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Ferguson: Decision Day Nears; Who Will Get Darren Wilson's First Interviews?; The Reporter Bullied by Bill Cosby

Aired November 23, 2014 - 11:00   ET


BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST: Good morning and welcome to a jam- packed edition of RELIABLE SOURCES. I'm Brian Stelter in New York.

And coming up, we're going to look back at Bill Cosby's attempts to pressure interviewers to avoid being asked about the sexual allegations against him. And we're going to look forward in that story as new women are speaking on the record this weekend, and his lawyer is asking, when will it end?

But I want to begin this morning with the stories you probably haven't heard from Ferguson, Missouri. For days now, newsrooms like this one have been standing by, waiting for some sort of word from the grand jury that is deciding whether to charge Ferguson Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown.

Frankly, I think some people, some officers, some protesters, some journalists are getting impatient.

A local critic of the national coverage is standing by and so is a lawyer who is making sure that no more reporters get arrested. Remember that from back in August, a number of reporters arrested? There are some claims a reporter was also arrested last night. So, we'll get into that and try to check it out.

But, first, let's get an update from Ferguson. CNN Sara Sidner is joining me live.

Sara, can you tell us the latest sense of timing about when we may hear something from the grand jury, from the prosecutor's office?

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Look, I want to speak to some of what you talked about. Evan Perez had some great sources. He's been coming out and saying the time something perhaps Friday, maybe it's going to happen Sunday. Now, he has reported that his sources say that the grand jury did not finish and they are going to resume on Monday.

There is a lot of frustration here, as you might imagine. I mean, let's think about this -- this is perhaps one of the longest grand juries in history. It's been three months basically that they have had ahold of this case and a lot of people don't understand why it is taking so long but this is a very different scenario, very different. They're basically being asked to investigate far more than any

grand jury normally does. They have a very low threshold. All they have to decide is whether they think a crime has been committed and then it's up to the judicial system, it's up to the prosecutors and a jury of their peers to decide whether to convict or not. And so, I think there's just a lot of confusion on people's part as to why this is taking so long.

There is also a lot of frustration about our coverage, I will admit, because people get frustrated when they get worried and nervous that, oh, my gosh, today is the day. You do not know how many e-mails I get from people who live here, residents saying, I just heard you guys said today is the day and I'm wondering, I'm worried, is it true?


SIDNER: And so, I think one thing we need to mention is that the sources who are talking don't actually know the exact timing of this because the only people who know are those people who are on the grand jury and they are not supposed to be talking, Brian.

STELTER: That's crucial. You know, to be honest with you, Sara, I have gotten from complaints from other journalists saying, why is CNN, why are other television networks hyping these possible, you know, deadline days for the grand jury?

But it seems to me no one truly knows and as long as we make that clear in our coverage, in our banners on the bottom of the screen, then it does seem appropriate to be telling people we are expecting news soon, we just don't know quite when. Is that right?

SIDNER: I think that's really fair, because the truth is, like I said, there are 12 people that know exactly where they are and how long they think this might take. None of them are supposed to be talking. So, all of this is people who are saying, OK, I know they're meeting now, I think it might happen.


SIDNER: I think we need to be careful, though, with this idea of hyping. This community is already on pins and needles. They have been nervous for months and they are tired of it. They want, as they have said to me many times, to rip the band-aid off and give us a decision so that we can go forward with our lives so the city can start to try and deal with whatever that aftermath is, Brian.

STELTER: Sara, stand by.

Let me add another voice in this conversation. Frank Absher, he's a local media critic, the founder of the St. Louis Media History Foundation.

Frank, there have even been some complaints, some claims in recent days that networks like CNN want some violence to happen, want riots to break out after this result comes down. What is your view in St. Louis of the national media coverage of this story? I think we don't have Frank yet.

So, let me turn to another guest I have standing by, also in the area. Benjamin Lipman, he's a lawyer in St. Louis. He specializes in media issues and he's represented some of the journalists who, as I mentioned, were arrested while covering the protests back in August. Now, he's helping news outlets preserve their rights in this situation.

Ben, can you hear me?


STELTER: I want to go back in a moment to that issue of violence. But let me ask you about this issue of arrests, what are you doing on the ground to make sure the reporters can cover protests freely?

LIPMAN: We have done a number of different things. First is dealing with -- talking to law enforcement ahead of time, trying to explain what we think are the rights of the reporters under the First Amendment in the hopes that we can get ground rules, I guess, so everybody is in agreement what the reporters can and can't do. Then, excuse me, in the rare circumstances, if a reporter is arrested, all you can do is try and communicate with law enforcement or whether it's the judge or the prosecutors to try and get them out as quickly as possible, and then deal with the fallout afterwards.

