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Public Feverishly Consumes Ebola Coverage; Ebola Doctor: Sinner or Saint?; Dysfunctional Relationship: Obama Vs. The Media

Aired October 26, 2014 - 11:00   ET


BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST: Good morning. I'm Brian Stelter. It's Sunday, October 26th.

And it's time for RELIABLE SOURCES.

An Ebola case comes to New York. Why the media can't seem to decide if the infected doctor is a saint or a sinner.

And a deadly shooting in Canada, and a hatchet attack against policemen here in New York. The newsroom whispers about both that many don't want to admit to.

And later, Monica Lewinsky is back. What is it like when the press destroys your life? Donna Rice knows all too well, and she's here to tell me.


STELTER: By now, you've seen lots of images from Bellevue Hospital, where a man with Ebola, Dr. Craig Spencer, is being isolated and nursed, hopefully back to health, but I bet you have not seen this, what's on the other side of the cameras, rows and rows of camera crews and reporters and TV trucks covering an invisible disease that as far as we know today has only infected one man in this city of 8 million.

It's news because it's new. After all, you can't spell news without new. But this morning, we will examine how the media has responded to this latest Ebola case, and whether we the public are being well-served. Two experts are about to join me in the studio, but first, a telling statistic.

If you're sitting at home, kind of interested in the latest news about Ebola, maybe thinking about changing the channel, we've got some news for you -- you're in the minority. Take a look at this Pew Research data from October 16th through 19th that shows 49 percent of Americans are following news about Ebola very closely. Another 32 percent say they're following the news at least fairly closely. That totals more than 70 percent.

Pew said this is one of the ten most closely followed news stories of the past four years, ranking up there with the killing of Osama bin Laden and Hurricane Sandy. So, how should experts communicate about Ebola in a way that's

reassuring and not in a way that just spreads fear? If people are paying such close attention, this is a critical question.

So, let's bring in Dr. Alexander Van Tulleken. He's an expert in tropical diseases at Fordham University, and now a CNN medical analyst.

Thank you for being here.


STELER: I wanted to have you on the program this morning because I was sitting at home watching CNN Thursday night. You were on with Anderson Cooper when this news broke of the confirmed case of Ebola in New York. And you were so careful about assuring folks. You said you lived about five blocks from where this man was living and you felt perfectly safe going home, taking an uber taxi, going to the bar.

Was that purposeful language for you to try to reassure the public?

VAN TULLEKEN: Yes. I mean, I think it wasn't so much a conscious choice. It was prompted by a question, and clearly my proximity and the fact I'm not concerned at all about this, but we have a real difficulty reassuring people about Ebola because we have two conflicting stories. The first is --

STELTER: Mixed messages?

VAN TULLEKEN: Exactly -- well, the science is contradictory, right? On the one hand, Thomas Eric Duncan, the first patient in American, we call it the index case, his family stayed with him when he was symptomatic in his house, exposed to bodily fluids for several days, and did not catch Ebola. So, we have proof it's hard to catch.

We've got know other people, Patrick Sawyer, flying to Nigeria, the American who brought Ebola to Nigeria, infected 11 people once he got off the plane. But on the plane, symptomatic, didn't infect anyone else. So, again, proof it's hard to catch.

And yet, doctors and nurses wearing protective gear catch this disease seemingly quite easily. We have this contradiction and it's very hard to explain to the public the difference between contagious, how easy it is to catch, and infectious, how likely you are to get it if you get a droplet of bodily fluids in your mouth. It's highly infectious. It's not very contiguous. Difficult message.

STELTER: I hear you saying that it is not -- when you see the television coverage, when you read the online coverage, you are not seeing an overreaction on the part of the press. Instead, maybe what you're seeing is an attempt to explain something really complicated.

VAN TULLEKEN: I think so. I think this is really delicate balance to strike. What I think the press has done in this particular crisis are really great job of doing what the fourth estate is meant to do, keeping an eye on the authorities.

STELTER: Holding the government accountable.

VAN TULLEKEN: Exactly, and the CDC did not do a good job in Atlanta, was poorly prepared, and the government has been incredibly slow to react to the international crisis, which is what's driving the case in the U.S.

So -- but in doing that, of course, the constant streaming of Ebola, Ebola, Ebola.

STELTER: Wall to wall coverage.

VAN TULLEKEN: Exactly. It makes people very nervous. If it's news, it must be dangerous. Why else would be hearing about it?

STELTER: It sounds like a case where the medium is the message. Simply by covering it all the time, there's a message people receive that it is dangerous, even if it's not dangerous to them personally.

