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One-On-One With Media Mogul Moonves; MSNBC Ratings Plunge

Aired November 9, 2014 - 11:00   ET


BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST: Good morning. I'm Brian Stelter. It's Sunday, November 9th.

And it's time for RELIABLE SOURCES.

Ahead this hour, a congressman threatened to break this reporter in half. Now, he's back for round two. Well, re-elected I mean. We will hear from the guy who covers the Grimm beat.

Then, is blue news a loser? As MSNBC struggles in the ratings, we have to wonder, when it comes to news networks, is three a crowd?

And later, we are Jon Stewart's favorite target. He loves to hate on CNN.


JON STEWART, COMEDIAN: I can confidently state that I will not have my own room of situations. That's just a name I came up.


STELTER: We were shocked when he came here into the enemy camp. You've just got to hear what happened next.


STELTER: We've got all that coming up, but let's begin with a big interview. It's with one of the handful of men who are really determining the future of all media. These moguls, they refer to each other on a first name basis. Brian for Brian Roberts of Comcast, Jeff for Jeff Bewkes of CNN's parent company Time Warner, Bob for Bob Iger of Disney, Rupert, of course, for Rupert Murdoch of FOX, and Les for Les Moonves of CBS.

Moonves is a legendary media mogul, credited with producing "Friends" and "ER" in the '90s, and then taking over CBS and making it what it is today, the country's most popular TV network.

But what does the future hold for CBS and for Showtime, their cable channel?

Well, that's what I wanted to talk with him about, because this week, Moonves launched a streaming news service and talked about making shows for sites like Netflix while still trying to grow his core business. He is perhaps the most fascinating man in the broadcast business right now, and every move he makes affects how we're all going to watch TV and read books and get news in the future.

So, take a look at this. This is a trip to the CBS board room where there were some big surprises, including the fact that one of his favorite shows is on ABC.


STELTER: Les, thanks for having me here.

LES MOONVES, CBS PRESIDENT & CEO: My pleasure, Brian. Welcome to CBS.

STELTER: It's good to be here and I saw a reporter from Bloomberg this week writing about CBS. It said that CBS is an 87- year-old, embracing the web with a gusto of a tween.

Forgive, you don't quite look like a tween.

MOONVES: Come on. I'm younger than you think I am.

STELTER: We both have TV makeup on, too. Does CBS feel like a tween?

MOONVES: You know what? We feel like a company that is right on the leading edge of everything that's going on in media and, obviously, there's an awful lot going on and everything is pointing towards being in the digital space, being online, being available everywhere and anywhere and I think we're ahead of the curve there.

STELTER: We've also been writing for years and I think it's probably bugged for years that broadcast TV is dying. There was a headline in "The Chicago Tribune" in 2003, the fall TV season is a flop. Could this be the beginning of the end for broadcast TV?

Do you laugh at those headlines when you read them nowadays or is there beginning to be some truth to them?

MOONVES: No, I laughed at them when I took this job in 1995 at CBS and I laugh at them today. Broadcast television has never been stronger. Three of the four --

STELTER: Never been stronger?

MOONVES: Three of the four broadcast networks are up, OK? Basic cable, considerably down. Sorry.


MOONVES: So, broadcast is really strong and look at the content that's now on television. Look at the content that's on television across the board. Not just with CBS. There are great shows on HBO. There are great shows on ABC. There's great shows every way you look.

So, I think this is the golden age of television creatively.

STELTER: What's your favorite show on a CBS-owned network? Right now, mine is "The Affair" on Showtime.

MOONVES: Probably "Ray Donovan" and "The Good Wife". Those are the two that I would say my two favorite children.

STELTER: That you're asking for the DVDs as soon as they're done.

MOONVES: Right. Exactly. By the way, I ask for the DVDs on a lot. I love "The Affair", I love "Homeland", I love "Madam Secretary", I love "Person of Interest". I'm a CBS fan, you know?

STELTER: How about outside the company? Any favorite show outside the company?

MOONVES: Outside the company, there is a lot -- you know, "Game of Thrones" I'm a big fan of. I think that's a fabulous. I think "Newsroom" is really terrific. You know, "Scandal" is a good show.

There are good shows across the board. "Black List" is a good show. There's a lot of great television out there, a lot of my competitors.

STELTER: I would say too much great television.

MOONVES: Well, you know what? You could watch television 18 hours a day. You don't have to do anything else. It's available.

STELTER: Let's imagine TV in 10 years, 2024. How are we going to consume television do you think?

MOONVES: By the way, that's a really hard question because if you would have asked me five years ago what the world would look like, I wouldn't have even come close. There was no Netflix. There was no Amazon. There was no online viewing like it is today. There was, you know, YouTube was barely starting.