Unfortunately, when you're talking about, you know, covering protests where everything is so fluid and there's so much going on at the time, there's not really the opportunity to stop and discuss it when it's happening, and it really comes down to trying to get ground rules ahead of time and deal with it in the aftermath.

STELTER: We're showing some pictures from one of the arrests of a photographer that happened in August, but there was a report last night the St. Louis county police say they took one reporter from Washington into custody. The name is Trey Yingst.

The tweet from the St. Louis County PD says he was taken into cut for failure to disperse. He was asked to leave the street by the commander and refused.

I want you all to know, I reached to Trey, he just wrote back to me and says, for this time he cannot do an interview for legal reasons, he says. But he did write on Twitter, he was -- he says he was just exercising his First Amendment rights trying to cover the story.

This is actually what he wrote last night saying he was just exercising his First Amendment rights on a public sidewalk. So, the controversy is whether he was on the sidewalk or in the street it seems like. He's an example of a reporter in town not from a national, big name media outlet but someone on the ground trying to cover it identifying as a journalist. And I wonder, Ben, if you got some issues there on the ground

about people who aren't from "The New York Times" or CNN, may not have that kind of press credential to show a police officer but say they are journalists.

Last week, I had Bassem Masri on the program. He's a live streamer who holds his phone up and records protests, even as he sometimes provokes the police. How does the definition of journalist play in this issue?

LIPMAN: Well, I mean, from a constitutional standpoint, the definition of journalist shouldn't play in. From a practical standpoint it sometimes does because I think that the law enforcement understands that the press has a role in this and if somebody is displaying press credentials, I think that goes a long way. We certainly encourage our clients to have their press credentials handy and showing because I think the police do give them some leeway to do their jobs.

But the Constitution protects all of us to be in public places and to watch what's going on and to record it if we want to. If any person, whether journalist or not is standing on a public sidewalk and not interfering in any way with law enforcement, then they should have a right to go ahead and stand there whether they're filming or not.

STELTER: Sara, let me bring you back into this conversation. I mentioned a couple moments ago this issue of some people at home thinking the media wants violence to happen. It's a tweet from Gwen Ifill of PBS over the weekend. She says, "Is it just me or is it beginning to seem like some folks will be disappointed if there are not riots in Ferguson?"

Have you heard some of the same criticism? And what is your point of view about that, Sara? It seems to me that, you know, we don't want violence but we do want some sort of resolution. Journalists are waiting for some sort of resolution here.

SIDNER: I have absolutely heard some of that criticism, and I think for a lot of people in watching this they feel like it is being hyped up and talked about far too much. But some of that is coming from the response from people who are here.

I can tell you, we've seen in our own hotel folks who have come in from out of town who have brought their phones and are ready to record and they have all their equipment to come out and take part in this. And so, there's a really big conversation going on right now. I can only speak for myself.

STELTER: Yes, yes.

SIDNER: I can tell you I've now been in this community for more than two months now, and I would hate to see something happen here that's destructive.

The people and the places I have gone in this town, they are wonderful people, and I'm talking about those who are here protesting from Ferguson, those businesses that are here who are serving the people of Ferguson, even some of the city officials in Ferguson. Everyone is talking about this, but I have met some wonderful, wonderful people here, and it breaks my heart to sort of see them in this level of fear that they've been living with for a few months now.


SIDNER: So, in my estimation, I would hate to see something go wrong here. What I do want to see and what everyone wants to see is some kind of resolution. What is that grand jury deciding and then let's go forward from there.

Honesty is really important. This has brought up a huge issue in this country, and I think that's fair to say that there is an issue between African-Americans and police. I don't think there are many people that dispute that. But there's a way to deal with it, and a lot of folks here are hoping it's dealt with in a peaceful manner.

And to be clear: it has been mostly peaceful. There are some folks who come and stand in the middle of the street and bait police, but for the most part over more than 100 days, we have only seen a couple arrests.


SIDNER: So, I think we need to keep that in mind. There has been no looting, no burning down anything, no destroying anything other these past 90 or so days. There were some issues in the very beginning, Brian.

STELTER: Thank you, Sara.

And let's underscore that point you were making. This is not just about Michael Brown anymore. The logo on screen might say the death of Michael Brown but this is about a movement now. I think you would agree with that, this is about a movement, not just that one moment in time.

Well, Ben Lipman and Sara Sidner, thank you both for being here.

