are yourself questioned and depicted as Palestinian and pro-Palestinian. STELTER: You were an MSNBC contributor under contract. Your

contract expired last month. It seems like a coincidence what happened last week. If it is fair and balanced, doesn't your regular appearance on MSNBC show that there are people like you being able to voice these issues?

JEBREAL: But you can't put me against Israel official. I am a journalist and I criticize Hamas as much as I criticize the Palestinian Authority and others. My role is not to defend the Palestinian people.

STELTER: What happened after that appearance with Ronan Farrow? You said on Twitter that your forthcoming appearances were then canceled. Was that because of what you said about MSNBC on the air?

JEBREAL: Well, I was -- they e-mailed me and asked me if I can be there, before Ronan Farrow. I said absolutely yes. Then, immediately after Ronan Farrow, I was canceled. I emailed them back --

STELTER: MSNBC claims that they were bumped in order to re-air an interview Chris Hayes had with a 15-year-old Palestinian-American. He was beaten by Israeli forces. That's what MSNBC says. I'm pretty sure that re-airing did not take up all the time that you would have been on on Tuesday, but that's just my interpretation as to what happened.

JEBREAL: But beating up a Palestinian, which is a great news story, I think, has nothing to do with what I do. I am an analyst, a foreign policy analyst that happened to understand the region, that speak Hebrew and Arabic, that's interviewed officials on both sides. What does have to do that --

STELTER: So, was their statement nonsense?

JEBREAL: Well, you have to ask them I think at this point. I have no idea, but it's somehow I feel I have complicated feelings about what happened.

STELTER: You were invited back on MSNBC later in the week. Chris Hayes brought you on. You were labeled in that segment "Palestinian journalist."

How did you feel when you saw that graphic on the bottom of the screen?

JEBREAL: I have to say, I felt terrible because I was hired by MSNBC, and for two years, I was labeled as analyst, journalist, foreign policy expert. I was contributor. I was never labeled a "Palestinian journalist."

I don't know where you come from exactly, but if somebody would label you a Methodist, United Methodist, white man, your ethnicity? Who does that? Who labels people -- or you invite Alan Dershowitz and you label him a "Jewish lawyer." Is this how we label people? I think whoever is doing this PR campaign for MSNBC need to

rethink these issues? Did I become Palestinian because this way you can describe me as emotional and as bias? And this way can avoid the debate about who is really biased on this issue? I think they need to give these answers not to me, to their audience.

STELTER: Rula Jebreal, thank you for joining me.

JEBREAL: Thank you for having me.

STELTER: Jebreal's opinions are controversial. After we talked, I thought a lot more about what she said. I think journalists in the region and anchors here in the U.S. would love to interview Hamas leaders, for example. But those are very difficult interviews to get. They rarely agree to come on camera, and some who do speak for Hamas do not speak English.

One spokesman who does was on "THE SITUATION ROOM" with Wolf Blitzer three days in a row this week.

Now, take a look at this. Just a few of the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's interviews on American networks in recent weeks. Overall, Israeli representatives seem to be more ready available for interviews. But that does not abdicate media outlets from their responsibility to be fair.

I did share Rula's comments about MSNBC with a spokeswoman for the channel ahead of time, so they'd have a chance to respond here. But they deferred to their earlier statement.

"Jebreal's contributor deal with MSNBC officially ended last month when she said she wanted to pursue new opportunities. We've welcomed her back on MSNBC several times since. Her voice is one of many Palestinian voices on MSNBC."

Let me know what you think of this issue. I know it's one people have strong feelings about. Send me a Twitter or Facebook message. My username is BrianStelter and I'll be responding to your comments right after the show here.

After the break, we'll stay on the topic of perceived media bias and the Middle East. We are lucky enough to have one of the preeminent voices on the beat standing by.

Stay tuned.



One of the chief complaints from Palestinians about American coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is that their voices are underrepresented. Rula Jebreal just brought that up in our last segment. So, that's one side.

And here's another: one of the chief complaints from Israelis that the coverage skews perceptions of what's going on. We're talking about pictures from Gaza like these. They're just so hard to watch and they're mostly civilians. Many of them shelter.