The world is really very, very different. Look, we run a broadcast network obviously, 75-plus percent of our audience still watches the shows in their time period. In other words, they tune in 8:00 on Tuesday night to watch "NCIS".

STELTER: All the same time.

MOONVES: And 8:00 on Thursday to watch "The Big Bang Theory", and that number will come down. It will come down. And for that 25 percent, you know, the great news is, you know, that number is going to continue to go up, and we want to be available to reach people everywhere, you know?

STELTER: What I find so interesting about you and where you are right now is that you are broadcast's biggest booster and yet you're making all those bets on digital. You're placing all these bets on the table. Is it analogous to playing roulette where you have money on black, but also money on red or something?

MOONVES: Look, I wouldn't be where I am now if I don't look at the present and love the ecosystem I'm in, but also look at the future and saying, look, the world is becoming much more digital, a lot more people are watching shows on digital. You walk on a college campus today, you do not see television sets. You see people watching our shows in different ways broadband only.

So, my job is to reach them wherever I can, so I can be a great broadcaster and also look forward to the future online, and they're not mutually unacceptable.

STELTER: Let me ask you about football. You have Thursday night football this fall. Isn't broadcast only up because of football?

MOONVES: Is it only up because of football?

STELTER: Down otherwise.

MOONVES: It would be down otherwise? I'm not sure of that. Maybe, maybe down a little bit.

STELTER: There was this continuing scandal involving the NFL with Ray Rice and with domestic abuse, and I wonder because you're so deeply embedded in business with the NFL, does CBS, do the other networks have any responsibility, any edge of responsibility when it comes to these topics?

MOONVES: You know what? We license the product from the NFL. They deliver our product. Obviously, they've had some difficult times with this issue, but, you know, it's up to the NFL to solve it, and we're their good partner and we're by their side.

STELTER: I mean, speaking of partners, Roger Goodell, I feel like some portrayed him as the head of a corrupt enterprise. It sounds like you probably don't feel that way about him.

MOONVES: Roger Goodell is a very good man. He's a man with a good conscience. I'm supportive of him. You know, I think he's doing what he can do.

STELTER: All the noise about him stepping down, all of that has vanished. It's a lot less loud than it was earlier this fall.

MOONVES: I never thought he should step down.

STELTER: Let me move on to news. What happened on Tuesday night was so interesting, FOX News beat all the broadcasters, even though CBS was the biggest broadcaster at 10:00 p.m. for election news.

MOONVES: Correct.

STELTER: What does it tell you?

MOONVES: It tells me that people like to see people who agree with them. So, clearly, Tuesday night was a big night for Republicans and the Republicans did a terrific job and they obviously increased their lead in the House and they took over the Senate.

So, it -- there was a Republican wave going on, and most of those people wanted to see FOX because FOX agreed with what they were saying. And they did extremely well.

STELTER: Does it make you wish you had made a conservative cable news channel 20 years ago?

MOONVES: Absolutely not. You know, I think Roger Ailes has done a terrific job with them. We are down the middle. We always have been as a broadcast news center. I think we're a world class news organization. I'm glad we do it the way we do it and they do it the way they do it.

STELTER: You have chosen to have the most seemingly serious news division. You have Charlie Rose and Scott Pelley and Norah O'Donnell and Bob Schieffer on election night. Those are older and wiser faces than we saw on other networks, and that's intentional, isn't it?

MOONVES: It certainly is intentional. As you said, you know, FOX News was the largest audience but we beat the other two major broadcast networks with that group of people.

STELTER: Biggest audience in TV, but also the oldest. Average age is 58 years old. So, how do you grow?

MOONVES: Guess what? Two years ago we were number one in 18 to 49 as well. Right now we're winning in average demographic except 18 to 49, and we're one-tenth behind first place.

So, we may be older but we are also younger and we are the biggest and broadest.

STELTER: Aare you tired of that question about age? It's been bothering me for years, hasn't it?

MOONVES: It's been bothering me for years because I think people, even though we do quite well, overrate just the 18 to 49-year- old demographic. As far as I -- and I've been saying this for --

STELTER: There's a lot of 60-year-olds watching who love hearing you say that.

MOONVES: And guess what? As far as I know, more 50-year-olds have disposable incomes than 18-year-olds, you know? So, when people talk about disposable income for my children, it's through me. I'm the one who decide what car they're going to buy.

STELTER: And this week, you launched CBSN. It's a digital streaming channel, uses the best of what CBS News is making on TV, and it also has live anchors covering news on the web.

What's the goal with CBSN?

MOONVES: You know, once again as more and more people are getting their information online and more and more people are getting the news of the day, not like they used to during the 6:30 news but at all times. We like the idea of people being able to go to their computer first thing in the morning, whether they're at home or in their office, have a cup of coffee, and turn on CBSN and figure out what's going on.