I'm sorry we couldn't get Frank Absher. We'll try to bring him back next week.

We're going to talk more about Ferguson in a moment and it's typically about this man right here, the invisible man, Darren Wilson, because there are a few television anchors that have actually seen him and spoken to him, but they're not allowed to tell you about it. I'm going to tell you why.

My exclusive reporting on this right after the break.


STELTER: Welcome back here.

The world knows very little about Darren Wilson other than these grainy pictures of him. We barely know what he looks like. And he hasn't said a word publicly about the death of Michael Brown.

But now, I'm going to let you had in on a secret. Some high profile news anchors have met Wilson. They've talked with him one-on- one in secret locations, entirely off the record, all in the hopes of landing his first television interview.

Now, because it was off the record, those anchors can't talk about the meetings and their networks can't really even confirm the meetings happened. But here are the anchor names I know with the caveat that others may also have met with him. NBC's Matt Lauer has met with him, so is ABC's George Stephanopoulos, CBS's Scott Pelley, and both the primetime anchors at CNN, Anderson Cooper and Don Lemon. Again, maybe other anchors as well, I have a feeling some anchors at FOX, I just don't know the name but that's what my sources are telling me.

So, this pursuit of an interview it's always a high stakes game. The media play it is in every big legal or criminal case.

And Jim Moret, the chief correspondent for "Inside Edition", has been personally involved in these similar, behind the scenes efforts, so he joins me now from Los Angeles to shine a light on how it works.

Jim, you were actually the winner in one of these big booking contests. I know it sounds It's weird to describe it that way but that's how it's talked about in TV.

So, tell me about how it works.

JIM MORET, INSIDE EDITION: OK. Well, the example you're talking about was some time ago but it was a big interview for us. George Michael had been arrested in Los Angeles for exposing himself in a men's room in Beverly Hills. And following that, everybody wanted to talk to him.

Now, I know that Maria Shriver over at "Dateline" at time was very close to -- if not locking him up, actually locking him up and booking him for a Monday or Tuesday show. We on Friday had made arrangements to go live to tape and broadcast Friday night and it would be international then Saturday morning over in England.

And that was really the pivotal point for George Michael because we didn't realize it at the time, but on Sunday, that Sunday, the tabloids were going to out him as gay. He knew about it. We didn't know about that. But he chose us because our venue, our network, CNN I was with at the time --


MORET: -- was able to trump those British tabloids.

So, it's really a couple of things. Look, the anchor names that you mention, think about the heady experience for an individual who is approached by Matt Lauer, by say Anderson Cooper wants to talk to you. You know, and the currency that they have and the only currency I would offer is, does somebody like me? Does somebody trust me? You want to give them the opportunity to make their case.


STELTER: It's about establishing comfort with the possible interviewer, right?

MORET: Absolutely, absolutely. And, look, if Anderson called me, I know Anderson from TV. I have met him. I like him. I trust him. Trust is his currency really.

But you have really a couple things to consider. Is the network live? Is the network -- is it a taped show?

Fast forward to last year, Sidney Leathers was in that controversial texting or sexting with Anthony Weiner when he was going to run for New York mayor.

STELTER: Right, right.

MORET: She didn't feel comfortable going live at that time. We got her because we were tape. I spoke with her.

You know, it's interesting. When you talk about being first, it's not just the viewers that you get for the interview. It's the publicity you get after and with this fractured environment where networks get 500,000, 1 million, 2 million views instead of 10 million and 20 million, if Anderson Cooper gets an interview, if Wolf Blitzer gets one, if we at "Inside Edition" get an interview, the real value also in addition to people watching our show then is other networks rebroadcasting with our little bug on so that promotes the show.


MORET: And that's really a value, too.

STELTER: You know, this is a little awkward for me to ask because I'm talking about a couple of my colleagues and several other network anchors but do you think it affects the coverage at all. If you sit down with them off the record, you can't talk about what they're like. You can't talk about what you might have learned from them, but might it in some subconscious way affect the coverage?

MORET: I don't think so. I think we're all professionals.

Look, I'm a lawyer as well. Sometimes you may like a client, but you may not like what they've done. You've got to defend them. You have to ask tough questions.

I never make any deals not to ask questions. My goal is to be respectful so that when they leave, even if it's a tough interview, they feel like they've gotten a fair shot and --


STELTER: Speaking of those deals, Jim, I got to ask about the financial relationship sometimes. Someone like Darren Wilson doesn't seem to be as likely, but in some of these cases, aren't their pictures licensed so the interview subject gets some sort of financial reward out of it?