NETANYAHU: It's gruesome. They use telegenically dead Palestinians for their cause. They want -- the more dead, the better.


STLETER: Reporters covering this conflict are not just bystanders in all this, they are players and they're under pressure from all sides. No one exemplifies this better than Jeffrey Goldberg, a national correspondent for "The Atlantic," and one of the foremost writes and reporters on the topic of the Middle East. He joins me now from Washington.

Tell me about what it is like for you over the course of many years to write about this topic, because I feel like you're the kind of guy, you don't seem to pull punches. Maybe as a result you get a lot of punches thrown back at you.

So, what's your in box like on a daily basis when it comes to this story?

JEFFREY GOLDBERG, THE ATLANTIC: Most days when I'm writing this conflict, because of the immediacy of twitter, I can be called within ten minutes a Zio-Nazi Jewish devil and sort of a self-hating Jew from someone else because I said something critical of Israeli policy.

I mean, you know, if you go into this aspect of our business, you're just going to get it in the neck.

There are a lot of people I know, a lot of people in our business, who specifically stay away from this issue because they don't want to deal with the incoming invective.

STELTER: You mean they choose not to write about the topic or they choose to do so in a way that's less aggressive? What do you mean?

GOLDBERG: Especially now that we have all these platforms to sort of opine instantly, I've had friends of mine say that I'd like to -- every so often they sort of tip toe in, they link to something or they'll just mention something in passing. And then, they'll get 100 angry mails or tweets or whatever about the subject. Like OK, thank you very much, I'm going to step away from the computer right now because I'm not equipped for this, I don't want to deal with this level of ad hominem invective. And you know, I'm not sufficiently armed with the data to make big cases.

So, I think there is a high barrier to entry in this. And if you ask any reporter in a field, you now, especially -- you know, somebody who's a Jerusalem bureau chief of a big newspaper or TV network, they'll tell you, you know, their in box is overflowing with people who simultaneously think incredibly different things about their work. STELTER: Do you find that your biography that's ever used

against you. Many years ago, you served in the Israeli military police system as a prison guard. I could see how that could help your reporting. I could also see people accusing you of bias for that reason.

GOLDBERG: Well, you know, the funny thing about that -- the reason people know that is because I wrote a book about the experience and what with I wrote in the book -- the book is actually an anti- occupation book. I became sort of very much opposed to the occupation of the West Bank, after that experience. I mean, it's a long time ago. This was 25 years ago.

But after that experience. But what I find amusing is that people will use that as proof that I'm anti-Israel and people will use that as proof that I'm pro-Israel. Very few of those people have read the book.

STELTER: And you mentioned on your blog this week, it is true that Hamas makes it difficult to report on matters that it would rather not see come to light. This is why you see so few photos, if any before of harmed Hamas fighters.

Do you find that there's a dramatic difference in the availability of Israeli representatives versus Palestinian representatives?

GOLDBERG: Not in their availability but in past experience with Hamas. I mean, I've had very unusual experiences in Gaza because even though I'm Jewish, you know, Hamas is a very sophisticated public relations operation.

They've always treated me with respect and tried to give me access. I've interviewed most of the Hamas leaders, many of whom are dead now, having been assassinated. But they've always been good on that.

However, when they don't want you to see something, like Hamas has an interest in making you believe that this war is about an Israeli military attacking Gaza civilians. Obviously, in many cases, civilians are being killed tragically.

But what Israel is trying to do is fire against these rocket teams that are firing rockets into Israel that Hamas does not want you to see those rocket teams. And they're fairly direct about making sure that reporters don't see those things. So there is that.

On the other hand, like I said, in my strange experience with them I've had harder times with Fatah which is ostensibly the more moderate movement in Gaza. I was kidnapped once by Fatah. I've never been kidnapped by Hamas. Maybe that's a low standard of judging who is nice to you, but I think Hamas is fairly sophisticated about this.

But yes, they definitely don't want you to see certain things. They definitely want their story portrayed a certain way.

STELTER: Thank you so much for sharing what you experience day to day as someone who covers these conflicts all the time.

GOLDBERG: Thanks for having me.