We like to call it, although you guys probably wouldn't like hearing this, as the cable bypass, going directly online and not needing to go to cable television to get their news. So --

STELTER: The goal is maybe to put CNN out of business.

MOONVES: No, nobody would ever want to put CNN out of business nor do I think we could.

STELTER: Les, thanks for answering my questions today. It's great to see you.

MOONVES: My pleasure, Brian.


STELTER: Some big thoughts about the future of TV. So, let me know what you think. Send me a tweet or a message on Facebook. My username on both sites is Brian Stelter.

I need to squeeze in a quick break. But when I come back, big trouble in cable news. A ratings collapse for Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews, Al Sharpton and the rest of the folks over on MSNBC. In the doggie dog world of cable news -- this is a rough neighborhood I live in -- can we all survive? We will take a look at that question coming up.

And as we go to break, the broadcast ratings for election night. Notice which network is number one in the key demographic. But all these networks were all down from where they were on midterm night 2010.


STELTER: A few days past the midterms is a perfect time to ask this next question, and it's an important one. What is the future of liberal TV? When I say liberal TV, what I mean is this -- MSNBC, blue news, where most of the hosts cover the news with a progressive point of view.

This photo of Chris Matthews went viral on election night. He's showing what seems like utter disdain in the moments after Republicans officially won control of the Senate.

And then the next night there was this -- baby pandas. Rachel Maddow used them to console her disappointed viewers after the Democrats were thrashed. She was being playful, of course, and it kind of worked.

And then on Thursday there was this, Al Sharpton declared it to be opposite day by flipping himself upside down to illustrate his confusion with what voters can done to the Dems.

Cool stunt, right? But lately his ratings have seemed upside down. MSNBC did get a ratings bump this week, thanks to the midterms but it was the exception to the rule. The channel is going through what "The New York Times" last month called one of the deepest skids in its history, with record lows for some shows.

Now, before I bring in my guest, let me be really honest. I'm talking about direct competitor here. CNN's press people have called this a spiral, as in a downward spiral for MSNBC.

Take just this one hour, 11:00 a.m. on Sunday. When MSNBC's ratings are down, my ratings are up. CNN, obviously, has a lot of skin in this game.

But this is a media show and I'm interested in this topic as someone who has been covering MSNBC as a reporter for 10 years. For me, for 10 years, MSNBC has been a great story. The channel found its liberal voice thanks to Keith Olbermann, and his opposition to Bush's Iraq war.

After President Obama's election in 2008, MSNBC's ratings surged. I wrote all about it at "The New York Times" back when I worked there. The channel was routinely beating CNN for a while.

And after Obama's re-election in 2012, there was even talk that maybe MSNBC could overtake FOX News. There's not that talk anymore.

So, what is the future of MSNBC's story? Where is this going? Is there a future for liberal TV?

Let me ask a former MSNBC anchor, Dylan Ratigan. He left in 2012, and now, he's a sustainability entrepreneur. And let me also bring in, one of the deans of broadcasting, Dan Rather, the legendary former anchor of "The CBS Evening News". Now, an anchor on AXS TV.

Thank you both for being here.


DAN RATHER, AXS TV ANCHOR: Glad to be with you, Brian.

RATIGAN: So, Dylan, let me start with you here in the studio. In October, Rachel Maddow, the main star on MSNBC, had her lowest ratings in the demo ever. She started her show two months before Obama was elected. Do you think Obama fatigue is translating into MSNBC fatigue?

RATIGAN: I have no question that there's some component of that, but I think that to look at any of these things without a broader context -- I think there are layers of issues that have been headwinds to MSNBC over the course of the past couple of years. One is fatigue with liberal fatigue. There's a tiredness with that after six years and counting of the Obama administration without question, and if nothing else, the liberal commentary becomes very predictable.

STELTER: Dan, the banner says "A bleak future for blue news" with a question mark. What do you think?

RATHER: Well, first of all, I think that we who comment on these things as well as politicians who try to read what's happening with the ratings and the demographics, we all need a heaping helping of humility. There's a lot going on we don't understand, but I don't buy into the argument that liberal versus conservative is still a very valid argument.

The thing to look at is it's a younger audience versus an older audience far more than any liberal or conservative.

STELTER: The folks I talk to at MSNBC, some of the anchors, some of the executives, they wonder if Obama was a fluke. They wonder if it was an aberration, a moment in the time they'll never have again.

RATIGAN: When you're dealing with an institution that's inside of the core of the power base of the American media, which NBC by its definition is along with Time Warner and CNN and CBS and all the rest of it, their capacity to reinvent themselves and generate new programming and new content is the best in the world.