MORET: All of the networks, most of the networks, for example, "The Today Show" will fly somebody in, put them up in a hotel. But it's -- look, it's not like a bargain where you say, we'll send you to some Broadway shows, give you a fun time. It's not like that.

You do license -- you do license photos in many cases. You're not talking about a lot of money. You're also not buying their statements. You don't wanted to influence what they say based upon licensing a photo and I don't think any news organization or any program really wants to do that.


Where do you think Darren Wilson will ultimately end up going when it comes to these television interviews? If he ever speaks, by the way, we shouldn't assume he will.

You know, George Zimmerman after the Trayvon Martin case, after the trial ended. He spoke to Sean Hannity at FOX News, and then a number of other interviewers.

MORET: Well, I think in that case, George Zimmerman went to a network he felt would be favorable toward him. Whether they were or not, I couldn't say, but NBC was critical of George Zimmerman, and there was a controversial report that they had issued and whether or not they would actually doctored a tape that was shown on TV.


MORET: So, I think the perception of the network, the perception of the venue and the perception of the interviewer all come into play.

STELTER: All of it play in.

Jim, thanks for being here. Interesting conversation.

MORET: My pleasure. Thanks for asking.

STELTER: My sense, by the way, from my sources about Darren Wilson is it's most the anchors who do the talking in these off-the- record meetings. It's mostly Darren Wilson listening, getting to know the person. We will decide if he ever decides to ever give a first TV interview.

When we come back here, what a difference a week makes for Bill Cosby. He received a standing ovation on Friday night at a Florida performance even as more and more women are coming forward with claims of sexual misconduct many years. But what is it like to confront a comedy legend like this man about these charges and then have him question your professionalism? I will talk to the reporter in the center of that storm, right after this break.


This headline atop "The Washington Post" this morning says it all, "Accusations Recast an American Cultural Icon." It had stripped across the front of "The Post" this morning and that icon is Bill Cosby.

So much has changed about Cosby since we last spoke about him here on RELIABLE SOURCES last week, you know, his potential NBC sitcom no longer in development. His Cosby show repeats no longer airing on TV Land. His Netflix comedy special on hold. Several of his standup performances have been scrapped too, although dozens of others are still scheduled to go on in the next six months.

But here's the thing -- here's the remarkable thing about this story. Some of the women who have accused Cosby of sexual assault first leveled those allegations many years ago. You might say the allegations, accusations were hidden in plain sight but only a handful of journalists paid close attention back then. All that changed this year and specifically this month.

I interviewed one of the accusers, Barbara Bowman, right here last week. And then on Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday, et cetera, et cetera, other women spoke out as well.

Some repeated what they had said years ago and some spoke for the very first time. That "Post" story now counts 16 women.

Now, a very important reminder here, Cosby has never been charged with a crime in any of these cases. One of Cosby's attorneys, Martin D. Singer, released this remarkable statement on Friday.

Here's part of what it says, "Over and over again, we have refuted these new unsubstantiated story was documentary evidence only to have a new uncorroborated story crop up out of the woodwork. When will it end? It's long past time for this media vilification of Mr. Cosby to stop."

There have been a lot of questions about why those allegations, the ones that we've been hearing about on TV in recent days didn't get more coverage from more media outlets years ago, and I think this next video clip is a big part of the answer. Because "The A.P.", "The Associated Press", was talking to Cosby a couple weeks ago, Cosby and his wife Camille, about their involvement with the Smithsonian art exhibit.

This all happened I think it was November 6th. It was before any of the TV interviews with any of the accusers took place. But back then the comedian Hannibal Buress had been getting attention for calling out Cosby. The story was starting to gain traction.

So, "The A.P." reporter tried to ask Cosby for comment. "We don't answer that," Cosby said. "We don't answer that."

But then, after the interview, but before Cosby took off his microphone, this happened. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL COSBY, COMEDIAN: Now, can I get something from you --


COSBY: -- that none of that will be shown?

ZONGKER: I -- I can't promise that myself, but you didn't say anything --

COSBY: I know I didn't say anything, but I'm asking your integrity that since I didn't want to say anything but I did answer you in terms of I don't want to say anything of what value will it have.


STELTER: Think about the power dynamic there? Cosby continued to pressure the reporter, the young reporter, to scuttle the question about rape, to hide it from the public, and even questioned the reporter's integrity.

At first, "The A.P." just reported the no comment from Cosby. But this week, "The A.P." decided to reveal the whole cringe-worthy tape. Like I said, it reveals the power dynamic between a powerful celebrity and the person interviewing him.