VAN TULLEKEN: I think that's right. And the analysis, the next step you would really want from the story is to say what should we worry about? And the answer is, we shouldn't be worried about Ebola. We should be worried about other diseases. What we have is evidence that the CDC and the authorities don't protect us as well as they should.

So, Ebola -- Ebola is easy to control. Sanjay Gupta has been great. He keeps saying, this is bread and butter stuff. They keep doing in the hospital. This is putting on gowns. Not complicated to do.

But flu, that's going to kill thousands of Americans. That's what we should worry about.

STELTER: Am I right to think, though, that it's hard to tell people what to be worried about? Risk is meaningless to people.

VAN TULLEKEN: It's so I think that's such an interesting idea. That that's putting the most common question that gets asked in the Ebola epidemic is, should we worry?

And the answer is, I have no idea. It depends on what you want to worry about. It depends on what worrying means to you. It's an emotional response. I can't tell you what how to feel.

But what I would say is the thing people should be doing is a cost-benefit analysis. The cost of, for instance, restricting air travel versus the benefit. I think the benefit is almost nothing and the cost is massive.

And everybody thinks the cost will just be on the West African nations, you have to worry about, if we restrict air traffic to them, they restrict air travel to us. Rwandans are already saying, Americans got to be screened when they come in. And that's a big problem. STELTER: Thank you for being here.

VAN TULLEKEN: Thanks very much.

STELTER: Of all the reactions to the latest Ebola case, this tweet stood out to me the most. It was the keyboard of Arthur Caplan, the well-respected director of the division of medical ethics at NYU's Langone Medical Center. "NYC Ebola patient went bowling. Remember, he was not infectious. So, media, stop scaring people. Bowling may be more dangerous than he was."

Well, let's see what he has to say this morning. He's here in studio with me.

Thanks for being here.


STELTER: Bowling, more dangerous than Ebola, come on?

CAPLAN: I suspect it is. When that guy was at the bowling alley, he was not symptomatic. He did not have vomiting and wasn't excreting bodily fluids. He wasn't infectious.

And I know we're all going to run around saying maybe he brushed up against someone. The only way you're going to get Ebola from being on bowling alley is if have to sex with him or share a toothbrush with him there. I suspect you can drop a bowling ball on your foot. You know, imagine, somebody must have slipped and fall and crack their arm in a bowling alley. So, I'll stand by it.

STELTER: You're getting to this idea that we are afraid of the wrong things as a society. It feels like right now, we have gone from scary story to scary story to scary story.


STELTER: I can think back to ISIS this summer, maybe even the missing Malaysian jet liner in the spring. It's not that those stories aren't scary. Is it that we shouldn't personally fear what they're about?

CAPLAN: And I don't think we should overestimate the risk. Ebola is new. It came out of Africa. Whoever heard of it?

Now, we're wondering what this sort of out of control epidemic in Africa is going to do to us. I'm not saying we shouldn't pay attention and it's reasonable to want to be cautious. But, look, let's compare it to something else that comes from other places in the world, the flu. Every year, it shows up, it kills 5,000 to 20,000 people.

STELTER: Right, right.

CAPLAN: Do we freak out?

STELTER: But this is what I was saying how people aren't able to judge risk that well. We're not wired that well.

CAPLAN: Let me give you an example of risk judgment that the media shapes in a funny way. You have seen that Ebola virus graphic.


CAPLAN: I think people think it's three feet long and it must be like a tape worm. It's a tiny microscopic thing, but the whole imagery of Ebola -- gear, suits, giant wormlike thing. I mean, you know, you couldn't do better if you were trying to produce a Hollywood movie to scare people than the way this sort of comes across.

STELTER: So, everybody wants to be the head of the network. Let's make you the head of a network for a moment, what would you be doing differently today?

CAPLAN: Two things. One, let's keep our reporting to sort of the facts of Ebola. We don't have to give the warnings to people to look out for this and that. They are going to naturally do it.

Two, let's keep it to the guests who have something constructive to say. It's great to come on and say, holy cow, I don't know, should we quarantine this guy? What do you think? I'm not sure.

Well, come up with something positive, give us some suggestions. If you're going to be a talking head, then be a constructive talking head.

STELTER: Hmm, that's interesting point.

Professor Caplan, thanks for being here.

CAPLAN: My pleasure.

STELTER: I need to get in a quick break. But when I come back, this question: sinner or saint? Dr. Spencer, the man with Ebola here in New York, is being criticized by some in the media for his actions after he returned home from West Africa. So, was he being reckless?