RATHER: I think all of this misses the central point. Look, the younger audience, that is the audience that is not in front of TV sets, the younger audience, they go to Facebook, they go to Twitter, they go Instagram. They consider corporate media, all of them, Viacom, MSNBC, Comsat, the whole lot, they consider them, this is not my opinion, this is time after time, every poll indicates that the younger audience is very suspicious of the corporatization of media.

STELTER: I think I hear you saying that liberals in the country, millennials who for the most part didn't vote this week might be interested in what MSNBC is talking about, but they're not going to watch it on television. By the way, I've heard that from anchors at MSNBC as well.

RATHER: Put context in perspective, you need to keep in mind that many people working at both MSNBC, CNN, all of these places, they're just trying to be honest brokers of information. And they want to play no favorites, be fair to everybody.

So, this whole business of framing things as a liberal/conservative, one network, one way or the other, I just don't buy it. But I do come back to the central point, it's a new point in a lot of ways because the younger audience is well passed this.


RATIGAN: It's easy to sit and look at a quarter or any of these -- the data sets and say this network is in trouble or this show is in trouble or whatever it may be. But, again, the networks aren't going anywhere. They're very well-capitalized, they're very well- distributed, and their capacity to reinvent themselves and I think the reinventions you will see not just at MSNBC but we're seeing it at CNN and you will see it at FOX over the next three to five years will be the most remarkable -- it will be the biggest changes we have seen in the whole landscape since the Al Gore election. STELTER: I expect MSNBC will play up more culture and less

Washington. I think they believe they'll find more of a progressive audience if they play in the culture of progressivism. They recently broadcast a concert from Central Park, I think we'll see more of that in the future.

RATHER: One way to go and nobody is asking me but if I were running either one of these outfits, I would do away with a lot of money spent on graphics and in-house opinion giving, and do deep digging investigative reporting. You talk about low hanging fruit --

RATIGAN: That's why they're not calling you, Dan.

STELTER: You say that, Dylan, that's funny -- Dan, I'm with you on that. MSNBC has been hiring a lot of young reporters for their Web site, reporters who come from a progressive background but can do real reporting. And I'm with you. I think they should be focusing much more on that, to do real reporting with the progressive point of view.

RATIGAN: And I guess my point is that they're capitalized and have the expertise to do exactly that and these inflection points if you want to call it that, not just in terms of the ratings but in terms the political culture, represent the largest opportunities to do the sorts of things that Dan or anybody else may conjure and these are the sorts of situations and times when executives consider decisions like that. So, I actually think it's a huge opportunity.

STELTER: Dan, let me ask you about the recent Pew study that showed big differences between how conservatives consume news and how liberal consume news. Let me put that graphic up on the screen, because it may explain some of the issues for MSNBC. It shows that liberals tend to -- consistent liberals that is, people that are very consistently liberal, tend to get news from lots of sources, CNN, MSNBC, NPR, "The New York Times", et cetera. If you're a consistent conservative you get it from FOX and not really from anybody else besides maybe Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck, et cetera.

Does that explain the problem that MSNBC has? Liberals are getting news from lots of sources that we wouldn't call actually truly liberal?

RATHER: I think it is part of the problem. So much of the reporting these days on cable or over the air just doesn't affect people's lives. There's that Washington stuff, it's propaganda, it's lies, its big corporate media, which is now going to take a lot of chances, and to them it's just irrelevant.

So, you got to get out of Washington. You got to get out of the studio, and that's where the future is but it's also on broadband and the Internet. It isn't sitting in front of a television.

STELTER: We have seen a lot of MSNBC anchors go out into the field and report from on location. I think they'll be doing more of that to try to show off their audience outside the studio.

RATIGAN: And the audience wants that. If you look at CNN and what Jeff Zucker has done with CNN in terms of driving it towards extremely intense coverage of breaking news and then extremely well- produced marquee feature programming, that came from the apocalypse of CNN's ratings not that long ago that led to the new idea and this new strategy which for the time being is working.

STELTER: So reinvention.

RATIGAN: There's no question.

STELTER: Dylan Ratigan here in New York, and Dan Rather in Austin, Texas -- thank you both for being here.

Viewers, MSNBC declined to comment for this segment but they have a plan. Less Washington, more progressive culture, more anchors in the field, and this story of liberal TV is going to keep evolving.

After a quick break, I want to show you something that's fascinating from red news/blue news in the day after the election. You hear that opposite day thing I was showing with Al Sharpton, well, it felt that way across cable news. He really nailed it. The red guys on FOX and the blue guys at the White House got everything all mixed up. So, don't miss this.

We will be right back.


STELTER: Welcome back.

As Tuesday's Election Day coverage moved into Wednesday morning, I was up watching it all night. There were, dare I say, predictable celebrations over on FOX News, near the campaign cowboys up in full swing. And there were magazines and newspapers. They call joined into what you might call a pile on on Wednesday, even the foreign press got in their licks.