And that person is "A.P." arts writer Brett Zongker and he joined me from Washington.


STELTER: Brett Zongker, thanks for joining me.

ZONGKER: Thanks for having me.

STELTER: Tell me about November 6th because for people who have not seen the whole four-minute video, it's pretty excruciating to watch. You asked Bill Cosby several times about these allegations. He said he had no comment, and then what did he say to you next?

ZONGKER: You know, he kept talking after I asked him questions -- after I stopped asking questions. He wanted to ask me a few questions at that point. He asked, you know, would we not use any of the video from the questions I had just asked him, and I said I couldn't promise that.

And he asked me a couple more times. He said that if I was a serious journalist, we wouldn't use any of this footage.

STELTER: That was my favorite part, and by favorite, I mean most horrifying -- you know, when he says to you, well, if you're a serious journalist, you're not going to be wanting to share this.

That's the opposite of a serious journalist. Did you sense in that moment that he didn't even understand what real journalism is?

ZONGKER: It surprised me quite a bit that he questioned my integrity for even asking the question. You know, I was there -- I have been an admirer of Bill Cosby growing up, watching him on television. I didn't want to ask these questions, but I had to ask these questions because I'm a journalist and I was doing my job.

STELTER: So, for a few minutes he tries to pressure you -- that's my word, not yours -- pressure you into not sharing the video clip of him, you know, badgering you about the questions. Then what happened after the cameras turned off? Did he keep bringing this up to you afterwards?

ZONGKER: You know, most of -- our entire conversations was really captured on camera.


ZONGKER: The camera kept rolling.

And when -- when the camera stopped, I stood up and I shook both of their hands and thanked them for the interview and we moved on.

STELTER: Was it ethical then, you think, for the AP, for you and your colleagues to now share the video of the exchange that happened after the interview formally ended?

ZONGKER: You know, it's interesting, because nobody ever actually said, this interview has ended now. Nobody said, let's turn off the camera.

The conversation actually continued. And the camera kept rolling and the microphones were still on Mr. and Mrs. Cosby at that point.

STELTER: Let me wrap up by asking the two weeks between your interview, which you had no idea was going to become as famous as it now is, and the period where it was published by the AP. Were you involved in the deliberations about whether to share it and, if so, what was your position on it?

ZONGKER: There was a big discussion from the moment the interview ended, and then over the past couple of weeks, about how to handle this.

So I was part of the discussion, and it involved editors all the way up to AP headquarters in New York City. But I think it's important to remember that two weeks ago, this Cosby story was in a very different place, and it's evolved pretty dramatically since then. More -- several more women have come out with allegations against Bill Cosby.

Several media companies have moved to kind of distance themselves or cut ties from Mr. Cosby, and so we looked at the entire tape again this week. And the video seemed much more relevant at this point in the story. I think people wanted to see how he would react to being questioned about this. STELTER: Let's talk about how much has changed in the past two

weeks, because when you conducted your interview on November 6, there was I'm going to say a little bit of noise, a little bit of attention, a little bit of scrutiny on Bill Cosby and these allegations, but not nearly as much as we have seen since. So, why did you ask him in the first place? Why did you bring it up at all?

ZONGKER: This had come up in the news in the two or three weeks prior to my interview, and it was generated in part by some sharp criticism from another comedian during a stand-up comedy routine that got a lot of attention online.

That generated some news coverage about this and about the background of past accusations against Bill Cosby. So it was in the news enough that I felt like I had to ask the question. And it was my job to ask the question, and I saved it for the end of the interview.

STELTER: Associated Press reporter Brett Zongker, thanks so much for being here.

ZONGKER: Thanks for having me.

STELTER: It's his job to ask the question indeed.

And Cosby's name, by the way, trending on Twitter this morning, showing just how big and how awful this story just continues to be.

The comedian hasn't really addressed the allegations, but he did say this to a Florida newspaper. He was performing in Florida on Friday night. He got that standing ovation, I mentioned. And his comment was incredible. Here is what he said.

"I know people are tired of me not saying anything, but a guy doesn't have to answer to innuendoes. People should fact-check."

People should fact-check.

Bill, if you're watching, the problem here is not fact-checking.

Ahead here on "RELIABLE SOURCES": Sometimes, you can learn a lot from a source by noticing what they don't say. And, sometimes, you can learn a lot about a news outlet by noticing what they don't do. I'm thinking about FOX News and Benghazi. And I will show you what I mean next.


STELTER: Boy, has FOX News spent a lot of time over the past two years focused on the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya. And I mean a lot of time.


