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Police Target Reporters in Ferguson Violence; Why Was Al Sharpton in Ferguson?; Gregory Gone But "Meet the Press" Still Has Problems

Aired August 17, 2014 - 11:00   ET


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

It's been a very Sunday already, with new arrests overnight in Ferguson, Missouri, after a small number of protesters defied a midnight curfew. State Highway Patrol Ron Johnson said he was disappointed and so were the community leaders who had tried to get some people to go home.

The aftermath of Michael Brown's death is a complex story, no doubt. It is about race, justice, civil disobedience and freedom to protest.

And the media is right in the middle of it all. Several times this week, it seemed as if the authorities were targeting reporters. Now, that's something we might be used to seeing overseas but right in the suburbs of St. Louis? Even President Obama addressed it earlier this week.

And again, early this morning, during the curfew, some reporters said they were threatened with arrests. So, in a moment, I'll talk with an Al Jazeera correspondent about what it was like to be tear- gassed in the middle of all this.

But, first, let's go live to Ferguson, to Ryan Reilly, a reporter for "The Huffington Post".

Yesterday, "Politico" said Reilly has become a local celebrity in Ferguson, that's because he was roughed up by police and arrested on Wednesday, while he was inside a McDonald's writing a story. Of course, that's raised a lot of questions about police intimidation of reporters there.

So, Ryan, I want to get to your arrest in a moment, but first, tell me what you witnessed overnight? How were reporters like you treated during the curfew?


So, the interesting thing was this was the first night where there was a press area where we were allowed to remain stationed throughout the night. And, basically, we were behind the police instead of within the crowd with the protesters. But, unfortunately, that location was actually located away from a lot of the clashes that we were trying to cover.

A number of reporters who did manage to make it down towards their clashes didn't have any issues and were actually later mingling with some of the officers further down and were allowed to report from there. But all of us who were working from within sort of I guess the press tent there were threatened with arrests if we left that area. And, you know, we were being pretty closely watched to make sure we weren't leaving that vicinity.

STELTER: You posted some pictures on Twitter this morning that I want to show on the screen -- a more positive side of the story: community members cleaning up after what happened last night.

But I've also seen some reporters say that protesters at different moments have threatened them. What have you experienced? Is that true?

REILLY: Absolutely. Very early on in the night yesterday, we were threatened outside of the McDonald's, actually, again by some of the people who were gathered there, who I guess were going to cause some issues later in the night, essentially, they were saying that -- .

STELTER: So, they don't want to be seen on camera? They don't want to be shown?

REILLY: Correct. Yes. If things got crazy, they said -- and we started taking pictures, we could become targets, too.

STELTER: You and Wesley Lowery of "The Washington Post" were arrested on Wednesday, and released 45 minutes later, never charged with anything. Have you figured out the names of the arresting officers yet? Because you said on Wednesday that they wouldn't tell you their names.

REILLY: Absolutely not. I've encountered one of the individuals who works with the Ferguson Police Department two separate times since then. And in front of other officers again requested his name, taken photos of him up close, obviously, when I was surrounded with a lot of other media so there weren't an issue of me being arrested again.

But I haven't seen the county officer who was the one who actually slammed my head into the door on the way out and was the worst physically abusive. I asked that I guess the sheriffs last night to identify him by showing the photo I had and he declined to do so and just sent me to internal affairs. So, we'll see. We're not sure where the process is going to go to next, but we hope to identify who that officer was.

STELTER: What was it like for you to hear President Obama the next day talk about police should not be bullying or arresting reporters?

REILLY: It was a very strange experience. And I think, overall, that they'd just been a weird place to be in. It's not a place that I'm used to being as a reporter, and not what I came here down here to do --

STELTER: You don't want to be the story yourself. Yes.

REILLY: Right. I don't.

I want to be -- last night was really refreshing, to be able to actually report on what was happening to other people and, you know, interview people this morning on the streets, but it's also interesting because it's a different sort of dynamic, because often when I am interviewing people they recognize me for what happened and they say, oh, you're that reporter. It's added a different interaction with people I'm reporting that I have in the past. And perhaps, it's opened people up to speaking to me who maybe wouldn't be comfortable speaking with me in the past.

STELTER: That's a really interesting point. You know, of course, some people have criticized you including MSNBC's Joe Scarborough that you set yourself up to get arrested and to get attention and to get on TV. So, what is your response to that?