In fact, an editorial in China's "Global Times" had to hear it, it said of President Obama, "He has done an insipid job offering nearly nothing to his supporters. U.S. society has grown tired of his banality."

But when you look at the coverage through a red news/blue news lens, it looks a little like Al Sharpton us a upside down day.

First, to the White House where Josh Earnest, he seemed honestly oblivious to the fact that -- well, his party had lost, big time.


REPORTER: Would you say that Tuesday night was a big loss for Democrats?

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Again, in terms of the sort of punditry and analysis --

REPORTER: No, it's not punditry. It's a real question, because you guys spin it -- I mean, I understand why you're spinning it. You acknowledge a win for --

EARNEST: There are lots of people who get paid a lot more money than I do who are responsible for offering up analysis and spinning the elections. I'm not going to do that.

REPORTER: You're saying it could be good for Democrats?

EARNEST: Well, no, that's not what I'm saying.



STELTER: Meanwhile, over on FOX, I guess you'd expect a champagne celebration, right? Well, Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter didn't get any memo.


SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: If they don't do their job and put out a competing agenda, they're going to lose in 2016. They have work to do.

ANN COULTER: I agree and I would tell right wingers stay paranoid.


STELTER: Neither did Glenn Beck. Look at this.


GLENN BECK, THE BLAZE: I think we're in the most dangerous period now than the republic has been in since the civil war, from now until probably spring of 2017.


STELTER: Civil war, that's the way it always is at red news/blue news. It's like they're in two alternate universes.

So, has the world really turned upside down?

L. Brent Bozell is the founder of the Media Research Center, a right wing watchdog group. He saw the Republican wave as sweet revenge for what he saw as bias coverage.

Take a look at this tweet he posted on Wednesday. "MRC fought to stop the media from rigging the election. In the end, Americans tuned out their hate and propaganda. MRC 1, liberal media 0."

Brent joins me now from Reston, Virginia.

Brent, thanks for being here.


STELTER: Rigging the election, you know those are strong words. So, make your case. How was the media trying to rig the election?


They are strong words, and advisedly so. I have never seen anything like this before, where you had -- this year was a year of a Republican wave across the country, just, as in 2008 or 2006, you had a similar Democratic wave across the country.

In 2006, the media were everywhere covering that Democratic wave. This time -- and I'm talking about the broadcast networks, not CNN -- this time, they were virtually nowhere to be found covering this election cycle.

STELTER: Here's the thing about this. You think the networks are biassed in favor of President Obama. President Obama thinks the networks are biased, but in favor of conflict.

Would you concede maybe this is one area you where and the president agree, there is a bias, you just don't agree on what kind?

BOZELL: Well, no, I don't think there is.

If there was a bias based on conflict, they would be reporting Benghazi, they would be reporting the IRS, they would be reporting the VA scandal. They would be Fast and Furious. All these things have disappeared. The conflict continues.

You're having one development after another continuing on these things. They're not being reported anywhere. Where is the conflict?

STELTER: Let me ask you one thing that I thought was very interesting. In "TIME" magazine recently, there was a story about Rand Paul and it said that Rand Paul has been pushing Mitch McConnell to "appoint a Republican press secretary for Congress" who could counter the daily White House briefings.

I thought this was a really interesting idea. I played Josh Earnest talking earlier. Do you think there should be a Republican version of Josh Earnest giving briefings every day for the next two years?

BOZELL: God, I hope not.

But I do think that there should be a press secretary. I just hope it's not the version of Josh Earnest. No, look, Republicans have their own problems. Republicans, I think traditionally, have done a horrific job at telling their story, at talking to the press.

I think there's this attitude among some that it's not worth it. There's some that believe that it's beneath them to do it.

STELTER: That's really interesting.

BOZELL: Some don't understand the importance of this.

I don't see Republicans having the savvy with the media that Democrats do. Now, you might say, well, Democrats are treated better on the national media. It doesn't mean that Republicans shouldn't be in the press. So if they're looking to do something like this, I think it's a good move.

STELTER: Let me ask you one more thing before we go. A lot of information about this election didn't come from the news. It came from all the political ads.

We talked about Republicans having a hard time communicating in the mainstream media, but they did an awfully good job with their ads this season, didn't they?

BOZELL: Yes. Just think about this number. It's stunning to me.

In the month of October alone, Republicans ran 35,000 ads on Obamacare. The two takeaways from that is, A, they have made a commitment they better follow through on. And, number two, I'm surprised more people didn't throw themselves out of windows after having to hear all those ads.

STELTER: Oh, I am with you on that.

Brent Bozell, thanks for being here this morning.

BOZELL: Thank you for having me.

STELTER: It is going to be nice to have a break from all those political ads, at least for a few months, until we start seeing ads for 2016 perhaps.