STELER: Now, we need to fit in a break here but when we come back, we will switch topics to the other huge story dominating the news this week. That's the crash of MH Flight 17. Hear from one of CNN's journalists who spent time at the crash site and whose first instinct was to fall to his knees and say a prayer there. He'll join me right after this.


STELTER: Welcome back.

The downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was a tragedy in the midst of another tragedy, a plane crash in the middle of what is essentially a war zone, that gruesomeness compounded by anarchy.

And that brought out the best and sometimes the worst in the journalists who were there, who were, and still are, our eyes and ears on the ground.

CNN's "NEW DAY" co-anchor Chris Cuomo was there at the crash site last weekend. So, when he came back to New York, I wanted to ask him about his firsthand experiences both in front of and behind the cameras. Take a look.


STELTER: When I was watching you at the crash site -- this was Saturday morning now, eight days ago -- it stopped me in my tracks when you talked about what you wanted to do when you first arrived. Let's play that clip.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The first thing I felt like doing when I came here was just getting down on my knees and saying a prayer for those who are gone, because they are not getting the dignity that this situation deserves.


STELTER: Rarely, if ever, do we hear that kind of emotion from a reporter on the scene even of something like a plane crash. What was going through your mind?

CUOMO: Well, I think that you have to look at it through the lens of we, because it was not a unique feeling to me. It wasn't a unique instinct or action or behavior. There were a lot of people were there thinking very hard about what was going on, worrying about them.

There was an amazing amount of concern. The CNN teams that were there, when we came upon it, we knew, this is not the way it is supposed to happen, not even about the impetus for what happened there. But that scene from the moment it was created was being abused.

And to see how the dead were being abused and the indignity of it was so obvious, that it was not a unique sensation to me. I don't think you could have done anything else coming upon it, frankly.

STELTER: And I heard you say on air on Thursday, after you were back here in New York, that you thought if the media hadn't been there, that you would have nobody preserving this scene. Do you think the cameras were playing an accountability function?

CUOMO: I believe the cameras were investigative tools before they were reporting tools there. And I could see it in the behavior of the media.

STELTER: You mean before there were actual investigators on site?

CUOMO: There are no investigators on site.

Even now, a week-plus after it, can you fairly say, sure, they're trying to get investigators in, but we don't see an international effort or certainly one by Ukraine, because they can't, and not going to happen with the militia. So, you could watch cameramen and photojournalists taking pictures of things almost just to kind of create a site map, as opposed to what the best transitions and best sequences of photos were.

And, often, the media deserves the criticism of milking situations, no question about it. Not this time.

STELTER: I wonder if you saw once you got back this -- the now viral video of a Sky News reporter ruffling through luggage. Let me give him the benefit of the doubt. Is it the trauma covering a story like that that might lead a reporter to start ruffling around?

CUOMO: I think that -- all right, let's -- to make the case for what the reporter did, going through the luggage and the disrespect for the personal effects was something that we created over time as a metaphor for the indignity of the situation.

In first -- the first glance, your first effort on scene to figure out who was there, I don't know that it would be an unreasonable thing to do.

STELTER: And he did apologize profusely afterwards...

CUOMO: He did. He did.

STELTER: ... for what happened.

You had quite the interview with a Russia Today anchor.


CUOMO: Peter, why are you afraid to hear what I'm saying? I'm not here to fight with you, OK? I just left the crime scene. (CROSSTALK)

PETER LAVELLE, RUSSIA TODAY: I'm not afraid. I would like you to ask the U.S. government to release all of its data from satellites and compare it to the Russian case, see where they match, where they don't match.


CUOMO: They're doing exactly that.

LAVELLE: No, they're not. I don't know what -- you're living in a parallel universe.

CUOMO: Peter...


STELTER: Did you come away thinking that you had achieved anything through that interview?

CUOMO: I -- yes, absolutely.

I think it gave the audience an opportunity to see the propaganda machine at play there. Now, that's not to say that Lavelle wasn't making some points. He was. I have made some of those -- ironically, while he was beating me over the head with this, I push our representatives also to do a real forensic, a real make-the-case thing here.

Don't just say there is overwhelming evidence, oh, it is very clear.

STELTER: You have to show us.

CUOMO: No, go ahead. You have to show because there are many who doubt the U.S. when it comes to intelligence.