REILLY: Yes, I mean, I think there was a lot of armchair critics here. It was kind of disappointing to see that coming from within the journalistic community. I think, from what I heard Joe Scarborough sort of I think apologized the next day because I posted a photo that I had taken with him probably a decade when I was in high school --


REILLY: -- you know, saying that I thought we were cool. But, you know, it was sort of disappointing to see that come from within the journalistic community overall. You would think that people would be willing to stand by other journalists and not sort of second guess their actions.

Any journalist who was in that situation, any good journalist who was in that situation, the exact same thing would have happened to them. I'm 100 percent sure of that. I didn't -- we did nothing wrong in that circumstance. We were allowed to record. We were obeying officer's commands and trying to get out of the restaurant as quickly as possible while still documenting the sort of extraordinary measures that they were taking and the attitude they had towards the customers in that McDonald's.

STELTER: And we should say, reporters and citizens have the right to record police.

Ryan Reilly, thank you for joining me.

REILLY: Thanks so much for having me.

STELTER: The same night that Ryan was arrested, an Al Jazeera American camera crew found themselves on the receiving end of rubber bullets. Take a look at this video. One of the people you see running

from the camera is correspondent Ash-Har Quraishi. He used to work here at CNN, and now, he's based in Chicago bureau for al Jazeera.

Earlier, I asked him what was going through his head when this tear gas erupted around him?


ASH-HAR QURAISHI, AL JAZEERA AMERICA: Well, you know, the first thing we thought was we were standing in a position that we were told was safe. It was a safe distance about a mile from the epicenter of the protests.

So, there were police officers a half a block from us. And we basically were told we would be safe. That's as far as we can get. So, the assumption that nobody would be shooting tear gas canisters at us, let alone rubber bullets.

So, we were taken completely by surprise when it happened.

STELTER: Have you experienced anything like this before either here in the United States or elsewhere?

QURAISHI: Not here in the United States. I mean, I've covered protests, for example, overseas in Pakistan when I worked for CNN a number of years ago. But, you know, in a place like that you would expect -- in the times that we were covering the news there, that you weren't hit (ph) just because you were a journalist, and that was one of the things that we felt, for the first time here at least on Wednesday, which was this indiscriminate sort of treatment of not only the protesters, but the journalists themselves.

The fact of the matter is, when it comes to what happened to our crew, you could see, what you heard later was that they were firing canisters into crowds dispersing them. But clearly in the video, Brian, there were no crowds around us when they shot at us. There were lights, there was a camera. We could clearly see them. We can't understand how they could possibly say they could not clearly see us.

STELTER: So, was it intentional? Do you feel you were targeted?

QURAISHI: I do. I do feel like we were targeted because after we were treated back, there was a crowd that did go towards our camera equipment and that was caught on camera. They hovered around our equipment. There were a number of people there. No rubber bulge lets were fired at them or canisters were fired at them either.

And later on, the police that were involved in this basically said they were helping us out by getting us out of there. You know, I find that a little bit insulting. It sounds like, you know, somebody sucker punches you in a bar and hands you a stick and kicks you out the door. That's not helping you.

So, it felt very much like we were being targeted essentially since we put our hands up, we screamed at the top of our lungs, "We're press", and it still continued the way it was.

STELTER: Al Jazeera's bosses have said this has a chilling effect or at least it was intended to have a chilling effect on the press. Has it? Have you changed what you've been doing there at all in the day since?

QURAISHI: I think it had an immediate chilling effect, but I think that's changed and I think it's brought a lot of attention to what's going on here in Ferguson as all of these journalists, the ones that were arrested, and the ones that were caught up in the tear gas on Wednesday night, have been covering this.

And really, the fact of the matter is that we're here to tell the story of what's going on in this town. And to be treated in a way that tries to put some intimidation into the way we cover this, there's been much talk about this militarization of the police in this area. And it very much look like that. You saw these MRAPs, you saw these armored vehicles, you saw SWAT teams, you saw people in riot gear, police in riot gear.

And they literally were facing off with these demonstrators. That was not the case Thursday night. There was not a police officer in sight. We saw police come in but they were in SUVs and they were later able to leave without incident.

So, it was very different. And that clearly had an effect on how the night proceeded Thursday.

STELTER: Ash-Har, thank you so much for sharing your story with us.

QURAISHI: Thank you, Brian.


STELTER: And we do have this breaking news this morning. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder just authorizing a second autopsy to be done on the body of Michael Brown at the request of his family. We still don't know the details of what was in the first autopsy, but now, there will be a second.