Coming up here, you may think a 20-count indictment, I don't know, it maybe hurt a congressman's changes in the election? Maybe a threat to break a reporter in half, that's got to make for something with a tight race, right? Well, not so with Congressman Michael Grimm. But what about the reporter, the one he almost clobbered? I will ask him when he comes -- when we come back.


STELTER: Remember that congressman who threatened to break a reporter in half and throw him off a balcony in the Capitol? Well, guess what? That guy, Republican Michael Grimm, who is also under indictment for fraud charges, he was reelected this Tuesday here in New York City.

He represents Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn.

Seth Meyers welcomed him back to Congress on Wednesday with this.


SETH MEYERS, HOST, "LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS": Welcome back, Staten Island Republican Congressman Michael Grimm, who was reelected by a 13 percent margin, despite being indicted on 20 counts, including mail fraud, wire fraud, and health care fraud, or as it's known in Staten Island, the hat trick.


MEYERS: But he didn't stop there.

Back in January, Grimm told a news reporter who asked him about these charges that he would -- quote -- "break him in half" and threatened to throw him off the balcony. Grimm is the kind of guy that you want in your corner, because if he's not in your corner, that means he's hiding in the opposite corner getting ready to jump out and push you off a balcony.


MEYERS: Congratulations on your reelection, Michael Grimm. Welcome back.


STELTER: Well, at least Grimm is giving late-night comics something to laugh about.

But when I saw that clip I wondered, what's the reaction from the reporter who was on the receiving end of that threat? And he is thankfully still in one piece. And you will hear from him in a moment.

But, first, here is a reminder of what went down.


MICHAEL SCOTTO, NEW YORK 1 REPORTER: Here, we have another chance to kind of talk about some of the...

REP. MICHAEL GRIMM (R), NEW YORK: I'm not speaking about anything that is off topic. This is only about the...


SCOTTO: Well, what about...

All right, so Congressman Michael Grimm does not want to talk about some of the allegations concerning his campaign finances. We wanted to get him on camera on that, but he, as you saw, refused to talk about that -- back to you.

GRIMM: Let me be clear to you. You ever do that to me again, I will throw you off this balcony.

SCOTTO: Why? I just wanted to ask you.

GRIMM: If you ever do that to me again...

SCOTTO: Why? Why? It's a valid question.


GRIMM: No, no, you're not man enough, you're not man enough. I will break you in half, like a boy.


STELTER: Whew. The reporter is Michael Scotto, who covers Capitol Hill for New York's cable news channel New York 1. And he joins me now from Washington.

Michael, first, take me back to that day in January. What triggered his threat?

SCOTTO: Well, it happened actually right here on this balcony in the Cannon Rotunda.

It was right after the State of the Union address. He had come by to give his response to the president's speech. And at the end of the interview, I wanted to ask him a couple of questions about an investigation at the time concerning his campaign finances.

Just a week or two earlier, someone associated with him had been indicted. So, I wanted to get his response. And when I tried to bring it up, that is what happened. He threatened to throw me over the balcony, the balcony right over here.

STELTER: You're still on the beat at New York 1. Full disclosure, my wife works with you at New York 1.


STELTER: So, when you cover him now, when you cover him, when you cover Congress now, what's that relationship like?

SCOTTO: So I cover all the members of the New York delegation, all 27 members. I have gone to press conferences that he's given. I haven't interviewed him since that incident, but I cover him.


SCOTTO: Yes, I cover him. But I haven't interviewed him directly.

STELTER: Does that mean you're avoiding him or maybe is he avoiding you?

SCOTTO: I'm not avoiding him. I don't know if he's avoiding me.

When he's here, you know, doing his work on Capitol Hill, I try to cover him. I have covered bills that he's introduced. So, no, I'm not avoiding him. And I don't know if he's avoiding me.

STELTER: I don't know, Michael. You're standing right there by the Rotunda. Do you ever look over it and just think about what could happen?

SCOTTO: No. I wasn't really that nervous. I'm looking over it now and luckily I have gotten over the vertigo.


STELTER: It does seem like Grimm's kept a low profile with the press. A lot of candidates who -- a lot of incumbents who were seeking reelection did the same thing in the fall. So maybe this is just one example of a guy trying to keep a low profile, trying to avoid the press while seeking reelection.

SCOTTO: It's interesting.

The media -- he thinks the media are out to get him. But in this race, the media actually ended up lifting him up a bit. It wasn't intentional, but they did some really negative work or really kind of hard-hitting work on his opponent, Domenic Recchia...

STELTER: Oh, interesting.

SCOTTO: ... who it appeared was not really ready for prime time.

STELTER: You're touching on the idea that people outside the district were surprised he was reelected, after all, the only congressman right now under indictment. But people inside the district were not so surprised. That's a really important point, I think.