However, I had absolutely zero intention, desire or inclination to debate the merits of who did this vs. Russia, Ukraine, the militants. Zero. My precise interest was in insulating the victims from being pawns in that discussion.

All I asked was why didn't Russia condemn the actions of the crime scene, the neglect of the crime scene, the way everybody else has. And he took that as an opportunity to make it into something else.

The scary interview for me wasn't talking to some media guy. That self-appointed prime minister -- CNN has these amazing connects over there. Right? They call me and say to my team, we can get this self-appointed prime minister, who had just released a statement saying that he found the black boxes.

And I didn't even believe him. I said to my producer Victoria Eastwood, who is a phenomenal journalist that we have at CNNI, there's no way this guy is going to do an interview. But he actually did it.

So, we go in there. It is this crazy, dark building. They have all the lights off in the building because they're afraid of security. Spooky, OK? They take you up. The elevator had no light in it.

You get out there. They are these real-deal Russian military guys, not like these militias waving the guns at you all the time. You can tell from the time that we have spent around the American military and the embeds and stuff. These are the real deal, these guys

My interpreter says to me -- he is talking to them in Russian. He says: "They are not from here. We don't speak Russian the way they speak it here."

So you're nervous. The self-appointed prime minister comes in. He's not a happy man. He's angry. He's angry about being challenged and all this. But I felt like -- our producer, our cameraman, our interpreter were all like, listen, we have got to drop the hammer on this guy, because this is the opportunity and the questions have to be asked.

But it is easy to say, if I had had a chance to interview, I would have told him -- when you're looking at all these people who look only too anxious to make that the last trip up the elevator you will ever have. When that mad said to me, I am in charge here, I am the prime minister, this is my area, and he would not say that Russia wasn't helping him, I had never heard anything like that before.

I kept looking over at my producer and looking at the interpreter and saying, you getting this right? Because the guy's telling me, I am the man here.

And then I said, OK, well, they're saying that Russia is training you and giving you stuff. Is that true? All he had to do was say, no, it's not true. Even if it was a lie, that's what he is supposed to say because -- and he says, I'm not going to answer that. You ask them.

The question -- it was over for me at that point.

STELTER: Chris Cuomo, thanks for joining me.

CUOMO: Pleasure.


STELTER: And we did get one piece of good news from Ukraine yesterday.

Anton Skiba, who had been working for CNN as a freelance producer in Eastern Ukraine, was released by the pro-Russian rebels who had been holding him since Tuesday. Very good news.

But there is bad news from Iran, very bad news. A "Washington Post" correspondent and several other journalists are being detained by authorities in Tehran. They have been there for several days. And my next guest has unique insight into what might be going on, because he was arrested in Iran, too, and he was imprisoned for 118 days. His story is astonishing, and you will hear it right after the break.


STELTER: This morning, a "Washington Post" correspondent, Jason Rezaian, is in government custody in Iran. According to "The Post," he is the first American journalist known to have been taken into custody there since 2009.

He was arrested on Tuesday evening, along with his wife, who is a reporter for a newspaper in the United Arab Emirates. Two photojournalists are also apparently being held.

But that's just about all we know. We don't even know the names of the other two. So I checked in this morning with Marty Baron. He's the executive editor of "The Post." And he said he still has not received any information about Rezaian's whereabouts, his condition or even why he was detained in the first place.

In a statement on Friday, he called it mystifying. And he said that statement still holds true. There's nothing more to add at the moment.

There has been a long history, unfortunately, of reporter arrests in Iran. And Maziar Bahari knows that better than anyone. He was a reporter for "Newsweek" magazine in Iran when he was detained in 2009. He was jailed for almost four months.

He wrote a book about his experience that Jon Stewart made into a movie. Remember when Stewart went off last summer for a hiatus and John Oliver filled in? Well, Stewart was away directing this movie. It's called "Rosewater." And it's going to premiere later this year.

Now Bahari lives in Britain. And so I Skyped with him a couple days ago and asked him for his reaction to this week's news.

Here's what he says.


STELTER: Tell me about your experience. You wrote a memoir about your time in prison titled "Then They Came for Me."

And you described how a key piece of what they called evidence used against you was an interview from "The Daily Show." What was that?