Everyone has an opinion on it. So, we will take a look through the lens of red news, blue news, right after this. Stay tuned. We're just getting started this morning.


STELTER: What a difference a number makes. That's one of my takeaways after watching all of the reactions to the news of the doctor infected with Ebola here in New York City.

Is the doctor a saint for helping sick people in Guinea or is he a sinner for going out in public and riding the subway after going home from there? Well, what a difference a number makes. I'll show you why in just a minute.

As I'm sure you have noticed, Ebola remains a highly politicized story. That means there's a lot of red news/blue news to sort through. Will Ebola fears hurt the Democrats in the midterms elections? Are Republicans exploiting the fears for political gain?

That's what viewers on bright blue MSNBC have been hearing even before there was this new case in New York.


JOSE DIAZ-BALART, MSNBC: ISIS and Ebola are now being used to fear, to bring in fear into the campaigns. For example, there was discussed last night in the New Hampshire Senate debate moderated by Chuck Todd. Let's take a look at the exchange between Sheehan and Brown.

SCOTT BROWN (R), NH SENATE CANDIDATE: They're concerned about our border. They're concerned about Ebola. They're concerned about travel, people coming into our country without proper authority, potentially carrying diseases, potentially being terrorist or criminal elements.

SEN. JEANNE SHAHEEN (D), NEW HAMPSHIRE: We need to work together. What we don't need is people who are fear-mongering, who are spreading panic in the public.

DIAZ-BALART: Do you think they're going to lose the battle of fear in November?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Using fear in elections -- my God, news at 11:00.


STELTER: Yes, it is an evergreen issue, but we should be on guard whenever politicians of any party seem to be in fear for personal gain.

You know, Ebola was starting to fade from the headlines until Thursday when word that Dr. Spencer had fallen ill. One of the alarming details is that Spencer he had a temperature of 103, a very high fever. What in the heck was he doing going bowling?

Here's how Megyn Kelly reacted to the fever news on FOX News on Thursday night.


MEGYN KELLY, FOX NEWS: He comes back into New York City, he knows he's been handling Ebola patients. And he's here for a week. He doesn't tell anybody, and if he starts to feel symptomatic before his 103 fever, he's still bowling and taking taxis and not self- quarantining. We skewering the NBC health correspondent for not self- quarantining herself, she didn't have any symptoms.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Megyn, I completely agree with that. It doesn't sound from what we're hearing like he took personal responsibility at all.

(END VIDEO CLIP) STELTER: There was a lot of this, not just on FOX, there was a

lot online, too. People calling Dr. Spencer irresponsible.

But this is one of those excellent examples about why we should all avoid rushing to judgment. Spencer did not have a 103 fever. He had100.3 fever. The decimal points all that matters here. We found that out on Friday morning, 100.3 is a low-grade fever, not a high- grade fever. And this is what I mean when I say what a difference a number makes.

This was the local government's mistake, by the way. It's not the media's mistake. But the media had to work extra hard on Friday and into the weekend to correct the misinformation.

Here's another clip of MSNBC's Jose Diaz-Balart, this time correcting a guest.


DR. NANCY SIMPKINS: That 103 fever means that his viral count is very high, and that's the time he becomes contagious.

DIAZ-BALART: So, just to get -- by the way, they're saying it was 100.3 fever that he had when he called the officials and when he checked in.


STELTER: Good correction there, but you know, a big mistake. This is a small example of why red news and blue news and all the rest of the news have to be so careful, even when repeating numbers provided by the authorities.

There were many defenders of the doctor, clearly saying he's a saint, not a sinner, especially once the new information came out.

Look at this Friday headline from Vox. The New York Ebola patient is a brave and heroic doctor. Stop criticizing his bowling trip.

I want to share one more number with you because I think it puts all the red and blue news coverage into proper perspective. It's 49 percent. That's the percentage of Republicans who told Pew that they were very or at least somewhat worried about personally being exposed to the Ebola virus. Compare that to 36 percent of Democrats.

This Pew headline here says, Republicans increasingly worried about Ebola exposure.

I wonder if this is fundamentally about liberals and conservatives being wired differently, reacting to threats differently. It's definitely about differences in people's views of government. Again quoting Pew here. Republicans are expressing less confidence than Democrats in the federal government's ability to prevent a major outbreak. Maybe that's why the last sound bite sounds crazy to Democrats

but resonates with some Republicans. It's the one, the only, Donald Trump, who said Obama should resign because this guy had Ebola in New York. And then he took to Instagram to say this.


DONALD TRUMP, BUSINESSMAN/TV PERSONALITY: We have a tremendous problem in New York because President Obama would not stop the flights. So, now, we've got Ebola. He should be ashamed.