SCOTTO: Yes, exactly.

I think everyone outside New York City thought Michael Grimm is the easiest target. He's going to lose reelection. But if you know Staten Island, you know that the borough tends to vote Republican in Congress. You also know that the borough or that that district tends to vote for someone who is from Staten Island.

STELTER: One more question before I go. And it gets back to the question you originally asked him about a year ago, the one that caused this threat.

You were bringing up his scandals. It was an important question to ask. Would you do it again? I mean, this is basically our job as journalists, right, to make these people uncomfortable without hopefully any threats as a result.

SCOTTO: Oh, of course. I would definitely ask that question again. And the reason I asked the question -- and I know there are people who thought, why would he ask a question like that after the State of the Union address? And the reason I asked it was because just a week or two earlier, someone associated with him had been indicted.

So we hadn't had -- we weren't able to get him on the record prior to that. Since he was right in front of me, I really thought at that point it was the perfect time to ask him that question. STELTER: Yes.

SCOTTO: So, going forward, of course. Of course I would ask the question again.

STELTER: You have got to seize those opportunities.

Michael Scotto, thanks for being here.

SCOTTO: Of course. Thank you.

STELTER: Time for a quick break, but, when we come back, a real rarity on TV, Jon Stewart on the other side of the desk, rarer still, to see him right here on CNN. We are, after all, one of his favorite targets. So, you won't believe what he has to say when we come back.


STELTER: Welcome back.

He may be a comedian, but he's also one of the sharpest media critics of our time, a man who tries his best to eviscerate TV news and all of us here on CNN night after night on "The Daily Show."

So, imagine the surprise when Jon Stewart turned up here, yes, right here at CNN, in this very studio actually, talking with my colleague Christiane Amanpour.

Stewart is a pretty press-shy guy. He's rarely on the other side of the interview desk. But, right now, he's out doing press for his movie "Rosewater." So, that's why he was here.

Remember when he took a hiatus last year? He was off directing this movie. And now it's about to come out in theaters. It's the story of a "Newsweek" reporter jailed and tortured in Iran after the 2009 elections.

So while he was here, Christiane had a blast. She got a chance to do something a lot of us here at CNN have wanted to do, take on our biggest critic. She relished every moment and then got him to reveal some things he hasn't said before. So, take a look.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yet another Pew poll has again cemented CNN as the most trusted name in news. Now of course that makes me very proud; 54 percent say that. You have made a career beating up on CNN and other cable shows and --

JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART": Fifty-four percent said you were trustworthy?

AMANPOUR: Not me, CNN. And me maybe, but CNN, yes.

STEWART: That it was trustworthy?

AMANPOUR: Sixteen percent said you were, or your show was.

STEWART: Well, that sounds about right.

AMANPOUR: The most trusted name in news and information.

STEWART: Oh, right, OK.

AMANPOUR: So similar.

STEWART: So best fast food restaurant?

AMANPOUR: In the spirit of --


AMANPOUR: -- I am going to play --

STEWART: You know, Wendy's is seen as food by over 54 percent of people who eat there.

AMANPOUR: In the spirit of --


STEWART: -- whereas Arby's --

AMANPOUR: -- in the spirit of this debate, I'm going to play a part of your show where I was in the mocking crosshairs. Here we go.

STEWART: All right.


STEWART: Of course, CNN wasn't satisfied with their exclusive Hillary Clinton town hall. They held an exclusive after-town hall retrospective tribute to their previous town hall.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: What do you think? Did she do a good job or didn't she do a good job?

What do you think, good job?



STEWART: I love that. I love that bit.

AMANPOUR: That was -- we even thought that was squeamy.

STEWART: Because it was crazy. It was like you guys had just done "Our Town." Like everybody was coming out.

AMANPOUR: So now let me ask you, do you do this because you think we could be so much more?

Or do you think it's just hopeless altogether?


No. I never think things are hopeless. You don't, either.

AMANPOUR: No, I don't.

STEWART: You don't -- you didn't like that. Look at your face when you walked out there. You walk out there like this.

Really? So you're going to -- so it's last call? You're going to turn the lights on, now we're going to walk out here and be like, yes. I made your drinks.

AMANPOUR: And to be fair, the leadership thought the same. So we won't be seeing that again.

STEWART: Did they really do that?


STEWART: So, how does that? I'm curious about this? How does that happen?


STEWART: No, no, I understand that.

But in like a room, you are all experienced television professionals. When they say, so at the end of this debate with Hillary Clinton, who is here promoting a book, how about we all come out and bow?


STEWART: Doesn't anybody raise the hand and go, I don't know, I think that's stupid?

AMANPOUR: Yes, but they didn't say.

STEWART: What did they say?

AMANPOUR: It just happens.

STEWART: What do you mean it just happens?