SEAN HANNITY, HOST, "HANNITY": The Obama White House has been busted. There is now undeniable evidence that they, from the president on down, lied to you, the American people. BILL O'REILLY, HOST, "THE O'REILLY FACTOR": The Obama

administration was completely derelict in the Benghazi terror attack and was dishonest in the aftermath.

JEANINE PIRRO, HOST, "JUSTICE WITH JUDGE JEANINE": We now know the Obama administration lied to us. They misled us and they left Americans to die.


STELTER: Pretty strong words. But when a new Benghazi report came out on Friday, there was hardly a peep, and maybe that's because the report, which was Republican-led, it was by the House Intelligence Committee, debunks many of the myths that have run rampant on FOX News and in conservative media circles.

The report, for example, found no intelligence failure prior to the attack, no stand-down order to security personnel. But it did find, and we should point this out, the security overall at the consulate was weak.

So how did FOX News cover this report? Well, here is just one short example. It was a short story AT the end of Greta Van Susteren's show in the "Speed Read" section. It was mentioned just one other time. And that was an hour before on "Special Report With Bret Baier."

It wasn't mentioned at all on Saturday.

So, I have to wonder, will FOX stop aggressively pushing its theories about Benghazi? Probably not. With its audience largely in the dark about the latest findings, the myths may and perhaps will live on.

Well, with me now to discuss this is veteran journalist and author Jeff Greenfield and Noah Rothman, associate editor at whose column about this topic just went online.

So, let me start with you, Noah.

What was your takeaway, both from the report on Friday night -- it seemed like it was sort of a Friday night news dump, where the House Intel Committee wanted to have it come out before the weekend, so no one would notice -- what's your takeaway from the report and from the coverage of the report?

NOAH ROTHMAN, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, HOTAIR.COM: I think it essentially really said that this is Hanlon's razor, right? If you believed that this was a conspiracy theory, if you believed that the administration -- quote -- "left people to die," then you were guilty of buying in into a fallacy which suggested that this was malice and not incompetence.

What we were dealing with was incompetence. Now, there were others aspects of this report though that shouldn't necessarily give the left a lot of celebration for FOX being this organization that was out there on a limb. There were reports that were indicated that CIA personnel were given successive polygraphing, for example. That was a CNN investigation.

That was knocked down by the House Intelligence report. The belief that CIA intelligence individuals knew that this was going to be an attack 24 hours after it occurred, that was also struck down in the report. That comes from The Daily Beast. We're talking about a variety of other outlets that are not necessarily right-wing.

STELTER: Jeff, I'm all for aggressive reporting by FOX and elsewhere. I think FOX had real aggressive reporters on this story, as they should.

What makes me more uncomfortable was like that Jeanine Pirro clip where she was saying that the Obama administration left Americans to die. It seems to me like that kind of overheated rhetoric, even conspiratorial talk, is what might have been deflated by this latest report.

JEFF GREENFIELD, PBS CONTRIBUTOR: And that's the point. That's why I think that's why there's a difference between inaccurate reporting by sources and the narrative that many people, particularly on FOX, embraced, which is, this was malicious, this was a lie, it's part of an administration that can't tell the truth.

I live mostly in Southern California and listen to a lot of talk radio. And every single day, like Carthage must be destroyed, Sean Hannity, in the lists of the Obama administration, lists Benghazi.

STELTER: Well, that's the point, isn't it? Can I put up on the screen this Sean Hannity graphic from earlier in the week?

This is a graphic that lists a bunch of what I would call narratives that the right wing has and the right-wing media has against Obama. Actually, these are a couple other examples just of FOX's coverage over the last two years, special reports about Benghazi and things like that.

But there's a graphic I want to put up from Hannity's show from just a few days ago, because it lists a bunch of these stories, not just Benghazi, but others as well. One says Obamacare myth. There we go, shovel-ready jobs, operation Fast and Furious, IRS targeting scandal and then the Benghazi cover-up.

It's about a narrative, isn't it, Jeff? It's about a narrative against the president. By the way, some of those stories, interesting story that should be reported on more, but it's about a narrative against the president, as opposed to facts.

GREENFIELD: And in fact what it does, there's a kind of unified theme about the show you're doing today, whether it's about Ferguson or it's about Bill Cosby or it's about Benghazi, which is people increasingly find it almost impossible to believe that a reporter or analyst, a journalist, will come to a story with the question of what happened. What happened? Because what people bring to a story is, we know

what happened because it fits the larger universe that I see. It fits the story that a cop was defending himself against a threat to his life or a cop was murdering an unarmed black man or that Benghazi is part of a malicious attempt to lie to the American people, or that it couldn't be that this beloved figure in American entertainment could be a serial rapist.