STELTER: Donald Trump showing how even a sick doctor in New York can be blamed on the president. And that's the perfect place for me to pause because I have a guest standing by who knows the president personally and has strong some feelings about this red news/blue news culture. Obama has said he doesn't watch cable news.

But is that true? And if it is true, does it explain his handling or mishandling of crises? We will talk to the guy who knows, next.


STELTER: President Obama has said time and time again that he does not watch cable news. Now, five and a half years in, there are a lot of people on shows like this one on cable news simply trashing him. And to be fair, this is usually the time that media figures view presidents as lame ducks and take the gloves off.

But it feels unusually harsh this time around with the press seeming to resent the president's approach to every crisis of the moment. And this moment, it's Ebola. Obama was eventually sort of pressured into naming an Ebola czar. By the time he did that, the media figures demanding a czar were complaining he was too late.

Here's the latest cover of "Business Week". This is wild. It portrays Obama as too cool for crisis management -- which made me want to know more about the president's attitude toward this.

You know, there's this cliche we have seen time and time again whenever some story dominates the headlines and doesn't seem to dominate the president's time. It goes like this. Is blank Obama's Katrina? The answer is always no. But the question keeps getting asked most recently with Ebola.

So, let's hear from the rarest of men, a man who can speak to both the media's language and the president's language on these things, Jay Carney. He's the former White House press secretary and now a political analyst here at CNN.

Jay, tThanks for being here.

JAY CARNEY, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Brian, thanks for having me. STELTER: Is it true the president doesn't watch any cable news?

CARNEY: It is true, which doesn't mean that he doesn't get news, in a real time basis. He does. He's a voracious consumer of the printed word, even the electronic printed word, and but he doesn't -- he doesn't watch cable news. I have spent, you know, countless hours with him on Air Force One, especially, in the conference room where we always had the TV on, and it was never in any of the trips I ever took with him, tuned in to cable news.

And I think --


CARNEY: Not that.

STELTER: I want to get back to that, but what are the print outlets? What are the Web outlets? Real quickly.

CARNEY: He reads "The New York Times," "The Wall Street Journal", "Washington Post," probably "Politico", and some TV -- some of the things he would cross his iPad would include news from CNN or MSNBC Web sites and things like that. And he reads blogs --


STELTER: You didn't mention FOX News' Web site there.

CARNEY: Well, I mean, he's aware of what's out there. I don't think it would be accurate to say by not watching cable news, he's not aware of what the political fight of the day is. But he does maintain, I think, a healthy distance from it.

STELTER: I wonder if there's some contempt, then, for this medium?

CARNEY: I think every president that I have known -- covered as a reporter and now worked for -- has a textured at best relationship with the media, especially the Washington press that tends to focus and fixate on the sensational story of the day and sometimes at the expense of kind of looking more long-term.

And this president, look, he has strengthens and weaknesses like anybody else. He is -- that cover you pointed to --

STELTER: Yes, you think there's a grain of truth to the cover?

CARNEY: Well, in a sense that he doesn't get -- he doesn't hyperventilate about political crises of the moment. He takes the long view. He is very cool tempered and, you know, would often caution us not to get wrapped up in whatever the fight of the moment is.

Now, I think that's a strength, but also, it can also sometimes mean you're going to lose the fight of the moment in the media and in public opinion -- (CROSSTALK)

STELTER: It's arguably the reason he got elected in the first place and then maybe hurts him now. I mean, the issue about not getting too wrapped up in the story, the crisis of the moment really intrigues me because it's a diversion from what the press might be focusing on.

CARNEY: Right.

STELTER: It makes it appear that the press's priorities are not his priorities, and then we have days and days of coverage basically bashing him on channels like FOX.

CARNEY: Sure. Look, I think that it's hard to find the sort of perfect balance because you don't want, and I don't think any of us should want as citizens, a White House that governs by cable news or governs by Twitter. I think that would be very counterproductive for a long-term --

STELTER: Governing by cable news. That's an interesting phrase.

CARNEY: In a sense that you're always reacting to the news sensation of the day is, and that's especially dangerous because the fires burn brighter than ever now because of the immediacy of social media and the immediacy cable news, but they burn out more quickly.

That isn't to say that stories don't matter and are important. ISIS is a big story, and it's enduring and it matters and it's a national security issue.

Ebola is a big and important story. I think there has been sensationalism when it comes to what Ebola means for the United States. Internally, I think that the media has probably overplayed that story. But it's major --


CARNEY: Well --

STELTER: Didn't he get backed into naming a czar because of all the pressure from Congress and from the press?