We are just getting started this morning.

Coming up: we have more on the protests and the participation of a certain cable news anchor. I think you know the one I'm talking about, Al Sharpton. We'll have a debate on his role, right after this.


STELTER: Welcome back.

And now, let's take a look at the "Red News, Blue News" from the ongoing protests in Ferguson.

As you know, FOX News is red news. And just this week, all week in fact not a day went by without complaints on FOX about this man, Al Sharpton. He is the president of the National Action Network but he doubles as a blue news anchor, the 6:00 p.m. anchor on MSNBC.

And he flew to Ferguson this week to support the Brown family and to anchor his show there. He has dual roles. He's back today holding a rally this afternoon, which MSNBC is going to have live coverage of.

Now, Sharpton's fans say he's a civil rights leader. But his detractors -- well, they wish he would just go away.


ERIC BOLLING, FOX NEWS: Regarding the Al Sharpton, how about for once he just stays out of it? You know, why do we need him to condemn it or say go for it? Why doesn't he just stay out? His presence alone is --

BOB BECKEL, FOX NEWS: That's like asking the rabid dog to stay away from hamburger. It ain't going to happen.


STELTER: Rabid dog? Come on, Beckel?

Well, here's the media question here about Sharpton. He's always been an activist. So, should he also anchor a show?

Let me ask Marc Lamont Hill of "Huffington Post Live" host and a CNN commentator. And Crystal Wright, editor of the blog,

Crystal, do you think it's appropriate that Al Sharpton has this platform every night on MSNBC?

CRYSTAL WRIGHT, CONSERVATIVEBLACKCHICK.COM: No. I think Al Sharpton -- I don't even consider Al Sharpton an activist? I consider him more of an instigator of race wars and racial tensions in America. He's been doing this for the last 30-plus years. He did this with Tawana Brawley way back in the '80s. This is what he does.

But the crazy thing about it is, MSNBC has now given him a show and he tries to, you know, come off as an objective journalist and he's anything but. As you mentioned, Brian --

STELTER: Do you think he comes off as a journalist? I don't think he would say he's a journalist.

WRIGHT: Well, why should he have a show -- oh, I don't think he should be called a journalist. I don't think he should be called a civil rights advocate. He hasn't advocated for peace and justice in over three decades, Brian.

MARC LAMONT HILL, CNN COMMENTATOR: A couple of things here. First, Al Sharpton is -- whether we like him or not, and I happen to like him -- but whether we like him or not, he's certainly an activist. That's what he does. Any definition of activist he fits whether you like his level or type of activism is a different conversation.

Al Sharpton would not also argue that he is an objective journalist. I don't think it's unfair to say that he is somehow failing to live up to a standard of journalism. Al Sharpton is a commentator. Al Sharpton is no different than Sean Hannity. He's no different than Glenn Beck was. He's no different than many pundits who had TV shows --

STELTER: This is the brave new world we live in where cable news shows are sometimes hosted by people who are involved in the stories they're covering.

But I understand why that makes people uncomfortable, Marc.

HILL: I don't think anyone in America thinks that Al Sharpton is trying to tow the line here, that he's trying to play the middle. There's not a person in America who doesn't think that Al Sharpton leans left and deals with the issues of race.

And I think at times that work is necessary because when you talk about Trayvon Martin, that story took months before it hit the national scene. It only hit the national scene because of activists, because of people who wanted to put a spotlight on it.

STELTER: Yes, some journalists were covering it before al Sharpton arrived, even some here at CNN. But Sharpton's presence in Florida for the Trayvon Martin case did put a national spotlight on it.

And, by the way, MSNBC, I talked to a person there who said in some cases, he has brought more attention to issues that we should be covering, for example, voting rights issues.

HILL: Exactly.

STELTER: Let me pull the up a quick statement from the president of MSNBC, Phil Griffin, when I reached out for comment. He said, "Al Sharpton is both the president of the National Action Network and a host on MSNBC. We've always been transparent about the dual roles and his work outside of MSNBC."

HILL: Seems reasonable to me.

WRIGHT: Well, Sean Hannity is not professing to be some kind of activist. And you are right, Marc, journalism today is very much about an opinion, and Al Sharpton certainly has a lot of opinion. But it's not helpful when he jumps the gun like he did in Trayvon Martin's case. You all talk about putting a spotlight on Trayvon Martin's death.