And I find it depressing that the longer I'm in this at this, which may not be too much longer...

STELTER: Oh, don't say that.

GREENFIELD: ... the harder it is for people to just accept the fact, no, I'm trying to find out what happened.

No, you're not. You're part of the cover-up. You're part of the -- whatever it is. And that -- to just stay with the story, I need to know what happened, is something that people I think give us less and less credence for.

STELTER: And to that point, Noah, there are actually lessons that need to be learned from Benghazi. The State Department might say they have already been learned. But this report does illustrate some security failures, for example.

ROTHMAN: Quite a bit.

And actually if there was...

STELTER: But if we tune out to it, if we have already tuned out to it, to Jeff's point, we're not going to hear those important points.


ROTHMAN: No, this report actually did a fairly serious bit of damage to, I believe, the State Department run under Hillary Clinton, which suggested that these outposts were not properly secured and all the requests for additional security and noting that the deteriorating situation in Benghazi needed more security went ignored.

But I would also contend earlier that these narratives that supposedly exist on the right are not necessarily exclusive to the right. Just in December of 2013, "The New York Times" ran a very thoroughly researched piece by David Kirkpatrick which contended that this was an attack that was the result of a spontaneous demonstration gone wrong, and it had everything to do with the YouTube video, as recently as 2013.

That was not only struck down by this House report, but by a United Nations report, which blamed it on Ansar al-Sharia and individuals linked to al Qaeda. So, I mean, the idea that we have some confirmation bias here goes to both sides.

GREENFIELD: Nor was I even suggesting -- this story happens to be confirmation bias on the right.

But we're still going to hear I think that the midterm elections were dictated either by gerrymandering or by voter suppression, which at least from one point of view is just palpably nonsense.

STELTER: This is all just in time for Thanksgiving, by the way, where we're going to go to our Thanksgiving dinner tables and we can debate Obamacare because of Gruber-gate in the news. We can debate immigration and people have -- they're hearing different stories about that in the news and this with Benghazi, the kind of thing that people have two different narratives about.

And I'm sure it will be hashed out over the dinner table.

Noah Rothman and Jeff Greenfield, thanks, both, for being here. Appreciate it.

Coming up here, journalists covering war zones or drug traffickers often hire private security, but in Silicon Valley? You have to hear why one tech reporter decided she needed protection for her young children after she wrote some unflattering stories about a particular company, which we will name right after the break.


STELTER: Dirty laundry, almost everybody has got some, secrets, embarrassing stories they'd prefer to keep under wraps.

But unless you're in politics, you might never think that a team of researchers may be actively trying to dig up something on you and expose it to the world. But this week, we learned that those kinds of tactics might be spreading, or at least being talked about.

Here's the headline, Uber executive suggests digging up dirt on journalists. This is from BuzzFeed from their editor in chief Ben Smith. This was after Emil Michael, an executive at Uber, was heard complaining about a journalist and talked about how to respond.

This happened at a dinner that he thought was off the record. Michael was talking about one journalist in particular, Sarah Lacy, who has been very critical of Uber, calling the company misogynistic, a charge that Uber strongly denies.

Uber is a fast-growing company. It gives you access to taxis, basically, in many cities. I took it to work this morning.

And Uber has disavowed Michael's comments. Michael has apologized, but he has not been fired.

So, I caught up earlier with Lacy when she joined me from San Francisco.


STELTER: Sarah Lacy, welcome to the program.


STELTER: Do you think you were targeted because you're a woman? Do you think there is a gender element here?

LACY: It's really hard for me to know.

It sounds like things from I heard from the dinner -- and I was not there -- it was a lot of the very classic aggressive attacks on women that we hear all the time. So, I think certainly their talking points and the way they were going to come after me were very predicated because I'm a woman.

I think this is a company that, not so coincidentally, has a lot of misogyny issues, which was the story I wrote that engendered this million-dollar plan to begin with. I know this is a company that has real issues with objectification and not respecting women.

I mean, Travis has referred it to as "Boober" because it helps him get more women. But, frankly, I don't know if it just because I was too much a problem for them as a journalist or I was easier to go after a women. I will never really know because I know Emil Michael's soul.

STELTER: Does this suggest that tech companies, big tech companies are getting more aggressive toward journalists?

LACY: I did an interview a few weeks ago with Michael Malone, who is one of the most famous and investigative Valley journalists in history.