CARNEY: Well, I think that's -- you know, I suppose that's a fair point. I think having a czar to oversee a response is a good idea. I think that Ron Klain, I worked for him when I was chief of staff for the vice president, he is one of the smartest people in Washington and has a lot of experience in managing across agency. So, I think that's a good idea.

But, yes, I think that the president -- President Obama tends to resist doing what the conventional wisdom says he should do. Often, he's right, but sometimes the conventional wisdom is right, too.

STELTER: Jay, thanks for being here.

CARNEY: Thanks for having me.

STELTER: Time for a quick break here. But in just a moment, a phrase we've heard a lot this week -- lone wolf attacks. This is a story being treated as a crisis as well, from the shooting in Canada, to a hatchet attack in New York City.

I want to talk about an ugly question that gets whispered around newsrooms every time these events unfold. Is the suspect a Muslim? That question is an uncomfortable one, but we're going to explore why it gets asked, right after this.


STELTER: Lone wolf is one of those phrases that has been seared into our brains.

This week, we heard it when a man said to be loyal to ISIS mowed down two Canadian soldiers with his vehicle, killing one of them. And we heard it two days later when another man opened fire in Ottawa, paralyzing Parliament and killing a soldier at the war memorial there. And we heard it a day after that, when a man with a hatchet wounded two police officers here in New York. Local authorities are now calling it a terrorist act.

Now, let me be honest with you about something that goes on in every newsroom when these crimes happen. This might sound awful to you, but I know for a fact it happened on Wednesday after that shooting in Ottawa.

Everyone in our newsroom was asking, was the man with the gun a Muslim? And MSNBC's Chris Hayes summed it up perfectly when he wrote this on Twitter: "That awkward moment when you're sitting around waiting to find out the shooter's religion because it will determine how big a story it is."

Council on Foreign Relations fellow Micah Zenko took it a step further. He suggested there are two kinds of mass shootings. Here's what he wrote: "Mentally ill or disgruntled, well, that's a tragedy soon forgotten. Muslim or motivated by foreign events, that's terrorism, requiring a response."

In the sometimes awful calculus of news, the word Muslim makes a story much bigger, at least in this day and age.

This is an important discussion to have right now about why the press and how the press prioritizes certain crimes over others.

So joining me now to talk about it are two friends of the show, journalist and foreign policy analyst and Frank Sesno, the director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at the George Washington University.

Thank you both for being here.



STELTER: Is this just a fact of life, Frank, that if the T-word, terrorism, is applied, a story is going to become bigger?


The terrorism word galvanizes law enforcement. It drives media coverage. It scares the public, because there's also the big overhang, the big question mark, is it connected to another act? Is it part of something that could be organized? Or is it a lone wolf, and it's just another tragic example of what happens when a deranged or a disturbed person has a gun?

STELTER: So this is a fact of life, but should it be?

SESNO: Should it be? That's a harder question, Brian, and it's one, as you're quite right, we agonize over.

Yes, probably, but with great, great distance and great respect.

Rula, when you see this happen, how do you react?

JEBREAL: Many people that have been on television in the last weeks saying that Islam is equal to ISIS, actually opened the door and made many Americans fearful of what is next.

So this individual in Canada and other individuals, whether in New York or others, that might be connected to ISIS, they are a minority that should never be equated with Islam, because, otherwise, you will have to then go and wage a war on a religion.

SESNO: I have to say, though, that I think we have to be careful that we don't paint with too broad a brush.

I actually don't hear very many people say ISIS equals Islam and that people are out there saying that all Islamic extremists represent all of Islam, and this is because it's someone who is a Muslim or because this is related. Therefore, that tarnishes the entire religion or the entire, you know, huge population around the world who are Muslim.

STELTER: That's why we're listening not just for the T-word, but the M-word, Muslim, when we're wondering about the background of a suspected criminal, of someone that committed a terrible act.

JEBREAL: When Newtown happened and when this shooting is happening now in America, for me, this is as painful as an act of terror. This is a criminal act of terrorism.


STELTER: You're saying label the Newtown shootings terrorism, label other mass shootings that are not committed by Muslims acts of terrorism?

JEBREAL: Absolutely. STELTER: Frank?

SESNO: The fact of the matter is, the fact of the matter is that all crimes are terrible, and all crimes are tragic, but they're not all the same.

You don't solve them the same, you don't cover them the same, you don't contextualize them the same. Random crime, crime that is driven by mental illness, crime that is driven by grievance, domestic violence, if you're in law enforcement, you pursue them differently.