STELTER: Media images are so important here and it strikes me that the difference sometimes, what we see in traditional media, like in cable news, and what we see in social media, there was a real uprising of post pictures on Twitter under #iftheygunnedmedown.

Marc, tell me what that was all about. HILL: #iftheygunnedmedown and campaign was really something that

organically grew out of social media and I thought it was powerful. And it was speaking back to the way that black victims are often represented in cases like this.

With Trayvon Martin, some people were desperate to put Trayvon on a horse, others were desperate to make him look like a thug. And oftentimes, the way that will represent it in those images shapes how the public responds to us and even how cases are investigated. So, many people in social media, particularly young black men and women, show two different images on the screen -- one of them looking dignified and respectable, others looking in ways that the media might turn an eye toward.

And it really showed the disparity in how images can represent. But it also spoke to the very real chilling possibility that many young black men and women could be gunned down on the street. The fact that we're having a conversation of how we'd be represented if they gunned us down speaks to a very, very stark reality in the nation.

STELTER: Crystal, did you feel the same way Marc did when you saw this movement online?

WRIGHT: Yes. And I agree with Marc. I think that as a black woman and Marc, a black man, we were younger once. I don't want to speak for Marc.

HILL: I'm still young.

WRIGHT: Right. Me, too.

I know I have two brothers. I know what it -- I know from their experiences when they were driving as teenagers at night in the South being afraid of being pulled over by police officers. My parents warning them when they were out at parties in urban environments to behave a certain way when a police officer approached them.

So, look, this is real and Marc is right. There are peaceful protests going on in Ferguson. I have a problem with the militarization of the police and the message that sends how police feel about black Americans. Sure, I guess at the end of the day, I think we all should be able to have the kind of conversation Marc and I are having and we're having with you, Brian. And we need to diffuse the racial tensions.

And as I believe Michael Brown's mother said, guys, stop the violence. My son is dead tragically. He was about to go to college. She wants , you know, some kind of conclusion to this awful tragedy, as we all do.

And I just not -- at the end of the day, I don't think it's helpful when we rush to judgment whether it's Trayvon Martin, whether it's Michael Brown. It doesn't really help any of us at the end of the day. STELTER: I'm glad you brought up the heavy handed nature of the

police response. I think in many ways photos from Twitter and Facebook are what led the national media to pay attention to that.

HILL: Yes.

STELTER: And I think we need both. We need anchors telling people for example on air that nonlethal force was used. But we also need to see the bloody photos of what happens when non-lethal force is used.


STELTER: We need to see the bloody photos that we saw from people who were hit by those rubber bullets. So, I think it's important we see both versions of that.

HILL: Yes. I think --


HILL: My only concern is that, you know, sometimes we preach calm and even the president over the last few days has preached calm both in a statement from the White House and also in the brief presser he gave from Martha's Vineyard.

My concern with that is it sends a message that if we just remain calm and allowed due process to take its course, everything will happen the way it's supposed to. But the truth is, if we remain calm, if we don't put a spotlight on this, we don't create the media spectacle, and quite honestly, sometimes if we don't have demonstrative protests, not violence, but demonstrative protests, then nothing ever happens.

In fact, I'm not sure -- I mean, Crystal mentioned Chicago. Chicago happens -- killings happen every single weekend. I'm in Chicago and quite frankly, I've been there with Al Sharpton several times protesting black on black violence. It doesn't make the headlines. It doesn't -- it's not a sexy enough story. It's only sexy if somebody is dead from a white cop or someone's caught on tape.

We may be using spectacle in different terms. When I say spectacle, I mean it in a more technical term of actually having a huge media attraction drawn to it.

STELTER: Something to cover.

HILL: Exactly.

WRIGHT: Right, I agree with you on that.

HILL: Because that's what does it, you know? You know, roaches do whatever they want in your house until you put the light on. I'm talking about flicking the light on so that people can respond.

That's what these marches are. That's what these sit-ins are. If we have a crawl on the screen saying black kid killed by cop, nothing happens. It's only when we have a demonstration, what I'm calling a spectacle, that we get to come to the results we desire.

STELTER: I've never heard that roach line before, I like it. I think we'll end there.

Marc Lamont Hill and Crystal, thank you both for joining me.

HILL: Pleasure.

WRIGHT: Thanks.

STELTER: And up next, huge news at NBC this week. This morning on "Meet the Press", they paid tribute to David Gregory. He was removed from the show just a few days ago, didn't even get to say good-bye.