MAZIAR BAHARI, IRANIAN JOURNALIST AND FILMMAKER: What they do for -- as soon as you arrive at a prison in Tehran or any other prisons in Iran is they throw charges at you.

First, they throw those charges. And then they try to find the evidence to back it up. So, my charge was that I was spying for the CIA, the Mossad, the MI6, and "Newsweek." And in absence of any evidence to prove that, they showed me an

evidence -- they showed me an appearance in "The Daily Show" where Jason Jones, one of the reporters for "The Daily Show," was saying that he was a spy. So they said you were talking to a spy.

And, unfortunately, I can foresee a situation for Jason, the "Washington Post" reporter who was arrested, to go through the same thing.

STELTER: You mean where they look for some sort of thing they can pretend is evidence and throw it at him?

BAHARI: Unfortunately, yes.

And you have to understand that Jason, in prison, he's going to deal with very ignorant and very paranoid people. These are the people who spend most of the time in very dark and very small rooms insulting and beating people.

STELTER: It's harrowing to hear you describe the guards. And the film that's being made based on your experience is titled "Rosewater." That's because one of the interrogators smelled like rosewater? Is that right?


He didn't -- like many interrogators in the Islamic Republic, I guess he didn't take shower enough, and he was beating people. He was torturing people. He was insulting people. So, he was sweating a lot. So, in order to compensate that, he was using rosewater perfume.

And I rarely saw his face, because, when they take you to prison, they put a blindfold on. You're interrogated while you have that blindfold on. And the only way you can communicate with the person is through sound and smell. So I called him Mr. Rosewater.

STELTER: Interrogated, and also tortured, if I'm understanding correctly. Can you tell us what happened in those instances?

BAHARI: Well, they don't treat you very nicely. They -- there are different tortures. There are -- there is, of course, beatings, slapping, kicking. I'm not sure if...


STELTER: You describe it in a way that makes it sound almost casual. Is that because there were so many days of this kind of treatment?

BAHARI: Well, the thing is that the reason I'm very nonchalant about the beating, the kicking and slapping is that the psychological torture is more unbearable.

I mean, with beating and slapping, it's momentary pain, and it can go away. But psychological torture, the way that they intimidate you, the way that they threaten your family, the way that they isolate you in order to imply different things, and basically instill fear in you, that is much more enduring. And even now, five years after I was arrested, sometimes, I still have nightmares about that experience.

STELTER: The film about your experience, "Rosewater," is going to premiere at a film festival in September, and then roll out across the country.

What do you hope people take away from it? Is there a message you hope is conveyed through it?

BAHARI: I hope that they understand what journalists are going through when they're reporting, how far they have to go in order to gather a report that they see on 6:00 news or in their newspapers or on Web sites.

And I just think that people in the West, especially the U.S., after watching that film, they have to appreciate what they have.

STELTER: I share your point about what journalists go through in these jobs. It doesn't seem like there's ever been a more dangerous time for a journalist in many regions of the world. And that includes Iran.

BAHARI: Exactly.

The more paranoid this regime gets, the more paranoid they become of information itself. They think of information as their main enemy. They think that -- they don't -- they don't regard journalists as a person. They regard journalists as this -- as part of this global phenomenon which is information.

And they know that, the more informed people are, the more endangered the dictatorships become, the authoritarian regimes become. And because of that, they target journalists more.

STELTER: Information as their main enemy, that's an incredible thing to say.

Maziar Bahari, thank you for joining me.

BAHARI: Thank you. Nice to talk to you.


STELTER: I'm awestruck by the way he talks so casually, so nonchalantly about being jailed like that.

The Committee to Protect Journalists says it is a very dangerous time for journalists, as we were talking about. In the first six months of the year, 61 journalists have died around the world. That compares to 40 in the same period last year.

Coming up next here on RELIABLE SOURCES, we're going to take a turn and look at how the partisan press has been reporting Obama vs. Putin. I know it's catnip for cable news, but some of the talking heads seem like they are stuck in the last century. I will show you what I mean with "Red News/Blue News" right after



STELTER: It's time for "Red News/Blue News," my regular feature here on RELIABLE SOURCES where I take a single story and show you how it's warped by partisan media outlets into something almost unrecognizable.