AMANPOUR: It is live.

STEWART: Whose idea was it? Come on.

AMANPOUR: You saw my face.

STEWART: You are the worst.

AMANPOUR: You've been doing this job at "The Daily Show" for 16 years. STEWART: Sixteen years.


STEWART: Sixteen, 17.

AMANPOUR: Sixteen, 17 years.

You've now done your first movie.


AMANPOUR: Is this, what everybody wants to know, a transition out of being "The Daily Show" host? We understand your contract is up and you're casting around, looking around.

STEWART: Let me ask you, what have you heard?

AMANPOUR: That's what I have heard.

STEWART: I have told you what's going to happen in the midterms. Now you have to tell me what's going to happen in my life.

AMANPOUR: All right.

STEWART: I'm very excited.


AMANPOUR: I think you're going to be a film director.

STEWART: All right.

AMANPOUR: Are you? Another one?

STEWART: Those are -- I don't view them as separate entities. I view it all as a process. In my mind, this is all chicken. I'm just making chicken. Sometimes I make cutlets, sometimes I make a nice teriyaki, sometimes I just grind it up and feed it to baby birds. But it's still chicken.


AMANPOUR: And do you think this chicken might decide to be a regular news anchor?

I mean a lot of --

STEWART: Regular news?

AMANPOUR: Yes, regular news.

STEWART: Like yourself? Like a real journalist?

AMANPOUR: Like myself.

STEWART: I would say no. I would say --

AMANPOUR: Like on "Meet the Press."

STEWART: No. I would say no. That I don't believe is in danger of happening, yes. That I can pretty confidently state that I will not have my own room of situations. That's just a name I came up with, a room of situations. And it's a ring to it.

And will we see you as host of "The Daily Show" through the next presidential election?

STEWART: That, I don't know. That, I can't tell you.

AMANPOUR: All right.

STEWART: I do not know.

AMANPOUR: Watch this space.

STEWART: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: Thank you. Thank you very much.

STEWART: Nice to see you.


STELTER: Everywhere Stewart goes, every interview he does, he get asked about "Meet the Press," about how NBC talked to him about that hosting job.

It is kind of embarrassing for NBC, but it is good for Stewart. That's what Christiane was alluding to. His contract is up in about 10 months. So we will see what he does.

I have got to take another quick break here.

But take a look at this, what exactly this reporter doing out there in the snow. Well, it might not be what you think. We are going to drill down on a blizzard of misinformation when we come back.


STELTER: Welcome back to the program and the reliable "Three to See."

These are three things you have got to see, beginning with a banner headline that might surprise you. I know it surprised me. Pippa Middleton, NBC News correspondent? There is on screen. That's the word from the tabloids.

Talks have definitely been going on between Pippa and the network. Now, NBC is not confirming it yet, but they're not denying it either. So, we know what is going on. And if the talks do lead to a deal, the sister of Duchess Kate will bring some star power to the network while covering lifestyle stories, I suppose some of the same stuff that a different royal family member -- talking about Chelsea Clinton -- previously covered for NBC.

Now, second on my list, also at NBC, Brian Williams' lesson for all the Web sites and all the social networkers who speculated that the Weather Channel's Mike Seidel was, look at this, relieving himself in this live shot gone wrong last Sunday.

On Monday, Williams had had enough. He said this.


BRIAN WILLIAMS, ANCHOR, "NBC NIGHTLY NEWS": Social media owes our friend Mike Seidel an apology. Mike had lost cell phone contact with our control room, so he couldn't hear through his attached earpiece that he was on the air.

He put his back to the storm and to the camera. He had to take off his gloves and redial his phone, which was tethered to his ear. That's when the rumors hit the Web that he was perhaps writing his name in the snow. It was just Mike working to make it right, which is why we all love working with Mike Seidel.


STELTER: I actually spent a hurricane with Seidel. It's hard work to be out there in the elements live on TV.

But, anyway, Seidel had a laugh about the whole thing, and he told my CNN colleague Frank Pallotta, "The Weather Channel does give me time to go to the bathroom." So that is a relief.

And, finally, this amazing look back at the past. These are the Sunday shows from thousands of Sundays ago, beginning with NBC's "Meet the Press" the longest-running show on all of network TV. It just got another year older, turning 67 this week.

Here's a quick look back to the early days. This is back to a time when, unbelievably, it was totally acceptable to smoke on TV. And here is one more flashback to the early days of CBS "Face the Nation." This morning, that show marked its 60th birthday, two programs easing into their senior citizen years.

Well, that is all for this televised edition of RELIABLE SOURCES, but, remember, if you missed any part of the show today, you can catch up any time using CNNgo. It's a great app. Check it out,

Let me get in one more plug for the Web here. You can find all our media coverage online, a dozen stories from this past week, at

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