So, what's the future hold for Sunday morning talk shows? Stay tuned.


STELTER: "Meet the Press" has been around since 1947. It is the longest running show on all of television, a "who's who" of politics.

And NBC takes that legacy very seriously, which is why what's happening right now is kind of baffling. The network is replacing David Gregory with Chuck Todd after months of nasty stories about Gregory in the press. No surprise, of course, a show about Beltway politics is fraught with backstage politics.

Here's the thing about it: Gregory followed the most famous moderator in "Meet the Press" history, Tim Russert. He sat in the chair for 16 years. With Russert, the show was pretty reliably number one in the ratings.

But Russert died in 2008. Gregory took over and "Meet the Press" is now number three.

So, NBC can point to the ratings as the reason for making the change, but it's been done in an ugly way. Gregory isn't just leaving the show. He's leaving the network without even saying good-bye on the air.

So, to discuss this and the future of Sunday morning public affairs program, let me bring in Frank Sesno, the director of G.W. University School of Media and Public Affairs and a former Washington bureau chief here at CNN.

And Jay Rosen, journalism professor at New York University.

Thank you both for being here.

FRANK SESNO, DIR., G.W. UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDIA AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS: Thank you. STELTER: Frank, what do you make of the way this has happened?

We've been talking for months about whether Gregory was going to keep his job and now, all of a sudden, he's leaving the network.

SESNO: It's ugly. It's the dark underside of television. It's the guillotine brought into broadcasting and it's a bad way for Gregory to have to leave.

The fact of the matter is, that by any measure in the television world, his tenure was not a success. The ratings sank. Was it his fault? Hard to say.

Was it the X-factor that producers sometimes like to talk about, that mysterious chemistry between host and audience? Maybe.

But this is -- this is, as you say, the backstage politics of the program about --


Are you a believer that the format itself is still alive and well?


STELTER: Is there a point to the Sunday morning political talk shows?

SESNO: Yes. Absolutely, a vital point to it. People are fascinated by people. People are fascinated by politics.

This is a niche program. It always has been. It fills a vital role for the networks to plant their flag in the public affairs domain.

People in public life go to these shows, to set an agenda, to take on a debate, to handle controversy. It should be the place where that's rung out of them, and it can be and should be riveting for people who are interested in it.

STELTER: Jay, I know you disagree. I know you think these shows are broken.

Tell me why.

JAY ROSEN, JOURNALISM PROFESSOR, NYU: Well, I think they're still important, but they're broken for a number of different reasons. One of the most important ones is that as the partisan divide has gotten worse, partisan argument concerning not only policy and politics but facts themselves. Often, there is no common set of facts on which the players can disagree and one of Gregory's problems is that he was unable to adjust to that.

I think these shows are an important instrument of accountability, but they've drifted out of touch with the audience. People who are interested in politics now have a lot more information available to them. They also expect more interaction with their journalists than they did in the past, and that's not something that David Gregory was very good at.

I also think, Brian, that he showed a very strange sort of almost fatal lack of self-awareness in that he was unable to make sense of any of the criticism of him. He was also in a large way unable to persuade the audience that he was on their side when he interviewed politicians, and I think that's one of the reasons that he had such low ratings, and also a lot of hostility coming at him and very few fans.

SESNO: I think that what you just said, Jay, is absolutely right in terms of the changed nature of the show. But that's a format issue. That's not a program issue.

So, journalism needs to be, media needs to be more of a conversation with the audience. I think you're absolutely right.

The host needs to be the surrogate for the audience, but also listening to and connected with the audience. This business about facts and that Washington is so messed up and so broken, that actually argues for why these programs should be more relevant, a place to hold people's feet to the fire even better, and closer, and hotter, which is why the role of the host is so important, and I think where Chuck is going to excel.

ROSEN: I think one of the big problems with these shows -- and "Meet the Press" in particular -- is that "Meet the Press" kind of became greet the talking points.

And I don't think David Gregory ever realized that problem. He certainly didn't have the wit to solve it. And if you're number one in a declining format, you're OK. If you're number three in a declining format, you're not.

SESNO: This is why the host has to stay, hang on a second, you know, Senator Windbag.


SESNO: Before you go any farther with that, we have heard that a hundred times before. We have done our research. And here's why that didn't work. Or here's what you said six weeks ago. Or here's the problem with your proposal.