If something is terrorism-related, yes, we have to understand the story, we have to understand the perpetrator, we have to understand the context, we have to understand where it's coming from. I, as a journalist, need to tell that story.

And those stories, I don't tell them all the same way, and I shouldn't tell them all the same way.

STELTER: As I wrap up, Rula, Let me ask you, how do you feel to recognize, to realize, as Chris Hayes said in the beginning there, that journalists like me and others ask the M-question, ask if Muslims are responsible when these kind of crimes happen. How does it make you feel?

JEBREAL: Well, I'm a journalist.

I should -- I look at individual acts as a criminal act. For me, he's not a religious hero. He's not -- he's a criminal and should be as criminal and held accountable. But I can't hold an entire community or even link him to an entire faith that, you know, 1.6 billion belong to.

SESNO: As journalists, you have to ask that question. You can't ignore anything.

Where are people from? What is motivating them? What drives this? You have to ask that question. But you have to do it proportionally. You have to do it respectfully to the larger community. And you have to do it contextually. We need to understand what is going on. That's our job.

STELTER: Frank Sesno, Rula Jebreal, thank you both for being here for a thoughtful conversation.

SESNO: Thank you.

JEBREAL: Thank you.

STELTER: Let me know what you think of this. Send me a tweet or a message on Facebook. My username is Brian Stelter.

And up next here, what is it like to have your life completely destroyed by the media? My next guest has first-hand experience in this, unfortunately. She survived her own media firestorm. And now she's reliving it all over again, thanks to the fact that Monica Lewinsky is back in the spotlight.


STELTER: Welcome back.

I bet you have an opinion about this next segment. And that's a part of the point. Did you see this? It's Monica Lewinsky speaking in public for the first time in over a decade just a few days ago.

She called herself patient zero, the world's first victim of Internet bullying. That's obviously not literally true, but it's the way she's positioning herself now. As she said, she is campaigning against this type of bullying.

She spoke at the Forbes 30 Under 30 Summit and recalled how every painful detail of her affair with President Clinton was dissected by the media and, thanks to the Web, by the newly empowered public.

Here's a part of what she said.


MONICA LEWINSKY, FORMER WHITE HOUSE INTERN: There was no Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram back then, but there were gossips, news, and entertainment Web sites replete with comment sections, and e-mails could be forwarded.

Of course, it was all done on the excruciatingly slow dial-up. Yet, around the world, this story went, a viral phenomenon that you could argue was the first moment of truly social media.


STELTER: My guest this morning has a unique perspective on this because she has also endured intense media scrutiny and harsh judgment after she was rumored to be having an affair with a married senator, Gary Hart, who was seeking the Democratic nomination for president in 1988.

She survived the relentless coverage and bounced back. Now she's a champion for Internet safety. Her name is Donna Rice Hughes. She's now president of an organization called Enough is Enough and an Emmy Award-winning producer of the "Internet Safety 101" TV series shown on PBS stations.

Donna, thank you for being with us.

DONNA RICE HUGHES, PRESIDENT, ENOUGH IS ENOUGH: Thank you, Brian, for having me.

STELTER: When you saw Monica Lewinsky on TV this week, how did you feel about seeing her?

RICE HUGHES: Well, first of all, we need more voices speaking out against the incredibly difficult epidemic of cyber-bullying.

And, secondly, I'm really glad that she's using her pain as a platform to help others, her pain and her experience.

STELTER: Have you ever communicated with her, any time you have been in touch?

RICE HUGHES: No, we have never been in touch.

STELTER: I do feel like there's only maybe a handful of people who have been through that kind of ringer of media attention around a scandal involving a man and a woman. You know what I mean?


Well, that's true. And it's very difficult, especially for the women. Oftentimes, the men get circled, the wagons circle around them, and the girls, the women are basically just thrown aside or tossed to the media feeding frenzy. And that's certainly what happened to me, and I believe that's what happened to her as well.

STELTER: Monica Lewinsky was essentially invisible for many years, and now she is resuming a public face.

Did that happen to you as well? How many years were you away from the public spotlight?

RICE HUGHES: Well, I dropped out for seven years. I didn't know what was going to take...

STELTER: Seven years. Wow.

RICE HUGHES: Seven years underground.

I had a lot of opportunities initially to exploit the situation, good ones and also ones that were not good. But it was a very difficult and painful time. And I wanted that pain and that experience to count for something bigger than me and to be known for who I was and not for who people thought I was.

STELTER: The issue you advocate for day to day is not as closely related to why you became a household name as the one that Monica Lewinsky is advocating for, cyber-bullying.