And I have got a doozy for you this week. It's about presidents and world crises in the wake of the downed Malaysia Airlines flight in Eastern Ukraine.

Check out this chart. It's the daily page views for Wikipedia's page about Korean Air Flight 007, normally, a few hundred page views a day, but on July 17, 87,000. That's because Flight 17 was shot down that same day. And people wanted to read about Russia's 1983 shoot- down of Korean Air Flight 007.

Soon, people were talking about it on TV here, too, but in very different ways.

Let's start with bright red news, Steve Doocy and his guest Laura Ingraham on "FOX and Friends."


STEVE DOOCY, FOX NEWS: Reagan was very clear. We know who did it. He was strong. He was muscular. Now we have got...


DOOCY: We got the president yesterday. He said, Putin must be accountable. The burden is on Russia.

Ooh, now they're really shaking in their boots.


STELTER: You see what Doocy is doing there. He's casting President Obama 2014 as the weak, subservient leader, and President Reagan, 1983, as the strong leader that Obama should be.

Now, this is happening all over FOX News in the days following THE MH17 massacre. FOX's Alan Colmes sarcastically referred to Reagan on air as Saint Ronnie. How is that for some blue news?

By then, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow had cast Reagan's response to 007 in a very different light. Check this out.


RACHEL MADDOW, HOST, "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW": President Reagan was on vacation when the shoot-down happened. He initially wanted to stay on vacation. And the White House initially said that he would stay on vacation, but then four days after it happened, President Reagan was back in Washington and delivering this sternly worded address to the nation. He said what the Soviets had done was monstrous.


STELTER: It's almost like we're talking about two entirely different topics here.

But the red team was ready with the response. You say, four days, we say -- well, here, watch. Here's Republican pollster Chris Wilson on FOX.


CHRIS WILSON, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER: When this happened with Reagan, it took four days. And you have got to remember how slowly information traveled back in the early 1980s. But it took four days. And he called. He said, Russia, we are not going to stand for this.


STELTER: But, wait, the blue team has a comeback to that.

Here's MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell.


LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC: And then there's this Republican kind of dream going on of, oh, geez, if Ronald Reagan was in there, this would be so different.

And the difference might be that there would be no Russian sanctions, no additional Russian sanctions. He never imposed any additional sanctions on the Soviet Union for anything that they did.


STELTER: I could go on and on about this. It's debate by remote control, flipping back and forth between channels.

But I will spare you. It's no wonder so many people were checking out that Wikipedia page, looking for a more neutral source.

What stood out to me the most, though, in all this Reagan talk was this discussion on FOX News. See what Susan Estrich says right here.


SUSAN ESTRICH, FOX NEWS: I'm not happy. I don't know anybody who is happy with what we're seeing now.

But I think simply saying he needs to be stronger, you have got to back strength. Reagan was dealing with a very different time. He had a -- we knew who the enemy was. It was the Soviet Union. It was the Cold War.

Not to take any credit away from him, but the problems Obama faces are so different, and in some ways more complicated.


STELTER: Let's rewind that tape just a few seconds and look at the screen. The screen is all filled up on FOX News.

The banners scream, White House foreign policy dilemma and world crises pile up, and the box on the right side has all these scary statistics. And the ticker at the bottom is about a U.S. drone strike.

Susan Estrich is right. Ronald Reagan was dealing with a very different time. For one thing, it was a time before modern cable news and a time before the Internet. As MSNBC's Chuck Todd said on Twitter this week, it's not that the world is necessarily more unstable now. It's that we see and hear more of the global chaos in real time.

And if we want to, we can see it through red-colored glasses or blue-colored glasses. But I think we're better off when we take the glasses off, at least for a little while.

That's all for "Red News/Blue News" this week.

And that's all for this televised edition of RELIABLE SOURCES. But our media coverage continues all the time on

Check out our stories about Rupert Murdoch's interest in buying Time Warner, the parent of CNN, and a great conversation we're putting online about whether the Obama administration really is the most transparent in history. Many journalists say it's not.

Set your DVR for next week, Sunday at 11:00 a.m. Eastern time. And we will see you right back here then.