Tim Russert was very, very good with that. I have done Sunday talk shows. I did it with this network for seven years. You know that what you're getting is guests coming in to set the agenda. That means, by definition, they're coming in to present their talking points.

STELTER: Isn't this partly, Frank, about insider vs. outsider journalism? If you're producing the "Meet the Press" to appeal to the so-called gang of 500 that care and dictate politics in this city, then you are going to get a very different show than it is -- would be one for outsiders. SESNO: That's right.

And, sometimes, what the danger with these shows is that you're trying to make news. And in trying to make news, it's that little incremental nothingness really that is going to maybe drive a headline, but is not of interest to people outside the Beltway.

People around the country, around the world, and the -- exactly what Jay is saying -- what they want to hear and should hear on a Sunday morning is, wait a minute, where do you get all that? How do you propose to make that work? It's not and it mustn't be a talking points show. Otherwise, it should be called, you know, meet the talking points.

STELTER: Right. Right.

ROSEN: But, Brian, there's a difference between the 500 or 1,000 people in Washington who are the movers and shakers, and the smaller segment of the big audience that is interested in politics.

Those are two different things. And "Meet the Press" and as well as the other Sunday shows sometimes seem to be about those 500 people, not the hard-core audience for politics which exists around the country.

STELTER: Well, Chuck Todd will start on "Meet the Press" on September 7.

Jay, are you optimistic that he can improve what you see as the flaws on the program?

ROSEN: Well, Chuck Todd is much better at social media. He's much more interactive. He's much more tuned in to that larger class of people who are interested in politics that I talked about.

On the other hand, he's completely a creature of the game. And he loves the inside game. And I think the problem with these shows is, they are too wound up in that inside game. So it's going to be a challenge for Chuck to adjust to that.

I think one more thing we should add here is that there is a very strong sense in the country that Washington is broken, the political class has failed. We can't even get on the same page about what the problem is, let alone solve the problem. And I think it would be wise for Chuck Todd to see himself and his colleagues, Washington journalists, as part of the class that has screwed up politics.

And maybe, in taking over "Meet the Press," he can begin to address some of how that happened.

STELTER: What an interesting thought for us to end it on. Jay Rosen and Frank Sesno, thank you both for joining me.

SESNO: Thank you.

STELTER: And now it's time for a quick break here. When we come back, we're turning from network television to

cable. We're going to talk about this:


DR. KEITH ABLOW, PSYCHIATRIST: How well could she be eating? She needs to drop a few.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You did not say that.



STELTER: Oh, yes. I'm going to ask a respected doctor what she thinks about that on-air diagnosis right after this.


STELTER: Welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES. I'm Brian Stelter.

I'm a media reporter, so I watch FOX News every day. And I learn a lot about conservative politics from FOX. But may I strongly suggest that you not take its medical advice? FOX has what it calls a medical A-team.

And one of the members is Dr. Keith Ablow. He's a psychiatrist and he was on the FOX show "Outnumbered" earlier this week, part of the group that was complaining about Michelle Obama's campaign to make school lunches healthier.

Ablow took it a step further. Ablow challenged her credibility by suggesting she weighs too much.


ABLOW: How well could she be eating? She needs to drop a few.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You did not say that.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my goodness. Are we on a seven-second delay or not?


ABLOW: I want nutrition advice from...

(CROSSTALK) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Michelle Obama, she needs to lose the junk

in the trunk.

ABLOW: Well, no, let's be honest. There's no french fries happening? That's all kale and carrots? I don't buy it.


STELTER: Speaking as a guy who was overweight growing up and who lost 90 pounds a few years ago, I think we need all the help we can get to reduce obesity, so I really wish talking heads would not controversialize something as simple as nutrition advice.

But let's hone in on Ablow right here. This is far from the last time he's said something outrageous. In 2012, he implied that Vice President Joe Biden might have dementia and also suggested that year that Newt Gingrich's three marriages meant he might be a strong president.

We're not going to do any diagnosing of Ablow here, but I do want to bring in Dr. Gail Saltz, a psychiatrist specializing in mental health.

Gail, what responsibility do you think TV doctors have when it comes to talking about the health of others?