And he really feels like this started with Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs was really the one who started making the tech press and the trade press not ask questions. And he really pioneered this whole idea of access journalism. If you didn't write what he wanted, he would fight you on it.

STELTER: Let's go a little deeper on what happened with the revelation from Ben Smith.

Here's what Mr. Michael said in a statement, an e-mail actually, and: "What I said was never intended to describe actions that would ever be undertaken by me or my company toward you or anyone else. I was definitively wrong. I am sorry."

Do you believe his apology? Does it mean anything to you?

LACY: Well, considering we just saw something in The Huffington Post where a colleague of Mr. Michael was saying, he did not say that at all, he was talking about coalition of journalists, you can see they are already backtracking from the apologies that they made.

I found myself the last couple days saying, I wish I was not right about Uber, but a couple days ago, when this all broke and everyone was horrified and everyone was apologizing, and CEO Travis Kalanick was calling these comments inhuman and Emil Michael was saying that the thoughts that he made at an off-the-record dinner party don't reflect his view, that did not sit well with the public.

And you had Seth Meyers mocking these guys. You had journalists continuing to push. You had writers continuing to ask questions. Now they have switched tactics and they have tried to reframe the conversation, and say that once again, like, that has not happened or, you know, I'm being too paranoid or you had Ashton Kutcher, their celebrity spokesperson, calling me a shady journalist.

They did not even stick with apologies for 24 hours before they started trying to change the nature of what was said, so I don't know how any of us can trust the apology.

STELTER: Let me put one of those Ashton Kutcher comments up on screen, so viewers at home can see it.

He wrote: "What is so wrong with digging up dirt on shady journalist?" And then he went on. He said, "So long as journalist" -- and he is using the journalists as a plural for some reason -- "So long as journalist are interested and willing to print half-truths as facts, yes, we should question the source."

It is interesting to me that you were bringing up Steve Jobs earlier, because you are saying that this is something that we have seen from others in the tech industry. Does it feel different for some specific reason this time?

LACY: Oh, yes.

I think it is way different. I think when you were -- let's go back to again what Emil Michael said at the conversation, because people like Ashton Kutcher are very good at trying to reframe the narrative around this. He talked about oppo research. They called it oppo research.

And they are familiar with the term. We have seen documents disclosed talking about their plans for oppo research with the taxi industry. And as I'm sure your audience know, that is not doing a Google search on someone's name. And if you have a million dollar budget and a six- to eight-person team to do oppo research and specifically as he said at the dinner targeting one's families and loved ones and doing it in a way where it would never be traced to Uber that they had done this, I don't think anyone thinks that is remotely ethical.

And I think anyone who cares at all about the First Amendment and the rights of journalists thinks that is pretty horrifying. Maybe Steve Jobs did stuff like that and no one was ever stupid enough to brag about it at a dinner in front of Ben Smith. But I don't know a story of that having been done before.

And I trace it back to what Travis Kalanick said on stage at the Code Conference last spring, where he said this is a political campaign.

STELTER: Absolutely.

LACY: We are hiring political strategists. We are going to throw mud.

And he said essentially they were going to destroy opposition. I naively thought he meant taxi companies and not me and my kids.

STELTER: I got to say, though, I do think that other companies, other corporations, maybe other governments do engage in this kind of activity. Maybe it is new for Silicon Valley. Maybe it is new for Uber, but...

LACY: You do? You think they like go through people's trash, search medical records, plant stories about their families? Really? Am I just naive?

STELTER: I do think that are there are companies that have engaged in those kinds of practices, yes. I do think they're at least one television network that keeps files on reporters. I think that sort of stuff happens.

But didn't make it right and doesn't make it ethical. And we do need to call it out.

LACY: Right.

STELTER: But I think what we are talking about here as journalists as fair game or not.

To your point, if you are going to do opposition research, does the opposition include journalists? That is what is very uncomfortable about this. And as a result of this week, you have many nasty messages online from Uber supporters, Uber's fans.

Is it true that you have had personal security, bodyguards this week?

LACY: You know, I have said before I have taken all of this very, very seriously.

I have young kids, and I don't mess around with that. I had someone saying they were coming after my family. And this has been a very high-profile story. I have decided or I have been told it is not a great idea to detail security. You have it for a reason. But I have certainly had to change about how I go about life.

STELTER: Sarah Lacy, thanks for being here this morning.

LACY: Thank you.


STELTER: A whole lot of media news this week, so we will be right back with more.


STELTER: That is all for this televised edition of RELIABLE SOURCES. But our media coverage keeps going online,, more than 20

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