She's pulling from her own personal story in that speech and in future speeches. Is that a risk for her?

RICE HUGHES: I don't think so.

No, I think, oftentimes, when you have gone through great trials and suffering, you have the opportunity to have empathy for those who have experienced similar kinds of things. And I certainly did. Even though I didn't experience cyber-bullying, I know what it's like to be bullied by a mainstream media that has gone tabloid.

And it's one thing, you know, for people just treating people poorly online. It's another thing, you know, to be really the first out there in a situation where the media had never experienced this kind of thing, and there was a rush for headlines and deadlines, and the -- kind of the telephone game, and, all of a sudden, a caricature becomes immersed -- emerges of who you are which bears little or no resemblance to who you really are.

STELTER: And now you're using the media, using television, using print, using online some of the same media that so viciously attacked you and treated you. Do you find any, I don't know, perverse joy in that?

RICE HUGHES: It's not perverse joy, but I call it getting back on the horse that threw me and God's sense of humor, because I would have never picked this for myself.

But the media has been a wonderful friend to us in our efforts to protect children from pornography, online sexual predators, cyber- bullying, how to be safe, you know, in online gaming. And so that was very healing for me, and it's just like anything. The media can be used for good, and sometimes they can get a little off track just like the rest of us.

STELTER: I wonder if Monica Lewinsky will feel that way, that she's now using the media for good?

RICE HUGHES: Yes, well, hopefully, she will, but it's going to take some time for her.

I have got years ahead of her on this. And I have found in my own experience that it does. And, in fact, interestingly enough -- and I'm going to use the media right now, Brian, if you will let me.


RICE HUGHES: We just launched a national campaign called Porn-Free Wi-Fi, and we're urging McDonald's and Starbucks to filter

child pornography and pornography from their public Wi-Fi services, like they do very proactively in the United Kingdom and Australia and other nations.

STELTER: Donna, thank you very much for being here.

RICE HUGHES: Thank you, Brian, for having me.

STELTER: One more note about bullying. And this one is about the family of Sarah Palin.

CNN's Carol Costello took a lot of heat this week, and deservedly so, for comments that she made about the audio released from the so- called Palin family brawl. Listen to what she said.


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: This is quite possibly the best minute-and-a-half of audio we have ever come across -- well, come across in a long time, anyway.

A massive brawl in Anchorage, Alaska, reportedly involving Sarah Palin's kids and her husband. Here now is Bristol's recollection of how that night unfolded.

So sit back and enjoy.



PALIN: Some lady we gray hair --


PALIN: ... who wants to push my little -- my 20-year-old sister.


PALIN: I'm going to defend my sister. She's 20 years old.

COP: And then a guy came out of nowhere and pushed you to the ground?

PALIN: A guy comes out of nowhere and pushes me on the ground, takes me by my feet and my dress, in my thong dress in front of everybody, come on you (EXPLETIVE DELETED). Come on you (EXPLETIVE DELETED) here. I don't know this guy. I have never seen this guy in my life. (EXPLETIVE DELETED).


STELTER: If you're shaking your head about the way she handled that news, you're not alone.

On Thursday, Costello issued this apology.

"Over the past few days, I have been roundly criticized for joking about a brawl involving the Palin family. In retrospect, I deserve such criticism, and I would like to apologize."

Costello was not the only TV host expressing regret that day about this story.

Here's Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski on MSNBC.


JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: The Palins are presumed guilty, are presumed to be a punchline, are presumed to be a joke.

And there is the very real possibility that something terrible happened to them. And so, yes, I think we all shot first, and asked questions later.


STELTER: And I think we should give the last word here to Bristol Palin. She wrote this on her blog. "I was pushed and held down by some

guy. And the media salivates like a dog that has just been given a bone. Violence against women is never OK, even if that violence occurs against conservative women."

Coming up here on RELIABLE SOURCES: a reporter who endured ugly harassment after breaking open the biggest sex scandal in college sports. She turned around and broke another huge story. The best revenge perhaps? The tough life of an investigative reporter when we come back.


STELTER: She's the woman who exposed one of the biggest college scandals in decades, and then she did it again.

Sara Ganim won a Pulitzer Prize in 2012 for breaking open the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal that ended Joe Paterno's reign at Penn State. And now is bringing national attention to the academic scandal that has rocked another college powerhouse, the University of North Carolina.

Her big scoop from January was back in the news this week.

What is it like to take on these giant institutions? Sara was a reporter for "The Patriot-News" in Pennsylvania. And now she is a correspondent here at CNN.

Thanks for being here.

SARA GANIM, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Of course, Brian. Thanks for having me.