DR. GAIL SALTZ, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF PSYCHIATRY, THE NEW YORK PRESBYTERIAN HOSPITAL AT WEILL-CORNELL SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: I would argue a huge responsibility, that when you carry the label of M.D. -- and actually a psychiatrist is an M.D. -- they're an M.D. of the brain, of the mind for mental illness -- you're putting forth the idea that you are going to act with integrity, you are going to go by, frankly, American psychiatric guidelines, which is not to diagnose someone that you have ever met, not to label someone with dementia with no evidence of such, and not to -- and basically to follow the Hippocratic oath, which is first do no harm.

So to be criticizing people kind of willy-nilly is -- I don't think meets the Hippocratic oath. And it undermines the way the public sees mental health professionals, which is what concerns me the most, because, you know, especially what's gone on this week with Robin Williams, and the concern that people don't get treatment because of stigma, because of discomfort, because wondering if they can go in and trust a mental health professional, it's really important that anyone who presents themselves as such in the media really follows those guidelines and people feel that they can trust them, not that they will be criticized.

STELTER: Medical experts are some of the most influential people on television. And I wonder if in some cases, there's this urge to be entertaining, to be provocative, to be outrageous. Have you ever felt that?

SALTZ: I would say I have felt that, because, let's face it, people want -- media wants eyeballs. Producers, viewers, and so on respond so much to that provocativeness. But I would say that I try very hard every day to resist that, to

say, you know, the most important thing is, I'm a physician. I'm a psychiatrist. People are looking to me to educate, to inform about problems, about treatment, to have science be the backup for what I'm saying.

And if I want to speak about opinion -- I think if any professional wants to express their opinion that has nothing to do with medicine, they have to carefully take off their doctor hat and make it clear that they're doing so.

STELTER: I don't want to take Ablow's bait about Michelle Obama, but is it fair to say that you can have a physician who's a little bit overweight or have a psychiatrist who has his or her own mental health problems and still be effectively treated by that person, in other words, that person can still give great advice?

I ask because one of the people that helped me most when I was losing weight was someone who was overweight as well.

SALTZ: So, absolutely.

The bottom line is that many actually mental health professionals are drawn to the field because they have struggles with mental health problems themselves. And, obviously, as long as they're not ill, as long as they have been treated, they not only can be wonderful clinicians, and we all know this in the field, but they can have a particular empathy.

As you're pointing out, somebody who has struggled with their own weight can have a particular empathy that can be different and extremely helpful.

STELTER: Absolutely.

SALTZ: I also would say, honestly, I have no idea what that's about. We have talked about Michelle Obama's fantastic arms and biceps for years now and how incredibly fit and attractive she is, so I don't even know what that's about.

But it is important to know that many people who have struggled with weight are some of the best actually nutritionalists and fitness people out there.

STELTER: Gail Saltz, thank you so much for joining me.

SALTZ: My pleasure, Brian.

STELTER: And up next here on RELIABLE SOURCES, you have seen the extraordinary images from Iraq this week of a risky supply and rescue mission on Mount Sinjar. Now hear from the reporter and the man behind the camera. They're going to join me together right after this.


STELTER: Welcome back.

For weeks now, the news media has been telling the desperate story of the minority Yazidi community in Iraq. It looked for a period of days at least as though thousands might die atop Mount Sinjar there.

The story has mostly been told from afar. But at a crucial moment this week, CNN's Ivan Watson was able to board a helicopter on a relief and rescue mission with the Iraqi air force. And the result was some of the most extraordinary video we have ever seen from a conflict zone.

I don't really need to say more about it. Just take a look.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): More desperate people throw themselves at the aircraft, heaving their children on board. It's first come, first served.

There were some who couldn't make it. Aboard the aircraft, shock, exhaustion, fear that eventually gives way to relief.

The gunners are opening firing on targets below. They're protecting the helicopter, but it's terrifying these little kids who are traumatized after their weeks trapped on that mountain.

The problem is, we're flying over ISIS front lines. This is the only protection we have right now to protect the aircraft and its precious cargo.


STELTER: That is quite literally courage under fire.

Ivan Watson joins me now, along with the photojournalist who shot that amazing video, Mark Phillips.

And, Ivan, tell me first, how did you stay calm?

WATSON: I was terrified, Brian.

I mean, I was really scared. I sent a note to my girlfriend to pass on to my family when we were taking off, just in case. And so, yes, I was -- mark my words, I was pretty frightened.

STELTER: Mark, were you terrified as well? We don't hear as often people from behind the camera. So, I'm curious what that experience is when you're trying to get the shot, but you're in the middle of this chaos.

MARK PHILLIPS, CNN PHOTOJOURNALIST: I more or less concentrate on what I'm doing, and that takes away the fear factor, looking, making sure the camera's rolling, making sure everything is working on the camera, making sure where Ivan is, make sure he's around, and getting the shots. I'm actually counting in my head how many shots I have, am I

holding the shots long enough, and what's next, and trying to just put myself in a position where I can get the next sequence. But it's when I get back to a hotel where we're staying, and then you look at the pictures and you realize how sometimes scary and how close you are.

And I think that's helpful. You divorce yourself from the emotion of it, so you can get your shots, because if you didn't, I think you probably break down and cry and be useless.

STELTER: And, Ivan, I noticed you were posting pictures to Twitter as well. Those were from your cell phone camera, right?

WATSON: Right.

I mean, I try to document when I can what's going on. And I think I have perhaps picked up a little trick from amazing cameramen like Mark that doing something like that, not only can I then share images as well afterwards, but it also does help me focus and shield myself from what's going on, and not -- not be thinking about or -- or worrying about the possibility that the fighters below might have surface-to-air missiles that could shoot our helicopter out of the sky.

STELTER: In fact, one day later, there was a helicopter crash, apparently a mechanical problem of some sort, and a "New York Times" reporter was among those injured. Alissa Rubin is now receiving medical care.

When you heard about her injuries and the crash of that helicopter, how did you two react?

PHILLIPS: Took a deep breath.


PHILLIPS: And just thought we're lucky that we weren't on it.

There was talk about going back the following day. But we decided we had enough of -- we had a good story and there were other stories to move on to. So, we passed on that opportunity. So, that was wise maybe on us, or just lucky.

WATSON: And it's sad -- it's a sad development because, Brian, we had met the -- briefly the Iraqi pilot who was killed flying that helicopter.

And I think that guy's a hero, because they were literally saving lives. I have a colleague and friend, Moises Saman. He is a photographer on assignment for "TIME" magazine. He's a veteran photographer. And if you can imagine, he went down on that helicopter and still managed to shoot spectacular and riveting photos in the immediate aftermath of that accident.

STELTER: Both of you have been in other conflict zones as well. And I wonder, Mark, how do you deal with any feelings of guilt that might come up later?

There you are part of a mission to deliver supplies and rescue a small number of people, but there were so many others left. Does guilt ever come into play?

PHILLIPS: I think there's always -- you can't save everybody.

That has kind of weighed on me for years. I did Rwanda and Bosnia and all the other places. And you just can't save everybody. But you can save a couple. And I know it's not right to save those lucky few, and you feel you should go back. But that's the way life is. And, unfortunately, those get left behind.

What about you, Ivan? How do you feel?

WATSON: Yes, I mean, it feels terrible that not everybody could get on these aircraft.

And just, you know, day-to-day covering this situation, there -- people out here who just make you want to break down and cry and wave your hands up in the air with helplessness, because there's so much suffering going on. And you just you just really, really feel powerless, Brian.

STELTER: Ivan Watson and Mark Phillips, thank you both for joining me.

PHILLIPS: Thank you.

WATSON: Thank you, Brian.

STELTER: Let me close with the words of Al Tompkins. He's a senior faculty member at the Poynter Institute who wrote exactly what I feel about Ivan and Alissa Rubin.

And he wrote this: "The photojournalists, the translators, the fixers who make their reporting possible, all of them awe me with their talent and make me grateful for their dedication to find truth and report it."

We will be right back.


STELTER: And before I go this morning, did you see this magazine cover earlier this week?

This is "Wired" magazine with NSA leaker Edward Snowden on the cover protectively clutching the American flag. This provoked a wide range of reactions. And, personally, I wonder if it was his first big P.R. blunder.

Snowden and his advisers have been very careful and very sophisticated about their P.R. ever since he decided to leave the country with all of those NSA documents. They have chosen when he speaks and how he speaks. And they have always tried to put the focus on the documents and on the revelations about NSA mass surveillance, not on Snowden.

But this picture seems to change that. This picture really fired up a lot of people this week. And I wonder if it actually hurt his cause, rather than helped it. Snowden's focused on reforms to NSA mass surveillance programs. But I think some of that got lost in all the attention about that cover photo.

You can read my column about that on

And that's all for this televised edition of RELIABLE SOURCES. But, as I just mentioned, our media coverage continues seven days a week on

We will see you right back here next week, Sunday, at 11:00 Eastern time. And if you can't join us live, make sure you set your DVR.