STELTER: So, what was the news this week about the UNC scandal?

GANIM: Yes, the news this week really was that what happened at the University of North Carolina, this academic fraud scandal, which, quite frankly, we have known about for several years...

STELTER: The local newspaper, "The News and Observer," started reporting on it, what, five years ago. But then you had this exclusive interview with a whistle-blower in January. And basically all of her allegations were affirmed this week by the university.

GANIM: Many of them.

This report, which was a new investigation that they were quite frankly forced to reopen once all this national attention was being paid to the University of North Carolina, what happened this week is huge.

It might be, it probably is the biggest academic fraud case in the history of college sports. So what was revealed this week that was going on at UNC, it is a really big deal for college sports. It's a really big deal for this prestigious university. STELTER: You were there on campus this week. And if I Google

your name, what I will see, among many other things, many awards, is also a lot of attacks, people who claim that you were out to get Penn State, or now you are out to get UNC.

What is it like to be a still young reporter, a young female reporter under all of that kind of scrutiny?

GANIM: People feel this great connection to their universities and this passion that sometimes falls to the wayside of common sense.

And so reporting on it can be a little bit rough. And I hear -- I actually hear from a lot of reporters who cover universities like Florida State, for example. Notre Dame is another big example, and I hear from the reporters all of the time that say, how do you deal with this? Because the fans can be absolutely brutal.

STELTER: What do you do? Do you avoid Twitter for this reason? What do you do?

GANIM: Well, I'm sure this is the greatest thing for a journalist to acknowledge, but I really don't read many of the replies on Twitter anymore. I abandoned that practice a while ago.

I use Twitter as a great tool, but I don't subject myself to the hate. I really don't. I shield myself in many ways from, you know, the hatred, because I feel like if you really have something to tell me, this is a day and age where, and digital age where, look, my phone public is public and my e-mail address is public.

If you have something to say to me, pick up the phone and call me. I'm not going to read it on Twitter.

STELTER: Viewers don't know it, but I tried to profile you a couple years ago when I was at "The New York Times" and you had just joined CNN. You were the third youngest Pulitzer winner in history.

You turned me down at the time. You did not want to talk about yourself. But I'm sure you get a lot of college journalists who ask you, how do I become next Sara Ganim? What do you tell them about where to aim and how to aim in this world?

GANIM: I tell them to do what they love. I tell them not to aim too high in the beginning of their career. I still think my favorite job was when I worked at a four-person newspaper, a staff where you could come in every day.

STELTER: Where was that?

GANIM: That was "The Centre Daily Times," where I was one of our four reporters at one point when I worked there.

STELTER: So, before "The Patriot-News"?

GANIM: Before "The Patriot-News," yes. This was my very first job. I was a crime reporter. There were literally four reporters on

staff. Now, there were some other support staff and copy editors and stuff like that, but four reporters. You could walk in, in the morning and say, hey, I want to cover X, Y, Z today and they would go, do whatever you can. Just help us get the paper out. And I had a blast.

STELTER: Sara, thank you for being here.

GANIM: Thank you, Brian.

STELTER: Finally, this morning, I can't close the show without mentioning Ben Bradlee. His funeral will be held this coming week. He died on Wednesday at age 93.

Bradlee ran "The Washington Post" longer than any editor ever had and dare I say longer than any future editor ever will. For 26 years, he was "The Post," the embodiment of its values. And he helped turn the newspaper from a local read into a national power player.

He pushed Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein to nail down the Watergate story, and he had their backs when the story hastened the end of the Nixon White House.

There is a sentence in Bradlee's memoir, "A Good Life," on page 487 that every journalist can relate to. Here's what it says: "Put out the best, most honest newspaper you can today can and put out a better one the next day."

That is the closest Bradlee came to theorizing about journalism. He was much more interested in actually practicing, interested in conceiving and supporting great, big stories.

There were a lot of great stories written about him this week, stories that eulogized him and the newspaper of his era. The words used over and over again to describe him were hard-driving, courageous, fearless, charming.

He inspired a whole generation of reporters and editors who are now leading newsrooms of their own. So, what might he say if he were running "The Post" today? What might his mantra be? Here is what I think it would be. Put out the best, most honest home page you can this minute, and put out a better one the next minute.

That is all for this televised edition of RELIABLE SOURCES, but our media coverage keeps going all time on You can read our stories there about Ben Bradlee and rest of the week's media news.

We will see you right back here next week, next Sunday at 11:00 a.m. Eastern time.

And if you can't just us live, make sure you set your DVR. You can join us a little bit delayed.